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Madonna an Oprah Wannabe?

Madonna: Oprah Wannabe? | Jacko Settles With Prince | Golden Globes In Peril Again? | Warner Music’s Corporate Greed Continues | Picasso Rasputin Dies

Madonna: Oprah Wannabe?

Madonna wants to be Oprah.

That’s certainly the message of her latest video on her Raising Malawi/Kabbalah website. The just divorced wrecker of two homes says she wants to build a girls school in Malawi, Africa.

She’s posted a video vaguely asking for help for the project even though she could just write a check and send most of the children in that country to school herself.

Madonna writes:

“After witnessing the potential of Malawi's girls firsthand, I made it my mission to give them an opportunity to become their personal best.

I hope you will share my urgency and make a donation today. Every donation counts toward helping impoverished girls to reach their full potential. And every dollar will make a difference.

Thank you for helping me to bring education and opportunity to the girls of Malawi. They are deeply grateful to you for your support, and so am I.”

This sounds exactly like what Oprah has already done with her girls academy in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Of course, Oprah’s school is not connected to any kind of religious cult. Raising Malawi is an off shoot of the Kabbalah Center in Los Angeles, run by former insurance salesman Philip Berg and his family.

There’s no word yet on whether the Madonna Academy students will have to wear $26 red strings on their wrists or drink bottled Kabbalah water. But pictures this weekend of Madonna carrying her adopted Malawi son, David Banda, into the Kabbalah center, pretty much says it all.

While Madonna carries on this new project, many questions remain about what happened to the last chunk of money she raised for Malawi. Last February, Madonna partnered with Gucci and UNICEF for a fundraiser in New York. They said that $3.7 million was raised. At the time, Raising Malawi — though already two years old — was not a registered charity. So Gucci started its own foundation, and collected the money. Where did it go?

One interesting footnote: after all that business with Gucci, loyal Madonna (ask Guy Ritchie) has just signed a $10 million endorsement deal with corporate rival Louis Vuitton.

Jacko Settles With Prince

So that’s it for Michael Jackson’s lawsuit with Prince Abdulla of Bahrain. If Jackson hadn’t settled the case over the weekend he would have had to fly to London and testify today.

The Prince’s lawyers would have presented Jackson with a copy of the contract he signed with the Prince in which he agreed to record two albums, write a memoir and stage a Broadway show. In exchange, the Prince handed him an advance of $7 million. Jackson consequently took the money and left Bahrain, never to be heard from again.

The contract with the Prince was clearly stated. Jackson would have lost the case anyway. This way, he’s spared the further humiliation of having to make a public appearance.

Over the weekend, Jackson did put out a story that he’d converted to Islam, that the former Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, helped him, etcetera, whatever. This was done to divert attention from the London trial. It wasn’t true and didn’t help.

Jackson has had numerous opportunities to convert to Islam, starting with the days when the Nation of Islam was running his world back in 2005. He didn’t do it then, and didn’t do it now.

But in the real world, Jackson’s problems are tremendous. He has to pay the Prince, and he’s just barely holding on to Neverland. And then there’s the issue of his current representation. Michael’s manager and publicist is Dr. Tohme Tohme, a Lebanese doctor living in Beverly Hills.

One simple solution: take the AEG Live offer and play 30 dates at the O2 Arena outside London. There’s a $10 million guarantee, and Jackson could gross $30 million. If he showed up and played all the dates, he’d be on the road to financial recovery. But it’s too easy. He won’t do it. My prediction, and I’ve never said this in this space before: Michael Jackson is over. He’s painted himself into a corner, and there’s no way out. Soon he’ll be doing original ring tones.

Golden Globes In Peril Again?

Are the Golden Globes in danger for the second year in a row? It sure looks like it.

So are the Oscars and the Grammys. In fact it's beginning to feel a lot like deja vu all over again.

The reason is not the bad economy, although that was already threatening to put the Globes in a tizzy. There are talk in the movie industry of cut backs of the big parties staged by the studios after the Globes at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The new reason is a possible strike by the Screen Actors Guild. Last year the Writers Guild Strike paralyzed the already much-maligned Globes that Hollywood Foreign Press's annual TV show was canceled and turned into a sad shadow of itself. There were no parties.

Now a SAG strike vote could make this year a repeat event, with the union prohibiting members from showing up at accept awards. It does seem that this weekend's call by SAG for a strike vote — they've worked without a contract since June 30 — is intended to disrupt awards season. SAG prez Alan Rosenberg is not stupid. This may be his only leverage to get concessions from the studios.

Things were already looking bleak for the Globes, which have no equivalent to the Oscar's Academy Governors' Ball. With cutbacks and layoffs, it was pretty well assumed that the Weinstein Company would not be doing their annual shindig at the former Trader Vic's. Last year, TWC had an impromptu small event following the Oscars. This year even with likely multiple nominations from "The Reader" and "Vicki Cristina Barcelona," the grand fetes of years gone by are truly of the past.

Same too, more than likely, for NBC Universal, HBO-Warner-InStyle, 20th Century Fox, and Paramount—despite their movies all in the running. And if a SAG strike is voted in, and the Globes — set for Sunday Jan. 11 on NBC — are reduced to just another read off on air — what is their future? Hollywood is little respect for the HFPA and views the gathering as a marketing tool.

There are ripple effects, too. Even though the HFPA has millions in the bank, they cut back their charitable donations severely this year when NBC refused to pay them their $6 million licensing fee. Another episode of same would be a painful kidney punch to a group that's become accustomed to a fat lifestyle on the network's dime.

Warner Music’s Corporate Greed Continues

Edgar Bronfman and Lyor Cohen’s Warner M. Group stock hit a low of $2.25 on Friday, and bounced up to $2.53. After hours trading on Friday brought them back down to $2.38.

To celebrate, new officer Michael Fleisher was allowed to “buy” 450,000 shares at $0, or nothing, as a perk of his promotion to Vice Chairman.

Fleisher must be very happy, considering the economy these days.

Almost two years ago, when the stock was around $23, Fleisher sold 40,000 shares and made almost $1 million.

The games people play at WMG are astonishing… Fleisher, according to SEC filings, gets a base salary of $825,000 and a target for a 2009 bonus of $1.1 million. That’s one million, one hundred thousand dollars…in addition to that base salary… If he’s fired, Fleisher receives severance of $1.9 million…

It’s all good fun, isn’t it? WMG has lost Madonna and Nickelback, did nothing for REM this year, still lists moribund acts like Cher, Chris Isaak and Goo Goo Dolls on its website, relies strictly on acts inherited from the original Warner Music Group (Linkin Park, Metallica, Josh Groban, Michael Buble, Faith Hill, Eric Clapton, Red Hot Chili Peppers).

Newer acts — like Rilo Kiley and Jenny Lewis, or Johnathan Rice — are kept secret for corporate purposes, but I’m told they, like the veteran acts, are happy for Fleisher’s good fortune.

Picasso Rasputin Dies

Wow! The New York Times reported last week at famed art dealer Jan Krugier died at age 80. What they didn’t acknowledge: Krugier has long been the cause of divisiveness among the heirs of Pablo Picasso. From the time Picasso died in 1973, Krugier has been the Rasputin of Marina Picasso, the artist’s granddaughter. Krugier was often accused of flooding the art market with Picasso’s owned by Marina, thus lowering prices. He was well known in the art world for causing a lot of trouble in that family, and for benefiting from it handsomely. I’m sure Vanity Fair already has someone on the story. It’s a good one…