The mother of the 12-year-old boy who has accused Michael Jackson of child molestation has claimed that she was forced to participate in a video extolling the singer's virtues. The video was made on Feb. 19, 2003, and sold to FOX as a rebuttal to the Martin Bashir interview that aired on ABC 10 days earlier.
But wait: It turns out that far from being forced to do anything, the mother and all three of her children signed releases agreeing to participate in the video project. And, according to my sources, not only did they sign the releases, but the mother re-wrote the standard boilerplate wording she received from Jackson's staff. The result was a shorter document that actually gave her no more rights than the original piece of paper.
I've seen the releases, dated Feb. 19, 2003, and I can tell you they will be put into evidence when the State of California v. Michael Joseph Jackson goes to trial on Jan. 31, 2005. They will be just four of many other pieces of paper the Jackson defense is waiting to spring on Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon.
Ironically, on the witness stand recently during pre-trial hearings, the mother's then-fiancé, U.S. Army Major Jay Jackson, conceded that he'd asked the video producers what they were going "to do for this little family." But I'm told that he became so bored during the actual video shoot that he left, and the mother — wanting to put her kids in the video with an eye toward making them famous — took over.
Part of the indictment against Jackson includes a charge of conspiracy as well, founded on grand jury testimony from the mother that she was held against her will by Jackson's employees. At one point, she claimed that Jackson was sending her and her family to Brazil to get rid of them.
But I've also seen paperwork indicating the mother was so happy to go on the Brazil vacation that she made the Jackson team buy her a new set of luggage. "She wanted red Kiplinger suitcases," a source told me yesterday. "She gave a description of what she wanted and she got them."
The mother also ran up bills for her own shopping and for manicures and pedicures — "hardly something someone gets when they're kidnapped," an insider said with a chuckle. The bills are currently in the hands of the prosecutor's office as the result of raids on Jackson papers last winter and spring.
Meantime, a certain bad mix of egos may be causing trouble on Jackson's legal team. I've heard that lead criminal defense attorney Thomas Mesereau is not getting along with longtime Jackson criminal attorney Steve Cochran. The result could be the departure of Mesereau before Jackson's trial begins. Who could replace him? I've said it since the day this case first materialized last November: Miami's Roy Black is the answer for Jackson.
I just finished reading Ann Louise Bardach's report in Los Angeles Magazine about California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. You may wonder why the supermarket tabloids have done a "180" on Arnold and stopped publishing exposés about his personal life. Bardach answers all questions in Taming the Hydra-Headed Carnivorous Beast.
The story is fascinating. According to Bardach, what's happened is that American Media, Inc., the company that owns the National Enquirer, Star and Globe, has become "the press organ of Arnold Schwarzenegger." That's because AMI recently bought Weider Publications — the fitness magazines — and put the new governor on the payroll to promote them. Schwarzenegger has long been a friend of fitness publisher Joe Weider as well as an investor, according to Bardach.
Bardach reports that Schwarzenegger will receive $1.25 million over the next five years, which he will donate to the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness. He is also due to receive $250,000 a year in annual salary from AMI. And, of course, the biggest perk of all: He'll be the only celebrity with positive spin in the tabs.
You've probably heard by now that famous rock singer Cat Stevens — now known as Yusuf Islam — was deported back to London after trying to enter the U.S. this week. He was brought to Bangor, Maine, after his London-to-Washington, D.C., flight was diverted to that airport.
So it really is a "Wild World" after all for Cat, who abandoned the pop music world 20 years ago to become a Muslim. Years ago he got into a lot of trouble for seeming to support the "fatwa" leveled against author Salman Rushdie after his novel "The Satanic Verses" came out.
But more recently Cat Stevens came to his senses. He denounced the Sept. 11 attacks and the Russian school massacre. If anything, Islam/Stevens isn't as much of a national security threat as he is a potential new listing on the Forbes celebrity chart: He's made plans with a Broadway producer for a show based on his many hits. Last May he entered the U.S. without trouble to promote some re-releases of his old music and videos. The DVD became an instant hit. Stevens was coming back to the States, I am told, for commercial purposes. He comes in peace, like most others in the music business, for a piece … of the action.
Interestingly, Stevens/Islam recently brought a charitable foundation to the U.S. that he'd already started in Great Britain. Called Small Kindness, the charity is endorsed by the United Nations. It's designed to help children suffering in Kosovo, Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania. Its website is one of the most specific I've ever seen, showing exactly where the money is going and what it's being used for.
This is in stark contrast to some other tax-exempt groups being touted by contemporary pop singers. Even Madonna is starting to wonder where all her Kabbalah money has gone, according to reports.