Michael Jackson is ending his relationship with the Nation of Islam, sources tell Foxnews.com.
Jackson has apparently decided, in the wake of firing his lead attorneys over the weekend, to also get rid of his controversial recent "business manager" Leonard Muhammad, son-in-law of Louis Farrakhan.
The change in Jackson's camp reflects the sudden rise to power of Michael's brother Randy, and Randy's own adviser Brian Oxman, who have gained leverage with the singer of late. It was Randy and Oxman who engineered the hiring of Thomas Mesereau, Jr., as Jackson's new lead attorney in his child molestation case.
One of Mesereau's requirements in taking the job was that Jacko rid himself of the NOI. But it won't be so easy to get rid of Muhammad. According to my sources, he is resisting Jackson's decision.
"He won't go without a fight," says a source.
More on that tomorrow morning in the Fox411.
Jackson, seemingly committed to blowing up his own case, fired Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman on Sunday, giving them no notice, also on the advice of his brother Randy. He hired Mesereau after summoning him to the mansion he's renting in Orlando, Fla.
The hiring was apparently a surprise to Mesereau, too, since it was just a couple of days ago that he ran into another member of the Jackson legal team, I'm told, and neither of them knew what was afoot.
I am told that Brafman and Geragos were increasingly frustrated by their lack of direct access to Michael, and that they were forced to go through Randy and Leonard Muhammad when they needed to contact their client.
Mesereau is said to be someone who Randy preferred because of his involvement in many black causes. According to his Web site, Mesereau — who claims he convinced the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office not to file rape charges against Mike Tyson — "obtained seven (7) acquittals and two (2) hung juries [in a one-year period] in cases involving murder, drive-by shootings, robbery, assault and illegal weapon possession."
Of course, the abrupt change means that Geragos — who I am told was totally surprised — may wind up being a witness in Jackson's case. Hired by former Jackson manager Dieter Wiesner in January 2003 ostensibly to sue Sony Music, Geragos was involved from the beginning with the family now accusing Jackson of child molestation.
Why would Michael let brother Randy get involved in all this? I told you back on Feb. 18 that Randy almost derailed Michael's new extended-loan deal with Bank of America when he tried to force in his own deal, only to have it fall apart.
Michael has a bizarrely dysfunctional relationship with members of his family. When his back is against the wall, he listens to them first.
I am told that Randy and friends have a lot of ideas for Michael to make money in the next few months. They are all considered hare-brained schemes and would involve convincing Judge Rodney Melville to return Michael's passport to him.
Here's an interesting take from one inside observer, who told me: "This case should be an acquittal. But only if Michael stays focused. And I don't know that he even understands what's going on."
Ironically, Michael's accountants, I am also told, recently sent Geragos a check for services still to be rendered — money the pop star will not be able to get back now.
And don't believe a word of that nutty New York Daily News story from yesterday, by the way, about Michael going broke over legal fees. That story was written as if none had come before, especially the countless ones in this column detailing Michael's financial picture.
He's not going broke, he can afford the legal fees and there are no looming or imminent problems in that regard right now, according to financial insiders.
The fascinating soap opera starring Sean "P. Diddy/Puff Daddy" Combs — from record-label assistant to record mogul to defendant to fashion mogul to marathon runner — has a new episode tonight.
Combs will debut on Broadway in a new production of "A Raisin in the Sun" with almost no acting experience and little rehearsal time.
I saw Saturday's matinee, and I will tell you now: He's no Laurence Olivier. Or Denzel Washington.
In fact, Combs is by no stretch an actor at all. But he is a personality who has fashioned a larger-than-life hype machine.
He has a lot of charisma and no end of ambition, both of which are good things. As with his running of the New York marathon, Combs is unafraid to try new and challenging things in public, even if he flops. And he does not flop in "Raisin."
The best thing about Combs in "Raisin," a seminal play about the black urban experience, is that he is already packing in audiences during previews. He's bringing in young people, black people and lots of people who have never been to Broadway.
He can only be commended for that. The "Raisin" audience I sat with would not, I do not think, have turned up to see this production with such fervor without Puff Daddy in the lead.
There's no question that I like Combs. I admire his pluckiness. He is a quick study, that's for sure. It's like he's inhaled the role of Walter.
Luckily he is surrounded by a tremendously gifted cast including Phylicia Rashad, Sanaa Lathan and Audra MacDonald. The latter has one of the most gorgeous singing voices in the world and, even though this is not a musical, she does get to do a little humming.
Sean, Puffy, whatever, comes on strong at first and seems confident in the first act. He's not bad at the light stuff, and while he's not exactly subtle, his comedic moments and his character "business" are nothing to be ashamed of. He makes for a good stage drunk, and has a nice rapport with the little boy who plays his son.
The trouble comes in the second act, though, when Combs' Walter, a famous character in American dramaturgy, is faced with some dramatic climaxes. This is, after all, a serious play with serious ideas.
Combs is simply not up to this stuff at all, and even the director seems to understand that.
In the pivotal scene where Walter thinks his life is shattered, instead of conveying grief or any other emotion, Combs hid his face from the audience by kneeling, with his head bent in his lap. It's just a disaster.
Rashad, who joins him in the scene, then conveys her own anger and grief so mesmerizingly well that it makes Combs' deficiencies seem even greater.
But I think Puffy has nothing to be embarrassed about in his Broadway debut. It's obvious that if he chose this profession, he could make lots of progress.
But I don't think that's what this is about. Combs is a PR bungee-jumper. He's willing to take risks just to show he can survive them.
There's been far worse stunt-casting on Broadway over the years. I just hope Combs can last the 15-week run with eight performances a week. If he does, and doesn't stay out every night partying, he may well wind up lifting his head during that big scene and moving his audience in a way he still doesn't know is possible.
Humorless Harold Holzer, the well-paid (over $200,000) press rep for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, insists that tonight's annual Costume Institute ball will make money.
Alas, Holzer did concede that this is because the ball has a corporate sponsor. On its own, however, the ball is a loser.
In fact, all the big parties at the Met are money-losers. The museum still has not released its most recent tax filing, but the last one available shows that each of its five big events wound up with a deficit. The museum, however, maintains that the corporate underwriting makes them winners.
The Met is probably the best art museum in the world (OK, I know, the Louvre and a few others would argue with that). Still, it pays to work there. At least 17 of the people who work there make waaaaay over $100,000 a year. CEO Phillippe de Montebello makes $516,000 a year with a whopping $253,000 expense account, and Sally Pearson, the retail manager gets $398,000 in salary, but has no expense account, according to the tax filing.
By the way, Hugh Jackman, star of "The Boy from Oz," will do the entertaining tonight. But it's a busy night in New York: the hot ticket is Lincoln Center's Film Society tribute to Michael Caine, while across Broadway there's a star-studded premiere for a new movie about golf great Bobby Jones.