Most of the time, I lead a very quiet ‘normal’ life, and do everything I can to avoid the public side of my life. As you’ve read here before, my family life is the most important to me, I’ve always been a ‘regular mom’, and I’m very shy and don’t like publicity. And also most of the time, I try to pretend to myself that I’m not famous. But now and then that facet of my life can’t be avoided. And it still comes as a surprise to me that I’m famous. While spending my time driving carpool, picking up kids from school and going to soccer games, or writing all night, somehow fame snuck up on me. And recently, I went to one of those major glamorous Hollywood events that still knocks my socks off, and totally stuns me, and always reminds me that I’m a public person too. The party I went to was Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy party, the night before the Grammy’s. It’s held in LA, and Clive Davis is the most important man in the music world today, and has been for many, many years. He’s the most important music producer in the business, and has represented everyone from Janis Joplin to Alicia Keys, Sean Combs/Puff Daddy, Santana, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and just about every important singer you’ve ever heard of. Beyond that he is a truly wonderful man, hugely admired by everyone in the music business, and adored by the artists he represents. And the party he puts on every year is a knock out, and a party people do just about anything to get invited to. I have been very lucky to know Clive as a friend for thirty years, and have been lucky enough to attend his party before, and have always been vastly impressed by the artists who performed there.
The evening got off to a shocking start when Clive received the news at 4pm that Whitney Houston had just died. He had a deep and longstanding affection for her, as he discovered her and represented her, and they were close friends, as well as being his protegee since he launched her career, and represented her as an artist. The news of her death was devastating, and for a time there was a question of whether or not the evening would be cancelled, and in the end, they decided to go on with the party, in honor of Whitney Houston’s memory. But it was hard for anyone present to absorb the fact that she was gone.
The party is held at the Beverly Hilton, where an endless line of limousines deposits just about every celebrity and music star that any of us have ever heard of, and the crowd fills the hotel lobby and ballroom. I think somewhere between two and three thousand people were there, which is hard to imagine. There is a red carpet (like at the Academy awards) where roughly three hundred photographers and TV cameras hone in on celebrities and anyone famous. I always find those red carpet moments somewhat terrifying, and suddenly photographers are calling my name, trying to get my attention and take my photograph. Along with much, much more famous people than I. But I made it through, without stumbling, tripping on my dress, or fainting—-always a victory. And I finally made it into the ballroom. I was seated at a table with Jane Fonda (who looked gorgeous), Jackie Collins the writer who is a dear friend, and her sister Joan Collins (from the TV show ‘Dynasty’), their various escorts, and two movie producers. We had a fantastic view of the stage, and the evening began with a touching speech by Clive Davis about Whitney Houston, with photographs of her on two giant screens.
We ate dinner, and sometime after nine o’clock, the musical part of the evening began, with Tony Bennett, after Clive’s speech, and for the next four hours, we were dazzled by music performances by old groups, new ones, famous performers, an impromptu performance by Diana Ross, when she was given a lifetime achievement award, and a stunning performance by Alicia Keys, whom I think is fantastic and is my favorite singer. And as each artist came on, almost all of them gave touching tributes to Whitney, told stories about her, or simply expressed their sadness over her passing. It was an evening filled with emotion as well as spectacular performances, dazzling people, important celebrities in every corner of the room. Clive puts on an unforgettable event with his party the night before the Grammy’s, and this one was even more so with the deep emotions and sorrow over Whitney. Sean Combs/Puff Daddy performed, and so many others. Joni Mitchell was there and Neil Young. The man who created Motown, Barry Gordie, was there, and two new artists were introduced at the end of the evening. It was a non-stop musical event that just took your breath away, and would have been relentlessly joyful, were it not for the ever present sense of loss of a wonderful talented woman. You could feel Whitney Houston’s presence in the room through the stories shared and memories celebrated, as again and again performances were dedicated to her. The last musical performance ended at 1:30 am, and the crowd slowly left the ballroom after an evening none of us will ever forget. I will remember forever that ballroom filled with talented, vibrant people paying tribute to someone they loved and admired. Her loss was a tragic event, and the evening was especially beautiful, and bittersweet as people paid tribute to her again and again. It was truly an unforgettable night, even more than usual. And Clive did a masterful job of letting the evening go on, but keeping it in respectful good taste. Her life was celebrated on that stage that night, and in the hearts of everyone who was there.
And leaving LA was a little bit like Cinderella after the ball. The coach had turned into a pumpkin, and the liveried footmen to white mice. There were not 300 photographers shouting my name as I left the hotel. I left quietly in jeans after a shocking, but magical day and night in LA. And I returned to face the work on my desk, my ordinary life, the things I have to do, and the book I will start….but even now, as I write to you, I remember what a fabulous night it was at Clive’s pre-Grammy party last night…….and the memory of Whitney Houston, an incredibly talented woman with a remarkable voice, who died much, much too young. It was a touching, powerful, bittersweet night indeed.