Taking the Glove Off
All these years, we thought MICHAEL JACKSON was beyond race, beyond gender, beyond defeat. Now we learn he loves to trumpet his ethnicity and is willing to admit he can fail. The problem is, he's having trouble accepting responsibility for that failure. Angry that his last album, Invincible, sold only 2 million copies in the U.S., Jackson is blaming his record label, Sony, for not promoting the CD with ads on his TV special, among other things. So the dethroned King of Pop rented a bus and, clutching a picture of Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola sporting demonic horns, led fans to protest outside Sony's Manhattan headquarters, where he called Mottola a racist. A few days later, at a conference to combat racism in the music industry, Jackson charged that "they" had sabotaged his career after he outsold white artists like Elvis and the Beatles. "Overnight, they called me a freak, a homosexual, a child molester. It's a conspiracy." He also declared, "I know I'm black." His newfound self-awareness failed to generate compassion in the music world, where most people believe his true concern is not black but green--that he is trying to get financial concessions from Sony. Even one of his advisers says Jackson has serious "cash-flow issues...He spends multiples of what's available, and it comes out of his royalties." The poor little rich boy may not be so rich after all. --Reported by Jeffrey Ressner/Los Angeles
GIULIANI PAYS A STEEP SUM TO BECOME A FREE AGENT
Most New Yorkers benefited from RUDY GIULIANI'S performance after Sept. 11 in a spiritual way. His ex-wife DONNA HANOVER will reap something else: cold, hard cash. As mayor of New York City, Giuliani made $195,000 a year. Now that he is out of office, his vaunted status will enable him to earn $8 million in speaking fees this year alone. The windfall has resulted in Hanover's securing a divorce settlement more favorable than most ex-wives of public servants. Last week Giuliani agreed to pay Hanover $6.8 million, plus her legal fees and child support for their two children. Had the deal not been struck, there would have been a public trial, in which Giuliani's current girlfriend Judith Nathan was scheduled to be called as a witness. Hizzoner has saved his girlfriend's honor.
CALM BEFORE THE CALM
Perhaps you failed to notice the angry townspeople with pitchforks, the burnings in effigy, the heated debate on talk radio. Or perhaps you merely failed to enter the fantasy life of singer GEORGE MICHAEL, where these images reside. The British singer said last week that he is afraid to return to the home he shares with his partner in the U.S. because of controversy generated by his newest single, Shoot the Dog. The song calls on British Prime Minister Tony Blair to stand up to the militarism of George Bush's war on terror, while the animated video portrays Blair as Bush's lapdog. Despite Michael's best efforts to gin up controversy through numerous interviews and press releases defending himself against nonexistent charges of anti-Americanism, U.S. umbrage has been largely undetectable. What Michael should really fear about coming to the U.S. is the violent indifference that will greet him.
WHAT NOT TO DO IN THE OFF SEASON