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Interview: CARNIE WILSON of Wilson Phillips Talks About Saban Concert on the 26th

Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson, and Chynna Phillips aka Wilson Phillips have sold over 10 million copies worldwide and scored three number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, making the trio the best-selling female group of all time. The group won the Billboard Music Award for Hot 100 Single of the Year for "Hold On," and in addition was nominated for four Grammy Awards and two American Music Awards. Other hits include "Release Me," "You're In Love," "Impulsive" and "The Dream Is Still Alive." Most recently, the trio appeared in the hit comedy movie Bridesmaids, and also released a new album, Dedicated, featuring cover versions of songs by The Beach Boys and The Mamas and Papas.

Carnie, daughter of Brian Wilson, one of the original Beach Boys, and sister of Wendy Wilson, is also known for her television work and recently for creating gourmet desserts for Vitello's Ristorante in Studio City. Carnie is married to music producer Rob Bonfiglio and has two young daughters, Lola 9 and Luci 5. She recently sat down with me to chat about the upcoming concert and various aspects of her career.

How long has Wilson Phillips been doing concerts since getting back together?

We've been touring for four years now. We do probably at least two shows a month...yeah, it averages out to about two shows a month.

Have you done LA a lot?

Oh yeah, we perform here every year, from Ventura County Fair to Mission Viejo to the Saban and Thousand Oaks...oh, yeah.

What are you going to perform at the Saban on the 26th?

We'll be doing a few songs from out last album Dedicated. We're actually changing our set list a little bit right now. We've got some rehearsals scheduled, but we do all the hits, a few covers. We kind of go through some of our albums and do at least one from each album. Of course, we do about five from the first one. It's great, but we've got some surprises for Saban. It's really a fun show. We laugh a lot.

I was at Vitello's recently and I read that you contribute desserts exclusively to them called Love Bites. Tell me about that.

I know. It's incredible. It's really taken off. I've been six months there. I worked with Matt Epstein when he was part owner of Sweethearts in Sherman Oaks.That business sold and then I saw him at an open house. He's a big realtor. He said to me "We've revamped our whole restaurant (Vitello's) and the wine is selling great, the food is really delicious now. We just need to revamp our dessert menu. What have you been doing with your desserts?" I said "I was just on The Talk doing a Thanksgiving bread pudding. You know me. I've got this great stuff up my sleeve and I'd love to come". So, I went in and we made a deal together and the next couple of months I went in to train one of their bakers there, and it's been great so far.

How much contact do you maintain with them? Are you there weekly?

I try to get in once a week, but the last couple of months have been hard. It's once every two weeks now.I do get in and bake desserts with Mary quite often. I like to be hands on, and I'm a bit of a control freak. I like my desserts to look and be exact recipes. We're not going crazy with too many items because we want there to be consistency, and we want basic feedback from the public, which has been really positive. My whoopie pies are not working there right now. It's either the humidity or whatever it is, so we go with what is taking off beautifully which are the cheesecakes, bread puddings, peanut butter pies, and if I do make the whoopie pies, I make them from another kitchen and bring them in. It's really catching on now. They're starting to tweet about it and stuff, so I'm really like "wow", and OK Magazine just kind of...the review was amazing with 'Carnie Takes the Cake!'

It's a whole other career for you. How great is that!

I know.

Let's get back to Wilson Phillips. In 2004 when you guys got back together you did an album called California. Is that similar to the album Dedicated or are they completely different?

Those are two different concepts. California...the general vibe of it, there were these classic 60s and 70s songs. The songs were some we had written or performed, or artists who were known for their California vibe. That was our first reunion record. There was a twelve year gap. It was the beginning of coming together again which was extremely meaningful to us. Dedicated...we were kind of like not forced into doing the tribute record to our parents but it was like "let's just get this done" because everybody's been asking us to do it for 25 years. We were scared to do it, because we were just a little hesitant... because of how beautiful and genius those songs are, the way they are.We were nervous. We didn't want to reinvent the wheel, but we were also like "Well, let's just do our spin on it." My husband Rob was the producer of Dedicated and he did a marvelous job.

I heard the digital of "California Dreamin" and it sounds terrific.

Thank you. You should listen to "God Only Knows", "Good Vibrations" and "Dedicated". Those three are the showstoppers to me. "Good Vibrations" is vocals only; it was very hard to do, no instruments, just our voices.

Why did Wilson Phillips split up in the 90s after a short but wonderful success?

Chynna just got big head ego s---- and wanted to go solo. We basically begged her not to. We've been very open about all that, and she is too. She's the first one to say "You know, I wanted to go on my own and it wound up not working." She was also tired and wanted to take a break. My thought was "We're just getting going. We've had two hits. Let's keep going." It took a long time to heal those feelings for me, boy...(she lets out a loud sigh)! It was unbelievable, and I couldn't fathom anyone walking away from something that was so promising. The fear was that it would never come back again. And every year I would ask if we could have a reunion and they - Chynna and my sister Wendy - would both say "No. We're not ready. We're not ready." I went off to do television in a whole other direction, and that's great. But I became very depressed. I put on a bunch of weight, and it was really bad.

Your talk show was fabulous. That was a perfect arena for your charmingly talkative nature and personality. But I read that you had problems with it.

The formula was wrong. Every time I'd want to be myself and just be, you know, they wouldn't let me, and that was the year ('95-96) that 22 talk shows came on.

There was Ricki Lake...

There was also a bunch of new ones like Tempestt Bledsoe and Danny Bonaduce and Gabrielle Carteris, all of these people. It was really a bad year to be introduced to that. Every time I was more myself the ratings were pulled in. That's what I think they needed was someone to be really honest and say to a wife beater, "You're a f----in' asshole!" instead of "Oh, so you hit your wife, huh?" I wanted to b myself and I couldn't do that. I needed to be on HBO.

Is there any possibility you might do one now...maybe on cable? I know you've been on and off on several projects.

I do a lot of filling in - a lot - on The Talk, and that's been a blessing for me. They're always having me back. I'm very good friends with Julie Chen and Sharon Osbourne and the wonderful Sarah Gilbert. Whenever I'm there, it's a lovefest, it's great...I've been a regular fill-in for three years.They have me and Marie Osmond on the most. They know I want the job, I want that seat and I'd rather be a part of an ensemble than solo.

OK, but you have the talent and ability to swing it on your own. What about the singing solos? Were you pleased with them?

Oh, yeah. I loved it. I did a beautiful lullaby album that I'm really proud of, and I got to work with my dad (Brian Wilson) on there, and my mom (Marilyn Rovell, founder of The Honeys) and my sister sang on it, and I did some family recordings. Wilson recordings. I did Elvis Presley. I did "What a Wonderful World", "Over the Rainbow", but my favorite on there I think probably is "You Are So Beautiful", the duet with me and my dad. It's just so, so pretty. It was to honor my first child Lola, and the whole routine of putting them down at night with the music was really special to me. And with my second child Luci, we have yet to do some songs, and we will. I love lullaby music beyond words, so... The Christmas record was really just fun, and my record guy at the time wanted me to do it, so I just banged it out. I wish I had spent more time on it, but it was good.

What else can you say about Wilson Phillips now?

My sister (Wendy) has four boys and Chynna (Phillips) has three, so we have nine between us. It's fun. We don't take a tour bus and go out for six weeks. We do these weekend gigs. October is extremely busy with six shows, but we'll do them.

Anything that you haven't done that you would really love to do?

Honestly, another original record, CD. where we write all the songs. An album of all originals. That's kind of what I'd love to do.

We didn't talk about the weight and its effect on your life. There's been so much you've made public about that, I wasn't sure you wanted to talk about it.

Really, I'm so over it. Go to a music park and go ride the roller coaster. You go up, you go down. Bingo!

Catch Carnie Wilson, whose honest, open sense of humor has made her the lovable star she is, along with her sister Wendy and Chynna Phillips as Wilson Phillips at the Saban on Friday September 26 for a truly great show!

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  Don Grigware was a writer for BroadwayWorld through December 2019.                            ... (read more about this author)