'Miami Vice': Summer's Biggest Bust?

'Miami Vice': Summer's Biggest Bust? | Liza's Ex Has New Focus: '50s Pinup Jane Russell | Billy Preston Gets a Blue Casket

'Miami Vice': Summer's Biggest Bust?

The inside word on Michael Mann’s “Miami Vice” is that it’s a dud, and a major one at that.

The remake of the 1980s TV series cost $125 million, “and that’s what we’re admitting to,” says a source at Universal Pictures. “It’s probably more like $150 million.”

That doesn’t count advertising, promotion and carting the likes of Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell around with their entourages and expensive habits.

The only upside, according to insiders, is that “Miami Vice” doesn't use much in the way of special effects. “There are some explosions, but little ones,” says a source.

The bigger problem, I am told, is that the movie fails to captures the flavor of the TV series or even establish a new identity. No matter what Mann’s done so far in editing, sources tell me "Miami Vice" still comes across as a good-looking empty shell of a movie.

“Michael still has time to fix it, but not much,” says a source, noting the July 28 opening. “But he would have to pull off a miracle to make it work.”

“Look,” concludes another source, “we just didn’t have it this time.”

For Farrell, this isn’t the best of news. He’s yet to have an actual hit movie. His career is fast becoming better known for its real-life publicity — rehab, dating and fathering illegitimate children — than acting jobs. So far he’s got a stack of flops, including "The New World," "Alexander," "Ask the Dust" and "SWAT." Foxx, at least, has "Dreamgirls" — a throwback to his "Ray" success — coming at Christmas.

Liza's Ex Has New Focus: '50s Pinup Jane Russell

Ah, David Gest. The man with the painted-on eyebrows, who says Liza Minnelli beat both him and his bodyguard up. David Gest has problems. I'm sure you’re not surprised.

He’s also got two new focuses, now that Michael Jackson and Minnelli are part of his past. They are '50s pin-up and one-time Howard Hughes girlfriend Jane Russell, who turns 85 years old tomorrow, and Motown legend Smokey Robinson, who does not.

Last fall, Gest announced he was throwing Russell a huge Hollywood party. Presumably he’d invite her remaining contemporaries born in 1921 — Hal David, Cyd Charisse and Jake La Motta. But so far, nothing has happened.

Gest loves anniversaries and big numbers. His interest in Smokey is a concocted 50th anniversary in show biz. This would mean Smokey got started in 1956, even though no one had heard of him until about 1964.

This doesn’t matter to Gest. At a recent London event for Smokey, Gest — according to observers — introduced Russell as if she were Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn and Ruth Warrick all rolled into one.

“We were shocked,” said a guest of Gest, whose Smokey dinner at Grosvenor House featured many of his usual has-been types whom he drags around the globe as a kind of D-List entourage of elders.

Many of them were at his wedding to Minnelli, prompting Dominick Dunne to alight from our table at various intervals and exclaim, “You’ll never guess who’s alive!”

To which Liz Smith would retort, “Oh come, let me see!”

Robinson, whom I adore, and Russell, who still does a cabaret act in her hometown of Los Olivos, Calif. (near Neverland), should be wary of Gest’s interest in promoting them.

Earlier this year, he zoomed in on singer Dionne Warwick, and produced her 45th anniversary show in Los Angeles at the Kodak Theater and the Hollywood Palladium. Six months later, there’s no sign of a TV sale for the show, and Gest’s benefactors are said to be not so happy.

It’s not like the show was unsellable, either. A big chunk of it featured Stevie Wonder performing with Warwick. Burt Bacharach was there and so were many other stars. An hour-long special is certainly salvageable from the mess. But so far, Gest’s publicist Warren Cowan says not much is going on. “We heard there was some interest from PBS,” Cowan said.

The Dionne Warwick show, a typical Gest event, was fraught with problems. For one thing, Gest advertised the Starkey Hearing Foundation as the underlying charity without asking permission of Starkey’s owners, Minneapolis-based Bill and Tani Austin.

The Austins, I was told, wound up paying for the Palladium dinner, an expensive enterprise that netted nothing for their Foundation. Over this past weekend, Warwick flew to Minneapolis and performed for the Austins as compensation for their outlay. Gest was not invited and was a no show.

Austin, who’s one of those stand-up Midwestern types, says he’s done with Gest for good now. “He scorched the Earth with me,” he said yesterday. The total for the dinner was around $400,000, Austin said. “He won’t be able to come back to the well again.”

While Gest was filming his TV show, he’d allowed another party to make a documentary and another, owned by Warwick, to film backstage. This meant two groups filmed opposing documentaries.

And Ed Davidson, the Cleveland millionaire whom Gest roped into putting on the show, wound up footing the bill for the filming, for his own charity called Partners for Potential.

Calls to Davidson were not returned, but sources say he’s no fool. “He gets it about Gest,” says a source. “He thinks the novelty of him will sell a book and maybe a DVD.”

Gest listed many corporate sponsors for his Dionne Warwick show, but many of them were merely decoys. Tsunami Books, for example, was simply a new enterprise being planned by Davidson as a local vanity press.

To date, they’ve published one or two books by a science fiction writer. Three restaurants were named, but they all had the same owner. Gest is nothing if not good at padding. To be catty, that might be what he has in common with Russell.

Selling the show to TV has its own inherent problems: Gest likely did not raise enough money to “clear” permissions for all the hit songs that were sung.

And then there was the matter of star power: aside from Dionne, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight, the show was not designed for current demographics. Olivia Newton-John’s number was awful, Ashford and Simpson were squandered and Gloria Estefan and Smokey Robinson — while wonderful — aren’t exactly Beyonce and Jay-Z.

Billy Preston Gets a Blue Casket

At long last, Billy Preston will be buried today in a blue casket that would have offended him deeply. His sisters, going for the classy feel, apparently charged people who showed up last night for their big musical extravaganza while Billy — also without his trademark mustache — lay in state post-autopsy, 14 days after his death.

Today, loyal friend Ringo Starr may show up to pay his respects, but most of Preston’s friends — including manager Joyce Moore and her husband, R&B legend Sam Moore — are marking the day in private. The Moores can only be praised for the incredible care they made sure Billy received in the last year. No one can blame them for not wanting to see their friend "tangled up in blue"....

The Apollo Theater Foundation Benefit was surely the place to be last night. Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, Little Richard, Ella Fitzgerald (posthumously) all received awards. Gladys, Chaka and Richard all performed; Chris Tucker was the hilarious emcee, firing off Michael Jackson jokes at rapid speed.

Chaka, in her best voice ever, delivered five of her greatest hits. Everyone in the audience sang along to “I’m Every Woman,” including the men. Gladys and brother Bubba Knight did “Every Beat of My Heart,” their first hit, and “Midnight Train to Georgia” to a roar. The Knights head to Europe next to promote Gladys’ wonderful new album, "Before Me," just out on Verve Records….