In an irony of ironies, "Dreamgirls" — the movie that didn’t get nominated for Best Picture — will be the centerpiece of the Oscar telecast on Feb. 25.
Jennifer Hudson — nominated for Best Supporting Actress and most likely the winner in that category — told me Thursday that she and her "Dreamgirls" co-stars Beyonce and (Tony-winner) Anika Noni Rose will perform the three songs nominated from the movie as the fictional group The Dreams.
Not only that: "Dreamgirls" director Bill Condon — who was not nominated for Best Director and should have been — will direct the segments for those songs that were written specifically for the movie: “Listen,” “Love You I Do” and “Patience.”
Unfortunately, Hudson’s movie moment, “And I’m Telling You,” wasn’t eligible because it came from the original Broadway show. But if she sings it on Oscar night, ratings should go crazy!
Talk about having the last laugh. Producer Laura Ziskin will score a lot of points with this genius move. “Dreamgirls” may have been snubbed by the Academy, but Ziskin knows that without heavy reference to this exciting, $100 million grossing sensational musical featured heavily, this year’s Academy Awards has only Idi Amin and Queen Elizabeth II as significant ratings grabbers.
For Hudson, the Oscar performance will cap off quite a month. Thursday, while rehearsing for Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy extravaganza at the Beverly Hilton, Hudson got word that she’s the March cover girl for Vogue.
This doesn’t come as too much of a surprise since Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley was busy interviewing Hudson and having her photographed when they hit Michael’s restaurant in New York a couple of months ago (remember, I told you that was the same day Hudson met original Supreme Mary Wilson there over lunch).
None other than Annie Leibovitz shot Hudson’s portrait. Bravo Anna Wintour!
With all this news coming down at the same time, you’d think Hudson would be more overwhelmed. But she took it all in stride Thursday afternoon, performing the “Dreamgirls” theme song for film crews at the Davis rehearsal, with Ricky Minor leading a full band on the same stage where the Golden Globes were handed out a month ago.
Davis and his J Records staff were all smiles as Hudson — who will record her first album for Davis starting in March — brought down the house with little effort. The girl can sing, as they say!
She also has a sense of humor: when she was done, and after a thunderous applause all over the ballroom, she asked the press crews: “Is that it? Cut?”
“Do you know any other songs?” I asked her jokingly.
“I do, but Effie White does not!” she replied.
Meanwhile, Hudson’s rehearsal for the Davis show was preceded by Justin Timberlake’s. Justin will also be a featured player at the party on Saturday night, performing at least two songs: his tour de force “What Goes Around, Comes Around” and a new soulful ballad as well.
Between Hudson and Timberlake, Davis’ expected guests — including Meryl Streep and former Vice President Al Gore — should be pretty well entertained.
Last year, when Timberlake tested out his show at Roseland, I told you he didn’t appear to be playing his own keyboards. The way the show was set up, it looked like he had a lot of help from three other keyboards. Ditto when he played guitar with his back to the audience.
But — without being asked by anyone — let me give credit where it’s due. At rehearsal, Justin — seated at his keyboards — played alone. He’s not Van Cliburn, but on the other hand he impressively led his band. He’s grown tremendously as a musician, and, of course, he’s got a convincingly soulful falsetto.
Dear reader, you can be the judge of all this anyway: Davis’ party will be shown in its entirely on a live stream thanks to www.rhapsody.com on Saturday night. Just go to that address, click on Grammys and Davis’ picture. The festivities begin around 9 p.m. EST. Some of the other performers include Pink and rapper Akon.
With the news Thursday that Warner Music’s profits are down 74 percent, and EMI Music in a freefall, Davis stands alone as the face of the music industry. He and Universal’s Doug Morris are the last moguls of the business, and it shows: they have the biggest successes while everyone else struggles.
Davis’ passion for the business only intensifies as time goes on, and he’s in his mid '70s!
For example: on Wednesday, he did something very unusual. Davis invited all the best songwriters in the country to another ballroom in the Beverly Hilton so they could hear “X Factor” winner Leona Lewis, a knockout singer from Britain, perform standards like “Over the Rainbow” and “Summertime.” The writers went home and started composing songs they will propose for her debut album.
This, my friends, is called showmanship. I asked Clive if had he ever done anything like this before.
“Just once, years ago, when we started working with Whitney Houston,” he said. He added, modestly: “It was no big deal.”
Well, everything he does is a big deal! And more on Whitney, and her gathering storm of a comeback, very shortly.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, looking robust, dined at Spago Thursday for lunch, on the patio. Inside, Sidney Poitier had his corner booth, first on the left, and entertained Norman Lear. Spago is Hollywood.
And there was talk at Spago of the Oscar Governor’s Ball, which Wolfgang Puck caters every year. This year, I’m told, the Academy has cut the guest list by 400 names! And the party will much different, created by Puck as a glamorous buffet. But the nominees and VIPs needn’t worry about jostling to find a seat. There will be a special, seated section after all. And food will be on the tables for them, so don’t expect to see Judi Dench and Helen Mirren fighting over the foie gras station! ...
The Traveling Wilburys are back. The famed supergroup’s CDs have been out of print. But I’m told that Rhino Records has won the contract, and the Wilburys’ catalogue should reappear on or around June 1.
Barbara Orbison and Olivia Harrison, widows respectively of Roy and George, are responsible for getting the project off the ground. ...
And Eagle-eyed fans will be looked for Glenn Frey Friday night at the MusiCares salute to Don Henley. The co-captain of the popular group was not at rehearsals Thursday. There’s some question about whether the pair are on speaking terms. Come on, Glenn. Take it easy!