NBC wanted the unedited Michael Jackson tapes from his documentary last week so badly that they offered to bump Monday night's Dateline for it.
Of course, Monday's Dateline will be a special two-hour look at Michael Jackson. But apparently NBC wanted the material so badly they were willing to kill the Dateline show in favor of the Jackson outtakes.
NBC's executive vice president of business affairs on the West Coast, Marc Graboff, made the offer to Jackson and his team on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Graboff was acting on information sent to him by Dateline executive producer David Corvo.
In a memo to Jackson's camp obtained by this column Graboff wrote: "Unlike with other networks, the acquisition of the rights to the special on NBC will have the added benefit of pre-empting NBC's planned broadcast of the one hour Dateline scheduled for February 17th."
Calls to Corvo were directed to an NBC spokesperson who said Sunday night: "We strongly deny that. We were always going to incorporate the material."
The memo also includes a monetary offer of $5 million from NBC to Jackson's team for the rights to the outtakes and a new interview.
And even though Fox TV beat NBC to the punch and bought Jackson's version of the Martin Bashir documentary, let me state clearly right here that neither Fox nor any of its participants, employees, or relatives sent me this information. I got the info from inside sources at NBC who told me about the offer.
I wonder how the folks at Dateline will feel when they find out they were almost bumped by this other material. It would imply that NBC was so desperate to get something on Jackson that they didn't care which point of view it expressed — theirs or his.
In last Friday's New York Times, NBC entertainment and news chief Jeff Zucker said, "Michael Jackson is the ultimate traffic accident. People can't take their eyes off him."
But evidently it's an accident that NBC wanted very much to be in on. So did ABC, for that matter.
According to my sources, an ABC vice president was in the process of flying out to Los Angeles to make a pitch to the Jackson people as well when Fox won the bidding war.
Interestingly, none of the participants balked at the involvement of Jackson's friend and producer, F. Marc Schaffel, who also produced Jackson's never-released "What More Can I Give" project. Schaffel, a former director and producer of porno films, has been used a few times as excuses for people pulling out of Jackson projects.
But Schaffel claims to have left the porn business three years ago, althiough many directors, such as Gregory Dark, still work in the skin-flick industry while at the same time making music videos for the likes of Britney Spears, Mandy Moore, LFO, Ice Cube and the Counting Crows.
A story ran on the Associated Press wire Friday that New York State Attorney General Elliott Spitzer had questions about Michael Jackson's charity called Time for Kids, or Heal the Kids.
Mr. Spitzer, if you read this column, you'd know all about it. We've been writing about Jackson's charities for two years. But let me fill you in.
Heal the Kids was launched in 2000 with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who runs something called the L'Chaim Society. Boteach was investigated by the British Charitable Commission for misusing funds from the Oxford L'Chaim Society in the United Kingdom.
He was bounced from that group, and the rabbinate took away his right to have a pulpit, according to published stories.
The L'Chaim Society told this column they had nothing to do with him long after Boteach continued to use their name as his calling card.
Exactly two years ago — Feb. 14, 2001 — Jackson and Boteach put on a crazy night at Carnegie Hall that was a forum on "children's rights." They only filled three-fourths of the hall, and charged $40 a ticket.
The lecture group they did this through no longer exists. Once the money was collected, there was never any sign of it again. Or a record of it. Soon afterward, this column exposed Boteach, and Jackson parted company with him.
We asked where the Carnegie Hall money went a long time ago. No one ever answered. Where do things stand today?
For one thing, Jackson's original charity, the Heal the World Foundation, no longer exists. So we can excuse him for the Carnegie money. He probably thinks Shmuley took care of it.
The Oxford L'Chaim Society filed an annual financial report with the IRS for the year ending Dec. 31, 2001. They didn't file until Nov. 15, 2002. Their financial officer, who signs the papers, is Deborah Boteach, Shmuley's wife.
The charity — it's unclear what it does — claimed total revenue of $38,384. Was that the Carnegie money? Who knows?
The group's expenses, however, came to $85,547. You do the math. They were in the red for $47,163. There is no breakdown for salaries or other expenses.
But for the previous year, L'Chaim Society claimed it had a total of $140,000 in salaries, including one lump sum of $117,000 — possibly Shmuley's pay. This came from public support of over $200,000.
It's unclear whether or not this was the Carnegie Hall money. But L'Chaim Society did have personal donations from anonymous donors totaling almost that much.
If Spitzer's office wants to investigate something, going after Jackson is the wrong approach. The answers are all in the papers of Shmuley Boteach. Spitzer should follow the British Charitable Commission's lead. Jackson has a lot of problems, but this is one thing that is not his fault.
In less surreal news, I'm just getting to write about Aimee Mann's show at Irving Plaza last week. Dr. Greene was there from ER — you thought he was dead, didn't you? But Anthony Edwards turned up and boogied through the show on the balcony.
He told me he and Aimee are old friends. He has not, for the record, seen George Clooney's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
"With four kids," he said, "you have to wait and see everything on DVD."
Mann, whose original band was the fondly remembered 'Til Tuesday, has lately carved an independent career for herself after many label mishaps. The 'Til Tuesday records are all available on Sony, and her first two solo albums — I'm With Stupid and Whatever — are on Geffen.
Anyway, Mann got an Oscar nomination two years ago for "Save Me," her song from the Magnolia movie soundtrack — all of which was written and performed by her. She also put out a terrific album called Bachelor No. 2. Her latest is Lost in Space, which, like Bachelor, is on her own Superego label, although you can buy them in stores.
Mann has a devoted following, which is surprising since like I say she has no major label, no airplay, no promotion and no videos. Such is the plight of all "adult" artists, or anyone who can write a chart, arrange a song or construct a memorable melody.
Mann's songs are very Beatlesque, very early Paul Simon-ish. She is known for recording Badfinger's 1972 George Harrison-produced hit "Baby Blue."
At the Irving Plaza show, which was sold out and rowdy considering how many bald-headed, merino wool-swathed men were in attendance, Mann did a duet with another relic of the 90s, Duncan Sheik. They sang Oasis' "Wonderwall," and it was just perfect. Aimee even told a joke about one of the Oasis brothers blowing her off a long time ago.
What can I say? She's 10 years too late since she started in 1984. Aimee Mann is like a lost cult classic who won't go away.
Well, thank God. Her albums are like little gifts from the heavens and seeing her again was a pleasure. Check out her Web site, www.aimeemann.com.
Talk about a quick response time! Last night's episode of The Simpsons was just brilliant: Bart gets emancipated from Homer because his dad spent all the money they made from commercials done when Bart was a baby. Why did he spend it? To pay off "incriminating pictures" of Homer dangling baby Bart over a balcony ...
The R&B Foundation still has some tickets left for Thursday night's Pioneer Awards dinner at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom. Dionne Warwick, Chuck Jackson, Mary Wilson, and others will be joined by emcee Jerry Butler with a special performance by Sam Moore. It's always the best night of the year. Call 202-588-5566 for tickets or contact the Ballroom aka The Manhattan Center on West 34th St.