Al Malnik | Paul Newman | Oprah and Toni Morrison
No Good Turn Goes Unpunished
As a longtime supporter of Michael Jackson, both financially and in friendship, sources say that Al Malnik was startled to hear Thursday afternoon that he's been named by Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon as a co-conspirator in Jackson's case.
Named as a co-conspirator along with Malnik, a Miami lawyer and owner of The Forge restaurant in that city, was private detective Brad Miller.
Miller works for Jackson's previous defense attorney, Mark Geragos, and has been heard in court on a tape recording made with the Arvizo family — the family of Jackson's accuser — praising Jackson as a father figure.
The trouble is, Malnik — who briefly represented mobster Meyer Lansky 35 years ago — and Miller have never met or spoken to each other. They do not know each other. That's some conspiracy.
And while Miller could conceivably be related to the Jackson case through Geragos, Malnik has about as much connection to it as, say, Homer Simpson. He's never met or had any contact with anyone in the Arvizo family.
Jackson did stay at Malnik's home a few times in 2002 and 2003. The connection between those two is simple: Malnik is a close family friend of director Brett Ratner, who was reared in Miami.
Ratner met Jackson through Chris Tucker, star of Ratner's "Rush Hour" movies, who himself was introduced to Jackson by the accusing teenager.
When Malnik and Jackson met, the former offered the latter financial advice, I am told. He never took a dime for it. When Jackson needed help negotiating with Bank of America — which was taken over by the former NationsBank in 1998 — it was Malnik who interceded on his behalf.
Now Malnik, who does not give interviews (through his secretary, he declined to comment for this story) is said to be perplexed.
Frankly, this reporter is too. Sneddon seems to be so desperate to prove his conspiracy case that he's looking for more conspirators to bolster the hypothesis.
Miller, meanwhile, identifies himself on the famous audio tape as working for Geragos, not Jackson.
This tape has been played in court many times. The issue of whom Miller worked for has also been discussed ad infinitum.
Sneddon apparently has not been listening. The only conspiracy here seems to be one in which the jury is bored to death.
Paul Newman's Gold Mine
Paul Newman struck it rich last night.
Not for himself, mind you, but for his Hole in the Wall Camps, which benefit children with life-threatening diseases.
Over a thousand people paid $1,000 a ticket for a show at New York's Avery Fisher Hall and dinner afterward in a huge circus tent — all donations to a very worthy cause.
And what did they get? How about Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, the Emerson String Quartet and Heather Headley.
The latter — who brought along BMG Music chief Clive Davis — filled in for no-show Mary J. Blige, and it was just as well. It would have been hard to imagine anyone but Headley leading a gospel choir through a glorious version of "I Believe I Can Fly."
McCartney was the show's draw, no doubt about it, and he complied with stark versions of "Yesterday" and "Lady Madonna," accompanying himself on the second piece with a mean boogie-woogie piano.
His dates for the evening were a couple of nasty security personnel, plus his always charming forever brother-in-law and attorney, John Eastman, whose sister was the late and great Linda McCartney.
I asked McCartney, who had just announced a big U.S. tour for the fall, if he had a name yet for his new album.
"It's as yet untitled," he reported, and then went on to say that his year-and-a-half old daughter Beatrice was "amazing."
Bennett, perhaps never in better form, delivered twice as many numbers as McCartney, including a no-mike version of "Fly Me to the Moon." Bennett hit some notes he had no business even knowing at his age, which just shows you what the word "legend" means.
Of all the tables in the room, certainly the hottest was Roberts' table.
Even though hubby Danny Moder was AWOL, Julia had Mike Nichols (with whom she chatted most of the night), his wife Diane Sawyer, Marcia Gay Harden and husband Thaddeus Scheel, plus Revolution Films's Elaine Goldsmith Thomas and her husband, attorney Dan Thomas and publicist Marcy Engelman.
Not far away: Creative Artists Agency agents Kevin Huvane and Richard Lovett.
Sawyer did accept kudos for the ratings rise at "Good Morning America," by the way.
"I said I'd do six months and I stayed six years," she laughed. "Don't ever invite me for dinner!"
At the next table: Alec Baldwin with a beautiful woman. And elsewhere in the room, Robin Williams was accompanied by his great friend Peter Asher, the music exec who's helped turned Sanctuary Management and Records into a big player lately.
McCartney famously dated Asher's sister Jane Asher in the 1960s, and Asher — as one half of Peter and Gordon — had a hit with McCartney's "A World Without Love" in 1964. Now that song is one of the 251 Beatle songs caught in the tug of war between Michael Jackson and ... many others. Small world, this world without love!
Of course, Newman himself was there along with Joanne Woodward and their longtime pal and partner A.E. Hotchner. Did you know he's readying a musical called "Elaine's Domain" about Elaine Kaufman's famous eatery? The late Cy Coleman supplied the music.
And there was perhaps the first public (and brave) outing of NBC's Dick Ebersol and Susan Saint James since they lost their son, Teddy, in a plane crash last November.
Newman likes to stay out of the spotlight, but he did allow a roasting in a tape sent by David Letterman of a customized Top Ten list.
No. 1 on the list of things you don't know about Newman: something about taking a swing at Orville Redenbacher. Get it? Popcorn. Oh, you had to be there. My favorite: He thought "Hud" stood for "Housing and Urban Development."
But it was Robin Williams' night. At the party, he conducted a riotous auction of the usual trips and jewels. At the show, he held court without rehearsal or script, riffing away off the top of his hilariously gifted head.
He pretended to be President Bush auctioning off the government, which was a scream. He also touched on subjects such as Martha Stewart, the Pope ("Papal ... who need papal," he crooned), a possible 2012 Olympics in New York ("looking forward to synchronized bass fishing"), and of course, the royal family ("All that money — and no dental plan").
Oprah Learns How to Read
I had the pleasure of running into Toni Morrison, the great and mighty, at a literary event the other night at the Museum of Natural History hosted by Tina Brown and featuring an appearance by Salman Rushdie.
"Oprah loves you," I said. "I liked it when she had you on to explain 'Paradise' to her viewers."
Morrison said, "I love Oprah, but she always says 'I keep having to go back to figure out what happened.'"
Morrison takes a dramatic pause.
"I told her, that's what reading is all about."