Michael Jackson: Bail Bondsman Is Looking for Him

Jacko: Bail Bondsman Is Looking for Him | Johnny Depp's Bloody Oscar Bid | Billy Joel's New Song, Protege | Warner Music No Longer a Record Company

Jacko: Bail Bondsman Is Looking for Him

A new wrinkle in the Michael Jackson saga: On Monday, a California bail bondsman named Richard Hopp filed a request for Notice of Default in Santa Barbara County against Jackson.

The notice falls under California Civil Code 2924b. It means that the bail bondsman wants to know about the status of the $23 million lien on Jackson's only real asset, Neverland Ranch.

Hopp could not be reached on Thursday night, but a source said that when the real story finally surfaced about this latest incident, "It will make O.J. happy to get off the front page" and be replaced by Jackson.

This could mean a lot of things, including: Jackson needs his Neverland Ranch to secure or pay off a bail bond for some reason. Or it could mean nothing. But in Jackson’s world, the possibilities are endless and nothing is surprising.

Jackson’s legal woes are mounting — his lawyer, Thomas Mundell, goes into court on Friday begging the judge in a lawsuit not to make Jackson pay up $3.8 million. It’s really sad.

In a public filing with Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Joseph Biderman presiding, Mundell writes: "it was clearly understood by the parties that Mr. Jackson did not have the cash available to make the settlement payment at the time the settlement agreement was signed…

"Mr. Jackson was undertaking to refinance certain assets, including his Neverland ranch, to obtain the money…the settlement payment would be made from such borrowed funds…Mr. Jackson reasonably anticipated that the refinancing would close by November 15, 2007….due to circumstances completely beyond Mr. Jackson’s control, that has not happened yet, although the closing one refinance transaction appears imminent…as a result, it was impossible for Mr. Jackson to meet the November 15 deadline…"

Will this work? Who knows? Jackson’s pathetic financial situation is crumbling, and there is apparently no one to help him. Neverland is still in default, and the latest news about a bail bondsman’s involvement doesn’t bode well.

Johnny Depp's Bloody Oscar Bid

Is this Johnny Depp’s year?

Every year we say it, and whether he’s played J.M. Barrie or a swashbuckling pirate, something or someone always gets in the way.

Who could it be this year? Philip Seymour Hoffman in "The Savages" or "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead?" Daniel Day-Lewis as a lunatic in "There Will Be Blood?"

It’s bloody unlikely. Depp gives such a complete and textured performance as the demon barber "Sweeney Todd" — in which he sings, as well — that it would be hard for the Academy to deny him again.

And though there are plenty of great directors this year, such as Sidney Lumet ("Devil") and Joe Wright ("Atonement"), Tim Burton will be hard to ignore as well. He’s done the impossible and brought a masterpiece of a musical to film intact and almost to perfection.

I have to tell you that "Sweeney Todd" is my favorite Broadway musical because it’s so much more than that. But Stephen Sondheim’s magnificent piece of art divides people.

While the music is absolutely glorious from beginning to end, many audience members blanch at the grisly nature of the story. Sweeney, the embittered barber who goes mad, cuts a lot of throats. His accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, makes meat pies from his victims. It’s all done with humor, but still … you love it or hate it.

I loved Burton’s film version, which the American press saw Thursday night for the first time. But there were those in the theater whom you could feel wanted to run for the exits when the blood started spurting.

There are some graphic scenes, admittedly. I can only hope it’s not a turn off for Academy voters, because "Sweeney Todd" should be a Best Picture nominee this year and perhaps even the winner of the Oscar. It’s that good.

Burton opens up the stage musical so we finally see, after all these years, that "there’s no place like London." From Mrs. Lovett’s bake shop to Sweeney’s barber shop to the English seaside where the pair take a fanciful imaginary holiday, Burton cuts through the usual dilemma of transferring a play to film. It’s a totally two-dimensional experience on film.

He’s cast everyone perfectly, too, from Depp to Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin, Timothy Spall as the animal-like Beadle and three exceptional newcomers as, respectively, young lovers Antony and Joanna — Jamie Bower and Jayne Wisener — to the very young Ed Sanders as Toby, the child who sings one of the show’s two lynchpin songs, "Not While I’m Around." Bower sings the other one, "Joanna," and they are each superb.

The show-stopper, though, is Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Borat and Ali G, cast as Pirelli the Italian barber who threatens to unmask Sweeney and starts him on his bloody killing spree.

While the rest of the movie is shot in muted blacks, greys and prison blues, Pirelli arrives in a bright, super hero-blue costume and cape. With his hair slicked down, Cohen looks a little like a Blue Meanie from "Yellow Submarine" and just about steals the film in a remarkable turn that includes a faux Italian operatic aria. Brilliant!

"Sweeney Todd" premieres on Monday night, so we’ll be getting into more on Tuesday. But for now, it’s safe to say that Burton, Depp, Bonham Carter, Baron Cohen, et al have done a remarkable job bringing Sondheim’s greatest show to the screen.

No, it’s not for everyone. Queasy is a word you will hear associated with this movie a lot. But it’s enough to say that "Sweeney Todd" jumps to the head of an Academy Award pack that includes "No Country for Old Men." "Atonement," "I’m Not There," "The Savages," "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead" and a few others we’ll discuss next week.

Billy Joel's New Song, Protege

Billy Joel has written a new song, but he’s not recording. Instead, he’s given it to new up-and-coming 21-year-old Long Island performer Cass Dillon. Mr. Dillon’s version of "Christmas in Fallujah" will debut on iTunes on Dec. 4.

Net proceeds from "Christmas in Fallujah" will be donated to Homes for Our Troops, a nonprofit organization that builds specially adapted homes for service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe disabilities. Joel is an avid supporter of Homes for Our Troops. (www.homesforourtroops.org).

In a release I got late Thursday night, Joel said: "I didn't feel I was the person to sing this song. I thought it should be somebody young, about a soldier's age. I wanted to help somebody else's career. I've had plenty of hits. I've had plenty of airplay. I've had my time in the sun. I think it's time for somebody else, maybe, to benefit from my own experience."

That’s great and very generous. But, Billy, we wouldn’t mind a new album from you, buddy. The last one was in 1993.

Warner Music No Longer a Record Company

Warner Music Group conceded on Thursday that it is no longer a viable record company. Forget about ‘em. They are now Warner Miscellaneous Group.

In a conference call with investors and analysts, Edgar Bronfman Jr. dropped this bombshell: "We’re not going to continue to sign artists for recorded music revenue only." So that’s it, and that explains in some small way why WMG no longer has hits or develops recording artists.

The conference call produced a lot of interesting tidbits. Not only is Bronfman clearly not interested in recorded music, he is more enthusiastic about being a management company. During two questions from analysts he stood firmly behind WMG’s $10 million investment in Irving Azoff’s Front Line Management.

Here’s the funny thing about that: Azoff manages the Eagles, who used to record for Warner Music. They don’t anymore. They are now on their own and are the current top-selling pop/rock CD act in the country, thanks to a deal with Wal-Mart. So Bronfman has a $10 million investment in a company that manages an act that records for someone else.

Bronfman must know something about how the record business works that Clive Davis and Doug Morris don’t. They just sell records (aka CDs). They don’t manage any acts. And believe me, if their companies had investments in management companies, they’d be releasing the CDs of the artists they represented.

So far, all this is really working: Warner Music Group lost another 58 percent of its value in the fourth quarter, as announced on Thursday. It had a net income of $5 million in this quarter. A year ago it had $12 million income. So you get the picture. Multimillion-dollar settlements with Kazaa and Napster helped them, but as you can see, WMG still collapsed.

I’m proud of the analysts. On Thursday I asked in this space whether they would ask hard questions of Bronfman. They did, and they sounded disgusted and perplexed by the answers. No kidding.