Friday’s funeral for soul superstar Lou Rawls is turning into a Battle Royale between one of Rawls’ adult daughters and the wife he nearly divorced two months ago.
I’m told the funeral will be held at West Angeles Church on South Crenshaw Blvd. in Los Angeles. Stevie Wonder, who’s active there, has agreed to perform, and there will be other stars performing too, including Della Reese, Joan Baez, Andrae Crouch and Etta James.
But a long-simmering feud between Rawls’ widow Nina Inman, 35, and his middle daughter Louanna (from a previous marriage) is threatening the peace at the funeral.
It’s a complicated story compounded by a phone message left by Inman on Louanna Rawls’ answering machine that was played in open court last month.
The message — a spewing of hatred by Inman — may soon start appearing on radio and tabloid shows. On it, Inman calls Louanna a variety of names and threatens to destroy her father financially.
Now, even with the situation at its very worst, Inman is inviting Louanna to attend the funeral on Friday. But she won’t ask her to sit with the family. Inman told me that she’s filed a police complaint against Louanna. She says Louanna took all of Lou Rawls’ jewelry, including his wedding ring, Grammys and gold and platinum albums.
“I asked her to give them back so he could he buried with his ring,” Inman told me last night.
“None of that is true,” said a close friend of Louanna, who says that Rawls instructed his road manager to remove those items from his Arizona home in a notarized letter.
Inman also says that Rawls is being buried according to his will. But Louanna and Rawls’ friends insist that Rawls told them directly he wanted to be cremated.
Muddying the waters even more is that Louanna’s half sister, Kendra, has taken Inman’s side in the feud. A brother, Lou Jr., is currently in jail, Inman says.
Nina Inman met Lou Rawls when she was a Continental Airlines flight attendant about five years ago. In 2003, Rawls was arrested and released on a domestic violence charge. The charges were eventually dropped. They married two years ago, right after Rawls was diagnosed with cancer.
A year ago, their son — who is adopted — was born. Inman says that Louanna Rawls tried to interfere with the adoption by attempting to talk her father out of it. It went through, however.
In September, though he was already quite ill, Rawls taped the annual Parade of Stars Telethon that was broadcast this past weekend. Inman is at his side. But in November they had a fight, and Inman claims that Louanna used their momentary rift to, in effect, kidnap Lou Rawls and keep him away from his wife and child. Annulment papers were drawn up and in December the matter was heard in court.
“She threw him out,” says Louanna’s friend, clarifying their side of the story, “And Lou was close to death.”
Days before Rawls died last week, Inman says, her husband finally got word to her through a doctor and reunited them. Rawls died with Inman at his bedside. “I asked Louanna to come but she wouldn’t,” Inman says.
It’s a she said-she said war of words that sorely needs a mediator. It’s a lose-lose situation. Tomorrow I will present to you Louanna Rawls’ side of the story. “Nina is a pathological liar,” says a friend of Louanna who’s talked to the doctors and lawyers involved. “She’s a psychopath and we can prove it.”
In the meantime, Nina Inman-Rawls will proceed with Friday’s funeral. She said she regrets leaving the answering machine message now that it may become public. It sure isn’t pretty.
By the way, Inman told me that Lou Rawls’ estate will come to less than a $1 million, and that all his children are taken care of in the will. But of course the amounts of money are in dispute. We’ll have to wait until the will is filed in surrogate court before that can be verified.
You could call Milos Forman a ‘cuckoo’ director -- he made the Oscar-winner “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” in addition to the Oscar-winning “Amadeus” and plenty of other movies.
But last night at the National Board of Review all-star gala, he decided to rev up an old feud concerning his movie “The People vs. Larry Flynt.”
Speaking from the podium in front of a crowd that included Jane Fonda, George Clooney, Diahann Carroll, Harvey Weinstein, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Felicity Huffman and numerous other luminaries, Forman was supposedly introducing producer Saul Zaentz, winner of a lifetime achievement award.
Seemingly bored after a few minutes, Forman, in his heavy Czech accent, said: “What else can I tell you? My wife and I went to Elton John’s wedding, sometimes Gloria Steinem can be frighteningly wrong, and Saul Zaentz is from Passaic, New Jersey.”
Whoa! Steinem, who was in the audience and had just presented an award, was as taken aback as everyone else. With one non sequitur, Forman had awakened a room full of celebrities who were lightly dozing as the awards ceremony seemed to go on ceaselessly. Suddenly there was a feud, and maybe even a scandal! What was this all about?
“He directed 'The People vs. Larry Flynt,'” Steinem told me later. “And I said in the New York Times that he was wrong about certain things. I couldn’t believe he brought it up in public like that. But that’s the kind of man he is. He’s very vindictive.”
Of course, Steinem — who looks quite wonderful by the way, could have retorted, “Oh yeah? Well, we all had to sit through 'Valmont.'" But she’s too polite.
Steinem did have a defender in the audience, thank goodness. When Fonda was called to the podium at the end of the night to receive her Career Achievement Award, she said, “Milos Forman, give it up! Gloria Steinem’s never made any mistakes.”
Fonda came into the Tavern on the Green Crystal room accompanied by her daughter Vanessa and walking with a gold-handled cane, thanks to hip replacement surgery.
But when New Line Cinema’s Bob Shaye introduced her, she rose tentatively and walked briskly to the front of the room to accept her award. She got a standing ovation after clips were played of her extraordinary collection of roles from “Klute,” “Coming Home,” “The China Syndrome,” “Julia” and “The Morning After,” among others.
“It’s awesome to be part of this crowd,” she said. “This award makes me feel like I’m part of the industry again.”
Fonda said several times that she’s “back,” which was a signal that following her success last year in “Monster-in-Law,” she’s willing to do more movies.
Paul Reiser hosted the ceremony so capably that people were talking about him taking over the Oscars one year. He got a lot of good jokes off, particularly one concerning Supreme Court nominee Alito and “Brokeback Mountain.”
“Last night,” Reiser quipped, “he was seen at a screening wearing chaps and a Bolo tie.”
Other stars in the audience who came to present awards included Sigourney Weaver, Susan Sarandon, Queen Latifah, Ellen Barkin, Martin Scorsese, Eric Bogosian, Gretchen Mol, director Tod Williams, director Kenneth Lonergan (suffering from laryngitis), Amanda Peet, S. Epatha Mekerson, “Transamerica” director Duncan Taylor, “Mrs. Henderson” writer Martin Sherman, “Good Night and Good Luck” star David Strathairn and actor/director Reuben Santiago Hudson, who’s inherited the legacy of directing plays left behind by the late August Wilson.
The evening went on for so long, though, that when Clooney finally accepted his award for “Good Night” as Best Picture from Charlie Rose, he joked, “Welcome to Survivor: Tavern on the Green. When this night started, I was an ingénue.”
Readers of this column are well aware that I’ve reported in detail about the National Board in the past, on its finances, membership, etc. My invitation was an olive branch from the group, and I was greeted warmly by several members whose names have appeared in this column, including attorney Leon Friedman, board members Inez Glucksman and Mirra Banks.
The evening was full of good food and high spirits, and it was nicely executed. But what of our previous reporting? I would say that the most egregious moments of the show concerned the NBR’s overt interest in all things Warner Bros., in particular executive Dan Fellman.
You may recall a warning voiced in this space by an NBR source that Fellman was very friendly with NBR president Annie Schulhof, a controversial presence in the group.
So it was with some amusement that we watched as Fellman bounded to the stage to give the Best Animated Film award for “Corpse Bride” co-director Mike Johnson (Tim Burton was a no-show).
Fellman’s speech turned out to be twice as long as Johnson’s, and was akin to a Warner’s corporate press release. This was followed by Warner chief Alan Horn, one of our favorite people, giving an award to Warner Home Video expert George Feltenstein for his work releasing the Warner library on DVD. More rah, rah, rah for the home team. It was a bit much.
The NBR is still an odd group. The only serious member they can send to the stage to present an award is Annette Insdorf, which is fine. But if more of their members had legitimate standing, maybe some of them could appear in the program.
The evening was also hampered by the set up of tables. NBR board members got the up-front seats, while many of the honorees were strewn through the middle and near back area. There was also a need to “shush” people sitting at back tables who talked right through all the speeches. Ouch!
Nevertheless, it was nice to see Terrence Howard of “Hustle and Flow,” director David Cronenberg, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ang Lee all win their awards.
Felicity Huffman literally flew in on a private plan from the Los Angeles set of “Desperate Housewives” and then flew right back. She told me she was suffering from a prominent cold sore on her mouth, and she looked dog-tired despite plucky enthusiasm. It’s not easy being so popular.
“I used to look at these fancy parties on Tavern on the Green and wonder what they were like,” she said before accepting her Best Actress Award. “I’m happy to say I’m finally here.”
(Part 2 — Click here for Part 1)
Philip Berk, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, says that every member of his group is validated by the Ernst & Young accounting firm. He says they look at all the clips written by the group’s members and verify they are real.
We’ll take him at his word, even though we’ve never heard of most of the publications or people involved.
Who belongs to the HFPA and how they get to be one of the 90 or so members of this strange group is a complicated issue.
“You cannot compare the L.A. Film Critics,” he said. “They sit around for four hours and make a decision based on just ideas that are thrown out in a circle. I really resent that you are trying to compare us to any other critical body. Even you’ve written about the National Board of Review, who are they? And the Broadcast Critics, their voting is done over the Internet! Are their votes audited?”
Recently, one of the oldest members, Italian actress Argentina Brunetti, passed away at age 98. It’s doubtful she saw many qualifying films in recent years since she lived in Italy with her children (her son, Mario, appears to be angling to take her place on the HFPA by producing a little-known Web site about movies).
Other members, like Howard Lucraft, 89, are plugging along. Some are not so lucky: One elderly member was brought in to the post-Globes party last year in a wheelchair, obviously stricken and immobile. How had he possibly seen all the nominated films, someone asked? “He’s a captive audience,” was the quipped response.
“I don’t think it’s true that if someone is old they’re not eminently qualified as journalists. The fact is that Argentina Brunetti published a book and wrote a column on the Internet at 95. She was as alert as anyone I know until she left Los Angeles five years ago. There are a lot of eminent critics in this country who won’t reveal their age. What about members of the Academy? They don’t reach a time when they have to resign.
“Yes, of course, we’re looking for new people. The nucleus of our group are in their 30s and 40s and they’re the top journalists in this country. If you do a cross-section of the best international journalists in Los Angeles, we represent three quarters of them. We have a very exclusive type of press conference. If we opened up those press conferences to 150 journalists, it would be unmanageable.”
There are legitimate people in the HFPA, even if their literal career definition would seem at odds with the idea of a “foreign press association.”
Veteran writer Mike Goodridge files in the United Kingdom, a country not exactly deprived of access to movies or press about them (at least six HFPA members claim UK affiliations, even though British journalists from major publications already have their own organization, BAFTA, which gives movie awards).
Emanuel Levy, a respected American critic and author who has his own Web site, lists many credits but doesn’t seem to write for any foreign publications. Elmar Biebl, a German writer, has a side media and marketing business for which he maintains a Web site. Mira Panajotovic has taught English for 20 years in Los Angeles and markets an interactive CD on the subject. Past president Aida Takla O'Reilly is a Professor of Pan-African Studies at the University of Paris, but claims Egypt as her foreign country.
There are also the mysterious members who claim to be journalists with credits that are not so easily proven. There’s Alexander Nevsky — real name Sasha Kurtisyn — the pseudonymous former body-building champ from Russia who has declared himself Arnold Schwarzenegger’s film heir.
“He still writes articles once a month for Russian publications,” Berk insists. “We have a governor of California who used to be a body-builder, so why are you holding it against him?”
Berk jokes: “It was Arnold Schwarzenegger who told him at a press conference, 'You’re my natural successor.'” He pauses. “I’m kidding.”
However: I was able to find only actual byline for new member Nellee Holmes, an interview with Orlando Bloom in Russian. Tunisian Ramzi Malouki is better known for hosting modeling competitions than for reviewing films.
Berk says, “What do you want? Do you want us to scrutinize each and every person and hold them up to a standard that is really unrealistic? These people have to produce bylines.”
He concedes they only have to show four. “We members must protect our territories. Ernst & Young verify the clippings from every member.” He says the clips are kept in the HFPA offices for a couple of months but are not archived.
Can I come see them, I ask? He graciously invited me to come and look around the offices, and said a clip or two from some of the harder to find publications might be around. “But we messenger them back to them after a couple of months.”