Billy Joel kept talking about getting into the classical music arena. Now he's doing something about it.
Joel and ballet great Twyla Tharp are putting together a Broadway show using his music and a completely new dance piece written by her. Broadway heavyweights are involved, so we know this is serious: James Nederlander is scheduled to produce along with Emanuel Azenberg. A workshop is being cast right now for New York which will run for a month starting Aug. 20. Prospective cast members are being asked to sing three songs including Billy's "She's Got a Way About Her."
Stuart Malina, the highly regarded conductor of both the Greensboro, N.C., and Harrisburg, Pa., symphony orchestras, has signed on as musical director for the workshop and beyond. He told me yesterday: "The whole thing is done in song and dance. There is no dialogue. Billy's songs tell the story, although we're probably not using his "story songs" like 'Piano Man' because we have to tell our own story."
Malina will be orchestrating the songs for Broadway, but he said they'll sound the way we're used to hearing them on the records. "We're going to stick with the sound of the originals."
My personal choice for inclusion in such an effort would be a Phil Spector-like number from the 52nd St. album called "Until the Night." But Malina says that one's not scheduled right now. "We have a lot to choose from," he said.
Tharp's manager told me: "We hope it will make it [to] Broadway, but you never know."
Billy Joel's rep did not return calls.
Lauren Bush, the 16-year-old model and niece of our president, came to town Monday night. Her dad, Neil, mom Sharon, and 12-year-old sister Ashley accompanied her. Her 15 year-old brother was AWOL from this event.
The event: Lauren is on the cover of the new issue of Tatler, the British magazine, sporting a come-hither look and designer clothes. So Tatler took over the new, improved Globe restaurant on Park Avenue South, where chef Jeanne Courtenay-Price seems to be turning out some pretty delicious food.
Also on hand: New York's twitty society girls of the moment, Paris and Nikki Hilton (respectively 20 and 17 years old) who were each on their cell phones most of the evening. Maybe they were talking to each other. Lillian Ross, the legendary New Yorker writer, was trailing around after them, absorbing the atmo for a Talk of the Town piece.
Anyway, Neil Bush — he's Dubya's brother — is a very nice, well-spoken, buttoned-down guy. His wife, Sharon, was trying to arrange to buy him some designer Armani shirts while they were in town, but Neil said modestly, "I'm more of a Ralph Lauren Polo guy."
Sharon — a cute blonde with plenty of pep — told me she was born in Rome, lived in New York and New England and spent most of her life in Colorado before moving down to Houston ten years ago. "We went down there after the S&L thing," Sharon said. She was referring to the failed Silverado Bank, I believe.
When I asked her about the current travails of her nieces, Barbara and Jenna Bush, the 19-year-old twins who have both recently gotten into hot water, Sharon said: "I feel so sorry for them. I mean, after all, to live in that spotlight! And what college kid doesn't go out drinking?"
I asked Sharon if her two very well-behaved daughters — Lauren, in a slinky gold dress, and Ashley, in a light blue suit — might ever get in similar trouble. Looking at them, you got the feeling that Laura and George Jr. must be wistful about their daughter's pre-adolescence.
"You never know, you never know with kids," said Sharon. "Never say never! It could happen."
Lauren, meantime, told me she's out of school for the summer and looking forward to more modeling jobs. And Neil confessed — in one of his rare unguarded moments — that they eat brunch with his parents (you remember them, Barbara and George) every Sunday when they're in Houston.
New York is a much quieter place since Liv Tyler's gorgeous, gregarious mom, Bebe Buell, took off for Maine this winter. Buell spotted a house up there near her family, and Liv — who's making $3 million from the upcoming Lord of the Rings — purchased it for her as a gift. But Bebe is not gone from New York forever. Her book, Rebel Heart: An American Rock and Roll Journey, is due from St. Martin's Press in mid-summer. This book is already generating such heat that none other than Olivero Toscani has shot Bebe for the August issue of Talk magazine.
Those who've seen the book say it's funny and refreshing, not a kiss and tell. But one episode is bound to attract attention: Bebe leg-wrestling Jerry Hall in front of Mick Jagger and Jack Nicholson in Jack's bedroom club circa 1980 — each of them wearing a pair of Nicholson's "very clean, very white men's briefs." Who won? You'll have to read the book!
Buell's book, by the way, is not all about rock 'n' roll. It's also about how she crafted an acting career for her teenage daughter, learned to work her way through the movie business, and survive a very bad marriage to a younger man. It's very Oprah — with a lot of "Remembering Your Spirit" mantras.
Is Jane Krakowski the next actor to bolt from Ally McBeal? James LeGros, Lisa Nicole Carson and Robert Downey Jr. are all history for next season. On West 44th St. yesterday, Ally McBeal's foxy Elaine was overheard talking "way too loudly" on her cell phone discussing the relative merits of NBC and ABC with what sounded like her agent/manager/lawyer. She said of NBC — "their shows are terrible"; of ABC — "they really need reinventing". The winner? "She seemed to indicate that she thought NBC was offering the better deal," said our spy.