Michael Jackson is ending his relationship with the Nation of Islam, sources tell Foxnews.com.
Jackson has apparently decided, in the wake of firing his lead attorneys over the weekend, to also get rid of his controversial recent "business manager" Leonard Muhammad, son-in-law of Louis Farrakhan.
The change in Jackson's camp reflects the sudden rise to power of Michael's brother Randy and Randy's own advisor, Brian Oxman, who have gained leverage with the singer of late. It was Randy and Oxman who engineered the hiring of Thomas Mesereau as Jackson's new lead attorney in his child molestation case.
One of Mesereau's requirements in taking the job was that Jacko rid himself of the NOI. But it won't be so easy to get rid of Muhammad. According to my sources, he is resisting Jackson's decision.
"He won't go without a fight," said one source.
Indeed, Muhammad was telling at least some people last night that he was still working with Jackson, even though it was clear that he was out.
Jackson's housecleaning of lawyers and security may not stop there. Late last night there was also talk that he was planning to drop his current publicist, Raymone Bain.
This would be wise, since this woman has yet to give a straight answer or give one true statement to the press since taking over from Jackson's much-admired former PR guy, Stuart Backerman.
So what's going on?
"Michael wants to get back to where things used to be," is how one insider put it last night. "He wants to go home to Neverland, back to his community in Santa Barbara and get back to his life."
That would be sensible, although Michael Jackson is not known for that trait. He's leaving the Orlando mansion he rented, and on July 1st he has to leave the Beverly Hills estate for which he plunked down $700,000. That lease will be up at the end of June and Jackson could stand to stop spending money for a while.
The big question is: How will all these changes affect Friday's arraignment in Santa Maria? We'll know more tomorrow.
A little hard work is paying off today for Prince. After about a dozen years in the wilderness, he has a hit.
Prince's new album, "Musicology," looks like it sold between 200,000 and 220,000 in its first seven days out and will finish in second place for the week.
It's sort of amazing when you realize that the last hit album of original material Prince had was... hmmm? Wait, I can remember. Was it "Emancipation?" Was it "The Gold Album," in 1991?
Actually, it's hard to say, considering Prince spent most of the '90s fighting with Warner Bros. and releasing his own albums in unconventional ways. But "Musicology" is distributed by Sony, which was a wise move on the label's part and on the artist's part, as well. Appearances on the Grammy Awards and his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame helped make Prince seem a little less kooky and more accessible.
And what's No. 1 this week? A new album by singer Mario Winans on Sean "Puffy" Combs' label Bad Boy. Quite a nice week for P. Diddy, as he made his debut last night in "A Raisin in the Sun" on Broadway (see yesterday's column). Maybe while he's in the play he can make an album with co-star Audra MacDonald, one of the great voices not being heard enough.
Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus in Mel Gibson's controversial "The Passion of the Christ," tells me he got a big bonus check after the movie did so well at the box office.
"We got nothing up front," he told me at Tavern on the Green last night, after the premiere of his new movie about golf great Bobby Jones. The party, I think, was a charity event for the Metropolitan Golf Association.
"Mel took care of us," Caviezel said. "And I'm telling you, there were a couple of investors who wanted to put up big money. One of them wanted to put up $20 million. But Mel wouldn't take the money."
Caviezel says he doesn't believe "The Passion of the Christ" is anti-Semitic, by the way, something this reporter disagrees with.
"It's based on the Gospels," he says, "and anyone who thinks the movie is anti-Semitic thinks the Gospels are anti-Semitic."
He continued: "My faith says that anti-Semitism is amoral. I never would have made the movie if it were like that."
Caviezel and I discussed our mutual respect for filmmaker Terrence Malick, who directed him in "The Thin Red Line."
"The reason I took the Bobby Jones movie is because of Terry," Caviezel said. "He told me to watch each pitch" — a baseball metaphor — "and I'd know which one to hit at."
Caviezel also said that movies like Malick's need a lot of attention.
"We're in a world now where no one's reading anything," he said.
Is he a big reader?
"My wife says I'm the most vocal non-reader she knows," he laughed.