News from Arizona and Las Vegas, where Michael Jackson’s (search) management team of Dieter Wiesner and Ronald Konitzer are on the attack.
I told you about them earlier this week. Wiesner owns legalized sex clubs in Germany, among other things. Konitzer is said to be working on “diversifying” Jackson’s assets and helping him financially — even though Jackson’s regular advisers are against this.
Now the word is that the pair are putting together a special about Michael, and they are hoping to sell it to Fox TV, which did a couple of specials with these two last winter as rebuttals to the Martin Bashir documentary.
I am told that Dec. 20 is the day penciled in for some shooting at Neverland, which may include members of Michael's family and certain celebrity friends giving testimonials. So far, aside from Liz Taylor, none of Jackson's coterie has spoken out publicly — including Macaulay Culkin, Chris Tucker or Bubbles the Chimp.
A Jackson insider confirms that Wiesner and Konitzer were always planning a new special with footage from Jackson’s weird trip to Gary, Ind., plus footage from his birthday party in September. But I am also told that this special will be constructed to show Michael in a positive light. The managers, my sources tell me, are trying to get some big bucks out of this for themselves and possibly to help defray legal costs.
My only question is: What about CBS and the Jackson special that was never broadcast?
Not all the "American Idol" stars are having good times in the record business. While Clay Aiken (search), Ruben Studdard and Kelly Clarkson (search ) are hitting it big, two of America’s sweethearts have hit a snag.
Dandelion-haired Justin Guarini, who was in the first “American Idol” and went on to co-star with Clarkson in the truly dreadful movie, “From Justin to Kelly,” has reportedly been dropped by RCA Records. His album, which came out in June, was met with indifference and bad reviews. It sold about 125,000 copies.
Another “Idol” is also having trouble. According to her Web site, Tamyra Gray, who was being groomed at J Records just last winter, is also out before her album is even done.
It was only last March when I met Gray dining with J’s Clive Davis (search), "Idol"’s Simon Cowell (search) and formula songwriter Diane Warren at Spago. They were plotting her big break. My guess is, for whatever reason, she and Justin will have their successes at another time.
Fame is fleeting folks!
We’re on the precipice of a Jude Law freak out, folks. I mean, he’s about to be a big star. Big.
I’m not saying this because of “Cold Mountain,” either. The Anthony Minghella epic is screening for critics now and premieres on Tuesday in New York. I’ll tell you on Wednesday how it is.
If “Cold Mountain” is a great movie and Jude Law is good in it, that will be just fine. But Law is also the star of the remake of Lewis Gilbert’s 1966 classic “Alfie.” It’s directed by Charles Shyer and is scheduled to debut next spring from Paramount.
Last week, I ran into a little serendipity when I walked into the wrong screening room and found Shyer showing his ex-wife, “Something’s Gotta Give” director Nancy Meyers, and their two teenage daughters a long trailer from “Alfie.”
In the compilation of scenes I got the chance to enjoy — set to Cher singing the Burt Bacharach-Hal David anthem — Law just leapt off the screen. He’s phenomenal as Alfie the rake, pervert, cad, snake, man-about-town who must be taken down a few notches in order to appreciate his life.
In these scenes, the other actors who were featured included Nia Long and Omar Epps, both of whom will pop too — especially Long, a long way from her early days on the CBS soap “Guiding Light.” One face I spotted in stills, who’s not listed in any given credits so far, is screenwriter Stephen Gaghan (“Traffic”).
Shyer — often with Meyers — has written and/or directed plenty of films with varying degrees of success, including “Baby Boom,” “Irreconcilable Differences” and “Private Benjamin.” But this one I think will be his big, big hit. Eventually, something had to give. This is it.
As for Meyers, her “Something’s Gotta Give” should click like crazy when it hits theaters.
I extolled the virtues of this comedy yesterday, but enough cannot be said about the chemistry between Jack Nicholson and the luminous Diane Keaton. Some of their scenes crackle with the wit and timing of Tracy and Hepburn.
Keen observers, though, will find several plot points that allude to “You’ve Got Mail” and “Annie Hall,” among other classic movies. And there’s a kind of draggy area right before the ending. But overall “Something’s Gotta Give” will be remembered for Keaton. Watching her comic timing is like seeing a great ball player smack a homerun right out of the park.
You may recall a story that appeared here on July 17 of this year. I told you that the widow of the late music great Curtis Mayfield was in a nasty battle with her husband’s co-trustee for control of his estate.
Now I can tell you that on Dec. 1, Chicago securities trader Marvin Heiman resigned all of his positions with the estate.
For Altheida Mayfield , Curtis’ widow, this was a hard-won victory.
Even though Heiman had agreed to step aside during court mediation on Sept. 30, initially he refused to abide by the agreement. I am told “certain pressures” were applied by Mayfield’s Atlanta lawyers and others to get his signature.
Heiman told me last night: "Curtis was [a] partner and best friend. For 32 years we never had a contract. I gave the eulogy at his funeral. There were things said about me that weren't true. But I wish her well. She'll go her way and I'll go my way."
Mayfield died an early and tragic death brought on by a freak accident in 1990. While performing at an outdoor venue in Brooklyn, a light tower fell on him. Mayfield was paralyzed from then on. He kept working however, issuing a much-praised album called "New World Order" in 1996.
When Mayfield died in 1999, he left behind a music catalog worth millions and full of hits. He composed and performed the music for classic films like "Superfly," "Sparkle" and "Let's Do It Again."
He also wrote many other dozens of famous songs like "I'm So Proud," "People Get Ready," "It's All Right," "Let's Do It Again," "Gypsy Woman," and "Move on Up." His protégés included R&B stars Jerry Butler ("I'm the One Who Loves You") and Major Lance ("Monkey Time").
Heiman, a longtime figure in the Chicago music world, had been Mayfield’s manager on and off for 20 years or so. In the late '80s the pair severed ties, but when Mayfield was injured Heiman returned and offered to help him administer his businesses as a partner. When Mayfield died, Heiman became the co-trustee of the estate with Altheida Mayfield, and his son became the “successor trustee,” or next in line if something should happen to the father.
So it’s a happy ending, one of the few we have around here, for the Mayfield family. All the trusts will now be bank-administered, and the world can go on enjoying Curtis Mayfield’s work for years to come.