Updated: October 12, 2006
Hope everyone was able
Canadian Thanksgiving and Columbus Day in fine form!
Monica Offers Herself Up
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
October 3, 2006) *She’s not Janet, but Monica also has a milestone to celebrate. Today, the once teen sensation, is now celebrating over a decade in the music business with the release of her new album “The Makings of Me.” Monica made quite an entrance when she burst on the scene in 1995 with a couple of platinum Top Ten singles. The 15-year old looked like she was all bubble gum and popsicles until she belted out "Don't Take It Personal (Just One of dem Days)" and "Before You Walk out of My Life." Monica, born Monica Denise Arnold, now 26, is a grown woman who has earned her stripes in the music industry. Not that she’s old, actually she looks very good. In fact, with a new addition to her life, Miss Thang is looking great. She’s a new mother to a 16-month old son named Rodney, yet looking at her timeless face and figure, you’d never know she delivered a nearly eight-pound bundle of joy last year. Maybe this is the reason why Miss Jones at Hot 97 recently expressed a bit of hateration toward the artist on her show. “It’s almost comical now because a lot of people didn’t even know who she was until I addressed her issue,” the fiery Atlanta singer told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “It originated with her just saying that she didn’t like my single, which was not a problem for me.”
But obviously, Miss Jones’ remarks didn’t stop there and Monica, needless to say, got a little upset. “But, talkin’ about my weight and different stuff like that, I just thought it was really…it was in poor taste… But, she does a lot of things in poor taste. Because anybody who would make a song about (the) Tsunami and find it funny just doesn’t have proper taste at all. So, I think people kind of brushed it off, and so she therefore moved on as well.” She continued saying, “She says we’re too thin, all these different things, but I’m the same that I’ve been the whole 12 years of my career. If you look back, I don’t look any different …That’s why I say it was for ratings. And when people do things like that for ratings, you really come out better not to respond, but that’s just not my nature…It bothers me when I see other black women constantly finding ways to tear us down. It really agitated me.” It’s evident, by Monica’s response, that it’s definitely not in her nature not to respond when being attacked. She even went so far as to address Miss Jones on her own turf regarding the ill will she was projecting toward her. “I did what I wanted to do which was respond to her in her city where she would hear me directly and if she ever wanna get on my level and be full grown about it and talk face to face then I’m down with that. Other than that, she should just keep my name, probably, out of her mouth… I think it was just something that she probably has gotten into for ratings talking about me, Beyonce, Ciara. I find that young black women have been like the butt of many of her jokes. And I guess that’s just a part of her game and I probably should have never even addressed it because a lot of people hadn’t heard her, don’t listen to her and never care to until they wanted to hear what she actually said.” Monica now admits that the whole scenario was a waste of time and energy, but she couldn’t resist nailing the coffin shut on the issue. “She’s on a morning show, so a lot of different morning shows, that’s how they get their ratings. You know, just through creating some form of controversy. But everybody knows I’m not to be played with and I don’t really pump fear, so I said what I had to say and that was the end of it,” she said.
With that drama aside, she can now celebrate a soulful new album. It’s full with classic Monica, but she invites her fans into her world this time around. “The Makings of Me. It’s basically saying, it’s a testament to the fact that this is a musical diary. It’s just simply about the last decade of my life. We talk about a lot of different things on the album as far as things that I’ve been through; different situations. And we just take a walk through the last 10 years of my life up until this point,” she explained. One of her new singles from the album is “Everytime Tha Beat Drop.” This particular selection hits with a heavier beat than we may be used to from Monica. It’s a departure from the other ballads and mid-tempo offerings on the album. She takes you to an ATL party with her and her road dawgs, Dem Franchize Boyz and Jermaine Dupri, on this one. “Yes, that’s the one that [Miss Jones] didn’t like. She thinks it’s like Chicken Noodle Soup which is now a huge record,” said Monica about her nemesis. “It’s for people to enjoy. There was no particular message we were sending in that song. That wasn’t our intention. We wanted to make a record that was the representation of Atlanta. It had three artists that are from Atlanta, Franchize, Jermaine and myself. So the combination, we thought it would be cool to do a record that really represented where we were from.” Another single, which takes you back to signature Monica is her ballad “A Dozen Roses.” This track samples Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You” which resulted in influencing the title of the album. “After we did the song. [Missy] decided to use that sample on her own. She already decided that would be the track that we would sing over and do the record around,” explained Monica. “And once bringing it home, Clive listened to it over and over and he was like I have the answer, The Makings of Me. And I think that hook is standing out a lot.”
This particular cut means a lot to her and explains a lot about her and the album she was trying to make. “I hadn’t thought of me singing over it,” she said. “It’s an incredible record and what he’s saying is extremely meaningful and then it was Clive Davis’s idea to name the album The Makings of Me. He said because in essence if you go back and you listen to everything that I’m talking about…it boils down to those were the things that made me who I am; not as an artist, as a person… I even went to high school with one of [Curtis Mayfield’s] sons.” The song is one of her favourites and she explained why Missy may have chosen this particular track to sample. “It is the type of record that it feels good, it’s about being in love,” she explained. “And the chemistry between Missy and I has always been good. And I think that chemistry is generated by our friendship. Our friendship means that she’s allowed into a lot of the personal space in my life. So she knows a lot of things and she’s able to write about it and make everything make sense.” As an artist, she gravitates to the track “Getaway” which was produced by Jermaine Dupri. This song helps her really talk with her fans and help them understand her on the real side; behind the singer. “And then there’s a record that I love that Jermaine did called “Getaway” that just kind of talks about how it feels to be an artist and then there never really being an on and off time no matter what the circumstances are,” she explained. “Like you’re always at work to a certain degree, anytime you leave out of your house. I’m a firm believer, I believe like more old school people that I look up to that have talked to me like Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight. I believe that our fans make us, so me saying there’s never any off time, I’m not saying that as if it’s a downside. I’m saying that sometimes it’s hard. Because when you leave out, you never know who or what you may come in contact with, but you accept that as a part of the job.” As the still young, but all grown up singer embarks on the promotion of her new album, it may be a while before she sees that downtime to enjoy things she likes to do. But, the promotion of her album is still secondary to her new favourite pastime. “I’m just 100% focused right now on my son. He’s only 16 months old, so he needs my undivided attention as much as possible, so I’m only kind of doing things he may enjoy.” She also shared with us that Ludacris, whose real name is Chris Bridges, is the godfather of her son. She states that little Rodney is no problem and is a big boy already helping his Mama. “My son Rodney is 16 months old. Really good baby, good travel baby, sleeps all night. Just doesn’t give me any trouble, so it makes my job 300% easier since he’s my absolute number one priority.” At one time a couple years ago, we thought that Monica may have adopted some children, but she cleared up the confusion behind that.
“I didn’t ever do paperwork. It basically is like if you come into contact with friends or family, if they were ever in need of anything or their kids needed someplace to be on a regular basis, that’s how it was. There wasn’t any like legal paperwork or anything that was binding because they’re all with their mom’s now, so it’s just me and my son.” Her son will probably learn rather quickly that his mother is a musical success. Now that she’s had time in the industry and is a new mother, she’s had time to reflect on her journey. “Well you know, I’ve enjoyed my career and I think that for some people coming in that young can be a horrible experience and for me it was the total opposite,” she remembered. “I got a lot of good advice from a lot of good people and it’s kept me balanced the entire way through. There’s been a couple rough spots, but not too extreme to the point where there was no coming back. And when I say that I mean, me personally more so, than professionally. But, it’s been a good journey for me. And this many years later, I still enjoy it the same way because one thing I do believe in doing is stepping away to take a break every now and then. And when I do that, it’s a good thing for me because you come back refreshed. Will we be able to catch her in our town is the question now. The touring season will be coming up soon as the weather breaks. “We’re definitely doing a lot of promotional stuff over the next couple of months,” said Monica. “It’s really different now than it was in 95. There were constant tours and bills that you could just join on without even any thought to it. But, right now there aren’t many tours even out. There aren’t very many out there. Hopefully, by the summer it would be a cool package for me to link up with somebody and stay out throughout the summer when kids are out of school and they can really come and enjoy the show. So for right now we’re just doin' the promotional stuff.
Get ready to check out Monica's album, “The Makings of Me,” in stores today. She can also be seen on BET’s The Blueprint, Wednesday at 7:30pm. Get MORE info and check out Monica's new music HERE: www.monica.com/.
TBG Brings Meaning Back To Streetwear
Source: Offshoot Communications
TBG is the brain child of Adrian, a clothing designer from Toronto with a knack for combining thought provoking graphics with cutting edge streetwear. This fall, the line re-enters the market with its premiere collection of cut and sew t-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts. Too Black Guys started in 1990 in Toronto with just a couple hundred t-shirts. Initially sold mainly to friends and family, the line gained momentum and a retail store was opened. The line garnered fans such as Ice Cube, Mary J. Blige and Spike Lee prompting the opening of a store in New York in 1992. After starting as Design Director for Roots in 1999, Adrian closed the doors of Too Black Guys to the disappointment of supporters worldwide.
“People have been talking to me about bringing the line back forever but I wasn’t really motivated to do anything until now when I saw what was going on in the marketplace”, says Adrian. “There isn’t a balance. Everything seems the same. It got to the point in the market where I couldn’t find stuff I wanted to wear and I thought that there were probably people in a similar position as me. Although they have an affinity to the aesthetic of the stuff that is out there it’s not really saying anything. Why can’t you have stuff that’s contemporary and looks good, but also means something?” Enter 2006, Too Black Guys has been reborn as TBG and stays true to the roots of the line. The theme for fall and holiday is “Hand Picked Cotton” and is a retrospective on plantation culture from a historical perspective and how it relates today. TBG is manufactured in Canada at an international level of quality. The line has stellar graphics but also pays attention to every detail of the garments – everything from the fabric to the ribs, colours, labels and use of art.
Featuring such figures as Marcus Garvey, Fredrick Douglass and Emiliano Zapata, the line challenges the notion of happy slaves. “I just want to encourage people to think”, says Adrian “But, I wouldn’t produce something I wouldn’t wear myself.” Some pieces are sure to draw attention more for the controversy than the fashion. “There are a lot of offensive things that we see in our lives on a daily basis. I don’t think that it is a problem to address issues on product if it’s done in the right way.” TBG is available now exclusively at Ransom in Toronto as well as Union in New York, Fred Segal in L.A. and Greyone in Pasadena and Digital Gravel online.
Rikoshay Is Dead… Seazon Is Alive!
Source: Lo Falcioni
(Oct. 6, 2006) Shaun Boothe makes the name change from Rikoshay to SEAZON. Rikoshay has been making a name for himself here in Canada for over 4 years. He is now at the point in his career where he will be releasing music internationally. Unfortunately, due to legal issues he does not have the rights to use that name in other territories. The name switch was made internally almost a year ago; however with a new song out now and new songs and videos to follow, there is no question that this is the right time to make it public.
"Its important to flip a negative into a positive whenever possible. Over the past few years, people have really embraced me and my music, but the key thing is that it is me that they are embracing, not the name. I am still the same person, the same artist, the only difference is I go by a different name now.”
Why the name SEAZON? SEAZON symbolizes a fresh beginning (a new season), while still embracing the idea of being a seasoned vet. SEAZON is the name!
New Song out now!
“Back 4 my Fans”
Produced by SEAZON
for new music and more info.
Inquires: Lo Falcioni, Tel: 416-898-1421 or 646-393-6496, Email: email@example.com
Series Executive-Produced by Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg
ON THE LOT, executive-produced by Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg, will give aspiring filmmakers from around the world the chance to earn a $1-million development deal at DreamWorks. Airing next spring on FOX, this unscripted series will feature a cast of 16 undiscovered filmmakers who will compete to win the support of the show's viewers, as their fate will be decided by a weekly audience vote. The competition will air over two nights weekly, with a one-hour "Film Premiere" episode, followed the next night by a half-hour "Box Office" results show. After a global search, applicants will be winnowed to a group of 16 talented filmmakers.
These finalists will be brought to Hollywood , where they will be divided into teams and begin the journey toward their "big break." Every week, the hopeful filmmakers will produce short films from a chosen genre, running the gamut from comedies to thrillers, personal dramas to romance, sci-fi to horror. They'll have access to the best resources the industry has to offer -- professional writers, cast and crew, and maybe even Hollywood celebrities. After the teams have battled time frames, budgets and all the usual chaos that goes along with filmmaking, their films will debut and be critiqued in front of a live audience during the "Film Premiere" episode. Judges will include a high-ranking motion picture executive, a prominent film critic and a succession of well-respected guests, such as directors who are experts in the week's featured genre. But the filmmakers ultimately will be judged by the harshest critics of all ... the public. It will be FOX viewers whose votes determine which film should be left on the cutting-room floor. On the next night's "Box Office" results show, the director whose feature garners the fewest votes will be sent home. The competition continues and directors are eliminated until only the most talented filmmaker is anointed the winner and heads to DreamWorks ... ON THE LOT.
Cameron House - House And Home
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
(Oct. 8, 2006) Visual artist Napoleon Brousseau earned his keep at the Cameron House. Even his giant ants with the fearsome mandibles, which grace the exterior, have survived. He has lived in and renovated at least five rooms during his decade there on Queen St. W. He's just one of the eclectic mix of artists, writers, musicians, hangers-on and barflies who have made the Cameron home for 25 years. Some are newcomers trying to stake out a place in the cultural landscape, others settled in long ago and plan to stay as long as the fun lasts. Bohemia with draft beer. Molly Johnson slept there. The blues/jazz diva got her start at the Cameron, exchanging her sultry singing on Blue Mondays for accommodation in the rabbit warren of rooms above the bar. Gordie Johnson, later of Big Sugar, also lived there for free in return for playing afternoon gigs. The hotel has put up bands like the Leslie Spit Treeo. The stories of others, like Handsome Ned Masyk, weren't as cheerful. The performer, whose broad smile and sweet voice drew in Saturday afternoon crowds, was last seen leaving the Cameron on a cold January night in 1987 with an unknown acquaintance. At the age of 29, he died of a heroin overdose. His legend lives on. The Cameron is the stuff of legend. Writer/futurist W.R. Clement, 77, a former foreign policy analyst and author of Quantum Jump and Reforming the Prophet, said he has survived three heart attacks, 10 strokes and five herniated discs during the two decades he has lived upstairs at the Cameron. Tom Parker and his country-acoustic band, the Backstabbers, played five years of Sunday afternoons beginning in 1997, a move he said "got us out of the gate."
"I met my wife here," said the newlywed, then he winked. "I met a couple of girls before my wife here." Author/activist Deanne Taylor's long-shot mayoral run against incumbent Art Eggleton was hatched and run out of the place. Taylor, who still lives upstairs, co-created Video Cabaret, a lively program sending up political figures past and present, which is staged a couple of times annually. Layne Coleman, artistic director of Theatre Passe Muraille, said the Cameron has for years been a "clubhouse" of sorts for its actors and crew. "It's kind of been my church, my place of worship, for awhile, in that I can go there and hear really interesting musicians and music live," Coleman said. "It's soooo the antithesis of the entertainment that goes on today. The Cameron is all about the intimacy of live music and friendship. Over a long period of time, I've gotten to know a lot of people I wouldn't have met if I hadn't gone there. Some have turned out to be great and good friends," he added.
Paul Sannella, his sister Ann Marie Ferraro and Herb Tookey on Oct. 5, 1981 took possession of the Cameron, which had been slaking thirsts since the 1920s. Back then, Queen St. W. was a haven of cheap rents for artists. The Ontario College of Art was close by, as was the Art Gallery of Ontario. The Cabana Room at the Spadina Hotel at King (now a backpacker hotel) was no longer as welcoming to the art scene, and the Cameron's new owners were keen to fill the gap. But the interest rate on a mortgage exceeded 20 per cent at the time and Sannella said their dream came close to failing at the outset. "We were hitting the right nerves but ... after the bills got into the till, we'd be running across the street to get (money) into the bank. It was that close," Sannella recalled. He said the place is unusual for the "cross-pollination" that has gone on among various artistic types over the years. "Ideas would germinate. People met here, they realized that despite the fact they were working in different sorts of media, they had a common goal or interest and that if they joined forces, they could pull something off — and they have. So it is an incubator, in that sense. That's something I've always been proud of," Sannella said. That incubator has led far beyond music. The place has a monthly "jam" of graphic artists who construct a comic strip based on life there. They once even issued their own currency, "Cameron Fives" that were accepted by a few local stores until Revenue Canada fired off a warning letter. Visual artists like Chromosome, Brousseau and Fast Wurms (of which Brousseau was a member) were once fixtures of the place. Works by local artists continue to line the walls. The Cameron also plays host to live theatre, comedy nights and poetry readings. The literary set has been hosted and toasted here. A bottle of Macallans Single Highland Malt Scotch used to be kept in waiting for Mordecai Richler when he came to town. Author Michael Ondaatje dropped by a couple of weeks back. Insomniac Press publisher Mike O'Connor, whose company has held at least 10 book launches there, said, "It's one of the few places that hasn't got a television, which I enjoy. People actually have to talk to one another. It's a really radical kind of idea, a very different environment than the majority of bars, which look like the TSN Sports-centre more than somewhere you'd like to go and have a drink with friends."
But there's something about the fact that "the Cameron always has such a good feel. It always has, for me, this really human feeling, like walking into a good friend's living room," O'Connor said. "There are always bands there, always something going on in the back space, always somebody there for interesting conversation, anything from music, politics, to what's going on in the city." The living room quality might come from the fact so many people tend to bunk there every once in a while. Two of O'Connor's authors, Clement and playwright Michael Hollingsworth, live there. Sannella said the rental policy has remained haphazardly simple: "What happens is, when a room comes vacant, somebody says, `Oh, I need a room for a couple of months, my relationship's just broken up' and 12 or 13 years later, they're still here," he said. The Cameron once had 17 rooms (with shared washrooms) for rent. Over time, by pulling down walls to create larger spaces, the number of rooms has been reduced to 10. "I didn't pay rent for 10 years," said Brousseau. "When I first got there, they had no money (for renovations) and I was kind of known for being able to do stuff with nothing," adding that his ant artwork was made of "newspaper, found pieces of wood and coat hangers." "Every time they'd say, `Napo, you got to start paying us some rent,' I'd say, `I gotta move' and they'd say `No, no, okay, forget it.' They were really tolerant of my behaviours because sometimes I would get up in the middle of the night and start painting on the walls," he said. One refurbishment on the top floor involved using a chainsaw to cut through several walls. Brousseau used canned food — which he had on hand from a show of his at the AGO — as filler when walls were re-sealed. After he moved out, Deanne Taylor started her own renovations, which involved knocking down partitions again. "When they opened up the walls, the rubble (had) cream corn and fruit cocktail, all kinds of weird stuff," Brousseau said. The city once declared the bar an "illegal dwelling" and tried to evict the artists in 1984. But reason prevailed and its three floors have provided living space for many over the years, maintaining a reputation as "a place to live that is not only physically comfortable but comfortable in human terms," Clement says.
Following one lengthy hospital stay, Clement returned home to find his laundry had been done by members of the Leslie Spit Treeo. Living anywhere else would be "boring," he said, noting he enjoys the intellectual stimulus provided by the likes of his playwright friend, Hollingsworth. "We both write at night. Now where else in this city of 3 million can you find another guy who's writing at night that you can have supper with at 3 in the morning, and whose library competes with your own?" Clement said. Playing the Cameron "introduced us to so many different people," said the Backstabbers' Parker. "We'd play in the afternoon and end up going to play at a party somewhere. We had film festival folk and artistic directors come here and hire us on" for gigs across Canada, he said. Blue Rodeo drummer Glenn Milchem first walked in the doors back in 1983 as a "pretty green" 20-year-old from the suburbs. "It struck me as a den of iniquity — in a good way. It frightened me and fascinated me at the same time," said Milchem, whose new band, The Swallows, will hold a CD launch at the Cameron on Dec. 8. Milchem played the Cameron with a band called the Garbagemen, which had a regular Wednesday gig from 1984 to 1988. "That experience was probably one of my most profound early experiences in playing live music. There was a lot of flexibility ... a lot of experimentation; we never rehearsed. Having a regular gig once a week in the backroom was this nice, regular thing I could rely on," Milchem said. "It's extremely unpretentious and casual. You don't feel like you have to get frisked to go in the door," he added. "Not everyone has fond memories; I've certainly been considered an asshole far and wide," Sannella said. But the bar's reputation over the years has spread across the country as Sannella found when he took a couple of years off and moved to B.C. "When I was in Vancouver ... I was like royalty. I got treated far, far better there than I ever got treated in Toronto. The Cameron has a mystique about it," he said.
Time marches on and new faces replace old. Nate Mills and his indie band, Run With the Kittens, have used their weekly gig on the bar's tiny front stage for the past three years to hone their brand of "good old-fashioned, high energy rock 'n' roll." "We owe a lot to the Cameron House. Basically, it's them letting us rehearse there every Tuesday night," Mills said. "I like the interactive nature ... I can just walk right down into the crowd and croon people," Mills added. Meanwhile in the Queen West area, condos are starting to sprout up and chic, pricey shops and restaurants are muscling out humbler retailers. An exodus of young, starving artists to Parkdale's cheaper living spaces has begun in earnest. While O'Connor said the Cameron seems "almost frozen in time," the publisher-patron worries about its future. "Parts of Queen Street, you just have to put a roof over ... and you have a mall. You see half-million-dollar condos going up ... that changes the neighbourhood. It's the way things go in Toronto, success breeds condos (and high rents) and people move elsewhere," O'Connor said. Part-owner Cindy Matthews, who doubles as bartender and a member of the Cameron Family Singers on Saturday nights, said it's thanks to silent partners like original stakeholder Ann Marie Ferraro that the Cameron continues to hold on. "If we were paying the rent that is expected (elsewhere) on Queen Street, we wouldn't be here," she said. Brousseau laments the fact there are so few places left in the city for young artists. "I'm 56 now but if I was 25 and just starting out as an artist, I would be freaking out a bit because there are just not as many places like this. When it was tough, they would support me here. They found ways to keep me alive and well. They gave me a roof over my head." The Cameron is holding its silver anniversary celebration (no cover) next Saturday. "It's important to celebrate 25 years, because we might not be here in another 25 years," Matthews said.
A Joking Prophet Conjures Again
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Robert Everett-Green
(Oct. 6, 2006) Taking things at face value gets tricky when the currency itself is deflating. Gizmos rule in the material world, but do they lead toward truth or into a labyrinth of false meanings and perfect counterfeits? Beck's latest disc surveys the culture and finds a funhouse full of distorted images and voices. "Listen to the noise in the battery tape deck, Judas train wreck, anonymous suspect," he raps in Dark Star. Prophets have to describe something, and it often makes little sense even to them. In The Information, prophecy is a joke and a con game perpetrated by an entertainer. Listening to this disc, you're pretty sure there's always a pea under one of those shells, though it's never clear in what kind of currency a win would get paid out. Beck's absurdist lyrics offer abundant clues but no answers. You keep getting thrown back to the music's basic elements, because in comparison with the mirages of daily life, a beat and a groove are verifiably real. Beck, who became cool with a track called Loser, has always been good at playing the hipster nerd. His rap flow is deliberately unconvincing, the better to keep you susceptible to the seductive qualities of his instrumental tracks. He's a miniaturist who has filled these trick-hop songs with shards of sound heard from near and far away. Things that catch your ear often lie half-submerged at first appearance, breaking above water when the song's larger shape requires them.
A couple of these songs (New Round and Motorcade) sound like they were born in a playroom -- a favourite imaginary site, to judge from the bear costumes, ballerinas and dress-up clowning on the disc of videos that accompanies this album. Beck's vocal delivery in Nausea sounds like a send-up of Thom Yorke -- a curious thing, when you consider that producer Nigel Godrich is practically a sixth member of Radiohead. The hectic spew of 1000bpm could be the honest rant of a man frustrated by the triviality of our fixation with speed. At such moments, Beck resembles Marshall McLuhan, another joking prophet who described phenomena he mostly abhorred. But with Beck you can't really tell the speculative pose from the considered position. That information isn't provided, which may be why this clever collection of catchy tracks engages the mind more than the heart. Beck plays the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto on Oct. 16.
`Right Time' For Good Brothers To Make Blind Faith
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist
(Oct. 5, 2006) A gospel album is not quite the stretch it may seem to fans of the often raucous roadhouse music served up for more than 30 years by Canada's longest running country bluegrass outfit, The Good Brothers. "Gospel music has always been very much a part of our shows," the band's autoharp and harmonica player Bruce Good said during a recent interview from his home in Newmarket. He was taking a break from rehearsal sessions with harmonious siblings Brian (guitar, tin whistle) and Larry (banjo) and their band for a Hugh's Room concert on Saturday to launch their latest CD, Blind Faith. "It may not be what people think of when they come to see us play, and we're certainly not typical gospellers, but we've always showcased some traditional gospel songs, and about 12 years ago we started writing our own. It's in our blood. It's our mother's favourite music, and she has always been the musical catalyst in the Good family, even with Dallas and Travis (Bruce's sons and front men of leading alt.country outfit The Sadies)." The Goods have always wanted to do a gospel album as a special project, along with a children's album and a Christmas album, Bruce continued, and a financial nudge from long-time fans brought it to the front burner. Former Maple Leaf Dave Dunn, now resident in Regina, is one of the principal backers of Blind Faith, which was produced by Toronto folk-country veteran Danny Greenspoon, and is released this week on the Good Brothers' own Hogtown Records label. Investors will be repaid before the band sees a penny, Good said. "The time seems right for us to do this now. After 9/11, people seem more in need of a higher power. They're aware that life is fragile, and they've started re-evaluating their spiritual selves. I think that's why gospel music, spiritual music, songs of faith are becoming more popular." More than half the album's 14 songs are Good Brothers originals, and very much in the close-harmony, up-tempo style of several bluegrass classics from the standard string band repertoire that the brothers serve up as well, including "A Beautiful Life," "Crying Holy Unto The Lord," "Canaan's Happy Land," "Jordan" and "Paul And Silas."
"These are songs we learned as children," Good explained. "I never saw them as necessarily about God ... more as songs of inspiration, songs about the good things in life. The people who put money into this recording have a deeper religious faith than I do. I'm not a Sunday-go-to-meeting guy, but I've always loved this kind of music. And in some places in the U.S., where people have always assumed we're a gospel group because of our name, it won't seem like a departure at all." Since the sibling act came out of 10 years of semi-retirement in 2002 with their One True Thing album, the brothers have never been happier or more fulfilled, Bruce said. "It's not that we ever went away. We just stopped pursuing the brass ring. We weren't chasing down work or record deals. Now that we have our own label we've been able to go back to our roots without having to worry about air play and answering to record companies and managers. "I may well have walked away from music forever if I'd had to deal with all that again. Now we're just following our hearts." Besides, he added, the country music tradition that's so strong in the Good bloodline lives on in The Sadies, with guitarists and songwriters Travis and Dallas Good, who also perform on Blind Faith, along with the Good matriarch, Margaret. Bruce and his mother have also performed live and on record with The Sadies. "It's a family affair," Bruce said. "Everyone in the family helps out everyone else in the studio and on stage." With their 29th annual tour of Europe kicking off in February, and No. 30 already booked, The Good Brothers, now heading into their sixties, are in no danger of fading away. Come spring they'll be back on the road in Canada and the U.S. playing as many dates as they did when they made Canadian music history back in the 1970s and 80s, racking up Juno awards and filling arenas and major Canadian international concert halls. Will the gospel music they're working into their act go over with their diehard fans? Will they be labelled a Christian act and cast aside by the country music mainstream, or worse, criticized for playing the religious card in spiritually troubling times? "We've asked ourselves these questions, and in the end the answers don't matter," Good said. "We're just making music that matters to us, the same as we always have."
Killers' Mission: Bring Music Back
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press
(Oct. 6, 2006) NEW YORK—Let Justin Timberlake worry about bringing sexy back. The Killers have a far weightier goal in mind as they release their grand sophomore album, Sam's Town: to bring good music back. "We've gotten away from what The Beatles did and what started it all, and what Elvis songs were like, and it needs to be brought back," says Brandon Flowers, the rock quartet's lead vocalist and lyricist, looking serious and earnest. "The experimentation has gone far enough. We lost the song." Some might argue that it never left and there are plenty of good songs to go around. Others may question whether The Killers — a Las Vegas-rock quartet who have released just one other album (albeit a very good, triple-platinum selling album) — are qualified to serve as saviours. No worries. The cocky band that helped rejuvenate the rock scene with their Brit-pop, '80s-influenced Hot Fuss are even more confident with the release of Sam's Town, a moodier, more mature disc that reflects the influence of Bruce Springsteen and incorporates the guidance of producers Flood and Alan Moulder, best known for their work with acts like U2 and the Smashing Pumpkins. "We are doing our own thing on this record and hopefully kind of paving the way again," says bassist Mark Stoermer. "I think really there are no weak songs on the record ... I think they all show different degrees of growing. Just overall, the sound has matured and improved, in our eyes." That they decided to tinker with the formula that put them on the map is admirable in itself. Instead of the garage-rock sound that defined some "it" rock bands of the moment, 2004's Hot Fuss mined New Wave with imaginative, captivating songs like "Mr. Brightside" and "Somebody Told Me" (accompanied by equally ambitious and dramatic videos). But when it came time to work on their follow-up, the band knew that despite all their success, it was time for a change.
"They were constantly being called the best English band from America, and I think that they definitely wanted to draw on some different influences," says Rob Stevens, a top executive at Island Def Jam, the band's label. "They just started looking at great American musicians and performers.... They didn't just want to make Hot Fuss, Part 2." However, they knew many outsiders were expecting just such an album — at least sales-wise. Guitarist David Keuning admits some of that pressure did get to the band: "How could it not?" he asks. "Everybody is like, `We can't wait for your second album, hope it's not a slump.' And then you've got other people just negative, like, `Yeah, you're gonna suck, no one is gonna give a crap about you after your second, you're going to fizzle out,'" he says. "We were just determined to prove all of those people wrong." Unlike Hot Fuss, whose lyrical content was based on fantastical tales, Sam's Town is rooted in reality, with songs about disillusionment and addiction. Flowers and his bandmates seem to find few things special in music today. "I think bands are lazy," he says. "It's so much easier to do anything, even down to recording. The whole world is lazier, so it's also showing its face now in rock music and pop music, and it's just crap. I'm excited when I hear my own songs and we would like to be the messengers of good songs."
Calgary Buzz: Kinnie Starr Performs
By: ChartAttack.com Staff -Trevor Morelli
(Oct. 6, 2006) Kinnie Starr loves the open road. Anything, her fourth full-length album, was released via MapleMusic earlier this year, and she's getting the word out with a tour across western Canada with Nunavut electronic artist and good friend, Tanya Tagaq. "There's really no way to tour and not get tired," Starr explains. "But there was a break of about four days earlier on this tour, and I just wanted to get out again. The shows are really cool and I always look forward to being on the road." The Calgary-born MC/poet/beatnik, who now resides in Vancouver, spent the better part of 2005 working on Anything with her longtime collaborator and drummer, John Raham. Starr says the writing process for the new album was a bit of a departure from what she's done in the past. "The last record was a lot more electronic, while this one is more about the songwriting. There's only one co-write on the record. I just wrote songs on guitar and went with it." When it comes to recording, Starr admits that she's not a perfectionist, but knows that Raham helps her get the right emotion on tape. "He has ears of gold and hears every detail," she says. "I like to work on the fly and keep the first or second take, but sometimes he'll encourage me to do it again. It makes for a good combination." In her spare time, Starr records her ideas on a Tascam 564. She's currently working on a group of 23 songs that will eventually get cut down to eight before being released. By Divine Right frontman Jose Contreras is on tap to mix the collection.
"The inspiration for this project is old Joni Mitchell, old Motown and stuff like that," says Starr. "It's really just simple songs about heartbreak." Not only does Starr work hard on her music, but she tries to keep her fans in the loop by updating her MySpace page on a regular basis. While some independent artists might discourage downloading digital music, Starr thinks that it can be a positive step if used properly. "I think a lot of airtime is wasted debating the issue, and the more important question is, 'How can we move forward?' Art should be shared freely, and I think the ethical way to do it is if you download and you like the artist, go out and buy the record as well." You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone as honest, positive and genuinely interesting as Starr. Show her some love and get down to The Liberty Lounge on Friday night to see her perform with Tagaq. Nashville Pussy hit the Hi Fi stage on October 7 with Priestess and Pride Tiger. Three Inches Of Blood bring their brutal metal to Broken City on October 13 for a show with The Illuminati and A Javelin Reign. Hot Awesome's sound has been described as "Weezer meets Weakerthans." Find out for yourself when they play Broken City with The Brenda Vaqueros and John McKiel on October 17. Shit, I shouldn't have name-dropped Weezer. I better sign off before I get sued.
Sterling: New Island Def Jam Signing Poised To Make His Mark In
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
(October 6, 2006) *“It’s my turn ...” Words uttered by R&B recording artist Sterling -- which are also being considered for the title of his debut album -- while speaking to the point he’s at in his quest to break into the business of music. But don’t mistake the confidence that his declaration suggests for arrogance; in the same breath he offered that the single most career-enhancing attribute that one could have is humility, because it will “get you a long way.” Sterling, born and raised in Philadelphia, has apparently practiced what he preaches, because, after a small bidding war, the ink just dried on his signing with one of the most notable and successful labels in urban music, Def Jam records, and he will be working with two of the most respected executives in music to boot, LA Reid and Shawn Carter. “Def Jam is always where I wanted to be. Even when we started shopping I was telling management, ‘yo, we gotta go with Def Jam.’ We were setting up meetings and they were like, ‘well we’re gonna go to Def Jam here, we’re gonna go to such and such there…’ I was like, ‘man, I’m telling you, after this Def Jam meeting I don’t want to go anywhere else.’ It felt like Def Jam was home. I walk into the building and everyone’s hungry in there. It’s a new breed in there. Shawn Carter’s in there doing his thing, L.A. Reid, his history speaks for itself, I just don’t think it gets any better than that. So, I always felt at home at Def Jam and I’m glad about where I landed,” he says of the signing. So, besides humility, what does it take to go from the “aspiring artist with big dreams” to being poised to realize those dreams in such a potentially big way? “Determination, perseverance, and making moves and not excuses,” he says. “You gotta work against the odds, when everyone else doesn’t believe in you. You must believe in yourself, you gotta keep it moving.”
Sterling has been “keeping it moving” since six years of age, when he recorded his first song under the direction of his musical inspiration, his grandfather. “My Grandfather was a big influence on me as far as music is concerned,” he says. “My father passed when I was younger, when I was 5, so, growing up, my grandfather played that role. I used to go over his house every weekend and a lot of times during the week. And he was really into music. He was a producer and songwriter himself. He had a studio in his basement; so, I would go over there and watch him make tracks. I was always intrigued by it. He recorded my cousin and me when I was six years old. He really instilled music in me…he made me hungry for it. ‘Cause I watched him trying to live his dreams, now I feel like I’m living his dreams. He recently passed when I was around 18. So, now I’m doing it not only for myself but for him as well. I wanna see his dreams fulfilled through me.” Driven by both his own and his grandfather’s passion, Sterling, before he was even signed to a major label, was able to find the wherewithal to record a small catalogue of songs that would give him the upper hand as far as his preparedness and creative direction goes. He was able to walk in the door of his label of choice, Def Jam, practically packaged and ready to go straight to the marketplace. He says, “I turned in fifteen songs, because I was recording heavy before I started shopping. You know, I wanted to be as close to having a complete project as I could, so when I presented myself to L.A., I came in with about 20 to 30 songs. I felt I had 15 strong songs, and out of the 15, he liked 12. So, I just recorded one song last week and he said he wants us to do one more record and the record is complete.” Sterling, with his composed and self-assured delivery, makes the whole process sound as if it were so easy. But was it? According to the charismatic newcomer, his goal to “make life better for him and his family” made the journey – the highs and lows taken together -- seem well worth it, if not easy. Though he didn’t set out to necessarily be in front of the mic, his path in life was solid. His natural gift for writing, taken with meeting the right people who saw something, even beyond what he saw, in him only sealed his fate. “I moved to Atlanta when I was fourteen to pursue my dream and make things better for me and my family. Just recently, things just started popping off for me. It goes back two years ago, when I was introduced to Teddy Bishop in Atlanta, a very well known writer and producer. He’s worked with Jagged Edge, Aaliyah, Toni Braxton, Usher and a couple of others in the business. I started out actually as a songwriter at the time and I was writing songs for different people. He came to the studio and he heard some songs that I had demoed out for him over his tracks. And he asked me and my songwriting partner “who’s that singing over the beat?” And I was like, “oh that’s me.” He was like, “are you serious?” And I said, “yeah.” He was then like, “what’s up with you as an artist?” I said “I’m just focusing on my songs right now, I don’t know if I want to be an artist right now.” And he was like, “you need to be an artist, man, I’m telling you, I’m gonna get it poppin’ for you. And I’m like, “man, if you say so, dog.” I’m not gonna tell Teddy Bishop no,” he reminisced. “I started recording and getting my buzz up around the Atlanta area and everything has been going at a fast pace since then.”
After paying his dues and being persuaded by Bishop to take the chance, Sterling, whom describes his sound as an amalgamation of Jaheim, Tyrese and Usher with his unique spin, is now ready to unleash his brand of ‘true to life’ R&B on potential fans. He realizes that there are other artists of his type, such as Usher and Chris Brown, both of whom he’s been compared to, that are already doing great things in the industry, but he’s convinced that he has a niche that will set him apart. “Usher is doing his thing. He’s on Broadway now. And Chris Brown, he’s a hot new talent, and he’s doing his thing. But I’m here to make my mark. Everyone says that I have a street edge because of where I come from, my background. So, hopefully that’ll make me different from everybody else. And my swagger, the way I present myself on stage and the material that I talk about. For instance, I wrote 85% of my album. So, you’re really getting a sense of me because I wrote about true experiences that happened in my life,” he asserted. He continues, “I got this song called ‘Best Friend’ on my album produced by Adonis. We wrote the song together and it’s basically about I was with this girl -- true story -- and we were in a relationship for a while and things didn’t work out, so we broke up. So I saw her shortly afterwards and I still had feelings for her but I noticed a change in her. This was shortly after we had broken up, maybe a month or two. I noticed she looked like she was expecting child. So I asked her, ‘yo, you pregnant?’ And she was like, ‘yeah.’ So, me just breaking up with her a month or two ago, I’m like, ‘you didn’t tell me you’re pregnant? How we gonna do this? How we gonna work it out?’ And it turns out it wasn’t mine; it was my best friend’s baby. That was something crazy that happened in my life, but I wrote a great song out of it. That’s just an example of the things that you’ll get from my album, all true experiences. And if it’s not coming from me, myself, it’s coming from my inner circle, so I can relate to it and I think the public can relate to it as well. Sterling’s as-yet-untitled debut album, due sometime early next year, will include production from Oak, a new talent coming out of Atlanta, Bryan Michael Cox, Teddy Bishop (executive producer), Rodney Jerkins, the Corner Boys, Adonis, and Carvin and Ivan and the Home Cooked staff out of Philly. The first single, which will impact radio in the coming weeks, is called “Jump Off,” which features Sean Paul and the Young Bloodz. “The buzz on it is crazy! Everybody I play the song for, they love it,” he gushes. With all that Sterling, himself, has put into his career, it seems that he’s certainly a “sure thing;” but he added, in conclusion, “I think it’s important to have a strong team behind you. I have a manager that always says, ‘don’t get caught in the middle of everything and end up surrounded by nothing.’ And I think what that really means is having a strong team behind you, a team that’ll back you no matter what. If everyone is telling you ‘no, no, no,’ your team is supposed to be there to tell you ‘yes!’”
Beethoven Gets Czar Birthday Treatment In Bonn
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - William Littler
(Oct. 7, 2006) BONN, GERMANY—Tonight at Roy Thomson Hall and tomorrow at the George Weston Recital Hall, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will blow out the last candles on its Beethoven birthday cake, bringing to a close its highly popular, season-opening mini Beethoven festival. And if you are indelicate enough to recall that Beethoven's birthday doesn't happen until Dec. 17, no matter. Any excuse for performing the music of Bonn's favourite son is an excuse musicians are willing to make. In a survey of music critics last year, the court singer's son came second only to Mozart in the affections of those most jaded of listeners. In Bonn itself, which the ambitious composer-performer left for Vienna in his early 20s, no other celebrity has ever come close to eclipsing his fame. The building in which he was born, a baroque townhouse at Bonngasse 20, even today houses the largest collection of Beethoven artefacts in the world. Visiting that house a couple of weeks ago, to get in the mood for the Toronto Symphony festival, I was struck by how few similar structures of the 18th century have been preserved in what used to be the federal capital of West Germany. The Beethoven family lived in four other houses, all of them long gone. With the reunited Germany's capital now in Berlin, Bonn has returned to its status as Beethoven knew it, as a provincial city, but has kept its enormously enhanced cultural profile. An impressive Guggenheim exhibition lured visitors to the Bonn Art Museum during my visit, Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier was playing at the opera house (a building only half-facetiously nicknamed "Scala at the Rhine") and the annual Beethoven Festival was in full swing. If Bonn hasn't quite developed a Beethoven culture to match the chocolate-covered Mozart industry in Salzburg, the tourist office does offer visitors a brochure titled Beethoven Walk, itemizing 13 sites associated with the young composer, culminating with the larger than life-sized monument erected in his honour and the cemetery in which his mother, Maria Magdalene, was laid to rest.
King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, no less, turned up for the three-day festival surrounding the 1845 unveiling of the monument, and Queen Victoria made the trip from London. Now expanded to fill the month of September, the festival no longer limits itself to a celebration of Beethoven. During my three-day visit, I dined primarily on Mozart and Tarnopolski. Tarnopolski? Well, Beethoven he many not be, but Vladimir Tarnopolski represents one of the brighter lights in contemporary Russian music and the theme for this year's festival happened to be Beethoven and Russia. Although Beethoven never actually visited the land of the czars, Russian noblemen numbered among his foremost patrons. It was Count Razumovsky who commissioned the three Op. 59 string quartets and it was Prince Galitsin, dedicatee of three of the great late quartets, who arranged for the Missa solemnis to be premiered in St. Petersburg in 1824. Giving each year's festival a nation-connected theme is an innovation of its director, Ilona Schmiel. She began in 2004 with Bohemia-Moravia, continuing in 2005 with France. When asked about 2007, the lady declined to scoop herself, but it won't be easy to find many more countries with such strong Beethoven connections. The reason for expanding the repertoire beyond Beethoven is obvious. A festival with a century and a half of history can't keep recycling the same music and remain fresh. When former Toronto Symphony music director Jukka-Pekka Saraste led the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam in Bonn's Beethoven Hall the other night, the German master's Fifth Piano Concerto (with Emanuel Ax as soloist) kept company with the Russian master Sergei Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony.
This being the centenary of Dmitri Shostakovich's birth, the festival has featured his music prominently among that of other Russian composers, with such distinguished Russian artists as the Russian National Orchestra, the Moscow Art Trio and violinist Maxim Vengerov also taking part. Pride of place among the Russians nevertheless fell to composer Tarnopolski and the premiere of his intermission-less multi-media opera Jenseits der Schatten (The Other Side of the Shadows), set to a libretto by Ralph Günther Mohnau and specially commissioned for this year's festival. Not so many years ago, a work such as this, full of abstract imagery and video effects, would have been difficult to imagine on a Russian stage, and even today it probably qualifies in the land of Putin as experimental. In its visual and musical vocabulary, it nonetheless reminds the Western eye and ear of the 1960s and almost takes on the character of a period piece. With 60 events spread over 22 venues and more than 2,000 participants involved in its presentations, Beethovenfest Bonn, as the festival is known in German, is a far larger and more comprehensive event than its modest reputation in North America would suggest. Indeed, despite the universal popularity of its namesake, it is still a festival awaiting discovery by visitors from Canada and the United States, as is Bonn itself, for that matter. A short drive from Cologne, the erstwhile Roman outpost calls itself "the Gateway to the Romantic Rhine," and whether cruising south or simply strolling along the river's banks, a visitor quickly comes to appreciate the city's understated charms. For career reasons, Beethoven had to leave. In spirit, he remains citizen number one.
Prince Gets 'Happy Feet' For New Soundtrack
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.
(October 04, 2006) A new Prince track, "Song of the Heart," will be found on the soundtrack to the upcoming animated film "Happy Feat," due Oct. 31 via Atlantic. The cut, which features slap bass, piano and horns, was written specifically by Prince for the film, which boasts the voice talents of Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Robin Williams. Kidman and Jackman also team up for a cover of Prince's "Kiss" on the album, while k.d. lang puts her own spin on the Beatles' "Golden Slumbers" and Pink updates the Rufus and Chaka Khan-popularized "Tell Me Something Good." Elsewhere, Patti LaBelle, Yolanda Adams and Fantasia team up on Stevie Wonder's "I Wish," Jason Mraz's cover of the Steve Miller Band's "The Joker" is mashed up with the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde's version of Bread's "Everything I Own" and actress Brittany Murphy tackles Queen's "Somebody To Love" and the Earth, Wind & Fire classic "Boogie Wonderland." The soundtrack will also introduce new Atlantic signing Gia Farrell via the track "Hit Me Up." Her debut album will arrive next year. "Happy Feet" centers around a family of Antarctic penguins. Wood's young character, Mumble, doesn't possess the singing voice for which his species is known, so he leaves the colony and finds adventures with Ramon of the Adelie Amigos and Lovelace the Guru, both voiced by Williams. Williams also contributes a cover of "My Way," sung in Spanish.
Here is the track list for "Happy Feet":
"Song of the Heart," Prince
"Hit Me Up," Gia Farrell
"Tell Me Something Good," Pink
"The Joker," Jason Mraz / Mashup with "Everything I Own," Chrissie Hynde
"I Wish," Patti LaBelle, Yolanda Adams, Fantasia
"Boogie Wonderland," Brittany Murphy
"Somebody To Love," Brittany Murphy
"My Way (A Mi Manera)," Robin Williams
"Do It Again," Beach Boys
"Jump N' Move," Brand New Heavies featuring Jamalski
"Kiss," Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman / Mashup with "Heartbreak Hotel," Hugh Jackman
"Golden Slumbers," k.d. lang
"The Story of Mumble Happyfeat," written and produced by John Powell
Timberlake Still Tops, Akon Sets Hot 100 Record
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Clover Hope, N.Y.
(October 05, 2006) Showing no sign of slipping, Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" retains its lead on the Billboard Hot 100 for a sixth week and fronts the Pop 100 for a fifth. Meanwhile, the singer's new single, "My Love" featuring T.I., starts its run into the top 10 of the chart, rising 25-16. "My Love" is also the chart's greatest airplay gainer. However, "SexyBack" loses the No. 1 spot on the Hot Digital Songs chart to the Fray's "How To Save a Life," which rises one rung as the two cuts swap positions. A record is broken this week on the Hot 100, as Akon achieves the largest climb in the chart's 48-year-history with "Smack That" featuring Eminem, which rockets 95-7. The song's monstrous leap is fuelled by its No. 6 debut on Hot Digital Songs with 67,000 copies sold. The 88-spot jump bests the 86-4 move by Vanessa Hudgens, Zac Efron and Andrew Seeley's "Breaking Free" in February. Elsewhere on the Hot 100, "How To Save a Life" falls 3-4 while Ludacris' "Money Maker" featuring Pharrell warms the No. 2 spot, Hinder's "Lips of an Angel" ascends 5-3 and Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" rises 6-5. Fergie's "London Bridge" falls 4-6, while Jibbs' "Chain Hang Low" sticks to No. 8, Nickelback's "Far Away" jumps 11-9 and Chingy's "Pullin' Me Back" featuring Tyrese drops 9-10 to round out the Hot 100's top tier.
Nelly Furtado's "Maneater" is the Hot 100's greatest sales gainer, rising 37-30, and the top debut belongs to "Weird Al" Yankovic's "White & Nerdy" (No. 28), a parody of Chamillionaire's "Ridin'." Yankovic also earned his highest charting album ever this week, as "Straight Outta Lynwood" bowed at No. 10 on The Billboard 200. Also debuting on the Hot 100 are Janet Jackson's "So Excited" featuring Khia (No. 90), Nickelback's "Rockstar" (No. 94), Akon's "I Wanna Love You" featuring Snoop Dogg (No. 95), the All-American Rejects' "It Ends Tonight" (No. 97), Cherish's "Unappreciated" (No. 98) and Christina Aguilera's "Hurt" (No. 100). After reclaiming the pole position on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Janet Jackson and Nelly's "Call on Me" descends to No. 6 on the chart, as Chris Brown's "Say Goodbye" climbs three rungs to the top. Paulina Rubio's "Ni Una Sola Palabra" notches a third week atop Hot Latin Songs while Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten" remains atop Adult Contemporary for a fifth. On Hot Country Songs chart, Josh Turner's "Would You Go With Me" seizes the peak position from George Strait's "Give It Away," which drops to No. 3 after two weeks atop the chart. The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Tell Me" holds at No. 1 on the Modern Rock tally for a fourth week and Stone Sour's "Through Glass" leads Mainstream Rock for the same span.
Diddy: The Saga Continues
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Tamara Conniff and Bill Werde
(October 04, 2006) Sean Combs is bouncing around in his underwear. It's a sweltering August afternoon in downtown Los Angeles, and Combs is in his trailer on the set of the video shoot for "Come to Me," the debut single from "Press Play," his first artist album in five years. He's trying to cool off before he heads outside again. Combs-aka Puff Daddy, P. Diddy and now just plain Diddy-has been described as arrogant, ruthless, crazy, talented, overhyped, phoney and a genius. At this moment, standing in his drawers, fussing nervously with the stereo system, he just seems humble. "I'm so excited about this record," Combs gushes. He pops an unmarked CD of rough mixes into the stereo system but still can't get it to work. Julie Greenwald, president of Atlantic Records Group, who has been one of Combs' biggest champions since he brought himself and his Bad Boy label into the Warner Music Group (WMG) fold last year, jumps up and pokes him in the ribs. "Give me that," she says with a laugh. "What, first time with a stereo?" Finally the music starts. Combs dances around the trailer, rapping over the tracks. He picks up Greenwald and swirls her around the trailer. "We did it, girl!" Then he pauses. Greenwald sits back down on the couch. "I hope people like it," he says sheepishly. "Do you think they will?" People may love or hate Combs, but all probably agree on one thing-don't bet against him. "I'm like Las Vegas," he says. "People take their bets, but thankfully, most of the time, the odds are in my favour." Indeed, when "Press Play" hits stores Oct. 17 it will herald not one comeback for Combs, but two-the return of Diddy as a recording artist as well as a renaissance for Combs' legacy brand, his label Bad Boy Records. Diddy the artist spent the past year and a half labouring over "Press Play." "I've become known as an entertainer," Combs says. "That's a good thing and a bad thing. But I'm also an artist. This is my artistic side." "Press Play" is reflective of where Combs is in his life. He and his long-time girlfriend, Kim Porter, are expecting twins. He dotes on her and drops everything when she calls. "I can't do a crunk record, and I'm not shooting anybody so I can't do that kind of music," he says. "This is a vulnerable album meant to make you feel good."
"Press Play" is a fusion of R&B, soul, hip-hop and live instrumentation. Combs calls it "hip-hop soul. That's where music is going," Combs says. "It's hop-hop soul. It's musical and has melody. It's a mix of gutter and sophistication. Like me, I guess." The album features guest producers and artists including Kanye West, Pharrell, Will.i.am, Mario Winans, Just Blaze, Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls (on first single "Come to Me"), Jack Knight, Christina Aguilera, Big Boi, Ciara, Scar, Timbaland, Twista, Shawnna, Nas, Cee-Lo, Mika Lett, Keri, Brandy, Keyshia Cole, Jamie Foxx and Combs' protégé and long-time collaborator Mary J. Blige. "Press Play" actually marks Combs' singing debut, including a duet with Cole, "Last Night." The album is steeped in dance beats. During the period that Combs worked on it, he traveled the globe, frequenting many dance and techno clubs, often standing next to the likes of such hot shots as Ferry Corsten, who is one of the top 10 DJs in the world, according to fan site thedjlist.com. Tracks such as "Get Off" indulge in deep funk-soul grooves that sound like space-age jazz meeting James Brown on the dance floor. "I want people to put this album in, 'press play' and listen to the whole thing in one sitting," Combs says. Hip-hop's greatest entrepreneur will utilize the power of his various brands to get the word out. His Sean John Fragrances -- a division of Estee Lauder launched in February -- cologne, Unforgiveable, is the top-selling men's fragrance in department stores across the United States. His Sean John clothing lines, launched in '98, totals about $400 million a year in retail sales, according to a recent New York Times report. "The people from Estee Lauder have been so wonderful to sit down with us," Greenwald says. "'We know this Christmas, we'll sell a billion bottles of cologne, so let's join forces.'" Greenwald says plans are in place for a gift-with-purchase campaign over the holiday season and to buy radio to push the cologne as well as his album. Atlantic and Bad Boy are also in talks with Sean John regarding in-store record promotion and product placement.
Meanwhile, Combs has embraced MySpace as perhaps no other A-list act has. His 380,000-plus friends are an impressive total. But what's more impressive is the length Combs goes to connect with them. He's taken to updating his surprisingly candid and funny video journal frequently. One day a few weeks ago, he asked MySpace friends to send him their telephone numbers. "People didn't believe it was him when he started calling them," Greenwald says with a laugh. "I've worked with the biggest of the big, but I've never worked with anyone like this before," she continues. "He starts at 7 doing two radio shows. Then it's a press junket. Then he goes to a high school to talk to kids. Two more radio stations, then that night he does a release party, gets on his tour bus, goes to the next market and starts again. No lunch break, no nothing. In London, we had two days in August. The guy worked for 48 hours straight. He's a beast. He's part machine."
Bad Boy For Life
Combs' determination is perhaps best exemplified by Bad Boy's comeback. It was important to Combs that he re-establish his label before he rebooted his artist career. In 2005, WMG bought Bad Boy out of a 2-year-old distribution pact with Universal Records, which was scheduled to run through 2006. The Bad Boy/Universal deal yielded only one notable hit, the "Bad Boys II" soundtrack. As part of the deal, WMG took 50% ownership of Bad Boy, which at the time was worth $30 million, according to sources. "Bad Boy went through a two-year slump," Combs says. "But things are starting to turn around now. You have to keep focus and appreciate good days. Even when we were down, I always made money for people. That's what I'm good at. But yes, the label wasn't performing. I can admit that." Bad Boy hasn't yet returned to its full glory days -- the label's last platinum act was 112 in 2001-but behind newly developed stars such as Yung Joc ("Goin' Down," which topped Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for eight weeks this summer) and R&B newcomer Cassie ("Me & You," No. 1 on the chart in August), it is very much on the rise. Yung Joc has been certified gold by the RIAA and Cassie is closing in and just starting to work her second single even while "Me & You" is still a top 25 hit. Cassie and Yung Joc are signed to subsidiaries of Bad Boy-- NextSelection and Block Entertainment, respectively. "Puff helps groom some of the music and the sound," Bad Boy head of marketing Jason Wiley says. "He still has that vision and that eye to bring the right talent to Bad Boy." And, of course, the drive to make it succeed. "I have the perfect story for you," Greenwald says when asked about Combs' focus on Bad Boy. "Danity Kane."
"The album went to stores on a Tuesday," Greenwald says. "Wednesday, he calls and he's yelling at me, 'We don't have enough product out there! Oh, my God!' And I'm telling him, 'It's OK, everything is shipping. We'll be at 450,000 units by Friday.'" Greenwald says Combs proceeded to call every half hour to report that "another person on MySpace" was reporting missing product. Then the calls shifted to Combs wanting to know if the album would debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. "I was like, 'Why are you even asking?' We were up against OutKast that week. [We were going to sell] 175,000-190,000 -- that's already the win. Well, he just let me have it. He was like, 'What are you doing? You're not hungry!' He hung up on me and then called me back to yell at me some more." Greenwald says she called an emergency meeting at Atlantic, got Danity Kane back on "TRL" and back on BET. "We got on MySpace, got on YouTube and said, 'Help us get to No. 1.' And it's all because he lit such a fire under my ass." Danity Kane wound up, of course, debuting at No. 1. The first-week tally? 234,000. Could the same fate lay in store for "Press Play"? Combs himself downplays the importance of such an accomplishment, at least publicly. He says he expects to work the album like a rock record. This means two years and numerous singles, allowing for a slow build, instead of your average hip-hop album, which usually goes for strong first-week sales and then drops off the radar. So far, first single "Come to Me" has hit but not set the world on fire. This issue it's No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. "This is a long-term project," he says. "I don't want to get caught up in SoundScan. I've been there. To sell a new vision takes time." "We're doing this obviously to come in at the top," Greenwald says. "You'll call me next year at this time, and you'll see where we'll be." And if it isn't on top, it probably won't be us calling. It'll be Combs.
Meet Rhonda Thomas: Atl Based Adult Urban Artist Brings It On
'Breathe New Life'
October 9, 2006) With an unforgettable voice that is enticing and riveting, Rhonda has stamped her name on the hearts of all that have witnessed her singing live. From bringing the roof down in Atlanta's Tabernacle when she sang with Incognito's powerhouse lead-singer Maysa Leak, to winning multiple awards in Harlems Apollo Theater, to New York's famous New Cotton Club and even at the 1996 Olympic Games crowds have fallen under the powerful spell of Rhonda's bold vocal styling. She hails from the Atlanta underground soul scene having performed with renowned artists India.Arie, Donnie (Motown), and is a member of Jiva (Giant Step Records), She wears her influences like an elegant gown draped with the improvisational skill and vocal acrobatics of Sarah Vaughn and Al Jareau, and the sultry depth and emotional effectiveness of Phyllis Hyman and Chaka Khan. Her natural talent, professional drive, and amazing charisma have landed her in the presence of greatness many times. Rhonda's voice has opened many doors for her: she is a background vocalist for Isaac Hayes, and has performed with Luther Vandross, Roy Ayers, Sam Moore of the legendary duo Sam and Dave and Incognito. Rhonda's EP Rhonda Thomas remained number one on the charts of the Internet radio station, Soul 24-7 consecutively for 6 weeks in the fall of 1999. Rhonda's vocal talents have been highlighted in various publications such as JazzTimes Magazine (August 2003). Her most recent album, Breathe New Life, was rated in the top 3 of Listmanias (AMAZON.COM) 25 Best Nu Soul On The Net.
A quote from Isaac Hayes review of Breathe New Life reads: "WOW, a human voice singing songs of substance. Hats off to production, musicianship, arrangement, vocals and don’t miss the lyrics, its a breath of fresh air.” Music isn't just an innate talent of Rhonda. A serious musician, she formally studied music at Hampton University, as well as the New York State Summer School of Arts with personal instruction from members of the New York Metropolitan Opera Company. The voice of Rhonda Thomas will make a believer of anyone with ears to listen. Her boundless energy on stage enchants crowds as her voice exudes power and passion executed with precision. Allow yourself to fall under the spell of her voice and witness the immeasurable gifts of Rhonda Thomas. Check out her music here: www.rhonvocals.com. You can also view a complete interview/live performance on www.myspace.com/rhondathomas.
Contact Information: Rhonvocals Production, LLC P.O. Box 79145 Atlanta, Ga. 30357E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.rhonvocals.com For Bookings: 770-438-7845.
Meet Shareefa: First Soul Woman Signed To Luda's Disturbing The
Source: Kitara Garner, W&W Public Relations, Inc, email@example.com
(October 10, 2006) In an age when everything from fashion to furniture reeks of prefabrication, it is rare to find a genuine realness even in soul music. As the one genre of music that should send shivers through ones body while still managing to touch your heart, much of today's R&B feels as though more thought has gone into the choreography than the songs. And then, there is Shareefa. The first soul woman signed to Disturbing the Peace/Def Jam, this Newark, New Jersey native introduces her special realness on the debut disc Point of No Return. Recruiting studio vets Chucky Thompson, Salaam Remi (How Good Love Feels), Rodney Jerkins and newcomers the Justice League (Butterfly), the mature voiced twenty-three year old Shareefa has created something special. "From the first time I stepped into the studio, it was my goal to try and make classic material," says the singer. Indeed, with one listen to Shareefa ' s vocal styling and production, it is obvious that Point of No Return stands-up next to such stellar debuts that include What ' s the 411 (Mary J. Blige) and Faith (Faith Evans). Raised between Brick City (Newark) and East Orange, young Shareefa was a fan of legendary singers from the time she was a child. "I can remember taping the tributes to Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight that were on the Soul Train Awards," Shareefa says. "I would be rewinding them all the time, practicing those routines until I knew them by heart. In the same way Patti LaBelle could make the hair stand-up on my arms with her voice, I wanted to be able to do the same thing."
Check out Shareefa's music: 'Cry No More'
Coming on strong with her first single "Need A Boss," it's obvious Shareefa has something to say. Produced by Rodney Jerkins, who has constructed past hits for Beyonce and Brandy, this track is the bass heavy jam that is destined for summer song greatness. Riding the rhythm with the confidence of a veteran songstress, "Need A Boss" also boldly displays Shareefa's talents as a budding songwriter. "There are times when I can just feel the beat talking to me and I need to talk back," Shareefa laughs. "From the first moment Rodney played me the track, I felt an instant connection." Label-mate and DTP CEO and co-owner Ludacris also makes an appearance on "Need A Boss." More than pleased with his contribution, Shareefa says, "Luda told me he was going to come hard, but when I heard how good it was, I knew I was blessed." Though Shareefa has cute childhood memories of dressing-up like 90s femmes TLC and Xscape, as well doing household chores with Mikki Howard and Donny Hathaway as her soundtrack, her teen years were a little bit rockier. Moving with her mother and two siblings to Charlotte, North Carolina when she was fifteen, Shareefa remembers, "I just started acting out and being disobedient." "I needed to have a reality check. I woke up when I was seventeen." Shareefa was then introduced to new jack swing innovator Teddy Riley. "At the time, Teddy was putting together a girl group, but he decided work with me as a soloist instead." Teddy also taught his protégé much about the craft of songwriting. "All the love, frustration, betrayal or any other emotions that I feel sooner or later finds its way into my songs." Later, when she and Teddy decided to go their separate ways, Shareefa was blessed to get her demo heard by DTP co-CEO Jeff Dixon. "Jeff liked what he heard, but he still had me audition for him," she says, smiling. "Right on the sidewalk on 114th Street in Harlem, and I sang on the spot." Later that same day, after meeting Ludacris over at MTV studios, Shareefa was welcomed into the family.
While all the collaborators on Point of No Return bring something special to the project, there is a definitely connection between Shareefa and producer Chucky Thompson. "There is something about Chucky that is just eternal," she explains. "From Mary J's My Life to The Notorious B.I.G., he makes the kind of music that has longevity, the kind of soulful sounds that people will be playing twenty years from now." Chucky produced four ballads for Point of No Return including the amazing "Trippin." "He has a studio in Baltimore where we recorded," Shareefa states. "The day I wrote "Trippin" it was raining outside, which just put me in the perfect space to write something sexy and laidback." Seductive as she is talented, Shareefa has no problem putting her message across on Point of No Return, be it about love, hate or indifference. "I'm just straight forward," informs Shareefa. "I'm not trying to put across any false images, I'm just being me."
Pet Shop Boys Stay True To Their Smart, Sophisticated Roots
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic
(Oct. 10, 2006) It took about a decade after the advent of "rave" culture for the snobbish, critical old guard to finally grudgingly concede that there was such a thing as "intelligent dance music" and that in the right hands electronically created sounds are just as capable of evoking emotion as a battered acoustic guitar. Such doubt, however, has never plagued the Pet Shop Boys. Erudite British gentlemen Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have, for a remarkably consistent 25 years, found their high-tech disco-pop a most successful platform for high romance and biting satire, racking up hit after hit around the globe with writerly meditations on gay politics, religious hypocrisy, prostitution, suburban life, the human and cultural toll of AIDS, and other meaty topics not typically given to soaring up the charts. They've approached their pageant-like live shows with the same, refined gusto, too, tending to carry on — as Tennant put it to U.K. newspaper The Guardian this past summer — "more like a touring fringe-theatre company" whilst on the road than a traditional pop act. The Boys have also mounted their own West End theatre production, Closer, and this past year they composed a "strobing, electronic avant-garde classical" soundtrack for Sergei Eisenstein's classic film Battleship Potemkin, which they've since performed live to the silent print. The Boys' latest world tour — their first in three years, supporting last spring's fine Fundamental album — kicks off tonight in Montreal before setting up shop here at the Hummingbird Centre tomorrow evening. And the production, overseen by lauded theatrical designer Es Devlin, promises to be typically immodest. "I hope people don't think we do these things to be pretentious," says Tennant, 52, from Montreal, describing a set that will see "three different versions of Neil and Chris" ensconced in an ever-mutating cube. "Actually, what we do is we do things that we hope to be really enjoyable. I think there's a lot of entertainment value in this tour." Elaborate staging seems appropriate for the Fundamental tour, since the album ranks as one of the Pet Shop Boys' most expansive and elegant recordings. Tennant and Lowe had a collective inkling that the record would be going this way last year and called upon their formative early years collaborator Trevor Horn to blow the whole thing up to 70-mm widescreen scale. They hadn't worked with the producer since the 1988 single "Left To My Own Devices," and found Horn needed a bit of coaxing to fully re-embrace the symphonic studio excesses of his days behind the boards for Yes and ABC.
"It's a bigger-sounding record than the last record (2002's Release), I think. On the last one, we experimented with mixing electronics and guitars, and with this one we started writing these really sort of epic songs that reminded people of some of our work in the '80s or the beginning of the '90s," says Tennant. "So then we brought Trevor in, because he's so good at that sort of thing. We had to encourage him. I kept saying: `Trevor, we're making a Trevor Horn album. Never mind the Pet Shop Boys. It's from the man who made (ABC's) Lexicon of Love.'" Horn's presence notwithstanding, Tennant's literate lyric sheet for Fundamental is arguably the record's most compelling attribute. A disenchanted Labour Party booster, he scorns outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair's collusion with George W. Bush in the Iraq fiasco on "I'm With Stupid" and criticizes Britain's growing authoritarian streak on "Integral." He imagines the scene where Cynthia Lennon returned from holiday to find husband John and Yoko Ono canoodling on the sofa in her house for "I Made My Excuses and Left," muses on an early term for homosexuality on "Psychological" and paints an eloquently lurid portrait of "Casanova In Hell" for one of Fundamental's most curiously touching moments. As a singer and a lyricist, Tennant has never sounded better. And the cool electro-sheen the 46-year-old Lowe brings to cuts like "Psychological" and "Minimal" shows he's been keeping his ear to the underground all along. "I think the secret is there is still the same energy and commitment and imagination in writing songs that there always has been," says Tennant. "It's no different than it was at the beginning. I think we're a little more sophisticated technically, but it would be really weird if we weren't." Some fans might balk at the appearance of Los Angeles hit maker Diane Warren in the songwriting credit to "Numb," but a laughing Tennant assures us he and Lowe haven't run out of ideas. They initially approached Warren, he says, half-jokingly when their record label demanded a new track to augment the 2003 compilation PopArt. "Actually, `Numb' was originally given to Aerosmith, but they were making a blues album and they didn't need a power ballad. I think it's a beautiful song. It's not a formula song. She wrote it about her mother dying of cancer," says Tennant. "If you listen to it now, though, you can imagine Steven Tyler singing it."
Jeremiah -- A Voice Fans will be “Chasing Forever”
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
(October 10, 2006) *Jeremiah stood center stage at Eugene’s where he was surrounded by plush couches and a welcoming atmosphere. Not only due to the ambiance of the room but due to those who came to support the release of his CD, “Chasing Forever.” Jeremiah is a slight man with a tremendously big voice. A well trained voice. He knows exactly how to hit those low notes and then take them so high they touch soprano proportions. There is something about him that exudes joy and confidence in his ability to enrapture his audience and enrapture he does, especially when he sings his emotional ballad “Home.” I saw tears welling in the eyes of his audience, some sat enthralled, eyes shut, moving in tandem to their own heartstrings stroked so beautifully by the melodic voice of the master songster and songwriter on stage. “I grew up in Rochester, New York” said Jeremiah of his family hearth. “There is a purity to the country environment that makes it a great place to raise kids. I went to Syracuse University upstate as an opera major on full scholarship. I studied the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Verdi, Puccini, and all of those wonderful composers. And, because these pieces are sung in various languages, I speak French, Italian, Spanish, and even studied Russian, German, and Latin. Languages are very easy for me. I can say something in Korean and people will say that my accent is pretty authentic. I think that I have an ear which naturally tunes into the musical resonance of the language. Chinese in particular is musical. It’s a tone language,” explained Jeremiah of his classical training and linguistic skills.
Jeremiah came from a musical family, who were there to celebrate Jeremiah’s first record release party. His mother’s face beamed as she listened while her son mastered the stage. “My mother is a wonderful woman and huge influence in my life. She also is a classically trained pianist. She has directed choirs in the gospel community around the country. My sisters were aspiring singers and my brother a percussionist. I sing all types of music because all types of music was played in my home,” said the eclectic balladeer proudly. It seems Jeremiah was not only called to vocalize, he also has a songwriting gift. He has written songs for Celine Dion, Fantasia, et al. “By 9 or 10 years old, I began to write music and I knew it was my calling. I wrote the songs on my CD. I perfected the piano while attending the Performing Arts High School. I couldn’t graduate unless I learned to play” stated the singer. “One thing about singers who are also pianist, they know a way to set their voices to music. Sarah Vaughn was a pianist. There was footage of her performing the song “The Nearness of You” in Japan and the way she structured her voice around the piano was simply amazing. Oleta Adams, also a pianist, sang a song called “Get Here,” a huge hit in the 1990s. The way Oleta set the cording to her voice was what made that song so special. Donny Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, and even Anita Baker are all pianists and singers. You get a different perspective of harmonic choices when you play and sing” remarked Jeremiah. “Rachelle Ferrell is one of my huge musical heroines. She is a special woman. I learned a great deal from her. She was one of the first people who taught me the voice is an instrument. Sometimes we are thought of as just singers, but its more than that. We are musicians. The voice is the first instrument. Rachelle made that fact very clear on one of her albums. Whatever Rachelle puts out is perfect because there is real purity and integrity in her music” stated Jeremiah. Many artists have come to recognize Jeremiah’s wonderful originality. He has worked with artists such as Michael Bolten, Yolanda Adams, George Michael, and Amel Larrieux to name a few. He has appeared in some of New York’s premiere R&B and jazz clubs such as the Blue Note, BB Kings and SOB’s.
“You know when I was younger, I was heavy set. My sisters called me “fat boy,” which was my nick name growing up. Children can be mean, but your siblings can be really mean because they know how to dig. So, it was a painful period for me. However, I used that pain to write songs that had real conviction and sentiment because there was a time I felt unloved, although I knew my family loved me. Being fat made me feel unloved, so I wrote songs that stated ‘one day you are gonna love me.’ In fact the original title of my album was “Folktales of a Fat Boy.” However, the moment I learned to love myself, I changed myself” reflected Jeremiah whose CD is recorded on the Siri Music label and was released October 3rd.Jeremiah recorded a duet with R&B artist Shanice entitled “Love For A While,” which is climbing the charts. “I changed the title from “Folktales of a Fat Boy” to “Chasing Forever” because I realized the album is about love. I am a romantic at heart and in love with the idea of being in love. Love can last forever and I think one day we will all encounter it. After all, at the end of the day, we are all looking for love.” For MORE, visit: www.jeremiahonline.com
Ciara Preps Road Trip Behind ‘Evolution’
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(October 11, 2006) *Ciara will drum up buzz for her upcoming sophomore album “Ciara: The Evolution” with club dates in several cities as well as performances at four major radio station concerts throughout the country. (See itinerary below.) “Previewing the new record in a small setting gives my fans an exclusive experience where they can truly hear and see exactly where I’m going with Ciara: The Evolution,” Ciara explains. “It’s about so much more than just my personal growth – it’s about the evolution of music, the evolution of dance, the evolution of fashion. I want to bring a taste of all that to the fans in a one-on-one environment to get them excited for Ciara: The Evolution.” The set’s first single, “Promise,” is scheduled to premiere on radio Oct. 16. The video, directed by Diane Martel, will debut on BET’s Access Granted on Oct. 25, which is also the singer’s 21st birthday. The album release will follow on Dec. 5.Below is the schedule of tour dates for the “Ciara: Live In Concert” club tour; dates subject to change.
Thu, Oct 26
Sat, Oct 28
Wed, Nov 1
Fri, Nov 3
Sat, Nov 4
Sun, Nov 5
House of Blues
Tue, Nov 7
Thu, Nov 9
Park City, UT
Sat, Nov 11
Sun, Nov 12
House of Blues
San Diego, CA
Mon, Nov 13
House of Blues
Wed, Nov 15
The Moore Theatre
Sat, Nov 18
House of Blues
Las Vegas, NV
Sun, Nov 19
Thu, Dec 7
Sun, Dec 10
New York, NY
In addition to the club dates, Ciara will also be appearing at major radio concerts around the nation in cities such as Philadelphia (Wachovia Center; Oct 27), Boston (Banknorth Garden; Oct 29), Hartford (Dec 8), and Miami (Dec 16), and alongside the Black Eyed Peas December 1st at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Holland's Critical Mass
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter
(Oct. 11, 2006). Dave Holland may be the dean of the bass, but the British-born, New York-based jazz player and composer, who turned 60 last week, is still breaking new ground. In recent years, he's debuted a big band, started a record label and, just this summer, took his "first real vacation" in 25 years. "I just felt it was time to take a step back and slow things down a bit, spend some time with our granddaughter," the married father of three explained by phone from his home in upstate New York. "I kind of live my life on the run and having a chance to be home consistently for a couple months gave me a chance to catch up on a lot of things that have been waiting for my attention: some of them personal, some of them musical." Note that his milestone birthday on Oct. 1 was celebrated onstage with his quintet in Sao Paulo. Holland is touring relentlessly again, with both a small and large combo, making records with each, teaching at the New England Conservatory in Boston and managing Dare2 Records with wife Clare. "Sure, I can't run as fast as I used to, but a lot of playing music is mental. And as long as your mental powers are still developing and keen, I think the body responds to that," said Holland, who performs at The Music Hall on Friday. "I use a lot less effort when I play now than when I was 18 years old, but I get more out of the instrument." As a callow youth on the London jazz scene, his career took off with a 1968 offer from Miles Davis, who heard him at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club.
Replacing bassist Ron Carter, Holland, then 21, toured with the trumpet great for two years and played on his classic recordings In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Holland later worked with Chick Corea, Stan Getz and Thelonious Monk before releasing his first album, The Conference of the Birds, in 1972. "The method I use is just putting one foot in front of the other, learn from what you did today and make use of that lesson tomorrow," said Holland. "I try to follow my heart as much as I can in terms of what music I want to play. "I've loved music since I started playing (ukulele) when I was 5 years old. Music's as much a part of my life as breathing. I've kept my passion for it and love for it because I've been able to do the things I want to do. There's certainly been difficult times for my family and I because of that commitment; we've had, at times, to make a lot of financial sacrifices." As a double bassist, he's celebrated for his technical skills and eloquent tones. His veteran quintet, currently comprised of Chris Potter (sax), Steve Nelson (vibes), Nate Smith (drums) and Robin Eubanks (trombone), is consistently ranked among jazz's best ensembles. The group's new disc, Critical Mass, showcases their funky brilliance with its Arabic influences and stirring harmonies. Though each of the sidemen contributes a song, the disc is truly collaborative, said Holland (credited with four tunes). "We each present a very concrete idea as to what the piece is as a starting point, but we also approach it in the sort of jazz tradition, which is that once the piece is played by the group it takes on its own life, and the individual interpretation of it by each musician is something that only can add to it. "For instance I may have an idea for the drum part, but Nate is much better equipped to take that starting point, and then embellish it and put his own creative ideas on it." The group's penchant for tweaking songs in rehearsals and performances before recording them was the impetus for the Critical Mass album title. "Listening to the playbacks... what struck me first was how much had gone into the recording in terms of discussion ... it occurred to me that the point at which we actually put it on record was a sort of a crucial point: the moment of becoming." Looking for the phrase to embody that, he took up the dictionary. "And when I looked up the definition (of critical mass), I said, `Oh, all that stuff is relevant.' So I thought it was a very good title. And it's got a kind of edge to it, too, which I like."
Juno Awards Change Rules After Criticism
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon
(Oct. 11, 2006) Toronto -- The rules have changed for a number of Juno awards categories. In the past, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has taken some flak for its rules, particularly when many highly acclaimed Canadian bands failed to be nominated. The nomination process for many prominent categories, such as album of the year and artist of the year, were determined by the number of albums sold. More precisely, it was the number of albums shipped to stores. The ultimate winner was then picked by CARAS members or the CARAS board. That has changed. Six of the Junos' 39 categories will still be sales-based (international album of the year, album of the year, artist of the year, group of the year, new artist and new group of the year), but nominees will be determined by actual sales, calculated by taking the average of net total unit sales and the sales figures recorded by Nielsen SoundScan.
‘Idlewild’ Blues For Outkast
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(October 11, 2006) *OutKast has always been known to put out music far ahead of their time, but the latest album to emerge from the duo seemed too much for even the avid fans of their previous CD, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.” According to numbers compiled by the New York Daily News, the group’s new CD “Idlewild” – also a soundtrack to their musical film – didn’t sell half as many units during its first week as their last album. While "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" moved 509,689 copies during its opening week in 2003, “Idlewild” sold only 196,137. The earlier work went on to move some 5.6 million copies. "Idlewild" has stalled with sales of barely 400,000.Much of “Idlewild’s” sales woes are being blamed on its music style – a fusion of '30s jazz and modern hip hop that left many fans and radio programmers confused. Also, “Idlewild” didn’t have a “Hey Ya”-like hit single preceding its debut in stores. Their label released three singles in advance of “Idlewild’s” release: “Mighty O,” which peaked at No. 77 on the Hot 100 (No. 30 on the Rap/R&B chart); “Morris Brown,” and “Idlewild Blue,” both of which were largely ignored by R&B/hip-hop outlets.
Ludacris Offers Billboard Some ‘Therapy
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
October 5, 2006) *For the third time in his career, rapper Ludacris has topped the Billboard 200 album chart. Following 2004’s “Red Light District” and 2003’s “Chicken ‘N Beer,” his latest CD, “Release Therapy,” sold 309,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, to capture the pole position. Despite the relentless promotion of Janet Jackson’s new album “20 Y.O.” – which included a visit to the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” an album-naming contest, interviews on radio stations around the world and gracing endless magazine covers – the CD entered Billboard in second place on sales of 296,000. Fox.com columnist Roger Friedman says her second place debut is disappointing for the Jackson camp and may signal some rough waters ahead. “Believe it or not, Janet is also facing a major problem at radio,” writes Friedman. “Right now, neither of the singles from “20 YO” has cracked pop formats, and ‘So Excited,’ her annoying new single featuring 35-year-old gangsta raptress Khia, is making only a little impact on R&B/hip hop stations.” Meanwhile, Tony Bennett’s “Duets: An American Classic,” featuring Stevie Wonder and John Legend among other guests, has entered the Billboard 200 at No. 3. Elsewhere in the top 10, Justin Timberlake’s "FutureSex/LoveSounds" slips from No. 1 to No. 5; John Mayer's "Continuum" falls 5-6; Fergie's solo debut "The Dutchess" drops 3-9; and “Weird Al” Yankovic’s "Straight Outta Lynwood," featuring the Chamillionaire parody “White and Nerdy,” debuts at No. 10.
Lil’ Kim Signs With ICM
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
October 5, 2006) *Brooklyn-born rapper Lil’ Kim, whose real name is Kimberly Denise Jones, has signed with International Creative Management (ICM) for representation, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The company represents artists in the fields of film, television, commercials, lectures, music and performance, and has offices in Beverly Hills, New York and London. Lil’ Kim recently served a 10-month jail sentence for perjury, and is currently working on another season of her BET reality series, “Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown.” The first season followed the artist in the days leading up to her incarceration. The show’s series premiere was the highest-rated in BET history. Lil' Kim is also said to be developing a project for VH1.
John Legend Takes Care Of ‘Save Room’ Songwriters
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
October 5, 2006) *Buddy Buie and James B. Cobb Jr., the songwriters behind such 1960s hits as “Spooky” and “Traces of Love” by Dennis Yost & the Classics IV, were paid 50 percent of the publishing from John Legend’s new single “Save Room” because it borrows heavily from their song, “Stormy.” “We wouldn’t have accepted the deal otherwise,” Buie told Fox 411’s Roger Friedman of securing half of the song’s income in perpetuity. Legend will pocket the other 50 percent along with two collaborators—the Blackeyed Peas Will.i.am, aka Will Adams, and newcomer Jessyca Wilson—who allegedly helped him pen the new lyrics. Buie said he’s had his songs sampled before, but never with permission beforehand. “This time it was very easy,” he said. “No lawyers were required.” On sharing songwriting credit for “Save Room” with Legend, an artist he’s never met, Buie says: “That is a little odd. …“I think he did a pretty good job with it, but I think the original is better.” *Legend, meanwhile, says in the press release for his new album “Once Again” that he’d never heard of “Stormy.” “I didn’t even know the original.” Legend writes. “I just knew it was a nice organ sound and wanted to write it.”
God’s Divas Are Simply Singing For HIV/Aids Prevention
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
October 4, 2006) With Blacks populating 56% of the new cases of HIV infections, the sexual health of Black America is in a state of emergency. For the sixteenth consecutive year actress, singer and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph’s creative sirens are blaring to raise the collective consciousness about HIV/AIDS to our nation and world. Cronies, up and coming artists and well established entertainers have stepped out to help “fight the good fight against HIV/AIDS” over the last 15 years with sterling talent in Ralph’s acclaimed HIV/AIDS benefit, Divas ... Simply Singing. Each year the Diva and her darlings’ sensational performances trump the events of years past. God’s Diva’s, the legendary Tremaine Hawkins and Karen Clark-Sheard are lending their voices to the line-up on Saturday, October 7 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles at 7:30 p.m. Other Divas scheduled to appear are Natalie Cole, Stephanie Mills, American Idol’s Frenchie Davis, Paris Bennett, Loretta Devine, Jenifer Lewis, Gloria Loring, Vivian Green, Sheryl Lee Ralph, plus “Divos” Rahsaan Patterson and Jimmy Sommers. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the first AIDS diagnoses. A cure for the disease remains to be discovered, but it can be prevented. If you would like to make a contribution to the Divas Foundation (a 501(c) 3 Non-Profit Public Benefit Corporation) or to support this event with your attendance, find further information at www.divassimplysingin.com.
Jay Will And Voice Mail Team Up For Let’s Dance Video
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
October 4, 2006) Voice Mail and director Jay Will recently teamed up for the shoot of the video for the single Let’s Dance. Let’s Dance was produced by Donovan ‘Don Corleon’ Bennett and featured prominently on the Higher Altitude rhythm. ‘The video is going to be different from the previous Voice Mail videos that you have seen. It’s a total different concept and you won’t be seeing any dancers, but just regular people’, Oneil Edwards, a member of the boy group said recently. The video for Let’s Dance was shot in Strawberry Hill over a two day period. ‘Our fans are going to be really surprised when this video comes out’, Edwards said confidently. Let’s Dance has enjoyed steady rotation on the local airwaves over the past few months. The song is currently making strides on the Choice FM Reggae Chart in London, where it peaked at number seven. Voice Mail’s hit streak extends to 2004 with the chart topper Weh Di Time. The group has followed up with equally successive singles including Ready to Party, Get Crazy, Wacky Dip and Do What You Feel Like.
Women Lead Aboriginal Music Award Nominees
Source: Canadian Press
(Oct. 5, 2006) Women dominate the list of nominees for the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards set to take place next month. Garnering quadruple nominations each are Andrea Menard, Susan Aglukark, Tamara Podemski and Donna Kay with Little Island Cree, organizers said Thursday in a release. Menard, Kay and Podemski will battle it out for the title of best female artist while Randy Wood and multiple nominees Stephen Kakfwi and Jared Sowan are the contenders for best male artist. The 19 awards will be handed out Nov. 24 in two ceremonies, one of which will be broadcast on CHUM television stations. The show, to be hosted by Menard, will include a tribute to the East Coast and its indigenous art and a performance by a Maori group from New Zealand, organizers said. Other multiple nominees include Eagle & Hawk, Weaselhead, and Intellifunk.
Foster Named To Music Hall Of Fame
Source: Canadian Press
(Oct. 6, 2006) Celebrated music producer David Foster will be inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame. The Vancouver musician, whose mega-star collaborations have included Celine Dion, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, and Barbra Streisand, will receive the honour March 8, 2007 in Toronto. The accolade comes after an extraordinary career spanning three decades, in which Foster garnered 14 Grammys, seven Junos and an Emmy. His hits have included Houston's "I Will Always Love You", Streisand's "Somewhere", and Dion's first number one hit, "The Power of Love". This year, Foster appeared as a judge on the U.S. television show Celebrity Duets, which pairs pop stars with celebrity amateur singers. He also appeared with his stepsons in the U.S. reality series The Princes of Malibu.
Manilow May Revisit The '70s For Next Album
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Gary Graff, Detroit
(October 06, 2006) As he prepares to unveil his musical trip through the '60s, Barry Manilow predicts that a similar visit to the '70s is inevitable. "Well, it seems like there should be one," says Manilow, who releases "The Greatest Songs of the Sixties," his sequel to last year's chart-topping "The Greatest Songs of the Fifties," on Oct. 31. "It all depends on whether [the new CD] is a hit record. And if it is, I would imagine Clive [Davis] and Arista would say, 'Let's go for the '70s.'" The tricky part of that, Manilow acknowledges, is that the '70s was a decade when he enjoyed his greatest success as an artist, meaning that he'd likely be recording songs that were chart companions to his own hits. "I can't ignore that," he says, "but I do have an idea of how I would tackle that. But I have to talk to Clive about it." On "...Sixties," Manilow covers 13 songs by the Beatles, Burt Bacharach, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Jackie DeShannon, the Righteous Brothers, Dean Martin and others. The set's first single is Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," while Manilow recruited the Association to join him for a medley of its hits "Cherish" and "Windy." Manilow has another Halloween treat for fans; "First & Farewell," a two-disc DVD that features footage from rehearsals for his first-ever headlining tour in 1974 and his 2004 farewell tour performance at the Pond in Anaheim. These days Manilow performs almost exclusively at the Las Vegas Hilton, but he's quietly returning to the road for select engagements rather than full-fledged tours. "I'm not touring; I can't do that anymore, but we're doing bits and pieces," he explains. "We've put together an arena show, and every so often I will go out and do one night somewhere and then come right home. Our first night of doing that is in Atlantic City on Oct. 14, and then the following Saturday (Oct. 21) is in Chicago. And then that's it for four, five months; if we do another one, it won't be 'til January or February."
India.Arie's 'Hair' Regrows With Pink
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Gail Mitchell, L.A.
(October 06, 2006) A previously unreleased version of India.Arie's "I Am Not My Hair" will be heard in a new Lifetime Television movie, "Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy." Arie tells Billboard this version -- a duet between the R&B/soul singer and pop-rocker Pink -- is actually the original version of the song. It will be available on iTunes beginning Oct. 23. "We both had something to say with this song, and we wanted to work together," Arie explains. "This duet should have been the original version on my album ['Testimony: Vol. I, Life & Relationship'], but it fell through the cracks." When Lifetime inquired about using the song for the film, Arie said, "Well, I have this other version that you might like to use." According to Arie, while the song's original idea was rooted in Pink's decision to do away with her pink locks, the last verse was written after watching Melissa Etheridge's triumphant performance on the Grammy Awards, where she appeared bald from chemotherapy to treat breast cancer. "Her performance brought tears to my eyes," Arie says. "At that moment in time, her performance was a juxtaposition of pain and beauty. It symbolized the beauty of strength." The Lifetime movie, premiering Oct. 23, stars Sarah Chalke ("Scrubs") and, in a cameo role, Patti LaBelle. As for Arie, she is in the mist of an October tour that visits Bermuda tonight (Oct. 6) and runs through Oct. 28 in Anaheim, Calif.
Etheridge, Blanchard Set For Film & TV Conference
Excerpt from www.billboard.com
(October 06, 2006) Singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge and composer Terence Blanchard are confirmed to participate at the 2006 Hollywood Reporter/Billboard Film & TV Music Conference. Now in its fifth year, the conference is set for Nov. 14-15 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. Etheridge and Blanchard will be the focus of separate Q&A sessions. Billboard executive editor/associate publisher Tamara Conniff interviews Etheridge; BMI VP of film/TV relations Doreen Ringer Ross talks with Blanchard. A two-time Grammy Award winner, Etheridge received her initial film music training when she was asked to write songs for the 1987 movie "Weeds." Nine albums later, Etheridge continues to write for and perform on TV shows and movie soundtracks, including the title song of the Al Gore documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." New Orleans native and Grammy winner Blanchard has been a jazz mainstay since the '80s. Director Spike Lee tapped Blanchard to score many of his films, including "Mo' Better Blues," for which Blanchard received a Grammy nomination. He has also earned an Emmy Award nomination for work on "The Promised Land" and a Golden Globe nod for scoring Lee's "25th Hour." The Film & TV Music Conference will also feature panel discussions, including the ins and outs of creating music for TV ad campaigns and videogames. For more info, visit Billboardevents.com.
Gwen Gearing Up For New Album, Live DVD
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.
(October 05, 2006) After laying low this year following the birth of her first child, Gwen Stefani is roaring back into action with a variety of projects. According to her Web site, Stefani is "hard at work" on new material with an eye on releasing her second solo album before the end of the year. The as-yet-untitled set will include a number of Pharrell Williams collaborations that didn't make the cut on Stefani's 2004 debut, "Love.Angel.Music.Baby, including the Slim Thug-featuring "Breakin' Up." Stefani has also logged studio time with her No Doubt bandmate Tony Kanal, Akon and producer Swizz Beatz. Despite having a head start on another album, the artist told Billboard.com late last year she was resisting the temptation to go right back in the studio. "Honestly, I need to get inspired," she said. "I don't have a real focus of musical inspiration right now and it was so strong with 'Love.Angel.Music.Baby.' I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I had such a fire of inspiration and I feel like I used it all up." "Love.Angel.Music.Baby," which has sold 3.8 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, was supported with a tour that started small but more than doubled in size due to demand. "I just wanted to hear the fans sing the songs back and make it feel real," Stefani said. "Being in a band that [has toured for] so many years, to not have that be part of this album just felt like I would be missing out. The initial tour was only 19 shows and it turned into 42." According to Stefani's site, a concert DVD, "Harajuku Lovers Live," will also arrive before the end of the year. The film was shot at Arrowhead Pond in Stefani's hometown of Anaheim, Calif., and was directed by Sophie Muller. Finally, this fall will see the release of eight dolls inspired by the album and tour that are reflective of "the distinctive style and personality which have made Gwen Stefani an icon," her site says. The dolls will be bundled with interchangeable outfits as well as Stefani posters, trading cards and other accessories.
Connick Doubles The Pleasure With New Albums
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Katie Hasty, N.Y.
(October 04, 2006) Harry Connick, Jr. will release a pair of new albums on Feb. 6. "Oh, My Nola," will be issued via Columbia, while the all-instrumental "Chanson du Vieux Carre" will hit shelves via Marsalis Music. The artist's New Orleans hometown is celebrated on both albums, with covers of songs like "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)," "Bourbon Street Parade" and Dixieland favourite "Fidgety Feet." Connick penned four new songs for "Oh, My Nola," and recruited Kim Burrell to join him in the studio for first single "All These People," which was inspired by the struggles of New Orleans residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Connick also tries his hand at "Hello Dolly" and "Working in the Coal Mine." "Chanson du Vieux Carre" was recorded three years ago with the pianist's big band and features two originals: the title track and "Ash Wednesday." It also includes standards like "That's a Plenty" and Louis Armstrong's "Someday You'll Be Sorry." All royalties from "All These People" will be donated to Connick and Branford Marsalis' own New Orleans Habitat Musicians' Village non-profit. A portion of the royalties of both albums will donated as well.
Marley Under 'Control' With Mos Def, Ben Harper
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Wes Orshoski, N.Y.
(October 03, 2006) "Mind Control," the long-awaited solo debut from reggae royalty Stephen Marley, will be released on Feb. 6 via Tuff Gong/Ghetto Youths/Universal Republic. The set will feature cameos from friends and admirers Ben Harper and Mos Def. "Mind Control" will arrive on what would have been the 62nd birthday of Stephen's iconic father. Marley previewed tracks from the album in between choice covers of his father's songs on this past summer's Roots, Rock, Reggae festival, also featuring older brother Ziggy and Bunny Wailer. Since the dissolution of the Marley sibling group the Melody Makers, Stephen has racked up credits as a producer and co-writer en route to five Grammy wins, more than any other reggae artist. He helmed younger brother Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley's past two records, including the breakthrough hit "Welcome to Jamrock," which won a best reggae album Grammy. As previously reported, Stephen will join his mother, Rita Marley, and Damian in South Africa in February for Africa Unite 2007, a series of benefit concerts, symposiums, fundraisers and events in Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town.
Quebec Jazz Drummer Dies
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press
(Oct. 10, 2006) MONTREAL — Renowned Quebec jazz drummer Bernard Primeau died Monday of cancer, on the eve of the release of his 11th album, his publicist confirmed. He was 67. Primeau had described his latest effort as the album of his career and it will be released as planned. He had already announced he would not attend the launch because of his health. Born on Jan. 5, 1939 in Montreal, he began his professional career in 1956 doing drum rolls in a strip club. He went on to become one of Montreal's best-known musicians. Primeau played for years in a trio with pianist Oliver Jones and bassist Charlie Biddle. In 2005, Primeau received the Oscar Peterson Prize for his contributions to Canadian jazz.
EUR Film Review: The Last King of Scotland
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
October 5, 2006) *Was Uganda's Idi Amin (1924-2003) merely a monomaniacal misanthrope as suggested by the generally-accepted myth, or was he a diabolical despot with more of a method to his madness? The conventional caricature created over the course of his eight-year reign of terror dismissed the sadistic strongman as a laughingstock among world leaders. This was based on an array of increasingly bizarre, mostly unsubstantiated rumours circulated in the Western press depicting him as a depraved character indulging in erratic behaviour ranging from a childlike narcissism to outright cannibalism. Conveniently overlooked, in the rush to dismiss Amin simply as a paranoid lunatic who had senselessly slaughtered 300,000 of his own people without rhyme or reason, was the fact that he was a Muslim and that much of the sectarian violence which erupted in the wake of his 1971 coup had been along religious rather than tribal lines.
For example, soon after assuming power, not only did he create death squads comprised primarily of trusted Nubian and Sudanese from the Islam-dominated north, but he also broke off diplomatic relations with Israel, while cultivating closer ties with Arab countries. This explains why, in 1976, the pro-PLO Amin allowed Palestinian terrorists to land a hijacked airliner at Uganda's International Airport at Entebbe; and why, when he was ultimately exiled in 1979, he was granted asylum by Saudi Arabia. So, given the recent rise of radical Islam, one might expect a new bio-pic revisiting the life of the despicable dictator to take a fresh look at his motivations as possibly one of the early proponents of an emerging ideology. Unfortunately, The Last King of Scotland presents Amin as essentially that creepy, cartoonish persona we're already familiar with, rather than from a more complicated perspective. The problem undoubtedly emanates from the source material, since the picture is based on the historical novel of the same name written by Giles Foden, a Scotsman who was a child at the time that his subject was in power.
To read full review by Kam Williams - CLICK HERE.
Forest Whitaker Masterfully Plays The Charismatic, Terrifying
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic
The Last King of Scotland
(out of 4)
Starring Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Simon McBurney, Gillian Anderson. Written by Jeremy Brock and
Peter Morgan. Directed by Kevin Macdonald. 121 minutes.
At the Varsity. 18A
(Oct. 6, 2006) Ever since first menacing Paul Newman in The Color of Money 20 years ago, Forest Whitaker has always seemed to contain something scary beneath that soft-voiced gentle giant exterior. In The Last King of Scotland, in which Whitaker plays the nutbar big-baby Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada, he lets it all out. In the process, an entire country is rendered a quaking Paul Newman. Based on a novel by Giles Foden, and directed by the documentary maker Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void), Last King of Scotland tells the story of a restless, devil-may-care idealist doctor from Scotland (James McAvoy) who chooses Uganda as a professional destination only after the first spin of his bedroom globe stops when his finger lands on (big yawn) Canada. After tending to the wounds of the rising would-be saviour of the Ugandan people following a road accident, McAvoy's Nicholas is utterly flabbergasted when asked to become the eccentrically Scot-loving Amin's personal physician. Wooed by the big man's promises of glory and summons to humanitarian responsibility — not to mention a big, Elvis Presley-worthy bedroom and a flash new car — Nicholas soon finds himself falling under the spell of the volatile but charismatic Amin. The Last King of Scotland may be a curious movie — a hybrid of whimsical fiction and brute fact that never quite fuses — but it is not often a dull one. Working with 28 Days Later cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, Macdonald nudges the movie through a state of sun-blasted delirium that subsequently dissolves into stark horror as Nicholas is drawn further into Amin's orbit. As that orbit starts spinning more and more darkly, the movie that began as a kind of oddball fish-out-of-water character study turns into an allegory for the seductive nature of absolute power. And seductive it is. Although Nicholas has plenty of opportunities to wake up to Amin's flourishing insanity and flee, he stays until it's too late — and well beyond the point where he knows better. He may hate himself for it (and McAvoy's smartly unlovable performance takes a nice turn from selfish delight to stark self-loathing), but he can't tear himself away. In this regard, he's a bit like Jude Law's Jack Burden in the current re-make of All the King's Men: a guy too smart not to know what's going on, but too scared and star-struck to move.
And if Nicholas is this movie's Burden, Amin is its Gov. Willie Stark, with the singular difference that Forest Whitaker most definitely isn't Sean Penn — or at least the fulminating Penn of King's Men. Instead of hanging over the movie like a ravenous vulture, Whitaker occupies its centre like a dark beating heart. As Amin, the actor holds every scene he's in with a kind of explosive gravity. You're always waiting for him to blow and the actor makes the mere possibility of that happening every bit as unsettling as the actual event. When he leans into a terrified subordinate, all the light in the room seems to disappear. You understand perfectly well that he inspires loyalty and fear in people in equal measure and the man's combined quality of cheerful childlike playfulness and simmering homicidal rage tripwires every scene he's in with the potential for chaos. If the movie has a problem, it's in the frankly bizarre conception. Amin is a sufficiently charismatic and terrifying character in his own historical right (and, if you've ever seen Barbet Schroeder's 1974 documentary Idi Amin Dada, you'll know how close to the real article Whitaker is), so the imposition of the fictional Scottish doctor — a device which may well work splendidly on the page — never seems warranted. Do we really need a literary concoction to convince us of either Amin's magnetism or his madness? Or of the inextricable political potency of the two combined? It's possible that Macdonald wanted to make a point — a welcome one, by the way — about the futility of well-intentioned white western idealism in the face of a force as evil as Amin's and a country as unlike Scotland as Uganda. In that case, the movie might have been strengthened by more context. We learn almost nothing about Uganda, its culture or its people, which effectively removes Amin from the realm of the historical and casts him as a monstrous psychotic anomaly. When Nicholas is drawn into Amin's dark lair, the doors close behind him and the world is largely left outside. How much more frightening is the monster that the world creates.
A Performance Fit For A Queen
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Jennie Punter
(Oct. 11, 2006) COPENHAGEN -- 'The Queen's best friend saw the film last night and apparently we got her approval," reported Stephen Frears, director of The Queen, in which the luscious 61-year-old actress Dame Helen Mirren -- wearing a grey wig, sensible brogues and large glasses -- proves a dead ringer for Her Royal Highness and delivers one of the most talked-about performances of the year. Frears, slightly rumpled and anxiously awaiting the arrival of a filtered cigarette, admitted that he was completely exhausted. He had just finished teaching an all-day master class on the second day of the Copenhagen International Film Festival (which ended Oct. 1), where The Queen received its (or is that her?) Danish premiere. "I only finished the film six weeks ago and within 10 days it became this acclaimed film," Frears said. (The film opens in Toronto on Friday and across Canada in the next two weeks.) He was referring not only to The Queen's world premiere in early September at the Venice Film Festival, where Mirren won the best-actress award, but also to its overwhelming positive reception in the United Kingdom, where it opened a couple of weeks later. "It surprised me that nobody in England attacked the film -- that's the shocking thing," said Frears, laughing. "The film doesn't really say anything particularly new or controversial, but the very idea of making a film about the Queen is risky and very impertinent." Most of The Queen portrays what unfolds behind closed doors (or, specifically, behind closed palace gates) from the time of Princess Diana's death in a car crash in Paris to her funeral.
The story is told through the Queen's relationships with the recently elected Prime Minister Tony Blair and with "the people," angered by what they perceive as the Queen's lack of an appropriate response to Diana's death. "It was the only time in my life the Queen was ever publicly criticized," Frears said. "She appeared to falter, whereas you would normally say of her that she is sure-footed." Frears said all he longs for as a filmmaker is "a new subject," which The Queen most definitely was. "If you're British, it's like making a film about bits of your life," he added. "She has been in my head for 60 years without my having given it a moment's thought." An A-list director who also works in TV, Frears is known for his skill with actors, sense of humour and ties with writers such as Hanif Kureishi and David Hare. His films include the edgy Thatcher-era films My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987), Hollywood movies such as Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and High Fidelity (2000), and Irish films The Snapper (1993) and Liam (2001). The Queen marks Frears's second collaboration with writer Peter Morgan, who wrote The Deal (2003), a TV drama directed by Frears about the politics behind the leadership challenge of the Labour Party. (Michael Sheen plays Tony Blair in both The Deal and The Queen.) Many reviewers have praised the balance of humour and emotion in The Queen. Although it was in the screenplay, Frears said, it was a challenge to maintain it in the editing room. "The film had to be witty because the Royal Family are generally the butts of jokes," he said. "Generally, they're treated as rather ridiculous people, but what's more interesting about this film is that they are treated seriously."
A large poster of The Queen suddenly fell off the wall in front of Frears. "Good gracious, she's just collapsed," he said in mock horror. "There, you see, you can't stop laughing. "I think when you have living people portrayed in a film, you tend to be more generous," he added. "Especially with the Royal Family, they can't quite answer back. They're above us, in some way, and they can't come down and say, 'No, I'm not like that.' " Since Venice, Mirren, best known for her starring role as Detective Inspector Jane Tennyson in the Prime Suspect series (and known as the "sex queen of Stratford" in the 1960s due to some flesh-baring performances), has been getting widespread attention, but during production, the news media were strangely quiet. "When she first came out of the makeup room, it was rather startling, and when those first photos of Helen looking so like the Queen were published, that moment had to be dealt with," Frears recalled. "But otherwise I don't think anyone really realized what we were up to. Perhaps they thought we were making a satire." Aside from Mirren's performance, the use of archival footage, also in the original script, is one of the most impressive things about The Queen. "We could never have afforded to recreate those scenes, and even if we had, they wouldn't have been as good," Frears said. "All the business about Diana grew in the editing room, and she became this ghost haunting the film. The shots were so powerful we kept finding excuses to use them." One of the challenges in making The Queen was the portrayal of Blair's early popularity to an audience now largely disappointed with their Prime Minister. "The arc of this Prime Minister has been changing his mind from Clinton to Bush, so in the film we have the metaphor of him changing his mind to become more defensive of the Queen," Frears explained. And as for the Queen herself? "In the end, she did what she was told, or decided that it was foolish to go on saying what she was saying," Frears said. "You could say that learning to change your mind is just part of growing up -- although I prefer the Queen changing her mind to Blair's shift. "You could say the film is about someone making a mistake and realizing they have to get themselves out of a mess," he added. "And on the whole, I prefer people who deal with doubt instead of certainties."
Anthony Anderson Takes Part In ‘Departed’
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(October 6, 2006) Every so often, a film comes along that gets both audiences and critics buzzing. Every once in a while, a film recruits some of the most highly acclaimed cast and crew members. Every now and again, moviegoers salivate for a film opening. Every blue moon a film gets thespians, action fiends, and film students worked up. That time very well may have come with the release of the new film “The Departed.” The film, a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong hit film “Infernal Affairs,” revolves around a rivalry between the Massachusetts police force and an Irish-American gang. The flick follows the shakedown of cops and gangsters with a twist, as the gangsters have recruits in the police force and the police have an undercover agent in the gang. The film is directed by Martin Scorsese and has a superstar cast of Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Whalberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Balwin, and Anthony Anderson. Anderson, who said he is quite excited about being a part of the film, took a few moments out to breakdown the film. “The story is mole vs. mole,” Anderson explained. “There’s a leak in our department; we know that, but we don’t know who it is. We know there’s an undercover agent in Nicholson’s gang; he knows it, but he doesn’t know who it is. He’s trying to flush it out and we’re trying to flush our mole out.”
DiCaprio plays young rookie, Billy Costigan, charged with infiltrating the mob run by Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson. Damon plays Colin Sullivan, the young cop planted in the force by Costello. Anderson plays a police officer who is friends with both of the young cops. Anderson says that the cast did a phenomenal job in the film, but was very impressed with DiCaprio in particular. “I think a lot of people are going to be surprised in the performances across the board, but more specifically in Leo and what he becomes in being this character, Billy. It’s scary – not only does he go undercover to infiltrate the gang, but he really becomes this gangster. It has to be believable to everyone on both sides for it to work. I think he got lost in that character and brought it to life,” he said. Anderson, who starred in the highly acclaimed film “Hustle & Flow” with Terrence Howard, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in that film, said that working with powerful actors is certainly a good place to be. “This is like a dream cast, a dream project for any actor regardless of who you have directing, but to have Marty [Scorsese] direct this and to have some of cinema’s best talent attached to it and working with them everyday, that’s all you ever want to do,” Anderson told us. "You want to go to work every day with the best people around you and that’s what we have in this cast.” “The Departed” opens nationwide today. For more go HERE.
Minister Nick Cannon?
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
October 4, 2006) We see him cracking jokes as the host of MTV’s wildly popular Wild’n Out, modeling his personal style on the pages of Black Enterprise (September ’06) or in a music video. To boot, he has a number of respectable movies under his belt. “The Cannon” (Nick that is) may have starred in Underclassman, but he has exploded into the upper ranks of young Hollywood. The 26-year old multi-talented star says that his success is a blessing more than anything else. Nick comes from a long line of ministers and believes he is carrying on their Godly legacy in the field of entertainment. “I’m trying to follow in their footsteps in an different aspect ... entertainment is my ministry.” When asked to expound on his perspective Cannon replied: “I believe it’s my duty to be a light in the entertainment field and you can kinda stand firm and show people you stand for certain things. It’s definitely a form of ministry in many different ways.”
Cannon deals with the often insulting humour and curse words on Wildn’ Out by making sure he does not act like his peers. “... it’s not my duty to pass judgment, but to stand firm in what I do. If you watch closely, the way I carry myself and my behaviour is a little different than everybody else. And that’s all I can do is continue to be that example more than stepping out there and claim to be holier than thou.. . .but we are supposed to strive to be perfect because we’re supposed to be trying to be Christ-like. And that’s what I believe.” Cannon is narrow in stature, but keeps an open mind about bringing the unsaved into the Christian fold. “You gotta keep the doors of the Kingdom open with open arms and let people come as they are ... you gotta be wise as a serpent, but gentle as a dove. That’s what I’m trying to do. ”
We Remember Tamara Dobson
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(October 6, 2006) *Actress Tamara Dobson, one of the blaxploitation era’s biggest stars and best known for her turn as crime-fighting Cleopatra Jones in two 70s films, died Monday of complications from pneumonia and multiple sclerosis at the Keswick Multi-Care Center in Baltimore, where she had lived for the past two years, her publicist said. She was 59. The 6-foot-2 star appeared in several projects in the 1970s and 80s, including the films "Come Back, Charleston Blue," "Murder at the World Series" and "Chained Heat"; as well as television shows "Jason of Star Command" and "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century." But it was her role as a kung-fu fighting government agent in 1973’s “Cleopatra Jones” and 1975's sequel "Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold" that made her an icon and one of several indelible characters to come out of the blaxploitation period, along with “Superfly’s” Priest (Ron O’Neal) and “Shaft’s” John Shaft (Richard Roundtree). "She was not afraid to start a trend," her brother, Peter Dobson, said in a statement. "She designed a lot of the clothing that so many women emulated." Dobson’s Cleopatra Jones inspired the creation of other tough, black female leads such as Pam Grier in the films "Coffey" and "Foxy Brown," and Teresa Graves in "Get Christie Love." “Cleopatra Jones” was also parodied in "Austin Powers in Goldmember" (2002), which starred Mike Myers and Beyonce Knowles as Foxxy Cleopatra. Dobson lived most of her adult life in New York, where she and tennis legend Arthur Ashe became the first two African-Americans to reside at the exclusive Carnegie House Condominiums at 57th and 6th Streets. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis six years ago. "It was tough going through that debilitating disease, especially with her athleticism and involvement in karate," Peter Dobson says. "That was something she had to fight, and that fight was horrendous ... and being a proud individual, the fight was even harder for her." Dobson is survived by her brother, Peter, and sister, Darilyn, a model who became known as the Palmer's Cocoa Butter girl. She was also a devoted aunt to her brother's three children: Kaleb, 10; Valyn, 12; and Aaron, 17. Services are pending.
7 Questions: Andy Dick
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt
(Oct. 6, 2006) NEW YORK — In Employee of the Month, which stars Dane Cook and Dax Shepard as co-workers at a big-box store facing off for the affections of Jessica Simpson, Andy Dick takes a supporting role as a legally blind optometrist. This week, a few hours before an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, a convivial Dick held forth in an Upper East Side hotel suite, dressed in a pair of grey gym shorts (apparently unencumbered by underwear) and a complimentary T-shirt from the British clothing line merc with the tag still on, while gulping an icky-looking green drink containing JUVO freeze-dried vegetable powder, and perusing menus from local raw-food restaurants. A knot of neckties, an acoustic guitar, a pile of books and a pair of Crocs littered the floor.
I guess I should ask a question pegged to Employee of the Month: What sort of wage-slave work did you do before hitting it big?
I've done everything. I've shovelled snow, cut grass. I was a busboy, a babysitter, stock boy. I worked in a shoe department. I was a waiter at many different places. Every job you can name, I've had. I clawed my way to the middle. The worst one was working as a stock boy at a Kmart in Joliette, Ill. You got a free lunch at the Kmart cafeteria if you cleaned out the grease pit -- which was absolutely disgusting. The manager of the place already stunk, but it smelled like he'd crawled into the drain and died. It was just like death. Literally dry-heaving and vomiting.
Okay, but film work has its own challenges. How tough was it -- and I ask because I've never done this -- co-starring with Jessica Simpson's cleavage?
Distracting. It really was. She's got very nice double-Ds -- and they're real! I actually [touched them] accidentally -- honestly, people would think it was on purpose, but in her new music video, my character has a fantasy sequence where I'm in the photo booth with her, and I reach around to put my arm around her, and I reached around way too far and I didn't know but I'm literally resting my hand on her right [breast]. I didn't even know what I was doing until after.
And her rather protective father, Joe, who is one of the 11 producers on Employee of the Month, didn't punch your lights out?
No, he didn't. I guess I'm not a threat. Which is kind of sad.
In a new show you're developing for Comedy Central, you're taking on a lot of roles: writer, director, actor, producer, editor. You might want to be careful you don't go all Chappelle.
You mean go crazy and go away? I've already gone crazy and went away to rehab and dried out seven times over. No one ever knows, you know? It's like, they used to care, when I was on NewsRadio, but now Robin Williams steals all my rehab thunder. He comes on and gets the red carpet treatment. 'You're back! Sound the trumpets!' Then I come back and they're like: 'We really don't care if you keep on drinking.'
So are you back?
I'm clean and sober right now, yeah yeah yeah. Can't you tell? No, you know what? People can't. When I'm drunk, they think I'm sober, when I'm sober they think I'm on something, 'cause when I'm sober I have soooo much energy that they think: There's gotta be something wrong. And then when I'm drunk, I pretty much just act more normal. I'm just much more laid-back, I don't talk, I just sit there and listen, 'cause I'm drunk! It's mostly drinking, but there was pot sometimes. Sometimes cocaine, but that gets blown way out of proportion. Everything that you hear about me probably started with a seed of truth and then grew into a nasty vine that took over the whole garden and then choked out the roses.
Anyone who can come up with a metaphor like that is obviously sober. On Monday, New York City politicians criticized an 'energy drink' called Cocaine, for glamorizing drug use. Any advice for parents and politicians?
I think our whole nation glamorizes everything. Even on my new favourite TV show Heroes, one of the heroes does Internet porn! And I think that is glamorized, you know? Even though they try to make it look seedy and not cool, just the fact that they put it on TV and that she's doing it and that she's one of the heroes, it glamorizes it. Because there's gonna be people who say: 'Well, she did it!' I just don't like that. Listen, the reason drugs were okay in my eyes to do is because I read the book Wired. Even that book about John Belushi's life and death glamorized drugs. Even though it's like: Here's a bible of what NOT to do -- somebody like me goes, well, he got everything that I would want. I want all that, I would love to be on a show and be making a million people laugh. So I used it as a road map on what to do.
How long have you been clean?
Three months or so. Not that long. Right after the William Shatner roast, I just stopped. The roast was so hard-core, and everyone was having fun, everyone was drunk. Everyone was drunk, but I'm the only one that gets chastised for it. Because I already don't have boundaries. So when you hand a drink to somebody that already doesn't have a filter, it's like handing scissors to a two-year-old or something: I'm gonna wind up poking out my own eyes, maybe -- but hopefully yours. And I know I'm gonna drink again, but right now I feel like I wanna get some work done, I wanna have more fun. Because the drinking gets out of control and it stops being fun. It always and ultimately stops being fun.
Boosting Brazil's Movie Industry
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Muello, Associated Press
(Oct. 6, 2006) RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — The 2005 film The Constant Gardener won acclaim at film festivals and an Oscar for best supporting actress Rachel Weisz. Now the film's Brazilian director is harnessing his fame to jump-start his country's struggling movie industry. Fernando Meirelles has signed a three-year deal with Universal Pictures and its Focus Features unit to bring Brazilian-made films, in English as well as Portuguese, to the studio. The contract gives them a first look at new Brazilian movies — and could bring new life to Brazilian cinema, for years relegated to art-house cinemas abroad. As the industry looks for a new niche in the international market, Meirelles' recent success — and the prospect of new foreign backing — is a major asset. "Fernando Meirelles today may be the Brazilian director with the greatest international prestige," said Alberto Flaksman, superintendent of foreign trade for government film regulator Ancine. "This is a recognition of his talent and importance ... and could mean a new source of revenue.'' The first-look deal doesn't guarantee Universal will produce any Brazilian films but it does make it likely. It doesn't cover personal projects by Meirelles or his O2 Filmes — Brazil's biggest independent studio. "This agreement should work well to launch new directors," Meirelles said. "Having Universal as another 'player' in the production of Brazilian films is good news." Brazil's market today is dominated by foreign moviemakers. Local films had a 10 per cent market share, and just one Brazilian movie — the romantic comedy If I Were You — was among the year's top 10 box-office hits.
Brazilian cinema got its start in 1930 and reached its apex during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, when the government created the state-run giant Embrafilme to promote Brazilian culture as part of a national development project called "Big Brazil." After the films were produced they were turned over to the government for censorship. Box-office hits like Bruno Barreto's 1976 film Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands — which drew nearly 11 million moviegoers, a Brazilian record — and Caca Diegues' 1979 Bye Bye Brazil were the industry's high-water marks. The dictatorship collapsed in 1985, and so did Brazilian movies. President Fernando Collor de Mello shuttered Embrafilme in 1990 and left Brazilian moviemakers unsupported in a market dominated by Hollywood. Ticket sales plummeted, movie theatres closed across the country and Brazilians stayed home to watch television. Today, the country has fewer than half as many movie theatres as 30 years ago and only 7 per cent of Brazilian cities have a movie theatre. Mexico, the Latin American country with the most movie theatres, has one for every 30,000 residents while Brazil has one screen for every 95,000 residents. The industry's recovery has been fuelled by a 1993 law that created a tax write-off for investments in Brazilian movies. And now, a new generation of moviemakers is drawing international attention. Walter Salles' Central Station received 1999 Oscar nominations for best foreign film and best actress (Fernanda Montenegro). Meirelles also was nominated in 2004 for City of God, about life in a crime-ridden Rio de Janeiro slum. "There's no doubt that Brazilian cinema today is incomparably better at the box office than it was 10 years ago," Meirelles said. "Even so, we never matched the ticket sales of the 1970s."
The rap on Brazilian movies was that they didn't attract foreign viewers. Many dealt with uniquely Brazilian themes — like slum violence — and were aimed exclusively at the domestic market. Soundtracks in Brazil's Portuguese language were another drawback — the only other market was Portugal. Today, Brazilian movies are trying for a more international look. "There's a nascent movement to 'internationalize' our cinema,'' Meirelles said. "I'm always alert to these chances and believe Brazilian cinema is original and interesting to foreign audiences.'' Brazilian actors also are looking abroad. Montenegro, the grande dame of Brazilian cinema, recently got raves in New York for her role in House of Sand, a film about three generations of women and their difficult lives in the desert of northern Brazil. She was invited by England's Mike Newell to star in Love in the Time of Cholera, based on the novel by Colombian Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Still, the Brazilian film industry was alarmed at this summer's generally poor box-office performance — even U.S. blockbusters have suffered. Ancine's Flaksman said movies have been hurt by competition from high-quality television, online distribution of films, pirated copies of new releases and the shrinking time span between when a movie is released in the theatres and when it appears on DVD or cable TV. Theatres also are gearing up for an impending changeover to digital cinema, he said. "It's expensive, but you'll have to do it. It's like the change from silent movies to talkies," Flaksman said. With costs rising and box-office sales uncertain, Meirelles' new deal could point the way for Brazilian moviemakers — forging partnerships with major studios. "Both Fernando and Walter work like that — closing a package deal with a producer — not just for one movie, but adding cheap projects," said Pedro Butcher, editor of the respected weekly Filme B. "It's a great chance for a young moviemaker.''FILM TIDBITS
McConaughey To Play Football Coach
Source: Associated Press
(Oct. 5, 2006) HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Matthew McConaughey says he immediately committed to a role in the upcoming film "We Are Marshall" after reading the script. McConaughey plays coach Jack Lengyel, who took over the Marshall University football team after a plane crash killed 75 players, coaches and community members in November 1970. "There's two scripts I've read in my career — I've made 37 films — that as soon as I finished the last page, I said, 'I'm in, no matter what,'" McConaughey said Wednesday. He named "We Are Marshall" and his first film, 1993's "Dazed and Confused.'' "I finished the script and I couldn't get it off my mind," he said of "We Are Marshall.'' "I had emotions that I haven't had in a while. I didn't know this story.'' The film tells the story of the football program's rebuilding. Lengyel was hired in March 1971, four months after the team's chartered jet crashed into a hill short of Tri-State Airport in rain and fog. Lengyel oversaw a patchwork quilt of players. There were three dozen walk-ons — former servicemen, a soccer player, basketball players and transfer students. They joined the few returning players who were not on the plane and a group of freshmen who were not allowed to play the previous fall due to NCAA restrictions.
Terrence Howard Cast In ‘Iron Man’
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(October 11, 2006) *After months and months of rumours, Terrence Howard has been confirmed to star opposite Robert Downey Jr. in Marvel’s “Iron Man,” reports Reuters. Howard will play Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes, the best friend of Iron Man alter-ego and billionaire industrialist, Tony Stark. Jon Favreau is directing the film, which is scheduled to begin shooting February in Los Angeles. Paramount Pictures will put the action flick in theatres on May 2, 2008.Howard, an Oscar nominee for his lead role in last year's "Hustle & Flow," just recently wrapped production on "The Brave One" with Jodie Foster and is shooting "Spring Break in Bosnia" with Richard Gere. His credits include “Crash,” "Idlewild," "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " and "Four Brothers."
Pitt, Jolie Begin India Shoot
Source: Associated Press
(Oct. 6, 2006) PUNE, India — Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were in India on Friday, preparing to shoot scenes for their movie on the life of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, a member of the film crew said. Neither Pitt nor Jolie made any public comments Friday, but were spotted at the Le Meridian Hotel in Pune. In the nearby suburb of Aundh, about 50 workers readied a spacious bungalow for the start of filming next week, according to a set manager who did not want to be named because the crew has been warned that leaking information to the media could cost them their jobs. Elsewhere in the city, assistants scouted more locations for A Mighty Heart. Jolie is playing Pearl's widow, Mariane; Pitt is a producer for the film. Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002 while researching a story on Islamic militancy. The set manager said the Pune bungalow was chosen becomes it closely resembles a home in Karachi, Pakistan, where Pearl and his wife spent time. Security for the star couple was so tight that their arrival in Pune by private jet Thursday was missed by television reporters and journalists waiting at the airport. "They were whisked out of the airport from the cargo section so that the press and no one else could catch a glimpse of them,'' said Deepak Shastri, the airport director. In Pakistan, crew members ran into trouble in July while filming without permission near Karachi's Village restaurant, where Pearl had planned to meet a contact shortly before his abduction. Officials halted the filming and police and federal agents arrested three Pakistani men — who were wearing police uniforms and carrying guns — for impersonating policemen. The movie is based on an adaptation of Mariane Pearl's book, A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl. It is being co-produced by Plan B, a production company founded by Pitt and his ex-wife, Jennifer Aniston.
Halle Berry To Star As Teacher In New Film
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(October 6, 2006) *Halle Berry’s next movie role will center on the true story of Tierney Cahill, a teacher from Reno, Nev. who accepted a challenge from her sixth grade class to run for Congress in 2000. The actress will portray Cahill in the DreamWorks drama, titled “Class Act.” The filmmakers have taken a rare turn in casting an African American actress to portray a woman who is white in real life. Sources close to the production tell Variety that it was more important to find the right actress for the role rather than the right white actress. In 2000, Cahill decided to grant the wishes of her students and run for Congress on the condition that they would help with her campaign. The single mother ultimately lost her bid to an incumbent, but she ended up winning 35% of the popular vote. DreamWorks recently acquired “Class Act” in turnaround from Revolution Studios with the goal of putting it into production in May or June. In the meantime, Berry is currently filming the DreamWorks drama "Things We Lost In the Fire," and will next be seen in the adult thriller "Perfect Stranger," due in theatres May 2007 from Sony.
Ludacris Cast In Christmas Comedy
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(October 6, 2006) *Recent chart-topper Ludacris has been cast as an angry elf in the upcoming Christmas comedy, “Fred Claus,” which stars Vince Vaughn as Santa’s loser brother living in New York. Vaughn’s title character returns home to the North Pole and almost ruins Christmas, according to a synopsis in the Hollywood Reporter. The Warner Bros. project also stars Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey, John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks. The film will be directed by David Dobkin, who previously worked with Vaughn in "The Wedding Crashers." As previously reported, Ludacris sold 309, 000 copies of his new album “Release Therapy” to enter the Billboard 200 album chart at No. 1 this week. His acting credits include critically-acclaimed turns in “Crash” and “Hustle and Flow.”
10 Hot Canucks On New Prime-Time Shows
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
(Oct. 7, 2006) There's a hilarious scene in the new dramedy Men in Trees where actor James Tupper breaks the ice, literally, with co-star Anne Heche. He's screaming “Stop! Stop! Stop!” at Heche's character, the jilted author Marin Frist, who is frantically puffing away on a fag in the frigid outdoors. “Trust me, I've tried,” the annoyed woman retorts. Next thing, the ice cracks and she disappears into the lake. Tupper, who plays the silent but strapping biologist Jack, comes to her rescue. Next we see the pair in a fishing shack, stripped of their wet clothes, and sandwiched together trying to ward off hypothermia. No sex is involved, but sparks fly. More important, to female viewers, where the hell did that torso come from? Turns out the 34-year-old Tupper is a stage-trained actor from Dartmouth, N.S. — a place he and his cousins refer to as “the dark side” because of its position across from the Halifax harbour. Tupper, who has been in at least 50 small theatre productions and has guest-starred in shows such as CSI: NY and Gilmore Girls, considers Men in Trees his first big break. “I do consider it a bit of a coming up,” says Tupper, who lives with his wife Kate in Los Angeles. “I feel like I'm awake in a dream.” After watching the “thin-ice” scene, there's little wonder why TV Guide has dubbed Tupper “the next hot hunk” — a label that makes Tupper grin. “That will make my dad chuckle for sure,” says the actor. “Frankly, I see myself as a bit of a clown.”
Modesty aside, Tupper is one of a throng of Canadians who have steadily infiltrated the prime-time U.S. television scene over the past half-dozen years. On Men in Trees alone, four of the nine main stars are from Canada, including Sarah Strange and Suleka Mathew, both of Vancouver, and Tim Webber, another Maritimer. “His grandfather was my grandfather's best friend,” adds Tupper. “I don't think Canadians are really aware of how successful Canadian actors are down here. There's hardly a single show that doesn't have a Canadian on it.” A quick tally shows Tupper has a point. This fall season alone is jam-packed with Canadian actors, both old faces and new. There's veteran stage/film/TV actor Victor Garber playing a celebrity defence lawyer in the new drama Justice, and Matthew Perry starring as the creative genius behind a live sketch-comedy show in the new show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Less-established Canadians in meaty roles on new shows include:
Kenneth Mitchell and Erik Knudsen in Jericho;
Brooke D'Orsay in Happy Hour;
Sarah Carter as the ambitious legal apprentice in Shark;
Leslie Hope, Karen LeBlanc and Dustin Milligan in Runaway (shot in Toronto);
Joanne Kelly as the kidnapped U.S. senator's wife in Vanished;
Taylor Kitsch as the hard-living running back in Friday Night Lights;
Victoria Pratt as Taye Diggs's cop partner in Day Break. And the list goes on.
Larry Goldhar, president of Toronto-based The Characters Talent Agency, believes Canadian acting currency is so strong in Los Angeles for one simple reason: talent. “To be financially successful in this country, Canadian actors have to do it all — theatre, TV commercials, feature film, television. They're so well trained and, by extension, [such] well-rounded individuals.” TV Guide editor Jamie Hubbard says Canadian actors have had more opportunities in the last few years because of the sheer volume of production. But he also believes Canadians — especially Canada's female actors — often bring a distinctive look to a show that is refreshingly un-all-American. “Canadians often have a different look than your typical American actor or actress,” says Hubbard. “Look at Kristin Kreuk in Smallville, or Sandra Oh in Grey's Anatomy. They represent a blend of the cultural influences in our country that isn't typical in the U.S.” Besides the new fall shows, there are a number of recurring hit series that feature Canucks. Fox's hit thriller 24 not only stars Kiefer Sutherland, son of Canadian film star Donald Sutherland and popular actress/activist Shirley Douglas, but has hired scores of our homegrown talent, including Wendy Crewson, Leslie Hope, Elisha Cuthbert and Mia Kirshner. Kelly Rowan is the mother muse in The O.C.; Montreal-born actress Jennifer Finnigan is solving suburban crimes in Close to Home; and Vancouver's Evangeline Lilly is still driving the boys crazy in Lost.
Men in Trees' Tupper says he moved to California four years ago, after studying drama in Montreal and, later, New York. “When I first arrived in L.A., I met two guys, both Canadians, who were playing basketball, so we just all hung out — Tom Cavanagh [ Scrubs, Ed, My Ex Life] and Dave Sutcliffe [ Gilmore Girls, Under the Tuscan Sun]. We watched hockey together when we didn't have work.” These days, Tupper doesn't see much of his pals because they're all too busy. But while he misses the camaraderie, he likes the steady paycheque from Men in Trees. The show is shot in Vancouver, but set in fictional Elmo, Alaska. The series is so named because the men outnumber the women roughly 300 to one — and hence, are literally falling out of the cedars. Heche's character dumps a cheating fiancé just before leaving on a book tour that takes her to Alaska. Tupper is the hunky wildlife biologist whom all the women hanker for. The show is slowly gaining ground for ABC (it also airs on CITY-TV), and Tupper is keeping his fingers crossed it will catch on with audiences. Hubbard says female viewers have already taken a shine to it — with Tupper as the main draw. “He's the next Mr. Big,” the TV Guide editor predicts. The actor shrugs that off. “My family and friends back home can't believe this boy from Dartmouth is on the TV. They sit there and say, ‘What's he doing up there? Good Lord.'”
Entourage Blends Fact And Fiction
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem
(Oct. 9, 2006) PASADENA, Calif.—L.A. is a town in which fact and fiction are pretty much interchangeable. For example, the "Ron Burgundy" moment this past summer when CNBC anchor Joe Kernan reported that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest had beaten the opening weekend box-office record of Aquaman — a movie that does not actually exist, except as a plot device on the HBO show Entourage. Which is, incidentally, now Citytv's Entourage, as the Canadian broadcaster starts its uncut syndicated run of the cult-hit cable comedy tonight at 10. The life-in-the-fast-lane Hollywood adventures of rising heartthrob Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his freeloading Queens posse start over from the beginning tonight, with the opening of Vince's hot new movie, Head On, followed by the first of many clashes between his well-intentioned best pal, Eric (Kevin Connolly), and his obnoxious agent, Ari Gold (Emmy winner Jeremy Piven). The current run of the series, seen here on The Movie Network, has just wrapped up its extended 20-episode third season, which followed the fictitious blockbuster release of James Cameron's Aquaman with Vince blowing off the sequel and missing the chance to star in a Paul Haggis feature and, ultimately, firing Ari (though surely not for long). A fourth season has been ordered by HBO. Interestingly, the whole Aquaman scenario may now be playing out in the real world. Based largely on the popularity of an unsold WB Aqua-pilot as an iTunes download, actual talks have started about an actual Aquaman feature film. But the kicker is in who is at the centre of these talks: agent Ari Emmanuel, the acknowledged model for Piven's Ari Gold. This melding of the real and invented has become the Entourage trademark and the key to its Hollywood verisimilitude, with Emmanuel himself, along with series producer Mark Wahlberg — upon whose early experiences the series is ostensibly based — appearing as themselves in tonight's pilot.
Ensuing episodes will see directors Cameron, Haggis, Penny Marshall and Ed Burns, and actors like Jessica Alba, Luke Wilson, Larry David, Bob Saget, Mandy Moore, James Woods, Brooke Shields and Seth Green. Also Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman, Hugh Hefner and his bunnies, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, Bono and U2. Not everyone is happy to be represented on the show. Has-been producer Robert Evans was approached to play himself this season and declined, though he did give permission for them to shoot in his famous Beverly Hills home. The character was renamed Bob Ryan and portrayed by Martin Landau. Evans is now making hurt noises about being misrepresented and maligned, so far stopping short of an actual lawsuit. But for the five guys at the centre of the show, life has become a most welcome imitation of art. "It's changed all of our lives," says Kevin Dillon, perhaps the closest to his Entourage alter-ego, Johnny "Drama" Chase, as the less famous brother of actor Matt. "We're getting recognized a lot more. It's hard to walk down the street without Entourage comments ... and that's all nice." And then he adds, sounding particularly Drama-like: "The offers are coming in." "I just bought a house that I can't afford," offers Connolly, very much in the vein of Eric "E" Murphy. "For me it's changed everything ... just every day and you know, our lifestyles. I don't want to speak for everybody, but it's been the greatest experience of my life so far. We're still in the early stages of it, so hopefully it continues for a few more years." By which point, Jerry Ferrara hopes his kicks-and-capped character, Turtle, will have earned an actual name. Then again, it is early. "This is probably my first real job," he admits. "You know, I bounced around from little jobs here and there. This is the first time I've had to, like, sink my teeth into something and just work with really, really great people. So I'm just very humble and almost can't believe that it happened."
Lead actor Grenier should only be so lucky to have a career trajectory like Vince's. "I've been having such a good time on the show," he says. "I have a really great character to look up to and I get to play him every day. So I'm lucky. "I'm a little nervous after the season's over how I'm going to continue that amount of fun without a script every week." But some of his character's characteristics are rubbing off. "I find myself getting more and more ballsy as things go on, just as Vince does." An Emmy Award is just the latest change Ari Gold has brought to Piven's life. A year ago, he went out and hired himself an agent — two, actually. "I need to be wrangled like a large bear," the actor jests. "One of them is an incredible lovely woman who is very intelligent and soft-spoken, and another guy who's very ... their energies I'll say are so completely different than the Ari character. There's unfortunately nothing that I can take from my present team for the show." Except perhaps his contract negotiations for next season.
Strombo Feels Strong As Ever
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jim Bawden
(Oct. 8, 2006) The way George Stroumboulopoulos figures it, he's still a pretty lucky guy. Yeah, this is the same Canadian who jetted to L.A. to host one of TV's greatest ever disasters: the summertime talent contest The One: Making a Music Star that lasted all of two weeks. "But I still have The Hour," he points out. The newsmagazine show returns from summer hiatus tomorrow — not just on Newsworld but at 11 p.m. on the full CBC TV network, which is a pretty big vote of confidence. "It wasn't much ... I'm all right," says Stromboulopoulos of The One. He seems tired of answering questions about the fiasco. It's not as if he were the first personality to get yanked by a network, he'll tell you. And it was The One that was cancelled, not George, who simply jumped on his motorbike and began the long and winding journey back to home base. Granted, his downfall was brutal. One moment he was riding that bike higher than ever as he shot for U.S. stardom. He was asked to audition and easily won the gig as host of ABC's answer to American Idol. Fame of a Ryan Seacrest variety beckoned. Remember it was The One that temporarily knocked CBC's The National out of its 10 p.m. timeslot. After the dust settled, CBC found June was just about its worst-rated month in history. Strombo had made one request of ABC — it had to ship his favourite bike down to L.A. so he could ride it back when the gig was over. The show's premature demise gave him lots of time to ride and think. "Man, it's all just experience. Do I blame the (production) company? No, they only made the show — it was ABC that cancelled us so hard." CBC's rating for The One plummeted to a picayune 150,000; CTV's Canadian Idol by contrast had 1.2 million viewers. But Strombo insists nobody saw the axe falling that fast. Strombo escaped most of the criticism. CBC head programmer Kirstine Layfield called him "the one bright spot in the show."
Now he's back at CBC, talking up his revamped series slotted right behind The National (barring pre-emptions). TV news is changing everywhere, he notes. When he started on The Hour in 2004, a bunch of old white guys still ran the U.S. evening news. They were stolid, unemotional and had been at it for decades. But one by one, they were felled by death (Peter Jennings), scandal (Dan Rather) and simple retirement (Tom Brokaw). With ratings for TV newscasts drooping, we're seeing attempts to restructure the format. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper roams the world's hot spots while Paula Zahn sits sassily with her long legs coiled to the side as she trolls for scandals. CBS's Katie Couric, in the mode of a suburban mom, offers a "Hi" as she recounts the woes of the world. And then there's Strombo, 35, a muscular, soul-patched uneasy rider who has given up his nose ring and is emerging as earnest and surprisingly informed on world politics. He says The Hour is still a work in progress. "The big difference is we get to occupy our own studio," says executive producer Jennifer Dettman. "That means the set is new and it can stay put. Before it got dismantled when other shows came in. Sets are important; this one looks impressive. "We'll have a small studio audience but right now there won't be much interaction. It'll be like Jon Stewart's audience." "We'll try to explain what's happening," Strombo says. Series like Cooper's 360 take it for granted — what with 24-hour news channels, radio and the Internet — that viewers already know the top stories. The days when anchors had to avoid editorializing is gone. Possibly the last of that breed was gone when CNN fired the scholarly and sensitive Aaron Brown. Some night a talented guy like Strombo could wind up on the magazine part of The National.
Ugly Betty Off To Pretty Start
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
October 9, 2006) *Ugly is apparently the new pretty. ABC is counting on it with its new fall show “Ugly Betty” starring America Ferrera, whose breakout performance in “Real Women Have Curves” garnered her a Sundance Jury Award and an Independent Spirit Award nomination. The show also gets help from the star power of Salma Hayek who executive produces the series. Vanessa Williams also co-stars. The show is based on a Colombian telenova – that’s the Spanish-language TV term for a melodramatic series. The show follows an ordinary girl – a slightly plump plain-Jane from Queens – named Betty Suarez who begins her career in the world of high fashion as an executive assistant at a magazine. Hayek calls the show groundbreaking, as it comes from a very less melodramatic telenova than the genre standard, and because of its audience reach. “This one was dramatic but had an amazing sense of humour. And then, it became an incredible success in all of the Latin countries and then in many places around the world,” she said about the original series. “I think it's because it's about the fish out of water, probably the person that is not conventional in the way they look or, you know, the way they talk, but that they are incredibly smart and hard workers and, of course, that they get ahead in life using that. Everybody wants to see these kinds of stories, but at the same time, she's not a victim.” Speaking of being victimized, the show’s title – labelling the lead character as “ugly” – has come as a concern to some, both viewers and network executives, but Hayek explained that the title doesn’t poke fun at Betty as ugly, but rather makes fun of those that would consider Betty ugly.
“The title has a lot to do with the tone of the show,” she explained. “When I said having a sense of humour about herself, I think it's sarcastic. Don’t think Betty is really ugly, but what do we call ugly now? I mean anybody that is not super skinny and really tall, some people think --some people, not everybody --think they're ugly. I personally have seen a lot of really skinny tall models that maybe I think they're ugly – and they need to eat a little to look healthy. So it's actually sarcastic. We're making fun of it. We're not really calling her ugly. We're making fun of the people that would think that's ugly.” And how does Ferrera feel about being cast as the “ugly” girl? Well, she said that she’s actually never felt more confident and pretty as when she’s in character for this show. “When I'm in character and I'm wearing Betty's costume, I never feel more confident, more beautiful, and more pretty on the inside than when I'm myself. I wish that I one day as America can feel the way that I feel when I'm Betty…it's so wonderful to be her. And it takes away the pressure on me as an actress,” she added. “I'm not a model. I never wanted to be a model. I never wanted to do ads for Neutrogena. That's not what I set out in my life to do. I set out to tell stories. I set out to represent real people. And to me, Betty is the most beautiful opportunity that's ever come across my path to represent a whole generation of young women who don't recognize themselves in anything they're watching.” In that regard, the show definitely has perfect timing with buzz of the fashion industry. In recent weeks, stories and comments have been flying about “skinny models” being banned from the runway. And the topic has certainly run the gamut of talk television, too. And in addition to attracting that generation of young women who relate to Betty, the show is also drawing the Spanish-language audience back to English-language TV. Hayek said: “I think the potential that's out there has not been tapped into. And because this is a product that they're very familiar with, it's already very endearing to them. It's been done a couple of times, and every version, they embrace. I think, for the Latin community, the fact that these companies are taking a look into something that is theirs and embracing it and acknowledging it and doing it again with a little bit of a different tone.” The actress/producer continued that she jumped onto this project mostly because of its connection to the Latin community as it is about a first-generation American’s struggle. “It was --for me, it was about finding that way in and about making sure that the Latino aspect was maintained,” she said. “Ugly Betty,” which also co-stars Ana Ortiz, and Eric Mabius airs Thursdays at 8/7c on ABC. See a sample of the show HERE.
New ‘G. Garvin,’ ‘Patti Labelle’ On TV One
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
October 5, 2006) *TV One launches new seasons of its popular shows “Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin” and “Living It Up with Patti LaBelle” in back to back fashion this Sunday at 7 and 7:30 p.m. respectively. G. Garvin kicks off his third season with “All of Us” star Duane Martin, who helps the chef whip up Steak Au Poivre with asparagus and fingerling potatoes, plus ravioli with spinach, mushrooms and goat cheese. Other Garvin cuisines featured this season include Caribbean, healthy delights, a taste of Africa, food from his mama’s kitchen, and Sunday dinner. He will also showcase elegant entertaining with a visit from event planner to the stars Diann Valentine. Beginning Oct. 10, fans will be able to purchase the show’s companion cookbook “Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin,” which features more than 200 of his favourite recipes. Patti LaBelle’s new season begins with a trip to the star-studded premiere of the recent Outkast movie “Idlewild.” LaBelle, who makes an appearance in the film, also interviews the movie’s choreographer and Tony Award winning actor Hinton Battle. In other upcoming episodes, she takes viewers through her experience on the summer reality series “Celebrity Duets,” where she belts out a tune with “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” personality Jai Rodriguez.
Malik Yoba Scores Midseason Drama
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(October 10, 2006) *Last seen on the short-lived FX drama “Thief,” Malik Yoba has made the transition back to network television and booked a role on NBC’s midseason drama “Raines,” reports Daily Variety. Jeff Goldblum has been cast in the title role of an eccentric-yet-brilliant cop who solves crimes by talking to dead victims, while Yoba will play Raines’ ex-partner and confidant. Yoba, born in the Bronx, NY, is best known for his role as Detective J.C. Williams in Fox’s “New York Undercover.” The actor has also appeared on the sitcom “Girlfriends” as the recurring character, Brock Harris.
U.S. Politician Fights 'Bounty Hunter' Extradition
Source: Associated Press
(Oct. 11, 2006) HONOLULU — A Colorado congressman announced Tuesday he and 28 other members of Congress have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking her to deny the extradition of Duane ``Dog" Chapman to Mexico. Chapman, who is the star of the popular Hawaii-based A&E show ``Dog The Bounty Hunter," was arrested last month along with two of his co-stars for illegal detention and conspiracy in his capture of fugitive convicted rapist Andrew Luster, the Max Factor heir, on June 18, 2003, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Chapman was released on US$300,000 bail the next day. He must attend extradition hearings to face trial in Mexico, where bounty hunting is considered a crime. Luster is now serving a 124-year prison term. "It seems that Mexican authorities are pressing this case only because they are so stung by the embarrassment of failing where Mr. Chapman succeeded," the Republican congressman said in a statement. All of the signers of the letter listed by Congressman Tom Tancredo are also Republican.
Excerpt from The Toronto Star- Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(out of 4)
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Book by Winnie Holzman, based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. Directed by Joe Mantello. Until Nov. 26 at the Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria St.
(Oct. 11, 2006) Elphaba and Glinda, those beguiling witches who won Toronto's hearts last year, have come back for another visit and this time let's hope they stay through the holidays. The national tour of Wicked, which began here with a sold-out run in March 2005, has been breaking box-office records around the continent ever since. It returned last night to the Canon Theatre. It marked the fifth time I've seen the show, with an assortment of different casts, and I'm pleased to say that the one onstage here is right up there with the very best of them. This cannily put together show makes a series of complicated demands on the performers who star in it. They have to be able to handle the breezy, almost spoofy tone that director Joe Mantello has given the first act as well as deal with the switch into the more serious drama he demands of them just before the first act curtain. They also have to negotiate their way around Stephen Schwartz's crafty score, which may deceptively sound like a collection of pop power ballads, but features lyrics of tongue-twisting cleverness and emotional complexity. All of this is driven by Winnie Holzman's book (based on Gregory Maguire's deliciously subversive novel) that operates on many levels. Yes, it can be viewed as a "prequel" to The Wizard of Oz, explaining how the Wicked Witch, the ruby slippers and all those other pop culture tropes we love so well came into existence. But it's also a serious examination of the nature of friendship as well as a political fable about what happens to a country when a not-that-bright leader plays on people's fears of terrorism to stay in power. (Any resemblance to any American presidents from Texas is purely coincidental.) The show had a smashing original cast on Broadway, which makes the work of all actors who take on the parts subsequently even tougher, but the crew at the Canon are up for the task. Megan Hilty is the first person I've seen who plays the perky blond Glinda with such originality that it's actually possible to set aside the delicious memory of the role's creator, Kristin Chenoweth.
Hilty has her own distinct take on the role, a combination of naked ambition and native cunning that makes her more than just a charming vixen. She gets all the required laughs out of her showstopping "Popular," but she does it by pushing the envelope of mockery to make herself the primary target. And when the plot grows dark in Act II, so does Hilty. Her Evita-like gown is more than just a musical comedy joke, it's a prophetic piece of clothing. This woman was born to be a dictator. An equally nice job of reclamation is done by Shoshana Bean as the green-skinned Elphaba, who becomes, of course, the Wicked Witch of the West. As Idina Menzel first played her, she was a moody, troubled, sensuous woman. Bean offers all those qualities but also finds more humour in Elphaba than I've encountered in the past. She truly is the girl who comes across as "different," making jokes to keep the world at arm's length. She's quirky but appealing, with a dark, desperate side that surfaces more as the story progresses. Bean is known for her amazing pipes and at the Sunday evening preview I attended, she delivered all the subtler vocal qualities beautifully, especially in numbers like "I'm Not That Girl," but seemed a bit ragged on some of her top notes in songs like "The Wizard and I" and "Defying Gravity" — a condition I trust is temporary. Cliffton Hall makes a dashing Fiyero, just enough of a spoiled preppy puppy to seem like catnip to the girls but able to grow into the necessary hero when required. And Alma Cuervo is a stylishly evil Madame Morrible, sleek and sinister, but also able to sing the part more completely than I've heard before. P.J. Benjamin's Wizard is more likeable and less deplorable than usual and, while it makes for a pleasing performance, I'm not totally sure that interpretation helps the overall arc of the show. But all in all, this is an entertainment guaranteed to delight, amaze, thrill, dazzle and touch the hearts of theatregoers of all ages. Catch Wicked this time before it flies away again. Who knows when you'll get another chance?
Graham Greene To Debut At Stratford
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(Oct. 5, 2006) Canadian actor Graham Greene will play Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in his debut at the Stratford Festival next season, in a production to be directed by Tarragon artistic director Richard Rose. A full-blooded Oneida, the 54-year-old Greene was born on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario and is best known for his Oscar-nominated performance in the 1990 film Dances with Wolves. His casting was announced at a news conference yesterday at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto. He will also appear as Lennie in the American classic Of Mice and Men, to be mounted by Martha Henry. The 2007 season will be the 14th and final one for artistic director Richard Monette, which he will mark by doing 14 plays that he has grouped together under the theme of "The Outsider." Most of the season was previously reported in the Star, including the Shakespearean works which, besides Merchant, will be King Lear (starring Brian Bedford), Othello (starring Philip Akin) and The Comedy of Errors. The musicals, also noted here before, will be Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, directed by Donna Feore, and the Gershwin pastiche My One and Only, staged by Michael Lichtefeld.
Susan H. Schulman will helm a stage adaptation of Harper Lee's beloved novel To Kill a Mockingbird. William Hutt will return from retirement, as he told the Star last week, to appear in Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance and Lucy Peacock will revive her one-woman success from this season: The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead. Seana McKenna will star in another one-woman show, a Canadian play. Shakespeare's Will is the story of the bard's wife, Anne Hathaway. It's written by Vern Thiessen, whose play Apple will be seen at Factory Theatre later this month. Wrapping up the playbill will be Derek Walcott's Caribbean take on Homer's The Odyssey, staged by Peter Hinton; David Edgar's drama, Pentecost, directed by Mladen Kiselov; and Monette's own production of An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. The season will open with King Lear on May 28, 2007.
Tremblay Hears Clock Ticking
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian
(Oct. 7, 2006) When Michel Tremblay looked death in the eye, the firstthing he saw was life. The 64-year-old Quebec playwright recalls vividly his reaction to the news he received in 2005 that he had throat cancer. "I just wanted to live more," he says over the phone from his home in Montreal. "You don't think of anything else. You just want to live." And then he giggles. "Like Susan Hayward in the movie." It's not all that strange to hear Tremblay appropriate the actress's Oscar-winning 1958 performance in I Want to Live! to describe his own circumstances. After all, this is the man who summoned up the violet-eyed presence of Elizabeth Taylor ("the real Elizabeth Taylor") in the movie Cleopatra to serve as a symbol of Quebec's reluctance to stand on its own two feet as a distinct society. That play was Hosanna, which caused a sensation when it was first produced in 1973 with its portrait of a Montreal hairdresser who faces personal humiliation when he shows up at a Halloween drag ball dressed as Taylor's take on the Queen of Egypt. It's being revived this week by Pleiades Theatre at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, in the same month that Théâtre français de Toronto is presenting his latest play, Bonbons Assortis, at Berkeley St. Theatre. Tremblay laughs at the thought of two such disparate works being produced so close together. "Yes, I see myself in both of them," he admits, "but they are very different sides of me. When you are young, you judge everybody else. Everything is somebody else's fault. "It's true you mellow when you get older. Instead of judging other people, you ask questions. And sometimes, the answers surprise you a great deal."
Tremblay has been surprising people (and sometimes being surprised by them) since shortly after he was born in 1942 in the Plateau Mont Royal section of Montreal. He was the youngest of five children, conceived by his aging parents to ease some of the pain that lingered from the death of two of their other children in the years prior to his birth. "My sense of theatre," he explains, "doesn't come from Brecht or Shakespeare. It comes from the fact that my family was very dramatic. When they were funny, they were very funny and when they were sad, they were horribly sad. Like my plays." As an example, he points to the character of Albertine, reportedly drawn from one of the aunts Tremblay grew up with. She weaves through many of his dramas like a haunted soul seeking release. When asked what she represents to him, he doesn't hesitate. "She is rage. I took her character and all through her life I tried to show what rage could do to a human being. She knows how to name her pains. She's able to say why she's unhappy, but she doesn't have any clue how to get out." Young Michel got out of the stifling atmosphere of poverty and repression by writing fairy tales and fleeing to the movies or the theatre as often as he could. But when he looks back at the time, he realizes that he was running away from what actually nurtured him. "I know now that what formed me above all else in my life was my mother, and then the rest of my family."
At 14, he quit the classical college he had won a scholarship to, eventually following his father into the linotype trade. Then he began writing plays, at first in secret. But although Tremblay would use the rest of his family as inspiration for some of his most savage works, starting with his initial hit, Les Belles Soeurs, his mother remained off limits. "It took me a long time to write about my mother," he says with unexpected softness. "I finally had to give myself permission to talk about her but I made myself be very delicate at first." Her initial appearance was in a 1981 novel called The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant, but she really came to life in his 1998 play For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again. "That was the first true outcry of love I did for my family," he recalls, "and Bonbons Assortis is the second." But before the love, there would be anger, impatience and even hate — especially when it came to the troubled politics of his native province. "In 1971, I wrote Hosanna," he begins, "when I was trying to speak to my people and tell them to stop trying to disguise themselves as something they were not. I wanted to write about people with identity problems. "I invented the most complicated character I could. A Montreal hairdresser who dreamed of being an American woman who was a Hollywood actress who was playing an Egyptian queen in a movie shot in Italy and Spain." He speaks sadly but fondly of one of his greatest creations. "With Hosanna, you have level upon level of disguises. At the end, it takes both a physical and a psychological striptease to get to the character's real self. "What is being a man or a woman? Who are you f---ing? Are you f---ing the man in me or the woman? That was a question Hosanna had to ask, I had to ask, Quebec had to ask."
He's quiet for a moment and then he continues. "But here, I think is why the play survives. Not because it is political or social. But because it is human. That is what makes a work of art last for 50 or 100 years or more." Tremblay admits he now thinks more than ever about "how fast the clock is ticking. "When you're 60, you're less stupid than when you were 30. But your body lets you down." He repeats softly, "It lets you down." He senses the note of pity that has crept into his voice and springs back to his resilient self. "With my cancer, I was never, never, never negative about it. They told me the first day that I had an 80 per cent chance to survive. I said, `You concentrate on getting rid of the 20 per cent and I will make the rest happen.' I decided that I wouldn't die, that I would get over it." The radiation and chemotherapy he underwent in the summer of 2005 seemed to work ("I think the word `remission' is the most beautiful one in either English or French"); still, a recent course of treatment has left him weakened and unable to travel. But when asked if he has any religious beliefs to help him through these potentially dark times, Tremblay is blunt. "I don't have any. I don't want any. I think God was just something invented by man when he realized that everything dies." There's a pause as the greatest Canadian playwright searches for the right curtain line. "It's a wonderful invention, but it's still an invention."
Hana's Suitcase - Terrible Story Must Be Told
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
By Emil Sher. Based on the book by Karen Levine. Directed by Allen MacInnis. Until Oct. 19 at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, 165 Front St. E.
(Oct. 9, 2006) "Careful the things you say," Stephen Sondheim once wrote, "children will listen." Hana's Suitcase, now playing at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, shows that children do more than listen, they can act as well. And those simple actions may be enough to change the world. Back in 2000, some young students at the Holocaust Education Centre in Tokyo discovered the suitcase of a 13-year-old girl named Hana Brady, who died at Auschwitz in 1944. They became obsessed with finding out about her and, with the help of the centre's director Fumiko Ishioka, started a quest that did not cease until they discovered Hana's brother, George, still alive in Toronto. CBC Radio producer Karen Levine presented the story as a documentary, then turned it into a bestselling book. Playwright Emil Sher adapted it for the stage and it premiered last spring as part of the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre season. It's now been remounted with a largely new cast and is playing a short run in Toronto before embarking on a national tour. Despite flaws in some of the acting, it's well worth seeing, both for its message and the way it conveys it. Sher's adaptation does an admirable job of weaving back and forth between the past and present. We learn Hana's history gradually, just like the Japanese schoolchildren did, wanting to know more even though we dread the discovery. "Some stories are more than just sad," Fumiko warns the children, "some stories are truly terrible." And even though Hana's history falls into the latter category, it's one that must be told. We see the happy family they once were, living in the small Czech town of Nové Mesto, until the Nazi regime changed their lives forever. With great economy, Sher takes us through the early days of insisting "it can't happen here" and the ever-increasing strictures placed on the Jewish residents, to the horrible moments when first Hana's mother, then her father, are taken away. She and her brother George live with an uncle for a while but, finally, their time comes.
At first, they're sent to Theresienstadt, a holding camp where they can still see each other on occasion. But finally they board the train for Auschwitz and the story comes to its inevitable, shocking conclusion. Director Allen MacInnis stages the piece with great fluidity on the understated set of Teresa Przybylski. With the help of Andrea Lundy's subtle lighting, we're able to move from a Tokyo classroom to the Polish death camps with terrifying rapidity. The only danger with a show like this is that it has so much to tell us it can fall into the trap of becoming a collection of speeches. Most of the cast are skilled enough to see that doesn't happen. Jo Chim's Fumiko is strong-willed and decent; Richard Binsley gives us an assortment of noble characters all painted with great restraint and Dale Yim strikes just the right note as the coltish student, Akira. Within the Brady family itself, Jessica Greenberg plays Hana as a real girl, instantly likeable, and Paul Dunn is heartbreaking as the younger George, while Eric Trask portrays the older George with a deep, muted sadness. The two cast members who aren't quite up to the rest are Ella Chan as Maiko, the other student, and Helen Taylor, who plays four different characters. Both of them remain sadly artificial throughout. But apart from that, there is only praise for this show. The final scene has Akira vowing to "find a way out of this sadness" and deciding to present a play about Hana to students all over Japan, so that "this will never happen again." His belief in the healing power of art is powerfully moving and when their "play" shows Maiko riding her scooter across the stage just as Hana did at the beginning, you will probably sit in the theatre with tears streaming down your face. And if you don't, I'm not so sure that I would want to know you.
Dance Pairings Of Strangers When They Met
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer
(Oct. 5, 2006) Choreography is a complicated art and not merely a matter of sending dancers out on a stage to move about in pleasing — or disturbing — ways. All of a person's environment and past experience come to bear on a new work. Even nationality can be traced in a choreographer's aesthetic. Kevin O'Day observes that he and choreographer Dominique Dumais make a contrasting pair. He is artistic director of Mannheim Ballett in that German city. She is deputy director. Both are resident choreographers for the company. His work is called "wild and exuberant;" hers is lyrical and thoughtful. O'Day continues: "I'm a man and she's a woman. We have different types of relationships to speed. She's Canadian and I'm American." O'Day, in Toronto to help stage his work Blood Groove for the ProArteDanza program that opens tonight at Betty Oliphant Theatre, is serious about how origins and influences "wash over people's art. You don't realize that your voice sounds like your parent's, until you pick up the phone and someone addresses you as your father." A thrilling dancer who came out of the Joffrey ballet school and company in Chicago, O'Day spent a crucial four years (1984-'88) dancing with Twyla Tharp before going on to American Ballet Theatre and Mikhail Barishnikov's White Oak Dance Project. In the last 10 years he has danced less and choreographed more. His résumé extends to 28 dances for companies in Europe and North America. O'Day met Roberto Campanella, artistic director of ProArteDanza, when both were working with the Stuttgart Ballet. This was a meeting of like minds.
"It takes a lot of guts (to start a new company) and deliver the highest standard by pulling people from other companies." The scheduling of rehearsals has been difficult enough for the five dancing couples in Blood Groove, but O'Day loves watching dancers work together for the first time. It gives the dancing an edge he's looking for. Only Robert Glumbek, Campanella's artistic associate, knew the work, because he was dancing with Mannheim Ballett when it premiered there. "You have so many people from different backgrounds, from the Montreal dance scene, from Toronto Dance Theatre, Dancemakers, from the ballet," says O'Day, "and they're touching each other's bodies and moving together for the first time. It creates a different type of energy than a company of dancers who always work together." The pulsing and vibrating of the piece — driven by John King's composition surrounding a Latino, tango-like theme — are suggestive of blood flow. The groove refers to the part of a knife blade that fills with blood when it's employed. O'Day says there is a homage to the late, great tap-dancer Gregory Hines contained in Blood Groove, created just after Hines died.
Last Night In Toronto
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Debra Black, Staff Reporter
(Oct. 7, 2006) "Everybody Salsa!" That's the cry ringing through the halls of the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto this weekend as the 4th annual Canada Salsa Congress gets underway with performances from salsa champions from around the world. About 1,500 enthusiastic salsa fans mamboed their way into the Sheraton Centre last night for the kick-off performance and a salsa party scheduled to last until dawn. They were treated to performances by 18 groups of salsa dancers from such countries as Puerto Rico, Australia and the United States, as well as hometown favourites. Today, there will be more of the same — with workshops, performances and another dance party with the band Ocho y Mas and guest singer Tito Nieves. A total of 50 dance companies will be showcased with 36 workshops this weekend. "Salsa is fun, it's social, it keeps you fit and it's a way of expressing yourself," said Oliver Pineda, an acclaimed Australian salsa dancer who has been performing with his partner, Luda Kroitor, since they were children. The two won the World's Salsa Open in Puerto Rico in July and last year won the World Salsa Championships in Las Vegas.
For Pineda, 25, and Kroitor, 24, salsa is a way of life. And they would like others to pick up the Latin beat. Pineda hopes this weekend's Salsa Congress will inspire people "to start doing it if they haven't already. The more people doing salsa the better." Salsa "allows people to bring out another side of their personality — the more uninhibited, passionate side," said Jennifer Aucoin, the organizer of the event. Salsa icons Tito Ortos, 31, and Tamara Livolsi, 28 — a husband and wife team performing tonight — are equally passionate about salsa. "It's the music that is Puerto Rico," said Ortos. "I found this is what I like to do. It's my life. It's everything. It's my job." "We love to dance with all of the flavour — with everything we feel," said Ortos. The great thing about salsa is just about anyone can do it. "It's not exclusive to size, age, colour or ability. It's for everyone to enjoy," said local salsa dancer Gorete Almeida, who performed last night. For more information, go to http://www.canadasalsacongress.com
City Artists Honoured
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman, Entertainment Columnist
(Oct. 6, 2006) It would be an understatement to call Jeanne Lamon understated. As the music director of Tafelmusik, she keeps so low a profile that the audience might at first think no one is conducting the musicians. Actually, she does it from her spot in the first violins section. Yesterday Lamon was conspicuously invisible again when her name was announced as the winner of the $10,000 Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition at the first annual Mayor's Arts Awards lunch: a lively, entertaining and spirits-raising bash in a sunlit room at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. At that moment, Lamon was on a train to Montreal, where Tafelmusik last night gave a concert. By phone from her hotel later, she said: "An award like this makes you feel humble." But Lamon was humble even before she got the award. Originally a New York musician, she moved to Toronto 25 years ago and has presided over the flowering of Tafelmusik into one of this city's top cultural gems. As for her disinclination to stand in front of the orchestra waving a baton, she explains: "The way we do it is a matter of historical accuracy. That's how things were done in 1750 (when the baroque music Tafelmusik plays was written). It's a more collaborative way of working and I think it keeps you honest." The creation of the conductor as superstar came later and it is not Lamon's style.
The award was one of five handed out at a lunch that brought out leaders of the city's arts world for an upbeat celebration, blending the energy of a political rally with the moral tone of an evangelical crusade. "It's an honour to be a warrior among you," crowed Albert Schultz, Soulpepper Theatre's man for all seasons, who won the $5,000 William Kilbourn Award for the Celebration of Toronto's Cultural Life. "We are warriors in a common cause," he explained — the enemies being racism, intolerance and apathy. "The future of this city is inextricably interwined with the vibrancy of our cultural community." Ever the consummate cultural politician, Schultz pulled Mayor David Miller back to centre stage as the mayor tried to tiptoe away, so that he could be part of the photo op. "Come on," he said, "you're in an election!" Other winners:
· RBC Emerging Artist Award: Natasha Mytnowych, theatre producer-director.
Grab Bag Of History
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Ivor Tossell
(Oct. 7, 2006) Today in history: In 1983, British Columbia NDP leader Dave Barrett is dragged bodily from the legislature after an argument with the acting speaker went sour. Tomorrow in history: In 1958, police and firefighters walk off the job for 16 hours in Montreal ("Canada's metropolis"), and calamity ensues. Next Tuesday in history: In 2002, the Queen, and I quote, "takes a look at the CBC Archives website during her visit to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation." Oh, and some unpleasantness with the FLQ in 1970. But let's get back to the Queen. The CBC covered the event, of course, and now the clip is in the Archives, at archives.cbc.ca. There she is, in the bright atrium at CBC broadcasting headquarters in Toronto, being led past cordoned-off throngs of colonial well-wishers. Peter Mansbridge mumbles commentary in the background. Eventually she comes to a bank of flat-panel monitors and leans in with practised interest while staff show her a clip of her inaugural Canadian visit in 1957. Are you keeping score here? Thanks to footage from a CBC special about the Queen visiting the CBC, the CBC Archives has a clip in which the Queen watches a CBC Archives clip of the Queen. God bless the CBC. It only manages to be head-exploding when it doesn't mean to. But in fairness, while the CBC Archives website isn't mind-blowing just yet, it's growing into a fantastic grab bag of Canadian history -- or something like it. The site features carefully chosen archival TV and radio clips by the hundreds, grouping them around topics that range from the Rolling Stones' visits to Canada to the Halifax explosion of 1917. For each topic, there are a handful of broadcast clips spanning the years -- for the Halifax explosion, say, eight television clips and four radio clips. And for each individual clip, a little box off to the side displays contextual information, which is usually thorough and interesting. It all piles up: There's enough material to lose a history fetishist in there for days. (And the collection of clips on the evolution of computers and the Internet is just terrific.)
But wait, says the attentive reader: Halifax was flattened in 1917, well before the CBC was established. Just what archives are they using? The answer conceals one of the site's great strengths, as well as its mighty quirk. The CBC Archives don't just feature clips broadcast the day of the subject at hand, but segments from shows recorded decades later, where experts reflect on Canadian history. To explain the rescue efforts after the 1917 explosion, you'll hear an interview conducted in 1977, on the CBC Radio show Between Ourselves. And here we are again, stuck in this funny vortex, listening to an archival clip of a history show describing even more history. It's hard not to notice how a CBC Radio interview from 1977 sounds exactly like a CBC Radio interview from 2006: The hosts are thoughtful and the guests are tweedy. The television side doesn't fare so well on the immutability front, having gone from insufferably earnest to George Stromboulopoulous in a few short decades, but that's another matter. In fact, the more you watch, the more you realize that for all the Cancon, the CBC Archives site isn't about Canada; it's about the CBC itself. It might be a distinction that the Corporation encourages people to blur, but it does exist. This isn't a definitive historical collection, but an intriguing documentary of a broadcaster's evolution. And there's nothing wrong with that -- heck, it's their website. But it doesn't need to be this way. Consider the BBC's own archival site. (CBC versus BBC comparisons are odious, I know, but bear with me.) The BBC archives (http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday) are built around the "This day in history" model, but the critical difference between their site and ours is that their archival stories are mainly written transcriptions. Video and sound clips are available off to the side, but they're almost afterthoughts. By focusing on the voice of the news writer, the BBC pushes history into the foreground. But the rich multimedia that the CBC uses draws focus to the broadcaster itself: the characters of the interviewers pop out, the faces of the anchors, the quaint title cards of the news broadcasts. The medium ends up crowding out the message. Here is a site to make a Canadiana fetishist go week in the knees, yet as we celebrate the fourth anniversary of the Queen's viewing of the CBC Archives website, this might be something to keep in firstname.lastname@example.org
Johnston's Beloved Character Finds New Life
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Judy Stoffman, Entertainment Reporter
(Oct. 7, 2006) When the Dutch translators of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams travelled to St. John's to better understand the geography of the place, they called the book's author in a state of high excitement. "We have seen her," they reported to Wayne Johnston, who was born in Newfoundland but now lives in Toronto. "We've seen Sheilagh Fielding in a bar called the Ship Inn. She was tall, had a limp and a silver flask." "I was astounded," Johnston says in a recent interview about his new book, The Custodian of Paradise, in which Fielding reappears. "I told them that outside the book, Fielding does not exist, and they said, `She does for us.'" The scale of Wayne Johnston's ambitions as a novelist became clear eight years ago with the publication of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, which dealt with Newfoundland's hard-fought entry into Confederation as told by a fascinating character named Joey Smallwood, who was not quite identical to his historic namesake. In Newfoundland, where relatives of Smallwood still live, Johnston had a lot of explaining to do. "I was criticized for quite a long time until that famous quote by John Crosbie," Johnston recalls, speaking of the man who had challenged Smallwood for leadership of the provincial Liberal party. "He was asked in an interview about my mix of fact and fiction and he said, `The book gives a sympathetic portrait of Joey Smallwood, so it goes without saying it must be fiction.' After that, opinion in general seemed to swing in favour of the book." (U.S. readers had never heard of Joey Smallwood, so assumed the character was fictional.)
Because the main character needed a foil just as smart, impassioned and complex to argue with and ultimately to love, Johnston dreamed up the tall, tough-minded, hard-drinking journalist Sheilagh Fielding. The witty Fielding, who walks with a limp after a bout of TB, has taken on a life of her own so insistent that readers wrote him demanding to know what happened to her during the periods when she disappeared from Smallwood's story. "After Colony, I couldn't get her out of my head. I'd ask myself, `What would Fielding say about this?'" "Fielding had a life apart from Smallwood — I asked myself, who was she when she was not Smallwood's friend and nemesis? The question of her children is touched on in Colony but we don't really know what happened to them or why," the author says. The Custodian of Paradise, neither a prequel nor a sequel to the original novel, is perhaps unique in the annals of Canadian literature as a story told at right angles to it. In the new book, we learn that Fielding went away in 1945 to a deserted island in the Atlantic to mourn the death of her son David, whom she barely knew before he was killed in the Second World War. She craves solitude to read the letters and diaries he has left her, but her solitude is interrupted by a man who has shadowed her for years and calls himself her Protector. Johnston, who is 48, says he goes to Newfoundland about 10 times a year but finds the place overwhelms him too much to write there. Deserted by her mother and raised by her father in St. John's, Fielding had become pregnant at 16 and was sent to her mother's house in New York to escape scandal. There she gave birth to twins, David and Sarah, whom she was forced to leave to be raised by her mother and her mother's second husband. We come to understand that Fielding's barbed and ruthless wit is a mechanism to protect her wounded and unloved soul.
"The idea of someone going alone to an island is an echo of Shakespeare's Tempest," Johnston says. "I was also conscious of a Biblical element in the story, the idea that we can never return to Paradise, that Paradise was spoiled." The need to untangle the mystery of parentage — both Fielding's own and that of her children — drives the baroque plot relentlessly forward. "The larger scope of the book is the apparent inevitability of war and the inability of people to resist revenge," Johnston says. The Protector turns out to have been overseas in the First World War, a war that had its biggest aftershocks in Newfoundland, which then considered itself a country. "It lost an entire generation of young men — 95 per cent of the Newfoundland regiment was wiped out at the Battle of the Somme," Johnston says. "World War II had a different effect, when a large number of people came to the island. Newfoundlanders had not realized till then how impoverished they were. It changed expectations. If the referendum had been fought with no real knowledge of what the rest of the world was like, the outcome might have been different." In making the final revisions to Colony, Johnston already sensed that he would write about Fielding again. "I went back and introduced ambiguities to leave an opening," he says. In writing Custodian of Paradise, he was careful to leave openings for continuing the saga. Johnston says he was inspired by Robertson Davies' Deptford trilogy, which begins with a famous snowball thrown by a boy that hits a pregnant woman who gives birth prematurely. Johnston says he, too, is fascinated by unpredictable events in one's early life that start a chain reaction.
Meg Tilly - Now You Can Read Her Like A Book
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill
(Oct. 9, 20060 VANCOUVER — Meg Tilly can't help but laugh when people suggest that her new career as a novelist is some sort of desperate attempt to finagle her way back into the spotlight. The former Hollywood actress — who is now releasing a second book called Gemma — is still best known for her Oscar-nominated role in 1985 as the young nun in Agnes of God. Yet, she looks back on her acting career with a shudder. How bad was it? Well, it may have been a cakewalk compared to her childhood, when she experienced repeated physical and sexual abuse at the hands of several family members, including her stepfather. Still, says Tilly, who now, at 46, has begun speaking publicly about the grim circumstances of her youth that inspire her writing, “being a celebrity isn't all it's cracked up to be.” As a rising star with a troubled past to hide, Tilly found life in the limelight often intolerable. She recalls the time she was in the hospital, about to give birth to her daughter, when an excited nurse barged into the room wanting to know what it was like to work with William Hurt (in The Big Chill). Then there was the sleazy producer who suggested she come back to his apartment to convince him she could imbue the role of school teacher with sufficient sexual tension. (“I was nursing at the time,” she recalls incredulously.) Or the “gross” male co-star who refused to wear a sock over his “full-on boner” and tried to slip it in during a sex scene. And all the crazed fans, some of whom continue to stalk her more than a decade after she packed in her public life and moved to rural British Columbia where she continues to happily live the life of a self-described hermit with her husband, Don, and 16-year-old son, Will, the youngest of three children.
“I wouldn't wish fame on my worst enemy,” Tilly says with a sigh on the eve of her North American book tour, which kicked off with a reading last week in Toronto. “Well, it might not be such a bad fate for Hazen,” she adds, referring to the child molester in her new novel. The repulsive character is named after her mother's former boyfriend, one of many men who sexually molested Tilly as a child. “This book is a big middle finger hoisted in the air to all those guys,” she says with a triumphant grin and buoyancy of spirit that are as heart-warming to witness as they are hard to fathom, considering the wretched experiences of her youth. Tilly was born in California, but spent most of her childhood growing up in an impoverished farm house on Texada Island, off British Columbia's Sunshine Coast, where the family sometimes shot squirrels for dinner. She was the third of four children born to Patricia Tilly, a teacher, and Harry Chan, a car salesman. She was 3 when her parents divorced and her mother began dating John Ward, a child molester who eventually became her stepfather. Ward left her mother when Tilly was 13, but was soon replaced by another abusive boyfriend, Hazen. She says he was just as much a monster, one who often threatened to kill everyone with a butcher's knife. All three men are now dead. These men, and others that Tilly declines to name, were the inspiration for Gemma, a stomach-churning tale about a young girl who is kidnapped by a sexual predator. Like Singing Songs, her first novel published in 1994, the story is semi-autobiographical, although some characters and situations have been changed. “Gemma had it way worse than me,” says Tilly, who is so full of energy and eager to tell her story that she barely pauses to pick at the croque monsieur sandwich on her plate. “No one ever threw me in the trunk of a car,” she continues. “And at least I had my brothers and sisters. But the sexual abuse is similar to what I endured. Her emotions are definitely mine.” Tilly wasn't always so anxious to talk about her past. Her first novel was presented as being entirely fictitious, snatched from roles she had performed and books she had read. “I was scared to admit the truth — that this dirty, little scrappy kid could have been me, Meg Tilly, the movie star,” she writes in the new introduction to Singing Songs, which was re-released this week to coincide with the second book.
“Well, I'm older now, hopefully wiser, braver, still scared, but that's okay,” the introduction continues. “With this new edition of Singing Songs, I feel that it is important for me to claim my connection to these stories, for myself, and others who have had a past like mine. Because if we continue to hide, to play the pristine, perfect, everything's-a-picnic soundtrack, we do the world a disservice.” Tilly decided she would eventually come clean with the truth about her childhood soon after the first press tour for Singing Songs. The reviews had been widely mixed. The New York Times, for instance, called it “a book of considerable quality,” while a critic for Entertainment Weekly magazine said he wanted to pick up the book and “throw it across the room.” Tilly vividly recalls squirming in her chair while a television interviewer read her snippets from some of the more damning reviews that accused her of writing “kiddy porn” and mused about the type of “sick mind” that could make up such excruciatingly graphic scenarios. “I was sitting there, live on television, thinking to myself, ‘But I didn't make it up,' “ she says, looking casual and relaxed in faded jeans and cowboy boots. “And after that, I felt totally abandoned for a long time. There was only one person in my family who strongly supported me. “That's changed,” she quickly adds. “I think we've all grown older and moved on. Now, it's very different. My sisters aren't about to come on tour with me, but they're supportive.” Becky, her younger sister, has recently corroborated her stories of abuse. “I share the same memories,” she told People magazine. “Our mother's boyfriend was fiendish. My stepfather was a horrific individual.” Their older sister Jennifer, also an actress, hasn't said anything publicly, but Tilly says she stands behind her. “Jenny said to me, ‘I love you Mary Lou. Do what you have to do,' “ Tilly explains with a sanguine smile. Tilly's mother, however, still refuses to talk to her about the books she has written. “I love my mom enormously. I don't think she ever meant to mess up. She's done many wonderful things and we wouldn't be nearly as creative as we are if it weren't for her. “I do help her out financially,” she goes on, almost apologetically. “And I write to her. But I needed to tell the truth about my life. She has her reality and her truth, and it's just as valid. But I can't live in her reality any more. It doesn't mean I don't love and respect her, I just can't do that any more.” Gemma, the new novel, is written from two points of view — the young girl and her molester. Assuming the voice of a morally unrepentant pedophile, says Tilly, was one of the hardest things she's ever done.
“Now I'm really glad I did it,” she says, and adds she was encouraged to do so by her writing-group instructor. “I hope it will help other people understand how the mind of a pedophile works. The average pedophile is going to abuse between 30 and 60 children before they're caught by the police — and up to 380 children in their lifetime,” she says, plucking American statistics out of the air with the authority of someone who has done a lot of research on the subject. “And they're four times more likely to offend than any other violent criminal. So obviously throwing them in jail isn't doing the trick. They need therapy,” says Tilly, who has self-published this second book and will be donating half the proceeds to organizations that serve children who are abused. “A lot of people who feel the need to dominate and violate in that way are trying to seize back power because of damage that was done to themselves as children. I hope that maybe by hearing their story alongside Gemma's, they'll remember the damage inside themselves and maybe they'll seek help,” she says optimistically. But mostly, Tilly says, this story was written for women like Gemma and herself. “It's for girls like me who were abused and think they have to stay where they started. You don't. You don't have to end up in prison, you don't have to stay on the street, you don't have to end up addicted to crystal meth. That's letting them win. You can make your way out of it. You can. You can build a life, have dreams and go after them. So what if you fail? At least you tried. And on your way there, you might end up somewhere you never thought you'd be.” Meg Tilly's book tour continues Nov. 16 in Winnipeg, Nov. 20 in Saskatoon, Nov. 21 in Edmonton, and ends in Calgary on Nov. 22.
Former Farmer Hot Comedy Star Trevor Boris Can't Believe His
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter
(Oct. 9, 2006) One thing Trevor Boris never expected stand-up comedyto lead to was being mobbed in shopping malls by screaming teenage girls. For the former farmer from Selkirk, Man., and openly gay comic, becoming a teen heartthrob — the result of being a regular on MuchMusic's top-rated Video on Trial and its offshoots — has been another surprise on his unlikely road to success. "I've developed a crazy following of 14-year-old girls; I feel like (Canadian Idol winner) Kalan Porter. It's pretty funny, I can't even go to malls any more.... Honestly, I've had a lot of kids coming up to me crying. It's so bizarre." But Video on Trial — in which Boris and other comics mercilessly diss pop culture and music — and spin-offs such as Stars on Trial and Boris's Hair on Trial commercials on Much are just part of the story for the comic, who is red hot after selling the farm and coming to Toronto three years ago. Over the summer, he filmed two TV pilots: an independent being pitched to Comedy Central called Bought The Farm and a late-night comedy show for CBC. Season 1 of the same-sex wedding show I Now Pronounce You ... is playing on OUTtv in Canada, and also airs in Australia, Israel and several other countries. Tonight, Boris performs at the Rivoli, hoping to snag a coveted spot on the HBO-Aspen Comedy Festival. On Thursday, he tapes his own hour-long Comedy Now special for CTV and the Comedy Network. He's appeared at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival and has been nominated for two Canadian Comedy Awards in the past three years. It is heady stuff for the small-town boy who's just turned 28 and still admits to stage jitters. "I'm still kind of confused on stand-up, I think I'm as surprised as other people at what I'm doing," Boris said. The fresh-faced guy of today, who dispenses wicked, often searing wit, is nothing like the Trevor of his youth.
"I was such a dork — I'm still a dork — but I was really, really shy and quiet," he recalled. "Doing stuff like MuchMusic, a lot of people that I went to high school with 10 years ago see me now and I get a lot of emails from people who just can't believe it's the same person." It nearly didn't come to pass. Coming from a farming family, his father had things all worked out for his son. At 18, Boris was the owner of a 65-hectare farm, growing wheat, oats and other grains, with the income allowing him to pursue an honours degree in psychology at the University of Manitoba. "It was sort of deceiving because as much as I was a real farmer because I owned all this land, at the same time I'd only go out for about 10 days in the spring and 10 days in the fall," Boris said, noting his extended family looked after the place the rest of the year. While attending school in Winnipeg, Boris did a stand-up routine on a dare at a comedy club open-mic night, then started to hone his skills. He met fellow comic Nikki Payne in Winnipeg and she encouraged him to come to Toronto, where he caught the eye of comic impresario Mark Breslin at a Yuk Yuk's open mic. Breslin said Boris's success comes from his natural stage presence. "The most important factor in a comedian's success is their likeability and when I saw Trevor ... his likeability was off the chart," Breslin said. "I love the way he treats his gayness as just one of many important things in his life and not as any defining characteristic, because if he did that it might alienate a broader audience." Boris said he hasn't been pigeonholed as a "gay" comedian. "I've never been cool amongst the gays. I'm a huge hockey fan, I like poker, beer. I'm totally like a man's man." He's also in a 2 1/2-year relationship with partner Cole Kenney and, because of his experience doing the wedding series, he's planning to tie the knot some time next year. "I never thought I'd want to get married. `Oooh, they're being nice and giving us gays marriage,' I thought. `I don't want it, you keep it.' But doing the show, I got really sentimental." Boris still finds his recent fame overwhelming at times. On a recent gig in London, Ont., he was mobbed by young fans and showed them a cellphone photo of Robin Williams whom he'd met the night before. "The kids were like `Who's that?' They didn't know who Robin Williams was. I was cooler than Robin Williams. That's my little claim to fame."
From Confederates to Cherokee
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Freeman, Special To The Star
(Oct. 10, 2006) RALEIGH, N.C.—There are a lot of things Charles Frazier would like to preserve in his home state of North Carolina, but right now two in particular are on his mind: independent bookstores and the Cherokee language. Chances are Thirteen Moons, his new novel, could make a difference. The most anticipated follow-up act in at least a decade, Frazier's new book tells the story of the destruction of the Cherokee Nation — once a country within a country in the U.S. — as seen through the eyes of Will Cooper, a 90-year-old man adopted at age 12 by a Cherokee chief. Cooper spends the rest of his life fighting the tide of unfair treaties and westward expansion unleashed by U.S. president Andrew Jackson. He ultimately helps secure a small piece of ancestral land for a group of Cherokee that still exists today called the Eastern Band. Frazier grew up within sight of this region, when it was still not uncommon to see farmers ploughing by mule, and went to high school with some of its residents. When he got his advance copies of the book, he didn't send them to writer friends but brought them to the Eastern Band to see what the tribal council thought. In the book world, Frazier is sticking with his tribe, too — for now. Rather than blitz New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, he has kicked off his book tour by revisiting all the Southern independents which supported him long before Cold Mountain became a blockbuster bestseller, from Jackson, Miss., to Blytheville, Ark. He crosses the Mason Dixon line just once. At the start of this tour, Frazier paused from book-signing at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C. — an indie that has sold 10,000 copies of Cold Mountain, the story of a wounded Confederate soldier's trek homeward to his sweetheart — to explain what drew him to this story.
Q. You once said Cold Mountain was inspired by an ancestor. Is it fair to say this one is inspired by your ancestors' relationship to the land and who came before them?
A. Yes, in a way. My ancestors came (to the state) soon after one of those treaties after the Revolutionary War opened up land west of Ashville to white occupancy. What happened is what usually happened: some well-to-do people came in and bought big chunks of land and leased them to less-well-to-do people. There have been parts of my family in that part of western North Carolina for over 200 years.
Q. Did you hear stories about their interactions with people living inside the Cherokee nation?
A. No, but when the army came to throw out the Cherokee, they kept ledgers of possessions because the Cherokee were going to be reimbursed when they got out West. So you can go through farmstead after farmstead and see what all they owned ... the lists would have been exactly what my ancestors had back then: a little cabin, some fields, a few animals, a plough, axes, kitchen things.
Q. How do you find all these details?
A. For this book, it came from rare books rooms, special collections kinds of things: letters, documents and government reports.
Q. Did you learn Cherokee language?
A. No, it is really hard. We're working on this project to translate "The Removal" section of this book into Cherokee. At the rate it's going, (it will) be a dead language in 20 or 30 years. And it doesn't have to be this way. Over in Cherokee (North Carolina) they've got this immersion program for 2-year-olds. It's a daycare program done completely in Cherokee. The little kids are picking it up fast, but there is nothing much to read in Cherokee when they finish. So the idea is to translate the middle of this book and to learn what the problems are for publishing in Cherokee. I'm paying for the project; any money it might generate will go back into the project. Hopefully it will wind up with books for kids coming out of the immersion program.
Q. What has the reception to Thirteen Moons been like in that community?
A. Really warm. I went over early in the summer once we had (advance) copies and gave them to some of the elders on the tribal council and Chief Hicks and others in the community to read, and then had a lunch just to talk about it. One of the things I said that day is what I'm trying to do in this book is not tell your story, I'm trying to tell our story: this land we've all occupied together.
Q. How much did the attention of Cold Mountain and the anticipation of this book slow you down? Did you ever just wish you could unplug from the world and go away?
A. Well, I sort of did. I haven't done any of the public writer things: the book fairs, readings, university visits. I've done none of that for several years.
Q. Seems to have really decimated your sales.
A. There was a couple of years where I barely talked to anybody in New York, publishers, agents, all that. I remember having dinner with a couple of writers a couple of years ago. One of them said, "How often do you speak to your agent?" ... I said, "Well, it's been about six months." He said, "What?! I speak to my agent every day!" For me, if I start thinking about (sales) expectations ... it'd be so easy just to get totally stuck. I just kept trying to tell myself, I want to finish this book without having rewritten Cold Mountain.
Chris Rock To Be Honoured At Comedy Fest
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
October 5, 2006) *The second-annual Comedy Festival, a co-production of HBO and live-event company Anschutz Entertainment Group, will honour Chris Rock with its Comedian Award during an event to be held at Las Vegas' Caesars Palace on Nov. 17. A tribute featuring friends and highlights from Rock’s career will be presented, and HBO chairman-CEO Chris Albrecht will have the honour of presenting Rock with the award. Damon Wayans and Dane Cook are among the comics slated to perform at the festival, which runs from Nov. 14-18. Last year, Jerry Seinfeld was given the award, established to honour a contemporary artist who has influenced the art of comedy across a variety of platforms.
Order Of Canada Honours Late Peter Jennings
Source: Canadian Press
(Oct. 6, 2006) OTTAWA — The Governor General has handed out the Order of Canada to 48 recipients today, including the late journalist Peter Jennings. Michaelle Jean gave the Order to two categories of honourees — 13 officers and 35 members at a ceremony at Rideau Hall. Among the members is Jennings. His award was received by his daughter, Elizabeth Jennings. Toronto-born Peter Jennings was one of North America's best-known broadcast journalists and anchor of ABC's World News Tonight. He died in August 2005 of lung cancer at age 67. Also honoured as a member was prominent Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby. The Order of Canada recognizes people who have made a special contribution as a Canadian — everyone from local citizens to national and international personalities and all Canadians are eligible. Three different levels of membership honour people whose accomplishments vary in degree and scope. They are Companion, Officer and Member.
Gaultier Brings Magic To Fashion Week
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Joelle Diderich, Associated Press
(Oct. 9, 2006) Paris — French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier made a fashion editor levitate — not from the thrill of his latest catwalk display but on the stage of a theatre where he celebrated 30 years in business. Singer Janet Jackson and actress Demi Moore looked on as top fashion industry figures performed elaborate magic tricks during a time-out Saturday night from their jam-packed Paris fashion week timetable. “It's because they are magic, and fashion is magic!” a beaming Gaultier told hundreds of guests at the Olympia theatre. The designer, known for his irreverent wit, performed his levitation trick with Virginie Mouzat, the glamorous fashion correspondent of the French newspaper Le Figaro. Grace Coddington, the flame-haired creative director of U.S. Vogue, was locked into a cage by colleague Hamish Bowles and covered with a velvet drape. She reappeared on the edge of the stage, replaced inside the cage by British model Lily Cole, who was holding a large, grey cat. But it was International Herald Tribune critic Suzy Menkes, whose reviews have the power to make or break a designer's collection, who brought the house down. Camping it up in a geisha outfit, she locked a British fashion editor inside a box and gleefully twisted the editor's head around. Guests continued the party into the small hours, boogying to sets by Boy George and 2 Many DJs.
Kiran Desai Wins Booker
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press
(Oct. 11, 2006) LONDON—Indian writer Kiran Desai won Britain's prestigious Man Booker Prize yesterday for The Inheritance of Loss, a cross-continental saga that moves from the Himalayas to New York City. Desai, daughter of novelist and three-time Booker Prize nominee Anita Desai, had been one of the favourites for the £50,000 ($105,000 Canadian) prize. "To my mother, I owe a debt so profound and so great that this book feels as much hers as it does mine," Desai said as she accepted her award, later revealing her mother had been too nervous to attend the ceremony. Judges deliberated for two hours before making their decision, hailing Desai's work as "a magnificent novel of humane breadth and wisdom, comic tenderness and powerful political acuteness." "The remarkable thing about Kiran Desai is that she is aware of her Anglo-Indian inheritance — of (V.S.) Naipaul and (R.K.) Narayan and (Salman) Rushdie — but she does something pioneering," said Hermione Lee, chairman of the judges. "She seems to jump on from those traditions and create something which is absolutely of its own. The book is movingly strong in its humanity and I think that ... is why it won." The 35-year-old (she's the second youngest winner) held off the challenge of five other nominees, including favourite Sarah Waters and her novel, The Night Watch, a story of love and loss during World War II. The other finalists were In the Country of Men, Hisham Matar's first novel about childhood in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya; The Secret River, Kate Grenville's tale of life in a 19th-century Australian penal colony; Carry Me Down, the story of an unusual boy, by Irish-Australian novelist M.J. Hyland; and Mother's Milk, a portrait of a rich but dysfunctional family by English writer Edward St. Aubyn. Desai published her first novel, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, in 1998. She is scheduled to appear at the International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront Centre later this month, at a round table on Oct. 22 at noon and a reading Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. See http://www.readings.org for more information.
Wendel Clark Revisited
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Chris Zelkovich
(Oct. 8, 2006) Though it's been six years since he last threw a bodycheck in anger, to many Wendel Clark remains the quintessential Maple Leaf. A rough-and-tumble power forward with a wicked shot and an even more wicked right hook, Clark played 13 of his 15 NHL seasons in blue and white and wore the C on his jersey from 1991 to '94. He scored 330 goals in his career, but to listen to many longtime Leaf fans it was more than 500. Today, Clark works with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in community relations and lives with his wife Denise and children Kylie, Kassie and Kody north of Toronto. He also signed on to be part of a new Hockey Night In Canada instructional series, Think Hockey, which made its debut last night. He took time recently to sit down with Unplugged at the Air Canada Centre.
What do you think of the new NHL?
I think it's great now. It's opening the game up and letting the talented players skate. Even if you're in a checking role you have to skate and use your head.
How does today's game compare to the way it was when you were in your prime?
This is the closest it's been since the '80s. They brought in all the rules because Edmonton was too good or Montreal was too good to try to make it fair and that's what happened. You took all the exciting stuff out of hockey and it became monotone. Between 1994 and 2004 we promoted the average player, not the best player. The fans want to see the best players play. It would be a great time for any talented player or a power forward to play. Nobody can hook or hold you. The only people who complain about the rules are the players with borderline talent. They didn't say you couldn't hit, they just said you couldn't hook and hold. What also set the game back was technology with video. Everything you coach is defence, everything that comes offensively is talent. Now you can break down every game and figure out how to stop everybody.
What aches and pains do you have left from your career?
I don't play any more. My body's in pretty good shape unless I play rec hockey. It gives me a reminder. If I ever feel too good I just step on the ice and my body reminds me why I don't play any more. It's hips, shoulders, back, you name it. I love playing, but when everybody else in the household has to listen to you for a week, they couldn't care less that you're sore all the time.
Are your kids playing hockey?
Kody plays. The girls (Kylie and Kassie) hate hockey. They love gymnastics.
All your kids' names start with K. Why?
No reason. I think my wife (Denise) just wants to make it hard on me. If I get mad at one, they all get yelled at because the right name doesn't come out.
What's your greatest regret about your NHL career?
I don't really have any regrets. I think you always wish you could have played longer, but we're all given a kick at the can and when the time's up: Time's up. I played 15 years in the league and the body said, "That's it." You're too old to prove somebody wrong. Then you get frustrated and nobody wants to see a frustrated hockey player.
What was your greatest accomplishment?
I don't ever talk about myself ... just being able to play the game is the best part.
What's the best thing about being Wendel Clark?
The best thing is that I could play the game I loved for so many years and still be in this organization around the game I loved to play. The best part of that is that it gives me the time to be around the kids. That's where I'm fortunate. I get to drop them off and pick them up. What parents wouldn't love to do that. The older you get everything flies by quicker.
What's the worst thing?
Too much grass to cut.
What's the biggest misconception people have about playing in the NHL?
You play and the bright lights go on and your uniform is all shiny and clean but underneath a lot of things are hurting. The bright lights go on and everything looks perfect, like a brand new car with a new paint job. But you don't know what's under the hood.
What's the wildest thing that was ever written about you?
I've had just about everything written about me. As a player, you never worried about what you can't control. Your friends know you and I knew who I was and that's all that mattered. ... I never worried about what was written because I'd get nervous when nothing was being written. When nobody talks about you, good or bad, that's when you're done.
How often do you get back to Kelvington?
I get back home once a year and a couple of times a year to Saskatchewan with functions and stuff. My mom and dad are there. We rent the farm out now and my dad kind of farms for fun like I golf.
What's the one thing about you that would surprise people the most?
I have no idea (laughing).
What's in your pockets right now?
Car keys and $25. I don't carry much stuff around. That's my BlackBerry (pointing to a notebook). I don't even have phone numbers in my cellphone.
You're a contestant on Jeopardy. What topic, other than hockey, would you choose?
Farming or real estate.
It goes with the farming. Real estate as in land. I just find it neat. I'm like an older farmer, driving around in the morning with a coffee and looking at land.
What do you do to get away from it all?
A little golf, but basically the cottage. Nothing beats water. In the summer, the family usually stays at the cottage and I do everything out of the cottage.
What's on your car stereo?
Country music. I have three settings: 95.3, the FAN 590 and 640. Hockey and country music. I like all country, as long as it's not about the dog dying and the cat running away. That's what all the city guys think it is. The old twang.
What TV shows do you hate to miss?
Nothing I hate to miss, but we watch the Law and Orders and CSIs. That's usually on after the kids go to bed and I get to choose what's on TV.
What song sparks you to sing out loud?
I don't know many words. Besides, I think I'd scare myself if I sang out loud.
What do you read?
I don't do a lot of reading outside of newspapers and magazines. Maybe the Auto Trader for trucks and heavy equipment. We both drive trucks. I just look, price everything.
Name three people, living or dead, you'd love to invite to dinner.
My grandfather Bud Clark, Gordie Howe from Floral, Sask., and my dad. We'd all be talking hockey. My dad would be asking Gordie Howe all the questions.
Was playing for Harold Ballard as crazy as we've been led to believe?
I got to experience it at a very young age, at 18. I was so happy to be in the NHL I didn't care what was going around. Most players who played for Harold will tell you everybody got along very well with him. He treated me and my family great and most players would tell you the same. He probably didn't want people to see that. He liked to be the cantankerous guy.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Burning too much gas in the boat. The kids all water ski, but I cruise in the boat many hours. That real estate thing again, looking. It never gets me anywhere, but I do a lot of looking.
What's your ideal meal?
Steak, 16-ounce New York, medium rare. I used to love the old Le Baron across the street from the Gardens, steak and onion rings. Best onion rings in the world.
We Remember Baseball Pioneer Buck O’Neil
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(October 9, 2006) *The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on Saturday allowed friends and fans of the late John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil to gather and mourn his passing Friday night in Kansas City at the age of 94. O'Neil died from complications of congestive heart failure and recently diagnosed bone marrow cancer at Research Medical Center. "I'm going to miss him, because he was always very positive with me and was always rooting for me," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "As a matter of fact, when I got the job, he left a voice mail congratulating me. It goes, ‘Hi, Skippah. Nice goin’.’ I still have that on my phone, and once in a while, I just play it back with the other messages I get. It means a lot to me. He's someone I'll always remember." Born November 13, 1911 in Carrabelle, Florida, O’Neil played first base and was a manager in the Negro Leagues, most notably in the Negro American League with the Kansas City Monarchs. After retiring from the diamond, he also became a coach and scout in Major League Baseball. He was named the first black coach by the Cubs in 1962 and in 1990, led the push to establish the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. He received an honorary doctorate in education from Missouri Western State University on May 13, 2006, and also delivered the commencement speech during the graduation ceremony.
O'Neil was a member of the 18-member Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee from 1981 to 2000 and was instrumental in the induction of eight Negro League players during that time. He was nominated to a special Hall ballot for Negro League players, managers, and executives in 2006, but he failed to receive the necessary 75% to gain admission. Upon hearing that he didn’t make the cut, O’Neil addressed a crowd of about 200 fans who had originally gathered to celebrate before being told that he hadn’t received enough votes to make it into the Hall. O’Neil told the crowd: “God's been good to me. They didn't think Buck was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. That's the way they thought about it and that's the way it is, so we're going to live with that. Now, if I'm a Hall of Famer for you, that's all right with me. Just keep loving old Buck. Don't weep for Buck. No, man, be happy, be thankful.” O’Neil will lie in state on the Coors Field of Legends gallery at the NLBM, America's Home of Negro Leagues Baseball in the historic 18th & Vine District of Kansas City on Friday, Oct. 13, from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Buck and the late Horace Peterson III co-founded the NLBM, and Buck had served as chairman from its inception in 1990. A private funeral and burial service are scheduled for next Saturday at a place and time to be determined, and a separate memorial service open to the public will follow. A celebration of O'Neil's 95th birthday will go on as scheduled Nov. 11 at Kansas City's Starlight Theatre. The guest list of about 750 includes many baseball greats as well as other celebrities and political leaders.