Where in the world is Louis J. Pearlman? The man who gave us *NSYNC, Justin Timberlake, the Backstreet Boys, O-Town and even Britney Spears to some extent has vanished into, if not thin air, then air, in Europe. He's wanted in Florida for scamming 1,400 investors out of roughly $317 million.
If only Lou Pearlman could party again like it was 1999. The fat, frenzied manager of insipid boy bands was on top of the world then.
Forget that he was busy destroying the history of pop music with pre-wrapped junk designed to a have a shelf life shorter than the pet rock. He was raking in money and even keeping portions of it that didn't belong to him.
Eight years have gone by. And now Pearlman, who put Orlando on the map as a capital for Mouseketeers who graduated to Top 40 hits, for better or worse, is missing.
Don't worry; he's OK. Britney, Justin and Nick Carter's former mentor is said to be on the lam in Europe while a bankruptcy receiver tries to untangle the humungous mess he left behind.
What's more: Federal prosecutors guess that Pearlman defrauded hundreds of investors to the tune of $317 million in a Ponzi scheme, or pyramid scheme, that didn't even involve music but phony investments.
Pearlman, in other words, is a real-life version of Mel Brooks' beloved Max Bialystock, the fictional Broadway producer who swindles little old ladies out of their life savings.
Indeed, this real-life Max recently suffered the suicide of his real life Leo Bloom. Frankie Vazquez Jr., Pearlman's closest associate since they were kids, took his own life in February. Journalists, experts and pundits in Florida figure Vazquez knew everything, especially that the end was near for Pearlman's scams.
Now, as lawyers try to figure out where the money went, Pearlman has slipped out of sight. His last correspondence came from Germany, where he was promoting another boy band. If the FBI knows where Pearlman is, it is not saying. And it doesn't matter. If he ever returns, everything he owned in Florida will have been sold or put on the block.
Pearlman has quickly moved to the top of the most-hated lists in Florida. He is a staple in the St. Petersburg newspaper. He has also inspired a Web site called scammedbypearlman.com.
It's not funny. The investors in his long-running scheme — in which he accepted money, promised returns and pocketed the funds — were not millionaires like Justin or Britney but moms and pops who handed them their entire life savings.
Ironically, Pearlman apparently was bilking investors all through the 1990s at the very least, meaning during the time his boy bands were having hits on the radio like "I Want It That Way" and "Bye Bye Bye." They were also raking in money playing for sold-out arenas full of screaming teenage girls.
But that money wasn't enough for Pearlman, who also took banking institutions for another $150 million. He lived it up, too, with a private Gulfstream jet, Rolls Royce Phantom and a $12 million, 15,000-square foot Florida crib.
If Robert Stack were still alive and hosting "Unsolved Mysteries," he would put it this way: Louis J. Pearlman was last seen in Germany promoting a new boy band, US5. So far, no one's been able to locate him, but he did write a letter to the Orlando Sentinel in February proclaiming his innocence.
Pearlman's 100 or so companies, including those that still collect money from Backstreet and *NSYNC royalties, were put into bankruptcy recently. A receiver named Gerald McHale was appointed to bring some order to the chaos.
On April 9, McHale wrote to Pearlman's creditors: "... this is the beginning of a very long and tedious journey ... Monies borrowed for one purpose have obviously been used for other purposes; investor funds have been moved around freely amongst the Companies..."
McHale, in fact, did sell off Pearlman's largest asset right away — a local shopping complex called Church Street Station. But the sale's gross of $34 million was much lower than expected and creditors were warned not to expect anything from it.
The sale also had a deleterious effect on McHale, who told creditors that he would lose his office because of it, including phone and Internet service. McHale's theme song at this point would be: "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely."
A staggering list of top rock, pop and soul stars are set to gather tonight in New York to honor the late Ahmet Ertegun.
Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Crosby Stills & Nash, Bette Midler, "Soul Man" Sam Moore, Kid Rock, Solomon Burke and Stevie Nicks are among those who will perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center as a tribute to the legendary cofounder of Atlantic Records.
Among those attending but not performing: Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Peter Wolf of J. Geils Band, Mick Jones of Foreigner and many others. Henry Kissinger is expected to say a few words from the stage, as is David Geffen.
Ertegun passed away last winter after falling backstage at a Rolling Stones concert in New York that doubled as a 60th birthday party for Bill Clinton.
Ertegun started Atlantic in 1947 with his brother Nesuhi and Herb Abramson. In time Arif Mardin, Tom Dowd and Jerry Wexler all became part of the timeless team that produced Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Wilson Pickett and even Foreigner.
All the artists for this event, by the way, are working gratis, I am told. The performers flew themselves and their bands to New York. The rest of the tab is being picked up by Warner Music Group. And the performances will be filmed, but just for archival purposes, possibly for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland.
Pamela Anderson vacationed with ex-husband Tommy Lee and their kids last week at the Four Seasons Maui in Hawaii. My FOX 411 spy says Tommy shared a drinking glass with Pam poolside and mooched her French fries.
"Pam's a good mother," my spy said.
The tattooed, on-again-off-again family, by the way, had the exact same vacation in July 2005.
Norwegian actress Ewa da Cruz is the hot breakout star on CBS's "As the World Turns." A truly modern era Audrey Hepburn with Liv Ullmann's accent, da Cruz graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Other grads include Adrien Brody, Judd Hirsch and Kim Cattrall.
How long before Ewa da Cruz is the star of some endearing, offbeat indie comedy? My guess is, not long at all.
But long before Ewa da Cruz came to town, Marisa Berenson had everyone in a thrall. The beauteous Berenson was back in town last week, dining at Elaine's with friends, just back from Paris. She's become a TV and film star there. But couldn't we have Marisa back in the good ol' U.S. of A?
American producers are missing out on her, and on Jacqueline Bissett — two of our greatest actress assets. The latter, at least, did about seven episodes of "Nip/Tuck" last season. Let's bring Berenson home!