The man with the golden (musical) touch

Clive Davis. Photograph by Fadile Berisha.

When you hear the name Clive Davis, you probably think of a legendary and highly regarded figure who has had an indelible effect on the entertainment industry for more than 50 years — beginning with his tenure at Columbia Records from the mid-1960s and into the early 1970s, where he was instrumental in the signing of Bruce Springsteen, Janis Joplin, Billy Joel, Laura Nyro, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Santana and others, to the founding of his own Arista Records label. Arista was home to a diverse array of talents as well, including Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Aretha Franklin, Lou Reed, Alicia Keys, Carly Simon and, of course, Whitney Houston.

Through his ongoing involvement in various projects, as well as the 2017 documentary “The Soundtrack of Our Lives” and his similarly titled 2013 memoir, “The Soundtrack of My Life,” Davis’ influence continues to be felt today on a global scale. However, his local influence is equally as important. Emerging as “one integrated brand,” Davis’ new partnership with the Bedford Playhouse has resulted in the Bedford Playhouse Clive Davis Arts Center, officially launched over Memorial Day weekend. I spoke with Davis about the new venture and his affection for the region.

I’d like to begin by congratulating you on your recently announced partnership with the Bedford Playhouse and the launching of the Bedford Playhouse Clive Davis Arts Center.

“I appreciate that. Thank you.”

What was your relationship with the Bedford Playhouse before the naming of the Bedford Playhouse Clive Davis Arts Center? 

“I would go to the venue. I live in Bedford/Pound Ridge. I would certainly go to the theater to see movies of my choice throughout the year.”

As someone for whom entertainment has been a central focus in your life, what does it mean to you have your name attached to a performing arts space such as the Bedford Playhouse Clive Davis Arts Center?

“I learned, with great dismay, that the theater was going to be closed. I live in Manhattan and I spend every weekend there in Bedford/Pound Ridge. I was not on the board (at the Bedford Playhouse). I had no role there. When the length of time kept growing that our community did not have a movie theater in it, it was tremendously disappointing. I had learned of the efforts to reopen the theater. When I was first in discussion with Deborah and Bill Zabel, two residents there, I was asked if I had any ideas. I said, ‘There are so many residents of this area, both full-time and weekend residents, that have a strong interest in the arts and film and have been so admiring of the efforts of the Jacob Burns (Film Center) in Westchester to encourage filmmakers that there are communities out there that are interested in films of merit, documentaries and serious work. It would seem like a very good opportunity to attempt to do just that in this Bedford/Pound Ridge area.’ That’s how my discussions began — to not just open the theater, but to expand its role artistically, creatively. In this day and age, when commercial interests are encouraging large spectacle films that are doing so well out of comic books and what have you, hopefully communities can grow across the country that would provide opportunities for those of us to encourage Hollywood filmmakers so that the role of the arts continues to grow throughout our country. That’s when those discussions began more formally with John Farr (founding board president) and Sarah Long (board chairman).”

What can you tell the readers about what your specific ongoing role and involvement will be with the Bedford Playhouse Clive Davis Arts Center?

“I think those meetings are just beginning to take place. I don’t think there’s any formal, official role, but I certainly welcome the sentiment and the thought process with the people I have met with — John Farr and Sarah Long and Deborah and Bill Zabel — that we definitely will, in this expanded situation, include the kinds of films that are thought-provoking and have filled the film industry from its inception, as well as musical events, lectures, Q&As from people of interest. A broad role in the arts so that the Bedford Playhouse Clive Davis Arts Center can really play an expanded role for the arts in our community.” 

Would you mind saying a few words about your connection to the town of Bedford?

“I’ve always liked Bedford. Before I ever looked here, I knew certain of my friends lived there. It was accessible enough to Manhattan that I would come out to this area. Before I ever lived here, I would go to Banksville and go to restaurants such as La Crémaillère. There were a few artists and painters that I knew that lived there. I liked that the area was attracting some of the residents that I knew as friends, as well as the accessibility to New York. 

“When my children were growing up, we spent summers in the Hamptons. It was great. It still is great, but I really wanted a weekend home that was accessible to me all year round. Back in 1991, I was a subscriber to a magazine called Unique Homes. I saw a home in Pound Ridge that seemed to be ideal for me. In spotting a home that Vuko Tashkovich, the well-known architect for the Westchester/ Connecticut area (designed), I drove out to check it out and fell in love with the house. It was a brand new home, just the kind of contemporary architecture that I love. I said, “This will provide me an all-year-round opportunity to spend weekends in ‘the country’ (laughs). I did! I bought that home and have loved the area ever since. 

“Restaurants keep opening. My good friend Jean-Georges (Vongerichten) and Phil Suarez have the Inn at Pound Ridge. Bruculino is in South Norwalk, just 20 minutes away. Just the number and the variety: I’m a foodie, I like good restaurants and it definitely has attracted me. I could have dinner on Friday night in the city, if I have to, go to the theater, be out at 10:30 and I’ll be in Bedford/Pound Ridge less than an hour later. I can spend the entire weekend there.”

The newly renovated Bedford Playhouse Clive Davis Arts Center, at 633 Old Post Road, will host an official grand opening this fall. For more, visit bedfordplayhouse.org.

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