Lincoln Center's 50th anniversary celebration last night brought back a blast from the past: singer Chubby Checker, who made "The Twist" famous.
Checker performed for some 3,500 people in Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park as part of the "Midsummer Night Swing" public dance series; he was invited to perform on the eve of the 50th anniversary of his recording of "The Twist," ranked number one on Billboard's "Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs" from 1958 to 2008.
Trim, grooving and flirting with 15 women from the dance floor he invited on stage to perform with him, Checker did a 90-minute set of his and others' hits, everything from "The Twist," "Pony Time," "The Hucklebuck" and a remix of "The Fly," to James Brown's "Good, Good Lovin'," Joey Dee and the Starliters' "Peppermint Twist" and Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'" and "Blueberry Hill." Checker's stage name (he was born Ernest Evans) is a play on Domino's.
Checker said he performed Dee's song because "anybody who's twisting, it all belongs to me. If it wasn't for Chubby Checker and the Twist, there would be no Peppermint Lounge, 'Peppermint Twist,' 'Twist and Shout' by the Isley Brothers recorded by the Beatles. So I just have taken them all and took ownership of them so everybody can enjoy them."
Besides performing around the country, Checker will shortly release his remix of "The Fly" on iTunes and Amazon.com; a new album of 30 unreleased songs called "Chubby Checker's Other Treasures" will be out next year.
Checker is also in the food business, selling steaks and beef jerky on his Web site; later this summer, his checkerboard-patterned chocolate bars will be available in stores in Canada.
Asked which current performers he likes, Checker praised Beyonce, Christina Aguilera and particularly Britney Spears, who he said is "probably the hottest person right now, in spite of all of the negative things that they've been writing about her. She has a little more edge right now the other girls don't have."
As for male performers, he said, "After Michael Jackson, nobody's special. He was the best that ever lived. He was a little bit of everything that ever happened on stage, just fantastic. After that, there isn't much going on."