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Updated:  April 7, 2005

I've returned from the land of relaxation - California.  I got some much-needed rest and as soon as the jet lag subsides and I'm back on Toronto time, I'll be as good as new!  Thanks to all those who welcomed me back.  Especially nice to return to the snowstorm on Sunday - hopefully the last of it.

I'm very excited to bring you this newsletter and those to come.  I had the great opportunity to interview Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000) this week - so look for that in next week's newsletter.  Special thanks go to Awaovieyi Agie for being gracious enough to recommend Andre to do the interview with me.  Look for exclusive pictures in my PHOTO GALLERY.  

Don't forget that Irie Mondays still continues with Kayte Burgess and Adrian Eccleston at the helm.  It's been a great new night so feel free to come by and check it out!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that while I was away, there were many tragedies, including the deaths of Pope John Paul II, Terri Schiavo and Johnnie Cochran, Jr.  There are many mourning so condolences to all.

Check out the rest of the entertainment news below - MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, and OTHER NEWS!  Have a read and a scroll!  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






United Way JAZZ JAM - Friday, April 22, 2005

Source:  United Way of Greater Toronto

An evening of smooth jazz from United Way’s African Canadian Committee to the jazz lovers of Toronto with Molly Johnson, Liberty Silver and Eddie Bullen.  Join Toronto’s own, internationally acclaimed jazz all-stars in a rare gathering right here at home. Molly Johnson, Liberty Silver and Eddie Bullen donate their award-winning talent to benefit United Way.

All proceeds go to United Way of Greater Toronto.

FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2005
United Way JAZZ JAM
George Weston Recital Hall
Toronto Centre for the Arts
5040 Yonge St. (just north of Sheppard)
8:00 pm
Tickets - $55 or $40 Contact Ticketmaster at 416-870-8000 or

For more information, please contact Joy Bullen at 416-777-1444 ext 387 or







Motivational Note - How Five Minutes Can Change Your Life

Excerpt from - by Jason Gracia

You stand before a pond with a surface like glass. Not a wave or ripple in sight. Then you throw a pebble into the middle. What happens? You guessed it. A series of ripples spread from the centre reaching to the shore. In essence, this is exactly what you're going to do next. I want you to think of something new you can add to your schedule each day. Mix it up. Drop a stone in the middle of the routine. It doesn't have to be something big. Driving to work using a different route can sometimes do the trick. The point is to do something different. You'll be amazed at how one thing can lead to another, which leads to another, and on and on. One small change in your routine can break the cycle and help you break free of the autopilot syndrome for good. Breaking free of routine is like bursting through a brick wall with nothing but opportunity on the other side. You'll see the world in an entirely new way and be excited about creating a happier, more successful future. As you already know, having the ability to get and stay motivated is crucial to making your goals for a brighter future possible. To learn about our proven program that will teach you every step you need to take in order to change your life visit the address below:







Canada's Foremost Curb To Curb Celebration Returns To Yonge Street

Source:  Toronto Special Events

Scheduled for July 8 - 10, 2005, the 7th annual Celebrate Toronto Street Festival will once again transform the world's longest street into a curb to curb celebration of tastes, talent and all that is Toronto. Along with fantastic free entertainment, the Celebrate Toronto Street Festival also presents Toronto's 3rd annual Summerlicious restaurant promotion offering exceptional prix fixe menu offers at 120 of Toronto's top restaurants from July 8 - 24, 2005.  At the peak of the city's robust festival and event season, the Celebrate Toronto Street Festival provides a unique artistic experience for residents and visitors alike. For the 2005 festival, Yonge Street, where it intersects with Dundas Street, St. Clair Avenue, Eglinton Avenue and Lawrence Avenue, will be converted into a stage for free entertainment that covers the artistic spectrum. Each festival site provides a combination of musical entertainment, street theatre, circus arts, and so much more.

Since its inception in 1998, the Celebrate Toronto Street Festival has been awarded six Festivals & Events Ontario Awards, three Canadian Event Industry Awards and two Ontario Economic Development Awards.   Admission to the Celebrate Toronto Street Festival is FREE and getting there couldn't be easier. All four festival sites are accessible via the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). Festival subway stops on the Yonge line are Dundas, St. Clair, Eglinton and Lawrence stations.

More information on the entertainment line-up at the Celebrate Toronto Street Festival will be released in the coming weeks. Summerlicious information including the list of participating restaurants and Summerlicious menus will be available on-line late May. For more information on these and other Toronto Special Events, the public can call Access Toronto at 416-338-0338 or visit




1.7 Million Watch k.d. lang Homage to Neil Young on the 2005 JUNO Awards on CTV

Excerpt from

April 4, 2005)  Last night's broadcast of The 2005 JUNO Awards peaked at 1.7 million viewers when k.d. lang delivered a musical love letter to a recuperating Neil Young with her show-stopping rendition of "Helpless." Broadcast in High Definition and 5.1 Surround Sound from Winnipeg's MTS Centre, the broadcast attracted an average audience of 1.52 million viewers on CTV - an increase over last year and the second- biggest television audience in the last seven years. With a reach of 5.7 million viewers, the broadcast reached almost half a million more viewers this year compared to last year.  Indeed, viewers chose to spend their entire Sunday night with CTV with a four-hour programming block (7 - 11 p.m.) that was the most-watched of the evening. Canadian musicians walking the Junos Red Carpet were exposed to unprecedented numbers of viewers as a 90-minute lead-in featured an all-new, non-simulcast Desperate Housewives episode and red carpet updates from Winnipeg. In all, 1.64 million viewers (2+) tuned in and provided The 2005 JUNO Awards with its highest lead-in audience ever. Ultimately, 93 per cent of the lead-in audience stayed to watch Canada's Music Awards.      lang's tribute to Young was one of many highlights from a broadcast that also featured performances by Billy Talent, Feist, k-os, Kalan Porter, Simple Plan, Sum 41 and The Tragically Hip. The two-and-half hour broadcast concluded with a barnstorming tribute to the host city featuring Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings and four Winnipeg bands.

Eight awards in total were handed out over the course of the broadcast, which was hosted by television star Brent Butt. Hip Hop artist k-os and punk- infected rockers Billy Talent each received two awards, with additional wins from Feist, Ron Sexsmith, Sarah Harmer and Avril Lavigne. A complete list of winners can be found at  "Another big audience for the Junos is another big win for the Canadian music industry," said Susanne Boyce, CTV President of Programming and Chair of the Media Group. "Congratulations to the City of Winnipeg for an unforgettable weekend and to CARAS and Insight for another fantastic broadcast. Can't wait for Halifax!"  Last night's telecast of The JUNO Awards was the fourth straight JUNOS telecast on CTV since acquiring the broadcast rights to the show in 2002. Last year's show, hosted by Alanis Morissette from Edmonton, drew 1.51 million viewers. The 2006 Juno Awards will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The 2005 JUNO Awards was produced by Insight Productions in association with CTV. John Brunton and Barbara Bowlby are Executive Producers. Louise Wood is Producer. Lindsay Cox is Supervising Producer. Peter Faragher is Production Designer. Joan Tosoni is Director. Jean Renaud is Lighting Director. Melanie Berry and Stephen Stohn are Executive Producers for CARAS. Susanne Boyce is President, CTV Programming and Chair of CTV Media Group. Ed Robinson is Senior Vice-President, Comedy and Variety Programming, CTV Inc. Rick Lewchuk is Senior Vice-President, Program Planning and Promotion, CTV Inc.

Sponsors for the 2005 JUNO Awards include FACTOR and the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage's "Canada Music Fund", the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg. Broadcast sponsors for the event are General Motors, Pantene Pro-V, Doritos and Nice 'n Easy.  CTV, Canada's largest private broadcaster, offers a wide range of quality news, sports, information, and entertainment programming. It boasts the    number-one national newscast, CTV News With Lloyd Robertson, and is the    number-one choice for prime-time viewing. CTV owns 21 conventional television stations across Canada and has interests in 14 specialty channels, including the number-one Canadian specialty channel, TSN. CTV is owned by Bell Globemedia, Canada's premier multi-media company. More information about CTV may be found on the company site at




Talent Outshines Megawatt Stars At 2005 Junos

Excerpt from - By Phil Hahn

(Apr. 3, 2005) By all counts, the 2005 Juno Awards could have been a real downer. Reclusive rock legend Neil Young was expected to grace the Juno stage with his presence, but had to pull out after suffering an aneurysm. Avril Lavigne, one of Canada's biggest young rock stars was away on tour in Southeast Asia. And pop divas like Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette and Chantal Kreviazuk couldn't make it for personal reasons.  But that didn't stop the talent that did show up Sunday night from impressing the Winnipeg audience with performances that shone with energy, virtuosity, and even affection -- a sign of the deep pool of Canadian musical talent that Juno organizers had to draw from. Anchoring the evening was host Brent Butt, the star of CTV sitcom "Corner Gas." He pulled off a self-deprecating and genuinely funny performance that should secure his spot as host for future Juno awards shows.  He waddled onto the Juno stage looking like a cross between a Star Trek character and an aging outcast member of KISS. Wearing thigh-high black leather boots, and a deep v-neck top that revealed an expanse of his barrel chest, Butt wailed away on a massive cherry red double neck Gibson SG guitar. Butt then had to take baby steps down the stairs leading onto the stage because of the gargantuan silver-soled platform boots encasing his feet.  "I feel a little awkward," he said sheepishly, after admitting that his idea to dress like a KISS member might have been less than ideal. Later, Butt gave a tour of the host city in a videotaped segment. The audience whooped when they saw the comedian walk into the Salisbury House – a fast food joint that's achieved legendary status in the 'Peg (and famous for its little burgers called 'Nips'). Butt is seen going back to several different Sal's in the city, before he finally walks into a building marked "Gym" (supposedly to work off the calories). He walks out a few seconds later, though, asking, "Hey, didn't this used to be a Salisbury House? As for the musical acts, they ranged from power-chord heavy pop/punk played by energetic foursome Billy Talent, to rapper k-os's re-mixes of his "b-boy stance" and "Crucial," to a moving tribute to Neil Young, performed by the inimitable k.d. lang. Backed by members of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Lang's renditions of Young's "Helpless" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" were things of beauty. She hasn't exactly been in the public eye of late, and the audience was clearly appreciative of her impressive vocals.

"If there is a beacon or a bastion of an artist who has maintained his integrity, uncompromising vision and purity . . . it is Neil Young. So Neil, I sing this for you. Heal fast my friend," said Lang before soaring off into "Helpless." Before the show, rock icon Randy Bachman said he spoke to Young, who's recuperating from surgery in New York.  "He's doing fine, but he's not doing that fine 'cause he's not here. He said tell everybody I'm happy and healthy," said Bachman. "And here's a special message (from Young): 'I owe Winnipeg a rain check, I owe the Junos a rain check, and if they have the Junos in Winnipeg next year, I'll come and open it.'" Indie singer-songwriter Leslie Feist showed why she won the best new artist award when she took the stage solo to sing her dreamy, infectious song "Mushaboom" off her album Let It Die. In one of those gasp-inducing moments in front of a live audience, she abruptly stopped playing, thinking there was a problem with the sound system. But after speaking with a technician for a few seconds she got right back up and continued where she left off. "I just showed myself that I can fly by the seat of my pants when I'm singing, but I can't when I'm talking," she said later as she took out a list of people to thank when accepting her award. The quintessential Canuck band The Tragically Hip was honoured Sunday night by being inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. But not before one of the night's more awkward moments, when self-proclaimed "tragically unhip" Prime Minister Paul Martin strummed a few notes on an electric guitar and congratulated the band in a taped tribute.  The rock quintet from Kingston Ontario made up for Martin's lack of guitar dexterity, though, with lively performances of "Fully Completely" and "Grace, Too."  The Hip was given a warm introduction by fellow Kingstonian and fan Sarah Harmer, who won in the best adult alternative album category for All of Our Names. Harmer was a last minute replacement for comedian Dan Akyord, who was supposed to carry out the induction duties but pulled out because of family reasons.  The night was capped off with a fitting tribute to the prairie city that's produced a disproportionate number of rock stars.  "The flatter the land, the harder the rock!" said Butt, as he introduced on stage an all-Winnipeg cast of Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, the Wailin' Jennys, Nathan, Fresh IE, and The Waking Eyes. The audience rose to its feet, clapping and singing along as the performers blasted out Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business."  A Bachman signature guitar solo then provided a perfect segue into a rousing, anthemic version of The Guess Who classic, "Share the Land." The crowd was clearly delighted, and Cummings showed he hasn't lost his chops.




Lavigne Wins Artist Of Year Juno

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Angela Pacienza, Canadian Press

(Apr. 3, 2005) WINNIPEG (CP) — The first crop of Juno winners was announced last night with punky pop songstress Avril Lavigne leading the pack with two awards, including the coveted artist of the year.  It has been an outstanding year for the young star, whose second album, Under My Skin, has been a hot-seller around the world, spawning several radio hits including Nobody's Home and Don't Tell Me.  The awards were distributed at a swanky dinner, attended by 1,300 music industry types. They dined on butternut squash bisque, Alberta beef and butter-glazed asparagus.  Lavigne, who didn't attend Saturday's industry-only ceremony because she's currently on tour in Singapore, also won best pop album, beating out Celine Dion, Fefe Dobson, Ryan Malcolm and Simple Plan.  Host Jann Arden kept the evening light-hearted despite news that the weekend's guest-of-honour Neil Young was recovering from a brain aneurysm.  She cracked plenty of jokes about Winnipeg's renowned cold weather.  "When you're from a place where you need to plug in your car, you automatically want to plug in your guitar," she said.  Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra was also a double Juno winner. The Toronto-based group was nominated for a Grammy earlier this year.  Punk veterans Sum 41 took rock album of the year honours for their CD Chuck.

"Thanks to Nickelback for allowing us to win this year," joked drummer Steve Jocz, referring to the fact they lost to Nickelback at previous Junos.  Alexisonfire was named best new group.  Beloved rockers the Tragically Hip were inducted to the Music Hall of Fame.  Frontman Gord Downie gave an impassioned acceptance speech in the form of a poem.  "Go to the show. Look down your row," he said. "All the lights are up. See the people you know.  A total of 31 award winners were revealed Saturday. The remaining eight trophies will be handed out Sunday night during the televised portion of the Junos.  Those awards will include best new artist, best rap recording and songwriter of the year.  Also being handed out Sunday will be group of the year, a hotly contested category with Billy Talent, Great Big Sea, Simple Plan, Sum 41 and the Tragically Hip.  Other winners Saturday included the theme song to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, All Things (Just Keep Getting Better) by Toronto-based Widelife took best dance recording.  Widelife member Ian Nieman thanked the "fab five," referring to the cast of the popular TV show.  One Good Friend, by George Canyon, won best country recording. The singer, from Hopeville, N.S., catapulted to fame thanks to Nashville Star, an Idol-like TV competition.  Hipster darling Feist won her first Juno in the best alternative album category for Let It Die, a collection of sexy torch songs.  "It's really unexpected. I love coming back to Canada, especially like this," said the Calgary-born, Paris-based singer.  Jazz vocal album was nabbed by audience favourite Diana Krall. The Girl In the Other Room was the singer's first foray into songwriting — a duty she shared with husband Elvis Costello. Currently on tour, Krall did not attend the bash.

Francophone album, the sole category which relies strictly on sales, went to Marie-Elaine Thibert.  Fresh-faced Keshia Chante earned the title of best R&B recording for her self-titled debut CD.  "I'm so happy to be here. Just making an album was exciting," said the 16-year-old, who also thanked her "mommy."  Green Day won best international album for its punk-opera American Idiot. The group inched out powerhouses U2 and Usher.  Bob Rock was named producer of the year for his work on Simple Plan's Still Not Getting Any and Metallica's Some Kind of Monster.




Sumeet Bharati Finds Her Voice As R&B Singer in New York City

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Unnati Gandhi

(Mar. 28, 2005) Sumeet Bharati remembers cruising along the westbound 401 in her parents' 1992 Cavalier.  She was on her way home to London, Ont., her folks in the back seat, and the radio blasting through the only working speaker.  Although her ride was low-key and the radio signal was fading, she finally heard it.  "They played my song!" the 27-year-old unsigned R&B vocalist said. "We bumped it the whole way."  Even though her first single, "Agony," has been on the Top 40 playlists at Z103.5 FM and FLOW93.5 FM since last summer, this was the first time, and by now it was late January, Sumeet caught it on the radio.  Sumeet, said she was just as thrilled to hear her own song as she was as a child listening to music on her transistor radio. In those years, she has come a long way from sitting in the branches of her backyard tree singing down to her imaginary friends.  She's no longer being assigned cafeteria duty for humming in homeroom, although she swears never realizing she was singing out loud the "melodies trying to get out of my head."  "It sucked. Because if you're not cool and you're picking up trash on top of that, you know you're not winning any points."

As the skinny, frizzy-haired Punjabi kid, who used to wear pants under her dresses to hide her bony legs, returned to her parents' farm, it was as someone who's opened for reggae icon Wayne Wonder, worked with 2004 Grammy-nominated producer Dave O'Donnell and sung with dancehall artist Elephant Man.  "I've been singing for as long as I can remember and it's always been the one thing to make me happy. That hasn't changed."  Bharati's brother Subodh hasn't changed either — he can still flirt his way into any situation, then flirt his way out.  Subodh's sweet-talking got Sumeet, still an awkward Grade 10 student at the time, her first stage performance at a University of Western Ontario culture show. As an emcee for the night, he put his jokes on hold ("What do you call a Sikh in a nightclub? Dance Singh") and asked his sister to come up and sing.  "I was so nervous, I stood behind my brother with my back to the (2,000-person) crowd," she said. "Then everyone started cheering, and giving all this love. That was also the first time my parents heard me sing — they had no idea."  She slowly turned around, stepping out from behind Subodh. "I worked the crowd a little bit and after that, I was hooked.  "It's like the rush you get and the love you get from the (crowd's) energy, it's like a wave, and you can just get on it and ride it."  The culture show and student association gigs in London and Toronto came and went. Sumeet even got through three years of psychology at Western when she and her manager-brother packed up and left for Los Angeles.  "It wasn't happening for her in Canada, and I didn't want her to lose her window of opportunity," said Subodh, 30, who put off going to law school to help.  After three years of getting nowhere with producers, cleaning motel rooms for $4 an hour, being held at gunpoint twice, and sleeping in her car when there was nowhere else to crash, Sumeet had enough of L.A.

"California was just a bad, bad time for me. Everyone I met was just so shady. The stuff that would go on was so disgusting. I'm from London, Ontario, man. I don't go down that road.  "In Cali, it's `we'll get to it.' In New York, every artist you meet, they're hungry for it and if you're not on it, someone's there to take your spot. That's what I needed." So New York City it was.  With Subodh's smooth pick-up lines they got introduced to the Davae-Williams production/management duo, who have worked with Wu-Tang Clan, Jay-Z, Mariah Carey and Britney Spears.  Since then, the Queens resident has been performing at nightclubs like Manhattan's The Avalon and at Miami's Mardi Gras concert.  "From there on it was like butter," said the singer "who just happens to be ... Indian."  "We've always received a lot of advice from people, who tell Sumeet to do an Indian-style hip-hop track because that's so popular right now," said her producer and manager, Amil Davae. "But that's not Sumeet's thing at all. Sumeet's thing is R&B and hip hop."  Sumeet said her music is influenced by her Indian background, but it's not defined by it.  "I listened to the same radio you listened to, I watched MTV just like you did," said the singer who, until just recently, would stay up until 4 a.m. just to hear the theme song from Family Ties on Nick at Nite.  So when her idol Angie Stone asked to hear her tracks last year, the honour was all hers.  "She put the CD in, she's doing this (bopping her head), and she's feeling it, and she put the volume up. And inside, I'm just glowing, trying to act all cool. But inside, I couldn't believe it — Angie Stone was listening to me.  "It's all still so wow to me."  Sumeet's indie debut album, Deeper, is available tomorrow on




Sound Check : John Legend On The Ivories

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Mar. 27, 2005) John Legend has been hovering in the background for years — playing piano for Lauryn Hill, co-writing for the Black Eyed Peas and Janet Jackson and lending his vocals to Jay-Z and Slum Village. Last year the former choir director took a giant step forward, touring with Usher and Kanye West. The buzz was such that he sold out three late-night club gigs in Toronto.  He returns this week with a full band and a sexy, soulful debut, Get Lifted, which has remained on Billboard's Top 10 since its December release.  Legend is also in the midst of a North American tour, opening for Alicia Keys.  The Star caught up with the baby-faced 26-year-old on the phone from St. Louis, Mo.  Who's on first? "There are eight of us on stage, including me: two backup singers, DJ, guitar, bass player, drummer and another keyboard player. I have a silver keyboard — a Yamaha Motif 8 — that's on the road with me. Yamaha has given me an upright for my new apartment and they provide all of my grand pianos whenever I do TV appearances.  "There are no extra dancers, no costume changes. It's a pretty no-frills show. It's more about entertaining people with the music. I guess I'm still playing like I'm playing the clubs in New York, like I did back in the day.  "It's funny, I say my stage style is relaxed, but I do wear a lot of kind of high fashion clothes, like Valentino and Yves St. Laurent. It still has a casual feel, but enough flashiness to it to pop on stage.

"Encores aren't a given. They have to make enough noise to make me come back. I don't try to impose any extra music on people that they don't want to hear."  Downtime: "Right now I'm listening to the N.E.R.D album from last year. I just finished reading
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell — it was a gift from somebody at my label — and Siddhartha. I read a lot of politically oriented magazines, like The New Yorker.  "I have all my gadgets: computer, mobile phone, PDA, digital camera. With all the clothes I have to travel with there isn't room for much else. All I ask of a hotel is a comfortable bed, 24-hour room service, Internet connection and a gym. Is that too much?  "I'm writing songs here and there, not as much as I'd like. I do three or four interviews a day; we're about to cut it down, actually, because my voice has been getting really tired and talking makes it worse.  "Sex? ... I don't know ... ummm ... I don't have an abstinence policy on the road, but ... you know ... I'm not a wild guy."  Road warrior: "I try to get as much rest as possible, which is difficult. I drink a lot of tea for my throat and take vitamins. I don't drink or smoke anymore. I get home to New York every couple weeks for a day or two, because a lot of the promotional activity happens there.  "I'm off from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every evening. I take a nap, then it's warm up, get dressed, drink my tea and I'm ready to go. I eat after the show. I do after-parties, I just don't drink at them — I still have fun, I'm just on a natural high."




'Pleasure & Pain' – 112

New York Times - By Kelefa Sanneh

(April 4, 2005)
One of this season's most pleasant musical surprises comes from 112, an underrated Atlanta man-band (what else can you call four grown men in matching clothes?) that never lets pride get in the way of a big, juicy apology. The group's delicious new album, "Pleasure & Pain" (Def Soul/Island Def Jam), imagines love as a two-step process: confession first ("What's wrong with me/Why can't I do right?"), consummation second.   The group got its start making albums with P. Diddy in 1996, and its résumé includes the twitchy hit "Anywhere." As keyboards stuttered and squelched, the singers made like four libidinous real-estate agents conducting a house tour: "I can love you in the shower, both of our bodies dripping wet/On the patio, we can make a night you won't forget/On the kitchen floor as I softly pull your hair/We can do it anywhere."  

The album "Hot & Wet" from 2003 didn't make much of an impact, partly because of some unexpectedly flat hip-hop and reggae collaborations. But "Pleasure & Pain" is much more satisfying - an hour of slick, well-written R&B songs ranging from doo-wop to crunk. It's also their first away from P. Diddy, a television music mogul (his chaotic new MTV reality show is "Making the Band 3") who seems to be having a hard time keeping up the act offscreen.   Meanwhile, 112 is enjoying a modest (so far) comeback. The album has spawned a minor R&B hit, "U Already Know," which lets the members tiptoe over a tinkling hip-hop beat. They use quiet falsetto to tell a lover precisely what she can expect and - to put it delicately - how.   The most unexpected track is "Closing the Club," a collaboration with the unhinged Memphis hip-hop act Three 6 Mafia where the 112 guys try some R. Kelly-ish sing-rapping over a menacing electronic beat. And the funniest is "What the H**l Do You Want," a slow burner produced by the group's own Daron Jones. They turn that rather brusque phrase into a long, sobbing question. But best of all is "That's How Close We Are," where the members borrow part of an old Leon Haywood song so they can croon some 1970's soul of their own.




Meet Fyah Blaze The Hottest New Chanter In Reggae

Excerpt from

(March 24, 2005) When Kevin Morris a former guidance counsellor and university student, decided to pursue a musical direction little did he anticipate the kind of feedback that he has been receiving of late. Now known as Fyah Blaze, he recently released his debut album Truth and Rights on the Eight76 Records imprint.  The album has been doing quite well in the US especially in the South Florida area, where it peaked at number five on the reggae album chart. The title track is number three this week on the South Florida Top 20 Reggae chart. Over on the New York Reggae chart, the single debuted a week ago at number 27. But who exactly is Fyah Blaze?  He was born in Harbour View in Kingston and he attended Kingston College. He migrated to New York when he was 13.  Afterwards he and his family moved to Florida After completing studies at Albany State University, Fyah Blaze took up a job as a guidance counsellor.  When the music bug bit him, he decided to follow the yellow brick road. Asked how he got the name Fyah Blaze, he said ‘A bredren DJ of mine by the name of Herbalist gave me the name because he said my lyrics were blazing’, said Fyah Blaze.   But why did he decide to follow through with a musical career?  He said ‘It was a calling that got stronger over time and really took hold after I graduated from college.  I was working a full-time job and thought I could do my music as I got more support and encouragement from many people and decided to pursue that calling.  My conviction and dedication is to the music and to defend truths and rights’. Fyah Blaze lists Bob Marley, Sizzla, Capleton, Jackie Mittoo, John Lennon, and Lenny Kravitz among his musical influences.  On his debut 16-track album Truth and Rights, Fyah Blaze worked with Kenroy ‘Yahbreeze’ Archibald, Luciano, Richie Stephens, Evette, Nambo Robinson and Dean Fraser among others.  Asked what the listener can expect on the album, he outlined a mixture of genres.  ‘Versatility, strong writing skills and positive songs with melodies that reggae fans can enjoy. There is a little roots rock, ska and even some dancehall and alternative rock’, said Fyah Blaze. Fyah Blaze made his recording debut with King of Kings for the Cave Man label in Jamaica. He describes his style as being unique and versatile.  ‘My sound is unique and versatile. I deejay and sing-jay on the album. My label and I, we try to bring a level of professionalism that is not common these days for an independent company dealing exclusively with reggae music’. The next single from Fyah Blaze’s Truth and Rights album will be Firm Inna This.  To find out more about Fyah Blaze, you can log on to




Eazy E Tribute: MC Eiht

Excerpt from - By Paine

Eazy E’s vision pointed all eyes to Compton. As a result, everybody benefited. One of the biggest beneficiaries was Eazy’s friend and peer, MC Eiht. Compton’s Most Wanted remains a group with a 20-year history of representing the neighbourhood alongside NWA and Eazy E.   Although he never signed with Ruthless, MC Eiht remained a friend, a supporter, and an admirer of Eazy until the day he left us. Of all of Eazy’s friends and peers, MC Eiht seems to best embody the spirit that Eazy E used to keep himself timeless.   In part three of our series, discussed the early days, the civic pride, and the bond that MC Eiht and Eazy E shared from day one to the very end. Hear about one of the greatest who ever did it, from one of the greatest still at it - Compton, we salute you! Had you and Eazy known each other before the music?

MC Eiht: Well, yeah I had known Eazy when he first started rappin’ around the neighbourhood. I had known Eazy from the streets and around the way before he made it big or picked up NWA. Was it a relationship based at the artistic level or the street level?

MC Eiht: Basically, just being from the streets. Being from Compton, we’re big, but we’re small. Everybody knows a little of everybody. Just by name and recognition of people from different neighbourhoods, and being affiliated into the same side I guess. You hear of people, and know them. Me being inclined to start getting into the Gangsta Rap with Toddy Tee, being from my neighbourhood, and him knowing people like [Mixmaster] Spade and all those people, it was a street credibility thing. Can you recall the first time you guys actually spoke?

MC Eiht: First time I actually met Eazy was... [MC] Ren’s girlfriend used to live across the street from Chill, who’s from Compton’s Most Wanted, my group. Ren used to come by all the time when me and Chill had just started to get into the Rap thing. Eazy used to be with him. The first time we actually met, Eazy told us they was gettin’ ready to shoot the “We Want Eazy” video. He told us to come down and all that. Did you go?

MC Eiht: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s interesting that there was extended hands. Today, everybody is so territorial and driven to rivalry, let alone the B-boy attitude in the late 80's.

MC Eiht: Competition is imminent. But as far as being from Compton and both of us being from neighbourhoods and what-have-you, he was just trying to extend an invitation. He never offered us a deal or nothing like that. He knew we was trying to do our thing. We was our own entity. Whenever they was at the studio, or whenever they toured, Ren would always include us. Eazy would invite us to keep us in tuned to when was going on. Was that relationship retained throughout the next ten years?

MC Eiht: Definitely. Anytime Eazy was involved, it was something we could be a part of. I did concerts with Eazy and Bone [Thugs & Harmony]. We been to the studio, we been out to dinner, we been out to clubs. We always maintained a cool relationship. You never actually recorded together, did you?

MC Eiht: No. I was in the process of writing some songs for Eazy right around the time when he was passin’. I wrote about three songs for him that he was getting ready to listen to. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out. In 1998, you, King Tee, and Dresta the Gangsta did “Straight Outta Compton” on that tribute album.

MC Eiht: Right. That was an honour, a privilege. NWA and Eazy were the first to make it nationally known of Compton and what we was about. At the same time though, you were signed to Orpheus maybe even before Eazy had a deal in place. How did he help you?

MC Eiht: Basically, we were signed to Orpheus/Capitol. But I don’t think without the recognition of what Eazy did as far as NWA and puttin’ Compton on the map, and showing these record labels another side to the B-boy world and the world of New York. I grew up on New York Rap as opposed to our neighbourhood heroes. Let’s face it, we didn’t have record deals on the West Coast. We had Egyptian Lover and the LA Dream Team, that wasn’t significant to what was exposed when Eazy came out. Eazy had videos! He made record execs want to come to Compton. That’s where CMW was born. We were makin’ garage tapes, and 12" singles for Techno-Hop [Records] but, it was in the back of my fondest dreams that we’d [become stars]. Why is Eazy remembered only in the shadows of Tupac or Biggie?

MC Eiht: I think because of the way Eazy died, I think a lot people strayed away from his significance and what he did for West Coast Hip-Hop. We love Tupac and Biggie [because] they were the 90's for us. Tupac was the rider with all that controversy with jail and whatnot. But Eazy had that controversy. [Look] at the way they died. If Eazy would’ve got shot up on the corner, people would be on a different scale. People say, “Eazy died of AIDs,” it scares people to the fact that nobody wants to recognize that this guy opened the door for West Coast Hip-Hop. Tupac, Snoop, CMW, when we was sitting at home dreaming, Eazy was on world tours. I feel he deserves the recognition of [them]. It’s f**ked up. Like Puffy, I don’t own a gun. Yes, I could step outside and get shot. We all could. But I think we’re more likely to contract a deadly STD than to die in a gunfight. It’s ironic.

MC Eiht: Right, definitely! I mean, it could it happen. But I don’t think I’m gonna walk out my house to my mailbox and get shot in the community I live in. I don’t portray that. Even now, when I ride through the streets of Compton, I don’t have the feeling that I might get blasted. Like you said, it’s more probable to get AIDs than to get shot in our lifestyle. Now if you out there on the corner, bangin’ it up like we used to do, and we askin’ for it - yeah, you got that chance. It’s just sad that people know Eazy died of AIDs, so let’s forget about this brother that at one time, [was the king]. Tupac and Biggie was hardcore. Biggie was smooth, crack slangin’, that comes from the opening of doors from Eazy E. New York was on straight Hip-Hop. I love Public Enemy, Audio Two, Treacherous Three, Marley Marl, to me s**t didn’t get hard til’ Rakim came out. But Eazy E made it cool for n***as to say, “I’m from Marcy!” He said, I’m from Compton. We from this block, we sell dope, police harass us, n***as get killed, girls be ho’ing. It’s not all about grabbing some turntables, going outside the park, and havin’ fun. Despite the formalities of his death, what was Compton like in the wake of Eazy E? Was it sombre, was it crazy like Brooklyn was on Biggie’s day?

MC Eiht: There was a lot of people at his funeral. People celebrated, people came together, people were sad. I mean, it wasn’t parades of people like Biggie. We different people. Compton’s laid out differently, too.

MC Eiht: Definitely. He knew a lot of people, not on just the strength of the industry. Some from the streets. People paid homage like that. There was a tribute. People came out. It wasn’t as flamboyant as the Biggie thing. Like you said, the city is laid out different. Plus, our police ain’t gonna let a lot of that s**t go down. They get nervous when crowds gather. You got a Crip’s funeral in a different neighbourhood, and you don’t know who heads are gonna bump together. At the time Eazy died, you were signed to Sony. Was there a responsibility on your part, or any apprehension to hold up the Compton name?

MC Eiht: I’ve been making those records since my career began. I’ve always been representing Compton. I stick to my point of view. With Eazy passing, I always felt like it was a duty to uphold Compton. That’s what he did. That’s why I got a tattoo of Eazy. Before we conclude, how’s Veteranz Day doing, and what’s your reaction to it six months later?

MC Eiht: My reaction, even though it was an independent project that I put out myself, I got real good response from this record that I haven’t gotten in a long time. It was a real West Coast record. I was satisfied that I didn’t get negative response. Today, people are still getting into the record. So are you working on anything else right now?

MC Eiht: Right now, I’m working on my next record, Once Upon a Time in the West. I’m also working on a Compton’s Most Wanted record called Neighbourhood Watch. Get it done. What’s your favourite Eazy E song?

MC Eiht: “Still Talkin’ S**t.” To me, that was my favourite Eazy song because it was him. Ice Cube and Ren was on the hook actin’ like they was 60-70's grandpas talkin’ ‘bout this young n***a from Compton who be talkin’ s**t, and he don’t give a f**k about the police, or nothin’. It was Eazy, at the time.




Ronald McDonald Recruits A New Posse

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
By Keith McArthur

(Mar. 29, 2005)
Eminem and 50 Cent could soon have a new lyrical weapon to add to their arsenal: the Big Mac. McDonald's in the United States wants hip-hop artists to rap about the burger — and is willing to pay them if they write it into their songs. It's the latest twist on paid product placement as marketers look for new ways to reach teenagers who are turning away from television and spending more time with video games, the Internet and music. "It's an extension of a long movement. People have paid for their brand names to be in movies and in television and in books . . . so why not in songs? It's the next logical move," said Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York University's Schulich School of Business. McDonald's won't say exactly how the program works and what it pays, citing competitive reasons. But Maven Strategies, the company McDonald's hired to negotiate its hip-hop deals, says the program will be similar to one it ran for Seagram's Gin. That program saw hip-hop artists paid $1 to $5 (U.S.) every time a branded song was played on any radio station in the United States. The fee depended on how prominently the brand was used in the song. One of those songs, Freek-a-leek by Petey Pablo became a top hip-hop song last year. That song includes the lyrics: "Now I got to give a shout out to Seagram's Gin, cause I'm drinkin' it and they payin' me for it." McDonald's spokesman Walt Rider said the company wants to connect with young customers in "relevant, culturally significant ways." He said McDonald's will have final approval over any lyrics incorporating the Big Mac brand to ensure that it is done in an "appropriate setting." (A spokesman for McDonald's Restaurants of Canada said the company is not looking at introducing the program in Canada.)

Hip hop has become the fastest growing genre of music in the United States, and dominates the play lists of Top 40 radio stations. Hip-hop artists have a long history of mentioning products in their music — especially luxury brands such as Cristal Champagne and Mercedes-Benz. Occasionally, they would be rewarded by the manufacturer with crates of booze or other products as a "thank you." "What we've seen in the past is that a lot of the hip-hop artists and their managers and the record labels have really done a good job of creating relationships with a lot of different corporations, . . ." said Tony Rome, president and chief executive officer of Maven Strategies. Agenda Inc., a San Francisco company that advises clients on the interaction between brands and culture, publishes an annual list of the brands most often mentioned on songs in the Billboard Top 20. About 95 per cent of those mentions come from hip hop. The most frequently mentioned brands last year were Cadillac, (70 times) Hennessey (69), Mercedes (63), Rolls-Royce (62), and Gucci (49). Lucian James, president of Agenda, said he's not convinced that paying hip-hop artists to rap about the Big Mac will work. He said the demographic McDonald's is trying to reach is marketing savvy. They will know the mentions are paid product placements, he said, which makes them less effective. "It's a little counter-intuitive for me, because I guess what McDonald's is trying to do with this is gain authenticity among their target audience. But . . . the way they're going about it in itself isn't that authentic," he said. McDonald's received one mention last year in a Top 20 song:
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous by Good Charlotte. Those lyrics — "and did you know if you were caught and you were smoking crack McDonalds wouldn't even want to take it back" — aren't likely the sort that McDonald's would pay for.




Chicago Guitar Virtuoso Buddy Guy Tries To Keep The Blues Alive And Accessible

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
 Vit Wagner

(Mar. 28, 2005) Three days after his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland earlier this month, Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy is still coasting on fumes when he comes on the phone from a tour stop in Myrtle Beach.  "My head is so high, I feel like I'm drunk and I haven't had a drink," he says of the ceremony, which featured tribute speeches in his honour by a revered mentor, B.B. King, and a respected peer, Eric Clapton.  "That's a once in a lifetime thing."  Guy, 68, a Louisiana-bred musician who cut his teeth in the 1950s playing with Baton Rouge bandleader Big Poppa John Tilley, has not wanted for accolades during his career. Prior to his Hall of Fame reception, the singer and electric guitar master had already stowed five Grammys, 21 W.C. Handy Awards for blues, a Billboard Century Award and a U.S. Congressional Medal of the Arts.  None of those honours, he says, quite compare with the affirmation he received after driving up to Canada for the first time to appear at the 1967 Mariposa Folk Festival.  Guy, who had moved to Chicago a decade earlier, had already crossed paths with Muddy Waters, Otis Rush and other mainstays of the city's thriving blues scene, but he wasn't making enough money as a musician to give up his day job driving a tow truck. He had to take time off work to travel to the Innis Lake Campground, site of the Mariposa fest that year, where Guy suddenly found himself being cheered by a crowd of more than 20,000.  "I haven't been back to work since," says Guy, who brings his five-piece band to Massey Hall on Friday.  "Whenever I come there, it's special. I don't care what I receive or where I receive it — the Hall of Fame, the Grammys, the Handys — everything I've received, that first trip to Canada stands out just as well. I owe a lot to Canada. It was the Canadian people who convinced me to stay out there."  It hasn't always been a smooth road. When Guy came out with his Grammy-winning Damn Right, I've Got The Blues in 1991, for instance, it was his first domestic release in a decade.

The album, which is being re-issued with bonus tracks on April 5, put him back on the map, opening the doors to bigger halls and a brief stretch of minor celebrity on TV.  Guy, who has a new disc coming out at the end of the summer, hopes that entering the Hall of Fame alongside U2 this year will yield another spike in interest and sales. He even received a congratulatory call to that effect from John Mayer, a young singer/songwriter who has moved more albums in four years than Guy has in 40.  "He told me I should sell a few more records now," Guy says. "And with the new album, we tried to record it in a way that some of these radio stations might consider playing it."  Guy, whose daughter Shawnna is a protégée of rapper Ludacris, knows enough about how the music industry works today to keep a rein on his expectations.  "The radio stations just don't play blues no more," he says. "You can probably hear it at 3.30 in the morning once or twice, but you don't hear Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf or Little Walter or T-Bone Walker playing this music like you used to.  "The young people are influenced now by watching music television. We didn't have that when I was coming up. If you look at music television, you don't have nothing but good looks. Some of them are playing good music. Older people can play good music too, but we don't look good, so we aren't going to get on there too much.  "I would just love to see them play a good blues number once or twice a week. It's like your favourite meal. You might like it but you're not going to eat it everyday. You go out and taste something else. And after you stay away from it, you say, `I gotta go back to my special stuff.' It's the same with blues music."  As the owner of Chicago's biggest blues club, Buddy Guy's Legends, he has witnessed a similar decline in the live scene.  "Down on Yonge St. they had blues clubs everywhere," he recalls. "We used to come over there and sometimes play two weeks at a time.  "Chicago used to have so many blues clubs, I never had a chance to see them all. That don't exist no more. If I close up, you'll probably have about three blues clubs in Chicago."  Any note of resignation, however, is balanced by Guy's determination to keep at it. His love of the blues, he says, is the reason his set lists are littered with songs by other giants.  "I don't feel like I have to play you Buddy Guy all night. Some of my fans will call up and ask me to play a John Lee Hooker tune, which will hopefully help keep this music alive.  "Now it's just me and B.B. King. And I got to take it as far as I can. Because when you take it to people at least they will know."




Brandy Celebrates A Decade Of Hits

Source: Jason Elzy / /   Courtney Barnes /

(March 29, 2005)  LOS ANGELES - Music superstar, actress and performer Brandy is celebrating her first decade of hit-making with the release of THE BEST OF BRANDY, a first-of-its-kind, 18-track retrospective drawn from the L.A. resident's four best-selling albums for Atlantic Records.  The package includes 16 Top 20 Pop and R&B charted singles, a remix of the 1994 R&B chart-topper "I Wanna Be Down" (featuring Queen Latifah, YoYo and MC Lyte) and a cover of the Phil Collins classic "Another Day In Paradise," a duet with brother Ray J, previously only available in Europe. In addition to five #1 R&B and two #1 Pop hits, THE BEST OF BRANDY also includes a duet with producer and hitmaker in his own right Kanye West, the 1998 #1 crossover duet with Monica ("The Boy Is Mine") and production by Mike City, Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds, David Foster, Rodney Jerkins, Quincy Jones, and Timbaland among others.  THE BEST OF BRANDY (Atlantic/WSM) will be available April 5 at regular physical and digital retail outlets and at for a suggested retail price of $18.98. "I think it's awesome to have an album that reflects the songs that people have enjoyed over the years," enthuses the singer, who coproduced four tracks on the new collection. "I'm happy to say that many of the tracks included are my favourites too." Known for her leading role in the top-rated sitcom Moesha, the Mississippi-born entertainer - who is currently developing a TV series with Fox and Touchstone Television - first hit the charts in 1994 with the gold single "I Wanna Be Down," produced by Keith Crouch. "At first I wasn't happy that the song was chosen as my first single," she recalls. "But once it was released and I saw how everyone responded to the title phrase, I understood why!" Drawn from her self-titled quadruple-platinum Atlantic debut, that first hit was followed by the million-selling single "Baby," and Brandy subsequently scored another gold single in 1995 with "Brokenhearted" (featuring Wanya Morris from Boyz II Men), and started 1996 with another million-seller with "Sittin' Up In My Room," produced by Babyface and featured on the soundtrack of the blockbuster movie Waiting To Exhale, starring Whitney Houston.

By the time Atlantic Records released Brandy's 1998's sophomore album Never Say Never, the singer's starring role on Moesha (which ended its successful five-year run in 2001) along with key appearances starring in the Disney television adaptation of Cinderella in 1997 and the 1998 movie I Still Know What You Did Last Summer had catapulted Brandy into the upper echelon of young across-the-board entertainers. The key single from the album, "The Boy Is Mine," a duet with singer Monica, became a double-platinum best-seller and helped propel Never Say Never to over six million sales worldwide.    Subsequent hits have included "Have You Ever?" (1999), written by Diane Warren and produced by David Foster; "Full Moon" (2002), written and produced by Mike City; "Who Is She 2 U" (2004), produced by Timbaland; and "Talk About Our Love" (2004), Brandy's Top 5 Pop and R&B duet with Kanye West.  THE BEST OF BRANDY also includes the singer's cover of Michael Jackson's classic "Rock With You" from Quincy Jones' best-selling 1995 album Q'S JOOK JOINT. For additional information regarding THE BEST OF BRANDY, please contact Jason Elzy at Warner Strategic Marketing Media Relations at 818-238-6220 or; or Courtney Barnes at The Courtney Barnes Group at 323-466-9300 or




T.C. Carson -- The “Truth” About His Music

Excerpt from - By Deardra Shuler

 (March 29, 2005)   T.C. Carson stood barefoot on stage at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center presenting his melodious “Truth” to the theatre audience.  His haircut was much shorter then and worn in a twist as Kyle Barker, the role he played on television’s “Living Single.” Although, there was no mistaking his baritone voice or the fact the man can sing.  He was performing his cabaret musical stylings as part of a trilogy series of “T.C. Carson: Evolution, My Life In Music” for the Tribeca Performing Arts Center within the Borough of Manhattan College.  The first of which was entitled Discovery.  I attended Part Tw Exploration, and there will be one other entitled Revelation scheduled for April 15 and 16th.  Much of what he sang was newly written material such as “Truth” though he had a few standards. “Truth” is also the name of his CD.  I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by Carson’s wonderful choral acuity and assortment of musical stylings.  During one song, he even changed his vocal range. Carson moved fluently from one song to the other in a way that kept his audience riveted, spellbound and swaying in their seats.  “I have been part of musical theatre since grade school,” states the actor/singer. 

“I studied a little voice while in college but I sang in choruses, different jazz and soul bands and have done a lot of music and theatre since grade school” remarked the multi-talented performer.   Carson has performed in “Hair,” “The Wiz,” “Ain’t Misbehavin,” “Sesame Street Live,” and “Gospel at Colonus” as proof of his musical theatrical background.  “Most of what I have done has been wonderful theatre, but “Once On This Island” and “Dream Girls” was just a great piece of theatre.  I have done some drama.  A play called “Young Richard” but I have done more musical than dramatic theatre.  I loved doing “The Colored Museum” which was about slave ships, soul brother vs corporate brother, etc.  “Colored Museum” was created by George C. Wolfe and something everyone should see.” 

Mr. Carson won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actor for his role in “The Colored Museum.”  “The Joseph Jefferson Award is Chicago’s answer to the Tony” explained T.C.  “I was actually out on the road doing “Dream Girls” when I found out I won the award.  I also won an Emmy award for a television docudrama called “A Fast Break To Glory.”  “Living Single” which lasted 4 years was actually my second television series. Before that, I did a series called “Key West.”  Carson was also nominated for two NAACP Image Awards as Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy as a result of his work on “Living Single.” “Living Single” was my first comedy.  However, I loved working with the wonderful cast which included Queen Latifah, Kim Coles, Erika Alexander and John Singleton.”  T.C. will re-enact his “Living Single” role as Kyle Barker in an upcoming episode of “Half & Half” on UPN, March 14th at 9:30 p.m.




Momentum Builds For Carlton Blount’s 'Point Of View'

Source: Magnatar Records, Inc.

(March 30, 2005) NEW YORK, NY – R&B singer/songwriter Carlton Blount is riding the wave with his long-awaited debut solo album, (From) A Man’s Point Of View, which was released via Magnatar Records on February 22, 2005. As part of a unique pact with 33rd Street Records/Bayside Entertainment Distribution, the self-produced opus became widely available at retail chains, independent record stores and online channels, nationwide.   The release of the album came on the heels of an outbreak of favourable media coverage and critical acclaim in outlets such as Ebony, Vibe, Rolling Out and Black Elegance magazines. Launch Radio Networks, raved that the set is “a sensational debut effort with flashes of soulful brilliance” and “Today’s Black Woman” enthused that it’s “simply unforgettable.”   MTV Radio Networks calls the album, which features contributions from Diane Warren, Toto, Billy “Badass” Dubose, Cedric Solomon and Peter Moshay, “soulful sounds from a timeless talent.” noted that the album is “a must-have in any true R&B music lover's collection,” while “Smooth” magazine extolled “(From) A Man’s Point Of View” with a four-star (****) review.   In addition to the remarkable media coverage, the opus has garnered a strong early showing at retail, prompted by the overwhelming reaction radio stations across the country has given the first single, “Acting Like You're Free.”   The second track to spur from the collection is the atmospheric ballad, “My Wife,” which was written by Mr. Blount. The track is an emotional tour-de-force dealing with a man professing his true love to a woman he loves. About the track, Mr. Blount comments: “If I were married, this is the way I would want to feel about my wife. If I were getting married tomorrow, I would want this song to be sung at the wedding. If I were married for 50 years, this would be the theme of our years together. This is a true testament of love.”

“My Wife” impacted radio in mid-March and was considered one of the most added tracks to many of the solicited stations’ play-lists. Markets such as Washington, DC (WHUR), New Orleans (KMEZ), Columbus, MS (WMXU), Columbia, SC (WLXC, WWDM), Little Rock (KOKY), Charleston (WMGL), Baton Rouge (KQXL), Albany, GA (WQVE), Killeen (KSSM), Toledo (WIMX), Oklahoma City (KRMP) and Las Vegas (KVGS), have embraced the smouldering new track with open arms.  Sister 2 Sister magazine predicts that “My Wife” is “sure to be a wedding hit.”   “We've gotten astounding support at retail, radio and in the press for this project and we are excited,” says Yusef H. Shabazz, President and CEO of Magnatar Records. “It has been a year in the making with getting this project up and running and every early indication points upward. We seem to be in the right direction.”   (From) A Man’s Point Of View showcases Carlton Blount’s soulful vocals, significant sense of great lyricism and sheer showmanship. Seasoned with sounds ranging from gospel-tinged melodies to rousing R&B flavour and rap-friendly riffs, the album is juxtaposed with his four-octave range throughout each and every track.   Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Carlton Blount is a first place winner on the nationally syndicated variety show “Showtime At The Apollo” who went on to sing background vocals for Patti Labelle, and collaborations with Roberta Flack, Michael Bolton and the late Grover Washington, Jr. He also shared the stage with Al Green, Ray Charles, The Four Tops and The Temptations on various touring jaunts. His vocals have also been heard in advertisements for Pepsi, Mobile Oil and Marriott. In 1999, he joined the Main Ingredient replacing Cuba Gooding as the lead vocalist.    As a part of the promotional campaign for the album’s release and the new single, Carlton Blount will appear at the 15th Annual Urban Network Entertainment-Marketing Summit to be held in Palm Springs, CA this week.  On April 10, he will perform in his hometown of Richmond, VA at the Hyperlink Café, presented by LaBelle & Associates.   Additional performance dates are being solidified. /




Changing the Game

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Ashante Infantry

(Apr. 6, 2005) One approaches an interview with America's hottest new gangsta rapper with some apprehension. It's not fear, per se, despite the aura of violence around the former Compton gang banger known as
The Game — guns brandished in the presence of a Vibe magazine reporter, his implication in a January assault on a Washington, D.C., radio host, the February shooting of a cohort outside a New York radio station.  No, the concern is whether an artist who evokes hip hop's profane, bullet-riddled dark side can apply himself to the task at hand. Many of his peers are in the habit of showing up late, if at all, then spewing hollow one-word rejoinders in between puffs and sips — and, frankly, I'm tired of it.  However, with his debut The Documentary having sold more than two million copies (150,000 in Canada) since its January release, we figured the latest discovery of rap guru Dr. Dre (who gave the world Snoop Dogg, Eminem and 50 Cent) deserved a look.  So, on the eve of Game's recent Toronto concerts, The Star arrived at the appointed hotel to find — surprise! — the rapper had yet to surface for his scheduled media ops.  Journalists, promoters and a publicist waited in the two-level suite overlooking the Blue Jays' outfield, sharing anecdotes about his Eaton Centre expeditions, capacity for marijuana and bewilderingly mediocre pre-sales for the back-to-back Kool Haus gigs.

And, counter to his menacing public image, there were tales of the fun-loving 25-year-old and his buddies playing tag in the hotel's hallways.  When Game eventually appeared, with a hulking three-man security team, he was in character. Tall and taciturn, he wouldn't strike anything but the standard thug pose for the Star's photographer.  But, when I sat down with him 40 minutes and two interviews later, he was smiling, well mannered and focused; kinda charming for a guy with a teardrop tattooed under his eye — a long-held symbol you've killed someone, been incarcerated or had a fellow gang member murdered.  Take this response about his first visit to Canada:  "I love this place. Everybody here is so peaceful. And it's pretty clean. I unwrapped a Starburst and put it in my mouth and threw the paper on the ground and some old lady came running. I don't think anybody can top the European fans, but Canadians are second — they really appreciate hip hop. And the women are beautiful."  No argument here.  This expertise is culled from recent travels; before he started rapping four years ago, Game had never ventured outside of South Central Los Angeles.  "Now the world seems so small. The most interesting place was Paris. It's beautiful and everybody there's a sweet talker. They even have gangster rap, but it don't sound like gangster rap because they're like `oui oui' and `vous vous' and I'm like how the f--k is that gangster rap?"  Ironically, the middle of nine children of L.A. gang members owes his new life, which includes a house in Beverly Hills and the requisite Mercedes Benz for mom, to his near death.  After a turbulent childhood that included a stint in foster care, Jayceon Taylor was peddling dope in 2001 when robbers burst into his apartment and shot him five times.  "I'm laying in bed recuperating with nothing to do except listen to music and I listened to so much music that it started to consume me. So I started pretending I was ... well, on paper, at least, I would jot down Jay-Z's rhymes, Snoop's rhymes, Ice Cubes rhymes and kind of fix them so that they pertained a little bit more to me. And it went from that to me writing my own rhymes and it actually being my own story.

"It was rough at first. I don't want anybody thinking I just started rapping and I was great. I got better and recorded a demo that found its way into Puff Daddy's hands."  Diddy didn't sign him, but Dr. Dre did and recruited New York rapper 50 Cent to help him produce
The Documentary. Now, Game's developing a clothing line and taking meetings with filmmakers John Singleton and Joel Silver.  But his aim to secure the financial future of his inner circle was nearly derailed by a difference of opinion with labelmate 50 Cent over the breadth of 50's contributions to his successful debut. On Feb. 28, the quarrel erupted into a gunfight between their respective entourages outside New York's Hot 97 WQHT-FM.  "With this recent beef I've lost endorsements worth millions of dollars. I almost lost sponsorship for the Snoop Dogg tour in the U.S. next month. You have people scared. You have insurance companies backing out. Here in Canada a couple shows were cancelled. At the end of the day I'm losing a lot of money just over bullshit. So, is it the well being of me, my family and my life, or is it succumb to what fans want to hear and the negativity that the media seems to kind of make a big deal?"  Two weeks later Game and 50 held a press conference to declare a truce and donate $253,500 to the Boys Choir of Harlem and Compton Unified School District music program.  "He doesn't have to be happy with me or my career and I don't have to like him. Whether we're friends or not, it doesn't matter. We just come to work and we do what we do and some kids smile.  "You know I got a son at home. He's a little under two and he's starting to talk and he's starting to comprehend what's really going on with his father. He sees the videos and he sings along and I've got to watch my steps and watch my mouth.  "So, look for me to be a little bit more productive and positive in the future. I'm not saying that I'm not going to talk about where I come from anymore or talk about the guns and the violence, but I'm not going to glorify those things.  "Whether I like it or not, we as hip hop artists are role models and I'm becoming more aware of that. I don't think I'll ever change, but who wants the same thing album after album? Jay-Z told me a long time ago that reinventing yourself is the best thing that you can do as a hip hop artist. Whether the fans accept it or not is something that we're just going to have to see."

Meanwhile, he'll keep following the advice of the late grandmother, who bestowed the nickname inspired by his fearlessness.  "She told me to live life to the fullest according to the way I feel when I get up in the morning. If I get up and I don't feel like being here at 4:45 p.m. to do your interview because my stomach is hurting, I'll tell my management and they'll tell you and hopefully you'll understand; but ultimately I'm here to do this interview because I understand the importance of it and I really value you coming down and wanting to get to know me a little better.  "At the end of the day, it's business and I'm here to do my job."  Well, the media training has taken, but Game needs to apply some of those principles to his live show.  The set I caught the following night inside the gigantic half-empty nightclub lacked the ferocity and fluidity of the album. It was an underwhelming hour of the rookie rapper bounding aimlessly across the stage like a puppy leaving songs incomplete while he smoked and chugged champagne.  His purpose, he says, is to sell records and please fans.  He's halfway there.




Jean Of All Trades

Excerpt from - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(Apr. 6, 2005)    *Hip-Hop artists are saturating the entertainment world. These days, if you aren’t at least a triple threat, you aren’t in the game. Wyclef Jean can attest to doing it all. As a songwriter, artist, producer, philanthropist, activist, you might think he wears quite enough hats. But that’s not the case. The international rap superstar is honing his thespian talents, and in the true fashion of an over-achiever, he’s dabbling in TV, movies, theatre, in front of the camera, and behind the scenes. Fresh off a Golden Globe nomination for his song “Million Voices” from the movie “Hotel Rwanda” (Clef lost to rocker Mick Jagger for his track from “Alfie”), Wyclef says he’s making his move into film and television. “I’m just following Quincy Jones steps,” he said of his strategy. “I’m starting to get heavily into the movies. Plus, I just shot an episode of ‘Third Watch’ and I got three scripts that I’m writing right now.” Turns out, scriptwriting and theatre is old hat for the music maestro. He says that he came up in theatre doing off-Broadway plays and even took on reworking Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” into a hip-hop version when he was only 17. Wyclef, who says he looks up to the legendary Sidney Poitier, plays a gang leader on the TV drama “Third Watch” and just wrapped a movie with Cuba Gooding Jr. called “Dirty.”   “I play a Jamaican cat who owns a record company. When you see me on the screen, you’ll say ‘Clef is crazy. Just know, I’m just acting crazy,” he said. Speaking of crazy, the crazy rumours that flew around Wyclef and his Fugee-mate Lauryn Hill have apparently come to rest, and a Fugee reunion could be in order. “I think a reunion is going to come naturally,” Wyclef nudged. “We keep moving forward. I’m moving forward, doing my thing. Lauryn’s moving forward, doing what she’s doing. We did the ‘Dave Chappell [Show]’ so an album is bound to come in the future.” The Fugees performed together on the stand-up comic’s show recently, thanks to Hill calling up the fellas.  “Lauryn called me and she told me she was gonna do something with Dave Chappell and would I like to do with it, and Pras. I said, ‘Definitely. That would be hot to get on stage and do the Fugees,’” Wyclef said. But he still contends that the process of reuniting can only be slow and easy, “If it was a money thing, we would’ve done an album and cashed in.” He admits that the drama between bandmates may be a good thing for their music and their fans.   “I think when a Fugee album comes, it will be more appreciated now since everyone’s heard the drama. We’re like Mary J. right now – no more drama,” he said.




Canadian Content In Russell Crowe's Latest CD

Source:  Canadian Press

(Mar. 30, 2005) Russell Crowe's next musical venture will have a distinctly Canadian flavour. Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle helped produce and co-write the actor's next CD, tentatively titled My Hand My Heart. The pair began collaborating last summer after meeting backstage following a Great Big Sea concert in Toronto. "(He) asked if I'd like to come by the hotel some time and write some songs," Doyle recalled from his studio in St. John's, Nfld. Crowe was in Toronto at the time filming Cinderella Man. The rest of the production took place at Crowe's home studio in Australia. "It was great fun. It was excellent," Doyle said. "He's got such a history of writing and recording music himself that it was great to actually sit with somebody who's been at it as long, or longer than me, but comes from a completely different part of the world and a completely different perspective on music." Doyle praised Crowe's writing, saying the actor knows how to "deliver a good song" and is a "spectacular lyricist." "I've never met anyone who pays more attention to the word than Russell Crowe," Doyle said. "I don't know if that's a result of him being a very attentive musician or being the best actor in the world ... somebody who's been exposed to the best dialogue in the world." Crowe, who has been singing for several years, was equally impressed by Doyle. "Alan Doyle is the first magical musical collaboration I have ever experienced," Crowe said in a statement. "We had the type of synergy I have experienced with other actors or directors, but which has always eluded me in music. I have poured my heart into these songs." Doyle is back at work with Great Big Sea on a new CD.




Nelly’s Sister Dies Of Leukemia

Excerpt from

(Mar. 25, 2005)  *Jacqueline "Jackie" Donahue, the 31-year-old sister of Nelly, died Thursday at a St. Louis hospital after a long battle with leukemia, the rapper’s publicist said.   Donahue was diagnosed with the disease on March 29, 2001. The cancer was in remission for nearly two years before she suffered a relapse, prompting Nelly to organize several bone marrow drives. In March 2003, Nelly and his sister founded "Jes Us 4 Jackie," a campaign to find African American donors for Donahue and others, and to raise awareness about bone marrow donations.   Donahue's family said in a statement they were "deeply saddened" by her death and offered their thanks for those who had supported her and the bone marrow drives.   "We are very proud of her efforts to educate and raise awareness about the disease and the need for African-Americans to join the National Donor Registry," the family said. "She will always be remembered for her loving spirit, energy and unshakable faith."   A spokeswoman for Austin Layne Mortuary said funeral arrangements were pending.




A Live Seal: Singer to kick off U.S. tour in late May

Excerpt from

(March 25, 2005)    *Husband and father-to-be Seal has organized a U.S. tour in support of his recently-released greatest hits collection “Best: 1991-2004,” which first surfaced in November as a single-CD full of hits from the singer’s four studio albums.  The set was simultaneously released as a double-CD featuring a second disc of acoustic material. In February, a third version of the project was offered with a DVD featuring surround-sound versions of all cuts from the first two discs, as well as 10 music videos.   Seal plans to marry his fiancée Heidi Klum and the couple are expecting their first child, due in September.




A ‘Wonder’ful Return For Stevie

Excerpt from

(March 25, 2005) *So what’s the fuss behind Stevie Wonder’s first single from his forthcoming CD “A Time to Love?” For starters, it’s been heating up urban and urban adult stations across the nation – marking a welcome return for the music legend who hadn’t recorded a studio album in 10 years.    “‘What The Fuss’ really came from just a lot of things that we know are happening in the world and in this country and just in society in general," Wonder told Yahoo Music.  "If we live in a time where every nation is fighting around the world and we can't all agree that peace is the way, then shame on us, because ultimately we will get what we've not paid attention to.    Calling the song sarcastic-but-serious, Wonder adds: “If it matters to you, to me, to them, to us, then we'll do something about. And if it doesn't we won't. So what the fuss?"    “A Time To Love” drops on May 3.  




Cece Winans Kicked Off The Year With A Stellar Award

Source:  Erma Byrd / 323-965-5551

(March 25, 2005)  Los Angeles, CA - Gospel songstress, CeCe Winans, walked away with top awards at the recent 20th Annual Stellar Awards. Winans was honoured with awards for Female Vocalist of the Year, Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year and Recorded Music Packaging of the Year, for her Throne Room CD.  In addition to Winans’ personal wins, her PureSprings Gospel label, received an award for Contemporary Choir of the Year for The Born Again Church Choir, CD.  “Everyone is so excited, we’re looking for 2005 to be a phenomenal year,” says Demetrus Stewart President of PureSprings Gospel.   The CD, Throne Room, and the DVD Live In  The Throne Room received the official RIAA certified gold seal in 2004 . The releases were destined for success after Winans’ label launched a national grass- root campaign, visiting several churches over the course of six weeks, in conjunction with retail and mass marketing efforts by partnering labels EPIC and INO.   The campaign was so well received it evolved into a 30-City church tour.    " I am honoured, excited and blessed to have been a part of a project that is life changing; for that we are grateful”, says Winans.   
  PureSprings/Epic/INO can look for more movement on the charts and activity in sells as they embark upon the second leg of the Throne Room Tour coming up in the spring. So, for all the fans that didn’t have an opportunity to experience CeCe live the first time around, they can check out the 2005 dates at and plan to join in on the wonderful worship experience. Log on to for exact location & times.




Head Jigga In Charge

Excerpt from

(March 28, 2005)  *Nestled deep into his chair as the president of Def Jam, Jay-Z tells MTV that his duties extend from behind the desk and deep into the recording studio to oversee the acts operating under his regime, which include Young Gunz, Foxy Brown and Memphis Bleek. The retired rapper-turned-record exec says his years on the M.I.C. automatically make him a more sympathetic boss.       "I feel that artist pain," Jay told MTV while at a video shoot for Memphis Bleek’s new video, "Like That." "It's not a confrontational thing. What usually happens is it's the artists against the company, the artists against the machine. It's not like that with us. They know I been through the same thing. They know they not gonna bullsh-- me, but at the same time I'm not gonna bullsh-- them. I'm on the artists' side.    "Ludacris calls me all the time for what he says is his 'monthly Shawn Carter call,'" Jay added. "[Me and LL Cool J] had a great meeting. The first time we sat down to chat, we chopped it up. I was a little worried about the meeting, I didn't know how he was gonna take [my new position] because that's the pillar. But he was real cool about it. I'm anxious to work on that project."      Jigga fans will be pleased to know that he’s not completely retired from rapping. Hov recorded an entire song called "Dear Summer" that will act as the intro for Bleek's upcoming “534” LP, and he appears three times on Foxy Brown's new album.




Joss Stone Blossoms In Spring

Source:  Matt Hanks [] or Alexis Tedford [] at Shore Fire Media: 718-522-7171

(March 28, 2005)  Over six months after the release of he acclaimed album 'Mind, Body & Soul' (S-Curve Records) Grammy nominee Joss Stone is busier than ever.  Just last week, Joss's Grammy duet with Melissa Etheridge - the show-stopping "Cry Baby/Piece of My Heart" medley tribute to Janis Joplin - was made available for purchase on iTunes, and shot to #1 on the site's most-downloaded list. All proceeds from the track will go to breast cancer research.  Looking to April, Joss is confirmed to be spokesperson for the GAP Inc. retail chain's new summer campaign, which is set to launch April 28 with extensive television and print exposure.   Joss will be the only personality featured in the campaign.    And on April 11, Joss will join Rod Stewart, Alicia Keys, Rob Thomas, Queen Latifah, Donna Summer and John Legend at the Beacon Theater in NYC for VH1's Save The Music Concert, an event to aid music-in-school programs.  The concert will air April 17 on VH1.




Smokey’s ‘World’: Motown Legend Drops New Singles In ‘Best Of’ CD/DVD

Excerpt from

(March 30, 2005) *Soul legend Smokey Robinson has recorded the new songs "My World" and "Fallin'" for the retrospective "My World: The Definitive Collection," due May 3 via Motown. The set arrives as a 21-track CD as well as a separate DVD featuring music videos and live performances.  Beyond such Smokey and the Miracles classics as "The Tears of a Clown," "The Tracks of My Tears," "Ooo Baby Baby," "I Second That Emotion" and "Shop Around," the album includes solo hits such as "Cruisin'," "Being With You," "Just To See Her" and "One Heartbeat," all of which reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.  The DVD includes clips of the Miracles performing on "The Ed Sullivan Show," "Hollywood a Go-Go" and "Teen Town," live Robinson performances of "Baby That Backatcha," "The Tracks of My Tears" and "Being With You," plus videos for "Just To See Her," "One Heartbeat," "Everything You Touch" and "Ebony Eyes," which features late funk legend Rick James.




Alicia Keys To Be Honoured As Gifted Songwriter

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Apr. 1, 2005)
New York -- Alicia Keys will receive the Starlight Award, which honours gifted songwriters in the early years of their careers, at the 2005 Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards gala. Keys's selection was announced Wednesday by Hal David, chairman and chief executive officer of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The awards dinner will be held June 9 in New York. Inductees this year include Steve Cropper, John Fogerty, Isaac Hayes and David Porter, Richard and Robert Sherman and Bill Withers. Les Paul will receive the lifetime achievement award. AP




BEP’s Helps Rita Marley Remix Classic

Excerpt from

(April 1, 2005)    *Not so much into the upcoming Sinead O'Connor reggae album? The Irish pop star is currently recording the album in Jamaica, featuring covers of songs by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Burning Spear.  Well, if you’re more into the originators, Bob Marley Music released a remix of Marley’s seminal classic “Africa Unite” on March 31. The original track was released in 1979 on the album “Survival.” The newly remixed track is produced by the Black Eyed Peas’, vocals by Bob Marley’s widow Rita Marley, the I-Three (Marley’s original background singers) and Rita Marley contacted herself to put the project in motion. “I have been a fan of the Black Eyed Peas since their first album, so I knew it would be a good fit.” The BEP frontman was apparently a little hesitant, Rita says. “He asked me, ‘How do you improve on the best?’ But I told him that he was family and should just do what felt right. We’re so pleased with the results.” The remix is the latest project marking the 60th anniversary of the Bob Marley’s birth. In February, Marley was born February 6, 1945, an “Africa Unite” concert celebrated the music legend in his birthplace of Ethiopia. A portion of the new “Africa Unite” track will be split between the Bob Marley Foundation, the Rita Marley Foundation, and the foundation.




Monk-Coltrane Recording Discovered

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(April 6, 2005)
Washington -- The discovery of an unknown recording by jazz masters Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane was announced yesterday by the U.S. Library of Congress as it revealed this year's additions to its National Recording Registry. The newly discovered performance by pianist Monk and saxophonist Coltrane at Carnegie Hall was never commercially recorded, the library said. The collaboration is not one of the 50 recordings being added to the American registry. Astronaut Neil Armstrong's first words from the moon, speeches by President Woodrow Wilson and General Douglas MacArthur and songs by Al Jolson, Muddy Waters and Nirvana are among 50 recordings being set aside for special preservation. There's plenty of music, from Victor Herbert's Gypsy Love Song of 1898, through Glenn Miller's In the Mood in 1939, to Nirvana's 1991 album Nevermind. Performances must be 10 years old to qualify. This is the third group of recordings to be added to the registry. AP




Foxx Teams With Hip-Hop Heads

Excerpt from

(Apr. 6, 2005)    *How many of you peeped Jamie Foxx’s 1994 debut album “Peep This?” Right, right. Now, how many of you will probably check out his follow-up disc, tentatively titled “Southern Gentleman,” coming to a record store near you very soon? Well, he’s counting on sales to be a bit of a different story for his second offering. With folks hip to his acting talent, he’ll probably get his way. Plus, this time around he’s recruited some pretty hot names on radio to lend a hand. "I just got through messing with Kanye West, I got a joint with 50, it's crazy," Foxx told MTV. "It's gonna be nuts. And we're gonna get back to love music — young love music that old people can appreciate." Also on board for the project are Snoop Dogg and Tank, the network reports. No release date is set. Comedian, actor, singer ... what more can we celebrate about this man? Well, over the weekend he was awarded the Kids Choice Award for Favourite Celebrity Hidden Talent because he can roll his eyes in opposite directions. Whoa, that boy’s got talent!





Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Bushwick Bill, Gutta Mixx, Lightyear
Will Smith, Lost and Found, Interscope

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Best of Brandy, Brandy, Rhino
Women & Songs, Vol. 8 [Bonus DVD], Various Artists, WEA International
Collection, Vol. 2: Never Too Much/Forever, For Al, Luther Vandross, Sony
First Lady, Faith Evans, Capitol
Hard to Find Soul, Various Artists, Time Life
I Chose to Sing the Blues, Ray Charles, Brentwood







Canucks May Well Grab Centre Stage In Middle-Earth

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By James Adams

(Apr. 2, 2005) Think you're more Gandalf or Frodo than Merry or Orc? Well, if you're a professional Canadian actor who hankers for one of the meatier parts in next year's world premiere of The Lord of the Rings musical in Toronto, there's nothing to stop you from trying your luck. True, the show's London-based producers struck a deal with Canadian Actors' Equity that allows them to cast, if required, British performers in five as-yet-unspecified "lead roles" in the Toronto production. But they have to hold "legitimate auditions" for Canadians for those parts, and even if it's determined that Brits should get the five leads, the understudies have to be Canucks.  Moreover, the understudies stand a good chance of moving into the leads: The Equity deal with the Brits is only for a year and a bit (the expectation being that the show will move to London's West End in 2007, while Toronto's Mirvish Productions continues with an all-Canadian edition). The Equity contract also requires that the debut Canadian production, which begins previews next February, have at least 50 roles. The winner of the Palme d'or for best short film at this year's 58th Cannes Film Festival is also going to be 3,000 euros ($4,700) richer, thanks to Canada's National Film Board. The NFB has received permission from the Cannesians to present the inaugural Norman McLaren Prize to the recipient of the Palme d'or. The prize, of course, is named after the internationally acclaimed Canadian animator whose association with the NFB spanned more than 40 years. Indeed, it was 50 years ago this May that the Scottish-born McLaren, who died in Montreal in 1987, took the Palme d'or for his NFB short, Blinkity Blank.

That film is one of 60-plus McLaren creations the film board has been digitally restoring since 2002. All of McLaren's known films, plus experimental works and interviews with colleagues, critics and friends, are to be included on a seven-DVD boxed set the NFB plans to release in mid-2006. To promote it, the NFB is taking a McLaren animation that it has already restored (but is holding off releasing until 2006), the 1953 Oscar-winning Neighbours, for screenings at this year's Cannes. Since Neighbours runs all of eight minutes and 10 seconds, there should be a lot of showings. Another Canadian being honoured in France this spring is the documentary photographer Larry Towell, from Shetland, Ont. He was given the 30,000-euro ($47,000) Henri Cartier-Bresson Award in 2003 to allow him to complete a photographic series on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. That black-and-white study, titled The Walls of No Man's Land: Palestine, will be exhibited at Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris for almost four months, starting April 15. Towell, who's taken his cameras to Nicaragua and El Salvador, Mexico, Vietnam and the streets of 9/11 New York, joined the famous Magnum photographers agency in 1993 -- which, as serendipity would have it, Cartier-Bresson co-founded in 1947. Some of the images at Towell's Paris show will also be on view for six weeks at Toronto's Stephen Bulger Gallery, beginning May 14. Winnipeg is party central this weekend for the Canadian music industry, thanks to its hosting of the Juno Awards. But some words of advice to 'Peg partiers: Don't let Ben Mulroney near the CD player or computer. Host of Canadian Idol and eTalk Daily, Mulroney is in the Manitoba capital to co-host the one-hour pre-awards red-carpet walk on CTV Sunday evening. Last fall, when a Toronto weekly asked Gentle Ben to name some of his favourite CDs, these were his three picks: Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 by George Michael ("Every single song is worth a listen."); Shout: The Very Best of Tears for Fears ("I think they were the greatest band of the '80s, besides U2."); and Clay Aiken's Measure of a Man ("Just to see if you're paying attention!") In short, be very afraid if Ben shows up at your Winnipeg crib and says, "Hey, lemme pick some tunes." The only thing scarier would be his dad announcing, "I'm playing Michael Bublé's version of George Michael's Kissing a Fool, and no one's gonna stop me."




Vive La Difference: Eighth Edition Of Cinéfranco Festival

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Terauds, Staff Reporter

(Apr. 1, 2005) The Canadian linguistic divide comes into clear focus whenever one compares the quantity of French-language films made in the world every year with the actual number we get to see on our screens.  Remove Audrey Tautou and Denys Arcand from the equation, and, well, a Torontonian might be forgiven for thinking that French-language filmmaking is dead and buried.  Thank goodness Cinéfranco comes along at this time every year as a reminder that the world of French talkies is alive and well here, in Europe and the rest of what is known as "La Francophonie."  Beginning today and running to April 10 at the Royal Cinema (608 College St.) are screenings of 50 French-language films. The organizers of this eighth edition of the festival claim that there is an overriding theme of displacement and immigration among this year's cinematic crop.  But an advance screening of a dozen of this year's offerings showed rather that there is something for everyone here, from family-themed fare, to wacky comedy, to commercial crowd-pleasers, to serious art films. The quality is uniformly good, and there are several memorable efforts on the list.  All of the movies carry subtitles.  Besides France and Quebec, there are reels from Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Guinea and Vietnam.  Among the dozen made-in-France films screened in advance of the festival, the standout was Le Pont des arts, a 125-minute feature by American ex-pat director Eugene Green.  This is one of those creations that defies categorization, because any one slot somehow diminishes the whole. This movie is at once a biting satire of intellectuals and aesthetes, a touching story of love and loss and a surprisingly deep exploration of the power of music to change lives. At the core of Le Pont des arts are two twentysomething heterosexual couples and an evil early-music conductor.

Green has clearly instructed his actors to "act" as little as possible amid their gorgeously Baroque Parisian interiors and postcard-perfect streetscapes. The dialogue is stilted and, at times arch, further adding to the surreal atmosphere on screen.  The exchanges between the characters have a Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last days of Disco) film quality about them, with dialogue that doesn't quite fit into the characters' mouths.  And the satire is delivered with straight faces. One example (among many, many others) takes place as two friends sit at a sidewalk café. One of the characters (the gorgeous Adrien Michaux) tells his friend about how he has recently discovered the poems of Michelangelo:  "Oh, they're very well known, but we don't like him much in France. The intellectuals hold it against him that he's an artist, the feminists that he loved a man, and the homos that he was chaste," the friend replies.  Michaux's character: "If all he has against him are the intellectuals, feminists and homos, then it's still okay."  "You know, in France, that makes quite a lot of people," responds the friend.  The multitude of these short, sharp exchanges are set in counterpoint with the 17th-century music of Monteverdi and the growing psychological abuse of a vocal student (a luminous Natacha Régnier) at the hands of "The Unnameable" conductor (a ghoulish Denis Podalydès).  The characters do not all meet happy fates, but none is left untouched by the power of music. This is one of those movies you remember for the rest of your life. It screens Apr. 8 @ 4:30 p.m.  Other notable films from those screened include:

 25 Degrees in Winter by Belgian filmmaker Stéphane Vuillet. This is a silly little comedy laid atop the serious subject of illegal immigrants. Its main attraction is the ever-hilarious Carmen Maura (a former favourite of Pedro Almodóvar's) as a manipulative Spanish mother. 90 minutes. It screens today @ noon.

 Venus and Fleur by Emmanuel Mouret is a light drama set near Marseilles, as two young women — one, timid and French, the other extroverted and Russian — explore life and love during a seaside holiday. 80 minutes. It screens Sunday @ 9:30 p.m.

 The Missing Half by Belgian filmmaker Benoît Mariage. This haunting tale of a woman coping with the abortion of one of a set of fraternal twins packs a wallop with minimal dialogue, eccentric Northern European facial features and much bleak Belgian countryside into a short, 71-minute running time. It screens Monday @ 10:10 p.m.

 Malabar Princess by Gilles Legrand is a lovely drama about a young boy who is left in the care of his grandfather (the remarkable, late Jacques Villeret), who lives in the shadow of Mont Blanc in the French Alps. The story is about the boy's quest for his mother, who had died several years previously in an Alpine crevasse without her body ever being found. 94 minutes. It screens on Apr. 7 @ noon.

 Viper in the Fist by Philippe de Broca is a hugely powerful tale of a young boy and his two brothers who are brutally repressed by their mother — it's Lemony Snicket done straight. The story transcends the formula by probing deep into the nature of hate and obsession. An opening scene of the boy watching his ornithologist father (also played by Jacques Villeret) trap a housefly in a bottle, and then seeing the fly die, is the movie's driving metaphor. 100 minutes. It screens Apr. 8 and 9 at noon.

 Blonde and Brunette by French filmmaker Christine Dory, is sort of a road trip of the spirit, a light drama about two former best friends from high school who get back together again after a couple of decades apart. 59 minutes. It screens Apr. 8 at 11:30 p.m.

 One movie that wasn't previewed, but that shouldn't be missed is Exiles, by Algerian-born filmmaker Tony Gatlif. This 103-minute drama about two Parisians who set out for Algeria to explore their families' "pied noir" roots, won him a best director award at the Cannes film festival last year. It screens Apr. 9 @ 6:30 p.m.




No Lights, No Action In Ontario's Film Biz - Genies Debacle Proof Of Woes

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman

(Mar. 30, 2005) Just when we thought Wayne Clarkson, the new executive director of Telefilm Canada, was singing songs we'd heard before, from old familiar scores, there came a startlingly dramatic moment. The occasion: Clarkson's homecoming speech yesterday at a Canadian Club lunch at the Fairmount Royal York Hotel. Turning to Ontario Culture Minister Madeline Meilleur, who was at the head table, Clarkson gently suggested that Ontario is not doing everything it could to develop its own film talent. "I encourage Minister Meilleur and her cabinet colleagues to expand their commitment, to create new development and production funding," said Clarkson, "not just for made-in-Ontario productions but made-about-Ontario productions by emerging filmmakers." That drew a round of applause, perhaps because it reminded veterans in the room of the good old days, when for one brief, shining moment, Ontario did seem to be developing its own film identity. Back in the late 1980s, when Clarkson was running the Ontario Film Development Corp., this province put real dollars into creating its own boutique of new and distinctively local filmmakers. As a result, it fostered the careers of Atom Egoyan, Don McKellar, Bruce McDonald and Patricia Rozema. But when Mike Harris became premier, that was deemed a frill. The OFDC became the Ontario Media Development Corp. and got out of the business of nurturing domestic films. Instead, the emphasis became tax credits to entice Hollywood producers to shoot their projects in Ontario. To tie the fortunes of your film industry to foreign production is like building your dream house on quicksand. U.S. producers may flock here one year — and favour somewhere else the next year. And when they leave, if you haven't built a domestic film culture, everything crumbles. Last year panic calls went out when Hollywood production in Ontario tanked in the wake of SARs, the blame-Canada backlash in California, and the surging loonie. Ontario lured some Hollywood producers back by offering additional tax incentives, announced late last year. Other Canadian provinces offered similar improvements. "I ask you to imagine," said Clarkson, "what could happen if the same provinces competed as vigorously with each other to increase funding for development and investment in their own local talent and productions." In his view, it's no accident that in Quebec, movies produced on this side of the border draw 21 per cent of the box office, while in Ontario, 2 per cent is considered good. The Quebec government spends $20 million a year on local film and TV production. How much does the Ontario government spend? Next to nothing.

What Clarkson did not mention: how the absurdity of Canada's feature film industry turned into a full-scale national embarrassment via the telecast of the annual Genie awards last week. Most of the nominees were from French-language films from Quebec, which might have been tolerable if audiences in the rest of the country had actually seen them. But with the odd exception, these films had not even been released outside Quebec. Making matters worse: the francophone winners did absolutely nothing to reach out to English-speaking Canadians watching the awards show on Citytv, Bravo and CHUM stations across the country. Ludicrously, it turned out the best Canadian movie of 2004 was mostly made by Belgians — and released in 2003. To many observers, it seemed like a disastrous shambles. But astonishingly, producer Marcia Martin gleefully reports that the show, with her sister Andrea Martin as host, drew an average per-minute audience of 314,000 — compared to 126,000 last year (the first year CHUM took over the show) and 123,000 in 2003 on the CBC's main network. Give CHUM credit for doing an excellent job promoting the Genies. But shouldn't Clarkson, whose organization provides much of the funding for the Genies, be pressing for a less embarrassing way to showcase the film industry?

Long-term hopes for this city as a major production centre are pinned on the state-of-the-art film studio on the eastern waterfront promised by the Toronto Economic Development Corp (TEDCO), an agency of the city. Dismayingly, nine months after an announcement that TEDCO had chosen Toronto Film Studios Inc. over several other applicants to build the super-studio, TFS and TEDCO are still discussing the complex details and going through the dance known as "due diligence." In a letter circulated privately to various players in the film industry, TFS president Ken Ferguson claims TFS is committed to making this venture work. But he adds, somewhat unnervingly, "You should not assume this project is dead unless you hear it from me." Ferguson notes that no level of government is prepared to subsidize the land or pay for constructions costs. So the Port Lands studio must be economically viable. "No one in Toronto wants a white elephant," he explains.




Queen Latifah: Queen Of Her Domain

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic

(Mar. 29, 2005) BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.— - Rumour dies hard on a Hollywood press junket.  Take the nickname story. Some two hours and 11 people before Queen Latifah enters the hotel room where this writer sat around a table with several others, Beauty Shop director Bille Woodruff claimed that the movie's producer and star Queen Latifah was the "ultimate prankster" on set, who made up nicknames "for everybody".  The woman representing America's best-known celebrity weekly pounced immediately. "What was yours?" she asked.  "Um," frowned Woodruff, thinking. "I don't really remember."  And so it went, for two hours and 10 people. Every time anyone arrived and sat down, they'd be asked what Latifah's nickname was for them, and they'd come up blank. Djimon Hounsou couldn't remember any nicknames. Nor could Alicia Silverstone. Neither could Alfre Woodard or Andie McDowell. Mena Suvari had no idea what hers was. And so it went. Not one nickname.  Finally, the ultimate prankster herself shows up.  "Bille Woodruff told us you were the ultimate prankster on the set," smiles the celebrity weekly woman. "And that you made up nicknames for everybody!"  "Nicknames?" answers Latifah. "I don't remember making up any nicknames."  It's a classic movie junket moment, particularly when the movie being junketed is a movie like Beauty Shop: An amiable enough star vehicle, set in the beauty shop run by Latifah's Gina Norris, for the ascendant Queen Latifah (who turned 35 the same weekend as the junket), the former female rapper ("Wrath of My Madness") turned mover, shaker, comedy star (Bringing Down the House) and hands-on career self-manager.

It's not the kind of movie designed to do much more than amuse those predisposed to this kind of amusement, and it doesn't really leave a whole lot to talk about. Ergo, the nickname frenzy: It sounded like a welcome hook for an otherwise straight story.  (Another oft-asked question: "Do you have any hairdressing nightmare stories?")  "I love this character," says Latifah, who co-produced the movie, about a hairstylist's struggle to start her own salon, with her partner Shakim Compere. She plays the same character she played in Barbershop 2, and Beauty Shop is an undisguised attempt to kickstart a chickside franchise offshoot of the successful series of Ice Cube movies set in — you guessed it — a barber shop.  "I mean I love Gina Morris," says Latifah. "She's my mom. She's my hairstylist. She's so many women I know who have had to raise a child and balance a career. She's an entrepreneur."  The Queen smiles proudly. "She's me."  "I know the struggle of opening your own business and getting it off the ground," she adds. "And dealing with financial stresses."  "I can relate to this woman like you have no idea," she adds. "And I think that she's a good character for you guys to see."  Latifah's father and brother were both cops, and she attended a Catholic girls' high school.  After working briefly at a Burger King, she became one of the first female hip-hop artists to successfully challenge the form's macho-centric mainstream.  Her transition to movies and TV has been just as successful (she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Chicago), and she's determined not only to cling to the reins of her career but to act as the kind of role model she never had when she first crowned herself Queen.

"I just always wanted to have some control over my future," says Latifah. "I wanted to be part of the decision-making process. I didn't want people making decisions for me, not including me, and I wake up one day and I don't know what the hell happened."  Gina's story is Latifah's, and it doesn't require much of a leap of metaphoric imagination to interpret Gina's determination to escape the repressive influence of the white, Eurotrash salon owner played by a hilariously prissy Kevin Bacon, as a thinly disguised dramatization of the Queen's own career.  Occasionally, she fingers the key she wears around her neck. It's the key to the motorcycle she gave her brother Lance. She's been wearing it ever since he was killed in an accident.  "Young girls who look up and say, `She's not a little girl and she's doin' it!'" says Latifah, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and proudly unskinny. "`She's makin' it and she's wearin' it well!'''  "They need that," she adds. "I mean I needed it and I didn't have it. There weren't too many people out there I could look up to who looked like me. So somebody now has somebody out there who looks more like them, who can still be that example of somebody makin' it and doin' the things they love. And, of course, being romantic, too. Well, shoot."  In Beauty Shop's sassy but accommodating world, everybody's allowed in: black women, white women, large women and small women, men and children. As long as you respect everyone else and you can take the teasing, you've got a chair.  "I really think that people have more in common than they do differences," Latifah says. "We do have our differences and there's nothing wrong with that. But on a human level, which is what we tried to show with this movie, people are people.  "I've always been inviting everybody into the tent," Latifah grins.  You can come in. Just don't expect any nicknames.




Beauty's In Plain Sight At This Shop

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic

(Mar. 30, 2005) In the ass-affirmative universe of
Beauty Shop, the first chickside spinoff of Ice Cube's successful Barbershop franchise, there's power and goodness in a big butt. Gina Morris (Queen Latifah), the entrepreneurial proprietor of the Atlanta salon where the movie takes place, displays hers with pride. When her daughter answers Gina's question "Does my butt look big in this?" with an unequivocal "Yes!," Gina smiles. "Good," she says. The closest thing to a villain in Beauty Shop — which is not really the kind of movie that has much room for evil — is Jorge (Kevin Bacon), the prissy Eurotrash owner whose salon Gina quits to start her own business. And he's got practically no butt at all. Indeed, if there were a devil in this movie, you can bet he'd be buttless. There's a scene where the white trailer-trash stylist Lynn (Alicia Silverstone) finally gains acceptance by the shop's black hairdressers, and it takes place in a club where Lynn hits the dance floor and shakes booty like there's no tomorrow. The butt busts all barriers. Later, the movie takes delight in feeding enough collard greens to Andie McDowell's uppercrust white trophy wife that she develops a butt almost as big as Latifah's. And when she shakes it, the women in the shop crow with delight. Having a butt is a sign of humanity: of earthiness, of passion, of appetite. A big butt is a blessing. Considerably less raunchy than the Ice Cube movies from which it spins, Beauty Shop is also considerably more inclusive: As presided over by Latifah's open-armed single-mom Gina, the shop is a place where everyone's welcome, everyone's beautiful and everything's tolerated. Except, of course, for snobbishness, which is usually a trait reserved for white people with practically no butts. Bacon's passionately envious Jorge tries to sneakily subvert Gina's attempts at entrepreneurial independence, and so does the similarly cheekless white city inspector who keeps trying to slap fines on the fledgling salon. They're obviously threatened, and not just by the competition: It's also Gina's insistence on opening a shop where everybody gets a chance to shake it. Deliberately, one supposes, Beauty Shop looks, feels and unfolds with measured sitcom familiarity, right down to the storming of characters through the shop's doors and the relentless crossfire of sassy putdowns. There is much good-natured dissing and teasing, considerable talk of sex, food and sisterhood, all evolving under the bright light of universal empowerment — come to think of it, even the movie's resident hubba-hubba male sex object (Djimon Hounsou) is an electrician: sparks fly in his wake. Everybody pitches in and almost everybody wins. It's ass or fail.




Rapper's Life Coming To The Big Screen

Excerpt from

(April 1, 2005)    *His life was literally notorious, but a lot of folks revered him and still do. So it stands to reason that a film about his life would have serious appeal. Well, lookout because in the works is a movie about rapper Notorious B.I.G, AKA Biggie Smalls or Biggie. His born name was Christopher Wallace.  The project will be a joint effort by Voletta Wallace, the late rapper's mother, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and "Training Day" director Antoine Fuqua. Wayne Barrow, who still handles B.I.G.'s affairs and manages Mrs. Wallace, said they're in talks with several studios. Naturally P. Diddy is involved on a creative level and we're betting he'll get some face time in the production. Cheo Hodari Coker, author of "Unbelievable: The Life, Death and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G.," has be hired to write the screenplay.  The film will focus on Biggie the man, son and father, including little-known tidbits, such as his knack for West Indian cooking. A finished script is expected by summertime. It's also unknown if it will deal with the East Coast-West Coast drama that cost him his life as well as Tupac Shakur's. OK, we know what you're thinking: Who's going to play Biggie? As one could expect, that will be quite a challenge for the filmmakers.

"It's going to be challenging to cast a B.I.G.," Barrow told MTV. "We've thrown a few names around, like Big O [actor Waverly W. Alford II] from '8 Mile.' Maybe Anthony Anderson ... because he has the humour. A few people said Guerilla Black, but we don't know how that's going to play out." And what about the other characters? The roles of Lil' Kim, Faith Evans, Junior M.A.F.I.A. and Sean "P. Diddy-Puffy" Combs will depend upon the size of their roles in the finished script, Barrow said. In fact, the artists may even be invited to play themselves, depending on their availability. The movie could begin filming as early as February 2006.




Alfre Woodard: Woodard’s World

Excerpt from -
By Mr. Jawn Murray

(March 29, 2005) :  Beauty Shop is certainly a change of pace for film and television veteran Alfre Woodard.  While the thespian feels as though she’s more than capable of playing any role—here she tackles the task of portraying a Maya Angelou-quoting, African-garb-sporting, tarot card-reading, Erykah Badu meets “Synclaire James” of Living Single-acting earth mother hairdresser—most were shocked to see her take on a part as over-the-top as this one.  I caught up with Woodard recently at the exquisite Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel where, in addition to discussing her role as Miss Josephine in Beauty Shop, she talked about the inability to get good projects green-lighted in Hollywood and the misconceptions about her as an actress.

Juice:  What attracted you to Beauty Shop?

Alfre:  What attracted me was that they said Queen Latifah asked for me!  So I wanted to come and support her for whatever she was doing.  Then I read the role, and I liked the fact that this woman was spouting Maya Angelou poetry and I said, ‘I’ll do that!’  I got excited about who this character was.  I mean if you start reciting poetry in a beauty shop, you’ve gotta be a certain type of person.  I mean, she isn’t a Hunter College graduate trying to make a point; she’s just into everything creative.  I decided that Miss Josephine is from the country, and she is self-taught, self-made and getting to Atlanta is her big dream.  She is excited about everything from the Motherland.  Anything she sees, she embraces it and makes it her own. 

Juice:  Do you see your character in Beauty Shop as an older, more mature version of Loretta, the character you played in Down in the Delta?

Alfre:  It’s interesting, I would say that there’s a freedom there that Loretta had, but I think that Miss Josephine is a type of new age goddess.  I think Loretta is much too self-centred and selfish.  Even if you love her, she’s like a teenager, and it’s all about her.

Juice:  Do you recognize that there is a signature Alfre Woodard role as the strong black woman? 

Alfre:  Well, that’s somebody else’s perspective I suppose.  I play entirely different women, and I always have.  You get asked to do things in a certain vein, but as an actress, I find a way to do them whether I’m on stage or in film.  Even when I do dramatic television, before I get to the heart of the matter, I look for the humour attached.

Juice:  Didn’t your mother own a beauty shop?

Alfre:  You know that’s kind of true.  I kind of mentioned something about that a while back.  My father made a place above our garage, and my mother did her friend’s hair there, but she did not own a beauty shop.  I got sent to the beauty shop like after age eight.  I didn’t grow up in a beauty shop, however I’ve been in a beauty shop all of my life.  I’ve been to beauty shops in Australia, South Africa, the South of France and London.  Wherever you go, you look for the nearest church of your denomination and the beauty shop!

Juice:  What do you think about the current success of blacks in Hollywood, both at the box office and with accolades?

Alfre:  You know, there are many of us that work hard everyday in Hollywood.  Working, trying to pull together projects.  I’ve been doing it for the past 15 years.  I can’t get no money, darling.  I can’t get funding for anything.  You hear people say those black movies are coming out but those people, recording artists and rappers, can get the money to make a film.  So, they’ll talk to them, but they won’t talk to us.  You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is.  I mean, even Sidney Poitier has had some great ideas for films, but could not get the money to make them.  I’m saying this because everybody should know; we’re not sitting around doing nothing.  You think you have five projects lined up and four of them fall out, and then you’re told you should get someone like Alicia Keys to be in it.  You respond back, ‘This script doesn’t have anybody to be singing in it,’ and you’re told it doesn’t matter.  It’s not just me but a lot of us who are working really hard to bring stories to the big screen; we just haven’t been able to get the money.  And the ‘no’s’ are just not coming from the studios.  I go to people with money and get told ‘no.’  I don’t have money to do it.  I go to people of all colours, not just black people with money.  They just won’t give up the money.

Juice:  What about people like Queen Latifah?  She certainly has the money to get a film bank- rolled.

Alfre:  Latifah’s got her own projects that she wants to do.  I was sitting with the other ladies at lunch, and I don’t know how they’re going to kick start a career.  I mean, these are trained actresses and they’re wonderful, but they can’t get a lead in a film now.  I mean, anybody over age 30 can’t get the parts.  It has to be a rapper or a popular singer in the lead.  They’re the ones who are getting the roles.  The trained actors are lucky if they get to play the best friend.  And, we’re losing a whole generation of actors because they can’t get the roles.

Juice:  Well, what’s next for you?

Alfre:  I will be in a movie called 42.4 Percent, and you will not hear that title because they’re working on getting it changed.  But the premise is based on a statistic that says 42.4 percent of black women will never get married, and if you’re educated or professional, it goes up even higher.  It’s an interracial, romantic comedy with Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker.




Alba Turns Up The Heat Hot On The Heels Of This Week's Sin City

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
By Bob Strauss

(Mar. 30, 2005) LOS ANGELES — Blond or brunette, underclad or invisible, Jessica Alba makes iconic poses look easy.  They're not, the 23-year-old actress claims. But with three eye-popping movies due out this year, the young woman formerly known for TV's Dark Angel accepts that looking good is a necessary tradeoff for doing what she really wants to do. There are worse problems to have. "It's just a way to sell a movie," Alba says of such promotional images as herself in cowboy hat, leather bra and chaps (for Sin City, opening this week), skintight spandex action suit (Fantastic Four, this summer) and Bahama-mama bikini (Into the Blue, also summer). "It has nothing to do with when I'm on the set, doing the work that I love to do. "It's very separate. I feel like I actually get paid to sell a movie and I don't really get paid to act. It's much harder to sit at a photo shoot in a bathing suit than it is to communicate and be honest and pure and in the moment, which is what I hope to get out of any experience." Even out of camera range and demurely dressed in a co-ordinated, café-au-lait turtleneck and full, pleated skirt, Alba looks extraordinary. And there have been those show-biz romances. She was engaged for a time to Dark Angel co-star Michael Weatherly and is currently dating a behind-the-scener she met while making Fantastic Four.

But there is something to the serious-actress rhetoric. Alba has studied with David Mamet and William H. Macy. And although her career has been built on fan-boy fantasies, at least they're astute, challenging ones. Dark Angel, in which she played the very combative, genetically enhanced future warrior Max Guevara, was created by no less a mogul than James Cameron. Fantastic Four's Sue Storm the Invisible Woman was the first Marvel Comics heroine in the storied company's flagship title. As for Sin City, well, comic-book movies just don't get any cooler. A noirish fever dream presented mostly in digitized black-and-white, the film was co-directed by the comic's creator, Frank Miller (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), and Robert Rodriguez, the rebel filmmaker whose work ranges from over-the-top shoot-'em-ups (Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) to quirky family action comedies (Spy Kids and its sequels). A compilation of stories from three of Miller's graphic novels, Sin City is packed with brutal bad guys and very dangerous dames. It says something about the tone of the picture that Alba's Nancy Callahan, who does a cowgirl routine in a seedy strip bar, is the most innocent character in the movie. Still, Rodriguez knew what he was hiring Alba to do. And he felt a little guilty about it.

"I first met Jessica when she came and read for The Faculty," he recalls. "She was 16 or 17 and looked kinda dorky, skinny and scrawny. I was really looking at her because there were very few Latin actresses, and from then on I was watching her, really hoping that she would be around for another movie. "It's almost like that feeling of, I remember when she was just a little girl. And now I'm filming her like this," Rodriguez says, holding an imaginary camera at arms length, with his face aimed in the opposite direction, eyes shut tight. For research, Alba checked out strip clubs in several cities. But the real actress in her also sought less predictable inspiration. "The dance moves, I just listened to a lot of Ry Cooder and Emmylou Harris," says the surprise country fan, whose biggest movie hit has been the hip-hop romance Honey. "That's what I felt she was dancing to, something really sad and slow that had the emotions of these people in this bar. That's sort of where I was coming from . . . sadness mixed with a disconnect. "And too, just for rhythm," Alba adds, "because Robert needed slow- and fast-paced dances, I listened to a Kylie Minogue song that lots of strippers liked to use." Sin City was shot almost entirely against blank screens on which sets and environments were digitally added later. In what you might expect to be the movie's key challenge, actors had to pretend they were in dungeons or snowstorms that they never saw until they watched the finished film.

But it was old hat to Alba. "The only training I ever had was in David Mamet's Atlantic Theater Company, and all I did was go on these little stages and imagine things," she says. "But they were in small rooms. The difference is, I think, with Robert it gets very specific and he fine-tuned your performance. So it was a marriage of film and theatre, I felt." Fantastic Four was in some ways the opposite. The title superheroes are a quartet of scientists who, after getting zapped with cosmic rays, develop powers -- specific to their personalities -- that they have a tough time learning to control. Thus Alba's Sue Storm, in love with group leader Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), who doesn't really notice her, tends to physically disappear during times of stress or frustration. "All of our abilities are grounded in our characters, and that's why I wanted to do it," Alba says. While these pop fantasy movies aren't exactly Greek tragedy, Alba does see some classic sense in them. "I don't know if there were so many of these roles 15 years ago, because we didn't have the technology that we have now to create these fantastical worlds," she says. "It's just a modern take on Greek mythology, something that humans have been fascinated with since the beginning of time." Modern technology also enables comic-book purists to complain about the casting of their favourite characters on the Internet.

"Didn't they have resistance to Tobey Maguire playing Spider-Man and Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine?" Alba says. "They don't like anything until they see it." But some complaints about the half-Hispanic actress playing white-bread Sue Storm have a different tone. "I guess everyone believes that race is something we talk about, but it isn't," Alba says with a shrug. "I'm half Mexican-American and half Caucasian, and I have blue eyes and blond hair in the movie, wear contacts and whatever. We recreated it exactly." An Air Force brat, Alba lived in various parts of the United States before her family settled in Southern California. She began her career at the age of 12, and although she admits that she faced her share of stereotyping, the kid actress landed a healthy variety of film, commercial and television work. That's where she learned to scuba dive, a passion that made this year's third movie release feel like a paid water-sports vacation. "It was fun," she says of Into the Blue, which spices up its tanned-flesh basics with some cocaine-smuggling intrigue "I play a shark wrangler and I'm terrified of sharks, so I got to play a character against type. I've made an effort since Dark Angel to never play the same character twice. And this character Sam has moved to the Bahamas, lives a very simple life in a trailer, and just wants to study sharks and live with her boyfriend and just be at peace." Great work if you can get it. Like making movies, regardless of all the side issues that come with the job. "If you kind of keep yourself open to things happening, they'll happen," the busy actress says. "I've been really focused since I started acting at 12, believe it or not. I just this year sort of relaxed and began to think, okay, I think I'll get another job. So I've been really hustling and really fighting and really struggling and trying to get people not to put me in one box or another and to not say, 'Oh, she's a Latina actress,' 'She's a white actress,' 'She's a this actress,' 'She's a that actress,' and just be an actress that's a chameleon. Now, I feel like I've done that to a degree."




Alba There, And Everywhere

Excerpt from

(April 1, 2005)  *Jessica Alba, who stars as a stripper in the new film “Sin City,” told the Associated Press that she is more focused on her craft. Perhaps it’s because of the superstar cast in the film, including Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro, and Mickey Rourke.  Alba is also starring in the film “Into the Blue,” which she filmed in the Bahamas for 4 months. Who wouldn’t focus on that? Next up for the young starlet is the summer flick “Fantastic Four” where she continues her comic book roles by playing Susan Story/The Invisible Woman.  Alba’s career took off in the sci-fi superhero role of Dark Angel for the TV series of that title. But even as a superhero taking on the weight of the world, Alba says one thing she can’t really take is Hollywood, the city of, that is. “I can't really be in L.A. for more than three months. ... It's a silly place. Imagine walking around in Us magazine and "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access Hollywood." Literally the whole town is a tabloid," Alba laments. "At every restaurant, every hotel, everywhere you go, people are looking at the door to see who walked in. It seems like no one is ever satisfied with their jobs or their lives, everyone is always sort of manoeuvring for something else, something better. But the weather is F----ing beautiful."




Ray Producers Plan Jackie Robinson Biopic

Associated Press - By David Germain

(Mar. 30, 2005) LOS ANGELES -- The makers of the Ray Charles film Ray are taking on another story about breaking racial barriers. Baldwin Entertainment Group is producing a film biography of baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, with an assist from Robert Redford, whose Wildwood Enterprises will co-produce. Redford, who starred in the 1984 baseball flick The Natural, also will play Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, who signed Robinson as the first black player in major-league baseball. "This will be our next Ray," said producer Howard Baldwin, whose film on Charles earned Jamie Foxx the best-actor Academy Award. "This is one of the most important stories, not just in sports, but in our history," Baldwin told The Associated Press. Robinson himself starred in 1950's The Jackie Robinson Story. A fresh big-screen take on Robinson's triumphant career would be good public relations for baseball, now mired in a steroids scandal, Baldwin said.

Robinson's tenacity in the face of bigotry and scorn from fans after he was signed in 1947 also would serve as a lesson to today's petulant athletes, said Baldwin. "See what Jackie Robinson went through," Baldwin said. "You just have to say, how did this man have enough poise and sophistication and the courage to realize that for the good of mankind, for the good of his race, he had to succeed. And he didn't just succeed. He was a great, great baseball player." The filmmakers said they will be working closely with executives in major-league baseball and that the project has the blessing of Robinson's widow, Rachel, and Branch Rickey Jr., son of the Dodgers' general manager. Baldwin said he hoped production would begin early next year, with the film coming out in late 2006 or early 2007. Kirk Ellis, whose credits include scripts for the TV movies Anne Frank and The Beach Boys: An American Family, is writing the screenplay. Other than Redford, no actors have been cast. Once a script is in hand, Baldwin said he would hope to gauge Ray star Foxx's interest. "At the appropriate time, we'd be nuts not to want to talk to Jamie," Baldwin said.




Meet Sherri Shepherd

Excerpt from - By Mr. Jawn Murray

(Apr. 5, 2005)    Have you ever seen Less Than Perfect?  A lot of black folks haven’t.  But it wouldn’t be the first sitcom that actress-comedienne Sherri Shepherd starred in (Emeril, Suddenly Susan, Everybody Loves Raymond) that didn’t appeal to African-American audiences.  But things are certainly about to change for Shepherd, whose hilarious turn in Beauty Shop and her brief role in Guess Who has black folks from Harlem to Compton taking note.  If you didn’t know Shepherd before, it’s about time you did.

Juice:  Finally a project that appeals to the African-American demographic.

Sherri:  I know, I keep saying I’m the black girl in the white sitcoms.  To do a film with a lot of black women was so wonderful for me because I’m usually the only black woman on the set.  When I booked this project, and I walked into the beauty shop and Golden [Brooks] and Keshia [Knight Pulliam] were there, and then Queen Latifah walked in and to fellowship with these amazing people like Alicia [Silverstone] and Andie [MacDowell]; I just had so much fun.  I’m hoping that more people recognize me, because a lot of people don’t know that I exist.  But it’ll be nice for a lot more people to see my work, so I’m excited.  And to be on screen with these amazing people, it’s a blessing!

Juice:  Do you try to hold back on the jokes between takes when working with a serious thespian like Alfre Woodard?  Or is she cracking jokes and cutting up like the rest of you?

Sherri:  Alfre came out of her shell with the improvisation.  We would do that and she would start laughing and then she would start doing things like say ‘go back to Buckhead Becky; I’ll throw this Jesus card on you.’  We just like making her laugh.  Especially me!  I’d be like, ‘Mrs. Woodward, Mrs. Woodward, can you give me some acting tips?’  She’s like, ‘Girl, just read the script!’  To see her crack up was so much fun.

Juice:  I heard a lot of your character’s dialogue was improvisation as well.  Is that true? 

Sherri:  My character was the last one to be cast.  It was an improv audition.  Billy [Woodruff] just had it in his head that there was a pregnant woman who did hair well, and she loved the Lord.  I said to my agent, ‘I can do this, I’m telling you!’  So a lot of my improv lines made it into the script and I’m going Billy, ‘Can I have some camera time please?’  I just do little things, and then he let it roll and we’d have fun.

Juice:  And now you’re actually pregnant in real life!

Sherri:  Yes, I’ll be having a baby boy in August.

Juice:  Congratulations!

Sherri:  Thank you.

Juice:  What’s next for you besides motherhood?

Sherri:  I have a little role in Guess Who with Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher, and my ABC show Less Than Perfect hopefully will come back in the fall.

To learn more about Shepherd, and to get a copy of her comedy CD, No Refund, No Exchange, visit her online at




Washington Will Re-Team With Spike For Next Movie Role

Excerpt from

(Apr. 6, 2005) *Denzel may not be the top of the pops on Broadway right now, thanks to some less than stellar critiques of his current performance in “Julius Caesar” (EUR 04-05), but the famed actor did announce that he is teaming with Spike Lee yet again for his next big screen gig. You might remember that he hooked up with the controversial director for “Mo Better Blues,” “Malcolm X,” and “He Got Game.” According to reports from, during an after party for the opening of “Julius Caesar,” the Academy Award-winning Washington revealed that his next film would be a Spike Lee joint. Lee, who attended the opening, said that the film, called “Inside Man,” will be “something different for Denzel and me.”  Lensing on the film, about a tough cop taking on a smart bank robber, begins as soon as Washington completes his stage stint.







Kojak In Black

Excerpt from

(Mar. 27, 2005) The lollipop passes from Telly Savalas to Ving Rhames for new USA series premiering tonight.   *He’s still bald, he still sucks on lollipops and he’s one New York cop not to be messed with – but tonight at 9 p.m. on USA, Lt. Theo Kojak is black.   Who loves ya, bayyee-behhh? Those old enough to remember when Telly Savalas donned the character’s fedora (from 1973-1978) may have to fight the urge to compare the portrayal to Rhames’ artistic approach.   “It’s almost like when different actors play Hamlet - like Kenneth Branaugh played Hamlet, Mel Gibson, Lawrence Olivier - the setting is similar, it’s a New York police station, but each actor brings their own unique quality,” says Rhames. “I think something that I have to bring to the table - me growing up as ‘part of the oppressed group’ as a black man in America, and in Harlem where one out of every three black men grew up in poverty, wind up in jail or dead by age 35 - I bring a different perspective to life, and how the police officers were in my neighbourhood.” One of the more attractive aspects of the role for Rhames was the opportunity to explore the human side of “Kojak”; the personality of the man when the badge and gun are on the dresser. “My wife was a homicide detective and LAPD officer, and I witnessed what she went through when she took off her uniform,” says Rhames. “And I don’t see that with any show on television.”

As much as Rhames would like folks to see past “race, colour and creed” when judging this 2005 model Kojak, questions are sure to arise about a brother playing a character of decidedly Greek origin. "Kojak, huh?" a perp says in tonight’s two-hour premiere. "No offence, but what kind of name is that for a fine, handsome Nubian prince like yourself?"  While we’ll save his response for tonight, the issue is one that frustrates Rhames to no end. In fact, when a journalist asked how the show would deal with the character’s Greek last name during a press conference announcing the show last January, the actor became visibly upset.  Explaining his reaction before the media that day, he told us, “First of all, I had to explain to people that Kojak, the word origin of the name is not Greek. Telly Savalas was Greek.  Kojak is not a Greek name.  I believe it’s Polish. Then I had to say, when Pierce Brosnan plays James Bond, when Sean Connery plays James Bond, does anyone say, ‘Well Sean Connery is Scottish, why is he playing a character named James Bond?’ You see? No one says that.” Rhames’ Kojak has been the lieutenant of an NYPD detective bureau for six years when we are introduced to him tonight. While he has earned the full respect of his squad, Kojak’s higher-ups take issue with his controversial tactics. His best friend Frank McNeil (Chazz Palminteri) is promoted to captain and will find himself having to act as a buffer between Kojak’s unique way of getting suspects to talk, and the frustration it causes with city officials.   Kojak’s love interest – in keeping with Hollywood’s black male/Latina female thing – is Assistant District Attorney Carmen Warrick, played by Puerto Rican actress Roselyn Sanchez. Rhames notes the race of Sanchez, as well as Palminteri’s Italian heritage as a proud nod to USA’s colour-blind casting for the project.   “When I look at myself as an actor, I think, ‘I’m trying to teach my children to look beyond colour,’” says Rhames. “My focus as an artist is to try to say, ‘Let me not bring myself down to the denominator of race, creed, colour, what have you.’  I try to say, ‘This character is a man, and this is what this man represents.’”  Rhames is also an executive producer on the series that debuts with a two-hour movie at 9 p.m. tonight and moves to its regular time slot at 10 p.m. EST Sunday.




Rev Run Gets Reality Show On MTV

Excerpt from -
By Nolan Strong

(Mar. 23, 2005)
Russell Simmons and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs have teamed up to executive produce a reality show titled "Run's House," based on the life of Run-DMC group member Reverend Joseph “Run” Simmons. "I had a green light at ABC Family to do a show about a black family that's functional," Reverend Run told "The father is a Reverend and a rapper and he has five children. Out of nowhere, Puffy calls me and says he has an idea. He didn’t know that I had a green light at ABC Family. Puff says 'I want to do a Rev Run reality show on MTV.' I said 'Well I am singing with tomorrow ABC Family tomorrow. He said 'That's small fries. I am going to take Rev Run and put him on MTV. I will produce it with Russell, whatever it takes. You are our Frank Sinatra and you are what we need.’ I said 'OK, make me look good and show it all in a positive light.’" “Run’s House," taken from Run-DMC’s 1988 hit of the same name, will reveal the family life of Run, who helped spread Hip-Hop around the globe as a member of legendary group Run-DMC.  Combs compared Run’s family life to that of the characters on “The Cosby Show,” the middle of the road hit series developed by veteran comedian, Bill Cosby.  The pilot is part of a first look production agreement that Sean Combs has entered into with MTV. "This is where rappers go when they grow up, we have kids and we have families,” Run continued. “We’ve been filming it for quite awhile. Puff's very excited and so is MTV.”

MTV Networks Music Group Entertainment President Brian Graden told Variety that Combs has a long history with MTV through videos, award shows, guest appearances and his current TV programming on the network, that a formal relationship made sense. “Sean very much wants to be a producer, and we want to be in business with him as he begins to establish and express himself in that arena," Graden told Variety.  In addition to the “Making the Band 3” and “Borrow My Crew” shows that Combs is producing for MTV, he will also develop a special called “The Show,” which will take viewers behind the scenes at the launch of the Sean John women’s clothing line in September.




Aboriginal Peoples Television Network To Replace Subtitles With Dubbing

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
By Sarah Efron

(Mar. 29, 2005) Inuit film and television productions are going to end up sounding like badly dubbed kung-fu movies. That's the fear of Zacharias Kunuk, director of the 2001 film Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner), which was shot entirely in the Inuit language, Inuktitut, and was shown around the world with subtitles. Kunuk is joining other filmmakers and politicians in Nunavut to speak out against the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network's new policy of asking producers to dub their programming into other languages instead of subtitling them. "We've been producing films for 15 years and we've never had any trouble producing in Inuktitut," Kunuk says. "Now it's the one TV network that belongs to us aboriginal people of Canada that's giving us a problem. It feels like we're moving backwards." Kunuk spoke at an emotionally charged public consultation last month in Iqaluit, Nunavut, that was organized by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). Inuit elders and film and video producers voiced concerns that the network's move to dub aboriginal-language programming into French and English could damage the territory's fledgling TV and film industry and roll back efforts to promote Inuktitut. However, APTN's CEO Jean LaRose, a member of the Odanak First Nation in Quebec, says the new policy will have exactly the opposite effect: It will promote the use of aboriginal languages across Canada. The issue flared up after APTN sent out a request for proposals asking for new dramas, children's shows and series to be dubbed into more than one language: For example, an Inuktitut drama would be dubbed into English and French, while a French series would be dubbed into English and Inuktitut.  LaRose says the move prepares them for the transition to HDTV, which can carry four tracks of Secondary Audio Programming, allowing the viewer to select which language they want to listen to. He says this will allow the network to reach more viewers and generate additional revenue. But film and video producers who make programming in Inuktitut have reacted with anger, engaging in a public e-mail debate with LaRose.

John Houston, president of Ajjiit, the Nunavut Media Association, an advocacy group for the territory's film and television industry, feels dubbing will reduce the quality of their productions. Houston is a non-aboriginal filmmaker who is fluent in Inuktitut, and his APTN-funded programs feature elders speaking their own language with English subtitles. "When you watch an elder speaking Inuktitut, you might not understand a word he's saying, but a lot more is transmitted than just straight content," Houston says. "You hear the elder pausing. You hear the earnestness in his voice. Taking away an elder's voice and replacing it with an English voice feels like an insult to me. It feels wrong." Feature films like Atanarjuat aren't currently eligible for funding from APTN, but Houston mentions it as an example of an Inuktitut film that reached a wide audience while using subtitles. Houston says if people had the option of listening to an English dub, many would never hear the beauty of the Inuktitut language. He's also concerned that if APTN programming is available in English at the press of a button, young Inuit might not listen in Inuktitut. Nunavut's minister of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, Louis Tapardjuk, recently sent a letter to APTN expressing his concern. "Speakers of aboriginal languages right across Canada are struggling for the very survival of their mother tongues and film and television are very powerful tools to reach out to young people and spark an interest in their language," Tapardjuk says. "When producers are encouraged to provide programming with dubbing in English or French, it undermines our efforts in Nunuvut to promote Inuktitut." Almost all of APTN's aboriginal-language programming is currently in Inuktitut, and LaRose says dubbing will help the network diversify its content. "I know that in the North right now, there is a great concern about the rapid loss of the Inuktitut language," LaRose says. "I can understand their concerns, but at the same time I have to look at the national mandate of the network, which is to program in as many aboriginal languages as we can and give every language an opportunity to be heard. There's been a strong reaction of fear, but we are not trying to take anything away from the Inuit, we're just trying to give other groups the same opportunity to hear their own stories." LaRose says APTN's policies are flexible and he's not closing the door to subtitled programming. "It's not our preference because we'd rather have dubbed versions we can use with the Secondary Audio Programming. However, if a producer says they're doing a documentary with elders and they are adamant that they don't want other voices speaking for them, we'll still work with the producer and come to an agreement."

However, LaRose says subtitled programming may be broadcast only on APTN's northern feed and producers will receive lower licence fees, as they won't have the additional cost of dubbing. His comments haven't been much of an assurance to Northern filmmakers, who fear losing their national exposure and wonder if they'll end up with smaller budgets. Some worry that by insisting on using subtitles, their proposals simply won't be approved. And producers like John Houston feel they don't have any time to waste, as they're documenting the last living elders who grew up on the land. LaRose, who is still crossing the country doing public consultations, hopes the emotional debate will die down as people get more information. He says the expectations for the aboriginal broadcaster are extremely high, and everywhere he goes, native people all want the same thing: to see more of their own culture on the TV screen.




Canadian Television Viewers Are Spending

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Terry Weber

(Mar. 31, 2005) Canadian television viewers are spending more time on the headlines and less time on the sidelines, a new Statistics Canada survey suggested Thursday. According to the government agency, TV watchers in this country saying they are spending an increasing amount time taking in news and current affairs programs, but less on sports programming. The survey looked at viewing habits in the fall of 2003 and compared them with patterns reported in 1998. The findings suggested that, in total, Canadians spent about 38 per cent of their time watching news and public affairs shows on conventional television, up from 33 per cent in the comparison period. Similarly, they spent about 15 per cent of their time watching comparable programming on pay and specialty channels, up from 11 per cent six years earlier. However, when it comes to sports, the figures turned the other way. Statscan said viewers spent about 6 per cent of their conventional-television viewing time on sports programming in 2003, down from 8 per cent in 1998. Viewers said they devoted about 14 per cent of their viewing time watching sports, versus 19 per cent in the comparison period. Total viewing time has remained relatively unchanged, with Canadians devoting about 22 hours a week to the tube. That figure masks, however, a decline in viewing by young Canadians, which was offset by an increase in hours spent watching television by older viewers. In 2003, men aged 18 to 24 spent an average of 11.1 hours a week watching TV, down from 14.3 hours in 1998. Young women in the same age bracket watched 15.5 hours a week on average in the most recent period, down from 17.6 hours. “The pattern was the same for teens and children,” Statscan said.

Declining hours in front of the television, the agency said, corresponded with an increase in other activities. For example, Statscan said Internet usage by households with members under 18 grew to 73 per cent in 2003, from 41 per cent in 1999. Overall, the report said, Canadians spent most of their viewing time on drama. On specialty and pay channels, Canadian dramas made in roads. In 2003, homegrown dramatic shows held an 8.5 per cent share of programming on those channels, compared with 6.4 per cent in 1998. The report also suggested that viewership for foreign dramas waned over the six-year spread. According to Thursday's figures, viewing time for foreign drama fell to 20.1 per cent in 2003, from 22.9 per cent in 1998. Viewing time devoted to foreign dramas hit a high of 23 per cent in 1999, but has been declining ever since, Statscan said. “Anglophones' viewing time of foreign drama fell from 25.7 per cent in 1998 to 22.6 per cent in 2003,” Statscan said. “Francophones, with much less viewing time for foreign drama overall, remained stable at around 15 per cent for most of the period, dropping to 14.3 per cent in 2003.” Anglophones also spent about twice as much time as francophones watching foreign comedies, while francophones spent about seven times as much time as anglophones watching Canadian comedy in 2003, the report said.




TV Anchor Peter Jennings Has Lung Cancer

Source:  Associated Press, David Bauder
(Apr. 6, 2005) NEW YORK—His emergence as the last of the three U.S. evening anchors from the '80s is less than a month old. Now a battle against serious illness will put
Peter Jennings's steady, day-to-day presence in doubt.  The Toronto-born anchor's future suddenly seemed uncertain with his announcement yesterday that he has lung cancer. Jennings, who received the diagnosis a day earlier, plans to continue on ABC's World News Tonight — as much as he can — after beginning chemotherapy next week.  Elizabeth Vargas filled in as anchor yesterday, but Jennings taped a message to viewers about his illness.  "I will continue to do the broadcast," he said. "On good days, my voice will not always be like this. Certainly, it's been a long time. And I hope it goes without saying that a journalist who doesn't value — deeply — the audience's loyalty should be in another line of work.''  A former smoker, who quit 20 years ago but relapsed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the 66-year-old anchor was too ill to work Saturday during the network's special report on Pope John Paul II's death. He hasn't been feeling well the past few months, and didn't travel under doctor's orders after December's tsunami. He did go to Iraq in January for the elections.  Jennings said he was surprised at how fast the news travelled and at the many kindnesses he had received. "Finally," he said, "I wonder if other men and women ask their doctors right away: `OK, doc, when does the hair go?'''  Lung cancer is the leading U.S. cancer killer and roughly four out of five people diagnosed die within five years, said Dr. Cliff Connery, chief of thoracic surgery at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan.  A Torontonian, who proudly became a U.S. citizen in 2003, the urbane Jennings dominated the ratings from the late 1980s to the mid-'90s, when NBC's Tom Brokaw surpassed him.




Jasmine Guy Honoured For Aids Work

Excerpt from

(March 28, 2005)   *Jasmine Guy, who shot to fame as Southern belle Whitley Gilbert on “The Cosby Show” and its spinoff “A Different World,” will receive the Women At Risk “Angel Tribute Award” during the Women At Risk 7th Annual Gospel Brunch Fundraiser, to be held at the House of Blues in West Hollywood on May 22 at 1 p.m.   “As a woman and a mother, I feel a very strong obligation to do what I can to bring as much awareness to the plight of women and the growing rate of infection we face,” said Guy. “And with women of colour facing epidemic infection rates, I can’t just sit by and do nothing. I am proud to be connected with an organization like Women At Risk and feel very humbled by this honour.”    Guy was recently nominated for an NAACP Image Award for her first ever non-fiction literary work, "Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary."    A private VIP champagne reception and silent auction will begin at noon in the HOB Foundation Room. Ticket prices are $65.00, $85.00 and $150.00 which include the VIP reception and silent auction. To purchase tickets or for additional information, please call (310) 204-1046 or visit







Extended Da Kink Plays Till April 24

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Mar. 28, 2005) Looks like Toronto can't get Da Kink out of its hair and Oprah just might be sharing that feeling.  Mirvish Productions is expected to announce today that Trey Anthony's Da Kink in My Hair will be held over at the Princess of Wales Theatre for a third and final time, running till April 24. In addition , Oprah Winfrey and Louis Gossett Jr. are just two of the high-profile personalities interested in the future life of this wildly successful saga of black female empowerment, set in a Toronto hairstyling salon.  Winfrey sent her representatives to Toronto on Friday to catch a performance and they will determine shortly whether excerpts from the hit might appear on Winfrey's wildly popular syndicated television program.  The superstar might also want to produce a film or TV version of the property, or perhaps bring it to the stage in Chicago, where her show is based.  Gossett, who is up here filming Left Behind: World War III has been to Da Kink on three times and is also reportedly interested in developing its multimedia possibilities.  From across the Atlantic, producers from the Hackney Empire Theatre in East London flew in this past weekend to catch the show.  This recently restored 100-year-old music hall in the heart of city's Caribbean community would be a perfect venue for Anthony's work.  All of this is pretty heady stuff for a piece that began as a simple production at the Toronto Fringe in 2001. Subsequent revivals at Harbourfront (2002) and Theatre Passe Muraille (2003) proved it was a favourite with audiences, but even its strongest supporters wouldn't have anticipated how well it's done at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

Since opening on Jan. 18 to mixed reviews, it has played 83 performances and has been seen by 80,000 people (97 per cent of capacity) with a box office gross exceeding $3 million.  By the end of the Toronto run, Da Kink is expected to have been seen by more than 100,000 people.  John Karastamatis, director of communications for Mirvish Productions, estimates that in recent weeks, the audience has been at least three-quarters black and heavily female.  The show will be on hiatus through April 5, due to the prior commitments of some cast members.  It will resume on April 6 and run though April 24. It must close at the Princess of Wales on that date due to the incoming touring production of Evita, which starts performances on April 27.  After that, who knows? If the demand continues to be strong, maybe this particular Hair will continue to grow in a different location.




Feore Makes Broadway Splash With Denzel

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Simon Houpt

(Apr. 2, 2005) NEW YORK -- You can always tell an out-of-towner in New York. They're the ones whose heads are tilted at an awkward upward angle, gawking at the skyscrapers and theatre marquees as they wander listlessly around town. Which is a shame, because if only they'd look down once in a while, they might spot something worth bragging about back home. The other morning on West 44th Street, a couple of high-school students gazed at the marquee of the Belasco Theatre, where Denzel Washington's name is up in lights to promote his star turn as Brutus in Julius Caesar, which opens tomorrow night. Less than a stone's throw away, his co-star Colm Feore sat on the stoop next to Café Un Deux Trois, unmolested by any public attention at all. Feore's outfit was an effective if unintentional disguise, sure to throw off even rabid fans of his role in last year's sci-fi extravaganza, The Chronicles of Riddick. He carried a knapsack and wore a brown watch cap, dark windbreaker and jeans, and he fiddled with a classic Roloflex camera, looking more like an old-style paparazzo than someone who spends his life on the other side of the lens. So autograph hounds tend to pass him by. But when it came time to leverage a little below-the-radar fame to ease his way into the café 30 minutes before it opened, Feore proved to be an old pro. The maitre d' showed him to a choice table and added solicitously, "This is the Celebrity Interview Corner." Feore seemed to appreciate the whiff of irony that hung over the remark. For if he is a celebrity of sorts back in Canada -- or at least Stratford, Ont., where he played 14 seasons at the Stratford Festival and still lives with his wife Donna and three children -- he is little known in New York. The production of Caesar came together very quickly last fall, when a film of Washington's was suddenly cancelled and he found himself with some extra time on his hands: He strolled into the role of Brutus by virtue of his status as a movie star. And what of Feore, 46, whose résumé boasts more classical theatre than 99 per cent of the other actors in town?

He auditioned, flying down last December for a 15-minute appearance in front of the director. Having already played Cassius about 15 years ago at Stratford, he nailed the audition, then flew home to make dinner for his kids. Cassius is Brutus's co-conspirator and the instigator of Caesar's overthrow. In the popular imagination, he's pure Machiavelli. But you could also say Cassius is merely the ultimate supporting player to Brutus; like Feore, he inspires others to their potential, and is content to stay in the shadows while the crowd chants someone else's name. And a long conversation with Feore that unwinds over a lunch of omelettes, fries, and many cups of coffee, suggests that he has accepted his role in life as a supporting player who just wants to do whatever's best for the projects he's in. Which is one of the reasons he's carrying around three cameras and a light meter today. Get Feore talking about cameras, and you could lose him for a few hours. It's like someone flicks a switch in his brain and he turns instantly into a cousin of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, speaking with dizzying speed and obsessive urgency about minutiae like lens elements and rangefinders. "If you look at Diane Arbus's stuff," he begins, "she was using a Nikon F, she was using a Roloflex and a Leica early, then she went to a Mamiyaflex, which of course is a twin lens, but you can change the lenses . . . it'll cost you about $2,000 U.S., but it'll double the focal length. . . ." You get the idea. All this by way of explaining why Feore first became interested in cameras. When he was working on Julie Taymor's film adaptation of Titus Andronicus back in 1998, he marvelled at how Anthony Hopkins approached the mechanics of shooting a scene. "There was a Stephen King book in his hand, his dresser was fussing," recalls Feore. "Yet Hopkins was calm, because he knew the camera would be picking up only his head and shoulders. There was no need to worry about, or act with, the rest of his body. I thought: There's something in that, in terms of managing your energy and your focus. There's no point in frittering it away below the frame line." Knowing about camera angles also enables Feore to be "a part of the whole, rather than being the hired peculiar animal taken out of its cage when and only when it's needed. I prefer to understand what's going on in the whole, and where you can be useful and helpful," he says. (With a co-operative attitude like that, no wonder he's not a major star.)

After that encounter with Hopkins, Feore began to turn his attention to the other side of the camera in order to understand "all about aspect ratios and the way film size affects what you do," so he might better tailor his film performances. He began buying cameras, and then, he chuckles, "It all went haywire from there." He figures he owns about 20 cameras now, and this week spotted another to covet. It's his one expensive indulgence. "For every film, depending on how deeply and greatly I suffered having to do it, I convince my wife: 'Golly, dear, I suffered long and hard, those were long hours, I think maybe I need a Littman 45 Single.' " That's the name of the custom-made camera he got (retail: about $4,000) for putting up with the fight scene, itchy costume and long days on Riddick. While most film actors usually repair to their trailers or dressing rooms between takes, Feore's gear-head attitude tends to draw him into conversations with the crew guys on his films: the focus puller, gaffer, director of photography. "I appreciate the collegial aspect of it," he says. Film sets and theatres can be lonely places, especially when the family is hundreds or thousands of miles away. Feore recalls with glee one day on the set of Riddick when he and Linus Roache, another classically trained actor, were standing around in their outrageous sci-fi costumes waiting to do a scene and they started comparing notes of the Shakespearean roles they'd done onstage. "Merchant? 'Yup.' Hamlet? 'Yup, twice -- played him once.' Romeo? 'Yeah.' Mercutio? 'Yup,' " says Feore. "We did what I call a Shakedown, running Shakespeare soliloquies in chorus, without even looking at each other. When we stopped, Hugh Johnson, the cinematographer, went: 'Whoa. Real actors.' "  Feore takes evident pride in his classical training, whether he's doing Shakespeare or a $100-million action picture. "To the people who are doing the Riddicks, I think I can offer a clarity, a simplicity, an elegance, and articulate something with intelligence, that lifts it in a way that may take some time to appreciate." But Feore is not a snob about such things, and he is always reaching out to his co-workers, regardless of station. Here in New York, where the easy availability of gourmet fare means he can indulge his impulses and desires as a foodie, he has been trading recipes with some of the cast. He recently arranged a salts-of-the-world tasting, bringing in eight or nine different salts (Welsh smoked sea salt, fleur de sel, etc.) for members of the company to try.

"It's kind of escalated," Feore admits sheepishly. "The other day between shows, I said, 'Now we're gonna go into vinegars -- gonna test some good balsamics and some old sherry wine.' " He went to a popular gourmet market, bought a couple of blocks of Parmigiano Reggiano of different ages, some crusty bread, a 25-year-old balsamic, a 50-year-old sherry vinegar, and some strawberries. He cleared a small space in his dressing room to prepare the delicacies. "I was serving macerated strawberries and balsamic vinegar between shows!" he says. At the end of the day, though, his hankering for home can only be satisfied by the real thing. After the curtain call Thursday night, a mob of more than 100 stood in a light rain behind metal gates set up just beneath the lights of the Belasco marquee, waiting for Denzel Washington to emerge from the stage door and sign their playbills. Few seemed to notice as Feore, once again in his brown watch cap and jeans, zipped out the stage door and through the crowd, racing across to Broadway to catch the subway uptown. He wanted to get back to his apartment as quickly as possible to call his wife at home in Stratford before she fell asleep.




Andrews In Director's Chair

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Mar. 30, 2005) More than 50 years after she made her Broadway debut in The Boy Friend, Julie Andrews revisits Sandy Wilson's musical of love in the 1920s French Riviera -- but this time as a director. Andrews was the special guest star yesterday at a press conference hosted by playwright and actor Michael Healey at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto announcing the 2005-06 Mirvish subscription season, the company's 42nd. Dressed in a dark grey suit, accented by a diaphanous pink scarf, Andrews talked, in that signature sweet but no-nonsense and clearly enunciated tone of voice, of her decision to direct this "charming and silly" musical. "It's very nice to be the one telling people what to do instead of being told what to do," she told an audience who greeted her with a standing ovation. "It's wonderful to encourage the young talent to bring out the love of lyrics and certain things I'm very passionate about." The Boy Friend is one of four musicals (out of seven production in total) that Mirvish Productions will be bringing to Toronto. In addition to the already announced Lord of the Rings extravaganza, the 2005-06 playbill will include the return of the perennially popular Les Misérables in September at the Princess of Wales Theatre and the Canadian premiere of Movin' Out, a dance musical conceived, choreographed and directed by Twyla Tharp and based on 24 songs by Billy Joel. Movin' Out is scheduled for November at the Canon Theatre.

The remaining three productions are all Canadian works, including Healey's The Innocent Eye Test, to be directed by Christopher Newton. Described by Healey as an "old-fashioned, two-act" farce, The Innocent Eye Test is set in Tuscan Hotel where an art dealer -- a "thinly disguised David Mirvish," he joked -- is negotiating the sale of the titular painting to a casino owner in Las Vegas, just as an arms deal is plotted at the same place. The play receives its world premiere in January, 2006, at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg and opens at the Royal Alexandra in March. Wingfield's Inferno, the sixth instalment of Dan Needles's so-Canadian-it-should-be-served-with-maple-syrup Wingfield chronicles, begins its Toronto run in May at the Royal Alexandra. It's also part of the current season at the Stratford Festival, where it opens on June 4. Quebec's Cirque Éloize, now in its 11th year, pitches its tent at the Canon Theatre in April for the belated Toronto premiere of the "contemporary circus" Nomad, which has already had more than 500 performances around the world. It's currently being performed at Les Folies Bergère in Paris. But neither the circus rings nor the mythological ones of Tolkien could outshine Andrews, whose appearance, aside from its star-buzz value, marked a bridge between different eras and styles of musical theatre in the past 50 years. When The Boy Friend itself first premiered in 1954, noted Andrews, it was intended as an homage to a long-gone 1920s-style musicals. "It's been wonderful to watch it [musical theatre] going up and down ever since," Andrews said in an interview. "Sometimes, it's huge, sometimes it's simple. I was fortunate enough to be in the last years of the great golden era of Broadway: The King and I, Gypsy, West Side Story, My Fair Lady. Suddenly all the darker musicals came: Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, Phantom [of the Opera], those kind of musicals seemed to be the next phase. Now we're beginning to pull out of that and come back to something else."




Julie Andrews To Sing Praises Of Musical

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Mar. 29, 2005) The Fair Lady of Broadway will be paying a visit to the Grand Lady of King St. this morning.  Dame Julie Andrews, one of the most beloved stars of stage and screen, is expected to be present today at the Royal Alexandra Theatre when David Mirvish announces his 2005-2006 subscription line-up.  Although Mirvish Productions would neither confirm or deny any reports, the Star has learned that Andrews will be directing a revival of The Boy Friend as part of next year's season.  It was in that same show — an affectionate spoof of 1920s musicals — that Andrews made her Broadway debut at the age of 19 in 1954.  A few years later, she took the town by storm in My Fair Lady, later winning acclaim in Camelot before going on to Hollywood where she won an Oscar for her first screen role in Mary Poppins and later starred as Maria in the record-breaking hit, The Sound of Music.  Andrews first directed The Boy Friend in 2003 in a summer stock production on Long Island at Sag Harbour's Bay St. Theater. The show was a success and there was talk of reviving it the following year, but Andrews' schedule prohibited that from happening until now.  After a run at Connecticut's prestigious Goodspeed Playhouse this summer, the show will embark on a North American tour, with Toronto one of the major stops. The 69-year-old Andrews' last Toronto stage appearance was opposite her Sound of Music co-star, Christopher Plummer, in A Royal Christmas in December of 2002.  The Star has also learned that the smash hit Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp musical Movin' Out will be another part of the Mirvish subscription season.  There is a very good chance Tharp, one of the most respected choreographers in the world of modern dance, will be present today as well.

Movin' Out takes the songs of Billy Joel and turns them into a seamless piece of dance theatre dealing with America in the aftermath of Vietnam.  It opened in New York in October of 2002 to smash reviews (I called it "the hottest show on Broadway") and it is still playing to packed houses after a thousand performances.  Reliable reports indicate that this year's Mirvish season will feature a record seven shows. The Boy Friend, Movin' Out and the previously announced The Lord of the Rings make three.  Don't be surprised to see a pair of Canadian plays (one a world premiere), a European import and one of Toronto's most beloved musicals filling out the list.




Leslie Uggams -- Her Maine Attraction is ‘On Golden Pond’

Excerpt from - By Deardra Shuler

(Apr. 5, 2005)      Leslie Uggams feels fabulous in the role of Ethel Thayer, opposite James Earl Jones, in playwright Ernest Thompson’s brilliant play “On Golden Pond” which opens Thursday, April 7th at The Cort Theatre, located at 138 West 48th Street.  The production which premiered last Fall at The Kennedy Center and the DuPont Theatre, has transferred to New York with the same cast and marks the return of the illustrious James Earl Jones after a lengthy absence from the Broadway stage.  Mr. Jones last appeared in Fences, a play which also won him his second Tony Award, in 1987.  “James Earl Jones had a show some years back called “Under One Roof.” I did a guest appearance on the show playing a mother-in-law role.  I didn’t have a scene with James back then so ‘On Golden Pond’ offers that opportunity,” said Ms. Uggams.  “James was very warm from the moment I came into the project.  I felt very comfortable with him.  I feel like I have known him forever.  It is quite wonderful to be working with an actor who is so brilliant in his craft. Every moment with James is a wonderful experience.  When you’re playing with someone like James you raise the bar.  He has done a volume of work and his voice is known throughout the world” continued the Broadway star. Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn played the roles of Norman and Ethel Thayer in the movie version of On Golden Pond in 1981.  Jane Fonda and Dabney Coleman co-starred in the film which was nominated for 9 Academy Awards in 1982.  The film won author Ernest Thompson an Academy Award for adapting his play to the screen.  Thompson also won Golden Globe and Writer’s Guild of America awards for his screenplay. Mr. Jones and Ms. Uggams bring an African American perspective to Mr. Thompson’s play.  “Ethel is a wonderful character.  She is a strong woman who is full of life.  She has a great mate and is fighting to bring her family together.  It’s a lovely role to play” explained Leslie.  “To do Ethel, I dug deep.  I did my research and built my character from there,” said the Tony Award winner of Hallelujah Baby.  On Golden Pond has already been nominated for four 2005 Helen Hayes Awards.  It scored nominations in the categories of Outstanding Non-Resident Production; Outstanding Supporting Performer, Craig Bockhorn; Outstanding Lead actor, James Earl Jones; Outstanding Lead Actress, Leslie Uggams. “To hear about the nominations are very exciting,” remarked the Tony/Emmy Award winner.  “It’s always exciting to be acknowledged.  Those things are lovely but it’s really about the play and doing the best you can so that what the author has written jumps off the page and effects people who have come to see the play. The play has been around awhile.  It was done in 1978 and then again in 1979 starring the wonderful actors Tom Aldredge and Frances Sternhagen.  We are doing the present version to a limited engagement at the Cort Theatre.  The play is expected to finish its run at the end of July” states Leslie.   The supporting cast members who round out the show are Linda Powell who plays the role of Chelsea Thayer Wayne; Peter Frances James (Bill Ray) who also appeared in “Drowning Crow”; Craig Bockhorn  (Charlie Martin) and 12 year old Alexander Mitchell (Billy Ray) who most recently played Travis in Raisin in the Sun.

Ms. Uggams who is a Broadway veteran has come a long way since her debut on Broadway in Hallelujah Baby.  “It was quite shocking to win a Tony Award my first time on Broadway but I wasn’t going to give it back.  I found winning the award for Hallelujah Baby very embracing.  I thought of it in terms of being welcomed by the Broadway community.  It’s like being part of a family.  I also did a year and a half in the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie.  I am in a straight play presently but musicals can be very taxing.  When you do a musical you have to be very careful with your health so you don’t lose your voice.  You have to stay limber because you are dancing.  It looks easy but it’s hard. There is always a chance of an injury. Even doing a straight play requires discipline.  But whether I am in a musical or drama, I feel a certain rhythm in the productions I do.  The Cort Theatre is a lovely, intimate theatre which is perfect for On Golden Pond because it brings the audience closer to the characters in the play and makes them feel a part of it.” The story of On Golden Pond is about an aging couple who have been together for 48 years.  Every year, Ethel and her husband Norman, a retired professor, spend their summers in Maine.  Ethel spent her childhood years vacationing in Maine.  “Norman is starting to age but he is Ethel’s rock.  He is the love of her life and her best friend,” states Uggams. “What I love about this play is it’s a play for everyone no matter what color you are.  It deals with everything a human being has to go through.  It deals with aging mates and parents. It’s about family disputes and learning to let go. The cast is primarily African American but not exclusively.  One of the characters represents a town local” remarked Leslie. “You know the very ironic thing about my doing this play is that recently my husband and I decided to vacation in Maine.  This was before I was offered the role for “On Golden Pond.”  What I saw while in Maine is that no matter how many years folks may go up to Maine, the locals still call these folks Summer people.  I saw a lot of people of color where we were in Maine but I think they were mostly tourist.  I walked along the beach and picked up some lovely rocks and ended up bringing them home not realizing I would end up in a play about a couple who spent their Summers in Maine.  I have taken two of those rocks from Maine to the theatre as my good luck charm.” Leslie Uggams got an early start in show business at age 6 when she debuted on the TV series “Beulah.” She made appearances on the Milton Berle Show and Arthur Godfrey Show as well as frequent appearances at the Apollo Theatre by the time she was 7 years old.  Leslie who attended Juilliard also attended the New York Professional Children’s School as a youth.  She became known to the American public at age 15 after appearing on the show “Name That Tune.”  She caught the attention of Mitch Miller who signed her to a recording contract and made her a regular on the show Sing Along with Mitch. She was one of the few African Americans on network television at that time.  “I was the first black female on national television.  I was only 17 years old then. It was daunting because I went from only my community knowing me, to everyone knowing me.  It was quite an adjustment because all of a sudden I wasn’t able to go anywhere and my life was like living in a fish bowl.  I didn’t have stage parents but I went around to all the kiddie auditions and got a lot of the kiddie roles. I grew up with Maurice and Gregory Hines.  We were the token black kids. I had to make sure I did everything right because I represented the entire black race and that sometimes could be overwhelming.  Although, looking back now, I see how wonderful it was to be part of history.” Leslie Uggams has a new CD out entitled “On My Way To You.”  “I am always doing something musically.  I play in Florida and California a lot.  I love singing.  It’s a deep, deep part of me.  But what I like about theatre is that you get to create a character.  You have to be very observant and tuned into other people’s characteristics in order to one day use what you’ve observed to create a character,” explained Leslie, who has performed nationally and internationally.  A wife and mother, Leslie loves to cook and spend time with family during her down time. “We started previews of On Golden Pond on March 22nd. The official opening night is on April 7th.  We look forward to having folks come out to see us.  I think they will really enjoy the show.”




Pryor’s Daughter Tells All In New Show

Excerpt from

(March 29, 2005) *Rain Pryor, the daughter of comedian Richard Pryor and his Jewish ex-wife Shelley Bonus, is airing out her childhood via a new stage production “Fried Chicken and Latkes,” which runs Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia at the Painted Bride Art Center.   Bonus was an aspiring actress working as a go-go dancer when she met Pryor in the late 1960s. Prior’s play chronicles her mom’s struggle to give her a traditional middle-class upbringing in a modest Beverly Hills apartment, while her visits with dad across town included seeing cocaine, prostitutes and affluence in a servant-staffed house.     "My dad has always been one to put his life right out there for you to look at. I took that approach because I saw how well audiences respond to it. I try to make you laugh at life," she told the “Philadelphia Inquirer.”    The 35-year-old actress uses combines singing, acting and comedy to tell her personal story, but maintains she has no intention to follow her dad into the family business.     "I decided I'm going to fill my own shoes," she said. "I'm not going to do his comedy."




Ain't Misbehavin'

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Apr. 1, 2005)
This Toronto revival of Richard Maltby Jr.'s 1978 Tony Award-winning musical based on the songbook of Fats Waller has so much going for it. There's the music of course (Honeysuckle Rose, Mean to Me, Squeeze Me) and its invocation of the Harlem Renaissance era, but there's also Jackie Richardson and director Marion J. Caffey who brought us Cookin' at the Cookery. And this time Caffey didn't write the book of the musical as he did (poorly) for Cookin'. Enough said.  Currently in previews. Opens April 7. Monday to Saturday, 8 p.m. Wednesday, 1:30 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m. $36 to $80. CanStage Bluma Appel, 27 Front St. E., 416-368-3110.







Williams Sisters Write Another Book: New Tome Targeted To Young Girls

Excerpt from

(March 25, 2005)  *Tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams are hoping to reach girls ages 9 through 12 with their latest book, “Venus and Serena: Serving From the Hip: 10 Rules for Living, Loving, and Winning,” which hit bookshelves Tuesday from Houghton Mifflin.    Among their words of wisdom: “Don’t rush a crush.”   "We both really have a lot to say about that," Venus told AP Wednesday with a laugh.   "It's a great book for teenage girls who deal with different issues," added Serena. "Growing up, I would have loved to have had such a positive role model to look up to and try to be like and try to emulate. We love having that opportunity to say, `Look, you can be like us, you can be successful and at the same time have high morals and high self-esteem and be a very nice person at the end of the day.'"   The sisters are currently in Key Biscayne, Florida for the Nasdaq-100 Open.




Serena And Venus Williams To Star In Reality Show

Associated Press

(Mar. 29, 2005) Burbank, Calif. — Serena and Venus Williams will be starring in their version of a tennis reality show. The sisters' off-court lives — their family, friends and the glamour of big-time tennis — will be featured in a six-episode show that is still untitled but set to premiere on the U.S cable network ABC Family in July, it was announced Monday. "The series will provide our fans with an up-close, inside look at our lives away from the tennis courts," Venus Williams said. The sisters have won 11 major single titles between them and are competing at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. Serena is ranked No. 4 in the world and Venus is No. 9. Serena Williams said she and her sister welcome the chance to "branch out into a new medium."




Ali Supports Muslim Channel

Excerpt from

(March 28, 2005)   *Boxing icon Muhammad Ali, 63, appeared Thursday at the official Chicago-area launch of Bridges TV, the first network created for an American Muslim audience. Despite the shaking from his Parkinson's symptoms, the champ signed autographs and embraced kids who approached him, reports the "Chicago Tribune." "His mere presence speaks volumes," said Mo Hassan, president and chief executive officer of Bridges, because in these turbulent times with negative images of the Islamic faith, "the most beloved man on Earth is an American Muslim."







We Remember Johnnie Cochran

Excerpt from

(March 30, 2005) *Memories of the country’s most famous criminal attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. continue to trickle in from friends, associates and former clients following his death from a brain tumour Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 67.  The legal wizard, who authored the memorable quote “If it doesn't fit, you must acquit” while representing accused murderer O.J. Simpson, died at his home in the Los Feliz area, according to his brother-in-law, Bill Baker.  “He was a gracious man,” remembers EUR’s Lee Bailey, who first met Cochran at the former Baldwin Hills movie theatre in Los Angeles during the 1992 premiere of “Malcolm X.”  For years, folks had been telling Bailey that he looked like this lawyer named Johnny Cochran.  “We finally met. We looked at each other and we laughed about it,” Bailey says. “It was the beginning of a friendship. Whenever he saw me, he always extended his hand and gave me a hug. He was a brilliant lawyer, and brilliant human being as well.”  While Cochran was already a star defense attorney in Los Angeles legal circles, it was the O.J. Simpson trial that took his local celebrity worldwide.

Simpson's current attorney, Yale Galanter, released a statement just hours after the former football star learned of Cochran's passing.  "O.J. Simpson sends his deepest regrets and sympathies to Johnnie Cochran's family and loved ones," Galanter said. "Johnnie and O.J. were friends before the trial and remained friendly after the trial. O.J. sends his sincerest condolences. Johnnie was a true friend."  On CNN Tuesday, Simpson said he loved Cochran as a "good Christian man."  "I knew him as that...he was a great guy," Simpson added. He also told the cable news outlet he last saw his former lawyer at a Los Angeles Lakers game. He said Cochran seemed in good spirits despite his serious medical condition at the time.  During Michael Jackson’s 1993 battle against child molestation allegations in a civil suit, Cochran was brought in by the singer’s attorney Howard Weitzman to help with the case, which was eventually settled out of court.   “Johnnie Cochran was a true gentleman who embodied class, brilliance, honesty and integrity,” Jackson said in a statement released Tuesday. “His fight for justice transcended colour, age or economic status.  So many have been touched by his life of service as well as his infectious smile and personality. Johnnie Cochran was a great humanitarian.  I loved him, and I will miss him. I am proud to have called him my friend.”  In addition to Simpson and Jackson, Cochran's high profile clients have included Reginald Denny, Abner Louima, Geronimo Pratt, Todd Bridges, James Brown, Angela Igwe, Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs, Snoop Dogg and Cynthia Wiggins.  "Certainly, Johnnie's career will be noted as one marked by celebrity cases and clientele,” Cochran’s family said in a statement. “But he and his family were most proud of the work he did on behalf of those in the community."  Born October 2, 1937 in Shreveport, LA, Cochran began his legal career in Los Angeles as a Deputy Attorney for the city's criminal division.  He worked his way up toward a position as Assistant District Attorney for Los Angeles County.  Cochran left the D.A.'s office to start his own firm, handling both criminal and civil cases.  While Simpson's acquittal was Cochran’s crowning achievement in a career notable for victories, the lawyer who looked to Justice Thurgood Marshall as a role model, also championed the causes of disenfranchised black defendants.  "The clients I've cared about the most are the No Js, the ones who nobody knows," said Cochran, who proudly displayed copies in his office of the multimillion-dollar checks he won for ordinary citizens who said they were abused by police.  The Los Angeles African American and legal communities will pay homage to the memory and legacy of Johnnie Cochran in a candlelight tribute tonight at 6:00 p.m. in Leimert Park (Vernon and Crenshaw).

“Cochran was more than a celebrity attorney,” says Earl Ofari Hutchinson, President, Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable and frequent commentator during the Simpson trial. “He was a valiant fighter for the legal rights of the poor and dispossessed.”  Project Islamic Hope Executive Director Najee Ali adds: “Cochran was a dedicated fighter for justice. That was shown in his defense of Geronimo Pratt, and many other political cases.”  Participants in the candlelight tribute will include members of Project Islamic Hope, the Cochran Law Firm, CORE, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Pratt Legal Defense Fund.




Diddy Got Them 20s: Mogul Introduces “Sean John Wheels”

Excerpt from

(March 28, 2005)  *Sean "P. Diddy" Combs can feed, clothe and entertain you via his various restaurants, Sean Jean fashion label and original trade as a rapper, producer and actor. Now the entrepreneur can have you sittin’ on something sparkly when you roll down the block.    A 50-50 joint venture between Combs' Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group and Kansas City's Weld Wheel Industries Inc. has yielded Sean John Wheels, Diddy’s new line of custom, precision-forged aluminium rims from SJC Wheels LLC that will begin retailing next month between $700 and $3000 each.    "Wheels have become a fashion statement — a badge of taste and style," Combs said. "We see an opportunity to bring excitement to the wheel category by delivering the Sean John sophisticated design with the best quality production."      Sean John Wheels, available for sports trucks, luxury SUVs and high-end American- and German-made automobiles, was introduced Thursday at the New York International Auto Show.




Diddy Does Canada: Mogul Launches Sean John In Montreal And Toronto

Excerpt from

(March 30, 2005) *As previously reported, Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs is in the midst of a Canadian press tour to promote his Sean Jean clothing label. The line debuted in Montreal, Quebec on Monday and in Toronto, Ontario on Tuesday.   The Canada tour is meant to boost sales in the region, where Sean John currently sells mostly at independent boutiques and the better athletic chains in the country, such as Athlete's World, Footlocker, and the premiere sporting store, The Sporting Life. In addition, Holt Renfrew, Canada's ultimate luxury specialty store, will begin selling Sean John Collection, Sean John's designer collection.  Diddy’s Maple Leaf media blitz has included appearances on Musique Plus and Much Music, and interviews with several key Canadian publications, such as Macleans Magazine, The Globe and Mail, and Flare Magazine.  To conclude the Canada tour, Diddy will throw a party at hot spot Rosewater Supper Club in Toronto. The after-party will be at the Metro.




Soul Food

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Jennifer Bain

(Apr. 3, 2005) DISH DECONSTRUCTION: Two buttermilk waffles sandwich a breaded, deep-fried boneless chicken breast. On top, artfully arranged sautéed rapini. Pooled around the concoction, white chicken gravy. On the side, a jug of maple syrup.  TASTING NOTES: Chef David Folkerth's flavour-texture combo inexplicably works in a dish that's fun to eat.  OFFICIAL WORDS: "It's a soul food item," explains manager Jane Doherty. "As far as I know, (singer) Gladys Knight has a restaurant in Atlanta that does it and that was the inspiration for the dish." (The restaurant is called Gladys Knight & Ron Winan's Chicken & Waffles.)  THE SCENE: The Left Door features "shabby chic retro," bamboo floors and a candlelit living room. It's a collaboration of the Ben Wicks Pub and the Town Grill, and its wine list features a flat $10 mark-up on LCBO prices. There's a weekend brunch menu.  The Left Door (inside Ben Wicks Pub), 424 Parliament St. (north of Gerrard St. E.), 416-961-9425, Open daily 11:30 a.m. until late.







The 3-Phase Abs Workout

Michael Stefano, Special for eFitness

April 5, 2005) If you're like me, you've come across countless articles on how to tighten your tummy or flatten a flabby midsection, but to quote Mr. William Shakespeare, there's been "Much ado about nothing."  But before we explore some possible reasons behind your sub-pectoral protrusion, let's take a quick look at the actual musculature of the abdomen.  For a sure-fire way to flatten your belly, check out this great workout program.  The most prominent layer, the Rectus Abdominus, is a thin sheath of muscle that runs midline from sternum to pelvis. It’s what most identify as the sixpack.  Sometimes referred to as the lower and upper abdominals respectively, the Exterior Oblique and Interior Oblique muscles wrap the lower torso and also tie into the pelvis. Finally, the Transverse Abdominus are deep horizontal muscle fibres that from run side to side, holding together your internal organs. The major action of the abdominal muscle group is to support the back and spine, as well as bring the trunk toward the pelvis.

Traditional Abdominal Exercise

When performing traditional abdominal exercises (crunches, sit-ups) there’s a tendency for the body to make muscular substitutions, and allow muscles that are not being targeted to do most, if not all of the work. Sometimes the notoriously short and tight hip flexors (the muscles responsible for elevating the thighs towards the chest) are allowed to take over.  To get a sense of where the hip flexors are and what they do, place your hand over the junction between the pelvis and either thigh as you sit in your chair. Now raise your foot (same leg) off the floor an inch or two. As you do, the hip joint will flex, and the powerful hip flexors will contract.  The traditional crunch is usually done with excessive flexion at the hip joint overriding most, if not all abdominal muscle activity. In order to perform an effective crunch motion that challenges the abs, let’s first attempt to quiet down those pesky hip flexors.

Phase One -- Hip Flexor Stretch:

Lie flat on your back, bend at the hips and knees with your feet flat on the floor hip width apart. Extend the right leg straight out and bring your left knee toward your chest, taking hold of your bent knee with both hands. Do not allow your tailbone to roll up off the floor as you squeeze your knee to your chest. If the back of your extended thigh cannot remain flat on the floor, your right hip flexors are tight.  If your hip flexors are not tight, skip directly to phase two.  Using the muscles in the back of the right leg and buttocks, draw the right thigh to the floor while the low back remains on the floor, and the left knee is held to the chest. Only stretch to a position of slight discomfort, NOT pain. Hold for 5 - 10 seconds, performing three sets on each side. Work up to 30-second holds.

Phase Two -- Crunch Time:

Lie flat on your back in the supine position, legs straight. If your hip flexors are tight, your low back will be arched and away from off the floor. Slowly, bending at the hips and knees, slide your feet towards your buttocks until the arch in your low back disappears and the back flattens on the floor. This is your crunch position. If necessary, support the knees with a pillow or folded blanket to ensure total relaxation of the hip flexors throughout the movement.  Now fold your arms across your chest and slowly curl up from the floor with your head, shoulders, and chest, with the sensation of bringing your ribs towards your navel. The only muscles working should be the Rectus Abdominus, as well as both Internal and External Abdominal Obliques. It's imperative that the low back remain flat on the floor, and the hip flexors stay relaxed.

Phase Three -- Pelvic Tilt:

If you also have a problem with rounded, or hunched shoulders, forgo crunches altogether, as they tend to increase the curvature of the upper spine. Instead, from either the supine position (lying with legs straight), or from the relaxed, hip flexor-supported position (with knees bent), press your low back into the floor by contracting your abdominal muscles, hold then release. Keep your entire lower body relaxed. Your arms should be held out in a T position, palms up. Perform two or three sets of 10 - 20 repetitions with a brief hold (or you can do one set of two or three repetitions with a 10 - 30 second hold).  Wall Standing is a variation on the pelvic tilt. Stand with your back flat against a wall, heels out at least six inches. Keeping your shoulders and pelvis against the wall, press the low back into the wall with a strong abdominal contraction. The closer to the wall you are with your feet, the more abdominal effort it will take to flatten your back. Hold for 10 seconds up to 1 minute.

The above combination of exercises, if done properly, will flatten, tone, and tighten your abdominal muscles, improve posture and appearance, and possibly relieve symptoms of low back pain. Of course, no amount of abdominal work will remove the layers of fat you’ve accumulated over the years through overeating and under exercising.  A properly orchestrated strength and cardiovascular program, combined with sensible eating is the best way to achieve that.




EVENTS –APRIL 7 – 17, 2005




The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.




College Street Bar  
574 College Street (at Manning)  
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French.




Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.
10:00 pm
EVENT PROFILE: Newcomers and regulars alike were enjoying the vibe and promised to come back for more next week.  So, if you know what's good for you, make your way down there next Monday to enjoy the crazy and genius combination of Kayte Burgess and Adrian Eccleston - arrangements that will tantalize your ears and soul. 




Revival Bar  
783 College Street (at Shaw)  
10:00 pm  
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Rich Brown, Joel Joseph and Shamakah Ali with various local artists. 




The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.




College Street Bar
574 College Street (at Manning)
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French




Have a great week!  

Dawn Langfield   
Langfield Entertainment