Jacko | Sarah Jessica Parker | Elvis Costello

Jacko: Another Book and More Scandals

I guess Joseph Jackson, Michael's father, never told him an important philosophy to live life by: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Oh, how Michael could have benefited from that sage advice! As his trial for child molestation is set in motion for a January 31, 2005 start date, Jackson has made enemies of many former friends he might need on the witness stand.

I've told you already that several of Jackson's estranged associates are busy writing and selling books or consulting lawyers about money they say Jackson owes them.

The former King of Pop seems blissfully unaware of all this, leaving the growing mess to be tended by its architects: brother Randy Jackson and attorney Brian Oxman.

Now comes news that Michael's former video producer and pal, F. Marc Schaffel, and Jackson's former publicist, Stuart Backerman, are collaborating on their own book.

I'm told it's actually Schaffel's project and he's hired Backerman to write it. The book is pretty much done, say my sources, with input from former manager Dieter Wiesner as well.

The trio was very involved in the running of Michael's businesses until they were usurped last year by the Nation of Islam, which in turn was toppled by Randy Jackson and Oxman.

The Schaffel/Backerman project will not specifically address the current legal case, but instead will detail a lot of Jackson's personal and professional life for the three or four years leading up to it.

Schaffel surfaced as a Jackson associate when he produced the video and record of the intended charity single "What More Can I Give?" in October 2001.

There is an irony in Schaffel writing a book that should not be lost on the Jackson camp. In case it is, I will point it out.

Schaffel, through the course of his friendship with Michael, laid out millions of dollars to the singer and often loaned him money behind the backs of Jackson's lawyers. Earlier this year Schaffel was thought to have settled with Jackson's camp and was receiving regular payments.

But during the summer, I am told, Randy Jackson pulled the plug on agreements that had been made with both Schaffel and Wiesner, among others. Schaffel was apparently told to "get creative" about this situation. So he's done just that, and turned to the pen.

Schaffel has also turned to his lawyers, who now are contemplating the legal ramifications of signed agreements being abrogated by Randy. This could mean a lawsuit, which would be another irony, since Michael presumably needs Schaffel et al. to assist in his defense in the child-molestation case.

These divisions, along with apparent ones that have grown between Jackson's current counsel, Tom Mesereau, and his former legal rep, Mark Geragos, suggest growing chaos in the Jackson organization, with no one capable of mending all the schisms.

There are even worse intramural problems lurking in the Jackson camp — and I do mean much worse, considering that Jackson's cash position is eroding as we speak.

He has deeply offended some of the most important people in his inner circle, I am told, to a point where they may not be sufficiently motivated to step in and bail him out again.

Jackson is said to be so insulated from current events and daily developments in his own life that he may wake up to find his figurative house on fire one morning with no way to extinguish the blaze.

Sarah Jessica Comes to Dinner

She's won an Emmy at last — and deservedly so — but Sarah Jessica Parker is going to try to make her way back to the big screen.

You may recall that prior to "Sex and the City," SJP was carving out a nice spot for herself in films like "The First Wives Club" and "L.A. Story."

After she woke up from her big night as an Emmy winner, Parker met with producers of a new film version of the great Moss Hart-George S. Kaufman play "The Man Who Came to Dinner."

The classic 1942 movie, with a screenplay by Julius and Philip Epstein, starred Monty Woolley as Sheridan Whiteside, an imperious New York lecturer who gets stuck in an Ohio family's home thanks to a broken leg and who meddles in all their lives.

Parker has signed on presumably to play the Bette Davis role, Whiteside's aide de camp. I'm told that Hugh Grant briefly considered the Whiteside role but turned it down.

Parker told me about the project at HBO's epic Emmy after-party Sunday night at the Pacific Design Center. This was the gala that drew all the celebrity electricity away from TV Guide's pedestrian do across the street and "Entertainment Tonight''s low wattage fête at the Mondrian.

(There were so few familiar faces at the "ET" party that when the show did its own feature segment on it, relatives of "ET" correspondents were offered as A-listers. That's the best they could do.)

I talked at length with both Parker and husband Matthew Broderick. The latter opens a Broadway play later this fall, "The Foreigner," before a spring start to the film version of "The Producers" with Nathan Lane and Nicole Kidman.

Broderick and Kidman were the best thing about this summer's awful remake of "The Stepford Wives," so Matthew is hoping to show what the pair can do in a really good movie.

Still, he will miss Tony winner Cady Huffman, who originated the part of Ulla on stage.

"I can't really dance and she can really dance, so she helped me look better than I was," he said, wistfully.

Parker, by the way, had to bum a pen off this reporter so she could give the couple's new numbers and vital information to former "Sex and the City" co-star John Corbett.

She also told me that she's finishing up another film, called "Hating Her," with Diane Keaton and Peter Sarsgaard. This will be the latest in a long line of comedies that hope to cash in on the "Meet the Parents" formula of a stranger marrying into a difficulty family. (See also "Monster-in-Law.")

Nevertheless, expect to see Parker in a bid to reclaim her place among movie actresses now that "Sex" is over. My guess is she will have no trouble doing it.

More tomorrow, still, from the Emmys, including news about the future of "The Sopranos."

Grammy Solution: Elvis Costello

I did write last Friday about the dearth of choices this year in the Best Album category at the Grammy Awards. At that point I hadn't heard Elvis Costello's "The Delivery Man," which hits stores today.

Some 27 years after his first album, Costello continues to be underappreciated by the recording academy. Maybe "The Delivery Man" will change all that.

Like Bob Dylan's Grammy-winning "Time Out of Mind," this Costello release is an unexpected revelation well into a long and celebrated career.

There are splendid cameos by Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris, as well as complex and gorgeous music composed by Costello and executed by his partner in crime, Steve Nieve. The album sports witty rockers like "Button My Lip" and "Monkey to the Man," as well as moving ballads.

"The Delivery Man" was recorded in Mississippi and divides its genres between country and soul — Costello's two fascinations. (Two past albums, "Almost Blue" and "Get Happy," reflect those interests.)

Long gone is the "angry young man" Costello who first appeared on 1977's "My Aim Is True." He started his pop life as a punk singer, but as every rabid Costello fan knows, the artist who has grown up over almost three decades is a work in progress who digs all genres of music and is something of a hook-writing genius.

If the Grammys want to show their sophistication, this is the year to honor Costello with the big-category nomination. More than ever. "The Delivery Man" deserves it.

I hate to say it, but Costello really delivers this time. I can't get the song "Country Darkness" out of my head. Neither will you.