Madonna Sings About Kabbalah Founder

Madonna | David Gest | Jackie Wilson

Madonna's New Song About Kabbalah Founder

Madonna likes to think of herself as being on the cutting edge, so she probably thinks a song called "Isaac" on her new album, about the founder of modern Kabbalah, is just the ticket.

But Isaac Luria (1534-72), a messianic figure, was already the subject of a clever "X-Files" episode from 1997 called "Kaddish."

Madonna used to sing her sensational lyrics while gyrating around in rubber. But she's a religious woman now.

This new song, from "Confessions on a Dance Floor," is a paean to Luria. The 16th-century religious leader is suddenly hip, I guess.

Of course, the old Madonna — the one with a sense of humor — could have covered "When Messiah Comes," the witty Sheldon Harnick song cut from "Fiddler on the Roof."

"Isaac" (I guess we should be glad it's not called "Ike") also includes a spoken-word interlude from a member of the London Kabbalah Center named Yitzhak Sinwani.

I don't know if this constitutes a duet, but Madonna rarely has other performers on her records. They could qualify in next year's Grammys under Best Performance, Duo or Group.

Madonna, you may recall, visited Luria's grave when she was in Israel last year. The Detroit-born Catholic, like many others, wanted to pay homage to the developer of this mystical element of Judaism.

Of course, nothing about rock stars embracing religion is new. George Harrison promoted Hare Krishna, Bob Dylan has been both a devout Jew and a born-again Christian and John Lennon wrote a couple of songs about Jesus.

For Madonna, though, Kabbalah continues to take on more and more importance.

Whether her fans will agree is another thing. The pop star is coming off her worst-selling album ever, the 2003 debacle "American Life."

Liza's Ex Is Back, Believe It or Not

David Gest has risen again. He's baaaack.

Believe it or not, the onetime Mr. Liza Minnelli and former confidant of Michael Jackson, the man with the waxed eyebrows, collection of Shirley Temple memorabilia and an out-of-business charity, is staging a comeback in Los Angeles.

Apparently, the alleged beating he took from Minnelli hasn't slowed him down one bit.

Gest — who was said to have proposed to octogenarian soap star Ruth Warrick in her later years — will produce something called "The Party" at Merv Griffin's Beverly Hilton on Oct. 17.

The evening, according to the frightening invitation, is to be hosted by actress Angie Dickinson and Nancy Wilson (the jazz singer, not the one from Heart). Twenty "legendary performers" are scheduled to put on a show, although none is specified.

Liza is presumably not one of them, and neither is Gest's old stalwart Gregory Peck, who died two years ago. Surely not attending either will be Stephanie Powers, who had the good sense to end her association with Gest years ago.

But many old-time Hollywood players — not "playas" — will no doubt be in attendance.

As Dominick Dunne exclaimed to me at Liza and David's nursing-home-like wedding reception a couple of years ago, "[So and so] is still alive?!"

A silent auction will take place benefiting a 1-year-old Cleveland, Ohio-based charity called "Partners for Potential." Its mission is "to help bright urban youth," according to its Web site.

Gest is evidently involved with the charity. The Web site says he's hosting an auction at a fundraiser for the group in Cleveland on Oct. 28.

(Composers of the songs "Hey There Lonely Girl" and "Garden Party," as well as their music-licensing firms, are probably unaware that the original recordings of them — by Eddie Holman and Rick Nelson, respectively — are running without permission on the group's site.)

Gest has also apparently launched a new firm called Extreme Entertainment Enterprises. Both events seem somehow tied to Cleveland entrepreneur Ed Davidson and wife, Tonja, a soap-opera actress currently playing a defense attorney on the low-rated daytime drama "Passions."

On the invitation, Gest claims as sponsors for his Oct. 17 event "American Airlines/American Eagle, Drexel Chemical, Global Dining Inc., Gonpachi of Beverly Hills, La Boheme, Monsoon and Tsunami Books."

This, of course, is meant to be confusing. Global Dining is a company that owns Gonpachi, La Boheme and Monsoon. But that's vintage Gest: turning one into four. What Tsunami Books, an imprint at Penguin, has to do with all this is unclear

Apparently no one told any of these sponsors that Gest's last not-for-profit organization, American Cinema Awards, is gone.

But when it was in business, Gest used the name of late studio chief Leo Jaffe as its president for years until he was caught by this column and

The last federal tax filing for the American Cinema Awards Foundation, in 2002, shows a total revenue of $429 and expenses totaling $31,319.

Of those expenses, $13,000 went to "storage costs."

For several years, Gest would also pay himself from the tax-free funds. In 1998 and 2000, he listed $25,000 paid to David Gest & Associates. In 1999, a better year, he took $190,000.

That year Gest donated $100,000 to the Whitney Houston Foundation. That's also out of business.

The Oct. 17 event will be notable for some other announcements as well.

It's when Gest will announce two forthcoming events he's producing early next year: a 45th-[career]-anniversary special for Dionne Warwick, and an 85th birthday salute to Howard Hughes' famous ex, bra model and muse Jane Russell, who still performs weekly at a club in Los Olivos, Calif., near Neverland.

All that's missing, of course, is Neverland's absent owner, Michael Jackson, longtime pal of Gest and a fellow plastic-surgery fan. Stay tuned.

Jackie Wilson: 30 Years, No Answers

If you don't know who Jackie Wilson was, you've heard his voice on the radio and his songs on commercials a thousand times.

"(Your Love Keeps Me Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" was the biggest of his many hits, which also included "Lonely Teardrops," "Reet Petite," "Doggin' Around," "To Be Loved" and my favorite, "I'll Be Satisfied."

He was nicknamed "Mr. Excitement," and there's never been another performer like him.

On Sept. 29, 1975, Jackie collapsed onstage while headlining a Dick Clark oldies show at the Latin Casino near Cherry Hill, N.J. He was 41.

Fourteen years earlier, he'd cheated death after being shot by an angry girlfriend.

But this was too much. He lay in a coma until June 1976. Even though he awakened, his life was over.

Jackie spent nearly eight years hospitalized and unable to speak. He died in 1984, the subject of much controversy concerning his medical care.

Coincidentally, or maybe not, Jackie's manager, Nat Tarnopol, was the subject of a grand jury investigation looking into fraud and corruption at that very moment 90 miles away in Newark.

Jackie collapsed the day before he had been scheduled to be interviewed by U.S. attorneys investigating the case.

In 1976, Tarnopol, who owned Brunswick Records, was acquitted of 38 counts of mail and wire fraud, but convicted of one count of conspiracy. Eventually even that was thrown out by an appeals court.

Jackie's inability to testify against his former manager certainly helped Tarnopol escape prison and punishment. (He'd ripped off lots of other artists, including the Chi-Lites.)

If Jackie had gotten a chance to testify, he could have told the grand jury a great story I read in Fredric Dannen's book, "Hit Men."

Tarnopol was so good at exploiting and ripping off Jackie that he'd listed the writer of "Doggin' Around" as his own son, Paul — who had not yet been born.

People close to Jackie have told me a story which sounds a lot like one told about Luther Vandross in his final months.

They say that Jackie got improper medical care, and that his life in recuperation could have been a lot better. (Contrary to popular belief, he had a heart attack after the collapse.)

I was thinking about Jackie recently when Luther's tribute record came in. There's only one lasting memorial to Jackie in pop music, Van Morrison's "Jackie Wilson Said." Dexy's Midnight Runners even covered it.

I doubt a lot of people who hear it now know who Wilson was. His fans, friends and family, though, will never forget him.