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spacer Randy Newman, Beverly Hills, California, 1983
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Randy Newman, Beverly Hills, California, 1983

This was shot while Randy and I were walking down Rodeo Drive, en route to Hunter’s Books, where he was hoping to buy a copy of Hector Berlioz’s “Evenings with the Orchestra,” perhaps the funniest novel ever written about classical musicians on the road. “I bet they won’t have it,” he said, in very droll cadences. “Nobody reads here. (And indeed Hunter’s didn’t have the book, and has since gone out of business.) Well, they read the labels inside clothes.” At the time, Randy was best known as a writer and performer of pop songs. His biggest hit, a song about prejudice called “Short People,” generated a mountain of controversy: short people across the nation worked very hard to get the song banned from radio. This baffled Randy. “Maybe I was right about the little pukes all along,” he said. Randy was born into a family of musicians. His uncles Lionel, Emil and Alfred were all soundtrack composers, an endeavor Randy eventually embraced with great success – especially in animated features including the Pixar films “Toy Story” and “A Bug’s Life” and “Monsters, Inc.,” for which he finally won an Academy Award. His father, the only brother not a musician, was a doctor. One of his patients was Howard Hughes, who would wake Dr. Newman in the middle of the night and deliver to his door women the aviator wanted certified disease-free before he would have sex with them. Randy has an amazingly self-depreciating sense of humor. He joked for years about the number of Academy Awards he didn’t win, and once said to me, ‘it’s tough going on stage and singing ‘Lonely at the Top’ in front of six people.”

 

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