GREEN CONTROVERSY— Mahershala Ali offered a private apology to relatives of Dr. Donald Waldridge Shirley, the musical genius Ali portrays in Green Book, after the family members criticized the film as being a “symphony of lies.”
Dr. Shirley’s brother, Maurice Shirley, and nephew, Edwin Shirley III, said that East Bay native Ali was gracious as he reached out to them after he heard of their negative reaction to the Peter Farrelly-directed movie.
“I got a call from Mahershala Ali, a very, very respectful phone call, from him personally,” Edwin said. “He called me and my Uncle Maurice in which he apologized profusely if there had been any offense.
“What he said was, ‘If I have offended you, I am so, so terribly sorry. I did the best I could with the material I had. I was not aware that there were close relatives with whom I could have consulted to add some nuance to the character.’”
The Shirleys spoke to Shadow and Act and lodged complaints about the film’s inaccuracies, and said no one in the family was consulted for the film. Maurice Shirley, 82, was said to be furious over the depiction of his brother, and was the one who called the film a “symphony of lies.”
In the film, Ali portrays world-renowned, pianist Don Shirley, who in 1962 hired Italian-American Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (as played by Viggo Mortensen) as a driver and bodyguard for a concert tour of the segregated south.
The family members disputed the film’s depiction of Dr. Shirley as being estranged from his family and the African-American community, and of being embarrassed by his “blackness,” according to Shadow and Act.
“That was very hurtful,” Edwin said. “That’s just 100 percent wrong.”
Dr. Shirley, they say, was active in the civil rights movement and participated in the Selma march. He was also friends with Dr. Martin Luther King and black musicians such as Nina Simone, Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughn.
Maurice Shirley added that his brother was in constant contact with himself and their two other brothers in 1962, the time covered in the movie.
“One of the things Donald used to remind me in his later years was he literally raised me,” said Maurice. Their mother died when Maurice was 2 days old, and Donald 9 years old.
“There wasn’t a month where I didn’t have a phone call conversation with Donald,” Maurice added.
The film was co-written by Vallelonga’s son Nick, but the Shirleys said his depiction of the close friendship between his father and Dr. Shirley were off-base.
“It was an employer-employee relationship,” Patricia Shirley, Maurice’s wife, said.
Added Maurice: “You asked what kind of relationship he had with Tony? He fired Tony! Which is consistent with the many firings he did with all of his chauffeurs over time.”
Dr. Shirley died in 2013 at the age of 86. His relatives said Nick Vallelonga had approached him about making a movie about his life, but he refused the idea.
Considering the inaccuracies they say are in the film, Dr. Shirley’s relatives said they now understand his apprehension.
“God knows, this is the reason that he never wanted to have his life portrayed on screen,” Edwin said. “I now understand why, and I feel terrible that I was actually trying to urge him to do this in the 1980s, because everything that he objected to back then has come true now.”
First: The movie was just superb and the performances from Mortensen and Ali were impeccable.
Second: I don’t think Shirley was ashamed of his blackness … look at his apartment in Carnegie Hall … I think he was proud.
Third: When he made that call to Robert Kennedy … that was a major moment in the film.
Fourth: It’s a movie, based on a true story. Need I add how many inaccuracies were in Bohemian Rhapsody?
Fifth: It’s a great movie!
MARSHALL AN ICON —Bronx-born Penny Marshall was an icon. Did you know that her movie Big with Tom Hanks was the first movie to gross $100 million dollars, directed by a woman? Her A League Of Their Own was simply brilliant; again with Hanks. Laverne and Shirley? Simply the best.
I always loved her direction on Awakenings with Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro … what a fantastic movie. It was nominated for an Oscar, making her one of the first women to have that honor, She opened the door for other female-directors like Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman).
The sense of humor that she shared with her brother Gary, was poof the charts. Everything she touched was imbued with her personalized style of humor and grace. She’ll make heaven a funnier place for sure.
SWIFT SALES — Swift sold 1,268,706 tickets across North America making it the third biggest tour by audience behind Jay-Z/Beyoncé (1,298,038) and Kenny Chesney (1,297,731).
Globally her tour made $345.1m after selling 2,888,892 tickets worldwide.
The most expensive ticket for 2018 was Springsteen on Broadway. Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway only show averaged $508.93 per ticket.
Ed Sheeran was the number one ticket seller in the world for 2018. He sold 4,860,482 tickets.
The top promoter of 2018 was Live Nation selling 49.6 tickets and the top stadium was Foro Sol in Mexico City with 887,802 attendees. Mexico also had the biggest theatre attendance with 1,325,493 concert goers attending Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City during 2018.
The Top 10 tours by US Box Office gross were:
1. Taylor Swift
4. Kenny Chesney
5. Justin Timberlake
6. Ed Sheeran
7. Journey/Def Leppard
9. Springsteen On Broadway
The Top 10 tours by audience globally were:
1. Ed Sheeran
2. Taylor Swift
5. Bruno Mars
7. Justin Timberlake
8. Roger Waters
10. The Rolling Stones
YEA & NAY — Ted Zurkowski, from Honey West, reached out to us and said the band will be back. That’s great news as they were, and are, one of the best things that has happened in music in years … We also wanted to add that Aaron Sorkin’s To Kill A Mockingbird, with the great Jeff Daniels, was also one of the year’s highlights. It’s long, but the re-vision of Harper Lee’s great book by Sorkin is astounding … I forget where I read it, but one pundit noted that the year’s trend of final-tours was also a highlight of the year. I guess in this day and age of middling record sales, a final tour … is a tour. Elton’s is almost three and-a-half years; and, Simon’s was just several months. Again, bittersweet for sure.
This column’s Yea is the Palm Restaurant. A miraculous legacy has perhaps been shuttered as the current owners lost a major lawsuit ($120 million) to the offspring of the original owners who were cut out of a slice of the pie. They were supposed to have been compensated for the newer restaurants, but were not.
Will the chain be sold to a bigger entity? One of the last white-table-cloth restaurants, it has seen its cachet dip substantially in the past several years. The current-man-in-charge Bruce Bozzi, Jr., has tried things like a radio-show from its new Beverly Hills location and a massive direct-mail campaign … but, it hasn’t moved the needle.
Once a must-see-must-stop location, its allure has now been surpassed by other fine-steak restaurants like the opulent Benjamin Prime in NYC. Stay tuned for a resolution.
SHORT TAKES — Donnie Kehr’s Rockin’ Dueling Pianos show at the smackdab new Chelsea Music Hall was terrific. The hall is great, with Michael Ginsberg and Michael Barrett (from the China Club) handling the room. Kehr played a bunch of terrific songs, but the best was The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” (often called “Teenage Wasteland”). What a great track … Check out Jordan Runtaugh’s Micky Dolenz profile in People Magazine. Here’s the link: https://people.com/music/micky-dolenz-monkees-christmas-album-head-50th-anniversary-interview/?fbclid=IwAR3Vze4BqdS-H8sF_7UiunSUpLWyOX40oC9cM2ZkJyknazwuiji0jiKfE7U … Tomorrow night, Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam plays The Loft @ City Winery. They’ll be playing tracks from all their albums, including the soon-to-be released Greetings from Serbia: a live recording of their performance at the Nis Jazz festival. Showtime is 7:30 PM … RIP Hair’s Galt MacDermott. Here’s a great story from Playbill:
In the new Amazon Alexa-commercial, they’re playing Rod Stewart’s 1998 song “Ooh La La” and I love how when they show the vinyl playing, it’s actually the correct record label and logo (Warner Brothers) on this disc. What great track, from Rod’s When We Were The New Boys album … and, tomorrow on NBC, the finale to their great Timeless show … that never should have been cancelled!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Randy Alexander; Alex Pedersen; Fallsview Casino; Gary Marshall; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Scott Shannon; Steve Leeds; Spencer Mindich; Parkview Restaurant; Mark Bego; Tommy Crudup; Victoria Lang; David Salidor; and, CHIP.