Mr. Big Ticket

After the short, bespectacled guy got up and walked out of the Pazzaluna bar with four tall, younger blondes, I.W. realized he was super-manager Irving Azoff. He was in town Saturday for the tour opener of his newest client, Neil Diamond, who joins a roster that includes the Eagles, Christina Aguilera, Van Halen, the reunited New Kids on the Block and what's left of Guns 'N Roses. If I.W. had realized sooner that it was Azoff, we would have asked him why tickets for Diamond's concerts jumped from $75 in 2005 to $120 this year. We're guessing the man who broke the $100 ticket barrier with the Eagles in the mid-1990s would have said: because people will pay -- even in this economy. And they did.


Mommy! Me-a!

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Orchestra rehearsed for the first time with visiting vocalists for the "Broadway Rocks" concert later that night. Susan Egan, who won a Tony nomination as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast," had a special moment with her daughter, Nina, while singing a medley from "Mamma Mia!" as both the 38-year-old and 1-year-old danced and bobbed heads along with the music. Playing both mom and diva must have tired her out, though. After singing "Defying Gravity" from "Wicked," she took a break to lie on her back in the aisle -- until Nina cried out during a dramatically quiet moment in Doug LaBrecque's rendition of "Music of the Night" from "The Phantom of the Opera," which elicited a peal of laughter from the orchestra. But LaBrecque kept on singing full force, and Egan was obliged to carry her daughter out of the hall and into the lobby for some one-on-one cuddling time.


More mama's blues

One moment at her concert last week, Cowboy Junkies singer Margo Timmins was gushing about how great it was to be close to the Children's Museum in St. Paul. "It means nothing to the band," she told a sold-out audience at the Fitzgerald, "but to my 5-year-old son, it's nirvana." The next moment, as intermission beckoned, Timmins was moaning about her nighttime hours: "It'll be a short break. I'm almost 50, and I have to be in bed real soon."


Movers and shakers

Mad ceramicist Aldo Moroni is at it again; only this time, instead of exploring geology and architecture in clay, he's moved into the overtly political arena and onto the dinner table. He and artist Konstantine Berkovski collaborated on a pair of Obama/McCain salt and pepper shakers; we'll let you guess which is salt, which pepper. With the sets fired in Minneapolis (and made from "American soil," no less), Moroni gleefully invokes patriotic self-interest in these tight times ("Buy American"). But he deftly tiptoes around any endorsement, only offering some rather bland culinary advice: "Easy on the salt and watch the pepper."



How intense was dancer Megan McClellan's desire to participate in Monday's forum with the Southern Theater's board and its various stakeholders? Strong enough that feeding her new baby became a sort of performance for some of the 200 people in the room. Whenever the infant started purring for food, McClellan, standing with hubby and fellow dancer Brian Sostek, whipped out a breast to soothe her child. The intimate sharing, in an already tense environment, made some people around her bashful. Performer Ari Hoptman, who was standing within inches of her, suddenly found his bike helmet deeply fascinating.