Fraudulent Celebrity Financier Hits Sour Note

Dana Giacchetto | 'King Kong' | Golden Globes | Vincent Schiavelli

Leo's Money Man: Paroled and Rocking Out

You may remember our old "friend" Dana Giacchetto. He sure wants you to.

Giacchetto was convicted on various counts of fraud about five years ago for stealing money from celebrities, as well as people who invested their life savings with him.

Some of his better-known victims included Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and the rock group Phish.

Giacchetto wanted to be as famous as his clients, and to do that he lied to everyone about anything. He faked his educational background, as well as his employment history. He had no credentials to be handling millions of dollars, but managed to pull off the charade for a short time.

He was eventually — and notoriously — sent to jail in early 2001. He was sentenced to 57 months but got a year shaved off by claiming he had a drug problem.

Giacchetto still desires fame, or to somehow be equal to the stars whom he pillaged. (It's a wonder he hasn't appeared yet on "The Surreal Life.")

Now the felonious fake financier is putting his crimes to music. Tonight his rock band, sadly named Waterworld and formed by Giacchetto in 1986, is supposed to play at Joe's Pub in the Public Theater in New York City.

Giacchetto, who cannot sing, convinced his band mates to let him be lead singer. An MP3 of their hideous song, "Privilege," can be found without too much effort on the Web.

It's pretty clear that Leo, Cameron and the others will not show up. Neither will Michael Ovitz, who once called Giacchetto his "life counselor."

Maybe some of his less well-known victims will come by. Some of them spoke at Giacchetto's sentencing, although the defendant was not particularly moved by the tales of woe he created.

As part of his sentence, Giacchetto was ordered to pay about $14 million in restitution to those he fleeced. At $10 a ticket to see Waterworld, that may take some time.

Also, keep in mind that the federal judge ruled at the time that Giacchetto was barred from ever handling other people's money again. Hopefully someone else in the band will collect the fee from Joe's Pub and distribute it before Dana gets his hands on it.

'King Kong:' More Popular in a Foreign Language

Peter Jackson's "King Kong" continues to struggle in the U.S. Despite the fact that Monday was the biggest cumulative movie-going day in ages, "Kong" still had trouble at the box office. It held on to the No. 1 slot with one paw, and dangled precariously from the top of the charts.

So far in the U.S., "Kong" has dragged in about $120 million worth of patrons.

But abroad, "Kong" has turned out to be much more popular. To date, the overseas total is more than $150 million and rising fast. According to, it is doing well in the United Kingdom, France and Mexico.

"Kong" has hit pay dirt in surprising places, too. South Korea loves it, handing the big lug $7 million. Singapore, Russia and the Philippines are also "Kong" crazy. But in the United Arab Emirates, where Michael Jackson could be treating kids to screenings, the response has so far been lukewarm.

On the other hand, Steven Spielberg's controversial "Munich" debuted in the Top 10 despite being in limited release, according to, taking in over $4 million in 532 theaters.

"Munich," this columnist can only remind you, is the most important movie of the year. Its politics are going to be debated everywhere and by everyone involved: Jews, Palestinians, politicians and partisans.

But at least it will be debated. "Munich," unlike some other films playing right now, is actually about something that needs to be discussed.

And what of "Brokeback Mountain"? The gay cowboy movie is still doing well in very limited release — 217 theaters — but off from its original gangbusters opening in sympathetic neighborhoods.

After three lackluster days, Focus Features is estimating that "BM" did a little over $1 million on Monday. Hard numbers won't be in until later today.

Golden Globes: Ballots Arrive

The 85 or so voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — who are neither foreign nor press in many cases — will receive their final ballots today for their annual awards fest. The show airs on January 16th from the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Contrary to popular perception, the Globes are not necessarily a predictor of the Oscars. In fact, they can often damage a candidate's prospects for an Academy Award.

That's because the Academy, sensing that the Globe members are not always qualified to make proper decisions, will react by choosing other winners to show their independence and sophistication. I know HPFA president Phil Berk is trying to change this perception, but it may take more than a year.

The Screen Actors Guild Awards are a better barometer of the Oscars, since all the actors who vote in the Academy are in SAG as well. Keep an eye on those nominations, which will be announced Jan. 5, to see who's really in the running. The SAG Awards ceremony is Jan. 29.

If the Globes go big time for "Brokeback Mountain," as some have suggested, that could be the death knell for this film. Last year, "Sideways" was in the same situation. By the time it got to Oscar ballots, the wine-country parable had burnt out its welcome with overkill.

Globe voters probably don't read this column, but here are my suggestions. Remember, they have two lead actor and actress categories, one supporting actor/actress category, plus two Best Picture categories.

Best Actor (Drama): Philip Seymour Hoffman, for "Capote"

Best Actor (Comedy/Musical): Joaquin Phoenix, for "Walk the Line"

Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney, for "Syriana"

Best Actress (Drama): Felicity Huffman, for "Transamerica"

Best Actress (Comedy/Musical): Reese Witherspoon, for "Walk the Line"

Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams, for "Brokeback Mountain"

Williams, in my opinion, gives the best performance in "Brokeback," understated and natural. She also enunciates well, which, in a movie mostly mumbled, is key to success.

Best Picture (Drama): George Clooney's "Good Night, and Good Luck"

Because "Munich" didn't make it into the final group of dramas, "GN, GL" may be considered the "serious" film of 2005.

Best Picture (Comedy/Musical): Jim Mangold's "Walk the Line"

Best Director: Peter Jackson, for "King Kong"

Best Screenplay: "Munich," by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth

Again, if "Brokeback" sweeps the Globes and wins Best Picture (Drama), Actor (Heath Ledger), Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams), Director (Ang Lee) and screenplay, that could be curtains for the rodeo romance and set the stage for a "Munich" march on the Oscars.

Sad Note

Over the weekend, the great character actor Vincent Schiavelli passed away much too young at age 57. The cause was lung cancer. I knew him slightly and always enjoyed running into him at premieres and award shows.

Not a household name but a very well-known screen presence, Schiavelli had memorable performances in "Ghost" (as one of the ghouls who chased Patrick Swayze through the subway), "Tomorrow Never Dies," "The People vs. Larry Flynt" and many more.

In the mid-'80s, when he was married to "Moonlighting" star Allyce Beasley (Miss DiPesto), Schiavelli was on TV almost constantly in shows such as "Miami Vice," "Cagney and Lacey," "Matlock," "Remington Steele" and "Taxi."

A genial, extra-nice guy, he will be sorely missed.