Michael Jackson? Just in case you were wondering, he’s still in foreclosure with Neverland. The auction is still on for May 14 in Santa Barbara on the steps of the county courthouse.
The auction had been scheduled for March 19, but Jackson managed to scratch up $3 million as a good-faith payment to the note holder, Fortress Investments. That bought him a 60-day extension. But the first half of that time is almost up, and there’s been no sign of a white knight coming in to save Neverland from the chopping block.
But two people won’t be attending. I am told definitively that Jackson has finally officially dismissed manager-publicist Raymone Bain from all her jobs. Bain had been unofficially cut off some months ago, but this is it. She’s done.
Also gone, I am told, is Londell McMillan, the lawyer who represents Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Prince, among others. McMillan can’t be criticized for trying to help Jackson. He did the best he could. He’s just the latest in a long line of people — some talented, some not — who’ve tried to sort out the biggest ongoing drama in pop history.
Jackson’s reps are now attorney Peter Lopez on the West Coast and Greg Cross on the East. Lopez has proved a vital connection for many reasons, not the least of which is his close relationship to the Maloof brothers of Las Vegas. They’ve allowed Jackson and his family/entourage to live at the Palms Hotel and Casino for free for months and months.
There is some good news for Jackson, however. His "Thriller 25th anniversary" album has turned into the steadiest selling CD of the last year, at least since Alicia Keys’ "As I Am." The repackaged, remixed set sold another 24,000 copies this week.
Jackson gets his first "gold" record in a zillion years, and the second for the same album that was released in 1983. "Thriller" keeps thrilling. So Jackson should take the deal he was offered in London by AEG Live and perform it 10 times, for a million bucks per show. This is called "like shooting fish in a barrel."
Forget Elton John and Hillary Clinton, the place to be Wednesday night was Paul Simon’s spectacular opening night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with "Under African Skies."
This is the second of three mini-runs this month for Simon at BAM. The first was a concert version of his Broadway musical, "Capeman." The next and last will be more traditional Simon fare such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and solo hits.
But the night was all about Simon’s amazing musical journey with African musicians, showing the roots for the "Graceland" and "Rhythm of the Saints" albums. Filmmaker/PR guy Dan Klores, who was Simon’s press agent for years, convinced his friend to help raise money for BAM on for its anniversary.
The program is called "Love in Hard Times: The Music of Paul Simon." Ken Starr and Diane Passage helped produce the event.
Among the guests at the star-studded event: Susan Sarandon with powerhouse movie producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas; plus Steve Buscemi and wife, Jo; Cynthia Nixon; Suzanne Vega and hubby, Paul Mills; famed artist Chuck Close; chef Mario Batali; Ed Schlossberg (husband of Caroline Kennedy); Eddie Simon (Paul’s manager brother); Edie Brickell (Mrs. Simon); and producer Phil Ramone, who gave the event its lush and perfect sound (as usual).
The highlights were many, but ex-Talking Head David Byrne’s solo performance of Simon’s "You Can Call Me Al" was a tour de force. Byrne remains an ingratiatingly awkward performer. For "Al" he did a kind of ostrich dance and mambo, winningly singing off-key and totally captivating the audience. It was just genius.
Other guests included Ladysmith Black Mambazo with the amazing African singer Vusi Mahlasela, who solo’d the vocal on "The Obvious Child," aka "These Are the Days of Miracles and Wonder," with aplomb.
A star is born! The very pregnant Brazilian jazz singer Luciana Souza also got cameos and much applause, particularly for Simon’s lesser-known songs "Further to Fly" and "Can’t Run But…," each, like "Obvious Child," from the underrated "Rhythm of the Saints."
I counted 10 musicians in Simon’s band, seven instrumentalists and three background singers. They sounded as if they were 10 times as strong in number. That’s how rich, textured and precise the orchestrations were.
Simon, himself, is center stage all through the show. He’s very much there, leading the cheerfully historic Ladysmith Black Mambazo through a bunch of songs they did together, such as "Graceland," "Homeless" and "Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes." Simon still gets a good rousing hometown cheer for the couplet "There’s a girl in New York City/Who calls herself the human trampoline."
And he even got a little personal, telling the audience: "There are so many people here who I’ve worked with over the years, I’m a little emotional."
Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal reports that Katie Couric could be leaving CBS before her contract is up. Lots of unnamed sources and all that. I say: not so fast. Couric definitely will be anchoring the "CBS Evening News" and in the command chair for the political conventions this summer, the presidential campaigns and the election in November.
All she needs is one good breakthrough to come out of all of that, and she’ll be fine. I think she’ll get it, too. A focused, sharpened, hard-news Couric might be just what this election needs next fall, when we’re all sick of it. ...
The sensational Elaine Kaufman will celebrate the 45th anniversary of her world-renowned eatery on Sunday night. It’s "dutch treat," but I am told that regulars from every era of the truly legendary establishment already have called for reservations including many of the rich, famous and infamous.
Elaine started her place in 1963, and overnight it became the destination for writers, actors, professional athletes and artists. Sunday night’s dinner should be quite the event … and they still have the best veal chop in town.
P.S.: Elaine’s is still such a late-night spot after all these years that there’s talk of the comedians performing across town in Comedy Central’s live "A Night of Too Many Stars" stopping by after raising money for autism education.