Thursday, July 30, 2009

Q&A With BET's CEO Debra Lee

BET Networks chief on new program, the importance of Michael Jackson and branding BET in the age of Obama

By Claire Atkinson -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/29/2009

Inside Viacom, BET Networks is something of a rising star. Fresh off a stellar second quarter, thanks to stratospheric ratings for its BET Awards show, the cable network is busy developing new original programming on its flagship while teeing up a second service and rolling out internationally. Debra L. Lee (pictured above), chairman and CEO of BET Networks, talks with B&C's Claire Atkinson about new original programming, the cultural importance of Michael Jackson, and branding BET in the age of Obama.

Ms. Lee, 54, is Chairman and CEO of BET Holdings, Inc. , a media and entertainment company and a division of Viacom, Inc. She joined BET in 1986 as Vice President and General Counsel. In 1992, she was elected Executive Vice President of Legal Affairs and named publisher of BET's magazine division, in addition to serving as General Counsel. She was placed in charge of strategic business development in 1995. Ms. Lee is a director of WGL Holdings, Inc., Marriott International, Inc. and Revlon,

BET's ratings were up 34% in the second quarter of '09. To what do you attribute that rise?

We've made a lot of strategic moves that have contributed to our ratings growth. Loretha Jones joined us last year as the president of original programming, and Barbara Zaneri joined us as our head of programming, scheduling, strategy and acquisitions. Together they have made our programming and scheduling even smarter in a number of ways - from strengthening Tuesday nights, to moving our hit gospel competition series Sunday Best to Sundays, to using our returning franchises to help launch new shows, to programming our dayparts in better ways.

There is more flow to the schedule, and we have made great acquisitions, including The Game. We have also acquired movies including Training Day and The Matrix; we're doing movies three times a week now.

Our ratings growth is a result of our original programming, and we have even more series in the pipeline. We have a nightly talk show with Mo'Nique, starting in October, called The Mo'Nique Show. We also recently added The Wendy Williams Show to our nightly line-up--it airs earlier in the day on Fox. We also have another new show about singer Monica that follows her comeback in the music world. Her show will be called Monica.

We are also partnering with NASCAR on Changing Lanes, which chronicles the search for the sport's next generation of drivers. We're looking at the changing face of NASCAR. It is something we are excited about.

The BET Awards obviously did a lot better this year coming right after the death of Michael Jackson. Tell us about how that came together?

We had 10.65 million viewers tune in (live + same day), which makes the BET Awards the number one show on cable so far this year. The number of viewers who tuned in to see the awards is a testament to Michael Jackson's far-reaching and long-lasting influence and legacy. It was really the first time people could express themselves about Michael, so the emotion really came through.

It also gave us the chance to promote other shows like [reality series] Tiny and Toya. We premiered it after the BET Awards ended at 12:45 a.m., and it became the number one original series in our network history. Coca-Cola sponsored a red room, where we had actor Idris Elba deejaying. [Our advertisers] see the value in having great talent on site.

Generally our BET Awards rate highly. The sponsors and partners for this year's show included Pepsi, Procter & Gamble's Cover Girl and My Black Is Beautiful, Twitter, Kmart, Lincoln, Ford, KFC Pride 360, Yahoo! Music and Grey Goose Vodka. It was the No. 1 telecast in cable television history among African-Americans. Stephen Hill, [president of music programming and specials] oversees the show every year.

How did this year's show come together?

Michael Jackson's death really changed it. Stephen and the team had to change just about everything only two days before, because we, of course, wanted to have the performers do Michael Jackson tributes as best we could in a limited time frame. Michael really created the song book for a generation. There hasn't been another entertainer like him, and I don't think there ever will be another person who comes close to making the impact he had on pop music.

Concert promoter AEG Live is negotiating to sell footage of the last Michael Jackson performance. Is BET interested?

We'd be interested; it's a little expensive, though. You know, one of my favorite memories of Michael was when I had a reception for him at my home. About 250 people came and he was perfectly charming and chatted about the business. He stood on a receiving line and he took pictures with everyone there.

I'm glad I had the chance to meet him. His only request was for bowls of Skittles. I've never seen grown people push each other out of the way to meet someone like they did with Michael.

How has BET's mission evolved? How does President Obama being in the White House help you?

It just so happened that our new brand strategy started the year President Obama was elected to the White House. Our mission is to respect, reflect, elevate and inspire our audience.

President Obama has had such a great effect. Having a black family in the White House increases awareness of black culture, and the number of non-black viewers coming to our network has increased.

A few months ago, President Obama invited me to come in and meet with a group of 12 CEOs to talk about the stimulus package. He said BET should be there talking with the likes of Mattel and Xerox.

BET worked with Procter & Gamble on a short series called My Black is Beautiful. Are you doing any other sponsored programming?

We just premiered a new series called Rising Icons, in partnership with Grey Goose Entertainment, about up-and-coming artists in music like Keri Hilson and Chrisette Michelle. The series takes viewers on an up-close-and-personal journey behind the scenes with the artists, giving viewers a glimpse into their road to stardom and revealing what it takes to be successful in music and entertainment today. We are doing more on the integrated marketing side.

How are you working with Nielsen to make sure that the African American audience is adequately represented?

They have increased the size of the African-American sample to 1,200, which is up from 600. We continue to find ways to make it more realistic and more representative.

How are ad sales proceeding?

They're holding steady and improving. Earlier this year, it was a tough time for everyone, but the third- and fourth-quarter ratings were really positive. National TV sales have held up and ratings are moving in the right direction.

Tell us about what BET is doing in addition to the core channel, and what's happening internationally?

In the fourth quarter of this year, we'll be launching Centric, which is targeted at 25- to 54-year-olds - essentially today's trend-setting, sophisticated African-American and multicultural adults. We're busy with the look and feel right now.

We'll be bringing back the Soul Train Music Awards in November on Centric. The music is going to be more R&B, and we've got two new shows, one about young Black male models called Model City, and one called Keeping Up With the Joneses, which follows Houston high society.

Internationally, we're on Sky and Freesat in the UK in nearly 11 million homes. We launched in the UK in February 2008, and we launched in Africa at the end of last year.

What are BET's achievements beyond the screen?

Just last week, we hosted our annual Summer Camp for Girls, which helps young African-American girls from low- and middle-income families make healthy lifestyle choices. We host it in partnership with General Mills, and more than 100 young girls attended this year.

After Hurricane Katrina we did a talkathon and raised $14 million. In 2008, we also held of a number of grassroots events through our "Be Heard" campaign to encourage people to get involved in the presidential election and vote.

We're always very proud of our pro-social efforts, which include our Emmy Award-winning program about HIV/AIDS and sexual health awareness called Rap-It-Up.

Related post: BET Awards a Ratings Juggernaut Amidst Criticism

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Michael Jackson Autopsy Results Tighten Net

Michael Jackson Autopsy Results Tighten Net Around Dr. Conrad Murray
Authorities Believe Jackson's Personal Doctor Bungled Treatment, Which Resulted in Death

ABC News

July 28, 2009

It was reportedly a chaotic scene inside the bedroom of Michael Jackson on June 25 -- clothes strewn around the stifling hot room, handwritten notes papering the walls.

The King of Pop, for all intents and purposes, was dead -- killed, ABC News has learned, by a lethal cocktail of prescription drugs that included OxyContin and Demerol.

But according to The Associated Press, investigators believe it was Dr. Conrad Murray (pictured left top) who injected the pop icon around midnight with propofol, the powerful anesthetic authorities believe ultimately killed him.

"This doctor is in serious trouble," criminal defense attorney Roy Black told "Good Morning America" today.

Murray, whose Houston office was raided by local and federal authorities last week, has already been named in court papers as the subject of a manslaughter investigation.

Toxicology reports are due to be released this week, and it seems the net is tightening on Murray, who remains secluded in his Las Vegas home.

"Everyone needs to take a breath and wait for these long-delayed toxicology results," Murray's lawyer, Ed Chernoff, said in a statement released Monday night. "Things tend to shake out when all the facts are made known, and I'm sure that will happen here as well."

But Chernoff has already admitted that Murray didn't call 911 for 30 minutes after he found Jackson unresponsive. And the doctor, who had been hired to monitor Jackson for his planned "This Is It" tour, initially performed CPR while Jackson was lying on a bed, not on a hard surface as is proper protocol.

Black told "Good Morning America" that if Murray is charged it will be up to his defense to prove there was a sound medical reason why he prescribed and administered the off-label use of a drug that is meant for use in the operating room.

"They're going to say there's not legitimate reason to prescribe this drug for use in the home," he said. "It certainly should not be used for insomnia."

An official close to the investigation told The Associated Press that Jackson relied on propofol like an alarm clock, instructing doctors to stop the IV when he wanted to wake up. It's a drug authorities believe he may have been using for two years.

Was Anyone Monitoring Jackson's Vital Signs?

Murray's lawyers have maintained for weeks that the doctor was simply a witness in Jackson's death and had nothing to do with it.

Chernoff has repeatedly said the doctor did not administer any drug that should have killed Jackson. While he has specifically denied prescribing OxyContin and Demerol, he has not made the same assurances about propofol.

Black said that, as Jackson's physician, Murray should have know what other drugs the entertainer was taking and how they could have interacted.

As for the propofol itself, Black said, Murray is "going to have a very tough time proving you can do this at home."

It's unclear if Murray or anyone else was monitoring Jackson's vital signs while he was hooked up to the IV.

On June 29, five days after Jackson's death, Chernoff told ABC News that it was "sometime before noon" when Murray went to check on his patient.

"He noticed that he wasn't breathing, and he went over to him, felt his body, his body was warm, he checked for a pulse, he found one, a very weak pulse and he immediately started applying CPR," Chernoff said then.

TMZ has reported that paramedics found Jackson dead upon arrival with an IV in his arm and three oxygen tanks nearby, yet Murray insisted Jackson be transported to the hospital where he continued to try to revive him even after other doctors had given up.

Michael Jackson's Nurse Refused Him Propofol

Cherilyn Lee, a registered nurse and nutritionist who worked for Jackson, said the singer begged her to give him propofol in the days before his death. She refused to help him obtain it.

Lee told ABC News the pop star had often complained of not being able to sleep more than a few hours at a time.

"The problem with you telling me you want to be knocked out," Lee said she told him, is "you might not wake up the next morning. You don't want that."

When investigators searched Murray's Texas office earlier this month, among the items seized were a vial containing 27 tablets of the weight loss drug phentermine, a vial containing a tablet of the muscle relaxant clonazepam, a photocopy picture of Murray, Rolodex cards, public storage receipts, and a receipt for a "Cricket" phone, according to the search warrant.

Other items seized from his storage unit, according to the court records, included two computer hard drives and a "Texas Department of Public Safety controlled substance registration." Authorities also obtained a suspension notice from a Houston hospital.

The search warrants specifically directed officers to "seize and examine all items, including but not limited to, billing records, medication orders, transport receipts, billing receipts, medical records and computerized medical records, for implements and instruments used in the commission of a crime."

The warrants told police they were "commanded to search ... for property or items constituting evidence of the offense of manslaughter that tend to show that Dr. Conrad Murray committed the said criminal offense" and ship any evidence found to officials in California.

Jackson Had Addictions to Propofol, OxyContin, Demerol

In the aftermath of his death, Jackson's addiction to a variety of drugs was revealed, including propofol (trade name Diprivan), the analgesic Demerol and the painkiller OxyContin. Track marks found on his arms support the theory that he was addicted to propofol.

Prescription medications found inside Jackson 's $100,000 per month rental home included ones in his name and ones in other names, including ones that appeared to investigators to be aliases. The medications had been prescribed by multiple doctors.

Methadone, Fentanyl, Percocet, Dilaudid and Vicodin were among the 20 drugs also found in Jackson's rental home.

Medical experts contacted by the ABC News medical unit said that the amount of medications reportedly found in Jackson's rented home was "jaw-dropping" and "amazing."

"That list is enough to put down a swarm of zombies," said Richard Bradley, chief of the Division of EMS and Disaster Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

"The list ... would be typical for an anesthesia cart in an operating room or what you might find in a recovery room, ICU, ED, etc. Definitely not what you'd expect to find in a home," said Joseph Ornato, chair of the department of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Murray is not the only doctor who has been eyed by law enforcement in the wake of the pop star's death. Law enforcement sources confirmed to ABC News earlier this month that a small group of doctors who treated Jackson before his death are being questioned as to their involvement with Jackson's alleged drug use.

On July 15, California Attorney General Jerry Brown said his office was running several doctors' names and several potential aliases through its prescription drug database to aid police investigating Jackson's death.

Copyright © 2009 ABC News Internet Ventures

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Nightmare on Elm Street-remake

Source: Silas Lesnick,

July 24, 2009

Warner Bros. just debuted the trailer for the upcoming re-imagining of A Nightmare on Elm Street, including a full look at Jackie Earle Haley in the Freddy Krueger makeup.

The trailer starts with Freddy (still alive) being chased down a dark street by the mob that winds up killing him. He's shouting that he's innocent, but the mob corners him and burns him alive. As the flames come around him, he tears off his jacket, revealing the iconic sweater.

We hear the "One, two, Freddy's coming for you" song being sung by children and flashes of kids all around a graveyard. One little girl has the claws slashed across her dress.

There's a girl in her room, reaching for something on a shelf and suddenly's Freddy's head is there, staring at her from behind. A number of kids are shown, obviously under the effect of Freddy's dream powers. One seems to be having a seizure on a rooftop and another is trying to burn herself with a car cigarette lighter.

There's a basement, filled with pipes and Freddy moving through the darkness, getting closer and closer to the camera between flashes of victims before the logo comes up.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is set to hit theaters April 30, 2010.

Cool Black's Mad Commentary: I'm a big fan of the previous 'Nightmare' and 'Friday' series. Jason was cool, but Freddy was the man. Mostly because of his smartass mouth. I know people who know me are SHOCKED I'm a fan of a smartass :p.

While the Friday the 13th remake SUCKED, and these same filmmakers are remaking this as well, I'm still looking forward to what they do with it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Henry Louis Gates Jr. Arrested


July 21, 2009

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Colleagues of Henry Louis Gates Jr. (pictured left), Harvard’s most prominent scholar of African-American history, are accusing the police here of racism after he was arrested at his home last week by an officer investigating a report of a robbery in progress.

Professor Gates, who has taught at Harvard for nearly two decades, arrived home on Thursday from a trip to China to find his front door jammed, said Charles J. Ogletree, a law professor at Harvard who is representing him.

He forced the door open with the help of his cab driver, Professor Ogletree said, and had been inside for a few minutes when Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department appeared at his door and asked him to step outside.

Professor Gates, 58, refused to do so, Professor Ogletree said. From that point, the account of the professor and the police began to differ.

According to his lawyer, Professor Gates told the sergeant that he lived there and showed his Massachusetts driver’s license and his Harvard identification card, but Sergeant Crowley still did not seem to believe that Professor Gates lived in the home, a few blocks from Harvard Square. At that point, his lawyer said, Professor Gates grew frustrated and asked for the officer’s name and badge number.

According to the police report, Professor Gates initially refused to show identification.

In the report, Sergeant Crowley said a white female caller had notified the police around 12:45 p.m. of seeing two black men on the porch of the home, at 17 Ware Street. The caller, who met the police at the house, was suspicious after seeing one of the men “wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry,” according to the report.

A spokesman for the Police Department did not return a call seeking comment. But in the report, Sergeant Crowley said that as he told Professor Gates he was investigating a possible break-in, Professor Gates exclaimed, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?” and accused the sergeant of racism.

“While I was led to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence,” Sergeant Crowley wrote in the report, “I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me.”

Professor Gates followed him outside, the report said, and yelled at him despite the sergeant’s warning “that he was becoming disorderly.” Sergeant Crowley then arrested and handcuffed him. Professor Gates was held at police headquarters for hours before being released on his recognizance.

“He is cooperating now with the city to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” Professor Ogletree said, adding that Professor Gates wanted the charges against him dismissed.

Professor Ogletree said that Professor Gates had “never touched” Sergeant Crowley, but did “express his frustration at being subjected to the threat of arrest in his own home.”

He would not say whether Professor Gates believed he had been the victim of racial profiling. But Dr. S. Allen Counter, a black professor at Harvard Medical School, said he and a number of his university colleagues were “deeply disturbed about the actions of the Cambridge police.”

“My colleagues and I have asked the question of whether this kind of egregious act would have happened had Professor Gates been a white professor,” said Dr. Counter, who said he had talked to Professor Gates since the arrest. “We think that it has to be investigated, and we are deeply saddened by what happened.”

Cool Black's Four word Commentary: Some things don't change.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chris Brown Apologizes For Rihanna Assault In New Video

'I'm truly, truly sorry that I wasn't able to handle the situation both differently and better,' he says in clip.

By Jayson Rodriguez-MTV News

Jul 20 2009 4:58 PM EDT

In a video that appeared online late Monday afternoon (July 20), Chris Brown has apologized publicly for the first time about the domestic altercation that took place between him and Rihanna earlier this year.

In the clip, obtained by MTV News, Brown, dressed in a red long-sleeve shirt with buttons on the front (pictured above left), spoke directly to the camera and apologized to his former girlfriend and his fans.

"I've told Rihanna countless times and I'm telling you today, I'm truly, truly sorry that I wasn't able to handle the situation both differently and better," Brown said.

At the beginning of the two-minute clip, Brown explains that his attorneys advised him to not speak about the situation until the legal ramifications were settled. But Brown said that ever since the February incident, he's wanted to speak about the matter. The singer expressed his "deepest regret" over the fight and said he "accepts full responsibility" for the incident.

According to the police report, on the eve of the 2009 Grammy Awards, Brown and Rihanna engaged in an altercation that left the "Umbrella" star with facial contusions. Just last month, Brown pleaded guilty to one count of felony assault. The singer will attend anger-management courses, seek therapy and perform community labor as a result of his plea deal.

Toward the end of the apology, Brown continues to express remorse. The singer said up until the incident, he was living his life in a way that would make those around him proud. Through soul searching, he said, and help from his minister and mother, Brown intends to work on himself and gain forgiveness for his actions.
"I only can pray that you forgive me, please," he said to his fans.

You can see the video below. (You may have to sit through a 30 second commercial first)

Cool Black's Mad Commentary: I still find it hard to listen to Chris Brown's music. I bought BOTH of his previous albums and probably would have bought the third, but what he did was "straight crazy" and unexcusable. I don't know if I could ever really buy his music again. I hope he never do this to anyone again.

You can read other comments at the bottom of the MTV article here

**Previous related blog entries:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Beyoncé 'desperate for Sister Act role'

By Rebecca Davies

Tuesday, July 7 2009

(LONDON) Beyoncé (pictured left) is rumoured to be desperate for the lead role in a remake of '90s hit musical Sister Act.

A stage version of the film, which starred Whoopi Goldberg as sexy lounge singer-turned-nun Deloris Van Cartier, is currently showing in London's West End and is soon to hit Broadway.

According to The Daily Mail, the 'Single Ladies' singer has been begging Disney bosses to give her the part. She allegedly became interested in the role after watching the show in London during her recent UK tour.

There are also rumours that the part of the Mother Superior, previously played by Maggie Smith, will be offered to Mamma Mia! actress Meryl Streep.

Cool Black's Mad Commentary: This will probably NOT be a remake so much as it is a film version of the musical. The original was a "movie with music" and this would be more like Grease, Hairspray and of course Dreamgirls.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Janet Jackson, Jermaine Dupri Split

July 17, 2009

It would seem that it's been a month of turmoil and upheaval for Janet Jackson. On the heels of the loss of her brother, Michael, in June, come reports of Jackson's breakup with longtime boyfriend, producer Jermaine Dupri. According to US Weekly, rumors of a split surfaced following Dupri's conspicuous absence from Michael Jackson's funeral on July 7. Now the magazine reports that an insider says "it's over."

Since none of us are genuinely privy to what goes on in the lives of celebrities, it's hard to cite an exact reason for the pair's breakup after seven years. But Us's sources say that things started to unravel after Dupri produced two tracks for Jackson's last album. The magazine quotes a source as saying the singer felt overwhelmed and claustrophobic because of how closely entagled the two were in each other's lives.

Us also quotes another source who chalks the breakup up to a simple, classic reason: The fact that opposites attract -- and, then, repel: "Jermaine likes to be out there, mingling with everybody, and ­Janet's more shy."

Cool Black's Mad Commentary: J&J have been one of the most photographed couples in recent years. While black folk knew who Jermaine Dupri was the world then knew who he was since he was dating a world reknown superstar. Maybe he can retain some of the notabilty.

Check out some of the photographs of "one of the most photographed couples in recent years" below

Summer At The Movies And The Livin' Ain't Easy

All Things Considered-NPR

July 17, 2009

Harry Potter's magic is working again. The sixth movie in the series opened this Wednesday with $58 million in ticket sales — the best first-day ticket numbers of the entire series. But the boy wizard is an exception to the rule this summer. While the season started with a bang, thanks to movies like Star Trek, Up and the latest Transformers, box office sales now seem to be cooling off — and it's only July.

Journalist John Horn, who covers the movie industry for the Los Angeles Times, says it's not that movies are doing badly; they're just not doing as well as they were at the beginning of the year.

"At a certain point, according to some estimates, the box office was running about 17 percent ahead of what it was a year ago," Horn tells Madeleine Brand. "Now it's about 11 percent, so it's cooled off dramatically."

In hard times, people often turn to movies for escape, but numbers this summer say otherwise, and some movies are barely doing business, even on opening night.

"I think the audience is becoming a little bit more picky," says Horn. "They're much more interested in what their friends are recommending than what critics are recommending."

Horn says recent movies like Eddie Murphy's Imagine That or Will Ferrell's Land of the Lost would have done well three or four years ago, when movie watching was more of a habit for audiences.

"Even if they had a turkey, [studios] would know that they could maybe get two weeks of business before the stink really caught up to the film," he says. "Now they have 12 hours."

Sacha Baron Cohen's newest film Bruno is one such example. The film was marketed well, and audiences who were familiar with Cohen's previous film, Borat, gave Bruno big opening-night ticket sales. By Saturday, however, Bruno's box office numbers had fallen by 40 percent — an unheard of number, according to Horn.

"So what that says is that people came out of that movie and told their friends not to go see it," says Horn. "When movies are not recommended by their friends, they fall faster then they've ever fallen."

Horn says this phenomenon puts pressure on studios to make better movies, especially when ticket sales can go south within a matter of hours:

"People will come out of the theater so quickly, and share their opinion so fast, and that word will spread so virally, that if a movie is bad, the audience will know it by Friday night and the movie will be dead by Saturday."

Cool Black's Mad Commentary: I think the reason this summer's box office is so weak is the films this summer...what's the industry term? SUCKS. I've seen most of the "blockbuster movies" this summer and most of them attracted by using an inexorable force...sucked.

A good movie will draw good business, plain and simple...most of the time.

Friday, July 17, 2009

TBS Orders Sitcom 'Are We There Yet?'

Deal is latest in series of programming tests from syndicator Debmar-Mercury
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable

Debmar-Mercury has sold original comedy Are We There Yet? to TBS for a ten-episode test run.

Based on the hit movie from Revolution Studios, the show is the latest in a series of tests put together by Debmar-Mercury intended to create new programming at a minimum of risk for all partners.

Are We There Yet? will star Everybody Hates Chris's Terry Crews, (pictured right) and will be produced by Ice Cube's Cube Vision. Ali LeRoi, executive producer of The Chris Rock Show and Everybody Hates Chris, will join Ice Cube, Revolution's Joe Roth and Matt Alvarez as executive producers. Ice Cube, who starred in the movie, will have a recurring role in the show.

The ten-episode test is slated to premiere on TBS next June, and TBS will have the option to order 90 more episodes if it's happy with the program's performance. TBS is also the home of Tyler Perry's House of Payne and Meet the Browns, both of which are also distributed by Debmar-Mercury and are the results of successful test runs.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Private Pool Bans Minority Campers

By RON TODT, AP (Associated Press)

HUNTINGDON VALLEY, Pa. (July 9) - Members and officials of a private swimming pool in a predominantly white Philadelphia suburb reacted to a visiting group of minority children by asking them not to return and pulling other kids out of the water, a day camp director said, and the state is investigating.

The Creative Steps camp in northeast Philadelphia had contracted for the 65 children at the day camp to go each Monday afternoon to The Valley Club in Huntingdon Valley, camp director Alethea Wright said Thursday. But shortly after they arrived June 29, she said, some black and Hispanic children reported hearing racial comments.

"A couple of the children ran down saying, 'Miss Wright, Miss Wright, they're up there saying, "What are those black kids doing here?'''" she said.

The gated club is on a leafy hillside in a village that straddles two townships with overwhelmingly white populations. It says it has a diverse, multiethnic membership.

Wright said she went to talk to a group of members at the top of the hill and heard one woman say she would see to it that the group, made of up of children in kindergarten through seventh grade, did not return.

"Some of the members began pulling their children out of the pool and were standing around with their arms folded," Wright said. "Only three members left their children in the pool with us."

Several days later, the club refunded the camp's $1,950 without explanation, said Wright, who added that some parents are "weighing their options" on legal action.The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission will immediately investigate, chairman Stephen A. Glassman said Thursday.

"Allegedly, this group was denied the use of a pool based on their race," Glassman said. "If the allegations prove to be true, this is illegal discrimination."The investigation was requested by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., issued a statement calling the allegations "extremely disturbing" and said he was looking into the matter.The United States' highest-profile black swimmer, Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones, said "hearing about what's happened to these 65 kids is both disturbing and appalling."

Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming, the governing body for the U.S. swim team, was stunned at the accusations."This is the sort of thing you'd hear about in 1966, during the height of the civil rights movement, not in 2009, and not in the City of Brotherly Love, of all places," he said.

Club president John Duesler told Philadelphia television station WTXF that several club members complained because the children "fundamentally changed the atmosphere" at the pool but that the complaints didn't involve race.

WCAU-TV, NBC 10 in Philadelphia, reported Duesler issued a statement saying, "There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion ... of the club."

In a statement released on its Web site Thursday afternoon, the club called the allegations of racial discrimination "completely untrue" and claimed overcrowding from more than one outside camp was the problem.

"We had originally agreed to invite the camps to use our facility, knowing full well that the children from the camps were from multiethnic backgrounds," it said. "Unfortunately, we quickly learned that we underestimated the capacity of our facilities and realized that we could not accommodate the number of children from these camps."The club said it "deplores discrimination." "Whatever comments may or may not have been made by an individual member is an opinion not shared by The Valley Club Board," it said.

Amy Goldman said she's been a member of the club for two years. She said the pool wasn't particularly crowded and the children from Creative Steps were "well behaved and respectful."
She said there had been black members at the club in the past, though she couldn't remember seeing any this year.

The club appeared closed Thursday afternoon, and the guard station at the entrance was unattended.About two dozen protesters, most of them white, held signs in front of the club's locked gates and chanted slogans including, "Jim Crow swims here!"

Spencer Lewis, from Conshohocken, showed up with some young nieces and nephews and said he believes the club owes the children an apology."I don't believe everyone here has racist thoughts, but what was said was insulting and offensive," said Lewis, who's black.

Wright rejected the overcrowding explanation, saying the club covers 10 acres with a "nice-sized" pool and a separate pool for younger children. The board, she said, knew that her group included 65 children, and none of them had misbehaved.

"We were not welcome, once the members saw who we were," she said.
Wright said that the children were upset and that she was looking for a psychologist to speak to them next week. Some children have asked her whether they are "too dark" to swim in the pool, she said.

Day camp member Araceli Carvalho, 9, said she was upset when told she wouldn't be allowed to return. "I said, 'That's not right,'" she said. But when asked if she wants to return now, she said, "I don't want to swim here anymore. "Wright said Girard College, a boarding school for poor children in first through 12th grades, has offered to host the camp children for the summer.

AP Sports Writer Cliff Brunt in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Cool Black Breakdown: Below I will breakdown what the quotes from the article really mean.

"Club president John Duesler told Philadelphia television station WTXF that several club members complained because the children "fundamentally changed the atmosphere" at the pool but that the complaints didn't involve race.

WCAU-TV, NBC 10 in Philadelphia, reported Duesler issued a statement saying, "There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion ... of the club."

Cool Black Breakdown:We don't want "urban" i.e. ghetto kids at our pool. Black, hispanic or even poor whites...we don't want "that kind" here.

"In a statement released on its Web site Thursday afternoon, the club called the allegations of racial discrimination "completely untrue" and claimed overcrowding from more than one outside camp was the problem."

Cool Black Breakdown: Of course we don't descriminate. "Overcrowding" is more of a politically correct acceptable way of saying how we feel.

"Amy Goldman said she's been a member of the club for two years. She said the pool wasn't particularly crowded and the children from Creative Steps were "well behaved and respectful."
She said there had been black members at the club in the past, though she couldn't remember seeing any this year."

Cool Black Breakdown: Of course we have had black kids here, but they were more like those kids on The Fresh Prince of Belair. Carlton used to do his little dance here all the time.

Cool Black's Mad Commentary: I agree with Spencer Lewis,when he said "I don't believe everyone here has racist thoughts, but what was said was insulting and offensive."

I think they are more classist than racist. By that I mean prejudice or discrimination based on class. I think they would have similar (not the same) reactions to hispanic or white kids from a poor area coming to their pool. Classist or racist the behavior is abhorrent, and to flip a line from Al Sharpton, wasn't nothing strange about you kids. It was strange what you kids had to deal with.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Michael Jackson: A Requiem For a King

Family, friends and fans bid farewell to an icon.
By Geoff Boucher and Maria Elena Fernandez-L.A. Times

July 8, 2009

In the end, they brought Michael Jackson to the one place where his life always made sense -- beneath a spotlight and in front of his adoring fans. The superstar, in a gleaming gold coffin, was celebrated in a Staples Center memorial service that was beamed around the world and, like the icon himself, strove mightily to be all things to all people.

With family, celebrity peers, politicians, preachers and even professional athletes taking turns at the microphone, the polished but emotional service was meant both as a farewell and as a deeply sympathetic framing of the star's complicated legacy.

The Rev. Al Sharpton brought the crowd to its feet by drawing a direct cultural line between Jackson's incandescent 1980s pop success and the 2008 election of President Obama. "Those young kids," Sharpton said of Jackson's massive crossover audience, "grew up from being teenage comfortable fans of Michael to being 40 years old and being comfortable to vote for a person of color to be the president of the United States of America." Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) praised Jackson as "a uniquely American hero," and music veteran Smokey Robinson judged him to be, simply, "the greatest performer of all time."

Sharpton and several other speakers alluded to media persecution of Jackson, who died June 25 at age 50, but one speaker who had known Jackson for more than four decades suggested that the reality is not that tidy.

"Sure there were some sad times and maybe some questionable decisions on his part, but Michael Jackson accomplished everything he ever dreamed of," said Berry Gordy, the Motown Records mogul who signed Jackson to his first record deal after an audition in the summer of 1968.

There were many memorable images, but for the years to come the signature moment may have been the public debut of sorts of Jackson's 11-year-old daughter, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. Protected and, literally, veiled for much of her life, the youngster said through tears:

"I just wanted to say, ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. And I just wanted to say I love him so much."

The ceremony was by turns somber, evangelical, thunderous and hushed. There was humor, as well. Former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson recounted how his nervous first visit to Jackson's mansion ended with the pair sitting on the floor and feasting on Kentucky Fried Chicken; Brooke Shields, who was an especially moving speaker, told how she used to tease Jackson about his most famous fashion choice.

"I'd tease him about the glove," Shields said, referring to the solitary silver glove that became Jackson's trademark. " 'What's up with the glove?' and 'If you're gonna hold my hand, it better be the non-gloved one because the sequins hurt.' "

Audience members danced along with some musical performances and stifled tears at some of the many tributes to the singer. There were also shouts from the audience of "Power to the people," "Long live the king," and "We miss you, Michael!"

The memorial, a mix of measured grief and show-biz spectacle, was seen across the globe on television and computer screens and covered with the intensity of an election night and the overkill of a Super Bowl Sunday.

Forty-seven theaters in 24 states showed the event live. As a local event, it was a surprisingly smooth affair; there was a 30-minute delay to the scheduled start time, but the predicted crush of crowds outside the arena never materialized, which Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton credited to "a steady drumbeat of media coverage in recent days" telling fans without tickets they wouldn't be permitted near the downtown venue.

Excluding invited guests, the estimated 17,500 attendees were selected from about 1.6 million who sought entry.

The event was produced by Ken Ehrlich, the longtime producer of the Grammy Awards telecast. Other key figures included Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive of AEG, and, somewhat surprisingly, Bratton, who was a presence just off stage throughout the service. He also worked the press line before the event (which, to underscore the circus atmosphere, required stepping over manure left in the wake of his mounted officers) and personally guarded the gilded casket as it arrived at the arena's underground garage.

The event that seemed so smooth and precise to television viewers was more chaotic up close. Ehrlich made a number of major decisions on the fly, such as asking Robinson to open the service by reading letters from Diana Ross and Nelson Mandela. "I think this might work," Ehrlich said, rushing to hand the letters to the surprised singer, who then calmly climbed the steps to the stage, looked into the camera and greeted the world. Ehrlich also had the lighting changed for the entire arena a few minutes into the show. "It's way too hot in here," he told his lighting crew, using a shorthand expression for glare.

Jackson's casket was taken from Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills in a motorcade of ebony Rolls-Royces and SUVs on freeways cleared by police. It then was carried into the Staples spotlight by his brothers -- Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy -- who each wore a solitary sequined glove. Janet Jackson, the second most famous member of the family, left her seat and reached toward the procession, but instead of touching the casket she reached for her living brothers, giving each of them a reassuring grip on the arm.

Janet Jackson did not perform as many had expected, but Jermaine Jackson did with a rendition of a "Smile," the bittersweet song of encouragement composed by Charlie Chaplin for his 1936 film "Modern Times." It was Michael Jackson's favorite song, the crowd was told, and the emotion-choked performance by his older brother added to the poignancy of the lyrics, written by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons more than 70 years ago:

Smile tho' your heart is aching
Smile even tho' it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
You'll get by, if you smile

Other performances included Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz performing "I'll Be There," the Jackson 5 classic that was also a key hit for Carey in 1992, and Stevie Wonder -- a performer who could certainly understand Jackson's struggle to handle a show-biz childhood -- giving an emotion-charged revival of his own 1971 composition "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer."

Some performers sang to the audience, others to the casket. Some of the producers were reluctant at first to have the casket present, especially considering the Forest Lawn ceremony before the Staples event and logistics of moving the body across town.

"The family said to us that Michael was going to be there," Ehrlich said. "At first, I kind of gulped, but I went back to, 'If this was a Baptist service, the casket would be there. And it made a difference. They were singing right over the casket of Michael Jackson. I know what that did to Mariah. I know what that did to Usher. I know what that did to John Mayer."

Ehrlich said the pacing of the service mirrored black church services: Uplifting musical numbers followed by fiery, emotional speeches followed by brief pauses. "People had time to think about what they had heard before we went on to the next order of business," he said.

Viewers also studied the service for hidden meanings. Would long-estranged sister La Toya sit with her family? She did. Would the singer's two former wives, Lisa Marie Presley (daughter of Elvis) and Debbie Rowe (mother of Jackson's two eldest children) attend? They did not.

Two other key figures in Jackson's life saga, actress Elizabeth Taylor and singer Diana Ross, also did not attend. Both released statements saying they were not ready to grieve in public.

The next order of business for organizers is figuring out who will pay the bill. Leiweke blasted L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine for publicly demanding on Monday that AEG and the family shoulder the costs. The issue is the estimated cost of police and emergency services (as much as $3.8 million) for the event, but Leiweke framed it as more than a civic matter.

"There should be a thing called common decency," Leiweke said. "This could have waited until after the family was through the memorial. It shows no class at all. Beware the man who shouts while standing on another man's casket."

The more enduring struggle, though, is over the legacy of Jackson, a man who rivaled Elvis Presley in fame but also was marked in his last years by his indictment and acquittal on child molestation charges and sometimes cruel commentary on his ever-changing visage.

The producers and participants at the memorial offered their version of that legacy: An essential pop-culture figure, agent of cultural change and beloved humanitarian.

"He was driven by his hunger to learn," Gordy said. "To confidently top himself, to be the best, the consummate student. He studied the greats and became greater. He raised the bar and then broke the bar."

External link-
See more media about the memorial at Eonline here

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson Memorial

I just finished watching the memorial on my DVR (CNN coverage) and it was the MOST moving thing I have ever seen on television. The family and the other organizers did a wonderful job and produced a memorial befitting an icon, a legend, a king.

Michael Jackson Memories

by Dankwa Brooks

I remember the first time I worked with Michael Jackson. I was at Towson University in the Directing for Film class and our instructor said that one lucky student director would get a chance…ok I can’t keep that up any longer. I’m just kidding. Don’t you hate when people make up crap like that?

Seriously when Michael Jackson died I thought it was some rumor. I had somewhere to go that night and by the time I left CNN hadn’t even confirmed anything more than he had cardiac arrest and was in the hospital. When it was finally confirmed I couldn’t think of my favorite Michael Jackson song. Thriller was my favorite album (isn’t it everyone’s?), but I couldn’t think of just one track that I could call my favorite. Truthfully some of my favorite tracks weren’t even singles (Human Nature and Lady in my Life)

Several days later I finally remembered what my favorite track was and it wasn’t even from Thriller. Man in the Mirror is my favorite Michael Jackson song (from the album Bad). In retrospect Bad is a great album, but like other great Michael Jackson albums it has been totally eclipsed by Thriller.

Despite my joke (ill conceived joke? perhaps) at the beginning many of us never met Michael Jackson or were even lucky enough to see him perform live. Most of our memories are tied to seeing him on television.

I don’t think I know anyone in my neighborhood that wasn’t watching Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever (May 1983) and the “event” that made the special go down in television history. The Jackson 5 reunion and eventual Michael Jackson performance was the highlight of the special. As much as his death has been the talk of the town (world), so too was this performance. Later that same year I had my favorite Michael Jackson memory…and it’s the truth this time.

As a child of the inner city we never had MTV, truthfully that inner city, Baltimore City didn’t even have cable capabilities (Baltimoreans from the 80’s will remember that). We had to get our music video fix on late night shows like Friday Night Videos and Pump It Up! (which came on like 3 o’clock in the morning, but that’s another blog).

It was December 1983 and I don’t know why my grandmother was up that late, (about 12 o’clock) but she was and for the only time I could remember we watched Friday Night Videos together. That night my favorite and perhaps the greatest music video ever came on…Thriller. In retrospect Thriller isn’t even a great song (my opinion), but the video was…ground breaking! I loved the story, I loved the make-up and of course the dancing. Pop, locking zombies? I mean come on who did that back then…ever? The dream ending was also PERFECT. We were both completely transfixed and thought it was FANTASTIC! The Thriller video was also the talk of the town (world) and especially school that next week.

That was 20 something years ago and a music video isn’t so much an event anymore since you can catch one anytime on the Internet or even buy and download it.

There will never be an artist like Michael Jackson. One who could create a music video that could mesmerize a 60 something woman and a teenage boy at the same time. I can’t think of another artist in my lifetime that could accomplish the same feat and become the talk of the town…make that the world.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Michael Jackson-Funeral & Will

Jackson story just getting started

Funeral date set as more details emerge

By Elizabeth Guider-The Hollywood Reporter

July 1, 2009, 10:06 PM ET

The Michael Jackson funeral will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Sources said AEG Live, which owns the arena and the adjacent Nokia Theatre, will use both facilities and the surrounding plaza.

Meanwhile, things keep getting curiouser and curiouser in and around the Jackson "case." Even before a proper burial the death is morphing from a personal tragedy into a series of titillating tell-alls or testy tussles.

And the inevitable psychics, shysters and various supporting players are coming out of the woodwork to stake their claim to a piece of the Jackson legacy, to tattle about -- or explain away -- the pop icon's loopy lifestyle or just to bask in his reflected glory.

Latest reveal: Registered nurse-nutritionist SheriLyn Lee told CNN that an insomniac, energy-depleted Jackson begged her to administer the sedative Diprivan to help him sleep. The Jackson family immediately dismissed her as an ill-informed interloper.

Nonetheless, some things are becoming clearer -- and one of them was the astuteness of the deal for that Beatles catalog, even if it apparently meant a rift with Paul McCartney and even if the King of Pop eventually had to sell half his stake to Sony to keep afloat. The 750,000-song catalog includes not only music by the Beatles but also many works of Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Lady Gaga, Eminem and Jonas Brothers. That property essentially anchors the pop star's assets.

And getting at precisely what all those assets are, what they're worth and who has any legitimate claim to them will keep a phalanx of legal eagles engaged for years.

Per a detailed rundown of the singer's tangled finances upturned by the Associated Press on Wednesday, the lavish-spending but debt-ridden Jackson was worth $237 million as of March 31, 2007.

Like so much else that boggles the mind about Jackson's life, though, he had $700,000 of that amount in actual cash, a relatively paltry sum given his opulent lifestyle, prodigious borrowing and seven-figure shopping sprees.

The dollar amounts then and now are crucial because Jackson's estate soon will be the focus of legal battles between the singer's family and various creditors.

Not to mention Uncle Sam, who, once debts are stripped out of the Jackson assets, will want to exact his pound of flesh -- as much as 45% of what's left of the estate once the legislated $3.5 million exemption is accounted for.

"I'm really surprised more hasn't been made of the possible federal estate tax liabilities that could be involved in all this," said Lawrence Heller, a tax and estate planner of the law firm Bryan Cave. He also added that the executors of the will have nine months to untangle the situation before interest and penalties apply.

Since 2007, Jackson's debts and his assets have grown substantially. He took on more debt in a refinancing transaction later that year, and the Sony/ATV Music Publishing joint venture spent hundreds of millions acquiring new songs.

The five-page statement of financial condition from D.C.-based accounting firm Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates says Jackson had debts of $331 million.

On the plus side of the ledger, the 2007 report put a net value on Jackson's 50% stake in the Sony/ATV catalog at $390 million.

His overall assets at the time, mostly nonliquid items including the catalog share, were pegged at about $500 million.

According to other unrelated documents, Sony Music guaranteed Jackson a cash distribution of $11 million a year from the venture through September 2011 and indicated that Sony had an option to buy an unspecified percentage of Jackson's remaining share in Sony/ATV.

The present worth of the catalog probably has gone up, though Sony's sluggish stock performance suggests the conglom might not be anxious to spend anything considerable for a buyout. The value of Neverland, the other main asset in which Jackson still had an indirect ownership interest, probably has gone down in the wake of the housing slump in California.

In another part of the forest of financial entanglements, there are a few patches of sunlight and a lot of shade.

Unlike what Jackson's family apparently was aware of, the singer did sign a will -- big scrawls on each of five typed pages, in fact -- and it leaves the pop star's estate to his three children. That revelation complicates a bid by Jackson's mother, Katherine, to take control of her son's finances. The will does name his mother as guardian of his children but puts his assets in a trust.

However, elements of the wacky pop up in every aspect of this unfolding saga: Jackson designated none other than the 65-year-old entertainer Diana Ross, his lifelong friend, as backup guardian for the kids were anything to prevent his mother, now 79, from fulfilling her duties. Debbie Rowe, the mother of Jackson's two older children who relinquished her parental rights 10 years ago, is not even referred to in the will.

The divvying up of Jackson's assets and the settling of his debts are likely to be hotly contested.

On Monday, just four days after their son died of cardiac arrest, Katherine and Joe Jackson won temporary custody of the kids and moved to become administrators of his estate. And on Wednesday, the judge further ruled that Katherine Jackson will retain limited control of 2,000 items from Neverland until another hearing is held Monday.

But after the will surfaced, Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff called for a speedy compromise between attorneys for Katherine Jackson and the two co-executors of Michael Jackson's will: attorney John Branca and John McClain, a music executive and family friend.

"I would like the family to sit down and try to make this work so that we don't have a difficult time in court," the judge said.

Good luck with that.

Roger Friedman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


Jackson’s Will Could Set Off Legal Struggle

LOS ANGELES — Nearly a week after he died, Michael Jackson still has not been buried, new complications have arisen over settling his vast estate, and his will has given up tantalizing details, including his choice of Diana Ross as a guardian of his children if his mother were unable to care for them.

In short, Mr. Jackson’s death has carried on much as his life, full of rumors, legal maneuvering and a shifting cast of characters acting on his behalf.

One thing was made clear by the family’s latest publicists: despite gathering fans and a swirl of news reports, there would be no memorial for Mr. Jackson at Neverland, the ranch he once owned in Santa Barbara County, near Los Angeles.

The family, however, was planning a public memorial for Mr. Jackson, 50, who died Thursday of undetermined causes. No details were released.

Officials in Santa Barbara County confirmed that representatives of Colony Capital LLC, the company that acquired the ranch last year as Mr. Jackson’s finances spiraled out of control, had approached them Tuesday about a burial there.

That prospect sent a surge of fans and news people to the two-lane country road leading there, and law enforcement officials braced for a memorial. But after examining regulations on burials on private land, the representatives were told the necessary approvals would take “months, not weeks,” said Michael Ghizzoni, the county’s lawyer.

Mr. Ghizzoni said the discussions left open the possibility of a later burial there, but the family’s wishes were unclear, and their representatives would say only that planning continued.

As they sought a place for Mr. Jackson’s funeral and burial, the family and its representatives also sought to clarify issues regarding his assets and the custody of his children, Michael Joseph Jr., 12, known as Prince Michael; Paris Michael Katherine, 11; and Prince Michael II, 7.

A five-page will written in 2002 and filed in state court Wednesday by two executors who were once business partners of Mr. Jackson gives the entire estate to a family trust, and names his mother, Katherine Jackson, 79, as a beneficiary of the trust and as legal guardian of the children.

The will does not mention Joe Jackson, Mr. Jackson’s father, whom the singer in interviews had accused of physically and emotionally abusing him and his brothers in their years performing as the Jackson 5. Joe Jackson has denied those claims and has talked in recent days of his desire to find out how his son died and of his plans for a record company.

Amid the dry legalese came a surprising revelation. The will named Ms. Ross, who helped start Mr. Jackson’s career in the 1970s, as a backup to raise the children if Mrs. Jackson were unable to serve as guardian.

A spokesman for Ms. Ross, who is 65 and has five grown children, said she had no comment.

At a hearing Wednesday, Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff of Los Angeles County Superior Court, who had granted temporary custody to Mrs. Jackson earlier in the week, scheduled future hearings to help sort out “this ball that is all of Mr. Jackson’s business dealings.”

Debbie Rowe, the mother of Mr. Jackson’s two oldest children, has not made a claim for custody, nor has the mother of the youngest child. That woman’s name has not been revealed. In a further sign of the legal flurry and Mr. Jackson’s capacity to attract the bizarre, a London woman filed a rambling, handwritten petition that claimed she had married Mr. Jackson in 1970 — when he was 11 — and demanded his assets, among other things.

It was not clear if the will filed Wednesday was the only one. With Mr. Jackson employing a revolving door of advisers over the years, Mrs. Jackson’s lawyer, Burt Levitch, did not rule out the possibility of multiple wills.

But if the 2002 will is deemed valid and a trust receives all of Mr. Jackson’s assets, many of the details of his finances could remain secret. The trust documents are private.

“The trust is going to be more opaque to people like you or me,” said Edward McCaffery, a law professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “The trust mechanism is a way to keep random people out of the woodwork from coming in.”

The value of the estate, mostly in holdings other than cash, was estimated in excess of $50 million, but Mr. Jackson carried unspecified debt as his career foundered in recent years, in part over accusations of child molesting. Although acquitted of criminal charges in 2005, he struggled to revive his career and had planned a series of concerts beginning this summer.

In court papers filed Monday, Mrs. Jackson, who lives in the Encino neighborhood, requested that she be given control of Mr. Jackson’s financial accounts, his real estate holdings and his stake in the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalog, which includes works of the Beatles. The papers listed Joe Jackson’s address as unknown. News reports in the past few years have said he lives in Las Vegas.

In the will, which Mr. Jackson initialed 10 times on the right margin, he named John Branca, a lawyer, and John McClain, a longtime friend, as the executors. They were the petitioners in Wednesday’s filing. A third person, Barry Siegel, was listed as a co-executor, but the filing said Mr. Siegel had resigned from the position in 2003.

Mr. Jackson gave the executors full power over his financial matters, including the buying and selling of assets, the continuation of his “business enterprises,” and the selling, leasing or mortgaging of his property.

Before he died, Mr. Jackson had sought to raise money from his belongings. He moved luxury cars, artwork, jewelry, costumes and other property off Neverland last year for an auction, but it never took place.

The authorities, meanwhile, are awaiting test results before ruling on Mr. Jackson’s cause of death. The family also had a private autopsy done, but results have not been released.

The county coroner has said Mr. Jackson was taking prescription medicine, but officials have not identified it or said whether it was a factor in his death.

Rebecca Cathcart contributed reporting from Los Angeles, and Liz Robbins from New York.

On Michael's 50th birthday (August 29, 2008) the British tabloid the Daily Mail created what the MJ might have looked like now if he HADN'T had plastic surgery.



Wednesday, July 1, 2009

BET Awards a Ratings Juggernaut Amidst Criticism

-from Black Talent News

The live premiere of the BET Awards '09 on Sunday, June 28, drew 10.65 Million Total Viewers - the #1 cable telecast year-to-date and BET's biggest audience ever (NMR, Live + Same Day, 6/28). Coupled with strong ratings has come strong criticism.

BET scrambled and hastily turned the annual awards show into a quasi-Michael Jackson tribute three days after the pop star's sudden death. The show was dedicated to Michael Jackson and featured several salutes to Jackson by host Jamie Foxx and Ne-Yo. The highlight perfomances included Maxwell, the trio Tyrese, Johnny Gill, Trey Songz, The Ojay's, and Jay-Z. Capping the show was an emotional appearance by Janet Jackson, who spoke on behalf of the family to thank fans for their love and support.

"The number of viewers who tuned in to see the BET Awards '09 is a testament to Michael Jackson's far-reaching and long-lasting influence and legacy," said Debra L. Lee, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, BET Networks. "We're thankful to everyone who played a role in the show, both on stage and behind the camera, and it meant so much to all of us to be there for our audience at this emotional time. Above all, we extend our love and prayers to the Jackson family and are honored that Joe and Janet Jackson were in attendance."

The BET Awards '09 also stands as the #1 awards show on cable for the year to date among total viewers. In addition, the 106 & PARK pre-show drew 3.1 million total viewers, and the BET Awards '09 After-Party Fashioned by My Black Is Beautiful Post Show drew 5.2 million total viewers. The sneak peek of the new BET series TINY & TOYA drew an additional 3.8 million total viewers. All three shows set BET records, becoming the #1 pre-show, post-show and original series telecasts in BET history, respectively (NMR, Live, 6/28).

Notwithstanding the strong ratings, the BET Awards '09 has provoked harsh criticism and come under fire from bloggers, viewers and journalists who found many elements distasteful and offensive, including host Jamie Foxx's multiple performers (3!), and constant shameless promotion of his album and upcoming tour.

Many were outraged by Lil' Wayne and Drake's performance which has been called "inappropriate," and in bad taste and poor judgement. The two were joined on stage by Weezy's pre-teen daughter and other young girls during the performance of their hit song "Every Girl in the World" which is about wanting to f*ck every girl in the world.

Twitter and Facebook became the main source of people revealing their disappointment of the performance. From celebrities to high profile magazines, everyone had something to say about it.

“Lil' wayne + wanting to f*ck every girl + w/ young girls on stage = smh, pure mess. how did bet miss how inappropriate that was?! (TheSourceMag's Twitter)

these girls onstage look a littttttle tooooo young to be the subject of this song. could be the red tutu (AngelaYee's Twitter)

Okay I have a problem! Why are there 12 year olds on stage while Drake and Lil Wayne singing this song!! I as like is that a little GIRL????? and then I was like wait there are more lil kids! HUH?? (TiaMowry's Twitter)

Drake/Lil Wayne performance really pissed me off by bringing those young 10 year old girls singing I would F ever girl in the world. (IPRMKTG's Twitter)”

I was hoping the BET Awards '09 would be a serious and sincere tribute by the black community to Michael Jackson. I would have opted for a medley of Jackson songs featuring "classy" performers like Usher, Justin Timberlake, Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson. Even a quiet moment of reflection while a well-cut montage celebrated his accomplishments would have played better than what transpired Sunday night. But instead we got "Guns is Michael Jackson"? Hmmmm.

I've got to give BET props for their noble intentions, but overall the show didn't have the class or organization befitting the King of Pop.

Sandra "Pepa" Denton and Chilli Top The List of New VH1 Series

By Monique D. Love-Black Talent News

VH1 has teamed up with Sandra "Pepa" Denton (pictured left) of Salt n Pepa and Chilli from TLC - giving each pioneering hip-hop artist her own series revolving around their current lives as single women. The yet-to-be titled "Pepa" and "Chilli" series will premiere on VH1 in 2010.

The untitled "Pepa" series is a real-life comedy following Sandra "Pepa" Denton of Salt-n-Pepa fame as she emerges from her self-imposed romantic and sexual dormancy of the past four years as she begins to search for love again. After years of living a celibate life in order to focus on finding "the one," Pep has realized that giving up sex actually got her nowhere in the relationship world. She didn't "evolve," she didn't land a husband and the only close relationship she formed was with her exercise bike. But she's not the only one. Her three closest girlfriends are all single and searching too. The four friends will laugh, cry and dish the dirt as they support each other along the way. The "Pepa" series has been picked up for eight half-hour episodes and is set to premiere in 2010.

Sandra "Pepa" Denton
The "Pepa" series is executive produced by Banks Tarver and Ken Druckerman for Left/Right, Inc. Executive Producers for VH1 are Shelly Tatro, Danielle Gelfand, Kari McFarland and Jeff Olde.

'Chilli' from R&B supergroup TLC (pictured right), has decided to take the reins of her lackluster romantic situation and launch an all out search for the love of her life in the yet-to-be titled "Chilli Project." Despite huge success as a recording artist and a mother, Chilli has grown tired of striking out on the romantic front, so she has enlisted the help of Brooklyn relationship expert Tionna Smalls. Not one to let people take the easy way out, Tionna has promised to give Chilli the challenging emotional workout she needs in order to get over the hurdles that have kept her from having the long-term serious relationship she craves. The series has been picked up for eight half-hour episodes and is set to premiere in 2010.

"The Chilli Project" is executive produced by FremantleMedia North America. Larry Barron, Kevin Williams, Bill Diggins and Chilli are executive producers. Executive producers for VH1 are Jim Ackerman, Dave Hamilton and Jeff Olde.