A year ago, Tom Mesereau was living large as Michael Jackson’s criminal defense attorney. As the prosecution offered witness after witness in the state of California’s child molestation case against Jackson, Mesereau won kudos for swatting each one away.
But the party is over. Yesterday, Mesereau and his partner Susan Yu resigned as Jackson’s attorneys. Since the end of the child molestation case last June, the pair had been representing Jackson in civil matters, including a $4 million lawsuit brought on by Jackson’s ex-business partner Marc Schaffel.
Last week, neither Mesereau nor Yu showed up for Schaffel’s deposition in that case — a sign that something was wrong. Yesterday, when Jackson’s longtime associate Evvy Tavasci was set to be deposed, Schaffel’s attorney Howard King received notice that the pair no longer represented Jackson.
Calls and e-mails to Mesereau and Yu were not returned last night, but the issue, sources say, is money. Like all of Jackson’s employees, the attorneys have not been paid.
Also leaving Jackson’s legal team is Houston attorney Michael Sydow. I told you a couple of weeks ago that Sydow was out, along with Brent Asycough, associate and friend of self-appointed Jackson lawyer and spokesperson, Brian Oxman.
In fact, Oxman and Mesereau have clashed for more than a year. At one point Mesereau managed to get Oxman fired from Jackson’s criminal defense, but Oxman resurfaced after the trial and continued to make public appearances on behalf of Jackson despite Mesereau’s warnings to stop.
Jackson has now run through so many attorneys in Beverly Hills and its environs that he may have exhausted the supply. He is now represented by Thomas Mundell of Westlake Village, Calif.
I’m told that in Schaffel’s deposition, as well as a few others in the same case, Mundell — no doubt highly qualified in most matters — was unprepared and did not have a full grasp of Jackson’s Byzantine world or the cast of characters who have come and gone in the last few years.
Interestingly, Jackson’s signature appears on the form changing attorneys, dated Feb. 21, 2003, which is odd since he’s been abroad since a one-day appearance in the U.S. on Nov. 23, 2005. Otherwise, Mesereau would only have seen Jackson in person at his own deposition in London last September at the Dorchester Hotel.
According to sources, Mesereau was so tired from the quick trip that he can be heard dozing on the videotape. Sydow did all of the talking, which didn’t amount to much in the way of objections. That nine-hour inquisition of Jackson is said to be devastating for the singer, enough so that Mesereau may have seen the case was a loser.
Ironically, Mesereau was so high on adrenaline after winning Jackson’s criminal case last June that he and Yu left their firm and started a new one based on “saving” Jackson from all legal predators.
But they could have asked a host of former attorneys — which include John Branca, Bert Fields, Brian Wolf, Zia Modabber and so on — who have tried to untangle Jackson’s many messes, only to leave unappreciated, uncompensated and unfulfilled.
Mesereau leaves at a time when Jackson faces several civil suits, including a $48 million breach of contract from Darien Dash, a $90,000 suit from his veterinarian for owed fees and a recovered memory/child molestation case in New Orleans.
There may be more, since today marks nine weeks since any of Jackson’s 60 or so employees have received paychecks.
Mesereau will be missed. Despite the fact that he doesn’t return phone calls and took our admiration of him last spring for granted, I will always recall his deft cross-examination of District Attorney Tom Sneddon’s many shaky witnesses.
No one in the courtroom will ever forget the famous assertion Mesereau elicited from the mother of Jackson’s teen accuser, Janet Arvizo, that the singer planned to kidnap her children via a hot air balloon. It was priceless, and no doubt won Jackson his acquittal.
Meantime, we’re still trying to figure out what Yu’s e-mail handle means. The first part, without the domain, is “michaelhandsomeboy.”
I always thought the combination of Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow was the strangest duet in pop history. They crooned together on Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin’” a few years ago for a movie.
But now Whoopi Goldberg and Jimmy Fallon have joined forces to record the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” for a new animated film, “Doogal.” The clever, tongue-in-cheek effort from the Weinstein Company opens tomorrow without much advance warning.
I don’t know if the Kinks’ Ray Davies, who just released his first-ever solo album, has heard the Goldberg/Fallon version. “You Really Got Me” is one of rock’s all-time best records, with an introduction devised by — but not credited to — Ray’s brother Dave.
I always loved Dave’s story of how he cut slices into his amp speaker with a razor blade to get the fuzzy sound that marks the song’s trademark riff.
“Doogal” is a re-done version of an animated French film that’s had both British and French versions with different actors.
Much like the Weinsteins’ recent $47 million hit, “Hoodwinked,” this one has been “re-voiced” with a galaxy of stars including Jon Stewart, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Goldberg, Fallon, Kevin Smith and Kylie Minogue. I’m told that “Hoodwinked” writer-director Cory Edwards may have had a hand in tweaking the film for American audiences.
No one’s seen a full cut of the American version, but I happened to see a clip of Stewart’s performance in an editing bay recently and he was hilarious.
If that’s any indication, “Doogal” should prove a welcome release this weekend, especially for parents with toddlers who are frustrated that “Curious George” is their only entertainment option in movie theaters during a school break.
When Rupert Murray’s documentary “Unknown White Male” played at Sundance in 2005, I really thought it had to be a hoax.
Brit Doug Bruce wakes up in Coney Island with no memory of who he is. In short order, he finds his well-to-do family, good-looking girlfriend, etc. It’s a too-good-to-be-true story, and one that I thought no one would ever buy.
Then “UWM” was scheduled for release this week, and a lot of stories began appearing that questioned the film’s veracity. In light of the James Frey and J.T. Leroy scandals, I guess the hoax angle was a relevant one.
But really, who would know or care? I do think that someone connected with “UWM” hoped the scandal would ignite interest in the film. As P.T. Barnum once said, there’s a sucker born every minute. For a while there, Frey’s books were selling like hotcakes after he was revealed to have been a liar.
Anyway, we can all rest easy. My pal, filmmaker and journalist Regina Weinreich, tells me that she in fact had Bruce as a student, and his story — while unlikely — is true. She knew him before his amnesia, and knows him — although, of course, he doesn’t remember her.
He also doesn’t remember when Michael Jackson was a cute little kid, or Mel Gibson from "The Year of Living Dangerously," or Tom Cruise sliding through his parents’ living room in “Risky Business.” So we can pity Bruce, and enjoy Murray’s haunting film about his journey.