The Scene: The gala pre-opening of B.B. King's Blues Club at Universal Citywalk, which will open in mid-July. Co-sponsor, Northwest Airlines, flew in an impressive lot of musical talent as well as a heap of southern barbecue from King's original club in Memphis. The evening was a benefit, raising at least $20,000 for the T.J. Martell Foundation, which funds research on leukemia, cancer and AIDS.
The Setting: A parking lot at Universal Citywalk in the shadow of the yet-to-be completed club was transformed into a bit of back-yard Tennessee with barn siding, magnolia trees and redwood picnic tables. Only those who received a press release fully appreciated the "more than 7,000 square feet of green grass sod" underfoot. Wonder who decided grass was a novelty item in Southern California?
The Blues: The Memphis Horns, Rufus Thomas, Mavis Staples, Sam Moore, Billy Preston, Diane Schuur and others joined King and his guitar "Lucille" for a miniature blues festival.
Who Was There: Isaac Hayes, Harry Anderson, Priscilla Presley, Clyde Avant (he'll be emcee at the club) and 12-year-old harmonica prodigy Brody Buster were among the more than 1,000 guests.
Fashion Statements: Willowy blondes in baggy flowered dresses, leathery blondes in black spandex. Many in baseball caps--Hollywood's take on Southern comfort. The gentlemen of the record industry turned out in force, with a forest of gray pony tails. Nothing could top the sport coats inspired by jungle animals, outer space and Elvis. It's nice to see men take a chance.
Chow: It takes a brave Yankee to bite into a fried dill pickle from Memphis. But they really aren't bad. The rest of the airdrop included hush puppies, fried catfish, heavenly BBQ beef and sweet potato pie. Beverages were served in Mason jars, which meant you could quite accidentally drink a quart of white Zinfandel if you weren't careful. The iced tea and lemonade were the sellout libations.
Quoted: Veteran Memphis blues man Rufus Thomas, kicking back with the audience: "I'm so glad I was here. Gigantic! Awesome! I wish it would never end. It's about time for California, for music in general, and especially the blues. Now's the time to set out and get something good for ya, good to ya and just plain good."