Believe it or not, sources tell me that Denise Rich is planning another Angel Ball-type charity gala this fall. Even though she's made a deal with the U.S. Attorney for immunity, and is part of the Pardongate scandal involving her ex-husband Marc Rich, Denise still thinks the rich and famous will come out for her.
My people tell me that Denise would like to do this year's big party at Planet Hollywood in Times Square in November.
President Bill Clinton was the guest of honor at the first two Angel Balls, but it's unclear whether he'd come this time. Last year, Denise presented him a with a saxophone. Among the other guests last year were Michael Jackson, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Queen Noor of Jordan. Major financial supporters of the charity include a number of Swiss-based health corporations. Marc Rich was a fugitive in Switzerland from 1983 until this past January.
Meanwhile, I've learned a little more about Denise's plans to write a book about her adventures with the President and with her ex-hubby. According to Lyle Stuart’s insider newsletter about book publishing, Denise was offering to provide $500,000 to a publisher who would put the book out. Of that money, $200,000 was to go to her ghost writer. The balance was to go to the publisher for marketing and printing.
No publishers bit, although St. Martin's Press and Simon & Schuster were interested. For a while Stuart was going to publish the book but balked. "She wanted to just give us a manuscript and put it out without editorial input. We couldn’t do that," he told me.
So Rich went with Capital Publishing in Dulles, Virginia. Publisher Kathleen Hughes told me, "She was looking for an entrepreneurial publisher. The book will be completely vetted by her lawyers and ours."
Rich's new book agent, who did the deal with Capital, is Ron Goldfarb, who is also a DC- based lawyer and writer. Denise, according to sources, fired her previous agent, the well-regarded Linda Chester, when Chester was unable to come up with a deal for her in New York.
"We thought about it, and what audience is there?" said Lyle Stuart, who's always managed to find audiences in the past. "Everyone hates her. And it's not like she’s writing about an affair with the president. She made it clear to us she never had one. So what's left? How unhappy she was married to Marc Rich?"
Anyway, see you at Planet Hollywood…
Look: I told you people about Alicia Keys months ago, didn't I? I'm doing the best I can here. And now, after one week, her album, Songs in A Minor, is numero uno with a bullet.
That's right. On the new SoundScan/Billboard Top 200, Keys sold 235,000 copies of her debut and vaulted over every other act to be at the top. She's 20 years old, she's never made a record before, and there it is, bada bing, bada boom.
Even more unbelievable is that Keys' album in on J Records, a label that did not exist one year ago. Indeed, it was one year ago this week that Clive Davis officially vacated his office at Arista Records after 25 stupendous years. In late August 2000, he announced the formation of J. Now he — and Alicia — are on top.
Interesting to note that Davis was pushed from Arista by the people at BMG Bertelsmann Music Group because they thought he was too old. The German-owned conglomerate had a retirement policy and did not care that the 69-year-old Davis still had the hippest ears in the record biz.
Keys's success is a surprise to everyone, including the folks at J. Last week they told me their tracking might put Keys in the top 5, but beyond that — well, there was no beyond that.
So who is Alicia Keys? I'll tell you. She's from Hell's Kitchen, which is the neighborhood just west of the theatre district in New York. She was under contract at 16 years old to Columbia Records, which dropped her. Then she went to Arista, where she was working on her music but wasn't ready yet. Davis picked her to join him at J when BMG refused to let him have any of the stars he worked with, like Whitney Houston or Santana. He and his staff saw brilliance in Alicia Keys.
Ironically, Keys's manager is Michael Mauldin, who knew her at Columbia when she was signed there and he was head of the black music department. Columbia eased Mauldin out a bit acrimoniously last year. He and Keys hooked up, and rest is history. Mauldin, who knows his stuff, is the father of rap impresario Jermaine Dupri.
And now, here's the kicker: where is Clive Davis now? On his way from a holiday in Italy to the BMG Headquarters in Munich. There, I suppose, Davis will have to keep a straight face as the Bertlesmann heavies — who tried to bounce him last year — praise him for delivering their first number one album in quite a long time from an artist who's just getting started. They'll be eating a lot of crow-flavored strudel.
The really great rhythm and blues singers do not live long. This is their unfortunate heritage. So I'm not totally surprised that Ernie K-Doe has gone on to Soul Heaven. He was one of New Orleans' treasures, famous really for one hit — "The Mother-in-Law Song" — in 1961. He was part of the New Orleans sound that also spawned Fats Domino, the Nevilles and the Dixie Cups. If you visited New Orleans in the last five years, you might have seen him at his Mother-in-Law Bar where he performed quite often.
Ernie K-Doe was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1997. I was there. Phoebe Snow and Branford Marsalis did the honors. Nobody had seen Ernie K-Doe in years. He had a shellacked pompadour, wore obvious lifts in his heels and had a kind of waxy look on his face. I'm telling you, he was an original. When he performed "The Mother-in-Law Song" he took the house down. James Brown had nothing on him.
On that same bill, Screamin' Jay Hawkins also appeared, dressed in a bright, bright white suit, singing "I Put a Spell on You." Jay Hawkins died last year at age 70 (and left behind 57 kids, but that's another story).
They just don't make them like this anymore. They never made videos, or had commercial endorsements, but these were the superstars. They say Ernie was 65 but he was timeless. Amen.