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NEWSLETTER

Updated:  January 25, 2007

 

It looks like the deep freeze has finally hit Toronto - but much worse in other parts of the country for sure!  Hopefully, the army won't be called in if it snows this year!  (Oh the shame!)

Events to watch for!  In celebration of Valentine's Day, there's
Kama Sutra The Book Of Love featuring some of Toronto’s brightest performers in their truest art forms. Then there's the artistic and athletic dance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on February 16-17.  Be sure to mark your calendars for the inspiring sounds of Soweto Gospel Choir on February 27-28.  Check out the details below!

This week's
OPINION addresses my take on the marketing machine behind artist exposure - and I chose the example of Beyonce.  And, the Oscar race is on!  A few predictable picks and some surprises - see my selected Oscar coverage below. 

 

 

 

::hot events::

Kama Sutra The Book Of Love – February 10, 2007

Source:  Jay Martin, Ajahmae Live

Ajahmae Live & SFS Entertainment presents
Kama Sutra The Book Of Love featuring some of Toronto’s brightest performers in their truest art forms. All backed by Canada’s number one DJ Starting From Scratch. The classiest show and after party of the year, just in time for Valentine’s Day.  Many prizes to be won.  Get your tickets now - last year sold out quickly!

Join
Mark Strong, Jemeni, Al St Louis, Dwayne Morgan, Chris Rouse, Lorraine Reid, Amoy, Dylan Murray and Jay Martin to assemble the chapters of love.

Click HERE for evite.


FEBRUARY 10, 2007
KAMA SUTRA THE BOOK OF LOVE
Arcadian Court, Simpson Tower, 8th floor
401 Bay St Toronto  (Corner of Bay & Queen)
Doors open 7:30 pm with appetizers; Show 8:00 pm SHARP
$40 advanced tickets only, VIP tickets $45 by calling 416-949-2766
www.comedyclash.com
www.citycamel.com
Info Line 416-949-2766

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Toronto - Feb. 16-17!

Source: Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts

TORONTO, Ontario – For more than 45 years, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has dazzled audiences from New York City to South Africa to China with unparalleled artistry.  After a long awaited return, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is back at The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts in celebration of Black History Month for three performances only from February 16 – 17, 2007.

Through captivating performances and unparalleled artistry, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been fulfilling Alvin Ailey’s vision that “dance is for everybody… dance came from the people and it should always be delivered back to the people.”  From jazz-inspired works and intimate portraits to explosive epics teeming with passion, “one cannot deny the genius behind Ailey’s…stirring eloquence,” says the Washington Post.

Led by Artistic Director Judith Jamison, this magnificent company celebrates an exhilarating performance, drawing inspiration from a variety of experiences - life’s joy, sorrows, passions, beauty and ultimate truths.  Their unmistakable style and unsurpassed talent, continue to leave audiences breathless.  Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform several works from its classic repertory–including Revelations, Ailey’s signature masterpiece that explores African American spirituals, encompassing songs of love, struggle, and deliverance.  The engagement will also include new dances by some of today’s most exciting, daring, and visionary choreographers.

There are moments when you watch the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and begin to believe that the figures on stage are not quite real. The human body can't really move like that… defies human limits." 

-  Chicago Sun-Times


FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16 AND SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17
ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER
The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front St. East
Toronto, Ontario
Friday: 8:00 pm
Saturday (two shows) 2:00 pm & 8:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $55 - $75
Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 416-872-2262 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.ca
Or in person at The Hummingbird Centre Box Office, 1 Front Street East, Toronto  
GROUPS of 10 or more call:  416-393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805

 

Soweto Gospel Choir Makes Its Triumphant Return To Toronto – Feb. 27-28, 2007

Source: Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts

Toronto, Ontario – Soweto Gospel Choir is an awe-inspiring vocal ensemble, performing in eight different languages, in an inspirational program of tribal, traditional and popular African gospel.  Returning to The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts after a standing room only performance in 2005, Soweto Gospel Choir will perform two shows only in celebration of Black History Month, from February 27 – 28, 2007.

Soweto Gospel Choir has achieved major success in Europe and in South Africa.  Drawing on the best musical talents from the many churches and communities in and around Soweto, the concert will feature a dynamic four-piece band, traditional dancers and drummers.  Earthy rhythms, rich harmonies, acapella and charismatic performances combine to uplift the soul and express, through a vocal celebration, South Africa's great hopes for the future.  The most exciting vocal group to emerge from South Africa since Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Soweto Gospel Choir, will bring their magnetic energy, joyful spirits and beautiful harmonies to Canadian audiences.  They are much more than simply a musical phenomenon. 

Soweto Gospel Choir was created in 2002.  David Mulovhedzi and South African Executive Producer Beverly Bryer held auditions in Soweto to form an all-star “super-choir.”  They were able to create a powerful aggregation made up of the best singers from his own Holy Jerusalem Choir, as well as various Soweto churches and from the general public, including a finalist on the nationally-televised South African equivalent of “Star Search.”  Adorned in traditional and beautifully coloured South African garb, the choir has been known to win audiences with their exotic blend of South African spirituals, traditional Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho gospel songs which are interspersed with popular songs and folk anthems.

"Nothing can really prepare you for the riot of exuberance and depth of emotion."  - The Scotsman

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27 AND WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2007
SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR
The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front St. East, Toronto, Ontario
8:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $35 - $75
Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 416-872-2262 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.ca
Or in person at The Hummingbird Centre Box Office, 1 Front Street East, Toronto  
GROUPS of 10 or more call:  416-393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805

 

::just my opinion::

Beyonce - Don't Believe the Hype?

Ahhh, the marketing machine. 
Beyonce fans - don't take offence!  But am I the only one that feels if they hear "Irreplaceable" one more time - or any Beyonce tune for that matter - that they will go insane??  And what kills me is that I used to like Beyonce (not a huge fan but I liked her).  Certainly a beautiful girl.  But this over-saturation of her career - acting, singing, music videos, TV appearances has made me anxious to tune her out - completely.  It's not a personal attack - just a probe into questions about marketing techniques and that 'more' is not necessarily better. 

And it's funny you know?  I probably wouldn't be mentioning this at all if every time I turned on a radio or TV, I see her ... "dreamgirl"ed out ... or "to the left'ing'" ... or in a magazine with yet another article or beauty shot. 

Plus, this disenchantment with Beyonce does make me want to lend an ear to rumours or hearsay of being jealous and even snarky about Jennifer Hudson's popularity in Dreamgirls.  With quotes like, “I mean," said Knowles, "I wish I could've gained 20 pounds and played Effie.”!
*  Whaaaa? Nothing is being taken from you - besides, everyone likes the underdog.  Not as much is expected from them so when they excel, they're noticed.  And in this case, given Golden Globes and Oscar noms!  (smile) 

OK, so Beyonce has denied the rumours that there was jealousy … and that she took the part to prove that she could act.  Maybe she did … but I also think that she’s surprised (aka shocked) by audience reaction to Jennifer Hudson – and that brings on some sour grapes.  After all, "I'm already a star. I already have nine Grammys.  Everyone knows I can sing." Knowles said."
*  Perhaps she's started to believe the hype.  Who knows?

And has anyone noticed that no cast shots of DreamGirls looked relaxed or showed genuine affection.  Even their appearance on Oprah - strained! Not that it's a requirement that they get along ...

I guess even the smartest marketing ploy cannot induce industry awards.  Knowing that Jennifer Hudson won a Golden Globe and has an Oscar nom makes me want to tolerate seeing DreamGirls ... and hearing Beyonce again ... for two hours ... straight.  OK …. might have to wait until it's out on DVD.

I still like the element of surprise.  That I discover that I like something that I thought I didn't, or discovering something new or unique about an individual artist.  Perhaps I'm just older and more jaded or expect more from entertainment now. 

But what do I know right?  Beyonce has been holding down the #1 spot on the Billboard charts.  And good for her.  I guess perhaps younger fans that are purchasing the CDs and downloading the tracks are the ones in control of the market.  And they seem to believe the hype of "more often equals more talented or cool" - kind of a brainwashing of our youth, no?  Well, regardless, if you have any tips, I need a Beyonce break!

Does this make me a hater?  Not sure.  Certainly not of Beyonce personally - just a brewing exhaustion of the vast marketing machine behind her and artists in general that we get inundated with.  After all, this certainly does not apply to just Beyonce.  While I can understand the need for it, sometimes I just need a break and hear other, just as, or more talented, artists than those thrust at us.

And that's just my opinion. 

*Source:  People Magazine

 

::top stories::

Alicia on Her Big Screen Debut

Source:  Kam Williams

Alicia Augello-Cook was born in New York City on January 25, 1980 to a Jamaican father (who bounced while she was still a toddler) and a mother who’s a mix of Puerto Rican, Italian and Irish. An only child, little “Lellow” was raised in Hell’s Kitchen by her doting mom who recognized she had a prodigy on her hands soon after her young daughter started taking piano lessons.  Alicia would attend the prestigious Professional Performance Arts School of Manhattan, where she studied both jazz and classical composition, crediting influences ranging from Nina Simone to Stevie Wonder to Oscar Peterson to Frederic Chopin to Tupac Shakur. After graduating as valedictorian of her class, she entered Columbia University at just 16, but soon took a leave to pursue her professional career.  Writing songs which reflected both her roots and her eclectic musical education, Alicia changed her last name to Keys and signed with Clive Davis’ J Records which released the five-time Grammy-winning Songs in A Minor in 2001. Skyrocketing to superstardom, she’s since collected four more Grammys, plus eleven Billboard Awards, three American Music Awards, two MTV Video Awards, three NAACP Image Awards, six Soul Train Awards, a VH1 Award and a People’s Choice Award.

She has also been named one of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People (2002) and one of FHM Magazine’s 100 Sexiest Women in the World (2005 and 2006). This multi-talented Renaissance Woman even wrote a best-selling book, Tears for Water.  Those who think that Alicia is only making her acting debut now must have missed her appearance at four on the Cosby Show where she exhibited precocious stage presence as Maria, a friend of Rudy Huxtable. Here, she shares her thoughts on her role as
Georgia Sykes, a seductive yet ruthless assassin, in Smokin’ Aces, a high-octane, ensemble flick co-starring Ben Affleck, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Andy Garcia and Common.

KW: What interested you in this script?

AK: The more that I read it, the more intrigued I became with it... the more it drew me in.. the more I realized how each character had its own life… and the way that every story combined into the next story… and the way that everything you thought it was, it was not. So, by the time I got to the end of the script, I was just enamored with it. I couldn’t believe it. I could see every shot… I could see every vision… and I could see how it would all come together. I just felt like it was so perfect, and for me, personally, so unexpected, that I knew it was perfect.   

KW: Why was playing Georgia perfect for you?

AK: It was truly something that, the minute that I read the script, I knew that it was so out of my element, so out of my normal character, so out of what so many people probably expect of me that I knew it was the right thing for me to do. I wanted to break away totally from anyone’s expectations. I wanted to do what was totally unexpected. I wanted to dive into myself in a way that I have never ever done before. And to be surrounded by such incredible actors was truly inspiring. The entire cast and Joe [director Joe Carnahan) was so motivating. I think that I’m totally spoiled, because anything I do following this will probably not compare.

KW: So, your fans get to see a new side of you in this film.

AK: It’s not me, it’s Georgia. So, I don’t have to worry about that. Maybe you can say it’s a totally different side of what anybody might expect of me which is maybe why I did it. There’s a lot going on with me in this movie.

KW: Did acting against type come easily to you?

AK: Well, I don’t think anything that’s worth it exactly comes easy, but to work for that was completely worth it. And I knew that with everything that I do I want to give up my comfort zone. I don’t want to stay in the same place. I know myself. I like to get out of that area and challenge myself, and I find that the best comes from that.

KW: How did you feel about your character’s wardrobe?

AK: The wardrobe is crazy because we know that Buddy [Jeremy Piven’s character] has a serious, serious addiction to prostitutes. That’s the deal. So, to get inside, where I can get close enough to do what I need to do, I’m going to have to fit in with the prostitutes. So, the whole situation is, yeah, my first Halloween as a prostitute. [Laughs] 

KW: How did you feel about the use of the N-word in the picture?

AK: I consciously didn’t use the word. I substituted “mother-[bleep]” or “[bleep]-head” or “piece of [bleep].” There are plenty of other words. I consciously didn’t want to use that word, though separating myself from who I am and totally becoming Georgia Sykes, since Georgia’s a killer, she definitely doesn’t give a damn about what she’s gonna’ call you. That was a reality that I had to understand and be ready to dive totally into her. And I wanted to do that. 

KW: This being your first feature film, did you get help from any of your co stars?

AK: Taraji [Henson] and I hit it off immediately. She’s a wonderful lady, an incredible actress. Joe actually brought us together very early on, before we even thought about filming scene one. We hung out and went to the movies because we definitely wanted the relationship to be really authentic, and it was. You find that you naturally connect with people or you don’t. And she’s one of the people that you connect with. I did learn a lot from watching her and from listening to her. We developed our characters’ back stories together… We spoke about where we came from, where we were going, and why. We spoke about a lot of things like that, so she definitely was a great inspiration for me.   

KW: How would you describe that back story of your characters’ relationship that the two of you developed?

AK: I think that Georgia and Sharice (Taraji’s character) are close, and have obviously been through a lot of very heavy situations together which would normally bring you into a place that you probably wouldn’t experience with someone who is just more surface. In our back story, we definitely knew each other for years. I was uprooted from where I grew up, originally, and came to live near her. So, she kind of showed me a lot from the beginning. She was the older sister that I never had, somebody who could help care for me and show me the ropes, that kind of thing. I think that as Georgia I might have been aware that there might have been something a little out of place, feelings developing on her side towards me. But I didn’t pay it any attention because we’re busy doing other things. Plus, not wanting to make it a big deal, because I love her as a sister. We have a deep relationship anyway, so what’s the big deal? So, when you come into the movie you actually witness, just as I’m witnessing it, that it’s becoming a little more uncomfortable. She’s becoming a little more crass about it all, and I’m starting to wonder what’s really going on. In fact, a whole scene was taken out where I confronted her about it.      

KW: Were you prepared to be so successful at an early age, and is it what you expected?

AK: I define success as a personal happiness. I feel that, personally, I’m happiest when I’m able to express myself, when I’m able to do things that are my choice, whatever that means. And it’s especially rewarding when people enjoy it as much as I do. So, I call that success.

KW: Who was your role model as a child?

AK: As a young kid, I had two wonderful women in my life that helped to raise me. One is my mother, a single-mother, a very strong woman who showed me everything about being a woman. The second was my grandmother. She was another very compassionate, very intelligent, very giving woman. So, I’d say the two of them combined were my greatest inspirations.

KW: What did they say to you?

AK: What did they say to me? “Get ‘em, girl!” [Laughs]

KW: How do you keep grounded and connected to your roots?

AK: I grew up in a place that introduced me to a lot of different areas and a lot of different kinds of people. Because of who I am and where I was raised, it’s always going to be a part of who I am. So, when something is of your fabric, you can’t let it go.

KW: I know you already finished your next film, The Nanny Diaries with Scarlett Johansson and Laura Linney. Don’t you have another movie project you’re working on?

AK: That film is going to be produced by Halle Berry. It’s about an incredible, bi-racial woman named Philippa Schuyler who was an amazing classical pianist back in the Forties.  Obviously, at that time, the challenges at the time to actually be able to play classical piano as a woman of mixed race was by far more than I could ever imagine.    

KW: Are you interested in this role because of the parallels between you and her?

AK: What intrigued me about this role isn’t that she was a pianist, or exactly who I was, but that it’s a moving, historical time piece. Her story is very deep, even to the point where the relationship between her and her mother gets very strained, and she even chooses to go to Europe and to pass as a Spanish woman in order to be able to play and to be able to live a more normal life. And so, it’s very interesting the places that we feel we need to go in order to do what we love, and where that leads us. That’s what her story is about, and that’s why I love it so much.       

KW: What’s the name of the movie and when will you start shooting?

AK: As of now, it’s called Compositions in Black and White. It’s based on her biography. As of right now, we’re still in the second draft of the script. So, it’ll be a little bit of time, at least a year.

Love For Music Makes Stone Glow

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Alwynne Gwilt, Staff Reporter

(
Jan. 22, 2007)  The Docks was transformed into a candle-lit lounge Saturday night, as everyone from music industry reps to soul-music fans gathered for a surprise concert by Joss Stone.  It was the North American debut of her new album, Introducing Joss Stone, which drops in March. The reveal was originally planned for New York but diverted to this side of the 49th at the last minute, a fact that seemed appreciated by a crowd of about 150 (the concert was announced Friday). They waited more than an hour for Stone, but judging from the Cheshire-cat grins, they seemed happy to do whatever Stone told them once she fluttered onto the stage. Three years ago, English-born Stone was a sweet kid with a big voice; a 16-year old powerhouse who became known overseas for her hit "Super-Duper Love" off The Soul Sessions. That hit led to 2004's Mind, Body and Soul, which was nominated for three 2005 Grammy awards. Now, at 19, Stone can barely be called your typical teenager. She's performed on world stages with the likes of James Brown and John Legend. She's sold nearly eight million albums. She penned her latest one on the solitary beaches of the Caribbean, coming to the realization that music is her one true love, since "love in a human being is always a little bit conditional."

Stone is no doubt at a crossroads, transforming into someone who could take the North American market by storm.  She's a bit of jazz, a dash of funk, a smattering of R&B and so much soul, which she summed up Saturday with the statement "Aretha Franklin and Lauren Hill: what more do you need in life?" But what makes her fantastic in performance, besides the 11-member backup group – including James Brown's trumpet players – is that she makes it clear how much in love she is with what she's doing.  Stone invites the audience into her delight at a simple note or melody, scrunching her petite nose, eyes crinkling, mouthing the words "Ooh, I love that." She's found her true love and you can't help feeling happy for her. And you can't help feeling happy for yourself in the presence of that effervescent energy.

Dessy Takes Centre Stage

Source:  Kam Williams

Dessy Di Lauro’s debut album, “A Study of a Woman’s Soul” (CrazyglueMusic), is a blend of R&B & Latin music. This fresh face in the independent music industry is hardly a novice, having been performing and recording for almost a decade.  Currently, she’s touring the US and Canada in a lead role with the latest production of Cirque du Soleil, called Delirium. Her producer, musical director, arranger, composer, writing partner, and husband, Ric’key Pageot, is the show’s musical conductor and keyboardist.  In 2005, Dessy performed at Detroit’s “Motor City Music Conference,” Toronto’s “Canadian Music Week Conference,” New York City’s S.O.B.’s Club, and The Montreal International Jazz Festival. She also sang back up vocals for Patti Labelle and The Neville Brothers, among others.  Dessy developed her interest in music at an early age, when her parents exposed her to many genres of music, a reflection of her multi-ethnic background. Presently, she’s writing music for her upcoming release, “An In-Depth Study of a Woman’s Soul.”

KW: What exactly is your multi-ethnic background?

DDL: My background is Italo-Cuban Brazilian.

KW: Did that mix help shape you?

DDL: Well, the mix helped shaped me in my music. I was influenced by salsa on the Cuban side, the bossa nova and samba on the Brazilian side, and romantic love songs on the Italian side. And also by jazz, Afro-Cuban and lots of soul music from the Afro-Brazilian side. My mom, who was born in Brazil and moved at an early age to Montreal, really instilled the soul and jazz influences in me. She was and still is a huge fan of these styles. This was the fusion of music I grew up listening to and still do. From the likes of Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Sarah Vaughn, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Irakere, Los Van Van, Chaka, Aretha, etcetera. Gospel was also the first and biggest influence in my life.

KW: When did you develop an interest in music?

DDL: At about the age of 4. I sang all the time. So much so, my mom had me join the local Montreal gospel groups at about 5. That was the start of my musical journey.

KW: What types of music did you listen to?

DDL: All of the above as I have mentioned

KW: Did you study an instrument?

DDL: No, unfortunately I didn’t. I had always dreamed of being the “baddest” female drummer around, but singing was my passion and I never immersed myself in learning how to play drums, cause it requires a lot of discipline. I would have loved to learn how to play piano as well.

KW: Did you take singing lessons?

DDL: I started with the gospel choir and kept developing my skills in the church, and just continued building upon those skills on gigs over the years. That was my school. I never got any kind of formal lessons. Basically, I am self taught. I learned from my records. Listening, learning, copying singers like Sarah Vaughn and trying to copy instruments, the solos.

KW: Who would you consider your influences?

DDL: So many people influence me., but my biggest influences would definitely have to be Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and Sarah Vaughn. I still can’t get enough of their wonderful music and talents.

KW: Why did you settle on a combination of Latin and soul music for your debut album?

DDL: Because of who I am, my influences and my background. I am Latin all around, and soul. I lived this music my whole life.

KW: How would you describe your sound?

DDL: I would describe it to be organic and full of stories about my personal experiences and the people closest to me in my life. I try to reach out and touch people. I feel and want people to have the same feeling with my music.

KW: Tell me a little about your upcoming release “An In-Depth Study of a Woman’s Soul.”

DDL: There will be lots of revelations about who I am and the journey I have lived and where I am going. I will reveal things that I couldn’t in the past but that I am comfortable revealing now because of the growth and hardships that I have gone through. And hopefully, I can help other people with their situations and inspire others. I will be reaching out and going deep. I am letting a whole lot of emotions out and letting go.

KW: Why did you join Cirque de Soleil? Do you have a circus background?

DDL: I don’t have a circus background. The only circus background I have is having worked on a Cirque Du Soleil show in Orlando, and now on Delirium. I knew nothing about circus life. But this circus is not the typical circus that we know of with the animals and circus tents. This one is with live music, dance, theatre, and projections. Every art form you could think of, and adding acrobats in the mix. I joined because we get to reach a broader audience with this circus and the theatrical part of me is being developed in the show. I am getting more comfortable in different roles. I become a different character in this show. It’s fun and lets me grow in a role and gain experience doing role playing and singing at the same time.

KW: What is you role with Cirque de Soleil?

DDL: I have a few. One of them is temptress. I try to tempt a man who is floating around trying to find himself. I am also the chief of an urban tribe. It’s hard to describe. I also sing a song that somewhat looks like I am under water, like a water goddess. I have a couple of different characters in this show. It always keeps me on my toes.

KW: Cirque de Soleil is a unique type of circus. How would you describe it?

DDL: Cirque du Soleil is all disciplines of the art world and acrobats combined into one. Also adding projections, music, and multi-media.

KW: Which do you enjoy more, Cirque de Soleil or performing your original songs?

DDL: Well, there is nothing like performing my own material, cause it’s me.  They are my stories, my experiences, my influences, all molded together. The original project is my heartbeat, one, because of my experiences and I pour my heart out. And also because I share this project with my writing partner, band leader, composer, pianist and, above all, my husband, Ric’key Pageot. Our hearts, soul and love is in this project. We get so much joy performing our original music. There is nothing like this feeling.

KW: How much traveling is involved with Cirque de Soleil? How many cities and how many shows do you do a year?

DDL: There is a whole lot of traveling involved. We perform in three different cities a week. We often play two shows in one city, then immediately leave after the show and travel to the next city. In a year, we probably perform in 20 cities, if not more.

KW: Where do you live when you’re not on the road?

DDL: Home is in Montreal. My whole family and all my friends, with the exception of a few who are in the US, are in Montreal.

KW: How many relatives do you have there? How do they handle you’re being on the road so much?

DDL: Yes, my mom and dad are in Montreal. I have an older brother as well.  He is married with two children. They got very used to me traveling. I have been leaving for my career often throughout the years. I also lived in Florida for four years, so they’ve had time to get used to me traveling.

KW: What gives you the most satisfaction in life?

DDL: Music and my husband. They are my passion. Also my friends and family. Loving. Creating and eating well. Great food helps my mind, my body, my soul. Above all, singing and my husband.

KW: What do you do to unwind?

DDL: Believe it or not, playing solitaire on the computer. Love it, love it, love it.  Also reading an inspiring book. It takes a lot for me to sit down and read, but an inspirational book will do the trick. I just got a PSP. I am very excited about that.  I really enjoy cooking as well and having friends over for dinner. It’s very therapeutic for me. I cook all the time for my husband and I when I’m home.

KW: Do you have a MySpace website where fans can keep in touch with you?

DDL: As a matter of fact, I do. www.myspace.com/DessyDiLauro. Everyone has got to have a myspace nowadays. It’s a great tool to reach out to millions of people and get your music heard.

KW: Who do you consider to have been your inspiration?

DDL: God, of course, my husband, and my mom, who’s my best friend.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

DDL: My biggest advice and one I had wished someone would have told me about was to read lots of books on the music business. Know what you’re getting into. And to find an entertainment lawyer that will review any documents that you possibly sign, recording, management, etcetera. There are so many things we should know about the business and that will save you from getting into trouble. This is my ultimate advice. Having talent is the easy part, it’s what comes after the fact. There are lots of sharks out there. Beware, and be informed and prepared to know what to do, so you can protect yourself. Also the next big one, which would probably be before the one I just mentioned is, KEEP YOUR INTEGRITY! That will be your longevity. Be true to what you do best. You will shine, cause it’s your heart. It’s not about thinking of quantity, but first and foremost, quality.

To purchase Dessy’s CD, check out her website at: www.dessydilauro.com.

List Of 79th Annual Academy Award Nominations

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(January 23, 2007) Here is the complete list of the
79th Annual Academy Award nominations announced Tuesday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Calif.:

1. Best Picture: "Babel,'' "The Departed,'' "Letters From Iwo Jima,'' "Little Miss Sunshine,'' "The Queen.''

2. Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond''; Ryan Gosling, ``Half Nelson''; Peter O'Toole, "Venus''; Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness''; Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland.''

3. Actress: Penelope Cruz, "Volver''; Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal''; Helen Mirren, "The Queen''; Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada''; Kate Winslet, "Little Children.''

4. Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine''; Jackie Earle Haley, "Little Children''; Djimon Hounsou, "Blood Diamond''; Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls''; Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed.''

5. Supporting Actress: Adriana Barraza, "Babel''; Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal''; Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine''; Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls''; Rinko Kikuchi, ``Babel.''

6. Directing: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel''; Martin Scorsese, "The Departed''; Clint Eastwood, "Letters From Iwo Jima''; Stephen Frears, "The Queen''; Paul Greengrass, "United 93.''

7. Foreign Language Film: "After the Wedding," Denmark; "Days of Glory (Indigenes)," Algeria; "The Lives of Others," Germany; ``Pan's Labyrinth," Mexico; "Water," Canada.

8. Adapted Screenplay: Sacha Baron Cohen and Anthony Hines and Peter Baynham and Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips, "Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan''; Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, "Children of Men''; William Monahan, "The Departed''; Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, "Little Children''; Patrick Marber, "Notes on a Scandal.''

9. Original Screenplay: Guillermo Arriaga, "Babel''; Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis, "Letters From Iwo Jima''; Michael Arndt, "Little Miss Sunshine''; Guillermo del Toro, "Pan's Labyrinth''; Peter Morgan, "The Queen.''

10. Animated Feature Film: "Cars,'' "Happy Feet,'' "Monster House.''

11. Art Direction: "Dreamgirls,'' "The Good Shepherd,'' ``Pan's Labyrinth,'' "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest,'' "The Prestige.''

12. Cinematography: "The Black Dahlia,'' "Children of Men,'' ``The Illusionist,'' "Pan's Labyrinth,'' "The Prestige.''

13. Sound Mixing: "Apocalypto,'' "Blood Diamond,'' ``Dreamgirls,'' "Flags of Our Fathers,'' "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.''

14. Sound Editing: "Apocalypto,'' "Blood Diamond,'' "Flags of Our Fathers,'' "Letters From Iwo Jima,'' "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.''

15. Original Score: "Babel," Gustavo Santaolalla; "The Good German," Thomas Newman; "Notes on a Scandal," Philip Glass; ``Pan's Labyrinth," Javier Navarrete; "The Queen," Alexandre Desplat.

16. Original Song: "I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth," Melissa Etheridge; "Listen" from "Dreamgirls," Henry Krieger, Scott Cutler and Anne Preven; "Love You I Do" from ``Dreamgirls," Henry Krieger and Siedah Garrett; "Our Town" from ``Cars," Randy Newman; "Patience" from "Dreamgirls," Henry Krieger and Willie Reale.

17. Costume: "Curse of the Golden Flower,'' "The Devil Wears Prada,'' "Dreamgirls,'' "Marie Antoinette,'' "The Queen.''

18. Documentary Feature: "Deliver Us From Evil,'' "An Inconvenient Truth,'' "Iraq in Fragments,'' "Jesus Camp,'' "My Country, My Country.''

19. Documentary (short subject): "The Blood of Yingzhou District,'' "Recycled Life,'' "Rehearsing a Dream,'' "Two Hands.''

20. Film Editing: "Babel,'' "Blood Diamond,'' "Children of Men,'' "The Departed,'' "United 93.''

21. Makeup: "Apocalypto,'' "Click,'' "Pan's Labyrinth.''

22. Animated Short Film: "The Danish Poet,'' "Lifted,'' "The Little Matchgirl,'' "Maestro,'' "No Time for Nuts.''

23. Live Action Short Film: "Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea),'' "Eramos Pocos (One Too Many),'' "Helmer & Son,'' ``The Saviour,'' "West Bank Story.''

24. Visual Effects: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest,'' "Poseidon,'' "Superman Returns.''

Academy Award winners previously announced this year:

HONORARY AWARD (Oscar statuette): Ennio Morricone

JEAN HERSHOLT HUMANITARIAN AWARD (Oscar statuette): Sherry Lansing

Dreamgirls Nabs 8 Oscar Nominations

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(January 23, 2007) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The musical Dreamgirls led
Academy Awards contenders Tuesday with eight nominations, but surprisingly was shut out in the best picture category after being considered a potential front-runner.  The sweeping ensemble drama Babel was close behind with seven, including best picture and acting honours for two newcomers to U.S. audiences, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi. Other best-picture nominees were Martin Scorsese’s bloody crime saga The Departed, Clint Eastwood’s World War II spectacle Letters From Iwo Jima, the road-trip comedy Little Miss Sunshine and the monarchy-in-crisis chronicle The Queen. Going into nominations day, the best-picture competition looked unusually wide open, with no consensus on a favourite. With Dreamgirls, a Golden Globe winner out of the race, the best picture competition is even more up for grabs. But front-runners in all four acting categories nabbed nominations and seem poised to come home with Oscars on Feb. 25: Helen Mirren for best actress as British monarch Elizabeth II in The Queen; Forest Whitaker for best actor as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland; and Eddie Murphy and former American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson as soulful singers in Dreamgirls. All four preceded the Oscar nominations with wins at the Golden Globes. Oscar attention is a new experience for Murphy, whose fast-talking persona has brought him devoted audiences but little awards acclaim in his 25-year career. For Hudson, the nomination caps a speedy rise to stardom with her first film role, just two years after making her name on American Idol.

The best-actress category featured a 14th nomination for two-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep, padding her record as the most-nominated actor ever, this time as a demonically demanding boss in The Devil Wears Prada. Joining Mirren and Streep as best-actress nominees were Penelope Cruz as a woman dealing with bizarre domestic crises in Volver; Judi Dench as a scheming teacher in Notes on a Scandal; and Kate Winslet as a woman in an affair with a neighbour in Little Children. Other best-actor nominees were Leonardo DiCaprio as a mercenary hunting a rare gem in Blood Diamond; Ryan Gosling as a teacher with a drug addiction in Half Nelson; Peter O’Toole as a lecherous old actor in Venus; and Will Smith as a homeless dad in The Pursuit of Happyness. Whitaker is expected to come away with best actor, though sentiment is high for O’Toole, who has been nominated seven times, losing each. An eighth loss for O’Toole, who nearly turned down an honorary Oscar three years ago because he hoped to earn one outright, would put him in the record books as the actor with the most nominations without winning. This finally may be the year for another perennial loser, Scorsese, who’s tied with four other directors for the Oscar-futility record of five nominations and five losses. The Departed marks Scorsese’s return to the cops-and-mobsters genre he mastered in decades past and is considered his best shot to finally win an Oscar, though a sixth defeat would put him alone in the record book as the losingest director ever. Prim Oscar voters maintained their track record of ignoring over-the-top comic performances, snubbing Sacha Baron Cohen for his Golden Globe-winning role in the raucous Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The comedy front did bring supporting nominations for Alan Arkin as foul-mouthed grandfather and Abigail Breslin as a girl obsessed with beauty pageants in Little Miss Sunshine, though the film’s three key performers, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and Steve Carell, were overlooked.

Ten-year-old Abigail Breslin became the fourth-youngest actress ever nominated. The supporting actor category also includes Mark Wahlberg as a caustic cop in The Departed, his scene-stealing performance outshining his higher-billed co-stars including DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon. With five blacks, two Hispanics and an Asian, it was the most ethnically diverse line-up ever among the 20 acting nominees. After decades in which the Oscars were a virtual whites-only club, with minority actors only occasionally breaking into the field, the awards have featured a much broader mix of nominees in the last few years. Black actors in particular have come into their own, with Oscar wins by Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx and Morgan Freeman, and three of the four acting front-runners this year. Asians and Hispanics still lag behind, though nominations for Cruz, Barraza and Kikuchi are signs that Hollywood is making strides toward greater diversity. While Cruz’s Volver, from Spanish director and past Oscar darling Pedro Almodovar, was shut out for foreign-language picture, another Hispanic film scored well. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth had six nominations, including foreign-language film, screenplay, cinematography and score. “If each one of them got nominated on their own, that would be great, but the fact that they all did ... that’s just too much for one little girl this early in the morning,” said Salma Hayek, an Oscar nominee for 2002’s Frida, who helped announced the nominees Tuesday morning. Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu earned a best-director nomination for Babel. Inarritu and Scorsese were joined in the best-director category by Eastwood for Letters from Iwo Jima, Stephen Frears for The Queen, and Paul Greengrass for the Sept. 11 docudrama United 93. Dreamgirls looks as though it might follow 2002’s Chicago as a rare musical to win best picture, but like last year’s music-themed Walk the Line it was a startling omission from the Oscar’s top category. While Murphy and Hudson made it into the supporting categories, lead players Jamie Foxx and Beyonce Knowles and director Bill Condon were left out. Three of Dreamgirls eight nominations came in a single category — for original song. The year’s top-grossing movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, grabbed four nominations in technical categories, including visual effects.

Dream On, Girls

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(January 24, 2007) Dreamgirls has made Oscar history of the nightmare kind, by leading the race while simultaneously losing it. The Motown musical yesterday dominated nominations for the 79th Academy Awards with a total of eight, more than for any other movie this year. But none of the noms were for Best Picture, the first time in Oscar history that the leader has no chance of taking the top prize, academy officials confirmed last night. The five Best Picture contenders are Babel (with seven noms), The Queen (six), The Departed (five), Letters From Iwo Jima (four) and Little Miss Sunshine (four). Canadians also scored in multiples, with four high-profile nominations for Canucks: Best Actor for London, Ont.-born Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson), Best Original Screenplay for fellow Londoner Paul Haggis (Letters From Iwo Jima), Best Foreign-Language Film for Toronto's Deepa Mehta (Water) and Best Animated Short for Montreal's Torill Kove (The Danish Poet). The tight spread between the nominations leaders, with no sure-fire winner looming, makes this Oscar contest one of the more interesting in recent years. And also the most shocking, considering Dreamgirls had long been touted as a guaranteed Best Picture nominee and likely winner. Earlier this month, it took the Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical. But the film clearly didn't find favour with a majority of the 5,830 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who include everyone in Hollywood from actors to publicists.

Dreamgirls was also knocked out of the race for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.  It did manage nominations for Best Supporting Actor for Eddie Murphy and Best Supporting Actress for Jennifer Hudson, along with bids for art direction, costumes, sound mixing and original song. Dreamgirls actually has three nominations for Best Original Song: "Listen," "Love You I Do" and "Patience." This means the most Oscars it can possibly win is six and the chance of it sweeping the full half-dozen is slim, especially if votes for those three songs cancel each other out. Musicals have always been a hit-or-miss thing at the Oscars. Back in 1972, Cabaret swept the ceremony with eight wins, but Best Picture wasn't won of them. Cabaret has the dubious distinction of having the most Oscar wins of any film without winning Best Picture, but that's still better than what Dreamgirls managed. In the main, the nominations were generally wise and worthy, with no embarrassments amongst the Best Picture five and the wealth well shared. Academy members were obviously in no mood to take their marching orders from anyone, despite the plethora of guild and industry awards that precede the Oscars. Clint Eastwood's gambit to hasten the release date for Letters From Iwo Jima after its companion World War II epic Flags of Our Fathers crashed and burned proved canny. Letters is in the running for Picture, Director, Original Screenplay and Sound Editing. It means multiple-Oscar winner Eastwood will once again go head to head in both the Best Picture and Best Director categories with Martin Scorsese, who has yet to win a single Oscar. The two last tangled two years ago, when Eastwood's late-blooming Million Dollar Baby bested Scorsese's The Aviator.

This time, Scorsese's Boston crime saga The Departed had been considered the New York director's best chance for Oscar glory until Eastwood released Letters late last month, just in time for academy consideration. The academy's five choices for Best Director tracked only three of the ones chosen earlier by the Directors Guild of America, which used to be an Oscar bellwether: Scorsese, Babel's Alejandro González Iñárritu and The Queen's Stephen Frears. The Academy's additional picks of Eastwood and United 93's Paul Greengrass were picked over the DGA's choices of Dreamgirls' Bill Condon and Little Miss Sunshine's Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. But Dayton and Faris chased away the dark clouds with an even greater Oscar boost. A Best Picture nod for their family road comedy Little Miss Sunshine was another surprise yesterday, even though it had become apparent in recent days that the movie was building steam in the awards chase. It's rare that a comedy is nominated for Best Picture, rarer still that a Sundance Film Festival premiere makes it all the way to the Oscar penthouse.

Water Up For Best Foreign Film

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(January 23, 2007) Canadian filmmaker
Deepa Mehta says she's in a state of shock over getting an Oscar nomination for her picture Water. The Hindi-language movie is up for best foreign film and comes after a slew of accolades for the Toronto-based director and screenwriter. Mehta says she, her daughter and others who worked on the film jumped up when they heard the movie mentioned in a live announcement from Beverly Hills this morning. They cracked open a bottle of champagne and cheered. Water is set in 1938 India, against Mahatma Gandhi's rise to power, and tells the story of the appalling treatment of Hindu widows, including an eight-year-old girl. The Oscars are handed out Feb. 25.

Mehta's Water Garners Oscar Nomination

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Terry Weber


(Jan. 23, 07) Toronto-based director Deepa Mehta's film
Water has scored an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign-Language Film. Other nominations with a Canadian connection include Ontario-born actor Ryan Gosling, who was recognized for his work in the highly regarded film Half Nelson. Paul Haggis, born in London, Ont., whose Crash won a surprise best-picture Oscar last year, was nominated for his work as a screenwriter on the Clint Eastwood-directed Letters From Iwo Jima. That nomination came in the Best Original Screenplay category. He shares the nomination with Iris Yamashita Full nominations for the 79th annual Academy Awards were announced Tuesday in Los Angeles. The National Film Board also earned an animated short nomination for the NFP/Norway co-production, The Danish Poet. It was the NFB's 69th Academy Award nomination. So far, the NFB has won 11 Oscars, including 10 for individual titles and a special award for overall achievement in recognition of its 50th anniversary in 1989. Overall, the well-received film adaptation of the musical Dreamgirls won a leading eight nominations but failed to score in the Oscars' top category of best film. It's director Bill Condon also failed to make the list of best-director nominees. Three of the film's nominations came in the best original song category. Dreamgirls was followed by the Babel, which picked up seven nods. Contenders for Best Picture include: Babel, The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen. Directing nominations went to Babel's Alejandro Gonzalez, The Departed's Martin Scorsese, Letters from Iwo Jima's Clint Eastwood, The Queen's Stephen Frears and United 93's Paul Greengrass.

As expected, a trio of the industry's top actresses managed nominations in the Best Actress category. Judi Dench received a nomination for Notes on a Scandal, while Helen Mirren – largely viewed as the front runner – was recognized for her work in The Queen and Meryl Streep – already Hollywood's most nominated actor – was singled out for her comedic turn in The Devil Wears Prada. They are joined in the category by Penelope Cruz, who starred in director Pedro Almodovar's Volver and Little Children's Kate Winslet. Joining Gosling in the Best Actor category are Leonardo DiCaprio for Blood Diamond, Peter O'Toole for Venus, Will Smith for The Pursuit of Happyness, and Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland. In the supporting categories, a big surprise came with the absence of a nomination for Jack Nicholson for his work in The Departed. His co-star in the film Mark Wahlberg, however, won a surprise nod. The other nominees are Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine, Jackie Earle Haley for Little Children, Djimon Hounsou for Blood Diamond and Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls. Breakout star Jennifer Hudson, the American Idol contestant who has already won a Golden Globe for her role in Dreamgirls, won a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the film. She is joined by Babel's Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi as well as past winner Cate Blanchett for Notes on a Scanda l and Abigail Breslin for Little Miss Sunshine. Sacha Baron Cohen, who took home a Golden Globe for his performance in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhsta, didn't make the acting category at the Oscars, instead grabbing a writing nomination in the adapted screenplay category. He shares the nomination with Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips. They are joined in the category by Children of Men's Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby; The Departed's William Monahan; Little Children's Todd Field and Tom Perrotta and Notes on a Scandal's Patrick Marber. Alongside Haggis and Yamashita in the original screenplay category are: Guillermo Arriaga for Babel; Michael Arndt for Little Miss Sunshine; Guillermo del Toro for Pan's Labyrinth and Peter Morgan for The Queen. Mehta's nomination for Water is particularly sweet, given the Hindi-language film's difficult history. Protests initially shutdown production of the film, which tells the story of a group of widows forced to live in poverty in Varanasi in the 1930s. It was later shot in Sri Lanka.

“When the Oscars — the nominations — started, I mean I thought there is no chance because they do them alphabetically and Water as you know is pretty low down in the alphabet,” Mehta told CBC Newsworld following Tuesday's announcement. “So when it came up, we were just thrilled.” Other films nominated in the category include: Denmark's After the Wedding, Algeria's Days of Glory ( Indigènes), Germany's The Lives of Others and Mexico's Pan's Labyrinth. The nominations were read by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis and actress Salma Hayek, who is a past nominee for her work in the film Frida. The Oscar telecast will take place Feb. 25 with Ellen DeGeneres hosting.

 

::MUSIC NEWS::

Del Dako - A Future Full of Good Vibes

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Chapman

(January 18, 2007 ) Jazzman
Del Dako has been to hell and back. The one-time saxophonist, famed on alto and fierce on baritone, broke his spine in a mountain bike accident on a trail near Stouffville in 2001 and spent ages convalescing, but now he's steadily resuming his jazz career, this time playing vibraphone. He'll be at The Pilot on Sunday afternoon from 3:30 p.m., leading a quartet comprising bassist Rob Uffen, pianist Bernie Senensky and drummer Jeff Halischuk. Toronto-born Dako came to jazz because, he said in an interview, "I couldn't make out the lyrics in rock music." That led to his playing clarinet at Upper Canada College in the school orchestra plus alto and tenor sax in the cadet marching band even though he couldn't read music. At home he taught himself piano – "I'm an ear guy, not a reader" – and played garage blues in the Bayview Village area. A fellow bluesman was now-ubiquitous reedman John Johnson. Post-school, he went to Trent U for a year as a philosophy major, but when he was given the LP titled The Essential Charlie Parker, any plans to become Canada's Thomas Hobbes were abandoned. Recordings by the Oscar Peterson Trio, the Modern Jazz Quartet and drummer Roy Haynes' band featuring saxman Rahsaan Roland Kirk set him firmly on a new career path, one reinforced by attending a summer jazz program with other youngsters who've since become significant jazz artists such as guitarist Lorne Lofsky, drummer Barry Elmes, pianist Frank Falco and bass Al Henderson.

For the next academic year he moved to York U, eventually graduating in philosophy, a process that took a while since he was spent most of his time practising, gigging around town and meeting jazz scene stalwarts like Alex Dean and Martin Loomer. In the 1980s he played alto and baritone sax regularly for Shox Johnson and the Jive Bombers. "We did a lot of playing, such as a regular two-weeks-on, one-week-off at the Ports (of Call) in Summerhill."  He was also in Jim Galloway's Wee Big Band. In the 1990s came his album Balancing Act on Sackville, backing up Albert's Hall artists such as Slim Gaillard and Cleanhead Vinson, touring, a record with pianist Richard Whiteman, quartet gigs with Dave Restivo, Dick Felix and Mike McClelland, a period when he just walked away from jazz and then the 1998 album Vindaloo with Bernie Senensky, Duncan Hopkins and Greg Pilo. Dako says he plans to release tapes of recently rediscovered tapes from that decade. Then came the bike accident, which left him paralyzed from the neck down. After surgery at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, he spent four months recovering at Lyndhurst Rehabilitation Hospital, initially classified as quadriplegic.

"It was a musician's worst nightmare, possibly even worse than being late for the gig!" he observed wryly, but eventually feeling came back to his hands and movement in other body parts improved. That November, he attended a benefit jazz night in a wheelchair at a jam-packed Rex Hotel. "Going to your own benefit is a cross between your birthday party and your funeral," Dako said. "But you break your neck and find out just how many friends you have." He left Lyndhurst after his remarkable recovery and continued out-patient treatment. Dako had to figure out how to continue in music. He tried harmonica. He'd played drums and piano before and those skills helped him choose vibes, which is both a rhythm and melody instrument. Again he took no lessons, apart from one hour with Don Thompson and a talk with Peter Appleyard. "I use two mallets and the pedal and I get different colours and textures. I was a bravura sax player but now I hear things in a different way. My experience in different ensembles and my basement efforts have given me an opportunity." Dako has already played The Pilot and The Rex as part of the Sugardaddies, done commercial work and now is rehearsing a septet, including saxman Perry White, trumpeter Jake Wilkinson and bass Mark Bovine, hoping to tour it at this summer's festivals. He also has a new quartet. And he's on leave after spending 21 years as a band teacher in the Scarborough school system. At 52, he's optimistic about the future. "It's slow to get back but I'm doing it, as well as white water rafting – and I'm still planning to complete my long-promised cookbook."

George Jones University To Teach Music Business

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(January 18, 2007)  NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Country-music luminary
George Jones wants to share his knowledge of the industry as part of a just-launched "country music university" named for him. Dedicated to teaching students how the music industry works and how to break into the business, George Jones University will assemble its first 3-day session in late March, school officials said Wednesday. The kick-off session, which likely will be held at Jones' Nashville-area home, will be followed by similar quarterly seminars. The cost for each session will be $300 U.S. per student. Music executive Tandy Rice, who has been tapped as dean, said George Jones University was modeled off Trump University, established last year by New York real estate mogul Donald Trump. Each day's sessions will be moderated by Rice, formerly a Belmont University music business professor Country Music Association president. Besides Jones, the school plans to bring in guest lecturers such as Ralph Emery, Tom T. Hall and Hank Williams Jr.

The seminars will focus on music publishing, recording contracts, artist management and bookings, life on the road and the politics of Music Row. The history and traditions of country music and its legendary icons also will be covered. "We want our students to have fun and depart with new knowledge they can literally take to the bank," Rice said. "Because of George Jones, they'll gain insight from our classes that they can't get anywhere else.'' The school is a for-profit group, though partners have pledged a portion of all profits to Middle Tennessee children's charities. George Jones U even has a mascot it got from the singer's nickname, a possum.

Howard Hewett: 2nd Time Around

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(January 19, 2007) *Soul singer
Howard Hewett has been doing his thing for more than three decades and hasn’t missed a beat.  The artist broke out in the late ‘70s as the lead singer of Shalamar – the R&B/disco trio made up of Hewett, and “Soul Train” dancers Jeffrey Daniel and Jodi Watley – that brought the hits “Second Time Around,” which topped the charts in both the U.S. and U. K., “For the Lover in You,” and “Make that Move.”       With much success, Hewett left the group in 1986 and launched a successful solo career. His first disc on his own produced the gospel crossover “Say Amen” among hit ballads “Stay,” and “I’m For Real.” As he garnered fans and hits, the singer later settled into a comfortable place with a loyal following and worked on a number of inspirational gospel records to much acclaim. Now Hewett is preparing his new project, a return, of sorts, to R&B.  “A lot of people always say, ‘You haven’t put out anything in a long time. Why haven’t’ you put anything out?’” Hewett said. His hiatus from the secular world of music apparently had left a number of fans wanting. “A few years ago I did ‘The Journey’ project, which was an inspirational project, but I hadn’t done an R&B project in a long time. I’d done other people’s stuff and been on other people’s projects, but basically, I told them, I just haven’t had a lot to say.”

Of his speechlessness, Hewett explained that he’s been happily occupied with his life. He has been consistently doing personal appearances around the globe and intimate concerts.    “For the last seven, eight years or so, I’ve been hitting about 145 dates a year,” he said. Hewett now has something to say. Things, he said, that are really thought about and have some meaning and are insightful.  “Those are the kind of songs that I enjoy writing,” he said of his latest works. “That’s why I don’t do the ‘fast food’ type of songs.” Hewett told EUR’s Lee Bailey that the first single on the new disc is a track called ‘Enough’, written by songstress Mikki Howard’s son Brandon and co-produced by Hewett with George Duke.   To check out the super smooth song, click  Howard Hewett's MySpace page.

“This idea had been circulating in my mind for a long time about how we deal with relationships. A lot of times when a relationship ends or we think about ending a relationship, it ends with ‘I hate you.’ But there’s a window of opportunity to ask questions. It may not rectify the relationship, but you know what happens so you don’t take it into the next relationship. So I was dealing with this whole concept of enough. ‘Was I there enough, did I share enough ...’ It’s something to think about,” he said. The yet-titled disc is expected to be released early this year. In the meantime, the singer is not only appearing as solo artist Howard Hewett, but he reteams with bandmate Daniel for dates as the group Shalamar. Singer Carolyn Griffey performs with the two in place of the femme fatale of the group, Watley.  “I’m not gonna even call it a reunion because the only type of real reunion we could have is if it was me, Jeffrey and Jodi,” Hewett said of Watley not being a part of the Shalamar appearances. “But Jeffrey and I have been doing Shalamar shows overseas for the last six or seven years. We only do it maybe three or four times a year. It’s something fun, and a [break] out of the norm ‘cause my whole thing is Howard Hewett all year long, so I get to jump into another persona.” He explained that the two did ask Watley to participate, but that the singer declined saying, “I don’t think I want to revisit that part of my life,” Hewett said she said.  “My Shalamar experience is not somebody else’s Shalamar experience, so you have to respect that,” he continued.

For more on Hewett’s new project, tour dates, check out www.howardhewett.com.  Or www.myspace.com/howardhewett. And for more on Shalamar, visit www.shalamar.org.

Jazz Shines Light On Young Talent

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

(Jan. 18, 2007) Jazz isn't exactly kid's stuff, but that doesn't mean it should leave kids out. Indeed, one of the most intriguing events on the jazz calendar this year is a concert that will feature pianist
Barry Harris and vibraphonist Don Thompson accompanied by nearly 300 Toronto schoolchildren. Entitled We Are One and presented in conjunction with the Art of Jazz, the concert (which takes place this evening at Toronto's Music Hall on the Danforth) is an extension of work Harris has done for more than two decades in New York. In those shows, which are typically held in Manhattan's Symphony Space, he presents large-scale jazz compositions for a big band augmented by strings and vocalists, including a sizable children's choir. "Toronto is really different from my thing," he explains from his home in New Jersey. "When I do it here, I have professional musicians -- the band is professional, and the strings are professional. But in Toronto, this is beautiful: We've got a high-school band, and we've got a high-school string section. So this is like all the way." The big band and string players, along with some of the singers, are from the Earl Haig Secondary School and Claude Watson Arts program, while the younger voices -- about 240 in all -- are from the Jane/Finch area in the Toronto District School Board's NW2 family of schools.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this collaboration is that when it was initially planned, no one imagined the students would be able to carry so much of the concert's weight. Art of Jazz co-founder Howard Rees, music director and driving force behind the concert, explains that the original idea was that Thompson would accompany the pianist on bass. "We thought we'd have some of Barry's peers in the rhythm section, and maybe a soloist or two," Rees says. "It turned out that the rhythm section at Earl Haig was sufficiently strong that we decided to go with them. So Don, being the multi-instrumentalist that he is, was asked to be a soloist on the vibes. And he's just knocked out -- he's honoured that Barry asked him." Likewise, the schools were thrilled when they were approached with the project. Doing a joint concert wasn't itself an unusual event -- "we've always been doing choral projects as a family of schools," says Jennifer Hall, one of the concert's co-chairs -- but the scale and ambition of the concert posed a unique opportunity. Rehearsals began in mid-September, and there were some rough patches at first. Some of the kids were rowdy, and more than a few notes were wrong. "At one point, one of the vice-principals came in to speak to us, really embarrassed, and wanted to know if Barry wanted to jettison that group of students," Rees says. "And Barry said, basically, no. He felt that it was very important for them to be there, in terms of their own character building and feeling good about themselves."

After several decades of working with children, Harris believes that the most valuable thing about these shows is that they provide youngsters with the experience of expressing themselves as part of a musical community. "This is my way of doing something," he says. "Even in Toronto, I watched the kids from one school, and thought, 'Oh, Lord, I hope they don't get into a lot of trouble.' But when they went into the rehearsal with everyone in the big group, it was like they were different kids. "So, you know, it works. . . . It really works with the children." For their part, the children really seem to be enjoying the experience. "The elementary [school students] are so open to whatever has to be learned. And the music is very good," Hall says. "It was a little bit of a challenge at the beginning, but they learned so quickly. They knew the songs before the Christmas holidays." Now, everyone is focused on the show itself. "They know that it's somewhere different, and that it's outside the community, and that it's going to be a very exciting event because it's being advertised," says Marc Green, vice-principal of Stanley Public School.  "I really feel good about it," Harris says. "I know there are going to be a lot of parents there, and that's very important. You make the parents proud and that makes the children feel good." We Are One will be performed by Barry Harris and Don Thompson with the Art of Jazz Community Voices tonight at 7 at the Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave. (416-870-8000).

Shaggy Spills The Juice About Leaving Geffen, His Career, And His Personal Life

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(January 18, 2007)  *He has been signed to major labels and he has gone the independent route. He has sold millions of albums and he has had a string of hits locally and internationally.  He has won a Grammy, Billboard Music Awards and he has been nominated for major mainstream music awards.
Shaggy’s instantly recognizable growl has once again invaded the airwaves and the dancehalls.  Following upon the success of last year’s Wild 2Nite with Olivia, Shaggy is back with a string of radio savvy ditties including the chart busters Church Heathen, Rub a Dub (for producer Danny Champagnie’s VIP rhythm) and Reggae Vibes.   This writer caught up with Shaggy recently and he spoke about various issues including his love for giving back to the community, his career, parting of ways with Geffen Records, his latest monster Church Heathen, his personal life, and the music industry on a whole. 

Kevin Jackson: Church Heathen has been doing really well for you. Do you think it has the legs to get you back onto the mainstream charts? How did that song come about in the first place?

Shaggy: I don’t make music with the intention to cross over. Church Heathen is the fastest jump out tune that I have ever had. It is even getting spins as far as San Francisco and Hawaii and around the world. But Church Heathen isn’t the only monster that I have. I have something else that’s going to lock the place.  I was in a situation with the record company (Geffen) and we came with Wild 2 Nite and they (Geffen) weren’t feeling it and wasn’t backing it and I wanted to get reconnected with the garrison so me and my manager Robert Livingston promoted it ourselves to a point where it became a hit and reconnected me with the garrison to a point where people started listening Shaggy again. I came out of the contract and just began putting out music. Church Heathen which is a Tony Kelly track came up when me and Rik Rok and Sting were in New York.  Rik Rok came up with a melody and we just build from there.

KJ: Having a hit song isn’t new to you and you have had them in Jamaican and across the world. What are the most important ingredients in making hit songs?

Shaggy: I don’t put a formula to music. All my songs are different. I like people to expect the unexpected. The music has to come from your inner confidence. I make music selfishly to please my own ego. I have to like the song first.

KJ: Tell us about the time when you moved from Jamaica to New York. How did the New York experience help to shape Shaggy as an artiste?

Shaggy: The whole New York vibe was my training ground. I used to deejay on a sound system in New York called Gibraltor sound system with Screechy Don, Redd Foxx, Mr. Easy and some other artistes. I had to clash on sound systems and come up with my own lyrics on the spot. That was my training ground. A people like Yellow Man mek me want to deejay.

KJ:  Was music something that you always wanted to do? How did your interest turn towards the military? .

Shaggy: Music for me was a hobby. I used to do club shows with Super Cat, Shabba and Twitch. It was a hobby but got in the military to pay the bills. Many times I left North Carolina and travelled to New York to record songs. That was when I did a song called Big Up. I was in my uniform when I recorded that song. I even did performances while wearing my uniform.

KJ: What was the first song that you ever recorded and what the first hit song that you got?

Shaggy:  The first song that I recorded was a song name Bullet Proof Buddy on the Don One label. I was the very first person to record out of that studio. It wasn’t until I started recording that Sting introduced me to Red Fox. He and Sting did a song called Old Foot and it got a lot of airplay. My first hit tune was a tune called Mampy on the Hot This Year rhythm. The song became a hit when I was in the military. After that I did a song called All Virgin which was also a hit. But the real massive hit song was a tune called Big Up. After that came Oh Carolina.

KJ: How did you handle it when Virgin Records dropped you? Was it sweet victory for you when you went on to sell over 10 million albums with Hot Shot for MCA Records?

Shaggy: It was devastating because I was young and naïve. I had hits before Virgin picked me up and as a result I got a deal and we bonded as a family. We toured promoting follow up hits such as Bombastic and it hit also and we came out with another album that never connected. They let me go and it really hurt me. They (Virgin Records) also dropped Maxi Priest at the same time. When Hot Shot happened they called me to do the song Love Me Love Me for the How Stella got her Groove Back soundtrack and it was number three in U.S but he didn’t have a record deal. A bidding war started between Craig Kallman (Atlantic Records) and MCA. I signed with MCA Records and Hot Shot hit, and sold over 10 million.

KJ: Tell us about you involvement in charity and why you decided to align yourself with a charity.

Shaggy: When I looked back on my life, I was poor born in Rae Town and now I  have more than I need so I do things to help the less fortunate. The charity thing came out of a situation with Tony Kelly because his son was in the hospital and the Children’s Hospital didn’t have the facilities to cater to Tony’s son. I think it was unfair, and I realised the problem and made a commitment to the hospital to raise awareness and help them financially; so I am sticking by my commitment. I also help other charities. I try to create as much awareness as possible so more artistes will come on board.

KJ: Let’s get a little personal now Shaggy. Are you dating anyone and tell us how many children you have. What was the craziest thing that your children have made you do?

Shaggy: I have been in a long term relationship for 7 years now, so I am way past the dating stage. I have three children and my youngest is a two year old daughter. I am very active in my children’s lives. Two of them live in Florida, one live out here. The craziest thing they have made me do is to go to their parent teachers meeting at their school in Miami. It wasn’t a good idea and the meeting got out of control and I became the main attraction at the meeting.

KJ: What are some of your concerns with the music industry here in Jamaica?

Shaggy:  A lot needs to be changed because our music stands out a lot and our culture is our richest thing but its slowly dying as we do not capitalise on it and we’re feeding too much into foreign culture. The attitude and work ethic of our artistes is a big problem, we need to spend more time on artiste development as many of our artistes falter when they reach certain levels.

KJ: You recently had a post-Christmas treat for the children at the Bustamante Hospital for Children. Sean Paul, Christopher Martin and Baby Cham were also involved in that. Tell us how did that go?

Shaggy: I don’t think the hospital is the best place to spend Christmas so if we can buy a couple of gifts for the ward I think that’s good. It’s a yearly thing that we do. This year I invited Sean Paul and Cham. This is just a part of my on going support for the Bustamante Hospital the only children’s hospital in the Caribbean. A nuff a di artist dem a mek money and I am calling on them to give back to society. Awareness is the main thing that I want to create about these situations. Other artistes should get involved and they don’t even have to give money but visit and do other things to brighten the children’s days.

KJ: Looking back at 2006, what would you say was the best thing that happened for you career wise?

Shaggy: Getting out of Geffen was the best thing for me. It was salvation because my creativity was stifled. I was glad to leave the label before Church Heathen came about.

KJ: For 2007 what do you plan to achieve?

Shaggy: I have achieved everything that I can. I want to inspire some new artistes, help poor people and just give my services.

Donnie McClurkin And Cece Winans 2007 Trumpet Awards Honourees

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 17, 2007)
Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans, Michael Jordan, Percy Sutton, and Dionne Warwick are but a few American legends who make up the list of those to be honoured at the 15th Annual Trumpet Awards.  The black tie ceremony, sponsored by the Trumpet Awards Foundation, will be held at the AAA Five Diamond Award-Winning Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, NV on Monday, January 22, at 6 p.m.  The Trumpet Awards is one of the nation's most respected award shows. Saluting the achievements of African-Americans, and those who have shown consistent support toward the enhancement of African-American achievement, the Trumpet Awards pay homage to honourees in many diverse fields including law, politics, medicine, business, sports and entertainment.  The following is a complete list of the 2007 Trumpet Awards Honourees and the awards they will be receiving:

o Toni Braxton - Entertainment
o Ed Dwight - The Arts
o Michael Jordan - Goodwill Ambassador
o Donnie McClurkin & CeCe Winans - Gospel Giants
o Justice Alan C. Page - Legal
o Percy E. Sutton - Business - The Pinnacle Award
o Tommie Smith & John Carlos - 1968 Olympic Track Stars
o Dionne Warwick - Living Legend Award

SPECIAL AWARDS
o Nancy G. Brinker - President's Award
o Dr. Denzil L. Douglas - Global Award
o Prime Minister, St. Kitts and Nevis (British West Indies)
o Orok Duke - Young STAR
o Clint Eastwood - Social Justice
o Hill Harper - The Usher Raymond Altruism Award
o J. Terrence Lanni - Chairman's Award

Will Harper returns as producer of the 2007 Trumpet Awards, giving creative direction, proficiency and flair to the awards ceremony. Harper, no stranger to the Hollywood scene, is an award-winning director/producer, directing shows such as "Behind the Music" with Lenny Kravitz, "Unleashed" with Jamie Foxx, and Oprah's day time show. He has created a plethora of commercials, music videos, documentaries and broadcast television entertainment for CBS, NBC, TBS, Warner Brothers, Disney, Universal, and Harpo.

Over the years, the Trumpet Awards have paid tribute to Muhammad Ali, Destiny's Child, Spike Lee, Dr. "J" Julius Erving, Vernon Jordan, Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Stevie Wonder, Usher, Reverend C.T. Vivian, and Lorenzo Creighton, President & COO of New York-New York Hotel and Casino and the first African-American to head a property on the Las Vegas Strip. Tapes of the ceremony are made available to schools throughout the country to provide motivation and role-models to heighten the goals of young people in many urban communities. "The Trumpet Awards is not just an evening of glamour and glitz, even though we look forward to the atmosphere that adds to the occasion," said Ms. Clayton, Founder, Creator and Executive Producer of The Trumpet Awards. "The Trumpet Awards sends a message across America and abroad that African Americans are doing things second to none and that young Black students have much to emulate and even more to be proud of," Ms . Clayton continued.  The 2007 Trumpet Awards will be aired, for the third year, on TV One. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a major producer of news and entertainment product around the world and the leading provider of programming for the basic cable industry, is the presenting sponsor of the 2007 Trumpet Awards. The MGM MIRAGE is the Host Sponsor.

Mamas And Papas Singer Dies At 66

Excerpt from The Toronto StarTheatre Critic

(January 20, 2007)
Denny Doherty died yesterday in Mississauga at age 66 of an aneurysm.  The sweet-singing son of the Maritimes became a part of rock and roll history when he helped form the short-lived, but long-remembered group known as The Mamas and The Papas. Together with John Phillips, his wife Michelle and Cass Elliot, they filled the airwaves with the sweet sound of their harmonies for two years, until personal troubles split the group apart forever. Songs like "Monday, Monday," "California Dreamin'" and "Got a Feeling" hit the top of the charts, won them a Grammy and earned instant fame. But when it was finished, "I spent too much, I drank too much and I didn't want to believe it was over," Doherty told me in a 2001 interview. He was born to a working-class Halifax, N.S. family on November 24, 1941, and formed his first folk trio, The Colonials, by the time he was 18. After touring across Canada, they changed their name to The Halifax Three, only to break up soon after, and Doherty headed to New York City.

He eventually met the Philipses and the plus-sized Elliot who loved Doherty in vain and who he later realized gave the group its strength and its sound. "When I thought back on those days years later, after my mind was clear, I realize that she fell in love with me right away. But I was too blind or selfish or stupid to see it." So stupid, he wound up bedding Michelle on the very night in 1965 the group signed their first recording contract, while her husband slept in the next room. "We wrecked it all that night we signed the contract, and it was over before it began. No one got what they wanted. Cass wanted me, John and I wanted Michelle, and Michelle, well, she wanted everything." It all ended in divorce, lawsuits and wounds that would never really heal. Elliot died of a heart attack in 1974 "and I never got to tell her I was sorry." I met up with Doherty in Halifax in 1979, directing him in a production of John Gray's musical Eighteen Wheels.  He acquired a new kind of celebrity as the Harbourmaster on CBC-TV's Theodore Tugboat.  He created a show about the Mamas and the Papas called Dream a Little Dream, which played Halifax and Toronto before a four-month run off-Broadway in 2003. "We grabbed the brass ring on the merry-go-round before we even knew how we got on the ride, " said Doherty about his fame. "But Lord, we had a hell of a time."

Aguilera, Blige, Ludacris and Timberlake Set for 49th Annual Awards

Source:  Jennifer Keppel, JenniferK@grammy.com, On Behalf Of News from The Recording Academy

(January 19, 2007) SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Ludacris, Justin Timberlake, and Carrie Underwood will perform on the
49th Annual GRAMMY® Awards telecast, it was announced today by The Recording Academy®.  The Black Eyed Peas, Ciara, and Nelly Furtado will appear as presenters. Previously announced performers include Beyoncé, the Dixie Chicks, Gnarls Barkley and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Previously announced presenters include Terrence Howard, Samuel L. Jackson, Pink, and Rihanna.  The music industry's premier event will take place live on Sunday, Feb. 11, at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast in HDTV and 5.1 Surround Sound on the CBS Television Network at 8 p.m. (ET/PT).  The show also will be supported on radio via Westwood One worldwide and XM Satellite Radio, and covered online at GRAMMY.yahoo.com. Additional performers, presenters and special segments will be announced soon.  Leading the pack with eight GRAMMY nominations, three-time GRAMMY winner Mary J. Blige is up for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best R&B Song, and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Be Without You," Best R&B Album for The Breakthrough, Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals (Jamie Foxx featuring Mary J. Blige for "Love Changes"), Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals (with U2 for "One"), and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance ("I Found My Everything").
 
With four nominations, two-time GRAMMY winner Justin Timberlake (who will perform solo and with the My GRAMMY Moment winner) vies for Album Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for FutureSex/LoveSounds, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "My Love" featuring T.I., and Best Dance Recording for "Sexyback."  Also with four nods, GRAMMY winner Ludacris is up for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Unpredictable" with Jamie Foxx, Best Rap Performance By A Duo or Group for "Georgia" (with Field Mob and featuring Jaime Foxx), Best Rap Album for Release Therapy and Best Rap Song for "Moneymaker."   Three-time GRAMMY winner Christina Aguilera has two nods: Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Ain't No Other Man," and Best Pop Vocal Album for Back to Basics. Country superstar Carrie Underwood also has two noms: Best New Artist, and Best Country Female Vocal Performance for "Jesus, Take The Wheel." The 49th Annual GRAMMY Awards are produced by John Cossette Productions in association with Ken Ehrlich Productions for The Recording Academy. Ken Ehrlich and John Cossette are executive producers, Walter C. Miller is producer/director, Tisha Fein is the coordinating producer, David Wild is the writer, and Tzvi Small is supervising producer. Musical directors for the telecast and pre-telecast are Rickey Minor and Larry Batiste, respectively. Established in 1957, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc., also known as The Recording Academy, is an organization of musicians, producers, engineers and recording professionals that is dedicated to improving the cultural condition and quality of life for music and its makers. Internationally known for the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy is responsible for groundbreaking professional development, cultural enrichment, advocacy, education and human services programs - including the creation of the national public education campaign What's The Download® (WhatsTheDownload.com). For more information about The Academy, please visit www.grammy.com.

'Idol' Judges Guilty Of Cruelty?

Excerpt from The Toronto StarAssociated Press

(January 20, 2007)  NEW YORK – "Even the juggling was pathetic." With that cutting blow, Simon Cowell ended Jason Anderson's moment in the spotlight. Anderson, all of 16, stormed out of his "
American Idol" audition into his family's arms, obscenities flowing as freely as the tears. High school can be vicious enough. But not as nasty as Cowell, who also told the would-be singer/juggler that he "summed up Minneapolis, mate – useless.'' The "American Idol" juggernaut has become ever more popular in this, its sixth season. But it sure seems meaner, too. At least that's the talk this week as the judges – not just the acerbic Cowell, but the usually genial Randy Jackson and the kind but loopy Paula Abdul – up the torture quotient, taking train-wreck TV viewing to a whole new level. Young or old, pretty or ugly, male or female: No category of contestant has been spared in this week's audition coverage. The judges have even taken swipes at contestants behind their backs, making snide remarks after the singers have left. "Obnoxious,'' Cowell sniffed of one who'd just been voted into the next round. ``What a strange guy," Jackson said of another.

And if you argue the contestants are asking for it by merely deciding to appear, consider the supportive boss of Dayna Dooley, who flew her and her sister to Minneapolis from California, so strongly did he believe in her singing. After panning her performance, the panel repeatedly insinuated to Dooley that she was inappropriately involved with her boss. Then they called the nice man in, told him his employee was "terrible," and proceeded to make the same insinuation to him – while his wife sat just outside the room. "It just seems like they're being a lot meaner," says Jessica Rhode. She should know. After the 21-year-old makeup artist was given a thumbs-down by the panel, she collapsed to her knees and wept, begging the judges for some constructive advice. "It would take an hour," Cowell retorted. He told her to be happy: Now she could move on, knowing she'd never be a singer. "That was the worst thing, in my opinion," Rhode said in a telephone interview. "I expected at least one of them to say something nice. I was like, is this really necessary?'' The cruellest moment undoubtedly came in Seattle, where a spirited young man named Kenneth Briggs, who liked to compare himself to Justin Timberlake, was told by Cowell: "You look a little odd ... you look like one of those creatures that live in the jungle, with those massive eyes ... a bush baby." Once he left, the three judges were shown cracking up hysterically at the ``bush baby" remark.

Their behaviour brought a rebuke from the hosts of ABC's "The View.'' "The whole thing, it's terribly sad to me," said moderator Rosie O'Donnell. Even the doors were mean. In a malfunction that seemed expressly designed to deepen the humiliation, one side of the double doors to the Minneapolis tryout room was locked or jammed. That meant Cowell got to smirk or roll his eyes every time a poor soul – Rhode was one of them – knocked into the wrong one during a hasty exit. At least Stephen Horst managed to pick the right door. "That's what my sister told me after the show," Horst says. It was the best thing she could think of, after the pummelling the 28-year old vocal coach took from Jackson. Horst, of New York City, is a positive thinker if there ever was one. "I believe everything happens for a reason," he says. "I had a dream, and I went after it. Life is short, and you have to enjoy every sandwich.'' So Horst, on his own dime, traveled to Minneapolis and stayed at a hotel during the audition process. He chose to sing Aerosmith's ``I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." Maybe it was the song choice, or the singing itself, which veered into a sudden falsetto, or the fact that he was a vocal coach. Jackson went on a rampage.

"I thought it was awful," he said. "You shouldn't be a vocal teacher. I wouldn't take vocal lessons from you, I wouldn't tell anybody to take vocal lessons from you." Cowell feigned indignation. "Are you going to take that, Stephen?" he baited Horst. "I was stunned," Horst said. "Randy just didn't like me.'' He's moving ahead with his music career, and doesn't plan to watch the show anymore. "I need to create a new past," he says. That's the kind of positive thinking that has helped Paris Bennett in her career. Bennett, unlike most of those at this week's auditions, was an "American Idol" success story, coming in fifth last year and eventually earning a record deal. Yet she, too, endured her share of negative comments. Cowell once told her that her speaking voice reminded him of Minnie Mouse. She was 17 at the time. "You can let it knock you down, or you can take it as constructive criticism," Bennett said in a telephone interview. She said her grandmother and her mother, both singers, had taught her to look at the positive, not the negative. "It all just depends on how you take it," she said. She obviously took it well. In March, her debut album comes out. The first single, "Ordinary Love," was released this week.

Singer Gets Religious With Hip-Hop

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Ayala Ben-Yehuda, L.A.

(January 02, 2007) It was after church on a Sunday, and
Chrisette Michele had God and hip-hop on her mind. The 23-year-old Long Islander was on her way to a studio to write and record the hook for "Lost One," the first single off of Jay-Z's album "Kingdom Come." She hadn't heard the rest of the song yet, but the deacon's daughter wondered if it might be too explicit for her strong moral code.  "I was preparing in my head how I would say, 'I'm sorry, I can't do this,'" says the singer-songwriter of her meeting with the hip-hop mogul.  But after Jay-Z played the track, which deals with commitment, friendship and death, "I looked at him and said, 'Yo, this song is spiritual.' This song is about self-respect." Chrisette pauses for a moment. "He's a preacher."  That's quite a statement for someone with a family full of clergy, who led the gospel choir in high school and college but never got a CD until she was 17.  Still, Chrisette Michele describes herself as "a kid of the hip-hop culture" who didn't have MTV, but sang and freestyled in impromptu rap circles at school.  She also has a never-ending stream of songs in her head that she attributes at least in part to attention-deficit disorder, a condition that she calls "a gift."

But it wasn't until the day a high school track coach stopped her in the hallway -- Chrisette had been jogging down the corridor singing -- that her artistic fate was sealed. The coach gave her a CD of Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz' "The Girl from Ipanema," a song that would establish her love for mixing jazz melodies with what she grew up with: gospel vocals and hip-hop beats.  "I went up to my jazz teacher in school, and said, ‘I need you to give me some more of that,'" she says, recalling the discovery of a cabinet full of classic jazz music. "Every day after that, at lunch period, I would go into the piano room and practice those songs."  With Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday as newfound heroes, Chrisette went on to major in music at 5 Towns College. A show at New York City's Village Underground led to opening gigs for India.Arie, and eventually a contract with Island Def Jam. "Lost One," her collaboration with Jay-Z, has been climbing Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop songs and Hot 100 charts, where it now stands at No. 21 and No. 73, respectively.  Chrisette, who is finishing up her own album on IDJ, was featured on the Heineken Red Star Soul tour this fall and performed onstage with Jay-Z at his Radio City concert.  She also wrote and sang hooks on Nas' album "Hip-Hop Is Dead," including on single "Can't Forget About You," a nostalgic reminiscence that's bubbling under the R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart.

Being on Nas' album had particular significance for Chrisette, whose mother was raised in the same Queensbridge housing project as the rapper.  Childhood memories of her own, particularly of the homeless women and girls her family took into their home, inspired her own album. Themes include self-esteem, commitment, and abstinence.  "I don't want to come off preachy, but I'm not afraid to be a Christian in this industry and to really believe what I believe in," says Chrisette a stance made easier to take with respectful and respected artists like Nas and Jay-Z behind her.  "He curses," she says of the latter, smiling audibly. "He didn't say the curses when I was in the room, but he curses. But that's okay."

Ashford And Simpson To Headline Anniversary Celebration Concert In Las Vegas

Source: Pat Tobin, TOBIN & ASSOCIATES, INC., pat_tobin@tobinpr.com, www.tobinpr.com

(Jan. 22, 07) Los Angeles, CA - Five years and five casinos later,
Don H. Barden, the first and only African American to own a casino in America's gaming capital - Las Vegas, is gearing up for his annual anniversary celebration to commemorate five years of successful ownership of the Fitzgeralds Casino Hotel. The four-day weekend taking place February 22-25, 2007, will consist of several festivities including an education celebration for local elementary students featuring an outstanding youth panel of history makers and achievers, a press conference, a star-studded meet and greet reception, Don H. Barden Achievement Awards, a Gospel Brunch, the Taste and Sounds of Soul featuring local and national entertainment performing on the Fremont Street stage, along with showcasing African American restaurants in Las Vegas, which has attracted nearly 30,000 attendees. Every year celebrities participate in various activities throughout the celebration. The legendary songwriting and performing duo Ashford and Simpson, known for their chart topping hits "Solid" and "Don't Cost you Nothing" will headline the anniversary concert. The award-winning songwriters are also known for penning hits such as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" as well as "You're All I Need to Get By." Fitzgeralds anniversary has attracted several celebrity guests in the past four years such as; Smokey Robinson, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Nancy Wilson, The Whispers, Howard Hewett, as well as actors and actresses; Loretta Devine, Jenifer Lewis, Glynn Turman, Michael Beach, Kim Fields, Anna Maria Horsford, Richard Roundtree and many more.

The Detroit native Chairman and CEO of Barden Companies, Inc. purchased Fitzgeralds Casinos in Tunica, Mississippi; Blackhawk, Colorado; and Las Vegas, Nevada in December 2001.  He also owns Majestic Star Casino and purchased Trump Casino Hotel in December 2005 presently known as Majestic Star Casino II both located in Gary, Indiana.   Fitzgeralds Casino Hotel located in downtown Las Vegas on the world famous Fremont Street Experience features 638 rooms and offers a variety of dining options including Limericks Steakhouse, Molly's Buffet, Shamrock Café, McDonald's and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. The casino features slots, table games, sportsbook, keno lounge, three bars, live entertainment and space for meetings. For details regarding the celebration call 800-274-5825 or visit www.fitzgeralds.com.

J Xavier: ‘Tha Young Prince of the South’ is Here!

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Gerald Yates

(January 22, 2007) The cliché, 'don’t judge a book by its cover,' can definitely be applied in the newcomer J Xavier's case. The young lyricist looks younger than he is and sounds older than he is.  Though he’s 14-years-old, the baby-faced rapper has been accused of looking barely 8, but that doesn’t work against the up-and- comer, who began rapping when he was just 9. “When I was younger, I sang in my dad’s church,” The Young Prince said of his beginnings. “Then when I was 12, things started getting crazy and we were traveling a lot. But I love it. It’s definitely something that I wanted to do. My parents didn’t push me into it. Once I got behind that mic, I just fell in love with it. And my parents are behind me 100% and I really appreciate that.” While his youthful appearance and energy will be popular amongst the teens and pre-teens, his lyrical content, along with some of his sampling, is very mature and will have older audiences snapping their fingers and bobbing their heads to the beat.  His plight is to positively influence the youth of today through his lyrics and love for music. Ironically, the name of his debut single is “I Love My Music,” which takes a classic sample, ‘Never Can Say Good Bye’ and transforms it into a metaphoric expression of a young adolescent’s love for music. So how does a 14 year old, in this day in age, maintain his focus and humility in this industry? Over lunch at trendy restaurant Chocolat, on LA’s Melrose Ave., J Xavier explained to EUR’s Lee Bailey how he does it.

“Keeping God first and staying close to my parents and listening and being obedient will keep me on the right track.” Co-managed by Matthew Knowles and his father, Samuel Harris, J Xavier was discovered at party given by Music World while giving an impromptu performance for the audience. His style, which is one of positivity and progression, captivated the label executives. He doesn’t curse, he doesn’t talk about drugs, and he’s not trying to be a thug. He’s J-Xavier, the breath of fresh air and Houston’s native that's showing that there is more to hip hop than money and drugs. Hip Hop can actually be fun!!! When commenting on his musical career, J Xavier said: “I love it. It’s definitely something that I wanted to do. My parents they didn’t push me by saying ‘hey this is what you need to do,’ but this is something that I wanted to do. Once I got behind that mike, you know I fell in love with it. My parents they are behind me 100%.”   Coming from a musical background, J Xavier didn't fall far from the tree; his father, also a minister, sings and plays the bass guitar. In fact, all of his siblings are involved in music. Recently, his older sister wrote a song for Whitney Houston’s last album and is currently working on a project herself, and his older brother plays the trumpet.  J attributes much of his success to his father. He also talks about the help and respect he receives from other artists in the industry such as Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, Lil’ Wayne, and Mike Jones, who also actually collaborates with J Xavier, on his single, ‘Stroll.' In addition to being a performer, J Xavier works with a TV network called YGTV, where he has interviewed celebrities such as Chris Brown, NEYO and Lil Wayne. 

“Well, I go around interviewing different artists. It’s Great, we covered the whole Up Close and Personal Tour. If they have a project coming out, I may say, ‘hey let’s talk about the new album,’ I can say this, people they get to see another side of the artist, a good side. Once people get to see these interviews, they are like wow,” he said. When Lee Bailey asked about who surprised him through the YGTV interviewing experience, He says, “Lil’ Wayne because people see Lil' Wayne and have all these perceptions about him but I was like ‘so what is it that makes the people go crazy when you step out on stage’ and he said, “God” and his mother and I was like “wow, cause you don’t hear that everyday.” His father, Samuel Harris Jr., the Pastor of The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Houston, accompanied J to the interview. Mr. Harris believes that J-Xavier's success was planned by God. “Everything that has happened now, it’s not a coincidence, it’s pre-ordained.” With J's father being a pastor, he was asked about his future and succession of his father’s ministry. The young performer feels that he already spreads the good news.  “I think that me performing, rapping is like ministry, but I am just doing it another form. You don’t have to be 'Jesus, Jesus … God God,' but keeping it clean and positive...but still hot ... which can still encourage somebody," he says.  "Its about me shining my light, People can see the Lord and they can see what’s in me and know that it’s not me…'who are you like, who is this kids... this is not you talking,' they say.” Mr. Harris also chimed in on his son’s role in his ministry. He described a time about six years ago when he had this revelation while talking to his son:

“And he said to me ... 'dad you helping all these people ... tell me what you want me to do and I’ll help.' His career is not just about success in music it’s tied into also helping people,” Rev. Harris says. So, influenced by his father's ministry, coming from a musically rich family, and intrigued by the humility of his industry peers, how would J Xavier describe his sound? "Clean and positive, but it’s HOT ... something that everyone can enjoy."   J Xavier’s CD, “Young Prince of tha South,” is currently in stores.  To hear J Xavier's music, click www.myspace.com/liljx or www.jxaviermusic.com.

A Tribute Act That Really Pays Tribute

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(Jan. 22, 07)
Rain: The Beatles Experience - At the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto on Thursday.  The impostors call themselves Rain, which is a rather drab tag for a spectacle-band that shines. All Beatles tribute acts -- and the world is filthy with them -- bill themselves as the fabbest fakers, but such a claim from these guys has serious legitimacy. The presentation is a professional, surreal mix of video projections, period costumes, accent-precise characterization and note-for-note live music, with special attention paid to wigs and cheerful, chronological reminiscences. The show began with a montage that sets the manic mop-top mood of 1964, complete with a grainy back and white "clip" of an actor portraying Ed Sullivan as he introduced the Beatles to America back then, and to the live Hummingbird Centre audience now. (As an aside it should be noted that Sullivan, with his idiosyncratic shoulders and totally impressionable vocal delivery, was one freaky cat, even by sixties standards.) Rain, four dark-suited duplicators surrounded by those giant white arrows memorable from the Beatles' first Sullivan show, appeared. The biggest arrow might well have pointed to the merry bloke at stage left, Joey Curatolo, a master Macca mimicker who summoned the sound and manner of Paul McCartney precisely, all except for the Hofner bass played right-handed instead of the opposite.

There, too, was Ralph Castelli, elevated in the back on the drum kit, bopping his head Ringo-like as the three front-liners worked their way through early classics -- the sweet and dynamic I Want to Hold Your Hand, the country-rocked All My Loving, the swooning This Boy, all marked by laudable vocal harmonies. Yesterday came from Curatolo on acoustic guitar, with Mark Lewis (the fifth Rain-man) providing the synthesized string quartet. Passing the time between a set-change was a cute trip of nostalgic commercials. (Flintstones sort of rhymes with Winston, so it makes sense that Fred and Barney would smoke that brand of cigarette, I suppose.) Things got trickier after that, as the psychedelics and sound collages from Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour are complex. Rain was now recreating concerts (reportedly with no backing tapes) never actually performed by the Beatles themselves, who stopped performing live in 1966. As such, the satin-soaked set was more of a celebration of a photo shoot than anything, though the crafted renditions of I Am the Walrus and the rest missed no tricks. A Beatles tribute act always walks a thin line, careful to be endearing but not too hokey, which is a challenge straight off given the inherent hilarity of the Liverpool accent. Rain stays clear of some silliness by referring to the Beatles in the third person rather than claiming to be the real article. A casual trio of Here Comes the Sun, Across the Universe and Blackbird was introduced as an imagined song-swapping session. Still, the crowd was eager to buy the fantasy: One particularly enthusiastic gal popped up on stage to give a peck on the cheek to . . . Steve Landes? Rhythm guitarist Landes, who had John Lennon's roof-top gum-chewing down perfect on Get Back but didn't look much like the Beatle, took it all in good humour. George Harrison copier Joe Bithorn replicated well, getting a big ovation for his version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

The last set, with the band dressed as the Beatles of the Abbey Road cover, included a triumphant medley from that record ("Once there was a way, to get back home.") Toward the end, Imagine hit the mark as well. A little imagination, it's true, with an extraordinary song catalogue and a talent for impersonation, goes an awfully long way. Rain continues at the Hummingbird Centre, Jan. 25 to 28; Hamilton, Jan. 30 ; London, Ont., Jan. 31; Kitchener, Ont., Feb. 1; and Gatineau, Que., Feb. 5 to 7.

Meet Elizabeth Withers: A Voice You Won't Believe

Source: Tynicka Battle, ThinkTank Marketing, tynicka@thinktankmktg.com, www.thinktankmktg.com

(January 24, 2007) It all starts with the voice. A soulful instrument that is both powerful yet strikingly vulnerable; an engaging gift that transcends musical genres and industry trends.  For acclaimed singer/performer Elisabeth Withers, that voice and a fierce spirit garnered her a prestigious Tony Award nomination for her role as the seductive scene-stealer Shug Avery in the Broadway mega-hit The Color Purple.  Now the Joliet, Illinois-born singer/songwriter is set to release her debut solo album It Can Happen To Anyone on the legendary Blue Note Records. "My music is a reflection of my life," says a matter-of-fact Elisabeth. "Through my work, I want people to know that with a strong self-love, work ethic and fearlessness, anything is possible." Indeed, It Can Happen To Anyone makes its case for the Berklee School of Music and NYU graduate. It is uplifting and honest but it is also sensuous and passionate and at times seriously sexy, unpredictable and just plain infectious.  Fans of Elisabeth Withers' Broadway work will be taken aback by the impressive range of her album, which mines everything from R&B, gospel and pop to old school cabaret and rock. Not surprising when you consider Elisabeth loves both Millie Jackson and Sheryl Crow.  The title track finds Elisabeth warning the object of her affection over a funked-up groove with such bold proclamations as, "When you are born until ya grow old, somewhere it's blowing in the wind. Love don't care because it comes on, it's own time!" The church inflected track "Simple Things," showcases Elisabeth's deep timbre vocals as she encourages listeners to see the beauty in everyday life. "The World Ain't Ready" showcases its message of female empowerment over an infectious reggae dancehall rhythm. And on the warm love letter feel of "Heartstrings," she coos of a love that makes you "want to scream like Tina," and "shine like the brightest star."

At first glance, music seemed like an unlikely path for a young and confident Elisabeth. Raised in a middle class, Midwest household, where her mother excelled as a mathematical engineer and her father was a political powerbroker, an interest in anything remotely resembling the arts might have raised eyebrows. Luckily Withers, her sister and two brothers were supported by parents who created a loving environment where individuality was as much a premium as a discipline. At five-years-old, Elisabeth began singing along to her parents' record collection.   "All of my brothers, including my dad, would laugh at me," she muses. "Just picture a little me belting out some Natalie Cole or Gladys Knight over dinner, veins popping out of my neck, trying to reach all of these notes" it was too funny. But I remember my mom would get angry and say, "You guys will not laugh at your sister. She's going to sing!"  Elisabeth saw the meaning of sacrifice first hand as mom placed her professional life on hold to raise the kids while her father worked extra hard to make sure all four kids had everything they needed to excel. By her early teens, performing at talent shows and social engagements had become the norm. The gifted singer saw her exceptional talents garner notice when, in 1993, she received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Four years later, Elisabeth did what virtually every aspiring singer-songwriter has done since the dawn of the jazz age: She set out to conquer New York. By the time she graduated NYU in 2000, Withers had caught the attention of respected producer, arranger and songwriter Tony Moran (Patti Labelle, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross).  A string of studio back-up sessions followed as Elisabeth began to cultivate a reputation as a first-rate vocalist; so much so that Moran recruited her to co-write the dance club classic "Rising" (2002), a track that reached the top 5 on the Billboard charts. Elisabeth Withers was now going under the diva alias Elle Patrice. Another hit single followed "Emotions", and in 2005 Elisabeth received a call from industry friend and music legend Nick Ashford, who suggested the vocalist audition for the Oprah Winfrey-produced stage adaptation of The Color Purple. She was more than up for the challenge as she won over producers Quincy Jones and Winfrey. Elisabeth's triumphant run on Broadway soon attracted the interest of record labels. With its rich musical heritage and underlining focus on the art, Blue Note was the perfect home.

"I've never been afraid to try anything. I guess that's why I've had a chance to try so many different things," Elisabeth says of her budding career. "The values that my parents taught me growing up allowed me to go into any situation, from being asked to sing for Paul McCartney to doing "The Color Purple" on Broadway in front of someone as iconic as Oprah and to recording an album for Blue Note, having an album of songs that I actually had the chance to write. It's been a wild ride and a humbling experience."  "I hope people will listen to the songs on the album and come away with the feeling that I have, which is why I called the album It Can Happen To Anyone. For that is truly what I believe."

Elisabeth Withers
It Can Happen to Anyone IN STORES JAN 30
Blue Note | PRE-ORDER HERE
www.myspace.com/elisabethwithers

AUDIO: "Simple Things"
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MUSIC TIDBITS

New Musiq

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 24, 2007) *Musiq Soulchild returns next month with his Atlantic Records debut "LUVANMUSIQ," his first new album in over three years. Due March 13th, the Philly-bred artist is partnering with Courvoisier to launch his new album as part of the House of Courvoisier (HOC) Music Room Tour. Kicking off in Chicago on March 8th, Musiq Soulchild will play ten cities across the country, performing live at a series of intimate HOC concerts.

5 Finalists For Timberlake's Grammy Performance

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(January 18, 2007) LOS ANGELES – Hot on the heels of Fox's American Idol, five finalists have been named to compete for the chance to perform with "SexyBack" singer
Justin Timberlake at the Grammy Awards. Fans voting online at Yahoo! Music narrowed the field from 12 finalists in the "My Grammy Moment" contest for unsigned artists. The five finalists, all women, are Africa Miranda, 30, of Montgomery, Ala.; Jillian Gaudious, 25, of Long Branch, N.J.; Brenda Radney, 22, of Staten Island, N.Y.; Robyn Troup, 18, of Houston, Texas; and Jessica James, 18, of Warner Robins, Ga. "We have been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response we have received for our `My Grammy Moment' opportunity, and the top five finalists reflect a diverse group of extremely talented singers,'' Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said in a statement Wednesday. Fans will continue to vote online at Yahoo! Music.  The top three finalists will be announced during Super Bowl weekend, then head for Los Angeles to rehearse with Timberlake.  Online and text message votes during the 49th annual Grammy Awards, which will be telecast Feb. 11 by CBS Corp.'s CBS network from the Staples Center, will determine the contest's winner. The winner will be announced live on the show.

New Jazz Club For Toronto

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Chapman

(January 18, 2007) Prayers have been answered. A new jazz club is coming, one that part-owner Patrick Taylor says will help replace the top-notch clubs that have recently closed, notably the Montreal Bistro and the Top o' The Senator. Taylor, a founder and executive producer of the Toronto Jazz Festival, is an experienced arts professional – he began a 20-year tenure at Massey and Roy Thomson Halls sweeping the Massey stage. He eventually made it to director of programming. The new venue will be on the second floor above the
Courthouse Market Grille at 57 Adelaide St. E. – space currently occupied by the Courthouse Chamber Lounge (built in 1852, the structure is the city's original courthouse). Taylor, partnered in the venture by businessman Nick diDonato of the Liberty Group – which owns the Courthouse – says the club has a 10-year lease, will be "classy" and holds 150. Acoustics will be a priority – the space currently has a Yamaha Grand piano, high ceilings, as well as a balcony and plenty of nearby parking, he adds. Tentatively to open March 29. Taylor, who was in New York last weekend seeking to book artists, says international and local acts will be featured.

Ross Still In Fine Voice

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry

POP & ROCK
Diana Ross
I Love You (EMI)


(January 18, 2007) It can't be coincidence that
Diana Ross's first studio album since 1999 is being released amongst the hoopla around the Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated film Dreamgirls, loosely based on her '60s girl group, the Supremes.  Billed as a collection of her favourite love songs, this disc will resonate with fans of the 62-year-old Detroit native's high, haunting vocals. Ross remains in fine voice with a mature burnish and old tricks that still work: the I'm-so-breathlessly-in-love-I-can-hardly-get-the-words-out delivery on Marvin Gaye's 1974 hit "I Want You" (co-written by her brother T-Boy Ross) and her earnest "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" style patter during "Only You." Overall, the covers, which include the Beatles "I Will" and the old chestnut "You Are So Beautiful" are hit and miss. Unlike her contemporaries Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight, Ross didn't have the option of breaking new ground with a disc of jazz standards, since she'd done that back in the '70s for the Lady Sings the Blues soundtrack. This collection of love songs is good compromise. And just in time for Valentine's Day. What a coincidence.

CBC Radio Kills Freestyle

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Jan. 18, 2007) After a massive audience study and more than 200 proposals for new radio shows,
CBC Radio has announced a series of programming changes. The CBC said yesterday that Radio One's mid-afternoon show Freestyle at 2 p.m. is being cancelled and replaced by a daily arts-magazine program hosted by Jian Ghomeshi come mid-March. The new show will repeat at 10 p.m. weekdays, replacing the nightly arts show The Arts Tonight. CBC executives said this does not mean an increased emphasis on pop culture.  Radio Two will be playing a broader assortment of music in the evening to expand its audience. It will remain predominantly classical, but an as-yet-unnamed jazz show will air from 6 to 8 p.m. each day, replacing Music For a While. In Performance from 8 to 10 p.m. will be replaced by another live performance show, which is planned to have a more regional feel. As described by CBC Radio's executive director of programming, Jennifer McGuire, the show could have blues from St. John's one night and chamber music from Victoria the next, with a greater emphasis on local musicians and local scenes.  From 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., there will be a new show of contemporary Canadian compositions, electronica and other subgenres.

Kanye Rolling With Chris Martin On New Album

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Hillary Crosley, N.Y.

(January 19, 2007)
Kanye West is hard at work on his next album, "Graduation," tentatively due in late 2007 via Def Jam. The artist tells Billboard the likely first single from the album will be "Homecoming" featuring Coldplay's Chris Martin, who recently guested on a track from Jay-Z's comeback album, "Kingdom Come."  One collaborator from West's 2005 album "Late Registration" who will be returning for "Graduation" is multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion.  "We'll be working together again on the new project," West promises. "Jon wasn't just a producer -- he was such a good friend and a great person to bounce ideas off of in the studio. It was the whole experience."  West has also been busy behind the boards, having recently produced tracks for Nas' "Hip-Hop Is Dead" and the Game's "Doctor's Advocate." And, as previously reported, the artist will soon be featured in an HBO series "loosely based" on his life. "Curb Your Enthusiasm" mastermind Larry Charles will executive produce.

Q-Tip Ushering In Creative 'Renaissance'

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

(January 19, 2007) Having toured last year with his A Tribe Called Quest mates for the first time since 2000,
Q-Tip is back on the solo beat. The Universal Motown artist is gearing up for the spring release of "The Renaissance."  Q-Tip put together a hip-hop band for project, but, according to the New York-based rapper, it's not a band simply in the sense of everyone just playing an instrument.  "I wanted a hip-hop sonic feel, something pure to the sound of hip-hop with real drums, real emotion and people taking solos," he tells Billboard. "In that sense this record feels like we're moving in a new direction ... something hip-hop should do."  Q-Tip is steering clear of too many guest combinations. ("Sometimes guests don't really warrant an appearance.") But thus far, he has lined up an intriguing threesome: D'Angelo, Common and OutKast's Andre 3000.  Also percolating is the first official release, with bonus tracks, of the 2001 album "Kamaal the Abstract," which was shelved by Arista. Q-Tip now owns the album, and will perform tracks from it when he hits the road on behalf of "The Renaissance."  "You can hear we were having fun without regard for anything," he says of the album. "It's that spirit people picked up on."  As for performing again as part of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip says the group's tour run last fall felt "good, like old times. We got a great response, and I was surprised to see so many young kids out." Will they do it again? "I don't want to say never," he replies after a pause. "But at this point, I think we're done for now."

Neil Young Revisits Vintage Toronto Gig

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

(January 17, 2007) On the heels of the first release from his Archives Performance series last fall,
Neil Young will unveil another vintage concert on March 13 via Reprise. "Live at Massey Hall" was taped Jan. 19, 1971, at the Toronto venue and finds Young performing solo.  Beyond favourites such as "Don't Let It Bring You Down," "I Am a Child," "Ohio" and "Down by the River," Young debuted material that wound up appearing on his next studio album, "Harvest." Among those songs were "The Needle and the Damage Done," "Old Man" and "Heart of Gold," the only No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit of his career.  Young claims producer David Briggs urged him to release the Massey Hall concert instead of the studio version of "Harvest," a suggestion he didn't follow. "I was very excited about the takes we got on 'Harvest,' and wanted 'Harvest' out," Young says. "David disagreed. As I listen to this today, I can see why."  In related news, Reprise has confirmed a fall release for "Archives Volume I," a vault-clearing project Young has been promising for decades. The collection will comprise 8 CDs and 2 DVDs full of previously unreleased studio and live recordings as well as concert footage and memorabilia.

Bjork Drafts Timbaland, Antony For New Album

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

(January 19, 2007)
Bjork has worked with a typically eclectic crew of collaborators on her next album, due in late spring via Atlantic. According to a post on the artist's Web site, the as-yet-untitled album features two tracks produced by Timbaland and another two featuring vocals by Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons.  Additional guest appearances have been turned in by Toumani Diabate on kora, Konono No. 1 on electric thumb piano and drumming from Lightning Bolt's Brian Chippendale. "This record is a Bjork production par excellence," the site says. "No stone left unturned to seek out the perfect pitch."  The new album is Bjork's first since 2004's stark "Medulla," which boasted contributions from Mike Patton, Rahzel, Matmos and Robert Wyatt.  Bjork's site also confirms the Icelandic singer will return to the road this year. Billboard.com understands she may appear at a major U.S. festival in the coming months.

Pussycat Fight Over Dolls Image

By BILL BRIOUX -- Toronto Sun

(January 20, 2007) PASADENA, Calif. -- Are the
Pussycat Dolls empowering role models or skanky 'hos?  The debate raged yesterday at press tour where The CW network presented Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search For The Next Doll.  The idea behind the upcoming talent search series is to audition and find a seventh member of the hottie girl band, famous for writhing to hits like Don't You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me? Among the judges on the show are hip-hop slammer girl Lil' Kim, The O.C. producer McG and Geffen Record chairman Ron Fair.  The panel spent the first 20 minutes of yesterday's session extolling the virtues of Pussycat power. Choreographer Robin Antin, who created the Dolls, said it was "great for women" to get dressed up like a doll. McG said it was "inspirational," "empowering" that these girls "own it" and "are not in the service of any man."  My daughter, not yet 17, would disagree. She thinks these Monkees in thongs have set women back 30 years. When I pointed this out to the panel, well, let's say the mood in the room turned.  McG seemed most defensive, suggesting to another critic that "a gentleman of your age" just didn't get it, or as he put it, "I don't know if you two-way your friends on your sidekick." Fair tried to argue that The Dolls were part of a glorifying the American girl tradition dating back to the Rockettes and Earl Carroll. Fair enough, but pushing the Pussycats as part of some new feminist wave seemed a reach even by Hollywood standards.  McG then brought the house down with his interpretation of the Doll's main message. "Don't you wish your girlfriend could be free and comfortable in her own skin like me," was his read.  Stick that in your sidekick.

Pete Doherty's Band Sign Long-Term Deal

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(January 23, 2007) LONDON – Babyshambles has signed a long-term deal with record label Parlophone, thanks to the songwriting talents of frontman
Pete Doherty, the company said Tuesday. A spokesman for Parlophone's parent company, EMI Group PLC's EMI Records, refused to give further details. "We don't discuss contracts," Chris Latham said. The British band has already released one album on Parlophone's Regal imprint, the critically acclaimed "The Blinding EP," which came out in December. Latham said another album was planned. Parlophone's managing director said the band "justifiably (has) a great reputation for crafting some of the most exciting music around today, and in Peter Doherty they have one of the best songwriters of his generation.'' Babyshambles co-managers Adrian Hunter and Andy Boyd said band members are delighted with the deal "and look forward to a long, fruitful and creative relationship with Parlophone.'' Neither side mentioned Doherty's well-documented drug abuse; the 27-year-old boyfriend of supermodel Kate Moss, 33, has had a series of well-publicized run-ins with police.

Unknown Band Takes On Coke And Wins

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(January 23, 2007) LONDON –
Coca-Cola Co. has reached an agreement with an unsigned London ska band over the global soft drink giant's use of the band's material in TV ads. The band, called 7 Seconds of Love, had argued that Coke used their video and song "Ninja" without permission in a South American commercial for Coca-Cola Light. Coke agreed Monday to an out-of-court settlement. The ads have been taken off the air, and the band retains all the rights. The amount of the financial settlement wasn't disclosed. "They (Coke) have a policy of not litigating against bands and we came to a nice agreement," said lead singer Joel Veitch, animator of the video. The band had only learned of the advertisement when a fan asked about it. In a statement, the company said: "The Coca-Cola Company has a long history of working with some of the best artists around the world. The creative talent of 7 Seconds of Love is quite evident and we wish them all the best in their musical endeavours.'' Veitch said "Ninja" will be rerecorded and released in the next few weeks. "It's really good for the band. You never know, maybe we could get into the charts," he said. "We've never had the money to do a very good job, but now we've got into a good studio and have got a fantastic management team behind us.'' Veitch said the settlement could mean that 7 Seconds of Love can finally play in front of big crowds. "Getting the band going would be brilliant, jumping around in front of thousands of people is better than fiddling with computers," said Veitch, who works as a freelance animator. A substantial amount of the financial settlement will go to two British charities, while the rest will go to the band.

Queen Latifah: Ready To Share The Crown

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Jan. 23, 07) To hell with guilty pleasure reality shows perpetuating negative stereotypes of fame seeking participants. The one and only Queen Latifah is holding a casting call with the cosmetics giant CoverGirl in the Big Apple next week to find the next, new face for the best-selling American make-up brand. And this is not one of those "one-off" deals bestowed upon the winners of Tyra Banks' reality competition 'America's Next Top Model' either. I'm talking about the ones that feature a different winner every few months.  This is the real deal for the Cover Girl Queen Collection, which was inspired by Latifah (legally known as Dana Owens). "The wonderful fresh, natural colors in the Collection gives African-American women the confidence they want with minimal effort," she said about the brand. "I am so excited to be the inspiration of this new collection that is truly fit for a queen."

Jamie Foxx: Getting Real 'Sirius' With Newest Gig

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Jan. 23, 07) Jamie Foxx is making history once again. He will be the first Academy Award winner to spearhead a satellite radio channel. Take that Oprah Winfrey & Friends! The BV Newswire has learned that the box-office superstar and J Records recording artist will launch an exclusive urban comedy, entertainment and lifestyle channel on Sirius Satellite Radio called "The Foxxhole."

 

::FILM NEWS::

Away From Her Stuns Sundancers

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - By Geoff Pevere

(January 21, 2007) Park City, Utah - Having described the
Sundance Film Festival as "one of the only places I went where I was treated as a filmmaker and not an actress with a hobby," Sarah Polley might actually find herself experiencing the reverse form of snobbism after the twin sold-out gala screenings of her much-lauded directorial debut Away From Her in Salt Lake City on Friday night. If early critical and public response is any indication, Polly's new hobby might well become acting.  The sold-out audience was reportedly left cheering and weeping mightily after taking in the film. Away From Her, as those who saw it at Toronto's film festival will recall, tells the story of a married couple (Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie) tragically intruded upon by the cognitive erosions of Alzheimer's.  At the crest of the largest contingent of Canadian movies ever selected here (there are six other maple-certified features and shorts spread through the various programs), Away From Her arrives with the most anticipation and pre-screening buzz.

Having already secured American distribution following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, the movie has already garnered a fistful of bankably positive influential reviews. The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore called it assured and moving; the trade giant Variety described it as "a gracefully wrought study of a long-term marriage being wedged apart" by the disease. Here's what else was being talked about as Sundance cranked up to speed:

The Chicago Ten, Brett Morgen's partly animated documentary on the notorious trial of the Yippies (including Abbie Hoffman) accused of "inciting riot" at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. Some people I spoke with thought the animated trial recreations awkward and disengaging, and others felt the film's use of non-period music – like the Beastie Boys and Eminem – was equally problematic. But the movie certainly got people talking. The first day or so of screenings is a little early to be declaring anything as the "festival's best," but that was the way people were describing the performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney in Tamara Jenkins' potent and sometimes wincingly raw family drama The Savages. These two play off each other to mesmerizing effect, as siblings forced to bridge the gaps between themselves and a negligent father (Philip Bosco) now suffering from dementia. No one failed to be at least momentarily jolted awake at the opening of Adam Bhala Lough's Weapons, a circular-structured ensemble piece about suburban youth violence that begins a very big, very messy bang in a hamburger joint. I haven't opened the ketchup since.

Mediation Fails In ACTRA Strike

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(January 23, 2007) A last-ditch effort to end a strike involving 21,000 film, television and radio workers in Canada has failed and now the dispute is heading to court. The
Canadian Film and Television Production Association and its Quebec counterpart, the APFTQ, met Monday with the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists in Montreal, where the two sides tried to hammer out a deal with the help of a mediator. Mary-Ellen Cummings, the vice-chair of the Ontario Labour Board, was brought in as a private facilitator. The CFTPA said it will ask the Ontario Provincial Court to rule on the legality of the two-week-old strike and on continuation letters the union has signed to allow some productions to continue work despite the strike. ACTRA said the two parties will be meeting in a Toronto courtroom Tuesday. "We are very confident of our case," said Stephen Waddell, the union's chief negotiator, adding that ACTRA will consider its approach to the dispute in light of the producers' "time-wasting." One of the main sticking points is compensation for performances viewed in new and emerging media platforms such as the Internet and cellphone broadcasts.

The producers said they couldn't meet ACTRA's demand that new media fees be raised by 50 per cent. They said they tabled a ``generous" plan that would pay performers when the production is made, when it is used and when it is converted from new media to television or DVD use. "We came to Montreal to finalize our proposals on both new media and wages and were feeling that we were very close to finding the deal,” said John Barrack, CFTPA's chief negotiator. "I'm deeply disappointed that ACTRA has taken this opportunity to ask for an unprecedented 50-per-cent increase with regard to its fees on new media production. "This illustrates the sharp contrast between ACTRA and the other unions and guild in the production sector." But Waddell said the producers had "stonewalled" mediation by refusing to budge from "internet-for-free" proposals that ACTRA has rejected for the past three months.  "The CFTPA has lost its compass, its common sense and its ability to close a reasonable agreement," Waddell said in a statement Tuesday. "ACTRA did everything we humanly could to bridge the remaining issues. The CFTPA/APFTQ simply kept repeating their positions intransigently, even with the assistance of one of the best mediators in the country." ACTRA went on strike on Jan. 8 after its members voted 97.6 per cent in favour of a walkout if their demands weren't met. The strike doesn't affect British Columbia, which operates under a separate agreement and where many producers have signed continuation letters with ACTRA. Some ongoing productions have not been disrupted because of pre-arranged deals the union signed with individual producers to keep those projects afloat. Those producers had to sign on to a five-per-cent wage hike. At least three large scale U.S. productions have cancelled plans to bring work to Canada due to the prospect of a long strike. "This labour dispute is incredibly disruptive to the Canadian production community and is affecting the lives of all of those who work in the sector. We are preparing for a very long strike," said Julie Patry of the APFTQ. "There is very little left for us to do, we've played all our cards and will leave this to the courts."

Now Playing: Corporate Sponsorship

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(January 24, 2007) Banking and hot buttered popcorn. Scotiabank and Cineplex Entertainment are using a Hollywood-style red carpet reception today to roll out a Canadian first, a rewards program for moviegoers and bank customers that will reward them with points towards tickets and concessions. One of the most noticeable signs of the changing times is renaming the Paramount Theatre multiplex in downtown Toronto to Scotiabank Theatre, where the announcement will be made this afternoon.  The SCENE program will launch first in the GTA before expanding later this year to 129 Cineplex theatres coast to coast. Moviegoers can acquire SCENE cards through a website and Scotiabank customers can get an updated SCENE debit card to earn reward points. Pointing to statistics showing 63 per cent of Canadians between 12 to 49 go to a movie at least once a month, Cineplex entertainment spokesperson Pat Marshall said the program is set to expand when new partners, like restaurants, come on board. "We're rewarding customers for doing what they already do: go to movies and do their banking," said Scotiabank spokesperson John Doig.

In a North American first, the bank has also purchased naming rights to "key" Cineplex sites in five Canadian cities, including the Paramount at Richmond St. W. and John St.  Ashwin Joshi, professor of marketing at York University's Schulich School of Business, said the rewards program seems like a smart move. "It's a very good idea because it will be attractive to young customers. A 25-year-old is asking, `Do I want air miles? Travel's not high on my agenda or do I want movie passes? Movies are high on my agenda,'" Joshi said. "(Young people) is a good segment to go after because if you can catch them early and keep them for life, you'll do well."  But Joshi was less keen on the new Scotiabank Theatres. "Live theatre, maybe. But do I want to go see Rocky at Scotiabank Theatre? It doesn't really do anything for me. I can't see strategic value in extending in that direction." Joshi said. A sampling of customers at the Paramount yesterday tended to agree. “I don't like it. It's a little irritating. It's like the SkyDome becoming the Rogers Centre," said Frances Maychak, 15, a regular moviegoer.

Common Stars In ‘Smokin’ Aces’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(January 24, 2007) *Comic-mob-hardcore-action flick “
Smokin’ Aces” hits theatres this weekend in theatres nationwide with high hopes of acing the test at the box office.  The film intertwines the consequences of Jeremy Piven (“Entourage”), a Las Vegas Magician-turned-snitch named Buddy Israel a.k.a “Aces”, who decides to turn state’s evidence and testify against the mob.  A cast of stars, including Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Andy Garcia, and Ray Liotta chime in as mobsters, ex-cons, con wannabes, bounty hunters, thugs, and vixens on the hunt for the tattler-come-target.  With such an all-star ensemble cast, it would be pure common sense for a Hollywood newcomer to latch onto such a project, and that’s what’s happened for rapper Common (formerly Common Sense), along with songbird Alicia Keys.

The rapper and now actor sheds his conscious lyricism for lines in the new film where he plays bodyguard Sir Ivy, Israel’s second-in-command. The movie set rookie, said that although he relaxed into his role and the dynamics of making a film, he did have a handful of surprises when he started doing the film. “There were so many surprises because this is my first film, and Jeremy [Piven] definitely gave me the wisdom and advice. But I remember one day, a day where I sat around for a long time. I got there early, about 8 am and I sat around until about 8pm. I got there and was ready to get into my scene, but they didn’t get to me until 8 at night. Jeremy said to me, ‘One of the biggest keys to being an actor is being prepared whenever they call you. I had to learn that. When I do a show, and the show starts at 10:30, at 10:30 I’m rockin’, but it’s not like that with film. I had to adjust to that,” he said. Common soon learned what to do with 12 hours of down time and instead of trying to stay in his character, he had to take a break, call a few friends on the phone, and – of course – listen to music. Learning to wait was just one of the things the rapper got educated about. He explained that in developing his character and the art of acting he found help onset, but said that he’d also taken some acting classes. “I’ve been working to be an actor,” he said in explaining his personal secrets of how he delivered the role on screen. “I dealt with a lot of stuff inside of me and of course I’m with this great actor (Piven) so I got to feed off of his energy, too.”

This is Common’s first big screen film, but it wasn’t the first movie he’d been offered. What made the difference, the rapper explained, was that he really connected with the “Smokin’ Aces” script. Again, music played a role in his enthusiasm. “I loved the script,” Common said. “This was the first time I read the script all the way through. Usually, I get my scripts and read the scenes that I gotta do for the audition, and that’s it. But the way the script was written, the way it flowed, it felt like music to me. One line would go into another. It was like poetry to me. I was attracted to the writing. And this character was somebody who had some depth to him. I know people see Common and they see this artsy, creative, conscious guy and this guy had some gritty, street, hardness to him so I knew it was a good role to stretch to.” Castmate Piven, claims the hip-hop star really didn’t have to stretch too much; at least not to grasp the art of acting. “I saw him on stage and his cadence with spoken word is so close to the way you speak in films and he has such a theatrical energy on stage. I knew he could do the role maybe even before he knew he could do the role.” And as for the other newbie on the set, Keyes, Common says it was a comfort to have the singer debut alongside him. “It felt good to know there was another new person on the deck,” he said. “With these great actors, you’re afraid to go in there. We helped each other. We talked about working on characters and similarities that acting has with music. We made each other comfortable.” “Smokin’ Aces,” written and directed by Joe Carnahan, hits theatres nationwide this Friday, January 26.

Toronto as Bollywood West?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ian Urquhart, Queen's Park Columnist

(
Jan. 19, 2007)  MUMBAI, India–This coastal city and Toronto could soon have more in common than a passion for
Aishwarya Rai, the Bollywood movie star who attracted crowds on Yonge St. last week at the premiere of her latest film. Indeed, there are behind-the-scenes moves that could ultimately lead to Canadian/Indian co-productions of Bollywood movies, with the filming taking place at least partly in Toronto. That was the buzz last night at a gala in Mumbai (the city of 18 million formerly known as Bombay) that was hosted by Premier Dalton McGuinty, who is touring India this week to drum up business for Ontario. The gala, held at Mumbai's arts centre, featured the screening of a Canadian film, Away From Her, directed by Sarah Polley and starring Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie. On hand were several Bollywood producers, directors and stars, including Rahul Bose, the actor/director known as the "Oriental Sean Penn." In a short speech, Bose sang the praises of Toronto, which he called "vibrant and rich ... truly multicultural."

Asked later if some Bollywood films might be shot in Toronto, Bose said: "That's a no-brainer .... It is genuinely a surprise to me that it hasn't already become the destination (overseas)." Other Indian filmmakers at the gala echoed this view. Bollywood already has good relations with the Toronto International Film Festival, which showed some of its movies last year. "It was amazing," recalled TIFF's Cam Haynes, who introduced the Polley film at the gala last night. "There were more people out for the Bollywood films than we had for Brad Pitt." Greater Toronto has 473,000 people of South Asian descent.  Haynes said he has spoken to two Canadian producers keen to make "Bollywood-type" films. "I was asked to look for talent and co-producers (while in Mumbai)." One obstacle is that a co-production treaty between Canada and India has yet to be implemented, although it has been drafted. The treaty is necessary to circumvent Canadian content rules, according to James Weyman, manager of industry initiatives for Ontario Media Development Corp., the province's film investment arm. Ontario has been told by federal bureaucrats that the treaty is under review, Weyman said. "We've been encouraging them to put it on their priority list."

During the cocktail party before the screening, Weyman was approached by Bollywood figures enquiring about possible co-productions with Canada. What's in it for them? Sources say they want to burnish their credentials by making films that are worthy of Oscar consideration. That might be easier if they were filmed in Toronto rather than Mumbai, which still has a reputation for producing low-budget Hindi-language films with cornball plots. Bollywood also wants to increase the exposure of its films in the North American market.  According to a recent report in Financial Times of London, India has ambitious plans to double its share of the global film market.

Is It All Over For Hollywood North?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara

(
Jan. 19, 2007)  Although he loves his job, location manager Chris Moulson has spent the past week looking for new work – including as a security guard – as Toronto's already-reeling
film and TV production industry weathers a strike by the union representing actors. "I'm now prepared to walk away from the business; I have to," said Moulson, who has already taken out a second mortgage on the family home. "Right now, I'm living on a line of credit and I have a young family."  After a devastating 2006, when film and television production saw a precipitous decline, 2007 was shaping up to be Toronto's comeback year as Hollywood producers stockpiled movies in anticipation of labour troubles expected in the coming months south of the border.  Instead, a strike by ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) has cast doubt on hopes of a revival in the production industry, which has been in steep decline in recent years, battered first by SARS in 2003 and the impact of a higher Canadian dollar.

Toronto production had already been hit hard by the 9/11 terrorist attacks' effect of raising Americans' fear of travelling after 2001. Major film and TV production in the city peaked at just over $928 million that year, according to city hall figures. By 2005, it was down to $773.1 million. A further decline is expected when the 2006 figures are in and, with 2007 staring off with the actors' strike, the trend shows no signs of levelling off, let alone returning us to the Hollywood North days of only a few years ago. At stake are not only the livelihoods of ACTRA's 21,000 members – 60 per cent of whom live in Toronto – but that of thousands of behind-the-scenes technical support and trades workers. David McIlroy, a member of the Directors Guild of Canada, said many co-workers are feeling increasingly desperate and four of his friends have already left the profession. "I know people who are already talking to bankruptcy lawyers. It's sad."

The directors union, along with the technical and trade unions, reached a labour agreement in October with Canadian producers and their U.S. counterparts only to see the ACTRA talent go out on strike earlier this month. "Everything was poised to make this a great year," lamented veteran producer Don Carmody, whose shot-in-Toronto Chicago (2002) won the Best Picture Oscar. Ironically, the issue at the heart of the ACTRA strike – compensation for performers working in Internet, digital and new media – is the same one that would have made for a bumper year in Toronto, industry insiders say. The major U.S. studios are set to face off against the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Writers' Guild of America late this year or early in 2008 to negotiate new contracts, with many predicting the issue could lead to a walkout.

U.S. studios are expected to start stockpiling film and television production in anticipation of a possible strike and Toronto would have been one of the prime beneficiaries, said Carmody. In a recent statement, Barbara Brogliatti, spokesperson for the U.S.-based Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, made it clear that film and television won't return until the ACTRA dispute is settled. "If (ACTRA members) don't want us to bring work to Canada, we'll go home. No fight, no problem," Brogliatti said. John Barrack, chief negotiator of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association – which is also negotiating on behalf of the major U.S. studios – said the big-money players can easily take their business elsewhere. And while ACTRA members are still working – with a 5 per cent pay increase – as a result of a series of "continuation" agreements for productions already underway in Toronto and across Canada, future projects are expected to slow to a trickle or dry up all together. Toronto film commissioner Karen Thorne-Stone said U.S. studios typically scout locations for new productions well in advance – between six months to a year – and will look elsewhere until the ACTRA strike is settled.

Informal discussions have occurred since bargaining broke down last week, offering some hope that a deal can be reached. Even without the labour uncertainty, a number of systemic problems have hampered the ability of the Toronto film and television industry to compete. Ontario government tax credits – set to expire in March – provide a 10 per cent premium on production everywhere but the GTA. That has led to a boom in production in Hamilton – just outside the GTA borders, which saw activity double from 2004 to 2005. Federal tax credits and regional grants benefit virtually every region of Canada except southern Ontario. Thorne-Stone also noted that competition is increasingly fierce as other provinces – along with U.S. state and city governments – continue to offer incentives that amount to "deep discounts" for film production work. The industry in Toronto has also rested on its laurels for many years. With one small exception, all of the city's studio space is comprised of converted warehouse or factory space lacking the amenities that are considered standard in the industry. "The studios that we have here are empty warehouses and they're not sound-proof. We're used to it because for years, we've worked in places like that here. But everywhere else, they have real studios, they're built as studios, they're sound-proof, they're classier," said Toronto-based director Gail Harvey. Currently in the city, there is no studio space large enough to accommodate a big-budget film from the U.S At the same time, Montreal, Vancouver and Halifax – often with federal and provincial support – have built "Hollywood" quality studio space, Harvey said.

Filmport – the privately funded Commissioners St. project under construction by Toronto Film Studios – will rectify the lack of quality studio space but its first phase won't open until the end of this year, with the second phase slated to open in early 2008. In the meantime, TEDCO – the city agency that leases large swaths of waterfront land – is forcing production company Cinespace to vacate its Queens Quay E. site next month. While Filmport will include seven sound stages – including the world's largest – when it's completed, president Ken Ferguson lamented the length of time it has taken for the project to be built, largely as a result of having to seek a range of approvals from TEDCO. While Harvey said she could easily film in Vancouver – where business is booming because it operates under a separate agreement from ACTRA – she is distressed at the lack of support for Toronto's once-dominant film and television production industry. "There's no work for any of the crews, no work is coming here. People are losing their homes. It's really bad," Harvey said. "It's pretty tragic ... and no one seems to care. If we were miners or farmers, maybe people would care," said Harvey, who is particularly critical of the lack of government support. Harvey is getting ready to bid goodbye to her daughter, actor Katie Boland (who stars in Mount Pleasant, opening next Friday), another example of someone ready to give up on Toronto. The 18-year-old is moving to Los Angeles. "I know there isn't even an opportunity to work here. The strike didn't make my decision (to leave) but it definitely made it an easier decision," said Boland.

Indie Spirit Thrives At Sundance

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic

(
Jan. 19, 2007)  PARK CITY, UTAH–Robert Redford tends to make himself scarce during the festival that's so famously branded by one of the actor's most indelible characters. This is strategic. He doesn't want to usurp the
Sundance Film Festival, which has become the most widely covered showcase of new independent film in North America, with his own celebrity. He probably gets tired of being asked just what defines "independent" anyway and whether he thinks Sundance, now in its 22nd year, has sold out. After all, does it really matter? If the event now attracts more than 40,000 and if people are lining up to see movies (including documentaries, features, shorts and animated films) that would otherwise struggle for audiences, why quibble over definitions? Despite the annual drubbing Sundance takes over the legitimacy of its indie cred (and whether it can produce a gem like last year's Little Miss Sunshine), the fact is there's no shortage of not-ready-for-multiplex fodder on display here. Several of the documentaries take on explicitly political themes – like last night's fest opener, The Chicago 10 (a hybrid of computer animation and documentary about the Chicago 7 trial), The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (about the infamous incidents of abuse in the U.S. military prison in Baghdad), Manufactured Landscapes (the Canadian doc by Jennifer Baichwal about photographer Edward Burtynsky) and For the Bible Tells Me So (about the church and homosexuality).

There are several features that use historically-grounded drama to engage critically with a deeply dysfunctional world, including An American Crime (a drama about a notorious 1960s child-abuse case), Chapter 27 (an impressionistic profile of the mind of John Lennon's assassin) and Blame it on Fidel (about a young girl coping with her parents' conversion to radical activism). Furthermore, Sundance is not afraid of stylistic innovation or avant-garde inclinations. While it's entirely possible to spend one's festival entirely in the grip of quirky-looking dramas with big name stars (like Samuel L. Jackson who appears in both Black Snake Moan and Resurrecting the Champ), John Cusack (Grace is Gone), or Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Savages), it's also possible to dwell on the fringe of both technical and artistic innovation. For every clearly commercial, star-anchored indie drama like festival closer Life Support starring Queen Latifah, Sundance also invites inspection of such promisingly outré experiments as Manda Bala (an experimental documentary), Zoo (Robinson Devor's much-anticipated, fact-based movie about an incident involving men having carnal relations with horses), Acidente (a "cinematic poem," according to the Sundance program book, about South American cities) and Welcome Europa, Bruno Ulmer's timely and provocative portrait of new European immigrants. If anything, this range of expression says as much about the narrowness of the current mainstream as it does the open-endedness of so-called independent filmmaking.

These days, if you're not working on studio-subsidized $80 million dollar-plus (U.S.) budgets, you're by definition independent.  And that means you need festivals like Sundance. More than anything, its huge success as a premiere showcase, press event, business forum and promotional launching pad is due to the fact that the mainstream has never been more exclusive than it is now. To get any kind of attention, let alone distribution, you need events like this – now more than ever. This certainly accounts for the incredible competitiveness that marks the Sundance selection process: of the 82 world premieres that will unspool here over the next 10 days (122 features from 25 countries in total), more than 3,000 will have been rejected. But if Sundance would seem to be making the attempt to steer clear of the mainstream with much of its programming, it finds itself firmly in the centre when it comes to the kind of coverage it generates and gossip it spills. This is clearly what Redford, in his decision to keep a low profile for the sake of the movies, is reacting against: the current status of the festival as a celebrity-packed entertainment event which lures as much attention to its red carpets, ski-slope photo ops and celebrity shopping sprees as the movies themselves. This, of course, is hardly unique to this event.  The Toronto International Film Festival is arguably every bit as conscientious as Sundance in terms of the range of its programming, but it's also just as star-skewed, presswise. No matter how many truly challenging movies that festivals like this choose to program, there's always going to be more interest in a temporarily slumming celebrity than a bravely struggling artist.

This, too, would seem to be a kind of deal that successful film festivals have had to strike with the devil that is the contemporary "entertainment media." In order to get something extraordinary in the spotlight, it's got to stand behind the most ordinary of glamorous attractions.  But that's the defining catch of the Sundance Film Festival: it's a self-avowed showcase for the independent filmmaking spirit that happens to be run by a huge Hollywood celebrity. If anything, it comes by its conflicts honestly.

Local Artist Helps Criterion Preserve Great Works Of Film

Excerpt from The Toronto StarEntertainment Reporter

(January 20, 2007) In just 10 years the DVD has profoundly altered the movie-viewing experience for millions of people, shifted the economics of the film business, and facilitated the preservation of our cinematic heritage.  The last of these has been the particular mission of the New York-based
Criterion Collection. Although it has released a few Hollywood blockbusters, Criterion usually selects obscure but critically admired foreign films and puts enormous effort into presenting them in a classy package. It sets the gold standard in the production of DVDs of classic art-house films by directors such as François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Akira Kurosawa, Luis Bunuel, Alfred Hitchcock and Ingmar Bergman. Staff may spend up to nine months restoring a film and the film's sound, adding trailers, stills, documentary footage about the production and creating original supplementary materials such as scene-by-scene commentaries and interviews with directors, cinematographers and actors. Criterion pioneered the use of these bonus materials, now widely copied. Its recent re-release of Kurosawa's iconic film The Seven Samurai – a three-disc set for $55 – takes some 13 hours to view in its entirety.  DVD technology came along just in time because film, while it's the most popular art form of our era, is also one of the least durable. Negatives may become scratched or lost or destroyed; prints wear out and new ones costs thousands of dollars to make.

Peter Becker, president of Criterion, believes that film is "pretty much almost over." Howard Levman, owner of the Queen Video chain in Toronto, concurs: "The movie sales/rental business passed the theatrical business long ago," he says. Last year, according to Levman, North American sales of DVDs were $17 billion (figures U.S.), while rentals accounted for $8 billion, for a total of $25 billion. In the same period, movies took in about $20 billion at the box office. In 1997, 528 DVDs were released, not all of them feature films. Annual releases peaked in 2005 at 13,640 and last year dipped to 12,524. Launched in 1984 as a sister company of the art house distributor Janus Films, Criterion began by transferring movies to Laserdisc, a format it abandoned for the DVD in 1998. Today it offers 367 DVDs in its catalogue, with No. 368 (Monsters & Madmen, a pair of horror films starring Boris Karloff) to be released next week. On March 27, it will launch its lower-priced "Eclipse" series of lesser films by famous directors, without extras.  A Toronto art teacher and filmmaker is an unheralded contributor to Criterion's achievements. Marty Gross, who runs children's art classes in his studio on Davenport Rd., also distributes Canadian films to Japan and brings Japanese films to Canada. He is Criterion's point man in Japan, negotiating rights and creating bonus materials for the classic films of Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu, Mikio Naruse, Masaki Kobayashi and Kon Ichikawa. (Ted Goosen, professor of Japanese at York University, is another Torontonian involved; he has translated Japanese materials used on the discs.)

"I co-ordinate the extra production in Japan," says Gross, who speaks passable Japanese. "I hire a crew and produce interviews with directors, actors, cinematographers. I call from Toronto to explain what I want. Generally, people love to talk about their career. I can find a way to get to almost anybody." Only one person has turned him down – the enigmatic Hideko Takamine, now 82, who starred in many of the films of Naruse in the 1950s. These include When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, which was screened last year at Cinematheque Ontario and will soon be available on DVD. "She doesn't go out now," Gross explains. Discovering who owns the rights to the cutaway footage he needs can be a headache: "I did some basic research on the estate of Hiroshi Teshigahara who made Woman of the Dunes. He left his estate to a flower arranging school." Finding the relevant interview subjects is another challenge. "Kurosawa died 10 years ago," Gross says. "There are still people around who knew him but in the case of Ozu and Naruse who were older, very few people are left who had direct contact with them."  Gross has worked as a consultant on a dozen Japanese films released (or soon to be) by Criterion since Donald Richie, general consultant to Criterion, first recommended him to Criterion. Richie, an American-born writer, is the leading expert on the Japanese cinema, having followed its development since he first went to Japan with the post-war U.S. occupation forces. Gross grew up in Toronto and went to Japan in 1970 to study pottery after dropping out of York University. He went again in 1975. "On the second sojourn, I was already thinking about a film on traditional Japanese potters. I returned to Japan in 1976 to film Potters at Work, my first film there."

His next film, The Lovers' Exile, was about Bunraku, the Japanese puppet theatre. He says he learned the language while editing it in Toronto.  "Potters at Work, in particular, attracted some attention in Japan and allowed me to meet many artists, film directors and writers, thus enlarging my range of contacts," he says.  Kim Hendrickson, executive producer at Criterion, explains: "We have consultants who deal with all things Italian and we have one in Germany. They help us arrange original language content. They are not seeking titles, because we already have a relationship with the studios through Janus." "Criterion does a really great job of hunting down important films and bonus materials," says Levman, of Queen Video. But its list is not entirely stable. Many DVDs have gone out of print when Criterion lost the rights. Inevitably, the discontinued films become collectors items and trade on the Internet for hundreds of dollars.  Levman adds that despite Criterion's efforts, the availability of great old movies is limited.  "Only about 80 per cent of all the movies ever made are on DVD," he says. "I have just read that Warner has made 6,600 titles and of those only 1,300 are on DVD. African Queen with Bogart and Hepburn has never been released, Porgy and Bess is not on DVD, and neither is Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole, or Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud, or El Cid." Outrageous, one of the best Canadian films ever made, is also missing.

FILM TIDBITS

Will Smith Chills With Leader Of Japan

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 19, 2007) *During a visit to Japan to promote his current film “The Pursuit of Happyness,”
Will Smith received props from the country’s Prime Minster Shinzo Abe. While visiting his official residence Thursday, the prime minister told Smith and gathered press that the film’s true story of a homeless father overcoming adversity to become a Wall Street tycoon mirrors the ideals of his country. "I think we should treasure the idea of not giving up dreams," Abe said, according to AP. "We are aiming to create a society that is full of chances and allows people to take up a challenge again. The movie presents us an example of such society." The film follows the rags-to-riches story of Chris Gardner, played by Smith, and his 5-year-old son, played by Smith’s 7-year-old son, Jaden. Abe said he is looking forward to seeing the film when it opens in Japan on Jan. 27.

Murphy, Rock, Tucker To Star In New Film

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 19, 2007) *Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy and Chris Tucker are set to star in a new heist flick from director Brett Ratner that aims to put a black twist on the popular “
Ocean’s Eleven” franchise. According to Fox 411 columnist Roger Friedman, Ratner is also reportedly in talks with Denzel Washington to play one of the film’s bad guys. The as-yet-untitled project is being penned by Russell Gewirtz, who wrote the screenplay for Washington’s recent film “The Inside Man,” and Universal has signed on to produce and distribute the movie.  Friedman writes: “Watch for Ratner to add more heavy hitters once the script is finished. These could include young actors like Derek Luke or Anthony Mackie, comedian Martin Lawrence and some older actors too, like Sidney Poitier or even Bill Cosby.”

Sundance Screens Slain Actress's Film

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Associated Press

(
Jan. 22, 2007)  PARK CITY, Utah – A slain New York filmmaker's movie had its Sundance Film Festival premiere Sunday and her widowed husband announced a foundation in her name. Adrienne Shelly's film "Waitress" opened to both cheers and weeping, as its producers and the audience reflected on the grim circumstances surrounding the project. "This is not in any way a screening that is meant to be a wake," said the festival's executive director, Geoffrey Gilmore as he introduced the film. Shelly wrote, directed and starred in the movie – and was accepted into the festival – only a short time before she was discovered murdered in her Manhattan apartment. A 19-year-old Ecuadorian immigrant, Diego Pillco, was charged in the killing. The 40-year-old filmmaker was a veteran of independent films. She found success in quirky movies, such as "The Unbelievable Truth (1989) and Trust (1990). She was also recently seen in 2005's ``Factotum," with Matt Dillon. "Waitress" tells the story of a pregnant waitress who has an affair with her doctor to escape an abusive relationship. The central role of the film is played by Keri Russell. Shelly's husband, Ostoy used the premiere to announce the creation of the Adrienne Shelly Foundation. The organization will offer scholarships to female independent filmmakers. "Through the foundation, Adrienne's legacy will continue to grow," Ostoy said.

 

::TV NEWS::

We Finally Get Our Own Deal

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Catherine Dawson March


(Jan. 23, 07) Global is hoping Canadians are going to love this deal. The hit game show
Deal or No Deal, which attracts 1.3-million viewers on Global, will be waving the Maple Leaf long and hard in a five-episode Canadian version that makes its debut on Feb. 4 after the Super Bowl.  The prize money is Canadian, the banker is Canadian, the briefcase babes are Canadian and sheathed in Canadian-designed dresses and, at a press conference announcing the details of Deal or No Deal Canada, Howie Mandel let slip that even the new set is patriotic. “I will be standing on a leaf,” he said Monday. Mandel added that the eight Canadian contestants out to win a million dollars are luckier than those who play on the U.S. show.  “The prize is worth more here,” Mandel said. “In Canada, you don't have to pay tax on winnings.” While the contestants' identities are a secret until they are announced this Friday, the much-ballyhooed “Fabulous Five” — women who weren't necessarily models chosen from a cross-country search — were put on display.

Standing tall in four-inch stilettos, carrying their briefcases and wearing black rhinestone-studded dresses by Toronto designer Ross Mayer were Jennifer Palamos of Vancouver, Jennifer Fletcher of Calgary, Jessica Hebert of Winnipeg, Sarah Jackson of Toronto and bilingual Hinde Rabbaj of Montreal, who answered Mandel's questions in French. They will join 21 professional Canadian models on the set. The Canadian episodes will not air in the United States, but Global and its sister station CH will continue to carry the U.S. series as well. That means when DND Canada makes it debut, viewers can watch the series three days a week (Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday). Global senior programming executive Barbara Williams isn't worried about wearing out viewers (as Who Wants to be a Millionaire did in the late nineties).  “We believe it can connect with people on a really different level than the American one. In some regards, it will be even more successful because all the contestants and all the models are coming from communities all across Canada,” she said. John Brunton of Insight Productions, the company that also produces Canadian Idol, promised that DND Canada will be as slick as the popular U.S. series, just a little more homey.  “Hockey will be one of our stories told on the show,” he said, adding: “It's not going to be a Canadian version that is any less than what the American version is ...” But he was cut off by Mandel, who knows just how to tease a roomful of Canadians: “ The Beachcombers have really set a precedent for us in production.”

Shaw Could Kill TV Fund

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(January 23, 2007) Canada's TV production industry is like a house of cards, a rickety structure made up of regulatory protection, cable subsidy and taxpayer support – all of which could come tumbling down with just a huff or a puff. But now a strong wind is coming out of Calgary where cable and satellite giant Shaw Communications is based – and it's causing a storm that could blow the whole house down. That's because, last month, in a letter to Douglas Barrett, chair of the
Canadian Television Fund (CTF), which has backed domestic programming with $2.3 billion since 1995, Shaw CEO Jim Shaw said he would withdraw his company's $56 million annual contribution and no longer support the fund. If Shaw goes, more than 20 per cent of the CTF's annual $250 million budget –which comes from cable and satellite subscription fees as well as tax dollars – goes with him. Fears are, other distributors will follow. That could mean that independent producers of programs such as Degrassi: The Next Generation, Trailer Park Boys, Little Mosque on the Prairie and most documentaries won't have the financing they need. But, argues Shaw, Canadian channels that buy their programs should pay out of their own revenues. "The CTF was established to support the creation of `high-quality and culturally significant programming,'" Shaw wrote on Dec. 20. "(It) was never intended as a permanent source of funding to subsidize broadcasters' and programmers' acquisition of Canadian programming. Our understanding was that after the initial five-year period, the fund would be self-sustaining and self-financing from a return on investment in successful productions.''

Nobody should have been surprised. Shaw fired his first shot last November at the CRTC's TV industry review hearings where he complained about the CTF's lack of transparency. Indeed, in late 2005, auditor general Sheila Fraser also criticized the CTF's governance. Said one industry insider to me, asking to remain anonymous, "Yes, the CTF has problems, big problems. It's like a dysfunctional family, but at least we have a family." Shaw has a point about the CTF's mandate. Long and complicated story very short, the CTF has its roots in a complex Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications (CRTC) decision of 1993, one that arose out of a lengthy structural hearing. At the time, cable companies were spreading panic over the so-called "deathstars" – satellite TV to you and me – that would supposedly wipe them and Canadian TV off the map. The CRTC, in its infinite wisdom, gave them a gift. In order for them to have the money they needed to upgrade their systems, basic cable fees were deregulated. The deal was that the cablecos had to plunge some of those increased revenues – 5 per cent – back into the production industry. And so a precursor of the fund was born. In 1996, it was merged with the broadcast side of Telefilm as well as other federal monies in a public-private partnership known as the CTF. Which means that, whether it's public or private, it's still coming out of your pocket if you're a taxpayer and you subscribe to any TV service.  Don't bet that, if the CTF collapses, you'll get a tax rebate or a cable rate decrease. This would be a bonus for Shaw shareholders. The production industry is running scared – as are broadcasters, public and private, who benefit from the CTF.  Shaw's timing is exquisitely awful. That's because the CTF is up for renewal this spring. The Harper government can continue it – or not.

The CRTC, which established the fund, is in no position to squawk. It is without a chairperson and has a number of commission positions up for grabs. CBC, which schedules many of the documentaries that the CTF subsidizes, is also without a chairperson and has a lame duck president in Robert Rabinovitch. Even Telefilm lacks a chairperson and is short of board members. The National Film Board has no commissioner.  All of these are federal appointments. But Heritage Minister Bev Oda is silent. No wonder some feel that Shaw's bravado stems from the fact that he is an Albertan, and that he can sniff the scent of deregulation in the air ... waves. Maybe. Or maybe it's time to take a good long hard look at what the CTF does and who it does it for. Sometimes an ill wind really does blow good.

Bye-Bye Women, Hello Stereotypes

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon, Television Columnist

(January 24, 2007) Gentlemen, imagine if the women in your life vanished for one week.  (Settle down. That was supposed to frighten you.) Girlfriends, wives, mothers, sisters, cousins, bosses, employees, colleagues, friends ... gone! Okay, now imagine if every woman in your town disappeared. This mental exercise may become grim reality for the doomed fools — I mean, men — in one small Canadian town. Because Vancouver’s Paperny Films is now developing a show around the provocative idea. The Week The Women Went, based on a BBC Three program, is billed as a “unique, large-scale social experiment.” Yes, well, so was Prohibition. “Men — would YOU party hard? Or ... lament the loss of your ladies?” reads the show’s website (thewomenwent.com). “Women — would THEY cope without you? Or ... would they be lost at sea?”

Weird PUNCTUATION ... aside, these bipolar questions suggest producers believe there are only two possible outcomes: 1. The women are hardly missed. 2. The men are exposed as hapless nincompoops. As a man, I’m greatly offended by this. Unless my wife says I shouldn’t be, in which case I am not. But, seriously, isn’t this show already operating with outdated assumptions and gender stereotypes? “I think it’s inevitable for people to think that because it’s a gender-based story,” says Aynsley Vogel, director of development at Paperny Films. “But we feel quite strongly that we are looking for counter-intuitive storylines.” Research started in October. And the short list of potential towns is down to three: Bashaw and Hardisty in Alberta, Lillooet in B.C. “There has been such a positive response so far to us arriving in towns and asking what they think about us taking away their women,” Vogel tells me. She’s laughing. I’m not. More from the website: “Our ideal place is small and scenic, under 1,000 residents. We want to find a place that’s large enough to have businesses, schools and a vibrant main street, but also small enough to have a great community spirit and sense of adventure.” A sense of adventure would certainly be useful when the volunteer fire department finds itself responding to dozens of frantic calls from men who are standing on their front lawns, holding empty cans of soup and staring with disbelief as raging infernos destroy their homes.

And will there be some kind of emergency hotline? Will Paperny build a makeshift bunker along the town’s vibrant main street and keep a few women on hand to deal with domestic snafus? “Hi, it’s John Smith from 145 York St. I have searched everywhere, but I can’t find my red necktie. I have also misplaced one of the children. Please send over a woman! My life has become a living hell!” Rats. Now I’m guilty of gender stereotyping. So let’s discuss logistics. Vogel says the women may leave town as a group. A cruise, perhaps. Or an extended road trip. But how, I wonder, could you possibly remove every female from any Canadian town?  “We realize there’s no way every woman will leave the town,” says Vogel. “So we’re looking for enough of a buy-in that Main St. feels different. We want enough women to leave so the viewer has a sense of the scale of this social experiment.”

If the show eventually gets a greenlight from the CBC and goes into production — it’s still early in development — I have some advice for the women who stay behind: wear a disguise. And running shoes.  Coincidentally, another gender-based “reality” show is in production south of the border. Scheduled to air this spring on Fox, When Women Rule The World (working title) will “expose the battle of the sexes, turning traditional gender roles upside-down and giving women all the power.” There’s more: “What if women made ALL the decisions? If men were their subjects?” In other words, Fox has obviously installed hidden cameras in my house and decided this sort of lopsided power dynamic makes for good television. There’s still more: “These questions and more will be explored when a group of strong, educated and independent women, tired of living in a man’s world and each with a personal axe to grind, rule over a group of unsuspecting men used to calling the shots.” Poor bastards.

Muslims Protest `24' Terror Direction

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Wayne Parry, Associated Press

(
Jan. 19, 2007)  CLIFTON, N.J.–Two years ago, Muslim groups protested when the plot of the hit Fox drama
24 cast Islamic terrorists as the villains who launched a stolen nuclear missile in an attack on America. Now, after a one-year respite during which Russian separatists played the bad guys on the critically acclaimed series, Muslims are back in the evil spotlight. Unlike last time, when agent Jack Bauer saved the day, the terrorists this time have already succeeded in detonating a nuclear bomb in a Los Angeles suburb. Being portrayed again as the heartless wrongdoers has drawn renewed protests from Muslim groups, including one that had a meeting with Fox executives two years ago over the issue. "The overwhelming impression you get is fear and hatred for Muslims," said Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. She said Thursday she was distressed by this season's premiere. "After watching that show, I was afraid to go to the grocery store because I wasn't sure the person next to me would be able to differentiate between fiction and reality."

She said the group had a conference call Wednesday with Fox executives to protest the current plot line and request more positive portrayals of Muslims on the show, but was not promised anything. After a January 2005 meeting with CAIR, Fox aired a commercial in which the show's star, Kiefer Sutherland, urged viewers to keep in mind that the show's villains are not representative of all Muslims. In a written statement issued late Wednesday night, the network said it has not singled out any ethnic or religious group for blame in creating its characters. "(The show) is a heightened drama about anti-terrorism," the statement read. "After five seasons, the audience clearly understands this, and realizes that any individual, family, or group (ethnic or otherwise) that engages in violence is not meant to be typical. The current season began with Muslim terrorists waging an 11-week campaign of suicide bombings across America, culminating in the detonation of a suitcase-sized nuclear bomb in Valencia, Calif., about 35 kilometres north of Los Angeles. Estimated death toll: 12,000. Watching the show's characters talk about detonating a nuclear weapon a few blocks from where she works unnerved Sireen Sawaf, an official with the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, and a self-described "huge 24 fan."

"It's a great show, and I do realize it's a multidimensional show that portrays extreme situations," she said. "They have gone out of their way to have non-Muslim terror cells. "But I'm concerned about the image it ingrains in the minds of the American public and the American government, particularly when you have anti-Muslim statements spewing from the mouths of government officials." Sohail Mohammed, a New Jersey immigration lawyer who represented scores of detainees caught up in the post-Sept. 11, 2001 dragnet, watched the episode depicting the nuclear attack with an Associated Press reporter. "I was shocked," he said. "Somewhere, some lunatic out there watching this will do something to an innocent American Muslim because he believes what he saw on TV."

Toronto's Condo King Goes Prime Time

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Jane Gadd

(Jan. 19, 07) When
Brad Lamb was 10, he used to steal the small national flags that adorned military graves in a cemetery near his house and sell them to neighbouring kids. The celebrity condo salesman, developer and aspiring reality-TV star tells the story without a hint of shame. "I would gather them up and sell them for five cents outside my house," he says in an interview. "It always amazed me that the kids didn't realize where they came from." But then Mr. Lamb, who makes the leap next month from occasional television talking head to the star of his own "reality soap" called Big City Broker, prides himself on his brashness. "I have always been about sales," he says.  He and a childhood friend would put on summer fairs in Beaconsfield, Que., where he grew up. the English-speaking community bordering Montreal where he grew up. They'd cut popsicles in half and sell them, charge kids to take turns on go-karts and dart games, and make themselves $35 a day. "Kids were bored," he recalls. "The same suckers would come very time." Now, at 48, he's a multimillionaire whose Toronto real estate brokerage has sold $2-billion worth of condos since 1988, and whose development arm is involved in building 10 or more residential projects at any given time in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and abroad. Toronto's condominium boom gave him a chance to realize his childhood sales potential after he made the unfortunate career choice to be an electrical engineering salesman who flogged efficiency systems at industrial plants across Ontario. He got the job with Lincoln Electric Co. on the strength of his mechanical engineering degree. "I hated the job," he says. "[But] it taught me to go into large, intimidating companies and worm my way into finding out who was making the decisions. It provided me with a sense of no fear."

Fear, for Mr. Lamb, is the killer of prosperity in the real estate business. A large part of his message on Big City Broker, which will air on HGTV on Wednesday nights starting Feb. 7, is that all kinds of people could be making a killing in real estate if they forgot their silly fears and developed some chutzpah. "One condominium purchase held for 10 years can make you a couple of hundred thousand dollars; for many people that is a retirement," Mr. Lamb says at the opening of the show's second episode. "If you do four or five of them -- which a lot of people don't realize how in reach that is -- 20 years later when they retire they would have over $1-million." Asked in an interview to back up this bold contention, Mr. Lamb doesn't miss a beat. "Of course, you wouldn't want to do it in 1990 [when the market fell]," he says. "[But] I'm optimistic. I think things like deep recessions are rare . . . and inflation affects all products, including real estate." By investing in a condo and holding it for a decade, a buyer can ride out economic downturns, he adds. "And if you hold it for 10 years, Revenue Canada can't accuse you of being in the business of flipping." From the tax man's point of view, someone who buys and sells a lot of properties in a year is a real estate trader and subject to the full force of income tax on the money he makes.  But those seen by Revenue Canada as investors will pay only capital-gains taxes, which are set at half of the person's normal tax rate.

"No one understands this, and the average person is very intimidated," he says. "People overthink it. But there's a lot of dumb people making a lot of money in real estate. It's not a matter of thinking about it, it's a matter of doing it." Mr. Lamb has a personality made for TV: he's quick-thinking, direct, confident, physically arresting and vain (he always wears a crisp suit and gives away his shoes after wearing them for two months). He's given to colourful rants on unexpected topics, like coffee. On the show, he blasts a couple of sales associates who want to pick up some java, saying coffee is "for the weak." His irritation is directed at the inordinate power of one little bean, he explains in the interview. "It bugs me that somehow this one bean has a monopoly on the world's morning beverage market. It bothers me that it's got such a hold on our cultural life. . . . People think they're more productive on it but they're not. They're dreaming of the next cup." He's an alpha-male with a mercurial nature, which makes him intimidating for those not in his circle of friends. (His friendships, he notes, are based on getting rich together.) If you're one of the 50 or so people he knows as friends or regular investors, you'll get the chance to pay the lowest prices and have the best selection of suites in the roughly 40 condo projects in which he's currently involved, either as exclusive broker or as co-developer.

By the time suites are offered to the public through official launches, two groups of people will have had a chance to buy at more favourable prices -- the regular investors he knows, followed by real estate brokers and their preferred clients. "We like to be 30 per cent sold before the grand opening to the public," he explains. First dibs go to people with a proven track records as investors -- they make quick decisions, they pay right away.  "A lot of people want to be in that group but they don't have the chutzpah," Mr. Lamb says. "All the investors in that group buy or they don't get called again." The second-round choices go to real estate brokers and their top clients. A typical pricing pattern would be $160,000 for the investors, $170,000 for the brokers and $180,000 for the general public, Mr. Lamb says. "As we sell, we raise the prices." The big-city broker long ago made all the money he needs to retire in luxury, but he remains hooked on the business. He works "every hour of the day." He says it's still about the money, but also the "fun," by which, he reveals after more prodding, he means the power. "The pleasure of selling was bringing two people together and making them happy. For eight years that was enough. Then I got into development . . . and the pleasure became taking a piece of land, seeing something in my head being created, then seeing people live their life in that. It's incredibly rewarding."

A Darker Parker

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Michael Posner

(Jan. 18, 2007)
Mary-Louise Parker wasn't exactly looking for work. The Tony-award-winning actress ( Proof) had just wrapped her second season as the star of Weeds, the Showtime channel's drama about a Californian widow with two sons who sells marijuana to supplement her income, when something completely different fell into her lap: the TV movie script for The Robber Bride, Margaret Atwood's 1993 novel. “I'm a fan of her work, her poetry mostly,” Parker explained in a telephone interview last week. “And I thought the story was interesting and the character was pretty rich. Dark. I'm usually more content playing darker.” The character, of course, is the scheming, seductive siren Zenia Arden, a serial betrayer. The name, derived from the Greek word for stranger, is no accident; as well as they think they know her, the men and women Zenia casually betrays are ultimately confronted with an enduring enigma. Co-produced by Toronto's Shaftesbury Films and Britain's Working Title Television, the two-hour movie airs Sunday night on CBC Television.

The script, by Tassie Cameron, is at once faithful to the spirit of Atwood's themes, but significantly different as well. Chief among these perhaps is the creation of a new character, insurance investigator John Grismer (Shawn Doyle), who probes the mystery of Zenia through three women who are at once her best friends and most bitter enemies. “I really liked Shawn,” says Parker, 42. “He was really game, a collaborator.” She reserves particular praise for the film's costume designer, Lea Carlson. “She was really gifted, one of the best I've worked with. Because Zenia is all about externals and the way she looks and how she transforms is important. So Lea and I talked several times a day. She was really vital and generous. She took some of my ideas and had wonderful ideas of her own and brought so much.” Parker said she did not read Atwood's novel before the 21-day shoot, which took place in and around Toronto and Hamilton late last summer. She knew vaguely about the speculation — denied repeatedly by Atwood — that Zenia is modelled in part on Barbara Amiel, wife of former media baron Conrad Black. “The director [David Evans] wasn't coming from that point of view,” Parker says, “and we wanted to stay in the world he was trying to create.” Her chief regret was that the shoot wasn't longer. “It would have been nice if there had been more time,” Parker says. “Because Zenia is one of those characters you could spend forever on. There are so many aspects to her. What she is and what others see, and the questions about whether what you're seeing is reality.”

A native of South Carolina, Parker is the youngest of four children. Because her father was in the U.S. military, she grew up in as series of army bases around the world. She took to acting as a teenager, studied at the North Carolina School of the Arts, and after a few lean years in New York in the early 1980s, seems to have been in demand ever since. In addition to the shelf full of awards for Proof, (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Drama League and Obie Award), she has pocketed an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her work in Tony Kushner's Angels in America, as well as another Golden Globe for Weeds. Her film résumé includes quality work in, among others, Fried Green Tomatoes, Bullets over Broadway, Grand Canyon and Longtime Companion. With her three-year-old son, William Atticus (Will), the product of her seven-year relationship with actor Billy Crudup, Parker now makes her home in New York, although she will be returning to Los Angeles in April to begin shooting a third season of Weeds. “I'm not going to work until then,” she says. “Will keeps me pretty busy.” She finds the steadiness of the show's shooting schedule a major help to responsible parenthood. The Crudup affair brought Parker's life into the unremitting glare of celebrity gossip. When she was seven months pregnant with Will, he left her for actress Claire Danes. Ironically, just before Christmas, Danes is said to have spurned Crudup for 31-year-old British actor and Burberry model Hugh Dancy.

Parker herself has recently been romantically linked with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays her dead husband on Weeds. I asked Parker if she had any comment on the Crudup break-up with Danes. There was a rather long silence at the other end of the line. Finally, she said, “I don't talk about my personal life.” In addition to The Robber Bride and the new season of Weeds, Parker has several new films ready for release or in development. There's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, in which she plays alongside Brad Pitt. There's Romance & Cigarettes, John Turturro's 2005 oddball musical comedy with James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet and Mandy Moore, which has so far been unable win a North American release date. There's Small Tragedy, directed by her long-time Broadway director Craig Lucas with Tony Goldwyn, Patricia Clarkson and Maggie Gyllenhaal. And there's The Spiderwick Chronicles, a children's fantasy film, with a scheduled 2008 release. But next year at this time, Parker says, she hopes to be back on Broadway in a play. “I'm looking for something now,” she says. “That would make me happiest.” The Robber Bride airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on CBC-TV.
Bob Barker, Come On Out

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(January 21, 2007) PASADENA, Calif.–
Bob Barker, come on down ... You hear those three words, "Come one down!"(or "Amana Radar Range!") and you can't help but hear that bouncy, brassy Price is Right theme tune ... which will then be stuck in your brain for hours. And you will think of Bob Barker.  The ancient, genial, original host of (in the first 26 years of his career) Truth or Consequences, and (for the next 35) The Price is Right, has announced his retirement from the game game, and seven consecutive decades of giving away free stuff and getting mauled by overheated housewives. "In December I became 83 years old," he says. "I want to retire while I'm still young." Barker did what was essentially an interactive stand-up monologue the other afternoon here at the TV critics' tour. "Another question that I'm asked is what am I going to do after I retire. And perhaps I'm missing something, but I thought that after you retire, you didn't have to do anything." He will in fact be concentrating on his philanthropic work on behalf of animals.

"And I'm going into bodybuilding ... and plan to eventually become governor of the state of California. "I thought that I would go directly into a movie. Well, they were going to make Happy Gilmore 2, but Adam Sandler's doctor has said that Adam can't take another beating like I gave him (in the first film)." Ba-da-boom. Thank you. I'm here till Thursday ... try the veal ... Except that Barker won't be here – at least, not after late June, when his last taped Price is scheduled to air. Then? "You haven't been told?," Barker deadpanned. "When I leave, not only is The Price is Right ending, but all television is ending. That's it." Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves: Reality competitions are all the rage, though if there's anything we've learned here over the last few weeks, all of them are not created equal. At the top of the food chain, there's the ratings blockbuster American Idol – referred to by competing network execs as "The Death Star." (Read all about our in-your-face encounter with Simon, Paula and Randy in tomorrow's paper.) And then there is the bottom-feeding (in some respects, quite literally) Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll, debuting on The CW March 6. Now, after almost two weeks here in cathode-ray captivity, we critics do tend to get cranky, but something about the smug, patronizing tone with which the producers of this gyrating hoochie-fest began invoking the phrase "empowerment of women" just set us all off.

The Pussycats are, in the producers' own words, a "franchise," as opposed to a celebratory cultural phenomenon. "They" is even somewhat misleading, since each of the seven women in the singing and dancing ensemble is apparently entirely interchangeable. Which is why no actual "Pussycats" – aside from their canny creator, Robin Antin, and supposed role model, Lil' Kim – are actually involved in the talent search. Only they have any say in which of the nine finalists will become the seventh addition to their lingerie-clad ensemble. From the entire opposite end of the spectrum comes the already-in-progress Grease: You're The One That I Want on NBC, the search for the leads of yet another Broadway revival of the retro '50s musical. It's doing well enough to have earned itself two extra episodes added to the original run of nine. Something sets the Grease show apart from all the other Idol imitators, and even Idol itself.  "The people that win our show actually have to do three different things," explains executive producer Al Edgington. "They have to be able to sing. They have to be able to dance. They have to be able to act. They have to be able to do it live, eight times a week, in a real Broadway show. "On Idol, they come along, they warble a little bit, and then someone records an album and off they disappear."

TV TIDBITS

Little Mosque Loses Some Viewers

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(January 18, 2007) CBC-TV's much-hyped comedy
Little Mosque on the Prairie had a significant drop in viewers this week after its much-hyped premiere, but still managed a respectable showing in the ratings. The show, set in a fictional town in Saskatchewan, pulled in 1.2 million, the public broadcaster said Thursday. That is down considerably from last week's premiere, which drew a whopping 2.1 million viewers, but is still considered a good number for a Canadian show. By comparison, Corner Gas, CTV's big sitcom hit and one of the country's highest-rated shows, routinely pulls in close to 1.5 million viewers a week. Little Mosque debuted on a Tuesday night, but this week moved to Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET (a repeat is shown Monday nights). The show received middling reviews from critics but was the subject of international media attention before its premiere. Much of the coverage centred on the fact that Little Mosque is a comedy about Muslims set in a post 9-11 world.

Toronto Radio/TV Voice Majhor Dies

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(January 23, 2007) Broadcaster
John Majhor, a staple of Toronto radio and TV in the 1970s and '80s, has died at the age of 53. Majhor died of cancer this morning at his home in Minnesota. Born in San Bernadino, Calif., he started at Toronto radio station 1050 CHUM in 1975 and was later a familiar face on Citytv, hosting the popular shows "Video Singles” and "Toronto Rocks." Majhor was later on the CHUM morning show from 1985 to 1986 before he moved to Los Angeles to host a talk and country music show. In 1990 he returned to Toronto to host the morning show at CJEZ-FM, followed by a talk show at CFRB and a two-year run as host of Lunch Television at Citytv. He was also the promo voice for Toronto's 680 News from 1993 to 1999.

 

::THEATRE NEWS::

Jeffrey Latimer Hopes Puppets – And Lap Dances – Can Help Him Revive A Toronto Theatre

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Michael Posner

(Jan. 23, 07) Toronto theatre impresario
Jeffrey Latimer is nothing if not resourceful. He mounted his first production at the Toronto Fringe Festival almost 15 years ago -- a play about sexual abuse in the church. As it happened, the actors were performing in the annex to a church. For the second show, on a Sunday morning, there were five patrons. Thinking quickly, Latimer drew a sign and posted it on the theatre door: Sold Out. Sold out? What a popular show that must be. Word of mouth did the rest. The remaining performances were packed. It ran nine weeks. Now, Latimer, 42, is using all of his accumulated wile and expertise for a more ambitious venture -- making a financial and creative go of the Diesel Playhouse, the vast, three-venue downtown Toronto nightclub and former home of Second City. Latimer took over management of the site in May, 2006, and he has been scouring the theatrical universe for shows and acts that can generate some buzz -- and some box office. His latest discovery is Cabaret U-Mano, a Montreal-based troupe that features 29 irreverent puppets and a dozen performers who sing and dance and give occasional lap dances to members of the audience. It's the sort of thing you might have found in naughty Berlin, circa 1928. "The creativity behind shows like this is what keeps theatre alive," he says. "It builds new audiences and reminds theatregoers of all ages how truly wonderful it is to see a live stage performance."

He saw the show -- it opens today and runs until Feb. 18 -- in Gatineau, Que., last year after being contacted by its producer, Roger Parent. A veteran of Cirque du Soleil, Parent in turn had seen a much smaller version of it staged in Montreal and thought it could be expanded. He sold that idea to its creators, SOMA International, et voilà -- the troupe has played to celebratory reviews in Europe, South America and Asia. Is Toronto ready for this style of adult cabaret? Latimer emphatically believes it is. "It's the sort of thing you'd see in Vegas or Quebec," he says. "With great light and sound. It's visually stunning. I think Toronto audiences will get it." Latimer himself is all over the theatrical map. In addition to the Diesel, he's director of business development at Second City and has a producing stake in Evil Dead, The Musical, now playing off-Broadway at New World Stage 1. "You have to survive six months in New York," he says. "We've made money some weeks. And TV advertising starts this week on Letterman, Leno and Jon Stewart, so that should help." Originally, Latimer had taken over the Diesel to mount Evil Dead, but New York proved too tempting. At the Diesel, his thinking now is to establish a form of subscription theatre, where patrons can choose shows from any one of the three venues. "So there'd be comedy, cabaret, a show like Defending the Caveman [it's returning in March], concerts, children's shows on Saturday mornings, and Healey's Road House [fronted by guitarist Jeff, in the 800-seat space for blues and jazz]. But you won't see a Soulpepper play here. It's come and have a drink, a fajita, have a good time. A real cabaret theatre." One show Latimer has his eye on is Respect, a musical show from the people who created Menopause, the Musical. "I saw it in Boston and it's great music -- songs or excerpts of songs from 1900 to 2000. It takes you on a journey about women in the 20th century." Latimer concedes that the Diesel is not yet profitable, but he is optimistic that it will get there by the end of the year or shortly after. The trick is finding the right programming model -- a combination of shows that can sit down for six months and others that run a week or two.

It would help enormously, he says, if the Mirvish organization scores with its approaching productions of We Will Rock You and Dirty Dancing. "That's when we really did well," he says, "when the Mirvishes and Garth Drabinsky were producing big shows. It created a critical mass and people piggybacked." His major successes include Closer than Ever, Forever Plaid (a Dora winner, it spawned separate three productions and toured 61 Canadian cities, the largest such tour ever), Stomp and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. He took his biggest baths with Ladies Night, which opened before Christmas one year and died shortly thereafter, and Late Nite Catechism. When former Globe theatre critic Kate Taylor suggested that it might be more fun to have root-canal surgery while watching her parents have sex than to see the latter show again, Latimer hung a banner with the quote across the theatre. Among his proudest achievements was arranging to bring 96-year-old legend George Burns to the Hummingbird Centre for five nights. Burns's agents discouraged him, but Latimer prepared a photographic album of the airplane that Burns would fly on, his limousine, hotel room, dressing room, etc. and a photocopy of a cheque for $100,000 (U.S.). He got the booking. Each ticket cost $100, then a new high for theatre. Latimer took out an ad that read: a dollar for every year of laughter. He sold every ticket, but made, he says, only $1,000. "He came up here with his piano player, Morty, who was 84. His agent was 82 and the agent's girlfriend was 77 and they called her the kid."

Stage vs. Screen

Excerpt from The Toronto Star – John Terauds

(January 20, 2007) On Feb. 24, Cineplex will broadcast Peter Ilytch Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin live from the Metropolitan Opera. That same afternoon, the Canadian Opera Company has a live performance of Charles Gounod's Faust at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. (Both the COC and Met in-theatre performances are already sold out.):

Cost

·  Adult Cineplex opera ticket: $17.95
·  Cheapest COC adult ticket: $60. Top ticket: $275
·  Cheapest Met adult ticket: $42 (U.S.). Top ticket: $295 (U.S.)

Number of seats

·  Cineplex: 551 at the Paramount – 11,000 across Canada
·  COC: 2,071
·  Met: 3,750

Seat comfort

·  Cineplex: Thick padding, high backs, big armrests and plenty of legroom. Watch out for kneecap-level drink storage slots and sticky substances underfoot.
·  COC: Thin padding, low backs, adequate armrests and plenty of legroom. Top ticket buyers get movable armchairs in private boxes.
·  Met: Designed in the early 1960s, when the average adult was smaller and about 25 lbs lighter. Think economy-class at first-class prices. Don't bring your winter coat in with you.

Sightlines

·  Cineplex: First few rows get the big-dot movie experience that leaves you bug-eyed and stiff-necked after a couple of hours. Remaining seats are impeccable. Video director decides what you see. Movie-style subtitles throughout.
·  COC: Excellent, although people in the top ring have to look waaay down to see the stage. A small numbers of patrons have said it's hard to read the Subtitles.
·  Met: Excellent, although the back of the horseshoe is a long way from the stage. "Met-titles" on the back of each seat. Discreet, but tough on people who need glasses to see the stage.

Refreshments

·  Cineplex: Junk food nirvana, fruit smoothies, coffee – and you can bring it to your seat. Alcohol in enclosed bar area.

·  COC & Met: No food or drink in the auditorium (with a blind eye turned to small bottles of water and tasteful hip flasks filled with favourite libations). Dry bar snacks, alcohol, pop or coffee and Häagen-Dazs bars in the lobby areas.

Dress Code

·  Cineplex: The sweats you've been wearing since 2003 are okay. But for the opera crowd, you might want to consider a cable-knit sweater and dress pants, or a sensible skirt. Low heels, please.

·  COC & Met: A mix-and-match of people who dress to impress and schlubs who love Puccini more than Prada.

THEATRE TIDBITS

Four Actors Move On With Rings

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Jan. 18, 2007) Four cast members from the world-premiere Toronto run of
The Lord of the Rings will reprise their roles in the West End production of the musical-theatre adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy. As wildly speculated, Canadian stage and television actor Michael Therriault, whose performance of the ring-obsessed Gollum stood out in the ill-fated Toronto production, is among the four. The other three are British actors James Loye, who plays Frodo, Peter Howe as Samwise and Owen Sharpe as Pippin. Newcomers to the London run include Laura Michelle Kelly, star of the West End stage production of Mary Poppins, as Galadriel, while veteran actor Malcolm Storry will play Gandalf, a role originated in Toronto by Brent Carver. Full casting was announced yesterday in London, where the show begins previews May 9 and is set to open June 19 at the Royal Drury Lane. The creative team remains the same, with Matthew Warchus as director and Rob Howell as designer.  Producer Kevin Wallace described London as the production's "spiritual home" in Toronto last June when announcing the show's early closing. The Lord of the Rings began previews in Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre in February amid reports of a five-hour running time, numerous technical difficulties and an escalating budget of more than $28-million. It opened March 23 to largely negative reviews from critics and closed on Sept. 3 without recouping its capitalization money, including a $3-million loan from the Ontario government. It had been expected to have a much longer run in Toronto.

Drowsy Chaperone: from Toronto to NYC to London

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Jan. 23, 07) Toronto -- After seducing Broadway last year, the Canadian-penned musical
The Drowsy Chaperone will begin previews in London's Ivor Novello Theatre on May 14, with an opening night of June 6. Its star and co-book writer Bob Martin will reprise his Tony-nominated turn as the Man in the Chair. Elaine Paige, the 58-year-old known as the first lady of musical theatre in Britain, takes on the title role. The same role was originated in Toronto by the show's lyricist, Lisa Lambert, and on Broadway by Beth Leavel, who won a Tony Award for her role. In all, the show won five Tonys.  "We're all thrilled with the success that Drowsy has had in New York, but as I was born in London, there's no bigger thrill for me than to be returning to my hometown gainfully employed," Martin said in a statement. Paige, who shot to fame in 1978 as the original Eva Peron in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita, saw The Drowsy Chaperone on Broadway and was instantly enamoured. "I'm very excited about returning to the West End in this wonderfully funny, original new musical," she said.

 

::DANCE NEWS::

Our Dance Star In L.A. Tries Out All The Moves

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(January 21, 2007) If you caught him as a finalist on So You Think You Can Dance, saw him on the Britney Spears tour, or watched him in music videos for Jewel or Pink or Madonna, you'll know why at the tender age of 23,
Blake McGrath is being billed as a "dance icon." Now he's on Dancelife, the new MTV series executive-produced by Jennifer Lopez that follows six young dancers in Los Angeles as they audition in the highly competitive dance industry. (The first episode repeats tonight at 10:30 on MTV Canada.)  McGrath was the first dancer cast in this rather contrived "reality" series; he helped a friend with the presentation that sold MTV. McGrath is all about business, but that's not to deny his artistry. He dances like a demon: think Michael Jackson crossed with Michael Flatley, with acrobatics worthy of Cirque du Soleil. His deft pirouettes set him apart from the other dancers – he puts his ballet training to good use. Raised in Mississauga, McGrath started dancing at 5. He went to the Dance Factory and other schools, credits a teacher named Joanne Chapman for his formative training. At 16, he took his dancing on the road; at 18, he moved to L.A.

Like the dancers in the Dancelife plotline, he struggled at first.  "I didn't know if I was going to have to move back home," he says. "I couldn't go and get a day job because I was a Canadian. It took me about six months before I started getting noticed." That meant getting picked out of thousands at auditions for big stars like Spears, who helped arrange a work visa for him. In Dancelife, Blake is the diva, the guy with the most spectacular moves. He clashes with Nolan, a newcomer who at one point calls him a "bitch." It's true, says McGrath, that the two "weren't on the best of terms" on the set. But the animosity was magnified for the camera. "You have to remember, it is a TV show," he says. "I kind of have the big brother role. I help out the girls and they come to me if they need advice." At one stage, the three females in the ensemble helped him launch his first DVD, Dance Driven. It's a performance/instructional video, for sale on his website blakemcgrath.com. "I hope it inspires people to get up and do a dance class," he says. These days, McGrath is in the recording studio, laying down tracks as a singer. His achy-breaky voice singing a soulful R&B melody can be heard on myspace.com/blakemcgrathmusic. When his management deems him ready, he'll shop for a record contract.  He's also taking acting classes and intends to be ready for roles (he danced in the movie versions of Rent and Chicago) well before the age when high-performance dancers like him need to take it slower.  "I feel as if I've arrived as a dancer," he says, while careful not to ever say he's made it. "I've written the last page of that book so I can close it now and start on my second book."

Dances Of Defiance Step Out Of African Dispora

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(
Jan. 19, 2007)  Meeting for the first time outside the United States, the
International Association of Blacks in Dance kicked off its 19th annual conference last night with an evening of dance that was all about strength and triumph over adversity. The Premiere Dance Theatre was filled to near-capacity – some 350 delegates are in town – for the opening welcome from the Red Spirit Singers and Dancers.  All of the dances on the program contributed to a sense of the history of cultural expression in the African diaspora, and the importance of dance in conveying the spirit of resistance.

Asha Thomas of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City gave the stand-out performance of the evening doing the plaintive solo, Cry, which the late Ailey created for Judith Jamison in 1971. It was a birthday present for his mother, and Jamison, Ailey's muse and now the company's artistic director, has said that the dancer represents "those women before her who came from the hardships of slavery, through the pain of losing loved ones, through overcoming extraordinary depressions and tribulations." The solo, set to Alice Coltrane's "Something About John Coltrane," Laura Nyro's "Been on a Train" and The Voices of East Harlem singing "Right on. Be Free," is a cry of pain that becomes a cry of triumph. Thomas, in a long, wide-skirted gown, projected all of Jamison's fierceness and seemed to fill the stage with her sweeping gestures of defiance and celebration. Germaul Barnes, who danced with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in New York for nine years, is a tall, muscular dancer. He projected the presence of a powerful priest in his long white sarong. He began his solo In/Visible Gates – set to sacred music by Bach augmented with sounds of the natural environment – doubled over, grasping his calves with crossed over arms and moving only his shoulders, first one side, then the other. The piece was about overcoming restrictions and going beyond the imagination. Barnes's movements slowly transformed him into the shape of a large, majestic bird ready to take flight.

From Baltimore, DishiBem's five dancers wore face paint – two of them sported the American flag and another bore a red cross – to perform Sinnerman's Rain Dance, to the music of Nina Simone. They describe their work as traditional/contemporary and in this dance, which included double-Dutch skipping, the stepping movements drew a line from traditional West African movement to contemporary hip hop. It was a dance of resistance and empowerment, conveyed in gestures that no one could mistake. Love Muwwakkil of Brooklyn's Urban Bush Women performed Give Your Hands to Struggle, a solo of forceful simplicity choreographed by the company's artistic director, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. Starting out amid a recitation of names of important figures in African American history, from Harriet Tubman to Martin Luther King Jr., Muwwakkil did a barefoot strut about the stage, swinging her arms and kicking out her straightened legs as if to punch out the space around her.  The IABD conference presents three more dance showcases, from tonight through Saturday, highlighting Canadian, international and young dancers.

Dancing With The Diva

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Andrew Ryan

(Jan. 19, 07) PASADENA, CALIF. -- Jenny has spent enough time on the block, now J. Lo is back. Everyone knew
Jennifer Lopez would return, eventually. How could the world be denied so much woman? The tiny Latino superstar and triple threat -- singer! actress! girlfriend! -- removed herself from the public eye a few years ago, but she's easing back into spotlight with Dancelife (today, MTV, 10:30 p.m.).  Does J. Lo still possess star status? All signs point to yes. Lopez's appearance to promote the new dance-reality series sparked madness among the paparazzi at the TV Critics Tour last week. Word of her arrival had gone out and the throng of motley photographers began bickering and elbowing each other upon her entrance. J. Lo looked radiant in her clingy yellow top and tan miniskirt, with matching golden heels, and positively beamed for the cameras. They shot thousands of pictures and the regular hotel guests who wandered into the maelstrom did likewise with their cellphones. The girl's still got it. And the diva treatment held to the subsequent presentation for Dancelife: The session began with an MTV rep making a request that the press not stray into areas unrelated to the series, which, loosely translated, meant no personal questions. A star has to maintain boundaries, you know.

Most reporters in attendance were bemused by the bluster. It's unlikely J. Lo will ever regain the star wattage of her salad days, when she was dating P. Diddy and then was engaged to Ben Affleck. These days, she's happily married to singer Marc Anthony, and the pair have spent the past two years in near-reclusion, splitting time between their posh digs in New York and Miami. But Lopez wants back in the game. Dancelife represents the first volley in a J. Lo rollout that includes two new albums and two new movies in the coming months. Lopez is the executive producer of the reality series set in the sweaty dance world. She also appears occasionally to counsel the six struggling dancers trying to make it in Los Angeles. There's at least some legitimacy to the set-up: Long before she became a movie star and media oddity, Lopez was one of the Fly Girl dancers on the first few seasons of the Fox sketch-comedy series In Living Color. She actually got a little misty talking about those lean days. "Dancing was my first love and I lived that life," she said. "I was in sweats all day, with a big bag on my shoulder, you know? I was going from class to class, from audition to audition. I did that for years. And I loved it, but I definitely loved evolving out of that as well. I had bigger dreams." Clearly intended to play off the heat of such current TV hits as Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, Dancelife is filmed in the now-standard MTV reality manner: There's supposedly no camera in sight as the young and hungry hopefuls search for gainful employment. It's not likely to inspire anyone toward a career in dancing.

Dance work in Hollywood hasn't been this sparse since Busby Berkeley died, apparently, and most of the screen time is devoted to following the dancers on their endless auditions -- for TV commercials for the Gap or dance parts in music videos for Nelly Furtado and Ashlee Simpson. All six dancers make the cut to appear in J. Lo's video, which seems a tad obvious. And in keeping with MTV format, à la The Real World, each reality subject falls into seemingly predesignated stereotypes: The young jazz dancer from New Jersey, named Jersey, is the wide-eyed neophyte of the group; the arrogant-cad role falls to a young hoofer named Blake, who hails from Toronto, unfortunately. Some of the scenarios appear slightly forced, but J. Lo insists it's the way of the dance world. "I didn't coach them in any way," she says. "It really was about following them around, getting that footage and the trials and tribulations of being a dancer and, you know, hoping for that dream. It's about dreams, really." Chasing the dream sustains eight episodes of Dancelife, which doesn't come with the promise of a happy ending for all its participants. Inevitably, some of the young dancers will never get that big break, but hope springs eternal, Lopez says. "If it doesn't progress into a singing or an acting career, there are places in dance they can go," she offered helpfully. "They can teach and there's all different kinds of things they can do in the dance world." As long as there are touring productions of Cats, the dance dream stays alive.

::OTHER NEWS::

Ontario Report Urges Help For Artists

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Val Ross


(Jan. 24, 07) The median income of arts workers in Ontario is $10,000 a year. So what? Artists volunteer for their edgy lives; no one forces them to paint or dance. Still, several other provinces spend more on protecting and encouraging artists than does the self-appointed centre of the Canadian cultural universe, Ontario. Quebec's arts workers, for example, are covered by a regime of mandatory collective bargaining. Can the new
Report on the Socio-Economic Status of the Artist in Ontario, written for the Ministry of Culture under the aegis of arts lawyer Aaron Milrad, change that? Two years in the making, the result of consultations with almost 1,900 artists and arts workers, the report recommends 27 radical reforms, from unemployment benefits to parental leave. It calls for tax exemptions for grant income; a dedicated 1 per cent of all public building projects to be spent on arts; artists' health centres; and incentives for landlords to rent space to artists. "I was pleasantly surprised," said Susan Wallace, executive director of Canadian Actors Equity.

Kristian Clarke, executive director of the Ontario branch of Canadian Artists Representation/le Front des artistes canadiens, hailed the report's "positive first steps." But some contributors did not realize the report was out until last week. Released quietly, posted on a website just before Christmas, two months after the document was originally filed to Culture Minister Caroline Di Cocco, and a week after several arts unions demonstrated on Dec. 14 at Queen's Park, the report's low profile has prompted some to fear that it may be shelved. Last week, Di Cocco said that negotiations with relevant provincial ministries to discuss the report are under way: "I'm speaking with Finance and Labour now. It's on the table." But she cautioned: "We have to be fiscally prudent." The report's most contentious recommendation deals with collective bargaining -- a recommendation that Ontario's ministries of Culture and Labour begin consultations on bringing in a mandatory collective bargaining regime for the province's arts workers. Some arts lobbyists say the report's failure to recommend immediate implementation is a copout. "That's the main mechanism to really change artists' economic situation," Clarke said. However, individual poets, dancers and visual artists told the report's drafting subcommittee that their lone-wolf lives lay outside the scope of collective agreements, and workers already unionized (classical musicians, stage hands, film technicians) warned that sweeping new legislation could disrupt functioning bargaining agreements.

Oprah Winfrey Tops Two More Lists

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 19, 2007) *Billionaire talk show host
Oprah Winfrey sits atop Harris Poll’s list of America’s favourite TV personalities for the fifth consecutive year, and ranks No. 1 on Forbes magazine’s inaugural list of "The 20 Richest Women in Entertainment." As reported yesterday, Denzel Washington was named America’s favourite movie star in the annual Harris Poll, which grilled 1,162 U.S. adults online between December 12 and 18, 2006. On the TV side, Oprah beats second place personality Jon Stewart, and Bill O’Reilly at No. 3.  Meanwhile, Oprah and her estimated $1.5 billion in amassed earnings throughout her career are perched atop Forbes’ “20 Richest Women in Entertainment" list ahead of second place “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling with $1 billion, and homemaking maven Martha Stewart at No. 3 with $638 million.  Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson placed 6th and 7th with $225 million and $150 million respectively, while Jennifer Lopez came in at No. 9 on earnings of $110 million.  To make the list, these working female megastars needed a minimum net worth of $45 million amassed over the course of their careers.  Forbes and E! Entertainment have teamed up for a one-hour TV special about the list, which premieres on Saturday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m. ET.        Here is the first-ever list of Forbes' 20 Richest Women in Entertainment:

Polish Writer Ryszard Kapuscinski Dies At 74

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(January 24, 2007) WARSAW, Poland – Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Polish writer and journalist who gained international acclaim for his books chronicling wars, coups and revolutions in Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world, died of a heart attack, his literary agent said. He was 74. Kapuscinski died Tuesday at Warsaw's Banacha hospital, Czeslaw Apiecionek, one of his literary agents, told The Associated Press. Poland's parliament honoured him with a moment of silence Wednesday morning, and Speaker Marek Jurek praised him as "a witness of human suffering and a witness of people's hopes.'' "There is no one among Poland's writers to fill in the space left by him," said Marek Zakowski, president of the Czytelnik publishing house, which published several of Kapuscinski's books and is editing a new one, "Lappidarium 6.'' He described Kapuscinski as "a rare kind of great personality. He was always curious to learn more about the world, he was curious to meet people.''  Kapuscinski launched a career in the late 1950s and early 1960s that would see him become a master of reportage. In those years, he served as the sole Africa correspondent for the Polish Press Agency, or PAP, reporting on the upheaval across the continent as African nations shook off colonial rule and declared independence.

He went on to publish books such as "The Emperor," probably his most popular book, a chronicle of the decline of Haile Selassie's regime in Ethiopia. But the book, published in 1978, was more a reflection on dictatorships in general, and widely interpreted by Polish readers as a criticism of Poland's communist regime. Kapuscinski once said the book was more about the "mechanism of dictatorial rule.'' Three years later, he published "Shah of Shahs," a book about the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled Iran's Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. "Besides reporting current events, I studied books about Islam," Kapuscinski said, according to his official Web site. "I wanted to describe the people, their mentality, their way of seeing the world. And experience taught me that from each spot in the world one sees the planet differently. A person who lives in Europe sees the world differently than a person who lives in Africa. Without trying to enter into these other ways of looking and perceiving and describing, we won't understand anything of this world.'' Several of Kapuscinski's books were translated into English. He also wrote "Another Day of Life," about the Angolan civil war, ``Imperium," about the waning days of the Soviet Union, "The Soccer War," and "The Shadow of the Sun.'' In past years, he was often mentioned as a likely contender for the Nobel Prize for literature by oddsmakers and followers of the prize – though the Swedish Academy itself is secretive about who it considers. Kapuscinski was born in March 4, 1932, in Pinsk, a city then in eastern Poland, and now located in Belarus. He is survived by his wife, Alicja, and a daughter who lives in Canada, Zakowski said. There was no immediate information about funeral arrangements.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Toronto FC Selection Living A Sweet Dream

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Morgan Campbell

(
Jan. 19, 2007) Richmond Baah was following Major League Soccer's draft on the Internet last Friday when he learned Toronto FC had selected his big brother,
Richard Asante.  Minutes later he called Asante not to congratulate him, but to make sure the good news was true. Same with their dad, Charles Ofosu, who saw the draft results on TV but didn't dare tell friends until Monday, when Toronto FC introduced its draft picks to the media. Even yesterday the disbelief ran deep. Asante, Baah and their parents, Charles and Mercy Ofosu, stood stone-faced and posed for photos in the living room of their townhouse.  When a photographer teased them they smiled – a little.  They had every reason to grin. The son of a refugee from Ghana, Asante had risen from one of Toronto's toughest neighbourhoods to earn a soccer scholarship to Syracuse University and now he's set to become the only Toronto native playing for the hometown MLS squad. But Asante and his family keep the celebrating in check because being drafted doesn't mean you've made it. It just means you've got an opportunity. "It's a good feeling," said Asante, 22. "It's an expansion team, so every position is up for grabs if you're willing to prove yourself."

These days the newest member of Toronto FC still lives with his parents and his siblings Richmond, 18, Michelle Ofosu, 10, and Jackson Ofosu, 9.  They live in a brick townhouse on Driftwood Ave., just off Jane St., half a kilometre north of Finch Ave., and they're aware of the area's violent reputation.  Still, Charles Ofosu refuses to say anything bad about the neighbourhood that has been his home for the last 12 years.  He talks about moving to a bigger house "when things get better" and Asante, too, says that after 12 years in the townhouse, it's time for a new home. But none of that will materialize simply because Asante has been drafted.  He hasn't signed a contract yet and when he does Toronto FC head coach Mo Johnston expects he'll earn about $31,000 (U.S.) a year. And that's only if he makes the team's 18-man roster. As a rookie, he still might end up on the team's developmental roster, or its reserve team, where the salaries drop to anywhere between $975 and $1,375 a month. Asante, who majored in Child and Family Studies at Syracuse, said he'd be teaching high school if he wasn't playing soccer.

But Johnston is optimistic and, with training camp set to open on Feb.1, he thinks Asante's game will continue to bloom. "In a day-to-day environment, where he's being a professional, you have high hopes," Johnston says, "because he's hungry enough." When Asante thinks about growing up on Driftwood, he doesn't think of crime. Instead, he remembers how living in an area with so many other Ghanaian families eased his transition to life in Canada. "It gives you a chance to sit down and talk about Ghana," he says. "Share jokes and whatnot." Besides, Ofosu says, life in Ghana was tougher than life in Canada has ever been. Ofosu grew up in Abesim, a town about five hours northeast of the nation's capital, Accra, and was a soccer phenom.

As a fifth-grader, he didn't just play on his school's eighth grade team, he captained it.  But Ofosu also had a mother and siblings to help support. He juggled school, soccer and work for as long as he could, but gave up school and sports after finishing Grade 10. "My father had seven, eight wives and too many kids," Ofosu says. "He didn't marry my mom and he didn't care about me." A couple of uncles served as surrogates, so Ofosu gave their surnames – Asante and Baah – to his two oldest sons.  Eventually, Ofosu's father left him some land in Abesim, but he says local government wanted the land, too, and soon sent armed henchmen to take it from him. "It was a fight and I ran away to Nigeria," he says. "It wasn't easy, brother." In 1988, after a few months in Nigeria, a sister in Canada sent for him.

He came to Montreal as a refugee, then moved on to Toronto. Meanwhile, Mercy spent seven hungry years in Ghana with Asante and Baah.  "It was tough," says Mercy. "I didn't have clothes for my kids." But all Asante remembers was soccer.  He might not have had many outfits, but he had a soccer ball and that made him a popular kid. "School wasn't important," he remembers. "I had a soccer ball and that was all that mattered. The one with the ball usually had the friends." That pattern continued in 1995, when Mercy, Asante and Baah joined Charles in Toronto. Here, other kids also had soccer balls, but none of them had skills like Asante's. He dabbles in basketball and friends at Westview Centennial Collegiate Institute pestered him to join the track team, but Asante only wanted to play soccer.  Asante doesn't overwhelm you with size. He's listed at 5-foot-5, with narrow shoulders and powerful legs. As a defensive midfielder Asante, isn't always the star, but he says everyone else shines brighter when he's on the field.

"I like to receive the ball and set plays up," said Asante, who scored five goals and had four assists in his four-year career at Syracuse.  "It's my job to make everyone else around me look good." But he's also comfortable when he has to grab the spotlight.  This past season, late in a goal-less tie against Binghamton, N.Y., Asante found himself facing a pair of defenders more than 40 yards from the goal. He split them, switched the ball from left to right and buried a shot in the top right corner from 35 yards out to give Syracuse a 1-0 win. Asante's play and personality have Johnston excited about his potential. "He's a little pit bull," Johnston says.  "He's in there to work. He wants to work. He's on that path. It's all about him taking it."

Let's Get It On, Skater Says

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Associated Press

(
Jan. 22, 2007)  HALIFAX–Young turk Bryce Davison reckons Canadians can't be Mr. and Ms. Nice Skater any more on the world scene. Davison, with partner Jessica Dube, won the pairs title in an upset at the national championships on the weekend. He wants to see the Canadian team take on a meaner, hungrier look as it heads toward the world championships in Tokyo in March and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. "We need to keep going with a competitive nature for figure skating in Canada, not sitting back like we tend to," the 20-year-old from Cambridge, Ont., said. "Just attack all the time.  "Wherever we go, Canadians, we're the nice country and things. People may not like countries like the United States and places like that, but they attack and they don't ever let up and that's why they're a little bit ahead in certain sports." Davison sees it as being a mindset that can be developed, as opposed to something innate. "It's a little bit natural, too," he said. "Some people have it better than others, they have that cutthroat attitude. You want to be a good sportsman, but at the same time we have to keep that aggressive attitude." It was a mostly upbeat national championship. Canada is seeing more depth than ever in the ranks, particularly in the men's and ice dance events.

As far as the world championships, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon are the only medal favourites heading in, based on their silver-medal finishes at last year's worlds and at the Grand Prix Final this season, although Dubreuil is nursing a leg injury. Jeffrey Buttle can contend in the men's event, but needs to keep rebuilding his fitness after missing three months with a stress fracture of his spine. He also must try to solve the riddle of the quad jump.  Skate Canada CEO William Thompson isn't making any overall medal projections, but he believes that Joannie Rochette also has a shot at the podium despite her recent struggles. She didn't land the triple-triple she needs in her program here and had a big meltdown at the Grand Prix in Paris, which cost her a spot in the Grand Prix Final. "I was at the Final," Thompson said. "(Rochette) could have easily medalled at the Final." Thomson also thinks Dube and Davison, although it was only their first event this season due to injury and they will only be competing in their second worlds, could pull off a big surprise in the pairs event. "Everyone says the Chinese are unbeatable, but they're not," said Thompson, a former pairs skater and Olympic pairs judge. "They've got a little bit of a step-up, but actually it's really a few elements that are better.”We have a lot of stuff that's better. I think (Dube and Davison) need a little more gelling time, but I think they could easily be top five if they put everything together."

There is definitely a good vibe among the younger generation of skaters.  Dube and Davison and ice dance world junior champions Tessa Virtue, 17, and Scott Moir, 19, carry themselves as impressively off the ice as they do on it, as does 16-year-old Patrick Chan of Toronto, who finished fifth in the men's event to make the national team and will compete at the world juniors next month in Oberstdorf, Germany.  They have all won medals at major junior competitions and have their sights trained on being the best in the world, not the best in Canada. That fits in perfectly with the vision Thompson and Skate Canada president Benoit Lavoie share. "We really want Canada to be the premier skating nation in the world, period," Thompson said. "We've got a long way to go until we get there, but I really think we can do it. We've got the talent, we've got the coaches, we just have to put it all together." There are definitely some good things happening under Thompson's watch. The coaches and skaters, for starters, are feeling much better supported, which is bound to improve performance. The major goal, of course, is the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. While there's no denying the talent in the ranks, it remains to be seen if they can be ready for prime time. "Would I rather be six years from the Olympics? Of course," Thompson said. "But I think we're farther than we hoped at this stage. There's still three years."

Parcells Ends Coaching Career

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Associated Press

(
Jan. 22, 2007)  IRVING, Texas — Bill Parcells retired from coaching Monday, leaving the Dallas Cowboys after four seasons and ending a stellar career that featured three Super Bowl appearances and two championships. The announcement came 15 days after the Cowboys’ season ended with a heartbreaking playoff loss in Seattle. He’d been at his office nearly every day since, and there were other indications that the 65-year-old coach was returning for a fifth year in Dallas and 20th as an NFL head coach. “I am retiring from coaching football,” Parcells said in a statement. “I want to thank Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones for their tremendous support over the last four years. Also, the players, my coaching staff and others in the support group who have done so much to help. Dallas is a great city and the Cowboys are an integral part of it. I am hopeful that they are able to go forward from here.” The announcement came in a morning e-mail. There was no immediate statement from Jones, the team owner, although one was planned for later in the day. There were no immediate plans for a news conference. “I am in good health and feel lucky to have been able to coach in the NFL for an extended period of time,” Parcells said. “I leave the game and the NFL with nothing but good feelings and gratitude to all the players, coaches and other people that have assisted me in that regard. “

Parcells won two Super Bowls with the Giants. He came to Dallas four seasons ago energized by the challenge of restoring glory to "America’s Team.” He went 34-32 and definitely left the Cowboys better than he found them, but his tenure ultimately may be remembered for the lack of a playoff victory. His teams went 0-2 in the post-season. Dallas appeared headed to a breakthrough win this month in Seattle, but Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo botched the hold on a short field goal with a little more than a minute left and the Cowboys lost 21-20. They lost four of their last five games, including the final three, after holding a two-game division lead in December. Dallas hasn’t won a playoff game since 1996, easily the longest skid in the history of the franchise that’s been to a record eight Super Bowls. Parcells’ legacy with the Cowboys can be framed this way: Instead of joining Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer as coaches who led them to championships, he leaves lumped with Chan Gailey and Dave Campo.

SPORTS TIDBITS

Billy Crystal Sings Happy Birthday To Muhammad Ali

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Terry Tang, Associated Press

(Jan. 18, 2007) TEMPE, ARIZ. —
Muhammad Ali celebrated his 65th birthday Wednesday night watching his old friend Billy Crystal perform at Arizona State University. The former heavyweight champion joined the comedian on stage, receiving a minute-long standing ovation from the crowd and a cake from Crystal's wife. “He's been a truly great friend to me and a great friend to the world,” Crystal said. “Please join me in singing happy birthday to the greatest senior citizen of all time.” The nearly 2,000 people who came to see Crystal's one-man show, 700 Sundays, chanted “Ali! Ali! Ali!” Crystal and Ali held up fists in a mock stare-down as Crystal's wife, Janice, came out with a cake with one candle lit. Ali dipped his finger in the cake and, arm in arm, the boxer and the comedian blew out the candle and walked off stage. “I'm really happy we had tickets tonight,” said Cheryl Tamasauckas of Scottsdale. “Even though I'm not a boxing fan, everybody knows him.”

Two Black Men Make NFL History To Coach In Super Bowl

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 22, 2007) *History was made Sunday afternoon when the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts won their respective NFC and AFC championship games.  The Colts beat the New England Patriots 38-34 after being down 21-3 in the 1st quarter. Earlier, the Bears crushed the New Orleans Saints 39-14. By winning, the Colts and Bears, whose head coaches are black, will play each other for the NFL championship in the upcoming Super Bowl. Wait a minute, did we say both team's coaches are black?! Yes, we sure did. It'll be the first time in history that not only will an African American head coach participate in the Super Bowl, but we'll get to see 2 black coaches go head to head in sport's biggest spectacle. That means no matter what who comes out on top, a black man will coach the winning team.  "It means a lot," Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy said. "I'm very proud to represent African-American coaches, but more than that, it's about the Indianapolis Colts." "Being the first black coach to lead this team , of course our players knew about it and they wanted to help us make history," Lovie Smith, the Chicago Bears' head coach said. "So I feel blessed to be in that position. Huge congrats from EUR to coach Dungy and coach Smith. One of them is going to be victorious on Sunday, February 4 in Miami.

 

::FITNESS::

Get A Better Butt Without Leaving Home

By Raphael Calzadilla B.A., ACE, RTS1, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

Own your habits.
-- Vince Lombardi

The following is an e-mail I received:

 

"Raphael, you are an inspiration! I loved your glutes articles but I have a special request. I don't have gym equipment and really enjoy exercising in my home. I'm an overweight female and realize, thanks to you, how important nutrition is to achieve the butt and body I desire. However, is it possible to write a special glutes article that I can perform with no equipment, or very little equipment?"

How can I refuse this request? This article is dedicated to all those who work out in their homes with little or no equipment. For my "hardcore" readers who want a workout in the gym that promotes a near crippling effect, don’t worry. I’ll be dedicating articles to you in the near future.  I may sound like a broken record, but I always like to hammer home one fact. You cannot get a good-looking butt if you have excessive body fat. I’m not suggesting you can’t be 10 to 15 pounds overweight and have a good-looking butt. After all, we need to respect different shapes, forms and genetic structures. However, don’t expect to have great glutes with excessive body fat. Nutrition, weight training and cardio must be a priority and approached with consistency.  The three most common questions I receive from people are:

  How do I get a flat stomach?
·
  How do
· I lose these hips?
  How do I tighten my butt?
·

Every female client I have ever trained has asked me, "What do I have to do to get a great-looking butt?"  The gluteus is one of the most beautiful sets of muscles in the body, yet people always seem to buy clothes with the goal of covering it. Let’s face it -- we know that people look at our butts. So whether you have a big butt, soft butt or no butt, I have a routine that will produce results.  One of the things I’ve always told my clients is that after working with me, they’ll be able to lie on the floor face down and have somebody bounce a dime off their rear ends. Yes, I have that much confidence that I can help anyone get a better looking backside. However, like all good things it does take work.  Let’s get a better understanding of the eye-catching gluteus muscles. The glutes are comprised of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medias and gluteus minimus. The gluteus maximus is a major stabilizer of the pelvis and runs from the iliac crest to the femur and iliotibial band.

The gluteus medias and minimus lie directly beneath the maximus. The primary function of the gluteus maximus is to extend the thigh at the hip and also to rotate the thigh away from the midline of the body. The gluteus medias and minimus serve to move the thigh away from the body and toward the midline of the body. There’s more to this muscle group, but this should be a good introduction for you. Plus, I know you’re eager for the workout. I always like to provide a brief overview of a muscle group, because it’s important to know how your body functions.  Let’s get to it. Perform each exercise for two sets of 20 slow and intense repetitions. Make sure to contract the glutes tight and really squeeze in the contracted position. Don’t let yourself off the hook and perform them haphazard or like you’re going for a walk in the park. Don’t consider these exercises leg movements, they are butt movements so work it hard! It’s show time!

1. ANKLE WEIGHT BUTT BLASTER -- Place an ankle weight on your left ankle. Get on the floor on your hands and knees. Relax your shoulders and maintain a neutral spine with your head at a natural extension of your neck. Extend the left leg up with a 90-degree angle at the knee. Your foot should be parallel with the ceiling. Contracting the gluteal muscles, push your foot up toward the ceiling. Stop when your leg is at a full extension from the hip, maintaining the 90-degree angle at the knee.  Slowly return to the starting position. After completing the set on the left side, repeat on the right side. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale while returning to the starting position.

2. LYING GLUTEUS LIFT -- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Place your arms at your sides for support. Contracting the glutes, project your hips up toward the ceiling as you lift your glutes off the floor. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your glutes touching the floor. Exhale while lifting your butt and inhale while returning to the starting position.

3. STATIONARY LUNGES -- Stand straight with your feet together. Hold your hands on your hips. Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor. Bring the left leg back in line with the right leg and repeat the process with the same leg for 20 reps. The step should be long enough so that your left leg is nearly straight. Then perform the same movement with the opposite leg. Do not let your knee touch the floor. Make sure your head is up and your back is straight. Your chest should be lifted and your front leg should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement. Also, your knee should not pass your foot. Remember, slow and tight!

4. STRAIGHT LEG REVERSE LIFTS -- Begin this exercise on your hands and knees. Straighten your left leg as if you were going to do a push-up. Keep the right leg bent, supporting your weight along with your arms. Contracting your soon-to-be gladiator glutes, lift your left leg up toward the ceiling, stopping when you feel a full contraction of the butt. Slowly return to the starting position. After completing the set on the left side, repeat on the right side. Exhale while lifting the leg. Inhale while returning to the starting position. Do not let the back arch. If you are an intermediate or advanced exerciser, you can add an ankle weight to the working leg to make it more challenging.

Perform the above routine two to three times per week for four weeks on alternate days. Don't forget to make sure you keep your weight training, cardio and nutrition on target. If you don't feel your glutes the next day after performing this routine, then something is seriously wrong. Also, if you're a beginner or novice then reduce the sets to just one and focus on form. You'll need to build to the volume and intensity safely, but once you do, you'll love the results.

A drug-free competitive bodybuilder and 2005 winner of the prestigious WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding Federation) Pro Card, Raphael Calzadilla is a veteran of the health-and-fitness industry. He specializes in a holistic approach to body transformation, nutrition programs and personal training. He earned his B.A. in communications from Southern Connecticut State University and is certified as a personal trainer with ACE and APEX. In addition, he successfully completed the RTS1 program based on biomechanics.

 

:MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note - A Brand New Way to Look at Your Goals and Dreams

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - by Jason M. Gracia, www.motivation123.com 

Your Personal Exercise: I want you to take one of your most important goals and pull from it three simple steps you can carry out today. For instance, let's say that your goal is to get in shape. While some people would approach this hoping to change everything at once, you would think about what you could do right now to make progress. Eat a healthy meal. Walk downstairs to your home gym. Search the Internet for an exercise book. These are simple things that you can do right now. Small steps that will make a difference. So, think about three things you can do right now that will bring you one step closer to your goal. The smaller, the better. After you have your ideas in mind write them down on paper. The last step is easy. Do them! And when you do something exciting will happen that you won't want to miss. Why Does it Work? If there is one thing that the people I speak with underestimate it is the act of taking a single, small step toward their goal. We have been brainwashed to think that success requires superhuman strength and the mind of a genius. Not true. Great things can be accomplished by anyone who knows what they want and is driven to do all the small things each and every day. And it takes only one step to begin. After getting a small taste of success you'll want it again. You'll feel confident and motivated to keep going day after day. Just one step. That's all it takes to build momentum. Can you take one step toward your goal? A phone call, an e- mail, a new book? I think you can. We both know that getting and staying motivated to achieve your goals is vital. We also know that getting motivated to take that first, second, or third step isn't always easy. Even when the steps are small we can still hesitate for an eternity. What if there was a way you could guarantee that you feel driven and motivated to get what you want every single day for the rest of your life? Would you be interested in gaining that skill? If so, you are the type of person that would find great value in the address below. You will learn everything you need to know to start working toward all of your goals and stick with them until you succeed.