Lloyd Webber gets honor of a ‘Life’-time

GOOD MORNING: On a rainy Tuesday night in London, a limo was bearing Andrew Lloyd Webber to the Adelphi Theater, where he thought he was to present an award to his “Sunset Boulevard” star Betty Buckley. The theater was packed as usual, and the curtain went up, unveiling the spectacular set of Norma Desmond’s house. Lloyd Webber was at the rear of the theater when suddenly Michael Asteo descended the dramatic staircase and announced to the audience, “This is your life, Andrew Lloyd Webber.” He, wife Madeleine and their children were whisked to Teddington Studios in Middlesex for Thames TV and the BBC’s first time musical special tribute to Lloyd Webber. Both the TV studio and theater audiences went wild when it was announced Lloyd Webber was the subject. He currently has 31 shows playing around the world in 15 different countries, and his “The Phantom of the Opera” companies in the U.S. and Canada alone gross more than $ 5 million a month. And he told me he was celebrating the news that night that the advance for Broadway’s “Sunset Boulevard” has hit a new record –$ 32 million … The “This Is Your Life” stage featured 40 musicians, plus a 12-piece vocal group. Lloyd Webber, his wife and children were surrounded by a semicircle of stars and guests as they arrived to tribute the unique showbiz genius. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and everyone — including yours truly — felt particularly pleased and proud to be on hand. The show doesn’t have an airdate yet, in Britain or elsewhere.

THE SHOW OPENED WITH ELAINE PAIGE, who sang “Memory” from “Cats.” The Everly Brothers taped a message from Atlantic City, where they’re playing. Tim Rice, Lloyd Webber’s early lyricist, then gave a tribute, followed by David Land, his first manager … Glenn Close, in Vancouver in her Army colonel’s uniform from TV movie “Serving in Silence: The Grethe Cammermeyer Story,” taped a touching message in which she thanked Lloyd Webber for being a part of her life. Buckley, the current Norma Desmond in London, backstaged her message. And David Essex sang his “Evita” solo. It was followed by “Sunset Boulevard” lyricist Don Black. There was even a surprise audiotaped message from Barbra Streisand, who has had her share of Lloyd Webber hits. She thanked him for the “wonderful melodies you have given me to sing.” She was followed by Paul Nicolas of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Cats,” who was among those who told of the glitches as well as the triumphs of Lloyd Webber’s shows … Michael Crawford at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, preparing his show, related the wonderful life he had as the Phantom … One of the most spectacular moments of the night was Sarah Brightman and Young Connor Burrows dueting on “Requiem.” David Frost told of a humorous moment. From Barcelona, Jose Carreras told how Lloyd Webber wrote the Olympic theme in five minutes … England’s top pop star Michael Ball brought down the house with “Love Changes Everything” from “Aspects of Love.”

AFTER THE SHOW, LLOYD WEBBER’S close friends and family who appeared on the special were partied by his wife Madeleine at Crowther’s Restaurant, with Lloyd Webber making his way around the tables to thank all of us who came out for him. When I mentioned Faye Dunaway to him, he said he felt sorry for her. The “Sunset Boulevard” set from L.A. is in Toronto awaiting an opening there next year. The new set for N.Y.’s Nov. 17 Adelphi opening is ready for rehearsals to start in 10 days. A touring company will be launched in L.A. As for the bigscreen, the cartoon version of “Cats” is off and the Warner Bros. feature version of “Phantom” will hopefully be able to star Michael Crawford.

LAST FRIDAY, PETER USTINOV was also the subject of “This Is Your Life,” with taped greetings from King Hussein, Gorbachev and Angela Lansbury. Michael York flew in from Dublin, where he is shooting “September,” a four-hour mini with Jackie Bisset and James Fox. He weekended at Athenaeum and flew back to Dublin on Monday. Also at the hotel, which is headed by Hollywood friend James Brown, is Herb Lazarus, president of Cannell Intl. Distribution, here selling “Hawkeye, ” the new Lee Horsley-Lynda Carter show in advance of Mipcom … Sylvester Stallone arrives in New York Thursday for “The Specialist” appearances … He told me he had a “couple of more reshoots to add more action to the movie. “Where I only fought three guys before, now it’s eight.” He tells me he has no more plans to direct. “I want to leave it to the young, hungry striving guys. Directing a movie is like taking a piece out of your life.” He says “Judge Dredd ,” in addition to its obvious futuristic action content, also will have a “social relevancy — about today’s legal system.”

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