Big stuff yesterday as Michael Jackson's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, the mother of his two eldest children, filed secretive sounding papers yesterday in Los Angeles family court.
Today you will read breathless accounts of how Rowe is demanding custody of Prince and Paris, that she has her doubts about Michael's parenting skills and is worried that the Nation of Islam is going to mistreat her kids because they are Jewish by birth. (Rowe converted to Judaism for her first marriage, I am told.)
None of this true, my friends. I know what Debbie Rowe wants. Debbie Rowe wants respect. That's RESPECT. And so far she's not getting it from Michael Jackson.
Rowe in fact does not want full time custody of Prince and Paris. What she wants, I am told, is for Michael to start including her in his inner circle as his child molestation case proceeds. Believe it or not, Jackson has not spoken to Rowe since the news of the scandal broke back on Nov. 17, 2003. Not a word, not a phone call. You might ask, how dumb is Jackson? Shouldn't he be making sure this woman is happy?
"Yes," says my source out here in Los Angeles. "But you are talking to a wall."
What Rowe wants: actual scheduled visits several times a year with those kids, which is not unreasonable. She wants to know that the kids are safe, and that Jackson is healthy, mentally and physically, so he can care for them. She wants someone in Jackson's camp to return a phone call. So far, no one has.
So that's the big story of Debbie Rowe. No full time custody, that's not what this is about. Frankly, it would seem like she's sending a message to Jackson. The problem is, he's not receiving it. Maybe someone rational can explain this to him. This is the kind of case he can make go away. Or can it blow up into something else.
Meantime, much as I love them, George Rush and Joanna Molloy of the New York Daily News sort of got it wrong yesterday about Michael Jackson's assets — i. e. song catalogs — being sold or used for collateral. Jackson's own catalog, called MiJac and administered by Warner Chappell Music, is not being sold for any reason. It has been used in the past to borrow money against, and it will be used again for the same reason. Yes, it is worth about $100 million, but that's an asset that Jackson must and will retain. The catalog contains his own songs like Billie Jean and Beat It, as well many hundreds of others including the hits from Sly and the Family Stone.
Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" opens today following a lot of cheesy hoopla and cynical exploitation on the part of Gibson and his distributor, Newmarket Films. For Gibson's part, there isn't much of a surprise there. For Newmarket, which will release a film this fall starring Kevin Bacon as a pederast, well, we're just getting to know them, aren't we?
I saw "The Passion" at midnight last night in Los Angeles, since neither Newmarket nor Gibson's people would accommodate me with a press screening. Never mind, though, it was far more interesting to plunk down $11 at the Hollywood ArcLight and see "The Passion" with a big group.
Is the movie anti-Semitic? Several reviewers have already said it is. I can tell you this: Thanks to Gibson, when non-Jews around the world now see the Jewish prayer shawl, the tallis, on the heads of praying Jews, they will think, 'Oh yeah, those were worn by the angry crowds in "The Passion" who insisted that Jesus be killed and then patiently watched him be tortured to death.' Thanks to Gibson, we are reminded that Jesus' friend Judas — a Jew — was easily sold out for some gold that was thrown at him in exchange for his betrayal. It's the return of the money-grubbing Jew, straight out of the old anti-Semite playbook.
There's more, of course, but none of this is a revelation at this point. Gibson's Jews are caricatures with bulbous noses. To say they lack compassion is an understatement. They are almost always pictured as an angry, unrelenting mob that wants Jesus dead no matter what. It's so stupid that it's almost not anti-Semitic. It just makes Gibson look like an idiot.
But the real problem with "The Passion" is that it is graphic beyond belief, and unrelenting. How anyone will be able to sit through this thing is the real mystery. There is blood, blood, everywhere. The violence toward Jesus is sadistic and grotesque. Basically, the entire second half of the film is spent watching Jesus endure physical torture never before seen in a movie. By the time it's done, actor James Caviezel's body is a map of bloody rivers and lakes with craters of flesh excised from his torso.
Is this disgusting? You bet. It's also puzzling, because what Gibson hasn't done in "The Passion" is explain his love of Christ or his own passion or devotion. We have no idea why Christ is so reviled by the Jews, what he's done to earn their anger, or what he's done to earn Gibson's respect. From the moment the film begins, Jesus is simply a target for unbridled, unrestrained bloodlust. Yes, we get to see the nails driven through him, blood spurting in every direction, skin being torn in the process.
Is there anything that's learned by witnessing this enactment? I wish I could say there was, but there isn't. It's simple brutality, with a hard rock music track playing in the background. I'm not sure that it's so different from Gibson's character dislocating his shoulder on purpose in one of the "Lethal Weapon" movies.
So here's the problem. Since we don't know who Jesus was before the day of his death, and since all we see are rabid packs of Jews in shawls who want him dead, followed by the long merciless death itself, what is Gibson's point? That Christ died for our sins? Or that he was murdered by crazy, vicious mobs who didn't understand him? My question is, How will the Hollywood cognoscenti respond to "The Passion"? Will they remain silent and hope it goes away? Or will someone speak out? There is no end of voices when it comes to sex and violence in mainstream movies. Where are those voices now?