Sunday, January 16, 2011

Michael Jackson From Beyond: The Business End of the Blotter

When the news broke that Joe Jackson plans to launch a pair of perfumes based on his late son, I can’t say I was surprised. From all accounts, Joe Jackson is a perfectly odious guy who will stoop to anything to exploit his children, dead or alive. Since I’ve written about Dead Celebrity Fragrances and covered the exhumation of a failed perfume from Michael Jackson’s ante-mortem days, I decided to have a look at these upcoming scents.  

That’s when things started getting weird.

First, there’s the matter of names. According to the Toronto Star and the widely quoted Agence France-Presse story filed by Celine Agniel, the eau de parfums are called Jackson’s Tribute for men and Jackson’s Legend for women. (Hmmm . . . Legende de Michael Jackson was the failed masculine released as an “only on TV” product in the early 1990s. Couldn’t they at least come up with a new name?)

According to Marie-Helene Wagner over at MimiFrouFrou, who is highly attuned to every new product launch and shares my morbid fascination with Dead Celebrity Scents, the fragrances are called The Jackson Legend for Men and Timeless from Neverland for Women.

Well, maybe we’ll sort that out later. 

Marie-Helene recounts the standard press story of how Julian Rouas Paris fragrance company owner Julian “Franck” Rouas connected with Joe Jackson at a trade show and inked a deal with him only ten days later on December 12, 2010. (As I read this the indicator on top of the FirstNerve Bogosity Meter began flashing yellow.)

The new MJ scents will be launched on March 7, 2011 in Las Vegas. From contract to launch in less than three months? Wow. (The Bogosity Meter is now flashing red.)

Accompanying her post was a picture of the perfumer said to have created these perfumes from 375 samples in a little over three weeks. That’s 17 trials a day, 25 a day if you don’t work weekends. And this took place over the Christmas holiday during which, in my experience, French commercial perfumery grinds to a halt. (The Bogosity Meter is starting to make little chirping noises.) 

The perfumer is Joseph Rubino, 63, shown in a press photo seated in a fragrance studio wearing a white lab coat. (Lab coats are worn by techs in the compounding lab; perfumers wouldn’t be caught dead.) Rubino has a half dozen sample blotters mounted on a stand—except that they’re not the folded and pointed mouillettes favored by French perfumers, they’re big honking rectangular blotters more suited for air freshener work. (The Bogosity Meter is now chiming like the seat belt indicator in a crappy rental car.) Oh, well, it’s only a silly publicity shot after all.

The photo, by Xavier Giraud, appears in a French interview with Rubino published by Marion Aniel in Nice-Matin. We learn some details about the perfume deal from Aniel’s story: Franck Rouas signed a seven-year distribution agreement with the Jackson family; the agreement calls for production of one million bottles; the package design has already been done under the aegis of Franck Rouas; as of January 7, three companies were in the running to produce the actual juice; and the Jacksons will be in charge of promotion.

Package design completed in less than a month over the holidays? A million bottle production run by a company who’s previous claim to fame was Swing, a golf-themed cologne you never heard of till today? The Bogosity Meter is now blaring like the spaceship auto-destruct warning in Alien.

Julian (Franck) Rouas, the Nice-born fragrance guy on the other side of the Joe Jackson deal, has also been featured in a lot of publicity photos. In almost every one of them he’s holding a spray bottle and a gold-colored booklet with Michael Jackson on the cover. Is it the marketing collateral for the new fragrance? A press kit? No—it’s the memorial program from MJ’s July, 2009 funeral.

[“Warning! This perfume launch will self-destruct in ten minutes.”]

What about intellectual property? In the blind rush to market did anyone bother to file a trademark application? If so, it wasn’t Franck Rouas. Back in 2007 he filed one for Swing. The company listed on the application wasn’t a corporation or LLC but Franck Rouas as a sole proprietorship—the organizational form used by handymen and hot dog vendors. He registered U.S. Trademark No. 3429500. But he hasn’t yet filed one for MJ. Nor has anyone else, as far as I can tell.

[“Warning! This perfume launch will self-destruct in eight minutes.”]

Franck Rouas googles up quite a mess. There’s a lot of self-puffery. Here’s an amateur sounding press release from last September: “Julian Rouas Paris: Most Popular Name in Perfume Manufacturing”. Here’s another and another, just for flavor.

And here’s a selection from his bio on the company web site:
Julian Rouas was born in Nice, France and found a passion and a natural swing for tennis at a mere age of 7. He started playing tennis and went on to play professional and became ranked #600 in world. In 1994; Julian started coaching tennis to H.S.H. Prince Albert of Monaco and Princess Stephanie for several years. Gained right from H.S.H Prince Albert to create and organize the Zepter Monte Carlo Celebrity Charity Golf tournament in 1995-1997. He also was coaching tennis to Kevin Costner and Sharon Stone at that time.
Golf? Tennis? Basic Instinct? But wait, there’s more. Lots more:
Julian Rouas moved to Los Angeles, CA in 1995 from Nice, France. He then researched, designed and developed perfume and after shave for Rica Levis, which was just the beginning of his vision for creating and developing fragrances. He never gave up and continued to fight for his ultimate dream. In 1996 Julian Rouas founded fragrance retailer company; Perfume America with Guy Benhamou. Julian was in charge of designing the glass and scent called "Sharon" by Sharon Stone fragrance, Beverly Hills Gold, Vanilla Passion, glass design of original Davidoff fragrance, Cigar Fragrance, MC Sport, Facconable with the pump; under Guy Benhamou. From 1998-2000, Julian was the World Music Awards event organizer, in charge of bringing in sponsorship, and organizing celebrities to attend WMA such as Michael Jackson. He also became the national manager of 500 people for Huis clos windows company in France.
Is your head spinning yet? Then watch the commercial for the hit Julian Rouas Paris perfume Versailles. Really. Looks like it was filmed on the beach about a mile beyond the Santa Monica Pier; it may be the only perfume commercial to feature rotting kelp. Wait for part where the hot Asian chick rubs the stubbly shaved chest hair of the moody male model.


[“Warning! This perfume launch will self-destruct in five minutes.”]

Still with me? Then take a gander at Monsieur Rouas himself.

Again with that booklet from the memorial service. But there’s a new wrinkle: he actually displays for the camera the “contract” signed by Joe Jackson. Is that necessary? I mean, we don’t see Bernd Beetz waving a piece of paper at the paparazzi every time Coty signs a new celebrity spokesperson. Let’s take a closer look at that document:

“Travels [sic] arrangements”? 

“all statments [sic] stipulated within this JACKSON fragrance [illegible] agreement ; are deemend [sic] true by julian rouas paris inc.”?

What on earth kind of agreement is this? Not only is it signed by both Joe Jackson and Julian Rouas, it’s signed by Cynthia B. Marven. Who might she be? Apparently a Las Vegas resident and mother of singer Crystal Marven, one of the talents promoted by Joe Jackson. So . . . is Joe her daughter’s manager? Or is she Joe’s manager? Or both? Oh, man, my head hurts.

[“Warning! This perfume launch will self-destruct in two minutes.”]

But you ain’t seen nothing yet. Google Julian Rouas and you’ll find someone’s been posting vitriolic anti-Rouas rants all over the internet. Some claim to be from models who haven’t been paid; others are colorful character assassinations. Written in a stilted, oddly formal English, they paint Rouas as an oafish, sociopathic con-man and warn people not to get involved with him. I’m in no position to know whether the claims are true, but they make entertaining reading. (Warning: NSFW).

One such diatribe did have a useful link to open court records from San Mateo County, California. It appears that in 2007 Rouas set up a Limited Liability Corporation in Nevada called Giuseppe Rouas Fragrances International. In fall of 2008, a guy in Los Angeles loaned him $40,000 in return for operating shares in the LLC. For some reason the guy got cold feet and asked for his money back, as was his right under the loan agreement. Rouas gave him a refund check but then stopped payment on it. When the guy objected, Rouas gave him back $5,000, leaving him out $35,000. The guy turned out to be the son of C. Stewart Ritchie, III, MD, a wealthy doctor and successful businessman. So Dr. Ritchie, his wife, and son sued Rouas and an associate to get their money back. From what I can gather, they reached a settlement with him (Case CIV485438 - C. STEWART RITCHIE VS. JULIAN ROUAS)

[“Warning! This perfume launch will self-destruct in thirty seconds.”]

It’s possible that the Michael Jackson Tribute/Legacy project is totally on the up and up, even if somewhat misconceived and ineptly executed. It’s also possible that it represents a cosmic collision between personalities whose sleaze magnitude is beyond comprehension. What’s totally awesome is that we’ll know the answer by March 7, 2011 at the latest.

Stay tuned.

[“Commencing final countdown to self-destruct.”]


Anonymous said...

Hi Avery, great post... I love it. There is something kinda important about Julian Rouas (Franck Rouas) worth mentioning. There is a lawsuit under way in France (Nice)against Julian Rouas. I've known him for quite a while and I was summoned to testify. Julian Rouas' signature perfume Swing was stolen from a small company Pierre De Verchesney, the concept was registered in France many years ago. It turns out, Julian Rouas was working for the owner of that company, unhappy with the status quo he therefore decided to rip him off. I'll tell you point-blank, this Julian Rouas guy is a real piece of work, he can't talk without telling a lie. He has ripped off a lot of people in Los Angeles including his former girlfriend, Jaclene Benshimon, and Stew Ritchies' x-wife, Susan Brinkerhoff.

Olfacta said...

Good sleuthing! The most extreme, so far, but no one in that family seems to know the word "shame."

Nathan Branch said...

You've outdone yourself! I laughed the whole way through.

"The Bogosity Meter is now blaring like the spaceship auto-destruct warning in Alien."


Anonymous said...


Michael Jackson perfume said...

I can't wait to see it today!!!

Unknown said...

No Michael Jackson perfumes in sight!! I called everywhere. Franck Rouas is a dud!!