The 60 or so employees of Michael Jackson who work in California — including his longtime aide Evvy Tavasci and all the people who toil at the Neverland Valley Ranch — lost their health insurance on Feb. 28.
On top of that, yesterday marked the 10th week that the staff went without paychecks. That's right: No one at Neverland has received any money since Dec. 23, 2005.
It's a serious situation. According to my sources, some Neverland staffers — basically maids, cooks, and groundskeepers — have been applying to local welfare programs for assistance so they can feed their families.
"It's as if they're homeless," says a source familiar with the situation. "And the ironic thing is that there are at least two Rolls-Royces in Jackson's storage facility" — in nearby Buellton — "that could be sold so that the loyal staff can be paid."
Jackson left Neverland at the end of June 2005 after he was acquitted on charges of child molestation and conspiracy. He hasn't returned since.
The insurance issue seems to be a signal from Jackson that he no longer cares what happens to his employees. I'm told that they were covered by Cigna until last fall, when the group plan expired.
"There was an extension," said my source, "but that ended on February 28th. We weren't even told directly. It came up when someone on the ranch called about a claim."
Ironically, Jackson keeps telling anyone who will listen that he's working on a charity single for survivors of Hurricane Katrina. He doesn't seem to remember the adage that charity begins at home.
The pre-Oscar partying continued last night, with Jason Binn's Los Angeles Confidential magazine making the biggest noise. The LAC party was held at the Mondrian — a dirty, noisy, unpleasant place made all the more unappetizing by a nasty security force.
Still, Binn's fans love him, and last night was no exception. Two nominees showed up — Philip Seymour Hoffman and Matt Dillon — as well as various and sundry celebrities, including Paris and Nicky Hilton's parents, former MTV VJ Downtown Julie Brown, TV host Pat O'Brien of "The Insider," Tom Arnold, Russell Simmons, Paramount/Viacom's Tom Freston and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Dillon had some kind of obnoxious friends with him who advised approaching strangers to stay away from their mate. Luckily this didn't apply to Dillon's original manager, Vic Ramos, who was allowed inside the incredibly crowded VIP area to say hello to his former protégé.
Floating around the Mondrian lobby, apropos of nothing, I ran into Mariel Hemingway, who looked spectacular.
Over at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Primetime Omnimedia's Marilyn Crawford — looking hot herself in a shimmering white metallic dress — entertained Hollywood's best and brightest African-Americans. Since black people are mostly ignored in Hollywood. Crawford's "Tinseltown to Gotham" is a neat idea.
She had FedEx, Crown Royal and a bunch of other corporate sponsors, and the ballroom was filled to the brim with interesting people, including Macy Gray, Tyrese, Ludacris, Xzibit and Taye Diggs. There were so many black celebs, it was hard to keep track of everyone. But what a great night!
Outside, waiting for our car, we ran into none other than the inimitable party girl Tara Reid. She was with three friends, and they were on their way from one party to another. I talked to Tara for a couple of minutes — she's not as daft as the tabloids make her out to be. She's just having fun — and why not, she's young!
Of course, that's what the folks at Soho House (see yesterday's column) could say about Sienna Miller. Last night, the blonde beauty was up there again, celebrating the wrap of "Factory Girl." From what others told me last night, Sienna, Sean Penn and a bunch of friends left Soho House on Wednesday night (or Thursday morning) at around 2 a.m., and partied in the Chateau Marmont lobby until they were kicked out around 5 a.m.
"Some of them kept going until about 7," a source told me.
And who was at Soho House last night to eat Jamie Oliver's cooking? None other than Madonna and Guy Ritchie. No sign of Sean Penn, though. Someone at Soho House is doing a good job of traffic control.