Confusion reigned supreme yesterday at the Michael Jackson trial: What else is new? Around 1:30 p.m. PDT, the press was told that someone in the court wanted to issue a written statement. It wasn't about the jury's deliberations, we were told, but it was explained that we could not know the source of the statement.
Huh? But this is the way Judge Rodney Melville deals with the media. Everything is cloak and dagger. We live with an unworkable gag order and ridiculous rules governing press credentials. Alas, the pain and suffering are almost over.
At 2:30 p.m. comes the much-awaited statement. In the interim, dozens of journalists have jammed together in a small space waiting to hear these powerful words. Will the statement be from the prosecution or the defense? The prosecution and the defense? Will it concern press conferences, witness tampering, or an anticipated half-day on Thursday?
When it comes, however, the statement is a let down. It's from defense attorney Thomas Mesereau: "I have not authorized anyone to speak or hold any press conferences on behalf of Michael Jackson or his family. A gag order is in effect which the defense team will continue to honor."
Someone immediately says the statement is available on mjjsource.com. This is Randy Jackson's website, written and posted by a bunch of women who are said to be current or former girlfriends, and Michael's stylist, Karen Faye.
But something is wrong. There is another statement altogether. This one is titled: "A Note from Michael Jackson and the Jackson Family Regarding Unauthorized Statements." It reads:
"The efforts of Michael Jackson's friends and supporters are noticed and very much appreciated at this time. However, only Michael Jackson's attorneys of record have been authorized to speak on his behalf."
Very quickly, the two statements are confused. So are the people reading them. Is the first one Mesereau's criticism of Jackson's publicist, Raymone Bain? Is the second one concerning the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Dick Gregory? Is Bain being dumped? (This would be a dreadful mistake at this point.) Is Jesse Jackson getting a hint? Chaos ensues.
Jackson's world now resembles the planet Krypton in the movie "Superman." All the council leaders are fighting with each other. Buildings are starting to shake and fall to the ground. Marlon Brando is racing to put a baby in swaddling clothes in a rocket ship destined for a safe place. Implosion and destruction are imminent.
Indeed, Jesse Jackson, after making many pronouncements, is gone from Santa Maria. He's taken his entire entourage, including grocery magnate Gregory Calhoun. Right before Calhoun left yesterday, he admitted to me that he was the "money guy." He came to bail out Michael Jackson. No doubt he will return.
Gregory has not been seen in a couple of days. He is likely gone as well.
Bain is still Jackson's publicist. Somehow the two statements criss-crossed. To wit: Mesereau does not want Melville to think he's voiding the gag order. His statement is designed to say that he has not authorized Bain to give press conferences. The wording absolves him of responsibility in these matters.
In fact, it is Randy Jackson's statement, written and posted by his gal pal Taunya Zilkie, that has caused trouble. Even though this second statement is attributed to Michael Jackson, he has nothing to do with it. It's pure Randy and Taunya, remarks an observer. And it's a misinterpretation of Mesereau's comments. Is it done on purpose? Randy's statement makes Bain look foolish and cuts her authority.
You see, we are playing Neverland: the Board Game. This is a game where grown people continue to jockey for position, even though at any moment the whole enterprise could be exploded by a guilty verdict.
It's a game in which a scheming younger brother plays a bad game of chess, trying to manipulate the pieces while his older brother, the family cash cow, remains in isolation and pain as his future is debated by 12 strangers.
Why, it was only a couple of nights ago that a press rep spotted Randy Jackson and two female friends getting tossed out of the parking lot of the Best Value Inn on East Main Street in Santa Maria.
It has also been only a couple of days since Randy "Sonny" Jackson got involved in a melee in front of the courthouse when he came to retrieve his confused father from the crowd.
It's Randy now who authorized a statement placed on his own Web site to be mistaken for one issued by Mesereau — a statement that paints everyone who has tried to help Michael as wrong or bad.
Michael Jackson's star may be falling, but he's still a hero to some. Jackson is polling in the Top 100 so far in the Discovery Channel's online voting for the Greatest Americans.
Among the top vote getters: Oprah Winfrey, the only woman in the top 10. And Elvis Presley, currently ahead of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You can check out the list of finalists at www.discovery.com. It's probably the last and only time you will ever see Albert Einstein and Donald Trump mentioned in the same breath.
Jackson, by the way, is one of four pop performers on the list including Presley, Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra. Otherwise there are no composers (Gershwins? Rodgers and Hammerstein? Aaron Copeland? Leonard Bernstein?) and certainly no artists, poets or writers.
Where are Robert Frost, Robert Motherwell and William Faulkner? Harper Lee, Kurt Vonnegut and William Styron?