When so many people say so many great things about you, a guy can get a little nervous.
"After hearing all this, it makes me feel like somebody knows something I don't," said Quincy Jones, the legendary music composer, producer and arranger. "Like I got until tomorrow morning or something."
"All this" was the flood of glowing compliments at last night's glittering world premiere of "Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones" at K-B Fine Arts Theatre. The film, a soul-searching biographical tribute to Jones's 40 years in music, films and television, received a standing ovation and rave reviews from the 500 political, Hollywood and recording industry guests who managed to wangle one of the invitations to the screening.
"Soul and science. Beat and balance. He has it all," said Jesse Jackson.
"He's an extraordinarily talented human being and in American life, talented people and entertainers occupy a very special place," said Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Calif.).
"I thought it was great," said D.C. mayoral candidate Sharon Pratt Dixon. "Of course, I'm a great fan of Quincy Jones."
Everybody, it seems, is and they were all there last night, spilling out of the silver and white stretch limos: Time Warner Chairman Steve Ross and his wife, Courtney Sale Ross, who produced the film; director Ellen Weissbrod; Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.); Mayor Marion Barry; Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder; "60 Minutes" correspondent Ed Bradley; CNN's Bernard Shaw; socialite Peggy Cooper Cafritz; Anna Perez, press secretary to Barbara Bush; singer Melba Moore; talk-show host Cathy Hughes; and heartthrob singer Al B. Sure!
"This is the most integrated Washington gets," said Cafritz. "Quincy Jones has such a wide following that he's strong in both communities. Otherwise, Washington is fairly segregated socially."
The secret of Jones's appeal can be found in the movie, which looks at his life in his own words and through interviews with both black and white singers and musicians -- a Who's Who of jazz and pop superstars -- he has worked with throughout his career.
"Everything's from the heart," said Sure, who worked with Jones on the hit single "Secret Garden" and also appears in the film. "He brings something out of you that you never knew you had."
"The amazing thing is that the world is Quincy Jones fans," said Steve Ross. "That's why he's unique." Ross said he only knew two others who could appeal to all generations all over the world: Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant. "The difficult thing is how to explain it," he said.
"A lot of things have come back to me through this film," Jones said. "It's made me look back and appreciate and reevaluate and assess things. It's been one of the most unbelievable experiences you could ever imagine. It's 110 minutes, but it's my whole life."
What a life.
Born to a poor family in Chicago, Jones lost his mother to mental illness when he was a boy and used to shine shoes for pimps. Through his love of music, he managed to pull himself off the streets and go on to fame: first as a musician with Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie, then as the first black record producer at Mercury records and later as a composer and arranger in Hollywood.
Jones is credited with crossing Hollywood's color line as the first black composer with soundtracks for "The Pawnbroker," "In Cold Blood," "Roots" and "The Color Purple." He went on to produce the best-selling album in history, Michael Jackson's "Thriller," and followed that up with the global success "We Are the World."
The dark side is also in the film -- three failed marriages, the last to actress Peggy Lipton; the children who never saw their father; the two brain aneurysms that almost killed him; the nervous breakdown -- the part of his life most people never heard about.
Following the screening, Jones was honored at a celebration bash at the Westin Hotel where George Benson serenaded the guest of honor with his some of his greatest hits.
"Listen Up," which opens locally Oct. 5, will also be released as a book, a soundtrack, and a new single. The new "Listen Up" foundation for youth development last night donated $100,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation for its internship program on the eve of its annual meeting.