People Magazine described Extravagant Gestures as "the only song in recent memory to have been penned as a theme for a novel."
Extravagant Gestures is the closing track of Dionne Warwick's album Friends, released in December 1985. But it was first recorded as a limited edition single earlier that year by lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, who co-wrote the song with then-husband Burt Bacharach. Sager composed the song as a promotional tool for her first novel, also called Extravagant Gestures.
People covered the glitzy publication party, held at the Tiffany Boutique in Beverly Hills and hosted by Sager's good friend Elizabeth Taylor. Noting the A-list celebrities in the crowd, People's writer observed: "When they leave, they take copies of Extravagant Gestures—the record, not the book." When Sager appeared on TV to promote her novel, she would often perform the song live. [Full disclosure: We may have had something to do with organizing the publicity tour for the book.]
Sager's novel is about a glamorous pop psychology author writing bestsellers about the mother-daughter relationship, who must come to terms with her own estranged mother, a larger-than-life Auntie Mame figure who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. According to an interview in the Washington Post:
Sager said she decided to write a novel because she felt "constricted" by the 36 bars of a song's lyrics, having to make things rhyme and so forth. She started out to write a screenplay, but that was constricting too. "You make your own form in a novel," she says..."My goal was to write something from me, that turned me on, that told a story. And I didn't even know what that story was until I was well into writing it," she said. "It was a growth experience for me. As a collaborative being, a person who has spent 20 years writing lyrics for composers, this was the first time I felt I could do something alone."
The year after Sager's novel was published, another industry insider, entertainment lawyer Freddie Gershon, published Sweetie Baby Cookie Honey, a roman à clef about the music business. [Sager's publisher, Arbor House, also published Gershon's novel. Full disclosure: We may have had something to do with this book too.] Like Sager, Gershon produced a promotional record to publicize his novel at book industry events and other venues. The Los Angeles Times noted: "One of the many dark themes running through Gershon's book is that pop stars are now worth more dead than alive, which he sees as symbolic of the music industry's greed and cynicism." In 2009, when Michael Jackson's sister La Toya suggested publicly that her brother was murdered to increase the value of his music catalog, Sweetie Baby Cookie Honey became part of the conversation. Around that time Gershon himself weighed in on the novel and its themes on his blog.