Michael Jackson | Billy Preston | Laurie Colwin

Jacko: 'Charity' Means He Gets Paid

On the first anniversary of Michael Jackson’s acquittal on charges of child molestation and conspiracy, here is something new and novel to think about: Jackson believes that putting out a charity single means he gets paid while everyone else works for free.

This little bit of information came out recently during depositions for Jackson’s trial with former associate Marc Schaffel. The trial is set to begin on Monday in Los Angeles.

During a lengthy deposition in London last month, Jackson apparently gave fascinating testimony about how he was putting together the single “What More Can I Give” for release in 2003.

The single, which never did get released, was supposed to somehow benefit the families of 9/11 victims. In fact, Jackson had written the song much earlier than that and had been planning to release it in August 2001 as part of his overblown egotistical plan to “save the world” and “save the children.”

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But what does cutting a charity single really mean to Jackson? According to insiders, he told lawyers in the deposition that he retained the copyright to “What More Can I Give?” and had no intention of donating the proceeds from the publishing.

In Jackson’s view — which will come out at the Schaffel trial via his still unseen videotaped performance on the stand — it would be crazy for him to donate the rights to a song to a charity.

Instead, Jackson’s idea of a charity single — and this would apply to the still unreleased song he was planning for survivors of the now 10-months-ago Hurricane Katrina — is to turn over the money from sales of a CD.

Everyone on the CD is supposed to waive their fees, too, including the musicians, performers and engineers. But rights to the music remain with him, and he would reap the financial rewards.

Jackson told the attorneys in the deposition, and I am paraphrasing without a direct transcript available: “I don’t know songwriters who give their royalties to charity. To give the royalty rights, that’s a lot of money to give away.”

When asked whether the idea was to give “zero percent” of the royalties to “What More Can I Give?” to charity, Jackson is said to have responded: “I told you so, yes.”

Jackson can only learn from past experience. According to the ASCAP Web site, 1984’s “We Are the World” — the only charity song he’s actually ever participated in — is registered to Jackson, singer-songwriter Lionel Richie and ex-wife Brenda Richie. This means that any time the record is played on the radio, money goes not to charity but to that trio. Jackson gets 50 percent, and the Richies split the other 50 percent (Brenda evidently got her share through her divorce from Lionel).

A source at one of the publishing companies involved explained, however, that USA for Africa, the original charity for which "We Are the World" was composed and recorded, still receives money from the all-star recording of the song and the video. But the money for writing the song? That goes right to the three copyright holders.

Jackson — who made a sad appeal for publicity over the weekend in France by being rolled through the Tuilleries in a wheelchair, wearing pajamas — proves to be savvier than previously thought, according to his testimony. Unfortunately, according to accounts, he didn’t know the meaning of the word “savvy,” and asked to have it rephrased during questioning.

Jackson is said to understand the value of copyrights and that his public eccentricities — pajamas, umbrellas, sunglasses, top hats, children in masks, etc., going right back to Hyperbaric chambers and the Elephant Man’s bones — are all part of a well-choreographed game to keep the public interested in his fading celebrity.

Billy Preston: Bad Episode of 'Six Feet Under'

Natalie Cole and Chaka Khan are among those who are said to be possibly participating in Monday night’s music program for the late Billy Preston, although they may think twice when they read this story.

Preston died on June 6, but he still isn’t buried properly after a week has gone by. His estranged family has decided to wait yet one more week to give Billy a respectful rest.

Preston is now scheduled for a music extravaganza service on June 19 in Los Angeles, preceded by a public viewing of his autopsied body. On the next day he gets a pull-out-all-the-stops funeral, with another long viewing.

These are said to be the ideas of his estranged family, who took possession of his body, I am told, without a court order. Billy had asked for a quick burial near his mother, but his wishes are apparently being ignored.

On top of all this, it turns out that the family has chosen a funeral parlor with massive problems. Simpson Family Mortuary in Los Angeles was shut down for 45 days beginning last February by the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Narrowly avoiding a total and permanent close down, Simpson had to pay a $30,000 fine to the state. Their main violations included conducting more than 700 unlicensed embalmings performed at the mortuary between May 2003 and April 2004.

According to the DCA Web site, the other violations included: “…unsanitary conditions at the business, and failure to exhibit displays or make disclosures required by law to protect consumers. The mortuary also failed to properly ensure the privacy of human remains by allowing a non-employee to take photographs of a body in a preparation room, two of which were published in a newspaper in 2004.”

“We feel the settlement is fair,” said DCA Director Charlene Zettel in a press release. “It protects the public and underscores how serious the violations at Simpson Family Mortuary were.”

A Mr. King who answered the phone at Simpson yesterday told me, “Everything’s fine now. It was just a matter of paperwork.”

But a DCA rep told me that it was not just a matter of paperwork, and that Simpson could be shut down permanently if they don’t adhere to state standards.

Meantime, I am told that the family is using the highly lucrative Faithful Central Bible Church of Inglewood to perform the services. But Faithful is having its own problems right now, with picketers from IATSE Local 33 outside the church’s home — The Los Angeles Forum — protesting massive layoffs.

The picketers caused such a problem at the recent Madonna concert that the church has moved the Preston services to — ta da! — Simpson Family Mortuary.

Happiness & Cooking, for the Ages

It’s hard to imagine, but today would have been the 62nd birthday of my dear friend, the writer, novelist and essayist Laurie Colwin. She died suddenly, of a heart attack, in October 1992 at age 48.

Every year on her birthday I like to salute her and her loyal readers, who keep her wonderful books in print. Among her treasures: “Happy All the Time,” “Another Marvelous Thing" and two volumes of essays about cooking, “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking.”

Laurie was a trenchant observer of detail and a delightful chronicler of social mores. No one I can think of has ever replaced or succeeded her. She was also a great friend, missed by so many who loved her. Do yourself a favor this summer, and pick up one or many of her books. You’ll never want to put them down.…

Because today is indeed the one-year anniversary of the Jackson acquittal, I wanted to give a shout out to the great press corps who rearranged their lives and stayed in remote Santa Maria, Calif., for months listening to the craziest testimony ever given in a criminal case.

They include our beloved trial coordinator Peter Shaplen of San Francisco media fame, the AP’s legendary Linda Deutsch, FOX News legal expert Jim Hammer and correspondent Trace Gallagher, plus (in no particular order) Jim Moret, Aphrodite Jones, Jane Velez Mitchell, Savannah Guthrie, Martin Kasindorf, Mike Taibbi, Michelle Caruso, David K. Li, Ben McShane, beloved courtroom artists Vicki Behringer and Bill Robles, author J. Randy Taraborrelli, Frank Swertlow, former sheriff Jim Thomas, Stuart Pfeifer, Dan Whitcomb, Tina Susman, Dawn Hobbs, Nick Madigan and John Broder — and several dozen more fine folks whose names I’m forgetting but haven’t forgotten who attended the first-ever “Celebrity Animal Party” in honor of Bubbles the Chimp on June 13, 2005.

I’ll even include in this Diane Dimond and Maureen Orth, who each insisted Jackson was guilty no matter what was offered in testimony. It takes guts to be wrong! Happy anniversary to all!