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Whitney Houston Does Debby Boone

Whitney Houston | Broadway Hopes and Dreams | Neal Travis

Whitney Houston Does Debby Boone 

More on Whitney Houston's upcoming album. Antonio "L.A." Reid has personally selected Whitney's big ballad for the CD, and it's none other than "You Light Up My Life."

Yes, that's right, the very same 1977 hit that spent weeks and weeks at No. 1 and drove normal people crazy with its banality.

"If I told you that Whitney was going to record Dolly Parton's 'I Will Always Love You' and the only version you knew was Whitney's, you'd have said I was nuts then, wouldn't you?" This, from an Arista Records source who claims that Whitney will turn this old chestnut into something better than Debby Boone's treacly ballad.

Houston would not be the first to tackle composer Joe Brooks' work from the infamous flop movie of the same name. Lee Ann Rimes, Kenny Rogers and the late Lawrence Welk all gave it a shot at various times in the last 25 years.

In the movie, which is best forgotten, Didi Conn lip-synchs the song by the way. The vocal was supplied by Kasey Cisyk, a singer who died about six years ago. At the time of the film's release she got no credit for her warbling and the situation became something of a minor scandal.

There's a funny irony here, too. Debby's dad, Pat Boone, was guilty in the 1950s of stealing R&B songs like "Tutti Frutti" from Little Richard and re-recording them as hits. So Whitney doing a Boone number and having a bigger hit would be turnabout as fair play.

Still, word from the Houston camp initially is that there is a real divide about what kind of songs should be on Whitney's album. I was told by one from Houston's camp that "there are no other ballads on the record. L.A. is concerned about making a Clive Davis-like album. He's trying to ghettoize her."

But Arista sources disagree. "Whitney's album will sound like a Whitney album. There will be four or five ballads."

The album, which was originally unofficially announced for release on Sept. 17, has been moved to Nov. 5.

So far Houston has recorded with Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and with two young producers from Miami whom husband Bobby Brown discovered.

But the usual suspects -- Rodney Jerkins, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Wyclef Jean -- have so far not heard a word from Houston or Brown. The latter seems particularly strange since Jean wrote Houston's title song and big hit "My Love Is Your Love" from her last album.

Broadway Still the Land of Hopes and Dreams 

Here's a funny story that tells you Broadway still has its Damon Runyon stories.

Back at the Miramax Academy Awards party in 1998, at the Mondrian Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, I came across two attractive women in their late 30s. (Let's be kind, OK?) A blonde and a brunette, both from New York.

They knew no one but had skillfully crashed the party despite tight security. With their designer dresses, attitude and jewelry they fit right in, at least for a while.

Later in the evening when Miramax's publicists spotted them, the girls managed to avoid getting the boot. In fact, another woman who had been invited got expelled by accident -- she was in their vicinity and it was a case of mistaken identity.

Flash forward a couple of years. The brunette is in New York, newly divorced and flashing some real money. I run into her at a theatre function. Seems she is now a, pardon the expression, producer.

It's right out of Mel Brooks. She might as well be singing "I want to be a producer/of a great big Broadway show." No one seems to know of her past life as a professional party crasher. After a couple of seasons she's involved in Tony-nominated projects. Who said New York isn't the land of opportunity?

I ran into our friend the other night. She was very sorry, she said, but she didn't think she could get me tickets to her next opening night. "It's a very tough ticket," she said, without a note of irony in her voice.

Neal Travis Off to Find the Biggest Scoop Yet 

Our colleague and pal Neal Travis passed away yesterday afternoon. The creator of The New York Post's Page Six and current gossip columnist was 62; he had struggled valiantly with cancer for some time.

Up until two weeks ago he was still writing his daily column with a fax machine by his bedside. His dear wife, Tully, one of the great people in this town, was steadfastly with him through thick and thin until the very last moment.

We all thought Neal came to the Post as an Aussie, because that's where he worked for Rupert Murdoch first. But Neal was a New Zealander and proud of it. Still he took to New York in 1977 as if it were his only home.

After inventing Page Six, he moved to New York magazine's Intelligencer column, then wrote a bestseller based on his experiences called Manhattan. He came back to the Post in 1993 when the Post was saved from the axe by Murdoch for a second time.

Neal did not live a healthy life. I will always picture him sitting at his table at his beloved Elaine's with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other.

But it didn't matter -- caution was not his game.

He was charming beyond belief, knew the best stories, had the best sources, and made the best time of his action-packed life. Just when you thought his column might be flagging a little he'd come up with a boffo scoop, something we'd all be jealous of, and you remembered that you could never count Neal out.

He also was very good at doing "pick-ups" too, meaning he knew the value of a good story in a magazine and managed to get his hands on it -- and published in his column -- before anyone else.

You worked hard for this rest, Neal. You deserve it. You're in the Hall of Fame now with Walter Winchell, Earl Wilson, Leonard Lyons, and Dorothy Kilgallen. They're in good company.

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