Michael Jackson | Odds 'n' Ends

Testimony Gives Jacko a Licking

June Chandler might not be the best mother of the decade, but she tried her best yesterday to make up for a lot of wrongs.

Chandler — elegant, articulate, fashionable — stood her ground as a prosecution witness in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial after a morning discussion of "licking" vs. "kissing" that left most court observers either annoyed or bored.

Chandler's son received about $20 million in a settlement from Jackson back in 1993, and opened the door for various lawsuits that still resonate today.

Jackson, his mother Katherine Jackson, as well as brothers Tito Jackson and Jackie Jackson, attended yesterday's session. There was no sign of his father, Joseph Jackson, or other family members.

Throughout some of the session, Brian Oxman, erstwhile defense attorney for both Katherine and Michael Jackson, dozed.

Under cross-examination, Chandler conceded that her son, now 25, hasn't spoken to her in 11 years. Her friends say that the boy's father has convinced him that she was responsible for all his problems.

In court, June Chandler was hard-pressed to explain why she let Jackson sleep in the same bed with her son 30 to 50 times in 1993. She was equally hard-pressed to rationalize taking expensive gifts from the pop star at the same time.

The jury did not hear the amount of cash that Chandler, her first ex-husband and her most recent ex-husband each received in settlements from Jackson. But each is said to have gotten around $1.5 million.

But June Chandler didn't make any allegation of sexual molestation by Jackson. All she said was that her son slept in Jackson's bedroom, and that Jackson slept in her son's bedroom. Unlike previous witnesses, who had graphic descriptions of preposterous acts, June Chandler had nothing but hurt, sadness and regret.

On the other hand, she left a very clear impression that Jackson, then around 34 years old, was desperate to be alone with her 13-year-old son. Her testimony made it clear that he would pay for that privilege by including her and her daughter in expensive trips just so he could be close to the boy.

In that sense, the prosecution scored points for showing that Jackson has a habit of "grooming" young boys whom he plans to seduce with fame and fortune.

But jurors may also have been angry that Chandler literally sold her child to Jackson for a brief whirlwind ride that destroyed her family.

She would not be the first mother to do this, prosecutors implied.

Also on their list are choreographer Wade Robson and his mother Joy; another Australian boy and his single mother; plus the boy in the current case and his mother. The latter will likely begin testimony today.

Robson has insisted that Jackson did nothing inappropriate to him. The other Australian boy, whose family I've spoken with, refuses to comment on the Jackson trial. In the past he's also denied that anything happened.

Some people who were in court today had a lot of questions about June Chandler. Not only did she take the $1.5 million in 1994, she kept it. She did not, for example, donate the money to charity or start a foundation for abused children.

According to real-estate records, she bought a new home in an excellent Los Angeles neighborhood in 1995 for about $750,000. That house would have doubled in value by now.

Chandler's biggest dilemma in the Jackson matter is her lack of reasonable explanations for letting the singer sleep with her son.

A source close to her told me recently: "She thought Michael Jackson was gay."

But that's no explanation, even if, as she related, "she thought he'd only be interested in adults and was harmless."

This does not compute, as they say.

June Chandler also didn't recount anecdotes of Jackson with other boys. Her ex-brother-in-law Ray Chandler, who wrote the book "All That Glitters" on the subject, assured me last week that June would regale the jury with such stories. None came.

Three other witnesses testified yesterday, all backfiring for the prosecution. Each of them was also involved in selling his story to a publisher.

Two were disgruntled former Jackson employees. One, Stacy Brown, is co-writer of a Jackson book with one of the ex-employees.

Brown claimed to have "a lot of love for members of the Jackson family." Certainly a way to show it is to publish a scandalous book about them. The pair already has a publisher, Select Books.

Brown, who is co-authoring former Jackson flack Bob Jones' book, almost got caught in his own testimony.

Prosecutor Gordon Auchincloss asked him if there was a correlation between Jones suddenly not remembering on the stand whether or not Jackson licked a boy's head on a plane flight — as Jones had said in previous statements — and Jones' sudden lack of financial trouble.

Brown answered affirmatively, but Auchincloss failed to make his point that perhaps Jones' memory loss was convenient and motivated.

Defense attorney Tom Mesereau drove up court instead and turned the tables on Brown in a beautifully executed slam-dunk.

"So you mean that when Mr. Jones needed the money, there was licking, but when he didn't need it, there wasn't any?" he asked.

So much for that.

Odd things happened in court today, too. One wonders what will happen now that June Chandler has correctly identified pictures of her son and the Australian boy, which were shown on an overhead projector in the courtroom.

Last week, a former Jackson employee confidently misidentified the boys. Will anyone remember to use that in impeaching that witness?

And Neverland, as usual, was described as a place where every single employee (with the sole exception of Jackson's loyal assistant Evvy Tavasci) was looking for ways to make money off the former King of Pop.

Duane Swingler, who worked as house manager there for five weeks in the summer of 2003, testified for the prosecution, but looked like an idiot when he admitted: "I was going to cash in, like everyone else."

That got a laugh from the room. Swingler apparently has been negotiating with the British tabloid News of the World to sell his story, "Entering Neverland: Secrets from Behind the Gates." That's after five weeks of employment and — as he described it — friendly treatment from Jackson.

Also from court yesterday: Judge Rodney Melville told prosecutor Tom Sneddon to "stop talking" when he was trying to respond to a question.

And the judge also laughed when June Chandler, under cross-examination by the defense, objected to an question by calling out "speculation" before one of the district attorneys could.

"Sustained, and sustained," the judge quipped.

'Dreamgirls' Ahoy; 'Sahara' Dusty

The movie of the musical "Dreamgirls" is a go, with Bill Condon writing and directing. Here's the potential cast: Alicia Keys, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy and Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx.

The search is on for Effie, portrayed by Jennifer Holliday on Broadway, who sings the show's memorable hit "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."

So "Sahara," made for $130 million, plus another $25 million for marketing, took in $18 million over the weekend. Breck Eisner, son of Michael Eisner, directed despite having no particular big-budget movie background.

Breaking even is a long way off, even if international box office turns out to be big. The film was financed by Walden Media, the same folks who gave us Disney's money-losing "Around the World in 80 Days."

Looks like talented newcomer Melissa Archer is out as Natalie on ABC's "One Life to Live." A casting call went out for her character yesterday. That's usually a sign.

Jennifer Lopez's album "Rebirth" drops even further this week, winding up at No. 35 or so after just a couple of months.

Rest in peace Frank Conroy, director of the Iowa Writers Workshop and author, most famously, of the classic memoir "Stop-Time."