Spacey the Knife  | Vandross Doing Well  | Def Jammed With Lawsuits  | Songwriters' Ball  | Weekend Notes

Kevin Spacey Ready for 'Mack the Knife'
Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey has always wanted to play crooner Bobby Darin on screen. Never mind that Spacey is now 45 years old — eight years older than Darin was when he died.

Spacey’s biggest obstacle with the Darin project was not age, but singing. Spacey considers himself a crooner, and wanted to sing Darin’s songs himself in the film.

Unfortunately, Dodd Darin — the son of Bobby and Sandra Dee — didn’t see it that way. He wanted a biopic of his dad with the original tracks. An impasse occurred and all looked bleak.

But then the announcement of the Darin/Spacey movie came a couple of months ago and folks wondered: Who gave in? The answer is: Dodd Darin.

It turns out that Spacey, who’s no fool, brought in famed record producer Phil Ramone. Together the pair cut a few of Darin’s tracks, I’m told, such as "Mack the Knife" and "Beyond the Sea." They played them for Dodd Darin in sort of a blindfold test.

“And he couldn’t tell the difference between Bobby and Kevin,” my source says.

Spacey also ran a read-through of the Darin script with a bunch of actors, so the Darin family could get a feel for how the movie would depict Bobby. Apparently that worked out as well, because the Darins gave their OK and now the film is headed toward a possible fall production start.

Luther Vandross: Health Rallies, Album Tallies
First the good news: Luther Vandross is out of his coma. He’s out of intensive care, too, and making some real progress for the first time in six weeks,

Now here’s more good news: His new album, Dance With My Father, will debut at either No. 1 or No. 2 next week with sales of 300,000 copies. This will be Vandross’s biggest hit ever. Ironically, he almost didn’t get to see it happen.

When Clive Davis’ J Records signed Luther a couple of years ago, there was a lot of snarky talk. Wasn’t Luther yesterday’s news? And, he’d never really had a big hit record of his own. His first album for J was liked but didn’t sell all that well. After a couple of weeks, it fell into the lower reaches of the charts.

But now Luther is waking up to a phenomenon: The song he wrote for his dad, "Dance With My Father," is an instant classic at lite radio. Releasing it near Father’s Day was a stroke of genius, too, since the album has become sort of a default gift this Sunday.

As one industry wag put it: “It’s not like you’re going to buy your father the new Metallica album.”

Good point.

So maybe Aretha Franklin’s prayer vigil for Luther worked. Certainly he has had a lot of positive energy sent in his direction. But what a surprise when he learns his album shipped “platinum” — 1.5 million copies sent to stores. That should be incentive enough to get better fast.

Def Jam Lawsuits Start to Pile Up
You know from reading this column that Def Jam Records — home to bestselling rapper Ja Rule, singer Ashanti and many other chart-toppers — has been up to its ears in legal trouble lately.

Indeed, Def Jam recently lost a lawsuit by TVT Records in which it was ordered to cough up $132 million. A jury ruled that Def Jam and its president, Lyor Cohen, interfered with the release of an old Ja Rule album on TVT.

Now it turns out, in a strange twist, that Def Jam and Lyor Cohen are being sued by their own former in-house lawyer. Jonathan Lieberman testified in the TVT case for Def Jam, but it seems he had been ousted from the company some time before that.

He is now suing Cohen for a total of $6 million in damages for “tortuous interference.” This is another way of saying that Cohen made it hard for Lieberman to find a new gig once he was bounced from Def Jam.

You’d think that Russell Simmons, the founder of Def Jam, would be up to date on all this. But when I caught up with him at the Tony Awards on Sunday — where Simmons won a Tony for his Def Poetry Jam as a theatrical event — he claimed not to know anything about it.

“What’s that for?” he asked. “Severance?” Well, kind of, but not completely.

Lieberman, who now works with another firm, declined to elaborate on the suit.

Meanwhile, there’s that nasty problem of the $132 million which, now, Def Jam technically owes TVT. To appeal such a lawsuit, Def Jam would have to post a bond for the full amount of money. As of yet they haven’t made any noise in this direction.

Ironically, at one time Def Jam considered buying TVT for $20 million. Now they’ll have to put out six times that amount to clean up this mess.

Songwriters' Oscars Have a Ball
The annual Songwriters' Hall of Fame dinner and show was an extravaganza almost beyond words. It also ran two hours longer than expected and didn’t finish until well after midnight this morning. But here are some notes. More to follow on Monday.

Jammed into round dining tables in the main ballroom at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square: Annie Lennox, Van Morrison, Ray Charles, Alicia Keys, Rod Stewart, Patti LaBelle, Tony Bennett, Phil Collins, Monica, Billy Joel, the surviving members of Queen, Barry Manilow, producers "Jimmy Jam" Harris and Nile Rodgers, heavyweight moguls Clive Davis and Ahmet Ertegun, and newer singers Gavin DeGraw, Melissa Errico and Monica Mancini.

There were also surprise appearances — one by Jerry Seinfeld, who introduced Tony Bennett and declared 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco" occupied “the best three minutes you can have.” Pink also appeared, performing the Janis Joplin classic 'Me and Bobby McGee" with only acoustic-guitar accompaniment.  She tore the house down.

The spectacular and overwhelmingly successful evening — put together by Linda Moran and BMI — raised a million bucks and will be broadcast in edited form on Bravo in July.

On Monday I will give you the gritty details, including why the damn thing started so late.  A couple of the aforementioned went missing right before showtime. Can you guess who they were?

Weekend Notes
Isaac Hayes, purveyor of hot-buttered soul, makes a rare showing tonight and tomorrow night at B.B. King's nightclub in New York. Don't miss it. ...

Tomorrow was the birthday of my lovely late friend, writer Laurie Colwin. She passed away suddenly in October 1992. Her legacy is a wonderful collection of novels, short stories, and essays that are all in print and continue to spread joy among new and old readers. ...

If you're in the Boston area: The talented concert pianist Jeffrey Biegel makes a return appearance to my old stomping grounds, Symphony Hall, on June 17 and 18th next week. Biegel will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Leroy Anderson's 'Concerto in C' with Keith Lockhart conducting the internationally famous Boston Pops.