Want a really good seat for Michael Jackson's big solo anniversary show at Madison Square Garden? Top tickets are going to cost $500 a pop. That's twice the price of the best face value ticket for Madonna's Drowned World Tour and nearly four times the price of a Janet Jackson ducat.
Janet, one of Michael's surgically enhanced sisters, brings her show to the Garden only two weeks before Michael. But Janet is so far not scheduled to be one of Michael's guest performers on September 7th or 10th. Those artists are supposed to include Britney Spears, Jill Scott, 'N Sync, and Whitney Houston. Twenty-one acts are scheduled for the first night; 16 were announced for the second night, and neither of those tallies includes Michael himself or his much-vaunted reunion with his brothers. It could be a long night, depending on who shows up.
According to a source of mine who's known the Jackson family for about 25 years, getting the brothers back on stage may not be so easy. "Michael does not like Jermaine, and doesn't like to perform with him," my source said of Michael's older brother. "When they recorded a duet together on a Jermaine album years ago, Michael refused to let the record company release it as a single."
Michael's own single from the Invincible album, which was first announced in this column, is scheduled for release late this month. Rumors that the album has been postponed again are just that, says Jackson's new manager, Louis Levin.
One thing is certain: Madison Square Garden — and Tavern on the Green following the first show — will be teeming with older Hollywood stars. Producer David Gest— a West Coast PT Barnum who's created awards for awards show — is featuring Gregory Peck, Liza Minnelli and Elizabeth Taylor among the evening's "chairmen." No word yet on who the recording secretary will be, but I hear Bubbles took the movie Twelve Monkeys seriously and already has pen in hand.
The weird Friday night car crash in the Hamptons — in which PR whiz Lizzie Grubman allegedly intentionally backed her Mercedes SUV into a crowd of club kids — is taking its toll. "We've got a lot of people in the hospital," a Southampton police source told me yesterday. "A lot of people got hurt." The estimated number of victims — including a bouncer who reportedly tossed Grubman out of the club prior to the crash — is between 12 and 16.
Indeed, at least one victim — an unidentified adult male, as opposed to club kid — is said to have undergone lengthy surgery for a leg broken in several places. Since the operation, new trouble was detected in his other leg. The end is not in sight, although lawyers for the victims are now circling like vultures. With Grubman arraigned, the heat will be on for civil suits. And since the Mercedes that did the damage is registered to Grubman's deep-pocketed dad, watch for sheer chaos as the real problems are sorted out from the minor ones.
And the rumors — they just keep flying. One source insisted that Grubman's passenger in the Mercedes was none other than "it" girl Paris Hilton. But the 20-year-old Hilton, sister Nicky and parents were in Europe Friday night. They get around, but not even Hiltons move that fast. Her passengers, according to the New York Post, were two employees of her PR company.
One person, claiming to be a victim (and may well be), posted this notice on the Internet site velvetrope.com: "I was in the VIP room when the car barreled into the wall and pushed it in 2 feet. The bouncer was pinned against the wall and he is the one with two broken femurs. It was total mayhem. ... awful scene and the way the press handled it all was a joke and a slap in the face to the victims."
More to come. ...
Does Warner Bros.'s A.I. stand for "anti-income"? A story in Monday's Variety critiqued the studio's marketing of A.I. Artificial Intelligence — and that's only the half of it. Now that A.I. — a movie this reporter liked a lot — is truly bombing at the box office with barely $60 million in the till, maybe people will start to talk about the amateurish way Warner Bros. handles the press in positioning a film. The $100 million effort may not even break even — certainly a first for Steven Spielberg since either Always or Empire of the Sun.
Case in point: One associate of mine attended a Monday afternoon screening of A.I. prior to its opening night. There were six people in the room when this person arrived, including a child. My friend had been told the screening was booked and there wasn't even room for guests. When this reporter finally got to see the movie — prior to its premiere — the screening room was filled with people I'd never seen before in my life. None of the usual tastemakers or word-of-mouth press people who see movies in advance and can create a buzz.
Further, the party Warner gave on opening night was as bizarre an event as anything the studio has had in the past. No celebs, and dozens of people again who looked as though they'd been cajoled off the street and into an outdoor space so humid that sweat was starting to bead up off a very unhappy looking Lauren Bacall.
But this is the way Warner Bros. has come to represent itself over the years. In 1997, even as L.A. Confidential continued to rack up accolades and critics prizes, the studio steadfastly refused to give the film a wide release. At one point, L.A. Confidential looked poised to dethrone Titanic from its position as Oscar favorite — if only Warner had done something, anything, to back it up. But nothing happened and the movie faded away.
Last year Clint Eastwood was so unhappy with the way Warner Bros. — his longtime home — had marketed True Crime, he was starting to get itchy. He told me in an interview before his next film Space Cowboys, came out that he could contemplate a change if things did not improve. "I didn't think True Crime would be vastly commercial. But it was a terrible release job by the studio and lacked support. I let them get away with releasing it the way they did and it was the worst release I had, in the '90s anyway."
A.I. is only a Warner Bros. movie because Stanley Kubrick had a long-standing deal with the studio dating back for decades. Earlier this year, Warner missed the chance to re-release 2001: A Space Odyssey even though they'd announced a plan to do it on New Year's Day. Another missed opportunity, it seems, and certainly a way to remind the audience about Kubrick some five months before A.I. — which is very reminiscent of 2001 — hit screens.
Ironically, Warner is having a hit with Cats & Dogs, its talking animal movie made for kids. According to Variety, some members of the press were forced to sit through C&D before seeing A.I. (Who has a free five-and-a-half hours for movie viewing during the week, I'd like to know?)
But for prestige films, the A.I. experience is going to do nothing to enhance Warner Bros.'s reputation. All eyes will be on them this fall with the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone — a movie with a built in audience. Or so they say.