Published March 07, 2008
Madonna won’t perform at Monday night’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Show. Wasn’t that the whole point?
Madonna is either too busy or too famous to perform at Monday night’s New York dinner for Jann Wenner’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Wenner must have lost his touch. In the old days, he could make inductees do anything.
Instead, sources say, the Kabbalah-loving, recently refreshed Material Mom will just show up, get toasted by Justin Timberlake and be serenaded by rock/punk legend Iggy Pop on some of her hits.
Of course, Iggy, who preceded Madonna in the music world by a good 15 to 20 years, is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is the closest the nominating committee ever has allowed him near it.
So this means Madonna won’t do what just about every living inductee before her has done. Is it the beginning of a trend? Maybe they can add a category: non-performing performers.
Because Madonna can’t or won’t perform, and the other inductees are not exactly rock stars, the evening is shaping up to be a true disaster commercially for the money-hungry Hall of Fame Foundation.
For the second year in a row, VH-1 is not airing the show live on its main channel. Instead, it's relegated the live broadcast to VH-1 Classics, which has a tiny audience. The regular VH-1 showing won’t come until March 22 — 12 days later.
But who can blame them? They pay to tape and broadcast the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Show. Madonna isn’t exactly a rock star in the traditional sense, but she definitely was more attractive because of her potential ratings pull. Without her, there virtually is no guaranteed TV audience.
VH-1 knows it, too. As of Friday, there was almost no mention of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the VH-1 Web site. It’s all been pushed to VH-1 Classics as if it were a moldy oldies show. Sad.
At the moment new friend and business partner Timberlake inducts the Material Mom, VH-1 will be showing "Flavor of Love 3," a "reality" show.
Even better: Where will Madonna, her husband, three kids and various sycophants sit in the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom? And who will pay for their tickets? Warner M. (the "M" is for "Measly") Group is so excited about her induction — timed with the imminent release of her final album with them — it has given just one table for the event.
Yes, let’s get that straight. WMG lost $30 million last year on a soured deal with a bad concert promoter, spent hundreds of thousands more on failed lobbying in Washington, D.C., and its music chief, Lyor Cohen, vacationed last Christmas in St. Bart’s, where a glass of grapefruit juice is $12.
But the company only bought one table to support Madonna’s induction into the Rock Hall. If I were her, I’d be nervous about that new album. If WMG does its usual stellar job, the CD should have one great week and then sink like a stone. Can you imagine if WMG actively sabotaged it?
The rest of the Monday night show is kind of a nightmare: The whole draw will depend on John Mellencamp, the only actual rock inductee of the night, doing something with Billy Joel.
Patti LaBelle — also not in the Hall of Fame — is performing for Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff; The Ventures certainly will do one of their instrumentals, with the now-ubiquitous John Fogerty; Lou Reed will induct the somnambulant Leonard Cohen and maybe turn "Suzanne" into a barn-burner.
But mostly the Rock Hall show sounds like the grind it’s been designed to become. And isn’t this what years and years of hubris gets you? By ignoring a generation of potential inductees — almost all of the '70s — they’ve cut off most of their audience.
The days of the fabled show-ending jam sessions are over. It’s not like Madonna’s going to be singing unaugmented lead with Mellencamp on "Little Pink Houses," now, is it?
Our boycott of Wenner’s other asset, Rolling Stone magazine, continues…
Why has it taken 50 years to get all black casts, or even mixed racial ones, in classic Broadway plays?
"The time has come," said legend Eartha Kitt, magnificent in mink (it’s a very old, well-preserved coat) as she waited for her car last night after the premiere of Tennessee Williams’ "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
Debbie Allen directed, and the stars include her sister Phylicia Rashad, James Earl Jones, Anika Noni Rose and Terrence Howard.
In the star-studded crowd: Harry Belafonte; Morgan Freeman; Spike and Tonya Lee; Tony-winning Tonya Pinkins; Suzanne DePasse and Berry Gordy; Benny Medina; Tony-winner Cady Huffman (smokin’ hot); Lynn Whitfield (ditto); Jeremy Piven; and Terrie Williams (a blazing PR pioneer who’s co-producer).
On stage: mesmerizing performances in a Williams edition that will not be to everyone’s taste. But Jones is worth the whole price of admission, Rashad is her usual grand self and Howard and Rose are just fine as Brick and Maggie. Giancarlo Esposito and Lisa Arrindell Anderson are just right, too, as Brick’s avaricious brother and conniving, always-pregnant sister-in-law.
Remember: These are not roles that have been available to black actors over the last five decades. Producers simply didn’t make the effort. But last year, a black producer named Stephen Byrd told me he was going to put a black "Cat" on Broadway. He was persistent. This is the result.
And just because it’s an all-black cast, that’s not to say the actors should be judged any differently. But I think there’s a lot of excitement in seeing actors of all races get the chance, at last, to take on the classics.
"I don’t even see color up there," Kitt said. Well put.
And some black actors don’t care about Williams. I ran into Freeman after the show. He said he never wanted to play Big Daddy, and not just because it required a pot belly (Freeman is quite fit).
"I was just never interested in him," Freeman said.