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Smokey puts film under fire

February 04, 2007|Chris Lee | Times Staff Writer

UNLIKE so many cineplex offerings these days, the big-screen adaptation of "Dreamgirls" does not open with the tagline "inspired by a true story" -- even if the movie and the smash Broadway musical that preceded it have done little to conceal their real-life inspiration: Motown Records supremo Berry Gordy and his management of Diana Ross and the Supremes in the '60s and '70s.

As the film has made its inexorable march through award season toward the Oscars, doing increasingly big business at the box office along the way, neither Gordy nor Ross have offered their opinions. But "Dreamgirls," which leads the field with eight Academy Award nominations, has roiled another Motown legend: Smokey Robinson.

" 'Dreamgirls' is an affront to Berry, to Motown, to Diana Ross, to our legacy," Robinson says. "It defames something we've been building for 50 years. And for a group of people who weren't there and don't know what went on at the time to come along and distort Motown -- for people all over the world who don't know the true story -- that's not acceptable to me."

The soul crooner voices anger at the filmmakers but also particular disappointment with "Dreamgirls" stars Eddie Murphy, Beyonce Knowles and Jamie Foxx -- performers he feels have lost sight of their African American cultural heritage.

"For them to depict [Gordy] as this shyster who was underhanded from the very first moment, paying people off, manipulating everybody and he's hooked up with the Mafia and doctoring the books at his house -- that's unacceptable," Robinson explains in uncharacteristically heated tones.

Specifically addressing Robinson's displeasure with "Dreamgirls," the film's distributor, DreamWorks/Paramount, issued this statement:

"On behalf of the filmmakers, we would like to remind Mr. Robinson that 'Dreamgirls' is a work of fiction based on a Broadway play. We also take exception to Mr. Robinson's unwarranted attack on the cast of 'Dreamgirls,' who are all at the zenith of their careers."

The studio's piquant rejoinder notwithstanding, Robinson remains resolute that amends are in order. "Let them tell me why they depicted us in such a negative light," he says. "Berry Gordy broke down racial barriers and brought people together through music. He and Diana Ross deserve an apology."

Wu-Tang Clan together again

IT'S been six years since the multiplatinum-selling, paradigm-shifting Staten Island rap collective Wu-Tang Clan released a studio album. And in the wake of founding member Ol' Dirty Bastard's drug overdose death in 2004, individual Wu output has been hit-or-miss.

There was "4:21 ... The Day After," Method Man's first CD since his sitcom fiasco, "Meth & Red," which was praised by critics but languished commercially. Ghostface Killah's paean to coke dealing, "Fishscale," became one of the best-reviewed albums of last year and is widely hailed as a modern classic. Wu-Tang's musical architect, the RZA, has worked steadily composing and producing soundtracks for movies, including "Kill Bill" and "Freedom Writers," and took small parts in films, "Coffee and Cigarettes" and "Derailed" among them. Raekwon the Chef, meanwhile, was enlisted to join Dr. Dre's all-star Aftermath Entertainment roster, along with label-mates Eminem, 50 Cent, Eve and Busta Rhymes. And for their parts, remaining Wu members Inspectah Deck, Masta Killah, the GZA and U-God continued to contribute verses to various hip-hop cuts and compilations.

Coming together from across the hip-hop diaspora, however, the Clan has reunited and will release a new CD, "8 Diagrams," this summer on SRC Records. (And keeping with a Wu tradition, the album takes its name from a Hong Kong kung-fu flick.) That includes ODB, whose posthumous contribution "will show you why he was considered one of the illest MCs ever," the RZA said in an announcement. Also planned for the album, a tribute to Ol' Dirty called "Life Changes." "Hopefully, it will provide closure for the fans," the RZA said.

Posh's postings: It's an L.A. life

IF serious artists such as Radiohead's Thom Yorke and electronica's most high-profile vegan, Moby, can maintain Web logs, who's to say Posh Spice can't blog too?

A tabloid mainstay throughout Europe, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham -- wife of soccer star David Beckham, a.k.a. the world's most famous athlete, who is Southland bound after taking a $250-million deal to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy -- has been using a blog ( to chronicle the spectacle of "Posh and Becks" going Hollywood. She's also using it to burnish her already not inconsiderable fame with Angeleno bona fides.

"We've been lucky enough to be invited to a couple of Golden Globes parties," she wrote in one typically breathless posting last month. "As for the clothes -- wow -- there are some gorgeous dresses being worn by Hollywood's finest."

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