The nanny to Michael Jackson’s kids, Grace Rwaramba, isn’t going to marry the pop star, nor is she drugging him, either.
As for the first part, it would seem impossible anyway, since — surprise! — she is already married to someone else, and has been for more than a decade.
On Friday afternoon, Rwaramba called this reporter with Jackson’s publicist, Raymone Bain, to set the record straight about her reputation, she said. In exchange, all she wanted was an apology. It is hereby delivered.
It was discovered, however, after some phone calls between various sources, that Rwaramba had left out an important fact: she’s been married for 11 years to an American. It was a major omission, I thought, but I will leave the apology in place. Maybe she owes me one now, too.
Public records show that Grace Sanyu Rwaramba married Stacey M. Adair in Las Vegas on Feb. 26, 1995.
As far anyone knows, they are still married, although Grace — who comes from Rwanda and attended college in Massachusetts sometime between 1986 and 1990 — does not live with Adair, possibly for years.
Sources tell me that the marriage was one of convenience, possibly contrived so Rwaramba could work in the United States. Indeed, some who are close to Jackson said they’d been told Adair died during the marriage or that the couple had divorced at some point.
But public records don’t indicate either has happened. Bain said she didn’t know if Rwaramba, who is in Bahrain with Jackson and his children, had ever been married.
It’s unknown whether Rwaramba has ever told Jackson that she has a husband. She has certainly not informed him of her alleged romances with his brothers Jermaine and Randy, which, according to sources, have occurred in the last seven years.
As far as Adair goes, sources say — and press clips second — that he’s an African-American filmmaker who lives in Los Angeles. Not much more is known about him, including how he met Rwaramba.
By 1995, the year of their marriage, she’d already been working for Jackson for four years as an office assistant, handling insurance claims for his employees. She was not, Jackson sources say, a PR assistant.
So what if Rwaramba didn’t mention her marriage to me? She was more concerned about the fact that her “reputation” was being damaged in the Jackson saga (neither she nor Bain were concerned about other recent Jackson revelations in this column regarding the singer faking a police brutality claim or making money off charity singles).
No matter that Rwaramba is now considered the go-to person in Jackson’s camp for bankers, family members, legal persons and Jackson’s ex-wife Debbie Rowe. It was Rwaramba who brought Rowe’s children Prince and Paris to see Rowe last fall from Bahrain once they’d settled there with Jackson. Rowe was prohibited from telling the children she was their mother.
Oddly enough, Rwaramba was never seen in court last year at Jackson’s child molestation trial. She stays away from all legal proceedings, a source says. She was never mentioned as a potential witness either, though her 15 years of service for Jackson gave her a good enough perspective to testify on his behalf. Sources again say she is fearful of having to discuss her marital status under oath.
Grace Rwaramba Adair came across in our conversation as a highly intelligent, articulate woman. In an online interview last year, she denied introducing Jackson to the Nation of Islam and blamed his problems on Satan.
None of that came out in our talk, however. More on the fascinating Ms. Rwaramba — who’s far more than a nanny — tomorrow.
Leeza Gibbons should be relieved of at least one headache this week: the TV personality’s ex-husband Chris Quinten has been cleared of rape after a trial in London.
Quinten and Gibbons were married from 1988-1990 and have a daughter, Lexi. Gibbons already logged one other hubby earlier, then put in 14 years with third spouse Stephen Meadows. They divorced in 2005 after having two sons.
Quinten, 49, is a popular former British TV soap actor turned party organizer. Last year he was accused of luring a 22-year-old girl into a bathroom at a posh nightclub, giving her cocaine and forcing her to have sex.
In the trial, he denied the drug use and said the sex was consensual. According to British press reports, after he was acquitted Quinten said he wanted to apologize to his current girlfriend because he "broke her heart because of being unfaithful.”
It’s a little heartbreaking to report this, but the Rhythm and Blues Foundation is in a bit of trouble.
The group’s most recent federal tax filing for 2004-2005 — the period just before new administrator Katye Connelly took over — shows a deficit of $91,000. Even though the group was dormant in that period, it still managed to spend $375,000, including $80,000 in salaries and $11,000 in travel.
Next Monday in Philadelphia, the Foundation will put on its first Pioneer Awards show in three years. At the last one, in 2003, award winners The Del Vikings, Johnny Nash, The Dixie Cups, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Maceo Parker and Koko Taylor — received empty envelopes instead of their honorariums because the Foundation was broke.
Foundation administrator Cecilia Carter, who’d been hired after an expensive search, spent $12,000 on flowers for the event and had also charged her beauty parlor appointment, which cost $400.
Later that year, Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt graciously wrote checks to make the winners whole.
That won’t be necessary on June 29, when the Foundation gives its first Pioneer Awards in three years in Philadelphia. Connelly promises that the money for the awards — a total of $90,000 — is in hand, as well as another $300,000 to putting on the show.
Lifetime Achievement winner Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, will not get a cash prize — it’s wisely been discontinued. Three individual performers — Bettye Lavette, Barbara Mason and Chubby Checker — will get checks for $10,000 apiece. Two groups — The Delfonics and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly — will get $15,000 each to divide among themselves.
Two other special awards will be given: a legacy award to the family of Otis Redding, and a sideman/composer award to Philadelphia’s Thom Bell, who last week was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
For Chubby Checker, it should be the grandest night of all. He’s been denied entrance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for years by shortsighted voters who instead inducted Hank Ballard & The Midnighters because they created “The Twist.”
No one has ever acknowledged that it was Checker who had a hit with the song twice (1961 and 1963), created a lasting craze and followed with sequel hit "Let's Twist Again."
The group’s original funding is all but gone. Of the $1.5 million that it was endowed with in 1988, less than $10,000 now remains, according to Connelly.
That initial fund, which many thought was restricted and couldn’t be touched, was named for famed songwriter Doc Pomus (“Save the Last Dance for Me”). It came through the auspices of Atlantic Records and the old Warner Communications after singer Ruth Brown pursued a nine-year quest against Atlantic regarding missing back royalties for herself and about 30 of the label’s founding artists. Brown scored a small victory, and thus was born the Foundation.
But succeeding regimes and inept staffers have squandered the money over time. The biggest acknowledged disaster was a $1 million money-losing party in February 1999 at Sony Studios in Culver City, at which the Foundation handed out its annual Pioneer Awards. It was the beginning of the end.
Big questions remain about the Foundation’s finances, particularly an account of what happened to that initial $1.5 million in the Doc Pomus Fund. Additionally, it’s thought that Atlantic Records donated another $400,000 for that fund subsequently. Connelly says that a total of $400,000 was spent on a discontinued program that underwrote shows by legendary artists at different venues. Some of the money also went to the Pioneer Awards, including the gut-busting 1999 show.
The Foundation has two other restricted funds as well. One of them, the Fuqua/Gordy fund, has a $700,000 balance and can only be used for former Motown artists. The other, called the Universal/Motown fund, is said to be at $1.5 million and is also restricted to artists from the respective labels.
This means that no monies are earmarked for artists from Stax, Atlantic, Columbia/Epic and associated labels, Malaco, Hi and miscellaneous labels that recorded R&B acts pre-1980. Those artists, many of whom have been left high and dry, can still apply to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation if they’re in trouble.
Connelly tells me that she’s just cut a deal with Universal Music Group, so they’ll be getting notices with their royalty statements advising them to contact her in case of emergencies. But if an artist doesn’t get a statement or isn’t with that label, they’re essentially out of luck and out of the loop.
Readers may wonder why any of this is important, and the answer is easy: prior to the contemporary generation of highly paid recording artists, music acts were routinely ripped off. If they didn’t write their own songs, they were in double trouble, because there is no “performance” royalty.
Case in point: Aretha Franklin did not write her biggest hit, “Respect.” Otis Redding wrote it and his estate gets the publishing royalty. If Franklin hadn’t written her own songs down the line ("Daydreaming," "Rock Steady," "Think," "Who’s Zoomin’ Who") she would have been without income now — aside from touring.
Touring, in fact, is all that generates income for non-writing performers. This is why Whitney Houston, for example, is likely starting to feel the strain of not working. Her hits were all written by others, including Dolly Parton, who composed Houston’s biggest hit, “I Will Always Love You.” This is why Houston, Janet Jackson, Celine Dion and other non-writing singers of the last generation fought so hard to get huge advances from record companies for their albums: they knew it would be the only money they’d see from the CDs.
Meanwhile, the staple hits that comprise oldies radio — from favorites like Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” to most Frank Sinatra records — are played endlessly and essentially for free, as the voices you hear go unpaid for their efforts.