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January 3, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  (again!)

Time for all those resolutions and reflection ... bah humbug!  Enjoy your life today ok?  Just try not to waste it!  Hope you find something interesting to read below and I look forward to keeping you informed for yet another year.   Thank you for allowing me into your inboxes!

I have some year-end articles for a 2007 recap as well as predictions for 2008 in entertainment.  Also, there are a couple of stories of interest for you -
Terrie Williams newest book, Black Pain, where Terrie explores the dark place of depression and it's unique impact it has on the Black community. 

Then there's
Wayne Gallimore, the Jamaican (ex-Torontonian) who has devoted himself to the promotion of Caribbean art - specifically Jamaican.   Both details under TOP STORIES below. 



Singing Oscar Peterson's Praises

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(January 02, 2008) All Toronto jazz fans will want to save the date: Saturday, January 12.

The event: a first-class tribute to
Oscar Peterson, the jazz giant who died at age 82 on Dec. 23.

You would not have needed a crystal ball to predict that one of Toronto's major cultural events of 2008 would be a public memorial for the magic-fingered genius of the keyboard, whose music for half a century seemed like the perfect companion to a glass of champagne.

But now the Star has learned that the event will take place much sooner than even Peterson's most avid fans could have hoped.

Oscar Peterson – Simply the Best is the official name of the event, a celebration of his life and art, featuring live performance by many of his talented admirers, along with a few spoken tributes and highlights of his career in video clips. The 90-minute tribute is set for Roy Thomson Hall at 4 p.m.

Valerie Pringle will be the host, introducing internationally known musical performers including classical diva Measha Brueggergosman. The names of other noted participants will be released in the next few days.

"We wanted to take advantage of the presence in Toronto that weekend of many great jazz figures for a conference of jazz educators," says Peter Herrndorf, CEO of the National Arts Centre, explaining how the event was pulled together so quickly.

(The International Association for Jazz Education holds its conference in Toronto Jan. 9 to 12.)

The NAC is co-producing the event in collaboration with Brian Robertson, chair emeritus of the Canadian Recording Industry Association.

Another reason for moving quickly: Herrndorf, a friend of Peterson for 30 years, became aware that Kelly Peterson, his widow, was eager to have a public event as soon as possible.

The pieces dropped into place when Charles Cutts, CEO of Roy Thomson Hall, offered the perfect venue (where Peterson sometimes performed) free of charge.

The NAC is providing production and programming support as well as financial and marketing help. That's fitting, because Peterson was a national arts icon, and it was at the NAC where he received his Governor General's Performing Arts lifetime achievement award in 1992.

Which leads to another Herrndorf touch: Governor General Michaëlle Jean will attend the event and speak on behalf of the Canadian public. Bob Rae, former Ontario premier and formidable pianist, will speak on behalf of the Peterson family.

According to Herrndorf, invitations will go out to VIP guests, including major arts figures and friends of the Peterson family, and a special section of the hall will be reserved for them.

But except for those guests, the 2,500-seat hall will be filled by the public, with free admission.

Who gets in and who does not will be determined on a first-come basis on the day of the performance. What remains to be settled is whether will be distributed by the hall's box office.

Peterson's list of honours included eight Grammys and 16 honourary degrees. He was called Dr. Peterson, but to his lifelong fans, he was still known by his first name alone. He may not need another honour, but Toronto, Canada and music lovers everywhere need a chance to say farewell.

In August 2005, Diana Krall came to town to play for Peterson at his 80th birthday party, referring to him as the man who inspired her every single day, and claiming that being in his presence made her so nervous she forgot what she was playing.

Krall, clearly devoted to Peterson, was in town last week for his funeral. Her obligations may make another trip to Toronto impossible, but wouldn't it be the perfect touch if she could turn up on stage at Roy Thomson Hall on Jan. 12? Coming soon: further details.

Black Pain - It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting

Source:  Terrie Williams Agency

"Black Pain brings a new understanding to the widely-held misperceptions and stigmas about depression.  People around the country are now talking about the issue; many have been moved to start speaking about it publicly…by [sharing her story, Terrie] has helped countless fellow sufferers realize that they are not alone.  It's a powerful thing to admit the pain, to seek help, and to move on to a more productive, healthy, and fulfilling life."

—Bebe Moore Campbell

Terrie Williams is a woman on fire, and the fuel that keeps that fire raging is the epidemic of emotional pain and depression in Black America. Depression is a catchword in the mainstream media, but among African-Americans it might as well be “the D-word”—the shameful thing nobody talks about, even as it’s killing them. But Terrie Williams is not afraid to talk about what depression is doing to the Black community— she’s determined to get everyone talking about it, and she will not rest until Black people can freely speak their pain without shame, and start healing. Her groundbreaking new book, BLACK PAIN: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting (Scribner; January 8, 2008; $24), is her opening salvo in that battle.

Despite the disproportionate damage depression does to Black people, it’s hardly limited to them. Yet for all we hear about depression on TV talk shows and talk radio, few of us can recognize the symptoms we see every day in ourselves—let alone in other people. Here are just six of Terrie’s 20 Signs That You Might Be Depressed:

·              You are always too busy—never have or take the time to give yourself the care you need.

·              You can’t ask people for what you need.

·              You can’t wait to get home to eat—something, anything—and lots of it. It’s the only thing that soothes you.

·              You just don’t have energy to do anything—you have to force yourself to do everything.

·              You are not doing work that brings you joy; you are just working a gig, and holding out for the check.

·              You call in sick at least once a month.

Any of these ring a bell? That’s because depression doesn’t just look like sadness. Depression can look like:

·              your sister who works eighteen-hour days and hasn’t made it to Sunday dinner in weeks.

·              your best friend who’s stopped cleaning her house or doing her hair or taking any interest in your friendship.

·              your coworker who’s chronically late and blames everyone else for her missed promotions.

·              the corporate executive who needs a bottle of wine and 10 mg. of Ambien to get to sleep every night.

·              the 13-year-old boy who joins a gang because no one else wants him.

Depression looks like all these people, and millions more, because it’s an insidious disease that takes as many forms as there are people who suffer from it. So how do we recognize it? How do we treat it? For African Americans BLACK PAIN is the Answer!

In BLACK PAIN, top African-American publicist and former clinical social worker Terrie Williams uses her therapeutic training and unparalleled access to take us into the heart of African-American suffering— the heart of Black Pain. Forty years after the book Black Rage explained to all of America what was boiling beneath the surface of brown skins, many African-Americans have turned that rage inward. Black America is suffering from depression, and Terrie Williams is the first person to name that pain in a way that lets us see its on-the-ground face. From the schoolgirl to the gang-banger to the hip-hop star to the corporate exec, she shows us that Black people in this country, even if they’re living the American dream, are still fighting a nightmare they can’t wake up from, the nightmare of depression.

Never before has a book laid out a community crisis with such sensitivity, such empathy and such clear direction to solutions. By showing us her own pain and the pain of the Black community, Terrie Williams gives us the power to transform our lives. Filled with the untold stories of celebrities like Mike Tyson and Blair Underwood, and the experiences of everyday folks, this book can show you yourself, your parent, your child, your neighbor, and help you take concrete steps to end your suffering. It’s time we all came out of the closet about depression, and BLACK PAIN opens the door out of that darkness.

Depressed people are not empowered people—politically empowered, economically empowered, or any other way. Tired of hearing the media ask why Black folks can’t “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” Terrie Williams shows how many of the problems that seem economic are really psychological. And until Black people can address their psychological pain, they can’t begin to tear down the other obstacles that hold them back. Addressing emotional wounds is the greatest intervention Black people can make, because every other wound starts in the soul.

BLACK PAIN was written from Terrie Williams’s fierce desire to reconnect the Black middle class to the urban centers and rural pockets…to bring back Black civic life.


A social worker by training, Terrie Williams launched the public relations firm, The Terrie Williams Agency, in 1988. The company quickly became one of the most successful PR firms in America, representing top names in entertainment, sports, business and politics such as Miles Davis, Johnnie Cochran, Stephen King, Eddie Murphy, HBO, and Time Warner. After surviving a profound depression, Terrie chronicled her struggle to regain her health in Essence magazine and the feedback was staggering. She continues her work with the agency and she also created the Stay Strong Foundation, which reaches out to anyone of any age suffering from mental illness. Terrie has a BA from Brandeis University and a master's degree in social work from Columbia University. She has one grown son and lives in New York City.

BLACK PAIN: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting
By Terrie M. Williams
Publication Date: January 8, 2008
352 pages; $24.00

To purchase from Amazon in Canada, go HERE.

To purchase from Amazon elsewhere, go HERE.

Heart of the Art - Brand Jamaica

Source:  Melanie Reffes

Following his dream, Wayne Gallimore is on an adventure of a lifetime. A self-described risk-taker and art lover who bought his first sculpture when he was a teenager, he gave up the nine-to-five as a systems analyst in Florida and Toronto and a wholesaler of computer parts in Jamaica and followed his heart to the world of art.  “I was concerned that I would go to a Jamaican hotel and the only works of art displayed were imported.” he says touring a buyer through his gallery, “The biggest problem at the time was that Jamaicans were not benefiting which inspired me to promote Jamaican art and Jamaican artists.”

From his home and gallery in Gordon Town at the foothills of the Blue Mountains, the 47 year old champion of Caribbean art launched
Jamagination in 2005 – a one-stop shopping experience supporting the richness of Island creativity.  “Our motto, Out of many, One People, reflects our diverse heritage,” he says as the birds flit from one tree to the other outside his living room window. “These cultures have infused Jamaican art with its unique soulfulness.”

Always on the lookout for emerging talent, Gallimore finds supreme personal satisfaction in discovering those artists without formal training. “I go on scouting missions to find creative souls who use just a rock or paintbrush to create and live in the hills or in secluded caves in the mountains.” says the St. Andrew-born father of five.

Targeting the hip professional crowd, Jamagination
signed a ground-breaking contract to operate a gallery at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Hotel in Ocho Rios.  Also exhibiting at the Round Hill and Tryall resorts in Montego Bay, Jamagination is also setting up additional gallery space in Kingston, Negril and Montego Bay with other venues in the works.

Primarily a virtual gallery representing a cadre of thirty artists, Jamagination carries originals and artist-certified prints. Using high-resolution giclee technology on canvas or paper with pigment-based lightfast inks that produce smooth color transitions instead of the dots generated from desktop printers, the prints are museum- quality rivalling the originals even to the discerning eye. .

With parents living in Fort Lauderdale and a son and sisters in Toronto, Gallimore’s priority is heightening Canadian interest in Jamaican art. “Our artists are increasingly exhibited internationally,” he smiles surveying the many treasures lining the walls of his home. From Christopher Gonzales, the artist who designed the Bob Marley monument to Nakazzi Hutchinson, one of Edna Manley's most prolific graduates, Jamagination also represents acclaimed painter and professor Bryan MacFarlane, surrealist Pat Lee, nature-inspired Amy Laskin and Alexander Cooper, the first Jamaican to exhibit at the U.S. State Department and whose work is enjoyed by Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Angela Bassett.  

In addition to the services provided via the website or in hotels, Gallimore offers a personal touch by determining his clients’ tastes and then scouring for art and delivering to their home or office In the competitive art world, Gallimore recognizes the value of networking and with his keen eye and bountiful charisma; all bets are on his success. “Ever since the Internet opened up the global marketplace, it has become imperative for any business and Jamaican businesses in particular, to be competitive on an international level.”

And as Jamaica is amongst the most visited Caribbean destinations and the birthplace of a large Diaspora population in Toronto, there is keen interest in supporting the artistic community of the Island. “Brand Jamaica is very popular now in terms of music, food and fashion,” Gallimore adds with infectious zeal and mega-watt smile, “I’m confident our art will reach the same impressive levels worldwide.”

Jamagination Limited

Upcoming show in Jamaica:

2008: What’s In Store For The Year Ahead

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -

(January 1, 2008) Now that we’ve consigned 2007 to history, we look forward to some of the major stories we anticipate making news in the various sectors of the arts and entertainment business in 2008.

Classical music

What will happen:

The city's biggest musical event may not involve a glittering marquee, but the long-term implications go well beyond not only our municipal or provincial, but also national boundaries, as the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning welcomes its first students in September.

The Royal Conservatory of Music's new campus next door to the ROM on Bloor St. W. is almost finished. It's not just a new look and bigger facilities. Although it would be nice to hope for a gala opening concert in the new Koerner Hall, the fine-tuning of the promising, 1,100-seat auditorium will probably push that into early 2009.

One milestone that will hopefully not see any delays is the Canadian Opera Company's choice of a new general director to replace Richard Bradshaw, who died last August. Smart money is on an administrative hire, with the choice of a principal conductor postponed for a year or two.

What should happen:

It hurts every time a politician or interest group mentions tax cuts while, among other things, childhood music programs continue to dwindle in the majority of public schools.

John Terauds, classical music writer


What will happen:

Toronto is to be treated to one of the most exciting contemporary dance seasons in many a year.

The Luminato festival in June brings Mark Morris Dance Group back to the city for the first time in well over a decade, with ballets set to Brahms waltzes.

In March, The National Ballet of Canada's company premiere of Rooster, from British choreographer Christopher Bruce, tackles sex, drugs and rock `n' roll in a dance set to eight Rolling Stones songs, including "Sympathy for the Devil," "Ruby Tuesday" and "Paint It Black."

Harbourfront Centre's World Stage festival presents Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company giving a theatrical telling of three real-life stories in Chapel/Chapter, opening April 16.

What should happen:

Toronto dance presenters should do whatever it takes to make the city a destination on the North American touring itineraries of major international dance companies, such as Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal. The leading contemporary dance company has not performed in Toronto since 1984. We should not remain the city that never welcomes the world's best dance.

Susan Walker, dance critic


What will happen:

All eyes will be on the Stratford Festival as the new regime of Antoni Cimolino, Des McAnuff, Marti Maraden and Don Shipley begins its reign with a high-powered, star-studded season.

Soulpepper Theatre Company will be the centre of local focus with a far-reaching 10th anniversary season, while the 20th-anniversary season of the Toronto Fringe Festival will hopefully prove once again how important this institution has been to the cultural life of Toronto.

What should happen:

The Shaw Festival has to find a way to connect with larger audiences on a consistent basis. The Canadian Stage Company needs to learn how to raise the quality of its productions, instead of announcing strong-sounding seasons that largely prove to be duds by the time they reach the stage.

Theatre Passe Muraille, under its new artistic director, Andy McKim, must develop a distinctive identity and a way of bringing people back. And Toronto's theatres have to work with each other to co-ordinate their seasons better.

Richard Ouzounian, theatre critic

Pop music

What will happen:

Record labels will elbow their way into the concert market in an attempt to compensate the hit they have taken in CD sales while we will be hectored relentlessly to dump our CD players and purchase expensive computers for the privilege of legally purchasing music for roughly the same prices we were already paying.

Commercial radio will increasingly leave the job of introducing artists who fall outside their narrow format parameters to Grey's Anatomy, videogame soundtracks and TV commercials, while the Canadian indie scene will yield a couple more young darlings in Toronto's Born Ruffians and Tokyo Police Club.

What should happen:

The promised second full-length album from F---ed Up will thwart the industry's foolish fear of profanity and Epitaph Records might very well make a sensation of Edmonton's Cadence Weapon. The rumoured new Metric album will destroy all comers.

What will happen, but then won't:

Axl Rose will announce the Guns N' Roses album, Chinese Democracy, is finally ready for release. And then ... well, you know.

Ben Rayner, pop music critic


What will happen:

The top event of the year will be the re-opening of the Art Gallery of Ontario while autumn leaves fall. Frank Gehry's miraculous transformation of that sprawling place on the Grange into an awesome art palace will be universally applauded – and will not be met with the controversy surrounding Daniel Libeskind's Michael Lee-Chin Crystal for the ROM.

Luminato's sophomore year will be smoother and more rewarding than last year's inaugural arts festival. The can't miss event will be the multilingual Midsummer Night's Dream with the flavour of India.

What should happen:

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty should stop playing Scrooge to the Toronto arts world and come through with that long-delayed, $49 million top-up money for six Cultural Renaissance projects – all of which will be weakened if there is no cheque in the mail.

City hall should remember that Nuit Blanche is not just an all-night street party. It's supposed to be a celebration of the arts.

Martin Knelman, entertainment columnist


What will happen:

The American writers guild – or rather, the intractable corporate-run studio/network machine – has effectively ended the current TV season and has likely already irreparably crippled next year's as well. So enjoy while we may the few new scripted offerings that remain, almost all of them estrogen-enhanced: Glenn Close burning up the screen in Damages (Feb. 18 on Showcase); Julianna Margulies doing a pale imitation in Canterbury's Law (April 11 on Fox); Darren Star's Sex and the City clone, Cashmere Mafia (Jan. 6 on ABC), or Candace Bushnell's, Lipstick Jungle (Feb. 7 on NBC); Lena Heady (300) and Summer Glau (Serenity) kicking heavy-metal butt in the Terminator spin-off, The Sarah Connnor Chronicles (Jan. 14 on Fox).

But mostly, we will finally gain a true and sincere appreciation for the unsung merits of Canadian TV.

What should happen:

The American studios and networks, with their skills at manipulated math, have nothing to lose and everything to gain by striking a conditional percentage deal with the writers' guild and getting them back on the job before they stalemate themselves into another business.

Rob Salem, TV critic


What will happen:

Expect fedoras and bullwhips to be party and Halloween staples once again as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull becomes the year's biggest movie. Set to open May 22, it returns Harrison Ford in Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark franchise for the first time in 19 years.

Other 2008 blockbusters include The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (May 16), The Incredible Hulk (June 13), The Dark Knight (July 18), The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Aug. 1), James Bond 22 (Nov. 7) and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Nov. 21).

The writers' strike is likely to continue through the first quarter of '08, meaning the Golden Globes likely won't be televised, and the Oscars are starting to look iffy.

What should happen:

The interminable format war between high-definition DVD formats Blu-ray and HD-DVD should be settled this year, so consumers can get down to the important business of changing their entire home libraries. Some serious guidance in the plasma vs. LCD display for hi-def TVs would also be useful.

Peter Howell, movie critic


What will happen:

There is much anticipation a couple of Canadian fiction titles: one, the latest book by one of the country's rising literary stars, the other an addition of a beloved classic.

In the latter category, Nova Scotia author Budge Wilson has penned a prequel to Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. The book, Before Green Gables, will be published Jan. 29 by Penguin Canada, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Montgomery original.

In September, Knopf Canada is publishing a new novel by Winnipeg author Miriam Toews, winner of the Governor General's Award for her previous book, A Complicated Kindness. The as-yet-untitled novel is about a woman who takes charge of her niece and nephew after her sister is committed to mental institution.

What should happen:

Regardless of the continuing fluctuations in the Canadian dollar, book buyers need to give themselves a shake before taking out their frustrations on store clerks. Whether or not you accept the publishers' explanation for the discrepancy, shop clerks – many of whom work in bookstores because they love books – deserve better.

Vit Wagner, publishing reporter


What will happen:

The 35th annual International Association of Jazz Educators conference, which is usually staged in New York, will move into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Jan. 9-12. The gathering attracts about 7,000 educators, musicians, record executives, exhibitors, media, students and enthusiasts for its line-up of clinics, concerts, and exposition.

What should happen:

It would be great, really great, if the Jackson family, including Michael, reunited and went on the road next summer.

And it would be so cool if a jazz record, namely Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Mitchell Letters, won Album of the Year at the Feb. 10 Grammys and Hancock and Mitchell toured this summer with a set list of their respective '07 albums and an all-star band.

(The other nominees, the Foo Fighters, Vince Gill, Kanye West and Amy Winehouse make the 50th edition of the awards one its most diverse ever.)

To watch for in 2008: Can new husband and father Usher reclaim his Prince of Pop crown from Justin Timberlake?

Ashante Infantry, pop & jazz critic

Visual arts

What will happen:

The Art Gallery of Ontario re-opens next fall entirely re-energized after its $225 million renovation. Familiar works from the AGO collection will be shown in new settings.

The huge donation from the late Ken Thomson – including Peter Paul Rubens' Massacre of the Innocents, which he bought in 2002 for $117 million – will generate its own buzz.

But the really new news will be about the new galleries devoted to Canadian work from the '60s, '70s and '80, and the attention paid to groundbreaking Toronto arts groups from the period such as A Space and Trinity Square Video.

What should happen:

One or more Toronto gallery/dealers will connect with their international counterparts, much the way Vancouver's Catriona Jeffries Gallery has in recent years.

As of now, local dealers and gallery owners do a good job shaping local careers and a few have successfully showcased internationally art stars for local buyers.

Yet they're hard pressed to take the city's more well established artists to the next, international level.

Peter Goddard, visual arts critic

Celebrity Deaths Of 2007

Excerpt from www.thestar.com


Charmion King, 81. Stage actress and wife of actor Gordon Pinsent. Jan. 6.

Pete Kleinow, 72. Ace steel guitar player with the Flying Burrito Brothers. Jan. 6.

Yvonne De Carlo, 84. Canadian actress who played Moses' wife in The Ten Commandments but achieved her greatest popularity on TV's The Munsters. Jan. 8.

Iwao Takamoto, 81. Artist who created Scooby-Doo. Jan. 8.

Carlo Ponti, 94. Plucked Sophia Loren from obscurity married her and made her a huge star. Jan. 9.

Alice Coltrane, 69. Jazz performer and composer and wife of the late saxophone legend John Coltrane. Jan. 12.

Michael Brecker, 57. Versatile, influential tenor saxophonist who won 11 Grammys. Jan. 13.

Percy Saltzman, 91. CBC's first meteorologist was the first face to appear on Canadian English-language TV. Jan. 15.

Ron Carey, 71. Actor best known for his work as a cocky, height-challenged policeman on the 1970s TV comedy Barney Miller. Jan. 16.

Pookie Hudson, 72. Lead singer for doo-wop group the Spaniels (``Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight.'') Jan. 16.

Denny Doherty, 66. From the folk-rock group the Mamas and the Papas; known for their smash hits "California Dreamin" and "Monday, Monday." Jan. 19.

Danny Finegood, 52. Prankster known for creative alterations of the Hollywood sign (Hollyweed, Ollywood, etc.). Jan. 22.

John Majhor, 53. Broadcaster, a staple of Toronto radio and TV during the 1970s and '80s. Jan. 23.

Tige Andrews, 86. Emmy-nominated actor; the captain in charge of ``The Mod Squad." Jan. 27.

Sidney Sheldon, 89. Best-selling American author, playwright and producer. Jan. 30

Molly Ivins, 62. Best-selling author, columnist and sharp-witted liberal. Jan. 31.



Joe Hunter, 79. Motown's first bandleader; Grammy winner with the Funk Brothers. Feb. 2.

Barbara McNair, 72. Pioneering black singer-actress; had her own TV variety show. Feb. 4.

Frankie Laine, 93. Many hits included the theme from the TV show Rawhide. Feb. 6.

Anna Nicole Smith, 39. Model and Playboy Playmate. Feb. 8.

Jim Paulson, 67. Oakville broadcaster, voice of the Molson Indy and Mosport racetrack. Feb. 13.

Ryan Larkin, 63. National Film Board animator, subject of Oscar-winning short Ryan. Feb. 14.

Robert Adler, 93. Co-inventor of the TV remote, the 1956 Zenith Space Command. Feb. 15.

Celia Franca, 85. Founder of the National Ballet of Canada. Feb. 19

Lothar-Guenther Buchheim, 89. German author; wrote autobiographical novel Das Boot. Feb. 22.



Doris Anderson, 85. Editor of Chatelaine magazine, Toronto Star journalist and women's rights advocate. March 2.

Brad Delp, 55. Lead singer for the band Boston. March 9.

Betty Hutton, 86. Best known for the title role in the movie musical Annie Get Your Gun. March 11.

Charles Harrelson, 69. Actor Woody Harrelson's father, sentenced to life for killing a federal judge. March 15.

Barbara Ann Tyler, 69. Former executive director of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. March 19.

Calvert DeForest, 85. Gained cult status as the oddball Larry "Bud" Melman on David Letterman's late-night television shows. March 19.

Rita Joe, 75. Known as the poet laureate of the Mi'kmaq nation. Mar. 19.



Bob Clark, 67. Film director best known for A Christmas Story and teen sex farce Porky's. April 4.

Stan Daniels, 72. Toronto-born producer and writer who worked on Taxi and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. April 6.

Kristine Bogyo, 60. Toronto cellist and founder of Mooredale Concerts. April 6.

Johnny Hart, 76. Cartoonist whose B.C. showed the humorous side of the Stone Age. April 7.

Harry Rasky, 78. Prominent Canadian filmmaker who co-founded the news documentary department at the CBC. April 10.

Kurt Vonnegut, 84. Satirical novelist who wrote works such as Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle. April 11.

Roscoe Lee Browne, 81. Emmy-winning actor. April 11.

June Callwood, 82. Writer and social activist for children and women's issues. April 14.

Don Ho, 76. Entertainer who defined popular perceptions of Hawaiian music. April 14.

David Halberstam, 73. Journalist whose acclaimed books included towering study of Vietnam War, poignant portrait of aging baseball stars. April 23.

Bobby ``Boris'' Pickett, 69. One-hit wonder whose ``Monster Mash'' topped the charts in 1962. April 25.

Kitty Carlisle Hart, 96. American singer and actor whose credits stretched from Broadway musicals to a Marx Brothers movie and stints on TV game shows. April 25.

Jack Valenti, 85. White House aide went from politics to show business as head of the powerful Motion Picture Association of America. April 26.

Mstislav Rostropovich, 80. Cellist, conductor and outspoken champion of artistic freedom in Russia. April 28.

Zola Taylor, 69. Singer with the Platters (``The Great Pretender''). April 30.

Tom Poston, 85. Comic who played clueless everyman on such U.S. TV shows as Newhart and Mork and Mindy. April 31.



Isabella Blow, 48. Editor whose outrageous outfits made her a beloved character in the British fashion industry. May 7.

Bobby Ash, a.k.a. Uncle Bobby, 82. Canadian children's television performer. May 20.

Charles Nelson Reilly, 76. Tony Award winner who later became known for his ribald appearances on The Tonight Show and various game shows. May 25.

Mark Harris, 84. Wrote four well-received baseball novels, including Bang the Drum Slowly, which became the basis of a 1973 movie. May 30.



Peter Simpson, 64. Stalwart of the Canadian film industry who produced 35 feature films, including Prom Night. June 5.

Oskar Morawetz, 90. Czech-born musician, one of Canada's most successful contemporary/classical composers. June 13.

Richard Bell, 61. Toronto pianist, composer and producer played with Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan and The Band. June 15.

Thomas Iain Smith, 27. Edmonton-born singer for London indie band Chow Chow. June 24.

Joel Siegel, 63. Movie critic for Good Morning America. June 29.


Beverly Sills, 78. Opera diva with a dazzling voice, bubbly personality. July 2.

Boots Randolph, 80. His spirited saxophone made "Yakety Sax" a hit. July 3.

Signe McMichael, 86. Co-founder of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. July 4.

Ed Mirvish, 92. Toronto showman who created the most successful theatrical empire in Canadian history and Honest Ed's discount department store. July 11.

Bluma Appel, 87. Toronto philanthropist and advocate of the arts. July 15.

Tammy Faye Messner, 65. Helped then-husband Jim Bakker build an evangelism empire. July 20.

Ingmar Bergman, 89. Swedish director renowned as one of the greatest artists in cinema. July 30.

Tom Snyder, 71. Talk-show host whose smoke-filled interviews were a staple of late-night television. July 30.

Michelangelo Antonioni, 94. Italian director and symbol of art-house cinema with movies such as Blow-Up and L'Avventura. July 31.


Jacob Adams, 40. Mississauga-raised actor and screenwriter found dead in the Los Angeles home of actor Ving Rhames. Aug. 3.

Lee Hazlewood, 78. Singer, songwriter; produced Nancy Sinatra's ``These Boots are Made for Walkin'." Aug. 4.

Merv Griffin, 82. Big band-era crooner turned impresario who parlayed his Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune game shows into a multimillion-dollar empire. Aug. 12.

Richard Bradshaw, 63. General director for the Canadian Opera Company who presided over the opening of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Aug. 15.

Max Roach, 83. Jazz drummer whose rhythmic innovations defined bebop. Aug. 16.

Keith Knight, 51. Canadian actor best known for his role as counsellor-in-training Larry Finkelstein in Meatballs. Aug. 22.

Doug Riley, 62. Composer, arranger and pianist often referred to as "Doctor Music" served as the musical director of the Famous People Players. Aug. 27.

Hilly Kristal, 75. His Manhattan club CBGB was birthplace of punk rock. Aug. 28.



Bruce Swerdfager, 79. Actor and theatrical manager was a Stratford Festival original. Sept. 4.

Madeleine L'Engle, 88. Author of children's classic A Wrinkle in Time. Sept. 6.

Luciano Pavarotti, 71. Vibrant high C's and ebullient showmanship made him one of the world's most-beloved tenors. Sept. 9.

Jane Wyman, 90. Actor who won an Oscar for Johnny Belinda in 1948, starred on the 1980s television series Falcon Crest and was the first wife of U.S. president Ronald Reagan. Sept. 10.

Joe Zawinul, 75. Austrian jazz keyboardist; one of the creators of jazz-rock fusion with Weather Report (``Birdland''). Sept 11.

Brett Somers, 83. Gravel-voiced wiseacre to naughty Charles Nelson Reilly on TV's Match Game. Sept. 15.

Robert Jordan, 58. Author of Wheel of Time novels. Sept. 16.

Marcel Marceau, 84. Revived the art of mime. Sept. 22.

Ken Danby, 67. Ontario painter known for his iconic hockey painting At The Crease. Sept 23.

Curtis Bailey, 64. Toronto community radio host known for his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz. Sept. 26.

Lois Maxwell, 80. Canadian-born actor best known for her role as the lovelorn secretary Miss Moneypenny in 14 James Bond films. Sept. 29.



Richard O'Brien, 59. Co-founder of Toronto's BamBoo nightclub. Oct. 14.

Teresa Brewer, 76. Singer who topped the charts in the 1950s with such hits as "Till I Waltz Again with You." Oct. 16.

Deborah Kerr, 86. Scottish-born actor best known for the 1953 film From Here to Eternity. Oct. 17.

Joey Bishop, 89. Stone-faced comic who found success in nightclubs, television and movies and Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack. Oct. 17

Milton Blake, 63. Host of Music Triangle on Toronto radio station CKLN. Oct. 18.

Peg Bracken, 89. Wrote hugely popular I Hate to Cook Book. Oct. 20.

David Adams, 79. Ballet dancer and founding member of the National Ballet of Canada. Oct. 24.

Patricia Crane, 72. Actor who played Col. Klink's sexy blonde secretary Hilda on Hogan's Heroes and married the show's star, Bob Crane. Oct. 14.

David Adams, 79. National Ballet of Canada's first male lead. Oct. 24.

Porter Wagoner, 80. Singer known for a string of country hits in the '60s, appearances at the Grand Ole Opry and for launching the career of Dolly Parton. Oct. 28.

Robert Goulet, 73. Canadian-raised baritone whose Broadway debut in Camelot launched an award-winning stage and recording career. Oct. 30.



John Francis Oscar Arpin, 70. Recording artist, composer and music director for TVO's Polka Dot Door. Nov.8.

Norman Mailer, 84. Prolific and controversial Pulitzer Prize-winning American author. Nov. 10.

Donda West, 58. Mother of singer Kanye West, after undergoing cosmetic surgery. Nov. 11.

James Barber, 84. Author and TV chef who appeared on CBC-TV for 10 years as The Urban Peasant. Nov. 11.

Ira Levin, 78. Best-selling novelist (Rosemary's Baby, The Boys From Brazil) Nov. 12.

Dick Wilson, 91. Canadian-raised actor and pitchman Mr. Whipple who begged customers, "Please, don't squeeze the Charmin." Nov. 19.

Paul Brodie, 73. Classical saxophonist was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1994. Nov. 19.

Kevin DuBrow, 52. Singer for Quiet Riot. Nov. 25.

Norm Hacking, 57. Toronto roots singer/songwriter and author. Nov. 25.

Jane Rule, 76. B.C.-based writer best known for her Desert of the Heart. Nov. 27.

Evel Knievel, 69. American motorcycle daredevil who became an international icon in the 1970s. Nov. 30.



Norval Morrisseau, 75. Anishnaabe artist, who often signed his canvases Miskwaabik Animiki or Copper Thunderbird. Dec. 4.

Pimp C, 33. Played key role in the rise of Southern hip hop. Dec. 4.

Ike Turner, 76. Rock innovator who teamed with wife Tina Turner (and denied abusing her). Dec. 12.

Dan Fogelberg, 56. Singer/songwriter helped define soft-rock. Dec. 16.

Don Chevrier, 69. Longtime, versatile sports broadcaster; Toronto Blue Jays first play-by-play announcer. Dec. 17.

John Harkness, 53. Now magazine's senior film writer. Dec. 19.

Helen McNamara, 88. Longtime jazz writer for the Toronto Telegram. Dec. 23.

Oscar Peterson, 82. World-renowned Montreal-born piano great, who lived in Mississauga for the latter part of his 50-year career. Dec. 23.


Indie Label Starts Year Off With Major Coup

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic

(January 01, 2008) Whatever commercial fate awaits Radiohead's In
Rainbows album when it officially hits store shelves in physical form today, it's a "can't lose" deal for Toronto's MapleMusic Recordings.

The homegrown independent label has already shipped more than 50,000 copies – enough to earn gold-record certification – of 2007's most talked-about album to Canadian retailers, who appear as confident as the Maple crew that Radiohead's decision to release the entire record online in October at prices (or no price at all) determined by each individual downloader won't keep fans from snapping up the full package, as well.

Even in the unlikely event that they're all wrong, In Rainbows is one of the biggest things ever to happen to MapleMusic.

Modestly conceived a few years ago as a mechanism for making records by such deserving Canadian talents as Kathleen Edwards, Joel Plaskett and the Dears available from coast to coast, the imprint has now fought off a crowded field of powerful competitors – including Radiohead's longtime label, EMI – to work with one of the biggest bands on the planet.

"To use a hockey analogy, this is like having Vincent Lecavalier or Sidney Crosby on the free-agent market. It's unbelievable," says Grant Dexter, Maple's founder and CEO.

"Everyone was fighting to get this thing, but the band and their management wanted to be on a boutique label where they'd get lots of attention and any time they called, they could talk to the different people taking care of their product."

True, MapleMusic is distributed by Universal Music, the most major of the major labels.

But Radiohead, which has been carefully licensing In Rainbows on a territory-by-territory basis, could have gone directly to Universal Canada in the first place and didn't.

So no wonder, as outgoing Maple general manager Kim Cooke recently remarked to me, everyone at the company "thought we were on drugs" when Thom Yorke et al. came calling.

The introduction was facilitated by Maple's friendly relationship with the similarly small-scaled American label ATO Records, with whom it recently issued new albums by Crowded House and Underworld.

"Tara Luft, our head of marketing, and I were at a CD-release party for another artist when we got the call (saying): `We're talking to Radiohead. Can you be on a plane down here in 48 hours to present a marketing plan?'" laughs Dexter. "So we were, like: `Back to the office! Back to the office! Sober up!'"

The last two Radiohead albums have scanned 140,000 copies apiece in Canada. Dexter reckons the storm of media attention already granted In Rainbows will eventually push it to sales of 120,000 to 160,000 copies "at least."

"How many Wal-Mart moms have now heard of Radiohead?" he says. "It's gonna be really interesting to see if their base expands.

"More people know that band now than probably did around OK Computer."

Indeed, In Rainbows has already been selling at Sunrise Records and HMV, who both broke today's street date and quietly slipped the album – available as a single CD, a spiffy $80 box set with added material as well as a vinyl version released in conjunction with Hamilton indie Sonic Unyon – on to store shelves on Boxing Day before briefly pulling it again.

"The Radiohead fan is the sort of fan who wants to know what the CD sounds like when it comes out, not just some crappy download," opines Sunrise's Tim Baker.

"The album will do very well.

"It'll be a good, solid, consistent seller once it actually hits the streets."

Dwele Working On Third Album

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 31, 2007) *With a Grammy nomination and a sudden boost of exposure on urban radio via Kanye West's latest single "Flashing Lights," R&B singer
Dwele has enjoyed a breakout 2007 – but he says much more is in store for 2008.

artist, born Andwele Gardner, tells Billboard.com that his upcoming third album is "on schedule, pretty much" to be released in late March via Koch. The Detroit vocalist says he's been recording tracks in his hometown, as well as Los Angeles and Virginia.

Dwele describes his follow-up to 2005's "Some Kinda…" as "kind of a mixture. I have a couple songs that are more radio-friendly, but I'm actually trying to take my time and elevate. It's all about going with the music and trying to follow that."

 Lyrically, he says he'll "stick primarily to relationships. That's what people tend to buy ... Everything from the usual living life and learning about love. This album is more so talking about relationships and what we have to do to make them work."

 The Detroit rap group Slum Village will appear on the new album, and Dwele says he's also reached out to West after appearing on his track, "Flashing Lights."

 Additionally in 2007, Dwele recorded guest spots for new albums by labelmates AZ and Foxy Brown, and scored a best urban/alternative performance Grammy nomination for his version of Earth, Wind & Fire's "That's the Way of the World," from the tribute album "Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of Earth, Wind & Fire." 

 "Oh, man, when I first got the information on it I was driving and had to pull the car over. I almost crashed," recalls Dwele. "It's very exciting. I'm looking forward to being there and experiencing it in person. And hopefully it's the first of many."

Chuck D Wants Jay-Z's Old Def Jam Gig

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 31, 2007) *Public Enemy rapper
Chuck D is already throwing his hat into the ring at Def Jam to succeed Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter as president.

The lyricist, whose real name is Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, was an artist under Def Jam from 1987 to 1998 and gave the label some of its biggest hits as front man for the fiery rap group, Public Enemy.

 "After 10 years looking on the collapsing of the record industry, and upon hearing the news of Jay-Z stepping down from Def Jam, I would throw my name into the hat of somebody who understands how the hell Universal should establish the name-brands they acquire with stockholders money," Chuck D told AllHipHop.com.

 The rapper, who also runs his own label Slam Jamz, says a position at Def Jam would allow him an opportunity to reach the masses. 

 "So instead of me running for politics, this is an easier run into the world of influential culture," he said. "I'm in Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York on the regular as well as I [thoroughly understand] the international picture. There would be some seismic changes, and I would be a little Huey Long-ish at it. If folks are clueless about this parallel that's precisely the problem." 

 According to Allhiphop.com, Jermaine Dupri, Jimmy "Henchmen" Rosemond and Damon Dash have all been mentioned as potential candidates for the Def Jam position.

 Chuck D offered the following plan of attack if appointed Def Jam President:

1) Being ahead of the technology curve; preparing for a thinned out industry; and managing budget efficient acts is very noteworthy of my resume which is simple. I told these cats the online revolution was coming and they needed big adjustments. They relied on lawyers, courts, and accountants only to now look upward at Apple, etc.

2) Their cost factors didn't fit the times, I come from a world where the $50,000 investments resulted into 6 - 7 figures. Now it's a business where 7 figures are invested to make 6.

3) I would run it like sports. These artists would be busting their tails on tour and on the stage to gain a fan. They would be coached on how to do their thing right. Braintrust will be high, and subcontracting to the right contributors will be comparable of the efficiency of these labels like Jazz and catalogue departments. You cannot have people working, that haven't the slightest clue of what they are in the middle of.

4) Any criminal mindedness in artistry, and management would have sit this one out, go their own way. It's like bad apples the long run ain't got nothing to do with entertainment. You can't mix the stage and off stage parodies.

Rihanna Most-Streamed On MSN In 2007

Source: Waggener Edstrom Worldwide

(December 31, 2007) BEVERLY HILLS, CA -
Rihanna will have to wait until February to see if she takes home a Grammy, but Control Room and MSN announced the international star has already beaten out her competition as the most-streamed performer on MSN Music in Concert in 2007.

During the first week of the concert's online broadcast, Rihanna's live performance was streamed more than one million times, making it the most-streamed concert by any single artist on MSN Music in Concert for the year. The concert is available on MSN at music.msn.com/rihanna.

'Rihanna is an amazing talent in the studio and on the stage. Staggering audience numbers like hers prove there's a strong appetite among music fans to watch live concert performances online,' said Aaron Grosky, president of Control Room. 'We've taken advantage of this opportunity by creating exciting programming that showcases the biggest artists in the world, performing from the most exclusive venues, to deliver an authentic live experience for the fans watching on MSN.'

Performing her No 1 blockbuster single, 'Umbrella' featuring Jay-Z, Rihanna had fans from across the globe accessing MSN Music in Concert to catch the star's stadium performance from Montreal's Bell Centre this Fall. In addition to 'Umbrella,' Rihanna dazzled concert goers and fans at home with hits 'Pon de Replay,' 'Unfaithful,' and 'Break it Off.'

'People are very enthusiastic about our Music in Concert series, and are particularly interested in mainstream artists like Rihanna,' said Reed Price, editor in chief, MSN Entertainment and Video. 'Control Room's excellent production values allow our online audience to experience the excitement of live performances by popular artists.'

In 2007, Control Room produced over 40 concerts exclusively online for MSN Music in Concert, including Jay-Z, Maroon 5, Avril Lavigne, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Pussycat Dolls, Fall Out Boy, and many more. Music fans worldwide can experience the excitement of these live performances by accessing MSN Music in Concert at http://music.msn.com/inconcert.

About MSN Video
  MSN Video is one of the largest free programmed video services on the Web, watched by more than 12 million unique users per month. In addition to streaming news, entertainment and sports video clips from more than 50 content partners including 'The Today Show,' FOX Sports, MSNBC, Reveille, Control Room, CBS, News Corp. and Fox Entertainment Group, MSN Video presents a broad array of live events to online audiences worldwide. More than 50 top advertisers support MSN Video, which is available to consumers at no charge. MSN Video is available on the Web at http://msnvideo.com.
  Overall, MSN attracts more than 465 million unique users worldwide per month. With localized versions available globally in 42 markets and 21 languages, MSN is a world leader in delivering Web services to consumers and online advertising opportunities to businesses worldwide. Most recently, MSN partnered with Control Room to stream Live Earth, the largest online entertainment event in history with over 62 million streams worldwide.

About Microsoft
  Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq 'MSFT') is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

About Control Room
  As the leading producer and distributor of world-class entertainment, Control Room's live music programming showcases the world's biggest artists from a variety of venues through multi-platform broadcasts via television, broadband and wireless platforms. Control Room has produced and distributed nearly 100 live music events delivering the highest quality productions in the industry with 8-10 camera shoots in Native HD (1080p) and using Dolby 5.1 to ensure the most compelling audience experience. In 2007, Control Room produced the largest entertainment event in history, Live Earth. On July 7, 2007, the 7-continent, 24-hour music extravaganza featured 150 of the world's leading artists to raise awareness for the Climate Crisis with a message of solutions and personal responsibility.

Kylie Minogue Makes Comeback

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Elio Iannacci, Special To The Star

(December 29, 2007) To say that the past few years have been challenging for Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue would be a vast understatement.

She's endured a widely reported breast cancer diagnosis, dealt with a public break-up with actor Olivier Martinez and stopped her Showgirl – The Greatest Hits tour so she could undergo a series of medical treatments for her illness.

With the backing of an A-list support team and a drive to rise above the tabloids and trauma, Minogue pulled through with flying colours. Not only did she pick up where her tour left off, but the 39 year-old performer decided she would make a documentary of her on-the-road/road-to-recovery experience. Part of the healing process was heading back into the studio to begin working on her recently released disc X.

One would think the pressure of making a rebound album is daunting for most performers – especially those who have undergone major health setbacks –but for Minogue, its business as usual.

Admitting her whole career has been a "series of major and minor comebacks," she gives off an incredible confidence when talking about the ups and downs of her life in pop via phone from her London home.

"I used to say that being a diva, you had to have tragedy in your life and all I've ever had was tragic hairdos and outfits. Obviously, I have to modify that statement now. A diva really needs to learn how to cope, too. To make it through some of the attacks and problems that I have had over the years ..."

She trails off before continuing, listing particular moments during her post-"Locomotion," pre-"Can't Get You Out of my Head" time in hitsville. "Many scathing critics do tend to rear their ugly heads in this industry, so I'd say knowing how to survive is what being a diva is all about."

In terms of the motivation she had to get well and start creating her latest album, Minogue is quick to list off her inspirations.

"To get through all the hard times after I was diagnosed, I was listening to a lot of Rufus Wainwright – it was definite comfort music. When my sister (pop singer Danni Minogue) would come over, she'd crank up the iPod with samba music to try and inject energy and enthusiasm into her visits. My mother, my sister and I all danced quite a bit around the lounge room. Dancing gave me so much good energy so I hope my music does the same for people who need it as much as I did."

Surviving – and succeeding – is something at which Minogue has become a pro. As of press time, her new album managed to make waves in Australia (taking the No. 1 best-selling position), the U.K. (hitting certified gold) and Canada (peaking on iTunes Canada at No. 6 and staying firm in the Top 10 during the onslaught of holiday album releases).

Just as interesting as the songs that did get chosen for release are the tracks on X that didn't make the final cut.

Last year, Nelly Furtado leaked plans to Flare magazine regarding a song she was set to duet for Kylie's return. Minogue says the aforementioned song "is still outstanding" and has plans to pursue it. "I am looking forward to getting in the studio and doing it because I know Nelly and I would have a great time together."

There were several other high-profile collaborations that didn't make the cut on X, either. Minogue worked with such artists as Boy George, Goldfrapp, the Scissor Sisters and Cathy Dennis (the woman responsible for penning Britney's "Toxic" hit and Kylie's "Can't Get You Out of my Head"). Toronto-born glam band Dragonette was also approached to write multiple tracks for the disc, but only Dennis' track "Sensitized" was considered and officially released on X.

But that doesn't mean these songs will never see the light of day. Minogue says, "Some will be B-sides, some may be held for later on but you never know when and where they will turn up – most of them are quite good."

Her next single, a song called "In My Arms," which sounds like a plethora of robotic beeps and bleeps set to a heavy bass line, is set to be released in early January.

Minogue plans to tour Europe beginning with a date in Paris May 6 – but will there be any Canadian stops?

"If I can get there I most certainly will," she says. "The reason why I haven't been to see you in the form of a tour is because my shows are so big. So I have to haul everything over. Logistics are a bit of a nightmare but that is something I would love to be able to do. So I am going to do my best without exhausting myself, and Toronto is on my list for sure."

Besides navigating the sound of X, Minogue feels the look and the aesthetics of the album became "just as important as the recordings."

Kylie says it's largely in part to the lead collaborator she's worked with: longtime stylist/creative director William Baker.

"He's my gay husband," she jokes. "Basically, we decide what images will make the `Kylie' look. For example, we studied the style of Kabuki theatre and combined it with the aesthetics coming from London dance clubs like BoomBox. If you see the video to (X's first single) "2 Hearts," you'll remember the club kids and my red lips the most. We always want everything to be slightly larger than life and memorable on the cultural landscape."

When Minogue is asked to look back at her 25-year-plus career and pick out the best moments, she wrestles with a flood of memories that include performing for the Sydney Olympics, her clothing collection for H&M, her first acting gig on Australian TV show Skyways and even a quick trip to the salon to get a cut and colour.

"I've had so many fabulous moments with this job that come up unexpectedly. One of them was going to my hairdresser in Paris and meeting Catherine Deneuve. She is a legend and lives her life like one. I know it's not PC to say, but nobody smokes a cigarette like her. Nobody. Although we just had some small talk, I was still star-struck."

Weepin' Willie Robinson, 81: Blues Singer

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 31, 2007) BOSTON –
"Weepin'" Willie Robinson, a blues singer who performed with Steven Tyler and Bonnie Raitt but also spent time homeless, has died at age 81.

Robinson had been a sharecropper, an Army veteran and a friend of performers, including B.B. King.

"He was truly the elder statesman of the (Boston) blues. He was our godfather. He was the most dear man," Holly Harris, host of ``Blues on Sunday" on WBOS radio, told The Boston Globe for Monday's editions.

When he sang, "you knew he meant it because he had passion,'' Harris said.

Robinson died Sunday in a fire started by a cigarette he was smoking in bed, the Boston Fire Department said.

He had worked a benefit concert with Tyler and two Boston Music Awards shows, in 2005 and again earlier this month.

Robinson was born in Atlanta and picked cotton and fruit with his family up and down the East Coast. After spending time in the Army in the 1940s, he became a master of ceremonies and doorman at blues clubs in Trenton, N.J., where he met King and other legends and eventually sang with King's 21-piece orchestra.

His daughter, Lorraine Robinson, told the Globe her father found his place on stage.

"A great smile would come on his face and he would be in his own little world, like he'd tune everything out," she said. "He just, like, felt the music. It was so much in his soul.''

Robinson settled in Boston in 1959 and played in clubs, but by 2005 he was living on the street and out of touch with his family. Blues performers learned of his situation, held a benefit concert and made sure he was fed and clothed.

Robinson later performed everywhere from local clubs to the hallways of the rest home where he lived.

His wife, Alice, died four decades ago.


Mijac Included In Usher's 2008 Plans

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 28, 2007) *
Usher tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a single in the works for his new album will feature superstar Michael Jackson and urban music's current "it" guy, T-Pain. “It’s been created, but it’s not recorded," Usher explained to the newspaper. "And as long as Michael is open to it, hey, anything goes.” The track would be featured on Usher's upcoming album, which he says will be out early next year.  “I’ve been diligently working on creating a masterpiece," he said of the project. "It’s going to be out first or maybe the second quarter. I see the second quarter of next year. And there will be a video and single out at the top of the year. … I think [Atlanta producer] Polow Da Don is going to have the first one. I think that’s going to be the single 'Love In The Club.'”      Meanwhile, the home front has changed drastically for the Broadway performer, who is spending his first holiday season as both a husband and father.   “I’m really like super dad. Really. I really cook for the family," he said. "Now I basically do chicken and broccoli and steamed vegetables, because I’m on this diet. But believe me, I can fry some chicken too … I really clean up. I walk the dog, myself. I burp the baby. I change the diapers. I trim the tree. I’m about to get the things for the tree after this because it’s bare. … I’m super dad. And it’s only begun.”   The artist says he and wife Tameka are still figuring out how to go about releasing the first baby picture of little Usher V. In the meantime, Usher IV says he'll continue to snap his own photos of the baby.   “I’ve become an instant photographer, developing them and everything,” he says.

Sean 'Diddy' Combs To Get Hollywood Star

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 28, 2007) *Sean "Diddy" Combs, who got his first taste of the entertainment business nearly two decades ago while throwing parties at Howard University, will be honoured next month with a star on the world famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. SixShot.com reports that Diddy broke the news on Friday, Dec. 21 during a call in on Jamie Foxx's Sirius radio show, The Foxxhole.  According to the Bad Boy mogul, his ceremony will take place on Jan. 11th.   "I'm from Harlem New York, so to get a star in Hollywood is just mind-blowing," Diddy said.  "You can get a lot of things but when you see those stars on the ground...that's something I can't even say I dreamed of and to be getting recognized for it is definitely something I'm gonna have my whole family out there for.  Diddy's star dedication will precede his Feb. 25 debut as Walter Lee Younger in the ABC telefilm, "A Raisin in the Sun." The artist previously played the role in the stage version that ran on Broadway in 2004.

U Can't Touch YouTube, can you?

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(January 02, 2008)
MC Hammer, 45, hasn't topped the music charts since the early 1990s, but the former rap star says he has another hit in him – only this time around he'll produce it as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Hammer, whose real name is Stanley Burrell, is choreographing a new career as co-founder and chief strategy officer of Menlo Park-based DanceJam.com. The website, scheduled to debut in mid-January, will try to upstage YouTube and become the Internet's hub for sharing and watching dance videos. DanceJam then hopes to make money by grabbing a piece of the Internet advertising market, which is expected to rake in $27.5 billion (U.S) in 2008, according to eMarketer. If the business pans out, DanceJam could help Hammer compensate for losing his fortune when he went bankrupt in 1996 with nearly $14 million in debts. The bankruptcy was a sobering comedown for Hammer, who parlayed the popularity of his song, "U Can't Touch This,'' to become a pop icon in the early 1990s. It's still played on TV shows and in movies today.

Win A Trip To See Mary J. Blige In Vegas

Source: PRNewswire

(January 2, 2008) Brisbane, CA. - Monster Cable is offering two lucky
Mary J Blige fans an amazing getaway: two roundtrip tickets to Las Vegas, a one-night hotel stay and two premium seats to the hottest show at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show - the Monster Retailer and Awards Concert on January 8, 2008, featuring 6-time Grammy Award winner, Mary J Blige. To see full terms and conditions for your chance to win this once-in-a-lifetime prize, simply log on to www.monstercable.com/mjb.  In what has become has become the biggest social event of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas - the Monster Retailer Awards and Concert has featured many music greats like: Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Crosby, Stills and Nash and James Brown.  This year marks the first time a contest winner will be treated to this special, by-invitation-only event.


A Triumvirate Of (Shockingly) Young Actors Shook Up Hollywood This Year

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(December 28, 2007) I've never been comfortable with our national penchant, in entertainment coverage, for ferreting out anything that smells vaguely Canadian and making that the story: “Hey, there's one local character actor in the corner of the frame, we've got a Canadian hook, let's milk it.” And I'm not crazy about stories that insist on defining our national culture by what we're not: “We're not American in the following ways, and we're not British in these other ways, so we must be something else! Let's milk it.”

But 2007 has been a banner year for Canadians in the entertainment business, for real this time. David Cronenberg released Eastern Promises, a terrific movie that's an exploration of the Russian mob in London, starring Australian, New York and French actors, made by a Toronto director – and authentically Canadian precisely because it's such a mishmash of sensibilities.

Sarah Polley wrote and directed a movie, Away From Her, as if she's been doing it all her life (which isn't that long to begin with, just shy of 29 years), and it turns out to be the very model all first-time filmmakers should study: Adapt a Canadian story (this time by Alice Munro, whose work has never had to define itself as “being” anything). Use a Newfoundland actor at the peak of his powers, Gordon Pinsent. Entice a legendary, stubborn Brit, Julie Christie, out of semi-retirement. Shoot it in Ontario, for a laughably small budget, and end up with something universal.

Ryan Gosling made a believable character study out of the surreal Lars and the Real Girl, and Celine Dion killed 'em in Vegas right to the end of her run, and any one of the above would qualify as The Globe and Mail's Arts Person of the Year.

BORN: June 7, 1988, Brampton, Ont.
Awkwardly sweet high schooler Evan in Superbad
Awkwardly sweet high schooler Paulie Bleeker in Juno
'Michael is someone we're all in awe of. We don't understand how it works; he's a little bit of a savant. I like that he's so funny and has such a great sense of comedy, almost a Bob Newhart sense of comedy. But at the same time, he's a very good actor. -- Producer Judd Apatow

BORN: April 15, 1982, Vancouver
Wildly immature daddy-to-be Ben Stone in Knocked Up
Officer Michaels in Superbad, which he co-wrote
'My actual life has not changed all that much. I bought a house, that's nice. But I don't all of a sudden have a mink car. I like complaining about other people being a-holes. And if I'm an a-hole, I can't do that.'

BORN: Feb. 21, 1987, Halifax
Tracey Berkowitz in Bruce McDonald's The Tracey Fragments
Pregnant teen Juno MacGuff, in Juno
'The second we'd go into a scene, she was brilliant, incredible. She can do anything. On a set, everyone can see when an actor is nailing a part. We all knew she was killing it.' -- Jennifer Garner, on acting with Page in Juno

But we've chosen to bestow that title to a triumvirate of (shockingly) young actors who, separately and together, shook up Hollywood this year: Michael Cera, Ellen Page and Seth Rogen.

It doesn't hurt that, collectively, their three big films this year have grossed $280-million, and made millions more on DVD.

At 25, Rogen is the old man of the bunch, and honestly, the mind can't help but reel when it thinks about what this slightly chubby, affable Vancouver dude has accomplished this year. Rogen came out of the comedy petri dish of Judd Apatow, the writer/director whom Entertainment Weekly recently named the smartest person in Hollywood. (Apatow wrote and directed several episodes of the cult TV fave Freaks and Geeks, which starred Rogen, and then made movies for every hot comedian out there, including Will Ferrell in Anchorman and Talladega Nights, and Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.) Rogen could have had a sweet, steady career doing amusing cameos (Eager Cameraman in Anchorman), funny friends (Cal in The 40-Year-Old Virgin; Neil in You, Me and Dupree) and voice-overs (Ship Captain in Shrek the Third).

Instead, he found himself a lead role, and what a role, clambering all over the glorious Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up. The movie would have been off-puttingly sexist, were it not for Rogen's self-deprecating presence. “Yeah, guys can be idiots,” he seems to be saying, “but I'm hopeful I can grow up.” For me, the whole thing came down to that scene in the baby store where he tries on a white, frilly bonnet and natters charmingly, “See this?” (Or words to that effect.) “This is what's coming out of you in a few months. Are you ready for this?” If you buy that scene, you buy the movie. And buy we did: Knocked Up was the 12th-most-profitable movie of the year.

Rogen's reaction to his success was adorable, modest bemusement. “I am on a movie poster. This is the face on a movie poster,” he repeated to all the daytime and late-night talk-show hosts, all the magazine and newspaper journalists. Then, savvy devil, he quickly made Superbad, a script he wrote just long enough ago that he could no longer play the lead and that no one would finance until Knocked Up gave him cred. It did, oh, pretty well – the 18th-most-profitable movie of 2007 – and, together with Knocked Up, created the template for a new kind of humour, one that somehow merges gross-out physical comedy, unabashed sentimentality and an abiding love of linguistic play.

Rogen's cohort in crime is Michael Cera, the 19-year-old – 19! – with a helium voice and a body that looks like it's made of pencils held together with rubber bands. He's a Brampton boy, and I mean that literally – he still lives with his parents in the Toronto suburb. In his two films this year, Superbad and Juno, and in his beloved turn as George-Michael on the comedy series Arrested Development, Cera has perfected the role of kindly observer of chaos. He delivers his lines the way Frank Sinatra sings lyrics, always sitting a bit behind the beat. And he emanates a moral rightness – but without judgment – that is essential in keeping the comedy around him from turning too mean.

Cera and Rogen will have long careers playing versions of themselves, but to my mind, the actor of the bunch is Ellen Page, 20, a one-woman Chamber of Commerce for her native Halifax. Brainy, tiny, articulate and frighteningly gifted, she's being compared to Jodie Foster, even though she's already better than Foster at comedy. I can think of no one else who could have infused the mood swings required by her character in Bruce McDonald's film The Tracey Fragments with such deep, unfussy sadness, and who could deliver the wonky rat-a-tat of screenwriter Diablo Cody's dialogue in Jason Reitman's current hit comedy, Juno. I haven't seen her work in the reportedly harrowing An American Crime, where she recreates the true story of an Indiana girl tortured by her foster mother (played by Catherine Keener), but I expect she'll raise the hairs on whoever has the stomach to see it.

For Juno, Page has been nominated for a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Independent Spirit Award, and been showered with accolades from the U.S. National Board of Review and nearly every film critics' association. And Oscar buzz pits her against Julie Christie in Away From Her as top contenders for best actress. How cool is that?

Unlike previous generations of Canadian talent, who seemed required to choose either a career of commenting on American culture from an outsider's perspective, or seamless assimilation into it, Page, Cera and Rogen are 21st-century Canadians: They live here, they work there, and it's no big deal. They don't have to insist on being Canadian, they just are. They're not reshaping “their” culture versus “our” culture, but culture. It's a brave new world, and right now, it's all theirs.

EUR Film Review: Honeydripper

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 31, 2007) *It is 1950, in Harmony, a
hardscrabble Alabama town whose name gives no hint that its color-coded caste system relegates blacks to second-class status. But despite the limitations of living under oppressive Jim Crow segregation, Tyrone "Pinetop" Purvis (Danny Glover) has managed to eke out a decent living, at least till now.

He's the proprietor of the
Honeydripper Lounge, a juke joint which flourished during its heyday by selling cheap booze while catering to the tastes of a clientele which appreciated the blues. However, the establishment has failed to adapt to the changing times. Consequently, the bulk of Pinetop's business has drifted over to its prime competitor, a shady shack featuring performers of a new genre of music that's a precursor to R&B.

Finding himself on the brink of bankruptcy, Tyrone decides to book an out-of-town act in a last gasp effort to save the nightclub. Unfortunately, Guitar Sam fails to arrive on the train from New Orleans as arranged. So, the embattled owner comes up with the bright idea of hiring a drifter, Sonny Blake (Gary Clark, Jr.) to impersonate the legendary guitarist, since nobody knows what he looks like, anyway.

This is the overarching premise of the Honeydripper, the latest offbeat offering from the iconoclastic John Sayles. The front story of this music-driven, costume drama is curiously less compelling than the picture's electrifying score and wince-inducing recreations of tableaus of a bygone era marked by subjugation and intolerance.

For example, we see how the hobo Sonny, upon his arrival in Harmony, is arrested on the spot by racist Sheriff Pugh (Stacy Keach), who charges the stranger with "gawking with intent to mope."  Without benefit of a lawyer or trial, the young vagrant is convicted by Judge Gatlin (Danny
Vinson) who takes personal custody of the young man and puts him to work on his farm without pay, and indefinitely.

Sadly, such routine mistreatment and exploitation of blacks represents a generally unacknowledged aspect of America's legacy. Due to a deep cultural denial, sensitive subject-matter of this nature is ordinarily only touched upon humorously in cinema, ala Life, the Southern chain gang comedy co-starring Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy.

Danny Glover's engaging turn as the protagonist of Honeydripper is matched by the equally-measured performances by Charles S. Dutton, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Mary Steenburgen, Kel Mitchell, Sean Patrick Thomas and YaYa DaCosta. Plus, the production has been blessed with country cred courtesy of some gifted blues musicians, such as Keb Mo' and Mable John, whose talents add immeasurably to the comfy auditory ambience.

Kudos to two-time Oscar-nominee Sayles (for Lone Star and Passion
Fish) who has tackled themes of interest to the African-American community previously, both in his comic cult classic Brother from Another Planet and in the relatively cerebral Sunshine State. Here, he's to be commended for again serving up a thought-provoking slice of African-Americana sans the shucking and jiving which Hollywood typically attaches to black-oriented

Coppola Is Free To Be

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Bob Strauss

(December 31, 2007) LOS ANGELES — Perhaps you've heard of
Francis Ford Coppola?

If you were a movie fan in the seventies, you might still think of him as the greatest filmmaker of his generation. If you weren't, you're more likely to associate his name with some good, reasonably priced Californian wine.

Coppola hasn't directed a movie in 10 years, although he has had a producing or executive-producing hand in some over the last decade, including three by his acclaimed daughter, Sofia.

The uncharitable might say that he hasn't directed a great movie since the 1979 Vietnam War freak-out Apocalypse Now, the chaos-plagued production that capped the run of masterpieces that began with The Godfather (1972 best-picture Oscar winner), and included The Conversation and The Godfather: Part II (another best-pic Oscar, plus one for Coppola's directing, in 1974). Fairer-minded sorts might acknowledge that he did some very interesting things in later films such as One from the Heart, Rumble Fish and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Most would agree there was no excuse for Jack – the 1996 film starring Robin Williams, Jennifer Lopez and Fran Drescher – except that, as he often has in his up-and-down movie career, Coppola needed the money.

Now, thanks to the success he's had in non-movie businesses, Coppola has been able to personally finance and direct his first feature since the 1997 John Grisham adaptation, The Rainmaker. Youth Without Youth, based on a novel by Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade, opens in theatres next Friday.

Filmed in Romania (not so much for the Eliade connection as for the fact that it's inexpensive there), it's about an elderly linguist who gets struck by lightning in 1938, regresses physically to about half his age, splits in two at times, and at others goes through the film upside down.

That's the simple description.

“He's a scholar and he's looking at the roots of language, and language has so much to do with making our consciousness possible, and consciousness has everything to do with making time possible,” Coppola explains, not too helpfully but looking great for 69 in a slate-grey tailored suit, perfectly knotted tie and pink, monogrammed dress shirt. “So we're dealing with a very malleable, interesting subject.”

While uncharitable folks may characterize it otherwise, there is no denying that Youth Without Youth is an uncompromising art film. That's all Coppola is interested in making now.

“I feel like I'm on a track of doing what I call ‘personal films' that I can finance myself, because I don't want to waste time in between having to go and listen to people's opinions,” he says with the same defiance he exhibited 30 years ago.

“I mean, so many movies in my career, even Apocalypse Now, would never have been made had I not just stuck up the money. Youth Without Youth never would have been made if I didn't stick up my money. Outside finance brings financiers' concerns. Even if the story is fun, they'd be worried that it poses questions and didn't give solid answers. Well, what if it poses questions that there are no solid answers for?”

Coppola seems to understand that he hasn't made a big audience-pleaser here. The double-barrelled artistic and commercial success of the first Godfather film was long ago.

But money hasn't been the only thing that's kept him out of the director's chair for a decade.

An ambitious Pinocchio project got tangled up in rights litigation. And after years of struggling, Coppola just couldn't get his script for the utopian urban fantasy Megalopolis to work up to his satisfaction.

“I was very frustrated creatively,” he says. “It's one thing to build a beautiful resort and stuff [he owns three in Central America], but I love movies. Quite honestly, I didn't know where my place was. I don't just want to make the type of normal movies that come out every weekend. I know the public likes a good entertainment film, and I do, too.

"But I think there's more to cinema than just typical movies. I want movies to be more imaginative and enter into new areas that I can learn things about. And I didn't know who was going to sponsor me in that.”

The hobbyhorse enterprise that's grown into America's 12th-largest vintner has, in fact, answered that question. But Coppola says he makes wine for the same reason he makes movies.

“I don't get into anything 'cause I think it's a good deal,” he notes. “I get into stuff I'm interested in. I had a lot of love for the tradition of wine. For a long time, Italians were some of the few people in America who drank wine, and during Prohibition they allowed families to make a limited amount of wine for the table, and my grandfather did. So I associate it with happiness, and when I found myself living in Northern California, I thought we ought to have a summer house where we could grow grapes. Then wine became, like, a big thing.”

Youth Without Youth may not be too big a thing. But Coppola is so pleased to have finally directed another movie, he can't help but feel optimistic that others will share his enthusiasm – a commodity that, in tough times as well as flush, he has always possessed in abundance.

“The question is: Is the public willing to see a movie with a story which they totally understand, but is also inviting them to ruminate on what's underneath the story?” he poses. “My theory is, well, just enjoy the story. Then, later on, if you want to see the movie again or discuss it with your wife, you can do whatever you want.

“As long as it's provocative.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

Hollywood's Happy Ending

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - David Germain, AP Movie Writer

(December 31, 2007) LOS ANGELES–Fortune-seeker
Nicolas Cage, lonely guy Will Smith and a pack of talking chipmunks ended Hollywood's year on a happy note.

Cage's National Treasure: Book of Secrets was the No. 1 movie for a second weekend with $35.6 million, followed by Alvin and the Chipmunks with $30 million and Smith's I Am Legend with $27.5 million, according to studio estimates yesterday.

Those hits along with a solid crop of other holdovers and new movies that opened Christmas Day capped a year-end hot streak for Hollywood, whose business soared the last few weeks after a sluggish fall.

The top 12 movies took in $169.2 million (all figures U.S.) up 18 per cent from the final weekend of 2006, when Night at the Museum led the box office with $36.8 million.

Hollywood will finish the year with record revenues of about $9.7 billion, up from the previous best of $9.45 billion in 2004, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

Since prices are higher, the revenue represents actual admissions that were up only a fraction over 2006's and fell well short of modern Hollywood's record of 1.6 billion tickets sold in 2002.

With the holidays falling on Tuesday, many people have been taking five-day weekends, a boost for the movie business. Many students are off from school until next week, too.

"It's turned into like a two-week-long weekend for the movie industry," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers.

Opening with huge numbers in limited release was There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis in a tale of greed and violence during California's oil boom in the early 20th century. It opens in Toronto Friday.

There Will Be Blood joins other films of violence and misdeeds, such as No Country for Old Men, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Michael Clayton, aiming for top honours at the Academy Awards.

Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 22.


They're Off! Oscar Voting Begins

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 28, 2007) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.–Thousands of Oscar nomination ballots were mailed out Wednesday to 5,829 academy members, heralding the official start of Academy Awards season. Accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers counted, sorted and numbered the ballots before the massive mail-out. Voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have until Jan. 12 to return the forms. Nominees for the 80th annual Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 22. and the wards will be presented Feb. 24 at the Kodak Theatre with Jon Stewart as host of the telecast.

Movie Rentals On iTunes In Works

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 31, 2007) SAN JOSE, Calif.–Apple Inc. is preparing to announce the long-rumoured launch of a movie rental service through its online
iTunes Store next month, as well as a groundbreaking licensing deal of its anti-piracy technology. Twentieth Century Fox is one of the first studios that has agreed to make its films available for rent digitally through iTunes, according to a Financial Times report Thursday that cited unnamed sources. Full-length films are available on iTunes – but only for sale so far.

Stone Joins Colombia Hostage Rescue

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 31, 2007)  Leaving the glamour of Hollywood far behind, director
Oliver Stone arrived in the steamy Colombian city of Villavicencio on Saturday as part of a mission led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to retrieve three hostages held for years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. "I have no illusions about the FARC, but it looks like they are a peasant army fighting for a decent living," Stone said. "And here, if you fight, you fight to win." Stone is part of an international delegation expected to fly by helicopter into the country's eastern jungles, an area the size of France, to collect the captives: former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez, Clara Rojas and her young son Emmanuel, who was fathered by one of her guerrilla captors. The mission seemed unlikely to be completed yesterday as originally promised by Venezuela. Footage from the liberation will form part of a documentary on "North America, and that includes our relations with South America and people like Chavez and (Cuba's Fidel) Castro," he said.

Happy New Year, Juno!

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Reuters

(January 02, 2008) LOS ANGELES–The new year looks promising for
Charlie Wilson's War and Juno, two movies that figure prominently among the nominees for the Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards, two closely watched barometers of Oscar recognition. Although it was in the No. 5 spot for the weekend, Juno was arguably the big star of the box office, since its $15.7 million tally (all figures U.S.) was derived from just 1,014 theatres. The average theatre count for the four movies ahead of it was about 3,400. The comedy, will expand to about 1,900 theatres Friday. It has earned $31.1 million after four weeks. Canadian actor Ellen Page stars as a pregnant schoolgirl who decides to give up her baby for adoption. The movie, director by fellow Canuck Jason Reitman, also stars Brampton's Michael Cera as Juno's best friend. After a slow start, Charlie Wilson's War, starring Tom Hanks Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman, has picked up the pace, and has now earned $43.3 million after 12 days. Meanwhile, the Nicolas Cage adventure National Treasure: Book of Secrets began the new year as the top movie in North America. According to studio estimates issued yesterday, the hit sequel sold $55.4 million (all figures U.S.) worth of tickets during the five-day period beginning Dec. 28.

Eddie Murphy, Tracey Edmonds Tie The Knot

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Reuters

(January 02, 2008) LOS ANGELES–
Eddie Murphy celebrated New Year's Day by tying the knot with film producer Tracey Edmonds. The pair exchanged vows Tuesday on a private island off Bora Bora in French Polynesia in front of a small group of family and friends, their representatives told People magazine. A call to Murphy's publicist, Arnold Robinson, wasn't immediately returned early today. Murphy and Edmonds began dating last fall and were engaged in July. Murphy, 46, has five children from his marriage to Nicole Mitchell Murphy, who filed for divorce in 2005. He also has a daughter with Spice Girls singer Melanie Brown. Edmonds, 40, has two sons from her 13-year marriage to singer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. As head of Edmonds Entertainment Group Inc., she has produced the film and television series "Soul Food.'' Murphy's film credits include "Dreamgirls," and the "Beverly Hills Cop,'' "The Nutty Professor,'' "Shrek" and "Dr. Doolittle" movies.


TV Season Mirrored Industry's Uncertainty

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vinay Menon

(December 29, 2007) We end without an ending.

From the ambiguous finale of The Sopranos to the woolly chaos unleashed by the Hollywood writers' strike,
television this year was defined by uncertainty.

It was a year of ratings decline, a year with no breakout hit, a year of fear and loathing, a year of shattered expectations, a year without conventional wisdom, a year of cautionary tales, a year under siege, a year of gloomy forecasts, a year without finish.

In short: a year that felt like an eternity.

The questions outnumbered the answers in 2007 as confusion swirled like a typhoon, leaving both fictional characters and real players in a state of suspended animation: inert, bewildered and shivering in the deluge.

On television this fall, the past was murky, the present fraught with anxiety, the future very much in doubt: From an accidental government agent (Chuck) to an unwitting secret weapon (Bionic Woman), from a time-travelling writer (Journeyman) to a retail clerk turned bounty hunter for the Devil (Reaper), from a female amnesiac (Samantha Who?) to a pie-maker who could bring back the dead with a touch of his finger (Pushing Daisies).

People were searching but not finding. Crisp resolution was out, indefinite plotting was in. The medium was adrift.

On television this spring, the mood was often bleak, choked with hopelessness. There were suicide attempts, including A.J. (Robert Iler) on The Sopranos and Edie (Nicollette Sheridan) on Desperate Housewives.

In the season finale of Lost, in which the usual flashbacks were replaced by a flash-forward, even Jack (Matthew Fox) was ready to jump from a bridge. The episode was titled "Through the Looking Glass," an apt description for television itself as it tumbled down the rabbit hole this year.

There was more sex than ever before. But with the racy exception of Henry VIII (The Tudors), the carnal exploits were dark, gloomy and, well, anticlimactic.

Tell Me You Love Me broke new ground for graphic depiction. Alas, the characters were more forlorn than stimulating, their flailing romps tinged with the emotional insecurity of people trapped in uncertain times.

Californication, the best new show of 2007, starred David Duchovny as Hank Moody, a tortured, self-destructive writer who went looking for himself and, along the way, found a series of empty one-night stands. To quote John Lennon: "Everybody's making love and no one really cares."

The uncertainty spilled from bedrooms into boardrooms, as the television industry in Canada realigned with corporate mergers: CHUM and CTV, CanWest and Alliance Atlantis.

It was a year in which outsiders came from prehistoric times (Cavemen) and modern men devolved into whiners (Carpoolers, Big Shots). A year in which casts were retooled (House), mysteries spanned decades (Across the River to Motor City), the suburbs continued to crackle with menace (Durham County) and gangs were still a problem (Dragon Boys).

It was a year in which television targeted cultural understanding (Little Mosque on The Prairie, Aliens in America) and even tried to do some good (Live Earth, Idol Gives Back).

It was a year in which milestones were celebrated (Larry King's 50 years in the business), long runs quietly ebbed (Bob Barker left The Price is Right) and short runs imploded noisily (Rosie O'Donnell left The View).

Live television continued its millennial renaissance. And several moments won't soon be forgotten, including Britney Spears' performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, a surreal mix of slow-motion choreography and the off-key vocals normally associated with alleyway hobos.

Marie Osmond made viewers gasp after a post-samba fainting spell on Dancing with The Stars. Ellen DeGeneres made viewers squirm during a teary breakdown over a confiscated pooch. And Isaiah Washington made viewers cringe after using a homophobic slur at the Golden Globes, months after he denied ever using the word, months before the sordid affair would cost him his job on Grey's Anatomy.

It was a year in which the children were left to fend for themselves (Kid Nation). A year in which talking was occasionally replaced by singing, with mixed results. High School Musical 2 would become the highest-rated cable telecast of all time. By contrast, the dreadful Viva Laughlin would provide a thousand punchlines.

How strange was 2007? Consider this: the satirical rascals started making news of their own, from Rick Mercer landing coveted interviews with Conrad Black and Jean Chrétien, to Stephen Colbert throwing his chapeau in the three-ring circus that is the U.S. presidential race.

It was a year of the never-ending story: Anna Nicole Smith died suddenly but her sordid story lived on for months of tabloid gnashing. Paris Hilton went to jail, was released, was sent back, and eventually released again, ready to face her uncertain future.

After 11 seasons of mostly botched romance on The Bachelor, this year's Casanova, one Brad Womack, picked nobody. Nebulous, vague and heaving with indecision, it was that kind of year.

But for the iconic moment of 2007, we return to the June finale of The Sopranos. As Tony sat with his family inside a diner, a table-top jukebox cranking out Journey's "Don't Stop Believin,'" viewers perched on the edge of their sofa cushions, waiting – no, expecting – something to happen.

Instead, our screens cut to black. No, it wasn't technical difficulties. It was just 2007 and, in this year, there would be no closure.

Biggest Losers Will Come In Pairs

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Margy Rochlin

(December 31, 2007) CALABASAS, Calif. — Of all of the things that Mark Koops, an executive producer on NBC's hit weight-loss competition series The Biggest Loser, has reason to worry about — ratings, scheduling, shooting logistics — coming up with compelling and legitimate storylines strong enough to fill a weekly episode isn't one of them. What Koops has discovered in The Biggest Loser, in which a group of dangerously overweight people work out with fitness experts, learn about diet and exercise, and compete for a $250,000 prize, is that deciding what to follow is the difficult part.

That's especially true early in the season, when tears flow freely and heartbreaking confessions of excess and self-loathing never seem to stop. "The trainers believe that weight gain is a manifestation of other problems," Koops said. "We know that with moderately to morbidly obese people going through massive life transformations we're going to have almost too much story."

This is not to say that The Biggest Loser, which begins its fifth season tomorrow, doesn't also traffic heavily in forced catchphrases, obvious marketing tie-ins and wacky challenges can dampen what is genuinely moving about the show: Seeing confident, happy men and women slowly emerge from their formerly shame-filled, lumpy-bodied and droopy-shouldered selves.

Nonetheless The Biggest Loser, which made its debut in October 2004 and now exists in dozens of international versions, is still a reality game show, and therefore has a vested interested in plot "twists" to augment the natural drama.

This season's spin? Contestants come packaged in twos — husbands and wives, mothers and sons, best friends — and 10 sets of two will weigh in, bunk and train in tandem. Koops said he and the executive producers, J. D. Roth and Dave Broome, hatched the pairs idea during the early stages of last season. That was when a Long Island police officer, Jim Germanakos, was sent home, but his identical twin, a salesman named Bill, was not. The elimination fell on the night before their birthday, which meant, among other things, that for the first time in their lives the Germanakos brothers wouldn't be blowing out candles together.

Suddenly the dramatic possibilities of focusing on contestants with a shared history seemed glaringly apparent. (Bill Germanakos ended up taking home the Season 4 grand prize, while his brother won the weigh-in for a parallel competition in which contestants who had been eliminated continue to lose weight on their own.) While the friction-creating dynamic of duos has already been milked on The Amazing Race, Koops said that on a series that deals with binge-eating out-of-shape Americans, the term "support system" becomes a double-edged sword.

"Normally there's no one else to fight for control with," he said of the previous emphasis on individual struggles. "It's been very interesting for the trainers: How do you train someone when their enabler is there? How do you break some of those bad habits? I think we did anticipate that to a degree, but saw it play out fivefold."

When Koops said this, he was sitting in a campfire area adjacent to a red-tile-roofed dormitory on the scenic 226-hectare King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas, a suburb of Los Angeles, the campus location for The Biggest Loser 5. Nearby was a swimming pool, an outdoor area strewn with equipment known to contestants as "the prison yard" and a traditional. "Jillian is out with her team somewhere," Koops said, gesturing toward the steep hills.

The Jillian Koops is referring to is The Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels, a feisty, muscular brunette and the show's breakout star. Michaels expressed unhappiness with the show's previous season, which created a tangential soap opera out of a rivalry between her and a peppy trainer named Kim Lyons. This season Lyons is gone, but the unfailingly supportive personal trainer Bob Harper remains.

"Ugly" was how Michaels said she characterized the Jillian-versus-Kim subplot to the show's producers. She lobbied to shift the attention from battling mentors to the genuine emotions of people who have abandoned their everyday lives to get healthy. "I just said: 'Your experts have no place in this competition. I hated the way it played, out and I don't think the public likes it either,' Michaels recalled in a telephone interview. (But if the 11.4 million viewers who tuned in to the show's finale are any indication, the subplot didn't drive anyone away.) "What's super-exciting about Season 5," she said, "is you're going to see the trainers unite to help people." Then a note of caution crept into her voice. "But let's see what happens. I don't know how it's going to be edited. I've been disappointed before."

'24, But With A Conscience'

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(January 02, 2008) The latest glimpse into the murky realm
of Canada's border security isn't coming from intelligence leaks or recently unclassified files. It instead comes from a deep love between two filmmakers.

Let's go back a year, to the fall of 2006, when filmmaker
Peter Raymont showed his wife, Lindalee Tracey, the first rushes of the new series The Border, which will finally debut this Monday on CBC Television.

Raymont was beside Tracey's bedside in Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital, holding his laptop. Tracey, 49, was in palliative care, after suffering a reoccurrence of breast cancer that had spread throughout her body.

The footage he played represented years of work for Tracey. The show had been her baby. Five years in development after getting the green light from CBC just after 9/11, the drama about an elite immigration and customs task force was originally conceived as a movie-of-the-week, later as a series as the CBC mulled successive rewrites. Production of the pilot wound up being delayed until late 2006. But Tracey only was able to view the earliest results.

Watching it on the laptop, "I said, 'This looks great.' And she smiled, and that little smile was the last communication she had with anybody. She slipped away a couple of days later, and she never came out of a kind of semi-conscious state," Raymont remembers with a resigned smile.

Depicting the task force as it hunts terrorist cells, smugglers and other kinds of bad guys out to exploit globalization to the hilt, the series’ editing is tight, the dialogue quick and the storylines play off the latest headlines. "We think of it as 24 with a conscience," Raymont says.

The $18-million series is also the CBC's big winter-season hope, with a promotional budget rumoured to be the public network's largest ever for a drama. It has been positioned in the 9 p.m. Monday timeslot to compete head to head against Fox's counterterrorism drama 24. And with producers now delaying 24's seventh season, which was to begin this month, until the U.S. screenwriters' strike ends, the CBC is said to have put even more money into promoting The Border.

During The Border's years of gestation, Tracey and Raymont continued their documentary work, as Raymont still does. His documentary Shake Hands with the Devil on the Rwandan genocide recently won an Emmy Award, while his latest film, A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman, about the formerly exiled Chilean-American writer, is currently long-listed for an Oscar nomination for best documentary. (The Oscar nomination list will be announced Jan. 22.)

Raymont insists his initial contribution to The Border was just his connections at the CBC, although he also went on to executive-produce the episodes after Tracey's death. Along with co-creators Janet Maclean and Jeremy Hole, Raymont helped to develop the show, but Tracey was the creative force, choosing the initial director, writers and cast.

To press this point, Raymont handed out cards to the cast and crew with Tracey's picture on them and an inscription noting that the series was her project. "One of them - Graham Abbey, one of the star actors - said he kept it in his breast pocket all the time.... I think having her spirit and her social conscience, having her with all of us throughout the process, has had an enormous positive effect on the whole project. It's still her project, still her series," Raymont says.

Tracey had followed immigration enforcement and border issues throughout her career, from her National Magazine Award-winning article The Uncounted Canadians written for Toronto Life in 1991 to her 1997 TV documentary Invisible Nation, about the illegal underground community in Toronto hunted down by immigration police. She also collaborated on Raymont's 2002 TVO doc The Undefended Border.

Understanding and helping the dispossessed was central to Tracey's work, Raymont says. But she was also one for warm exuberance. When I met Tracey in 2004 to talk about her documentary at the time about the victims of the massive chemical disaster in Bhopal, India, she started the interview off with a welcoming and unorthodox (for Toronto) big kiss on the cheek. Everything she went on to say about Bhopal carried that same immediacy and forthrightness - and joy in life.

Neither Raymont nor Tracey felt that the long slog of getting the drama onto the small screen was a step down from their documentary-making ideals, Raymont said. For instance, although he was able to investigate immigration policing behind the scenes for The Undefended Border documentary, "I kept getting the sense that we weren't getting in on the real security issue case. Because, you know, they're not going to let us in when they are doing surveillance on groups of people considered a threat to the national security of the country.

"So that's when Lindalee and I started thinking we should really conceive this as a drama, not as a documentary. And I think, having now produced these 13 episodes, we're closer to the truth, closer to reality by making it a drama series than we could have [come] making a documentary," he says.

Still, "I feel myself as being more of an activist than a filmmaker. I make films to try to make the world a better place. And although The Border is very entertaining, fast-paced and should reach a big audience..., at its core, it's about human rights and social justice. So I feel I'm doing the same thing in a different way.... Lindalee and I both saw this as a way of reaching more people, frankly."


Williams To Be First Late Show Guest

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(January 01, 2008)
Robin Williams will be David Letterman's firstguest upon the return of his Late Show on CBS tomorrow. The appearance of a Hollywood A-lister who can talk a mile a minute may be Letterman's way of quickly trying to draw a distinction between his show and his late-night rivals, who are without writers and may also have trouble booking major entertainers as guests. NBC's Tonight show said yesterday that U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee will appear on Jay Leno's first show back tomorrow. Letterman announced Friday that his production company, Worldwide Pants, had reached an agreement to have his show return with writers despite the continuing writers strike, which began Nov. 5.  The deal also allows writers to return to Craig Ferguson's late-night show, also owned by Worldwide Pants.


 Next Stage Fest Having A Fringe Flashback

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

(December 30, 2007) Would you like to make believe it's the summer again?

Well, it's possible, theatrically speaking, when a bit of The Fringe comes back from Jan. 2 through 13 as the
Next Stage Theatre Festival.

Eight plays that have either been Fringe hits in the past, or are being produced by artists with strong previous Fringe connections, will be presented in repertory at both spaces at Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Ave.

The projects range from last year's giant hit, Bash'd! a rapping exploration of homophobia which I called "Brilliant, a show you don't dare miss," to A Quiet Place, Brendan Gall's award-winning study of the deadly mind games that people play with each other.

There's also Dave Carley's smash farce from last summer, Conservatives in Love (about romantic right-wing highjinx in the Art Gallery of Ontario) and UnSpun Theatre's darkly disturbing study of the aftermath of violence, Don't Wake Me.

The intriguing romantic comedy, Random Acts of Love by Bruce Gooch, which the Star's Robert Crew named "Pick of the Fringe" in 2004, will be returning and we'll also be able to see Vancouver's Monster Theatre presenting Jesus Christ: The Lost Years and the local company JSquared Productions with their work, The Corner.

One of the most interesting presentations is bound to be Cathy Elliott's Moving Day. This musical was presented last season at Talk Is Free Theatre in Barrie, but since both its author/star, Elliott, and its director, Jeannette Lambermont-Morey, were veterans of previous Fringe hits, they were allowed to join the hundreds of other people vying for a spot in Next Stage.

"We put together an amazing package," is how Elliott explains their successful tactic, "and they picked it on the merit of the work."

Moving Day is a tour-de-force for Elliott, who plays an alcoholic wife and mother who's been left behind to pack up the house while her husband and kids have gone on ahead.

It's July 20, 1969: the day men first walked on the moon, and their journey is contrasted with that of Elliott's character in a series of songs and scenes, all tied together with what one critic called "the performance of a lifetime" when it played Barrie last year.

Tickets for individual performances are $12 for the afternoon, $15 for the evening, and $25 if you see two shows on the same night.

There's also an $88 pass which allows you to see all eight shows whenever you want.

For information about showtimes, tickets, etc. go to www.nextstagefestival.com or phone 416-966-1062.

Rumour has it there'll even be an outdoor beer tent, just like at the summertime Fringe, but it will be heated.

The tent, that is; not the beer.


Old And New, Great And Grating

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(December 31, 2007) Looking back over 2007, some of the most memorable productions were fusion works, particularly the ones using a cunning tapestry of dance and theatre.

Vaudeville/burlesque also made a comeback in a grand way, exemplified by two fun-filled shows: Harbourfront's racy Spiegeltent at the Luminato Festival, and Buddies in Bad Times's ArtHouse Cabaret, a clever and risqué journey through queer history.

Particularly rich are the new hybrid dance-theatre forms emerging out of the immigrant community, where old-world and new-world experiences meet. Audiences had to look to musicals for comic relief because plays and their uncomfortable topics were clearly a reflection of today's pessimistic zeitgeist.

The most noticeable trend in dance was the virtual drying up of touring companies in Toronto. Only the token large dance companies of Harbourfront's World Stage and the Luminato Festival, and the pitifully few smaller Canadian companies presented by DanceWorks and Dancemakers, remind the city of its former touring glory.

What follows are lists of the five best productions in each of dance-theatre, theatre and dance. The final section is devoted to the nadir of artistic crimes.


• 4D art's Norman: a tribute to Norman McLaren (Toronto/Luminato Festival) was a breathtaking, mixed-media tour de force from Montreal animators Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, who cunningly interwove live dancer/choreographer Peter Trosztmer into McLaren's ground-breaking abstract film images.

• For Goblin Market (Toronto/Equity Showcase), Erin Shields and Maev Beaty, under director Allison Cummings, transformed the repressed sexuality of Christina Rossetti's famous 1859 poem into a palpable and erotic experience.

• Fashioned in director Allyson McMackon's trademark poetic realism, April 14, 1912 (Toronto/Theatre Rusticle) was a poignant homage to both the courage and folly of humankind during the sinking of the Titanic.

• The audience was in tears after Productions des Pieds des Mains' Le Temps des Marguerites … à la folie ou pas du tout! (Montreal/Tangente), by choreographer Menka Nagrani and writer/director Richard Gaulin. They combined three mentally challenged performers with two actors to create a beautifully moving socio-political statement about age, image and identity.

• Germany's Pina Bausch and her Tanztheater Wuppertal (Ottawa/National Arts Centre) presented the disturbing and exasperating Nefès (2003), which means "breath" in Turkish. It was inspired by Istanbul, which the choreographer envisioned as a cynical city of sexual tension.


The unforgettable Aalst (Toronto/Harbourfront), by the Belgian experimental theatre company Victoria, was inspired by the real case of a working-class couple who murdered their two children. The question-and-answer format of the play gave an absolutely terrifying depiction of the banality of evil.

• Director Jackie Maxwell's production of Shaw's Saint Joan (Niagara-on-the-Lake/Shaw Festival) captured both the wit and wisdom of the playwright while highlighting the emotional undercurrents that bind the characters together. As the title character, Tara Rosling, supported by the great Shaw acting ensemble, was perfect in her belligerent innocence.

• Irish playwright Martin McDonagh's gripping The Pillowman (Toronto/CanStage) used the psycho-terrors of fairytales to explore how abused children cope with trauma. Shaun Smyth, as the accused writer-cum-child killer, led a superb cast under the powerful direction of David Ferry.

• Playwright Hannah Moscovitch is the new golden girl of Canadian theatre. Her disturbing The Russian Play (Toronto/Harbourfront) and her harrowing East of Berlin (Toronto/Tarragon) showed off her talents as a brilliant writer of satiric dialogue with a deft hand at character study.

• Theater Basel and Rimini Protokoll (Berlin) presented their wickedly clever Mnemopark (Montreal/Festival TransAmériques), conceived and directed by Stefan Kaegi. Model-train enthusiasts provided the hilarious narration on a trip through a scale-model Switzerland (as imagined by tourists), a journey depicted on a big screen via a tiny video camera on the model engine.


• The stunning performance of Jerome Robbins's devilishly challenging 1983 masterpiece Glass Pieces (Toronto/The National Ballet of Canada) brilliantly captured in movement the composer's distinctive restless rhythms and slowly changing melody lines.

• Matthew Bourne's play without words, Edward Scissorhands (Toronto/Sony Centre), imaginatively paid homage to Tim Burton's 1990 cult movie through a touching portrayal of the sweetness and darkness of the original.

• The enchanting Vida! (Toronto/Mirvish/Luminato Festival), co-created by Lizt Alfonso and Canadian Kelly Robinson, followed the story of a woman through Cuba's turbulent history, and featured gorgeous female dancers backed by a joyous jazz/Afro/Latin score.

• Dallas Black Dance Theatre's performance of Hope Boykin's in.ter.pret (Toronto/International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference Showcase) was a delectable modern-dance spoof of Balanchine's revered ballet Serenade.

• Chengxin's Lumina II (Vancouver/Dancing on the Edge Festival) was a gorgeous piece of sculptured beauty played out as an intriguing struggle between the dancer and the light. Barry Truax composed the evocative Chopinesque score and designed the ravishing lighting.

The worst

• Toronto's Soulpepper presented two execrable productions. Director Leah Cherniak's puppet/live-action spin on Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman was an artistic disaster with the worst acting award going to Martha Ross. In the uneven Brecht/Weill's The Threepenny Opera, director Tim Albery was limited by Soulpepper's mix of veteran actors and members of its training academy that resulted in a bush-league production.

• Tarragon Theatre, also in Toronto, was responsible for Morris Panych's lamentable Benevolence and Morwyn Brebner's deplorable The Pessimist. The former had a soggy Svengali-like plot, while the latter managed to infuse a dying director's life with zombies.

• Brian Bedford's irritating King Lear at the Stratford Festival might have been a fine showcase for the idolized director/actor in the title role, but he forgot to direct anyone else in this colourless production.


All's Well In The CFL, But Just Wait

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Garth Woolsey, Sports Columnist

(December 29, 2007) So, let's face it, the elephant's trunk is in the igloo. Is there room for the rest of it? How long until it wrecks the place, anyway?

Or, is there ample room up here in True Patriot Love country for football of both North American professional varieties, the Canadian and the State-side, the three-down and the four, the
CFL and the NFL?

Those questions were being asked long before the Buffalo Bills got all aggressive and possessive and decided they'd stake a claim to Toronto and southern Ontario. Already home to the only non-U.S. franchises in the NBA and Major League Baseball, T.O. has resident moneyed interests who would snap up an NFL franchise faster than you could say ... "How m-m-m-m-any zeroes?"

Guaranteed, if we caught a ride on the NFL marketing rocket, the fans and the money and whoo-ha would follow. This is the largest market north of the Mexican border lacking the cachet of the NFL, save for Los Angeles, which has developed an immunity to NFL fever. They just watch on TV out there, like most Canadians.

In fact, Canadians see plenty of "our" football, live and otherwise. Average CFL attendance in 2007 topped 29,000, highest since 1983, and the Grey Cup in Toronto was a roaring success – even if many local residents barely knew it was going on (such is life in multi-tasking Millerville). TV ratings for the league far outstrip numbers for Canadian viewership of the NFL.

Still, the aforementioned elephant is enormous, relentless, voracious, odiferous, etc., and CFL commissioner Mark Cohon acknowledged the obvious during Grey Cup week. The son of McDonalds Canada founder George Cohon, a former employee of both the NBA and MLB, a tuned-in 21st-century kind of a guy, Cohon said: "I'm not sticking my head in the sand that would be the worst thing for the CFL commissioner to do. So I think there's a real potential (for the NFL in Toronto)."

How could the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats survive such an eventuality, let alone prosper? The CFL in general?

"I'm not going to preside over a league that has a Grey Cup just out west," said Cohon (coincidentally, this season's final came down to a pair of prairie teams). "That's not what I was hired to do. Any type of relationship that we (the CFL and NFL) have has to make sure that the eight existing franchises are strong, growing and healthy. I think southern Ontario is critical to this league and I'll make sure I protect it and grow it."

Such is the challenge for '08 and beyond – finding some formula for more intimate co-existence. The Bills already have approval for eight games in Toronto, three exhibition and five regular season, over five years. That happens also to be the length of Cohon's mandate, five years. As a condition of employment he insisted the CFL governors give him unanimous approval along with the lengthy contract, knowing full well that few of his predecessors have enjoyed much stability since the 17-year reign of Jake Gaudaur, ending in 1985 (Gaudaur died this year at age 87).

The CFL, in some form or other, will survive NFL incursions. A game at Mosaic Stadium in Regina has much to recommend it when compared, say, to one at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. The NFL is different than, not necessarily better than. Betting the Sunday ticket is a big part of the interest in the NFL, too.

The world – hard for some to believe – does not end at the outer edges of the GTA; out there, for the most part, Canadian football rules rule.

The CFL has survived its own ill-advised, short-lived expansion into the U.S., overcome fly-by-night owners and weathered harsh economic storms. The dollar is strong, Canadians are feeling good about themselves.

Well, for now, anyway.


Merger Madness Signals Upheaval

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(December 28, 2007) This was the year when big got much bigger. Through mergers and acquisitions, Canada’s media landscape erupted with changes of seismic proportions, with a Toronto media icon forever transformed. ChumCity was torn apart with CTVGlobemedia and Rogers splitting the up the local born and bred empire that used to be “everywhere.” CanWest’s acquisition of Alliance Atlantis was equally as big, with possible far reaching effects still to come.

At this stage of the game are, the ever-shrinking number of giant companies controlling this countries media are acting like chess players preparing the board for the battle to come. Despite all these big purchases, viewers probably haven’t noticed much change because it really hasn’t happened yet. Behind the scenes, there are plenty of moves being made that will have ramifications long after this year comes to an end.

The ChumCity custody battle

Many employees have described the current state of morale at 299 Queen St. W. as a divorce between two bitter, competitive parents, CTV and Rogers, with the rank-and-file workers as the kids caught in the middle. ChumCity was a lean company where cross-pollination and sharing of resources were part of the DNA. The weird thing about the split – Rogers getting Citytv and four other stations across the country, while CTV has swallowed the specialty channels like CP24, MuchMusic, Bravo and Star! – is that the competitors are currently residing in the same building. Word is that there is much bitterness behind the scenes between the rival management teams, while the employees aren't looking forward to the day when their former colleagues move out. There has been some restructuring – with at least 20 employees let go – but the big changes will come when Rogers sets up shop at the former Olympic Spirit building at Yonge and Dundas Sts. next year.

Biggest local media controversy

ChumCity employees have been twisting in the wind ever since the company was put up for sale last year. There was word of a few reporter meltdowns, including one anchor walking off a lunch-hour newscast. But the most interesting – and telling – incident was the Kathryn Humphreys debacle:

Nov. 7: The morning after the popular sports anchor last appeared on the 11 p.m. newscast, word spread that she had abruptly left Citytv. Stephen Hurlbut, national vice-president of news, tell the Star: "She's a talented and uniquely gifted woman. We would have loved to be able to continue with her for another 10 years. There was a situation where perhaps what we have here at Citytv isn't big enough or broad enough for the aspirations that she has."

Nov. 14: Hurlbut, a 30-year City veteran, leaves the company. Rumour has it that it has to do with the way the Humphreys departure was handled. A posting about the firing hits Blogto.com and quickly garners the most comments on the site in months.

Dec. 10: Humphreys is back with the station. Rogers' only response is they "don't comment on personnel matters," but the real eye-opener is the online comment thread, which reveals a bitter environment within City's newsroom. As one current staffer notes: "Can you imagine the Rogers executives reading this and thinking, `What kind of a hornet's nest have we bought?'"

Rogers' big move

The Olympic Spirit building just off Yonge-Dundas Square is where the next chapter of Citytv's story will be written and told. It's fitting that anchor Gord Martineau helped orchestrate the move. After the Rogers purchase, there were rumours that the new owners might shoehorn Citytv into one of their existing campuses. But to keep the innovative, urban, scrappy spirit Citytv has been known for, Martineau used his influence to find an appropriate home. He knew the Olympic Spirit building was empty and made some inquiries. Then he went straight to the top.

"I phoned (Rogers CEO) Ted Rogers and I left him a message and I laid it on pretty thick," says Martineau. "I said: `Ted, I understand corporately why it makes sense to have everybody in one house, but artistically, we have to be somewhere else because it's Citytv. It's not just another corporate entity and it has to be downtown. The city is our newsroom.'"

Construction work is underway, but employees think it will be at least the middle of 2008 before the building is ready.

The big question for Rogers is how it will grow the Citytv brand, or whether it will even keep it going. Rogers has often grown by merger and rarely let entities remain separate for long. Even with five Citytv stations across the country, it is nowhere near a national network. Analysts say this will hurt the company when it goes to U.S. studios to buy shows, which is the only way Rogers can truly compete with Global and CTV. The company has already said it expects to lose $50 million over the next three years.

Going to the Web

Just as the year comes to a close, there have been some interesting movements on the new-media front.

Two years after Apple launched the sale of television shows in the U.S. through iTunes, CTV has brokered a deal to begin selling similar content in Canada.

Xbox Live also recently announced it will make movies available for download through its consoles.

In the case of CanWest's purchase of Alliance Atlantis, the specialty channels were obviously the prize, but the acquisition also bolsters the company's Web presence.

Stations like Showcase had already embraced the streaming of shows, and this can only bolster CanWest's future new-media plans.

One exec describes former CanWest Interactive as "a dog's breakfast."

Since news of the merger, many Alliance executives have received promotions to handle Web responsibilities for the parent company.

Branding takeovers

It was only in March of 2006 that CTV announced the splashy launch of MTV Canada and built a studio at the Masonic Temple to compete with ChumCity's MuchMusic. The move was initially perceived as a way to keep popular American MTV fare like Laguna Beach and The Hills off its rival, but a year-and-a-half later, both stations are now under the same corporate umbrella. Brad Schwartz – a Canadian who was lured back from the U.S. to run MTV here – is now in charge of both stations, with David Kines, the head of Much, now reporting to him. Both men say little is going to change, with both stations continuing as separate entities.

"(MuchMusic) is a powerhouse brand. Two years ago it won the award for the best brand in Canada. I mean I grew up on the Much brand and in Canada, there is no better brand with the youth demographic," says Schwartz. "Besides, the licences alone make them completely separate."

MTV Canada is the former TalkTV – a talk-show licence doesn't allow it to play music videos – as opposed to Much, which has a music-station licence. Even though the stations will be run independently, Schwartz suggests there is a possibility that they might eventually be housed in the same building, if it makes fiscal sense. But the cross-pollination is already beginning. Just last week, MuchMusic announced it would be airing MTV's New Year's Eve Masquerade show.

These are the type of changes that viewers see, although whether they care is the question. So far, one of the few issues that actually got a rise out of the public – well, a Facebook group or two at the very least – is the question of what would happen to the iconic Citytv truck busting out of the side of the Citytv building.

For now, it's staying, but it has already been rebranded with CP24 decals.

CanWest's foreign ownership gambit

CanWest's acquisition of Alliance Atlantis was fuelled by the desire to get AA's specialty channels, an area the media giant had thus far neglected. CanWest partnered with New York investment bank Goldman Sachs to heavily finance the deal, which some believe might be skirting Canadian foreign ownership rules (there is a 20 per cent limit on the portion of Canadian media companies foreign companies can own).

Goldman Sachs is putting up two-thirds of the money in the deal but is only getting a third of the voting shares. Initially CanWest is going to have a 29 per cent stake of AA's specialty channels, which will increase to majority ownership by 2011 when the broadcast businesses are fully merged. To many observers, though, CanWest has to do extremely well to live up to its end of the bargain.

"After reading what we could of the deal, we were left with the conclusion that if CanWest doesn't play its cards right, or certain things don't happen ... and it doesn't do well versus CTV, we could see CanWest losing its shirt over this," says Ian Morrison, head of advocacy group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. "It actually put us in a situation where in the worst case scenario here, we think the Aspers could lose CanWest. And we want CanWest here as a strong Canadian television entity because we don't want just CTV as the single player in this country."

Financial analysts have said that CanWest has to make some significant gains to live up to the deal and the fear is that if it under-performs, Goldman Sachs might force it to sell off assets to pay off its end of the deal.

There had been speculation that the CRTC might force Global's hand and ask it to put up more of its own money to take a larger percentage, but last week the CRTC approved the deal as is.

Canadian Artists Making More Waves

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Goddard

(December 29, 2007) A defining moment in the Canadian visual art market came last month when Prototype for New Understanding #5, the hand-sewn sneaker mask by Brian Jungen, went for $163,500 at the Sotheby's auction in Toronto to an unknown New York buyer. It was about five times the predicted sales price for the work from the British Columbia artist.

Remember, this is the art market – not Canadian art. But if there's a theme this year, it's the sound of money. Sotheby's only provided further proof that the market value for contemporary Canadian art – Prototype deconstructs Air Jordan runners– had gained some traction in the money-drenched international art markets, seemingly untouched despite the cratering of the American sub-prime mortgage market and massive financial write-offs.

This means diddly squat to the immediate prospects of the 99.9 per cent of Queen St. W. artists who can't live on the art they're making, forcing a number of them to head south to broaden their market recognition. "Only about one in 100 artists" survive on the work they make, says painter Kim Dorland, one who does.

Still, there were enough Canadian artists who had an exciting enough year to take your mind temporarily away from the subject of money: the Quebec troika BGL (Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère and Nicolas Laverdière), Laura Kikauka, David Altmejd, Kristan Horton, Cheryl Sourkes, Luis Jacob and Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky.

Contemporary art rules.

Last year, contemporary art sales among the major auction houses amounted to some $452 million while the sales of Impressionist work – market leaders for decades – totalled around $496 million. Yet the contemporary sales reflected a robust rise of $286 million over the previous year, while the rise in Impressionist sales amounted to only some $61 million.

This was not just the inevitable by-product of the increasing scarcity of Impressionist and old masters work, although that does play into it. Contemporary art's clout came by way of the authority exercised by a closely connected group of like-minded artists, curators, buyers and sellers and dealers.

Supported by the interconnectedness provided by the Internet, YouTube and Facebook, they're partners in contemporary art's increasingly global reach that includes new artists and buyers from China, Russia and the Middle East.

They know where the contemporary market is going because they're driving it.

Knowledge is the new chic in art. You got it; you flaunt it. It's about knowing who's hot, who's making the right career moves and whose work is framed by the right theory and appropriate discourse. Hanging out with rock stars is old hat. Not even Bono does that anymore. Today's hedge fund gazillionaires show up at all the right gallery openings and make the rounds of the art fair circuit.

"Taste has become a cheap high," writes critic Jerry Saltz in a recent New York magazine piece that asked the question: "Is Money Killing Art?" But sometimes the euphoria feels like panic. "Everyone is so scared of missing out on the next hot artist that it's never clear whether people are liking work because they like it or because other people do," Saltz suggests.

Being hip brings prestige, once the say-so of only the most conservative factions. Prestige was once conferred on artists and patrons by formal institutions such as the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in France.

The academy was an exclusive club, run by insiders who determined who got in and what sort of art should be made. By the beginning of the 19th century more than 100 academies were found throughout Europe.

These academies are long gone, blown off by the Romantic and Impressionist painters. But contemporary art has brought back some of the academies' former prestige.

Members in the new academy – the connected contemporary academy – have more than power. They get to enjoy the perks their privilege bestows on them. They get noticed in the growing number of art magazines, some fatter than old Eaton's catalogues, each with its sexy cover. They work the art biennales and art fairs, must-haves for any city with world-class aspirations. They draw the crowds. The Venice Biennale broke attendance records this year. The Washington Post described the recent Art Basel Miami Beach as "Artzilla. Baselrama. An art swap for people who own islands."

And yes, they're creating utterly false markets in some cases. Yet, there's an upside in such an enormous display of like-mindedness. It's produced shared foresight, bringing new prominence and authority to formerly fringe practices (installation art, video/DVD or conceptual-performance).

It's restoring prominence to careers being overlooked at the moment. Michael Snow is a great example. His early film and video work is being rediscovered by a young generation of curators and museum directors. It's helping to rewrite art history as today's emerging art stars make new cases for forgotten mentors.

The new academy's interest in new media- and technological-driven practices is creating new synergies for art. The continuing importance of film and video art will align it with commercial filmmaking suggests Alanna Heiss head of P.S.1 Contemporary Art Centre in New York in last month's Art News.

That time might already be here – witness Doug Aitken's Sleepwalkers, the building-size DVD projection featuring Donald Sutherland on MoMA's wall earlier this year.

So why stop now? If contemporary art has the authority to command Hollywood-style money, as it does now, why should it not become part of the new Hollywood? Why not take it over entirely?

It'd look better that way.

Bestsellers And Agents Of Change

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(December 28, 2007) ‘It was the year of the Beatles / It was the year of the Stones . . .” Actually, no. With apologies to Paul Simon, it was the year J.K. Rowling published the seventh and final instalment of her phenomenally popular Harry Potter series of novels, and post-publication outed one of its most beloved characters, Albus Dumbledore. It was the year Australian writer Rhonda Byrne's The Secret, a largely unheralded self-help book, came to dominate the North American non-fiction bestseller lists; when veteran Canadian author Elizabeth Hay got to take home the $40,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel Late Nights on Air; and when another seasoned vet, 65-year-old Don McKay, won the $50,000 Griffin Canadian Poetry Prize.

In any other 12-month span, such successes would have had pride of place in the year-end survey of highlights for the Canadian book industry. But 2007 was not an annus mediocris, or, to be more precise, its final six months were not, “thanks” to the rapid ascent in the value of the Canadian loonie relative to the U.S. greenback.

Previously, when the Canadian dollar was worth, say, 75 cents (U.S.), book buyers here grudgingly tolerated the 20-to 40-per-cent difference between the American price for a novel originating in the United States and the retail cost of the same book imported into Canada. But as the Canadian dollar climbed in value and eventually overtook its U.S. counterpart – in early November it briefly rose to $1.10 – bleats were heard from consumers about the wide discrepancies between the suggested Canadian and U.S. prices printed on the dust jackets of the imports.

“In short order, the big theme within the industry was all about pricing,” one publishing maven recently observed. “You couldn't talk to a bookseller or publisher without suddenly becoming a currency trader.”

(Rankings are built from the BookNet Canada SalesData aggregate which does not include online sales or pre-sales)
1. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (Simon & Schuster)
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling (Raincoast Books)
3. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards (Penguin Group [Canada])
4. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (Penguin Group [Canada])
5. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini (Penguin Group [Canada])


1. Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, by Vincent Lam (Doubleday Canada)
2. The Birth House, Ami McKay (Knopf Canada)
3. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell (Little Brown & Co.; first published in 2005)
4. Love You Forever, Robert Munsch (Firefly Books; first published in 1986)
5. Lullabies for Little Criminals, Heather O’Neill (HarperCollins Canada)
Source: BookNet Canada, December, 2007

-- James Adams

Even federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty got in on the issue in late October when he complained at a news conference that he had to pay $36 to an Ottawa retailer for his copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when that same title (but not the same book: The Canadian edition was published by Vancouver-based Raincoast Books in partnership with Britain's Bloomsbury, whereas the U.S. edition originated with Scholastic) could be had for $26.74 south of the border.

Publishing and retail organizations tried to explain the discrepancies – “Book prices are set six months to a year before that book arrives in stores;” “Book prices have been coming down and will come down even more. Just wait;” and “The Canadian market is only one-10th the size of the market in the U.S. and as such America has better economies of scale.”

But this didn't quell what came to be dubbed “book rage” as reports circulated in the media of irate customers hurling tomes at bookstore staff.

(The staff could blow it back, verbally at least, with similar gusto. Said one Indigo employee on Facebook: “What [bleeping] world do you think you live in where you can go into a place of business, demand to pay the price charged in a foreign country, insist the company sell you a product for less than it paid for it, verbally abuse the staff, then buy it anyway because guess what? YOU WANT IT.”)

By mid-November, notes Michael Tamblyn, president of BookNet Canada, the country's pre-eminent sales tracker, “publishers and retailers were experimenting in earnest in different ways to maintain the attention of consumers.” The fear (and motivation), of course, was that as the crucial Christmas season drew nigh, Canucks would bypass the True North's retail regime entirely to engage in massive cross-border shopping or to place orders for books directly from U.S. suppliers via the Internet.

As of this week, the patchwork quilt of pricing gambits adopted by individual publishers and booksellers along with the cooling-down of the Canadian dollar (in recent days it hovered around par) seem to have had a calming effect. The expectation is that Canadians likely will have bought as many books as they did in previous Christmas seasons; however, publishers, wholesalers and retailers will probably notice a drop in their 2008 revenue relative to 2007 as a result of their price-cutting on U.S.-originated titles. A clearer picture will only emerge in February or March, once stores return to publishers the leftover inventory from the Christmas rush.

Another topic that generated considerable conversation this year pertained to the spectre of digital publishing. Much of the chatter revolved around Amazon.com's introduction last month of the Kindle, a wireless, handheld electronic reading device with adjustable font controls, massive storage capability and access to 90,000 digitized titles (with front-list “books” selling for about $10 each). There have, of course, been e-books before – most notably the Sony Reader, introduced in 2006 – but consumers complained about the early models' readability, clunkiness and the inconvenience of having to download first onto a computer, then transfer the content to the e-book.

Still, there's this feeling that, sooner rather than later, something like the Kindle is going to make a considerable dent in the paper-and-ink book market. The battle, initially, is going to be fought mostly in the U.S. (Sony Reader and Kindle are for sale only in that country). Canada, with its more modest and thinly distributed market, “is more or less out of the discussion for the time being,” notes BookNet's Tamblyn, adding: “But it's still on the mind of most publishers in the Canadian market. How will we respond to a change in the way people read and a change in the way content is delivered? [The Kindle] is part of a constant drumbeat of both innovation and speculation about what the future might look like.”

If the e-book does become more user-friendly and popular, it will entirely change how the reading business functions. Publishers will have to pore through authors' contracts to determine what electronic rights they have or may want to get. A company like Amazon will have to deal simultaneously with print-and-ink publishers like Random House of Canada and electronic networks like Bell Canada and Telus. Lawyers will squabble over copyright regimes. Warehouses will shrink. Indigo Books and Music will have to ponder how many of its roughly 270 stores should be either closed or “repurposed.” Will there be a role for advertisers in keeping the cost of e-texts down?

These scenarios likely won't be entertained for another three or four years. In the meantime, a conventional publisher like Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada, can take justifiable pride in the sales success of one of its “conventional” books, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures. That collection of 12 linked short stories, by Toronto emergency-room physician Vincent Lam, was ranked as the top-selling Canadian-authored title of 2007 by BookNet this week. According to Doubleday's calculations, the book sold more than 100,000 copies in Canada in 2007.

What makes the feat particularly impressive is that Lam's book, his first, has been in stores for almost two years. It was originally published as a $29.95 hardcover in January, 2006, and then, after being named to the Scotiabank Giller Prize long list that September, Doubleday wisely decided to reissue it as an affordable ($17.95) trade paperback under its Anchor imprint. Sales grew and then really took off in November once Bloodletting took last year's Giller, totalling about 120,000 copies by the end of 2006.

Meanwhile, in April, Life of Pi creator Yann Martel began his gambit of sending Prime Minister Stephen Harper a free book every two weeks to encourage the PM to find “stillness” in his busy schedule and, with it, an appreciation of the arts. By year's end the Prime Minister's Office had a pretty good collection on its hands – 21 titles, including three illustrated books, The Brothers Lionheart, Imagine a Day and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick that Martel sent on Christmas Eve.

This Year In Video Games Was Music To Our Ears

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star

(December 29, 2007) Video game fans couldn't have asked for a better year, whether they're into story-driven sci-fi quests (Mass Effect, BioShock), online shoot-em-up matches against friends (Call of Duty 4, Team Fortress 2) or wild adventures with memorable characters (Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Assassin's Creed).

If you're not "into" games, however, you wouldn't know a Warthog isn't an enemy character in Halo 3 – it's a vehicle.

But 2007 won't go down in video-game history as a year for hardcore players. Instead, one of the most groundbreaking trends to surface in the multi-billion dollar interactive entertainment industry – and one that doesn't leave anyone out of the fun – is the "music game" phenomenon, popularized by the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games.

Rather than settling for embarrassing karaoke bars or wearing a tennis racket in front of the mirror, wannabe rock stars have turned to these interactive band simulators, where players plug a guitar-shaped controller into a console and strum along to rock's greatest hits from yesterday and today.

In case you've never played one of these music games, in front of the animated band performing onstage is a huge guitar neck with coloured notes that fly down toward a horizontal bar; when a note reaches this point, such as yellow or blue or both green and red together, the player must press the corresponding coloured button on the guitar controller (and strum at the same time). If you play well, you amass points and the crowd cheers you on, and you'll unlock new songs and play bigger venues. Hit too many sour notes and you're booed offstage. Cutthroat? Sure, but hey, that's showbiz.

The latest in the series is Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock ($89.99), with songs that range from classics like The Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black" to newer hits like The Strokes' "Reptilia," plus you can also challenge friends or in-game guitar gods to head-to-head "battle" modes, the latter of which includes virtual versions of Slash (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver) and Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave).

And if you can find one, which is proving as difficult as locating a Nintendo Wii console this holiday season, MTV Games' Rock Band bundle ($169.99) builds on the Guitar Hero concept by adding a collapsible drum kit and microphone along with the guitar (which can also be used as a bass), so you and your friends can jam in front of your television or over the Internet in real-time. Also included in the box is a headset microphone (to chat hands-free with online bandmates) and a 4-in-1 USB hub to connect multiple "instruments" to the game console at the same time. Rock Band also offers virtually unlimited playability since you can also download additional songs or even complete albums.

These games have succeeded where many other genres have failed – to break down the barrier between hardcore and casual gamers, not to mention catering to both young and old, and male and female. Heck, they're those rare games that are as much fun to watch as it is to participate. As such, these entertaining music games are very much a social experience, best played with a group of people rather than by yourself. Consider it a new way to spend a night in with friends – though many bars have caught onto the craze and have begun hosting Guitar Hero and Rock Band open-mic nights.

Hey, not only are these simulators the closest to rock stardom the majority of us will ever get a taste of, but it's the best thing to happen to the video game industry for broadening its appeal to virtually everyone, regardless of gaming experience, gender or age, and promotes collaboration instead of isolation. And for that, it deserves a standing ovation.

Rise Of The Hollywood Bad Girl

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(December 31, 2007) From the moment Britney Spears grabbed the buzzer at Esther's Hair Salon last February, suddenly sporting the look of a U.S. Navy Seal, it was clear the troubled pop star was priming for one hell of a year.

The former Mouseketeer careened from one tabloid spectacle to another – panty-less photographs, rehab, a feud with her mom, a bitter child-custody battle with former husband Kevin Federline, and a Video Music Awards performance that was a worldwide joke.

In 2007, Spears was the penultimate Hollywood bad girl – but she was hardly alone. A slew of privileged, gorgeous, famous young women drank and partied like sailors, bumping the guys from the mug-shot queue, and racking up a record number of DUIs, cocaine possession charges and jail time.

Who can forget expertly coiffed Kathy Hilton wailing as her daughter, Paris, was cuffed and put behind bars? Lindsay Lohan's alcohol/coke-fuelled car chases? And the seemingly reformed (and pregnant) Nicole Richie's stint in the slammer for driving under the influence?

The trend continued to the end of the year: On Thursday, 21-year-old actress Mischa Barton was arrested for investigation of driving under the influence of alcohol and possessing marijuana after being stopped by police in West Hollywood. Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said the former star of The O.C., who was recently in Regina filming the movie Walled In, was straddling two lanes of traffic and failed to signal while making a turn.

These days, Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack and Robert Downey's Brat Pack couldn't hold a candle to the soused antics pulled by the so-called Britney Pack, a constant source of filler for the scandal sheets and gossip shows. All of which begs the question, what's behind the 2007 implosion of these famous young women?

Gayl Murphy, a celebrity interviewer in Los Angeles who has written a book on how stars should deal with the press, believes the rise of the Hollywood bad girl is directly linked to their ever-increasing prominence, power and prestige in Tinseltown and beyond.

Never before, Murphy points out, have women wielded so much clout and earned so much money, surrounding themselves with handlers and hangers-on who manage everything from film/music/TV careers, clothing and perfume lines, endorsement deals, and paid cameo appearances.

“Girls have never acted this badly,” says Murphy, whose 2002 book was called Interview Tactics: How to Survive the Media Without Getting Clobbered. “But let's face it, 10 years ago we didn't have three girls like Lindsay, Britney and Paris in such powerful positions. You had Madonna, but who else did you really have? Women weren't multitasking so much. These girls are running empires.”

Add to that the fact that most magazine editors would rather have a front page photo of a tousled, bleary-eyed young woman being hauled away by the cops than a pot-bellied, middle-aged man (think Mel Gibson) and it's not hard to figure out why the paparazzi – who are all about the almighty dollar – hound these girls day and night.

“Kiefer Sutherland's trip to serve a 48-day DUI sentence in California's Glendale City Jail barely stayed in the news for 24 hours,” Murphy says. “Girls make better copy because they look better. Papers and tabloids would rather have a hot, little mommy on the front than a guy who hasn't shaved for three days and looks like a bum.”

There is also a novelty factor to watching someone like a Britney (whose 16-year-old actress sister, Jamie-Lynn, stunned fans when she recently revealed she was pregnant) careen out of control in a manner that, until recently, was the domain of substance-abusing men. Now the media – and fans – can't seem to get enough footage of these beautiful women, high on whatever, crashing cars and speeding through red lights.

“There's a sexist element at work here in this gender shift,” says Mark Young, a professor who specializes in the psychology of celebrity and pop culture at the Marshall School of Business in southern California.

“Throughout history, going back to Aphrodite and the Greeks, society has always deified women more than men. We build them up to huge heights – and when they falter or make mistakes – we love to tear them down. Typically, with far more zeal than we do most men.”

Stephen Duncombe, an associate professor specializing in the history and politics of media and culture at the Gallatin School of New York University, agrees society craves evidence of public celebrity breakdowns.

“This is our modern Greek chorus, if you like. These celebrities are our Greek gods. We revere them – but when they have a mental breakdown or misstep, we revile them.

"We have an ambivalent relationship to stars. On one hand, we love these people. We think they're better than us. But when their veneer slips we realize, hey, wait a second. They're not better than us. And we tear them to shreds,” he says, citing the mug shot of a dazed Lohan, caught by the cops with cocaine in her pocket, which made front pages around the world.

Murphy notes that the explosion of new media – cellphone cameras, the proliferation of celebrity magazines, websites such as PerezHilton and TMZ – mean that the public's insatiable appetite for 24-hour celebrity news is constantly fed. When Spears ran over a TMZ.com photographer's foot in October, the video quickly found its way online and was almost instantly picked up by news outlets around the globe.

Unlike in years past when studios protected their stars from the whiff of any scandal, today's celebrities are hounded by prying paparazzi who seem to lurk in every nook and cranny, and who, with a click of a mouse, transmit the smallest incident to news outlets/Internet sites around the world.

“As individuals, we also have a much shorter attention span than we used to,” Duncombe says. “Lots of people log onto Perez, for instance, 20-30 times a day to get minute-by-minute updates on celebrity spottings. It's like an addiction. These sites take you away from your own problems, and make you feel better about yourself because you often get to see someone else who is very messed up.”

As for the psychological/emotional causes behind the self-destructive bent of many of these young starlets, Young has a theory: He's convinced it's because they all must share a history of some kind of emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

Young, who co-published a 2006 paper entitled Narcissism and Celebrity with U.S. syndicated call-in radio host Drew Pinsky (it gained worldwide attention), says “it's very clear a large percentage of celebrities have had some significant childhood trauma in their background.

“That trauma usually occurs at a very young age, often before 2. The child grows up thinking they were bad, because if they'd been good, they wouldn't have been treated that way,” says Young, who signed a HarperCollins book contract three months ago to write a book with Pinsky on celebrity narcissism.

“They spend their lives trying to think of ways to please others, including their parents. To please others they develop this other image, an image of who they think they should be for others to love them. This is how narcissism develops, almost through a notion of self-hatred, early on, that manifests itself in behaviour that seeks attention constantly. Then it becomes all about them. And they get addicted to being in the public eye. It's a fix they can't live without.”

Duncombe agrees that the child-stars' upbringings often contribute to identity issues. He says he once taught a Mouseketeer, a poor country girl, who grew up in the limelight from age 12.

“Now she's a star, and her identity has been transformed two or three times. I'm not a psychologist,” he adds, “but you don't have to be one, to figure out when you have your identity manufactured since early adolescence, it's not surprising you wake up one day and suddenly go, ‘Who the hell am I?' ”

Murphy notes that Lohan (who seems to be on the rehab mend) and Spears (clearly not) both come from divorced parents and “domineering mothers who fancy themselves as idol makers and the designers of great careers.”

“Part of that is true,” she says. “But what has gone missing in these young women's lives is the humanity and social skills. They're told they're great over and over. And that's where you get into trouble and where you hit the wall. Because nobody is perfect.

“The paparazzi are vultures and vampires, and I don't feel sorry for the ones that have had their toes crushed. But it's almost impossible for these girls to ask themselves what they want, when they don't know what they want. Spears wanted to be a mother. She spends time with her kids, but doesn't interact with them. The desire is there, but the execution is non-existent. She has nothing to mime. Nothing to mimic.”

Celebrity watching as an “obsessive sport” is something that Young blames on the fact that society has lost faith in its leaders.

“People are seeking role models out there. They want someone to believe in. If it's not our religious leaders or our government, then who's next? It's celebrity because we're bombarded by it, more than anything.

“It's the public demand for celebrity news that fuels the paparazzi, that fuels the bad behaviour on the paparazzi's part. The bad behaviour drives the celebrities insane and often leads to them driving recklessly or punching out photographers,” says Young. “In a way, you can't blame them for doing that. But the average person often does blame the star, and says, hey, that's the price of celebrity.

“But the reality is that it's all of us as a collective fuelling this behaviour. And it's a sad indication of what society has devolved into.”


The 8 Secrets of Fat Loss

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

I know the last thing on earth you want to look like is a bodybuilder. You’re not interested in gaining a lot of muscle mass and you certainly don’t want to feel or look bulky. However, bodybuilders have mastered the art of physique transformation -- and there is a lot that can be applied to anyone who wants to lose fat.

Just about everyone who begins a fitness or fat-loss program wants to look good. That’s the goal. Yes, they want to be healthier and they want more energy -- but most polls taken on the subject conclusively show that people want to look good in and out of clothes.

I have been competing as a drug-free bodybuilder for a number of years and have learned a lot about reducing my body fat to extremely low levels, retaining muscle and manipulating workouts to my advantage.

I’ve use the same basic protocol for my clients. However, I never refer to it as a bodybuilding program. That would only serve to stereotype what I’m attempting to do. Let’s face it, if a woman comes to me for personal training help and needs to lose 65 pounds, it’s not in my best interest to tell her I’m going to train her like a bodybuilder -- she’d be out the door in 2 seconds flat.

All things of value can be scaled to fit the goal, including bodybuilding concepts. Think about it for a moment. Forget the traditional way that you view the term “bodybuilding” and think of it more as a method of physical transformation.

Now that your mind is open, I want to share some tips that bodybuilders use to get lean and fit. These tips can help you to really get the best-looking body possible. No one will ever ask if you’re a bodybuilder, but they will admire your tight and lean look.

1. Control Blood Sugar -- There is an old saying that bodybuilding success is 80-percent nutrition. Frankly, I’m not sure what the percentage actually is (no one does). However, every bodybuilder realizes that it all begins with nutrition. If you don’t have your nutrition program “dialed in,” you will not achieve success. It doesn’t matter how hard or how long you workout. This applies to everyone who starts a diet and fitness program. That being said, every bodybuilders goal is to control blood sugar. Controlling blood sugar levels helps to shed fat. This is accomplished by taking in some protein, carbohydrates and good fats spread evenly through the day every two to three hours.

A sample meal schedule might look something like this:

6:30 Breakfast
9:30 Snack
12:30 Lunch
3:30 Snack
6:00 Dinner
9:00 Small Snack

This method will have a profound impact on fat loss.

2. Calories Count -- When the most successful bodybuilders prepare to get very lean for a show, their goal is to eat as much as possible while still losing fat. For example, if I can get you to lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week on 1,400 calories per day, I’m on track. If I try to accelerate the process and lower your calories to 1,200, I sabotage your efforts. Anything more than a 2-pound loss per week will strip muscle tissue and give one a soft look.

A good example is the person who goes on a crash diet and ends up thin but still soft and flabby when they get to their goal weight. This takes place because they lost not only fat, but also valuable muscle. They lowered calories too much, lost too fast and did not try to eat the optimal amount of calories for fat loss.

Still don’t think the correct amount of calories matter?

I receive many e-mails from people who have been on low-calorie diets. Many complain that after four to five weeks of weight loss, they hit a sticking point.

Why does this happen? The T3 (thyroid hormone) and body temperature are reduced. It's subtle and you may not realize that body temperature is reduced, but that will slow down the speed of the metabolism. To avoid this slow down, a slight increase in calories is essential. This helps to increase and optimize thyroid levels.

I'm not suggesting everyone should increase calories if they hit a sticking point. In many cases, some people aren't being consistent, or their diet isn't as low calorie as they think.

If and when a bodybuilder experiences this type of sticking point based on calories being too low for too long of a period, they’ll increase daily calories or even bump up calories every fourth day by 300 to 400 (this is referred to as calorie cycling).

Again, eat the optimal amount of food to lose fat.

3. Eat Breakfast -- A balanced breakfast comprised of carbohydrates, protein, and a little fat is a critical start to the day. The point of consuming breakfast is that it "breaks" the "fast" from an overnight sleep. In addition, breakfast will rev up the metabolism for the rest of the day. You won’t find a bodybuilder on the planet that skips breakfast. This is your first opportunity of the day to get blood sugar back to a balanced state after the all night fast and is critical for sustaining fat loss.

4. Ratios count! A calorie is not a calorie -- Do you know those people who tell you to simply lower your calories to lose fat? The people who never mention protein, carbohydrates or fats? They’re wrong. Protein, carb and fat ratios are important. The correct ratios (which can vary depending on an individual’s response to food) help to stabilize blood sugar levels, which helps to increase energy and fat loss. Generally, 40 percent to 50 percent of carbohydrates, 25 percent to 30 percent protein and 20 percent to 30 percent of healthy fats is the best starting place.

A bodybuilder will lower carbs a bit as a contest approaches, but will also take in enough carbs for energy and muscle fullness. If carbs are too low, the muscle tends to not look as tight. Protein is also critical to build and retain muscle tissue, which in turn helps to burn more fat.

Finally, good dietary fats are extremely important. They help to balance hormonal levels, increase strength and create satiety (fullness). If you’re looking for a plan that takes this into account I recommend eDiets GI plan (Glycemic Impact diet).

5. Weight Training -- To affect muscle versus fat ratios, you have to weight train. Contrary to popular believe, bodybuilders don’t workout with weights for two hours a day. Most bodybuilders are aware that after about 45 to 60 minutes, catabolic (muscle wasting) hormones begin to wreak havoc. An intense weight workout lasting no more than 60 minutes is the most efficient route to go. You don’t have to workout with a bodybuilding routine, but you do need to work the entire body approximately three alternate days per week.

6. Cardio -- Most people think that bodybuilders don’t perform cardiovascular exercise. It’s a myth. However, the difference between a bodybuilder and a fitness enthusiast is that a bodybuilder knows how to use cardio as a tool to lose fat. A bodybuilder will begin with a set amount of cardio, but it won’t be excessive (possibly 30 minutes).

If fat loss is not taking place, the bodybuilder will add a bit more to the session to stimulate fat loss. Most people would jump up to 60 minutes. However, the bodybuilder will add time slowly and monitor fat loss. The key is perform all that is necessary -- and no more than that.

In many cases, the bodybuilder will not increase time, but will increase intensity. This is accomplished by incorporating interval cardio training (integrating slower levels of intensity for several minutes with very high levels for several minutes). Intervals are great for boosting the metabolism.

Many people think they need to perform two hours of cardio per day. Nothing could be further from the truth. Start with a realistic amount of cardio per day and then add to it by five minutes or switch to intervals if you haven’t lost body fat in two weeks. This is assuming that you’re eating enough calories.

7. Water Intake -- From the standpoint of water intake and fat loss, you want to be in a position where the liver is converting stored fat to energy. The liver has other functions, but this is one of its main jobs. Unfortunately, another of the liver’s duties is to pick up the slack for the kidneys, which need plenty of water to work properly (more than most people realize).

If the kidneys are water-deprived, the liver has to do the work of the kidneys along with its own (lowering its total productivity in the process). The liver then can’t metabolize fat as quickly or efficiently. If you allow this to happen, you’re setting yourself up to store fat because you've made the liver less efficient at turning stored body fat to energy. Usually if you multiply .55 times your weight, that should be enough in ounces of water to suffice. Water is the under rated fat-loss tool.

8. Discipline -- This is the seldom used word in the fitness industry. You’ll read a lot about the new magic workout, the new magic diet, the machine that’s sure to burn fat off your butt etc. It’s all a bunch of nonsense.

A bodybuilder works out even when he/she doesn’t feel like it; stays on the diet even when he/she feels like going off of it. It’s about doing the right thing and the hard thing at times. One day of discipline leading to another day of discipline. You build your body and your mind simultaneously. Without this, every point I’ve made above is fruitless. The good thing is anyone can do it -- if they choose to.

Dr. Jose Antonio, who has written several books in the field of sports nutrition and exercise and published more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific papers, sums it up perfectly:

“The physique sports (e.g. figure, fitness, and bodybuilding) provide real-world examples as to what really works! Let’s face it, the nutrition advice promulgated by the mainstream academic societies are NOT conducive to achieving a lean physique. Recent research has shown that the mere replacement of carbohydrate with protein (or perhaps even unsaturated fat) will improve body composition. Furthermore, the additional consumption of protein after losing weight is a great and effective strategy for maintaining weight loss. However, those in the physique sports have known this for the past 50 years!! Why is it that mainstream scientists denigrate what athletes do when in fact, we have more to learn from them than vice versa.”

Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com — Jim Rohn: Author and motivational speaker

"Discipline is the bridge between goals and  accomplishments."