Michael Jackson's 48-Hour Countdown to Thrill

Michael Jackson | Mel Gibson | Anthony Pellicano | R&B's Triple Play of Tragedy

Jacko Faces Countdown

Michael Jackson is on notice this morning. In 48 hours, he’s got to show up for the World Music Awards and perform "Thriller."

Think it will happen? The odds are against it. Here’s why.

For one thing, Jackson has a "HIStory" of not going through with promises to do shows. For another, he just doesn’t have the team to get him through this event.

Eleven years ago next month, Jackson collapsed backstage at the Beacon Theater in New York while rehearsing a show for HBO. He was taken to the hospital and the show was cancelled.

But sources close to Jackson told me recently that the pop star never considered going through with that show, and the whole "collapse" was contrived so he could get out of it.

"He called me and said, 'You don’t think I’m really doing it, do you?'" the source recalled.

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If Jackson pulls such a stunt on Wednesday, though, the odds are higher on the chances of ruining what’s left of his career. But staging "Thriller" for an international audience, with no actual manager or production company? That doesn’t seem likely. Currently, Jackson’s only managers are his publicist, Raymone Bain, and his children’s nanny, Grace Rwaramba.

"He has no one who’s ever put on a show around him," one critic says.

Watch for Jackson to invoke a bad back or exhaustion, his two most frequent excuses. But don’t expect him to say he had a spider bite. Jackson used that one three years when he was testifying in a breach of contract lawsuit in Santa Maria, Calif. Later, those close to him admitted that the spider bite was concocted to cover for a home injection that had gone badly.

Coming Soon: Mel Gibson's PR Apocalypse

The push is on.

In the last few days, pieces have run in both Variety and The Los Angeles Times about Mel Gibson’s upcoming "Apocalypto." They’ve called Gibson brave and daring for showing the unfinished film to screening audiences in Oklahoma, to Native Americans and Latinos who might be interested in the film.

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The screenings and the subsequent stories about the screenings are all part of a campaign to get ready for the movie’s Dec. 8 release. Disney, stuck with Gibson after his summer scandal regarding anti-Semitism and alcoholism, is trying to avert the inevitable.

But the inevitable is coming and soon. "Apocalypto" has no stars. It has no one even known to the moviegoing audience, let alone the press. It’s spoken in ancient dialect with subtitles.

So Disney is faced with some big issues: If they don’t send Gibson to do press junket publicity in the next couple of weeks, what can they do? And if they do send Gibson, who will agree not to ask him about his scandal?

So far, the only person the public knows who’s seen the movie and liked it is actor Edward James Olmos. He’s not exactly a film critic, but he’s considered smart.

But then again, he wasn’t in a situation where he could ask Gibson questions. He came, and he went. My guess is Olmos will likely turn up in the next Gibson movie.

Olmos, however, did not completely relate what others who’ve seen "Apocalypto" have told me.

"It’s very violent," a source says. "If you know Mel Gibson movies, you know what I mean. It’s not for women. It’s a guy’s movie, that’s for sure."

So far, Gibson and his PR team have gotten away clean. But it’s very early in the game. At some point, "Apocalypto" is going to have to be seen by the press, and presumably most of them — even the Hollywood Foreign Press aka Golden Globers — are going to want some answers.

Is Gibson anti-Semitic? Is what he said to the Malibu police officer who arrested him in fact what he believes? Does he support the anti-Semitic views of his father? What is the point of the private membership church he’s built in Malibu?

Of course, no one expects "Access Hollywood" or "Entertainment Tonight" to ask these questions. But one can only hope that someone on the press tour will be rallied out of their stupor long enough to make some sense, and to show that a little integrity is possible. It’s only then that we’ll know whether Gibson’s PR apocalypse worked.

Will Pellicano Roll Over?

Anthony Pellicano may be ready to roll over and tell the cops the news. Sources tell me that the private investigator, who’s been in jail since 2004, may yet rat out his former clients to save his skin.

Observers of Pellicano point out that in 2003 he wound up taking a plea bargain in his ammunition possession case so he’d have a shorter term.

But this past June, Pellicano told The Los Angeles Times he would remain loyal to all the clients the district attorney consequently focused on.

In 2003, Pellicano said similar things in the press in May. By September, he was talking.

To top this off, last week former reporter Anita Busch, who’s suing Pellicano, made news by adding a name to the list of defendants she’s pursuing: former agent Michael Ovitz.

And while Ovitz immediately disavowed any knowledge of Pellicano’s harassment of Busch, some insiders are saying that the timing of Busch’s filing is no accident.

R&B Triple Play of Tragic Events

It’s just a coincidence, but three of the founding members of the original Rhythm and Blues Foundation have met with either death or illness lately.

CBS’s Ed Bradley, who died last week, was a staunch supporter of the foundation. A truly great guy, he will be missed for many things. But he helped put the foundation on the map, and it was his love of R&B that helped the organization when they needed him.

At the same time, the legendary singer Ruth Brown, who’s 78, is said to be on life support in a Las Vegas area hospital. Ruth, whose biggest hit was "Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean," has been a pioneer in the music business in many ways. An original performer at the start of Atlantic Records, it was Ruth who got Atlantic to put up an endowment for the foundation to save other artists.

And Atlantic’s founder, Ahmet Ertegun, remains in the hospital after his fall during the Oct. 29 Rolling Stones concert at the Beacon. Sources say Ahmet, who’s 83, fell backward and hit his head. Details still remain sketchy, but he required some kind of neurological surgery to reduce the pressure on his brain.

But Ahmet is a fighter and a survivor. Something tells me by February he’ll be ready for the Grammys. Nothing can keep this man down, but Brown’s illness will no doubt be a blow. They started Atlantic together. …