It's always about money, isn't it?
The Kelly Clarkson saga at RCA Records continues, even as the "American Idol" winner's "My December" album looks poised for a No. 1 or No. 2 debut next week with up to 320,000 copies sold.
When we first reported that Kelly had fired manager Jeff Kwatinetz of The Firm, it was because he had allegedly made himself the bad guy in an ongoing feud between Clarkson and RCA.
Now, sources tell me that Kwatinetz actually demanded a $15 million advance for Clarkson from RCA last summer.
That was the beginning of the bad blood, since the singer was turning in an album the label didn't like. Kwatinetz, I am told, was soundly rebuffed. Clarkson received a much more reasonable $1.5 million advance.
RCA has put more money into the project, even though we all know that Clive Davis does not approve of "My December."
I am told that the video for "Never Again," the first single, cost $600,000, and that another $300,000 was spent on promoting it to radio stations. But "Never Again" didn't chart well or get much airplay anywhere.
You would think RCA would say "never again" themselves, but this week they are following Clarkson's wishes and putting out a second single, "Sober."
It's a terrible track, which contains the refrain: "It's been three months and I'm sober." This is not considered a "summer" record at a time when more than a few Kelly Clarkson fans are spending three months getting drunk.
"But this is what Kelly wanted, and we're going with her wishes," an RCA insider said.
It won't matter. As the label's people say: Clarkson is a pop star. She isn't Joan Jett. There will be euphoria next week when she's No. 1, but in weeks two, three and four when the album fades away, no one will remember that.
Indeed, RCA shipped 850,000 copies of "My December" and doesn't expect to need more.
Kwatinetz, by the way, is held responsible for Clarkson's tour plans being scuttled.
"He booked her into arenas that she couldn't possibly have sold out, instead of 2,000 or 3,000 seat theaters," a source said. "He really blew it."
Despite all the ruckus over "My December," Clarkson won't be leaving RCA any time soon.
"We have a long term deal with her," a source said. "We're in the Kelly Clarkson business for a long time. If she wants to come back and make a big hit record next time, we're here."
We must have hit a nerve with Michael Jackson's publicist and manager, Raymone K. Bain, on Wednesday. She issued a press release denouncing this column and claiming everything we reported is untrue.
Of course, Bain omits a few things: Two years ago she was fired by Jackson's defense team while a jury deliberated his over allegations of child molestation and conspiracy.
Jackson's brilliant defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau, had had enough of Bain calling press conferences and lying to reporters and had her removed. It was that simple.
Last summer, Bain called this reporter to say that she had proof that people had conspired to ruin Jackson and bankrupt him. She could not say who they were, but she would in time, and it would be "a big story." That was the last we heard about that.
In the last year, Bain and Jackson's children's nanny, Grace Rwaramba, have taken over Jackson's life, finances and career. His family and friends claim they have isolated the singer from them. His parents have been made to wait for hours to see him in Las Vegas. Former friends have been threatened.
Meanwhile, Jackson's finances remain as precarious as ever. On Friday, his lease runs out on a Vegas mansion. He will move, but probably not to the luxury condo the nanny has gotten for herself in Vegas with his money.
Jackson has recently settled a lawsuit brought by Prescient Capital for $5 million. During the volley between the lawyers on both sides, Jackson's crack legal team included in an answer his financial agreements pertaining to his 50 percent ownership of Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
It was in these papers that we discovered a piece of paper entitled "Liquidation Sale," which outlined a plan by which Jackson will sell his piece of the company to Sony on May 31, 2008. Included in the papers was another letter, evaluating Jackson's position in regard to the liquidation sale from famed law firm White & Case.
Bain says in her press release that "reports regarding [Jackson's finances] are ludicrous, without merit, and are being written without sufficient personal financial information to make such an unwarranted pronouncement."
Sadly, Bain is wrong. Thanks to Jackson's incredibly litigious nature, there are reams and reams of paper available to the public in courthouses all over the country that outline his personal finances. Perhaps she should read them.
Including the child molestation trial, and also embracing his "spider bite trial," the lawsuit brought by Marc Schaffel, and more recently Prescient, it's easy to figure out that come next year, Jackson's finances will be in shambles.
Bain is apparently unaware that when Sony pays him for the Beatles, he will then have to pay off his $325 million in loans to Fortress Investments. Fortress, a New York hedge fund, recently became a publicly traded company, so more information will be available. It won't be pretty.
What Bain fails to realize is that her stewardship of Jackson has been the most disastrous of all the ones that preceded her. Once the King of Pop, Jackson now has little standing in show business beyond his core fans. The average person has lost interest in him, perceiving him as a freak with an odd proclivity for children.
Bain says in her statement that Jackson is "putting the finishing touches on his music." Really? Insiders say Jackson has done nothing in this arena at all and that a new album is unlikely.
We will believe it when we hear it, and not a moment sooner.
Paris Hilton is busy telling everyone about how she found religion. But her great-grandfather had that a long time ago — and put his money were his rosary was.
Conrad Hilton, the inventor of Hilton Hotels, left behind a charitable foundation that has one purpose. According to its statement of purpose, "the Conrad N. Hilton Fund was formed as a Nevada nonprofit corporation to support the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, the legal entity constituting the Roman Catholic Church for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and other [similar] organizations. ..."
The trust, according to tax documents, is worth about $800 million. Half of that comes from stock in Hilton Hotels.
Paris might be interested to know that the trust — which is run by her uncle Steven Hilton — is very pro-women in the church. In 2006, it donated $10,188,635 to the Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters. The money is used "exclusively for the benefit of Roman Catholic religious orders of women worldwide."
A newly religious Paris would fit that bill nicely. The Fund also gave almost $5 million to Helen Keller International to fight blindness.
Conrad Hilton, Paris' great-grandfather, was very charitable indeed. A second fund — the Conrad Hilton Foundation — has assets with a fair market value of almost $900 million. Last year, the foundation gave away around $40 million to many needy causes.
Its causes include a $10 million grant over a six-year period to a Los Angeles group called the Best Foundation for a Drug Free Tomorrow; $2 million over four years to establish potable water in southwest Mexico and millions more to relief organizations, Catholic groups, museums, schools and groups that help the blind. It's quite impressive, actually.
There are about 17 main descendants of hotelier Conrad Hilton altogether. Paris Hilton's grandfather, William, was one of the four children of Conrad. "Barron" Hilton has eight children including Paris' father, Rick. (William's half sister is Francesca, daughter of Zsa Zsa Gabor, courtesy of his late brother Nicky.)
Paris' grandfather, about whom there is little publicity, is worth $1.3 billion, according to Forbes. He made his money principally by steering Hilton Hotels into the casino business.
His father, Conrad, left most of his enormous estate to the Roman Catholic Church — hence the trusts. Barron sued and won his case, arguing that he had spent his adult life building his father's hotel business.
It's interesting what Conrad Hilton did. His associate told the New York Times in 1986 that one of the mogul's philosophies "was not to leave unearned wealth to relatives and members of his family."
His son, who wound up getting a portion of the estate, turned out to be a success. But the next generation has not proven to be quite so adept at making money, just spending it.
With Paris out of jail, it's up to her and sister Nicky to show that their great-grandfather's strong work ethic was genetic.
The ball is in their court. And court is something they should try and stay out of from now on.
Congrats to famed writer A.E. Hotchner ("Papa Hemingway"), who is getting hitched Thursday at the always elegant Le Grenouille restaurant. Hotchner also turns 87 today, so God bless him. His betrothed is actress Virginia Kiser, who is about 20 years his junior.
On Tuesday night, Hotch's best pal and business partner, Paul Newman, threw him a bachelor party for eight guys at Elaine's. It's now said that this was one time when the total on the bill was smaller than the combined ages of the patrons.
Only at Elaine's kids, only at Elaine's.