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David Foster looking to secure Tony Award, Oscar to complete his set

Grammy-winning Canadian producer David Foster is pictured in a Toronto hotel on Wednesday, December 4, 2013, as he promotes his charity benefit concert. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO, Cananda - Though he's famous for his sweepingly grand adult pop productions, David Foster in person can be punk-rock blunt.

Take, for example, the answer issued by the decorated Canadian producer — who has earned 16 Grammy Awards, five Junos, an Emmy, a Golden Globe and three Academy Award nominations — when asked why he decided to pen the music for an as-yet unproduced musical based on Depression-era cartoon sex symbol Betty Boop.

"I want to win a Tony. It's just plain and simple," Foster said in an interview in Toronto on Wednesday, wearing a wry smile. "What better shot than with an icon like Betty Boop? She's iconic and everybody knows who she is, which gives you kind of a leg up I think.

"And yeah, I want a Tony. I've been nominated for three Oscars and never won. I want an Oscar and a Tony and then I'll have the complete (set)," he adds, recapping the other major awards he's secured. "I want those two. That's drive enough for me."

The Victoria native says he wrote 24 songs after being contacted by Bill Haber, the Broadway producer whose credits include "War Horse," "August: Osage County" and "Spamalot."

But the production is being held up for now by the book, reportedly being handled by Oscar Williams and Sally Robinson.

"We just can't get the book right," said Foster, who added that he would be involved in casting should the production ever get to that stage.

"I'm not talking out of school here, they've admitted that the music is ahead of the book. So I think I've done a really good job of writing some great songs and the book needs to equal the music now. And until it does, they will not go forward with it."

While he awaits progress on that production, it's not as though Foster is lacking for work.

On Thursday, his charity organization the David Foster Foundation is set to host a Toronto fundraiser featuring performances by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, comedian Sinbad and long-running R&B institution Earth, Wind & Fire. It was 26 years ago that Foster founded the organization — which seeks to raise awareness of organ donation while providing financial assistance to families whose sick children are awaiting a transplant — and he says they're now helping hundreds of families at a time.

The organization raises up to $5 million annually and Foster tries to follow up personally with the people who are helped, a process he calls "very rewarding on many levels."

Then there's his fairly new status as a music executive. Roughly two years ago, the 64-year-old took over as chairman of Verve Music Group, a jazz imprint whose sprawling roster now includes Stevie Wonder, Diana Krall, Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan, Paul Anka, Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello and Mary J. Blige, whose recent holiday record "A Mary Christmas" was helmed by Foster.

"Like everything else I do, I'm going to throw my body and soul into it and see if I can be a good record chairman," he said. "We've also signed a lot of unknown singers. I'm sure we'll fail a lot because that's the nature of the business — you sign 12 artists, one hits, you feel very blessed.

"I don't want to have that horrible a track record but I'm sure we'll sign six artists, one will hopefully hit and five won't. That's kind of the nature of the beast. But I'm enthused about it.... I want to be good at it. I hate being bad at things. And I hate failure.... I don't want to lose at this."

Foster is particularly unaccustomed to losing at this time of the year.

The hitmaker — whose major credits include Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," Celine Dion's "The Power of Love" and "Because You Loved Me" as well as work by Michael Jackson, Bryan Adams, Mariah Carey, Cher, Madonna and Barbra Streisand — has particular success during the holiday season, when thrumming malls full of stressed-out shoppers are soundtracked by any number of his productions.

He has helmed hit Christmas albums for Michael Buble, Josh Groban, Rod Stewart, Bocelli and Dion, and concedes it can be a challenge finding new ways to interpret such well-worn classics.

"I know that at Christmastime I look at the charts and I see in the top 20 albums, there's like five or six that I've done. It's a pretty good feeling," he said. "I've found this way of sort of reinventing those songs with different artists according to what their sound is and it's been working for me.

"I guess you could say either I'm really great or the songs are really great," he adds with a laugh. "Or maybe it's a nice, healthy combination of both."

In addition to his newly minted executive job, the past few years have brought new developments in Foster's personal life — in November 2011 he married his fourth wife, Dutch model and TV personality Yolanda Hadid Foster.

The 49-year-old has since become a cast member on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," the reality franchise known for glitz-framed boozing and backstabbing. But the show has little impact on Foster's life, he said.

"It doesn't affect me at all. She's doing it for a specific reason, and her reason is that she wants to have a ... lifestyle and fitness show. She's very good at it and she's very good at giving advice," he adds of his wife, who has hosted a similar program in her native Netherlands.

"She's also been sick with Lyme disease for going on two years now, so she's battling that, and she wants to tell her story. So she thinks — and she's right — that (the) Beverly Hills housewives show is a platform for her to tell her Lyme story and to get her point across and then to catapult her to the show that she ultimately wants to do.

"The Beverly Hills show, like she says, is just a bunch of clowns trying to make a living," he adds. "It's a show about nothing basically but people seem to like it. Yolanda seems to enjoy it and I think she comes across very classy on the show and doesn't really engage much in all the banter that goes on."


Online: www.davidfosterfoundation.com

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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