August 9, 2007
I write to you this week with a heavy heart as my friend and Canadian soul star, Haydain Neale, has suffered serious injuries in a car accident. I solicit you to right now say a prayer for a full recovery for Haydain as well as loving support for his family and friends. This is a difficult time for us and reminds us that life is fragile - love hard and often. More details below including details on how you can send your love and support to Haydain's family.
On a lighter and happier note, another Canadian star, Wes "Maestro" Williams has tied the knot in a private ceremony in Nassau last week. We all wish Mr. and Mrs. Wes and Tamara Williams all the happiness their hearts and hands can hold!
I've just returned from Barbados and will featuring a piece on my coverage of the 2007 Crop Over with many photos in next week's newsletter. Harlem weekly event listings with tons of live music listings are below as well.
Haydain Neale Critically Injured in Crash
Source: ib entertainment
(Aug. 7, 2007) This statement was released today from friends and family of performer and songwriter, Haydain Neale of Jacksoul. Haydain was in an unfortunate traffic accident on the evening of Friday, August 3rd. He is in the hospital in critical but stable condition. The family thanks everyone for their concern and support and hope to have an update soon. Any inquiries concerning Haydain should be directed to Daniel Mekinda at email@example.com.
Any messages to Haydain and his family will be received with appreciation at the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Any cards should be sent to the below address:
17 Stephanie Street
Canada, M5T 1B1
Jacksoul Singer In Critical Condition
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Unnati Gandhi
(August 8, 2007) TORONTO — A Juno-award-winning soul singer is in critical condition after an accident, his publicist said. Haydain Neale, lead singer of the band Jacksoul, was driving when he was involved in a traffic accident last Friday, said Daniel Mekinda yesterday. He remains stable in hospital. Details of his injuries were not released at the family's request. The 36-year-old Hamilton native, who now lives in the Beaches neighbourhood, won a Juno Award this year for R&B Soul recording of the year for his album, mySOUL.
Jacksoul Singer Neale In Critical
Condition Following Crash
Source: -- Katie Rook, National Post
(Aug. 9, 2007) The lead singer of jacksoul, an award-winning Canadian band, is in critical but stable condition following a vehicle collision last Friday night in Toronto. Haydain Neale, 36, who is known in the city’s music scene for his warm voice and soulful sound, suffered head injuries after a northbound Honda, turning west onto Eglinton Ave. from Kennedy Rd., collided with a southbound Vespa scooter around 10 p.m., police said. Mr. Neale, a native of Hamilton, Ont., who now lives in the Beaches with his wife and daughter, released an album in 2006 entitled mySOUL. Over the years, the band has received the SOCAN Award for “R&B Song of the Year,” a Canadian Urban Music Award for “Songwriter of the Year,” a JUNO Award for “Best R&B/Soul Recording.”
Mr. Neale, who is president of the Songwriters Association of Canada, has spent the duration of this year working on his next album, said Daniel Mekinda, a family friend. “We’re confident that [Haydain’s condition] will take a turn for the positive,” Mr. Mekinda said. “All of his family is with him.” Supporters are asked to email well wishes to email@example.com.
Singer Suffering Head Injuries After
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(August 9, 2007) Canada's premier male R&B vocalist remains in hospital with head injuries after a vehicle collided with his scooter. Haydain Neale, lead singer of two-time Juno-winning band jacksoul, was travelling south on Kennedy Rd. near Eglinton Ave. about 10 p.m. last Friday when a northbound Honda Civic turned left into his path, said police. "Mr. Neale appears to have had the right of way," explained Staff Sgt. Andy Norrie of police traffic services. The accident is still under investigation and "charges are likely" against a 27-year-old male driver who was accompanied by several passengers, the officer added. "There was no alcohol (involved), no speed, no mechanical failure, no intent," he said. "It's just a tragic circumstance." Neale, 36, was wearing a helmet, he noted. The raspy-voiced Hamilton native resides in Toronto's east end with his wife and teenage daughter. "His entire family is with him," said family spokesperson Daniel Mekinda, who declined to give further details at the family's request. The five-member band Neale fronts is best known for the hits "Can't Stop" and "Still Believe in Love." Their latest effort, mySOUL, a disc of covers spanning 50 years, garnered a Juno earlier this year for R&B/Soul Recording.
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald
(July 26, 2007) Russell Peters latest comedy tour is appropriately named Homecoming. The Brampton, Ont.-raised comic has been everywhere but home over the past few years. He's been cracking up audiences all over the world during almost non-stop touring in support of his hit comedy DVD Outsourced, based on his Comedy Central special that aired in August 2006. He's sold out rock concert venues in four continents including an unprecedented two-night sellout of the Air Canada Centre in June, feats that have him pegged as the hottest comedian in the world at the moment. Peters has brought his unique brand of comedy back to Canada this summer with an appearance at the Montreal Just for Laughs festival. He will kick off the inaugural Toronto Just for Laughs festival, hosting a free evening of comedy at Yonge-Dundas Square on Friday. But before Peters takes to the stage in Toronto, he'll answer your questions online. Following Peters's free show in Toronto on Friday, he'll prepare for his Western Canadian tour that will begin in Winnipeg on Sept. 18 and end in Victoria, B.C. Sept. 25th. Unfortunately, Russell was able to answer only a few of the many questions submitted from Globe readers. Those questions and his answers appear below:
Patricia Smythe from Toronto writes: Any interest in doing a Canadian television series?
Russell Peters: It's funny, up until two years ago, the best that the Canadian industry could offer me was a radio play. All of a sudden everyone wants to do a show with me here. I'm not against it, it's just that I live in Los Angeles now and I'm juggling offers from a number of production companies and networks. I had to go to the States to take my career to the next level and like every other Canadian entertainer, once I went to the States and the American industry acknowledged that I might have something to offer, the Canadian industry followed.
This is still home to me, so I'll never say never.
Rex Murph from Toronto: What is your favourite city to perform in, and why?
Russell Peters: Well now that I just wrapped-up two of the most incredible nights of my career here in Toronto, I'd have to say Toronto. The shows at the ACC were an absolute high point in my life, both professionally and emotionally. I really was almost in tears when I took the stage on that first night and I saw 15,000 people on their feet cheering for me. It's something that I could never have imagined.
The Toronto audiences have been with me from the beginning (in 1989) and they've stuck with me ever since.
Hakim Kassam from Kingston Ontario writes: Hey Russell, I really enjoy your comedy, but I have friends at college who believe that it is regressive in the fight to eliminate racism. How would you defend your jokes against this allegation?
Russell Peters: Sounds like your friends have some of their own issues with racism. Generally I've found that there are two types of people who have problems with my comedy - either the ultra politically correct who have no idea of what it's like to be a visible minority or people who have their own racial issues, whether that means that they've got their own racist issues or they have their own issues with regards to their race and culture.
I also don't think that we're never going to eliminate racism. As long as there are different races, there's always going to be one race that will feel superior to another. What a lot of people walk away with from my material is that there are more similarities between us, than there are differences.
I also don't really talk about race, I talk about culture.
Wonder To Tour
(August 3, 2007) LOS ANGELES -- One of contemporary music's most iconic stars, the legendary Stevie Wonder, announced Thursday that he is hitting the road for the first time in more than a decade. "A Wonder Summer's Night" tour will feature an evening of music from Stevie, a performing and songwriting tour de force who has received an astounding 25 Grammy Awards as well the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. The tour kicks off on August 23rd at Humphries in San Diego, CA and culminates on September 20th in Boston's Bank of America Pavilion. The tour is being produced by Live Nation (NYSE: LYV) and company executive Larry Magid. Tickets are available beginning on Saturday, August 11th. "I am looking forward to performing in these venues under the stars. We are going to have some wonderful nights of intimate excitement," said Stevie Wonder. Stevie Wonder released the first live performance to reach the top of the U.S. charts with Fingertips Part II. His amazing career has earned him 49 top 40 singles, 32 number-one singles, and an Academy Award(R) for "I Just Called to Say I Love You," plus Billboard's 2004 Century Award. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, alongside the Rolling Stones.
In 1983, Wonder spearheaded the realization of Martin Luther King Day as a national U.S. holiday. His participation in the massive 1985 "We Are the World" fundraiser for hunger in Africa was a music industry milestone, while his involvement to put an end to apartheid in South Africa is legendary. Stevie Wonder was the youngest honouree of the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors. At the 22nd Kennedy Center Honors in 1999, President Clinton remarked: "In so many ways (Wonder) has helped to compose the remaining passages of Dr. King's legacy." But it is Wonder's songwriting legacy that has inexorably connected him to the world. From Motown prodigy to groundbreaking innovator, he has always believed in music as a transformational force. Don't miss these special dates. They will be nights of intimate excitement.
"A WONDER SUMMER'S NIGHT TOUR"
DATE CITY VENUE
Aug. 23 San Diego, CA Humphrey's
Aug. 25 Lake Tahoe, CAHarvey's Lake Tahoe Amphitheatre
Aug. 26 Concord, CA Concord Pavilion
Aug. 28 Santa Barbara, CA Santa Barbara Bowl
Aug. 30 Portland, OR Edgefield Amphitheatre
Aug. 31 Woodinville, WA Chateau Saint Michelle Winery
Sept. 4 Saratoga, CA Mountain Winery
Sept. 5 Los Angeles, CA Greek Theatre
Sept. 10 Chicago, IL Charter One Pavilion
Sept. 12 Detroit, MI Meadowbrook
Sept. 14 Atlanta, GA Chastain Park Amphitheatre
Sept. 16 Baltimore, MD Pier Six Pavilion
Sept. 20 Boston, MA Bank of America Pavilion
Of Canadian At Actor's Home A Mystery
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Unnati Gandhi
(August 8, 2007) The last time anyone saw Jacob Adams alive, he was playing with his friend Ving Rhames's four large dogs. The next morning, the Canadian scriptwriter was found dead on the actor's front lawn in affluent West Los Angeles, dog bites and blood all over his chest, legs and arms. But what happened in those intervening hours has everyone from police to friends scratching their heads. An autopsy Tuesday found the 40-year-old did not die as a result of the bites, and that he was healthy in every other way. Police say Mr. Adams, who had been living at the Mission Impossible co-star's home for the past two years and worked as his professional stand-in, was seen outside the Brentwood, Calif., home at about 8 p.m. last Thursday. Half an hour later, friends tried calling him but got no answer. Whatever spurred one of the 90-kilogram mastiffs to give chase had Mr. Adams running so hard that police found his shoes more than nine metres from where his body was discovered. “He made it to the gate, he got the gate closed to keep the dogs inside that grassy area, and he collapsed on the other side of that gate, about three feet from it,” said West Los Angeles Lieutenant Ray Lombardo. When police arrived, the dogs – one with blood on its right forepaw; the other so old it hardly had any teeth – were running around freely on the lawn. Mr. Adams was pronounced dead at the scene.
Tuesday, the dogs were still in the custody of animal control. Mr. Rhames's wife told police Tuesday that the dogs, which the family has owned for about seven years, were very gentle. “She said she has two young children and that the dogs had never viciously turned on anybody,” Lt. Lombardo said. Most of the bites were superficial, the Los Angeles coroner's office said Tuesday. It was also determined that Mr. Adams did not die of a heart attack and did not have any clogged arteries. The body is now being sent in for toxicology tests. “At this point, it's simply a mystery. We're ruling it an undetermined death,” Lt. Lombardo said. He believes the dogs – “they're big dogs; they look like lions,” he said – sensed something was wrong with Mr. Adams and were trying to help him by pulling on him. There were no bites on the head or neck. Mr. Adams, who is from the Toronto area, had met the Pulp Fiction actor several years ago on the Canadian set for Kojak, a made-for-television movie in which Mr. Rhames played a police detective. Mr. Adams had written that film's script.
The two men got along very well in a short time and became good friends. “He took a real liking to Jacob,” Anne Dodds, a long-time friend of Mr. Adams, said Tuesday. Mr. Rhames then asked Mr. Adams if he would like to work for him. “He had apparently said to Jacob, ‘When I'm here, I want you to stand in for me, but when I'm not here, treat my home in Vancouver, treat my home in Los Angeles, as your own home,'” Ms. Dodds said in an interview. “This man, when he was a friend, he was a friend,” Ms. Dodds said of Mr. Adams. “If you ever had a down time, he'd give you that lift to make you feel better about yourself.” With that, Mr. Adams moved to Los Angeles two years ago, where he lived in Mr. Rhames's estate with his wife and two young children. Mr. Adams is not married and recently got his green card. The deal was that whenever Mr. Rhames was out of town – he's currently in Europe – Mr. Adams would take care of the “odds and ends” around the house, police said.
Courthouse Saving Hot Jazz For Cooler
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(August 05, 2007) Four months after its auspicious launch, Toronto's newest jazz club is taking a break. Live@Courthouse will close to the public tomorrow and reopen in September – a hiatus necessitated by a dismal turnout over the last four weeks, said its operators. "We're losing money and we're not in the business of losing money," said jazz impresario Pat Taylor, who runs the Adelaide St. E. venue with entrepreneur Nick Di Donato. After realizing capacity crowds of up to 400 nightly in June, for acts such as Mike Stern and Freddie Cole during programming for the Canada Trust TD Jazz Festival (of which Taylor is executive producer), attendance at the venue fell dramatically, but not unexpectedly. "I was hoping business was going to be better than I predicted," said Taylor of the swank 150-seat destination that opened in March. "But there's so much activity going on. Everybody's outside, sitting on patios and enjoying their decks, it's hard to get them inside. "We had a close-to-break-even April/May, and June was fabulous. But July lost money and August was going the same way." Cover charges at the venue, which features eight-metre ceilings, iron lace balconies and a top-shelf German sound system, range from $10 to $30.
The city's big jazz spots are typically vulnerable during the midsummer. Both the 120-seat Montreal Bistro & Jazz Club (closed in 2006) and 150-seat Top O' the Senator jazz club (closed in 2005) used to shutter in July, within days of the end of the Toronto Jazz Festival. Jazz aficionados have high hopes for Courthouse, which is located on the second and third floors of a historic building and was renovated at a cost of more than $500,000. Its owners are not rookies. Taylor has helmed the jazz fest for 21 years. As president of Liberty Group Entertainment, Donato oversees a roster of successful spots, including Rosewater Supper Club (adjacent to Courthouse) and Phoenix Concert Theatre. It's because Liberty owns the landmark building that housed a courthouse until 1899, and was later home to the exclusive Arts & Letters Club, that pausing the jazz program is even an option. "We're in control," said Taylor. "One partner is the landlord and we both have other livelihoods." Once the duo made the decision Wednesday to scale back, Taylor had to notify local artists such as pianists Bill King, Robi Botos and Bernie Senensky that their August gigs were cancelled. "Not one of them was surprised," he said. "They're all seasoned pros." Taylor stressed that although the club is closed to nightly jazz, it will still host private events, such as a wedding today. And, he said, most of the dozen staff would find work at other Liberty operations. When Courthouse does reopen at an undetermined date next month, the programming will consist of more big-name touring artists, he said, adding that patrons can expect the summer closing to become a tradition. "I'll reiterate what I said to the public when we first opened: `We've done everything we can, now it's up to you, whether you want to come out and support this music.'"
Gay Community Splashes Out For Caribana
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(August 05, 2007) One thing's certain Caribana weekend: a soiree to suit every passion. Boat cruise? Barbecue? House party? Hip-hop jam? Vintage reggae? Soca rave? All ages? Older couples? Sexy singles? It's covered. Now, even the city's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is getting in on the action. "Busy, busy, busy; I'm going crazy," said Mykel Hall a.k.a. DJ Blackcat as he dashed about a few days ago organizing the three-day Toronto Splash, billed as "The Only Official Gay Caribana Events." Not that the event, which concludes today with Summer Breeze, an outdoor fete at the Zippers/Cellblock complex (72 Carlton St.) and party tonight at Goodhandy's (120 Church St.) is sanctioned by Caribana organizers – any more than the multitude of happenings capitalizing on the festive environment the annual festival engenders. "Traditionally, Caribana weekend our community goes to Montreal for their Pride," explained 35-year-old Hall, Toronto-born of Jamaican parents. "But what happens when you're gay and Caribbean and want to jump up?" In previous years, the long-time promoter would stage one or two functions as alternatives to the plethora of straight parties. This time, he teamed up with two other vets, Murchy P. and Anopenmind, to stage a full weekend of gay-friendly bashes featuring out of town deejays and exotic dancers.
"We want to make the Caribana weekend as big as Pride," he explained. "This year we're putting the focus on the party aspect, but in the future we want do workshops and film screenings." The deejay, who took his name from the title of a popular Janet Jackson song, specializes in reggae, house music, calypso and hip hop. "The bulk of my work is in the gay community, because they know me more, but I've also played in straight clubs." With an extensive email list and glossy postcard flyers, he expected each night would attract up to 800 people – including dozens expected from Atlanta, Boston and Washington, D.C. Hall would like to see Toronto Splash become a massive celebration of queer and ethnic pride, similar to yearly affairs in some U.S. cities. And it would not detract from the annual parade, he insisted. "We don't even schedule any events during the day on Saturday," he pointed out. "Caribana is an amazing thing that happens in this city." Like Hall, CKLN radio host Nik Redman, 38, a self-described "black queer trans man" is careful to say he has never felt direct hostility from Caribana revellers but prefers to be where tolerance is assured. "I don't want to spend my money anywhere I may not be accepted," he explained. "I don't know if the people at some of those places would be okay if two men or two women wanted to dance together or be affectionate. We don't want to be closeted." Redman, who donned a costume and danced with the Toronto Island Mas Band last Caribana, does recall hearing reggae and soca artists singing homophobic lyrics at the festival in previous years. It's an issue gay and transgender turntablists confront regularly. "I don't believe in banning artists; I just won't play that particular (offensive) song," said Hall. "Where would I be as a DJ if I never play an Elephant Man tune? The music aficionado does admit to not being as strident with misogynistic songs. "I don't play a lot of bitches and hos stuff ... when something does not really directly affect you, you don't really think about it."
Who Is Eric Roberson?
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(August 7, 2007) *Eric Roberson has been the man standing next to the man since the onset of the so-called neo-soul movement in the mid to late nineties. But we've always known that this man has the skills to pay the bills. And if his BET J "Cool Like That" award nomination is any indicator, Roberson is in a class with some of the best. "It was the BET J Award (nomination). It was Musiq Soulchild, Gerald LeVert and myself that were nominated, and Brian McKnight as well," said Roberson of that special night at the BET Awards. "I'm honoured. I am a fan of each one of them that was mentioned and being mentioned in the same breath as them as an independent artist means a lot to me."
Back in the mid 90s Roberson languished on Warner Bros. Here's yet another talented individual that's doing his thing on the oft times frowned upon indie circuit. But, counter to big label naysayers, an artist can definitely get paid on the underground. "We're just going to be touring, man," the Rahway, New Jersey born artist told our reporter. "We're booked all the way up through October and we're going to be touring overseas. It'll be an honour to go out and party on tour and share our stories with the people. We're celebrating the new album and we're just going to take it from there." Taking it from "there" is taking it very far indeed. Eric Roberson's new set is titled "Left" and it has been killing them softly on adult contemporary radio since its release on his very own Blue Erro imprint.
Art Davis, Jazz Musician: 73
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press
(August 04, 2007) LONG BEACH, Calif. – Art Davis, the renowned double bassist who played with John Coltrane and other jazz greats, has died. He was 73. Davis died of a heart attack Sunday at his home in Long Beach, his son Kimaili Davis told the Los Angeles Times for a story in Saturday's editions. Davis was blacklisted in the 1970s for speaking up about racism in the music industry, then later earned a doctorate in clinical psychology and balanced performance dates with appointments to see patients. "He was adventurous with his approach to playing music," said pianist Nate Morgan, who played with the elder Davis intermittently over the last 10 years. "It takes a certain amount of integrity to step outside the box and say, 'I like it here and I'm going to hang here for a while.''' Known for his stunning and complete mastery of the instrument, Davis was able to jump between genres. He played classical music with the New York Philharmonic, was a member of the NBC, Westinghouse and CBS orchestras, and played for Broadway shows. The most enriching experience of his career was collaborating with John Coltrane. Described by jazz critic Nat Hentoff as Coltrane's favourite bassist, Davis performed on the saxophonist's albums including "Ascension," Volumes 1 and 2 of "The Africa/Brass Sessions" and "Ole Coltrane.''
The two musicians met one night in the late 1950s at Small's Paradise, a jazz club in Harlem. Davis viewed his instrument as "the backbone of the band," one that should "inspire the group by proposing harmonic information with a certain sound quality and rhythmic impulses," Davis said in an excerpt from So What magazine posted on his Web site. By following his own advice, Davis' career flourished. He played with a long and varied list of artists: Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Louis Armstrong, Judy Garland, John Denver, the trio Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan. Davis began studying piano at age 5 in Harrisburg, Pa., where he was born in 1933. By sixth grade Davis studied the tuba in school because it was the only instrument available, he said. By 1951 he decided to make music his career. He chose the double bass, believing it would allow more opportunities to make a living. At age 17 he studied with the principal double bassist at the Philadelphia Orchestra. But when he auditioned for his hometown's symphony, the audition committee was so unduly harsh and demanding that the conductor Edwin MacArthur questioned their objectivity. "The answer was, 'Well, he's colored,' and there was silence,'' Davis recalled in a 2002 article in Double Bassist magazine. ``Finally MacArthur burst out, 'If you don't want him, then you don't want me.' So they quickly got together and accepted me.'' After high school, Davis studied classical music on scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music and the Juilliard School of Music. At night he played jazz in New York clubs. In the 1970s, his fortunes waned after he filed an unsuccessful discrimination lawsuit against the New York Philharmonic. Like other black musicians who challenged job hiring practices, he lost work and industry connections.
With less work coming his way, Davis returned to school and in 1981 earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from New York University. For many years he was a practicing psychologist while also working as a musician. As a result of his lawsuit and protest, Davis played a key role in the increased use of the so-called blind audition, in which musicians are heard but not seen by those evaluating them, Hentoff said. The accomplished musician also pioneered a fingering technique for the bass and wrote "The Arthur Davis System for Double Bass.'' Davis also wore the hat of university professor. He taught at UC Irvine for two years. Most recently Davis was a part-time music instructor at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. Besides his son Kimaili, Davis is survived by another son and a daughter.
Levy The Living Legend Of Jamaican
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Tim Lai, Entertainment Reporter
(August 04, 2007) Although Barrington Levy is one of the living legends of reggae and dancehall, the Jamaican star has never performed during Toronto's ode to the Caribbean, one of the city's highlights of the year. Nevertheless, the 43-year-old is featured tomorrow night when he takes his famous scatting and wailing on to the concert stage at Harbourfront Centre for Island Soul – his jams will definitely get the crowd grooving. "You come with the vibes, I'll bring the vibes," said Jamaica's top-selling artist over the phone. "I'm definitely looking forward to putting on a good show for the Canadian people." Levy, who has inspired many of today's reggae stars, said he's looking forward to absorbing the city's Caribbean soul when he arrives in town, even though he admits he's never even heard of Caribana, a boisterous festival celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend. Since breaking out in Jamaica nearly 30 years ago as a powerful and poignant vocalist, Levy has captured fans from around the world with such hits as "Under Mi Sensi," "Murderer" and "Living Dangerously" – the vibrant collaboration with Bounty Killer, one of the island's most famous DJs.
Although Levy has a library of smash hits, along with a number of remixes, he promises some new material will be on his forthcoming album – his first original record in more than a decade. "Nobody has heard the new stuff yet," he said. "I'm planning that it will be my final album, actually." A release date hasn't been set yet, but he said he may release singles here and there. In the meantime, he'll concentrate on his first passion: touring and live performances. "There's no slowing, there's no such word. That's all I know, that's all I've been doing," he said. Levy said much of his new material came in bits and pieces over the years, as he did a number of collaborations with Shaggy, Snoop Dogg and Shyne. "You don't want to overdo it and I'm not the type of artist who will overdo it," he said. His latest partnership was with Red-1 of Vancouver's Rascalz, in which he provided his vocals to "No Fuss" on the album Beg for Nothing, released earlier this year. They collaborated before on "Top of the World," the Rascalz 1999 hit that also featured an up-and-coming K-os.
Go Big Or Go Home
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner
(August 1, 2007) After three decades of success in any field, many artists might start to think about slowing down. Not Jack Lenz. Overseeing Lenz Entertainment, a company of about 60 musicians, writers, engineers and puppet artists, the fifty something Toronto-based composer and arranger is looking to expand. He claims his broad-based firm is now the fastest-growing in his field in Canada, producing and writing music for television series, specials and feature films, as well as developing a stable of young recording artists. To bring what had been its disparate operations under one roof, the firm recently bought a 25,000-square-foot facility in Thorncliffe Park, complete with two state-of-the-art recording and engineering studios and a puppet-making shop for the animated children's series it is producing. There's talk of building a TV studio on the property to avoid renting space, and this year Lenz will begin production of a long-nurtured feature film, Mona's Dream. "We got to the point where we had worked on so many shows that we thought, 'Hey we can do this,' " Lenz says of his decision to go big. He's a tall, broad-shouldered, florid-faced man with a warm smile, a hearty laugh and a ready quip. "There may be a bit of folly here, but we had to grow. We couldn't stay where we were. So we went out and got some investors, including Ole, a Toronto music publishing company. And we've created, I think, a unique, independent, Canadian model." The competition is fierce, he acknowledges. The budget for music in most films, he says, is less than 1 per cent of total costs, "and it's dropping, and you're competing with guys who work out of their basements. Producers are quite happy with that because it costs them less."
Meanwhile, Lenz's 29-year-old son, Asher, a classically trained pianist, has joined the firm as a songwriter, while his wife, Debrah Burton-Lenz, looks after the company's business affairs. There's no questioning Lenz's musical talent. He has been a composer and arranger for Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts, written scores of jingles (including the Toronto Blue Jays' theme song, OK, Blue Jays, Let's Play Ball), scored dozens of TV shows (from the CBC National News to Due South to Designer Guys to Little Mosque on the Prairie), and several feature films (among them Paul Gross's Men with Brooms and Mel Gibson's controversial The Passion of the Christ, although he was subsequently replaced by John Debney). "Ooh, boy," Lenz laughs now, recalling the latter experience. "As a person, Mel's a very sweet guy. But the religious thing is so crazy and his views are crazy. It was a tough go. I think he's a tortured guy." When an article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine came out about Gibson and his father, Hutton, a Holocaust denier, Lenz told him: "If it were my dad saying these things, I'd distance myself." More recently, the Lenzs - père et fils - have written a single for Andrea Bocelli (Go Where Love Goes). And Asher, working with singer Adam Crossley, sold a song to pop sensation Josh Groban (So She Dances). Crossley, putting the finishing touches on his first album of songs co-written with Asher (Anvil of the Heart), is one of several performers that Lenz Entertainment hopes it can stage-manage into stardom. An American, he describes his music as hillbilly, "paddleboat rock." Other Lenz hopefuls include teenage opera prodigy Holly Stell, gospel singer Mark Masri and jazz crooner Cal Dodd.
For years, Lenz earned a tidy income from royalties of music written for children's TV shows, many of which run in syndication forever. Some years, he cashed more royalty cheques than any other member of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. If the fees for writing music were attractive, Lenz reasoned, why not produce the whole shebang - make the puppets, draft the scripts, score the music. Now, in partnership with Grogs Inc. (Jamie Shannon and Jason Hopley), Lenz has produced Nanalan, a Gemini-award-winning preschool puppet series (reruns are on CBC, new shows are being made for PBS); Weird Years, an animated fish-out-of-water series featuring the adventures of the Dorkovitch family on YTV; Mr. Meaty, a short, offbeat animated after-school show for Nickleodeon, which also airs on CBC, with more than 100 puppet characters; and Ooh & Aah - puppet monkeys that, after winning a stiff competition, began hosting the U.S. Disney Channel's playhouse programming block in March. A new, five-minute adult puppet series, Swami Jeff's Temple of Wisdom, will start airing on ABC Australia this fall, and Lenz has signed a development deal with Teletoon to expand the series to half-hour shows. A practising member of the Baha'i faith since 1969 and the father of seven children, Lenz was raised in rural Saskatchewan, the son of a Scottish mother and Hungarian father. He studied piano as a child and later composition at the University of Saskatchewan but, convinced that he couldn't be the teacher his mother wanted him to be, left after two years.
Migrating to Toronto in his late teens, he hung around the local music scene, met soft-rockers Seals and Crofts and, talking himself into a job, eventually became their keyboard and flute player. He toured the world with them, and with Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina. Asher's route into the business included classical piano and then jazz, which he studied in New York. "I found it provided you with a lot more tools in terms of writing your own music," he said. I asked Lenz, who remains in awe of the great classical composers of the past three centuries, whether we would still be playing the work of contemporary writers 300 years hence. "I think we're at the end of a civilization, not the beginning. Bach and others were the fruition of a series of cultural and religious developments. We're at the end of that period and at the beginning of something else. But the beginnings are seldom remembered, just the fruitions. In the chaos of the 20th century and beyond, where is there an environment that produces greatness. I don't see it." Of all the projects on his plate, Lenz is probably most excited about his feature film, Mona's Dream. His script tells the story of Iran's persecution and execution in 1983 of teenager Mona Mahmudnizhad and nine other members of her Baha'i faith. The film, which will star Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), has a projected budget of $7-million to $10-million. He's still seeking a co-production arrangement and some foreign financing. Meantime, Lenz is enjoying his new role as an initiator of projects. "You know," he says, "they used to ask [ composer and lyricist] Sammy Cahn which came first - the music or the words. His answer: The phone call." Now, it's Jack and Asher Lenz making those calls.
EUR Jill Scott Exclusive!
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(August 2, 2007) *Fans of Grammy winner Jill Scott in particular and good music in general, rejoice. Her third solo CD, "The Real Thing (Words And Music Volume 3)," is set for release on September 25. The news gets even better. You don't have to wait that long to hear it. EURweb, along with Hidden Beach Recordings, is making it possible for you to preview Jilly from Philly's sensational new project right here and now. (Just click the player below). Remember, this is an online exclusive from EURweb. But guess what? The news keeps getting better. Hidden Beach Recordings (http://www.hiddenbeach.com/) is making it possible for you to download your very own mp3 copy of this historic sampler. The first 5000 people get it for free! Just scroll down to click the link.
More About Jill Scott's New CD:
"The Real Thing" (09-25-07) will include 17 Brand New Songs. It's being described as a "complete body of work." One that you can simply "put the needle down and let it play" from start to finish; its full of wonderful songs and music. It's a complete listening experience.
Hidden beach also says there will also be a Deluxe Limited Edition featuring all of Jill's videos including her two new singles, "Hate On Me" and "My Love." Also included is the "Running Away" bonus track where Jill gives her approach on songwriting, an exclusive performance from her forthcoming Jill Scott: Live In Paris" release and more.
To Download The Sampler:
To Write Jill Scott A Letter:
To Visit Jill Scott's Site:
Keeping It Real With Ne-Yo
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Joshua Ostroff
(August 3, 2007) Most modern R&B singers portray themselves as bigger-than-life lovers, either panting salacious sweet nothings or detailing post-club sexcapades. But not every girl is crazy about a dirty-mouthed man. For these ladies, Ne-Yo has become their approachable crooner of choice. “We've had the era of mystique,” Ne-Yo explains. “But in a day where we have reality TV shows and behind-the-scenes stuff, I think people want to know that you're a human at the end of the day, not just some mystical being who creates music.” In fact, the 24-year-old with two chart-topping albums of traditional R&B under his belt – 2006's In My Own Words and this past spring's Because of You – seems as down-to-earth as his given name, Shaffer Smith. Heck, even when describing his Las Vegas upbringing, Ne-Yo makes the City of Sin sound positively quotidian. “Of course there's the Strip, but that's just one street. Las Vegas is a lot bigger. Other than that, it's just neighbourhoods and hospitals and McDonalds and all kind of regular stuff.” Truth is, Ne-Yo isn't quite as everyday as he seems. Plenty of teens pen lyrics in their notebooks, but when Smith was 16, he already had a manager. In 1999, he wrote for forgettable boy band Youngstown and landed a major label deal two years later. But Columbia Records, currently kicking themselves, saw no future for the young singer-songwriter. They dropped Ne-Yo, shelved his debut and handed his song That Girl to singer Marques Houston. It became a minor hit in 2003 and artists started seeking out its writer. Ne-Yo next wrote Mario's Let Me Love You and nailed his first No.1 single.
But despite this behind-the-scenes success, Ne-Yo still wanted to be behind a microphone. True to form, he doesn't throw up a faux-macho front – transitioning from backstage to onstage was nerve-racking and he's not afraid to admit it. “To be an artist is to be a little emotional, a little insecure. You want and need that acceptance from your peers and everybody else, so yes, there was a little doubt in my mind. What am I gonna bring to this music business? What is going to separate me from these other cats? Why would a person buy my album when they could go buy an Usher album? “But I had to stop. If I'm worrying about the other man, then I'm not focusing on me and if I'm not focusing on me, then nobody else is, either.” He now boasts a string of smooth radio smashes like the lovelorn So Sick, love-struck Because of You and his current collab with rapper Fabolous, Make Me Better – all while still penning other people's hits, including Beyoncé's step-off anthem Irreplaceable.
“I've always made a point to write relatable music, songs that anybody can listen to and feel like they know what's going on with the person who wrote them or the person who's singing it. I like to write music that makes people go, ‘Yeah, I've felt that before.'” You've sort of heard it before too. Ne-Yo is not pushing R&B into the future like Justin Timberlake, despite borrowing his name from sci-fi flick The Matrix. The fedora-adorned crooner's admittedly retro style is rooted in the seventies and eighties R&B that birthed his idols Stevie Wonder, Prince and Michael Jackson. Coming full circle, the latter may even soon become a future client. “I had an opportunity to speak to him on the phone about us doing things together. I can't talk about that too much, but it was surreal,” he says, still star-struck. “Of course I'm listening to what he's saying but in the back of my mind I'm like ‘are you aware that you're talking to Michael Jackson?'” But while Jacko walled himself off from fans, Ne-Yo's attitude is, not surprisingly, quite the opposite. When discussing career milestones, he mentions a festival gig in Japan where language proved a problem. “I like to communicate – realizing I couldn't do this in Japan was messing with me. What the hell am I gonna do? I'm standing in front of 20,000 people who do not understand English. They know who I am, but I wanna talk to these people,” he says sincerely. “But soon as So Sick came on, they knew every word and sang it back to me verbatim. That's the power of music – it knocks down all those barriers.” Ne-Yo has been also adept at crossing gender barriers as well. Putting aside his own broken-heart solo songs, his greatest success has come from putting words in women's mouths. On top of Beyoncé, he also wrote Rihanna's Unfaithful and is working with everyone from Celine Dion and Whitney Houston to Jennifer Hudson and Britney Spears.
“There's something in the way I think that women can relate to. That comes from growing up in a house full of women. It was me, my sister, my mother, my grandmother and about five of my aunts all in the same house. So any drama that a woman can go through, one of the women in my house went through it, and I was right there to soak it up. I just might have a little more insight than the average guy.” Perhaps, but so far being the average guy has served him pretty well. Ne-Yo plays the Caribana Imagine Music Festival, with Sean Paul and Destra Garcia, at the Molson Amphitheatre at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Quincy Jones Launches Podcast Series
*Source: sahirah - SU Entertainment - www.sumanagement.com
(August 1, 2007) *Entertainment legend Quincy Jones has unveiled the debut episode of his new video podcast series that takes viewers behind-the-scenes into Q’s private world. According to podcast partners Wizzard Media, the 26-episode series includes footage of the musician at work in the studio and at exclusive events around the world. Also featured in are Jones’ takes on film, popular culture, politics and world events. The 27-time Grammy winner's new digital platform expands with its second phase, the Fall debut of quincyjones.com, an online destination featuring interactivity of a social network embracing musicians, producers, artists and Quincy's other followers worldwide. It will include Quincy's Vault that will give users access to previously unreleased audio and video of Jones and the legendary performers he's worked with as well as a virtual Quincy's Academy where users will network and share their artistry with music professionals, like-minded peers and consumers, and have access to digital record distribution and marketing opportunities. Jones’ video podcasts will be available on www.quincyjones.com, MySpace and Wizzard Media Channel on iTunes, and other leading podcast directories including Yahoo!, VH1, Syndic8 and Podcast Pickle. Meanwhile, in *other Quincy Jones news, the 27-Time Grammy Award winner, was honoured with the Grammy Foundation Leadership award at the Starry Night Gala. The intimate benefit, dinner, and concert was held on Saturday June 28th, at UCLA’s Straus Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. The event -presented by the Gibson Foundation-was attended by a star -studded list of Quincy’s celebrity friends and colleagues to benefit the Grammy foundation.
From the red carpet many noted how Quincy had influenced their careers. In addition to admiring Quincy as a legendary composer, producer, and humanitarian, Nancy Wilson acknowledged, “he is a great dad, a gentleman, and a very good friend”. Jazz legend Herbie Hancock said, “ I’ve worked with him on many occasions and must say, and every experience of his genius has been significant”. Naomi Campbell, will.i.am(see photo provided by Wireimage.com), Eric Benet, and Gail King were among the other notable celebrities who arrived to pay tribute to Quincy. Neil Portnow, President of the Grammy Foundation presented Quincy with the Foundation's Leadership Award . The award salutes the honouree’s lifetime commitment and dedication to social, cultural, economic and educational issues spanning the globe. Quincy Jones said, “ I am extremely delighted to receive the GRAMMY Foundation’s Leadership Award. This is a very special award and it means a great deal to me,” said Jones. "I am also honoured to be an ambassador as The Recording Academy celebrates its influential 50-year history with a celebration of events and activities for music fans and music makers, all while keeping the importance of music education and preservation at the forefront of its efforts." The tribute concert featured exceptional performances by an array of musical stars including Nancy Wilson, Patti La Belle, John Legend, Gloria Estefan, Bebe Winans, James Moody, Alice Smith among others. Starry Night’s musical director, David Foster, a 14-time GRAMMY Award- winning producer and GRAMMY Foundation Board Member stated, “Quincy is my teacher and I have the utmost respect and love for him. He not only deserves this Leadership Award, he is the epitome of a true leader.” The GRAMMY Foundation also supports such programs as the Gibson Baldwin GRAMMY Jazz Ensemble and GRAMMY Camp participants. This year’s ensembles included over 10 students selected to perform several of Jones’ works including “Killer Joe.”
Furtado Battles Beyoncé At MTV Video Awards
Source: Associated Press
(August 8, 2007) New York — Canadian singer Nelly Furtado is in the running at this year's MTV Video Music Awards, it was announced yesterday. The Promiscuous singer is in the running for best female artist, where she will compete against one of this year's most-nominated singers, Beyoncé. That R & B vocalist tied with Justin Timberlake for the most MTV nods - they are up for seven apiece. Canadian actor Alan Thicke's son, Robin, is up for male artist of the year. The awards are handed out on Sept. 9 in Las Vegas.
MTV Video Award Nominees Announced
Excerpt from www.thestar.com – Associated Press
(August 08, 2007) NEW YORK–Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé lead the nominees for the MTV Video Music Awards with seven nods apiece, it was announced yesterday. Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable" was nominated for video of the year, as was Timberlake's ambitiously cinematic "What Goes Around ... Comes Around." Also competing in the category are Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," Kanye West's ``Stronger," Rihanna's "Umbrella" (featuring Jay-Z) and Justice's "D.A.N.C.E." Timberlake, who will be the show's "maestro," was also nominated for Male Artist of the Year and ``Most Earth-Shattering Collaboration" for pairing with Timbaland for "Sexy Back." Beyoncé was nominated for Female Artist of the Year and for her collaboration with Shakira on "Beautiful Liar." West landed five nominations, including Male Artist of the Year. Rihanna also received five nods, propelled by her hit single, "Umbrella," which is up for "Monster Single of the Year." Also nominated for Male Artist of the Year were Akon, T.I. and Robin Thicke. Rounding out the nominees for Female Artist of the Year were Fergie and Canada's Nelly Furtado. Winehouse, whose Back to Black was her second disc but her first released in the U.S., is up for Best New Artist. Winehouse will compete with Lily Allen, Carrie Underwood, Gym Class Heroes and Peter Bjorn & John. Up for best group are Fall Out Boy, Gym Class Heroes, Linkin Park, Maroon 5 and White Strip
Canyon, Yellowbird Lead Country-Music
Source: Canadian Press
(August 2, 2007) Toronto — Country-music star George Canyon and upstart Shane Yellowbird lead the nominees for this year's Canadian Country Music Awards. Nova Scotia native Canyon is up for five trophies, including single and album of the year. Yellowbird, a first-time nominee from Hobbema, Alta., also snagged five nominations, for categories including independent male artist. Other multiple nominees include Paul Brandt, Doc Walker, Emerson Drive, Brad Johner and Carolyn Dawn Johnson, with four each.
Sean Kingston Makes Billboard
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(August 3, 2007) *Sean Kingston’s radio smash “Beautiful Girls” jumps 23-1 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, sending the Plain White Ts’ sentimental “Hey There Delilah” from its two week perch to No. 2. Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry" falls 2-3, Rihanna’s "Umbrella" is down 3-4 and Timbaland's "The Way I Are" featuring Keri Hilson drops 4-5. T-Pain's "Bartender" featuring Akon jumps 10-6 and is the Hot 100's fastest growing track at radio. Shop Boyz' "Party Like a Rockstar" falls 5-7, while T-Pain's former No. 1, "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')" moves up 9-8. Fabolous' "Make Me Better" featuring Ne-Yo rebounds 11-9, and Hurricane Chris' "A Bay Bay" rounds out the top tier after falling 8-10. Elsewhere in the Hot 100, Yung Berg's "Sexy Lady" featuring Junior moves 35,000 downloads and results in a 30-18 jump on the Hot 100. The artist's debut EP, "Almost Famous (The Sexy Lady EP)," was released July 24. The Hot 100's top debut is Kanye West's "Stronger" at No. 47. The cut, which samples Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," will be found on West's Sept. 11 Def Jam release, "Graduation." Also new to the chart this week are Baby Bash's "Cyclone" featuring T-Pain at No. 65 Fantasia's "When I See U" is No. 1 for a sixth straight week on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
Music Publishers Join Youtube Suit
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press
(August 07, 2007) NEW YORK – A group of music publishing companies said Monday it is joining a copyright infringement lawsuit against Google Inc.'s video-sharing site YouTube. The National Music Publishers' Association said it was joining the lawsuit out of concern that many songwriters weren't receiving proper compensation when their music appeared on YouTube videos. The lawsuit also includes as plaintiffs the Football Association Premier League and Viacom Inc., a media company that owns MTV, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. The plaintiffs say YouTube is breaking the law by hosting video clips that they hold the copyrights to. However, YouTube says it's complying with the law by immediately taking down any clips found to be violating copyrights after receiving notification. David Israelite, chief executive of the NMPA, said in a statement that the music publishers' group was "very concerned about YouTube's approach to copyright." The lawsuits have been combined for trial purposes into one case being heard by U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in New York. Music publishing companies administer the copyrights of songwriters and composers and collect the royalties that are due to them.
Jill Scott Opens Up In Essence
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(August 8, 2007) "I put icing on places that were wounded, so they looked good and tasted pretty. But I really didn't deal with them until I had no choice but to deal with what was going on in my marriage" The lovely and talented Jill Scott always had a smile that her fans adored. She was "living her life like it was golden" and emulating a unique confidence that ignored the stereotypical beauty standards of the record industry. But everything in Jill's life wasn't golden. In a sit-down chat with Terry McMillan, she talks to ESSENCE about "The Real Thing", her new CD, her troubled marriage and her latest role in Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married?" (page 181)
Darrin Henson Takes ‘The Stand’
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
(August 1, 2007) *Actor Darrin Dewitt Henson is busting his acting chops with a vengeance. The “Soul Food” star has moved into his latest project “The Last Stand,” fresh off his antagonist role in “Stomp the Yard.” The new film is written and directed by morning radio talent Russ Parr, who is wearing a new hat, while dancer/actor Henson is progressively becoming an accomplished thespian. The straight-to-DVD flick explores the “drama of comedy,” as it follows the lives of four individuals with dreams of becoming the next big star. Henson plays TD, an up-and-coming comedian with a criminal past. Henson chatted with EUR’s Lee Bailey about the film and his growing movie career, and discussed how the film, though a straight-to-DVD flick, is big screen worthy. “There was a premiere in D.C. and my jaw dropped because of how dynamic the movie is. I said, ‘This should be in the movie theatres, now.’ But because they [promoted] that it was coming out on DVD, I guess they had to follow through with it. As long as people get to see the movie, that’s what’s important.” Henson said that he got connected to the film after a suspicious meeting with Parr during the Essence Festival a couple of years ago. Henson was trying to avoid the crowd when a man he didn’t recognized approached him. That man was Russ Parr. “I didn’t know him – I knew the name,” Henson said of the legendary Parr. “He was this guy that was staying in the same hotel as me during the Essence Music Festival, and he said ‘I gotta talk to you.’ I still didn’t know who he was until he said, ‘I’m Russ Parr and I’ve got this movie.’ About a week later I gave him a call back and said I’d love to do it.”
The film was shot last year with little fanfare, but the critics are impressed with the film, particularly Henson’s talent. After all, he’s a dancer first and foremost, and then an actor. But even more, this role asked a lot of Henson’s talent. He’s a dancer, as an actor, playing a comedian, who happens to be a gay ex-con. But Henson did not shy away from the challenge. “That is the important part – playing these characters and telling the truth of the men that I play. From ‘Soul Food’ to ‘Stomp the Yard’ to ‘Life Support’ to a young Jim Brown in ‘The Express’ – a movie that I just finished a couple of weeks ago. This character that I play is another person that exists and what I wanted to do was jump on the character because it is very real. Playing a gay male didn’t bother me because it’s about telling the truth about people that do exist.” Henson said that he’s always frequented comedy clubs and loves to laugh, but when he was offered the role, he really dove in, studying comedic timing, delivery, and jokes. He even happened to be finishing up the book “Pryor Convictions” while filming, a book that explores the life and times of legendary comedian Richard Pryor. “I take what I do very, very seriously,” he said. “It was important when I was playing a comedian that other comedians actually respected my timing and respected the jokes. This guy was supposed to be funny. I was reading ‘Pryor Convictions.’ It was so close to what was going on with my character’s life, it was so strange and surreal to me. [It’s surprising] when you find out how tragic comedians’ lives really are. It blew my mind. Some of the hardships they go through and then they get on stage and make us laugh.” “The Last Stand” is in stores now and also stars Guy Torry and Anthony Anderson. As he mentioned, Henson just finished filming “The Express” about the first black Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis. Next up is the release of his “Darrin’s Dance Grooves 2,” the follow-up to his first instructional dance video – the highest selling dance video in the US. For more info on his dance video and "The Last Stand," visit his website: www.darrinhenson.com.
Chris Tucker: The Rush Hour 3 Interview
With Kam Williams
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com – by Kam Williams
(August 2, 2007) *Born in Atlanta, Georgia on August 31, 1972, Chris Tucker has come a long way since his days doing stand-up on Def Comedy Jam. Starring in box office smashes that include the #1 grossing comedy Rush Hour 2, as well as Friday, Dead Presidents, Money Talks and the original Rush Hour (which grossed $250 million worldwide), he has clearly proven himself to be one of Hollywood's hottest talents. Tucker entertains audiences the world over with his motor-mouthed brand of humour and animated facial expressions which always leave a lasting impression. During his downtime, Chris traveled to Africa with U2's Bono and Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill on a fact-finding tour to help countries plagued with AIDS, hunger, and unsanitary living conditions. Deeply-affected by the conditions he discovered, Tucker has since returned to the region regularly on humanitarian missions, also functioning as a people's diplomat, raising cash and awareness to help deal with the crises. As a consequence, he's been so busy he hasn't made a movie in a half-dozen years. Here, he chats about Rush Hour 3, his first film since Rush Hour 2.
Chris Tucker: Hey, Kam.
Kam Williams: Chris, thanks so much for the time.
CT: Oh, you're welcome, thank you.
KW: How did it feel being teamed up with Jackie Chan for a third time?
CT: Oh, I loved it, man! I loved it! It was just as much fun, or maybe even more fun as the first one and the second one, 'cause it's such a fun movie to do and being teamed back up with Jackie was great.
KW: How'd you enjoy the Paris locations?
CT: That was great, too, shooting in Europe, man. We did a lot of stuff outdoors. Riding around the streets and drinking wine for lunch. It was great!
KW: Seems like you and Jackie have perfect screen chemistry. You have very different types of talents which complement each other, so you never end up stepping on each other's toes. Did you know that was going to happen the first time you got together?
CT: No, the first time we got together, it was just like you see in the first movie. Jackie didn't speak much English, and I didn't know Chinese at all. I brought that out in Rush Hour 1, like when I screamed, "Do you know the words that are coming out of my mouth?" That's basically what I wanted to say to him the first time I met him. So, no, we didn't know, but the chemistry was perfect. I think that was because it came from a real place. What you see on film is the same friendship and relationship between us you see in real life.
KW: So, was that "Do you know the words that are coming out of my mouth?"
line improvised, or was it in the script?
For full interview by Kam Williams, go HERE.
Anne Hathaway Straight Laced No More
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Hiscock, Special To The Star
(August 3, 2007) BEVERLY HILLS–Portraying the young Jane Austen in the romantic drama Becoming Jane had Anne Hathaway tied up for ages. Literally. "It was awful," said the New York-born actor, who was obliged to wear a corset for the entire three months of filming. "I was wearing it too tight for the first couple of weeks and it would cut off the circulation in my body, so when I would go home my face would turn bright red for about five hours and everybody thought I was a morbid alcoholic." The restrictive corset also prevented Hathaway from eating properly. "It was not healthy and Coco Chanel should be commended for liberating women from the corset." On the other hand, having her ribcage compressed every day did help her get into character. "The movie takes place at a time that was very repressive for women and the corset helped with that feeling," said Hathaway. The 24-year-old actor can laugh now as she sits in a comfortable suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, but the time she spent in Ireland filming the fictional story of the writer's romance with a roguish Irishman, played by James McAvoy, was not at all funny. "The movie was wonderful and beautiful and tortured and poetic and difficult and freezing," she recalled. "Everything was challenging and every single day was a battle with something – with the accent, with the dress and with the weather, always with the weather." On the plus side, portraying the author of such classics as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility inspired her to do some writing herself, scribbling poems and private thoughts in a diary which she intends to keep to herself.
"It was a profound experience," she said. "I loved making this movie and it taught me so much. I felt like I grew so much while I was working on it. It's wonderful to have a record of it, not that I'll ever show it to anybody." To perfect an English accent, she spent a month in London, working with a dialogue coach and taking to the streets to practice on strangers, asking directions and making small talk. "I had a very posh apartment in Knightsbridge so I went to Harrods. It was very tough research," she joked. Hathaway began acting as a child in New York stage productions and movie audiences first saw her in The Princess Diaries in 2001. She appeared in the sequel, and then co-starred in Brokeback Mountain and The Devil Wears Prada. She has just finished filming Get Smart, the movie version of the zany '60s television series, in which she plays Agent 99. "To go from playing a centuries-old British icon to a modern American one was wonderful," she said. "Jane Austen was a very sweet person in a very repressive society and 99 is a woman who never takes `no' for an answer and who believes she can do anything. I was so happy to go from one to the other." When not filming, Hathaway works with her boyfriend, property tycoon Raffaello Follieri, on his charitable foundation, which is dedicated to helping underprivileged children in Central America. Although they have been together for three years she has no wedding plans yet because, she said with a laugh, "he hasn't asked me." But she added: "I see marriage and children and a white picket fence in my future and I can only assume things are taking their time and progressing the way they are meant to be and if it's meant to happen it will. I'm very happy. "I couldn't love him more if we were married and to be honest, I kind of hope he doesn't ask me any time soon because I'm too busy to plan a wedding."
Jennifer Lopez: The El Cantante
Interview With Kam Williams
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com – by Kam Williams
(August 7, 2007) *Born in the South Bronx on July 24, 1969, Jennifer Lynn Lopez has come a long way from her humble roots to her lofty station as an adored pop icon and perhaps the most influential Hispanic entertainer in America. Besides being the first singer/actress to have a #1 movie and #1 album at the same time, J-Lo was voted #1 on FHM's Sexiest Women list, has been chosen as one of the World's 50 Most Beautiful People by People Magazine, and is acknowledged to be the richest Latino in Hollywood. Even though none of her movies has grossed $100 million at the box office, domestically, Lopez nonetheless has enough name recognition to command $15 million per picture. Here, she talks about starring in and producing El Cantante, a bio-pic about the rise and fall of Hector Lavoe, a celebrated salsa singer from the Seventies. Her real-life husband, Marc Antony, handles the title role as is the ill-fated, drug-addicted front man, while she plays Puchi, his long-suffering wife.
Kam Williams: What interested you in making and starring in El Cantante?
Jennifer Lopez: This was one of the first things with my production company that I felt like, "This is something I really want to make. This is something I really want to make." The script was brought to me, I guess, about four or five years ago now, through Puchi, who had done interviews with the very first writer on the screenplay, David [Darmstaedter], and David Maldonado brought it to my manager at the time, saying "Read it, it's the Hector Lavoe story, and Puchi wants Jennifer to play her." I read it, and I'll be honest, much like when I did Selena, I knew of the music, and I knew a little bit of the story, but I didn't know the whole story. When I read it, and started learning more about it, I just became obsessed and impassioned with the whole idea of the project and their lives. And once I really got to know the music, I was like, "Wow! This is important." And then, it being a Puerto Rican story, and my production company being Nuyorican Productions, what better movie to be the first movie for Nuyorican Productions than this?
KW: Was Puchi an easy role for you, given that she's Puerto Rican and the wife of a famous Latino singer?
For full interview by Kam Williams, go HERE.
Matt Damon's Career Bourne Again ... And
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Amy Longsdorf, Special To The Star
(August 02, 2007) Matt Damon can still remember where he was when he got the offer to play amnesiac spy Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity, the first in a trilogy of films that has, to date, grossed more than $300 million (U.S.) at the box office. "I was sitting backstage in London, doing a play on the West End," he recalls. "Nobody had offered me a movie in six months. "It was like the rose-coloured lenses had come off and I thought, `Okay, I get it. If you're in a hit, you have a career and if you're not in a hit, you don't matter any more. They might think you're a real nice guy, but they're not hanging a movie on you.'" And then Damon was Bourne again. The spy thriller came out in 2002 and exceeded industry expectations by grossing $122 million (U.S.). "The Bourne character completely changed my life," says the actor. "The movie opened, hit big and by that Monday, I had 20 offers." With his career back on track, Damon landed a role in the Ocean's trilogy and went on to make three dream projects: Syriana, The Departed and The Good Shepherd.
Through the years, the actor has stayed true to Jason Bourne, appearing in The Bourne Supremacy in 2004 and The Bourne Ultimatum. "There hasn't been a role that's had a bigger impact on me, except for maybe Good Will Hunting (which he co-wrote with friend Ben Affleck) because it pulled Ben and I out of total obscurity." For Damon, the Bourne movies work on many different levels at once. They're popcorn pictures, but they're also reflections of the times in which they're made. "The first one came out in 2002 and it's definitely a post-9/11 movie," he says. "All of the paranoia is there. "The second one came out in 2004, when things were starting to turn in Iraq. Jason Bourne, this iconic American figure, is apologizing and atoning for his misdeeds, for things that he's done. He's taking responsibility. "Now you have the 2007 movie and Bourne is pulling a gun and putting it to the head of the person who lied to him all these years. Bourne's saying, `I see now that you've led me into something under false pretenses.'" Damon is more of a homebody these days than when he first signed on for the Bourne films. A native of Cambridge, Mass., the actor married Luciana Barroso in 2005. They have a 1-year-old daughter Isabella and he's adopted her daughter Alexia, 8.
At first, fatherhood knocked him for a loop. "I didn't think that this would happen to me," he says. "Other people ... were always showing me baby pictures or trying to hand me the baby, and I was like, `Get that thing away from me. I don't want to touch your kid! Give me a break.' "But I'm totally into it now. I was scared at first, because I was kind of excited for my daughter to be 2. I was excited for her to start talking and walking and toddling around, but I didn't realize how much personality little people have right off the bat. So it's just been fun." Damon says he lives to hear his daughter giggle. "This morning, she pointed at the ceiling and started laughing. I said, `Now, I don't know what's funny about that.' ... I'm trying to figure out what's going on in her head." Damon is also trying to figure out the key to a long and successful career. "Ben and I look at George Clooney and Clint Eastwood and they're definitely doing it right," he says. "They're acting, they're writing, they're directing and they're doing it on their terms. "I love everything about making movies. I love writing and acting and I'd really like to direct. It's so hard to have a long career in this business. I'm still here after 10 years. And everyone is probably a little amazed by that. So, at this point I just want to try and be smart about the work that I do and have integrity about the choices I make."
Damon sounds a bit envious that Affleck, whom he calls "my hetero life mate," beat him to the director's chair. Affleck recently finished helming Gone Baby Gone, which is set for an October release. "I've seen the movie that he directed and it's really good and the performances are great. Every actor is going to want to work with him after they see this thing. Now that he's a director, our relationship has changed. Now he's someone that can give me a job." How would Damon feel about being directed by his best friend? "I would love it," he says. "It's been 10 years since Good Will Hunting and, in the last decade, we both put our heads down and worked pretty hard. Now, we've woken up with careers and families and all the things that we wanted. "Hopefully the next 10 years will be about doing better work. Maybe doing a little less of it but doing better stuff. And doing movies together."
Nicholas Campbell On Why Acting Is 'The
Most Powerful Drug In The World'
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald
(August 1, 2007) In the first scene of the Toronto production of Fabuloso, at the SummerWorks Theatre Festival, Nicholas Campbell reveals a trick of the trade that “Sir” entrusted to him three decades ago. “Sir said, ‘Get your entrance perfect, so the audience can relax,' “ Campbell says between careful bites of a mayonnaise-drenched submarine sandwich, after rehearsal at a studio in Toronto's east end. “ ‘Secondly,' he said, ‘at some point, perform one bit of stage business that gives them a circus thrill.' “ Sir was Sir Laurence Olivier, who happened to be Campbell's private tutor after the Toronto-born, Montreal-raised Campbell took a detour from Queen's University (after attending exclusive Upper Canada College) to attend London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the 1970s. The future star of CBC-TV's Da Vinci's Inquest met Olivier while playing alongside him in a British TV version of Come Back, Little Sheba in 1976. Their relationship did not begin well. “First day on set, tea time, a wardrobe lady tells me I have to dye my hair,” Campbell remembers. “Without thinking I say, ‘No way.' Sir heard me – that's what you called him, ‘Sir' – and races over.” Imitating Olivier, Campbell tilts his nose and begins clipping consonants: “He doesn't want to be a blond, does he? The little twit, I was a blond when the King knighted me. I was playing Hamlet at the time.”
Despite Campbell's tantrum, Olivier was soon dining regularly with his suddenly platinum-haired colleague. Campbell reveals a native scepticism explaining Olivier's interest. “Maybe he liked me,” he says, shrugging. “Maybe I was the only one who hadn't heard his stories.” In any case, Campbell took Olivier's many lessons to heart. That much is apparent watching the 55-year-old actor rehearse his entrance to the comic farce Fabuloso – a frantic sequence that has him racing about like a penalty-killing hockey forward fighting off a five-on-three power play. The less active actors – the power play (Jonathan Higgins, Linda Kash and Angela Asher) – have retired from the stage, breathing easily. Campbell, however, has collapsed in a folding chair, raining sweat on his lunch. “Two rehearsals a day,” he says. “When I get home, I throw on Coronation Street, and I'm asleep before it's over. But you have to break the speed limit doing a farce. Otherwise the play falls right through the floor.” Campbell acknowledges that doing a theatrical comedy is a shock to his system after a decade in TV and film, much of it playing crusading coroner Dominic Da Vinci in Da Vinci's Inquest and Da Vinci's City Hall. “With Da Vinci, [creator-writer] Chris Haddock used to say, ‘Dare to go small,' ” he remembers. “That's film acting. This is stage acting,” he says, wiping his forehead of perspiration. Campbell may not have been knighted for his fictional role as the coroner, and then mayor, of Vancouver, a character based in part on the man who is now Senator Larry Campbell (no relation). But he did receive a Gemini Award on his way to becoming one of Canada's most recognizable TV actors. “It's incredible, riding streetcars, at the track, I get a dozen ‘Hey, how you doings?' an hour,” he says.
It's not surprising that transit riders and $2 punters relate to Campbell. As Da Vinci, he played the most Canadian of heroes, a civil-servant everyman who afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted. Campbell says Da Vinci, in fact, had multiple inspirations: “He was Chris Haddock doing Larry Campbell, and every good cop I met on a sudden-death scene [researching the series].” In providing the third source for his great creation, Campbell offers some insight into his own curious departure from the UCC-Queen's path. “There was also a bit of my father in Da Vinci,” he says. “My dad was born in Forest Hill in Toronto in the lap of luxury, but when his father died, something went wrong with the family business, Campbell Cake and Flour. He had to sell the company, and became a horticulture salesman, travelling the country. “My dad wasn't the kind of guy to go to your hockey games, but every year he took me on the road, and I saw how he treated customers. That empathy, that can't be a tactic: It has to be in you,” Campbell says. After a pause, he adds, “You know, my dad would have been happier as a sports fisherman than a businessman.” Nick wouldn't make the same mistake, abandoning Queen's for the adventure of filmmaking. The films he has directed, Stepping Razor: Red X, an investigation into the life and death of Rasta superstar Peter Tosh, and Boozecan, a raffish meditation on after-hours nightclubs, suggest that Campbell, who has been married five times to three different women, probably wasn't cut out for a lawyer's life in Rosedale or Westmount. “Sometimes I'm at the track, and a guy will come up to me and say, ‘My son, he's smoking pot. I wonder if you can have a word with him,' ” Campbell says, smiling. “I tell him, ‘Sir, I'm an actor. You're confusing me with a character on television. But if your son has good stuff, I'll be glad to meet the young lad.' ”
With the cancellation of Da Vinci's City Hall last year, Campbell learned the wisdom of Sir's last lesson: “Every actor can be replaced.” “It was hard, I won't kid you,” he says. “Actors are nomads, but I'd really got to rely on that job every summer. I used to bring my three boys from two different wives to live with me. I didn't have that this summer, and I could cry in a second thinking about that.” (He doesn't.) Still, he's working steadily, if all over the place. He says he loves Fabuloso, by American playwright John Kolvenbach. “Three months rehearsing, and I still can't bust this guy,” he exclaims. “As an actor, you usually get to the point where you go, ‘Oh God, not this part,' but there are no dead parts here.” In the fall, Campbell will return to CBC Television in the miniseries The Englishman's Boy. From a Governor-General's Award-winning novel and screenplay by Guy Vanderhaeghe, it's set in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan and combines a story of the Wild West with a look at Hollywood's take on cowboys and Indians. Campbell, who plays a character named Shorty McAdoo, says it's “the best acting I've ever done.” Campbell also understands that Da Vinci gave him something an actor needs: a ready audience. “I get ordinary guys coming up to me and mumbling, ‘You know, I don't usually watch the CBC, but I loved your show.' Like they're saying, ‘I'm not a fag, eh, but I like you.' I love it, every actor wants people to see his work.” Campbell says he hasn't figured out yet how to execute Sir's command to provide a “circus thrill” in his new play. Sometimes the inspiration happens onstage, he says. And when it does, the actor invariably gets more from the trick than the audience. “I remember seeing Sir in Long Day's Journey Into Night,” Campbell remembers. “He was so sick with cancer, he had to cantilever himself upright from a chair offstage. Yet in the play, at one point, he leapt off the table, nimble as a gymnast. I couldn't believe my eyes. Acting is the most powerful drug in the world.” Fabuloso runs at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre on Aug. 3, 5 ,8, 9 and 12 (Tickets: www.summerworks.ca or 1-888-222-6608).
Théroux To Head Alliance Competitor
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald
(August 02, 2007) One year after veteran film distributor Patrice Théroux was very publicly dismissed by his 18-year employer, Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution LP, the 45-year-old executive has re-emerged as president of a new multinational distribution arm to be launched by Toronto-based Entertainment One. Théroux, who was fired as chief executive officer of MPD along with the company's senior counsel after a vicious battle with MPD's board, will effectively go head-to-head against his former employer, which is by far Canada's largest distribution company with powerful clients such as New Line Cinema, Focus Features and The Weinstein Company. Until now, Entertainment One has flown under the radar in Canada, quietly beavering away and making millions as Canada's largest wholesaler of DVDs, CDs and video games. Recently, the company - which is publicly traded on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange - decided to set its sights further afield, purchasing the British-based Contender Entertainment Group, (an independent distributor of DVDs now more aggressively acquiring films to release in theatres). It also owns Koch Entertainment, the largest independent record label in North America and a leading independent distributor of music and video in the United States. In all, the company has roughly $650-million in annual revenue. Yesterday, Théroux refused to discuss his former employer, saying only that "what happened at Alliance has been discussed enough."
He did add, however, "it feels great" to be back in the game. "I spent 25 years in the film business, first in Montreal and for 18 years at MPD. It's what I do for a living, and I'm really excited and focused on this new adventure. It's a new start with a well-capitalized company that already has some critical mass and the means to build a global distribution infrastructure." Théroux added that the Toronto International Film Festival will be his first major market. He's looking for art-house, mainstream and crossover feature films to be released in 2008. Théroux worked for close to two decades at MPD under its combustible chairman Victor Loewy, where their team also oversaw Momentum Pictures in Britain and Aurum Producciones in Spain. The drama at Alliance Atlantis began in mid-July last year after a fractious board meeting, where Théroux and counsel Paul Laberge were fired. Loewy quit in protest. MPD's unit stock price immediately nosedived. At the time, the company said the removals of Théroux and Laberge were for cause, and alleged the former executives were fired for "willfully deceiving the board," including misusing company funds and information for personal use. A month late - in a plot twist worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster - Loewy was rehired (to save a deal with his long-standing client New Line) and MPD dropped court charges against Théroux and Laberge (who were not rehired).
Alliance Atlantis has since been sold to CanWest Global Communications and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, which are divvying up the assets into three distinct groups: its 13 broadcast channels controlled by CanWest; the entertainment business owned by the investment bank; and MPD, owned by Toronto-based Edgestone Capital Partners (with equity from Goldman). The MPD deal is set to close Aug. 15. Théroux is not fazed about competing with his former employer. "We compete everywhere, around the world, with somebody. I see Canada as a great opportunity. Yes, there's a dominant player - and I used to be there - but it's a good time right now for a well-capitalized company to be a new entrant in the market." Ironically, the British hedge fund Marwyn Investment Management LLP had offered to buy MPD last summer, but was rebuffed. Marwyn is a part owner of Entertainment One. Théroux's new distribution arm, Filmed Entertainment, will come on board the same time as other industry players are planning to set up shop. Film producer Robert Lantos is launching an independent domestic distribution company with two former employees, Charlotte Mickie and Tony Cianciotta, that will operate in-house at his company Serendipity Point Films. There are also rumours that cinema giant Cineplex Entertainment has been making noises about wanting to muscle its way into distribution. "I can survive," says Théroux, referring to the newcomers. "New studios are setting up in the U.S. who will need Canadian distribution (Summit Entertainment, Overture Films), so the timing's right. Frankly, in addition to that there's a lot of independent Canadian material to be acquired. We're very set on exporting Canadian movies to the world."
Ole! Flamenco Festival To Do More Than
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron
(August 8, 2007) Lionel and Alexandra Felix are following their dream. They have quit their day jobs and put up $70,000 of their own money to mount what they hope will become the annual Toronto International Flamenco Festival. Running Aug. 10 to 15, their festival is the first of its kind in Canada, and only the third in North America after New York City and Albuquerque, N.M. Flamenco festivals are very specific in nature, be they in France, England, Germany, Italy, Japan or Spain. Concerts by top-notch and emerging flamenco artists anchor the evenings, but the days are devoted to intensive workshops. Says Lionel Felix: "Touring flamenco shows are teasers. They come to town for a single concert, but leave nothing in the local market. A flamenco festival showcases top artists not only as performers, but as teachers who provide professional development and personal enrichment." As the Felixes point out, however, not all superstar flamenco dancers are gifted teachers. Their research led them to Alicia Marquez, who has not only performed with the greatest flamenco companies in Spain, but whose Seville studio is regarded as one of the top flamenco training centres in that country. Marquez's career reads like a who's who of flamenco. She has danced for Jose Antonio, Antonio Gades, Paco Pena, and filmmaker Carlos Saura.
This first festival is, understandably, of modest proportions. Marquez has put together an original show, Aire Flamenco, which kicks off the festival with shows Aug. 10 and 11 at The Music Hall. The following week, Marquez, her dance partner Nano, singer Jesus Corbacho Vasquez and guitarist Manuel Perez will each give intensive classes in their specialties. Of particular note is a Felix innovation. Nano will be teaching a styling class for men only. The curated evening concerts at a local watering hole will feature performances by dancers, singers and guitarists attending the festival. With Toronto flamenco star Carmen Romero acting as interpreter, Marquez was reached by phone in Seville. As she says about her beginnings: "I started taking dance classes when I was 4, and by 11, flamenco was my life." Marquez, who is 35, was born in Seville. Her father was a perfume salesman and her mother a housewife. Marquez was exposed to all things artistic and creative, including painting, singing and dance. While Marquez excelled at everything, it was in dance that she found the greatest freedom to express herself. When asked what inspires her in flamenco, Marquez points to the philosophical lyrics of the songs. "It's their profound verses and musicality that touch my heart," she says.
Her mother chose her teachers very carefully. When she was 8, Marquez was put with the legendary Matilde Coral, who gave her a solid technique because along with flamenco, she also taught regional and classical Spanish dance. Marquez remained with Coral until she was 18. Every flamenco dancer has his or her own personality. Marquez's trademark is her consummate elegance, powerful expressiveness and exquisite femininity. Her specialty is the alegrias, a dance performed with a long train, or the bata de cola, which involves great technical skill. According to Marquez, the train must become an extension of the dancer's own body as a manifestation of her womanly wiles. In 2000, Marquez started to put together her own shows, although she still continues to work with others when the great ones call. "I wanted to see what I had, what I was made of. I had to find out if I had my own vision," she says. In fact, she was an instant success; Aire Flamenco is Marquez's North American debut under her own name. The title of the show was chosen by Marquez and Nano as they were creating the solos and duets they are bringing to Toronto. Because they both breathe flamenco differently, they thought the title expressed their individualities. Valencia-born Nano, who started dance training in 1991, represents the new generation of flamenco artists. He cut his teeth in the company of the great Cristina Hoyos, and in 1998 won first prize in Madrid's prestigious Spanish Dance and Flamenco Choreography Competition. Says Marquez: "I chose Nano to work with me because of his heart."
Marquez is married to her first boyfriend, whom she met when she was 14. His business is dental prostheses, and the couple have a four-year-old daughter, Gabriela. Marquez opened up her own teaching studio when she was 24 and her focus is building strong technique in her students. When asked why this Toronto flamenco festival is important, Marquez says it is a way of communicating first-hand the strength, the power and the passion of flamenco from people who live it and breathe it. Romero agrees. "Canadian dancers, guitarists and singers have to diversify their training. It is essential for growth in any art form, and this festival means they can do that here in Canada. While the festival is importing Spain to Toronto, Toronto, in a way, is exporting Spain to all the people who come here to study. It makes the city a top flamenco centre." And a final word about the ambitious Lionel and Alexandra Felix, who are as unlikely candidates to start a flamenco festival as could be imagined. Lionel was born in Haiti, grew up in Montreal, and was a star football player at the University of Waterloo, where he graduated in actuarial science. Toronto-born Alexandra is of Italian heritage. She got her masters in French translation at the University of Montreal and worked in marketing for a French company. They have two children, Jenna, 4, and Jonas, 2. When a knee injury sidelined Lionel in his third year of university, he took up ballroom dancing as rehabilitation. The couple met at a Toronto salsa club and became dance partners, good enough to reach the gold level in competition. However, Lionel was so driven by dance that he wanted to pursue the art form intensively on his own and not be dependent on a partner. That led him to flamenco. "I don't look like a traditional flamenco dancer," he says with a laugh. "I have the build of a football player." The enterprising Lionel began a company, The Art of Expression, in 1996 to fill a need in the flamenco community. He imports top-quality, handmade flamenco shoes and portable dance floors from Spain, and now has customers all over North America. Alexandra has been the nuts-and-bolts organizer who has devoted a year and a half of her life putting the festival together. Lionel is the artistic arm and resident dreamer. Says Lionel: "You could say our passion outstrips our budget." The performances of Alicia Marquez's Aire Flamenco take place at the Music Hall, Aug. 10 and 11 (416-870-8000). For festival details, visit http://www.torontoflamencofestival.com.
Out Of A Claire Blue Sky
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Alwynne Gwilt
(August 8, 2007) Since her days on the critically praised TV series My So-Called Life, Claire Danes has certainly embraced stardom, taking on such high-profile projects as The Mod Squad, The Hours and Terminator 3, as well as such quieter fare such as Polish Wedding and Shopgirl. But her role in Stardust, which opens Friday, takes Danes's celebrity to new heights: In the whimsical drama, the slender blonde portrays an actual star fallen from the heavens. “I wouldn't have called it,” she says, laughing, of playing an actual celestial body. “But I had a good time doing it,” she adds, sitting back and relaxing on a couch at the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel in downtown Toronto. In her portrayal of Yvaine, Danes, 28, takes on an otherworldly character brimming with filmic beauty, a lost star whose sudden landing on Earth leaves her perplexed and angered, but who perseveres, and traverses through the magical land of Stormhold. Onscreen with her in the high-profile fantasy flick are such real-life luminaries as Robert De Niro, Sienna Miller and a cackling Michelle Pfeiffer, whose character, an evil witch, wants to eat Yvaine's heart.
Danes fell for her latest character as soon as she read the script, which is based on an illustrated novel by English-born, Minnesota-based science-fiction writer Neil Gaiman. “She's millions of years old, she's very sophisticated in some ways and she has observed human behaviour from a distance,” says Danes, delicate hands waving in front of a low-cut peach blouse. “But she's actually very inexperienced, has never had to live and doesn't know what it is to feel.” Aside from learning to ride a horse in the English countryside and filming “in Scotland, which is particularly stunning,” Danes says the scenes between Yvaine and the film's young hero, Tristran, played by British actor Charlie Cox, were some of her favourites. “There's these really wonderful, playful kind of scenes with Charlie when they're starting to flirt, so it was great to be in these sweeping environments and goof off,” she says, adding that Cox, whose earlier roles include Lorenzo in 2004's The Merchant of Venice (opposite Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino), has remained a “very dear friend.” Stardust is directed by Matthew Vaughn, perhaps best known for directing the 2004 Brit gangster flick Layer Cake, starring a not-yet-007 Daniel Craig, and for producing the 2002 Madonna flop Swept Away. But Danes said she was never worried about Vaughn's interpretation of the fantasy land of Stormhold. “I felt safe in his hands,” she says, adding that the director “was always really clear that he wanted to tell an adult, sophisticated version of this children's story.” Danes considers the film a coming-of-age tale – a genre she knows something about: The actor became a beloved figure for a generation of teen girls thanks to her work in 1994's My So-Called Life. In it, she starred as a 15-year-old struggling with the usual problems of a 15-year-old – boys, school, parents. Her realistic portrayal earned her an Emmy nomination for best actress. But the buzz wasn't enough to save the show, and it was cancelled after 19 episodes.
Dane further cemented her teen-icon status in 1996, when she took a lead role in Baz Luhrmann's bracingly modern Romeo + Juliet, opposite a youthful Leonardo DiCaprio. But her untarnished image took a hit in 2004, when she struck up a romance with Stage Beauty co-star Billy Crudup, whose then-partner, actor Mary-Louise Parker, was expecting Crudup's child. The new couple denied that anything took place before Crudup and Parker split, but an ugly dispute played out in the tabloids. Her love life has moved on since then: Now living in her native New York, where she grew up with an artist mother and photographer father, she is these days dating another co-star, Evening actor Hugh Dancy. On a professional level, meanwhile, Danes has embraced the unapologetic romance of Stardust and its story of searching for true love in a strange land, while dealing with no end of adversity and danger – all attractions for the actor, as was the bonus of beautiful costumes. “I loved my star costume because it was so loose,” she says of the silvery, flowing number her character dons for the first half of the movie. “The other one was a corset, so it was a little painful, especially after lunch,” she adds. In the coming months, Danes will move away from the somewhat restrictive world of “falling in love in the movies,” which, for all its fantasy fun, is a variation on a mould that is “kind of what's asked of young women.” The Flock, a thriller in which she stars opposite Richard Gere, opens later this year. And heading to Broadway in September, she is set to take to the stage as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion. In the meantime, although she says she doesn't keep “a filing system of what I've learned and when,” the actor is no doubt hoping the star qualities that have taken her this far will shine brightly enough in Stardust to keep earthbound critics – and audiences – happy.
Andre 3000 Details Sammy Davis Biopic
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
(August 1, 2007) *Andre 3000 will star as legendary entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. in the feature film “Sammy and Kim,” one of three movies currently in the works about the late performer. “Actually, I just got the script," Andre told MTV. "I am checking it out now, and we will see where it goes from there." The OutKast rapper said “Sammy and Kim” will follow the volatile relationship Davis had with white actress Kim Novak. Their interracial union was cause for constant drama at the time. In the meantime, Andre will follow up big screen performances in "Four Brothers" and "Idlewild" with The Battle in Seattle," a drama about the World Trade Organization starring Woody Harrelson and Charlize Theron, and "Semi-Pro," a basketball flick co-starring Will Ferrell. "I am playing a 1970s basketball star showoff on the team, and we are trying to make it to the NBA. It's hilarious," he tells MTV.
Wesley Snipes As Thelonious Monk?
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
(August 1, 2007) *Leon Ichaso, director of the new film “El Cantante” starring Marc Anthony and his wife Jennifer Lopez, says he would love to have Wesley Snipes star in his planned biopic of jazz legend Thelonious Monk. "Wesley Snipes is aware of the project... I think he's kept the same innocence that Thelonious had and something very specific about the face. He looks like him,” Ichaso said at a recent press junket. "Thelonious has almost like an ebony-etched kind of a face and an innocence and I think that would be a fit for Wesley.” Ichaso’s “El Cantante” is a biopic about salsa legend Hector Lavoe, who famously struggled to balance his incredible talent with the turmoil of his personal life, which included drug addiction and a suicide attempt. Lavoe died of HIV-related causes in 1993 at age 46. For his Monk biopic, Ichaso hopes to portray the jazz legend’s battle with similar personal demons. "Monk is a man who had all the odds stacked against him and became one of the most influential jazz and bebop musicians," said Ichaso.
Actress Tamara Tunie Ready For
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(August 7, 2007) *Tamara Tunie, the actress seen performing autopsies every week on NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU,” is set to make her feature directorial debut on indie romantic comedy "See You in September," starring Estella Warren and Justin Kirk ("Weeds"). According to Variety, Tunie is also a producer on the film along with Jennifer Maloney and Joe Cilibrasi. The trio also teamed to produce Broadway’s Tony-winning "Spring Awakening," as well as "Legally Blonde" and August Wilson's "Radio Golf." The script, based on an idea by Cilibrasi and penned by Victoria Rinaldi, centers on a successful Manhattan woman who's in therapy to deal with her fear of commitment. Just as she's on the verge of a breakthrough, her therapist goes on vacation for the entire month of August, prompting her to organize group therapy for other patients similarly ditched by their therapists going on vacation. The film shoot, which began yesterday, is scheduled to run for five weeks in Manhattan. Co-stars include “NYPD Blue” vet James McDaniel, David Eigenberg, Michael Hyatt and Liza Lapira.
Enraged Fans Raise Jericho From The Dead
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan
(August 3, 2007) Even the most casual viewer knows that a TV show lives and dies by its ratings. There is no greater measure of a program's worth than Nielsen numbers. Each fall, the U.S. networks stack their prime-time schedules with a few dozen new series - the majority of which are gone and already forgotten when the TV season winds down eight months later. Cancellation is normally the final chapter in the life of a series, but sometimes a show comes back - if viewers make enough noise. The walls very nearly came tumbling down on Jericho (CBS, 9 p.m.), currently rebroadcasting its first season on Friday nights. CBS is giving viewers a second chance to sample the low-rated show after its recent decision to bring the show back next season for a limited run. In TV terms, the resurrection of Jericho is a miracle. Few programs experienced the rocky ratings ride of Jericho last season. The sci-fi drama set in a small Kansas town in the wake of a nuclear attack on America attained cult-viewer status, at best, and the show spent most of its first season mired way down in the U.S. Nielsen ratings. CBS put Jericho on midseason hiatus and when the show returned three months later, it had lost more than one-quarter of its previous audience. The show's cancellation in mid-May surprised no one. "Naturally we assumed that getting cancelled was the end of the road," says Skeet Ulrich, who plays the central Jericho character of Jake Green. "But it only woke up the show's real fans." For the record, precious few network programs have made the trip back from the graveyard through viewer intervention. The only known examples of save-our-show campaigns working in the past: Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey and the military drama JAG, which did come back, but on a different network.
Jericho fans demonstrated considerable pluck, however. The mercy mission to save the show began a few days after its official death notice. Devoted followers mounted a global online campaign in support of the show and petitioned CBS to reverse its cancellation order. British actor Lennie James, who plays the enigmatic Robert Hawkins, had already moved his family back to London. "One of the other cast members phoned me up and asked, 'Are you aware of what's happening on the Internet?' " James recalls. "The push to save the show kept building; more conversations were started and the momentum kept building. And not long after, there was the nuts." Specifically, the peanuts. The call to arms included a well-advertised campaign that beseeched Jericho fans to send bags of peanuts to CBS headquarters. The choice of peanuts as a form of protest referred back to the season finale, titled Nuts, which in turn was the famous response uttered by U.S. General Anthony McAuliffe when, during the Second World War, he was informed by the German military that he had no choice but to surrender. CBS reportedly received more than 20 tons of peanuts. Incredibly, it worked. CBS reversed its decision last month and ordered seven new episodes of Jericho, which are scheduled to air midseason (following the inevitable demise of one or more of the network's new fall dramas). And CBS has attached a stipulation to its stay of execution: If the show's audience doesn't edge up into more mainstream viewer numbers during the seven episodes, the network really would pull the plug - once and for all. But instead of cowering, the troops of Jericho appear galvanized. "You don't get many second chances in this business," Ulrich says. "The best way we can thank the fans is to make the best show we can, and to keep moving the story forward."
Terrence Howard Back On PBS
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(August 8, 2007) *Terrence Howard returns this fall as host of the Emmy-winning PBS series “Independent Lens," which kicks off its sixth season Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 10 p.m. with the broadcast premiere of the box office hit "Wordplay." The film takes an intimate look at New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz. Director Patrick Creadon explores the inner workings of his contributors and fans, including such crossword aficionados as Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Mike Mussina and the Indigo Girls. Other highlights of the upcoming season include "Banished," which explores the ugly history of American towns that violently expelled their African American communities; and "Iron Ladies of Liberia," which offers an intimate documentary that goes behind-the-scenes with Africa's first female head of state, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. "The quality of this series is consistently first-rate," notes Howard. "I've learned so much by watching these stories from all over the world and if I can help bring more people to these films, it's an honour."
Other fall programming on “Independent Lens” include: "An Unreasonable Man," which documents the life and times of Ralph Nader; "Miss Navajo," a look at a unique Native American pageant that challenges mainstream ideas of beauty by focusing on the traditional Navajo woman -- including mastering the Navajo language and the butchering of sheep; "King Corn," which follows two college graduates as they embark on a mission to see where America's food comes from and challenge the role of subsidies and agro-business by growing it themselves; and "Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita," which chronicles a prominent neurologist's journey to find a cure for his paralyzed daughter.
Whoopi takes Rosie's chair on The View
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press
(August 02, 2007) NEW YORK–Whoopi Goldberg will bring no celebrity feuds with her when she joins The View, at least none that she's aware of. "Who knows?" she told The Associated Press. "Anybody could say `I don't like her.' That's okay. I just won't come to your home." That already sets Goldberg apart from her predecessor. The View, putting Rosie O'Donnell in its rearview mirror, officially introduced Goldberg to the show's audience as its moderator yesterday. She'll start full-time after Labor Day. O'Donnell announced this spring she was leaving ABC's daytime talk show after less than a year filled with controversy and feuds with Donald Trump and co-star Elisabeth Hasselbeck, among others. But Goldberg, 51, is no stranger to political controversy. Goldberg was dumped from a Slim-Fast ad campaign in 2004 after mocking the Bush administration at a political rally and using the president's surname as a sexual reference. As moderator, Goldberg will be expected to steer the discussion and keep the show running on time. "I just figure I'm going to be me," she said. "They know who I am and know what I do, so nobody will be surprised if I disagree strongly but not meanly. I'll never be mean. It's just not in me."
CRTC tells History TV to pull CSI: New
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald
(August 1, 2007) Toronto — The federal broadcast regulator has slapped a final ruling on History Television's airing of CSI: New York, saying the forensic crime show does not meet the specialty channel's mandate to air programs that are historically significant to Canadians. The CRTC gave the channel's owner, Alliance Atlantis, until January to get CSI off its schedule, where it typically appears twice a day. The CRTC decision came seven months after the Writers Guild of Canada filed a complaint.
Rick Fox And AMC Team For Hoops Drama
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(August 6, 2007) *Cable channel AMC double teams with former Los Angeles Lakers star Rick Fox to develop a drama series that explores the public and private lives of professional basketball players. Fox, whose crossover into acting was fuelled by a run on HBO’s “Oz,” will executive produce the untitled project with "300" producer Mark Canton, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Rob Sorcher, executive vice president of programming and production at AMC says it’s too early to say whether Fox, formerly married to Vanessa L. Williams, will also star in the series. But "he'll certainly be informing this project as we develop it," Sorcher said.
The Duke meets the Bard
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(August 02, 2007) New York–Mercedes Ellington's Manhattan apartment is a treasure trove: floor-to-ceiling books, vibrant paintings, posters of shows she's starred in or choreographed, and everywhere, memorabilia of her legendary grandfather, bandleader/composer/pianist Duke Ellington. The eldest of the musician's four grandchildren will be in Stratford on Sunday to deliver a free lecture about her famous ancestor, tied to the 50th anniversary of his band's performance of Such Sweet Thunder at the drama festival. The 12-part suite, written specifically for that appearance, pays tribute to Shakespearean characters, giving them nicknames such as Lady Mac, Hank Cinq and Sister Kate. On Monday, the 15-member Duke Ellington Orchestra, led by Barrie Lee Hall Jr, one of Ellington's original trumpeters, will play the piece in its entirety along with gems from the extensive catalogue of the master who died in 1974. Mercedes has a strong resemblance to and unabashed zeal for the dashing jazz icon she called Uncle Edward – "I think it was because he didn't want the ladies to think he was old enough to have grandchildren; just to take the onus off things he used to call me Aunt Mercedes."
She eagerly provided a visitor with back stories of Ellington photographs displayed prominently around her residence and trotted out a copy of the Pulitzer Prize the Washington, D.C. native was posthumously awarded in 1999. The dancer/actor is particularly fond of Such Sweet Thunder whose title is drawn from A Midsummer Night's Dream: "I never heard so musical a discord, such sweet thunder." She hopes to turn the 35-minute recording, which creates drama through beautiful melodies, ominous chords and unexpected tempo changes, into a Broadway musical. "It would give play to a new view of these pieces and also fulfill something that I felt my grandfather always wanted to do: he always wanted to be a playwright." She sees similarities between Shakespeare and the nonpareil musician. "They both were kind of renaissance guys; Duke Ellington's palette was his orchestra and Shakespeare used his actors." Others agree.
Duke and the Bard were self-taught composers who "drove the university wits to liquor, wrote for individual characters and wrote for performance, not archive," said former English Lit major and trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis who recently premiered an updated octet version of Such Sweet Thunder. "While Shak was probably not the socialite that Ellington was, his work affected all levels of society. And both mastered a variety of forms. One example in this work is how Ellington composed the sonnets to mirror the form of the English poetry – 10-word lines, 14 times." Added Stratford Summer Music director John Miller: "Duke's music is sophisticated, it's multi-layered, it's intelligent; there's such insight and thoughtfulness around it, and those are precisely some adjectives I want to use when I describe Shakespeare." The titles of Such Sweet Thunder's movements, such as "Madness in Great Ones" (Hamlet), "The Star-Crossed Lovers" (Romeo & Juliet) and "Sonnet in Search of a Moor" (Othello), demonstrate "a very sophisticated awareness of Shakespeare," he noted. Acts like Count Basie, Billie Holiday and Oscar Peterson were commonplace at Stratford when Ellington made his second appearance with Such Sweet Thunder (actually recorded in New York months earlier) on Sept.5, 1957, but ended in the '60s, because organizers found the costs prohibitive. The orchestra's concert this weekend is the first jazz show since the Summer Music program began in 2001. Mercedes thinks that's fitting since her grandfather loved taking his music to every nook and cranny. "From Saskatchewan to Sri Lanka, everywhere I have gone with my dance company, he has been before me. He always said, `Home is where the work is.' As long as he had his bible and a piano, he was cool.
"When I was in Sri Lanka some musicians came to me at the hotel and brought their Duke Ellington albums, signed by him and all of his band members, and told me he had given two of their musicians money to get them through music school." She wants to start a non-profit performing arts centre in his name, but fundraising is problematic since a young half-brother from whom she's estranged runs the Duke Ellington estate. That back-story is a drama of Shakespearean proportions. Long story short: Ellington died without a will. His only child Mercer inherited everything. When Mercer died in 1996, he left control of the estate, including the orchestra, to his third wife, to the chagrin of Mercedes (daughter of his first wife) and Richard and Gaye (children of his second wife). When Mercer's widow died last year, the mantle passed to their son, Paul. All four siblings share recording royalties, but Paul, 28, has sole charge of the Duke's estate and divides the proceeds with a non-Ellington brother by his mother. "Everything became so complicated and such a total mess; now we stand as a family kind of separated by lawyers," said Mercedes, whose version alleges sick bed wills and mismanagement. "I am running the estate with the help of people who know what they are doing and we are exploiting it positively in the best of ways, which is going to positively affect all the kids," said Paul from Vancouver where he attends film school. The family's disharmony may be attributed to his having "the prestige of being the executor of the estate," he surmised. "I guess I can understand that. I'm the youngest by at least 40 years. But I've studied my granddad back and forth and if you were to ask me some questions on him I could probably answer most of them; so it's not that I'm not well versed. I never met him, but it's not my fault I wasn't born early enough." Paul, who was 18 when he assumed control of the orchestra, admits he's not a natural musician. "I kinda play piano. It didn't come as easily, but the music theory I grasped well. I learned how to write music fairly fast." If film turns out to be the forte of Paul Mercer Ellington, who is co-producing an Ellington movie starring Laurence Fishburne, his grandfather would probably approve. In his program notes for the 1957 Stratford performance, Ellington wrote: "Somehow, I suspect if Shakespeare were alive today, he might be a jazz fan himself – he'd appreciate the combination of team spirit and informality, of academic knowledge and humour, of all the elements that go into a great jazz performance. "And I am sure he would agree with the simple and axiomatic statement that is so important to all of us: when it sounds good, it is good."
For more information about the Elegant Ellington Weekend visit stratfordsummermusic.ca, or call 1-866-288-4313.
Will They Love Him Now That He Can Dance?
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Erin Kobayashi, Staff Reporter
(August 02, 2007) Nobody puts Jake Simons in the corner. Except Toronto's Dirty Dancing audition panel, which requested that Simons, the actor cast as dance instructor Johnny Castle, brush up on his dance moves. "Rachael Mirvish had given us a call because we needed to train him for the role," says Estelle Nicolaidis, director of City Dance Corps, where Simons trained. "He didn't know anything. He didn't know the mambo, the cha cha, he had no idea about anything in partner work." A Johnny Castle who doesn't know the mambo? Or the cha cha? Casting an actor instead of a dancer in the role of Castle is a new precedent in the hit stage production. In the London, Sydney and Hamburg Dirty Dancing stage shows, the lead role was given to professional dancers: Josef Brown and Martin van Bentem, both criticized for their wooden performances. "We worked a lot on mambo and on body movement with him that you don't get in jazz. A real Latin dancer moves their body in a certain way, they feel the rhythm and you don't get from just learning choreography," says Tina Nicolaidis, who founded and directs the dance studio with her sister.
"It's working on feeling, how to feel the movement the right way. Not just learn the movements or it will not look right." As the Nicolaidis sisters talk, they begin to sound like Johnny Castle themselves. In fact, Estelle reveals that she auditioned for the part of Baby and finds it amusing that she got to teach Johnny Castle how to cha cha. But Simons, a Randolph Academy graduate, does have a dance background. "When I was younger, I started dancing because of break dancing when I was 11, back in the '80s," Simons says. "And that led to jazz, tap and ballet lessons. I did a bunch of musicals but wanted to concentrate more on the acting end of things and I stopped taking dance lessons." Hired by the casting agency as a reader to help performers audition for other roles, Simons was interested in the role of Robbie, a part that requires no dancing. But when there was a lack of male dancers to partner with females dancers auditioning, the casting director suggested that Simons step in. "That was the first time I saw him dance," says associate choreographer of the show, David Scotchford. "He has a great masculinity and sexuality, and a strong physical presence because he is quite tall and big. I could see he had a lot to offer." "Eleanor (Bergstein, the creator) saw in him more traits of Johnny and thought he'd be a fantastic Johnny," he adds. Bergstein was right. After training at City Dance Corps for six weeks, Simons danced the mambo for his audition and nailed it. Currently, the 33-year-old father of one is working on his ballroom and ballet dancing at Viva Dance Studio in Thornhill before starting an intense rehearsal period for the show. But forget ballroom and ballet, how is Simons' dirty dancing? "It's great," confirms Scotchford.
Richard Monette's Final Bow At Stratford
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(August 05, 2007) Richard Monette raises a glass of white wine against the sparkling sunlight of a summer afternoon in Stratford. "Like Edith Piaf," he intones in his plummy actor's voice, "Je ne regrette rien." I regret nothing. It's a bold statement for a man to make when he's retiring after 14 years as the artistic director of the largest theatre in North America, but, on reflection, he deserves it. Conventional wisdom in recent years has been to mock Monette for his easy populism, his crowd-pleasing musicals and his obsession with the bottom line, but after an exclusive interview in which he analyzed the complex arc of his career, it becomes easier to see why he made the decisions he did. Fade In: Stratford, 1993. "The place was in deep trouble," recalls Monette. There had been an annual deficit for three straight years, one of them a whopping $1.3 million. And the shows weren't always noble artistic failures; in 1991, the Star's theatre critic Robert Crew pronounced some of the shows presented during David William's regime as "among the worst I've ever seen at the Festival." Although Monette refuses to attribute the shortfall to William, his predecessor, ("It was the recession, the GST, the times; it wasn't David"), the elitist quality of William's programming had something to do with the fact that audiences were staying away in droves.
It's no wonder that Monette looked so attractive as the Sir Galahad who could save the festival. The actor born in Quebec in 1944 had joined the Stratford company in 1973 and zoomed to national prominence in 1980 when his ringing cry of "Bullshit!" interrupted the public meeting that was supposed to canonize British director John Dexter after the board had fired a four-person Canadian directorate. Following that outburst, he stayed away from Stratford for nearly a decade, but started honing his directing skills. When he returned in 1988 with a 1950s staging of The Taming of the Shrew that sublimely blended Fellini and Shakespeare, some people thought that the festival had found the populist leader it had sought for so long. A courier du bois As You Like It and a commedia dell'arte The Comedy of Errors convinced many people that Monette was the man the Stratford Festival needed. The only person who wasn't convinced was Monette. After initially applying for the job, he sent a letter to the board on a Friday night, withdrawing his application. The next morning, the president of the board was at Monette's front door, offering him the job. "I loved the Stratford Festival," says Monette, recalling that long-ago moment. "I wanted it to be in good hands and I thought no one else would do it. I said yes, thinking it would be for three years at the most.' Monette smiles. "There was a full moon shining the night I agreed to accept. I thought I was either mad or blessed."
He turned the place around instantly. Marti Maraden's production of Alice Through the Looking Glass brought the theatre into a nearly million-dollar surplus for the first year. Since then, Monette's fiscal record has been unsurpassed. Every one of his seasons has resulted in a financial surplus and the Festival now has a $53 million endowment fund and a $5.5 million "stability fund," neither of which existed before his tenure. But to some critics, this success has cost the Festival some of its artistic soul, with the emphasis being placed on lucrative musicals and the middle-brow "family experience" shows like this season's To Kill A Mockingbird. "I know I'm maligned in the press for this," concedes Monette, "but I had my priorities straight, I took care of the money, I took care of the audiences, I took care of the future." Monette answers those detractors who say that Shakespeare has taken a back seat during his regime by pointing out that he produced the entire Shakespearean canon during his 14 years. His annual number of shows by the Bard equals or surpasses his predecessors. But when it gets down to discussing how good or bad these shows actually were, Monette throws his hands in the air. "Now we get down to a question of taste. You, or other critics, may not like what I've done, but I'm very proud of my work. Who is right? That's impossible to say."
Monette leans forward, speaking with sudden urgency. "There's something you have to understand. Being the artistic director of Stratford is a public service job. You're responsible for the livelihood of this town. It's not just whether a play will do well or not. It's whether the people packing bags in the grocery store are going to be able to support their families. "Critics don't understand this. You think you're just pronouncing judgement on a play. You're not. You're influencing the entire life of a community." Looking across the table at this man who has held the most powerful job in Canadian showbiz for 14 years, he doesn't seem pushed by a need for personal financial gain. The normal issues of ego gratification appear to be a thing of the past. Then what has driven him? And what keeps driving him, right until the end? The answer is a secret from his impoverished youth on the streets of Montreal. "You can always remember sadness," he says with a grave wisdom. "As an actor, you can always access tears. The joy of life, that's harder to find, but the pain is there forever." He pauses and looks across the table, deciding whether to tell this story. "I had a little rag doll called Pom-Pom," he begins, "and I loved that doll. I loved it so much. "My mother decided that because I was going off to school, I had to be a man and cast aside these childish things. She threw Pom-Pom down the garbage chute, where I knew there was an incinerator at the bottom." "I raced down the stairs, but of course, I was too late. Pom-Pom was gone into the flames. That was the day when I lost my innocence." His eyes are filled with tears, unashamed. "In every show I have ever done since then, I have put a little rag doll. The audience may not know it's there, but I do." Suddenly, Monette's whole career clicks into place: the sentimentality, the need for acceptance, the desire to be loved at all costs. For 14 years – both for good and ill – the shadow of a little rag doll has hung over the Stratford Festival. Now the curtain can finally fall on the past and a new day will begin.
Le Rêve Awakens To New Look
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(August 08, 2007) LAS VEGAS–The only thing this city likes better than a big success is a giant failure. And the only thing it prefers to either of those is someone who goes against the odds, bets everything they've got and turns a loser into a winner. And if the guys behind this scenario are two of this city's biggest players (financial and cultural), so much the better. Neither Steve Wynn nor Franco Dragone really need an introduction. Wynn is the man who took the art of the hotel to new heights in Las Vegas, first with the Bellagio and now with Wynn Las Vegas, which opened in the spring of 2005. Dragone is the former mime teacher from the National Theatre School of Canada, who latched onto the Cirque du Soleil star, created epics like Mystere and O, as well as staging Céline Dion's long-running Vegas triumph, A New Day.
Is it any wonder excitement was running high about the revised version of Le Rêve (The Dream), Dragone's show at Wynn Las Vegas, which began previewing a different show Friday night? What looked like a surefire $110 million flop when it premiered two years ago is now beginning to smell like a winner and while everyone's fingers are still crossed, the surest of all barometers is on their side. "Thank God, they've finally made it work!" sighed an usher who stood watching the show on Saturday night. Her fellow workers shared her relief and I'd have to agree with her, although I was one of the small minority of critics in 2005 who found a lot to admire in the original Le Rêve. But a little history about what went wrong is necessary to understand what's now going right. Le Rêve was originally a 1932 painting by Pablo Picasso acquired by Wynn, a major modern art collector. He debated christening his new extravagant hotel after the work he admired so much but finally decided to put his own name on the building and commission the hotter-than-hot Dragone to stage a trademark show to launch the project. The state-of-the-art, theatre-in-the-round Dragone commissioned, with more than four million litres of water flowing around it, cost $75 million (all figures U.S.). The rest of the show, with its cast of 75, raised the tab another $35 million. But Dragone's work needed time, experimentation, a sense of discovery. Some of the Vegas Cirque shows had delayed their openings by up to three months while everything was fine-tuned. That wasn't how Wynne worked. And when he said a hotel and show were going to be open on a certain date, by God, they were. So when Le Rêve debuted on April 27, 2005, nobody was happy: not Dragone, not Wynn, not the audience and least of all the critics.
The problems started with the show's subtitle: "a small collection of imperfect dreams." At $110 million, people wanted size and perfection. There were also some of Dragone's more bizarre fantasies, including pregnant women who kept floating through the air, which didn't delight anyone. But most of all, there was an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. Despite a 25-meter grid above the pool that allowed people to fly in and out, Dragone seemed to be recycling tricks from his previous aquatic success, O. The damage was done. Performances were cut, audiences were sparse. "Like, where is everybody?" asked Britney Spears, who sat behind me in the summer of 2005. Wynn looked long and hard at what was wrong with the show and realized that a lot of the mystic Cirque du Soleil poeticism Dragone had coasted on for well over a decade had worn out its welcome. At first, there were reports of acrimonious fights and rumours of Dragone being bought out of the project, but in the end, Wynn realized you should stick to your guns and he got Dragone to enlist a new team to fix Le Rêve. The cost was $8 million and the show closed twice – for a month each time – so that changes, new equipment and other refinements could be brought in. The final touch was added last weekend, when lighting designer Jules Fisher, an eight-time Tony Award winner, (and his colleague Peggy Eisenhauer) were in town to redo the show's illumination, rendering it a symphony of multi-coloured, pinpoint precision that takes your breath away. If Le Rêve No. 1 was "a small collection of imperfect dreams," then Le Rêve No. 2 is one big beautiful dream come true. But you needed a visionary like Dragone and a great big dreamer like Wynn to make it happen. Only in Las Vegas.
Tales Of Afghanistan Aim To Help
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Jill Mahoney
(August 7, 2007) The book begins with Jameela waiting in the garden for her little brother to return from school. Life at home has not been happy since "that bad day" when her uncle died and her father lost part of his leg in a land mine explosion. The story of 10-year-old Jameela and her family is the story of Afghanistan's children. In the course of a year or so, the farming clan is devastated by the land mine, their village is bombed and they flee to a displaced person's camp before finally returning home. A Journey of Peace, a 16-part series about the family's struggles to cope with the trauma of war, will soon be introduced to all Afghan students as part of a school-based healing and peace-building program. The series was developed, written and illustrated half a world away in Hamilton, by a group of mental-health experts, peace activists and Afghan refugees. "We've never had stories this rich here," Susan Wardak, an adviser to Afghanistan's minister of education, said in an interview from Kabul. "It's really reflecting the Afghan reality; it's really meeting their needs." The books, which are illustrated with soothing watercolours and come with hand puppets, convey a positive, Afghan-centred message. Behind the stories, which are dotted with references to Allah and depict girls and women in head scarves, are lessons about post-traumatic stress disorder, ethnic tolerance, non-violence, equality and dispute resolution.
As part of a pilot program, Ms. Wardak read the books to a group of youngsters in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan and asked one girl what she thought. "She told me about the effect of communication in reducing conflict and violence, which to me is quite shocking because an 11-year-old girl really got the message," said Ms. Wardak, an Afghan-Canadian whose husband helped develop the series. A Journey of Peace was designed to extend far beyond the schoolyard. Many Afghan adults have lived their entire lives amid war, which has dominated the past 30 years. Teachers will use the books with students of all ages and will assign home and community activities, such as recounting the stories to their families, talking about their feelings, helping others and planting peace gardens. "In a way, it's kind of trying to raise peace literacy in a population in the hope of having that contribute to sustaining peace," said Joanna Santa Barbara, a retired child psychiatrist and one of the books' four authors. Mary-Jo Land, another author, trained teacher-educators in the curriculum last month in Kabul and said she was met with "absolute overwhelming gratitude for bringing this to them." "One woman ... at the end of the workshop, she just took my hand and her eyes just welled up," said Ms. Land, a child psychotherapist, play therapist and McMaster University psychology student, as tears formed in her own eyes. Afghanistan's education system is still ravaged by the war. Many schools are closed or damaged. An estimated two million primary-school-age children - especially girls - do not attend class. Literacy rates are low. Resources are scarce, and some teachers have up to 70 pupils of varying ages. The books, which can be downloaded at http://www.journeyofpeace.ca, are part of a larger focus on bringing peace to the country by the Hamilton group, which is associated with McMaster's Centre for Peace Studies. The team began developing the books before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States and finished them in 2002. Although Unicef soon agreed to fund an initial print run in Afghanistan of 42,000 sets in both Dari and Pashto, it took until February to produce them because of the continuing instability and limited electricity. (The group is seeking funding to print more books and pay Afghan widows to sew additional puppets.) As the books start arriving across Afghanistan in the next couple of months - each school is slated to receive three sets - supporters hope they will soon begin sowing seeds of peace. "With some healing of the emotional status of the entire population," Ms. Land said, "then the capacity for peace-building will be growing from the children up."
Staying Gold For 40 Years
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Micah Toub
(August 02, 2007) It may be odd to think of The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton's landmark young-adult novel about the rough side of teenage life, as being over the hill. But having reached its 40th year of publication, that's finally become the case. Of course, great books don't age the way people do and, according to Hinton, certain authors don't either. "It's amazing to realize that your first novel is older than you are," she deadpanned to an audience of about 300 educators and literacy experts at the International Reading Association's annual meeting, which took place in Toronto earlier this summer. Later, she changed her story: "Well, now that the book is 40 years old, I think I'll come clean and tell you that I wrote it when I was 6." The amazing thing is, she's not exaggerating by that much. Hinton was a mere 15 when she started writing from the point of view of 14-year-old Ponyboy, a greaser whose gang of blue-collar friends are in conflict with the posh kids from the East Side, known as the Socials (he calls them Socs, for short). Three years later, when the book was published, it wasn't an immediate bestseller and Hinton says she didn't become a star author right away, either. The book dealt with serious themes of violence, abuse and alienation that hadn't been yet broached in teen fiction, so parents had to come around to it slowly. They eventually did though, and after Francis Ford Coppola made a film of the book in 1983, which starred a gang of budding actors that included Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe and Ralph Macchio, The Outsiders and Hinton were forever ingrained into the minds of people worldwide.
Relaxing over a glass of white wine after her speech, Hinton says that even now - 40 years down the road - she doesn't feel famous. "I don't get up in the morning and go, 'Whoa, I'm S.E. Hinton!' I get up and go, 'Whoa, I need to clean the cat box.' " Yet the book has now sold more than 13.4 million copies, is requisite reading in schools worldwide and Hinton receives far more fan mail than she can respond to. Truth be told, she doesn't always feel deserving of it. "A lot of kids think, 'Reading this book blew my mind, if I could just get a hold of her personally, think what would happen.' And I'm thinking, 'You don't need to get a hold of me personally. You'd be badly disappointed. I'm a middle-aged woman just doing my laundry.' It's in the book. Anything I've got to give to the public, it's in the book." The draw of the book is something she does understand. "They identify with the feeling that they're an outsider, even sometimes in their own group. Like Ponyboy - nobody in his group read books or liked to go to movies like he did." According to Hinton, she was driven to write the story out of anger at seeing kids in her school marginalized. Two young boys die in The Outsiders, and though it never came to that in her own life, she feared it would. "I could see if [the conflicts] escalated much further, then somebody was going to end up getting killed, accidentally or whatever."
The tragic parts of The Outsiders have turned out to be sadly prophetic in light of the rise of school shootings over the past decade and the book is perhaps more relevant now than ever. Hinton, whose sister has schizophrenia, says she thinks the Virginia Tech shooting had more to do with the difficulty of getting help for mentally ill individuals than with bullying, but Columbine is a different story. "There seems to be enough evidence that those guys were picked on and excluded until they started having revenge fantasies," Hinton says. "When that happened, I told my own son, 'Look, I know you would never be involved in something like this, but what I don't ever want to think is that you'd be involved in driving somebody to commit that kind of act either.' " But again, Hinton stresses that although she is often asked to act as the teen expert, she is not one. "Believe me, when my kid hit 14, I was as horrified as anybody. He was sweet, he was funny, we all got along great, and then all the sudden, he was like, 'Don't ask me how my day was. It was horrible. It was horrible yesterday! It'll be horrible tomorrow!' " Hinton says she blamed growing up poor for her anger as a child until she saw her own son go through the same thing. "Now, I realize it's just hormonal." While Penguin's 40th-anniversary edition of The Outsiders, to be released next month, will create the most buzz for Hinton this year, she's personally more excited about her new, and 10th, book, Tim's Stories, which she says is her "best book yet." I'm sure it is, but she can't escape the burning question from all 13.4 million (and more) of her fans: When will she write the sequel to The Outsiders? "I could never be Ponyboy again," she says. "To me, the book is over, and the very fact that so many kids don't want it to be over with is a sign that I ended it in the right place." And if she suddenly needed a huge amount of cash? "I still have my original manuscript, which might make me a pretty good price on eBay. It's typed up and it's got chocolate icing on it. That's my little nest egg." That's unlikely to happen anyway. Selling more copies last year than ever, it appears The Outsiders is going to, as the moral of the book goes, "stay gold."
Irvin, Thomas, Sanders Enter NFL Hall Of
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(August 6, 2007) *Michael Irvin, Thurman Thomas and Charlie Sanders were among the six NFL veterans inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during a ceremony Saturday night in Canton, Ohio. Irvin lauded the Dallas Cowboys family and his own family for inspiring him to make it through tough times. During his emotional speech, Irvin asked sons Michael, 10, and Elijah, 8, to stand before he recited the prayers he gives up for his sons. "Help me raise them for their kids, so that they can be a better father than I," Irvin said. "I tell you guys to always do the right thing so you can be a better role model than dad. Look up, get up, but don't ever give up." Buffalo Bills running back Thomas, who set a record by leading the NFL in total yards from scrimmage four consecutive seasons, rubbed the head of his bronze statue when it was unveiled, and mentioned "it's really, really scary up here." He later turned to wife Patti, seated in the crowd of 12,787, and asked if, after nearly 20 years together, she would marry him again.
Former Detroit Lions tight end Sanders, whose mother died when he was two, spoke of always wanting to say “Hi Mom" to the TV cameras following a touchdown, as most NFL players did following a score. Fighting tears, Sanders said: “I thought it was something that was always special and I would want to do, but couldn't. So I take this time, right here and right now, in Canton, Ohio, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to say, `Hi Mom.'" Other inductees on Saturday included offensive linemen Bruce Matthews (Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans), Gene Hickerson (Cleveland Browns) and safety Roger Wehrli (St Louis Cardinals).
Raptors Reach Deal With CBC To Put Hoops
Back On Network TV
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - William Houston
(August 2, 2007) After an absence of four years, the Toronto Raptors are returning to main network television. The club announced yesterday a three-year agreement with the CBC to air games on Sunday afternoons during 2007-08. The network will carry eight to 10 games in the first year of the contract. The schedule will be increased to 15 to 20 games for the second and third years. "It's terrific to be on the CBC," Tom Anselmi, the chief operating officer of Raptors owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, said. "The CBC's interest illustrates the improved performance of the team. And we get into 11 million homes." Raptors audiences on television have been slow to grow, partly because of limited distribution, particularly on club-owned Raptors NBA TV, a digital service reaching less than one million households. Sources describe the deal as a time buy. The Raptors will purchase air time on the CBC and sell their own advertising. Decisions about on-air personnel haven't been reached. CBC Sports will want to use its own people. MLSE will make a strong case for Raptors voice Chuck Swirsky in the booth. This is a good deal for the CBC as well as the Raptors. It gives the network a sports property that attracts a young, diverse audience. And it bolsters the CBC's lineup of sports properties, which includes the NHL, Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto FC.
"The Raptors, to me, are similar to soccer in that they bring a different audience to the CBC," Scott Moore, the head of CBC Sports, said. "I think that's important. I'm also interested in the synergy of airing Sunday afternoon noon Raptors games after we've had Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night. I think MLSE liked that combination. And the team is playing great." The CBC's 2007-08 schedule of games will be taken from those earmarked for Raptors NBA TV. The Raptors already have 2007-08 television agreements in place with TSN, The Score and Rogers Sportsnet, and they can't be changed. Specifics, such as when the CBC's season will begin, are unavailable. The 2007-08 NBA schedule has yet to be released. Global Television, which pulled out after 2002-03, was the last broadcaster to carry Raptors games. TSN deal close TSN is moving closer to reaching a contract extension with the NHL. A new agreement for national cable rights is expected to be completed in a few weeks. "They're focusing on it getting done before the start of the season," a source said. Highlights to look for: More games involving Canadian teams, including more Toronto Maple Leafs games; The opportunity for a Canadian match-up in the playoffs; Broadband streaming rights to games televised on TSN. The length of the contract will almost certainly match the six years that takes the CBC's NHL deal to 2013-14, starting in 2008-09.
Earlier this week, TSN's French-language partner, Réseau des Sports, announced six-year contract extensions with the Montreal Canadiens and NHL, beginning immediately. The combination deal, involving both the club and league, is probably worth about $35-million - $20-million to the Canadiens and $15-million to the NHL. RDS will air all 82 Canadiens regular-season games and a full NHL playoff schedule. The RDS sports news channel, RIS, will carry up to 55 NHL games and playoff matchups. Broadband rights are included in the agreement. RDS president Gerry Frappier said increased interest by competitors in Canadiens TV rights prompted RDS to expedite a deal with the club and league. Canadiens audiences over the past five years have almost doubled, growing from an average of 399,000 in 2001-02, when three networks aired the games, to 717,000 last season, when RDS was the sole carrier. If the NHL had gone to market, Radio Canada and perhaps the Quebec network TVA would have made bids. "Our overall ratings success surely awakened a competitor that maybe did not see sport in the same light in the past," Frappier said. As for TSN, the rights fee that it will pay the NHL isn't known, although it would be in the $50-million range, perhaps more. The CBC is paying the league $100-million annually for a more comprehensive national schedule that includes a Leafs game almost every week, most of the playoff series involving Canadian teams and the exclusivity to the Stanley Cup final. TSN's new contract is unlikely to kick in until the current deal expires at the end of 2007-08, although it's possible broadband rights would start immediately.
Barry Bonds Is The New Home Run King
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(August 8, 2007) *Whew! He finally did it. Barry Bonds has become the all-time home run king. Last night at AT&T Park in San Francisco he hit the 756th home run of his career. Bonds, whose chase for the record has been dogged by suspicions of steroid use, launched a 3-2 pitch from Mike Bacsik over the right- centerfield fence with one out in the fifth inning of the San Francisco Giants home game against the Washington Nationals. That historic home run by Bonds, who singled, doubled and scored twice in his first two at-bats, gave the Giants a 5-4 lead, but they eventually lost the game 8-6. Bonds, 43, raised both arms in triumph while the ball sailed into the stands as fireworks exploded. He again raised his arms as he got to home plate and hugged his son Nikolai, who was one of the Giants' batboys. He then received congratulations from his teammates and his godfather Willie Mays -- who's fourth in major- league history with 660 homers -- all while the crowd continued to give him a standing ovation. A video tribute from former record-holder Hank Aaron, who'd said he wouldn't attend, was shown on the scoreboard, before Bonds addressed the crowd in a short ceremony. He was replaced in left field by Rajai Davis the next inning. For extended coverage from Fox Sports click here.
Spielberg May Resign From Olympics Role
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press
(August 02, 2007) BEIJING – Beijing's Olympic organizing committee said Wednesday it did not know that top Hollywood director Steven Spielberg might be planning to resign as an artistic adviser to the 2008 Games. Spielberg sent an open letter to President Hu Jintao in April urging China to take a harder line against Sudan over the Darfur crisis, and last week ABC News and other U.S. media cited the director's spokesman Andy Spahn as saying he was considering dropping out of the Olympics because of China's inaction over the crisis. At a news conference Wednesday, Zhao Dongming, director of cultural activities for the 2008 Beijing Olympics organizing committee, was asked to confirm Spielberg's possible exit. "I was not aware of that," Zhao said. "I had not heard of that." More than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been uprooted in the ethnic conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. China, which imports two-thirds of Sudan's oil and sells arms to Khartoum, has been criticized for supporting the African country, and has opposed United Nations sanctions. The UN unanimously agreed Tuesday to send a 26,000-strong peacekeeping force to Darfur no later than the end of this year.
Tiger Wins In Akron
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(August 6, 2007) *Tiger Woods dominated the field to win his sixth Bridgestone Invitation at Firestone Sunday in Akron, Ohio. The golfer made a 12-foot par putt on the final hole that kept him bogey-free during a rainy final round. He closed with a 5-under 65 for an eight-shot victory over Rory Sabbatini and Justin Rose, tying a PGA Tour record for most victories at one golf course. Next up is Southern Hills and the PGA Championship for the final major, something Woods has failed to win this year. “This might just give a little more confidence," Woods said.