20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             (416) 677-5883
                                                                                                                                                                                                 langfieldent@rogers.com
                                                                                                                                                                                 www.langfieldentertainment.com

LE NEWSLETTER

April 17, 2008

An amazing month so far.  Birthday week for me this week and I've noticed that it's almost more significant than New Year's to me when reflecting on the past year.  I look forward to a year of joy and fulfillment - and working to achieve those!  Maybe it's just spring in the air but I definitely feel a sense of 'newness'. 

Speaking of which, I have a new event listed for you this week - it's the amazing
Alvin Ailey Dance Theater coming to Toronto again.  I went last year and was completely blown away!  Unbelievable!  So, get your tickets.  And also remember Legendary American dance troupe Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company with only three more nights left at Harbourfront.  

Then there's the event to kick off Toronto's amazing spring and summer seasons - the VIP Jam at Revival.  Come out and enjoy a selection of some of the best of the best artists this city and country has to offer - all for the love of performing and jamming.  This night always holds a very magical quality - and there are always tons of surprise guests.  Check out pics from the last one in December here

Lots of cool and hot news below - so check it out!

 

::HOT EVENTS::

Virtuosic Dance From Contemporary Icon Bill T. Jones In The Canadian Premiere Of Chapel/Chapter - April 16 To 19, 2008

Source: 
Harbourfront Centre

(April 2, 2008) Legendary American dance troupe Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company returns to Toronto, April 16 to 19, with the Canadian premiere of Chapel/Chapter, as part of Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage 2008. Through spoken word, live music and a brilliant company of dancers, Chapel/Chapter is an exhilarating experience performed in-the-round, an intimate setting draped in red fabric reminiscent of the sanctuary of a church. Rigorous and joyful, tragic yet uplifting, Chapel/Chapter vividly contrasts evil deeds with beautiful, at times, elegiac movement and music in this captivating and emotional multi-media performance. "Chapel/Chapter is a riveting experience…the visceral impact of the piece is inescapable,” says The New York Times.

Based in Harlem, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company is world renowned for its politically driven, socially charged performance works. Continuing to push the envelope, Jones proves once again that he is one of the most powerful voices in contemporary dance today. In Chapel/Chapter, three stories—two highly visible news items and one personal confession told in movement, words and music—set the narrative mood for an intimate exchange between the audience and one of the world’s top dance choreographers, Bill T Jones. An emotionally powerful work, Chapel/Chapter will long linger in audiences’ memories.

"To me, Chapel/Chapter asks the very real question ‘Can there be good in a world so full of evil?‘ The inspiration for Harbourfront Centre's focus on Sacred throughout the spring, this remarkable dance work allows us to experience these disturbing stories on a visceral level while finding refuge and ultimately hope in the beauty of the performance," says Dance Programmer Jeanne Holmes.

Chapel/Chapter's spirit is conveyed through live music performed by an ensemble of contemporary musicians: singer/multi-instrumentalist Lipbone Redding, who has been variously described as a vocal trickster and experimental cowboy; cellist Christopher Lancaster, who creates multi-layered, textural music through the use of real-time samplers and effect processing; and soprano Alicia Hall Moran, a classical singer whose influences range from opera to jazz.

Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage 2008 presents a diverse collection of innovative and exciting performing arts events in one visionary series with a number of world and Canadian premieres of some of the world’s most exceptional artistic endeavours. 13/13 rush ticket programme: students and seniors can purchase one $13 ticket, per valid ID, cash only, 13 minutes before curtain (subject to availability). Package discounts up to 20%. Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage 2008 showcases the best theatre, music and dance through May 10.

Other upcoming World Stage performances: world premiere of Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry—Daniel Barrow (Winnipeg), presented as part of the 21st annual Images Festival, April 10-12; Canadian premiere of Damascus—Traverse Theatre Company (Scotland), April 22-26; Toronto premiere of Short Works—Black Grace (New Zealand), April 30-May 3; and Toronto premiere of The Space Between—C!RCA (Australia), May 6-10 who also perform 46 Circus Acts in 45 Minutes on May 7.

FOCUS: Sacred
From January to June, Harbourfront Centre asks the big question—What do you hold Sacred? Part of an ongoing exploration of ideas in programming at Harbourfront Centre. Our Lens. Your View. Harbourfront Centre - divine culture.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16 – FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2008
CHAPEL/CHAPTER
Enwave Theatre
Harbourfront Centre
231 Queens Quay West
8 p.m
Matinee performance takes place at 2 p.m. on April 19
Single tickets: $40.
For tickets and information, the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldstage
(For additional information on the company, please visit www.billtjones.org.)

Monday Night Revival Jam Reunion – Monday, April 21, 2008

Yes, that’s right folks – all the original players – Shamakah Ali (percussion), Rich Brown (Host and bass), Joel Joseph, (keys) Anthony Wright (sax), Alexis Baro (trumpet) and Dane Hartsell (Guitar) will be reuniting on Monday, April 21st at Revival for a spring version of VIP Jam!!  Many special guests will be joining this famous crew as well!

Did you ever go to the Monday night jams at Revival?  Practically every big visiting artist would stop by and hit the stage with our amazing Toronto musicians!  It was such a great vibe and very well-attended.  Well, now it’s time for the REUNION! 

Check out the best of R&B, funk, rock and blues this spring season! 

MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2008
MONDAY NIGHT VIP JAM REUNION
Revival
783 College St. (at Shaw)
Doors open 9:00 pm
$5 COVER

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre – May 16-17, 2008

Source: 
Sony Centre for the Performing Arts

Join the celebration as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, America’s cultural ambassador to the world, marks its 50th anniversary of bringing African-American cultural expression and the American modern dance tradition to the world’s stages.  The genius of Alvin Ailey changed forever the perception of American dance; today the legacy continues with Judith Jamison’s remarkable vision and the extraordinary artistry of the Company’s dancers.  Beauty, spirit, hope and passion know no bounds.  That is the power of Ailey.

AADT returns to the Sony Centre for three performances; each show will be comprised of a distinct set of pieces from the company's repertoire, culminating in the signature ‘Revelations’.

FRIDAY, MAY 16-SATURDAY, MAY 17, 2008
ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATRE
3 Performances Only
Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front St. E. (corner of Yonge & Front St.)
Prices: $48 - $78
Tickets: (416)872-2262 or visit www.sonycentre.ca

::TOP STORIES::

Ticats' Jackson Found Dead At Home At Age 26

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(April 14, 2008) HAMILTON–Linebacker Jamacia Jackson, who spent last season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, was found dead Monday in South Carolina. He was 26.

"Jamacia was a beloved player, teammate and friend," Ticats head coach Charlie Taaffe said in a statement. "He will be truly missed by our entire team.

"Our sincere condolences are with Jamacia's family and friends."

The Ticats said the six-foot-one, 210-pound Jackson was found unresponsive at a Sumter, South Carolina, home Monday morning. He was later pronounced dead in hospital.

The CFL club added the cause of death wasn't immediately known.

"Jamacia was a respected and talented member of our team who worked as hard in our community as he did on the field," said President Scott Mitchell. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Jamacia's family."

Jackson is the second Ticats' player to die during a recent off-season. Offensive lineman Travis Claridge died Feb. 28, 2006 after being found unconscious in his Las Vegas home. His death was later ruled accidental. Claridge was 27.

Jackson, a native of Sumter, spent last season with the Ticats after signing with the CFL club as a free agent Jan. 11, 2007.

He signed with the NFL's New York Giants in 2006 but was allocated to NFL Europe and was selected in the 16th round by the Berlin Thunder. He attended Berlin's training camp but was released March 5 and subsequently cut loose by the Giants two weeks later.

Jackson signed with the NFL's Tennessee Titans in 2005 as an undrafted free agent but was released during training camp. He subsequently joined the Montreal Alouettes' practice roster.

Jackson spent his college career at the University of South Carolina (2001-'04). He appeared in 43 games over four seasons, including 21 as a starting strong safety. He registered 159 career tackles, two sacks and two interceptions, returning one 98 yards for a touchdown. He also forced three fumbles and recovered two others.

Idol Gives Back Raises $60 Million

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporter

(April 11, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Fox's Idol Gives Back telethon Wednesday night raised $60 million in pledges, Ryan Seacrest revealed on last night's edition of the reality show.

The amount was far shy of the $100 million producers had hoped to raise, but the expanded opportunities for donating as part of this year's show should help them reach that goal.

Pledges were still being sought during last night's results show.

This was the second year for the event, taped Sunday at the Kodak Theatre in L.A.

But what is unclear is how the two events truly compare.

While Fox officials balked at releasing a preliminary figure before last night's Idol's telecast, at least one paper, the L.A. Times, was reporting that the season's Idol Gives Back tally had already topped $225 million thanks in large part to a $200 million contribution from the United Kingdom.

It is unclear whether the $76 million raised from the 2007 edition came entirely from pledges or included corporation donations.

Ratings-wise, this year's 2  1/2-hour special averaged about 17.5 million viewers, easily outdistancing second-place CBS, which logged 10.4 million viewers, according to preliminary data from Nielsen Media Research released yesterday. But it was well below last year's show with 26.9 million viewers.

The event attracted a diverse group of artists, athletes, politicians and celebrities; everyone from Brad Pitt and Bono to Annie Lennox and Eli Manning took part. Charities selected to benefit from Idol Gives Back this year include the Children's Defense Fund, the Global Fund, Make It Right, Malaria No More, Save The Children and the Children's Health Fund. Corporate sponsors included Fox network parent company News Corp., ExxonMobil, Allstate and Ford.

In addition, Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell donated their salaries for the evening.

Besides the chance to purchase highlights from the night, Idol fans were also lured to iTunes by free exclusive content, including a behind-the-scenes look at Alicia Keys' journey through three countries in Africa helping children with HIV/AIDS. Last night, host Seacrest said the Top 6 downloads on iTunes were from Idol Gives Back.

Billboard.com with files from L.A. Times

Where's The Funding For Hip-Hop?

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Ian Keteku, The Canadian Press

(April 14, 2008) OTTAWA — Hip-hop might be an entrenched force in Canadian music, but that doesn't mean it's earning respect when it comes to cultural funding.

Documents obtained from the Canada Council for the Arts show that just four hip-hop acts received federal grants in 2007, leaving it behind other musical genres when it came to funding last year.

Three of Canada's 10 bestselling digital tracks in 2007 were hip-hop, according to Nielsen SoundScan, while Canadian artists such as Kardinal Offishall and K-OS continued to gain critical and commercial success. And with thriving scenes in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, notable hip-hop artists have also started popping up in cities such as Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Halifax.

But despite its growth and popularity, documents obtained from the council under the Access to Information Act indicate that the genre might still not be accepted by the federal agency committed to encouraging the arts.

Vincent Letellier, otherwise known as Freeworm, who raps evocatively about environmental causes, received a grant, as did Romeo Jacobs (a.k.a. Red 1) and Eric San (Kid Koala), currently on tour in Australia; the latter two received professional development grants. The group Eekwol also earned a grant, through the council's Aboriginal Peoples Music Program.

Almost 300 artists applied for funding in the non-classical category. Of those awarded funding, a majority of the 43 successful applicants were either classical or jazz musicians. Applications are judged by a committee that is supposed to represent Canada's two official languages, its aboriginal peoples, cultural and regional diversity, and an eclectic mix of musicians. Applicants in each category are to be judged by musicians representing a variety of musical tastes.

But it appears that hip-hop artists were not judged by their peers in 2007. Not one of the committee members who reviewed applications in the non-classical category was considered a hip-hop artist, according to assessment reports used by the arts council.

Edmonton-based singer/songwriter Mireille Moquin was on the non-classical panel and said there was no bias against hip-hop artists when the decisions were made. "It is mainly based on how creative the project is, what jumped out as being out of the ordinary and original," Moquin said.

The judges need to look beyond creativity and realize that hip-hop music is now popular culture, said Mils Knight (DJ Mils), who represents Eekwol. Although that group is grateful for its grant, Knight said, more needs to be done to recognize the influence that hip-hop has on Canadian culture. "It is a very popular genre and there is a large pool of talent in this nation that the government needs to acknowledge."

Hip-hop artists also need to shoulder some of the responsibility, Knight added. "It is a competitive process and artists have to learn what the jurors are looking for, refine their application and also learn about the numerous funding options for musicians."

We shouldn't be fooled by the glitz and glam of an artist's music videos, he said. "It's not like we are making crazy money, driving crazy vehicles, and flying in private jets. I still got to pay for rent and I got mouths to feed. I have bills."

Other rappers say the committee's narrow selection of hip-hop musicians supports artists with already thriving careers, leaving emerging and independent artists out in the cold.

Marlon Wilson, also known as Young Mav, belongs to the Edmonton-based hip-hop collective Politic Live. His group has released two critically acclaimed albums and three videos on MuchMusic, but still struggles to receive funding from the council.

"If you're a big name and have a record label that's backing you, you don't need the funding. The small guys get squeezed out," he said.

Wright on Time-The Blackout Interview with Kam Williams

Source:  Kam Williams

Jeffrey Wright was born on December 7, 1965 in Washington, DC where he was raised by his mother, an attorney, with the help of her sister, a nurse, following the untimely death of his father when he was still a baby. After attending a prep school, Jeffrey enrolled at Amherst College, discovering his love for the stage on his way to completing work for a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.  

Next, he earned a scholarship to NYU’s prestigious film school, but dropped out after only two months to pursue a professional acting career.  In 1994, the gifted thespian won a Tony Award for his spellbinding performance as “Belize” in Tony Kushner’s award-winning Broadway play “Angels in America.”

A couple of years later, Wright would enjoy his breakout role on the big screen as the title character in Basquiat. The versatile scene-stealer has since made innumerable memorable appearances, mostly as a second banana in such flicks as Shaft, Ali, Syriana, The Manchrian Candidate, Casino Royale, Lackawanna Blues and The Invasion.

As for his private life, Jeffrey is married to Carmen Ejogo, the Scottish-Nigerian actress he met on the set of Boycott, where they played Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. The couple lives I Brooklyn which is where they are raising their two children. Here, he takes about his latest film, Blackout, recently released on DVD, a drama revisiting the chaos and looting which erupted in East Flatbush during the Great Blackout of 2003.

KW: Jeffrey, thanks so much for the time.

JW:  Thank you.

KW: Well, there are a million things I’d like to talk to you about. Let me start by asking you what interested you in Blackout?

JW: It was a film about my neighbourhood, essentially. I live a bike ride away from Flatbush in Brooklyn. So, it was an opportunity to tell a story that was close to home. It was also an opportunity for me to experience the blackout, since I was out of the country when it actually went down. And I had heard nothing about this side of the New York story. Where I was, it was all reported as Chianti and Kumbaya. So, that things had gone down was news to me. In fact, when [director] Jerry LaMothe first approached me about the project, I went online to see what I could dig up, and couldn’t find any references to it. But going over to the neighbourhood and talking to the folks about it, I learned that it had been a very different story for them than had been presented through the mainstream media. So, this particular story represented in many ways how the lives and experiences of certain sectors of the American population go unnoticed. And it allowed us, as actors, to shed light on a story that might otherwise remain in the darkness. 

KW: The picture shows how an already disadvantaged community’s troubles can be further amplified by a disaster.

JW: Sure… sure… I’ll tell you, I’ve rarely been on a film set that melted so organically into the location in which it was being shot. Folks who happened to be walking down the street ended up in the movie. While we were shooting in the barber shop, guys came in and got haircuts. I even offered to cut a few, but didn’t get any takers. [Laughs] So there was an authenticity about it that was really special.  But at the same time, what I came to understand as well is that there’s a volatility in that particular section of Brooklyn which would only, as you say, require an incident like the blackout to really spark something.

KW: I think of you in the same light as the equally-underrated Christian Bale, as two of the best actors never nominated for an Oscar. Whenever I watch you at work, you’re always quite extraordinary.

JW: Well, thank you. Some of it’s okay.

KW: When did you develop an interest in acting?

JW: It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I really seriously pursued it, and I’ve been trying to escape the business ever since. [Chuckles]

KW: Why did you leave NYU after only a couple of months.

JW: I had an opportunity to do a Lorraine Hansberry play, so I took it. But I also left because I felt that I would better serve my craft by actually getting out and working, and digging my skills out of the boards of the stage, rather than within the safety of the classroom.

KW: Do you prefer working on the stage? Obviously, making movies pay a lot more.

JW: Yeah, that’s an attraction of film work, but the stage is satisfying in a different way. It’s harder work, but most importantly, you have more control over the final output on the stage, because there’s no one filtering what you do for the audience. There’s a certain freedom and fulfillment in directly communicating with the audience that you don’t find in film work. But they each have their own challenges, and I derive enjoyment from both. But, yes, I think I have a preference for the stage.  

KW: You’ve played a lot of famous figures: Basquiat, Bobby Seale, Martin Luther King, Sidney Bechet, and you’ll be portraying a couple more soon in Colin Powell and Muddy Waters. How do you feel about being tapped to do so many icons?

JW: Basquiat was iconic in certain circles, but relatively unknown in larger circles. What was exciting about playing him was that it could be an invitation to a larger audience to his work. So, that was compelling to me. In the case of Dr. King, it was an opportunity to do a piece about an icon, yes, but about an icon whose legacy was being lost on younger folks. It was a chance to remind those who weren’t alive at the time about his work and his life.

KW: Why haven’t you relocated to Los Angeles?

JW: Why haven’t I? Hmmm… It’s a nice place to visit. [Laughs] I grew up in a one industry town, Washington, DC. Los Angeles is a one-industry town, too, but the industry is a little too narrow. Also, I have kids now, and Brooklyn, in my opinion, is a far superior community to raise them in than L.A., just in terms of their being overshadowed by movies and things like that. And there’s a lot more to the world than spotlights.

KW: Is there a question you always wished a journalist would ask you?

JW: That’s a good question, but no.

KW: Are you happy?

JW: That’s a good one, too. I used to say that “happy” was like “lucky,” kind of imaginary. But now that I’m married and have children, I find that happiness is a real space. And I have to say that I am happy, although I’m probably pulled in too many different directions sometimes, and more stressed than I should be about things. But I’m blessed with a beautiful family, and that’s all I can ask for.   

KW: It must be very challenging for an actor and an actress to be married.

JW: Yes, a lot of drama.

KW: Thanks again for the interview, Jeffrey. I’m looking forward to your landing that Oscar nomination in the near future.

JW:  Well, Kam, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Turn Up The Heat In South Beach

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Caroline Mallan,
Special To The Star

(March 27, 2008) Miami Beach, FLA.– Far from the snow boots, the shovelling, the wind chill and the drudgery of a winter that seemingly will not end there's another world. Or in the case of South Beach – another planet.

Thanks to the now-legendary revitalization of this art deco-studded strip of sand, South Beach has produced a line-up of professionals who put the heat, the hip and the vibe into one of the coolest cities south of the border. And if you're planning a late escape from a long winter and slow-moving spring, their services are worth checking out.

The Tanning Butler

Malcolm Vincent, 27, was born for this. "No really, I was," insists the bronzed man with the impossibly white teeth who is mingling poolside at the glamorous Ritz-Carlton. "I was born and raised in Maui and the beach was where my family celebrated everything."

An army veteran who served in Iraq and specialized in getting the troops into shape, Vincent also doubles as a personal trainer.

His ``tanning butler'' role on South Beach came thanks to an open job posting that he spotted online.

"I knew the job was mine," he said, adding that he was not fazed by the other 200 who turned up in the hopes of impressing Michelle Payer, creator of the world's only tanning butler.

"Malcolm was the one, as soon as we saw him we knew," said Payer, the head of public relations for Miami's Ritz-Carltons.

Vincent had a hand in choosing the brand of sunscreen that he wears in his holster –overtop his trunks and white T-shirt with his job description emblazoned on the back – as he roams the chic pool deck in search of signs of sunburn.

He also offers a cool mist spray and guests' sunglasses get a spritz and a polish to complete the service. Vincent's application methods are legendary.

"Malcolm gives the best mini-massages as he puts on the sunscreen," said poolside regular Melissa Coon.

"He is a dream, everybody knows about him in South Beach."

The man himself is not mere brawn, Vincent has a true knack for putting people at ease, chatting with hundreds of guests a day and ensuring they feel welcome whether they prefer life under an umbrella or soak up the rays for hours.

"I think of myself as a tanning ambassador for the hotel and for the beach."

The Nightlife Concierge

When it first opened in 2003, Maria Roa-Warnant was the greenest junior on the concierge desk at Miami's luxe Four Seasons hotel. When guests asked for tips on how to gain entry to the best clubs and restaurants, they were sent to ask the young ingénue with a love of the nightlife.

"I was only 19 when I started here. I guess if people asked me where to go, I just knew. I'm a Miami native and I know the scene here."

Her after-hours pursuits of the latest lounges that draw the famous and the beautiful to Miami gave her the lowdown on where to go for a good night out.

Three months ago, Roa-Warnant's informal role became official when she was named the hotel's nightlife concierge.

"I didn't ask for a raise since my job is basically partying," she says with a smile.

She is the woman to see if you want VIP treatment at celebrity haunts such as Mynt, the Opium Garden or Set.

Which is not to say that Maria can manage miracles.

"Telling a guest that there is no way – and I mean no way – they are getting into a great club wearing flip-flops and pirate shorts or with big Texas hair is hard," she says.

Another toughie is finding a way to get a bachelor party of a dozen men into one of the city's preferred clubs.

"Bachelor parties are the hardest thing. The clubs are just not looking for 10 or 12 single men, no matter how much money they have to spend."

Bachelorette parties, on the other hand, are easy.

"A dozen beautiful women dressed to kill, I can get them into any club."

The Vibe Manager

Chesa Crouch is all about the "feel." Not just the look of the boutique 88-room Hotel Victor on Ocean Drive in South Beach, but the less tangible elements – the smell, the music, the tone, the lighting.

"It's all part of the vibe," she explains of her unusual job description.

But the hotel's "vibe team" is not just in charge of the overall effect; they aim to ensure each guest's personal vibe is catered to as well.

"I take it upon myself to make sure all their senses are catered to and to help each guest to experience their own vibe," Crouch says.

It involves contacting guests before they check in to find out if there is a special occasion that might merit a particular scent, be it from flowers or candles.

Different zones of the hotel have different vibes, aided by a scent machine that pumps various fragrances into the public spaces.

"In the spa, it's very Zen, in the restaurants the smell is more an enticing smell," she says.

Each sniff comes with its own music, too, which Crouch is in charge of making sure changes throughout the day, going from mellow mornings to a louder, more lively beat come cocktail hour.

The Decipherer of Cool

Steven Giles does not know when he gained "the gift." Great connections at some of Miami's best boutiques ensure that a rack of clothes for a guest who is wardrobe-challenged is only a phone call away.

How do you know what people will want to wear, hear, see, feel, smell and sit on before anyone else?

"I've never had that epiphany, which is good because I wake up every day in a mild state of panic," he says of the success of Base, his lifestyle concept store on South Beach's Lincoln Rd.

Giles, a transplanted Londoner, is behind what is widely recognized as the first such store in the U.S.

The main boutique offers a sound bar with an eclectic mix of artists and genres, clothing, technological gadgetry, books and accessories.

It is a one-stop cool emporium and Giles is the man who decides what makes the cut.

Base has been around Miami for 18 years, but just over a year ago, it expanded to open Base Annex in the tiny courtyard behind the main store.

Here, cleverly divided into seven different-themed rooms, are the treasures that transform a house into a gallery.

There is a camouflage-pattered bench in this corner, a life-sized wooden carving of a cowboy over there, impossibly beautiful ceramics in another alcove and chandeliers that drip with funky good taste.

"It's only been in recent memory that I have realized that what I like other people seem to want to buy, which is an extremely useful ability if you're in the area of retailing that I am," he says.

"We decipher what's cool or people, at least that's what people say."

The Beach Yogi

After indulgent shopping, lounging and partying, Arianne Traverso offers visitors a chance to stretch out and seek some inner peace, with nature as a backdrop.

Traverso is the city's only teacher of acro-yoga – a blend of yoga, acrobatics and Thai massage, with a playful social side that lightens the mood.

"People go to a yoga class, do their things, maybe say `hi' to one or two others and then go home," she said of more conventional yoga. "But with acro-yoga it is a lot of partner work which relies on trust."

Terri Cooper, head of yoga at The Standard Hotel, singled out Traverso's yoga – held regularly in the hotel garden – as a must-do for visitors. Traverso said teaching on the beach or in the garden makes for a special experience.

"I'd rather say, everyone facing the ocean turn onto your right side than say, look at that wall in a studio," she says of nature's studio. "It's so much more beautiful to use visual cues ... everyone feels it."

Caroline Mallan is a freelance writer based in London, England.


Just the facts 

Tanning Butler works weekends poolside at the Ritz-Carlton in South Beach, One Lincoln Rd. www.ritzcarlton.com/SouthBeach

Hotel Victor is at 1144 Ocean Dr. in South Beach. www.hotelvictorsouthbeach.com

The Four Seasons Miami is located at 1435 Brickell Ave. on the mainland. www.fourseasons.com/miami

For details on Arianne Traverso's acro-yoga classes in Miami Beach, go to www.ariyoga.com. Information about her classes at The Standard Hotel can be found at www.standardhotels.com/miami

Base is at 939 Lincoln Rd., the Base Annex is in the rear courtyard. www.baseworld.com

::TRAVEL NEWS::

 

Turn Up The Heat In South Beach

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Caroline Mallan,
Special To The Star

(March 27, 2008) Miami Beach, FLA.– Far from the snow boots, the shovelling, the wind chill and the drudgery of a winter that seemingly will not end there's another world. Or in the case of South Beach – another planet.

Thanks to the now-legendary revitalization of this art deco-studded strip of sand, South Beach has produced a line-up of professionals who put the heat, the hip and the vibe into one of the coolest cities south of the border. And if you're planning a late escape from a long winter and slow-moving spring, their services are worth checking out.

The Tanning Butler

Malcolm Vincent, 27, was born for this. "No really, I was," insists the bronzed man with the impossibly white teeth who is mingling poolside at the glamorous Ritz-Carlton. "I was born and raised in Maui and the beach was where my family celebrated everything."

An army veteran who served in Iraq and specialized in getting the troops into shape, Vincent also doubles as a personal trainer.

His ``tanning butler'' role on South Beach came thanks to an open job posting that he spotted online.

"I knew the job was mine," he said, adding that he was not fazed by the other 200 who turned up in the hopes of impressing Michelle Payer, creator of the world's only tanning butler.

"Malcolm was the one, as soon as we saw him we knew," said Payer, the head of public relations for Miami's Ritz-Carltons.

Vincent had a hand in choosing the brand of sunscreen that he wears in his holster –overtop his trunks and white T-shirt with his job description emblazoned on the back – as he roams the chic pool deck in search of signs of sunburn.

He also offers a cool mist spray and guests' sunglasses get a spritz and a polish to complete the service. Vincent's application methods are legendary.

"Malcolm gives the best mini-massages as he puts on the sunscreen," said poolside regular Melissa Coon.

"He is a dream, everybody knows about him in South Beach."

The man himself is not mere brawn, Vincent has a true knack for putting people at ease, chatting with hundreds of guests a day and ensuring they feel welcome whether they prefer life under an umbrella or soak up the rays for hours.

"I think of myself as a tanning ambassador for the hotel and for the beach."

The Nightlife Concierge

When it first opened in 2003, Maria Roa-Warnant was the greenest junior on the concierge desk at Miami's luxe Four Seasons hotel. When guests asked for tips on how to gain entry to the best clubs and restaurants, they were sent to ask the young ingénue with a love of the nightlife.

"I was only 19 when I started here. I guess if people asked me where to go, I just knew. I'm a Miami native and I know the scene here."

Her after-hours pursuits of the latest lounges that draw the famous and the beautiful to Miami gave her the lowdown on where to go for a good night out.

Three months ago, Roa-Warnant's informal role became official when she was named the hotel's nightlife concierge.

"I didn't ask for a raise since my job is basically partying," she says with a smile.

She is the woman to see if you want VIP treatment at celebrity haunts such as Mynt, the Opium Garden or Set.

Which is not to say that Maria can manage miracles.

"Telling a guest that there is no way – and I mean no way – they are getting into a great club wearing flip-flops and pirate shorts or with big Texas hair is hard," she says.

Another toughie is finding a way to get a bachelor party of a dozen men into one of the city's preferred clubs.

"Bachelor parties are the hardest thing. The clubs are just not looking for 10 or 12 single men, no matter how much money they have to spend."

Bachelorette parties, on the other hand, are easy.

"A dozen beautiful women dressed to kill, I can get them into any club."

The Vibe Manager

Chesa Crouch is all about the "feel." Not just the look of the boutique 88-room Hotel Victor on Ocean Drive in South Beach, but the less tangible elements – the smell, the music, the tone, the lighting.

"It's all part of the vibe," she explains of her unusual job description.

But the hotel's "vibe team" is not just in charge of the overall effect; they aim to ensure each guest's personal vibe is catered to as well.

"I take it upon myself to make sure all their senses are catered to and to help each guest to experience their own vibe," Crouch says.

It involves contacting guests before they check in to find out if there is a special occasion that might merit a particular scent, be it from flowers or candles.

Different zones of the hotel have different vibes, aided by a scent machine that pumps various fragrances into the public spaces.

"In the spa, it's very Zen, in the restaurants the smell is more an enticing smell," she says.

Each sniff comes with its own music, too, which Crouch is in charge of making sure changes throughout the day, going from mellow mornings to a louder, more lively beat come cocktail hour.

The Decipherer of Cool

Steven Giles does not know when he gained "the gift." Great connections at some of Miami's best boutiques ensure that a rack of clothes for a guest who is wardrobe-challenged is only a phone call away.

How do you know what people will want to wear, hear, see, feel, smell and sit on before anyone else?

"I've never had that epiphany, which is good because I wake up every day in a mild state of panic," he says of the success of Base, his lifestyle concept store on South Beach's Lincoln Rd.

Giles, a transplanted Londoner, is behind what is widely recognized as the first such store in the U.S.

The main boutique offers a sound bar with an eclectic mix of artists and genres, clothing, technological gadgetry, books and accessories.

It is a one-stop cool emporium and Giles is the man who decides what makes the cut.

Base has been around Miami for 18 years, but just over a year ago, it expanded to open Base Annex in the tiny courtyard behind the main store.

Here, cleverly divided into seven different-themed rooms, are the treasures that transform a house into a gallery.

There is a camouflage-pattered bench in this corner, a life-sized wooden carving of a cowboy over there, impossibly beautiful ceramics in another alcove and chandeliers that drip with funky good taste.

"It's only been in recent memory that I have realized that what I like other people seem to want to buy, which is an extremely useful ability if you're in the area of retailing that I am," he says.

"We decipher what's cool or people, at least that's what people say."

The Beach Yogi

After indulgent shopping, lounging and partying, Arianne Traverso offers visitors a chance to stretch out and seek some inner peace, with nature as a backdrop.

Traverso is the city's only teacher of acro-yoga – a blend of yoga, acrobatics and Thai massage, with a playful social side that lightens the mood.

"People go to a yoga class, do their things, maybe say `hi' to one or two others and then go home," she said of more conventional yoga. "But with acro-yoga it is a lot of partner work which relies on trust."

Terri Cooper, head of yoga at The Standard Hotel, singled out Traverso's yoga – held regularly in the hotel garden – as a must-do for visitors. Traverso said teaching on the beach or in the garden makes for a special experience.

"I'd rather say, everyone facing the ocean turn onto your right side than say, look at that wall in a studio," she says of nature's studio. "It's so much more beautiful to use visual cues ... everyone feels it."

Caroline Mallan is a freelance writer based in London, England.


Just the facts 

Tanning Butler works weekends poolside at the Ritz-Carlton in South Beach, One Lincoln Rd. www.ritzcarlton.com/SouthBeach

Hotel Victor is at 1144 Ocean Dr. in South Beach. www.hotelvictorsouthbeach.com

The Four Seasons Miami is located at 1435 Brickell Ave. on the mainland. www.fourseasons.com/miami

For details on Arianne Traverso's acro-yoga classes in Miami Beach, go to www.ariyoga.com. Information about her classes at The Standard Hotel can be found at www.standardhotels.com/miami

Base is at 939 Lincoln Rd., the Base Annex is in the rear courtyard. www.baseworld.com

::MUSIC NEWS::

 Mint Condition Returns

Source: Nyle Washington, Account Executive, Susan Blond, Inc.

(April 11, 2008) *The trendsetting, platinum Minnesota-based R&B group, Mint Condition is back with their eagerly awaited ninth album, e-Life, in stores May 6, 2008.

The album will be released on the band’s own label, CagedBird Records in joint venture with Image entertainment and includes collaborations with Anthony Hamilton, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Phonte from the group Lil Brother.
 
e-Life is a career defining album that will remind Mint Condition’s fans that their signature sound, an eclectic blend of funk, rock, and soul, is still intact and even better 17 years after their debut.

The group’s longevity is a testament to their unique sound. Lead vocalist Stokley Williams says, “Our sound is an extension of the kind of music we love and Mint Condition is always going to be relevant because we don’t follow trends, we believe in the integrity of our music and how it makes our fans feel.”

e-Life is Mint Condition’s first release since their 2005 album Living the Luxury Brown, which hit #1 on Billboard’s Independent Album Charts. 

Keyboardist Rick Kinchen reflects on the title of the album: “Each song deals with the difficulties in maintaining relationships; between men and women, parents and children, and friends in a world that communicates through the internet, e-mail, texting, and instant messaging.” Mint Condition’s first single, “Baby Boy, Baby Girl,” is a clear example as the group tackles raising children in the digital age. The single impacted radio in a big way and is currently the #1 most added song to Urban Adult Contemporary Stations across the country.
 
Recorded and written collaboratively by all band members, Mint Condition once again tests the limits with a range of soul stirring love ballads and drum and bass laced grooves. e-Life shows Mint Condition’s versatility ranging from their first single, “Baby Boy, Baby Girl” featuring soul crooner Anthony Hamilton to the futuristic sounding joint, “Why Do We Try” featuring A Tribe Called Quest and former Lucy Pearl sound architect Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Mint Condition challenges the negative connotations of women who seek out well-to-do men in the aptly titled mid-tempo song “Golddigger” and discusses a failed relationship in the trademark Mint sounding ballad, “Nothing Left To Say.”
 
The original members of Mint Condition are still intact with Stokley on vocals, Lawrence El on piano and keyboards, Rick Kinchen on bass and lead guitar, O'Dell on rhythm guitar and Jeffrey Allen on saxophone and keyboards.  Beginning as a sextet, the group now stands at five after the amicable departure of keyboardist Keri Lewis. 
 
Mint Condition was signed in the early nineties by heavyweight producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and has long stood apart from other R&B groups.  Ever since their debut album Meant to be Mint was released in 1991 the platinum selling group has been churning out hit after hit. Starting with the Top 10 pop single, "Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)” a steady chain of hits followed, including “Someone To Love,” “You Send Me Swingin,” “What Kind Of Man Would I Be,” and “You Don’t Have to Hurt No More.”
 
In support of their upcoming album, e-Life, Mint Condition is gearing up for their 2008 U.S. promo tour this Spring. Soon after, the group will head over seas to tour internationally in Europe and Japan.  The group also has plans for their new label CagedBird Records, which includes signing new talent and the exciting prospect of releasing Mint’s highly coveted side project, a experimental jazz group which features Jeffrey Allen, Stokley, and Lawrence El and Odell’s funk, rock, and r&b group THE TRUTH.

Will Beyonce's Nuptials Affect Her Album Sales?

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
TV Columnist

(April 10, 2008) NEW YORK–Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who reportedly wed last Friday, join a list of married music power couples that includes Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Nas and Kelis, and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.

Of course, the couple hasn't confirmed the nuptials, but a friend told People magazine they wed at Jay-Z's Tribeca apartment. Workers erected a white tent atop the apartment building last Friday. Accoutrements reportedly included more than 50,000 white orchids.

Guests included Beyoncé's former Destiny's Child mates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, and Gwyneth Paltrow, People reported.

Other music husband-and-wife teams that preceded Jay-Z and Beyoncé have seen mixed post-marriage sales numbers.

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony both saw a decrease in album sales after they exchanged vows on June 5, 2004. Before their union, Lopez released three albums, which have sold a combined 8.1 million in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Lopez's 2005 album, Rebirth, has sold 731,000 copies, while a pair of 2007 albums, Como Ama Una Mujer and Brave, sold 200,000 and 154,000, respectively.

Anthony released seven albums between 1994 and 2004, with combined sales of 2.5 million. Sigo Siendo Yo, released in 2006, has moved 151,000 copies, while his 2007 album, El Cantante, has sold 183,000.

Nas and Kelis have seen a decline since their January 2005 wedding.

In comparison, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw have seen steady sales since they married in 1996. Hill's two albums released before marrying McGraw have sold a combined 3.6 million. McGraw's three have sold 9.3 million.

While McGraw's biggest selling album is 1994 release Not a Moment Too Soon, with six million sold, Hill's is Breathe, with 6.5 million copies, released three years after her marriage to McGraw.

Like Hill and McGraw, Beyoncé and Jay-Z have achieved success working together. The pair collaborated on songs "'03 Bonnie and Clyde," which reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and "Crazy in Love," which topped the chart.

Billboard.com, with files from People

Erykah Badu Plots Six-Week Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 10, 2008) *Erykah Badu will traverse North America next month for a six-week tour in support of her latest release, "New Amerykah, Pt. One: 4th World War."  The trek, set to launch May 4 in Detroit, will feature opening act The Roots for many of the dates.   The performers will visit U.S. cities from coast to coast, as well as a few Canadian provinces, and Badu will veer off for gigs in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean island of Aruba.  Tour details are listed below:

May 2008
4 - Detroit, MI - Fox Theatre
5 - Toronto, Ontario - Massey Hall
6 - Sherbrooke, Quebec - Jacques Cartier Park
8 - Boston, MA - Orpheum Theatre
9 - New York, NY - Radio City Music Hall
10 - Baltimore, MD - Pier Six Concert Pavilion
11 - Upper Darby, PA - Tower Theatre
14-15 - Washington, DC - DAR Constitution Hall
16 - Norfolk, VA - Chrysler Hall
17 - Greensboro, NC - Greensboro Coliseum
18 - Richmond, VA - Landmark Theater
20 - Boca Raton, FL - Mizner Park Amphitheater
21 - San Juan, Puerto Rico - Coliseum of Puerto Rico
23 - Atlanta, GA - Fabulous Fox Theatre
24 - Montgomery, AL - Jubilee City Festival
25 - Aruba, Dutch Caribbean - Soul Beach Music Festival
27 - Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium
28 - Memphis, TN - Orpheum Theatre
29 - St. Louis, MO - Fox Theater
30-31 - Chicago, IL - Chicago Theatre

June 2008
2 - Denver, CO - Fillmore
3 - Salt Lake City, UT - The Depot
5 - Redmond, WA - Marymoore Amphitheater
6 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Commodore Ballroom
8 - Oakland, CA - Paramount Theater
10 - San Diego, CA - Humphreys Concerts by the Bay
12 - Los Angeles, CA - Greek Theatre
13 - Las Vegas, NV - House of Blues
14 - Mesa, AZ - Mesa Amphitheater
15 - Albuquerque, NM - Kiva Auditorium

Red Stripe Pulls Sponsorship From Dancehall And Reggae Stage Shows

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
By Kevin Jackson

(April 10, 2008) *Diageo, the parent company for Red Stripe Beer has pulled its sponsorship from the staging of dancehall and reggae shows in Jamaica with immediate effect.

Two of the more prominent stage shows held in Jamaica, Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest and Guinness Sting will be without the support of the Red Stripe and Guinness brands, when they are staged later this year.

In a carefully guided press release issued to the Jamaican media, Red Stripe said:

"Jamaica has a rich cultural and musical heritage that has earned the country much international acclaim through the years. Our Jamaican musicians are among the best and most talented in the world. The Jamaican music industry has contributed to building economic and social life in Jamaica, and for that we are very proud. It is for this very positive reason, that for decades Red Stripe has sought to associate its brands with Jamaican music. The Red Stripe Company has maintained a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the music industry and together we have worked very hard with promoters and artistes to uphold globally acceptable standards.

Over the years, however, a very negative trend of glorifying violence has crept into some of the music, causing much consternation among well thinking Jamaicans and others at home and abroad. This has far-reaching and damaging implications for the industry and for the country as a whole. While our most recent efforts through the Coalition of Corporate Sponsors have met with some measure of success, some performers continue to propagate, through their live performances, violent and anti-social lyrics. Red Stripe will not be party to this, and thus we have taken the very difficult decision of withdrawing sponsorship from live music events. Consequently, Red Stripe will not renew our contract for title sponsorship of Reggae Sumfest and Sting. We will, however, ensure that our brands are made available whenever and wherever our loyal consumers enjoy premium alcohol beverages.

It is our hope that our action will cause the proponents of this destructive trend in local music to stop and take stock of the negative impact of their actions on the society and seek to make a change. Red Stripe looks forward to the time when good sense will prevail and we can see a return to improved quality and standard of music that all Jamaica can be proud of. At that time we will review our position."

Reggae Sumfest which will be held from July 13 to 19 in Montego Bay this year, is reportedly eyeing top guns including Akon, Chris Brown, Ne Yo and Keyshia Cole to perform at this year's festival. 

In the past, names including LL Cool J, Mary J Blige, Jay Z, Ludacris, Beyonce, Destinys Child, Shaggy, Sean Paul, and Ciara, have performed on the Reggae Sumfest stage.

Get MORE Reggae updates here: www.eurweb.com/story/eur42500.cfm

Time For A Little Tribute To Jazz

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(April 13, 2008) The concept for Russ Little's new album On the Shoulders of Giants is right out of jazz tradition – a collection of compositions by the genre's masters – but its title was inspired by science.

For the disc that includes interpretations of Duke Ellington, Benny Golson and Thelonious Monk gems, the trombonist recalled a 1675 quote from Isaac Newton: "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

"The obvious names (for the record) were Homage or Tribute, but that's been done," explained Little, whose CD release show takes place Tuesday at Quotes on King St. W.S.

The 66-year-old Toronto native has had no shortage of mentors. First, there was George McRae, the music teacher at Malvern Collegiate who introduced him to his life's passion. "He said: `You're the tallest guy in class, you play trombone;' and that was it," remembered the 6-foot-2 Little.

Today, McRae, 81 – who helmed the school's music department for 37 years – can still recall the "amazing technique" Little began developing by Grade 11.

"Performing rapid passages on trombone is extremely difficult, but Russ mastered that at a very early stage," he said in a phone interview. "And his tone was exceptional."

Then there was acclaimed trombonist Teddy Roderman who sought out the preternaturally gifted teen he'd heard about. "This giant in music in Canada would pull up to my little crappy house in his Cadillac," reminisced Little in his expansive Oakville living room.

"He gave me moral support. According to other people, he was not always the most approachable, but to me he was the sweetest, most giving guy."

After graduating from the University of Toronto, Little was tapped to join Woody Herman's band in Chicago. He credits that 18-month gig and a shorter stint in the Count Basie Orchestra for honing his skills.

"Canadian musicians tend to be well-schooled sight readers," he explained. "But that's also a problem, because there's the sense that once you've rehearsed it there's no need to go any further. It's not enough to play notes correctly, the band needs constant unremitting rehearsal to get tight, tight, tight."

Despite his promising start, after Little got off the road with Basie, he landed a gig as a TV talk-show bandleader and wound up working the next 30 years as a conductor, composer, arranger and session musician. "I was caught up making a living," said the married father of two children. "I was perfectly happy being under the radar."

When technology made the TV music industry less lucrative, Little started a recording career. He cut his first album Snapshot in 2005, and 2007 brought Footwork. He said he loves the process: "Making an album allows for a barrage of self-scrutiny, which has improved me as a player. And all of a sudden I'm getting a lot more jazz gigs."

Little's natural exuberance translates unto the sparkling album that features local musicians, as well as legendary Duke Ellington Orchestra bassist 84-year-old John Lamb.

The arrangements by drummer Brian Barlow are mainly in the high-spirited bop milleu, save a reggae take on Horace Silver's "Song For My Father." That's a nod to Little's maternal homeland, as well as a reflection of the versatility he thinks young players should aspire to.

"I play in rock bands, I play bar mitzvahs, I play in country and western bands ... just last week I backed Gladys Knight (at a casino). When you do a breadth of work it informs what you do in jazz. I don't believe you're in a position to call yourself a complete musician if you just do one thing.

"You may not like country and western, but that's not selling out, it's making a living."

Yo-Yo Looking For A Hit With 'Miss'

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

(April 14, 2008) **One of the originators of girls gone rap, Yolanda "Yo-Yo" Whitaker, is premiering on her own show, VH1's "Ego Trip's Miss Rap Supreme."

The show adds to the roster of reality elimination programming with rap legend Yo-Yo teaming with MC Serch, one half of the 90s rap duo 3rd Bass, looking for the next big raptress.

The series begins tonight at 10pm/9c on the music channel.

"It's the inside look at what women go through - the challenges - and trying to find truth within it all," Whitaker described. "You have 25 women that compete, and 10 women make it in the house and they go through these different challenges."

 Though the premise seems the same, Whitaker promises a lot more excitement than other reality talent competitions, including a lot of drama from one-hit rapper Khia, whose hit "My Neck, My Back (Lick It)" was released in the spring of 2002.

"She has that energy; she's the excitement of the show," Whitaker said hinting at some serious drama from the artists.

"It's good," she continued of the excitement on the show. "Reality shows do a lot for people's careers. Because it's female, and all the cattiness, as a host it's fun to be a part of and as a female entrepreneur who's been in the game a long time, it's really good to see because you're looking at it from the outside."

Looking at "Miss Rap Supreme" from the outside might be entertaining, but when asked about the redeeming value of the show, Whitaker promised that there is advice, development, and even a little female bonding.

"Oh you're going to see some bonding, oooh are you going to see some bonding," she said. "Bonding like you've never seen females do."

But she continued that as a co-host, she stays out of the drama, except on the few occasions that there is a lesson she can teach.

"I do get caught up in one girl ready to quit," she said reflecting on the eight episodes, already filmed. "I do get into talking about quitting and women staying on top of their game and all that women have gone through in this industry, so I do get emotional in one episode. But other than that, we really just try to give the challenges, stand back, critique, and send one packing each week."

In helping to find the next big female rap star, Whitaker had a few things to say about the status of female rap star.

"We've always lacked leadership," she surmised as the biggest issue. "Me, always being a sponge for knowledge and always wanting to do more than just hip hop, I've always thought there would be more leadership. I've always grown up around a lot of very successful, extraordinary, beautiful black women who I thought would guide me, show me the way, and teach me about networking, and none of that happened. Bonding was rare."

Whitaker shared that anyone looking for a career as a musical artist should make sure they should take advantage of every meeting and connect professionally with every person they meet and prepare for life after the fame.

"Being in it since I was 17, I remember making my transition from what I call the old Yo-Yo to the woman I am today; it was very hard for me. That was very challenging for me. Do you give up? What do you do at this point when you're ready to do something else in life?" she asked. "I wasn't prepared. Now I understand how so many women that came before me - where are they now? They're still struggling to do something and to find that niche."

When Whitaker hit that wall, she decided to go back to school. She left her home in Los Angeles and moved to New Jersey just as she was about to turn 30.

"It was the first time I'd been Yolanda as a young adult. Since I've been Yo-Yo, professionally, since I was 17."

Now, she has her own company called Fearless Entertainment, Yo-Yo Music and has aspirations to be a US Congresswoman by the age of 40.

"I'm scouting for talent. I've been teaching at my old high school, Washington Prep High School for three years with the magnet program. I've been teaching a lyrics class at the Thelonious Monk Institute. I've started an organization with MC Lyte; the Let Your Light Shine youth organization. I'm always still in the community and I do radio, and now I've got this new gig."

Whitaker also told EUR's Lee Bailey that she has no plans to return to rap as an artist, considering that it would be "like going back down hill."

"Rap is going to always be me," she said. "I'm going to always be an entertainer, but I realized that every time I would go back to find it, it was like falling back into my fear that that's all I have to give. I'm starting something new; creating a new energy; paving a new road or continuing this road to bigger and better things."

Her new something; her bigger and better begins tonight at 10pm/9c on VH1. For more, check the VH1 website at www.vh1.com and click through to "Miss Rap Supreme" TV show.

Meet The 'Well-Known Stranger': Singer Chris Ball Says Hello All Over Again

Excerpt from
www.eurweb.com - By Ricki Morris

(April 15, 2008) *How can someone be a well-known stranger? 
Chris Ball knows this title oh to well.  On a phone interview with EURweb.com, he introduces himself officially as the artist that he is and always has been.

"I've made a little noise in the industry…When I go out, a lot of people-they know me, they just don't know who I am. No one knows what I do," said Ball. 

The at least for-now, not too well-known singer, made his first debut on the music scene at a very young age, in a music group called Luv Force, managed by Chris Stokes.  At the time Chris B. had too passions, football and music. 

"I was doing both at the same time. I was 9-years old going into the studio, and then at the same time, I would leave there and go to football practice. So I was (kind of) juggling both."

Once his group was signed to Warner Brothers, they started doing tours, and Ball continued to play sports.  After he returned home (from touring), to continue his schooling at a junior college, the baller-singer received an offer he couldn't resist.

"When I came off tour, I was informed that I had a full-scholarship to the University (of) California Berkeley. So I had to make a decision. Do I keep going on with the music, or do I go and get a College degree?  I chose to use the football, and go get me a free degree, (because) I felt like music will always be there for me," Chris explained.

While in college he studied Sociology and Business.

"I was more concerned with theories, and guys like Freud…the Oetipus
Complex and why I'm supposed to be in love with my mom, and why my sister
has penis envy; It was interesting for me," Chris said jokingly.

Chris mixes some of his sociology knowledge into his music, but he makes sure that it's used at the right time, for the right song, and he makes sure his audience is able to follow.

"I try to make my music appeal to a wide variety of people.  I don't try to just-limit myself to urban music, because that's not who I am as a person. You may hear some Freud in one of my songs or you may hear something about the Communist Manifesto, but it will be real strategic," he admits.

And just like he did with music and football, he juggles two musical talents, Chris not only sings he also does a little lyrical verse droppin.
   
"I (kind of) do both, it's definitely (something) that the world has not heard," says Chris. He also says the closest song out right now, that's similar to his sound, is Snoop Dogg's "Sensual Seduction." Even though he may bust a flow or sing a verse in his songs, he doesn't want to be mistaken as just a rapper or just a singer; he is a "Recording Artist."
   
Chris says that his album "The Well-Known Stranger" is similar to a portrait.  He paints vivid pictures of real and personal experiences.  Listeners are not only introduced to his rare sound, they are also introduced to the stories, and conscious messages of Chris Ball.

"I try to tie in some good music, to give (the) people music to think
about."
 
So basically, instead of becoming a social worker, Mr. Ball gives people therapy through his music. Also in the works is his own musical entity called 45Entertainment. For more information about Chris Ball, "The Well-Known Stranger," go to www.chrisball45.com.

Neil Diamond Says Upcoming Tour, Album Will Be His Best Work

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Nekesa Mumbi Moody,
The Associated Press

(April 15, 2008) NEW YORK–Neil Diamond, who is releasing a new album next month and embarking on a new tour this summer, says both projects mark the best – and hardest work – of his career.

"This is the most technically challenging show that I've ever done," Diamond told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday. His upcoming tour kicks off July 19 in St. Paul, Minn., and is scheduled to end Oct. 30 in Jacksonville, Fl.

The tour will include performances in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton , Vancouver, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles and Houston.

As for the album – Home Before Dark, due out May 6 – Diamond said: "This record represents a giant step in my evolution as a writer and a recording artist ... you will see I've gone deeper. It was more painful to write this – maybe the most difficult album I've ever written, and maybe my best."

For Home Before Dark, the music legend reunited with Grammy-winning producer Rick Rubin, who was at the helm of his critically acclaimed 2005 CD, 12 Songs. Diamond, 67, said he felt more confident recording the new disc – but not because of its predecessor's good reviews.

"Critical acclaim is always helpful, any kind of encouragement for an artist is helpful, but my music is going to be written or recorded with or without critical acclaim," he said. "I appreciate it when it comes, but it will not stop me for a moment when I don't get it. It's unpredictable."

Instead, it was the growing relationship between Rubin and Diamond that provided the boost.

"That first 12 Songs album was more of a testing of the waters and a `getting to know you' album," he said. "This one is `we know each other and respect each other and let's try and knock people's socks off,' and that's what we went for, and that's what we (did)."

Diamond plans to debut several songs from the CD on his tour, but he also promises plenty of his classic hits, which include Sweet Caroline, Love on the Rocks and September Morn.

"It's always difficult to introduce new music in a show, but not this time around," he said. "This music suits itself perfectly for the show, and I think these songs will go over beautifully with the audience, and they will get as many hits as well."

Diamond said fans will be wowed by the show, which includes what he calls "technical wizardry ... we can do things on this stage that we've never dreamed were possible."

Still, when asked to give details, Diamond was mum.

"I can't, because then I'd give it away, and then there's the surprise factor," he said. "I want people to come and see it. You have to be there, you have to experience it."

It's A 'Go' For Mario

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

(April 16, 2008) *Young R&B crooner
Mario is burning up the dance floor as one of the faves on this season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” but shaking his Latin groove thing on the hit show isn’t the only thing keeping him busy.

The singer has also released a new disc titled “Go” and has launched his own foundation for kids.

With just a few hours to spare from his own personal projects, Mario has become a standout of the popular celebrity dance competition. But he told EUR’s Lee Bailey that he initially passed on the opportunity to star on the show.

 “I originally said no,” he said of the offer to be a “Dancing” dynamo. “I thought, ‘Nobody my age does this show. My demographics don’t really watch the show.’ But at the same time I thought it would be a great opportunity for my fans to see another side of me, and a great platform for me to show the world who I am.”

Mario explained that he feels he’s much more than just a music artist.

“I’m a philanthropist; I’m a role model and I felt that’s important and this was a great way to show that,” he said. “It’s been going great. This has been the greatest experience I’ve ever had.”

Some say that because Mario clearly has some good R&B rhythm in his hit videos, it couldn’t be that difficult for him to be such a superstar on the show. But he modestly explained that this is hardly a choreographed vid clip for BET.

“It’s totally different,” he said. “I’ve never had any dance experience. That’s something I’ve acquired from being an entertainer. I didn’t have any expectations, but I knew that I had to work hard so that to make sure I didn’t I want to let my family and friends down, and let my fans down, and ultimately let myself down. I went into it with an open mind, hoping that me and my partner had a good chemistry – which we do.”

After remaining in the line-up into the fifth week, Mario is doing pretty well. And as for the chemistry between him and his partner, professional dancer Karina Smirnoff, well rumours were flying that the dancing duo are heating up on and off the dance floor.

However, Mario squelched the rumours, saying, “We’re not dating. It’s totally a professional relationship. We just go out there trying to give a great performance every week.”

He explained that part of the dance is “selling whatever the character of the dance is.” Apparently the character of his first week performance was rather flirty.

“So maybe people thought there was something going on,” he said. “It’s a compliment – it means we were doing our job.”

 In addition to seeing the star dance, Mario is planning to perform as a singer on the show, too. But that will come at a cost. Either once eliminated or once the show is over, he is will sing, so there’s no big rush.

And even when the show’s over, Mario will still be dancing. He’ll have a new partner, though. He announced the launch of the interactive "Dancing with Mario" contest giving fans a chance to have Mario appear in their hometown for an in-person dance date.

Fans can enter the contest by telling Mario why they should be the one to have a private dance with the star by directly sending Mario a personal message at 818.836.8041 or uploading a video on his website www.mario2u.com/dancecontest.

Still, in the midst of dodging rumours and elimination, and attempting to master the tango, Mario’s released his new album, “Go,” which features production by The Neptunes, Jermaine Dupri, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Scott Storch, Akon, and Alicia Keys to name a few. And the album title, “Go” is pretty much the feel of the disc. Mario described it as “a progressive title,” which matches how he’s moving forward in his life.

“The whole project is amazing,” he said. “The energy behind it is great. It’s a great solid R&B album.”

In addition to promoting the album, being in the studio, and shooting videos for the disc, Mario has also recently began work on his foundation, Mario’s Do Right Foundation.

The Do Right Foundation caters to kids whose parents have suffered with substance abuse issues. About two years ago, Mario had to take a break to help save his mother from a serious drug addiction. He shared that her battle really affected him, but that he’s become a better man from the experience.

“I’ve humbled myself because I’ve seen how God can work and how he can heal. I’m blessed because at 21 I can see that,” he said. “Mom is good. She’s about eight months clean.”

“We’re helping to give these kids the power and the tools to rise above those circumstances,” he said of the foundation. “We just started it, but it’s my way of giving back. With being successful and having opportunities, there’s a certain amount of blessing that you should bestow on other people through your gift from God. This is definitely one of those for me.”

MUSIC TIDBITS

Brick And Lace Serenades The Sovereignty Of Nigeria

Source:  Headline Entertainment

(March 28, 2008) Kingston, Jamaica: - Soulful duo Brick and Lace recently stormed the African state mesmerizing fans and capturing the attentions of the sovereign. The Nigerian visit saw sisters Nailah & Nyanda, of Brick and Lace, performing riveting sets at a show made for a Television concert and a beach party saturated with over 20,000 patrons. This is their second trip to the sovereign nation and the elegant ladies are enjoying the beauty of the country, people and culture. Whilst basking in the mass beauty of Nigeria the ladies were feted by the King of Akron and visited the very historic Badagry. Brick and Lace were awarded a "Badagry Pilgrim Award". Having captured the hearts of the Nigerians the beauties then traveled to on Tanzania where they made a Special guest appearance on the Bongo Star Search as well performed at the after party. The Bongo Star search is the Tanzanian equivalent to the television show American Idol. Brick and Lace is a girl duo out of Jamaica currently making waves on the international music scene with hits such as Love is wicked and Never Never. The video Love is Wicked got over 4.8 million views on youtube in only seven months.

Jeff Healey Tribute Shows Announce Line-ups

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(April 10, 2008) Toronto — Details were announced in relation to a pair of tribute events to the late Jeff Healey, the Canadian guitarist who died of cancer on March 2. Acknowledging the musician's enthusiasm for both blues-rock and traditional jazz, the Toronto shows are thematic, with the first concert (May 3, at Sound Academy) headlined by the Guess Who's Randy Bachman, Deep Purple's Ian Gillan, Cream bassist Jack Bruce and Colin James. One day later, Toronto's jazz community gathers at Jeff Healey's Roadhouse. Money raised will benefit the Daisy's Eye Cancer Fund and the Jeff Healey Family Trust. Tickets are available at ticketbreak.com or 1-866-943-8849.

Dupri, Def Jam Launch New Hip Hop Label

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 11, 2008) *Jermaine Dupri and Island Def Jam are teaming with the people behind TAG Body Spray  - yes, the deodorant brand – to launch a new hip hop label called Tag Records.  Dupri will serve as president of the New York-based venture, which involves setting the label's creative vision as well as developing its musical talent. Acts signed to the label are expected to be announced next month. "Today, we make history in the music industry with TAG Records," said Dupri. "This label is going to provide new artists with a chance of a lifetime. New artists will receive ten times the typical marketing support - a first in the industry. I'm hand selecting and molding these artists to make history in hip hop."  The launch of TAG Records is part of the TAG brand's initiative to get a stronghold in the urban community through the development of programs that provide opportunities for aspiring hip-hop talent. The partnership will also call on TAG Record's artists and Dupri to appear in various TAG brand advertising and marketing initiatives throughout 2008.  In other J.D. news, the record exec tells People magazine that his girlfriend, Janet Jackson, has fully recovered from the illness that caused her to cancel an appearance on "Saturday Night Live" last month.  "She's 100-percent better now," says Dupri. "She was really sick. She had bronchitis." But the singer is back on track: "She's in Japan right now. She's better and doing all the promotion that she didn't get to do because she was sick when the album launched."

Mariah Carey: E=MC2

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Island)
(out of 4)

(April 15, 2008) With erotic lead single "Touch My Body" recently garnering Mariah Carey her 18th No.1 hit (breaking Elvis Presley's record, but lagging two behind the Beatles) the 38-year-old singer's decision to stick with the formula of 2005's three-time Grammy winning The Emancipation of Mimi is already paying off.  Cary's 11th album finds her in quintessential posture: self-aggrandizing girly girl with a penchant for hip-hop beats. Though the disc opens with the celebrated five-octave singer mocking the dog whistle high notes she's known for, she keeps the vocal gymnastics to the minimum throughout, save a cringing attempt at patois on "Cruise Control," which guests Damian Marley. The album, which features the trim diva nude and with a giant feather boa on the cover, is divided between mindless club romps about "sipping grigio" ("Migrate") and having "flavour like ice cream" ("I'm That Chick") and tearjerker love-gone-wrong ballads ("Thanx 4 Nothin'," "Last Kiss"). The noted drama queen also tosses in "Side Effects," a downer of an uptempo that conjures her four-year marriage/captivity to Svengali-like former Sony boss Tommy Mottola: "Sleeping with the enemy/ Aware that he was trying to smother every last part of me." But even when the lyrics give pause, her team of producers, Scott Storch, Stargate, Jermaine Dupri and Swizz Beatz, make sure that the slick catchy grooves never stop.  Top track: "I Wish You Well" is a mature acoustic piano tune that counsels forgiveness and gives the last word to Carey's pastor.

Dianne Reeves: When You Know

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Blue Note)
  (out of 4)

(April 15, 2008) With pop-world chanteuses such as Gladys Knight, Vanessa Williams and Queen Latifah having had their way with the Great American Songbook of late, it's conceivable that an acclaimed jazz stylist like Dianne Reeves might want to dabble in the smooth with a concept album about a woman's take on love. Unfortunately, yawning interpretations of The Temptations' "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" and Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You" seem like a further grab for the mainstream audience that embraced her 2005 Grammy-winning soundtrack for Good Night, and Good Luck. The 51-year-old Detroit native, possessed of impeccable articulation, suffers no technical missteps here, just a suppression of personality. "Social Call" delivers on intimacy and Reeves is downright down home on the rollicking gospel "Today Will be a Good Day," which she penned in honour of her mom. But this is one of those records that's probably much better live. Top track: "Midnight Sun" is the Reeves we know and love, bending notes and extending syllables in a graceful dance with pianist Geoffrey Keezer.  

::FILM NEWS::

Some People 'Really Didn't Want This Movie Made'

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Matthew Hays

(April 12, 2008) MONTREAL — Director Denis Villeneuve says the shoot gave him nightmares.

His latest feature,
Polytechnique, wrapped a week ago. The bad dreams Villeneuve suffered during its filming did not emanate from a tight budget or the logistics of the production, but, maybe predictably, the subject matter.

Almost 20 years after Marc Lépine entered Montreal's École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989, and shot 28 people, killing 14 women, Villeneuve is attempting to recount the story on the big screen. "This film was very complicated to do," Villeneuve says, between sips of a latte at a coffee shop. "We felt a responsibility in every frame. Every shot felt like a moral decision. Each camera angle felt like it had a moral weight to it."

In Polytechnique, Villeneuve recreates the shooting in detail, telling the story through six fictional characters - three women and three men - all of whom are connected to the massacre. Villeneuve says he was fully aware making a film on this subject would be hugely contentious, but won over his sceptics after committing to a year of research.

"I spoke with victims, to go through the tragedy from different angles: students, teachers, police officers. People were very generous. I spoke with several women who were shot by Lépine and also to men who had been shot by him." And while Villeneuve did not talk to families of those who were killed, he did meet with their representative, who said the families have given their blessing to the project. "They have been holding events every year to maintain attention on the shooting, but they are perhaps a bit tired of it. They see the film as a way of making sure people don't forget what occurred." Currently in the editing process, he says he hopes the film would be ready to submit for screening at September's Toronto International Film Festival.

Villeneuve says the fact that the film was initially denied funding by Telefilm Canada and Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC) is not unusual. "This is standard - films often get passed on the first time around," he contends. "Both were very concerned about the violence in the film, and about appearing insensitive. But they gave us a lot of notes that were very helpful in fixing the script. I think they were right not to accept it at first."

But Villeneuve also adds that besides concerns about the script, some people at Telefilm "really didn't want this movie made. They felt it was just too painful. I respect that opinion. It's not easy."

Telefilm announced this week that it has given the film $3.1-million. The movie was shot on a closed set and without any publicity. None of the scenes were shot at the École Polytechnique itself.

While time has passed for victims' families and for the nation which mourned as a whole, similar incidents have continued with an alarming regularity: In 1999, the Columbine High School massacre saw 12 students killed by two students, while last year's Virginia Tech shootings saw 32 people killed. Since the massacre at École Polytechnique, Montreal has seen two more school shootings: at Concordia University on Aug. 24, 1992, and Dawson College on Sept. 13, 2006.

Which prompts the rather thorny question of the media's role in such shootings, given that suicide notes have revealed a desire on the part of the perpetrators to become posthumous celebrities. Polytechnique, Villeneuve insists, will be different. "Marc Lépine is not the focus. This is not a portrait of the killer - I'm more interested in the students and the impact on them. Their stories were very powerful and touching. There are a lot of killers in the cinema right now, and I wasn't interested in making another one. And I didn't want to play the game of the killer and make him a star."

As for Lépine's mysterious motivation, Villeneuve says it is "totally inexplicable." Lépine's acts set off a public debate about misogyny in Canadian society, with some suggesting the massacre was a logical extension of violence against women, and others countering that Lépine was simply insane. "It's both, I think," says Villeneuve.

The director, who won several Genies for his last feature, Maelström (2000), said he was approached by actress Karine Vanasse (Ma fille, mon ange) with the idea of making a film about the shootings. "I had been offered hundreds of films after the success of Maelström. But I wanted to take some time to find the right script. This was something I felt really, really passionate about."

Goalie Star Scores A Hat Trick

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
R.M. Vaughan

(April 11, 2008) Like many Canadian actors tired of playing bit parts on U.S.-produced movies of the week and nameless characters on television shows with established casts - or, worse yet, enjoying the, ahem, artistic challenge of starring in eccentric Canadian indie films, the kind used as Cancon filler on pay-per-view cable stations - Christopher Bolton followed the Paul Gross/Sarah Polley/Daniel MacIvor plan and decided to write, produce and star in his own material.

Wise move. The result is the ribald sitcom Rent-a-Goalie (now filming its third season, with Season One already on the rental shelves) - a certified Showcase hit, with multiple Gemini and Canadian Comedy Award nominations backing up its popularity. Bolton plays the show's anchor character, Cake, a recovering jerk with addiction issues trying to rebuild his life by serving coffee and advice to a gang of semi-pro rink rats who hang out in a College Street café.

Crude, toilet-obsessed, baldly sexual and far rougher than many an actual hockey game, Rent-a-Goalie is, despite its post-Sopranos love of the F-word, reminiscent of the feel-good comedies American networks produced before they became addicted to cheap reality television: comedies about oddballs trying to construct families with their fellow misfits. If Rent-a-Goalie were all shock and no soul, it wouldn't have lasted past the first period.

Whatever the fate of Rent-A-Goalie, one suspects Bolton is just glad his days of co-starring with Barbara Eden in I Still Dream of Jeannie are far behind him.

When the Conservatives pass their new film censorship bill, your potty-mouthed show will be the first to go.

We are toast! We're done! [But] I really can't see this law passing. Beyond shows like ours, it would just completely destroy our industry. It wouldn't even get to the point where bureaucrats would have to assess for material that was contrary to public policy, because no bank would back us. This is a frighteningly conservative agenda.

It's baffling - here you are making the third season of the very type of show the government claims the public doesn't want. Clearly, you have an audience.

Yeah, more and more audience every year. Is it really baffling, though? That's what is brilliant about the Conservatives - they can be all about economics, and our show is an economic success, and then marry that agenda to "family values" somehow.

What was the pitch for this show: It's Cheers with hockey?

Funny you should say that. That would have been the smart way to do it. Next time, I'll know. My favourite part of the show is its charm. But getting that charm across to people cold would have been impossible - so we made the pilot. We got all our nickels together and made the presentation piece ourselves, and then shopped it around.

And yet the show is definitely a throwback to a traditional sitcom.

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to hear you say that.

Try.

The initial impetus for me was to make a show like the ones I grew up on. Taxi and Mary Tyler Moore were my first jump-off points. And you know, the whole Sam Malone/Cheers, recovering alcoholic, blah, blah, blah - that was never something that entered my mind.

Subconsciously, perhaps?

Obviously! But, I was drawing on my own life first, and what I had seen and done.

They say that recovery is a long process... will Cake ever get less jerk-ish?

Do you think he's still a jerk?

Yes.

Hmm. Here's a guy who's lived a big, big life. He was an arms runner, sold antiquities, gambled, and now he's slinging coffee and goalies. So, he's gone from a big life to a mundane life. So there has to be a little bit of "been there, done that" to him.

But he also has to be sucked into the situations he finds himself in, so that he will stay where he is. I think it's a bit of a tightrope that we walk on the writing front, and I walk on the performance. But this year he's getting schooled a bit more often.

You're the producer, the writer and the star. If a scene is not working, who tells you it's not working?

Well, I have a great business partner, and our deal is that he has last say on business issues and I have last say on creative issues, but we bounce stuff off each other. I have a writing partner too, so that's a check and balance. And then there's the directors and the cast - everywhere through the process, there's somebody for me to check in with. I think if they were going to treat me like "the boss," I'd have to act like one. That's just not how we work here. It's a very lateral set-up.

Does the rent-a-goalie premise work outside Canada?

It does! We're seeing that more and more. Hockey is the hook, but I don't think knowledge of the game is crucial. It's a workplace comedy. Everyone can relate. Our international deals are in the works right now.

If CTV came knocking, would you alter the show, the language?

I think we could, but I'd want to be on after 9 p.m. because the swearing is integral to the show. But we've pulled it back a lot, because after a while swearing stops having any meaning.

****

Particulars

BORN: Toronto, April 24, 1970.

BAD BOY: Bolton started his acting career as a teenager - when, he has said, a teacher offered him an audition as an alternative to after-school detention. He went on to TV appearances on Street Legal and a recurring role on the teen classic My Secret Identity. Later he'd appear on an array of TV shows including PSI Factor and La Femme Nikita.

WRITING: His shift into writing was helped by a residency at the Canadian Film Centre - he finished the program having written and directed a short film.

ON ICE: Bolton didn't start playing hockey himself until adulthood.

PARTNERS: While shooting Street Time in 2002, Bolton met future Rent-A-Goalie producer Christopher Szarka - who was making his acting debut in the Showtime series. The two put Bolton's idea for a hockey series to work.

Forest Whitaker Shares 'Street' Smarts

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

(April 11, 2008) *Academy Award winner
Forest Whitaker is donning a captain’s uniform and questionable ethics in the new cop thriller “Street Kings” which is directed by David Ayer.

The actor portrays LAPD Captain Jack Wander – a no-nonsense and dedicated officer who keeps a watchful eye on detective Tom Ludlow (played by Keanu Reeves) as he goes on a dangerous quest to track down his former partner’s killers.

“It’s steeped in the police culture,” Whitaker said of the story, when questioned about any similarities to the Rampart Division scandal in his native Los Angeles. “They talked to people that are advisors and un-official advisors, some of whom were involved with the [Rampart investigation]. Mostly it just came from David’s mind. I know for myself, I didn’t create a character based out of Rampart.”

“Police forces all over the world have issues of corruption,” he continued, “particularly because police officers aren’t paid a lot of money. It is a problem, but I think it’s been changing. I don’t want to act like the LAPD isn’t doing anything right because that’s not true.”

The film moves in and out of good-cop/bad-cop with audiences wondering who’s really on the right side of the law. Cast members Cedric the Entertainer and Common told reporters that their characters walk the line of good and bad – each commenting that all the film's characters are both, while Whitaker said he hadn’t really realized the ambiguity of his role.

“I think he cares about family. The guys are his family; that’s his world and he’s trying to protect them. He thinks that he’s fighting against corruption. In the end, he’s trying to make sure everybody is taken care of in his world. But I guess he’s a bad guy,” he considered, “but I didn’t really think of him that way. [This character] really trusted Keanu’s character. Trust was a big deal for him. He had a real strong code of ethics. But in the end, his code of ethics didn’t morally coincide with the way society sees things.”

“Street Kings” is rife with questionable decisions and questionable cops, which make the film suspenseful, but the truths in the story beg the question, is it acceptable for law enforcement to do anything – even outside the law – to get the bad guy? Whitaker says no.

“I think people make mistakes. Judgments are made that aren’t correct. People are put on death row and executed that weren’t guilty,” he began. “For me, playing cops is interesting and I’ve played a lot of them. As a kid growing up, I didn’t really have a positive attitude towards police. The police that I knew killed people I knew. So I don’t feel that way. It’s totally counterintuitive to the way I view what they’re doing.”

But Whitaker says he would still call upon the police without hesitation.

“Certainly when you get in danger, you call upon them; when you’re worrying about your life, ‘cause that’s what you have to do,” he said. “But I played this character to Keanu’s character coming into an awakening; wondering how to defeat the darkness; what’s right and what’s wrong. That grey area is what was interesting to me. I wasn’t trying to make a statement that I thought [police] should be able to do anything.”

Whitaker is currently working on a television project that also questions right and wrong in regard to bearing arms.

 “I’m dealing with a project about a gun dealer; an international dealer. It’s an even bigger issue because we’re talking about this escalating into wars and funding countries with weapons and supplying them inside this country. And that project probably will be walking the line, too. Not the line of whether it’s right to arm people, but they question of if one group is being subjugated by another group, do they have the right to protect themselves? And if they have the right, should they be allowed to be armed? And whose decision is it to decide who gets to protect themselves,” he questioned.

Reflecting on the violence and oppression in Darfur, Uganda, China, and Serbia conflicts, Whitaker explained that the next issue would be one of financial control.

“It becomes economic as far as how you disrupt balance in the world,” he said. “Guns disrupt balance; and how you create wars in certain places to create unbalance, like in Nigeria, or different places for oil. These issues are so complex and we’re going to try to explore some of them in this TV show.”

Back to the issue at hand. Whitaker’s portrayal of Wander is relatively calculated. The actor revealed that he kept to himself on the set in order to get into and stay true to his character.

 “I was trying to stay in the right zone,” he said. “The character wasn’t easy to play. He has a lot of power. You think they’re big and heavy and feel like stone, like they can just walk through you, and I’m not like that, so I had to keep in that zone.”

 “Street Kings”, also starring Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, and The Game, opens in theatres nationwide today. For more, check out www.foxsearchlight.com/streetkings.

Show Gives A Stage, Lends Ears To Veteran Narratives

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(April 13, 2008) If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

By the same token, if hundreds of veterans of the Iraq war gathered to share their experiences and no major media covered it, did they act in vain?

That's the question that has motivated Ravi Jain to present a project called
Winter Soldiers tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. night at the Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen St. W.

"I couldn't bear the thought that all these men with so much valid information to share," said Jain, "were ignored by the right wing corporate media."

The failure of this set of revelations to attract much attention is particularly disheartening in the light of the ultimate impact that the original "Winter Soldiers" demonstration had in 1971.

It was composed of several hundred Vietnam vets who wanted the world to know what had been going on behind the battle lines.

Like the recent event it too was initially ignored except for Pacifica Radio, but the tenacity of several journalists brought it to the world's attention. A documentary film was made and a complete transcript entered into the Congressional Record, which eventually led to the Fulbright Hearings on the war.

"I'm not trying to have an effect as grand as that," insists Jain, "but I do want to engage people, to make them think and empathize with what both sides have been going through in this war."

To that end, the talented young director (who earned critical plaudits earlier this season for his experimental production, The Prince Hamlet) has put a together a one-night-only evening made up of sound and fury that he hopes will signify far more than nothing.

He's also added an all-important visual element as well, courtesy of renowned photojournalist Rita Leistner, who has donated a lot of her work and is presenting a slide show as well.

"There's one photo," says Jain, "that truly says it all. She shot it in an Iraqi prisoner camp and there's five huge American soldiers carrying away one small, elderly Iraqi man."

But then come the stories that prove truth is not only stranger than fiction but far more cruel.

Geoff Millard, Washington chapter president of the Iraq veteran's organization, says "we grew into a mindset where everyone who wasn't American was a hajji (Muslim) or a towel-head."

He tells of how he was standing guard at a checkpoint and a car was approaching too fast, so he killed the family inside it.

There was an investigation, but he wasn't reprimanded.

"If those f---king hajjis would learn how to drive that this s--t wouldn't happen," his commander told him.

Then there's the testimony from two U.S. soldiers who admitted they used to "beat the hell out of prisoners for no reason, or maybe because we were given no order to do otherwise."

Jain asks "As a human race, aren't we supposed to be better than this?"

The answer – for better or worse – will be on view tomorrow.

Golden Oldies Rock Silver Screen

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Philip Marchand,
Movie Critic

(April 12, 2008) Stephen Walker was sitting around his house in London in October 2005, looking for ideas for his newly formed film company – a company that was "rapidly going broke" – when he decided to attend a concert by a chorus of elderly men and women from Northampton, Mass.

The concert had gotten good reviews from London media, but Walker was dubious. "My initial reaction was, `Is this some kind of gimmick?'"

Then he saw the
Young@Heart chorus onstage performing the Clash punk classic "Should I Stay or Should I Go." Soloist Eileen Hall, a former British war bride in her early 90s, did not so much sing the musical question as cry out for an answer to it. No longer was the song about a sexual relationship. It was about life and death.

"What I experienced there changed my life," Walker says. "The music was terrific. Their interpretations of rock songs that I knew very well was radically different – because the singers were so old, the meaning of these songs changed.

"I came out of the theatre thinking, `Wow, there could be a really interesting film to be made here about old age through the lens of rock `n' roll.'"

The result of Walker's experience is Young@Heart, a documentary focusing on seven weeks in the lives of the two-dozen members of the chorus back home in Northampton. The film opens in theatres on Friday.

"This is a subject, old age, that doesn't get dealt with much," Walker says. "If it is, it becomes very issue-led."

There are no "issues" with the Young@Heart chorus except how best to perform the rock, punk or rhythm 'n' blues numbers that are their specialty.

Walker's first task was to convince the chorus's director, Bob Cilman, to let his company film the chorus.

Walker certainly had a résumé. Beginning in the late '80s, he had worked for a dozen years at the BBC before becoming an independent filmmaker. His films for British television had earned him awards and much critical acclaim.

But none of this mattered to Cilman. "He wasn't keen at all," Walker recalls. "To begin with, we had this dreadful meeting one morning. I thought he was going to fall asleep over his coffee."

For Cilman, Walker was just another one of the nine or so filmmakers making a pitch.

"We had mostly done live theatre, and so film wasn't anything I was thinking about," Cilman recalls. "I found, with the movie experience we did have, that it took so long to do this movie stuff, it was just a distraction from what we really wanted to do, which is get in front of a live audience."

Eventually, Cilman was won over, partly because Walker had solid financial backing from the U.K.'s Channel 4 and partly because Walker assured him the documentary would take a "finite period" to complete.

Cilman's career as musical director of the chorus had an unlikely beginning. Initially, he was hired to help serve meals at a senior citizens centre in Northampton.

"I took the job because I was broke and the job offered health benefits," recalls Cilman, 55. "In America, if you're offered health benefits, you take them."

His work with the elderly included singalongs and other musical activities, a natural for Cilman given his own musical experience. "I played at night in a rock band called The Self-Righteous Brothers, and I was able to connect with that community," Cilman says.

Eventually Cilman formed a chorus of senior citizens that functioned as a bridge to other groups and individuals. Northampton, with a population of 30,000, is an old, tightly knit New England city, subjected in recent years to waves of immigrants from places such as Cambodia and Puerto Rico. Cilman's chorus would do things like participate in musical extravaganzas along with young Puerto Rican break dancers.

Young@Heart's international exposure began when they were invited in 1997 to perform at an arts festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. "Europeans were interested in us because they were asking the question, `Who can make art?' In Europe, they're surrounded by art from all different periods. They've seen it all," Cilman says.

"The idea of old people coming on to their stages was fascinating to them – this thing that had a professional look, with non-professional performers."

In London, as in the Netherlands, audiences responded to the unpretentious aura of these performers. "They really come across as people who are not struggling to perform onstage," Cilman says. "Their souls and humanity just jump out at people." (For a sample of a poignant Young@Heart performance, see tinyurl.com/4fqvd7.)

Given this material, Walker has not had to employ offbeat camera angles, slow motion or fast motion, a dissonant soundtrack, or any other tricks of cinematography to convey mood.

"I've made films that are much flashier, that are directionally very composed," Walker says. "I so wanted not to be like that in this film. I wanted this film to be in the raw, I wanted people to feel they were there. I feel that people are connecting to the film through the music.

"They see these characters in the movie who love music – and the music is beautiful, and funny as well, and the members of the chorus know it and they love the way it's being reinterpreted."

As in the theatre, so in the film, the Young@Heart performers remain naturals, Cilman says.

"I was really happy that people I know really come across as themselves," he says. "They don't create other personas to be seen on stage, they really are themselves."

TIFF Can Bank On Record $11 Million From RBC

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(April 16, 2008) It has been an unnervingly long time since the Toronto International Film Festival Group has made a major funding announcement about big cheques for Bell Lightbox, coming soon to a former parking lot near you, at the corner of King and John Sts.

But get ready for a big one. That Lightbox is about to get a jolt from the Royal Bank of Canada. According to my spies, its deal with the TIFF Group commits RBC to $11 million over a 10-year period.

That ranks as the largest amount any single bank has put into any one Toronto arts building. But it escalates what has become a fascinating trend over the last six years as banks increasingly become major players in the cultural world.

"There's nothing to announce," Piers Handling, CEO of the TIFF Group, said when apprehended on a downtown street yesterday. "No deal has been signed."

Perhaps, but the terms have been approved, with only fine-tuning of details remaining to be settled.

Certainly the deal is a breakthrough, but the cineastes still have a long way to go before they can declare victory. Even with this mega gift, TIFF's $196 million campaign (which includes operating costs and an endowment fund) is at least $40 million short of its target.

Finding the money has not been as smooth a process as festival folk imagined when they entered into a partnership five years ago with the family of Ivan Reitman (which owned the parking lot) and the Daniels Group, the developer.

And Lightbox – joined to a huge condo complex – won't be ready until 2010, four years later than originally announced.

Luckily there is one group that can be counted on for its deep pockets and taste for art: our friendly bankers. So forget the outrageous interest fees they're charging you. We need them.

TIFF is not the only group that has counted heavily on banks to fund its projects. RBC has also given $1.25 million to expansion projects at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum, as well as $1 million to help the Canadian Opera Company build the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and $500,000 for the National Ballet School's new digs.

The opera house also got seven-figure cheques from CIBC, Scotiabank and TD Canada Trust. The Bank of Montreal gave $625,000 for the building and another $1 million to cover the gala opening celebrations.

TD not only contributed to the opera house but also gave $1 million to each of the ROM, the National Ballet School and the AGO.

The ROM got $5.7 million from banks, including $2 million from CIBC as well as big cheques from TD, RBC and Scotiabank.

The AGO picked up seven-figure cheques not only from RBC and TD but also from BMO, CIBC and Scotiabank. And oh yes, TIFF received $1 million from CIBC.

Scotiabank has emphasized programming by sponsoring both the Giller Prize and Nuit Blanche. But perhaps the biggest profile it gained was its deal with Cineplex for rights to rename what used to be the Paramount movie theatre on Richmond St. W.

So why do banks write big cheques for art? Well, they make huge amounts of money. They are domestic players, not foreigners, and need to be seen as generous and public-spirited. And of course, they love to entertain top clients at glitzy parties attended by stars.

Meanwhile, while we're waiting for Bell Lightbox, we can turn our attention to the 2008 film festival. TIFF has renewed its contract with Roy Thomson Hall for five more years (through 2012) and expanded the number of screens it will use to 30. The big change is the use of 10 screens at the new AMC complex at Dundas and Yonge.

Farewell Yorkville; we're drifting south.

With files from the Star library

FILM TIDBITS

Ang Lee Heads To Vancouver

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(April 14, 2008) Vancouver — Academy Award winning director Ang Lee will meet with film industry members - and students - in Vancouver next Saturday afternoon to offer his perspective on the future of the film industry. The invitation-only event will be officially announced today, with details on the invitation list and the forum's downtown location to be released later in the week. The plan for the session with Lee, whose films include Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Lust, Caution, is to make it interactive, with more than 100 industry leaders, young directors and film students getting the opportunity to ask questions of the director in an informal setting.

::TV NEWS::

One More Year And CTV Runs Out Of Corner Gas

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporter

(April 11, 2008) Dog-(River)-gone!

Corner Gas and the denizens of the fictional Saskatchewan town will call it quits when production of the sixth season wraps up later this year, the series' creator and star announced yesterday.

The final episode of the series – which has won six Geminis, including three for Best Comedy – will air in the spring of 2009.

Brent Butt, who is also the series' director and executive producer, broke the news yesterday to cast and crew over lunch in Vancouver, where he lives, though he told CTV president Ivan Fecan weeks earlier.

"I made the decision, but it kind of felt like the show made the decision. It kind of felt like the show tapped me on the shoulder and said, `Can I go now? I'll stick around if you want me to, but I think it's time to go.' And you know, I respect that," an emotional Butt said yesterday.

"Corner Gas was so special to me and to a lot of people that I couldn't bear to see it go too long," Butt said.

"If you leave a party and nobody's sad or nobody cares, that's a good sign that you probably stayed too long. I didn't want that to happen. I couldn't have stood it and I felt like the show was asking me not to let that happen," he added.

Butt cited "20 years as a greasy nightclub comic" for relying on his instincts to say goodbye.

"Comedy is nothing if not timing. That's the most important aspect," he said, with a laugh.

Fecan, also president and CEO of CTVglobemedia, was equally sombre and reflective last night, calling the announcement "a bittersweet day for us."

"When Brent a few months ago came to tell me that this is what he wanted to do, my immediate reaction was that I got down on my knees and begged for more," Fecan said, with a laugh. "I didn't want it to end, we don't want it to end, but his reasons are actually pretty good.... He wants to go out at the top."

The series, which premiered on Jan. 22, 2004, has been a consistent ratings winner for CTV, ranking as Canada's top comedy series and the most watched scripted series.

But Fecan said the series, which is seen in more than two dozen countries, was particularly special.

"It's not Canada masquerading as New York or Los Angeles or Chicago. It's about us and it touches our roots, and defines the gentle humour and the kindness in Canada's heart. It's a very special show," Fecan said.

Not unexpectedly, the news was greeted with shock and sorrow, Butt said. "There were tears, but everybody seemed to understand. There were some people that said they wished it would go on longer, but nobody seemed to think that this was a mistake, nobody said it was mistake."

With the show nearing the end of its fifth season, with the season finale on April 21, Butt said he's focused on completing the final 19 episodes. Filming is set to start May 15 in Regina and Rouleau, Sask., and after that, well, TV is in his blood.

"CTV, once I told them that this was going to be the end of Corner Gas, they said that they would give me the opportunity to do something else if I was so inclined. And I am so inclined. I love TV and I want to work in TV until I drop."

Fecan said Butt has expressed interest in possibly doing a Corner Gas reunion special or even a movie, something CTV would support.

Rogers Vows To Collect If Cable Fees A Go

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Grant Robertson

(April 9, 2008) GATINEAU, QUE. — Rogers Communications Inc. turned heads at federal broadcast hearings Tuesday, saying that if it can't strike down a controversial proposal by television networks for new fees on cable bills, it, too, will seek to collect as much as $60-million from consumers.

The comments were made after the hearings ended, and surprised Canada's biggest networks, CTV and Global Television, who are jointly asking regulators to let them start charging cable and satellite companies for their signals.

Rogers has been their most vocal opponent, vowing to take the battle to the Supreme Court of Canada in order to stop the fees, which are now being debated in front of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

But if Rogers fails, the company says it will seek to cash in on the ruling by adding itself to the CRTC's list of eligible recipients, collecting the cash through its CITY-TV network and passing on those fees to monthly cable bills, along with the other broadcasters.

 “CITY would probably not opt out,” Rogers vice-chairman Phil Lind said after the hearings, where the cable company chastised the other networks for seeking the fees.

CTV and Global want the cable and satellite companies to pay for their signals, arguing that distributors such as Rogers, Shaw Communications Inc. and Bell ExpressVu LP make billions off their feeds but give nothing in return.

The cable companies counter that they provide CTV and Global access to millions of homes, which pads the advertising revenue of the broadcasters.

Rogers' plan to also collect the fees caught the networks by surprise, since the company told the CRTC earlier in the day that they are at “war” with the broadcasters over the issue.

Rogers chief executive officer Ted Rogers said Canada's networks “don't need a handout, and they don't deserve a handout.” Before ducking out of the hearings for an appearance at Ryerson University in Toronto, Mr. Rogers said the networks make enough money on their own.

“I think Mr. Rogers made it very clear what they think of fee for carriage,” said Paul Sparkes, executive vice-president of corporate affairs for CTVglobemedia.

“We're not making threats, like Rogers did today, of war with the broadcasting industry, and Supreme Court action. I think that's irresponsible. Their business is built on the backs of our industry and on the consumer.”

CTVglobemedia is the parent company of the CTV network and also owns The Globe and Mail.

CTV and rival Global Television are expected to jointly argue at the hearings next week that network television is struggling financially and needs the infusion of cash to fund Canadian programming and news. CBC also told the hearings yesterday that it wanted to charge the fees, however the Global and CTV proposal excludes broadcasters that get government funding.

Mr. Rogers said his company wouldn't have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to buy CITY-TV last year if it thought network TV was in trouble.

“Listen, they're swimming,” Mr. Rogers said of CTV. “They're doing well. The same can be said for Global.”

CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein challenged Rogers' argument that its customers would “revolt” over such fees.

“You raise your fees annually, and you haven't had a decrease in subscribers,” Mr. von Finckenstein said. He added the CRTC would be unlikely to entertain the idea without “strings attached” for the networks, such as forcing them to spend the money on Canadian programming. “It strikes me that without fee-for-carriage, local programming is going to be in serious danger,” Mr. von Finckenstein said.

Rogers also told the hearings, expected to last three weeks, that Canada's television system needs to be restructured to emulate the Internet, with more on-demand programming, looser restrictions on advertising and fewer hurdles for new specialty channels to compete with each other.

It wants to see the elimination of rules that prevent new Canadian specialty channels from competing with existing services in the same program format. These rules would make the TV dial more competitive, argued Ken Englehart, head of regulatory affairs for Rogers.

“If someone's not doing a good job in their format, someone else will sneak into their genre and do a better job,” Mr. Englehart said. “That kind of competition would be beneficial to the system.

However, Mr. Rogers and Mr. Englehart both said the company is against U.S. cable channels being allowed into Canada to compete with domestic specialty services. That notion has been put up for debate by the CRTC and has been favoured by other cable operators.

The Hottest Women Not On TV

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(April 11, 2008) When Creative Artists Agency makes the rounds in Hollywood, pitching the screenwriting talent of Tassie Cameron, they like to market the Toronto native as “the girl who writes like a guy.”

But rather than take offence at a comment some might construe as sexist, Cameron finds the whole thing highly amusing. “Hey, I like guys,” cracks the 38-year-old. “I listen to men. And if you look at what I've done, certainly a lot of it is very male-centric cop stuff,” says Cameron, whose TV credits include Would Be Kings, The Robber Bride and The Eleventh Hour. “I guess when I write, I channel my inner Hunter Thompson and go to town.”

So it's fitting, then, that Cameron, daughter of journalist and author Stevie Cameron, is now in charge of the six-person team, four of whom are women, scripting the first 12 episodes of the psychologically charged elite-cop series,
Flashpoint, set to air on CTV and CBS this summer. “Here I am on Flashpoint, a brawny testosterone show, says Cameron, “and I feel right at home.”

In the last 10 years, female screenwriters in Canada have made huge strides, muscling their way onto TV screens, leaving an indelible stamp on comedy, drama, and action series across network schedules. In fact, while women used to be a distinct minority in writing rooms, their numbers are now on par with men, who typically used to be hired to write action and comedy, while women were relegated to handle emotional and romantic scenes that required that “female touch.”

Cameron's script for The Robber Bride joins an impressive list of 33 others – 15 of which were written or co-written by women – shortlisted as finalists for Monday night's Canadian Screenwriting Awards in Toronto. Cameron says gender divisions, for the most part, have disappeared, and that women are being snapped up to work on the most high-profile, demanding projects in the country.

Tracey Forbes, another Toronto writer, whose credits include the cult hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as Falcon Beach and ReGenesis, agrees that she's seen a marked difference in the “makeup of the writers' rooms I've been part of.

“On my first couple of shows, I was the only female writer in the room,” she says. “Buffy was the first show in which I wasn't the token woman. But if there are more of us now, it's just a sign of the times.

“To work in a story room, you've got to be confident enough to throw out your good ideas and your bad ones,” adds Forbes, who is also part of Cameron's team on Flashpoint. “These days, girls are raised to be more assertive. Good writers – regardless of their sex – can write anything. Women can write kick-ass action. And men can write a heart-wrenching breakup scene.”

But while women writers are making their mark in part by conquering territory once claimed almost exclusively by men, it hasn't hurt, either, that Canadian networks are hungry for female viewers, especially those 25 and older, a coveted demographic for advertisers. Last year, at the launch of CBC Television's winter schedule, Kirstine Layfield, executive director of programming, made no secret of the fact that the public broadcaster was looking for new shows aimed specifically at a younger female viewership. “We're trying to be more inclusive,” Layfield said. “This is our opportunity to include women more aggressively into the mix. Women are huge followers of drama.”

This past week, CBC announced two new big-budget pickups: The Session, about a 32-year-old woman able to revisit the mistakes of her past; and The Wild Roses, the story of a Calgary-based family of women fighting for what they see as rightfully theirs. The latter was created by Cameron, her sister Amy, and Miranda de Pencier.

“Because viewership is skewing more female, the shows being brought to the screen are in reaction to the viewership,” says Daegan Fryklind, another finalist at Monday night's awards show, for her work on CTV's Robson Arms. “So if these are strong female leads, then they need strong females in the room to write the material they need,” adds the 38-year-old, who also was part of the team on CBC's recently cancelled drama jPod. “But I've never felt anyone only hired me because I'm a woman. I bring myself to the table, ovaries and all, so what?”

Semi Chellas, one of Canada's most sought-after TV writers ( The Eleventh Hour, Who Named the Knife, Of Murder and Memory) splits her time between projects here and in the United States. She says the industry has come a long way from the day a decade ago that she, along with pal and fellow screenwriter Karen Walton ( The Many Trials of One Jane Doe, Queer as Folk, Ginger Snaps), attended a party hosted by a broadcaster at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“We were both in our 20s, in our little black dresses, in a sea of men,” recalls the 38-year-old Chellas, laughing. “It felt strange, but there was no one else in the room like us. That's utterly changed now. I know so many women running shows, writing television and movies. There are a huge number of exciting women's voices out there. Now if it were only the same for female directors.”

The reason for the shift, she adds, is simple: “Our industry is maturing. When I came out of the Canadian Film Centre, there weren't a lot of people making a living as screenwriters. But opportunities have started to expand, for everyone.”

Walton, 42, splits her time between Toronto and Montreal. She got into writing after entering a 1993 CBC Radio drama contest, and shocked the hell out of herself by winning. “Television has a longer, and more diverse, history of writing. But even the craft of feature-film screenwriting – as a profession in both French and English – is growing, it seems, every year,” says Walton, who is co-writing her first French-Canadian feature film with Jean-Marc Vallée ( C.R.A.Z.Y.)

Esta Spalding, who was a premed student and poet before her career as a screenwriter, says she owes her change in profession to Chris Haddock, the creator of Da Vinci's Inquest and Intelligence. “I was a poet for a number of years, and I moved out to Vancouver with my husband, who was doing his PhD,” says Spalding. “I couldn't find a teaching job, so I applied as a secretarial assistant to Chris. He wouldn't hire me as his secretary because I didn't have secretarial experience.”

Haddock had, however, read her poetry. “He was in development for Da Vinci's and he invited me to sit in on the writers' meeting,” recalls Spalding. “He hired me as a story editor for the first season after convincing the CBC that a poet who had spent a great deal of time in morgues and autopsies would be an asset to the story team,” recalls Spalding, 40, who worked three seasons on the show.

“I feel that there's a lot of work for screenwriters. I've never felt – and maybe I've been insulated – I was being hired because I was female,” says Spalding, who worked on The Eleventh Hour (with Chellas) and Would Be Kings (which she co-wrote with Cameron), and is part of the Flashpoint team. “I guess it's the good work of our mothers opening up doors in every sector of the professional world.”

Gemini Award-winner Anne Marie La Traverse, co-producer, with Bill Mustos, of Flashpoint, says the composition of their predominantly female writing squad was something of a fluke. “It was not part of an overall plan or design,” she notes. “Instead, it came about through a series of instinctive choices that we made in reaction to how these particular writers responded creatively to the material.”

On the opposite end of town from the Flashpoint headquarters, Vera Santamaria is part of the eight-person team, three of whom are women, working on CBC-TV's Little Mosque on the Prairie. “I see more women, but it's still a male-dominated sector,” says Santamaria, 29, who cut her TV teeth writing on Degrassi: The Next Generation. “But there is real value in having different viewpoints in the room. The guys in our group say this is the largest number of women they've ever worked with in a comedy room. We bring a different sensibility, which is not a matter of being male or female. What's funny isn't a matter of your sex.”

As far as Forbes is concerned, the people who end up getting hired are, first and foremost, just great writers. “You also have to look for people you think you will like and respect, because you're stuck with them day in, day out,” she says. “Chemistry in a room is critical. Writers of any gender need to be comfortable throwing out their stupidest ideas – and not worrying about being laughed out of the room.”

Slings & Arrows Finds New Beginning In Brazil

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(April 10, 2008) Renowned director Fernando Meirelles has purchased the rights to adapt and broadcast the cult Canadian series Slings & Arrows in his home country of Brazil.

In an interview yesterday at Toronto's Soho Hotel, the Sao Paulo-based Meirelles explained that he fell in love with the quirky ensemble drama after Rhombus Media's Niv Fichman sent him the first season.

"Niv had sent me some examples of his previous work to convince me to be involved in Blindness [an upcoming feature film starring Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore]," said Meirelles, who was Oscar-nominated for his 2002 film City of God. "I watched the first one, and then I watched the remaining five [episodes], one after the other. I called him back and said, 'Niv, it's fantastic.' He sent me the second and third seasons, and I loved them even more than the first one."

The 52-year-old Meirelles has started casting Slings & Arrows in his country. The show, which he anticipates will be run as a 12-part miniseries over the same number of nights, will air on TV Globo, Brazil's No. 1 network watched by roughly 80 million people daily.

Yesterday, Fichman says he found Meirelles's interest in the Brazilian rights, both "flattering and funny.

"When he called, he asked me if I thought [this deal] would be possible? If it would be very expensive [for him to buy the rights]?" says Fichman, laughing, whose Toronto company has produced features films such as The Red Violin and the Emmy-winning Yo-Yo Ma Inspired by Bach. "I said, 'Fernando, I can tell you one thing. Money is not going to be the issue here.' "

Fichman's Canadian cast - including big names such as William Hutt, Paul Gross, Martha Burns, Rachel McAdams, Don McKellar, Susan Coyne and Bob Martin - all worked for scale on the production.

"I'm not going to make any money in Brazil doing this," concurs Meirelles, an observation that prompts Fichman to quip: "You can say that none of us are getting rich off this. But it's such a wonderful thing, and such a natural way, for us to continue our collaboration."

Blindness is expected to hit theatres in Brazil in mid-September and in North America Oct. 13. The Brazilian version of Slings & Arrows will start shooting in early July, and Meirelles expects TV Globo to air the miniseries in November.

When Slings & Arrows was conceived, even its creators and writers - actor-playwright Coyne, Kids in the Hall alumnus Mark McKinney and Martin, co-author of the current Broadway hit The Drowsy Chaperone - did not expect it would have a very broad audience. After all, it got off to a rocky start - green-lit by the CBC and then dropped before ever being produced, the drama finally found a home with TMN and Movie Central. Showcase also later found a berth for the fledgling show, which eventually was picked up in the United States on the Sundance Channel, where it earned Entertainment Weekly's vote as the year's best TV import.

In Canada, it picked up numerous Gemini awards during its three seasons. In the U.S., it was favourably received by television critics at The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and The New York Times, which dubbed it "absolutely addictive."

Slings & Arrows is focused on the wacky folk who work at the beleaguered New Burbage Theatre Festival (modelled on the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ont.).

Meirelles translated the script into Portuguese. He has had to cut about 10 minutes from each episode "because our [broadcast] time slots are shorter." He also tinkered a bit with some characters, taking into account obvious cultural differences.

He said he hopes Slings & Arrows will "bring some fresh air to Brazilian television.

"While our television is very good, technically, the quality of the programs is going down and down," said Meirelles, whose film The Constant Gardener netted Rachel Weisz an Academy Award for best supporting actress. "We only see very popular programs, like soap operas, which are well done, but terrible - really unwatchable for me. This is intelligent and funny. News of the series just broke in Sao Paulo and I'm already getting e-mail from quality actors in my country who are very interested."

Fichman says it has been bizarre how, in Canada, the series developed several life-imitates-art twists. He points out that McAdams in the first season played an ingénue who went on to become a movie star. Hutt was the actor playing the doomed King Lear in the series and, sadly, passed away shortly after Slings & Arrows' final season. Most recently, he notes the management troubles at Stratford (last month, two of the festival's senior co-directors abruptly quit, leaving general director Antoni Cimolino to do damage control), eerily mirrored the upheaval that was commonplace at the New Burbage company.

Meirelles cast three Canadian Slings & Arrows alumni - Burns, Coyne and McKellar - in Blindness, a film based on the harrowing book of the same name by Portuguese Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago.

The film - a fierce and fantastical story of a blindness pandemic that eviscerates society - has an international cast that also includes Canadians Maury Chaykin and Sandra Oh, American Danny Glover, Japanese heartthrob Yusuke Iseya and Mexico's Gael Garcia Bernal.

Tina Fey Ready to Rock

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
TV Columnist

(April 10, 2008) Tina Fey. ... you somehow can't keep yourself from stringing the name together, like Tracy Morgan always used to on Saturday Night Live – before he started calling her "LizLemon" on 30 Rock.

Tina Fey, now less a name than an established brand, with the comedy quality seal of approval. Tina Fey, creator, producer, head writer, screenwriter, sitcom and now movie star ... one-stop shopping for all your humour needs.

Snarky, sassy, cynical, smart and, yes, sexy – just check out that recent cover of Vanity Fair – even behind those clunky nerd glasses and that intriguing little hint of a scar on her chin (a childhood accident she declines to discuss because it "bums out" her parents).

Fey, television's uncontested "it" girl at the age of 37, who will essentially own the month of April with tonight's return of her sitcom hit, 30 Rock (8:30 on NBC and A-Channel) and the April 25 opening of her new film, Baby Mama, which she wrote as a vehicle for herself and her Weekend Update co-anchor, Amy Poehler.

From Fey's perspective, she's just glad to be back at work. As one of the few legitimate hyphenates in the business, the recent writers' strike split her loyalties: to her show, her staff and, as a relatively new mom, to her 3-year-old daughter, Alice Zenobia Richmond (with husband Jeff Richmond, an SNL composer she met in 1994 at Chicago's Second City).

"I did my union duty on the picket line," she says, addressing the press in a telephone conference call. "But mostly I stayed at home with my daughter, which was sort of the only blessing of the strike. For me, it was a little bit like a maternity leave that I did not previously have."

And now that she's back on the job – or rather, jobs?

"It's tough now," she acknowledges, "because my daughter is old enough to say, `No, you not go to work. You not go outside.' That's hard for any working parent."

Occasionally, she says, she'll bring Alice with her to work. "I do try to bring her sometimes and she likes to come. She likes to hang out in the makeup room. But at the same time, it is a busy workplace and I always feel mindful that not everyone gets to bring their kids.

"Actually, at 30 Rock, we do try to do special days where we have parties where everyone can bring their kids. We had a really fun Halloween party and a sort of a spring/Easter party (last month)."

But then, 30 Rock has always been something of a family affair, from favoured SNL host Alec Baldwin – and there is no one better at hilariously underplaying Fey's consistently clever dialogue – to her old comedy comrades from New York and Chicago.

"A lot of these parts who are regulars, I wrote with people in mind," she says. "For example, Jack McBrayer, who plays Kenneth, is an old friend of mine from Chicago. I really wanted him for that part and was very happy when no one objected.

"Scott Adsit is an old friend of mine. I wrote that part (writer Pete Hornberger) with him in mind. And we wrote Jack (Donaghy) with Alec in mind, too ... and were very pleasantly surprised when he agreed to do it.

"We've used a lot of people from Chicago. We've used Brian Stack some and he's going to come back – he was a Second City guy. And Miriam Tolan, Brian McCann ... it's like, every time we have a small role, I'm going through my mental Rolodex of the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York or the Second City and ImprovOlympic in Chicago, just to see who we haven't used yet."

Born Elizabeth Stamatina Fey in the Philadelphia suburb of Upper Darby, she developed an early interest in TV comedy, inspired, in large part, by Catherine O'Hara's work on SCTV.

"I also grew up on a lot of classic TV," she says. "Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett ... all that kind of stuff."

Earning a BA in drama at the University of Virginia, Fey immediately relocated to Chicago to study improv at Second City, joining the mainstage cast there in 1994.

In 1997, she landed a job as a writer for SNL. Just two years later, she was made head writer, the first woman ever to do so – and, at 5-foot-4, also the shortest.

During her nine-year SNL tenure, she only rarely appeared in sketches, aside from co-anchoring the weekly news parody. As recently as her guest-host monologue last month, she admitted to still thinking of herself more as a writer than a performer.

Which, in the early days of 30 Rock, was made fairly evident by her apparent unease and a certain awkward stiffness in the delivery of her own dialogue.

Now, I suggest as diplomatically as possible, she seems much more comfortable in front of the camera.

"I think you might be right," she allows. "I am having a very good time shooting these episodes now. It feels like the pressure is off.

"I feel so grateful to have been recognized for the stuff that I did on the show last year, that maybe that has helped me relax a little bit.

"I've really fully stopped apologizing for being in the show."

Cameron Diaz tours Peru with 4REAL

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporter

(April 12, 2008) As an actor and model, Cameron Diaz has travelled around much of the world.

But this time, she's gone to the top of it – i.e. the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu – in a new, albeit temporary role as teacher.

Diaz is among a group of A-list celebrities taking part in an eight-part MTV series called
4REAL, aimed at showing the network's youthful audience examples of young leaders working for hope and change around the globe.

The first episode – airing Monday at 8 p.m. – features Diaz and series co-creator Sol Guy as they scale the Andes with Puma Singona, a Quechua shaman struggling to preserve the knowledge of his ancient culture in the modern world.

"People are definitely interested in what celebrities are doing so, yeah, it's a clever way to trick people into learning and participating," says Diaz.

"Young people are doing extraordinary things around the world to try to really help their communities," adds Guy. "In a ... world of doom and gloom and all this negativity, we really wanted to tell these positive stories of things that were working and people that were doing these fantastic things."

Future episodes involve Joaquin Phoenix's visit to Yawanawa in the Amazon, Casey Affleck travelling to the Pawnee reservation in Oklahoma and rapper K'naan in Kibera, the largest slum in East Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Monday's episode follows Diaz and Guy as they participate in a winter solstice ceremony and an insider's tour of Machu Picchu, where Singona is a guide. Along the way, they sleep rough, learn that young Peruvians are deserting their communities for the big cities and dodge a phalanx of paparazzi.

Diaz says the culture of the Quechua is under siege in an era of modernization and globalization.

"There's nothing wrong, there's nothing to be fixed in that culture. It's worked for so long, for thousands of years. (But) now we have these people who didn't used to have a problem with poverty who now do. So how do we help them preserve their culture as well as integrate?" Diaz said.

Diaz was also impressed with the simplicity and purity of Singona's teachings – passed down by his grandfather – and the emphasis on the four elements: earth, wind, fire and water. "It reminds us that everything comes from this planet. We don't go to some place else to get plastic," Diaz says.

"Aspirin and every medicine that we use to fight disease ... all of those things may be synthetic, but there's no Planet Synthetic. Every synthetic comes from something natural and then it's the process that man puts it through that synthesizes it."

Canada also features in the series, with Guy and actor Eva Mendes visiting community leader Liz Evans in Vancouver's drug- and crime-ridden Downtown Eastside.

"The message and the reality is that you don't have to fly halfway around the world to see issues and solutions," Guy says.

"I learned a lot down there, man, in my own neighbourhood. It changed the way I see people that are dealing with those issues. I'll never look at someone who's homeless or going through a drug addiction or mental instability (the same) again. I learned so much down there, as much as I did anywhere in Africa or South America."

The trip to Peru was a turning point for Diaz, who says she intends to find more ways to use her star power to educate others.

"This is the train I'm on. I'm in love with this planet. It's amazing, the people that I've met all around the world. In every place that I've gone, what I find are similarities more than any differences," she says.

"Everywhere that I've been, from Africa to Nepal to Paris, France to Iceland and Peru, the thing that I find is that we're all the same. We're all human beings, we all want the same things, we want to be loved, we want to be safe. Everybody is trying to achieve the same thing in their lifetime. That's a passion of mine, to help people understand how we all coexist on this planet."

HBO Counts On New Exec To Make Its Shows Fun To Watch Again

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Scott Collins,
Los Angeles Times

(April 16, 2008) HOLLYWOOD–Before last week, when she was tapped as the new chief of HBO Entertainment, Sue Naegle had spent her entire career as an agent representing television writers. So this is a person who knows how the network process works, understands the ways in which proposed shows are too frequently popped into the broiler as raw filet mignon and somehow, many kitchen arguments later, slide out as blackened ground chuck.

"My biggest heartbreak as an agent was, I'd work with my clients and hear what they wanted to do and really get excited and really love it, take it into the network (or) wherever it was going, and then watch it slowly die, by a thousand people with different opinions," Naegle said with a rueful chuckle last week. "By the end of it, people couldn't remember what they'd started with."

HBO was, for much of the past decade, the great counter-example proving that TV series could be created differently, using methods more favourable to passionate writer-producers, the people who dreamed up what became The Sopranos or Six Feet Under or Sex and the City. And Naegle left no doubt she'd like to make the pay-cable outlet every writer's dream destination once more.

"Development by committee or by patching together multiple people's ideas isn't the way to get great television," she said.

"I think it starts with the writer. Somebody who's very passionate and has a clear idea about what they'd like to do and the kind of show they'd like to produce. When I hear that and see that in somebody's eyes, I always feel like I've got something."

Whether HBO can maintain its commitment to great television in a rapidly changing media environment is, of course, the big question surrounding Naegle's recent hire. She replaces Carolyn Strauss, a career-long HBO programmer nudged from the post last month.

The last few seasons have seen many high-profile disappointments for HBO. Few fans lined up for quixotic campaigns to save the wilfully perverse drama John From Cincinnati, for example, or Louis C.K.'s misbegotten sitcom Lucky Louie. Subscribers and critics alike have seemed puzzled by much of what HBO's done recently.

"Interesting, smart, entertaining series" are what Michael Lombardo, Naegle's new boss and the channel's West Coast chief, said HBO now must find.

"I use the last term specifically," Lombardo added, "because I do think if we can be faulted for anything, it was that some of our series did not deliver on that note."

In other words, HBO execs seem to agree with critics that too many of their recent shows just weren't all that much fun to watch. That's a big admission for a place that's still regarded by many in the business as the cool kids' table.

TV TIDBITS

Gary Dourdan Opts Out Of 'CSI' Contract

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 16, 2008)
*The sun has set on "CSI's" Warrick Brown. The character, played by departing actor Gary Dourdan, will likely appear for the last time on the show's May15th finale.   According to TV Guide, Dourdan has informed producers that he will not renew his contract for a ninth season. No timetable for his exit has been announced, but his contract is set to expire next month   CBS, meanwhile refuses to discuss the situation. A network rep told E! News: "We can't confirm or deny this information."     According to TV Guide, producers are already looking to replace Dourdan. A recent casting notice sought a male in his late 20s to early 30s to take on the role of Ray Santoro, a "handsome, smart and athletic" CSI who works the graveyard shift at the crime lab.

 

::THEATRE NEWS::

The December Man’s Subtle Substance, Not Suspense

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

The December Man

(out of 4)
By Colleen Murphy. Directed by Micheline Chevrier. Until May 17 at the Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley St.
416-368-3110

(April 11, 2008) In The December Man, which opened last night in a Canadian Stage Company production at the Berkeley Street Theatre, Colleen Murphy has written two very good plays instead of a single great one.

She tells us the story of a young man whose life is destroyed by his presence at the 1989 Montreal Massacre and then brings us the tale of two parents who cannot cope with the fact that their son took his own life.

Actually, it happens the other way around, because Murphy has structured her play backwards, beginning with the parents' suicide in 1992.

That's not a spoiler, because you know that's what's going on five minutes into the play. Murphy isn't interested in offering us conventional suspense, but something more substantial.

It's heart-rending to see Benoît and Kathleen, a working-class Montreal pair whose lives are built on whisky, knitting and hollow dreams, cope with the loss of their beloved only son, Jean.

Murphy captures perfectly the small change of their daily conversation, the miniature victories and defeats that make up their lives, and the hurts they keep buried just beneath the surface.

For roughly one-third of the play's 90-minute length, the two characters (beautifully played by Nicola Lipman and Brian Dooley at the final preview I attended) hold the stage and you're engrossed in their story.

But then, we meet their son Jean, a year earlier, on the day he killed himself and we're into a totally different world.

As we learn, Jean was a student at the École Polytechnique on the night Marc Lepine slaughtered 14 innocent women. Jean has never forgotten what happened or forgiven himself for his inability to take action.

It's a rich, troubling story to explore dramatically and Murphy does wonders letting us look inside Jean's soul.

She's helped by Jeff Irving's performance, where the face of an angel hides the fears of a demon underneath.

We move backwards to the night the massacre happened and the last things we see are a hysterical Jean telling his parents, "Something terrible happened" and his mother reassuring him, "You're safe."

There's no doubt Murphy is an excellent writer. Her dialogue has the ring of authenticity and her characters are portrayed with compassion, but not sentimentality.

Lipman strikes the perfect balance between caring and carping over both her son and husband, the kind of woman whose too-tight smile betrays the fact that she knows each move she makes in life is ultimately the wrong one.

Dooley's husband is another piece of masterful work. The alcoholic, bull-headed father is a real cliché of family drama, but thanks to Dooley's depth and Murphy's insights, we look at him with new eyes. And Irving's pain is so real that it almost becomes a fourth character. He has the haunted look of someone who has "supp'd full with horrors," to quote Macbeth.

So with all of these virtues, why doesn't The December Man form a totally satisfying unit? The problem is basic. The tragedy of Jean is rooted intimately in what happened that December day at the École Polytechnique, but the pain of Benoît and Kathleen isn't.

There are about three passing references to Lepine and his actions after Jean is dead, but one winds up feeling that these two sad, incomplete people would have probably killed themselves if their son had died in a skiing accident, or taken his life over a broken love affair.

The story of an aging couple facing death has been told many times before, but that of a young man who feels he has no right to live because he did nothing while 14 women were murdered has a new and frightening resonance that could have been explored further.

Sometimes, in assessing a play, you say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but with The December Man, it's the opposite that proves true.

Performers Share Own Memories Of The 1986 Filipino Revolution

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(April 10, 2008) When John Lennon wrote "Power to the People" in 1971, he looked on it as a call to arms that he dreamed would happen somewhere, someday.

In the Philippines, 15 years later, it came true.

After 31 tyrannical years in office, President Ferdinand Marcos was toppled from power over 10 days by the united will of the country.

"It was the first-ever successful non-violent revolution," says Nicco Lorenzo, one of the creator-performers of People Power, which begins previews Friday night at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace.

The show is being presented by the Carlos Bulosan Theatre, the longest-standing Flipino-Canadian drama ensemble, founded in 1982 and named after the famed author-activist.

What makes this particular production so fascinating is its five creators are so young that they were only children when the People Power Revolution took place, but its remains important to them because of what they remember and what they've learned over the years.

"My parents came to Canada after martial law was declared," recalls Nadine Villasin, the company's artistic director, "so I grew up surrounded by anti-Marcos activists.

"But it was only a few years ago, when I went to a reunion in Seattle with my mother, that I truly realized for the first time how important it had been and how much everyone had risked for their freedom."

Christine Mangosing approached her memories from a different perspective.

"My family moved here in 1984, the year after (opposition leader) Ninoy Aquino was assassinated. Up until then, my father had been for Marcos, but after that, he said he wasn't worth supporting.

"As a little girl," she giggles, "I had a (president) Cory Aquino doll hanging from my doorknob, little wire glasses and all. This show is a great way for me to take my personal memories and use them to explore my whole cultural history."

The People Power company have put together a show that chronicles the revolution "through personal histories," in Villasin's words.

But, as Mangosing adds, "instead of portraying the icons like the Marcoses or the Aquinos, we do it from the point of view of the individuals who made it happen."

Through music, movement and poetry, they tell the stories of six people who were caught in the eye of this powerful yet peaceful storm.

Leon Aureus's family was strongly affected by the Marcos years. "My grandfather was a political activist," he says, "and my father ran a newspaper and a magazine. Both of them were closed by the Marcos regime.

"They lost the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression – two of the most important things an individual can have."

Rose Cortez has some of the most vivid recollections of those times.

"I was just turning 6 when it happened. What do I remember?

"The helicopters. I was playing with my friends and then we heard the helicopters coming, hundreds of them. We knew something big was happening, but we didn't know how big it was."

But People Power is not merely an exercise in nostalgia.

"You see its message echoed in the world today," says Mangosing, "every time the people of a country come together to fight injustice."

Aureus feels that "after 9/11 there's a lot of cynical and jaded people around. They need to be reminded of the power of engagement. The belief in making change, the chance to take part in something you believe in."

Villasin sums it up. "We have to be very vigilant about safeguarding democracy. It's still very fragile."

Get Ready For A Sequel To We Will Rock You, And It May Start Here

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(April 16, 2008) Hey Toronto, get ready to rock again.

In an exclusive interview yesterday, show writer-director
Ben Elton told the Star that not only is a We Will Rock You sequel planned, but there is a very good chance it could start in Toronto.

"We love this city so much," said Elton, "not just the talent of its actors but the generosity of its audiences. It's a lovely thought to start it all over again here, isn't it?"

Although the concept of a follow-up to the Queen musical had been something "we'd always sort of fancied" according to Elton, the rabbit was let out of the hat by Queen guitarist and songwriter Brian May on Monday when in the course of getting an honorary degree from Exeter University, he revealed that a follow-up to the story of Galileo and Scaramouche was closer than anyone had thought.

"It would be foolish not to do it," said Elton on the phone from Liverpool where his next Mirvish show, The Boys in the Photograph, was having a workshop production.

"Not only do most audiences have a real and genuine affection for the characters," reasoned Elton, "but there's also 24 top 10 chart singles we didn't get a chance to use in We Will Rock You."

Elton said that what held the creators back for so long was the incredible popularity of the original We Will Rock You.

"Why do something new," he asked, "when the original is still performing so well?" And in fact, the show is still selling out in London as it has ever since its opening in 2002. It continues in Toronto at the Canon Theatre until May 11.

But the fascination of taking his characters that extra step further finally proved irresistible to Elton and "six months ago, I dove right in and spent a few months on it."

He showed his new version to May and Queen drummer Roger Taylor, who pronounced themselves "thrilled with it."

Elton said his sequel follows the same scenario that "we all know happens to rock stars: they achieve their dreams and then they screw up."

The character Galileo, having become "the first rock star of the new millennium" in We Will Rock You, is ripe for the downward slide to destruction.

"He was a little bit of a dick already in the first part," said Elton, "but because of his youth and innocence, he was a lovable one."

In the sequel, however, "he does the journey Elvis does and gets into some really awful things."

The faithful Scaramouche stands behind her man and "tries to rid him of some of his more awful pretensions," according to Elton.

He sees their relationship as not unlike that between "a lead guitarist and a singer, where one is always trying to keep the other in line with a combination of sheer force and dry wit."

Elton, aware that he'd probably revealed too much already, did volunteer that "the forces of the Killer Queen are recruiting again and the Bohemians have to figure out what to do about it."

But how soon will this new show launch?

"We can't do it in England," insisted Elton, "not while the first one is still selling out. We're victims of our own success."

That's why a Toronto production looms as an increasingly attractive possibility, especially in a city that Elton finds "so congenial to work in" and with a producing team like the Mirvishes, whom he finds "Grade A all the way down the line."

And the title? As Elton said, "If you dip into Queen's greatest hits, you'd hardly find a better one than `The Show Must Go On.'"

::DANCE NEWS::

 

::SPORTS NEWS::

Canadian Men Win Curling Championship

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Brian Mcandrew, Staff Reporter

(April 14, 2008) GRAND FORKS, N.D.–A sea of red-and-white clad Canadian curling fans were oddly quiet during the men's world championship final yesterday between Canada's Kevin Martin and Scotland's David Murdoch.

It seemed they didn't want to get their hopes too high as the Canadian skip, who had never won a gold medal in international play, attempted to beat the 2006 world champion, especially after losing an earlier playoff game to him.

Even after Martin made a tremendously difficult hit-and-roll to the centre of the rings to steal a point in the seventh end they remained surprisingly tentative.

But they became true believers when the Canadians took a three-point lead in the ninth and ratcheted it up to full celebratory roar in the 10th as Martin slid down the ice with his arms raised high after taking out the lone Scottish stone in the rings for a 6-3 victory.

Murdoch's last two stones remained idle at the far end of the ice. Scotland couldn't catch the Martin rink and there was no point in even throwing them in front of the largely Canadian crowd of 4,211 at the University of North Dakota's Ralph Engelstad Arena.

It was the 31st gold medal for Canadian men and a double-double combined with Jennifer Jones' victory in the women's worlds two weeks ago at Vernon, B.C.

And it was a long time coming for Martin, the Edmonton skip who had played without winning in a junior worlds (1986), two other worlds (1991,1997), a demonstration event at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics and the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City where he settled for the silver medal.

Martin, 41, had been hounded for years by constant reminders of his international shortcomings.

"It feels good to finish it off. There's been a lot of tries," an ecstatic Martin said, the gold medal hanging from his neck and his eyes uncharacteristically moist. "It feels good. It feels good."

The bonus was becoming the first men's team to qualify for the 10-team Olympic Trials in December 2009 to determine Canada's entry in the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Added Canadian second Marc Kennedy: "We're the world champs. No one can ever take that away from you. It's great to do it for your teammates as much as yourself. Especially Kevin. That's a big monkey off his back as much as he doesn't want to admit it. Our goal for the three young guys was to make it as easy as possible for Kev."

Kennedy, 26, and third John Morris, 29, made some key shots in the first few ends to set the tone and restore some confidence after the playoff loss. Lead Ben Hebert, 24, played better than even his stellar Brier performance last month.

It began in the second end with Morris making a sublime draw behind guards to sit protected covering the button. Murdoch attacked but was rebuffed: a come-around tap attempt hit a guard before a run-back double-takeout attempt on his last shot left one Canadian rock in play for a stolen point.

The turning point came in the eighth when it looked as if Scotland was about to score two only to be throttled by an impressively difficult hit-and-roll by Martin. His rock looped slowly over to the edge of the button, behind a Scottish stone and protected by two guards outside the rings. Murdoch was left with nothing but a long, angled raise that brushed past the back of the Canadian rock, giving Martin a stolen point.

Martin bashed a cluster of three rocks from play in the ninth for a deuce to take a three-point lead.

Hebert put it in perspective with his off-beat insight: "Words can't explain it. We won the worlds and I don't think we can go play Mars, so it's all good. The next time we get to come to the worlds, all we'll have to worry about is curling."

Bryant Gumbel Says Goodbye To NFL Network

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 14, 2008) *Bryant Gumbel and the NFL Network have agreed to part ways, the cable channel announced late Friday.

After two years of calling games, Gumbel will not return for a third season following a decision that appears to have been mutual.

"We've agreed that we'd all be better served going in different directions," Gumbel said in a statement without giving any further details.

 The NFL Network declined to comment about possible reasons for Gumbel's departure, but the channel's President/CEO Steve Bornstein said in a statement: "We appreciate everything Bryant did in helping us launch our NFL Network game telecasts. Bryant helped create interest in our first foray into televising NFL regular-season games."

The choice of Gumbel as the network's first play-by-play announcer didn't go over too well in 2006, when the channel tapped him and analyst Cris Collinsworth as their broadcast team for the Thursday night and Saturday night games late in the season. Although the former "Today" host is a veteran in the broadcasting field, Gumbel had zero experience doing football play-by-play.

 Gumbel will continue hosting the Emmy-winning "Real Sports" on HBO, while Collinsworth will remain in his analyst chair for the NFL Network. The search for a new play-by-play announcer is scheduled to begin before the channel's eight-game package starts in November.

Tiger To Be Sidelined By Knee Surgery

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Doug Ferguson,
AP Golf Writer

(April 16, 2008) Tiger Woods had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee yesterday to repair cartilage damage, his second operation in five years on the same knee. He is expected to miss at least a month while he recovers.

The surgery, announced on his website, came two days after Woods finished three shots behind Trevor Immelman in the Masters. He likely will miss The Players Championship, but should return in time to play the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

"I made the decision to deal with the pain and schedule the surgery for after the Masters," Woods said. "The upside is that I have been through this process before and know how to handle it.

"I look forward to working through the rehabilitation process and getting back to action as quickly as I can."

The surgery was performed in Park City, Utah, by Dr. Thomas Rosenberg, who also operated on Woods' left knee in December 2002. Woods also had surgery in 1994 on his left knee to remove a benign tumour.

Woods gave no indication his knee was bothering him the first three months of the season, when he won his first four tourneys to extend a winning streak that dated to September.

"Tiger has been experiencing pain in his knee since the middle of last year and when he had it looked at by his doctors, arthroscopic surgery was recommended," said Mark Steinberg, who is Woods' agent at IMG.

"Tiger has played through the pain in the past, but knew it would be better for him to have the procedure done as early as possible."

Steinberg said the surgery repaired cartilage damage. Meanwhile, Tim Finchem expressed disappointment that Tiger will be out.

"Of course we're disappointed when Tiger is unable to compete in a PGA Tour event," the commissioner said on the tour's website.

"There is really never a good time for an athlete – especially one of Tiger's calibre – to take weeks off from competition during the season. But his health concerns have to come first."

::OTHER NEWS::

Penguin Canada Chief David Davidar Helped Turn India Into Hotbed Of Publishing

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Prithi Yelaja,
Staff Reporter

(April 12, 2008) As president of Penguin Canada, David Davidar is arguably the second most powerful South Asian in publishing – after Knopf's legendary Sony Mehta.

After building
Penguin India into that country's foremost publishing house, signing up internationally renowned authors including Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie and Anita Desai, Davidar, 49, was appointed to Penguin's top job in Canada in 2004. He wasted no time in turning the struggling company around – revenues hit $100 million last year, a first in its 30-year history.

His latest brainchild is Extraordinary Canadians, a new writers' biographical series, with guest editor John Ralston Saul.

Born in Kerala, the son of a wealthy tea plantation owner, Davidar studied botany at university and was headed for the opulent life of a "minor maharaja" until his father encouraged him to do something with his brain.

After working as a journalist in Mumbai, he headed to Harvard to do a publishing diploma at age 26. One of his lecturers was Peter Mayer, then-chairman of Penguin Books. He was looking for someone to start the India office.

Being the only Indian in the class, Davidar fit the bill. He got the job, setting up shop in a New Delhi flat with a budget of $10,000, including his own salary, and a staff of two. Today, Penguin India has 100 employees and publishes 200 titles a year with revenues topping more than $10 million.

"Now every major publishing company in the western world has offices in India. It's the fastest-growing English language market in the world and it's expected to eclipse Canada and Australia in the next 10 to 15 years in terms of size and revenues," says Davidar. "India's time is now almost upon it, but 20 years ago there was nothing. So it entailed making mistakes, learning from your mistakes and trying to persuade people to actually write for you."

Rare among publishers, Davidar is also an accomplished writer with two critically acclaimed novels: The House of Blue Mangos (2002) and The Solitude of Emperors (2007).

Q. How did you start a publishing house from scratch in India?

A. It was quite an extraordinary adventure. I think when you're 26, you don't examine the risks too closely. You're a bit bullheaded and you go out there and say `I'm just going to make this happen somehow.' I had no idea what to do, basically. I had this fancy designation with one of the world's most famous publishing companies. There was no tradition of trade publishing in India ... There were no literary agents or authors to speak of who were prepared to write books for a general audience. For the first six months, when there's nothing existent, what do you do? You make your way slowly. You talk to a ton of people among the intelligentsia. That's how it started – six books a year-and-a -half after I got to Delhi and, today, it's Asia's largest English-language trade publishing company.

Q. What was your big break in India?

A. I managed to get Vikram Seth to sign on with his collection of poems. He was with another publishing company. I went to him and said `you should publish with me.' He said, `Why should I publish with you? You're a company with no history in India and no obvious resources that I can see. You're sort of publishing out of a flat in New Delhi.' With the enthusiasm of extreme youth, I said we'd bring a certain passion to publishing to your work that this other publishing company that's 100 years old doesn't have. I made my offer to him in the form of a sonnet. I think that tipped that balance. His book after that was A Suitable Boy, and that was it. We had a huge amount of publicity. Penguin India is the only company I can think of that has that kind of dominance in terms of noteworthy Indian writers.

Q. The Solitude of Emperors is about religious fundamentalism, which you've called the curse of all time, set against the backdrop of the religiously fuelled Bombay riots in the 1990s. Why did you feel compelled to write about that?

A. I've always wanted to write about the misuse of religion because it was something that bothered me greatly, as it has every sane-minded person in the world. I lived in Delhi at the time and, when this thing happened, a lot of us felt a sense of betrayal and anguish. What I was hoping to do was just add to the discourse and say the voice of sanity has to prevail. The more of us who actually stand up and say this should not happen is just basically good for the world we live in. ... I do think it's more hopeful now. The viciousness of the '90s riots in Bombay and the 2002 Gujarat riots, those hopefully will not recur. It certainly has something to do with economic volatility because it sets up the context in which fundamentalism can flourish. It's only when the benefits of globalization and the boom in prosperity spread themselves across the entire spectrum of society that people don't feel so aggrieved and vengeful and it's only those that are left out of the boom who are fodder for fundamentalist politicians and priests, and so on. The best chance for India and the world is for individual communities, cities, neighbourhoods, whatever, just say no. The book is what I felt I could do.