By Eileen Murphy
We were all set to tell you about Sinead O’Connor’s plans to take part in the "Wotapalava Tour," a gay-themed music fest that will begin touring the U.S. later this month. But just this morning, we heard that Sinead has dropped out of the show, citing "unforeseeable family commitments."
This move leaves fellow headliners The Pet Shop Boys, Rufus Wainwright and Soft Cell (whose immortality is assured by their one hit, "Tainted Love") to carry on without her. Though he’s admittedly a bit "disappointed," Pet Shopper Neil Tennant says that they’ll "probably have a very good replacement" for the absent Irish singer. Yes, but where will they find a singer who can also give the odd absolution or blessing or whatever it is that priests do?
And, just in case you’re wondering, "Wotapalava" is an English slang term that translates roughly to "what a fuss about nothing." You know, as in "Wotapalava about Sinead and that picture of the pope."
Give ‘Ireland’ back — to the fans
The influence of Paul McCartney — or the cute Beatle, as he will probably always be known — can be felt everywhere these days.
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Just try opening the pages of a fashion magazine and not seeing some trendy celebutant sporting a dress designed by McCartney’s daughter Stella, Gucci’s newest fashion director. Or check out the Billboard music charts, where the Fab Four’s aptly named "Number 1" album sat for weeks like the proverbial 500-pound gorilla.
Now, Paul’s post-Beatle band, Wings, is on the charts again, too, with a greatest hits album called "Wingspan: Hits and History." The 41 tracks, spread over two CDs, include interesting B-sides and almost every imaginable song written and recorded by the band: "Band on the Run," "Live and Let Die," "Silly Love Songs," "My Love," and, well, you get the idea. But conspicuous by its absence is the band’s controversial 1972’s hit, "Give Ireland Back to the Irish."
A track listing, dated, coincidentally, March 17, 2001 on the McCartney-themed website, www.quipo.it/mccartney/newsen.htm, contains what was probably the original song order, with "Ireland" at No. 13 on the 19-cut "Hits" CD. But by the time the album hit the stores, the track had been omitted from the list. The website’s track list is identical to the list on the finished album — down to song order and versions (live, studio, etc.).
While not a huge hit in America, "Give Ireland back to the Irish" is, at the very least, better known than "Helen Wheels" and "C Moon," two other songs that made the cut.
"[It’s] physically just [down to] time limitations," McCartney recently told Billboard Magazine, without referring to deletion of "Ireland."
"But then they should buy the box set — that’ll have more, is basically the idea. But I think there’s a lot of good stuff here, a pretty good selection."
Call us cynical, but we can’t help wondering if the song has become a bit of an embarrassment to McCartney, now that he’s been knighted by the queen. Somehow, we don’t think ‘Er Majesty would be too thrilled by lyrics like "Give Ireland back to the Irish/Don’t make them have to take it away./Give Ireland back to the Irish/Make Ireland Irish today."
We’ve heard a rumor — unconfirmed — that McCartney’s label, Capitol/EMI Records, insisted that the song be deleted because it would hurt UK sales in these politically sensitive times. Maybe Macca (which is what they call Sir Paul in England when they’re not calling him "Sir Paul") should remind them that the single was a huge chart success back in its heyday. (And, hey — how many records could Ian Paisley possibly buy, anyway?)
In fact, McCartney has said that back when Wings was just — pardon the pun — finding its feet, "Ireland" was one of only 11 songs in the whole repertoire. Which meant that they’d play it twice during every concert.
"We’d say, ‘We’ve had a request’ " — and we’d just find somebody’s name — from somebody in the physics department to do ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ again, because it’s such a controversial song," he recalled.
"We’d always do that twice, and [Little Richard’s 1957 hit] "Lucille" twice, because we were pretty good at "Lucille"; it was a stormer, so we’d open with that and close with it," he told Billboard.
"It was like a remix; you got the song twice in a slightly different version."
Calls to McCartney’s record company, Capitol/EMI Records, had not been returned by press time.
Gately gets shown the Poly-door
Well, now we know — there is life after Boyzone. But, as a wise man* once observed, it’s a rollercoaster, baby.
No one knows this better than ex-Zoner Stephen Gately, best known for being the gay member of the bubblegum group. It was announced on Monday that Gately’s label, Polydor, had dropped him from their stable of artists.
When the Boyz went their separate ways a couple of years ago, it seemed that Stephen would be the breakout star. He was the one with a major record deal and two top 10 solo hits, "Stay" and "New Beginning," and he had even worked with musical theater legend Andrew Lloyd Webber. All indications were that he’s be rubbing shoulders with Madonna and Mariah while the other guys were singing for their suppers in theme park amphitheaters.
Well, what a difference two years can make. Boyzone frontman Ronan Keating got his teeth capped and a song on the soundtrack to "Notting Hill," and Keith Duffy is a television presenter in the UK. The other two Boys, Mikey Graham and Shane Lynch, are no doubt sitting at home and saying novenas that Ronan will give the green light for a reunion tour. (Don’t hold your breath, kids.)
Polydor says that Gately will take this opportunity to do some TV work and perhaps a West End musical. What Gately thinks about Polydor is probably not printable, although reports insist that the split was amicable, in a "Here’s you hat; what’s your hurry?" kind of way.
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like . . .
When we heard that the Irish Tourist Board had raised money to re-create the Limerick City hovel so famously described in Frank McCourt’s "Angela’s Ashes," we couldn’t wait to ask the man himself for a comment.
As luck would have it, we ran into both Frank and his brother Malachy at the Irish Rep’s "Circasia" gala party in Sardi’s on Monday night. So we asked both brothers for a reaction.
"I heard that they spent £100,000 to re-create the house and the privy outside it," said Malachy, shaking his head.
"Just to put that in perspective, that would have paid our rent for 100,000 weeks, because we paid a pound a week. And we were actually evicted from that house — just thrown out on the street — when we didn’t have it."
Frank visited the memorial recently.
"It’s not actually the house we grew up in," he said. "That — and the lane we lived in — is long gone."
The McCourt house exhibit is behind a beautiful Georgian mansion, which has also been fully restored.
"You walk through this beautiful house out to the back, where there’s a wretched hovel and a privy beyond it," he explained.
"It’s very accurate, down to the puddle on the ground floor of the hovel," he said. "Though it’s not really a puddle — it’s made of some sort of plastic. But it looks real."
So, we asked, is it ironic to find his family’s home immortalized as a tourist attraction in a city that, many residents claim, was never as bad as he described it?
"People are up in arms about it," Frank sighed. "They say that no one — including us — lived like I said we did.
"But not only was it real — I actually pulled back when I was describing the conditions in the lane. I knew no one would believe how horrific the conditions actually were — the poverty, the misery. And, as it happened, I was right. There are still people who refuse to believe it."
Geldof opens up about Paula
He’s got a reputation for being notoriously — and some might say, aggressively — private, so it comes as a bit of a surprise to hear that Bob Geldof plans to comment on the suicide deaths of his ex-wife Paula Yates and her boyfriend, INXS singer Michael Hutchence. Sir Bob will tackle the touchy subject on his forthcoming album, "Sex, Age and Death," which is due to hit record stores in September.
Geldof, who has not released an album since the early ’90s’ ironically-named flop "The Happy Club," addresses Yates and Hutchence directly in the lyrics.
Music Week magazine reports that "Inside Your Head" demands of Hutchence: "Why put a noose around your neck?/What the f*ck’s going on inside your head?" and goes on to accuse Yates: "You got the palace, I go the shed/You got a life, you left me for dead."
Geldof told the magazine, "Some things are unsayable. Maybe I can articulate them in music."
Dunphy: The strongest link?
He’s a former footballer known for his famously curmudgeonly demeanor on radio, TV and in print, but does Eamon Dunphy have the "Weakest Link" vixen Anne Robinson’s cajones?
Dunphy has been tapped to host the Irish version of the popular blood sport, in which cowering contestants cringe as they are lambasted for such sins as missing question (bad), not answering fast enough (very bad) or not banking money (very, very bad).
Dunphy, whose humor runs to subtle putdowns and dry wit, will have to spend the next few weeks boning up on such zingers as, "Is there a village that’s missing its idiot?" while trying not to giggle.
TV3, Ireland’s hip new TV station, will produce the show. Dunphy, said to be a huge "Weakest Link" fan, says he looks forward to taking on the Irish "experts." Of course, the important question, for us, is, will he mess with tradition? Will he say, "You ARE the weakest link. Goodbye!"? or "YOU are the WEAKEST link. Goodbye!"? Could tip the whole balance of the show.
We were disappointed, but not surprised, that neither Sean Campion nor Conleth Hill walked away with the Tony Award for Best Actor in Play Sunday night. We certainly couldn’t choose between the two brilliant actors, who star in Marie Jones’s "Stones in His Pockets," and we’re sure the Tony voters couldn’t, either.
When the nominations were being read during the show, the camera focused on the two actors, who sat next to one another. When the announcer read Campion’s name, Hill pointed to his colleague, and when Hill’s name was read, Campion returned the gesture.
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As "The Producers" juggernaut rolled on, flattening everything in its path to scoop a record 12 Tonys, we remembered that both Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane are Iirish American. So we were rooting for both of them when the nominations for Best Actor in a Musical were read.
When Lane won, he insisted on dragging Broderick out on stage during his acceptance speech. We had to laugh, because when presenter Dame Edna handed him the award, he (Dame Edne) planted a big smooch on Lane’s forehead. This reminded us of Irish designer Daryl K, who accepted an important fashion award a few years ago with a big red lipstick print on the tip of her nose, to the amusement of everyone in the audience.
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It’s appropriate in a year when "42nd Street" is the big revival, to see someone step in for an ailing – or, at least, unavailable — star.
Tony-winner Natasha Richardson stepped in at the last minute when Sigorney Weaver was unable to be there due to "family problems." Backstage, Richardson scotched rumors that she will costar with hubby Liam Neeson in a revival of Arthur Miller’s "The Crucible," but did hint that she might return to "Cabaret."
Cirque du Irlandais
The Irish Repertory Theater’s annual benefit show, which was held Monday night at Broadway’s Golden Theater, was as much fun as ever. Guests, including Milo O’Shea, Celeste Holm, Tommy Makem, Conleth Hill and Sean Campion, did their party pieces, and Malachy McCourt allowed a lady with a bullwhip to snap roses out of his teeth and other sensitive areas (you had to be there).
Since Rep founders Charlote Moore and Ciaran O’Reilly seem to know every theater legend who ever wore greasepaint, the evening always features a few surprise guests. This year, Henry "The Fonz" Winkler was on hand to introduce the evening’s host, Oscar-winning actress Shirley Jones.
The star of such screen musicals as "Oklahoma!" and "Carousel" looked glamorous in a chick black suit, her long skirt slit to a ladylike mid-thigh and showing off the legs that would do a 20-year-old proud. She kept things moving at a lively clip, and had a keen sense of humor. After tenor Ciaran Sheehan sang the beautiful "Red Roses for Me," Jones quipped, "Is he taken?" (Unfortunately for all of us, yes, he is.) Later, when the really good-looking contortionist finished his act — he literally bent over backward to please the crowd — Jones giggled, "Is HE taken?"
At the Sardi’s party after the show, we screwed up enough courage to say hello to Jones.
"Miss Jones," we ventured. (Yeah, like we were really going to call her Shirley.)
She turned around to face us. "Yes," she said pleasantly, a smile on her lovely face.
Omigod. It was Laurie from "Oklahoma!" It was Julie from "Carousel."
Good Lord — it was Danny Partidge’s MOM.
Think fast, we chastised ourself silently. Don’t gush. Don’t stutter. Don’t say anything stupid.
"I just wanted to say I’m a huge fan of yours," we gushed.
"Why, how nice of you to say," she replied graciously.
"You were, ahm, wonderful in the, ah, show," we stuttered. "I was, uhm, so glad that you, er, sang at the end."
"Oh, thanks," she said. "I didn’t expect to, since I have a bad cold."
"Well, Shirley Jones with a cold is better than anyone else with a . . ."What? What? WHAT? We wondered desperately.
Finally, after a few frantic seconds in which the legendary actress smiled patiently at us, we let the sentence trail off. We couldn’t think of a what that could possibly be better than Shirley Jones with a cold that wouldn’t sound really weird. We smiled at her and moved off, knowing we were three-for-three.