For someone just hitting his stride as musical director for such stars as Bette Midler and Billy Crystal, Marc Shaiman has a suprising wish.
"I only wish I had lived 40 or 50 years ago," said the 29-year-old musician, seated in the living room of his Laurel Canyon home.
"I wouldn't miss the more contemporary things that I get to work on at all if I did have some magic time machine. The music back then appeals to me completely," said Shaiman, who is a panelist at today's "Film Music Dialogues" symposium at the Directors Guild. "I always wanted to write those kind of Nelson Riddle arrangements, but I never thought I'd have the chance. That's why 'When Harry Met Sally . . .' was a true fantasy."
Shaiman co-produced the sound-track album to the hit romantic comedy, on which Harry Connick Jr. sings such standards as "But Not for Me," "It Had to Be You" and "Our Love Is Here to Stay." The album is a surprise hit, breaking into the Top 50 on the pop album chart. It's Shaiman's second successful sound track of the year. He also did the honors on "Beaches," which reached No. 2 in the spring and generated Bette Midler's first No. 1 single, "Wind Beneath My Wings."
The bearded-but-boyish Shaiman has been enthralled with Midler since he was a 12-year-old growing up in Scotch Plains, N.J. He first met his idol in 1977 when he was playing piano in a New York nightclub for her former backup trio, the Harlettes. By 1979, he was her music director.
Of his attraction to Midler, Shaiman said, "She was that perfect missing link for all those people who loved both theater and pop music." Indeed, responding to both worlds--vintage Broadway as well as '60s girl groups--is what makes Shaiman unique.
"Sometimes I feel like a freak," he said. "In my work, I'm always switching off my likes and dislikes. But I'm lucky because I've hooked up with Bette and Harry and I've managed to find projects that have allowed me to bridge the two worlds."