The 2009 ELLA Awards - A FULL Report

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Arrived at the Beverly Hilton around 6:30 and headed to Trader Vic’s with hair far from perfect for a few cocktails poolside. They show old surfing films projected on a wall by the pool when it gets dark. Very sexy. Not to mention the people watching. I was able to grab a seat right in front of stage right next to Ed Begley Jr & Renee Olstead’s table with Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr right below me.

The show started at 9 with video tributes from friends who could not attend tonight. First up was Sergio, followed by Richard Carpenter who said that he and his wife were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary tonight. Next up was Sting sporting a full beard. And to close out the video tributes was Burt Bacharach at his piano playing and singing “This Guy’s In Love”. Very sweet & very cool.

The first act of the evening was the LA Gay Men’s Chorus who sang a nice rendition of “The Look Of Love”. Paul Williams was a no-show. Don’t know what happened. But they replaced him with someone even shorter! 8-year-old Ethan Bortnick. His feet could not reach the peddles on grand piano on stage. He used a specialized rig that attached to the pedals. He wowed us with “Waltz For Debbie”, by Bill Evans and closed with a rousing sing-a-long take of Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive”.

19 year old Renee Olstead took the stage next and said, “Great, now I have to follow that!…so talented…I really feel old”. She sang in remembrance of A&M recording artist Billy Preston and gave us a rousing rendition of “Nothing From Nothing”. Alan Berman took the stage next and said, “She feels old?” to uproarious laughter. Bill Cantos at the grand piano joined Alan on stage. He told the story of Herb calling he and Marilyn and asking them to write lyrics for the song, “Jerusalem”. “It’s a song about peace & resolution”, a message that still resonates today. He and Bill traded lines of Herb’s haunting melody. I have never heard those lyrics before. But like me, there were many that night wiping tears from our eyes. A true highlight of a memorable evening.

Tata Vega gave us a heartfelt story of how a few years ago she was down-and-out and how the Society of Singers saved her life. She then belted out a high-octane version of, “Going Out Of My Head”. Since “Q” was in the house, I was hoping that perhaps we would also get a version of “Miss Celie’s Blues”. But she left the stage so Jerry Sharell could give Pat Boone a Lifetime Achievement Award. Pat took the stage while “April Love” blasted from the sound system. “Now that guy can sing”, Pat said. His date for the evening was his daughter Debby, who I must say looked very hot for her 56 years. Must be the genes, because Pat also looked great for his 71 years. When talking about his date for the evening , Pat said, “I can pick ‘em & I can grow ‘em!” You got that right Pat. Oh the memories from this boy back when I was a kid in 1977 and you couldn’t turn on the radio or TV for that matter and not hear “You Light Up My Life”.

Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. then were welcomed to the stage. “It’s so hard to stay together our crazy business and Herb & Lani have set a beautiful example”, said Marilyn. She & Billy then treated us to an amazing version of “You Are So Beautiful”. They then introduced, “Also celebrating his 5th decade in the business, starting as a producer and a song writer and recently has had 5 top vocal jazz albums, his real name is Italian (Marilyn for some reason could not pronounce, “Bilao”) please welcome Steve Tyrell”. Steve bounded on stage and ripped into a blasting version of, “Say A Little Prayer”. Steve then told us that he is here tonight to represent his mentors, Burt Bacharach & Hal David. “I just was over to Burt’s house last week for his 81st birthday party and he would be here tonight but he is in New York tonight”.

“I was a 19 year old staff producer & promoter for Scepter Records and I even sold records at live gigs”. I spent a lot of time on the A&M lot and let me tell you it was the coolest place and the greatest record company of all time”. “Besides being a great artist, to show you just how smart Herb is, he was scheduled to do a TV Special, and he went to Burt & Hal and Hal David changed the lyric and Herb had a number 1 hit”. Steve then went into his version of “This Guy’s In Love”.

“Herb told me this next story”, said Steve. We had a song with Dionne Warwick over at Scepter records that we stupidly didn’t think much of and Herb got a hold of it and cut a version. Herb’s engineer, Larry Levine said, ‘That song is not for you’, and Herb wisely gave it to two new young artists and A&M and Hal & Burt” had another #1 hit. Steve then closed his short set with “Close To You”. The only thing missing from tonight's celebration was Karen. Boy do we miss her.

Next up before Q took the stage we were treated to a montage of clips on the big screens in beautiful digital quality. We started with that helicopter shot zooming in on Herb & band at the bullring and the “Chaplin” dancers at A&M with squeals of glee form the crowd. Then the ocean side version of “Taste” with the orchestra. And then the Herb & Lani Make-out session for the “Rise” video. It was so neat to watch Herb & Lani kiss while their likenesses’ of thirty years ago made-out on the big screens. Next up was the video for “Come What May”, from 1980’s “Blush” album. True, lasting love. We then were treated to a vintage clip of “Mas Que Nada”, “Never Say Never Again” and Lani’s acceptance speech at the Grammy’s given to her by Herb himself & Ruben Blades. How about those white Madonna “Like A Virgin” cut-off lace gloves Lani was sporting! The montage concluded with excerpts from the “Anything Goes” EPK.

Jerry Sharell then took the podium again to introduce Quincy Jones. “He called me up in Cleveland one day and said I just cut a hit record with Leslie Gore, called “It’s My Party” and you better play it! Well I did and he has always also come through for me”. Not “in the bag” fully but a nicely lubricated Quincy Jones quickly dismissed with the teleprompter! “I jumped out of movies because of optic sound and Herbie & Jerry took me in. George Harrison & Dark Horse was down the hall. A&M was like heaven and the greatest recording label that ever was”. A huge ovation rolled forward like a wave from this crowd. I was working on the string arrangement for Herbie for his version of that song from that religious movie with Marlon Brando (huge laugh from the house!) when they landed on the moon in ’69 and they played my arrangement for “Fly Me To The Moon” by Frank on the television when we were in the studio. Just wild. How about that little dude at the piano tonight!? He couldn’t even reach the pedals! I went with Dizzy to Brasil in ’59 and met Sergio & 10 years later in ’66 Lani is knocking them dead with Sergio & Brasil ’66." “And finally, (My favorite quote of the entire evening) I love me some Vibrato, I’m still tying to get my togetherness together when I take my ladies to Vibrato”. Wow. "Herbie Alpert and Lani Hall. That is all I have to say”.

Herb & Lani took to the stage to a thunderous standing O. Lani was first to speak. She chose to use the podium. “I’m much better suited to singing than talking”. Lani went on to thank (All of whom were at their long dais table that evening) her father Peter, Richard, her brother and her children, Aria, Eden and Dore. “I’m grateful to Sergio Mendes for changing the course of my life in 1965”. “The real gift this evening is to be standing on stage with the most creative talented man I have ever known, my beautiful husband Herb Alpert. These past two years have been the first that we have recorded and played as a team and they have been a dream come true for me”. “His love is the most powerful force in my life”. “Lastly I accept this award in honor of my mother Mary Hall who always believed in my singing”.

Herb then chose to grab a mic and stalk the stage like Chris Rock. He was loose as a goose and the crowd loved it. “I want to thank you all for coming. I dyed my hair gray for the occasion. Seeing myself up there, my goodness. Better up-to-date that guy”. Huge laugh, the loudest coming from Lani! “Thanks to my brother Quincy”. “My partner, we started A&M records in 1962 on a handshake. I was just the guy who played bar mitzvahs and weddings. He knew what to do with this guy. My partner, Jerry Moss”. Jerry stands up to a huge ovation. “Quite frankly I don’t think I deserve this award. I’m a one hit wonder. I’m not a singer. I’m just glad Steve Tyrell didn’t get, ‘This Guy’s In Love With’ you before I did. But then again I have tinnitus in both ears, I have a slight case of osteoporosis and I don’t think I deserve that either”. Roaring laughter. “I stole that line from Bill Moyers”.

“Thank you to Alan Bergman. I thought that was so touching, ‘Jerusalem’. I wrote that melody while I was looking out the window at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. And Alan & Marilyn wrote that exquisite lyric. Thank you so much”. In 1933, Rogers & Heart wrote a play and a song. I thought it was for me, because I married an angel”. “We’ve been married for 36 years and it has been the happiest 36 years of my life”. Herb sings “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face” to Lani.







Well-Known Member
Thanks for the report, it's almost like being there myself. Just a minor nit...when you spoke of Pat and Debby Boone, something seemed amiss; I checked and discovered that Pat Boone was born on June 1, 1934 and Debby was born on September 22, 1956; that makes them 74 and 52 years old, respectively. That really doesn't detract from a fine posting, but it did make Pat 15 tears old when Debby was born...not impossible, but highly unlikely. Pat is definitely a dapper guy, and pretty unfazeable, too...I saw a clip recently that showed him doing some rope tricks onstage when the rope slipped in his hand, hit him in the head, and knocked his toupee loose. He laughed, readjusted it, and kept on going.

Dan, who'd love to hear those lyrics to JERUSALEM...


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Wow, Cheery, what a night you had! Pat Boone, daughter Debby, Steve Tyrell, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr, Ed Begley, and Quincy Jones!! Also, Jerry Moss! And last but not least ,Herb and Lani! All those anecdotes! All those jokes! That, my friends, is the way to celebrate an evening.

By the way, speaking of "Q", there is a new book out about him called THE COMPLETE QUINCY JONES:MY JOURNEY AND PASSIONS; with reproductions of his personal papers, newspaper articles about Quincy(even a reproduction of his high school report card, and the leadsheet from WE ARE THE WORLD, complete with autographs from everyone that was on the session that night!), personal photos, etc. But I didn't see a photo of him with Herb and Jerry, although in the past, I've seen pictures of him with the both of them in other magazines. All in all, it's a very good book, and it sounds, Cheery like you had a great evening!


New Member
Hi CherryStreet ! Weren't the Ellas amazing? Better each year ... ! I would love to hear Jerusalem on cd with the Marilyn & Alan Bergman lyrics!

Was that your ole' pal Steve of the Five Platinum Ella Tickets fame you were referring to about the $50 cd bid?! It was worth twice that, but no ... that wasn't me this time.

Five Platinum Ella Tickets fame is about all the fame I got !!! :)

I can't wait 'til the next one ! Where do we speculate about who's the next recepient?

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