Published October 30, 2006
Perhaps seeking closure or just craving the spotlight so much that he doesn’t get it, Michael Jackson is returning to the scene of his most infamous alleged, but never proven, crime.
Jackson has negotiated an appearance at the World Music Awards, which will air on TV after a taping in London on Nov. 15.
This would be a little like O.J. Simpson either shopping for shoes at Bruno Magli or having dinner at Mezzaluna in Brentwood.
Back in 1993, it was Jackson’s trip to Monaco for the World Music Awards that raised eyebrows and perhaps instigated the destruction of his career.
It was on that trip that Jackson brought along June Chandler and her 12-year-old son, Jordan. Soon afterward, the Chandlers became embroiled in a scandal with Jackson over the pop star’s possibly inappropriate relationship with Jordan.
The result was a $20 million-plus settlement and the beginning of a long trail that culminated in a special “prior acts” law being passed in California in child-molestation cases. And that led to the 2005 child-molestation trial in which Jackson was acquitted.
The return to the World Music Awards — yet another “invented” awards show created to sell ads — is supposedly a calculated effort to re-establish Jackson as a pop star.
He’ll receive the Diamond Award, which in previous years has been given to Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. The criterion is for lifetime album sales of 100 million. Never mind that Jackson hasn’t sold 10 percent of that in the last decade.
The World Music Awards also offers Jackson a return to his previous private celebration of glamour and decadence. The awards were created to generate funds for the Monaco Aide and Presence Foundation, which is headed by Prince Albert and formerly his father, Prince Rainier.
But it was at these awards in 1993 that Jackson was pictured with Jordie Chandler sitting on his knee. Later, on the flight home, Jackson’s former press agent Bob Jones wrote in his memoir, "The Man Behind the Mask," that he witnessed the pop star behaving in a romantic way toward the boy.
Jackson’s return to the World Music Awards won’t be quite as glamorous as in the past. For one thing, they take place in London, no longer in Monaco.
Jackson is currently living in temporary space in Ireland, with -– as Chuck Berry might say — “no particular place to go.” He’s a man without a country and a home. He’s also low on cash, considering the cost of remaining at large for 18 months with three children, a nanny, security guards and various visitors.
No doubt part of Jackson’s payment to appear on the awards show will include a lengthy stay at either of his beloved — and very expensive — Dorchester and Lanesborough hotels.
If the awards are smart, they’ll have whichever hotel they settle on demand a credit card from Jackson for “incidentals.”
Jude Law has two Oscar nominations so far — for acting in two pictures by Anthony Minghella, "Cold Mountain" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley."
You might be surprised to hear it, since Law is almost better known for his tabloid exploits and fast-track lifestyle.
But all that should change with Minghella’s new one, "Breaking and Entering." Law, Juliette Binoche and Robin Wright Penn do outstanding work in this cleverly constructed drama set in London and centered on an affair that Law’s character has with Binoche’s.
It’s an exceptional film that should be a big hit abroad and certainly an arthouse smash in the U.S.
At Friday night’s premiere at the London Film Festival, Law was joined by Minghella, "Chariots of Fire" director Hugh Hudson, actor Jason Isaacs and Wright Penn, who was footloose and fancy-free, unencumbered by children or husband (Sean Penn).
And where are those kids, I asked Robin, who rarely makes public appearances, especially during the school year. “Babysitter!” she exclaimed.
In this movie, which may be the best drama of the year, Law plays a London architect who lives with Wright Penn and her teenage daughter. The latter seems to have Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.
When his office in a sketchy, hip part of town keeps getting broken into, Law tracks down the teens who are responsible. The mother of the main kid is Binoche, who plays a Bosnian émigré so convincingly that you can’t believe she’s the same French actress from "Chocolat" and "The English Patient." It doesn’t take long for the pair to become entangled in more ways than one.
Law does the best work of his career, maybe because it’s so close to his real-life adventures. Whatever the reason, he told me on Friday: “I just hope this is more lasting” than all the gossip stuff.
He spoke animatedly about his participation in rebuilding London’s Young Vic Theatre (not the Old Vic that Kevin Spacey runs). “I used to go there as a teenager,” he said, “and that’s what really got my interest going in acting.”
I’m a little shy about saying that Juliette Binoche and Jude Law have “Oscar potential” now, especially after Saturday night’s London premiere of “For Your Consideration.”
This deft comedy from the group that brought us “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind” is a send up of the Oscar races and consequent campaigning. It was so good that I actually stopped breathing at one point during the screening.
Borrowed a little bit from the Mel Brooks school of comedy, “Consideration” concerns the filming of a very bad C-movie called “Home for Purim.” Yes, Purim. Not Hanukkah or even Passover.
Purim is not a holiday anyone goes home for, but in this crazy scenario, a Jewish family with a dying mother in the deep South is waiting for all its members to gather on this occasion. And it’s set during World War II.
Catherine O'Hara plays the mother, Harry Shearer is the father, Parker Posey is the wayward (and lesbian) daughter and Christopher Moynihan plays the Navy outfit-wearing son. (it’s unclear that he’s actually in the Navy, but that’s another story).
Here we go: despite receiving an order for three more episodes on Friday, the Aaron Sorkin NBC drama "Studio 60 on Sunset Strip" is about to be put out of its misery.
Cast members are already confiding in friends that the end is near. It's likely NBC will pull the plug shortly, I am told by insiders.
Last week, "Studio 60" had 7.7 million viewers. Compare that with competing "CSI: Miami," with 17.5 million. That gap cannot be closed.
But "Studio 60" has trouble internally at NBC, forget its intramural rivals. According to ratings stats, the "Saturday Night Live" behind-the-scenes soap opera loses almost half the viewers delivered to it a few minutes earlier by another new show, "Heroes," which has become a surprise cult hit.
On Monday, "Heroes" had 14.3 million viewers. The substantial drop-off with "Studio 60" is probably the last nail in its coffin.
The order of the three extra episodes is considered by insiders to be a contractual move, and not one based on faith that they will ever be made or aired.
The all-important demo situation didn't help: "Heroes" had 15 percent of viewers aged 18-49. "Studio 60" had 8 percent. The notion that "Studio 60" is a big draw for NBC among desirables is, sadly, blown on those stats.
Sorkin and friends will argue that NBC has done something wrong, or that the audience isn't smart enough.
Alas, in this case, neither is true. "Studio 60" — as I wrote on Aug. 7 after viewing the pilot — is just a bad show. There's nothing wrong with the acting, directing or dialogue writing. But the premise is faulty. No one cares whether a bunch of over-caffeinated, well-off yuppies, some with expensive drug habits, put on a weekly comedy sketch show from Los Angeles.
Even worse: no one cares whether or not the people from the Bartlett White House put on a comedy show. That's what "Studio 60" is, essentially: the "West Wing" annual talent show.
There's so much earnestness involved in this endeavor, you start to think that nuclear war will be declared if the "Studio 60" staff doesn't air some joke — usually one we don't hear anyway. The whole thing just feels weighted down and frankly, not entertaining.
There is one winner to come out of "Studio 60," however: Matthew Perry. In this show he's proven himself to be a star on his own, separate from "Friends." His comedic timing and ability to ad lib, toss off lines and give restrained physical reactions is what keeps "Studio 60" even remotely interesting. We can only be hopeful that someone comes up with a great new show for him quickly — but a comedy that's funny, not a drama that isn't.
NBC will probably fill the lost "Studio 60" timeslot with "Deal or No Deal": The Next Generation" or some such thing. So the losers here will be the audience, which is about to be pummeled by more reality and game shows.
It's too bad, because around the dial there are good new dramas. Despite its heavy "thirtysomething" feel, "Brothers and Sisters" is worth keeping if only for Sally Field, Ron Rifkin and Rachel Griffiths (but there a mistake was made, too: killing off patriarch Tom Skerritt in the first episode).
Oh well: I hope Regis is warming up the holiday edition of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." We're ready!