Michael Jackson | Alicia Keys | Lisa Marie Presley

Billionaire Comes to the Rescue for Jacko

The word in Michael Jackson circles is that the beleaguered pop star has found a white knight: billionaire Ron Burkle.

Jackson has gone to the tycoon hoping that Burkle, who is reportedly worth $2.3 billion, can stave off the former King of Pop's much-needed sale of his portion of Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

Jackson is currently at risk of defaulting on over $270 million in loans from Bank of America.

Since Jackson loves "Star Wars," it's ironic that Burkle comes into his financial saga as an unwitting Darth Vader.

Burkle owns the largest supermarket chain in America, thanks to his acquisition of Kroger Stores. He is also the largest supplier of produce to McDonald's. His Yucaipa Companies also owns the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alliance Entertainment.

But Burkle is not just a corporate suit. He is a huge Democratic fundraiser and friend of the Clintons.

Last year, Burkle invested in Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' Sean John clothing line. Soon after, Combs became obsessed with getting people to register to vote or, as he put it, die. Combs and Bill and Hillary Clinton joined the billionaire in a luxury box, paid for by Burkle, at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

In order for Burkle to help Jackson, sources say he might first have to pony up a $12 million gift. That number is arrived at because Jackson is $6 million in the hole and isn't allowed to accept loans, according to his agreement with Bank of America. But there would be taxes to pay — making the true amount much higher.

Burkle now enters the Jackson story. Like a lot of people who've helped Jackson in the past, he may soon regret it.

Burkle has given Jackson only financial advice in the past, not cash. Jackson's intimates say Burkle has come up with ideas to find another bank to relieve Bank of America. But this seems highly unlikely, since Jackson has no income right now, lots of debt and ongoing expenses and many more lawsuits looming on the horizon.

Nevertheless, "Darth" Burkle is said by some to harbor personal grudges against Jackson's real saviors, Charles Koppleman and Al Malnik. The billionaire may want to cause trouble in Jackson's dealings just to disturb them.

In the end, Burkle may not want to get involved with Jackson. Entanglements with the singer guarantee lots of publicity and attention to anyone who tries to help him.

Burkle has his own problems right now, insiders pointed out, including a nasty lawsuit he's filed against former Hollywood heavyweight Michael Ovitz, an even nastier divorce and the potential for being dragged into the government's case against former Hillary Clinton fundraiser David Rosen.

Alicia Keys Aims to Please

Yes, that was "American Idol" defector Mario Vazquez in the audience Friday night for Alicia Keys' "Cotton Club" show at Radio City Music Hall. (John Legend , talented and rockin', opened for her with a great set.)

And that was Sony Music CEO Andy Lack and wife Betsy backstage after Keys' show, offering the J Records star (technically under Lack's umbrella) kudos. He doesn't come to every show, believe me.

Keys' show was terrific from beginning to end. Her manager, Jeff Robinson, thought up the Cotton Club idea, and it works beautifully — much better than the first Keys show I saw years ago that featured a jarring rapper.

The Cotton Club concept lets her show off her natural talent as sort of a female Elton John who shines behind the piano but can also step out front with some sexy costumes and faux-dance numbers.

No one expects Keys to do gym-class line dancing like Janet Jackson or Jennifer Lopez . But she has her own moves that are just fine.

And unlike those other pretenders to the throne, Keys sings while she moves; no lip-synching or guide tracks are needed. She can also play the piano with virtuosity while singing.

Gosh! I sort of thought I'd never see that again from a new pop star.

This show only underscored the crazy Grammy voting that gave Ray Charles best album and John Mayer song of the year. Keys was robbed!

Keys delivers her hits "Fallin'," "If I Ain't Got You" and "You Don't Know My Name" in a manner so that they don't seem overly canned.

But she shined when she was able to mix things up, turning Prince's "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?" into a slow-paced boogie on piano and throwing in "I Put a Spell On You" with a wicked comedic flair. Somewhere in heaven, Screamin' Jay Hawkins is cackling.

And dressed like Billie Holiday, Keys gave Diana Ross a run for her money as heiress to the late diva's legend on "Good Morning Heartache."

Everything about Alicia Keys suggests that at 23, she's about to have a decades-long career with many highlights yet to come. She's also a nifty little actress, so it can only be a short time before we see a movie career à la Lena Horne.

But in the end, she's all about the music, and the prospects for interesting projects are endless.

Considering how much Keys reveres the great R&B stars, I'd like to see her record a duets album with a bunch of legends before it's too late.

How about Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Sam "Soul Man" Moore, Lou Rawls, Al Green, Cuba Gooding Sr., Lionel Richie, Teddy Pendergrass, etc? The possibilities are tantalizing.

Presley Fans Abandon Lisa Marie

This morning the folks at Capitol Records may be saying this to themselves: "Now what?"

That's because Lisa Marie Presley 's second album "Now What?" is a dud of the greatest magnitude.

After debuting three weeks ago, the CD will probably not cross the 100,000-sold mark this week. Even her dad's fans have abandoned her.

Presley didn't even get much airplay out of her cover of Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry." That's surprising, because "Desperate Housewives" has been using it in the show's current promos.

Capitol also paired Presley with songwriter Linda Perry, who wrote Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" and many hits with Pink.

On her Web site, a copywriter says Perry was "leary" of working with Presley. And that may be the problem: They mean "leery," unless of course Denis Leary was involved.

No mention, by the way, in the current Presley copy of Capitol head Andy Slater. He oversaw the entire project, but his name is completely absent from the new Presley story.

The whole thing is now credited to Eric Rosse, whose other credits include Tori Amos and lesser-known acts Nash Kato, the former Urge Overkill frontman, and Two Loons for Tea.