Michael Jackson is returning to Miami's South Beach this week with his huge entourage and a running meter on skyrocketing expenses.
He's told friends that he wants to buy a house in Miami and will be starting to hunt for one on this trip. But sellers beware: My sources say that unless Jackson can find a mansion that doesn't require a down payment, he's in no financial shape to pull this project off.
"He just doesn't have the money for this," my sources said.
That doesn't mean Jackson is broke. In fact, he is spending money so rapidly that he still may have no awareness of his situation.
For one thing, he has not returned to live at his Neverland Valley Ranch since it was raided by police last November. The annual cost of running Neverland — even with Jackson not present — is around $3 million, or $250,000 a month.
Since Jackson left the ranch, he's divided his time between hotels and a rented mansion in Beverly Hills. The mansion cost $700,000 from January to July of this year, but Jackson didn't stay only there. He spends between $4,000 and $5,000 a day — that's right, per diem — when he's on the road and living in hotels.
"And that's not counting his crazy purchases for shlocky stuff in casino gift shops," the insider observes. Last month, Jackson — who prefers hot climes — showed up in Houston and went shopping in a mall for no apparent reason.
For the last several weeks Jackson — who claimed to be part of the Santa Barbara community after his April indictment for child molestation — divided his time between South Beach's Mandarin Oriental and Loews hotels. It's believed he's returning to the former this week.
That's with three kids, a couple of nannies and assorted friends and associates, including brother Randy, who now advises him, and members of the Nation of Islam who guard him.
The best suite at the Mandarin, with ocean and bay views, goes for about $2,500 a night during the summer.
In Miami, Jackson will work on cutting tracks for some kind of album, including leftover songs he did with the Bee Gees' Barry Gibb — recorded in January 2003 — and a duet with Lenny Kravitz. None of those recordings were included on the Jackson box set, which will be released at the end of this month.
As for the move to Miami: Jackson would do well to live in Florida, a "homestead" state where personal property is exempt from court judgments. But in order to have the money for such a purchase, he would have to sell Neverland. And, despite rumors to the contrary, Jackson has not placed the sprawling estate, zoo and carnival on the real-estate market as of yet.
Connect these dots if you will: Michele Lee, the longtime star of TV's "Knots Landing" (she played upright Karen Fairgate McKenzie for 14 seasons), has a nephew in the rock 'n' roll business. His name is Ryan Dusick, and you kids out there know him as drummer, singer and songwriter for Maroon 5.
The group — on Clive Davis's J Records — is so hot that now they have a live version of their multi-platinum album, "Songs for Jane," on the charts.
Last weekend, Michele, not to be outdone, starred as Auntie Mame in a one-off version of the Jerry Herman musical at the Hollywood Bowl. Before "Knots Landing," you know, Michele starred on Broadway in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and "Seesaw."
"Mame" so Bowl-ed over Herman (he also wrote "Hello, Dolly!") that the show may come to Broadway, which would be fine with Michele. She was in the original company of "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" a couple of seasons ago.
Whoever brings Michele to Broadway in a musical first will have a sure-fire Tony nominee, that's certain. I still think that someone out there on the Great White Way should adapt the movie, "Chocolat," as a musical, with Michele in the Juliette Binoche role. In the meantime, maybe she can do guest vocals for Maroon 5.
(This rocker-from-a-famous-family thing is contagious, you know. Francis Ford Coppola's nephew is in the group Rooney.)
Michael Mann's "Collateral" replaced M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" as the No. 1 movie this weekend. But "The Village" is falling apart fast — too fast.
This weekend, the drop-off from last weekend for "The Village" was $50 million vs. $15 million. Yikes! During the week, the Disney film lost air like a helium balloon that someone untied. You could hear it whooshing all over the place. Not nice.
What makes this particularly vexing for Disney is that "The Village" is currently on the most number of screens than any other current film: 3,700. But its per-screen average is the same as "The Bourne Supremacy," which is on 400 fewer screens.
That should mean a vast reduction in screens this coming Friday. We'll have to wait and see on Tuesday what "The Village" drop-off is on Monday night.
The only movie really doing worse, of course, is "Catwoman," a film that's clawed its way to the bottom. The Halle Berry starrer is a financial disaster of a magnitude that must have Warner Bros. in a frenzy. (The awful New York premiere must have been an omen.)
"Catwoman" has a $135 million price tag. So far, though, it's taken in only $36 million domestically and about $1.5 million overseas.
Luckily, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" was such a monster hit ($722 million worldwide, including U.S.) that the studio can hide the "Catwoman" loss somewhere in the cat litter. But upcoming fall releases, like "The Polar Express" (with Tom Hanks), and "Alexander" (Oliver Stone-Colin Farrell), had better do the trick.