A lawsuit filed yesterday afternoon against Michael Jackson claims he squandered money on Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and his own mother, among others.
I told you several weeks ago that Marc Schaffel, Jackson's videographer and business partner from 2000 to 2003, was owed millions of dollars by the singer.
For a while Schaffel was receiving regular payments, but Michael's brother Randy put a stop to that and forced Schaffel's hand.
Now Schaffel has sued Michael for $3 million. His lawsuit details a lot of Jackson's financial dealings.
Schaffel confirms, for example, a story broken in this column last year that Michael gave Marlon Brando $1 million to appear at his 30th anniversary concert back on Sept. 7, 2001, at Madison Square Garden.
Brando told Jackson he was broke — which, of course, was a lie borne out by Brando's will. The corpulent Oscar winner was worth millions, as it turned out.
I also told FOX News viewers that Michael regularly gave Elizabeth Taylor expensive gifts even when he couldn't afford them. In March 2003, Jackson ponied up a $600,000 necklace for Liz so she'd sign a release and allow herself to be in Michael's home videos broadcast on television.
In both cases, and in many others, Schaffel says Jackson borrowed the money from him because he was either too scared to ask his accountants or simply didn't have the funds readily available.
In one case, Schaffel says Michael borrowed $250,000 for his mother Katherine Jackson, who demanded a fee essentially for appearing on another show about her son.
Schaffel's lawsuit, which has been in the works for some time, details Jackson's peculiar ways of dealing with money.
Not named directly in the suit is a Beverly Hills firm called Royalty Advance Funding. I reported in this column in July 2001 that Jackson had borrowed huge sums from the firm's owner, Parviz Omidvar, against his own songwriting catalogue, which contains songs like "Billie Jean" and "Beat It."
Schaffel says in his suit that he loaned Michael $170,000 so Jackson could pay the interest on a $2 million loan drawn upon a $10 million line of credit that Schaffel had arranged with a third party.
The third party would be Omidvar, who had to lend Jackson the money so he could pay for a diamond-encrusted watch he "borrowed" from Beverly Hills jeweler David Orgell and tried to return in poor condition.
The loans, lines of credit and extravagant gifts are only part of Schaffel's suit.
He also chronicles Jackson's wild spending habits, claiming that he loaned the pop star amounts from $50,000 to $100,000 so that Jackson could go shopping in various locations.
Schaffel also claims that he laid out hundreds of thousands of dollars after Neverland was raided by police in November 2003. Jackson decided to stay in Las Vegas rather than return home. Schaffel says he paid those bills.
Of course, what Schaffel doesn't say is that his enormous income was earned largely from making adult movies. Nevertheless, that doesn't negate his claims, if he's telling the truth. And from what I'm told by Jackson's financial insiders, most of Schaffel's claims are documented and accurate. At one point, he thought he'd reached a settlement with Jackson's inner circle, only to have that agreement trashed by Randy Jackson.
In other Jackson news: Fan club organizer Deborah Dannelly called to complain about comments I made on "At Large With Geraldo Rivera" last Saturday night.
I said that the anti-Eminem rally staged by Jackson fans in front of MTV was a ploy to get publicity for Michael's newly released $50 box set of CDs.
Dannelly insists that the fans put together the rally and that it had nothing to do with selling albums. But timing is everything, and Jackson knows better than most how to get attention when he needs it.
Don't believe the industry talk that Sir Howard Stringer is leaving America for his British homeland. He's staying put right here in New York.
Rumors have been swirling that Stringer was thinking of resigning his post as CEO of Sony America and returning to London to be with his family. But at the premiere of the bewildering "Christmas With the Kranks," he said he has no such intentions.
"Someone must want my job," he said. "But it's not true. I do go back and forth. My wife is a doctor in London. But no, I'm having too good a time. And I have to still have to close the purchase of MGM."
I did ask Stringer, the rare media heavyweight who is liked by one and all, how his merger of the Sony and BMG music companies was going.
"There hasn't been too much bloodshed?" I asked.
"Well, none that we've seen. But I'm sure there was some," he shot back.
Eminem must be wondering where all his fans have gone.
The rapper, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, will have the No. 1 album this week when all the counting is completed. But those numbers are quite different than they were two years ago.
"The Eminem Show," released May 26, 2002, indeed sold 1.3 million copies its first week out and went on to sell a total of almost 10 million. But my, how times have changed.
"Encore," Eminem's latest, probably moved 737,000 copies at most. That's a great number for most artists, but is a little sketchy for a recording artist who was riding high until recently.
Eminem may have turned off a lot of his old fans with anti-Bush rhetoric and a highly inflammable video to accompany that message. He also didn't do himself any favors parodying Michael Jackson on the subject of child molestation.
Someone should have told Mathers that when "Saturday Night Live" cartoonist Robert Smigel did a short animated film about Jackson as a molester, it was shown once and only once and will probably never be seen again.
A whole music video, intended for repeated viewings, is probably overkill.
Of course, Eminem's defenders will rush in saying that "Encore" was only on sale starting last Friday and thus missed three purchase days. (Most albums are released on Tuesday.) But I don't think that was a huge factor. The weekend would have told the story for "Encore" one way or another.
I do think a lot of his credibility was lost when he, like Ashlee Simpson the week before, got caught lip-synching on "Saturday Night Live." The "Real Slim Shady" didn't seem too genuine after that.
What is ABC going to do about Star Jones? The New York Post's "Page Six" reports today that "The View" co-host melted down on yesterday's show and berated her fellow hosts for misbehaving at her wildly garish, over-the-top Saturday-night wedding. Jones, "Page Six" points out, is now on a free trip to Dubai after having corporate sponsors pay for the wedding itself. The Post and others have accused Jones of plugging those sponsors on her show.
An elected New York City politician was spotted yesterday using her city-owned limo and chauffeur to stop at a florist's shop. The elected one was dressed down — not for business at high levels — and the limo was double-parked.
Mariah Carey's manager, Benny Medina, tells me he's leaving the management game for good. Aside from Mariah, he will have no more personal clients, but will produce TV shows. Two weeks ago, Ricky Martin fired Medina, who has lost several others in the last year. But Benny says it's all part of his master plan. In the meantime, Martin has hired Madonna's ex-manager, Caresse Henry, who fired the Kabbalah Girl after 13 years in shackles.