As the crowd of Genesis Luncheon VIPs gathered just outside the Anatole’s Wedgwood Room, the Chantilly Ballroom was in the final stages of setting up. But even after that last piece of silverware was in place, the staff stood in place. For on the stage was Michael Bolton singing “Beautiful World.” As his voice filled the room, the staff was mesmerized for their own private performance by the award-winning singer/songwriter. As he sang the last note, applause rose from all present.
But he had little time to enjoy the response because he was needed at the meet-and-greet with Beth Thoele, Bianca Davis, Nancy Best, Marjon Henderson, Daniella Giglio and some guests like Effie Dennison, who couldn’t hide the excitement of meeting Michael.
Ron Corning reported that he was no longer with CW 33 but his “Morning After” program with Jenny Anchondo is still with the station … Clay Jenkins was receiving congratulations for seeing the county thru the past two years.
Once the guests took their places in the ballroom, Genesis Fund And Community Development Senior Director Amy Norton welcomed the audience and introduced a video explaining how the funds raised through the luncheon would benefit Genesis’ mission to help women overcome violent relationships.
Luncheon Co-Chairs Beth and Fin Ewing followed Amy and, of course, Fin couldn’t resist telling a story reminiscent of an old joke about “Bubba knowing everyone.” Only instead of Bubba, the person who knows everyone was Genesis CEO Jan Langbein.
Finishing up Fin got down to business noting that thanks to those present, the day’s event had achieved its fundraising goal.
Before the meal officially got underway, Rev. Sheron Patterson gave one of her spellbinding invocations.
A few minutes later a video was shown focusing on “Samantha,” who had risen from loss to self-esteem thanks to Genesis.
It was followed by Jan, who reported that despite the pandemic’s restrictions, Genesis had continued to help women escaping violent relationships thanks to donors and sponsors. One of the programs that was ramped up was the tele-help program’s texting access for women. Since its launch in June 2021, “more than 15,000 unique texts have come in.”
In emerging from the pandemic, there were things to celebrate in addition to holding in-person events and assistance. In March, President Joe Biden signed the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act that was expanded to recognize missing and murdered indigenous women. Then, just days before, there was the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
However, regarding the confirmation of Judge Jackson, Jan was disappointed at the “unacceptable and outrageous, outrageous manner some members of the Senate judiciary committee treated Judge Jackson during her testimony. While this blatant sign of disrespect was not really surprising to me, it’s nonetheless shocking and disheartening. But I want to talk about the fact that it was a horrible example for others how Judge Jackson was spoken to. The words matter, guys. The words matter. It was a horrible example for how to speak to women that has constantly been known by others. Words are so important and it matters. Children at Genesis have grown up in abusive homes and these words shape the rest of their lives and that is how they are able to continue that generational cycle of violence.”
Jan used the importance of words to transition into introducing Bolton, who “knows all about words and he uses his words and uses his voice to tell stories that touch our hearts and also touch our minds.” As an example, she used his song “I Said I Loved You… But I Lied,” explaining that women at Genesis almost feel it to be a theme song for what they have gone through. She told of another client who upon driving away from her abusive home “blasted” another Bolton song, “When I’m On My Feet Again.”
Michael joined Jan on stage, describing her as “an unstoppable force.” Highlights of the conversation included Michael recalling:
- At the age of 12, “My brother, sister and I moved out of our home to live with my mother, who raised us as a single parent. I found music to be a great source of comfort for me. I shut down through the intensity of the drama in the household and he died a few years later.”
- When Epic Records heard his demo and offered him a contract, he was just 16, so his mother had to sign the contract. It would 18 more years before he would have his big hit.
- Due to playing sports as a youngster and his father’s encouragement, it didn’t occur to him to give up during the 18-year period of no hits.
- “I think for happiness people kept hearing my demos because I kept trying… I kept having just enough courage not to give up.”
- Married at the age of 22 and then having three daughters, he admitted that, “The life, the journey into the world of music doesn’t come with a weekly paycheck.” Contracts fell through; agents called to say bookings were canceled. At the time, “We didn’t have the term homelessness, but we did get eviction notices. The person who owned the house we were living in apologized, but said we couldn’t live there anymore. We couldn’t let my daughters know what really happened. But then something happened and my songwriting started to catch on.” Artists like Cher, Barbra Streisand and Bob Dylan started using his works.
- When it came time to “dish” about Cher, Michael responded, “The things I could tell you about Cher, I can’t talk about. Can I? Cher has a very great sense of humor. She’s also a very intense workaholic. She does what she wants. She is a very strong person and I wrote a song [“I Found Someone”] for her comeback after she decided to make the movie that she won the Oscar for…. I think she’d spent most of her life in Hollywood and had a kind of thinking. She walked into the studio and it was the first time I ever saw her in white. She was completely dressed in white. And I just spoke my mind, ‘You look great in white.’ She said, ‘What do you want?’ I thought, ‘Oh, you mean you think I want something because I gave you a compliment. Okay, that’s interesting.’ Years later, after the song had become a hit and relaunched her career, she sent me a photograph of herself signed, ‘I’m wearing white panties under these.’ And then she said on the back, ‘Just kidding, I’m not wearing any.’ That’s my Cher story.”
- His Apollo performance of the late Otis Redding‘s “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay” received a glowing review by Otis’ widow Zelma Redding.
- Patti LaBelle: “It’s amazing. I love Patti LaBelle. I wrote a song [‘We’re Not Making Love Anymore’] for Barbra Streisand and Patti loved it and we recorded it as a duet together.
- Ray Charles: “He was being given an award and they asked me how I felt about singing to Ray Charles. I was like ‘I think I can do that.'”
- Performing “Nessun Dorma” with Luciano Pavarotti: “Luciano Pavarotti was very open to performing with contemporary artists. And I had heard some of the performances that sing along with him was the most demanding. It was just unworldly. And I wanted to do both of them justice. I wanted to have this moment with him that he would remember. He was so gracious. We were in his hometown [Modena, Italy] and he walked on stage and I had just rehearsed ‘Nessun Dorma.’ Suddenly there was Pavarotti and I was starting to shake a little bit. He said, ‘I see you’re studying the tenor.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Actually I’ve been studying you.'” The performance went viral, achieving more than 200K views. And it wasn’t their only performance together. “We performed on the Dave Letterman Show. It was in the mid-’90s. I still had long hair.”
- Turning point: It was during his days singing rock ‘n roll that he had a sideline of writing R&B songs for other singers. Columbia Records executive Al Teller called him into his office. Michael thought that since he hadn’t had a hit in a while he was going to be released from his contract — “It’s like being told by your girlfriend that you can date anybody else but me.” Instead, Teller told him to stop giving his songs away. It seems that Teller had noticed that all the secretaries in the company were taking home all the demos that Michael had submitted. “That got my attention,” and his next album [“The Hunger”] sold 10M copies.
- Being a serious guy: When asked about his image of being an all-around serious person, Michael pointed to his appearance as Jack Sparrow on “Saturday Night Live.” He admitted that the first versions by the SNL team “were raunchy and so unacceptable.” The next morning his daughter reported that the segment had gone viral with even Justin Bieber posting “You’re a monster. You have to check out your video.” Michael was a bit stunned that “Justin Bieber is texting about me?” The result: it has been viewed more than 200M times.
- Why he came to the Genesis Luncheon: With three daughters, three grandchildren and being raised by a single mother,”it’s more than a woman’s issue. It’s a human rights issue… To a certain extent hold ourselves accountable to find new ways to reach the next generation of people … and find ways to get into the education system to create a dialogue for young men.”
- How he started his national efforts to stop domestic violence: “Before I had hits, I got no return phone calls from record executives and successful people in the business. They did not return my calls. When I started having hits, not only did people call me, they invited me to lavish dinners, fundraisers for Cystic Fibrosis, cancer fund research, all these causes I would love to help. The first question I asked was, ‘Why are they asking me?’ And then I realized that celebrity is a type of courtesy.” He realized that he could use his celebrity status to raise funds and awareness for his own cause. Initially, it was to help struggling families. In setting up his own foundation, he was amazed at the statistics about women’s shelters. “I had next to no knowledge about domestic violence. I couldn’t imagine any of my daughters being in that kind of environment, nor would I have let them.” As it is, he described his three daughters as “three very strong women. They have their own businesses that they run. I watch them amazed. I watch my children mother their children.”
Jan announced to Michael and the crowd that he was being made a life member of Genesis HeROs and presented him with a pin. In return, Michael performed “Beautiful” for the guests.