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NEWSLETTER

Updated:  July 20, 2006

Wacky and hot weather this summer but we certainly can't complain about the sunny weekends!  Coming sooner than you think so check out the line-up for Karnival Komedy Xplosion! This is an opportunity to see some Canadian and global comics - see details below.
 
 Use long distance on your cell but hate the crazy charges?  Want to dial less (phone cards - please!) and save more?  Then
MobileMiser is for you!  From the creator of Lavalife, check out the opportunity below.  I'm a recent convert! 

Lots of Canadian news this week so check out all the categories.  Have a read and a scroll!  Tons of news including Canadian content in MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, THEATRE NEWS, and OTHER NEWS!  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 EVENTSWant to be removed from the distribution, click REMOVE.

 

 

 ::HOT EVENTS::

Debut Sports Presents The Karnival Komedy Xplosion

Source: Debut Sports


Join one of Canada’s fastest rising black comics, Jay Martin as he hosts the Karnival Komedy Xplosion.  Presented by Debut Sports & Entertainment, the show will feature Don DC Curry and Earthquake.  DC Curry is best known for his memorable portrayal of “Uncle Elroy” in the hits Next Friday and Friday after Next and his reign as BET’s comedian of the year. Earthquake attracted fans during his time on the Def Comedy Jam Circuit and BET’s Comic View. 

Special guest hosts include Caribbean comedians Marc Trinidad and Jean Paul. There will be two chances to catch this comedy extravaganza, with shows on Friday, August 4 and Sunday August 6, 2006.

About Debut Sports:

Debut Sports and Entertainment is dedicated to the personal and business service needs of professional athletes and entertainers alike. We specialize in the creation and execution of their events, sponsorship, marketing, endorsements, public relations, speaking engagements and public appearances. We also are dedicated to the marketing and promotion of athletes and entertainers by integrating them into the corporate business world.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 4 and SUNDAY, AUGUST 6, 2006
DEBUT SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT PRESENTS KARNIVAL KOMEDY XPLOSION
**TWO PERFORMANCES**
Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts
5040 Yonge Street
Friday, August 4-, 2006 - 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 6, 2006- 2:00 p.m.
For event information please visit www.debutsports.com
Or call Kirk Brooks at (416) 213-0123 ext 555
To purchase tickets, please visit www.tocentre.com or
www.ticketmaster.ca

 

::TOP STORIES::

Lyriq Bent to Appear in New Lifetime Original Series Entitled, Angela's Eyes

Lifetime Premieres the New Original Series 'ANGELA'S EYES,' a Captivating and Suspenseful Drama About a Young FBI Agent With the Unique Ability of Uncovering Lies Beginning Sunday, July 16

(June 19, 2006) LOS ANGELES -- Lifetime turns up the heat on the bad guys this summer with the premiere of the new drama series
Angela's Eyes, about a tough, young, instinctive FBI agent with the keen ability to expose liars, making her a key asset to the force in solving even its most difficult cases. Abigail Spencer ("All My Children") stars as Angela Henson alongside Lyriq Bent ("Kojak") as Angela's hard-nosed partner Leo, Joe Cobden ("The Aviator") as tech genius Dozer and Rick Roberts ("Kevin Hill") as Gene, Angela's boss and mentor. The series debuts Sunday, July 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT and marks the first drama series order from Lifetime's President of Entertainment Susanne Daniels since joining the company in September 2005.  The series is created and executive produced by Dan McDermott ("The Omen") and executive produced by Academy Award(R) Winners Tom Nunan and Cathy Schulman ("Crash"). Scott Shepherd ("Reunion," "Tru Calling") also serves as executive producer and show runner. ANGELA'S EYES is a production of The Cleary Company and Bull's Eyes Entertainment in association with NBC Universal Television Studio. Emmy(R) Award-winner Michael Watkins ("CSI," "Prison Break," "Smallville") directed the premiere episode.

ANGELA'S EYES centers on Angela Henson (Spencer), a young fearless FBI agent with the exceptional gift of knowing when someone is lying. She honed this skill years after she shockingly found out her "typical" American parents were actually spies -- CIA operatives who gave information to the Eastern Block in Europe -- and are now serving time in prison for treason.

In an attempt to right her parents' wrongs, Angela joined the FBI, the same agency that brought her parents down for their illegal activities. Under the watchful eye of her boss Gene (Roberts), the man who helped capture her mother and father, Angela works with a brilliant surveillance team consisting of her dependable partner Leo (Bent) and gadget guru Dozer (Cobden). In addition to her demanding job, Angela continues to wrestle with the constant attempts by her imprisoned parents Colin (Tony(R) and Drama Desk Award Winner Boyd Gaines, "Contact") and Lydia (Alberta Watson, "24," "La Femme Nikita") to stay in touch and has to deal with her flighty, pathologically lying younger brother Jerry (Paul Popowich, "The L Word"), who continues to maintain the innocence of their parents despite the preponderance of evidence against them. Although Angela's gift of spotting liars is an asset professionally, it's her greatest liability personally as she is unable to trust anyone around her, proving relationships to be more than a little blurry.

Clement Virgo - A Race Story With A Left Hook

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Sean Flinn


(July 17, 2006) HALIFAX — The pugilist is relaxing. On a Sunday morning, 27-year-old actor Rossif Sutherland sits on a bench at Bishop's Landing, a small retail and condominium development at the south end of Halifax's waterfront, the silvery liquid mirror of the harbour stretching out wide before him. Over the previous few days, Sutherland had been shooting some big, intense boxing scenes in his role as Donnie, the protagonist in
Clement Virgo's new film, Poor Boy's Game. Donnie is a 26-year-old white boxer who has been released from jail for beating -- outside the ring -- Earl (played by Halifax actor Corey Bowles), a young black man, nine years earlier and leaving him with severe physical and mental disabilities. Upon his release, he's challenged by an accomplished young black boxer named Ossie (Flex Alexander), a friend of Earl's family.  The role introduced Sutherland to boxing, and to the politics of class and race in Halifax. "I never hit anybody before until I got into that ring," says the half-brother of Kiefer and son of Donald and French actress Francine Racette. "I can relate to Donnie's journey, not the violence." Set in various working-class areas of Halifax, the film uses boxing as a lens on themes such as racism, vengeance, redemption and forgiveness.

*********************************************

Though only in production, the film is already timely for Halifax today. Donnie's from Spryfield, a tough neighbourhood southeast of Halifax's core. As the movie cameras rolled, real-life violence erupted in the community. A business was firebombed and a house was riddled with bullets in an apparent drug-turf war. Many residents in Spryfield allege those crimes were sparked by the shooting of a convicted cocaine dealer in Beechville, a suburb west of the city. It turns out the victim, Wayne Marriott, was a distant relative on his mother's side to Chaz Thorne, a Halifax actor who wrote and is producing Poor Boy's Game with Virgo. And they're also shooting on location in Halifax's north end, where most of Halifax's urban black population resides and where, last year, there was a string of robberies and assaults by teenaged perpetrators, each wearing a single boxing glove. . "People do talk about it on the set," Sutherland says about the assaults, adding that, in such crimes, the races of the accused and the victim come under intense scrutiny, rather than the underlying economic, educational and social conditions that might have had more of an impact on the people involved. Sutherland sees Donnie as a product of such circumstances. "He didn't choose. He just saw red," the actor says. "He was carrying all this anger and didn't know where to put it." But Donnie is worthy of forgiveness and capable of redemption, Sutherland continues: "He certainly has a beautiful, unexpressed romance to him."

Sutherland doesn't look much like his father or his half-brother, Kiefer. His thick hair is darker and curlier. He's got a wider, more square face, evident even under the stubble this Sunday morning. He looks like his own man. And he looks like a fighter. Months out from when cameras started rolling, Sutherland committed to a four-hour-a-day training regimen and trimmed to 182 pounds, "right underneath heavyweight [class]." The workouts included boxing, weight training, Pilates and running. "I used to be a bit chubby," he says with a smile. "But it's easy to do things when there's a good reason." Learning how to box was a "real learning curve" for the young actor, who's appeared in ER and Monk on TV, and in independent films such as I'm Reed Fish and Red Doors. "It's a lot more than extending your arms," he says, simulating a punch. "Your whole body's in motion." At six-foot-five, Sutherland inherited his father's height and lean frame. "I used to almost apologize for being tall," he reveals. He would almost fold himself in to diminish his height, a sensibility he's tapped into for this role. Though Donnie doesn't apologize in words, he's searching for forgiveness after he gets out of jail, particularly from the family of his victim.  "You can't really start over," Sutherland says. "You can only start from where you left off. The only way [Donnie] can move on is to be forgiven by the people who hate him the most."

Ossie, Donnie's nemesis in the ring of redemption, plans to make the fight a "public execution," according to writer-producer Thorne. Earl's father, George (played by Danny Glover), "finally decides that enough is enough in terms of his son being used as an excuse for further violence and to fuel racial tensions between the communities. He decides, after much struggle, that he's actually going to coach Donnie for the fight," Thorne explains. That plot twist took many by surprise. "I remember people would say, 'Well, how the hell does that work?" Thorne recalls. "We have a real issue with forgiveness. We have a real difficult time accepting forgiveness -- that another human being would be capable of forgiving to that extent." The focus on forgiveness has roots in Thorne's own life. "One of the real triggers for me was a first cousin of mine was murdered in Spryfield back in '95," Thorne says. "He was gunned down in a parking lot. The person who did that was black. There was a lot of focus on that."  Poor Boy's Game also deals with the impact of "tribalism," how it can turn personal tragedy into fuel for hatred between two communities. Thorne wants the film to challenge the view that people commit certain acts simply because of their race, forgetting about the conditions in which they live. So does Clement Virgo. "The thing in Canada is the primary question hasn't been about race, it's been about language -- French and English," says the director. "I think we're starting to have the conversation about race. In the [United] States they've been doing it for a long time. That's been their primary conversation."  Having said that, Virgo knows he risks alienating his audience with the topic. But boxing, a sport that has lent itself well to film and has a long history in Halifax, will offer viewers another way into the story. "Boxing is a poor boy's sport," he says. "There are a lot of working-class communities in and around Halifax, and people sometimes fight their way out of communities."

One example of that is Kirk Johnson fighting his way from the predominantly black community of North Preston, near Halifax, to the global stage of the 1992 Olympic Games and renown as a professional heavyweight boxer. Still, even after launching a successful career in the ring, Johnson was pulled over by police countless times, and even had a car he was riding in impounded. He complained of racial profiling, and in a 2003 ruling, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission agreed with him. Then there's David Downey, the one-time Canadian middleweight champion from Halifax's north end, and subject of Robert Ashe's 2005 book Halifax Champion -- Black Power in Gloves. Downey trained at the fabled Creighton Street Gym back in the sixties and seventies, around the corner from one of the film crew's locations on Maynard Street. Thorne gave copies of the book about Downey to members of the cast. "You couldn't ask for a better primer on boxing and race relations than that book," he says. Ashe, who now lives in Ottawa, says he'd love for his book and for films like Poor Boy's Game to contribute to social change in Halifax. "I think this period of exposure is probably good for the city," he says. And perhaps Sutherland's portrayal of Donnie will help a kid decide not to give in to anger and violence. For now, though, Sutherland just wants to prove that he can play this role and help make the film work. Early in his career, he taught himself how to stay standing when "all these things were landing on me." That knack helped him get through the gruelling training and filming of fight scenes at the gym. "The best of me comes out when I'm overwhelmed," he says. Maybe the same can be said for this old port town.

Greetings From Your New President - Message from Will Strickland

Source:  www.umac.ca

(July 17, 2006) It is my distinct honour and privilege to take the reins at UMAC for the next three years. Though I have been elected President, I am a complementary player, just trying to help my team win. We are not here to make promises that we cannot deliver upon. We are here to win!

One of our prime objectives focuses on continuing to grow brand recognition and brand loyalty for the Urban Music Association of Canada. We have to eliminate the notion that UMAC is really the "Urban Music Association of Toronto", as this country has a wealth of undiscovered talents whose voices are as vital and important as those in the Greater Toronto Area. We all must take the initiative to erase any provincial differences, whether it be between Ontario and Nova Scotia or at the 49th Parallel, to make this organization truly a national one, and then on to a globally-recognized entity.

UMAC will seek to create long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with corporate partners, as well as with applicable government agencies to ensure that the future of the association is bright and healthy.

Last, but certainly not least, we are looking to increase our active membership across this great nation. There is no room to complain if you are not involved.

So, I ask you: What is your role? To sit back, apathetically pointing fingers, criticizing at distance and complaining about what can or should be done? Or will you be proactive instead of reactive to make UMAC stronger each day? To be sure, I choose the latter.

Will you?

Consider It Done,
Will Strickland

::MUSIC NEWS::

Those Were The Days: From Jamaica To Toronto's Cast Of Characters

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

They all grew up with the music club culture in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where, in the late '50s and early '60s, the frantic rhythms of ska had given way to the mellower rocksteady beats, which then fused with classic American soul.  They would bring it here, to Toronto, and for a brief, fertile time, cross-pollinate their various talents in a soul sound that had never been heard here before — or since. A summary of the players you'll see tonight — and a few you won't — and their various allegiances:

Jay Douglas: From Montego Bay. Came to Canada in 1963. Was recruited as a teenager, out of the schoolyard at Central Tech High School, to sing lead for the Cougars.

Jimmy Wisdom and Bob Williams: From Montego Bay. Wisdom was a former child star in Jamaica. He came to Canada in 1967 with Bob Williams, forming Bob and Wisdom.

Everton "Pablo" Paul: From Montego Bay. Played drums with the Cougars, with Bob and Wisdom, and on Wayne McGhie's Sounds of Joy LP.

Al Isen: From Montego Bay. Came to Canada in 1967. Drummer with Jo-Jo and the Fugitives, who encouraged Bob and Wisdom to come that year.

Lloyd Delpratt: Well-established in Jamaica before coming to Canada in 1967, Delpratt played at Studio One with a young Bob Marley and the Wailers, and with Jackie Mittoo, a founding member of the Skatalites, who also came to Toronto later on. Also played with Wayne McGhie.

Terry Lewis: From Montego Bay. Bass player with the Cougars.

Earl Heedram, a.k.a. The Mighty Pope: Born in Jamaica, raised in Canada, Heedram fronted one of the first bands to settle in Toronto, the Sheikhs, in 1964. He would later sing for the Hitchhikers, and survive into the disco era with singles like `Heaven on the 7th Floor' and "Sweet Blindness."

Wayne McGhie: From Montego Bay. A seminal singer-songwriter on the Toronto scene, McGhie would play guitar for Jo-Jo and the Fugitives, the Hitchhikers, and many others, including his own solo project. Now in ill health, McGhie will not be performing tonight.

Jo-Jo Bennett: From Kingston. Travelled to Montreal with the Dragonaires for Expo '67, and stayed behind in Toronto, first playing with the Cougars before forming Jo-Jo and the Fugitives.

Lynval "Eddie" Spencer: From Montego Bay. Spencer came to Toronto in 1964, touring as the frontman for the Sheikhs. He rapidly ascended in the music world, cutting records in Motown and eventually joining the jazz-rock group Lighthouse. Spencer retired from music in the early '70s, citing health problems. Currently a preacher in rural Ontario, he won't be appearing tonight.

Jackie Mittoo: From Kingston. After several years as music director at Studio One in Jamaica, Mittoo came to Toronto in 1968, playing keys with the Sheikhs, the Skatalites and a host of others until his death in 1990.

The Soul Survivors

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Murray Whyte, A&E Reporter

(Jul. 15, 2006)
Bernie Pitters, long, grey-tinged dreadlocks trailing from the cream-coloured knit cap on his head, looks up from his keyboard and winces slightly. "People, I don't mean to be rude," he says, raising his voice a little. "But we have a big workload so can we get it into gear, please?"  Pitters, a veteran musician and producer on Toronto's reggae scene, is no stranger to wrangling loose, chatty musicians into focused rehearsal sessions. But this group is different. Different, perhaps, than any other he's ever worked with.  There's Terry Lewis, Everton "Pablo" Paul and Jay Douglas, all in their 50s, who played bass, drummed, and sang, respectively, in the late 1960s Toronto soul group the Cougars.  There's Jimmy Wisdom and Bob Williams, both near 60, who performed back then as Bob and Wisdom (Paul played drums on their records, too). Al Isen, 54, the drummer for yet another Toronto group, Jo-Jo and the Fugitives. And Lloyd Delpratt, who played keys with them all.  They all came to Toronto from Jamaica as young musicians in the late '60s, before reggae was born, when American soul and Jamaican rocksteady were fusing in the clubs of their hometown Montego Bay. Together with soul acts like the Sheikhs, the Hitchhikers and Jackie Mittoo, they coalesced into one of the most thriving scenes in Toronto's music history.  They haven't seen one another in decades. Some haven't played or sung a note — in public, anyway — for just as long. But earlier this week, in the basement of Paul's house near St. Clair Ave. W. and Bathurst St., a long-silent sound of Toronto was resurrected.  The mild urgency of Pitters' call to action is fitting: Tonight at Harbourfront Centre, joined by Earl Heedrum (aka The Mighty Pope), they return to the stage together for the first time in more than 30 years. The occasion is remarkable, and until recently, seemed impossible: the release of Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk and Reggae, 1967-1974, a CD filled with the soul sounds of their near-forgotten Toronto music past. (See today's review page H8.)

The disc comes courtesy of a lot of legwork by two West Coast soul aficionados: Matt Sullivan, who owns the tiny Light in the Attic record label, and Kevin Howe, a Vancouver DJ who goes by Sipreano.  They spent years unearthing rough old recordings that many believed were gone forever, remastered them, and culled 16 tracks that represented the best they had found. So far, so good: Five-star reviews in prominent music magazines across Europe, and a respectable spot at No.4 on the Canadian college charts — all before the album's official release.  Some of the group speak quietly, carefully, of finally grasping the success that eluded them as young musicians, 30 years before. Mention the Buena Vista Social Club, the group of Cuban musicians who found international fame decades after their heyday, and you'll see a knowing smile. "We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain," Isen says.  In the basement, Paul counts off, and the band tears into an uptempo, horn-inflected number. Douglas starts to bob and sway. "Sooner or later, you're going to want me," he sings, in a throaty, classic soul croon. "Sooner or later, you're going to cry."  The sound is pure Motown — think Soul Clan, Sam and Dave, The Isley Brothers — with the subtlest island tinge: the mellowed, rocksteady rhythms, a slight pop to the beat. For a brief, vibrant time, it offered the uptight Toronto of the '60s a glimpse of its cross-fertilized cultural future.  Ahead of its time? Maybe so. The scene vanished nearly as quickly as it was born. By the late 1970s, the creative explosion that was the Toronto/Jamaica live soul scene was gone.  "It was disco that did it," Paul says. "Everybody was playing records in nightclubs all of a sudden, going crazy to this `boom, boom, boom.' Live music wasn't the thing anymore."

Paul played occasional sessions, but by 1980, was out of music for good, running a successful construction business. In 1974, Wisdom opened a barbershop in the Caribbean enclave of Eglinton Ave. W. and Dufferin St., which he still runs today. Williams opened a recording studio in his Toronto basement, and one back home in Montego Bay, where he started spending most of his time.  Delpratt toured with the Platters in Europe in 1978, but came back to find his scene gone. "When I got back, I couldn't get enough. It was over, man," he says. He took to driving a truck delivering auto parts, and later working in a factory, playing small gigs on the side. Only Douglas still performed full time, taking gigs singing on cruise ships, and at five-star hotels in Asia.  Some members of the scene — Wayne McGhie, a guitar player and songwriter who was central to the scene, and Eddie Spencer, a gifted vocalist who sang with the Sheikhs — simply vanished. So it's easy to see why a sudden rebirth has taken some of them off guard.  "I was talking to Everton, and he took me aside and said, `Jay, are you sure this is for real?'" says Douglas, a deep laugh shaking his slight frame. "It's unforgettable, this experience. None of us ever thought it would happen." They could be forgiven for their shock. Clubs like the West Indian Federation, the Zanzibar and the Blue Note — all long since gone — were the centre of a scene focused on live performance. Acts like the Cougars, the Fugitives, the Hitchhikers and Bob and Wisdom had made few recordings. No big record companies ever came calling. Little evidence remained.

But as the years went by, the precious few recordings that did exist found their way into private collections — and onto eBay, where, unbeknownst to their creators, they were fetching hundreds of dollars as collectors' items and rarities.  One of those collectors, a DJ in Seattle called Mr. Supreme, owned a hidden gem: McGhie's Sounds of Joy. Matt Sullivan was perusing his vast collection when he came across McGhie's album, recorded in Toronto 35 years before.  Kevin Howe, a Vancouver DJ, heard from Sullivan soon after. "As soon as he dropped the needle on the groove and heard that drum break on `Dirty Funk'" — a single from the record — "he just lost his mind," Howe says.  Sullivan wanted to find McGhie to reissue the album, and Howe was his first step. Together, they used all their music-world connections, with no results. "You'd type `Wayne McGhie' into music databases and nothing, and I mean nothing, would come up," Howe says.  Sullivan then scoured medical records, phone books; he called barbershops in Caribbean neighbourhoods in Toronto. Nothing.  They searched for almost a year. Then, one day in December 2003, Howe got a call from a friend who had been at a wedding in Toronto. He had met a soul singer, Jay Douglas, who had sung at the event. "He mentioned Wayne McGhie to him, and his eyes lit up," Howe says.  But the problem was far from solved. Douglas hadn't seen McGhie in 20 years. He started calling around, to old friends on the scene with whom he hadn't spoken in years: Paul, who had left music years before; Delpratt, who had played on all of McGhie's records; Wisdom, Isen, Lewis. None knew where he was.  Douglas, meanwhile, discovered that McGhie was still in Toronto, but was in ill health, and was living in an apartment with his sister. Douglas took the two men to see him. "Our hands were shaking," Howe says. "I'd been grooving on his music for years, and to finally meet this mysterious man, whom nobody had heard from in 20 years, was a little overwhelming."  They all sat around the kitchen table, eating a West Indian curry Wayne's sister, Merline, had made for them. On a portable turntable, Sullivan played old 45s from McGhie's Toronto scene heyday that he had brought for him.  "Jay hadn't heard those records in years. Wayne hadn't heard them probably since he cut them," Howe says. "There was some serious emotion in the room, and some tears."

McGhie agreed to have his album, Sounds of Joy, reissued. Douglas arranged for a modest celebration at the Aura Club in North York in January of 2004, where Sullivan and Howe met all the players of the era they so cherished. Along the way to finding McGhie came an epiphany: Why not a whole series, starting with a compilation?  The musicians were open to it. "God bless these guys, man," Isen says. "They've brought back something we never thought we'd see again."  But performing? That was something else. And then, last summer, Karl Mullings, a producer who had worked with them all, died. At the funeral, they gathered again, after so many years apart.  Paul and Douglas got to talking. Douglas was singing that night with the resident band at Snug Harbour in Port Credit. "He said, `Pablo, why don't you come down and play?' So I did. And that's really where it all started," Paul says.  In Paul's basement, Douglas has taken a seat, and Jimmy Wisdom and Bob Williams have taken what amounts to the stage here — a patch of padded broadloom in Paul's neatly appointed, spacious rec room. The band starts into an upbeat number, "Behold," by the Blues Busters, a duo some called the Jamaican Sam and Dave.  Wisdom starts off, with a mid-range vocal groove, when Williams chimes in with a honey-sweet falsetto, the voice of an angel. The pair slips into an old groove, harmonizing at times, riffing off each other at others. The song finishes, and Pitters smiles. "Tight as a whistle, man," he says.  The next day, Wisdom is back at his shop, trimming a young man's hairline with razor-sharp precision. "Life is funny. You do something so long ago, and never think anything about it, you know?" he says. The mention of a tour, with all the old friends on board, across Canada and maybe Europe, brings a broad smile to his face, shrouded in a tidy salt-and-pepper beard.  "This is the last thing I thought was coming. If someone had told me this a month ago, I would have laughed," he says. "When it first came to me, I just smiled and said, `Why is this happening now?' I think of those days, and I wonder. I guess the Almighty didn't want me to make it big at that time.  "Now, it's like I can see it. It's just floating there. More is going to come of this. Something bigger. I can feel it."

The Hidden Jamaican Soul Of Toronto

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(July 15, 2006) Four organ-soaked, heart-pounding notes. A declaration. This is Jamaican music of an entirely different kind. Then a background chorus sings three descending "aaahs" in the most righteous R&B tradition. And when Jo-Jo Bennett comes in belting the opening line of his late-sixties ballad Fugitive Song, his vaguely un-North American enunciation reveals an extraordinary sound from Toronto's past, a sound that has tragically been all but forgotten. For decades, the few Canadian-recorded LPs and 45s by some of Jamaica's greatest have been the purview of only a small number of record collectors. Until now. Jamaica to Toronto: Soul Funk & Reggae 1967-1974, released by small Seattle label Light in the Attic with the help of Vancouver-based music researcher Kevin Howes, is among a growing trickle of new CD compilations and reissued albums unearthing the rare soul of the top Jamaican musicians who arrived in Canada in the sixties and seventies. Jackie Mittoo, possibly Jamaica's most influential pre-reggae keyboardist. Rocksteady icon Alton Ellis. Reggae-soul singer Johnnie Osbourne. They all landed in Toronto. Homegrown Jamaican music, bred from the outdoor sound-system dances and resort clubs, exploded by the sixties. Yet it wasn't an industry. Opportunities were limited. Just as family members looked for work abroad and a fresh start, there was always the pull to leave the island. So as Canadian immigration rules relaxed, many musicians began following relatives and fellow artists. Most had already been well-established in Kingston's and Montego Bay's club circuit and such studios as Duke Reid's Treasure Isle and "Sir Coxsone" Dodd's Studio One. (To reggae fans, these are names from the promised land.) Even for stars such as the singing duo Bob and Wisdom and in-demand studio musicians like keyboardist Lloyd Delpratt, Canada beckoned. And so they came. Jay Douglas was among them, arriving in 1963 and singing with the popular Toronto band the Cougars, which took up residency at the W.I.F. (West Indian Federation) Club and set alight the first Caribana festival in 1967. Today he remains a fixture in Toronto's Jamaican music scene. "I'm from Montego Bay as well as Bob and Wisdom. [Transplanted Jamaican singer] Mighty Pope was from not too far away. A certain discipline was instilled in us with the music, the art, from kindergarten right up through the public-school system. Music was part of the curriculum. In the afternoon, after lunch, we were taken outside under the mango tree, in the open air, and the teachers made us sing. They'd put their ears to our mouths to hear if we were singing in tune.

"Then we were getting the music from the United States because we were at a resort, [music] from Miami. We were exposed to Jackie Wilson, Solomon Burke, Chuck Jackson, James Brown, music from Louisiana . . . way before ska and reggae came. So when we came here, we had that North American influence." "Coming from Montego Bay -- I mean, reggae wasn't invented back then, but we were always into R&B," says Bob Williams of the singing group Bob and Wisdom. Back home, "we played in a nightclub called the Yellow Bird Club. It was primarily supported by tourists. So we were in the [R&B] genre already . . . It was just music. It was after that people started labelling this stuff. We didn't even know what it was . . . It was way before the Rasta thing started happening. We stood and sang on stage with Bob Marley way before he became a dreadlocks." Once in Toronto, many settled into the flourishing Yonge Street and Yorkville scenes, gigging everywhere from Club Jamaica to Ronnie Hawkins' Hawk's Nest to Le Coq d'Or. They might blend a little ska or early reggae into the mix depending on the crowd, but the focus was on R&B, soul and nascent funk, something likely to surprise listeners of the Jamaica to Toronto compilation CD who are expecting early reggae. Lloyd Delpratt, the keyboardist, arrived in 1967 from Kingston, having backed acts such as Marley at Studio One and then working with the Treasure Isle label by joining Tommy McCook and the Supersonics, which was the successor to the seminal ska band the Skatalites. For a reggae fan, it's amazing to hear Delpratt lightly mention these names and recall his time at the centre of the music's creation. But to him, "it wasn't a great big thing. The singers, all of us musicians, were just coming up. Nobody was thought to be bigger than anybody else. We never thought beyond the shores of Jamaica." Leaving the island was a constant option, and Delpratt took up an offer from a club owner to come to Canada. He had been living with some Canadians in Kingston and was less interested in going to the U.S. or Britain. "At the time, I had been with Jamaica's No. 1 band. I had been on television many times with my own little trio. I just felt like I needed something else, a place where I could go and grow, not a place where I'm going to be manipulated. When the guy mentioned Canada to me, I said yes right away." Yet a stigma met them upon arrival. It was relatively easy to get gigs once established in Toronto. But climbing to the next level proved tough.

Drummer Everton Paul, whose recordings are now highly sought after by beat aficionados, explains: "I was talking with Jay Douglas just recently, and I said, 'You know, Jay, we should have left Toronto and went to the U.S.' We might have had a chance. I'm sure race played a part of it. Because in Toronto, they were bringing in American black groups. People were going to see them and buying their records. I said, 'Why can't we be accepted in the same manner? Is it because we're black Jamaicans, and these people aren't ready, or they figure they can't make money off of us?' So we never really had any offers for any deals, any recordings or tours, not even an opening act for a big band that was playing in Toronto." "I'll tell you this story," adds Williams, the singer. "I had bought a house [in Jamaica] for my mother when I was 18 years old. We were not one of those people who were not making good money. We were making very good money in Jamaica. We were actually the highest-paid band in Jamaica, back in Montego Bay with Billy Vernon and Celestials. So when we came here, to be actually called a minority, it was very tough. To this day, I don't deal with it. "But more and more people made us feel at home. And the fact that we came with friends, I wasn't so bad as it could have been." But there was one barrier which particularly stopped the music cold: Radio programmers at the big stations. Take the instance when Bob and Wisdom were peddling their Jamaican gospel-tinged 1972 cover of Mac Davis's I Believe in Music, far superior to the corny hit version of the song at the time. "We actually took it to CHUM, and the guy told me that he wouldn't play it. I said 'Why?' And he said it was the best version he had ever heard, but he wouldn't play it because we were black. Straight up. So we kind of got despondent about it. And we just continued to do a live shows and stuff, you know? We didn't bother with recordings because there was no outlet for it. So it's ironic that after about 30 years, it has made a resurgence," Williams says.

When the sound died along with the Toronto clubs, the Jamaica to Toronto exodus faded in memory. Concerted fans may have heard some stories, but most reggae historians and reissue labels have until now only concentrated on the migration to Britain and the sound-system culture there, or the Jamaican influence on early rap in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Toronto has been a different story. By the eighties, Noel Ellis, Alton's son, was among those creating another phase of purer dub-style Canadian reggae. But the sixties and seventies were about blending into North American genres, rather than the Jamaicans staking their own inalienable claim. Maybe the sound got lost in the fact that it was so heavily into soul and funk, with the island influences woven in more subtly than out-and-out reggae. Or maybe it's because some of the best tracks, such as the Cougars' I Wish It Would Rain (astonishingly matching early dub-like minimalism with an Up on Cripple Creek drum beat) and Wayne McGhie's Here We Go Again (teetering between McGhie's characteristic swagger and an unbridled euphoria) were never released commercially before landing three decades later on the Jamaica to Toronto CD compilation. Or maybe it's because we're really only now catching up to the inventions these great Jamaican-Canadian musicians were laying down. Bob and Wisdom, Jay Douglas, Lloyd Delpratt, Everton Paul and others -- including The Mighty Pope, Noel Ellis and Jo-Jo Bennett -- are playing a free reunion concert tonight at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage from 9:30 to 11 p.m.

Ontario Rock Royalty Lavigne And Whibley Tie The Knot

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Nicolaas Van Rijn, Staff Reporter, With files from Alwynne Gwilt, Linda Nguyen and Star wire services


(Jul. 16, 2006) A sexy red bra, a thong, handcuffs —
Avril Lavigne has everything she needs to begin married life with her singR boi Deryck Whibley — including black knickers with "The Mrs." embroidered in pink.  The Canadian punk singer, famed for her feisty anthem "Sk8er Boi", married her fellow Canadian at a private estate in the California coastal city of Montecito, northwest of Los Angeles, as some 110 invited guests watched the outdoor, non-denominational ceremony.  According to People magazine Lavigne, who was born in the eastern Ontario city of Napanee, was walked down the aisle by her father John to the strains of Mendelssohn's "Wedding March."  The 21-year-old singer wore a Vera Wang gown and carried a bouquet of white roses.  Officially, though, no one is saying anything.  "I cannot comment on the personal lives of our artists," said Lavigne's publicist, Sean Cordner.  But family and friends were told several days ago to book their tickets for yesterday's wedding, which was moved up from Aug. 26 because of increasing media scrutiny.  Whibley, the 26-year-old lead singer of Canadian rock band Sum 41, and a Scarborough native, joined his bride under an awning decorated with white flowers to exchange vows.

After the groom kissed the bride, guests tossed rose petals at the newlyweds as they walked back up the aisle.  The couple, who met some two years ago, were engaged in Venice in June 2005, while Lavigne was on the last leg of her European tour.  Us Weekly reported at the time that the pair began dating in early 2004 and had been friends for several years prior.  About 30 to 40 friends and relatives from the couple's Ontario hometowns made the trip to California.  However, the location remained so secret that guests were picked up from their hotels in late afternoon by a shuttle bus and driven to the estate.  But all should be revealed tomorrow when the celebrity show Entertainment Tonight Canada is scheduled to show some of the 50 wedding photos it has acquired.  The photos, said Entertainment Tonight spokesperson Adrienne Kakoullis, were "selected and approved by Avril herself."  The show acquired the images after a spirited bidding war, perhaps inspired by the $4 million (U.S.) Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are rumoured to have received for their baby photos. Pitt and Jolie are donating the money to charity.  On Friday Lavigne, Whibley — who once was linked to hotel heir Paris Hilton — and their friends participated in a rehearsal; Sum 41 band members, as well as a longtime girlfriend of Lavigne, were among those in the bridal party.  Lavigne received the sexy underwear and handcuffs from friends at a hen party.

"She was excited, but a little embarrassed," an onlooker said of the moment the sexy underwear was presented.  But she may not have much of a chance to put them to use — there's a nursery in the house the couple purchased in the southern California city of Santa Barbara.  Lavigne has been quoted in the past as saying she'd prefer to raise her children in Canada.  Following the wedding, guests enjoyed an outdoor cocktail hour, then sat down to dinner under a tent on the estate.  In contrast to the wedding's all-white theme, the reception had a red theme, including centrepieces of red roses and other flowers.  According to reports, the couple's first dance was to the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris."  The two didn't make much of a secret of their nuptial plans.  In late 2004 Lavigne began sporting a small pink heart-shaped tattoo with the letter "D" on her right wrist.  Whibley began wearing a silver band on his left ring finger earlier this year.  "I've been practising (playing guitar) with it," he told Teen People magazine. "It's fun to mess with the press."  Lavigne has been busy, People magazine reported.  She gave voice to a possum in the animated film Over the Hedge, is working on a third album, and, well, there was the wedding.  That's obviously having some influence on her work.  In May, she told People the new album — following her 2002 Grammy-nominated Let's Go, and 2004's Under My Skin — will have a romantic edge.  "There's going to be some love songs on there," she said. "That's what I feel, so that's what I'm going to end up writing."

Is Jazz Alive And Well, Or Not?

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - J.D. Considine

(July 18, 2006) The final notes of the 20th annual Toronto Jazz Festival had barely died away when it was announced, via a typewritten note taped to the club's door, that the Montreal Bistro had closed for good. Although the news wasn't a complete surprise -- rumours of the Toronto club's impending demise had been circulating at the Vancouver Jazz Festival more than a week before -- it offered a sobering contrast to the glad tidings emanating from Canada's three biggest jazz festivals. In Vancouver, sunny skies and an exceptional line-up drew more than 500,000 people, a record for the 21-year-old festival. In Toronto, ticket sales were up too, but persistent rain reduced crowds at the free events, preventing the festival from topping last year's attendance record of nearly 600,000. Meanwhile, total attendance at the 27th Montréal International Jazz Festival topped two million during the event's 12-day run, marking it as one of the country's biggest and most successful arts festivals of any kind. On the evidence of festival traffic, jazz would seem to be alive and well in Canada. Unfortunately, the closing of the Montreal Bistro argues otherwise. And it's not as if the Bistro hadn't tapped some of that festival momentum. Indeed, its final show -- a performance by tenor saxophonist George Coleman -- was widely publicized and officially part of the Toronto Jazz Festival.

So is jazz alive and well, or not? As is often the case, the truth likely lies somewhere in between. Although Canadian jazz fans are renowned for being great audiences -- "You hear and feel their enthusiasm right away, and I've always loved that about Canadian audiences," bassist Christian McBride says -- like jazz fans everywhere, they are not especially plentiful. How, then, do the big festivals rack up such big numbers? In large measure, it's by including non-jazz events in the festivities. Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, De La Soul, Seu Jorge, Buck 65 and Bonnie Raitt were just a few of the big-name performers who drew fans to the big-city jazz festivals. Indeed, one of the biggest crowds at the Montreal festival, stretching for blocks down rue Ste-Catherine, was for a tribute to Paul Simon; of the 14 artists on the bill, only two (Holly Cole and Jamie Cullum) could be considered jazz artists. Some might sniff that putting so much rock, pop and hip hop into the mix dilutes the impact of real jazz, but it's likely that having a recognizable pop name on the marquee will attract listeners who normally wouldn't give a jazz festival a second thought. Indeed, one of the smartest bookings at any of the festivals was the Vancouver double bill of the Esbjörn Svensson Trio with Seu Jorge. Normally, a jazz piano trio would seem too quiet and cerebral to open for a percussion-driven Brazilian pop act, but E.S.T.'s combination of accessibly melodic playing and electronic effects managed to earn the group a standing ovation. No doubt a few jazz fans were made that night. The other thing that's worth noting about jazz festivals is that, for the most part, they're oriented toward concerts, not club shows, and that format seems much easier for younger listeners to grasp. Old-school jazz clubs like the Montreal Bistro tend to be set up as supper clubs, with food and drink as part of the appeal. That sort of thinking may make sense to a generation who grew in the days of the Copa Cabana, but it's foreign -- and, frankly, a little off-putting -- to those whose idea of a music club is basically an empty space in front of a stage, with a bar to the side. Jazz nightclubs are having a rough time all over, and even New York, generally considered the jazz capital of the world, has seen clubs shuttered. It may simply be that clubs like the Montreal Bistro are dying out for the same reasons touring big bands did. And the industry needs a new business model, perhaps something like the Knitting Factory in New York, or the Ironworks in Vancouver, or the Red Guitar in Toronto, multi-use performance spaces without the jazz-only booking policy.

In the meantime, the heart of the Canadian jazz business will remain tied to the festivals. Already, the festival season runs almost as long as professional baseball, stretching from Toronto's Art of Jazz Celebration in May to the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton in September. Moreover, these events are being staged everywhere from Canada's biggest cities to smaller centres such as Guelph, Ont., and even in the West Kootenays village of Kaslo, B.C. (pop, 1,029). So long as the crowds continue to grow, so will the festivals. But don't expect jazz festivals alone to make the music a year-around attraction. As saxophonist Mike Murley observed, "Toronto has such a great jazz scene all year-round, [but] once the festival ends in Montreal, that's it for jazz for the year." Perhaps they should consider a winter jazz festival?

JAZZ DU JOUR

Here are a few trends noted at the recent big-three jazz festivals:

Africa Rising

Apart from Pharoah Sanders's dashiki, there were few vestiges of sixties Afrocentricity. Instead, we had actual African musicians, with big festival crowds for Senegal's Baba Maal, Mali's Salif Keita and Congo's Konono No. 1.

No More Head

"Head arrangements," in which a combo would play the "head," or melody, then take turns soloing, used to be the norm in jazz. Increasingly, however, younger players avoid that formula, instead reiterating the melody like a mantra (as the Bad Plus does), or placing solo spots within intricate written arrangements (as Michael Bates's Outside Sources does).

No More Hair

Long hair may be coming back in rock, but the chrome dome look is gaining ground in jazz. Among the shaved were: Hilario Durán, Roberto Occhipinti, Esbjörn Svensson, and Coat Cooke of Vancouver's NOW Orchestra.

Jazz Talking

Why pay money for a concert ticket if what you really want to do is chat? But people did, especially in the jazz tent on Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square, which was Canada's most conversational jazz venue.

Surly T.O. Rocker Seeks Glory

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem, TV Columnist


(Jul. 18, 2006) "I hear people calling me the next J.D. Fortune ... J.D. Fortune means nothing to me. He's not my brother. He's not in my family. He could be my friend, but he's not."
Lukas Rossi is holding court poolside at the appropriately opulent "Rock Star mansion" here in secluded Silverlake, wielding a lit cigarette to gesture for emphasis. "I am myself. This is me. And if that's not good enough to win this thing ... see ya in another life. This is an audition, not a competition. All I can do is kill it my own way." Rossi clearly means to distance himself from Fortune, the fellow Torontonian who emerged victorious at the end of last summer's Rock Star series to became the new lead singer of pop veterans INXS. This season's prize is the coveted lead singer role with the newly minted all-star metal conglomerate, Supernova. "If this were INXS, I wouldn't be here," Rossi sniffs. "I'd personally rather live in a shack and lie on my back than be here in the public eye and suck. I'm not here to be a TV star. I'm from the street, brother. This ain't no big to me." Major attitude from a 29-year aspiring rock legend, who looks like a cross between Billy Idol, Prince and Pepe LePew, and whose 15-year professional resumé includes theme songs for cartoon shows and McDonald's commercials. He also fronted his own band, Clevage. And that "street" he's from is in North York — where I gather he was pretty much constantly picked on at school. Which could explain some of this misplaced aggression.

Three weeks into the televised talent hunt — tonight's show airs at 9 p.m. on CBS and Global — Rossi has already started to stir things up among the rockers here at the mansion. He has been particularly hard on the Montreal-born, Vancouver-based Jenny Galt. "As far as I'm concerned," he flatly states, "there is only room for one Canadian here." Galt, also 29, is a tad more gracious. "I don't feel any competitiveness with Lukas," the attractive blond insists. "But I think he does. I think he gets insecure about certain things, and then gets very reactionary. And then he has to deal with the repercussions of what he says. "And so do I, apparently." Truth be told, Rossi is probably right. Even Galt expects that in tomorrow night's elimination round, she may end up in the "bottom three" and be forced to sing for her survival. The general consensus seems to be that the 13 survivors left will eventually be pared down to a one-on-one rock-off between Rossi and the show-stopping, South African-born flower child Goth chick, Dilana Robichaux. She's a tiny, barefoot, multiply-pierced powerhouse, equal parts Janis Joplin, Marianne Faithfull and Bjork.

Four hours earlier, two shuttle buses pull up outside the Price is Right studio at CBS Television City. Fifty critics attending the annual fall previews have been invited into the rarefied Rock Star world, to attend tonight's taping and then party with the principals afterward at the mansion. The judging panel is again anchored by Dave Navarro (Jane's Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers) — when he isn't busy trading barbs and innuendo with returning co-host Brooke Burke. As we take our seats and settle in, handlers carefully prod the rest of the crowd into a responsive frenzy — I have attended dozens of TV tapings, but have never seen a studio audience so thoroughly rehearsed: "Okay now, another `Oooooooh!' Just the girls now. Now again, without the giggles ..." The show's house band takes its place on stage. Then "the rockers" assemble in an alcove, perched on over-stuffed ottomans, nervously awaiting their 90 seconds in the spotlight. Finally, Brooke and the Supernova boys ... The show begins with scenes of recent interaction inside the mansion, with the contenders squabbling over who gets to sing what. "There's nothing better than a good cat-fight or a good bar-room brawl," allows drummer Tommy Lee. "You guys are finally starting to act like rock stars." Watching at home, I had always assumed the judges' comments were edited down after the fact. Turns out that these guys don't have that many words at their disposal.

Some comments will be cut — or at least, partially bleeped. And I can pretty much guarantee that tonight's broadcast version will not include the boys' more candid comments, dissing American Idol and Bon Jovi. Among the contestants, all now seems forgiven, as they gamely cheer each other on. Rossi, fourth up, sings the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" ... and though he later complains about the choice of material, in performance he pretty much nails it. There is an awkward moment afterwards when Navarro accuses him of "arrogance" — in this case, intended as a compliment. Or, in Navarro's words, "absolutely awesome, dude!" Lee will later confess, "Lukas scares me." This, too, is apparently perceived as an asset. And on it goes, intro, song, judges, intro, song, judges, break, touch-up, re-record ... I am, despite the volume, about to nod off when Galt finally takes to the stage as the evening's penultimate act, singing "Drive" by Incubus — and sadly, not very well at all. "You're a little too Lilith Fair," Supernova guitarist Gilby Clarke says, "and what we want is Ozzfest." Later on at the party, Galt is philosophical. "It's a real learning process," she concedes. "I know I've got to start showing it and bringing it. I've just got to get through this next week."


Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem, TV Columnist


(Jul. 18, 2006) "I hear people calling me the next J.D. Fortune ... J.D. Fortune means nothing to me. He's not my brother. He's not in my family. He could be my friend, but he's not."
Lukas Rossi is holding court poolside at the appropriately opulent "Rock Star mansion" here in secluded Silverlake, wielding a lit cigarette to gesture for emphasis. "I am myself. This is me. And if that's not good enough to win this thing ... see ya in another life. This is an audition, not a competition. All I can do is kill it my own way." Rossi clearly means to distance himself from Fortune, the fellow Torontonian who emerged victorious at the end of last summer's Rock Star series to became the new lead singer of pop veterans INXS. This season's prize is the coveted lead singer role with the newly minted all-star metal conglomerate, Supernova. "If this were INXS, I wouldn't be here," Rossi sniffs. "I'd personally rather live in a shack and lie on my back than be here in the public eye and suck. I'm not here to be a TV star. I'm from the street, brother. This ain't no big to me." Major attitude from a 29-year aspiring rock legend, who looks like a cross between Billy Idol, Prince and Pepe LePew, and whose 15-year professional resumé includes theme songs for cartoon shows and McDonald's commercials. He also fronted his own band, Clevage. And that "street" he's from is in North York — where I gather he was pretty much constantly picked on at school. Which could explain some of this misplaced aggression.

Three weeks into the televised talent hunt — tonight's show airs at 9 p.m. on CBS and Global — Rossi has already started to stir things up among the rockers here at the mansion. He has been particularly hard on the Montreal-born, Vancouver-based Jenny Galt. "As far as I'm concerned," he flatly states, "there is only room for one Canadian here." Galt, also 29, is a tad more gracious. "I don't feel any competitiveness with Lukas," the attractive blond insists. "But I think he does. I think he gets insecure about certain things, and then gets very reactionary. And then he has to deal with the repercussions of what he says. "And so do I, apparently." Truth be told, Rossi is probably right. Even Galt expects that in tomorrow night's elimination round, she may end up in the "bottom three" and be forced to sing for her survival. The general consensus seems to be that the 13 survivors left will eventually be pared down to a one-on-one rock-off between Rossi and the show-stopping, South African-born flower child Goth chick, Dilana Robichaux. She's a tiny, barefoot, multiply-pierced powerhouse, equal parts Janis Joplin, Marianne Faithfull and Bjork.

Four hours earlier, two shuttle buses pull up outside the Price is Right studio at CBS Television City. Fifty critics attending the annual fall previews have been invited into the rarefied Rock Star world, to attend tonight's taping and then party with the principals afterward at the mansion. The judging panel is again anchored by Dave Navarro (Jane's Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers) — when he isn't busy trading barbs and innuendo with returning co-host Brooke Burke. As we take our seats and settle in, handlers carefully prod the rest of the crowd into a responsive frenzy — I have attended dozens of TV tapings, but have never seen a studio audience so thoroughly rehearsed: "Okay now, another `Oooooooh!' Just the girls now. Now again, without the giggles ..." The show's house band takes its place on stage. Then "the rockers" assemble in an alcove, perched on over-stuffed ottomans, nervously awaiting their 90 seconds in the spotlight. Finally, Brooke and the Supernova boys ... The show begins with scenes of recent interaction inside the mansion, with the contenders squabbling over who gets to sing what. "There's nothing better than a good cat-fight or a good bar-room brawl," allows drummer Tommy Lee. "You guys are finally starting to act like rock stars." Watching at home, I had always assumed the judges' comments were edited down after the fact. Turns out that these guys don't have that many words at their disposal.

Some comments will be cut — or at least, partially bleeped. And I can pretty much guarantee that tonight's broadcast version will not include the boys' more candid comments, dissing American Idol and Bon Jovi. Among the contestants, all now seems forgiven, as they gamely cheer each other on. Rossi, fourth up, sings the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" ... and though he later complains about the choice of material, in performance he pretty much nails it. There is an awkward moment afterwards when Navarro accuses him of "arrogance" — in this case, intended as a compliment. Or, in Navarro's words, "absolutely awesome, dude!" Lee will later confess, "Lukas scares me." This, too, is apparently perceived as an asset. And on it goes, intro, song, judges, intro, song, judges, break, touch-up, re-record ... I am, despite the volume, about to nod off when Galt finally takes to the stage as the evening's penultimate act, singing "Drive" by Incubus — and sadly, not very well at all. "You're a little too Lilith Fair," Supernova guitarist Gilby Clarke says, "and what we want is Ozzfest." Later on at the party, Galt is philosophical. "It's a real learning process," she concedes. "I know I've got to start showing it and bringing it. I've just got to get through this next week."

Introducing … J-Shin

Source:  MVD Inc.

[Turn your speakers on to hear J-Shin's track
Sent Me An Email as it plays upon the opening of this page.]

J-Shin wants to first and foremost be known as a real urban artist. SouthBeat Records has given him the outlet to be that real urban artist. Using his natural vocal gifts and his gritty real-life experiences, he sets a new standard for what true urban R&B should be: smooth singing and unadulterated lyrics. Sounding like no one other than himself, J-Shin is guaranteed to give to R&B the raw talent and gripping storylines that it has been missing for so long. But music isn’t J-Shin’s only forte. He co-starred in the movie Crossbones, released nationwide through Lionsgate Films in August 2005. Growing up in Miami, Florida, J-Shin started singing like most, in church.

Though he put his love for music and dancing on hold when he became serious about sports, it was never very far behind. After a car accident in high school, though, his dreams of playing professional football were dashed, so he picked himself back up to move ahead with his childhood passion, music. Singing whenever he could and selling tapes out of the trunk of his car, word on the streets quickly grew that the boy could sing. His big break came when one of his neighbourhood partners asked him to appear on his album www.thug.com. The partner was Trick Daddy and the song was “Hold On”. The guest appearance prompted Slip-N-Slide Records to ink a deal with J-Shin in 1998.

Though the road was rocky with Slip-N-Slide, his album “My Soul, My Life” was released in 1999 and his single, “One Night Stand” featuring Latosha Scott, scanned over 450,000 copies. Two music videos, “One Night Stand” and “I Treat You Better”, also came out of the deal. With his completed album selling about 190,000 units, J-Shin knew it was time to stop the battle with Slip-N-Slide and try to move on. While most artists would give up the fight after two years, J-Shin kept on the grind by recording and writing music when he could. Producers such as Eddie Berkeley, Teddy Bishop, Cool N Dre, Red Spyda and The Unusual Suspects all laid tracks with J-Shin on the strength alone. Having the same management as StreetRunner led J-Shin to cross paths with SouthBeat Records while StreetRunner was working with SouthBeat’s own, Wrekonize. J-Shin came into the office ready to sing and the general consensus of the women in the office that day was, “Goosebumps all over.” From that point on, whenever J-Shin made his way to the office, he brought new tracks showing off his skills and range. That persistence paid off and SouthBeat CEO, Greg Frankel, signed J-Shin to a recording deal with SouthBeat Records in January 2005 as their second premiere artist. J-Shin’s new single “Send Me An Email” is already creating a buzz in the streets. His anticipated sophomore album, “All I Got Is Love” promises to be explosive with real rhythm and blues, real soul singing and real-life portrayals of love, struggles and triumph. But most of all, J-Shin is looking to keep giving the ladies goosebumps…

Beyonce In Curlers!

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 13, 2006)  In the current issue of Giant Magazine, the world's hottest female singer, Beyoncé, admits to feeling pressure, but it's pressure brought on by herself  "I'm very good under pressure. But I wanna put myself under pressure, not be pressured by someone else, or else I'm angry and it blocks my creativity," B admits. "That's why I didn't tell anyone about this album."  That's right, even papa Mathew Knowles, also her manager, was left in the dark. Under the guise of a vacation, she went into the studio with only her A&R guy, Rich Harrison and her producers, Swizz Beats and Rodney Jerkins  "I'd go to one and say, 'Rich got some fire, you gotta come with it, man,' " said Beyoncé.  "It was magical. We'd just write a chorus or a verse and go into the next room and work on it. Everyone was excited to be here, just being creative. It didn't have any of that negative competition."  The strategy over a two week period yielded the singer/writer/actress three tracks a day for her upcoming September release "B'Day." It also benefited the bottom line, she says.  "I was very conscious of my budget. I paid for it all myself, so I spent the least money on this project than any I've ever spent on a record, Destiny's Child included."  The Giant cover story, titled "If I Was Your Girlfriend," also comes with a photo spread. But not just any photo spread.  Snaps show the singer in a sexy negligee, in the shower (complete with shower cap), and doing her hair (with curlers) and makeup. The concept gives viewers a chance to see what it might look like if you woke up in the morning with Beyoncé and watched her get ready for the day.

"She dived in with us and was extremely enthusiastic about the whole concept," Editor in Chief, Smokey Fontaine told MTV. "To be fearless enough to rock a national cover in curlers — at the peak of her career — is the sign of a true independent woman."  Speaking of which, when Giant asked about her relationship with her father, Beyoncé answered candidly.  "It took awhile for me and my dad to have an understanding," she said. "When I turned 18 and started handling my business more, he went into shock. And we had our issues. I'd say 'No' to something, and he'd book it anyway. Then I'd have to do it because I'd look bad [if I didn't]. We would fight sometimes, and it took about two years, to when I was 20, for him to realize, 'Oh, she is an adult now, and if she doesn't wanna do something, I can't make her do it.' "  Of course the interview discusses her role in the upcoming "Dreamgirls" movie and she admits it was something she wanted like never before.  "I just felt so strong after filming it," she said. "Kind of like when you do something and you've given 100 percent."  Look for the Giant cover story on newsstands this Monday.

New BET Hip Hop Awards Part Of Fall Line-Up

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 13, 2006) *Another awards show is on the horizon for BET, and by “another,” we mean an ADDITIONAL awards show. Yes, somewhere between the reality shows and the commercials, the network will squeeze out one more awards show this year.  The black entertainment channel is launching its own hip-hop awards this fall, adding to its awards show roster of the BET Awards and the BET Comedy Awards.  To its credit, the network has recruited comedian Katt Williams to host the BET Hip Hop Awards Show, which is expected in November of this year. The funnyman/actor was asked if he felt any pressure.  "I'm a great believer that enthusiasm is always the most important ingredient, so you wanna have somebody hosting a hip hop show that actually loves hip hop and has for as long as they remember, Williams responded. "So just in that aspect, it's not a lot of weight on my shoulders; it's really a joy, because I'm gonna be excited every second I'm on the stage."  The comedian, anticipating the inevitable question about security and potential beefs between rappers jumping off at a hip hop gathering, went on to describe how he'll handle the situation.

"I promise it'll be fun. I'm gonna be working security myself; I'm gonna pat people down. I'm gonna have boxing gloves on in case anybody wants to get down old school or we can breakdance, but it's gonna be a fantastic time and it's gonna be what hip hop deserves to have as an award show."  The cable channel’s half-sister VH1 already has a related awards show called Hip Hop Honors, however the VH1 offering only focuses on classic rap artists. The BET version will take on a different twist. And seeing as how the Derty Derty is hip hop central these days, it's only fitting that the show will originate in Atlanta from the Fox theatre.  BET is also launching a handful of new programming premiering this fall along with the BET Hip Hop Awards Show. Three original programs debuting include “Next Level: Vince Young,” a six-part series chronicling former Texas quarterback Vince Young’s journey from college to the pros; “Beef: The Series,” with producer Quincy Jones III, better known as QD3, exploring the captivating controversy and clashes of entertainment titans; and “American Gangster,” a six-part series about African-American mobsters and criminals.  In addition, BET’s mature channel, BET J, is premiering a new reality show based on the life of NBA star Doug Christie and his wife Jackie entitled “Committed: The Christies.”

Pink - A Soulful, Political And Rockin' Party Girl

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Suzanne Ma

Pink
At Kool Haus,
In Toronto on Thursday

(July 15, 2006) Wherever she goes,
Pink just wants to be heard. Deep in downtown Toronto at the Kool Haus Thursday night, she asked the crowd how far away the city's residential suburbs of the city were. "Half an hour!" her fans screamed. "There’s lot of us," Pink bellowed into her microphone. "We can wake those [expletive] up, right?" For the pop singer's Toronto stop, part of a 22-date North American club tour, she specifically chose smaller venues such as Kool Haus for a more "intimate, stinky and smoky" experience. Running on to a stage lit with hot-pink spotlights, Pink and the crowd started the night by chanting the lyrics to Cuz I Can, off her May release, I'm Not Dead. In a bobbed black dress with a blue trim and blue empire-waist belt, the 26-year-old Pink (real name: Alecia Moore) kept true to her tough-girl persona, with her short blond hair, fishnet stockings and knee-high boots.  Yet she also revealed her charms with the occasional curtsy and giggle. Teens in pink bandanas packed close to the stage, as did the faithful twenty- and thirtysomethings who have watched Pink's career since it took off in 2000 with her debut CD Can't Take Me Home. Closer to the back stood parents who brought their children to see, as one grown-up in attendance called her, "a singer with a brain." Throughout Pink's career, she has distanced herself from pop princesses such as Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson, often making fun of them in her lyrics and music videos. Pink was last in Toronto in April, when she visited a high school to promote her fourth and latest album, I'm Not Dead.

She also brought with her a message of girl power.  "A girl should not have to dumb herself down to be cute," she told the crowd of 750 girls. "How smart we are is what makes us so interesting. Everybody has something they're good at. It doesn't have to be shopping." She stayed on-message on Thursday -- her new track Stupid Girls garnered high-pitched cheers and screams, with its lyrics of "What happened to the dream of a girl president? She's dancing in the video next to 50 Cent." But the crowd really began singing along when the soulful chanteuse kicked her legs up in the air and threw her head wildly from side to side, delving into chart hits such as Don't Let Me Get Me, Just Like a Pill and Family Portrait. Each was accompanied by screeching electric guitars and Pink's energetic, rock-star performance. For an encore, Pink took a breather and sang the emotional and controversial Dear Mr. President, an open letter to George W. Bush: "What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away, And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay, I can only imagine what the first lady has to say, You've come a long way from whisky and cocaine. . . ." Pink ended the night by getting the party started again: Hopping across the stage and throwing herself into a handstand, she held a megaphone to her mouth and belted out the 2001 hit single that took her album Missundaztood to No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.  Get This Party Started brought out more energy from Pink than what she started with -- reminding us that, just when we think it's over, Pink will be there to start things all over again.

Gospel Music Sales Increasing In 2006

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 17, 2006)  Nashville, TN -- There is good news for gospel music in 2006 and it’s not just in the message of the music. According to Nielsen SoundScan, gospel music album sales experienced a double-digit percent increase in sales at the mid-year point in 2006, compared to the first half of 2005.  This marks the first time since 2002 that gospel music sales have risen in the first half of the year. When factoring in rising digital tracks sales (which were not tracked until two years ago), the total sales impact of gospel music adds up to a reason for rejoicing, says John W. Styll, president of the Gospel Music Association (GMA).  “The first half of 2006 has been encouraging for gospel music,” said Styll. “It is especially good news that the growth extends to a wide diversity of albums and styles, suggesting that the inspiring and compassionate message that unifies all gospel music is resonating in our culture today.”  As of July 2, 2006, 17,952,000 gospel music albums, including those sold via digital download, have been sold year-to-date compared to 16,085,000 albums for the same six-month time period in 2005. That represents an 11.6 percent increase in sales in a 2005 to 2006 year-to-date comparison. In contrast, the overall music business reports a four percent decline in album sales.  Legal music downloads are accounting for a continually larger piece of overall gospel music sales. Of the total albums sold in the first half of the year, 502,000 were purchased digitally compared to 191,000 albums downloaded in 2005, a nearly 163 percent growth in digital album sales from the first half of 2005 compared with the first half of 2006. That growth is skewing slightly higher than the overall music business’ 126 percent increase in digital album sales. As for individual digital tracks, 2,688,000 songs were sold through digital downloads for the same time period compared to 1,989,000 last year, a 35 percent increase. The top-selling digital track so far in 2006 is “Beautiful Love” by The Afters.  According to Styll, no trend or style of gospel music has sparked the sales growth. “Take any album’s individual success out of the charts and gospel music sales are still up. Both seasoned artists and new names are finding their way onto the charts. Consumers are buying gospel music where they want to buy music, whether at a Christian store, a general market retailer or on their computer. If there is any explanation behind the growth trend, it might be that we are seeing more acceptance in the marketplace for the gospel message, and hopefully, we are also finally experiencing a decline in music piracy,” he said.

The top 10 albums on the year-to-date Billboard Christian/Gospel music album chart for the six month period ending July 2, 2006 are:

1. Precious Memories - Alan Jackson
2. Hero - Kirk Franklin
3. Flyleaf  - Flyleaf
4. WoW Gospel 2006 - Various
5. Lifesong - Casting Crowns
6. Piece of My Passion -Juanita Bynum
7. Testify -P.O.D.
8. WoW Hits 2006 -Various
9. Coming Up To Breathe - MercyMe
10. Wherever You Are - Third Day

The top 10 albums on the year-to-date Billboard Digital Albums Christian/Gospel music chart for the six month period ending July 2, 2006 are:

1. Testify -P.O.D.
2. Chronicles of Narnia Soundtrack - Various
3. Precious Memories - Alan Jackson
4. MMHMM -Relient K
5. Flyleaf - Flyleaf
6. Lifesong - Casting Crowns
7. Arriving -Chris Tomlin
8. Passion: Everything Glorious - Passion Worship Band
9. Coming Up To Breathe - MercyMe
10. Nothing is Sound – Switchfoot

Looking ahead to the second half of 2006, traditionally the stronger season for music sales with high profile fall releases and holidays generating bigger sales, gospel music will count on an impressive slate of new projects from high profile artists to maintain or improve on the current growth.  Among the artists with upcoming new releases are Amy Grant, Chris Tomlin, Hezekiah Walker, Jars of Clay, Jeremy Camp, Leigh Nash (formerly of Sixpence None the Richer), Mark Schultz,  Michael W. Smith, Pillar, Relient K, Selah, Smokie Norful and others. Compilation projects with high hopes include Hip Hope 2007 and Three Wooden Crosses: 17 Inspirational Songs from Today’s Top Country Artists and the perennially successful WoW Hits project.

The Key To The Ghetto Story Remix…Alicia Keys Shoots Video In Jamaica With Cham

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(July 18, 2006) *
Alicia Keys remembers growing up in the inner city areas of New York. The experiences that she faced were similar to those that ace dancehall deejay Cham himself experienced, which became the showcase for his Billboard-charting hit and local chart topper Ghetto Story.   Keys recently teamed up with Cham for the remix of Ghetto Story. A video for the track was shot in Kingston earlier this week in the Sherlock area of Duhaney Park, of which Cham is originally from.  ‘Growing up for me was a lot of different things, and that’s what I think made me who I am.  I grew up around so many different styles, the grittiest, the dirtiest, the ugliest, the hard times and the struggles. I also saw a whole positive side. I grew up seeing both sides, where the negativity motivated me to see the positives’, Keys explained in an interview with this writer on the set of the video shoot last week. The Grammy winning songstress whose credentials include hit singles such as Fallin, You Don’t Know My Name, Karma, If I Ain’t Got You and A Woman’s Worth, was thrilled about being in Jamaica again.  She had performed in the island two years ago at the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival in Montego Bay.  ‘I love Jamaica and the people are so warm’, Keys gushed. Keys said she wanted to be on the remix of Ghetto Story because she like the song and she could relate to what Cham was saying in the song.  ‘Its kinda interesting how the collaboration happened. The label didn’t come to us, neither did Cham. Actually, we (Keys and her management) went to them (Cham)’.  It’s like combining two worlds like that, and it turned out perfect. We approached Cham to be on the remix, and I felt ecstatic about it. We all have our own story of how we were raised and what we saw while we were growing up. I like the way Cham rode the rhythm and I liked his flow. He was really being honest and truthful, and I wanted to tell my story. I appreciated his story’, Keys explained.

Prior to teaming up with Cham, Keys had worked with Damian Jr. Gong Marley on her unplugged album. She also performed with Julian Marley in Rome on a concert arranged by music mogul and record producer Quincy Jones.  ‘I have done shows with a number of reggae artistes, but this is my first record with a reggae artiste’, Keys said. Keys whose most recent album was the multi-platinum selling The Diary of Alicia Keys, says she is working on her third studio album.  ‘I am working on my album right now, so you can look out for that sometime next year’, she said.

Teena Marie Discovers 'Sapphire'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By J.C. Brooks

(July 19, 2006) *From Soul Train to BET’s 106 & Park, we’ve enjoyed nearly three decades of soulful sounds from a woman who the Black community has adopted as their own. It seems that Ms. Teena Marie has been quite an elusive powerhouse when it comes to pegging her style and audience. From the beginning of her career, we’ve been uncertain of her cultural roots, but clear that her love of R&B, jazz, and hip-hop would eventually bring her back to us. Her 2004 offering, “La Dona,” was her first album since “Passion Play” dropped in 1994.She showed that her musical talent and/or abilities had not missed a beat. The album dropped so hard, no one knew she had ever left the scene. But now that she’s released her second offering from the Cash Money label “Sapphire” which has sold over 100,000 copies, she is a force to be reckoned with. She may finally get the recognition that has been due her for so many years. The album, so smooth, yet hard enough for a true playa to bump in his ride on the gangster lean, has collaborations with Kurupt and his wife Gail Gotti, Gerald Albright, and her personal favourite, Smokey Robinson. “All the reviews have been great. There were like 18 reviews and 10 of them were five stars, four of them were four stars,” said Marie.” Everybody’s loving it. One of the ones I saw was cruel … There’s always gonna be somebody that doesn’t get it, but everybody has a right to their own opinion.” She shared that she not only wrote and produced the album, but a lot of personal experience has been apart of the secret recipe that makes up the music in her brilliant career. Her style is obviously enough for her fans and she is not willing to compromise.

“I write about my life and the things that are around me,” said Marie. “And you know, one of the comments was, ‘She shouldn’t produce herself anymore. She shouldn’t write for herself.’ But that’s what I do. And ‘the lyrics were corny as compared to what’s out there.’ I’m just gonna keep doing what I do and appreciate the 15, 16 fans out of 18.” But, this album differs from any of the others in her career. Her mentor, lover, one-time producer and friend, the infamous Rick James, was not by her side, not even a phone call away. The album isn’t a depressing sounding album, but just the opposite, though it was highly influenced by the pain of Rick James’ passing. “This particular album, I was really in a lot of pain when I wrote it because of Rick’s passing,” admits Teena.  “So, I think that this was God’s way of letting me write my way out of my pain even though the album’s not depressing at all … I felt like [Rick] was writing with me a lot … I’m glad that the whole record wasn’t reflecting my pain and what I was feeling cause I think that would’ve been very depressing. I don’t like listening to a depressing album.” The album’s energy stays up with tracks like “Baby Whose Is It?” that features Kurupt.  An interesting mixture between the diva and the rapper makes for one of the hottest tracks on the album. “I just thought it was exciting and I thought the hook was real tight and I called Kurupt and actually I wrote the rap and when he heard it he was like ‘I don’t wanna change this, Ma,” explained Teena. “They all call me Ma … I got a whole other extended family.  He was like ‘This is great, I’m just gonna say what you said. ‘And so, I thought it would be really interesting if I sang it while he spoke it.” While Rick was not in the other room physically, he certainly put his touches throughout the album via Teena’s spiritual connection with the funk genius. Not only that, he named the album … sort of. “The album is called Sapphire because Rick wrote a song called Sapphire that’s never been released,” reveals Teena.  “It’s a song that he wrote like right before he died; it was one of the last things he recorded. It’s a song about black women and their contributions in society, from Cleopatra to Nefertiti to Barbara Jordan, Harriet Tubman, and Oprah Winfrey.  It’s just really, really a beautiful amazing song that he wrote … When I heard it I was like, ‘Oh Rick … I can’t wait for this to come out because people really need to hear this from you.’

The memory of Rick James, according to Teena, has been reduced to Super Freak. His talent is much more far reaching than one of the most recognizable, nearing satirical, songs of his career. “When people talk about him they always gravitate to the whole Super Freak thing and it’s very disrespectful to me because he was such a brilliant writer and he wrote so many incredible songs,” she points out. “Ebony Eyes, all the Mary Jane Girls stuff, Déjà Vu with me, Fire and Desire, it goes on and on and on, but for some reason they just say, ‘Oh yeah, Super Freak!’ and it aggravates me. So when I told him that, he would always look at me and he would go ‘Yeah Teena, well, I look at you like Sapphire too. You’re Sapphire.’ So, that’s why I thought of that.” One thing people may not realize is that her biggest influence is the legendary Smokey Robinson. He appears on one of the smoothest tracks of the set. “I have idolized him since I was a young girl. I really feel that he was the one that I studied to learn how to write music,” says Marie. “When I was probably 15 years old, I used to go to the parties and stuff and take my guitar, and all my friends called me little Smokey because I knew all his songs and I could sing them and I could sing them just like him … I would study his music and I wanted to be that kind of writer. I wanted to write love songs.” Then it would be only fitting that the set begins with a duet with Smokey that leaves Teena’s fans surprised and happy, even if it isn’t Rick holding the other mic. “He (Smokey) heard “God Is Created” and he looked at me and was like ‘This is mean.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, but I got it from you.’ And I said do you want me to sit here and go over it a couple of times and he was like ‘no I got it.’ He heard it like once and he just walked in there and just laced it.” Teena’s daughter Alia Rose also appears on the last track, Resilient (Sapphire). The appearances have been embraced well by reviewers. They complete the package that is Sapphire. “I’m just really excited that people are liking it the way they do, they’re mentioning [Rick] a lot and that makes me feel really good, they’re mentioning Smokey, they’re mentioning my daughter. They really like the guest appearances on the record.” Whether you’re a Teena Marie fan or aspiring to be, there’s no way this album can miss. The old sound is still brilliant and crisp as ever and it offers the new fan an updated Teena Marie that knows how to satisfy her new listeners, blending classic Teena with a new and improved Diva for the 21st century.

LeToya's Destiny Fulfilled

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 19, 2006) *For former Destiny's Child member, LeToya Luckett, now known as simply LeToya, success is sweet revenge. She may not come right out and say it, so we'll say it for her.  Of course we all know what happened to her 6 years ago when, out of nowhere, she and LaTavia Roberson were given their walking papers by Beyonce's daddy Mathew Knowles, DC's manager.   Her first clue that she was about to be ghost from the group was when she watching the "Say My Name" video on TV and noticed that she and Roberson had been replaced. Ironically, that song not only featured LeToya's vocals but she co-wrote it. In spite of the indignity, LeToya told the NY Daily news that she never felt anger, bitterness or a need for vengeance.  "It was more just hurt," she insists. "I knew I would never get to see them again. I couldn't call Beyonce just to talk. The only way of seeing them was in magazines and on TV, showing how successful they were. But I never felt like I didn't want them to be successful."  A lot of folks would still be pissed, but success has a way of making one feel gracious and move on. And that's what she's doing. Speaking of success, LeToya's single, "Torn" went all the way to #2 and her eponymous debut CD was released yesterday.
 
Surprisingly, LeToya, who met Beyonce in high school, in Houston, never wanted to be a solo performer. With that in mind, she claims the rumours that she wanted so sing more leads in Destiny are false.  "Everyone knew their role," she says. "I was singing support."  She explained that the drama in the group started because she and LaTavia never got to see their families, but Beyonce and Kelly Rowland did.  (Remember Mathew and Tina Knowles ran the group and Kelly lived in the Knowles household.) After the DC fallout, LeToya Robertson formed a group called Angel. But it didn't work. "Things weren't organized," She says. "We never even got a manager."  In the interim, LeToya used some of her Destiny's Child royalties to open a clothing store in Houston. (And yes, she carries Beyonce and Tina's line of clothing.) Still, she knew she'd sing again one day ... as part of a group. When she inked a deal with an L.A. management company, she thought they'd connect her with another group. Instead, they encouraged her to go solo.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Canadian Gigs On The Who's Fall Tour

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler


(July 14, 2006) Toronto — Legendary British rock group
the Who, featuring founding members Pete Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey, have announced plans for a North American tour that begins on Sept. 12 in Philadelphia and includes three Canadian stops. The band, fleshed out with keyboardist John (Rabbit) Bundrick, drummer Zak Starkey, bassist Pino Palladino and Simon Townshend on guitar, plays Ottawa's Scotiabank Place on Sept. 15, London, Ont.'s John Labatt Centre on Sept. 30, and Toronto's Air Canada Centre on Dec. 4. Currently on a European tour, the band is expected to perform selections from the forthcoming "mini-rock opera" Wire & Glass, as well as material from a new album (tentatively named Who 2) scheduled for a fall release. It is believed that Townshend's girlfriend, singer-songwriter Rachel Fuller, will open selected dates.

Gladys Knight In-Store

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 14, 2006) *Grammy-award winning songstress Gladys Knight is teaming up with full-figured fashion retailer Ashley Stewart to create The Ashley Stewart Stores Community Foundation.” The foundation will work to provide resources and funding to individuals and organization that work to improve the lives of children, women, and people of color through the power of education.  The foundations first target is to aid Dress for Success non-profit organization, which assists disadvantaged women in transitions into the workforce. And under the deal, Knight will be making personal appearances and conducting seminars, reports
BlackVoices.com.  If fans don’t get the opportunity to meet Knight during an appearance, the stores will stocking a piece of the legend in all its stores. Knight’s new album, “Before Me,” will be sold in stores nationwide, and all in-store sales will go toward the foundation.  The disc features covers of classics from legendary artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaghan, Lena Horne, and Mahalia Jackson. “Before Me” drops on October 10.

Outkast Ready To Get ‘Wild’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 14, 2006) *Not to be outdone by Gladys Knight and her work with Ashley Stewart Stores Community Foundation, OutKast, with the premier of their new musical film “Idlewild,” will help raise money for the Hinton Battle Theatre Laboratory.  Universal Pictures states that the film’s August 21 premiere will be a special benefit for the theatre lab named for the three-time Tony Award winner who choreographed dance sequences in the film.  HBTL is a non-profit theatre company founded to discover, develop and present compelling, original theatrical works that reflect American's rich multi-cultural heritage.  "I am so pleased that Universal is taking advantage of this opportunity to utilize 'Idlewild' to spotlight the important work being done at HBTL," said Battle. "It is my hope that this benefit will allow even more deserving children the opportunity to showcase their talent and experience the theatre and arts."  “Idlewild” opens in theatres August 25. The OutKast duo Andre 3000 and Big Boi star in the American South Prohibition-era musical, along with an all-star cast of Ving Rhames, Terrence Howard, Patti LaBelle, Macy Gray, Ben Vereen, Cicely Tyson, and Malinda Williams. The film follows a club performer (Big Boi) deals with a gangster and his piano player deals with his obligations to his love and his family.  The soundtrack for the film marks the first time the two have rapped together since 2000’s “Stankonia.” The debut single from the album, “Mighty O,” was written by the two and produced by Organized Noize. The disc hit’s stores August 22, a day after the special movie premiere and three days before the movie hits theatres nationwide.

Snoop’s “Treatment” Scheduled

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 13, 2006)  *As the fall CD line-ups line up, rapper Snoop Dogg is set to release his latest project this fall, too. The rapper’s next solo album, "Blue Carpet Treatment," is scheduled to hit on October 17, flaunting some highly favourable guest artists, including Stevie Wonder, Brandy, R. Kelly, and The Game. Also, the disc’s lead single, “Vato,” features B. Real of Cypress Hill and is produced by the Neptunes.  Plus, the buzz has been that Snoop has been in the studio with long-time friend Dr. Dre, but there’s no confirmed word on whether any of the duos' collabos will appear on this upcoming project. Still, the track listings are not yet final. According to Billboard, Snoop is perusing his library for the 16 or so songs of the 300 he’s recorded that will end up on the final product.  The Doggystyle/Geffen disc will be complimented with the DVD titled “The Adventures of the Blue Carpet Treatment” expected in November. The DVD will feature 10 animated videos for songs on the album and a few additional tracks. Industry insiders report that Snoop is in talks to feature the vids on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim.”

Céline Throws Quebec Fundraising Concert

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Jul. 16, 2006) Montreal --
Céline Dion interrupted her summer vacation yesterday to host a golf tournament and give a concert expected to raise $1-million for Quebec charities.  About 600 people were expected to attend the concert at Le Mirage golf course north of Montreal, which Dion and her husband, René Angelil, have owned since 1997. Tickets never went on sale. Instead, they were offered privately to friends. Prices were $15,000 and $25,000. Proceeds will be divided among three children's charities. CP

P. Diddy Sings The Hits

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 17, 2006) *Rapper/producer P. Diddy will be showcasing his pipes on his next album. According to reports, Diddy’s new album will be less party rap and more what he calls “hip-hop R&B.” The new disc, called “Press Play,” is hitting the stores on Oct. 3. On the album, at release, Diddy -- not Puff Daddy, Puff, or P. Diddy -- actually sings on a record for the first time. But don’t cringe too soon, critics are saying that his voice is not half bad. Still, Diddy doesn’t really call it singing "It's not like, singing. It's fun singing," he told Fox News' Roger Friedman. The rap mogul/broadway star/marathon runner/designer continued that although he was quite nervous, he found yet another challenge invigorating. In true P. Diddy style, the album is not just a showcase for P.; it, of course, is laced with collaborations. This time he’s brought in producer/writers Kanye West, Will.i.am, Timbaland, Pharrell, and a number of others. “Press Play” also features some acclaimed guest artists that can certainly teach P. a few things about singing, including Brandy, Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Keyshia Cole and Fergie from The Black Eyed Peas. But get this, NOT in P. Diddy fashion, the disc doesn't sample any old recordings. The songs are all new.  Singing? New songs? Now that’s a double-whammy.

That’s 'Mr.' Sleepy Brown

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 18, 2006) *They call him Mr. Brown and his solo debut album arrives in stores Sept. 26. Sleepy Brown may be new to the record store shelves as an artist, but he is no stranger to urban music.  *Brown has been a hip-hop and R&B producer and songwriter for more than a decade. He’s a founding member of the production crew Organized Noize, produced hit singles for TLC and En Vogue, and is best known for his work on OutKast’s “The Way You Move” for his contribution to “So Fresh, So Clean,” but now he’s looking to find greater fame with his new disc, “Mr. Brown.” Sleepy called in some favours from old friends for the project, being released on OutKast’s Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon label. The first single off the disc, “Margarita,” is produced by the Neptunes and features Pharell and Big Boi on the track. “Mr. Brown.”

Macy Gray Gives Cash Away

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 18, 2006) *Macy Gray is giving away cash. The singer helped Maxell Song of the Year write a check for $20,000 to Nashville native Zane Williams for his winning song “Hurry Home.”  Gray, along with Maxell execs, was on hand to congratulate Williams at the opening ceremonies at the NAMM (International Music Products Association) Summer Session trade show in Austin, TX. Williams, who performed the winning song, is one of 96 songwriters that gets a piece of $225,000 in cash and prizes awarded by the JLSC.  Williams’ song was first named as a grand prize winner in the country category and then went on to be awarded the recipient of the contest's 9th annual Lennon Award through an online public vote at www.themusicedge.com. The Maxell Song of the Year was then selected from the twelve Lennon Award winners by a panel of renowned judges including performers, songwriters and music industry executives, that  includes Robin Gibb, Al Jarreau, D12, Black Eyed Peas, Elton John, Wyclef Jean, Carlos Santana, and others.  Macy Gray attended the event to show her support for music and songwriting. In connection with the John Lennon award and the Maxell program, her philanthropic offering, The M. Gray Music Academy, helps to provide music education to students ranging from 7-70 years of age. The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a non-profit mobile recording and video studio that provides free workshops for kids countrywide, will be providing the recording facility for students of Gray's Academy in Los Angeles, from July 24-26th.

Fans To Create New Janet Album Covers

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen, N.Yl

(July 18, 2006)
Janet Jackson is turning over the artwork for her upcoming album, "20 Years Old," to fans via a contest with Yahoo! Music. Beginning today (July 18) at noon PST, fans can download 33 images of Jackson for use as part of their own covers. Jackson will personally choose four finalists, whose creations will appear on "selected publicly distributed copies" of the album, according to Virgin.  Sixteen finalists will win Jackson's complete album discography on CD. Each design uploaded to the contest site will be assigned a unique link that can be shared.  As previously reported, "20 Years Old" is due Sept. 26. The set was produced by Jackson's boyfriend, Virgin Urban president Jermaine Dupri, as well as longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.  The single "Call on Me" is No. 16 in its fourth week on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

Mariah Looking To Tour For Musical Inspiration

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Michael Papletta, N.Y.

(July 14, 2006) When not onstage during her fast-approaching Adventures of Mimi: The Voice, the Hits, the Tour,
Mariah Carey says she'll be laying down the groundwork for her next album. "I'm doing something I've never done before," the singer tells Billboard. "I'm doing the tour bus this time around. There will be much time for writing songs."  Carey says she's looking forward to the cross-country drive. "It's an experience I've never had," she says. "It will reconnect me, in a deeper way, to what's going on in the world -- to what people are doing and thinking."  The artist says she is looking to the road trip for lyrical and creative inspiration. "I fall back in love with the recording process and the studio when I've been away from it," she offers.  As previously reported, Carey's outing begins Aug. 5 in Miami. Three U.S. shows on the itinerary were pulled and substituted with dates in Canada, a move attributed by tour promoter Live Nation more to heat north of the border than softness in the United States.  "She sold out Toronto, she sold out Vancouver, she did over 10,000 tickets in Montreal, and she did well in Edmonton," Live Nation VP Brad Wavra says. "Why not gog into Winnipeg and Calgary and add another show in Toronto? The Canadian market is very hot now, and the exchange rate makes it very affordable to go up there and not feel like we're playing for short money."

Ludacris Digs Deep On 'Release Therapy'

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Gail Mitchell, L.A.

(July 14, 2006) Rapper
Ludacris has set a Sept. 26 release date for his ambitious new album, "Release Therapy." The Disturbing Tha Peace/Def Jam set will be preceded by the single "Money Maker," which arrives Monday (July 17) at U.S. radio outlets. The track was produced by and features Pharrell Williams.  The "Release" portion of the set reveals a more personal side of the rapper. Here, he discourses on such socially conscious subjects as child abuse (the Polo-produced track "Runaway Love"). The "Therapy" section comprises such cut-loose tracks as "Girls Gone Wild." R. Kelly guests on the track "Woozy."  Ludacris tells Billboard he envisions "Release Therapy" as giving listeners "their temporary fix or release for the day." Upcoming plans include bringing in Spike Lee to direct a video for "Runaway Love," and a tour featuring Ludacris' Disturbing Tha Peace roster, which is home to Shawnna, Bobby Valentino, Shareefa and Field Mob.  "Release Therapy" is the follow-up to 2004's "The Red Light District," which has sold 2 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Usher To Make Broadway Debut In 'Chicago'

Excerpt from www.billboard.com

(July 14, 2006) R&B superstar
Usher will soon be crooning a Broadway melody. The multi-platinum recording artist and five-time Grammy winner will take over the role of conniving lawyer Billy Flynn in the long-running musical revival "Chicago," making his Broadway debut, producers Barry and Fran Weissler announced today (July 14).  "I have always admired Broadway actors for their showmanship, dedication and focus that goes into performing live on stage every night," the 27-year-old Usher said in a statement. "Being on Broadway allows you to connect to audiences in a whole new way that's different from music and movies." The artist opens Aug. 22 in "Chicago" and will appear through Oct. 1.  While "Chicago" will mark his Broadway debut, Usher has acted in TV shows and several films, including last year's "In the Mix."  "Chicago," Broadway's longest running musical revival, has a score by John Kander and Ebb and a book by Bob Fosse and Ebb. The tale of Roxie Hart, a has-been chorus cutie who murders her boyfriend and tries to ride the notoriety to show-biz fame and fortune, originally was seen on Broadway in 1975.  Barry Weissler has developed the replacement strategy for his long-running shows, including "Grease" and "Annie Get Your Gun," into a fine art. In "Chicago," its morally relaxed heroine has been played by such diverse actresses as Brooke Shields, Melanie Griffith, Sandy Duncan, Marilu Henner and Rita Wilson.  Among the actors who have played Billy Flynn on Broadway are Huey Lewis, Wayne Brady, Kevin Richardson, George Hamilton, Taye Diggs, Alan Thicke and Billy Zane.

New Valentino Album

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 19, 2006) *"Slow Down" crooner, Bobby Valentino, is back with his sophomore project, 'Special Occasion.'  The album is set for a Sept. 19 release.  Valentino co-wrote three quarters of the 14-track album and received help from producers such as Rodney Jerkins, Sean Garrett, Bryan Michael Cox, Tim & Bob and Dre & Vidal.  The first official single from the album will be the Jerkins-produced, "Turn the Page," which is an emotional ballad that has Valentino crooning about trust and taking risks in a relationship.

Steve Harvey Welcomed In New York

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 19, 2006) *Last fall, Steve Harvey took the morning show spot at WBLS (107.5 FM) in New York.  There were plenty of sceptics that did not believe that the show would do well at all with Harvey’s loud mouth “country” style, but now he can officially shake off all the haters. The Arbitron ratings show the city showed their love giving him the No. 5 morning show - and the No. 1 urban program in the midst of a very competitive market.  "It's a different kind of radio show, which is exactly what he said he wanted to do when I talked him into taking the job,"  WBLS program director Vinny Brown told the NY Daily News. "The thing about Steve is that he sounds like a regular person. He doesn't have the 'radio announcer' sound that some listeners are tired of.  He's funny, naturally, because he's a comedian, but he also tells you the mood he's in. He talks about spiritual things.”  Harvey did four years of radio in Los Angeles, but Brown says Harvey was not given enough freedom there.  "My feeling about Steve," says Brown, "is the same as with [afternoon host] Wendy [Williams]. You hire them and let them be themselves. They've earned the right to experiment."  WBLS is enjoying the results of a good morning show and Brown says everyone has reaped the benefits.  "A strong morning show helps lift everyone," says Brown. "Wendy's doing great, Vaughn Harper is getting higher numbers in the evening. We've hired Guy Black to provide a higher level of entertainment in middays.”  

::FILM NEWS::

Outkast Is Back With A New Album And Big-Screen Dreams

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Tamara Conniff

"This is probably the first musical that didn't have the music done before it was shot. That has been the biggest lesson I've learned in this whole thing."
-- Andre 3000

(July 7, 2006)
OutKast duo Antwan Patton and Andre Benjamin are sitting in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills picking at pancakes. They need to figure out the track listing for their upcoming soundtrack album, the companion to their film "Idlewild."  Zomba Label Group president/CEO Barry Weiss, pen in hand, writes out different scenarios. Patton keeps picking at his breakfast. Weiss leans back on the couch and says with a laugh, "We need to figure this out! We need this album to be done!" Patton and Benjamin smile. Patton nods, "We know. We're getting there."  Patton, aka "Big Boi," and Benjamin, aka "Andre 3000," are perfectionists as much as they are innovators. "Idlewild" would have been released last year if the music had been done.  "Because the album had been bumped, the movie has been bumped," Weiss says. "It's 100% about the music. It's not once been a concern from the movie company, they just want to make sure the music is done and out there for TV spots and the film."  Now, after numerous postponements, OutKast is finally ready -- sort of. They still keep going back in the studio to "tweak" some tracks. But come hell or high water, the LaFace/Zomba album will be released Aug. 22, with the film hitting theatres three days later.

"This is probably the first musical that didn't have the music done before it was shot," Benjamin says. "That has been the biggest lesson I've learned in this whole thing. Next time, we'll do the music first."  OutKast's manager Blue Williams calls the film and album a "crowning achievement" for the duo. "It's an ending of sorts, but it's also a leading-off point for both of them," Williams says. "They have accomplished a lot of things. We've sold more with each album. Now we want to have a No. 1 movie and a No. 1 album. Then the time will be right."  Both Patton and Benjamin have wanted to do solo projects. Fans have long noticed the duo veering in different musical directions, most noticeably with the double album "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" (2003). "Speakerboxxx" was Patton's album and "The Love Below" was Benjamin's.  It was Williams who discouraged the duo from releasing them as separate albums. "The world wasn't ready to accept a Dre solo record and a Big Boi solo record. After this, they will be." This does not mean the end of OutKast. Williams simply says both have a lot of experiences that they want to channel into their own music. "I just really wanted to set them up the right way."  To do a film/album package has been a longtime dream for OutKast. "Idlewild" (Universal/HBO), directed by OutKast's friend and video director Bryan Barber, has been in the works since the group's 1998 album "Aquemini."  "We had a movie called 'Aquemini' with Bryan," Patton recalls. "It was crazy. We were so excited, but we had no idea what it took to put it all together." Benjamin says with a laugh, "We didn't know it takes two years to put a movie out, and we had a script three months before 'Aquemini' came out."  The duo had meetings with MTV, who Benjamin says loved the film idea for "Aquemini." However, the network wanted to buy the project and cast Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes, who had more star power than OutKast.  "We're like, 'But this is our movie!'" Benjamin says. "So, it didn't work out. You have to have some appeal to get people in the theatre, and we weren't big enough at the time, so I can understand why MTV would say that." Patton sighs. "We were heartbroken."

Not to be deterred, OutKast and Barber kept working on ideas, and "Idlewild" was born. The film is set in Prohibition-era Georgia and follows two childhood friends and the business of running a speakeasy.  Williams stresses that "Idlewild" is not a biography-type film like Eminem's "8 Mile" or 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Tryin'."  "The characters are loosely based on our personalities," Patton says. Benjamin concurs. "The characters are an extreme version of what we are."  There is a lifelong bond between the two main film characters even though they don't spend every second together. In fact, there are only three or four scenes that feature them together. The same is true in real life: Patton and Benjamin often record separately. Additionally, Patton goes on tour, and Benjamin no longer does.  "It's not like 'Beverly Hills Cop' or 'Rush Hour' where it's a buddy type of thing," Patton says. It's also not a traditional musical. Benjamin and Patton do not spontaneously break into song. The songs are used in performance settings or as background music.  During the film's production, the duo would hit the studio after a day of filming to write music for a scene. Then, of course, they would change their minds and rewrite it. The bulk of the writing happened after the film wrapped, when they could just be OutKast, instead of Patton and Benjamin, the actors.  "We went into the studio and did what we normally do," Patton says. "But we kept in mind that it was a 1930s movie. We tried to keep ourselves hip and fresh, but at the same time keep that 1930s frame musically, so it all fit together."  For example, the first single, "Mighty O," which leaked in May and is No. 42 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, is a take on Cab Calloway's famous scatting from the 1932 recording "Minnie the Moocher."  The real focus will be on the next two singles, Weiss says: Patton's solo track "Morris Brown," which features Scar and Sleepy Brown (both signed to Patton's Atlanta-based label Purple Ribbon), and Benjamin's solo track "Idlewild Blue: Don't Chu Worry 'Bout Me."  

It's been three years since "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," and both artists have been busy with side projects. Benjamin has been honing his acting chops, including a starring role in last year's "Four Brothers." Patton runs his own record label, owns a real estate company and even has an energy drink, Kryptonite.  One of the biggest misconceptions is that the pair never record together. Just thinking about all the rumours floating around on the Internet and in the tabloids makes Benjamin shake his head in disgust. "People say we are never in the studio together and that's just not true."  The duo is simply untraditional because they both have home studios. "It's like working your hut," Benjamin says. "I produce a song then take it to Big Boi and say, 'Check this out, what do you think about this?' Sometimes you want to at least get the idea out and not have to worry about if it's good enough. It's more like a confidence thing ... I just think people have blown it out of proportion about us not being on a song together just because we're not singing or rapping."  Even though they may go in different directions musically, Patton and Benjamin, who attended the same high school in Atlanta, are friends til death do them part.  "We've been friends since we were in 10th grade. At the end of the day with no records, no movies, no nothing-we are friends, we are homeboys," Benjamin says. "I know I'm going to know this man until I'm pretty much out of here. I know his kids, he knows my kids. We all hang out together. We're talking about Antwon and Andre. That is something that was born, not out of music, but from hanging out in high school. We just decided to do music one day. We weren't two guys that a record company put together. You have to go back to the homeboyage."

Casting Calls That Defy Logic

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Bert Archer

(July 14, 2006) On Feb. 21, 1939, Dorothy Carter sent a memo to her boss, David O. Selznick, marking the end of Hollywood's first great casting controversy. "I received a total of 87 letters for the week of Feb. 13th," Carter wrote, referring to what had been a deluge of mail on the subject of Gone With the Wind, which had just gone into production, "and only 11 were protests against Miss Leigh." Scarlett O'Hara was a Southern Belle, possibly the Southern Belle. Vivien Leigh was English. The memo also mentions "three cards of protest against Leslie Howard as Ashley."  Since then, there have been dozens of films helped and hindered by the kerfuffle they caused over who got to play what, and how. One suspects Little Man, with its eerie computer-generated appropriation of little person-hood, will be little affected by this, or by excessively brisk business at the mall theatre cash registers.

FAN OUTRAGE

Michael Keaton as Batman
When it was announced in 1988 that Tim Burton had cast Michael Keaton as Batman, fans exploded, and so did the papers, running stories under headlines like "Mr. Mom as Batman?" (Los Angeles Times), "Derisive Laughter Greets Casting for 'Batman' Role" (Chicago Tribune) and "Keaton Rattles Batman Buffs" (San Francisco Chronicle). Maggie Thompson, then an editor of Comics Buyers Guide, was quoted as saying "some fans have even taken ads out, directing letter-writing campaigns to D.C. (Comics) and Warner Bros." The problem was that die-hard fans of the always dark comics were worried that casting a funny guy in the role meant a return to the bad old days of the sixties spoof TV show starring Adam West. It wasn't, and people were later generally pleased. Until Joel Schumacher gave George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell those huge codpieces in Batman & Robin.

Daniel Craig as James Bond
"Blond . . . James Blond?" (New York Daily News) pretty much sums up the nub of the controversy over the most recent Bond. Fans and entertainment journalists didn't seem to like the idea of a fair-haired 007. Many still don't, with the film not set for release until later this year. But the real controversy here was the agonizing months of bait and switch played by the producers, saying Pierce Brosnan would be back, then he wouldn't, then Judi Dench said he would be, then it was Jude Law, then Daniel Craig, then Craig said absolutely not, then he said maybe. Enough to make you reach for your Walther PPK, really. But casting Casino Royale circa 2006 was nothing compared to the stink made by Casino Royale 1967, which, as you recall, featured Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress and Woody Allen as several of many Bonds. Then there was Sean Connery's unofficial return in the unofficial Never Say Never Again (1983). And Connery's little brother Neil playing Bond's little brother in 1967's Operation Kid Brother. . . .

MORAL OUTRAGE

Tod Browning's Freaks, 1932
This one was so controversial, it was banned in Britain for three decades, and it's now a classic of the sort you have to go to an indie video store to rent. Subversive horror director Browning cast his movie about circus sideshows with actual conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, hermaphrodite Josephine Joseph, Prince Radian "the living torso," and Elvira and Jenny Lee Snow as "pinheads" Zip and Pip. The clamour surrounding its release was sufficient to prompt MGM not only to take Freaks out of circulation, but to remove its logo from the prints. If Browning had taken a more Daniel Day Lewis-approach to casting, one imagines the furor might have been avoided.

POLITICAL OUTRAGE

Memoirs of a Geisha, 2005
For Hollywood, Chinese director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) said of the casting of Memoirs of a Geisha, "there is no difference between Japanese and Chinese." The studio, Sony -- which is of course Japanese -- responded by saying that Chen had once put his name in for the directing job. (Snap!) This one was a doozy. Not only was there the issue of racially incorrect casting (Chinese actress Ziyi Zhang in the lead role), but the setting -- Japan in the 1930s -- opened old, Second World War-era Chinese-Japanese wounds, recalling a time when Japan was intent on conquering China and erasing the distinctions between cultures and races by creating a pan-Asian empire. The film was nominated for six Oscars, won three, but took in less than $1-million during its opening weekend and by the time it fell off the top 10 list had only made about half its budget back.

The Da Vinci Code, 2006
Those evil albinos. Ever since Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase were stalked by one in Foul Play (1978), people with albinism have had a pretty rough go of it in the theatres. In fact, the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation celebrated 2005 as the first year in two decades in which some film somewhere did not feature an evil albino. Not only that, they are almost invariably played by non-albinos, like Da Vinci's Paul Bettany. Victor Varnado, a successful albino actor who's had roles in The End of Days, Hacks and A Guy Thing, told courttv.com, "If a script finally calls for an albino to be in a movie, then why the hell wouldn't you put one in? Painting a guy to look like an albino is like the blackface of albinism!"

RETROACTIVE OUTRAGE

Yellowface
Though it undoubtedly raised some Asian eyebrows at the time, people who had mainstream soap boxes didn't seem to mind Katharine Hepburn as Jade Tan in Dragon Seed (1944) or Marlon Brando as Sakini in Teahouse of the August Moon (1956) or even Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). They do now, though. A caption beside a Rooney photo in the film journal Bright Lights from 1997 reads, "May Mickey Rooney burn in hell for this supremely racist bit of 'acting.' " Other prominent examples of yellowface include the Charlie Chan movies of the thirties and forties, featuring either a Swede (Warner Oland) or an American of Scottish ancestry (Sidney Toler), and of course there was David Carradine in Kung Fu.

Redface
With the exception of Brantford, Ont., lacrosse player Harold Smith, aka Jay Silverheels, who was Tonto, before breakthrough actor Chief Dan George, Indians were mostly played by folks like Ricardo Montalban (John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn, 1964), Burt Reynolds (100 Rifles, 1969) or Raquel Welch (The Legend of Walks Far Woman, 1982).  "Everyone thought the Indians were all dead," says Drew Hayden Taylor, native author, playwright and former artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts, "so who else were they going to get?" He calls this era of casting "regrettable, sad," though he points out it's not just ancient history. Half-Asian, half-Caucasian Sandrine Holt starred in Black Robe (1991), Pocahontas: The Legend (1995) and Bruce McDonald's Dance Me Outside (1995).

7 Questions: Nick Nolte

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Bob Strauss

Born Feb. 8, 1941, in Omaha, Neb. Got his start in regional theatre and at Southern California's Pasadena Playhouse. Big break: Rich Man, Poor Man (1976), one of TV's first hit miniseries. Among major films: The Deep, 48 Hrs., Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Cape Fear, Lorenzo's Oil, Jefferson in Paris, The Thin Red Line. Best-actor Oscar nominations for Affliction and The Prince of Tides. Escapades include selling fake draft cards in the 1960s, a history of heavy drinking and a 2002 DUI arrest near his Malibu, Calif., home with accompanying unflattering mug shot. Married and divorced three times; one son.

(July 14, 2006) LOS ANGELES — Say
Nick Nolte, and the image of a good-natured hellraiser, or sometimes someone darker and more troubling, comes to mind. But at the midpoint of his seventh decade, the gruff, bearish and amazingly versatile actor has not only shifted his attention to a search for inner peace, he's putting it into his work. Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman's bestselling novel about a young gymnast's spiritual awakening, features Nolte as a mysterious gas-station mechanic who becomes the athlete's guru. Dubbed only Socrates, the unusually clean-cut (for Nolte) sage dispenses koans of enlightenment similar to what the actor himself is currently seeking to understand. Luckily, Soc can be a real joker too, and that part of Nolte hasn't changed, either.

Socrates offers numerous nuggets of wisdom -- that could sound like a load of New Age hooey if not delivered just right. What's the trick?

You have to approach it just like the way it would be in real life, like a revelation. It has to be like something revealed to take the platitudinous-ness out of it. If you recite it as if it comes from a book or something like that, then it doesn't resonate. But if it comes from experience, a knowledge of feeling, then you can talk about it being from the heart and you can talk about the now and the importance of each breath. So my days were spent listening to tapes of Maharaji in the morning, then looking at the script and getting into that space of where Soc would be.  There have been efforts to adapt

Millman's book since its publication in 1980, some of which you were approached for. Why now?

The main thing is that I felt this is the right time for this type of film. In the eighties, I didn't feel that way. I just feel that the world is up against the wall and something has to get out there quickly. Soon, choices will have to be made that are going to affect everyone.

You've played some incredibly dark characters in such films as Q&A, Affliction and Who'll Stop the Rain, but much of your recent work -- Warrior, Clean, The Beautiful Country -- has taken a more benign course. Well, not counting that grizzly bear in Over the Hedge, but even that was a kiddie cartoon.

I'm a little bit more picky about going over to the dark side. It's a real hassle to go over there unless you've got some kind of redemption coming out of it. It's not a place you want to hang out in. So yeah, I definitely am looking for more stories that are down this line.

You've said several times in recent years that you wouldn't take most of the roles that mainstream Hollywood was offering you. Still feel that way, Mr. Indie?

Well, it sure came true! [laughs] Make statements like that and it becomes factual. Jerry Bruckheimer says, "I've offered you work 20 times and you've turned me down. If you ever want to work with me, you'll have to come to my office and tell me so." Major studios don't think of me first off the bat anyway, because they don't like to be turned down. Y'know, if there was something in the studio system that was really good, really worth it, I would do it. I had tremendous fun with The Hulk, which made money but was considered a failure, which to me is very bizarre. I know people are frightened to death, but that's just absurd. It makes no sense to watch 70-year-old men that I've known for years sit there and pretend that Godzilla is really a great film!

Earlier this year, your record was expunged of that infamous driving-under-the-influence-of-GHB charge you got back in 2002. Congratulations on staying sober.

Does expunged mean that it's off my record? I'm doing good. Everything has held well together. I just got off going down the wrong track, y'know? It wasn't for very long, but that substance just took away all my pain and it mood-elevated and it released growth hormones so I could work out like crazy. But it's a little dangerous if you take too much, and if you get to rely on something like that, it's no good, that's all. I had to put it down some way and, I guess . . . I mean, it was the anniversary of Sept. 11 and there was no news that day. Somebody had to provide something for people to see.

You've worked in Canada a lot. Impressions?

I have many fond memories of Canada. Roméo Dallaire [the model for Nolte's role in Hotel Rwanda] is from there. Montreal is really my favourite city in North America. During the two referendums to secede, I told my nephew both times to go out with a camera because there was going to be a bloody revolution on the streets. A few trash cans were lit on fire, but that was about it. So it's very civilized. I feel like the Canadians really have a fix on peace. They primarily are the ones that carry out the UN missions, and I think that's quite a contribution they make.

You're known for making up elaborate lies to tell to gullible reporters. Anything about this conversation I need to fact-check?

No. I usually have to come up against a reporter who insists on viewing me a certain way. When someone's really trying to pigeonhole me, that's when I'll invent a story. It'll usually be some kind of unbelievable situation that they'll then fly with. I just haven't run into that situation lately. I'm sure I'm going to, and I will invent again.

Master P Launches Film Series

Source: Kitara R. Garner, W&W Public Relations, Inc., kitara@w-wpr.com

(July 14, 2006)  Los Angeles, CA - UrbanWorks Entertainment, in association with H. Hood Cinema, has released the independent comedy, Repos, to DVD audiences everywhere. Starring show business mogul, Master P (Gone in 60 Seconds, Hollywood Homicide), Katt Williams (Friday After Next, Nick Cannon Presents Wild 'N Out) and AJ Johnson (Friday, The Players Club), Repos promises to deliver tons of laughter. The release also includes a CD soundtrack, featuring all new music including the single "Shine" by Romeo, available only with the DVD. The spine tickling action centers around two repo men, Tea (Master P) and Coffee (Michael Blackson), who unwittingly run into trouble while trying to break their own "repo record.” Funny men Williams and Johnson round out the cast with hilarious performances and of course their characters, Mr. Henderson and Tick Tack, only serve to complicate matters for Tea and Coffee. About Repos, Master P says, "This was the funniest and most unique movie I have ever worked on. No one has done a comedy about repossessing cars, especially not in the 'hood'." After successfully launching his music career and No Limit Records, Master P began a whole movement, while catapulting his son Lil Romeo, his brother, Silkk the Shocker and numerous others to stardom. He ventured into the film arena and produced successful films including, I'm Bout It, I Got the Hook Up and Foolish.

Building on that success, Repos will launch his latest venture, H. Hood Cinema. Credited as the originator of the urban, "direct-to-video" market, Master P aims to provide African-American filmmakers a platform on which to showcase their talents. He hopes that his method of infusing Hip Hop with Hollywood will help revolutionize the film market and help increase opportunities. The H. Hood Cinema series showcases the talents of some of Hollywood's hottest young stars including Williams, Johnson, Blackson, Silkk the Shocker and more. In addition to great talent, each H. Hood Cinema release will feature exclusive music from Master P, Romeo and the Gutter Music All-Stars. Upcoming releases from H. Hood Cinema include I Got the Hook Up 2, If the Shoe Fits Wear It and Master P's Uncle Willy's Family.

About UrbanWorks Entertainment

UrbanWorks Entertainment, a division of First Look Home Entertainment is dedicated to the acquisition, production and distribution of products that satisfy the desires of consumers seeking quality entertainment. The studio is responsible for the creation and production of the prestigious Platinum Comedy Series, which includes original, stand-up comedy programs starring Dave Chappelle, Mike Epps, Mo'Nique, Carlos Mencia and many others. In the past year, UrbanWorks has secured over 40% market share in the urban, non-theatrical home entertainment market. Its mission is to continue to be the undisputed leader in this genre by providing a wide assortment of quality-driven titles from a variety of segments that contribute to the $890 billion urban, consumer market.

Oliver Stone on 9/11

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Murray Whyte, Entertainment Reporter


(Jul. 18, 2006) Of the many qualities ascribed to
Oliver Stone in his 30-plus years of filmmaking, "understated'' has rarely been one of them. So it was with unexpected restraint that Stone, in a pink dress shirt and khaki summer suit, appeared before a small audience at Toronto's Varsity Theatres Sunday night to introduce a closed screening of his latest opus. World Trade Center is a big-budget, Hollywood treatment of the most horrific 24-hour span in recent American history: the destruction of the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001 by terrorist-hijacked planes. "Listen, 9/11 comes with a lot of baggage," said Stone, who stayed in town yesterday for a round of promotional press for the film, due out Aug. 9. He was at once weary, self-effacing and fretful. "All we wanted to do here is get down and make a movie that was as realistic and true to life as possible." You'd be forgiven if you were to take those comments with a grain of salt. Stone's career is sprinkled liberally with heavy-handed bluster: Natural Born Killers (1994), for example, a litany of extreme violence intended as critique of the mainstream media's fascination with criminal brutality, remains one of filmmaking's most divisive examples of artistic licence bombastically applied. Or JFK, his 1991 unravelling of a favourite conspiracy theory regarding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. So when Scott Strauss, an Emergency Service Unit officer with the New York Police Department, first got the call from Stone's people to act as a consultant on the film, his response was quick. "I didn't want to do it. It was a bad day. I didn't think it was something that should be made into a movie at the time," he said. "I was afraid it would be Hollywood-ized, and made into something silly."

Strauss spent all of that fateful day at Ground Zero, combing through the smouldering wreckage. "We were walking around, all day long, looking for survivors and there weren't any," he said. In the end, only 20 of the thousands inside would be taken out alive. Two of them, Will Jimeno and John McLoughlin, became the focus of World Trade Center. The films revolves around their experience buried under the smoking rubble for nearly 24 hours. Strauss was the first one down the deep, tangled pit of wreckage where they lay pinned by rubble. He reached Jimeno first, cutting him free and sending him to the surface. Strauss's experience was vital to Stone's goal of veracity. After some coaxing from friends — "My partner said `You know, they're going to make this movie with or without you; you may as well do what you can to make this accurate" — he met Stone. He described it as awkward at best. "I was a little nervous: You know, Oliver Stone, his whole conspiracy theories and stuff. I thought, `Oh, no, this is going to be bad.'" All of which, of course, does little to explain Strauss sitting here with actor Michael Pena, who plays Jimeno, in the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville yesterday in a crisply pressed blue shirt and tie, obligingly offering himself to the press as part of the movie's promotional circuit. ("I don't know if I'll ever get used to this," he said.) Early on, grudgingly, he decided to give it a try, joining Jimeno and McLoughlin as consultants. Not long after going to the California set, he argued with Stone on details. The director was open and compliant. "Oliver and me, we had our battles, yeah. Some I won, some I lost," he said. "But he took it in stride. He really is a great guy. He had his heart in the right place, all the way through." Strauss had his concerns assuaged, but he wasn't the only one with misgivings. Since its beginnings, World Trade Center has been plagued with unrest: Victims' families accused Stone of looking to cash in on the tragedy; other relatives were angered by not being involved; others were simply horrified at the dead not being left to rest.

Among many brutal, graphic scenes, the film depicts the grisly death of Dominick Peluzzo, one of the officers trapped with Jimeno and McLoughlin. "My thing is: this man died for you," his widow, Jeanette, told the Seattle Times. "How do you do this to this family?" World Trade Center, of course, is not the first film to be made of the tragedy. A collection of shorts by renowned international directors about the day — 11.09.01 — was presented at the Toronto Film Festival in 2002, but never found a North American distributor. More recently, United 93, about the hijacked flight destined for the White House that was diverted by a passenger uprising to crash in a Pennsylvania field, was critically lauded but failed to draw audiences. But World Trade Center is the first with the full might of a Hollywood studio's promotional budget behind it — and the first to extract an intensely personal character-driven story literally from beneath the wreckage, where more than 2,200 people died that day. The story, of Jimeno and McLoughlin's survival, is ultimately one of redemption. But whether audiences can reconcile the horror of the event with the deeply personal, emotional story that lies within remains to be seen. United 93's commercial failure weighs heavily on Stone. "We may have the same problem," he said. "That's why we made the budget as tight as we could." Those worries are not for Strauss to contemplate. After so much angst — to get involved or not — his worries are quelled by what he sees on screen and what he helped to create. "If we weren't there, it would have been a completely different movie," he said. "I just realized: `I have one shot at this ... to pay tribute to my co-workers and the people that died that day, civilians and rescue workers alike.' I had one shot at this and I wanted to do it right."

EUR Film Review: Been Rich All My Life

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(July 19, 2006) *When the Apollo opened in 1934 at the height of the Big Band Era, one of the famed theatre’s most popular features was its chorus line of chocolate cuties.  Comprised of 16 shapely showgirls, these enchanting tap dancers managed to upstage some headlining jazz groups led by the likes of Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Count Basie.  Originally, forced to work a half-dozen shows during gruelling, 15-hour days which generally kept them on stage well past midnight, the women eventually unionized and went on strike. Their efforts paid off, leading to better employment conditions not only for all of Harlem’s hoofers, but also for the then lily-white Rockettes, who were high-kicking downtown at Radio City Music Hall. After World War II erupted, out of a sense of patriotism this African-American troupe decided to join the USO tour in order to entertain the troops, only to be disillusioned about the United States as their caravan crisscrossed the country. For they experienced the sting of segregation whenever they were denied access to facilities or accommodations because of the color of their skin, hypocritical mistreatment which apparently even transpired on military bases in the “land of the free.” Although the dancers’ popularity waned in the wake of the end of the War, five of them reunited to resume their careers in 1985.

Now calling themselves the Silver Belles, and ranging in age from 84 to 96, their life stories are the subject of
Been Rich All My Life, a labour of love directed, produced, filmed and edited by Heather Lyn MacDonald. Each of the Silver Belles is a joy to behold.

There’s 89 year-old Cleo Hayes who matter-of-factly explains her interest in show business with, “I’m from Greenville, Mississippi. I don’t have to tell you why I left.” Similarly, Fay Ray, 84, explains that she was only 11 or 12 and already picking cotton when she impulsively left Louisiana by rail for the North by stowing away aboard a freight train. This enchanting, if bittersweet memoir seamlessly interweaves such wistful, tender-hearted reflections with archival film footage and the readily observable harsh realities associated with advanced age to yield a splendid slice of African-American history. These hardy survivors are nothing shot of inspiring to observe as they shuffle out on stage, never embittered either by racism or by the host of aches, pains and diseases which presently beset them, ranging from arthritis to broken hips to heart disease to colon, breast and ovarian cancers.

Elaine Ellis, 86, maintains her cheery demeanour and grace under pressure in the face of asthma, high blood pressure, cancer and strokes, taking two buses and two subway trains to rehearsals right after her radiation treatments.

Just as uplifting are the efforts of Marion Coles, an energetic 88 year-old who teaches tap to youngsters in order that the cultural tradition not be lost. Senior spokesperson
Bertye Lou Wood, 96, seen in the full bloom of youth here dancing astride Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in a clip from the Hollywood classic Stormy Weather, sums up the Silver Belles perseverance and overall optimistic attitude best when she announces resolutely with determination, “I’m going to dance, dance, dance, ‘til I can’t dance no more, and I’m going to live, live, live, ‘til I die.” For MORE info, visit: http://www.tootscrackin.com/braml_pics.htm or: http://firstrunfeatures.com/beenrich_synopsis.html

FILM TIDBITS

Nelson Mandela DVD

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 17, 2006)  *Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela! The activist turns 88 tomorrow, July 18, and to help celebrate, Palm Pictures is releasing a two-disc set of his life and achievements. “Palm World Voice: Mandela”  includes the film “Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation” and a full-length documentary “looking at the courageous life, tribulations and fortitude of Mandela” filmed over a seven-month period leading up to his historic presidential election in 1994. The film, which won an Oscar in 1997, also features exclusive interviews and narration from Mandela. The accompanying CD is the original soundtrack of the movie, and features traditional Zullu ans Xhosa folk songs from musicians such as Hugh Masakela, Vusi Mahlasela, the ANC Choir, The Specials, and the Manhattan Brothers. The boxed set also includes a 48-page book of photos and art images. Palm World Voices is a collectable series of CD and DVD releases that immerse music lovers in vibrant imagery, history, culture and terrain of musically rich areas of the world. Covering cultures from India to the Middle East to Africa to Brazil, each release is a “definitive collection delivering a multimedia experience.”  For more on the latest Palm World Voice release, “Palm World Voice: Mandela,” check the website at www.palmworldvoices.com.

Mr. T Ditches Gold For Spiritual Do-Gooding

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(July 15, 2006) Pasadena, Calif. --
Mr. T has given himself a makeover. The former television action star shed the piles of gold chains that were his signature look after witnessing the destruction from hurricane Katrina. "As a spiritual man, I felt it would be a sin against my God for me to wear all that gold again because I spent a lot of time with the less fortunate," the actor said Thursday at the Television Critics Association's meeting. "I saw some, I call it 'sorry celebrities.' They'll go down there and hook up with the people to take a photo-op. I said, 'How disgusting.' If you're not going to go down there with a cheque and a hammer and a nail to help the people, don't go down there." Mr. T, whose real name is Lawrence Tero, stars in the advice show I Pity the Fool, debuting in October on TV Land. AP

Raven-Symone Takes Baby-Sitting Gig

(July 13, 2006)  *Could it be that tween fave
Raven-Symone is moonlighting. Hardly. With an extremely loyal following and an entertainment empire in the works, the star of Disney’s “That’s So Raven” couldn’t possibly need to take a baby-sitting job. It turns out, however, that she has. Symone has signed on to do the Walt Disney Pictures remake of the 1987 film “Adventures in Babysitting.”  In addition, the bubbly actress closed an acting and producing deal with Disney that includes a pay or play on one movie, with an option for a second. However, sources are unsure of whether the upcoming “Babysitting” will be a part of that deal. The film, which originally starred Elisabeth Shue, is about an initially dull night for a high school senior who finds herself stuck babysitting. She gets a call form a friend stuck downtown and the hilarity ensues as she heads out into a night of misadventures.

Fantasia's Fantastic Voyage

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 17, 2006)  *"American Idol" star Fantasia Barrino is taking her story to Lifetime. The cable channel picked up her life story and had to convince the 2004 winner to play herself in the movie, titled "Life is not a Fairy Tale." The TV movie premieres Aug. 19 on Lifetime, and is based on the singer's biography about dropping out of high school, becoming an unwed mother at a young age, dealing with rape, and finding herself and her stardom.  "I didn't think it was going to be tough going back playing myself, but it was because I had to relive those moments," Barrino told the Television Critics Association's summer meeting Friday. "At the end, I began to cry and I said, 'I went through all those things, but I know why I share my life.' I'm thankful that I was able to do it," she said.  "I took my life and used it as a testimony," Fantasia said. "It was fun because I've never acted a day in my life. I missed my music, but it was fun." Barrino wasn't missing music for too long. The follow-up to her 2004 debut disc, "Free Yourself," is currently underway, including collabos with Kanye West, Missy Elliott, Ne-Yo, and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.  "We're still in the studio, but it's gonna be a lot different from the first album," Fantasia told MTV. "I'm not in love. I'm not trying to be in love. I'm not hurt. I'm bad now." In addition, her latest trips back to the studio also reunite her with "AI" judge Randy Jackson who has recruited the songstress to collaborate on an album he hopes will revitalize the career of soul legend Sam Moore of Sam & Dave's "Soul Man" fame.

Alicia Keys In On Disney Deal

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 17, 2006)  *Alicia Keys and her producer/manager Jeff Robinson have closed a film and television production deal with Disney. The Grammy-winning singer and Robinson signed a multi-year first-look agreement with the Mouse House for their company Big Pita, Little Pita. The company name does not refer to any type of love of flatbread. The moniker refers rather to an acronym of "pain in the ass." Seriously. Well, the "pitas" already have their first few projects in mind. First up is a remake of the 1958 film "Bell Book and Candle." For the flick, Keys herself will play the lead role of an average, modern-day witch living in the big city who falls for a fellow in her building.  Fortunately, she's a witch who can cast a love spell; unfortunately, the spell
goes a bit awry. The role was originally played by the legendary actress Kim Novak. Keys will also, over course, produce the film. Keys and Robinson have also discussed the development of live- action and animated projects that would not only showcase Keys' production/acting skills, but also naming the company as handling the soundtrack and music supervision. According to Variety, Keys says she and Robinson decided to create the company to help keep her from only scoring "predictable roles."  Predictable or not, Keys scored a role as an assassin in "Smokin' Aces" and an appearance in "The Nanny Diaries" both due in 2007.

Jamie's Going On A Power Trip

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 17, 2006)  *Oscar winner Jamie Foxx has agreed to produce, and possibly star in the feature film "The Power of Duff." Foxx and his manager Jaime Rucker King checked out the project and decided to join producer Marc Platt in the venture. The story of "Power" is about a NY TV news anchor who, after the death of his father, begins praying while reading the evening news. His prayers are answered and it starts a frenzy over the news man.  Universal won the rights to the script in a bidding war last year, shelling out $900,000 so far on the $1.25 million deal. Some looking to snag the story included a number of other Academy Award winners: Russell Crowe, Ron Howard, and Tom Hanks. With a list of notables like that, it must be good. Foxx may have had quite the inside scoop thanks to his long-standing relationship with Universal. Foxx is starring in the studio's upcoming "Miami Vice" and "Kingdom" which is in production. Not to mention he starred in Universal's "Jarhead" and won an Oscar for "Ray," which Universal distributed.

Tyrese Gibson Is On 'The Take'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com


(July 17, 2006)  *Singer/actor
Tyrese Gibson keeps notching his belt. Just off  the release of his latest movie, “Waist Deep,” which hit theatres last  month, he has signed on to star in a new independent film “The Take.” The flick, set in Los Angeles, is about a truck driver, played by John Leguizamo, who is shot during a heist and vows to track down the shooter – Gibson’s role.  The film also stars Rosie Perez and RZA, and reunites Gibson with his “Waist Deep” co-star Meagan Good. Lensing for the film starts in September.

Polley, Maddin Films To Make Debut At Toronto Film Festival

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon


(July 18, 2006) Actor Sarah Polley's feature directorial debut and a new silent film with live music by artist Guy Maddin will be among the highlights of this year's
Toronto International Film Festival's Canadian program. The festival, which runs from Sept. 7 to 16, announced its roster of Canadian films at a press conference this afternoon, including Polley's Away From Her based on the Alice Munro short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain about a couple dealing with Alzheimer's disease. Away From Her will receive its world premiere in Toronto and is among the festival's gala films. Meanwhile, Maddin's film Brand Upon the Brain! promises to be an artier affair, with silent images (early still on the web indicate an Ingmar Bergman-like look to the film) all accompanied by live music and live sound effects. Other highlights among Canadian films in the festival are FIDO, a horror comedy by first-time feature director Andrew Currie and starring Matrix heroine Carrie-Anne Moss, and the Belgian-Canadian film Congorama, which already received wide attention at the Cannes festival and is about a Belgian eccentric searching for his family in Quebec. Also closely watched will be Everything's Gone Green, written by Generation X novelist Douglas Coupland. It is his first story written specifically for a feature film, according to the film's website (www.everythingsgonegreen.com).

::TV NEWS::

CHUM Boss To Stay On For Transition

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Grant Robertson, Media Reporter

(Jul. 16, 2006) The head of
CHUM Ltd. intends to stick with the company at least until the radio and television broadcaster is acquired by Bell Globemedia, a process he expects could take until the end of 2007. CHUM chief executive officer Jay Switzer, who celebrated his 50th birthday one day before the company was sold on Wednesday for $1.4-billion, said he will stay at the helm of the Toronto-based operations. His job will be to lead a restructuring of CHUM's struggling conventional television assets. That process, announced on the day of the deal, has seen 281 full-time and part-time jobs eliminated, while news operations at A-Channel and CITY-TV are being reorganized.  "I'm here for probably at least another 18 months," Mr. Switzer said. "We all have a lot on our plates." Bell Globemedia is acquiring CHUM's 33 radio stations across Canada, 12 television stations, and 21 specialty channels including MuchMusic and Bravo. The transaction requires the approval of regulators, who are not expected to issue a decision until some time next year. Bell Globemedia intends to sell six A-Channel stations in a bid to appease regulatory concerns about it owning too many TV stations in one market. The firm owns the CTV network and The Globe and Mail.  The stations going on the block include the Victoria outlet and five in Ontario -- Barrie, Ottawa, London, Wingham and Windsor.

"There is a lot that goes on with the transition, we are going across the country to make sure it works," Mr. Switzer said in an interview. "Frankly, it will take more than a year and we want to make sure that these channels are as strong as possible." Mr. Switzer joined CHUM in 1983 as a program director and assumed the CEO role in 2002. He is a close friend of the controlling Waters family that started the broadcasting pioneer in the 1950s. He hasn't considered his future after the transition is complete, but Mr. Switzer indicated he could stay with the firm. The CHUM deal has sent ripples throughout the industry. The price tag has also prompted concerns about rising debt levels at Torstar Corp., which has agreed to become one of four owners of Bell Globemedia under an ownership restructuring that still requires regulatory approval. Torstar, which publishes the Toronto Star newspaper, agreed last December to take a 20-per-cent stake in the privately held media conglomerate and could see its $350-million debt load more than double as a result. Torstar has agreed to pay $283-million for its stake in Bell Globemedia and will pay up to $100-million for its share of the CHUM deal, bringing the company's potential debt to $733-million. The company was put under review this week by Moody's Investors Service Inc. and Dominion Bond Rating Service Ltd., which have concerns about those levels amid slumping earnings at Torstar.

But Torstar CEO Rob Prichard said yesterday he does not intend to sell assets to pare down the company's debt.  "Like all companies, we review our assets on a regular basis and make adjustments where they would strengthen the company," he said. "But the current and expected leverage is manageable and appropriate to our circumstances." Observers expect the CHUM deal could prompt further consolidation in the media sector. However, rival CanWest Global Communications Corp. has also sparked concerns at DBRS and Moody's. Both rating agencies have placed CanWest's debt under review after falling earnings at its TV operations have put the company at risk of breaching a financial covenant with its bankers. The Winnipeg firm, which owns the Global TV network, said it expects the sale of its Irish TV assets for $198-million will ease some of that pressure in the coming months. But analysts don't expect that will be enough to put the company back into the hunt for major purchases. "CanWest's hands are probably tied if they want to do an acquisition," one analyst said.

Food Network Star Rachael Ray Adds Daytime Hostess To Resume

Source:  Associated Press

(July 17, 2006) PASADENA, Calif. —
Rachael Ray is everywhere with her Food Network shows, best-selling cookbooks and lifestyle magazine. Now, she's adding daytime talk show hostess to her crowded resume. The high-energy cook who shows America how to whip up inexpensive meals in 30 minutes promises her hour-long syndicated show, debuting Sept. 18, will present “can-do” advice about cooking, travel, relationships and pop culture trends. Don't expect her to be bound to a couch like hosts of more conventional talk shows. “I want to laugh and eat something in every show,” Ms. Ray said Sunday at the Television Critics Association's summer meeting. “It's very important to me that everything is accessible. People love that sort of friendly advice and that sense of community when you get advice from a peer instead of an expert.” Unlike Ellen DeGeneres, Tony Danza and Oprah Winfrey (whose Harpo Productions is a producing partner), Ms. Ray's show won't be celebrity-driven. Instead, she expects famous guests to cook with her or play foosball. She added Ms. Winfrey has been “a huge and continuing influence” on her. “She tells me to be myself,” Ms. Ray said. “She doesn't chime in or call up and say, ‘This is how you can be more like Oprah.' She's pretty busy with her own job.” Besides, Ms. Ray couldn't change her outgoing ways. “We're talkers in my family. We're very loud, talkative, volatile people,” she said. “I got a big mouth. My husband is a lot like me. He doesn't bruise easily.”

Ms. Ray said she planned to have her husband — lawyer and musician John Cusimano — cook and play music for her on the show. Ms. Ray's show has been picked up by stations countrywide, said Terry Wood, president of creative affairs for King World and CBS Paramount Domestic Television. It will air at 10 a.m. in New York, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles and at 3 p.m. in other markets, Wood said. A veteran guest of Winfrey and David Letterman's shows, among others, Ms. Ray knows what she does and doesn't want to try on her own show. “I'm really tired of seeing makeovers and date things and everyone is 20,” she said, explaining she recently taped a piece on seniors dating. “I want to go from another angle. I want old and young to want to watch the show. I want it to be fun and interactive for all ages.” With all her travelling, cooking and eating, how does Ms. Ray manage her weight? “I don't,” she said, laughing. “I buy jeans with stretch. Everything I have has stretch in it. I haven't known my weight since I was 12-years-old. I have enough pressure. I don't care about any fashion enough to give up food.” Ms. Ray's everywoman persona makes for interesting interactions with her fans. “They hit me on the arm and give me a recipe,” she said. And for those Ms. Ray devotees who try to make her recipes in 30 minutes, the cook herself suggested taking it easy. “It's kind of creepy if you actually go home and set an egg timer,” she said. “If I open the wine before I start cooking, it takes me a good 47 (minutes). If you've never picked up a knife in your life, it'll probably take you an hour.”

Katie Couric: Ready To Deliver News, Stop Being News Story

Source:  Associated Press

(July 17, 2006) PASEDENA, Calif. —
Katie Couric said Sunday she's ready to take over a revamped CBS Evening News that aims for in-depth, nuanced coverage of world events — and more than ready to be the newscaster rather than the news. “I'm really excited, obviously, to get started, to stop talking about this and actually to start doing the job,” Ms. Couric said at a news conference. But her status as journalist-cum-celebrity is only likely to increase in the weeks leading up to her Sept. 5 debut as CBS anchor and managing editor, as her weekend appearance before the Television Critics Association showed. Ms. Couric was questioned again about why she left her long-time Today job to take the anchor position (a rare opportunity, and nothing to do with being the first solo female network anchor, she said) and how her daughters, ages 10 and 14, received her decision (supportively). She finally drew the line at a query about what she intended to wear on her first newscast.

“You're kidding, right?” she replied. “Sadly, I'm not,” said the reporter asking the question, an acknowledgment of the microscopic scrutiny given to Ms. Couric's ascension to the ABC-CBS-NBC anchor troika. “I've actually gone to Charlie Gibson's stylist,” Ms. Couric responded wryly, referring to her ABC counterpart. Instead, Ms. Couric and her new boss, CBS News and Sports president Sean McManus, sought to focus on the newscast itself without giving away too many specifics. She's succeeding long-time anchor Dan Rather, who left last month. “It will be different, it will be new, it will be fresh and most of all it will be intelligent, it will be relevant and it will be transparent,” Mr. McManus said. CBS intends to try to capture more of the combined 25 million people who watch network newscasts, he said. The network has long trailed NBC and ABC in the news ratings. Mr. McManus acknowledged the publicity accorded Ms. Couric could help draw viewers but said they have to see a newscast they “respect and like.” The network has implemented a careful marketing campaign for Ms. Couric, including promotional spots in which interim anchor Bob Schieffer encourages viewers to “just watch” and others in which Ms. Couric discusses the news and how to cover it. Mr. McManus urged patience for the new program, saying it would take time to evolve. Although details on the changes were scarce, the rough outline that emerged in the hour-long question-and-answer session was of an effort to allocate more time to major stories and provide more perspective on events.

A just-concluded tour in which she heard viewers across America weigh in on news left her convinced there is a demand for greater substance, said Ms. Couric, who just concluded her first full week for CBS. “Some things we heard from people is they want more perspective, they want more news stories in greater context,” she said. “I got the distinct sense they want us to go a little deeper.” There will be a new set, theme music and graphics for the newscast when Ms. Couric replaces Mr. Schieffer, Mr. McManus said. Mr. Schieffer will remain a part of the show, offering views and perhaps commentary from Washington. The newscast and related programming will be available on radio and through the Internet and wireless services, CBS announced Sunday. Asked what she would take from the three-hour Today format to the much briefer newscast, Ms. Couric answered playfully: “I'm trying to convince Martha Stewart to do a cooking show every night.”

TV Big Mouths

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon, Television Critic, vmenon@thestar.ca


(Jul. 18, 2006)
George Stroumboulopoulos, meet American television. So how will the pierced hipster fare tonight when he hosts The One: Making a Music Star (ABC, CBC)? Impossible to predict. But this much is certain: Strombo can learn plenty from "reality" show hosts on U.S. television, a motley crew that includes everybody from Monica Lewinsky (Mr. Personality) to Anderson Cooper (The Mole). Here is a look at 10 prime-time hosts and what Strombo should admire and hate about each:

*************************
THE YAPPER
Show: Survivor
Host: Jeff Probst
What Strombo Can Learn: 1. Importance of the Turbo Grin. 2. You can feign empathy anywhere in the world. 3. The camera loves bohemian neck accessories from the early '90s. 4. A good host stays on-message even as contestants squabble or backstab or have nervous breakdowns.
What Strombo Should Avoid: Hokey sermons, unwanted pop psychology, food-based cruelty, lame product placement. Also: don't date a contestant.

*************************
THE CYBORG
Show: The Amazing Race
Host: Phil Keoghan
What Strombo Can Learn: 1. Importance of the Impartial Gaze. 2. Ridiculously complicated rules sound reasonable when explained in voice-over. 3. Excruciating tedium is best handled with detached pleasantries. 4. A good host can shatter dreams with a trite phrase.
What Strombo Should Avoid: Foreign rituals, geographic trivia, muted monotones, tight trousers. Also: don't be so measured viewers wonder if you are, like, a human being.

*************************
THE DANDY
Show: American Idol
Host: Ryan Seacrest
What Strombo Can Learn: 1. Importance of the Smarmy Smirk. 2. It never hurts to pretend your show is more influential than G-8 and UN combined. 3. Pick clothes that wow both fickle teens and gummy geriatrics. 4. A good host can keep the show moving by: a) having compassion for the contestants, b) demonstrating mild contempt for the judges and, c) paying heed to the cautionary tale that is Brian Dunkleman.
What Strombo Should Avoid: Excessive male bonding, catchy but grating sign-off phrases, tabloid romps with celebrities from other networks. Also: don't moonlight in blatant attempt to become richer than Simon Cowell.

*************************
THE BEAUTY...
Show: Rock Star
Co-Host: Brooke Burke
What Strombo Can Learn: 1. Importance of the Wide Smile. 2. And ... let's see ... yup, that's it.
What Strombo Should Avoid: Behaving like a groupie, intermittent blinking, dressing like a slutty lamp, telling viewers the contestants are The Most Talented Unsigned Musicians on the Planet. Also: don't panic if joined onstage by unkempt contestant who looks like she recently escaped from the sewer system.

*************************
...AND THE BEAST
Show: Rock Star
Co-Host: Dave Navarro
What Strombo Can Learn: 1. Importance of the Cool Posture. 2. There's no point in ruining innocent situations with sexually suggestive comments. 3. Removing every shirt sleeve, button and zipper from your wardrobe won't make you look hip when flanked by aging rockers. 4. A good host can sound profound without actually saying anything interesting.
What Strombo Should Avoid: Creepy come-ons, off-camera whispers, goopy eyeliner, self-aggrandizing anecdotes, puzzling tattoos. Also: don't hijack segments with shameless self-promotion.

*************************
THE SYMPATHIZER
Show: The Bachelor/Bachelorette
Host: Chris Harrison
What Strombo Can Learn: 1. Importance of the Unspoken Thought. 2. You can make every scene sound like it's never happened before ... ever! 3. A good host can train viewers to accept hyperbole with simple repetition. 4. A good host can train viewers to accept hyperbole with simple repetition.
What Strombo Should Avoid: Maudlin goodbyes, a fixation with roses, off-the-rack suits, forced smiles, delayed reactions, excessive hair product, daydreaming. Also: don't flirt with contestants.

*************************
THE CLOWN
Show: Fear Factor
Host: Joe Rogan
What Strombo Can Learn: 1. Importance of a good agent. 2. Even vile situations can seem normal if you're visibly bored. 3. Sitcoms lead nowhere. 4. A good host knows he is largely irrelevant when contestants are willing to swallow chunks of bovine rectum, or bungee jump from helicopters.
What Strombo Should Avoid: Tortured punch lines, laughter tinged with mocking disbelief, casual Friday outfits, pregnant pauses, disgusted reaction shots, bad hair. Also: even though a job is a job, your body language should never tell viewers you feel this way.

*************************
THE DIVA
Show: America's Next Top Model
Host: Tyra Banks
What Strombo Can Learn: 1. Importance of the YouGoGirl! Giggle. 2. Walk with purpose, talk with conviction and even the most superficial situation will be positively sassy. 3. Wagging finger = great TV. 4. A good host knows how to strut.
What Strombo Should Avoid: High heels, fainting, tripping, unpredictable outbursts, snide dismissals, all-around lifestyle snobbery. Also: don't allow guest judges to out-snark you up on a consistent basis.

*************************
THE PRO
Show: America's Got Talent
Host: Regis Philbin
What Strombo Can Learn: 1. Importance of the Weathered Shrug. 2. Don't let freak show acts get you down — this is the big time, baby! 3. Repeat before every show: "None of these losers will ever be more famous than me!" 4. A good host always remembers names.
What Strombo Should Avoid: Rambling asides, stories from the good old days, jokes without punch lines, coughing, slouching, fake laughter, gentle ribbing of David Hasselhoff. Also: don't be insecure.

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THE TYRANT
Show: Hell's Kitchen
Host: Gordon Ramsay
What Strombo Can Learn: 1. Importance of the Seething Wince. 2. Don't feel the need to be nice or compromise your impossibly high standards. 3. Don't be afraid to humiliate people, especially if they're bumbling jackasses who deserve to be humiliated. 4. A good host isn't afraid to make people cry.
What Strombo Should Avoid: High blood-pressure, blunt force trauma, screaming fits that require subtitles, hatred for humanity, mood swings, mumbling, cursing. Also: don't be afraid to push the envelope when you're a foreigner. American television expects it.

TV TIDBITS

Montel Williams Tying The Knot At 50

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 14, 2006)  *Talk show host Montel Williams did it 'old school' style by dropping to one knee and proposing to his girlfriend Tara Fowler in front of both their families. The couple were headed to a party in honour of Williams' 50th birthday, but he took care of that order of business just an hour before their arrival.  After saying, "yes," the American Airlines flight attendant reportedly received a sizeable "rock," which made for the perfect accessory for walking the red carpet for the bash. She flaunted her new ring and her new fiancée' with pride.  The double-celebration took place at Pacha in New York.

Lost's Abrams Inks $55M In Deals

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jul. 16, 2006) LOS ANGELES (AP) —
J.J. Abrams, the co-creator of Lost and director of Mission: Impossible 3, signed a five-year deal with Paramount Pictures and a six-year contract with Warner Bros., together worth more than $55 million US, it was reported Saturday.  The two deals, completed early Friday, made the 40-year-old writer-producer one of the industry's highest-paid directors, the Los Angeles Times reported.  Abrams has been at Walt Disney Co.'s Touchstone Television studio, where he based his production company and created several ABC series.  "An opportunity presented itself, and we went for it," Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. Television, told the newspaper. "J.J. is such a unique and extraordinary talent, someone whom I've admired from a distance for years."  An e-mail message left for Paramount and a phone call left for Warner Bros. weren't immediately returned Saturday.  Roth declined to discuss financial details, but two sources told the newspaper that Abrams would get at least $4 million a year for six years and overhead costs that would average about $2 million a year for his Bad Robot production label.  The deal also allows him at least 35 per cent of what's known as the "back-end," or the revenue from DVD sales, Internet downloads and syndication sales.

Aniston Eager To Work With Her Old Friends

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(July 17, 2006) London —
Jennifer Aniston wants to do a special one-off reunion of the television comedy Friends, the actress said in an interview to be broadcast today. She said she missed making the show and was keen to reprise her role as Rachel. "I do at times miss it," the 37-year-old told Britain's Channel Four television. "The only thing I can think of doing is maybe for fun doing a Thanksgiving episode. Our Thanksgiving episodes were really fun." The final episode of the hugely successful sitcom was broadcast in May 2004 after a 10-year run. Reunions have been rumoured in the past and Aniston's co-star Courteney Cox, who played Monica, has recently said she could envisage a Thanksgiving get-together. Aniston broke down in tears during the interview, which touched on her love life and broken marriage to Brad Pitt. AFP

::THEATRE NEWS::

Spamalot: You'll Laugh A Lot

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic


Monty Python's Spamalot

By Eric Idle and John Du Prez. Directed by Mike Nichols. Until Sept. 10 at the Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria St. 416-872-1212.

(Jul. 17, 2006) All hail,
Spamalot!  For the next eight weeks, the most joyous place to be in Toronto will be the Canon Theatre, where King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, the Killer Rabbit and the odd French Taunter will be holding court.  Yes, Eric Idle and John Du Prez's musical hit "lovingly ripped off" from the cult comedy classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail finally opened in our fair city last night and we are certainly happier for its presence.  Make no mistake: this is an evening of pure froth and merriment, so light and insubstantial that it practically floats off the stage of its own accord. But when the world is falling apart around us and the mercury is shooting higher every day, isn't that just what we need?  There is a sort of plot: it's the usual Boy-Meets-Grail kind of show, only the boy here is none other than the paragon of English manhood, King Arthur.  As played with astonishing deftness by Michael Siberry, he makes the most wonderfully appealing dolt you could ever want to meet.  Siberry spits his lines out through clenched teeth and actually seems to speak with the proverbial stiff upper lip. He dances in a style that could best be described as Medieval Ellen DeGeneres and is powerfully funny doing so.  But then all of his fellow knights and partners in crime know how to carry the comic load.  Rick Holmes gives us a galaxy of hysterical cameos, from the snivelling French Taunter through the freakishly high-pitched Knight of Ni, down to his central role of the sexually confused Sir Lancelot.

It's probably worth the price of admission to watch Holmes's pelvis bump in gay abandon while his face keeps radiating "What am I doing here?" as a line of chorus twinks straight out of The Boy From Oz provide him with backup ... if you'll pardon the expression.  David Turner's Sir Robin radiates an angelic sweetness and a nervous digestive system, sweating with angst through the tougher parts of the Grail Quest, until he finds his calling as a musical theatre buff in the showstopping number "You Won't Succeed On Broadway."  One doesn't want to give the joke away, but let me just say this: you haven't lived (or laughed) until you've seen Turner do a killer parody of the famous bottle dance from Fiddler on the Roof ... only with the Holy Grail on top of his broad-brimmed Hasidic hat.  Then there's Bradley Dean as Sir Galahad, Camelot's answer to a surfer dude, flipping his blond hair with aplomb and giving full weight to the devastating parody of every Andrew Lloyd Webber ballad ever written, "The Song That Goes Like This."  On that number, he's partnered by the red-hot Pia Glenn, who ostensibly plays The Lady of the Lake, but is really there to give the show a jolt of pure diva musical energy whenever it's needed. One minute she's Tina Turner, then she's Paula Abdul, then she's Nina Simone — doing everything with a knowing glint in her eye and awesome vocal chops.  As you may have guessed, the ultimate kick of Spamalot is that it takes Holy Grail one step further. Not only does it parody all the tropes of bad Arthurian film epics, but it also takes on the entire world of modern pop show business.  Nothing is safe: Las Vegas floor shows (The Lady of the Lake and her backup group called — what else? — "The Laker Girls"), over-the-top gospel numbers ("Find Your Grail" leaves no cliché unturned in its quest for artificial inspirational uplift) and the already mentioned parodies of various musical theatre composers.  It takes a while to tune into the double-barrelled duplicity that Idle and Du Prez fire on the audience and — to tell the truth — last night's patrons were a bit slow in getting completely with the show's vibe.

But shortly after the curtain rose on Act II, the sweet-faced (and sweeter-voiced) Jeff Dumas broke into "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and you could almost hear the crowd purr with contentment.  From then on it was a love-fest, pure and simple.  By the time we got to the final sequence, which involves the Arthurian version of a Vegas wedding, confetti shooting out over the audience's heads and everyone blissfully singing along to a final reprise of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," you could have put a happy-meter in the theatre and watched it go off the charts.  And when Eric Idle stepped onto the stage from his seat in the house, the crowd rose as one to hail this man who had given them so much pleasure over the years.  If you don't see Spamalot, then I fart in your general direction.
 

::OTHER NEWS::

Our Queen Of Deep-Dish Dirt

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill


(July 15, 2006) VANCOUVER —
Elaine Lui is on the hunt for juicy morsels of celebrity gossip. Dedicated smut hound that she is, her Blackberry won't stop buzzing. “Hello?” Lui spits into the phone. “I'm at George, this lounge in Vancouver. Where are you? Well, the photos are up. I can't talk now, but do you have any more information you would like to clarify?” Photos? What photos? Does Lui have cold, hard evidence of the mystery baby belonging to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, the one nobody has seen, not even the maternity ward's on-duty nurse?  “No,” Lui laughs. But hey, it is plausible. It was Lui, after all, who scooped the tabloids last year when she reported — a full 12 hours before People magazine on-line published the official announcement — that Holmes had missed her period. Crude? Sure. Remember, though, that in the gutter trenches (where celebrity publicity machines really do issue carefully calculated press releases) a slam-dunk report on the fiancée of Hollywood's biggest star missing her monthly moon cycle is somewhat comparable to a hotshot foreign correspondent discovering the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden well before the Pentagon. It's a bona fide red-alert, stop-the-presses score. What's more, snarky little “Lainey” (as devoted readers call the 32-year-old on-line scribe) broke the news from Vancouver — far away from the backstabbing streets of Hollywood. In the trashy kingdom of celebrity gossip, Lui is the new queen of dirt. “The Internet makes things accessible,” says Lui, tossing her long, straight tresses behind her petite shoulders. “Gossip is universal.”

Her website,
www.laineygossip.com, now receives about 43 million hits from nearly 500,000 unique visitors a month. She publishes four columns a week, with five or six items in each, and has attracted regular readers from as far away as Grenada, Turkey and South Africa. The story she's chasing today is about Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal. New photos of the two actors, strolling along a beach and looking awfully cozy, have surfaced. Later tonight, Lui will post those photos on her website, and weigh in with her own educated opinion about the so-called romance: “What this is, my fellow gossips, is a public ruse to throw people off the private truth, to protect her real love from prying pappies and to conveniently ‘confirm' Jake's heterosexuality as wel;.” For the record, Lui doesn't think the star of Brokeback Mountain is gay, nor do her sources. How can she be so sure? “He can't dress,” she exclaims. “How many homos do you know who don't have any fashion sense?” It's all chatter, speculation and unconfirmed nonsense. But to those with a taste for the kind of tawdriness that makes the tabloid world turn, Lainey's tidbits are lip-smacking delicious. “I want it to sound like a Friday-night conversation you might have with your girls over a few martinis,” she says, stressing that 99 per cent of her columns are simply catty commentary on the gossip headlines of the day. “Once in a while, I will get to break something juicy” she says. Last month, for example, she got her hot little mitts on exclusive photos of Paris Hilton and Colorado Avalanche goalie Jose Theodore holding hands after the MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto.

“But I'm never going to compete with Entertainment Tonight,” she now adds. “I simply don't have that kind of access.” What she does have is a cynical attitude, a potty mouth and a refreshingly candid take on the cotton-candy spins of the gossip industry. “My readers understand that Hollywood is one big press release,” she says. “They appreciate that I tell it like it is.” It all started in early 2004, when Lui left her job as a fundraiser at the University of British Columbia and returned to hometown Toronto to help nurse her mother through a kidney transplant. With free time on her hands, she began writing daily e-mails to former colleagues who had always loved listening to her cut up celebrities and mock the people who worship them. “I swear, it started with two people,” she explains, digging into a plate of spring rolls. Those two friends began forwarding the newsletter to two of their friends and so on and so on. Before long, Lui had 4,000 people on her distribution list. A year later, she was back in Vancouver with a fundraising job for Covenant House (a shelter for homeless youth) and a serious Internet-server problem: It kept crashing. Out of sheer necessity, Lui launched her site in January of 2005. She soon began receiving e-mails from inside sources — stylists, personal assistants, office administrators — who enjoyed her writing. “They'd say ‘You have no idea! Here's what I know,' ” she recalls. She now has about 15 regular sources who provide her with tips, and confirm or squelch loose leads. “I do get random tips every day from people I've never spoken to or anonymous hotmail e-mail addresses. I dismiss most of them, but if one piques my interest, I'll go back to one of my sources and say ‘Is that even possible? Was that person even there?' ” As the website continued to grow, Lui began burning out from the grind of holding down two full-time jobs. Eight weeks ago, she scaled back her job at Covenant House (she still works on special fundraising projects) and jumped into the gossip gig whole hog. She also does a weekly spot on CTV's eTalk Daily, and has recently begun putting advertisements on her site (her husband manages the business end).

Is she making a fortune? “Absolutely not,” she says, rolling her eyes. Does she hope to become a celebrity herself some day? “Never!” she shrieks. “If you had asked me that question when I was 20, I would have said sure. Celebrity gossip has been my lifelong obsession. I grew up with the Brat Pack. I watched The Breakfast Club 8,000 times and memorized all the lines. When I was 10, I thought Michael Jackson was the sexiest thing alive. I got over it.” The phone rings again. “That's my mom,” she says. “It's 7:30 in Toronto, so she's just watched eTalk and is probably calling to critique my eyebrows or something. I'd better not take it.” Lui's mother is a regular character in the columns, along with Lui's own “weeping ovaries ... who have the misfortune of being stuck inside a child-allergic shallow bitch,” as she recently wrote. Lui is an equal-opportunity slagger, and pokes as much fun at herself as anyone else. She does, however, have her favourites. She admires Gwyneth Paltrow because the actress is a “stone cold, upper-crust, wannabe British, private-school snob,” she once explained on her site. “After all, who needs another all-American sweetheart bimbo with big tits and an addiction to coke and extramarital [sex]???” She has carved out a special place in Lainey Hell for Tori “lying skank” Spelling, and all father-neglecting “manstealers” of the world. Incredibly, she has never been sued. Her more damning missives are buttressed by cheeky, lawyer-approved disclaimers, such as this one that started off a recent column on the Gay Midget Dwarf (her pet name for Tom Cruise): “Again, for the benefit of his rapacious legal team — please note that what you are about to read is based on conjecture and gossip and rumour and has not been confirmed and Tom Cruise is the most virile man on the planet and his Church is all wise and all mighty and they are very, very nice, praise Xenu forever and ever ... ah, Thetan.”

There are certain subjects she will never write about — her old heartthrob, Michael Jackson, for instance. “It's not fun,” she explains. “When did child-molestation lawsuits become fun?” And for the most part, Lui writes only about people she sees as purposely courting publicity. “Paris Hilton wants to be written about,” she rationalizes. As do Nicole “Freeze Face” Kidman and her new husband Keith Urban. “Right now, they're trying to portray the image of a perfect marriage,” Lui says of the new couple. “At first, they wanted privacy. Then all of a sudden, they're getting married and every single detail of the wedding was available to the public. Last weekend, they went to Target and bought a Swiffer! “Oh, they're so down to earth,” she says sarcastically. “They're just a regular couple. Yeah, they went to Target, bought a Swiffer and then got into their Bentley. Please tell me that people who own a Bentley also clean their own house. I'll believe you. Honestly.” And while there are many worshipful fans out there who do buy into the game, Lui says they're beyond help. “If you believe everyone in Hollywood is completely altruistic — there's no strategy or calculation, and what you see is what you get — that's fine. Don't read my site. Read People magazine.”

`Rudeboys' Try To Be Men In Londonstani

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(Jul. 15, 2006) The four 19-year-old South Asian Brit lads who are the protagonists of
Londonstani might be best compared to the foursome in the HBO series Entourage.  They fit nicely into the seats of a Beemer; they go everywhere together; they have a leader they serve; and they are every bit as businesslike and consumer-conscious as their Hollywood counterparts.  But this foursome, unlike Vince Chase and his posse, also has a more reflective member, a recent inductee named Jas. He is Gautam Malkani's narrator. Through Jas, the author of Londonstani reveals an aggressive desi (Sanskrit for countryman) "rudeboy" subculture, a blend of British, American and Indian pop attitudes forged in an ongoing conflict with the gora (white) boys.  Weeks after he'd finished writing it, Malkani's book became a sought-after property at the Frankfurt Book Fair last October. His British publisher, The Fourth Estate, was rumoured to have paid as much as £350,000 ($730,000) for the first novel and published it this past April. It got a lot of attention.  A 29-year-old editor and media specialist with The Financial Times of London, Malkani is now taking time off to promote Londonstani in the U.S.  Malkani was a little surprised at some reactions to his novel, especially given that it started out as a dissertation at Cambridge University, where he did a degree in social and political sciences.  His characters are divided selves, British-born Sikh and Hindu toughs, tied to their mothers' apron strings in ways non-desi North Americans would find hard to understand.  "Some reviews called them two-dimensional. But that's the point," says Malkani, speaking from Raleigh, N.C. "Ravi, Hardjit and Amit are supposed to be two-dimensional. They have no depth of character. Depth and whiteness are deemed to be effeminate by these boys."

They grow up in Hounslow, a borough of London adjacent to Heathrow airport. Malkani grew up there too and as an older adolescent grew disturbed by self-destructive behaviour among his peers. "In the early '90s, the stereotypical, geeky British Asian boy had morphed from this conscientious and subservient identity into a more aggressive, assertive identity.  "A lot of my mates were sticking two fingers up to the education system because it was meant to be the face of white, mainstream society," says Malkani, in a tone not BBC English and not Cockney either. It's the hard-edged accent of the English intellectual with no wish to cover up his roots.  At Cambridge, the author pursued a thesis about race relations in his own backyard, but was advised that what he was really talking about had more to do with gender relations. "Instead of looking at some Empire-strikes-back response to racism or discrimination, I was examining the formation of masculinity."  After writing his undergraduate paper, Malkani had enough research for a book. By day he worked at FT, and at night he had no appetite for composing an academic tome.  But the material was too good to give up; his journalist's instincts told him to write a book that might actually appeal to rudeboys like Ravi, Amit and Hardjit — in other words, people who don't read books.  So Malkani found a way, through fiction and a timeless form of colourful street talk, to express the changes he was seeing in his own community of males.  This is Rudeboy Rule #2: "Havin the blingest mobile fone in the house is a rudeboy's birthright ... They free your mum an dad while still allowing your parents to keep tabs on you."  When hip hop culture was absorbed by desi boys, people tried to say they were aping black Americans. "But it's a lot more complicated than that," says Malkani. "Hip hop's embrace of materialism, misogyny, homophobia and machismo reinforce the same elements in Indian culture. The obsession with status and being shown appropriate respect is common to both."  Through Jas, the author was able to comment on some of these cultural ironies. In the "Paki" section of the book, Jas cites the reason why the racist term Paki was never embraced like "Nigga" in American hip hop. "... many Hindus an Sikhs'd spit blood if they ever got linked to anything to do with Pakistan. Indians are just too racist to use the word Paki."

There is humour in Londonstani and romance, a helpful former schoolteacher and a desi financial investor who has made the grade and lives in cool splendour in London's Mayfair district. Within the fiction, Malkani was trying to express a sociological premise about the progress of first-generation South Asian Britons who instead of trying to assimilate, want to segregate themselves in the old country's language and customs.  "This phase of anti-integration looks ugly and aggressive but in the long run it's a positive thing," he says, quoting a scholar's approach. "It means these communities can re-integrate at a later date and bring their own British identity to the table."  He was also at pains to describe the insecurity of the male adolescent. Jas and his crew, he says, are "just middle-class boys trying to be men. In households where the women dominate, as they do in these boys' homes, you're trying to be more manly than your mother rather than as manly as your father."  Malkani, who got married to Monica, an IT consultant, during the gestation of his novel, fought to preserve the title Londonstani, hoping it would not be associated with Islamic fundamentalism. After the July 7, 2005, London bombings and the violence in Paris's immigrant neighbourhoods, this was going to be a problem in the placement of the book. He arranged to have a chapter sold to a well-respected English magazine, Prospect. Still there were comparisons with the French film La Haine (Hatred) after his novel came out.  Neither would he accept flattering comparisons with Zadie Smith, London author of the bestselling novel about growing up in two cultures, White Teeth. "Her (novel) was on such a completely higher plane than mine was. This is about boys trying to be men and the global consumer culture."

Is Sun Setting On Toronto Tales?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Judy Stoffman


(Jul. 16, 2006) Charles Dickens used to walk for hours through London, returning to his desk to pour his impressions into his fiction. Balzac and Zola captured the courtesans and strivers and market porters of Paris. Mordecai Richler strove to set down on the page the multi-ethnic flavour of his native Montreal.  But where are the imaginative chroniclers of life in Toronto? The summer fiction issue of Toronto Life that went out to subscribers last week will be the magazine's last fiction issue, editor John Macfarlane has announced, because the stories about Toronto (or at least by Toronto writers) that he wanted cannot be found.  "Once we faced up to it there was no debate in the office," Macfarlane said in a phone interview, referring to the ending of a 10-year-old tradition.  Spurred by the realization that Toronto had become one of the world's literary hot spots, the annual fiction issue was launched in 1997, and has received as many as 200 submissions annually. The magazine canvassed publishers, agents, members of the Writers' Union and others to gather a range of material. "We did a pretty good job of beating the bushes," Macfarlane said on the phone.  The idea was to find stories consistent with the mandate of the magazine, and for the first three years this proved feasible.  But by the fourth year, the magazine was inviting submissions from across the country.  "The job of a city magazine is to inform people about the city," he explains. "We thought we would be able to do this through the medium of fiction with stories by Toronto writers — over time, we discovered we couldn't do that — there weren't enough people writing short fiction in Toronto, so we slipped into running stories from other parts of the country and they were often about other parts of the world. It made no sense. I decided after 10 years it's time to stop."  Each fiction issue contained from four to six stories. The current one includes two by Toronto writers, and they are clearly the strongest: Shyam Selvadurai's "The Demoness Kali" is set in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and is about a boy's complex relationship with a cruel and powerful grandmother.

Margaret Atwood reappears with "The Entities," a story about an aging real estate agent's interventions in the lives of her clients (the setting is vague but could be Toronto).  Joan Barfoot of London, Ont., contributes "The Right Life," about a couple preparing to celebrate their 40th anniversary, while the husband remembers a secret, long-ago affair. The fourth story, "Proof," is actually an excerpt from a forthcoming novel by Vancouver writer Denise Ryan. Set in Toronto with mentions of Chorley Park, Rosedale United Church and Glen Road bridge, it describes a group of teens touched by the murder of the neighbourhood's paper boy.  "It's always sad to lose the market for fiction but not surprising, because a lot of big magazines have eliminated fiction," commented literary agent Denise Bukowski, who represents David Bergen and Leon Rooke, both of whom had had stories in the magazine.  She was surprised to learn of the Toronto requirement: "When they had a call for submissions they never specified what they wanted. It might have worked if John Macfarlane just went to authors and commissioned stories. What they did is call for stories then reject all but four of them. A lot of established authors didn't like that and didn't want to submit. They didn't want to be in a contest."  Macfarlane says he does not rule out fiction completely:  "We may again publish fiction, I can't say when. When we do, it will be consistent with the magazine's mission. But it's unlikely we'll give it a whole issue."

 

::SPORTS NEWS::

Voices: Raptors Moves

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jul. 18, 2006) We asked readers what they think of the moves made by the
Toronto Raptors at the draft and through trades and free agency so far this summer.  Here's a sample of reader's responses.

The Anthony Parker signing was great. I saw the game where he killed the Raps. Andrea Bargnani is an excellent player, I saw him against the Wizards in summer league where he crossed over the defender and pulled up for a shot; that's un-charted skill for a big man. Rasho was another great move, he should provide some interior defence as well as making the 15-20 footer on offence to keep the opposing defence honest. I believe John Salmons is a very under rated player, and if we plan to run an offence like Phoenix; expect him to have a breakout year a la Boris Diaw. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Raps are going to the playoffs.
Bru Ananth, Markham

Ford-Villanueva deal was beyond terrible. You can find many 6-0 guards who can't shoot 3s but you'll have a really hard time to find a 6-11 power forward who can knock down treys and score 48 points in his rookie season. Terrible, terrible move. Did I mention that Ford's contract expires two years earlier?
Yalcin Sahin, Istanbul, Turkey

I think Colangelo is the second coming of Jerry West - he just seems to know when and where to find the right kind of talent out there to mold the type of team he wants. And I really think that Mitchell has the opportunity to really establish himself with the kind of players he has at his disposal.
Vincent Muambi, Mississauga

I am very impressed with everything that has happened. Now it’s up to the players to The moves Bryan Colangelo has made have been really good; however I still think we lack defence. We know CB, MoPete and TJ are going to carry us, but in order for the Raps to make the playoffs and really contend Joey Graham and Bargnani are going to have to play really well. Graham needs to be dominant on defence and Bargnani is going to have to help a lot on the glass and on the perimeter. Look out for P.J. Tucker; I think he is going to be a beast.
Gautam Tikekar, Scarborough

It's been a busy offseason I don't think it's over just yet either. Certainly there are some risky moves in such as the TJ trade and signings like Parker, and Salmons. Not all are sure to pay off but as a fan I'm much happier to see us take risks than sit back and do nothing.
Matt Schmehl, Kitchener

The only moves I question are moving Charlie V and Matt Bonner. I know we have to give up something to get something. That's how we got Nesterovic and T.J Ford but I love the presence of T.J. Ford on the team. I wish he could have come without losing Charlie V.
Kevin Marshall, Mississauga

What a difference a year makes. This team now has playoff potential with some of the Eastern Conference teams taking a step back. I may want to watch a few more live games this year, but more importantly, I don't have to cancel my RaptorsTV subscription!
Ed Austria, Scarborough

I think Raptors are going to turn some heads this season. I feel so confident about Raptors this year. There are no holes in the team this year. They have speed, defence, offence and some toughness as well. I think we can see the team doing better than just making the playoffs, maybe trip to the conference finals.
Nipin Malhotra, Mississauga

I hate the deal that the raps did to get Ford. Charlie Vilanueva is in amazing young player and is better than Ford!
Justin Crozier, Dartmouth

Nobody can say for certain how the Raptors will do next season but you have to admit that the excitement surrounding all the moves so far has raised the level of anticipation in a way not seen before. I can't wait for the opening tip.
Mitch Walker, Mississauga

The man dresses well, has a great basketball mind, and has put the Raptors back on the map. His name is Bryan Colangelo. With all his dealings, I look forward to seeing our team squeak into the playoffs. T.J Ford brings something to Toronto that it has not had since the Damon Stoudemire days.
Adnan Azam, Brampton

With the addition of more big men like Bargnani and Reshovic, they will be a lot better in defence, and yet still have a run and gun team with T.J. Ford, John Salmons, Bosh, and especially Mo Pete. Mo Pete is the cornerstone of the franchise at the moment, because he has been there the longest, and understands the whole entire organization.
Kevin Sam, Scarborough

The best move raps made this year was to Sign Brian as the GM and then every move he made was just excellent and will definitely help Raptors.
Salman Jawed, Toronto

Is Colangelo trying to put the right players on the court or HIS players. Although I agree with most of his moves, I think the players he's dealt or let go could have done the same job as players he's bringing. How much different is Garbajosa from Bonner, especially considering Bonner earns half what Garbajosa does. I'm not saying Bonner is going to lead us to the playoffs but is Colangelo trying too hard to put his stamp on this team?
Ankur Jain, London

I like the latest moves, especially T.J Ford and Parker. Charlie can score, but he hasn't heard of defence. Peterson is the cornerstone of the defence. I hope he takes a leadership role on that side of the court (get nasty like Oakley, but mobile).
Dwayne Connolly, Toronto

Why are the Raptors signing Anthony Parker to a 3 year deal? Hello, he is already 31 so in one or two years he’ll be an old guy much like our great collection of useless old veterans: Rasho Nesterovic, Alvin Williams, and Darrick Martin. I truly hope that Brian Colangelo knows what he's doing because this could really be a disaster in the making.
Ben Staton, Montreal

New players with talent, toughness, speed, fun to watch. Just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, we do have a taste of Europe on the Raps. They play Team-B-Ball there and have something to prove. B.C. got every player he wanted this summer.
Frank McCourt, Mississauga

This summer is shaking out to be one of the most exciting in team history. Fans are hungry for a winner and Bryan Colangelo has begun to deliver.
Craig Iszczuk, Waterloo

I like the direction the team is moving in. They are getting more and more athletic with every move, which was one of the major issues with the team in previous years. Now if they can translate it into better defence, they will be well on the road to respectability again. Nice moves, BC, and you've generated interest in the team once again.
Tom Hayko, Whitby

The moves are good but it still doesn't like a playoff calibre team. I'll give them with the moves that they made, they should be better than 27 wins. Hopefully Kris Humphries will have a breakout season? Can always wish.
Jason Ohashi, Toronto

I am sceptical of the Charlie Villanueva trade for one reason. He will be the better player over his career. However, we do need a point guard, and T.J. Ford can push the ball with the rest of our team.
Marc DeNovellis, North York

Impressive that so many good quality players could be signed over one short summer - complete roster overhaul.
Joe Smith, Toronto

I love what Colangelo has done with the roster. I'm a huge Mike James fan and would have liked to have seen him re-sign, I'll really miss his hard drives to the hole and pull up jay's, Bonner's three point touch and Villanueva's scoring ability but the additions of T.J Ford, Rasho, Parker and Andrea will make us a better team. We had no problem scoring the ball last year, it was stopping guys that was the problem. Hopefully we'll be better suited to doing that this year.
Tyler Johnston, Toronto

I think the Raptors are banking too much on their # 1 pick Bargnani. He is unproven. They had a possible devastating duo in Bosh and Charlie V, both of whom were solid citizens, a rarity in the NBA. Point guards are a dime a dozen and on most days most of them can do an adequate job of feeding Bosh and Charlie V. (well could of).
Roger Laurin, Winnipeg

12 million 3 year deal for an un-proven 31 year old NBA player does not seem like a very good idea right now. Given that he dominated the Euroleague, but that does not guarantee him to perform at the level expected for that price! I hope this turns out to be a solid Raptor signing, and not another flop from the Israeli teams (Nate Huffman comes to mind).
Wilson Chung, Toronto

This is awesome! MLSE finally has a GM that is actually doing things and not just sitting on his rear end watching other teams improve. I guarantee, Raptors will win a championship TWICE before the Leafs even reach the finals.
Safi Habib, Bramalea

There's nothing more promising and exciting to see the BC grouping together such a strong supporting role for our franchise player CB4! However, it seems BC is probing into the International Market quiet excessively. It's an unknown out there and this gamble might be the greatest achievement or failure. Nevertheless, all these media hype is really brining the hockey town's attention back to basketball!
Lukas Yoo, North York

Kudos to Colangelo for trying to turn this franchise around. But really should he be more aggressive in acquiring some reputable free agents. With guys like Bobby Jackson & Keith Van Horn available, I think he should throw 4-5 million at them instead of unproven EuroLeague guys who play in a soft league overseas.
Mark Mendo, Toronto

From the merely improbable (getting the #1 pick) to the nearly impossible (trading Arrujo), and with the prospect of top Euro players coming onboard, Colangelo has performed major roster surgery with minimal discomfort. For the first time in a long time, there's hope.
Doug Stephens, Oshawa

With the moves that are upcoming, it seems like the Raptors will be even stronger off the bench. They've gotten rid of players that didn't want to be here, brought in even better players that do want to be here and saved money at the same time. Hopefully this new plan that Colangelo has in mind will work out.
Ivan Kapularic, Mississauga

TJ Ford will be a good fit for the Raptors. Finally, a ball distributor instead of a ball hog like James. Rasho should also help tremendously in the middle. PJ Tucker was a good pick. Bryan, just one more move I'm waiting from you. Get a real coach. Doug Collins is not doing anything these days.
Chito Salalac, Mississauga

Toronto's moves have been great. Bryan Colangelo has been doing the team some great upgrades, and there’s still more in his bag of tricks, let’s wait and see.
Louigy Hernandez, Barrie

Leafs Welcome Peca To Fold

Source: Canadian Press, with files from Ken Campbell

(Jul. 18, 2006) The
Toronto Maple Leafs have landed veteran centre Michael Peca.  The 32-year old Toronto native has agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.5-million (all figures U.S.).  "Obviously being a Toronto kid goes without saying how big this is, but it goes deeper than that," Peca said Tuesday during a news conference. "My willingness to play in Toronto goes beyond being from Toronto, it's recognizing an organization that prides itself on wanting to win, and really taking every step necessary where they see fit to try to provide that for the fans."  The 11-year NHL centre, who earned $3.99 million last season in Edmonton, rebounded with a strong second half and playoff after a slow start to the regular season.  He recorded six goals, five assists and a plus-5 rating in 24 playoff games, winning key face-offs and killing penalties while centring a line between Fernando Pisani and Raffi Torres that was instrumental in the Oilers' post-season run. He had nine goals and 14 assists in 71 regular-season games.  "What we're adding now is some real solid two-way play, and guy that's really going to help us be a harder team to play against, and I think that's the bottom line for us," said Leafs GM John Ferguson. "We're going to be younger, quicker, and play a more up-tempo style."  Peca, who has 394 career points (160-234) in 693 regular-season games with Vancouver, Buffalo, Long Island and Edmonton, was traded to Edmonton from the Islanders last Aug. 3 in exchange for forward Mike York and a fourth-round draft pick.  Peca, a junior star with the Ottawa 67's, was also a member of Canada's 2002 Olympic champion team in Salt Lake City.

A two-time Selke Trophy winner as the NHL's top defensive forward, Peca makes his off-season home in nearby Buffalo.  Monday, the Leafs signed centre Kyle Wellwood to a two-year deal that will see him earn salaries of $800,000 next season and $950,000 in 2007-08 for an average of $875,000 per season against the salary cap.  The Leafs also signed prospect defensemen Brendan Bell and Jay Harrison to identical one-year contracts that will see them make $450,000 if they play in the NHL and $85,000 (Canadian) with the Marlies. Defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo accepted his one-year qualifying offer and will make $901,740 if he plays in the NHL and $92,500 (Canadian) in the AHL. Gritty minor leaguer winger Kris Newbury also accepted his qualifying offer and will be paid $495,000 at the NHL level and $62,500 (Canadian) with the Marlies.  That means the only player remaining to be signed is centre/winger Matt Stajan and that is expected to be done any day now. Stajan had until Saturday night to accept his one-year qualifying offer, but both sides agreed to extend the deadline.

::FITNESS::

Yoga vs. Pilates: Which Is For You?

By Shawn McKee, eDiets.com Staff Writer

How do you like to exercise? Maybe you on a treadmill is tantamount to a hamster on a wheel, lifting weights has "never been your thing," and it's entirely too hot to exercise outside in the scorching summer sun. But what can one do for a sculpted body and flatter abs?  It's time to stretch your perceptions of performance with two ways to workout that will not only strengthen your body, but also engage your mind.  The fitness landscape is changing, and the change is toward a mind-body approach to exercise that keeps you interested longer. By emphasizing the mind-body connection, you can relax and relieve stress while increasing your flexibility, strength and balance.  The two most popular forms of these types of exercise are yoga and Pilates. Yoga and Pilates both promote "mindful movement." While running or walking requires your movements to become automatic, often “zoning out,” you have to keep your mind totally focused on what your body is doing when you practice yoga or Pilates.  But which is which, and what is right for you?

Age before Beauty

Yoga is a holistic, philosophical approach to fitness. Research suggests it was created in India as many as 5,000 years ago and was brought to the Western World more than 100 years ago. Yoga emphasizes balance in all areas -- equally strengthening all muscle groups, creating mental and physical balance, and encouraging moderation in everything.  The basic premise of yoga is that it uses movement, breathing, posture, relaxation and meditation to create a harmonious body, mind and spirit. Yoga exercises are mostly static; you get into the pose, then hold it for several breath cycles while you focus on breathing, physical feelings and emotions. According to The Yoga Journal, the poses or asanas were originally invented so yoga practitioners could hold their bodies in static positions for long periods while they were meditating.

Compared to yoga, Pilates is just a babe -- it was created in the 1920s by a German named Joseph Pilates. It was used to rehabilitate injured soldiers in World War I. He introduced his technique to the dance world when he immigrated to the United States. Pilates strives to develop a graceful, fluid rhythm while performing the repetitions or transitioning from one exercise to another. Pilates quickly became a favourite of dancers.  Unlike the static nature of yoga, Pilates exercises are constantly moving. Performing five to 10 repetitions of an exercise and then moving on to the next. Pilates focuses on the powerhouse (the core or trunk) and building strength there first. Pilates is about moving in ways that help strengthen the powerhouse and all its stabilizing muscles.  Joseph Pilates said his technique “develops not only the muscles of the body, suppleness of the limbs and functioning of the vital organs and endocrine glands, it also clarifies the mind and develops the will." Some of his other memorable quotes were: "The mind shapes the body" and "where the mind goes, the body will follow."

You say potato, I say Pilates…

Yoga and Pilates have their differences, but also many striking similarities. Both can result in long, lean muscles, combined with truly functional fitness. Yoga centers on poses, while Pilates uses movements. Yoga emphasizes flexibility over strength and Pilates emphasizes toning over flexibility -- both styles will enhance all of these areas.  With either exercise should come greater flexibility, overall muscle toning, stronger core muscles, improved balance and stability, and an increased ability to handle stress. One of the biggest differences between Pilates and yoga is the balance of yoga and the targeting aspect of Pilates. Pilates is composed of regimented exercises done with controlled breathing and performed on an apparatus or a mat to target certain areas of the body.  “Pilates is done in sets and reps, and yoga is not,” says Leigh Crews, a Georgia-based yoga instructor and former Reebok program developer in Yoga and Pilates.

Choose Wisely

Try yoga if you want a more relaxed free-flow exercise that is about balance and not only exercising, but enriching life. Yoga helps you manage stress and gain strength, cardio and flexibility in one shot. It is also great for stretching hamstrings if you’re a runner, or if you are someone who has had his first heart attack or has high blood pressure or diabetes, then yoga may work best for you.  Try Pilates if you are a dancer or athlete who wants to elevate his or her game, if you want flat abs or if you’ve been injured. If yoga is the father of exercise, then Pilates is the young, sporty child with a big-league future.  If you have the time, try them both and choose for yourself. There’s even a new hybrid called Yogilates if you just can’t decide. Visit www.yogaalliance.org or www.pilatesmethodalliance.com for qualified instructors.

Shawn McKee graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a BA in Journalism and has written for The Broward and Miami New Times.