Published July 17, 2007
Kelly Clarkson’s new album, “My December,” will hit the 500,000 mark, or just a little under it, Tuesday, after three weeks in release.
But basically, “My December” is a dud. Just as insiders predicted, it started big with 300,000 copies sold in the first week, followed by 114,000 in the second and about 60,000 in the third.
Clarkson said some nasty things last week about her label guru, Clive Davis, with regard to his age.
But Clarkson was dead wrong, and Davis was correct. She’s now undermined the pop persona Davis and his team carefully crafted. She may never get it back. “My December” will be lucky to sell a total of a million CDs over the next few months.
Clarkson may already have accepted that. After firing manager Jeff Kwatinetz and The Firm, she’s hired Reba McIntire’s husband-manager to replace him. That may very well be a signal that Clarkson is headed to Nashville and a country base, where she can give up the pop rat race and concentrate on the loyal audience down there.
The Firm, meanwhile, continues to be the subject of much speculation. Kwatinetz hasn’t many supporters.
“He actually fired 30 Seconds to Mars and Jared Leto,” says an observer. “The band was hot and Jared is still a hot actor. It’s not like there’s many of either around.”
Courtney Love left, too, right before Clarkson. Now Rick Yorn, manager to Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and many others, is saying he may pick up and leave as well.
“The Firm was supposed to be like a new CAA, but it’s happening,” says the source. “If Rick leaves, it’s all over.”
John Travolta is a complicated man. When he dances across a movie screen, there is a feeling of ebullience. All that "other stuff" fades away.
Toward the end of "Hairspray," there is such a magic moment, when Travolta — wearing a fat suit in drag as the lovable Edna Turnblad — does a Tina Turner spin like a bulbous top across a stage.
Last night, the audience cheered. Even dressed as Edna, Travolta was channeling his iconic "Saturday Night Fever" and "Pulp Fiction" moments.
But then, of course, much of the audience came with Travolta.
“He has like 400 guests,” said one publicist.
It was an exaggeration, but later, at the Roseland after-party, many of them were lined up to greet him. Not all of them were relatives or friends from “the old neighborhood.” Who were they?
“Think about it,” advised one New Line insider.
Oh, yes. His disciples. Scientology pals. Just when you thought you could get away from it all.
The current reigning queen of Scientology, Katie Holmes, appeared at the screening. She looked quite elegant in her new short haircut. She also seemed a little steely. Was she there because she and Queen Latifah — who has two show-stopping turns in “Hairspray" — just made a movie together?
“Yes, but I’m here for John,” she said.
John? Two years and three months ago, before Holmes was annexed suddenly to Tom Cruise, Holmes didn’t know Travolta from James Van Der Beek. Things have changed.
Nevertheless, Travolta is charming, if a little over-guarded by security men who talk into their cuffs.
On the mezzanine above the Roseland crowd, he held court, met folks, answered questions, took pictures — that is, if you could get up there.
For a while, no one could. The show’s songwriter, Marc Shaiman, and director, Adam Shankman, were among those who nearly got stampeded.
Somehow, we made it. I asked Travolta about his next film, “Old Dogs,” which co-stars wife Kelly Preston and Robin Williams.
“My daughter Ella’s in it, too,” he said.
“What about your son?” I asked gently about Jett, whom the Travoltas keep out of the limelight. “Doesn’t he want to act?”
Travolta was quick to say, “No.”
"How old is he," I asked? “Fifteen,” he replied. So much for that.
He told me that he almost fell a couple of times when he danced as Edna.
“Especially on the high heels,” he said, “but I had them made wider so I wouldn’t.”
How does he feel when he’s dancing? Is it like flying? “I feel like I’m in control,” he said.
Around the screening and the party, it wasn’t easy to find the rest of the cast. I ran into Jerry Stiller, who’s so funny as Mr. Pinky.
Tom Meehan, who wrote the book for the “Hairspray” Broadway show as well as “Annie” and “The Producers,” told me he’s headed to Seattle soon for “Young Frankenstein” tryouts with Mel Brooks.
How’s it going?
“We’re working on it,” he grumbled in a nice Tom Meehan way. “The cast is great.”
The show stars Megan Mullally and Sutton Foster, among others.
Where were Chris Walken, Queen Latifah, James Marsden and Michelle Pfeiffer? Somewhere else, I guess. They may have missed the three 30-foot high hairspray cans that were actually misting Roseland while a French DJ played a selection of classic rock, New Wave and soul.
There may have been cooler places to go. So kudos to Travolta for toughing it out. He is, indeed, a complicated man.
By the way, Shankman told me that it only looks like Travolta is doing his "Pulp Fiction"-Catwoman signal when he starts that dance in "Hairspray."
“He’s really just gesturing ‘this is for you.’ But everyone thinks it’s the other thing, and they get excited, so it’s fine with me.” Just so we know.
“Hairspray” is a gamble for New Line when it opens on Friday. I think it’s the antidote to all the sequels we’ve had so far this summer, and all the dreary action films. It’s certainly a delicious dessert after a long, hard meal. The marketing people worry that men won’t go. But my guess is that wives and girlfriends will be in control here, and that the guys will actually leave the theater humming.
I was sad to see that Ed McDowell passed away. He covered the book publishing beat for the New York Times in the 1980s when I was a publicist for Ballantine and the Atlantic Monthly Press.
Ed was a true gentleman, a gifted writer and a lovely fellow to have on your side. He was the best New York Times reporter ever to take the beat. My condolences to his family. …
Chris Gardner, the dapper, well-dressed character whose life inspired “The Pursuit of Happyness,” is in town this week doing business. But I hear he’s also talking of turning “Happyness” into a reality show produced by Will Smith. It’s a good idea. The affable Gardner has that Midas touch. Stay tuned. ...