Cher's Farewell | Paramount  | Rosemary Clooney 

Cher Will Not Go Away

Yeah, yeah. I know her current extravaganza is called "The Farewell Tour," but Cher, dear Cher, is not going quietly into that dark night.

I am told that promoters are so excited about Cher and Cyndi Lauper's sold out tour that they want to extend it to December. The proceedings were supposed to be over in September.

I saw Cher backstage on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden and I can tell you she's enjoying this thing more than any human has a right. There she was, made up as Cleopatra of Planet X, ready to hit the stage and belt out those hits. The production is bigger than almost anything on Broadway or in Vegas. The computers for the lights, stage, etc. are a sight to behold.

Not just a little of "The Farewell Tour's" success is owed to Cyndi Lauper. Once a punk diva with weirdo wrestlers in her videos, Lauper has grown into a fabulous performer who writes her own material. Her voice has turned into something better than a sturdy rock instrument, and it doesn't need augmentation. You get what there is, and there is plenty. Besides her old hits, she performed several new songs Thursday night, all of which should be on a new album by year's end.

As for her audience, Lauper seems to be drawing a huge crowd to her opening show. I've never seen the Garden so jam-packed for an opening act. It won't be long before Cyndi will be looking for her own opening act. Farewell, Cher. Hello, Lauper.

Deeds Is Done: You Went Anyway 

It’s the worst reviewed movie of the year, but enough people went to see Mr. Deeds this weekend to make it No. 1 at the box office. The dreadful Adam Sandler comedy earned about $37 million since Friday, and beat handily its competitors Minority Report and Lilo & Stitch.

Of course, Mr. Deeds has just a few days left (count ‘em: two) until Men in Black 2 hits screens and knocks it from its perch. But what difference will it make corporately? Both movies come from Sony/Columbia Pictures, which may not bring home a lot of Oscars but they know how to make money over there. Don’t forget, they started the summer with Spider-Man, now the fifth highest grossing film of all time.

This is in stark comparison to Paramount Pictures, which does neither but still merited a long, fawning article in yesterday’s New York Times business section. I’ve often thought Sherry Lansing was brilliant for limiting Paramount’s exposure on Titanic, and raking in the dough subsequently. But since the Titanic effort of late 1997, there has been little to crow about at Paramount.

What merited this tremendous attention to Paramount is beyond me. The studio’s current releases are the lame Sum of All Fears, which just limped over the $100 million mark and might if lucky if it breaks even; and the kids flick Hey Arnold, which took in $6 million over the weekend in its debut.

“In their eight years as a team [running Paramount],” the Times article concludes, “[Sherry Lansing and Jonathan Dolgen] have reined in some excesses and, according to Wall Street analysts, have made Paramount a paragon of a well-run company.”

Clap, clap. I have to give credit I suppose to Robert Friedman, the brilliant head of public relations over there (and unfortunately no relation to me) for spinning this story so beautifully. I guess the end justifies the means. Paramount is well run. It is also boring, with little creative energy, and isn't making any contribution to film history.

The last movie they could tout at Paramount as an Oscar film was Forrest Gump. Since then, the list is not exactly breathtaking. Lansing, the article notes, loves stars. But there’s no mention of her poor investment then in John Travolta, whose Paramount features have had consistently bad reviews and mediocre to poor box office return. There’s also no detailed accounting of Vanilla Sky, the Tom Cruise feature that managed to hit $100 million at the box office — but at what cost? I think the real numbers on Vanilla Sky would surprise the public as well as Cruise’s fans and marketing machine.

Paramount, for a time, was run by innovators: Robert Evans, followed by Barry Diller, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Michael Eisner — all of whom find themselves now in exciting and controversial parts of the business today. But Paramount? Sum of All Fears will not be an Oscar nominee or produce any critical citations at the end of the year. Harrison Ford in K-19: Widowmaker will probably do well because of Ford, but will it be remembered in December? Unlikely. The most memorable thing about K-19 will be its poster, which is almost identical to Sum of All Fears.

The studio's big movie this fall could be its sleeper smash, though. It won’t win any Oscars, but Jackass: The Movie could cash in on MTV star Johnny Knoxville’s performance in Men in Black II coupled with the complete stupidity of his TV show and knock one out of the park. It’s no American Beauty, but it will have to do. As a good friend of mine in the record business likes to say, 'It’s not the money, stupid, it’s the money.' 

Say Goodbye to the First and Forever Rosie  

Rosemary Clooney died on Saturday night. She was 74 years old, and let’s face it, besides the lung cancer she was in terrible shape. She’d let herself get huge over the years, and her health suffered. She was Rosie before O’Donnell and Barr. Back in February, Tony Bennett confided to me that Rosie was still in the hospital fighting lung cancer and that the situation was not too good. He was heartbroken. The pair often toured together, two towering greats closing out a great era in American music.

But, boy, what a voice Rosie had. And what a gal too. A few years ago I called her manager and asked if it would be possible for Rosie to call a good friend of mine, a huge fan of hers, and sing "Happy Birthday." Don’t you know, she did it. She was a mensch. In the years since her divorce from actor Jose Ferrer, Rosie lived near rest of the Clooneys (her brother Nick, nephew George) in their hometown of Maysville, Kentucky. In 1997 she married Dante DiPaolo, her companion since 1968 and friend since the early '60s. She told friends they finally tied the knot because “my grandkids should have a married grandma.”

I saw Rosie perform at Carnegie Hall about five years ago and I’m glad I did. Even though she struggled to breathe in between songs, there was no evidence of any ailment when the music started. Her voice was incomparable, like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn. She lived and breathed music, she knew it inside and out. (Don’t believe those obits that cite her first hit, “Come on a My House.” The real Clooney on record is a far superior presence to that ditty.) What a pleasure, what a gift, to have enjoyed her for so long. What a tragedy that we won’t get another decade from her. Rest in peace, Rosie. You worked hard for it.

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