Published May 24, 2005
Jay Leno testified today in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial; Chris Tucker is expected shortly.
This morning, the Jackson defense team may also present former teachers of the accusing boy and his brother, who will probably not have the nicest things to say about these boys — an opinion shared by many.
With Jackson's trial winding down, every indication is that he will be acquitted, or that the jury will be hung (at least on the issue of child molestation).
One thing looks pretty certain: he won't be convicted. There's too much reasonable doubt.
(Also scheduled for today: a granddaughter of Marlon Brando, and the two youngest Cascio children, siblings of Frank Tyson.)
Sources of mine say that Jackson, who seems disconnected from the world, understands one thing: There will be people who won't be so happy to see him moonwalk out of the Santa Maria courthouse a free man. What will he do?
Those who are in the know tell me that Jackson is already planning an almost instant move to Europe or Africa.
Whether it's temporary or permanent is up in the air, but the pop star knows he has to take a breather from the United States if he wants to rehabilitate his career.
This isn't just some wild speculation. Jackson is serious, and so is everyone around him.
Of course, such a move would be expensive, and there are already reports that he's secretly sold Neverland for $35 million. (My sources deny this is true, but you never know.)
At the rate things are going, Neverland will have to be sold anyway. Jackson can no longer afford the 100-person staff, the zoo, the carnival, the groundskeeping or the exposure.
Such a sale would certainly free him up to go find solitude and solace elsewhere, at least for the time being.
An acquitted Jackson would also raise the question of the future of his recording career. Many people say he has no reasonable expectation of selling records here.
For the moment, they are probably right. But Americans love a comeback, and in five years Jackson's child molestation scandal will be a distant blip on the radar.
In the meantime, Jackson will have to be educated about the realities of the record business circa 2005.
He currently has no recording contract. His insiders agree with my thesis that he still thinks someone, somewhere will offer him "the biggest contract in history."
Those days are over, I'm afraid. If Jackson wises up, he'll start his own record label and get independent distribution.
But where will he go in Europe? There's talk of Paris, and some have said Africa is being mentioned a lot.
Brother Jermaine Jackson spends a lot of time in Saudi Arabia, but Michael a) doesn't like the hot sun and b) doesn't much care for Jermaine.
My money is on Paris or London, where he has legions of fans.
The voting is done, and the verdict isn't good.
Tom Cruise's "romance" with former "Dawson's Creek" star Katie Holmes is being viewed as a fake, one of the most cynical PR blitzes created by Hollywood in a long time.
Today, both "Oprah" and "Access Hollywood" will shill for Cruise, with interviews promoting his June 22 release, Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds."
On both shows, Cruise proclaims his love for Holmes. On "Oprah," Holmes makes an appearance and kisses Cruise. It has eerie echoes of Michael Jackson's famous MTV kiss with Lisa Marie Presley. You know how that ended up.
Personally, I could care less about Cruise or Holmes. The only person I am worried about this in equation is Spielberg. He's permitting his film to be exploited by a backfiring publicity campaign.
Is this my Spielberg, the director of "Schindler's List," "Saving Private Ryan," "E.T." and "Raiders of the Lost Ark"? Or is this the Spielberg upon whom Dreamworks, his studio, is depending for hits no matter what?
Neither Spielberg nor Cruise has had the kind of hits lately they used to enjoy. The director's recent list includes "The Terminal" and "Catch Me If You Can," films I loved but which had lukewarm audience response.
Cruise's resume is not one that supports a theory that he's the world's biggest movie star. "Collateral," "The Last Samurai," "Magnolia"? It's been five years since Cruise's last megahit, "Mission: Impossible II."
"War of the Worlds" was shot quickly and looks good. But it also cost somewhere between $150 million and $200 million, almost a record budget.
If "Minority Report" is an indication, that means "War of the Worlds" will be no cinch to break even, despite the Cruise-Holmes PR juggernaut.
"Minority Report" took in a very wheezy $132 million in the U.S., although its international box-office take — always a questionable number — was twice that.
With Cruise and Spielberg's fees and percentages to pay, and a huge amount spent on special effects, "War of the Worlds" will have to take in $400 million to break even.
And of what Holmes? She's the love interest in "Batman Begins," Christopher Nolan's Warner Bros. release starring Christian Bale. She has no box-office track record, but a lot of good will from the indie film "Pieces of April" and "Dawson's Creek."
On April 4, I met Holmes at the Broadway premiere of "Steel Magnolias." She told me she'd just moved to New York for the first time and was excited to be here. There was no indication that she even knew Cruise.
Twenty-four days later, Cruise, who lives in Los Angeles full-time, announced they were in love.
As they say in the trade papers, both actors, just like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, are repped by Creative Artists Agency.
I hope the defense team in Michael Jackson's trial will get serious about those detailed graphic charts for the summation. Yesterday's testimony begged for something like that.
The witnesses who came through yesterday echoed Vernee Watson-Johnson from last week — yet more people, who didn't know of each other beforehand, who felt ripped off by the accuser's mother, Janet Arvizo.
The most memorable witness yesterday was her former sister-in-law, Marian Arvizo, who recalled Janet's reaction when Marian held a blood drive for the accusing boy's cancer treatment. (He's Marian's nephew and Janet's son, if you need a scorecard.)
"We don't need your [expletive] blood," Janet reportedly told Marian. "We just need money."
It was one of those startling moments in a trial, one made worse by others who've said similar things — all strangers.
Connie Keenan, editor of the weekly Mid Valley News, based in El Monte, east of Los Angeles, told about how Janet Arvizo pestered her to run stories on her cancer-stricken son.
"She said she wanted us to a second story because the first one didn't raise enough money," Keenan said. "I felt duped."
And so on and so forth.
A representative for the California Department of Social Services detailed Janet Arvizo's welfare fraud. It turns out that just as she was receiving a check for $32,000 from her J.C. Penney lawsuit settlement, Arvizo was at the local welfare office claiming to be broke.
She was also getting gifts from friends and participating in other fundraisers for her son.
A few days after the $32,000 from J.C. Penney came in, she turned it into a $29,000 cashier's check made out to Hollywood Ford, an auto dealership.
The car was never purchased, and no one else knows what happened to the money, but Arvizo's plastic surgery — which she's admitted to — could have cost that much.
Also unaccounted for: $20,000 given to the family by Premiere Radio exec Louise Palanker, who also helped with fundraisers.
If the defense team is smart, it will produce simple, clean graphics that show dates and amounts. Janet Arvizo's activities are too hard to keep track of without them.