Published January 14, 2005
There was yet another leak from Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon's office in the Michael Jackson case yesterday.
This time, it was grand jury testimony from the now-almost 15-year-old boy who's accusing the pop singer of molestation.
Isn't there a gag order in this case? Can't Sneddon be sanctioned by Judge Rodney Melville? And why hasn't he been already?
The testimony given by the boy is about Jackson serving wine to minors in his wine cellar.
I can tell you now, through my exclusive sources, that this account will be refuted if it makes it to the stand. That's because Sneddon takes on Jackson's most ardent supporters and surrogate family, the Cascios of Franklin Lakes, N.J.
I've told you about the Cascios before. Dominic Cascio was a banquet manager at the Palace Hotel in New York when he met Jackson some 17 years ago. He was the married father of three, eventually four.
Jackson immediately embraced the Cascios, and vice versa. Sources tell me he appreciated their close-knit, loving family. Over the years Jackson has spent a lot of time at their house and reciprocated by taking them on trips.
The kids, three boys and a girl, have literally grown up at Jackson's Neverland Valley Ranch. They have had free access to all rooms in the house, including Jackson's fabled bedroom and bed, without incident.
The eldest child, Frank, who is now 24 and uses the nom de plume Tyson, has worked for Jackson in various capacities. He is cited as one of the unnamed, unindicted co-conspirators in the current case, accused, unofficially, of holding the California boy's family "hostage."
My sources laughed yesterday when they heard the story of Michael serving wine to Frank's 15-year-old sister, 12-year-old brother and the accuser and his brother.
"The wine cellar, as it's known, is located right behind the game room. The kids break into it all the time. I caught [the accuser and his brother] down there myself once. It's not hard," my source said.
Here's the problem as it's been laid out for me. The Cascios, who operate two family restaurants in northern New Jersey, are Italian-American and have always let their kids have a sip of wine here and there. If they are called to testify in the case, they will explain that it's in their culture.
The daughter, who is a minor nevertheless, will no doubt say that she knew where the wine cellar was and didn't need Jackson's help for access to it. The 12-year-old son does not drink, which has also been verified.
But here's the rub, my sources say: The brother and sister were on the private plane that took Jackson, his kids, his nanny, the accusing family and a doctor back to Neverland Ranch from Miami on Feb. 7, 2003.
This is the flight that also had comedian Chris Tucker aboard and on which, it's been alleged, Jackson licked his accuser's head and drank wine out of Diet Coke cans.
The Cascio kids are likely to say on the stand that none of that happened, or could have happened. And that would open an area that Tom Sneddon might not want to get into.
Curiously, even though Sneddon leaked this information yesterday, he has not subpoenaed any of the Cascios, including Frank Tyson. And the Cascios, I am told, are furious that he involved their minor children in a publicity scheme to promote the prosecution's case.
More to come...
Somewhere lost in all the Oscar hype about movies such as "The Aviator" and "Sideways" is Walter Salles' wonderful "The Motorcycle Diaries."
So I was pleased to see that the Writers Guild nominated Jose Rivera for his adapted screenplay yesterday.
The others in that category included the writers of "Before Sunset," "Million Dollar Baby" and "Sideways." The last is probably the best adaptation of a book among the bunch, since those who have read Rex Pickett's novel about whining in wine country say the movie eclipses it.
For original screenplays, the Writers Guild chose "The Aviator," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Kinsey," "Garden State" and "Hotel Rwanda."
All are good choices, and all are a little different from the usual suspects that have been turning up at every critics' awards dinner. But John Logan's screenplay for "The Aviator" seems to me the most comprehensive invention of the five and deserves to win.
"Batorsag & Szerelem" is not a title that rolls off the tongue. But I am here to tell you that Chad Lowe, the fine actor who is married to Hilary Swank and is the younger brother of Rob Lowe, likes it a lot.
He's optioned the short story by Ethan Canin and will direct his first movie based on the story, with Alec Baldwin in the lead. Canin wrote the screenplay based on his story from the collection "The Palace Thief."
Lowe tells me he's raising the indie financing right now and hopes to start shooting this spring. It's a sure bet if they just change that title.
Did I read that Mr. Blackwell, a mysterious figure who appears once a year like the groundhog, has derided the fashion taste of Nicollette Sheridan? I cannot let this pass.
In years past, I watched whole episodes of "Knots Landing" just to see Nicollette walk through a room. A thespian she's not, but please, "Desperate Housewives" would be desperately lacking without her. Mr. Blackwell obviously is not seeing the forest for the trees. As far as this column is concerned, Ms. Sheridan may dress any way she wants. We support her choices.
Al Pacino was dining last night at famous Dan Tana's in West Hollywood with his "Sea of Love" director Harold Becker and his wife Suzy, who is Diane Keaton's favorite costume designer.
Pacino told me he's only "thinking" about attending the Golden Globes this weekend, but with a new haircut and last year's win for "Angels in America," it's likely he'll make an appearance, albeit reluctantly.
The Golden Globes may be a little sketchy (see Wednesday's column), but that doesn't mean the parties aren't in full swing. Tonight, New Line Cinema's Bob Shaye repeats his bash from last year. Expect lots of hobbits and Nicole Kidman.
On Saturday, HBO and MGM each have swell pre-awards night shindigs. Last year the HBO dinner at the Chateau Marmont was the hot ticket of the weekend.
Sunday night brings a slew of parties, including a new combined one for corporate cousins InStyle magazine and Warner Brothers Films. Last year Prince played at InStyle's party, and we're promised someone or something equally cataclysmic this year.
Finally, Spencer Dryden, the original drummer for Jefferson Airplane, died yesterday at age 66. Was he famous? Well, do you know how "White Rabbit" starts? That was Spencer Dryden. He played with the Airplane on their classic records like "Somebody to Love" and "Plastic Fantastic Lover." His work lives on forever.