For a few minutes Monday evening, the Empire Room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel was a mini-Mount Olympus of pop music. Amid the crush of press covering ASCAP's 1999 pop music awards, a god and goddess were doing the rounds--Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder.
By the way, the deities really are friends. How can we tell?
"I told Joni to put that cigarette out," Wonder said. "I said, 'I'm going to have to get my belt, kid.' "
The lady of the canyon seemed to be drinking in the accolades as the evening's top winner. Soon she would receive the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers' Founders Award for being one of pop music's heppest cats ever.
Of course, being Joni Mitchell, she couldn't resist peeling back the layers of the event.
"Awards are nice if the right things are appreciated," she said with a smile, "but even in reviews, very seldom do I see a guy who really gets where the gemstones are. I see a lot of bad criticism and the praising of things that are right next to something that's more praiseworthy. I know where the bones are buried, the things that I would be critical of, but they [critics] don't land on them."
Mitchell added that she's working on arrangements for a new album of standards, including "Stormy Weather," with the 66-piece El Nino Orchestra. "I'm just going to come in and sing like Frank [Sinatra]." Give or take an octave.
Also honored were songwriters of the year Diane Warren and Max Martin, and dozens of writers of the most performed songs in the ASCAP repertory for 1998, among them renaissance Seagrams executive Edgar Bronfman Jr., who was cited with co-writer David Foster for "To Love You More."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Centennial Tribute to Fred Astaire was like a warm bath of nostalgia. Dipping into the waters were Astaire's daughter, Ava, who flew in from Ireland to join the audience, and his old horse-racing buddy John Forsythe, who hosted Friday's evening of film clips. Of course, the tribute also featured chats with some of Astaire's former dancing partners--Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller and Joan Leslie, who twirled with him on screen, and Robyn Astaire, Fred's widow, who danced with him on the marble floors of their Beverly Hills home.
The perky Miller did a ballroom number with Astaire in "Easter Parade" (1948), but she never got to tap dance with the legendary hoofer because he thought she was too tall for him. But, baby, look at her now.
"Fred was very conscious of [height]," Miller said. "He was 5-7. Well, I was like 5-7 in my stockinged feet. If he'd asked me now, I've shrunk an inch and a half, so it would have worked out fine."
Considering the fact that "The Love Letter" is just a little $8-million film, the star power at last week's special screening was strictly big budget--Goldie Hawn, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, John Travolta and Kelly Preston and Rita Wilson. Insiders mused that they hadn't seen so many big names at a DreamWorks premiere (see related story, lower right) since the momentous "Saving Private Ryan."
Oh, yes. Did we mention that the star of the quirky romance is Kate Capshaw, half of one of Hollywood's more popular couples? Capshaw's husband, uber-director and DreamWorks honcho Steven Spielberg, proudly greeted guests at the after-party at Santa Monica's Buffalo Club. Also snacking there were Capshaw's director, Peter Ho-Sun Chan, and co-stars, Tom Selleck, Blythe Danner, Gloria Stuart and Ellen DeGeneres, who came with her author mother, Betty DeGeneres.
"I love love letters," said Capshaw, who produced the film with Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford. "I've always found it inspiring and titillating to get a love letter that has real feelings expressed."
Hmmmmm, who would send that?
"Well, gee, I wonder who that would be."
Steven, you romantic fool, you.