I received this email from someone close to The Modesto Bee on Friday. "I am personally sorry you feel you were treated poorly when you called The Modesto Bee asking questions about Condit's relatives. …Yes it is true we have been instructed not to discuss the Condit and Levy stories with any outside news agencies and to refer them to Mark Vasche…"
So I feel I'm doing a public service for the people of Modesto, California. Since their own local paper, The Modesto Bee, doesn't think it's newsworthy enough to put on their Web site, I thought I'd tell them. (The story of Darrell did make it as a sidebar in the print edition.)
On Saturday, the younger brother of your local congressman was arrested in Florida. He's an ex-con with a long drug record and previous stays at federal and state prisons. Florida police arrested him on an outstanding warrant, and the FBI wants to question him regarding his whereabouts on May 1, 2000 — the day Chandra Levy disappeared.
Also, reports from Washington on Saturday indicated that your same local congressman, Gary Condit, admitted to the FBI in his latest interview that although he's a married man, he had a sexual relationship with Levy, a 24-year-old intern at the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The Modesto Bee, perhaps exercising caution, posted this story at the top of its Web site on Sunday: "X Fest: Adam Donald and Honeyspot rock out to the delight of fans and fellow musicians Saturday night." Their other top story, surely of much interest to Modestans far from home: "Indonesian legislators open hearing to impeach President Abdurrahman Wahid."
The paper did have two features on the Levy case. One was, as usual, a follow-up to a Los Angeles Times story about Condit's gift giving, which includes, oddly, $31,000 in flowers over the last several years. They ran a second story about how Modestans feel now that they're in the national spotlight. They're not too happy.
First Jackson Effort Rejected, New One Not Ready
This has not been the best week for Michael Jackson. So much is riding on his new album and Madison Square Garden shows that the pressure must be enormous.
Now I am told by a source from the recording studios where Michael's been working that Invincible is not yet finished after all. Although it's set for a September 25th release date, the album is being worked on as we speak, at both the Hit Factory recording studios in New York and Florida, and at Sony recording studios in New York.
"Michael definitely turned in an album to Sony last year that was rejected," says my source. "They were like, 'What? You can't put this out.'" So back to the drawing board.
This jibes with the reports from last fall that Jackson had an album almost completed. It's certainly what he said in November, when I spoke with him. Jackson said then that he'd played five songs for Sony executives and they were thrilled. Guess not.
In June this column broke the news that Jackson had played Invincible for 60 or so people from Sony and BMI Music at the Hit Factory in Florida. They all declared it a winner.
"Not so," says my source. "They were very upset."
Jackson is said to have called in his old recording engineer, Bruce Swedien, who polished up the Thriller and Bad albums. Problem is, Swedien had been fired by Jackson in a cost-cutting move some time ago. So the two had to patch things up.
The question is: How can Jackson not disappoint someone at this point? If the first announced single, "Rock My World," isn't the second coming of "Billie Jean," I'm afraid August will be spent dissecting Jackson's future.
The source also says that Jackson's behavior in the recording studio is just as weird as we might think. "When he arrives, everyone who works here has to hide. We can't be seen by him or vice versa. If you have to go to the bathroom, you wait till he passes.'
I am also told that Jackson has spent not only millions on the making of Invincible, but millions more on the planned re-release of his catalogue by Sony this fall. All of his albums, from Off the Wall through HIStory, were remixed for the new Sony Super Audio CD format.
But Jackson, working through an engineer, went through 50 different mixes of each song from each album. "He went through them and over and over again. It's not like they hadn't already been remastered for CD in the first place. And it was the same engineer who did it the first time. The guy just leaks money."
All this album trouble is coupled with news last week — as this column predicted — that Jermaine and Randy Jackson would not perform with Michael at the Garden shows. Jermaine did have one big hit album of his own, a self-titled offering on Arista Records in 1984.
It had two duets on it: "Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming," with Michael; and "Take Good Care of My Heart," with Whitney Houston. Ironically, that latter duet led to a relationship between then very young Whitney and then very married Jermaine in the mid-'80s. Now Whitney is scheduled to play the Garden dates, and Jermaine is out in the cold.
A funny postscript had another column claiming that this wrinkle didn't matter since Jermaine hadn't been with the Jacksons when they recorded for Epic Records "and that's when they had most of their hits."
Well, spin is great, but the Jacksons on Epic were a sad afterthought to the Jackson 5's career at Motown. They had two hits on Epic, "Enjoy Yourself" in 1976 and "Shake Your Body" in 1979 — and neither made the top 5. It was Motown that made the Jacksons, with Jermaine, Randy, Tito and Marlon, such No. 1 hits such as "ABC," "I Want You Back," "The Love You Save," etc. I sincerely doubt anyone is paying $500 a ticket to hear the former songs sung by anyone.
Will there be more Michael Jackson items this summer? You betcha. The countdown is on for September 7th for the show and the 25th for the album. Before that, "Rock My World" comes out on July 30th. How will it all end? We'll just have to wait and see. A big hit Michael Jackson album is just what record stores need so desperately right now. I hope they get it.
My almost-favorite TV show, HBO's Six Feet Under, took another swipe at Disney last night.
You may recall this column was the first to report that creator Alan Ball was so mad at Disney/ABC for canceling his sitcom, Oh Grow Up, that he named a corpse in the Fisher & Sons prep room after ABC entertainment chief Stu Bloomberg.
On last night's show, a promiscuous teen — dubbed a "Danger Slut" by one of the main characters — revealed that "My dad is an executive at Disney." Ho ho ho. Of course, this girl smokes pot, has sex with older men, and is generally not a squeaky-clean Disney sort.
I say "almost favorite," because I now dread the grisly graphic nature of the stuff going on in Six Feet Under as much as I love the rest of it. In particular, the main story — about Nate Fisher and Brenda — is dazzling. Peter Krause, Rachel Griffiths and Jeremy Sisto all deserve Emmys now. And Frances Conroy as the Fishers' mother is just beyond terrific. Too bad the show missed this year's Emmy deadline. It makes nearly everything on broadcast TV seem very tired.
But please — let's cut down on the smashed-in faces and mangled body parts. If I want to see that, I can watch the news!
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