First the gossip: very much in love, superstar Garth Brooks kissed his companion Trisha Yearwood on the lips when she returned from the stage Thursday night after performing at the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Garth and Trisha were rumored to be a couple long before their respective divorces — now it seems to be official. Cowboy Brooks — who's busy working on his film career — told me at the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan before the show that they weren't exactly going steady and that he hadn't, to use an old expression, pinned her: "I'm not worried about ‘pinning’ her. I'd kill anyone who’d lay a hand on her!"
Famed lyricist Hal David (who wrote all those great songs with Burt Bacharach) and former Warner Music Group exec Linda Moran really pulled off an incredible, memorable evening on Thursday with their newly- revived Songwriters Hall of Fame. Imagine Sting, Stevie Wonder, Randy Newman, Carole King, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Garth and Trisha, Ashford and Simpson, Joan Osborne, Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams, Brian McKnight, and Broadway’s Joel Grey, Linda Eder and Heather Headley all performing, appearing and shmoozing in one room. It was the crème de la crème of the music industry. Thank goodness Bravo taped it for a future airing.
Of course, there were many highlights courtesy of Phil Ramone, who produced the show. Sting performed a jazz-rock version of “Roxanne” that demonstrated his incredible range. Stevie Wonder, my personal hero, chose one of his best ballads, “Overjoyed,” to play with the band. Randy Newman — acerbic, funny, and completely underrated — gave the audience “Sail Away,” one of his most popular cult songs. Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson delivered perhaps the cornerstone R&B song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Carole King sent chills when she sand a duet with James Taylor — who was on tape but projected onto video screens — on “You’ve Got a Friend.”
Maybe the most gracious of all the winners and performers was Manilow, who bought a table and brought with him all the lyricists who’d worked on his songs with him. “How you write a song? Beats the [expletive] out of me!” he said, then introduced his collaborators. is was in contrast to the prickly King who failed to mention Toni Stern, the woman who wrote the words to her biggest solo hit, “It’s Too Late.” ) Manilow then sang a beautiful a capella version of “One Voice” after Trisha Yearwood told the audience that “Could It Be Magic” was the first record she bought with her allowance.
Randy Newman jokingly cited Eminem. “Finally there’s a kindred spirit,” he said. Newman, who recently won an Academy Award after 16 nominations, told me that getting an Oscar “was more emotional than I thought it would be. I really choked up.” His next album of original material — his first in more than a decade — will be released on Nonesuch when he finishes it. Let’s hope it’s soon.
For the most part the Songwriters Hall of Fame dinner was a celebration of something that’s becoming a lost art form. One almost shudders to think what such an event would be like in ten years. But for now we got to see Stevie’s daughter, Aisha, who made an appearance in his 1976 hit “Isn’t She Lovely,” all grown up and a mother now herself. Wonder dedicated his award to his late producer Henry Cosby, who helped him, Stevie joked, when he could “only play Three Blind Mice.” He also revealed that “My Cherie Amour” would have been about a girl named Marcia whom he liked if Cosby hadn’t changed the words.
Of course, missing from the proceedings was Michael Jackson, who told some of his closest advisers that he was going to be at Paul McCartney’s wedding. Well, he wasn’t and no kidding — Paul hates Jacko for stealing the Beatles song catalog, then frittering it away until Sony Music could put a lien on it. Who knows what Michael was talking about! Anyway, he sent Liza Minnelli and her now-a-celebrity-by marriage husband David Gest to receive the award. They are the freak show of all time, Gest with the painted eyebrows and Liza in a lacquered face. Jacko could have done a lot to repair his rep by appearing at a normal music event and wowing the crowd, but he didn’t. Apparently, he gave a speech in the UK over the weekend in which he declared his freedom from Sony Music. More on that tomorrow, I suppose.
Mariah Carey has a legal case that won’t go away. On Friday, I was faxed papers showing that Christopher Selletti is suing her again over the song “Hero.” He wants $20 million in damages. Selletti is also suing Carey’s attorneys, Orin Snyder and Jonathan Liebman (now with Brillstein Grey Entertainment) and her songwriting partner Walter Afanasieff. He accuses them of falsifying evidence and lying in the “Hero” case.
Selletti has tried suing Carey before over “Hero,” only to have his case dismissed. But, as I first reported six years ago, there is a lot of questionable stuff in this case — enough to warrant a real trial with real testimony presided over by an objective jurist. But Judge Denny Chin has consistently done strange things regarding this case and these participants. In the 60-plus page document, Selletti’s attorney Jeffrey Levitt cites many of Chin’s odd decisions.
At the center of this case is Selletti’s contention that he gave a copy of a poem he wrote to R&B star Sly Stone in 1991 from a book of poems he kept with him. Selletti had been Stone’s driver while he recorded with Earth, Wind and Fire around the same time that Carey was in the same studio. Stone, Selletti says, agreed to help place the lyrics, then gave them to Carey or someone associated with her. Those lyrics, Selletti says, became “Hero.” When he saw what had happened, Selletti mailed himself the lyrics, thus creating a homemade copyright.
However, Carey’s case becomes murky when it comes to dates: her lawyer insisted to Chin in court that the song “Hero” was written for the 1992 movie Hero starring Dustin Hoffman. Unfortunately, Carey’s notebook shows that the writing session for the song did not take place until a month after the movie Hero was released. Of all the pieces of information Judge Chin ignored in the case, this seemed to be the most blatant. It’s not possible to write a song for a movie that’s already playing in theaters.
Sources who worked on the movie Hero and its soundtrack confirmed for this reporter back in 1998 that Carey was never supposed to write a song for the movie. A source close to the soundtrack insisted: "We reached out to Afanasieff and he sent in some instrumental music. But [director] Stephen Frears rejected it. There was never any discussion of Mariah being involved." Sandy Isaac, one of the movie's producers, said that as far as he knew Carey was never asked to participate.
Carey, at the time, was knee-deep in plagiarism cases. She settled two of them with a million bucks apiece on the grounds that the writers of the songs involved would say she was innocent of wrongdoing. In two cases — the songs “Emotions” and “Fantasy” — Carey simply lifted the entire recordings from existing songs, then paid the writers afterward.
In the worst case, over the song “Can’t Let Go,” Carey’s then-manager Randy Hoffman, a partner of her husband Tommy Mottola, went to see a potential damaging witness wired up to a hidden tape recorder. He hoped to make the guy contradict himself. The witness stood his ground, but the tape wound up in the court record. I reported on its existence for the first time in 1998.
Why Carey just doesn’t settle with Selletti may have more to do with practicality than pride. After “Hero” came out she pledged the proceeds from it to a charity. She ultimately made a $200,000 contribution to a fund for the victims of the Long Island Railroad shooting. “Hero” has since become an anthem for her. Letting go of it now, after 10 years, would seem unthinkable. And yet Selletti has been steadfast in pursuing this case. Attorney Levitt has carefully and painstakingly laid out the history of the case for Judge Chin. The big question is whether or not the Judge will read this document, or whether it’s time for new eyes to get Chris Selletti his day in court.
I am told that the ongoing saga of Martha Stewart and the insider trading scandal over a cancer drug has a missing person.
I told you that name on Friday. It's Patricia Duff Medavoy Perelman. She's the ex-wife currently of Revlon chairman Ronald Perelman. She fought with Perelman in a very nasty custody case over their young daughter Caleigh.
But a log of calls to Dr. Sam Waksal last December, printed in the New York Daily News on Friday, shows that Duff called the doctor on the day his empire was falling apart. She and daughter Caleigh wanted to take him to lunch. Indeed, I am also told that Duff was then dating Waksal — and has been his steady date all winter and spring.
Why did the Daily News miss this point and avoid adding Duff's name to the list of Waksal's associates and friends? I think the answer may become clear soon. Meanwhile, since this column inquired about the Daily News's reticence in reporting the Waksal/ImClone story prior to our call, the News has outdone itself hanging Stewart out to dry. But there was much less of a focus on Waksal and ImClone. Maybe investigators should start looking through Stewart's phone records, as well as Waksal's, to see who else was alerted in advance to Imclone's impending crisis...