Sale of Michael Jackson's Burned Hair From 1984 Pepsi Ad Shoot Raises Questions

Last Updated Jul 27, 2009 3:23 PM EDT

The TV commercial producer who filmed Michael Jackson's hair catching fire at an infamous 1984 Pepsi ad shoot has sold Jackson's hair to be turned into diamonds. Chicago's LifeGem, which specializes in creating diamonds from individual hair samples, plans to sell a limited collection made from the King of Pop's hair.

The plan raises the question of whether Jackson's hair was stolen. A lot rides on the answer as the Jackson estate notoriously needs every penny it can get. From the LifeGem press release:

[Ralph] Cohen, executive producer for the Pepsi commercial, was among the first to reach Jackson when he was set on fire.
As seen on the now famous video, Cohen threw his jacket over Jackson's head to help extinguish the flames. As Jackson was being rushed off the set and to the hospital, Cohen instinctively, picked up the charred lock of hair and put it in his pocket - where it remained undisturbed for 25 years until Jackson's death last month.
"The provenance and authenticity of this lock of hair is impeccable, including the highly publicized video showing the original owner of the hair using his Armani jacket to extinguish Jackson's hair, said John Reznikoff. "This jacket was included with the purchase of the hair."
"[T]he original owner of the hair" was surely Jackson, yes? One presumes that Cohen eventually obtained some documentation from Jackson allowing him to keep the hair, or at least indicating that he believed it was garbage.

But that information is conspicuously absent from the release.

Also absent is the identity of the person who leaked the hair-on-fire video to Us Weekly, which then put it on YouTube. Pepsi said:

We'd question why anyone would want to share such frightening images.
Good question! Why would someone want to share such frightening images? Perhaps someone involved with the shoot had a financial motive for releasing the video? Or am I wildly off track here?

LifeGem did not immediately respond to a request for comment. LifeGem said:

You will have to ask Mr. Cohen about the video.
Cohen could not immediately be reached; the collector assisting Cohen with the hair did not immediately respond to a request for comment.