Michael Jackson | Mercedes Benz | George Harrison | John Kennedy Jr.

Michael Jackson Keeps Changing Managers

Out of the frying pan and into the fire: Over the weekend, Michael Jackson's whole career was in jeopardy again.

As of today, it seems that Jackson has traded up, as it were, and appointed a new higher-powered manager. The winner of the sweepstakes this week — and I say winner with tongue in cheek for now — is Howard Kaufman's HK Management, which counts Stevie Nicks, the Eagles, Fiona Apple, Jimmy Buffett, and The Wallflowers among its revolving roster. 

Michael's manager was Louis Levin, who this column told you on June 17th had finally stepped in to work with the eccentric singer. Prior to that, Jackson was let go from his old management outfit, called The Firm. They in turn had succeeded a Saudi Prince, Sandy Gallin (of Dolly Parton fame), and Frank DiLeo, who made Thriller and Bad international phenomenons. 

On Thursday morning, Levin and Jackson fell out, according to sources. The issue was probably money, and Jackson's lack thereof. Levin, who manages Michael Bolton, wanted to be paid for his services. To quote someone familiar with Jackson's situation, "And Michael has no money." Jackson's financial woes have been discussed previously in this space. 

By Thursday evening, Levin — who may have been out of his league handling someone as demanding as Jackson — was telling friends he and Jackson had sorted out their problems. "Obviously Louis hadn't been getting what he wanted, then he thought he had," a source told me. 

Then, late Friday, the whole thing unraveled again. Jackson — perhaps through his only remaining associate, his steadfast loyal childhood friend David Gest — contacted Kaufman. (The wily Gest is attempting to produce Jackson's two Madison Square Garden dates September 7th and 10th.) Kaufman is generally associated with Irving Azoff, the Napoleonic manager/record label head who is Don Henley's alter ego. By Friday, Levin knew Kaufman was waiting in the wings. Today it could be Levin, Kaufman, or Bubbles the Chimp calling the shots. 

Jackson is at a critical moment in his career. The first problem was the announcement of his Garden dates. The announcement was made literally the day after Madonna announced her Drowned World Tour — "because Michael had to be something bigger," says my source.

I've also been told that Epic Records has decided not to release his first new single, "Rock the World," for commercial consumption. Instead, this new single will be only for radio airplay. Odd? A little, considering Jackson's stature. But Epic rarely puts out singles as we used to know them, so it could be just part of new millennium thinking. This way, if "Rock the World" is not an out-of-the-box hit, they can move quickly to the next one. 

But here's the problem: If "Rock the World" doesn't do what the title says, there's trouble. Already word has filtered out of Sony's Berlin mid-year meetings and from listening sessions at the Hit Factory in Florida that Jackson's Invincible album is good, but not great. In that case, it might be smarter not to have a single at all, but build up demand and release the whole thing in September. 

What's next? Stay tuned. Levin told me last week that he was "looking at the ad for the Sunday papers" for the Garden shows. With Levin gone though, where does that leave everything? And which charity — besides his own — will Jackson pick to receive the munificence of his Garden bounty? We can only wait and wonder.

Mrs. Spielberg Wants a Mercedes Too 

Kate Capshaw Spielberg arrived at the Bridgehampton Polo match on Saturday looking better than ever, wearing dark black sunglasses that still couldn't hide her trademark wide smile. 

After the match, Capshaw — who came with two female friends — checked out the various Mercedes' that ornamented the lawn in front of the party tent. Mercedes, in an effort to stay hip in the Hamptons, sponsors Polo. 

But this has not been their best Hamptons season, has it? Lizzie Grubman backed into 16 people with her Mercedes SUV, then blamed the car. On Saturday the mess at the entrance of Polo, created by more snide, self-serving publicists, seemed to beg for another run-in. Many who had reservations or were actual Hamptons' press had their guests turned away while inside the tent was teeming with party crashers. 

But back to Kate: remember the old adage: If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it? Well, Capshaw spent a good twenty minutes jumping in and out of Mercedes' new SUV. It looks like a Mercedes version of a Land Rover and a Hummer, all supped-up in chrome and black. After covering every inch of the truck carefully, Capshaw asked the Long Island Mercedes manager who was watching the car, How much? The answer: $72,500. Wisely, Capshaw disappeared almost instantly.

George Harrison Needs a Little Help From His Fans 

With everything that's happened recently, did I forget to mention George Harrison's precarious health situation? Do whatever you can for him: light a candle, pray, dance in the moonlight. But Harrison's situation is seriously verging on dire. And the Beatles' extended family has not had much luck with cancer. Linda McCartney and Maureen Starkey (Ringo's first wife) succumbed to it. 

For George, all this illness and violence (he was stabbed last year in his home by an intruder) seems so out of place. He's the quiet one, spiritual, and charitable. Certainly he deserves better than this. We're thinking about you, George, and sending out a lot of positive karma. 

PS: For a lot of fun and some wonderful animation, check out George's Web site, allthingsmustpass.com.

John Kennedy Jr., Two Years Later

It's hard to believe John Kennedy Jr.'s been gone two years. What a tragedy still for family and friends of John, and equally so Carolyn and Lauren Bessette. Reportedly, last week Caroline Kennedy settled for $15 million with the Bessette family for the accident that claimed all three lives. There was a rumor that the Bessettes wanted an apology from the Kennedy’s. Believe me, they're sorry. 

At John's memorial service, Caroline read a beautiful poem by Stanley Kunitz. I printed it here last year, but it seems appropriate to do it again. I knew John Kennedy slightly, and I knew a lot of his close friends. This is for them: 

The Long Boat 

When his boat snapped loose
from its moorings, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag;
conscience, ambition and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn’t matter
which way was home;
as if he didn’t know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

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