You'd think after 30–odd years together in The Rolling Stones, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger would want to know what the other is doing when the band is apart.
Last night at the premiere of Robert Altman's superb new film, Gosford Park, Richards put in a rare appearance. He arrived with his wife, former model Patti Hansen, and his manager of 28 years, Jane Rose.
Richards does not make the scene much the way he used to, although he looked and sounded fit as a fiddle. Of course, the first thing we discussed was Jagger's new solo album, his fourth, called Goddess in the Doorway. Had Keith heard it yet?
"No," he said and laughed deeply. "I've never even heard the other two either or three!"
Richards did have more to say about his old friend, George Harrison, who passed away on Friday after a long struggle with cancer.
"I haven't seen him in the last year. I saw him after the stabbing. He handled it really well I thought, but I also had the feeling that it really hadn't helped him [in dealing with the cancer]. It's a sad thing but George was a lovely bloke, a great guy."
You might be asking what were Keith and Patti even doing at a Robert Altman movie premiere. I wanted to know that, too. Richards is friends with USA Films president Scott Greenstein. He doesn't know Altman at all.
"I don't know Robert, but I know other people in the movie. It's all English, isn't it? I think that's why they dragged me out here. Oh, he's English, bring him along!"
Keith told me that when he played in the Concert for New York City, back on Oct. 20, he was hobbling around the stage with a broken ankle. He'd gotten it kicking his front gate at home. Nevertheless, he and Jagger managed to pull off more than credible versions of "Salt of the Earth" and "Miss You."
"They took us down to see Ground Zero, and we met all the rescuers and firemen and police," he said. "When I saw what they were going through, I figured I could put up with a little pain."
Meanwhile, the stars did turn out for Altman's premiere of Gosford Park last night at the Central Park Boathouse. And why not? Gosford Park is Altman's best film in about 20 years, and easily a contender for a variety of awards including Oscar consideration. Veteran British actress Dame Maggie Smith is the name to beat right now when talk turns to the category of Best Supporting Actress.
Smith, who almost never comes to movie premieres, summoned her courage and came across the big pond. She stayed a very short time at the Boathouse, but was tireless in greeting well-wishers. She was joined by a number of co-stars including fellow Brits Helen Mirren, Clive Owen, Emily Watson and Kelly Macdonald (with fiancee, Dougie Payne, of my favorite current rock group, Travis) and Americans Ryan Phillippe (with wife Reese Witherspoon) and Bob Balaban. The latter is the terrific American actor who thought up Gosford Park with Altman.
All in all, a great night, although Watson sort of epitomized what she called the British having no sense of humour. That's humour with an "our" at the end.
"You know we have no sense of humor," said the star of Hilary and Jackie and Cradle Will Rock.
She said she was exhausted from doing a day's worth of junket interviews for the movie. So I asked, "Who are you sleeping with these days?"
"My husband!" she responded without missing a beat. "And he's right over there. SO careful what you say." No affairs on the set or anything like that. "I'm very boringly happily married for six years."
Watson told me she misses her Hilary and Jackie co-star Rachel Griffiths and felt guilty they hadn't been in touch lately. She knew that Griffiths had become something of an American TV star in the HBO series Six Feet Under.
"Isn't that wonderful? She's some girl, Rachel. She's lovely."
Watson's favorite Altman movie, of course, is Nashville, although her runner up is Short Cuts. She knew she wanted to play the part of Elsie, the head housemaid, in Gosford.
"It gave me a chance to play a bad girl," she said. Her roles are usually that of the nice girl, the ingénue, or the heroine. "The boot was on the other foot."
Watson's next film is Red Dragon, the prequel to Silence of the Lambs.
"I play the blind girl," she said. "This movie is more faithful to the book than Manhunter, but that was a great movie too."
Does Hannibal Lecter eat her or anything, I wondered? "No. I survive," she said, and went off to look for the husband.
I am pleased to report that the timeless Sam Moore, once half of the great duo Sam & Dave, is having a big release on January 28. That's the day his solo album, which was recorded around 1970 but never released for reasons too long to get into here, is finally coming out.
Of course, the album will be issued first in England and available here as an import. But Sam and his wife/manager Joyce are ecstatic. "Wait 'til you hear it," Joyce told me yesterday. "It's going to blow you away."
I bet it will. The voice behind "Soul Man," "Hold On, I'm Coming" and so many other classic R&B hits was at peak form 30 years ago and sounds just as good today. In fact, Moore is playing B.B. King's in Manhattan on Dec. 22. I've heard him recently and the voice is there. Sam is also one of the nicest guys I've ever met anywhere, and he deserves all the success he can find.
It took five weeks, but today Michael Jackson's Invincible album passes the one million mark in sales.
At this rate, Michael will be transparent by the time he hits two million — if he does hit two million.
Invincible sold 100,000 copies last week, which isn't bad, but it's also dangerous. His sales curve is pointed down, down, down. At this rate, he's got about 250,000 customers left. And I'm being generous here. Invincible will rank at No. 21 or so next week in Billboard/Soundscan charts.
But look, the record business is being hard hit by the recession. Sales are waaaay off. Madonna, for example, is struggling with her Greatest Hits Volume 2. Her record company, Maverick, is laying off as many staffers as possible before it's subsumed into Warner Music.
Elsewhere, Kid Rock must be feeling like last year's white trash. His new Cocky album is in a free fall after two weeks. He's already off the Top 10.
And one phenom continues to astound: Alicia Keys. Her Songs in A Minor moved around 90,000 copies last week. It was released in June and has sold nearly 4 million copies. She's the favorite to win the Grammy for Album of the Year too. Not bad considering she's 21 and it's her first album ever.
Keys's labelmate at the fledgling J Records, Busta Rhymes, didn't do so badly himself this week. Busta sold around 200,000 copies and will come in around No. 7 or so. J Records owner/visionary Clive Davis has now had 3 albums in the top 10 during 2001, his first year in business.
Meanwhile, over at Arista, his former label, they're starting to refer to themselves as "J'Arista." Why? I think we can figure that out on our own...