Updated: November 30, 2006
I'm writing to you from the beautiful Cayman
Islands folks! You may notice that this newsletter is considerably
lighter than usual ... just not enough hours in a day! And next week will be
dedicated to the Cayman Island Jazz Festival!
2006 AroniAwards Gala - Sunday, December 10
nominate :: participate :: celebrate
Help us honour the unsung heroes of our community who continue to work in their respective fields, with a dedication to social harmony.
Join AroniAwards Foundation, the Harmony Movement, and Canada’s premier entertainers for an inspirational evening to empower our youth.
nominate :: participate :: celebrate
If one word could be used to describe what the Aroni awards means to our community – it would be “Inspirational". The award will strive to inspire people – especially the young to reach for the stars, hence their greatest potential. Aron was a forward thinker and a free spirit who always saw the glass as being half full, and never failed to see the potential in people – even when they didn’t see it in themselves. The award will honour individuals who exemplify through their work what Aron Y. Haile epitomized during his short life.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10
I N S P I R E
2006 ARONIAWARDS GALA
955 Lakeshore Blvd.
4:00 pm-11:00 pm
$62-$88 (Online $50 Early Bird Tickets Almost Sold Out)
Mother And Daughter Blues Reunion
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist
(Nov. 25, 2006) Kim Richardson has spent half her life trying to shine in her mother's formidable shadow. "When I was 20 years old I won my first Juno award in 1986, and all I remember about it was people saying, `She's good, but she'll never be Jackie,'" said the renowned jazz singer and composer earlier this week in a phone interview from her home in Montreal. She moved there 20 years ago, she added, in order to avoid inevitable comparisons, and to build a career of her own. Being Jackie Richardson's daughter has its ups and downs, but when Kim and her famous mother — the Pittsburgh-born, Toronto-based singer, actress and Dora Award-winning star of the hit musicals Ain't Misbehavin' and Cookin' at the Cookery — get together tonight at Massey Hall for the Toronto Blues Society's 20th annual Women's Blues Revue, it will be all highs, Kim said. "It's always a pleasure to perform with my mother — and I've done a lot of work with her over the years, including Ain't Misbehavin'. This is the first time I've been a featured artist on the Women's Blues Revue, and it feels as if I've come full circle." Tonight's concert features a stellar ensemble of Canadian female blues artists, including Toronto legend Salomé Bey's daughter, Saidah Baba Talibah, Diana Braithwaite, Rita Chiarelli, Sue Foley, Ellen McIlwaine and, of course, Jackie and Kim Richardson. They'll be backed by a dream ensemble of veteran Toronto musicians — Lily Sazz on keyboards, guitarist Margaret Stowe, bassist Suzie Vinnick, drummer Michelle Josef, Sarah McElcheran on trumpet, and saxophonists Carrie Chesnutt and Colleen Allen. Surrounded by music from the time she was born, Kim tuned in not so much to the blues and gospel that her mother favoured, but to the jazz, soul and R&B music in her grandparents' and uncles' collections — Miles Davis, Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan — and in her teenage years to rock and heavy metal. "I took it all in at an impressionable age and made my own thing out of it," she said. "It wasn't till I was older that I began listening to Alberta Hunter and Ruth Brown, and learning about the great women blues artists who found ways to express their feelings and hopes in difficult times and against all odds."
Now fully bilingual in a city where Jackie is known as "Kim's mother" — a turnaround that amuses both singers — Kim has performed with Gino Vanelli, Oliver Jones, Roch Voisine and David Foster, as well as toured Canada, the U.S. and Europe as a solo artist. Her unique voice and distinctive "vocalese" — a form of scat singing — have graced countless films, commercials, recordings and live shows by the likes of Paul Anka, Robert Palmer and Barry White. Kim has received Junos for Most Promising Female Vocalist, Best R&B/Soul Recording, and Best Contemporary Jazz Album, as well Black Music Association of Canada awards for Top Female Vocalist and Best Single. She has just released Kaleidoscope, a new album of jazz and blues material. "She's so gifted, and I'm such a huge fan," said her mother, who has lost count of the number of times she herself has been a featured act in the Women's Blues Revue since its beginnings in the back room of a Toronto bar. "When Kim just started walking, she'd learned how to turn on the record player and she always seemed to prefer jazz and Motown. She was harmonizing with Miles Davis before she could do much else, and later, she'd learn hard bebop lines and add her own lyrics. That was the beginning of her style. I've seen her perform an aria with a 100-piece orchestra in Prague — without any classical training — and record three separate vocal parts in Inuit with a native singer she'd never met or heard before the session. There's nothing Kim can't do."
Another singer proud to be the recipient of her mother's musical legacy who is in her first featured spot on tonight's Women's Blues Revue bill is Saida Baba Talibah, who admitted it was growing up in Salomé Bey's home that set her musical path. "My mother is my relationship with the blues ... everything she has ever performed or written, from (the stage shows) Indigo to Shimmytime and Madame Gertrude (about American blues singer Ma Rainey, and starring Jackie Richardson), is rooted in the blues." A popular Toronto singer and composer, whose rock/soul/funk band Blaxam decomposed before its time, Talibah is currently working with several producers on her solo debut CD. "I feel my mother inside me when I'm performing," she said. "I hear her saying to me, `Just sing!' "I'm proud to be carrying the torch for her. I helped her out at last year's Women's Blues Revue, but having my own spot on the 20th anniversary show is quite an honour."
We Remember Novelist Bebe Moore Campbell
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(November 28, 2006) *Bebe Moore Campbell, a former journalist and writer of such books as “Your Blues Ain't Like Mine” and “Singing in the Comeback Choir,” has died from complications due to brain cancer, reports AP. She was 56. "My wife was a phenomenal woman who did it her way," husband Ellis Gordon Jr. said in a statement. "She loved her family and her career as a writer.” As a journalist, Campbell has written pieces for the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, as well as the magazines Essence, Ebony and Black Enterprise. She was also a regular contributor for National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." Much of her fiction work was based on real-life stories and explored racial and social issues through the perspective of various ethnic groups. Her first novel, “Your Blues Ain't Like Mine,” earned Campbell an NAACP Image Award for Literature. Her second novel, “Brothers and Sisters,” was the first of three Campbell novels to become New York Times bestsellers. The other two were “Singing in the Comeback Choir” and “What You Owe Me.” Born February 1950 in Philadelphia, Penn., Campbell received a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in elementary education from the University of Pittsburgh. She is survived by her husband, her son and daughter, actress Maia Campbell (“In the House”).
U.S. Ad Featuring Nelly Furtado Boosts Profile Of Victoria
(Nov. 25, 2006) VANCOUVER (CP) - A four-page advertising spread in Vanity Fair magazine of Nelly Furtado covered in gold is bringing attention to a Victoria-based conservation group. The international pop star and Victoria native is featured in the campaign for Bailey Banks and Biddle, a high-end jewellery store chain with more 70 stores in 31 states and Puerto Rico. At the bottom of the ad's first page, it mentions the Land Conservancy, a cause Furtado has been involved in for nearly three years. "She not only endorsed us for free but she also gave us the funds she would have been paid doing that ad," said Carla Funk, a representative of the Victoria-based group. Funk would not say how much the organization got from the ad, but said it was substantial. The Land Conservancy's relationship with Furtado started when they saw on her website that one of the 28 year old's favourite destinations was the Sooke Potholes. The popular scenic spot 20 minutes outside of Victoria is one of the areas the non-profit group works to protect.
When the Land Conservancy approached Furtado's people more than two years ago, it heard back almost immediately. "(Her agent) called me from Cannes. . .and said 'Nelly is so excited about this. It's two o'clock in the morning for me but I just want you to know she's in, she wants to help you guys,' " said Funk. Since then, Furtado has donated her time, money and image to the group. Funk said she spent an afternoon with the pop star last January and was impressed by how passionate she was about the land. "She's just concerned about her child and other people's children and our grandchildren to have places that are green," she said.
Awards Honour Canadian Songwriters
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist
(Nov. 23, 2006) Canadian composers and lyricists of all stripes were honoured at last night's SOCAN Awards gala at the Carlu in Toronto. Singer Jann Arden was the big winner, but honourees also included Finger Eleven, Avril Lavigne, Chantal Kreviazuk, Michael Bublé, Divine Brown, Sarah Harmer, George Canyon, Sum 41, Deric Ruttan and Nick Gilder. Also cited for one of their songs was Nickelback, the West Coast band that won top album honours Tuesday night at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles. The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada recognized Arden for six hits that have reached the 100,000-airplay mark on Canadian radio: "Sleepless," "Wonderdrug," "Good Mother," "Could I Be Your Girl?" "Will You Remember Me?" and "Sound Of." Other songs given Classic Awards for reaching 100,000 airplay were "I'm a Stranger Here" (Five Man Electrical Band); "Hot Child in the City" (Nick Gilder); "Roxy Roller" (Sweeney Todd); "Devil You" (The Stampeders); and "Doin' It Right" (Powder Blues). The awards gala was hosted by Jason McCoy and featured performances of two songs by his country band The Road Hammers. For involvement in composing pop songs that achieved the greatest number of plays on Canadian radio during 2005, Bublé was honoured for "Home," Kreviazuk for "Julia," Lavigne for "Breakaway" (recorded by Kelly Clarkson), Greig Nori and Deryck Whibley for "Pieces" (recorded by Sum 41), Arden for "Where No One Knows My Name" and Daniel Powter for "Bad Day." Awards for Canadian country songs that achieved the most airplay last year went to the composers of "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do" (recorded by Dierks Bentley), "My Name" (George Canyon), "Wide Open Highway" (Dean Tuftin) and "Nothin' 'Bout Love Makes Sense" (LeAnn Rimes). In the rock music category, awards were handed out to the composers of "One Thing" (performed by Finger Eleven) and "Photograph" (Nickelback).
Divine Brown and James McCollum shared the SOCAN Urban Music Award for Brown's recording of "Old Skool Love." Singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer picked up the Folk/Roots prize for her composition, "Almost," while "Surrender," recorded by Laura Pausini, earned the SOCAN Dance Music Award for its composers. SOCAN'S Lifetime Achievement Award went this year to the Montreal performing duo Kate and Anna McGarrigle. The International Achievement Award — given to SOCAN members who bring international recognition to Canada — went to Finger Eleven, from Burlington, Ont., while Arden picked up the National Achievement Award. A full list of winners is at http://www.socan.ca.
With files from Canadian Press
Obituary: Anita O'Day, 87
Source: Associated Press
(Nov. 24, 2006) LOS ANGELES — Anita O'Day, whose sassy renditions of “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Sweet Georgia Brown” and other song standards that made her one of the most respected jazz vocalists of the 1940s and ‘50s, has died. She was 87. Ms. O'Day died in her sleep early Thursday morning at a convalescent hospital in West Hollywood where she was recovering from a bout with pneumonia, said her manager Robbie Cavolina. “On Tuesday night, she said to me, get me out of here,” Ms. Cavolina said. “But it didn't happen.” Once known as the “Jezebel of Jazz” for her reckless, drug-induced lifestyle, Ms. O'Day lived to sing and she did so from her teen years until this year when she released “Indestructible!” “All I ever wanted to do is perform,” she said in a June 1999 interview with The Associated Press. “When I'm singing, I'm happy. I'm doing what I can do and this is my contribution to life.” Ms. Cavolina recently completed a feature film about Ms. O'Day and accompanied her to shows and on tours. “She got to see how many people really loved her at the shows we did, in New York, in London,” Ms. Cavolina said. “She had come back after all of this time. She really lived a very full and exciting life.” Ms. O'Day was born in Chicago, Ill. She left home at age 12 and often bragged about being “self-made” and never having a singing lesson. She began her career in her teens and later recorded hits with Stan Kenton and Gene Krupa. Her highly stylized performance of songs like “And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine,” “Let Me Off Uptown,” “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Sweet Georgia Brown” made her famous the world over.
In her prime, Ms. O'Day was described as a scat singer and a natural improviser whose unique interpretations energized the most familiar songs. She inspired many singers, including June Christy and Chris Connor. Her fame came at a price. She suffered from a 16-year heroin addiction and an even longer alcohol problem. Wild, drug-related behaviour and occasional stints in jail on drug charges earned her the nickname “Jezebel of Jazz.” “I tried everything,” she once said. “Curiosity will make you go your own way.” She overdosed many times and on one occasion in the late 1940s, it was almost fatal. The experience shocked her into giving up drugs, but she continued to drink. In late 1996, the same year she received a lifetime achievement award from the National Endowment for the Arts, Ms. O'Day fell down the stairs of her Hemet, Calif., home after a drinking binge. She was admitted to a hospital with a broken arm but ended up with severe food poisoning and pneumonia. She survived the ordeal but her recovery — both physical and emotional — was painful. She left the hospital in a wheelchair and didn't walk for nearly a year. Her right hand was paralyzed but worst of all, she said, she had lost her singing voice. Although she blamed the complications on poor hospital care, the near-death experience convinced Ms. O'Day to give up alcohol. It took nearly a year to get her voice back and start singing again. But once she did, she was right back on stage. For the last years of her life, Ms. O'Day performed at various Los Angeles night spots. Ms. O'Day had no children and no immediate family, Ms. Cavolina said.
Akon Locks Down Top Two Slots On Hot 100
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen, Akron, Ohio
(November 23, 2006) Senegalese R&B artist Akon scores his first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 this week as "I Wanna Love You" featuring Snoop Dogg explodes 17-1 thanks to the combined power of radio airplay and digital downloads. Another Akon track, "Smack That" featuring Eminem, holds at No. 2 on the chart. As reported yesterday (Nov. 22), the artist's new album, "Konvicted," opened at No. 2 on The Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 284,000 copies. On the Hot 100, Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" ascends 4-3 and is the chart's greatest airplay gainer for a second week in a row. The song also assumes the No. 1 position on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, where Chris Brown's "Say Goodbye" has been at the helm for four weeks. Last week's No. 1, Justin Timberlake's "My Life" featuring T.I., drops to No. 4, while Fergie's "Fergalicious" slips 3-5.
Hinder's "Lips of an Angel," Ludacris' "Money Maker" featuring Pharrell and the Fray's "How To Save a Life" each slip one position to Nos. 6-8 this week, while Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" remains No. 9. With a four-position increase, Bow Wow's "Shortie Like Mine" featuring Chris Brown and Johnta Austin rounds out the top 10. The Game's "Let's Ride" earns the Hot 100's top debut at No. 46. Also new is the U2/Green Day collaboration "The Saints Are Coming" at No. 65, Snoop Dogg's "That's That S***" featuring R. Kelly at No. 85, (+44)'s "When Your Heart Stops Beating" at No. 89, Ludacris' "Runaway Love" featuring Mary J. Blige at No. 91 and Young Jeezy's "I Luv It" at No. 100. Elsewhere on the Billboard charts, six-person group RBD's "Ser O Parecer" zooms 6-1 to overtake the Hot Latin Songs tally, dethroning Alejandro Sanz' "A La Primera Persona" after one week. Carrie Underwood begins a fourth week at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs with "Before He Cheats," while Rascal Flatts' "What Hurts the Most" flip-flops the No. 1 and 2 positions with Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten" to lead the Adult Contemporary chart. Tool's "The Pot" is No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock chart for a second week, while My Chemical Romance's "Welcome to the Black Parade" rules Modern Rock for a fifth frame.
illScarlett Signs With Sony BMG
By Karen Bliss for Lowdown
(Nov. 17, 2006) Toronto reggae and dub-influenced rock band illScarlett has signed with Sony BMG Music Canada, but has just released a "transitional" record called "EPdemic." The eight-song EP is on illScarlett's own Infect The Masses label, through the major label's cooler distribution arm, Red Ink Music. The full-length is expected next summer. "The next record will have a considerably larger budget, as well as more direction from Sony, I guess," says frontman Alex Norman. "Heaters," is the current single, a song that influential Toronto modern rock station The Edge put into regular rotation from the 2004 indie EP, "Clearly Another Fine Mess," but has since switched out for this new, remastered, version. Sony BMG is working the song at radio across the country. "'Heaters' is kind of a silly song," says Norman. "That's why when they first told us they were making it a single, I was like, 'Really?' It's just a tongue-in-cheek stab at the cops (laughs) 'cause I've had cops push us around. Not really anything serious and more when we were younger -- knock on wood (laughs) -- but we smoke lots of herb so they can always smell it." The Edge is still playing "Heaters," but is starting to ramp up the second single, "One-A," which Norman says is a song about "who we are as a band, where we come from," in particular a nod to a friend. "Neil's our buddy from Streetsville," says Norman of northeast community of Mississauga, and part of the Great Toronto Area. "He was one of the first guys who saw our potential and he used to come to all the shows. He was a few years older than us, but he had all these parties at One-A, which was a little apartment where we'd always go and party. So it's actually an address. It's just a real fun song." illScarlett is the first signing by Greg Boggs, a former A&R man at Columbia Records in America, who accepted the position of A&R director at Sony BMG Music Canada in Toronto back in February. One of his mandates was to bring in more rock acts. He was actually told about the band by Columbia's Nick Casinelli, who is friends with one of illScarlett's managers, Brad Rubens in Philadelphia (New York's Andy Winkler is the other manager).
"I got here (Toronto) and I started hearing about illScarlett and the first show I got to see them do was at the Opera House and it was sold out. That was in February," says Boggs. "So I kind of got here, the new guy in town, and I was like, 'Wow, I can't believe these guys aren't signed. This is really good and they obviously have a fan base.' "I just think they have great songs. Alex is a great lyricist. The band really melds well together. The guys come from different backgrounds -- some of them like heavy metal type stuff, some of them are into the reggae thing. They have common ground too, but they are headstrong as to where they come form musically and I think that melding really works. You end up with an ability to write really strong songs, even from a pop stand point, but they're interesting and cool. No body's really doing this right now." "EPdemic," which came out Oct. 31, was recorded independently at The Vault and Backroom Recording Studio in west Toronto in the fall of 2005, before Sony BMG Music Canada came into the picture. All eight songs have appeared on previous illScarlett releases either as-is ("Heaters," "N.T.F." ), with a new mix ("First Shot," "One-A") or brand new studio recordings ("Rally," "Pacino," "Mary Jane," "Not A Prophecy"). All have been remastered. "We were never really happy with (the other recordings) just because we never really had the money, so we weren't totally comfortable with what we were doing," admits Norman, whose bandmates are drummer Swav Pior, bassist John Doherty, guitarist Will Marr and DJ Pat Kennedy. "We didn't meet the right producer until now, which is Mike Borkowsky -- he made us feel good. It was actually fun to record, where in the past it had always been such a chore."
Still those past recordings did tremendously well, selling some 15,000 copies combined of 2004's "illP" and "Clearly Another Fine Mess," according to figures from the band. The CDs were never bar-coded to keep track of the scans, but Norman says they kept re-ordering in limited-edition runs of a thousand or two thousand. Most were sold off stage, some on consignment at record stores, as well as in a deal with national action sport retailer West 49. Such numbers are possible because illScarlett has built a considerable fanbase since forming in Streetsville in 2001 (with a slightly different line-up). The band recorded a few demos, including a 3-song debut in spring of '02, the "$5 Demo" that summer, and its first recording with turntables, 2003's "In Da' Bassment," but 2004 was the year that really invited attention from the industry and sealed a relationship with Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman. For the 2004 Vans Warped Tour date up at Molson Park in Barrie, ON, the band -- which was not on the bill -- fired up a generator and played in the parking lot that morning as thousands of ticket-holders waited in line for the gates to open. Lyman was told what was going on, came out to hear, and asked them to play his post-festival backstage BBQ. illScarlett has since joined both the 2005 and 2006 Vans Warped Tour. Also, in 2004, illScarlett signed to Sanctuary Records Canada, whose A&R rep Adam Sewell wanted to put out "illP," but because of the company's very public financial troubles nothing was ever released. "It's shame. Adam's a smart music guy," says Norman, adding that "he got us out of it no strings attached." The Canadian office has now closed. "I don't think I knew about it," Boggs says of the ill-fated Sanctuary deal. "I learned about it later just talking to the band over a long process. I was the new guy in Canada, new job in a new world and I didn't want to rush into anything and I think they felt the same way based on their experience with Sanctuary. They didn't feel they were burned by Sanctuary in any way. They just felt like the circumstances were f**ed up and they wanted to do whatever they could not to put themselves in the same circumstances again. "Basically what I proposed to them was something I had done similarly with a band called Acceptance down here in the States when I worked at Columbia," Boggs says referring to putting out Acceptance's indie an EP first on Militia Group/Red, then a full-length with Columbia.
"The idea is with the momentum the band's already got, you find a way to be involved with that early on to bolster that momentum a little bit, add a little money here, a little opportunity or contact there. illScarlett has something going on, but we don't want to rush into making a record. " So the idea was 'Let's take what you already have, fix it up a little bit. Let's improve the packaging. Let's distribute it. Let's do a little bit of marketing around it, nothing crazy.' We're not trying to blow the band up with the EP. We're just trying to give them the opportunity to have something to sell on the road, get some reviews and press, give The Edge something to talk about, and spread 'Heaters' throughout the country. "It introduces the band to all the major players, all the gatekeepers if you will, without having to put a lot of pressure into saying, 'You have to add this song right now.' It's more, 'Hey, this song is working on The Edge. We're going to come out with a full-length record in six or nine months, no pressure, but this is a great song, check it out,' and we've got a great response with that." illScarlett's remaining tour dates:
Nov 17 Croatian Cultural Center Vancouver, BC
Nov 21 Criminal Records - free in-store Toronto, ON
Nov 22 Kool Haus - CASBY's Toronto, ON
Nov 24 Le National Montreal, PQ
Nov 25 Maverick's Ottawa, ON
Nov 26 Roxy Theatre Mount Forest, ON
Nov 30 St. Theresah Midland, ON
Dec 1 Rumrunners London, ON
Dec 2 The Chubby Pickle Windsor, ON
Dec 3 Twisters Chatham, ON
Dec 15 Mod Club - Edge Electric Xmas Toronto, ON
Kenyan Born Singer Tours US: Ida Onyango Out To Raise Funds For
Source: Tisha Newberry or Manny Otiko, Tobin & Associates, Inc., email@example.com, www.tobinpr.com
(November 27, 2006) In today’s entertainment world, artists have to be multitalented performers much like Kenyan-born singer and actress Ida Onyango. Onyango, who was raised in the United States, has appeared in movies such as “Tears of the Sun” with Bruce Willis and on shows such as “Days of Our Lives” and “Party of Five.” A few years ago, Onyango returned to her first passion – music after she ran into a lack of good roles for black women in movies. The 22-year-old is a huge star in her native Kenya and has a growing fan base in the United States. In Kenya, she has received the Boomba Female Award at the 2006 Kisima Music Awards. (The award is the equivalent of a Grammy in Kenya) She has recorded three CDs, the latest, “Party,” was released earlier this year. Onyango is currently on a 22-city tour with the popular Kenyan Afro-pop group the Longombas. “I chose to focus on music, which has always been my first love,” she said. Having straddled two cultures growing up, Onyango has varied musical tastes and cites “great performers” like Janet Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and Tina Turner as her musical influences. “My music is a blend of R & B and kapuka (Kenyan rhythm music),” stated Onyango. Onyango is signed to Afro-America Records, a record company which is owned by her father, Benjamin. Her father is also her manager and her mother, Elizabeth, is her co-manager.
Onyango returned to Kenya for the first time in 2005. Having been raised in the United States, it was a culture shock. Although she is a popular fixture on Kenyan television, people still notice that she speaks with an American accent. However Onyango is getting in touch with her Kenyan roots by learning native languages, Swahili and Luo. While on tour Onyango and the Longombas are also accepting donations and unwrapped gifts to provide Christmas presents to needy children in Kenya. People interested in making donations can contact Dickson Ngunjiri at 818-458-5171 or go to http://www.trueblaq.com. Onyango is also involved in philanthropic events in the United States. She has an after school program, the Upendo Learning Center in Van Nuys, Calif. (Upendo means love in Swahili.) After her tour, Onyango says she will focus on a new album which is due out in the summer of 2007. To learn more about Ida Onyango go to http://www.myspace.com/idaonyango or for more information about the African Vuta Pumz USA Tour visit http://www.trueblaq.com. Scheduled tour dates include: Houston, Texas, Dec. 1, Dallas, Texas, Dec. 2, St. Louis, Mo., Dec. 8, Chicago, Ill., Dec. 9, Oklahoma City, Okla., Dec. 15, Kansas City, Kan., Dec. 16, Denver, Colo., Dec. 22, Minneapolis, Minn., Dec. 23, Seattle, Wash., Dec. 29, San Francisco, Calif., Dec. 30, Los Angeles, Calif., Dec. 31.
New Ying Yang Twins Album
Source: Joe Wiggins, VP, Urban Publicity and Video Promotions TVT Records, firstname.lastname@example.org
(November 27, 2006) New York, NY ¬ The Atlanta-based hip-hop duo of D-Roc and Kaine, the Ying Yang Twins will release their fifth album, Chemically Imbalanced on November 28, 2006. Chemically Imbalanced is the follow-up to the Twins' 2005 platinum release "United State of Atlanta (U.S.A.)," which bowed at No. 2 on The Billboard 200 with over 200,000 units sold; the disc was the Twins' second consecutive platinum album and spawned the Grammy-nominated single "Wait (The Whisper Song)," which peaked at No. 3 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Chemically Imbalanced meshes the Ying Yang Twins signature down South booty shake with Caribbean-flavoured twists by teaming with multicultural rap icon Wyclef Jean and famed producer Jerry Wonder. The album's first single, "Dangerous" co-produced by Wyclef, Jerry Wonder & Mr. Collipark set the stage for their hybrid blends of hypnotizing world compositions. Atop repetitive guitar plucks, heavy metal riffs and Wyclef¹s undeniable humming on the hook, D-Roc and Kaine admire the seductive poses of a money-making pole dancer. The companion Sin City-styled video for "Dangerous" is in rotation at BET, MTV2 and MTV. Their recently released second single, "Jigglin" is climbing up the Hip-Hop chart and a video will be shot soon. Ying Yang Twins rules online as one of the crown jewels of MySpace, as a top 10 hip hop artist with 500,000 friends and a total of 16 million plays to date. Online promotions for Chemically Imbalanced kicked off with an online premiere of the "Dangerous" video on Yahoo!, as well as a deck feature on Verizon for the same single. One week prior to release, the album will be previewed exclusively on MTV: The Leak, then expanding wider upon release with features on AOL.com, ClearChannel.com as well as top hip hop and music sites. While they have been known to stuff bills inside a g-string or two, the Ying Yang Twins are more than just perverted pimps on wax. They do tackle the drama of life outside of the club.
"People try to look at us as one-dimensional artists that only speak upon the strip club," says Kaine. "We really have a better variety of things we speak about that pertains to normal life." Look no farther then, "Family" a slow churned beat as D-Roc and Kaine run down their family trees and tell of kinfolk who unfortunately followed the wrong path. Offering a well-adjusted melodic diet made up of exotic dance grooves from around the world, grinding dirty dance music and real life situations, Ying Yang¹s Chemically Imbalanced is a melodic concoction just wild and freaky enough to have us all off kilter.
About TVT Records:
Headquartered in New York City, TVT Records is America¹s #1 independent record company for five consecutive years, TVT Records celebrates 20 years of discovering and breaking some of the most revolutionary recording artists and exciting trends in music. TVT Records has given the world such impact artists as Nine Inch Nails, Ja Rule, Underworld, Ying Yang Twins and Lil Jon. The label has had an indelible impact on music by being involved in the early days of a host of new genres from Electronica and nu metal to Crunk and has earned the reputation of always being on the cusp of what is next.
New and forthcoming releases artists making noise include Latin hip-hop star Pitbull¹s sophomore album EL MARIEL, R&B songstress Teedra Moses, Southern-fried emcee Yo Gotti¹s BACK TO BASICS, King of Crunk Lil Jon¹s CRUNK ROCK, English rabble rousers Tower of London and alt rock faves Ambulance LTD among others.
Osmond Singing A Happy Tune
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian
(Nov. 27, 2006) He's a little bit Disney and a little bit rock 'n' roll. These days, Donny Osmond is not only doing eight shows a week on Broadway as the egotistical Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, but he's also finishing off a new CD of his favourite '70s tunes, and launching (on Dec. 5) a DVD edition of the Donny and Marie TV series that made him a household name. He's busier and happier than he's been in a long time but still can't forget those years when a combination of near-bankruptcy, debilitating panic attacks and career meltdown turned the once-golden teen idol into a sobbing, shaking mess. "It's all about the peaks and the valleys," he insists. "My fans remember the peaks; I remember the valleys." On this particular afternoon, Osmond is in a reflective mood as he sits in the dressing room at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre that he's transformed into a state-of-the-art sound studio. When this interview is finished, he'll walk two blocks down Broadway to Sardi's where they'll unveil a caricature of him and his sister Marie that will hang on the walls of the showbiz restaurant. It's the closest thing to canonization you can get here in Gotham. "Sure, I'm excited and heck, it only took me 24 years," he quips, referring to his only other Broadway appearance: in a flop 1982 revival of George M. Cohan's Little Johnny Jones. Osmond turns 49 next month, but you'd never know it. His face is smooth and tan, his body still in the buffed state that Toronto audiences will remember from his loincloth-clad appearances in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. No, he's never had any plastic surgery. Yes, he tried Botox once, but he hated the needles and would never do it again.
When asked whether he has a portrait in his attic, he brushes aside the allusion to The Picture of Dorian Gray by holding out his arms and smiling. "With me, Richard, what you see is what you get." But that hadn't always been the case. He was born in Provo, Utah, on Dec. 7, 1957 to a Mormon family that would eventually include seven brothers and one sister. "I was just born when the group formed," he says, referring to the singing quartet called The Osmonds, made up of brothers Alan, Jay, Merrill and Wayne. They didn't start out of any desire for fame or fortune, admits Osmond, but "to raise money to get hearing aids for my two oldest brothers so that they could be Mormon missionaries." The brothers saved up money for months to travel to California and audition for Lawrence Welk, "but he refused to even see them. So they decided if they'd come all that way, they'd might as well go to Disneyland. While they were there, Walt Disney heard them sing and put them on the air. Here I am, nearly 50 years later, being thankful to Disney once again." Though Walt gave The Osmonds their first break, it was vocalist Andy Williams who made them famous when he put them on his weekly TV show. When asked if he wanted to follow his brothers, Osmond looks perplexed. "I didn't have a choice; I was the next one." In fact, his fate was sealed when he went on TV at the age of 5 and sang "You Are My Sunshine" to tremendous response. Two years later, Osmond was an official member of the group and five years after that he broke out as a solo artist. At the height of the Swingin' Sixties, there was something reassuring to parents about this cuddly teddy bear of a boy crooning antiseptic love songs to their daughters. "A 12 year-old Mormon kid singing `Puppy Love,'" mocks Osmond, "man, it doesn't get any less threatening than that." He had an amazing streak of hits with the teenybopper crowd (he's been connected with 38 gold records), but even though he was singing about young romance he had no idea of what it really meant.
But he did by the time he turned 16 and met Debra Glen. As Osmond quips, "She had me at `No.' She didn't want anything to do with me. She was the one girl who wasn't impressed with Donny Osmond and that made me want her even more. It took me 3 1/2 years to get her to say yes. It might have been the thrill of the chase, but I was sure chasing the right one." They've been happily married for 28 years with five children, the oldest being 27. Osmond recently became a grandfather. In 1976, ABC executive Fred Silverman got the idea of making Donny and his younger sister Marie the hosts of a weekly variety program. The Donny and Marie Show, as it was called, ran for four seasons "and changed my life," as Osmond puts it. "Millions of people were watching it all around the world." The cheeky comedy and contrasting music (Marie was "a little bit country," while Donny was "a little bit rock 'n' roll") was wildly popular for three seasons, "but then the network started manipulating the series," Osmond said, "and we lost our audience almost overnight." As disco overran the music scene and the '80s arrived, "everyone thought our careers were over. Marie and I were suddenly doing little teeny state fairs with no audiences. I knew the time had come to stop." Osmond tried to reinvent himself as a musical theatre star, but the 1982 revival of the flag-waving piece of nostalgia called Little Johnny Jones that he brought to Broadway closed in one night. That was the same year that bad investments and declining revenue brought the $60 million (U.S.) Osmond empire to its knees. "We were so broke that we should have declared bankruptcy," he admits, "but we didn't and eventually we paid everybody what we owed them. "Man, I don't ever want to relive the '80s." Of all people, it was Peter Gabriel who helped Osmond turn his career around. "I met him doing a charity show late in the decade and he told me I still had the voice, I just had to find the right music." A 1989 song called "Soldier of Love" became Osmond's first hit in years, and things started looking up slightly. Then Garth Drabinsky called. "He asked me to play the lead in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for six months. I played it for six years." But with the renewed success came another price that Osmond had to pay. "I had been so near the bottom before Joseph came along," he confesses, "that I didn't ever want to go there again. And so I got scared. I'd start shaking for no particular reason, I'd find myself crying out of nowhere. I didn't want to leave my hotel room. I thought I was having a nervous breakdown." A psychiatrist diagnosed his attacks as a form of social anxiety disorder and, in time, with therapy and medication, Osmond began functioning normally. With so much positive activity going on today, Osmond feels he can look back at his troubled times as a learning experience. "Adversity builds strength. I know that now. I also know that we all blame too much on God. We can't say to God, `Make the phone ring, get me that next gig.' He hands us the tools, but we've got to use them. "I have a different philosophy now. I've climbed so many mountains in my life that there isn't any one particular peak I feel I've still got to scale. I'm happy to be right where I am — where the sky is clear, the air is fresh and the view is absolutely amazing."
AMAs Produce Unpredictable Happenings
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(November 22, 2006) *You probably couldn't have predicted what happened at the American Music Awards (AMAs) Tuesday night at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Oscar winner and singer Jamie Foxx won not only his first AMA, for best soul-R&B male artist, but the biological mother he hadn't seen in years attended the show. "I dedicate this song, y'all, to my mother in the audience, and everyone. I hope you allow me to be myself," Foxx said, as went into a performance of "Wish U Were Here" from his "Unpredictable" CD. Backstage, Foxx reflected on his mother being present, with reporters. "My biological mother didn't raise me. A lady adopted my biological mother and then adopted me at 7 months," he said. "It feels good to have her see me doing something great." Meanwhile, The Black Eyed Peas took home three awards at the show which was broadcast live on ABC. However, The Peas weren't there to accept in person; They were in Costa Rica and accepted via satellite. The collective was named favourite group in the soul/R&B and rap/hip-hop categories, and also won for favourite album ("Monkey Business") in the rap/hip-hop genre. Other winners included dancehall reggae man Sean Paul (favourite male pop/rock artist), Eminem (favourite male rap/hip-hop artist), Shakira (favourite Latin artist), Kirk Franklin (favourite contemporary inspirational artist), and Carrie Underwood (favourite new breakthrough artist for all genres). In case you missed the show, you missed performances from Beyonce, Lionel Richie, Jay-Z, Gwen Stefani, Foxx, Pussycat Dolls, Mary J. Blige and a duet between Snoop Dogg and Akon. To see all the celebs at the AMAs, simply check out Nikky Dorsett's Player Haters & Imitators blog here: http://www.eurweb.com/playersvista.cfm
Women Rule Aboriginal Music Awards
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
(Nov. 25, 2006) TORONTO — Multi-talented women were multiple winners at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards handed out Friday. Singer and actress Andrea Menard led the pack with three awards, including best folk album and album of the year for Simple Steps and best single for 100 Years. The accolades come on the heels of a Western Canadian Music Award last month in Winnipeg, when the Saskatoon-based Metis artist won for outstanding aboriginal recording. However, Menard — also a celebrated actress, singer/songwriter and playwright — lost the title of best female artist to Toronto-based singer and actress Tamara Podemski, who also won for best songwriter. Menard's acting credits include Moccasin Flats and the one-woman stage play The Velvet Devil, while Podemski has been seen in TV shows The Rez and Ready or Not and the 1995 film Dance Me Outside. Jared Sowan of Edmonton took the titles of best male artist and best blues album for his debut, Eclectically Yours. Northern Cree of Saddle Lake, Alta., walked away with two awards — best powwow album (contemporary) and best hand drum album. Menard and Podemski, as well as Susan Aglukark and Donna Kay with Little Island Cree, each held four nominations going into the awards show. Aglukark walked away with the trophy for best music video. The 19 trophies were to be handed out at a gala Friday night as part of the Canadian Aboriginal Festival, an annual celebration featuring powwows, live music and craft shows. The awards show, hosted by Menard, was to include a tribute to the East Coast and its indigenous art and a performance by a Maori group from New Zealand, organizers said. Some of the proceedings will be broadcast on CHUM television stations in the new year.
Yoko Wants Lennon's Death To Help Heal The World
Source: Associated Press
(Nov. 26, 2006) NEW YORK — Yoko Ono is calling for the anniversary of the death of her husband, John Lennon, to become a day of worldwide healing. In a full-page advertisement appearing in Sunday editions of The New York Times, Ms. Ono urges readers to mark the anniversary by apologizing to those who have suffered because of violence and war. “Every year, let's make December 8th the day to ask for forgiveness from those who suffered the insufferable,” writes the former Beatle's widow, who signs the letter Yoko Ono Lennon. Ms. Ono urges readers to take responsibility for failing to intervene on behalf of victims around the world. “Know that the physical and mental abuse you have endured will have a lingering effect on our society,” she writes in a portion of the letter directed to victims. “Know that the burden is ours.” Ms. Ono was with Lennon when he was gunned down as he returned home from a recording studio on Dec. 8, 1980. The shooter, Mark David Chapman, remains in New York 's Attica state prison. His fourth request for parole was denied last month. Of her own loss, Ms. Ono says: “I don't know if I am ready yet to forgive the one who pulled the trigger. ... But healing is what is urgently needed now in the world.” “Let's wish strongly that one day we will be able to say that we healed ourselves, and by healing ourselves, we healed the world.”
A Lu Lu Of A Hit
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian
(Nov. 26, 2006) News that the Game's latest has debuted atop the chart is no big whoop, so cast your eyes down to a more interesting arrival at No. 3. Akon — full name: Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Lu Lu Lu Lu Badara Karachi Akon Dakar Thiam — was raised in Senegal, son of the drummer Mor Thiam. Transplanted to New Jersey, Akon made his full-length debut in 2004 with Trouble, a fusion of hip hop and traditional African vocals. The follow-up Konvicted is more successful, bearing a hit single, "Smack That," featuring Eminem, as well as "I Wanna Love U," with Snoop Dogg. (Akon also has his own guest spot on the title track of Gwen Stefani's The Sweet Escape, due out Dec. 5.) So if you're offended by "Smack That" or his racy rendition of it on the recent American Music Awards, make your peace with hearing about the guy for a few weeks yet.
Concert For 10th Anniversary Of Diana's Death
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press
(Nov. 27, 2006) LONDON — Britain's Princes William andS Harry plan to stage a concert with performers including Elton John next year to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of their mother Princess Diana, a newspaper reported Sunday. The Sunday Mirror reported that the brothers would arrange the event, scheduled to be held July 1, 2007 at London's renovated Wembley Stadium, which can hold around 90,000 spectators. Proceeds would be donated to British homeless charity Centrepoint and other causes supported by Diana, the newspaper reported. It was expected to be screened live on television. Paddy Harverson, spokesman for Prince Charles, who divorced Diana in 1996, could not immediately confirm the report. "We're considering a number of options on how best to commemorate next year. William and Harry will make a decision in due course," Harverson said. Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that the princes planned to approach Madonna, Beyonce and Kylie Minogue to perform at the event. Diana, 36, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, 42, and their driver Henri Paul, 41, all died when their car crashed at high speed in the Pont d'Alma tunnel in Paris, France, on Aug. 31, 1997. Retired senior judge Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss is holding an inquest into the deaths and is awaiting a report on the crash by Lord John Stevens, former head of London's Metropolitan Police. Rumours and conspiracy theories continue to swirl around Diana's death, despite a French judge's 1999 ruling that the crash was an accident. An investigation later concluded that Paul had been drinking and was driving at high speed. Stevens said in January that his investigation was "far more complex than any of us thought," but did not specify what he meant.
EUR Film Review: Deja Vu: Denzel Travels Back in Time
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams
(November 22, 2006) *ATF Agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) is one of the first feds on the scene following an explosion aboard a ferry shuttling members of the military and their families between New Orleans' Algiers and Canal Street piers. Over five hundred passengers perish in the fiery inferno, and Doug suspects it to be the work of a terrorist as soon as he discovers traces of a weapon of mass destruction amidst the charred bodies bobbing in the water and washing up along the banks of the Mississippi River. In fact, he has an uncanny knack for identifying material evidence, since everything he touches seems to fill in another piece of a puzzle which is totally baffling the local police. Then, Carlin's already admirable efforts are augmented immeasurably when he is joined in the investigation by FBI Agent Andrew Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer). For Pryzwarra is privy to a top secret project at headquarters which enables the government to observe anyone anywhere via a complex series of interconnected satellites. For some reason, the tape-delayed system always shows events on the screen which transpired precisely four days and six hours ago. This means that all the authorities have to do to crack the case is point their time machine at the pier from which the ferry embarked and watch until the mastermind (Jim Caviezel) appears.
But the plot thickens when Doug posthumously becomes obsessed with one of the victims, a pretty young woman named Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton). Upon closer inspection, not only does he discern that she was dead before the bombing, but that she probably had contact of some sort with the
perpetrator. He also becomes smitten with the curvy cutie after watching her undress and take a shower courtesy of this marvel of modern technology. So, instead of waiting four days to figure it all out, Agent Carlin comes up with the bright idea of teleporting himself back in time to try to prevent the attack from ever happening.
For full review by Kam Williams, go HERE.
Is Emilio Back?
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald
(Nov. 23, 2006) Emilio Estevez is a man teetering on the emotional edge. Part of his fretfulness is likely due to the 44-year-old's deep personal passion for the subject of his new film Bobby -- Robert Francis Kennedy, a politician who symbolized for many the last semblance of good in a nation, and its government -- before he was gunned down by Sirhan Sirhan in the kitchen of Hollywood's storied Ambassador Hotel in June, 1968. But there's more to Estevez's emotional angst than hero worship for a fine man who died too soon. He's bluntly honest that this $10-million independent film with an all-star cast of Tinseltown's big names represents his stab at a comeback, after 10 years of feeling like a leper in an industry that celebrates winners and spits on anyone outside that circle. "I've been in movie jail for the last 10 years, which was a very interesting decade," said a rueful Estevez. Estevez was in Toronto earlier this fall for a gala screening of his then-work-in-progress at the Toronto International Film Festival. (A few hours after this interview, he burst into tears at a press conference in front of 50 cringing journalists.) "For many years, I'd been this angry guy. And I finally figured out if all I've got is this anger then I'm not useful to anyone," added the actor, who was at the top of the Hollywood heap in the mid-eighties in his Brat Pack days, starring in St. Elmo's Fire and The Breakfast Club. "Bobby was this raft I built -- sorry to use such a corny metaphor -- to sail back."
Six years ago, he started writing the script for Bobby, which Estevez also directs and stars in. But he got writer's block at about page 30 and couldn't move past that. "I was going around town, telling everyone who asked, 'I'm working on the Bobby movie,' " he remembered. "It was a lie, I was doing everything and anything to distract myself from my work." So his worried parents -- Martin and Janet Sheen -- dispatched son Charlie to shake his brother out of his lethargy. He grabbed his briefcase, and rented a room in a ramshackle motel where he could write. When he checked in, the woman at the front desk, Diane, recognized him and asked what he was doing there. It turned out she had worked as a volunteer on Kennedy's campaign. "She was there at the hotel when the shots went off. She told me it was as if the rug had been pulled out from under her generation. She'd also married two boys to keep them from Vietnam," added Estevez, who wrote that female character (played in the film by Lindsay Lohan) into his 265-page draft, completed in 2001. He spent the next few years fruitlessly trying to raise money to make the movie. "I pretty much did everything I could to make a living, keep the wolves from the door, while I pursued this. I met with a lot of resistance from executives and financiers who just didn't have the faith in me that I could pull something like this off. I'm not known as a guy who can make a movie like this -- and that's fair." Eventually, though, a private investor from Europe came through with the initial $5-million to green-light the film. Then actor Anthony Hopkins -- an "actor magnet" as Estevez puts it -- signed on. Next on board was Estevez's onetime fiancée Demi Moore. His film now boasts 24 big names -- all of whom worked for scale -- including Sharon Stone, William H. Macy, Christian Slater, Ashton Kutcher, Harry Belafonte, Freddy Rodriguez, Helen Hunt, Heather Graham and his father Martin Sheen, who had known Kennedy and had played the U.S. attorney general in the 1974 TV movie The Missiles of October. "I'm so proud of the movie," said Estevez, swallowing hard. "We made a movie from nothing. We started at $5.5-million and climbed to a staggering $10-million, which is a lot of money when you look at the grand scheme of the world, but [just] the catering budget of Hollywood blockbusters.
"One has to question where are we at [in the entertainment business]," mused Estevez. "Does Hollywood need to have a paradigm shift? And do we need to start supporting filmmakers who are speaking about peace and justice, and making movies responsibly? Instead of churning out $200-million pieces of crap that no one wants to see? Attendance is down, so the priorities should be pretty evident." His way of thinking is shared by most of the other cast members. As actor Joshua Jackson noted during the press conference (as actresses Stone and Moore patted the distraught Estevez), Kennedy's death snuffed out American idealism and hope -- qualities that many American voters appear to feel are once again at a low point today. "The movie lays out for audiences how we've gone from the Age of Aquarius to the Age of Entitlement," said Jackson, who plays Kennedy's campaign manager in the film. "We need to find the Age of Humanity." The film, which opens in theatres tomorrow, focuses on 24 fictional folk who worked in, or simply happened to be at, the hotel on June 5, 1968. Estevez said he used the characters to "try to depict a microcosm of what was happening at the time. To portray people who were emblematic of the time when American idealism went away." Macy said he felt compelled to do the picture because he couldn't pass up the chance to work with Hopkins, but also because of its political message. " The actor, who is married to Felicity Huffman, the hardest-working of the Desperate Housewives, said Kennedy "was a big force in my life. I graduated from high school in 1968, so I'm a card-carrying hippie. I grew up in Cumberland, Md., and that's where I was when I heard Bobby had been shot. I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. It was the end of innocence. We had thought we could change everything. We could end the war. We could bring down a president. The people had power. I remember after Bobby was assassinated, it felt hopeless, and I think nihilism started to creep into the Flower Power generation. It all got a little uglier from that point on. "We've been ill-served by our politicians for many years. We need a new Bobby Kennedy. We need somebody to stand up. We need a leader."
It was fitting that the film Bobby was the last movie to shoot at the Ambassador Hotel, which was literally being town down around Estevez and his crew. When Estevez was young, and his family moved to Los Angeles from New York, his dad took him to the hotel kitchen passageway where Bobby Kennedy was shot, calling it "hallowed ground." Conscious of the power of these early memories, Estevez admits his take on Bobby Kennedy is resoundingly upbeat. And he agrees there was a "ruthless" Bobby, especially in his younger days when he was his big brother's biggest advocate and protector. But the death of John F. Kennedy "shattered" Bobby, Estevez insists, "and changed him. He set about remaking himself. And he did." In Estevez's mind, Kennedy remains "one of the great what-ifs in the history of American politics. "He was way ahead of his time," Estevez said. He was about the brotherhood of man. He was about our connection to our humanity and our brokenness. He [now] is about how we all share these same short moments of life. He is about how we're all brothers and sisters, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. "And he is about how the survival of the human race depends on that acknowledgment."
Screen Legends: Fay Wray
Excerpt from The Toronto Star- — Bruce Yaccato
NAME: Fay Wray
BIRTH: Sept. 15, 1907, Cardston, Alta.
DEATH: Aug. 8, 2004, New York
(Nov. 17, 2006) EXCERPT: Fay Wray was a rising star in the early '30s. Her beauty was at once sensual and virtuous, and prompted Eric von Stroheim to cast her as a lead in his silent classic, The Wedding March. A little later she jumped at a friend's offer to work with the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood. Expecting Clark Gable, she got King Kong — and a touch of immortality. No one has ever screamed so eloquently. She followed King Kong with a series of horror films and became the "Scream Queen." There were also serious roles with Gary Cooper in the romance One Sunday Afternoon. But no movie could ever match Kong and, in a sense, she never escaped his grasp. Yet her work would span six decades, from silent films to TV. The night after she died, the lights on the Empire State Building were dimmed. A silent tribute to a cinematic legend: Fay Wray of Cardston, Alta.
Putting The Tinsel In Tinseltown
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Liam Lacey
(Nov. 25, 2006) Christmas is coming and the box office is getting fat. Movie grosses are up almost 7 per cent over last year as the studios move into one of the most lucrative parts of the year. Although the blitz began with The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause shortly after Halloween, Hollywood goes into full holiday swing starting this weekend, with American Thanksgiving. This year's crop of films is looking more Christmasy than usual: There are more prominent family-friendly and children's movies, religious films ( The Nativity Story, and a science-fiction update on the Nativity, Children of Men) and even some Oscar contenders. Here are some promising packages, and potential lumps of coal.
Volver Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's new film, Volver, (literally, "coming back") is a return to his childhood home of La Mancha, to lighter comic material and to working again with All About My Mother's Penelope Cruz, who won the best-actress prize at Cannes for Volver. Buzz: Possible Oscar nominations for picture and director, and for Cruz as actress. Bobby Emilio Estevez's tribute to Robert Kennedy Jr. is a multicharacter look at life in Los Angeles's Ambassador Hotel in the hours leading up to the senator's assassination. Buzz: Hollywood political sympathies have given Bobby Oscar hopes the film doesn't merit. The History Boys Alan Bennett expands his stage play about an eccentric English teacher and his unruly literature students. Nicholas Hytner ( The Madness of King George) directs. Buzz: Stagy but accomplished, with Richard Griffiths (Uncle Monty from Withnail and I) staking a claim for best-actor honours. Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny A comedy about the fictitious origins of Jack Black's comedy duo with Kyle Gass. Buzz: For tenacious fans only.
Factotum Matt Dillon stars as Henry Chinaski, the alter ego of author Charles Bukowski, as he writes, drinks, has sex, smokes, gets fired and then does it all over again. With Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei. Buzz: Mildly appealing character study for a niche audience. The Nativity Story Catherine Hardwicke, who made the controversial Thirteen in 2003, directed this story of Mary ( Whale Rider star Keisha Castle-Hughes) as a teenager who learns she is to be the mother of Jesus. Buzz: A simple account of Christ's birth aimed at the Christian youth market. National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj The talented Kal Penn, who had a supporting role in the first Van Wilder movie as a South Asian rocker, and who starred in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, heads off to England to shake up prestigious Camden University. Buzz: Blighty gets jiggy. Turistas A horror film about backpacking teenagers who run into gruesome trouble in a Brazilian rain forest. Buzz: Hostel on spring break.
Apocalypto Mel Gibson's epic about the end of Mayan civilization. Buzz: The trailers look impressive, but a dearth of stars and Gibson's tarnished reputation make this a tough sell. Blood Diamond This political thriller about a mercenary (Leonardo DiCaprio), a journalist (Jennifer Connolly) and an African (Djimon Hounsou) who knows the whereabouts of a valuable diamond, is set against the backdrop of the Sierra Leone civil war in the 1990s. Buzz: Director Edward Zwick ( Courage Under Fire, The Last Samurai) takes on morally difficult subjects but tends to come up short. An Oscar campaign is under way. Breaking and Entering Anthony Minghella ( The English Patient) delivers a portrait of intersecting lives in contemporary London. Jude Law is an architect who tracks down a boy, the son of a Bosnian refugee, who has broken into his office. With Juliette Binoche and Robin Wright Penn. Buzz: Reviews have been respectful but reserved. D.O.A.: Dead or Alive Hong Kong action guy Corey Yuen directs this adaptation of a video game featuring three fighting women (Jaime Pressly, Holly Valance and Sarah Carter.) Buzz: Charlie's Angels with more action and fewer stars. The Holiday Nancy Meyers ( What Women Want) wrote and directed this romantic comedy about two singletons, one a Californian (Cameron Diaz), one a Londoner (Kate Winslet), who exchange homes for the holidays and find new love interests. With Ed Burns, Jude Law and Jack Black. Buzz: The trailer looks frothy even by chick-flick standards. Monkey Warfare (Dec. 8 in Vancouver, Dec. 15 in Toronto). A couple of middle-aging Vancouver political activists (Don McKellar and Tracy Wright) hide out in Toronto's Parkdale neighbourhood until a young woman (Nadia Litz) becomes their protégé. Buzz: This cleverly shot and scripted satiric comedy earned warm response at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Puffy Chair This $15,000 independent American film marks the debut of the brother team of Mark and Jay Duplass, with a script about a slacker trying to drive cross-country to deliver a vintage recliner to his father, accompanied by his girlfriend and hippie brother. Buzz: The winner of the Audience Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival has earned mostly positive reviews in the mainstream American press. Unaccompanied Minors The Daily Show's Lewis Black plays a grumpy airport official and Wilmer Valderrama of That '70s Show is his clueless assistant in this comedy about a group of five kids trapped at an airport over Christmas. Buzz: Home Alone with luggage carts.
Eragon A boy in a mythical land goes on a heroic quest; based on the novel by teenaged author Christopher Paolini. Buzz: In a year without a Harry Potter or Star Wars movie, fantasy fans need somewhere to turn. The Good German Steven Soderbergh's homage to forties dramas stars George Clooney as a reporter who returns to postwar Berlin to find his former mistress (Cate Blanchett). With Beau Bridges and Tobey Maguire. Buzz: Gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, a major director and good cast add up to a strong Oscar candidate. Home of the Brave Irwin Winkler's drama follows four soldiers trying to adjust to life at home after a tour in Iraq. Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, 50 Cent and Christina Ricci. Buzz: A timely theme, but director Winkler ( Life as a House) is, at best, erratic. The Pursuit of Happyness A Christmas movie in the classic Hollywood mode: Will Smith plays a homeless man who struggles to keep his young son as he also struggles to keep up appearances during a stockbroker internship. Buzz: Smith, playing opposite his real-life son, Jaden, should charm if the script by The Weather Man writer Steve Conrad doesn't get turgid.
Charlotte's Web A mixture of live action and computer-generated images is used to tell E.B. White's classic story about a clever spider (voiced by Julia Roberts) who uses her words to save a pig from becoming Christmas dinner. With Dakota Fanning. Buzz: The story should be foolproof; and with 45 million copies of the book sold, the movie's all but a guaranteed hit. Dreamgirls Director Bill Condon ( Gods and Monsters) adapted this popular Broadway musical based on the rise of the Supremes. With Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy and Danny Glover. Buzz: An early Oscar favourite, with a strong cast and a knockout debut performance from American Idol contender Jennifer Hudson. Night at the Museum Ben Stiller plays a security guard who accidentally invokes a spell that causes museum displays to come to life. Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Owen Wilson also star. Buzz: Why? Because it's been weeks since Stiller's last movie. We Are Marshall This fact-based drama stars Matthew McConaughey as the coach brought in to run the football program at West Virginia's Marshall University after the entire team and coaching staff were killed in a plane crash. Buzz: Sounds painful. But then, every Hollywood star has to have his inspirational-coach movie. Snow Cake This feel-good Anglo-Canadian drama set in Wawa, Ont., is about the friendship between an autistic woman (Sigourney Weaver) and an ex-con (Alan Rickman). With Carrie-Anne Moss. Buzz: Depending whom you ask, either life-affirming or ill-making.
The Curse of the Golden Flower Zhang Yimou's third martial-arts epic after Hero and House of Flying Daggers, with Asian superstars Chow Yun-Fat and Gong Li. Buzz: Typically enthusiastic, but whether Western audiences will continue to have an appetite for eye-popping depictions of Asian-legend stories is another question. The Good Shepherd The early years of the CIA, told through the experiences of one agent from his college days through his soul-destroying career. With Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and Robert De Niro, who also directs. Buzz: The Oscar campaign is afoot, though it's worrisome that De Niro took months to trim this down from an original three-hour running time. Rocky Balboa Thirty years after he first came to the screen, a broke Rocky comes out of retirement to take another shot at the world championship. Written, directed and starring Sylvester Stallone. Buzz: Never underestimate the power of morbid fascination.
Black Christmas This remake of Bob Clark's 1974 horror film about an Xmas killer stars Michelle Trachtenberg, Lacey Chabert and Andrea Martin, who played in the original. Buzz: What Christmas is really all about — stabbing, slashing and sorority girls in their underwear. Children of Men This year's other Nativity movie, albeit set in a future dystopia. Humanity is on the verge of extinction when a London bureaucrat learns of the last pregnant woman on Earth. Alfonso Cuaron directs, based on a novel by P. D. James. With Chiwetel Ejiofor , Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine. Buzz: There's strong critical support and Oscar predictions for a sophisticated combination of action thriller and religious allegory. Venus Another Educating Rita-style comedy from Britain, with Peter O'Toole and Leslie Phillips as aging actors whose lives are disrupted by a young relative (Jodie Whittaker). Buzz: A warm response to O'Toole's performance could mean a best-actor Oscar nomination.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer Adapted from Patrick Suskind's bestselling 1985 novel, and directed by Tom Twyker ( Run Lola Run, Heaven) this is a lush 18th-century period piece about perfume-maker Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), who will kill to get the scent he wants. Buzz: Mixed advance reviews indicate a visually impressive but emotionally detached film that might have been better in Smell-O-Vision. Notes on a Scandal Cate Blanchett plays an art teacher who enters into an illicit affair with an underage student, and Judi Dench stars as an older teacher who knows her secret. Based on Zoë Heller's 2003 novel, What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal, adapted by Closer author Patrick Marber, and directed by Richard Eyre ( Iris, Stage Beauty). Buzz: The pedigree is hard to beat. The Painted Veil W. Somerset Maugham's novel of marital troubles among Europeans in 1920s China was originally filmed with Greta Garbo in 1934. Naomi Watts plays the unhappy wife of Edward Norton; she has an affair with a colonial official (Liev Schreiber). Buzz: The cast looks strong, though director John Curran's previous adultery drama, We Don't Live Here Anymore, was more grim than insightful.
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. star in a fictitious account of the work of the photographer famous for her freakish subjects. Buzz: A simple-minded, Freudian-themed horror film. (It opened in Vancouver on Nov. 17.) Miss Potter The story of Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter, starring Renée Zellweger, employs a mixture of live-action and animated characters. This is the first feature from director Chris Noonan since his triumphant Babe. With Ewan McGregor. Buzz: Hop to it. Pan's Labyrinth (may not open until early January). This fable of lost innocence from Spanish director Guillermo del Toro ( Blade II, Hellboy) is set in 1940s Spain, where a girl discovers a mythical underground world. Buzz: This dark adult fairytale is earning raves for its visual originality.
Film release dates may vary across the country.
Richard Griffiths Almost Became A Teacher
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt
(Nov. 27, 2006) NEW YORK — Richard Griffiths lumbers into the bar of the Regency Hotel wearing a double-breasted suit and a hangdog expression. "I feel terribly overdressed for the occasion," he moans, awkwardly heaving his frame into a chair and casting around at the crowd of afternoon drinkers. "Everywhere I've been today, everybody's been casual and relaxed. I feel like I've just failed to arrive at the right wedding, you know? I'm just very confused, just very nervous. This whole thing defeats me." It would appear his social awkwardness may be a permanent character trait, for if Griffiths were ever to be at ease, now would be the time. He's just wrapped production on his fourth Harry Potter movie, in which he plays Uncle Vernon Dursley. (He's perhaps best known to the parents of the Harry Potter set in a different uncle's role, gay Uncle Monty in the booze-drenched existential cult-hit comedy Withnail & I.) And now he's on a triumphal tour of sorts, celebrating the North American release last Friday of The History Boys. It's a film adaptation of the Alan Bennett stage play that won over London in 2004 at the National Theatre and then came to Broadway last spring, sweeping up six Tony Awards, including best play and a best-actor commendation for Griffiths. But Griffiths was born, he says, a "wrong-side-of-the-tracks sort of kid," which to this day breeds a suspicion of good fortune. He'll find a speck of cloud in a sunlit sky. Take the occasion of his Tony Award. He was the strong favourite in the field, for his effusive turn as Hector, an unorthodox and jolly bear of a "general studies" teacher at a Yorkshire grammar school who helps prepare a handful of charges for the Oxford University entrance exam by educating them in the joys of literature, language and (sometimes inappropriate expressions of) love. After spending a week thinking of something witty to say if he should win, he suddenly realized with horror at the top of the awards ceremony that the 90 seconds of air time allocated to winners included the walk to the Radio City Music Hall stage. Being a big man, Griffiths moves slowly. "I'm sitting there thinking: Oh, God, please don't pick on me," he explains. No such luck. "I was completely scrambled when I got to the stage."
Not that you'd know it. He thanked all the appropriate loved ones and co-workers, and then reeled off a quote from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Pronounced atop an orchestral swell intended to prod him from the stage, the lines ended up sounding inspirationally poetic: "The untold want by life and land ne'er granted / Now voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find." At 59, Griffiths's life has been a sailing forth to seek and find, though it hasn't always been easy. After leaving school at 15, he mucked about for a few years in the British serving class, stocking grocery-store shelves and shovelling concrete with his father, who worked in construction. He longed to study painting, but when he showed up at various art colleges with his portfolio, he was turned off by the era's vogue against representational work. "I was heartbroken," he says. So he took a diploma in drama and English, thinking a job teaching those subjects would be easy. "Shows you how much I know about teaching!" he chortles. Somewhere along the way, he figured acting suited his personality better. In The History Boys, Griffiths finally gets to teach, and to share his enthusiasm for education. The film is a 1980s-era dialogue of sorts between Hector, who believes knowledge is worth pursuing for its own sake, and Irwin, a teacher who regards education as an accumulation of facts and strategies to be put to practical use. In contemporary Britain, says Griffiths with bitter nostalgia, Irwin's view has won the day. "The inculcating of enthusiasm for intellectual ideas and improvement of the human condition," begins Griffiths, "what is it to be in love, what is it to discover the meaning of loyalty, treachery, cruelty, kindness, sweetness, sourness -- these things shape every one of us for the rest of our lives, and they're not debated any more, they're not understood any more, they're not addressed any more by the school curriculum." Sure, he understands why the educational establishment has moved away from knowledge for its own sake. "There isn't an exam for it -- so what the hell?" Still, he adds: "The exam is life."
NE-YO: Turning Music Into Film
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough
(November 28, 2006) *Artist/Producer/Songwriter Ne-Yo has added yet another gig to his resume. The artist, named after the lead character in “The Matrix” because he sees music the way Neo sees the matrix – has a role in the movie “Save the Last Dance 2” for the MTV Network. Apparently, as a testament to honing your craft and doors will open, the new 'actor' title for the young singer comes thanks to his music. “The movie was done for MTV. [I] was just going over there and developing a relationship with those folks and they saw that I was an up-and-coming writer with a little promise so they asked me to do some songs for the soundtrack,” Ne-Yo explained, “and by the end of the day they asked me if I’d executive produce and then they asked me if I ever acted before and that led to them writing in a small cameo role in the film.” In addition to producing the soundtrack, Ne-Yo also has a song on the disc along with artists he recruited including Joe, Ruben Studdard, Rihanna, and others. The film, which stars actor Columbus Short and another singer turned actor Ray J, wrapped up shooting in Toronto , Canada earlier this year where Ne-Yo said he was out of his element in more than one way. “That was my first time in Toronto and it was cold as @#%$, but it was cool, and I was a little out of my element [with acting]. I was a little shook at first, but the actors on set were real helpful,” he said. But that small part in the dance film led him to a meatier role in the upcoming dance/step film “Stomp the Yard.” In “Stomp,” Ne-Yo is joined by yet another singer-actor Chris Brown whom he recently toured with. In comparing his roles in “Save the Last Dance 2” and “Stomp” Ne-Yo said that neither role was particularly difficult, in that they didn’t require that much of him.
“The role that I play in ‘Save the Last Dance 2’ is a character named Mix. He is the youngest club owner in the city, but happens to own the hottest club in the city. They didn’t really give me many guidelines other than that. They just said be who I would be if I owned the club, so in that instance it was just me being me. In ‘Stomp the Yard’ I play a character named Rich Brown. He’s the comedy relief type cat in the film, so in that, I just got to be silly, which comes relatively easy for me. So, until I get a challenging role – like where I have to cry on cue or something like that – I won’t know how hard acting really is,” Ne-Yo admitted. Now with acting under his belt and biting at the bit, Ne-Yo has another interest to juggle. The young artist started to catch fire writing hits for other singers, such as Mario, but then when his album “In My Own Words” hit the scene and he started hitting stages, Ne-Yo started his affair with performing. So picking his passion has become a bit of a challenge.
“At the current moment, I don’t think I can choose between the two. At one point I would have said writing because that’s my comfort zone, but now I’ve gotten a taste of what it feels like to get out on stage in front of 70,000 people and you feel that energy, so I don’t think I can choose between the two anymore,” he said. There’s no telling what will happen when he finds himself bit by the acting bug. Meanwhile, Ne-Yo’s back in the studio working on tracks for his next album. He’s recording in New York , Atlanta , and Los Angeles – as he did for his first album – hoping to get a variety of vibes. However, while his vibes are coming from all over, Ne-Yo said his songs really come from one place – his heart. “I write from a very real place,” the singer said. “The majority of the things that I write about are things that I’ve experienced or someone close to me has experienced. The most important key to my success is remaining humble and remaining real and making sure that the music is real and is coming from a real place. Making sure the music doesn’t sound contrived and that it comes from a place in the heart.” There’s no title yet for his next music project, nor are there confirmed tracks, but fortunately Ne-Yo is holding over fans with his onscreen gigs. Still, he’s excited about the upcoming album and hopes his fans are looking forward to the new disc, too, along with the new experiences he’s bringing to the disc. “I don’t want to move too far away from what people come to know me for,” he said about what fans can expect on his upcoming CD, “but at the same time I’ don’t want to do the same album again. I’m going to show a little bit of growth. It’s still going to be me; it’s just going to be me growing as an artist.”
Mexican Actors Back Gay Marriage Law
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press
(Nov. 23, 2006) MEXICO CITY — Gael Garcia Bernal has joined other Mexican celebrities to voice support for Mexico City's new law legalizing gay civil unions. Garcia Bernal, actor Diego Luna and director Alfonso Cuaron were among 51 people who published a half-page open letter in newspapers in support of the law passed this month by local legislators. "The vote for the civil-unions law was a vote in favour of liberty, social equality and the strength of civil society," the artists wrote. The law was signed last week by Mexico City Mayor Alejandro Encinas and is due to go into effect in four months. It allows same-sex couples living in Mexico City to register civil unions with authorities, granting them inheritance rights and other benefits typically given to spouses. The conservative National Parents Union has called the new law ``aberrant" and conservative groups have threatened a legal challenge. The Mexican Council of Bishops says it's the first step toward legalizing gay marriage and adoption by gays, which it opposes. Garcia Bernal, star of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "The Motorcycle Diaries," frequently weighs in on politics. While promoting his new movie "Babel," in which his character gets into trouble with U.S. immigration authorities, the 28-year-old actor criticized a planned U.S. fence along its border with Mexico as being "absurd." "In the personal, civic arena, I love entering into politics," he said Tuesday in an interview with the Televisa network.
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Murray Whyte, A&E Reporter
(Nov. 25, 2006) Richard Stursberg sits perched at the edge of an armchair in his office at the CBC, where three television sets, set on mute, beam in the network's offerings. The centre screen, the largest, shows The Gill Deacon Show, a friendly, feel-good dose of midday pablum (its motto: "Seize the day, and make it brighter") aimed at the stay-at-home mom set. "She's very nice, isn't she?" he says, smiling wanly. But for the veneer of calm, there's the slightest hint of unease to the man who controls about $600 million a year meant to serve you, the Canadian public. Stursberg took over as the CBC's executive vice-president of English TV a little more than two years ago. It has been a fractious time, at best. Year one left him with a $100-million budget shortfall due to the season-long lockout in NHL hockey, the CBC's single-richest source of revenue. And just when it seemed it couldn't get any worse, it did: Last year saw the months-long lockout of 5,500 CBC workers coast to coast. Between the two lockouts, "that was more or less my entire first year here," he said. Which brings us to year two. Smooth sailing? Hardly. Sturs- berg is now in the midst of perhaps the most radical retooling of CBC television in its history. Most would agree that it's sorely needed. But whether he's presiding over its rebirth or its death rattle depends on whom you ask. Since his arrival, at least a half-dozen veteran top-level TV executives — among them Slawko Klymkiw, the network's head of English programming; Deborah Bernstein, former head of arts and entertainment; and Nancy Lee, former head of sports — have left. Meanwhile, internal email announcements show dozens of new managers on the TV side have been appointed or hired since November 2005. Stursberg's regime, predicated on ratings home runs — he pegs success for a show at 1 million viewers, no less — has not yet produced anything even within hailing distance ("500,000 is the new million at CBC," one insider chuckled ruefully). And he faces what could well be the network's killing blow: The persistent suggestion that in 2008, CBC could lose its crown jewel, Hockey Night in Canada, to an aggressive bid by its main rival, CTV.
Under the best of circumstances, his would be a daunting chore. But at the CBC, where crisis seems a perennial feature, it's something else entirely. From his time as an assistant deputy minister in Pierre Trudeau's communications ministry through a string of successes in the private sector, Stursberg, independently wealthy, culturally refined, and by reputation brashly confident and demanding, has always pushed convention to its breaking point. At the CBC, the resulting strain has brought on a wholesale cultural clash between the staff and its new master. "He really is a lightning rod," said Lise Lareau, president of the Canadian Media Guild, who spent a lot of time staring across the table at Stursberg during the CBC lockout. "He brings out the toughness in a lot of people. When people have negative things to say, they focus it on him." Certainly, Stursberg's introduction to the CBC was less than auspicious. During a series of widely attended meet-and-greet breakfast sessions shortly after his arrival, "he said we acted like entitled grad students," said one staff member, "that we treated this place like a university campus, not a TV network. He was really condescending." That relationship degraded further the following year during the months-long lockout that started in the summer of 2005. Stursberg was seen as an unwieldy hardliner stalling the negotiations. He did little to help that perception when, on Aug. 24, he stepped out of his airport limousine at the CBC building and waded into a crowd of several hundred locked-out workers who had gathered for a speech by Buzz Hargrove, the head of the Canadian Auto Workers Union. Hargrove was drowned out by chants of "Shame, shame." After a brief confrontation with radio producer David Shannon, Stursberg retreated. But it was a blunt signal that things would be different. "The pattern continues," laughs Janet Yale, a long-time Stursberg friend and former colleague in Ottawa in the early '90s. She recalls an instance in the back of a cab, where a policy disagreement exploded into a full-blown screaming match. "The driver kept looking in his rear view mirror, and he was getting really worried, was thinking he's going to have to step in and protect me," says Yale.
"Then, all of a sudden, Richard says, `Oh, you're right. Let's move on.' And that was the end of it. But that's what he was like: He would push and push and push. It didn't matter who won. The fact of the matter was that he loved the debate." Shortly after the lockout ended in October 2005, Stursberg started pushing in earnest. Last winter, he cancelled a raft of dramas in the network's prime time schedule, among them This is Wonderland and Da Vinci's City Hall, both of which held a respectable average of near 400,000 viewers. Not good enough, Stursberg told a meeting of Canadian producers in February. CBC should be aiming for "at least a million" for its dramas — a rare feat achieved consistently by only one such Canadian show, CTV's Corner Gas. It wasn't just the numbers, though, that made waves. It was how he meant to achieve those numbers. He made clear he intended to court "less issue-driven," "fast-paced," "positive and redemptive" and "escapist" shows. To many, it meant a sharp veer away from public broadcasting into the world of commercial TV. "Virtuous public programming — those are not words that come out of his mouth," said Lareau. "He's single-mindedly obsessed with ratings." Days later, the CBC put out a release softening some of his brasher statements. But in his office earlier this month, Stursberg preferred to qualify, not soften. "What I meant by that was we had a lot of stuff that was — how can I put it? It was news and documentary dressed up as drama. I think that's worthy, but it's not clear to me that's actually what English Canadians are crying out for when they watch television." In person, Stursberg is measured and composed, charming and eloquent. At 57, tanned and lean, his silver hair brushed straight back from his forehead, he's an active presence, constantly shifting in his seat, adjusting the cuffs of his fuchsia dress shirt, pulling at his socks.
For all his bluster about populism, Stursberg's own cultural leanings are both eclectic and refined. He's a contemporary art collector — Canadian painters Wanda Koop and Tony Scherman are among his favourites; works by Angela Grossman and Graham Gilmore, among others, adorn his office — and a literarian. His son, Alex, is an artist who runs Seeing Eye Records, an underground label in Vancouver. He is cool and breezy in public, an easy host. At Bymark recently — a tony, high-priced, very un-CBC restaurant in the city's financial district — he introduced a slate of projects based on celebrated Canadian novels, including Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride and Mordecai Richler's Saint Urbain's Horsemen. Spirited and charming, dressed in parrot-green shirt and black tie, Stursberg re-took the floor as a trailer for Guy Vanderhaeghe's The Englishman's Boy finished. "Any questions?" he asked. "No? Good! We can all have a drink, then!" he said, to a ripple of laughter. It is a style unseen possibly ever in the CBC's history. So, too, is the mandate he has imposed: That the CBC create broad-based, popular fare. "The new career challenge at CBC is, `How happy can you be as a widget delivery device?'" said a long-time staff member. "It used to be a calling. Now it's just a job." Stursberg shrugs off such characterizations. "You've got to have some shows that really connect with English Canadians. And I don't know how else to measure that connection other than, `Are they watching? Do they like it?' "We had six hours of the early life of René Lévesque," says Stursberg, hands upturned, shrugging. "Well, that's nice. He's a very interesting guy. Nobody in English Canada had ever heard of him. So we put it on. And that's fine. "Same with October 1970" — a recent miniseries developed before his arrival — "which got fantastic reviews. And you know what? Nobody's watching. And the thing you have to ask yourself is why?
"If you're going to be constantly lecturing and hectoring people — honestly, first, I think it's patronizing, and secondly, it's not the nature of television. If you want a lecture, go to the university." He's right about October 1970; on Nov. 16, it garnered 58,000 viewers nationwide — a new record low. Thus far, though, Stursberg's own seeds have borne little fruit. "In some areas, we think (the numbers) are okay," says Stursberg, shrugging. "There are some issues with certain shows, but that's inevitable, if you're going to be trying new things." Intelligence, a stylish crime drama he prides himself on as the hallmark of his regime, slipped to 256,000 last week and 247,000 this weekafter flirting with the half-million mark weeks before. Dragon's Den, an Apprentice-esque reality-show take on entrepreneurism — and a Stursberg pet project — bounced briefly above 500,000 before tumbling to 379,000 last week. And this while a next-generation show like The Hour, the much-hyped — and hyper — news and entertainment hybrid hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos, lingers close to 100,000 viewers, and sometimes as low as 50,000. Victories are few, and not his: The Rick Mercer Report, for example, which garners upwards of 700,000 viewers each of the two times it airs per week, was a hit long before Stursberg's arrival. Last month, The Fifth Estate crested 800,000 viewers — unheard of for current affairs — for its groundbreaking special on lotteries. "Look what gets all the attention — the tried and true public broadcasting program — hard, expensive, current affairs, exactly what he's dismissive of," Lareau says. Some wonder if Stursberg's eye will ever catch the elusive hit he seeks. The job, after all, is his first as a television executive. "There's a lot of craft, and technique and knowledge, but part of it is just a black art, and you have to devote yourself to it," said Rudy Buttignol, a former executive at TV Ontario. "It just looks easy. It's not."
Still, in his zest for change, power has concentrated in a single place: his office. When Klymkiw left, one insider said, Stursberg took many of the powers associated with his job as head of programming for himself, leaving a diminished role for Kirstine Layfield, Klymkiw's replacement. (Klymkiw declined a request to be interviewed.) In October, Stursberg exercised that power, personally greenlighting Garth Drabinsky's Triple Sensation, a reality show about aspiring performers with an obvious nod to the CTV hit Canadian Idol. For Niv Fichman, it comes as no surprise. "His job is not to (make programming decisions). It's to oversee the people who do that. But really, I'm sure the main decisions are his decisions, because he likes to make those decisions," says Fichman, who would know. Fichman, a veteran feature film producer of artful movies like The Red Violin and The Saddest Music in the World, knows Stursberg well. Before he came to the CBC, Stursberg was the head of Telefilm, the country's largest public film-funding source. Tasked with increasing the box office take for Canadian films to a modest 5 per cent (in English Canada, it hovers around 2 per cent, typically), the roots of Stursberg's current fascination at the CBC were clearly visible: Canadian films had to be more "commercially driven," he told them, to receive Telefilm funding. It caused a near full-scale revolt in the industry. Prominent members of the community, including actors Sarah Polley and Don McKellar, ripped into Stursberg repeatedly in the press for what they saw as an affront to Canadian cinema. He clashed constantly with Fichman, who was on Telefilm's feature advisory committee. In a peace offering, he invited Stursberg to his house for dinner. Midway through the meal, Stursberg faded, falling seriously ill. "I remember thinking, `If he dies here, at my table, there's no way I'm ever going to be able to defend myself,'" Fichman recalled recently, laughing. "I would never have gotten out of that one." But over the years, outward animosity morphed into grudging respect, and then friendship. "If we have a discussion, he knows it's not going to be me saying, `Hey, great job.' I almost always disagree with him,'" said Fichman recently. "But I admire his balls. In the public sector, everyone is so afraid to change things. You don't really know what they're afraid of, but they keep the status quo that doesn't work. Richard doesn't do that."
Battling convention has given him his greatest successes. Buttignol and Stursberg worked together on the board of the Canadian Television Fund, a well of both public and private money available annually to producers. Stursberg, as chairman of the board — where he earned the nickname "Richard III," after Shakespeare's warring king, according to several board members — bore the burden of fixing something that was brutally broken. "I got a grudging respect for the fact that he could pull together this incredibly fractious, potentially conflict-of-interest driven board, all with their own axes to grind," Buttignol said. "It was like herding tigers, and I thought he did a superb job." Stursberg's taste for the impossible task is long-standing. In the early '90s, Stursberg was the CEO of Unitel, a hopeful long-distance phone company tasked with breaking Bell Canada's monopoly. Stursberg headed the pitch to the CRTC, successfully opening the field to competition. "A lot of the time, it was like rolling a rock up a hill," says Stursberg, smiling. "But I thought to myself, `This is a good thing to do, this is the right thing to do.' It was fun. It was an enormously interesting experience." Stursberg moved on to become the president of the Canadian Cable Association. But before long, he was back pitching himself against the regulatory giants again as the CEO of Cancom, a Canadian satellite TV company looking to break apart the market cornered by the industry's major player, Telesat. He left the company in 2000, not long after Shaw, a Calgary-based cable giant, bought all the company's remaining public shares — about 40 per cent — for $662 million. As CEO, Stursberg had shepherded the stock from $13 per share to $63, the amount paid in the Shaw buyout. When he left, he had 310,000 stock options, 110,000 of which came at a price of $7.80, and another 200,000 at $6.72 — a difference of more than $55 per share. Needless to say, he's not working for the money. "We did great with Cancom. We did very well," says Stursberg, smiling. "Sure, I could have stopped altogether. But I like challenges. And I like things where, if you can get the outcome right, you can do some good."
There's little doubt, though, that the CBC presents his greatest challenge yet. His style has chafed others at almost every level. "He has an oddly private mentality for this most public of institutions," sniffed a former CBC manager. His battles have been both general and personal. When he first arrived, Stursberg requested an image from the archives of his father, Peter, a World War II radio correspondent, with a CBC microphone. It now hangs on his wall. "I wanted to try to indicate symbolically to the people in the news department that, although I was not one of them, not only was I not unsympathetic, that they understood in a way how deeply I felt about this stuff," he said. Then, last summer, he decided to bump The National, the CBC's news flagship, by an hour to air The One, an U.S. talent-contest show. It was cancelled by ABC after just two episodes, not before eliciting a massive negative response from both within the CBC and without. ("I found it ideological. I don't know how else to say it," Stursberg says. "Was it a failure? Absolutely. Was it our failure? No — we didn't make the show.") Peter Mansbridge, The National's anchor, spoke publicly against the decision. And it was the most blatant point of contention in a long-running difference of opinion between Stursberg and Tony Burman, the head of news, since his arrival. According to one senior CBC staffer, Stursberg was micro-managing news department issues to the point where he and Burman finally had to meet for a low-key dinner over the summer to draw some lines in the sand. They agreed, at least in the interim, that Stursberg would stay out of the news department. (Both Mansbridge and Burman declined comment.) "He is far more interested in the editorial product than his position suggests," sniffed a one-time senior member of the news team. "He openly courts conflict. That's just his style." Michael Hennessy was on the CRTC when Stursberg spearheaded the long-distance monopoly break-up. His ability to shoulder criticism, and even outright animosity, was apparent even then. "He is incredibly good at letting it run off his back. I think that's part of the reason for his success," Hennessy said.
"One of the main reasons we seem to end up in the same policy debate, year after year in Canada, is because people work harder not to offend others than actually effect change," Hennessy said. "People don't like to be reminded of fundamental flaws in the direction they're taking. Richard has no trouble with that." Stursberg's calm belies his task. "The truth is, anything that's big and has a certain history, changing it is going to be challenging," he says. His goal, he says, is simple, but vexing: Making television "that deeply resonates with Canadians, where they say `I've got to see that, I love that, that's me, that's my community, that's how I feel.' "There's no point telling people, `You should watch this, it's good for you.' That's not right. We should spend our time in a relationship with our audience, saying, `We should be making things that you would like to watch.' If we could do that in a way that we were consistently successful, that would be a little gift to the country, I think." Stursberg, despite his haste, preaches patience. "I'm going for my 25-year pin," he says, smiling broadly, and, for a moment at least, reclining and coming to rest. "It takes a long time to turn things around," he said. "But you know one thing: if you ain't failing, you ain't trying. If we're not trying new things, things that are daring and attractive, then we'll never do anything that's truly great. And why would anyone watch us?" CBC SAVIOUR — OR PUBLIC ENEMY?
Hey Howie. Howie! Over here! Pick me! Not her, me! Pretty
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
(Nov. 25, 2006) Global Television received 112,767 applications from Canadians who are eager to appear on the no-skills-required game show Deal or no Deal when it comes to our side of the border some time next spring. Of these applicants, 107 chose to attach gifts to their entries — various briefcases, pieces of clothing for host Howie Mandel and a layer cake in the shape of Mandel's head. Unfortunately someone ate the cake before a picture could be taken. So do these (in some cases hand-knitted) items give would-be players an edge? The competition to appear on the hit show where players (often appearing clueless as to the laws of math, probability and odds) try to find out which suitcase contains $1 million is fierce and, well, if a hand-knit toque is what it takes to bring you closer to the scantily clad suitcase holders... Sadly, a Deal or no Deal insider says it's the answers on the long questionnaire that count, not the knitted hats. Although they're "nice and appreciated." The applications are right now being read by 23 vetters, who will assemble a short list of people with the most interesting, and TV-friendly, personalities. And, presumably, the ability to jump up and down.
'Corner Gas' Gets U.S. Showing
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press
(Nov. 24, 2006) CTV says the hit comedy series Corner Gas has secured a U.S. distribution deal with American cable network Superstation WGN. The two-year, 88-episode deal with the Chicago-based network will make the series available in nearly 70 million U.S. homes beginning in 2007. CTV also announced Corner Gas is now licensed internationally to broadcasters serving 26 countries, including Australia, Iraq, Finland and Morocco. Brent Butt, the star, creator and producer of Corner Gas, says in a statement he is "very excited about both the international and the U.S. deals." He says "we get so much American programming up here in Canada, it's nice to be able to give a little something back."
Ced The Entertainer Pacts With ABC
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(November 29, 2006) *Cedric the Entertainer is returning to television under a new talent holding deal he signed with ABC and its sister studio Touchstone. The actor/comedian is already busy developing a sitcom for ABC under the deal. He would star in the project as a single father raising his teenage girl while dealing with his job as a security chief at LAX. The untitled project, to be written and executive-produced by “The Bernie Mac Show” creator Larry Wilmore, is currently set up at Warner Bros. TV, which would be assigned Cedric's deal if a pilot is picked up, Variety reports. Ced the Entertainer was last seen in his own HBO standup special "Cedric the Entertainer: Taking You Higher," which premiered in July. Wilmore, meanwhile, is a frequent on-air contributor to "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and made a guest appearance on "The Office," where he also serves as a consulting producer.
Obituary: Betty Comden, 89
Source: Associated Press
(Nov. 24, 2006) NEW YORK — Betty Comden, whose more than 60-year collaboration with Adolph Green produced the classic New York stage musical On the Town, as well as Singin' in the Rain, has died. She was 89. Comden had been ill for a few months and died Thursday of heart failure at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, said her long-time lawyer and executor Ronald Konecky. “She was, in all respects, a very beautiful and legendary person,” Konecky said. “She was a dynamic figure in the arts, theatre and film.” On Broadway, Comden and Green (the billing was always alphabetical) worked most successfully with composers Leonard Bernstein, Jule Styne and Cy Coleman. The duo wrote lyrics and often the books for more than a dozen shows, many of them built around such stars as Rosalind Russell, Judy Holliday, Phil Silvers, Carol Burnett and Lauren Bacall. They won five Tony Awards, with three of their shows — Wonderful Town, Hallelujah, Baby! and Applause — winning the top prize for best musical. The duo received the Kennedy Center honours in 1991. The two were never married to each other, although many thought they were, considering the longevity of their working relationship. “It's a kind of radar,” Comden once said of her partnership with Green. “We don't divide the work up, taking different scenes. We sit in the same room always.” “I used to write things down in shorthand. I now sit at the typewriter.” “Adolph paces more. A lot of people don't believe this but at the end of the day we usually don't remember who thought up what.”
Green died in October, 2002, at age 87. At a memorial for him a few weeks later, Comden recalled their early days as collaborators and then halted before saying: “It's lonely up here. It was always more fun with Adolph.” The best Comden and Green lyrics were brash and buoyant, full of quick wit, best exemplified by New York, New York, an exuberant and forthright hymn to their favourite city. Yet even the songwriters' biggest pop hits — The Party's Over, Just in Time and Make Someone Happy — were simple, direct and heartfelt. It was On the Town, a musical comedy expansion of Jerome Robbins' ballet Fancy Free, that introduced Comden and Green to Broadway in 1944. The story of three sailors on a 24-hour leave in wartime New York was tailor-made for the time. The music was by Bernstein, an old friend of Green's. Comden and Green wrote the book and lyrics, including two plum roles for themselves. The partners had performed their own material before. Green, struggling to become an actor, met Comden through mutual friends in 1938 while she was studying at New York University. They formed a troupe called the Revuers, which performed in the Village Vanguard, a club in Greenwich Village. Out of necessity, Comden and Green began writing their own material. Among the members of the company was a young comedian named Judy Tuvin, who changed her name to Judy Holliday when she went to Hollywood. Comden and Green's next two musicals, Billion Dollar Baby (1945) and Bonanza Bound (1947) were not successful. In fact, Bonanza Bound died in Philadelphia en route to New York. Discouraged, they left for California where they found a home at MGM. There, they wrote screenplays for Good News, starring June Allyson and Peter Lawford, and the film version of On the Town, which scrapped most of Bernstein's melodies, replacing them with music by Roger Edens. It even sanitized the lyrics to New York, New York. Yet the movie, starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, was a huge hit. At MGM, Comden and Green also scored their biggest critical success, writing the screenplay for Singin' in the Rain (1952). The film placed No. 10 on the list of 100 best U.S. movies of the century, compiled in 1998 by the American Film Institute.
In 1953, they had another film hit with The Band Wagon, starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. In his memoir, Steps in Time, Astaire said Comden and Green were “noted for their brilliant readings” when introducing scripts to cast members. He recalled the time he and a co-star, at one session, “flipped with delight and said we'd have a hard time following them in the parts.” Also in 1953, Comden and Green reunited with Bernstein on Broadway for Wonderful Town, a musical version of My Sister Eileen. A succession of collaborations with Styne followed, including the 1954 Mary Martin Peter Pan, in which they were brought in to augment an already existing score; Bells Are Ringing (1956), written specifically for Holliday, and Do Re Mi (1960), a raucous look at the jukebox industry that featured Silvers and comedian Nancy Walker. One of their biggest Broadway successes was Applause (1970), a show for which they wrote the book but not the lyrics. The two did an expert job tailoring the film All About Eve to Bacall's talents. Comden and Green had their share of stage flops, too, most famously A Doll's Life (1982). It was a misguided attempt to figure out what Nora did after she slammed the door and walked out on her husband in Ibsen's A Doll's House. The musical ran five performances. Yet their longest-running show, The Will Rogers Follies, opened in 1991, a Ziegfeld-styled retelling of the life of the famous humorist. Keith Carradine played Rogers in this lavish production, which was directed by Tommy Tune and had music by Cy Coleman. Comden and Green participated in the unsuccessful Broadway revival of On the Town in 1998, and also streamlined the book for a new version of Die Fledermaus for the Metropolitan Opera that same year. Throughout their partnership, Comden and Green performed together on stage, most notably in their two-person show A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, which was first done on Broadway in 1958 and periodically revived over the years. Comden told her story in her 1995 memoir, Off Stage. Comden was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1917, Konecky said, the daughter of Leo and Rebecca Comden. Her father was a lawyer, her mother a schoolteacher. She graduated from New York University in 1938. Comden married accessories designer Steven Kyle in 1942. He died in 1979. They had two children, Susanna and Alan; her son died in 1990.
Deepa Mehta Directs Live CBC Radio Play
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Prithi Yelaja, Staff Reporter
(Nov. 24, 2006) With the gentle crashing of ocean waves and the chirping of parakeets, warblers and mina birds intermixed with live Indian classical music, you might believe you were on the island nation of Sri Lanka if you closed your eyes. Such is the power and intimacy of the live radio play, a genre the CBC is resurrecting for the first time in a decade this Sunday with Funny Boy, a live-to-air performance based on the powerful novel of the same name by Toronto author Shyam Selvadurai. Directed by filmmaker Deepa Mehta, the drama features an all-South Asian cast from Toronto and live music by percussionist and vocalist Suba Sankaran, of the group Autorickshaw. The production harks back to classic theatrical radio of the 1930s à la Orson Welles, says CBC's Damiano Pietropaolo, the play's executive producer. "It's an attempt to try to deal with radio drama the way one deals with the live broadcasting of sports," he says. "The idea is for the audience at home to be there while the drama is happening.... So the best seat in the house will be in your own living room. "You're not listening to the playback of a pre-recorded tape, but to the action as the actors are performing it live. Imagine the theatre in your mind is coming out of your radio." Sound is key to recreating a sense of time and place, says Selvadurai, who adapted the one-hour radio script from his 1994 debut novel.
"CBC has an amazing sound archive, so we've been able to get authentic sounds of birds native to Sri Lanka for the garden scene. It creates a sense of lushness of the place." The national broadcaster approached Mehta, whose movie Water is Canada's Oscar entry for foreign-language film next year, to direct. The choice of Funny Boy was hers. "I loved Funny Boy when I first read it. It's such a warm book. It has a very deep resonance for me because it takes a very personal story and makes it universal," says Mehta, 54, adding that this is her first foray into radio. "I treat it as though I was doing a film, so I'm having the actors wear saris to get them into character. The thought of doing live-to-air is just thrilling. It has to be perfect." Set in Colombo, Funny Boy is the poignant coming-of-age story of Arjie as he grapples with his sexual identity and family dynamics, against a backdrop of communal tensions in the years leading to the 1983 Sinhalese-Tamil riots. "It's not a memoir or strictly autobiographical, but it certainly has elements of my life. I grew up in Sri Lanka during that period. I went through the communal riots and I'm gay," says Selvadurai, 41, who fled Sri Lanka with his family at 19. Parts of the story depart from his own, "because one's life is often not as interesting as fiction," he adds with a chuckle. A central theme is a Romeo and Juliet-type romance, people not able to marry for love because of who they are. But Selvadurai's real-life family is happily ethnically mixed: his mother is Sinhalese, his father Tamil. For Selvadurai, who studied theatre at York University before switching to writing fiction full-time — because he felt there was no scope for non-white playwrights — crafting the radio script was "like revisiting an old love."
Having Mehta direct was "so neat." "When you work with someone that talented, it's a real growth experience as an artist," says Selvadurai, who teaches creative writing at York, is the author of two other books, Cinnamon Gardens and Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, and editor of the short-story collection Story-Wallah. Giving immigrant stories a national stage is essential in a country that prides itself on multiculturalism, he says. "Increasingly a large number of Canadians who immigrate here come from this sort of experience, so it's important for people who lived that experience to have it validated in a Canadian context, and for people who haven't had that experience to understand, beyond the headlines, why people come here and what they've lost," he says. "We live in a city of a lot of people who live with this incredible sense of loss and betrayal by their countries of origin — who live with a longing but an inability to go back. And Funny Boy speaks about those people, whether they come from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan or Vietnam." Radio is the perfect venue to tell such stories, adds Mehta. "We have brilliant writers and they come in all hues and colours, and this is a very inexpensive way of getting their work right out front. It's a must for a country that calls itself multicultural."
Funny Boy continues in performance at The Young Centre for the Performing Arts tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. (for tickets, call 416-866-8666). It airs live on CBC Radio One 99.1 Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Wild Child - Depth In Elphaba
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian
(Nov. 23, 2006) It's been a long road from Beaverton, Ore., to the Emerald City. But Shoshana Bean has enjoyed every step of the journey ... even the sad ones. Bean is currently electrifying the crowds who fill the Canon Theatre, on Yonge St., with her performance as the green-skinned malcontent, Elphaba, in the hit production of Wicked. Right now, she's sitting in an elegant marble lounge underneath the stage, not a trace of her witchy-makeup in sight. But when she cackles with glee, Bean can still make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and start to quiver. She lives life large, does our Shoshana, but she comes by it honestly. Ask her the initial music she remembers hearing after her Sept.1, 1977, birth and her answer is a life-affirming whoop. "My parents were big-time hippies," she laughs, "and I was born on their bed. The first thing my Dad did was carry me out to the living room and put Stevie Wonder singing `Isn't She Lovely?' on the stereo." No wonder that, by the time Bean was three, she was sitting on the floor of her suburban Oregon home wearing giant headphones and singing along to Taco's smoothie remix of "Puttin' on the Ritz." Soon after she was seduced by the music from Annie and found herself auditioning for a local youth musical theatre group called Capitol Kids. Then she found herself at Beaverton High, which she describes as "predominantly white bread." Ask Bean whether she was a popular Glinda or outcast Elpahaba there, and she doesn't hesitate with her answer. "I was absolutely both of them. I was Glinda, in that I had tons of friends from all different groups, but I was so Elphaba, because I got crap for speaking my mind and doing crazy stuff. "Believe me, I totally understand that time of life when you're being mocked for what you believe in." By her final year at Beaverton, she already knew she would be going off to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music to join their prestigious musical theatre program, but for some reason, her teachers only cast her in the ensemble of the final musical, The Will Rogers Follies.
"I said to them `I paid my dues, I'm out of here; I'll just party. I'm going to the No. 1 school for musical theatre and you're putting me in the chorus? Forget it, dudes.'" So she plunged into CCM only to discover that overnight, she had become "a very small fish in a really big pond. I was scared out of my mind. Totally intimidated, I kept constantly pushing myself to stay in the game. I was tested in every possible way imaginable and it was the hardest, toughest time of my life." But it worked, and when she graduated and struck out for New York, "I wasn't scared. It seemed like the logical next step." Within a few months, she landed her first big job wailing "Bless the Lord" in an off-Broadway revival of Stephen Schwartz's Godspell. A national tour of Leader in the Pack followed, and then the original cast of Hairspray, which she calls "the best, the happiest time of my life." "I know Wicked is a bigger hit and I'm playing a starring role, but Hairspray ... " she sighs. "You really only fall in love once and that was it for me." In 2005 it was onto Wicked and a series of national headlines when she took over the role of Elphaba from its creator, Idina Menzel. A year in the demanding show, and she quit, early in 2006. She fell hard for model Tyler Fry and vowed to put "all my energy into him." Then, on April 30, he died in a car crash and Bean discovered that "I was nada, nothing. I wasn't the girl from Wicked anymore, I wasn't Tyler's girlfriend anymore. I had to find out who I really was." She spent the summer getting her head together, wrote some songs and finally rejoined the tour of Wicked this fall. "I think I have to learn from what he taught me, so that his death won't be in vain. I'm grateful for having had him and now I have to learn how to be grateful for having lost him." She admits her performance is "different, deeper now" after Fry's death, "finding hope in `The Wizard and I' and strength in `Defying Gravity'." But the song "No Good Deed" about a lost lover, with its lines like "let him never die" are too painful. "I try to keep those words at bay," she says quietly. "Once or twice I let them get inside me, and oh no, not again." The tears are flowing freely, but Bean wipes them away. She has another show to do. And after the show, the crowd of teenage female fans gather at the stage door, all wanting to emulate her. She laughs through the tears. "I want to say to them `I'm such a dork. Are you sure you want to be me?'"
Dancing With Mortality And Elation
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer
Song of the Earth
Music by Gustav Mahler. Choreography by Kenneth MacMillan.
Symphony in C
Music by George Bizet. Choreography by George Balanchine.
Until Nov. 26 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W. 416-345-9595
(Nov. 23, 2006) After the opulent, royally colourful and gilded production of The Sleeping Beauty, the National Ballet of Canada's mixed program in black, white and grey on a bare stage is like travelling from the Hermitage to the Bauhaus. Kenneth MacMillan's Song of the Earth and George Balanchine's Symphony in C are from the modern era, yet both are predominantly classical in style. The dancers in Song of the Earth float on the voices of Richard Margison and Susan Platts and the music of Gustav Mahler, composed at a time when he knew death was near. A cycle of six songs with lyrics from the poetry of 8th-century Chinese poets expresses the sadness of fleeting experience and the preciousness of life in sync with nature. MacMillan's choreography creates a tension between the visual and the aural: the formations are geometric and the lines straight against the surging emotion of the music. The men make wide-legged square pliés; the women describe crisp arcs and arabesques. Mechanical formations, such as the men making a swing for a woman, are more gymnastic than balletic.
Yet careful point work and some romantic partnering involving Nehemiah Kish as the Man, Xiao Nan Yu as the Woman and a masked Guillaume Côté as the Messenger of Death evoked all the classical themes: love and yearning, death and despair. As she embodied the lyrics, Xiao Nan Yu was flesh made spirit. You could draw a straight line from Marius Petipa to Balanchine on the evidence of Symphony in C, created for the Paris Opéra Ballet under the title Le palais de cristal in 1947 and then stripped down the next year for New York. Rows of white-tutued women on point, plicking their way into rapidly transforming shapes are like arrangements of decorations on a cake. Heather Ogden performs the second movement's Adagio with a superb curve to her back and a weightless quality to her step. The men seem mere props for the most part, until the third movement of Bizet's symphony. Then Zdenek Konvalina bursts onto the stage with Chan Han Goh, investing his Allegro Vivace with a joy and personality that makes Symphony in C not just visually spectacular but rather moving.
Obituary: Gerald Boyd, 56
Source: Colleen Long, Associated Press
(Nov. 24, 2006) NEW YORK — Gerald Boyd, who became the first Black managing editor of The New York Times and was forced to resign two years later amid a reporter's plagiarism scandal, has died. He was 56. Mr. Boyd had been diagnosed with lung cancer in February and died Thursday at his home, said his wife, Robin Stone. He had been sick for most of the year and had kept the condition private from most friends and colleagues, Ms. Stone said. Mr. Boyd and executive editor Howell Raines were brought down by the scandal caused by Jayson Blair, a journalist they had groomed, and criticism of their management style at one of the world's most distinguished newspapers. Mr. Boyd resigned in 2003. Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, called Mr. Boyd a friend and colleague. “Gerald was a newsman. He knew how to mobilize a reporting team and surround a story so that nothing important was missed. He knew how to motivate and inspire,” Mr. Keller said in a statement posted on The Times website. “And, tough and demanding as he could be, he had a huge heart. He left the paper under sad circumstances, but despite all of that he left behind a great reservoir of respect and affection.” Mr. Boyd was appointed to the managing editor post in 2001. “I'm not about to dwell on the firstness of all of this, but if somewhere a kid of colour who reads about this can smile tomorrow or dream a little bigger dream, then that makes me very happy,” Mr. Boyd said at the time. As deputy managing editor for news at the Times, he oversaw the 2000 series “How Race is Lived in America,” which won a Pulitzer Prize. According to the newspaper's website, Mr. Boyd's career began during the civil rights era and inspired generations of black journalists. He was the first black journalist to work the many jobs he held at The Times, including city editor.
At a lecture in St. Louis a few years ago, according to the Times' website, he told the audience, “Throughout my life I have enjoyed both the blessing and the burden of being the first black this and the first black that, and, like many minorities and women who succeed, I've often felt alone.” A native of St. Louis, he joined the Times in 1983 after serving as White House correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. At 28, he was also the youngest journalist chosen for a prestigious Nieman fellowship at Harvard. After his resignation, Mr. Boyd was involved in several projects including a writing a column for Universal Press Syndicate to help people understand how newsroom decisions are made. “I just think the more we can as journalists try to explain what happens in terms of decision-making, to pull back curtains and describe what goes on in newsrooms or in journalism in general, the better we are,” Mr. Boyd said in 2004. Mr. Boyd joined Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism for a semester in 2004 to develop case-study curriculum materials, and had been working on a memoir. “I wanted to do everything I could to try to be a positive force in journalism and try to begin to deal with issues that I saw as important, such as credibility issues, such as leadership issues and issues involving diversity,” he at the time. In remarks made in the months after the Jayson Blair scandal, Mr. Boyd said he made a mutual decision with the newspaper to resign after the Times discovered that Mr. Blair had plagiarized material, invented quotes and wrote stories using datelines of places he had never been. The scandal exposed a deeply discontented staff that had lost confidence in newsroom leadership. Mr. Boyd shared the blame and responsibility for Mr. Blair's downfall but said management didn't realize how deeply troubled Mr. Blair was until it was too late. Had management known, “Jayson Blair simply would not have been writing for The New York Times,” Mr. Boyd said at a speech made in Dallas in August, 2003. He dismissed as “absolutely untrue” criticism that Mr. Blair had been promoted and his problems overlooked because the reporter was black. Mr. Boyd said it was disturbing that people would read more into the situation because of race. “I would be lying if I didn't say that I can't help wonder why after all these years of struggling to establish our work and credibility in the newsroom — to be seen as top-notch journalists — as soon as controversy arises, an African-American reporter and an African-American senior editor are automatically viewed as suspect,” he said at the time. He is survived by his wife and 10-year-old son, Zachary.
Mavis Gallant - ‘She Belongs To No One But Herself'
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt
(Nov. 25, 2006) NEW YORK — This was one of those boldfaced Upper West Side literary evenings. Earlier this month, more than 700 eager fiction readers flooded into the performance centre Symphony Space, paying up to $30 (U.S.) a pop, for a special edition of the two-decade-old local reading series Selected Shorts. In the audience, Francine Prose kibitzed with Wallace Shawn. Fran Lebowitz and Monique Truong made small talk with editors of The New York Review of Books. And up on the stage, Michael Ondaatje, Russell Banks, the poet Edward Hirsch and Jhumpa Lahiri praised the guest of honour as an incandescent influence. “These are all-too-rare occasions when we are able to gather together and honour and celebrate and visit with a great writer who is very much among us, and who is indeed still writing,” said Banks. It had been nine years, after all, since Mavis Gallant had been in New York. At 84, she barely ever travels; she is arthritic, her posture is stooped, she has trouble walking and she is unable to carry anything heavier than a couple of pounds. The evening was made possible only because a friend had travelled from the United States to pick her up at her home in Paris and accompany her for the three-day trip. “Thanks and praise to a woman whose lifetime's work has significantly extended the possibilities of a literary form I adore as a reader and sometimes attempt myself as a writer, the so-called modern short story,” said Banks, who had edited a 2003 Gallant collection titled Varieties of Exile. (Ondaatje had edited a similar 2002 collection, Paris Stories.) “Thanks and praise, then, for a body of work that has helped provide moral clarity and stability in a world we can otherwise see into only dimly, a world we can otherwise only stand in unsteadily, like a drunkard in a gale.”
After more than an hour of such encomiums, a warm wave of applause brought Gallant into the spotlight to read one of her short stories. But as she made her way gingerly to centre stage, she took an accidental step sideways, stumbled and almost fell. Suddenly she looked mortal, aged and the evening's subtext rushed to the surface: This was a celebration, yes, but also a farewell tour. It was a eulogy for the living. Which may be why Gallant seemed to float just above the proceedings, as her narrative eye so often does in her writing. “I think one stays a bit outside. There's nothing else to do, otherwise you'd be overwhelmed,” she explained the following afternoon in the noisy bar of the Warwick Hotel where she was staying, using a third-person frequently deployed when her emotions are the subject of discussion. Still, she said, taking a sip of Earl Grey, “I was touched.” A week later, the accolades would roll in again when she became the first English-language author to be awarded Quebec's prestigious Prix Athanase-David, handed out in recognition of a writer's body of work. The honour joined her collection of previous commendations: the PEN/Nabokov Award, the Rea Award, the Blue Metropolis Literary Prize, the Governor-General's Literary Award, the Order of Canada and others. I thought it would be easy to select a passage by Mavis to read. But for the last few days I've discovered that what is wonderful on the page, delicious with intricacy, can be difficult to read out loud. The speed of alteration, how every paragraph changes the colour of the previous one, makes it almost impossible to find a passage that doesn't mean something very different a page later. One jazz musician, trying to describe Louis Armstrong's quickness, could only do so by putting on Potato Head Blues, and asking the camera to film the shift of his eyes. — Michael Ondaatje In person, too, Gallant is like quicksilver, sly and fast and unpredictable. Her age, bearing and high literary reputation peg her as reserved. But she has an actor's delight in public performance and is a dead-on mimic for the accents sprinkled through some of her stories and her anecdotes. (Sixty years after working in a Montreal newsroom, she can still bark like a city editor: “Gallant, where the hell were ya?”) She carries into every encounter a reputation of ruthlessness, of one who doesn't suffer fools at all — gladly or otherwise. But she chuckles at the idea that she could intimidate anyone and comes off as open and generous. When an interview scheduled for 30 minutes — “she tires easily,” warned the publicist for The New York Review of Books, which had co-produced the Symphony Space evening — runs overtime, Gallant insists she is fine and proceeds to chat for another hour, until she must leave for dinner. She has a gossip's naughty appreciation for misbehaviour, giggling over a long-ago scandal about the Tour de France cyclist Fausto Coppi, who fathered an illegitimate child with a rich Italian woman and then died after receiving a bug bite during a Kenyan safari. She warns a photographer taking her portrait that she'll put a curse on him if he allows the publication of a picture showing her mouth open. “The last person I put a curse on had a stroke,” she adds with a sly smile. And she raises the infamous head butt that capped last summer's World Cup of soccer. “We're all talking as if Zidane has a great brain in that skull,” she chortles. “He's got a little peanut.”
There are only two subjects that bring conversation to a halt: some aspects of her relationship to Canada, and her recent writing. First, the second. She says she's got a short story in the works, and would never stop writing — she can't comprehend Alice Munro's recent announcement toying with retirement — but cuts off questions about when she might next publish. “I have physical problems with writing, my mind goes faster than my body now, and unless you've experienced it, that's very hard,” she explains. “My hands are very stiff. Last night while I was signing, I messed up some signatures and felt very badly for those people who'd bought books. “It's a very odd feeling when your body starts to lead a life of its own. And you feel like saying to it, ‘Look, I took you all over Europe!'” She laughs. “‘I treated you very well! I subjected you to culture! I gave you lashings of good wine! The least you could do is shut up, you know? Behave yourself.' But there it is. Your mind races faster than your hands can write, and that's odd, you know?” Besides, there are her personal journals to occupy her time, 50 years worth of them, beginning in 1950 when she left Montreal for Paris. The plan is for McClelland & Stewart to publish them in five volumes, one per decade. But that's been the plan for years, and she offers no sense of when they might be ready for publication. She refuses to accept any help on the project. It has become popular now to talk about literature in terms of identity politics. Mavis Gallant shows us that this is nothing new, that not fully belonging, of being one thing, has always been an aspect of many people's lives. Most women who write, myself included, abhor the term “woman writer,” but as the only woman paying tribute to her this evening, I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without saying how much I admire Mavis Gallant in this regard. When she was 30, she inhabited a very different world from mine, a world in which equality between the sexes was not taken for granted, a world in which respect for women had constantly to be earned. Far fewer women wrote back then, and the whole life cycle of books was largely the domain of men. — Jhumpa Lahiri Gallant's biography is well known but bears repeating, then, if only to emphasize her impressive feminist accomplishment. The only child of mismatched parents, born in 1922 and sent to boarding school from the age of 4, she endured an emotionally reserved upbringing. Her British-born father, whom she loved and from whom she inherited a dry sense of humour, died when she was 10 years old. Her mother left her upbringing to a series of schools and guardians. Gallant married at age 20 and then landed a job at The Montreal Standard as a features writer, a position that granted her two things that aided her development as an author: an ability to skip off work in the name of research (“I could always say I was at the library”) and access to the lives of people she would not otherwise have met. Sexism wasn't so much rampant as environmental: When the English-language reporters in Montreal were founding a press club, they excluded women. (Some of this sexism is threaded through her stories about the hard-bitten, Montreal-born Linnet Muir, the most autobiographical character in Gallant's oeuvre.)
In 1950, she submitted a story to The New Yorker that was rejected. Her second was accepted. Buoyed, she quit the Standard, divorced her husband (though they remained on amicable terms), destroyed all of her journals and notebooks — her desire to reinvent herself was ruthless — and moved to Paris to support herself entirely as a fiction writer. The early years were tough, especially after she was swindled by a dishonest agent. “Luckily I had a temperament to do it. I never wanted to own anything — like a bird on a branch,” she said. (The name Mavis, she notes later, is a medieval word for a song thrush.) Gallant went on to publish more than 110 short stories in The New Yorker, along with a handful of poems, news features and essays. In 1996, 52 of the stories were published as The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant. After the book's positive reception, she says, “I finally felt reassured. Because like most writers I think you're never sure.” And yet, since then, she has barely published. From her early 20s, when she left Montreal for Paris, she became a writer whose life and work resisted the narrow confines of national identity. In some ways this has been a small liability — not to her work, certainly, quite the opposite — but perhaps to the shape of her public career. Her fame, if you will. She has not been a writer who represents and is thus claimed for the exclusive appreciation of a single national literary readership. She's not the exclusive property of Canadian cultural consciousness, its witness and celebrant. She's not a French writer, certainly, not even a French writer who writes in English. She's not North American or European. She's a world writer who happens to tell her stories in the English language. She would probably hate me for saying this, but in an important way, like my colleagues here tonight, Michael Ondaatje and Jhumpa Lahiri, she's a post-postmodern writer, a post-postcolonial writer, a post-multicultural writer, one of those artists who refuse the hyphen and reject the claims of national fealty. She belongs to no one but herself, and therefore her work belongs to all of us. — Russell Banks “I'm Canadian,” says Gallant when people ask, and they do, all the time, and not just Canadians. She treats this fact of her life as immutable as a law of physics. “I think what defines you is not so much your grandparents or whatever, it's your early years in school. When you're a small child, you're the centre of the universe, and then there are the planets, the two big ones are your parents, and they're going around you. Your outlook on the world is settled, I think, certainly by the time you're 10.”
She never had any desire, she said, in taking French citizenship. “I don't think it's up to me to tell the French how to manage the school system, or anything like that.” But like many Canadians who moved abroad before the last decade or so of the 20th century, Gallant continues to carry a germ of the country's former cultural inferiority complex. When a compliment she offers is deflected, her tone turns sharp. “That is very Canadian,” she snaps. “The rejection of a compliment. It really is so Canadian. ‘Oh, no, actually I'm dying of measles. If you only knew.'” And she is perhaps still wary of the resentment some Canadians had after she abandoned the country to find her fortune elsewhere. Asked about a remark she had made recently concerning some long-ago chilly encounters with Ontarians, she bristles and threatens to end the conversation. About an hour later, the conversation winds toward the subject of her own funeral. “I'll be incinerated and then they can just scatter me. In Paris, they can do it in the cemetery, there's a little grass place which is rather horrid in summer because it's burnt up and they don't water it. But I would be very distressed to know that I was going to be buried. I'm claustrophobic.” She wouldn't want to be returned finally to Canada?, she is asked innocently. “Oh, sweetie, honestly! Come on! No, Mesopotamia, how about that? ‘Does not wish to be buried in Canada!'” she proclaims, sweeping her hands through the air as if reading a banner newspaper headline. “‘Does not wish to be scattered in Canada!' ‘Has washed her hands completely of Canada!' ‘She wipes her feet on Canada!'” She's giggling now. “I'm thinking of pollution, and really, I don't want to make it worse. “I'm not very big, so pollution will be small in any case. Just a few soup spoons of self.”
Jokes My Father Never Taught Me
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams
*"It was Thanksgiving. Dad had a lot of friends and family there, Including ... a couple of girls stashed in the bedroom… Finally, Mamma called everyone to the table. I remember walking past Dad's bedroom, and hearing the girls say they were waiting on their money, so when I got to the table I sat down and immediately turned to look at him. 'Daddy,' I said, 'the whores need to be paid.'
When the laughter died down, Daddy went off to pay the whores, and then we had ourselves a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. Whores were part of our lives, I guess, and they'd always been part of Richard and Mamma's lives." -- A Thanksgiving remembrance from a chapter entitled "We Are Family"
(November 27, 2006) Everybody knows that Richard Pryor (1940-2005) was a comedic genius known as much for his irreverent stand-up act as for his appearances in movies like Silver Streak, Uptown Saturday Night and Stir Crazy. But most of his fans are undoubtedly unaware of the side of him shared by his daughter, Rain, in "Jokes My Father Never Taught Me," as revealing and as heartbreaking a dysfunctional family memoir as you could ever hope to find. This unexpurgated tell-all was co-written with Cathy Crimmins, author of such diverse titles as "The 7 Habits of Highly Defective People," "How the Homosexuals Saved Civilization," "Curse of the Mommy," and "the Secret World of Men." Since this seems to be Crimmins' first venture at ghostwriting, this autobiography, fortunately, never reads like the formulaic work of one of those Hollywood hacks for hire. To the contrary, this is one of those hyper-realistic page-turners you simply cannot put down, primarily because Richard lived life to the fullest, and little Rain apparently was blessed with a memory like a steel trap. And though she somehow still has warm feelings for her dearly-departed father, the picture she paints of the man is nothing short of a monster. For instance, she relates how he was too busy in bed with the housekeeper to pick up her mother, Shelly Bonis, from the hospital after the birth of the only child the couple would have together. Not surprisingly, Richard ended that second marriage not very long thereafter, but not before he would physically and emotionally abuse his wife. Rain says this pattern was repeated during all of her dad's half-dozen marriages, unions which would produce a total of seven equally-neglected offspring.
For the full review by Kam Williams, go HERE.
Canadians Shelling Out More To Support Arts
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Val Ross
(Nov. 23, 2006) Toronto — A new report from Hill Strategies Research shows that Canadians are giving more money to the arts than ever before. The report, Individual Donors to Arts and Culture Organizations in Canada in 2004, examined Statistic Canada data and found that 732,000 Canadians 15 years of age or older gave a total of $188-million to arts and culture organizations in 2004. This represents, on average, a donation of $257 per donor and is a record high. While researchers point out that survey methodology has changed, which may mean that earlier donation rates were underestimated, the changes did not favour arts recipients over other kinds of non-profits. Clearly Canadians have swung to giving to the arts in a big way, led in large part by massive cultural building projects that have attracted hefty private-sector donations. The report says approximately 335,000 Ontarians or 3.3 per cent of the population donated about $110-million to arts and culture in 2004. Ontario residents lagged British Columbians, where about 3.5 per cent of people made donations. The national average is 2.8 per cent.
Comedian Says There's Nothing Funny About Racist Slur
Source: Associated Press
(Nov. 26, 2006) NEW YORK — Comedian Michael Richards said Sunday he did not consider himself a racist, and said he was “shattered” by the comments he made to two young black men during a tirade at a Los Angeles comedy club. Mr. Richards appeared on the Reverend Jesse Jackson's nationally syndicated radio program “Keep Hope Alive” as a part of a series of apologies for the incident. He said he knew his comments hurt the black community, and hoped to meet with the two men. He told Rev. Jackson that he had not used the language before. “That's why I'm shattered by it. The way this came through me was like a freight train. After it was over, when I went to look for them, they had gone. And I've tried to meet them, to talk to them, to get some healing,” he said. Mr. Richards, who played Jerry Seinfeld's wacky neighbour Kramer on the TV sitcom Seinfeld, was performing at West Hollywood 's Laugh Factory last week when he lashed out at hecklers with a string of racial obscenities and profane language. A cell phone video camera captured the outburst, and the incident later appeared on TMZ.com. Mr. Richards told Rev. Jackson the tirade was fuelled by anger, not bigotry. “I was in a place of humiliation,” he said. Mr. Richards' publicist, Howard Rubenstein, said Saturday that Mr. Richards has begun psychiatric counselling in Los Angeles to learn how to manage his anger and understand why he made the racist remarks. “He acknowledged that his statements were harmful and opened a terrible racial wound in our nation,” Mr. Rubenstein said. “He pledges never ever to say anything like that again. He's quite remorseful.” Rev. Jackson, who has called Mr. Richards' words “hateful,” “sick,” and “deep-seated,” said the comedian's inclusion on the show was a chance for a broader discussion about “cultural isolation” in the entertainment industry. “We might turn this minus into a plus,” Rev. Jackson said.