Sting, Billy Joel, Bette Midler Singing in the Rain Forest


From Fox News
By Roger Friedman

Photo: Abacca Press

So we had Sting, James Taylor, Bette Midler, India.Arie, the legendary Jimmy Scott, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith all on the stage at Carnegie Hall Wednesday night, seated at cafe tables with red-and-white checkered tablecloths, aside an orchestra led by such luminaries as Nile Rodgers, Hal Wilner, Narada Michael Walden and Jim Horn. And who stole the show?

Why, it was Billy Joel, of course. I kind of felt bad for Midler, who had to follow him, because Joel — as part of Trudie Styler’s 19th annual Rainforest Foundation Show — managed to knock out such a spectacular and unexpected version of the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” that even he looked surprised when it was over.

“I can’t believe I hit that note,” he really exclaimed when the show was over. Had he rehearsed it? “A little bit, but I didn’t want to give it away.”

In a night of standing ovations, his was the loudest and longest with the possible exception of one for Michael J. Fox, who led the band through a rockin’ version of “Johnny B. Goode,” singing and playing guitar as if he had never had Parkinson’s Disease. He is an unbelievable inspiration at this point. God bless Michael J. Fox!

(There was no need to worry about Bette, by the way. She rose to the occasion quite nicely.)

But it was that kind of night: I wish someone had taped it for an album, even with mistakes and raw vocals. The theme was songs from the movies, or “Singing in the Rainforest,” get it?

The performers and their songs were, in no order, Sting (“Moon River”), Taylor (“The Way You Look Tonight,” “Pennies From Heaven,” “The Twist”), Elton John (“Love Letters,” “Secret Love,” “The Woody Woodpecker Song,” “Pinball Wizard”) Antonio (“Mona Lisa,” “That’s Amore”), Midler (“Lullabye of Broadway,” “Wind Beneath My Wings,” “The Rose”), India.Arie (“The Long and Winding Road”), Scott (“Over the Rainbow,” “Someone to Watch Over Me”).

Sting hit a delicious note singing two more Beatles movie songs, “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!,” with Joel.

And yes, you had to see Elton wearing a plastic beak while he sang “The Woody Woodpecker Song.” It was equal to the days when he used to dress up as the Statue of Liberty.

Banderas, who won a Tony for singing in “Nine” on Broadway, was the revelation of the night on “Mona Lisa.” He’s now starting to prepare for his next Broadway show, “Death Takes a Holiday,” a musical by Maury Yeston based on the famous movie of the same name.

“I play Death,” Antonio said, with a smile.

I have no idea why Griffith was on the stage, but it’s not like she’s hard to look at.

Styler, who invented this thing, has had four kids with Sting and is an actress, producer, activist and a force of nature, of course. Yesterday, as this big $2 million event was ending, Trudie was heading to Rome to play Caesar’s wife in a new movie.

Hey, why not? On the plane, she probably wrote a book, or invented some new fabric. If only someone could channel Trudie into books, she’d be the new Martha Stewart! (I mean, in a good way!)

Bianca Jagger, Kenny Loggins, Patti Smythe and John McEnroe, Robert Smigel — who put on a hilarious Triumph the Insult Comic Dog routine — plus Donna Karan and Richard Baskin, Ellen Barkin and Ronald Perelman, Ron Delsener, Jerry Inzerillo, Kelly LeBrock, Mark McEwen, Denise Rich, Sheila Rodgers (from the Letterman show) and Elton John’s delightful other half, David Furnish, were also there.

At the auction during the post-dinner at the Pierre Hotel, by the way, guitars once owned by and signed by Sting and Bruce Springsteen went for a mere $15,000. But lunch with Dr. Ruth Westheimer for two couples — a promised, or make that threatened, discussion of sex — was sold for $20,000.

“More than anyone else,” Dr. Ruth reminded me at the movie premiere last night with a jab to the abdomen.

Oh, and p.s.: Feeling old? Midler’s 17-year-old daughter, Sophie, got into the college of her choice the other day. It’s an Ivy League school, but I promised I wouldn’t say which one. It’s almost like a set up for a campy Midler comedy: “The Divine Miss M on Campus.”

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