I’m not often in awe. But as a former musician, I’m in awe of Paul Williams as a songwriting master. He co-wrote “Rainbow Connection” for the Muppets, “Evergreen” for Barbra Streisand, the theme song for “The Love Boat” and this year, at 73, he and Daft Punk won the album-of-the-year Grammy.
Today and Sunday, Williams will sing his legendary songs and tell his legendary stories at the South Point hotel.
He’s a quote machine, so please enjoy these one-liners from his charming interview with us:
■ Williams got addicted to coke and booze in the 1980s.
“I did 48 ‘Tonight Shows.’ I remember six,” he said. “You know you’re an alcoholic when you misplace a decade. Actually, when I threw up onstage, audiences used to really like it.”
■ In the 1977 megahit “Smokey and the Bandit,” Williams portrayed a sidekick named Little Enos.
“Can you get any closer to ‘Anus?’ Come on,” he said.
■ “Smokey and the Bandit” was, of course, a broad comedy tale of redneck truckers, sheriffs and liquor-runners.
“Billy Bob Thornton told me, ‘In the South, they think of “Smokey and the Bandit” as a documentary.’ ”
■ Williams was one of the writers and performers on Daft Punk’s album “Random Access Memories.” The duo of Daft Punk never publicly take their android helmets off, eschewing celebrity.
So Williams went onstage at January’s Grammys to accept the award, saying to the world:
“You know, back when I was drinking, I used to imagine things that weren’t there that were frightening. Then I got sober and two robots called me and asked me to make an album.”
I asked Williams what that Grammy meant to him.
“It’s wonderful,” he said, but he also said, “You wake up the next day, and you’re back at home with your cats ignoring you.”
■ In 1974, Williams starred in Brian De Palma’s “Phantom of the Paradise,” performing lush songs while the lead character is wearing a crazy helmet-y mask. I loved that movie as a kid.
At the moment, Williams and director Guillermo del Toro are working together on creating a stage musical of del Toro’s 2006 animation, “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
And get this:
“The Daft Punk and the ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ projects came to me because of ‘Phantom of the Paradise,’ ” Williams told me.
“ ‘Phantom of the Paradise’ was a flop in this country when it came out. I don’t rush to label anything a failure anymore,” he said.
“I tweeted a quote by Arthur Miller: ‘Don’t be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.’ ”
■ Williams has been sober for 2½ decades.
“I’m 24 years into extra innings,” he said.
He and Tracey Jackson (screenwriter of “Confessions of a Shopaholic”) wrote a book coming out in September called “Gratitude and Trust: Six Affirmations That Will Change Your Life.”
The book is not just for addicts.
“It’s a how-to recovery book for the general population,” Williams said.
“I think people keep picking the wrong way. They kind of live in victimhood, where you’re, like, ‘Aw, I’m not gonna get that job. Nothing’s going to work out for me.’
“As Tracey Jackson, my writing partner, says, ‘They reach for a bottle of disappointment instead of a bottle of vodka.’”
■ But Williams (who also co-wrote “You and Me Against the World” for Helen Reddy and “We’ve Only Just Begun” for The Carpenters) is all for nonaddicts buying drinks at the South Point.
“I encourage my audience to have a great time. There’s no pulpit involved in my shows in Vegas or anywhere else,” he said.
“These days, when I walk onstage, it’s a little more fun than it used to be.”
Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.