Mariah Carey: But Can She Carey A Movie?
For several years Mariah Carey has wanted to make movies. Now the princess of pop is getting her chance with Glitter, a rags-to-riches story she claims is not her life story.
I am expecting the worst. I've read about Mariah Carey for years. Ever since she released her first album in 1990 she's been labeled a diva, a title she loathes but seems to have done one or two things to earn. Her diva-like behavior has been reported on extensively--she's been accused of always being late, of throwing tantrums, of being a social climber who has completely forgotten her humble roots and of making outlandish demands of her employers and hosts. Her life story is a setup for all the presumptions of divadom. Here's the Reader's Digest condensed version. Young biracial girl moves to Manhattan, does a variety of menial jobs while dreaming of being a singer. One night she meets a man who volunteers to listen to her demo tape in his limo. After hearing it, he tells the girl he can make her a star. He's Tommy Mottola, head of Sony Music. Despite their 20-year age difference, the mogul and his prodigy fall in love and marry. She becomes a star and turns out more number-one hits than any solo female performer ever. They move into an enormous upstate New York mansion. Rumors abound that he's a Svengali with a temper who keeps his star-wife isolated from her friends and family. Eventually they divorce, prompting speculation she will fade away without the mighty mastermind. But fans keep buying her records. Virgin Records makes her the highest-paid performer in history by agreeing to pay her more than $20 million per album. I'm meeting Carey on the 21st floor of The Pierre hotel in New York City to talk to her about her new movie, Glitter. She has long wanted to branch out into acting. Several years ago she signed on to Double-O-Soul, a James Bond spoof with comedian Chris Tucker, but the project fizzled. In 1999 she appeared on-screen for mere minutes as an opera singer opposite Chris O'Donnell in The Bachelor. Critics didn't take to the pop diva trying to play a real diva and they slammed her even though she was actually one of the few high points of an otherwise dreary, unsuccessful movie. Now Carey is taking center stage in a thinly veiled version of her life story--poor girl hits big city in hopes of making hit records, which she does after she falls for a Svengali. She has spent more than three years trying to get Glitter, for which she wrote the treatment, off the ground. She's being paid little to star in it, but, with a minimal budget of $20 million, if the film is even a modest hit, it could mean a big payday--she's a coproducer and there's a soundtrack with new songs on it.
When I arrive at the upper reaches of The Pierre, Carey is ensconced in a two-bedroom suite with a view that makes Manhattan look like a child's dream city, complete with tiny people scurrying on the pavement and pretend cars. Carey's people explain that I might have to wait for a while because she's finishing up a photo shoot, but it's only a few minutes before Carey comes rushing out of the bedroom to apologize and ask if I'd like anything to eat or drink. She's in full makeup and wearing a dress that barely covers her remarkable body. She personally brings me the Diet Coke I've asked for and invites me to watch the shoot. "If you need anything else," she says in her incredibly raspy voice, "just call me."
For the next hour, the photographer and his assistants, the hair and makeup people, the stylist and a dozen others push and prod her. Through it all, Carey is like a cheerleader, urging them all to have a good time. When the last shot of the day is taken just after 10 p.m., she claps. "You all did a fantastic job," she says in her thick Long Island accent. "You should be very happy." As everyone walks out the door, I set up my tape recorder in the living room, which is as big as my yard, and wait for Carey, who's changing clothes in the other room. A minute later, she sweeps in, wearing orange sweatpants, a white tank top, a gigantic diamond bracelet, and a smile. "Do you mind if we do this in the other room?" she asks, grabbing all my stuff and heading off.
The room Carey brings me to is a small (and I mean small) space off the bathroom. There are two chairs crammed in with a Lilliputian-sized table. A huge humidifier is humming. "I apologize," she says. "Those other rooms are just too big. My vocal cords are weird and I need a lot of humidity. I have a different set of cords than most people, and my doctor says that he always gives talks about them because they're so unusual."
"Do you find appropriately miniature rooms wherever you go?" I ask.
Carey responds earnestly, "I rented this house out in Aspen last Christmas for my family. I love the snow and I thought it would be so great. I was recording some of the music for Glitter, and I had a big truck outside the house that was like a studio. I had this gorgeous bedroom, but I could feel my vocal cords getting tight. So I moved, like, six humidifiers into the closet and dragged my mattress in there and slept there for a week." Forget that the closet was big enough for all the humidifiers and the mattress--wouldn't a bona fide diva make the owners of any house she rented install a humidifying system that could deal with those delicate cords? But enough about vocal cords.
"Tell me about that diamond bracelet you're wearing," I say.
Carey flashes one of those smiles that could melt ice caps. "Luis bought it for me as a present." Luis is Luis Miguel, the Latin superstar singer, whom Mariah met in Aspen a couple of years ago (did he sleep with her in that closet last Christmas?) and has been linked with since.
"All I want to say about Luis is that he's a great guy. He's a very generous and gentle person. We've been in 33 cities together since we met. He understands my life because his is very similar, so we don't have a lot of issues. There are places we go where he's the center of attention and that is so cool with me. Other places I'm more well known, and he's good with that."
Although she says she doesn't know for sure, the bracelet is rumored to be the very one that Julia Roberts wore to the Oscars, and cost close to $1.5 million. It's a knockout.
"I can't get a fix on where you live. L.A., New York?"
"I just got my first apartment in New York City," she says excitedly. "We spent last night in it for the first time. It's so cool--a cross between a grown-up place and a fantasy. The first thing I bought was Marilyn Monroe's white piano. I've been a fan of hers since I was a little girl because my mom loved her. Certain people thought it was quite inappropriate that my mom would buy me Marilyn Monroe books. When I was six years old, I'd be singing 'I Wanna Be Loved By You,' waltzing around the house. So now I have her piano. And I have this room off my bedroom that's totally tiled--floor, walls, ceiling. And it's full of humidifiers. So if I get hoarse I can go sleep in there. I am so frigging tired of living in hotels, but I never had enough time to get an apartment fixed up."
"I think you must be the wealthiest star I've ever met. I hear your new record deal could earn you $100 million in a couple of years."
"Prince called me up the other night and said, 'You think you got a good deal, right?' And then he starts to say how they sell the record for $18.99 and most artists make less than a dollar on each CD. So he says, 'C'mon, do the math with me.' I said, 'Prince, I failed math before Purple Rain came out.' So he said, 'OK, if you sell 10 million records that's $100 million for them, and if every album you've ever done has sold eight million, what do you think you made for these people anyway?' I said, well, this is such a great company. And he says, 'That's like the old slave mentality, saying my new master is better than my old master.' Talk about taking the wind out of my sails. But I need to keep my eye on things, because I've been frigging taken advantage of like you wouldn't believe. They could do a whole miniseries on my life and my music, but they'd never run it. My life has been too sick and twisted."
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