Whitney's Comeback Disses Oscars, Bacharach

Whitney Houston | Homer Banks | Clint Eastwood | Box Office | David Bloom

Whitney's Comeback Disses Oscars, Bacharach

Whitney Houston's comeback video takes the Academy Awards and Burt Bacharach to task.

For the storyline of "Try It On My Own," Whitney very cleverly recalls the mess she got into three years ago when Bacharach fired her from the Academy Awards during rehearsal. She was supposed to sing "Over the Rainbow," but was too verklempt to sing. Bacharach replaced her with Faith Hill.

In the video, Houston -- looking exceptionally well, by the way -- seems to be auditioning for a group of people. She has cue cards with the words to "Rainbow" written on them, but sings her own song, and the group starts panicking and making phone calls.

Houston starts the video in a black hat and trench coat but ends it in a spectacular gown against a lavish Hollywood set.

It's just one more phase in Houston's attempt to come back from a disastrous album release last winter. Her problems were compounded by an equally bad, almost career-ending interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC. In it she bragged about drug abuse. Her husband, Bobby Brown, perspired heavily and admitted to his own drug abuse. It was a public relations nightmare.

But this past Thursday, Whitney made another step in the right direction. She performed at a fund-raiser for the National Action Network, the group run by presidential hopeful Reverend Al Sharpton. Whitney sang two songs and looked terrific, even if she did break down in tears at one point.

The fund-raiser, not coincidentally, gave awards to Arista Records head Antonio 'L.A.' Reid and his entertainment attorney, Joel Katz, of Atlanta. Whitney is tied to Arista through a $100 million recording contract. Last year, Arista handed her a first installment check of $20 million. Then her album, Just Whitney, sold 540,000 copies.

Can Just Whitney bounce back too? Anything is possible.

From the beginning, I said that "Try it On My Own" should be the big single off the album and nothing happened. Hearing it again, I'm still convinced that if Whitney could do a live version of this song on television, she would have her hit and revitalize the album and her career. She still has a voice superior to nearly everyone in her generation.

Another Soul Legend Passes

What with the untimely death of Edwin Starr last week, it wasn't like the R&B community needed another passing. But on Friday, famed songwriter Homer Banks also passed away. He was 61.

In case you didn't know it, Homer Banks wrote Luther Ingram's hit, "If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Wanna Be Right)," the Staples Singers' "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)," Shirley Brown's "Woman to Woman," and "Who's Making Love" by the late Johnnie Taylor.

A fixture on the Memphis Stax Records scene, Banks did a lot of uncredited work on a lot of Sam & Dave hits and songs by Isaac Hayes and David Porter.

Why do I write about these guys? Twenty years from now there will few R&B legends left, certainly none from the current generation. Imagine obits that read, "So and so sampled other people's hits, was stabbed and shot, served time in prison, and then was sued by his producers for non payment." Not quite the same thing, huh?

Clint Eastwood Goes to Washington, Sort Of

It was a busy weekend in Washington, or rather, close by. The American Film Institute dedicated the gorgeous renovation of the Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Md. And Clint Eastwood came.

Eastwood, who got a special award from the AFI and Jean Picker Firstenberg, showed some scenes from the movie he just finished directing, Mystic River, starring Sean Penn and Tim Robbins. The audience was said to be mesmerized by the footage. If Clint has another hit, a la Unforgiven, here, I hope Warner Bros. will have more luck with it than they have had with his other recent films.

Eastwood then sat through a re-mastered print of William Wellman's 1943 classic The Ox-Bow Incident -- starring Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn -- one of his all time favorite movies.

I was privileged to attend the AFI opening because, on the second and third night, the group showed Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker's Only the Strong Survive, which I produced with Frazer Pennebaker. (Miramax releases the film nationally on May 2.)

"Soul Man" Sam Moore and his wife Joyce, who are in the film, attended as well and we all got to do a question and answer session later with the Silver Theatre's erudite programmer, Murray Horowitz.

As flattered as we were to be chosen, it was all the more exciting to see a 1938 movie house that has been restored with such love and care. The Washington-Maryland suburbs are very lucky. Something tells me a lot of movie studios are going to want their Capitol movie premieres at the AFI Silver once they set eyes on this place. Bravo!

War Equals Box Office Blues

It was not a great weekend at the movie box office. Either the war with Iraq, the economy, or both -- or maybe just bad movies -- are keeping people away from theatres.

Last week's two new movies, Basic and The Core, each lost about 50 percent of their audience. They've each taken in about $20 million, which means that their only hope for breaking even is in Europe or Asia, where the language barrier may be surmounted by the inane action. Of the two, The Core has a better shot. Basic is talky and boring, and will likely peter out in the $30 million range.

The biggest turkey clucking around right now is Bruce Willis in Tears of the Sun. It made $700,000 this weekend, bringing its total to a paltry $42 million. Willis gets half of that, so the whole thing is basically a write-off.

Sony can console itself this weekend with Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler in Anger Management. How can this high concept comedy miss? And it opens in the widest release possible -- 3,300 screens! It will be next weekend's No. 1 movie and may break a record.

David Bloom, War Hero

I did not know the NBC reporter David Bloom, but like many of you I was riveted by his extraordinary coverage of the war in Iraq. My heart goes out to his family. He died doing something he loved, which is small consolation I guess but comforting to some degree. A lot of people said yesterday, that his death had nothing to do with the war. But he is a war hero nevertheless.