Michael

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23 Aug 2018

Why Aretha Franklin Didn’t Rehearse for Her VH1 ‘Divas Live’ Performance

1:45 PM PDT 8/21/2018 by Michael Simon Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images From left: Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, Carole King, Aretha Franklin, Shania Twain and Celine Dion Director Michael Simon recalls the soul singer walking off the stage during rehearsals for the 1998 performance and how she made it work in the end: "There she was, this Mount Rushmore coming onto the stage." Aretha didn't rehearse for the show. And the reason she didn't rehearse was because she had requested that the air conditioning be turned off to protect her vocal cords. But when she got there for rehearsals, for some reason the AC was still on and she walked off the stage. I was in the control booth and 
there was near-hysteria. "Why wasn't the air conditioning turned off?!" Everybody kept asking but nobody had an answer. I'm guessing some house guy at…

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22 Sep 2017

The “Mount Rushmore” Shot: Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash on Storytellers

Unlike a traditional multi-camera video shoot in which the Director is in a production truck or control room (booth) physically removed from the stage, with Storytellers I was set up in the room, very close to the actual performance akin to where a Director would be in a typical narrative setup. This proximity allowed me to feel what the live audience was feeling and to have a line of sight to the artists. “VH1 Storytellers” started very simply in the winter of 1996; Ray Davies of Kinks fame, would perform a striped down version of some of his classics, tell stories about the songs and read from his autobiography. Shot in a small theater in lower Manhattan, we had three cameras, 8 lights and 50 people in the audience. I wanted very much to try to have the show look…

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01 Apr 2017

The Floor is Going to Collapse: INXS’s Last Filmed Show With Michael Hutchence

The Wheeler Opera House in Aspen Colorado had production offices under the floor right in front of the stage. As I found out in February of 1997 the floor (or ceiling depending on where you were) does not safely support hundreds of people jumping up and down. Why were they jumping up and down? Well, here is where the story starts… Looking back now, I realized how incredibly lucky I was during the 90’s to have worked at VH1. The channel for what ever it’s failings were, was committed to music at a time when music was about to enter a very different era. Digital meant very little in 1997, and the notion of music from a computer was not really on many radars. 1997 was my last year at VH1 as a fulltime employee and while my career was…

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01 Apr 2017

The Presidential Suite and Live TV

If I were going to be accurate, completely accurate, then the first time I directed a “live” TV show was in 1995. It had to do with Pete Townsend and asking a camera operator to walk backwards for 3 minutes… but really it’s not all that fascinating. So the second time I directed something live is going to be the story here and I’m going to refer to it as: The First Time I Ever Directed Something Live:VH1 Presents: The Concert for Witness. Hosted by Tim Robins with musical guests Peter Gabriel, Michael Stipe, Natalie Merchant, Don Henley, Joan Osborne, Tony Rich, Nusrat Ali-Kahn, Gloria Estefan, Beethoven, Rod Stewart, Pete Townsend, Bryan Adams, and lots(ish) more. No, Beethoven was not present, because if he were, the President of VH1 at that time would think him very un-hip, part of the “old” VH1.…

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04 Jan 2017

Soul Train

On February 16th, 2012, a service was held to honor and celebrate the life of Don Cornelius. I sat there surrounded by hundreds as we watched Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Jesse Jackson and Magic Johnson pay tribute to his life and influence. For those of you who might not know, Don is the creator and face of the one and only: Sooouuuullll ttrraainnn! This is my story of directing it. I worked on Soul Train weekly dance show from 2001-2 and 2005-6. Little changed from the Soul Train re-runs of the seventies to the ones I did. Soul music in all its glorious forms and derivatives were showcased and informed a generation, both black and white. Soul Train was iconic to me from the moment my eleven-year-old eyes watched the show and my ears heard the show. From 1971 to…

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04 Jan 2017

Miles Davis’s “New Visions” Jam

I had conducted many interviews and “hung-out” backstage with many bands during my college Radio Station “punk” days, but nothing had prepared me for this; I was to produce a two-hour special with Miles Davis. Yes that Miles Davis, arguably the most famous Jazz musician ever. Three years into the TV business I had fallen into producing a show on VH1 called “New Visions.” Being an ambitious Production Assistant would no longer apply. It wasn’t quite the big time, but it was a significant step in that direction. Miles sat, he talked to Foley, to me, to camera, he blew some notes into his horn. Miles threw to videos of himself, Michael Jackson and others of his choosing. He painted live on the set, he revealed so much and left us to the connect the dots or just go with…

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04 Jan 2017

Ali and One Live Second

Ray Davies of The Kinks once said and I paraphrase, “When I write songs my IQ goes way up.” I have always felt that my modest intelligence gets to the level of at least smart when I’m directing, and when I’m directing something live it goes to an even higher level. So it’s December 1999 and I'm directing a Special for CBS called: “Sports Illustrated Presents the Athletes of the Century.” The special was live from Madison Square Garden (back when the Knicks didn’t suck). The name pretty much says it all, and with the exception of dead ones, nearly every famous athlete showed up. It was like the pictures on my wall growing up had suddenly came to life. I am not going to list them, go Google it, but I will say that the greatest name there was…

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