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`MAN IN MIRROR' IMAGES JACKSON TRIAL ARTIST SELLS WARES ONLINE.

Byline: Brent Hopkins Staff Writer

Mona Shafer Edwards holds a sketch of a ghost-pale man, looking at his sad eyes and showy, military-style suit.

The face, delicately drawn with thin black lines on nearly clear vellum, has no color whatsoever, only set off from the paper by straightened black locks of hair and a blue background. She's drawn it dozens, maybe hundreds of times, one of the most recognizable visages in the world. For months, she sat no more than 20 feet from those unmistakable features and inked the world's biggest pop star and most famous molestation suspect.

From the paper, Michael Jackson gazes back at Edwards.

``The drawing tells a story,'' she said in a recent interview, staring at the pained face. ``It's about family, self-destruction, celebrity. This is not an all-American family; it's a destructive one. And it's all about image.''

As a contract court sketch artist for 20 years, she's drawn everyone from the Menendez brothers to O.J. Simpson. She's done two Jackson cases, watching his nose get thinner and thinner as she sold her renderings to television stations around the world. Now she's finding another outlet to shop her wares.

Drawing upon a portfolio fattened throughout Jackson's circuslike trial, Edwards is selling 70 prints of her sketches on eBay. Starting off between $500 and $600 a pop, she figures she can bring in thousands from the signed and numbered drawings that showed the world what the wraithlike pop star looked like squirming behind the defense table.

``All of his weird personal antics have helped to fuel an enduring interest in him and his life,'' said Todd Boyd, a professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California.

``When you add to that charges of child molestation, it gets to be that much more compelling. In the same way people want any item connected to a celebrity, you have that heightened in this situation.''

To tap into the interest fueled by the dark side of fame, Edwards enlisted Mark Silver, a Studio City resident who makes his living selling items on the online auction site under the handle Daddymade and raising money for local schools. Though there are thousands of Jackson mementos available, he says none quite have the insider feeling her drawings evoke.

``People bid like crazy when they hear things like this,'' said Silver, who quit a job as a chef to sell full time on eBay. ``How can you compare to Michael Jackson? He's all you hear on the news these days. From one extreme to the other, there's interest, whether you love him or you hate him.''

The flashy suits with military medals, the perfectly arranged hair, the famously sculpted face - they all show up in her eerily accurate renderings. Edwards started as a fashion illustrator, switching over to become a freelance courtroom artist when the fascinating twist of celebrity and crime drew her in. Though vivid drawings of Winona Ryder, Courtney Love, Robert Blake and Anna Nicole Smith fill the wall of her home in the hills above Studio City, none has the unusual allure of Jackson.

Armed with a bag full of 60 markers, Edwards showed up throughout the preliminaries and through most of the trial. Setting out a sign-up sheet for media outlets, she could sell as many as seven drawings a day, bringing in around $400 per drawing.

She captured his empty chair when he nearly didn't show up for court, and drew his outlandish pajamalike pants when he arrived with back problems. As his already thin frame got even slimmer, she captured each change in his carefully made-up face, watching it get sharper and pointier as the trial dragged on.

``I could draw him by heart,'' Edwards said. ``He has so many mannequin features, I treat it like a fashion illustration. He looks like an extraterrestrial.''

Brent Hopkins, (818) 713-3738

brent.hopkins(at)dailynews.com

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2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Mona Shafer Edwards' sketches, to be sold on eBay, depict Michael Jackson throughout his child-molestation trial.

(2 -- color) Court artist Mona Shafer Edwards sits next to a selection of sketches she has done at many well-known trials.

Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 13, 2005
Words:698
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