Phil Spector | Michael Jackson | More Michael Jackson | Hollywood vs. New York
Phil Spector Getting Married?
Famed record producer Phil Spector isn't going to let a murder charge prevent him from getting hitched again this weekend. My sources say that friends are on their way out to his Alhambra, Calif., estate — where he allegedly fatally shot an actress in 2003 — to witness the secret nuptials.
In his long and checkered life, 64-year-old Spector has already said "Be My Baby" to Annette Merar, Ronnie Bennett aka Ronnie Spector and possibly Janis Savala.
The prospective bride's name is still unknown, but when she accompanied Spector to a Feb. 17 hearing concerning his murder charge, observers noticed the 30-something blonde was sporting a big diamond ring mounted on a platinum band on her left hand.
Spector is charged with murdering actress Lana Clarkson back on Feb. 3, 2003. His trial is set to begin on Sept. 16, 2005. The subject of many anecdotes concerning guns, he could be going away for a long time. Let's hope Phil gets a pre-nup and she gets a bulletproof vest.
Celebrity spotters noted that the date of the alleged murder was the same day "Living with Michael Jackson" aired in England and launched his current scandal. Coincidence?
Spector has four living sons including a pair of twins and one daughter. A fifth son, who was also a twin, died in 1981 at age 10.
Like him or not, he's undoubtedly the most influential record producer of the rock era. In the early '60s, his "Wall of Sound" set the tone for generations to come. Two of his productions, Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High" and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost that Loving Feeling," remain the very best in rock history.
Jacko Accuser's Mom Pocketed $4,000
As I told you yesterday, the mother of the accuser in the Michael Jackson case cashed in early. She took roughly $4,000 from London's Daily Mail newspaper for an exclusive interview that ran on Feb. 8, 2003.
The writer of the piece, David Gardner, wouldn't confirm or deny what transpired between him and the mother. But I do know that the tabloid reporter visited and interviewed her in person on Feb. 4, 2003, the day after "Living with Michael Jackson" aired on ITV in London.
Jackson's lawyers know this too, and they are preparing to put Gardner on the stand as part of their defense. He has already been subpoenaed, I am told. His name appears on Jackson's extensive defense witness list. So far, only celebrity names on the witness list have been released, but I've seen the whole deal.
Gardner will not only take the stand, but unlike Martin Bashir, he will testify about his early interviews with the mother and with comedy club owner Jamie Masada. Masada told him, and Gardner published, these fateful bombshell words: "[The boy] is not naive. If something were going on, he would tell us."
Lead defense attorney Tom Mesereau clearly feels he has a trump card here, which may be why he's been so lax in rounding up the other witnesses whose names he placed on his list. Many of them have not been subpoenaed and may never be. But some of the names on the defense list are pretty interesting.
Included among them is Omar Bhatti, the 20-year-old Norwegian boy who has grown up over the last eight years at Neverland as Jackson's unofficial ward. I told you a few months ago that Jackson confided in close associates that Bhatti was his biological son, even though this was a complete fabrication.
Jackson met the boy in Tunis while on tour in 1996. He eventually hired the boy's parents and took him in. Bhatti occasionally performs as a Jackson-type pop star. He was arrested for drug possession in Norway in 2003.
Also on the list is David Rothenberg, a young man who was severely burned by his own father many years ago. He was taken in by Jackson, has the full run of Neverland and may prove to be a dramatic character witness.
Indy 500 Star Racing to Jacko Side?
But not on Jackson's list are any of the famous young boys who passed through the gates of his ranch or his life. Not listed are Macaulay Culkin, Jonathan Spence, Brett Barnes, Emmanuel "Webster" Lewis, Jimmy Safechuck or Brandon Adams, the young man who starred in Jackson's "Moonwalker" video.
On the other hand, Jackson's defense team has some odd ideas about who might answer their subpoena and come willingly to support the singer.
For example, he's listed the entire family of the accuser, including both sets of grandparents as well as the estranged father's brother. I'm told that this uncle and other members of that family will testify that the mother has prevented them from seeing the children for years.
Also on the defense list are the members of at least two of the "surrogate" families Jackson has "adopted" in the last decade. In addition to the Cascios of New Jersey, Jackson also has famed Indy 500 race car driver J.C. Agajanian, Jr., his wife and children.
Not on the list, however, is the Schleiter family of Germany. Jackson dedicated a song on his last album to the family's son and daughter. The father, Wolfgang Schleiter, whom Jackson met in the music business, refused to defend the singer when I called him for a quote last year.
There are also a lot of doctors on Jackson's list. Among them is Dr. Alex Farschshian, who flew on the private plane from Miami to Neverland on Feb. 7, 2005, and could address the famously alleged head-licking incident. Jackson's dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, is included, as well as Alan Metzger and Mark Torbiner, two physicians whose histories with Jackson are — shall we say — complicated. Klein, by the way, was employer of Debbie Rowe, who became Jackson's wife and mother of his two eldest children.
There are many more names of interest on the Jackson defense list, including CBS producer Kathryn Milofski, who will have to explain her involvement in the case.
Jackson's side has also listed Azja Pryor, the ex-girlfriend of comedian Chris Tucker. She will prove to be a key witness because the accuser's mother considered her a close friend and confidante for three years. Jackson's side has also, perhaps unwisely, included former book and audiotape publisher Michael Viner, the ex-husband of actress Deborah Raffin. Viner's previous court outings in his own cases are not exactly testimonials.
There are plenty more names on the Jackson list, and I will tell you some more on Monday. Oddly, none of his siblings is listed, only a couple of nieces and nephews. So there will be no appearances by Janet Jackson or the Jackson 5 at this trial.
Does Oscar Hate New Yorkers?
All week I've been fielding one question about the Oscars: How did "Million Dollar Baby" triumph over "The Aviator"? It's a good question. I don't know if there is one answer to it.
First of all, there's no debate about the quality of "Million Dollar Baby." It's a finely wrought film, particularly the first half, which focuses on boxing. Some may find the second half a bit sappy and Hilary Swank's movie family a little stereotyped. But overall, the performances are of the highest quality. Clint Eastwood continues to surprise and awe us all as an actor and a director. He deserves all the acclaim he's received.
But Eastwood already had a best director statue for "Unforgiven." What about Martin Scorsese? Why does the Academy hate him? How is it possible that the director of "Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," "King of Comedy," "Raging Bull," "After Hours," "Goodfellas," "The Age of Innocence," "Gangs of New York" and now "The Aviator" has no award for his gargantuan achievements? Is it something about him?
I think yes and no. You saw on Sunday that the Academy had to give a lifetime achievement award to Sidney Lumet. Somehow they'd managed to ignore him previously for "Prince of the City," "Serpico," "Daniel," "Fail-Safe," "12 Angry Men," "Network" and "Dog Day Afternoon." Pretty wild, right?
But Robert Altman has no Oscar. Woody Allen has two for "Annie Hall" and "Hannah and Her Sisters," but not for "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Zelig," "Broadway Danny Rose" or "Manhattan." Crazy, right?
But Scorsese, Allen, Altman and Lumet are all considered outsiders by the Academy -- New York directors who are not part of the purring economy called Hollywood. So far, three of Scorsese's five losses have been to popular actors who dabble in directing: Eastwood, Kevin Costner and Robert Redford. That's not a coincidence. At various times those men have been huge moneymakers for Hollywood, where most Academy members live and thrive.
How else also to explain Mel Gibson winning best director for "Braveheart" in 1996 over Mike Figgis, Michael Radford and Tim Robbins? Nine years later, their work on "Leaving Las Vegas," "Il Postino" and "Dead Man Walking" holds up as superior in every way to the violent, hackneyed swashbuckling in "Braveheart."
But those three were all outsiders, and Gibson was the blue-eyed moneymaker of "Lethal Weapon." He might as well have been running for class president.
Scorsese et al. represent a weird cast of interlopers who have no vested interest in Bel Air mansions, Rolls Royces or Ed Limato's buffet dinner to the Academy voters.
You can also throw in a bunch of deceased and important directors like Martin Ritt, John Cassavetes and Hal Ashby, who never got Oscars but will be long remembered when many winners are forgotten. They were also outsiders who didn't care what the Academy thought.
In the new generation, add the names of the Coen brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and Wes Anderson to that list as well. Hollywood doesn't like 'em.
They'll give them nominations, but the actual award is an uphill battle all the way. How else to explain "Forrest Gump" beating "Pulp Fiction," an influential classic, for best picture in 1995?
HBO has the same problems with the Emmys as Miramax and other East Coast producers have with the Oscars. Even though they get rafts of nominations every year, the actual awards are hard to come by. It was only this past fall that "The Sopranos" finally got best drama. "Sex and the City" only won once in 2001.
Otherwise, the Hollywood TV community likes its hometown heroes: "West Wing," "Everybody Loves Raymond," etc. It could be argued that HBO wins so many mini-series and movies-for-TV awards because the networks long ago abandoned those genres. HBO also makes really good ones, which helps.
So don't cry for Martin Scorsese. There isn't a serious director in the world who wouldn't want to trade places with him in a second. Historically, and for posterity, he is set. If he stopped making films tomorrow, Scorsese would still be considered the king of kings.
In the end, he, Altman, Lumet, Francis Ford Coppola (save for "The Godfather") and Allen don't need any more Oscars. They are the Supreme Court of directing, the Rushmore-ians, and — as Cole Porter might say — the tip, tip top. They've already won, and handily.