The one-time King of Pop wants to be Prince in the worst way.
I'm told that on Sunday night, Michael Jackson sneaked into Prince's show following the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas.
Jackson is interested in Prince's current run of shows at the Rio Nightclub, part of Harrah's, where the Purple One has installed himself for a long schedule at his own 3121 Club.
Jackson, of course, would like to do the same thing, maybe with a Club Thriller.
The difference would be that Prince likes to perform and shows up, while Jackson may continue to have trouble getting insurance for such an endeavor, since he's known for canceling dates without notice.
And surprisingly, Jackson's companion for the evening was none other than comedian and actor Chris Tucker. It was Tucker who helped Jackson get involved with the Arvizo family a few years ago, leading to Jackson's eventual involvement with them and his consequent trial for child molestation and conspiracy. It took concrete testimony from Tucker and his ex-girlfriend to exonerate Jackson.
Jackson either wasn't paying attention at the trial or doesn't mind hooking up with folks held over from that era.
In the last year or so, he has also rekindled a friendship with Carol Lamere, the woman who introduced him to the Arvizos in the first place.
Lamere has replaced Karen Faye, Jackson's long time makeup artist. Even though it was Faye who painted Jackson white every morning and sent him off to court, the former pop star jettisoned her in 2005, I'm told, at the behest of his children's territorial nanny, Grace Rwaramba.
Lamere became the girlfriend of David Arvizo, the father of Jackson's accuser, after meeting him through a dance academy where the boy and his two siblings wound up getting free lessons.
Not only that: Lamere then became a host to Arvizo's daughter, then 16, who lived with her for long stretches because the girl no longer wanted to stay with her mother, the now-infamous Janet Jackson.
Defense investigator Scott Ross interviewed Lamere in November 2004. The interview states that Lamere tried to warn Michael Jackson about the Arvizo family but his secretary, Evvy Tavasci, didn't pass along the message.
She told Ross that Janet Arvizo was quite skilled at manipulating her kids to say anything she wanted, and that she was gifted at playing poor to get money out of strangers.
Ross's report stated: "Carol's opinion of Janet is that she should be in a mental institution."
Maybe Lamere and Jackson can reminisce about all this now while she's applying the whitening cream for which he still owes a Beverly Hills pharmacy $50,000.
In the meantime, Internet sources are going crazy over a "new" Jackson single that's surfaced on the MySpace page belonging to a group fronted by Pras of the Fugees.
But I'm told the track — called "No Friend of Mine" — is simply recycled from 1995, when Pras and the Fugees worked with Jackson remixing songs from Jackson's 11-year-old, poor-selling "Blood on the Dance Floor" CD.
The song can be found here, where it's had over 100,000 plays since rumors began to spread a few days ago that Jackson had a new single.
You would think if you were going to make a big screen version of "Get Smart," you would turn to its creators, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, to help out. After all, since the pair put the spy spoof on the air in the mid-'60s, they have gone on to become comedy icons.
Alas, this is Hollywood, folks. The feature version of "Get Smart," which begins production now, stars Steve Carell in the Don Adams role of Maxwell Smart, Agent 86.
Anne Hathaway plays 99, his female counterpart. But beyond that, this is not going to be the old, satirical "Get Smart." Indeed, I'm told that Warner Bros., which owns the rights, just decided to ignore Brooks and Henry entirely.
Last week, unbeknownst to all, the studio officially regretted that position. After a flurry of lawyers' letters, Brooks and Henry accepted a nice chunk of change in exchange for signing off on others taking pen and paper to "Get Smart." In other words, the pair could "Get Lost."
The new "Get Smart" will feature the original's "cone of silence" and shoe phones. Otherwise, it is said, the new writers — who come from the current world of yuk-yuk TV — have ventured off on their own.
Sadly, the great Cold War inventions of CONTROL and KAOS should be formidably diluted. Those waiting to hear "And don't call me chief" — as the great Edward Platt used to say — or even a reference to Hymie the Robot (the equally great Dick Gauthier) — will likely be disappointed that the "Producers"-like humor that made the show so funny has been expunged.
"They're going a whole different way," a source said.
Already cast and a sign of things to come: The Rock.
You couldn't twist your head yesterday in Broadway's Majestic Theater without seeing big stars who came to pay their last respects to the legendary director Robert Altman on what would have been his 82nd birthday. He died on Nov. 20.
In fact, more than one speaker noted that the memorial service — attended by Altman's widow Kathryn and four sons — looked like a Robert Altman film, with a huge, eclectic cast and lots of overlapping dialogue.
(In fact, a very Altman-like moment occurred before the lights went down. A very attractive woman who looked like she could have been an actress came over, said hello to everyone in my row as if she knew them, and then took a seat a little farther away. When notes were compared, no one knew her at all.)
Scattered throughout were Susan Sarandon, Lee Grant, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Steve and Jo Buscemi, Sidney Lumet, Jim Jarmusch, Marisa Berenson, Elaine Kaufman, Jules Feiffer, Fisher Stevens, Phyllis Newman, Dominick Dunne, Paris Match's Dany Jucaud, Bobby Zarem, Joel Grey, Patricia Neal, NBC's Brian Williams, Jill Krementz and Kurt Vonnegut, Lauren Bacall, Martha Plimpton with dad Keith Carradine, Cynthia Nixon, Richard E. Grant, Glenn Close and Sally Kellerman, the actress who played Altman's most famous individual character, Hot Lips Houlihan, on "MASH."
That's not a bad list when you consider that the speakers for the presentation included Bob Balaban, Lily Tomlin, Harry Belafonte, Kevin Kline, Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, E.L. Doctorow, Bud Cort, Garry Trudeau, "Magnolia" director Paul Thomas Anderson and Picturehouse president Bob Berney.
Jazz singer Annie Ross performed "One Meatball," a '30s comedy song, and Lauren Flanigan sang from the opera rendition of "A Wedding."
The more memorable speeches came from Julianne Moore, who starred in Altman's "Short Cuts," and from Belafonte, who became Altman's best friend late in life. Moore recalled, vividly, how she and Altman characterized their first conversation concerning the required nudity in "Short Cuts."
"I am a real redhead," she told the director over the phone, a line he embellished over the years.
A long time later, when Moore asked him to stop telling the story, Altman's wife brought it up at a dinner. "We're not allowed to discuss Julianne's [blank] anymore," the director said, cutting off his wife.
E.L. Doctorow talked about a movie that Altman never made — the adaptation of his classic novel "Ragtime." Doctorow said he wrote a 410-page script that Altman loved.
"This was before [the] mini-series and 'Roots,'" Doctorow recalled. "Bob wanted to make two three-hour movies, and then shoot four more hours for a TV presentation." Producer Dino DiLaurentis passed, and "Ragtime" was made into a middling movie by Milos Forman and Michael Weller.
Still, Doctorow and Altman remained friends. "My wife and I went to visit him on the set of 'Buffalo Bill' in Canada," he said, "and were immediately enlisted as extras."
That's a credit that doesn't appear in movie books. That was in 1976.
More recently, Altman's producer Josh Astrachan recalled, the director met with Meryl Streep to finalize her participation in his next movie, "Hands on a Hard Body," which was going to co-star Hilary Swank, Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Black, Jack White and Lily Tomlin.
"When she left, he said, 'We're going to start on Feb. 12, Lincoln's birthday,'" Astrachan said. "And then Bob sang a little song about Lincoln, one I think he'd known a long time."
The movie was not to be, despite the fact that Altman and his company had it sketched out and were ready to go. It goes in the Altman what-ifs along with "Ragtime," "Angels in America," "Paint" (a film about the art world) and no doubt many other ambitious projects we will be the worse for because Robert Altman didn't make them.
But the movies he did make — they are mostly classics, unrepeatable, beautiful, operatic, epic and ephemeral.
Maybe it was Lily Tomlin who put it best. Later, she commanded a table at Elaine's, where family and friends gathered after the Majestic, with Lauren Bacall, Marisa Berenson, Richard Grant and Dona Granata, one of Altman's favorite costumers.
Elaine's has never been so packed in the afternoon, stuffed with actors, agents and crew who loved Robert Altman.
Tomlin said on stage yesterday that Altman had changed her career. He had put her in her first movie, "Nashville," after she had made her name on TV.
"Just knowing you'd been picked for an Altman movie made you feel good," she said. "You knew you were part of something bigger than the part you played."
The Dixie Chicks are back on the charts. Their one-week bump from the Grammy Awards translated into just over 100,000 units sold of their "Taking the Long Way" album, putting them back in the top 10 at No. 7.
Justin Timberlake finished right behind them, at No. 8, with only a few less albums attributed to Grammy madness.
The really big winner, though, was Corinne Bailey Rae, up 172 percent in sales and now No. 6 on the album charts.
John Mayer and the Red Hot Chili Peppers also had big leaps thanks to their Grammy appearances. If only the Grammys could be on more often.