June 3, 2010
Well it's a rainy week but how could we complain in Toronto after the last two spectacular weekends! More and more visitors flock to one of the greatest cities .... ;)
How great is the offer I have for you this week? NIKON Canada has offered a FREE DIGITAL camera to the first person that can answer this question found in the SCOOP below! What is the zoom offered on this camera? Enter the contest HERE and don't forget your full name and mailing address or poof! No prize!
OK, there are deaths and impeding births and LOTS of videos within this week's entertainment news. If you want to find me on Facebook where I post regular updates, just click on the FB icon above or below.
Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings. Welcome to those who are new members. Want your events listed by date? Check out EVENTS.
Nikon COOLPIX L21 With
Easy Auto Mode Makes Picture Taking Beautifully Easy
Source: Nikon Canada
Easy Auto Mode makes picture taking beautifully easy: Easy Auto Mode simplifies photography to the degree that you can simply turn on the camera and start shooting. Its Scene Auto Selector function determines range, lighting and subject type before automatically selecting the appropriate scene mode to achieve optimum results.
Catch every face at its best : The Smart Portrait System for the COOLPIX L22/L21 offers a line-up of four advanced functions that help produce consistently great portraits. These include Face-priority AF, Smart Portrait Mode, Blink Warning, and In-Camera Red-Eye Fix.
Three advanced image stabilizing features* ensure sharper results: Nikon’s Electronic VR image stabilization and Motion Detection compensate for camera shake and subject movement. And, Nikon’s original BSS (Best Shot Selector) function offers automated assistance for achieving sharp results.
* The camera selects and uses only the features required to optimize each image.
Powered by commonly available AA-size/R6 batteries
12.0 effective megapixels (COOLPIX L22)
7.6 cm (3-in.) high resolution LCD (COOLPIX L22)
Up to 1.8 hours* of movie shooting at 640 x 480 (30 fps)
*Recording stops automatically after 29 minutes, or after the file size reaches 2 GB. This figure is based on in-house testing standards and stated for recording at 25°C with AA-size alkaline (LR6/L40) or fully-charged EN-MH2-B2 batteries. Actual results may vary greatly depending on factors that include differences in ambient temperature, and the amount of zoom and autofocus operations used.
For more info: http://www.nikon.ca/en/Product.aspx?m=16992
Drake Donates $30,000 To Build Computer Schools In Jamaica
Source: www.samaritanmag.com - By Karen Bliss
[Note from Dawn: I'm running this 'good deed' notice about Drake's generosity again this week (authored by Karen Bliss of www.samaritanmag.com) because I found it interesting that Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism criticized Drake for his portrayal of Jamaica and that "artists should be mindful that the message that is conveyed about Jamaica is wrong". HERE. Interesting, because the artist that they are criticizing is the same artist that donated from his pocket monies for computer schools for the community where he shot the music video before the criticism started.]
(April 27, 2010) Drake is already doing good things with the money that has come his way since becoming one of the fastest rising hip hop artists in the music world by helping out the poverty-stricken Cassava Piece community in Kingston, Jamaica. “It’s where one of my favourite reggae artists, Mavado, and one of my closest friends is from,” Drake explains. Drake was in Cassava Piece to shoot the video for his song “Find Your Love.”
“I was so inspired,” Drake tells Samaritanmag. “I went there and they had ‘Drake’ all over the walls, spray painted, and all the kids were running after us. So I donated $30,000 to build computer schools for the kids. I’m very passionate about Jamaica as a place. I love Jamaica so I just want to try and better the community.”
Full story HERE
We Remember Ali ‘Ollie’ Woodson (Former Temptations Lead Singer
(May 31, 2010) *According to Billy Wilson, Pres. And founder of the Motown Alumni Association, former lead singer of the Temptations, Ali “Ollie” Woodson, died Sunday of cancer (leukemia) in California. He was 58.
Woodson, born Oct. 12, 1951, in Detroit, was the front man for The Temptations for most of the 1980s and 90s. He is probably best known for the 1984 hit “Treat Her Like a Lady,” which he wrote and sang lead on.
“He was an excellent singer,” Wilson told the Detroit News. “He’s one of the few singers who was accommodating to virtually everything. He had a style and swagger about himself that was different than the other Temptations.”
After leaving the group, Woodson began a solo career, and often toured with a Temptations-like revue called Ali-Ollie Woodson & the Emperors of Soul (Emperors of Soul being the name of the Tempts’ 1994 box set).
In 1997, he guest starred on an episode of The Jamie Foxx Show as a patient in a mental hospital. He also appeared in a handful of movies after that.
The singer also released a solo album, “Right Here All Along,” in 2001.
From 2006-2008, he was in The Temptations Revue featuring Dennis Edwards, although he and Edwards were never Tempts members at the same time. Woodson also toured with Aretha Franklin in 2008.
At press time, family members could not be reached for comment.
Funeral services are pending.
Ali Woodson and The temptations perform “Treat Her Like A Lady”:
The Sad Trajectory Of Child Star Gary Coleman
Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem
(May 31, 2010) It’s a sadly familiar tale: Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, Jay Dennis the Menace North, Rusty Make Room for Daddy Hamer, Lauren “Kitten” Chapin, Anissa “Buffy” Jones, Danny “Partridge” Bonaduce, Michael Jackson, Corey Haim . . . former child stars who, for whatever reason and to whatever extent, could not cope with life as an adult, all but three of the aforementioned fatally.
Gary Coleman, who died from an intracranial hemorrhage earlier this week at age 42, was not the victim of reduced circumstance or his own self-destructive tendencies, as were so many others. The one-time sitcom superstar succumbed, not to bad luck or bad behaviour — though there was plenty of each — but to the illness that had plagued him since pre-fame childhood.
Still, his adult life closely, tragically echoed that of both his young Diff’rent Strokes co-stars, Dana Plato and Todd Bridges. Plato, after a long history of drug addiction, descended into a life of poverty and petty theft before her fatal overdose at age 34. Bridges survived drugs and several violent incidents to finally pull his life together, as recorded in a new autobiography, Killing Willis.
All three actors scrabbled back into the spotlight after Diff’rent Strokes’ popular eight-year run — but for all the wrong reasons. Plato got breast implants, posed naked for Playboy and dabbled in soft-core porn. Bridges made headlines for various assault and weapons violations and took a stab, so to speak, at television competition as a “celebrity” wrestler, boxer and skater.
Coleman’s troubles started early, along with his illness, a congenital kidney disease that kept him at a cherubic 4-foot-8 into adult life, and required two transplants and daily dialysis.
In 1989, he sued his adoptive parents and former manager over misappropriation of his sitcom earnings, winning $1.3 million, but nonetheless declaring bankruptcy only 10 years later. Reduced to working as a security guard, Coleman’s temper got the best of him on several occasions, more often than not in reaction to ridicule. In 2003, he was enlisted in a tongue-in-cheek campaign for California governor opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was as amazed as anyone that he came in eighth out of 135 candidates, with more than 14,000 votes.
Married in 2007, he and his new 22-year-old wife, Shannon, appeared on TV’s Divorce Court just one month later in an effort to “save their marriage.” Which they did, only to be cited for disorderly conduct in several domestic disputes in 2009.
One would hope all this has taught us something about the potentially disastrous after-effects of childhood celebrity. But one would be wrong. Just watch, if you can bear it, the rerun marathon and subsequent season debut of the reprehensible kiddie pageant show, Toddlers & Tiaras, Wednesday on TLC Canada.
Reflections on Hopper
I met Dennis Hopper back in 1988, shortly after he had finally, successfully given up drugs.
“What is the biggest difference,” I asked, “between then and now?” I was referring to the work, but Hopper chose to interpret the question in a much broader sense.
“Well,” he said after a thoughtful pause, “when you come to my house and you knock on the door, the same guy answers every time.”
And now that door is forever closed, as Hopper lost his battle with prostate cancer over the weekend. He was 74.
I last saw him almost exactly one year ago, still clean and sober, and still a thriving character actor, now mostly on TV, notably on 24 and in the series version of Crash.
“I’m really enjoying it,” he had said at the start of the Crash’s second season. “I’m playing a Phil Spector-type music mogul who has orgies, plays with guns and knives, and abuses drugs and alcohol.
“So it’s a really interesting character. It’s hard work, but (that’s) all right with me.”
50 Cent Calls Weight Loss For New Film 'Tough'
Source: www.eurweb.com - Mesfin Fekadu, AP News
(May 28, 2010) Losing 50-plus pounds was a complicated process for 50 Cent — but not an entirely new one.
The rapper, who plays a football player with cancer in the upcoming film "Things Fall Apart," dropped from 214 pounds to 160 in nine weeks after liquid dieting and running on a treadmill three hours a day.
But the 33-year-old said that when he was shot in the jaw in 2000, he could drink only liquids and his weight dropped to 157.
"This time it was a lot tougher for me," the 6-foot-tall rapper said in an interview Friday with the Associated Press.
"I had to discipline myself not ... to actually have myself be in the physical state to convey the energy I felt. It's a passion project for me," said 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson.
The film is about a childhood friend of the rapper who died of cancer, and is in production.
Actors including Robert De Niro, Christian Bale, Tom Hanks and Renee Zellweger are known for adjusting their weight in movies, and 50 said he did research when keeping the weight off got hard.
"I actually got on the computer," he said. "When it started getting difficult, I was looking to see what their experience was like and I got a chance to see all of the interviews they had at different time periods when they were doing promotion for the projects."
50 has been gaining the lost weight back, though, and said he currently weighs 198 pounds.
He said he doesn't anticipate winning awards for his acting role.
"Well, you know, I haven't received accolades that comes with the success that I've had in music," he said. "It would be a surprise" to win any acting awards, he said, noting that it's already a reward to have people aware of the role.
He released his fourth album, the gold-selling "Before I Self Destruct," in November. He kicks off his North American tour Saturday in Detroit.
Online: 50 Cent: http://www.50cent.com
Arthur Frommer’s 20 Best Bargain
Source: www.thestar.com - Arthur Frommer
(May 29, 2010) Most air-and-land packages cost slightly more in summer (June, July and August) than in late spring. And of course they soar at that time for Europe-bound trips. Still, by comparison to the prices of food, rent, gas and movies, the cost of vacations is a real value and often a downright bargain, as the following attest:
1. Cuba: $495-$515 for most departure dates in June, $645 to $675 in July, $755 in August, including round-trip airfare from Toronto and all taxes and fees, for a full week of all-inclusive arrangements (room, all meals, drinks and sports) at a Varadero Beach hotel. You’ll receive a standard but comfortable room for seven nights at the beachside Hotel Club Kawama. The 35-year-old Signature Vacations (800-268-7074), a division of Sunwing Tours, is the source of this excellent value in a breathtaking seaside setting. Keep in mind that Cuba now requires you to have a medical insurance policy.
2. Dominican Republic: $525 for a totally all-inclusive beachside week (in June) in the D.R. (rising to $605 in July and August), including round-trip air transportation, with no need to spend a penny extra other than for taxes of $330. That near-miracle of pricing is offered by Canada’s Sunwing (phone 800-761-1711 or 416-620-3380) on Tuesday departures from Toronto throughout the year, nonstop to the resort of Punta Cana, for a week of all-inclusive arrangements (transfers, hotel for seven nights, three meals daily, unlimited drinks) at the Tropical Princess Beach Hotel on a wide stretch of sugary sand.
3. Orlando, Fla.: $596 per person for round-trip air (including all taxes and fees) between Toronto and Orlando, and seven nights in a fine hotel near Walt Disney World, on two departures in June (15, 16), $666 for two departures in August (3, 10), and $696 for five departures in July (13, 14, 15, 20 and 22), all from Air Canada Vacations using daily flights of Air Canada. You’ll stay at the big Clarion Resort and Water Park in Kissimmee, Fla., a 15-minute ride by free hotel shuttle bus to the main gates of several Walt Disney theme parks. The hotel’s giant water park will enchant your kids.
4. Luxe Caribbean Cruising: $879 to $949 for seven nights on the elegant Celebrity Solstice, every week from Fort Lauderdale Fla., from now until November. Hailed as a new breed of near-deluxe ship when it was launched last year, dignified in atmosphere, programs and facilities (no hijinks here, no rock-climbing walls or bowling alleys), elegant and spacious in rooms and public areas, big (2,800 passengers) and yet upscale, which makes its minimum price of $879 to $949 per person for inside cabins, on cruises of the western Caribbean, such a surprising bargain. Go to the Celebrity Cruises website (or phone 800-647-2251) for more information. Airfare to Florida is not included; use of an influential cruise discounter may sometimes get you a veranda cabin for the price of an inside one.
5. Vegas: $129 a room, at the ultra-deluxe Aria Hotel on the Strip. It couldn’t have opened (December 2009) at a worse time, as it is a vast, 4,004-room edifice where no expense was spared (electrically raised window shades, 300-count Egyptian linen sheets) in a city whose tourism is shrinking. The result: The owner, MGM Mirage, has frantically discounted rooms that were designed to rent for $300 to $400 a night. Go to www.citycenter.com, click on the Aria, then on the booking calendars for June (11 nights when rooms are $129), July (15 nights when rooms are $129) and August (eight nights when rooms are $129); or phone 866-359-7757. Even lower prices often are had through negotiation when three or more successive nights are booked. You’ll need to arrange your own air transportation to Sin City.
6. Bermuda: $309 to $391 for round-trip airfare between Toronto and Bermuda, including all fees and taxes (but not including accommodations). In what may be a very temporary airfare sale to this elegant island, WestJet Airlines (888-937-8538) has — for the time being — reduced its one-way fare between Toronto and Bermuda in June to $99, resulting in a $309 round-trip total when taxes and fees are added. In July and August, the same flights currently are being sold for $139 each way, resulting in a tax-and-fee-included $391 round-trip. (Air Canada has matched many of those prices.) Since, contrary to what you’ve heard, Bermuda has a great many charming guesthouses and bed-and-breakfasts charging moderate (but still not cheap) rates, this promotional effort by the airlines may permit you to enjoy a reasonably priced vacation there during the island’s summer high season. But keep in mind that the fare may be upped at any time.
7. Ft. Lauderdale: $499 for a week’s stay, enjoying remarkable savings (but not including airfare). Already heavily used by Canadians vacationing in one of their favourite resort cities, Florida-based TravelThemesAndDreams.com (877-870-7447) will (June through August) charge only $499 per person (double occupancy) for seven nights in the elegant Westin Beach Resort, on Ft. Lauderdale Beach, and a seven-day compact car rental with unlimited kilometres (fuel and taxes additional). Families of four, for the same price, enjoy a one-bedroom condominium in the Pompano Beach area (just north of Ft. Lauderdale) and an upgrade to a full-size car. Although TT&D would be able to reduce the price considerably by using a cheaper hotel, it regards the glamorous, seaside Westin Beach Resort as an unsurpassed (and much to be preferred) bargain. It will also, on request, obtain low-cost air tickets for you; or passengers can secure their own.
8. Florida: $612 per person (plus airfare to Florida) for an all-inclusive family week at the Club Med Sandpiper in Port St. Lucie, Fla., enjoyed by two parents and two children occupying a one-bedroom suite, in either June, July or August. The children participate in totally supervised programs, the parents luxuriate in Club Med’s many refreshing activities, and all four partake of gourmet-level meals, snacks and unlimited drinks throughout a seven-night stay. You will want to arrange your own airfare (for much less than Club Med would charge) from Toronto to West Palm Beach, (65 kilometres from Club Med Sandpiper), requiring one-stop flights going and returning. Contact www.clubmed.ca or phone 888-WEB-CLUB.
9. Costa Rica: $619 for seven nights in Costa Rica (not including airfare), travelling by “Adventure Bus” from place to place. An immensely popular, free-spirited approach to touring Costa Rica, as packaged by Toronto’s GAP Adventures (800-465-5600), these well-priced arrangements place you for one hotel night in the capital city of San Jose, one night at the foot of the Arenal Volcano, four nights in a hotel along the beaches of Guanacaste and one remaining night back in San Jose. You are brought from place to place by Adventure Bus, which takes you directly to your hotel in each location. Meals other than breakfast are not included (you are advised to budget $240 for your meals); the price of $619 remains unchanged through numerous departure dates in June, July and August.
10. Panama: $720, including round-trip airfare from Toronto, all taxes, meals and drinks included, for a one-week stay in Panama. While rates in July and August are usually $1,142 for the week, including round-trip air and all fees and taxes, prices plummet during the months of June (when an air-included, tax-included package is only $720) and September ($892) for a week’s all-inclusive (rooms, meals and drinks) stay at the stunning, beachside Royal Decameron Golf, Beach Resort and Villas in Panama (130 kilometres from the airport of Panama City), the “hottest new destination” in the tropics. The tour operator is Nolitours (phone 866-556-3948), a vacation arm of charter airline Airtransat, and the value is considerable.
11. Egypt: $799 for a week in Egypt (plus airfare to Cairo), including Cairo, Aswan and Luxor—and even a day and night aboard a Nile felucca. A typical, adventurous and quite unique tour — but for people of all ages and normal physical vigour — from Toronto’s GAP Adventures (800-465-5600), operated at this price two and three times a month throughout the year. Accommodation is in simple hotels for five nights, aboard a sleeper train (one night), and on the felucca (with support boat) for one night; a guide accompanies the tour (limited to a maximum of 15 people); and seven breakfasts, one lunch and three dinners are included; bring $150 to $200 for meals not included.
12. Costa Rica and Panama: $949 for two weeks in Costa Rica and Panama (not including air). Again operated by Toronto’s famous GAP Adventures (800-465-5600) twice-monthly throughout the year, this particular itinerary (unlike two others recommended by me) is only for people who are “18-30-somethings,” a vigorous trip making use of public buses, boats and vans from San Jose to Panama City, and lodging in simple hotels, sometimes with multi-share facilities. Single-room supplement: $279. And allow $350 for meals not included.
13. Mexico: $995 for a panoramic, nine-day, escorted motorcoach tour of Mexico (not including airfare), operated by the 58-year-old Caravan Tours (800-CARAVAN). One of a series of immensely popular, high-quality but bargain-price tours using excellent hotels (such as the Hilton Reforma in Mexico City), and providing round-trip airport transfers and three meals a day, all by fully escorted motorcoach from Mexico City to Veracruz, Palenque, Campeche, Merida and Cancun (also visiting the Pyramids of Teotihuacan from Mexico City, and the Mayan Ruins at Chichen Itza from Merida). Departures are on June 18, July 9 and July 16 at the $995 price, plus $189 for taxes and fees (Caravan’s tours to Mexico do not operate in August). You buy your own air transportation to Mexico and from Cancun back to Toronto.
14. Hawaii: $959 for a week in Honolulu, including round-trip air transportation from Toronto. Flying on WestJet Airlines, on an air-and-land package created by WestJet Vacations (877-737-7001), you’ll stay for seven nights at the Aqua Waikiki Beach Hotel, two blocks from Waikiki Beach and one block from the International Marketplace, all at a price of $959 plus taxes of $154 in June (numerous weekly departures), $989 plus taxes of $159 in July (again with numerous weekly departures). August prices, unfortunately, don’t meet my own criteria for a “bargain.”
15. National Parks: $999 (plus taxes and airfare) for a two-week motorcoach tour of the leading U.S. National Parks (and Las Vegas), starting and ending in Salt Lake City. Operated for 40 years by YMT Vacations (800-922-9000), and booked by a great many Canadians, this remarkably priced 14-day trip is primarily for seniors over 65 and for people who do not demand deluxe arrangements. Rather, you occupy standard hotels, travel by motorcoach, and enjoy the services of a driver-guide (not a separate guide), as you visit and tour: Lake Tahoe, Reno and Las Vegas, and then visit America’s Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. To the $999 price, add $149 in taxes and $640 for round-trip air between Toronto and Salt Lake City (which will be arranged for you by YMT Vacations). Meals are not included; departures still are available only for August and September.
16. Central Europe: $1,298, plus round-trip airfare to Munich for a nine-day, eight-night tour of Nuremberg, Germany; Prague; Vienna and Salzburg, Austria; and Budapest, Hungary. This panoramic program to colourful sights of central Europe is operated by Cosmos Tours, famed for the quality of its low-cost motorcoach tours (the least expensive of all major companies). Weekly, in each of June, July and August, you fly into Munich, travel from there to Nuremberg, Prague, Vienna and Budapest, then to Salzburg before flying back to Toronto from Munich, receiving rooms with private bath in good tourist class or superior tourist class hotels, breakfast daily, dinner in Salzburg. Passengers arrange their own airfare between Toronto and Munich.
17. Turkey: $1,319, plus round-trip airfare, for a 12-night, all-inclusive motorcoach tour from Istanbul to Istanbul, called “Turkish Delight,” that explores every major location of that country: Ankara, Cappadocia, Antalya, Pamukkale, Ephesus, Pergamum, Troy, Canakkale, Gallipoli and more, enjoying first-class hotels and three meals a day (except for dinner in Istanbul), in addition to escorted sightseeing and all admission charges. Operated by the long-established Pacha Tours (www.pachatours.com, 800-722-4288), this is a tour regarded as one of the top values in travel. Operated at this price from mid-June to mid-September, departing six days a week.
18. China: $1,499 for nine nights in five Chinese cities, including round-trip air from San Francisco to China. Called “Historic China,” and operated for many years by China Focus of San Francisco (800-868-7244), it’s the object of raves I’ve received from many readers who have taken it. You have a choice of weekly departures, on June 3, and then every week from July 7 to Oct. 27, first to Shanghai (nonstop on Air China) for three nights there (attending the Shanghai World’s Fair), then go for six more nights to Tai’an, Qufu, Ji’nan and Beijing, and then fly back, receiving all transportation both to and within China, good lodgings, three meals a day, escorted daily sightseeing and occasional evening entertainment. Air taxes will add $319; China’s visa fee and processing will cost $150. Considering the distance flown and the all-inclusive nature of the tour arrangements (to which you’ll need to add round-trip air between Toronto and San Francisco), this probably is the least expensive two-week international tour in travel today.
19. Trans-Atlantic: $753 to $773, including all taxes, for a round-trip flight between Toronto and London on different dates in June, $1,053 in July and August, then declining to the $853 in September (again including all taxes). You’ll find these fares on the website of the giant retail agency chain, Flight Centre (877-967-5302), which lists the bargain fares for all the trans-Atlantic carriers. Though the least-expensive London fare it quotes will almost always be that of Air Transat, occasionally another airline will list lower rates on Flight Centre’s website, for isolated dates, which is why it pays to consult these listings of the large retail chain.
20. Toronto to Paris: $729 to $954, including all taxes and fees, for a round-trip flight between Toronto and Paris, but only on scattered dates in June. Air Transat (877-872-6728), Canada’s leading charter airline, is generally your source for the least-expensive trans-Atlantic flights to the continent. Like all airlines, its tax-included Paris-bound prices rise to more than $1,100 in July and August, but then recede quickly to $910 in mid-September and $881 in late September, continuing to drop as we move further into the autumn.
NOTE: The prices cited are per person for each of two persons travelling together, and do not include government taxes and fees (unless those taxes and fees are specifically listed as included). Airfare is often included in the price, but only when specifically mentioned. Prices are subject to change, and new listings will periodically be substituted for those that are no longer valid.
Arthur Frommer is the pioneering founder of the Frommer’s Travel Guide book series. He co-hosts the radio program, The Travel Show, with his travel correspondent daughter Pauline Frommer. Find more destinations online and read Arthur Frommer’s blog at www.frommers.com.
VIDEO: How Justin Got So Big
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Susan Krashinsky
(May 29, 2010) Justin Bieber likes heated toilet seats.
He hates elevators. He thinks Paris is the most romantic city and all girls are beautiful. He wants you to believe dreams come true. He thinks ur awesome.
It is possible to know all these things because the pop star is on Twitter every few hours, offering his thoughts, feelings and shout-outs.
By now, of course, everybody on the planet should realize that Justin Bieber is the Canadian-born, platinum-selling, swaggering 16-year-old with a baby face and a Beatles-redux hairstyle. He has visited the White House and met the Obamas; not only been the musical guest on Saturday Night Live but mugged in skits with Tina Fey; experienced the Midas touch that is an appearance on Oprah and, most recently, been nominated for a Black Entertainment Television Award as best new artist.
“Bieber Fever” has infected a global fan base of teens and tweens who worship him with glitter-painted signs and embryonic lust. They've pushed sales of his first album, My World, to nearly 150,000 in Canada and more than 1.35 million in the U.S.
Now, he is on a worldwide tour to promote his second release, My World 2.0, sparking fan riots from Long Island to Australia.
Online, the video for his song Baby is YouTube's third most viewed of all time. And nearly 2.7 million Twitter followers watch for messages from the Biebs, even if it's simply an update on the Lakers game he's watching.
It all adds up to what one record exec describes as a schoolgirl crush on a massive scale.
“ The gift here … was that everyone, from my daughter to tens of millions of other girls, now claim this guy as their boyfriend – they own him. ”— Randy Lennox, head of Universal Music Canada.
“This thing is bigger than any marketing we could have concocted,” says Lennox, whose parent company also owns Island Def Jam, the Bieber label.
And yet Biebermania was concocted – it is the product of a carefully engineered marketing campaign that plucked a downy kid from small-town Ontario and relocated him to a hip-hop hotbed in the Deep South. In Atlanta, young Justin was transformed from the runner-up of a local talent competition to everybody's boyfriend in what seems like no time.
His throngs of caterwauling fans look like the latest incarnation of Beatlemania, but there is something very different at play here:
To this audience, all the YouTube videos and Twitter messages are more than just a digital diversion. They are key factors in the rapid onset and sheer scale of Bieber Fever – and offer concrete evidence, if any more were necessary, of the Internet's commercial might.
PHASE ONE: THE PATTIE PLAN
Performing on The Oprah Winfrey Show is a far cry from the Kiwanis Community Centre in Stratford, a city of 30,000 about 150 kilometres west of Toronto that is far better known for its annual Shakespearean festival than for its pop sensations. It was here that a 12-year-old Justin attracted some of his earliest fans in a competition modelled on American Idol.
Stratford Star was held in a room that can accommodate an audience of roughly 200. These days, there are more people than that claiming to be Justin Bieber on Facebook.
“We're the singing competition he lost,” recalls Mimi Price, chief executive officer of the Stratford YMCA, whose youth centre organized the event. She still finds it disorienting to see how polished the also-ran of 2007 has become: “His moves, my goodness!”
Clearly, the early setback didn't stop him – or his mom.
A single mother who was only 18 when Justin was born, Pattie Mallette was responsible for her son's first marketing campaign. After Stratford Star, she posted grainy videos on YouTube that showed Justin singing at home. It was all out-of-the-mouths-of-babes R&B – songs by Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and Usher. The videos caught on, and soon the audience included Kaitlin Lennox. She was 11 at the time, and so euphoric at what she saw that she dragged her music-executive father to the laptop.
Mr. Lennox was so impressed by his daughter's find (for Kaitlin, a story to generate schoolyard clout if ever there was one) that he called his counterparts at Universal in the U.S., only to find they were already on the case.
A budding hip-hop Svengali named Scott (Scooter) Braun also had come upon the videos while trolling YouTube in search of talent. “I was consulting for [rapper] Akon on another act he had, and I had just decided to start my own record label and management company,” Mr. Braun recalls in a phone conversation from New York. “I saw this kid, and like, went crazy.”
He tracked down Justin and his mother, calling Ms. Mallette repeatedly. It took two hours on the phone, but he persuaded her to let him fly them to Atlanta to meet him – their first time on a plane, he says. They hit it off, and within two weeks, Mr. Braun had become Justin's manager.
PHASE TWO: SCOOTER'S STRATEGY
His first step, Mr. Braun says, was to help Justin build his Internet presence, especially on YouTube. “I said, ‘We're going to do this like no one's ever seen before.'”
The former party promoter and record-label employee, now 28, also worked his connections, introducing his Justin to Justin Timberlake and to the R&B singer who would become his pop mentor, Usher Raymond. The two stars competed for a deal. Mr. Braun decided to work with Usher, partly because he didn't want his protégé to wind up simply as Little Justin, next to Mr. Timberlake.
“I also felt like, Usher, being African-American, brought a different sensibility to Justin, a different amount of, I would say, credibility within the black community,” Mr. Braun adds. “Here's this little white kid singing soul music, from Canada. He needed someone to make people understand that's who he really was.”
And it didn't hurt, when it came to negotiating with Island Def Jam head L.A. Reid, to have perhaps his label's most successful star on board. Usher and Mr. Braun created the Raymond Braun Music Group, and signed with Mr. Reid in 2008. RBMG handles the production and marketing of Justin Bieber while Island Def Jam supports him and his mother, and handles distribution.
Before he was even in high school, Justin had left Stratford for Atlanta, and by the time he was 15, he had a No.1 record. But that success didn't roll out in the usual way.
“When we did the deal, L.A. was like, ‘What TV show are we going to do, to break him?' And I was like, ‘L.A., Justin's going to be the first artist to become a huge mainstream superstar based on the Internet and not based on anything else,'” Mr. Braun says.
He continues to cultivate Justin's following on YouTube and on Twitter.
“If I see he's not Twittering, I tell him, ‘Get on your Twitter.' Because it's how his fans relate to him. They made him, you know? The moment he disappears from them, they feel like they've lost that kid from YouTube that invited them into his living room.
“We were very strategic in how we did that. … Our main marketing point is self-discovery and the power of the fans.” Even Justin's mother is on Twitter, as @studiomom.
Keeping up that intense feeling of personal connection via the Internet is incredibly important in marketing to the Bieber demographic, says Rob Bowman, who teaches popular music at York University.
“You're appealing to a certain adolescent group who've got fairly innocent notions of romance,” explains the specialist in soul music and Grammy-award winner for best album notes. “These 12- and 13-year-olds ... it's a huge part of the bonding aspect, this innocent crush.”
As his popularity has ballooned, the singer has cultivated that crush. Plenty of celebrities have discovered the Internet, and its power to let them tell strangers what they had for breakfast. But in this case, the payoff is more tangible. Bieber fanatics have proved eager to help market him, fuelling his sales as well as his celebrity.
It likely takes him a matter of minutes to copy a message such as this one sent by fan @GillianLovesJBx to his Twitter home page – “@justinbieber Do u respond to a simple I Love You? :)” – and then reply, for all the world to see, “I love u 2...i love all u ladies :).”
But that small amount of effort can produce immeasurable rewards: Fans blessed with a bit of attention will turn around and encourage others to buy his albums, post messages when they request his songs on the radio, and talk about how much they want tickets to his shows.
From a business perspective, all that online assistance is priceless, according to Stephen Gash, whose six years in marketing in the music industry included a stint at Universal.
“The Justin Bieber phenomenon is really the embodiment of any label's dream launch plan, because essentially, the fans did the work ... that creates a real sense of authenticity,” says Mr. Gash, now with Malivoire, a Niagara winery. “It's not The Man, it's not the label, saying you've got to buy ... you're trading the link.”
Social-media marketing has become a buzzword par fatiguance – Mr. Gash says labels now strive continually to establish their acts on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook – but it's rare to happen upon an artist whose following is ready-made, the way Mr. Braun ensured that Justin's would be.
In April, 2008, before he had a record deal, nearly 600,000 people had watched Justin Bieber singing Ne-Yo's Because of You. By YouTube standards, it's no cat playing the piano, but it's respectable for a kid with a camcorder. Now, his production values are higher, and his most popular videos are watched more than 100 million times each.
Those millions of young fans are attracted by the same characteristics as other teen heartthrobs, says York's Mr. Bowman, citing such boy band predecessors as the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync.
“That's following in a trend that started about 10, 15 years ago, where you have white groups packaging R&B but in a very safe, homogenized way.”
Thanks to the team of advisers now managing the Bieber brand, Justin balances his clean-cut, smiley look with a soupçon of attitude: big baseball caps, chain necklaces and outfits as hip as possible for a white kid with a button nose.
Much of this image-making is credited to road manager Ryan Good, who has been called his “swagger coach,” a term Mr. Braun dismisses as something Justin invented to tease Mr. Good after hip-hop mogul Diddy asked where he'd got all his swagger.
The title may be a joke, but great care is taken to keep the young star seeming cool but approachable – to a point.
PHASE THREE: NEAR BUT FAR
His image and his Twitter personality make him seem ultra-accessible, but it's not so easy to get to Justin Bieber in person. Universal Music Canada's Mr. Lennox says that was part of the label's strategy.
Last November, just two weeks before his first album was released, Justin performed at Kool Haus, a club in downtown Toronto. Despite the frigid weather, people lined up and Mr. Lennox says demand far outstripped the roughly 2,000 tickets made available.
Management arranged several shows in smaller venues, he says, as a kind of staging ground for the massive tour now under way. When Justin returns to Toronto, one of three Canadian stops, he will play the Air Canada Centre, which seats 19,800, almost 10 times the Kool Haus audience.
Even back then, “he could have played a venue 10 to 15 times larger,” Mr. Lennox explains. “That was very much part of our strategy. It was creating pent-up demand.”
Of course, pent-up teenage girls can be dangerous. There have been fan riots in New Zealand and Australia as well the one in Long Island that led to Mr. Braun being charged after police accused him of not acting quickly enough when asked to use Twitter to help disperse the crowd.
The pandemonium has not been lost on organizers of next month's annual MuchMusic Video Awards. “With Bieber Fever, we're expecting it to be huge,” says Sheila Sullivan, the show's executive producer.
“ Because of Bieber Fever, these girls could come seven to 10 days in advance. It could be a bit more hectic. We don't want them sitting on the street for a week, I'm sure their parents don't. ”— Sheila Sullivan
She is sitting in her office in downtown Toronto, looking over an artist's renderings of the five outdoor stages to be used in the show. She isn't sure which one the hot young star will use, but says one thing has been planned already: the security detail. “We've always been very successful having a great event and a calm event.”
Ms. Sullivan says the fans are surprisingly obedient, especially those waiting by the red carpet for a glimpse of the passing stars. “There's nowhere else they could go and actually touch Justin Bieber. So they're on their best behaviour.”
Security for the show will be much the same as in past years (at least 20 pay-duty police officers and 100 private security guards, as well as medical staff to deal with fainting and other maladies), but Ms. Sullivan is concerned about what will happen the week before when tickets are handed out.
PHASE FOUR: ‘THE NEW MODEL'
On one level, this kind of popularity is an old story. Bieber fans who beg for a reply to their tweets that will make their dreams come true are kindred spirits with the be-legginged 11-year-olds who pressed their lips to New Kids on the Block posters or the screamers in the audience for The Ed Sullivan Show who wept while reaching for their favourite Beatle.
Those girls, however, didn't buy music the way that today's worshippers of the pop pantheon do. Just as the Internet has changed how fans interact with their idols, it has changed how they judge the value of their favourite hits. Mr. Lennox says Universal now markets very carefully. A generation trained to pay a dollar per song on iTunes is savvy about price points, he says, and won't shell out $20 for an album any more.
Instead, Island Def Jam has priced both Justin's physical CDs and digital downloads closer to teenagers' expectations – and their weekly allowances. The 10 songs on My World cost $10.99, and the label has kept the music coming. The normal business model calls for an album to have a run of close to a year, but Island Def Jam chose to do “mini-albums,” with fewer songs, lower prices and a shorter shelf life. My World was followed by My World 2.0 after just four months, in a bid to stoke demand and keep fans expressing their love with their wallets.
“There's no question this album, 2.0, will be bigger than the first one,” Mr. Lennox says. Just over two months after its release, it has already reached 80 per cent of the sales for My World in the U.S., and both albums have gone platinum (here the first one was judged double platinum by Canada's more modest benchmark).
And there is more to come. “There are further mini-albums out there,” Mr. Lennox says. “This was not a series of tests leading up to a bigger album. … This is the new model.”
Now that the label has a success on its hands, the next task will be to make sure that it can outlast puberty, and the normal life cycle of BOP Magazine's cover fodder. Mr. Lennox says the Bieber team wants to prove that Justin is like the Beatles and “not the Monkees.”
It is possible to have a seemingly insipid pop idol evolve beyond the teen years. For example, Justin Timberlake is even more successful as a solo artist than he was as 'N Sync's front man, unlike the Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter, who wound up on an ill-fated reality series and is now back touring with the Boys, who are trying to recapture the massive fame they once enjoyed.
The label is praying for the Timberlake trajectory, which Mr. Lennox says will be helped by the fact that there's more to Justin Bieber than a youthful voice and a few dance moves. He plays piano and guitar – he famously busked on the streets of Stratford as a kid – and on Oprah, he jumped on the drums for a solo executed with a self-satisfied grin.
“This kid is an authentic artist,” Mr. Lennox says. “There's a real promise of longevity.”
PHASE FIVE: LOCAL HERO
His hometown certainly seems to think he has staying power. The Stratford Tourism Alliance recently made headlines by issuing a “Bieber-iffic Map” of the city for visitors more inclined to stare googly-eyed at the Subway outlet their idol patronized than to see Christopher Plummer in The Tempest.
Something tourists won't find on their walkabout of “Justin's Stratford” is, ironically, the place where he showed early signs of the work ethic now required of him: the YMCA's youth centre.
Located in a storefront near the Y and run by Angie Adair, who helped to organize the singing competition back in 2007, the centre has a karaoke machine Justin used during the month of weekly Stratford Star shows to practise – sometimes so much that Ms. Adair had to shut him down.
She also remembers the tiny showman as the only contestant who changed between numbers – donning a baggy sweater for a Matchbox 20 song, khakis and a sideways hat to croon in the style of Alicia Keys. “By the end of it, there were definitely some Bieber fans, with their signs, screaming,” she says.
Pattie Mallette saw potential in those fledgling fans. She was always trying to find places for her son to get exposure, including a local autism fundraiser and a CD release party for a local food bank.
Just months after Justin's first go-round at Stratford Star, Ms. Mallette called the YMCA to find out when she could sign him up for the next year's competition. But by the time the youth centre had the registration forms ready, she and Justin had moved to Georgia.
Despite all the success since then, the Stratford Star judges stand by Justin's runner-up finish, Ms. Adair says. “It was a maturity issue ... he was up against 15-, 18-year-olds.”Mimi Price of the YMCA nods in agreement. “I always said, ‘He needs a few vocal lessons,'” she says. “Now, it's just amazing to watch. ... I see him on Oprah, for goodness sake.”
Jewel’s Foundation Partners On Give A
Source: www.samaritanmag.com - By Steve McLean
(May 31, 2010) Jewel Kilcher’s 1995 album, Pieces Of You, is one of the most successful debuts of all time — selling 12 million copies in the U.S. alone. She was just 21. Only three years earlier, while homeless for a year, she became ill and struggled to buy the two gallons of purified water she needed for her ailing kidneys. So in 1999, a career in music well on its way, she co-founded Project Clean Water, then called The ClearWater Project.
“If we’re in the States and we can’t drink our tap water, what’s it like in a Third World country where you can’t even buy bottled water?” Jewel told Samaritanmag, during an interview to promote her new country album, Sweet and Mild, out June 8. “I thought that if I ever got in a position to help, I would look into it.
Full story HERE.
VIDEO: Tuneful Thunder From A Band
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler
At the Mod Club Theatre
In Toronto on Thursday
(May 28, 2010) I asked a friend what she thought of Zeus, the Toronto power-pop quartet. She said the members were excellent musicians and that the band was great live, but that when she would ask Zeus fans to name one of the group’s songs or even hum one, they were unable to do so. Naturally, I told her to pipe down – that such scandalous talk would bring down the whole indie-pop world, a scene which thrives on songs that are tuneful, yet not entirely memorable.
Zeus’s most recognizable song at the Mod Club Theatre, which at 600 people-capacity is a step up in venue size for a band with one album under its belt, was a robust cover of Genesis’s That’s All. “You’ve probably heard this one before,” said one of Zeus’s three fronting singer/multi-instrumentalists, “but never quite like this.” He didn’t quite have it right – the eventful, lurching cover version of the Phil Collins-written ditty has been a staple of Zeus’s live shows – but you guessed what he meant: That the crowd first knew the song because it was a genuine radio-wave sensation – a hit from 1983, an age before most of them were even a crazy notion in their parent’s Abacab-addled minds.
Here’s what the band’s official bio says: “Zeus draws upon classic influences to craft timeless songs, complete with fuzzed guitars and shimmering three-part harmonies; classic rock ’n’ roll with a touch of twang.”
Direct hit! Zeus doesn’t lie.
On stage, the band kicks it up a notch. Some of the shimmer of 2009’s Say Us drops by the wayside as songs take on extra garage-rock grit and heft. The shaggy foursome, part of the Arts & Crafts family, showed those classic influences – including the Beatles, I imagine, and perhaps Fleetwood Mac and Electric Light Orchestra – while rolling though a sweaty, enthusiastic set marked by melodic pop done in blissful, rugged and crowd-thrilling ways.
Let’s not mince words: Zeus is one of the finer live bands in this city.
The River by the Garden was quirky, with a laconic chicka-boom Johnny Cash thing happening. You Gotta’ Teller began with a stomping psychedelic-funk intro (think the Temptations’ Ball of Confusion) before moving forward to a Strokes-like verse. Blame it On Me, with its Rhodes organ set to a spongy tone, rode a muscular bass line and a sharp guitar riff.
Zeus gets a lot of Beatles comparisons – comparisons that, frankly (and naturally), flatter the group. More modern, Canadian comparisons could be made with power-pop colleagues Peter Elkas and Afie Jurvanen (who both appear on Say Us), or Sam Roberts.
As for my friend who questioned the hummability of Zeus, she might not know about How Does it Feel?, an agile, piano-pouncing tune about a sad soul. Is it a standout track? Perhaps not. But if it doesn’t stick out, it’s only because Zeus has a wealth of solid material. It’s just that they’re all B-sides, not A-sides. It’s the common condition of indie-pop, that’s all.
Zeus, with Broken Social Scene, Pavement, Band of Horses and others, play Toronto’s Olympic Island on June 19.
Hancock Taps Chaka, Arie,
Legend for New Album
(June 01, 2010) *Herbie Hancock is referring to his forthcoming album “The Imagine Project,” due June 22, as “the hardest record I’ve ever made.”
The Grammy-winning keyboardist tells Billboard.com that actually playing the 10 tracks “was easy compared to what it took to put (the album) together,” which included gathering such guest performers as India.Arie, Chaka Khan, John Legend, Seal, Pink, Dave Matthews, Toumani Diabete, Wayne Shorter and others.
Also, recording sessions took place in several countries such as the U.S., India, England, France, Ireland and Brazil. “Every song on the record was like putting a while new album together,” notes Hancock, who worked on the album with Larry Klein, co-producer of 2007’s Grammy Award-winning “River/The Joni Letters.” “It’s that kind of experience. You had to completely retool for each song. Normally you don’t have to do that.
“But I like the fact that everything on the record is different from everything else. It’s in keeping with what’s being practiced today by the general public, which is that people buy songs. In the past you had to buy whole albums; now you can buy song by song, so people buy what they want and put their own compilation in a way. But this is really like a compilation in a way, and I think it’s a good thing.”
“The Imagine Project” includes a version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” with Beck, Pink, Seal and India.Arie, as well as the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” with Matthews. Khan, Shorter and Anoushka Shankar teamed up with Indian musicians for the Klein original “The Song Goes On,” while Diabete, the Chieftains, Lionel Loueke and Lisa Hannigan were part of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A’ Changin’” and Legend and Pink joined forces for Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up.”
“It’s a record that’s basically about peace,” explains Hancock, crediting his attorney with inspiring the concept. “To me the path towards peace is through global collaboration, so the heart of this record is the idea of making a global record or an international record, in multiple languages and in a variety of places.”
The various sessions for “The Imagine Project” were filmed and will become the source material for a documentary and web-based applications, possibly including a site that will allow fans to remix tracks from the album. Hancock also plans to incorporate the footage into his concerts this year, where he’ll dedicate a portion of the shows strictly to the album and include the guests via videos synced with the live band “so that it’s possible to take people on a real journey into the music,” he says.
Diana Ross: Still Supreme
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry
(June 01, 2010) Her voice is dodgy and she has traded stilettos for comfortable platform shoes, but Diana Ross is still a commanding performer.
The original diva filled Roy Thomson Hall Monday night – her first Toronto performance since a ’60s romp at the Air Canada Centre in 2000.
A well-heeled, multi-generational crowd turned out for the greatest hits outing by the 66-year-old performer who has realized 18 No. 1 hits since signing with Motown nearly 50 years ago.
She hit the multi-level stage in a feathery yellow coat, quickly doffed to showcase a glittery black and silver gown, singing “The Boss.” Good look, disappointing vocals. Never a technically great singer, the high, haunting voice that distinguished Ross through the decades was unrecognizable for the first half of the 90-minute concert and Supremes’ hits like “Reflections” and “Stop! In the Name of Love.”
However, just as one got used to the low, brassy pipes shouting to be heard over the 18-piece band, which included strings and horns, vestiges of the Ross of yore turned up on “Love Hangover,” “It’s My House” and a loose, spirited version of “Ease on Down the Road.”
By the time she got to the jazz set – lovely, nuanced renditions of “Look of Love” and two Billie Holiday numbers – it really did feel like a trip down memory lane. And toward the end of the 25-song program, when she segued from “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?)” to her anthem “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” for the first time all night, everyone in the audience leaped to their feet applauding.
What Ross lacked in sound, she made up for in power and personality. Curvier than her skinny minny heyday when she was all eyes and teeth, she exuded joy with her ever-present smile and flirtatious manner. (The one sore point was the incessant video images of the songstress preening – as if the real thing wasn’t engaging enough). She looked every bit the diva in a half-dozen beautiful, extravagant gowns, presumably of Bob Mackie design.
She saved most of her comments for the dénouement, when she introduced the band and a two-song tribute to one-time protégé Michael Jackson, in whose memory the 17-date tour is dedicated. Ross, who became a grandmother last year, has previously been slagged for insincerity; her few words Monday night were entirely believable.
The Evolution Of Miley
Cyrus: Hannah Montana Grows Into A Diva
(June 01, 2010) Miley Cyrus’s audition tape for the Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana can be found on YouTube. In it, the 12-year-old Cyrus is sporting frizzy hair, a big smile and — amazingly, even then — her trademark whiskey drawl when she talks. She displays the practised poise of all child actors — a fearlessness when it comes to staring straight into the camera and reciting her lines — and her posture and mannerisms reveal that she knows this is a business opportunity and not a social call.
Flash forward five years, and Cyrus’s latest YouTube offering, her video for the title track off her album Can't Be Tamed, involves a birdcage set that doubles as a pole-dancing playground, writhing background dancers and an outfit notable for its feathers and décolletage.
Like Disney teen idols Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake before her, Cyrus is now making the often-murky transition into adult artist. The June 22 release of Can't Be Tamed is the boldest statement in a years-long process of transitioning Cyrus away from the scrubbed cheeks and all-American girl charm of Hannah Montana to a modern pop diva.
“I'm just at a certain place where I've changed a lot as a person,” she says. “I've grown up a lot, which everyone does.”
Everyone does — but very few have to do it in the public spotlight with all the divisions of Miley Inc. — from film to TV shows to voice-over work to apparel — riding on the success of the transition.
It's no secret that Cyrus has been publicly testing the waters of adulthood for the last few years — making dramatic displays like the bed-head Vanity Fair photos or the vaguely stripperish dance moves at Nickelodeon's Teen Choice Awards — followed by an equally dramatic retreat.
Her music has followed a similar act of toeing the line between tween and adult, with singles “The Climb” and “Party in the U.S.A.” offering a far different message from earlier teenybopper tracks like “See You Again” and “7 Things.”
On the eve of the video debut of “Can’t Be Tamed” on May 4, Cyrus knows that it's going to ruffle some feathers. “You're going to, like, die when you see the birdcage in the video because it's so crazy,” she says. Despite Cyrus’s march into adulthood, she still talks like a teenager — all rapid-fire patter that, by my transcribing tally, comes in at around 200 words per minute. “I've got, like, 30 dancers in there and a tree and a nest. Literally, it's out of control. I'm definitely going to be doing a lot more stuff like that.”
The immediate sales response to Cyrus’s new image seems to be positive. For the week ending May 23, the single's first week of digital sales resulted in 191,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan, placing “Tamed” at No. 4 on Billboard's Hot Digital Songs chart and No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Miley's transformation was inevitable — she's been clawing herself out of that cage for a while,” says Suzanne Ross, executive producer of E!'s True Hollywood Story and E! Investigates. “I'm surprised it shocks people any more. It's an inevitable part of growing up Disney. It's a formula, from what I've seen from past stars: Disney makes you a star, you make them an enormous amount of money, and then you either crash and burn or you go out and stake your claim in the real world.”
“With anything — the clothes I wear or the way I want to look — I don't plan it,” Cyrus says. “Even with the video (for ‘Can't Be Tamed’) I had the treatment, but beyond that, it was whatever comes. We didn't have all the choreography set in stone because I didn't want it to end up looking fake and polished. Everything in life has to come naturally or I feel like it's just been done.”
For Cyrus, being authentic may be the key to her success as she transitions to adulthood.
“The challenge is: How do these pop teen idols mature without alienating their fans — those that supported you on the way up, including the parents, who often shelled out the dough for the music and the concerts?” Ross asks. “Miley is in good company. After Britney (Spears) appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in the infamous hot pants that created a boycott of her music and the release of ‘I'm a Slave 4 U,’ she took a tremendous amount of heat. But as long as the audience perceives that the artist is in control of their image, they're likely to be more forgiving. With Christina (Aguilera), when she put out ‘Dirrty,’ that also created a media storm, but she reeled it back in when she reinvented herself with the torch songs and the ballads.”
Hannah Montana, the TV show that made Cyrus a household name, is coming to an end. (The fourth and final season of the series will air this summer.) For Cyrus, its conclusion comes with a mixture of exultation and relief. But it's relief tinged with the acknowledgement that the end of the TV show just frees Cyrus up for more work.
“It's hard when you're doing a show and you're going to London for two days and then you come back and you're doing the show again,” she says. “I can kind of bounce around everywhere and I don't really have something that's tying me back here.”
A big part of the appeal of Hannah Montana was seeing her flip between the two characters she portrayed on the show: schoolgirl by day, pop star by night. The same could be said of Cyrus, as she's formed some definite teenager pop culture opinions in her downtime from world domination. Lady Gaga gets a thumbs up — “unlike a lot of artists, all her music does mean something to her personally” — and she can't quite find it in herself to suspend her belief enough to watch Glee even though the show featured “The Climb” in a recent episode.
“Honestly, musicals? I just can't. What if this was real life and I was just walking down the street on Rodeo Drive and all of a sudden I just burst into song about how much I love shoes?” She pauses for a second, and then laughs. “It would get hits on YouTube.”
Germany Wins 2010 Eurovision Song
Contest With Upbeat Pop Song
Source: www.thestar.com - Ian MacDougall
(May 30, 2010) OSLO—Germany’s Lena Meyer-Landrut won the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest with “Satellite,” an upbeat, catchy pop song, edging out Turkey and Romania.
Meyer-Landrut, who turned 19 during the competition in Norway, won 246 points in the voting by a panel of judges and telephone votes from fans in the 39 participating countries.
It was Germany’s second win in the songfest’s 55-year history, and the victory means it will host next year’s contest.
Meyer-Landrut had been second favourite among leading bookmakers, but first in a Google predictor program. Her victory marks the second year in a row that the Google program has correctly projected the winner of Eurovision, after predicting Norwegian fiddler Alexander Rybak’s win in Moscow last year.
Onstage after winning, Meyer-Landrut demanded a kiss on the cheek from Rybak.
“I’m so happy and so thankful and so grateful, and I never thought we could do this,” she said, covering her face with a German flag and, looking bewildered, asked: “Do I have to sing now?”
Alone on stage, with her backup singers in shadow, and dressed in a black cocktail dress, black stockings and dark pumps, Meyer-Landrut sang “Satellite” again to cheers and applause.
Germany beat the Turkish entry by 76 points. Romania came in third.
Oil-rich Norway spent 200 million kroner ($31 million) to host the elaborate songfest, which led off with a performance by Rybak, who won the contest in Moscow in 2009.
This year several countries have pulled out of the extravaganza citing financial strains, including the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Andorra and Hungary.
Observers also feared that the voting for the winner — a political consideration even in the best of times — would be affected by the continent’s simmering financial tensions. The Greek government debt crisis and a subsequent European Union-led bailout has strained relations within the 27-nation bloc.
Germany’s supremacy didn’t inspire joy everywhere. On Russian state television, an announcer said, “Clearly everyone knows where to turn when they need money.”
The contest is known for over-the-top exuberance in costumes, lighting and set design. One notable semi-final outfit — tight silver sparkly shorts — was worn by the male singers in Lithuania’s InCulto group, and contestants from Romania had plumes of fire in the background.
Earlier this week, 34 contestants were whittled down to 20 in two semi-finals. They were competing in the final with five pre-qualified countries — last year’s winner, Norway, and the contest’s four perennials: Britain, Germany, France and Spain.
Politically motivated voting, as well as bloc voting, has been fairly common in Eurovision, and this year was no exception, with former Soviet bloc countries supporting each other, a trend that has helped the region win five of the last 10 contests.
Lesbian-Themed ‘Te Amo’ Clip Banned in US
(June 01, 2010) *Rihanna has some girl-on-girl action in the video for her next single “Te Amo,” but the clip has been blocked from airwaves in the U.S. due to its sexual content. The video, shot in late April at the Chateau de Vigny in France, features French supermodel Laetitia Casta and was directed by Anthony Mandler, who says he’s “really proud of what we did.” “Te Amo,” the fifth single from Rihanna’s fourth album “Rated R,” was replaced in the U.S. by the new single and new video “Rockstar 101″ featuring Slash, which was released last week. Watch “Te Amo” below.
‘American Idol’ Winner, Runner-Up Sign
Source: www.thestar.com - Monica Herrera
(May 28, 2010) American Idol winner Lee DeWyze and runner-up Crystal Bowersox have signed their record deals. DeWyze is signed to 19 Recordings Limited and RCA Records, while Bowersox is signed to 19 Recordings Limited and Jive Records, a source tells Billboard.com. DeWyze joins Daughtry and Adam Lambert at RCA, while Bowersox can now count past Idol winners Jordin Sparks and Kris Allen, and 2009 finalist Allison Iraheta, as her labelmates. If 19 and Sony Music stick to the release schedule of past years, fans can expect DeWyze's and Bowersox's debut albums to be released in the fourth quarter, as Idol albums are typically targeted for release around the holiday season. Last year, Allen's self-titled debut and Lambert's For Your Entertainment were released on Nov. 17 and Nov. 23, respectively. In the meantime, the pair's debut singles were released to iTunes and radio Thursday. DeWyze's single is a cover of U2's "Beautiful Day," Bowersox's is a version of Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain."
‘Idol’ Love has Janet Jackson Thinking
(May 28, 2010) *TMZ is reporting that Janet Jackson was so “blown away” by the love she received during her “American Idol” performance that she’s considering a tour before year’s end. As previously reported, Jackson performed part of her hit “Again” with the “Idol” finalists, then delivered her current single “Nothing” from the “Why Did I Get Married, Too?” soundtrack and her classic “Nasty.” “We’re told as of today a concert tour is now on the front burner,” TMZ reported. “Miss Jackson — who has only toured once since 2002 (and a bulk of that tour was cancelled) agreed yesterday to appear at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans on July 2.” Watch Janet’s performance on “AI”:
Yes, That’s a
Baby Bump: Alicia Keys IS Preggers
(May 27, 2010) *All the speculation is over. Alicia Keys and her man, producer Swizz Beatz, are expecting a baby, the couple’s first child, a rep confirms to “Extra.” Keys, 29, and Swizz, 31, are engaged to be married in private ceremony this year. A friend close to couple says they are “happy.” Keys is currently on tour in Europe.
Pays Ex Mashonda; Avoids Court
(June 01, 2010) *As he prepares to welcome his first child with fiancée Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz has made peace with his ex-wife Mashonda, who was suing him for missed alimony payments and back child support. The beatmaker, born Kasseem Dean, split from Mashonda in 2008 after four years of marriage. Their divorce was finalized in May, but within days of the union being officially over, Beatz was accused of falling behind on his alimony and child support responsibilities for their three-year-old son, Kasseem Jr. According to the New York Daily News, Mashonda’s lawyer, Bernard Clair, confirms that she’s now received a check from Swizz for $334,000 to avoid a scheduled June 10 court date. Meanwhile, Beatz are said to be “blissed out” with news they’re going to be parents. “I’m super-excited,” Swizz tells the New York Daily News from St. Tropez. “People are calling me from Dubai and Japan. We haven’t set a wedding date, but we will. We’re just letting everything flow.”
Celine Dion Pregnant With Twins After
Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem
(May 30, 2010) MONTREAL—After a widely reported miscarriage and several unsuccessful in-vitro fertilization procedures, Quebec chanteuse Celine Dion’s dream of having another child has come true. Dion’s U.S. publicist Kim Jakwerth confirmed to The Canadian Press on Sunday that the singer is 14 weeks pregnant with twins. Jakwerth said Dion and her husband, Rene Angelil, plan to find out the sex of the babies next month. The pregnancy was first reported by People magazine. The weekly quoted Angelil as saying the 42-year-old singer is ecstatic. “Celine is just hoping for a healthy pregnancy. She was hoping for one baby and the news that we are having two is a double blessing.” According to the story posted on People’s website, Dion became pregnant with twins after undergoing her sixth in-vitro fertilization treatment. The couple have been trying for a while for a second child. Dion confirmed the couple’s desire for a brother or sister for her nine-year-old son, Rene-Charles, on The Oprah Winfrey Show earlier this year. “We tried four times to have a child, we’re still trying,” she told the talk-show queen at the time. Dion took a recent break from touring to have a second child through in-vitro fertilization. The superstar performer even missed the Quebec premier of her new movie, Celine: Through the Eyes of the World, and the opening of the Vancouver Olympics because she was in a U.S. hospital trying to conceive. But the news may put a damper on her career plans — Dion is slated to return to Las Vegas for a new show starting in March 2011, based on classic Hollywood romance movies.
Usher Raises the Bar
(May 31, 2010) *We knew Usher was good when he bounced back after his tumultuous love life with a banging album. Now he’s raised the bar again when he became the first artist in the 17-year history of the Rhythmic radio airplay chart to make 10 number one hits. His record breaking hit: “OMG” featuring will.i.am. The song has had some great success, also charting high on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart. “OMG” is a product of Usher’s latest album, “Raymond v. Raymond.”
Drake Carries Messages To Lil Wayne
Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(June 01, 2010) Drake is volunteering to bring fan messages when he visits incarcerated rapper Lil Wayne on Wednesday. The 23-year-old Toronto rapper tweeted that he was planning a trip to see Lil Wayne, who’s serving a one-year sentence at New York’s Rikers Island after pleading guilty to gun possession. “FINALLY got some time for a visit tmrw to go see my brother,” Drake wrote to his nearly 650,000 Twitter followers on Tuesday. “So if you got msgs that need to be delivered write #TellWayne.” Lil Wayne has served as a mentor-like figure for Drake since he first heard the younger rapper in 2008 and signed him to his Young Money label in ’09. The 27-year-old New Orleans native will also be featured on Drake’s debut full-length album Thank Me Later, set to drop June 15.
Queen B on Her Way Back to the Rap Game
(June 01, 2010) *Maybe music fans have been waiting for this come back. But then again, maybe not. Rumours of Lil Kim signing with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label have been circulating, but no one knows it for sure if the veteran is really coming back. A music insider tells ballerstatus.com that the Queen B will have her next solo album produced by Jay-Z, a nice piece of fortune. Information is a little murky, especially because neither the label nor rapper has made any official announcements. Lil Kim hasn’t dropped an album since 2005, “The Naked Truth.” She’s been trying to stay in the limelight, however. She made an appearance on the eighth season of Dancing with the Star in 2009. She did a pretty good job, lasting nine weeks before finally getting cut. Roc Nation is growing in popularity with singers J. Cole, Bridget Kelly, and Rita Ora. Also positioned as a management firm, the company is also representing Melanie Fiona, Daniel Merriweather, and Wale.
Michael Jackson's Hometown To Open
Museum Dedicated To Singer
Source: www.thestar.com - The Associated Press
(June 02, 2010) GARY, Ind. — Work will begin next year on a $300 million museum and arts centre dedicated to Michael Jackson in his hometown, his father and Gary officials announced Wednesday. The late singer last visited Gary in 2003 to talk about the project, but no progress was made on it before his death last year. His father, Joe Jackson, said Wednesday that he was “just carrying out his legacy” by getting involved. “This is a happy day for me because this is something that my family and Michael have always wanted,” Joe Jackson said. “We're bringing something back.” Gary Mayor Rudy Clay said crews will break ground as early as next year. He also said the project would create thousands of jobs and, when finished, was expected to bring at least 750,000 visitors a year to the city. He estimated it would generate $100 million to $150 million in income for the community each year. “This project will be the magnet that will draw people from all over the world,” Clay said. The money to build the Jackson Family Museum and Hotel and the Michael Jackson Performing Arts and Cultural Center and Theaters will come from investors and donations, Clay said. Jackson died in June of last year at the age of 50.
Video: Jaden Smith Raps in New Justin Bieber Song
Source: www.thestar.com - The Associated Press
(June 02, 2010) *The video for Justin Bieber’s new single “Never Say Never,” also the first release from the “Karate Kid” soundtrack, features the star of the film, Jaden Smith, spitting a rhyme like his daddy used to do. The video mixes exclusive footage from the film with various shots of “J Smith” and “J.B.” in the studio recording the song. Jaden, 11, delivers a rap that manages to namedrop his parents as well as Kobe Bryant. [Listen below.] The Will Smith-produced “Karate Kid,” a remake of the 1984 original, hits theatres on June 11. Jaden’s flow begins at 2:03.
Sarah Polley Plays Against Type, As
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Bob Strauss
(May 29, 2010) Los Angeles — Three years ago, Sarah Polley’s sensitive and perceptive feature film directing debut, Away from Her, opened to widespread praise. Her second movie, Take This Waltz, which she describes as a romantic drama with a light touch, starts shooting July 12 in Toronto.
In the interim, though, the actor chose to make a monster.
The former Road to Avonlea child star plays a sort of modern-day Madame Frankenstein in Splice, Vincenzo Natali's creepy bio-engineering thriller.
Polley plays Elsa, a brilliant young scientist, who along with partner Clive (Adrien
Dennis Hopper's Uneasy Ride
Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell
(May 30, 2010) Dennis Hopper raised his middle digit to the world, just as his pugnacious character, Billy, did in Easy Rider.
He suffered fools badly and accepted grief from no man, woman or disease — the latter being the prostate cancer which finally wrestled him to the ground Saturday, just 12 days after his 74th birthday.
It was this quality, perhaps more than any other that defined Hopper as an actor, director, photographer, painter, generational icon and very complicated human being.
A scrapper until the very end, Hopper rose from his sick bed March 26, to make his final public appearance accepting Hollywood Walk of Fame honours outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
He showed up with a bruised face and a large bandage over his right eye. He told his adoring audience he sustained the injury the day before, after a paparazzo yelled out his name while Hopper was walking to his car, causing him to trip and fall flat on his face.
“I know you have a tough job,” he admonished the swarming photographers at the ceremony, “But sometimes, maybe you ought to be a little more sensitive.”
It was an uncharacteristically modest suggestion for Hopper, and more than a little hypocritical. “Sensitive” was never his style; “powder keg” was more like it. Hopper became a legendary rebel both on and off the screen because of the explosive nature of his talent.
A self-proclaimed “farm boy from Dodge City, Kansas,” who credited Hollywood with giving him his real education, Hopper was best known for his outlaw character in Easy Rider, the 1969 motorcycle freedom ride he directed and, with Peter Fonda, co-starred in and co-wrote (also with Terry Southern).
Billy was the unrestrained id to the cool intellect of Fonda’s Captain America, the kind of guy who would yell “we did it!” after a botched escape plan while the other guy declared, “we blew it.”
Hopper became a poster boy for the 1960s generation for Easy Rider, but he’d been part of the 1950s rebellion, too. In his first film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), he played a street gang member named Goon, a thorn in the side to James Dean’s smarter and more controlled troublemaker of the title.
Hopper would later tell TV interview John A. Gallagher that it was working with Dean that he learned how to be an actor.
“I thought that I was really one of the best actors in the world when I was 18, 19 years old, or on the way to being it. And watching (Dean) on Rebel Without A Cause, he was doing things that we so far over my head that I couldn’t comprehend them.”
Hopper was so intrigued by Dean’s icy coolness, he asked him what his secret was.
“He said, ‘Just do it. Do it, don’t show it.’ ”
Hopper would learn from this advice. To watch him on screen, in such other notable roles as the fried photojournalist in Apocalypse Now (1979), the asthmatic sociopath in Blue Velvet (1986), the drunken basketball coach in Hoosiers (1986) and the diabolical terrorist in Speed (1994), was to see an actor who instinctively embraced the dark side of his nature.
He was particularly proud of his role as Gene Hackman’s assistant coach, Shooter, in Hoosiers, because it earned him his sole Academy Award nomination as actor (he had one other Oscar nod, for the Easy Rider screenplay) and because it inspired both professional and amateur athletes.
“It’s the first time in my career, because I played so many villains, that little kids came up to me and called me, ‘Coach,’ ” a smiling Hopper told an interviewer for the American Film Institute.
Hopper’s Achilles heel was an inability to turn his incendiary nature off when the camera shut down. He led as riotous a life at home as he did in on the movie set, causing him to miss opportunities and fumble others.
Hopper’s drug and alcohol consumption was legendary even by Hollywood standards — good thing TMZ.com wasn’t around when he was at full boil — and tore through five marriages (producing four children), the fifth and final of which was in flames when he went to his grave.
Hopper spent the last months of his life in the throes of a bitter divorce from Victoria Duffy, wife No. 5, whom he married in 1996 and whom he felt was trying to take the cherished paintings, photos and other art he liked to make when the camera wasn’t on him. His art and photos were potentially worth millions and he wanted to leave them to his children, not to a spouse he no longer loved.
The court dispute got so nasty that, just last month, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy Pellman ordered the actor to pay his Duffy $12,000-a-month in spousal and child support. She told both spouses to tone down their belligerence, for the sake of their 7-year-old daughter, Galen Grier Hopper.
“There needs to be street-cleaning on both sides of this street,” the judge said, adding that she was concerned about young Galen.
“Having her extended family in a war with her mother is not in her best interests.”
It’s a pity the judge couldn’t have also intervened to bring Hopper back together with the 70-year-old Fonda. The two Easy Rider stars had been at odds for years, over what Fonda said was Hopper’s mule-headed and inaccurate belief that he’d been cheated out of his fair share of the film’s profits.
“I've called him now literally more than a dozen times, and I can't talk to him because he's too tired,” Fonda told the Toronto Star in February.
“He’s wrecked. He’s fighting this (prostate) cancer that he has been fighting for 10 years and I feel sorry for him.”
At the time, Fonda was still hoping to mend fences with Hopper, but his former friend was too preoccupied with his disease and his divorce.
“He has to go out with all these clouds that are going on with his marriage,” Fonda said ruefully. “But he wanted his art and he wanted his kids to have it.”
He hoped he’d eventually get a chance to talk to Hopper.
“I hope he gets another year, so he gets enough strength so I can go in to him and shake his hand and kiss him on the head and say, ‘It’s been a hell of a ride, Dennis. It’s been a hell of a ride.’ ”
It’s unlikely that emotional meeting ever happened. Hopper went out with his middle digit still raised high. He wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Dennis Quaid Nails Clinton Impression
In HBO Film
Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem
(May 28, 2010) Michael Sheen has made virtually a second career out of playing former British prime minister Tony Blair, most memorably in the 2006 feature The Queen, and several times before that on TV.
But Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton? Not even Quaid saw that one coming.
And yet here he is, and doing a quite commendable job, portraying the ex-president opposite Sheen’s practiced Blair in a new cable movie, The Special Relationship, premiering on HBO Canada Saturday night.
“I almost said no to doing the role,” Quaid confesses. “I myself didn’t see myself playing him. I don’t think we look alike, our mannerisms . . . I couldn’t see what they saw.
“But I’m also a big believer in doing the things that I am most afraid to do. So I made a leap of faith and said yes.”
It is, I suggest, less a literal Clinton impression than it is an uncanny evocation of the man at a particular point in time. “That’s exactly what I was after,” Quaid affirms, “as opposed to that prevailing image, you know, like you’d see on Saturday Night Live.”
Quaid is in a unique position to know: “I spent a weekend in the White House with him back in ’99,” he reveals. “Just he and I, in fact. We went to play golf together. And I got to sort of wander around the White House on my own.
“Smartest man I ever met.”
Quaid nonetheless chose not to seek Clinton’s blessing, much less pump him for personal pointers.
“I just sort of took what I already knew,” he says, “and watched miles and miles of footage. I gained 35 pounds. I read a lot, too. His autobiography was already there, and that’s the way I was really kind of able to talk with him.
“I didn’t contact him. I was a little hesitant about that. I mean, there’s been times in my life I wouldn’t to see (made into) a movie.”
The Special Relationship is a fascinating look at pivotal events in the lives of both men: for Blair, the crisis in Northern Ireland; for Clinton, the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.
“I think people forget what a monumental task it was to preserve his presidency, keep his job, keep his marriage, run the country. . . He really got a lot accomplished, actually.”
And indeed, the Clinton we first see in the film is at his presidential peak, bold, decisive, passionately pro-active, confident to the point of arrogance, and well beyond.
“He really was a take-charge guy,” Quaid confirms. “Early in his presidency, after the ’94 elections, he was dismissed as almost irrelevant. But he earned that nickname, ‘The Comeback Kid.’ He was able to transform himself and transform his presidency and work with what was given him.”
The Special Relationship is scripted by Peter Morgan, who also wrote Sheen’s other two most prominent Blair portrayals, The Queen and the 2003 British TV-movie, The Deal, as well as the screenplay of Frost/Nixon, in which Sheen also starred as David Frost.
Quaid welcomed the opportunity to become part of that successful collaboration. “The way Peter writes,” he marvels, “you have such empathy for these people . . . you can really see them as human beings.”
Of particular interest in that context, of course, is the film’s intimate depiction of that historic moment, behind closed doors, that Clinton confessed his indiscretion to Hillary — an equally evocative portrayal by Hope Davis.
“You feel like a fly on the wall,” Quaid allows, “seeing the private side of those public events.”
But not too private. Apparently the sequence was subsequently trimmed. “We didn’t want to make it a lurid tabloid story,” Quaid says.
“At the same time, it’s not an homage.”
History, he says, ultimately speaks for itself. “The real man is still out there, creating his legacy. He’s still working as hard as he did during his presidency.
“You can’t help thinking what might have been,” Quaid muses. “Ten years down the road, you can just sort of look back and see how this last decade could have been so different.”
Chilling With Ice
Source: Kam Williams
O’Shea Jackson was born on June 15, 1969, and adopted the cool alias “Ice Cube” before founding N.W.A. in the late 1980s. As the lyrical mastermind behind the legendary group's Straight Outta Compton album, he literally launched the gangster rap revolution. And his subsequent solo material, including such early Nineties classic CDs as AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate, solidified his place in the pantheon of the genre's more socially-aware artists.
Next, the versatile talent began his meteoric ascent in Hollywood as the star in, producer of and catalyst for the Friday, Are We There Yet? and Barbershop film franchises. He established himself as one of the most bankable actors around, thanks to his charismatic turns in such box-office hits as The Longshots, First Sunday, Anaconda, The Players Club, Three Kings, All About the Benjamins, XXX2 and Boyz 'N the Hood.
In 2007, Ice Cube partnered with the prestigious McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul , Minnesota to establish The Ice Cube Scholarship, a fellowship awarded annually for creativity, talent and songwriting ability to a student in the music technology department. Here, he reflects on his latest venture, producing and playing a support role on the new TV sitcom Are We There Yet?, which is based on his movie of the same name. The show premieres with back-to-back episodes airing on TBS on Wednesday, June 2nd at 9:00 and 9:30 PM.
Kam Williams: Hey, Ice Cube, thanks so much for the time.
Ice Cube: Oh, no problem.
KW: What inspired you to turn “Are We There Yet?” into a TV sitcom?
IC: It was really the idea of Executive Producer Joe Roth who owned the property over at Revolution Studios and said he was thinking about taking it to TV. And after he said that he already had [writer/director] Ali Leroi on board, and that he was going after Terry Crews, to me it was a no-brainer. I said, “Let’s put this together!”
KW: But didn’t you want to star in it, since you had originated the role of Nick on the big screen?
IC: No, because I wanted to go in a different direction, artistically. But having somebody like Terry in it was your ace in the hole. That makes it very strong, so I definitely had to jump in with both feet.
KW: So, how heavily involved are you with the production?
IC: While I had done the movies through Revolution Studios, we own the sitcom. It was a situation where, once the team was assembled, I knew we could create something really, really good.
KW: Did you have a debate about the title, since the movie sequel had been called “Are We Done Yet?”
IC: No, “Are We There Yet?” was the perfect title, because it’s such a common saying. And having made the movie with the same name kinda locks it all in.
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman was wondering whether you think that the focus of the show on successful African-American professionals marrying and creating a blended family with a strong father figure will have a larger impact on the television-viewing public now that we have an African-American President.
IC: I don’t know, but I hope so. [Chuckles] I hope everything works in our favour. The show is cool. It’s family fare. We ain’t aiming at the cheap seats. Instead, we’re making something with a broad appeal that people of any color or creed and from all walks of life can enjoy and maybe learn something from.
KW: Documentary filmmaker Hisani Dubose was wondering how you made the transition from rapper to actor to producer.
IC: Well, for the transition from rapper to actor, I was fortunate that director John Singleton pursued me for about two years to be in Boyz ‘N the Hood. I really wasn’t even thinking about acting at the time, since I was singularly focused on being the best rapper in the world. So, that was really a blessing, because I wasn’t really taking him seriously. Therefore, I can’t really attribute my success onscreen to any formula and suggest you “do this or that” to make it as an actor. However, as far as producing, once we started shooting, I soon realized where the critical decisions about the movies were really being made, and it wasn’t on the set. They were being made in the production meetings. That’s where producing a movie happens. And that’s where I wanted to be. I didn’t just want to be a piece, a pawn being played. I wanted to take part in the creative process, and that’s how I sort of got introduced to the idea.
KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls says, “You are a performer who seems to have figured out show business rather than show business figuring him out. So many rappers are here today and gone tomorrow? When did the insights of how the business really works hit you? What advice can you offer young people about how to be successful in the real business of show business and have a career like yours?”
IC: When I was in N.W.A. and didn’t get paid all the money I was owed, that’s when the business side of showbiz hit me. I thought, “Half of this is workin’. I’m famous, but now I need to be famous with some money.” That got my brain started at trying to figure out the business end. And once I figured out the business side, I next came to understand that success really comes down to the product, not to me, my personality, or what club I’m seen going into or coming out of. None of that matters. What’s important is whether or not people feel like they wasted their time or money when they pay for a movie or a CD. Once I appreciated that, it became all about the project. It ain’t about me.
KW: Bobby Shenker asks, are you going to be doing another Friday film?
IC: I get that question a lot. I’ve vowed not to do another one, unless Chris Tucker was in it. He still hasn’t accepted the offer, so…I can’t say. I don’t know whether we should, if we can’t really do the movie that people have been waiting for.
KW: How about another Barbershop movie?
IC: Yeah, I would hope to do another one. If a third one comes together, I’ll jump on it. Or are we already on the fourth one? I’ve lost count.
KW: It would be the third. Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would.
IC: No, not really. I could do an interview or just as well not do one. It’s not like I’m looking for extra publicity. So, the questions that are asked are cool. And so are the one’s that’s not asked.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
IC: I’m always happy. I’ve just got a mean face. [Laughs]
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
IC: Yeah, definitely.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
IC: A man.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
IC: I can’t remember the last one I read cover to cover. My problem is that I never get through the whole book. I skim through this one, that one, and then the other one.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to?
IC: I’m working on a record, so I don’t listen to nothing while I’m in the studio, because I don’t want to be influenced by anybody else.
KW: Can you reveal what type of album you’re working on?
IC: To me, it’s a California summer record.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
IC: Falling out the bed. I was really little, less than two years-old. My sister was watching me, and I just remember falling and not being able to climb back into the bed without help.
KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favourite clothes designer?
IC: I guess Levi’s Dickies. [Chuckles]
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
IC: Come on, I gotta say “World Peace!”
KW: What is your favourite dish to cook?
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
IC: It’s all about the work. Don’t worry about being a star, worry about doing good work, and all that will come to you.
KW: Thanks again for the interview Cube, and best of luck with everything.
IC: Thank you.
To see a trailer for Are We There Yet?, visit: http://youtube.com/watch?v=hlBaUfoUT_U
Universal Studios’ Backlot Rises From
Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem
(May 30, 2010) UNIVERSAL CITY, CALIF.—Hollywood loves a sequel, especially during the summer. It’s familiar, it’s comforting, and most of all, it’s bankable.
Universal Studios got a new chapter of its own Thursday with the reopening of its backlot, which an accidental fire decimated two years ago. The $200 million project will once again allow filmmakers to shoot on the streets of New York without having to leave Los Angeles, and it’ll give visitors on the studio tour a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the moviemaking process.
Among the films that had been shot there prior to the June 2008 blaze — which also damaged the “King Kong” theme park attraction — were Back to the Future, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sting, Bruce Almighty and The Blues Brothers.
The new lot features 13 city blocks and 15 shooting areas over 1.6 hectares. It includes sections that resemble Central Park, Wall Street, a Broadway theatre district, brownstones and a courthouse square. The backlot can also stand in for London. And with a pub, café, bank, jewellery shop and many other storefronts, it can function as any city anywhere.
The heights of buildings were increased while, at the same time, the streets were narrowed to allow shooting on both sides simultaneously. The revamp also includes improved fire warning and prevention systems.
Steven Spielberg, who has a 40-year history with Universal, was one of the first people who arrived after the fire. He helped reconstruct the lot with a team that included veteran production designer Rick Carter, who won an Oscar this year for Avatar and has worked with Spielberg on such films as Amistad, War of the Worlds and the first two Jurassic Park movies.
The director said when he got to the backlot at 6:30 a.m. the day of the fire, “it was truly an inferno.”
“The flames were hundreds of feet into the air and everything was coming down quickly,” he said. “The smells, the sounds — it was very much like, but actually worse than, 18 years before when the same real estate burned down, burned down to the ground, and had to be rebuilt. I was on that team 18 years ago and I was very proud to volunteer my services to rebuild the lot this time.”
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who shot five films on the Universal backlot in his previous life as an actor, said the studio helped make him the star he became when it released Conan the Barbarian in 1982.
“For me this is kind of a homecoming,” he said. “They were the ones that launched my career, and then we did Conan the Destroyer and Twins and Kindergarten Cop and Junior. I have all kinds of really great, great memories of this studio and, of course, we want to make sure they reopen this backlot as quickly as possible.”
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who also came to Universal when the blaze started, thanked the Los Angeles city and county firefighters who helped prevent deaths and serious injuries that day.
“Our firefighters and our police officers collaborate and work together on a scale and a scope second to none,” he said. “We saw the devastation on that day and I can tell you, I couldn’t have been prouder of the men and women of the L.A. county and L.A. city fire departments.”
Spielberg also praised firefighters for going into the film vault, which houses all the negatives and was in danger of burning, and hauling out film cans one by one to ensure their safety.
“I looked at all the titles — of course, several of the titles should have burned,” he said, drawing laughs, “but the majority of the titles, I thought, were awesome titles.”
Film Review : The Wild Hunt
Source: Kam Williams
Erik (Ricky Mabe) and Evelyn (Kaniehtiio Horn) are a Quebec couple in crisis. The pretty young woman has become so bored with her slacker boyfriend that she’s decided to participate in a weekend-long, medieval-themed masquerade being staged somewhere in the forest outside of Montreal. Truth be told, Erik isn’t really a loser with no redeeming qualities, after all, he does at least dote on his aging father who is slowly slipping away into senility.
Such behaviour strikes a sharp contrast with that of his emotionally-detached brother, Bjorn (Mark Antony Krupa), who is in denial about their dad’s deteriorating health. Bjorn would rather escape to a parallel universe, so he accompanies Evelyn to the site of the live-action role-play re-enactment where he dresses up like a Viking.
This development doesn’t sit well with Erik, since he feels that such fanciful recreations are for geeks who need to get a life. He broods about his predicament after being left behind, until he’s finally upset enough to make his way to the gathering to retrieve Evelyn. However, upon his arrival, he is met by gatekeepers who insist that he adopt appropriate “decorum,” meaning he must don a period costume and stay in character to search the grounds for his girlfriend.
Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take Erik long to break the rules, given that he has little respect for the group of pompous posers in elaborate outfits suddenly surrounding him. He feels that they, including his estranged sibling, take the game way too seriously, as they speak in stilted Old English accents (“I implore you,” and “’Tis I, Hammer of Thor!”), and only occasionally revert to their everyday personas to argue over whether or not someone has just been slain on the field of battle.
Such silly folderol proves increasingly upsetting to Erik who just wants to find Evelyn and leave, ASAP. But this is easier said than done since lovely Princess Evelynia’s been kidnapped by Shaman (Trevor Hayes), King of the Celts. Not to worry, a competing army comprised of Vikings, Anglo-Saxons and elves hatch a plan to rescue the fair maiden.
But after Evelyn remains ambivalent when confronted by exasperated Erik about where he loyalty lies, the goings-on in the festivities take a gruesome turn as the faux fighting morphs into actual violence. A psychological thriller highlighting how hell hath no fury like a frustrated knight in shining armour, even if he only has a plastic sword at his disposal!
To see a trailer for The Wild Hunt, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WENre45f13c&feature=player_embedded
A Look At Diddy’s ‘Get Him To The
Greek’ (Opening Friday, June 4)
(June 01, 2010) *Get Him to the Greek reunites Jonah Hill and Russell Brand with Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller in the story of a young record company executive with three days to drag an uncooperative rock legend to Hollywood for a comeback concert.
The comedy is the latest film from hit producer Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People).
Aaron Green (Hill) gets things done. The ambitious 24-year-old has been given a career-making assignment. His mission: Fly to London and escort a rock god to the world famous Greek Theatre in Los Angeles for a huge comeback concert.
His record mogul boss, Sergio Roma (Sean Combs of Monster’s Ball, television’s A Raisin in the Sun), gives him one warning:
“The artist is the worst person on Earth. Turn your back on him at your own peril.”
British rocker Aldous Snow (Brand) is a brilliant musician and certifiable rock-n’-roll legend, but due to a bad break-up and nose-diving career, has fallen off the wagon and is now a walking disaster. Weary of yes men and scared he’s entered the “greatest hits” twilight of his career, Snow’s in the midst of a nihilistic downward spiral. When he learns his true love, model/pop star Jackie Q (ROSE BYRNE of television’s Damages, Knowing), is in Los Angeles, Aldous makes it his quest to win her back…right before kick-starting his return to world domination.
As the countdown to the concert begins, one innocent young man must navigate a minefield of London drug smuggles, Manhattan mayhem and Vegas debauchery to deliver his charge safe and, sort of, sound…all while trying to remain faithful to his girlfriend, Daphne (ELISABETH MOSS of television’s Mad Men, Did You Hear About the Morgans?). He may have to coax, lie to, enable and party with Aldous, and Aaron may get inebriated, titillated, violated, humiliated, incapacitated, irritated, evacuated, medicated and rejuvenated on the way … but Aaron will get him to the Greek.
Just as Aaron and girlfriend Daphne are stumbling through a difficult patch in their relationship, Aaron is given the plum assignment to travel to London and escort Aldous to New York City for a publicity stint at the Today show…and then on to the Greek Theatre for the 10-year anniversary concert of his breakthrough American debut. In essence, he is being sent to babysit a madman. Doling out that task to Aaron is the head of Pinnacle Records, Aaron’s boss Sergio Roma, played by Sean Combs.
When the casting director advised the filmmakers that Combs was willing to fly himself out to audition for the part, they knew he was serious about the job. It was an unusual move for such a well-known performer, but Combs had a plan. The performer offers:
“When I first found out there was a chance to be in a movie with Jonah Hill and Russell Brand that was directed by Nick Stoller and produced by Judd Apatow, I would’ve given one of my arms to get the role. I prepared all of the dialogue, worked with my acting coach, walked into the audition, and they said, ‘You’re not going to need the script. We’re just going to improv.’ I thought, ‘If I really want the role…I just have to go for it.’”
Casting Combs had an unexpected benefit. Explains Apatow:
“Nick wrote Sergio as an amazing part, and then Sean was even better than what we had. We would go to him and say, ‘What would a crazy record company executive say here?’ He turned into one of the important partners of the movie because he told us about the record industry, and he knew a lot of insane points of view that people might have.”
Sergio Roma, he’s the owner of Pinnacle Records. He’s an eccentric, over-the-top type of record executive” says Combs about his character.
“I know it sounds similar to me in my real life, but it’s really different. Sergio is much crazier than what I am. I’m more of a very serious businessman when it comes to taking care of business. I can’t wait for people to meet Sergio, it’s not me playing myself. I definitely draw on some real-life experiences of the music industry. You know, at the end of the day this is a comedy, so there, there are some things that, that are very true and some things that are made to be funny, you know, and, you know, the music industry is a crazy place to work.”
Universal Pictures presents-in association with Relativity Media and Spyglass Entertainment-an Apatow Production of a Nicholas Stoller film: Jonah Hill, Russell Brand in Get Him to the Greek starring Elisabeth Moss, Rose Byrne, Colm Meaney and Sean Combs. The original score is by Lyle Workman; the music supervisor is Jonathan Karp. The film’s costume designer is Leesa Evans; the comedy is edited by William Kerr and Mike Sale. The production designer is Jan Roelfs; the director of photography is Robert Yeoman, ASC. The co-producer is Jason Segel, and the executive producer is Richard Vane. Get Him to the Greek is produced by Judd Apatow, Nicholas Stoller, David Bushell, Rodney Rothman. It is based on characters created by Jason Segel and written and directed by Nicholas Stoller. © 2010 Universal Studios www.gethimtothegreek.com
SEAN COMBS (Sergio Roma) made his Broadway debut as Walter Lee Younger in the classic Lorraine Hansberry play A Raisin in the Sun. In 2008, Combs reprised the role (and served as an executive producer) for ABC’s televised adaptation, which went on to be nominated for three Emmy Awards. For his role in the telefilm, Combs won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.
Combs made his professional acting debut in the feature film Made. He then starred as Lawrence Musgrove, opposite Halle Berry, in Monster’s Ball, for which he received much critical acclaim.
Combs is the CEO and founder of Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, a multifaceted entertainment powerhouse. He is also a Grammy Award-winning music producer who counts Aretha Franklin, Sting, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J. Blige and Janet Jackson among the many artists with whom he has worked. Combs has also released four multiplatinum albums and won his third Grammy Award for the No. 1 song “Shake Ya Tailfeather,” from the Bad Boys II soundtrack. This summer, Combs will debut his sixth studio album, “Last Train to Paris,” with his new group Diddy-Dirty Money.
Since the inception of his clothing line Sean John, Combs has been praised for his innovative and sexy approach to fashion. His efforts were recognized in 2004 when he received the prestigious Perry Ellis Menswear Designer of the Year Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
Additionally, Combs launched his first fragrance, Unforgivable, in 2006 with cosmetics giant Estée Lauder, which quickly became the No. 1-selling fragrance across America. He then launched the fragrances Unforgivable Woman in 2007 and I Am King in 2008, which garnered him a Fragrance Foundation FiFi Award.
Watch the trailer for “Get Him to the Greek”:
Samuel L. Jackson, Dominic Cooper - Now, All We Need Is A Female
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald
(June 01, 2010) Could she be the next Ellen Page? Or maybe more of a cerebral Sarah Polley type? Whichever, the filmmakers behind a new neo-noir thriller called Lie Down With Darkness, featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Dominic Cooper, are looking for a beautiful – but fresh and little known – homegrown talent to be the female lead.
The creatives behind the Canadian-German co-production, which has Telefilm Canada backing and is slated to start filming in Toronto and Cologne later this year, believe that an actress with a lower profile than a bankable star will bring the requisite element of mystique to a script fraught with twists and turns. And no, it’s probably not just a cost-cutting measure: The film is a multimillion-dollar production executive-produced by Andras Hamori of H20 Motion Pictures, a former senior executive with Alliance Communications in Toronto.
“Dominic [of Mamma Mia!, An Education] is one of the most exciting young actors on the international scene today,” says Toronto director David Weaver, who also co-wrote the script. “And I think the pairing with Sam [Pulp Fiction, Patriot Games] is going to yield amazing tension and chemistry. Now, we just need to find our female lead.”
Auditions kick off this week for the role of Iris, a young drug addict who becomes caught between Foley (Jackman) and Ethan (Cooper) in a life-or-death con.
Benicio Del Toro's Hair-Raising Takes On Che,
Wolfie And Moe
Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell
(May 31, 2010) Benicio Del Toro didn't exactly plan it this way, but he's on a roll playing hairy pop culture icons.
Make that a roller coaster ride, with loads of hair turns. He went from the bearded and beneficent Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Steven Soderbergh's rebel bioepic Che, to the horrifically hirsute title monster in The Wolfman, which arrives on DVD Tuesday.
If Del Toro has his way, he'll soon be growing bangs or flipping a wig to play chief knucklehead Moe Howard in The Three Stooges, a movie Peter and Bobby Farrelly (Dumb & Dumber) are intent on making about retro wise guys Curly, Larry and Moe.
“I hope so,” said Del Toro, 43, about playing Moe, which would have him screaming “Shaddup!” and poking people in the eyes a lot.
“I don't have anything right now concrete that I can tell you that it's going, and when or where. But there's talk about it. The only ones who could answer that right now would be the Farrelly Brothers.”
The Internet Movie Database lists The Three Stooges as being in “pre-production” with a 2011 release date. It also still lists Sean Penn as playing Larry Fine, which Penn was originally eager to do. But he withdrew from the role months ago, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.
Jim Carrey was publicly expressing a desire to play chubby bro Curly, and he'd been reportedly gaining weight — as much as 50 lbs. — to get ready for the role. But the weight gain report came from girlfriend Jenny McCarthy, who has since exited stage left from Carrey's life.
Whether or not The Three Stooges happens anytime soon, there's another iconic role that Del Toro is interested in. After his various hairy conniptions, he's keen to grow gills and slime people as the Creature From the Black Lagoon, the movie monster he most enjoyed as a kid growing up in Puerto Rico.
On the line from New York, just back from France where he was part of the Tim Burton-led jury at the Cannes Film Festival, Del Toro enthuses about going green and mean as the Black Lagoon critter.
“That would be kind of cool. I love that monster,” he said.
“When I was growing up in Puerto Rico, that was the only monster that I could be in Puerto Rico, you know? The Wolfman is from the north, Frankenstein is from the north, Dracula is from the north, the Mummy is from the desert, but the Creature comes from the tropics.”
He has fond memories of playing the Wolfman, despite the critical shellacking the film took upon its release in February. The production had been plagued by various delays, including a late change in directors, with Joe Johnston (Jumanji) stepping in after Mark
Romanek (One Hour Photo) departed over the proverbial creative differences.
“It did have some bumps in there,” Del Toro agreed.
“We did have a director that left the troupe and we had to have Joe Johnston come in and steer the boat, but otherwise, it was just an ambitious (film) with CGI and makeup and all that stuff. But otherwise, I'm very happy with the film. It stays pretty close to those classic monster movies that I like.”
Does he think horror fans appreciated it?
“I don't go around going, ‘Horror fans? What did you think of The Wolfman?' But I think overall the people that know those movies were pleased by the fact that it remained in that vein of those classic old movies. We didn't try to explain too much, we didn't modernize it. We kept it as a period piece. The horror fans, I think they liked it, but in the U.S. the movie came out as R-rated. That limited it a little bit.
“Had it been PG-13, we would have had access to a younger generation, but they'll catch up now with the DVD. A lot off kids snuck in (to theatres) and they really liked it. I've got a couple off friends who have kids who are 12, 13, 14. And they really enjoyed the film as a movie. It's a fantasy story, and they liked it.”
Del Toro, who also has a production credit on the film, has a rudely great answer to the question of whether he would have changed anything in, The Wolfman.
“Let me answer you this way: If my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle. You figure it out.”
His accidental tour of pop icons has also brought him into the company of Mick Jagger. The Rolling Stones frontman was in Cannes to promote the world premiere of Stones In Exile, Stephen Kijak's documentary about the making of the band's classic 1972 album, Exile On Main Street.
Del Toro appears in the doc, talking about his love of the band. Here's a weird coincidence: he first learned about Che Guevara as a name-check in the Stones song “Indian Girl,” off the band's 1980 album, Emotional Rescue.
He met Jagger in Cannes while taking a break from his jury duties.
“I couldn't believe it. I walked over to Mick and I said, ‘I don't know why I'm in the film, but I've got to tell you, I'm the fan. I represent every fan.' And Mick was pretty cool about it,” Del Toro said.
“I was a little confused that I was in the film because the filmmaker, Stephen, he told me that he was interviewing a bunch of people.
“I love the Stones. I grew up with Emotional Rescue, not Exile On Main Street, although I know Exile On Main Street very well. The first time I heard the name Che Guevara was in Emotional Rescue.
“The movie was great. Seeing it in Cannes and seeing all that stuff in black and white, with Mick walking around Cannes with his kid, it was great.”
Elizabeth Taylor Releases
Love Letters From Richard Burton
Source: www.thestar.com - Reuters
(June 01, 2010) Elizabeth Taylor has made public for the first time her love letters from Richard Burton, giving new insight into a passionate, playful but turbulent romance that spanned 20 years and two marriages.
But Taylor is keeping one letter private, according to Vanity Fair magazine in an article in its July edition.
That letter was written by Burton just days before his death in Switzerland in 1984 of a brain hemorrhage and reached the actress in California after she returned from his memorial service.
Burton wanted to come home to her, Vanity Fair said, after Taylor read the letter she keeps in her bedside drawer to writers Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger.
Taylor, 78, shared the bulk of the letters with Kashner and Schoenberger for their new book Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century.
Burton playfully calls Taylor “Twit Twaddle”, addresses her as “My Lumps” and sometimes signed his letters “Husbs.”
“If you leave me, I shall have to kill myself. There is no life without you,” he wrote in one early letter.
“Richard was magnificent in every sense of the word,” Taylor, the eight-times married actress, told Kashner and Schoenberger. “And in everything he ever did. . . . He was the kindest, funniest, and most gentle father. All my kids worshipped him. Attentive, loving — that was Richard — from those first moments in Rome we were always madly and powerfully in love. We had more time but not enough,” she said.
Taylor and Burton started a torrid affair in 1962 on the Rome set of the movie Cleopatra that shocked the media and was denounced by the Vatican as both were still married to other partners.
Their first marriage lasted from 1964-74 and they wed again in October 1975 before breaking up in July 1976.
“You are probably the best actress in the world, which, combined with your extraordinary beauty, makes you unique,” Burton wrote in one of the newly released letters.
“The fundamental and most vicious, swinish, murderous, and unchangeable fact is that we totally misunderstand each other . . . we operate on alien wavelengths. You are as distant as Venus — planet, I mean — and I am tone-deaf to the music of the spheres,” he wrote in another.
In other letters, the Welsh-born actor confesses that he believes acting, for a man, is “sissified and faintly ridiculous” and talks of how he wished he had chosen the life of a writer.
The Taylor and Burton romance is the July cover story of Vanity Fair magazine, which hits newsstands on June 8. Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century will be published by HarperCollins on June 15.
Director Antoine Fuqua Confirms Tupac Biopic
(May 28, 2010) *Director Antoine Fuqua has stated that his next film will be a biopic about rapper Tupac Shakur. The project just got the green light by Morgan Creek chairman James G. Robinson and will begin production in September, according to Digital Spy. “That’s what I’ve been starting up and working on now,” he said. “I’ve been working on that for a while with Morgan Creek and Jim Robinson. I’ve just started to prep that.” Fuqua said he wants an unknown actor to portray the rap star, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996. “That’s the goal, I want to discover someone new,” he explained. “I want to discover a lot of new people if I can. Obviously I’m going to have to put some people in it that you know, just because actors have different skills. I want to go to the streets and find him anywhere he might be in the world.”
Kevin Eubanks Says Goodbye to ‘Tonight
(June 01, 2010) *”Tonight Show” bandleader Kevin Eubanks capped his 18-year run with Jay Leno on Friday’s broadcast with a show that included a highlight reel of comic moments between Leno and Eubanks, and an original song performed by the departing guitarist.
Eubanks has been with “Tonight” ever since Leno took over for host Johnny Carson in 1992. He became musical director when Branford Marsalis left in 1995, then joined Leno last fall for the split-second “Jay Leno Show” at 10 p.m. before moving back to “Tonight” when Leno reclaimed the slot back from Conan O’Brien in March.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had an argument,” Leno told his comic sidekick during the show. “We’ve had a lot of fun.”
In April, Eubanks announced his plans to depart, but he insisted the recent turmoil had played no part in his decision. He said he was seeking a career change of pace.
Also leaving with Eubanks are the other five members of the Tonight Show Band. They include vocalist and percussionist Vicki Randle, keyboardist Gerry Etkins, bass guitarist Derrick “Dock” Murdock, saxophonist Ralph Moore and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith.
“We have gone through all this together,” said Eubanks, introducing and thanking them.
Replacing Eubanks will be former “American Idol” music director Rickey Minor, who arrives with his own band on June 7. “The Tonight Show” will air reruns next week.
Sarah Ferguson: Buy A Little Help For My
Source: www.thestar.com - Frazier Moore
(June 01, 2010) An apologetic Sarah Ferguson told Oprah Winfrey that even though she is in deep financial debt, her offer to sell access to her former husband, Prince Andrew, for $724,000 (U.S.) began as an effort to raise money for a friend.
The Duchess of York said in an interview that aired Tuesday on The Oprah Winfrey Show that she only asked for so much money after the undercover journalist posing as a businessman gave her $40,000 for a friend, whom she would not identify.
“I just took a long shot . . . I think I just went, ‘Well, if you’re going for 40 (thousand dollars), well, okay, if you want to do business in the future,’ ” she said, trying to explain, before admitting that she didn’t know what she was thinking.
Still, she went ahead after being told the man might invest in her children’s books, videos and other projects as well as assist her with what she described as her own “very serious financial debt.”
Ferguson would not elaborate on how much money she owes but said she is considering filing for bankruptcy.
She also would not confirm a report Winfrey said she’d seen that says she receives $20,000 a year in her divorce settlement, saying that she is prohibited from discussing it because of a confidentiality agreement she signed. But she also suggested that she took less money than she could have because she wanted to remain friends with the Queen, whom she referred to as “the boss.”
At times, Winfrey seemed confused by Ferguson’s answers, wondering, for example, why someone in her position did not simply ask her ex-husband or the Queen for $40,000.
“I am divorced from the royal family and I would never dream of doing that,” she said.
Ferguson repeatedly used phrases such as “spiralling out of control,” to explain her offer of access to Andrew. She said she had been drinking but denied being drunk and said she was “not in my right place.”
She even told Winfrey that she went ahead with the agreement with the “businessman” despite her suspicion that he was, in fact, an undercover journalist.
The offer to sell access was caught on video, which the tabloid News of the World posted on its website in May. Ferguson portrayed the scene in the video as the latest chapter in a deeply troubled life that she still doesn’t quite understand.
“I hope in (the) future that I will one day get to the point where I’ll show that this is what you get to when you don’t face your dark side, and the demons and fears that run in you and it gets to the point where you sabotage out of control,” she said.
Ferguson, 50, married Andrew, who is fourth in line to the throne, in 1986. They had two children, princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, before divorcing in 1996.
Since then Ferguson has written children’s books, made television documentaries and acted as a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers.
Trials Of Being Big Man On Campus
Source: www.thestar.com - Frazier Moore
(June 01, 2010) NEW YORK, N.Y.—From those to whom much is given, much is expected.
That even applies to the seemingly short-changed 15-year-old RJ Berger, who sizes himself up for the audience as “scrawny and weird-looking, awkward and pale.”
The hero of the new MTV scripted comedy The Hard Times of RJ Berger, he follows in a rich TV tradition of winsome misfit adolescents: kids with smarts, creativity and spunk lurking just beneath the surface of their systematic victimhood.
But RJ comes with a bonus tucked away in his boxer shorts: he’s extremely well-endowed.
Thus does Hard Times raise issues that consume males from their early adolescence onward: How much is big enough? Why don’t I have more? Why is life so unfair? A show aimed at teen and 20something guys (plus girls with their own interest in the subject), Hard Times portrays the ultimate wish fulfilment of its primary audience, while reminding the viewer that no blessing comes without a cost.
Here is a young man whose gift (never witnessed by viewers, of course, and thus enhanced even more in the mind’s eye) is plenty big enough, and then some.
And yet, doggonit, RJ’s life isn’t perfect. For RJ, a large penis is as much a curse as a blessing, as much a burden as an object of pride.
As what could be described as The Wonder Years meets Boogie Nights, the 12-episode series premieres on MuchMusic in Canada on June 7 at 10 p.m. It focuses on RJ’s relatable misadventures in high school, as well as his relatable ambivalence about his manhood, however much the physical evidence might scream “case closed!”
Hard Times bears a passing resemblance to HBO’s Hung. In that drama series, which returns for its second season June 27, a financially struggling family man and high-school teacher becomes a male prostitute.
But RJ, who is played with understated forbearance by Paul Iacono, isn’t nearly so desperate. His struggles are more those of self-acceptance and gaining acceptance of his fellow teens.
RJ is free to stew over such dilemmas in private until, in the premiere, the cat (so to speak) is out of the bag. In a wardrobe malfunction during a basketball game, his secret is exposed to the whole student body.
RJ’s nerdy, marginal presence is instantly revised among all who behold him. From now on, it seems, he will be identified on campus with a blend of envy, jeering and a bit of the yuck factor. What might very well serve as an advantage is also likely to further stigmatize him.
The long and the short of it: what is expected of RJ is how to deal with his package deal.
RJ’s best friend, the sex-obsessed and sex-deprived Miles (Jareb Dauplaise) is thrilled to learn of RJ’s previously undisclosed bounty. Miles bets he will seem desirable to girls by mere association.
“It’s our golden ticket!” Miles rejoices.
After the revelation, RJ’s stalker-ish hanger-on Lily (Kara Taitz) is all the more interested in RJ.
But his sole, unrequited love interest remains the beautiful Jenny (Amber Lancaster), whose boyfriend is Max (Jayson Blair), the meanest jock in school.
Now Max gives RJ more grief than before, mocking him (jealously?) as a freak.
Meanwhile, a friendship blossoms between RJ and sweet Jenny, who by chance are paired as study buddies. It’s a friendship challenged in the third episode when, playing the romantic leads in the school musical, they share a kiss. RJ’s sudden onstage tumescence literally stops the show.
But Hard Times isn’t totally fixated on RJ’s phallus. This condition is barely mentioned in the second episode (airing Monday, June 14, at 10 p.m., in the series’ regular slot), when RJ summons newfound confidence to run for student president against Max, the clear favourite.
“Okay, maybe we’re losers,” says RJ in a bold campaign speech. “But why are we losers? Is it because we suck at sports? Is it because our parents are our only friends on Facebook? No, what makes us losers is that we believe we are losers!”
At heart, Hard Times tells the familiar story of a little guy against the world. The message, delivered in provocative style: Size is what you make of it.
Video: Boris Kodjoe
is Back and Going ‘Undercovers
(May 27, 2010) If you ladies have been going through withdrawals to get an opportunity to see the big and tall guy of Hollywood, wait no longer, he’s back and in full force! Boris Kodjoe is joined by lesser known counterpart, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as his chef wife. But, why’d I mention her anyway, you ladies won’t have time to pay her any attention. But the fellas will be please. Their new show on this Fall, Undercovers, will have something for everyone. It’s a Mr. and Mrs. Smith without the violence toward one another. The two are retired undercover agents Steven and Samantha Bloom and they are chefs. They have a lovely restaurant and are both willing to stay retired as long as the other doesn’t know the other one is coming back into the espionage game…or so they think. It looks like this one is going to excite and satisfy. There’s plenty of eye candy and storyline for all. Nicole Ari Parker is probably on set everyday making sure she protects her investment. She remembers how they met. Check out the :
Spike TV Plans Goodfellas
Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press
(June 01, 2010) New York — Spike TV is bringing together Robert DeNiro and Ray Liotta to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the mob classic Goodfellas. The two stars will be at Spike's fourth annual “Guy's Choice” awards, to be televised June 20. Event producer Casey Patterson says Goodfellas is considered a touchstone for Spike's target audience of 18- to 34-year-old men. Spike is still working on getting cast member Joe Pesci to attend. Filmmaker Martin Scorsese will be in Europe and won't be at the show's taping in Culver City, Calif., on Saturday. Patterson calls the film “a classic story, shot in a way that makes it really, really sexy.”
Eric Peterson’s Stagecraft Brings Three Dora Nominations
Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara
(June 02, 2010) Veteran actor Eric Peterson has shown there is life after sitcom stardom after getting three nominations in the 31st annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards.
The awards, which honour the performing arts in Toronto, will be presented on June 28 at the Bluma Appel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, hosted by CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi.
Peterson, 63, who co-starred in Corner Gas, one of Canada’s most successful TV comedies, was nominated for Outstanding Male Actor for Billy Bishop Goes to War in a production by Soulpepper Theatre, a role he originated in 1978. Peterson also received two nominations in the Featured Role/Ensemble category for Of the Fields, Lately and Hamlet, a production by Necessary Angel presented by Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage.
Hamlet led in the general theatre category with six nominations, including two nods for Best Female Performance in a Leading Role, Direction and Lighting. Other nominees in the category include Soulpepper Theatre’s Parfumerie; If We Were Birds produced by Tarragon Theatre in association with Groundwater Productions; Courageous, a co-production of Tarragon Theatre and Citadel Theatre; and 7 Stories, a co-production of Canadian Stage Company and Theatre Calgary.
In the independent theatre category, a collaboration between Theatrefront and the Young Centre for the Performing Arts of The Mill led with seven nominations.
In the opera division, the Canadian Opera Company’s production of The Flying Dutchman led with seven nominations.
In a new category, musical theatre, The Toxic Avenger by Dancap Productions led with five nominations, including performance nods for Louise Pitre, Evan Smith and Daren A. Herbert.
In the dance category, PARIS 1994/GALLERY and this time tied for the lead with three nominations each.
In the theatre for young audiences division, Roseneath Theatre’s production Rocket and the Queen of Dreams led with three nominations.
Nominees in the outstanding new play category include Courageous by Michael Healey, Such Creatures by Judith Thompson, If We Were Birds by Erin Shields, Refugee Hotel by Carmen Aguirre and Letters to My Grandma by Anusree Roy.
Veteran actor/director R.H. Thomson received the Barbara Hamilton Memorial Award, given annually since 1996 to a Canadian artist who has demonstrated excellence in performance and in advocating for the arts in Canada. The award, sponsored by the City of Toronto, comes with a $1,000 prize.
The Latest Twist For John Malkovich
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian
(May 28, 2010) Instead of the traditional Kaffee mit Schlag, it’s Murder mit Schlag on the menu at this Viennese café today.
That’s because John Malkovich is on the phone, discussing how “It isn’t easy to kill someone every night on stage. And the more people you kill, the harder it gets. Especially when I kill them as terribly as I do in this show.”
He’s talking about The Infernal Comedy, the controversial music/theatre piece about the real-life Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger that he’s bringing to Toronto as one of the signature pieces of this year’s Luminato Festival of Arts, Culture and Creativity.
For two nights only (June 11 and 12), Malkovich will stalk the stage of Massey Hall as Unterweger, whose reign of terror lasted from 1991 through 1994. During that time, he killed at least 11 prostitutes, strangling all of them with their own brassieres.
“He designed a special knot himself,” notes Malkovich, “and it resulted in a ligature so tight that when it was held up during his trial, some people fainted at the sight.”
And the amazing thing about Unterweger’s killing spree — it ended with his arrest, conviction and subsequent suicide — was that it was actually his second.
“When he was in his early 20s he had killed another woman, using the exact same method,” continues Malkovich. “He was sent to prison, but became quite a writer and eventually convinced everyone he had been rehabilitated. His pardon was signed by the president of Austria at the time, Kurt Waldheim.”
When I react to the fact of an ex-Nazi pronouncing a murderer rehabilitated, Malkovich quietly says, “That’s an irony which has been noticed by many people, myself included.”
The records later show that Unterweger committed six of his murders in the year following his release, then went to Los Angeles as a writer and expert on serial killers.
It was during that time (1991) when Malkovich first saw Unterweger being interviewed on television and, when asked if he thought the man had returned to his career of slaughter, his answer is unequivocal.
“No, because it seemed so counterintuitive. I mean, put yourself in his place. You’re condemned to life in prison and then you write novels and plays, you’re celebrated, you become a very noted figure, you’re pardoned and you go out into the world again.
“It seems so insane to start murdering again.” There’s a long pause, which — with Malkovich — you quickly learn not to break, because it doesn’t mean he’s finished answering your question; he’s just formulating his next thought.
“It’s very difficult to predict what people will do,” he finally says. “I’ve spent my whole life, on stage and screen as well as off, figuring that out.”
What we haven’t gotten around to discussing yet is the actual content of The Infernal Comedy (a deliberate Satanic inversion of the Dante classic). It’s not just a monologue by Unterweger, but a commercial pitch from beyond the grave, since he’s come back to sell his autobiography.
He’s also backed up by a 40-piece Baroque orchestra and six sopranos. As each chapter of Unterweger’s biography finishes, one of these women sings a glorious death ode from the operatic repertoire, at the conclusion of which Malkovich kills them.
“It’s not all bathed in realism,” he says defensively. “Some of it is very poetic, some of it is very stylized, but yes, some of it is very brutal.”
You might be tempted to ask, “What’s a nice guy like you doing in a play like this?” except for the fact that much of the two-time Oscar nominee’s career has been spent in playing decidedly twisted individuals, whether it’s the manipulative French aristocrat in Dangerous Liaisons or the psychotic assassin from In the Line of Fire.
“When do you a project, you do what’s in that project,” Malkovich says simply. “It may not have any application to your life or how you feel about the character you’re playing. What interested me most about this project was that it cut across genres and combined various disciplines. When an opportunity this good was presented to me, I would have been daft not to have followed it.
“I don’t worry about why John Malkovich did this. I don’t ever really even think about John Malkovich as an entity.”
Really? Not even when he agreed to lend his name and his presence to the quirky 1999 Spike Jonze film Being John Malkovich?
He chuckles, caught for a second. “You know I have no idea of what being John Malkovich means. I didn’t before the film. I didn’t during it. And I don’t now.
“It’s funny, before I did that film I was slightly worried. I’d always had such a blessed life, people left me alone pretty much. I had my work, I had my family and it was fairly undisturbed. I worried that the film would change that.
“But it didn’t really change my life at all. Other things have changed my life. The invention of cellphones, the Internet, the 24-hour monitoring of every celebrity movement, step, false step and stumble. That has made things harder for all of us.”
The conversation comes back to the morbid fascination of playing someone as truly horrific as Unterweger.
“I try to understand him and feel compassion for him,” says Malkovich, “but understanding is not forgiveness. Who knows how many Unterwegers are lurking repressed inside our friends and family?
“Don’t you think a massive part of life is hidden? Our own lives are even hidden from ourselves? A lot of the things that are hidden are hidden for a reason. They’re shocking, they’re nasty, they’re inexplicable even to us. A big part of our existence is — and must remain — unknowable.”
But if we cannot understand everything in the world, then who or what makes it happen?
“I’m not a God person, or a Supreme Being person or a heaven and hell person. I prefer not to think about it. I don’t believe there is a master plan for our existence, but I don’t pretend I’m right about that any more than I am sure about which street is a one-way street in a town that I don’t know.
“I kind of believe in the innate goodness of people, with qualifications. I wish people thought more independently. I wish they were more curious. But overall, I believe they are good.”
Then how does he explain Jack Unterweger? The silence lasts so long that the sound of the Kaffee mit Schlag crowd is audible again in the background.
Then he answers.
“Some people are born in hell and get out. Some people are born in heaven and find hell on their own.”
Venus: A Lady, A Goddess — But Never This Broad
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian
One Touch of Venus
(out of 4)
By Kurt Weill, Ogden Nash and S.J. Perelman. Directed by Eda Holmes. Until Oct. 10 at the Royal George Theatre. 1-800-511-SHAW
(May 29, 2010) NIAGARA ON THE LAKE—A good goddess is awfully hard to find.
That’s the first of several morals that can be drawn from the revival of One Touch of Venus that opened at the Shaw Festival on Friday night.
This 1943 musical about a statue of Venus — the old Roman goddess of love — that comes to life in New York City, changing the existence of everyone involved was a moderate hit when it first opened, but has hardly ever been revived since.
That may seem strange since its authors include the legendary composer, Kurt Weill, the skilled light versifier, Ogden Nash, and the sophisticated satirist, S.J. Perelman.
But after sitting through Eda Holmes’s production, one sees why this is a work more honoured on the shelf than on the stage.
Moral No. 2: If you’re going to put a fairy tale on the stage, make sure you get the tone exactly right.
Perelman and his peeps mixed together their mockery of modern art, suburban life and contemporary conformity and used it to pepper the story of how a shy, henpecked barber is turned into a man by the love of Venus.
Think of the films of Ernst Lubitsch and you’ll have an idea of what was needed. Lubitsch’s premiere goddess, Marlene Dietrich, was the original choice for the role, in fact which gives you a pretty good idea of the landscape.
But Holmes plays everything as if this were a production of Guys and Dolls with ADD. Everyone is doing their most overdone “Noo Yawk” accents, running around screaming and Michael Lichtefeld’s choreography is amusing, but a bit relentless.
The result is a frantic, but resolutely unfunny, evening that manages to ruin the score’s best song, “Speak Low,” by letting Venus grind herself against her beloved like a lapdancer at closing time.
Venus. Sigh. There’s no getting past it, but that’s where this production really falls down. Robin Evan Willis is fairly new to the business and shouldn’t really be faulted for failing in a role that needed the likes of Mary Martin and Ava Gardner to succeed.
But having said that, it must be noted that she overacts strenuously, sports a fairly rapid vibrato and seems to have based her physical appearance on a 1970s country singer.
Kyle Blair manages to be quite charming as the winsome barber Rodney and Deborah Hay shows everyone how you can be funny but subtle as one of those typical girl-Fridays the 1940s loved.
But Mark Uhre (despite a lovely singing voice in the haunting “West Wind”) is not believable as a dashing sophisticate and Julie Martell and Gabrielle Jones overact so strenuously they’ll probably want to leave this one off their resumes.
Moral No. 3: If you’re doing a Kurt Weill score, do it justice.
This one, at least, they got right. Ryan De Souza’s musical direction and re-orchestration of the music, played by a first-rate band, is as close to perfection as it gets. Not only does it sound wonderful, it sounds correct: 1943 come to life.
But if they could get the music right, they why not everything else?
This Wide Night: Chemistry Bonds Very Different Actors
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian
(May 31, 2010) NEW YORK—If you’d like to see a master class in the art of great acting, I suggest you make a trip to Manhattan before June 27 to catch Edie Falco and Alison Pill in the startling play, This Wide Night.
Written by British author Chloe Moss, it tells the story of two women who were cellmates and close friends in prison, but find it hard to recreate that bond when together in the outside world of freedom.
Pill plays Marie, the younger of the pair — in prison for a shorter sentence for a lesser crime. She’s joined in her hellhole of a bed-sitter by Lorraine (Falco) who is 50 now, is just coming out of a dozen years behind bars and was imprisoned for something far worse than Marie.
At first it’s hard to believe the two were ever close. Lorraine is all sprawling horizontal softness and open-eyed vulnerability, while Marie is a rigid vertical line of unbridled antagonism toward the whole human race.
But as this short (90 minutes), but powerful play progresses, you gradually see how these two women are almost necessary to complete each other. Two wounded half-spirits, that combine to make a damaged but functioning whole.
Yes, it’s a sad story, but the magic of Falco and Pill, combined with the beautifully underwritten dialogue of Moss, make this an ultimately uplifting evening.
Hours after I left the theatre that night, I couldn’t dismiss from my mind the image of those two women clinging to each other for a solace they’d never really find.
Meeting Falco and Pill the next afternoon for an interview in the kind of corporate boardroom you would have expected to find in Mad Men, it’s amazing to rediscover how different they are from every role they play.
“Acting,” quips Falco. “It’s called acting.”
I’ve interviewed them both before: Pill when she was delivering her Tony-nominated performance as a bloodthirsty Irish revolutionary in The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Falco when she was knocking Broadway out with her sensual turn in Frankie and Johnny in the Clare de Lune.
At the time, (2006), the Toronto-born Pill was just starting out in New York and living with two British guys and a giant foosball table in an East Village apartment she found on Craigslist.
“I have to do a play every year,” she said at the time. “I can’t imagine my life without it.”
Since then the 24-year-old actress has starred in an impressive assortment of shows, including Blackbird, opposite Jeff Daniels, and the recent Broadway revival of The Miracle Worker, but she hasn’t grown jaded or tired.
What drew her to this project was the same thing that attracted Falco. “It was the script,” affirms Pill. “I read it and I wanted to do it. No, I felt I needed to do it. There was something about that character that just reached out to me.”
That same wonderful sense of instinct is what makes Pill’s performances so memorable. In This Wide Night, there are some scenes where she comes in so coiled up with emotion that you can’t tell whether she is going to implode or explode.
“That’s exactly what Marie is like,” affirms Pill. “Somebody who you just know is headed for destruction, but you don’t know whether she’s going to do it, or somebody else will beat her to it.”
One thing is certain, after being hailed along with Falco, as “two actresses at the top of their game” by Ben Brantley in The New York Times, you know that Alison Pill’s love affair with the stage is mutual and will continue for a long time.
Falco, as the old joke has it, is the same, only different.
She shares Pill’s love for the theatre and she too keeps coming back to it frequently, but in between, she manages to find herself in some of the most interesting shows on television.
When we last spoke in 2002, she was still holding most of New Jersey together as Carmela in The Sopranos.
But even then, at the height of the show’s popularity, she continued to think of herself as a working actor. “It can really mess you up if you get caught in all this star stuff. I’m not cut out for that. I don’t enjoy it.”
Today, she’s got another winner on her hands with Nurse Jackie, the darkly comic look at the life of a pill-popping nurse in a Manhattan hospital. (Season 2 continues until June 7 on Monday nights at 10 p.m. on TMN.)
“That project came to me the same way This Wide Night did,” says Falco with her matter-of-fact charm. “Somebody sent me a script and said ‘This would be a good one for you.’ And they were right.”
When asked how she consistently pulls such drastically different, yet convincing characters out of herself, she gives a wide-eyed, broad-shouldered shrug and laughs.
“I really don’t know. I trust the words the authors wrote, the guidance I get from my directors and the inspiration I get from the actors I work with it.”
She reaches out and squeezes Pill’s hand.
“And on this one, I’m really lucky.”
“We both are,” says Pill and — having seen the incredible chemistry between the two of them on stage — you believe both of them.
Kyle Riabko, The Blushing Broadway Boy
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian
(June 01, 2010) NEW YORK - If you want to know what kind of a guy Kyle Riabko is, here’s a story that says it all.
After a recent weeknight performance of Hair, the Tony Award-winning revival in which he’s taken over the leading role of Claude, I visited him in his dressing room, where he was unfailingly cheerful to a string of visitors who ranged from fan girls who had talked their way past the stage doorman to the director of one of his past TV projects.
When we were finally ready to split for dinner, he looked at me apologetically and asked, “Would you mind going ahead of me and waiting at the restaurant?”
I wondered why and Kyle blushed as he told me that there was usually a crowd of autograph seekers waiting at the stage door and he didn’t want to disappoint them, but he didn’t want me to stand around watching him deal with all the adulation.
“I mean, man, you knew me back in the day and it would kind of embarrass me.”
As I headed off on my own to Angus McIndoe, the after-theatre mecca, I indeed verified that there was a crowd of 100-plus people, most of them Riabko’s own age (22), waiting to meet him at the stage door and I pondered on the fact that, if the winds are right, a show business career can move faster than a prairie brush fire.
“Back in the day,” indeed! It was exactly two years ago, on a spring afternoon in 2008, when I first met Riabko at a Starbucks in Parkdale.
At that time, he was 20, still a bright speck on the Canadian pop music scene, with a hard-knock career forged in Saskatchewan dives, a first album recorded in the faraway land of 16, an angry departure from his record label and a brief appearance on the TV series Instant Star.
Hardly the stuff that showbiz dreams are made of, but somehow, the “right” people had spotted him and brought him to New York to audition as a replacement for Spring Awakening, an audition which he aced.
When we first spoke, he was just about to start rehearsals in New York, where he would play for several months before leading the touring company.
Ironically, when it opened in Toronto and I reviewed it, Riabko wasn’t playing the role, because he’d taken a few weeks off to shoot a made-for-TV movie.
But I snuck into the back of the theatre at a matinee to see him in action and I was impressed. He captured all the rigid, egotistical, self-satisfied heterosexual sensuality of Melchior that drives the story to its tragic conclusion. He was more than just a pretty face that could sing.
Still, I was even more impressed when I saw him play Claude in Hair. Not only is Galt MacDermot’s sinuous ’60s score a whole musical universe away from the jagged contemporary rhythms that Duncan Sheik gave Spring Awakening, but Claude himself is a whole different kind of dude: sweet, accepting, openly bisexual.
It was a whole new Riabko on the stage of the Hirschfeld Theatre, vulnerable and coltish. And his voice wrapped around the ache in songs like “Where Do I Go?” as though he had never sung anything else.
When I told him how good he was, he blushed again. It’s something he seems to be doing a lot of these days, with Broadway stamping his “you’ve made it” passport and people dropping by our table to congratulate him or discuss future projects with him.
Is the head swelling just a bit? Not at all.
“If I’m any good in this show, it’s thanks to the people I share the stage with, like Ace (Young) and Diana (DeGarmo from American Idol) and most of all, to our director, Diane (Paulus).
“Man, she was amazing to work with!” enthuses Riabko. “She didn’t treat me like I was recreating a part that other guys had done before. She helped me figure out how Kyle fit into Claude and that was a whole new experience for me.”
But, in some ways, they had a lot in common to begin with. Claude is fond of saying things like “I want to perform miracles. That’s all I want to do on this Earth.”
And at the end of our first interview two years ago, Riabko insisted, “I want to be considered by people as a multi-faceted entertainer and human being who has something to give to the world.”
When I remind him of that, he grins. “I guess I was meant to play this part after all. Man, I can’t wait to see what happens next in my life.”
And neither can I.
Ex-Torontonian Who Penned Flashdance
Readies Stage Version
Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman
(June 01, 2010) If you were turning Tom Hedley’s astonishing life story into a biopic, you could call it Return of the Flashdance Man.
For years, I wondered whatever happened to the guy who brought New Journalism to Toronto, reigned for a year as editor of Toronto Life, then hit the Hollywood jackpot by writing Flashdance, one of the biggest Hollywood hits of the 1980s and much imitated ever since.
Then, last month, I encountered Hedley at London’s Covent Garden Hotel, dining alone in a corner and working on the script for a multi-million-dollar stage musical reincarnation of Flashdance.
It opens in London’s West End on Oct. 14 and David Mirvish, one of the investors, hopes to bring it to Toronto, where the story was inspired long ago under the influence of Hedley’s adventurous pal, the late Robert Markle, a well-known painter who was then a swaggering, bike-riding figure in the Toronto gallery scene.
Hedley, Markle and friends explored subcultures, including bars with strippers.
One of the most memorable exotic dancers Hedley met then was known as Gina, Gina the Sex Machina, at a long-defunct club called Gimlets near the corner of Victoria and Lombard Sts.
“She was really inventive and inspiring,” Hedley says. “I’m still in touch with her.”
Out of those experiences, Hedley invented the heroine of Flashdance, famously played in the 1983 movie by Jennifer Beals.
The heroine was not just working at a club but also had a day job as a welder in a steel-factory, and dreams of attending a prestigious dance school.
The movie’s huge popularity led to riches, offers and confusion in Hedley’s life. Consequently he seemed to disappear from the cultural front lines. But now as the driving force behind Flashdance, the musical, he is moving right back into the global showbiz spotlight.
“When I wrote the movie script almost 30 years ago, nobody expected it to be successful,” says Hedley, still as boyish-looking, trim and preppy as ever at age 67. “We were just happy to get something out there. At the time it was completely original and it had its own voice.”
Indeed, the movie was so successful, Hedley — who had the sole story credit and was the lead writer — was able to live off it for years.
“Over the years I’ve turned down offers to do sequels,” he says, “because it seemed just too cheesy.”
But the idea of turning Flashdance into a musical for the theatre was more creatively challenging.
As a young newspaperman, Hedley drew attention from the Toronto arts and media crowd in the 1960s by introducing us to the New Journalism more or less invented by Clay Felker, Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese, among others, via New York magazine, which was in those days a weekly section of the old New York Herald Tribune.
Born in England to a Canadian military father and an English mother, Hedley landed in Winnipeg to attend university but wound up spending much of his time working for the Winnipeg Free Press. I also began my career there and remember Hedley as the night police reporter.
It was after moving to Toronto and landing at the Telegram that he established his reputation and attracted the attention of Harold Hayes, then editor of Esquire. Hedley moved to New York to take a job during the magazine’s golden age, becoming its youngest editor ever. That gave him the chance to commission work by François Truffaut, Federico Fellini, Andy Warhol and Diane Arbus.
After Esquire underwent a regime change, Hedley landed back in Toronto, working briefly under Peter Newman at Maclean’s, making documentaries for CBC Television’s Sunday night public affairs show, and spending a year as editor of Toronto Life. There, he was famous for his eccentric work habits, such as staying away from the office and editing manuscripts across the street at the cafe Les Copains. (I was writing a column about movies and had no problem with Hedley’s style, but Lynn Cunningham, the managing editor, felt otherwise.)
Hedley sensed that the cultural action was shifting to movies, especially when Toronto got swept up in tax-shelter-funded movies in the late 1970s, in the early years of what later became the Toronto International Film Festival.
The action moved to the Windsor Arms and Bistro 990, where deals were hatched. Hedley wrote such Canadian films as Circle of Two, Double Negative and Mr. Patman. That’s how he wound up in Hollywood, writing a script while residing at the Beverly Hills Hotel — which is how he made the connections that resulted in Flashdance being made as a Hollywood movie for Paramount, set in Pittsburgh, rather than a Canadian movie, even though it was inspired by the Toronto scene.
Produced by the team of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, and directed by Adrian Lyne — who threw out all of Hedley’s Canadian references — Flashdance was dismissed by most critics. But it won an Oscar for one of its songs and established prototypes for music videos, MTVs and a new kind of musical, in which the characters did not sing.
It also led to a bewildering array of opportunities, not all of which ended well. Soon Hedley had an office at Paramount Pictures and a house in the Hollywood Hills, and was dating Dawn Steel (one of the only women ever to run a major studio).
He was also taking secret meetings at the home of David Geffen, who wrote big cheques and wanted Hedley to collaborate with Michael Jackson, so Flashdance could be merged with Thriller.
“Before long you get into a life where you are really doing nothing,” Hedley says in retrospect. “I had ideas for things that were too original and difficult to sell. I had projects that never got made. I accepted some work doing rewrites. I made some silly judgment calls, like turning down an offer to write the script for Batman.”
Gradually, Hedley moved on. He got married, became the father of four and moved to London for a few years, running the book publishing company Duckworth. Now he’s back in North America, with a house in Connecticut and a company office in New York. At the moment, his life includes forays to London, where the Flashdance musical is lurching toward its fall opening, and to rural Ontario to visit his mother.
He has great hopes for the new Flashdance, which has a new music score by Toronto composer Robbie Roth. Hedley not only gets credit as the lead writer but also as executive producer and name-above-the-title presenter.
“Theatre is a completely different art form. It demands a real story and has to be more character-driven. You have to deepen the story. This is real writing, with fewer tricks. It’s really much more satisfying.”
Chris Haney, 59: Co-Creator Of Trivial Pursuit
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian
(May 31, 2010) MONTREAL—Chris Haney, one of the co-creators of the wildly successful Trivial Pursuit board game, has died.
His business partners confirmed he died today after a long illness in a Toronto hospital.
Haney was 59.
A native of Welland, Ont., Haney worked for The Canadian Press and the Montreal Gazette as a photo editor before going into the board game business.
He teamed up with Canadian Press sports reporter Scott Abbott in 1979 to invent Trivial Pursuit.
They sold the rights to the game to toy giant Hasbro in 2008.
Haney is survived by his wife and three grown children.
Red Dead Redemption: Hits A Home Run On The Range
Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko
Red Dead Redemption
(out of 4)
PS3/360; $59.99; Rated M
(May 28, 2010) Ah, the cowboy life! Up at dawn to round up cattle and maybe break a few wild horses, then into town to shop for ammunition and snake oil, maybe fight a pistol duel or thwart a kidnapping or two.
The afternoon is spent searching for buried treasure and hunting coyotes before it's time, just as the sun sinks over the sagebrush, to head out to the canyon and roust a band of cattle-rustling desperadoes.
Back at the ranch, our rootin'-tootin' li'l cowpoke unwinds with bacon, beans and fiddle music around the campfire, and maybe a hand or two of poker (might have to pencil in a duel, here, too; lousy cheatin' snakes!) before retiring to his bunk.
Welcome to the busy frontier of Red Dead Redemption!
Redemption is the apotheosis of the video-game Western, a sandbox — a very sandy sandbox — packed with pretty much everything you've ever seen a screen cowboy or outlaw get up to. There's train robbing and gunfighting, tracking, roping, riding, gambling, bounty hunting, vendetta pursuing and plenty of just looking cool and moody against the picturesque Southwestern backdrop.
Call it Grand Theft Pony, except without the whoring; our tortured hero/villain (as you will) John Marston is, as he must often explain, a faithfully married man.
As with Redemption's urban soul brothers in the Grand Theft Auto series, all this activity swirling around the game-world creates an environment very conducive to emergent entertainment. Quite apart from the scripted stuff, which is decent Western boilerplate with just the right Gothic touch, it's what happens when the world's elements interact on the fly that creates the bulk of the game's fun.
You can play, as I have, for hours and hours on end, barely touching the supposed storyline, and be mightily entertained by what happens when, say, a tumble from your horse lands you in the middle of a pack of wolves, and the noise of your desperate defensive six-gunning attracts the attention of wandering brigands.
Or maybe you just decide to put on your black bandana and shoot up a saloon. This world's your prairie oyster.
This entertaining chaos is what makes Red Dead Redemption such a good multiple-player game. Not “multiplayer” as in the online modes the game supports, though that's okay, but multiple players sitting together on the couch, passing off the controller. This, also, it shares with its GTA heritage.
I call it the buddy test: if my group of gaming friends — who range in impulses from follow-the-story progress-hounds through passively aimless sightseers to adrenalin junkies who get fidgety when there's no hilarious violence on the screen — can hang together for hours, using the game to generate personal laugh-out-loud-and-talk-about-it-later moments until it's way too late at night, then the game wins its stars. So, here are four for RDR, which scores higher on my buddy test than any title since GTA: San Andreas.
Maybe that's not what you're looking for. Hardcore action gamers will probably find the combat too easy. Folks who like to get into a propulsive story might find RDR's open world too diffuse and distracting. Tech nerds might not see the game's gorgeous desertscapes as sufficiently “next-gen.” Animal lovers will certainly cringe.
But what I wanted from Red Dead Redemption was a crazy fun Wild West game that let me shoot, ride, explore and laugh with my pals for as many hours as we dared to spare, and Red Dead Redemption — six years in the making — delivers on all points.
Uptown Comedy Series Forced Downtown
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry
(June 02, 2010) Blame a flasher and a bad boy for moving Jay Martin's Uptown Comedy Series downtown.
The program was supposed to have a permanent home at the Toronto Centre for the Arts where it debuted February as part of the offerings of a collective of seven veteran black producers, including Martin, wooed by administrators in search of diverse programming and attendees for the underutilized venue. But this Saturday it hosts Cedric the Entertainer at the Canon Theatre and the September show is booked for the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Well, American funnyman Eddie Griffin smoked cigarettes throughout his March 20 gig, poured champagne on the TCA stage — in tribute to dead celebs — and performed until 12:40 a.m., more than an hour past curfew. Then, the April 18 Tommy Davidson headlined show at the Yonge-Sheppard facility, saw Canadian opening act Jason Rouse run across the stage nude after his performance.
The next day, Martin, already mortified by the successive faux pas, was notified by email that his series was no longer welcome at the TCA. “The biggest concern is that it doesn't appear that Jay's in control over what his artists do and that gives us great concern,” the Toronto Star was told by general manager Pim Schotanus, who has worked at the centre in various capacities since it opened in 1993.
The City of Toronto-run facility garnered a tainted reputation in the black community after inaugurating as the North York Centre for the Performing Arts with the musical Show Boat, which some decried as an archaic American production that denigrated blacks.
While the other members of the collective — Dwayne Morgan, Tamla Matthews, Roger Dundas, Rachael-Lea Rickards, Ian Espinet and Marina Phillips — may have understood the centre's stance with Martin, they were shocked by the termination of marketing co-coordinator Darcy Hoover that same week.
Hoover was their point person, having initiated contact with Morgan, who in turn organized the collective which brought in more than 6,000 black attendees for culturally specific spoken word, comedy, theatre and dance events in the first four months of this year.
Hoover did not return calls from the Star. Schotanus said there was no connection between Martin and Hoover's departure and that the rest of the collective's programming was welcome.
“To suggest that Darcy was the only person dealing with the vision behind attracting local black producers, I think that's incorrect,” Schotanus said. “The centre wants to diversify and how it went about doing that is completely secondary, the most important part is that the centre continues to deal with any and all producers and promoters.”
Centre administrators subsequently told Martin they were willing to “explore other opportunities” with him, but concerns about booking dates and service charges prompted him to move on. He remains a part of the fledgling organization — loosely referred to as The Collective — which plans to launch a non-profit arm to nurture youth in arts administration.
Without concrete reasons for Hoover's dismissal the other presenters are proceeding cautiously.
“We're all interested to see what (Hoover's departure) means for black programming at the centre,” said Matthews whose Caribbean Dance Theatre's 15th Anniversary show Awakening: An Urban Musical of a Dancer runs June 17 and 18.
Cedric The Entertainer Makes Toronto Stand-Up Debut
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry
(June 02, 2010) Cedric the Entertainer has had a good run in front of the camera, with prominent roles in films such as, Barbershop, Be Cool and The Honeymooners, but the Missouri native plans to focus on producing vehicles for others.
“There’s just not enough black movies coming out, not enough black TV shows on the air,” explained the comedian by phone from L.A. “I just want to be able to use my influence and Jerry Bruckheimer the whole thing, if you will. I can use my influences, my capability to be able to say ‘You dig what I’m doing, then you should be able to dig this other thing with these talented people.’ I’m looking forward to the opportunity of taking my brand and my sense of humour and making that a big deal in the whole landscape of television and film.”
But the comedian still loves to perform live and makes his Toronto standup debut this Saturday at Jay Martin’s Uptown Comedy Series at the Canon Theatre. While his current routine includes riffs on Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, Michael Jackson and rappers from Drake to T.I., the 46-year-old father of three children, ranging in age from six to 20, said his show increasingly includes material about “eating right, getting older, raising kids.”
However, that doesn’t mean the absence of profanity or risqué material.
“There’s plenty of cussing - not overtly, but it is language that I use to season, salt and pepper - I would not necessarily come (to the show) with the reverend. But I’m never talking about anything sexual to the point where I was crossing the line, that I wouldn’t want my mother to hear this.
“My shows have always been accessible to a wide audience: from my mom to the young hip crowd. I was also college educated, so I would have smart material in there, then at the same time write a joke for the thugs.”The performer has spent time here, filming Talk To Me with Don Cheadle and participating in a Vince Carter charity event.
“It’s a Canadian New York,” said Cedric who plans to include some bits about his Toronto experiences in Saturday’s show. “I feel comfortable coming there, it’s a well-educated kind of city where a lot of people go to university, but there’s also some hoods. And I like the get out and walk society.”
A ham who participated in talent shows all through high school and college, the radio and TV broadcast major was set on becoming a news anchor.
“When I graduated I got hired to be a journalist, but I never got a chance to go to work, because they had layoffs. Then it became about survival. I got a job in corporate America and started doing comedy at night. The first time I did it I won $500; I was hooked.”
As he strengthens his behind-the-scenes efforts – executive producing a Nickelodean teen comedy series this fall - Cedric won’t give up the spotlight entirely. There are Barbershop 2 and The Original Kings of Comedy sequels pending.
“After Bernie (Mac) passed we all talked about how to make it work,” he said of the latter, a concert film that also starred comedians D.L. Hughley and Steve Harvey.
“We’re just trying to get on each others schedules and figure out if there’s a way to do this and possibly add one other worthy comedian to substitute for Bernie, not take his place.”
A popular YouTube clip of Mac’s 2008 memorial service captures Hughley – flanked by Cedric and Harvey – inadvertently cursing in the church as he lauds his late colleague, blurring the line between inappropriate and hilarious, Cedric acknowledges.
“It was one of those things where if you knew Bernie, you knew this was what he would want his memorial to be - full of energy and fun.”
Foot Woes Keep Ballet Stars On Their Toes
Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara
(June 01, 2010) For ballet stars, life is filled with the thrill of performance and the agony of de feet.
As the National Ballet of Canada readies for the opening night of West Side Story Suite on Friday, dancers are all too keenly aware of the woes related to the foot and toes.
For ballerinas especially, foot problems are a major issue because they’re required to wear pointe shoes, stiffened layers of canvas and glue that allow them to dance and balance on the toes.
“It’s the most obvious tool when you think of a ballerina. The feet are one of the things most people would think about,” said National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Sonia Rodriguez.
“Our feet are sort of shoved in there (pointe shoes). If you compare this shoe to my street-size shoe, it will look smaller,” Rodriguez added.
In fact, Rodriquez, who has been with the company for 20 years, said the impact of gravity and constant work has meant her foot has increased two sizes in that time and the width has gone from single-X to triple-X.
Lorna Geddes has been with the company for 24 years and still sometimes performs “character roles.” But her main job is ensuring that the ballerinas in the company have a ready supply of pointe shoes for performances.
The shoes, hand-made at Freed of London Pointe Shoes, are custom-crafted to an individual dancer’s detailed specifications. It takes up to four months from time of order to delivery, during which a ballerina’s feet may change.
The shoes last only about eight hours onstage before they are too worn and flexible to do the job, Geddes said.
Rodrigues said that could mean using up one pair of pointe shoes a day, or even two pairs for a principal dancer in a three-act ballet.
Male dancers are luckier, acknowledged principal dancer Piotr Stanczyk, there are only a few roles in ballet — like the Baroness in An Italian Straw Hat, for example — where they have to don the excruciating pointe shoes to perform.
“It’s extraordinarily hard for a man to be (in pointe shoes) because of our weight. We have to have muscle to lift (ballerinas) so it’s really hard to be in pointe shoes on three toes,” Stanczyk said.
But the relative comfort of standard slippers worn by male dancers does not mean that they don’t have their share of foot problems, he said.
“People ask me a lot of times what’s my hobby. I’ll tell you my hobby is icing. You take a bucket, you fill it up with ice all the way to your knee and you stick your feet in it,” said Stanczyk, who performs the routine daily.
“I would say 75 per cent of the company does it (icing). It stops the inflammation. It’s like a daily maintenance for everyone here,” he added.
Dancers also have regular physiotherapy and deep-tissue massage, and have access to a specialized sports medicine clinic to deal with issues like bone bruising, joint inflammation and tendonitis.
Women typically experience corns, blisters and — the worst of all — bunions: build-ups of bone mass alongside the foot below the big toe, which can lead to career-limiting or ending injuries, Geddes said.
“Pain is quite normal, yes. When you’re onstage, you usually don’t feel the pain. There’s a lot of adrenalin and your body warms up and it gets to a point where it can work. The problem is when you cool down and things start stiffening up, and that’s when you start to feel it. Mornings are not great.” Rodrigues said.
As with many other athletes, Stanczyk said the key to a long career is prevention and maintenance.
“The dancer’s feet have to be like hands. You need to be aware of all the little bones and muscles, how to use them and use them correctly. We walk on our feet, we dance on our feet. It’s the base for all the steps.. . . So it’s very important to use them right and to have the right technique, to let them breathe at the right moments, let them rest at the right moments, to keep them healthy,” he said.
Kobe and the Lakers Set to Take on Boston in NBA Finals
(May 31, 2010) *Alrighty then! B-ball fans are gonna get their wish: The Boston Celtics vs the Los Angeles Lakers to see who’ll be crowned the 2010 world champions in the NBA finals which begin on Thursday, June 3.
The Celtics beat Orlando Friday night and earned the right to represent the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Saturday night the Lakers, behind the brilliant play of the “Black Mamba,” Kobe Bryant, defeated the Phoenix Suns for he right to rep the Western Conference.
In the game, Bryant wrapped up an extremely competitive series with 37 points, Ron Artest added 25 and the Lakers held off the Phoenix Suns 111-103.
“We’ll see how much we matured,” Bryant said about meeting Boston in the finals. “They challenged us extremely well in the Finals a couple years ago. Now is a chance to see how much we’ve grown.”
Bryant scored nine points in the final two minutes, including what looked like an impossible 23-footer with Grant Hill in his face and 34 seconds to play. The basket put Los Angeles up 107-100 and the scrappy Suns were finished.
Amar’e Stoudemire, in what may have been his last game with the Suns, scored 27 points but struggled to a 7-of-20 shooting night. Steve Nash had 21 points and nine assists in his 118th playoff game, the most for anyone who has never reached the Finals.
For MORE of this story, go HERE.
Argos, CFL Face Key Questions As
Training Camps Set To Open
Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich
(June 01, 2010) When 46 Argonaut hopefuls storm a converted soccer field at Mississauga’s Huron Park on Wednesday afternoon, it will officially be one of the most unusual CFL rookie camps in some time.
The camp, which precedes the full Monty that starts Sunday across the league, will feature the team’s entire quarterbacking corps — all of them CFL rookies.
But the matter of who will end up starting at quarterback, who will end up making the team as backups and who will become answers to trivia questions is just one of the many questions surrounding this year’s camp. And while the Argos have had many critical seasons in their long history, back-to-back disastrous years makes this training camp one of the most crucial.
“There’s no more pressure than in any other year,” says general manager Adam Rita. “The pressure is always there, and I think we’re going to be a lot more competitive than some people think.”
Here are some of the key questions surrounding the Argos and the league itself.
After releasing veteran Kerry Joseph and backup Cody Pickett, new head coach Jim Barker has taken a pretty big gamble with unproven CFL talent. He has a trio of NFL cast-offs in Ken Dorsey, Gibran Hamdan and Cleo Lemon — none of whom has held a CFL ball before. Then there’s Dalton Bell, who saw some pre-season action with Saskatchewan last year, and Queen’s University star Danny Brannagan, who will attempt to beat the Canadian quarterback curse.
Dorsey, who arrived in Toronto on Monday, speaks for all when he says there’s a lot to absorb in a very short time.
“Obviously, there’s a lot to learn, which is why I’m excited about coming in earlier than the veterans and get those extra couple of days of practice,” said the former San Francisco 49er and Cleveland Brown. “Obviously, that’s going to be huge for someone like me who hasn’t been exposed to this style of football before.”
While no team has fielded so many untried quarterbacks since the league’s ill-fated U.S. experiment in the ’90s, Rita is confident the Argos can buck the odds.
“When the experienced guys aren’t the ones you want, you have to take a chance,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in these guys.”
With attendance dropping to an average of 26,374 — basically losing 10 per cent per season since 2007 — the Argos have to stop the bleeding. While the team won’t release season ticket figures, it has admitted that many are holding off renewing to see if Barker can turn things around.
A small cut in ticket prices — helped mainly by a reconfiguring of sections — won’t be enough unless the team either starts winning or at least starts playing more exciting football than the offensively challenged unit that stumbled to 3-15 last year.
After a few seasons of relative stability, the CFL has suffered some embarrassing stumbles in the past year. First, there’s the issue of David Braley owning both the Argos and B.C. Lions, a bizarre situation that will raise its head every time one of them even considers picking up the other’s cast-offs. And just wait until the two play each other. Then there’s the collective bargaining agreement, which the players won’t approve or reject until the day the regular season starts.
Nothing could kill the team’s hopes for resurrection faster than a leaky offensive line fronting inexperienced quarterbacks. But Rita believes Barker’s system and increased job competition can do the job. “Before Jim went to Montreal, they gave up the most sacks in the league,” Rita said. “He didn’t change that many players and they got a lot better fast.”
It didn’t take long for the veteran coach-administrator to put his stamp on this team. He gutted the team’s offensive backfield, brought in a much-needed star receiver in Jeremaine Copeland and launched one of the biggest quarterback gambles in years.
While that pace of change seldom produces an instant winner, it was obvious the 2009 crew that went 3-15 couldn’t get the job done. And Barker does have experience with turning bad teams around: In his first year as Calgary’s GM, the Stamps finished 11-7. Their record the previous year? 4-14.