Michael Jackson | Tommy Mottola | Oscars

Jacko's Got Dubious Character Witnesses

So Michael Jackson, according to the New York Post, has sold his rebuttal video to Fox TV. It includes about five minutes of cobbled-together video of interviewer Martin Bashir kissing up to Jackson to get a better story. (Big surprise there!)

It also apparently includes testimony from Debbie Rowe, the mother of Jackson's two eldest children, endorsing Michael as a dad.

One problem: Rowe is not exactly an unbiased observer. This column reported last summer that Rowe gets regular payments from Jackson that are quite huge.

This information was discovered when Jackson's former business manager, Myung Ho Lee, sued him for $14 million. Included in the court papers was a monthly budget of Jackson's expenses. Among the ledger items was "payment to Debbie Rowe" of $1.5 million.

Is Debbie going to bite the hand that feeds her so well? It's highly unlikely. Rowe has already told British Granada TV that she didn't want children, that she gave Michael the kids as a gift, and prefers not to be called "mother."

Jackson said in his interview much the same thing, and noted that the kids think they don't have a mother.

So I'd be interested in knowing more about Rowe's mental state than Michael's at this point. What kind of person is a baby-for-money factory? Maybe we should be looking into that.

Jackson can release all the videos he wants at this point — it's not going to make much of a difference. The American public, having seen him hold hands with a 13-year-old boy, has read the complaint by 13-year-old from 1993. It has a graphic depiction of Michael seducing the boy. You can read the particulars at www.thesmokinggun.com.

On Monday I spoke to Larry Feldman, the lawyer who represented the boy's family and cut the $20 million deal with Jackson. Feldman's name is on the court papers, but he is adamant that he had nothing to do with their release.

"You can say that categorically we did not release the complaint," he said.

Is he angry about it?

"I don't want to categorize my emotions," he replied. Oh, lawyers!

Feldman, by the way, says he has not spoken to the family in years.

As for Michael, the consensus now is that his goose is cooked at all the major record labels. If he wants to release a record, he's going to have to do it with Opus Media, the medical ID company he formed a joint venture with last October (and reported here exclusively).

Otherwise, he's done at Sony Music and it's pretty certain that Universal Music Group won't touch him. The latter might have been a possibility before all this, but now that ship has sailed, according to my sources.

Tommy Mottola Surfaces

Meanwhile, former Sony CEO Tommy Mottola surfaced last night at the UJA dinner for record biz lawyer Joel Katz (see yesterday's column for Katz's back story).

Mottola, who was never much for showing at industry functions, turned up with his wife, Mexican soap star Thalia. He was described by those who spoke to him as "approachable" and not surrounded by his usual phalanx of bodyguards. Of course this is what happens when honchos are deposed. Suddenly they're very friendly.

Katz's dinner was notable for attracting a huge crowd of record-industry heavyweights, including the whole gang from moribund Virgin/EMI Records (Matt Serletic, Dave Munns) and about 30 of Katz's colleagues from the Atlanta law firm of Greenberg Traurig.

RCA/J Records impresario Clive Davis made a lovely and articulate speech about Katz from the floor. But the real showstopper was Lava/Atlantic's Jason Flom, who did so well as the night's Georgie Jessel that he may have a career doing Friars Roasts.

No one asked Mottola about all the Michael Jackson news, but even more intriguing is how he feels about his ex, Mariah Carey, doing so well in her current incarnation.

Carey is managing to sell copies of her Charmbracelet album despite a bad industry recession right now. And guess what? A duet she recorded with Busta Rhymes, called "I Know What You Want," is turning into a hit after months of hiding out on Busta's latest album.

Mariah is also photographed in a men's mag this month looking foxier than ever. Her new video is said to be a jab back at Sony and Mottola. The girl is resilient, that's for sure.

As for Mottola, he's reactivated his Champion Management company, which was his before he took the reins at Sony 14 years ago. The question is: Did Champion really ever disappear, or was it waiting there all along? Some say the latter, since the Champion name was still registered to Mottola with an office address on East 55th St. in New York.

For years, Champion's biggest client was Mariah Carey, but recently — operating as Randy Hoffman Management — the company was down to about five clients. Mottola will have to sign some big names now to restart the office and make it into a power again.

Oscar Nominees: Head-Scratchers

Is it possible that Academy voters got confused between About Schmidt and About a Boy when they were picking Best Adapted Screenplay nominees?

It seems they must have, since the former seemed a shoo-in and the latter a, well, dark horse. How odd that Alexander Payne's deft script didn't get a nomination. Seems like a chad problem here.

Then there is the crime of what happened to Dennis Quaid. He was the early favorite to lock in a nomination as the repressed gay husband in Far From Heaven. Everything pointed to him winning in the end.

Now he has no nomination. Something weird happened with Far From Heaven, which we'll never figure out. Same for Antwone Fisher. Those movies just didn't catch fire with the Academy.

Finally, Pedro Almodovar managed to overcome not being Spain's entry with Talk to Her. He got a Best Director nomination and a screenplay nomination too.

This is the result of persistent work from Sony Pictures Classics' Michael Barker and Tom Bernard. From the beginning they weren't willing to take 'no' for an answer on Pedro.

Their positive thinking paid off. Almodovar has now reached a status few foreign directors ever attain. He can write his own ticket in Hollywood. Trouble is, he doesn't want to. His next movie will be shot in Spain with his usual actors.