Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch is set be sold at auction on March 19.
Jackson received word Monday from Financial Title Company, the trustee, that unless he pays off $24,525,906.61 by that date, a public auction will go forward in Santa Barbara, Calif., in front of the county courthouse.
It's not just the house either. When Neverland is auctioned, it will include everything: all personal property inside, all fixtures and appliances, furniture, and "all merry go round type devices," any rides, games. The auction literally includes every single thing that is or isn't nailed down.
At this point, Jackson may just let the auction proceed. He hasn't been at Neverland since June 30, 2005, when he departed for Bahrain. No one lives there, the animals in the zoo are all gone, the rides are either sold or shut down.
Financially, Jackson remains in no position to cure his dilemma. Even though he refinanced his $300 million loan from Fortress Investments with help from Sony Music, HSBC and Barclays Bank, the Neverland loan was not part of that deal. Fortress would clearly like to get out of the Jackson business altogether now, so selling at auction is their answer.
What if no one comes up with a decent bid? Fortress will likely take possession and list the property with a Santa Barbara real estate broker. Neverland could be marketed as a corporate retreat. Or perhaps a very wealthy new owner will show up and make a fire sale pitch.
But an era is about to end forever: Jackson, who brought this on himself, is about to lose one of his two biggest assets. All that will remain after that will be his song publishing interests, and they are leveraged into the next millennium.
More to come...
Steven Spielberg may not be popular in Beijing right now, but in France he's just aces.
Spielberg's reps and the folks at the Cannes Film Festival are in negotiations to bring Paramount's highly anticipated "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" to Cannes for its official worldwide premiere in May, several sources tell me.
The premiere would precede the scheduled opening for what we also call "Indy 4" on May 22. The star-studded event easily would be the centerpiece of the festival, akin to the premiere last year of "Ocean's Thirteen."
I'm told that Spielberg, perhaps producer George Lucas and stars Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LeBeouf, Karen Allen and others would make the walk up the fabled red carpet at the Palais. Talk about sizzle! Sacre bleu!
If "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" can open at Cannes on the Tuesday or Wednesday of the festival's second week, it might also provide some hold-over star power for the annual AmFAR Cinema in Cannes gala hosted by Sharon Stone up at Le Moulin de Mougins.
So get ready for a publicity and marketing coup to send "Kingdom" into the box office stratosphere.
I can’t remember ever seeing an Oscar-winner have so much fun: newly minted Best Supporting Actor winner Javier Bardem danced like there was no tomorrow Sunday night, in a champagne-driven frenzy to the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” during a triumphant moment at Miramax’s crowded after-party at Bar Marmont.
In a space of less than 5 feet diameter, in a tightly crowded bar, Bardem literally became Mick Jagger, using his Oscar as a fake microphone while the DJ — nestled nearby in a corner — spun rock record after record. It helped that Bardem was on a slightly elevated platform, that Penelope Cruz, Josh Brolin and Diane Lane were all on hand and that bottles of champagne had been opened and were flowing.
“It’s the Coens!” he yelled to me between congratulatory yelps. His thick head of dark hair was full of sweat. I imagine he’ll have a big headache today. But it doesn’t matter. For Bardem, who’s worked very hard the last few years, winning this prize was a sweet victory. And though everyone loves 83-year-old Hal Holbrook, it’s hard to imagine that he would have welcomed his Oscar in a similar way.
You’re thinking: this sounds like a decadent moment. But observe that Bardem’s patient little mother, who’d been his guest at the Oscar ceremony, was tucked into a seat just beyond him, grinning from ear to ear if also wanting to put in earplugs.
Nothing untoward happened. Just ebullience and a lot of fun as the crowd in the darkened tavern shouted out the refrain: “Pleased to meetcha, don’t forget my name!” while Javier — with a lot of encouragement, clapping and screaming — channeled vintage Mick Jagger with just a hint of the late John Belushi.
Bardem’s happiness, by the way, was infectious. The producers of documentary winner “Taxi to the Dark Side” whooped it up as a result, dancing just below his platform, swinging their gold statues around and over their heads.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Bar Marmont Miramax party crowd was in a pretty good mood. Ben Affleck was in a corner with brother Casey and his wife Summer Phoenix, happily reflecting on their successful year with Ben’s “Gone Baby Gone,” which starred Casey, and Casey’s Oscar nomination for playing the coward Robert Ford in “Jesse James” (he lost to Bardem).
All the other Miramax winners and nominees came through, including Daniel Day-Lewis and Joel and Ethan Coen, before either heading home or seeking out one of the many little after-parties such as Prince’s performance up in Coldwater Canyon, or Madonna’s rival shindig to Elton John at Guy Oseary’s house. Some people, believe it or not, just went home.
Many were late from the Governor’s Ball, which was the hot ticket of the night. Academy president Sid Ganis was busy greeting people at the door, and there was bottleneck because the “Juno” crowd was seated just as you walked in.
This year, Wolfgang Puck returned to regular table seating after last year’s buffet station idea was rebuffed. “The older Academy members didn’t like it,” an insider told me.
But the Governor’s Ball was the place to be, as Cate Blanchett — who is quite pregnant at 8 months and glowing — met and congratulated the absolutely gobsmacked Tilda Swinton.
“I have to eat something, we must eat!” Tilda exclaimed after doing many rounds of interviews.
Earlier in the evening, I saw her just as she was returning to her seat in the Kodak Theater with Oscar in hand. She said to me, with a big quizzical smile, “What just happened here?!” She really couldn’t believe she’d won an Oscar. That was nice.
Also at the Governors Ball, Keri Russell was on her way home to her 8-month-old son with her husband.
“We were sitting in front of Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill. They are so funny! They were cracking jokes all through the show.” Russell added: “They kept saying, 'Can you believe we’re here and we’re going to present an award?'"
(The answer to that question is: No. But that’s another story. Some of the presenters at last night’s ceremony were a little odd. The Rock? Owen Wilson? Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway promoting “Get Smart”? Note to the producers: If you want people to watch this show, then you’d better have big movie stars and people we don’t see so often, and not these acolytes. It was a long wait for Denzel at the end.)
Also at the Governors Ball, I talked to Jon Stewart, who did a pretty great job hosting the show even though his writers only had a couple of weeks to work on it. His opening joke about the shuttered Vanity Fair party drew some gasps from several in the audience. It was a good start, and he kept right on going despite the “let’s get this over with” feeling that permeated the audience.
Stewart told me the last-minute decision to let “Once” singer-songwriter Marketa Irglova return to the stage and make her speech came because they realized backstage she’d been cut off earlier.
“As soon as we realized what happened, we talked about it and put her back on," he said.
It was a nice touch, too, since her short speech was one of the few that was about anything substantial. She and “Once” collaborator Glen Hansard were my favorite winners of the night, what with Hansard’s revelation on stage that the movie was made for just $100,000. The pair’s performance was in stark contrast to the Kristin Chenoweth disaster — completely honest and moving.
But here’s a shock: Hansard has no record contract. Nada. Nothing. He’s only just been signed to a publishing deal at Warner Chappell. Otherwise, in all these months since “Once” became a phenomenon, there’s been nothing organized. In the old days, the real Warner Records’ Mo Ostin or Jerry Moss at A&M would have had him signed, sealed and delivered. This is where we are today. Unbelievable.
Musically, the big winner of the night was Jon McLaughlin. He sang one of the “Enchanted” songs. Talk about a break-out moment! That’s a phenomenal voice. LA Reid has him ready to go at Island/Def Jam. McLaughlin — not be confused with the leader of the Mahavishnu Orchestra of years past — could be the next big thing.
More Tuesday from the Oscars you don’t get to see…
Elsewhere over the weekend: the IFC Channel’s party after the Spirit Awards was the usual jam-packed spectacle, but I did get to talk to “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm. If you haven’t seen him on this show, check it out. I predict he’s the next George Clooney, a TV actor who will emerge as a leading man in films.
“I’ve been working for 19 years,” he told me, since he was 18. Now Hamm is getting movie offers left and right. He’s just finished “The Boy in the Box” and is shooting a remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Watch this guy take off like a rocket. …
Billy Joel entertained everyone in the bar at the Hotel Bel Air the other night, including new friends Sean Penn and Petra Nemcova. Observers say Billy played several songs for the happily stunned crowd. He’s in town for some shows on his sold out tour. …
Julia Fordham plays the Roxy on Sunset this Wednesday night to promote her new “China Blue” album. Look for an A-list mix in the crowd — she has quite a celeb following.
Elton John’s Oscar party raised $5.1 million, they say, and that’s wonderful. I wouldn’t know, personally, since my guest — who I sent ahead on reconnaissance — was denied admission because I wasn’t with her. Stupid publicists, overzealous security and cops from the L.A. county division made a beautiful blonde wearing a long black gown, high heels and diamond earrings stand outside in the cold, then told her to wait on a sidewalk for an hour rather than use any sense.
When this reporter arrived, I did run into Stevie Wonder and his wife, designer Kai Millard Morris; Heidi Klum, who’d changed from her red Oscar gown into a hot silver Roberto Cavalli mini-dress, with singer husband Seal; and the ubiquitous Quincy Jones.
Harrison Ford was in the middle of a big brouhaha with cops himself, so I didn’t feel alone. Sheriff Lee Baca had better teach his underlings a little common sense. Not every party guest in formalwear in Beverly Hills is a criminal. Elton John had better find some people to represent him who have a clue…