Eminem, the white rapper with the No. 1 movie in America and the No. 1 album, will pass the million-sales mark tomorrow when copies of his 8 Mile soundtrack are counted.
8 Mile sold over half a million copies last week, adding to the 600,000 copies it sold the previous week when it debuted. This, on top of the record $54 million the movie took in over the weekend, makes Marshall Mathers a force to be reckoned with.
The question is: What exactly comes next? And why this incredible popularity? Mathers has now achieved what Prince, Madonna and a bunch of rock stars could not: a dual chart hit. Only Jennifer Lopez has managed to have a No. 1 album and movie at the same time.
In other chart news, Justin Timberlake's solo debut, Justified, will finish at No. 2 with about 450,000 copies — a huge amount by any standards but many hundreds of thousands fewer than previous debuts by his group 'N Sync.
If all this seems a little sad or disturbing, rest easy: U2 managed to finish in third place with its new greatest hits package featuring the theme song from Gangs of New York and a single called "Electric Storm." It's small consolation, but consolation nonetheless.
There's only one place where you can see a hot documentary these days — one which the general public may never see.
That's inside Disney Studios in Burbank, where The Sweatbox is having some very private showings.
The Sweatbox is a documentary made by the intrepid and talented Trudie Styler, a.k.a. Mrs. Sting, a.k.a. Gordon Sumner. The 86-minute film chronicles the misadventures of Disney's animation arm during the making, or re-making, of last year's The Emperor's New Groove.
Originally titled Kingdom of the Sun, the animated feature was supposed to have a bunch of songs by Sting, a la Elton John in The Lion King. To secure Sting for the project, Disney allowed Styler to put the whole experience on video.
Little did they know how it would backfire. After all of Sting's songs were written and the recording was proceeding, Kingdom fell apart and slowly morphed into Emperor. Suddenly, all the characters Sting had written songs for were gone, and so too were the songs.
The debacle of watching the project implode, however, became the more interesting story.
No one thought Sweatbox would ever be seen by audiences, and indeed it really hasn't been. It was shown once in September at the Toronto Film Festival, and once more in Brazil at the Sao Paolo Festival. Last month, the producers played it for a week in Los Angeles in an empty movie theatre for Oscar eligibility. But otherwise there are no plans to release it. Instead, Sweatbox has become must-see viewing at, of all places, the Mouse House, where animators are having private screenings — and lots of laughs.
Ironically, since Sweatbox was completed, its main Disney execs have exited the company. Peter Schneider, who's featured in the film, is long gone. And Tom Schumacher recently announced his imminent departure. Disney animation has been in a tailspin since Jeffrey Katzenberg left Disney and took his people over to start DreamWorks. Since then, Disney has had to watch their upstart rival trounce with them hits like Shrek and Chicken Run. Image-wise, Disney's Monster's, Inc. and Toy Story 2, have not earned as much buzz — or money.
I'm told that The Sweatbox shows the whole calamity of Emperor, including the famous phone call Sting received telling him all his work was for naught.
As for Trudie, I wouldn't be surprised if she somehow pries the film away from Disney and releases it herself. The very smart Mrs. Sting is not one to be pushed around, and if she's already managed to get Sweatbox into Oscar eligibility, I'm sure that won't be the last of it.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which I've criticized extensively in this space for its overpaid director and lack of donations to indigent musicians, is at it again. They've just announced their inductees for next March and, surprise, no blacks or women are included.
Suzan Evans Hochberg, who picks the winners with Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner, selected Elvis Costello, the Clash, Sting and the Police, AC/DC and the Righteous Brothers. The first three all got in on their first shot. The Righteous Brothers have been eligible since the bogus Hall of Fame was first invented, but they were ignored until now. Their choice this year seems to be a sop to all the doo wop and R&B acts who still haven't been acknowledged, although the Bro's, while sounding black, are white.
Not in again: the Dells, the longest running R&B group with original members. Their lead singer, Marvin Junior, is over 70 and still hits the gorgeous long note in "Stay in My Corner" during concerts. But no hurry there, I guess.
Also excluded: Patti Smith, the poet/writer/punk queen who blazed a trail when she started recording in 1974. Smith pre-figured Elvis, the Clash and the Police, as well as dozens of other acts who took her act as a model and had success with it in a watered down version. All of Alanis Morissette's platinum selling whining can be traced back to Smith.
There are lots of other acts not in the Hall of Fame but, of course, the whole thing is sort of specious. Evans, Wenner and Ahmet Ertegun invented this thing with Sire Records's Seymour Stein, and it has to be one of the most self-made merchandising scams of all time. When you hear the term Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one assumes that someone somewhere of great importance has sanctioned this group. Instead it's just this gang religiously holding on to $10 million in assets, paying Evans a six-figure salary, giving nothing to musicians and holding a hoary dinner every year with a jam session.
Meanwhile, they give no money whatsoever to the Rock and Roll Museum in Cleveland, even though all the acts assume they do.
On the eve of the press preview of George Harrison's last album here in Los Angeles, his great friends are already headed to London. They begin rehearsals on Sunday for the Nov. 29 Harrison tribute show hosted by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Jools Holland. On his way: Billy Preston, the onetime fifth Beatle and first act on the Beatles' Apple Records. Someone under the age of 30 yesterday told me they'd never heard of Preston. Is this possible? His "Nothing for Nothing" is being used in a car commercial right now, and Preston's other hits — like "Will it Go Round in Circles" and "That's the Way God Planned It" — are classics.
I'm told that Clapton, who has thrown himself into this show at the Royal Albert Hall, is picking up a lot of the expenses of musicians like Preson to make the Harrison tribute extra special. This is very different than the aforementioned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which does not pay side musicians who come to the famous jam session at the Waldorf.