Langfield Entertainment
88 Bloor Street E., Suite 2908, Toronto, ON  M4W 3G9
(416) 677-5883
langfieldent@rogers.com
www.langfieldentertainment.com

NEWSLETTER

Updated:  June 8, 2006

So many great events to tell you about this week. A reminder to catch one of Toronto's finest jazz-influenced vocalists, DK Ibomeka. Then there's the hot Caribbean-influenced jazz artists in the form of Eddie Bullen and Afropan, along with other special guests. And mark your calendars for an upcoming comedy show that will surely sell out as tickets are going fast for the Karnival Komedy Xplosion during the Caribana weekend. As usual, all details are below!

Check out all categories - tons of Canadian content in MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, THEATRE NEWS, and OTHER NEWS!  Have a read and a scroll!  This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTSWant to be removed from the distribution, click REMOVE.

 

 

 ::HOT EVENTS::

DK Ibomeka CD Launch at Hugh’s Room – Wednesday, June 14

At six foot seven, DK Ibomeka (pronounced ee-bo-MECK-eh) has a towering stage presence and a voice to match.  Musicians and industry insiders are calling DK Ibomeka one of the best new voices in years, with a three-octave range informed by the clarity and vibrancy of Ella Fitzgerald, the soulfulness of Ray Charles, and the deep, rich bass of Joe Williams.  DK Ibomeka’s debut album “Love Stories” (in stores June 6, 2006), presents a mix of classic jazz sounds combined with a touch of blues and a distinct flavouring of soul-informed jazz.  “Love Stories” was produced by Haydain Neale (jacksoul), with legendary engineer and producer George Massenburg on board as mixing consultant, and was mastered in New York City by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound. With each live performance (including an appearance at the 2005 Montreal Jazz Festival where he shared the stage with the Neville Brothers, Patti Labelle and Haydain Neale) DK continues to captivate audiences and critics alike.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14
DK IBOMEKA  DEBUT CD LAUNCH "LOVE STORIES"
**One Night Only**
Hugh's Room
2261 Dundas Street West,  Toronto
8:30 pm

Tickets: $20 in advance , $22 at the door
www.hughsroom.com

You're Every Woman - Fundraising Mothers and Daughters Brunch - POSTPONED to July 14, 2006

Come out and support the Sickle Cell Association of Ontario's fundraising event on Friday, July 14th for their Mothers and Daughters Brunch at the Pine Valley Conference Centre in Woodbridge. 

Brought to you by Motivation Sensation, the keynote speaker is Rosita Hall and Author of " I Found the Answer" & Women of the Year.  Entertainment is provided by Wade O. Brown, recording artist with an appearance on the award-winning hit television series, Soul food and Al St. Louis, spoken word artist of ‘When Words Are Not Spoken’.  Included in the special evening is a silent auction of local artists work within the GTA community, door prizes and more.  An arena of motivated awakening to strengthen the inner "you".

FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2006
YOU'RE EVERY WOMAN FUNDRAISER

Mother & Daughter's Day Brunch
Pine Valley Conference Center
17 Vinyl Court, Woodbridge
1:00 - 5:00 pm
Tickets: $65.00/adult; $50.00/child
(Includes food, entertainment)
Contact info: 416-398-8200 or 905-453-3037
Purchase tickets at retailer or online: Guardian, 3932A Keele (at Finch) and Nappy's Hair Shoppe, 83 Kennedy (Brampton) and 23 Dundas Street E. (Hurontario) and Perfection Barber Shop, 178 Queen St. E. (Brampton)
www.genoshaevents.com

Eddie Bullen & Afropan - Ivory N' Steel – June 17, 2006

For the first time in Toronto, an exciting collaboration of Smooth Jazz and Steel pan music. The island sounds of Afropan with the titillating tones of Eddie Bullen’s contemporary jazz flavoured with Caribbean and Latin rhythms. Add to the mix, the seductive sounds of Anslem Douglas and the power of Liberty Silver, for an evening of entertainment that is designed to thrill. 

SATURDAY, JUNE 17, 2006
EDDIE BULLEN & AFROPAN - IVORY N' STEEL
The Toronto Centre for the Arts
George Weston Recital Room
5040 Yonge Street
8:00 pm
Tickets: $40;  $30;   Group tickets (20 and over) - $35 
Tickets available at:   TicketMaster - 416-872-1111 or www.ticketmaster.ca  or at the TCA Box Office, 5040 Yonge Street
For more information visit    www.afropan.ca    or    www.eddiebullen.com  

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::

Kayte Burgess in the "Livin' My Dream" Empowerment Tour

Toronto’s Kayte Burgess has been selected (the sole Canadian!), along with other ‘unknown’ female artists to join a U.S. national tour which begins tonight in Washington, DC!  The possibilities here are endless as the women driving the tour are powerhouses in the U.S. music and entertainment industries.  WOMEN WHO JAM! is a female driven movement about women who create, produce and perform R&B/Hip Hop music. WOMEN WHO JAM! is powered by strong female vocalists, MCs, musicians, writers, DJs, dancers, producers... all women in music.  The movement serves as a testament to women who are making it in today’s music and entertainment industry -- women who run their own entertainment companies, produce their own shows, call the shots, manage the game and manage the money!  WOMEN WHO JAM! is an advocate for female performers everywhere... women who are opening doors, rockin’ the airwaves and shaping today’s music scene. 

Here are the details for tonight night in Washington, D.C.:

H2O -- located @ 800 Water Street, Washington, DC

WOMEN WHO JAM!  The music and performance showcase powered by talented and sensational female recording artists, musicians, MCs, comediennes and more!  Appearing tonight:
 

·                     Comedienne, Del Harrison

·                     R&B Songstress, Angelique

·                     Nashville, TN's, NaCole

·                     Women Who Jam contest winner, Kara McMillan

·                     Toronto Canada's, Kayte Burgess

·                     Neo Soul Powerhouse, Rasheeda Wallace

·                     Atlanta's Legacy... and

·                     The Soul of R&B...  A' Rekah


Meet DC's "HIGH HEELS IN HIGH PLACES" -- Get Inspired, Get Motivated... LEARN! 
Meet our "wonder women!"  Women not only worth watching, but women worth learning from!  Women who are making a difference in the lives of their families, co-workers, friends and the DC community.  Speaking tonight are:
 

·                     Monique Davis - National Director, Atlantic Records

·                     Vikki Johnson - Director, Public Affairs, BET

·                     Alison Bethel - Executive Editor, The Legal Times

·                     Angie Gates - Assistant GM, The Warner Theater

·                     Karcema Cockrell - Associate Editor, Sister 2 Sister Magazine

For more information, email us @ womenwhojam@aol.com  or call us: (646) 785-1389

Stevie Wonder’s Mother Dies

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 6, 2006) *Lula Mae Hardaway, the mother of legendary artist Stevie Wonder, has died following an undisclosed illness.  Wonder, whose real name is Steveland Morris Judkins Hardaway, collaborated on several songs with his mother, including his classic hit, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” Hardaway was also the subject of a book entitled, “Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway.”  Born in a sharecropper's shack in Alabama in 1932, Lula was the child of an unmarried teenage mother and absent father, according to her book. She lived with several relatives before giving birth to three sons by the age of 20. She eventually found work in a factory as many women did after World War II, but was limited by a lack of education and training.  As a teenager, she was sent to Chicago where she married a much older man who abused her and forced her to work as a prostitute.

Determined to build a better life for her children, she eventually made her escape to Detroit.  Although her youngest son, Steveland, was virtually blind from birth, Lula noticed his incredible musical genius. Soon, Motown’s Berry Gordy entered the picture with a record contract, and Lula’s days of poverty and struggle began to fade into the distance. When “Innervisions” won a Grammy award for Album of the Year in 1973, Wonder refused to accept the award unless Lula walked with him to the podium where he proclaimed, "her strength has led us to this place."  Funeral services for Hardaway will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles. (3600 Crenshaw Blvd). 

Brian Williams follows Olympics to CTV

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - William Houston


(June 6, 2006) CTV insisted it wasn't a raid, but by any measure the network's signing of Brian Williams ranks as a major heist. In a blockbuster move, CTV announced yesterday during its fall season presentation that Williams is leaving the CBC to join the network in December. Williams, who has been the face of the Olympics for the CBC since 1984, will work on CTV's Olympic programming over the next four year and will anchor prime-time coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and the 2012 London Summer Games. It's the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said yesterday. “When I found out what it was, I knew it was what I wanted.” Williams said he was drawn, not only to anchoring the prime-time television coverage of a domestic Games, but also to the opportunity to be involved in the building of the CTV-Rogers Olympic team. In 2005, CTV and Rogers Media outbid the CBC for rights to the 2010 and 2012 Games. Over the next four years, the consortium will put together a group of Olympic broadcasters and production people. Williams said the decision to leave the CBC, where he had worked since 1974, was difficult. But he insisted the CBC's move to have him stay in Toronto to anchor its Turin Games coverage in February from a studio had nothing to do with his deciding to leave. “These opportunities don't come along very often,” he said. “I'm not 30 years old any more. You have to take them when they come.”

Williams will turn 60 this summer. He has covered 12 Olympics for the CBC, but missed Canada's last domestic Games — Calgary in 1988 — when CTV acquired the rights. CTV president Rick Brace said Williams gives the network's Olympic initiative “instant credibility.” “We need to develop the CTV brand and really associate the CTV brand with Brian Williams,” he said. “We have a lot of Olympic work to do. We have a Vancouver station that needs a lot of promotion. We're going to have Brian doing a lot there and he'll appear on Canada AM.” Williams will also file reports to CTV-owned TSN. (CTV is owned by Bell Globemedia, parent company of The Globe and Mail.) Brace and Williams were vague about who approached whom. It appears as though discussions took place before Turin. When the 2006 Winter Games were over, it got serious. The deal was completed in the past two weeks. Williams plans to stay at the CBC for the next several months to work on the network's Canadian Football League and 2006 Grey Cup coverage. However, the CBC may have other plans. Nancy Lee, the head of CBC Sports, said yesterday the network hasn't made a decision on whether to let Williams continue. “We've just begun internal discussions about his departure,” she said. “It will take a bit of time.” Lee graciously acknowledged his contribution to the network. “Without question, I wish him well,” she said. “He's had a tremendous career here at the CBC.” She also alluded, perhaps in a mild pejorative way, to his long tenure at the network. “The way I look at it, it's an opportunity for him and one for the CBC, because it will give us a chance for a fresh look on television,” she said.

Billy Preston, 59: Singer, songwriter,'5th Beatle'

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bob Christie, Associated Press


(Jun. 6, 2006) PHOENIX — Billy Preston, the exuberant keyboardist who landed dream gigs with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and enjoyed his own series of hit singles including "Outta Space" and "Nothing From Nothing", died Tuesday at 59.  Preston's longtime manager, Joyce Moore, said Preston had been in a coma since November in a care facility and was taken to a Scottsdale hospital Saturday after his condition deteriorated.  "He had a very, very beautiful last few hours and a really beautiful passing," Moore said by telephone from Germany.  Preston had battled chronic kidney failure, and he received a kidney transplant in 2002. But the kidney failed and he has been on dialysis ever since, Moore said earlier this year.  Known for his big smile and towering Afro, Preston was a teen prodigy on the piano and organ, and lent his gospel-tinged touch to classics such as the Beatles' "Get Back" and the Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knocking?"  He broke out as a solo artist in the 1970s, winning a best instrumental Grammy in 1973 for "Outta Space", and scoring other hits with "Will It Go 'Round In Circles", "Nothing From Nothing" and "With You I'm Born Again", a duet with Syreeta Wright. He also wrote Joe Cocker's weeper "You Are So Beautiful."  Other career highlights included being a musical guest, in 1975, on the debut of Saturday Night Live; having a song named after him by Miles Davis; and appearing last year on American Idol. Among his film credits: Blues Brothers 2000 and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  His partnership with the Beatles began in early 1969 when friend George Harrison recruited him to play on Let It Be, a back-to-basics film and record project that nearly broke down because of feuding among band members. Harrison himself quit at one point, walking out on camera after arguing with Paul McCartney.  Preston not only inspired the Beatles to get along — Harrison likened his effect to a feuding family staying on its best behaviour in front of a guest — but contributed a light, bluesy solo to "Get Back", performing the song with the band on its legendary "roof top" concert, the last time the Beatles played live. He was one of many sometimes labelled "the fifth Beatle," a title he did not discourage.

Preston remained close to Harrison and performed at Harrison's all-star charity Concert for Bangladesh, and at the Concert for George, a tribute to Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001. He played on solo records by Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon.  Preston also toured and recorded extensively with the Rolling Stones, playing on such classic albums as Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. In the mid-'70s, he parted from the Stones, reportedly unhappy over not getting proper credit for "Melody" and other songs, but reunited with the band in 1997 on its Bridges to Babylon record.  His sessions credits included Aretha Franklin's Young, Gifted and Black, Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, and Sly and Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On, three of the most acclaimed albums of the past 35 years.  "His legacy is so huge I don't even know where to start," Moore said. "It's many genres, so many years. ... It's rock 'n' roll, it's soul, it's funk, it's everything. He was truly, truly, truly a genius."  A Houston native who soon moved to Los Angeles when his parents split up, Preston was in and around show business for much of his life. He was taking piano lessons at age 3 and was just 10 when he played keyboards for gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.  Two years later he portrayed a young W. C. Handy in the 1958 biopic St. Louis Blues. He toured with mentors and fellow piano greats Ray Charles and Little Richard in the early 1960s, first encountering the Beatles while on the road in Germany.  Exposed to drugs and alcohol early on, Preston had numerous personal troubles in recent years. In 1992, he was given a suspended jail sentence, but ordered incarcerated for nine months at a drug rehabilitation centre for his no-contest pleas to cocaine and assault charges. Five years later, he was sentenced to three years in prison for violating probation. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and agreed to testify against other defendants in an alleged scam that netted about $1 million.  "It (jail) was a great lesson, an awakening. I needed to reflect, to get rid of some of the dead weight around me," he later said. "You take the bitter with the sweet and I have to say it was my faith that kept me going. I had nothing else to fall back on."

Billy Preston, 59

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Bob Christie, Associated Press

(June 7, 2006) Phoenix —
Billy Preston, the exuberant keyboardist who landed dream gigs with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and enjoyed his own series of hit singles, including Outta Space and Nothing From Nothing, died Tuesday at 59. Preston's longtime manager, Joyce Moore, said he had been in a coma since November in a care facility and was taken to a hospital in Scottsdale on Saturday after his condition deteriorated. “He had a very, very beautiful last few hours and a really beautiful passing,” Moore said by telephone from Germany. “He went home good.” Preston had battled chronic kidney failure, and he received a transplant in 2002. The kidney failed, however, and he has been on dialysis ever since, Moore said earlier this year. Known for his big smile and towering Afro, Preston was a teen prodigy on the piano and organ, and lent his gospel-tinged touch to classics such as the Beatles' Get Back and the Stones' Can't You Hear Me Knocking? He broke out as a solo artist in the 1970s, winning a best instrumental Grammy in 1973 for Outta Space, and scoring other hits with Will It Go 'Round In Circles, Nothing From Nothing and With You I'm Born Again, a duet with Syreeta Wright. He also wrote Joe Cocker's weeper, You Are So Beautiful, and co-wrote with Quincy Jones the score for 1970 movie They Call Me Mr. Tibbs. Other achievements included being a musical guest on the 1975 debut of Saturday Night Live and having a song named after him by Miles Davis. Among his film credits: Blues Brothers 2000 and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Preston's partnership with the Beatles began in early 1969 when friend George Harrison recruited him to play on Let It Be, a back-to-basics film and record project that nearly broke down because of feuding among band members. Harrison quit at one point, walking out on camera after arguing with Paul McCartney. Preston not only inspired the Beatles to get along – Harrison likened his effect to a feuding family staying on its best behaviour in front of a guest – but contributed a light, bluesy solo to Get Back, performing the song with the band on its legendary “roof top” concert, the last time the Beatles played live. He was one of many sometimes labelled the "Fifth Beatle.”

Preston remained close to Harrison and performed at Harrison's all-star charity Concert for Bangladesh and at the Concert for George, a tribute to Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001. He played on solo records by Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon. Preston also toured and recorded extensively with the Rolling Stones, playing on such classic albums as Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. In the mid-'70s, he parted from the Stones, reportedly unhappy over not getting proper credit for Melody and other songs. He reunited with the band in 1997 on its Bridges to Babylon record. His sessions credits included Aretha Franklin's Young, Gifted and Black, Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks and Sly and Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On, three of the most acclaimed albums of the past 35 years. The Houston native earned his performance chops at age 10 playing the keyboard for gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, and at 12 portraying a young W.C. Handy in the 1958 biopic St. Louis Blues. He toured with mentors and fellow piano greats Ray Charles and Little Richard in the early 1960s, first encountering the Beatles while on the road in Germany. Preston had numerous personal troubles in recent years. In 1992, he was given a suspended jail sentence but ordered incarcerated for nine months at a drug rehabilitation centre for his no-contest pleas to cocaine and assault charges. Five years later, he was sentenced to three years in prison for violating probation. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and agreed to testify against other defendants in an alleged scam that netted about $1-million.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Take the A-Trak

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Joshua Ostroff

(June 2, 2006)
At some point, most musicians need a day job -- even a former wunderkind like five-time world champion DJ A-Trak. But rather than, say, waiting tables, 24-year-old Montreal turntable maestro Alain Macklovitch got a gig touring the globe with hip-hop superstar Kanye West. A young, Jewish, French Canadian may not seem like the most obvious candidate, but in the world of wax-scratchers A-Trak is a battle-hardened legend who pulled a Rocky Marciano, retiring at the top of his game at the ripe old age of 18. As Macklovitch notes, "When [West] hires someone, it's for a specific reason -- he wants to show them off." In May, 2004, A-Trak was overseas performing at a London record store when West popped in during a particularly impressive Jay-Z beat juggle. Within months, he was sharing stadium stages with West and Usher. He has since become a self-described "Paul Shaffer" to West's Letterman, cracking wise during concerts, going for broke at the Grammys, slaying audiences with scratch solos, and being photographed backstage with unlikely fan Tom Cruise. Macklovitch's DJ career kicked off at the age of 13 when he fortuitously spent his bar mitzvah money on a pair of Technics 1200 turntables. The next years were spent perfecting rapid-fire routines in his parents' basement and preparing for what became the golden age of turntablism. Though DJing was the first element of hip-hop culture, it was soon superseded by rapping. But even as emcees began rhyming over DAT tapes, DJs created their own stylistically avant-garde subculture rooted in virtuoso technique and international competition. It was amazing how immediate the process was for us in the battle scene," Macklovitch says from a tour stop in Cincinnati. "We never had to look for a place to fit in, we just did what we loved and our whole mission was to push this thing forward. We could win international acclaim and get booked at music festivals all around the world. That process was so straightforward."

After winning the Montreal regional competition in 1997, 15-year-old A-Trak, and his mom, flew to Italy for the DMC world championship, where he unexpectedly became the youngest ever winner. Initially, some of his competitors saw his youth as a judge-swaying gimmick. "I can't be surprised people would notice that I looked like an 11-year-old. My only thing was that I wanted to win more battles, make myself undeniable and win the respect of my peers," he says. Over the next few years he juggled high school and competitions, and was invited to join the groundbreaking DJ crews Invisibl Skratch Piklz and the Allies, while dominating the scratch scene to become the first DJ with five titles. Naturally, he quit. "It wasn't because I was 18 that I retired. But having achieved what I set out to do, I was in a position where I could re-evaluate. What's the next step?" Macklovitch moved on to running his record label Audio Research, leading local rap outfit Obscure Disorder, rocking parties across the globe and, occasionally, studying biology at McGill University. The entire time he had been filming his exploits, which were recently edited into the Sunglasses Is A Must DVD, an autobiographical romp from his bar mitzvah to West's private jet and all the practices, pranks, tours and tournaments in between. "It went from cataloguing my routines to making a DVD out of slice-of-life footage and eventually became a comprehensive story about how I came up," he says. "It was a good experience to revisit all that, especially the early years. Making the DVD made me extremely thankful towards a lot of people who took me in like family." A-Trak has also been working on his debut album. Though still scratch-based, it'll be half-instrumental and half-rap, with verses from underground emcees MF Doom and Little Brother as well as commercial heavyweights the Diplomats, Lupe Fiasco and maybe even A-Trak's boss. "An appearance involves a lot of legal stuff that I haven't even gotten into yet. Let's just say Kanye is very supportive of my music."

Aside from the odd break to join West at the MTV Canada launch in Toronto, a set before 60,000 people at the Coachella festival near Los Angeles and a Letterman gig where he actually met Paul Shaffer, Macklovitch is taking a hiatus to headline his own club tour reminding fans why he became famous in the first place with a set splitting the difference between performance and party. "The accommodations are different," he deadpans. "I traded a big tour bus for a Dodge Caravan, but I have no problem with that. I like being able to juggle both worlds." A-Trak's Sunglasses Is a Must tour stops at Spin Gallery, 1100 Queen St. W., tonight. $10 advance. 416-530-7656.

Album Maters

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic

(Jun. 4, 2006) Fear" is the motivational slogan Kevin Drew has scrawled across a blackboard to rally the young troops arrayed before him in the
Etobicoke School of the Arts auditorium, but the Broken Social Scene frontman's return this particular morning to his old high-school hallways is actually a rather comforting one.  For students living and breathing the very sorts of cultural pursuits that are usually first on the chopping block when governments start tightening the education system's belt, the international success of the Broken mob and its numerous indie-rock offshoots is reassurance that devoting your life to those arts so often dismissed as "fluff" by a business-minded society can eventually pay dividends.  Indeed, Toronto's recent indie renaissance has established the Etobicoke school — attended in overlap roughly 15 years ago by Drew, his Broken compadres Amy Millan of Stars and Emily Haines of Metric, as well as Tangiers and Deadly Snakes members — as an historical pillar of the contemporary Canadian music scene.  ESA, as it's known, has even come to rival Thornlea Secondary School — a Thornhill institution known to some of its grads as "Rock 'n' Roll High" as the breeding ground for notable late-'90s acts from Hayden to hHead to the Philosopher Kings — as the region's most fruitful supplier of rock-inclined graduates.  ESA's "incubator" status isn't hard to explain, since it's the sort of place where the halls get littered with sheet music for Romberg's Concertino: Opus 51 for cello and piano rather than discarded potato-chip bags. Its annual auditions draw 800 to 1,000 students from points well beyond the city limits (and sometimes beyond the border) vying for a chance to immerse themselves daily in classical music, vocal training, theatre, dance and visual arts.  The school celebrated its 25th anniversary this weekend with a reception Friday night at the Drake Hotel and a gala at the school last night featuring alumni stars and today's students performing works that span its curriculum. 

"It wasn't like any other high school," says Drew. "They pushed you in a direction you chose at a very young age. You were constantly asked what you wanted to do with your life. Your age didn't matter — age was just a number there ...  "You get a big chunk of time at ESA to figure out what you want to do and to express it constantly. It was a gift, and if more people had that opportunity, we'd be in much better shape, I think."  While the "starving artist" stereotype is often invoked by opponents of liberal arts education, it's a satisfying turnabout that an environment such as ESA's — where artistic and academic achievements are treated with equal importance, and cultural endeavours aren't shunted behind sports as in so many other schools' pecking orders — can actually lead to sustainable careers. Be they Broken Social Scene-sters, National Ballet conscripts or Shaw Festival actors, many graduates go on to earn a living through their art.

The school "taught you about the work you needed to do and the work you had to do," says Drew. "And it was always testing your emotions, not just your art. For all of us drama kids, it taught us `drama' at a very young age. You've gotta have `Don't give up' tattooed on your eyes to go there."  Haines, who transferred into the musical theatre program alongside Millan in Grade 10, remembers ESA as "a life-saving escape from high school jocks, and a chance to play music all day." And that perception seems to be shared by attendees old and new.  "It was very much like Fame," laughs Lorraine Lawson, a local songstress who arrived at the school in its fifth year of existence. "It had an energy unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. It was literally people singing and dancing in the hallways."  At ESA, the "artsy" kids aren't a pack of outcasts. So naturally, a remark dropped by Drew during his speech about never having to worry about "jocks" or fitting in with the "popular" kids draws a loud whoop of approval from the ESA auditorium — almost as loud as the moment when he hauls Paris-exiled Broken starlet Leslie Feist onstage as a surprise guest.
 

ESA might be sort of a clique, but at least it's a unified one. The intermingling of disciplines there — so that, for instance, music majors compose scores for theatrical productions and art majors design posters and T-shirts for the annual, student-run Solstice music festival — negates any stratification of subjects and encourages ensemble participation by the various faculties on major projects.  "It's not like other schools where people are just there because they have to be," says Jamie Peters, 18, a music major. "Here, I've met a lot of interesting people because everyone is interested in something."  "You're just immersed in arts in general," concurs Phil Nozuka, 18, another music major. Teachers "give you a good attitude. They really, really support you in your aspirations. You feel great about it. There's no guilt about wanting to be an artist because it's not the `best' career."  Thornlea's "Rock `n' Roll High" reputation stems from a similarly supportive attitude towards the arts.  The school was hailed as a landmark experiment in unstructured, progressive education during the 1970s, and although some of that '60s-born idealism had cooled by the '80s and '90s, it still helped to spawn a diverse roster of musical talent that includes Moxy Fruvous, Hayden, Poledo, half of the Sadies, members of By Divine Right, hHead and the Philosopher Kings, go-to Canrock producer Gavin Brown and one of his successors in the drummer's seat for Danko Jones, Damon Richardson.  Ex-Fruvous member and current CBC radio and TV fixture Jian Ghomeshi recalls "a real emphasis on arts and fine arts" that found space to thrive in a trimester system.

Students were able to get "serious" subjects like math and science out of the way during the first two semesters, then spend all day indulging in music or drama for the rest of the year.  "Really, really strong teachers" addressed by their first names didn't hurt either, he says. Ghomeshi described one of his music instructors (and Thornlea "cult figure") Bob Leonard as the "late 20th-century, CanCon version" of the Richard Dreyfus character of Mr. Holland's Opus.  "Plus, I've gotta say this, it was kind of a stoner school," says Ghomeshi. "It was funny, but the very culture of the school to some extent — and I say this, maybe, because I was in that culture — was a lot of kids walking around the building with guitars."  By Divine Right's Jose Contreras, who tipped his hat to his alma mater in a song entitled "Rock High," wonders if the late-'90s band boom of which he was a part might have stemmed from Thornlea eventually clamping down on its "very hippie" past.  "When I went to Thornlea, about halfway through, they changed back to the `three Rs,'" he says. "My theory is, we got that taste of freedom and then the taste of that authority. Maybe that makes it all more poignant.  "Still, it was a very Neil Young, Pink Floyd, pot-smoking kind of school. I remember turning up to class very, very stoned many times and nobody calling me on it. There were lots of Pink Floyd lyrics scratched into the walls. All the lyrics to The Wall were somewhere on the walls."

Ready To Explode Out Of Jamaica

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Katy Kroll

(June 1, 2006)
Since making a splash on the Jamaican dancehall scene four years ago, Busy Signal's success has been off the hook. Now, his sound is heating up the airwaves in the United States.   Last week, Signal's independently released single, "Step Out," entered the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart at No. 73.   It's rare that a truly independent artist is able to make such a leap, but the 23-year-old DJ didn't get his nickname by staying idle and waiting on the sidelines. In fact, his friends call him Busy Signal because they are never able to reach him.  "I put in a lot of work," Signal tells Billboard.com. "I really stay in the studio Sunday to Sunday, and try to give it my all. My only job is music, so I better give it my all and be true and be real to what I do."  Although Signal's debut album, "Step Out," is finished, he's still looking to partner with a major label or distributor to lend a helping hand beyond his homeland.  "It's hard to get [label] people down here to Jamaica. It's not like I'm Sean Paul or one of those big names," he says. "I'm just here sittin' down waitin' to get a deal now, to get it out there, and that's the hard part. I wish I had the hook up. Hopefully one of them will catch on and try to help me out."   Until then, Signal is willing to go it alone.   "The streets been waitin' down here -- waitin', waitin', waitin'. If I don't get the hook up I'm just gonna go ahead and release it on my own label, Network Records," he says, adding that on June 21 he'll be throwing a record release party on the island. "I don't think releasin' it in Jamaica [first] will be a problem if a bigger label tries to pick it up later on."

The song "Step Out" has been a club favourite in Jamaica for more than two years, but it's just one side of Signal that will be heard on the album. "It's got all different types of songs on it," he notes. "Every song is a different flow, a different type of rhyme, a different style. So there's a whole bunch of creativity, a lot of unusual flow and originality, not just samples."  Plus it has the added bonus of a guest appearance by Bounty Killer, who is both Signal's biggest influence and music business mentor. "When he found out I wanted to be an artist he guided me towards bein' who I am," says Signal. "He's always tryin' to enlighten my knowledge with things he knows will help me. He's been through all of that before so he tries to give me tips on the record labels and what to look out for [in] the fine print and all the little tricks.  "He's not one of them gimmick artists," says Signal about why he looks up to Bounty Killer. "He takes his work real serious, and the way he delivers when he's onstage [is] powerful. I really [see] that as one of the [reasons] I gotta be just like Bounty Killer with my own work and in my own style."  Such an influence is reflected in not only Signal's work ethic but also his lyrics. "Kids are the future and everythin' -- I got a daughter myself," he says, "so sometimes I really watch what I say. Sometimes. But then again, sometimes I try to please a wide range of fans, and that wide range of fans don't really want to hear that bein' a nice guy thing. So I got a little bit of everythin'. I got somethin' for the girls, I got a song for my mother, I got somethin' representin' Jamaica and then I got 'Step Out.' A little somethin' for everybody."

Kanye West, Ludacris Score Win In Copyright Infringement Trial

Source: Associated Press

(June 2, 2006) New York —
Kanye West and Ludacris won fame with chart-topping hits that have become anthems in the hip-hop world. On Thursday, the rappers scored a legal victory when a jury in a copyright infringement trial concluded that one of those songs — 2003's Stand Up — did not copy a tune by New Jersey musicians. "I hope the plaintiffs enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame," Ludacris said after the verdict was announced. "This whole experience is proof to me of why I will always fight for what I believe in." Ten jurors returned the verdict after less than a day of deliberations in the two-week trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. West was not in court. Outside the courthouse, Ludacris signed autographs and posed for pictures before leaving for Los Angeles to promote a documentary he narrated about a female basketball team in Seattle. Ludacris said he never doubted the jury would agree that the song he and West created did not sound like Straight Like That, a tune created by an East Orange, N.J., group named I.O.F., or It's Only Family. "The only thoughts and ideas I borrow from are those of my own," Ludacris said. Straight Like That never made it beyond some air time on college radio after copies of it were released in September 2001. Stand Up was released in the fall of 2003 on Ludacris' album Chicken and Beer and became a huge hit.

At issue in the trial were the words "like that," repeated more than 80 times in each song, though one song precedes the phrase with "straight" while the other precedes it with "just." Jeff Billingsley, a plaintiff and owner of Cobble One Records, of Newark, N.J., said the verdict will be appealed. He said the plaintiffs were damaged when the judge excluded their music expert from testifying as part of sanctions taken against a lawyer who was dismissed from the case before trial. Mel Sachs, the lawyer who argued the case for the plaintiffs, said the issue provides the group with a stronger case on appeal. "We were at a severe disadvantage," he said. Sachs said the verdict was disappointing but understandable since the plaintiffs could not present their expert. Ludacris, whose real name is Chris Bridges, has been praised for his music and his acting roles as Anthony in the Oscar-winning Crash and as Skinny Black in Hustle and Flow. West has won six Grammy Awards for his two multiplatinum albums, The College Dropout and Late Registration. He is known for his outspoken nature, including when he said President Bush "doesn't care about black people" during a telethon for Hurricane Katrina victims. When West testified last week, he said he had sympathy for the New Jersey group. "It's like that glimmer of hope. You're this close," he said. "I've been in those shoes. It's hard to make it in this game. I understand why they would sue." Ludacris, though, said after the verdict that he saw one of the plaintiffs fall asleep during the trial and was thinking he was not going to let someone like that "ruin my reputation." "I feel no sympathy," he said, "not at all."

Burnett Comes Back Transformed

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Cromelin, Special To The Star, Los Angeles Times

(Jun. 3, 2006) LOS ANGELES—Some might remember
T Bone Burnett from the 2002 Grammy telecast, where this tall, mysterious fellow picked up the album of the year award instead of U2 or OutKast.  Burnett was the producer of the surprise winner, the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, a collection of blues, folk and bluegrass whose huge sales and acclaim helped reshape the pop landscape.  More serious music fans know that Burnett is a record producer for artists both prestigious and popular, including Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, Counting Crows, Spinal Tap, the Wallflowers, Gillian Welch, Cassandra Wilson and Roy Orbison.  He was in a Burbank, Calif. rehearsal studio this month, playing guitar and looming at the microphone as esteemed guitarist Marc Ribot and drummer deity Jim Keltner led his band into the crackling groove of "Palestine, Texas," a song from Burnett's first album in 14 years. It climaxed with an insistent push as Burnett repeated an ominous warning: "This version of the world will not be here long, it is already gone, it is already gone" — one of the album's many moments of concern about what he sees as the world's drift toward disaster.  The album, The True False Identity, is just out on Burnett's own Sony BMG-distributed DMZ label, and a tour is about to start. "I'm looking forward to utterly checking out, which is what happens when you're on the road. All responsibility falls away," he said with a laugh during dinner at a Burbank restaurant.  Without the Orbison-style sunglasses he often wears in public, Burnett's button-like eyes give him a look of perpetual surprise — appropriate for a musician of diverse interests.  "He has a good take on things," says musician and artist Bob Neuwirth, one of his best friends since the mid-1970s, when Neuwirth pulled him into the theatrical/spiritual vortex of Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue. "He has a panoply of interests and influences. He's always hung out with artists of all kinds.''

After Rolling Thunder, where he played guitar, he made three albums with the Alpha Band, and began his series of solo albums with Truth Decay in 1980. His 2006 return, though, isn't a simple matter of picking up where he left off with 1992's The Criminal Under My Own Hat.  He's come back transformed, by, among other things, the end of his long-time marriage to singer-songwriter Sam Phillips. Now, a primordial, trance-like, groove-conscious approach replaces the literal and linear music of his past. The contrast is easy to document, because Burnett has also released a two-CD career retrospective called Twenty Twenty.  One key reason for the change was a period when Burnett mysteriously lost his way musically.  "I just couldn't tell why one note should be there and another shouldn't be," said Burnett, 58. "I wasn't paralyzed, I was just free. I was happy to hear new things. I was completely wide open. So I wanted to allow myself to rediscover music from scratch. I felt it was an incredible gift to study music hard for 30 years and then just completely go back to nothing. I sort of had beginner's mind imposed on me, and now I'm just trying to stay there.''  "I think his writing has matured, if anything," says Neuwirth, who co-wrote the song "Fear Country" for the album. "The songs are less comical in one way, in the broad sense, but there's just as much of a sense of humour for the discerning." Burnett would agree with that, but again, it's not quite that simple.  "I don't want the songs to be jokey," he said. "Nevertheless they're all gags, so they've all got to work in some way other than the obvious thing that's being said. Something else has to be happening underneath, so it has to get in between that sense of comedy and tragedy.''

6 Questions With Joan Jett

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Melinda Newman

(May 31, 2006) Joan Jett still loves rock'n'roll, and she'll show her fans just how much this summer when she headlines the Vans Warped tour. The festival dates come in conjunction with the release of "Sinner," the first new album from Joan Jett & the Blackhearts in more than 10 years.  "Sinner," on Jett's own Blackheart Records, arrives June 6. The first single is the gender-bending raucous rocker "A.C.D.C.," the video for which features Carmen Electra.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of Blackheart Records, which Jett owns with longtime creative and business partner Kenny Laguna. After affiliations with a number of labels and distributors, Blackheart is now working directly with major retail chains and one-stops for distribution. To commemorate the silver anniversary, all of Jett's albums -- except for those recorded with her seminal, all-female teenage rock band the Runaways -- will be reissued with bonus tracks.

It's been more than a decade since your last album. What took so long?

Oh, boy, I can't speak to all the details, but it had something to do with what Blackheart was going through with Warner Bros. They changed administrations, and the new administration wanted a new record different from the one we'd made, then I think something else happened with the new administration, and we just couldn't seem to get this record out or make any sort of progress ... It's very disheartening as an artist to struggle to make a record and create it and then you get stopped a couple of times. We just threw ourselves into live music and about four years ago or so, we started going through all these songs that had never come out [and] ... finally came up with "Sinner."

The album opens with "Riddles," an overtly political song that samples George Bush. Isn't that a switch for you?

A: This is my first political song. I've [written what] a lot of musicians write about: love, sex, relationships, falling in and falling out and so forth, and that's still very valid. I've wanted to write about political issues and the state of our country, but how do you do that without coming off being preachy? I think a lot of that fear stopped me from even trying.

How did your slot on the Warped tour come about?

The Warped tour likes to get bands that represent where a lot of this music came from, the punk rock, the predecessors, and I guess that's where I fit in with the Runaways ... It's the first time I've done a traveling festival like this where every [act] gives them 30 minutes of hell, right?

Do you feel like radio play is still part of the mix for you?

Absolutely we look to get radio play. I know it's really tough and things have changed a lot since I started out when a lot of the DJs could play things they wanted, which made for really interesting radio and you could have regional hits and things like that, but I guess that's no more.

What's the best advice you can give a new artist?

I would say own your own stuff. That gets tough to do because people get offered money, and they might need it right then, but I think owning your own stuff is really important.

You've always done things your own way. Do you feel that's hurt you at all?

It's hard to say, but I just couldn't be any other way than be myself ... All I can say is, for some reason, women playing rock'n'roll seems threatening. I guess [it] implies owning your own sexuality, and you're in control of it, so I don't know why that's threatening.

A Good Teacher Helps Young Voices Toward Freer Expression

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
John Terauds, Classical Music Writer

(Jun. 3, 2006) We can all find a life-changing moment in our childhood.  Mine happened during a choir rehearsal when I was 9 or 10. I was singing in a children's choir because my father wanted me to, not because I was interested.  Then, one day, I sang a high A. It was higher than anything I'd ever sung before, and it was effortless.  At that moment, I felt free, as if the world were full of unlimited possibilities.  That newfound confidence, which later spilled into other parts of my life, started with a small breakthrough — one that no one else noticed at the time.  I revisited this magical side of music last week as the
Canadian Children's Opera Chorus met for its end-of-season party at the Canadian Opera Company's home on Front St. E.  About 30 members of the chorus, fuelled by pizza, cookies and watermelon slices, heard speeches from peers wanting to be elected to their council. They handed out and received awards and sang a song they had written for artistic director Ann Cooper Gay.  It was standard kid stuff from a normal, boisterous gang ranging in age from about 10 to 17. 

Then came a three-hour master class with
Lorna MacDonald, the head of voice studies at the University of Toronto's faculty of music. The former professional soprano became a master of transformation, helping these young, eager voices toward freer expression.  The kids clapped and cheered for their friends as they went up to sing in ones and twos for MacDonald and accompanist Wayne Vogan in one of the opera company's rehearsal halls.  As Cooper Gay smiled from the sidelines, her choristers hung on MacDonald's every word and gesture. The hyper crowd was now strangely quiet.  Several teens had dressed up, but this workshop wasn't about glamour or stardom.  It was a time to appreciate what the old Shaker hymn calls simple gifts.  Contrary to the hyped-up transformations of American Idol, MacDonald focused on little tricks anyone can use to make singing even more enjoyable.  "I'm on your side tonight," said MacDonald after she introduced herself. "I'm hoping to give you something that will make a difference next week, next year, or some other time."

After listening to each song or opera aria, MacDonald found an inventive, individual way to connect with the children. She would ask the person to sing again at the end of the 15-minute exercise and, each and every time, the children sang markedly better than when they first stood up in front of the piano.  For Larissa Swenarchuk, it was a question of posture. For Charlotte Metivier, MacDonald suggested picturing the song (by Franz Schubert) in her head before starting to sing.  "Close your eyes and put yourself in the place where the poem exists," MacDonald suggested.  Charlotte sang again, then beamed. "I felt like I was communicating."  The crowd cheered and applauded. We had heard the difference, and MacDonald had made her first big point: "Don't think about singing; think about communicating."  The gentle-spoken professor walked over to her satchel — her "bag of tricks" — and pulled out something in the palm of her hand.  "This walnut is the approximate size of your larynx," she said, pointing out that the singer's mind and body needs to be focused on giving maximum support to this small, fragile home to our vocal cords.  Marissa Solow tried her Mozart opera aria again while holding the walnut up to her throat. As if by magic, a glorious new voice emerged.  Marissa's wide grin needed no further explanation.  For aspiring bass Liron Groisman, MacDonald had to strip away some bad singing habits.  "That voice that you have is a good one. All you want to do is release it," explained MacDonald as she encouraged Liron to stop trying so hard.  For Anton Mamine, intense and serious in a dark suit, MacDonald put a new twist on a similar problem.

To distract him, MacDonald played catch with Anton while he sang. Anton's beautiful natural voice quickly began to emerge as the walnut flew through the air.  "Singing is tossing; singing is not throwing," said the teacher.  Kristina Bijelic, 16, sang the beautiful "Sous le dôme épais" duet from Delibes' opera Lakmé with Dina Shikhman.  Kristina has been a member of the principal choir of the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus, or CCOC, since 2000. Besides singing, she plays piano and violin and takes ballet lessons.  She says that her choir experience — both on and off the stage with the Canadian Opera Company and Opera Atelier — led her to decide on a future career as an opera singer.  "Without CCOC, I never would have had the chance to really see what the world of opera is like and I never would have said to myself, `Gee, this is what I want to do ...'"  Kristina describes her six years with the chorus as "one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I was once told that you make your real friends in university because you share a common interest. Choir is like that: You're not friends because you have to be, you're friends because you're all there for the same reason."  Choir leader Cooper Gay also merits Kristina's praise: "I think she brings so much life and love into choir that it really wouldn't be the same without her. ... She is everything a good conductor needs to be: funny, knowledgeable, firm but kind, and, very important, she understands young people."  Both Kristina and Dina sounded a bit strained in their lovely duet. But MacDonald came to the rescue by showing everyone how to relax the jaw. Yet again, the improvement was dramatic.  MacDonald says she hasn't spent much time coaching children, but their needs are little different from those of university-age students.  The singer and teacher wants to do everything she can to encourage young people.  "I think it's such a natural means of self-expression for a kid to sing," says MacDonald. "And it doesn't involve the purchase of an instrument."  She also points out that some of the most beautiful classical music was written for children's voices, "and you should never underestimate the ability of children's voices."  For her, teaching a child to sing is "a gift for life."  How true — and how simple.

Ice Cube Back On The Mic With New CD

Source: Tracy Nguyen, Vice President & Group Director, 5W Public Relations, E-mail: tnguyen@5wpr.com

(June 6, 2006) Multi-Platinum and Award Winning Hip-Hop Superstar Ice Cube makes his highly anticipated return to the mic with the debut of his seventh solo LP, titled “Laugh Now, Cry Later.” Following the release of his greatest hits collection in 2001, the West Coast’s Greatest Rap Lyricist is back again, bringing forth his best musical work to date.   “Laugh Now, Cry Later,” which will be released by Ice Cube’s independently owned label, Lench Mob Records, hits shelves today, June 6.   Boasting production from top level producers like Scott Storch, Swizz Beatz and Lil’ Jon, and featuring guests Snoop Dogg and WC, Ice Cube looks to settle back into his position as Rap’s Heavy Weight Champion, showcasing his creative and lyrical genius throughout 18 solid tracks.    Always a true MC at heart, Ice Cube has spent this past year away from the big screen to create a well thought out and complete album which mixes rider music, club bangers and soon to be classics through his unique talent of cinematic storytelling.

Regarded as one of the Most Important figures in rap history, Ice Cube began his career with the Notorious West Coast Gangsta Rap Group N.W.A a little over 15 years ago. At the height of the group’s success, Ice Cube broke away to start his own solo career.  His initial release, “Amerikkka's Most Wanted” (Priority, 1990) sold over a million copies.   His sophomore solo effort, "Death Certificate" (Priority, 1991), a concept album about the fall and rise of the black man, debuted at #1 on the R&B Album chart, #2 on the Top 200 album chart and went on to sell over two million copies. His impressive musical career also includes the multi-platinum success of both his double album “War and Peace,”  and hit albums “Lethal Injection,” “Bootlegs & B-Sides,” and “The Predator.” Ice Cube has sold over ten million albums to date.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Montreal Jazz Fest Plans Tribute To Paul Simon

Source:  Canadian Press

(June 7, 2006) MONTREAL — An all-star line-up will pay tribute to singer and composer Paul Simon during a free outdoor show at the Montreal International Jazz Festival on July 4, organizers announced Tuesday. Elvis Costello, Sam Roberts, Bedouin Soundclash, Kevin Parent and Daniel Lanois will be among the acts to take to the stage. The tribute to Simon takes place the day before Simon plays at a sold-out indoor show. The festival's grand opening show — also outdoors and free — will be June 29 and will salute the state of Louisiana, the birthplace of jazz. It will star the Neville Brothers.

Billboard Honours Etta James

Excerpt from www.billboard.com

(June 2, 2006) When Billboard's seventh annual R&B/Hip-Hop Conference and Awards returns to Atlanta (Sept. 6-8 at the Renaissance Waverly), among the event's special honourees will be Etta James. The Grammy Award-winning legend is the 2006 recipient of the R&B Founders Award.  Celebrating five decades as a recording artist, James joins previous R&B Founders honourees the Isley Brothers, Betty Wright, Isaac Hayes and Chaka Khan. James is a soul survivor in the truest sense, having overcome drug addiction, financial pitfalls and obesity. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member is part of a select group of R&B pioneers, including B.B. King and Ronald Isley, who are still actively recording and touring. Her latest album, "All the Way," was released in March.  A Hip-Hop Founders designate will be announced shortly. Both awards were established to honour the legacies of pioneering artists in R&B and hip-hop whose influence still carries a major impact on today's black music. James and the hip-hop honouree will formally accept their statuettes Sept. 8 during the awards show that caps the three-day conference.  For more information on the R&B/Hip-Hop Conference and other Billboard events, go to BillboardEvents.com.

LL And Bill Withers Get Achievement Awards

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - James Adams

(Jun. 5, 2006) Los Angeles -- Rapper LL Cool J and R&B singer Bill Withers will be honoured for their musical contributions by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. LL Cool J will receive the Golden Note award and Withers will be presented with the Rhythm & Soul Heritage award at a June 26 ceremony.  In a statement, ASCAP president Marilyn Bergman called LL Cool J (whose real name is James Todd Smith) "one of the most important figures in the history of hip hop.  "He has weathered all the trends in the rap world and is as commercially viable today as he was when he started out in 1985." Past recipients of the Golden Note include Sean "Diddy" Combs, Tom Petty, Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder. Withers, who wrote and performed hits including Lean On Me, is "one of America's premier singer-songwriters," Bergman said in a statement.  Withers joins previous Rhythm & Soul Heritage winners Chaka Khan and Earth, Wind and Fire. AP

Old School Hip Hop Bits

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 6, 2006) *Big Daddy Kane, Sugar Hill Gang and Special Ed areamong the performers scheduled for “Bring Dat Beat Back…A Tribute to Old Skool Hip Hop,” a concert to be held tomorrow (June 7) in Hollywood, CA at The Highlands (6801 Hollywood Blvd.). The event, which also includes Phife Dawg & Jarobi and DJ Red Alert, runs from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. courtesy of Judah Star Ent. Wills Here Ent. and IMP Entertainment. For pre-sale tickets call (310) 559-5240 or visit www.impentertainment.com.  

Grateful Dead Keyboardist Welnick Dies

Excerpt from www.billboard.com

(June 3, 2006) Vince Welnick, the Grateful Dead's last keyboard player and a veteran of other bands, including the Tubes and Missing Man Formation, has died, the Grateful Dead's longtime publicist confirmed today (June 3). He was 51.  Welnick died Friday, said Dennis McNally, who would not release the cause. He lived in the northern California town of Forestville, but McNally said he didn't know whether he died at home or in a hospital.  "His service to and love for the Grateful Dead were heartfelt and essential. He had a loving soul and a joy in music that we were lucky to share," the group said in a statement. "Our Grateful Dead prayer for the repose of his spirit: May the four winds blow him safely home."  Welnick was the last in a long line of Grateful Dead keyboardists, several of whom died prematurely, leading some of the group's fans to conclude that the position came with a curse.  Welnick had replaced Brent Mydland, who died of a drug overdose in 1990. Mydland succeeded Keith Godchaux, who died in a car crash shortly after leaving the band. And Godchaux had replaced the band's original keyboard player, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, who died at 27 in 1973.  Welnick was the last musician to join the group before the 1995 death of lead guitarist and unofficial leader Jerry Garcia, which McNally said hit Welnick particularly hard.  After struggling for several years after leaving the Tubes, Welnick had embraced the opportunity Garcia and the others gave him when they asked him to play keyboards in 1990. "To lose it within five years hurt him, I think, maybe worse than anybody else in the band," McNally said.

Method Man Lights Up With Hill, Fat Joe

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

(June 2, 2006) Wu-Tang Clan principal Method Man returns this summer with his fifth studio album, "4:21." The Def Jam set will arrive July 18 and is led by the acoustic guitar and string-tinged single "Say," which samples Lauryn Hill's cover of Bob Marley's "So Much Things To Say" from "MTV Unplugged."  The album is rounded out by guest turns from Fat Joe and Styles P as well as production from Wu-Tang Clan colleague RZA, Scott Storch and Dr. Dre.  "4:21," a reference to a favourite time of day for marijuana smokers, is the follow-up to Method Man's 2004 album "Tical 0: The Prequel." That set became the rapper's fourth consecutive No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and has sold 525,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.  Having regrouped earlier this year with his Wu-Tang mates for their first tour in years, Method Man and company will pay tribute to late member Ol' Dirty Bastard during performances Aug. 5-6 at California's Rock the Bells festival.

Marley And BEP – Five Peas In A Pod

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 5, 2006)   *The Black Eyes Peas' Peapod Foundation has been endorsed by Rita Marley, who said that if her late husband Bob Marley were alive, he would add his support to the philanthropic initiative.  "I admire this group so much," Marley told Billboard.com backstage at South Africa’s Johannesburg Stadium, where the group performed a free concert before 20,000 fans. "Kids these days need messages with their music and that is what the Black Eyed Peas give." Marley, who first sang with BEP last July during the Philadelphia instalment of Live 8, joined the group on stage again to perform “Where Is the Love?” at the South African concert, billed as "The Peapod Foundation's gift to the people of South Africa."  Marley, who will be appearing with Peas member Fergie in an editorial spread in an upcoming issue of In Style magazine, said she and Fergie will work on philanthropic and awareness-raising issues in Africa. Both visited orphanages in Johannesburg together and are planning more work in the future. "Women need to play a role in educating the youth for liberation," said Marley. "I fully endorse what the Peapod Foundation is doing because it is about making dreams into a reality, and utilizing the power of music to do that.” The Peapod Foundation was founded by the group to support social issues affecting children worldwide, including housing, starvation, health care, education, poverty and music/artistic education.

Khia Set To Debut New CD

Source: PRweb
(June 7, 2006) Atlanta, GA (PRWEB) -- After her 2002 Gold-certified Thug Misses album spawned the club classic "My Neck, My Back," Khia is returning with her follow up album Gangstress, which will be released on July 11, 2006 through her own Thug Misses Entertainment in partnership with Warlock Records. The first single, “Snatch The Cat Back,” is currently in rotation throughout the South, and the video will be released this month.  Khia's four-year hiatus from the studio was mainly due to her success overseas, where she has been performing endlessly to crowds that may not speak English, but know "My Neck, My Back" by heart. The love of her fans motivated Khia to begin composing the new songs, and the end result is her new Gangstress album. The self-produced project spotlights Khia at her lyrical best, with no superstar guest features. Rather than going for big-name producers to create her vision, Khia relied on her own songwriting and composition abilities. She enlisted professional engineers J.A. and John Miller to assist her in running the boards, as she mapped out her club-savvy beats. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Tampa, Khia now resides in Atlanta with her family. To date, she has sold over 800,000 records, and she never forgets the reason she is on top. “My fans recognize my realness, and I’m always touring, no matter where," explains Khia. "I love to interact with my fans, because at the end of the day, it’s all about them!” For more information on Khia, go www.khiathugmissesent.com and www.myspace.com/khia

::CD RELEASES::

June 6, 2006

2Pac, So Many Years, So Many Tears [DVD], Music Video Distributors
B Real, The Gunslinger, BCD Music Group
Billy Ocean, The Best of Billy Ocean, Jive Legacy
Busta Rhymes, The Big Bang [Clean], Aftermath
Caz, Undisputed, Cleopatra
Cham, Ghetto Story [Single], Bad Boy
Chic, Le Freak: Live, Cleopatra
Clipse, Mr. Me Too [Single], Arista
Cocoa Tea, Save Us Oh Jah, VP Records
Dionne Warwick, Best of Dionne Warwick: Live [Direct Source], Direct Source
DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, The Very Best of DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Jive Legacy
DJ Khaled, Listen, Koch
DJ Quik, Greatest Hits Live at the House of Blues, Mad Science
Dr. Dre, Death Row's Greatest Hits: The Chronicles [Clean], Death Row
E. Moss, Beatboxes at Dawn [EP], Southern Records
Fred Wesley, It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing, Sons Of Sound
Glen Washington, Heart of the City, Don One
GLP, In the Streets of Filmoe (The Lost Album), SMC Recordings
Groove Machine, World Cup: A Musical Celebration [Bonus Track], St. Clair
Ice Cube, Cry Later Laugh Now, Lench Mob
India.Arie, I Am Not My Hair, Motown
Jahir & The Experiment, Jahir and the Experiment,
Lil' Kim, Remixes [Maxi Single], Atlantic / Wea
Lil' Tweety, Most Requested, Thump
Lloyd Campbell, Fighting Dub 1975-1979, Cooking Vinyl
Los Nandez, Los Nandez, Universal Latino
Lou Rawls, The Very Best of Lou Rawls, Capitol
MC Solaar, Mach 6, WEA International
Mekalek/Percee P/Fedd Hill, Live and Learn, Glow in the Dark
Mesianico, Con Furia, Bungalo
Mint Condition, 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection, Hip-O
N.O.R.E., Norminacal the Underbelly Mixtape,
Nashawn, Napalm, Cleopatra
Nasio, Universal Cry, Greensleeves
Nick Cannon, My Wife [Single], Umvd Labels
O.G. Ron C., Da Wreckin' Yard Lesson 4, Oarfin
Pocos Pero Locos, The Shotcaller, Silent Giant
Ray Cash, C.O.D.: Cash on Delivery, Columbia
Sugafree, The Features, Vol. 1, Siccness.net
Terror Squad, DJ Khaled: Listennn...The Album!, Koch
Terror Squad, DJ Khaled: Listennn...The Album! [Clean], Koch
The Average White Band, The Very Best of Average White Band [BMG], BMG
The Jackson 5, Jackson 5 Story, Universal International
The Notorious B.I.G., The Legend Lives On, United States of Distribution
Tricky Bizniss, Day to Day, Esntion
Various Artists, Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Sisters, Atlantic
Various Artists, Best of Blue Eyed Soul, Time Life/Universal
Various Artists, Hip Hop: The Evolution, WEA International
Various Artists, Crucial Reggae Funk Party, Trojan
Various Artists, Crucial Reggae Soul Party, Trojan
Various Artists, Good Vibes: Reggae, Direct Source
Various Artists, The Beach: Reggae, Direct Source
Various Artists, Urbano Hip-Hop and Reggaeton, Universal Latino
Whodini, Funky Beat: The Best of Whodini, Jive Legacy
Will Downing, 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection, Hip-O
Yung Hawk, From Da Club 2 Da Hood,
Yung Joc, New Joc City, Bad Boy

::FILM NEWS::

Roles Are A Real Bitch For Women In Film

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Johanna Schneller

(June 2, 2006)
Honestly, if I hadn't witnessed first-hand how haphazard the green-lighting of films often is, I'd think there was a genuine conspiracy in Hollywood. I'd be convinced that some shadowy, powerful conservative agency is secretly funding the major studios to make a bunch of different-looking movies to push but one agenda: Get women married and safely on the mommy track, and quick. The fate of females on film who don't is so dire, it feels like social engineering. Look at The Break-Up, which opens today. Jennifer Aniston, 37, is the star. Though her film acting has yet to reach the level of her TV fame, it's her fourth leading role in a year (after Derailed, Rumour Has It and Friends With Money). The Break-Up is all about her: her clothes, her condo, her battle with her boyfriend (Vince Vaughn), and peripherally, her career in an art gallery. Aniston's boss in the film, grande-dame gallery owner Marilyn Dean, is played by Judy Davis, 51. Now, Davis is a great actress. I've never understood why legions of screenwriters weren't spending their days writing scripts for her, the same way I don't understand why dedicated teams of songwriters aren't working 'round the clock penning songs for Whitney Houston's voice. Yet Davis's collective screen time in The Break-Up is three short scenes, clocking in at less than three minutes. Scene one: Dean appears in her gallery, extra pale and severely coiffed. As her employees tremble, she shrieks at Aniston to go home, "be sad for the whole day" about her split from Vaughn, and come back tomorrow refreshed. Scene two: Aniston is still sad. The soulless Dean finds this remarkable, and commences shrieking again. Aniston counters by flattering Dean's ego, which works instantly. Dean then shrieks at her to get a bikini wax. Scene three: Dean pursues an eccentric pastime while shrieking goodbye to Aniston.

Okay, we get it: Dean is successful, unmarried and childless, and therefore a self-centred wacko. Lesson: Aniston better not end up like her! The Shrieking Female would be all in good fun if it weren't so alarmingly common. The joke in Hollywood used to be that there were three roles for actresses: ingénue, mom and Miss Daisy. Well, there's now a fourth, but it's hardly cause for rejoicing: Bitch Boss to a younger, comelier woman (who is often less talented, but a bigger star). Once our greatest actresses reach their best-before dates, they have nothing to do but bark at the Sex Kitties. Witness these many examples: Helen Mirren, 60, Bitch Boss to Kate Hudson in Raising Helen (success = coldness). Holly Hunter, 48, Bitch Boss to Brittany Murphy in Little Black Book (success = backstabbing). Sally Field, 59, Semi-Bitch Boss to Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blond 2 (success = ambivalence). Let's not forget Sharon Stone, 48, Bitch Boss in Catwoman (success = insanity); Joan Allen, 49, Unsmiling Boss in The Bourne Supremacy and coming Bourne Ultimatum (success = frostiness); and Diane Keaton, 60, Crazed Boss in Hanging Up (success = neuroses).  At first, the actress played by Glenn Close, 59, in Heights looks like an exception. Her character is a married mom to newcomer Elizabeth Banks, but she's ultra-successful: she's won Oscars (plural), teaches a master class at Juilliard, and is on posters all over New York as Lady Macbeth. So naturally, her relationship with her daughter is strained, her husband cheats on her, and she drinks too much. Success = misery. It's a nice warm-up to Close's coming turn as Norma Desmond in the remake of Sunset Boulevard (success = crushing loneliness) -- which I already think of as the next sequel to her turn as Cruella de Vil in the 101 Dalmatians series (success = animal abuse).

We can look forward to watching Anjelica Huston, 54, play another "-ella" character: "Fabiella, the flamboyant CEO of a major cosmetics company" in the coming Material Girls, the Madcap Boss to sisters Hilary and Haylie Duff. And in three weeks, we'll line up for Meryl Streep, 56, as Boss from Hell to Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada (success = Satan). These actresses deserve to work, and I'm sure each part looks juicy one by one. But collectively, they're all the same juice, sour grape: bitter, filled with pits and nasty to drink. TV, on the other hand, is showcasing interesting women more and more -- Kyra Sedgwick on The Closer, Patricia Arquette on Medium, Kathy Bates on Six Feet Under, Mary-Louise Parker on Weeds. Close is on The Shield. Davis has played Nancy Reagan and Judy Garland on TV. Mirren is terrific in Prime Suspect. Why can't women like these fill more ordinary parts in mainstream movies? Couldn't a few of the cops or art experts in The Da Vinci Code have been female? Couldn't a woman mastermind a bank robbery, or turn into a shaggy dog, or take on a caper without having the body of a Charlie's Angel? Would families and society really fall apart if women were allowed to be successful in films without being punished for it? Am I the only one who'd be happy to see a little less Aniston for a while, and a little more Davis?

 

Solange Knowles-Smith & Rihanna Star In DVD Release

Source: Evelyn Santana  / evelyn_santana@bazanpr.com  / Bazan PR

(June 2, 2006) Universal City, California – Bringing more rivalry, attitude, high-energy competition and heart-warming fun with hot young stars and chart-topping songs from today’s biggest artists, Bring It On: All or Nothing debuts on DVD for the first time ever on August 8, 2006 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.    Starring Hayden Panettiere (NBC’s fall drama Heroes, Face of Neutrogena, Racing Stripes, Ice Princess), Solange Knowles-Smith (The Johnson Family Vacation) and marking the movie debut of Def Jam recording sensation Rihanna, Bring It On: All or Nothing is a high-energy, attitude-filled comedy about a cross-town rivalry that builds to a no-holds-barred face-off.    

Directed by Steve Rash (American Pie Presents Band Camp, Can't Buy Me Love) and featuring a cast of winning new characters played by some of Hollywood’s brightest young stars, Bring It On: All or Nothing follows on the tremendous success of its ever-popular predecessors in the must-own film franchise. Loaded with more attitude than ever, this movie offers a first-rate line-up of extras and a hot soundtrack from today’s top artists including Rihanna, Solange, Gwen Stefani, Avril Lavigne and Weezer.   “The Bring It On movies are a proven audience favourite across all demographics and the property is the perfect vehicle to further power Universal's DVD OriginalsTM strategy,” said Craig Kornblau, President of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. “This latest incarnation, with its popular young talent,  chart-topping music, exceptional  production values and exciting, all-new storyline, takes the franchise to new heights and delivers it straight into the hands of home entertainment consumers through a targeted, theatrical-style marketing campaign.  It’s a strategy that has delivered exceptional results for us to date and one that the most discerning audiences have widely embraced.”  In Bring It On: All or Nothing, popular Britney Allen (Hayden Panettiere) moves from posh Pacific Vista to working-class Crenshaw Heights. In order to win over her new classmates – including head cheerleader Camille (Solange Knowles-Smith) -- she must prove that she’s got the moves and the attitude to earn a spot on the hard-to-crack cheer squad and then face her former teammates in a high-stakes cheer-off for an appearance in Rihanna’s new music video.    The DVD release will enjoy unprecedented promotional support in reaching over 35 million consumers nationwide through partnerships with some of the country’s most high profile companies including SoBe, Teen People, Spirit Accessories and Lady Footlocker. The DVD is priced at $29.98 SRP. Preorder close is July 5, 2006. 

Synopsis

Get ready for more fun, more attitude and more excitement than ever before! At Pacific Vista High School, popular Britney (Hayden Panettiere) is captain of the cheerleading squad. But Britney’s life quickly turns from cheer-topia to cheer-tastrophe when her father’s job moves her family across town to urban Crenshaw Heights. At her new school, Britney finds herself at odds with her classmates, especially with 'it' girl Camille (Solange Knowles-Smith), the cheer captain of the Crenshaw Heights Warriors. But when Britney proves herself and secures a coveted spot on the cheer squad, the Warriors find themselves in a cross-town 'cheer-off' to star in music sensation Rihanna’s upcoming video. With edgy new moves, the no-holds-barred fight to the finish will test friendships, loyalties and talents — but only one team can 'bring it' and earn a place in cheer history! For more information please visit: www.bringitonmovie.com

 

Ava Lived, Loved With Intensity Of A `Rocket'

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Associated Press

(Jun. 3, 2006) LOS ANGELES—Ava Gardner, the Hollywood beauty known as much for her fiery marriages to Frank Sinatra and Artie Show as for her movies, had her ups and downs like everybody else.  The difference, says a new biography, is the way she lived life — "like a rocket.''  Lee Server devoted three years to the 500-page Ava Gardner: "Love Is Nothing," plus 51 pages of sources, an index and other reference material.  Server said, in an interview from his New Jersey home, that his research took him on the road "since Ava's trail goes all over the world,'' including Madrid, London, North Carolina, Hollywood and Puerto Vallarta — "she put that place on the map when she made Night of the Iguana there.''  "Ava went through life with all the stress and bad times and sad times," Server said. "But she also went through life like a rocket.''  Gardner was born in 1922 near Smithfield, N.C., one of six children of a poor tenant farmer. On a trip to New York, her brother-in-law took her photograph and, somehow it reached the offices of MGM, which sent her to Hollywood for starlet training.  "She was on that starlet list for many years and stayed in the background," Server said. She had to go to another studio, Universal, for her first big break in the 1946 film The Killers, opposite Burt Lancaster. As her career progressed, she was making headlines with marriages to men who were leaders in their fields: Mickey Rooney, the No. 1 box-office star; Artie Shaw, the superstar of swing music; Frank Sinatra, the No. 1 pop singer, as well as a film star. All ended in divorce.  Server analyzed the failures:

·  Rooney (1942-43): "It was a question of too much, too soon. Mickey was experienced; he wanted immediate gratification. Ava was just out of the woods; she didn't know what she wanted.''

·  Shaw (1945-46): "Artie was almost the equivalent of a rock star. She was almost a groupie; she loved his music. He had that intellectual pomposity, that sense of superiority. Ava was wildly in love with him, but Artie was just kind of a spoiled and arrogant fellow. He was the only one of the three who dumped her.''

·  Sinatra (1951-57): "One of the all-time tumultuous relationships; you just expected fireworks. They loved hard and they fought hard, and they had to watch out or one of them would be hit with a flying ashtray. They tried to get together after the divorce, but the same old fire and anger would flare up ... They both realized they would never make it work.''

Gardner left Hollywood after the final break-up and never married again. She continued to attract attention with her romances with matadors, playboys and more actors, but the flings didn't last.  She died in 1990 at age 67.  Server seems intent on cataloguing all of Gardner's flings:

·  Jazz singer Mel Tormé romanced Ava for two months, then lied to break a date. She found out, summoned him to her apartment and told him: "We're through, Melvin. Finished. You lied to me, and I won't take that from anyone. Out!''

·  Gardner met Kirk Douglas on a radio show and engaged in a brief but passionate liaison. Douglas later said, "Being a Jew, I always fasted on Yom Kippur ... it's not easy to make love to Ava Gardner on an empty stomach.''

·  Howard Hughes proved to be the longest lasting of Gardner's suitors. His interest in her started when she separated from Mickey Rooney. Hughes presented her with a large diamond engagement ring, which she refused because she didn't love him.  He continued his plight through the years, giving her a Cadillac convertible and other favours, including airplane flights that he personally piloted. He also placed a 24-hour surveillance on her activities. She refused all his offers of marriage.

Gardner also had some memorable movie efforts included The Killers, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, The Barefoot Contessa, and Night of the Iguana. She earned an Oscar nomination for best actress for 1953's Mogambo.  In 1985-86, Gardner appeared in television series Knots Landing (as Ruth Galveston), and the mini-series A.D. (as Nero's scheming mother), as well as the TV movies The Long Hot Summer, and Harem, her last role.  She died in England, of bronchial pneumonia, in 1990.

 

John Lasseter Helped Make Pixar A Movie Marvel

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Jun. 3, 2006) Charlotte, N.C.—On a table in front of
John Lasseter, arranged in an arc within easy vroom-vroom reach, are a set of tiny die-cast models of the characters from Cars, the animated blockbuster opening next Friday that is his latest proud creation.  They're not your average executive toys. But then Lasseter is not your average executive.  The filmmaker and chief creative officer for Disney-Pixar, the burly man who brought Toy Story and A Bug's Life to kids big and small, has been dubbed "the new Walt Disney" for his pioneering work with computer-generated animation.  He's sitting in a viewing box high above Loew's Motor Speedway, home of NASCAR racing. He has lots to be proud of, but at the moment nothing consumes him more than the cars he had toy company Mattel make to his exact specifications.  There's the 1951 blue Hudson Hornet, voiced by Paul Newman, who even as Lasseter speaks is zooming a full-sized version around the track below. There's the red stock car voiced by Owen Wilson, complete with the fake "Rust-eze" promotional sticker. There's the curvy blue Porsche 911 Carrera, voiced by Bonnie Hunt.  In all, about a dozen toys cars are lined up for Lasseter, who couldn't be happier. Dressed in a red Hawaiian shirt adorned with Cars characters, he grins like a kid who just discovered ice cream. He shows off the metal suitcase used to carry his cars around, which he custom designed with rubber padding, each car in its own perfect space.  Lasseter bristles when a journalist refers to them as Hot Wheels.  "Hot Wheels are slighter smaller," he corrects, his eyebrows rising above his wire eyeglasses.  "They're 1/64 scale. These are what they call 1/55 scale. We said, `Let's make them a little bigger, so you can get the detail into the characters.' And they've done a great job in making them. The scale is accurate to the movie."  Details aren't just important to Lasseter, a married father of five sons; they're the whole thing. You either get them right, or you go home without your dinner.

"I'm a geek," he proudly states. "I get into the details and I love them. One line said wrong in a film means the whole movie loses its credibility to me."  That goes double for how a movie looks. Each computer-generated Pixar film typically takes four years to make, an eternity in Hollywood terms, but it could be said that Lasseter has been thinking about making a movie like Cars for nearly 40 of his 49 years.  He remembers the day in 1968 when Hot Wheels first came to his hometown of Whittier, Calif. (he now calls Sonoma home), and he had to have them. In the worst way.  "I just remember the first time I went down with my allowance to this department stores and its little toy shop. And there was a big Hot Wheels display. I bought two cars. I still have 'em. I got the Camaro and the Silhouette, and the first time I dropped them down the track and saw the speed they went it was, `Awwww!' I was hooked for years. This is one of the fun things about my job, the toy side of it. I love it.  "It's like when Toy Story was finally done, because I brought my love of toys to that movie. And to finally have toys made of the characters, I couldn't believe it. It was so great."  Everything in Lasseter's world these days is either great or "so great." He's not just excited, he's "exceptionally excited." And could you blame him?  Last month, in a move that Fortune magazine described as "Nemo swallowing the whale," the Walt Disney company paid $7.4 billion (U.S.) to acquire Pixar Animation Studios, the computer-driven fun factory that Lasseter co-founded, which over the past 20 years has usurped Disney's cartoon crown. Pixar movies now outrank the creations of the company of Mickey, Goofy and Minnie in both critical kudos and box-office receipts.  The deal also named Lasseter as creative chief of both Disney and Pixar, essentially giving him last word on everything that squeaks, barks, meows or beeps at the Mouse House. Hence the "new Disney" tag for Lasseter, one heard often in a day spent talking to the on-screen and off-screen talent behind Cars.

"John being there brings Disney back to Disney," says actress Hunt, voicing a common sentiment.  Funny then, that Disney once fired him. As an eager young animator in the late 1980s, an officious boss cast him out from the kingdom after he stepped on too many corporate toes pitching a computer-drawn cartoon called The Brave Little Toaster (later a big success both theatrically and as a video rental, made after Lasseter's departure).  Lasseter decamped to Lucasfilm, home of the Star Wars franchises, a good move for a kid who had lined up in 1977 for six hours to see the original Star Wars on the screen at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. He fell in with a computer animation team called the Lucasfilm Computer Division that was working on groundbreaking movie magic. An early triumph was the animated knight that pops out of a stained glass window in Young Sherlock Holmes (1987), the character hailed as the first to be entirely computer generated.  These digital geeks, who renamed their corporate subsidiary Pixar, caught the eye of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. He bought Pixar from George Lucas, pumped money into its projects, and by 1995 history was made again with the release of Toy Story, the first feature animation made entirely by computer. It was a huge success critically and commercially, winning an Oscar for special achievement. The movie was backed and distributed by Disney, part of an on-again/off-again love affair with Pixar that continues to this day.  Since then Pixar has rolled out one success after another, following Toy Story with A Bug's Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004) and now Cars. Lasseter has directed or co-directed (with the late Joe Ranft) all of the movies except for Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, but this is one corporate honcho who believes in hands-on involvement right down to the last pixel, especially when he's the credited director.  He's into things like getting the rust right on a car fender or the look of a desert to mirror gritty reality. There is no such thing as a Pixar movie being just a cartoon. It was Lasseter who decided to put the eyes for the characters in Cars up on the windshield, rather than on the front grille, which is where animators usually put them. It made the cars seem more human, even while Lasseter and his fellow animators were striving to preserve the essential "car-ness" of every model.

"I knew that bringing these characters to life but then making them rendered like believable cars would be something unique," Lasseter says.  Unlike many of his Hollywood competitors, Lasseter never allows the visuals to overwhelm the story. He took his cue from Walt Disney, who made cartoons that could stand the test of time. Uncle Walt didn't have to make every one of the seven dwarves in Snow White have separate personalities, but he did anyway.  "I'm really about telling the stories so that you entertain all ages," Lasseter says.  "We stay away from topical humour and topical things, so that the films play well into the future. I always knew with Toy Story that the look of the film would be dated, but I wanted the story to last a long time. What movie from 1938 is watched as much as Snow White? And you could say every year that a Disney film came out, it was the most-watched film of that year. You look at something like Bambi, it's completely timeless. That thing will never age. And so that's the dream and hope of the films we make, too."  Lasseter started work on Cars in 1998, right after the release of A Bug's Life. His intense research brought him here to Loew's Motor Speedway, where Cars had its world premiere May 26 before 30,000 invited NASCAR fans, because he wanted to get to know the racing business from the ground up.  He enlisted the support of Richard Petty, the seven-time NASCAR Nextel Cup champion, for the voice of a race car called The King, which just happens to be Petty's racing moniker. The car is painted in the hue known as Petty Blue, one of many details that Petty find praiseworthy about Lasseter.  "He just does a good job on filling in," says Petty, who is at Loew's for the premiere of Cars.  Actor Newman joins the chorus of approving honks for Lasseter, explaining he took the Cars assignment at age 80 (he's now 81) because he appreciates the man's devotion to doing things the way they ought to be done. He heaps praise on Lasseter and his team:  "They have an extraordinary sense of detail, both in the creative end of it and the technical end. And they don't get rushed, which I think is critical. They have the luxury of control and they have the luxury of time. And that gives them a terrific advantage, let alone the gifts they have."  If there's a downside to all this devotion, it's that everyone at Pixar must sublimate any of his or her own ideas and desires to what one animator refers to as "the Church of Pixar."  If Lasseter doesn't like something, whether it's the design of a grille or the length of a fin, he nixes it — although by all accounts he's the nicest naysayer you could ever ask to work for.  The man is almost frighteningly on message, the message today being Cars, Cars and more Cars. He flat-out refuses to talk about future Pixar projects, such as Toy Story 3 and the French mouse tale Ratatouille, both in production.

He also declines to say much about the plans he has for Disney's old hand-drawn animation division, which he has ironically salvaged even though Pixar made it redundant. Count on it to have something to do with the animations of Japan's Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), a Lasseter favourite.  Most maddening of all is Lasseter's reluctance to comment on how computer-generated imagery has been both a boon and bust for Hollywood. The digital path he blazed with Pixar has allowed moviemakers to create magic like never before, but many of them have resorted to spectacle for spectacle's sake, creating empty visual experiences where the story and acting are secondary to the eye candy.  Does he ever feel guilty about the monster he helped create?  "You keep asking that: Does it bother you, does it bother you, Does it bother you?" Lasseter says, losing his cool for a second.  "No, things don't bother me. I always believe that everybody has a chance to make a good movie. What others do with it is their choice; it's not my choice. I don't really care. I just would love everything to be good so that it keeps people employed. I'm just such a fan of animation."  He's just such a fan, period. He's the creative boss of a dream factory, his new movie is about to open to certain success, he has Paul Newman racing in a car he helped design, and he has cool new toys — bigger than Hot Wheels — to play with.  For John Lasseter, it doesn't get more "exceptionally exciting" than this.

 

Spike Lee Honoured At MTV Movie Awards

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 5, 2006)  *Spike Lee’s acceptance speech for the coveted "Silver Bucket of Excellence" at Saturday’s MTV Movie Awards offered a rare serious moment during a night that gave out such honours as best kiss, best scream and best fight scene.   Chosen for his 1989 film “Do the Right Thing,” the director accepted his oversized trophy and told the crowd: "The sad thing is that the issues that we tried to address in the film are still with us today. So how much progress have we made"   The event, which will air Wednesday (June 8) on MTV, saw “Wedding Crashers” take home a leading three awards: best movie, best on-screen team for stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn and best breakthrough performance for actress Isla Fisher, who played Vaughn's sex-crazed love interest in the comedy about two girl-crazy bachelors. “Brokeback Mountain” earned two popcorn buckets: best kiss for actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger and best performance for Gyllenhaal. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt won for best fight in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." Presenter Colin Farrell said the couple, who announced the birth of their first child in Namibia last week, were not able to attend the ceremony because they were "stuck in traffic."  The award for best hero went to Christian Bale for his starring role in "Batman Begins," while best villain went to Hayden Christensen for his portrayal of Darth Vader in "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith." MTV also awarded a lifetime achievement statue to Jim Carrey, who accepted by joking, "Why do so many struggle with fame when I am able to float effortlessly on the upper edges of the Hollywood 'statusphere?"' Actress Jessica Alba, who hosted the show, thanked "all the perverts who voted for me," while accepting her award for sexiest performance for "Sin City." The show also featured musical performances by Christina Aguilera, Gnarls Barkley and punk band AFI.

‘Wedding Crashers' Wins Big At MTV Movie Awards

Source: Associated Press

(June 4, 2006) CULVER CITY, Calif. — Last summer's Wedding Crashers was the big winner at Saturday's
2006 MTV Movie Awards, collecting three prizes, including the coveted Golden Popcorn trophy for best movie. The film also earned breakthrough performance honours for Isla Fisher and best on-screen team award for Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. The unconventional awards show, held on a soundstage at Sony Studios, celebrates the fun of films with prizes recognizing the best on-screen hero, villain, kiss and fight, as well as sexy, funny and frightened performances. Host Jessica Alba turned current blockbusters into comedic treats with parodies of The Da Vinci Code, Mission Impossible: III and King Kong. “It was a lot of work” making the mini-movies, she said. “At the end of the day, I needed a bath and a cry.” Alba took home her own Golden Popcorn trophy for her sexy performance in Sin City. Jake Gyllenhaal was a double winner. He beat out Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon for best performance and teamed with Brokeback Mountain co-star Heath Ledger for best kiss. “This is a real honour, not just for me and Heath but for all of you, that you picked this movie and this kiss over all the other ones,” Gyllenhaal said. Awards are based on fan votes. Rapper LL Cool J presented Spike Lee with the Silver Bucket of Excellence for Do the Right Thing, his 1989 film examining racial tensions. The prize honours a movie from the past that has present-day resonance. “The sad thing is that the issues that we tried to address with Do the Right Thing are still with us today, so how much progress have we made?” Lee asked as he accepted his award. Will Ferrell presented fellow funnyman Jim Carrey with the MTV Generation Award for his diverse body of work. “This man's versatility makes Thomas Jefferson look like a big fat idiot,” Ferrell said. Wearing an all-white suit, Carrey took the stage with a cadre of winged angels and performed a spontaneous hip-shaking jig. The show also featured musical performances by soul duo Gnarls Barkley, rockers AFI and scantily clad songbird Christina Aguilera, who performed Ain't No Other Man. The show is scheduled to air at 8:30 p.m. June 8 on MTV.

———

A complete list of 2006 MTV Movie Awards winners:

Best movie: “Wedding Crashers”
Performance: Jake Gyllenhaal, “Brokeback Mountain.”
Comedic performance: Steve Carell, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”
On-screen team: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, “Wedding Crashers.”
Villain: Hayden Christensen, “Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith.”
Breakthrough performance: Isla Fisher, “Wedding Crashers.”
Hero: Christian Bale, “Batman Begins.”
Sexiest performance: Jessica Alba, “Sin City.”
Fight: Angelina Jolie vs. Brad Pitt, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”
Kiss: Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, “Brokeback Mountain.”
Frightened performance: Jennifer Carpenter, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.”
mtvU student filmmaker award: Joshua Caldwell, “A Beautiful Lie.”
Silver Bucket of Excellence: Spike Lee, “Do the Right Thing.”
MTV Generation Award:
Jim Carrey.

 

FILM TIDBITS

Hollywood Black Film Festival begins June 13

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 2, 2006) *The 2006 Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF), a showcase featuring 104 films as well as panels and workshops, will be held in Los Angeles this month at various venues throughout the city.   Opening night will kickoff June 13 at the Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills with a screening of “Shottas,” a raw urban drama that deals with life in the ghetto. HBFF 2006 wraps on June 18 with “Bastards of the Party,” a documentary co-produced by Antoine Fuqua that examines five decades of gang violence in Southern California between the Crips and the Bloods, the so-called bastard children of the radical 60s Black Panther Party.  HBFF's 2006 Infotainment Conference will be held Thursday, June 15 through Sunday June 18 in the Garden Room at the Le Meridian at Beverly Hills Hotel. The Conference theme asks, “What is Your Path?” with panels designed to guide filmmakers on the road to success. Each year more than 100 top industry experts serve as panellist covering a wide variety of topics ranging from film production, distribution, & marketing to pitching and writing for television and film.  Advance tickets and passes may be purchased online at http://www.hbff.org.  For a complete schedule of Hollywood Black Film Festival screenings, exhibits, panels, parties and events, please visit http://www.hbff.org, email: info@hbff.org.  *Meanwhile, Nigeria’s film industry, known as “Nollywood,” will invade the U.S. via “The Nollywood Foundation Convention 2006, African Cinema and Beyond," a film festival to run from June 15 through June 17 at the Omni Hotel in downtown Los Angeles (251 S Olive St.).

Lil Wayne, Baby Cast In Post-Katrina Film

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 5, 2006) *New Orleans rappers Lil Wayne and Baby will star in a film described by producers as a socially-relevant story in the wake of-Hurricane Katrina. Set in the Big Easy, “Cut Throat City” will be helmed by Aaron Courseault, a music video director who has worked with such artists as R. Kelly, Kirk Franklin, Kelly Price and Master P. “Cut Throat City” is about a heist that begins in the storm-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward and then hits the road. Animus Films' Jim Young is producing the project alongside Ithaka's Braxton Pope and Andrew Weiner.” This will be one of the first fictional narratives that deals with the tragedy of the government's response to Katrina," Pope said, "and the movie will be seen through the cultural lens of the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the most devastated areas."  "There is a great movie in the culture of New Orleans that you don't see advertised in the city's tourism PR kit," Pope added. "This film isn't about voodoo and vampires. It's an authentic, specific fable about the hustling life in the city.” South Central L.A. native Courseault wrote the indie "MacArthur Park," which debuted at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. He also wrote, produced and directed the short "Turmoil," starring Sidney Poitier.  “Cut Throat City” join the recently announced “Hurricane Season” in dealing with the effects of Katrina via motion picture. As previously reported, “Hurricane Season” is based on the upcoming documentary “Walking on Dead Fish,” about a high school outside of the city faced with the challenges of integrating displaced students.

Will’s ‘Pounds’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 5, 2006)  *Will Smith has been cast in the upcoming film “Seven Pounds” for Columbia Pictures and Escape Artists, and is in talks to also produce the movie through his Overbrook Entertainment shingle. The story follows a man who inadvertently falls in love with a woman while attempting to kill himself. In the meantime, Smith will shoot "I Am Legend" for Warner Bros. Pictures. He’s also signed on to star in Columbia's "Tonight, He Comes," which has been pushed back to a 2007 start date after director Gabriele Muccino dropped out. Muccino also helmed Smith’s upcoming film "The Pursuit of Happyness."

 

::TV NEWS::

7 Questions with Alex Trebek

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Stephen Cole

(June 2, 2006) Born July 22, 1940, in a French-English household in Sudbury. Attended the University of Ottawa, majoring in philosophy, before moving to Toronto, where he worked in the 1960s as a CBC staff announcer, eventually hosting the high-school quiz show Reach for the Top. Arriving in Hollywood in 1973, Trebek was emcee of a variety of quiz programs before taking over Jeopardy! in 1984. The Emmy-winning host will be inducted onto Canada's Walk of Fame alongside Pamela Anderson, Robert Goulet, Eugene Levy, Jann Arden and ski champions the Crazy Canucks this weekend, June 4 in Toronto.

For twenty-two years, Alex Trebek has appeared weekdays on TV's smartest game show, Jeopardy! And for just as long, he has made for irresistible parody fodder. Trebek has fooled with his game show persona on The X-Files, Cheers and The Simpsons, while Will Farrell, his costume moustache twitching, played a barely sane Trebek on a Saturday Night Live skewering of Celebrity Jeopardy!  In an episode of the animated sitcom Family Guy, Trebek was even hurtled into the fifth dimension when another character tricked him into saying his name backwards, "Kebert Xela."  Kebert himself doesn't mind all the attention, or kidding. "The trick," he says, "is taking the job seriously, without taking yourself seriously." Sound advice. Now, let's see how the world's most famous quizmaster does with 7 questions.

Okay, Alex, Northern Ontario trivia for a big nickel: What is the name of the first Sudbury native to make it to the Canadian Walk of Fame?

Oh gosh, Alan Thicke? No, he's from Kirkland Lake. Wait, I know, Alex Trebek. But you bring up an interesting point. How did I manage to get there before all those hockey players? Guys like Toe Blake, Eddie Shack or Jerry Toppazzini, who was born nearby in Copper Cliff. When I was a kid, my best friend -- he was the son of the hotel owner where my dad was chef -- and I used to drive out to the slag dumps to watch them pour molten rock at night in Copper Cliff. We couldn't imagine anything more fantastic. I had an idyllic, small-town childhood.

You went to the University of Ottawa in the late fifties. Any Animal House antics -- late-night raids to Hull and back?

Well, I can speak French, so I provided a valuable service on trips across the interprovincial bridge to Chez Henri. And I remember the Panda Game, our annual football grudge match against crosstown Carleton University. We had a contestant from Carleton on Jeopardy! once and I felt obliged to tease her. I said, Carleton wasn't all bad, it had a better journalism program than Ottawa U. Then I paused and said, Mind you, Ottawa U. doesn't have a journalism program.

Both you and current CTV anchorman Lloyd Robertson started out hosting entertainment shows. He did Saddle Songs, a country jamboree for CBC Winnipeg, and you did Music Hop, then Reach for the Top in Toronto. Was it difficult to leave journalism for Hollywood?

Lloyd e-mailed me upon hearing of the Canadian Walk of Fame announcement. "I decided to report news," he wrote, "and you decided to make money." But really, I was always an announcer. And if you're an announcer, Hollywood is where the work is.

Jeopardy! was already a marquee game-show franchise when you took it over in 1984. Did you have any misgivings about replacing Art Fleming, or did you see it as a. . . .

I saw it as a job. But as I've come to be identified with the series, I understand how it's an ideal match for who I am. I'm from Sudbury, a mining town where hard work is a given. I've always been competitive. Jeopardy! is the game show that rewards knowledge and achievement. There is no luck involved. I relate to that. [Breaking into an impersonation of a 1980s TV investment ad.] At Jeopardy! we make money the old-fashioned way -- we e-a-r-n it.

Did you get a secret thrill out of watching Will Ferrell playing you snapping at celebrity contestants on the Jeopardy! parody on Saturday Night Live?

I loved it. And I must say I was very pleased to see that Eugene Levy will be honoured on the Walk of Fame [this Sunday]. My favourite impersonation of me is Eugene doing Alex Treble on Half-Wits, a parody of Reach for the Top on the old SCTV show. I thought Eugene captured the private horror a game-show host experiences trying to keep things moving on a day where everything is going wrong and you just have to smile past disaster.

What the heck were you doing the night before you shaved your signature moustache a few seasons back?

Actually, I shaved it just before the show. Did one half, and then called my producer in to ask what he thought, then shaved the other side. Even though there was a big response from TV viewers, letters, e-mails and everything, half the studio audience never realized I'd shaved it off. My wife didn't even notice when I first got home from the studio! Such is the power of television.

All right, Double Jeopardy, Alex: You're next to Vincent Price and Ann-Margret in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Pamela Anderson and Robert Goulet in Canada's Walk of Fame. Which venue has the best block parties?

Well, from what I've heard about Robert Goulet, and what I've read about Pamela Anderson, I'm going to have to go with the Canadian one.

CBC-TV Pounces On New Pop-Star Reality Show

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon And Gayle Macdonald

(June 4, 2006)
Stay tuned for Canadian Idol, CBC-style. CBC Television has been quietly talking to advertisers about a new reality show similar to the Idol franchise, with contestants performing their hearts out and vying for the top prize of a recording contract. But rather than competing mainly on stage as they do on Idol, wannabe Kalan Porters in the CBC version will be testing their chops in a music-academy setting, where they'll get vocal coaching and tutoring by celebrity mentors. Those who can't hack it will presumably be booted off the show, as viewers vote for their favourite contestants. This, at least, is the premise of the U.S. show The One: Making a Music Star, on which the CBC has been telling industry insiders it will base its new show. The American version of The One is produced by Endemol USA, which is also responsible for such reality-TV hits as Big Brother, Fear Factor and Star Academy. The CBC has said it also plans to simulcast the U.S. show, expected to run on ABC this summer. A Canadian version on CBC-TV could come as early as the autumn. A spokesman for the CBC would only confirm that the broadcaster was considering airing these shows, but couldn't provide other details. June is network-launch season when Canadian broadcasters trot out their summer and fall line-ups in glitzy presentations to advertisers and the media.  CBC-TV's official presentation isn't until June 15. Yet the public broadcaster has been making it clear for weeks that it sees reality-TV shows as the way to higher ratings. The CBC has been slow to adopt the format, which has been popular but nevertheless been widely panned by critics. Among its major forays into the genre was The Greatest Canadian contest in the fall of 2004, a series which CBC executives continually point to as an example of how the broadcaster can make the reality-TV formula more CBC-like. More recently, there have been a series of senior management appointments, which included the creation of a new position dubbed executive director of factual entertainment programming.

One media buyer, however, wasn't sure whether the CBC can compete against CTV's Canadian Idol.  "Frankly, I don't know. But I give them marks for trying. It's not like they were winning the other way," he said. Another media buyer, who also asked not to be identified, said the new executive team in charge of programming at the CBC is clearly committed to a totally different tack from the plethora of so-called "high-impact" miniseries and movies that were the order of the day under CBC's former executive director of network programming. "In today's world, strategic alliances are what it's all about," he observed. "It's all about strange bedfellows." "At the fall launch [on the 15th], we're going to see a major reversal from where the CBC has been with so many miniseries and documentaries," said another insider. "The CBC brass wants to capture viewers on a more continuous basis with projects that pit them more directly against the conventional broadcasters. "They think shows like The One: Making a Music Star are going to give audiences a reason to come back, which means immediate and bankable ratings."

TV TIDBITS

CHUM TV Goes Shopping And Gets 17 New Shows

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald

(June 2, 2006) Toronto -- CHUM Television went on an aggressive shopping spree at this year's L.A. screenings, and returned home with 17 new shows to add to its programming schedule.  Roma Khanna, CHUM's senior vice-president of content, said the network's biggest coup was the acquisition of 3 lbs., a glossy medical drama starring Stanley Tucci, that will simulcast with CBS. As part of its mandate to satisfy a young, energetic audience, CHUM scooped up Salma Hayek-produced Betty the Ugly, about a plain Jane trying to make it big in the cutthroat world of fashion, and Simon Cowell's unscripted series Duets (singers pair up with non-musical celebrities and duke it out vocally). It also picked up the first two seasons of HBO's critically acclaimed comedy Entourage, marking the first time the cult show will air on a conventional network (it has been broadcast on the Movie Network). CHUM beefed up its Canadian content, adding Ice Planet and Terminal City, while still in pre-production are Murdoch Mysteries, Blood Ties and Across the River to Motor City.

Oprah Films Navajo Powwow For Upcoming Show

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 2, 2006) *Cameras for "The Oprah Winfrey Show" captured the talk show queen visiting the Navajo capital of Window Rock Wednesday for an upcoming episode on the Navajo Nation.  Winfrey was given a tour of Window Rock, a geographic feature that gave the community its name. She also watched as children performed a powwow dance, according to a statement released by the tribe. "Hopefully, Oprah's visit will portray that while we do have social problems, we're still rich in our heritage, our culture and language," said Priscella Littlefoot, the To'Nanees' Dizi Chapter coordinator who organized the event.  Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. added: "It was a real honour to have such a celebrity grace us with her presence, especially on sacred ground right under the Window Rock. She's a very likable person, of course, very honourable."

Tom Green Is Back 'Completely Uncensored'

Source: Catherine Tsai, Associated Press

(June 5, 2006) Denver — Tom Green is getting another late-night talk show — this time online. Nearly three years after MTV axed his show, ManiaTV.com will begin hosting a weekly call-in show with the comedian on June 15, live from his living room in the Hollywood Hills. “It seemed like the ultimate playground for someone like me,” said Green, who started out on public access TV. “I've always enjoyed doing goofy experimental stuff that sometimes was too weird to put on a TV show but was fun artistically.” Tom Green Live” will be broadcast and archived on both Denver-based ManiaTV.com and Green's Web site. He is signed up to do 50 one-hour episodes for an undisclosed fee. For Green, the show is an extension of the wacky videos he posts on his Web site, including such stunts as blindfolding a fan and letting the fan post a video blog about it. Green, a cancer survivor once married to actress Drew Barrymore, will host the show from his old MTV desk set in front of his fireplace. He quipped that he might end up interviewing his cleaning lady and landscaper. “I doubt we'll get anybody good. It's in my living room. How rinky dink is that?” he said. Richard Ayoub, ManiaTV's vice president of programming, said Green is being given “complete and total creative control.” “We have no standards and practices,” Ayoub said. “He is going to be completely uncensored. That's what we can give him that MTV never could.”

Shonda Rhimes Extends Touchstone Contract

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 6, 2006) *Shonda Rhimes, the mastermind behind television’s hottest show, "Grey's Anatomy," has just become one of the biggest players in Hollywood after signing a new three-year pact with Touchstone TV that is reportedly worth $10 million.  The 36-year-old former screenwriter is a valuable asset to the company as it moves the hot ABC medical drama from its successful Sunday, 10 p.m. timeslot to Thursdays at 9 p.m., where it will attempt to put a ratings dent in CBS’ “CSI.”  Rhimes also has a new untitled drama on deck for Touchstone, a pilot for ABC about a group of female journalists.   According to the Hollywood Reporter, Rhimes just wrapped up the first year of a two-year deal that she signed in May 2005.   Rhimes’ resume includes penning the screenplays for "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement" and Britney Spears’ "Crossroads" as well as HBO's biopic "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge," which earned Halle Berry an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

Howard Stern coming to Canadian TV

Excerpt from The Toronto Star – Canadian Press


(Jun. 6, 2006) The lewd antics of shock broadcaster
Howard Stern are coming to Canadian TV.  Rogers Cable, the country's largest cable carrier, announced Tuesday that effective immediately, Howard TV — Stern's digital channel — will be available on the company's Personal TV On Demand service.  "We understand Howard's fans desire to see the King of All Media on their own time and now that it's available On Demand with Personal TV, our customers can watch what they want when they want," said David Purdy, vice president and TV general manager at Rogers.  Personal TV subscribers will have unlimited access to uncensored Stern content totalling more than 30 hours of new programming each month, Rogers said.  The audio version of Stern's program is also available on digital radio.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Miller Endures Martin Short Treatment

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Phinjo Gombu, Staff Reporter


(Jun. 2, 2006) Toronto mayor
David Miller drew first blood in his encounter with feared celebrity interviewer Jiminy Glick.  Going live at the Canon Theatre at last night's performance of Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, Miller — initially at least — held fast against Glick, the boorish, obnoxious and tactless TV journalist made famous by Short.  When Short asked Miller to talk about himself but with not too much detail, because he, Jiminy Glick, of course really didn't really care, Miller was ready.  "That's a mutual feeling, and I want to welcome you back (to Toronto), and I certainly hope the show does better than your movie," quipped Miller, making fun of Short's movie Jiminy Glick in Lalawood two years ago.  Miller's centre stage performance came as a surprise to the audience that had come to see the comedy musical. Jiminy Glick is one of many characters played by the Hamilton-born Short in the tale about a would-be actor with a boring life who tries to jazz his story up with imaginary angst.  Things went up — and down — from then on.  Short, who ad libs abrasive and incompetent interviews with celebrities and audience members, appeared charged to make fun of Miller's boyish charms and goody-goody reputation and managed to get in a few good shots.  They ranged from describing Miller as a communist who shaves to a man who, since his election, has stood up for most of the things he promised and a lot of the things he didn't.

Attempts to make fun of Miller's silver-spoon boyhood in a private school and Harvard University, went a bit flat with a slightly nervous Miller not being very helpful, or trying to pre-empt punch lines.  Jokes about former Mayor Mel Lastman led to a rather painful rendition by Miller of Lastman's trademark "Nobooooooooooody" cry.  Things got so tense at one moment that Short, who was still recovering from a bad cold that prompted the cancellation of a performance earlier this week, had to warn Miller that he was still going to get cut down.  "There's usually a rapport (in my interviews,)" Short said, describing how other interviewees like Michael Jackson normally admit to things they would normally not say on his show, such as the fact that he was the father of three and the mother of two.  "This interview is like playing ping-pong," Short told Miller in mock frustration, bringing even more gales of laughter from the audience.  Short then tried to corner Miller as a pornography star he had once seen in a movie called Bang the Bum Slowly.  That too didn't really go anywhere, until almost as an after thought, just as he was thanking the mayor for showing up, Short asked a throwaway question: Why did God give men nipples if we are not supposed to breastfeed our pets?"  It led to the fairly unmayorly sight of Miller standing up, fingering his nipples, as he tried to imitate the classroom posture of a former law professor of his.  That along with the Viagra Chapstick joke —to help the mayor keep a stiff upper lip — was good enough for the audience, who then cheered and laughed appreciatively at the sight of Miller do a parting dance with Short.

Shaw's Local Boy Makes Good

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic


(Jun. 6, 2006) If
Mike Shara were a McDonald's meal, he'd definitely be Super-Sized.  We're not talking just about his 6-foot-plus, raw-boned physique that makes him stand out on any stage, but also the capacious talent and versatility that make him one of our most interesting actors.  Shara is currently playing two wildly different roles at the Shaw Festival and doing a brilliant job of both.  In Arms and the Man, he's the egomaniacal Sergius, munching on the scenery with gusto, then picking his teeth with a sabre.  In The Heiress he's Morris, a young man whose quietly devastating charm may (or may not) conceal the heart of a total cad.  At 34, Shara is rapidly becoming the go-to guy if you need a difficult part played to the hilt.  Not bad for someone who wound up in theatre almost by chance.  He was born in 1971 in St. Catharines, so close to the Shaw Festival that it almost seemed like destiny he would gravitate there, but it took awhile.  His dad is a retired engineer while his mom spent her time as a teacher of special needs students. He's got two younger brothers, one at a local paper mill and the other a bartender.  "I wasn't an artsy kid at all," insists Shara, "never did any of the class musicals or things like that, but my high school made us take at least one arts course.... I picked drama, because I thought it would be easy."  By a stroke of fate, the Shaw Festival was looking for some teenage boys to appear in its 1985 production of Cavalcade and they turned to Shara's school for candidates.  "They asked us to do a British accent and all I knew was Monty Python, so that's what I did. Hey, I got the job!"  Even then, he hesitated. "It seemed like an awful lot of time at first, but then I found out I'd get paid for it and I thought, okay, it's better than working at McDonald's."

Once rehearsals began, his attitude changed. "I fell totally in love with the people and the whole vibe of the place," he recalls. "I assumed that all the actors like David Schurmann and Fiona Reid were rich because they seemed so classy. My mother gently told me the exact opposite was probably the case."  Shara decided to go to college and study drama so he could return to the Shaw, but "the only school that took me was Windsor.... And then they kicked me out for bad behaviour. They were trying to teach discipline and commitment, and I was there to meet girls."  He now looks on that as the watershed moment of his young life. "When I got kicked out, it was a real wake-up call. They told me it wasn't about my ability, but whether or not I really wanted to be there."  Shara decided he did. "I was finally readmitted. I managed to shut my mouth, not cause any trouble and graduate. They actually asked me to come back and teach at Windsor, which is really rewarding."  Just after graduating, Shara got hired by Robin Phillips for a year's contract at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton.  "I did five shows with the likes of Brent Carver, Peter Donat, Albert Schultz. I looked on it as acting boot camp. Robin was tough, but he was a great teacher."  That toughness almost cost Shara dearly. He had gotten an audition for the Shaw Festival with Christopher Newton, but it was in Calgary and he could only afford a bus ticket.  Phillips thought it would bring him back to Edmonton too close to curtain time and refused to let him go. "Then (actress) Camille Mitchell bought me a plane ticket to fly back and forth in time. I owe her my career and I've never seen her again."  Shara made his return to the Shaw company in 1995 and gradually built up his status over the next three seasons.  Then in 1998, he faced the dazzling prospect of offers from Shaw, Stratford and Soulpepper. "How often does that happen to a kid?" he asks in awe.  He went with Soulpepper but returned to Shaw after a season, where he's remained ever since.  "I'm perfectly happy where I am and the people at Shaw treat me wonderfully. It's the kind of place that lets you have both roots and wings. But who knows what the future holds? There will come a day when the Shaw Festival gets tired of me and I've got to be prepared for that."

Thinking back, he occasionally regrets saying no to Stratford in 1998, because "I'd be lying if I didn't say that I've always wanted to stand on that stage and play Shakespeare. But who knows what's going to happen? Life is long and I haven't really planned how any of mine has turned out so far."  Married to another Shaw actor, Fiona Byrne — they became proud parents of their first child, Molly, last Wednesday — Shara's been thinking lately of who he really is, as opposed to the characters he plays.  "It takes me a lot of effort to play a heroic kind of guy, you know. I have to work hard to fit the suit. Just because you're tall and look a certain way, people think you're a particular kind of guy.  "But how do they know what you're really like inside?"

Year of The Lord at Doras

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian


(Jun. 7, 2006) The announcement of the 2006 nominees for the
Dora Mavor Moore Awards was made yesterday and once again, noting who didn't get invited to the party is almost as revealing as observing who did.  Is anybody surprised that The Lord of the Rings came in on top with 15 nominations? For the past year LOTR has been the 500-pound gorilla in the tiny room that constitutes Toronto theatre. Whether you loved it or hated it, you have to admit it was the single most important event of the year and was certainly going to get a lot of nods.  Of course, it will be interesting to see the results when it gets down to the final voting. The Tolkien behemoth is competing in some categories against shows which have less than 1 per cent of its budget.  But the most interesting thing is tracking which Toronto theatre companies seem to be in favour this year and which aren't.  Even though it was often shamefully neglected in other seasons, it only makes sense that Soulpepper should score big this time with 10 nominations in this, the year they moved into their new home. And it's also fair that four of those nominations are for their luminous production of Our Town.  The Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, often in past disfavour as well, made a strong showing with nine nominations, four of them coming for their popular production of Bunnicula.  And the feisty independent company Birdland Theatre scored an impressive nine nominations for their uneven but fascinating The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.  Obsidian Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille each got seven nominations, with almost all of Obsidian's coming from its production of The Monument, while Passe Muraille's big winner was d'bi.young's blood.claat — one womban story (five nominations).  And on the smaller commercial front, it was nice to see Michael Rubinoff and Derrick Chua walk off with four citations for their production of the zany boy-band musical BoyGroove, which just closed last weekend.

The two special awards, named in honour of George Luscombe and Barbara Hamilton went to ahdri zina mandiela, artistic director of b-current and Soulpepper's artistic director, Albert Schultz, both of whom had fine creative years.  But the Dora nominations didn't spell good news for three of our city's most prominent companies.  CanStage is Toronto's largest not-for-profit theatre and just last year, it scored a whopping 22 nominations. Its production of Urinetown alone got 10 nominations and wound up winning six of them.  This year's story is somewhat different. They produced 10 shows in three venues (including High Park) and walked away with only four nominations,  Two of those, it must also be pointed out, are for Ronnie Burkett, who is such a favourite that not nominating him would be like spitting on the flag.  How could it do so badly? Well, to put it bluntly, they didn't have a very good year, especially in the musical category.  Whereas in years past, tuners like Urinetown or Cooking at the Cookery could be counted on to hype their totals, this year they produced Crowns and Hair, both of which generated active dislike within the theatre community.  Tarragon Theatre is another well-known local company that has often topped the Dora lists in the past, but this year was another story altogether.  They presented eight shows, but only one of them, Rosa Laborde's wonderful play Léo, earned any nominations.  In other words, were it not for the five nods given to Laborde's script, Tarragon would have been left waiting at the church.  Which is virtually what happened to Factory Theatre.  They put on seven shows this season, but except for a supporting actor nomination for the Banana Boys ensemble, they were totally overlooked, which must hurt.  Ah, Dora can be a fickle and sometimes capricious lady, but she usually knows which way the wind is blowing.  Let's hope it blows more kindly next year on CanStage, Tarragon and Factory.

THEATRE TIDBITS

Roberts's Star Power Helps Boost Broadway Sales

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(
June 2, 2006) New York -- Critics may have panned Julia Roberts' New York stage debut in Three Days of Rain, but the Pretty Woman's star power helped catapult Broadway to a record-breaking year in terms of attendance and box-office receipts. The 2005-2006 Broadway season, which ended May 28, saw paid attendance on the Great White Way top the 12 million mark for the first time, an increase of 4.1 per cent from the 11.5 million who brought seats last year. Grosses increased 12 per cent to $861.6-million (U.S.) from $768.5-million -- also a new high, according to the League of American Theatres and Producers. AFP

Jerry Lewis To Direct Musical Version Of 'Nutty Professor'

Source:  Associated Press

(June 7, 2006) LAS VEGAS — Jerry Lewis, who played The Nutty Professor in 1963, has a wacky new scheme: staging the film as a Broadway musical. The first show is planned for January at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, Calif., where the 80-year-old comedian has a houseboat, he said. Lewis would direct the show, which he aims to have on Broadway by October, 2008. The show will be produced by The Michael Andrew Company. Andrew, a 41-year-old crooner and comedian who fronts The Atomic Big Band, is to play the lead, the bucktoothed Julius Kelp, who invents a potion that transforms him into the suave Buddy Love. I had an awful lot of inquiries about it for years and I never really bothered to pay much attention to it,” Lewis, who lives in the Las Vegas area, said Tuesday. “I saw this kid perform and he wanted very much to do that, and he had money,” Lewis said. “I said: ‘With those pockets, we'll give it a shot.'” The company bought the rights to develop The Nutty Professor into a musical in March, executive producer Ned McLeod said. The story also was remade in 1996 into a movie — which Lewis co-produced — starring Eddie Murphy. Andrew said he was inspired by Lewis's comedy at an early age. “When I was eight years old, I saw that movie and it pretty much formed what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Andrew said. “I never knew it would be as direct as it's going right now.” Lewis has battled pulmonary fibrosis, a crippling lung ailment, in recent years, keeping him off the stage. He plans to return for four shows in Las Vegas in July.

::OTHER NEWS::

Our Walk With Fame

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Writer


(Jun. 4, 2006) The rain poured down but the stars came out anyway.  And nothing could deter diehard fans, in raingear and huddled under umbrellas, from cheering wildly while catching a glimpse of the newest stars to be inducted into
Canada's Walk of Fame yesterday.  "It was fantastic. I saw a lot of stars ... and they were very friendly and very polite. Most of them went out of their way to sign autographs. I thought that was fabulous," said Liliana Sikora, 41.  "They all looked fabulous, the gowns were unbelievable, the men were very handsome, great smiles and lots of personality," she added.  The inductees for the 9th annual event included actor-model Pamela Anderson, long-time Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, Late Show musical director and David Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer, comedian-actor Eugene Levy, singer Jann Arden, singer-actor Robert Goulet, actor Brendan Fraser and surviving members of the champion skiers dubbed the Crazy Canucks, Ken Read, Dave Irwin and Steve Podborski. (Dave Murray died in 1990.)  Celia Saroya, 18, of Whitby, who came with two friends, was all smiles despite being "sopping wet."  "This is part of history, this is Canada's Walk of Fame. It's pretty exciting," Saroya said.  For the organizers, the daylong downpour wreaked havoc with carefully orchestrated plans for the presentation at the Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts. Red carpets were soaked, outdoor seating for spectators was useless and activities had to be reorganized to take advantage of the Hummingbird's huge overhead canopies.  Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey said the roster of stars this year was impressive.  "This is a class group of Canadians and they deserve to have their names honoured. They've made their mark ... for so many years," Godfrey said.  Past honourees also attended, including director Norman Jewison. "I got a star the very first year, when nobody was there. There was one cop, Mel Lastman and my sister," Jewison joked.  Dan Aykroyd, another past honouree, came to present Shaffer with his star.  "Nobody deserves this honour more than Paul and nobody wants it more than him, by the way.," he said.  "There's so many thinly distinguished talents that aren't really talents. They're media stars because they're on some reality TV show or they won a Survivor contest. Paul really does have talent and he deserves to be recognized in this way."  Fraser, who was born in the U.S. to Canadian parents but schooled at Toronto's Upper Canada College, pointed to our renowned politeness as a "national characteristic."  "As my granddad used to say, no matter where you go, someone's always going to know you so there's no excuse for not being polite. And that's inherently Canadian," Fraser said.  Trebek, who was host of the college quiz show Reach For The Top in Canada in 1960s, said "this is very special. It's truly an honour to be recognized by your own country."  CTV will broadcast the awards tonight at 7.

Trebek, Shaffer inducted into Walk of Fame

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Matthew Chung,
Canadian Press

(June 4, 2006) TORONTO — Funnyman Eugene Levy said he felt damn good. Actor Brendan Fraser hammed it up with the Mounties. And Pam Anderson wowed fans who braved the rain over the weekend as a bevy of homegrown celebs became the latest inductees to Canada's Walk of Fame. “It's a kick,” said Levy, who was born in Hamilton, Ont., and walked Saturday's red carpet with his son, Dan. The first honouree to arrive, Ottawa-raised Fraser, saluted two Mounties and mugged for the cameras with them on his way down the carpet. Fraser — who has played RCMP officer Dudley Do-Right on the big screen — said his great-grandfather was a Mountie, adding that the officers had shown him the proper way to salute. “It's slow up, quick down,” said Fraser, who also starred in George of the Jungle and Gods and Monsters. Game show host Alex Trebek — who was also inducted — offered a diplomatic “no comment” when asked who's funnier, Canadians or Americans. “We've had Canadians do well in our Tournaments of Champions. We've had Americans do well,” said the longtime Jeopardy host, who grew up in Sudbury, Ont. About 100 fans, many wearing rain ponchos and toting umbrellas, turned out to see the inductees. They screamed Anderson's name as the British Columbia native — clad in a silky black dress — headed into the Hummingbird Centre, a downtown theatre and site of an evening gala. Calgary singer Jann Arden and Robert Goulet — who was raised in Alberta and Ontario — were also honoured, as were members of the Crazy Canucks ski team of Dave Irwin, Ken Read, Steve Podborski and Dave Murray. Murray died in 1990 after a lengthy illness.

The names of the latest inductees will be showcased on sidewalk slabs in the entertainment district, bringing the total number of stars along the walk to 101. The Walk of Fame inductions have come a long way from their humble beginnings in 1998, when the first dozen celebrities were inducted and only four — famed figure skater Barbara Ann Scott, impressionist Rich Little, director Norman Jewison and ballerina Karen Kain — showed up (as well as family representatives of the late John Candy and Glenn Gould). This year's presentation had all the bells and whistles of a major awards show and featured a dance performance by Stratus as well as songs by Arden, Goulet and Shaffer. “I didn't know I was famous until today, when they told me,” Arden joked as she accepted her award during the show. Shaffer, keyboardist and leader of late-night talk show host David Letterman's house band, was a standout during his performance with Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd. His second song — with respected organ players Lonnie Smith, Doug Riley and Joey DeFrancesco — brought the audience to its feet. “I've gotta say this number they put together for me is pretty cool,” Shaffer said earlier, on the red carpet. Levy was impressed by those who came out to cheer him on. “These guys are great, great fans, supporting this business. These guys are out here in the rain. It's amazing.” The Walk of Fame was founded by Toronto businessman Peter Soumalias, who has said this year's honourees were chosen from over 100,000 submissions received from around the world. To qualify, a candidate must have been born or spent his or her formative years in Canada, and have been successful for a minimum of 10 years. Previous recipients include Alanis Morissette, Paul Anka, Jim Carrey, Shania Twain, William Hutt, Wayne Gretzky and Michael J. Fox.

Walkin' The Walk

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter


(Jun. 2, 2006) He's got the most distinctive and mobile eyebrows in the comedy business. Her dazzling smile has graced more Playboy covers than any other woman in the magazine's history.  One's flying in from La-la Land, the other has just a short hop across town from Rosedale. 
Eugene Levy and Pamela Anderson may have little in common beyond the fact they're both to receive a star on Canada's Walk of Fame at a star-studded ceremony tomorrow.  "I honestly don't think there's a greater honour than having your country recognize you for your body of work," said Levy, known for his work on the SCTV comedy series and more recently the American Pie movies.  "Outside of being knighted maybe," he added with a laugh.  "I am just so excited," said Anderson from her Los Angeles home.  "It's really flattering. I can't wait to get there. It seems like a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to it."  Anderson's path to stardom began literally the moment she was born — at 4:08 a.m. on July 1, 1967 — making her Canada's first Centennial Baby.  In 1989, while attending a B.C. Lions football game, the telegenic Anderson was spotted wearing a Labatt's T-shirt by a TV cameraman who put her image up on the stadium's big screen. Soon afterwards, she joined the brewery's marketing team.  Her first appearance in Playboy followed, and Hollywood soon beckoned with roles on Home Improvement as Lisa the Tool Time Girl and Baywatch, an international hit.  She also produced and starred in V.I.P. and last year starred in the Fox series Stacked.  Anderson shrugs off criticism that she is little more than a big-busted bimbo, in part because of the support she receives from long-time friend Suzanne Somers, a successful entrepreneur who gained fame years ago as the archetypal dumb blond on Three's Company.

"I laugh about it. Suzanne Somers is a friend of mine and every time she sees me, she says, `Hey, stupid,' and I go, `Hey, dumb blond,'" Anderson said.  "We always say, `Hey, dumb blond, how are you doing with your millions?'"  Anderson is also a vegetarian and animal rights activist who caused a minor tizzy earlier this year as host of the Juno Awards when she slammed the East Coast seal hunt.  "If you're in the press a lot or you get a chance to talk to people ... if you have information that you think is important, you should be able to speak about it," Anderson said.  While Anderson is a West Coast woman, from her Vancouver Island birthplace to her present home, Levy is a lifelong Ontarian and a loyal Torontonian, having lived and raised his family here for more than 35 years.  "I love Rosedale ... I love the history of the place, the fact that it's right in the centre of the city. I love the fact that Toronto is one of the few cities where the place to be is downtown," Levy said.  "It's a great sports town, it's got the Leafs and, despite the rising homicide rate, I think it's still a relatively clean, safe place to raise a family," he added.  For Levy, 59, the showbiz bug first took hold while he was attending McMaster University in his hometown of Hamilton in the late 1960s.  "I was taking sociology, but don't ask me why," Levy said.  There, he met three other future SCTV alumni, Martin Short, Dave Thomas and director/producer Ivan Reitman, the man behind comic blockbusters like Ghostbusters.

After arriving in Toronto in 1970, Levy soon found himself working alongside the late Gilda Radner, Andrea Martin and Late Show sidekick Paul Shaffer (another of this year's inductees) as a cast member in a production of Godspell.  "It's very exciting that I'm there with Paul Shaffer getting his (star). We started out together, I've known him for 30 years," Levy said.  In 1973, Levy joined the Second City troupe in Toronto where he worked with the late John Candy, Dan Aykroyd and Catherine O'Hara, among others.  In recent years, Levy's film career has soared, including comic turns in films like A Mighty Wind and Best in Show.  So how did this golden age of comedy stars from Canada come about?  Levy doesn't have an answer. "There are a lot of Canadians in comedy. But I don't think something comes out of the maple syrup that makes people funny.  "I think it was just kind of coincidental that all these people were at the same place at the same time."

David Remnick Lures Readers To The New Yorker

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Judy Stoffman, Entertainment Reporter

(Jun. 3, 2006) Only a brave or foolhardy person would take on a cultural institution as fiercely guarded as
The New Yorker, the magazine that was literary home of James Thurber, J.D. Salinger, A.J. Liebling, Truman Capote, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, and today publishes Malcolm Gladwell, Woody Allen, Adam Gopnik, Joan Acocella, John Seabrook, Alice Munro, alongside cartoonists like Saul Steinberg, R. Crumb and Roz Chast.  David Remnick is only the fifth editor-in-chief in The New Yorker's illustrious 81-year history, and also the first to simultaneously write for the magazine. His bravery is reportedly rewarded by S.I. Newhouse, head of Condé Nast, with an annual salary of more than $1 million U.S.  His New Yorker, Remnick says, has kept the basic recipe that has made the magazine so popular with smart people — take some humour, criticism, fiction, poetry, serious reporting, personal history, and mix well — but added new voices.  "The New Yorker is not a museum; I'm not a curator. A lot of the quaint myths about The New Yorker, anecdotes about adorable people in a lost world, are not true. Writing is too hard. James Thurber and E.B. White sweated over what they wrote."  Though he adheres to the traditional recipe, "different times call for different emphasis," he asserts. Since 9/11, the range of political topics and the frequency of articles about Iraq, Afghanistan, Asia, the Middle East has increased. In 2004, for the first time, the magazine endorsed a presidential candidate (not George W. Bush).  "I am trying to put out the magazine I want to read. It's an act of horrible condescension to presuppose what readers want. We don't have focus groups or readership surveys. We are just doing this homemade thing I hope you, too, will find beautiful, funny, delicious."  At 47, Remnick is tall and slim, with a full head of curly black hair, dressed in a well-cut navy jacket and a soft, pale-blue shirt open at the neck. Married to journalist Esther Fein and father of three children, he wears his good fortune and achievements lightly.  He makes the final decision on every cartoon caption and piece of fiction as well as the articles.

The only thing he has no power over is the magazine's perfectionist copy editing, which includes using a double dot in words like re-enter, re-educate and co-operate (reënter, reëducate, coöperate).  Why this eccentric orthography? "I don't know," he says, laughing. "Ann Goldstein (chief copy editor) beats me up every time I raise the subject."  He took over in 1998 from British cyclone Tina Brown who shattered tradition by introducing photos, notes on contributors, and four-letter words that would have made her shy predecessor William Shawn, editor from 1951 to '87, shudder.  Under Remnick, circulation has risen by a cool 29 per cent to 1,051,919 copies; a collection of bloggers obsesses over every issue. In Canada, it has 19,863 subscribers and 5,819 copies are sold on newsstands, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. People have been known to buy summer cottages just to have a place for old copies, which they can't bear to discard.  (When I tell Remnick this, he sensibly points out that 4,000 back issues are available on a DVD set "the size of a grilled cheese sandwich.")  Most of the 23 pieces collected in his new book have appeared since Remnick became editor. Contrary to what you may have seen in the movie Capote, William Shawn hated flying and never left New York, but Remnick happily flew to Toronto this week to promote Reporting. In the office of his publisher, he reveals the secret of being both writer and editor: give up vacations.  "I am not very good at the beach or going to the mountains," he says. In January, he took his holiday in the Gaza Strip, which resulted in "The Democracy Game: Hamas Comes to Power," included in the collection.  "I'm not the sort of person who'd do well only going to an office. It's important to meet people who are not writers or editors who work for The New Yorker." Being a fast writer, he is never away for long.  His friend and colleague, bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, compares him to basketball player Tayshaun Prince. "He's smooth and elegant and glides quietly around the court, never breaking a sweat, and then at the end of the game you look up and you realize that he's the top scorer," wrote Gladwell in an email. "David is Tayshaun Prince. His workday consists of gliding around the office, being charming and helpful and thoughtful and funny and then at the end of the week he's not only put out another magazine but written the lead story. I have no idea how he does it."  The book's two leitmotifs are Israeli politics and the literature and politics of Russia. He studied Russian at Princeton University and speaks it passably, having made his name as a journalist when his first employer, The Washington Post, sent him to its Moscow bureau in the 1980s to report on what turned out to be the last days of the U.S.S.R. Lenin's Tomb, the book that grew out of that experience, won Remnick a Pulitzer Prize. He sold his first piece to the New Yorker in 1991, to Robert Gottleib, who was editor for five years after Shawn.  In Reporting, a pair of profiles of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, one written when the writer was living in exile in Vermont, the other after he had returned to Russia, are worth the price of admission. Equally authoritative are Remnick's pieces on Don DeLillo, Philip Roth, Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin, the history of Anna Karenina translations, and Natan Sharansky, which knits together the Russian and Israeli strands of the book.

Why Russia and Israel? "For ethnic reasons. My grandparents were Russian and Jewish — it's written on my face the way the map of Ireland is written on some people."  His own favourite piece is not about politics or literature. It's "Kid Dynamite Blows Up: Mike Tyson," a story about the hot-tempered heavyweight preparing for a big fight in Las Vegas in 1997. Remnick is pleased with its sly humour.  He had asked Tyson about his heroes, one of whom is the Carthaginian military commander Hannibal, who defeated the Romans. "Hannibal was very courageous," Tyson tells Remnick. "He rode elephants through Cartilage."  The last section of Reporting, which is devoted to boxing, seems to have been written by Remnick's delinquent twin, not the civilized persona who penned the other selections. "It's a terrible guilty pleasure; for literary types it's considered gross and it does leave people in a mess," he admits. "But I'm not interested in outlawing it."  He acknowledges that boxing has moved from the mainstream to the margins. "It's followed closely now by the Hispanic community," he says. "But it's a really interesting subject for a sportswriter, much more than baseball, football or basketball because those players are big stars, they have handlers, they know how to protect themselves. Boxers are not like that. They talk freely."

Mac Viva Glam 20 Fashion Cares

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jun. 3, 2006)  Designers Dean and Dan Caten have barely touched down from Milan, and their Four Seasons Hotel suite is already a scene of full-on fabulousness.  "Those are for Pammy," Dean breezes, flicking his diamond-wrapped wrist at three jersey evening gowns suspended from a doorframe. The floor is littered with crystal-studded sandals destined, along with the gowns, for Pamela Anderson, their co-star at tonight's Fashion Cares (known officially this year as Mac Viva Glam 20 Fashion Cares). The gala fundraiser for the AIDS Committee of Toronto turns 20 today, and the Catens bring the event full circle. Their black rubber "safe sex" dress was the first outfit down the catwalk at the first Fashion Cares, held at what was then The Diamond nightclub on Sherbourne St.  Even then, in 1987, their appeal was clear. The dress pulled in $1,500 at the evening's auction.  Soon after, the identical twins from North York left for Milan to launch their menswear collection, Dsquared. A subsequent production and distribution deal with Staff International, a wing of the Italian brand Diesel, helped bring last year's sales to $86 million U.S. But it's their first fragrance, due for fall 2007, that could take the Catens from rich to very rich.  "First the Yachtmaster, then the yacht," they laugh, a reference to the Rolex watches they both wear. Dan's is yellow gold; Dean's is platinum. They also wear the same sequence of diamond-studded stacking rings on their wedding fingers.  "I'm not supposed to say," Dan confides, "but our first fragrance will be for men. That's very unconventional — doing men's before women's. But we started in menswear, and then added women's, and it's menswear that we are more successful in. So we'll do a men's fragrance first.  "It was Madonna who once told us, `don't change gears,'" Dan continues. "She liked one of our leather shirts and we wanted to make her another one, but when we went to order the leather it was discontinued. `If anything is good it gets discontinued,' she said. `Don't change gears.'" Madonna wears Dsquared gloves on a recent cover of W magazine."  Nor have the Catens shifted away from the sexy hoser sensibility that helped make their name. Of course, it helps when you are sending souped-up lumberjack looks down the runway on Naomi Campbell.

Stars of the AC Milan and Juventus soccer teams also wear Dsquared, but the Catens' guests at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre tonight will be two of their sisters and a waiter named Gus.  "He's our best friend from when we were, like, 13," Dan says, while Dean handles a cell call in fluent Italian. "We were waiters together at Fentons."  It's not haute cuisine but a quarter chicken with fries at Swiss Chalet that they would love to squeeze in before winging back to Milan.  "Our menswear show is in two weeks and I can't tell you the theme, that's bad luck," Dan says, admitting that like many Italians, he is superstitious. The brothers both wear red strings knotted around their necks with teensy gold crosses that were given to them by a Brazilian "for protection," Dan says.  "The day we get back to Milan, a Russian television crew is following us from 8 a.m. until we go clubbing at night. But we will take our magic drops and sleep on the plane," Dean sighs. "It's some anti-jet lag thing you can only get in Italy. We have to. We do one-day turnarounds to L.A. and then spend the whole next day in the factory. How else could we do it?"

Glyn Laverick Thinks There's A Market For His Music Hall

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Rebecca Caldwell

(June 3, 2006)
Glyn Laverick's business motto is simple: "In chaos, profit." It's a handy motto for him to believe in too, as the 24-year-old Briton has certainly witnessed his share of chaos in the short time since his company, Ellipsis Leisure Retail, took over the Music Hall last October. Mr. Laverick's red-carpet reopening of the 90-year-old Danforth landmark on May 9, with the Andrew Lloyd Webber show Song & Dance, is best remembered for lead dancer Rex Harrington's dramatic collapse on stage and subsequent withdrawal from the production after he tore his Achilles tendon. Of course, the threat of a theatrical bomb is nothing compared with the actual bomb threat Mr. Laverick received last month during a festival at the hall run by the Sri Lanka Canada Association. The venue was evacuated for 90 minutes while Mr. Laverick, Kevlar-clad police officers and a bomb-sniffing dog searched the building for explosives. "That was probably my most interesting day," Mr. Laverick said. "It was a bit surreal, really, this bomb dog running up and down the seats, the police asking me if there was anything unusual. And I thought, 'There's bits of sets and props and instrument cases: There's no way of telling.' But we went through it, and got the all-clear, so it was fine." Mr. Laverick's unflappable manner may seem like that of a veteran showbiz producer, and, despite his age, he is. A self-taught entrepreneur, he started promoting local DJs at 17 while at school in his native Middlesbrough, in northeast England. After building up a contact list, he organized live acts in London. After visiting friends in the United States over holidays, he soon began promoting bands on this side of the Atlantic, booking everyone from superstars Aretha Franklin and Willie Nelson to smaller indie groups Keane, Soundtrack of Our Lives and Kings of Leon. He also played a role in constructing two outdoor venues in Marshall, Mo.

"Nobody grows up thinking they want to be a concert promoter. It wasn't a job really, it was something neat to do, and neat to invite all your friends to, and have a good time," Mr. Laverick said. "But I've always been ambitious." When his American visa ran out, he looked north to Canada, arriving in Toronto two years ago. "It's a great city, with lots of communities," said Mr. Laverick, who lives in the Beaches. "It has the amenities of the States, but the flavour of home, of England, but not as reserved." After a few stints co-promoting bands with House of Blues in Toronto, another local promoter, Gary Cormier, suggested that Mr. Laverick take a look at the Music Hall, which had been lying mostly vacant since its last incarnation as a rep cinema ended in November, 2004.  Constructed from 1916 to 1918 as a vaudeville house, the 1,200-seat building had rarely been refurbished and was showing its age: According to Mr. Laverick, the bathrooms were barely functional, the climate control was mercurial at best and parts of the ceiling looked as if they were about to cave in.  "There was just so much neglect over the years," he said. Still, he saw potential: "It really just seemed to fit the bill for the city. It's a perfect size, right on the subway line, off the DVP, and in a happening neighbourhood." Mr. Laverick, backed by several investors, signed a 15-year lease on the building with his partner and girlfriend, 24-year-old Lara Wiechula. Since taking over on Oct. 1, they've undertaken a gradual, multimillion-dollar reno, replacing most of the seats, gutting the bathrooms, installing new heating and air-conditioning systems, replastering the hall and sealing it with a coat of sky-blue paint. "He's done more in three months than anyone has done all together in the past 30 years," said Mr. Cormier, who brought Iggy Pop, the Police, the Ramones and others to the Music Hall in the eighties when the venue experienced its golden era as a live music venue. While Mr. Laverick and Ms. Wiechula are officially concentrating on promoting events at the Music Hall, they're not limiting themselves. They recently staged Billy Bragg's March concert at the Opera House and are the backers of the Front Line Assembly show at that same venue on June 27.  As for the recent trend of smaller theatres going under (the Poor Alex disappeared last year, the building housing the Theatre Centre was recently sold, and Artword Theatre closed its doors March 1), Mr. Laverick is confident that the mid-sized Music Hall can be a viable venue. He believes the hall's versatility -- concert one week, theatrical show the next, and film shoots, local celebrations and corporate events throughout -- will be key to its success. Critics haven't embraced Song & Dance -- The Globe and Mail's Paula Citron called it "a weak show" -- and though audiences were more enthusiastic, the show was ultimately given the hook and will close tomorrow.  "It's been an interesting start," says Mr. Laverick, "but not really a bad one."

Alberta Girl Weaves Spell Magic

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Oliver Moore,
With reports from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

(June 2, 2006) French class helped take an Alberta girl to second place at an international spelling bee, but it was a German word that tripped up
Finola Hackett in the end. Fourteen-year-old Finola, an eighth grader from Tofield, Alta., is the first Canadian to make it so far at the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee. "It feels really awesome being the last Canadian," said Finola. "I'm really proud of how Canada has done. I know everybody at home is rooting for me." Tofield is a rural town of about 1,800 people some 65 kilometres southeast of Edmonton. With 10 pretenders already knocked out Thursday night, the organizers moved to what they called the championship words. The move caused its first casualty almost immediately, with American Saryn Hooks proving unable to spell icteritious, which the judges said meant "of a jaundiced colour." Saryn earned a standing ovation as she walked to where her parents were watching the competition. It was the second time Thursday she made that walk, having been eliminated earlier for spelling hechsher instead of hechscher. Moments later she reinstated in the competition, the judges apparently realizing that her choice was actually correct. With Saryn out, Finola had only to face New Jersey's Katharine Close, also 14. Finola correctly spelled guilloche and douane, both French words, in the finals of the competition after a total of 19 rounds Thursday in which she spelled correctly words including dasyphyllous, maieutic and koine.

But in the final, Finola ran into trouble with weltschmerz. The clock ran out and she was forced to rely on a one-time extension as she wrestled with the word.  Taking a stab at it she got the first letter wrong, using a 'v' instead of a 'w' to start the word. The rules meant her last competitor had to spell two words correctly to win. Katharine did, reeling off kundalini and ursprache to take the trophy ahead of 274 other children. The Scripps National Spelling Bee is open to English speakers from around the world, though competitors may be asked words from many languages other than English. During the rounds Thursday night, the children were asked to spell words from German, Hawaiian, French, Sanskrit, Hebrew and Scandinavian languages.  There were a total 14 Canadians taking part this year among 274 competitors. Four of them survived the gruelling first day. "I don't feel really upset about getting out," said Leslie Newcombe, 12, an eighth grader from Toronto who was stumped Thursday by dhole, a fierce wild dog of India. "I made it this far that's really good enough for me." Jaclyn Chang, 13, from Calgary, missed out on gigerium, the muscular stomach or gizzard of birds, a word she didn't know. "I didn't quite study so much," she allowed. "But I've learned that the Scripps is easier than I thought it would be, or at least I got easier words than I thought I would." Anqi Dong, 11, who's in Grade 6 in Saskatoon, was a little surprised by all the commotion and television cameras at the high-profile event held in the ballroom of an elegant downtown hotel. "I think I probably will try to get here again and do better," he said. "I'm a bit surprised too that I got to the second day." Last year, the first year that Canada competed, Finola tied for 11th place before missing nisse, a mythical goblin from Scandinavian folklore. "It's gotten tougher, more competitive," she said Thursday. "It does every year. It goes up a notch. A lot of people are really well-prepared.

Francisco Costa Wins Top Fashion Award

Source:  Samantha Critchell, Associated Press

(June 6, 2006) NEW YORK — Francisco Costa, Thom Browne and Tom Binns are the top fashion designers of the year, taking home the big prizes at Monday night's Council of Fashion Designers of America awards. Costa was named womenswear designer of the year three years after taking over creative duties at Calvin Klein from the company's namesake designer. Klein won the award in 1993 and 1987. “If there's an American dream, this is it for me,” said Costa, who grew up in Brazil's countryside. He beat out perennial nominee Marc Jacobs, who did win the womenswear award in 1997, and Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler, who had been picked as the best up-and-coming designers only three years ago. Meanwhile, Browne was selected over Cloak's Alexandre Plokhov and Ralph Lauren for menswear designer. Browne told the crowd, which included Janet Jackson, Jessica Simpson, Chloe Sevigny, Sandra Oh and Sean “Diddy” Combs in addition to top fashion designers Vera Wang, Diane von Furstenberg and Donna Karan, that Lauren was an inspiration to him — and to so many others in the room. Harry Connick Jr. gave Browne his trophy, putting on Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour's signature sunglasses and holding her tiny handbag to prove his fashion credentials. (He is also married to model Jill Goodacre.)

The CFDA awards are the fashion industry equivalent of the Oscars. Jeremy Piven, star of HBO's Entourage, was the host of the 24th annual ceremony. He joked that his only qualification for being on stage is that he was “one haircut away from the Tom Ford story.” The fusion of fashion and Hollywood continued with Lindsay Lohan and Karl Lagerfeld presenting Binns with the award for accessory design. The jewellery designer was selected over Jacobs and Michael Kors by the CFDA membership, press, retailers and stylists who vote on the awards. The rest of the awards went to a mix of industry icons, including photographer Bruce Weber, former Neiman Marcus senior vice president and fashion director Joan Kaner and CFDA president Stan Herman — who was serenaded by a sultry Bernadette Peters, and the next generation of fashion stars. Doo-ri Chung won the award for emerging talent in womenswear, Devi Kroell for accessories and Jeff Halmos, Josia Lamberto-Egan, Sam Shipley and John Whitledge of Trovata for menswear. “Wow, this started as a way for us to surf and travel as much as possible while making a living,” the Trovata team said as they accepted their award from Alicia Keys and John Legend, who had just sang an a cappella version of Frank Sinatra's The Way You Look Tonight. Oh, from ABC's Grey's Anatomy, was a first-timer at the event held at The New York Public Library. She was in a strapless white cocktail dress with black trim and on the arm of designer Peter Som. How does one become a fashion designer's date? “He made the first move,” she said with a laugh. “And it was a Monday, so I was free. If it were a Saturday, I couldn't do it, I'm in a play.” She also said she was a little overwhelmed by all the glamour. Sevigny, who came with the Proenza Schouler designers, wore a black and white scribble-print minidress from the upcoming fall collection. She chose it online, she said, and she did her own makeup and hair, which was pulled back in a simple bun. Kerry Washington arrived with Kors. Both she and the Project Runway judge had the same dress in mind for her to wear, a coral-coloured short cocktail dress. “I'm lucky. I get a great dress and a great date,” Washington said.

Prize Earns A Poem As Two Griffins Given

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Judy Stoffman, Entertainment Reporter


(Jun. 2, 2006) Wearing an African tunic and a knitted cap,
Kamau Brathwaite recited one of his hypnotic poems as he accepted the $50,000 Griffin Prize last night at a sumptuous dinner at the Stone Distillery.

It, it, it, it, it
It is not, it is not, it is not enough
It is not enough to be a semi-colony ...

"Think of it as raindrops or a drum beat," he said of the repetitions. The poet, 75, who divides his time between CowPastor, Barbados and New York City where he teaches comparative literature, then received a standing ovation from 400 guests at Scott Griffin's annual poetry celebration.  Brathwaite was honoured for his book Born to Slow Horses, published by Wesleyan University Press.  Canadian winner was Sylvia Legris of Saskatoon, who also took home $50,000.  The double Griffin Prize, founded six years ago by the auto parts entrepreneur, is the world's most generous poetry award.  "I came here on Via Rail and cleaned up at bingo on the train," said Legris. "I thought, `Oh my God, I've used up all my luck.'" She thanked a friend who had "goaded" her into sending her book of poems titled Nerve Squall to a publisher (Coach House Press).  Eliot Weinberger of New York, one of the three judges, called it a "meteorological, neurological tour de force."

B.C. poet Robin Blaser, who has been writing verse since the 1950s, received a lifetime achievement award.  This year's Griffin competition, the sixth, attracted 444 submissions from 20 countries. The founder opened the candle-lit evening, which had a Silk Road theme in the food and décor, by welcoming guests from Europe, the United States and other parts of Canada.  Other global finalists were Michael Hofman (translator) and Durs Grunbein for Ashes for Breakfast; Michael Palmer for Company of Moths; Elizabeth Winslow (translator) and Dunya Mikhail for The War Works Hard. Other Canadians shortlisted were Phil Hall for An Oak Hunch and Erin Maure for Little Theatres.

 

OTHER TIDBITS

Last Chappelle Shows To Air In July

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 2, 2006) *The filmed material left in Dave Chappelle’s dust as he took off from his Comedy Central series “Chappelle’s Show” last year will finally air in the form of four episodes to begin on July 9. "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes," as the network has titled them, reflects the footage that was filmed for the program’s abandoned third season, before the comedian abruptly walked away from the series, as well as a reported $50 million contract with Comedy Central. After quitting the show, Chappelle traveled to South Africa, where it was rumoured that he suffered a nervous breakdown and entered a treatment facility. The actor eventually emerged to deny all of the rumours and explain that his departure was due to a disappointment with the show’s direction. "I was doing sketches that were funny but socially irresponsible," he told Oprah Winfrey in February.        "Chappelle's Show" players Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings will introduce the new sketches, according to Zap2it.com, as Chappelle did not film any intros before he took off.

Oprah To Take Delivery Of Canadian Jet

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jun. 4, 2006) MONTREAL (CP) — Winfrey is about to receive the custom built, $47 million executive jet she ordered from Bombardier Aerospace, says Montreal La Presse.  The talk-show host's production company, Harpo, is paying for the Global Express XRS jet, which will have seating for about 10 passengers and be able to reach speeds of 950 km/h.  A spokesperson for Bombardier told the French-language daily that Winfrey's plane would be "typically equipped" for a jet with such a price tag.  The plane, which was assembled in the Montreal-area over the span of a year, will have leather interior and designer fixtures for the bathroom and galley, among other high-end trimmings.  Bombardier's line of executive jets have proved popular with the rich and famous. Director Steven Spielberg, computer mogul Bill Gates and Cirque du soleil founder Guy Laliberte all reportedly have models of the Global Express jet.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Rookie 'Backer Catches The Eye Of Coach Pinball

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Rick Matsumoto, Sports Reporter

(Jun. 4, 2006) It was almost lost in the hype over Ricky Williams' CFL debut, but the performance of another first-time Argonaut didn't go unnoticed, especially by head coach Mike Clemons.  "The guy who jumped out wore No.51," Clemons said. "
Jeff Kelly. He has a real nose for the football and loves the game."  Clemons then added some words that were music to the inside linebacker's ears when they were repeated to him yesterday morning: "I suspect he'll be around when it's all said and done."  What Clemons was saying is that Kelly has all but made the team even though training camp has almost two weeks to go, including a second pre-season game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.  The revamped Ticats surprised many among the 21,469 fans at the Rogers Centre on Friday night with a 31-3 victory.  In the process, the Tabbies held Williams, the Miami Dolphins star whose controversial signing made headlines, to a mere seven yards in four carries.  While all eyes were on No.27, it was No.51 who drew attention among those who ultimately will make the all-important roster decisions.  Despite their success over the past two seasons, one area of concern has been the Argos' vulnerability against the running attack of opponents. They have cast their lot with swifter, but lighter, defenders to stop the opposition in what is generally a pass-happy league.  However, by recruiting the likes of Kelly, 30, and former NFL Pro Bowler Lee Woodall, two bulkier inside linebackers, the Argos appear to be putting more emphasis on doing a better job against the run.  "We haven't committed to a direction yet," Clemons said, pausing to choose his words carefully. "But it is certainly a thought process for us.

"The two ideas (larger linebackers and stopping the run) aren't independent of each other, but are not necessarily married, either. We're trying to get better as a team. If we ultimately go in that direction, it would potentially make us better against the run.  "I would go as far as to say that even if we don't start the season that way, I think we'll keep one of those guys around so that we can make a decision at some point to entertain that possibility."  The 5-foot-11, 242-pound Kelly was almost surprised to hear of Clemons' praise.  "I'll take it any way I can," he said. "But I've been out of football for a long time."  Almost four years, actually. He last suited up for the Atlanta Falcons' 2002 season opener against the Green Bay Packers and was cut shortly thereafter.  Kelly returned to Kansas State University to get his BA in social science and then added a Masters degree in human relations. He stayed on to coach at his alma mater and then went on to the University of Oklahoma.  But he got the urge to play again, especially when he realized he was still better than most of the players he was coaching.  About that time, Argos defensive co-coordinator Rich Stubler, who had originally recruited Kelly for the University of Oregon, called.  "He told me if I wanted to play to come up (to Toronto)," said Kelly, who waited until this spring to take up Stubler's offer. Friday night he found himself playing football Canadian-style.  "It was fun," he said. "I loved it. We've got a good group of guys here. This is the first team where I've said, `I want to be a part of this team.' It's such a family."  He also found out that the larger Canadian field could be physically taxing, especially chasing down a swift running back.  "It felt like I chased the guy for 30 minutes," he said, laughing.

Shaq's Trying To Keep Promise

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Tim Reynolds, Associated Press

(Jun. 4, 2006) MIAMI—Dwyane Wade was in the hospital, and Shaunie O'Neal was rightly concerned.  The biggest game of the Miami Heat's season — maybe the biggest in franchise history — was only hours away. Wade, the team's leading scorer, had IVs pumping fluids into his body, the Detroit Pistons' confidence was growing by the second and memories of Miami's missed chance in 2005 crept into her head.  With a kiss, her husband assured her everything would be fine.  "It's done,"
Shaquille O'Neal told his wife. Sure enough, his dominant 28-point, 16-rebound, five-block effort fuelled Miami's 95-78 win over the Pistons on Friday, and carried the Heat to the NBA's championship round for the first time.  Looking every bit like a three-time MVP of the NBA Finals, O'Neal promised his team before the sixth game of the Eastern Conference title series that if he got the ball, good things would happen.  Now, he's four wins from keeping another promise — the one he made at his welcome party two summers ago, when he told thousands of Heat fans he would bring a championship to Miami.  "We've just got to keep hope alive," O'Neal said. "We don't want to just get to the finals. We want to win the whole thing. ... Now we have the opportunity to do that.''

Heat backup centre Alonzo Mourning, a long-time adversary before becoming O'Neal's teammate and eventual close friend, said Miami intends to ride Shaq's shoulders to that title.  "We went into the season ... with one goal and that's a championship goal," said Mourning, a 13-year veteran now headed to his first final. "Not an Eastern Conference goal. A championship goal. And we are going to work very hard to prepare ourselves for whoever comes out of the West.''  The work resumes today. Miami took yesterday off to rest and recover from the Detroit series, giving Wade another day to battle the flu-like virus that ravaged him so badly Friday that he spent seven hours in a South Florida hospital.  The Heat are expected to practice at home through Tuesday, then fly to whichever West city — Dallas or Phoenix — emerges as that conference's champion. The final starts on Thursday.  "We've had a lot of near misses, unlucky bounces, suspensions," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "We've had very good teams that I thought were championship contenders. ... But ever since Shaquille O'Neal showed up on the scene, this team has been a legitimate contender, and we have put pieces around him.''  With Wade hurting, those pieces came through Friday in fine fashion. And while Riley gets much of the credit for those moves, many of them probably couldn't have happened without a major O'Neal sacrifice.  He could have made $30.6 million (U.S.) this season, and commanded more in a long-term deal with the Heat. Instead, he opted out of his existing contract, agreeing to play for $20 million a year for five seasons — and freeing up a ton of payroll room for Miami to start dealing.  "Shaquille can name his price," his agent, Perry Rogers, said at the time. "And the price he named was winning.''

SPORTS TIDBITS

Short-Track Head Coach Guy Thibault Let Go

Source: Canadian Press

(June 3, 2006) Trois-Rivieres, Que. — Guy Thibault will not be back as head coach of Canada's powerful short-track speed skating team. Thibault's four-year contract expired April 30 and will not be renewed, Speed Skating Canada boss Jean Dupre said this week. Dupre said a team of four coaches will run the squad, but there would be no head coach. When you change the direction of a program that drastically, sometimes it's necessary to replace certain people," Dupre told Le Nouvelliste. "Guy is an excellent coach and we have nothing against his competence and abilities. The departure of high performance director Emery Holmik, who has returned to his home country, prompted us to review our long- and short-track programs." Holmik, who joined the Canadian team in 2002, left in April to work at a high performance centre in Canberra, Australia. Two of the four coaches will be Thibault's assistants, Martin Gagne and Janos Englert. Candidates rumoured to be in the running for jobs include former short-track star Eric Bedard and Derek Campbell. Thibault, a former skater who competed at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, was named national team coach in 1998 after three years as coach with the U.S. squad. His teams won six medals, including two gold, at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City and added two silver and two bronze at the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy.

Venus Out Of French Open

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 7, 2006) *Venus Williams was bounced from the quarterfinals of the French Open early Tuesday with a loss to 17-year-old Czech player Nicole Vaidisova 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-3. "Obviously I'm disappointed. I would have loved to have done better." said Williams, who was the lone American, male or female, to reach the second week of the tournament.  Williams was seeded 11th and playing only her 14th match this year after being sidelined 3 1/2 months with arm and elbow injuries. "During the last six weeks, I had a lot of challenges physically that I was able to overcome just to be here today," the reigning Wimbledon champion said. "I'm proud of that. I just want to get stronger and get better."