All Bettes Off for Fall Season?
Is Bette Midler leaving her TV series? The answer is: possibly.
At Warner Music Group's knockout post-Grammy soiree, a fabulous-looking Bette showed up with producing partner Bonnie Bruckheimer. They mingled with other Warner/Atlantic stars such as Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, BB King, Kid Rock, De La Soul, Faith Hill and hubby Tim McGrath, Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray — as well as Melissa Etheridge, actor/filmmaker Donovan Leitch and his sister, actress Ione Sky, and others.
But it was Bette and Bonnie — one of the leading female managers in Hollywood — who may have had the biggest post-Grammy headline. When I asked Bruckheimer if she and Bette were looking forward to another season of their CBS sitcom, she rolled her eyes and said, "Maybe." Then she told me, in a conversation I can only paraphrase here, that it was possible they would not come back in the fall even if CBS renewed them.
Bette has not managed to get a significant audience or high ratings since it debuted last fall. It's also been plagued by cast trouble — two actors in a row bowed out as Midler's on-screen husband. Meanwhile, Midler — who could have used the boost as the Grammy host — reportedly turned down the chance to weave the Grammy show business into her own storyline on the sitcom because she didn't like the money that she was offered.
On late night shows like Jay Leno's and David Letterman's, and in The New York Times, Midler also complained about the grueling sitcom schedule — shooting a new show every week, calling it harder than she ever imagined. Last night she told me: "I shouldn't have said that. It sounded terrible." Will she take the summer off and not make a movie, etc.? "I have to. I'm exhausted," she said.
But Bruckheimer, who's no shirker of hard work, also told me, half-joking: "You have to have a new script every Monday morning! Do you know how hard that is? It's impossible."
Bruckheimer agreed that what is possible is that before CBS announces its fall schedule, or before there's a an actors/writers strike, the pair may just pull the plug on their experimental foray into weekly television.
So, who did Paul Simon think would win Best Album? Radiohead, he told me.
And Bette Midler, who opened the envelope? "I thought for sure it was going to be Eminem," she said.
They were each at the Warner Music party, and hanging around in close proximity. A little gossip note from years ago: Back when Simon was recording his Still Crazy album, Midler was supposed to duet with him on a song called "Gone at Last." The pair did not get along and, of course, the part was turned over to Phoebe Snow, who had a big hit with Simon. That was in 1974, when this reporter was just 3 years old, but remembers reading about it. (If only!)
Indeed, the Warner Music party was, without a doubt, the best of the evening, the Grammy equivalent of a Miramax or Vanity Fair Oscar party. Linda Moran, Warner's very own secret Star Wars system, (she's like the prime minister of the vast music group, working for Gerald Levin and Richard Parsons) told me she wanted this party to be a big summing up, as Time Warner has now merged with AOL and this seemed like the closing of a chapter.
Moran built a gigantic airplane hanger-sized tent over the parking lot of Los Angeles Center Studios, and oversaw an interior decorating project that was unprecedented. The place had several mall-sized rooms to accommodate the 2,500 guests, and the "walls" and "ceilings" of the tent were covered with a kind of hand-painted wallpaper in different colors. One of the rooms had large torches burning; another had very tall columns of water with goldfish swimming in them. It was as if a movie director had staged a Hollywood party with Austin Powers overtones.
"Where are all the rock stars?" That's what Melissa Etheridge wanted to know when she arrived with her personal trainer, Bob, and a few other friends. Etheridge was not disappointed.
All the above mentioned names, plus Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, the night's Grammy winners, were huddled in a dense area of Moran's tents. They were all grouped around Atlantic Records co-founder and legend Ahmet Ertegun and the great Atlantic producer Arif Mardin, who held court for more than four hours — and these guys, let me tell you, are not exactly, uh, youngsters. In fact, Ertegun, who's about 80, would still be there now if they'd let him!
The rest of the Grammy-night parties were divided up by record label. Both the Universal group (Elton, Emimen, lots of rappers) and Sony Music (Destiny's Child, more rappers) were described as "private dinners" for 100-500 people. In each case, it was thought that the respective label heads (Doug Morris, Tommy Mottola) were simply battling each other for attention by putting on similar affairs that they thought were "low key." In both cases, label employees were mostly not invited, causing many disparaging remarks.
Over at Le Colonial restaurant, Bad Boy — meaning Puff Daddy — Records managed to get the police and fire departments involved when they, as usual, overbooked and over-invited.
The scene outside around 12:30 a.m. was almost comical, with hundreds of people jammed through the front doors and out onto the street, fire trucks and police cars idling up and down the block with lights flashing. One sensible adult we know who ventured inside early said, "It was a real party atmosphere, out of control."
The host of that event, by the way, was Andre Harrell, Puffy's second-in-command and once his boss — before his own record company went out of business. Puffy, of course, couldn't make it to L.A. since he's on trial at home in New York.
It's become an annual tradition now — the backstage bickering, banter, and bravura.
In the green room, Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas spent some quality time together, The Band's Robbie Robertson hung out with Val Kilmer, and various rappers and musicians mingled about and watched the show. The verdict on host Jon Stewart? "He looks like he's going to the office," said one observer. Yes, Stewart — who is a trenchant political observer and a four-star comic — looked uncomfortable on stage. He's not a fan of current pop music and it shows. Too many Puffy jokes, it was concluded; too many gay jokes.
The main backstage gossip: about the appearance of Sheryl Crow with Shelby Lynne. Quick, what do these two singers have in common? Both used to be managed by Bill Bottrell, whom Crow dumped years ago after she became a star. Lynne was also managed by Bottrell, but also kicked him to the curb and is now managed by his wife, I am told.
This second pairing is said to have raised some eyebrows. Apparently, also, there was no room for Lynne to perform on stage — I am told this by the Daily News's Mitchell Fink — and so the Grammys told her she had to find someone to perform with who was already scheduled. Crow, already an associate of hers for the above reasons, made room. This poor guy Bottrell could only have watched with a mixture of pride and anger. Show biz is rough kids!
Before we wrap up this column, kudos to Grammy president Michael Greene. His speech before Eminem and Elton took the stage was terrific, and well-said. Today's suburban teens, who buy the records that make the charts, are largely white and disaffected. Emimen's popularity reflects their feelings — and if that scares or offends adults, then it's time to figure out how the young population got into a situation of racism, hate, and low moral standing.
But what Greene pointed out — that our parents would have banned the Beatles, the Stones, and Elvis for the same reasons, because they were misunderstood — was brilliant and brave of him to say at that point in the show.