Michael Jackson in Bondage? Singer Needs More Cash, Less Thrills

The weird world of Michael Jackson just keeps getting ... weirder.

Possibly cash-strapped — not broke, but needing hard money — Jackson apparently approached a well-known entertainment securities trader last winter to get big bucks up front in return for the rights to his vast copyright holdings.

Back in February, this reporter was told that Jackson was in financial disarray. Now I'm told that, indeed, Jackson and/or some of his many and mysterious disciples met with or spoke to David Pullman, the putative inventor of the "Bowie Bonds." The bonds were named for David Bowie, the first rock star to have his song catalogue securitized by Pullman.

The president of Jackson's company, Myung Ho Lee of Jackson International, was out of the country and unreachable.

Pullman Bonds — as they are now known — have since been established for the Isley Brothers, Ashford & Simpson, James Brown, and the Motown songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland. Pullman, who's sort of the Ed Sullivan of the music world, is known for haunting various high-end music gatherings as he signs on new clients such as Marvin Gaye's heirs. Pullmann was spotted during Grammy week in the shadow of Stevie Wonder's path, for instance.

Jackson, according to sources, approached Pullman some time ago. The self-named King of Pop owns the rights to his own song catalogue plus various portions of others, including the Beatles, although he shares the latter with Sony/ATV Music.

"Michael's catalogue would be worth $100 million and up," said a source knowledgeable of its value.

Often reports of Jackson reaching out to strangers over money matters have not turned out to be true, but elements of this story make me think this one is accurate. For one thing, the story came through two disconnected people, to a mutual friend. Pullman, who usually jumps at the chance to speak on such matters, was cagey at best and declined to comment.

Jackson's finances have been of much interest lately. He's spent quite possibly millions on the making of his new album, although no real progress has occurred and — despite an interview with this reporter last November — there is no sign of the record ever being completed. Jackson's last record, Blood on the Dance Floor, was a sales dud, and the one before that, HIStory, is now several years in the past. Thriller, the album that made Jackson's name and sold 22 million copies worldwide, was released 19 years ago — kicking off nearly two decades of tabloid headlines, elephant bones and midnight shopping sprees for toys with Macaulay Culkin.

Jackson also may not have been as astute as previously described in his choosing of business partners. Last year, he invested $2 million in a L.A.-based Internet outfit called Rundell & Coursey, which was launching something called HollywoodTicket.com. But that venture, conceded founder Derek Rundell yesterday, has been a "disappointment." Rundell himself has been battling a lawsuit from WebMD. A source who was involved with Rundell & Coursey in another failed venture told this reporter: "Those two were spending a lot of time with Michael at Neverland. They were very empowered by knowing him."

Jackson's also been heavily involved in a new charitable organization called Time for Kids, with his new best friend, Shmuley Boteach. And he reportedly settled $20 million on the 13-year-old son of a Hollywood dentist/screenwriter (only in Los Angeles could such a thing exist) after he claimed Jackson molested him.

Calls to Jackson's attorney, John Branca, were not returned.

Woe to Elton John, Stuck on Tour

My heart went out to Elton John yesterday. He lost his lawsuit in London against former managers whom he accused of looting his accounts.

Sir Elton is currently on tour with Billy Joel — they're playing Memphis tomorrow night, and then have ten more dates in the Midwest during May. One industry observer put it succinctly: "He hates it. You think he wants to be out there on the road singing 'Crocodile Rock'? He needs the money."

Oh, Elton, if only it had been Swatch watches and not diamond-encrusted platinum ones you handed out to friends for the last 30 years.

Meanwhile, what is it with Billy Joel? Didn't he officially retire a year and a half ago? He's taken a page from Pete Townshend's book.