Published March 16, 2009
So even though Michael Jackson may be flush with cash again from concert ticket sales in London, his Neverland Ranch is about to be sold.
You’ll recall that last fall Jackson and Colony Capital became partners in the ranch, on which Colony held a $23.5 million note. They changed the name of the ranch to Sycamore Valley, Jackson got several million dollars in refinancing, the Colony added its name to the lease.
Now I’m told by sources close to the action that a buyer has come along who will end Jackson’s 21 year ownership of the fabled property. The source says it’s a rich deal, one that will pay back Colony in full and still send several million dollars Jackson’s way.
The only hitch in the deal: the new buyer, unaware that Jackson’s aide Tohme Tohme had arranged for this April’s memorabilia auction, wanted the house to full of its original tchotckes. When everyone involved realized what Tohme had done, panic set in.
Now I’m told that all parties are getting ready to meet and discuss the future of the auction. As of now, however, the auction is set for April 21-25. Catalogs have been printed. And next week in New York, no matter what happens, Julien’s Auction house is set to exhibit the best of the auction pieces in New York.
The total amount that could be realized from the auction is estimated somewhere between $10 million and $20 million. Jackson has already publicly promised a portion of the proceeds to the charity MusiCares, which is part of the National Academy for the Recording Arts, or NARAS, the organization that runs the Grammy Awards. MusiCares helps indigent musicians.
Meanwhile, April 3rd has been set for a court date at which both sides will argue their positions about the auction. But if the proposed Neverland buyers haven’t convinced Julien’s either to sell them the contents of the ranch, or made a settlement with the auction house and returned Jackson’s items to him, it’s likely a judge will rule the auction can go forward.
Julien’s has a signed agreement with Jackson’s MJJ Productions and Tohme Tohme, the singer’s manager dated August 7, 2008 — eight months before Jackson agreed to put tickets on sale for concerts and when he was desperately cash poor. (Tohme wrote “Dr.” next to his name although he conceded to this column last week that he is not a licensed physician.)
Right at the top, the contract reads: Consigned property: All movable and removable personal property located at Neverland Ranch that we take possession of, and any other property that you might choose to deliver to us.”
Paragraph 10 of the agreement entitled “Withdrawl” [sic] states “You may not withdraw your Property from sale after the date upon which you sign this Agreement or Consignment Receipt, whichever is earlier.”
Julien’s lawyers are expecting to depose Tohme and a business partner, James R. Weller, some time this week after finally serving them last Friday at their favorite watering hole, the bar at the exclusive Hotel Bel Air. An insider said: “You know the movie Pineapple Express? It was just like that.”
I am terribly saddened to report that the great actor and political activist, Ron Silver, died this morning at his home in New York. Ron was 62 and had been bravely battling esophageal cancer for the last two years. He leaves two children, Adam and Alexandra, his parents and his two brothers, as well as countless friends and admirers.
About ten days ago I wrote in this space about Ron’s great acting achievements. Of course, he first came to popularity acting with Valerie Harper and Julie Kavner in “Rhoda,” as their menschy neighbor, Gary. But very quickly he took off in movies, with such milestones as his performance in "Enemies: A Love Story", his wonderful portrayal of lawyer Alan Dershowitz in "Reversal of Fortune", and so many other films including "Garbo Talks", "Blue Steel", and "Ali". He was nominated twice for Emmy awards.
Ron was also an accomplished theater actor. His credits included the original Broadway cast of "HurlyBurly" (1984) with William Hurt, Judith Ivey, and Harvey Keitel. In 1986 he co-starred on Broadway with Marlo Thomas in the comedy "Social Security". And in 1988 he, Joe Mantegna and Madonna were the original cast of David Mamet’s “Speed the Plow.” Ron won a Tony Award for his performance as Charlie Fox, the screenwriter with the idea who comes to Bobby Gould (Mantegna) for help. In all three plays, Ron secured his place as the “it” New York actor of his time, consummate, literate, dangerous and smart.
The smart was a good thing and a bad thing. In 1989, Ron helped found the Creative Coalition with Alec Baldwin, Ron Silver, Christopher Reeve, Susan Sarandon, Blair Brown and Stephen Collins. It only takes a second to realize this was a group of liberal minded actors, and Ron was part of them. But soon his politics turned conservative. In short order Ron started endorsing candidates like New York Republicans Rudolph Giuiliani and Alfonse D’Amato. This caused no end of headaches, discussions, debates, and fights. But it also made for a lively time.
I didn’t always agree with Ron politically, but it didn’t matter. He was a great friend, a great family man. He loved his kids. Whether we ran into each other at events or planned on seeing each other, we always had a great time talking Hollywood or chewing over Washington. Last August, Ron insisted on covering the Democratic convention in Denver for Sirius Radio. He was very weak, but he did it with gusto, running around the city getting interviews for his show. He could not be stopped, even though his daughter, Alex, and I, as well as his Sirius assistant, could see the strain.
Last week when I checked in with him, Ron’s voice sounded like a distant signal over a radio. Still, he was bouncy and ebullient. We talked about a lot of things including his radio show on Sirius, which was he was still doing once a week. He had an idea. “Why don’t we a whole show with gossip columnists?” he asked. I said, we’ll think about it. But he couldn’t stop thinking. He had a million ideas for shows, and I think would have had dozens more great performances in him as an actor. I’m not the only friend who will say this in coming days, but he will truly, always, be sorely missed and greatly remembered.
So who showed up for Will Ferrell’s live show from Broadway on Saturday night? It was the second to last performance of “You’re Welcome, America: One Last Night with George W. Bush,” broadcast live on HBO from the Cort Theater right next to the Fox headquarters.
How about permanent diplomat Richard Holbrooke, CNN’s Jeff Greenfield and CBS’s Rick Kaplan, writer director Sophia Coppola and her actor cousin Jason Schwarzman, HBO’s Bill Paxton, Edward Norton, the cool rapper called Common, and Kevin Kline? There was a rumor that someone saw Spike Lee, and yours truly sat in the balcony behind David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, and his wife. And there was no red carpet!
Ferrell got quite a kick out of the audience even though one of the show’s producers thought he was “a little nervous.” Well, why not? His imitation of George W. Bush is dead on, and most of the jokes in the show are so trenchant that it’s hard to stop laughing. Everyone from the Bush Administration comes in for lampooning, especially Condoleeza Rice, in the gyrating person of electrifying actress Pia Glenn.
…Despite a weekend of over the top speculations by “sources” everywhere, Lindsay Lohan will probably not be arrested for anything today. Her outstanding arrest warrant apparently comes from missing a court mandated driving school class. To read the tabloids and blogs you’d think Lohan was wanted for murder or kidnapping. Too funny…