Whitney Houston was not out of anyone’s memory on Saturday night. Her death, exactly one year ago, was remembered at the annual Clive Davis pre-Grammy dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Last year Whitney died a couple of hours before the party was set to begin, and it went on, solemnly.
Last night, Davis celebrated Whitney’s by showing a rare 20 year old clip of her singing “All The Man I Need” from a performance for soldiers. Whitney’s brother Gary and sister in law Pat were in the audience. And upstairs the hotel posted a guard in front of the room where Whitney died. The number has been removed from the door. And if anyone asks, the reply is that it’s a storage room.
Otherwise the annual pre Grammy dinner was a rousing success, with a much lighter atmosphere than last year, and supercharged with A listers galore in the audience and top notch talent on stage that included Usher, Miguel, The Lumineers, Emeli Sande (pictured), Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye, Jennifer Hudson and the absolutely amazing Gladys Knight.
I had the pleasure of sitting with Joni Mitchell for most of the show. Joni loved Emeli Sande. “She’s a real artist.” When Usher sang she said, “Now, he’s the shit.” She said of Sting: “He’s the child James Taylor and I never had.” She thought Miguel was “hot” and danced to Knight doing “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Our friend, famed record producer Richard Perry, said: “I’ve never seen Joni have so much fun.” She was among the last to leave the ballroom when the show ended.
Among the guests: Sting and Trudie Styler, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Depp, Jennifer Hudson–who performed, plus Larry and Shaun King, Sean Diddy Combs, Ron Burkle, Brandy, Joan Collins and husband Percy–Jackie Collins, she said, was home with the flu, plus Melanie Griffith who came with pal Nikki Haskell–Antonio Banderas is in Spain on business. Plus, of course, the great Quincy Jones, producer Richard Perry, singer Anthony Hamilton, and John Mayer with girlfriend Katy Perry. The pair cut a smashing figure in white tie for Mayer and a stunning white beaded gown for Perry.
Davis was introduced by CBS chief Les Moonves, who came with wife Julie Chen. ABC News’s Cynthia McFadden was at what I called “the broadcaster’s table” along with Gayle King. I actually met Carly Rae Jepsen, the “Call Me Maybe” girl.” She was delightful. Joan Rivers and daughter Melissa were there, as was Kathy Griffin. Joan reached over the little wall that separated her from the table below, and asked hot singer Emili Sande if she could pass the salt. She did!
The table configurations were all interesting. Imagine Joni Mitchell seated with Alice Cooper and Paul Stanley from KISS. Yes, indeed. With Brandy adjacen to them.It’s that kind of thing that makes the night interesting. Former Motown leader and producer Suzanne dePasse was seated with Clarence Avant, another great R&B music label legend, and BET’s Debra Lee. And so on. I ran into Kelsey Grammer and wife Kate, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, most of Earth Wind and Fire, and some of BoyzIIMen.
Also: the great Peter Asher, Warner Music Group owner and Russian billionaire Len Blavatnik, Sony Music chief Doug Morris, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Sony ATV Music Publishing giant Marty Bandier with beautiful wife Dorothy. Oh yes, and Wiz Kalifa, Elle Varner, Tyra Banks (just gorgeous), Sylvia Rhone, Brett Ratner, actor Scott Speedman, songwriter extraordinaire Diane Warren, and eminent trumpeteer Chris Botti.
Did I mention that people were falling over themselves to meet either Magic Johnson or San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick? The latter is a lot bigger than he looked on TV, by the way, and cleaned up nicely in a suit and tie. I said, “You were in the Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter if you won.” He replied, sweetly: “Yes, it does.”
There was a soulful tribute to L.A. Reid as an industry icon, with speeches from Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Doug Morris, and the Usher performance that wowed the crowd. Earlier in the day I sat through Usher’s rehearsal in the empty ballroom. I can tell you he does not lip synch. What a voice!
There were other parties around town on Saturday night, and I’m sure they were all fine. But Clive’s dinner remains the most coveted invite in Hollywood save for the Vanity Fair Oscar party. And I think even Whitney would have approved of this night overcoming the agony of last year with this rousing celebration of music, music music. And really, as long as I live I will never forget Joni Mitchell doing the train dance to “Midnight Train to Georgia.”
If you had asked me in in 1973, when i was sixteen and that song was on the radio and Joni was hotter than Taylor Swift, and Clive was having hit after hit at Columbia Records, if any of this would happen 40 years or so hence, I would have asked what you were smoking. But it’s like that every year at Clive’s party.
PS On a sadder note from the music biz family: condolences to Seymour Stein, my friend who founded Sire Records, discovered Madonna, the Ramones, etc. His eldest daughter, Samantha, also a friend, a mother, a sister and a lovely human being, succumbed to brain cancer on Friday after a 21 month battle. It was only three years ago that Samantha’s brilliant mother, Linda Stein, was killed in a now infamous New York crime. They will each be missed tremendously. Samantha was a gem. Please send love and prayers to Seymour and his daughter Mandy.