“American Idol” jumped the shark a good five years ago… no need to belabor what a self-conscious drab show it’s become. Long gone are the days of launching such true talents as Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, Diana Degarmo, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Jordin Sparks, Ace Young, Katharine McPhee and Kellie Pickler.
And then there’s my beloved Kimberley Locke. She posted on Facebook Thursday that it’s been a decade since the release of her Curb Records’ smash hit “8th World Wonder.” I watched the video and 12 hours later, it remains lodged in my little pea brain, with the chorus playing over & again. The good ones stay withcha, right?
That was the first of many No. 1 songs for Kim, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Chart (No. 19 at top 40 & No. 6 at AC), followed by top 10 AC “Change” and three chart-topping Christmas songs: “Up On the Rooftop,” “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
Last year, heavenly dance track “Feel the Love” (with Cahill) reached No. 1 on the U.K. Pop & Dance charts… while Kimberley continues to address groups globally & spread her positive message. I met Kim through dear pal Fred Bronson… and have connected numerous time in NYC and LA since… as well as the pleasure of reviewing her music numerous times as Billboard’s Single Reviews Editor. As you might imagine, Kim is all positive energy, funny (with an infectious laugh) and smart as shit, ever moving forward in her well-entrenched career. Eighth world wonder, indeed. *
Dear friend Fredly Bronson returned to NYC once again as the writer for ABC-TV’s “New Year’s Eve With Ryan Seabreast,” and tonight brought together a fab posse of his pals for dinner at NYC’s iconic Sardi’s… including “American Idol” finalists Diana DeGarmo and her fiance Ace Young, and my beloved Kimberley Locke. Can you imagine a more festive way to usher in 2013? *
Among my first events in Los Angeles was a delectable lunch with pal Fredly at The Daily Grill in Studio City on Ventura. Fred eats out every damn day and there wasn’t a single staffer that didn’t know him by name. Three words: chicken pot pie. Thank you, god (and Fred). *
I had the immense pleasure of working with Dick Clark, who died this morning at age 82, when he agreed to host the Awards Show for the 1998 Billboard Radio Conference in Phoenix. As Radio Editor, I actually wrote a script for Dick… humbling, huh?… and he could not have been kinder, more gracious and, of course, he was a total pro. He even sent a thank you letter after the fact.
My pal Fredly worked with Dick Clark for decades on numerous specials, including scripting the annual New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in Times Square. I can imagine this is a particularly tough day for Fred… He, like everyone else who worked for him, was very fond of Dick. R.I.P., Mr. Clark. *
While I was laid up something wicked on New Year’s Eve with food poisoning, there was at least one bright spot: Lady Gaga’s live Times Square performance on ABC’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seabreast (scripted by my pal Fred Bronson). Our Lady of G turned T.S. into a ticker-taped extravaganza with performances of “Marry the Night” and “Born This Way.”
Despite my stomach dyspepsia, I managed to laugh out loud at one of the funniest combos I have seen in my days: Gaga side by side with NYC Mayor Nanny Bloomberg. That’s an unlikely pairing, for sure.
On the other hand, you’ll note the closet queen is actually smiling in Ga’s presence: the first time I have seen anything other than a grimace on the billionaire’s mug. I have a feeling he’s twirled around Gracie Mansion a time or two singing “Born This Way” with a hairbrush in his hand, yeah? *
Celine Dion turned 43 Wednesday and she’s never looked better! She is scheduled to be a presenter Sunday, April 3, at the 46th Academy of Country Music Awards on CBS TV, live from Las Vegas!
My pal Fred Bronson is the writer of the show; I’m certain he’ll have Celine say “Hi, Chuck” on the broadcast…
>Joshua Winslow “Josh” Groban has seen a mountain of success, all before the age of 30. All five of his studio releases have reached the top 10 and sold at least platinum, including No. 1’s “Closer” in 2003 and “Noel” in 2007; along with five No. 1 hits on the U.S. AC chart. Worldwide, he has sold 24 million albums.
Today, on his 29th birthday, I’m sure he remains mighty appreciative of the lucky break that launched his career, with thanks to producer David Foster and Celine Dion. The former had heard a demo of Groban singing “All I Ask of You” from “Phantom of the Opera” and invited him to stand in for an ailing Andrea Bocelli to rehearse “The Prayer” with Celine Dion at the 1998 Grammy Awards.
Despite his terror, the teen-ager delivered, and was soon asked to appear on “Ally McBeal” singing “You’re Still You.” That led to a record contract, and the rest is glorious history.
Celine also invited a now-famous Josh to appear on her 2008 TV special, “That’s Just the Woman In Me,” where they at last sang “The Prayer” for the masses, which was released as a “live” single.I reviewed numerous Groban singles for Billboard, and had the opportunity to meet and greet several times in New York and Las Vegas. What a nice guy—and humble as shit.
Above left: with Fred Bronson; right, Ayhan Sahin; below left, almighty publicist Liz Rosenberg.
I wrote a page 1 story for Billboard in 2003 with the release of his 5x-platinum No. 1 album “Closer” and a lead Music story in 2006 about his double-platinum album “Awake.”
>You didn’t really think Ryan Seabreast does all that talking without every word being scripted, right? Whether “American Idol,” “E!” or, in this case, “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” on ABC-TV, he is the ultimate talking head: Feed words, add impish toothy grin and boom, star status. Boy, the U.S. is dumb, huh?
Obviously, somebody is charged with writing all those sentences for the boy wonder, and in the case of New Year’s, for many years, even while Dick Clark was still the pro at the mic, that’s been my multi-talented scribe pal Fredly.
He returned to New York last week—arriving on Christmas Day, just before the 20.2-inch blizzard struck—to do his duty for the world at large… and for lil’ Ryan, scripting the annual New Year’s Eve show. On Saturday, Jan. 1, Ayhan, Fredly and meese dined, joined by our mutual pal Nick Michell, a la “Idol’s” Norman Gentle.
>Happy 33rd birthday to Kimberley Locke, second runner-up in 2003 for season two of “American Idol.” I met Kim soon after her finalist victory on the show, while hosting the Billboard Radio Countdown, written by Fred Bronson, who had an “in” with “Idol” practically from its launch; and have had the pleasure of numerous meets since. Absolutely adore her.
Kimberley has scored 10 top 20 AC hits, including Christmas No. 1s for three consecutive years, in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Her “8th World Wonder” also reached the top 20 at pop radio in 2004. 2004…New York, 2009…L.A., 2009, with Fredly.
>I met Patrick in 2000 when Billboard was first exploring the digital space, and decided to launch a web-based countdown. Longtime BB writer and Chart Beat columnist Fred Bronson was hired to write the script, I was brought in as host and Patrick Eves was delegated from the corporate eMedia department to engineer and produce. Over time, our countdown developed a potent, consistent persona, with guest stars constantly stopping by our phone booth-size recording booth… from Jessica Simpson and Clay Aiken to Neil Sedaka (pictured here) and Kimberley Locke. For a decade, we counted down the hits—at our peak fostering 485,000 hits a week.
I made lifetime friends of Fredly and Patty… The latter, with his girlfriend Tina, became godparents to little Kirby, the rescue Maltese that Ayhan and I had for six years. Because Kirby was so fragile, we preferred to have her stay home when we traveled, and P&T regularly came down from the Bronx to bunk at “their country home” here in Brooklyn Heights. They too fell in love with Kirbisha.
That’s the basis of our bond with Patty & Tina… who were married today here at our home. The ceremony was performed—with me officiating—on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade at 12:45 p.m., amid a glorious, clear, brisk autumn day, with the Manhattan skyline as our backdrop. Patty’s parents attended as did Tina’s mother, and 30 members of their extended family.
After the ceremony, we came back to the apartment, celebrated, ate, toasted the occasion, went up to our rooftop and spent the day feeling the love of so many good friends and allies.
The official photos are coming soon, but here’s a first glance with some pics snapped during the day, which was just brimming with love and good will. Life. It’s good.