A 'Lucid' Jacko Testifies in D.C.
Michael Jackson made an appearance in Washington, D.C., last week. The Washington Post couldn't figure out what was going on, but I can tell you all about it.
Jackson was in the law offices of Venable LLP to give a deposition in the $30 million lawsuit brought by his former manager, Dieter Wiesner. He was accompanied by two burly bodyguards and an attorney, William Mundell, of California. Wiesner and his partner Ronald Konitzer, you may recall, were referred to as "the Germans" in Jackson's child molestation case by Janet Arvizo.
Anyway, Michael had missed two opportunities for this deposition in Los Angeles. Because he is now stationed in Northern Virginia, home of his manager-publicist, Raymone Bain, and has no other place to live at the moment, Jackson agreed to — shall we say — this "capital punishment." He had to pay for everyone to come in from Los Angeles, first class, and stay in D.C.
Of course, Jackson's done this before. He had to fly lawyers to London twice when he refused to be deposed in the Marc Schaffel lawsuit in Los Angeles. He lost that case. Shaffel and Wiesner each have the same attorney: Howard King.
In D.C., Michael appeared bright and confident, dispelling the recent stories we have published of him being drugged or isolated.
"He was in very good shape," an observer said. "He seemed very lucid."
In fact, he was so chirpy that sources say he was an excellent witness for Wiesner.
"He said he didn't know why they weren't still in business together," a source said. "He said he liked all of Dieter's ideas."
After the deposition was over, Jackson and Wiesner spent a few minutes together in a private conversation. No one knows exactly what was said, but Jackson apparently blamed his falling out with "the Germans" on Leonard Muhammad, head of the Nation of Islam and son-in-law of Louis Farrakhan.
"He just kept saying over and over again he didn't know what happened," a source said.
Of course, Jackson replaced Wiesner and Konitzer with the Nation of Islam in December 2003, a month after his arrest. Jackson never spoke to "the Germans" again and let the Nation force out the rest of his advisers.
Jackson, by the way, doesn't seem to know whether he is living in Virginia or Vegas. And what's not being addressed is the home schooling of his three children.
"If he keeps moving around, he probably thinks no one can touch him on that," one insider said.
But the truth is that 10-year-old Prince, 9-year-old Paris and 5-year-old Prince II, aka Blanket, have probably not received any formal education at all.
As for why the depositions had to take place in Washington, Mundell wrote in an early motion to the court: "Mr. Jackson is not just relaxing in the Washington, DC area. He is busy working on several important projects."
Here's another sad week for Warner Music Group, aka WMG, which I like to call Warner Miscellaneous Group.
The soundtrack CD to "Hairspray" is a top five hit this week, but it isn't theirs. As WMG's stock sinks lower day by day, "Hairspray" is a hit that might have been.
You see, "Hairspray" is on New Line Records, a division of New Line Cinema, which itself is part of Time Warner.
Before Time Warner sold WMG to Edgar Bronfman Jr., et al, they would probably have released the "Hairspray" CD through WEA (that's the WMG distribution arm) and made a little dough.
Alas, New Line Records is now distributed through independent Alternative Distribution Alliance and not through WEA. The money from the "Hairspray" CD is going directly to savvy New Line Cinema execs Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne.
What's interesting is that New Line Records exists at all. They even have their own Web site that features a roster of 11 artists separate from their soundtracks. For instance, they have Albert Hammond Jr., of The Strokes, who is the son of the man who penned and sang the great classic "It Never Rains in Southern California."
Who knew? Apparently, no one. The Hammond album, called "Yours to Keep," released in March, got great reviews and also had a video directed by Joaquin Phoenix. But in keeping with the record biz's stealth approach to putting out new music, the whole thing was kept a secret. And very effectively, I might add.
New Line Records would do well to hire a good publicist and put some money into promotion. Hammond would be a good place to start.
Warner Miscellaneous Group's stock price was around $12.76 in after-hours trading last night. A little over a year ago it was $30. The company gives its quarterly report on Aug. 7. That should be quite a conference call.
The rest of the WMG releases are all in the bottom reaches of the charts, including the very recent Smashing Pumpkins comeback CD, which has sort of petered out after one week at the top.
KISS' Paul Stanley is OK after missing a show for an irregular heartbeat. He sent out an e-mail saying he's fine, "painting" and will be attend the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in New York soon.
If Stanley's heart is OK, he may wind up testifying in the two-decades-old bankruptcy/divorce/missing funds case involving his ex-shrink and band manager, Jesse Hilsen. The case is still winding its way through the Brooklyn bankruptcy court, where it may be heard next on Aug. 21.
Hilsen went from shrink to manager, but managed to shrink the KISS money he took and/or received so that his wife and three children never saw a penny after his divorce in 1988.
Since then, his kids have grown up, but Hilsen's ex-wife, Rita, has spent the last 12 years in a shelter on the Upper West Side of New York.
Still, the main point of contention in Hilsen's finances is a trust he set up with his second wife, New York psychiatrist Joan Packles Margolis. The trust involved land in Sullivan County, N.Y., now said to be worth millions. Margolis claims the land is hers; Hilsen's ex says it was bought with his money, the money he got or took from KISS.
The closing in 1991 for the Sullivan County land was one of the strangest ever. The sellers were a couple, Nancy and Richard Lounsbury. Nancy Lounsbury remembers the transaction took seven hours and was shrouded in secrecy.
"It was insane," she told me recently.
No kidding. According to the signed closing papers, all the parties involved had to agree never to divulge the names of the principals of the trust. Seven men who were present, however, were sworn to secrecy including two local lawyers.
Now it's up to the Brooklyn court and the bankruptcy receiver, Avrum Rosen, to depose those men and find out who owns the Sullivan County land so that Rita Hilsen can be sprung from her shelter.
As for Paul Stanley, if he's feeling well enough, his testimony about Jesse Hilsen would also be highly informative, Rita Hilsen said.