Updated: January 4, 2007
Year!! I hope that 2006 brought you
a new understanding of life. And I hope that 2007 brings you joy,
prosperity and fulfillment.
Interview with Kenny Leon
Kenny Leon is a highly acclaimed director, producer and actor whose experience covers the spectrum of television, stage and film. Prior to founding True Colors Theatre Company, Kenny served as artistic director of the Atlanta-based Alliance Theatre Company for over a decade and has directed nationally at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, NYSF/Public Theatre, Hartford Stage Company and the Huntington Theater Company among others. His mission is to produce a diverse group of plays from various times, cultures, and perspectives, while preserving the African American classics. (Excerpted from True Colors Theatre Company).
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview this veteran of stage and film, especially because he has an incredibly humble and spiritual quality. He even invited me on set where Kenny and cast have been (in Toronto) and recently completed production of Raisin in the Sun starring Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad and Sanaa Lathan, to name a few, for the special television movie adaptation, currently scheduled to be shown on the ABC Television Network in May 2007.
Raisin in the Sun, for those that don’t know, is about an African-American family’s struggles with poverty, racism, and inner conflict as they strive for a better way of life and is based on the play by Lorraine Hansberry.
How did the casting process differ for the film than for the theatre?
I guess the only difference is that you can probably spread the net a little wider in film. You can take longer to find the exact person. The other ingredient, you’re trying to see what’s going to give the film the most exposure and what’s going to allow you to do the job. Sometimes for a Broadway play in New York, I might only need one star or two stars but in film, you’re trying to get the most you can.
Theatre costs less money. Studios have to make money and they’re going to spend more money. If you do a Broadway play, it might be a $2 million project or a musical, that’s $10 million. Sometimes in film, you might have an ideal person but then you may want to find the ideal person that more people know.
I would say ultimately that the casting process is really similar. I think that actors cast themselves. You have a little more involvement from the producers in film. In this case, Neil and Craig – they’ve made so many films and they’ve done so much. [Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, Executive Producers of the Oscar-Winning Best Picture Chicago, and Executive-Producers of Raisin.]
How do you direct a relatively new actor like Sean Combs, in one of the most recognizable roles ever? I understand also that you played that role opposite Esther Rolle.
Yes, I played that role once and directed Esther Rolle as well. I had the opportunity of working with Sean on Broadway. I think he’s the best actor in the world to play the part. I put a lot on me as a director in terms of giving the actor everything he needs to succeed but I also give a lot of props and credit to him for being one of the most committed people that I’ve ever met. He is willing to go the extra mile and is ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done. He’s a perfectionist and that goes with my personality because I’m a perfectionist. He likes the truth and I always give him the truth and he gives me the truth. We’re working towards the same thing. He likes being a part of history which is continuing the legacy of Lorraine Hansberry – it’s a great thing.
How do you make this piece accessible to today's movie-going audience?
That’s easy. The casting of this project, just like on Broadway, reaches everybody. We’ve got Sean who has a musical following, he also designs clothes, and he has perfumes. He’s one of the most recognizable people on the planet. He brings in that crowd.
And then you have Phylicia Rashad who was Clair Huxtable on the Cosby Show. And you have Sanaa Lathan who just finished a couple of features. You have Audra McDonald, the international music star, you have Bill Nunn whose done all of Spike Lee’s movies. We’ve added Sean Patrick Thomas who did Save the Last Dance and David Oyelowo who just did Last King of Scotland. And then John Stamos who’s playing Lindner.
I think that we have a really good cast that is delivering. I really respect Sidney Poitier. I know Ruby Dee well and I knew Lloyd Richards before he passed. All the folks associated with the original – they did what they did. But this particular screenplay is very different than the original film, it’s very different than the original Broadway play, it’s very different than the Broadway play that we did a couple of years ago. It’s its own thing. It’s more cinematic, it’s beautiful, it moves well. So, when you look at it, it doesn’t feel like anything you know. I don’t even think that people are going to try to compare it. I think there will be young folk and old folks watching this. I think it’s a very universal story and I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished in producing the film.
What are the challenges dealing with the transition from stage to the big screen?
I’m a storyteller. I did Toni Morrison’s opera, I’ve done musicals, I’ve done dramas. You just have to learn the tools; you have to learn a little more about the technical aspect of telling the story because you’re working with the equipment in film. But we have a wonderful camera operator, a great script supervisor, a good DP, a good crew. A lot of folks from Canada on the crew. What I’m learning is that, just as theatre is collaborative, making a film is just as collaborative. Probably even more so because you have more people involved. There’s so many people doing every little thing.
I’m really fortunate to have a blessed team so when I do my next film, it will be my main focus. To make sure that I have a team of people that you’re going to love to be around. That’s the first thing. Hiring becomes much more important. You want to be careful about who’s on the team and make sure that they have your back and they are interested in making the same film you’re interested in making.
What first made you fall in love with theatre?
I don’t know the first thing. I know the part that excites me is the fact that you can tell people’s stories on a stage. It’s a chance for all human beings to sit next to each other, look at a story and find themselves in it. The power of finding yourself in a story creates better human beings, a better way of being with each other and living with each other. It’s almost therapeutic.
And in theatre, it changes every night. Depending on who went to the theatre that night and what the makeup of those people were – who had to get a babysitter, who’s on a date, who’s bringing a granddaughter. All those people being in that one space at that one time – it’s spontaneous every night so once that experience is over, you never get it back.
On the other hand, making a film is beautiful too because it’s forever. On the stage side, it’s beautiful in another way because it’s never going to happen like that again. It’s immediate and it’s three-dimensional.
You have won too many awards to mention here but was there one that stood out to you for which you are most proud of?
I guess the one that comes to mind is I received an award called the Living Legacy Award and it was given to me by a group of senior citizens. I loved that and they were calling me a living legend. It meant a lot because these are people who have lived life and your contribution to life meant something to them. I have a lot of respect for elders.
If Lorraine Hansberry saw your production, what do you hope she would say?
I hope she’s smiling down here now and says, “You got it right.” She was ahead of her time, an intellect, very political, she was trying to bring people together, provide understanding. I hope she would say that “If I was there today, all the things that you have done with the story – that’s what I would have approved of”.
What connection do you feel with August Wilson plays as you’ve worked on so many?
August just died last year so not a day goes by that I don’t’ think about him and then we have his Broadway show opening in May in New York, and that’s the last play that he wrote. I feel a lot of responsibility to deliver that play in New York the way he would have it. I’m a spiritual person so I’m always thinking that he’s looking down saying “OK man, don’t f**k up the play!”
I put August Wilson and Lorraine Hansberry in the same category of being fierce soldiers, incredible artists committed to making a difference in the world. People like August Wilson, he could have made millions and millions of dollars. He could have said, “I don’t want to write plays, I’m just going to do film” but he didn’t. He was committed to writing those ten plays and he’s had a huge impact on American life and American theatre.
He has a universal following. I mean I saw Ma Rainey's Black Bottom in South Africa. I look at him as a teacher by example.
How important do you see theatre in relation to the world of entertainment?
I think it could be important to some people but I think it could have a broader reach. I think it would be great if some producers would do more important work and less fluff. I’m always hoping for theatre that gives us sustenance to sustain us, fuel us as humans. I don’t think there’s enough of that. I think it’s more about escaping and I think that theatre is more than that. It’s a gathering place for us to grow and to bond and to be better humans.
If you could work with any artist, living or past, who would they be?
Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka … because they were committed artists who found a way to make their artistry and their personal life one. Just like Ozzie Davis and Ruby Dee – they were very careful about the projects they chose. They didn’t do any projects just because they needed a project. They were living their lives that their art was talking about.
How would you like to be remembered?
That he was who he said he was.
Right then, the phone rang and Kenny was called back to set but I want to thank him for this opportunity in a very busy filming schedule to fit in the time with me to facilitate this interview. I also want to thank Samuel L. Jackson for introducing us and to Elaine Quan of eQuan Entertainment for introducing me to Mr. Jackson.
Oprah Opens $40M South African School
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
(Jan. 2, 2007) JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Oprah Winfrey opened a school Tuesday for disadvantaged girls, fulfilling a promise she made to former President Nelson Mandela six years ago and giving more than 150 students a chance for a better future. "I wanted to give this opportunity to girls who had a light so bright that not even poverty could dim that light," Winfrey said at a news conference. Mandela was among the guests at the opening of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in the small town of Henley-on-Klip, south of Johannesburg. "This is a lady that has, despite her own disadvantaged background, become one of the benefactors of the disadvantaged throughout the world," Mandela said in a statement. Singers Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey, actors Sidney Poitier and Chris Tucker and director Spike Lee also were in attendance. Each guest was asked to bring a personally inscribed book for the library. Winfrey has said that she decided to build her own school because she wanted to feel closer to the people she was trying to help. The $40 million academy aims to give 152 girls from deprived backgrounds a quality education in a country where schools are struggling to overcome the legacy of apartheid. By educating girls, Winfrey said she hoped she could help ``change the face of a nation.''
"Girls who are educated are less likely to get HIV/AIDS, and in this country which has such a pandemic, we have to begin to change the pandemic," she said. Many of the girls come from families affected by the disease, which has infected 5.4 million of the 48 million population and hit women disproportionately hard. Winfrey referred repeatedly to her own impoverished childhood and said she was grateful that she at least had a good education, declaring this to be "the most vital aspect of my life.'' "I was a poor girl who grew up with my grandmother, like so many of these girls, with no water and electricity," said the talk show host, dressed in a pink ball gown and jacket. She vowed to make the academy the "best school in the world'' and promised that she would continue to support the girls so they could attend any university in the world. The idea for the school was born in 2000 at a meeting between Winfrey and Mandela. She said she decided to build the academy in South Africa rather than the United States out of love and respect for Mandela and because of her own African roots. She said she planned a second school for boys and girls in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal. Many state-funded schools, especially in the sprawling townships that sprang up under white racist rule, are hopelessly overcrowded and lack even basic necessities such as books. They also are plagued by gang violence, drugs and a high rate of pregnancy among school girls. Top-class study and sporting facilities are available, but are largely confined to private schools that are still dominated by the white minority as they are too expensive for many black and mixed race South Africans.
Winfrey's academy received 3,500 applications from across the country. A total of 152 girls ages 11 and 12 were accepted. To qualify, they had to show both academic and leadership potential and have a household income of no more than $787 a month. Eventually the academy will accommodate 450 girls. The 28-building campus boasts computer and science laboratories, a library and theatre along with a wellness center. Winfrey rejected suggestions that her school was elitist and unnecessarily luxurious. "If you are surrounded by beautiful things and wonderful teachers who inspire you, that beauty brings out the beauty in you," she said. Lesego Tlhabanyane, 13, proudly wore her new green and white uniform at the ceremony to raise the South African flag. "I would have had a completely different life is this hadn't happened to me. Now I get a life where I get to be treated like a movie star," she said. Winfrey, who does not have children, said she was building a home for herself on the campus to spend time with the girls and be involved in their education. "I love these girls with every part of my being. I didn't know you could feel this way about other people's children," she said.
Thousands Fill Hometown Arena For Brown Tribute
Excerpt from www.billboard.com
(January 01, 2007) At a gathering marked by joy more than sorrow, thousands of James Brown's fans and friends filled an Augusta, Ga., arena bearing his name Saturday for their final tribute to the homegrown singer known as the godfather of soul. The farewell tour for Brown -- loved in Augusta as much for his generosity and influence as for his music -- wound down with an afternoon funeral, two days after a boisterous viewing in the famed Apollo Theater in New York. More than 8,500 fans packed James Brown Arena, where Brown lay in front of the bandstand in his third outfit in three days -- a black jacket and gloves, red shirt and sequined shoes. As the service began shortly after 1 p.m., dozens of friends and relatives filed slowly past the casket. The procession was followed by a video of Brown's last performance in Augusta and his final concert in London -- where he performed a slow, soulful version of Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind." The Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and a tearful Michael Jackson were among those who took turns at the podium overlooking the casket. "We come to thank God for James Brown, because only God could have made a James Brown possible," said Sharpton, a longtime Brown confidant who also spoke at a boisterous ceremony Thursday at the Apollo Theater and a private service Friday. Michael Jackson, whose arrival sparked a roar from the crowd, bowed before the casket and shared a hug with Sharpton just as Brown's latest backup band, the Soul Generals, started to play. "James Brown is my greatest inspiration," the pop star told mourners, adding that when he was a child, his mother would wake him, regardless of the hour, whenever Brown was on TV. "When I saw him move, I was mesmerized," Jackson said. "I knew that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life because of James Brown."
Dirge For A Jazz Club
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
The jazz world lost several players this year, including singer Anita O'Day, saxist Jackie McLean, pianist Jay McShann and trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. But for many, the biggest blow was the demise of the Montreal Bistro & Jazz Club, the city's oldest existing jazz venue. The 120-seat club at Sherbourne and Adelaide Sts. had offered strictly jazz since 1991. Often compared to New York's venerable Village Vanguard club, it showcased greats such as Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones and hosted more than 100 live recordings. "It was really a shock," said Toronto vocalist Heather Bambrick, whose three-night midsummer gig was abruptly cancelled when the email went out advising of the club's July 5 closing. The singer recalled angling for a Monday slot when she was starting out; that was the night the Bistro owners, German native Lothar Lang and his Swiss wife Brigitte Lang, gave over to new talent. "That was your opportunity to prove that you could get people into the club and put on a good show," said Bambrick.
Songstress Emilie-Claire Barlow remembered her own Monday debut "packed with family and friends" and her gradual promotion to doing weekend shows. The Langs "were very supportive of young musicians and it was an honour to sing on that stage," she said. Add Diana Krall, saxist Joshua Redman and bassist Christian McBride to the list of careers nurtured at the Bistro. Its death was among "the worst things to happen to Canadian jazz in a decade," said Scott Morin, director of jazz at Universal Music Canada. "Of course it's a big disappointment for the fans who relish the excitement of hearing the international acts live. But it's also a huge loss for the record companies that need that structure to find new jazz artists," he said. Lothar Lang said singer-pianist Krall's ascent to global stardom was one of the "biggest surprises" of his tenure, but he's just as proud of a couple of lesser-known tunesmiths who played the Bistro in their nascence. "He may not be well known outside jazz circles, but Geoffrey Keezer is one of the best piano players today. And Laila Biali is going to be a big star, maybe not commercially, but definitely on a musical level. The few times she performed for us, I got the same feeling I got with Keezer."
Musicians, in turn, are unequivocal about the Langs. "They were always warm and welcoming, they had a regularly tuned piano and they made sure the customers observed the `quiet' policy," said Bambrick. When the couple were honoured for lifetime achievement at the National Jazz Awards last April, they had no idea the coming summer would be the Bistro's last. Though they cited a diminishing audience as a factor, they still hope to get back into the business of jazz. "We've been looking for new premises, but haven't come across anything suitable yet," said Lothar. Over at their old corner, the Bistro's logo is still on the awning and the place sits vacant, almost six months after the club's demise. At home, the Langs have dozens of boxes filled with the signed posters and photographs that once graced the Bistro's walls. And the piano? It's with the technician who had been tuning it since the early '90s, with an option to buy. Lothar has fleeting recollection of the club's final two weeks, when they hosted Toronto Jazz Festival dates by flautist Lew Tabackin and saxman George Coleman. "I was so busy those last few days, it wasn't till the final note came from (the landlord) that I realized it was over. I still thought in a few days he'd call and say `Let's make a deal.'" The Bistro's last concerts, including an appearance by pianist Cedar Walton, were recorded and will be aired on JAZZ91 in March.
Broncos’ Darrent Williams Shot Dead
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(January 2, 2007) *A limousine carrying Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was sprayed with bullets in downtown Denver early Monday, killing the NFL player and wounding two others in the vehicle, reports AP. Team spokesman Jim Saccomano said police called him about 3 a.m. from the scene and told him three people had been shot, and the 24-year-old Williams had been killed. The incident took place shortly after 2 a.m., when a vehicle pulled up alongside a white Hummer limousine carrying Williams, another unidentified man and woman, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. There were at least eight bullet holes discovered in the limo. Jackson said police were searching for suspects and interviewing witnesses.
"We have no motive yet," Jackson said. "We're hoping to talk with witnesses to find out where they were coming from, and that might give us some clues." Williams’ teammate Champ Bailey was among the players and team staff members who gathered at Denver Health Medical Center, where Williams' body was taken. Williams teamed with Bailey to give Denver one of the top cornerback tandems in the NFL. Hours earlier, the Broncos lost to San Francisco 26-23 in overtime. Williams finished the season with 88 tackles, 78 of them solo, and four interceptions.
Crooning To The Top
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Matthew Hays
(Jan. 1, 07) MONTREAL -- Gregory Charles ponders an old Buddhist saying as he sits down to discuss his best-selling album, I Think of You: Within every problem there is a gift. It may seem odd for Charles to be talking about problems, given that his album -- the first made up entirely of his own compositions -- made its debut on the Canadian charts at No. 1 in late October, selling more than 109,000 copies in its first week. That, as eager publicists were quick to point out, meant the album surpassed first-week sales of new titles by heavyweights like U2, Coldplay, Eminem and Madonna. Altogether, the album has sold over 216,000 copies. Charles, who at 39, has the gee-whiz spunk of a teenager, says the inspiration for this album came from a very dark place. More than a year ago, Charles fell off the stage and broke his elbow during a performance of his hugely popular concert show, Black and White, at Montreal's Bell Centre. "I thought my career was over," he says now. "I play the piano, the violin, the guitar -- it's kind of important for me to have a functioning elbow. When we got to the hospital, someone said, 'I hope you don't play the piano.' It was meant as a joke, but it was hard to find it very funny." The accident meant things had to change for Charles, a workaholic who concedes he had not stopped moving in years. His Black and White show had been touring for four years, with critically acclaimed stops in Toronto and New York. He had hosted radio and TV shows (including Culture Shock, which aired in both French and English on CBC), had done backup vocals and musical accompaniment for Celine Dion's 1998-99 tour, and had acted in the play 2 Pianos 4 Hands, among numerous other gigs.
Suddenly, Charles was faced with the prospect of not playing for quite some time, if ever again. "We had planned to take Black and White on tour in Europe in the spring. I thought it was a sign from heaven -- or hell. I didn't want to believe that I couldn't play any more. I don't necessarily need to play, but it's been a major part of my life." Charles decided to sit down and compose some songs. "Beethoven was deaf, Ray Charles was blind. I had written choral music and theme songs. I figured if I'm not going to play any more, I should do some writing." The result is I Think of You, an album of easy listening that Charles calls his meditation on relationships. The themes are basic: loves lost, loves gained, learning to move on after heartbreak. It may seem to border on the melodramatic, but that's not surprising given the composer's pop-culture diet at the time. "I had a lot of time on my hands, so I watched a lot of soap operas in the afternoon. The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, these were shows my mom used to watch, so I knew the characters. These people all carry secrets. And I thought about all the things I've never talked about. So I started writing songs. And they just came and came." Charles says writing the album also offered some welcome therapy. "I've had a very lucky life, but I have lost a few friends over the years. And when something like that would happen, the death of a friend, I'd do what many people do -- bury myself in work. That meant there were things I'd never really faced emotionally. I did so through this album." Like Dion and Barbra Streisand, Charles sings of his own feelings with bravado. Was he concerned people would dismiss the album as being mired in the maudlin, or as mere schmaltz? "Very worried. I've been in showbiz here in Quebec for 20 years. I've been very out there professionally, but I've been very private about the personal stuff. People seem to live with their heart or with their head but not both at once."
The lone child born to a white francophone mother and a black anglophone father, Charles says he identifies primarily as a francophone (though his English is perfect). So why is the album entirely in English? "Some thoughts I think only in English. My dad would speak French to me as a kid because he was learning it when he got here. But if I did something really, really bad, he spoke to me in English. So I guess there's something serious about the English language to me. "There's something very romantic about English. I know that people say that about the French language, but for someone who's never written a poem or song in French, it's actually very hard. It's very difficult to rhyme in French." He says, however, he has been composing "a twin to this album, in French." Besides, singing in English doesn't seem to be hurting: "The Québécois are very open to hearing music in English, it doesn't bother them." Charles credits Dion as a major inspiration. It was during her 1998-99 tour that Charles realized he had the desire to perform before the crowds. "We did Japan, Europe, we did Madison Square Garden with that tour. And every night she'd introduce the band, naming me last. Then I'd start playing and singing and she'd head off for a costume change. For 15 minutes I had the crowd -- that was amazing. The incredible feeling of having thousands of people who have taken time out of their busy lives to hear you perform, that is incredible."
But given his history -- Charles began performing piano concerts as a child -- and his have-I-got-a-song-for-you, crooner-esque aura, he seems like the country's next Paul Anka. Charles has trouble pinning down his style: "I'm influenced by so many different kinds of music and musicians. I draw on incredibly different styles and types when I compose and play." And despite the lost friends he mourns on the album, he reports that life on top of the charts feels pretty good. (Though he's never been married, he says he's now happily ensconced in a relationship with "a lovely woman.") On Valentine's Day, he'll kick off a two-month tour of Quebec, performing the songs from I Think of You. In the meantime, he intends to continue celebrating his newfound addiction: "I'm writing songs every day. I love music--it's one of the most important things to me."
Jill Scott Duets Fill New Album
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(December 28, 2006) *Hidden Beach Recordings has gathered 14 duets featuring its artist Jill Scott and various guests for the new album, “Collaborations.” Due Jan. 30, the set includes tracks with Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Will Smith, Al Jarreau, George Benson and the Isley Brothers, among others. According to Billboard.com, the disc is meant to keep fans occupied until the release of her next studio album in summer 2007. A track from that project, "The Real Thing (In Stereo)," is featured on a CD sampler that will be bundled with "Collaborations." In the meantime, Scott is scheduled to perform Feb. 10 in Universal City, Calif. as part of the Roots' annual pre-Grammy bash. Here is the track list for "Collaborations":
"Love Rain" (Head Nod remix) featuring Mos Def
"Daydreamin'" featuring Lupe Fiasco
"Good Morning Heartache" featuring Chris Botti
"Said Enough" featuring the Isley Brothers
"One Time" featuring Eric Roberson
"Let Me" featuring Sergio Mendes and will.i.am
"8 Minutes to Sunrise" featuring Common
"Funky for You" featuring Common and Bilal
"Sometime I Wonder" featuring Darius Rucker
"Slide" featuring Jeff Bradshaw
"The Rain" featuring Will Smith
"God Bless the Child" featuring Al Jarreau and George Benson
"Kingdom Come" featuring Kirk Franklin
"Love Rain" featuring Mos Def
Jazz Top 10 ... And
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
The list of the year's top CDs must be honed to 10, so I should not also include 10 impressive international CDs with bands led by the likes of Brad Mehldau, Ted Nash, Robert Glasper, Taylor Eigsti, Chris Potter, Ben Riley, Tomasz Stanko, Dave Holland, Kenny Garrett and Gerry Mulligan (just one of endless superb reissues).
My 10 best albums, in no particular order, are Canadian:
1. DAVID BRAID, Zhen (Indie)
2. MELISSA STYLIANOU, Sliding Down (Sleepin' Bee Records)
3. QUINSIN NACHOFF, Magic Numbers (Songlines)
4. TARA DAVIDSON, Codebreaking (Indie)
5. DAN McCARTHY TRIO, Interwords (Indie)
6. RUSS LITTLE, Footwork (Rhythm Tracks)
7. THE ROSEMARY GALLOWAY QUARTET, Live at the Montreal Bistro (Fishhorn Records)
8. MICHAEL HERRING'S VERTIGO, Coniferous (Indie)
9. CHET DOXAS QUARTET, Sidewalk Etiquette (Justin Time)
10. LINA ALLEMANO FOUR, Pinkeye (Lumo Records)
Allan Harris -- In The Pink At the Blue Note
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
(December 28, 2006) *Allan Harris stood upon the famed Blue Note stage accompanied by pianist Eric Reed crooning songs that were reminiscent of the 1950s and 1960s, a period when romantic songs were sung with depth. When melodies caressed the heart and soul and made women swoon. It was a time when singers sang and emotions ran high, an era so desperately missed. Listening to Harris’s soft sentimental lament, I was reminded of the stylings of singers like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, and Tony Bennett. Yet, Harris clearly brought something new and exciting to his renditions. It was evident the audience certainly thought so. Harris’s manner on stage is gentle and unforced. He is bidding his time, savouring each note. He’s smooth, articulate and in total control. A Brooklyn native, Harris grew up around music. The product of a musical family, his mother was a classical pianist and his aunt sang opera and later on, blues. It’s no wonder that Harris appeared to have total control of his vocal accoutrement while he experimented with the songs of 1950’s balladeer Johnny Hartman. “I am trying out new material this evening. I am only here for this one night but I am happy to be here because it’s such a special evening. My music will pay tribute to the Blue Note’s 25th Anniversary,” declared the singer who has thrilled world wide audiences.
“I want you to check out my CD. I am selling them tonight at the performance. I’ll give one to you” smirked Harris with a wide grin. “The CD features the songs of the great Billy Strayhorn. “It’s entitled “Love Came: The Songs of Strayhorn.” Eric Reed the pianist who is with me tonight is also featured on the CD. He is a great pianist. I am lucky to have him. There are songs on the album like “Passion Flower,” “Just A-Sittin’ and A-Rockin’,” “Love Came,” and “Love Has Passed Me By Again.” There are 14 songs in all on the CD,” said Harris who talked about his upcoming engagements in Florida and the Caribbean. Harris plans to spend Christmas in Istanbul with his wife but music has taken him all around the world. He has appeared and performed in jazz clubs in Europe, Asia, Finland, Italy, Holland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Turkey and Japan, to name a few. “I am feeling real good tonight. Things are going great this evening. I am playing with Eric and we are hitting some new highs. After tonight, Eric and I will head to Philadelphia where we will be doing a two weeks engagement in a week or so. So far, it’s been a wonderful year, I played Kennedy Center and then did two weeks at the Algonquin,” reflected Harris about his ability to continue to book performances with ease over the past year.
Mr. Harris has appeared in some of Europe’s most famous opera houses. He appeared with the Metropole Orchestra, the Rias Big Band, and the Thilo Wolfe Big Band. BET Jazz aired Allan’s live concerts with Lou Rawls and Ramsey Lewis. Harris sang for the first Jazz Awards Show, held in Washington, DC which was filmed in BET’s Jazz studios. Chuck Mangione and Mark Carey were also part of the awards event. Interviews with Harris were also featured by the Smithsonian via their “Jazz Singers” series. He was touted by CNN’s Showbiz Tonight as one of the three best male jazz vocalists in the country. Other CDs recorded by Harris are: “Setting the Standard;” “It’s A Wonderful World,” “Here Comes Allan Harris and the Metropole Orchestra,” “The Music of Duke Ellington,” and “Laid Back” His recordings have featured artists like Ray Brown, Mark Whitfield, Clark Terry, Nestor Torres and Jon Faddis.
Suddenly, Everyone's Speaking Blues
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler
(Dec. 28, 2006) It was the year of living bluesy. Which is to say that some of best blues music of 2006 came by well-established artists not known to strictly speak blues, and that emergences were made by newcomers who counted blues as only part of their style. So, we heard from Tom Waits, the eccentric singer-songwriter who delivered Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards, a three-CD package that included one rough-rocking disc -- Brawlers -- that if taken on its own, would be one of my favourite blues albums of the year. We also heard from Bob Dylan, an ungraspable troubadour who has often used blues forms in his own compositions, but perhaps never as audaciously as on Modern Times. In age-old tradition, Dylan plundered freely, appropriating lyrically from Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson, who used to sleep in the kitchen with his feet in the hall, as Dylan must have known. Newer artists who surfaced included James Hunter (a blue-eyed Brit who debuted stylishly with the rhythm and blues of People Gonna Talk) and Toronto-based Roxanne Potvin, who showed the influence of fifties rock and R&B on her sophomore release The Way it Feels. Other notable partly-blues efforts from this country included Ndidi Onukwulu's No, I Never and Jim Byrnes gospel-based House of Refuge.
Oklahoma's Watermelon Slim, as a songwriter and live performer, was better than even his name would indicate. Slim's self-titled album was issued on the Toronto label Northern Blues, as was Do I Move You, from California singer Janiva Magness. Both those records are up for the Blues Music Awards album of the year. Other high points included the awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to B.B. King. Low points were the passings of Willie Kent, Bonnie Lee, Jay McShann, Robert Lockwood Jr., Ruth Brown, Snooky Pryor, Henry Townsend, Homesick James and Nova Scotia legend Dutch Mason.
iTunes Clogged By
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
SAN FRANCISCO – Swarms of online shoppers armed with new iPods and iTunes gift cards apparently overwhelmed Apple's ITunes music store over the holiday, prompting error messages and slowdowns of 20 minutes or more for downloads of a single song. Frazzled users began posting urgent help messages Monday and Tuesday on Apple's technical forum for ITunes, complaining they were either not allowed into the store or were told the system couldn't process their request to download songs and videos. It was not immediately clear how many people were affected by the slowdowns, and Apple Computer Inc. would not immediately comment Wednesday on what caused the slowdown and whether it had been fixed. Analysts said the problems likely were the result of too many people with holiday IPods and ITunes gift cards trying to access the site at once. Traffic indeed was heavy over the holiday, with more than four times as many people visiting the ITunes website on Christmas than at the same time last year, online market researcher Hitwise said Wednesday. Some financial analysts said the interruption could be viewed as a sign that sales dramatically exceeded the Cupertino-based company's own forecasts.
"It's actually created more positive buzz among analysts – traffic was so great it blew up the site," said Gene Munster, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray. "If anything it could be a positive – demand was better than they were expecting." Apple commands about 75 per cent of the market for downloaded music, but could lose as much as five per cent of that market share in 2007 because of increased competition from rival services, according to Piper Jaffray. Dan Frakes, a senior editor at Macworld magazine and playlistmag.com, a website focused on digital music, said he and some colleagues were unable to access the ITunes store or received error messages when they tried to download songs early this week. However, others breezed through the process hassle-free, and Frakes successfully downloaded songs again on Wednesday. He said the problem likely was not as widespread as the frustrated discussion group chatter might indicate. "The store itself was working, there was just too much traffic," he said. "It's a good bet that most people were able to get through." Analysts said they didn't anticipate a rash of IPod returns because of the delays. "What you're seeing is the tremendous success of the IPod," said Michael Gartenberg, vice-president and research director with JupiterResearch. "No doubt it was a very, very popular gift, and no matter how well you plan on the server side of the equation, there are always times when you get caught short." Apple's stock price fell almost five per cent before rebounding to close at US$81.52, up a penny, on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Gotta Love Those
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
As someone who is not primarily a "lyrics person," I surprised even myself by topping this year's list with a couple of exceedingly wordy – even literary – discs. For balance, there is an instrumental disc by Feuermusik and another, by Espers, with a lot of vocals that you can't quite make out.
1. Destroyer, Destroyer's Rubies (Merge): Often an album released at the start of the year is overlooked or eclipsed by the time the calendar runs out. That wasn't the case with this ambitious effort from Vancouver "west coast maximalist" Dan Bejar and bandmates. A pop/rock symphony. At once, loose, limber and highly polished.
2. JOANNA NEWSOM , Ys (Drag City): The young California harpist's sophomore effort is an extraordinary feat of musical eccentricity. Her warbled fairy tales are greatly assisted by co-producer Van Dyke Parks, whose string and horn arrangements broadened the musical canvas, and engineer Steve Albini, who ensured that Newsom's singing and playing did not get lost in the mix.
3. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Mint): The former Virginian (and honorary Canadian) eases up a bit on the twang this time, but her singing is as crystalline as ever.
Credit, too, to a supporting cast that includes members of the Sadies, Calexico and indispensable backing vocalist Kelly Hogan.
4. Espers, II (Drag City): Imagine a time-travelling ensemble Renaissance returning to 16th century England with a knowledge of Neil Young and mind-altering substances. This is what the contemporary Philadelphians might sound like. By turns lilting and fuzzy, but invariably narcotic.
5. Cat Power, The Greatest (Matador): Recorded in Memphis with help from a handful of local soul legends, singer/songwriter Chan Marshall's latest is a low-key gem. Dreamy and ethereal, but never wispy.
6. Tom Waits, Orphans (Anti-): Whether your favourite Tom Waits is the one who recorded Closing Time or Rain Dogs or Mule Variations, this 3-CD, 56-track treasure trove has your man covered – from the barroom balladeer to the cabaret crooner to the junkyard crank.
7. Feuermusik, Goodbye, Lucille (Independent): Toronto percussionist Gus Weinkauf and reedman Jeremy Strachan clatter and blow their way through a captivating, jazzy set of originals and a innovative take on the Gershwin standard "Summertime."
8. Max Richter, Songs From Before (Fat Cat): Another choice that doesn't fall into the pop/rock category. Richter, a classically-trained, U.K.-based pianist, follows 2004's utterly beguiling The Blue Notebooks with another impressionistic fusion of keyboards, strings, electronica and text.
9. Blood Meridian, Kick Up the Dust (Outside): As the title suggests, this Vancouver outfit fronted by Black Mountain sideman Matt Camirand favours a scuff-toed approach to dissenting, roots-flavoured songs about labour, religion and romance.
10. Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped (Geffen): The New York rock avant-gardists have always tempered their experimentation with hooks, but seldom as unabashedly as here. Proof, yet again, that accessibility is an overworked pejorative. If anyone has earned the right to play it relatively straight, it's Sonic Youth.
Fifteen honourable mentions (in no particular order): Psychic Ills, Dins (Social Registry); Califone, Roots & Crowns (Thrill Jockey); the Hylozoists, La Fin du Monde (Boompa); Mission of Burma, The Obliterati (Matador); Bob Dylan, Modern Times (Columbia); Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome (Columbia); Amy Millan, Honey From the Tombs (Arts & Crafts); Tokyo Police Club, A Lesson in Crime (Paper Bag); Calexico, Garden Ruin (Quarterstick); Kid Koala, Your Mom's Favorite DJ (Ninja Tune); Final Fantasy, He Poos Clouds (Tomlab); Rosanne Cash, Black Cadillac (Capitol); M. Ward, Post-War (Merge); Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love); Howe Gelb, 'Sno Angel Like You (Thrill Jockey).
Omar Wants To 'Sing'
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
29, 2006) *Ironically, during a five-year hiatus from recording songs, British soul/funk singer Omar did some serious work on his singing career. The singer built his own studio, launched his own independent record label, and did quite a few shows. So much for down time. Off the break, Omar completed his sixth album, "Sing (If You Want It)" earlier this year, and it's primed as the artist's "funkiest album so far." "It's old school funk," Omar described of the project. "It's just a different style of soul music. I grew up playing in bands so I like to implement that live feeling into the music. It's like a hybrid of jazz, funk, soul, classic, reggae, Latin - all of these things make my music what it is. You can never be sure exactly what combination they're going to be in." Omar is certainly an artist that can't quite be categorized, but is often shoved into the R&B slot by the labels and powers that be. Now that he's more independent than ever before, the singer's disc shows a lot more room to roam. "I'm the most independent than I've been in awhile. I've got my own label and my own studio," he said. "We've been touring without any help for the past four years now - quite independently, comparatively, than before. And with satellite TV, digital radio, and Internet - it's a lot easier to produce stuff and get it out to your audience."
The new stuff he's gotten out to fans includes a few tracks laden with the voices of some serious R&B, neo-soul, and hip-hop stars. The single "Feeling You" features soul legend Stevie Wonder, "Gimme Sum" features the help of lyricist Common, and Angie Stone lends her chops on "Stylin'." Interestingly, the featured artists are actually fans of the UK star. Wonder has been an Omar fan since first hearing him in 1992 and Stone has been known to drop his name here and there. It's just that kind of musician admiration that Omar says really fuels the promotion of his music.
"My experience with a major label didn't really help me out to the most positive effect. I didn't get to as many people as I could have. [I was] not being promoted in the fashion that I'd expected. So we just got out of the situation and made it a better situation. So, my music travels with other musicians and it's kind of a word-of-mouth situation," he explained. "Musicians here in the States know a lot of my music; they're playing their own CDs, they're playing it in the tour bus and they're playing my music to each other. My music is being batted around like that. Then it gets filtered down to the DJs and then to the public." Filtering his music down to a specific genre isn't something Omar has any plans to do. His background is laced with talents on piano, percussion, bass and then some. "I was playing for brass bands, choirs, percussion ensembles, jazz quartets. Then I decided to start making secular music, as they call it - something a bit more funky. There is something for everybody," Omar said of the new disc. "The hardcore fans seem to go for my music because it just has a different element than the usual R&B stuff. It's got to make sense to me. It has to stand the test of time and hopefully I will achieve that." For more info on the Euro-star, check out his site at www.omarmusic.net. "Sing (If You Want It)" is in stores now.
Lots Of Drama At Sting
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
(December 28, 2006) *Sting 2006 came to an anti-climactic end on Wednesday morning after dancehall deejay Bounty Killer was prevented from going onstage to challenge Beenie Man by security personnel and a prominent member of Beenie Man's entourage. Although the situation was quickly defused, anxious patrons began to file for the exits after both deejays, Vybz Kartel and Beenie Man left the stage after a minor tussle. At least two bottles were thrown at the stage, and a reporter spotted a patron being subjected to an efficiently executed beating to the face at the hands of uniformed police officers. Some disgruntled fans, obviously mistaking the backstage area for some lopsided Israeli-Palestinian turf war, threw large stones at heavily armed cops 'roughing up' the young man. Luckily, no one was injured by the stones and no guns were discharged in the brief face-off betweens fans and the cops. Before Bounty Killer attempted to go onstage, the show had been going admirably well. Vybz Kartel got major forwards from his hometown audience for hit songs such as 'Beyonce Wine', 'Tick Tock' and 'I Neva', before calling on Beenie Man. Beenie performed 'Roll Deep' and even apologized to Spice for the altercation which resulted in her being 'boxed' at GT Taylor's Magnum Xtravaganza stage show on Christmas Day. "Spice, if anything happen, mi apologise, it tek a real man fi say sorry," he told the crowd to a mixture of loud cheers and boos. He took a swipe at Bounty Killer when he deejayed the line which suggested that Angel ended her relationship with Bounty when she "find out that mouth water coulden breed har'. This remark was greeted with laughter and cheers. However, there were scattered attempts at boos, but the cheers and jubilant rag-waving soon drowned out the dissent, especially when Beenie Man instructed 'mek me see the hands of mi fans dem'.
Then Vybz Kartel deejayed 'Bad From', and then prefaced the song 'Dis Bad Man Yu Get Gunshot' with the comment that he was neutral in the war between the long-time archrivals. Earlier Bounty Killer was his usual imposing self. Dressed in full black, he appeared to be the incarnation of a 'lyrical Grim Reaper' as he delivered old war tunes such as 'Lodge' and 'War', as well as new hits, 'Bryco'. He earned great applause from the Sting crowd which was rabid for a clash but Beenie Man failed to show when Killer called him out. Killer made a case for Beenie Man as the continued antagonist in their now-ancient feud. "Ruff Kut was my band and him tek it, Angel was my girl, and him tek har too," he said. Killer performed after a scintillating, hit-studded performance by Mavado during which the rising Alliance superstar earned massive forwards from the 35,000 strong crowd at Jamworld Portmore. Second time Sting performer Idonia gave a good performance which was better than last year's set. Even though in between his set a few patrons decided to clap him off, but that didn't last for long because majority of the audience gave him several encores. He however was booed when he uttered unsavoury comments about his one time manager and producer Cordell 'Skatta' Burrell. Idonia was later allegedly arrested and charged for using indecent language during his performance. Check out www.yardflex.com for the full Sting.
Timbaland Prepares New Album For March
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
29, 2006) *It’s been a minute since Timbaland has produced tracks for his own benefit. After a 2006 that saw his work warmly received via new albums from Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado, the Virginia native will begin 2007 with his own project featuring a top secret lineup of guests. Due sometime in March, Timbaland’s as-yet-untitled album will follow up 2003’s “Under Construction II,” which was a joint project with his longtime partner Magoo. The new set will explore new territory. "He ventures into the alternative world and the real pop world," Timbaland right-hand-man Nate "Danja" Hills tells Billboard.com. "He has so many different sounds from hip-hop, to pop, to rock on this album. And he pulls every single one of them off perfectly.” A possible first single, "Give It To Me," features his good luck charms, Timberlake and Furtado. While other guests booked for the project remain under wraps, rumour has it that Bjork, Jay-Z, Missy Elliott and 50 Cent are among the artists involved. Timbaland will promote his new album next year while touring with Timberlake, where "he will have his own spot in the show," according to Hills.
All Jazzed Up And
Nowhere To Play
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
It was the worst of times, and the even worse times. That's how the Toronto jazz world might well describe 2006, particularly after the seismic shock of the Montreal Bistro closing in July. Just three days previously, packed Bistro houses were enjoying tenor saxophonist George Coleman as part of a very successful Toronto Jazz Festival. The jazz nation was still reeling from the end of the 15-year reign of the Top o' The Senator in 2005, one more instance in a series of Hogtown heartbreaks experienced by fans over the years – George's Spaghetti House, Bermuda Onion, East and 85th, Sax on Yonge, Bourbon St., Basin Street, Town Tavern, Meyer's Deli, The Colonial and so many more. The venue crisis is exacerbated by the horde of hugely talented musicians turned out annually by jazz programs at UofT, York and Humber College, taught by front-line jazzers who'd probably rather be playing clubs. Where can the new generation perform? The reliable Rex schedule remains crammed, bookings nowadays made far ahead. Elsewhere, a handful of spots offer some jazz, though for most music is not the top priority. Since the Top o' the Senator's demise, there's nowhere musicians can work six consecutive nights and yet it's incontrovertible that bands get better each day they're together.
It does little good to pore over the entrails of jazz clubs that went under. There's a host of reasons for the closures, including lease problems, insufficient income, changing musical tastes, public reluctance to pay even minimal cover charges. Add to that the heavy attendance of jazz festivals, no-smoking rules, anxious owners petrified by the sight of one empty seat, the ease of obtaining music using new technologies, more demands on "leisure" time, lack of nearby parking, and so on. New ventures have had mixed results. A valiant attempt was made by vocalist Corry Sobol, who opened the Red Guitar on Markham St. It changed hands in October to become The Central, which so far has scheduled minimal jazz. Halleluia Restaurant gave up after a few jazz nights. Hopes were high for Sopra Upper Lounge, a custom-built space with a new stage and excellent piano above Mistura on Davenport Rd. It opened to fanfare in the summer, with jazz booked through to December. But the music policy quickly changed direction despite a planned procession of high-profile CD release events. Perhaps some jazz will be heard there. Eyes now are focussed on Opal Jazz Lounge, on Queen St. W., where Sybil Walker (from Top o' the Senator) is booking acts for three nights a week. Pianist Bill Mays has been there. Saxman Fathead Newman is coming. Don't forget venues such as The Dominion on Queen St. E., The Pilot on Cumberland St., Trane Studio on Bathurst St., and Gate 403 on Roncesvalles that usually offer jazz more than once a week.
However, it's just possible that the misty-eyed hand-wringing will stop very soon. Patrick Taylor, long-time executive producer of the Toronto Jazz Festival, is actively negotiating for a downtown space less than two blocks from Yonge that would accommodate 150 people, provide food, and host visiting and local artists. He says he's "70 per cent there." If all goes well it would open early in 2007. Leading musician, festival artistic director and columnist Jim Galloway notes that "never have so many qualified jazz players been seeking such a small amount of work." This shortage is not just a Toronto phenomenon, he adds. Nonetheless, Taylor and Lothar Lang, who with wife Brigitte ran the popular Montreal Bistro and before that Café des Copains, have been scouting possible sites for a new jazz venture. "We've looked at a number" is all he'll say right now. Keep your fingers crossed.
In fact, the Toronto jazz scene is still active. Young players are learning how to market their skills (including discovering how to write grant applications) in this more competitive musical climate where jazz cruises and booming Asian cities offer employment. Local classic jazz bands are flourishing (note Healey's has been renamed Jeff Healey's Roadhouse and moved to 56 Blue Jays Way), the Association Of Improvised Music assists forward-looking groups, and many Toronto churches host jazz shows and services. As well, jazz experiments with classical artists are increasing. In addition, there are more festivals than ever. The Art of Jazz Festival, inaugurated in May in the Distillery District, is a brilliant addition that featured appealing headliners including Hank Jones, Dave Holland and John Handy. A tribute to our multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson was a dazzling affair. Emerging from the ranks to serious Hogtown prominence this year were many players – Kelly Jefferson, Adrean Farrugia, Tara Davidson, David Virelles, Robi Botos, William Carn, Hilario Duran, Brandi Disterheft, Rich Brown, Carol McCartney, Chris Gale. At age 83, Phil Nimmons remains a shining beacon to aspiring jazzers – his indie improv album Beginnings with pianist David Braid is terrific. Also terrific is the volume of imaginative albums put out by driving drummer Barry Romberg on his own label, Romhog.
Performers who inspired me this year included Joanne Brackeen at the Bistro, Russ Little at Glenn Gould Studio, veteran conguero Candido and Hilario Duran's big band at the National Jazz Awards, Vijay Ayer, Roberto Occhipinti, Pharaoh Sanders, Kenny Garrett and Dave Brubeck at Toronto Jazz Festival dates, Robi Botos and Guido Basso at Harbourfront JazzFM shows, Dave McMurdo's Orchestra at Glenn Gould. Here's a tip – listen out for vocalist Sophie Berkal-Sarbit, just 16. And spare a moment to remember 2006 departures – Jay McShann, Kenny Davern, Bernard Primeau, Dewey Redman, Jackie McLean, Ian Arnott, Hilton Ruiz, John Hicks et al.
Prelude And Fugue In Jazz Major
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - J.D. Considine
(Jan. 2, 2007) He never heard the blues. He didn't work with drummers. He died nearly a century before the invention of the saxophone. His masterwork was in B minor, not in bebop. So why is Johann Sebastian Bach the jazz world's favourite classical composer? There's not a lot of classically inspired jazz, but what exists is overwhelmingly devoted to Bach. Recently, for instance, French pianist Jacques Loussier released The Brandenburgs, which treats themes from Bach's Brandenburg Concertos as if they were 300-year-old jazz standards, while earlier last year, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones included the fugue from Prelude & Fugue No. 20 in A Minor on their album The Hidden Land, which makes Bach sound like banjo-spiked jazz fusion. It's actually quite a jazz tradition, dating at least as far back as 1937, when guitarist Django Reinhardt recorded his Interprétation swing sur le premier mouvement du Concerto en re mineur de J.S. Bach. Since then, jazz musicians have reimagined Bach as everything from chamber jazz (as in the Modern Jazz Quartet's 1974 album Blues on Bach) to screaming big-band fare (arranger David Matthews's Bach 2000), to jazzy disco (Lalo Schifrin's happily cheesy Towering Toccata, which was the theme from the film Towering Inferno). "Only Bach can be played in the jazz idiom without losing something," the Modern Jazz Quartet's John Lewis said in 1990, and the relative lack of jazz takes on other great composers would seem to bear him out.
Beethoven and Mozart may be standard fare for symphony orchestras, but they're largely terra incognita for jazz performances. It's far easier to find pop hits that borrow from Brahms -- for instance, Carlos Santana's hit Love of My Life, which takes from Symphony No. 3 -- than to find jazz musicians who improvise on his works. Some of that has to do with the fact that classical music after Bach tended to take a looser approach to rhythm. That's something that doesn't adapt well to the driving pulse jazz relies on. Also, as Loussier points out, the melodic structure of later classical pieces isn't an easy fit for jazz. "The themes of Bach are in sections of eight bars," he says on the phone from his home in Paris. "This is the same basis that we use in the jazz world to play standards. The other composers -- Schumann, Beethoven -- haven't got the same structure. They work on a completely different basis, and they are not using tempo like Bach does with the double-bass lines." Those bass lines, Loussier says, are the key. A typical Bach bass part "swings by itself," he says. "Even if I play [a Bach composition] without bass and drums, it swings. This is in the music. It is a characteristic of the music of Bach." Indeed, it's surprising how little effort is needed to make Bach pieces sound jazzy, as Fleck learned. He found the Bach piece his group recorded with the help of his long-time friend, classical double-bassist Edgar Meyer. "He played me a ton of Bach three-part pieces," Fleck said via e-mail. "This is one that both he and I thought would work well because of the virtuosity demanded from each part. "We really played that piece just as it was written," he added, saying "the jazz element was the groove that [drummer] Future Man supplied and possibly some phrasing. We discussed it for a while and decided to just play it straight."
In that sense, Fleck and the Flecktones were just following in the footsteps of the most popular purveyor of jazz and Bach, the Swingle Singers. This vocal group, founded by American expatriate Ward Swingle, actually had a Top-20 pop album with Bach's Greatest Hits in 1963. By adding double bass and jazz drums to wordless, "dooba-dooba-do" versions of Bach instrumental favourites, what the Swingle Singers did sounded like some 17th-century version of bebop. Although the vocal concept was entirely Swingle's, the jazz content was largely inspired by Loussier's 1959 album Play Bach. "Ward Swingle was a good friend. He came to see me, and he asked me, how did I do the first recording? How did I use the double bass? How did I use the drums? How did I manage to get it done? Because he told me that he had the idea to make it with voices. So this is what he did. "The only difference with the Swingle Singers and me is that the Swingle Singers don't improvise," he adds. "They just make a sort of translation for voices of works of Bach. We improvise." Still, it's much easier to improvise on a Cole Porter tune than it is to create something brilliant and impromptu from a Bach invention, in large part because of the standard set by the composer's own inventiveness. "In jazz, one can aspire to improvise lines as perfect as Bach's," Fleck said. "It rarely works out that way."
will.i.am Working On Jackson Comeback Album
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Gary Graff, Detroit
(Jan. 2, 2007) Black Eyed Peas principal will.i.am was ubiquitous behind the boards in 2006, producing tracks for Justin Timberlake, Fergie, Snoop Dogg and Nas and earning a producer of the year Grammy nomination. But his sights are now set on Michael Jackson's comeback album, which is tentatively due before the end of the year. will.i.am tells Billboard.com he has been doing "a lot of talking on the phone, a lot of brainstorming" with Jackson so far. Their conversations, he says, involve more than just music but also figuring out how Jackson can use new technology, particularly social networking sites and download outlets, to his advantage. But Jackson's next musical direction remains a primary concern. "Man, he still sings like a bird," will.i.am says. "He could go anywhere. I think we have a real opportunity to do something here. It's either gonna be really big or nobody's gonna care. Ain't no middle ground on this one." "I like what he is doing and thought it would be interesting to collaborate or just see how the chemistry worked," Jackson told Access Hollywood of will.i.am in October. "I think he's doing wonderful, innovative, positive, great music." As previously reported, Akon is also rumoured to be collaborating on the album but told Billboard.com last month that he was not at liberty to disclose details. Chris Brown is also in talks to work on the Jackson album, which will be his first since 2001's "Invincible." "We got a chance to meet at the World Music Awards and we're talking to his management about when we can set up a date to be working on his album," Brown tells Billboard.com. "It would be an honour and a blessing for me to work with my idol. He's one of the reasons I do my music."
Tom Petty Not About To
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
(Jan. 1, 07) LOS ANGELES (AP) – Looks like Tom Petty won't back down after all. The veteran rocker says he's not retiring, despite a Rolling Stone article in July that suggested otherwise. Petty said 2006 was one of the most rewarding years in his career, and he expects the ride to continue in 2007. "You never know how things are going to turn out, and I didn't see this year coming," Petty told the Los Angeles Times for a story published Sunday. "But maybe next year will be even better.'' Petty and his band, the Heartbreakers, recently earned two Grammy nominations for their latest album, "Highway Companion.'' Their 30th anniversary tour was a sell-out and included a triumphant homecoming to Gainesville, Fla., where the band formed in the 1970s. Petty was offered the key to the city. The Heartbreakers also are the subject of a documentary due out in 2007 from Oscar-nominated director Peter Bogdanovich. Bogdanovich calls Petty "an American troubadour in the truest sense of the word.'' Petty is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His many hits include "I Won't Back Down, "Even the Losers,'' ``Breakdown,'' "American Girl,'' "Free Fallin'" and "The Waiting.''
Nelly And Apple Bottoms Make Donations
Source: Heather Lylis, Ken Sunshine Consultants, Lylis@kensunshineconsultants.com
(January 2, 2007) Nelly, multi platinum artist and CEO of the women'sclothing line Apple Bottoms, announced today that he will be donating clothes to the Allie Mae Williams Multi Service Center, an organization that provides shelter to women and their children who lost their homes during Hurricane Katrina. Daphne LaSalle, winner of the Apple Bottoms' model search 2006 and Louisiana native, distributed Apple Bottoms outerwear and apparel to the women and children at Allie Mae Multi Service Center to provide them with new clothes during the holiday season. Apple Bottoms is a clothing line that caters to females of all shapes and sizes, females who want sexy yet comfortable clothes, who are trendy and fashion forward. This original brand is the mastermind of multi-platinum recording artists/superstar Nelly. In August 2003, Nelly launched Apple Bottoms by starting a nationwide model search for the Apple Bottoms girl, which was televised on VH1. The jeans were so popular they sold out completely in a two-week period. Apple Bottoms jeans are beloved by celebrities including Oprah, Vivica A. Fox and Alicia Keys.
Freedom Writers: Story Reveals Teens' Write Stuff
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
anuary 3, 2007) *Coming to theatres this weekend is the story of a teacher who used writing to inspire students who had been written off. The film is called "Freedom Writers" and is the true story of educator Erin Gruwell and the incidental way she encouraged students in an unconventional way. "Freedom Writers" stars Academy Award winner Hilary Swank as Gruwell, R&B sensation Mario, and TV's Dr. McDreamy Patrick Dempsey, among an ensemble cast of powerful newcomers. Swank leads the cast in the story of a teacher who urges her students to journal, and in doing so opens her own eyes as well as the students'. While the premise appears to be a retelling of an old theme, Director Richard LaGravenese explained that "Freedom Writers" isn't just another "white knight" story. "What's different about this movie is that it wasn't about a white knight who comes in and saves the day. There's a lot of that out there." And though Gruwell had that intention to some degree, he said, "she was misguided because she didn't know the truth about stuff and these kids gave her the reality of what was going. What she did that was so great was that she listened. She got to hear their stories. That's what caused the transformations - not that she was such a great teacher, but that she listened." LaGravenese, who also wore the hat of screenwriter for the film, said that he was very inspired to piece together the script from the book about the motivational teacher.
"A friend's wife produced the 'Connie Chung Primetime Live' episode [about Gruwell's] and he asked me to watch it. I was at a point in my life both personally and professionally where I was disillusioned. I had no confidence and I sort of started to lose that capacity to dream that anything else could happen. But I saw it and it got me. And I read the book and these words of these kids just got me," he explained. With that, LaGravenese ran with the idea, put the movie in motion, and took on the arduous task of turning a book of four years of numbered diaries into a screenplay. He was inspired himself and unafraid to expose the emotion the story evoked in him. "I love emotion in movies. I love to feel things in movies. We've been in a period of very great stylistic films, but I've been tired about not feeling stuff and feeling so detached and removed, so I didn't want to be ashamed of the emotion in this story. It was the only way I knew how to tell it," he said. In regard to the emotion, it's not just the story that jerks tears from audiences. The cast all delved into their character's stories and showed it onscreen. As a matter of fact, Swank admitted that though she has an Oscar and much acclaim under her belt for films such as "Boys Don't Cry" and "Million Dollar Baby," that working with a cast of young novices was a great experience that taught her more than she bargained for. "I could talk forever about [the young cast]- only two of these kids were actually actors and the rest were just kids that they had found - because their stories were just like the Freedom Writers' stories. Having grown up so quickly and having seen so many intense things in their lives, they're, interestingly enough, not bitter.
They just cut through all the B.S. and just look right at you. For me, that's what life is about - just getting down to business with somebody and being able to look at someone for who they are," she said. "I was just moved every day. I have so much respect for them. And I learned so much as an actor because they didn't have any expectations. They were just there and in the moment. So it was just a great reminder to me and they were doing such incredible work, I think I was challenged to stay real as an actor." One of those young actors is singer Mario who said his own experiences helped him perform in the role as a trouble teen. "I went to public school in Baltimore and in New Jersey. I could relate because at the schools in New Jersey, all of the kids were from different backgrounds. Reading the script I saw that these kids were from different backgrounds. Back then it was a fight for space, respect, and money - and it still is, but I feel like [these kids] needed to be free in their minds in addition," he said of his take on the story. Furthermore, Mario relayed that he shared personal battles with Andre, the character he plays in the film. "I actually experienced a lot of things he experienced,' he said of how he was motivated to portray the character. "Being as close to his mother, but she was closer to drugs than to him. I experienced the same thing. I put myself in his shoes and that helped; grabbing from what I read about him in the book to what I could remember about my relationship with my mother and my experiences growing up." Mario, who is working on his third album, said that he was so inspired by the story, that there is a song on his upcoming disc called "Do Right" that relates to his role and the movie.
"It talks about my experiences growing up and why I chose to sing and not be a statistic," he said, and explained that his motivation coincides with that which Gruwell shared with her students. "One thing that's so special about the relationship Erin has with her students was that from jump she was trying to get straight to their hearts and straight to their minds. She gave them the opportunity to express themselves. I think self-expression is a great tool." Mario isn't the only one who believes in Gruwell's idea. The teacher is now a motivator who tours the country with her program the Erin Gruwell Education Project, a charitable organization that promotes tolerance in the classroom and empowers teachers and underserved students. The film's director LaGravenese hopes the film touches audiences and helps Gruwell's cause. "I'm not arrogant enough to think that because of a movie, things are going to change - and I didn't make it for that," he explained. "I made it because I was moved by it and I wanted to tell a great story. That was my goal. If it can spark something, maybe it can have some effect." "Freedom Writers" opens nationwide this Friday, December 5. For more on the film, visit www.freedomwriters.com. To learn more about the Erin Gruwell Education Project, check out www.gruwellproject.org.
Mike Myers - Intentional Man Of Mystery
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ed Leibowitz, New York Times
(Jan. 2, 2007) During the past three years movie audiences have experienced Will Ferrell as a bumbling anchorman, a clueless NASCAR driver, a soccer coach with father issues and an IRS agent who hears things. They've been able to satisfy their Adam Sandler cravings through his star turns as a henpecked chef, an imprisoned NFL quarterback and an architect with a magical TV remote. And Jim Carrey fans have been able to enjoy him variously as an embittered lover who has his memory erased, a laid-off media executive who embarks on a crime spree or a Lemony Snicket character. But where is Mike Myers? The last time filmgoers could pay to see the Scarborough-raised comic's multi-million-dollar grin was three long years ago, in The Cat in the Hat – if they were able to get beyond a grotesquerie of whiskers, makeup and feline prosthetics. Until he abruptly checked out, Myers, 43, was arguably Hollywood's dominant comic force. In terms of ticket sales his three Austin Powers spy spoofs vied with franchises like X-Men and Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings trilogy. Yet in the years since The Cat in the Hat – a rare misfire – Myers has virtually disappeared, though he was mentioned in the gossip pages when he made public his divorce in December 2005. And Myers, or his voice at least, did turn up once in theatres, when he played the lead role in the 2004 hit Shrek 2. (Audiences will be hearing it again next May in Shrek the Third.)
But in his most notable live-action performance, during NBC's September 2005 telethon for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Myers was merely a bit player. Paired with rapper Kanye West, he cringed as West veered off script to rant about racism and national hypocrisy. Myers' decision to remove himself from the game for a time – much as he did between the 1993 release of Wayne's World 2 and the 1997 debut of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery – smacks of heresy in a film industry that has made a religion of milking its most bankable comedic stars. Myers declined to be interviewed, but he authorized his talent agent, his friends and collaborators to provide a composite sketch of his time away. All of those interviewed characterized this period, which may run as long as five years, as a bid to recharge his creative batteries as well as a reflection of his perfectionism and high standards. "Mike is the author of what he does," said Jay Roach, whom Myers selected to direct all of the Austin Powers films. "Like a novelist writing a novel over a few years, he thinks up all the details and all the layers necessary to make things work.'' David O'Connor of the Creative Artists Agency, who represents Myers, seconded that notion. "Mike is a bit of a different animal," O'Connor said. "If you look at the movies he's been in, in terms of starring vehicles, with very few exceptions they are his creations. Because they are his creations they take a greater amount of time and nurturing and gestation."
Myers himself offered a similar explanation when describing his last leave of absence to James Lipton during a 2001 appearance on Inside the Actors Studio. "There's process and there's product," he said. "And when you're too long on product, you forget about your process." O'Connor said Myers now has three major products in the works: a comedy about a relationship guru; a drama about the demise of Keith Moon, the legendary drummer for the Who; and another comedy about an office worker under siege by robots. None of these projects is likely to reach theatres until 2008. Michael Shoemaker, a producer at Saturday Night Live, said Myers' penchant for total quality control – originating the characters, writing the script, often producing his starring vehicles – stems from his tenure on that show. "Here you create and produce everything yourself," Shoemaker said. Even in the title role in Shrek, Myers wasn't satisfied with just lending his voice and insisted on painstaking improvements. Of the projects he is concentrating on now, the guru seems the most deeply rooted in his imagination. In 2005 the character made his debut on some small theatre stages in Greenwich Village, just as his Austin Powers persona was once honed at Los Angeles nightspots. Unrecognizable in makeup, a white wig and a yogi's long flowing beard, Myers – who called himself Pitka – dispensed wild advice to the audience in a thick Indian accent. O'Connor said there were two completed drafts of the script, advanced discussions with Paramount Pictures and the possibility of sequels.
With Wayne's World and Austin Powers, and presumably with his guru, Myers has enjoyed enormous artistic control in part because, as at SNL, he had created his own characters. In agreeing to star as Keith Moon, though, he cannot hope to have as intimate a knowledge of his subject as one of that project's producers, Roger Daltrey, the Who's lead singer. Mike De Luca, who approved Austin Powers while president of production at New Line Cinema, is producing the third and perhaps most tentative of the current Myers projects. How to Survive a Robot Uprising is an adaptation of an obscure tongue-in-cheek survival guide. However, the project's screenwriters have left to work on another project. "Mike's always about the timing and the quality of what he's doing," De Luca said. "I don't think he minds a long time span, if the timing and the quality of the project aren't there yet." For another year, then, at least, audiences will have to make do with Myers' voice as the big green ogre in Shrek the Third, his physical absence made easier by the notion that they've been spared the blighted vintages that might well have been the Myers product of 2004, 2005 or 2006 – and that he's continuing to work, however deliberately, on a splendid '08.
Films That Stood Out
From The Pack
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Looking over the year's movie releases never fails to surprise. First of all, because of the sheer amount of movies that now move through the local theatrical venues like so many fish being processed on a trawler. Second, because of how many movies I'd forgotten I'd even seen. Karla. Barnyard. Gridiron Gang. Is it possible I reviewed these movies? It's also somewhat arresting to realize how much pure sludge manages to make it through the theatrical sluice gates without gumming up the system for any longer than it takes to open Friday, disappear the following Thursday and turn up on DVD a few hours later. Why can't we see this kind of efficiency with all forms of human-made waste? But the most pleasant jolt is the good stuff, and realizing every year there are more that are worthy of inclusion than can fit on a Top 10 list. So here you have it: listed alphabetically and selected (as always in this profession) arbitrarily, with a bunch of very close-calls, worth-a-peeks and almost-rans listed alphabetically below. Submitted purely for purposes of amusement and discussion and only to be taken as seriously as the machine deserves.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan: There's nothing special about the filmmaking, some of the "spontaneous" bits feel a little too contrived to be believed and there are moments that make you wince from embarrassment for the duped and unsuspecting. Nevertheless, no comedy went further, took more risks or had such a well-aimed pee on Bush-era American values as this mock-documentary showcase for the fearlessly talented British ambush comic Sacha Baron Cohen. Plus it was funny – the hands-down, laugh out loud, rib-bruising funniest movie of the year.
Caché (Hidden): Someone's watching the upper-class Parisian couple played (with brilliantly understated marital strain) by Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, but we don't know who or why. Nor do we ever really learn. Nevertheless, Austrian director Michael Haneke's tense, unsettling and devilishly elliptical thriller won't let you go. That's because part of its subject is implication – the way the past eventually catches up and collides with the present and the possibility that there's nothing more frightening than being found out.
Children of Men: England, 2027: A fertility crisis has rendered the world sterile for 18 years, England has become a grey-skied, post-industrial hellhole stricken by terrorism, looting and a brutal anti-immigration policy. Enter Clive Owen's Theo, a glib, alcoholic ex-radical who becomes the most unlikely and reluctant saviour of humankind imaginable. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón's adaptation of P.D. James's only science-fiction novel is simply a corker of a good movie. Smashingly well-made and performed, written with wry wit and intelligence and holding a dark mirror to the present with unwavering assurance.
L'Enfant: Working their hand-held, neo-neorealist urban working-class groove with dazzling seamlessness, the Belgian filmmaking brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne once again prove the divine is in the details. The story of an impulsive street hustler (Jérémie Renier) who only develops a sense of moral consequence when he tries to retrieve the newborn son he's just sold on the street like a box of hijacked electronics equipment, L'Enfant races with the breakneck pace of a thriller but concludes with the transcendent humanity of a redemptive fable. Truly remarkable.
Half Nelson: The sheer effort of trying to inspire dozens of prematurely hope-deprived inner-city black kids has taken its toll on the once idealistic teacher Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling). Despite his intelligence, passion and uncommon connection with the kids – and especially the dour latch-key girl played by Shareeka Epps – Dan has filled the vacuum left by the flight of good intentions with booze, sex and crack. (In the movie's most unforgettable scene, Dan is found wasted in a toilet stall in the girls' washroom.) Both a powerfully gripping character study and a powerful indictment of a coldly uncaring society, Half Nelson turns the conventional Hollywood inspirational teacher movie on its head. In this case, it's the man with the chalk who needs to learn and the kids who already know too much.
Keane: Although finished in 2004, Lodge Kerrigan's intimately unsettling study of a schizophrenic (Damien Lewis) obsessed with finding the daughter he believes was abducted in a New York subway station, took two years to get even the most meagre of local commercial releases. But who ever called this business fair? Nevertheless, Keane – the name of the man doomed to constantly relive that terrible moment – would be a uniformly engrossing experience whenever it was released. With a fiercely convincing central performance (by the terrific British actor Lewis), a terrifying, first-person evocation of madness and a devastating conclusion that merely hints at the possibility of recovery, this is a terrific movie that deserved much better.
Manufactured Landscapes: Working closely with cinematographer/filmmaker Peter Mettler, director Jennifer Baichwal has made a movie about the work of the industrial landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky that reflects both Burtynsky the artist's compositional rigour and Burtynsky the environmentalist's cold ambivalence. Concerned much less with explaining either the art or the artist than conveying its power – Burtynsky goes to the most environmentally blighted sites on earth to take breathtakingly beautiful pictures – Manufactured Landscapes is a remarkably innovative if unquestionably disquieting experience. Some movies are about artists. This one adapts to the art.
Monkey Warfare: In the rapidly gentrifying back alleys of Parkdale, Dan (Don McKellar) and Linda (Tracy Wright) scavenge for stuff they can sell for pot on eBay. They're fortyish, burned-out former radicals with a past and they live in a state of edgy mutual tolerance bound by their clouded past. All is more or less okay until Dan buys some B.C. bud from a counter-culturally smitten young dealer named Susan (Nadia Litz) and before long the revolution comes home. Reg Harkema's sharply observed political comedy has a vivid sense of place, a generous appreciation of character and a playfully plundering street-smart technique. And it's really great to see Toronto show its scruffy side.
Pan's Labyrinth: Just when dopey, high-minded duds like Fur and Lady in the Water force the conclusion that no one should attempt to blend fairy tale and realism again, along comes Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. Set in northern Spain in 1944, the film chronicles the elaborate imaginative universe created by a young girl (Ivana Baquero) sent to live at the fascist-controlled rural estate presided over by her sadistic, Republican-hunting stepfather (a fearsome Sergi Lopez). At once violent and whimsical, historically grounded and conceptually daring, the movie powerfully probes the necessary connection – especially necessary in a child – between the escape offered by imagination and the brute reality of a life of oppression. It's also extraordinarily entertaining, rich with unforgettable effects and smartly aware of the world around it.
United 93: Paul Greengrass's almost unbearably tense, minute-by-minute, you-are-there recreation of the last two hours of the lives of the passengers aboard the hijacked plane that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001 is quite simply one of the most impressively accomplished movies of the year. Focusing on the disorientation of people on the ground and the gradual reckoning of the people in the air, the movie manages to provide an account of catastrophe that never releases its tight focus on the minutiae of human response or loosens its vice-grip on us. In the end, the passengers may be admired for their self-sacrificing collective action in thwarting terrorists, but not because they're heroes. On the contrary, no small part of the movie's power is based in the fact that they're just people. And sometimes people can do incredible things.
Florida Critics Honour Hudson, Whitaker, Hounsou
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(December 28, 2006) *Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker and Djimon Hounsou were among the acting award recipients selected by the Florida Film Critics Circle. Hudson and Hounsou were announced as supporting actor winners for their respective roles in “Dreamgirls” and “Blood Diamond,” while Whitaker picked up yet another best actor award for his role as Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.” “Dreamgirls” and “Blood Diamond” were also among the runners-up for film of the year, which went to Martin Scorcese’s “The Departed.” The Florida critics also gave Scorcese its directing award. The Florida Film Critics Circle winners:
Best Film: "The Departed," directed by Martin Scorsese
Runners-up: "Letters from Iwo Jima"
"Thank You for Smoking"
"Flags of Our Fathers"
Best Foreign-Language Film: "El Laberinto del fauno" ("Pan's Labyrinth"), directed by Guillermo del Toro
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Best Supporting Actor: Djimon Hounsou, "Blood Diamond"
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Best Screenplay: Jason Reitman, "Thank You for Smoking"
Best Documentary: "An Inconvenient Truth" by Davis Guggenheim
Best Animated Film: "Monster House" directed by Gil Kenan
Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, "Children of Men"
Best Film Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker, "The Departed"
Cate Blanchett - A Woman Of Many Changing Moods
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt
(Dec. 28, 06) NEW YORK — Afternoon dusk filters in through a hotel window, silhouetting Cate Blanchett's willowy frame as she peers down at the snarl of holiday traffic on Park Avenue 12 storeys below. A visitor is announced and she takes a moment to compose herself before turning around. "You look a little forlorn," she is told. "I think it's probably the natural setting of my face," she replies, offering a wan smile. "I've just arrived from Sydney with the children," she continues, referring to her two boys, Dashiell, 5, and Roman, 2½ . "I think it's the longest, most hellacious flight you can do with children." She collapses onto the couch, her right hand raised to her head, palm outward, in what seems like a show of surrender. The 20-hour trans-Pacific flight from her home aside, Blanchett would have good reason to be exhausted. In the last few months alone, she's spun around the world in support of her role as a woman dying on the floor of a Moroccan hut in Babel and her doomed femme fatale in Steven Soderbergh's noirish The Good German, and made her professional directorial debut with a production of Harold Pinter's A Kind of Alaska at the Sydney Theatre Company, which opened earlier this month. At the moment, she's trying hard to focus on her role as a reckless London suburbanite in the thrilling drama Notes on a Scandal, which opened in Toronto on Christmas Day and rolls out across Canada next month. Last week, Blanchett was tagged as the best supporting actress by the Toronto Film Critics Association for her role in Notes. Oscar talk is heating up, as it is for her co-star and the film's putative lead, Judi Dench.
But exhaustion is not a constant state for Blanchett; indeed, nothing seems to be. Watch the 37-year-old actress over the space of an hour and she will transform like mercury under your gaze, flitting from studious to sexy, playful to sombre, girlish to womanly, demure to bold and back again: all built atop an almost invisible backbone of emotional reserve. Blanchett puts a similar range to use in Notes as Sheba Hart, a weekend artist and mother of two in a not-unhappy marriage (to a fellow played by Bill Nighy, no less) who falls into an affair with a 15-year-old student at the school where she's just taken a teaching job. She complicates the error by confessing her sins to an older teacher (Judi Dench) who, after initially offering support, takes advantage of the information and becomes something of an emotional stalker. "It's utterly beyond my comprehension," says Blanchett, speaking of what could drive a woman like Sheba to cross those moral and legal lines. "What I like about the film is it doesn't seek to justify Sheba's actions, it simply presents them. Personally, I don't know what you'd talk about with a 15-year-old. Once someone opens their mouth -- no matter how gorgeous they are, they start talking about rugby, it kind of kills it for me." Blanchett's face is a canvas of sharp angles framed today by a wave of wispy blonde hair that falls to the right side of her face and ends a couple of inches below her chin. As she speaks, her eyes at a downward angle, you might almost think she's half asleep. And then she looks up, eyes aflame, and her entire demeanour lights up from within. Her voice swoops from a dangerous purr to an amused singsong. "Once I conceived of Sheba as being somebody who was utterly lost and adrift, and therefore quite desperate -- the fact that she had sex with the boy in the summerhouse at the bottom of her garden, in full view of her husband in the bedroom -- that woman is someone who wants to blow her life to smithereens. Then there was a window in for me."
But how does someone like Blanchett get in touch with the malaise and discontent that seem to be at Sheba's core when she is herself fantastically fulfilled -- at least as seen from the outside? "Well there you go," says Blanchett, latching onto the last phrase of the question as she drops her voice into a lower register rasp like the one she deploys in The Good German. "We're all flawed. There's a great Auden poem -- or is it John Larkin? -- where he wakes up at 3 a.m., and looks at the wardrobe and contemplates death. We all have those 3 a.m. moments when we wake up and we're confronted with our own mortality and the pointlessness of our existence. To pretend otherwise is just to be disingenuous. I mean, anyone who is devoid of self-doubt isn't really alive." She giggles softly. "It's not that I need to get in touch with that," she continues, "because a character is not an expression of myself. I find that a bit repugnant. I think it's about shedding yourself and investigating another way of thinking. I don't feel that acting is a form of self-expression, of telling the world what I think. It's a curious endeavour to find out the way other people think. "So it's not that I think the same way as Sheba. But, you know, we're all flawed and fragile, no matter what we present." Is being an actress a way of keeping those 3 a.m. moments at bay? "I was talking to my husband about this the other week," she says, suddenly sitting up on the lip of the couch and twisting her limbs into a contortionist's triumph: body wrapped in a beige Marni knit dress, legs in fishnets and supple Louis Vuitton boots.
"Look, it's a wonderful privilege to be a working actor, because you get to have the catharsis, you have the chance to re-offend and get out there and move through it. And I wonder, you know, if I wasn't a working actor whether I would be as emotionally healthy. It's a fantastic outlet to kind of move through other people's experiences. It's visceral, it's psychological, it uses every single part of your being. I think it's meant that I could have a very healthy private life." With three films in theatres right now (and a turn as one of the Bob Dylans in Todd Haynes' 2007 biopic about the singer, I'm Not There) this may be the last great flush of Blanchett we see for a while. Recently she and her husband, the playwright Andrew Upton, accepted a term beginning in 2008 as co-artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company, where she got her professional start. In that office, they are charged with programming four performance spaces as well as overseeing the company's development arm and its educational activities for local schoolchildren. Why take on a role like this when she has become one of the most respected and in-demand actresses of her generation? "I'm very collaborative," she replies. "I think that's the way I work as an actor, and the thought of doing this with my husband -- we work very well together, we bounce off one another really well and complement one another really well -- it just felt incredibly natural. There are all these latent qualities I think that I have been, unbeknownst to me, developing: my understanding of text, working with actors, working internationally, working in both mediums. I think the acceptance of the job meant there was finally a focus beyond myself to which these skills could be harnessed." Directing the Pinter was a small step toward a greater integration in the company. She will direct another play next season, David Harrower's child abuse drama Blackbird. In A Kind of Alaska, which Pinter wrote in the early eighties, a woman awakes from a coma of 30 years to realize with horror that life has proceeded without her. The difficulties of adapting to the world as it now exists are almost enough to push her back into her comatose state. "What I love about Pinter is he explores the difference between what we want and what we need, and in A Kind of Alaska you're also dealing with the difference between the desired-for reality and societal reality. Which I think is endlessly fascinating. And memory: What do you remember and what is real?"
Fourth ‘Indiana Jones' To Begin Shooting
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
(Dec. 30, 2006) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — George Lucas said Friday that filming of the long-awaited “Indiana Jones” movie will begin next year. Harrison Ford, who appeared in the three earlier flicks, the last one coming in 1989, is set to star again. Lucas said he and Steven Spielberg recently finalized the script for the film. “It's going to be fantastic. It's going to be the best one yet,” the 62-year-old filmmaker said during a break from preparing for his duties as grand marshal of Monday's Rose Parade. Exact film locations have not been decided yet, but Lucas said part of the movie will be shot in Los Angeles.
The fourth chapter of the “Indiana Jones” saga, which will hit theatres in May 2008, has been in development for over a decade with several screenwriters taking a crack at the script, but it only recently gained momentum. Lucas kept mum about the plot, but said that the latest action flick will be a “character piece” that will include “very interesting mysteries.” “I think it's going to be really cool,” Lucas said. At the inaugural Rome Film Festival in October, the 64-year-old Ford said he was excited to team up with Lucas and Spielberg again for the fourth “Indiana Jones” instalment. Ford said he was “fit to continue” to play the title role despite his age. Ford played Indiana Jones in 1981's “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” 1984's “Temple of Doom” and 1989's “The Last Crusade.” Lucas praised Ford for breathing life into his character. “Mostly it's the charm of Harrison that makes it work,” he said.
Edward Norton - The Man Behind The Veil
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
As he politely greets the latest in a long line of interviewers on what has been an extensive press tour for The Painted Veil, Edward Norton wears a tailored pinstriped jacket over T-shirt and jeans. On his feet are beautifully tooled, soft brown leather shoes. They leave the merest hint that this character is a class act. He is putting in the time to promote a film he first attached himself to in 1999 after reading Ron Nyswaner's script and of which, as one of its producers and leading man, he can be justly proud. (The movie opened Friday.) Norton plays Walter Fane, a British bacteriologist based in China in 1925, who takes his wife Kitty, played by Naomi Watts, into a cholera plague after he discovers her adultery. "Ron and I made a very conscious decision to liberate the scope of the story from the confines of the (Somerset Maugham) novel, both physically and historically and in some ways emotionally. Maugham takes a pretty cynical view of his contemporaries if you get right down to it. There are rumours that he based Kitty on his wife. "I think he takes a jaundiced view of people's capacity to change. We made the choice to imagine these characters transcending themselves a little more than he does and achieving a kind of romantic transcendence that they don't in the novel," said Norton.
As a student at Yale University, Norton pursued a long-time fascination with Asian culture (he purportedly taught himself Japanese at the age of 16) and studied Chinese history. Norton's buttoned-down Edwardian scientist and his relationship with a superficial, upper-middle-class wife presented an acting challenge: how to make their story resonate in the present. "With these characters there was a challenge of committing to their flaws, because otherwise they won't really have anywhere to go. Naomi had to commit to the shallowness of this girl. I had to commit to Walter as a less than socially adept guy and a less than thrilling lover." The way they change, finding love once they are forced into extreme circumstances, "represents something I think lots of people do," says Norton. As a movie, The Painted Veil has a feel of movies made in the past, with big, romantic ambitions. Norton was prompted to look again at Out of Africa. "It's a beautiful film that does for you what movies can do, which is transport you in a wonderfully visceral, sensual kind of way to a place beyond your own experience to a simpler time. I think that is what those David Lean films do too. They transport you and yet you still see your own longings, your own failures, you can see yourself reflected in these things. "If you can't imagine yourself in the story I don't think it can affect you in the same way." Nominated for a supporting actor Academy Award for his first film role in Primal Fear and for Best Actor in American History X, Norton, 37, has worked in 20 films in 20 years and earned a reputation as an actor's actor, one of the finest of his generation. He runs Class 5 Films in partnership with his brother Jim Norton and a writer and producer.
Norton chooses his projects carefully and leans toward the literary, perhaps the legacy of his late mother, who was an English teacher. One of the projects he has in development is an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem's novel Motherless Brooklyn, for which he's writing the script. "Jonathan's book feels like it's from another time," says Norton, "so we're actually putting it in that time. We're setting it in the '50s, mixing it up with historical events in New York so it will be sort of an amalgam of that book and real-life events." He recently announced a partnership with Brad Pitt's Plan B to produce a 10-part series for HBO based on Stephen Ambrose's book Undaunted Courage, about the Lewis and Clark expedition. He has found a few standards for projects he'll take on. "I think that most really good art in any form that sticks around is stuff that takes the measure of its moment. And I could say the same for a lot of things I've worked on, like Fight Club, American History X, Down in the Valley or The 25th Hour. The reason I made those films is that I heard the voices of people I know in them." Norton's father Edward Norton Sr. is an environmental lawyer and former prosecutor under the Carter administration. Norton Jr. has exercised his social conscience in Hollywood, protesting the swag bags given out at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes, and calling the traffic in $35,000 handouts "shameful and disgusting." His remarks prompted an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service. There will be no expensive gift bags at this year's events.
Driving Mr. Freeman
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
The check-out line at the supermarket that says "10 Items or Less" is where you go for quick service – and the movie of the same title starring Morgan Freeman fits just that scenario. The film, which premiered at the Toronto film festival in September, had a limited release on Dec. 1 in New York and Los Angeles cinemas. Then, on Dec. 15, it became instantly available to people elsewhere online, at www.cstar.com, through a new digital service called ClickStar. (ClickStar, Inc. is a new digital entertainment venture between Intel Corp. and Freeman's production company, Revelations Entertainment.) "I want to make it easier for the general public to buy a film than to pirate it," explained Freeman in an interview held during the Toronto festival. "Life these days is propelled by technology. We're sitting on the cusp of a whole new era in entertainment presentation." So far, the jury is still out on the experiment. There have been numerous complaints online about both the quality of the streaming available and the fact that the only browser ClickStar will recognize is Internet Explorer 7.
"I'm not expecting it all to be perfect first time out of the box," predicted Freeman. "Things take time, my friend, especially things worth doing." That almost stands as the motto for Freeman's own career. The 2005 Oscar winner for Million Dollar Baby was born in Clarksdale, Miss., on June 1, 1937, the youngest of four children. Freeman began acting in school at the age of 8 and continued to win drama competitions throughout his high school years. "I used to sit at the movies," he grins "and say, `Yeah, I could do that, no problem.'" But it took him a while to get there. He went to Los Angeles Community College and then spent five years working as a mechanic in the air force. "I realized I needed to learn more about life before I could really start acting," he says. "I never regretted it." His first professional job was in 1964 as a dancer at the New York World's Fair and then he was cast as an Inca in the road company of The Royal Hunt of the Sun. His first original part was in a 1967 off-Broadway play by George Tabori called The Niggerlovers, where he appeared opposite Stacy Keach, and he went from that on to Broadway in the all-black cast of Hello, Dolly! starring Pearl Bailey.
He played Rudolph, the imperious tyrant who leads the waiters at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant through their show-stopping dance number and Freeman laughs as he recalls it. "You got one step wrong or missed one beat and the whole thing fell apart. And then you had the wrath of Pearly Mae to deal with because you were helping to build up to her big entrance. Let me put it this way, you never made the same mistake twice." And that started what Freeman called "My 20 years in the wilderness. Twenty years onstage thinking that after every successful review, Hollywood would be knocking on the door, but it didn't happen." He kept busy at an eclectic assortment of jobs: understudying the title role in Purlie!, appearing on the soap opera Another World and becoming a beloved regular on the popular children's program The Electric Company. Freeman also did a lot of work for Joseph Papp's Public Theatre, including the title role in an acclaimed 1979 production of Coriolanus, but then in 1987 – 20 years exactly after The Niggerlovers – he had a double breakthrough. He opened off-Broadway in a little play called Driving Miss Daisy, which was to take off like a rocket – onscreen as well as onstage – and change his life. And at the same time, a film he had shot in Canada called Street Smart earned him his first Oscar nomination. It had taken Freeman a long time, but he had his next moves all prepared. "I wanted to be a movie actor who morphed into a movie star who morphed again into being a force in the industry. "Yes, I did it, but it took a long time and to get there I had to confront people. I realized I had to stop playing those `black actor' roles if I was to have any real power."
Freeman thinks back to a particular moment in time to prove his point. "Let me tell you what I mean. I was asked to audition for a science fiction movie and I read the script. It's about 10 guys. The seven scientists are all white. The other three – the cook, the mechanic and the radio operator – are all black. "I pointed that out to them and they asked me `What's the problem?' I said, `I don't have a problem. I'm not going to be in your movie.'" He looks out the window of his hotel room. "I didn't work for a couple of years, partly as a result of confronting people like that." When they finally brought Driving Miss Daisy to the screen in 1989, it won Freeman his second Oscar nomination, but he was still playing a role specifically written for a black actor, "so it didn't mean all that much." But in 1994, when his performance in The Shawshank Redemption brought him a third Oscar nomination "this time, it was not a part written for a black man, so that made a world of difference to me." Freeman feels one of his major responsibilities now is mentoring young talent, and his advice is simple and direct. "The first move in success is knowing what you want. Once you know that and you put it out there, the universe shifts and things happen for you. State your real desire, because that's what you'll focus on and that's what you'll accomplish." His face lights up. "I get a big kick out of getting what I want." Then his voice drops into his trademark basso growl. "I'm terrible when I don't get what I want." Watching Freeman in action, that isn't hard to believe.
Blacktrospective 2006: Annual Look Back at the Best (and Worst)
in Black Cinema
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
January 2, 2007) *How do you go from American Idol also-ran to prohibitive Oscar favourite? No, don’t ask tone deaf William Hung, but rather the irrepressible Jennifer Hudson, whose screen debut as Effie in Dreamgirls has made everybody forget about Jennifer Holliday, the originator of the role on Broadway back in 1981. And although Hudson is currently enjoying all the buzz, 2006 was a banner year for breakout performance by black actresses, a sharp departure from 2005. Who could forget luscious Lauren London in ATL, precocious Keke Palmer in Akeelah and the Bee and Madea’s Family Reunion, or Halle Berry look-a-like Paula Patton in Idlewild and Déjà Vu? The list of the black actors, however, is littered with a lot of familiar names, from Samuel L. Jackson to Laurence Fishburne to Delroy Lindo to Eddie Murphy to Chiwetel Ejifor, though Forest Whitaker was another shoo-in for his chilling channelling of the spirit of the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Of course, it is also my civic duty as a critic to point out the lousiest outings and offerings, too, so without further ado, I humbly offer the 2006 edition of my annual Blacktrospective.
For full list by Kam Williams, go HERE.
Bond, Dreamgirls Winners At The Holiday Box Office
Source: Associated Press
Los Angeles -- The latest James Bond movie, Casino Royale, has become the highest-earning 007 thriller of all time, it was reported yesterday. The critically acclaimed film, featuring Daniel Craig playing the British superspy for the first time, has passed the previous box-office record held by a Bond movie, the $431-million (U.S.) earned by 2002's Die Another Day. So far, Casino Royale has raked in $448-million worldwide since its opening last month, Variety reported. Elsewhere at the holiday box office, it was a great Christmas for Dreamgirls. The film, starring Eddie Murphy and Beyoncé Knowles, earned $8.7-million on Christmas Day according to studio estimates. That was good enough to push it into the top-10 grossing films for the four-day holiday weekend, knocking the religious-themed The Nativity Story to 11th place.
Aisha Hinds Behind Lifetime ‘Conspiracy’
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(December 28, 2006) *Actress Aisha Hinds, best known for her role opposite Laurence Fishburne in “Assault on Precinct 13,” has joined the cast of Lifetime’s drama pilot “Conspiracy.” The Fox TV Studios project follows Samantha Cross (Lisa Sheridan), a young Washington lawyer who, after winning a highly publicized case for a large pharmaceutical company, realizes that she was given falsified documents and that her client was guilty. As she seeks the truth and puts her life in danger, she learns that her prestigious law firm is the enemy and the conspiracy is much bigger than the initial case. Hinds will play Cross' roommate and resident rebel. She joins other newly-cast talent Jonathan Scarfe, Gabriel Olds, Kevin Rahm, Benjamin Burdick and Sam Anderson. Hinds, a 31-year-old Brooklyn native, will next be seen on the big screen in the psychological thriller “Mr. Brooks.” Kevin Costner stars in the project as a man with a murderous alter ego, played by William Hurt. Demi Moore stars as a tough detective whose devotion to her craft catches the attention and respect of the serial killer she is hunting, which leads to a symbiotic relationship.
ACTRA Delays Strike Action, Returns To Talks
Excerpt from the Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon
(Jan. 3, 2007) Toronto -- The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists has decided to delay any strike action, which could potentially cause major disruptions throughout the film and TV industry, and instead return to the bargaining table. The actors' union has been in a legal strike position since Monday in its continuing labour dispute with the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, which represents producers. The dispute has largely revolved around the CFTPA's efforts to create a more standardized pay scale, particularly for low-budget productions. Although the previous labour agreement expired at the end of the year (except in British Columbia, where a separate agreement is in place), talks are scheduled to resume today and tomorrow in Toronto.
60 Minutes Won't
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
NEW YORK – Faced with the need to replace Ed Bradley in the middle of the TV season, 60 Minutes won't even bother. His workload will be spread around, and, in a unique arrangement for the CBS newsmagazine, his top producer will run a reporting unit for stories available to all on-air correspondents. "It's a long-term project to find the next full-time person who can show the abilities that are expected of a 60 Minutes correspondent," said Jeff Fager, the show's executive producer. Even before Bradley's death on Nov. 9, it was a transition year for TV's longest-running newsmagazine. Mike Wallace has retired, Morley Safer has cut back his hours and Dan Rather is gone. Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper are new contributors. Bradley, who died at 65 of leukemia, had only a year to enjoy a status of first among equals at the ensemble. His was the first face shown during the weekly introductions, a subtle indication of status that only Wallace had previously achieved, and he was gone before many even realized it. "He was the king," said fellow correspondent Bob Simon. "He had the most authoritative presence and style on the broadcast and that's not replaceable.'' Bradley also was an off-screen leader at one of TV's most notorious dens of competition and ego.
During the 1995 crisis that became the subject of the movie The Insider, when 60 Minutes caved to corporate pressure and delayed a tough report about tobacco companies, "half the office wasn't talking to the other half," correspondent Lesley Stahl recalled. Bradley brought everyone to his apartment and said he wouldn't let them leave until they thrashed it out, she said. "The reaction to Ed's dying was something I'd never seen," Stahl said. "I've been around here a long time and there was a quality of reaction from the public that was personal in a way I can't explain and everyone here has had the same thing. We have all been flooded with e-mails.'' Steve Kroft inherits Bradley's slot as the first correspondent whose face is shown during the show's introduction ("I'm Steve Kroft ..."). This, after all the years in which he was rided as the "new guy.'' "I think in some ways he symbolizes 60 Minutes at its best,'' Fager said. "He is the best reporter in the business and you don't get better in terms of writing and reporting. His stories are always good. He doesn't do clunkers." Kroft's stories have led the broadcast three times this season, more than any other correspondent. Over the past year, he's investigated human growth hormones, illegal immigration, Iraqi reconstruction and organized crime in a small town in Italy. Stahl has done a number of political, science and business stories, including her October interviews with two high-profile women who lost their corporate jobs. Simon, who made his way to a remote earthquake-ravaged area in Pakistan for a story on two New Yorkers who were treating victims, is trying to do more domestic stories. Scott Pelley, meanwhile, has done more international work. Early in the season, Couric did stories but has largely concentrated on the evening news since then. Cooper, who will occasionally contribute stories to 60 Minutes while staying at CNN, debuted last month with a story on the Abu Ghraib whistleblower.
None of the correspondents interviewed expressed any problem with doing a few more stories this year; they're often clamouring for airtime, anyway. Fager's ability to spread time around was a particularly delicate issue last season, with Wallace active and Rather joining the cast from the CBS Evening News. At the time he became seriously ill, Bradley had left behind no stories that his colleagues will have to pick up on. Bradley's sense of whimsy, his cackle of a laugh, will be remembered by all who heard it. Like all 60 Minutes correspondents, he was a generalist who would mix investigations with softer features. "The thing you reach for at 60 Minutes is to develop your own voice, to be as much an individual in the true sense of yourself on camera," Stahl said. "Ed was able to show a lot of parts of himself on camera and not block it off." At 60 Minutes, correspondents hire a handful of individual producers who have a great deal of power, coming up with story ideas and doing much of the reporting. The producer's name is usually on-screen behind a correspondent during an introduction of a report.
Rather than be assigned to another correspondent, Bradley's top producer, Michael Radutzky, will lead his own team and produce stories for various correspondents, Fager said. Bradley's death also robs 60 Minutes of its only on-screen black correspondent. He always saw race as secondary to his reporting, but there were interviews with black personalities that CBS might have landed the story because the celebrities felt comfortable with Bradley, Fager said. Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods were among Bradley's profile subjects. While it's important to have diversity, "I think everyone thinks it would be a mistake to address that issue with someone just for the sake of addressing that," Kroft said.
Top 10 Canadian Shows
Excerpt from The Toronto Star – Jim Bawden
1. Slings & Arrows: The brilliant third year wrap up for a quality series featuring 86-years young Bill Hutt as a Shakespearean ham, Paul Gross as a strung-out artistic director.
2. Godiva's: Emerging stars Erin Karpluk and Stephen Lobo aced this smart, sexy look at the staff of a struggling Vancouver restaurant.
3. At The Hotel: Director Ken Finkleman's outre version of life inside a boutique hotel featured outstanding acting turns from Martha Henry, Linda Kash and Maury Chaykin.
4. Hockey: A People's History from executive producer Mark Starowicz almost but not quite recaptured the purity of vision and spellbinding grace of Baseball by Ken Burns.
5. This Is Wonderland combined George F. Walker's scripts with a gaggle of great turns from some of Canada's best actors.
6. In Korea With Norm Christie eerily revisited the now silent battlegrounds of a half century and included interview with participants now grown old and creaky.
7. Memory For Max, Claire, Ida And Company, from legendary Allan King, showed the true greatness of the Canadian documentary tradition.
8. Booky Makes Her Mark was an almost perfectly realized adaptation of the instant children's classic with Megan Follows in top form as a sad-faced Depression mom.
9. The Man Who Lost Himself dramatized the real life anguish of football great Terry Evanshen who lost his memory in a brutal car crash. Starring were Wendy Crewson and David James Elliott.
10. Billable Hours and Naked Josh both proved Canadian producers can make funny homegrown sitcoms when given half a chance.
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
"About time," is the way Robert Osborne describes the move of Turner Classic Movies into Canadian TV territory last month. An added benefit: the genial and knowledgeable film expert will be available before each TCM prime-time presentation to describe the back story of the next movie coming up. Robert Osborne? If you don't know him you're in for a treat. White-haired and always impeccably attired, he wrote the coffee-table book 75 Years Of the Oscar and last year replaced Army Archerd as the celebrity greeter on the Oscar red carpet outside Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. But most of the time he's immersed in movies past and present as writer for The Hollywood Reporter and as host of TCM. "It's a perfect fit," he says of his TV duties. "I get the list and start writing away and, every fourth week, journey to Atlanta to tape all the introductions for a month." Osborne does 150 intros and exits every month and tries never to repeat himself. For example, the other night TCM showed the 1958 Gary Cooper western Man of the West, a powerful indictment against violence. Osborne told us in his foreword that the film was the first Cooper movie in 25 years not to open first run at New York's premiere downtown theatres. It was shipped out as part of a double bill because critics called it too raw and filled with fighting scenes. "That was exactly why Coop did it," Osborne chuckles. "He wanted to make a different kind of western. But it was too much for his fans. Only now are we seeing its virtues."
These days people watch movies both old and new on cable networks like TCM or its rival American Movie Classics, which is also coming to Rogers Cable. Osborne says he misses the days of the great movie palaces and admits TV and DVD have created a new generation of movie fans who prefer staying home. TCM and AMC started out 20 years ago, but TCM has emerged as the leader of the movie pack, Osborne thinks, because, "Ted Turner bought his packages so he always has had this base. AMC rented their old films and later lost rights." These days TCM shows MGM, Warners, RKO, Columbia, Paramount and Universal pictures made before 1949. "I thought when asked for my ninth introduction to The Philadelphia Story that I might pass. But I did it as a salute to Ruth Hussey, the neglected fourth wheel, Oscar-nominated for her performance. And that worked. I'm rarely stumped for words." He once said that preserving a film like Congo Maisie was as important as preserving Gone With the Wind. "I believed it, still do. Because it opens a door into our past, you can check out attitudes prevailing then." Osborne was born in the agricultural community of Colfax, Wash. He studied journalism at the University of Washington but dreamed of stardom. "I was going to be the next Cary Grant," he jokes and when he hit Hollywood was taken under the wing of Lucille Ball. "She had a group of young actors she was trying to push along. But acting really wasn't for me," he said. "One day I was over at Lucy's and she said `You come from a nice family, you may be too normal for stardom, it's a lonely place.' She told me to be myself and combine my journalism love and my show business love. It was the best advice ever given to me. "Lucy was a close friend, so was Bette Davis; these women knew more about the game than anybody. They couldn't bear to think of retirement. There was nothing for them to retire to."
With TCM now holding more than 6,000 titles there's little likelihood Osborne will ever run out of things to say about new and old movies, good and bad. This month TCM has a Jean Arthur festival with 17 titles sprinkled through the schedule. Sunday nights are reserved for such restored silents as Metropolis. Island Combat is another highlight: films made about war in the South Pacific and including such titles as Too Late the Hero, Hell in the Pacific, Ambush Bay and Beach Red. Plus this month features "Strike It Rich Films" (Paint Your Wagon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), a Kirk Douglas mini-salute and Osborne's own favourites of the month (including The Spiral Staircase, The Mating Season, The Garden of Allah and Prizzi's Honor). Chances are he's already hard at work writing up his February movie intros.
Mary Meagher, 47:
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - New York Times
NEW YORK–The email messages and phone calls began circulating around the theatre world two weeks ago. The news was not unexpected – just about everyone had seen it coming – but it was still shocking in its finality: Mary Meagher, once one of the brightest literary agents in theatre and independent film, and a gorgeous, fiery presence on the scene, had died. She was 47. Meagher, who grew up in Toronto, died on Dec. 9, her family said, of a heart attack, in her Manhattan apartment. Most had not heard from her in years, since her descent into drug and alcohol addiction had accelerated. But in an industry full of neon personalities, Meagher stood out. Little was known about her past, because she rarely talked about it; she seemed to have sprung fully formed from the streets of Manhattan, wearing a miniskirt and white heels and clutching a shopping bag full of scripts. There was above all her voice: the accent peculiar, old-fashioned, imprecisely British; and the tendency to punctuate her sentences with dahhh-ling and to use adverbs liberally, as in: Oh dahhh-ling, what a mah-velously splendid play. "I assume she was born in the same country as Kathleen Turner," said the playwright Nicky Silver, a former client. People who first encountered her by phone, expecting an aging British grande dame, were surprised to find that she was a knockout, an "exotic, mysterious dame in a short skirt," as the director Mark Brokaw described her. Her whole persona, from the paper bag purses to the pet tarantula, was a work of performance art, a modern-day Holly Golightly.
But what was indisputably real was her eye for talent. Her clients, mostly lesser-known playwrights and directors when she first began working with them, included playwright Douglas Carter Beane (Advice from a Caterpillar and Too Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar), writer Seth Zvi Rosenfeld (SUBWAYStories: Tales from the Underground), director Matthew Penn (TV's Law & Order, NYPD Blue and The Sopranos), director Brad Anderson (TV's The Wire, The Shield and Homicide: Life on the Street) and Canadian director Alison Maclean (TV's Sex and the City and Homicide: Life on the Street.. She promoted them all with religious fervour. "She was sort of the picker of hothouse orchids," said writer Jon Robin Baitz. It was not her negotiating that set her apart; it was her conviction that her writers and directors, these artists on the periphery, deserved a place in the marketplace. She persuaded them of their as-yet-unrecognized gifts, and then made sure the recognition came. She was, as Beane put it, "an enthusiast." (Characters in several of his plays, including the agent in The Little Dog Laughed, now on Broadway, were partly inspired by Meagher.) But as tireless as Meagher was in convincing her artists of their worth, her friends said, she could never do so for herself. She drank with abandon. Her personal life, her health and her finances she treated with a reckless neglect, all along maintaining a wit and charisma that enthralled almost anyone who came in contact with her. Few people knew of Meagher's past, which she never talked about. She was born in England, where her father was studying literature; after a few years hopping from college to college in America and Europe, the family settled in Toronto.
In her youth she was precocious and impatient, said Meagher's brother Sean, who lives in Toronto. But her sadness was also visible early on, noticeable in grade school pictures, the effect of experiences in early childhood that permanently marked her. "There was a legitimate cause to her sadness," he said, declining to elaborate. She left home and school at 17 to live with a group of literary bohemians in downtown Toronto, her brother said. Soon after, she met an up-and-coming actor, married and moved to New York. Her husband was determined to break into the theatre scene but moved back to Toronto within a year. Meagher stayed, though it would be years before they actually divorced. She worked alongside aspiring actors and writers in a restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, learning about the life of the undiscovered artist and, until the other waiters found out, sleeping in the kitchen at night. When a few of the actors began working at a downtown theatre, Meagher signed on to be a house manager. One night in 1982 she met David Guç, a vice-president at Don Buchwald & Associates, the talent agency. She told him she wanted to be an agent; he hired her as a receptionist. Two years later, having worked her way up to the position of literary agent, Meagher helped Guç establish the Gersh Agency, and she began to build a reputation as a spirited advocate of budding talent. The William Morris Agency hired her in 1993, and most of her loyal clients followed. From her summers, which she spent at the New York Stage and Film workshops at Vassar College, she developed an even longer client list and moved on to independent film projects, taking on more clients like Anderson, the director of Next Stop Wonderland, and Maclean, the director of Jesus' Son. Work was her entire life, friends said, morning to night at the theatre and in the show business hot spots. Every conversation was about this marvellously gifted playwright whose work one simply must see or this sadly awful play from last night. Her friends and lovers were some of the theatre and independent film industry's most prominent names – actors, writers, producers – though her energies were not focused on domestic stability. The owner of the Jujamcyn theatres, Rocco Landesman, whom she dated, remembered taking her to an opening-night party. She left with someone else, but had the wit to send Landesman flowers the next day. "She lived her clients' lives," he said. "She was totally dedicated to them, and she really didn't have a life beyond that."
It was not a secret, those who knew her said, that by the mid-'90s, the rest of her life was falling into disrepair. The tarantula lay dead in its cage for weeks in her apartment. Her wardrobe was becoming haphazard, careless. "People around her recognized that she was doomed if nothing happened," the writer John Patrick Shanley said. Still, partly through sheer charisma, she was able to set up her budding New York playwrights with television and film projects, get Shanley's screenplays published almost on a whim, negotiate a three-picture deal with Miramax for Anderson, sell Beane's scripts to Hollywood and bring Hollywood money to the Drama Dept., an Off Broadway theatre company. The whispering was growing, though, about her behaviour at parties, the unpaid loans from friends, her tardiness or even absence from important meetings. William Morris quietly sponsored a stint in out-patient rehab, but she did not finish it, and she left the agency in 1998. Many of her clients were not ready to give up on her. Beane, newly well-off from the movie deals she had brokered, said he paid for her to stay at the Betty Ford Center. When she returned, Beane and Anderson created a management firm for her, Independent Artists. "As agents," Meagher said in a 1998 article in Daily Variety about the firm, "we become so focused on the future, the things artists could attain but don't yet have, that we often overlook servicing the present."
The firm did not last a year. She fell back into drinking; a boyfriend pulled her into hard drugs. The writers who'd been as loyal to Meagher as to anyone in the business had to tell her they were moving on. "My friends were doing interventions with me, saying, `You have to let go, this is not healthy,'" said Beane, who worked with her longer than almost anyone. About six years ago Meagher disappeared from most people's lives for good. Her brother Sean, who stayed in contact with her, said that when she'd lost hope of recovery she didn't want to be around the people she knew. "If she couldn't be that vibrant, vivacious asset that she'd always been to them," he said, "she just wanted to step away." She married a building superintendent, who took care of her as her health deteriorated. "As a representative," said Raelle Koota, who worked with Meagher at Gersh, "you devote your life and energy to other people, giving esteem to other people, boosting other people. I think Mary was sort of someone who gave esteem to everybody else but didn't want to accept any herself."
Lights Dim For Passe
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Theatre Passe Muraille may have its back against the wall. The Toronto Star has learned that the venerable Canadian theatre institution is having trouble struggling through its 39th season and is apparently carrying a crippling $500,000 deficit on an annual operating budget of roughly $1.2 million. The theatre originally announced a slim season of three plays on its Mainstage and a festival of one-act plays in the Backspace. But the Backspace season has been cancelled and the current cash-flow situation is causing great concern to the artists connected with the remaining Mainstage shows. Things have gotten so dire that, shortly before Christmas, Franca Miraglia, vice-chair of the board, sent out an email to friends of Passe Muraille, pleading with them to write letters of support to City Councillor Adam Vaughan whom she perceives as "very much pro-culture." The campaign would aim to solicit additional funds from the city's Culture Division because, "We can't afford to have TPM shut its doors and I am therefore counting on your help in saving TPM." When reached on the phone yesterday, Miraglia admitted that "the theatre is in a financially critical situation, but we don't feel it's out of control and we have five different plans in place.
"It's a situation that the theatre has been in many times during its history," she added. Theatre Passe Muraille was founded in 1968 by Jim Garrard and Paul Thompson and played an important part in Canada's theatrical development, especially through collective works like The Farm Show. Over the years, it was home to important writers such as Rick Salutin and Linda Griffiths. And in 1999, thanks to its current artistic director, Layne Coleman, it offered the premiere of Michael Healey's The Drawer Boy, which went on to enormous success throughout the world. But in the last few years, the organization seemed to have lost its way and the programming veered erratically between dated attempts to capture the past and work that was so experimental it wasn't yet ready to meet an audience. This October's production of Descent was an example of the kind of show that had brought the theatre into trouble: it received almost universally bad reviews and drew sparse attendance. Coleman announced his resignation this fall but said that he intended to stay around through the 2007-2008 season, which was originally conceived of as a glorious 40th anniversary retrospective. "It would be a shame," admitted Miraglia, "to have to suspend operations on the eve of such a major celebratory occasion. "We want to make sure that Theatre Passe Muraille is able to go into the future with the financial stability it deserves." This may not seem like the most propitious time to be searching for a new artistic director. But Miraglia claims "super-high calibre candidates from across the country have been applying." Sources say that the most likely candidate to take the job so far is actor/director David Ferry, who has management skills and deep roots in the theatrical community.
Jonathan Goad - Down-To-Earth Star
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian
(Jan. 3, 2007) If you want to know what a man is really like, then have him tell you about his wedding. Fortunately, it's an easy topic for Jonathan Goad to remember, because he just tied the knot with fellow Stratford thespian Adrienne Gould on Dec. 20 in Mexico. And now he's sitting, tanned and smiling, in the offices of Mirvish Productions, getting ready for his role as Val Xavier in Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending, which starts previews tonight at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Goad is 35 and when asked why he finally decided to get married his answer is simple. "First and foremost, she's the one. I knew that from the moment I met her. I'm very old-fashioned, but I'm not a ritualist and I had never felt the need to formalize our love for each other." Then he smiles. "But it was important to her and that meant it became important to me."
But like everything else Goad has touched in his life, it had a certain flair about it. Both families gathered together on a beach in Mexico and Janine Pearson, the head of voice at Stratford, officiated at the ceremony, which combined elements from numerous cultures. "I have a deeply spiritual but not a religious nature," volunteers Goad, "and what happened to us that day touched me more deeply than I ever thought it would." It's nice to put the happy ending at the top of the story, but – to tell you the truth – there isn't really much of a downside to this whole saga. Goad is not only one of the most talented actors of his generation, but a profoundly thoughtful individual who's as far away from "showbiz" as you can possibly imagine. "Do you want to take from the world," he asks, "or do you want to give to the world? That's a daily search for me." He was born in Toronto East General on March 20, 1971, but his family moved to Bowmanville when he was 6 months old. He has two older brothers, one an OPP detective and one the head of math in a high school, and his mother was a teacher. But it's when you look at Goad's father that you start to see where the gene pool was leading him all along. "My dad died nearly four years ago," says Goad. "He was my largest supporter, but in a very unobtrusive way. He spent his life working as an engineer, but he was a serious closet artist.
"He was a jazz musician, a great actor, a gifted visual artist ... but he was of that era when a man didn't do those things if he wanted to raise a family. He never told me about the bargain he'd made with life in so many words, but I knew. "At one point, after my second year at the National Theatre School, I dropped out because I had a crisis and didn't know if I was living my dream or my father's dream. "As I eventually learned, I was living both of them." Goad's first stage appearance was in Grade 4 as Cupid, a role which had been added to a community production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum starring his father. "And then in Grade 5," Goad adds, "I did my first Shakespeare, well, sort of. It was called Juliet and the Sundance Kid and I played a cross between Billy the Kid and Romeo." In Bowmanville High School, Goad recalls himself having "an insatiable appetite for everything. I played every sport, edited the school newspaper, was prime minister of student council and played the lead in the school musicals." After his stints as Danny in Grease, Harold Hill in The Music Man and Jesus in Godspell, you might have thought Goad would shoot for a theatrical career, but, as he says, "I didn't know you could make a living in the arts, I had no idea that theatre schools even existed."
Goad's guidance counsellor "pointed me to York. I lasted a month there. Everybody was smoking and dressed in black. I wasn't part of that crowd." So he dropped out for a year and then went to the University of Waterloo to study social work. But there he also found himself doing five shows a year for Joel Greenberg in the university's theatre department. "Finally, somebody told me about the National Theatre School. I auditioned and got lucky. Did the right thing on the right day." Goad was incredibly happy at NTS. Too happy, in fact. "In the middle of my second year, I was having such a good time that I started to feel a sense of guilt. Do I deserve this? Should I be here? What is it all about?" For Goad, the turning point came when "I forgot my mother's birthday. I had a ... presentation that I got consumed by. For me it was sign of something bad happening to my priorities. "So I left, because I said I had to do the bravest thing I could think of. In retrospect, I think I self-sabotaged to test myself." But as always in Goad's charmed life, fate was waiting with a safety net. "Joel Greenberg was directing a professional production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and asked me to be in it. It ran for nine months and by then, Stratford had come calling." It wasn't the organization itself that appealed. "It wasn't the Holy Grail to me. I had seen some shows which utterly blew me away and others when I thought hey, give me a break." What convinced Goad this was the place for him was his growing belief that he had to perform the works of Shakespeare and others of substance.
"It all became clear to me one day when a wonderful singer and vocal coach named Anne-Marie Donovan said `You will make the greatest effect on the world when you show them yourself doing the thing you love to do.'" So he headed to Stratford in 1999 and spent an intense period in their first Conservatory. Bursting with idealism, he sprang into rehearsals for A Midsummer Night's Dream as Theseus, with artistic director Richard Monette directing him. "We had one rehearsal," he remembers, "and Richard said `You're perfect.' We never really rehearsed again. "When I got out there on opening night, I had a voice saying `You're perfect' in my head, but I never felt less like being on a stage in my life and I thought, if this is what being at Stratford is like, then it's bullshit. "From that moment on, I began to develop a process for myself so that I'd never feel that empty again. I had to figure out a way of working and it took me several years to do it. If I get together with a tremendous director, sparks will fly. If not, I still know what I have to do." Over the next five years, he played memorable roles from Pericles to Hotspur, from Val Xavier to Dmitri Karamazov, earning critical and audience raves almost every time out. But then, last season, Goad didn't return, opting instead to work for Soulpepper and others. "I didn't like what I was being offered," he says honestly, "and I felt I was getting too safe, too comfortable. Yes, they asked me to play Hamlet, but in a production where I'd be alternating the role with several other actors and I said no. Funny, but it was one of the easiest things I ever turned down. "It wasn't the ego issue about sharing it. I just didn't feel the concept had been thought through properly. You always feel when Hamlet comes along you're going to take it, but I'd rather do it in a church basement as long as I felt we were doing it properly." He's back at Stratford this season, playing super-villain Iago in Othello. He says it will be a thrill to plunge from the saintliness of Christ-like Xavier in Orpheus Descending to the satanic depths of Iago. "Good, bad, light, dark, offer me every possibility," he begs, eyes glowing. "I want to go there. I want to burn up the stage with every single role."
Fernand Nault, 86:
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
(Dec. 28, 06) MONTREAL – Fernand Nault, one of the pillars of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and a recipient of the Order of Canada, has died. He was 86. Nault died Tuesday in hospital after a long illness. "Mr. Nault has left his mark on Les Grands Ballets and on an entire era," said Alain Dancyger, the Grands Ballets executive director, in a statement. "By choreographing "The Nutcracker," in particular, he shared a dream – a nostalgic, innocent vision u with several generations." Les Grands Ballet paid tribute to Nault during several performances. "We have just lost not only a great artist but a great man" said Gradimir Pankov, the ballet's artistic director. "Fernand Nault will remain in our hearts forever. His generosity and passion for his art are a constant source of inspiration to us all." A teacher and a director, Nault was born in Montreal on Dec. 27, 1920, and studied under master dancers in Montreal, Paris, London and New York.
Arriving in New York in 1940, he stayed with the American Ballet Theatre for 21 years. Nault returned to Montreal in the 1960s at the invitation of Ludmilla Chiriaeff, founder of the Grands Ballets Canadiens, who wanted him to share the artistic direction of her troupe. He became known for his remarkable choreography of the internationally successful "Carmina Burana" during Expo 67 and for the avant-garde rock ballet of The Who's "Tommy" in 1970. These innovative works contributed to attracting a younger audience to the Grands Ballets at a crucial period in its development. Nault also created the popular Nutcracker ballet for the Grands Ballets, which is presented each year during the holidays. Nault, who was named a member of the Order of Canada in 1977, also choreographed works for the Alberta Ballet, the National Ballet of Korea, and the ballet companies in Atlanta and Washington. He was named to the Order of Quebec in 1990 and given a Governor General's performing arts award in 2000.
Altman, Winters, and the Godfather of Soul
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Polly Anderson, Associated Press
(Dec. 30, 2006) In films such as “Nashville,” Robert Altman constructed a complex world, interweaving a large ensemble of players, famous and unknown, to portray human beings in all their wisdom and folly. Celebrated for his vivid characters, his realistic use of overlapping dialogue, his pungent blend of humour and drama, and his stubborn independence from Hollywood norms, Altman died in November at age 81. Katherine Dunham, who died in May at 96, was another artistic independent. As a dancer and choreographer, she brought African and Caribbean influences to America's European-dominated dance world. She also was an activist who, in her 80s, staged a hunger strike to protest to protest U.S. policy toward Haitian refugees. James Brown, dead on Christmas Day at 73, was celebrated for the energy and flamboyance of his performances and the incalculable influence he had on fellow musicians in the rock, soul and rap worlds.
They are just three of the exceptional artists and entertainers who died in 2006. Others included Shelley Winters, who went from blond bombshell to Oscar-winning dramatic actress; smooth soul singer Lou Rawls; playwright Wendy Wasserstein, who portrayed the contradictions of the modern woman seeking to juggle life, love and fulfillment; and journalist Ed Bradley of “60 Minutes,” who interviewed everyone from Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to music legend Lena Horne.
Here is a roll call of some of the notables in the arts and popular culture who died in 2006. (Cause of death cited for younger people if available.)
Raul Davila, 74. Played Hector Santos on “All My Children” in the 1990s. Jan. 2.
Irving Layton, 93. Famed poet and officer of the Order of Canada. Jan. 4.
Lou Rawls, 72. Velvet-voiced singer of such hits as “Love Is a Hurtin' Thing.” Jan. 6.
Jack Mabley, 90. Longtime Chicago newspaperman; wrote thousands of columns. Jan. 7.
Don Stewart, 70. Actor (“Guiding Light.”) Jan. 9.
Shelley Winters, 85. The forceful, outspoken star who won two Oscars (“The Diary of Anne Frank”.”) Jan. 14.
Wilson Pickett, 64. Fiery soul music pioneer (“Mustang Sally.”) Jan. 19.
Anthony Franciosa, 77. Actor (“A Face in the Crowd.”) Jan. 19.
Janette Carter, 82. Country performer; last surviving child of the Carter Family. Jan. 22.
William Rubin, 78. Director of painting and sculpture at Museum of Modern Art. Jan. 22.
Fayard Nicholas, 91. With brother Harold, he wowed the tap dancing world, inspiring dancers from Fred Astaire to Savion Glover. Jan. 24.
Chris Penn, 40. Actor (“Reservoir Dogs”); brother of Sean. Jan. 24. Enlarged heart; multiple medications.
Endesha Ida Mae Holland, 61. Her autobiographical play “From the Mississippi Delta” told how the civil rights movement inspired her. Jan. 25.
Gene McFadden, 56. R&B singer, songwriter (“Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now.”) Jan. 27. Cancer.
Arthur Bloom, 63. TV news director who helped found “60 Minutes”; his stopwatch used for its ticking image. Jan. 28.
Nam June Paik, 74. Avant-garde artist credited with inventing video art, combining multiple TV screens with sculpture, music, live performers. Jan. 29.
Wendy Wasserstein, 55. Playwright who celebrated women's lives (“The Heidi Chronicles.”) Jan. 30. Lymphoma.
Moira Shearer, 80. British ballerina and actress whose debut film, “The Red Shoes,” created a sensation. Jan. 31.
Al Lewis, 82. Grandpa on “The Munsters.” Feb. 3.
Reuven Frank, 85. Former NBC News president; helped early newscasts adopt more visual approach. Feb. 5.
Franklin Cover, 77. Actor; played the white neighbour on “The Jeffersons.” Feb. 5.
Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, 80. Comic actor in John Wayne films. Feb. 6.
Akira Ifukube, 91. Japanese composer; added menacing music to Godzilla films. Feb. 8.
Mart Kenney, 95. “Canada’s Big Band King,” led one of the most popular Canadian swingbands of the 1930s and 1940s. Feb. 8.
Phil Brown, 89. Luke Skywalker's loving, doomed Uncle Owen in “Star Wars.” Feb. 9.
J Dilla, 32. Hip-hop producer for such artists as A Tribe Called Quest. Feb. 10. Complications of lupus.
Juan Soriano, 85. Mexican painter and sculptor. Feb. 10.
Peter Benchley, 65. His 1974 novel, “Jaws,” made millions think twice about stepping into the water. Feb. 11.
Jockey Shabalala, 62. Member of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Feb. 11.
Rickie Layne, 81. Ventriloquist whose dummy, Velvel, had a Yiddish accent. Feb. 11.
Andreas Katsulas, 59. Character actor; one-armed man in 1993 film “The Fugitive.” Feb. 13. Lung cancer.
Shoshana Damari, 83. Israel's beloved “queen of Hebrew music.” Feb. 14.
William Cowsill, 58. Lead singer of The Cowsills family singing group. Feb. 17.
Ray Barretto, 76. Grammy-winning Latin jazz percussionist. Feb. 17.
Richard Bright, 68. Enforcer Al Neri in “Godfather” movies. Feb. 18.
Gordon Sheppard, 68. Canadian filmmaker and author of 2003 documentary novel HA: A Self-Murder Mystery, about his friend, the writer Hubert Aquin. Feb. 19.
Curt Gowdy, 86. Sportscaster; called 13 World Series, 16 All-Star games, first Super Bowl. Feb. 20.
Bruce Hart, 68. Lyricist (“Sesame Street” theme.) Feb 21.
Anthony Burger, 44. Gospel music pianist. Feb. 22. Suspected heart attack.
Dennis Weaver, 81. Chester on “Gunsmoke”; the cop hero in “McCloud.” Feb. 24.
Don Knotts, 81. Won five Emmys for “The Andy Griffith Show.” Feb. 24.
Octavia E. Butler, 58. First black woman to gain prominence as science fiction writer (“Kindred.”) Feb. 24.
Darren McGavin, 83. Tough-talking actor; grouchy dad in “A Christmas Story.” Feb. 25.
Margaret Gibson, 57. Toronto novelist and short-story writer whose work formed the basis for Craig Russell movie Outrageous! Feb. 25.
Bill Cardoso, 68. Writer who coined “gonzo” to describe Hunter Thompson's journalism. Feb. 26.
Retired Brig. Gen. Robert L. Scott, 97. Wrote “God Is My Co-Pilot” about his war exploits. Feb. 27.
Jack Wild, 53. Actor; received Oscar nomination for “Oliver!”; hero of TV series “H.R. Pufnstuf.” March 1. Cancer.
Al Harris, 84. "Smiling Al," named Canada's best guitarist at age 18, entertained in bands during the 1940s and 1950s, playing with everyone from Tommy Hunter to Marlene Dietrich. March 4.
Dana Reeve, 44. Actress-singer; widow of Christopher Reeve. March 6. Lung cancer.
Ali Farka Toure, about 66. Famed African musician; two-time Grammy winner. March 7.
Gordon Parks, 93. Life photographer, then Hollywood's first major black director (“Shaft,” “The Learning Tree.”) March 7.
Anna Moffo, 73. Opera soprano hailed for her glamorous looks as much as her singing. March 10.
Peter Tomarken, 63. Host of 1980s game show “Press Your Luck.” March 13.
Maureen Stapleton, 80. Oscar-winning actress who excelled on stage, screen, and television. March 13.
Ann Calvello, 76. “Roller Derby Queen” known for intimidating rivals, teammates. March 14.
David Blume, 74. Record producer, songwriter (“Turn Down Day.”) March 15.
Narvin Kimball, 97. Last founding member of New Orleans' Preservation Hall Jazz Band. March 17.
Oleg Cassini, 92. Fashion designer known for dressing Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. March 17.
Philip B. Kunhardt Jr., 78. Producer of television documentaries. March 21.
Sarah Caldwell, 82. Hailed as first lady of opera for her adventurous productions. March 23.
Buck Owens, 76. Flashy rhinestone cowboy who shaped country music with hits like “Act Naturally.” March 25.
Richard Fleischer, 89. Film director (”20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”) March 25.
Nikki Sudden, 49. British musician, a cult favourite. March 26.
Dan Curtis, 78. TV producer, director (“The Winds of War.”) March 27.
Britt Lomond, 80. Played dastardly Capitan Monastario in 1950s TV series “Zorro.” March 22.
Henry Farrell, 85. Wrote “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”, spurring a horror genre. March 29.
John McGahern, 71. Irish novelist (“That They May Face the Rising Sun.”) March 30.
Gloria Monty, 84. “General Hospital” producer. March 30.
Jackie McLean, 73. Jazz saxophonist (“Jackie's Bag.”) March 31.
Gene Pitney, 66. Singer with a string of hits (“Town Without Pity.”) April 5.
Allan Kaprow, 78. Artist who pioneered the unrehearsed form of theatre called a “happening.” April 5.
Vilgot Sjoman, 81. Swedish director of explicit films such as “I Am Curious (Yellow)”. April 9.
June Pointer, 52. Youngest of hitmaking Pointer Sisters (“I'm So Excited.”) April 11. Cancer.
Raj Kumar, 77. Beloved Indian movie star. April 12.
Dame Muriel Spark, 88. British novelist (“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”) April 13.
Morton Freedgood, 93. Bestselling author (“The Taking of Pelham One Two Three”) under pen name John Godey. April 16.
Scott Brazil, 50. Emmy-winning producer-director (“Hill Street Blues.”) April 17. Lou Gehrig's, Lyme disease complications.
Henderson Forsythe, 88. Won Tony for role as sheriff in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” April 17.
Ellen Kuzwayo, 91. South African author (“Call Me Woman.”) April 19.
Elaine Young, 71. Real estate agent to Hollywood stars. April 20.
Alida Valli, 84. Italian actress; co-starred in 1949 classic “The Third Man.” April 22.
William P. Gottlieb, 89. Photographer of jazz greats. April 23.
Phil Walden, 66. Capricorn Records co-founder; launched careers of Otis Redding, Allman Brothers. April 23.
“Pem” Farnsworth, 98. Helped husband Philo invent television. April 27.
Jay Bernstein, 69. Hollywood publicist, manager; helped turn Farrah Fawcett into household name. April 30.
Pramoedya Ananta Toer, 81. Indonesian author, democracy advocate. April 30.
Jay Presson Allen, 84. Adapted “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” for stage, screen. May 1.
Johnny Paris, 65. Had hits (“Red River Rock”) with Johnny & the Hurricanes. May 1.
Louis Rukeyser 73. Public TV host known for commonsense commentary on business. May 2.
Karel Appel, 85. A founder of influential COBRA art group. May 3.
Lorne Saxberg, 48. CBC broadcaster. May 6.
Soraya, 37. Grammy-winning Colombian-American singer (“Solo Por Ti.”) May 10. Breast cancer.
Val Guest, 94. British director, screenwriter (“The Quatermass Xperiment.”) May 10.
Frankie Thomas, 85. Hero of 1950s TV show “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.” May 11.
Ted Berkman, 92. Author, screenwriter (“Bedtime for Bonzo.”) May 12.
Johnnie Wilder Jr., 56. Soulful lead singer of R&B band Heatwave (“Always and Forever.”) May 13.
Lew Anderson, 84. Gave “Howdy Doody Show” viewers a tearful goodbye as final Clarabell the Clown. May 14.
Stanley Kunitz, 100. Former U.S. poet laureate, Pulitzer winner. May 14.
Mary Ritts, 95. With husband, created the Ritts Puppets act seen on children's TV shows. May 14.
Cheikha Rimitti, 83. Algerian singer who works dealt boldly with sexuality and oppression. May 15.
Dan Q. Kennis, 86. Producer of oddball films. (“I Spit on Your Corpse!”) May 17.
Cy Feuer, 95. Co-producer of Broadway smashes (“Guys and Dolls.”) May 17.
Freddie Garrity, 69. Lead singer of 1960s British band Freddie and the Dreamers (“I'm Telling You Now.”) May 19.
Katherine Dunham, 96. Choreographer who brought African influences to U.S. dance. May 21.
Billy Walker, 77. Grand Ole Opry star (“Charlie's Shoes.”) May 21.
Marshall Fishwick, 82. Pioneer in the study of popular culture. May 22.
Ian Copeland, 57. Rock entrepreneur who represented The Police, Go-Go's. May 23. Melanoma.
Robert Giaimo, 86. Connecticut congressman who helped create national endowment for the arts. May 24.
Henry Bumstead, 91. Oscar-winning production designer (“To Kill a Mockingbird.”) May 24.
Desmond Dekker, 64. Brought Jamaican ska music to wide audience (“Israelites.”) May 25.
Paul Gleason, 67. Actor; the bad guy in “Trading Places.” May 27.
Alex Toth, 77. Comic and cartoon artist (“Space Ghost.”) May 27.
Arthur Widmer, 92. Won Academy Award for developing technology for special effects. May 28.
Robert Sterling, 88. Actor; appeared in the ghostly 1950s comedy series “Topper.” May 30.
Shohei Imamura, 79. Japanese director twice honoured with the top prize at Cannes (“The Ballad of Narayama.”) May 30.
Ralph Epperson, 85. North Carolina radio station owner who championed mountain music. May 31.
Rocio Jurado, 61. Singer-actress; beloved figure in Spain and Latin America. June 1.
Vince Welnick, 55. Grateful Dead keyboard player in the 1990s; also with the Tubes (“White Punks on Dope.”) June 2. Suicide.
Leon Pownall, 63. Wales-born actor well known for his stage appearances across Canada (notably Stratford) as well as his work on television and film (Dead Poets Society). June 2.
Johnny Grande, 76. An original member of Bill Haley and His Comets (“Rock Around the Clock.”) June 3.
Billy Preston, 59. Exuberant keyboardist and singer (“Nothing From Nothing”); played with the Beatles and Rolling Stones. June 6. Heart infection; kidney failure.
Arnold Newman, 88. Photographer of artists and politicians. June 6.
Hilton Ruiz, 54. Jazz pianist, composer. June 6. Injured in a fall.
Ingo Preminger, 95. Producer of “M-A-S-H”; Otto's brother. June 7.
Kenneth Thomson, 82. Billionaire Canadian media mogul and art collector. June 12.
Barbara Epstein, 76. She edited the original U.S. version of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” June 16.
Vincent Sherman, 99. Hollywood filmmaker (“The Adventures of Don Juan.”) June 18.
Claydes Charles Smith, 57. Lead guitarist for Kool & the Gang (“Joanna,” “Celebration.”) June 20.
Aaron Spelling, 83. TV impresario (“Beverly Hills 90210”). June 23.
Lyle Stuart, 83. Publisher of such oddities as “The Anarchist Cookbook.” June 24.
Arif Mardin, 72. Grammy Award-winning producer; worked with Aretha Franklin. June 25.
Lennie Weinrib, 71. Actor, writer (“H.R. Pufnstuf.”) June 28.
George Page, 71. Creator, host of PBS series “Nature.” June 28.
Lloyd Richards, 87. Theatre director (“A Raisin in the Sun”). June 29.
Irving Green, 90. Co-founder of Mercury Records; promoted Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington. July 1.
Jan Murray, 89. Comic who tickled fans of 1950s game show “Treasure Hunt.” July 2.
Benjamin Hendrickson, 55. Daytime Emmy winner for “As the World Turns.” July 3. Suicide.
Hugh Stubbins Jr., 94. Architect (Citigroup Center in New York). July 5.
Kasey Rogers, 80. Actress (“Strangers on a Train.”) July 6.
Syd Barrett, 60. Co-founder of Pink Floyd (“The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.”) July 7.
June Allyson, 88. Actress, Hollywood's “perfect wife.” July 8.
Milan B. Williams, 58. One of the original members of the Commodores (“Three Times a Lady.”) July 9. Cancer.
Bill Miller, 91. Frank Sinatra's longtime pianist. July 11.
Barnard Hughes, 90. Actor who won Tony for “Da.” July 11.
Red Buttons, 87. Actor-comedian; won Oscar with a dramatic turn in “Sayonara.” July 13.
Carrie Nye, 69. Stage actress (“Half a Sixpence.”) July 14.
Harold R. Scott Jr., 70. Stage actor and director (“Paul Robeson.”) July 16.
Mickey Spillane, 88. Mystery writer. July 17.
Jack Warden, 85. Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated actor (“Heaven Can Wait.”). July 19.
Mako, 72. Japan-born actor nominated for Oscar (“The Sand Pebbles”) and Tony (“Pacific Overtures.”) July 21.
Jessie Mae Hemphill, 71. Blues musician; won several W.C. Handy Awards. July 22.
Bob Thaves, 81. Creator of comic strip “Frank & Ernest.” Aug. 1.
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, 90. Soprano. Aug. 3.
Arthur Lee, 61. Singer, songwriter for the 1960s band Love (“Forever Changes.”) Aug. 3. Leukemia.
Aaron Brock, 31. Toronto concert guitarist and teacher at the Royal Conservatory of Music was hailed as one of the most promising guitarists of his generation. Aug. 3.
Melissa Hayden, 83. Canadian-born ballerina, principal dancer with New York City Ballet. Aug. 9.
Mike Douglas, 81. TV talk show host and singer (“The Men in My Little Girl's Life.”) Aug. 11.
Mazisi Kunene, 76. First poet laureate of a democratic South Africa. Aug. 11.
Bruno Kirby, 57. Character actor (“When Harry Met Sally,” “City Slickers.”) Aug. 14.
Johnny Duncan, 67. Country singer (“She Can Put Her Shoes Under My Bed Anytime.”) Aug. 14.
Walter Sullivan, 82. Novelist (“A Time to Dance”), authority on Southern literature. Aug. 15.
Walter E. Jagiello, 76. Singer known as “Lil' Wally the Polka King.” Aug. 17.
Joseph Hill, 57. Vocalist, songwriter for reggae group Culture (“Natty Never Get Weary.”) Aug. 19.
Joe Rosenthal, 94. Associated Press photojournalist who took picture of flag-raising on Iwo Jima. Aug. 20.
Bruce Gary, 55. Drummer with The Knack (“My Sharona”), session man. Aug. 22. Lymphoma.
Frank Lennon, 79. Legendary Toronto Star photographer who recorded Paul Henderson celebrating his winning goal in the Summit Series. Aug. 22.
Maynard Ferguson, 78. Canadian jazz trumpeter known for his soaring high notes. Aug. 23.
Leonard Levy, 83. Toronto-born U.S. constitutional historian and author, winner of the 1969 Pulitzer for History for his Origins of the Fifth Amendment. Aug. 24.
Léopold Simoneau, 90. Québècois lyric tenor, educator and Officer of the Order of Canada. Aug. 24.
Joseph Stefano, 84. Writer of “Psycho” screenplay. Aug. 25.
Ed Benedict, 94. Animator who put life into Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear. Aug. 28.
Naguib Mahfouz, 94. First Arab writer to win Nobel Prize in literature. Aug. 30.
Glenn Ford, 90. Actor (“The Blackboard Jungle,” “Gilda.”) Aug. 30.
Naguib Mahfouz, 94. First Arab writer to win Nobel Prize in literature. Aug. 30.
Glenn Ford, 90. Canadian-American film actor who played strong, thoughtful protagonists (The Blackboard Jungle). Aug. 30.
Gyorgy Faludy, 95. Poet, translator considered one of Hungary's greatest literary figures. Sept. 1.
Willi Ninja, 45. Dancer immortalized in “Paris Is Burning.” Sept. 2. AIDS complications.
John Conte, 90. Actor (“The Man With the Golden Arm.”) Sept. 4.
Steve Irwin, 44. Television's irrepressible “Crocodile Hunter.” Sept 4. Sting ray attack.
Robert Earl Jones, 96. Actor; father of James Earl Jones. Sept. 7.
Daniel Smith, 20. Anna Nicole Smith's son. Sept 10. Lethal combination of drugs.
Bennie Smith, 72. St. Louis guitarist, played with stars like Chuck Berry. Sept. 10.
Pat Corley, 76. Actor; Phil the barkeep on “Murphy Brown.” Sept. 11.
Joseph Hayes, 88. Author of the novel “The Desperate Hours,” also wrote Tony-winning play, Hollywood screenplay based on it. Sept. 11.
Edna Staebler, 100. Canadian author of cookbook series, Food That Really Schmecks, based on Mennonite home cooking from the Waterloo area. Sept. 12.
Mickey Hargitay, 80. Actor, bodybuilder; husband of Jayne Mansfield, father of actress Mariska Hargitay. Sept 14.
Oriana Fallaci, 76. Italian journalist noted for probing interviews with powerful people. Sept. 15.
Patricia Kennedy Lawford, 84. Her marriage to Peter Lawford lent Hollywood glamour to the Kennedy dynasty. Sept. 17.
Danny Flores, 77. Played saxophone and shouted “tequila!” on 1950s hit “Tequila!” Sept. 19.
Joe Glazer, 88. Singer-songwriter who rallied union loyalists (“The Mills Weren't Made of Marble.”) Sept. 19.
Elizabeth Allen, 77. Actress; nominated for Tony for “Do I Hear a Waltz?” Sept. 19.
Sven Nykvist, 83. Oscar-winning Swedish cinematographer; worked with Ingmar Bergman, Woody Allen. Sept. 20.
Edward Albert, 55. Actor (“Butterflies Are Free.”) Sept. 22. Lung cancer.
Sir Malcolm Arnold, 84. British composer; won Oscar for “Bridge on the River Kwai.” Sept. 23.
Etta Baker, 93. Influential blues guitarist; recorded with Taj Mahal. Sept. 23.
Maureen Daly, 85. Noted for 1942 coming-of-age novel “Seventeenth Summer.” Sept. 25.
Ralph Story, 86. Host of 1950s quiz show “The $64,000 Challenge.” Sept. 26.
“Uncle Josh” Graves, 79. His bluesy playing adorned hundreds of bluegrass, country records. Sept. 30.
Prentiss Barnes, 81. Singer with the Moonglows (“Ten Commandments of Love.”) Sept. 30.
Isabel Bigley, 80. Won Tony for role in “Guys and Dolls.” Sept. 30.
Tamara Dobson, 59. Actress; played Cleopatra Jones in two blaxploitation films. Oct. 2. Multiple sclerosis, pneumonia.
Jackie Rae, 84, Canadian singer, songwriter and host of CBC-TV's Jackie Rae Show in 1950s. Oct. 5.
Heinz Sielmann, 89. Zoologist, documentary filmmaker (“Vanishing Wilderness.”) Oct. 6.
Jerry Belson, 68. Emmy-winning comedy writer (“The Tracey Ullman Show.”) Oct. 10.
Gillo Pontecorvo, 86. Directed “The Battle of Algiers,” 1966 epic on Algerian uprising against the French. Oct. 12.
Freddy Fender, 69. Texas' “Bebop Kid”; sang the smash country ballad “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.” Oct. 14.
Herbert B. Leonard, 84. TV producer (“Naked City.”) Oct. 14.
Gino Empry, 83, Canadian publicist and promoter. Oct. 14.
Sid Adilman, 68. Longtime Toronto Star entertainment journalist and arts advocate. Oct. 15.
Lister Sinclair, 85. Broadcaster and playwright, considered a Canadian renaissance man. Oct. 16.
Anna Russell, 94, British/Canadian comedian and classical music satirist. Oct. 18.
Lindalee Tracey, 49. The principal subject of Not a Love Story: a Film about Pornography became a TV host and award-winning Canadian author and filmmaker. Oct. 19.
Sid Davis, 90. Produced quirky educational films warning youngsters of the dangers of drugs, running with scissors. Oct. 16.
Lister Sinclair, 85. Broadcaster and playwright, considered one of Canada's renaissance men. Oct. 16.
Christopher Glenn, 68. CBS correspondent, announcer; voice of children's program “In the News.” Oct. 17.
Miriam Engelberg, 48. Graphic author; found improbable humour in her fight with cancer (“Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person.”) Oct. 17.
Spoony Singh, 83. His Hollywood Wax Museum gave tourists the next best thing to a real celebrity. Oct. 18.
Phyllis Kirk, 79. Actress who was stalked by Vincent Price in the horror film “House of Wax.” Oct. 19.
Jane Wyatt, 96. Actress who for six years on “Father Knows Best” was one of TV's favourite moms. Oct. 20.
Sandy West, 47. Drummer with the influential '70s rock band the Runaways (“Cherry Bomb.”) Oct. 21. Lung cancer.
Arthur Hill, 84. Character actor; had title role in the early 1970s series “Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law.” Oct. 22.
Lawrence W. Levine, 73. Cultural historian (“Black Culture and Black Consciousness.”) Oct. 23.
Marijohn Wilkin, 86. Country songwriter (“The Long Black Veil.”) Oct. 28.
Buddy Killen, 73. Nashville songwriter (“I May Never Get to Heaven”) and producer; helped launch Dolly Parton's career. Nov. 1.
William Styron, 81. Pulitzer-winning novelist (“The Confessions of Nat Turner.”) Nov. 1.
Florence Klotz, 86. Tony-winning costume designer (“Follies.”) Nov. 1.
Paul Mauriat, 81. Conductor whose “Love Is Blue” topped U.S. charts in 1968. Nov. 3.
Robert Allen, 60. Montreal poet who authored 13 books of poetry, the last of which was Ricky Ricardo Suites (2000). Nov. 3.
Marian Grudeff, 79. Canadian concert pianist and Broadway composer whose work was recorded by both Louis Armstrong and Richard Burton. Nov. 4.
Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, 98. Her memoir on life with 11 siblings, “Cheaper by the Dozen,” inspired several films. Nov. 4.
Ed Bradley, 65. TV journalist with “60 Minutes.” Nov. 9.
Ellen Willis, 64. Feminist author; New Yorker's first rock critic. Nov. 9. Lung cancer.
Marian Marsh, 93. Doll-faced actress; the milkmaid mesmerized by John Barrymore in “Svengali.” Nov. 9.
Jack Palance, 87. Hollywood heavy (“Shane”) who turned successfully to comedy, winning Oscar for “City Slickers.” Nov. 10.
Gerald Levert, 40. Fiery R&B singer (“Casanova”); son of O'Jays singer Eddie Levert. Nov. 10.
George Blackburn (1917-2006) playwright, author (Guns of Normandy), lyricist, composer and winner of a Military Cross for defending a bridgehead in Holland WWII. Nov. 15.
Ruth Brown, 78. Grammy and Tony-award-winning singer (“Teardrops in My Eyes.”) Nov. 17.
Jeremy Slate, 80. Actor (“Hell's Angels '69.” Nov. 19.
Robert Altman, 81. Caustic Hollywood director (“Nashville.”) Nov. 20.
Chris Hayward, 81. Emmy-winning TV writer (“The Munsters,” “He & She.”) Nov. 20.
Robert Lockwood Jr., 91. Mississippi Delta blues guitarist (“I Got to Find Me a Woman.”) Nov. 21.
John Allan Cameron, 67. Pioneer of Celtic music in Canada. Nov. 22
Philippe Noiret, 76. French actor “Il Postino” (“The Postman”). Nov. 23.
Betty Comden, 89. Her collaboration with Adolph Green produced “On the Town,” “Singin' in the Rain.” Nov. 23.
Anita O'Day, 87. One of the most respected jazz vocalists of the 1940s. Nov. 23.
William Diehl, 81. Best-selling novelist (“Primal Fear.”) Nov. 24.
Robert McFerrin Sr., 85. First black man to sing solo at the Metropolitan Opera; father of Bobby McFerrin. Nov. 24.
Dave Cockrum, 63. Comic book illustrator who in the 1970s overhauled the X-Men. Nov. 26.
Robert (H-Bomb) Ferguson, 77. A bluesman and pianist who urged listeners to “rock baby rock.” Nov. 26.
Larry Henderson, 89. Canadian TV's first national news host on the CBC National News in 1954, later editor of the Catholic Register. Nov. 26.
Bebe Moore Campbell, 56. Best-selling author (“Brothers and Sisters.”) Nov. 27. Brain cancer.
Don Butterfield, 83. Tuba player who performed with such stars as Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Sinatra. Nov. 27.
Leon Niemczyk, 82. Polish actor (Roman Polanski's “Knife in the Water.”) Nov. 29.
Perry Henzell, 70. Filmmaker whose “The Harder They Come” introduced Jamaican pop culture to global audience. Nov. 30.
Claude Jade, 58. French actress. (“Topaz,” “Stolen Kisses.”) Dec. 1. Cancer.
Jay (Hootie— McShann, 90. Jazz pianist and bandleader who helped refine the blues-tinged Kansas City sound. Dec. 7.
Martha Tilton, 91. Big band singer (“And the Angels Sing,” “I'll Walk Alone.”) Dec. 8.
Georgia Gibbs, 87. Hitmaking 1950s singer (“Kiss of Fire,” “Dance With Me, Henry.”) Dec. 9.
Martin Nodell, 91. Created the comic book superhero Green Lantern. Dec. 9.
Mary Meagher, 47. Theatre agent. Dec. 9.
Peter Boyle, 71. The curmudgeonly father on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Dec. 12.
Ahmet Ertegun, 83. Founder of Atlantic Records; popularized Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin. Dec. 14.
Mike Evans, 57. Actor; played Lionel Jefferson in “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons.” Dec. 14. Throat cancer.
Larry Zox, 69. Painter; part of 1960s color-field movement. Dec. 16.
Joe Barbera, 95. With Bill Hanna, created Yogi Bear, Tom and Jerry, other beloved cartoon characters. Dec. 18.
Ruth Bernhard, 101. Photographer; famed for stylized images of female nudes. Dec. 18.
Mavor Moore, 87. Canadian writer, actor, radio & TV producer and founder of theatrical institutions. Dec. 18.
Dennis Linde, 63. Songwriter (“Burning Love.”) Dec. 22.
Wilma Dykeman, 86. She chronicled the people and land of Appalachia in novels and nonfiction. Dec. 22.
Norman (Dutch) Mason, 68. Legendary Nova Scotia musician heralded as the Prime Minister of the Blues. Dec. 23.
Frank Stanton, 98. Longtime CBS president; helped turn its TV operation into the “Tiffany network.” Dec. 24.
James Brown, 73. The pompadoured dynamo of music for a half-century whose classic singles included “Papa's Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Got You (I Feel Good).” Dec. 25.
Pierre Delanoe, 88. French lyricist who wrote the original words for “What Now My Love.” (His title was “Et maintenant.”) Dec. 27.
Fast, Slow Comedic Speeds At The Mic
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Jeff McEnery is hitching a ride into Toronto from the family home in Elora with fellow comic Graham Chittenden as he fills in a phone caller, in his languorous small-town drawl, on recent successes. A year ago, he won the Cream of Comedy event and a $3,500 cash prize from the Tim Sims Encouragement Fund. Two months later, he won the $25,000 top prize in the Yuk Yuk's first annual Great Canadian Comedy Laugh-Off. "I haven't done f---k all since," said the 22-year-old self-described "tried and true hick." Actually, that's not quite true – he did spend four days on the set of Camille, a film made in Toronto earlier this year starring James Franco and Sienna Miller, in a role he estimates will last "four to five seconds" on screen. And he's among the comic talent who will ring in the new at 224 Richmond St. W. for Yuk Yuk's New Year's Eve Laugh Bash on Sunday, featuring headliner Mike Wilmot, Johnny Gardhouse and Gilson Lubin. A graduate of Humber College comedy writing and performance program, McEnery relies on his experiences growing up in small town Acton and a sense of humour that is countrified droll. About his travel companion and mic rival Chittenden, McEnery quipped: "I wouldn't get a ride in (to Toronto) with a hack." As for Acton: "You know you're from a small town when your town has a Chinese restaurant but doesn't have any Chinese people."
Winning the two contests has eased McEnery's entry into the Toronto comedy scene. He's a guy who says he's quiet by nature and says he actually prefers writing to performing. "Before, I was sort of begging for spots at open mics. Now because of the contests, if I go into an open mic room, I can pretty much get a spot," he said. One good reason for taking in the New Year's Eve event, he says, is that "you can close out 2006 by watching people on stage who are incredibly more depressed than you. Comics usually are (depressed); you definitely get a sense of that on the open mic scene." Plus if you spring for the optional dinner, you get a three-course meal and party favours to ring in the New Year. While McEnery is slow and deliberate, the other Humber College grad on the New Year's Eve bill is the opposite. Lubin is fast and spontaneous and with a southern charm wrought from his St. Lucia birthplace. Eschewing the standard process of constant rewrites of his material, Lubin, who is also a host on MTV Live, says he prefers a more open style that involves "writing it on stage." "You don't know what mood a room is going to be in. You might have to tweak the material. So you've got to be a little loose, see what you feel like." Uncharacteristically, though, Lubin plans to play it safe at the New Year's show, going for "the tried and true material ... that works well." As for the Toronto comedy scene – especially stand-up – competition among new acts has never been greater, Lubin said. "It's as hot as I've ever seen it. There are so many different scenes, so many underground rooms, so many environments. "People want to get into (stand up) so badly that they've got to find places just to get the extra stage time. There's a lot happening and a lot of good comics."
Former President Gerald R. Ford Dies
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(December 27, 2006) *Former President Gerald Ford has died at the age of 93. Former first lady Betty Ford issued a statement last night from her husband's office in Rancho Mirage, California, saying, "My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather has passed away at 93 years of age. His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country." At EUR press time, details had not been released as to where Ford died or the cause of death. Ford took office as the nation's 38th president -- a first without actually being elected -- after Richard Nixon's scandal-shattered White House term. He took office minutes after Nixon flew off into exile in 1974 and famously declared "our long national nightmare is over." But he revived the debate a month later by granting Nixon a pardon for all crimes he committed as president. Ford also earned a place in the history books as the first unelected vice president, chosen by Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew, also forced from office by scandal.
10 To Watch in 2007: Ohenewa Akuffo
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
- Randy Starkman
(Jan. 3, 2007) There are many remarkable people in the GTA who help make this city great. One of our most pleasant tasks each year at the Star is to choose 10 with big plans for the next 12 months. Our selection of individuals poised to make a splash in 2007 come from a wide diversity of worlds -- from policing to social activism to the arts to sport to science to academia. The list to the right links to profiles of each of the 10. For good measure, we've also added an 11th person, from the literary world, as someone to keep an eye on over the next 12 months. You probably haven’t heard of some of them. But we predict that as the new year unfolds, you’ll become familiar with all of their names and their passionate commitment to what they do. Let’s raise a toast to these people, who'll make the world go ’round.
With a sweet, dimpled smile that could melt an iceberg and biceps that could crack walnuts, Ohenewa Akuffo is all about crushing stereotypes. Take the poster this leading Canadian wrestler – a medal prospect for the 2008 Beijing Olympics – just had made up to promote herself and her sport. It features the 27-year-old from Brampton in several wrestling shots, but also includes pictures of her in a bikini and an elegant dress. "You work so hard for this body," says Akuffo. "If you're going to have the muscles, you might as well dress them up beautifully ... That's the fun part. I like to challenge people, especially with my sport. They go, `Female wrestling. Is she a butch?' I'm like, `Surprise, surprise. No, I'm not.'" This shapes up as a critical year for Akuffo. She wants to improve her current No. 5 ranking at the 2007 World Championships in Azerbaijan in September. She will also be aiming for gold in July at the Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro, a step-up from the silver she won at the 2003 event. "She's got the world to conquer in front of her – and she has the potential to do it," says Daniel Igali, who won Canada's only Olympic gold in wrestling at the 2000 Sydney Games. Akuffo stumbled into the sport as a high schooler in Brampton. "Wrestling to me is like a chess game in your mind," she says. "It's an action/reaction sport. The better you know your body and ... yourself, the better a wrestler you are."
Akuffo was born in North York but her parents, Daniel and Grace, took the family back to their native Ghana for several years when she was 3. Education is pivotal in her life – she's currently juggling a bachelor's in business, an honours in marketing and a certificate of sports administration at York University. She trains under Olympic champion hurdler Mark McKoy, and works part-time at a Home Depot. "She's never mad at anything or anybody," says McKoy. "You wonder, how the hell does she go on the mat and kill somebody?" In fact, Igali worries that niceness might be her fatal flaw. "If I have a quarrel with her, it's that she needs to get more of a killer instinct," he says. But, says Akuffo, "to what limit do I have to change for me to be what I need? That's still yet to be known."
Canada Ices U.S. In Shootout
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press
(Jan. 3, 2007) Canada advanced to the final of the world junior hockey championship with a 2-1 shootout win over the U.S. in Wednesday’s semi-final. Canada, winner of the last two titles, will meet the winner of Wednesday’s later semi-final between Russia and host Sweden in Friday’s championship game. Jonathan Toews of the University of North Dakota scored three times in the shootout, including the winning goal. Canadian goaltender Carey Price stopped U.S. forward Peter Mueller after Toews’s final goal to end the shootout 5-4 in favour of the defending champions. Bryan Little of the Barrie Colts and Michigan’s Andrew Cogliano also scored in the shootout. Price, of the Tri-City Americans, was outstanding in overtime as he stopped all 12 shots he faced. He turned away 34 of 35 shots in regulation and overtime, while U.S. counterpart Jeff Frazee made 26 saves on 27 shots before the shootout. Moncton Wildcats defenceman Luc Bourdon scored a power-play goal at 12:19 of the third period to deadlock the game 1-1.
U.S. captain Taylor Chorney scored a power-play goal at 5:04 of the second period, putting Canada behind for the first time in the tournament. The U.S. had less than 24 hours to recover from their quarter-final win over Finland the previous night, while the Canadians hadn’t played since their round-robin win over Slovakia on Sunday.
TV Sports Highlights
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
The sports media world produced winners and losers in 2006, though sometimes it was hard to tell them apart. There's no doubt that TSN was a big winner, cornering the market on the CFL and the major curling events while continuing to crush the opposition. But the network is still stinging from the loss of the World Cup and its PGA deal. The Score didn't score much in the way of big-ticket items, but was definitely a winner in securing the rights to March Madness and English Premier League soccer. The CBC had its victories – the World Cup being the big one – but continued to see its sports larder shrink with the loss of curling and the CFL. Rogers Sportsnet took the biggest hits, losing the Raptors, NCAA, the World Cup and English soccer. But while its lineup was decimated, the talk is that Sportsnet's bottom line is looking better than ever. If there was a clear-cut winner, it was Canadian sports fans. Thanks to competition and technology, they're able to watch and listen to more sports in more ways than ever before. During the Turin Olympics, those who couldn't get near a TV set could watch on their cellphones. Those forced to work during the world junior hockey championship can watch Canada's games live on TSN's website.
Digital channels continued to add more and more content, from ultimate fighting to soccer to NHL games. And the growth of satellite radio gave sports nuts even more opportunities to catch games. The only downside to that is cost. You will have to pay for those luxuries. If you do, or even if you choose to watch and listen to more traditional media, you got more of the same old, same old in 2006. Following are the best and worst from the sports media world this year. As always, all decisions are unimpeachable.
2006 THE GOOD: The Canada Russia '72 miniseries on CBC was one of the sports broadcasting highlights of the year. It captured the emotions and political intrigue of a series that will live forever. ... The NHL hasn't established itself as one of the most forward-thinking leagues in existence, but this year the league showed a strong creative element in its TV broadcasts. Working with TSN, especially, Versus and NBC, the league approved the miking of players, placing broadcasters at ice level and a variety of innovations to make the game more television-friendly. ... CBC took a big gamble when it picked Cassie Campbell to fill in for a snow-bound Harry Neale on Hockey Night In Canada, making her the first woman analyst to work an NHL game. CBC could have gone the safe route and flown in one of its regular analysts, but took a chance and won. ... Another great HNIC innovation was allowing Don Cherry to interview Olympic drug czar Dick Pound. Cherry did a commendable job and Pound gave as good as he got. ... Two guys who continued to tell it like it is, with some humour and insight: NBC's Johnny Miller and TSN's Glenn Healy. ... Great comment I: CBC's Harry Neale after Joe Bowen said a shot had "handcuffed" Florida goaltender Ed Belfour, who has had a few brushes with the law: "That wasn't the first time he's been handcuffed." ... Great comment II: NBC's Bob Costas on skier Bode Miller at the Winter Olympics: "Miller will now find out, no matter how he looks at it, if you don't care enough to consistently give your best and at least sometimes do your best, then pretty soon nobody else will care either."
2006 THE BAD: What was ESPN thinking when it decided that newspaper guy Tony Kornheiser, verbose Joe Theismann and neophyte Mike Tirico would make a great team for Monday Night Football? Probably the same thing it was thinking when it turned the broadcast booth into a promotional studio for celebrities. ... You also have to wonder what the NFL Network was thinking when it tabbed Bryant Gumbel to call its games. ... Aiming low: Sportsnet tries to lure younger viewers to its news show with juvenile features such as fight highlights. ... Rethink time: It might be time for Paul Jones to return to being the analyst on the FAN 590's Raptors games. ... Most pointless hiring: TSN taking on Tie Domi for its hockey show. ... Fox baseball announcer Joe Buck referred to the St. Louis Cardinals as "world champions." That title belongs to Japan. ... Sportsnet's Craig Forrest, when asked how Mexico's goaltender would respond during the World Cup, replied: "Well, his father passed away on Thursday. He'll be disappointed with that." ... Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, concerned enough people outside Ontario aren't watching Raptors games on television, puts 24 games on its digital Raptors NBA TV. The channel isn't available to most people west of Ontario. ... TV's fascination with Terrell Owens was, well, less than fascinating. ... Overheated comment I: British F1 announcer James Allen at the start of the Turkish Grand Prix: "There's tremendous excitement at a tremendous place in which this excitement should play out. The anticipation is almost unbearable." ... Overheated comment II: ABC analyst Rusty Wallace, before the Indy 500 even started: "I am so excited. This is the most excitement I've experienced in my life."
2006 THE UGLY: By far, the worst development of the year was Global Ontario's decision to axe its nightly sports highlights show and follow that by replacing its sports reports with ones generated by Rogers Sportsnet. While the latter is a great deal for promoting Sportsnet across the province, it sets a very dangerous precedent.
Another Win For Mr.
Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Soccer is a passion for both these men, but a living for only one. They're both good with their heads, but one lost his. One's revered for his acts of selflessness; the other reviled for an act of selfishness. In the end, Canada's Steve Nash winning his second straight NBA most valuable player award got the nod – rather than a head-butt – over French soccer star Zinedine Zidane in a poll on thestar.com, where readers were asked to choose their top three sports stories of the year. It was a close battle, with Nash's double MVP honour earning support on 46.2 per cent of the ballots cast, to Zidane's 43.5 per cent for his head-butting incident in the World Cup final against Italy. Cindy Klassen and her record five Olympic medals for Canada came in third with 38.8 per cent. The Raptors' hiring of Bryan Colangelo as GM – he of the high collars and designer suits – was fourth with 29.7 per cent. (Perhaps he got style points.) Rounding out the top 10 was the ejection of Juventus from Italy's Serie A because of a match-fixing scandal (12.8 per cent); American cyclist Floyd Landis failing a drug test after winning the Tour de France (11.3 per cent); the Blue Jays signing Vernon Wells to a long-term deal (10.2 per cent); Tiger Woods' great year and emotional win at the British Open (9.9 per cent); Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro's horrific injury in the Preakness (9.7 per cent), and Kobe Bryant lighting up the Raptors for 81 points (9.2 per cent).
Nash and Zidane have their parallels, with both playing the role of hard-charging field generals on their teams. Nash knows how to use his head and keep it, too. A soccer star in his youth, Nash has a parlour trick he uses on occasion where he scores a basket off a header. A huge soccer fan, he was in the crowd at the World Cup final in Germany when Zidane lost his cool. Where Zidane's actions in getting sent off for head-butting Italy's Marco Materazzi with 10 minutes to go embodied everything wrong in sport, Nash is a shining example of its virtues. A virtuoso on the court who has honed his craft since entering the league 11 years ago as a lightly regarded prospect, Nash kept his Phoenix Suns in the thick of it, even with the loss of Amare Stoudemire to injury. He led the league in assists and free-throw percentage, while setting career highs in points and field goal percentage. But where this guy really soars is off the court. He set up the Steve Nash Foundation (stevenash.org) to help a variety of charitable causes, including equipping a neonatal intensive care ward in Paraguay; the Adoptive Families Association of B.C.; and GuluWalk 2006, which supports abandoned children in northern Uganda.
Nash wins over even the most jaded observer. "What has he taught us? It pays to be selfless. You can be content just to make the players around you better," wrote Charles Barkley, the king of trash talk, in Time magazine last May. Selfless wasn't an adjective being used to describe Zidane after his head-butt heard 'round the world, a moment of temporary insanity that cost France dearly and tarnished his brilliant career. The fallout was incredible. It spawned a clothing line and video games. Books and songs were written about it, too. It also worked wonders for the lip reading business. There was a presidential pardon for Zidane from Jacques Chirac in France. There was the mad scramble in the media to find lip readers to determine what utterance from Materazzi triggered Zidane's moment of madness. Zidane later claimed that Materazzi insulted his mother and sister. Many of the top stories this year have new chapters to be written in 2007. Klassen – who earlier this month won the Lou Marsh Award as Canada's athlete of the year – is embarking on the journey towards the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, carrying a load of expectations after her wonderful showing at the Turin Games. Colangelo has overhauled the Raptor roster, but much work remains to be done as they pursue a playoff spot. Juventus will undoubtedly make its first stay in Italy's Serie B a short one, while Landis will try to make sure he has a few cents left in his pocket as the legal battle to salvage his career continues. As for Zidane, he's retired now. His greatness as a player will not be forgotten – nor will his ill-timed outburst.
Keep Your Resolutions!
By Kathleen McGowan, Special to eDiets
For many of us, the New Year means it’s list-making time. Whether you’re resolving to learn to ride a motorcycle, solve world hunger or break your addiction to guacamole-flavoured Doritos, the best way to clarify your priorities and organize your goals is often to write them down. Listing resolutions can help you figure out what you really want to do with your time -- and get a handle on whether your goals are realistic. Besides, once you’ve taped them up, there’s no avoiding them. When they’re staring at you every morning on the refrigerator door or the bathroom mirror, it’s harder to forget that you made those promises to yourself. The best lists are short, simple and pragmatic. For your first draft, you can think big, but in your final version, include no more than three or four goals or you’ll wind up overburdened and overwhelmed. Keep the items specific and manageable: “I will invite friends over for dinner once a month,” not “Expand my social life.” If you’re looking for inspiration and moral support -- and maybe the chance to borrow a few ideas from other people -- check out the Web site 43things.com, backed by Internet retailer Amazon.com. The site serves as a public clearinghouse for resolutions and a meeting place for people with like-minded ambitions to share hints and track their successes. The membership for the website comes from around the world, but many of the goals people have chosen for their own lists have a familiar ring. Most people want to improve themselves, expand their own boundaries and try new experiences.
Here are the top-five resolutions named by the members of 43things.com -- and a few suggestions for how to tackle them:
5. Be happy. The surest way to be happy is not to focus on riches or success; the science of positive psychology has shown that focusing on relationships, rather than material goods, provides lasting pleasure. Volunteering breeds happiness, as do good social skills and solid networks of friends. If you’re going to spend money, experiences (travel, entertainment and so forth) usually bring more pleasure than objects.
4. Fall in love. This is a perfect example of a goal that absolutely must be broken down into smaller pieces. Before you can fall in love, you need to meet someone -- and if you’re looking to meet someone, flirting is a big step in the right direction. Research in the science of flirting shows that two-thirds of the time, it’s women who take the lead. She lets the man know she’s interested through glances, laughter, smiling and welcoming body language. After that, it’s a give-and-take. A successful flirtation is like a pas de deux: each mirrors the other’s body language, creating a synergy. For more details on the dance, try "Love Signals: A Practical Field Guide to the Body Language of Courtship," by David Givens, Ph.D.
3. Write a book. As any author will tell you, writing a book generally takes a lot longer than a year. But you can get started on your authorial ambitions by experimenting with memoir. Writing about difficult life experiences can be freeing, as it can help you stop brooding over an experience that disturbed you. It can also give you a deeper understanding of your own life story, which in turns helps you figure out what your values are -- and where to put your priorities this year.
2. Lose weight. What advice haven’t you heard on this one already? Rather than rehash the obvious -- small portions, no crash diets, no “forbidden foods” -- this is a good chance to break one big goal into more manageable smaller ones. If you’re looking to lose weight, think about making just one essential change this year: getting in the habit of regular exercise. But make that goal smaller too: Resolve to start walking to work, or to take up yoga, or sign up for a dance class.
1. Stop procrastinating. There’s a reason this is the No. 1 resolution -- procrastinating is often what prevents us from making all the other changes we’re trying to take on. Procrastinators often distract themselves from what they really need to do with make-work and other minor responsibilities, rather than tackling the big tasks that really need attention. It’s a very hard habit to break, but for a start, put that annoying but necessary task that you’ve been avoiding all last year at the top of your list of resolutions. If you can get through that problem, that more than anything may bring you a very happy new year.
Kathleen McGowan is Senior Editor at Psychology Today.
Motivational Note - How to rest your mind (continued)
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Jewel Diamond Taylor
In a recent e-mail I encouraged readers to not only get rest for the body --- but also learn to rest your mind. I often say in my speeches, "Most of us don't go to bed --- we just pass out. We allow ourselves to become overwhelmed, exhausted and burdened with worry." I received an e-mail from someone asking me "How do I give my mind rest?' Below is my response and I pray it is helpful to you also. Turn on a soothing jazz CD or some relaxing sounds of nature to relax your mind. Don't watch TV or even so much as look at a computer screen at least 30 minutes before you lie down and don't keep the TV on while you are sleeping. The light from both a television as well as a computer monitor mimic the same intensity of light as sunlight. This fools your body and brain into thinking it's nowhere near time for sleep. If your TV remains on while you're sleeping, the body is resting but your mind never sleeps, it is receiving messages from the TV. It's not surprising that you would wake up groggy, sluggish, aching, tense and having no energy --- the TV has been activating your mind all night. TURN IT OFF!
Eating sweets, spicy foods or alcohol before bed will stimulate your mind. Drink milk. Milk has an amino acid in it called Tryptophan which increases the levels of serotonin and/or melatonin in the brain which slow down brain activity. Go to bed when you are tired. Just because your husband goes to bed at 9 PM doesn't mean you are ready. You might only require seven and half hours of sleep while he might require ten. If you aren't tired, do something low-key until you are, like read a book, play solitaire (NOT on your computer), pray, read your Bible or other inspiration books. Reserve your bedroom for sleep, intimacy and relaxation only. Don't use your bedroom to pay bills, argue or deal with business matters. Create your sanctuary of peace and order. Hang up your clothes. Get rid of junk and clutter. Your external world is a reflection of your internal world. Your mind will rest when your bedroom smells good, feels good, looks good and you can rest well on a quality mattress. Do you have soothing colors on the walls? Does your bedroom reflect your personality or is it just someplace to fall out staring at piles of junk, clothes and bills? Avoid talking about your fears, drama and worries with someone on the phone before you go to bed. Get off the phone and take it to the Throne. Before you sleep, write in your gratitude journal or at least make a list of the things you're grateful for, write down the things you accomplished today, write down your intentions for the next day. Give God thanks in advance for spiritual guidance to resolve all issues. Welcome God and the angels to visit you in your dreams to quiet your soul and lead you. Practice spiritual surrender - turn over your problems to God.