I had a brush with Michael Jackson once, post-Bubbles but pre-pedophilia charges.
At least I think so.
Jackson had a project in development with my studio, and there was a PR road bump that had to be resolved. I wound up on speakerphone with Bob Jones, his lifelong publicist, and I’d swear that the person whispering in the background was the King himself.
So what time should I arrive, CNN?
How quickly will you mention my newest project, New York Post?
And remind me again how much you pay, Radar?
During his lifetime, everything Jackson touched had to be the biggest, boldest and most complicated. So it’s no surprise that the breadth of people who’ve already secured a media toehold as “experts” and “friends” has broken new ground on the Hollywood Bottom-Feeders front.
On the first tier: those who make the confessional promotional. Former teen actor Corey Feldman got to lament in People about their estranged friendship … and leverage a solid mention of his band. On Larry King, John Landis shared fond tales of directing the “Thriller” video (carefully sidestepping his two active lawsuits against Jackson) … then plugged his next film.
Publicist Michael Levine landed a double header. He pitched his own ancient Jackson connection moments after the death confirmation, doing likewise about Farrah Fawcett only hours earlier that same day.
Of course, they’re all amateurs compared to patriarch Joe Jackson, who’s penned his own “Springtime for Hitler” — making two public appearances after his son’s death to plug a record label he’s launching. Jackson senior’s cluelessness about — or disregard of — the public outcry over these remarks makes him our person to watch in the coming weeks.
Then there’s that wacky assortment of Jackson hangers-on. Out front is Brian Oxman, who’s variously claimed to represent Jackson and/or the family and who jumped in front of every mike at UCLA as the family was still arriving. Nanny Grace Rwaramba, who may or may not have been fired last year or has simply been on an extended European vacation. In a Sunday Times of London interview, she claimed her duties included pumping Jackson’s stomach after overdoses and hiding trashbags of money.
She then allegedly accepted a plane ticket back to L.A. paid by the Times interviewer. So, Hollywood households in search of staff: You just might be in luck.
The concierge doctor’s attorney, Edward Chernoff, has already become a media breakout star. He’s everywhere, offering medical expertise — becoming the doctor his mother always wanted him to be. But the top honor goes to alternative medicine maven Deepak Chopra, M.D., whose stream-of-conciousness sadness about his friend was powerful.
Until he repeated it verbatim for every major media outlet. And who, by revealing Jackson had lupus and other unknown ailments, violated HIPAA privacy laws.
Finally, it’s good to see the old O.J and Anna Nicole gang reunited. I’ve missed Michael Baden and Cyril Wecht, even if I could never tell them apart. The Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are playing PR chess, although the former scored a checkmate with his press conference last Thursday preceding the family’s own.
I must admit I watched the entire Fox News segment with Larry Seidlin just to see if Geraldo could make him cry. And if we could only figure out how to add Mark Fuhrman, Larry Birkhead and Kato, life would be complete.
How do these people pimp themselves out so effectively? Because the media let them. And because a book deal, a cable news expert gig and a few new clients have become more valuable commodities than integrity and humanity.
I once worked with a brilliant, troubled celebrity whose addictions were legendary. Our relationship was built on regular media damage control on my part (with rarely anything credible to say to his defense) and fairly useless sitdowns with him and his various enablers. Yet he was so damn endearing that I couldn’t help but like him.
Sometime later after the project ended, he finally straightened out, got his career on track and was even in love.
One Friday night, I was heading back home to the Westside after a long day of filming in Long Beach, maneuvering surface streets with dire KNX freeway updates as company. As I caught sight of the Torrance oil refineries, the anchor cut in with the news that my friend was dead — the innocent victim of someone’s accident.
I could’ve done some Artesia Boulevard/110 Freeway thing and made it to the TV news studios in time for the 10 p.m. shows. Or flipped through my cellphone contact list and rewarded a few reporters with incredible anecdotes.
Instead, I did what I wanted to do most: I pulled over in the shadow of those chugging refineries, turned off my engine and cried my eyes out.