Kevin Costner | Arista Records 

Costner's Career in Peril?  

Kevin Costner is still struggling to overcome the horrors of Waterworld and The Postman. He's made Tin Cup, 13 Days, For Love of the Game, and Message in a Bottle — each time trying to find his groove. Remember Field of Dreams, No Way Out, Bull Durham? As Celine Dion sang — and charged the songwriter, no doubt (see yesterday's column), it's all coming back to me now.

I am told that Dragonfly, Costner's newest effort, may be the bottom of the barrel. What looks like a weird combination of The Sixth Sense and City of Angels also looks in the commercials to be completely implausible and just derivative enough to make you think you've seen it before — and didn't like it that time either.

Adding to the Dragonfly mystery is that it's written and directed by Tom Shadyac, the same guy who brilliantly turned around Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy's careers with comedies, not supernatural thrillers. Only Kevin Costner — whose luck just seems to be bad — would follow Shadyac into this territory of all places. Isn't this M. Night Shyamalan's stomping ground?

Costner could save himself if he wanted to. He could toss himself into some indie projects, and let himself be directed in ensemble pieces by some name directors. Until then, 1990 — the year he won so many Oscars for Dances With Wolves — must seem very far away.

Arista Leftovers Top the Charts 

When Clive Davis was pushed out of Arista Records two years ago, his first signed act, Barry Manilow, left too. The new Arista regime didn't want him, and Manilow was ready to move on after 25 years. ("Mandy" was the first hit on Arista in 1974.)

So guess what? Manilow has a new album out on the small Concord label. And he also has a top 5 album. The new Arista regime, unable to do much with their new acts, has released a greatest hits CD called Ultimate Manilow. It's in the top 5 this Friday according to Soundscan and Billboard. That's whatcha call irony.

Meanwhile, the No. 1 album for the last few weeks, slipping to No. 2 this week, is by country artist Alan Jackson. It's on Arista Nashville, a label that doesn't really exist anymore. It was gutted two years ago by the folks at BMG, right before they tried some bad moves with Clive. The label was merged with RCA Nashville, which had no hits to speak of.

I was thinking about Alan Jackson the other day because the only time I've ever seen him perform was in 1989 at Arista's 15th anniversary show at Radio City. Alan Jackson was Clive Davis' artist then and he still is today. The fact that he's had a monster hit this year has almost nothing to do with the current Arista regime, but is actually the cumulative payoff for having his career built by Davis and his incredible Arista staff. That same staff is now at J Records working to give Alicia Keys, Luther Vandross and Angie Stone longevity. They're going to do it, too.

So it was with great expectation that I opened the door the other day to the J Records messenger. He delivered the invitation to the annual Davis pre-Grammy party at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Getting this invite reminds me of the old Millionaire TV show when Michael Anthony used to deliver the check from John Beresford Tipton. This year, the invite was a black photo album that came in a sharp black box. Untying the ribbon to the album you get pictures of the many A-list celebrities who attended previous parties. The paper inside the covers of the album is a replica of the Beverly Hill's famous banana wallpaper. On the last page of the album is the engraved invitation itself.

What an event this should be, with anticipated performances by Keys, Vandross, Busta Rhymes, Jimmy Cozier, Deborah Cox, and Angie Stone. Should be another memorable evening in the Clive Davis pantheon of starry night! Who knows, maybe Barry Manilow will show up.

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