Does the Santa Barbara District Attorney really know what happened between Michael Jackson and his accuser? The latest charges filed againt Jackson suggest that Tom Sneddon is either confused or unsure. In the first charges, filed by Sneddon on Jan. 31, he accused Jackson of committing nine different acts between Feb. 7 and March 10, 2003.
In the revised filing, Sneddon has changed the dates considerably. Now he says Jackson did whatever he's alleged to have done between Feb. 20 and March 12, 2003. What? This means there was a two week mistake in the first filing. Is anyone paying attention to this? And the new final date — March 12 — seems impossible too by all accounts.
If Frank Tyson or Vincent Amen, the Michael Jackson employees who watched over the family involved in the child molestation case, are indicted or named as co-conspirators, they will not be taking immunity and testifying for the prosecution, according to my sources.
It's also unlikely that Marc Schaffel, the videographer to whom the young men reported during that period of time, would accept a deal like that either.
My sources are fairly vehement about this. Tyson has known Jackson since he was five years old. Jackson has been a regular guest at Tyson's family home in New Jersey for years. Tyson's siblings and parents have spent great quantities of time with the singer at Neverland and on trips. They all consider each other family.
In February 2003, Schaffel brought Tyson out to Los Angeles to help him work on the "rebuttal" video Jackson had sold to Fox TV. Tyson asked Amen, a college buddy who wanted to work in video and music, to come along with him. Initially, my sources report, there was no idea that they would get involved with the accuser and his family.
But prior to their arrival on the scene, for about a week, the family, especially the mother, had been in conflict with Jackson's then manager, the German Dieter Wiesner. The two were like oil and water, with Wiesner's imposing personality doing nothing to assuage the mother.
"It started the day everyone got back to Neverland, February 7," the source says. For a week Wiesner kept the family at Neverland. It's possible the mother felt she could not leave. She later made accusations to the police that Wiesner had harassed her. Wiesner, who has returned to Germany, has not been questioned.
It was around Valentine's Day that Schaffel, who had spoken to Wiesner, turned the family over to Tyson and Amen. The 23-year-old college students are both soft spoken, laid back guys. They had little interest in being babysitters, but that's what they became to the family. They also acted as chauffeurs. When the mother had to go to family court against her ex-husband, it was Amen who drove her. When she demanded to go shopping or to visit her parents' home, Amen drove.
"You don't know what she was like," Amen has told friends. If anyone felt like they were being hostage, it was Amen himself.
The mother apparently was relentless in her opportunism. When Tyson and Amen talk about their experiences with her, it's with weariness, not anger. They were often responsible for looking after her three children while she was socializing or spending time with her boyfriend, Army Reserves Major Jay Jackson.
Amen will testify that the mother was "up to something." He sensed a problem on March 11, 2003 after the mother won added child support from her ex-husband in family court. Amen told her how happy he was for her. The mother replied that she was upset because, after weeks at Neverland and fighting the husband, she expected more. "Michael promised he'd make my kids stars," she said.
Within a few days, she and her children would be gone from Neverland, having moved in with Jay Jackson and seeking legal advice. But it would not be until May, after their attorney sent them to Larry Feldman, who'd represented the family in the Jackson case 10 years ago, that any accusation of child molestation would be made.
I've recently learned that the father of the 14-year-old boy at the center of the Michael Jackson case and his attorney, H. Russell Halpern, testified before the grand jury that last week indicted the singer.
Before Judge Rodney Melville issued his gag order to all participants, the father reportedly questioned his ex-wife's truthfulness on subjects ranging from their divorce to the family's involvement with Jackson.
In one instance, at a family court appearance in 2001 concerning the divorce, I am told that the boy's mother arrived and remained in a wheelchair — much the same way TV characters wear fake neck braces and splints on sitcoms.
"No one could figure it out," a source tells me. "There was nothing wrong with her."
The stars of "Friends" are getting ready to pack it in two weeks from now, but will we ever see them again?
So far the only one of the six who's gainfully employed is Matt LeBlanc (search). He's got his spin-off sitcom "Joey," which could go the way of "Frasier" — the rare example of a spin-off working — or the way of "AfterM*A*S*H," which lasted a shorter time than a Hawkeye-led panty raid.
Here's the breakdown: Courteney Cox Arquette (search) is pregnant, which gives her an out right now. But her Sundance entry, a not-so-thrilling thriller called "November," never did sell to a distributor. Courteney wasn't bad in it, but the film itself was confusing and pointless.
Then there's Matthew Perry (search). You'd think with "Friends" getting so much attention, a movie in release right now for him would be a no-brainer. But "The Whole Ten Yards" has been a huge disaster at the box office, taking in $14 million. It should be yanked from theatres shortly.
David Schwimmer (search) turned out to be a surprise as a guest star on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" this season, playing himself. But his movie career leaves a lot to be desired, either as an actor or a director. He's already said he wants to direct episodes of "Joey." My prediction is that he turns into a David Steinberg or (the late) Jerry Paris, becoming a sought-after TV director — that is, if reality shows don't circumvent sitcoms forever.
Lisa Kudrow (search) seemed, in 1999, like she was on her way to a movie career with Harold Ramis' "Analyze This" and Don Roos' "The Opposite of Sex." But in the five years since then, Kudrow has appeared in some of the worst films ever made: "Lucky Numbers," "Marcie X," "Bark" and "Wonderland." If her next Roos film, "Happy Endings," doesn't do something for her, Kudrow still has TV. Always bandied about as the successor to Lucy and Mary Tyler Moore, Lisa Kudrow could ride the anti-reality show sitcom revival wave in the fall of 2005.
And what of Jennifer Aniston? The most high profile of all the "Friends," she's also made the most movies during the series' run. But many of them have been forgettable. Only "The Good Girl" has stood out. She has four projects lined up, but none of them is earth-shaking. Six years younger than Kudrow, and fully equipped with a non-stop life in the tabloid press, Aniston has the best chance of any of the "Friends" of not returning to television anytime soon.
The third annual premiere of the fledgling Tribeca Film Festival has been mugged and kidnapped by Disney. The troubled studio, rocked by corporate intrigue on every level and three flops in a row — "The Ladykillers," "Home on the Range" and the real scarifying money-loser, "The Alamo" — is banning the press from Saturday night's premiere of the Garry Marshall comedy "Raising Helen."
Oh, how times have changed. Three years ago, Tribeca was begging for press help and accommodating everyone to get its name out there. But two years of huge success has repositioned the festival not as a local feel-good experience for indie filmmakers, but rather a home for corporate underwriters to dictate their own inferiorities. What a shame!
The Disney event won't be the only Tribeca-related gathering for the A-list. Vanity Fair magazine is giving a party on Tuesday night for the festival along the same lines.
"It's Graydon's list," a publicist said. "We're just guests ourselves."
As for the festival itself: There will be a lot of film and video to wade through, with some highlights (David Duchovny's "House of D," HBO's "Elaine Stritch: At Liberty," Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes," Ivy Meeropol's "Heir to an Execution," Roger Michell's "The Mother") and a lot of question marks.
As for "Raising Helen," the buzz, of course, is bad. Marshall is a hit-or-miss director. When he's hot, he's hot ("Pretty Woman," "Runaway Bride," "Princess Diaries"). When he's not, he's not ("Exit to Eden," "Dear God," "The Other Sister"). We'd all be better off staying home and renting two of his best: "The Flamingo Kid" or "Nothing to Lose."
Or even better: Check out the South Africa Film Festival offerings at www.tenyearsoffreedom.org, which is being held at the Clearview Cinemas Broadway and 62nd St. I will tell you more on Monday about one of its excellent features, "A Lion's Trail."
By the way, in case you were wondering: "The Alamo," which cost at least $100 million to make and another $30 million to promote, has brought in $20 million so far in three weeks. "The Ladykillers," which cost at least $75 million plus another $25 million, has $36 million in the till.
Someone had better find Nemo, and fast!