Michael Jackson: $30 Million Offer to Play London

Jacko: $30 Million Offer to Play London | Stevie's a Fan's Wonder | Aretha And Tina, Queens of Different Countries | Missing Links

Jacko: $30 Million Offer to Play London

Michael Jackson had better wake up and smell the coffee. He’s got a real, solid, $1 million-a-night offer on the table to play London’s Millennium Dome.

AEG Live, as I told you a few weeks ago, wants Jackson to play its Millennium Dome in London. Sources tell me they’ve made him an extraordinary offer.

The deal that’s been offered could total up to $30 million. It begins with a $10 million guarantee for 10 nights, with a maximum of 30 nights adding up to $30 million.

The first grouping is all he has to do, though, just those 10 shows. With bump-ups, etc., he could gross around $17 million.

It’s not a hard show to do, either. The proposal, as I’ve been told, is for Jackson to stage his bestselling album "Thriller" from beginning to end at each show. Then, for encores, he would add in several hits from "Off the Wall" and other albums.

The catch: These shows must be completed by the end of 2008, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the album. The promoters originally thought it could happen this spring, but they’ve revised their plans to the fall.

"Thriller 25" — with tracks remixed by Akon, will.i.am and others — was released Tuesday and is said to be selling very well. Hitsdailydouble.com predicts the package could sell between 90,000 and 120,000 copies.

Not bad for a 25-year-old recording.

This whole deal for Jackson to perform at the Millennium Dome is tricky. I’m told the AEG people really wanted Jackson to make some kind of appearance at the Grammys on Sunday to drum up excitement.

"He was too scared," a source said. "He was nervous about tripping or doing something wrong. He’s paranoid. He’s got to get over it."

But $30 million — which is more like $15 million after taxes — is better than Jackson could hope for, considering his financial situation. Recently, Barclays and HSBC banks worked with Sony Music to refinance Jackson’s massive $300 million loan from Fortress Investments.

But Fortress still has a $23 million lien on Jackson’s Neverland property. That loan is separate from the aforementioned one and is in default. Fortress could foreclose at any time.

The AEG offer should pique Michael’s interest for other reasons, too. If he can complete the 30-concert run, he’d beat Prince’s record of 21 shows. And, sources say, Prince didn’t clear the $1 million-a-night take. Why?

"He charged 31.21 British sterling per show. He got the number from the album that was out at the time, called "3121." And that was taken from his address. And the numbers added up to seven, which he also liked."

Luckily, Michael Jackson has no address at this time, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Stevie's a Fan's Wonder

Our pal Martin Lewis, a Beatles fan extraordinaire, curator of the American Cinematheque series in Hollywood, had a quite close encounter backstage on Grammy night.

Martin, a fan of Julie Taymor’s Beatles movie, "Across the Universe," introduced the 15-year-old kid from the film, Timothy Mitchum, who sang "Let it Be" to Stevie Wonder.

Here’s what happened next:

"Timothy got his courage up and chatted with Stevie for a few minutes — Stevie being very complimentary and encouraging to him," Martin reports.

"Suddenly Timothy asks Stevie, ‘Would you mind if I played for you?’ and produces a little harmonica from his pocket (that he apparently always carries with him). He then started playing 'For Once in My Life' on the harmonica.

"Stevie listens, compliments him and then says — ‘let me join in,' reaches in his pocket and produces his own harmonica (he'd just played it on stage) -- and they do a duet of "For Once in My Life' all the way through. Sounds great. The kid obviously knew it really well."

And that is exactly what Stevie Wonder is all about.

As a postscript, I have to say that Wednesday night, my quest to buy a set of classic Stevie Wonder CDs took me two hours and two different Virgin Megastores in Manhattan. Neither Times Square nor Union Square had one copy of "Songs in the Key of Life."


To make matters worse, Stevie’s albums were stuck with all Soul CDs in areas segregated far from Rock & Pop. What year is it, anyway?

Aretha and Tina, Queens of Different Countries

Aretha Franklin is properly upset that Beyonce referred to Tina Turner as "Queen" on Sunday night — while Aretha was sitting right in front of her!

Beyonce is young and probably doesn’t know this: Aretha is the Queen of Soul. Tina is maybe the Queen of Rock. There‘s a difference. Tina has always been a rocker.

Someone better publish a primer on music royalty for the new kids. Michael Jackson is the King of Pop (ahem). James Brown was the Godfather of Soul, and the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. And so on, Beyonce. Don’t mess with Aretha, girl. She can turn you into a toad or banish you from the kingdom. …

Speaking of James Brown, his death has brought lawsuits from trustees and executors, the usual thing. Caught in the cross fire is Brown’s attorney of almost 30 years and friend, Joel Katz, down in Atlanta. Music industry insiders know this is a nuisance suit, and I’m told that the plaintiffs — court-appointed trustees — in this case have never spoken to or met Katz.

Brown was a wild man, but he was also crazy like a fox. There’s nothing Katz or Brown’s former manager, Judge Bradley, ever did that "Mr. Brown" did not approve of. The lawsuit may be a bid on the part of the court-appointed trustees, insiders feel, to make their names. …

Isn’t life funny? The hottest Oscar ticket is the Elton John AIDS Foundation fundraiser. Overshadowed for several years by Vanity Fair’s big do, the EJ party was in a little decline after its 2003 zenith. But with Vanity Fair’s gala canceled, Elton’s "best friends" are coming out of the woodwork. Elton, himself, will perform, and I will make an extra contribution this year if he sings "Harmony" from "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." Elton, the ball’s in your court. …

Thursday night at the Bergen, N.J., Performing Arts Center Susan CollinsPaul Shaffer’s favorite singer — serenades the crowd. Collins is just terrific. If you live in the area, call the Bergen PAC box office at 201-227-1030 for more info. She’s also there on March 20 and April 17.

Missing Links

For Todd Haynes’ special 44-minute Cate Blanchett clips from "I’m Not There," click here. See Blanchett in the performance of a lifetime. That’s the amazing Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood with her. Check out Part 3, for Blanchett and Stephen Malkmus doing Bob Dylan’s "The Ballad of a Thin." Spine-tingling! Weinstein Co. should have released this as a video. Remember? I said that last September. …

Click here for Julia Fordham’s remarkable "China Blue" album. The rest of Fordham’s gorgeously sung catalog can be found here, on Amazon and iTunes.