Michael Jackson's financial situation is much more serious today than it's been recently, and that's saying a lot.
New to the picture, but maybe not new at all, is the appearance here in Santa Maria of Alabama grocery-chain owner Gregory Calhoun.
Calhoun, 50, arrived with the Rev. Jesse Jackson yesterday, as well as his son and a nephew.
He told me he was in town as a "consultant."
But Calhoun has a long history with the Jackson family. In 1993, he announced plans to build a chain of grocery stores with Michael's parents, Katherine Jackson and Joseph Jackson, in Georgia.
Calhoun is now considered by many around Jackson to be the source of his latest financial bailout.
The Alabama businessman is considered an amazing American success story, starting as a bag boy and working his way up to enormous wealth in a short time.
His Calhoun Enterprises has been cited by Essence magazine and other black publications, but Calhoun is still flying below the radar in the mainstream press.
Even if Calhoun has stepped in to help Jackson with the case, he may be too late.
This column has learned that by this Friday, Jackson must clear out two storage hangers at the Santa Monica Airport, where he keeps boxes of memorabilia and "a lot of junk," according to sources.
The reason for the deadline is that Jackson has failed to pay rent on the space for months.
Sources also say that this week, attorney Brian Wolf, of the powerhouse Los Angeles firm Lavely and Singer, sent a letter to Jackson advising him that if he doesn't pay his balance, the firm will stop representing him.
Wolf is still listed on Jackson's Web site as a member of the singer's "legal team," but that may not be the case for much longer. Lavely and Singer has gone to bat for Jackson in hundreds of matters over the years.
At the same time, I am told that Jackson recently sent a check to the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas in the amount of $500,000.
According to sources in Las Vegas, the Mirage was on the verge of filing suit against Jackson for bills he ran up in November 2003.
You may recall that Jackson was staying at the Mirage when Neverland was raided by police. He returned to the hotel after his arrest and, according to insiders, caused quite a bit of damage in his suites.
The $500,000 likely came out of a bridge loan of $2.2 million which Jackson recently received from a private lender.
All of these urgent financial matters are now coming to a head at Neverland, where employees were wondering today if the bi-weekly payroll would be met.
In recent weeks, payroll checks have been late by at least two days. Sources tell me that at least on one occasion, Neverland employees contacted the California Labor Relations board to see what remedies were available to them. They wound up staging at least two walkouts.
Michael Jackson has not made any provisions for his three children should he be carted off to jail.
Jackson, awaiting a jury verdict on 10 counts of child molestation and conspiracy, has not discussed the possibility that he could be convicted with anyone.
This news comes from several insider sources, as well as from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who says he's spent many hours talking to Michael Jackson about his situation.
With no Plan B, only the idea that he will be acquitted, Jackson risks leaving his three children — Prince, Paris and Blanket — in the lurch, with no guardians.
Jackson's parents, Katherine Jackson and Joseph Jackson, are not possible candidates to assume custody. Not only do they not live together, but the couple seems too old to look after three small children.
This was clearly demonstrated by Joseph Jackson on Tuesday, when he showed up at court looking disoriented and asking strangers, "Where is my son? I'm looking for my son."
According to insiders, Michael Jackson would not allow his parents to raise his children in any case, considering the abuse he allegedly suffered at his father's hands while his knowing mother looked the other way.
With Jackson's parents crossed off the list, that leaves two candidates.
The first would be the Cascio family in New Jersey. Frank Cascio, aka Frank Tyson, is one of the "unindicted co-conspirators" in the current Jackson case.
"[Michael] considers Frank's parents his family," a source of the New Jersey couple, who have five kids of their own, said.
The Cascios, I'm told, have not been asked by Jackson to take the kids, but would agree to if asked.
Only one problem: The Cascios' home is without a gate and unguarded. There would be security issues galore, considering the paparazzi would be on the family's street within hours.
That leaves Debbie Rowe, mother of Prince and Paris.
Since her parental rights were restored by family court recently, Rowe has been telling friends she would want the kids immediately if Jackson went to jail. Rowe is said to be open to taking Blanket as well, even though she is not his mother.
Rowe, whose custody case is stuck in Los Angeles Superior Court at the moment, is hell-bent on getting her kids back.
But why no back-up plan for Jackson if things go badly?
As one insider explains it: "Nine-year-olds do not think like that. He only wants to hear good news."
Another source added: "Michael really thinks that if he's convicted, there will be riots in the streets. He thinks somehow the power of his fame will overturn any conviction."
One thing you can count on: Whatever decision Jackson reaches if he goes to prison will most likely be vetoed by his family.
The Jacksons are not about to let Michael's kids be farmed out to strangers. Not when there's money to be exploited from them in the near future.