The New York Times is now using unnamed sources and US Weekly as the basis of its stories. You almost wonder what the hubbub was over Jayson Blair .
Today's bylined story by Sharon Waxman about Michael Jackson goes on ad nauseum quoting a Jackson associate who claims he didn't get paid his commission for setting up Michael's "60 Minutes" interview.
That same source insists Jackson got $1 million for doing the interview with Ed Bradley.
Maybe someone should tell Times editor Bill Keller that Waxman spent a good deal of her day on Monday chatting up Jackson's former manager Dieter Wiesner. Now back in Germany, where he owns sex clubs, Wiesner was very happy to tell Waxman anything he could think of to destroy Jackson's reputation.
Wiesner is very angry and bitter, according to my sources, about being usurped in the Jackson inner circle by Leonard Muhammad, chief of staff for the Nation of Islam.
But his delight in making trouble for the Jackson camp could prove to be a problem for those gullible enough to believe him.
The Bradley interview, as I reported here first some two weeks ago, was not set up by Wiesner at all. In fact, the whole idea emanated from what I call Jackson's "permanent" government of advisers — John Branca, Charles Koppelman and Al Malnik.
It was this trio, according to sources, that worked to save the original CBS special by offering "60 Minutes" an interview.
In fact, CBS wouldn't go ahead and air that special — which was postponed after Jackson's arrest — until they had some kind of formal denial by Jackson on the air concerning the child-molestation charges.
Wiesner, who'd like to convince the Times and others that he put the deal together, has been prevented from making any deals, decisions or connections for Jackson for weeks.
"What's interesting now," said a source, "is that Michael has cut off the people who might be of help to him later in court. Wiesner, Ronald Konitzer and the publicist, Stuart Backerman, all backed him through the year before anyone else knew about the accusations. Wiesner was the one who hired Mark Geragos. Now Geragos has endorsed Muhammad getting rid of these people. And they're going to start turning on Michael."
Meanwhile, Jackson insiders on all sides are starting to wonder what is going on with Jackson's attorney, Mark Geragos.
"He called everyone the other day and told them to lie if anyone asked about the Nation of Islam and Michael," two sources of mine said.
Geragos actually told the Times that the Nation of Islam stories must be originating with the Santa Barbara County district attorney's office — something that is not only patently untrue, but absurd.
The Nation of Islam stories indeed have never come from the D.A.'s office, although that same office must be amused to see Geragos lose control of a situation he had in hand only two weeks ago.
Okay, so everyone has a Top 10 list for 2003. The Fox411 should be no exception. It was not a great year, but here we go with Part 1. Part 2 will be published on Friday:
1. "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King": Peter Jackson's three-hour-plus finale to his wildly successful epic trilogy could be shorter and have fewer endings. But it's still a grand last installment, with awe-inspiring special effects and wonderfully drawn characters. Ten years from now, the whole trilogy will be studied and applauded on the level of the "Godfather" films. Sean Astin, by the way, makes his famous parents proud for the first time since "Rudy."
2. "Cold Mountain": When Renée Zellweger saunters into Anthony Minghella's Oscar-bound masterpiece, the whole film lights up. No one knows how to tell a historical tale with cross-cutting like Minghella, and "Cold Mountain" is a triumph in this regard. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman — who I think was unfairly criticized for looking too glamorous in the last scenes — have oodles of chemistry and are up to the task of movie stars who can act. The supporting cast —Donald Sutherland, Kathy Baker, Brendan Gleeson et al. — is superb.
3. "Big Fish": A lot of people tell me they weren't crazy about Tim Burton's latest film. An equal number swears by this film. If Albert Finney doesn't get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, I will eat my hat. Ewan MacGregor is a charmer as the narrator, and at last Danny DeVito is used to the right effect. "Big Fish" is a warm, funny, eccentric character study with lots of great performances and memorable visuals. A sentimental favorite, and a sleeper.
4. "Mystic River": Clint Eastwood directed Dennis Lehane's novel as if it were a script for "Playhouse 90" or a film noir circa 1951. All that "Mystic River" is missing is Richard Widmark and Thelma Ritter. That said, Marcia Gay Harden and Tim Robbins give their best stuff ever. Eastwood draws them out, even giving the hard-pressed Kevin Bacon some golden moments along the way. What doesn't work: the MacBeth stuff at the end, where Laura Linney is forced to say things she shouldn't.
5. "Monster": The film has been less appreciated so far than Charlize Theron's mesmerizing performance as serial killer Aileen Wuornos. But I think that's unfair. "Monster" has a bite, and it will stay with you longer than you'd like. It's true that Theron does things you don't think possible, but director Patty Jenkins — working with documentary maker Nick Broomfield — captures a frightening environment with surprising precision.