Jo Dee Messina was exuberant. And she was on the move. Sweeping from a nearby press conference into a room filled with revelers, the red-haired dynamo seemed intent on making contact with everyone in sight. Pass too close to her, and you were either going to get a hug that left bruises or a quizzical, tilt-of-the-head squint demanding to know who you were and why you were there. This was going to be an intense party.
Staged primarily to celebrate Messina's latest gold album, Delicious Surprise, the party took place Tuesday (Nov. 1) at Maggiano's, a ritzy new Italian restaurant in Nashville that gleamed with polished woods, white tablecloths and trays heaped with caloric landmines.
Messina sparkled as well in a melon-colored, tied-in-front blouse and black, low-riding gaucho pants. After buzzing the crowd, she stood kibitzing at the back of the room as Jim Mazza, head of the company that manages her, called the party to order.
Mazza reminded the celebrants that this was a special occasion because "gold and platinum records aren't coming as much as they used to." He ticked off Messina's albums one by one, noting that her first had gone gold, her second double-platinum, her third platinum and her fourth and fifth both gold. (Gold signifies shipments of 500,000 units and platinum of 1 million.)
There was more good news from the concert front, Mazza continued. He said the William Morris Agency, the company that books Messina's concerts, reports that 2005 has been her largest-grossing touring year to date. "That's according to William Morris," Messina zinged sarcastically from the back.
Mazza also praised the singer's road band, recalling, "The first time I saw Jo Dee's band play, I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to the Rolling Stones." Messina yelped and whistled in agreement, then cracked affectionately, "Somebody get the microphone away from that man."
Mazza introduced Dennis Hannon, executive vice president and general manager of Curb Records, Messina's label. "What's really amazing," Hannon observed, "is the consistency of her album certifications."
Hannon then called Messina forward to accept gold plaques for Greatest Hits and Delicious Surprise. Eyeing the Greatest Hits plaque, Messina joked, "It looks like platinum to me." Carson James, Curb's vice president of promotion and media strategy, told the crowd that Delicious Surprise had racked up the largest first-week sales of any of Messina's albums -- almost 100,000 copies.
"Thank you everybody for coming," Messina beamed after the presentations were over. "I'll try to give you all a hug before you leave." She offered particular thanks to her band members who "see me on my good days and my bad days."
Finally, Messina paid tribute to her label for letting her focus on music rather than sales matters. "When you put a piece of music out," she said, "you're throwing a chunk of your soul out there."
Then she resumed hugging.