Real-Life 'Sopranos' Shrink Speaks

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Published June 06, 2007

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Dr. Stanton Samenow | NBC's New Hero | Odds 'n' Ends

Real-Life 'Sopranos' Shrink Speaks

Dr. Stanton E. Samenow is pretty amused that he’s become the focus of "Sopranos" fans.

Samenow — as I told you the other day — was the author of the breakthrough 1977 study of psychotics that last Sunday forced Tony Soprano’s fictional shrink to dump him as a patient after seven years.

“The Criminal Mind” caused a stir when it was published 30 years ago by Samenow and the late Dr. Samuel Yochelson. On Tuesday, Samenow, who’s still working in the field, says Yochelson would be shocked that the paper has made its way into pop culture.

“I’m sorry he’s not here to see this,” said Samenow who, by the way, had never seen or heard of "The Sopranos" until last week when he received a flurry of phone calls from friends.

“Luckily, they taped Sunday’s episode and showed it to me,” he said. “The funny thing is, my friend’s wife wouldn’t watch it when she saw how violent it was.”

Samenow said that Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) is duped by Tony Soprano in therapy the same way he and Yochelson were years ago.

Psychotics — which is what Tony and his murderous mob pals are — are incredibly charming, Samenow told me. That may be one reason why fans of the show are bemoaning the fates of these “beloved” characters even though they are actually villains.

“We actually lived that study,” he said of the 14 years he and Yochelson treated criminals at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. Samenow recalled a party thrown by some of their patients for them at the conclusion of treatment.

“It was only later we realized they’d stolen all the supplies for it from the hospital,” he said.

And what about the fact that the study is 30 years old but was presented on the show as new?

Samenow can’t figure that one out, but he said, “When we first published it, it caused a stir. We were even featured on ’60 Minutes.'”

They were also the subjects of stories on “Donahue," "Good Morning America," "Oprah" and "Larry King."

Too bad Dr. Melfi didn’t see any of that before she took Tony on as a patient!

NBC's New 'Hero' Gets Toasted

Ben Silverman, the 36-year-old wunderkind who’s just taken over NBC, got a nice toasting Tuesday night.

Pals of Silverman, from childhood to college to current days, showed the L.A.-based producer just how much fun New York can be at the famed Spotted Pig in the West Village. The main course was cheeseburgers and french fries.

Guests included MSNBC’s Dan Abrams, “Conan O’Brien” executive producer Jeff Ross and actress/writer wife, Missy, and NBC Universal producer Meryl Poster, who used to make movies at Miramax under Harvey Weinstein.

The putative host: Epic Records’ Charlie Walk, who has a monster summer radio hit with Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls.”

Amid the speeches and toasts, someone asked Silverman’s mother what she thinks of her son’s success (he also produces “Ugly Betty” and “The Office,” among other shows).

“We’re calling it ‘Ben-BC’ from now on,” she quipped.

Up, Up and Away; Billy’s Buildings; California Dreaming

“I’m worried about the tradition of pop music,” Jimmy Webb told a crowd of songwriters and fans Tuesday at the Cutting Room.

The legendary author of hits like “Wichita Lineman” and “Up, Up, and Away” gave a master class for the Songwriters Hall of Fame that was absolutely spellbinding. I wish every pop star with a so-called “hit” could have heard and seen Webb. He’s the real deal.

“I’m not knocking rap or hip-hop,” Webb said. “But 10 years ago, Paul Simon predicted that in a decade there would be no more melodies. And,” he paused, “there’s a lot less of it. A lot less.”

Webb played a few of his songs, including “The Moon's a Harsh Mistress,” which was covered by only Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt and Shawn Colvin. That’s all.

He said that women often come up to him dewy eyed and quote a famous line from “Wichita Lineman.”

“They say, ‘I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time,’” Webb said. “And I think, ‘What does that even mean?’

“A song wants what it wants,” he concluded.

Some of Webb’s other hits: “Galveston,” “MacArthur Park,” “The Worst That Could Happen,” “All I Know” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” Not bad.

They’re all included in one of the great all time albums, “Ten Easy Pieces,” which Webb released in 1996.

The songwriter has five kids, he said. They’re all musicians.

“You couldn’t be a lawyer?” he mimicked rhetorically. “Each one of them goes upstairs with a guitar for four or five years, then comes down with a bunch of songs.” ...

I am told in no uncertain terms that Billy Joel has purchased actor Roy Scheider’s beachfront home in the Hamptons for $16 million and not $18.75 million as reported elsewhere.

Even at these stratospheric prices, the difference is important, I guess.

Billy is something of a world-class Monopoly player when it comes to real estate. He’s selling his current manse, on northern Long Island, for millions, too. He has homes in Miami, Manhattan and a few other parcels of land.

Why all the moving around? “It could be that musicians are so used to touring that staying in one place too long is foreign to them,” a pal said. (Call Dr. Melfi!)

The main thing: Will Billy Joel ever make a new record? His last, “River of Dreams,” was 14 years ago. Sources say the new regime at Columbia Records is “salivating” for it. ...

Believe it or not, Michelle Phillips is the only surviving member of the Mamas and the Papas. The actress/singer/writer, mother to Chynna Phillips, mother-in-law of Billy Baldwin and yes, a grand-Mama, is still stunning.

She and legendarily cranky producer Lou Adler took the stage Tuesday night at the IFC Center to introduce the 40th anniversary DVD of D.A. Pennebaker’s landmark film “Monterey Pop.”

Of course, the Monterey Pop Festival — which Michelle organized with then-husband John Phillips — features searing performances by the Mamas and Papas, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Ravi Shankar, Otis Redding and Janis Joplin, among others.

The film famously captures all of it, including a couple of audience members, like a 30-something Clive Davis rocking out to Joplin and Monkee Micky Dolenz — then bigger than Justin Timberlake is now — soaking in the grooves.

“It was the only time I ever went to an office,” Michelle told the audience and interviewer Anthony DeCurtis before the screening. “We worked very hard for eight weeks. Every morning I’d look at my watch and say, 'We’ve got to do what?'”

Adler noted that the “board of directors” for the festival included Paul McCartney, Smokey Robinson and Brian Wilson.

“We never actually had a meeting,” he laughed.

Robinson and the Miracles couldn’t make the festival, however. Adler said the only people they couldn’t get for the show were Motown performers.

“That summer they were the only people working,” he recalled. “They all had gigs.”

Watching the film last night for the umpteenth time, I was struck by how amazing Grace Slick really was singing “Today” and wondered, where the heck is she now when we really need her? Grace, come back, all is forgiven, as they say.

Razor & Tie is releasing a CD soundtrack for the film, the first ever. The handsome DVD box set has been a bestseller for the last couple of years on Criterion. ...

Finally: There is now a rash of stories about Sam Waterston getting “promoted” to district attorney on “Law & Order.”

Funny, we’ve been telling you this for months. Waterston will become DA — he’s been an ADA for 16 years — to cut costs. Producer Dick Wolf is looking for a younger, cheaper actor to fill Waterston’s old role.

And, as I wrote here, Jesse L. Martin is out as a detective after seven seasons. He’s being replaced by Jeremy Sisto, of “Six Feet Under” fame. A female partner cop is being cast for him.

The good news is that S. Epatha Merkerson, who’s been unhappy, will probably stay with the show. …

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