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Jacko's Financial Woes Worsen

Michael Jackson | Hip-Hop Sex Case | 'Pride and Prejudice' | Odds & Ends

Jacko: Neverland Staff Unpaid; No Cash

Yesterday I told you that Michael Jackson had shut down his Web site and fired his two of his closest confidantes.

Jackson’s situation is very "Boy Who Cried Wolf." All year I’ve been telling you he has no money, but somehow at the last minute, someone has bailed him out.

But that’s not happening right now. While Jackson continues to live off the Prince of Bahrain, his situation at home is very bad. Recently, financial insiders told me that Jackson has stopped paying many of his insurance premiums.

Now word from within the Jackson camp on the West Coast is that Jackson has run out of money for the remainder of this year. He’s also said to be in default with Fortress Investments, the group that holds his $270 million worth of loans. And the loans come due on Dec. 20, just six weeks from now.

Insiders tell me they think Fortress will give Jackson an extension, but in reality they could probably foreclose right now and own Jackson’s half of Sony/ATV Music Publishing and all of his MiJac Publishing.

Jackson is in a financial bind now, like we predicted last year, and the year before, and the year before that. But as we also predicted, he’s done nothing to solve the problem except spend millions more in travel and recreation since the end of his child molestation trial in June.

Now just when you think things can’t get any weirder, Jackson is said to have authorized a new Web site to take over from his shut-down mjjsource.com.

The new site is run by 20-year-old B.J. Hickman of Knoxville, Tenn. — the fan who haunted the trial all last spring.

That’s the same Hickman who was served with a temporary restraining order by former Court TV reporter Diane Dimond, about whom he made many loud and inappropriate comments through a mesh fence for four months.

Jackson, according to sources, thinks Hickman is just great and has been in contact with him a lot all year.

Hip-Hop Mogul Sued for Sex Harassment

You may remember the name Steve Stoute. He was the guy who Sean Combs beat over the head with a Champagne bottle in Stoute’s office at Interscope Records a few years ago.

Combs settled, and Stoute left the record business to do marketing with advertising guru Peter Arnell.

Today, one of Stoute’s former employees at his own boutique firm is filing a sex harassment suit against him for $500,000.

The woman, whose first name is Madeline, claims that between January 2004 and 2005, Stoute wouldn’t leave her alone while she tried to perform her administrative duties in marketing and PR.

Stoute’s attorney, Adam Gilbert of Nixon Peabody, told me late yesterday that he and his client had not been served with the papers even though they’d been filed with the court.

“Mr. Stoute denies the allegations and will vigorously defend himself,” Gilbert said. He added that Stoute would claim that the woman in question was not a full-time employee but a freelancer who filed a 1099 tax report. “We’re also looking into whether or not she’s defamed him in these papers,” he said.

The Washington, D.C., attorney for Madeline (we’re not using her last name), Ross Nabatoff, addresses the employment issue head on in the complaint.

At all times, he writes, Stoute had the power to make all personnel decisions about Madeline, and that she was an employee since Stoute employed more than four people.

But it’s the allegations that are most worrisome, and definitely lurid.

Madeline alleges that Stoute told her “repeatedly that all the women he has had sexual relations with were completely satisfied.” He also told Madeline, according the complaint, “that he knew she would like oral sex and he would not be selfish about it.”

Some of Stoute’s other illegal moves, the complaint alleges: that he told her to dress “sexy,” to wear “skimpy outfits” when she delivered papers to him, that he wanted her to come into his office just so he could look at her, that he would rub and touch her stomach, frequently grabbed her buttocks, pulled her onto his lap, and told her that he didn’t want a girlfriend, just someone to have sex with.

Stoute didn’t stop there, Madeline claims in her complaint. She says that on business trips he would claim upon arriving at a hotel that he could only afford one room so they would have to share a bed — which, apparently, they did, with a pillow between them. Madeline also says that Stoute continually called her friends, and often showed up at places where he knew she’d be.

If the suit goes to court, and Stoute loses, his business could be irreparably harmed. Currently, Stoute has lucrative branding deals with companies like McDonald’s, Tommy Hilfiger and Reebok. This year he’s been featured on the cover of Vibe with his “10 Secrets for Success” (including ‘Respect the commodity of persistence’). Last year, he won Power Broker of the Year at the Vibe Awards.

'Pride' Goeth Before the Oscar

Back in 1813, before there was MTV, a young Jane Austen sat in her room and wrote "Pride and Prejudice," "Emma," "Sense and Sensibility," "Mansfield Park," "Northanger Abbey" and several more books that have endured now for almost 200 years.

"Pride and Prejudice" has been a movie with Sir Laurence Olivier and a famous miniseries with Colin Firth. Now it’s a movie again.

This much I can tell you about director Joe Wright’s "P&P," which opens today: it’s terrific. Like the best of the Merchant Ivory movies, the new "P&P" is lush and modern, with captivating performances and very skilled camera work.

You have to go just to see a big party scene that feels like it’s a single tracking shot. It’s good stuff.

Keira Knightley plays Elizabeth Bennett, the most independent of five sisters whose parents want them to get married, preferably to rich men. Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn are the Bennett parents; Judi Dench is the imperious aunt of Elizabeth’s reluctant suitor, Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen).

All of them are going to be up for awards, with Dame Judi probably fielding Oscar nominations for Best Actress (in "Mrs. Henderson Presents") and Supporting Actress here.

Sutherland and Blethyn are spot on as the Bennetts, whose venality director Wright lets ooze out bit by bit as they push their daughters out the door.

Blethyn has a grand time explaining herself to Elizabeth at one point: “You wait and see what it’s like when you have five daughters!”

But Knightley is really the story here. She’s gorgeous, and on her way to becoming a superstar. Right now she doesn’t even have a publicist (I’m surprised Leslee Dart hasn't swooped her up).

She came to last night’s premiere at the Central Park Boathouse with just her CAA agent and some friends. Knightley — who did good work in last month’s crazy "Domino" — is still unaffected and friendly. Next, she’s off to do the second “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Leo Parties; Madonna Listens

Happy Birthday to Leonardo DiCaprio. He turns 31 today, but he probably has a hangover from last night's bash at a new club in Los Angeles called Lobby. Sounds like it was some jam session. No sign of Gisele, Leo's ex, or Sienna Miller, his why...

And the loony show "The Insider" reports that Madonna's new CD is so protected that it was "flown in its own seat" to Miami and debuted at a nightclub. This column reviewed the album several days ago after downloading it off the Internet. It's easy to find and simple to do...

Finally: People magazine looks great this week. I think editor Martha Nelson at last decided to class up the design and stop chasing the goofy Us Weekly into the gutter. Good move...