Don Imus | Elvis: Mystery 30 Years After Death | Jacko's PR Blames 'Suspicious' Minds | Remembering Phil Rizzuto

Don Imus Felt 'Forced' to Make Public Apologies

Don Imus wakes up this morning $20 million richer and free to do what he wants.

Because Imus has settled his matters with CBS Radio, he can entertain the dozens of inquiries about him returning to broadcasting.

Don’t be surprised if the I-man makes significant deals in the next few weeks for a radio and TV comeback.

I’m told the reason Imus couldn’t act sooner was that many people in the radio business actually thought he’d make up with CBS.

"He had a long, good relationship with Les Moonves," a source said. "There was never a strain between them personally."

Even so, CBS Radio probably was not in a position to backtrack from Imus' firing last spring.

More surprisingly, though, is news about why Imus suddenly turned up on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show so quickly after his firing — and did a lot of press that some feel harmed him and fed the controversy. Some feel those media appearances led to his dismissal.

Now I’m told Imus was coaxed into doing them by NBC senior vice president Phil Griffin. Imus, sources say, wanted to just apologize to the Rutgers women’s basketball team he offended and leave it at that. In fact, they say, he apologized to the team several times for his derogatory remarks.

But Griffin, sources close to the action insist, pushed him into high-profile interviews on the "Today" show and elsewhere. Griffin, they say, threatened Imus with canceling his MSNBC TV simulcast if he didn’t do the big interviews. The result was that he fueled the fire instead of putting it out.

“He didn’t care about Imus,” says a source, “only NBC. He told Don he would lose the MSNBC show if he didn’t do the interviews. And then NBC canceled the show anyway.”

Now that Imus is away from NBC and CBS Radio, the fun begins. And will the tag of "racist" hang on him forever? It’s unlikely. Before all this happened, Imus was known for having black guests on his show all the time. And children of every color attend his summer camp.

It’s important to remember that Imus was always an equal opportunity offender.

Elvis: Mystery 30 Years After Death

Elvis Presley died 30 years ago on Thursday. But we all know it’s like he never left the building. You can’t get away from him even now.

Super-sleuth Paul Barresi has a great story about Presley that he’s writing for a book he wants to call "Bless Me Father For I Have Sinned."

You may recall that Barresi is in possession of amazing audio tapes left behind by deceased National Enquirer reporter Jim Mitteager. The tapes continue to be instrumental in shedding light on various tabloid scandals. Mitteager, luckily, taped every conversation he ever had. He was the Richard Nixon of gossip.

Barresi tells me: "Shortly after Elvis' death, a man calling himself Mr. Jones called Mitteager, who was working for the National Enquirer at the time, to say he had Elvis Presley's autopsy report. His asking price was a whopping $100,000."

Barresi says it was this man who first told Mitteager that Presley had died of a drug overdose, or "polypharmacy," as he called it. When it comes out who actually called in with Presley’s autopsy news so early after his death, Barresi says, people will be "stunned."

Jacko's PR Blames 'Suspicious' Minds

Michael Jackson's publicist manager Raymone Bain e-mailed me overnight. The former son-in-law of Elvis Presley, she claims, is being hounded by — and I paraphrase here — "Suspicious Minds."

Bain claims that contrary to my report on Tuesday, her client has never met former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry and that she hasn't seen him in two years. At least two sources tell me otherwise.

But why is Bain so upset that the two could have met and spent time together? Barry is her longtime friend and client. Yes, he’s a well-known local criminal in Washington, a former crack addict who's been involved in one legal scrape after another. But still: That doesn’t make him a bad guy.

Bain did not mention the main part of Tuesday's column, which scooped that Jackson is being sued by Prince Abdullah of Bahrain, his former sponsor and patron in the Middle East, for reneging on contractual obligations to make an album and start a record company.

What did raise Bain's hackles was my assertion that Jackson is homeless and drifting around the country with his three kids.

"Mr. Jackson will never be 'homeless' as long as he owns the 3,000-acre estate called Neverland Valley Ranch, which to my knowledge, and at this date, he has not sold."

Indeed, Jackson has not set foot on Neverland’s property in more than two years. The place is shut down, and Jackson was famously fined by the state of California for not having proper insurance there and for letting employees' salaries go unpaid for months in 2006.

Since his acquittal on charges of child molestation and conspiracy in June 2005, Jackson’s three children have lived in several places including Bahrain, Ireland, Las Vegas and now northern Virginia.

Finally, Bain’s thoughts about the education of Prince, Paris and Blanket: "Mr. Jackson has a tutor for his children who is certified and qualified. As we are in the summer months, and most children in the United States are on vacation until classes begin later in the month, the same applies to Mr. Jackson's children."

I think it would be interesting for Bain to name the tutor and show his or her credentials as an educator for a 10-, 9- and 5-year-old. She doesn’t say who it is in this letter, and there are concerns that the only education the three Jackson children have had is their ABCs.

Bain copied her note to me to Jackson’s latest attorneys at Venable LLC in Washington, D.C. That firm might be interested to know that more of Jackson's former lawyers sued him Tuesday.

Lavely and Singer, the ferocious bulldogs that have defended the pop star over the years in all kinds of matters, say he owes them $113,750. Apparently last year Michael agreed in arbitration to pay them $180,000 in three installments. This was the third, and I guess, biggest.

You can be sued by a lot of different little law firms, and others, and it’s not that big a deal. But for Lavely & Singer to file against you, Michael, that’s huge. Add to that Prince Abdullah and, well, meeting Marion Barry is the least of your problems.

Remembering Phil Rizzuto

A number of great people have passed away in the last couple of days, all of whom meant a lot to American culture. Brooke Astor was 105 and did so much charitable work. Here in the central part of Greenwich Village in Manhattan, we thank her every day for the beautiful wrought-iron fence she donated that encircles the Jefferson Market Gardens. This rare oasis in a city of almost no blank spaces is one of New York’s true landmarks. …

Artists don’t get much attention anymore outside of the New York Times. But this week we lost Elizabeth Murray, 66, an important abstract artist of colorful cartoon shapes. Her work hangs in every important museum in the world. …

And finally: Phil Rizzuto. For New York kids of the 1960s, Yankee fans, his voice is engraved in our souls and part of our permanent soundtrack. Just the sound of Phil meant spring had arrived; his intonations were synonymous with the crack of a bat. Of course, he was a great shortstop, but that was long ago. All Yankee fans remember Phil for his wit, wisdom and poetry as an announcer. Holy cow! He will always be missed.