Literary Feast

Literary Feast with Hall of Fame Songbook Writers Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann


Usually money can’t buy the chance to meet, let alone dine with, the author of a favorite book, although for one night every two years in Los Angeles, that opportunity exists for all those who support the Los Angeles Public Library.

This year, that night was Nov. 7, when library supporters enjoyed small dinner parties with one of 44 nationally and internationally-acclaimed authors in one of 44 private homes from the Pacific Palisades to Pasadena, from Bel Air to Hancock Park to Santa Monica to various other parts of Los Angeles. The authors at each LA Literary Feast were writers of mysteries,  biographies, history books, cookbooks, travel volumes, fiction and non-fiction, and at the dinner my husband and I selected, one of America’s greatest songbooks.

Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, the team behind “The Mann-Weil Songbook,” have solid places both in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. According to BMI Publishing, their song, “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling,” was the most played song of the twentieth century. having aired more than 14 million times, which translates to a total of 65 years of air time if played back-to-back 24 hours a day. (Weill also co-authored the children’s book, “Rockin Babies,” with her daughter, Jenn Berman.)

There were just 16 of us for the Weil/Mann dinner at the San Marino home of Amanda and Nick Stonnington, making the fundraiser feel like a small private dinner party, which is the idea of the LA Literary Feasts. Dining at the Stonnington’s 1920’s Wallace Neff-designed home, with its arched doorways, Spanish grillwork and the architect’s other classic touches, made the dinner special, too.

Over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, Weil said people often ask how long she and Mann have been married. As they spend so much time living and working together, she said, she estimated the marriage to add up to 167 years of togetherness. Professionally speaking, that has resulted in a body of work that has been sung by Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Ike and Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones, James Taylor, David Bowie, Frankie Valli and a galaxy of other recording superstars.

As Mann played the piano and sang, Weil told stories about some of the singers and their songs. Dolly Parton, Weil said, initially resisted recording “Here You Come Again,” fearing that the pop tune might alienate her country fans. Instead, the Weill/Mann tune became Parton’s first million-seller. 

In the case of “Somewhere Out There,” from the 1986 animated film, “An American Tail,” Weil said jazz musician Steve Tyrell suggested having top artists record the tune for the closing credits, which had never been done before for an animated film. As a result, Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram recorded a duet, and the song won a Grammy and an Academy Award nomination.

Weil recalled that when the Righteous brothers recorded “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,”  Bobby Hatfield noticed he didn’t have anything to sing in the first verse. On asking the song’s co-author, Phil Spector, what to do during Bill Medley’s solo, Spector reportedly told him he could go to the bank. Spector was right.

To read more about the LA Literary Feasts, click here for a story about the kick-off event with the authors, hosts of the individual dinners and patrons of the event. The LA Literary Feasts are sponsored by the Council of the Library Foundation and benefit the Los Angeles Public Library’s Educational Programs Focusing on Children and Teens, Technology and Adult Literacy,

Photo, from top: Barry Mann and Cynthia Mann at the piano for an LA Literary Feast; hosts Amanda and Nick Stonnington welcome guests to the dinner at their Wallace Neff-designed home.



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LA Literary Feast

Published Nov. 23, 2011 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA