Yesterday's news reports about Michael Jackson's unearthed personal belongings were long on innuendo and short on fact. They'd also been reported earlier in People and The National Enquirer, but that's another story.
Much has been made of some kind of secret club Jackson may have had called the "Rubbaheads," which had typed rules and regulations.
A note to other Rubbaheads was found in the Jackson family storage bin purchased by a man in New Jersey. There's an implication that because Jackson called some boys "Rubbas," it connotes any number of unseemly things.
So I asked one of the boys, now grown, about the alleged Rubbahead Club of 10 years ago, when all this happened. He says when he heard about all this a few weeks ago and again yesterday, he was stymied.
"First of all, there was no Rubbahead Club. Rubba was a name Emmanuel Lewis, who played Webster, came up with," he explained. "Everyone called everyone Rubba. It didn't mean anything. What we did have was the Applehead Club, and that was from 'The Three Stooges.' Everyone was an Applehead because Michael loved 'The Three Stooges.'"
This was 10 years ago, when a number of well-known 13-year-old boys were coming and going from Neverland. They included Macaulay Culkin, Wade Robson, Lewis, the young man I spoke with and the young man from the Jackson case 10 years ago.
"It's nothing sexual," my source continued. "Michael even called one of the younger kids Baby Rubba. It didn't mean anything."
So what about the typed list of rules found in the storage bin? They included requiring members to be "idiots and act crazy at all times"; be vegetarians who fast on Sundays and avoid drugs; watch two episodes of "The Three Stooges" daily; know the Peter Pan story by heart; and when seeing another member, "give the peace sign, and then half of it."
In fact, insists my source, "there were no rules at Neverland. The whole thing was about not having rules and having a good time. It was all from Peter Pan. There was no club, no initiation, and I never heard of a 'club kit' or anything else."
What's clear about all this is that, when witnesses are called in the Jackson trial next winter, many things will be left to interpretation. What may seem prurient to the public on first impression may turn out to be completely innocent. It will be up to Jackson's lawyers to help a jury understand that.
Ironically, there was a serious misinterpretation in yesterday's reports about the meaning of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called "The Children's Hour." In the poem, the narrator addresses three little girls, not little boys, which was the impression given in the reports.
I say "ironically" because a play called "The Children's Hour" by Lillian Hellman, inspired by the poem, was about two female teachers whose lives are ruined because of unfounded gossip that they are secretly lovers.
The big question from Saturday night's premiere of "Raising Helen" is not why Garry Marshall made it or why Disney released it, but why the Tribeca Film Festival chose it for its opening night.
If this is what this festival, born from the 9/11 tragedy and designed to bolster commerce near the World Trade Center, is about, then it's going to get the nickname "Anti-Sundance."
Tribeca, a neighborhood that's supposed to be hip, felt more like Scarsdale by the time "Raising Helen" stuttered to its clichéd conclusion.
Kate Hudson — ever-charming, and able to rise above the junk around her — plays Helen, a young woman whose much older sister (Felicity Huffman) and brother-in-law die in a car crash.
Instead of leaving the care of her kids to her married, mom-of-the-year older other sister (Joan Cusack), the deceased mom has chosen single, underemployed Helen to do the job. It makes no sense and, when it's supposedly explained later, makes even less sense.
Despite Hudson's enormous gifts, it is kind of weird to see her cast as a contemporary to actors like Cusack (the mom-sister) and John Corbett (playing Pastor Dan, the Sam Shepherd-veterinarian role from "Baby Boom"), who are a generation older.
Also, Cusack's flat Chicago accent seems more pronounced than ever, even though Cusack's character is supposedly a New Yorker. Couldn't figure that one out at all!
The result is a hodgepodge of movies we've seen before and done to better effect: the aforementioned "Baby Boom," "Overboard" (which starred Hudson's mom Goldie Hawn) and a whole raft of Lifetime movies and Afterschool Specials.
Helen even works for Cruella De Vil (played by Helen Mirren), who fires her simply for taking on the kids, then re-hires her the minute the kids are gone.
It's an open-package-and-add-water kind of formula movie that only really cynical, hack Hollywood types could possibly think is worthwhile. It's certainly not the kind of "downtown" moviemaking I thought the Tribeca Film Festival was interested in using as its emblem.
I can't imagine what the lure for the TFF was: either Disney underwriting money for a gigantic rat snarl of a party that followed at the Winter Garden, or the publicity from having Hudson and Hawn show up — which I can't even help with since I didn't see either one of them.
In fact, the whole opening night was kind of a weird, dreary experience in which the only famous people spotted were the lovely Indian actress Sakina Jaffrey, who's the comic highlight in "Helen," plus New York actors Esai Morales and Jeffrey Wright, and, and ... Well, all the other stars must have been hiding.
(Jaffrey, by the way, is the daughter of the equally terrific writer/actress Madhur Jaffrey, who just opened on Broadway in "Bombay Dreams.")
The first half of Disney's year has been a disaster, and "Raising Helen" will only add to the fear and loathing in the world of Mickey Mouse.
Will the second half be better? There are a couple of releases out there like "Around the World in 80 Days" — which Disney didn't make, but bought — plus another Marshall movie, "Princess Diaries 2" and Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic."
Could there be a Nemo-like success? Sure, why not. But waiting, as Tom Petty put it so well, is the hardest part.
Brad Pitt partied over the weekend at the new, hot Maritime Hotel and at Bungalow 8. Lots of girls, lots of fun, but no Jennifer Aniston. Pitt will open in "Troy" soon, in which, I have heard, Orlando Bloom steals the show two sandals at a time. ...
Today at 4 p.m. at the Tribeca Film Festival: the premiere of "Elaine Stritch at Liberty" by D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus and Nick Doob. The never-at-a-loss-for-words Stritch will likely be there. The HBO film has enormous buzz. ...
Robert Altman is the guest of honor Wednesday night at the opening of the refurbished Avon Theatre in Stamford, Conn. The Avon is showing a new print of "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" on one screen and "The Company" on another. ...
It was great to see Tamara Tunie, one of our favorite New York actresses, who put in a visit to "Fox and Friends" on Saturday morning. ...
Here's the second part of the story about new pop singer Ricky Fante and his "appropriated" songs. He and songwriter Jon Tiven have settled their dispute over a song credited to Fante, Jesse Harris and Virgin Records' Josh Deutsch on Fante's debut album. Tiven cut a 75/25 deal with this gang since they stole the title and music from his song "It's Not Easy." Tiven's co-writer, the legendary Wicked Wilson Pickett, is holding out for cash, I am told. The Fante group also settled on a 60/40 deal with famed songwriter Dan Penn over another purloined tune. My advice: when Fante's album comes out, everyone had better listen to it closely. ...
This column is off tomorrow. That makes one Jacko-free day. See you on Wednesday, May 5!