Billy Joel  | Sting | 'Surviving Christmas'  | Saying Goodbye

Billy Joel's Future Father-In-Law Approves

This was supposed to be a story about Sting's great show last night at the Beacon Theatre, and the fact that we've now spent more time with His Stingness and beautiful wife Trudie Styler in the last couple of weeks than with our own family. In fact, here's something to chew on: Two nights ago I actually sat at a table at the very private club in New York called Bungalow 8 with Sting, Trudie, Bruce Springsteen, and his wife, Patti Scialfa. I thought I was hallucinating.

But wait! Stop the presses. Into Sting's dressing room post-concert last night comes a nice looking gray haired man who announces that he is Steve Lee, and he is the father of Katie Lee, the 22-year-old young woman who is going to marry Billy Joel. As you may imagine, this got everyone's attention including Sting, Trudie, Sting's manager Kathy Schenker, my editor Marla Lehner, and Brooke Shields and her husband, Chris Henchy, who'd come backstage to say hello and wound up having a glass of Champagne and meeting Sting.

"My daughter is marrying Billy Joel," Lee said, so I asked him how old he was, and he told me. "48," he replied. Then, guessing the next question, he said, "Billy Joel is six years older than me."

This got everyone's attention, too, because even though we all love Billy Joel, and Katie Lee — whom we've met on several occasions — is the most poised 22-year-old in this big bad town, there are some cross generational questions here, aren't there?

For example, Lee — who's a sophisticated Midwestern banker — really wanted to meet Sting. He's a fan of his, and grew up on Joel's music as well. He told us that Sting and Trudie's appearance on "Oprah" last fall to promote Sting's autobiography, "Broken Music," so impressed him that he went out and bought the book. When he told his daughter he was reading it, she replied, "I know Sting, I've met him with Billy." Surprise! The rest is history, and now this weekend all the participants are meeting to plan the nuptials.

Mazel Tov, I say!

"We'll see you at the wedding," Sting said to Lee, in an effort to make polite chit chat.

"Oh really," interjected Trudie, who rarely minces words. "Are we invited?"

"Sure," replied Sting, with a devilish chuckle.

This was around the time Shields and Henchy — who have a nine-month-old baby girl at home — excused themselves.

Sting's Sacred Success

As for Sting, and his show, I mean the whole reason we were there in the first place: it was excellent. The Beacon is a much smaller venue for him, so he's playing four shows there this week to accommodate the crowds. The first half of the show consists mostly of songs from his new album, "Sacred Love," although he mixes in a favorite old rocker, "Synchronicity II." The new songs are lush and melodic, a lot of ballads. The title track is a mini masterwork for Sting.

The second half gives the people what they want: "Roxanne" and such. I asked Sting if he got nauseous at the idea of having to play this 25-year-old song every night, but he says he doesn't. "You see how much the audience loves it, and that really affects me," he said. He delivers several of his greatest hits, including a raucous version of "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You," and a muscular, joyful "Every Breath You Take."

You could see during the latter song how much fun Sting is actually having not playing to an arena or stadium crowd, but to a human-sized room where you can hear the audience sing along to the songs. It reminded me of a Police concert at Madison Square Garden, circa 1982. On the subway home, you could hear the echo of fans singing the Sting trademark vocal, "Eee-oh, eee-oh." A quarter-century later, he still has that wonderful effect.

Surviving Christmas Will Survive

I got a lot of flack yesterday for writing negative things about Dreamworks' unreleased "Surviving Christmas." The studio and Mike De Luca, the executive who guided the film, insist that they couldn't release "SC" because they had a deal with Paramount to let them put out Ben Affleck's movie "Paycheck" first. Can't have two Affleck movies out in one month, I guess. Too confusing!

Consequently, the American public will have to wait until this December to see "SC."    Then we can make up our minds about the movie being good or bad. Until then, we'll have to depend on James Gandolfini's evaluation of the situation.

I also heard from Mr. DeLuca, who insists that his after Oscar party on Sunday night was a tame event and not at all as described here. ("No women on the clock," he writes.) So let's take his word for it, even though in Hollywood DeLuca has been in the past to wild parties as "The Passion" has been to religious debate. These days you can't have one without the other!

Saying Goodbye to Pioneers

Last week two people who didn't know each other but made important contributions to the arts passed away. John Randolph, 88, was a lovely character actor who would have had a much bigger career had he not been blacklisted in 1955 thanks to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. Nevertheless, he rebounded in 1966 and went on to appear in many films and plays including Neil Simon's "Broadway Bound" on stage and in "Serpico" on screen.  He was not a star as we know them now, but John Randolph would have won Most Valuable Player if they had one in show business. He will be sorely missed.

I also wanted to tell you that Estelle Axton died in Memphis. She was the 85-year-old sister of Jim Stewart. Together they made the very influential R&B label Stax Records by combining their last names and their talents. Stax was home to Sam and Dave, Rufus Thomas and Carla Thomas, William Bell, Isaac Hayes, the Staples Singers, Booker T. and the MGs, the Bar Kays, and in a way Wilson Pickett. Axton, even more than her brother, loved the music and made it into a lasting international phenomenon.  The new Stax Museum in Memphis — which everyone should visit this summer — is a lasting memorial to Axton's profound contribution to American culture.