The New York premiere for the Paramount Classics film, Shine A Light, the Martin Scorsese concert documentary about the Rolling Stones, was held on Sunday, March 30, at Clearview’s Ziegfeld Theater on West 54th.
The area was heavily secured, as fans stood across the street, hoping to catch a glimpse of the band from afar. A tented entrance was constructed the day before the premiere in order to seclude the proceedings on the red carpet from fans that security kept across the street.
Predictably, on the night of the premiere, fans gathered across the street, hoping to watch the band members, who departed from their vehicles and directly entered the enclosure covering the private red carpet that led them into the theater.
Earlier that day, Scorsese had explained that part of the reason why he had chosen the Beacon Theater as the venue at which to film the concert documentary was because he is a native of Manhattan. With the concert footage having been filmed in New York City on October 29 and November 1, 2006, the Big Apple would serve as a perfect location for a premiere of the film.
Among the first arrivals on the red carpet was Steven Bing, one of the film’s co-producers. Bing had previously bankrolled the Rolling Stones free concert that was billed as the “Global Warming Concert,” which was held at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on February 6, 2003. The Staples performance, which was hosted by President Clinton, was an effort to create awareness of environmental issues, and it promoted the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Clinton is briefly seen in Shine A Light, introducing the band’s performance at New York’s Beacon Theater, and in a scene with his wife, Hillary. I asked Bing, “First a free concert in L.A, and now, this film. How good can all of this be?” Bing looked at me and smiled, and made his way down the red carpet.
Also present was Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of countless works, including the Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End, which featured a cameo appearance by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards.
Actresses Michelle Yeoh and Gina Gershon were also among the evening’s arrivals. Stones vocalist Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, designer L’Wren Scott, was there, as were several film executives, who also arrived to see Scorsese’s work.
Arriving late were Jennifer Lopez and her husband, Marc Anthony.
A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio, who had appeared in Scorsese’s film, The Departed, was present at the event, as was fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, who has long expressed his devotion to the band.
As Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts made his way down the carpet, I asked him what his imminent plans are. Specifically, I asked him if he is planning to go on the road with another jazz project, such as his 1992 Charlie Watts Quintet tour, or if he planned on recording another jazz disc. “That is what people are asking me, but I don’t know,” he quietly responded, adding, “Because right now, I haven’t got time at the moment to do it.”
When I saw Mick Jagger, he looked at me, smiled, and stopped. He enthusiastically chirped, “Hi, there! Hi, there!!” I immediately knew he that wanted to have some fun. He looked vivacious, and totally exuberant. Having picked up on that, I knew that regardless of any question I would ask him, he would use the opportunity with me to display his sense of humor that he had intermittently flaunted during the press conference that I had attended earlier that day. I decided to go for something serious, just to see how he could still manage to turn it into some sort of comedy. “Mick,” I said, starting to ask my question. He looked at me, and in the most humorous, effected voice, exclaimed, “Oh, oh, oh!”
“Mick,” I proceeded to ask, “What did you learn from doing this film?” With perfect timing, he humorously uttered, “Oh! Oh! Oh!!!!! That Christina Aguilera has a fantastic voice…and lovely…boots!”
Ironically, one of the very things that is evident during Shine A Light is the humor with which Jagger sometimes approaches members of the press. Often, there is simply the absurdity of the moment, or the pointlessness and stupidity of some of the questions the band is asked by reporters. Jagger’s tongue-in-cheek humor often says more than what many people likely even pick up on, adding even more to the irony.
Later that night, I would ask a question that had come back and forth in my mind for over fifteen years. But that was still a few minutes away.
When I saw Rolling Stones horn player and keyboardist Tim Ries approaching, I asked him, “Tim, what did you think of the film?” He responded by telling me, “Well, I haven’t seen it yet, really. I saw it in Italy this summer, just as they were just kind of putting it together, and it hadn’t been quite mixed. But even then, it was amazing. I think it will be pretty intense. I think it’s going to be amazing. From what I remember in Italy, just with the visuals, it’s phenomenal.”
I then asked him, “What are you going to be doing in the next year or so?” He replied, “My next CD will be coming out in August. It’s another one my Stones projects.”
“Oh, really?” I asked him. He then elaborated, “The first one was called the Rolling Stones Project, and this one is called Rolling Stones World, I believe, because there are seventy musicians from around the planet, in nine different languages, and it’s all Rolling Stones material.”
“I have The Stones Project, and it’s really an interesting album,” I responded. “It was released on Concord Records, right?”
“Yes,” Ries replied.
I then added, “I must say I really appreciated your solo gig you played in London last summer, during the Stones tour. The band was playing the O2 gigs. I really enjoyed that a lot.”
“Great! Thanks,” Ries replied.
It was now time for him to leave the red carpet, and make his way into the theater. “Great, thank you. It was a pleasure!” Ries concluded.
Rolling Stones back-up vocalists Blondie Chaplin and Bernard Fowler were now making their way down the red carpet.
“Bernard Fowler!” I chimed, to which Fowler responded, “Hi, Phyllis…”
“In the film, what did you think of the harmonies on “Far Away Eyes?” I ask him.
“I haven’t seen it yet,” Bernard told me.
“It’s amazing,” I replied. “It’s totally awesome.”
“It is?” asked Bernard. “What did you think of it? You saw it!”
“It’s absolutely brilliant,” I told him.
“Was it?” he asked, expressing his anticipation of seeing the film.
“I loved it,” I raved.
“Okay!” Fowler proclaimed, looking forward to seeing what Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese had created.
“I saw it last night,” I explained.
“All right!” said Bernard.
Blondie Chaplin, one of the Stones back-up singes, who also plays guitar on some of the songs, says, “Hello” to me.
I continue by saying, “The sound is just incredible.”
“Was it?” Bernard asks. “All right!!!”
I then addressed Chaplin, noting, “Blondie, there is a lot of great footage in the film of you playing guitar.”
Chaplin responded, “Oh, it was fun.”
“Have you seen it yet?” I asked.
“I saw it the other night at the Imax,” commented Chaplin.
“It was good. Very good.”
I looked aside, and I saw Stones bassist Darryl Jones proceeding down the red carpet.
“Darryl,” I ask, “Hey, how are you?”
“Great!” he says, and I can tell he means it.
“What did you think of the gig at Mozambique?” I ask him, referring to the Laguna Beach, California benefit gig that he had played with Lisa Fischer and others musicians in the band, in order to raise money for people whose nearby homes had been lost in fires. I had covered that event that also included guitarist Waddy Wachtel.
“The gig at Mozambique? Oh, I enjoyed that!” Jones exclaimed. “I loved that. That was great. It was really great. I had a lot of fun. That was a lot of fun.”
“There is a lot of footage of you in the film. Have you seen it yet?” I asked Jones.
“No,” he said. “I have not. Not this yet, you know…”
“It’s great, and you look fantastic in it,” I told him. “There are some really shots of you in the live footage. For part of it, you’ve got your striped suit jacket on, and your hat, and you sound utterly fantastic.”
“Oh, great, great. I’m glad to hear that!” stated Jones. “I’m very glad to hear that. Oh, well that’s great. Okay! Well, I guess you’ve seen it, huh?”
“You really have something to look forward to,” I said.
“Well, great. I’m very glad to hear it. I’m really glad to hear that,” Jones acknowledged.
As Bernard, Blondie and Darryl stand in front of me on the red carpet, ready to walk into the Ziegfeld to see Shine A Light, I end our encounter by telling them, “There are the Glimmer Twins, but you are the Glimmer Triplets!” All three burst into laughter. “Good one, Phyllis!” exclaimed Bernard. I responded by saying, “See you back in L.A.”
“All right, take care!” said Chaplin.
“All right then!” Darryl said, as the three walk into the theater together.
Rolling Stones vocalist Lisa Fischer’s comments to me about her Shine A Light experience were, “It was very joyous. It means a lot. It was about survival.”
I ask her, “Survival, in what way?”
She responds, “I am so proud of the band, that the band has survived everything they have. I’m just so grateful to be a part of it.”
Ron Wood is now making his appearance on the red carpet. He is telling another member of the press, “It’s nice to get intimate, and the Beacon is small. There were more cameramen than audience. And we just liked to follow Martin Scorsese. If he says something, you do it.”
When asked, “What is your favorite Scorsese film?” Wood says, “Raging Bull.”
This is not the first time I have interviewed him.
“How fulfilling was it for your album The Essential Crossexion to finally come out?” I ask him.
“Love your eyes,” Woody tells me.
“Thank you,” I say.
“Your solo compilation album took a long time to come out,” I commented.
“I thought the album was really brilliant,” Ronnie says enthusiastically. “It was so many styles of music.”
“Yes,” I responded.
“It’s hard these days to control an album, you know. They put it out on the web. You know what I mean?” he laments.
I again start thinking about a question that I have been living with for over fifteen years.
I see Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards walking down the red carpet.
“Keith,” I asked, “Will there be another X-Pensive Winos tour?”
“I’m thinking about it, I’m thinking about it,” Keith says. “I’m gathering the guys together.”
This was the answer I had hoped for.
It was a beautiful evening as the moon hung high over the New York sky.
Phyllis Pollack lives in Los Angeles where she is a publicist and music journalist. She can be reached through her blog .