Which is weirder, dear reader? The fact that Michael Jackson is now being managed by a man whose other client is an animated frog? Or that the notebooks kept by one of his former jurors was purchased on eBay by one of Jacko’s unindicted co-conspirators? I mean, you decide, OK?
First the manager: The King of Pop is now being handled by Guy Holmes. His record label is called Gut Records. His other acts are Chungking, Uniting Nations and — believe it or not — Sparks, the cult brother act from the '70s that sold no records then, had no following, and I had forgotten existed at all until I saw their name on the Gut Records Web site.
But what Holmes is really famous for is a ring tone called "Crazy Frog." Now look, this is serious: I am not kidding. Holmes, who may be a very nice fellow, is described in a press release from Jackson and Prince Abdullah of Bahrain as a “music mogul.” I guess things are different in England.
The other business: Alternate juror Jeffrey Welbaum went ahead and sold his notebooks from the child molestation trial on eBay as planned, even after his wife told me he was going to take them down. Welbaum’s mother-in-law, I told you yesterday, was a maid at Neverland during the time the alleged incidents occurred, but he was allowed on the jury anyway. His mother-in-law, now deceased, was on the defense witness list.
Anyway, the winner on eBay of the notebooks was Vincent Amen, the 26-year-old unindicted co-conspirator prosecutors tried to prove held the Arvizo family against their will at Jackson’s request.
He paid $2,550 for the set of Welbaum’s writings. Amen received immunity from the prosecution, if you recall, and then they couldn’t put him on the stand because he corroborated all of the defense theories.
But that’s what the District Attorney’s office in Santa Barbara was like: inept. Maybe that’s why I hear that Gary Dunlop, a lawyer whom D.A. Tom Sneddon once unsuccessfully prosecuted, is now running for the job of district attorney. His platform may well be to make sure no jurors and witnesses are related, and maybe to interview witnesses before they take the stand so he knows what they’re going to say.
As for "Crazy Frog," he will have to be a write-in candidate.
Here’s something only Max Bialystock, the hero of Mel Brooks’ "The Producers," could come up with if he were planning a new Broadway disaster: “Let’s take many of the creative people who made the children’s musical fable "Beauty and the Beast" into a hit, and let’s have them turn Anne Rice’s homoerotic 'Interview With the Vampire' into a musical of its own.”
Well, that’s exactly what many of the people from "Beauty and the Beast" have done. The result, called "Lestat," is in previews; I saw it last night. It is hilariously bad. I don’t mean just awful, I mean, like, "How in the world this thing is playing to audiences is a complete and utter mystery" bad.
And to add to the disaster, because the songs are written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, "Lestat" — and I’m guilty of it myself — is going to be known as an “Elton John musical.”
Almost nothing can prepare you for "Lestat." For one thing, imagine Gaston from "Beauty and the Beast" — pompous, puffy-chested and baritone-voiced — transformed into a vampire, for not much reason at all. Then think of him falling not for pretty Belle, but alternately for many handsome young men and his own mother as well.
Imagine Gaston — albeit one with fangs — approaching a bed where a young man sleeps innocently and belting out a number about his imminently being “taken.” The lead actor Hugh Panaro does this with such erotic ferocity you’re a little nervous about how far he’s going to go.
If you’re thinking “Yikes!” then you’re on the right path.
Of course, the hugely campy and gay part of "Lestat," especially in the first act, is only countered by a lovely subplot of suggested incest between the vampire and his mom. You’ve got to hear and see their scenes together, professing eternal love and cooing like blood-drenched love pigeons. Creepy? Oh yes, and even more so since Lestat and his mother each sport Michael Bolton’s famous long locks for hairdos.
“Lestat” would at least have something to recommend it if the sets were dazzling. But the designer seems to have had about 10 cents to work with: Most of the sets look they were made from leftovers from Kate’s Paperie.
In the second act, set in New Orleans, the vampires appear to be living in the foyer of the Ziegfeld Theater. The only difference is that popping out of the center of a circular red velvet-flocked divan is inexplicably a large, phallic arm topped by a hand. Is it waving? What does it mean? (I think “stop,” but that’s subjective).
Reading the notes in Playbill was some help, indeed. It seems that "Lestat" was supposed to be based on the first three of 10 (there were 10???) of Anne Rice’s vampire novels. Then the playwright scrapped the third book and reversed the order of the first two. This means that the second act is a Readers Digest-condensed version of what you may know as "Interview With the Vampire."
The first act, which feels like it has no beginning, is from "The Vampire Lestat." The two pieces don’t mesh. The seams that connect them are more obvious than bite marks.
My favorite moment: when Claudia, the child “adopted” by Lestat and Louis (and played in the movie by a young Kirsten Dunst), is literally burned at the stake. The actress is so convincingly vile as a 40-year-old in the body of a 10-year-old that you can only hope she will reprise the moment for “Scary Movie 5.”
And then there’s the music. Somehow, Elton and Bernie have managed to write an entire show without any songs. Maybe they’ve left them for another show, or a new album. But there are no songs in "Lestat," just lots and lots of words — unfathomably multi-syllabic, hard to sing or rhyme words that are jammed into well-constructed unmelodic ruminations.
I always thought Elton John dreamt in “hooks.” But "Lestat" is not a show from which you leave whistling anything, except for a taxi.
Broadway is about to have a very weird couple of weeks leading up to the Tony deadline. Some shows, like "The Drowsy Chaperone" and "The Threepenny Opera," are warmly anticipated. Others are not. So far, “Jersey Boys” looks like far and away the winner of the year — and deservedly so. And it does seem that "Grey Gardens," which opened off-Broadway, is the big story of the spring, even if it’s not eligible for the Tony awards.
Los Angeles industry players are taking note of some interesting shifts in the sand out there vis a vis the ongoing Anthony Pellicano case.
To wit: Is it a coincidence that two similar stories appeared within days of each other out there, one in "The Daily Law Journal" and the other in the "Los Angeles Times"? What they had in common: the notion that law firm of Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, et al., and principal partner Charles Sheppard were off the hook, so to speak, with the government.
What they also had in common, say my West Coast tea leaf readers: the unspoken nod that Bert Fields is being separated from his firm in the press by the firm’s own spokesman, Brian Sun.
You see, each story left Fields — still unarrested, unindicted, simply investigated and very much voicing his innocence — hanging in the wind as Greenberg Glusker moves on.
Sun, I am told, was the purveyor of both stories, and is planning more to come.
Fields — who’s represented everyone from Tom Cruise to Michael Jackson to Sylvester Stallone — surely cannot be happy if the reasoning is correct, and he’s being sacrificed for the good of the company.
But then again, the firm has already lost 10 attorneys, thanks to Howard Weitzman’s recent exit to start a new shop.
Unlike the recent Page Six contretemps right here in our backyard, the Pellicano case is not going away anytime soon. Some scandals are tempests in teapots. But the Pellicano story continues to be a major blight on a company town, and its victims are still not entirely known.
Chick Corea’s final show Sunday night at the Blue Note was a spectacular display of fine musicianship. The magnificent keyboard player appeared with all-star bassist Eddie Gomez and percussive genius Airto Moreira, and they were simply sublime. Flora Purim, who sang with Corea on his classic "Return to Forever" album, joined them for an encore. Full disclosure: Eddie is my neighbor, so when he invited me to drop by and hear a little jazz, I was very cool about it. Oy vey! Everyone should have such a talented neighbor. The trio’s next gig is May 2-7 at the Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. Stand at the bar if you must, but don’t miss it…
”Al Franken: God Spoke” has already sold out its shows at the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival. The Chris Hegedus-Nick Doob documentary chronicles Franken’s metamorphosis from comic to politician. Distributors are begging to see it before the fest. This should be a campus box-office hit come fall…
Finally: Diane Sawyer’s interview last Friday with Tom Cruise was, I thought, very strange and a tad scary. From Tom’s receiving of a “spontaneous” Blackberry message from Katie Holmes, to his renaming her “Kate,” to the freaky news that “you can be Catholic and a Scientologist or Jewish and a Scientologist, but we’re just Scientologists” — given that until one year ago Holmes was a practicing Catholic — all of it was incredibly unsettling…