It isn't easy being Joseph Jackson these days. I'm told that in the last couple of weeks he attempted to visit his son, Michael Jackson, in Las Vegas at a home owned by the Sultan of Brunei.
Unfortunately for Joe, Michael's aide-de-camp and nanny to his kids, Grace Rwaramba, refused him admission to the former King of Pop's temporary digs.
"Joe Jackson sat outside the gate for three hours before going away," one source said and another confirmed.
It's no surprise that Michael Jackson's life is in chaos. The big news is that it's all taking place in Las Vegas, since he was kicked out of Bahrain and then terminated from his nine-month mooch in Ireland. His host, Michael Flatley, must have finally figured out that Jackson is not good at paying rent.
So Michael and company, as I reported here a month ago, arrived in Vegas and took up residence at the MGM Signature Hotel. But that was pricey, and the expected offers of work didn't come in so fast, so Jackson et al are now ensconced in the Spanish Trail golf community, a gated neighborhood for the rich and famous.
The home he is living in belonged to Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei, but may have reverted ownership to the Sultan when some palace accounting was done last year.
In any case, Jackson apparently tried to get past Rwaramba to meet and greet old friends. I'm told that in the last couple of weeks he has reached out to key fans — yes, there are a few primary ones — for the number of his former manager, Frank DiLeo.
Jackson's career is in such abysmal shape that he knows DiLeo is pretty much his only consolation. But according to sources, Rwaramba has kept Jackson so isolated that he has to wait until she leaves to make these calls.
Meanwhile, there's some question of what will happen to Jackson's PR aide Raymone Bain. She appointed herself his general manager some months ago and tried to bring Rev. Jesse Jackson back into Michael's life. But sources say that Bain's deal may end in February, and that Jackson has already removed the general manager title.
"He blames her for the debacle at the World Music Awards," a source said.
As for Joseph Jackson, he and his wife, Katherine, did visit with Michael over the holidays.
"But he kept his sunglasses on the whole time," my source said.
And let's debunk this week's Jacko gossip while we're at it: Even though brother Jermaine would like Michael to become Muslim — and has tried everything to make it happen — it's simply not in the cards.
Michael Jackson was raised a Jehovah's Witness. He's flirted with Judaism and other religions, but in the end, trust me, Michael Jackson is too egotistical to throw in with one group or another. He's had the chance and declined.
'Dreamgirls' Debate Continues
And still no one can get over the fact that "Dreamgirls" wasn’t nominated for Best Picture.
There is plenty of speculation about what went wrong. Paramount is blamed for not getting the DVDs out on time. In Sunday’s New York Times, yours truly was named as one of the culprits who over-hyped the movie starting last spring when 20 minutes of the musical was shown in Cannes. And so on.
My theory of course: that the Academy, which is not terribly diverse in its membership, simply did not cotton to an all black movie that seemed like it was pitched to a gay, if not urban and urbane, audience.
It’s one thing to vote for individual performances, but another to embrace an entire film.
Academy voters predicted this would happen months ago. But naivete comes with a price. I thought the movie’s ebullient qualities would overcome any pre-conceived ideas. This turns out to be the first time that simply repeating in the press over and over that three films were “locks” for Best Picture — "Dreamgirls," "The Queen" and "The Departed" — wasn’t enough to make it come true.
Certainly one aspect of the marketing of "Dreamgirls" remains odd in retrospect, and that’s the Jennifer Hudson story.
Going into the launch, Hudson — although she’d been touted as a huge star by every journalist who’d seen the early material — was ignored in the advertising and publicity. She wasn’t on the Vanity Fair cover. She wasn’t featured in the ads and billboards.
It was all about Beyonce, who never had a chance of being nominated. But she was the name. Even if it wasn’t true, maybe the Academy sensed divisiveness among the cast. They never seemed like a team.
As one industry insider commented to me the other day: “When 'Chicago' was going up for awards, you had the feeling that everyone — Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah — liked each other. There were a winning team. That didn’t happen with 'Dreamgirls.'”
Indeed, Academy voters may have picked up on that right away: maybe these people don’t like each other so much, or at least, don’t like it now that only two of them — Hudson and Eddie Murphy — are getting the praise.
Add that to the idea that three of the four — Murphy, Beyonce and Jamie Foxx — are no wallflowers. They came into "Dreamgirls" larger than life anyway, and larger than the story.
Then there’s the spoiler effect. Clint Eastwood is blamed for pushing out “Letters From Iwo Jima.” Humbug. It’s a great movie. “Little Miss Sunshine” is blamed, because it’s good. But the real spoiler was probably “Babel,” from Paramount Vantage.
Overall, Paramount had "Dreamgirls," "Flags of Our Fathers" and "World Trade Center" to deal with for the Oscars. That’s a lot of egos.
"Flags" was Eastwood’s first movie away from Warner Bros. "WTC" was an Oliver Stone movie, and there was hope he’d be nominated for Best Director. Resources were spread thin. At the same time, Paramount Vantage had "Babel," with its "Crash"-like atmosphere.
Did those chattering disconnected characters from "Babel" undo the Dreams? It’s possible. “Babel” is the anti-“Dreamgirls.” While East Coasters love the latter, “Babel,” like “Crash,” is the perfect West Coast movie. It stretches credulity and embraces ADD. It has a big star (Brad Pitt) counterpointed with a real actress (Cate Blanchett). And it’s multicultural.
Of course, the irony is that the moviegoing audience doesn’t really want to see “Babel.” After 95 days, it’s made about $28 million. I suspect it must seem like work to those who have to choose among films on a movie night.
“Dreamgirls,” however, has got traction. In 45 days, it’s taken in $88 million. The movie musical will cross the $100 million mark before the Academy Awards telecast. Once Hudson sings on the show, as well as Beyonce, the box office should be sparked again. In the end, that’s what’s going to make it the Best Picture for a lot of people.
Laura Ziskin is producing the Academy Awards telecast this year. Not that Gil Cates, the usual producer, is any slouch, but Ziskin has the cred. She’s the producer of the “Spider-Man” series, for one thing. And her resume as a producer includes "As Good As It Gets" (best acting Oscars for the stars), "Pretty Woman" (on many all-time favorite film lists and launched Julia Roberts as a superstar) and "To Die For" (some think Nicole Kidman’s best performance with her own nose).
Ziskin is also married to the estimable screenwriter Alvin Sargent ("Ordinary People"). She knows what she’s doing. It should be a good night. …
Last night, Jason Binn managed to fill New York City's Capitale, a cavernous former bank vault on the Bowery, to capacity for his annual Gotham magazine party.
The guest of honor was cover guy Tiki Barber of the New York Giants. Most of Barber’s teammates turned out to hail him, as well as Jon Bon Jovi with wife Dorothea and music mogul Clive Davis.
The highlight of the night: a multi-screen video of Barber’s best work intercut with a Bon Jovi song. Cool. …
At the Waverly last night: a huge table of Laurens — designer Ralph, wife Ricky, the sons and Lauren Bush, soon to be Lauren Lauren and not minding it a bit — juxtaposed with New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, he of the wild hair, and of course writer Michael Gross, doing voiceover narration.
Everyone had the Bananas Foster, of course, which is not named for a stripper. Quite the opposite: the New Orleans Crime Commissioner was named Richard Foster, and he got the blessing from the owner of famed Brennan’s.
Still, Waverly owner Graydon Carter should add Bananas Foster’s name to his contributing editors list, to go along with Edwin Coaster. ...