Monday, January 31, 2011

Good God, Happy Birthday Carol Channing!!

Good god almighty. Miss Carol Channing turned 90 years old Monday!

When I saw her perform at Feinstein's at the Regency in NYC in October 2005 in "The First 80 Years Are The Hardest," my best friend Strele and I were treated to a full dinner on the house, with pumpkin & crab bisque, pan-seared wild salmon with Peruvian potatoes, a warm apple turnover and free-flowing cocktails—but Channing as the main course, natch, superseded the posh meal.

Channing was sharp as shit, delivering a monologue full of decadent memories that barely left time to recover from one guffaw to the next, while singing "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend," "Before The Parade Passes By" and "Hello Dolly."

The show was enough of an event to be reviewed by The New York Times' Stephen Holden, who wrote, "Her signature ear-to-ear grin never wavered. Ms. Channing's blend of unbridled optimism and ferocious vitality is still a primal show business force field. At 84, she personifies the adult child as natural showoff and clown, brimming with curiosity and humor, accentuating the positive."

And then, reaching beyond the surreal, Strele and I met Channing backstage, which was like touching god and sniffing death simultaneously. To add to the merriment, her pals Michele Lee and Celeste Holm were present and partaking in the group therapy.

Sadly, Celeste is 93, Michele is 68 and Strele is the one who's slept on to Jesus. Imagine.

Happy Birthday Minnie Driver

When I met Minnie Driver in late 2007, she was in the midst of her Emmy/Golden Globe-nominated run in FX's phenomenal series "The Riches," so I was madly in love with the actress—making it a natural for me to review her single "Beloved," which I deemed "convincing sonic solace with graceful soft-sell vocals and a devotional lyric. 'Beloved' makes Sunday morn a little sunnier."

When she showcased her vocal wares at Joe's Pub in August, not only did her label offer me an invite, but a backstage how-do (with Ayhan and our Brooklyn Heights nabe and Minnie fan Mario and his now ex-wife).

She was a fun ride: easy smile, gracious and teeming with magnetic star power. And now... she's 41!

Go Head, Shoot Me

Talk about adding insult to injury... You're all alone and you're old on Valentine's Day! Fuck you, too!

Happy Birthday Phil Collins

Happy birthday to Phillip David Charles Collins, known to the world as Phil Collins, who celebrated his 60th on Sunday.

It's astonishing to link Collins the solo artist—who recorded some of the most beautiful ballads in history—with his turn beginning in 1975 as lead singer of rock band Genesis, which arguably released some of the world's most irritating radio hits ("Abacab," "No Reply At All," "Land of Confusion," "I Can't Dance" and the abhorrent "Tonight Tonight Tonight").

When the singer/songwriter went solo in 1981, his inauspicious first hits "I Missed Again" and "In the Air Tonight" hardly provided a clue that the Brit singer/songwriter/drummer would begin a do-no-wrong tear at top 40 radio in 1984—thanks to the resplendent No. 1 Grammy-winning ballad "Against All Odds"—my No. 5 song of the year.

From there, Collins scored a dozen consecutive top 10 hits, including No. 1's "One More Night," "Sussudio" (ew), "Separate Lives" (with Marilyn Martin, my No. 16 song of 1985), "Groovy Kind of Love" (ew, too) "Two Hearts" and "Another Day in Paradise." (I also have to add my fave non-hit ballad "Why Can't It Wait 'Til Morning" from 1982's "Hello, I Must Be Going!"

In 1997, his lovely "You'll Be in My Heart" from animated Disney flick "Tarzan" won an Oscar—after both "Against All Odds" and "Separate Lives" had been nominated but lost. In addition, Collins has seven Grammy Awards on the mantle (with three American Music Awards and two Golden Globes), including 1986 Album of the Year for "No Jacket Required."

I finally found an opportunity to interview Phil in November 1998, for my Billboard Radio Editor column AirWaves, where we talked about his hit AC cover of "True Colors." The guy was funny! In person! Just as you'd hope... This was a big one for me, and our starfucker photo still maintains primary placement on the grand Wall of Fucker Fame here at home.Phil kind of looks like he's in pain with my arm draped around him, yes?

Monday Man Madness

It's cold. The snow won't melt. My nose is running. And it's only Monday. Assistance, please?

Every Boy Band's Got Its Gay

It simply comes with the territory: For every boy band, one of the members, eventually, is going to come bursting out of the closet. 'N Sync's Lance Bass, Boyzone's Stephen Gately, Westlife's Mark Feehily, Menudo's Ricky Martin and Wham!'s George Michael, for god's sake.

Over the weekend, Jonathan Knight revealed openly that he's the bulls-eye for '80's primo boy band New Kids On the Block, taking to the web after fellow popster Tiffany commented off-hand on Bravo's "Watch What Happens," appearing with Deb Gibson, that he's queer. Dreamy host Andy Cohen asked her if she'd ever made out with any NKOTB: "The quiet one, the shy one. [Jonathan Knight] became gay later. I didn't do it. I was thinking maybe I did. Now looking back when we were dating, he was so much fun. We used to do facials together. He was so easy to talk to."

JonKnight, in response, took the high road, commenting on the NKOTB webbie that he's been out for two decades. According to Towleroad, "I have never been outed by anyone but myself! I have lived my life openly and never hidden the fact that I am gay! Apparently the prerequisite to being a gay public figure is to appear on the cover of a magazine with the caption 'I am gay.' I apologize for not doing so if this is what was expected! My belief is that you live your life by example and not by a caption on a magazine! If there ever has been any confusion about my sexuality, then you are someone that doesn't know me!"

That's a lot of exclamation marks, eh? Knight added, "I love living my life being open and honest, but at this time I choose not to discuss my private life any further!"

He went on to send a message to Tiff on Twitter, "Please don't lose any sleep over it! I know you weren't being mean and I found it to be funny!" and then told the world to "stop talking trash" about Tiffany for the gaffe.

Sure enough, with a little research, it's obvious that Knight hasn't been afraid to walk the line. In a 2006 interview, he congratulated Lance Bass for coming out, noting that he wished the 'N Syncer didn't have to suppress his sexuality during the glory days. He told the New York Daily News, "I'm looking forward to a boy band that comes out and right off the box they say one of them is gay. I think that would be the best thing. They'll get all the girls and all the gay guys, know what I mean? It'll be perfect!"

Well done! "Step By Step," this is the way to ease the world into knowing that we all know—or admire—someone gay.

TV Watch: SyFy's 'Being Human'

With the rigid 3-foot-high banks of snow outside going nowhere in the foreseeable future, I'm putting my money on indoor activities. This is one time I'm singing the praises of cable TV and the ability to Tivo new offerings and accept or reject without much investment.

I'm not one who typically bites into vampire fodder... the "Twilight" phenom is amusing but hardly consuming, and CW's "The Vampire Diaries" is steamy but a fast-forward indulgence at best, waiting for the dudes to take their shirts off.

However, two episodes in, SyFy's new other-worldly series "Being Human" looks like solid sustenance. The show is based on a hit Brit series of the same name, following three paranormal roommates in Boston, a vampire, ghost and werewolf.

Meaghan Rath, who plays ghost Sally, is an appealing character, exotic but sympathetic. The werewolf, Josh, played by Sam Worthington, has so far come off as fairly one-dimensional, flashing doe eyes and exuding inner turmoil—except, of course, when he morphs into a gruesome beast. Josh also has a lesbian sister, perhaps to show that not only non-humans deal with prejudice from the "normal" world.

The real appeal: vampire Josh, played by Sam Whitwer, is not only mighty handsome (it's all in the lips, cool cats), but the plot is dotted with homoerotic teases, via Josh's vampire mentor Bishop, who "turned" him during the Revolutionary War."Being Human" is off to a promising start, scoring SyFy's highest ratings for a scripted series since 2005. It also drew more females to the net than any other program. Hopefully that means we'll see all 13 episodes ordered for season 1—and a new cult hit is in the making.

Billboard Puts Up Dukes To Battle Past

From The New York Post's Page Six last Wednesday. Ouch. This reaction was ignited by a column written in mid-December by former Billboard London Bureau Chief Emmanuel Legrand, which appeared on his blog as "Billboard Shrinks." Thankfully, my recent zig zag down memory lane appears to have rustled more memories than ruffling feathers (as was intended)... though Legrand certainly made some relevant points about the way it was, and never shall be again. [Click on image to enlarge NYP story in all its "fucking" glory.]

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hero's Welcome: Lemon Pledge

I've lampooned and lauded many a product on The Smoking Nun, but it never crossed my mind that one day, furniture polish would register on my hero worship roster. Last week, the HGTV crew was kind enough to send a cleaning service to wipe away multiple layers of dust left behind by our bedroom makeover.

I left Oleg the Ukrainian to his own devices in the kitchen and stopped in after a half hour or so to see our kitchen sink shimmering like new. Same for the stovetop, stainless steel fridge, front of the microwave and the granite counter. How the hell?

"Lemon pledge," he said. Good god, almighty, furniture polish is capable of doing all this? Sure enough, I looked on the Pledge webbie, where shining up wood is only the beginning. Wood, laminates, stainless steel, glass, plastics, mirrors, leather and granite are all covered by Pledge Multi-Surface cleaner.

Then I'll be damned, I saw a commercial on TV today making just such claims, shot with a similar theme to the clever Old Spice ads.

My life has changed forever. I'll be shaving and showering with this shit before long.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

'Where Love Has Gone': Camp Fire!

There's nothing to nurse a winter cold like an over-the-top melodramatic trash flick that's so camp, it about ignites into flames. So bad it's fab "Where Love Has Gone" is a 1964 sudser based on the Harold Robbins' bestseller, and stars Susan Hayward—at a mighty ripe 47—playing the daughter of Bette Davis—who in real life was only 10 years her senior! Har, har, har! Only Hollywood could make such a match in the least plausible, thanks to a vat of Vaseline on the lens during Hayward's close ups.

A handsome pre-"Mannix" Mike Connors and 20-year-old Joey Heatherton (playing a 15 year old, with hair stacked to the sky) are along for the ride, as is a pre-"Star Trek" DeForest Kelly, who was actually young once. Who knew?

The revel-filled ride is as full of ups and downs as its San Francisco setting, and Hayward simply cannot escape the fact that she's still a broad underneath the fine furs. Davis, as a fabulous highbrow society matron and domineering mommy dearest, is utterly mesmerizing (who can help but take her side?!)—and looks wondrous, false eyelashes and all, only two years after she got all gruesome for her Oscar-nominated role in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"

The movie was a moderate hit, though critics—and even Robbins—found it fairly preposterous. The Saturday Review sniffed that the script "manages to make every dramatic line (particularly when uttered by Susan Hayward) sound like a caption to a cartoon in The New Yorker." All the same, it received two Oscar nods: uh, for music, including a dreadfully smarmy title tune from camp king Jack Jones.

A much more reflective review comes from critic Paul Mavis, who wrote in 2010: "Utter trash, thank god. 'Where Love Has Gone' gives you what you want: girls, sex, mendacity, duplicity, violence, degradation and icky moral redemption. Susan Hayward and Joey Heatherton give gloriously inappropriate performances, and the script is overripe with howlers. I love this kind of melodramatic swill. Highly recommended."

As fun is the reported fact that the two lead actresses despised one another and, according to a Bette interview, after her final scene with Susan, she snatched off her gray wig and threw it in Hayward's face with a hearty "Fuck you!" This just keeps getting better, eh?

Indeed, "Where Love Has Gone" makes similar canned soup like "Valley of the Dolls" look as earnest as "Mildred Pierce" (ironic, actually, since Hayward had an over-the-top role in "Dolls," too). Merciless fun!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Superbowl Ad You WON'T Be Seeing

See link here. Thanks La!


Twenty-plus inches of snow finally got me! I'm down and out with a cold capable of felling 100-year-old elm trees with one sneeze. Let's hope I can nurse this quickly so it doesn't turn into the flu.

Perhaps I should have taken my mamer's advice and gotten that flu shot after all, eh?