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"Just The Way He Is?"
What's The Matter With Billy Joel?
By: David Katz
Billy Joel recently checked himself in for a 10-day stint at Silver Hill Hospital, a substance-abuse and psychiatric treatment center in New Canaan, Connecticut.
The singer cited "a specific and personal problem that recently developed" and "a prolonged period of overindulgence" as his reasons for seeking treatment.
However, Joel's life has been troubled for some time prior to his decision to seek help:
1998: Joel cancels the first of many shows with Elton John due to "asthma," saying he may never tour again. John describes Joel as being "in a really bad way."
2000: In January, he breaks up with his girlfriend of five years, artist Carolyn Beegan; in August, Long Island, New York, news anchor Trish Bergin leaves Joel after turning down his marriage proposal.
2002: In February, citing illness, Joel cancels a Boston concert with John. During a March show at New York's Madison Square Garden, Joel, slurring his words, rambles about the US military and belittles the venue for its high ticket prices. John is seen mouthing "thank God" at the end of a song. Soon after, Joel's doctor orders him to cancel his shows for April and May.
In June, Joel pulls out of the Songwriters Hall of Fame dinner after crashing his Mercedes into a pole. He also puts his multi-million-dollar North Haven, New York, beach house on the market, owning it for only 5 months.
"Billy Joel Recalls Post-Telethon Trip To Ground Zero"
By: Gary Graff
(September 11th, 2002)
Billy Joel was among the first musicians to lend his talents to the September 11th, 2001 recovery effort, performing "New York State of Mind" on the "America: A Tribute To Heroes" telethon last September 21st, 2001.
But Joel - who had the helmet of a slain New York City firefighter on his piano for the TV performance - told Launch a more meaningful experience was his visit to the site of the former World Trade Center shortly after he played. "I stayed there for about four hours, just talking to cops and firemen. That was absolutely mind-boggling. I felt like I was at least in contact with the people who were right there. It felt bizarre. And, as horrendous as the carnage was, I felt like I was having more firsthand contact with those people than going on television," he said.
Joel subsequently performed on his own and with Elton John at the Paul McCartney-led "The Concert For New York City" the following month.
"Billy Joel Highlights Central Park 9/11 Gathering"
"New York State of Mind" Given Memorable Performance With Wynton Marsalis
(September 14th, 2002)
On a day of solemn remembrances, hometown pianist and singer Billy Joel offered a hopeful note to Central Park audiences on September 11th, 2002, with an unforgettable performance of his signature tune, "New York State of Mind." Joel was joined by legendary jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and members of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
Marsalis and the "Piano Man" reportedly crafted the new piano-and-trumpet arrangement the very afternoon of the event, and it is has a sense of immediacy rarely found in studio recordings. The concert, which was broadcast on WNYC, also featured the Orchestra of St. Luke's, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and several guest soloists including actress Meryl Street and tenor Kurt Ollman.
"Back With A Vengeance"
By: Gina Vivinetto
(September 14th, 2002)
Pop superstars Elton John and Billy Joel on Friday made good on the promise from March to return to the St. Pete Times Forum, much to the delight of a sellout crowd of 20,898. The duo had postponed the second of two scheduled shows on their "Face 2 Face" Tour. (Joel later took time off for a stint in rehab for substance abuse.)
Friday's performance mostly mimicked the duo's last and was as wonderful. Both stars, dressed in dapper black suits, emerged together, hamming it up and sharing lead vocal turns on hits by both ("Your Song," "Just The Way You Are" and "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me") while sitting at grand pianos.
Joel then left the stage to Sir Elton, who plucked from his three-decade catalog of hits. The early tunes sounded fresh, even the sizzling "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" gussied up by Davey Johnstone's oh-so-1970s acidy guitar. (Johnstone's Honky Chateau-era hairdo also helped set the mood.) John's sweeping piano and gritty, heartfelt vocal on "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" gave the song even more oomph than what we hear on the radio.
John's material from last year's superb "Songs From the West Coast" is just as strong. The powerful "I Want Love" was a plea for folks of different sexual orientations to accept each other. For anyone unsure, John is a gay man. Though that narrator yearning for his wife in "Rocket Man," the next tune, could confuse you. (Of course, John's not an astronaut either.) You believe his stories anyway. With lyrics by his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, John's tunes feature characters we know like we know our friends: ol' skirt-chasing Benny, the messianic Levon, and the gleefully nostalgic man of "Crocodile Rock," recalling all the fun with Suzy. That song had fans dancing in the aisles.
The folks in Joel's songs are a bit angrier and their stories filled with disillusion. Indeed, Joel sings through gritted teeth. Without so much as a missed beat, John's piano was whisked away and Joel was onstage.
Joel was a powerhouse, pummeling through "Prelude/Angry Young Man," "Allentown" and, after apologizing for the postponement, "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)", his famous song about Anthony itching to get out of Mama's house. Joel's stage patter is rife with self-deprecation; he introduced one sad song as an "ode to manic depression," and soon after performed the buoyant, calypso-tinged "The River of Dreams" - wryly demonstrating his own moodswings, made famous on "I Go To Extremes." Fans cheered the sublime "New York State of Mind," so resonant post-September 11th, 2001. Joel's saxophonist sported an NYPD cap, teasing fans with the opening strains of "New York, New York."
The duo joined again - with John now in a bright red suit and Joel relaxed in shirtsleeves - for a hit-filled encore featuring "My Life," "You May Be Right," "Bennie and The Jets," "Piano Man" and "Candle In The Wind" - yes, they played it this time. Fans also got electrifying romps through the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night," and one of rock and roll's earliest hits, Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire."
By: Chuck Klosterman
(September 15th, 2002)
Billy Joel has
led the kind of life only a fool would hope for. No realist would ever
dream of attaining the level of success he has achieved. He has sold
more than 100 million records, which is more than any solo artist except
Garth Brooks and Elvis Presley. He has dated supermodels, and he married
one of them. Drunk people will sing "Piano Man" for as long
as there are karaoke bars, so he shall live forever. This fall he will
embark on a stadium tour with Elton John, and they will sell out Madison
Square Garden on the strength of songs that are two decades old; next
month, Twyla Tharp will take a play to Broadway titled "Movin'
Out," which will wordlessly interpret 24 of Joel's songs through
the idiom of modern dance.
Since he sold his East Hampton mansion to Jerry Seinfeld, Joel has been living in a modest rented house nearby. But he tells me that he is trying to rent an apartment in Manhattan for the sole purpose of meeting women. "I'm not going to meet anyone out here," he says. "The happiest times in my life were when my relationships were going well - when I was in love with someone, and someone was loving me. But in my whole life, I haven't met the person I can sustain a relationship with yet. So I'm discontented about that. I'm angry with myself. I have regrets."
Our conversation continues in this vein for most of the afternoon, and after a while I find myself in the peculiar position of trying to make Billy Joel feel better. I point out that many things in his life have gone amazingly well; I remind him that he's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "That's a cold comfort at the end of the day," he tells me. "You can't go home with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You don't sleep with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You don't get hugged by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and you don't have children with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I want what everybody else wants: to love and to be loved, and to have a family. Being in love has always been the most important thing in my life."
This sentiment is so universal that it's a cliche. But that's not a criticism. In fact, it's probably why Joel is able to connect with people in a way that even he doesn't completely realize: he musically amplifies mainstream depression. He never tried to invent a new way to be sad.
Joel's sardonic gloom has been at the vortex of almost all his most visceral work. "Honesty" (on "52nd Street") implies that the only way you can tell that someone really cares about you is if they tell you you're bad. "All For Leyna" (on "Glass Houses") is about an emotionally capricious lover who leaves the song's protagonist shattered and alone. "And So It Goes" (a ballad released in 1989) has Joel insisting that every woman he loves will eventually abandon him. Even "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" (on "The Stranger") is about how relationships that seem perfect are always doomed.
"Billy does take things harder than most people," says Jon Small, a Long Islander who met Joel in 1965, played drums in Joel's first two bands and was briefly married to the woman who would become Joel's first wife. "Emotionally, he takes things harder than I ever did. But all us guys in his inner circle always knew that Billy writes his best when he's having problems. He works best in drastic situations, and those are always due to his relationships."
That, of course, is the paradox: Joel's art is defined by his life, and his best work is his most morose. Thus he can achieve greatness only through despair. But for Joel, at 53, that artistic transference seems to be failing. There was a time when sadness spawned genius; now it just reminds him that he's alone. "I'm kind of in a dark place," Joel says. "And I know some people are actually excited about that, because they think I'll write an album about being sad. But that's not what my music is about. There have been times when I've done that, but I'm not going to do it again."
Joel hasn't made a pop album in almost 10 years, even though his last one ("River of Dreams" in 1993) moved five million units. There's always a chance he might someday decide to make another, he says, but he currently has no plans to try; he describes himself as unmotivated, uninspired, alienated from the concept of commercial songwriting and uninterested in composing lyrics. He still plays around with what he calls "thematic fragments" of instrumental music, but he has no concrete aspirations for any of it.
"I don't have a new project," he says. "I'm not doing anything but personal life stuff." He talks like a guy who has conquered every goal he dreamed about as a teenager, only to discover that those victories have absolutely nothing to do with satisfaction.
"Cold Spring Harbor," his first album, came out in 1972. Joel hated it; a mistake during the production sped up the album's master tape, making his vocals sounds shrill and chipmunkesque. (He recalls smashing the LP against a wall the first time he played it for friends.) His second solo release, "Piano Man," in 1973, was an artistic advancement and his first defining moment as a musician - and probably the moment that marginalized him forever.
"In the big picture of pop music, I don't know if what I've created is seen as being that important or that necessary, at least not if you ask the experts," he says. "I was tagged right after 'Piano Man': I was a balladeer, I didn't write substantive music, my records were overproduced, I played too many ballads. Oh, and of course my favorite: 'He studied piano.' I had never realized that one of the prerequisites for being critically acclaimed was not knowing how to play your instrument. That stuff bothered me for a long time."
Joel's musical output from 1976 to 1982 ("Turnstiles" through "The Nylon Curtain") was one of the most successful runs in rock history. But the records he made during that period are consistently maligned by virtually every school of rock scholarship. "Rolling Stone magazine would not say anything positive about me, and they were the tastemakers at the time," Joel explains. "There were people from the old guard who insisted I wasn't a real rock and roller. Well, OK, fine - I'm not a real rock and roller. You got me."
The reasons for that critical disdain are hard to pin down. There are no lyrics from "The Stranger" as ridiculously melodramatic as the worst lines from "Born To Run" ("Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims/And strap your hands across my engines"), nor was Joel's public posture any less organic or more calculated than that of the Sex Pistols. But guys like Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Rotten have a default credibility that Joel will never be granted, and it's not just because he took piano lessons. The problem is that Joel never seemed cool, even among the people who like him. He's not cool in the conventional sense (like James Dean) or in the self-destructive sense (like Keith Richards), nor is he cool in the kitschy, campy, "he's so uncool he's cool" way (like Neil Diamond). He has no intrinsic coolness, and he has no extrinsic coolness. If cool were a color, it would be black - and Joel would be kind of a burnt orange. The bottom line is that it's never cool to look like you're trying...and Joel tries really, really hard.
"He just doesn't get it," Robert Christgau tells me over the telephone. "The person I compare Billy Joel to is Irving Berlin; that's the positive side of what he does. But Billy Joel also has a grandiosity that Irving Berlin never got near. That's what's wrong with him. If he wanted to be a humble tunesmith - a 'Piano Man,' if you will - he would be a lot better off. But he's not content with that. He wants something grander. And that pretentious side infects not only his bad and mediocre work, but also his best work."
Christgau has covered music for The Village Voice since 1969 and is widely considered the "dean of rock critics." When I told him that Joel suspects critics will never include him among rock music's pantheon of greats, it took him about 15 milliseconds to agree.
"Well, he's right," Christgau says. "He's not good enough. He and Don Henley are really notable for how resentful they are about their lack of respect. You don't catch Celine Dion complaining about a lack of critical respect, and she's a lot worse than Billy Joel. But she doesn't care. Billy Joel cares deeply about that respect, and he wants it bad."
Perhaps as a response to three decades of slights, Joel made a classical album in 2001 called "Fantasies & Delusions: Music for Solo Piano." Influenced by Chopin and credited as the work of "William Joel," "Fantasies & Delusions" sold remarkably well, topping the classical charts for months - though arguably, Joel could smash a piano with a ball-peen hammer for 75 minutes and release it as a live album, and it would still sell remarkably well. But the record - and the college lecture tour he undertook to accompany it - didn't reinvent Joel at all. It just convinced the Robert Christgaus of the world that they were right all along.
In 1970, Joel tried to commit suicide by chugging half a bottle of furniture polish. The conventional wisdom has always been that this attempt stemmed from the fact that his career was floundering. (His attempt at a psychedelic heavy-metal band - an ill-fated two-piece called Attila - had just imploded.) In truth, Joel says, it was over problems in his relationship with Elizabeth Weber, the woman who would become his first wife. "I was absolutely devastated," he recalls. "I couldn't bring anything to the relationship. That was the driving force behind my suicide attempt."
Weber is the subject of one of Joel's most famous songs, "Just The Way You Are." It's a love letter that says everything anyone ever wanted to hear: You're not flawless, but you're still what I want. He tells Weber not to try "some new fashion" or dye her hair blond or work on being witty. It's a criticism of perfection, but in the best possible way; it's like Joel is saying that he loves Weber because she's not perfect, and that he could never leave her in times of trouble.
The irony, of course, is that Joel and Weber divorced five years after "Just The Way You Are" won a Grammy for "Song of the Year." Some would say this contradiction cheapens the song and makes it irrelevant. I'd argue that the opposite is true; the fact that Joel got divorced from the woman he wrote this song about makes it his single greatest achievement. It's the clearest example of why Joel's love songs resonate with so many people: he expresses absolute conviction in moments of wholly misguided affection. This is further validated when he admits - just 40 minutes after telling me about his suicide attempt - that he was never really in love with Weber at all, even on the night he tried to kill himself. He thought he was in love, but he wasn't.
"I shouldn't have gotten married," he says of his union with Weber. "She said we either had to get married or our relationship was over, so I said, 'OK' I was 24. I was too young to get married, although it ended up lasting eight years. Was I really in love? I don't think so. But when I married Christie, I really wanted to get married and I really wanted to have kids."
"Christie" is Christie Brinkley, the gangly sex kitten Joel married in 1985 and lionized in the hit single "Uptown Girl." Brinkley agreed to be interviewed for this article, only to change her mind at the last possible moment. She is the mother of Joel's 16 year-old daughter, Alexa, and is generally perceived to be the love of his life - although he insists that his six-year relationship with Carolyn Beegan in the 1990s and his more recent courtship of Trish Bergin, a TV news anchor, were almost as deep. In fact, tabloid speculation was that Joel's breakup with Bergin was the reason he spent 10 days in alcohol rehab this summer, a rumor Joel confirms, saying that Bergin was the reason he "started drinking all that wine.'
But as the hours pass and we keep talking, he slowly widens the scope of his melancholy. "The more I think about it, the more I think it was all four of those relationships," he says. "I never really stop thinking about any of them."
So how much wine do you have to drink before you need to check yourself into rehab?
"A lot," says Joel. "A lot." Joel says he was on a "well-documented bender" for three months before checking himself into Silver Hill Hospital in Connecticut in mid-June. This would date the bender's origin to right around the time of his March 15th, 2002 concert with Elton John at Madison Square Garden, an evening in which Joel was widely described as disoriented, exhausted and erratic. (Throughout the performance, he shouted out the locations of famous World War II battle sites like "Midway!" and "Guadalcanal!") In early June, he drove off the road in East Hampton and wrecked his Mercedes; a week later, The New York Post was reporting, "Billy Joel in rehab after galpal dumps him."
"I was amazed by the way all of that played out in the media," he says now. "To me, a musician going to rehab is like a normal person going to get his teeth cleaned. Don't these people ever watch 'Behind The Music'? It's a cliche. If I had known that the story was going to be reported in the way that it was, I would have considered not going at all."
Part of what perplexes Joel is that he feels as if he is no longer the kind of celebrity who warrants tabloid coverage; when I argue that the news media are always going to be interested in anyone who has sold 21 million copies of his greatest hits collection, he reminds me that he hasn't made pop music in almost 10 years.
"I don't think what has happened to me is that different from what happens to most people," he says. "The only difference is the scale. People seem to think my problems are larger than life, but they're not larger than my life. Yes, I was married to Christie Brinkley, but it didn't work, just like a lot of marriages don't work out. I don't sit around thinking: Oh, my God! I'm this famous guy who lost his famous wife!"
It's a contradiction: Billy Joel is keenly aware that he is "Billy Joel," but he doesn't seem to understand fully how that designation is the cause of virtually everything good and bad about his life.
"On the one hand, it probably is easier for me to meet women than it is for most people, because I have a certain degree of fame," he says. "But on the other hand, I have certain problems in relationships that other people don't. I was recently on a date with a woman, and she told me: 'You're one of those guys who comes with all this stuff. You're always being written about and photographed and all that star stuff.' And it dawned on me that she was probably right."
"Movin' Out," Twyla Tharp's $8 million show based on Joel's songs, will have its official Broadway debut on October 24th, 2002. But it has already absorbed some of the baggage that Joel has carried for years. When the unorthodox musical opened in Chicago in late July, theater critics described it as "inane" and "cliche-ridden," prompting major changes to the first act. And though those barbs were mostly directed at Tharp, it's easy to see how they could strike Joel as well, even though he played virtually no role in the production. The characters in "Movin' Out" include Brenda and Eddie (the couple from "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant") and Tony (from the song "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song"), all of whom have their lives thrown into chaos by the Vietnam War (illustrated by tracks like "Goodnight Saigon"). Tharp describes it as the story of the entire baby boom generation, a demographic for which Joel has often been tagged as an apologist. "He chronicled the time in which I lived," the 61 year-old Tharp says.
But there are elements of Joel's work that Tharp considers timeless. "There is a large component of the loner in all of Billy's music," she says. "It's something, for better or worse, that has been part and parcel of the idea of the artist in the 20th century and 19th century. In our culture, the perception of the artist is that of a loner."
Oddly, one of the loneliest songs in Joel's entire lonely oeuvre didn't make it into "Movin' Out." It's called "Where's The Orchestra?" and it seems particularly apropos, since it uses the theater as a metaphor for loneliness. The lyrics are one long allusion to watching an alienating, dissatisfying play ("I like the scenery/Even though I have absolutely no/Idea at all/What is being said/Despite the dialogue"), and it doesn't take a rock critic to see it as a metaphor for the emptiness Joel himself feels. It's also the Billy Joel song that I have always related to the most on a personal level; in fact, I sometimes tell people that they would understand me better if they listened to "Where's The Orchestra?"
I tell this to Joel, thinking it might make him feel better. But I think it makes him feel worse.
"That song still applies to me," he says in a weirdly stoic tone. "I heard it the other day, and it still moved me, because I feel like that today. I've only felt content a few times in my life, and it never lasted. I'm very discontented right now. There are situations in my life that didn't pan out. I'm like most other human beings. I try and I fail. The whole metaphor of that song is that life is a theatrical play, and it's all a tragedy, and - even though you can enjoy the comedic, ironic elements of what you're experiencing - life will always come up and whap you on the head."
To punctuate this statement, he whaps himself on the side of his skull with an open hand. It's the kind of thing that should be funny, but somehow it isn't. Probably because when Joel hits himself, he isn't smiling.
"Joel's Comback Show Hits The Right Notes"
By: Glenn Gamboa
(September 15th, 2002)
Billy Joel returned to the concert stage Friday night with a solid performance that showed he has put the turbulent last six months behind him.
"I'm back, I'm back," Joel told the sellout crowd of 20,898 at the St. Pete Times Forum, before breaking into his classic "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)." "I apologize for the delay. ...I got sick. Thanks for waiting around."
Joel postponed a tour stop with Elton John in Tampa in March due to a severe respiratory infection and laryngitis. That illness also led to the postponing of several New York shows in March, after Joel struggled through a Madison Square Garden concert during which he made some incoherent statements. After battling the respiratory problems, Joel said he felt he'd grown too dependent on alcohol and in June checked into Silver Hill Hospital, a rehab facility in New Canaan, Connecticut, days after he was slightly hurt in a serious one-car crash in Sag Harbor.
On stage, Joel, 53, made no mention of his stint in rehab or his other recent troubles. Aside from a knowing glance at the audience when he sang "I don't want you to worry for me 'cause I'm all right" during "My Life," Joel left his personal battles backstage. Elton John only referred to the problems in passing, saying, "I'm so sorry to have you wait so long, but things happened. We're here to make up for lost time."
That's exactly what the duo set out to do with their three-hour concert. Joel looked tentative during the show's opening duets with John, but gained momentum the deeper he went into his hour-long solo set.
He sounded strong and looked fit. Though early on he ended the dramatic, piano-intensive "Prelude/Angry Young Man" by nervously shaking his fingers, by the time he reached "I Go To Extremes" he was clearly enjoying himself, kicking over stools and pounding piano keys with his behind. John also tried to keep things light, causing the sole flub of the evening during "You May Be Right," when Joel stopped singing to laugh as John tickled him.
Joel's current hit-filled set is similar to the one he used early in the tour. In his new set, Joel shows his fondness for New York, which has had its own turbulent times in the past year, by tying together an unlikely pair of songs, the moving "New York State of Mind" and "Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)," a science-fiction tale about New York's destruction that after the terrorist attacks strikes close to home.
Joel and John's "Face 2 Face" Tour returns to New York on September 23rd, 2002 to begin a string of makeup dates for shows canceled in March. After an initial Madison Square Garden concert, the tour moves to Nassau Coliseum for four shows starting September 25th, 2002.
"Billy Joel To Rent NYC Apartment"
(September 16th, 2002)
Billy Joel says he's looking for someone to spend his life with, and plans to rent an apartment in Manhattan to meet women.
"I'm not going to meet anyone out here," said Joel, who lives in East Hampton, a posh community in nearby Long Island. "The happiest times in my life were when my relationships were going well - when I was in love with someone, and someone was loving me. But in my whole life, I haven't met the person I can sustain a relationship with yet. So I'm discontended about that. I'm angry with myself. I have regrets."
Joel will go on tour this fall with Elton John, and Twyla Tharp will take to Broadway a play called "Movin' Out," featuring modern dance interpretations of Joel's songs. But he said his success - including a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - is little consolation.
"You can't go home with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," he told The New York Times Magazine. "You don't sleep with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You don't get hugged by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and you don't have children with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I want what everybody else wants: to love and to be loved, and to have a family. Being in love has always been the most important thing in my life."
"Elton John, Billy Joel Charm Philips Arena Crowd Together With Decades of Hits"
By: Sonia Murray
(September 18th, 2002)
In one corner, in all black, and recently weighing in on his Broadway show and shabby love live in the New York Times Sunday magazine - Billy Joel!
"Aaaahhhhh!" cheered the sold-out crowd Tuesday night at Philips Arena.
And in the other corner, a hometown favorite though his Buckhead penthouse is only a part-time home - oh, and in rather conservative purple - Elton John!
Oh - make that "Pling! Pling" We are talking about two of pop's heavyweight pianists/vocalists, who brought the tour they first trotted out seven years ago back to Atlanta again.
John and Joel entered the arena rather congenially Tuesday night, sharing a hug before dueting on a few of each other's tunes. As an opener, Joel started John's classic '70s ballad "Your Song." And in turn, John made Joel's 1977 breakthrough single his own, fashioning the compliment into something that came off like, "I love 'Chu just the Waaayoouarrrre.'"
Then after the full-piece band charged into the couple's rendition of John's "Don't Let The Sun Go Down," Joel deferred to local royalty, and let John play from 32 years of hits.
"Billy Joel Getting To Know Atlanta"
By: Richard L. Eldredge
(September 18th, 2002)
Before his scheduled show with Elton John Tuesday night at Philips Arena, singer-pianist Billy Joel spent some time checking out the local sights.
On Saturday, he popped into Brasserie Le Coze in Buckhead for a slimming lunch with friends. Joel dined on a crab salad appetizer and a swordfish sandwich - minus the bread.
The table also ordered a bottle of 1996-vintage Pommard red wine, an interesting menu selection since Joel spent part of his summer vacation in alcohol rehab. Said Brasserie managing partner Fabrice Vergez on Tuesday: "I don't recall seeing him consume any. Other people at the table ordered the wine."
A music industry acquaintance of Joel's, also lunching at the French bistro, picked up the table's tab.
On Monday, Joel visited Red Baron Antiques on Roswell Road. Red Baron rep Paul Brown said the performer came in looking for mantelpieces, chandeliers and furniture for a mansion he's renovating in Long Island's Oyster Bay area.
The shopping spree went so well that Joel even invited Red Baron VIP Client Service rep Betsy Brown to lunch. When Buzz rang Tuesday to ask whether the entertainer had made a purchase, Brown told us, "I can't disclose that information. I have to respect the privacy of our client."
Apparently Brown didn't get a gander at Sunday's lengthy, soul-baring Joel profile in The New York Times, in which he discussed in detail every romantic relationship he's ever had and lamented his current bachelor status. Until we talked to Brown, we weren't aware that he had any privacy left.
"'Piano Men' Are Class Act"
(September 18th, 2002)
Part-time Atlantan Elton John and proud New Yorker Billy Joel made full use of their black grand pianos and three decades of pop classics Tuesday night at a sold-out Philips Arena concert. Joel arrived on stage to "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and John looked quite splendid - almost reserved even - in an eggplant-hued outfit. And before the off-and-on tourmates of some seven years did individual sets, they made two-part harmonies out of "Your Song," "Just The Way You Are," and "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me."
By: Carol Beggy & Stephanie Stoughton
(September 19th, 2002)
"Piano Man" Billy Joel, who recently opened his first musical, "Movin' Out," in Chicago with hopes of heading to Broadway, had lunch yesterday at chef-owner Barbara Lynch's No. 9 Park. Joel, in town for a concert Friday night, came in to the Beacon Hill restaurant with band members. Joel ordered a light lunch: an endive salad and a salmon entree. But the staff sent out a special tasting of Lynch's truffled gnocchi with lobster and some tagliatelle with bolognese sauce....
By: Dan Aquilante
(September 20th, 2002)
Sir Elton John and New York's own Billy Joel start their series of makeup shows for a series of concerts that were canceled last spring after Joel fell ill with a whopper of a cold.
When they performed at the Garden earlier this year, Elton and Billy offered their own and each other's hits - both solo and in duet. Billy was as sick as a dog that night but it was still a fun gig. Even though the guy wasn't in his best voice he still put on a fine concert with the show-must-go-on spirit. Hopefully, both John and Joel will be in hale and hearty for Monday's Garden party. The performance starts at 7:30pm.
"Joel, John Know How To Have Fun"
By: Dean Johnson
(September 21st, 2002)
Last night's sold-out Billy Joel/Elton John concert at the Fleet Center was a makeup date for last February's show that was postponed because Joel was, uh, the English term is "unwell."
Since then, Joel has had more dirty laundry than a family with newborn triplets. First there was time spent in rehab for a drinking problem. Then last Sunday in a bizarre New York Times interview Joel said he isn't good with relationships and recently moved to an apartment in the Big Apple to better his chances of meeting women. Phew.
Thankfully, little of that mess bled into the concert, though a sheepish Joel said early on, "Thank you for waiting. I'm sorry I got sick."
Joel being Joel, though, he could hardly leave it at that. Later he tweaked the lyrics to "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" and sang, "Bottle of red...perhaps a glass of ginger ale instead." Then he joked about his now slimmer figure, "If you think I lost the weight in rehab, you're wrong. I lost it while I was on the bender."
But that rehab stint may have let him better focus on his music last night. The concert was similar to their earlier shows here: a few songs together at the start, separate sets from John and Joel, and then a joint finale. It was great fun, though their Foxboro Stadium show a few years back featured more mixing and matching of songs and vocals.
Still, nearly three dozen tunes were dished out by 11pm when the duo slid into "Piano Man." John had the better solo set, but the best moments featured the two together, especially when they pummeled their way through "A Hard Day's Night" and "Great Balls of Fire" during the encores.
Joel aptly demonstrated shortly before those songs that he isn't taking his new-found sobriety too seriously when he took a belly-flop spin on top of his piano.
A good chunk of the audience likely could have left after the first 10 minutes and been content after the duo opened with "Your Song," "Just The Way You Are" and "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me."
The three were simple and sedate and good enough to include on a live album.
John and his band took over after that, and laid down a taut, lively set highlighted by plenty of piano pounding and fine extended takes of "Rocket Man" and "Take Me To The Pilot."
When it was Joel's turn to go solo with his band, he also dug into his bag of hits and added the odd tune such as "Don't Ask Me Why."
After a wild response to a soulful version of "New York State of Mind," a song that took on new significance after last September 11th, 2001, Joel remarked, "I never thought I'd do that song in this town. Times have changed."
Apparently, Joel has, too. But that didn't hurt last night's concert.
"Gratitude, Well-Chosen Hits Fill Sets of Joel, John"
By: Joan Anderman
(September 21st, 2002)
Billy Joel returned to the Fleet Center stage last night after a turbulent six months that began with a string of canceled concert dates because of a respiratory infection, took a turn for the worse with an incoherent Madison Square Garden performance, and concluded with a stint in rehab to deal with an alcohol problem.
"Sorry for the wait," Joel said during one of several apologies to the sold-out crowd. "I really did get sick, and I'm really glad you waited. By the way, if you think if I lost all the weight after rehab, you're wrong. I lost it on the bender."
Aside from some enthusiastic swivelling on his piano stool, Joel was a consummate professional. Visibly humbled and moved by the crowd's cheers of support, Joel returned the love with a focused, emotional performance that was a frankly surprising match for Elton John's hit-filled solo set. John's career packs more credibility, and more of his songs have (rightly) earned a place in the rock annals. "Just The Way You Are," meanwhile, hangs like an albatross around the Joel catalog's neck. But an hour-long, cherry-picked set revealed a stable of classic pop songs that has more substance and integrity than it generally gets credit for.
After a brief duet trading verses and piano flourishes on super-famous ballads, each artist played energetic solo sets accompanied by their own bands. Outsized set-openers were the fashion: John blasted off with the synth-heavy drama "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" and Joel with the acoustic prog-rock number "Prelude/Angry Young Man."
John, fabulously restrained in an eggplant suit with the subtlest smattering of rhinestones, loves a pompous popera as much as a gorgeous ballad, and played extended, embellished versions of both - among them "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," "Rocket Man," "Take Me To The Pilot," "Tiny Dancer," "I'm Still Standing," and (the truth must be told) the awful but understandably beloved "Philadelphia Freedom" - as well as the new songs "I Want Love" and "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore."
He was effusive in his thanks, traversing the stage after every song to bow and reach his hands out to the audience. It was a dramatic, and welcome, change from the detached demeanor that deflated John's most recent solo tour through Boston.
Joel chose songs with equal care, playing the working-class sagas "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" and "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," and the gem "Allentown," whose chord changes are winsome and clever enough to slip unnoticed onto an XTC disc. His voice was fit and strong; he didn't even seem to be straining for the high notes on "New York State of Mind."
But a poignant mix of gratitude and sadness infused Joel's demeanor. He's got his health back, and now all he needs is the girlfriend he's so publicly pining for. After the arena tour ends, a weekend gig at a neighborhood piano bar might be just the thing.
"Just the Way He Is?"
Experts Suggest Changes In Joel's Love Life
By: Denise Flaim
(September 24th, 2002)
Sad, but true: The "Piano Man" is striking a sour chord in the romance department.
In mid-June, Billy Joel did a weeklong stint at a Connecticut rehab center for alcohol abuse. And earlier this month, Long Island's native son and popdom's best-loved balladeer admitted in an interview that his breakup with former News 12 anchorwoman Trish Bergin was the reason he "started drinking all that wine."
Repeatedly in that interview, he returned to the same theme: He's lonely, and he's looking for love - even thinking of getting a place in Manhattan, for the express purpose of meeting women.
With his healthy bottom line and a pocketful of melting lyrics, Joel is poised for a love connection. In an effort to help him recruit the love of his life, some experts offered the following advice:
Accentuate the positive. Regardless of how many platinum records you have on the wall, "if you don't think you've achieved much, the world is going to think you're a loser," says relationship expert Sherry Amatenstein of Forest Hills, author of "Love Lessons From Bad Breakups" (Perigee, $13.95).
Joel needs to learn to appreciate himself more, Amatenstein counsels, and love will follow.
By seeing the glass as totally empty, you're "not operating from a place of power - you're operating out of a place of need," she concludes. "And while that may be good for art, it's not good for having a happy relationship."
Get in touch with your Martian side. If you've read John Gray, you know his "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" theory: Martians (read: men) are unilateral thinkers, wont to withdraw to the "cave" to resolve their emotional conflicts; Venusians (read: women) need to verbalize their feelings in order to resolve them.
"I'm hearing he's very much on his Venusian side right now," says Joyce Dolberg Rowe, a licensed mental health counselor and the director of the Mars & Venus Counseling Center in Boston. "If he wants to attract women into his life, he needs to focus on his Martian side."
Sensitivity, it turns out, is a liability. "John Gray says women think they want sensitive guys - until they get one," says Rowe. "What they want is a strong man." With a Venusian man, "a woman is not able to be on her softer side because she has to be stronger for him. And it's a turn-off."
Take stock. While the experts might disagree about the volume level of what Joel's saying, they don't dispute the importance of introspection.
"Here's the bottom line," says Rowe. "Figure out what you want, determine what your values are, and look at what you have been doing to sabotage your previous relationship. And finally, find out whether you have realistic goals."
Finding the love of your life doesn't happen by accident, adds Fran Greene of Commack, a clinical social worker and a flirting and dating coach. "We spend hours or months researching what computer to buy or our new home, but we often don't spend time on the most important relationship of our life."
By now, says Greene, Joel should know that the supermodel looks that presumably attracted him to his second wife, Christie Brinkley, only go so far.
"If he's thinking about a lifelong partner, what keeps people together is a sense of humor, the ability to be there for each another and the ability to talk things out."
Hire a helper. The two best places to meet people, says Greene, are your workplace and through your own network of personal acquaintances. These days, that latter group has expanded with the popularity of online matchmaking services, where subscribers can scroll through pages of possible partners.
But the likelihood of Joel posting a want ad on Match.com is pretty slim. Which is why Greene thinks he ought to do the same thing he does with most daily minutiae - delegate.
"Perhaps Billy needs to hire someone to be his own matchmaker," says Greene. "Someone who knows a lot of people, especially available women."
If Joel wants to be a do-it-yourselfer, he has one important advantage: the financial means and lifestyle to devote as much time as he likes to the hunt, wherever it will take him - across the country or across the globe.
But it won't be a fun trip unless Joel cultivates one crucial quality: a sense of humor. "He has to be lighthearted about it," she says. "Dating is hard work, and you gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you find someone to connect with."
Shelve the uptown girls. "It seems like he's gone for women who would enhance his self-esteem because he feels they are out of his reach," says Amatenstein. "If it doesn't work out, it's almost like reconfirming what you knew anyway."
The perfect prescription might be "someone more like him" - someone who can relate to his middle-class Hicksville roots.
"Hey, I'm a nice Jewish girl from Queens," Amatenstein offers. "He can call me."
"Your Face Here"
By: Barbara Hoffman
(September 24th, 2002)
Who should be Billy Joel's new girlfriend?
He's famous, loaded...and desperately lonely. Billy Joel is longing for love, but his past suggests he hits the wrong romantic notes - and it's time to change his tune, say shrinks.
"I want what everybody else wants: to love and be loved, and to have a family," he recently said in a high-profile interview in the Sunday Times magazine.
"Being in love has always been the most important thing in my life."
Which is all very well, but it's not enough, says Bonnie Eaker Weil, a psychotherapist and author of "Make Up, Don't Break Up."
"I see people like him all the time," sighs Weil.
"They can't sustain a relationship.... When a person starts to love them, they move away - they distance themselves, provoke and alienate."
"Billy Joel yearns for love," Weil declares, "but he doesn't know how to stay in love."
As most of the world knows, Joel's been married twice - to Elizabeth Weber, the brunette music manager for whom he wrote "Just The Way You Are," and to the perennially perky Christie Brinkley.
Not only are he and Brinkley still close - they have a 16 year-old daughter, Alexa - but she fixed him up with one of his latest ex-girlfriends, Long Island TV newscaster Trish Bergin.
There's still hope for him though, says Weil.
"Anyone who writes such beautiful love songs can definitely find love," she says. "He just needs to take the risk of being rejected first, and to put the time and energy into his next relationship."
To that end, Joel is planning a move from East Hampton (where he's been renting ever since selling his mansion to Jerry Seinfeld) to Manhattan - just so he can meet women.
Good move, Weil says.
"He's not going to meet anyone in the Hamptons because it's mostly couples there," she says.
He should also steer clear of the booze, she says. The singer checked into rehab at Connecticut's Silver Hill Hospital in June, shortly after Bergin announced her engagement to someone else.
Actually, says Weil, it wouldn't be a bad idea for him to stay away from supermodels and newscasters altogether.
"Models are insecure because they think they're loved only for their looks, and newscasters are workaholics," she says. "He needs to find someone who's less invested in her career."
In fact, Weil just happens to have a few possibilities (plucked from her mental Rolodex) who might make the "Piano Man" sing again.
They include a 37 year-old dental hygienist ("funny, spunky, outgoing and home-centered"), a 6-foot-tall former model turned real-estate saleswoman ("she loves going out with men who are not tall and she's very down to earth") and a 42 year-old ad agency head who loves to travel (maybe she'll join Joel on his current tour with Elton John).
As an added incentive, she'll even throw in tickets to Joel's upcoming musical, "Movin' Out."
"I've got four tickets - we can double-date," she says.
Billy, call Dr. Bonnie: (212) 685-9236.
"Worth The Wait"
By: Dan Aquliante
(September 24th, 2002)
With a six-month hiatus between gigs, Billy Joel and Elton John managed to complete their two-performance Madison Square Garden sellout last night without a hitch.
The first show took place back in March.
It was a roller-coaster performance by Joel, who at the time was suffering from a whopper of a cold and a belly-full of cough syrup. While this Long Island homeboy wasn't up to snuff then, he did manage to finish that concert, giving it everything he had with an admirable the-show-must-go-on spunk.
With six months of recuperation - that included a week at a Connecticut rehab clinic - there was nothing erratic about Joel at all this time around.
He was fabulous, plain and simple. For a guy who was too round to pound the piano back in March, last night's concert unveiled a trim, well-groomed "Piano Man" whose between-song patter was smart, funny and thoughtful. Oh, yeah, he played and sang like he was Billy Joel.
In his "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" he switched lyrics, singing "Bottle of white/Bottle of red/Perhaps a bottle of Perrier instead..." making a reference to his too-much-wine-is-just-enough bender this summer. He's a man who laughs at his own foibles, and the crowd loved him for it.
Together, he and John have been a superb concert pairing since their first "Face 2 Face" Tour in '94. Over the course of the last eight years, these musical icons have become pals and have developed a real chemistry onstage. At this performance they were salt and pepper - Joel played the brash American in a neatly cut suit, ready with joke and a big smile, and John was the charmingly eccentric Englishman, all dressed in purple, right down to his socks.
What this concert illustrated is that, despite their stylistic differences, these guys are completely simpatico. The current Joel 'n' John double-bill followed a well-tested program that featured each man and his songbook in different combinations: John singing Joel numbers, Joel singing John's music in both solos and duets.
The appeal of their music and incredible sense of showmanship thrilled the audience at MSG, which ranged in age from teens to geezers.
Had the pair appeared in a London hall, Sir Elton would have probably been the winner of this Steinway showdown, with one of the tightest sets he's ever played in his many stints at the Garden. But last night belonged to Billy.
He gave his music a tough-guy edge that lent dynamics to songs such as "Allentown" and "New York State of Mind," for which he earned a lengthy standing ovation. His piano work was inspired, and his vocal confidence projected the aura of a man who has wrestled with devils and won.
John made points with the house during his great ballad "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" and the rocker "Philadelphia Freedom."
And for "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding," the Brit managed to fit two tons of bombast in a 1-ton bag.
During each of their solo sets, both Joel and John expressed regret to the fans for the six-month wait for this performance, but, as the saying goes - all's well that ends well.
"Billy Rocks The Garden"
By: Glenn Gamboa
(September 24th, 2002)
Fear not, Billy Joel fans. The "Piano Man" is doing just fine.
At any given moment in the 3½-hour "Face 2 Face" Tour extravaganza, the 53 year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer from Hicksville could be found riding his piano stool like a bucking bronco, step-dancing atop his baby grand like he was Michael Flatley, "Lord of the Dance," or swinging between the pianos like they were the parallel bars and he wanted a perfect 10 from the East German judge.
Or maybe he just wanted a perfect 10 from his fans. "It's been kind of a strange year for me, but it's been kind of a strange year for everybody, right?" Joel said, after apologizing to the crowd for having to postpone his Madison Square Garden appearance with Elton John from March ("I really was sick," he quickly points out) to Monday night. "I've had some interesting things happen to me."
Is he talking about his much-publicized stint in rehab? His current equally well-documented quest for a new girlfriend? His reported three-month, red-wine bender? His Sag Harbor car crash? The serious upper respiratory infection that dogged him throughout the tour? Probably all of the above.
All that drama might flatten a lesser man. For a former boxer like Joel, though, it only seems to gear him up for the fight. His feisty performance at the Garden was a notch above his first post-rehab show in Tampa a couple weeks ago or even the pre-rehab shows earlier this year.
He seemed to attack songs like "Prelude/Angry Young Man" and "I Go To Extremes." The return of "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me" to the set also helped, complete with the Elvis-styled hip-swiveling (and fans responding with some Elvis-fan-styled groping of Joel) and the microphone-stand tossing and twirling routine of old.
Considering how he drinks water throughout his set, Joel may still have some throat issues. However, those problems definitely didn't show in his voice, which was sweet through "Summer, Highland Falls" and "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)," then powerful through the rock and roll screams that punctuated "The River of Dreams."
John's set complemented Joel's well - not only adding his ton of hits to the cavalcade of #1s, from the beautiful "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" to the good-time "Crocodile Rock," but also in subject matter.
John's best work is built on standing at the brink of disaster and the strength that comes from pulling back.
The most powerful song of the evening isn't the expected sing-along for "Candle In The Wind" or "Piano Man" - or even Joel's show-stopping "New York State of Mind." It's the duo's version of John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me," sung with all the experience and passion that only these two legendary fifty-something "Piano Men" can provide.
"88 Keys, 12 Steps, and 2 Superstars"
By: Jim Farber
(September 25th, 2002)
Apparently, a stint in rehab can do more than clean up some bad habits. It also can shake up a coasting career.
Ask Billy Joel.
His well-documented problems with exhaustion and alcohol, which led to the postponement in March of his tour with Elton John and to a subsequent drying-out period, are giving a special here-and-now drama to his and John's current stint of eight makeup shows.
While the first of these performances, held Monday at the Garden, otherwise might have seemed like a bald exercise in nostalgia, its back story made it a very different beast. Through the audience's endless ovations, and Joel's lingering appreciation of them, the arena had the feel of history's largest AA meeting, awash in affirmations and implicit resolutions.
(The comeback continues at Nassau Coliseum tonight, tomorrow and October 11th, 2002, and at the Meadowlands October 2nd, 4th, & 8th, 2002.)
As on previous Joel/John hookups, this perhaps too-generous 34-song, 3½-hour show unfolds in four segments. It starts and ends with the duo together, and features lengthy solo sections in between.
During Joel's solo portion Monday, he apologized for the postponement, saying, "It's been a strange year for me." Then, after that line in "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" about "...a bottle of red/a bottle of white...," he shoe-horned in one about "...a bottle of Perrier instead....."
Joel's lyrics, which aim to speak for an "Everyman" under siege, played well with his recent struggle. While they're riddled with clichés and driven by demographics, Joel's recent history made his words seem newly personal.
If, musically speaking, most of Joel and John's sets were more workmanlike than inspired, that's partially by design. Both these performers value crowd-pleasing over artistic expression. But their duets had some freshness, especially a cover of an original rock-piano template, Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire." And Joel seemed uncommonly engaged in the final "Piano Man." If, essentially, this was another case of the regular crowd shuffling in, at least this time they had reason to put more spring in their step.
"Gray Lady Down"
By: Dan Aquilante
(September 27th, 2002)
Like the characters who live in his songs, Billy Joel is a regular Joe. He has a trusting nature - until you burn him. That's what happened when he spoke to The New York Times recently. He gave the reporter a four-hour interview, but the resulting article was devoted to a single theme: "All he really wants is a girlfriend."
Joel didn't start this fire, but it spread to every gossip page. The Post weighed in with an internet poll, offering suggestions about whom Billy should date.
"Do I get a vote?" Joel asked when he spoke to The Post earlier this week. "I'd write in for Nicole Kidman."
Joel was also surprised to read in the Times that he was "trying to rent an apartment in Manhattan for the sole purpose of meeting women."
"I never said that!" he protested. In fact, this week, he closed on a $12 million house near his hometown of Oyster Bay.
Looking good (he's lost 35 pounds) and feeling great, Joel is currently on tour with Elton John, and they will play shows in New Jersey and Long Island through next week. And Joel's music is the cornerstone of "Movin' Out," which will come to Broadway in a Twyla Tharp production next month.
Tired of all the dime-store analysis of his personal life, here Joel sets the record straight.
Post: Back in March, you played the Garden when you were sick, then had to cancel the subsequent performances. What was wrong with you?
Joel: I had an upper-respiratory infection. I didn't even know if I could sing. My doctor told me not to perform at all. He said if I did, I was going to make it worse. He was right - I did make it worse.
Post: There were reports that you were drunk.
Joel: I had every kind of medication you could take. In one respect, the Times review that said I ingested something stronger than cough syrup was right - but it wasn't booze, it was medication.
Post: Were you incoherent?
Joel: They said I was yelling out the names of World War II battles incoherently. I thought I was very clear. I named some famous battles America has fought, and I ended up by saying, "Who the hell do [these terrorists] think they're fucking with? Do they think we're not going to fight back?" That was my point. But they used that to show I was this drunken, incoherent imbecile.
Post: That was what the Times said - not the public. By their reaction that night, the fans appreciated your effort.
Joel: A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth. And now that's what people's perception is. It's not fair. I don't know how many times I have to profess I wasn't drunk - I was sick. Now there's the new one that I'm desperately longing to meet my romantic partner.
Post: Are you?
Joel: The New York Times took six quotes and turned them into a one-dimensional piece. They made it sound like all I was talking about was poor me and my love life. That was not the gist of the conversation, but somebody, somewhere decided that was going to be the tone of the piece.
Post: It was the greatest personal ad ever.
Joel: I don't need to do that to meet people.
Post: You just bought a home in the Oyster Bay area, so is the plan for a Manhattan pad out?
Joel: No, I miss the city, especially since September 11th, 2001. I was looking, and eventually I will look again. I'm close on the North Shore and I can hop into the city real easy.
Post: We spoke last year, a few days after September 11th, 2001, and you had just visited the ruins of the Trade Center and were shaken and devastated by what you saw. Does it still haunt you?
Joel: I think a lot of what's happened to me over the last year is connected. I went into a deep, deep, dark depression. Not only because it was my city and my country, but because I can't understand what drives this kind of hatred.
Post: Your recent problems are a direct result of September 11th, 2001?
Joel: No, but I have to say that's when things started. I'm still not over it. I tried to write through it, but I couldn't do it. As a matter of fact, I talked about this with the guy who wrote that Times piece, but that never came out. Let's not go there.
Post: Those problems landed you in rehab.
Joel: Nobody is to blame for my overindulgence. And I interrupted it by going into rehab.
Post: What do you mean by overindulgence?
Joel: I was on a bender. I was drinking too much, and I said, "This is stupid." There was no intervention. I just did it. There wasn't a woman who drove me to drink; I didn't start because of a breakup. It wasn't anybody's fault, and the demons that drove it can't be placed on any one person.
Post: So why did you go into rehab?
Joel: I was on a bender for more than two months and I wanted to end it. Before this, I did the same thing with cigarettes. I also stopped drinking hard liquor, I stopped taking any kind of drugs - I don't even drink caffeine. There have been a lot of things that I've had to let go of in my life. I'm not a temperance drum beater. I'm not evangelical. I took out of rehabilitation what I needed.
Post: Which was?
Joel: Dry it out, man. Stop drinking so much. How's that for a concept? I did it. If I put my mind to something, I can do it. But that doesn't mean I'm never going to have a glass of wine again - it's one of the basic food groups.
Post: At Monday's show, you seemed to have fun with that, by changing the lyrics in "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" to "Bottle of white, bottle of red, perhaps a glass of Perrier instead."
Joel: People are reading into everything I'm doing now. I'm not obtuse, and I can look at myself and laugh. That's what I did with the lyrics. I've always had fun doing that, and I'm going to continue.
"Mama, If That's Movin' Up..."
By: Blair Golson & Petra Bartosiewicz
(September 28th, 2002)
In a candid and soul-searching interview published last week, Long Island fixture Billy Joel told a New York Times Magazine reporter that he was looking to rent a new home in Manhattan for the sole purpose of meeting women.
"I’m not going to meet anyone out here," he told The Times, referring to the East End, where he’s famously lived for years.
(Of course, he’s been eulogizing the Hamptons since his 1989 song "The Downeaster 'Alexa'.") But now it looks like the veteran rocker’s heart is taking him home - not to the big, bad city.
The hall-of-fame crooner recently put a halt to his Manhattan apartment search, backed out of a contract to buy a $14 million East Hampton mansion - losing a $2 million deposit in the process - and bought a $12 million waterfront home in his hometown of Oyster Bay, Long Island.
"Billy Joel's real estate - I need a separate career just for that," joked Mr. Joel's publicist, Claire Mercuri.
"It has beautiful views, a good amount of acreage, it’s on the water, it’s private, and it’s in close proximity to the city," the "Piano Man" told The Observer in a statement, referring to his most recent purchase - a 16-acre sprawl with a guest house and pool. "I was looking for an apartment in New York City, and I decided instead I would prefer to live in a house on the North Shore."
Ever since selling his East Hampton mansion to Jerry Seinfeld in 2000, Mr. Joel's brokers on Long Island and Manhattan have been scrambling to find his next "permanent" home. It appeared he was ready to settle down in North Haven with the purchase of a $7 million waterfront estate, but he put that place on the market this summer without ever moving in. It’s still for sale. Later in the summer, he toured several high-end Manhattan apartments, coming extremely close to signing a deal at Trump Palace, but he backed out at the last minute. Mr. Joel’s longtime Manhattan broker, Michele Kleier of Gumley Haft Kleier, had no comment on the search.
In Mr. Joel's latest bout of indecision, he reneged on a deal to buy a $14 million mansion on East Hampton’s Old Beach Lane, an offshoot of Further Lane.
"He just said he didn't want to live in East Hampton any more," said the house’s owner, Fred Stein, a Wall Street portfolio manager.
Ms. Mercuri said it's no secret that Mr. Joel is prone to wavering on real-estate decisions.
"He changed his mind," she said. "This isn’t the first time he saw a property he liked and fell in love with it on the spot, and then had second thoughts about it."
Unfortunately, this time the second-guessing cost Mr. Joel a $2 million deposit, as well as some hard feelings from the lady of the house.
"It was very upsetting to my wife," said Mr. Stein. "We had to move out 60 boxes full of stuff. But I think he paid for it - he left a big chunk of money on the table."
Despite his wife’s anger, Mr. Stein said he doesn't harbor any resentment toward Mr. Joel.
"I thought he was very decent. He acted like a gentleman," he said. "We parted on friendly terms. If I saw him I’d say 'Hi, Billy,' and I'm sure he'd say hi, too."
Mr. Stein said he believes that Mr. Joel "wasn't being capricious at all" in his dealings. To offer proof of Mr. Joel's good intentions, Mr. Stein explained how Mr. Joel had visited the house two or three times each week, bringing his architect, a designer and his teenage daughter, Alexa Ray.
"He had planned to build a music room and do all kinds of things," Mr. Stein said. "That’s why it was such a shock to all of us."
Referring to the Times Magazine piece, Mr. Stein said he empathizes with Mr. Joel's plight.
"He's just kind of a lost soul, and he's got some problems he's got to resolve for himself."
Mr. Stein's Old Beach Lane house, which does not have ocean frontage, has its comely features nevertheless: The 12,000 square-foot mansion overlooks the Maidstone Club and Hook Pond. John Golden of Sotheby's has the listing.
Real-estate sources tell The Observer that Mr. Joel most likely flip-flopped at the last minute because the Oyster Bay house - which Mr. Joel had always wanted, but was then off the market - came on the market unexpectedly, and Mr. Joel couldn't resist.
As for his other holdings, that North Haven waterfront estate is on the market, and Mr. Joel has a house on Shelter Island that is still for sale. He also owns a modest Sag Harbor house that was once a bait shop.
And regarding his "New York State of Mind"?
"As far as questions on my intentions of moving to New York City," Mr. Joel said through his publicist, "maybe in the future."
"Liquidity & Billy Joel's Lunch"
By: Cindy Adams
(September 30th, 2002)
Forever Billy Joel has been loved, adored and worshipped universally. For right now Billy Joel needs to be loved, tended and cared for personally. Immediately.
You have read about how he's been fighting his demons. You have maybe not read that he's losing the battle.
Saturday afternoon. Lunchtime. A Billy Joel, who seems not to be eating because he has lost considerable weight and is quite thin, is walking his dog. He turns into Nello's restaurant. Its patrons witnessed the following:
Billy sits down. At a front table. Alone, for most of the time. Just with his dog. Visibly under the influence, his menu consists of a bottle of Pellegrino and a bottle of something else. About the Pellegrino, I don't now. About the something else, I know. He polishes it off.
Understand, he's rich. He's famous. This man is a major star with a huge flossy glossy Broadway musical, which he's conceptualized, about to open. Sitting all alone. Midday. Not a particularly pretty sight. The whole world passing by on the street saw him.
Had this been something only I knew, I would have repressed the information and never printed it. However, cell phones throughout the city were activated Saturday afternoon.
"'Movin' Out' Moves Into Broadway's Richard Rodgers"
By: Robert Simonson
(September 30th, 2002)
"Movin' Out," the new musical collaboration between pop legend Billy Joel and choreographer Twyla Tharp, will move into Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre on September 30th, 2002. Opening night is October 24th, 2002.
The musical left Chicago's Shubert Theatre, after a summer-long stay that began June 25th, 2002.
The show follows the story of Brenda and Eddie, the characters at the center of Joel's anthemic song "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant." As the lyric goes, "Brenda and Eddie/Were the popular steadies/And the king and the queen of the prom/Riding around with the car top down/And the radio on." In the tune, the couple gets married, hits the skids and breaks up. The musical also drafts the character of Tony from "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," as in "Anthony works in a grocery store/Saving his pennies for someday/Mamma Leone left a note on the door/And said "Sonny, move out to the country/Working too hard can give you a heart attack." Brenda and Tony get involved.
The other characters are also taken from Joel songs. They are Sgt. O'Leary from "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," Judy from "Why Judy Why" and James from, yes, "James."
The bookless, dance-and-music heavy entertainment runs at 45 minutes for the first act, 50 minutes for the second act, with a 20 minute intermission. There is no dialogue and all the songs are performed by pianist, singer and Joel sound-alike Michael Cavanaugh, who heads an on stage band during the show.
The musical's songlist is a collection of pre-existing Joel songs which make up the narrative's score. Among the selected tunes are such monster Joel hits as "We Didn't Start The Fire," "Big Shot," "Uptown Girl" and "Just The Way You Are," as well as more obscure early work such as "James," "Summer, Highland Falls," and "Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)."
The Chicago tryout was greeted with mixed to negative reviews from the Windy City papers, with critics applauding the production numbers of the second act, while saying the first needed narrative clarity. The notices resulted in a mini-scandal where New York Newsday reprinted the Chicago Tribune's sour notice in full. Producers claimed the move was a low blow and scuttled the traditional purpose of an out-of-town bow - that is, to work out kinks away from the glare of the New York press. Newsday defended itself by citing Joel's huge appeal to it readership on Long Island.
The Tribune critic, Michael Phillips, was invited back in last August and published a sort of re-review on August 22nd, 2002, which included comments by Tharp. "The guiding principle was this," said Tharp. "If it's confusing, cut it out." According to the article (which a show spokesman confirmed was accurate), the number "I Go To Extremes," which had followed "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" in the opening sequence, has been cut. The latter number, which once featured Keith Roberts and a bevy of females, now involves the male leads.
In other changes, the main characters, including Brenda (Elizabeth Parkinson), Eddie (John Selya) and Tony (Keith Roberts), are more clearly introduced in the opening number, "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant." Eddie is not partly responsible for the death of another character, James (Benjamin G. Bowman), as he was earlier in the run. And the role of the character Judy (Ashely Tuttle), a war widow, has increased in importance. The cast of 27 is completed by Andrew Allagree, Mark Arvin, Aliane Baquerot, Alexander Brady, Holly Cruikshank, Ron De Jesus, Melissa Downey, Pascale Faye, Scott Fowler, David Gomez, Meg Paul, Laurie Kanyok, William Marrié, Rod McCune, Jill Nicklaus, Rika Okamoto, Karine Plantadit Bageot, Lawrence Rabson, Dana Stackpole and John J. Todd.
The principals are a group highly steeped in dance, as opposed to theatre. Parkinson and Wise were both featured dancers in the Broadway revue, "Fosse." Wise first made his mark in Jerome Robbins' "Broadway," winning a Tony for his work. The two hoofers are husband and wife.
Roberts was also in "Fosse" as well as Matthew Bourne's "Swan Lake." Selya is a veteran of many seasons at "American Ballet Theatre." Tuttle also has dozens of "American Ballet Theatre" ballets to her credit. Much of Bowman's work has been at the "New York City Ballet."
All are members of Tharp's own dance group, "Twyla Tharp Dance."
The Chicago-to-Broadway route is the same one used by "The Producers" and, with less fortunate results, "Sweet Smell of Success."
Designers are Santo Loquasto (sets), Suzy Benzinger (costumes), Donald Holder (lighting) and Brian Ruggles and Peter Fitzgerald (sound).
Stuart Malina is the music director on the venture.
Matinees of "Movin' Out" will feature different leads and a different singer than will the evening performances.
Night shows of the dance-heavy piece will star Elizabeth Parkinson and John Selya as Brenda and Eddie, Keith Roberts as Tony, Ashley Tuttle as Judy and Michael Cavanaugh as the vocalist belting out Joel's songbook.
On Wednesday and Saturday matinees, Brenda and Eddie will be played by Holly Cruikshank and William Marrié, while David Gomez will be Tony, Dana Stackpole is Judy and Wade Preston is on vocals.
At all performances, Scott Wise will play Sergeant O'Leary and the Drill Sergeant, and Benjamin G. Bowman will portray James.
The shifting line-up, which is detailed in the show's program, was no doubt devised to afford the lead performers a break from the physical workout provided by Twyla Tharp's choreography.
During evening shows, Cruikshank and Gomez are part of the ensemble. Marrié and Stackpole are swings.