Sunday News, September 12, 1971

The Top of Pop


MELANIE is on a diet. Like that other great lady of song, Maria Callas, the formerly plump singer-songwriter seems to have decided, in mid-career, that anyone in the public eye can't ever, as they say, be too thin or too rich. (That come to think of it, has always been the house rule in rock where with only a few notable exceptions, neither paupers nor fatsos flourish.)


She wants to make movies

Melanie says she has already lost 26 pounds. You could never tell, really, under those cunningly voluminous hand - embroidered Bessarabian princess' initiation gowns she must have had shipped in by the boatload from London's chic ethnic boutiques. You can te11 now because she wears them belted.

She wants to be thin. She says, with that little girl laugh that makes fans sigh "Melanie, you're beautiful!", because she wants to make movies. Remember, she started out as an actress and some of the people who know her well and know how different she is off-stage than on, cattily testify she's a very good one.

Anyway, here's how she's losing weight. First, by not being a vegetarian any more. This will shock those of you who remember one of her earliest songs told, with deep concern, how she didn't eat Animals. She does now and her nose wrinkles in cute disgust as she recalls her days of nuts and salads. She is quick to say, however that she is still a vegetarian at heart.

Meanwhile she's on this 500-calorie-a-day thing. She gets all her meals delivered from a doctor, foil-wrapped and deep-frozen TV dinners. I saw one and it was, well] kind of sparse but worth it if it makes the Bedouin gown cling so prettily.

I take it the chicken and sprouts have the full approval of Melanie's Italian astrologer who calmed her down and changed her life by teaching her meditation and a Hindu chant, or mantra. George Harrison goes in for mantras and look what good shape he's in these days thin and rich and very together.

Melanie meditates 16 minutes a night to help her adjust to the problems of being a superstar and cult figure among the young. If you are to believe what she sings in her songs (and after the vegetarian bit I'm understandably sceptical) she often finds her present and very public life disagreeable. I wouldn't take those songs too seriously if I were you. There is absolutely no danger of this lady taking off for an organic commune in Vermont. Underneath that beautific smile, she's as ambitious and hustling and businesslike as anyone else in the music industry, and that's okay too, as long as you have the mantras to balance it all out.

When she sang at Saratoga last weekend, it was all there as it always is. The fans with the lighted candles, the little offerings, the sighs of "Oh, Melanie, you're beautiful!" and that remarkable voice that always sounds to me like a bulldozer running over cut velvet.

A set of new songs was well received, proving once again what a really good popular songwriter she is. A set of old songs was rapturously applauded. To something like "Ruby Tuesday" she brings a gloomy pubescent sense of drama that every 13-year-old girl in the audience picked up on and Mick Jagger never knew existed. She understands that age group and its neurosis better than anyone else 1 can think of, even Carole King. I hope getting rid of the puppy fat never changes that.

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