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There's no shortage of topics Dionne Warwick can talk about: Her status as one of music's most beloved and enduring singers. A six-decade career marked by a catalog of huge hits including "Walk on By," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" and "I Say a Little Prayer." Working with top songwriters who compose tunes specifically for her. Raising millions of dollars to fight AIDS with the anthem "That's What Friends Are For."
All of that and more is spotlighted in the new documentary "Dionne Warwick: Don't Make Me Over," which premieres Sunday on CNN.
But when journalists interview Warwick these days, almost all of them are asking about Pete Davidson.
"About 90% of interviewers ask me if I'm going to date Pete Davidson," Warwick said a few days after her 82nd birthday, referring to the comedian whose revolving-door romances with Kim Kardashian, Kate Beckinsale, Ariana Grande and others have become constant tabloid fodder.
The inquiry was prompted by a tweet from Warwick after Davidson was linked with model Emily Ratajkowski: "I will be dating Pete Davidson next."
The quip was just one of the humorous, freewheeling tweets the entertainer has fired off in the last few years. The missives have become such a social media sensation that she has been nicknamed the Queen of Twitter. She fired off a similarly flirtatious tweet about Leonardo DiCaprio following reports that the Oscar winner's cutoff age for girlfriends was 25: "You don't know what you're missing."
Said Warwick, "When they ask me about Pete, I say, 'Give me a break.'" She paused for a few seconds before adding, "He's dating everyone else. Why not me?" punctuating the comment with a hearty laugh.
The velvet-voiced singer is celebrating the new year with the documentary on her life and achievements. The film features footage of Warwick dating back to her gospel performances as a youngster and includes her award-winning partnership with songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
Also touched on are Warwick's stumbles, including financial difficulties and her association with the Psychic Friends Network during the 1990s. But the emphasis is on her victories, professionally and personally.
Former President Clinton, Quincy Jones, Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg, the late Olivia Newton-John and many others are among those featured in the film discussing Warwick's voice, hits and effect on popular culture.
Warwick said the documentary, along with her 2010 memoir "My Life, as I See It," accurately show how she has approached her craft and her life.
"I have nothing to be ashamed of," Warwick said as she sipped coffee in a Beverly Hills hotel lounge a few hours before a performance of hits and Christmas carols at Cal State Los Angeles. "I've lived my life the way I was brought up to live it. My grandfather, who was the wisest man on Earth — second only to Jesus — told me to always tell the truth. The truth is always available, so why tell a lie? There are all these people who have their opinions about Dionne, and now those opinions will be laid to rest. This is the absolute truth."
She credited her family and her mentors with keeping her on the right path: "When I looked like I was going in the wrong direction, they snatched my little butt back. I listened intently. They loved me. They spoiled me to death. I loved it then, and I love it now. I'm still spoiled. I really am, and I let everyone know it."
Among the most revelatory details in "Don't Make Me Over" is how the singer initially turned up her nose when offered "Heartbreaker" and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," which became two of her biggest hits. Dogg recalls a summit where Warwick invited him and other gangsta rappers to her house, warning them to stop using inflammatory lyrics about women.
Calling the documentary a "labor of love," producer, writer and co-director Dave Wooley described Warwick in a statement as "a transformational, global icon.”
In the course of our conversation, Warwick opened up about her "farewell tour,'" her Twitter obsession and her feelings about "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," the new biopic about her cousin Whitney Houston.
Happy belated birthday. How did you spend the day?
Thank you! My two sons treated me to my favorite Italian restaurant. Afterward, we hung out and had a lot of laughs, like we always do. They're two of the craziest young men in my life. It was very cool.
You announced your big day on Twitter. What do you think about all the controversy about Twitter these days?
I'm going to find out what Mr. Musk has in mind. I'm hoping to have a meeting with him. I want to ask him, "Where's your head? Where are you going with this?" Lots of people have jumped off, and I want to find out what he's thinking before I decide to stay on. Or leave.
What are your concerns?
Inviting everybody who was crazy to come on back, the disregard for what social media is all about.
Is there a possibility you would leave?
It depends on what Mr. Musk says. I don't jump to conclusions. I had the opportunity to work with [former Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey]. He actually thanked me for getting on Twitter as a grown-up who showed a little bit of sense, and how I actually turned it all around so that the kids were not constantly bashing each other or cursing and all that craziness. I let them know, "You don't have to do all that madness. There's a way to say what you want to say, and always end it with a smile."
What was your reaction when you first watched "Don't Make Me Over"?
I was truly impressed. There were things I had forgotten over the years. And then there's all these people talking about me. I loved it, and it was overwhelming. It was also emotional seeing people near and dear who are no longer with me.
What was it like seeing the young Dionne perform?
I did a lot of this: [puts hands over face]. But that was me.
I really enjoyed the stories about how you initially turned down "Do You Know the Way to San Jose."
I accused Hal David of not writing it. I said "Hal, you've given me lyrics that were so positive and sensitive. Now you want me to sing "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa"? It was the same when Barry Gibb presented me with "Heartbreaker." I said, "Barry, that does not sound like me." He said, "Yes, it does." We went back and forth, back and forth. Then [Arista Records founder] Clive Davis and the Bee Gees all ganged up on me and said, "You're going to record this song." Barry assured me, "This is going to be one of your biggest hits."
So what was it like when those songs became huge hits?
I cried all the way to the bank.
There's also some stuff about the rough times you had with the Psychic Friends Network and finances.
We all go through ups and down. There was a reason for that. There was an accountant that was on the left side of things and did not do right by me, and left me in a position where taxes were owed because they were not filed. Filing bankruptcy seemed to be the way to get myself out of trouble. And if General Motors can file bankruptcy, why can't Dionne?
This latest tour was once referred to as your farewell tour.
That's not true. But I'm slowing down. I'm not going to be running around the world 362 days a year any longer. I'm going to truly pick and choose. I'm at a stage in my life where running through airports is not my strong suit. I feel I need to preserve Dionne.
You've performed so many of your hits hundreds of thousands of times. How do you keep it fresh?
I love every single one of my songs. They're written for me. They're my children. I've taken liberty with quite a few of them and changed them to bring them into the 21st century. I've had the pleasure of re-recording a lot of them with a new feel, and it's been wonderfully accepted.
Your time on "The Celebrity Apprentice" was, to put it mildly, memorable.
That was a joke. I said I would do it because it dealt with charitable contributions. When I got involved, I discovered it was a little bit more than that. People were showing their true colors, and I felt I didn't belong there. I got to the point where the women — I won't call them "ladies" — were not ones I wanted to be around.
You were friends with Donald Trump then. How do you feel about him now?
Oh, my goodness. I don't know who this man is. He's not the person I met many, many years ago, the one I knew when I performed at his casinos or his houses. I don't know what happened to him. To me, he's a frightening entity. I distance myself from people like that.
So much of your music has been associated with movies. I have to tell you that one of my favorite soundtracks is "The Woman in Red," which you did with Stevie Wonder.
That was an exceptional experience. Gene Wilder called me and asked if I would be the musical coordinator for that film. I said, "What is that?" He just said, "I'm sure you'll find a way." I called him later and said, "I know who's going to write the music. Stevie Wonder." Gene said, "But Dionne, he has to see the film to know where the music fits." I said, "He'll see it. Trust me." They had a screening for the movie, which had temporary music, and I told Stevie to come with me. He sat to my left. When people would laugh, he would ask me what was happening, and I would describe what was going on. Literally, Stevie saw the movie through my eyes. At three or four the next morning, he called me and said, "Dionne, listen, listen!" He had just written "I Just Called to Say I Love You." The Academy Award he won spoke to his ability.
Speaking of movies, there's a new film about your cousin Whitney Houston. You have been critical of previous projects about her. Have you seen it?
They screened it for me last night. Finally, people will get the story about Whitney that they should have gotten from the very beginning. Her legacy, which is her music, is what's important. This film justifies who she really was. It touches on all the issues she was going through, but it doesn't prolong them. The gist of the film is what it should be — her music. I'm thrilled Clive [Davis, who is an producer] kept his promise to me.
I've heard that a series about your life is in the works at Netflix.
We're still talking about it happening. There's parts of my life that the documentary does not touch on, and I don't want those parts to be told after I'm gone. I want to do it while I'm still here so the truth can be told. LeToya Luckett is the wonderful actress who would play me, and she's fun and funny. She even looks like me. I've had several conversations with her, and she's done her homework. She knows more about me than I know myself.
So is there anything left you want to accomplish?
Yes. Winning a Tony, an Emmy and an Oscar — not necessarily in that order.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.