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Michael Jackson's Mystery Illness: A Bid for Attention?

Michael Jackson | John Travolta | Woody Allen's Greatest Fear | Reverend Al: Mixing It Up With the Wrong Rappers

Michael Jackson's Mystery Illness: A Bid for Attention?

Does Michael Jackson have pneumonia? Does his back hurt? Or has he checked into a Las Vegas hospital just to get drugs?

Those are the questions of the day in Wacko Jacko land. Late yesterday I reported that Jackson was hospitalized for pneumonia in Vegas, after returning from a long trip to Japan and England with a bad flu.

Jackson’s publicist, Raymone Bain, told me that Jackson had had a bad flu, but she wasn’t sure if the diagnosis had been pneumonia. She put out a press release claiming that Jackson wasn’t “currently hospitalized.” Take that for what you will.

And then crazy ol’ Nancy Grace borrowed our story last night on CNN Headline News. She managed to take everything we’d reported and mix it up in a Cuisinart until several people were all talking at once and making no sense.

So does Jackson have pneumonia? Is he hospitalized? A longtime insider — a real one, not Brian Oxman — told me last night: “If Michael’s in there, it’s for drugs. He goes in and says he’s in terrible pain. They load him up on his favorite stuff. Sometimes he gets prescriptions. It’s the same thing he did in Santa Maria during both of his trials.”

The source is referring to Jackson’s 2005 trial, when he made two visits to the local hospital, including one in which he wore blue pajama pants.

Jackson also claimed during a 2004 breach of contract trial that he’d had a spider bite on his ankle.

“There was no spider bite,” says my source. “He cut himself with a needle.”

Or it could be that Jackson just wants sympathy and attention. In 2003, he stopped at his local congressman’s office in Santa Maria to complain about the lack of fast food franchises in the area. He knew it would be reported. He was lonely. This may be that again.

Meanwhile, TMZ.com was hoaxed last night. They printed an “invitation” to a Jackson party and concert on June 10 in Las Vegas at the Luxor Hotel. It was a fake, which is why this column didn’t report it. It took TMZ a little time to figure it out. Oh well, maybe it was a slow night.

John Travolta: Kind of a Drag, or Barney?

Well, we were summoned to Time Warner Center last night for a 17-minute presentation of footage from “Hairspray,” the film version of the Broadway musical that was based on the John Waters non-musical comedy starring Ricki Lake. Got that?

Maybe you’ve heard: John Travolta is spoofing himself, playing Edna Turnblad, the corpulent and cheery mother of the movie’s heroine, Tracey. Harvey Fierstein got a Tony Award for his portrayal of Edna. Bruce Vilanch also played the role. It’s a part for a drag queen.

Travolta can’t really sing, so director Adam Shankman has given him lots of comic stuff to do, and a couple of dances that are described by the production more as “struts.”

And of course, Travolta executes them with aplomb and a lot of charm. His Edna looks as though Travolta had swallowed Mike Myers’ "Coffee Talk" character whole. It looks to be a hilarious, enthusiastic performance.

But the there are three other actors in "Hairspray" whom we’re going to keep an eye on. What we saw of Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle suggests that she steals the entire movie. Her singing voice has never been better, and she conveyed in just a few clips a whole world for her character.

James Marsden, better known from “X-Men” and “Ally McBeal,” plays a singing Dick Clark-like character. He’s a revelation. It turns out he has superpowers after all!

The real story in “Hairspray,” though, is Nikki Blonsky as Tracey. She’s from Great Neck, in Long Island, N.Y., and this is her first role in anything professional.

According to the imdb, she worked as a scooper at Cold Stone Creamery before getting this role. Somehow her audition tape wound up on MySpace, and the producers saw it.

Nikki is 4”10” and, let’s face it, chubby. Producer Neil Meron told me last night that when she came in to read, she was 50 pounds heavier than she is now!

“She was like a ball,” he said.

So this is some story. Nikki Blonsky (whom I met last week at another event) has an infectious smile, can sing and dance like crazy and is about to become an overnight sensation. With John Travolta as her mother, she can’t lose!

“Hairspray” should turn out to be the “Grease” of 2007. Is it Oscar material? I don’t know; I think Latifah is. But it looks like it’s going to be a big hit and a lot of fun, and a movie that people will love. You can’t do better than that!

Woody Allen's Greatest Fear

Since there is no way to convey to you properly how sexy and amazing Showtime’s new series, “The Tudors,” is, I thought I’d relate an anecdote that star Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who plays King Henry VIII, told at the premiere on Wednesday night.

During the shooting of Woody Allen’s “Match Point,” Rhys Meyers showed Woody a picture of a beautiful resort hotel in Patagonia. It was quite luxurious and exotic, situated at the top of a lake. Rhys Meyers said, “Look at this, I’m going there when we finish this movie. Wouldn’t it be great?”

Rhys Meyers surprised our audience by giving Allen’s response in a perfect Woody imitation: “Are you kidding?” he said. “That would be my worst nightmare. I go to the South of France and never even leave my hotel!”

“The Tudors” is produced by Ben Silverman ("Ugly Betty") and directed by Michael O’Sullivan (from MTM-Mary Tyler Moore Productions’ heyday), written by Michael Hearst and overseen by Showtime’s Bob Greenblatt and Matt Blank.

There are 10 episodes in this first season. By the looks of the pilot, Showtime will have its first Emmy nomination for Best Drama come August.

By the way, Marie Claire magazine sponsored the premiere at the new Hearst Tower. Editor in chief Joanna Coles, a stunner, was the deft moderator of the Q&A session.

Editorial director Ellen Levine was in the audience, looking like the Angel Wore Prada. Afterward, everyone headed to The Kobe Club on West 58th St. for a spectacular meal worthy of Henry VIII.

And no, this is not your father’s Henry. Erase all the pictures you have in your head of a plump, stout Henry gnawing on chicken legs and tossing them over his head.

The new Henry is a sleek, sexy guy with one thing on his mind. In fact, everyone in this court has the same thing on their minds. You know, there was no television in those days. They had to entertain themselves somehow!

Reverend Al: Mixing It Up With the Wrong Rappers

Reverend Al Sharpton, one of my favorite people: rap insiders are worried that you’re mixing it up with the wrong crowd.

Last week in New York, there was yet another act of rap violence. The 14-year-old son of a man named Jimmy “Henchmen” Rosemond claimed he was attacked and beaten by a rapper named Tony Yayo.

Young Rosemond, who goes by the appellation “Little Henchmen,” claimed superstar rapper 50 Cent participated in and directed the violence.

(Writers’ note: yes, it should be singular “henchman,” but that’s another story.)

50 Cent’s people categorically deny this. They say he was at his Connecticut estate, working on a new album. They say witnesses will corroborate this.

As for Yayo, he works for 50 Cent as part of a rap ensemble called the G-Unit. Recently, Rosemond, who’s a manager, snatched a member of G-Unit called The Game away from 50 Cent’s orbit. Got this? The feeling is Rosemond’s kid may be lying as part of the war with 50 and G-Unit.

This isn’t good for 50 Cent. He’s got a big bucks deal with Reebok and a lot of irons in the fire. Despite his well-advertised nine shootings before his ascent to stardom, most people who know him say he’s a pussycat. At least, he’s been declawed. 50 Cent doesn’t need to be drawn into this, they say, since he is innocent.

So what about Henchmen and his kid? Suddenly, Reverend Al has come to their side. A rally of some sort is planned for this Monday. I’m told, however, that the usually savvy Rev. may not know all there is to know about Henchmen.

To wit: Tupac Shakur, now martyred, had little use for Rosemond. He mentioned him in a song called “Against All Odds,” accusing Rosemond of setting him up for rape and for having him shot.

And there’s more: Rosemond is currently a defendant in a $280 million civil trial in Baltimore after being convicted in early 2006 for beating a Washington, D.C., disc jockey during an appearance with The Game, whom Henchmen manages.

A jury found Henchmen guilty of assaulting on-air personality Xzulu "The Big Lipped Bandit" at 93.9 WKYS-FM in Lanham, Md. He was sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation and fined $2,500 for his role in the incident.

Is this worth a rally? Frankly, Rev. Al has more important things to do with this time.