With all of us feeling worse for wear after a long night of partying back in my Duran Duran days, Chic co-founder, mega producer, and composer Nile Rodgers said to me “come on Jewels, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” That phrase has brought a smile to my lips many times through life’s ups and downs over the past few decades (although I’m not sure my accountant is equally impressed by it).
Brett Ratner, Nile Rodgers, Julie Anne & Nick Rhodes
Well, shopping I did again last night. At Book Soup where my old friend signed copies of his newly released autobiography, Nile Rodgers Le Freak followed by a lively Q&A with film director Brett Ratner. Two masters
of story telling with a history of friendship and exploits between them rich enough to write a sequel on the spot. I’m only a few chapters in myself, and have heard many of the stories directly from Nile himself, but what blows me away is how much more vivid they become on the written page. He has proven himself to be an equally gifted writer as he is maestro of all things musical.
This is not just another ‘whoops you dropped another one” name-dropping, rock and roll tell all book – although Nile can drop more names than most. Chic consistently topped the charts during the disco era and gave birth to hip hop with Rapper’s Delight, then went on to produce some of the biggest names in music history including Madonna, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Duran Duran… I’d need ten blog posts to list them all. While fascinating and certainly juicy, that is only one side to the multifaceted man whose life has been anything but ordinary. What makes this book so gripping is the searingly honest account of a life that began with an unwanted teen pregnancy, and quest to reconcile all that led him to being the extraordinary man he is today. Hence the rave reviews from the N.Y Times and Rolling Stone Magazine amongst many.
I was fortunate enough to witness part of the relentless five year journey it took Nile to write the book. An interview with his family in Las Vegas ran late one evening, and the film crew had to catch a flight back to New York, so Nile asked me to sit across from Beverly (his mother – as if I were the interviewer to keep her sight line) while he let the camera roll and finished interrogating her. There I sat, looking directly into her eyes as she matter-of-factly divulged every minute, intimate detail of their (to put it mildly) colorful lives. It was one of the most intense and oddly beautiful experiences of my life. The family love in that room, no matter how unconventional, was so dense you could cut it with a knife.
Nile has a way of evoking that from all who know him. The warmth continued at Brett Ratner’s house after the book signing – with food, drinks, tributes and stories galore. Brett torturing Madonna in the studio with his first ever video 8 camera, given to him by Nile, when he was only twelve years old, (at sixteen he directed her MTV Award winning video, Beautiful Stranger). Nile speaking about his good fortune, in an industry not exactly known for it’s kindness, with people like Jerry Greenberg, Suzanne de Passe, and business partner Michael Austin (all in attendance) considered not just colleagues and friends, but family. Then Bryan Ferry turned up to pay his respect, while Nile cracked us all up about how he and Bernard Edwards originally based Chic on Roxy Music. While certainly an extremely chic man today, it was hard to reconcile Nile with the suave Mr. Ferry and the Louis Vuitton suit Brett had described Nile wearing back in the 70’s, literally made from the luggage.
I was just relieved to throw my arms around my friend for the first time after his difficult year of battling cancer. Even through that, he chose to inspire and support others going through the same with his blog Planet C.
Nile Rodgers and Julie Anne Rhodes
Thankfully, we can all look forward to the many chapters he hasn’t written yet. On October 24th Nile will be honored in New York at the 10th Gala Celebration of We Are Family, the charity he founded shortly after 9/11. The event will be hosted by Rosie Perez with performances from Jackson Browne, the B52’s and of course, The Chic Organization. Next up? A Broadway musical he’s composed called Double Time, based on Impresario Leonard Harper. Set in both the 1920’s and present day – it is meant to be the follow-up musical he would have written had Mr. Harper’s life not been cut so tragically short. Nile Rodger Le Freak is out now.
It’s that soup time of year again, so what better time to serve up Le Freak-n-Great Chicken Soup? This is my adaptation of a soup Nile Rodgers made for me once, when I was visiting a cousin in Connecticut, and popped in for dinner. It’s definitely a top ten hit with clients, members, and my family alike, thanks for inspiration Nile!
3 Tablespoons butter
1 whole chicken cut into pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
3 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 cup tomato paste
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2/3 lb. egg noodles or 2 cups corn
sour cream, optional
1). Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
2). Season chicken with salt, pepper, and a pinch of the paprika mixture. Brown chicken, in batches, on all sides, transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
3). Melt remaining tablespoon of butter, add onions, celery, red peppers, garlic, paprika, and cayenne. Cook until softened and onions are translucent; about 7-8 minutes.
4). Add chicken broth, stir well, scraping up all the gooey bits off the bottom of the pan.
5). Add chicken back to the pot, bring to boil, cover and simmer 25-30 minutes. Remove chicken pieces, allow to cool slightly (enough to handle), then remove skin and bones, and cut into chunks, to add back into soup.
6). Add tomato paste, caraway seeds, noodles or corn, and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes.
Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream if desired.