Michael Jackson | Billy Preston | George Lucas

Jacko in Exile With 20-Year-Old Protégé

Michael Jackson’s Bahrainian getaway is getting a lot more interesting. I told you last week that Jackson sent his two eldest kids and their nanny — who also functions as the kids’ surrogate mother — to Los Angeles to see their biological mother recently.

Debbie Rowe had a three-hour visit with Prince and Paris while the nanny, Grace Rwarmba, supervised their time together.

But while Rwarmba and the kids were in Los Angeles, Jackson was not alone. I am told that he is being accompanied in Bahrain by none other than his 20-year-old “ward,” Omer Bhatti.

I told you several months ago that Jackson first acquired the Norwegian young man as a companion in 1996, when Bhatti was 12. Half-Norwegian, half-Pakistani, Bhatti did a Michael Jackson dance imitation in the lobby of a hotel in Tunis where Michael and his staff were staying.

Purposely attracting Jackson’s attention, Bhatti and his mother were brought to the singer. Jackson took an immediate liking to Bhatti, who dressed like a mini-Michael. There are pictures of them on the Internet from the time, as Jackson then traveled around Europe with the kid.

Bhatti has since been a big part of Jackson’s life. He was at Neverland when it was raided on Nov. 18, 2003. Earlier that summer, he’d been arrested in Norway for possession of marijuana.

Bhatti's parents, Riz and Pia Bhatti, went to work for Jackson in various capacities after they all met. A couple of years ago, Jackson told intimates that Bhatti was his natural son. That, of course, was not true.

In the spring of 2004, when Jackson was reportedly in rehab, it was Bhatti who was photographed with him wearing a ski mask. Now Bhatti is in Bahrain as part of Jackson’s entourage. And even that could pose a problem.

According to Bahrainian law, foreigners are only permitted to stay in the island country for 30 days before their visas run out. Jackson, according to friends, shows no sign of leaving any time soon, even though he’s been there longer than a month.

In effect, Jackson et. al. will soon be, if they aren’t already, in violation of local laws. Lucky for them, they have royal hosts who I guess can amend those laws any way they like.

And here’s a little Jackson trivia that absolutely no one knows: Last week’s winner of a "TRL" dance contest on MTV was none other than Marie-Nicole Cascio, 16-year-old sister of Frank (Tyson) Cascio and herself a much discussed friend of Jackson during his trial.

It was Marie-Nicole who befriended the sister of Jackson’s child molestation accuser.

Marie Nicole, now 16, had an advantage most MTV contestants — well, all — don’t have: she’s appeared in Jackson’s videos and studied at the feet of the Moonwalker. She did not tell anyone at MTV who she was, by the way, and won on her own merits. Bravo!

Billy Preston: Only External Organs

What a weekend up at Mohegan Sun! As I told you, famed soul men Sam Moore, Billy Preston and Felix Cavaliere all performed in front of sold out audiences at the casino-hotel’s huge amphitheater.

Moore, almost 70, wowed the crowd with “When Something is Wrong with My Baby” and got a standing ovation. (He backed away from the mike to hold a note and sent shivers down the everyone’s necks. Gorgeous!)

Cavaliere regaled them with Rascals hits like “Groovin.”

Preston gets the highest marks though for coming through like gangbusters. He has no functioning kidneys and must be on daily dialysis. Nevertheless, he puts on a full show with all his hits — “Nothing from Nothing,” “Will it Go Round in Circles,” etc. — and even shows off his keyboard work on the Beatles’ “Get Back.” (He played on the original record.)

This trio was preceded by the Comets, the original back-up band for Bill Haley from the 1950s. You know, they had the defining hit of the rock era — “Rock Around the Clock.”

Guess what? Haley’s dead, but the group carries on and they’re great! They are also very senior citizens. Drummer Dick Richards is 81 and he’s phenomenal. Young drummers could learn from him! (This isn’t just an oldies show. The group plays a lot of cool jazz, the kind you can’t hear anymore.)

The show still features Al Rappa, “The Original Walking Bass Man,” who joined the Comets a year before I was born, in 1956! Not only does he play the upright bass like a champ, he also straddles it, jumps, turns it upside down, and does things to it that other bass players — like Sting — have not dreamt of. Somewhere in heaven, Haley is smiling.

The show is put together bi-annually by Jon “Bowzer” Bauman just at Mohegan Sun. But it should really be a tour, so kids today can see what music was like before Pro-Tools and laptops became instruments.

George Lucas Gets Creative

The first two prototypes of Creative Labs’ new Zen Vision — a 30GB video/MP3 player — went not to inventor Sim Wong Hoo, the company’s founder and CEO, but to George Lucas.

The "Star Wars" creator wanted to see how Creative’s mastermind — who also owns the much respected audio company Cambridge Soundworks — had done making a portable video/MP3 player. The answer: two thumbs up.

Wong Hoo is Chinese, and founded Creative in Singapore in 1981. He was 26, and unknown. These days he is Singapore’s biggest celebrity, a rival to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Recently, Gates came to visit him just to see what the heck is going on in those Creative labs. (The company is just introducing a great now sound card called the XFi.)

Creative, Apple, iRiver and other companies are all making incredible technological advances for musicians, but it won’t make a difference if record companies don’t wake up and start putting out some decent product.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the best CD of the year, and one that should get a lot of Grammy nominations. It’s gotten very little radio play, though, and sold about 100,000 copies since it was released in May.