Melanie won’t need any brand-new roller skates to slide into Miley Cyrus’ back yard.

Saturday I was returning a phone call to Melanie, songwriter and singer of the 1971 hit “Brand New Key,” hoping to hear of her next Twin Cities appearance. She told me she had venues interested but no plans to perform here until it gets much warmer. However, the famed folk singer was bubbling with excitement over a hot recording session scheduled next week in Cyrus’ California back yard.

“It’s a back-yard session to benefit the homeless.” By way of explaining how she and Miley have become friendly, Melanie said, “We’ve been tweeting for a couple of years, actually. … She sang my song, that’s how it all started. She sang ‘Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma’ and she did it on national television with, I don’t know, was it the Clear Channel thing [aka an “iHeartRadio” event]? I wrote something and then she wrote back and she followed me on Twitter. So we tweet once in a while.”

Melanie is a Miley defender. “She’s really cool. There’s a lot more to Miley; people just don’t know. They only see the sensational stuff.”

Melanie told me the names of other well-known performers who are also scheduled to record in Miley’s back yard for this homeless fundraiser.

“It’s all women [singers] to raise money for this organization,” said Melanie, who knows what button to push. “You know what, Miley should just have Patti Austin come out for this.”

When Melanie was performing in the metro in April 2012 with her son, sometime traveling and musical companion Beau Jarred Schekeryk, we had an involved conversation during which I rhapsodized about Austin. So much so that Melanie later called to double-check Patti’s last name so she could listen to Austin’s music.

On the way to Miley’s back yard, Melanie made a stop in Arizona (note: another warm locale) where Tuesday she was shooting a TV pilot, the premise of which involves people from the ’60s who are around 60.

Foreword, march

St. Paul FACES restaurant owner/chef David Fhima wrote the foreword to “Carline’s Fork & Cork” a cookbook by Carline Bengtsson.

The restaurateur recently hosted a cocktail book signing party for Bengtsson, a vigilance and compliance manager at Medtronic and a community volunteer, who aspires to open a restaurant. The book is dedicated to her late husband, Lars Johan Georg Bengtsson, a Swede who swept the Jamaican native off her feet.

Fhima was busy cooking for diners who had packed his restaurant when I walked into the kitchen and asked him to tell me more about writing this foreword, as I don’t think of him as a writer. He responded with, let’s say, colorful language that encouraged me to shut up. Fhima and Gordon Ramsay would probably tie in a chefs’ curse-off on TV.

“I’m supposed to be a writer?” Fhima said. (This quote only contains the printable words.) When I stressed that all I said was I don’t think of you as being a writer, Fhima said, “Ohhh, sorry.”

His daughter Racquel, 12, was checking coats on this night, so during a lull in the action, I showed her photos tweeted by @soledadobrien from her family holiday to Morocco, Fhima’s native country. O’Brien snapped pictures of goats climbing in Argan trees, apparently for food. Fhima has not taken his two youngest to Morocco, where he was born to a Spanish Jewish mother and a Sicilian Catholic father before being raised in England and France.

“Racquel wasn’t born, and her sister Miryam was too young 14 years ago when David took Eli [his son] and Chloe, [eldest daughter] to Morocco,” said Lori Fhima, who also works at her husband’s restaurant.

Now chef is too busy to travel.

“It’s a very good cookbook,” said Fhima. “Did you look at it?”

I did and the foreword doesn’t sound like him to me. Interesting that he’s writing, though, since my pal Lori said to me, “You should write David’s book about his life and how he became a chef.” I told her that I could never write a book; I’ve already declined the guys at Market BBQ, who’ve asked me to write a book about that restaurant’s history.


C.J. can be reached at and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.