Michael Jackson, who is currently awaiting trial on child molestation charges, allegedly paid the son of a Neverland Ranch employee $2 million in 1990 to avoid a child molestation accusation, The Associated Press reports. According to a segment to be broadcast tonight on the TV news magazine Dateline NBC, a 12-year-old boy accused Jackson, 45, of "fondling him through his clothes." Retired Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Thomas, now an NBC news analyst, told the AP the employee's son did not file charges and didn't want to testify "because he was afraid his friends would think he was homosexual." Thomas, whose office investigated Jackson in 1993 in connection with another boy's claim, told Dateline the department always believed there were another eight to 10 other children out there who had spent time with Jackson. "They had spent time in his bedroom, but that nothing had happened," he said in an interview. "Some wouldn't talk to us at all." The Dateline report said the settlement contained a clause barring it from being discussed publicly. The boy, now in his 20s, is not expected to testify in the current case. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. His trial is set to start Jan. 31, 2005.
Mark McGrath to host Extra
Extra, extra! Sugar Ray singer Mark McGrath has signed on as permanent co-host of the syndicated TV entertainment show Extra, the AP reports. "This is a dream job," McGrath said Thursday. "Through the band, I did some hosting and loved it. I feel in my element. I'm diving in headfirst and hopefully people will respond." He will work alongside longtime Extra host Dayna Devon. McGrath said he still plans to continue working with Sugar Ray, which has a greatest-hits CD in the works. His Extra debut is set for Sept. 13.
Sony settles suit over fake film critic
Sony Pictures Entertainment has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit brought by moviegoers who said they were duped into seeing movies by fake reviews company executives had planted in advertisements. A source told Reuters Sony has agreed to pay $1.5 million into a fund to settle the case. The payout could amount to about $5 per participant in the class action, with any remaining money donated to charity. The suit was filed in June 2001 by two moviegoers who claimed they were duped into seeing A Knight's Tale based on a fake review by David Manning, a fictitious Connecticut newspaper critic invented by a Sony Pictures advertising executive. The scam was eventually exposed by Newsweek magazine.
Weird Al assaulted by green moths
Some unwanted guests rushed parody singer "Weird Al" Yankovic on stage during his performance at a state fair in Du Quoin, Ill., the AP reports. The Grammy-winning singer was swarmed by some green moths, some of which even nested in his trademark curly hair. "My band asked me if I could find a concert where we would be attacked by insects," Yankovic joked with the audience Wednesday. "I said I would see what I could do." Yankovic, the consummate professional, wasn’t phased by the moths and continued along with songs and costume changes during his self-described "rock and comedy multimedia extravaganza" in support his recent album, Poodle Hat.
Judge revokes Tom Sizemore’s probation
Tom Sizemore's probation in a domestic abuse case involving his ex-girlfriend, former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, was revoked Thursday because he refused to provide a urine sample for a drug test at a probation office last month, the AP reports. Sizemore, 42, was sentenced in October to six months in jail on misdemeanor charges of harassing, annoying and physically abusing Fleiss during their two-year relationship. Sizemore's attorney said the actor declined to take the test because an officer he didn't recognize also wanted to search him there and he feared the results might be tampered with. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Antonio Barreto Jr. allowed Sizemore to remain free pending an evidence hearing on Nov. 8.
Hartnett down with the paparazzi
Heartthrob Josh Hartnett, who stars in this week’s new thriller Wicker Park, said he bought a Victorian home in Minnesota so he he could live without the pesky paparazzi, the AP reports. "For me, it's really important to have a real life, to have a normal life," he told reporters. But the Black Hawk Down star said he rarely lets his guard down. "When you feel like things have really died down, the paparazzi and the gossip magazines will give you a wake-up call when you least expect it." The actor also told the Daily News he was looking for more daring projects after being stuck in what he described as heroic, semi-bland roles. "I was worried about doing all those studio movies and just being a spoke in a wheel. I wanted to do more adventurous projects."
Ivana Trump gets reality TV show
Ivana Trump, the ex-wife of real estate mogul turned reality TV star Donald Trump, will star in a two-hour reality special tentatively titled Ivana Man, aimed at helping "mature" women find love with a younger man. Trump, 55, will choose eight young bachelors to compete for the affections of a single but successful older woman who will then rely on Trump to help her whittle the group of suitors to two finalists before picking the winner, the AP reports. The show is set to debut later this season on Fox. Donald Trump divorced Ivana in 1992 and married younger model Marla Maples the following year in a much-publicized celebrity split.
Comic Rodney Dangerfield remains in ICU
Rodney Dangerfield remains hospitalized in intensive care and hooked to a respirator, more than a week after undergoing heart surgery, his publicist told Reuters Thursday.The 82-year-old comedian underwent a heart valve replacement at the UCLA Medical Center last Wednesday. Spokesman Kevin Sasaki said he knew of no complications stemming from the surgery. The performer, famed for his catch phrase "I can't get no respect," underwent double-bypass heart surgery in March of 2000 and an operation three months later to correct an aneurysm. He also suffered a mild heart attack in November 2001. When he was admitted to hospital last week, Dangerfield joked: "If things go right, I'll be there about a week; and if things don't go right, I'll be there about an hour and a half."