The last will and testament of the late superstar Isaac Hayes’s is being probated right now. And guess what? Hayes left nothing to the Church of Scientology.
This news must sting something awful, as numerous well-known Scientologists attended not one but maybe four different funerals and memorial services for Hayes in August after he died.
But according to sources who know the inner workings of Hayes’s estate, the "Shaft" composer divided his will in thirds. Portions go to his 11 elder children; his widow and young son; and his charitable foundation.
There was no provision for the Church, which ordinarily requires its celebrity members to pony up while they’re alive. Big donors include usual suspects Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kelly Preston, and so on.
Preston, who knew Hayes only slightly through the church, carried on at both Memphis funerals, crying on cue and blubbering to anyone who’d listen about how much she "loved" Hayes. This amused to no end the Memphis musicians who’d known Hayes for 40 years.
According to insiders, the big question now is how to handle the third going to the Isaac Hayes Foundation. Because the organization is not now terribly active, some legal moves may be made to redistribute that part of the estate to the other heirs.
Hayes’s eldest daughter, Jacqueline, is said to be in the forefront of trying to settle all matters. Certainly Hayes’s heirs are keeping a keen eye on their father’s copyrights. Many of them were renewed beginning in 1995-96 for a second 28 year term. But when those start expiring in 2024, the family will come into a fortune thanks to the Songwriters Act of 1927:
Rights to previously sold catalogs revert to songwriters’ heirs once they have died, as soon as copyrights are up for renewal. Thus, Hayes’s half of songs he wrote for Sam Moore & Dave Prater with David Porter in 1965-68, like "Soul Man" and "Hold On I’m Coming" will go to Hayes’s grandkids and great grand kids. By 2028, the biggest Hayes copyright, "Theme from Shaft," will come to them as well.
The Best Actor category lost one possible nominee yesterday when The Weinstein Company moved "The Road" starring Viggo Mortensen to 2009. The problem? It’s taken longer than thought to digitally remove some of the backgrounds in what should be a bleak landscape. You don’t want fall foliage in scenes of nuclear annihilation, now, do ya?
So Viggo is out. But that leaves quite a field: Sean Penn in "Milk," Leonardo di Caprio in "Revolutionary Road," Hugh Jackman in "Australia." Dev Patel in "Slumdog Millionaire," Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon," Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler," Brad Pitt in "Benjamin Button."
But the real only lock so far: Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor," directed by Tom McCarthy ("The Station Agent"). If you didn’t catch this sleeper in theaters, it’s just come out on DVD. It’s the indie crossover movie of the year, too. I can’t count the times I’ve heard people exclaim how much they love it!
Jenkins is 61, and until a few years ago no one had ever paid any attention to him. Then he appeared in the first episode of "Six Feet Under" as the funeral director father of a large family and was squashed like a bug by a bus. He was in 18 more episodes as a ghost, and suddenly everyone know who he was.
"I was a real funeral once, and a woman tapped me on the shoulder. She said, ‘Are they filming this?’ There were a lot of fans of that show. It made going through airports very difficult."
Of course, he’d been working steadily for over 30 years. When I mention Josh Brolin is in "W," Jenkins — we met for a coffee last week — responds, "We played a gay couple in Flirting with Disaster." You squint—oh yeah, that’s right!
In "The Visitor" Jenkins gives a stunningly nuanced performance as Dr. Walter Vale, a widower who discovers that in his absence squatters have moved into his New York apartment. The young couple is a man from Syria and a woman from Senegal, neither of whom are legal immigrants. What happens to Jenkins’ Walter is a subtle and captivating transformation. Jenkins’ work is reminiscent of Jack Lemmon in "Save the Tiger" and Jack Nicholson in "About Schmidt."
"The Visitor" comes from Overture Pictures, a small, new company. "Getting the word out is hard," says Jenkins, although he’s traveled around the world recently doing his best. Some people recognize him from the Coen Brothers’ "Burn After Reading," in which he shares most of his scenes with Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt. This is his third Coen film, although "Intolerable Cruelty" and "The Man Who Wasn’t There" didn’t have so much impact.
"We became friends" he says of McDormand, "in ‘North Country.’ But she hates being called a star. She’s an actor, that’s the way she thinks of herself. She doesn’t like to call attention to it."
Neither does Richard Jenkins. But watch what happens this winter as the awards start being announced. There’s going to be a new name in the mix.
Gladys Knight Is a Pip; Caroline Kennedy Wants Mercy; Advice From Obama Fundraiser
The unbelievably spectacular Gladys Knight: she’s 64, looks 54, and has every bit of her earthy, gospel tinged magnificent unique voice intact. She had to sing solo last night at Denise Rich’s cancer research fundraiser, Gabrielle’s Gala. That’s because brother Bubba, the only living Pip, has broken his arm. So no "woo woo" train conductor moves on "Midnight Train to Georgia." Bubba was missed.
Gladys, however, looked elegant as usual and knocked out "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," "Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me," "Midnight Train," and a cover of "I Hope You Dance" that should be released immediately as a single or video or whatever, download, I don’t know. Look: the fact is, Gladys Knight could sing the phone book and you’d cry like a baby when she was done.
We talked about Levi Stubbs’ death. "Did anyone have a voice like that anywhere?" Gladys asked rhetorically. She’s going to try and get to his funeral in Detroit on Monday, but she’s on tour. Oh yeah, the answer to her question: only one other Motown singer had a voice like that, Gladys Knight.
Patti Labelle, who we take for granted, did a short set earlier in the evening for Denise, and there was a smattering of celebs around including Alan Cumming, Clive Davis, and Nikki Haskell. Natalie Cole, a Rich stalwart, was missing, thanks to her kidney troubles. She’s on dialysis, but Denise told me she’s recovering well and may even go out and do some shows soon.
The Ball — this is the off year fundraiser, believe it or not — honored Howard Lutnick and Stuart Fraser of Cantor Fitzgerald, the firm that was basically wiped out in the 9.11 attack on the World Trade Center. I asked Howard Lutnick, who lost his brother that day, how he’s doing. "Better," he said, "and I have a great wife."
…Caroline Kennedy steps out more and more these days, raising money for Barack Obama, also the New York City schools. She’s a most welcome sight anywhere she goes. Last night Caroline helped honor her husband Ed Schlossberg who helped design Donna Karan’s Mercy Corps Action Center to End World Hunger in Battery Park and in the West Village. The massive, beautifully designed Greenwich Street space used to be the art studio of Donna’s late husband, Stephan Weiss. Now it’s part of Donna’s overall Urban Zen project, which includes healing and things like yoga. It’s all very cool, and very Donna Karan, which is always a good thing. Urban Zen also has a pilot program at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan for cancer patients. You can read all about it here.
…If you want a real book party, you go to Elaine’s. So that’s what Don Peebles did on Tuesday night for his "The Peebles Path to Real Estate Wealth: How to Make Money in Any Market." Peebles is a member of the Obama finance team, and he’s become a mover and shaker in inspirational finance speaking. Elaine’s was packed with people trying to get some advice, ranging from New York City Comptroller, William C. Thompson, Jr. and the party’s organizer, p.r. maven Norah Lawlor, to the unlikely trio of Star Jones, Michael Lohan, and Stephen Baldwin.