There's nothing like a good spectacle to really juice up the gossip columns.
We should get a long-needed one on Wednesday night when Michael Jackson performs, or rather if he performs, at the World Music Awards.
The show is being broadcast live from Las Vegas on ABC. Usually it's taped in Monaco, but this year, because Michael isn't allowed to leave the U.S., the producers changed the venue.
The real drama here, of course, is that one of Jackson's arch-nemeses, Ray Chandler, has just published a book detailing a 35-year-old Michael's alleged sexual encounters in 1993 with Chandler's nephew, who was 13 at the time.
Sadly, Jackson isn't getting paid for this performance. This is a charity started by Princess Grace of Monaco's family, so the money has go to the needy.
But Michael really, really needs the money, too. Jackson is not exactly poor — we've dissected his assets to a fare-thee-well. But he is broke.
My sources tell me that Jackson has run through all the cash he was allotted for fun and games by Bank of America for this year. With three and a half months left in 2004, he's been forced to petition the Santa Barbara County Superior Court to reduce his bail.
Unfortunately, the court disagreed. And Jackson, who doesn't like to hear the word "no," is back at his Neverland Ranch.
On top of the ongoing child-molestation case, a book about a 10-year-old case, and a custody case against the mother of his two eldest children, Jackson is stuck without resources. According to his agreement with Bank of America, he cannot borrow any more money in 2004.
Jackson's biggest problem right now is an inability to generate income. Thanks to one of my regular correspondents, a Jackson fan, we know that Michael's weekly album sales run at just under 15,000 units. About two-thirds of those CDs are the re-mastered version of "Thriller" and his greatest-hits CD.
A five-disc boxed set with previously unreleased tracks is scheduled to be released in November after having been postponed from this month. But with a $50 retail price and almost daily negative revelations, it's unlikely that that project will do much for Jackson's bottom line.
I'll leave off here with this thought: Like all of Michael Jackson's problems, his financial one is totally self-created. He knows how to get out of it. But he continues to bite the hands that feed him. That's all I'll say for now.
The ballot is in the mail for the new crop of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees.
One name remains conspicuously absent: Motown legend Mary Wells, whose classic hits included "My Guy," "Two Lovers" and "You Beat Me to the Punch."
Maybe before popular, contemporary rock groups such as the Pretenders and U2 are given their place in the Hall, the Foundation — run imperiously by Suzan Evans and Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner — should deal with some of rock's real pioneers.
Not only is Wells missing, but so is producer/artist Todd Rundgren, "Fifth Beatle" Billy Preston and symphonic hitsters the Moody Blues.
Chubby Checker, who had a hit twice with the all-time dance song, "The Twist," is still not in.
I am pretty sure that if someone asked U2's Bono, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, or Peter Wolf of new possible inductee the J. Geils Band, they would agree that the Hall's omissions remain a glaring problem.
I'm urging ballot holders to write one or more of those names in. Believe me, the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten/John Lydon — who once spat on his audiences — is in no particular hurry for immortality.
Preston, who's had a kidney replaced, is. Wells, who died before she could ever get an award, is. Checker, who is bitter about his exclusion, has brought more joy to audiences than most of this year's nominees.
The other names on this year's ballot include Percy Sledge (his "When A Man Loves A Woman" rates inclusion), the immortal O'Jays (should be in already, it's a scandal), the late Gram Parsons (beloved, though no one can name his songs in 2004), punk innovators Patti Smith, the Sex Pistols and Iggy Pop's Stooges (Smith should be in by now too), country legend Conway Twitty (he deserves it), blues man Buddy Guy (he's Eric Clapton's choice), rap pioneers Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five (nothing to do with rock music, but politics demand they'll get in for their one recording, "The Message"), rockabilly pioneer Wanda Jackson (not exactly a household name), Southern-rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd and singer-songwriter Randy Newman (a lead cinch, as they say).
The good news is that John Mellencamp, foisted on the ballot committee last year, is gone from the list.
I do think it's time that the Rock Hall — with its $10 million war chest, consistent lack of female inductees and six-figure salaried president — start taking care of the early stars of rock, R&B, and country before video artists from "I Love the '80s" start getting their due.
The committee used to have a category called "Early Influences," but that's disappeared in recent years. It's time to reinstate that grouping and do something respectful for the real creators of rock and roll.
I think Bono, with his wall of awards and vaults of dough, will understand.
At last, the all-star rendition of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes's hit "Wake Up Everybody" is available online.
The video and the music are FREE, and feature Ashanti, Wyclef Jean, Mary J. Blige and a host of R&B stars, including the song's original lead singer, Teddy Pendergrass. (You'll get goose bumps when you hear his new vocal.)
Tonight at the Bryant Park Hotel, many of these good people, who recorded the song to get out the vote, will join forces again to celebrate the release.
The whole project was the idea of Tracey Edmonds and her husband, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, plus Jonathan Lewis and Russell Simmons. You can check it all out at www.wakeupeverybody.org.
Tony- and Emmy-winner, Oscar-nominee Glenn Close is pretty happy with the press these days.
She's said to be beaming about the cover story on "Show Circuit" magazine about her daughter Annie Starke, a young equestrian who shares mom's good looks.
The front-cover picture of mother and daughter is said to be Close's favorite of all time. The story, by editor-in-chief Jill Brooke, gives a rare look inside Close's life.
Brooke, by the way, and publisher Jami Morse Heidegger (her family owned Kiehl's Products) have turned "Show Circuit" into a big hit with advertisers and readers. It's niche publishing at its most glamorous!