Monday, May 20, 2024

Clive Davis Hosts a Throwback Gala with 600 Close Friends Like Alicia Keys, Dionne Warwick, Patti Smith, Jesse Jackson, Roberta Flack, Etc


Clive Davis‘s 90th birthday blow out part 2: A throwback pre-pandemic like gala for 600 friends at NYC’s newest, sexiest ballroom at Casa Cipriani. It’s a former Maritime Building at the tip of southern Manhattan, left to rot for eons and now an art deco palace with extraordinary appointments. It’s a hotel, it’s a club, it’s a ballroom. It’s like a dream.

So 600 people arrive either formal clothes or close to it. The list of celebrities is endless, and the performers are staggering. At my table — seated dinner — for example: nothing less than Robert Flack, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and former Mayor DeBlasio with wife Chirlane. (The mayor and I laughed because the last time we saw each other we were trapped on the stage in Central Park during the rained out Welcome Back, New York concert.)

Around the massive and gorgeous ballroom: (updated) Tony Danza, Netflix chief Ted Sarandos, his wife Nicole Avant, her father Clarence Avant; Robert De Niro, Dionne Warwick, Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz, Patti Smith, Valerie Simpson, Lorraine Bracco, Little Steven van Zandt, Lin Manuel Miranda, Diane Warren, Narada Michael Walden, Martha Stewart, Bernadette Peters, Michele Lee and Fred Rappoport, Brenda Vaccaro, Victor Garber, Ray Parker Jr., Harry Wayne Casey (KC of the Sunshine Band), Katie Couric, Gayle King, Earth Wind & Fire, Wyclef Jean, John McEnroe and Patty Smyth, Bill Bratton and Rikki Kleiman, Paul Shaffer and wife Cathy Vasapoli, Peter Asher, Anthony McCarten, Garland Jeffreys, Judy Collins, Nona Hendryx (of Labelle fame), Desmond Child, Ann Dexter Jones, her son Mark Ronson with his wife Grace Gummer, Nikki Haskell, Richard Weitz of the famed Quarantunes, Deborah Cox, Mark Strausman of Marks Off Madison Restaurant, country music Nashville maven Fletcher Foster, famed concert promoter Ron Delsener, legendary art dealer Tony Shafrazi,  Broadway mogul James Nederlander Jr and wife Margo, Whitney Houston’s sister in law, Pat and husband Gary (Pat gave a touching speech), pretty much all the people who worked at Arista and J Records including the great Richard Palmese. Everyone at the top of the New York record biz, Sony Music chief Rob Stringer, plus Leon Huff, one half of Gamble & Huff who gave us Philly Soul.

It was a dizzying night.

Alicia Keys made a beautiful speech and then David Foster, who took over the music portion of the show, persuaded her to lead the crowd in Happy Birthday. Then Alicia and Swizz Beatz were having so much fun they stayed til the end of the night. Foster accompanied Dionne Warwick on piano when she sang “That’s What Friends Are For.” Kenny G played his clarinet with them. Barry Manilow sang “Mandy” and played piano. Art Garfunkel sang a section of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that was heartbreakingly beautiful. He sat at a table with former Rolling Stone owner Jann Wenner, and Bruce Springsteen manager Jon Landau. Nancy Davis and husband Ken Rickel came in from LA, so did Suzanne Somers.

Springsteen was supposed to come, but sent a video at the last minute. He said, “We are quarantining here in New Jersey.” We surmised he tested positive for COVID. His video was a birthday greeting, a salute to Clive, and Bruce playing guitar and singing “Blinded by the Light.” He seemed without symptoms, thank goodness.

The evening began with Gayle King asking Clive questions on stage: it was very clever and funny. All the things you ever wanted to ask Clive Davis about 60 years of the music business, his personal life, family. It was so refreshingly disarming. He identified himself as a “worrier.” What’s he most worried about? “What Russia is doing to Ukraine.”

Clive’s sons spoke, and his grandsons. His whole, huge family was in attendance. Nancy Pelosi sent a video. Mark Ronson made a fascinating two hour film mixing all of the music from the history of Columbia, Arista, and J Records. As each act came up on screen, people in the ballroom cheered seeing friends or former associates. Jesse Jackson, fighting Parkinson’s, made the trip from Chicago. He fist bumped everyone at the table. We reminisced about meeting the Pope with Aretha Franklin in 2016. He told me, “I miss Aretha.”

Everyone had to show proof of vaccination. Some wore masks. Most did not. Most everyone discussed getting the fourth shot as people hugged old friends they hadn’t seen in two years or more. it was a love fest, not just for Clive, but for surviving and thriving.

Come back later for some photos and video.

PS I promised Swizz Beatz I’d tell everyone about Alicia’s new single and video, “City of Gods (Part II)” dropping today. Let’s put it on the charts, kids.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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