Michael Jackson is back in Las Vegas. It’s the first time he’s been there since November 2003, when he was arrested for child molestation and conspiracy, charges he was subsequently acquitted of. But coming back to Vegas must be strange for him, especially on his shopping sprees. One such adventure was caught on tape in Martin Bashir’s “Living with Michael Jackson” special.
This is great news for the press, since it means Jackson has learned absolutely nothing in three years.
Las Vegas is also a well-known Jackson locale in the Jordy Chandler saga. It’s the place where June Chandler, Jordy’s mom, has said Jackson separated her and her then 13-year-old son so the pop singer could sleep with the boy in the same room while the mother shopped at Jackson’s expense.
The fact that Jackson is back in Vegas brings up a lot of issues. For one: His stay at the Irish castle and compound of Michael Flatley is evidently over. Jackson’s been there with his entourage since June 2006. The adage “house guests and fish stink after three days” didn’t seem to matter to him. But since Jackson is traveling on Christmas, it could mean that Flatley finally had enough of his guest’s long mooching.
Sources do tell me that Jackson’s return to Las Vegas has something to do with his old pal, Prince Jefri of Brunei. This is not Prince Abdullah of Bahrain or Prince Alaweed of Saudi Arabia. No, Prince Jefri is much loathed in Vegas, and the frequent object of multi-billion dollar international lawsuits. He’s often referred to as the Sultan of Brunei, but he’s really the Sultan’s brother, accused in his own country of huge financial looting.
Prince Jefri has long been one of Jackson’s benefactors. Jackson has lived for free in many of the hotels Jefri used his country’s money to purchase, including the Dorchester in London and the Palace in New York.
Now comes word from sources that Jefri may have plans for Jackson regarding his interest in Spanish Trails, a private golf community just ten minutes from the Las Vegas strip. Home to celebs and the very wealthy, Spanish Trails is gated and guarded. Jefri built a 100,000-square-foot mansion there some years ago which turned into a famous white elephant of an estate. It’s unclear whether this property or another is what Jefri has in mind for Jackson.
A bigger question might be where Jackson would get the cash to invest in anything. His financial situation remains controlled as ever, and he is mostly illiquid despite his 50 percent ownership of Sony/ATV Music Publishing. His home, Neverland Valley Ranch, carries a $25 million lien from Fortress Investments, a firm that also has possession of Jackson’s $325 million in loans.
With Jackson back in the U.S., there should be some interesting maneuvering to control what’s left of him. His public relations adviser, Raymone Bain, and children’s nanny, Grace Rwaramba, each very unpopular with Jackson’s fans, claim to be his managers. But now that he’s in Vegas, Jackson’s father, Joseph — who lives there with his daughter, Michael’s half-sister — will begin angling for influence. But Bain is said to have brought in an old crony, Rev. Jesse Jackson, who also may try to advise Michael.
Meanwhile, as I wrote yesterday, watch for process servers to start tracking Michael Jackson down now that he’s returned to the United States. Let the games begin!
Now that Oscar ballots are arriving in most members’ mailboxes today, here are some suggestions for the five finalists in the supporting acting categories.
For Best Supporting Actor, there are two definite nominees: Jack Nicholson from "The Departed," and Eddie Murphy from "Dreamgirls." These two are cinches, and the betting money is on Murphy.
After that, it’s a toss up. I would say throw Guy Pearce's name into the mix from “Factory Girl.” This unusual movie about Andy Warhol and his muse, Edie Sedgwick, is getting a one-week qualifying run in Los Angeles starting Friday. Pearce is mesmerizing as Warhol. But will enough voters see him? It’s hard to say.
The other choices: Jackie Earle Haley’s surprise return in “Little Children” as the pedophile, Adam Beach in “Flags of our Fathers,” Michael Pena in “World Trade Center,” Freddy Rodriguez in “Bobby,” Bill Nighy in “Notes on a Scandal” and Michael Sheen as Tony Blair in “The Queen.” All are quite good. The shame would be if Brad Pitt’s star appearance in “Babel” is interpreted as acting, and one of these actual actors loses a spot because of it. Pitt can be good — he was excellent in “Twelve Monkeys” — but in “Babel” he’s merely a loss leader.
Best Supporting Actress is a tougher crowd. Jennifer Hudson will win for “Dreamgirls,” so the rest of it is a lame duck race. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for great performances, there are plenty. My favorites: Sharon Stone in “Bobby” is too good to pass up. The movie has sputtered, but it would be a shame to lose Stone’s moment. Cate Blanchett is a lock from “Notes on a Scandal.” Pick one from “Babel” and I’d say it’s Adriana Barazza, who played Amelia, the Mexican nanny/maid. For a fifth choice, I wish Lily Tomlin had a chance from “A Prairie Home Companion.” She was wonderful in this, the last Robert Altman film. Dianne Wiest is excellent in “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.” But I think the surprise might be Catherine O’Hara from the little seen satire, “For Your Consideration.” This would be the all time irony, too, since O’Hara plays a long suffering journeywoman actress who yearns to have … an Oscar.
Oscar nominations will be announced January 23 …
R.I.P. Herman Klurfeld, the 90-year-old ghostwriter and quip master for Walter Winchell. Klurfeld invented a lot of the lingo attributed to Winchell that we still like to use in gossip columns, like “canoodling” for couples who show too much public affection. Herman, your lexicon lives on … Mike Evans, who played Lionel Jefferson on “All in the Family,” has died way too young at 57. Lionel was memorable for always getting the better of Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker. He will be missed … James Brown's viewing will be tomorrow afternoon at the Apollo Theater. I’m sorry I won’t be able to see this spectacle, but Mr. Brown was the epitome of soul music. He deserves this, at the very least …