It was only a matter of time before Michael Jackson's global network of loyal fans said something about their hero's involvement with the Nation of Islam.
Last night I spoke with Deborah Dannelly, president of the Michael Jackson Fan Clubs. She presides over 16,000 fans from all over the world, comprising different religions, countries, faiths and skin colors. This group of fans have been Jackson's steadfast supporters, sticking with him through accusations of child molestation, baby dangling and skin lightening.
Dannelly, who runs her operation with a five person unpaid staff, says her membership is not happy.
"I don't think he [Jackson] realizes the impact he's had on the fan base. He's made bridges between different religions and nations. The fans get together because of him. I would hate to see that ruined. I would urge him to reconsider his involvement with the Nation of Islam."
This column reported first Dec. 17 that Jackson had become involved with the Nation of Islam through his brother, Jermaine, and his children's nanny. Since then, Jackson has broken off relationships with his managers and publicist. All contact has been directed through Nation of Islam chief of staff Leonard Searcy Muhammad, the son-in-law of Louis Farrakhan.
The involvement of the Nation of Islam has caused a huge upheaval in Jackson's vast and fragile organization. According to my sources, at some point in the last three weeks the Fan Club received a phone call from a longtime Jackson associate, Kevin McLin, who advised them they had severed ties with Jackson's most recent managers, Dieter Wiesner and Ronald Konitzer, and to direct all business to him and a woman named Carol Davis. As well, they were told that their popular liaison, publicist Stuart Backerman, was also gone. Backerman resigned after the Dec. 20the Neverland Ranch rally for Jackson.
Dannelly says the fans are "scared."
"I can't tell the fans what to think or feel," she said. "I do have my limitations. All of the things I've believed about Michael Jackson for 36 years have to do with 'oneness' and erasing color lines. The Nation of Islam does not represent that. I do not support the Nation of Islam. Michael has taught the fans to stand together. I can't believe the fan base will stand for their involvement. You can't divide us."
Dannelly said the Michael Jackson Fan Club supported a recent filing of a complaint against Santa Barbara District Attorney Thomas Sneddon by a Texas business man. Michael Bradle, president of Tejas Corporate Partners, a group that investigates corporate and government fraud, wrote to the State Bar of California beginning in early December. "I am writing to file a formal complaint against Mr. Thomas Sneddon Jr. the Santa Barbara District Attorney. This complaint stems from his mishandling of the Michael Jackson investigation, his personal vendetta, and abuse of the color of his office. Mr. Sneddon has personally breached the rules of his professional conduct."
Bradle told me he is not a Jackson fan fanatic, but got involved simply because he thought Sneddon -- who has been widely criticized for his comments about Jackson at press conferences -- was abusing the power of his office.
"Our complaint is not designed to interfere with the actual case," Bradle said, although personally he feels that Jackson is innocent of the child molestation charges. "I just can't stand by and watch someone violate the color of their office."
The complaints are based on what Bradle believes to be a breach of Rule 5-120 of the California State Bar code on trial publicity. That rule states in part: "A member who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication if the member knows or reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter."
Jackson isn't the only idiosyncratic pop star with weird problems. Take Prince, the Artist formerly known as and once again referred to as...Prince. You may recall the long suffered episode when Prince said he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and painted the word Slave on his face. This was all because he was trying to get out of his recording contract with Warner Bros. Eventually he did, and by that time no one cared. Prince's last hit was the beautiful 1991 ballad "The Most Beautiful Girl."
Nevertheless, I guess the bad blood between the singer and the label will never die. Unitl yesterday, the Warner Bros. Records Web site had a front page entry that read: "NUDITY IS OUT OF STYLE. Really, it's so 2002. If you were thinking of giving the gift of nakedness this year, forget it. Instead, give the gift of half-dressedness with the Warner Bros. Records T-shirt and tank top. They're stylish, well-made and very useful. It's the kind of gift that never gets old. Hell, we send one to Prince every year."
Prince, who is not known for his sense of humor, didn't take long to respond. His Web site immediately started offering its own T-shirt under the heading "WARN A BROTHER SHIRT: never out of style. Really, it's a true classic. Stylish, well-made, and very useful. It's the kind of gift that never gets old. Heck, we send one 2 the most recent WB corporate owner every year.
Size: all sizes
It was always Macy Gray's dream to sing a Carla Thomas hit. Now she gets her chance on NBC's "American Dreams." Gray, according to Liz Smith's column, plays the phenomenal R&B star on the Jan. 18 edition of Dick Clark's NBC drama. Gray gets to sing "B-A-B-Y Baby," a hit Thomas had in 1967 written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Personally, I'm very proud of Carla, as she is one of the featured singers in the documentary I co-produced, "Only the Strong Survive." Now I hope one of my other faves, Oprah Winfrey, will have Thomas and the other "Survive" players -- Sam Moore, Mary Wilson, Isaac Hayes, Wilson Pickett and the Chi Lites -- on her show to celebrate their incredible lives. They are all alive and very, very well!