John Grisham | Sharon Waxman | Louis Vuitton | News Travels Fast

John Grisham Movie Can't Find Distributor

John Grisham is hailed in ads from his book publisher as the best-selling novelist of our time. His legal thrillers like "The Firm," "The Client," "The Pelican Brief," "A Time to Kill," and "Runaway Jury" have all been turned into hit commercial movies.

But now Grisham's latest film, called "Mickey," cannot find a distributor. Instead, Grisham and director/producer Hugh Wilson will distribute the film themselves beginning in April.

It's not like the case of Mel Gibson and "The Passion of the Christ," where no one wanted to touch the movie because of scandal. "Mickey," about a Little League baseball team, is just considered too soft by the studios. Its only star is Harry Connick Jr. Otherwise, the movie is filled with kids who are also real Little Leaguers.

Wilson, who directed "The First Wives Club," created "WKRP in Cincinnati," told me that "Mickey" cost about $6 million to make and that he and Grisham put it all up themselves.

"I'd always wanted to make a picture without studio interference, and now I've done it," he said over dinner at Elaine's -- his first trip there ever in his long career. "It was so nice not to get all those phone calls from studio executives. No interference!"

Wilson and Grisham, who each live near Charlottesville, Va. and shot the film there too -- showed their finished project to studio execs. "We thought someone like Disney would snap it right up," he said. "But the deals we were offered meant not making any money."

Instead, the pair will distribute the movie five cities at a time, leaning heavily on the South and Mid West. "We may never play in New York and it doesn't matter," said Wilson, who is naturally funny. "Just please give us a quote for the ad, like 'It's in color! Or 'Just 92 minutes!'"

By the way, Wilson says that even though he needs to make another studio film soon, his experience with producer Scott Rudin on "First Wives Club" left such a bad taste he'd rather never do it again.

As for "First Wives" star Bette Midler, he said, "When she's live on stage in her show, she's amazing and spontaneous. But when she makes a movie she wants to go over and over each shot and is never happy."

This may explain why, somewhere perhaps, the remake of "The Stepford Wives" may very well still be shooting!

New York Times Steals From Us Again

The New York Times' Sharon Waxman has done it again. For the third time in a month, she has lifted information from this column and reworked it under her byline for the Times.

Today Waxman published a story about Michael Jackson 's finances, citing a $70 million loan payment that had to be made by Feb. 17. Otherwise, Waxman asserts, Jackson faces bankruptcy.

Of course, anyone who knows how to use Google or Yahoo! knows that this entire story ran on this site one month ago. And it was widely disseminated with our credit.

This reporter has already filed a complaint with the New York Times' new public editor, Daniel Okrent, and we are awaiting word from the paper about a possible correction.

In the meantime, it should be noted that Waxman managed to get Miami banker Al Malnik on the phone yesterday in a most unusual way. According to Malnik, she told his spokesperson that she was writing that Jackson was about to file for bankruptcy. The only way she wouldn't write it is if Malnik spoke to her.

By the end of Waxman's story it's clear that Jackson will not file for bankruptcy and that the whole preceding story is some kind of tease.

But we told you on Jan. 12 and 13 that Malnik and Charles Koppelman were, in fact, bailing Jackson out on the $70 million "put" on his $350 million loan with Bank of America.

What Waxman doesn't know — and I will tell you now — is that Malnik and Koppelman have formulated a very sound and creative plan that should solve Jackson's financial problems. I am bound by confidentiality until the deal is signed, but rest assured that Jackson is in no imminent danger of financial collapse, despite Waxman's incorrect assertions.

This is the third time that the Times, via Waxman, has used material already published in this column and repurposed it for her own work. It's hard to believe that the Times continues to let this happen.

Louis Vuitton Knows How to Party

If you always thought Louis Vuitton (that's Louie, to you) was a stuffy suitcase company, think again. On Tuesday night the French luggage and leather goods company spent millions to celebrate its 150th anniversary.

Actresses Kirsten Dunst and Kristin Davis, famous one name models Iman and Vendella, plus Harvey Weinstein, CBS chief Les Moonves and anchor Julie Chen, "Chicago" producer Marty Richards, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and hundreds of really beautiful people all came to the Lincoln Center area to see a multi-million dollar multi-media spectacle.

I wish I knew the credits for the people who put it together because this event was breathtaking. The Louis Vuitton people built a giant square tent in Damrosch Park covered in white sheets and then projected images across the surface. Inside, the immensely high ceiling of the tent glimmered with fake stars against a blue black backdrop.

Once the room filled up with about 1,500 glamorous fashion types, it became evident that the far wall of the tent -- the size of a monstrously huge outdoor drive-in -- was really a three panel projection screen. As a video began to play, cubed pieces of the screen spun around to reveal actors and dancers, even two high wire trampoline artists who bounced down from the top and performed for the cheering audience.

Even more spectacular were a hot air balloon that seemed to jump out of the screen and become real, as well as a giant globe that also emerged and sailed around the room. This all ended with a gospel choir on stage singing "Oh Happy Day" around a humungous Eiffel Tower constructed from Vuitton suitcases and bags.

All of this is connected to the opening of the new Vuitton store on Fifth Avenue and 57th St., which was crammed with onlookers Tuesday night before the party. I don't own one piece of anything Louis Vuitton, but I'll tell you, their name was seared into my hard drive after this event! Good luck to them, and kudos to the person who re-recorded the Benjamin Orr/Cars' song "Drive" for the video. Snazzy!

Our News Travels Fast

I'm sending out a semi-apology to Billboard.com. I told you yesterday that they ran our Justin Timberlake story (the one about his movie debut) without credit. It turns out Billboard.com got it from the Associated Press, which picked up the Timberlake story from this column, expanded on it, and ran it. I'm sending the AP a bill immediately for services rendered...Meanwhile, today's Page Six runs our great quote from Paris Hilton concerning her reading habits with credit to the Las Vegas Sun. Hmmm. Somehow, the Sun got that quote right here. Meanwhile, the same Sun article says Robin Leach was busy filming stars at Clive Davis' party. We saw Robin all night and he had no cameras in sight. The same article mentions some of Clive's guests as Whitney Houston, Rod Stewart and Lou Reed. None of them were there...Finally, ABC soap "General Hospital" has cast veteran actor Jed Allen to take over the role of Edward Quartermaine. Allen is 66 years old. Only one problem: Stuart Damon, the actor who plays Edward's son, Alan Quartermaine, is 67. ABC Daytime chief Brian Frons evidently considers this creative casting! But isn't this why ABC is in such a mess? Just asking...