From left, Julia, Oren and Maxine Waters and Claudia Lennear.
Tuesday night there was a free screening at Pomona College of the documentary “20 Feet From Stardom” that was attended by four of the featured performers from the movie: Claudia Lennear of Pomona and Julia, Maxine and Oren Waters.
Lennear, who was spotlighted in my column in March, sang background vocals on Ike and Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” and Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With,” among many others, while the Waters clan sang on the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” Donna Summers’ “Bad Girls,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the theme song for TV’s “Growing Pains” and the Disney movie “The Lion King.”
The room was packed for the movie and the Q&A afterward. The first guy’s question went something like this: “With the news this week about Donald Sterling” — and suddenly the four singers, all African-American, sat up straight, and the rest of us tensed for what promised to be a series of provocative, of-the-moment answers — “what are your thoughts about Phil Spector?”
Uh, what? The questions didn’t improve, with one man asking which song of theirs they would send into space “on a spaceship” for aliens, another asking which single performer from their past they would have worked with if they could only have worked with one. Another directed a rambling statement/question at their accompanist, guitarist Caleb Quaye, who wasn’t in the movie.
(Making things worse, Quaye talked at great length, as if he were 19 feet from stardom. You’ll be pleased to learn that he was saved in 1982 and that he hopes Elton John one day will be too.)
Thankfully no one asked what they’d bring to a desert island, which historical figure they’d want to eat dinner with or what type of tree they’d choose to be. One final question was taken, and answered at length, and then we were told, “just one or two more,” to teeth-gnashing and eye-rolls from people near me (and also from me). Well, the event was free, so no use demanding your money back.
At the end, we got two live performances: the Waters family singing Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’ “Up Where We Belong,” with Lennear’s aid, and then Lennear singing the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” with the Waters’ backing and Quaye providing subtle accompaniment on both. Very nice. Here’s a 45-second video clip of Lennear’s song. You won’t see much — I was in the back row, 50 feet from stardom — but the sound is fine.
Now if you haven’t watched the documentary, go and do so.