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Whitney Houston Debuts New Album in NYC & L.A.
Whitney Houston & Stevie Wonder Whitney Houston & Halle Berry Whitney Houston & Clive Davis
Whitney Houston with Stevie Wonder at L.A. listening party
Whitney Houston with Halle Berry in L.A.
Whitney Houston with Clive Davis in NYC

July 22-23, 2009 – Arista Records held back-to-back listening parties on both coasts to introduce Whitney Houston’s comeback album “I Look to You,” which drops on September 1. 

On July 22, Whitney and her mentor Clive Davis hosted Alicia Keys, Martha Stewart, Gayle King and music industry heavyweights L.A. Reid, Swizz Beatz and Benny Medina in the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center to hear the new album. 

The next night, Houston and Davis were at the Beverly Hilton where Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow, Halle Berry, Jane Fonda, Magic Johnson and Barbara Davis were among the stars checking out the record. 

These followed a listening party in London the previous week. 

Photos: courtesy Sony Music

New York Celebrates Nelson Mandela
Will.I.Am, Carla Bruni, Dave Stewart Queen Latifah
Will.I.Am, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy & Dave Stewart
Queen Latifah
Aretha Franklin Josh Groban Alicia Keys
Aretha Franklin in concert
Josh Groban greets fans at concert
Alicia Keys
Morgan Freeman Lil' Kim & Cyndi Lauper Karolina Kurkova & Archie Drury
Morgan Freeman
Lil' Kim & Cyndi Lauper performed together
Karolina Kurkova with fiance Archie Drury at Mandela dinner gala

New York, July 15-18, 2009 – It was more like “Mandela Week” as New York City celebrated Mandela Day with a slew of events from a reading in Washington Square Park to planting in Jackie Robinson Park to an interactive exhibition at Grand Central Station in celebration of South African leader Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday. 

While Mr. Mandela was not able to travel to the U.S., his wife, Graca Machel attended a dinner and auction on Wednesday hosted by former president Bill Clinton.  Clinton toasted his old friend Mandela, and urged the crowd to bid on the auction items with an anecdote:  “Even back when my wife was not Secretary of State, I bid on, paid for and won rum provided by Fidel Castro.  And I still have it; as far as I know, I violated some American trade law,” Clinton related, to much laughter. Among the guests at the star-studded dinner was Victoria’s secret model Karolina Kurkova, who made her first public appearance after announcing her pregnancy, and dutifully showed off her gleaming engagement ring and her fiancé, film producer Archie Drury.

The Mandela Day festivities culminated on Saturday night with a glittering concert at Radio City Music Hall featuring Stevie Wonder, Forest Whitaker, Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Will.I.Am, and Wyclef Jean.  Even with that lineup, all eyes were on French First Lady Carla Bruni, who sang two songs with rocker Dave Stewart.  In fact, odd but wonderful duets were a hallmark of the concert: Aretha Franklin sang with Josh Groban; Alicia Keys with Angelique Kidjo and rapper Lil’ Kim joined Cyndi Lauper in a strangely delightful rendition of Lauper’s classi Time After Time.

Paul McCartney Thrills Fans With Free Concert at Letterman
Paul McCartney Paul McCartney Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney peeks through curtain during sound check outside Letterman studio
Paul McCartney, rock star
Paul McCartney sings
David Letterman & Paul McCartney
David Letterman & Paul McCartney atop Ed Sullivan Theater marquee

New York, July 15, 2009 – Paul McCartney previewed his New York City concerts slated for this weekend with a free performance atop the marquee outside the David Letterman studios in midtown Manhattan.  Thousands of fans crowded the streets, and Sir Paul didn’t let them down, performing a 22-minute show that included Beatles classics like Get Back and Back in the U.S.S.R. 

McCartney was in high spirits, waving and shouting to passengers riding on a passing tour bus.  He quipped, “Hey, it’s Bruno!” when a taxicab passed bearing an for the Sacha Baron Cohen movie. 

Earlier in the afternoon, during a sound check before the show, he played Eleanor Rigby.  Curtains enclosed the marquee during that pre-show rehearsal, and we caught site of McCartney peeking out to check out the crowd. 

McCartney’s Letterman appearance was historic, falling 45 years after the Beatles first appeared on the same stage on the Ed Sullivan show, turning the band into a household name. 

Michael Jackson Memorial at Apollo Theater
Michael Jackson Al Sharpton, Spike Lee
Michael Jackson's hat & glove at the Apollo Theater
Al Sharpton dances with a fan on the Apollo stage while Spike Lee snaps photos in the background
Apollo Theater
Fans outside the Apollo Theater to mourn & celebrate Michael Jackson

New York, June 30, 2009 – Fans lined up for blocks around the Apollo Theater in Harlem to remember Michael Jackson, who passed away on June 25. Rev. Al Sharpton and director Spike Lee were among the mourners. 


With Joy E. Scheller

Mariah Carey a Changed Man
Mariah Carey Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey as bellhop
Mariah Carey attempts to use iPhone in music video shoot
Mariah Carey Mariah Carey
Check out Mariah Carey's facial hair, complete with stubble
Mariah Carey as we know her

New York, June 29, 2009 – Mariah Carey apparently plays all the parts in a new music video she was filming at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan on Monday, including a male bellhop/doorman type character, and a male stalker who the Daily News assumes to be Eminem

But being dressed as men was not the only change we noticed in Mimi.  The notoriously demanding diva was in a great mood, laid back, hard working and self-effacing during the video shoot.   She took direction, laughed, got the scenes down fairly quickly, and apologized to the crew when she screwed something up. 

Mariah laughed at herself when she couldn’t figure out how to operate the iPhone her hoodie-clad male character had to use in one scene.  She kept turning it around every which way, attempting to snap a photo with it.  Obviously confused and embarrassed, Mariah kept her cool and laughed at her ineptitude and apologized for causing the delay.  (Funnily enough, the Apple store was directly across Fifth Avenue from where she was standing.)

Mariah seemed to really be into making the scenes come alive, and maintained her completely un-diva-like demeanor through multiple costume changes, with crowds of onlookers and paparazzi watching the entire time.

Mariah's professional behavior was in glaring contrast to Jennifer Aniston's hostility on her film set this week.

On the Scene at Songwriters' Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Crosby Stills & Nash Richie Sambora & Jon Bon Jovi
Graham Nash, Stephen Stills & David Crosby
Richie Sambora & Jon Bon Jovi
Clint Black & Andy Williams Chris Daughtry Tom Jones & Kara DioGuardi
Clint Black & Andy Williams
Chris Daughtry
Kara DioGuardi & Tom Jones

New York, June 18, 2009 – 2009 inductees to the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame included Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora; David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash of Crosby Stills & Nash, and many others. 

At the ceremony, attendees were treated to jaw-dropping performances by Bon Jovi and CSN as well as Clint Black, James Taylor, Chris Daughtry, Jason Mraz and BeBe Winans

Tom Jones, he of the swiveling hips, was honored with the Hitmaker award, and sang Green Green Grass, and followed that with his hit It’s Not Unusual!  Sir Tom also mentioned in his speech that he never expected to be honored by songwriters – but maybe there’ll be more to come, since he’s been writing his own songs recently. 

The evening’s biggest surprise came while singer Monica Mancini was singing Moon River: suddenly Andy Williams, who made the song famous, joined her onstage and finished the song.  Moon River received the Towering Hit award at the ceremony.

Country star Joe Nichols is preparing for his upcoming Broadway appearance in Pure Country by studying the songs and honing his acting skills, but he doesn’t yet know if he’ll be required to dance.  “If we’re doing dance numbers, that’s going to take a lot of work for me,” he said.  “A lot of work.”

50 Cent & Bette Midler Join Forces for NYC Parks
50 Cent & Bette Midler
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
Tim Gunn
50 Cent & Bette Midler in Fort Tryon Park
Tim Gunn

New York, May 19, 2009 – Bette Midler had a perfectly rational reason to get rapper 50 Cent involved in restoring a park in his boyhood neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens.  “50 is an extremely generous guy and he’s really rich now, and he loves his neighborhood, so we pitched him this idea,” Midler told us at the New York Restoration Project spring picnic.  Midler is thrilled that Fitty was enthusiastic about her idea, especially in these tough economic times.  “He made a killing with that VitaminWater, which everybody knows about – I’m sure people are knocking on his door,” she deadpanned. 

Fitty says he was immediately sold on the project.  “When I got a chance to see some of the different things that [Midler] was doing, I wanted to be a part of it.  I was already making $1 million in donations per year through G-Unity Foundation, and then this was a way to have it directly affect people in the community.”

Alas, 50 and Bette did not sing a duet at the spring picnic, which was inside a tent in Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan.  But we were treated to a surprise performance by Tony Bennett

Comic Judy Gold emceed, and Martha Stewart, Tim Gunn, Gayle King and In the Heights star Lin-Manuel Miranda laughed at Midler’s foul-mouthed fundraising schtick. 

Rihanna, Kylie Minogue at Star-Studded DKMS Gala
Rihanna Kylie Minogue Chelsea Clinton
Kylie Minogue
Chelsea Clinton

New York, May 7, 2009 – DKMS gala emcee Mario Cantone took one look at Rihanna’s spacesuit-style costume and quipped, “She looks like she was in a Star Trek outfit.”  But the superstar singer graciously stepped in for Halle Berry, who couldn’t make it, to present an award at the cancer benefit. 

Kylie Minogue, who earlier in the day flipped the switch to light the Empire State Building red and white in the organization’s honor, was bubbling at the prospect of her just-announced North American tour.  “I’m so excited,” the Australian star said. "It's this rush of excitementt," she gushed. 

Also at the gala were Chelsea Clinton, Amy Ryan, fashion designers Vera Wang, Betsey Johnson and Derek Lam, and German pop star Sarah Connor

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