QUEEN MOVIE —It seems that all the pieces are being put back together on the movie about the legendary British rock band Queen with a tight focus on the tumultuous life of the band’s iconic lead singer—Freddie Mercury. The project has been left adrift ever since 2013, when Sacha Baron Cohen pulled out over creative differences with the surviving members of the band. Rumors continue to abound that the remaining band members wanted a very watered-down version of Mercury’s life, with next to nothing included about his battle with AIDS.
There is now a new writer attached to the project—Anthony McCarten, who wrote the terrific script for The Theory of Everything and nabbed an Oscar nomination for his work. It’s also reported that they are toying with Bohemian Rhapsodyas the film’s title—after all, that song remains one of Queen’s biggest hits, and is perhaps the track that demonstrates best the range of Mercury’s amazing vocal prowess.
The actor they are all still sweet on is Ben Whishaw, who is tearing it up left and right on the silver screen this fall. He’s a co-star in the current 007 film Spectre, and also appears in Suffragette, The Lobster, The Danish Girl, and In the Heart of the Sea.
Needless to say, the ‘rock ‘n roll movie” formula has brought forth both big hits (the 2005 biopic about the late great Johnny Cash,Walk the Line, and the story of the equally late great Ray Charles in 2004’s smash hit, Ray) and big bombs (such as the 1978 TV-movie dud Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park—which remains so bad that some KISS fans actually celebrate it because it’s so bad—and the Bee Gees feature- film homage to The Beatles—also released in ’78—Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band ). If you’re a true fan of the group and especially Mercury, though, you know already that there was quite a story behind everything—from the start of Mercury’s life until his tragic end at age 45. Done right, this could be a huge and commercially viable project. I’m in.
MORE HART — 7A Records, the Brit team behind the recent release of the successful Micky Dolenz retro album MGM Singles Collection, are proud to present the first-ever reissue of Bobby Hart’s solo album (called, coyly, The First Bobby Hart Solo Album). Originally released back in 1980 to only a handful of countries, this great long-lost gem has been digitally re-mastered from the original master tapes and includes three previously unissued bonus tracks. The beautifully-packaged CD includes a 24-page booklet with informative liner notes, an exclusive in-depth interview with Bobby Hart, as well as the song lyrics and plenty of rare and exclusive pictures. If you haven’t yet read Hart’s recent book—Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem into Miracles (SelectBooks)—then do so ASAP. It remains arguably one of the best rock bios in recent memory.
For more information, feel free to visit www.7arecords.com.
E CANS THE SOUP —The Soup is nearing its end. E! announced earlier this week that the show—a pioneer in contemporary pop-culture snark—will bow out on December 18, ending the franchise’s 22-year run.
The show premiered in 1991 under the name of Talk Soup, and famously launched the career of original host Greg Kinnear (who hosted until 1995). He was followed in the host slot by John Henson (1995-99), Hal Sparks (1999-2000), and Aisha Tyler (2001-2002). It was then re-launched as The Soup in 2004, with current host Joel McHale. The series earned an Emmy nomination in 2014 for Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program.
The E! network said that the show would continue with original episodes until its December 18 finale, while noting that—over its 22-year history (I can’t believe it’s been on that long!)—Talk Soup and The Soup have welcomed and celebrated many top-tier actors and singers, along with some of the incredibly desperate X-listers:
Stars and “stars” that have stopped by include (get ready, breathe in): Norman Reedus; Yvette Nicole Brown; Patrick Warburton; Alison Brie; Seth Green; Lucy Lawless; Chris Hardwick; Wendi McLendon-Covey; Ken Jeong; RuPaul; Steven Yeun; Joe Manganiello; Wendy Williams; Simon Pegg; Jon Cryer; Joe Jonas; Kal Penn; Mary Lynn Rajskub; Adam Scott; Aaron Paul; Gabourey Sidibe; Larry King; Kelly Ripa; Allison Janney; Adam DeVine; Johnny Weir; Danny Trejo; Jeff Probst; James Corden; Adam Pally; Jane Lynch; Marilyn Manson; Jon Heder; Tyra Banks; Martha Stewart; Nene Leaks; Nancy Grace; Zachary Quinto; George Takei; Chevy Chase; Sean Combs; Evan Rachel Wood; Eminem; Demi Lovato; Sarah Hyland; Jake Pavelka; Katey Sagal; Mayim Bialik; Kathie Lee Gifford; Ana Gasteyer; Tyrese Gibson; Anderson Cooper; Andy Cohen; Kylie Minogue; Kristin Davis; Shaquille O’Neal; Joan Rivers; Jack Black; Eli Roth; Busy Philipps; Jaime Pressly; Lea DeLaria; WWE superstar The Miz . . . and Carrot Top.
Sad to see it go—The Soup was good tube.
THE (LENNY) BRUCE IS LOOSE . . . AGAIN
With all the news about the Richard Pryor biopic now being made and intended for a 2016 release, one is reminded that next year the brilliant and trailblazing comedian Lenny Bruce will have been gone from us for fifty years.
But maybe he’s not gone, after all. We received word that an actor and magician named Steve Cuiffo just opened a performance last night in San Francisco of his show called “Steve Cuiffo Is Lenny Bruce” (which is running until Saturday night at the Curran Theatre, where the late Bruce gave one of his greatest shows back in 1961).
The hour-long performance by Cuiffo is, according to The New York Post, “a revelation. It’s as close as you can come to seeing the real thing.” Our friend and colleague, Anthony Pomes (who has himself performed some of Bruce’s routines on stage and radio from time to time), has seen some YouTube clips of Mr. Cuiffo’s recreation of Lenny’s routines and is amazed by the performance. “It’s absolutely uncanny,” Pomes notes, “Cuiffo is so locked into Bruce’s performances that’s it’s as much an act of resurrection as it is performance art. I’ve listened over the years repeatedly to Shout Records’ Lenny Bruce boxed-set Let the Buyer Beware, and Cuiffo must have been listening to it as well because he even takes audible breaths in the same spots of the routine where Lenny did. Steve Cuiffo does a remarkable job bringing Lenny back to life.”
Of course, the life of Bruce was beset by drug problems, divorce, and the ever-growing avalanche of obscenity busts foisted upon him by the police departments throughout the U.S. He was even refused entry to the U.K. to perform in April 1963, because he was considered too much of a powder-keg performer. Maybe that’s why The Beatles added Lenny to the sea of faces posed behind the band on the famous Sgt. Pepper’s album cover in 1967. Thankfully, Bruce’s legacy was granted some well-earned justice in 2003 when New York Governor Pataki formally pardoned Bruce—it took thirty-seven years, but the New York charge of obscenity against Lenny was finally dropped. Having found his voice again through the vessel of Cuiffo’s amazing live performances means that Lenny is again in the spotlight and remains a vital and incisive satirist of life in this country of ours.
To give you a sample of Cuiffo’s near-reincarnation of Lenny Bruce, check out the YouTube link below in which Cuiffo/Lenny talks about the subject of marijuana (listen to what’s being said here all these years later, with Colorado already on the books as a state that has legalized pot and others waiting in the wings, and you’ll have to admit that Lenny wasn’t just funny—he was also a prophet) . . .
SHORT TAKES — Speaking of new rock memoirs earlier, Carly Simon’s Boys in the Trees: A Memoir (Flatiron Books) sounds most interesting. Offering forth revealing stories that involve her with the likes of Jack Nicholson, Mick Jagger, Cat Stevens, Sean Connery (!!!), Ms. Simon also finally reveals the second verse of her 1972 smash hit single “You’re So Vain” is about Warren Beatty. (No big revelation there, actually, as it’s been rumored for years). My favorites from Carly Simon’sdiscography were done with producer Richard Perry (who has his own memoir coming soon!) It seems the girl got around, but let’s not forget that she gave us some of the catchiest and most contemplative songs recorded and released in the ‘70s. (If you’re sitting somewhere reading this and want to know what Carly Simon is really all about, click on the YouTube link below for her song “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” from her debut album in 1971—the song will give you chills).
From the male side of rock bios, I expected a lot more ink on the recently-released book by John Fogarty called Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music (Little, Brown and Company). I saw a few fairly decent reviews . . . and then the book’s buzz virtually disappeared. There must be some story as to why . . . In the last two weeks, I’ve read three reviews of the forthcoming movie Creed, and was delighted to read that Rocky icon and creator Sylvester Stallone is being considered for an Oscar nod based on what would appear to be a startling performance in this film about the son of Rocky’s one-time rival and long-time friend Apollo Creed (played to perfection in the first four Rocky films by Carl Weathers). The groundswell around Stallone’s performance this time around is similar to the great press he received in the 1997 film Cop Land, where his role as a well-meaning police sheriff in a small but corrupted New Jersey town drew lots of critical praise for Sly. Can his performance in Creed really be Oscar-worthy? Will the movie go the distance as we head into holiday season? I’m trying to see it before it opens in theaters next week. More to come . . . Acclaimed writer Peter Guralnick presents a fabulous new take on the man who discovered Elvis Presley, and whose Sun Records label was central to rock’s inception, in the new book Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n Roll . Read more here: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/meet-man-who-discovered-elvis-in-essential-new-sam-phillips-book-20151116#ixzz3s25xkxr9 . . . And mixed in with all the news on Debbie Gibson last week following the “Rockers on Broadway” show, we received this photo from her PR person back in the day, David Salidor . . . here in the photo we see Salidor with Gibson, Bernie Taupin, and Sir Elton John from a 1989 concert in Cincinnati. Talk about your classic shot!