Sunday, February 1, 2015

BetteBack November 20, 1988: Hollywood Unwraps Their Winter Movies

Madison Wisconsin State Journal
November 20, 1988

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Entertainment News Service – Oh boy, what a summer! Yeeech, what a fall! No, that isn’t a quote from Jose Canseco (although he might have said it). Rather, that’s a collective gasp emanating from Hollywood, where the most successful summer movie season on record has been followed by a particularly dismal fall.

Of course, everybody has a theory about why this autumn was such a disappointment.

The traditional October distractions — the baseball playoffs and World Series — were particularly dramatic this year, combined with September’s Indian Summer Olympics, a strike-delayed TV season that provided viewers with new offerings well into November and a presidential race that was far more attuned to entertainment value than to substantive discussion. In short, there was a lot to keep viewers at home, glued to their sets.

There is also the cyclical petering out of the Hollywood bull market. Variety’s industry analyst, A.D. Murphy, who’s been watching this stuff for decades, has a theory that every couple of years, the movie business is like a vehicle that switches gears between feast and famine. The recent up trend started in early ’86 (with, ambivalently enough, “Down and Out in Beverly Hills “), so if the pattern holds, it should be — to dredge up the title of a noteworthy fall flop — running on empty even as you read this.

Of course, nobody in Hollywood wants that to happen. The major studios have convinced themselves they’ve got sure-fire audience-pleasers lined up for the holiday season (except the ones owned by CocaCola, but more on that later). To prove it, thej-‘ve either already lumped the product deemed “weak” (as Warner Bros, did with “Everybody’s All-American,” which was originally slated for a December rollout) or exiled it to release limbo, euphemistically referred to by movie marketers as “sometime in 1989.”

But hey, it’s the season to think positive, and on paper, anyway, the release schedule from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day looks like it should have more producers saying thanks than resolving to get out of the business

It just wouldn’t be December without yet another rehash of Charles Dickens’ venerable “A Christmas Carol.” This year’s version, called “Scrooged,” marks the longawaited return of Bill Murray. He plays a New York TV network executive with a heart colder than Wollman Rink. After the usual midnight visitations, (David “Buster Poindexter” Johansen, the cab-driving Ghost of Christmas Past, Carol Kane, a stumblebum Ghost of Christmas Present, and a sleighful of state-of-the-art special effects call up the ghost of Murray’s last big hit, “Ghostbusters”), Murray learns to be nicer to the people around him, who include Karen Allen, Bob Goldthwait and Robert Mitchum.

Another visitation from familiar characters can be expected in “Cocoon: The Return,” with everyone from the original cast except Brian Dennehy once again demonstrating that sentimental sci-fi isn’t just kids’ stuff. Joining the ensemble this year are “Family Ties’ ”

Courtney Cox and stage great Elaine Stritch.

While we’re talking fantasy, let’s not leave out “Twins,” the film with this season’s most impossible premise. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Danny De Vito. Separated at birth. Even Spy magazine wouldn’t suggest anything so outrageous, but director Ivan Reitman, who helmed “Ghostbusters,” should be perfectly comfortable with the premise.

Look .for Emmy-winning “St. Elsewhere” star Bonnie Bartlett in a pivotal role.

And if you believe De Vito and Schwarzenegger as twins, would you buy Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise as brothers? “Rain Man,” after going through numerous directors (“Good Morning, Vietnam’s” Barry Levinson finally brought it to light), offers Cruise as a somewhat incompetent con man who tries to trick his long-institutionalized, idiot savant brother (Ipffman) out of a multimillion-dollar inheritance. Those of us who saw “Cocktail” and “Death of a Salesman” are still trying to figure out how the roles got so reversed.

Enough of this brotherly love. Sisterhood is powerful for Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey in “Beaches,” which examines the lifelong friendship of two intriguing women.

It’s Midler’s first dramatic project since “The Rose,” and Hershey’s first chance to work opposite a Divine person since “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Garry Marshall, who created the other serious female duo “Laverne and Shirley ” directs.

Michael Caine and Steve Martin play rival gigolos working the French Riviera in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” If the concept sounds about as original as “Scrooged’s,” well, it is. This film is based on the 1964 Marlon Brando-David Niven vehicle “Bedtime Story,” which itself had been around the block a few times before that.

Speaking of originality, how’s thisjfor something new? A plucky junior achiever climbs the corporate ladder by pretending to be an executive. “Secret of My Success,” right? Well, yes, but also “Working Girl,” the new film from director Mike (“The Graduate”)
Nichols. Naturally, Michael J. Fox was unavailable for the title role, so they got Melanie Griffith instead. With Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver along for the upscaling, there should be enough sophisticated star power to insure that this comedy won’t stay a secret for long.

But if you want to talk original, nothing outdraws “The Naked Gun.” Imagine: a movie based on a TV series that was itself a parody of other TV series. The show was the short-lived “Police Squad,” the brainchild of David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams, all formerly of Madison, the guys responsible for “Airplane!” and “Ruthless People.” “The Naked Gun” is nominally about an attempt to assassinate the Queen of England, and features an all-star cast of Leslie Nielsen, Ricardo Montalban, O.J. Simpson, Priscilla Presley and the late John Houseman.

Then there is “Oliver & Company,” Disney’s newest full-length, animated feature.

Oliver is a young, orphaned cat who gets taken in by a band of canine thieves in contemporary New York. The second holiday movie to rob the grave of poor old Dickens, “Oliver” will be competing with form ney animator Don Bluth’s “The Land Before Time” In the feature cartoon sweepstakes. The tale of four young dinosaurs’ adventures as they search for a new home, “Land” only goes back to Winsor McCay‘s turn-of-thecentury creation, Gertie the Dinosaur, for inspiration.

Considering the abundance of cartoons and comedies under the tree this year, Hollywood seems determined to make this the season to be jolly. But it’s also the season for lastditch Oscar considerations, so a couple of adult offerings will also be unwrapped.

“The Accidental Tourist” is a comedy-drama, really, adapted from Anne Tyler’s best-selling novel about a travel writer who hates to leave his house (William Hurt), his estranged wife (Kathleen Turner) and the winsome dog trainer who teaches him a few new tricks (“Beetlejuice’s” Geena Davis). The film reunites the steamy Hurt-Turner duo with “Body Heat” director Lawrence Kasdan.

More on the order of “Body Heat’s” sex-and-crime combo will be “Tequila Sunrise.” Mel Gibson plays a “retired” L.A. dope smuggler whose best friend (Kurt Russell) is a major narcotics cop. The deal goes down when both of them fall for restaurant manager Michelle Pfeiffer, trying to be Italian for the second time this year (“Married To The Mob”). Director Robert Towne won a screenwriter Oscar for a previous primavera of romance, corruption and Southern California angst, “Chinatown.” Filmgoers in New York and L.A. will also get to watch Pfeiffer attempt French before the year’s out, in the screen version of the smash play, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” She’ll portray the sweet young thing corrupted by despicable, Enlightenmentera nobles Glenn Close and John Maikovich.

Offscreen, the scenario worked the other way around, withPfeiffer luring Malkovich away from wife Glenne Headley.

One film Pfeiffer couldn’t romance her way into is “Torch Song Trilogy,” the adaptation of Harvey Fierstein’s award-winning play about drag queens and custody fights. Fierstein stars, as he did on Broadway, along with Matthew Broderick and Anne Bancroft.

Rounding out the play-into-movie category is “Talk Radio,” based on star Eric Bogosian’s hit one-man show AND Stephen Singular’s non-fiction book, “Talked to Death: the Life and Murder of Alan Berg.” Bogosian plays a controversial talk-show host who’s targeted for murder by rightwing extremists. Directed by Oliver (“Platoon”) Stone, the film also features Ellen (“Little Shop of Horrors”) Green and Alec Baldwin.

Right-wing violence again rears its ugly head in “Mississippi Burning,” loosely based on another true story that took place in the 1960s. Gene Hackman, who’s been appearing in more movies than Michelle Pfeiffer lately, plays a Dixie FBI agent who teams up with Northern G-man Willem Dafoe to hunt for what’s left of some missing civil rights workers.

With a holiday lineup like that, who would want to ask for more? According to the folks at Coca-Cola, hardly anybody. The Coke-controlled entertainment companies, constantly rumored to be on the auction block, have postponed practically all of their late ’88 releases. Forget about the Jane Fonda-Gregory Peck Mexican Revolution romance, “The Old Gringo,”

And you’ll have to wait to find out whether “Bloodhounds of Broadway” is yet another of Madonna’s dogs.

Over at sister distributor Tristar, nobody’s asking “Who’s Harry Crumb?” before January. (He’s John Candy, by the way.) And chances are you won’t find out what Cybill Shepherd’s “Chances Are” of becoming a movie star again until ’89.

Coke, in fact, is pouring all of its Christmas wishes into a single TriStar offering, the Peter O’TooleDaryl Hannah-Steve Guttenberg ghost comedy, “High Spirits,” and two releases from the new Weintraub Entertainment Group, “Fresh Horses,” a romance between Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy, and “My Stepmother Is an Alien,” more of the same (though funnier) involving Kim Basinger and Dan Aykroyd.

So, Merry Christmas to all, and one last thing: Cannon Films plans a limited release of a genuine, faithful, Victorian-era Dickens adaptation, “Little Dorrit,” with an all-star cast of renowned British actors. Only catches are that it’s six hours long, and the last three hours tell essentially the same story as the first three, from a different point of view.

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Rare Footage Captures Bette Midler’s 1971 Farewell Performance At NYC Gay Bathhouse

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This is my 800th farewell appearance here at the Continental Baths,” jokes a much younger Bette Midler after a rousing opening number singing The Carpenters’ “Friends.” She continues, “I didn’t expect to be back so soon…They had me booked at Fire Island…I was supposed to work at Cherry Grove — I was supposed to sing. But they couldn’t find room for me in the bushes.”

In this stunning archival footage, we see what is thought to be Bette’s actual farewell appearance at the Baths, the now-iconic relic of a pre-AIDS existence in the late 60s, early 70s.

The Continental Baths opened their basement doors in 1968 at the Ansonia Hotel on New York City’s Upper West Side. Owner Steve Ostrow told Bette’s acting teacher at the time that he was starting a “nightclub in his basement.” Bette had recently put together a solid 20 minutes of material, and booked the gig, later revealing that she was unaware at the time that many of the audience members would be in their towels. But she didn’t seem to mind one bit.

This video is thought to have been filmed around 1971. Look closely and you’ll see Barry Manilow backing her up on piano.

Setlist:

“Friends”
“Fat Stuff”
“Chattanooga Choo-Choo” (Andrews Sisters)
“Superstar”
“Empty Bed Blues” (Bessie Smith)
“Marahuana”
“For Free” (Joni Mitchell)
“Easier Said Than Done” (The Essex)
“Chapel Of Love” (The Dixie Cups)
“I Shall Be Released” (The Band)

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"Find your Light; They can't love you if they can't see you" ~ Bette Midler

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Lily Tomlin Has First Leading Role Since Big Business!

GayStarNews
In Grandma, Lily Tomlin has first leading role in a film in 27 years – and she’s playing a bisexual poet

Comedy legend was last above title in 1988’s Big Business opposite Bette Midler in 1988

30 JANUARY 2015 | BY GREG HERNANDEZ

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The last time Lily Tomlin had a starring role in a film, the Berlin Wall was still standing, Ronald Reagan was president of the US and it still would be 16 more years before the launch of Facebook.

But the 75-year-old comedy legend is back above the title in the comedy Grandma which premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

In her first leading role since 1988’s Big Business with Bette Midler, Tomlin plays a feminist poet who is breaking up with her far younger girlfriend and still dealing with the death of her longtime partner.

The poet’s granddaughter shows up needing money for an abortion and Tomlin’s character takes her around LA trying to get the money for it.

‘I know I’m putting myself on the line, kind of,’ Tomlin tells the Los Angeles Times. ‘But I trusted (writer-director by Paul Weitz) and I liked the material. First of all, he had written it with me in mind, and he wanted me. Then as we worked through the material, it just seemed like a good thing to do.’

Sony Pictures Classics picked up distribution of the film shortly before its Sundance premiere so the independent movie will make it into theaters.

Leading up to Big Business 27 years ago, Tomlin had been a frequent lead in movies including All of Me with Steve Martin, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, and 9 to 5 with Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton.

She was also nominated for an Academy Award for her feature film debut in 1975’s Nashville.

In more recent decades, Tomlin has been part of many ensemble casts in such films as Short Cuts, I Heart Huckabees, Flirting With Disaster and A Prairie Home Companion.

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"Find your Light; They can't love you if they can't see you" ~ Bette Midler

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Friday, January 30, 2015

BetteBack November 13, 1988: Bette Signs On To Oliver And Company

Syracuse Herald Journal
November 13, 1988

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Animation is painstaking, time-consuming work. For every 5 to 7 feet of-hand-drawn figures, amounting to a fleeting five seconds on screen, an artist labors an entire week.

One 70-minute feature film, like the studio’s new release, “Oliver and Company,” which opens nationwide Friday, spreads over four years. A full year of that four is. devoted solely to the animation.

It seems hardly worth the trouble. But within four years, the number of animators at the Disney emporium has leaped from 170 to 400, causing the one-floor building in suburban Glendale to strain at the seams.

When “The House the Mouse Built” officially opens its new Florida, studios this spring, 80 more will be added to the payroll IS IT A MATTER of pride over dollars? Scarcely. Although ^Walt’s nephew, Roy E. Disney, serves as vice chairman of the board and corporate officer, the day-dreamifigdays of his uncle are over.

Hard dollars are at stake and the new Disney regime, headed by studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, president Michael Eisner and .Frank Wells, means to put them in the company coffers.

“Animation is not perceived as merely a children’s vehicle. It has a wider univers e to it,” says Katzenberg. That wider universe is the ancillary market where product spreads from theater to home .video to cable. A few years ago, only network TV and theatrical rerelease brought additionaTrevenue from showing movies.

Ancillary also includes the lucrative licensing of toys, recordings of tunes from musical films, story and comic books and, in the Disney realm, attractions in its theme parks.

STILL. LIKE ANT other industry, animation thrives on constancy, not on churning out all these products once every four years. For Disney, it has been successful because the classics, such as “Snow White,” “Pinocchio” and “Cinderella,” are ever green, as are those
park rides. ‘•’_” •

Several years ago, Disney thought it had found a solution to speed up production when computer technology changed the face of the art But critics and the public alike rejected the results in “Robin Hood” Animators literally went back to the drawing board. And a compromise was arrived at where characters would continue to be hand drawn while computers would -be used for the backgrounds.

“Oliver and Company” marks the dawn of a new era — one animated feature per year. Besides the combination of computer and hand drawn, the process has been stepped up with the addition of more animators and the expansion of project development.

Next year, Disney has its choice of three features. In various stages of development are “Rescuers Down Under,” sequel to the 1987 hit, an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, “The Little Mermaid,” and an Arabian Nights fantasy

ALTHOUGH INSPIRED by Charles Dickens’ classic, “Oliver Twist.” there is a contemporary spin on the 27th animated film from Disney. The simple fact that the story has been updated to the ’80s and has been set in New York City, rather than London, indicates a shift from the traditional approach More significant is the presence of a pair of superstar rock singers, Billy Joel and Huey Lewis Joel was approached to sing one of the tunes, but was so enthusiastic that he wound up doing the scroungy dog, Dodger.

Also important is the casting of Bette Midler as Georgette, the pampered poodle. Her last four films all were hits for Disney.

A couple of new-to-Disney musical voices were recruited for the score. Barry Manilow, Midler’s former accompanist, favored his friend with “Perfect Ain’t Easy,” while the “Little Shop of Horrors” composer, Howard Ashman, turned out Lewis’ solo, “Once Upon a Time in New
York City.”

Like the look of Manhattan in the movie, these performers and composers bring a more hip look to the film. Katzenberg admits reflecting the ’80s pleases him. So does having such popular music artists as Joel and Lewfs. But he contends that the studio never will buckle into casting a performer for marquee value.

NOR DOES HE believe the look and sound of “Oliver and Company” will become dated and cost the studio money in rereleases down the line. The executive says, “I don’t believe it will hurt the shelf life Even the music won’t date. Lewis’ ballad should be valid for 50 years
Even Billy Joel’s song is a classic piece of music. Look at ‘West Side Story.’ I£ hasn’t aged a bit.”

However, casting can and does influence animators. Voices are recorded before the characters are animated So, although a semblance of character has been sketched, the addition of voices often changes the final look on screen.

In “Oliver,” animators say they were inspired by Cheech Mann’s “spontaneity and energy” as the chihuahua Tito The ratty-looking canine emerges as the scene-stealer of the film.

Creating performances in this style would give method actors gray hair. They would have been stunned, as well, to learn that Midler and Mann didn’t record at the sametime, despite acting, singing and dancing together.

WHETHER “OLIVER and Company” rockets to the top matters only marginally. It is “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” that sealed the happy fate of animation at Disney With more than $100 million already in the till, its lure of both adult and child audiences and its praise for ground-breaking techniques, Disney and “Rabbit” partner Steven Spielberg have agreed to agree.

Katzenberg ended the rumors by announcing officially a sequel will be produced, adding, “It’s too early to say when, but everyone wants to do it.”

Two other projects will spin off that megahit, the studio chairman revealed. “We are exploring the notion of a featurette involving the primary characters. And we’re going to do a couple of Maroon cartoons. You know, like the one with Roger and Baby Herman that opened the film.”

Featurette, a once proud word that had vanished from studio vocabulary for many years, looks to become a staple once more. Besides the Maroons, Katzenberg said the addition of the Florida studio will mark the rebirth of cartoon shorts, starring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and other favorite characters. •

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"Find your Light; They can't love you if they can't see you" ~ Bette Midler

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

BetteBack November 13, 1988: Bette Midler Gets Early Oscar Buzz For Beaches

Pacific Stars And Stripes
November 13, 1988

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LOS ANGELES (AP)Oscar campaigns begin earlier every year, and already the guns of autumn are firing for such potential nominees as Tom Hanks, Jodie Foster, Sigourney Weaver and Don Ameche.

The studios and publicity offices are readying trade paper ads to offer films and performances “for your consideration.” The champ in that department is Tom Hanks.

THE AFFABLE Hanks has been the subject of the biggest publicity blitz since last year’s blast for Cher, who ended up with the best-actress Oscar for “Moonstruck.”

First with “Big” and then with “Punchline,” Hanks has been the recipient of glowing reviews, many of which mentioned his Oscar chances.
A Hanks nomination seems certain, but for which movie? If academy voters judge by financial success, they might choose his role in “Big” as the youngster who is transformed overnight into a 30-year-old.

But they might consider his troubled comic in Punchline more of a comedic challenge.

SOME OBSERVERS believe Weaver is overdue for an Oscar, and she is likely to be nominated for her role as the obsessed naturalist Dian Fossey in “Gorillas in the Mist.” If the academy had an award for bravery, she would certainly win it for working intimately with the wild gorillas.

Two recent performances have drawn academy predictions from many reviewers: Jodie Foster’s rape victim in “The Accused”; Don Ameche’s innocent among the Mafia in “Things Change.”

As with last year, the strongest race appears to be among the female stars. Aside from Weaver and Foster, other performances which have attracted strong support include: Shirley MacLaine , “Madame Sousatzka”; Barbara Hershey, “A World Apart”; Meryl Streep, “A Cry in the Dark“; Whoopi Goldberg, “Clara’s Heart”; Sally Field, “Punchline”; Gene Rowlands, “Another Woman.”

Joining Hanks and Ameche as possibilities for best actor: Forest Whitaker, “Bird”; Sam Neill, “A Cry in the Dark”; Ben Kingsley, Pascali’s Island”; Willem Dafoe, “The Last Temptation of Christ”; Edward James Olmos, “Stand and Deliver”; Kevin Costner, “Bull Durham.”

HOWEVER, so far no runaway has been cited for best picture of 1988.

Here are some possibles: “Big”; “Gorillas in the Mist”; “Punchline”; “A Cry in the Dark”; “Bull Durham”; “Madame Sousatzka.”

The Oscar race will undoubtedly change as new entries reach the marketplace. The most promising works include:

• “Rainman,” with Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise.

• “Torch Song Trilogy,” starring Harvey Fierstein in the film version of his hit play, with Anne Bancroft and Matthew Broderick.

• “Mississippi Burning,” starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe.

• “Talk Radio,” with Ellen Green and Alec Baldwin.

• “The Accidental Tourist,” co-starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner.

• “Beaches,” with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey.

• “Working Girl,” starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver.

The 61st Annual Academy Awards will arrive early next year — March 29. For the second year the ceremonies will be held at the Shrine Auditorium.

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"Find your Light; They can't love you if they can't see you" ~ Bette Midler

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bette Tweets: 2015 Tour

100 days until the tour starts! The countdown is on….and I’m off to start packing!

 

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"Find your Light; They can't love you if they can't see you" ~ Bette Midler

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We Are The World Turns 30!

USA Today
We Are the World‘ at 30: 12 tales you might not know
Brian Mansfield, USA TODAY 10:11 a.m. EST January 28, 2015

The all-star recording session for We Are the World, the biggest charity single of all time, took place 30 years ago Wednesday.

On Jan. 28, 1985, at A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood, following the American Music Awards, more than 40 artists gathered to record a song Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson had written to raise awareness of widespread, life-threatening poverty in Africa. Most of that show’s winners — including Cyndi Lauper, Hall & Oates, Bruce Springsteen, Huey Lewis, Willie Nelson, Tina Turner, the Pointer Sisters, Kenny Rogers and the Jacksons — participated.

Inspired by the U.K. all-star charity single Do They Know it’s Christmas?, released a few months earlier, We Are the World was released March 7, 1985, and went on to sell more than 20 million copies. The more than $75 million raised by non-profit organization USA for Africa helped to fight poverty on the continent. The song also won three Grammy Awards in 1986, including song and record of the year.

“A great song lasts for eternity,” says Quincy Jones, who produced the track. “I guarantee you that if you travel anywhere on the planet today and start humming the first few bars of that tune, people will immediately know that song.”

Here are 12 things you might not know about the song and the recording session:

Stevie Wonder, not Michael Jackson, originally was supposed to be Richie’s co-writer.

“I was really trying to get in touch with Stevie and couldn’t do it,” Richie says. “Stevie was touring a lot. He was doing a lot of stuff.” A phone call with Jones got him and Jackson involved. “I got Michael before I could get Stevie,” Richie says. “We said, ‘If Stevie calls me back, we’ll get him in. In the meantime, I think we can get it done with Michael.’ ”

Richie and Jackson listened to national anthems to get in the proper frame of mind to write.

“We didn’t want a normal-sounding song,” Richie says. “We wanted bombastic, the biggest thing you got.” Knowing they needed to create something that immediately sounded important and had global appeal, they prepped for their songwriting sessions by listening to national anthems from several countries, including the USA, England, Germany and Russia. “We put all that into a pot in our heads and came up with a rhythm that sounded familiar, like a world anthem. We wanted people to feel like it was a familiar song. Once we got that — show business, man.”

The We Are the World recording session caused Richie to forget the American Music Awards.

Maybe it was just sleep deprivation — after all, the session began at 9 p.m. and lasted 12 hours — but Richie claims to have no memory of hosting that night’s American Music Awards ceremony and winning five awards, including favorite pop/rock male artist. “I walked through that door, and I forgot I had done that,” he says. “The group of people in that room was so mind-changing. There’s Bob Dylan, Billy Joel — give me a freaking break. I had never in my life experienced anything like that.”

It may have been a massive gathering of celebrities, but few other people knew the session was taking place.

Many of the singers arrived in limousines, having just come from the awards show, but not everybody showed up in style. “I think Bruce Springsteen parked his truck in the parking lot of the Rite-Aid or a grocery store that used to be across the street,” Richie says. “He parked over there and walked in. He didn’t know you could come through the gate.” The logistics of such a session would be exponentially more difficult in the era of cellphone cameras and social media. “Today, you couldn’t keep that a secret,” Richie says. “You’d have to have a full-on runway, and everybody would have to check their phones.”

Most of the singers had never heard the song before walking into the studio.

“We did not have MP3s,” Richie says. “We had cassettes back then. We had to send it to you, so most of them had not heard the song.” After all, Richie and Jackson had just barely finished the song in time for the initial tracking session held a week previous at Kenny Rogers’ studio. Even Rogers hadn’t heard it: “We didn’t know what we were going to sing until that night,” he says. Hall & Oates’ John Oates, who sang in the backing choir, says, “It had the anthemic quality and the simplicity of melody that made pulling off a giant ensemble like that very easy to do. And it was a room full of amazing singers, so that wasn’t exactly a problem.”

The choir roster had its roots in Donna Summer’s State of Independence.

The choir for Summer’s 1982 hit, which Jones produced, included Jackson, Richie, Wonder, James Ingram, Kenny Loggins and Dionne Warwick, all of whom also appeared on We Are the World. “I was on familiar ground,” Jones says. “If I hadn’t worked individually with over half of these singers before, there was no way I would’ve signed on.”

As one of the song’s writers, Richie got dibs on his solo line.

“Quincy said, ‘Now, Lionel, where would you like to come in?’ ” Richie recalls. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m coming in first, so I can get out of the way!’ ” According to Richie, the session’s secret hero was Jones’ vocal arranger, Tom Bähler. Before the session, he had listened to the recorded output of each of the soloists, determined their vocal ranges, then identified which melodic phrases best suited their registers. “The parts they assigned fit the vocalists really well,” Rogers says. “I couldn’t have done the stuff that was done at the end that Steve Perry did. They were incredibly well-laid-out.”

When Ray Charles spoke, everybody listened.

“Ray Charles, being who he was, commanded a certain deference and respect from everyone, even though he didn’t assert himself in any weird way,” Oates says. “He was just standing in the middle, doing his part. Lionel, Michael and Quincy were running the show. It was their song, their production, and everyone was very respectful, trying to make it happen. There were moments when people — and I will not name names because it’s not worth it — in the chorus started to put their producers’ hats on. They started to say, ‘What if we did this?’ and ‘What if we did that?’ Coming up with ideas. It was obvious it was a complicated thing to pull off in general, and having too many cooks in the stew would be a giant catastrophe. Ray, every once in a while, would just pipe up: ‘C’mon. Hey. Let’s go. Listen to Michael. Let’s get this thing done.’ He was there to sing, and he sensed that it could go south very quickly. He commanded a lot of respect, and I thought that was very cool.”

Bob Dylan was nervous about singing his solo.

In a one-hour behind-the-scenes documentary produced to coincide with the release of We Are the World, there’s a surreal scene in which Stevie Wonder sits at the studio piano, imitating Bob Dylan to Bob Dylan to help him get the phrasing for his “There’s a choice we’re making” solo phrase. “Dylan turned to me and Stevie and said, ‘How do you want me to sound?’ Richie recalls. “We were all kind of doing it, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t insult anybody.” Oates, who stood directly behind Dylan while the chorus was recording, remembers him being anxious about singing his solo. “He’s not a melodic guy, and it was a very specific melody,” Oates says. “I think he felt uncomfortable singing that particular melody, and he worked around it in his own way.”

The participants autographed the first page of the sheet music for the song ‘We Are the World,’ written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. The song was designed to raise awareness and funds for a worldwide hunger relief program, and its international success led the way for the Live Aid concerts later that year.

Kenny Rogers wanted to get everybody’s autograph.

“Once we sang it all the way through and realized how well-thought-out it was, we realized it was something special,” Rogers says. “So I took a sheet of music from the session and started getting people to sign it. Once I started, Diana Ross started, then everybody was running around trying to get everybody. It’s framed on the wall of my house in Atlanta.” Oates, who also got an autographed chart, echoes Rogers almost word for word: “I have it framed in my studio in Colorado. When people come in and see it, they freak. I made sure I got everybody. I even got Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder to sign it. For once, I had the presence of mind to do something like that, and it’s one of my most treasured possessions.” Jones’ signed sheet music hangs in his den: “It always makes me smile when I look at it and start reading those names.”

That “Check your egos at the door” sign turned out not to be necessary.

That’s what Jones says. “Here you had 46 of the biggest recording stars in the entire world in one room, to help people in a far-off place who were in desperate need,” he says. “I don’t think that night, that experience, will ever truly be duplicated again. I know and believe in the power of music to bring people together for the betterment of mankind, and there may be no better example of this than the collective that was We Are the World.”

USA for Africa is still around.

Thirty years after We Are the World, USA for Africa still works on behalf of communities in Africa. Recent initiatives have addressed climate-change issues, arts campaigns and the shipment of medical supplies to Liberia and Sierra Leone to combat the spread of ebola. Royalties from We Are the World continue to be the organization’s primary source of funding. “We still earn, but certainly not the kind of money we earned 25 years ago,” says executive director Marcia Thomas, who joined the non-profit in 1986 to work on Hands Across America, another USA for Africa initiative. “Our biggest support in terms of where We Are the World is bought most frequently is not in the U.S. but other parts of the world, primarily Japan and Asia.”

We Are the World soloists, in order of appearance:

Lionel Richie
Stevie Wonder
Paul Simon
Kenny Rogers
James Ingram
Tina Turner
Billy Joel
Michael Jackson
Diana Ross
Dionne Warwick
Willie Nelson
Al Jarreau
Bruce Springsteen
Kenny Loggins
Steve Perry
Daryl Hall
Huey Lewis
Cyndi Lauper
Kim Carnes
Bob Dylan
Ray Charles

These people sang in the chorus: Dan Aykroyd, Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Mario Cipollina, Johnny Colla, Sheila E., Bob Geldof, Bill Gibson, Chris Hayes, Sean Hopper, Jackie Jackson, La Toya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Randy Jackson, Tito Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Bette Midler, John Oates, Jeffrey Osborne, Anita Pointer, June Pointer, Ruth Pointer and Smokey Robinson.

“One of the only things regrettable about this whole 30-year anniversary is that Michael’s not here to share his part of it,” Richie says. “There was a lot of craziness happening with us and a lot of silliness. I’m just sorry he’s not here to share it.”

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Darlenne Love’s Upcoming Album Will Feature Bette Midler Duet

Mister D: Just found out this will be the same song that’s on Bette’s album!

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Longtime fan Steven Van Zandt is producing an album for Love with material written specifically for her by himself as well as by Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Dion, Joan Jett, and Jimmy Webb. The album also will feature a duet with Bette Midler.

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"Find your Light; They can't love you if they can't see you" ~ Bette Midler

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Who’s getting excited about the upcoming tour?

Who’s getting excited about the upcoming tour?

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"Find your Light; They can't love you if they can't see you" ~ Bette Midler

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Bette-Toons by Scott Clarke

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