The divorce war between Michael Jackson and his wife Debbie Rowe has already cost him a lot of money — and not just the $60,000 which he was ordered to pay her this week.
Sources close to the case who have seen previously unavailable court documents reveal that Jackson already forked over a secret payment of $100,000 to Rowe in July of this year.
This may have been an attempt by Jackson to stave off a psychological evaluation in their ongoing custody case. It was Rowe’s second payment in seven months from Jackson, who also secretly ponied up $265,000 in late 2005 to his ex-wife and the mother of his two eldest children.
Around the same time that payment was made to Rowe, Jackson’s lawyers also agreed to pay Rowe’s attorney, Eric George, $225,000 after a secret arbitration between the two sides.
Other documents show that when Rowe received her late 2005 payout, it was part of a larger agreement that gave Jackson’s own attorney, Michael Abrams, $125,000. Rowe’s former lawyer, Iris Finsilver, received $150,000.
All of this money came out of an escrow account into which Jackson’s accountants have been depositing money that would have gone to Rowe since he ceased payments to her in their divorce in October 2003.
Jackson and Rowe are headed into a settlement agreement next week, which could — in a perfect world — resolve all their financial and custodial issues over Prince Michael, 8, and Paris, 7.
Rowe, as I have written before in this space, is the children’s only biological parent. She last saw them during a meeting in August 2005.
The former couple is involved in two separate disputes. One involves the children’s custody and visitation. But the other stems from Jackson’s assertion that Rowe violated their confidentiality agreement when she gave “Entertainment Tonight” an interview about her horses and ranch in October 2003.
Ironically, several months earlier, in February 2003, Rowe — at Jackson’s request — participated in a video interview in which she extolled his virtues as a parent. This was a rebuttal to Martin Bashir’s "Living with Michael Jackson" documentary that showed him holding hands with a 12-year-old boy.
That boy ultimately claimed to have been molested by Jackson, which resulted in the pop star’s 2005 trial. He was acquitted.
But court papers also reveal that Jackson thought Rowe was somehow helping the police in their investigation of him, and that he stopped his alimony payments to her because of that.
Court papers also show that on several occasions, the private judge whom Jackson and Rowe had hired to adjudicate all of this, Stephen Lachs, urged them to settle their issues. Jackson, the judge noted, never even bothered to make an appearance in the case.
For Rowe, the developments of the last few months can be seen as a victory of sorts. But even if the court awards her visitation or joint custody of Prince and Paris, it’s unclear how she’ll be able to act on it.
Jackson claims now to be a resident of Bahrain, a country that doesn’t have to cooperate with U.S. law. Rowe’s only chance for success would be serving him with papers in the United Kingdom — i.e. England or Ireland, two places where the pop singer likes to escape when things get too hot for him in the desert.
And here’s a Jacko flashback: just in case you didn’t read it, this column first reported on Aug. 19 that Jordan Chandler, the young man to whom Jackson paid a $20 million settlement in 1994, recently got a restraining order against his own father.
This week, the story got recycled by other outlets without our credit. Rest assured, it started here …
Sting loves to pick at strings. Everyone remembers him from Police videos playing his favorite instrument, the upright bass. It’s the sound that gave the Police songs their timeless originality.
But last year, Sting decided to try a new stringed instrument -- the lute. You don’t hear a lot of lutes on pop records. You hear mandolins, but no lutes. They are usually left to classical musicians with a lot of training.
You know that wouldn’t stop Sting. The result is a new album that drops next month, called “Songs from the Labyrinth,” for which Sting has used the songs of 16th century composer John Dowland for his foundation.
A more seasoned and veteran lutenist — yes, that’s what they’re called — named Edin Karamazov plays on the CD, but Sting is right in there (this is similar to how Billy Joel put out his own classical CD, having Richard Jewell perform the work).
And how is Sting on the lute? He sounds good to me, but when I asked him about it recently, he did say that Karamazov sometimes winces as his pupil forges ahead.
“Labyrinth” is a very ambitious project, and it will not be to everyone’s taste. Certainly, if you’re looking for a hit single, it’s not here. But I have a prediction — “Songs from Labyrinth” will turn out to be the biggest Christmas CD of the year.
It has that feeling, of mulled wine and Yule logs in fireplaces. Sting told me he didn’t think it would sell, but my guess is he’s wrong. It’s going to become a perennial.
What makes pop artists want to make these albums? (Elvis Costello takes side trips all the time, as does Paul McCartney). The answer of course is boredom with the demands of a regular album schedule, and the desire to stretch in a new direction.
In Dowland, Sting has found something of a soul mate, too. His “lyrics,” written in the early 1600s, fit the rocker’s voice well.
Here’s another prediction: even though “hit single” is not the first thing that comes to mind with “Labyrinth,” watch for a short number — all 23 tracks are short compared to modern pop music — called “Fine Knacks for Ladies” to turn into a sleeper on “lite” radio stations.
Sting’s vocal is superbly rich and humorous, much like his much-loved “Englishman in New York.”
Some other tracks to watch: “Clear or Cloudy” and “Can She Excuse My Wrongs?” (Wait ‘til tea leaf readers get a hold of the latter! But Sting’s wife, Trudie, needn’t worry).
So bravo for Sting. It should be interesting to hear how all of this influences his next rock album.
It’s nice to see little Suri Cruise exists, but 22 pages in Vanity Fair seems like overkill.
Caryn James’ piece in yesterday’s New York Times took the magazine and Tom Cruise to task for over-indulgence, and others are pointing out that elsewhere in the same issue, in “The New Establishment” list, Cruise’s “firing” from Paramount has been spun into a “parting of the ways.” Yikes! Vanity Fair will probably have its biggest-selling issue of all time, but is it worth this price? ...
Billy Ray Cyrus, he of the “Achy Breaky Heart,” is a big hit on PAX TV with his daughter in the show “Hannah Montana.” He’s got a new album out called “Wanna Be Your Joe” with guest stars Loretta Lynn and George Strait, and lots of new respect in the country music world (he also looks strangely the same as he did years ago — clean living, I guess).
Look for a “hidden” track on the album called “Pain in the Gas” that Billy Ray wrote while he was watching our very own FOX News Channel. The chorus goes: “Blame Bin Laden or Sudan/Iraq or Iran/All I know is this hurtin’ just won’t pass/There seems to be a real pain in my gas.” Now that’s a song everyone can identify with all over the USA! ...
And congratulations to Ellen DeGeneres! She’s going to make a terrific host of the 2007 Oscars. Producer Laura Ziskin had made a wonderful choice. Now, let the games begin!