Michael Jackson | Kelly Clarkson | Claudia Cohen | Paul McCartney | Odds 'n' Ends, Autism Speaks

Michael Jackson Settles Mega Lawsuit for $5 Million

Michael Jackson has settled his $48 million lawsuit brought by Darien Dash, cousin of hip-hop entrepreneur Damon Dash.

According to my sources, Jackson agreed to pay Dash $5 million in a breach of contract case. He has until next fall to make good on the agreement.

Dash, acting as Prescient Capital, had sued Jackson for $48 million based on an agreement signed by an accountant employed by Jackson through his brother Randy.

Prescient's agreement stated that the firm would receive a 9 percent fee for finding Jackson new financing on his massive loans from Bank of America. Prescient secured $537 million, hence the $48 million fee.

Ironically, the settlement is reached on the 65th birthday of Paul McCartney. Most of Jackson's income now comes from his ownership of McCartney's Beatle songs with John Lennon.

But Jackson has $325 million in loans against his portion of Sony ATV Music Publishing. And come next May 2008, per an agreement obtained exclusively by this column and reported on last March, Jackson will have to sell that stake to Sony. Money derived from the sale will supposedly go to paying off the loans.

More on Tuesday ...

Kelly Clarkson's New CD Hits Internet Early

More than a week before its scheduled release, Kelly Clarkson's controversial album, "My December," is available all over the Internet.

I downloaded it quickly last Friday and have been listening to it ever since — not necessarily because it's so good, but to evaluate its inherent oddness.

"My December," you see, as has been discussed now in this column and other places, is not what you'd expect from the winner of "American Idol."

That can be a good thing and a bad thing. We all applaud ambitious moves, and Clarkson certainly wants to spread her wings. Her famous quote now is that the songs are by her and about her. She says something to the effect of "pardon me if my life bores you."

Clarkson, however, is not a very experienced lyricist. So the pain she is trying to convey on "My December" is often not very effectively rendered. Unlike confessional songwriters like Carly Simon or even Alanis Morissette, Clarkson doesn't have a grasp of metaphor. She is more of an in-your-face songwriter. She also doesn't know when to stop beating a dead horse.

The result is a very mixed bag. The music on "My December" was supposedly written by members of her band. Some of it isn't bad. A couple of tracks, "Yeah" and "Don't Waste Your Time," stand out as memorable rockers with decent hooks. "Be Still" is an effective ballad. But the lyrics, especially on "Time," deteriorate pretty quickly into an accusatory tone that permeates the album.

It's not that I'm unsympathetic. Clarkson obviously was in a bad relationship with an abusive alcoholic. We get it; it's all over the album, from "Sober" to "Chivas." In "Yeah," which is saved by the band, she warbles: "I know where I've loved somebody more than what you'll give to me."

It's clear she's mad, bitter and resentful. But a lot of it seems like high school whining. Isn't art supposed to be about something more than this?

With "December" already downloading, Clarkson and her record label, RCA, have some obvious problems. But even worse for Clarkson is the news that her tour has been cancelled right on the heels of her firing manager Jeff Kwatinetz.

I still think that RCA will add a couple of tracks to "My December" in a second edition early in the fall. A real hit should emerge then, followed by a tour. But what a long way around to do something fairly simple.

Thanks for Everything, Claudia Cohen

You may be surprised to hear this morning that Claudia Cohen, the entertainment reporter for "Live With Regis and Kelly" and the ex-wife of Revlon chairman Ronald Perelman, passed away on Friday at age 56 from ovarian cancer.

Certainly, almost everyone who knew her was shocked when they read her obit on Friday. Claudia's death is really a tragic loss.

Nearly everyone working in the high end of the New York gossip game owes a major thank you to Claudia. In 1977, she took over Page Six from Neal Travis and made it a hit. This began a 30-year dynasty that begat the current Page Six, Rush and Molloy in the Daily News, Jeannette Walls, New York Magazine's Intelligencer column and right down the family tree to this column.

Neal, who is also sadly gone now, may have started Page Six (and then commanded his own column), but it was Claudia that gave its resonance.

What makes Claudia's moment in New York media circles so interesting is that she was, first of all, very young. And then she took the reins at a juncture when Andy Warhol, Studio 54, Mick and Bianca, Liza and Halston, Truman Capote and Calvin Klein all converged.

Believe me, Paris, Britney, Lindsay and Hyde on Sunset are pale imitations of those groundbreakers. Claudia saw her characters, and introduced them to the world.

In 1980, Claudia moved over to the lamentable Daily News, where Clay Felker tried to do an afternoon edition called "Tonight." The whole thing was hinged on Claudia's "I, Claudia" column.

The stories were all terrific, but the Daily News is somehow impervious to innovation. They have never understood how to make these enterprises work. Eventually, Claudia left and found even more success with "Regis and Kathie Lee," not to mention marriage, motherhood and happy divorce.

A couple of years ago, I asked Claudia — among a few other friends — if they would consider making a donation to my parents' synagogue-building drive. Her check came in first. She was like that: Generous, bubbly and serious about friendships.

In the years after her divorce, I looked forward to seeing her at the Oscars or Tonys or any New York event where she palled around with PR queen Peggy Siegal, movie critic Joel Siegel and actor Ron Silver. She often ate with her own "Sex and the City" crowd up at Elaine's, and it was always fun and good times.

Claudia, I'm told, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer about six years ago. She had a long remission that apparently ended a short time ago. This is a blow because she leaves behind a terrific 16-year-old daughter, Samantha, to whom she was devoted, not to mention many friends.

Only a few weeks ago, she hosted a snazzy 60th birthday party for writer Bob Colacello. She was one of those people who loved life, loved New York and helped chronicle an historic social era.

Claudia, sources say, "We will never forget you."

Paul McCartney Turns 65 Today

And you thought you were old. Paul McCartney, the mop-top cute Beatle, turns 65 today. He's in the U.K. with family and friends including his 3-year-old daughter Bea and his older kids Heather, Mary, Stella and James.

It's no doubt a day of reflection for Paul, who made the mistake of his life by marrying Heather Mills. There's no doubt that he misses terribly his first wife and love of his life, Linda.

Next week, Paul comes back to the U.S. for two events: On Monday the 25th, he will do another one of his small club shows in Los Angeles to promote "Memory Almost Full," his hit album on Hear Music/Starbucks. Then on Tuesday he will make his way to Las Vegas for the 1-year anniversary of Cirque du Soleil's "Love" show at the Mirage Hotel.

I'm told plaques are being dedicated to the memories of George Harrison and John Lennon, so all the main Beatle players should be in attendance. There's also a Beatlefest coming to Vegas on July 1 to coincide with the "Love" anniversary.

It's really funny now when you arrive at the Mirage Hotel — it's been totally transformed into Beatles central. There are worse fates, I suppose, for Las Vegas hotels. Beatlemania has given the Mirage a cozy feel that even the dolphins that put on shows out back couldn't conjure up.

So, happy birthday, Paul. He has had an extraordinary career, that's for sure. Here's to more good music like "Memory Almost Full" and some major Grammy nods come next winter.

Odds 'n' Ends; Autism Speaks

John Travolta and Kelly Preston's son, Jett, is missing again.

In Sunday's Parade magazine cover story, there's a picture of the couple with daughter Ella, as usual. But Jett, who is older, is ignored.

What a shame this poor kid, who is now 15, has become invisible. Whatever his difficulties may be, it seems more than just odd that he's constantly erased from the PR portrait of the "happy family." ...

It's always grand to see Petra Nemcova. She's like the Good Witch of the Fashion World.

Last week, she helped Josh Guberman of Core Development Group and art dealer Andy Valmorbida present Raphael Mazzucco to the world. The occasion was a launch party for the ultra luxe Legacy Condos on East 84th Street. Other guests included Tommy Hilfiger, former Paris Hilton beau Stavros Niarchos and tabloid fixture Brandon Davis, the grandson of late oil zillionaire Marvin Davis. ...

Today's New York Times story on the charity Autism Speaks disgracefully rips off a story we did in this column two weeks ago — but with a twist. It blissfully omits the part about filmmaker Lauren Thierry claiming that the organization stole her documentary, "Autism Every Day," and takes the side of former NBC chairman Bob Wright and his wife Suzanne against their daughter Katie.

The Wrights started Autism Speaks because their grandson was diagnosed with the malady, but have recently split with the boy's mother.

The Times is not the only news organization to follow in our footsteps. Charles Osgood on CBS Radio filed a report last week dismissing the notion that vaccines could cause autism. The Wrights insist it's a genetic disease. Katie Wright and her group want research money put into the vaccine idea.

Both the Times and CBS Radio are the beneficiaries no doubt of behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the famed Rubenstein Associates PR firm.

The group, according to Austim Speaks' federal tax filing, was paid a whopping $187,000 last year to promote the Wrights' position in the press.

This year, I'm told, the fee went up to $20,000 a month. That's twice as much, I am told, as any multi-million dollar charity ever pays for public relations. But obviously, the money is worth it.