Plus, George Harrison may be preparing to die, Bono and Bob Geldof protest at the G8 summit, and more

By Gary Susman
Updated July 25, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Michael Jackson
Credit: Michael Jackson: Capital Pictures/Retna

GOT TO BE THERE It seems like almost everyone in showbiz is performing or paying tribute to Michael Jackson at his September concerts at Madison Square Garden celebrating his 30 years as a solo artist — some 200 stars, from Diana Ross to ‘N Sync to Marlon Brando. The only people who may not appear are Jermaine and Randy Jackson. Michael’s brothers threw the tribute’s planned Jackson Five reunion into doubt with an open letter they released on Friday, complaining that the event’s ”exorbitant” ticket prices (said to range from $45 to $5,000; they go on sale July 26) will put the shows out of reach for true fans, that it’s ”embarrassing” that promoters are asking for so much money without giving any to charity, and that they resent having to share the occasion of the brothers’ first reunion in 17 years with an ”endless list of celebrities.”

Producer David Gest said the Jackson Five would ”reunite without Jermaine”; he did not mention Randy, who was not part of the original quintet but joined later. But Jermaine’s manager said he was still planning to appear. Jackson family spokesman John McLaughlin said Jermaine and Randy would perform with their brothers, and that their complaint was with the producers, not Michael, but he acknowledged that neither Jermaine nor Randy has signed a contract yet.

Meanwhile, Michael has reportedly signed on to produce and star in an animated feature called ”The Way of the Unicorn, the Endangered One,” for release in 2003. He’d start work on the $75 million cartoon next month, voicing the role of an orphan named Sailor who joins a rich girl and various endangered animals in a mission to save the planet.

HEALTH WATCH Despite a statement two weeks ago saying that he feels fine and urging fans not to worry, George Harrison may just be putting on a brave face. Beatles producer George Martin told England’s The Mail newspaper that Harrison knows he is losing his battle against cancer. ”He is taking it easy and hoping that the thing will go away. He has an indomitable spirit, but he knows that he is going to die soon, and he is accepting that,” Martin said. ”George is very philosophical. He does realize that everybody has got to die sometime.” Harrison, 58, was treated for a brain tumor a few weeks ago and for lung cancer in May….

Katharine Hepburn is expected to be discharged from the hospital today after spending five days recuperating from a urinary tract infection. Doctors at Hartford [Conn.] Hospital say the 94-year-old actress has responded well to treatment, but they want to be sure she is up and walking before they release her.

FRIDAY, BLOODY FRIDAY Visiting the G8 economic summit in Genoa, Italy, rocker/activists Bono and Bob Geldof had harsh words for everyone: the protesters, the police, and especially the world leaders in attendance. ”It’s not okay to put your fist in the face of an opponent, whether they are protesters or police,” said Bono, condemning the violence in Friday’s demonstration that left 200 protesters injured and one shot dead by police. Geldof complained that the world leaders, with their trappings of privilege, appear cut off from the poor affected by their policies, saying, ”I am offended by the tone of these summits: democratically elected leaders with the panoply of power, private jets, swishing through the ‘red zone’ [the high-security area] in motorcades.” The U2 and Boomtown Rats singers met with the leaders of Britain, Russia, and Canada aboard the luxury liner housing their delegations and voiced their concerns that the leaders aren’t doing enough for debt relief and AIDS prevention in the Third World. ”History will look at this moment and highlight two things — the Internet and how a continent burst into flames while we stood by with watering cans,” said Bono. ”History will deal very harshly with those who do nothing.”

LEGAL BRIEFS Katalin Pota, who plays Tony and Carmela’s maid Liliana on ”The Sopranos,” is suing the fellow tenant in her New Jersey office building who allegedly beat her and knocked her down the stairs, breaking her arm and rupturing her knee. Jersey City police have arrested Andre Doumler for the July 5 assault. Pota says she intervened to aid a third tenant, a disabled photographer, whom Doumler was beating in the stairway, and that Doumler punched her, causing her to fall down the stairs, and then threw the photographer down the stairs after her. She’s suing because she says her injuries have prevented her from auditioning for other roles during her time off before production resumes on ”The Sopranos.”…

A court-appointed arbitrator has awarded $225,000 to model Tina New in her lawsuit against Dennis Rodman, who she says raped her two years ago. The ruling is non-binding, and Rodman may ask for a full trial. ”I don’t even know the girl,” Rodman told the Orange County Register. Prosecutors say they have not found enough evidence to file criminal charges against Rodman.

REEL DEALS Reese Witherspoon is going from the courtroom to the tennis court. The ”Legally Blonde” star has bought an untitled comedy screenplay set in the world of women’s tennis, which she will star in and produce….

Adam Sandler may try his hand at surrogate fatherhood again. Sandler will produce and may star in a film based on an untitled script that sounds like a cross between ”Big Daddy” and ”Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” about a bachelor who must bring his girlfriend’s kids from Washington to New York the day before Thanksgiving….

When ”sex, lies, and videotape” appeared in 1989, it was the antithesis of typical Hollywood fare — a talky, little, low-budget drama, by a first-time writer/director named Steven Soderbergh, that nonetheless became a big hit and helped put the Sundance Film Festival on the map. Now, in a more typical Hollywood move, Soderbergh is making a sequel. Now a Hollywood ace after a year in which he directed ”Erin Brockovich” and won an Oscar for ”Traffic,” Soderbergh is set to shoot the untitled ”sex” sequel in November.

TUBE TALK It was probably just a matter of time before Stephen King had his own kingdom. He’s adapting ”The Kingdom,” the Danish miniseries by Lars von Trier (”Dancer in the Dark,” ”Breaking the Waves”), into a 15-hour miniseries for ABC, to air during the 2002-3 season. The original series, which was released theatrically in two parts in the U.S., is about a haunted hospital built over a graveyard….

”Gilmore Girls” may have been shut out by the Emmy nominators, but it was named best new program at the 17th annual Television Critics Association Awards on Saturday. And while the Emmys are shaping up as another ”Sopranos”-”West Wing” battle, the two shows tied for best drama among the TV critics. ”Sopranos” star James Gandolfini was named best dramatic performer, while ”Malcolm in the Middle,” which was named best comedy, saw Jane Kaczmarek named best comedy performer. ”Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows” won best movie, Ken Burns‘ ”Jazz” won best documentary, and pioneering sketch comic Sid Caesar won a career achievement award. The awards were held at the Ritz Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa in Pasadena….

Mia Kirshner (”Exotica”) is going to be busy. She’s in talks to appear on CBS’ upcoming series ”Wolf Lake” as Lou Diamond Phillips‘ fiancée, whose disappearance leads to the Phillips character’s investigation of a town full of werewolves. She’s already on board at Fox’s new Secret Service drama, ”24,” where she plays an international terrorist named Mandy. Hmm, don’t remember the verse of the Barry Manilow tune where she blows up an airplane….

In its biggest deal since it bought ABC, Disney is buying Fox Family Worldwide from its current owners, Saban Entertainment and Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corporation. Disney will spend $5.3 billion on the deal — $3.1 billion for the purchase and another $2.2 billion assuming the cable network’s debts — for control of the Fox Family Channel, which reaches about 80 million U.S. homes, as well as Fox Family’s channels in 50 other countries.

BETTE DAVIS PRIZE Who was the mystery buyer at last week’s Christie’s auction who snapped up the Best Actress Oscar trophy Bette Davis won for ”Jezebel” in 1938? It was Steven Spielberg, who promptly handed over his $578,000 purchase to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to keep it from commercial exploitation. Five years ago, Spielberg performed a similar rescue, paying $607,500 to buy for the Academy the Best Actor statuette Clark Gable won for ”It Happened One Night” in 1934.

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