Jacko's Defense: Was His Signature Forged?

Michael Jackson | Liv Tyler

Jacko's Defense: Was His Signature Forged?

So what does Michael Jackson say about the $13 million lawsuit filed by former business manager Myung-Ho Lee?

He says in a sworn statement included in court papers that he never signed an agreement last September promising that he would pay Lee the money. His assistant says the same thing in another document and another affidavit, by a bodyguard, swears that Jackson was traveling on Sept. 14 and was not in Los Angeles at all.

Lee says that he and Jackson met in Los Angeles on Sept. 14 and that Michael signed a piece of paper admitting that he owed Lee nearly $14 million. No lawyers were present.

First, Jackson: "I specifically looked at the signature that appears at the end of this document above my typed name. This is not my signature. I did not sign this document and have never seen [it] until a few weeks ago. I would never knowingly sign a document that expressly required me to pay over $13 million to Mr. Lee or anyone else, alone in a room and without review and counsel by one or more of my attorneys."

If you remember, Jackson was in New York on the morning of Sept. 11, having just completed the second of his two anniversary concerts.

When he heard that the World Trade Center was under attack, Jackson and his posse are said to have rented a bus and high-tailed it out of New York. If they drove directly back, they could have been in Los Angeles by the 14th.

Zia Modabber, Jackson's litigator in this case, includes an affidavit sworn by former Los Angeles Country Sheriff Michael Laperruque, who states that he was with Jackson on Sept. 14 and that they were not in California.

There are some interesting facts revealed in the declarations to the court on Jackson's behalf. One of them is the statement by Frank Tyson, whom this reporter met about 18 months ago in New York with Jackson.

Tyson, who's sort of a Tom Cruise type, has functioned lately as Jackson's assistant. He is often said to be his godson.

In his statement, Tyson states: "I have known Mr. Jackson almost my entire life, and I am 21 years old. During just the past five years, I have seen Mr. Jackson sign his name, or seen his signature, no less than 100 times, and perhaps as many as 500 times, or more. The signature ... does not appear to be that of Mr. Jackson."

One might wonder why a teenage boy from New Jersey was present so often to witness a 40-year-old man who is not his relative signing so many checks from the time he was a sophomore in high school. Tyson, who swore to living in a suburban New Jersey town, could not be reached.

More interesting, perhaps, is the story of how Michael borrowed the initial $140 million which he backed with his 50 percent ownership of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, aka the Beatles catalog.

According to statements included in Jackson's opposition papers, a meeting took place in attorney John Branca's suite at the swanky Waldorf Towers in New York. (This is the five-star annex to the not nearly as nice Waldorf Astoria.)

Branca met with, among others, Jane Heller, Jackson's banker from Bank of America/NationsBank since 1993. Heller is the same banker who told this column back on April 19: "I've kept [Michael] alive for 20 years. And it's not that the advice he gets is bad. It's him. He's his own worst enemy."

Heller does confirm in her new statement what this column reported back in April. "I participated in and supervised perhaps as many as five financing transactions with Mr. Jackson."

What she fails to add is that each one dug his financial hole deeper — until it was so deep he couldn't get out of it.

Even if Myung-Ho Lee's so-called signed document doesn't stand up to legal scrutiny, nowhere in Jackson's opposition papers are Lee's other assertions disputed. Jackson does not refute any of the numbers included in the many budgets and lists of accounts payable that were included in Lee's filing.

One entry in those budgets that I left out was something marked "Lennon/McCartney Royalties." Apparently Michael has been borrowing money from the Beatles catalog and still had $360,000 to pay back in October 2000.

I'm sure Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono will be thrilled to hear they are now Jackson's personal revolving credit line.

Liv Tyler Will Get a New Stepfather

From the more mundane world: Lord of the Rings' Liv Tyler is about to get a new stepdad.

Her mom, best-selling author Bebe Buell, is about to tie the knot with rocker Jim Wallerstein up in the great state of Maine. Wallerstein and his band Vacationland recently won a Boston Phoenix Music Poll award for best group and best song. They're about to sign with a major label.

Buell's candid book, Rebel Heart, has just come out in paperback and is causing the same stir as it did in hardcover last year. Some people have taken Buell to task over her decoding of former lover Elvis Costello's lyrics and artwork as messages to her.

But I have to say a couple of things about Costello's recent brilliant work piqued my interest as well.

On the cover of his new album, called When I Was Cruel, there are bumblebees sitting side by side. Isn't this supposed to "read" as Bee Bee? I mean, what else could that picture conceivably mean? Also, the most biting song on the album is called "Episode of Blonde." Costello's wife and former wife are brunettes.

Of all the references, though, my favorite is on a song called "The Long Division," off Costello's Burt Bacharach album. On this track Costello liberally samples a whole chunk of Todd Rundgren's "Can We Still Be Friends?" — a song Rundgren wrote for Buell. The pair lived together for 6 years before she took off with Costello.

Rebel Heart is very refreshing, and a great summer read. You'll learn more than you needed to know about all the great English rockers like Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, David Bowie, and Rod Stewart. Of course the best anecdotes are about Jack Nicholson. But you'll have to read the book to get those.

As for Liv, I am told she and her talented rocker fiancée, Royston Langdon, will be in attendance for the August nuptials. Langdon recently announced that he's put his underrated band, Spacehog, on hiatus, to pursue some solo work.

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