So you thought it was all quiet on the Jacko front? Well, guess again.
Michael Jackson, the self-titled King of Pop, is getting ready to open his Neverland Ranch to strangers, albeit for a price. And maybe a reason.
Jackson, after all, is trying to sell the ranch before he buys the farm — financially, that is.
Jackson is inviting 250 people to his famed Los Olivos, Calif., spread on Sept. 13. He's billing it as a "A Once in a Lifetime Event at Michael Jackson's Neverland Valley Ranch."
What it may really be is a real-estate open-house designed to shake out a buyer for the $20 million facility. The price tag for this day-long extravaganza is $5,000.
According to the colorful invitation, Jackson is going to give each guest a limited-edition poster by artist Romero Britto "valued" at $8,000. The poster happens to be the cover of Jackson's never-released charity single, "What More Can I Give?"
Additionally, the invite promises that $1,000 from each ticket will be given to a yet-unnamed charity. That leaves one million dollars in Jackson's pocket.
A Britto staffer says: "We'll be displaying Romero's art that day" but that the artist will not be getting proceeds.
As we've reported in the past, Jackson's own foundation, the Heal the World Foundation, no longer exists. The government is also interested in finding out what happened to the funds collected for Time for Kids, the charity Jackson started with Shmuley Boteach.
The big question is: Will Michael actually be there?
The event is billed as a tribute to Britto, a commercial artist headquartered in Miami whose work is best described as watered-down Keith Haring meets Peter Max. His colorful, child-like scrawls have been used as decoration on everything from bikinis to notepads to pocketbooks.
The invitation simply reads: "This all-day once-in-a-lifetime experience will be hosted at the exclusive, majestic private compound estate of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson's Neverland Valley Ranch."
That's "hosted at," not "by."
But it looks like Jacko will be getting the cool $1 million the event may generate. A spokesman for Britto said she'd be getting back to me on exactly which charity is supposed to receive the $1,000 from each ticket and where the rest of the money is going.
In the meantime, Jackson and his camp must have thought this gathering was no cinch. The hard-sell copy on the invitation promises: "From the moment you enter the gates of Michael Jackson's Neverland Valley Ranch, located just north of Santa Barbara, you will wish that this day could last forever. ... Be one of the privileged few who have ever personally experienced this extraordinary and magical oasis."
Guests are also encouraged to try out the amusement park, video arcade, zoo and movie theatre, where they'll see the latest first-run movie. There's also a promised "lavish" lunch and dinner.
Meanwhile, there's word from the world of Jackson that he's returned to his old lawyer, John Branca, after splitting with him several months ago. This would jibe with Michael's asking Charles Koppelman to manage his affairs.
Earlier this year, as reported here, Jackson dropped Branca for a Las Vegas lawyer. But word out of Vegas was that when Jackson was offered to various venues, à la Celine Dion, for a permanent one-man show, there were no takers.
Now if Branca's back in the picture, his goal will be to renegotiate Jackson's deal with Sony Music. So it's really like being back at square one after eight months.
More info, undoubtedly, to come.