Expect no more than 150 Michael Jackson (search) fans today at the Santa Maria courthouse. Only three buses have been arranged for, I am told, promising a very small showing for the King of Pop.
Everyone in the Jackson camp is hoping for a much calmer scene today than the one we saw two months ago. No dancing on limos. No Nation of Islam (search) bodyguards. Fans — even small numbers — will remain behind barricades.
Meanwhile, I've recently learned that the father of the 14-year-old boy at the center of the case and his attorney, H. Russell Halpern, testified before the grand jury that last week indicted Jackson.
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!