Whitney Houston is getting ready for her big public debut. At least that's what sources say about the beleaguered diva's plans to re-emerge on the arm of recording industry mogul Clive Davis Saturday night at Davis' annual pre-Grammy dinner and show at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It's the hottest ticket in town.
If Houston does show — and there's every reason to believe she will — this may signal the beginning of the biggest comeback in pop history.
Houston, according to sources, has been living on the beach in an unprepossessing house near her drug counselor, Warren Boyd, the same man who finally helped Courtney Love turn her life around.
Boyd must know what he's doing. Love, as I told you last week, has recorded a masterpiece of an album that she's now shopping to labels.
I'm told that Boyd watches Houston like a hawk, not letting her slip from his sight. The pair is even living in close proximity to each other -- in a pair of houses on Laguna Beach. Houston has only been back East once recently, to spend Thanksgiving at her Mendham, N.J., estate with family and close friends.
And while Whitney may bring fledgling singer Ray J with her to Davis' party as a date, the pair are just friends. Houston knows Ray J through his sister, R&B and TV star Brandy.
Then again, Brandy herself is having so much trouble right now with her car accident and a $50 million civil suit brought by the victim's parents that Houston might do well to just bring her mother instead.
Houston is not expected to sing at Davis' party, but she will be rooting on many of her friends who may also be in attendance, from Mary J. Blige to Justin Timberlake (no guest list is available this soon -- it's a Davis tradition to have as many surprises as possible).
The singing will come next if she, Davis and Boyd feel that she's ready to take on the pressures of resuming her music career. Houston — inarguably the best voice of her generation — could be the story of 2007.
What the heck is going on at the merged Paramount-DreamWorks studio? And what does it all mean for Paramount chief Brad Grey?
I told you two things right away when DreamWorks went into business with Paramount last year as they hired the brilliant Stacey Snider away from her top post at Universal Pictures.
First, I told you that Steven Spielberg said that Snider was not coming to DreamWorks as a Trojan horse, with the idea that she would replace Brad Grey. That conversation took place at the end of March, after the Academy Awards at the Governors' Ball.
At the time, there was speculation that Grey's involvement in the Anthony Pellicano case and an ancillary lawsuit that has since been revived would take up a lot of his time. Snider would be the logical replacement, even if temporarily.
Second, I told you on May 19 that there was still speculation that either Snider or DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg was headed for Grey's job.
Alas, at the party launching Paramount Vantage at the Cannes Film Festival, I ran square into Grey and then-Viacom-chief Tom Freston. The latter shook my hand and said, "No one's getting fired, Roger."
A few weeks later, Sumner Redstone fired Freston. Grey seemed safe after that. "Dreamgirls" debuted with a bang at Cannes and looked like it would win the Oscar. Grey was also listed as a producer on Warner's "The Departed." The year was turning around.
But things took a strange turn recently when "Dreamgirls" failed to garner an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The musical had been a DreamWorks project that transferred to Paramount in the merger.
Nevertheless, it was developed at DreamWorks, and the failure to get key Oscar nominations — even though it picked up eight — may have turned the "Dream" into a nightmare.
The wound was deepened by Paramount's "Babel" making the cut, and further lacerated when Grey petitioned the Academy to include him as a producer on Martin Scorsese's "The Departed," which was released by Warner Bros. He was denied.
All of a sudden Grey, who most in the industry thought could be vulnerable because of Pellicano, had new problems on the inside.
In particular, he seemed to pick a fight with DreamWorks' David Geffen and Katzenberg. He suggested — and if it wasn't true, it has since become part of the Hollywood lure of "fact" — that "Dreamgirls" was denied because Hollywood and the Academy don't like David Geffen.
Even more: Sources tell me that it's now being said that Grey referred to Geffen by an expression just short of what got actor Isaiah Washington into trouble on the set of "Grey's Anatomy."
And so it goes. Hollywood, after all, is one big high-school cafeteria that moves from Morton's to Ago to Il Sole to Spago to The Ivy. The tables get rearranged but the cliques are tough, and one wrong word can set off an intramural war.
That appears to be what's happened now, with Grey vs. Geffen straining to break into public just three weeks before the Academy Awards.
Of course, if the DreamWorks people are unhappy about "Dreamgirls," they have plenty of precedent. When they were on their own, DreamWorks not only was nominated but won Best Picture three times: for "Gladiator," for "A Beautiful Mind" and "American Beauty." They also scored nominations for a bunch of other films including "Saving Private Ryan" and "Seabiscuit."
They are not used to losing or being snubbed. The "Dreamgirls" situation stings — and that means trouble.
Martin Scorsese won the Directors Guild of America award on Saturday night for "The Departed." But is it enough to get a Best Picture Oscar for the movie? It's still unclear.
While "The Departed" should win, there's still a lot of support for "Little Miss Sunshine," the Sundance-launched indie comedy that a lot of people really just love. It's that simple.
Directors Guild of America winners usually go on to win Best Director, so Scorsese can pretty much count on that gold statue coming his way. But Best Picture? Let's hope the Academy voters make the right choice.
Rest in Peace
Joe Hunter, the keyboardist for The Funk Brothers and the man who helped craft the Motown sound, died on Friday at 79 in Detroit.
Hunter's work can be heard on most Motown classics, from Marvin Gaye's "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" to records by Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Four Tops and The Temptations.
Yesterday's article on soul music in The New York Times missed several things, including the fact that John Legend's "Save Room" doesn't just draw on the arrangement of the 1968 hit "Stormy," it's stolen from it.
Legend, as I told you months ago, had to pay "Stormy" writer Buddy Buie 50 percent of the royalties in perpetuity for this pickpocketing.
"Swatches of vintage soul have galvanized some of the most indelible hip-hop albums of the last few years," the Times' writer noted.
That's good spin for lifting whole compositions rather than writing new ones. Yikes!
The story totally missed the only R&B legend and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who is actually nominated for a Grammy next Sunday — Sam Moore, who's nominated for "You Are So Beautiful" — and concentrated on a two-year-old Betty LaVette album instead. How out of touch.
P.S.: As much as I love it, Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" is far from original. It's a reworked cover version of a song from the soundtrack of a 1968 Italian Spaghetti Western. Contrary to the Times' assertion, it does not sound remotely like anything from Sly and the Family Stone's 1973 album "Fresh."