Monthly Archives: July 2005

Friday, July 29, 2005

Great Article On Marc Shaiman

Scoring big after paying dues Friday, July 29, 2005 By NELSON PRESSLEY THE WASHINGTON POST You could say Marc Shaiman bloomed late: Despite a lifelong ambition to make it as a Broadway composer, he was 42 when his musical version of “Hairspray” finally made him a big Tony-winning deal on the Great White Way. And unless you’re a theater die-hard, you could be forgiven for thinking that Shaiman came from out of nowhere, or at least from Somewhere Else, when “Hairspray” became the smash hit of the 2002-03 season. After all, Shaiman’s bio in the playbill lists no prior theatrical credits. “Hairspray,” based on the 1988 John Waters movie about integration coming at last to a 1962 “American Bandstand”-style TV program in Baltimore, has had its share of stars: Waters, Harvey Fierstein, Marissa Jaret Winokur. Yet it’s easy to argue that the show’s biggest star is Shaiman, whose ebullient score is far too accomplished to be rookie stuff. His pastiche of 1960s sounds is slick in the best sense: melodically direct, harmonically fascinating, effortlessly infectious. The show continues to do top-notch business almost three years into its New York run. It’s no real surprise, then, that Marc Shaiman truly made it in showbiz a long time ago, even if not always as a composer. You may not recognize his name, but if you’ve hummed “Blame Canada” from “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut,” cringed at the Sweeney Sisters bits on “Saturday Night Live,” tapped your foot to the rousing numbers in “Sister Act,” got misty when Bette Midler sang “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” as Johnny Carson’s last guest on “The Tonight Show” or laughed with the world at Billy Crystal’s song parodies kicking off an Academy Awards telecast, then you know arranger-producer-composer-musical supervisor Marc Shaiman. “It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work,” Shaiman, 45, says with a shrug. He’s reclining on a couch in the heavily equipped music studio in his Chelsea apartment, and behind him are posters of “When Harry Met Sally,” “City Slickers,” “The Addams Family” and “A Few Good Men” – movies he has scored, written songs for, music-directed or arranged. The studio is a semi-organized mess, with a bulletin board propped up on the floor outlining the new Martin Short project that Shaiman and his partner since 1979, lyricist and theater director Scott Wittman, are working on. It’s a spoof of one-man shows called “If I’d Saved, I Wouldn’t Be Here,” and it’s scheduled for Broadway this coming season. They are also collaborating on a musical version of the Steven Spielberg film “Catch Me If You Can,” for which Terrence McNally is writing the book. Shaiman is antsy to get started: “I’m dyin’,” he says. After all, if he had his way, “I’d want to be just like Rodgers and Hammerstein were. You know, just writing shows one after another. I feel like I have ’em in me.” One of the questions raised by the high polish of the “Hairspray” score (which, even though it’s a collection of fizzy pop songs, rewards repeated listenings) is how Shaiman, originally from Newark, learned his craft. The answer begins with community theater musicals. In conjunction with cast recordings, Shaiman studied the orchestral scores he was given the way other teenage boys scrutinized baseball stats or comics collections. He was absorbed by the role of the flute, the connotations of the trombone, the character and quality of particular chords and instrumental groupings. The minutiae fascinated him. “That,” he says, “was high school, college, everything for me, having that music in front of me, listening to cast albums.” By 16 he was regularly trekking from his New Jersey home into New York, meeting friends, playing weekend gigs. He landed work as a music director and arranger for a group of female backup singers working on their act. The group was the Harlettes; the star they backed was Bette Midler. She was gearing up for a tour, and when she asked her pickup band to play “No Jestering,” a song she’d recorded, it couldn’t. Shaiman, who adored Midler perhaps more than he adored Broadway, could. Not even 20, he became her music director and arranger. Later, “Saturday Night Live” got interested, and in the mid-’80s Shaiman landed a gig writing and appearing as Skip St. Thomas, arranger and pianist for the abominably saccharine Sweeney Sisters (played by Jan Hooks and Nora Dunn). He also got work underscoring Billy Crystal specials for HBO. “And it was at that point that we were all very frustrated” with theater, he says. “And then suddenly Bette Midler and Billy Crystal were both working on movies where they needed musical help.” The movies were “Beaches” and “When Harry Met Sally.” Says Shaiman, “Both those records and movies became huge hits for them, and my film career just really fell in my lap.” He earned five Academy Award nominations in seven years for his film songs. But Shaiman says his reward for years of the Hollywood grind was at last getting to do it all – compose, write lyrics, even sing – for “South Park.” Is “Hairspray” what Shaiman really sounds like? “I’m a jack of all trades, master of none, and I’ve known that since the beginning of my career,” he says. “I don’t have a specific sound. What I am is a sponge. I can really join in very well, I think, with all that has come before, and then I can put it back out there with … maybe my own something, a sense of … I don’t know.”
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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bette Makes A List: Top 5 Death Scenes In Rock and Roll Ben Davey and Joanna Cohen Top five death by rock n’ roll films Each week, film geeks Ben Davey and Joanna Cohen will show how all of life’s questions can be answered by the dusty gems of the weekly rentals in your local video store. Top five death by rock n’ roll films 1. The Rose (1979) Synopsis: Before Bette felt compelled to resurrect the Bugle Boy she belted it out as a singer based on the incomparable Janis Joplin – a young woman whose fondness for the pleasure poisons made her short life one long Origin camp. BD: The ‘Divine’ Miss M’s Meatloaf-esque sing-a-long of the same name, which became the scourge of karaoke joints worldwide, did this film’s popularity no harm. Even in 1979, co-star Harry Dean Stanton looked like he’d been on tour with the Stones for the past decade. Michael Cimino shares a writing credit on this film, released a year before he smote a major studio with the flop that is still the benchmark of all Hollywood flops, Heaven’s Gate. The evil of the rock ‘n’ roll world is whipped along with every course cinematic cliché available. In fact, this film ran the risk of ending up like any other movie-of-the-week, ‘tragic star meets fate’ biopic. It didn’t. Midler’s frenetic decline is magnificent. Alan Bates’ turn as evil manager, Rudge Campbell, is riveting (and makes Colonel Tom Parker seem cuddly) and the concert scenes are amongst my favourite slices of performance footage. 2. Sid and Nancy (1986) Synopsis: Sid Vicious, the hour of Greek tragedy in the Sex Pistols’ heyday, is played by Gary Oldman who stammer and headbutts his way through Alex Cox’s biopic of the punk icon’s junk-addled relationship with the impossibly shrill band-aid Nancy Spungen. BD: Steven Frears must have been impressed enough by Oldman’s performance to cast him in the following year’s biopic of murdered playwright Joe Orton, Prick Up Your Ears. As idiosyncratic as Vicious was; it was the scared boy that Oldman showed here that leads us to believe that punk’s most infamous son was more frustrated kid than hate-mongering sociopath. JC: Like many of the great rock tales, the truth doesn’t really sully up the plot in this punk romance. Their story is tragic: young, obsessive love; crippling addiction; inability to exist in a cold, hard, grown-up world. If I were a nicer person I would be sad for these characters but I’m sorry, after one hundred and ten minutes of Chloe Webb’s (Nancy Spungen) brain-drilling screech I would have stabbed her myself. 3. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987) Synopsis: Behind the syrup drenched ditties of the Carpenter kids lay Karen’s dark demons. Unique in that it was lack of consumption that led to her demise, Karen Carpenter’s rise and fall is played out with Barbie dolls in Todd Haynes’ directorial debut. BD: The Carpenters enjoyed a brief renaissance with many ’90s indy heavyweights contributing to a tribute album but Todd Haynes pre-empted the resurgence with his 43-minute docu-drama with dolls. Unauthorised use of The Carpenters’ songs led to this film being banned however one should never underestimate the outlaw spirit of the internet. JC: Some dismiss this film as a high-camp gimmick, others raise it high as one of the great cinematic comments on the link between enforced stereotypes of beauty and femininity and the incidence of eating disorders such as anorexia-nervosa. Probably one of the most highly-viewed films that theoretically does not exist. 4. Gimme Shelter (1970 – re-released 2000) Synopsis: This Maysles Brothers’ doco chronicles the death of the summer of love as it follows the Rolling Stones through their ’69 tour culminating in violence and murder at Woodstock’s evil twin – Altamont. Them flower children weren’t what they used to be. BD: Even the Stones played support to the real players in this film, who all went uncredited and whose optimism is now a historical cliché. Had the hippies heeded Hunter S Thompson’s warnings three years earlier, they might have avoided hiring the Hell’s Angels as concert muscle. Still, the physical and metaphorical death at Altamont – as captured on Gimme Shelter – is the kind of stuff which modern audiences have become accustomed. JC: Gimme Shelter has become an essential snippet of the legend surrounding the decline of the American ’60s counter-culture. Not only did it capture the mayhem that riddled the Altamont music festival but the very act of releasing this film, raised criticism of financially ‘cashing in’ on what was a tragic event. Shot in a ‘direct cinema’ style, the truth has been played with for dramatic effect. 5. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) Synopsis: The nasty world of LA show business drags the three young and sweet members of rock outfit, the Carrie Nations, into its debaucherous pit of hedonist delights. This Russ Meyer flick is a freak-out happening man. Dig the trip baby. BD: Roger Ebert, the movie critic with either one or two thumbs at any given time penned this rough diamond for the king of quick-buck flick, Russ Meyer. Ebert says that The Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten told him he was a big fan of Dolls, partly because of the film’s realism. ‘Nuff said. Philosophising hermaphroditic scenesters may not feature prominently in everyone’s day to day, but hey, it was Johnny Rotten’s observation. JC: A film to be experienced. It is extreme in its over-acting, hysteria, indulgence, insane plot directions and has the coolest one-liners ever: Find a Rolls Royce today and try out the film’s famous pick-up line: “You’re a groovy [boy/girl]. I’d like to strap you on sometime” or find your enemy and make them “drink the black sperm of [your] VENGEANCE!” Hang cool teddy bear.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Press Release: Sting & Trudie to be honoured at Hulaween 2005

On October 31, NYRP will host Hulaween 2005, a gala celebration of their Tenth Anniversary, where environmental activists Sting and Trudie Styler will be honored with the NYRP's annual "Wind Beneath My Wings" Award. The event will also celebrate Bette's 60th birthday with a special performance by Sir Elton John.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

To Comfort You!

CC Delves Back Into The Divine! CC from Delve Into The Divine is back with her very own domain and has been working like a madwoman to update and revamp her already awsomely divine site. This was one of the original Bette sites and has always remained one of my favorites. If you haven’t done so yet, check it out, and remember to update your bookmarks for it. Welcome back CC!!! Check it out: Brian’s Podcasts I just love this idea. It’s like a mini-broadcast with Brian doing a little talking here and there…explaining/describing a song and then playing it. He might ask you to think of how it makes you feel or to ponder some aspect…anyway, I just find it very interesting, original, and thought provoking. Currently he is doing this once a week, I believe, and I hope he continues to do more. Check it out: Terri’s Experience The Divine Is Closing, But A Forum Shall Replace It. This Takes Place August 1, 2005 Yes, it’s true. and her sister sites will be closed as of August 1, 2oo5, but Terri and her divine clan of moderators will be at the helm of a new forum for all BetteHeads to meet. I’m sure she will have more information closer to the deadline. So it’s great news that Terri will still be a contender in the Bette community. Check it out: Darrell (Bette On The Boards) Is Back From La La Land! Darrell has made it back from La La Land where he hung out with Harlettes and Bette-related peeps. Maybe he has a story to tell…maybe not. But certainly we can expect to see some type of updates in the near future. I’m glad he had a great time, but I’m also glad he’s back! 🙂 Always keep on the lookout for this site: Check it out: “First Wive’s Club: The Musical” looks to be a sure thing for the Broadway stage according to Liz Smith, but from what I gather, don’t expect any of the originals to be involved: ‘FIRST WIVES’ TO HIT THE STAGE By LIZ SMITH Photo: LAWRENCE SCHWARTZWALD BACK IN 1996, Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton made a sur prise smash out of “The First Wives Club,” a movie about three middle-aged women dumped by their husbands. These females seek and attain delicious revenge. Aside from its own charm as a film, its success was seen as a triumph for mature actresses, and perhaps the beginning of a trend. The latter didn’t really happen, but every few years some women over 40 latch onto great roles, as did the “Desperate Housewives.” That’s as much as we can expect in this youth-mad world. Now comes word that ladies of a certain age who can sing and possibly dance will be courted when “The First Wives Club” comes to Broadway as a musical. This is planned for the year 2006! Fun idea? You bet, but even more exciting is that marketing maverick-turned-producer Paul Lambert and his business partner Jonas Neilson have persuaded the legendary songwriting team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland to compose the score. The first major teaming of these talents in years! They are the geniuses who gave immortal words and music to Martha [Reeves] and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, the Miracles, the Four Tops, and supreme of all, the Supremes. Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote 10 of the group’s greatest hits. And while new songs will be written, producer Lambert asked the composers to allow a few of their past hits to be used, when appropriate. Gee, when is “Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone” not appropriate? Lambert — who has invested in smaller off-Broadway shows in the past — fought for over a year to secure this movie-to-stage property, but now has the go-ahead from Viacom, Paramount and the estate of the late Olivia Goldsmith, who wrote the novel upon which the movie was based. He also wanted a female director, and is inches away from signing Francesca Zambello. She is doing “Porgy and Bess” at the Kennedy Center, will direct at the Metropolitan Opera in December, and has been chosen by Disney to helm the stage version of “The Little Mermaid.” Casting? Lambert has his eye on Queen Latifah, Bernadette Peters, Megan Mullally, Stockard Channing (remember, in the movie she jumped off her balcony, bringing the three friends together for the funeral.) He would also enjoy luring Olivia Newton-John back to the spotlight! And might I suggest Meryl Streep? She began in musical theater, and has a hell of a voice. People who see “Postcards from the Edge” for the first time, still gasp when she belts, “I’m checking out of this Heartbreak Hotel.” It’s too early to give exact dates and theaters, and there’s many a slip twixt the lip and the orchestra seats. But if enthusiasm alone could make a hit, Lambert has a huge one heading for The Great White Way. Hope everyone is enjoying their summer! Love, Mister D
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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Top Concerts 2005: Bette Stands Tall At Number 5 Halfway Thru The Year! June 01, 2005, 2:30 PM ET The Eagles Are Top Touring Act At 2005 Mid-Point By Ray Waddell, Nashville Art Work: Tom Miro The Eagles are the top-grossing touring act of the year so far, pulling in $76.7 million, based on numbers reported to Billboard Boxscore for the six months ending May 17. Billboard’s mid-year touring report will be published in July. In the early going, it’s all about the Eagles. “We didn’t even work that much,” says Eagles manager Irving Azoff. But they worked enough, including the band’s first run through Australia and the Pacific Rim in about a decade. “The run through Australia was stupid good,” Azoff tells The Eagles should stay near the top of the list come year’s end, powered by a hugely successful tour of California this fall, including seven shows in Northern California and at least 12 in Southern California, with second shows added in Phoenix and Las Vegas. “This tour is beyond anything I ever imagined, it’s so big,” says Azoff. “We’re adding ninth and 10th shows in L.A., I expect it to go to 12,” says Azoff. He reports that the L.A. shows will be in October. U2’s Vertigo tour was just getting started during the half-year time period and the band is now well on it’s way to being the top-grossing act of 2005. “This has been a fantastic start to what will be a record-setting touring year for U2,” Arthur Fogel, president of TNA International and worldwide promoter of Vertigo, tells “Every ticket for every show sold: that is the ultimate statement of demand.” For mid-year time period, the juggernaut that is Vertigo had reported 24 sellouts that grossed $41.4 million and moved 429,036 tickets. The band is heading toward a $300 million year. Third in the rankings are the final dates of Cher’s three year, 325-date, $200 million farewell tour, which were enough to rank her among the top acts of the half-year with close to $30 million in grosses. With $24.3 million in grosses so far this year, Rod Stewart is fourth. Next on the list is another veteran, Sting, with $23.8 million in grosses from 54 shows. “Each segment of the one-and-a-half-year world tour was a total success, from theaters to arenas worldwide, to the pairing with Annie Lennox and back again to a stripped down rock show,” says Fogel, who also promoted Sting’s shows. “Great concept, well-executed plan and great shows.” A wealth of acts are hovering in the $20 million range for the first half of ‘05, among them Bette Midler ($21 million) , Trans-Siberian Orchestra ($20.9 million), Kylie Minogue ($19.9 million) Kenny Chesney ($19.6 million), Yanni ($19 million) and Motley Crue ($19 million). Minogue was in the process of putting up some of the best numbers of her career before her 2005 touring efforts were derailed by a cancer scare. “The U.K. and European tour was her most successful to date, and we broke a number of records,” says Dave Chumbley, Minogue’s agent with Primary Talent International. Twenty Australia arena dates for Minoque were sold out before she was forced to leave the road, and “we are hoping to reschedule them when her health gets better,” Chumbley says. “Her headline slot at the Glastonbury Festival this year [also was] cancelled, unfortunately.” The good news for the touring business is that several newer acts are among the top performers. In just his second headlining tour, Josh Groban is showing some consistency, reporting nearly $17 million in grosses. Also on the rise are Rascal Flatts ($8 million), Maroon5 ($7.7 million) and Hilary Duff ($7.3 million). And in the two most lucrative residencies ever, Celine Dion and Elton John have run up large grosses at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Dion has taken in $43 million for the period, and John about $16 million; John’s total gross for the year to date is $28.7 million.
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Friday, July 8, 2005

Bidding Farewell To Luther Vandross

DIONNE WARWICK, ALICIA KEYS, BETTE MIDLER and DIANA ROSS will be among the stars saying a fond farewell to soul legend LUTHER VANDROSS today (08JUL05) as the singer is remembered at a memorial service in New York

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