Janet and Justin: Together Again

Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake | Woody Allen | DMX | Ex-Playmate's Ex

Janet and Justin Duet in the Works

It looks like Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake may have to face the music once more. That's because they've recorded some kind of duet for Quincy Jones' next album, according to my sources, a project that's said to include everything from bebop to hip-hop.

The album, which is still coming together and tentatively titled "MoPoFo," will feature remixes of some great Jones songs by the likes of Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent. But Janet and Justin are said to have been working on a duet before their "wardrobe malfunction" scandal during the Super Bowl. Janet recently received the Quincy Jones Award at the Soul Train Awards.

Jones, meantime, was one of the special awardees himself last night at the taping of NBC's "Apollo Theater 70th Anniversary" show, which will air in June. His "date" for the night was his Bel Air neighbor, Joe Francis, the 30-year-old producer of "Girls Gone Wild."

Other celebrities who crowded into the Apollo for this special occasion included Denzel Washington, Bob Dylan, Ashanti, Willie Nelson, Blair Underwood, Angie Stone, Vivica A. Fox, Anthony Hamilton, Chuck Jackson, Shirley Caesar and Natalie Cole. I'll give you a whole rundown tomorrow of who said what to whom. Suffice it to say for now that executive producers Suzanne DePasse, Don Mischer and the Apollo's Nicole Bernard put together one heck of a great show that featured Dylan and his band performing Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." Surreal.

And P.S.: Even later last night, Denzel, DePasse, Al Sharpton and Kerzner Resorts' Jerry Inzerillo all had a late-night snack at Cipriani Downtown, then hit the new private party room to help popular "Rush Hour" director Brett Ratner celebrate a thirty-something birthday in style.

New Play for Fall Season

Woody Allen will direct a play he's written this fall Off, Off Broadway.

Woody told me on Thursday night, during the intermission for the Broadway premiere of  "Twentieth Century," that he liked putting on a pair of one-act plays so much last year that he's returning to the scene of the crime.

"A Second Hand Memory," which is either a rewrite of or an offshoot of an older Allen play, "The Floating Lightbulb," will come to the Atlantic Theatre Company on West 30th Street next fall, following in the footsteps of "Writers Block," which was a sold-out hit at the small theater in May 2003.

"It's a serious play," Woody told me, with his wife, Soon Yi, nodding in assent. Believe it or not, it's been 12 years since Woody and Soon Yi were involved in a domestic scandal with Soon Yi's adoptive mother, Mia Farrow. They're still together, and have two adopted children. In the dozen years since the whole story made headlines worldwide, Allen has not seen his only biological child, now named Seamus, or the children he adopted with Farrow, Dylan and Moses.

Nevertheless, the pair looks ever so well and domesticated, and seem to have found a groove. Counting Louise Lasser, Diane Keaton and Farrow, this relationship for Allen is his longest.

His next movie, "Melinda and Melinda," also comes out this fall, starring Will Ferrell and Vinessa Shaw. Allen told me they're just wrapping up post-production, and readying the comedy — his first film under a new deal with Fox Searchlight — for release.

Rapper Holds Up Screening

DMX is a rapper whose real name is Earl Simmons. According to the IMDB.com database, he's the only artist ever to have his first four albums debut at No. 1 on Billboard. Maybe that's why he was so late to the premiere of his new movie, "Never Die Alone," last week. In fact, he was one hour and 15 to 20 minutes late. The audience had to sit in the Chelsea West theater and eat a lot of popcorn until DMX decided to join them. Then the lights went down.

The film's director, Ernest Dickerson, told me at the party afterward (which, since it was a movie featuring black actors, featured fried chicken and mac and cheese as the cuisine) that despite DMX's tardiness, he was planning to make his next movie with him. "It will be another Donald Goines novel," he said, referring to the author of "Never Die Alone," who indeed died alone in 1974 from a gunshot wound.

Dickerson is the talented cinematographer who worked on the first few Spike Lee movies, from "She Gotta Have It" through "Malcolm X." He knows difficult and quirky. God bless him. "Never Die Alone," which made $3 million this weekend in limited release, is remarkable for being stylish and low budget. It also features a real actor, Michael Ealy, who along with Derek Luke, Joy Bryant and some others, suggests a strong new generation of black actors. Ealy, his manager Vic Ramos says, is in some "big" new movie that's in the works, but it's "so big" he can't discuss it yet.

Ex-Playmate's Ex: Illegal Contributions

Yesterday's convoluted cover story in the New York Daily News was all about a former Playboy playmate, Bridget Marks, who says she's in danger of losing custody of her two kids to their father, St. Louis casino owner John Aylsworth, in a court battle in New York.

In a strange move, a not-for-profit agency called Lawyers for Children, which evaluated both parents, who were never married — the kids were the product of an extramarital affair — recommended the kids suddenly, at age 4, should go live in Malibu with Aylsworth and his wife.

Aylsworth, it was noted in the article, as owner of President Casinos, had defaulted on $100 million worth of bonds in 2000 out there in St. Louis.

What the Daily News didn't include: That Aylsworth and President Casinos, according to stories in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, were fined $107,000 by the Mississippi Gaming Commission for making $8,600 in illegal contributions to the re-election campaigns of St. Louis Mayor Clarence Harmon, his comptroller, and two aldermen — all Democrats — between September 1999 and August 2000. When the scandal broke in St. Louis, Harmon et al. lost their primary election and, consequently, became a one-term administration.

In exchange, Harmon lobbied the gaming commission to keep one of President Casino's competitors from opening a casino that might harm their business.

According to the Post-Dispatch, "the Gaming Commission voted to fine President $25,000 for the illegal contributions. It also fined President $82,000 for improper bookkeeping including improper check-cashing procedures, failure to properly log when cashiers began and stopped their work and not keeping proper track of jackpot payoffs."

The Gaming Commission's executive director also told the paper that President was the first casino in Missouri to be sanctioned for violating a law that bars campaign contributions to elected officials by casino operators.

But even the Post-Dispatch didn't catch the entirety of what was going on with Aylsworth and political donations.

This column has discovered, thanks to the Web site Opensecrets.org, that Aylsworth's outfit, President Casinos, donated another $14,000 in soft money over a six-week period from May 8 to June 27, 2000 to the Democratic National Committee Non-Federal accounts. Those funds could possibly have been distributed back to the Harmon campaign, or at the very least have been credited to Harmon's fund-raising abilities. (President Casinos also donated $2,000 in 1999 to the DNC Non-Federal account.) It's the only time in the last 14 years that President Casinos made political donations of any kind.

Meantime, back in New York, the advocacy group Lawyers for Children — which seemed, according to the Daily News, impressed enough by Aylsworth's lifestyle in Malibu to move Marks' children there — has its own problems. According to federal tax filings, the organization ran at a $108,000 deficit last year despite (or maybe because of) paying out over $2.5 million in salaries and compensation to its staffers.