November 01, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

Michael Jackson took the stand Wednesday in a breach-of-contract lawsuit against him, testifying that it was not he but the plaintiff, concert promoter Marcel Avram, who was to blame for the cancellation of two planned ”millennium” concerts in 1999, according to the Associated Press. Avram sued Jackson for $21 million for allegedly backing out of the shows, but Jackson, who underwent three hours of questioning at the trial in Santa Maria, Calif., insisted that he’d been eager to perform at the shows in Sydney and Honolulu.

According to the AP, Jackson’s attorney, Zia Modabber, said in his opening remarks that Avram had canceled the shows because he realized they were not going to be as lucrative as he had hoped. Avram has contended that Jackson, who played two charity concerts he promoted earlier that year, had stuck him with huge expenses, which Avram had hoped to recoup with the for-profit New Years Eve shows.

Jackson told the court that Avram had pulled the plug on those shows, informing the singer over the phone. ”I remember feeling a little bit upset because I was looking forward to doing the ‘millennium’ shows,” Jackson said, according to Reuters. ”I was so excited about them that I told people in my organization that we should reach the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ because I felt that these would be the most-watched events of all time.” Avram’s lawyer, Louis ”Skip” Miller, contended that Jackson had never intended to perform at the shows, noting that the King of Pop had never rehearsed with others for the two-hour shows. Jackson said, however, that he did rehearse — by himself, at home. ”I remember dancing in my bathroom, in the mirror,” he said. ”I was conceptualizing things I could do in the show.”

About 100 fans gathered outside the central California courthouse to greet Jackson, who came from his nearby Neverland ranch. He wore his usual surgical mask over his face (he took it off inside the courtroom to reveal a wispy goatee) and spent 15 minutes signing autographs after the proceedings. He is expected to testify again Thursday.

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