Published October 11, 2005
Michael Jackson's lawyers have missed a deadline to pay a relatively low fee, therefore missing their chance to file a counterclaim in what could end up being a multimillion-dollar legal case.
While Jackson and pals squander Bahraini Prince Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa's money in London, the singer nevertheless has some sizable legal problems at home.
Coming on Oct. 24: a hearing in Jackson's long feud with German concert promoter Marcel Avram.
You may recall that Avram won $5.3 million, plus damages, against Jackson two years ago in Santa Barbara Superior Court's now fabled Santa Maria division.
The issue concerned millennium concerts Jackson agreed to give, but never did. Everyone thought that was the end of it.
Of course, with Jackson, it's never the end, is it?
Separate from those millennium concerts were two other charity shows Jackson promised to perform for Avram in South Korea and Germany. He didn't do those, either.
At the time of the millennium lawsuit — aka the "Spider Bite Trial" — Jackson's lawyers argued that charity concerts should be separated from the main lawsuit.
Jackson wound up settling with Avram out of court for those two concerts. Part of the settlement was that Jackson signed over to Avram the rights to make DVDs and CDs of Jackson's shows that Avram had recorded in the past.
Unfortunately, Jackson didn't have those rights. Sony Music did, and it filed a cease-and-desist order against Avram.
Here's where it gets a little twisted: Avram filed for an arbitration hearing with the International Center for Dispute Resolution. It responded by setting a date of Oct. 24 of this year.
Jackson had until Aug. 30 to file a counterclaim and pay a fee between $10,000 and $14,000. However, his side never came up with the money.
The result? A letter from the ICDR to Jackson lawyers Brent Ayscough and Michael Sydow informing them that the deadline had passed.
The letter states: "The arbitrator has determined that the counterclaim will not be considered."
A source close to the case puts it bluntly: "Imagine that for all the money involved, Michael could have solved the problem and had his side heard for about $10,000. Now he can only lose. There's no way to win."
But Jackson — who loves to run up legal bills — isn't settling for that. He's filed a request in Los Angeles Superior Court to stop the arbitration altogether.
I'm told the chances of a judge going along with this request are pretty slim, and that Jackson could find himself back in front of a judge, and perhaps a jury, in the near future.
Of course, this case is entirely separate from a $48 million lawsuit brought against him by Darien Dash, cousin of Damon; a $3 million lawsuit, for which depositions have already been given, in a case brought by former advisor Marc Schaffel; and a civil case filed in New Orleans by an adult male who claims Jackson molested him when he was underage.
Let us not forget: We are two months away from the possible calling in of loans worth $270 million by Fortress Investment Group of New York.
The word is that Fortress may extend the due date on Jackson's loans beyond the end of December. But so far, not even the Bahraini prince seems eager to pony up the money and bail the former pop star out. Stay tuned.
Cameron Crowe is obsessed with two Elton John albums. They're the best of Elton's illustrious career, too — "Madman Across the Water" and "Tumbleweed Connection," both from 1971.
There's a song from each in Crowe's new movie, "Elizabethtown," and in 2000's "Almost Famous," one of the greatest films ever made. (Hyperbolic, yes, but buy the DVD and you'll see.)
Last night at the "Elizabethtown" premiere, I asked Crowe if Elton had said anything about this to him.
"He said people are starting to wonder about us," Crowe laughed.
No worries — Crowe's married to Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson, who wrote the original soundtrack music to "Elizabethtown."
She was there last night at the afterparty, along with cast members Susan Sarandon, Kirsten Dunst, Loudon Wainwright III, Jessica Biel and Paula Deen.
Stone-faced Orlando Bloom, who was at the screening earlier in the night, seemed to have skipped the party. But Oliver Stone dropped in, as did the new Paramount hierarchy, including Brad Grey, Tom Freston, Gail Berman and MTV's Judy McGrath.
I also ran into Paula Wagner, who produced "Elizabethtown" for Paramount under her Cruise/Wagner Productions banner with Tom Cruise. She's just finished filming their latest collaboration, "Mission: Impossible III."
How's the new father-to-be doing?
"He's very happy," said Wagner.
And how does she deal with all the Scientology stuff — like putting up tents on the sets of Cruise movies to get new recruits?
She laughed, and squeezed my hand.
"We're just making movies," she chuckled.
Hey, I like this Paula Wagner. And she's made some good films, too, since leaving CAA and becoming a producer — movies such as "The Others," "Shattered Glass" and "Narc."
Unfortunately, "Elizabethtown" is going to have a tough time when it opens Friday.
As a fan of Crowe, I do admire, first of all, his soundtracks. The music in his films is always excellent. Who else would use James Brown singing "That's Life"? Clive Davis and Charles Goldstuck have the "Elizabethtown" soundtrack CD on RCA Records.
Crowe lost his father suddenly, years ago, when shooting his classic, "Say Anything." This required a journey home to Kentucky to deal with the arrangements.
"Elizabethtown" is about that journey. Bloom stands in for Crowe; Dunst is his love interest. Susan Sarandon plays Bloom's wacky and gorgeous mother — a version of Frances McDormand's "Almost Famous" character. The up-and-coming Judy Greer plays his sister (Zooey Deschanel in "AF.")
All of Crowe's ideas are excellent, but ultimately there are too many of them. "Elizabethtown" never gels, which is a shame because often you think it's hit the right track.
There are great moments, too: Alec Baldwin playing a Phil Knight sort of shoe inventor; Sarandon doing stand-up comedy and tap-dancing at her dead husband's memorial service; a road trip mini-movie within "Elizabethtown" that is so clever it could be a short film; and the penultimate ending, set in the largest farmers' market in the world and ending in a big romantic clinch.
In the end, you'll see "Elizabethtown" for intelligent filmmaking by one of our best director/writers. But go in knowing that at one point it "jumps the shark" with a huge papier-maché bird (I can't explain this).
Everyone makes mistakes, and we can all offer forgiveness on that one. So, by all means see it, if only because "Elizabethtown" cost a bundle to make, and engendered many costly reshoots.
One day we'll see a director's cut on DVD, but for the moment we'll have to examine this version.
Kim Cattrall is back, and just when we needed her.
She's got a book coming out shortly called "Sexual Intelligence." God love her, she's naked on the cover! I am to report that Kim has a book party next week, and no one will send regrets!
Meanwhile, the former Samantha Jones was seen last week at the Irish Arts Center. The group honored "Hotel Rwanda" director Terry George and Andrew Breslin. They raised $140,000, no doubt due to Kim's presence. ...
Lunch at Fred's in Barneys yesterday: that was Martha Stewart Omnimedia CEO Charles Koppelman with famed record producer Russ Titelman; Lizzie Grubman at one table, her father Allen at another; and the actual Bulgari family at a big round table in the front, all speaking Italian. ...
Downstairs, shopping, great New Orleans musician Allen Toussaint. ...
Joan Didion's new book, "The Year of Magical Thinking," is getting rave reviews. Didion recalls the long illness of her daughter, Quintana Roo, and the sudden death of husband John Gregory Dunne, one of our favorite people. This was all last year.
Just as the book was being readied for publication, however, Quintana, tragically, passed away. I'm told her recent memorial service was attended by brother-in-law Dominick Dunne, his son actor Griffin; as well as countless friends from the literary world.
And Patti Smith, the great rock poet, brought the room to tears when she sang the lullaby she'd sung at the funeral of her husband, rocker Fred Smith, years ago. ...