Published April 15, 2004
Madonna -- whose hits include "Like a Virgin" and "Vogue" -- is now apparently a religious scholar. Her two children's books are now being sold side by side with bibles and other weighty tracts.
Madonna's books, "The English Roses" (Amazon rank No. 1,547) and "Mr. Peabody's Apples" (Amazon rank No. 1,927), are now for sale at the Kabbalah Center of Los Angeles' book store. Kabbalah, a celebrity religion that purports to be a branch of Judaism, has attracted such rocket scientists as Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Courtney Love, Sandra Bernhard and Roseanne.
Kabbalah is actually a family-run business owned and operated by 75-year-old "Rabbi" Philip Berg (real name: Feivel Gruberger), who believes, according to Los Angeles magazine, that he can stop earthquakes. I don't know about that, but he's very good at raising money. The New York branch of the Kabbalah Center, according to its tax records, had net assets last year of more than $24 million. At its last filing available, for 2000, the Los Angeles branch had more than $11 million in its coffers.
Of course, the Kabbalah-ists could be reciprocating a favor. Madonna, according to British newspapers, gave them $5 million to build a center in London.
"The English Roses," which came out last fall and has nothing to do with any religion per se, and its sequel, "Mr. Peabody's Apples," are the only non Kabbalah-ist texts for sale in the online gift shop. They are also the only children's books sold there. They are each priced at $19.99. Other books for sale are Kabbalah takes on Jewish holidays, bibles and the 23-volume basis for Kabbalah, which retails for $415.
There are a couple of books that refer to sex in their title -- including "Divine Sex" by Kabbalah leader Karen Berg -- but Madonna's very own "Sex" book, which depicted her in many X-rated poses, is not available. Neither are her CDs.
Our friends at the National Enquirer have a big scoop today. They've paid Liberace's lover, Scott Thorson, to tell how he and Michael Jackson were lovers twice in the early 1980s. Feel like taking a shower?
If Thorson did what he says he did with Michael, it's news to the author of his book. Back in the late 1980s, Thorson came out with a "memoir" called "Behind the Candelabra." (I use the word "memoir" advisedly here. Lillian Hellman and Edmund Wilson have also published memoirs, you see.) The writer who worked on the book, Alex Thorliefson, says Thorson told her that he and Jackson had been close friends, but never mentioned anything like this.
Thorliefson told me about her out-of-print book. "Scott knew Michael for a number of years starting in 1979. In the book, he speaks of Michael and Janet coming to Liberace's house in Vegas to swim. They couldn't use a hotel public pool. Scott's friendship with Michael was in London while Liberace was appearing at the Palladium. They saw each other every day for a period of time after that. In the book, there is no reference to anything other than a close friendship," Thorliefson said. "Were they lovers? That I could not say. He said there was a lot of touchy-feely, a lot of sexual innuendo, whenever he was with Michael."
The Enquirer says Thorson passed their lie detector test and they are satisfied with the results.
What's kind of more interesting is the rest of Thorson's story: He's spent most of the last several years in the Federal Witness Protection program -- not for his Jacko or Liberace connections, but because in 1990 he ratted out a mobster in exchange for a lighter sentence for selling drugs. Unfortunately, the mobster -- known as Eddie Nash (aka Eddie the Hat) -- was acquitted, which left Thorson high and dry. (Thorson, the Zelig of all high crimes and misdemeanors, claimed that Nash had been responsible for the Wonderland, aka Laurel Canyon, murders in Los Angeles in 1981.)
Thorliefson says Thorson is in dire need of cash, hence the story sale to the Enquirer.
"As for him coming out with it now, I'm sure he sold the story for a lot of money at the opportune moment while Michael's sexual peccadilloes are in the news."
Meantime, according to my pal Diane Dimond at Court TV, recent reports of a new Jackson police inquiry are false. That's right. An 18-year-old boy was claiming he'd been molested by Jackson in 1988. That would have made him 2 years old at the time. I'm told that this story grew out of control on Monday night until it became fact yesterday. Now it's dismissed.
Who the heck is Plum Sykes? Why, she's the sister of Lucy Sykes and Tom Sykes, people whose names I'd heard and even read in some other gossip columns. I could never figure out who they were or why they got so much ink.
I had placed them in my mind with the Hiltons.
The Sykeses are Brits, but they claim not to be fancy Brits. Just lucky ones. Plum -- real name Victoria -- and her sister, Lucy, write for Vogue and go to great parties and fashion shows. They have English accents, so everyone likes listening to them. It's the British invasion without guitars.
Now Plum -- who turned out to be very friendly and not at all snooty -- has published a novel called "Bergdorf Blondes." It's "chick-lit," a send-up of all the rich young things she's met in America. She's thrown her hat into a ring that already produced a dreadful novel called "The Devil Wears Prada." There's a lot of money to be made in the neo-Judith Krantz/Jackie Collins world, I guess. "Bergdorf Blondes" -- which is more Candace Bushnell than Harold Robbins -- is already a bestseller. No less than Janet Maslin in the New York Times said Plum has a "distinctive, wily and well-deployed comic voice."
Plum's book is a lot of fun and a quick read. I got a copy on Tuesday night on the ninth floor of Bergdorf's, where Miramax Books, her publisher, and Vogue, natch, threw her a little soiree. I knew few of the people. Many of the women were so thin they looked like they might have had trouble breathing. One, Amy Fine Collins, who writes for Vogue and Vanity Fair, fainted. Windows were opened, EMS squads were called. No one thought to offer her a canape, but Plum did bring her a glass of orange juice. I hope she drank it.
Now, Plum is so hot that she got $600,000 for her next book. I am now thinking of writing a novel myself. I will call it "The Man in the Zegna Coat." That's because after the Plum Sykes party we all dragged down Fifth Avenue to the opening of the new Zegna store. I didn't see any celebrities, but there were a lot more very thin people not eating the hors d'oeuvres. That's too bad, because they were delicious.