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Updated:  February 24, 2005

It's raining then it's snowing - typical Toronto winter!  My condolences and prayers go to my friend, Sharilyn, a Director of the YWCA of Greater Toronto, and her family, who unexpectedly lost her 38 year old brother, Barry, last week after a undiagnosed illness.  Sharilyn and I share the same heritage in The Salvation Army.  A reminder that we are not guaranteed tomorrow so live your life fully and with joy.

Ivan Berry sat down with me last week for this exclusive interview.  Ivan offers news on his latest venture since leaving BMG/Sony and lots of insight on the Canadian music industry.  Have a read below.  Kayte Burgess performs during Canadian Music Week - check it out below!

Check out the rest of the entertainment news below - MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, OTHER NEWS, and SPORTS NEWS!  Have a read and a scroll!  This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTSWish to be removed from this distribution, please CLICK HERE.






Kayte Burgess at Canadian Music Week

Toronto’s Kayte Burgess has put together a hot showcase for the patrons of Canadian Music Week.  Come out and see some of her newest material in the posh setting of Pipers inside the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.  Don’t be late – these showcases are only ½ hour long!

Kayte Burgess
Pipers at Fairmont Royal York
10:00 pm







Interview with Ivan Berry

I sat down with the very busy Ivan Berry last week to discuss his transition from BMG/Sony to Ole, a publishing company.  As well, we discussed the music industry as a whole and his advice to Canadian urban artists. 

You’ve been gone from BMG now for a bit, what’s your new company about and what are your objectives within that new company.

There’s two new companies.  The first company is called Ole and the managing partners are Robert Ott, who was the president of BMG Publishing and Tim Laing who comes from the financial world.  And I’m the senior partner, international.  That company is simply a publishing company is proud to say we are doing what other publishers are not doing.  We are a highly financed publishing company.  We consider ourselves majorly indie because we are a major as far as acquisition budgets are concerned and we’re indie because we’re fast and flexible and we’re not going to make the mistakes the major publishers are making.

Our job is to acquire whether by purchase, co-publishing or administration deals, acquire catalogues globally of any language, any genre of music and then re-exploit them back into all mediums of exploitation.  The CD is one and that seems to be the focus of everybody else’s attention but for us, the CD is just one of the mediums.  We’re heavily into film and TV, ring tones, ring backs, video games and all the other mediums that houses music.  We’re not going to be stuck looking for the next big hit of the next big artist.  That just happens to be one of the mediums where we’re going to be exploiting music but by far, not the only medium.  So, that’s what Ole does. 
Then I also have my own individual company called IB Entertainment – that’s a management company and I currently manage Keshia Chante – co-manage her with her Mom, Tess.  I also manage Rupert Gayle, my long time partner, songwriter, etc.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this transition for you?

You know, BMG has been a fantastic company for me.  Lisa Zbitnew and her team have been great and it was a fantastic five years, heading up A&R and international over at BMG.  For me, BMG is by far the most independent of the majors.  Meaning I was really allowed to be entrepreneurial and to be again fast and flexible and we kind of moved with the time and we adhered to shifting paradigms.  We were kind of cool and we made things happen.  If something hot is out, we could jump on it really fast.  It was good in that way.  However, it was still a major.  So, I would say for me in this new company, Ole, it is a whole different world and a whole different business, although it’s still in music and entertainment.  It’s a business that has always intrigued me.  The big advantage to it is I think, the music business in general is at its all time high.  People are enjoying more music.  People are acquiring more music, etc. but I think the CD business is at its all time low.  That’s why people have to really focus and understand when people are saying the music business is in disarray.  It’s not.  The CD business is.  There’s less people that are buying CDs and its becoming a little bit more stabilized now but it definitely decreased in CD sales.  This is the nature of the record business versus the publishing business.  When a new medium or new technology is born, it becomes really bad for the record business and for the publishing business, it becomes a really good thing.  Because it’s one more avenue to exploit the song.  So, I’m not in the CD and artist business at Ole, I’m in the song exploitation business.  So, the advantage is that we have a hell of a lot more avenues to exploits songs, no matter how, when and where technology increases and mediums become more flexible, etc., they all need to acquire intellectual property.  And we’re in the business of owning intellectual property as opposed to owning masters. 

Do you think that the industry will eventually all go online as far as selling product online first.  Prince gave away CDs and incorporated the price in his tickets.  Do you feel like this is working?  Do you feel that there’s new types of avenues that people will grasp on to?

I don’t think the CD or whatever new format that may replace the CD, I don’t think a hard copy of a medium will ever really vanish.  Because it’s very similar to when all these magazines closed down their shops and stopped printing magazines and went online.  People still enjoy picking up a magazine and leafing through – something tangible.  So I think the CD will be around but it becomes not the only source of purchasing music and where record companies went wrong is that they thought the CD was the almighty God.  The Internet is not replacing the CD, it’s just taking a piece of the pie.  There are three things that consumers want.  They want great quality content, they want it in a convenient way and they want it at a great price.  It’s real simple and the middle word is convenience.  So having mediums like your cell phone is just another medium to be able to acquire music in a convenient way.  They want content and they want it on demand. 

Marketing people have to change their strategies is what it boils down to. 

Exactly, so when you hear about Prince including CDs in his ticket price, when you hear about Robbie Williams releasing his album on his little phone SIM card, I mean, it’s not that everything is going to vanish and people are not going to acquire CDs or any one particular medium is going to take over, it just simply means that they’re going to be now 15 different ways of acquiring music.  Whoever markets the best medium is going to be at the top of the pot.  It’s real simple.

In your experience from Sony/BMG, Beat Factory to now, what are some of the highlights and low points you’ve experienced.  What stands out the most for you?  As well, what is the least favourite of your experiences in the music industry?

I think, and it happens often because I’m a little bit of a kook and traditionally, if you followed my career, I was doing Michie Mee before there was anything called reggae rap.  I was doing Dream Warriors before there was anything called jazz rap and I was doing HDV before there was the west coast doing the pimp of the microphone way before there was Snoop Doggy Dogg and NWA.  So, we’ve always kind of stumbled on our multiculturalism in Canada and embraced using East Indian samples to African samples to jazz samples, and frankly to country and western samples. 

A lot of people may not know this but the West Indies have been a fantastic territory for country and western music.  It’s huge in the Caribbean, always has been.  As a matter of fact, Beenie Man did a country and western song on his album.  It’s soulful and it’s from the heart and also it’s got a ‘singing the blues’ element and lyrics to it.  The Caribbean obviously had those trials and tribulations.  For me, I’m at BMG and Sony and I tried to experiment with lots of things, including the Wyclef Creole album and I think it’s a huge company but getting everybody to really believe in the vision of Lisa and myself, from who we’re signing and why – because we as A&R people have to predict what’s going to be the next phase of music.  I refuse to go out there and sign something that’s happening right now. 

When I thought about Keshia, I thought about what’s missing from the marketplace.  I didn’t stumble on Keshia, I went looking for a 14 year old girl that is much cooler than Hilary Duff.  Somebody that caters to all cultures and colours of people but with an R&B, hip hop element to it.  I really think there’s two types of 12 year olds – there are the ones that really like Hilary Duff and then there’s ones that really like Keshia.  And that’s why people like Aaliyah, God bless her soul, were so successful.  Where’s the cool, hip version for young people.  There was none.  Both Aaliyah and TLC was the last.  We had it in a male, like Bow Wow but we didn’t have it in a female.  Somebody that’ really kind of fashionable and glamorous and can sing but be really cool and be a spokesperson and role model for ages 8 – 17.  It didn’t exist so I went looking for that. 

I think to quickly answer the question, again, I had a great experience at BMG but it’s a huge company so trying to get everybody to buy in on what your crazy ideas are about, is sometimes really difficult.  It’s not necessarily a flaw of Sony/BMG, that’s definitely a flaw of a big system.  That’s was probably the biggest disadvantage.  The advantage of BMG is obvious – they have offices in 50 countries worldwide.  There’s huge budgets to spend when you really believe in something.  And Keshia is a perfect example.  When the team really believes, then it’s natural that you can see what happens. 

I’ve never seen a label clap as much for their artist as I did for Keshia [Chante] winning at the UMAC Awards.  The whole label stood up and was cheering. 

I’ve been in the music business for 23 years and to be very frank, this is probably the third time in my entire career that I’ve seen that much support and commitment and enthusiasm for a domestic artist.  It’s kind of a ‘put your money where your mouth is and let’s make it happen - this girl is a super talent’ kind of thing.  And we’re seeing the effects.  It’s weird. 

Sometimes I look at it now.  All the other Canadian artists that all of us individually believe that were global superstars at one point or another – if the same type of enthusiasm and effort was given, would it have worked?  Who knows?  All I know is that BMG couldn’t have been a more perfect label for Keshia.  We got the team riled up and it’s now showing in her success.  She’s breaking records left, right and centre.  She’s crossed over now into America.  We’re slowly going to build that situation and that’ the advantage of having a big company – when the button gets pushed, it gets pushed. 

Who are some of the Canadian artists that you respect with respect to their business sense?  And who are some of your Canadian artists overall, incorporating their business sense?

The Canadian artists that I respect for their business savvy on all levels – the ones who have figured out who they really are and sticking to their guns, whether we like what their guns are or not.  K-os.  I think by far my home girl, Michie Mee.  Her and I are close.  We speak on a regular basis but literally, I haven’t managed Michie for probably 12-13 years and she’s still out there doing her thing and still surviving.  Frankly, she hasn’t had a record for about 15 years and she still comes in the top 5 artists in Canada when you think about who’s the top five artists in Canada.  That in itself is a fantastic accomplishment.  So, I think k-os, Michie Mee.  I also really respect Maestro, to be honest.  Maestro has broken now into the film world and he’s acting.  I respect 100% groups like the Bare Naked Ladies and groups like Nickelback because they just have an entire machine and it’s not just about management for them.  But it’s about a lot of other things. 

It’s about them taking control of their career and it’s them understanding what management is.  Management is to add value – not to tell you what to do and you just kind of put your tail between your legs and do it.  But to be able to have debates, discussions and even arguments and maybe a couple of fist fights with your manager over your career.  And have really valuable conversations and debate your manager’s decisions and vice versa.  I think knowing the business and knowing exactly who you are and how and where and when you want to go to point A to Z is extremely important.  Otherwise your manager is just going to come up with a plan for you and you’re going to have no other way but to follow it.  The problem that always occurs is when you follow it and it doesn’t work out, then your manager’s a rip off artist and all the above.  That’s just stupid.  Don’t sue your manager if it doesn’t work out, sue YOURSELF for not handling your business!

What are the two pieces of advice that you’d give to Canadian urban artists?  What do you want them to know that you think that they’re missing?

Two pieces of advice that I can give to Canadian urban artists - #1 – the most important one.  I’ve lived my entire life and career and I’ve been able to survive on it, is you’ve got to be global.  The music business – it’s not the Canadian music business – it’s get off the kick of signing a Canadian deal is bad for you.  It’s not bad for you if records are coming out in Canada.  At the end of the day, you sign an American deal, it’s the same Canadian label that’s going to release your record in Canada.  Right?  But have enough global connections that you can pick and choose who, when and where you release your records – France, Austria, Australia, Italy, Japan and Indonesia and Columbia and Brazil.  These are all territories that enjoy our genre and sells hundreds of thousands of records.  It’s the trick to the music business and even the majors follow it – in most cases, when they make a record domestically, whatever that entire cost is – recording costs, videos, marketing, etc. - that recoupable amount that is attached to ‘X’ amount of record sales is usually, in most cases, a break even point in the domestic market and what we depend on for profitability is what we call matrix income, which is global sales. 

Let’s given an example. If it takes 100,000 records to break even on a Canadian artist, most Canadian artists will tell you – I’ll never see a cent so why sign a recording contact with a Canadian label because it’s so difficult to have a platinum album in Canada.  Yeah, but what if the platinum album in Canada pays for all of the costs and you do it without a hit record, without anybody knowing who you are, you do another 400,000 records worldwide.

Does that count for a platinum status in Canada?

No it doesn’t but what it counts for is 400,000 multiplied by your royalty rate which is all 100% profit.  So, you’re right.  If you only have connections in Canada, then you are screwed.  It’s real simple.  But if you’re global, then a Canadian record deal could never hamper your career globally.

I think it depends on what you want out of it.  If you want some notoriety, you can have that in Canada tomorrow – but you might not be paid. 

And Canada is also a great stomping ground to get yourself ready for the rest of the world.  Rolling Stones do it.  They come here and have concerts all the time and warm them up for the rest of the tour.  The thing about it, you’ve got to think globally and you’ve got to be a global artist.  The other most important thing that they’re missing out on is that you have to flip your inverted pyramid.  You have to have a concrete foundation – it’s the business of music – it’s not the music business.  Most artists in Canada are so talented, they’re self-contained, they’re songwriters, they’re producers, they got their own studio, they’ve got everything.  But they don’t have proper management, they don’t know about the music business, they don’t know anything about publishing, they don’t know anything about networking, they don’t know anything about distribution, they don’t know anything about technology outside of recording equipment.  they don’t know anything about the infrastructure that’s going to support their career if and when they have a successful record.  It’s like they’re always thinking about failure before it happens. 

When I do recording contracts, I remember a lot of my artists used to say ‘Why is that clause in there because it doesn’t apply to us’.  I said that I don’t do contracts for selling 5,000 records, I do contracts for selling 10 million records.  It totally 100% applies to you.  I used to put life insurance clauses in my management agreement.  Some artists would be like ‘why?’.  I said it’s because when you’re selling 10 million records, at any given point, a manager could be out of pocket a $500,000 just by – ‘We can’t wait for the promoters, I‘ll just front the tour right now.  We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.’  Next week, the money will come in and I’ll put $500,000  - why?  Because there’s probably $10 million in the bank somewhere.  So, it’s no problem.  When there’s lots of money involved, it’s not an issue in relative scale in terms of millions of dollars. 

What happens when the artist croaks on the motorcycle or skydiving or bungee jumping – all this crazy stuff they enjoy doing, right?  So, the life insurance clause is an example of things that are relative to success but not relative to failure. 

So, think big - think outside the box. 

I can’t go into a relationship thinking, this is just a little ‘ting’ I’m trying.  If it blows up, then we’ll fix it then – NO!  This is going to be 10 million records and if it [screws] up, then it will be, ’a little ‘ting’ I’m trying’. 

What do you want people to remember you for? 

Well, I hope I don’t die soon.  I was actually having a conversation with a friend of mine about this exact same topic.  I’ve had numerous offers to move to the States and to make millions of dollars, the way that I didn’t want to make millions of dollars, and some people might agree with this and some people might disagree with it but I think that I’ve contributed my time, effort and money to the Canadian music business in general.  I consider myself somebody that has helped artists and other business executives along the way. 

Whether it was when EMI gave me my deal (with Beat Factory), I could have moved into their offices.  Instead, I put out compilations.  I could have taken all the money and put it into one artist and blow them up and have a successful artist.  Instead, I did compilation artists to kind of level out the scene and made lots of other people bubble in their careers, etc.  It was also very important that I went out and hired 12 staff members immediately.  I’m proud to say that they’re scattered all over – Duane Watson, Jonathan Ramos, Stephane Lecuyer and Mansa Trotman.  These are all people – whether it’s in graphic design, label, publishing, concept promotion or film, they are all fairly senior in their positions and all started at Beat Factory.  Every one of them.  So, it’s not about money.  I made $20 million next year, I don’t want people to say ‘wow, he made a lot of money’.  The one thing I live for is my props.  Don’t ever [screw] with my props.  You can rip me off of money and I wouldn’t be as upset as much if you tried to take my props.  I just work really really hard to help people and I want people to remember that and respect that.  That’s all.

Many thanks to Ivan for his insight and captivating thoughts and we should all be thankful for his contribution to Canadian artists and the industry as a whole.







Motivational Note: Do The Best That You Can Do

Excerpt from - By Willie Jolley

Do all you can do, the best that you can do, and you will be a success! Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "If a man is called to be a streetsweeper he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep street so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well. Friends, do all you can the best that you can. Do your job, whatever job you do, to the best of your ability and you too will be a blessing and will be blessed in the process!







Michael Buble: Nice Guy Turns New Leaf

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Feb. 23, 2005) Michael Buble's new album, It's Time, kicks off with an all-out version of Feeling Good from the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd. ''It's a new dawn/It's a new day/It's a new life for me,'' sings Buble with his warm and assured delivery that proves why to my ears he is the finest male vocalist of his generation. Yet, on the day of this interview, the song's sentiment is a massive understatement of how this 29-year-old Vancouver heartthrob is feeling. Never mind "good" -- try on top of a world he's got on a string before flying to the moon. The album, released Feb. 8, debuted at No. 1 in Canada, Italy, Spain, Japan and Singapore; crashed into the Top 5 in Britain and, more importantly, went straight to No. 7 on the Billboard album charts in the United States. If you didn't know any of these chart-related factoids or were unaware of the exact number of copies his self-titled debut album from 2003 sold in key markets, a giddy Bublé would be happy to tell you. Emphatically. Marketing-speak trips off his tongue as naturally as the love lyrics of Cole Porter or Ira Gershwin. Listen to him recount how Target, the American retail chain, "underestimated" his selling powers: "I tell you something. Target ordered 30,000 records. They sold them in one day. They had to give out IOUs. I sold 92,000 copies in America on the first day." Yet, all his number crunching is not about dollars and cents. This is about recognition, vindication and his own mixed feelings toward the United States. Although he's an "American-signed" act, this Canadian's career did not take off there quite as spectacularly as it did in Europe and Asia, where his status as an idol is all but carved in stone.

"America just didn't get it," Bublé says, describing as "failure" the 920,000 copies of his debut album sold there, compared with 700,000 in Britain and 350,000 in Canada. "Per capita, it's a huge failure. They couldn't get the TV and the things I needed. So I said: 'I'm going to go where I'm wanted.' "I tell you why America is so shocked this week," Bublé, not one to let the matter go, continues. "Because I had no TV appearances [last week]. I did the Today Show and Letterman this week. That's why they're going: 'Holy shit.' " Oh yes, expletives punctuate his speech about as regularly as sales figures.  Compared with the diplomatic, nice-Canadian-guy image he projected two years ago, this Bublé is as unpolished in person as his record is polished and immaculately produced. It could all be an act but it's a more engaging, slick-in-its-roughness one.  Back in 2003, he described Rod Stewart's album of American standards, the first of a set of three that the aging Brit inflicted on the world, as "his thing." Today, he summarily dismisses them as "crappy." Then, he was only too happy to be one of two up-and-coming champions of the American songbook tradition alongside New York's Peter Cincotti, whose self-titled album was released at the same time as Bublé's debut, but to better reviews. In today's crooner-saturated market, he relates the story of a French reporter who made the fatal mistake of asking Bublé if singers such as Cincotti, the Brit Jamie Cullum or fellow Canadian Matt Dusk have "opened doors" for him. "I said: 'Do me a favour. Put all their record sales together and when you get to mine, tell me who's opening doors.' " Take that, Frenchie! And be grateful the singer you talked to is not the jerk Bublé says he was for a while after his initial taste of success. "I lost it a little bit. I lost my way. I started to believe the stuff. I thought to myself: 'Gosh, I can't be so nice.' You keep hearing that nice guys finish last and I had friends in the business who were more edgy and people in the press liked them more." Although he won't be pushed into mentioning names, Courtney Love comes to mind. "She's not my friend, but from what I can see she is not a great mom, not exactly the most well-balanced person, and yet she's everywhere," he says, citing Oasis and Chris Martin of Coldplay as further examples. "I'm the nice Canadian guy and everyone says: 'Bow down to these people.' I'm thinking these people are assholes. I started thinking maybe I gotta be bigger than I am, do something different, more edgy."

Family, friends and the love of a good woman -- his girlfriend of seven years, Debbie -- brought him back to the land of sensible Canadian stars and exorcised the high-school brat out of his system. The truth is, it's not so much innocence lost as musical purity jettisoned. Of the 13 tracks on his new CD, only three can be described as American songbook standards: A Foggy Day (in London Town), The More I See You and I've Got You Under My Skin. The rest sees him cover the early pop and soul of the 1960s and 1970s with cover versions of How Sweet It Is, Qunado, Quando, Quando, Can't Buy Me Love, You and I and Save the Last Dance for Me. "I was a purist," Bublé confesses of his past sin. "Now, I get a great kick out of taking [producers] David Foster's and Humberto Gatica's pop sensibility and blending it with my purist taste. I wanted my album to sound like Bennett and Sinatra, but when I take these two styles, it creates a hybrid that's much more powerful for the listener who isn't a purist; for the young kid in America, the 13-year-old, who doesn't get the big-band sound." As a fan myself, it never occurred to me that I'm sharing that base with 13-year-olds. But to reach the five million targeted sales for his latest, It's Time, Bublé's record company must position him within, but not restrict him to, the songbook market. While Bublé, for example, was the guest vocalist on jazz singer Jane Monheit's last album, Taking a Chance on Love, he's paired up with the more popular voice of fellow West Coaster Nelly Furtado on It's Time. "I had to wake up one morning and make a conscious decision," reveals Bublé. "I'm going to make this record for the people, not for the critics. It sucks when critics don't like you. I don't care who you are and what artists say, but you do care when critics don't like you."

If the album feels like a compilation of songs unified through its orchestral musical arrangements and Bublé's soaring vocals, that's because it's meant to be that way. While pointing to a thematic continuity that can be summed up as a star fighting to keep his love alive in a world of fame, fortune and competing demands, Bublé insists It's Time is not a concept album. "I can't tell how many records I have bought because I liked one or two songs. On this I want you to buy it because you'll like 12, 11 or 10 songs. You shouldn't like every song. That's why we have 31 flavours of ice cream."




Michael Bublé:  It's Time For Love

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Feb. 20, 2005) We know what you got for Valentine's Day: A romantic, get-you-in-the-mood CD by crooner Michael Bublé. The Vancouver vocalist's second album, It's Time, released Feb. 8 and full of standards, from Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Cole Porter and the like, landed in No. 1, thanks, no doubt, to those last-minute shopping dashes by frantic lovers looking for that special something. Hey, and if you didn't already have it, you probably got Bublé's first album, too, because his self-titled debut rose into the Top 20, and it's been out on record store shelves since 2003. All and all, a good Valentine's Day gift: It's Time is just as sweet and addictive as chocolate, but way less fattening.




Hot 100 Still In 'Love' With Mario

Excerpt from - Margo Whitmire, L.A.

(Feb. 17, 2005) For the ninth week in a row, Mario's single "Let Me Love You" sits atop Billboard's Hot 100. This year's Valentine's Day anthem is also No. 1 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and Hot 100 Airplay charts for the same number of weeks.  But on the Hot 100, Mario is starting to see the first sign of real competition as 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" featuring Olivia makes a rapid 8-2 ascent this week. The chart's greatest gainer at radio is one of 50 Cent's three current top 10 titles. It also logs a second week at No. 1 on the Hot Digital Songs tally.  Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" spends a second week at No. 3 on the Hot 100, and tops the Pop 100 for a second week, the Mainstream Rock Tracks for an eighth, the Modern Rock Tracks for a 12th and advances 2-1 on the Adult Top 40 list.  As reported yesterday, the Grammy winner for best rock album saw a 20% U.S. sales increase to 135,500 copies of "American Idiot" (Reprise), according to Nielsen SoundScan, which is No. 3 on The Billboard 200.  Though a seven-week stint at No. 2 on the Hot 100 ends with a fall to No. 4, Ciara's "1, 2 Step" featuring Missy Elliott sees gains on other Billboard charts. In addition to notching a second week at the summit of the Pop 100 Airplay chart, the track moves 2-1 to take over the lead on the Hot Dance Radio Airplay list.   The Game's "How We Do" featuring 50 Cent drops 4-5, while 50 Cent also drops one slot to No. 6 with "Disco Inferno." "Hate It or Love It," another the Game track featuring 50 cent, sees a significant gain, however, rising 81-58.

Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz's "Lovers and Friends" featuring Usher and Ludacris also falls one spot to No. 7, but remains at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks list for a seventh week. In addition, the cut jumps to No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart and the Rhythmic Airplay tally.  Destiny's Child's "Soldier" featuring T.I. & Lil Wayne slides 7-8 on the Hot 100, while Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" remains No. 9 for a third week.  Gwen Stefani's "Rich Girl" featuring Eve is the Hot 100's fastest-growing digital song, and rockets 16-10 to round out the top tier. The duo performed the song during the Feb. 13 Grammy Award ceremony. Stefani's "What You Waiting For?" also re-enters the chart at No. 91.  The Postal Service's "We Will Become Silhouettes" is the Hot 100's top debut at No. 82 and marks the first appearance on the chart for the electronica-enhanced rock act. The song is the latest single from 2003's "Give Up" (Sub Pop), which spent one week atop Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart and has sold 507,000 copies since its February 2003 release.  Also debuting this week are Akon's "Lonely" (No. 90), Toby Keith's "Honky Tonk U" (No. 93), Ying Yang Twins' "Wait (The Whisper Song)" (No. 94), the Caesars' "Jerk It Out" (No. 95), Baby Bash's "Baby I'm Back" featuring Akon (No. 97) and Joe Nichols' "What's a Guy Gotta Do" (No. 100).




Gordie Sampson Big Winner at ECMA

Source:  Canadian Press

(Feb. 21, 2005) Sydney, N.S. — Gordie Sampson walked away with so much pewter he could probably go heavy metal. The Cape Breton singer-songwriter beat a steady path to the winner's podium Sunday night, winning five East Coast Music Awards before an adoring home crowd at Sydney's Centre 200. "Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow," Sampson exclaimed after taking the stage for the fifth and final time. Sampson, of Big Pond, N.S., swept every category he was nominated in — including male artist of the year and album of the year for Sunburn. The title song won both single of the year and pop recording of the year, and Sampson teamed up with Blair Daly and Troy Verges to take the SOCAN songwriter award for crafting it. "This is the most important award for me," he said after receiving the songwriting award. "The songs are the essence of what we do." Sampson, who performed Sunburn during a slick, performance-heavy show broadcast nationally by the CBC, said he's concentrated in recent years on honing his craft. It's obviously worked. The songwriting award was his fifth in the last six years. "There's no Songwriting for Dummies book," Sampson said. "What you have to do is write a lot and make it a living. You have to do it every day." George Canyon also had a big night. Besides hosting the show, the lantern-jawed country singer from New Glasgow, N.S., won three times, including the rising star award and the coveted entertainer of the year award — the only one voted on by fans.

"I feel like a million bucks," a beaming Canyon said after his album, One Good Friend, won for top country recording. "I've been fighting the flu since I landed here in Sydney, but right now I'm feeling nothing but the fuzzies." Canyon rose to prominence after finishing second at last year's Nashville Star, a country talent search in the United States. "I still can't believe I get to do this. I can't believe you guys are letting me do this," he said, gesturing to a row of reporters throwing questions. The Trews, a hard-rocking quartet from Antigonish, N.S., received five nominations but won just once — for group of the year. "This is a big honour — we've never really won an award before," singer Colin MacDonald told the crowd. It's been a breakthrough year for Sampson, who also produces records at his studio in Point Aconi, N.S., and whose songwriting prowess has attracted the attention of heavy hitters in Nashville. Paris, a song from Sunburn, has been recorded by country superstar Faith Hill for potential inclusion on her next album. "This is probably the busiest, most extensive music work year I've ever had," Sampson said after winning his first award of the night. "Just trying to juggle things has been an art in itself, but it's alright now," he said holding up his trophy, a stylized pewter treble clef, for male artist of the year.

Nathan Wiley, a wispy singer-songwriter from Summerside, P.E.I., was named alternative artist of the year for his second album High Low. "This is the first award of the night and it's going to P.E.I. — and that's who I'm doing it for," Wiley said seconds after leaving the stage in a segment of the show not broadcast. The Cottars, The Joel Plaskett Emergency, Canyon, Wiley and The Trews were among the performers on the show, which included a touching tribute to Cape Breton's Rita MacNeil. Thirty years after she recorded her first album, MacNeil was recognized as one of Atlantic Canada's most popular musical exports when she was given a lifetime achievement award. Jimmy Rankin, Matt Minglewood, Shaye, the Men of the Deeps and Dutch Robinson sang songs written by the shy, soft-spoken singer from Big Pond. MacNeil wiped tears from her eyes as she watched from the crowd before taking the stage to a standing ovation. "You sure know how to ruin a girl's makeup," she said, before thanking everyone "for allowing me to live my dream." "I'm proof you can make it. Be true to what you do." Newfoundland's Great Big Sea won for video of the year — a record 19th East Coast Award for the popular celtic rock band. A capacity crowd of about 5,000 took in the show, including Tory MPs Peter MacKay and Belinda Stronach. Ottawa's latest power couple sat together prominently in the front row.




Meet Ray Chew: The Man Behind Alicia Keys’ Awesome Grammy Performance

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(Feb. 18, 2005) Alicia Keys’ performance at the 47th annual Grammy Awards in Sunday night at the Staples Centre in California went down as one of the brightest moments of the just concluded awards show. The man responsible for Keys’ musical arrangement and is Ray Chew, a respected musician, arranger, musical director and artiste whose credentials read a long list of who’s who from the entertainment world. Chew’s musical capabilities date back to 25 years ago. He has worked with the likes of Chaka Khan, the husband and wife duo of Ashford and Simpson (at one stage he was their musical director), Stephanie Mills, Diana Ross, Roberta Flack (he arranged Flack’s classic hit with Donny Hathaway Back together Again), Teddy Pendergrass, Grover Washington, Missy Elliott, Brian McKnight, Deborah Cox and Yolanda Adams among others. 'I really got my start in the industry as a staff musician at CBS television. I also worked at Fox as an arranger, writer and pianist for the Saturday Night Live years that Eddie Murphy hosted that show,' Chew told this writer backstage at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night. Keys who delivered a knockout set with her number one Rhythm and Blues hit If I Aint Got You, was joined by actor and singer Jamie Fox who belted Ray Charles’ Georgia on My Mind.  Álicia brought me in to arrange and coordinate the segment with her and Jamie Fox.  It was originally supposed to be her performing alone,’ said Chew.  Asked if working with the talented singer, songwriter and musician was in any way challenging, Chew said ‘Its not a challenge it’s a pleasure. Its like a labour of love.  The challenge is working on the arrangement itself and dealing with the circumstances, the barriers and distractions.  It took me twelve hours straight to write music for 37 pieces. It doesn’t get any easy, just a little faster’, he explained.

Asked how many pieces were regularly included in Keys’ set, Chew named four to five pieces. ‘She has three background vocalists and about four to five pieces. For her performance at the Grammy awards we added 37 with strings and symphony orchestra’. Chew who was born in New York, resides in New Jersey these days.  He studied music at New York’s Julliard Children’s School, Mannes School of Music, Third Street Music School, the High School of Music and Art, and Manhattan School of Music.   In 1992, Chew joined the Apollo Theatre Foundation as musical director. Within two years he became musical director for the syndicated television series Its Showtime at the Apollo. Chew opened his Vision House custom built studio where a number of movie score recordings have been in production.  Among them, he scored live string arrangements for Keys’ contribution to the soundtrack for the Columbia Pictures release Ali. He also did arrangements for Angie Stone’s album Mahogany and John Singleton’s feature film Baby Boy. He adds ‘Vision House is my lab. I want it to make it a state of the art studio. It’s a recording tool’. Asked which of the celebrities that he has worked with over the years was his personal favourite to work with and why, Chew confided Álicia Keys.  I really feel her as an artiste and a person. When she accepted her Grammy award tonight (Sunday night), for the album that I participated in, she acknowledged me and I appreciate that’. Dubbed the New York strings guru, Chew regularly involves himself in activities which allow him to give back to the community.  Í started a programme called Diversity through Music in some schools. It started during Black History Month and the it expanded.  If there is somebody up and coming I make an effort to help’, he said. Asked how he managed to stay current with the latest musical trends after almost three decades in the music industry, Chew said ‘I make sure that musically I lead the pack. I shape and mould what I hear.  My quest is to do something new. I like to work with new and innovative artistes who aren’t afraid to take risks.’ Chew who along with his wife music industry veteran Vivian Scott Chew formed Chew Entertainment, which has been working with various major and independent labels over the years, plans to put out a Ray Chew album this year. He said he is also concentrating on his entry into the film industry.




Teen Gospel Sensation Kierra 'Kiki' Sheard Is Ridin' High

Source: Gwendolyn Quinn / GQ Media & Public Relations, Inc. / New York, New York 10019

(Feb. 18, 2005)  In the wake of her history-making gospel debut, 17-year-old EMI Gospel sensation Kierra "Kiki" Sheard continues her star turn with a slew of major award nominations.  The ingénue nabbed two GMA Music Award (formerly the DOVE Awards) nominations for "Urban Recorded Song of the Year" for "You Don't Know," and "Urban Album of the Year" for I Owe You.  The CD has also earned Sheard a Soul Train Music Award nomination for "Best Gospel Album."  The high school senior shares the category with gospel sensations Israel Houghton, J Moss and, ironically enough, Sheard's own mother, Karen Clark-Sheard of Clark Sisters. Sheard continues her starry award show season with a nomination for an NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Gospel Artist."  The 36th Annual GMA Music Awards take place on April 13 in Nashville.  The 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards will be broadcast on Friday, March 25 on FOX.  The 19th Annual Soul Train Music Awards will be broadcast starting March 12. When Sheard is not preparing for high school graduation, she's preparing for events like the 2005 Superbowl Gospel Celebration, where she sang with superstar Patti LaBelle, and a performance on BET's "Celebration of Gospel," where Sheard will perform on February 24.  The teen star is also preparing for a special CD release in summer 2005, that will include a number of remixes sure to please Sheard's fans.  "You Don't Know" is still in the top 10 on the R&R Gospel charts and was recently recognized as Billboard's 2004 R&R Gospel Single of the Year. I Owe You landed at number one on both the Billboard Gospel and the Billboard Heatseeker charts, and remained one of the top Gospel albums in the country since its release on September 7.  In addition to the Rodney Jerkin-produced "You Don't Know," I Owe You includes songs from some of today's hottest gospel music producers including: "Praise Offering," "Closer," and "Church Nite" (PAJAM); "All I Am," "Done Did It," and "Let Go" (Warryn Campbell); "Sweetest Thing" and "War" (J Drew and Earl Wright III), among others.   Though this is her first album, Sheard has been immersed in Gospel music since birth.  Her career follows a long-standing family commitment that began with Sheard's grandmother, Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, president of the Church of God in Christ Music Department for 25 years.  Since the age of nine, Sheard has performed with her mother, Karen Clark-Sheard, and aunts -- the legendary Clark Sisters.   Sheard was a featured vocalist on all three of her mother's solo releases, and her performance of "The Will Of God" on Clark-Sheard's 1997 solo debut, Finally Karen, brought the young Sheard a prestigious Stellar Award for Best Children's Performance. Brentwood, Tennessee-based EMI Gospel is a division of EMI Christian Music Group, the world's largest Christian music organization that also includes EMI CMG Label Group, EMI CMG Distribution and EMI CMG Publishing. It is part of EMI Group, the world's largest independent music company whose other U.S. labels include Angel, Astralwerks, Blue Note, Capitol, Capitol Nashville, EMI Latin, Narada and Virgin Records.




Kim Burrell Host Kraft Foods 2nd Annual Gospel Talent Search

Excerpt from

(Feb. 18, 05) Sony Gospel recording artist Kim Burrell will star as a host judge for the 2nd Annual Kraft Foods Gospel Talent Search.  You could win $25,000 plus an audition with Sony Urban Gospel Music.  If you think you have the gospel chops to win keep reading.

ELIGIBILITY: Open only to US residents, who are 18 years of age or older as of 1/18/05. Employees of Kraft Foods Global, Inc., D.L. Blair, Inc., their parent companies, their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies and the immediate family members and/or those living in the same household of each are not eligible to win, nor are entrants who are currently or have ever been engaged in a recording contract. In addition, previous KRAFT Gospel Talent Search Grand Prize winners are not eligible to enter. Furthermore, any person who has ever been convicted of a felony will not be eligible.

HOW TO ENTER: Create a 3-minute VHS videotape performance of yourself (no one else should be in the video) singing a pre-determined Gospel song (a list of pre-determined songs will be available at during the entry periods listed in rule #3). Prior to your 3-minute performance, you must include on the video a statement (maximum 15 seconds) indicating what winning KRAFT's Gospel Talent Search 2005 Contest would mean to you. No music accompaniment allowed. songs must be sung a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment). any entry with musical accompaniment will be disqualified. Your videotape must be accompanied by an Official Entry Form/Affidavit of Eligibility/Release of Liability/Publicity Release/Prize Acceptance Form, available at Mail the videotape entry along with your completed Official Entry Form/Affidavit of Eligibility/Release of Liability/Publicity Release/Prize Acceptance Form t KRAFT's Gospel Talent Search 2005 Contest, P.O. Box 5066, Blair, NE 68009-5066. Your entry must be received during one of the entry periods listed below.

For entry deadline info visit:




XXL Spotlights West Coast Hip-Hop In March Issue

Excerpt from - By Clover Hope

(Feb. 18, 2005) West Coast rappers the Game and Snoop Dogg appear together on the “West Coast Resurrection” March issue of XXL magazine, in celebration of the history and revival of West Coast rap.  The Long Beach-raised Snoop Dogg and Compton-bred Game are often credited with bringing the West Coast back to recognition in hip-hop recently.  On the cover of the commemorative issue, Game sports his trademark red hoodie (the colour of the Bloods gang) and Snoop dons baby blue (the Crips colour). “It’s ironic how much Snoop and the Game have in common. Both are Dr. Dre protégés who created two of the strongest debut albums in hip-hop history,” said XXL Editor-in-Chief Elliot Wilson in a statement. “Hopefully, that type of success will open more doors for a new generation of West Coast MCs.” In the upcoming issue, Game speaks on his awe of Aftermath mentor Dr. Dre, a legendary face from the West. “I saw Dre, and I damn near shi**ed on myself. I only [knew] this dude from TV and listening to the radio,” says Game. “Still to this day, I be working in the studio with Dre, he turn his head, and I be looking at him like, Damn, that’s muthafu**in’ Dr. Dre!” Unlike Game, who has openly praised the brotherhood aspect he says gangs can offer, Snoop prefers to downplay his supposed connection to the street life in his interview.

Reacting to his line, “Keep a rag on the left side/yeah that’s the Crip side” on his hit “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Snoop says, “That was just a particular statement that I made on the song. I’m not tryin’ to promote a way of life. I’m not tryin’ to promote gang violence or nothin’ like that. It’s just the way I felt when I wrote the rap.” In the special issue, the magazine also pays tribute to vital players in the rap game who came out the West. The hip-hop publication marks the ten-year anniversary of Eazy-E’s death, features profiles of rap pioneers DJ Quik and MC Eiht, and an exclusive interview with Ras Kass on life after prison. XXL has also joined with MTV2 for the 25 Greatest West Coast Videos of all time, which airs March 13 on MTV2. Elliott Wilson provides his own commentary throughout the countdown. “The thing I love most about our final list is that we were able to cover such a wide range of artists,” said Wilson. “The West Coast has always been about more than just gangsta rap.” Wilson said the video countdown honours such artists as Sir-Mix-A-Lot, MC Hammer, Coolio and Young MC, who were often criticized for going the pop route. Female MCs like Yo-Yo and JJ Fad, and rap crews Pharcyde and Souls of Mischief are also given the light. The XXL “West Coast Resurrection” issue will be on stands March 1.




Dame Dash: Revival

Excerpt from - By Amanda Diva

Despite his flamboyant public persona, Dame Dash's image is reeling. It’s suffering in a way that would destroy most men. But, this is Dame Dash, the same person who contributed to one of the mightiest rap dynasties in Roc-A-Fella Records, brought out the fresh-to-def clothes, the liquors, the films, and every side venture that could bring a rap mogul maximum notoriety.  They say adversity makes a man and, without one god MC, its time to see what the Harlemite is made of. These days, contrary to popular belief, Dame Dash seems excited, not jaded; weary, yet confident. Get a sneak peek at what’s to come, and watch the rumours get shot down like Duck Hunt. He seemed down, but as you’ll see in the conversation, he's licked some of his wounds and has now set up a new shop. How amicable was the split between you and Jay, really?

DD: How amicable? It was cool. I mean I let it be known that I was kind of surprised at how the name went, but other than that it was all good. I mean, I made a movie called “Death of a Dynasty” four years ago. So obviously I saw it coming, even though it was a spoof. So I wasn’t that bothered by it. You can’t ever knock somebody for having personal aspirations. If someone wants to go in one direction and someone wants to go in another, you knock ‘em. We just honestly, Jay Z and myself, wanted to go in two different directions. I wanted to chase the movies, and I’m a businessman, and that’s all that I do and he was content with what he was doing, so it is what it is. There’s a rumour going around that Jay didn’t acknowledge you in the hall at Def Jam and that you were very upset about it. Is this true?

DD: Well it wasn’t in the hall it was in LA’s office, I mean Steve Garley’s office and I seen him. Damn, that was news? [laughs] Everything is news with you guys. How much has doing business affected - be it strained or strengthened - you and Jay’s relationship.

DD: Jay and I are good. There’s no strain. Well, has your rape case strained anything for you lately?

DD: I don’t have a rape case. That was another thing that came out in the newspaper. As of yet, I haven’t been charged with anything. It was a civil suit. Hopefully people are smart enough to do the math. I just got finished fighting a civil case where this cat actually challenged me to a fight from my old block and I gave it to him, and I punished him. And he actually tried to sue me for it. But I’ll never pay anybody just to walk away from press. I refuse to get extorted. I’d rather spend the money than cut a check. My morals won’t let me to do it. So I went to trial and beat it. If someone thinks there’s something I should be punished for - especially something as heinous as rape, I feel that anybody that rapes anybody should go to jail. I have a daughter. I have a heavy respect for women. What do you have to say to people who say there’s no Dame without Jay?

DD: I mean the only way I can have response to that is to say Rocawear, America Magazine, Tiret [line of expensive watches], Armadale, Pro Keds, these are all things I’ve done without Jay. You know, to a degree I feel sorry for people that feel the need to judge other people ‘cause that means that my success must hurt. So we’ve heard Jay speak about the split. We’ve heard you speak about it, but we haven’t heard Biggs.

DD: When have you ever heard Biggs? Well that’s the question, why do we never hear Biggs' voice?

DD: It’s not for him. He don’t like it. He spoke on it a little at Angie Martinez one time, but that’s it. I don’t like to hear him talk, it’s not him. That’s the persona he chooses to have, and you just gotta respect that. Tell me about the Dame Dash Music Group. Who is receiving labels?

Dame Dash: Well, I’ve been running a label for the last decade-maybe a lil’ longer than that. I just was thinking if I’m gonna stay in this business, I gotta do something I’ve never done before. I’m seein’ it as an actual movement. Where they can facilitate that demand and make these records and A & R them and it’s a lil’ more than just one act and I figure that I’m in a good position to get certain kinds of deals, and I can just be the connect and put them to those deals, and they can just rock out. So I’m sure the Wu Tang didn’t need help, they already had the Ol’ Dirty Bastard album done. And I was like, you know, I can’t do this without Wu Tang and The RZA-and he did so much on the album so I was like, “Go ‘head RZA, do ya thing and let’s just do it together.” How much did RZA do on the Ol’ Dirty Bastard album?

DD: He did about seven records. It’s real, he’s on, like poppin’ for real. Who else has labels?

DD: And Noreaga has been doing this Reggaeton thing. So I gave him a label, Millitainment Musica. And of course Cam’ron and Beans have labels that exist so they just remained under that umbrella. Whoever Cam’ron’s gone place his label under, we’re still negotiating that now. But it will still be related to Dame Dash Music Group. And I did a label with the First Family, M.O.P. I love M.O.P. because they will never sacrifice their integrity to just fit the format of radio and Billy, Fame, and Fox are some funny muthaf**kas, you know, they’re just stubborn. But their music, they’re like real artists. And then last but not least, this is a label that I actually am a little more involved in, I did a label with 7 Aurelius called the Dream Factory. So I’m actually sitting in the studio with him and I put Nicole Wray on that label. And they made a record that’s retarded. The first record they made was retarded. It’s called 'Lollipop' - it’s nuts. So Beans is incarcerated, but upon his release who will he be rollin’ with?

DD: Beans is supposed to be runnin’ with Damon Dash. I never wanted it to be like, “You have to chose sides,” or anything like that, but a lot of people under that umbrella are not very happy about this whole situation. And what they signed to is “us”. We were a family and that’s the way it was, so basically whoever felt that same family thing leaned in that direction. That’s why it was cool for Cam to make sure he got off Def Jam, he might even back through that system. Tell me about Roc-A-Fella Films.

DD: Well, it’s Dash films. I decided to just keep it straight Dash films. You know, I like to make different kinds of movies for different demographics. I’m bout to direct [another] movie. I’m bout to start prepping this movie called Inside Out. Also Beanie has a film coming out - a documentary called The Game. We actually followed him around, actually the progress of the whole State Property and him for the last three or four years, so that’s very interesting as well. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you also secured the rights to The Bumpy Johnson Story.

DD: Yeah, hey, how you knew that? Through his granddaughter, I got his story, I got [the] Nicki Barnes Story, Chazz [from Blackhand Entertainment], I got a couple things that I think are gonna be ground breaking. I wanna be the Martin Scorsese of my time, and I think I can do it. If get my directing skills up, I think you’ll see it in State Property Part 2. Like when I do this next film, every movie I make is a serious learning experience on a lot of different levels. You named your film company Dash Films, you also named your music group Damon Dash Music Group. Does branding your actual name inflict on your privacy and your personal life.

DD: What personal life? For instance, you just got married.

DD: Who told you that? I don’t know, there’s no rings on these fingers. I mean I try really not to talk about my personal business too much. But to a degree, everything that goes on in my life, and everything that’s even an accusation that could go on my life, becomes public knowledge. You know that’s the life that I’ve chosen, to be in the public eye - and to a degree I can’t get mad when all kinds of rumours are spreading. I just have deal with it. I only have a problem when my children are affected by it. Don’t you think you put your kids in that position by putting them in Rocawear ads, etc.?

DD: To a degree, I think that people - for example, there’s people that get on the radio and talk about my children’s business or what they perceive it to be and I don’t respect that. It’s just disheartening to see that happening. But other than that, I’ve had to brand my name to get where I’m at anyway. It’s important for me to brand myself because everything that I do I wan to be affiliated with quality. At first it was gonna be Roc and Roc-A-Fella, but it didn’t work out that way, so it had to become Dash. Initially it was Roc Films but it didn’t work out, so I had to make it Dash Films. I knew I didn’t make that up!

DD: Oh yea, it was Roc Film before. But all my partners didn’t aspire to do the same things, so I did the things that reflect my personal aspirations. I would rather it had been Roc and Roc-A-Fella but it ended up being Dash. So now that the Roc-A-Fella brand is splintered, where does Rocawear stand in all of that?

DD: It’s still where it is. It’s still $350 million. One last thing. You’re doing films, and many other ventures but you overall consider yourself a man of morals. Ossie Davis is a man who also had many things going and considered himself of a man of principle. In his passing his legacy is one of depth and admiration, how do you want to be remembered?

DD: I guess I want everybody to remember how fair I was. How much I made for everyone around me and how much fun I had while I did it. No one can say they did business with Damon Dash and they got jerked. There are people that can say, “I hate Damon because he won’t let me jerk his artists and he punished me for coming at him sideways and anyone around him.” And also, hopefully I’ve lead by example for my culture. How so?

DD: You know, every time I do something I try to teach my culture how do things the same way that I did, I try to leave them the blueprint. So when I started in the music business, trust me, people didn’t understand what a co-venture was. And then now, what I’m doing boxing, the Dibella-Dash thing. And then even with the movies that I make. We got nominated for Spirit awards. We’re critically acclaimed. I’ve done a lot for the culture, just saying as an ambassador of the culture: showing that a guy with his hat tilted to the side could do a magazine like America Magazine and make movie like The Woodsman and be savvy, and do all these different kinds of things. And I looked good while I did it.




Marques Houston: Renaissance Man

Excerpt from - By Matt Barone

In 1994 the youthful R&B trio Immature issued their debut album, Playtyme Is Over, when Marques Houston was only 11-years-old. Singing lead on many of the group’s standout tracks, Marques’ star potential became evident. That same year he joined the cast of the television show Sister, Sister as the precocious Roger, displaying scene-stealing appeal up until the show’s 1998 finale. With his manager Chris Stokes steadily guiding him, Marques’ career continued to flourish as Immature adopted the more grown-up moniker IMX in 1999.   Learning the ins and outs of the game, he began to provide mentorship for his brother Omarion’s hugely successful group B2K. The next few years saw his own stock rising significantly, with a warmly accepted solo debut, 2003’s MH, and the 2004 dance-heavy hit movie You Got Served earning $40 million - five times its production budget.   Now 23-years-old and seasoned with experience, Marques’ career is stronger than ever. In addition to his sophomore effort, Naked, he also has his first television starring role on UPN’s new comedy Cuts, a spin-off of the show One on One, which premieres on February 14th. As indicated by the vibrant first single “All Because Of You”, his upcoming album should cement his smooth transition into adulthood. Alternatives spoke with the multi-talented artist about his present moves just before he hit the set to continue filming Cuts. Alternatives: In 1999, you played Roger on Sister, Sister and you’ve had a bunch of small roles on various shows since. With this new show, Cuts, you’re the star. Has getting a starring role on TV been a priority of yours since the success of Sister, Sister?

Marques Houston: I never even really thought about it like that. For me, it was always just getting back to TV, and I felt that this opportunity was a good one for me. I took it because I like everything about the role, and I got a chance to work Shannon Elizabeth [of American Pie fame]. Who wouldn’t want to do that? [laughs] Now that I’m in the starring situation, though, it’s a lot of pressure. It’s definitely a lot more pressure than I had on Sister, Sister. I wouldn’t say all the pressure is on me, because I do have a great cast, and I do feel like there is no ‘I’ in team. As a unit, we get it done together. I do think that Shannon and I have the bulk of the load because we’re the main characters. It is a lot of pressure, because there are a lot more lines, and I’m in every scene. The pressure is more than I expected. With my experiences on Sister, Sister and other shows, though, it’s easier for me because I’m seasoned now.

AHHA: Is there anything that attracts you more to television than film, or vice versa?

Marques: No, I like them both. It’s cool because with this, this allows me to be funny and it allows me to be myself and try different things. With film, it’s more challenging because I have to portray different roles. In films, you always get a different role, even if it might seem the same, because you’re playing a different person each time. The part that I like about TV is that you get to be funny and show your comedic side. The side I love about music is that music was born into me. That’s just what I do. I love it all. I love to entertain people.

AHHA: Being that each film role is different, are there any specific types of roles that you haven’t been offered yet but you can see yourself doing?

Marques: I want to play a thug. You know, when you’re with your boys, you do the skits all of the time. I do want to do that, but I want to do it when the time is right. I want to build myself with an acting career that’s diverse, so we’re doing one more dance movie, and then that’s it for You Got Served type films. It’s called Soldier, with myself and Omarion, and we start shooting in April. When you want to be a movie star, you definitely got to pick the right types of roles. You can’t typecast yourself and keep doing the same thing. I want to take more challenging roles.

AHHA: What’s the concept of Soldier?

Marques: Me and Omarion play surrogate brothers from the streets. My pops was kind of his pops too, because he grew up without a father. We play for the same basketball team, but what happens is, my father dies, and that ends up changing our relationship. There was always some animosity between us because I was the real son, and he was the play son. What happens then is he ends up going out to be this big-time choreographer, and I have to stay in the hood to support my family and get a job at a mechanic spot. I have to stay on the streets, even though I have the talent to be dancing too. My mother is on the bottle heavy and the drugs. My character has a lot of responsibilities, and he blames his mother for the way his life has been going. Then, I meet this beautiful girl who changes my life around. It’s a lot more intense and street than You Got Served. I’d compare Soldier to 8 Mile. The roles are definitely more challenging for Omarion and I, because we have to act like we don’t like each other.

AHHA: Was it a surprise to you how strongly You Got Served caught on with the fans?

Marques: No, because I knew we were changing the bar. Chris Stokes wrote that movie like six or seven years ago. It was an idea that he always had, to take the physical choreography that we do in videos and have it meet the street elements of breakdancing and pop-locking. The movie was originally written for a choreographer that we had named Dave Scott, Aaliyah, and Ginuwine. If you notice in the movie, Jennifer Freeman’s character is Liyah, mine is Elgin, which is Ginuwine’s real name, and Omarion’s is David. It was originally written for them five years ago, but things got changed, and when Chris finally got to make the movie, he thought of us as the cast. When the opportunity came to me, I jumped on it instantly. Like, dancing is so big in the videos, but what about the streets? These people make dancing their lives everyday on the streets. I think that was a great opportunity for me.

AHHA: Now let’s talk about Cuts. How much creative input are you allowed to give for your character, Kevin Barnes?

Marques: They give me the opportunity to do my own thing. I’m totally in control of my character, and that’s the good thing about this show. We gel as a cast, and we get that freedom to just wild out and be how we want to be.

AHHA: It seems like your character and Shannon Elizabeth’s character come from two different backgrounds completely. How was it developing chemistry with her?

Marques: It was immediate. It’s funny how it happened almost immediately. The first day we sat down, actually, they brought her to meet me like, ‘Here is Shannon. She’s going to be doing the show with you. Y’all talk.’ And it was like a beat of awkwardness, like, ‘Ok, how are you doing?’ [laughs] Once we started working together, the whole chemistry was immediate. It was great. The whole cast has a great chemistry. That’s the kind of person I am. Whenever I have to work with somebody, I open myself up to be cool with that person and really get to know them.

AHHA: On top of this show, you have your sophomore solo album dropping in April. Did filming the show affect the recording process at all?

Marques: No, because I actually finished the album before I started the show. With the show process now, I’m starting to promote the album too. The schedule is crazy, man. You wouldn’t believe it. [laughs]

AHHA: The title, Naked, implies that its very personal, and you’re giving more of yourself to the listeners. Is that the concept behind it?

Marques: I feel like the sophomore album is more important than the first one. The first album, people don’t know what to expect, but once you set a bar for yourself, it’s almost like you have to top yourself. You can’t go backwards. You can’t be the same. It’s like an athlete who gets better and better every season. There is a lot of pressure on me doing this second album, with which direction to go and which ways to turn. I wanted to be more mature than my first album. It was hard to top MH, though, because in my eyes, that album is a classic to myself and I spent a lot of time on it getting it right. In my eyes, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot with Naked. My voice changed for the better, and I hope people can feel that. My focus with the first album was separating myself from IMX. With this one, I want to let everybody know that I’m a 23-year-old man now. I go through real stuff. I’m dealing with ladies and relationships on a higher level now. I don’t want people to see me as, ‘Oh, he’s cute little Roger from Sister, Sister!’ [laughs] See me as what I am - and what I am is a grown man now.

AHHA: How involved with songwriting and production were you while recording Naked?

Marques: Very involved with the whole process. I only wrote four songs, but I was very involved with every song in one way or another. Chris is my Quincy Jones. If I’m Michael Jackson, then Chris is Quincy. The reason why I have worked with Chris my whole life is that he sees my vision as well as I do. We hardly ever disagree on anything - it’s good to have that strong bond. He’s kept me going this whole time. I trust him to the point where if he says we have to do something, I’m not going to sit there and argue at all. That great chemistry is what led to this album.

AHHA: You’re only 23, and you’ve been in this business for a while now, and have been able to maintain success and keep a level head.

Marques: Yeah, but I feel a lot older. [laughs]

AHHA: I bet. Being able to stay grounded while having a diverse career at such a young age, how have you helped your brother Omarion get through this tough transition of B2K’s breakup and his solo career?

Marques: We don’t really talk about stuff like that. I don’t really give him advice on how to be a solo artist. Our relationship is not like that. It’s not business like that. We focus on being brothers and just being able to do the same thing and maintain a strong relationship. A lot of the time, you can get competitive, and then your relationship can start bending. We focus on the important thing, and that’s our brotherhood. I don’t really like to get involved with trying to teach him so much, because I am still learning a lot for myself. I do teach him, as a person, how to handle things. We did have one sit down conversation, when B2K first broke up. He was shook over that. My thing was just being there for him whenever he needs me. I am just there for him, as opposed to just giving him advice. If you need anything, I got you. He’s definitely going through big changes, but when you’re growing up, you have to experience things on your own. Omarion and I are two different people, so even if I tell him everything that I know, he is going to react to certain situations differently than I would.

AHHA: Switching gears, a lot of your fans are definitely holding their breath for another IMX album. Are there any plans for the three of you to get back together and make that happen?

Marques: 2006! ‘06 baby! Look out for that new IMX album. We started it up already by having Young Rome on my ‘All Because Of You’ first single. That’s our way of getting familiar with each other again. It was good to do that, because that’s definitely a perfect set-up.

AHHA: At this stage of your career, what is the one thing that you’d like people to know Marques Houston for?

Marques: I just want them to think of an overall entertainer. I don’t want them to see me and categorize me as anything. I want them to see me, and see me. See the man, the legend. Look behind the music and see what I stand for, as opposed to what you see on TV.




Goapele On Her Way Back

Source: Sasha Brookner/ HPR / 310-645-4246

(Feb. 21, 2005) In an industry that advocates monotony, Goapele, perhaps because of her cultural heritage, is a non-conformist. Her exiled South African political activist father met her New York-born Jewish mother and married while in Nairobi, Kenya. For a woman whose name means 'to go forward' in Setswana, the South African language of her grandmother, Goapele lives her name. The Bay Area native's debut effort, Even Closer was a 14-track masterpiece that she co-wrote and co-produced independently which went on to sell an unprecedented 130,000 units. Now Goapele is back on the musical scene with her highly anticipated sophomore effort, Change it All on Skyblaze Recordings/Columbia Records set to be released in spring/summer 2005.

The poised chanteuse delivers a testimony-driven, emotionally aching yet uplifting and candidly charged classic cuts to soul music junkies who feign for organic gutbucket vocals and raw bass lines. Goapele brilliantly experiments with skillful compositions and heart wrenching harmonies, all with a smooth as pearl delivery. The songs showcase the singer/songwriter's impeccable ability to mix classic soul with rhythm and blues along with new-age funk, dripping with sensuality. The multi-layered feel-good tracks effortlessly spirals her superb lyrics and velvety voice around carefree bass laden beats instantly garnering her respect for skillfully uniting hip-hop, jazz, R&B and melodic soul.  Goapele's eclectic sound and unparalleled live performances continue to draw in a diverse range of fans including Prince, Rosario Dawson, Rodney Jerkins, Magic Johnson, Kanye West, President Gerald Ford and Talib Kweli to name a few.




Andre 3000 On Next Album; ‘Hendrix’ Project In Limbo

Excerpt from

(Feb. 22, 2005) *Once again, Andre 3000 of OutKast wants to make it clear that he and Big Boi are not breaking up.  It may sound like a broken record, but as opportunities increase for both individuals outside of the music world – folks still want some reassurance that the talented rhymers from the A-T-L ain’t goin’ nowhere. “We have two albums that are supposed to come out this year,” says 3000. “One of them will be the soundtrack to the HBO film that we finished, this 1930’s period piece. It’s kind of like a love story, thriller, gangsta musical, everything type of movie directed by Bryan Barber. That’ll be the next OutKast album.” Dre, who stars as a gangsta rapper in the forthcoming film “Be Cool,” said OutKast's current Grammy-winning album “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” (and its 11 million units sold) has set the bar pretty high for a follow-up.   “It’s a lot of pressure because once you do numbers like that, it’s like the whole world is watching what you’re doing next,” says Dre. “We’ve always had fun with people kind of underdoggin’ and not paying attention to what we’re doing. We’ve always found energy in that, so now we gotta find out where that energy is coming from.”   Andre, at one point, was on board to star in a biopic of the legendary guitar wizard Jimi Hendrix.  But the on-going legal battle within the Hendrix family over rights to the singer’s music has held up the film’s progress. “Right now it’s up in the air 50/50,” says Andre. “Hollywood wants to make it, we have producers on board and a couple of directors in line that want to do it, but it’s really a matter of the family releasing songs. The sister, she owns the rights to the songs and I guess there have been battles between his true brother and the stepsister, so nobody’s giving up any rights. Maybe one day they’ll give up rights and we can shoot it.”   In the meantime, Dre and Big Boi are hoping that their forthcoming soundtrack to the HBO musical will be as progressive and funky as any album in their discography -  which stretches back through four studio albums to 1994’s innovative classic, “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.” “The only way I can explain how we’ve stayed on this long is by a power that we have nothing to do with,” he says. “A lot of the time, I’ll write lyrics and come up with melodies and music and the right songs, and I don’t even know where it’s coming from. I guess it’s because we’re supposed to be doing it.”




Boost Mobile Does Good In The Hood

source: Andy Colley, Boost Mobile /  // Sheila Eldridge, Miles Ahead Entertainment /

(Feb. 22, 2005) Irvine, CA - Boost Mobile announced today that it has now raised more than $65,000 to benefit the United Negro College Fund, Ludacris Foundation and the Chicago State University Foundation from the sale of its exclusive Anthem ringtone. Anthem, the hot track featured in Boost Mobile's TV ad, was produced exclusively for Boost Mobile by Hip-Hop superstar Kanye West with original lyrics from Ludacris and G-Unit newcomer, The GAME.  "Customer response to the Anthem ringtone has surpassed our expectations and been one of Boost's top 10 selling ringtones since it launched this fall," said Darryl Cobbin, vice president of marketing, Boost Mobile. "This is phenomenal news as all Boost proceeds from Anthem ringtone sales are being donated to the charities selected by Kanye, Ludacris and The Game. The more we can continue to raise awareness and sales of the ringtone, the more we can help make a positive difference in the lives of youth of all ages across the country."  The Anthem track is now receiving airplay on the radio as a single, and generating major buzz in the underground music scene and clubs, which has helped propel ringtone sales among Hip-Hop fans nationwide. Boost Mobile customers can download the Anthem ringtone directly from their Boost Mobile phone. Approximately $1 per ringtone is donated equally to the three selected charities.  Anthem will be offered exclusively from Boost Mobile until at least September 2005. Boost Mobile has created an Anthem webpage at, where online visitors can preview and purchase the Anthem ringtone and send a video e-card of the Anthem TV commercial to friends.  Prompted by the overwhelming positive response to its Anthem ringtone campaign, last month Boost Mobile launched another cause-related ringtone effort, this time to help generate donations for the South Asia tsunami disaster relief effort. Boost is offering a catalogue of mobile phone ringtones aimed at helping American youth provide aid to the South Asia tsunami disaster relief effort. All Boost proceeds from the ringtone sales (approximately $1 per download) will be donated to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) to help provide immediate relief and emergency supplies to the estimated 1.5 million affected children in South Asia, many of whom have been orphaned or separated from their families and are in critical need of basic care and support.   Boost is the only wireless service provider to offer any true service differentiation by making Nextel's Nationwide Direct ConnectSM service available as a pay-as-you-go feature. Boost Mobile offers Boost-branded wireless phones, its signature BoostTM Walkie-Talkie service and Re-BoostTM Pay-As-You-Go cards at retail locations where youth prefer to shop, including national retail and convenience stores, and merchants that focus on fashion, music, and action sports-related activities. Boost resonates with its consumers through strategic partnerships with leading youth lifestyle brands such as Quiksilver, Roxy, DUB, AND1 and others. Experience Boost on the Web at




RIP Litterbug

A very unfortunate and saddening event has taken place.  One of Atlantic Canada's most promising young hip-hop persons has passed away at the age of 19.  Jason Walsh aka Litterbug held down a great show on CKDU every other Thursday night - the wax museum.  He dabbled in review writing, he was an upcoming emcee with great things to say and even appeared on the Halifamous compilation.  On top of this he was beginning to produce tracks.  As well, he was a university student in Halifax.  I'm not sure of funeral or wake details. He willed be missed.




Twain To Develop Fragrance With Stetson

Excerpt from - Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

(Feb. 18, 2005) Shania Twain is the latest music superstar to toss her scent into the fragrance market. The Canadian country pop singer has entered into an exclusive agreement with Stetson Fragrances to develop and market her own line.   "Like a favourite song, a scent evokes a memory, creates a mood and inspires a feeling," Twain says.  The Stetson brand is part of Coty Inc., which counts several other star fragrances among its product portfolio, including Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, Isabella Rossellini and Sarah Jessica Parker. The company also produces fragrances for such brands as adidas, Kenneth Cole and Baby Phat.  In other news, Twain has made the first round cut for the CMT Music Awards, with nominations for female video of the year ("Don't"), collaborative video of the year ("Party for Two" with Billy Currington) and hottest video of the year ("When You Kiss Me (One Take)"). Voting is open at through March 10.  Final nominations will be announced March 16, with winners revealed during an April 11 ceremony hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy.




Will Smith Drafts Snoop, Mary J. For New Album

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Feb. 16, 2005) Rapper-turned-actor Will Smith is joined by Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and Timbaland on "Lost and Found," his first new album in three years.  Due March 29, the set is Smith's first for Interscope since parting ways with Columbia, which released his three prior studio albums and a best-of collection.  "Lost and Found" will be led by the single "Switch," which was produced by Kwame (Amel Larrieux, Bootsy Collins). Elephant Man appears on a remix version, while Robin Thicke guests on a separate R&B remix. Snoop Dogg makes an appearance on "Pump Ya Brakes," while Blige joins in for an as-yet-unnamed song.  Beyond Timbaland, production was provided by longtime collaborator DJ Jazzy Jeff as well as Smith himself. The artist claims to have recorded more than 50 tracks for the set, which he says features "the most in-depth, revealing writing that I've done in my career."  One track, "Mr. Nice Guy," is said to discuss "how people mistake being nice for being soft." Indeed, the overall album reportedly de-emphasizes Smith's squeaky clean image for tracks with a more serious tone.  "Lost and Found" is the follow-up to 2002's "Born To Reign," which debuted at No. 13 on The Billboard 200 but has sold just 237,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In contrast, its predecessor, 1999's "Willennium," has sold 2.1 million to date.  Smith can currently be seen starring in the film "Hitch," which opened at No. 1 last weekend at the U.S. box office with a gross of $43.1 million.




Smith To Host Mandela’s 46664 Concert

Excerpt from

(Feb. 18, 2005) *Former South African president Nelson Mandela has announced that his March 19 “46664” concert event to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic will highlight the plight of women and girls, who are six times more likely than men to become infected throughout the continent.  "We do not treat our women with enough dignity and respect," he told journalists at his Johannesburg foundation Thursday. "We must mobilize to act, and act soon, before it is too late."  Will Smith has been added as master of ceremonies for the 46664 concert, to be held at Fancourt golf club in the Eastern Cape city of George. Smith joins previously-announced performers Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen, Annie Lennox, Katie Melua and India.arie.  A host of local talent will also be on stage, including Johnny Clegg, Mafikizolo, Karen Zoid and Danny K.  Mandela’s 46664 AIDS foundation, named for his prison number under apartheid, organized a celebrity-packed concert in Cape Town in November 2003 that featured performers Beyonce and Bono among others.   Mandela, whose eldest son recently died of an AIDS-related illness, said not enough had been done by South Africans since the last concert.     "I want each and every South African that is serious about our country's future to buy a ticket before it is too late," he said.




Hancock Surrounded By Stars On New Album

Excerpt from - Melinda Newman, L.A.

(Feb. 18, 2005) How does Starbucks, which partnered with Concord on Ray Charles' Grammy Award-sweeping "Genius Loves Company," follow up that phenomenally successful album? By taking another legendary artist and pairing him with a stellar array of acts for what promises to be another strong duets album.   Billboard has learned that the artist is Herbie Hancock and that among the performers already on tape with the keyboardist are Sting, Annie Lennox, John Mayer, Carlos Santana, Damien Rice and, as previously reported, Trey Anastasio.  The album will arrive Sept. 13 on Nashville-based Vector Records. "Starbucks is our partner in the record, it is Starbucks' next big push," Vector principal Ken Levitan confirms. Like "Genius," the CD will be available at traditional retail and in Starbucks outlets.  For Hancock, working with the various artists has been very rewarding. "The kind of energy and magic that they are bringing to the project is fantastic," he says. "So often artists are put into a pigeonhole and expected to stay there, and I never liked that. Coming from jazz, we like to try new things ... and I know there's a lot more to artists than that which they're kind of forced to do, in a sense."  Some artists brought finished songs to the project, while some wrote tunes specifically for the record. In Mayer's case, he brought in a few notes that they crafted into a song in the studio.  "The tune is like 15 minutes long, but the actual song is only four or five minutes long," Mayer says. "The rest is Herbie going around and around on my chord progression, and every time he tags home, he puts on 50 more pounds of weight and starts lifting that. It's incredible."  Hancock is in the midst of a tour with Directions In Music, featuring saxophonist Michael Brecker and trumpeter Roy Hargrove. The trek hits Washington, D.C., tonight (Feb. 18).




Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am. Launches Label, Clothing Line

Excerpt from - By Shawn Lawrence James

(Feb. 17, 2005) Will.I.Am of the Grammy award-winning group The Black Eyed Peas is gearing to release a star-studded DVD documenting the group’s pre-Grammy concert the rapper/producer recently hosted.  The DVD will serve as the initial release from his A&M distributed Will.I.Am Music Group and will feature performances from James Brown, Justin Timberlake, Earth Wind and Fire and a special rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” to be performed by India Arie and Pink.  In addition, the revenue garnered from the upcoming release will be donated in its entirety to support the tsunami relief fund. “Everything that we do today is being documented by eight high-definition cameras,” Will.I.Am explained to reporters backstage at Los Angeles’ Avalon.  “This will also be the first record that we don't make any money off of.” Will.I.Am stated jokingly.  As of press time, there is no tentative release from A&M slated for the DVD but representatives did note that fans could expect the set in the coming weeks.  In related news, the quartet is presently in the studio mixing the follow up to their double platinum album Elephunk which is slated to be released this summer. Will.I.Am also recently debuted his I Am Clothing at the Magic Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.




Jay-Z Planning Return To Rap

Excerpt from - By Shawn Lawrence James

(Feb. 16, 2005) Jay-Z is already plotting his return to rap.   The Island Def Jam Music Group President racked up a plethora of accolades in 2004, but has opted to served double duty as CEO and artist.   The rapper “retired” from Hip-Hop in 2003 following the release of The Black Album and publicly stated that it would take a “miracle” for him to return.   Amidst the emergence of numerous freestyles on the Net and a recent visit to New York City’s Hot 97, Jay-Z recently confirmed what many speculated.   “I won't tour, and I am taking a break, but I'll be back,” He confessed to the Page Six Column in the New York Post. "I am planning on recording again.”   Sources speculate that a new studio album could be offered from Jay later this year. Additionally, Jay reportedly has albums from Memphis Bleek, Young Gunz and Foxy Brown lined up this year.




Thailand To Introduce New Genre Of Hip-Hop To Youth

Excerpt from - By Nolan Strong

(Feb. 19, 2005) The Ministry of Culture in Bangkok, Thailand hopes to harness the power of Hip-Hop to encourage Thai youth to be more active in the Buddhist religion. According to The Vice Minister for Culture Weerasak Kowsurat, the government will organize a concert on February 23 that will introduce a new genre of rap called “Dhamma Rap.” Dhamma is defined as reality and truth in Buddhism.  The genre of music will focus on Buddhist religious principles, including sharing and being compassionate, while shunning violent and misogynist lyrics. The government selected February 23 to host the concert and introduce the new genre because the date is a special day for Buddhists, who will celebrate “Makabucha Day.”  The day is a Buddhist holiday which takes place annually on the night of the full moon during the third lunar month of the year. The day honors Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.  Thai officials hope the day will compete with popular holidays such as Valentines Day.  The concert and introduction of “Dhamma Rap” is part of a broader campaign being spearheaded by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Services. The aim is to bring Thai’s youth, who are becoming increasingly westernized, back to the country’s native culture and religion.




Dirty Dancing

Source:  Essence - By Jeannine Amber

They’re what male fantasies are made of: One brown-skinned sister, wearing painted-on jeans and four-inch stilettos, is as tall as a runway model but with an ample booty and sleepy almond-shaped eyes. Another woman is baby-doll petite with olive skin, long bleached-blonde curls and supersize cleavage bursting out of the tiny piece of fabric that is her top. A third is wearing a gold cut-out bodysuit, heels and a micromini so short that she has to hold down its hem as she walks across the room. These girls, along with four other equally arresting women, are taking a break, lounging in the makeshift makeup area of a cavernous warehouse in a seedy part of Los Angeles, around the corner from adult-video stores and stripper joints. » read more...  Time to Take Action: How do you feel about this issue? Express your opinion to the decision-makers by sending a letter to cable music networks about the videos they air. Click here to get started.




Tuning Out The Grammys

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Feb. 20, 2005) Was it award-show fatigue (American Music Awards, People's Choice, Golden Globes, etc., etc.), or the endless tributes to dead people (Ray Charles, Janis Joplin, Bono's dad)? Whatever the reason, viewers stayed away from last Sunday's Grammy awards in droves. Locally, only 526,000 viewers tuned in; in the U.S., 1.8 million endured the torture by boredom, down 28 per cent from last year and the smallest audience for the music award show in a decade. For us, it was, as Queen Latifah described it, the "15 minutes that everybody's going to be talking about tomorrow": Jennifer Lopez in a hideous dress, against a ghastly set, singing flat and showing absolutely no chemistry with her duet partner and husband Marc Anthony. Their song "Escapemonos" translates into "let's escape," which is what we did, to Desperate Housewives.




Missy Busy With New Album, TV Show, Film

Excerpt from - Carla Hay, N.Y.

(Feb. 22, 2005) Missy Elliott is eyeing a May release for her as-yet-untitled next studio album, which she will release via her the Gold Mind imprint. "I really do think this is my best album," she tells Billboard. "I was in a really great space with this album. I wasn't in a great space with some of the other albums I've done."  Although it won't be out for a few months, the set is already meeting with approval from Elliott's musical colleagues. "I played Lil' Kim the album the other day, and she told me it was incredible and that there was not one song on it that she didn't like," Elliott says.  The new album will be the follow-up to 2003's "This Is Not a Test!," which debuted at No. 13 on The Billboard 200 and has sold more than 683,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.  Elliott is presently immersed in her UPN reality show, "The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott," in which she stars and serves as a judge and co-executive producer.  "The biggest surprises were how emotional it got," she admits. "I'm an artist and I know everyone is human, but once you're on TV, to everyone else you look like this superstar and it's almost like you can never cry or have problems. Just looking at [the contestants] made me remember problems with my family and financial issues."  In addition, Elliott is developing the all-female group Wicked and will soon be heard guesting on protégé Tweet's new album, "It's Me Again," due March 22 via Violator/Atlantic. She also executive produced the set.  Last but not least, Elliott reveals she is working on a film about her life. "Paramount is interested in doing the movie, and right now I'm looking at writers for it," she says. "I don't want to star in the movie. People see only famous artists as having superstar status."  "But people want to know about the struggles," she continues. I'm sure that's what made Eminem's '8 Mile' a success, because people wanted to know what his house and mom were like before he started in the music business. People can't even imagine what I've been through."




Richie, Rogers Team For ‘CMT Crossroads’

Excerpt from

(Feb. 23, 2005) *Lionel Richie is performing with country legend Kenny Rogers for a taping of CMT’s series “CMT Crossroads,” which puts country stars and artists from another music genre on the same stage.  Reuniting musically for the first time in nearly 20 years, the pair will sing their hits in front of a Nashville invitation-only audience for an episode to air later this year. The personal and professional relationship between these two began 25 years ago with one of Rogers' biggest career hits, "Lady," written and produced by Richie, especially for Rogers. In the years that followed, the two collaborated on numerous album projects with Richie producing such Rogers classics as "I Don't Need You," "Share Your Love" and "Through the Years."  In 1985 Richie and Rogers became part of history with "We Are The World" and the two last worked together in 1986, on "Hands Across America."




Brian McKnight Debuts In The Top 5

Source: Wendy Washington; Universal/Motown Records; (212) 373-0702; // Shirronda Sweet;  Universal/Motown Records; (212) 841-8622;

(Feb. 23, 2005) (New York, NY) Multi-platinum Motown recording artist Brian McKnight received a gift from fans recently with record buyers making his new album, Gemini, the #4 selling album in the country. The award winning balladeer's eighth studio album sold over a 100,000 CDs last week. Without the help of videos, Gemini has already spawned two smash hits- "What We Do Here," and "Every Time You Go Away." Both songs topped the Adult R&B and Urban AC radio charts.  The seductive ballad What We Do Here," held the #1 spot at Adult R&B for five weeks in a row and earned a Grammy nomination for "Best R&B Male Vocal Performance." The sultry follow-up, "Every Time You Go Away," hit the bulls-eye with the #1 most-added song at Urban AC radio and had some critics comparing the love   song to his previous smash, "Back At One." People magazine praises McKnight's newest effort as "sophisticated soul can still be as smooth as satin sheets."  The new album also provides plenty of opportunities for the writer/producer to flex his versatility, like the soulful arc of "She," which includes guest appearances from Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli and Philly neo-soulster Musiq, and the hyper-smooth "What You Gonna Do," with guest stints from Juvenile and Akon. With over 16 million records sold in a career that has produced the triple platinum (1999) Back At One, the double platinum (1997) Anytime, and   (2003) acclaimed U-Turn, Brian has received many awards and accolades from the American Music, Blockbuster, NAACP image, Soul Train and more.  The talented, singer, songwriter, musician and producer has worked with some of music's biggest stars, such as Nelly, Mariah Carey, Vanessa Williams, Justin Timberlake, Willie Nelson, and others. Fans can catch McKnight on the WB talk show "Life & Style" on 2/25; he'll be the featured performer at "The State Of The Black Family" forum - which airs live on C-SPAN on 2/26; and he has upcoming performances on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on 2/27 and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The charismatic singer is also slated to co-host and perform at this year's Soul Train Awards in March.





Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Bo Diddley, Vamp, Universe
Ghetto Mafia, Return of Ghetto Mafia, Downsouth Entertainment
Layzie Bone & Bizzy Bone, Bone Brothers, Koch
Smif N Wessun Presents the General Steele, Welcome to Bucktown USA, Duckdown
The Youngbloods, Beautiful! Live in San Francisco 1971, Sundazed
TONI BRAXTON Best Remixes (BMG Heritage)
Tru, Truth, Koch
Various Artists, Soul Classics, Vol. 2 [Collectables], Collectables

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

BILL COSBY The Best Of (Rhino) 
BLACK EYED PEAS Monkey Business (Interscope) 
JENNIFER LOPEZ Rebirth (Sony) 
JUDAS PRIEST Angel Of Retribution (Sony/BMG) 
KATHLEEN EDWARDS Back to Me (Zoe/Rounder/Universal) 







Ossie Davis -- Honouring the Legend

Excerpt from - By Deirdre Shuler

    To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil… (Hamlet)

The final curtain fell on one of the great legends of our time, Friday, February 4th.  Ossie Davis retired from life ironically while in the process of filming a movie entitled “Retirement.”  He succumbed to death at age 87, still working at the craft he loved so well.  Davis was a giant in the entertainment business having devoted five decades as an actor, director, producer and writer. There was no entertainment genre that he did not master.  His talents were featured in print, on stage, screen and radio. Many remember him from his role in the 1978 television series "Roots: The Next Generation." He is also remembered for his appearances in several Spike Lee films: “School Daze,” “Do The Right Thing,” and “Jungle Fever.”  His best known film was “A Raisin In The Sun.” More recently, Davis appeared in “Dr. Dolittle” and “Get on the Bus.” Born in Cogdell, Georgia, in 1917, Davis developed a love for theatre at an early age. He pursued his interest at Howard University after winning a National Youth Administration scholarship in 1935. In 1946, Davis made his Broadway debut in Jeb.  He later performed in the Broadway productions of “A Raisin in the Sun,” “I’m Not Rappaport,” “Purlie Victorious,” a play Davis both starred in and wrote.  He also appeared in “Anna Lucasta” “Green Pastures,” “No Time for Sergeants” and “The Zulu and the Zayda” to name a few of his Broadway performances.  As a result of his large volume of work on Broadway, Davis was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1994.  Married to his wife, Ruby Dee, for close to 56 years, the couple met in 1946 and married in 1948, thus beginning a lengthy acting partnership that lasted until Ossie’s death. The two came to epitomize theatre royalty as its distinguished couple. The pair first appeared together in the plays "Jeb," in 1946, and "Anna Lucasta," in 1946-47. Davis' first film, "No Way Out" in 1950, was Dee's fifth. They also appeared together in "Roots: The Next Generation” in 1978; "Martin Luther King: The Dream and the Drum" in1986; "The Stand" in 1994; "Do the Right Thing" and "Jungle Fever." 

Ruby Dee once said she would marry Davis if he kept her working and work they did.  The two have produced an impressive cache of work between them, both separately and as a couple.  They also produced the book “With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together,” which featured their dual autobiography. Although, I am sure, the couples would say their greatest accomplishment are their three children, Nora, Guy and Hasna as well as their many grandchildren. Once asked how the dynamic team managed to work and live together in harmony.  Dee remarked: “Couples must remember that they are two separate individuals who may see things quite differently.  We have to respect those differences in each other.” Davis received Emmy nominations for Teacher, Teacher, King and Miss Evers' Boys.  He was highly respected by audiences and peers alike thus won numerous kudos and honours including the Hall of Fame Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement; the Screen Actor's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award; the U.S. National Medal for the Arts; NAACP Image Award and the New York Urban League Frederick Douglass Award.  Recently Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee were among the artists who received the Kennedy Center Honours.  Davis was a leading activist in the civil rights era of the 1960s. He joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the crusade for jobs and freedom and helped to raise money for the Freedom Riders. He eulogized both King and Malcolm X at their funerals. Famous theatrical producer Woodie King (and friend to Ossie), once credited Davis with opening doors for many artists who followed in Davis’ stead; performers, who received work as the direct result of Ossie Davis’ having looked out for his fellow thespians. Davis was found dead in his hotel room in Miami Beach, Fla. Police spokesman, Bobby Hernandez, said Davis' grandson called the police shortly before 7 a.m., after having become concerned that his grandfather did not respond to efforts to access his room at the Shore Club Hotel.

Davis’s death leaves a huge hole in the artistic community and his presence will be surely missed. The viewing for Mr. Davis was held on Friday, February 11th at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem followed by the funeral on Saturday, February 12th at the Riverside Church in Manhattan where a multitude of mourners came to say their loving farewell to the great thespian, humanitarian and man. Alas, the curtain has come down and the theatre is dark.  On the great stage of life, each plays out their season in their moment in time.  We who continue the play have much to thank Ossie Davis for.  In his parting, he left for us a grand season and many treasured moments that will surpass all time.




Ossie Davis Funeral

Excerpt from - By Audrey J. Bernard

(Feb. 22, 2005) NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- On Saturday, February 12, thousands of mourners gathered together at the fabled Riverside Church in Harlem to bid farewell to Harlem’s beloved statesman, 87 years old Ossie Davis, who was found dead by one of his grandsons in his hotel room on February 4 in Miami Beach where he was shooting a movie oddly enough about retirement.   The legendary civil rights activist received a send-off befitting royalty –- that of a King -- because to African Americans, he was a King and together with his long standing performing partner Ruby Dee, reigned as Broadway’s Black royal couple of the Theatre. The stateliness of Davis called for two services and a wake (which was attended by Oprah Winfrey).  The early services began at the Abyssinian Baptist Church on West 138th Street at 10 a.m. led by Rev. Calvin Butts followed by a memorial service at the Riverside Church proceeded over by Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Jr., pastor of Riverside Church. The procession from Abyssinian to Riverside was reminiscent of a funeral for a dignitary in keeping with how Davis was thought of because he was the people’s hero and they remember well how he fought for their civil rights right up to his death.  He marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. eulogized Malcolm X and listed W.E.B. Dubois, A. Phillip Randolph, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Eleanor Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela as his champions. A troupe of African drummers (just like how our ancestors laid their crowned heads to rest) led the cavalcade of limos from one great place of worship to the other.  The handsome mahogany coffin adorned with a spray of red roses drawn by a black Cadillac hearse brilliantly buffed to a blinding shine made its way west to the Riverside Church where throngs of fans waited on a brisk Saturday afternoon to catch a last peek at the remains of an African American icon.  They will be able to tell their children and grandchildren that they attended his funeral making them a part of history.

Ossie Davis began and ended his career which spanned more than half a century in his favourite home in the world, Harlem, a place that he and his loyal other half, Ruby Dee, called home in the beginning of what turned out to be an unbeatable run on and off Broadway. As he took his last curtain call, Davis was remembered for and credited with having the courage and tenacity that has opened many doors that were previously shut tight to African American artists and cultivating the seed for the blossoming American multicultural humanity. Services at the Riverside Church took place in front of a backdrop that included the fabulous Howard University Choir, flowers and an enormous screen displaying family photos and a larger than life photo of Davis.  Speaker after speaker sombrely spoke about the magnificence of this fallen soldier including Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez, Attalah Shabazz, Harry Belafonte, Alan Alda, Burt Reynolds, Tavis Smiley and former United States President William Clinton. In his eloquent remembrance of Davis, Clinton said, “I asked to be seated in the back of the church.  I would proudly ride in the back of Ossie’s bus any day.”  Clinton grimly added that “The man who chose to be a writer, actor and champion for civil rights would have made a fine president.”  His remarks garnered a seated ovation. Davis’ old-time friend, the one who’s known him the longest, Harry Belafonte eulogized his friend as a noble addition to the acting profession and an even greater man and contributor to the human race. Ditto said Malcolm X’s eldest daughter Attallah who said that we should not weep but “thank God for the gift [Davis].” Burt Reynolds told the shamelessly proud onlookers that Davis had “taken the bad part of the South out of me.”  And Davis’ long-time friend and Westchester neighbour, Earl Graves, publisher, Black Elegance magazine, shared memories of Davis’ one-liners –- which he described succinctly as Ossie-isms.  When asked how he was doing, Davis would always answer, “Better than I deserve, and I deserve the best.” On a lighter note Davis’ grandson Brian did something that his grandfather was guilty of all the time –- stealing the show.  Brian who implored everyone to bear with him.  “My grandfather told us that if we did his funeral wrong he was going to get up and do it himself.”  This laughter was just what the doctor ordered.  Adding music to the program was noted trumpeter Wynton Marsalis who had everyone standing and clapping to his New Orleans style send off.  That was a tough act to follow but a dauntless one for Rev. Calvin Butts who told the mourners that “Davis had earned the right to die,” because of all that he gave while he was alive.”

As Percy Sutton, Congressman Charles Rangel, Hon. & Mrs. David Dinkins, Cicely Tyson, Lynn Whitfield, LaTanya Richardson, Ebony Jo-Ann, Kim Fields, Phyllis Stickney, S. Epatha Merkerson, Diane Carroll, Eartha Kitt, Phylicia Rashad, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Earle Hyman, Delroy Lindo, Avery Brooks, Courtney Vance, Valerie Simpson, Melba Moore, Max Roach, George Faison, Spike Lee, Leontyne Price, Council members Bill Perkins and Charles Barron, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Rev. Herbert Daughtry, Voza Rivers, Barbara Ann Teer, Cornel West, Amiri Baraka, Dick Gregory, Earl Graves, Susan Taylor, Dennis Rivera and countless others listened Rev. Calvin Butts told mourners that “Davis had earned the right to die,” in speaking about all the good he had done as an activist fighting for equal rights for his people during his illustrious career. Long after his departure he will be remembered for his writing and directing skills having written and directed films (1970's Cotton Comes to Harlem), plays (including 1961's controversial exploration of segregation, Purlie Victorious, and the book for its musical adaptation, Purlie!), and television films (For Us the Living: The Story of Medgar Evers). One of his books for young people, Escape to Freedom, won the Jane Adam’s Children's Book Award.  On television he has appeared in The Emperor Jones (his TV debut in 1965), "Evening Shade," "The Client," Alex Haley's Queen, "The Defenders," and "Bonanza," and has received Emmy Award nominations for Teacher, Teacher, King, and Miss Evers' Boys. He will also be known for his films including The Cardinal, The Hill, The Scalphunters, Grumpy Old Men, Dr. Dolittle and The Client.  On stage he has given memorable performances in No Time for Sergeants, The Wisteria Trees, Green Pastures, Jamaica, Ballad for Bimshire, The Zulu and the Zayda and I'm Not Rappaport. Born in rural Georgia, he attended Howard University and moved to New York before graduating to join Harlem’s Rose McClendon Players where he studied acting with Lloyd Richards.  He made his Broadway debut in 1946 in the title role of Jeb where he met what would become the love of his life and his partner on and off the screen, Ruby Dee. He leaves to celebrate and honour his life and carry on his legacy his wife Ruby, their three children Nora, Hasna and Guy, brother Dr. William C. Davis, son-in-laws Bill Day and Wali Muhammad, step granddaughter Allena Day, and his seven grandchildren, Jammal and Brian Day, Jihaad, Abdul Muta’ Ali and Ihsaana Muhammad, Imani Day and Martial Davis.




Gorgeous Gabrielle Makes The Right Moves

Source:  Essence - By Michelle Burford

I’m hungry when I meet Gabrielle Union. Famished. The actress invites me—exactly 8.2 days into my Cabbage Soup Diet—for dinner in her trailer near the set of the movie she’s filming in New York: Paramount’s version of the classic fifties sitcom The Honeymooners, which hits theatres this summer. “I’m not so hungry,” I fib. One saliva-inducing scent of collard greens later, Gabrielle and I balance yam-soaked paper plates on our knees while talking hair weaves (hers), Black men (the shortage), TV (the show she can’t miss), even body drama (her secret wish).  The day we meet is Gabrielle’s birthday. Exactly 32 years ago, she rolled into the world as the second eldest daughter of three. Her dad (then a high-school basketball coach) and her mom (then a phone-company employee) moved the family to Pleasanton, California, when Gabrielle was 8. There she competed in nearly every school sport, earned the kind of grades that would make any parent do the hallelujah dance, and fantasized about becoming an attorney.  But providence would rule otherwise. With a sociology degree from UCLA in her Levi’s pocket, she interned at a modeling agency and was repeatedly mistaken for a Tyra type. Faster than you could spell Tinseltown, she’d eked out a modeling, TV and movie career, playing chutzpah-filled heroines (who can forget that formidable cheerleader in 2000’s Bring It On?). After a string of roles as the bratty friend in teen flicks (think 10 Things I Hate About You), Gabrielle began grabbing roles opposite the kind of Black men I only dream of necking with in a dark room.

Like Morris Chestnut. Gabrielle paired up with him first in The Brothers in 2001, then in Two Can Play That Game later that year. In 2003 she played rapper LL Cool J’s nemesis-turned-lover in Deliver Us From Eva. Last summer she starred with Jamie Foxx in the romantic comedy Breakin’ All the Rules. And with all the time she clearly doesn’t have between flicks, she even squeezed in a stint as DMX’s babe in 2003’s Cradle 2 the Grave before teaming up with Will Smith for Bad Boys II. On the small screen, Gabrielle had a recurring role as an inner-city doctor on the series City of Angels. Then in 2001 she became the first African-American love interest on an episode of Friends.  The week before I meet with Gabrielle in New York, she had been in Dublin filming scenes for her part as the stern-but-nurturing Alice in The Honeymooners. That’s when Carol Woods, the woman who plays Gabrielle’s mom in the movie, overheard a clue to the perfect birthday gift for her friend. “While I was eating chips in Ireland, I said, ‘Oooh, I want some soul food!’ ” Gabrielle explains between forkfuls of mac and cheese. So come her birthday (October 29), Woods hauled out her pots, dredged up her inner Mississippi, and presented a feast for the entire film crew. Among those in the food line: Cedric the Entertainer, the actor–comedian who plays the garrulous and lovable Ralph, hubby to Gabrielle’s Alice.  Daring a remake of a series as revered as The Honeymooners takes nerve. Meet David Friendly—the producer who brought us hits like Big Momma’s House and Dr. Dolittle. “I always wanted to make a movie out of The Honeymooners because it was my favourite television show ever,” he tells me.  Friendly’s take on the legendary comedy will be a loosely rendered interpretation. “It captures the spirit of the original Honeymooners,” he says, “but we had to contemporize it for an audience that may not have grown up on the series.” In the series, characters Ralph and Alice Kramden (Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows) squeezed humour from a hardscrabble existence in a spartan Brooklyn tenement, also home to the Nortons (Art Carney as Ed, Joyce Randolph as Trixie).

In the movie the setting won’t change, and neither will Ralph’s job as a bus driver. But the details of Ralph’s get-rich-quick schemes come in an entirely new flavour. The update has Ralph squandering his family’s savings on a brass train buried beneath Grand Central and an abandoned greyhound dog he plans to turn into a Seabiscuit. While the Gabrielle–Cedric combo alone would make for a noteworthy opening weekend, the rest of the cast is just as stellar: Mike Epps plays Ed, Regina Hall portrays Trixie, and Eric Stoltz is a villain trying to steal a house that Alice wins.

To read the entire article “Rated G for Gorgeous,” pick up the March issue of ESSENCE.




Oscar Bid Is A Tribute To Filmmaker, Seneca College

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Christopher Hutsul, Entertainment Reporter

(Feb. 23, 2005) At first, Chris Landreth thought it was odd that Ryan Larkin had been chosen to join him on a selection committee for an animation festival in Ottawa. Landreth, at the time, was an internationally renowned figure in computer animation, while Larkin — an important Canadian animator throughout the '60s — was a booze-addled panhandler.  But months after the festival, Landreth was still affected by his meeting with Larkin. After all, they were pioneers of two different generations of animation — one at the top of his game, and the other broken and penniless.  The descent of this Canadian legend, Landreth concluded, was a story that had to be told.  The result, five years later, is a lush, 13-minute computer animated film called Ryan, which has scored an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short Film. It's the second time Toronto-based Landreth has been nominated for an Academy Award.  The film takes us into a murky shelter, where Landreth interviews Larkin about his downfall, and pesters him about his alcoholism and tenure as a cocaine addict. He breaks up that terse discourse with lighter interludes that illustrate the life and work of Larkin in better days.  In the '60s, Larkin was a rising star at the National Film Board. His most influential films, detailed studies of human movement, are still relevant to animation students today.  What's most interesting about Ryan is how Landreth has given a nod to Larkin's mastery of traditional animation, by using cutting-edge computer technology. With Ryan, Landreth has commented not only on the fragility of the human experience, but the changing nature of art and technology. In several scenes, Landreth smartly and seamlessly integrates Larkin's original stop-motion work with his own, eye-popping 3D world.  "I wanted to bridge new and old, to do a story about a Canadian pioneer of stop motion animation through computer animation," says Landreth. "It's an animation and a documentary, which is not a common way of telling stories."

Perhaps what the Academy appreciated most about Landreth's film was his unique application of computer-generated imagery. He avoids the cartoonish style of, say, Finding Nemo, or the attempt at photorealism in films like The Polar Express, but borrows from both genres to create a distinctive, quasi-realistic style that slips in and out of fantasy.  Ryan Larkin's character, for example, has realistic, human-like facial features — which are attached to a contorted, disembodied figure. When riled, nerve-like strings swirl in his hollowed cranium.  During one period of sanctimonious questioning, Landreth's character sprouts an electric halo from his head, which crashes to the ground when Ryan lashes out. The environments, meanwhile, are representational, but liquid. This is Landreth's way of showing Ryan has no solid footing, that he's adrift in a sea of alcohol and poverty.  By integrating realism and fantasy, Landreth is able to push computer animation to its limits, creating powerful visual metaphors in the process. He calls the device "psycho realism."  "In computer animation, there's a lot of attention paid to photorealism, and getting things to look like they're live action," he explains. "I'm using the same tools and same detail for more metaphorical realisms.  "I'm using computer animation to add a layer to the characters ... It's a question of whether people get that or not. Much to my delight, people to seem to be getting that pretty quickly."  Once Landreth committed himself to the project in 2001, he found co-producers in Copper Heart Entertainment and the National Film Board. Seneca College, meanwhile, was about to launch its Animation Arts Centre, and was keen to help create the film in 2002. In all, 12 students worked on the film, which has racked up dozens of awards at festivals around the globe.  "Seneca was in the process of starting an animation program and they really wanted something that could jumpstart the program," says Landreth. "What better way to do that than a short film.

"We really challenged them with the kind of animation we wanted in this film. It's very realistic, very human-like ... It took a lot to get the animators up to that level, but it was quite a pleasure to see that happen."  The Academy Award nomination is yet another sign that Landreth chose the right path when he abandoned a promising career in engineering in the late '80s to study computer animation. It was a risky move at the time — certainly no one could have known then that computer animation would become the colossal entertainment industry it is today.  "In the late '80s computer animation was the stuff of academic conferences," says Landreth. "Today, it's all over the place to the point of being annoying ... But at the time, it was a wondrous, novel way of visually presenting things."  Larkin, for his part, has been a "cheerleader" for the film. And it seems to have had a positive impact on his life. For the first time in 35 years, he's drawing storyboards.  "He's become more inspired to do his own work again," says Landreth. "There's a ways to go between storyboarding and actually making a film, but it's a first step."




Oscar-Nominated Animator Praises NFB For Supporting His Film 'Ryan'

Source:  Canadian Press

(Feb. 21, 2005) TORONTO (AP) - Chris Landreth may be going to the Oscars (news - web sites), but he knows that's no guarantee of success: His film honours an animation pioneer who made his own trip to the Academy Awards (news - web sites) before landing on the streets in Montreal, panhandling.  Landreth's animated short film Ryan is a tribute to animator Ryan Larkin, who created groundbreaking animated films in the 1960s and 1970s before falling on hard times with addictions to cocaine and alcohol.  Part documentary, part animation, Ryan uses computer animation that peels away skin and bone to reveal fluctuating collapsed skulls, decayed bodies and whittled skeletons as a visual metaphor for personal and psychological scars.  "What I wanted to do was use computer graphics for a different purpose: To reflect human nature in a visual way," said the filmmaker, who formerly worked for Alias/Wavefront, now known as Alias, a Toronto innovator of 3D graphics technology.  In Ryan, Landreth urges Larkin, a one-time Oscar nominee, to stop drinking and get back into the business, but is rebuffed. Larkin lives on welfare in a Montreal church-run mission and panhandles.  Landreth, a Chicago native living in Toronto, praised The National Film Board of Canada for supporting the film.  "I would never get this made in the United States," he said. "The fact that they are doing stuff that is so weird and unique is a real inspiration."




7 Questions: Agnès Varda

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - By James Adams

(Feb. 18, 2005) Born May 30, 1928, in Brussels, the daughter of a Greek mother and French father. Studied literature, psychology and art history in Paris as well as taking night classes in photography. Directed her first film, La Pointe Courte, at 26. Married director Jacques Demy in 1962. Widowed 1990. Two children, Mathieu and Rosalie.  Penny Marshall has had more hits, and Jane Campion got an Oscar for The Piano -- but it's Agnès Varda who's been the most important and influential female film director in the past 50 years. Of course, it's probably sexist to preface Varda's career descriptive with the adjective "female." Still, 56 years after the publication of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, Varda is probably (and sadly) the only woman who can claim a cinematic oeuvre as varied and significant as a Godard or an Antonioni.  At 76, this so-called "Grandmother of the New Wave" hasn't been resting on the laurels awarded Le Bonheur or Vagabond or her contributions to the screenplay of Last Tango in Paris. She continues to be a vital creative force in international cinema, as evidenced by one of her most recent works, Cinévardaphoto, that's being screened this weekend at Cinematheque Ontario as part of a Varda retrospective.  Cinévardaphoto is, in fact, comprised of two old Varda films, Ulysse from 1982 and Salut les cubains (1964), and one new one, Ydessa, the Bears and Etc. . . . The last features the brilliant Toronto-based collector-curator (and sole daughter of Holocaust survivors) Ydessa Hendeles, and Partners, the famous mixed-media exhibition Hendeles installed in 2003 in a former Nazi art palace in Munich. Cinévardaphotois a heady, involving concoction, its three films meshing into an essayistic meditation on time and history, truth and memory.

How did you become aware of Ydessa Hendeles?

I bumped into the exhibition in Munich by chance. It was in February, 2003, and I was there in the city showing some of my films. I had some free time so I went into the Haus der Kunst, knowing nothing about what was there, and I came upon this very interesting mise en scène by Ydessa, if I may call it that. [Hendeles had installed 3,000 photographs of teddy bears in two large rooms, leading to a cul-de-sac occupied solely by Maurizio Cattelan's boy-sized sculpture of a praying Hitler called Him.] You had this trajectory, as it were, where you encounter Hitler, and then, to leave, you're sort of bounced back past all these photographs of people with teddy bears, including this one of a baby in a diaper with a gun about to 'kill' his or her bear. Then I became curious; I had to see the woman who had conceived this, this person who seemed at once collector, curator and artist.

I know you came to Toronto and filmed Ydessa at her amazing home and at her foundation. How would you characterize your relationship with her?

I must say she was very generous to me. She gave herself to the project which, I think, must have been somewhat difficult because she is someone who's very aware of her own image and is quite protective of her privacy. Still, I like to believe there was some rapport between me and this extraordinary, eccentric, sometimes exhausting woman. [Last year, Hendeles said she was "grateful for being the inspiration of (Varda's) work, but also aware that I will have to live down the identity she has superimposed upon me. I gave her full reign to do whatever she wanted to do, out of respect for her artistic process. . . . It is a work of art with me choreographed as Agnès Varda has directed me."]

Was it always your intention to combine the two older films with the Ydessa project into one presentation?

I never had the intention to do that. Ce n'est pas systématique. I had never organized a triptych first. I try to have ideas that come in an organic way. In this case, I finished Ydessa in May, 2004, but the "parent" of the three films, really, was Ulysse [a 22-minute "documentary" about a powerful photograph Varda took in 1954 of a nude man, a boy named Ulysse and a dead goat on a sunny, stony beach in southern France]. The questions here are, "How do we give meaning to what we see? How do we give life to photographs by looking at them? How do we learn to be disappointed by the memories of others?" With Ulysse, why was it, 28 years after I'd taken that photograph, that it got to me in such a strong way that I had to make a picture about it?

The last film in Cinévardaphoto, Salut les cubains, is basically an animation, with music, of the hundreds of black-and-white still photos you took of Cubans and Cuba when you visited there in 1962. It's a very hopeful, positive film, but seeing it now, 40 years later, it's kind of depressing, isn't it?

Well, it's about what I felt in 1962. I mean, the Castro revolution was interesting back then. Prior to Castro, Cuba was a bordello for America and a cheap source for sugar. Now it's clear everyone today has another feeling about Cuba, about its lack of freedoms, its imprisonments, and so on. It's painful what's happened there, but we had hope in the sixties and Cuba was part of that. With this film, there's that tension between what we know about Cuba today and what we felt in the years immediately after the Cuban revolution in 1958. Now it's nice to have music before you go out of the theatre, don't you think?

Your films come in a dazzling variety of running times. Ulysse, for instance, is 22 minutes, L'Opéra Mouffe from 1958 is only 17, Vagabond is 105.

I think cinema can be used for different things. Too often it's divided into big blockbuster films and art, but there are many, many categories within these. You know, I feel things that are worth only 12 minutes on the screen; it doesn't always have to be one hour and 45 minutes.

What about the variety of your films? You seem to have done everything: experimental shorts, features, collaborations with people such as Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, Godard, works that could almost be called docudramas. And you've been overseeing the restoration and re-release of some of your late husband's films. [Varda was married to Jacques Demy, perhaps most famous for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.]

Well, a writer does a poem, an essay, a short story and then a novel. So why not the same, in its fashion, with film? I have to do the way I feel.

There are a lot more women directors out there now than when you started.

Oh, yes. Kay Armatage [former programmer at the Toronto film festival] was telling me that of the 300 or so films at the 2004 festival, 67 had been directed by women. I was impressed. . . . I remember times when I was alone -- alone fighting like a tiger to make cinema a really necessary art.




He Will Rock Them

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Brad Wheeler

(Feb. 19, 2005) Chris Rock's first HBO special in 1993 was called Big Ass Jokes. He told them. He followed with Bring the Pain (1996) and Bigger & Blacker (1999). He brought it, and he was. The fourth HBO special was last year's Never Scared, and if the comedian was ever frightened in the past, he doesn't appear to be now. Not too scared to bite the hand that tapped him as the host of this year's Academy Awards, anyway. The caustic, sharp-eyed comedian caused a bit of a swirl as a result of recent remarks made during interviews to promote the Feb. 27 ceremony, most notably in Entertainment Weekly, where he referred to the Oscars as a fashion show. "No one performs; it's not like a music show," said Rock, 40, who hosted the MTV Video Music Awards in 1999 and 2003. "What straight black man sits there and watches the Oscars? Show me one." Rumours that members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had pushed to have the comic removed as host were quashed by Rock-booster and show producer Gil Cates, who said he was not worried by the comments. It calls to mind one of the clever, if indelicate, rants made on Never Scared (now available on CD/DVD). The comic rages against the assumption that the circus tiger that attacked Roy Horn of the duo Siegfried & Roy had done so because it had gone crazy. "That tiger didn't go crazy," Rock says emphatically. "That tiger went tiger!" The same goes for Rock, who in taking shots at the Oscars wasn't being insubordinate — Chris Rock was being Chris Rock. Instead of hand-wringing, the Academy should have used its mitts to applaud Rock for the publicity.

Just to err on the side of caution, though, the Oscars will be broadcast with a five-second delay so censors can bleep out foul language. Rock said this week he was happy with the "safety net" provided by the delay. "You know, you're a trapeze artist ..... you welcome the net," he said Thursday. With or without a net, Rock has received lots of applause recently. In a review of the comedian's performance at Madison Square Garden last year, The New York Times described Rock as a "brilliant curmudgeon" and "one of the best and most beloved comedians in the country." Vanity Fair touted him earlier as "young, gifted and the funniest man in America." The praise, remarkably unreserved, comes for a bold, provocative performer and writer who rose steadily through the ranks. Reportedly, the Brooklyn-raised Rock was discovered by one of his own idols, Eddie Murphy, who spotted the 18-year-old at an open-mike night in New York. In the same Entertainment Weekly interview that caused the Oscar kerfuffle, Rock recalled seeing Beverly Hills Cop three times in one day. "Eddie Murphy was the coolest guy on the screen," Rock said. "I liked Belushi and those guys, Bill Murray. But Murphy was for me. He was, like, the first black guy that I can remember who was cool." Bit roles followed: a Playboy Mansion valet in 1987's Beverly Hills Cop II, which starred Murphy; and a rib-joint customer in 1988's I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.

Rock's big break came in 1989, when he began a three-year stint on NBC's Saturday Night Live, making his mark with characters such as Nat X, a high-afro, black-nationalist TV host. Rock broke bigger in 1996. That was the year of Bring the Pain, the winner of Emmy Awards in 1997 for writing and outstanding special. The material was black-on-black. "The Million Man March had all the positive black leaders there: Farrakhan, Jesse [Jackson], Marion Barry ..... Marion Barry! You know what that means? That even in our finest hour, we had a crackhead on stage." Audiences didn't embrace all of the material, but the blunt, truth-telling comic wasn't about to censor himself. When he said that he loved black people, but hated "niggas," crowds reacted. "Boo if you want," he challenged the heavily black Washington, D.C., audience, "but you know I'm right." In the same year, the politically incorrect Rock hooked on, perfectly, with Comedy Central's Politically Incorrect, where he served as a sardonic presidential-campaign correspondent. In 1997, the best-selling Rock This was released. The book, for which he received $1-million (U.S.) in advance from Hyperion, was less a biography than a roundup of edgy bits and slamming observations. Rock's vocals (endearing back-of-the-throat growls) have stood him in good stead. He was well-compensated in the late 1990s for the voice of Lil' Penny, the tiny Nike-wearing sidekick of NBA star Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway. In 1998, he again teamed with Murphy, providing the voice of Rodney the Hamster in 1998's Doctor Dolittle. In 2001, Rock starred in the title role of the partially animated Osmosis Jones. And in Madagascar, an animated feature scheduled for release later this year, Rock does the talking for a zebra. Other acting credits include Head of State (which he directed and starred in), Down to Earth, Nurse Betty and Dogma. The Longest Yard, the prison football remake starring Adam Sandler, is set for release this year. From 1996 to 2000, the performer hosted The Chris Rock Show, a talk show with guests such as Al Sharpton, Johnny Cochrane and Ed Bradley — "thinkers" according to Rock, at the time. "I lean towards comics and politicians and writers. People that think for a living." So, what were the Academy members thinking when they picked the fearless, blue-mouthed Rock as Oscars host? Likely that Rock was the guy who can inject an edge into the stuffy affair, some jazz. More than a week before he even hits the stage, he's already done that.




Former Teen-Movie Star Sandra Dee Dead At 62

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Feb. 20, 2005) LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actress Sandra Dee, the blond beauty who attracted a large teen audience in the 1960s with films such as Gidget, and Tammy and the Doctor, and had a headlined marriage to pop singer Bobby Darin, died Sunday. She was 62.  Dee died at 5:57 a.m. at the Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, said Cynthia Mead, nursing supervisor.  She died of complications from kidney disease after nearly two weeks in the hospital, said Steve Blauner, a longtime family friend who represents Darin's estate. Blauner said Dee had been on dialysis for about four years.  "She didn't have a bad bone in her body," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "When she was a big star in the pictures and a top five at the box office, she treated the grip the exact same way she treated the head of the studio. She meant it. She wasn't phony."  The family expected to hold private funeral services.  At Universal Studios, Dee was cast mostly in teen movies such as The Reluctant Debutante, The Restless Years, Tammy Tell Me True and Take Her She's Mine.  Occasionally, she was able to do secondary roles in other films, such as Imitation of Life, A Portrait In Black and Romanoff and Juliet.  After a one-month courtship, Dee married Darin in Elizabeth, N.J., in 1960. A son, Dodd Mitchell, was born to the couple the following year.  In 1965, with her divorce from Darin dampening her teen appeal, Dee was dropped by Universal.  "I thought they were my friends," she said in an interview that year with The Associated Press, referring to her former bosses. ``But I found out on the last picture (A Man Could Get Killed) that I was simply a piece of property to them. I begged them not to make me do the picture, but they insisted."

Born Alexandra Zuck on April 23, 1941, in Bayonne, N.J., Dee became a model while in grade school.  In a mid-career interview with The Associated Press, she explained her name change: "I used to sign vouchers and sign-out sheets with Alexandra Dee. Somehow it stuck." When she was signed to her first film, she said, "Sandra Dee was the name they gave me."  Dee made an independent film Rosie! (1968), starring with Rosalind Russell, but her movie career dwindled after that.  Her name was resuscitated in 1978 with the film Grease, which featured the song Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee mocking her squeaky-clean image. But Dee didn't mind, Blauner said.  "She always had a big laugh about it. She had a great sense of humour," he said.  Blauner said her favourite films were the ones she made with Darin. Despite their divorce, he remained the love of her life, Blauner said.  In a March 1991 interview with People magazine, Dee said she was sexually abused as a child by her stepfather and pushed into stardom by her mother. Dee, who turned to pills and alcohol, said she hit bottom after her mother died in 1988.  "I couldn't function," she told People, adding that she began drinking more than a quart of scotch a day as her weight fell to 80 pounds. She said she stayed home almost constantly for three years.  Dee credited her son with helping her turn her life around. She began seeing a therapist regularly and hoped to land a job on a TV series.  Kate Bosworth portrayed Dee in last year's movie Beyond the Sea, a biography of Darin.  Actor Kevin Spacey, who played Darin in the film, has said Dee approved of the movie. "She called me . . . and said she loved it," he said last year.




Township Carmen Wins Prize In Berlin

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Feb. 21, 2005) Berlin -- The 55th Berlin Film Festival drew to a close yesterday after awarding a South African adaptation of Bizet's tragic musical Carmen its top prize, the Golden Bear. The film is set in a township, with the libretto sung entirely in the Xhosa language. The Blue Angel award for best European film, named for the late German screen goddess Marlene Dietrich's signature role, went to Paradise Now, a contentious look at Palestinian suicide bombers, which also won the Berlinale audience prize and the Amnesty International film award.  A small crowd of demonstrators outside the awards venue displayed a banner reading "Stop Glorifying Suicide Killers" in an apparent protest against the film. AFP




Cheadle, Freeman, Foxx, Okonedo To Be Honoured By Ebony

Excerpt from

*The folks at “Ebony” magazine have decided to use the occasion of its 60th anniversary to salute this year’s African American Oscar nominees Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman, Jamie Foxx and Sophie Okonedo. The event, dubbed as “Hollywood in Harlem,” will be held Feb. 24 at the Crustacean restaurant in Beverly Hills and hosted by Linda Johnson Rice, President and CEO of Johnson Publishing, and L. Marilyn Crawford, CEO of Primetime Omnimedia. The gala will be sponsored by Federal Express. Other outstanding artists and leaders to receive special tributes during the event are Ashanti, Kimberly Elise, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Wyclef Jean, Clifton Powell, Kerry Washington and Pauletta Washington.




Writers Guild Picks Eternal Sunshine, Kushner Drama

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Feb. 21, 2005) Los Angeles -- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a quirky love story about two people trying to erase their memories of each other, won best original screenplay Saturday night at the 57th Annual Writers Guild Awards. The screenplay was written by Charlie Kaufman. Best adapted screenplay went to Sideways, the road-trip romp through Southern California wine country that charmed critics and audiences alike. In other awards, the prize for long-form adapted writing for television went to HBO's Angels in America, which Tony Kushner adapted from his play of the same name. AP




Ice Cube In Talks To Star In Remake of 1948 Comedy

Excerpt from - By Nolan Strong

(Feb. 22, 2005) Ice Cube is in talks with Revolution Studios to star in the remake of the 1948 comedy “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.”  The original 1948 version featured legendary American actor Carey Grant and actress Myrna Loy, who both starred in the roles movie at the height of their acting careers. The original version was about an advertising executive named Jim Blanding (Grant/Ice Cube) and his wife (Myrna Loy), who live in a cramped New York apartment with two young daughters and a live-in maid. The couple ends up buying a house in the Connecticut countryside, only to find out their dream house is actually falling apart. The movie was somewhat updated in 1986, when Tom Hanks and Shelly Long starred in “The Money Pit,” which adapted the themes of the 1948 comedy. The film is being directed by Steve Carr, who also directed Cube’s “Next Friday” as well as “Daddy Daycare” and a new movie starring Martin Lawrence, titled “Rebound.”




Diary of a Mad Black Woman

Excerpt from - By Mr. Jawn Murray

(Feb. 22, 2005) Diary Delivers:  Tyler Perry’s film adaptation of his highly successful touring play, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, is one solid film.  The movie is a more polished, cohesive and Hollywood-friendly version of the story that many have seen in the theatre or on video.  Many wondered how the full-mouthed, quick-tempered, gun-toting Madea would translate into the confined world of film, especially since part of Madea’s appeal is her knack for adlibbing.  But Diary does work, and Madea is still funny and the integrity of her theatre persona is still captured.   In the film, Helen McCarter (Kimberly Elise) has seemingly had the perfect life with husband Charles McCarter (Steve Harris).  Over the years, Helen has been a faithful and loving wife, while Charles built a successful and lucrative career as a prominent Atlanta attorney.  On the eve of their 18th wedding anniversary, Helen’s paradise begins to crumble as Charles announces that he wants a divorce.  He abruptly and literally tosses Helen out of the mansion to make room for the other woman.  It only gets better from there!   Directed by Darren Grant, Diary of a Mad Black Woman also stars Shemar Moore (who delivers his strongest performance to date in this film), the legendary Cicely Tyson and, of course, Perry himself as Madea.  The film is set in Atlanta, and much of it was shot in Perry’s own home in the city.    Lovers of the original play will adore Diary, especially because many of the stars of Perry’s touring play circuit pop up in the film.  Tamala Mann (of Kirk Franklin & The Family fame) and Terrell Carter (from Meet the Browns) also star.   Diary of a Mad Black Woman hits theatres on Feb. 25.  For more information, visit




Looking For Alexander Named Best Film In Quebec

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Feb. 23, 2005) Toronto -- A feature film about a veterinarian who suffers profound memory loss in a hit-and-run accident was the big winner this week at the Prix Jutra Awards honouring the best in Quebec cinema. Looking for Alexander (a.k.a. Mémoires affectives) was named the best picture for 2004 out of a shortlist of five at a ceremony in Montreal while the film's director, Francis Leclerc, took the director's prize. Star Roy Dupuis, best known for his performance in the TV series La Femme Nikita, was named best actor and Glenn Berman best film editor. Receiving the most trophies, at five, was the "biopic" Alys Robi: Bittersweet Memories, including a best-actress win for veteran Pascale Bussières. It went into the awards ceremony as a heavy favourite, having scored nine nominations earlier. Tying for best-supporting-actress honours were Brigitte Lafleur (The Five of Us) and Sylvie Moreau (Love and Magnets). Jean Lapointe was named best supporting actor for his performance in the bank-robbery movie Le Dernier tunnel. Staff







Norval Morrisseau: Native Painter Travels To Gutter And Back

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Judy Stoffman, Entertainment Reporter

(Feb. 23, 2005) Montreal filmmaker Paul Carvalho knew he wanted to make a film about the rise and fall and rise of Norval Morrisseau, as soon as he read a newspaper story six years ago about the self-destructive alcoholic painter's unlikely relationship with Gabor Vadas, a homeless high-school dropout in search of a father.  In the late 1980s, the then 21-year-old Vadas met Morrisseau, now 73, and rescued him from Vancouver's skid row without knowing anything of his history, and disbelieving what he was told.  "He told me he was a famous artist but he had a blanket around him and he was filthy and he stank," recalls Vadas.  Vadas was born in Oliver, B.C., the son of a Hungarian-born father who had died on the streets and mother with Hungarian ancestry, who died last fall. He had run away from home at 17 and lived by his wits.  "I am still with him every day; he is in a separate reality," says Vadas, who today lives with his wife Michele and their children near Nanaimo, not far from a nursing home where Morrisseau is comfortably installed now that they can no longer care of him in their home. "I shouldn't be here today. I should be a statistic. But through this beautiful man whom I love so much I experienced life. I learned so much."  The mutual redemption of the lost boy and the down-and-out Northwestern Ontario Indian is the emotional heart of Carvalho's documentary A Separate Reality, airing on CBC-TV's Life & Times tomorrow at 7 p.m. It was screened 10 days ago at the Art Gallery of Ontario with Carvalho and Vadas present to answer questions.  Vadas brought some order to the painter's life and helped him dry out, enabling the final flowering of his talent in the 1990s before Parkinson's disease cut short his working life. Only Vadas can understand his slurred speech, a mixture of English and Ojibwa.  Incredibly, Carvalho had to beg the corporation for five years to make his documentary, which cost a modest $246,000.

"At the 2003 Banff television festival, I told the CBC, `This is it — the man is fading, he's nearly gone,'" Carvalho recalls.  He had previously made Life & Times segments about Margaret Trudeau and Olympic synchronized swimmer Sylvie Fréchette. The Morrisseau project was particularly close to the Paraguay-born Carvalho's heart. His father, a Brazilian diplomat, had been trained as an anthropologist, and young Paul had accompanied him on his field trips into the jungle, learning photography and sound recording as well as respect for indigenous cultures.  But how do you make a film about a man too frail to participate? "My subject is in a wheelchair and cannot speak in a way we can understand. I used recreations, a got a little more arty than usual, to try to bring his early life alive. Then a colleague said, have you thought of the radio archives?"  In the archives Carvalho found early taped interviews with Morrisseau and with his first dealer, Jack Pollock who gave him his first Toronto exhibition in 1962, and may have introduced him, the film suggests, to cocaine and the homosexual underworld.  Pollock, who died in 1991, calls him "a genius with a Grade 2 education" in the film. But Pollock eventually lost the artist to the mobster Albert Volpe, who styled himself his dealer and paid for his canvases with drugs instead of money.  The documentary includes a rare interview with Esther and Dr. Joseph Weinstein, who now live in Israel. They were the first to recognize that Morrisseau, then in his 20s and supporting his young family by working at a gold mine in Red Lake in Northwestern Ontario, was a genuine artist even though he knew nothing about art history, brushes or pigments.  Esther Weinstein recalls spotting his pictures — based on the myths told him as a child by his shaman grandfather — at the McDougall's dry-goods store in 1958 in Red Lake. They were selling for $5 each. She snapped them up.  Weinstein was the local doctor but had also trained as an artist in Paris. "We had a number of etchings of Picasso, and he (Morrisseau) would look at the drawings and stand in awe and look at them and look at them," says the doctor, who became a close friend.

Morrisseau led a large, untidy life that cannot fit into an hour-long television program and A Separate Reality leaves many questions unanswered. Some of them will be dealt with when the National Gallery of Canada mounts a major retrospective Feb. 3 to May 1, 2006, of his work, curated by Greg Hill.  Hill viewed 1,300 Morrisseau works and selected 60 for the show — the first solo exhibition of a First Nations creator in the gallery's 126-year history. The show will likely travel to the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg.




Brigitte Bako: Sex And The Single Actress

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Gayle MacDonald

(Feb. 23, 2005) In a west-end Toronto studio -- designed to look like a funky Los Angeles apartment -- a scantily clad Brigitte Bako is popping muscle relaxants like Chiclets. The star of the provocatively titled new show, G-Spot, Bako has pulled a muscle in her neck and, on a sweltering day last August, is half-laughing, half-crying when someone hands her a large cucumber with which she's supposed to rudely gesture in an upcoming scene. "I'd love to tell you I was doing something horribly fascinating when I did this," says the Montreal-born actress, her head on an awkward tilt. "But I was shifting in bed, when it just went splat! And that was it. I was stuck like this,'" says the gorgeous brunette, clad in a pink bra, a short tube top and even shorter shorts. As first impressions go, it's clear this woman is not your typical leading lady. Nor is her show -- a raunchy eight-part series replete with nudity and more profanity than you've probably ever heard on TV (at least before 11 p.m.) -- and quite unlike any other homegrown comedy to hit the normally genteel Canadian airwaves. Slated to begin airing April 25 on The Movie Network and Movie Central, G-Spot is a no-holds-barred, HBO-style series that recounts Bako's all-too-real struggles as a nobody from Canada trying to make it big in Hollywood. In each script, she invites the audience to meet the jerks -- and share the often hilarious humiliations -- she endured, living as a single Canadian girl (with three Canadian girlfriends) in America's ruthless entertainment capital. "It's not a reality show, but it's as autobiographical as you can get," says Bako, who wrote, executive-produced and stars in the half-hour sitcom, which is co-produced by Robert Lantos and Laszlo Barna. "People will say, 'Come on. Did this really happen to you?' And I say, 'Rest assured it really happened. You just can't make this shit up.' "

There's a scene in the series in which Bako is in a bathtub when a poisonous (rubber) snake slithers between her breasts, gets stuck on the left one and the red-faced star is asked to lubricate the reptile with Vaseline. "Yes, that happened to me and you can rent it," says Bako, referring to the forgettable 1993 flick Dark Tide, in which she played Andi, the sex-starved wife of Tim, who is collecting venom from poisonous eels on a tropical island. Also true, she insists, is a scene where she has boisterous sex with an Olympic bobsledder (who then tells her he hates Jews -- Bako is a descendant of Hungarian Jews). Then there was the time -- now a hilarious segment in G-Spot -- that she was told at the age of 25, by her 24-year-old agent, that "the fact I hadn't been nominated for an Oscar yet was really troubling to him and he just didn't know what he could do for me." In G-Spot, Bako plays Gigi, a one-time acting prodigy whose roles in acclaimed films seemed destined to make her a star. Like the fictional version of herself, Bako started out on a roll, boarding a Voyageur bus, at age 19, from Montreal to New York, where her first, small movie role was in Woody Allen's 1989 New York Stories (her segment was directed by Martin Scorsese). From there, Bako landed other decent parts in films such as One Good Cop (starring Michael Keaton). But then her luck turned. In the mid-1990s, her mother died. Her boyfriend dumped her and she was in a car accident that left her in traction for several months. She lost roles in four major studio pictures, including Don Juan DeMarco with Johnny Depp and The Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas. When she got back on her feet, she opted to take a part in the soft-porn TV show, Red Shoe Diaries -- from which point she started aggressively accumulating material for the G-Spot scripts. "Red Shoe Diaries became this cult hit, and then basically every script I got after that I was naked by page four." Her career then became an ever-growing repertoire of late-night B-movies, with titles such as Paranoia, Sweet Revenge and Wrong Number. Bako recalls she almost jumped on the Voyageur bus back to Montreal. But at dinner parties, she kept her friends in stitches, recounting tales of her career lows. "They told me to write it down. So I did. I ended up with 10 scripts. I'd never written a thing in my life before," says Bako, most recently in HBO's The Mind of the Married Man.

Then Lantos heard through the entertainment grapevine that the actress, whom he'd met a few years earlier when she was in the feature I Love a Man in Uniform, had written some pretty funny stuff. "He called me and said, 'Bako, I hear you wrote something,' " she says, adopting a strong Eastern European accent. "I said, 'Yup.' He says, 'I'm heading to the cottage and I want to read it.' I had four scripts at the time so I mailed them. At the end of his cottage vacation, he said, 'Well, Bako, you can write.' And so it started." Gigi's co-stars are Stella, played by Heather Hanson (The Chris Isaak Show); Francesca, played by Kristin Lehman (Judging Amy); and Roxy, played by Kimberly Huie (Deep Impact). All are Canadians, now living in Los Angeles, who were repatriated to do G-Spot, which filmed for six gruelling weeks last summer. "Every girl on this show is single," adds Bako. "I made sure of that. I wasn't going to hire anyone who had a better love life than me." Featuring a blonde, a brunette, a raven-haired character and a redhead, Bako calls the cast a "Revlon ad in the making" and agrees the comparisons to Sex and the City are inevitable, if a tad old. "Sex and the City is the grande dame. They started it all. But basically, any show that now comes along and talks about womanhood, sexuality or penises is going to be compared to it. "What we have in common is that we all have vaginas. That's about it. We can't afford the shoes they wear. Our show is multiracial, multicultural, we're mostly unemployed and we can't get laid. "We're celibacy in the suburb. That's what we are."

The business of show biz continues to be brutal. But Bako says rather than being devastated by the putdowns, she now has learned to laugh at it all. "I just recently did a Mel Gibson pilot, The Bounty Hunter, where I play a mother and I have this very emotional scene with my little boy, Timmy. "Well, I worked with this wonderful young actor who is currently in all these great movies. But once we wrapped that scene -- and I still had all my emotional close-ups left to do -- they swept Timmy away, and brought in a midget who I had to nuzzle into my bosom. He kept trying to cop a feel. And that was a bloody Mel Gibson production, so you never know where you can get your new lows," Bako adds with a smirk. At 37, Bako says she's finally grown mature enough to handle this wacky business, and see it for what it is -- a business of highs and hard knocks. She starts G-Spot at a time when Gigi has basically hit rock bottom and is trying to crawl out from under her emotional and professional pile of woes.  "It starts off basically from where I was at in 1994. I'd had that terrible car accident, my mom had died and my relationship had broken up. I'd lost four major studio pictures and I was sitting in a bed in a neck brace." Then she starts to giggle. And can't stop, tapping a hot-pink lacquered nail against her (once again) very sore neck. "And here I am doing it again. Nine year later," Bako says, howling with laughter. "Life is just very, very weird." G-Spot begins April 25 on TMN and Movie Central.




30th Anniversary Of Saturday Night Live Prompts Documentary About Show

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Larry McShane

(Feb. 18, 2005) NEW YORK (AP) - From its birth in 1975, Saturday Night Live was Lorne Michaels' baby. He referred to it as "The Show," even before it was a show.  Now, with his child marking its 30th birthday, NBC is airing a two-hour documentary about The Show's first five classic years, the era when its cast was "the Beatles of comedy," as Dana Carvey (news) says near the documentary's start.  Live from New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live, which airs Sunday (check local listings), is no cut-paste collection of clips.  Instead, writer-director-producer Kenneth Bowser mixes classic bits with extensive interviews, peering into the madness behind those 90 minutes of magic that started Saturdays at 11:30 p.m.  It's not altogether new territory. SNL has been the subject of several books, including the acclaimed oral history done in 2002 by The Washington Post's Tom Shales and co-author James Andrew Miller.  But there's still plenty to dig into, from long-unseen musical clips to stories from guest hosts to tales of Dan Aykroyd (news) entering a pitch meeting with a chain saw - and then cranking it up. There are new interviews offering brutal honesty.  Michaels recalls his first meeting with John Belushi (news): "He told me he didn't do television. We didn't hit it off."  Eric Idle remembers the comedy team of Al Franken and Tom Davis: "They were always whacked out of their skulls."  Garrett Morris, the lone black cast member, poignantly recounts his outsider status, but admits: "Fifty per cent was my fault."  The documentary places the show in the context of the times: Vietnam, Nixon, drugs. And it illustrates the groundbreaking attitude brought by its original cast, The Not Ready for Prime Time Players.

"We had a chance," explains Chevy Chase (news), "to parody and take down television."  Though they didn't entirely succeed, they had plenty of successes - and a few funny failures. On opening night, announcer Don Pardo botched the cast's introduction. "The Not for Ready Prime Time Players," the familiar voice intoned.  The show's lair on the 17th floor of NBC's Rockefeller Centre headquarters was more dorm room than office, with cast members and writers moving in. "A huge playpen," says Monty Python's Idle, a host from the early years.  The skits that made the show a phenomenon are included: Chase's racially charged job interview with guest host Richard Pryor, Aykroyd's memorable "Jane, you ignorant slut," Belushi in various modes of Samurai.  And there are some long-forgotten, edgy skits. Burt Reynolds, as a Roman centurion on the make, approaches Laraine Newman with this come-on: "I couldn't help not notice that you're very svelte. What's your name?"  "Anorexia," she shoots back.  The documentary touches on drug abuse and the pitfalls of celebrity. Cocaine, Aykroyd says, was "affecting the work, the performances and the quality of the scripts."  There's a rare clip from Bill Murray's 1975 screen test, when he failed to make the cut for season one. After he replaced Chase, the show's first break-out star, Murray began receiving hate mail. He quickly proved a more than able replacement.  Musical clips in the days before the Ashlee Simpsons of the world took the SNL stage show performances by Patti Smith (news), the Band, Randy Newman (news), Ray Charles and others.  Quibbles? Murray and Jane Curtain don't participate. Both are missed. There must be guest hosts with better tales to tell than Penny Marshall. And the segment on SNL romances could have been replaced by something on Andy Kaufman, one of the show's early guests and great innovators.  In the end, as the documentary makes clear, fame and money took everything apart. Cast members travelled with entourages, hired limousines, worked behind closed doors. When the Rolling Stones showed up to play in season four, it was more a signal of trouble than success.  But even the end of this era was greeted with a sly grin by some on the staff. "I remember seeing the girl I was with getting hit on by Keith Richards (news), and that's when I knew," recalls Jim Signorelli, who did many of the show's early parodies of commercials.




Spike, Burton, Dickerson Direct Episodes Of ‘Miracle’s Boys’

Excerpt from

(Feb. 18, 2005) *Acclaimed directors Spike Lee, LeVar Burton, Ernest Dickerson, Bill Duke and Neema Barnette go behind the camera to helm segments of The N channel’s “Miracle’s Boys,” a six-episode mini-series depicting the lives of three half-Puerto Rican, half-African-American, orphaned teenage brothers living in Harlem.  Part I (episodes 1 and 2) premieres tonight at 9 p.m., while parts II (episodes 3 and 4) and III (episodes 5 and 6) premiere tomorrow and Sunday nights at 9 p.m. respectively. Executive-produced by On Screen Entertainment, in conjunction with Lee’s wife Tonya Lewis Lee, the series reflects the lives of the Bailey brothers – 14-year old Lafayette (Julito McCullum), 16-year old Charlie (Sean Nelson) and 20-year-old Ty’ree (Pooch Hall), whose parents are deceased. The first episode sees Charlie returning home after spending a year in juvenile detention. Their brotherly issues start bubbling toward the surface as the trio struggles to raise themselves in Harlem against large odds.   “There really hasn’t been a show like this in a while and there’s an audience for it,” says Spike Lee, who directed episodes No. 1 and 5.  “And I want to commend N for really having a vision to see this need as being fulfilled.” The N, billed as “the nighttime network for teens,” is a programming arm of MTV Networks whose mission is to be the authentic voice for teenagers via relevant, topical programming.  In fact, the word “authentic” became a bold mantra for all five directors involved in “Miracle’s Boys,” as well as the producers.

"We chose to have an advisory board because we wanted to make sure that we were being authentic to the culture of teens today, because, none of us are teenagers,” laughs Tonya Lewis Lee, glancing at her husband and director LeVar Burton sitting on either side of her. “It’s been a while, and the culture changes – the way they speak, the things that they do, the way they date, so we wanted to make sure that we had it right.”   “I think they did a good job,” adds actor Sean Nelson. “They really listened to what the teen advisory board told them, and we even had some insights sometimes on what would seem right in certain instances.” Actually shooting on location uptown was another boost to the authenticity of the project, according to Burton. “You don’t often get an opportunity to shoot in Harlem,” he says.  “Harlem is another character in “Miracle’s Boys,” and for me as a director, I was in heaven.  I love it uptown, and there’s a lot of life and vitality up there.” Setting the show’s rugged tone at the outset is the “Miracle’s Boys” theme song performed by Nas. “I showed Nas the first rough cut of our first episode, and I would say within three minutes of looking at it, he turned and looked at me and said, ‘I love it. It’s so real. It’s so emotional,’” remembers Lewis Lee.  “He was so excited about it. We talked about the mother and the boys and their relationship and he was vested immediately.” As for the prospect of “Miracle’s Boys” turning into a weekly series for The N, On Screen Entertainment president Nikki Silver hasn’t ruled it out. “The material is endless, and we hope [for a series],” says Silver. “We have to wait and see how everybody responds, although we know it’s going to be amazing.”

•     Episode 1 (Spike Lee) “New Charlie”: Charlie returns home after a year in Juvenile detention to find that everything has changed.  After the death of their mother, Ty’ree is now in charge and Lafayette discovers that “new Charlie” is not the brother he knew.

•     Episode 2 (Ernest Dickerson): “In the Game of Life” Lafayette’s crush on Angelina grow.  After a humiliating return to school and a first meeting with his parole officer, Charlie hooks up with a bad crowd.

•     Episode 3 (Neema Barnette): “Who’s To Blame”: Ty’ree meets the girl of his dreams.  Lafayette throws a party that gets out of hand.  Charlie is missing and the social worker is on the way.

•     Episode 4 (Bill Duke): “Miracle’s Song”: Charlie steals money from the family safe.  Lafayette needs help to make the team.  Ty’ree’s parenting skills are pushed to the limit.

•     Episode 5 (LeVar Burton): “Free Day”: Lafayette tries to tell Angelina how he feels. Charlie stays out all night and falls in deeper with the wrong crowd.

•     Episode 6 (Spike Lee): “Bond of Brothers”: Charlie’s arrest and confession brings the family together.




"Contender's" Suicide Baffles Friends, Family

Source:  Associated Press

(Feb. 19, 2005) Philadelphia — Plucked from a tough neighbourhood in Philadelphia, Najai Turpin tried to emulate the "Rocky" story and rise from unknown boxer to inspirational star fighter. Turpin even jogged the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as an homage to the fictional fighter for Sylvester Stallone's boxing reality show, "The Contender." The footage got an earlier-than-expected premiere, played as part of a continuous highlight reel at Turpin's funeral. Days after police say Turpin, 23, shot himself in the head in a parked car outside the gym where he trained, those closest to him remained baffled about why he took his life. Stallone, Sugar Ray Leonard and NBC executives were among the mourners who packed a Baptist church Friday. "He was a very mysterious man," said Stallone, who developed the boxing series with reality TV mogul Mark Burnett. "He was very quiet, very shy. You never knew what was on his mind." Stallone and Leonard, one of the hosts of the TV show, paused at the open casket, where a pair of yellow boxing gloves rested atop his coffin. Karen Conyers knew Turpin — or "Nitro" to his friends — since he was eight years old and recalled how excited he was about earning a shot at stardom. "It was somebody from the hood that made it," she said. "He was going to be big and famous. He was like somebody that came from the projects and was going to look out for everybody in the projects." Turpin had a 13-1 record and won a city Recreation Department title in Philadelphia before being picked for "The Contender." He seemed to have a happy home life with his girlfriend and two-year-old daughter. "When you see the show, you'll see he was so full of life," Stallone said. "When he was with his daughter and his girlfriend, he was so open, so expressive."

None of it seemed to match with a man who committed suicide only weeks before his big break that could have kick-started his career. "The Contender," which follows the lives of 16 boxers competing for a million-dollar prize, began taping six months ago and is scheduled to debut March 7. The episodes involving Turpin had already been taped, and footage showed Turpin smiling and sparring. One of the executive producers said he saw no signs of trouble from the young fighter. "He was a tough kid. Everybody was afraid to fight him," Jeff Wald said. Something, though, changed when Turpin returned home. Turpin's sister, Launita, said she noticed a difference in her brother's attitude, that he stayed out late partying while slacking off in his training. She told the Philadelphia Daily News this week that her brother often complained of being too tired to train. Life back in the housing projects was nothing like the high life he had been living. "This ain't no Hollywood show. This here is the real thing," said pastor Tokunbo Adelekan, who mixed the Book of Job with an LL Cool J rap in his eulogy. Burnett said there were signs that Turpin's rough surroundings had taken a toll: He wouldn't sleep in his bed while the series was taping because he was used to sleeping under his bed or in his closet for fear of bullets or burglars. NBC started a trust fund for the boxer's daughter, and viewers can contribute. Stallone said he never could have imagined this ending for Turpin. "He said, 'I have greatness. I feel greatness for me,"' he said.




Everybody Loves Some Raymond Sometime

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem

(Feb. 21, 2005) LOS ANGELES—Assuming that, indeed, everybody does love Raymond, and given that, over the course of nine years, there have been a couple hundred episodes, it stands to reason that somebody is going to love some Raymonds more than everybody else loves others.  With Everybody Loves Raymond preparing to pull its own plug in a couple of months, the network and producers will try to ease our separation anxiety by re-presenting the five most popular episodes, based on audience Internet votes.  An online ballot listing 15 best-loved Raymonds, as pre-selected by producer Phil Rosenthal, is already up at, complete with short clips and plot descriptions of each of the contenders. You have until Sunday to register your vote.  The fifth most popular episode will air the following evening, and so on through Monday, March 28, with the airing of the Everybody Loves Raymond that everybody who loves Raymond loves the most.  Two fresh episodes at the beginning of May will herald the end, an hour-long retrospective and regular-length finale, airing back-to-back on May 16.  Last month, the entire Raymond cast, assembled for the press for one last time just before shooting that final episode, shared some of their own favourite series moments.  "I'm very fond of a number of episodes," allowed Peter Boyle, a.k.a. the cranky Barone family patriarch, Frank — "most of which I can't remember because I'm trying to learn this week's show.  "We just did a couple ... one called `Boys Therapy,' and the other called `Taste This, Frank.' Also one called `Grandpa Steals.' And we did one where Doris (Roberts) drives the car into Ray and Patty's living room ... (my) favourite entrance of all time."  "I loved the one in which I did the sculpture," countered Roberts. "I thought that was wonderful. I thought the one about Ray's diary, that he wrote when he was 14, was a great one. And I loved when I went to the FBI to kill any possibility of Brad (Garrett) getting that job."  Garrett, of course, has his own unique memories of playing the sad-sack sibling, Robert.  "There's been many times in life that I've been chased by a bull," the actor deadpanned. "That was one of my favourites. I'll never forget ... Phil (Rosenthal) gives me a little heads-up three days before. `How fast can you run?, ` he asks me. And I said, `Look, you know, being 6-foot-8, if I could run, I wouldn't be doing your show.' And he said, `Well, come to the back lot ...' And there was this bull.

"And I'm, like, `How do I know the bull won't get me?' And the guy, the bull wrangler, says, `Don't worry about it. The bull is drugged. Actually, we've got to hook this little twister up to his tail to even get him going at all. So when I know you're nine lanes ahead, I'll just zap the bull, and you'll be fine.'  "I remember running, and this bull was just, like, `Wow. Who am I chasing? The big dude?' That was a fun episode.  "I love the episodes where Robert tries to find that niche, who he is. He joins a cult, he does this ... And I love the episode where Patty (Heaton) can't get the turkey in the oven. And the one where Doris comes up behind Ray and starts caressing him, and he thinks it's Patty."  Again, this is very much a mutual-admiration society — one of Heaton's all-time favourite episodes focuses on Garrett.  "I've always loved the one where Brad takes his little Timmy the Cop dummy out and does a little ventriloquist show because we found out in that episode that at one time Frank and Marie left him behind at a truck stop," she said. "I love that episode. It's always endeared me to Brad's character.  "I liked all the (ones) where Ray and I got to do physical stuff. This season, he threw me up against a refrigerator, which was just hilarious ... and all the holiday ones with toasters and turkeys, that kind of thing ..."  Finally, it's Romano's turn. "I liked the PMS episode," he shrugged. "That's a big favourite. And I like the one, `Talk To Your Daughter,' where we think the daughter wants to learn about where babies come from, but she actually wants to know why babies exist at all. I thought we did great things with that.  "But if I had to pick one —and I don't want to — but the one that stands out is the flashback to how we met. That was fun to play, just all of a sudden be playing two single people who ..."  "Liked each other," interjected Heaton.  "Yeah, yeah. Not in love, but falling in like almost."  "That, and you got to knock me out with a refrigerator."  "I got to knock you out, yeah."

"All good — I like all those," jumps in creator/writer Rosenthal, a fellow Queens native who, ethnic origins aside (he's Jewish, Romano is Italian Catholic), shares his star's sensibilities, comic voice (almost literally) and bemused world view.  "Some of the ones that came from my direct experience are going to hit me maybe a little more," he said. "The toaster episode, that really happened to me. The kid who goes in front of the class and tells the story of the `angry family,' that happened to us. My kid actually did that. The pilot, with the fruit of the month, that happened ...  "I've been able to work out my `mishegas' (Yiddish for `craziness') on TV. So thank you for listening.  "We've done 210 (episodes) when all is said and done. And I think this (last) show we're going to film on Friday is as good as anything we've done. I'm very proud of it. And I'm very proud of these people. I'm very proud of the fact that I can watch the episodes and not cringe. There's no bad ones. It's all good."  But there is one particular story arc they all agree was singularly life-changing and memorable — the Barone family's (and thus the cast's) visit to Italy. Ironic, given that both Rays, the real-life Romano and the fictional Barone, were actually dead set against taking the trip.  "That was quite an experience," Romano now acknowledges. "Art imitating life or vice-versa, whatever you want to call it, me falling in love with these people and the culture ...We lived that episode."  "For me," added Rosenthal, "it was a confluence of all the things I love in life — to be with my real family, to be with this extended family, these people I love, doing the work that I love in the place that I love with the food that I love ...  "This is some scam, to get a network to pay for that."




Smith A Superhero; Dunbar Crazy For Fox Drama

Excerpt from

*“Hitch” star Will Smith is developing a superhero drama called “Tonight He Comes,” a project that has reportedly earned a reputation as one of the “best unproduced scripts” circulating around Hollywood. Its dark tone is said to have scared some studio execs away. The story centres on a depressed, bored superhero who drinks, smokes and sleeps around.  He develops a newfound purpose in life when he is drawn to a married woman. Smith is teaming up with director Jonathan Mostow ("Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines") to make the project happen. They are in early negotiations with "Hitch" distributor Columbia Pictures.

*Rockmond Dunbar, who starred as Kenny on Showtime’s “Soul Food,” has been cast opposite Adam Goldberg and Chris O’Donnell in Fox’s untitled drama about crazy lawyers.  O'Donnell plays a successful lawyer who has a nervous breakdown and teams with a mentally disturbed lawyer (Goldberg) with anger issues. Dunbar will play a psychiatrist.




MTV Launches In Sub-Saharan Africa

Excerpt from

(Feb. 23, 2005) *MTV held a formal “switch-on” ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa Tuesday to celebrate the launch of its first pan-African music television channel MTV base. An audience of 1.3 million households in sub-Saharan Africa was greeted with a specially-composed rap by Xzibit when the switch was flipped at 20:00 hrs Central African Time.  The 24-hour MTV base channel is programmed to appeal to young Africans aged 15-34, with contemporary music content that transcends national borders. The network will broadcast urban music genres and artists from across the whole African continent, as well as artists from around the world, in a unique editorial mix aimed at providing equal exposure for grassroots African and international music talent.  "MTV base as the company's 100th channel worldwide is the most anticipated launch in our history -- it's our first dedicated African service and takes MTV's global footprint to every region of the world," commented Bill Roedy, President, MTV Networks International. "MTV base celebrates the diversity of vibrant music culture across Africa, while offering rich, creative inspiration for MTV's global network."  Roedy attended the formal “switch-on” party, as did Alex Okosi, General Manager, MTV Networks Africa; Nolo Letele, CEO, MultiChoice Africa; and African artists Lebo Mathosa, 2 FACE and Zamajobe. Commented Alex Okosi: "MTV base is designed to celebrate African artists and music, and the music that the young people of Africa love. In keeping with the pan-African remit of the channel, the music policy for MTV base will showcase the creativity and diversity of contemporary music in Africa, giving an international platform to African genres such as Kwaito, Hip-Life, Mbalax and Zouk and putting African artists in the spotlight alongside their international peers."  As part of MTV Networks' global commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS, MTV base will feature programming from the worldwide Staying Alive initiative - including documentaries highlighting stories of young people affected by the epidemic from South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Cote d'Ivoire. Yesterday, MTV base debuted the Save the Humans campaign, a series of four public service announcements (PSAs) airing globally on MTV channels that features a cast of animal characters that have gathered to discuss the global threat of HIV/AIDS.







d'bi young: Spellbinding No Matter How You Spell It

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rita Zekas

(Feb. 19, 2005) d'bi young is a unique talent.  She is a show stopper in `da Kink in My Hair at the Princess of Wales Theatre even though no one in the audience can understand a word she is saying.  OK, a slight exaggeration. If you speak Jamaican patois, you're in the loop. young is a dub poet from Jamaica and you are not.  When she stands up there in her little pleated skirt and delivers her monologue as young schoolgirl Stacey-Anne, relating the horrific tale of being sexually abused by her stepfather, the audience is spellbound.  Kink is set in Novelette's hair salon, where the local women come and let their hair down. The show has been so embraced by Toronto audiences, it has been held over until March 13 and may very well be extended again.  Jamaican-born young is just 28 and new mother to 9-month-old son moon, who is never far from her at the theatre.  She is over the moon about moon, whose name had nothing to do with Frank Zappa.  "I named him moon because of the necessary balance with feminine energy, its relationship with the sea and moon," she explains, in regular English. "I felt like I named the child years ago; I wanted a child a long time ago."  If her child were a girl, she would also have named her "moon."  Her mother named her Debbie, in the conventional spelling, after two friends — one flamboyant, the other a bookworm — but young adapted it to its present spelling herself.  "I changed it a couple of years ago," she says. "The spelling `d'bi' reminds me of Africa, the African phonetics."  young came to Canada when she was almost 16. She studied English literature at McGill and theatre at Concordia. "I come from a storytelling family," she explains. "My mom is one of the premier poets in Jamaica. I started theatre school at 5 years of age and did dub poetry at 13."

Stacey-Anne's Jamaican patois was originally written by trey anthony, the author of Kink.  "What you hear is a translation and what I do depends on the audience every night," young explains. "I will translate the piece so people will understand. I'll round out different sounds, but the monologue is so committed to my body, that I can do it on the sly. Sometimes the decision won't be made until one-third of the monologue.  "I'll make the choices to make the story understandable and true to this woman, who is Jamaican-born and but raised in Canada so she slips back into the language. It gives me room to play without discrediting Stacey-Anne. What they don't get linguistically, they understand emotionally."  A monologue on child abuse is emotionally wrenching, she concedes. But it is also empowering.  "Each night, it is really a transformative experience for me," young insists. "It's so honouring of women. The piece allows me to come through the journey even where Stacey-Anne is not safe. The audience expects me to carry them and I expect them to carry me. I am cradled always by the audience; I have never felt left out or unheard.  "The audience understands what it means not to have a voice and be robbed of your innocence through a lover or friend. In the monologue's transition to pain, there is solidarity and the theatre becomes a village where everyone is related. The experience unifies people in an emotional and spiritual way."  That said, young acknowledges that she experiences a frisson of fear every time she delivers the monologue.  "The newness and rawness of the material make it a fearful event but I've seen how I've grown and changed: I continue to work on the process of becoming a storyteller. There is an air of risk and that's necessary. At the end, there is a catharsis, an incredible journey. It would be different if we left her there but we heal, man."  young also plays the role of Claudette, who is diametrically opposed to Stacey-Anne. Claudette is Novelette's niece and supposedly helping out in the shop. She is sexy, sassy and flamboyant. Stacey-Anne has a shaved head; Claudette is a bold and brassy blonde, sucking on a lollipop and dispensing attitude along with shampoo. A man magnet.  "I love Claudette," young laughs. "She is my alter ego. That's who I would be if I stayed in Jamaica. She's incredibly in touch with her sexuality — a dance hall queen in touch with her body. Claudette would be happy in a dance hall, not being a hair washer in a salon."  The lollipop was a piece of business director Weyni Mengesha came up with. When young put the wig on her shaved head, the character fell into place. But something was missing.  "I was really missing my mouth," young says. "Claudette is very oral. Could I have some gum?"  "You so need a lollipop," Weyni said.

The shaved head has become young's signature. "I had dreads for awhile but I've had a shaved head for five years. I shaved my head because I had self-esteem stuff and needed a little bit of a kick in the ass. One day I said, `This shit has got to go. I'm hiding behind it.'  "When I shaved my head, people were calling me `sir.' If you're not super feminine with earrings and makeup, people will think you are asexual. Or I'm a lesbian or butch. I really dig it; I like how people treat me. I find people take me really seriously without me saying anything. I enjoy being bald and trey worked it into the play."  In the sitcom Lord Have Mercy, young, who was then billed as Debbie Young, played another schoolgirl, Crystal. But the only thing she shared with Stacey-Anne was her baldness.  "I was Crystal, who is 16 and thinks she is bisexual," young recalls. "She is crazy, outgoing, rebellious, brilliant and selfish as they come. She writes her own music and wants to be lead in the choir but her idea was to talk about how bad Christianity is. Then she got pregnant and had an abortion. She's not cotton candy." Or a lollipop either.




CanStage's Season To Offer Hope, Hair And Hats

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Feb. 23, 2005) There's hope for CanStage's upcoming season after all. As he announced the Toronto company's nine-play 2005-06 line-up yesterday, a mixture of Canadian, British and American plays featuring three world and four Canadian premieres, CanStage artistic producer Martin Bragg described it as a "season of hope." After the annual TD Dream in High Park in June -- this year's pick is Much Ado About Nothing -- the season kicks off in October with the Canadian premiere of Alan Bennett's bawdy comedy Habeas Corpus, to be directed by Morris Panych, and the belated Toronto debut of Edward Albee's twisted The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? Also on the playbill is the Canadian premiere of Doug Wright's Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play I Am My Own Wife about an eccentric transvestite in postwar Germany, as well as Caryl Churchill's critical hit A Number, a delicate examination of the gender politics and poetics of genetic engineering, first seen in London in 2002. Canadian highlights include the world premieres of Richard Greenblatt's homage to the satirical work of Tom Lehrer, Letters from Lehrer, and Joan MacLeod's Homechild, a personal story told against the historical backdrop of the estimated 80,000 so-called Home Children sent to Canada from Britain between 1860 and 1930. Musical-theatre fans will get their fill of hats and hair this season. From Chicago comes Regina Taylor's musical Crowns, the gospel-tinged story of a group of African-American women as they celebrate their "blessings, their faith and their hats." In an unexpected choice, Bragg also announced that the second musical of the season will be the iconic 1960s musical Hair, with book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, and music from Galt MacDermot. Rounding up the season for a rare 12-week run is the world premiere of Ronnie Burkett's Ten Days on Earth, an "unapologetic story" that celebrates a mother-son relationship against overwhelming odds. "Every single one of these plays speaks about hope," said Bragg. "It's not a light season; it's not an overly heavy season. In all of them, I tried to look at plays that make people think and [will] be an entertaining experience for them so that when they leave the theatre, they leave with a sense of fulfilment and, well, hope."




The Producers Wins Three Laurence Olivier Awards

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Feb. 22, 2005) London -- The Producers produced the goods Sunday at Britain's Laurence Olivier Awards. The West End production of Mel Brooks' raucous comedy also took the best-actor award for transplanted star Nathan Lane. Lane beat co-star Lee Evans to the prize. Conleth Hill, who plays a hapless director forced to take to the stage as a singing, dancing Fuhrer in The Producers, was named best-supporting actor in a musical at the 29th annual awards ceremony. Laura Michelle Kelly was named best actress in the title role of Mary Poppins. Grand Hotel, at the tiny Donmar Warehouse, was named outstanding musical production. Alan Bennett's The History Boys was the big winner in the drama categories, taking three awards. Nicholas Hytner won the best-director prize for the sell-out National Theatre production, while Richard Griffiths -- Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter movies -- was named best actor. AP







We Remember Reggie Roby

Excerpt from

(Feb. 23, 2005) *Former NFL punter Reggie Roby, a 16-year NFL veteran and three-time Pro Bowl selection, died Tuesday after being found unconscious at his Nashville home by his wife. He was 43. The cause of death is unknown, a hospital statement said.  Roby was a sixth-round pick in 1983 out of Iowa by the Miami Dolphins, where he played from 1983-92. He also played for the Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Houston/Tennessee Oilers and San Francisco 49ers, where he spent his final season before retiring in 1999. He led the AFC in 1991 with an average punt of 45.7 yards, and he still holds the Pro Bowl record with 10 punts in the 1985 game.







Allen West -- Fine Dining Returns to Harlem

Excerpt from - By Deardra Shuler

(Feb. 22, 2005) There is no doubt that Harlem is undergoing revitalization and a return to the time of glamour when Harlem was the hot spot of Manhattan and indeed the world. The “Harlem Grill,” a new restaurant/supper club has brought class and panache back into the community.   The supper club stands where once stood the famed landmark restaurant “Wells,” located at 2247 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (bet 132-133rd Street).  The “Harlem Grill” however has given the former Wells a facelift and brand new personality, one reminiscent of bygone days but clearly exists in the now in terms of its elite dinning innovation. This skillful revamping of style and taste is a return to the era of chic, romance and fine dining.   The restaurant is the brainchild of Allen West who is determined to keep the spirit of the legendary Wells alive while still maintaining his own èlan and flair to what unquestionably provides an aura of charm, sensuality and uniqueness within a cozy atmosphere.  36-year-old restaurateur and entrepreneur Allen West, was born a border baby in Harlem Hospital, where he remained for 13 months. He was adopted by Sam and Viola Dupree and lived with them for 7 years until his mother reclaimed him and raised him in the South Bronx. Economic circumstances having changed, at age 15, West began his first job at Sammy’s Fish Bar in City Island as a bus boy. The job exposed him to the restaurant business and eventually propelled him into entrepreneurship. The ambitious teenager ran a hotdog stand at 16 and sold ice cream on the beach. After obtaining a business degree and also studying theatre at UC Santa Barbara and St. Francis, Mr. West opened his first restaurant, “Kwanza,” in Soho.  He operated it for 3 1/2 years.  He then went on to aid others in opening restaurants -- one among them was Puffy’s restaurant Justins.  West, also, managed the Boathouse Café and the Red-Eyed Grill.  The Red-Eyed Grill was the 14th highest grossing restaurant in the country.  He met his current partner and executive chef, 35-year-old Tyson Jordan, while working at the Red-Eyed Grill. 

Tyson, an experienced chef, had honed his craft with the likes of Cajun chef Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans and renowned American chef-restaurateur Charlie Palmer.   “The faire served at Harlem Grill, is New American cuisine with an emphasis on seafood,” explained Allen. “Our signature dishes to date are our Clay pot Red Snapper which is unbelievable. We also feature Merlot braised short ribs that fall off the bone. Our rock shrimp appetizer with an apricot curry sauce has become quite popular.  Of course, our dishes will change with the seasons. We also have a hand picked global wine list featuring 12 different champagnes and popular wines from various countries.  We are including fresh puree fruit at the bar.” Allen West honours the history of what was once Wells. “I want to keep the spirit of the place.  There is a lot of history and tradition reflected in this space,” states the young restaurant mogul. “Wells restaurant opened up in 1938 and closed its doors in 1999.  Initially, Joe Wells found the first two years tough but through determination held on.  He was a young African American man from the South and one of a few black restaurant owners in Harlem at the time. Many places were white-owned but often the artists who performed for these white restaurants were black.  Yet, they were unable to eat at the establishments where they performed,” explained Allen.  “Joe Wells came up with the concept of chicken and waffles because it was too late to eat dinner and it was too early for breakfast.  Therefore, he combined the two mediums so when artists like Billie Holliday, Lena Horne, and Duke Ellington came to his restaurant, he had the combination chicken and waffle dinners for them. It became a big hit.  His restaurant having been one of the few in town open late made Wells a phenomenal hit for decades.  It was very upscale and glamorous in the ‘40s and ‘50s. By the 1960s and ‘70s, Wells was featuring big bands on Monday nights. This brought a whole new revitalization.  Unfortunately, toward the end it got rather drab with only the chicken and waffles and the Monday night band remaining as its main attraction.  However, Joe Wells had a great run.  Restaurants traditionally go out of business in the first year or 2.  The man did north of 60 years and that is a great feat.  It marks 30 more years than Sylvia’s longevity, so it’s a true Harlem landmark” commented the new owner. “However, as things develop, I see there is room for a lot of amenities in Harlem.  This is the next hot neighbourhood.”  West’s future vision for Harlem Grill is to see it become a great 2 Star boutique supper club.   “Harlem Grill is an experience. It is a restaurant, it’s a supper club, it’s an art gallery, it’s a place to meet and greet people who are in the fields of entertainment, high finance, politics, etc. Eventually, I even plan dinner theatre” claims the young visionary.  “We are having a gospel Sunday brunch, a blues night on Monday with real old grimy, traditional barnyard blues with a great band featuring Mike Campbell and up and coming Blues singer Acantha Lang.   Every Tuesday night we will have industry night where signed artists come to perform prior to their CD release.  Violinist Marie Ben Arie will be appearing on February 22nd and Tsiddi Le Loca, the South African artist from the Lion King, will be doing a one-woman show for us in March.  Once a month on the first Thursday of each month, we plan to do a ‘70s Explosion with a gentleman named Butch Purcell and Vaughn Harper from WBLS. We had the Intruders perform recently and plan to have Gerald Isaacs in March and Ray Goodman and Brown in April.  One never knows who or what to expect at the Harlem Grill,” declared the charming restaurateur. In keeping with the Wells tradition, West is considering serving chicken and waffle dinners on Fridays and Saturday nights at midnight and then as a Sunday brunch. The Harlem Grill is a multi-media space designed to draw an eclectic clientele and therefore has even attracted an international crowd.  “We have had events with Steven Van Zandt from the Sopranos, music powerhouse Alicia Keys, a political fundraiser for David Patterson and events for Lloyd Williams.  These events drew people like Andrew Cuomo, Charles Rangel and Mark Green.  We are planning a dinner for Magic Johnson in March.  We offer valet parking; have a doorman, 2 bartenders, 6 waitresses, 2 managers, and a hostess. Most of the staff is caring, talented people who we hired with an emphasis on great personality.”

2700 square feet, cooper tin ceilings, amber lights, candelabras, antique mirrors and leather pleated walls make up the ambiance of the Harlem Grill. Carlos Jimenez designed and custom built most of the interior and furnishings. Eli Kince provided the art.  Seating is comprised of 12 barstools, 70 seats, a 20-seat lounge and a stage, which is also used for VIP seating.  Most of the key management is made up of African Americans who live in Harlem.  “Our focus is on tremendous service with an eye toward eventually securing a number of Harlem Grill’s nationally and internationally” said the single father of one son.   A humanitarian, West is planning to put together a non-profit organization that will serve as a hospitality placement program for at risk kids who will be trained in the restaurant business and placed in jobs. “As black people we have to start believing in each other, investing in one another and giving back.  It doesn’t make any sense if we don’t.   “This is my time in the sun,” remarked West.  “I am at peace in my life now and I really believe in what I am doing.  I believe in myself and I believe in the success of the Harlem Grill.” 







Great 20-Minute Workout!

By Michael Stefano, Special for eFitness

(Feb. 21, 2005) Surveys reveal that most people are aware that exercise and sensible eating are good for them, but still can’t stick to a workout routine and nutritional plan for more than a month or two. The dropout rate at four to six weeks is over 90 percent. Without some type of intervention, the average man or woman over age 30 packs on about five pounds of fat per year.  It’s estimated that 50 or even 60 percent of our society is considered medically overweight. Insulin insensitivity, diabetes, coronary artery disease, hypertension, kidney failure and stroke all plague the obese. There is also a mounting body of evidence that connects excessive body fat with certain types of cancer, most likely the result of an overworked immune system.  The Centers for Disease Control reports each year there are more than 300,000 preventable, obesity related deaths in this country alone.  But long, arduous workouts that place unrealistic demands on your time and energy may not be the answer. This is especially true when strenuous exercise is combined with extreme diets that restrict food choices. You need to develop a realistic approach to fitness and weight loss.  You stand a much better chance at succeeding with an exercise program that calls for a relatively small investment in time (just 20 or 30 minutes, three days per week), doesn’t sap your energy reserves, and is backed up by a sensible, easy-to-follow meal plan.

Here's one of my favourite quick, effective workouts:

Do two sets of each of the following exercises. Rest from one to two minutes between each set. Shorter rest between sets will promote more fat burning, while longer rest will tend to create more strength and muscle. Repeat the entire workout twice or three times each week, but allow at least 48 hours between workouts. Use the Intensity Booster provided with each exercise to enable yourself to hit muscle fatigue at the recommended repetition range.

Squat With Dumbbells
Start out by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart holding dumbbells at your sides. Hold the head straight while you maintain the natural arch in your back, knees soft. Inhale as you bend at the knees and hips to a sitting position or as low as you can comfortably go without pain or discomfort. Allow the arms to swing forward for balance.

Your buttocks never drop below the level of your knees, and your knees do not extend beyond the toes. Exhale, slowly rising to a standing position with knees and hips straight, allowing the arms to drop back to your sides. Ideally, select a resistance level (body weight or dumbbells) that enables you to hit muscle fatigue in the 12 to 20-repetition range.

Intensity Booster: Hold dumbbells (as shown), but if you don't have access to free weights, simply perform this exercise at a slower pace to increase intensity and overall results. Squat down to a slow count of eight, and back up to a slow count of four.

Classic Push-Up or Modified Push-Up
Lie face down on the floor or mat, hands on the floor, palms down, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and toes curled under on the floor. Your back and legs are straight. Exhale as you slowly straighten your arms and push your body away from the floor. Inhale, lowering yourself back down to the point where your chest comes within a few inches of the floor. Repeat to muscle fatigue (in the range of 15 to 20 repetitions).

Intensity Booster: Elevate the feet on a step or bench (while your hands remain on the floor) to increase intensity. To reduce overall intensity, perform the Modified Push-Up instead of the classic version.

Modified Push-Up
Everything remains the same as in the regular push-up, except the knees are bent and remain on the floor throughout the movement instead of the feet. Repeat to muscle fatigue (in the range of 15 to 20 repetitions).

Leg Raise
Lie supine on a mat or padded carpet, legs straight, both hands under your buttocks to help maintain the proper pelvic tilt (engages abs). With your head held off the floor a few inches, exhale and slowly bring your knees to your chest. If necessary, support your head and neck with a folded towel. Inhale as you straighten your legs (make sure you keep the lower back pressed firmly into the floor), then return to the starting position. Repeat to muscle fatigue (in the range of 20 to 30 reps).

Intensity Booster: Kicking the legs straight out and near the floor will increase intensity (as shown), while kicking higher up, and away from the floor will reduce it.

So what happens if you don’t exercise? Sedentary and out of shape, your body will biologically age about twice as fast as your active identical twin.

The American Medical Association lists inactivity as a primary factor for biological aging and the development of many age-related disorders such as high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In the U.S. alone, osteoporosis, or low bone density, threatens half the population aged 50 and older. According to figures released by the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 44 million Americans (30 million of which are women) are currently affected by this debilitating disease.  Aging is also associated with a loss of lean muscle mass. Less muscle translates into ever decreasing strength, balance and coordination as you age. Allowing the body to work against a progressively challenging level of resistance, on a regular basis, can interrupt the process of wasting away bone and muscle tissue, the very definition of aging.  Medical science, as well as most physicians, has largely overlooked the remarkable effect resistance training, or weight lifting, can have on health and longevity. Training with weights has traditionally been seen almost exclusively as a way to achieve muscular strength, endurance and athletic prowess. Doctors have all but ignored the effect resistance training has on functionality, especially as we age.

The ability to take part in simple, everyday activities is what maintains independence, vitality and a lust for life. A few properly performed resistance movements, done two or three days per week, will stave off the ravages of old age as you head toward your Golden Years. You’ll never be forced to give up life’s daily activities. Lift heavy packages, run for the bus, climb stairs, play tennis or do anything else your healthy heart desires.  The process of deterioration can start in our mid-20s and continues throughout life. With the passage of every sedentary year, your body will lose more and more of its lean muscle mass (a combination of muscle and bone). And that’s only half the story. As you drop off muscle your metabolic requirements are reduced, and your body begins to store this extra, unused fat.  Suddenly 10 years pass, you’re 50 pounds overweight and don’t have the energy to get out of bed. But it’s not too late to halt the process! A solid strength routine can be started at any age. A set of dumbbells, resistance bands or even body weight can provide all the resistance you need to get big results.  If you’ve never trained with weights, start slowly. Get some comprehensive instruction from a reliable source, such as a professional trainer. Educate yourself on the different approaches to weight training and you’ll automatically gravitate to one that’s right for you. Get ready to enjoy the transformation.








The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.




College Street Bar  
574 College Street (at Manning)  
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French.




Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.
10:00 pm
EVENT PROFILE: Monday nights at IRIE continue their tradition.  Carl Cassell’s original art and IRIE itself will be featured in the January 2005 issue of Toronto Life!  It’s no surprise to me that Toronto Life has chosen Carl Cassell, in their quest to reveal those restaurants that also offer the unique addition of original art.  Let Irie awaken your senses.  Irie Mondays continue – food – music – culture.




Revival Bar  
783 College Street (at Shaw)  
10:00 pm  
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Rich Brown, Joel Joseph and Shamakah Ali with various local artists. 




Trane Studio
964 Bathurst St.
First set kicks off at 9:30pm




The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.




College Street Bar
574 College Street (at Manning)
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French




Have a great week!  

Dawn Langfield   
Langfield Entertainment