Rosie Will Get the Last Laugh | Sting, Costello, but No Fat Lady | Brangelina Ban at People?

Rosie Will Get the Last Laugh

It’s Rosie O’Donnell vs. Barbara Walters, and sorry: Rosie will get the last laugh.

O’Donnell is set to take TV by storm next Wednesday when she debuts her "Rosie Live" show on NBC at 8pm. The live variety show — which will undoubtedly get a lot of press and viewers — is a try-out for Rosie’s planned weekly "Ed Sullivan"-like show that should start by February.

But yesterday Barbara Walters, the ancient mariner of "The View," didn’t like it when Rosie spoke about her rollercoaster year on the show. Rosie’s been responding to questions about the show while doing publicity for 'Live' show. She told reporters that there isn’t a lot of camaraderie on "The View" among the co-hosts. No kidding.

Barbara’s slick answer? She took two of the co-hosts — Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg — to dinner Wednesday night at Le Cirque. It might be the first time the three of them have been seen in public together not at an ABC event ever. Of course it was an event—a well staged one in fact considering the backstage bickering at that show that has had nothing to do with O’Donnell.

In fact, the noted absence of dopey Elisabeth Hasselbeck and loose lipped Sherri Shepherd from the Le Cirque gathering spoke volumes. Hasselbeck, a former reality TV star who’s been very lucky, fought with Walters and the others for months leading up to the recent presidential election. Shepherd has long been rumored to be on the chopping block at the show.

In fact: O’Donnell — Goldberg (whom I love) notwithstanding — brought more life to the turgid, fawning "View" in her one year than ABC could ever have hoped for. The network offered her $10 million to stay, but wanted a three year commitment. O’Donnell was wise enough to cut her losses and get out when the going was good.

"Rosie Live" should be an enormous hit if O’Donnell can keep the show tightly rehearsed and scripted, family friendly and most of all, positive in its celebration of Broadway, New York, and the arts. That isn’t to say that we won’t see the "other" Rosie — the cutting edge one. But "Rosie Live" is going to be about comedy, something she excels at.

Sting, Costello, but No Fat Lady

What do you after wrapping up the biggest rock tour of the last two years? After all in August Sting finished the grueling 18 month worldwide reunion of The Police that grossed way over $300 million. This week it spawned the bestselling concert video as well.

Most rock stars would just go home and relax. Not Sting. Last night at the landmark Theatre du Chatelet in Paris he opened in an opera — yes, an opera, a real opera — written by Elvis Costello’s long time musical director Stevie Nieve and his wife Muriel Teodori, and co-starring Costello and the eldest Sting progeny, Fiction Plane leader Joe Sumner.

Among the aficionados who turned out for the occasion: British pop legend Marianne Faithful, and film directors Mike Figgis and JP Davidson. Mrs. Sting — Trudie Styler — was front and center, as well, with actress daughter Mickey and newly minted best selling writer from the UK Simon Astaire ("Private Privilege").

It was quite an occasion too as Sting had only on the night before performed a showcase of music on the lute in the very same theater, playing selections from his album, Songs from the Labyrinth. He heads out next week to showcase this material on a tour of Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and other far flung locales.

Like I said, he could have just gone home.

But the opera, called "Welcome to the Voice," has been percolating for some time since Nieve and Teodori began workshopping it more than eight years ago. It was only when Costello and his band decided to join The Police on tour this year that the idea hatched for Sting to participate in the recording of Welcome to the Voice (already out on CD) but to put on a professionally staged version of it here.

The lead role of Dionysos could not be more perfect for Sting, who hasn’t acted in legit theater since his successful turn in "The Threepenny Opera" on Broadway nearly two decades ago. Dionysos is a romantic lead, a Greek steel worker who falls in love with opera and dreams of being with three of its leading ladies: Carmen, Madama Butterfly, and Norma. Eventually he finds a real diva named Lily who entrances him just as much. The role, as defined by Sting incorporates not only his ever-expanding vocal range — impressive in a non rock setting — but his matinee idol good looks and athleticism.

Figgis, who directed Sting long ago in the cult movie, "Stormy Monday," was visibly impressed (as was the audience, which gave the opening night cast a ten minute ovation). "Did I know back then that he could do this? The answer is Yes!"

Costello plays the local police commissioner, a comic character. Joe Sumner, Sting’s eldest son, is his friend and enthusiast. In his black Russian hat and heavy greatcoat Costello looked like he was having a lot of fun up on stage even though he told me later he was battling a grippy flu. Sumner — whose voice is often compared favorably to his dad’s—turns out to be a natural leading man on stage, a possible find for Broadway producers looking to cast their next rock musical.

But it was the women of "Welcome to the Voice" who really set the Theatre du Chatelet on fire. The gorgeous throated, sexy divas who played the "ghosts" of Dionysos’s fevered fantasy were Marie-Ange Todorovitch as the "ghost" of Carmen, Sonya Yoncheva as Butterfly, and Anna Gabler as Norma. The magnificent Spanish singer Sylvia Schwartz won over not just a few hearts as Lily, Dionysos’s "real" object of obsession.

We’ve come a long way since days of songs like "Roxanne" and "Alison," of narrow neck ties, and thundering power pop. And even though Sting and Costello can do that any time they want, and make millions to be sure, that’s what makes "Welcome to the Voice": that much more of an achievement.

These two multi talented musicians may represent the last generation of rockers able to stretch beyond their original genres and take on other forms with so much success. (Costello has also performed with the Brodsky Quartet and a variety of pop and classical singers.) Bravo to both of them!

‘Welcome to the Voice" continues in Paris through next week, all sold out to the top tiers of the Chatelet.

Brangelina Ban at People?

Great story in yesterday’s New York Times business section about People magazine and how Angelina Jolie has bought and sold them.

For the last couple of years, since the birth of baby Shiloh, People has figured out the easy way to deal with Jolie, Brad Pitt and their ever expanding brood: just pay them for pics and interviews, and agree to be nice in all other coverage. It’s not journalism but it is practical.

You almost can’t blame the couple for figuring this out, especially if People was a willing participant. And it’s worked. Reporter Brooks Barnes even missed a few incidents of "staged" pictures of Jolie and her kids in People, all exclusive and all set up in advance. In People, at least, she’s Mother Theresa, with all aspects of her prior life — partying, ex husbands, affairs, tattoos, blood in vials around the neck — expunged in favor of a humanitarian.

One thing Barnes missed: Jolie doesn’t even have a publicist. She doesn’t need one. She seems to have figured out that by selling her press rights she can control her image herself. If someone asks the wrong question, then move on.

Such was the case when baby Shiloh was born in Namibia. Offending journalists were simply expelled from the country at the Jolie-Pitts’ request. The couple appeared in a press conference with the country’s longtime leader, a well known violator of journalist’s rights. But it was to protect civil rights — the couple’s.

Not to say that Jolie and Pitt haven’t been generous. It was this column that broke the story that they’d placed $8 million in their tax free foundation and used it for humanitarian aid. Their hearts are definitely in the right place. But the road to hell, as many have learned, is paved with good intentions. The fact that the Times had to give People that comeuppance yesterday is proof enough of that.