NY Mirror

You could never download wacky sound bites on Napster—just wacky music—but I can provide you with a free, illegal sampling of musicians' utterances right here on Crapster. The following quotes were elicited by my trenchant questioning at Clive Davis's pre-Grammy bash at the Regent Wall Street, but please don't tell the authorities.

"How about an interview, Michelle Branch?" I asked, coyly. "Just a minute," Branch replied, turning her back on me and staying that way all night. Moving right along: Gavin DeGraw, are you the new Alicia Keys? "I am a new artist. I want to present you with something you've never heard before." What's the state of the music biz, Melissa Etheridge? "I've seen it come and go. I've gone over the ocean with a lot of waves in it. I like where I am now. I've got a nice boat on the ocean—and no, it's not the Titanic!" Sharon Osbourne, will your new talk show make giant waves? "Yes, but it won't humiliate the guests. I don't want to do fat babies and 'My Mom's a 'Ho.' Just real people with real issues—and superstars." And Kid Rock—you real person who's a superstar—what's your feeling about awards shows, dear? "I have no problem with corporate money. I love it! But it's so hard to give somebody an award when you don't have all the facts on that person. It's like the judicial system. An award looks good on the wall and might get you some loot on eBay someday, but at the end of the day, who gives a shit?"

Well, I guess I do because the very next night I went with my boo to the Grammys, where music about people rising out of the wreckage (you know, Springstreet, as Dustin Hoffman so eloquently called the Boss) canceled out with the wreckage itself (Eminem), paving the way for Norah Jones. (Kidding—the two contradictory powerhouses canceled because the older voters prefer lilting introspection to anything too jangly. Remember Christopher Cross and Tracy Chapman? Oh, you don't? Never mind.) Actually, Norah's the first glorified elevator music I've liked in a long time—no, it's not the Titanic—though a hush fell over the pressroom when we realized she didn't even write that damned song. (And doesn't "Don't know why I didn't come" sound like Bob Dole should sing it anyway?)

As we interviewed the serene songstress between trophy grabs, we were jolted out of all the gratitude by noticing Nelly's onstage pyrotechnics (Great White anyone?), an even scarier scenario than *NSync's pasty tribute to the Bee Gees. But thankfully no one was hurt (by *NSync, that is), and I cottoned to sensible Norah more than ever when she told us she had no idea who designed her dress—"It was given to me and I like it and it fit." How refreshingly un-victimy—but I think we can all be in "agreeance" (gee, thanks, Fred Durst, for damaging the anti-war campaign with weird grammar) that Michelle Branch still hasn't turned around.

Now, if I can do an Elmore Leonard and jump chronologically backward, let me tell you about the gala show Clive Davis put on at his event (culminating with Davis himself singing "Happy Birthday" to Drew Barrymore—a real Grammy moment). Of the professional performers, Davis discovery DeGraw came off very Billy Joel's-voice-in-John Mayer's-body. Similarly, the talented Heather Headley sounded like she was channeling Whitney Houston's old career. Rod Stewart—despite that bout with throat cancer, a new cold, and a scratchy voice to begin with—did well on standards, not taking them seriously enough that you'd cringe. And the fab Aretha Franklin barely acknowledged Alicia Keys onstage, making me wonder if Keys's mic didn't work thanks to some backstage tampering by the Queen of Soul. But I left happy (if hungry)—and that brings us right back to the present, where I'm still hungry, thank you.

There was no trophy—or food—but lots of honor for writer-director Alexander Payne when MOMA feted him at the Gramercy Theater, though "the bard of Omaha" admitted he's battled studio ignorance almost as long as Melissa Etheridge has looked for the shoreline. "They always hire you based on films they never would have financed because they were new and different," said citizen Payne. "Then you tell them what you want to do next and they say, 'We can't do that because it's too new and different!' " Living proof of this stymieing syndrome surfaced when Payne's onstage interviewer—a movie exec—admitted he once turned down Citizen Ruth because "we didn't have any money," and besides, it was, you know, too new and different. Aborting an abortion comedy! Sick!

A rehearsal room meet-and-greet with the cast of Nine—the old and different musical based on Fellini's 8 1/2—was crawling with productive (and reproductive) women, though all I noticed was star Antonio Banderas with his cutely bee-stung lips and tousled hair. But politely enough, I started out by talking to the gals, not a Michelle Branch among them. "It's my first Greek part," said Saundra Santiago, who plays Stephanie Necrophorus. "It's interesting because I was married to a Greek, but I couldn't take it anymore." (I couldn't take My Big Fat Greek Wedding either.) Latina extraordinaire Chita Rivera told me she loved doing a cameo in the Chicago movie: "I thought I looked like Cher!" And downtown darling Nell Campbell turns up in Nine too, telling me, "I play a half-naked lesbian. It's 16 women and Antonio Banderas—it could have been a recipe for disaster." It's certainly Melanie Griffith's worst nightmare—but it's all worked out fine so far.

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