At 46, with 44 gold records, 25 years in the business and the famous prognathous grin ingniting the lobby gloom of the Washington Hilton, Mr. James Brown, America's musical hand grenade with sweat glands, aka Mr. Please Please Please, The Hardest working Man in Show Business, and Soul Brother Number One . . . says: "I try to slide in the airport, dress down, you know, all in black, not my customary flamboyance, I don't want to be up today . . . like I say, I slide in the airport, I stand over by a post. People say "That cat sure look like James Brown, but James Brown, he's 46 years old."
"Look at me baby, I'm weighing 162 with my clothes on, I haven't been this size for 12 years. You come down to the show at the Warner Theater, you see there definitely is no energy crisis, you can believe that! Yeah . . .
"I slide in the airport, but then the reverend, that Rev. Al Sharpton over there, he page me! Can you imagine that, paging James Brown in the Airport? That's like paging Elvis Presley, that's like paging syrup and nothing but ants around. The people go crazy! Had to escape in the limousine!"
The elevator awaits. James Brown cuts ahead of the reverend and the whole entourage with a happy authority that makes you glad to stand back: The trick to avoiding arrogance being that you have to be at home, comfortable, with your own ego. James Brown treats his like a Barca-Lounger, and Thursday afternoon, heading for his suite, he's reclining.
"Yeah, 44 gold records and number 45 coming up. It's called 'Regrets,' and it is 'Please Please Please' and Poppa's Brand New Bag' rolled up into one. It supposed to be written for Marie Osmond, but they gave it to me. Gonna be No. 1 pop, not just soul: pop!
The crowd parts for Mr. James Brown to stride into his suite first, a little man with a lot of shoulder-boogie in his glide) the kid from Macon Ga. who bought the radio station he shined shoes in front of; who was maybe the only entertainer to stiff the 1972 presidential inauguration, but also the only one to ask for $12,000 to appear.
He's not as big as he once was but . . . when you're in the same room with him . . .
"I been touring; in Europe, I been gone. Yeah, in Rome, I get three encores, man, I never done that in my life. I don't mean like I usually do, when I go off, and they throw the cape on me, and then I come back. This time I come off, be sitting in my dressing room, and Mr. Tostinada come back and say: 'Nobody moved.' Incredible!"
And there was Japan where they went crazy, and he's got second billing in the movie "The Blues Brothers" with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, plays a gospel preacher. Last year he played the Grand Ole Opry, he reports.
"You imagine, you imagine ol' Tom T. Hall, he hear me on the highway, zoom!" he says, twitching his hand around in a U-turn, gold pinky ring streaking through the twilight.
"I do 'Git Up Off That Thing,' and then I go right onto 'Tennessee Waltz,' 'Georgia,' and 'Your Cheatin' Heart,' then get back to 'Poppa's Got A Brand New Bag.'"
Complete with the famous James Brown splits, spins, leaps, screams, sweat, twirls, wiggles, shuffles.
"People 'bout went crazy! I be Mr. America! Apple Pie! Soul Apple Pie! You come down to the Warner Theater you'll see. You don't think I got the speed, you watch."
Wham! He's got those feet flying on the hotel room rug."Ha! Yeah! God give me a special energy. When that happens, people just love you special. Will I be doing it in another 10 years? God make the policy on that.
"In Italy, it made me think about the told days in the States when people appreciate shows. Disco almost ruin our show business. The young kids today never seen a good show. I'm a very fortunate person. I finished Blues Brothers movie, I went to Japan. Tell 'em what they did, Rev!"
"They were all up on stage," says the Rev.
"I got an album be out in a year live from that Japan concert, 24 tracks. They got some sound, they sound 10,000 percent better than ours, not 100 percent, 10,000 percent!"
Mr. James Brown finds a tape deck to play his new single, "Regrets." It opens sweet, a country guitar sound, not the big old chopping horn-section chords of "The Night Train," "Good, Good Lovin'," or "Cold Sweat."
Brown stares at a listener. He points to the tape deck. He nods. He exits into the adjoining room, where he stands alone in front of a mirror and combs his hair.
It's the same semi-process extended pompadour he's worn for years and he caresses it more than he combs it, moving his lips to the song, swaying back and forth as it builds with the full band pumping away now, and Mr. James Brown is smiling, combing, "Regrets, no no no no no, regrets no no no" till he's grinning, tilting his head back, no, no, no, and it's like being paged by the loudspeakers in heaven.