Jacko: Rowe Didn't Spill; Burkle Out
Debbie Rowe did not tell an Irish newspaper that Michael Jackson isn’t the biological father of her children. Her friends tell me she has no idea why such a story suddenly spilled out. Rowe, I’m told, is recovering from the flu and, friends say, is pretty sure it’s not jet lag from traveling to Ireland.
In fact, friends say, it doesn’t even make sense, since Rowe could get millions for an official interview about her kids. “Why would she give a free interview to a small paper in Ireland?” they ask.
Rowe thinks the story may be a result of Jackson’s anti-Semitic comments that were broadcast last week, combined with the fact that Rowe converted from Catholicism to Judaism, making Prince and Paris Jewish.
“The other irony is that most of Jackson’s lawyers and accountants are Jewish,” says an insider. “I wonder what they think of all this.”
There’s been no progress so far in Rowe’s custody case despite erroneous reports of many different arrangements.
Jackson, however, has his own problems. Aside from a barrage of expensive lawsuits, a dwindling cash situation and a never-released charity single, the former pop star was recently kicked to the curb by his financial angel, multi-millionaire Ron Burkle, the grocery store chain mogul and Democratic Party fundraiser.
Burkle, currently said to be traveling abroad with former president Bill Clinton, stepped in last June and tried to untangle Jackson’s money messes. I’m told that after four months he’s decided to call it quits, and has ceded operations back to Michael’s brother Randy and the Prince of Bahrain.
Jackson had thought Burkle would cover his soon to expire $270 million worth of loans, and help him retain his 50 percent ownership of Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
But Burkle would not do that, and I’m told whatever money he loaned to Jackson has been recovered or replaced, perhaps by the prince.
The one thing Burkle is said to have accomplished during his short run was settle a lawsuit filed by videographer Hamid Moslehi. Presumably, such a settlement would include Moslehi turning over footage from the “rebuttal video” he filed with the Arvizo family in February 2003, the making of which was the painstakingly wrong thesis developed by the prosecutors in their botched child molestation case against Jackson.
And that brings us to this latest news from Santa Maria. Jackson, British tabloids say, is being investigated by failed Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon for either drug abuse or drug trafficking.
As someone who spent four months in a courtroom this year with Jackson and Sneddon, I can tell you that this seems like sour grapes. Whatever Jackson’s drug problems are, this comes off as Sneddon trying to save face after costing the city of Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County millions to promote his own agenda.
Sneddon says now that investigators found cocaine on the clothes they took from Neverland in their original search. That was two years ago. If Sneddon had a case then, he should have brought it. To do it now reeks of the small-minded thinking that got him in the hot water he’s in today.
The funniest part of this new Sneddon ploy is the idea that Jackson could somehow be flying illegal drugs from Los Angeles to Bahrain.
First of all, Jackson doesn’t have the money to do that. Second, maybe Sneddon is unaware that Jackson, if he needed to, could get any drugs he wanted right where he is.
It’s hard to believe the people of Santa Maria and of Santa Barbara County are still permitting Sneddon to spend their money on a personal vendetta. If I were a voter and taxpayer there, I’d be outraged.
David H. Brooks, the man who laid out $10 million for his daughter's bat mitzvah celebration, has been under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission since last year.
Brooks gained notoriety in the last couple of weeks when it was revealed he had hired Aerosmith, the Eagles, Stevie Nicks, 50 Cent, Ciara, Kenny G and Tom Petty to play at a party for his 13-year-old daughter this past weekend. Brooks took over the two floors of the Rainbow Room for the event, installing hi-tech sound and light equipment.
Many of the acts are managed by Irving Azoff and Howard Kaufman's powerful Los Angeles firm. But what reports of the lavish, over-the-top and some might say completely inappropriate party was who Brooks was, or what trouble he's been in. It's a lot.
He's under a major SEC investigation, as I will report in a moment. That's not all.
His company, DHB, as reported, is a defense contractor that makes bullet-proof vests for the Army. But what published stories did not report was that DHB is now and has been the subject of several class-action suits stemming from, among other things, a government recall of those bullet-proof vests.
In May, the Marine Corps recalled 5,277 combat vests made by a DHB's subsidiary issued to troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Djibouti because of concerns that they failed a test to determine whether they could stop a bullet.
This occurred six months after DHB announced a $100 million contract with the Defense Department on Dec. 23, 2004. The contract, Brooks said at the time, could be worth as much as $500 million.
Coincidentally, Brooks and the insiders at his company sold off about $200 million worth of DHB stock between Nov. 29 and Dec. 29, 2004. Brooks, according to publicly available filings, sold about $186 million himself, not counting another $50 million in sales that had already been planned.
This seems curious to the outsider's eye. Today, DHB sells around $4 a share on the AMEX. Recently, DHB Industries reported it lost $41.7 million in the third quarter of 2005, the result of special charges, stock compensation and research and development costs.
But things were a lot different one year ago today. In fall 2004, the stock began a sudden climb out of the $11-$12 range toward a high of $20. That's where it was on Dec. 23, the same day as the press release announcing the $100 million contract. Brooks and co. had already begun a huge sell off a few days earlier culminating in an even bigger one on Dec. 27.
That's how he was able to bring in Aerosmith and friends for his daughter's party.
Ironically, though, the SEC investigation into DHB had already commenced before that. The company acknowledges being investigated at first for "certain related party transactions between the Company and affiliates of Mr. David H. Brooks (the Company's Chief Executive Officer)."
But they acknowledge that since then, the investigation has widened to matters relating to the Company's reporting and treatment of executive compensation (primarily relating to Brooks).
The SEC investigation also comes from investors learning that Brooks purchased parts for his products made by a company owned by his wife.
Meanwhile, Brooks has also been looking to become the Denise Rich of the Republican party. A quick check of political donations this year shows that Brooks contributed $25,000 this past June to the National Republican Senate Committee.
A spokesman for Brooks, Manuel Rubio, said the company did not comment on their stock price. As for the party, Rubio told me, "I prefer country music."
I finally got a chance to see Rob Marshall’s gorgeous 'Memoirs of a Geisha' last night. There’s been a lot of talk about the film as an awards contender. There’s also been a lot of static about Marshall using Chinese actors to play Japanese characters. I’m not going to address that here.
Marshall has made a very beautiful, often stunning film that takes a while to find itself. I much preferred the second hour to the first, when there’s a lot of action leading up to the ending.
The first hour was bogged down a lot by a lot of dialogue among the various female characters. In other words: chick flick.
Marshall is helped enormously by once again using cinematographer Dion Beebe, who was Oscar nominated for "Chicago." Beebe and film editor Pietro Scalia help Marshall realize many outstanding moments, including one scene that involves snow, and another one in which a red scarf in the water leads to a whole dramatic tableau.
The acting is all excellent, and Ziyi Zhang — the beauty who made such an impression in last year’s "House of Flying Daggers" — will get an Oscar nomination. She’ll be up against the four “locks”: Judi Dench ("Mrs. Henderson Presents"), Felicity Huffman ("Transamerica"), Charlize Theron ("North Country") and Reese Witherspoon ("Walk the Line") and either Diane Keaton ("The Family Stone"), Gwyneth Paltrow ("Proof") or Renee Zellweger ("Cinderella Man").
Michelle Yeoh, my personal favorite (she was the star of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") also rocks. I think we could see her in the supporting category with Finoula Flanagan ("Transamerica"), Catherine Keener ("Capote"), Frances McDormand ("North Country") and possibly Thandie Newton (from "Crash").
But Sony has its work cut out for it, no matter how much the Gang of 12 at the National Board of Review push for "Geisha." The story is slow. Women are the main characters, there is no sex, no real violence and nary a decent explosion. Just, as Elvis Costello would sing, all this useless beauty.