Michael Jackson | Whitney and Mariah | Steven Spielberg

Jacko Wants a New Kids Charity

Michael Jackson issued a statement to the children of Germany last week. It's on his fan Web site. He wants to start a new children's charity. This is what he said:

"I look forward to the new year, to working with you children and to create an organization that will help other children. I promise you, if you come along, it will make you feel good and it will be fun."

Only one problem: Michael seems to have two dead charities on his hands.

Heal the World Foundation, which Michael started, is no longer in business. It's not in operation as far as anyone knows.

As I wrote in this space last February: "In the United Kingdom it's officially closed. In this country, the last tax filing available — for 1999 — shows Jackson giving no money to other charities at all and receiving no donations from others. He ended the year with $114,000 in claimed assets, having spent $15,000 on clerical procedures. Jackson's personal accountant, Barry Siegel, wasn't even sure the charity still existed."

Another charity, Time for Kids, which he launched with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, never got off the ground. Jacko and Boteach collected some money from a couple of events, but never reported it to the IRS and never followed up on their plans to teach adults to spend time with their kids.

Jackson recently spent time with his kids, however, dangling one out a hotel window in Berlin and making the other two wear masks on a trip to the zoo. Now he wants to start another charity. Donor beware, is all I can say at this point.

As for Shmuley Boteach, check out this column from Dec. 23 to get a full report on his latest shenanigans.

Whitney Skids, Mariah Holds

Whitney Houston's album Just Whitney is in the red zone, on life support and in a free fall. According to Billboard and SoundScan, holiday sales of the new album are so bad that it fell this week to No. 30 after debuting on Billboard the previous week at No. 9.

Of course, there was a feeling among statisticians that SoundScan had been scammed in some way that first week, since Just Whitney came out in every other chart closer to No. 15. Now it seems that those lower numbers were right, and the album is headed toward disaster.

It doesn't help that Arista Records has been frustrated with radio, which doesn't want to play any of the tracks from Just Whitney. This is kind of ridiculous, too, since even the average tracks on the album are better than most everything out there. "Unashamed," "On My Own" and "Love That Man" should be naturals on radio stations.

Unfortunately, Houston isn't helping the matter with her refusal to do any more work promoting the album. Of course, her early efforts to do that were not very successful. I'm talking about her Diane Sawyer interview and her appearance on Good Morning America.

Mariah Carey is having the same problem with not getting her songs on the air. This is also a bit strange, since Carey has four or five potential singles on Charmbracelet, her latest offering.

The main difference between Carey and Houston is that the former is at least selling records — about 130,000 a week, which isn't bad right now. She's stayed in the top 20 for three weeks in a row after debuting at No. 3.

Spielberg's Home Movies Helped Catch Me

Steven Spielberg says watching old home movies from the late 1950s helped him make Catch Me If You Can.

He told me recently: "It was fun because the principal guide I used was home movies, 8 mm family home movies my dad had taken in Phoenix, Arizona. When I put myself on Catch Me, I took them out and it was the first time in almost 40 years that I'd seen them."

Spielberg also likened shooting in the famous TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to the old TV sci-fi series The Time Tunnel.

"Many times I'd walked down that corridor for flights," he said. "It was just nostalgia for me. I had longer, thicker hair and maybe even had bell-bottom jeans, schlepping my carry-on down that long tube."