The family of Lana Clarkson has set a memorial service for the murdered actress. The private ceremony will take place on Sunday at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood.
Clarkson was found dead in the home of record producer Phil Spector three weeks ago. Spector was arrested for the murder and released on $1 million bail.
Since then, Spector has been hiding out in the palatial mansion where the murder took place. An arraignment that was supposed to take place on March 3 will be postponed, I am told, because the police want to be able to present a complete case.
In the meantime, Spector's friend, Marvin Mitchelson, best known as a divorce attorney, has spent a lot of energy spinning the case in the press. Mitchelson has already announced the murder could only have been "accidental." Another Spector friend, Robert Shapiro, who handled the O.J. Simpson defense, is representing Spector.
"Rhythm and blues is life." That's what Joan Marie Johnson, one of The Dixie Cups, said last night at the 13th annual Rhythm and Blues Foundation dinner and awards show in New York.
The Dixie Cups ("Chapel of Love") got a Pioneer Award, along with George Clinton, The Supremes, The Del Vikings, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Maceo Parker and Koko Taylor. Dionne Warwick got the Lifetime Achievement Award and Jackie Wilson received a posthumous award.
But oh, the performances, the love, the vibe. Five hundred people ate a buffet dinner at The Manhattan Center while "Soul Man" Sam Moore literally brought the audience to tears with his rendition of Jackie Wilson's "To Be Loved." Bonnie Raitt and Jerry Butler hosted the evening, which was the most professional and smoothly produced of its kind in many years. What a hit!
Surprise guests included Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, Al Jarreau, Freddie Jackson, Paul Shaffer, Ashford & Simpson. And Prince -- yes, Prince -- came in, took a seat in the dark, and quietly watched the proceedings.
The night was so emotional that several people on stage referred to the fact that it was much more heartfelt and real than the corporatized Grammy Awards. Ironically, that show was being prepared across the street at Madison Square Garden.
Joan Marie of The Dixie Cups said, "The Grammy is for one event in your life. The Pioneer Award is for your whole life."
Isaac Hayes, echoing her comments, told the audience, "Forget the Grammy's. This is real."
The feeling comes from R&B stars having been ignored by the Grammy's and by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for years. Indeed, it was pretty amusing to see Hall of Fame Foundation director Suzan Evans -- she of the six figure salary -- wedged into the Warner Music Group table. The Hall of Fame induction, which is next month, includes no black stars.
Maybe realizing she was in the wrong place, Evans left halfway through the remarkable show. (One R&B star said when he heard she was coming, "Seat her in the back. That's where we have to sit at their dinner.")
But there was no bitterness last night, just celebration. And some of the celebration was very poignant as the daughters of the late Florence Ballard, an original Supreme, broke up as they accepted an award for their late mother. Ballard was fired from the Supremes in 1967 by Berry Gordy and eventually died penniless. It was announced last night that Gordy had given a $100,000 donation to the Foundation, but the news was met with muted applause. Everyone, unfortunately, knows the story.
Rhonda Ross, the daughter of Diana Ross and Berry Gordy, picked up her mother's award. She told the crowd that Ross -- who's been battling substance abuse problems -- was doing better.
"Remember," she said, "you're only one bad decision away from a disaster." No one could tell if she was referring to drinking and driving or Ross's decision not to pay Mary Wilson equitably for a Supremes reunion tour. The consequent tour, without Wilson, was a bust. Wilson, on her own, led the orchestra through down and dirty versions of "Love Child" and "You Can't Hurry Love."
The other family members in attendance were the many children of the late Jackie Wilson. His youngest daughter made a heartfelt speech, but her brother wouldn't go on stage with their older half-siblings. Later one of the older sons smashed the glass Pioneer Award by accident. I am told it will be replaced.
Still, Wilson's memory was evoked several times -- first by Sam Moore's mesmerizing versions of "Lonely Teardrops" and "To Be Loved" -- and at the end, when the entire ensemble jammed on stage for "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Higher."
Some other great moments -- Koko Taylor, 68, rocking the house with her classic, "Wang Dang Doodle" in a purple sequined gown; the Frogman swinging Fats Domino-style through his famous Frog song, "Ain't Got No Home" complete with bleats, dropping his cane and suddenly dancing up a storm; The Dixie Cups on "Chapel of Love" and "Iko Iko" -- they've just won the rights to the latter song 40 years or more after writing it; the Del Vikings on their one and only hit, "Come Go With Me"; plus a couple of terrific funk sessions with Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley and George Clinton.
Before the final group song, Dionne Warwick -- with her surprise guest Isaac Hayes -- performed a gorgeous version of "What the World Needs Now Is Love."
And so, onto Grammy weekend, with tonight's NARAS Music Cares dinner for Bono, Saturday night's Clive Davis bash at the Regent Wall Street, and then the big show plus all the after parties. We're going to have Grammy columns all weekend, so stay tuned.
Big news yesterday. Mark Damon, the former B-actor whose production company, MDP Films (FearDotCom), was supposed to be in business with Michael Jackson, announced a deal with Kevin Spacey.
Readers of this column may recall an item from October 2001, when I reported that Spacey had dropped out of Chicago to play dead crooner Bobby Darin in a biopic. Spacey had just sung at the TNT John Lennon tribute and was angling to sing Darin's hits like "Mack the Knife" on screen.
Around the same time, Damon hooked up with Jacko and announced Neverland Films, a company Michael was going to put $15 million into.
Well, that never happened because Jackson either lost interest, was stopped by his lawyers, or didn't have the money. Could be one or all -- you pick.
Chicago, of course, is now the odds on favorite to win the Oscar. Richard Gere, who took Spacey's role, won the Golden Globe.
At the time of our story, Spacey was being blocked from the Darin movie by Darin's son Dodd and his manager Steve Blauner. They wanted Kevin to lip synch Bobby's voice; Kevin wanted to do his own warbling. Dodd Darin controlled most of his father's songs and was in the driver's seat.
Back in October 2001 Blauner told me: "I think Kevin's a great actor, but he can't sing. I can't be part of that. Bobby used to say, 'People hear what they see,' and I think that's what happened on the Lennon special."
Now, Damon has announced he's doing the Darin pic with Spacey starring and directing. To get Spacey interested in working with him, Damon's MDP company picked up the rights to distribute The United States of Leland, an indie film made by Spacey's Trigger Street Productions. Of course, Spacey is almost 44-years-old. Darin died at age 37. So that should be interesting.
As for Jackson, no one close to him thinks he's still in business with Damon, but in one of his recent ramblings he did mention how much he'd loved Bobby Darin. Coincidence? You decide.