King of the Grammys: Barry Manilow! Well, we haven’t yet lived to see that day. But the Barry-ster (pictured) was the king of Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy party Tuesday night. As Davis reminded everyone, he gave Davis’ former label, Arista, its very first No. 1 record, and on this particular evening came the announcement that Manilow was about to have his first No. 1 album since the 1970s. It’s a career revivification almost worthy of Davis’ own comeback.

Some say it’s Clive’s ears that have kept him alive all these years well past any reasonable music-biz retirement age. (There was that unpleasant interlude in the late ‘90s where his corporate bosses attempted to put him out to pasture, “but it was corrected,” as Davis told the assembled while introducing the corporate Sony-BMG brass.) Yes, he is responsible for four of the top 10 albums right now. But it really comes down to this damn party. No one in the business wants to lose their invitation to this annual schmoozefest, always the year’s most coveted ticket for insiders. After Clive is gone, I think there’ll be a popular move to have him frozen, just so they can haul him out and have an excuse to keep these parties going in perpetuity.

addCredit(“Barry Manilow: Larry Busacca/”)

Although the performance part of the evening was broadcast oversatellite radio from the Beverly Hilton, and in past years there’vebeen some memorable climaxes (Alicia Keys’ introduction, one of manyPrince comebacks, the revelation that Jamie Foxx can sing, etc.), thisyear Clive didn’t have any great surprises in the bag. Besides Manilow,there were quick sets from mini-divas Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, andHeather Headley. A perfunctory reteaming of Carlos Santana and RobThomas on “Smooth”and a non-standards medley from Rod Stewart served astoken reminders that Davis does have some rock in his recently R&B-and American Idol-dominated legacy.

The low point of the evening was an appearance by 16-year-old ChrisBrown, who did a cartwheel but otherwise couldn’t halfway live up tothe usual introductory Clive superlatives. Davis said that people “willbe singing his songs well into the next century.” Listen, if Brown isconsidered a must-cover genius in the 22nd century, I’ll kill myself.Wait, I won’t have to! Brown sang to a largely canned track withbacking vocals that no one even attempted miming to, with a quartet ofmale backing dancers crammed onto the ballroom stage. I did enjoy thefact that the cramped choreography constantly made it appear as if theboy dancers were grabbing Brown’s ass.

But there is no better people-watching event on the Hollywoodcalendar on this one. The blonde whiplash at the preliminary cocktailgathering alone was worth the price of social climbing it takes to getin: There’s Courtney Love, in the kind of uncomfortable-lookingstrapless dress designed to keep balloons aloft! There’s Sheryl Crow,looking fabulous in a black pantsuit and defying any man there to bestrong enough to be her (new) Lance! There are the Dixie Chicks, movinginto the ballroom and taking their seats at a table they’re sharingwith KISS, where they will presumably share notes on shock tactics!There — okay, not so blonde anymore — is Diana “Call Me Miss” Ross,whose wig alone causes the kind of room overcrowding that could bringthe wrath of the fire marshal! For all these and many more dozens ofsightings, Clive, I thank you, and I’m going to go buy that BarryManilow album right now, just to help ensure the tradition never dies.