Chicago Goes  | Buh-Bye Backstreet Boys  | Celine's Scene  | Caroline Rhea

Chicago Producer Will Go Grand Next

Oscar-winning Chicago producer Marty Richards is not letting any grass grow under his feet. Already back from Los Angeles, Richards tells me he's had "two offers to do movies and one to do a Broadway show."

Right away he's going to try to put together an updated Grand Hotel for film, with hip-hop music. "We'll open up the whole backstory," Marty says.

The movie, Grand Hotel, came out in 1932, was not a musical, but has the distinction of being the only best picture nominee in the history of the Oscars to not be nominated for any other Oscars.

The musical, which Marty and his late wife Marylea produced in 1989, ran for three years and a thousand or so performances. Liliane Montevecchi and Karen Akers were the stars. In 2003 terms, that would be Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger.

Then of course there's Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, which would seem like a natural for film, although it's about three shades darker than Gangs of New York.

Richards says he's not wasting a minute with these new projects. "I don't have another 26 years!" he exclaimed. That's how long it took to get Chicago from its Broadway opening to an Oscar.

I have to say that in all these many years I always knew Marty Richards, but I never knew him. It was only until Chicago made it to the screen that he and his gang of Broadway pals, including the stalwart Sam Crothers, crossed into the world of film. What a pleasure they've been to deal with as their movie rose and rose through the ranks. I can't wait to see what they do next.

 

Backstreet Movie Career As Group Ends?

Yesterday, the Backstreet Boys surrendered. Our long national suffering is over. 'N Sync has outlasted their greatest rival boy band. Backstreet is dead.

But wait, not so fast. While it is true that the Orlando group has announced there will be no new albums, at least one B-Boy wants to try to have a career. Nick Carter, otherwise known as 'the blonde one', may try to get himself into the teen movie pool. Over the weekend at least one project was mentioned with his name in it attached to rising cutie Hilary Duff.

This would put Carter into the Freddie Prinze, Jr. category (you remember him) following in the footsteps of Tab Hunter, Jan Michael Vincent and Christopher Atkins. You can almost imagine an agent or manager dreaming of quick profits over the next three years. Then, of course, there will be I'm a Celebrity! Get Me Out of Here Part 3.

Even as Backstreet collapses, one member -- Kevin Richardson -- has been moonlighting in Chicago on Broadway. One of the others, either Howie or A.J., was recently featured in US Weekly for having cheated on his fiancée. The fifth Boy, Brian Littrell, the one who could sing, is thinking of going out on his own.

It's not the way the Beatles ended, is it? You may remember how Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync were once compared to them during their frantic heyday. Meanwhile, Backstreet are suing Jive Records, their label, for the second time in their short career. They won the first suit. As one Jive insider quipped to me at the Grammy's: "They've figured they can make more money in lawsuits than in recording."

All Eyes on Celine as Sony's 'Black Friday' Arrives

Talk about pressure! The fate of Sony Music is resting on Celine Dion this week.

The Canadian songstress' new album One Heart, has shipped to stores under the Epic label just as Epic is being subsumed into Columbia Records at Sony. Celine's last album sold 2.7 million copies in the U.S. which isn't bad for a regular act but was far below the diva's previous numbers.

Dion opened her Las Vegas spectacular this week tied to the new album, but there are worries galore that her big sales days -- at least CD wise -- are behind her.

It is not an easy time for Sony or its new head, Andy Lack. Today, more Sony Music employees will get pink slips as part of a 400 employee downsizing taking place over the last two days.

Yesterday, employees at Sony Germany, as well as other locales in the U.S. got the boot. Today, there will be more names in New York. This is certainly not the way Lack wanted to come in to Sony, but the massive cutting had to happen. As I wrote earlier this week, the departure of Tommy Mottola after 14 years threw open the books. What Lack apparently found was indeed a lack of cash.

As for the remaining crew, Epic chief Polly Anthony is still hanging on by a thread. I am told that Lack and Sony Chairman Howard Stringer tried to hire Phil Quartararo to run the newly small label, but his non compete clause from Warner Bros. keeps him out of the running for the time being. Phil Q, a short man with a big heart, is biding his time in Los Angeles at a desk job until the time is right to strike.

Caroline Rhea Knows More Than She Lets On

The ingratiating host of the Caroline Rhea Show comes across like everyone's big sister on her daily talk show. On Sabrina the Teenage Witch she was the fun aunt. But the real Caroline was a standup comic who used to wow the audiences at Caroline's Nightclub, owned by another Caroline, Caroline Hirsch.

Last night Rhea was one of several Caroline's grads who took the stage at Carnegie Hall to celebrate the club's 10th anniversary. It's not easy filling Carnegie Hall, but every seat was sold as the dozen or more comics did their best five to 10 minutes each.

Among the Hall of Famers: Joy Behar, Richard Belzer, Jon Stewart, Kevin Meaney, Colin Quinn, Denis Leary, Mario Cantone and the always underrated but very good Jeffrey Ross.

Behar had the line of the night. "Giving someone as old as Strom Thurmond Viagra is like putting a flagpole in a condemned building."

There were lots of sex jokes, and many anti-war jokes that took advantage of President Bush. There was also a lot of funny stuff about Saddam Hussein and Usama bin Laden, most of which can't be repeated.

Rhea, who seems so pleasant on TV, has a wicked sense of humor. She tells a good bit about oral sex, which also can't be repeated here.

Meaney, who repeated his excellent mime of 'We Are the World,' told me later he's leaving the war out of his routine. "It's for the dinner table," he said. "People want to be entertained when they see me."

Memo to Mel Brooks: Meaney should be playing Bialystok on Broadway in The Producers. He's an undiscovered theater gem.

Caroline Hirsch and her partner Andrew Fox have really made a permanent hit with their club. Happy anniversary to them. If you're anywhere near New York, make a point of getting over there.