Swedish actress and singer Britt Ekland was one of the most photographed celebrities during the 1970’s and 80’s due to her star status and high profile marriage to English actor and comedian Peter Sellers. She featured in numerous films, most notable THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY’S directed by William Friedkin, for which she received critical acclaim playing Rachel Elizabeth Schpitendavel, an innocent Amish girl who arrives in New York intent on becoming a dancer but accidental ‘invents’ striptease. Britt has said it is her favourite film.
Her leading role in the 1971 iconic crime caper GET CARTER, opposite Michael Caine established her as a ‘blonde bombshell’, further enhanced when she was cast three years later as a Bond girl, Mary Goodnight, in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, the ninth film in the famous British spy franchise.
Britt was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 show LOOSE ENDS, which was recorded at it’s London studio last Friday, where she signed my portrait sketch.
The world’s best-selling soprano Sarah Brightman returned to London’s Royal Albert Hall last November, where she last headlined 20 years ago, for one night only as part of her HYMN: SARAH BRIGHTMAN IN CONCERT World Tour. After appearing in a number of productions following her West End musical theatre debut as Jemima in the inaugural London cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS in 1981, she originated the role of Christine Daae in his musical adaptation of Gaston Leroux French Novel THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, the tale of a beautiful songstress who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius (played by Michael Crawford), living in a subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House.
It opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in October 1986, where it is still running, becoming the second longest London musical behind LES MISERABLES, winning the Olivier for Best Musical. Both Sarah and Michael reprised their roles on Broadway, opening in January 1988 at the Majestic Theatre, where it is also still running, becoming the longest running musical on Broadway and winning the Tony Award. After Sarah retired from the stage she has become largely responsible for the popularity of the ‘classical crossover’ genre, selling over 35 million albums and two million DVD’s worldwide, becoming the world’s best-selling soprano. Her fifth album, ‘Timeless/ Time to Say Goodbye’ with the London Symphony Orchestra became her best seller in 1997, going gold, platinum or multi-platinum in 21 countries.
Her duet with Andrea Bocelli performing ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ became one of the highest selling singles of all time. She has won over 200 gold and platinum records in 38 countries.
Sarah kindly signed and returned my drawing, which I left at the Royal Albert Hall prior to her 11 November concert.
BAYWATCH and KNIGHT RIDER alum, David Hasselhoff has returned to London’s West End for a limited run in Dolly Parton’s 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL at the Savoy Theatre, playing the sexist, egomaniac CEO Franklin Hart Jr. over the festive-New Year season. “Get hassled by the Hoff”, announced Dolly when revealing David’s inclusion in the show last November.
Based on the 1980 film of the same name, which Dolly starred in, it centres around three female employees who turn the tables on their vile boss and make the company a nicer place to work. Dolly wrote and recorded the theme tune, which became one of her biggest hits of the decade. She also wrote all the songs for the musical, which debuted on Broadway in April 2009 at the Marquis Theatre, earning 15 Drama Desk Award and four Tony nominations.
David made his Broadway debut in 2000 in the musical JEKYLL & HYDE, before his first British and West End appearance as the amoral lawyer Billy Flynn in CHICAGO at the Adelphi Theatre in July 2004. He returned to the US for his role as the flamboyant director Roger De Bris in the Las Vegas production of Mel Brooks’ THE PRODUCERS. In announcing David’s casting, Mel said he would be perfect for the role with his “incredible comedic timing, terrific musical theatre experience and stage presence … oh and great legs for that dress!” (David opened the show wearing a ball gown).
David returned to the London stage as Captain Hook in the New Wimbledon Theatre’s panto PETER PAN over the 2010/2011 Christmas season, reprising the part as ‘Hoff the Hook’ the following year at the Manchester Opera House.
Last Sunday David was a guest on BBC Radio 2’s Michael Ball show where he stopped to sign autographs for a sizeable crowd, including moi and my Franklin sketch.
I was very happy to catch up with the delightful Alex – short for Alexandrea – Borstein when she popped into London in mid-December last year to do three nights at the Soho Theatre with her musical comedy show ALEX BORSTEIN AND THE AMSTERGANG. Described as a “little music, little comedy and a lot of dirty words” the show included original songs and hilarious versions of some of the classics.
I first encountered Alex with her recurring characters in GILMORE GIRLS, as Doris, harpist Drella and resident stylist and keeper of many a Hollywood secret Miss Celine. She has been the voice of Lois Griffin and many others in the animated comedy FAMILY GUY since 1999, (including writing and producing) winning an Emmy Award from numerous nominations. She also collected a further two Emmys as the irascible and scrappy rookie, ‘one tough cookie’ manager Susie Myerson in THE MARVELOUS MRS MAISEL and Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guid noms, winning the Critics Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy series this month. The ensemble cast has also collected successive Screen Actors Guild awards for the past two years.
Alex signed my sketch when she arrived at the Soho Theatre on Saturday 14 December.
One of Broadway’s most celebrated performers and writers, Harvey Fierstein has won four Tony Awards. In 1982 he wrote TORCH SONG TRILOGY, a collection of three plays rendered in three acts over four hours and played the lead role, New Yorker Arnold Beckoff, a Jewish homosexual, drag queen and torch singer and his quest for true love and a family.
A ‘torch’ song is a sentimental love tune where the singer laments an unrequited or lost love. It opened on Broadway at the Little Theatre on 10 June 1982, winning both the Best Play and Best Actor in a Play Tony Awards for Harvey, who also reprised the role for the 1988 film adaption opposite Matthew Broderick and Anne Bancroft. While the distinctively gravel-voiced actor has appeared in a number of notable films and television shows, he is probably best remembered as Robin Williams’ character makeup artist, Uncle Frank Hillard in MRS DOUBTFIRE.
In 1984 he won the Tony for Best Book of a Musical for LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. Twenty-six years later he replaced Douglas Hodge in the lead role of ageing star Albin who plays drag queen Zaza in the 2010 Broadway revival. Harvey collected his fourth Tony for his performance as the mother Edna Turnblad in the musical HAIRSPRAY in 2004. He has also been nominated on three other occasions, for the NEWSIES (2012) and KINKY BOOTS (2013) books and Best Play for writing CASA VALENTINA (2014).
Harvey kindly signed this ‘Arnold’ sketch for me after I mailed it to his New York agency.
This year’s Academy Award nominations were announced on Monday and while Denzel Washington’s name wasn’t included this time he has had his fair share of Oscar success. His nine nominations include two wins for Best Supporting Actor as Private Silas Trip in the American Civil War drama GLORY (1989) and Best Actor for his role as corrupt detective Alonzo Harris in TRAINING DAY (2001).
In fact he has received a career total of 96 Award nominations, winning 39, which also includes three Golden Globes. His sole Tony success was for his performance as Troy Maxson, a former baseball player working as a waste collector and struggling to support his family in the revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play FENCES, which opened at the Cort Theatre on Broadway in April 2010 for a limited 13 week engagement. It received ten Tony nominations, winning three, including Best Revival. In 2016 he starred, directed and produced the film adaption, which earned him Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor, winning the Screen Actors Guild award.
Seven years ago Denzel attended the premiere of FLIGHT at London’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square in which he played an airline pilot with a drinking problem, and yes, as per usual was Oscar nominated. I managed to get him to sign my FENCES sketch as he walked the red carpet, not an easy feat given his popularity.
American actress and director Kristen Stewart was in London last October, attending the 63rd BFI London Film Festival, where her film, SEBERG, which was released last Friday in the UK, screened, after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
Directed by Benedict Andrews, the political thriller follows the FBI’s attempts to target and discredit French new-wave star Jean Seberg due to her support for the American Civil Rights movement and her romantic involvement with Black Panther activist Hakim Jamal. In her annual best performance list, TIME magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek placed Kirsten’s performance at number ten.
Kristen gained global recognition for playing Bella Swan in THE TWILIGHT SAGA film series between 2008-2012 and won the BAFTA Rising Star Award. In 2015 she was the first American to win a Caesar Award for Best Supporting Actress – the French ‘Oscar’ – for her portrayal of Valentine, a loyal PA to International star Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) in CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA. It was a role that also saw her collect other accolades, including the National Society of Critics, the New York Critics Circle and the Boston Society of Film Critics awards.
Kristen signed for me at the Corinthia Hotel in London on her way to the SEBERG screening at the BFI.
American singer, songwriter Michael Bolton celebrated 50 years in the entertainment business last year with the release of a Greatest Hits collection and recording a ‘Symphony of Hits’ for BBC Radio 2’s long running series FRIDAY NIGHT IF MUSIC NIGHT with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the London Palladium in March.
After starting out in the heavy metal and hard rock genre with solo work and as frontman for ‘Blackjack’ during the mid 1970s-’80s, Michael changed styles and became known for his pop rock ballads in the late 1980s and through the 1990s, selling over 75 million records, with eight top ten albums and two No.1 singles on the Billboard charts. His hits include ‘Said I Loved You But I Lied’, ‘Time, Love and Tenderness’, ‘How Am I Supposed To Live Without You’ and the cover version of ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’, the last two winning Grammy Awards for Best Male Vocal Performance after four nominations. He has also collected six American Music Awards.
Michael is due to return to London to play the Royal Albert Hall this October. He kindly signed my drawing at the Palladium after the concert.
I was introduced to the Welsh alt-rock trio, The Joy Formidable, a couple of years ago when they were playing an intimate venue in north London, by a friend, who offered me a free ticket and a warning that the ‘formidable’ part referred to their music and magnified sound level. He was right. They formed in 2007, when school-day pals, lead vocalist and guitarist Rhiannon ‘Ritzy’ Bryan and bassist Rhydian Dafydd Davies were joined by drummer Justin Stanley, who was replaced by ‘sticksman supreme’ Matt Thomas two years later. Described as ‘titans’ of the indie, alternative music scene The Joy Formidable have also been labelled ‘shoegazing’ or dream pop, a sub genre, which is a mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and overwhelming volume. They have released four studio albums, with most songs written by Ritzy and Rhydian, starting with ‘The Big Roar’ in 2011 and their latest ‘AAARTH’ in September 2018, before supporting the Foo Fighters on a short tour.
They returned to north London for one night only at the Islington Assembly Hall last November, before crossing the Atlantic to do a few pre-Christmas Stateside gigs. I past by the venue a few hours before liftoff, hoping to catch them in person, but they were in the middle of an intensive sound check, which I heard (and felt) behind the heavily bricked and mortared walls of the refurbished 1930 Art Deco Grade II building. Their sound technician came out to get something from the van, parked at the stage door, and kindly promised to get my drawing signed for me, which he obviously did, because it was returned a few days later.