Michael Jackson | Kit Culkin | Rosie O'Donnell | Saul Bellow

Jacko Misses Neverland Payroll Again

It's been another rock 'n' roll week at Neverland.

I told you yesterday that Michael Jackson had a big falling-out with his brother Randy Jackson.

Here's a little more about it: According to sources, Randy lied to Michael about payment of certain bills at the ranch, including the entire payroll.

Even worse, Michael was missing payments on his famed storage facility, which houses all of his valuable memorabilia.

When this last occurred, at a similar set-up in New Jersey, the Jacksons wound up losing millions in precious souvenirs. Those items now belong to man who's put up a Web site, sold things at auction and given exclusives to celebrity magazines and TV shows.

As woozy as Michael is, even he understood this problem when it was finally laid out. Sources say that Michael found out third-hand that his remaining employees were getting ready to walk.

I'm told that at the last minute the situation was corrected, but also that Randy is now in the doghouse and that Neverland is once again a business without liquidity. That doesn't sound so good for the animals, let alone the adults.

Macaulay Culkin's Dad Ripped Off?

"Celebrity interviewer" Daphne Barak is at it again.

On Sunday, Macaulay Culkin's father Kit Culkin was horrified to see in the New York Daily News an "exclusive" interview that he supposedly gave Barak. He says that he never gave the interview and didn't authorize it.

A spokesperson for Barak said that she did have the right to use the material.

But Kit Culkin and his companion, Jeanette Krylowski, tell a different story.

You may recall that about 10 days ago in this space, we ran excerpts from a written piece by Kit Culkin in which he claimed that Jackson never touched his children inappropriately.

It was part of a book proposal that Culkin and Krylowski had written, but not yet sold. This column secured their permission to use an excerpt.

However, Krylowski tells me that last fall, Barak came to their Oregon home to film them for TV.

"She said it was for a special," Krylowski said. "But it wound up on 'Access Hollywood.' We were shocked."

In the filming, Kit Culkin read some portions of his proposal. Afterward, Krylowski recalls, Barak told them they should send it to a book agent. That's where the story gets even weirder.

"She told me to send it to Charles Coupet, an agent in New York," Krylowski said. "Daphne said he handled Joseph and Katherine Jackson."

Krylowski did as Barak suggested. But all she heard from Coupet, she says, were criticisms.

Barak, coincidentally, has made her name lately "interviewing" the Jackson parents and then selling the material to shows like "Access," "48 Hours" and "20/20."

"They continually told me how bad it was," Krylowski said. "They laughed at it once. I just never told Kit how bad they told me it was. [Barak's assistant] Erbil told me he went crazy just trying to read through it."

But Krylowski was also under the impression that Barak, a journalist, had access and was sympathetic to Jackson.

"One day, Daphne tried to put Katherine Jackson on the phone with us to say 'Thank you' because we'd written something nice about him in our book," Krylowski said.

The referenced chapter was about how Michael thought he was abused, she said, but really just had a tough father.

Ultimately, nothing happened with the book. The project drifted.

Krylowski says she wrote to Barak and told her they had no interest in pursuing a book project any further. She said that if there was anything that could help Michael, he could use it.

Krylowski said that Barak seemed like an agent for Jackson and that's why she trusted her.

"I thought she would use a little bit of it. But I wasn't giving the whole thing to her. She could use pieces to help Michael. But I wasn't giving the rights to her," she said.

Krylowski says that she wrote to Coupet at Tech Plus Systems Inc. and told him they no longer needed his services. She says she received a reply on Feb. 8 acknowledging cancellation of their relationship.

Yesterday, I tracked Coupet down on his cell phone after calls to his office produced no replies. He said he was not a literary agent, "knew of" Daphne Barak and nothing of Kit Culkin.

"Macaulay Culkin I've heard of, but no, not Kit Culkin," he said.

He said he did not represent the Jacksons either, and did not know what I was talking about.

"He's called here, and he's e-mailed me. I have a copy of this letter," Krylowski said.

The relationship between Barak and Coupet remains a mystery. There is no listing anywhere for Coupet as a literary agent.

His Tech Plus Systems, at 99 University Place in Greenwich Village in New York City, is described on a Web directory for "minority and women-owned" businesses as "custom computer programming services."

Rosie O'Donnell Acts Up

Rosie O'Donnell can be so polarizing that I thought I would tell you something about her before anyone else finds out: She can act.

Before her talk show was a mega-hit, O'Donnell was featured in a few movies.

The best was probably "Sleepless in Seattle," in which she played Meg Ryan's wisecracking sidekick. The worst was her role as a dominatrix in Garry Marshall's "Exit to Eden." 'Nuff said about that one.

But on May 1, Rosie gets to show off her acting chops in CBS's Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, "Riding the Bus With My Sister."

Oscar winner Anjelica Huston directed the movie, which is based on college professor Rachel Simon's memoir about coming to terms with her retarded sister, Beth, after the death of their only available parent.

O'Donnell is so good that she should field Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for this work.

It's kind of a cliché for actors to play mentally handicapped or "slow" people, because they think it automatically earns them sympathy.

That's not quite the case with Rosie's depiction of Beth, an often obnoxious person who really does not change during the course of the film.

Instead, Huston gets the other characters to change around her. Not much is learned and there isn't a lot of hugging, either.

"Riding the Bus" is really more about adapting to a situation —- in this case, the death of Beth and Rachel's father means Rachel must take over Beth's care —- than really experiencing any epiphanies.

Andie McDowell is her at her best as Rachel, a sleek fashion photographer whose city life has no meaning.

Why do these TV movies always show single New Yorkers bereft of fulfilled lives and terminally unhappy? In truth, it's quite the opposite. There isn't enough time every day to get everything done.

Richard T. Jones, whom you might know from "Judging Amy," and D.W. Moffett are typical Hallmark-type renderings of stalwart, struggling and very good-looking Americans.

But Rosie's performance is the one everyone will be looking at, and Huston knows it. Beth is a compelling character because she already lives independently and has a boyfriend.

She also has a hobby: She rides the bus all over her Ohio town and knows all the drivers and passengers. Some of them don't like her and say so, which is kind of a shock in this sort of movie.

Even Rachel, at one point, gets frustrated in dealing with her. But O'Donnell keeps Beth on an even keel, never letting her vary from her proscribed behavior.

O'Donnell makes it clear that Beth is not going to change. You can take her or leave her. And she's so good at it that you actually forget that it's Rosie O'Donnell up there on the screen. That's an achievement.

O'Donnell, by the way, has a new Web site up that contains an interesting four-minute short-film called "Peace."

Though a little unfocused, "Peace" nevertheless is a poetic look at the role of mothers during wartime, such as during "troubles" in Northern Ireland and now with the war in Iraq.

It's not perfect, but it's interesting. I hope O'Donnell continues to use her site as a showcase for short-film makers, no matter what the subject.

Saul Bellow Dies at 89

The great Saul Bellow died yesterday at age 89. The author of "Henderson the Rain King," "Humboldt's Gift," "Seize the Day," "The Adventures of Augie March," "Mr. Sammler's Planet" and many other important works will be read and remembered and, of course, sorely missed.