Jacko 'Doesn't Care' About Ranch Workers

Michael Jackson | Katie Couric | Katie Holmes | Dana Reeve | 'Sopranos' | Odds 'n' Ends

Jacko 'Doesn't Care' About Ranch Workers

For a guy who had trouble traveling 45 minutes every day from his home to a courthouse, Michael Jackson is getting around pretty fast these days.

He made it back to Manama, Bahrain, by Saturday night for dinner with Prince Abdullah at a place called The Hunting Lodge. I'm told he chatted up several people who were in for the F1 races, including John Legend .

My sources remain steadfast in their resolve that Jackson had snuck in and out of Los Angeles last week. He did it last November without being detected.

But Jackson seems unfazed by the events at home that could lead to a lawsuit from the state of California over his now shuttered Neverland ranch. When I called The Hunting Lodge while Jackson was there, I spoke to someone else who was eating at a nearby table and had spoken with him. I asked if they had mentioned the Neverland situation to him.

"Michael is here and he's happy. He doesn't want to get into bad things going on at home. That part of his life is over," this person replied.

That indeed seems to be the case. Jackson basically has just today to resolve a total of $500,000 in fines and back pay to employees before the state of California takes action against him. Since no one in the Jackson family has any money other than Janet , they are now all relying on the family's remaining contemporary pop star to come through for them.

But how can the Neverland employees, as well as the folks who work in Encino for Michael's parents, feel about him at this point? While he shuttles around the world on Prince Abdullah's dime, the Neverland staff will be 12 weeks. That's three full months without pay. They no longer have health insurance.

And if the security staff is made to leave by court order on Tuesday, a the bigger question that remains is about insurance. According to statements made by accountant Alan Whitman in a November 2005 deposition, the ranch and Jackson's many possessions are uninsured at this time. In fact, there isn't even an inventory of the various knick-knacks and "artwork."

Meanwhile, it's pretty amusing to read in wire stories that the labor department people up there didn't realize all this was going on until last week. We've been writing about it faithfully since last December, at least once a week. Dean Fryer , the spokesman, told the Associated Press: "People are telling me they haven't been paid from Dec. 19."

Actually, Mr. Fryer, the staff — as I reported — was last paid on Dec. 23, 2005. At that time, Jackson was four weeks behind with the payroll and there was a fear that the staff would not be able to celebrate Christmas. In the meantime, Jackson had the Prince fly in about a dozen friends on his dime, and gave them each lots of expensive presents.

Katie Couric's Ex-Beau Will Play at Soul Night

The Waldorf Astoria ballroom is rockin' tonight with the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner and it should be a curious event considering that the Sex Pistols took themselves out of it, Miles Davis is dead and nearly all of Lynyrd Skynyrd's original members are in heaven. At least Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and Blondie will be able to put on a full show if the audience gets bored.

But the Waldorf will rock again on Wednesday night for some Hollywood Meets Motown. Right now, one of the scheduled performers is Katie Couric's ex-boyfriend Chris Botti. The twist here (or maybe the PR hook) is that the charity is Katie's colorectal cancer benefit, honoring the memory of her husband Jay Monahan .

Right now, the show is supposed to start with Matt Lauer, Al Roker, Katie Couric and Ann Curry introducing Martha and the Vandellas. It won't be the real group — even though Martha is available — but Chaka Khan, Whoopi Goldberg and Martina McBride , who are scheduled to perform several Vandellas hits.

There are several other surprises too: Tony Bennett, Elvis Costello, Mary J. Blige, Michael McDonald and James Taylor have all signed up to sing Motown hits for the night.

Ironically, the only actual Motown-related act of the night is Valerie Simpson and Nik Ashford , who wrote many of the famed label's greatest hits. They'll perform some of them, like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

You can read all about Katie's group at www.eif.org, but they won't tell you that Botti will be performing with John Legend or that Tony Bennett and a surprise guest are scheduled to be paired in a tribute to Stevie Wonder. I know who the mystery man is, but I don't want to give Katie a stroke this morning by revealing his name.

You also won't read that Elmo and the Muppets are set to reproduce Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 's hits. (They should have had Elmo do the soul song, "I'm Your Puppet." It would have been a little more savory, I think.)

Some non-singing guests at the show, they say: Robert DeNiro, Jimmy Fallon, Rosario Dawson, Tina Fey (whom I think should leave Saturday Night Live now, before it gets worse — if that's possible), Greg Kinnear and Kevin Bacon. Rappers Ludacris and LL Cool J are also penciled in.

Donald Trump is going to introduce the Isley Brothers' portion of the night. It's too bad the Isleys didn't record "Who's That Lady" for Motown.Melanie, Marla and Ivana could have done back up vocals.

But all eyes will be on Katie, that's for sure, and who from CBS and NBC shows up — and where they are seated. I think the funniest scenario would be Katie having CBS's current anchor Bob Schieffer on one side and NBC's Brian Williams (for balance) on the other. Maybe they can all join Elvis Costello when he croons "Ain't That Peculiar."

Katie Holmes Won't Do Any 'Smoking'

Thanks to Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes won't be doing any publicity for her new film "Thank You for Smoking." She skipped the press junket screenings, passed on last night's swell premiere at the Museum of Modern Art and has already said ‘no' to the Los Angeles premiere later this week.

She clearly made a mistake last night since the MoMA event was the classiest New York movie premiere in some time. Halle Berry even showed up, looking, you know, just beautiful. She's in town shooting "Perfect Stranger" with Bruce Willis (not playing Balki), produced by Elaine Goldsmith Thomas , and loving every minute of it.

Dustin Hoffman — not in the film — was a no-show, but stars Robert Duvall and Aaron Eckhart were there, along with director Jason Reitman . I think Eckhart will be a big star after this.

Jason is the son of director Ivan Reitman ("Dave," "Meatballs," "Stripes," "Ghostbusters II"), who also produced "Animal House" in 1978. Ivan and wife Genevieve, the elder told me, have been married since 1976 — a Hollywood record (but not really).

Jason, who's 29, has the same good genes. "Thank You for Smoking" is a concise, sharp satire that never misses a beat. It reminded me very much of his father's excellent "Dave," which starred Kevin Kline as a substitute president of the U.S.

"Smoking" has now been restored to include Katie Holmes's infamous 30-second sex scene montage that was dropped by accident from the Sundance screening print. The series of quick cuts is quite tame, but the movie got a lot of welcome PR out of the Sundance incident.

You could argue that Tom is severely wrecking Katie's career at this point by keeping her away from promotion for a hit film, but it's old news. Her career is on its way to becoming a footnote.

The evening, which looked like it cost a lot more dough than usual, was sponsored by Extell Development Corp., a realty company launching two new luxury high rises on the Upper West Side. Owner Gary Barnett started the evening by awarding his top two salespeople year-long chauffeur-driven Maseratis.

I'm telling you, even Halle looked envious. Extell's Raizy Haas didn't get the prize, but took home an even bigger one: one of the best events of the year.

School Chums Rally for Dana Reeve's Son

Will Reeve, the 13-year-old son of Dana and Christopher Reeve , is getting a lot of support from his school friends.

I'm told the kids at Will's school are wearing little Superman medallions that looked like dog tags. They're a sign of solidarity foe Will, who lost his mom a week ago today.

Also, very quietly last Thursday, a private memorial service for Dana was held in Westchester at the home of one of their friends. (When I say home, I mean the estates that people in their community have, you see. We're not talking Cape Cods or split levels.)

Everything to do with Dana Reeve's passing is being done with elegance and panache. We shouldn't be surprised. That's the way she lived her life.

'Sopranos' Suprises We Told You About Last April

One look at last night's premiere of "The Sopranos" and I can say, "I told you so."

When a loved one has the onset of dementia or Alzheimer's, assisted living is the way to go. There's nothing wrong with it. Tony learned that the hard way last night, didn't he?

If you didn't see the show, stop reading. But since it's aired, I think we're free to discuss what happened: The episode harkened back to the pilot, when Uncle Junior planned a hit on "Little" Pussy Malanga'not Vince Pastore ‘s Big Pussy'but Tony thwarted it and Little Pussy died in a fire at Artie Buco's restaurant. Now, in his demented state, Junior thinks Tony is Little Pussy and shoots him at point blank range in his kitchen.

Tony took the shot in the gut, and since we know from earlier scenes that he now weighs 280 freakin' pounds, you know they're going to find that bullet somewhere between the scamorze and the sushi.

The rest of Episode 1 was the usual high quality, with Edie Falco doing exceptional work. How she loses the Emmy Award to one of the network actresses every time is beyond me.

Otherwise, everything this column told you on April 21 of last year came true except for one thing: Toni Kalem was not replaced as Angie, even though a casting call went out for a new actress. (I'm relieved because I really like her.) The things I said would happen: I told you Ginny Sack would get a brother who owns a Lenscrafters; I told you Eugene would get a wife and two kids (although I didn't know he'd get whacked, which was too bad and didn't make sense); I told you Janice and Bobby would have a baby daughter. Not bad.

Of course, I also said that Ginny's brother would turn out to be a wiseguy. I guess we saw that look on his face when Tony and Co. helped themselves to free sunglasses. I think we're also going to see Gene's widow look for revenge.

P.S. Tony mentioned an off-camera character named Tony Spiridakis. I believe he was named for a writer-producer of the same name, best known for his 1991 film "Queens Logic." Connect the dots, because I think the fictional indie movie "Queens Boulevard" from another HBO show, "Entourage," is a reference to Spiridakis's film. Bada bing!

Who Did What

You know, now that I'm back from all that Oscar partying, it would be nice to point out who made what possible. Mainly: the nice folks at Motorola gave that nice reception for Bono's One Campaign at the Chateau Marmont — still maybe the most star-studded and relaxed event of Oscar week. And Hendrix Vodka was one of the reasons Jason Binn's Los Angeles Confidential Magazine was able to take over the Sky Bar at the Mondrian. If they hadn't, I would never have had such a good chat with Tom Arnold.