Simon & Garfunkel Patch It Up

Simon & Garfunkel | George ClooneyNorah JonesSony/Columbia PicturesMusic

Simon & Garfunkel Patch It Up

Saying "this is probably the last time" they will ever do this, Paul Simon announced with his singing partner Art Garfunkel their first tour together in 20 years.

This is the same 30-city tour I told you was being planned back on June 28. But Simon and Garfunkel, friends since childhood but also bitter enemies at times, appear to have finally made peace with their turbulent relationship.

They sang four old songs together this afternoon at an intimate press conference at New York's Bottom Line nightclub when they made the tour announcement: "Old Friends," which is the name of the tour; plus "The Boxer," "Homeward Bound."

Simon referred to the duo's long estrangement during a short question and answer period. "We're fine now," Simon said in response to a question from Parade Magazine's Sandy Kenyon.

"We've had a deep, buried affection for about a decade," said Garfunkel.

Simon also added, "We had a friendship that was estranged. But it was just squabbles. That's all."

Mark McEwen, the radio personality and former CBS Morning Show anchor, emceed the session.

Simon said, responding to my question, that the pair would probably do only three songs from his post-group career: "American Tune" and "Slip Sliding Away." The latter, he said, he always thought of as a Simon and Garfunkel song from seven years later. They will also perform their 1976 revival hit, "My Little Town," which some consider their best record.

Otherwise, the content of the Old Friends tour will consist solely of the songs from Simon and Garfunkel's landmark five albums released between 1965 and 1970.

One reporter asked them if they were worried that young people did not know who they were; the reporter had been at their old grade school in Queens during the morning but found no fans. Last February I reported that MTV declined to interview the pair after they picked up their Grammy for Lifetime Achievement; a producer said they were too old.

"Our first responsibility is to our generation," said Simon. It's likely they will find new fans once the tour begins, however. Their voices together still produce a magical sound that has never been duplicated.

So how will they do this thing and not wind up in the usual fights? Sitting in the front row today, ominously, were five of Simon's high-priced attorneys; Garfunkel was without legal representation.

For one thing, the pair has enlisted neutral publicists and managers. Simon, for the first time in perhaps 20 years, is not working with his trusted friend, Dan Klores, as a spokesman. Simon's brother, Eddie, who created The Guitar Center back in 1972, will, however, be producing the tour with Jeff Kramer of OK Management and Larry Jenkins.

"I've known Artie since I was five years old," Eddie told me before the press conference. "He gave me the money to start it."

They're also using neutral band members, including the famed drummer Jim Keltner.

"It's a seven piece band and I'm the eighth," said guitarist Simon.

"And I'm the ninth," Garfunkel inserted. "The voice is an instrument."

"I sit corrected," said Simon.

George Clooney's Into Leather

George Clooney is undaunted by the so-so response to his first directing job, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind." It turns out he's readying a second picture called "Leatherheads," in which he'll direct himself.

The football comedy, set up at Universal, may also feature Matt Damon as Clooney's protégé. Still to be cast is the beautiful young thing torn between them. Screenwriter Stephen Schiff is busy doing a polish on a script written by Clooney's producing partner, Steven Soderbergh.

Clooney won kudos last year for his work on "Confessions," but the Miramax movie failed to win a big audience during the highly competitive Oscar season.

Schiff — whose work includes "Lolita" — was one of the guests at last night's glamorous CNBC party for former New Yorker editor Tina Brown and that network's business correspondent David Faber. Brown's show, "Topic A," will be shown tomorrow night.

Some other guests at the glittering night of New York media stars included Alec Baldwin, Karenna Gore Schiff (daughter of Al), Barry Diller, George Plimpton, political talk-show host John McLaughlin, People magazine editor-in-chief Martha Nelson, star literary agent Ed Victor, defense lawyer Mickey Sherman, Henry Kissinger and Brown's husband, famed editor Harry Evans.

Norah Jones: New Album In Sight

Superstar singer Norah Jones doesn't remember almost anything from Grammy night last February. That's when she cleaned up, won Best Album of the Year, Best Record, Best New Artist, eight statues in all.

"It's all a blur, so don't ask me," she said with a laugh last night.

But that hasn't stopped the daughter of Indian composer and performer Ravi Shankar from moving ahead with her hot-as-a-pistol career. Jones will release her sophomore album in February 2004.

"It's halfway finished," reports her label chief Bruce Lundvall.

The much-admired Manhattan Records exec was honored last night by the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Foundation, which is run by the estimable couple Ian and Sunny Ralfini. Jones and jazz singer Dianne Reeves were there to serenade Lundvall after dinner at the Essex House.

Jones — who seems unchanged by the sale of 15 million copies of her CD worldwide — told me that she still hasn't recorded a new song, though, by her old partner Jesse Harris. Harris — who's the brother-in-law of CNBC's David Faber (see above) and the son of "As the World Turns" star Marie Masters — won a Grammy for composing Jones's big hit "Don't Know Why" and wrote four other songs on "Come Away with Me."

"We haven't done any of his songs yet. We're writing a lot of our own stuff," she said, referring to her partnership with bass player/boyfriend Lee Alexander. "Jesse's got his own band now too. But we may do one before we're finished."

Jones says she's not letting any of her new fame affect her.

"I'm not thinking about how a new album will do. I'm just making it," she said.

You've got to give her credit for an amazing amount of poise. At one point during the Nordoff-Robbins cocktail party (this is the very important charity which raises money to treat autistic children with its successful music-therapy program), Jones — who is petite — was surrounded by some real record business sharks, all of whom wanted a piece of her.

"I know about these guys, don't worry," she said to me on the side, before being devoured. "My mother warned me all about them."

Sony/Columbia Tells Print Press to Junk It

It's weird times at Sony/Columbia Pictures. For months the studio has had to deal with releasing flops and near-misses. Then the press gets blamed for the backwash. What can you do?

Now I'm told that a couple of weeks ago Columbia pulled its worst anti-press maneuver yet. After having invited print writers from all over the country to New York for a junket, the studio disinvited the same writers once they got here.

The movie in question was "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek and Johnny Depp. The strange thing about all of this is that "Mexico" has had decent advance word. It's no "Gigli" and has the potential to be a breakout hit.

But according to my sources, once print writers from newspapers around the country were all brought to New York by Sony for the weekend junket, they were informed by e-mail that all interviews were being canceled. The stars of the movie would only do controllable TV interviews.

Sony publicists whom I spoke to said they hadn't heard of this, but said they'd get back to me.

While we're waiting for that, let me tell you that print interviews for junkets work differently than those for TV. Reporters sit at round tables and talk to a member of the cast, or the director, for an allotted time. Then the star is moved to another table and a new guest sits in the hot seat. Reporters tape their own interviews or take their own notes.

This is different than TV junket interviews, where a separate company controls the videotaped interview. If something goes wrong, like a celebrity being offended by an interviewer, the tape can be withheld. Readers of this column may recall this happened to Fox's Bill McCuddy last year when publicists refused to let him use his own interview with Martin Lawrence.

Sony would do well at this point to ease up with the press. They've got a bunch of highly-anticipated films coming before Christmas, including Tim Burton's "Big Fish." Cutting off columnists and writers will only create trouble for the films and their stars, which would be a shame if the projects are of merit.

Today: Music In The Air

Tonight at B.B. King's in New York, famed backup singer Vaneese Thomas will debut her new album on Segue Records. The gifted daughter of R&B legend Rufus Thomas will also perform with her equally-famous sister Carla and brother Marvell ...

And finally, a formal goodbye to Warren Zevon, who died on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles from lung cancer. The "excitable boy" was 56 and lived nine months longer than his doctors had predicted.

He leaves a lot of wonderful music as a legacy, including his remarkable new album, "The Wind." Like so many greats of his generation — George Harrison, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, Roy Orbison, Laura Nyro, Freddie Mercury, Marvin Gaye among them — he will be sorely missed.