Hugh Jackman Makes Magic in NYC | Jacko’s Dad Wants Back in Good Graces | J. Fred Muggs Rolls in Grave; Krallin’ to the USA; Poliwood

Hugh Jackman Makes Magic in NYC

It looks like Hugh Jackman is going to be hanging around New York for a while — at least until "Wolverine" opens on May 1st.

Jackman, wife Deborah Lee Furness and a couple of friends made a surprise visit last night to Graydon Carter’s glittering new restaurant-in-progress, the Monkey Bar, which is only having taste tests right now for "friends and family." The East 54th St. hotspot won’t be ready for public consumption until May.

The Jackmans are getting around, though. On Sunday they attended the Broadway opening of "God of Carnage" with Deborah’s mom, but bolted at the play’s conclusion rather than face the paparazzi.

"We couldn't take that," Jackman told a friend at dinner.

Besides Wolverine, Jackman has a couple of films in development. But what he’s really in New York for, as I reported last November, is rehearsal of his Harry Houdini musical set for 2010. Hugh is hard at work learning Houdini’s magic tricks, I am told, many that will be reproduced faithfully eight times a week on stage.

The Houdini musical may make it hard for Jackman to host next year’s Academy Awards — even though his stint revived the Oscar-cast enormously. Can anyone say, "Billy Crystal"?

Whatever he’s doing involving chains, water tanks, or straitjackets, Jackman looks no worse for the wear. Wherever he goes, women go into a dead faint, and swoon all about like teenagers at a Justin Timberlake concert!

Jacko's Dad Wants Back in Good Graces

Michael Jackson’s father, Joseph Jackson, is back.

Say it ain’t so: Joe Jackson is looking for an opportunity to get back in son Michael’s good graces now that the cosmetically changed pop star has sold out 50 shows or more in England.

Jackson senior, who by all accounts tortured Michael as a child, just doesn’t know when to quit. Yesterday an emissary of his contacted this column and indicated that Michael had accepted as a new manager one of Jackson’s cronies.

The word was that Michael had axed Tohme R. Tohme, the Lebanese American businessman who’d been acting as Jackson’s manager and go between with Colony Capital, the company that co-owns the Neverland Ranch with him.

In Tohme’s place, I was told that Michael had hired Leonard Rowe, the Atlanta based talent manager who once worked with R. Kelly — and was sued by him as well as investors in a Kelly tour. Last October, Kelly was awarded $3.4 million by an arbitrator in a dispute with Rowe over back pay from his "Double Up" tour. It’s doubtful that Kelly, who’s written and produced with Michael Jackson in the past, would recommend Rowe as a manager or adviser of any kind.

But this is what’s going on in the Jackson camp now that there are millions of dollars at stake again in his career. Just a whiff of green has alerted all the vultures in his life, beginning with Joseph Jackson. Last week, Jackson pere called this reporter, with Rowe on the line, to assert that he was going to "get these shows organized and help Michael" — even though Jackson’s concert dates in London have been legitimately and brilliantly put together by Randy Phillips of AEG Live.

The effort to install Rowe looks like it’s yet another attempt by Joseph Jackson to worm his way back into Michael’s finances. Years ago — to be exact, on September 6, 2001 — Jackson senior called a press conference the day before Michael was to set to do his first 30th anniversary show at Madison Square Garden. Jackson announced that day he was starting a film company to license Jackson Five videos. Michael didn’t know his father was calling a press conference or starting a business. In the end, nothing came of it except sad realizations about the Jacksons’ dysfunctional family.

J. Fred Muggs Rolls in Grave; Krallin' to the Usa; Poliwood;

J. Fred Muggs, the Today show chimp from the 1950s, must be rolling in his grave. NBC’s morning news champ continues to use clips and interviews from Radar.com, not explaining to its audience that Radar is simply the National Enquirer’s online service. It’s the Enquirer’s Trojan horse. While the Enquirer folks should be congratulated for their cleverness in re-branding, it still means that NBC News is depending on a supermarket tabloid for its reporting. Times have changed: J. Fred would have used the Enquirer to line his cage…

…Jazz sensation Diana Krall, aka Mrs. Elvis Costello, performs free next Tuesday in New York downtown at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center. She’s promoting her new album, called "Quiet Nights," from 1 p.m. for a half hour, with a 30 piece orchestra. Krall has just finished producing tracks for Barbra Streisand’s new album, too. She’s doing all of that and taking care of two year twin boys with dad Elvis. And, oh yeah she does Letterman on April 3rd . Talk about multi-tasking!...

Barry Levinson’s "Poli-wood," about celebrities and politics, gets a showing on May 1st at the Tribeca Film Festival. Levinson has been following around the members of the Creative Coalition, trying to show the effect of Hollywood on this last election and vice versa. Just to break it up, Levinson’s including footage from the great inaugural concert featuring Sam Moore, Sting, and Elvis Costello. Hopefully, PoliWood will be a sequel, loosely speaking, to Levinson’s brilliant and caustic "Wag the Dog"...