R&B legend Patti LaBelle had a breast-cancer scare last month, but didn't tell anyone in her family about it.
LaBelle announced it last night at Denise Rich's biannual Angel Ball for Cancer Research. The event — in the ballroom of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square — raised $3.3 million, including a $1 million donation from the royal family of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Lorraine Bracco, Star Jones, Natalie Cole, Ruben Studdard, Ivana Trump, Leela James, Sarah Dash of LaBelle fame, BMI's Frances Preston, "Star Caps" queen Nikki Haskell and the illustrious Clive Davis were just some of the famous faces who either took tables or performed in the show.
Guest star Stevie Wonder played piano for LaBelle and his daughter Aisha Morris, and led all the singers in a big jam-session version of Martha Reeves' old hit, "Dancin' in the Streets."
But it was LaBelle's heartfelt speech that stole the audience's heart ... and that wasn't easy. Glamour magazine editor Cindi Leive also spoke beautifully, as did fellow nominees Russell and Kimora Lee Simmons.
Patti, however, never does anything small.
When she told the story of getting her mammogram and waiting for the results, it was the first anyone at her table had heard of it, including one of her own sons.
Patti lost her three sisters to cancer, so the news that there "might" be something to worry about freaked her out, to say the least. Her brother is also gone, as are her parents.
But LaBelle is a fighter. As a testament to her survival, she sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for Denise, and got a surprise when the curtain pulled back to show the pianist was none other than Stevie Wonder.
Sharon Stone did not show up for the Angel Ball, and those close to Denise confirmed that their brief friendship is over.
According to my sources, Denise sank at least $300,000 into a charity single with Sharon, but the two could not get along. The single is still scheduled for release on Nov. 29, so it should be interesting.
Stone, who may be up for a Best Supporting Actress award for "Broken Flowers," was supposed to appear at the 92nd St. Y tonight with moderator/reviewer Annette Insdorf. But my sources tell me Stone demanded that the Y supply a bodyguard and extra security that would have been too expensive for the organization's pocketbook.
Meanwhile, back to LaBelle: I am also told that her UPN special pulled a huge rating for that little network. Maybe that will catch the attention of Def Jam's L.A. Reid.
As I reported a couple of weeks ago, Reid has seemingly dropped LaBelle from his label and refused to put out or promote a new single for her album "I'll Stand by You."
Reid, however, did throw a 16th birthday bash for his son Aaron on Friday night at Jay-Z's 40/40 club. I hear many Def Jam artists were guests, and some even performed.
Aaron was heard boasting to his friends that his dad bought him a Bentley Continental, too. If so, that must be where all the LaBelle promo money has gone.
A Bentley Continental GT costs around $170,000, around $100,000 more than it would cost to convince radio stations to play a new LaBelle single.
Woody Allen's back.
His new film, "Match Point," caused a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival last May.
Now that I've had a chance to screen it, I can tell you without hesitation that it's Woody's best movie in eons. It's everything you could hope for in a great Woody Allen movie, and more.
"Match Point" is a very satisfying, engrossing dramatic thriller, an original work that should really take people by surprise. What a relief!
It won't be so easy for Dreamworks to sell it, though. Maybe we've gotten to the point where no artist who influenced us 30 or 40 years ago can be appreciated now.
Of course, I'm thinking of a review of Santana's performance two Mondays ago at the Hammerstein Ballroom. It was a great show. The New York Times's Ben Ratliff dismissed it out of hand.
Santana's new album is also terrific, but Entertainment Weekly panned it.
If only it could be the '70s, when Santana was fresh and exciting. Alas!
Woody may have similar problems putting "Match Point" over the top.
His last five or six films have been either disappointing or dreadful — take your pick. Woody's personal life is nuts and his interviews don't help.
Reviews all reflect the same thing: Everyone's hoping for a new "Manhattan" or "Annie Hall." Nothing less will suffice. Otherwise, he's obviously lost whatever it was that he had. You know, too bad about Woody.
But I loved "Match Point," which stars Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Scarlett Johansson, Emily Mortimer and a cast of other talented British actors. It's all shot in and around London and is not a comedy.
Oh, so it's like "Crimes and Misdemeanors" you ask? Well, kind of.
"Match Point" is its own thing, actually, and cannot compete with nostalgic memories of 1987. This is 2005. You can enjoy the new Santana album. You can really like "Match Point."
In fact, I dare say that if anyone else had made this movie, we'd be talking Best Picture and Best Director Oscar nominations.
"Match Point" may bear the distinction of being the only original drama for the big screen this season. Nearly everything else is adapted from other material or is a biopic, with the exception of Jim Jarmusch's "Broken Flowers" and Paul Haggis' (derivative) "Crash."
"Match Point" actually requires paying attention on the part of the viewer. It's well worth it.
The story has echoes of the Laci and Scott Peterson case, believe it or not, underpinned by Dostoyevsky (the main character is reading "Crime and Punishment" at the start, just in case you can't figure it out).
Rhys-Meyers, who has the kind of pouty lips Lisa Rinna would kill for, plays a poor Irish kid and tennis whiz named Chris Wilton who comes to London looking for fortune and love.
He's taken in by a wealthy, aristocratic family whose son (Matthew Goode) is engaged to a sexy American (Johansson).
Wilton's credo: It's better to be lucky than good.
At the same time, Wilton becomes involved with the family's sheltered daughter (Mortimer). You know pretty much from the get-go that they will marry and that Wilton will be promoted through the family's company by the patriarch (Brian Cox, who finally gets to play someone other than a cop or a pedophile).
You also know that Wilton and Johansson's character, Nola, are seconds away from a passionate affair that will come to no good.
The story proves to be not that simple, however: There are a couple of real surprises, twists and turns and a Hitchcockian ending.
What makes "Match Point" so good is that Woody seems to have regained all his powers at once: character, plot, dialogue, setting, sense and sensibility.
For the first time since before "Husbands and Wives" (1992) — and excepting "Bullets Over Broadway," which was a period piece — you don't feel nervous that he's carrying out some unseen agenda regarding his personal life or making a point with which you cannot possibly agree.
Even when there were flashes of the old genius in "Deconstructing Harry" or "Manhattan Murder Mystery," there was so much else going on that was unpleasant and hard to overcome.
Part of it could be hearing British accents working on Woody's dialogue. No one in this film attempts to play the "Woody" or "Mia" role, as so many others have recently.
I'm thinking of Kenneth Branagh in "Celebrity," Will Ferrell in "Melinda and Melinda" and Jason Biggs in "Anything Else."
Maybe it's the accent, I don't know. Or maybe it's that the British actors haven't been corrupted by watching too many Allen movies over and over again. But all of them approach the material with a welcome freshness.
Woody already holds the record for generating the most Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations. Johansson and Mortimer will no doubt be added to that list.
Scarlett was only 19 when she shot this, although it is difficult to believe. Her poise, maturity and instinct suggest a woman twice her age. Mortimer and Rhys-Meyers give career-making performances; each is deceptively good, and Rhys-Meyers carries the film.
If he were Nicole Kidman or Charlize Theron, there would be no question of his Oscar nomination. If Dreamworks and the publicists involved can get Academy voters focused on him, then he's in, and deservedly so.
The even bigger questions are about Woody and the Oscar trifecta: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. The latter will be a no-brainer; the first two, however, will be tricky.
At this point, Rob Marshall ("Memoirs of a Geisha"), James Mangold ("Walk the Line) and Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain") are the strong contenders.
The fourth slot could go to Spielberg, if we ever get to see "Munich," or Terrence Malick for "The New World."
But Woody is a player this year — for the first time since "Bullets" in 1994 — and I couldn't be more pleased.
There's going to be more to be said about "Match Point" in the weeks ahead. It doesn't open until Dec. 28, so that gives us almost enough time to re-read "Crime and Punishment."