Whitney vs. Mariah: Celebrity Smackdown Looms

Whitney vs. Mariah | Elvis Costello | Irina Pantaeva | Liza Minnelli

Whitney vs. Mariah: Celebrity Smackdown Looms

It's about to get rough out there in Diva-land. Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, the two top pop divas who've each had highly-publicized personal problems, are releasing their new records at the same time. Hang on, because it's going to get interesting.

Yesterday I received the news from Whitney's camp that her newest single, "One of Those Days," was the No. 1 most-added record to radio stations last week. These numbers are courtesy of Radio and Records, which monitors this sort of thing.

Based on the high number of stations that added "One of Those Days" to their playlists — not how many times they played it, which is a different story — Houston hit No. 1 on the overall list and the R&B list.

The folks at Arista are justifiably happy. After the debacle of Houston's last single, "Whatchulookinat," which few stations embraced, it seems there will be an audience for Whitney after all. Her new album, Just Whitney...., which is already available in its entirety on the Internet, hits stores on Nov. 26.

I also know that the Arista kids are thrilled that they leapt ahead of Mariah's single, "Through the Rain," which has made steady but slow progress as the lead track off Carey's new album. That one, called Charmbracelet, hits stores Dec. 5.

There's a bit of intramural rivalry now between Whitney and Mariah, and that's because two high-powered and talented radio promotion guys are involved. Lionel Ridenour, Arista's guy, is guiding Whitney, while Jerry Blair is positioning Mariah.

But wait: For one tense year last year, these two guys worked side-by-side at Arista sharing a job title. They didn't along. Different ways of doing things was the problem, although neither way was right or wrong.

Now, like the Yankees and the Red Sox, the Whitney and Mariah camps have rival dudes working the stations. Things could get ugly, but then again, all that friction could mean hits for both sides. Let the games begin!

PS: Let's not forget that Whitney's single, while excellent, also represents a lot of income for Arista Records president L.A. Reid. He not only runs the record company, but gets a cut of the single since he published the song through his own publishing company. More spins at radio for "One of Those Days" means more Brioni suits for Reid. In the end, everyone wins.

Elvis Costello Does Maurice Chevalier

Maybe you've heard one or the other of the above names — but I doubt you have heard them in the same sentence. Still, Elvis Costello, who's always stretching himself musically — whether he's working with Burt Bacharach or opera singers — surprised the audience last night at the Creative Coalition "Seconding the First" gala.

For his second number, Costello performed an acoustic version of Lerner and Loewe's classic "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore" from Gigi. The song was written for French crooner Maurice Chevalier in 1958.

Costello accompanied himself on guitar and created a magical moment. His voice never sounded better, and frankly, Lerner's lyrics made more sense than many of his own.

Costello's wasn't the only socko performance of the evening. Lou Reed knocked the crowd out himself, as did Christopher Reeve, who presented a posthumous award to late Billboard editor Timothy White.

Others in the star-studded crowd included a stunning Marlo Thomas, Carl Bernstein, Peter Boyle, a very pregnant Cynthia Nixon, Bob Costas and Danny Glover.

My favorite part of the night was the deliciously witty and pretty Bebe Neuwirth, who performed a version of the Rolling Stones' lascivious oldie "Let's Spend the Night Together," with all the words that censors objected to in 1965 omitted. That didn't leave much, but the effect was terrific. A perfect way of demonstrating why the First Amendment is so important.

Life of a Serious Supermodel

Two of my favorite people, supermodel Irina Pantaeva and husband Roland Levin, the great photographer, tossed the former a super birthday bash last night at the new Savannah Steak House on East 48th Street in New York.

The couple's guests included director Renny Harlin, fashionable gossip writers Michael Gross and Jared Paul Stern, record impresario Andre Harrell and a gaggle of great-looking, long-limbed girls.

But don't think Irina and Roland are the typical Euro-types who are only skin deep. They met in Moscow at a political rally some 15 years ago. Irina is from a small village in Siberia; Roland is from Latvia.

Their story — Irina's especially — is chronicled in a wonderful memoir she published four years ago called Siberian Dream. For some reason this remarkable story is now out of print in America, although it's been published in 16 languages.

I managed to get a copy recently from a second hand dealer through Amazon.com and couldn't put it down. Quick — somebody has to republish this book, and then a director (Milos Forman comes to mind) has to make the movie. Rarely has been there been such fertile material just sitting around dormant.

In the meantime, happy birthday to Irina and congratulations to Roland. They are the real thing — an American success story!

Liza and David Show Cancelled Already

The New York Post's Page Six breaks the news today that VH1 has already terminated Liza and David. Liza Minnelli's husband, David Gest, was too hard to work with, according to the column.

Listen: No one is falling down in shock from this. It was only a matter of time before Gest's worst attributes would start to affect Minnelli adversely. This is the same guy who lists the long-dead Hollywood studio head Leo Jaffe as a director of his non-existent charitable foundation. My guess is this is the beginning of the end for this strange couple.

In the meantime, the people at J Records can't be pleased. I'm sure they were counting on Liza and David to spark interest in Liza's just-released live album. Oh well. They still have Alicia Keys to fall back on.