Knight Ridder Newspapers

Another glorious morning in America, and another lawsuit against Michael Jackson. This time, it comes from the man who produced two Fox TV specials in rebuttal to the famous 2003 Martin Bashir documentary that renewed questions about Jackson’s sexual activities, and possibly led to the latest child molestation charges against the King of Pop.

J. Marc Schaffel, who filed his breach of contract suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, says the Gloved Wonder owes him $3 mil for unpaid loans, cash advances and production fees. If Schaffel’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the dude who made headlines in “02 after his involvement in Jackson’s never-released Sept. 11 charity video, “What More Can I Give.” The rumpus had to do with the fact that Schaffel had previously made dozens of gay porn vids.

And the cash advances and loans? Schaffel’s suit says he gave Jackson around $2.2 mil so he could pay “Marlon Brando to appear at Jackson’s concert” and “buy jewelry for Elizabeth Taylor.”



NO LAW FOR DEPP

We just want to say we are aggrieved by Johnny Depp’s unceremonious dethronement from one of our nations’ highest honors: People’s Sexiest Man Alive. Yes, we’ve all had a day to digest the news that cutieboy Jude Law has snatched that highly esteemed homage.

Frankly, though we admit Law has some claim to the title Preternaturally Pretty, we have indigestion. We imagine the dispirited, dissed, and discrowned “Pirates of the Caribbean” star howling Shakespeare’s words, “Doth Fortune play the huswife with me now?”



LESS THAN WORTHY

That inglorious power, fickle fortune, which has toyed so cruelly with Depp, seems to have a wicked sense of humor: While Rolling Stone mag’s list of the 500 greatest rock “n’ roll songs of all time is topped by that deity Bob Dylan’s “60s scornful anti-anthem “Like a Rolling Stone,” its 500th song is none other than that preposterously jejune bit of “70s cotton candy, “More than a Feeling” by Boston. A dozen Dylan songs made the list, and the top five rounds out with the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” and Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”



EMINEM SCORCHES CHARTS

Even though he moved up the release date of his latest CD, “Encore,” to last Friday, giving it only three days to compete with the likes of Shania Twain, Toby Keith and Britney Spears, Eminem still ended up ruling the charts. According to Nielsen SoundScan numbers for the week ended Sunday, “Encore” moved 711,000 copies, easily capturing Billboard’s top spot. “Encore” makes the rapper’s fourth-straight No. 1 record. Twain, Keith and Spears, all of them with greatest-of compilations, ended up behind Em in that order.



WALTERS GETS INTERESTED

Destiny. Contingency. Fate. How else to explain that the press release came out a whole week ago, but just now (after People mag names its sexy guy; after the shortlist of Time mag’s person of the year is released) the media are taking some note: Barbara Walters has released her hallowed list of the 10 most fascinating people in the world. In fact, as chance would have it, there’s a whole ABC show around that concept, cleverly titled “Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2004,” to be broadcast Dec. 8. Who fascinates the celeb-obsessed newswoman? Well, only the names that have made the bold-face columns all year, among them: Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Usher, Michael Moore, Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, and of course, sex-symbol-heiress-reality-TV-star Paris Hilton.



SECOND CHANCES

Happy news in this column is rare, so we cherish these fortunate items. The New York Post reports that Robert DeNiro, 61, and wife Grace Hightower, 51, will be holding a super-secret ceremony Saturday to renew their wedding vows. This is good stuff, considering the fact that the couple, who met in “87 and married a decade later, filed for divorce only two years after that, in “99. The divorce was never finalized, and the couple, who have a 6-year-old son, Elliott, may even be expecting a baby. The vow renewal will reportedly be attended by the creme de la creme, including Martin Scorsese, Billy Crystal, Chazz Palminteri, Harvey Keitel, Billy Crudup and Claire Danes.



(The New York Post, People magazine, and Inquirer wire services contributed to this column.)



(c) 2004, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Visit Philadelphia Online, the Inquirer’s World Wide Web site, at http://www.philly.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-11-18-04 1419EST



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