Actress Drew Barrymore fled New York last week after she did Saturday Night Live, and the word was she fled the NBC building the night before because of the anthrax scare.
Now I'm told that the usually feisty Drew may have been concerned because she's pregnant. Drew is married to annoying personality Tom Green, who fell subject to Howard Stern's ridicule Saturday night at the Concert for New York show.
"She was scared," Stern said, "but think how scary it is to sleep with Tom Green." We may be seeing the result of that soon, Howard.
"I wanted to do something for the local heroes."
That's what Bruce Springsteen said to me when we were backstage Thursday night in Red Bank, N.J., at the Count Basie Theatre. The Boss, as he is known, was billed as the final act of a three-hour show at the 1400-capacity theater. But he spent the entire night either scrunched up in the wings at stage left or onstage helping out the various acts who'd volunteered their services.
I have never been so impressed with a rock star in my life.
The local heroes Springsteen was referring to were the 163 people from Monmouth County on the Jersey shore who'd died in the World Trade Center. The situation was so dire that Gary Tallent, original bassist for the E Street Band, put out a call to his friends to come and raise money for the families of these victims.
In all, $700,000 was raised, and it's already gone to the families. No waiting, no complaining, no questions.
Tallent's friends included Phoebe Snow, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, the legendary Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Joe Ely, Henry Gross, the Smithereens, and Aztec Two-Step.
But the main attraction was Bruce, who closed the night with a partial E Street Band that included Max Weinberg, Roy Bittan, Tallent, and Patti Scialfa.
Throughout the night Bruce hung in the shadows of the curtains. He wore his trucker's hat, denim jacket, T-shirt, jeans, and boots. Slighter than you might think, and more often grinning than not, Springsteen was alone for most of the evening. No evident security people, no assistant or publicist. He was just digging the music, and the people.
He joined a couple of the acts onstage. He played guitar with Sunny Burgess and Elvis Presley's original Sun Records killer rhythm section on one of his songs, "Tiger Rose." There was Bruce with these 70-year-old guys, churning up the stage and driving the audience wild. He was so elated when he came off the stage he said to all of us: "That was a great little groove! That was a great little groove!"
He also helped out his pal Joe Ely on a couple of numbers. Ely told me later than he's just finished a new album and he's got "a couple of spots on there we've left for Bruce, I hope." Knowing Springsteen, he'll be there.
Phoebe Snow rocked the house with moving versions of "America the Beautiful" and "You'll Never Walk Alone." Her voice is so intact and richly unique that members of an off-duty gospel choir, who were hanging out backstage, started doing shoutbacks to her and clapping.
Bon Jovi did their new acoustic versions of "Wanted Dead or Alive," "Living on a Prayer" and "Keep the Faith" as well as a very poignant rendition of Dion DiMucci's classic 1969 paean "Abraham, Martin and John." At this point, Bon Jovi now has something they could call their "Twin Towers Set." Richie Sambora did get a chance to show off some stylish lead vocals, though.
But Bon Jovi himself was an interesting contrast to Springsteen. He arrived wearing a large white cowboy hat, an American flag-themed vest over an open shirt and tight, tight jeans. His hair is ablaze with highlights. Styled within an inch of himself, Bon Jovi hung backstage for thirty seconds and didn't say a word to Springsteen, who was anchored in his spot by the stage entrance. When his segment was over, Bon Jovi did not bother to stay and watch the other acts or remain for the finale. He split, lickety split, a done deal.
Throughout the evening, Clerks director Kevin Smith emceed the show, did a marvelous job, and showed the audience a preview of the short film he was presenting on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. A Red Bank native, he got his biggest kick being able to tell the audience, "Ladies and gentlemen, Bruce Springsteen!"
Springsteen closed the show with "Thunder Road," "Land of Hopes and Dreams" and "My City in Ruins." The latter song was quite different live than it had been on the celebrity telethon. With the audience singing along to the refrain "Rise up" the song went from being a dirge to an anthem, and was extremely poignant. ("Songs are funny," he said, "they go out to the people who need them.")
Springsteen finished the show by inviting all the guests (with the exception of Bon Jovi, who was long gone) to join in on Ben E. King's "Stand by Me."
"From a musician's standpoint," he said, "this was a great night. I got to sing with some of my favorite people."
A lot of readers wrote in asking about Hillary Clinton getting booed at the Concert for New York. Indeed, her reception was unexpectedly chilly.
Of course, New York City firemen and policemen — many of whom come from very Republican, pro-Al D'Amato neighborhoods on Long Island — are not her constituency. Still, when Bill Clinton followed her out, he got a standing ovation from everyone, very loud, and very enthusiastic. Go figure, huh? … Clinton did lean forward and crack up at Will Ferrell's "Rock the Kasbah" bit as Dubya, and really liked The Who. … Robert DeNiro also got a resounding hand-clapping welcome from the crowd.
New York candidate for mayor Mark Green was whisked away from his seat at two points: during Adam Sandler's hilarious Operaman ode to Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and again when Giuliani came out to speak to the crowd. … Giuliani managed to keep girlfriend Judith Nathan by his side at all times, bringing her to their orchestra seats after his introduction. No sign of Donna Hanover.
Billy Joel changed the lyrics to "New York State of Mind" again, substituting The New York Post and Newsday for The New York Times, the Daily News. … In his remarks, Harrison Ford did not mention that he's been living in Tribeca and was actually spotted by neighbors groggily trying to figure out what to do on the street the morning of Sept. 11. ... Jimmy Fallon got high marks for his rendition of "Come on Eileen" and for keeping the audience entertained during a stage change. … Richard Gere still does not get it. When he started yapping about the evils of revenge and retaliation, the audience went colder than an ice box.
As for Paul McCartney shilling for a new album, it should be pointed out that Mick Jagger has a new album, but he sang two old, beloved songs instead of ones the audience had no connection to. McCartney, whom I have defended and acclaimed in the past, did no service to himself by shoving new songs down a tired audience's throat. … Finally, did anyone notice the footage from Gangs of New York in Martin Scorsese's short, interesting film? A tantalizing hint of things to come, the footage looked just great. Too bad we'll have to wait a few months before we see the whole, finished product. …