Former self-described Neverland Ranch "major domo" Philip LeMarque told a lot of tall tales on the witness stand last week.
On Friday, LeMarque pretended he was above selling stories about his former employer's alleged acts of child molestation to the tabloids.
LeMarque, who worked for Michael Jackson, along with his wife Stella LeMarque, for 10 months in 1990 and 1991, testified that he had only once tried to peddle a story about his ex-boss and Macaulay Culkin. That would have been in 1993, and to the National Enquirer.
In truth, LeMarque's relationship with the scurrilous rag dated back two years earlier to 1991, when the couple first tried to sell a Jackson story to the Enquirer. LeMarque didn't tell the jury that little tidbit on Friday.
LeMarque also failed to mention that in October 1991, he had taken money from the Enquirer to sneak its reporters on to the Neverland property for Elizabeth Taylor's wedding to her last husband, Larry Fortensky.
He also left out an important element of his failed bid to sell the Enquirer his Jackson-Culkin story in 1993.
On the stand, LeMarque testified that he dropped the idea altogether when it didn't look as if he would get his asking price of $500,000.
In fact, LeMarque and his lawyer, Arnold Kessler — whom LeMarque described on the stand as his "friend" and not his actual rep — were demanding the Enquirer indemnify them against future lawsuits from Jackson, because the LeMarques were breaking the confidentiality agreement they had signed upon taking employment at Neverland.
The paper refused, and thus the deal ended.
The whole story of the 1991 and 1993 negotiations is included on eye-opening tape recordings made in secret by late Enquirer reporter Jim Mitteager.
He bequeathed the tapes to investigator Paul Barresi, who spent a year and a half transcribing and editing them. The hundreds of hours of recordings describe the Enquirer's unsavory tactics dealing with sources, subjects and the police.
What Barresi found, among other things, is that the Enquirer routinely turned over its notes to police after it was done with them.
The tabloid was thus able to avoid lawsuits by claiming it got its information from police sources. This was a clever tactic, but the complete opposite of what actually happened.
Barresi's findings clearly show that Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon may be basing much of his "mini-trial" of prior allegations of child molestation by Jackson on National Enquirer reporting from the early 1990s.
But listening to Barresi and Mitteager's tapes reveals the dark side of the tabloid's inner workings.
While Mitteager may have performed a historically important service by making the tapes, he comes across on them as desperate to get anyone to say anything incriminating about Jackson.
Alas, after years of dangling huge sums in front of potential sources, Mitteager and the Enquirer were never able to come up with anything substantial.
The tapes paint quite a different account of the story LeMarque told to jurors and the court on Friday. They show that Enquirer editors thought of the LeMarques as hustlers who would go to the highest bidder with any story.
When LeMarque was asked, during cross-examination by defense attorney Tom Mesereau, why he didn't take his tale of Jackson molesting Culkin to the police instead of going straight to the tabloids, LeMarque replied that nobody would have believed him.
Barresi, an expert on the "underbelly" of this world, laughed at this statement.
"Every single witness testifying against Michael Jackson claims they did not call the cops because nobody, with the exception of tabloid reporters flashing big bucks, would ever believe them," he said.
Barresi says LeMarque didn't go to the police because he had already been to the Enquirer with the same story in 1991, when he and his wife were dismissed from Neverland.
On Aug. 26, 1993, Mitteager is heard telling The Globe's John Bell: "[Tony] Brennor [also of The Globe] did an interview two years ago. He can't find the tape. The sources are gone. They were two former housekeepers, saying that he [Jackson] was fondling kids all the time ... saying that he abused kids ... He was trying to cut a deal and it blew up somehow."
Mitteager says to Bell at another point in the conversation: "[Globe reporter] Mike Carrigan had this story years before, but it went belly-up because it was so legally dicey."
Barresi plays an integral role in the story of the tabloids, the LeMarques and Mitteager's tapes. He tells me that he met and dated Stella LeMarque, then surnamed "Marcroft," before she married Philip LeMarque.
Stella LeMarque knew Barresi worked with the tabloids and came to him a few years later to ask if he could help broker their sale of the Jackson story. Barresi says he did not discover that the LeMarques had already tried this in 1991 until years later, when he heard Mitteager discussing it on the tapes.
More light is shed on the LeMarques' 1991 attempt to cash in on Jackson from the conversation Mitteager taped of himself and Enquirer editor Robert Taylor on Aug. 31, 1993.
Mitteager says to Taylor: "They are also aware that you sit down and write contracts and sometimes don't publish the article. They know that too, you know what I mean? Because that's what happened to them last time."
Enquirer contracts at the time were worded in such a way that sources like the LeMarques were not guaranteed payment unless their stories checked out. And even then, the paper was not required to pay until the issue with the relevant story was off the shelves.
According to a source, snitches were often shocked to find the great amounts of money they were promised were not guaranteed.
What Barresi is sure of is that in October 1991, the LeMarques, freshly dismissed from Neverland, offered to sneak the Enquirer on to the property for the Taylor-Fortensky wedding.
"They were wined and dined by the Enquirer and loved it," Barresi says. "They really carried on and said they knew a way the paper could sneak people on to the ranch. They were paid by the paper in advance, but at the last minute they backed out."
The LeMarques, Barresi says, didn't mention anything in 1991 about Culkin. That part of the story only surfaced in 1993, after Jackson's unrelated child-molestation civil suit surfaced.
But then, the story had Jackson's hands remaining on the outside of Culkin's shorts. As the potential for higher payment increased, the hand went inside the shorts, Barresi said.
At the very exclusive Giorgio's Italian restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif., on Saturday night: Candice Bergen dining with "Murphy Brown" creator Diane English. Were they discussing their old show's successful revival on Nick at Nite?
Jeremy Irons was also at Giorgio, eating with publicist Sally Fischer and three other ladies. Irons is in town working with director David Lynch, who's writing a new screenplay for him. Don't know if this is the film in which Lynch will feature the music of Julia Fordham, but I sure hope so.
And yes, that was Jacqueline Bisset, looking fantastic (as usual) at the opening of Veronique Vial's photo show at Glu Gallery.
Seeing the two stars of "Rich and Famous" in one night was almost worth being on the Left Coast!
Tomorrow, Mariah Carey performs live in Times Square for a morning news show. The occasion is the release of her new album, "The Emancipation of Mimi."
Remember, I told you several weeks ago that this album would be a hit, and Mariah would be back — if not on top, then close to it.
The truth is that Mariah's going to have more than a couple of hit singles from this album, including "It's Like That," "We Belong Together" and "Say Something," which features Snoop Dogg.
So while we'll be on top of all the fun gossipy stuff, the truth is: Mariah's going to outdo Jennifer Lopez this time around. That's sweet vindication.