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Updated:  December 8, 2005

What are YOU doing for New Years?  Get your party on at Irie Food Joint with awesome food and champagne!  See all the details below to get your Irie vibe on!  Lots of CUMA coverage below from last week's award show - clips from the red carpet and backstage included!

Let me help you out with a gift suggestion for aspiring singers out there, Elaine Overholt offers a FREE gift box set - if you can name one of the actors from Chicago that she trained (see details within ad below)!  SINGERS ENTER HERE.  Have that one unique person to buy for that has everything?  Pick a theme of their interest and let Andrea create a gift basket for you - great for corporate gifts too!  (See below for details). 

Check out all categories - tons of Canadian content in MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, THEATRE 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 EVENTSWant to be removed from the distribution, click REMOVE.






Christmas with The Salvation Army – December 10, 2005


The music of brass, organ, and choir will be brought together once again to celebrate the season in this annual gala at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall. This year, the talents of singer/actor Carol Jaudes, New York, and organist Giles Bryant, Toronto, will add to the magnificent sounds of the Canadian Staff Band and 400-voice Festival Chorus. In addition, the audience will be invited to join in the familiar carols and warm-hearted songs of the season.

The meeting of human need is a visible part of The Salvation Army’s mission to our community. And Christmastime is quite simply the best opportunity to bring this mission before the public who so generously support the Army's work. Kettles swinging in the shopping malls, carols sung in the open air, musicians bundled under lampposts — these are the familiar images of Christmas with The Salvation Army. All this and more will be shared in abundance on December 10th at Roy Thomson Hall.


Roy Thompson Hall
60 Simcoe Street
7:30 pm
Tickets range $15, $20, $25 and are available at:

1. Roy Thomson Box office,
2. Ticket Master, (416) 870-8000,
3. The Salvation Army, Major George Patterson at (647) 233-6036 or (416) 321-2654 ext. 230 or email:



New Year's Eve at IRIE FOOD JOINT

Carl Cassell invites you to come through your fav hangout on New Year’s Eve for the unique and laid back vibe of Irie.  Enjoy the buffet dinner for the mere cost of $30 per person and stay on for the party at no extra cost!   

Live music will be featured and DJ Carl Allen will be representing on the turntables and you know how he brings it – old school mixed with the new!  Throw your favourite jeans on or dress to the nines.  Everyone is welcome!  The party will include all night Irie hors d’oeurves, party favours, and champagne at midnight.  Deny winter and party on the heated patio.  Join us at Irie on New Year’s Eve – what a deal – for the cost of dinner, you get a New Year’s Eve party as well!  As always, Irie brings you - food – music – culture all under one roof. 

Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.  
Dinner:  $30.00 and party for free
9:00 pm






Baskets By Andrea Presents Their 2005 Collection

Want an impressive solution to corporate or personal gift giving?  Choose from Andrea’s wide selection of custom-themed baskets.  Each year we are pleased to prepare custom made gifts for you, our special clients and friends, using the finest containers and quality products.  We take special care in ensuring that your gift is appreciated and moreover, addresses any special dietary needs or allergic concerns. In addition to our regular favourites, "Christmas Delights" and "Tropical Delights" we have a collection of CD's by the renowned concert pianist, Linda Gentille.  We have prepared a number of basket themes around her CD's, e.g. "Movie Night" featuring hits from the movies with your favourite munchies! Visit

Traditional Favourites and Christmas Delights

An assortment of gourmet delights for the Holiday Season and after. 
Price range: $60 - $100.

Toasting the Season!

Six inch silver tray with two wine glasses or champagne flutes with wine/champagne, gourmet coffee and truffles.
Price based on choice of wine or champagne.

The Spa

Various products guaranteed to provide a soothing and pleasurable bath experience.
Price starts at $45 upwards.

Tropical Delights

Capture the flavours of the Caribbean. Tropical spices, fruit juices, rum, exotic jams like guava and pineapple, and savoury plantain chips!
Price starts at $50. Available without rum.

For book lovers, baskets are available at Burke's Bookstore, 873 St. Clair Avenue West Telephone: 416-656-5366.

To ensure Christmas delivery, no orders accepted after December 16. Order your custom baskets today by calling Andrea at. 416-496-8413or faxing your order to 416-496-7915 or email:

Baskets by Andrea is a subsidiary of Andrea Delvaillé & Associates, specializing in advertising, marketing, public relations and special promotions. 

Contact Andrea at:  416-496-8413; email:



Elaine Overholt’s "Big Voice DVD"

Give the gift of vocal training this Christmas to your favourite aspiring singer!  Elaine Overholt is one of North America's most respected and treasured singers and voice coaches, having coached the likes of Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, and Queen Latifah, with a reputation for working miracles in the studio and on the set.

 If you are a professional or aspiring singer who needs a great vocal warm-up and workout, this is it!  The Big Voice Complete Vocal Warm-Up and Workout CD is meant to be used in conjunction with the Big Voice DVD which explains Elaine’s techniques in detail.  Use it at home, in your dressing room or your limo and you’ll be ready to burst onto the stage or the studio. 

$64.98 + PST and GST + shipping and handling
VISA/MasterCard accepted or call to purchase 416.466.1816






CanStage’s Crowns

I went to see Crowns written by Regina Taylor on the weekend starring
Jackie Richardson who was true to form – the central figure in the play.  The theatre production is about Yolanda (Lisa Bell) and her grandmother, Mother Shaw (Richardson).  Yolanda takes a physical and spiritual journey from inner-city violence to southern state church life and unites her with seven African-American women who celebrate their blessings, their faith and their hats – their crowning glory.  Of particular note was the percussionist Romero Wyatt – an unbelievable musical journey of percussion and foot stomping.  A real asset to this production. 

I was, however, disappointed that
Toya Alexis (Mabel) didn’t get the limelight more and found myself desperately waiting for her to sing a solo which would have brought down the house – but that never came. But Toya did still give a strong performance.  The play covers a lot of gospel standards and while engaging the audience from time to time, the songs seemed to cut short just when the audience was enjoying it and getting involved.  I felt that the play could have been shorter and still have told the story. 

Having said that, it's a feel good play with lots of gospel music served up with a comedic cast.





K-OS, Brown win Urban Music Awards

By Mary Dickie -- Toronto Sun

(Nov. 30, 2005) Divine Brown, K-OS, K'naan and Saukrates were among the winners last night at the seventh annual Canadian Urban Music Awards, which were handed out at a chaotic but upbeat gala event at the Kool Haus hosted by comedian Russell Peters.  This year no one artist dominated the awards, which were spread out among a number of Canadian urban music luminaries. Local multi-octave diva Brown won best new artist as well as best R&B recording for Old Skool Love, while Somalia-born rapper K'naan won best hip-hop recording, Saukrates nabbed best producer and K-OS took home the fan's choice award. And at an earlier ceremony Monday night, singer Jully Black won best dance/electronic recording, and K-OS was given the best songwriter award.  There was a justified feeling of celebration in the room at the end of a banner year for Canadian urban music, in which K-OS crossed over into the pop charts and long-awaited albums by Black, Kardinal Offishall and Brown finally were released to wide acclaim and solid sales and radio play.  "I think it was only a matter of time," said best producer Saukrates backstage. "Enough material had to pile up and be successful. You couldn't just have one star -- you had to have K-OS going platinum, me signing with Redman's label in New York, Jully Black singing at the Grey Cup last weekend and Divine Brown singing at the all-star game in Denver. An industry is built on the back of successful records. Now people are getting offers through the roof, and they're professional and experienced enough to be able to handle the calls."

It also took building up the necessary infrastructure in Canada, especially urban radio.  "It's everything," said Farley Flex, the former Maestro Fresh-Wes manager, original Flow 93.5 music director and Canadian Idol judge, who was given a special achievement award for his contributions to the industry. "We had no radio before -- we went from 35 stations to five on Maestro's second album. So it's amazing to see it come together like this."  A highlight of last night's show was Flex's old client Maestro, who performed a high-energy, rapid-fire run-through of hits like Drop The Needle, Let Your Backbone Slide and Criminal Mind -- with surprise guest Gowan.  "That's the first time we've performed together, and it was great," said Maestro, who covered the other '80s icon's song on his most recent album. Also performing were Jully Black, Divine Brown, best global rhythms winner Fito Blanko and Sonia Collymore, who lost out to Blessed in the best reggae recording category.  Other CUMA winners last night included Ranee Lee and Oliver Jones for best jazz recording and Keshia Chante for best video (directed by last year's winner, Mr. X). And veteran jazz drummer Archie Alleyne received a well-deserved lifetime achievement award.  The awards will be televised Dec. 21 on Sun TV.

·  Video: Divine Brown receives award
·  Video: k-os at the CUMA awards
·  Video: Inside Jam! on the CUMA Red Carpet
·  Video: Backstage at the CUMAs

Black, K-OS top early Urban Awards

By Mary Dickie -- Toronto Sun

(Nov. 29, 2005) The Canadian Urban Music Awards kicked off a two-night celebration with a gala dinner at the TD Centre's 53rd floor last night.  The first 15 awards were presented.  Multiple nominees Jully Black and K-OS proclaimed their prominence on the Canadian urban music scene this year by taking home high profile awards.  Black's Sweat Of Your Brow (Tricky Moreira remix) won for best dance/electronic recording, while K-OS was awarded best songwriter.  Other winners last night included Fito Blanko for best global rhythms recording, King Cosmos for best soca recording, Patricia Shirley for best gospel recording, Malik Shaheed for best francophone recording, Dwayne Morgan for best spoken word recording and Starting From Scratch for DJ of the year.  The remaining 10 awards, including best R&B/soul, hip-hop, reggae and jazz recording, new artist, producer, video and fan's choice, are presented tonight at the Kool Haus.  Hosted by comedian Russell Peters, the show will feature performances by Black (who's up for three more awards), Rochester a.k.a. Juice, Massari, Kardinal Offishall, Divine Brown, Maestro, Sonia Collymore and Fito Blanko.  Presenters include American stars Ginuwine, Obie Trice and CL Smooth as well as sports personalities Donovan Bailey, Trish Stratus, Jalen Rose and Morris Peterson.  The two nights of awards-giving will be broadcast as an hour-long special on SUN-TV Dec.21.

Black Thanks Mom For Success

By Mary Dickie -- Toronto Sun

(Nov. 28, 2005)
Jully Black can't thank her mom enough.  The Canadian R&B dynamo says her strength and determination come straight from growing up under the wing of her mother Agatha, who single-handedly cared for Black and her eight siblings.  "She's my hero," says Black. "She's just the perfect woman. She raised nine kids by herself and never once complained about it. Her children never knew if she was having a bad day, we never felt that we weren't privileged, and we never felt that we were poor."  Black was raised in subsidized housing in Toronto's Jane and Finch area and was introduced to the power of singing at an energy-packed Pentecostal church when she was a child. It was there that the roots of her pipes began to take shape.  "I was aware at a very young age how my music affected other people," she says.  "It felt good ... how singing seemed to beam into other people."  The seed of music was planted and even though her family faced a series of tragedies, like the death of her 24-year-old sister Sharon in 1990, Black decidedly moves through life with greater passion every day, taking a 'life-is-short' attitude inherited from her mom.  Her mother worked hard on the line at General Motors to put food on the table and refused to rely on government assistance to stay afloat.  "If I could be like my mother just 10 per cent, I'd be the perfect woman," she says.  "She didn't care if she had to work two jobs ... A lot of the time history repeats itself and she wanted to set the right example. She wanted to do it right."  It's that kind of resilience that taught the singer not to let a day -- or even a split-second moment -- slip away without making the most of it.  "It's important to make use of your time," she stresses.  "(Young people) need to have purpose. When you don't have purpose, you might as well be dead. Be an individual and love who you are and love what you are doing. So often we're busy dwelling on the past and chasing the future that we're eliminating our today. All that matters is that you live today. It's the most important moment."  Black, who spent the summer touring with the Black Eyed Peas, has received five nominations for 2005 Canadian Urban Music Awards taking place in Toronto tonight and Tuesday.

Offishall Defies Rap Stereotypes

By Tanya Enberg -- 24 HOURS

(Nov. 25, 2005) Canadian rapper
Kardinal Offishall uses every chance in the spotlight wisely.  The multiple Juno-Award winner defies rap scene stereotypes with lyrics that would be considered squeaky clean compared to those of his peers south of the border. But he’s okay with that.  “It gives me more of a challenge to show to the rest of the world that it’s not all about the States,” he explained recently.  “If I have an opportunity to run my mouth off, I will take the opportunity, whether it’s discussing the violence that’s happening in our streets or redirecting the money that we’re giving to the police.”  While Offishall (born Jason Harrow) doesn’t shy away from the mention of sex and drugs in his lyrics, he’s determined to send out a larger message.  “I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I am a person who isn’t tempted by many of the things that are out there or that I haven’t made mistakes,” he says.  “I always say we are all role models. It just depends on whether we’re good role models or bad role models ... I try to surround myself with positive people from my manager and friends to my blood. Anytime I get pushed off the edge, there’s somebody there to push me back up and say ‘You can do better,’” he explains.  On Man by Choice, Offishall speaks of hidden prejudices, the type that boils below the surface, and on the disc, Fire and Glory, he tackles racial profiling in policing on the tune Mr. Officer.  “It (racial profiling) definitely hasn’t improved,” he says.  “It’s the same thing over and over. (Growing up) we all knew what it was and that it was happening, we just didn’t call it that yet.”  These observations and experiences eventually find a voice in his music.  “It’s always something I feel from the inside first,” Offishall explains.  “A subject that’s negative or positive ... when I go through it, or hear about it and I feel it, I have to write about it.”  While Offishall admits to being a proud Canadian, and since penning his first song at age 12 his Toronto roots have always come into play, but in a country that often turns its ears to artists in the U.S. over home-grown talent, the urban music scene is also filled with frustration.    “Americans will always get more attention,” he says.  “The only way you’re going to be able to give birth to a 50 Cent in Canada ... or Kanye West in Canada is by developing our artists. We don’t ever give Canadians the credit they deserve.”  Offishall has been nominated for Hip-Hop Recording of the Year at the 2005 Canadian Urban Music Awards taking place in Toronto Nov. 28th and 29th.

K'Naan In His Own Words

By Mary Dickie -- Toronto Sun

(Nov. 27, 2005) American hip-hop stars can brag as much as they like about how hardcore they are, but it's not going to mean much to someone who grew up in war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia, the most dangerous city in the world.  So for a long time it was frustrating for Toronto rapper
K'naan to listen to well-fed Americans rap about surviving drive-by shootings or struggles with the police. As he points out in his dazzling debut album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, "Where I'm from there are no police, ambulance or firefighters/ We start riots by burning car tires ... You don't pay at the roadblock, you get your throat shot/ I make 50 Cent look like Limp Bizkit, so what's hardcore, really?"  But since the release of the album gave K'naan the opportunity to tell his own story, the 28-year-old has mellowed somewhat toward his hip-hop peers.  "Sometimes it's entertaining to listen to them, sometimes it's kinda funny," he said in a recent interview. "Sometimes the way they put together what they say is interesting. If they're not good at what they do and they're still bragging, that's when it's annoying.  "But what's interesting is struggle, and people's ideas of struggle are really the same no matter where they are. I mean, take someone who feels a headache -- their pain feels greater to them than someone who's been shot. Everyone believes that their particular perspective is the thing."  K'naan's Somali childhood may have been nightmarish, but it was also full of warmth and creativity, thanks to a family full of poets and singers in a country with a rich literary tradition. He first learned to rap by phonetically imitating American hip-hop records sent home by his father, a New York City taxi driver, and his music is a fascinating mixture of African and Western musical traditions, with the emphasis on the lyrics.

"The focus has always been the message, the words, what you've got to say," he explained. "In Somalia you don't necessarily have to be a good singer or have a good sound, but you have to have something moving to say. That's what a successful musician is in Somalia.  "And there have been times when words have literally caused the condition of the whole country to shift. When colonialism was ousted from my country, that revolution was not led by a militant guy but by a poet, whose words caused people to take up arms. And in the '40s my grandfather was credited with stopping a war between two clans with one single poem. That's the way it is there."  K'naan left Mogadishu with his mother and brother in 1991, on what turned out to be the last commercial flight out of the country. After a brief period in Harlem they settled in Rexdale, which hosts a large Somali community. He continued to rap, and lived up to his name, which means "traveller" in Somali, by roaming all over North America. His participation in spoken-word battles in New York and Washington, D.C., blew away influential American hip-hop promoters, and in 2001 he was invited to address the UN in honour of the 50th anniversary of the High Commission for Refugees.  K'naan's spoken-word piece sharply criticized the UN's failed relief effort in Somalia, but received a standing ovation anyway. In the audience was African singer Youssou N'Dour, who invited K'naan to record with him. He has since been invited back to the UN twice, including an appearance in South Africa last month at a hip-hop summit.  "Actually performing in South Africa was much more important for me than addressing the UN, because it was the first time I had gone back to Africa to perform my music," he said. "It was an incredible emotional journey, and probably my best feeling of a performance ever."  In 2002, while recording a benefit for War Child, K'naan met Jarvis Church from Nelly Furtado's production team Track And Field. They ended up producing The Dusty Foot Philosopher, which was released in June. It turned out to be an ideal combination. K'naan's frank, brutal and sometimes funny words are surrounded by a rich musical mix that changes on each track, incorporating African percussion and choirs, acoustic guitars, dancehall rhythms, whistles, Kenyan musicians, Peter Tosh samples and much more. On tour, a group of four tries to reproduce as much of the musical tapestry as possible.

"It's an interesting setup," K'naan said. "There's an acoustic guitarist, a percussionist, a computer at the back and me with percussion, and all of us are on vocals as well."  As for the current state of hip-hop, K'naan doesn't spend his time bemoaning its consumerism.  "I don't separate musicians from society, and society in general is not really focused on anything relevant," he said. "Hip-hop is a commodified art form. Our personal struggles and art have been linked to commerce, and when you do that, it starts to lose its connection to the community to satisfy a bigger machine. Most hip-hop artists are not really making music for the ghetto or the 'hood, they're making it for the suburbs. They're focused on the community with purchasing power, which in business makes a lot of sense."  K'naan's Dusty Foot Philosopher has earned him two Canadian Urban Music Award nominations, for best songwriter and best hip-hop recording.

Bunnett Jazzes Up The Urban Scene

By Tanya Enberg -- 24 HOURS

(Nov. 24, 2005) In a mixture celebrating R&B, Reggae, spoken word and gospel music, a jazzy addition may seem like a strange and distant cousin that just doesn't fit in.  But to
Jane Bunnett, one of Toronto's premiere jazz musicians, it makes perfect sense.  Bunnett, a nominee for Jazz Recording of the Year at the 2005 Canadian Urban Music Awards (Nov. 28th and 29th in Toronto), says jazz is a style with a global reach, one that is inspired by and offers inspiration to various genres.  Bunnett's biggest influence, however, comes from the sounds of Cuba, a place she's deeply passionate about and has visited about 50 times.  "In the case of Cuba ... the music was just overwhelming," explains the soprano saxophonist, flutist and bandleader.  "Not just how many types of music there was, but how much of it there was. The people are very passionate about their music. They take it really seriously," Bunnett says of how her love affair with Cuban sounds began.  It was on the first day during Bunnett's first trip to Cuba in 1982 with her husband, trumpeter Larry Cramer, that a lasting imprint was made.  A hotel band was playing and "I just sort of jumped on stage," she recalls. "They were kind of shocked ... they weren't even used to seeing foreigners yet."  Regardless, Bunnett blended well with the locals.  Since that fateful journey, Cuba's rich musical fabric has shaped Bunnett's style with recordings that seamlessly blend jazz with Afro-Cuban rhythms.  "More and more we're finding artists mixing things up," she says.  "I think that's what makes music so interesting -- borrowing from other genres and throwing some into the pot," she notes.  "It's all about how you use something. It has to be done in a respectful way."





Keshia Chante Crosses Borders

By Tanya Enberg -- 24 HOURS

(Nov. 23, 2005) Keshia Chante is impressively polite.  She often begins answering questions with a sweet "yes ma'am" or a "no ma'am," she admits to being close with her mom-turned-manager, and is eloquent beyond her years.  As far as stereotypical teenagers go, at just 17 years of age, the R&B artist is anything but.  While officially Chante broke into the urban music scene two years ago -- quickly earning accolades with a gold album and a 2004 Juno Award for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year for her self- titled debut album -- unofficially the roots of her career were planted years before.  All it took was one vocal performance that received a standing ovation when she was six years old and Chante was hooked.  "I was like 'Mama, can I do it again,'" she recalls of taking the stage, offering a rendition of Dear Mama by the late Tupac Shakur, during Black History Month celebrations in Ottawa.  "I remember getting off stage and I was so excited. It was so beautiful to me and I said, 'This is what I am going to do for the rest of my life.'" 

Her determination is paying off.  The Ottawa-born powerhouse turned Toronto resident could be adding more hardware to her mantel with four Canadian Urban Music Awards (CUMAs) nominations this year, taking place in Toronto on Nov. 28 and 29, and she's already reaping interest south of the border.  Her video for Bad Boy is getting regular play on Black Entertainment Television, she has a second album in the works in New York under the Sony Urban/Epic label, (scheduled for a 2006 release) and she recently had the honour of opening for Destiny's Child in Vancouver with a 40-minute set.  "When I met them, I was like 'Oh my God!'" she gushes.  "I tend to get shy a bit sometimes, but as soon as I hit the stage, I go all out. I instantly become a difference person."  While wise beyond her years, Chante is still a teenager at heart. In the mad juggle between performing and making records, she studies, takes in movies at the theatre, hangs out with friends and admits to being a candy addict.  "I eat a lot of candy," she stresses. So much so that she can't bring herself to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp.  That said, she believes that "balance is definitely the key to life," but admits that when it comes to sweets, there are some things she simply can't resist.


Founder of CHUM Ltd. Passes Away

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Grant Robertson

(Dec. 3, 2005) Toronto — Allan Waters, the founder of CHUM Ltd. who created Canada's first Top-40 radio station and built a media empire that included launching the country's first music video channel, died Saturday at the age of 84. Mr. Waters death comes a little more than a month after he stepped down as director of the company due to failing health. Jim Waters, chairman of Toronto-based CHUM, said his father died peacefully in his sleep in hospital surrounded by family. He served as chairman of CHUM until 2002. Considered a pioneer in Canada's broadcasting industry, Allan Waters bought Toronto's 1050 CHUM in 1954 and introduced the country's first all-hits music format that now dominates the radio dial. He is credited with developing commercial radio in Canada and blazing a trail in the country's specialty television sector with the creation of Much Music, which he built with Moses Znaimer into one of the company's flagship businesses. "He laid down a foundation for all of us over his many years running the company," Jim Waters said. "It's my intention.... and the intention of all the rest of us to keep those principles going forward. That's what he would want more than anything."

Though CHUM is often rumoured as a takeover target in Canada's ever-shifting media scene, Mr. Waters said his father never wanted the family-run company to be sold. "Whenever anybody would say the word 'sell,' my father would just bristle," Jim Waters said. "It was always his hope that his children would get involved in the business. My brother [vice-chairman Ron Waters] and I certainly don't have any intention of selling the company, that's for sure." After starting CHUM with one radio station, his father never thought the company would grow as big as it has, Jim Waters said. It now employs 3,000 people across 33 radio stations, 12 television channels and 21 specialty channels, including Bravo. "I think that CHUM has always been on the leading edge of doing new things and Dad was never afraid to take some risks," Jim Waters said. "I'm not sure that anyone thought when he bought 1050 CHUM that it ever would have grown to what it is today. All of us that work at CHUM are happy to have played some kind of role in the great expansion of the company over those 50 years." A member of the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, Allan Waters was also the first broadcaster to be honoured with the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award for contributions to the sector. "He was always pretty humble about everything. He just kind of went about his business. He was always quick to deflect the success of the company to the people that worked at CHUM," Jim Waters said. Memorial services will be held Wednesday in Toronto.

Allan Waters, 84: CHUM founder

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Dec. 4, 2005) In the beginning, for Toronto's rock and roll fans, there was Allan Waters.  Well, not Waters himself, who died yesterday at 84, but the crew of manic and memorable deejays he recruited to Toronto radio station CHUM who were their listeners' constant companions through the evolution of mop-top pop, protest pop, pop-folk and pop-shock.  In the 1960s and 1970s, CHUM was the city's dominant cultural institution. Beginning in 1957, when the fledgling station made a startling switch from religious programming to Canada's first 24-hour Top 40 hits format, CHUM not only put the Temptations and the Four Tops on the map locally.  It also created its own constellation of local stars, disk jockeys like Jungle Jay Nelson, Al Boliska, Bob McAdorey, Larry Solway and Bob Laine, whose affair of mutual affection with a massive audience of teens was unrivalled in North America.  Over time, Waters parlayed the success of CHUM into today's Chum Ltd. empire of 23 radio stations, 12 TV outlets including Toronto's CityTV, and 21 specialty TV channels including MuchMusic, Bravo!, CP 24 and Space.  Starting with that single, struggling Toronto radio outlet that was losing $3,000 a month on annual sales of just $150,000, Waters laid the foundation for a company that generated profits of $41.1 million last year on sales of $628 million.  "I don't know that he ever thought it was going to get this big ... when he bought 1050 CHUM" in 1953, Waters' son Jim Waters, now chairman of Chum Ltd., said yesterday of his pioneering father. "I don't know that he ever imagined that at all."  It all began with the weekly CHUM Chart, distributed to record shops and tens of thousands of kids, including members of the CHUMbug Club; the touring bikini-clad CHUM Chicks; the CHUM disk jockeys who emceed hundreds of school dances; and the non-stop stunts like pie-throwing jocks.

Intensely loyal to the station, the jocks weren't above accusing listeners of treason should they drift to rival rock station CFTR. McAdorey once coaxed John Wayne to repeat the station's tag, "I'm a CHUMbug, are you?" The actor repeated what he thought McAdorey had said: "I'm a chum, bugger you!"  "They were electronic Pied Pipers, polished showbiz acts in and of themselves," wrote Star critic Greg Quill in 2001 of CHUM's stable of local-legend deejays. Quill quoted David Marsden, a star at a rival station, who said CHUM at its zenith "represented excitement, young ideas, creativity, freedom of expression. And the jocks got to play the music they loved."  Of course, when Waters, a former drug salesman raised in Toronto's east end, introduced the hit-machine format to Canada in the year of the Sputnik launch, there was less competition on the radio dial. Waters' first station doubled its ratings in the first week and soon commanded 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the entire Toronto radio audience.  Waters was wedded to the station. "At Chum [Ltd.], starting with myself and top management, we are broadcasters first," Waters told Canadian Business magazine in a rare interview in 1981. "We work at it. We are investors second."  Which explains why Chum Ltd. has clung to its independence, rejecting merger entreaties over the years.  Waters was adamant that broadcasting is a field for professionals and not deep-pocketed financiers.  "It's showbiz," Waters explained. "People get emotional about broadcasting. They really get emotional. You get 10 guys together and they immediately want to buy a radio station. That's why a lot of radio stations get into trouble — people buy them or get a licence and they can't handle the damn things."

"Some guys don't listen to their own stations," said CityTV cofounder Jerry Grafstein. Waters "enjoys his. He told me once one of his tests of broadcasting is you shouldn't be putting anything on the air that doesn't meet your own tastes."  Did the soft-porn Baby Blue movies aired by the early CityTV on Friday nights (and since revived) meet Waters' tastes? The circumspect Waters never said, but he was quick to see the growth potential of the upstart CityTV's intensely local and mildly irreverent programming formula. As with his other properties, when Waters first invested in CityTV six years after its 1972 launch, he delegated to the existing management.  The deferential Waters shunned the limelight, hosting cribbage matches at his modest Toronto home and a cottage north of the city with a tight group of friends from his youth.  There were setbacks, of course, including a short-lived Toronto classical music station that was more than three decades ahead of its time.  But with persistence and prudence, Waters continued to accumulate broadcast outlets.  And last December, Chum Ltd. bought most of the assets of an insolvent Craig Media Inc., whose proposal to launch a rival to CityTV it had fiercely opposed on the grounds that Toronto was too small for two similar stations.  Chum Ltd. was right, and the Craig family paid dearly for its impulsive bet, losing Toronto 1 soon after its launch, along with its other broadcasting holdings.  The Craigs, ignoring basic economics, got a Toronto licence and couldn't handle the damn thing. Unlike Waters, a 50-year broadcasting veteran when he stepped down from the Chum Ltd. board in October, they let themselves become too emotional about broadcasting.

CHUM Not For Sale, Founder's Son Vows

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Grant Robertson

(Dec. 5, 2005) The family behind the CHUM Ltd. broadcasting empire says it has no plans to sell the television and radio network after the death this weekend of its legendary founder Allan Waters at the age of 84. Mr. Waters, who stepped down from the company's board of directors this fall amid deteriorating health, was against selling the company's assets despite rumours that it was a takeover target, said Jim Waters, CHUM's chairman and Allan Waters' son. "Whenever anybody would say the word sell, he would just bristle," Mr. Waters said of his father, who built CHUM from a single radio station in 1954 to one of Canada's largest broadcasters today.  Four members of the family sit on the company's board, including son Ron Waters, who is the vice-chairman.  "It was always his hope that his children would get involved in the business. And my brother and I have been involved for quite some time," Jim Waters said.  "We have no intention of selling the company. I know that's what he would want." The broadcasting industry will gather in Toronto this week to pay respects to the man who created the first Top-40 radio station in Canada.  Considered a legend on the Canadian broadcasting scene, Allan Waters played a pivotal role in many of the industry's breakthroughs over the past 50 years.  He was also instrumental in building MuchMusic, the country's first music video TV channel.

The success of CHUM -- which has grown to span 33 radio stations, 12 TV channels and 21 specialty stations -- has made the company a plum asset on the Canadian media landscape. CHUM is often rumoured as a potential takeover target for media companies looking to grab a slice of the venerable business.  But Jim Waters said the family, which owns close to 90 per cent of the company's stock, isn't interested, despite rumours there are several companies waiting for a chance to bid. "As a publicly traded company, it is our fiduciary responsibility that if any kind of an offer came in, we'd present it to the board," he said. " But they certainly wouldn't get my vote and I know they wouldn't get my brother's." Trying to predict what the Waters family will do with the company has been a Bay Street pastime for years. Inevitably, speculation will now pick up.  Several broadcasters, from Astral Media Inc. C to Corus Entertainment Inc. C, are believed to covet CHUM's assets, which include CityTV and MuchMusic, one of Canadian television's most recognizable brands. Jim Waters said the plan is to continue expanding the company. When CHUM decided to purchase Craig Media Inc. last year for $265-million, it marked a new phase of expansion. The deal, which saw CHUM take on debt to finance the purchase, was a departure from the kind of transactions Allan Waters was known for. "He always said, 'Don't get yourself too far in debt.' To him, anything over a buck [of debt] was too much," Mr. Waters said. "And I think it was a tough pill for him to swallow... but he knew it was something we needed to do to grow and for the future of the company." Some observers suggested in recent days that Canada's media sector could be headed for a new spate of consolidation. Analysts have speculated that last week's decision by BCE Inc. to sell much of its ownership stake in Bell Globemedia, owner of The Globe and Mail and CTV, could spark more movement.

Though several of Canada's media companies are family-controlled, pressure from other board members, or from investment bankers urging them to cash in when the price is right, could start the dominos falling, sources inside the industry believe. But Mr. Waters isn't buying any of the talk about selling. "I sit at home sometimes and I scratch my head and think: We just spent this enormous amount of money to expand our conventional television holdings. Why would people think we were going to do that and then sell the company?" he said. "And as much as the company grew to be a large media operation, my father always saw it as a small family business."


Tapping Into Radio's Creative Potential

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Murray Whyte, Entertainment Reporter

(Dec. 4, 2005) MONTREAL—
Jonathan Goldstein runs the tip of his right index finger along a thin stretch of uncluttered table in his office, and holds it up for inspection.  "You see? Pixie dust," he says flatly, his voice a deep, pebbly monotone. "This is where the magic happens."  Indeed. For the past year and change, Goldstein has been conjuring up a bone-dry, deadpan repertoire of eclectically bizarre, engagingly self-loathing radio. His show, Wiretap, on CBC Radio One, is a weekly half-hour of conversation, storytelling and introspection, culled from equal parts real-world experience and the warp of Goldstein's imagination.  "My taste is sort of weird," he shrugs. Oh, really? One memorable tale is of a friend who had developed an addiction to rabbit food, and was trying to pass himself off as a breeder so he could buy in bulk. Another featured a phone conversation with Lucifer Satan, a name apparently discovered in the Montreal phone book.  Goldstein calls for a laugh, and discovers the dark lord himself on the other end of the line. "Why would the devil be living in Montreal?" Goldstein asks, a little exasperated. "Where do you want me to live? New York?" comes the response, in a thick Bronx drawl. "It's so expensive, who can live there?"  It wasn't really the devil, of course, but rather Goldstein's father, a retired high school teacher playing the part. And while its first moments seem firmly rooted in the purely ridiculous, like almost any Wiretap piece, even the seemingly simplistic, played-for-laughs scenarios inevitably probe deeper, leading from a cheap laugh to a meaningful place. Good needs evil, Mr. Satan explains. Even if all evil can afford is a cheap apartment in Montreal.

This is the odd balance:
Wiretap's immediacy and spontaneity pits the absurd against the plausible, leaving most pieces teetering in the balance. The sense is of a world not completely unlike our own that runs parallel, never touching it, where the marginal and overlooked in the everyday gives pause.  It's a sensibility that Goldstein honed on This American Life, Ira Glass's much-celebrated program on National Public Radio in the U.S. As the archetypal struggling writer, living in Montreal, Goldstein applied for, and got, a producer job with the show in Chicago. "I learned everything there," said Goldstein. "I really started to see radio as a language unto itself."  Goldstein spent two years there, before coming back home to Montreal. Wiretap began in summer 2004 as a 10-episode experiment. "I absolutely loved it — it struck me as an entirely new form," said Carolyn Warren, the executive producer of cultural programming for CBC Radio in Montreal. "But it could have gone in any direction: `It's kind of quirky, is it really going to take off?'"  Goldstein got his chance as CBC Radio, now turning in record numbers nationwide, was flush with a new confidence — confidence enough, Warren said, to take some chances. Now into his second season, any lingering questions have been answered. "I've never seen the feedback like this show gets," she says. "It resonates emotionally, but we also get these incredibly detailed accounts of what people hear in it. There's an astonishing amount of intensive listening going on."  Here, deep inside the tiny English-radio enclave of CBC Montreal's concrete-slab headquarters, Goldstein sits perched in front of a mixing board linked to his computer.  He is unafraid, in the context of his show, to go anywhere and nowhere. One segment has him asking a friend to tell him `that great story' he told, a while back, because he wants to include it in the show. The friend excitedly agrees, and proceeds, in his best radio voice, to retell it.

"What was that you just did with your voice?" Goldstein asks. Nothing, the friend replies. Goldstein urges him to be himself, to sound natural. He starts again, deeply intoning his precious tale. Goldstein stops him again. This happens half a dozen times. "And then, that's it," Goldstein says.  Is it a conversation that could happen? Certainly. Did it? Maybe. Maybe not.  "It's supposed to sound real. You want to feel your way through it," Goldstein says. Some are based in reality, some are not. Goldstein never tells.  An entire episode, entitled "Haters," featured Goldstein monologuing over a sultry beat.  "It is my belief that most people's hatred of me lies in the fact that, in their heart of hearts, people despise excellence," he intones, his voice measured, calm and precise. "Let me make this as clear as I can: I rock steady, and I rock hard. As a result of all this rocking, I am universally reviled on the microphone. Is this my fault, that I am a lyrical grandmaster?"  In between such pronouncements, Goldstein is interrupted on occasion by phone calls channelled directly from an awkward adolescence.  "If you ever give me that look again, or stand next to me, or breathe next to me again, you're a dead man," comes the voice of a prepubescent boy named Max. Another, a girl named Antonella, warns of the danger of ever talking to her again, lest she be drawn into his grade-school social void.  "My friends told me that if you ever talk to me again, they'll never talk to me, because you have cooties and you're gross and ugly," she says. "So when I'm standing at the lockers with my friends, you better not even look at me, because I'll poke your eyes out."  "It's all about the mundane, but that there's mysteries and enigmas, these bigger things that are part of our everyday lives," says Goldstein, this time, for certain, entirely serious. "We don't think about them, or talk about them, but they're there."  Wiretap is on CBC Radio One on Fridays at 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. To hear a sample clip, go to


Satellite Radio Is On The Air

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(Dec. 6, 2005) The broadcasting universe expanded exponentially this weekend for thousands of Canadians who rushed electronics, hardware and appliance stores to purchase expensive receivers, and to pay subscription fees of $13 to $15 a month for Canada's first two satellite pay-radio services, Canadian Satellite Radio/XM and Sirius Canada.  What they heard when they got their receivers connected to their car radios and home sound systems will likely change their perception of radio forever. Whether it's worth the investment remains to be seen.  It's almost too much radio to comprehend, even after 48 hours of continuous dial-turning: the 80 (on CSR/XM, owned by Toronto fast-food magnate John Bitove) to 100 channels (on Sirius Canada, co-owned by Standard Radio and CBC) range across a wide spectrum of broadcast possibilities: from music of every genre, both recorded and live, to bundles of play-by-play sports and sports information channels; from news and public radio services from around the world to comedy channels and children's programming; from American and Canadian talk radio to religion and old-time radio drama.  Service technicians at both operations on the weekend said the number of sign-ups could barely be accommodated, even with additional shifts working around the clock.  So what's the big deal?  In a nutshell, more music, deeper play lists and more diversity than commercial, land-based radio could ever provide. Pay radio is literally 80 to 100 stations in one package; 10 per cent of them originating in Canada, with 85 per cent Canadian content in roughly 50-50 French- and English-language proportions.

Music accounts for about 60 per cent of the total number of channels, divided into such formats as rock, pop, hits, music of each decade since the 1940s, country, folk, jazz, blues, Latin, world, classical, dance, hip-hop and R&B, lifestyle, show tunes and Christian music. There's even an all-Elvis channel and a truckers' channel.  Each category carries several stations offering variations on the general theme. The size of the overall music catalogue available to subscribers outstrips the average radio station music library by an unimaginable quotient.  But for all its spectacularly rich, provocative, seamlessly programmed and diverse content, the independent Canadian music lobby that so vigorously supported these licence applications - and opposed a subsequent appeal by rival land-based pay-radio operator CHUM Ltd. - has received short shrift.  Only five of the 10 Canadian channels on the Sirius Canada network can be received in the U.S. and in the Canadian “grey market” on hardware purchased before the Canadian satellite radio operation’s Dec. 1 launch, says Gary Slaight, CEO of Standard Radio, co-owner, with CBC, of Sirius Canada.  An estimated 80,000 Canadians have purchased receivers and subscriptions on the "grey market," using U.S. billing addresses, in the past five years.  The five channels that will work on older equipment are Iceberg, CBC Radio One, CBC Radio 3, and the French-language music channel Bande a part.

Tonight's live concert from Toronto's Mod Club will be broadcast on Sirius Canada's CBC Radio 3 and CBC Radio One. The service's official launch event features Feist, Kathleen Edwards, The Trews and Ron Sexsmith.  Grey market subscribers who believed they would be able to hear Howard Stern (Canadian fans of the American "shock jock" have launched an Internet petition at urging Sirius Canada to carry his program) and other controversial American programming, will not be able to do so. As of Dec. 1, Canadian satellite radio signals replaced the American signals north of the border.  Their compensation is Canadian content: lots of CBC Radio on Sirius Canada, lots of sports on XM and, for English-language music fans, three tiny wedges of eclectic fringe pop on three of 18 Canadian channels on both services.  It's the kind of content they can already get on regular, over-the-air radio, and on college and community radio, for free.  Channels are accessed by a tiny, pocket-radio-sized receiver and antenna — models range in price from $80 to $400 — that display, at the turn of a knob, the name and dial number of the channel that's playing, the title of the song (or the program), the name of the artist (or host) and the time. The digital stereo sound quality does far exceed the former FM standard — satellite tracking glitches and electric storms notwithstanding — and the units are transportable, though some models require cradles and some rather specialized installation.  No one's saying how many subscribers have signed up to the new services. Unlike their publicly owned American parents — and the originators of 90 per cent of the programming Canadian subscribers will hear — both CSR/XM and Sirius Canada are privately owned operations and decline to make sales figures public. New York-based Sirius has about 2.5 million subscribers in the U.S., while Washington-based XM has in excess of 6 million.

"The response has exceeded our projections and expectations," was all Sirius president Mark Redmond said yesterday.  CSR/XM, which recently issued an initial public stock offering, is prohibited by securities regulations from releasing revenue information.


Answering A Silly Question: Where Is Corey Hart?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Leslie Gray Streeter, Special To The Star, New York Times News Service

(Dec. 4, 2005) PALM BEACH, Fla.—His biggest hit was called "Never Surrender," but some years ago, '80s pop hunk Corey Hart did surrender the stage to concentrate on his wife and four children.  But the Montreal native who has written songs for other artists, including Céline Dion, came out of retirement as an entertainer at last night's gala for the Chris Evert Tennis Classic, at Boca Raton.  Hart, 43, took a break before rehearsals to answer some silly questions.

Q: You live in the Bahamas, now in Florida. Rough life.
A: We just started to rent a place here. Our oldest (India, 10) plays tennis and has begun to train with (Evert). The Bahamas is where our real beds are.
Q: So this is the first time you've performed in a while.
A: Ten years ago, I was winding down, and I haven't played in 4 1/2 years. This will be a different audience, probably not Corey Hart fans. It will be fun.
Q: Even if they aren't big fans, they likely know a little something about a pair of sunglasses? Worn at night?
A: (Laughs) I've heard that a million times: "Hey, Corey! Wearing your sunglasses?" Do they think it's being original?
Q: In the 1980s, there was this whole Canadian pop star phase, with you and Bryan Adams.
A: Me and Bryan were big rivals, because we came out at the same time, and had success at the highest level, which was quite different for Canadians.
Q: I remember teen magazines would have your pictures on the same page with goofy headlines like "Bryan or Corey: Who's Your Canadian Cutie?"
Is it true you were offered the Marty McFly role in Back to the Future?
A: I was offered a screen test, but I had no interest in acting. I also turned down songs that went to No. 1, like the "Danger Zone" song from Top Gun that Kenny Loggins did, and "The Heat is On" that Glenn Frey did, because I didn't write them.


Ciara Is Handling Her Business

Source: Universal Music Group via PRNewswire

(Dec. 1, 2005) LOS ANGELES -- Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), in a highly  competitive situation, announced the signing of Multi-Platinum Superstar, 
Ciara, to an exclusive, worldwide publishing deal. On the heels of the signing, it was also announced that Hip-hop ingénue Ciara lead the VIBE Awards for the most nominations, including artist of the year, for which she competed against UMPG artist/writers Mariah Carey  and 50 Cent, among others.  Ciara received the 'Coolest Collabo' award for "Oh" featuring UMPG's Ludacris. At 19 years old, Ciara, an Atlanta native has established herself as R&B's hottest triple threat: Singer, Songwriter and Entertainer.  Ciara burst onto the scene in 2004 with the never-gonna-get-it single "Goodies" and the debut album of the same name from Sho'Nuff/LaFace/Zomba Label Group which quickly went to No. 1 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop chart.  Currently riding the Multi-Platinum wave with three #1 singles and a current Top 10 single, "And I" to keep her a float, Ciara's 2.7 million plus records has launched her into a world of music, movies and more! The scene-stealing songstress has been recognized throughout the year with over 30 notable nominations and awards including MTV Video Awards, Billboard Awards, Teen Choice Awards, Soul Train Awards, Lady of Soul Awards, World Music Awards and as the most nominated artist at the BET Awards.

Additionally, Ciara's surmounting recognition has secured her performances at top music events, which include the recent Much Music Awards, BET Awards, VH1 Hip Hop Honours and the upcoming Billboard Awards. UMPG's Director of Urban Music, East Coast, Ethiopia Habtemariam, has long been watching Ciara grow and develop as an artist, "Ciara has become the most sought after entertainer of 2005 earning the respect of her peers and veterans in the industry.  I am so thrilled that Ciara has chosen UMPG as her publishing home.  She is truly an industry leader and we welcome her to the UMPG family." "I am pleased to have signed with Universal Music Publishing Group," said Ciara.  "David Renzer and his dedicated team continue to take the world's top songwriters to tremendous levels of success with their proven track record.  I am thankful for the opportunity and look forward to working closely with the team." Managed by Phillana Williams, SVP Marketing at sister label, Island Def Jam Music Group, Ciara joins UMPG's successful R&B/Hip-Hop roster, which includes 50 Cent, G-Unit, Ice Cube, Mariah Carey, Ludacris, Amerie, Ashanti, Mary J. Blige, Printz Board, amongst others.  Ciara was previously administered through Noon Time/HitCo.

About Universal Music Publishing Group

With 47 offices in 41 countries worldwide, Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) is part of the Universal Music Group and one of the industry's largest global music publishing operations.  Owning or administering more than 1 million copyrights, UMPG's writers and catalogues include: U2, Shania Twain, Ja Rule, Prince, Diana Krall, Godsmack, Ice Cube, Vanessa Carlton, Mary J. Blige, The Corrs, Eve, Musiq, Jill Scott, Brian McKnight, No Doubt, Blink-182, 3 Doors Down, The Beastie Boys, Anastacia, Fatboy Slim, DMX, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Paul Simon, the catalogue of Henry Mancini, among many others.  For more information, visit:


Depeche's New Mode: Retro Rock

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By J.D. Considine

Depeche Mode
At the Air Canada Centre
In Toronto on Thursday

(Dec. 3, 2005) At the beginning of the electro-pop boom in the eighties, when bands like Depeche Mode, Human League and Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark traded their drum kits and guitars for synths and machines, the idea was to push rock toward some modernist future. Showy, posturing singers, sweaty, grimacing guitarists and flailing, hyperkinetic drummers seemed primitive to the point of being Neanderthal; the future of rock, believed the synth poppers, was cool, ironic and automated. Well, no. Synth pop was no more an accurate vision of the future than those Popular Science essays about how commuters in the year 2000 would head to work in flying saucers. In fact, it would be safe to assume that the reason Depeche Mode is the only survivor of that movement still having hits is because these synth-pop veterans have slowly "modernized" themselves into a standard rock-and-roll band. Not that they've entirely shed their old aesthetic. The stage set for their current tour -- in support of their 11th studio album, Playing the Angel -- was almost a parody of Italian modernist design, with silver, pod-like consoles for the keyboards, lots of dangling lights, and a huge, Sputnik-like orb at the side of the stage, which periodically displayed cryptic bits of text. But there was also a full drum kit at centre stage, and where Martin Gore, the group's principal songwriter, would once have spent much of the evening pressing keys on a bank of synthesizers, he spent the bulk of this show on guitar. True, his guitar parts mostly ornamented the synth lines, just as the drumming merely augmented preprogrammed rhythm tracks. And yes, Gore did grimace a bit while playing, but more out of shyness than any guitar-god bravado. Still, the impulse to rock was clearly there, from the robo-boogie guitar that kicked off Never Let Me Down Again to the soaring slide solo in Walking in My Shoes. There was even -- gasp! -- a drum solo in Feel the Silence. How wonderfully retro. The band's interest in rootsy rock shouldn't have come as a complete surprise, given the mad love Depeche Mode offered for openers the Raveonettes. This Danish quartet would seem, at first glance, everything Depeche Mode isn't -- low-tech, primitivist, and utterly into the heat of emotion. They're not throwbacks, exactly, as their sound is as likely to evoke Blondie or the Jesus and Mary Chain as Gene Vincent or Wanda Jackson, but they've clearly laid their foundations on the far side of rock traditionalism.

So imagine the surprise (and delight) when Gore himself came out toward the end of the Raveonettes' set to join the group in a version of Seductress of Bums. Even better, he did so in a heartfelt croon that seemed decidedly Elvis-inflected. Outfit him in mutton chops and an oversized belt, and he could easily have a second career belting Viva Las Vegas. There was a similar unexpected revisionism to much of Depeche Mode's set. Not only was singer David Gahan energized to the point that he couldn't stand still, but his singing was smoother and more confident than before, bringing impressive heat to I Feel You and sensitivity to Goodnight Lovers. Even better, the arrangements were expanded and beefed up, adding extra crunch to the slow grind of Personal Jesus and oomph to the beat in Just Can't Get Enough. The future, it seems, is rock 'n' roll. Who would have guessed?


Hip Hop Executive Acquitted

Source: Associated Press

(Dec. 3, 2005) New York — A hip hop music producer who cultivated a gangster image by taking the last name "Gotti" finally has something in common with the late Teflon Don: an acquittal. A federal jury in Brooklyn found Irving "Irv Gotti" Lorenzo and his brother Christopher not guilty Friday of laundering piles of drug money for a notorious crack kingpin. Jurors also acquitted the Lorenzo's record company, until recently known as Murder Inc., at a trial that was followed closely by some of the music industry's big stars. Supporters in the gallery erupted in cheers after the acquittals were announced. Amid the jubilation, a small group of jurors asked that the Lorenzos and their mother be taken into an antechamber with them so they could congratulate them in private. Irving Lorenzo's two lawyers then carried him out of the courthouse as he shouted: "We did it! We did it!" Minutes later, he threw his arms around juror Gloria Menzies, who called the brothers "my boys" and invited Irving to attend church with her. "They had nothing to pin on these two guys," Menzies said. "It was so weak." Beaming, Lorenzo accepted her invitation and said the trial had brought him closer to God. He also promised that his legal troubles were behind him for good. "I'm never going to get into any other trouble, no jaywalking, nothing," he told reporters. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Haran said he would respect the jury's verdict. The Lorenzo brothers had faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted. They were accused of agreeing to launder money for Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, a man a prosecutor called "one of the biggest, baddest, most dangerous drug lords in New York City."

McGriff allegedly funneled more than $1 million in drug money through Murder Inc. in return for providing protection for the Lorenzos. A government witness who once worked at the label testified that he saw a "huge amount" of money delivered in shopping bags and a shoe box. Murder Inc. cut tens of thousands of dollars in checks for corporations controlled by McGriff, including a movie company that produced a straight-to-video film called "Crime Partners 2000." The label also covered his expenses as he traveled around the country, ostensibly working as an entertainment executive. The defense said the Lorenzos were legitimate businessmen whose associations with McGriff were legal. The brothers said they decided to invest their own money in McGriff's movie because he was an old friend from their Queens neighborhood. The trial was a spectacle for celebrity watchers. Courtroom supporters included Jay-Z, Fat Joe and Russell Simmons, along with Ja Rule and Ashanti, the platinum-selling artists signed by the defendant's Murder Inc. label. Ja Rule, on hand for the verdict, said he was elated. "I can't even explain the feeling that's in my body." Murder Inc. changed its name to The Inc. last year after executives said the label's image was hurt by the racketeering case. Christopher Lorenzo said outside the courthouse Friday that the gangster motif, including his brother's adoption of the "Gotti" name, was always just show business. "You want to know his real name?" he said. "It's Magoo, because he squints all the time." He said the pair would now work on reviving the business, which he said had been hurt financially by case's "black cloud."


Ja Rule Makes His 'Exodus' Dec 6

Source ICED Media , Langston Sessoms,

(Dec. 2, 2005) New York, NY  --  Straight outta Hollis, multi-platinum The Inc./Def Jam recording artist and certified box office sensation Ja Rule has been at the epicenter of hardcore hip-hop’s entry into the mainstream over the last half-dozen tumultuous years. Ja Rule’s long-distance run is collected for the first time in his career on his 7th album, EXODUS, a newly-compiled 19-track anthology spanning 1999-2005, scheduled for December 6th release.  The title tunes “Exodus (Intro)” and “Exodus (Outro)” – new, previously unreleased tracks (co-written by Ja Rule and produced by Seven Aurelius for 7th Sign & Irv Gotti for Top Dawg Productions, Inc.) – open and close the album. EXODUS includes a third previously unreleased track, “Me” (co-written by Ja Rule and produced by Arizona Slim and Irv Gotti for Top Dawg Productions, Inc.).  At the heart of EXODUS are the hit singles and tracks covering every year of Ja Rule’s success – starting with “Holla Holla,” his first breakthrough #2 Rap single of 1999, and “Put It on Me” (feat. Vita), his first #1 entry on the Rhythmic Top 40 chart the following year. Over the next four years, Ja Rule amassed an astounding track record of collaborations with the biggest names in pop, R&B and hip-hop as he rode the top of the charts with (among others) “I Cry” (feat¬ur¬ing Lil’ Mo), “Livin’ it Up” (feat¬ur¬ing Case), “Always On Time” (feat¬ur¬ing Ashanti), “Thug Lovin’” (feat¬ur¬ing Bobby Brown), “Mesmerize” (feat¬ur¬ing Ashanti), “New York” (feat¬ur¬ing Fat Joe & Jadakiss), and “Wonderful” (feat¬ur¬ing R. Kelly & Ashanti). Other guests include DMX & Jay-Z (on “It’s Murda”); J-Lo & Caddillac Tah (on “Ain’t It Funny”); and Ron Isley aka Mr. Biggs (on “Daddy’s Little Baby”)  With U.S. sales of his first six albums – Venni, Vetti, Vecci (1999), Rule 3:36 (2000), Pain Is Love (2001), The Last Temptation (2002), Blood in My Eye (2003), and R.U.L.E. (2004) – in excess of 10 million units, and worldwide sales topping the 13 million mark, Ja Rule has established his imprint in the hip-hop, pop and R&B hierarchy.

Adding to his roles as record¬ing artist, businessman (founder of The Inc, FocusVision film company, and the Mojito liquor company launching next year), fashion designer (his Erving Geoffrey premium Urban wear line), philanthropist and political activist (his L.I.F.E. Foundation programs) – Ja Rule has also established a successful career in film.  His screen credits began in 2000 with Robert Adetuyi's Turn It Up, and include such hits as Rob Cohen's blockbuster The Fast and The Furious in 2001, Don Michael Paul's Half Past Dead with Steven Segal in 2002, David Zucker's smash Scary Movie 3 with the Wayans brothers in 2003, and the back-to-back hits in 2004, The Cookout (with Queen Latifah) and Shall We Dance (with Richard Gere). Ja Rule’s 10th movie, Assault On Precinct 13, which opened January 2005, starred Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Maria Bello, Drea de Matteo, and Gabriel Byrne.


Can you imagine?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell

"I'm not afraid of dying. I'm prepared for death because I don't believe in it. I think it's just getting out of one car and getting into another."

—John Lennon

(Dec. 4, 2005) NEW YORK—Anyone seeking to understand John Lennon's enduring drive should begin at Strawberry Fields, a tiny corner of Central Park in the shadow of The Dakota, the gothic building where the late Beatle lived and died.  On this sunny autumn afternoon a few days before the 25th anniversary of his death at age 40 at the hands of a crazed fan, Lennon admirers of every age and background gather in quiet contemplation of a circular mosaic of inlaid stones, with the word "Imagine" at its centre.  It's the title of Lennon's biggest post-Beatles hit, a tune synonymous with his image as a peace advocate. It's also a focal point for the meditation that his widow, Yoko Ono, who organized the Strawberry Fields garden, hopes to inspire — and it's working.  "This is kind of like my church," said Claudia Debs, a 29-year-old actor and writer from Brooklyn who was four when Lennon was felled by four shots from Mark David Chapman's revolver on Dec. 8, 1980, at the entrance to The Dakota.  "I come here almost every day. It's really peaceful in the midst of a very hectic city."  Debs has a vague memory of the day Lennon died. Her mother and sister were distraught, crying and continually playing "(Just Like) Starting Over," his newly recorded song.

She's been a Beatles and John Lennon fan for as long as she can recall. The music and Lennon's ardent pacifism make her believe in a better world.  "They really do transcend everything, music and time and politics. It's just too bad John had to die. His hope keeps me hopeful."  Strawberry Fields is designated as an official Quiet Zone, with signs posted instructing musicians and singers not to disturb the peace. But many do so anyway, especially on Lennon's birthday (Oct. 9) and on the anniversary of his death. It's not far from the Central Park bandshell, where thousands of fans gathered on Dec. 14, 1980, for a memorial service for Lennon.  As if on cue, a nearby busker begins strumming "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," quietly singing along.  He's 44, and he calls himself Strawberry James. He's a New Yorker and says he takes his guitar to Strawberry Fields most days about 3 p.m., looking to entertain Beatles fans for spare change and hoping to avoid the police.  He said he's memorized every song in the Beatles catalogue, taking special care with the ones most associated with Lennon. The man earned his place in history, James said:  "Twenty-five years after the guy passed away, he still has more renown than any of the other famous people who died the same year. John Winston Lennon is speaking louder now than he did in 1980."

If the famously acerbic Lennon was still alive to answer that assertion, he might well quarrel with it. While the four lads from Liverpool remain collectively as popular as ever — Beatles albums are still bought in the millions — the solo albums by Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison (who died of cancer in 2001) and Ringo Starr do not exactly fly off the shelves.  Reissues of Lennon's solo work sold poorly, the Broadway musical Lennon recently flopped and the messages he expressed in songs like "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance" are harder than ever to believe.  Wars rage in Iraq and Afghanistan, led by Lennon's adopted country of America. Terrorism is a constant global threat and the trauma of the 9/11 attacks still hangs like a shroud over New York. New revelations of malfeasance by corporations, governments and churches are uncovered almost every day, begging the question: Can anyone be trusted?  "I can immediately see that he would be very, very angry at what's going on in the world today," Yoko Ono writes on the home page of, the newly opened official website.  "Violence, accelerated corporate manipulations and lies. He wanted the world to be a beautiful place for all of us. But it seems we have a long way to go yet for that."  Ono this past week published a new book, Memories of John Lennon, intended to mark Thursday's 25th anniversary of Lennon's assassination.

Among the many celebrities paying tribute is Mick Jagger. He writes that he always thinks of Lennon when he visits America, because his friend and rival helped open immigration doors that had been closed to both of them in the late 1970s, owing to pot-possession convictions on their British police records. Lennon went to court to clear his name and cleared the way for Jagger too.  "I have in my passport a notation stating that the ineligibility of my visa is withdrawn `because of the Lennon precedent,'" Jagger said.  Keith Richards has memories of another side of Lennon, the genuine rock 'n' roll rebel. "For some reason he always felt he had to party harder than me," Richards told BBC News. "Which is a very difficult thing to do — especially in those days."

The many sides of John Lennon — musician and activist, househusband and father, deep thinker and glib cynic — all came through in the last major interview he gave, published in Playboy just a few days before his death. Chapman read it while preparing to shoot Lennon, an act he would later claim voices in his head had compelled him to do.  (Now 50 and completely bald, the pudgy former security guard is still serving a 20 years-to-life sentence in the Attica Correctional Facility, having twice been denied parole since he became eligible in 2000.)  David Sheff, the journalist who conducted the Playboy interview with Lennon and Ono, had unprecedented access to the couple in their Dakota home in the fall of 1980. Just 24 at the time, and struggling to prove himself as a writer — he's since published several books — he was approved for the assignment after Ono used horoscope charts to assess his worthiness.  He has 20 hours of taped conversations with Lennon, much of which appears for the first time in All We Were Saying, Sheff's new book recalling his Dakota encounters.  "I was just overwhelmed to be there," Sheff told the Star from San Francisco.  "And yet John was so gracious and so open and easy and warm, all the things that people may not expect of him. I became so comfortable, I would forget that I was in his presence. But then he'd be telling a story or making tea or showing me a photograph, and he'd say, `Oh yes, I was in Spain there, which is when I wrote Strawberry Fields Forever.' "  John needed a little prodding to talk about his time with the Beatles, Sheff said. At the time, Lennon was working on Double Fantasy, his first new album in five years. He was excited about this new burst of creativity and was planning a concert tour with Ono for the spring of 1981.

In the meantime he was out of the limelight, staying home and tending to 5-year-old Sean, his son with Ono. (His other son, Julian, was 17 at the time and living in England with Lennon's first wife, Cynthia.)  "John was really interested only in the present," Sheff said. "He wasn't interested in walking down memory lane. He said that was for the historians. He was proud of the Beatles, and proud that they had lived on.  "But he also said, `If you understand the message of my work, either as a Beatle or post-Beatles, it's that you don't dwell on the past or obsess about the future.' It was almost a Buddhist philosophy. It was about participating in the present, the here and now."

Sheff agreed with Ono that Lennon would be very unhappy about Iraq, terror and mistrust, although he was by no means naive about human nature. But he thinks the late Beatle would be cheered by how his music has lived on, inspiring new listeners and new music icons such as Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Oasis' Noel Gallagher.  The man credited with the first recorded use of guitar feedback (on the Beatles' "I Feel Fine" in 1964) was fascinated by new technology, too, and "he'd probably have an iPod in every colour," Sheff said.  Lennon would also probably be in awe of how songs like "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance" have become global anthems, even reaching to countries where English isn't the common tongue.  Said Sheff: "If John is looking down from somewhere, and I believe he is, he'd be impressed with that. I've travelled all over the world since 1980, covering all kind of stories. And anywhere in the world where people are standing together to try to change their government or to bring about peace, they sing `Imagine' and `Give Peace a Chance.'  "I've heard it in the streets of Beijing, Bosnia and throughout Europe. It makes me realize what a profound impact John would have if he were still with us. I think he'd be crying a lot, too."


Mattafix Has #1 Track on National Pop Charts in Italy

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(Dec. 1, 2005) Relocating from your native country to another country has its ups and its downs. As is the case with London-based duo Mattafix, they are still trying to adjust to the rigours of living in a fast-paced setting of London. Their experiences are documented in the single Big City Lights, which is spending its third week at number one on the national pop charts in Italy, ahead of songs from U2, Depeche Mode, Hilary Duff and the Pussy Cat Dolls.  Big City Life is a bouncy reggae track and it is the first release from Mattafix's debut album the 14-track Signs Of A Struggle.  "We documented the struggles of living in a big city as opposed to where we were originally living. For one, coming from a small island and now living in London, it can be a bit intimidating. There are a lot of struggles that people go through when you are trying to adjust," group member Marlon Roudette said. Pursuing a recording career is something that happened by chance for Mattafix. St Vincent-born Roudette, who is 22 years-old, hooked up with India-born 26 year-old Preetesh Hirjie by producing tracks. "We were producing tracks and we realised we worked so well together. We invested a lot of time in our stuff, and we didn't feel comfortable passing on the material to other people. So we decided to do them ourselves," Roudette said. Both were influenced by the reggae beat from they were teenagers, and admit to having a profound respect for the old school reggae titans, including Gregory Isaacs, Bob Marley, Beres Hammond and Dennis Brown. "Reggae has always been a part of my life. I grew up in St Vincent where reggae     has a huge following. It's the biggest genre of music there. We listen to all kinds of music, but reggae was what stood out for us", Roudette explained.

Both Roudette and Hirjie were in Jamaica earlier this year working with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare on their album. The result was the song Cool Down The Place, a remake of the Gregory Isaacs original. "We have a lot of respect for Gregory Isaacs and we wanted to update that song as a form of homage to him. He is our musical hero. Our heart is in the West Indies. Visiting Jamaica was very important for us in making this album. The album is very eclectic; we sort of mixed it up a bit. It also has a soul element, a hip hop element, basically a variety," Roudette said. The success of Big City Life is not just confined to Italy. The song reached number 15 on the UK Singles chart in October. It peaked at number five in the Ukraine, number four in New Zealand, number 17 in France, and number six in Norway.  The album Signs Of A Struggle is also reportedly doing well in Europe. "We have been slowly building this album. Our European tour will be getting a jump start later this month and it will run into December. So, the interest in the album will be further accelerated," Roudette said. Roudette also pointed out that since the success of Big City Life, their lives have changed for the better. "Our lifestyles have definitely benefited. This is a big record for us. We are hardly ever home, because we have to be out promoting the single and the album.  We are trying to get a positive message out in the public domain, however, as persons, we keep being the same," he added.

Top reggae and dancehall acts for Solar Entertainment’s 10th Anniversary celebrations this weekend in New York, New York-based Solar Entertainment one of the premiere artiste management, publishing,  artiste booking, public relations and promotions entities owned by a Jamaican, is celebrating its tenth anniversary this weekend with a massive stage show.  The celebration to be held at New York’s Elite Ark Nightclub on Saturday December 3, will feature performances from some of the artistes that the company has represented and worked with over the years.  They include Billboard chart rider I Wayne, Sasha, Bascom X, Turbulence, Frisco Kid, Fantan Mojah, Apache Chief, Little Hero, Gyptian and others. What started out as a hobby for Solar Entertainment’s CEO Delroy Carroll, has evolved into a lifelong dream which has had its ups and downs. Carroll, who was born in Jamaica, brought a wealth of expertise to the business when he set up Solar Entertainment. I am celebrating 17 years in the business but it has been ten years now since I set up Solar. I worked with different companies before that, but I had decided to set up my own company and pursue the business with my own vision’, Mr. Carroll said in a telephone interview from his New York office earlier this week. Carroll, a former head boy for Trench Town Comprehensive High who was born in Manchester, worked with Ace Management, Addies Entertainment, The Entertainment Bureau and Premiere Productions before venturing on his own.  Since setting up Solar Entertainment, Mr. Carroll has worked with a long list of notables within the reggae, dancehall, rhythm and blues and pop music genres.  He lists acts including the Chilites, the Manhattans, the Temptations, Ray Goodman and Brown, Jerry Butler, Millie Jackson, Jaheim, Gyptian, Bascom X, Macka Diamond, Fantan Mojah, Vybz Kartel, I Wayne, Marlon Asher and Khari Kill among his latest charges. Its easier to say who I haven’t worked with that those I work with in the reggae fraternity’, Mr. Carroll commented. When asked what was the biggest moment for him since he started Solar Entertainment, Mr. Carroll mentioned his involvement with a PBS television special which featured acts from the 1970’s. 

The television special featured some of the acts whom he represents including the Chilites, the Manhattans, Eugene Record, the Stylistics and Cuba Gooding Sr. Carroll said he also worked on the production of the special.  "Another big moment for me was seeing some of my artistes being inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame", said Mr. Carroll. In terms of achieving its objectives, Mr. Carroll said that after ten years, Solar Entertainment has achieved a lot although the company is still pursuing other goals. "I think we have achieved a lot in the ten years. I think we have made our mark and have impacted on many careers. We continue to work hard and honest and living up to the expectations of our clients in providing professional representation to gain the best results", Mr. Carroll pointed out.


City's Club Crackdown

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Raju Mudhar, Toronto Star

(Dec. 3, 2005) In a city where nightclubs are under increased scrutiny for violent incidents, metal detectors are already a familiar sight at some of the largest establishments. Pretty soon, all clubs may be required to follow suit.  Whether it's warranted or not, nightclubs are increasingly seen as dangerous places. Shootings and other violent incidents outside of clubs this year have done nothing to diminish this perception. In addition, neighbours of rowdy clubs have become more vocal in their complaints.  Now city hall seems ready to follow outgoing city councillor Olivia Chow's lead and assert more control over the issue. Reacting in part to this growing concern, next week, city council is expected to introduce legislation that would boost security at clubs throughout Toronto.  Currently, municipal licences classify businesses as either restaurants or entertainment establishments. A new designation will further classify the latter category into "entertainment establishment — nightclubs," which would affect places where serving food isn't the priority, there is a dance floor and seating is not provided for a majority of patrons.  According to the initial city report, clubs under the new designation would have several new requirements, including:

·  Security guards on site at all times, in a ratio of two for every 100 patrons the venue can contain. They must be identifiable and separate from other workers, like bartenders.
·  Premises equipped with metal detectors or wands.
·  A noise-control plan.
·  Crowd control plans for exterior line-ups.
·  Liability insurance.

The recommendations "came as a result of several motions that Olivia Chow put through in the past year or so," says Helen Kennedy, a spokesperson at the city councillor's office.  "The reason they were put into existence is to try and make sure that legitimate operators adhere to some new requirements, and to add some more muscle against those that aren't. For instance, there was no requirement of liability insurance or security. Also, noise complaints are happening all the time, so now establishments will have to have a noise-control plan, as well as what they are going to do with crowd control."  Chow, who resigned from her job to run in the coming federal election, had to deal with many nightclub issues, since the entertainment district fell in her ward. This past year, she enacted a moratorium in the area preventing the construction of any new nightclubs.  As well, she was instrumental in getting the interim report done, which created the new amendments to the city's licensing plan. Already there is one adjustment expected. Instead of two security personnel per 100 clubgoers, a motion will be added to make the requirement one per 100, which makes sense to Councillor Kyle Rae.  "I think a lot of nightclubs are already doing most of the things," he says. "What I think is onerous is the amount of security personnel. I think two per 100 is a bit much, particularly considering that they have to be there whenever the places are open and adhere to total occupancy.  "But some places only open one floor during the middle of the week, and then two during the busier times, so I think if we take it down to one person per 100 that makes more sense. Especially with metal detectors, which should already serve as a preventative measure."

Kennedy says one of the issues this legislation hopes to address is the proliferation of supper clubs in the city. It's one of the hottest trends now, including hotspots such as Ultra or Brant House. Both serve dinner, but after a certain time they clear the tables away to make room for a dance floor, essentially becoming a nightclub. It remains to be seen how places like this will fit under the new rules, but the city hopes to have more control over these hybrid establishments.  While some operators see common sense in some of the new requirements, the new designation is a one-size-fits-all approach that has some operators concerned.  "Well, I'm wondering how some of these things are going to be enforced," says Greg Bottrell, who owns Supermarket in Kensington Market and Tempo on College St. "I mean (Supermarket) is a restaurant. We've done fantastically well with our food ... but we also do all kinds of other programming, so I'm not sure how it will apply to us," he says.  Nick Di Donato, president and CEO of the Liberty Entertainment Group, which runs many venues around town including the C Lounge and the Crystal Room, also wonders about enforcement.  "I think some of the recommendations make sense, but it is a case of what fits a place. For instance, we've used metal detectors at the Phoenix, but I'm not sure if it would be necessary at some of our other places," he says.

City officials weren't sure how long businesses would have to make the changes, but Rae says "an appropriate timeline should be mapped out."  However, this is likely only the beginning. The changes are an interim step before there's a much broader review of licensing requirements for all places that serve food and host entertainment facilities.  Future changes could include additional designations between different types of establishments.  The average person may not quite know the difference between a lounge or bistro, café or diner, nightclub, bar or supper club. Soon enough, the city may be able to tell us.


Harmer Songs Ripple Nicely By The Water

Excerpt from
The Toronto Star - Vit Wagner, Pop Music Critic

Sarah Harmer

With her acoustical band. Until Saturday at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Tickets $32.50.

(Dec. 1, 2005) It isn't often fans of pop music get to experience a concert at Harbourfront Centre Theatre, which is a shame considering the venue has some of the best acoustics south of the George Weston Recital Hall — another joint, come to think of it, closed to lower-brow musical pursuits.  I remember hearing jazz avant-gardist John Zorn at the Harbourfront hall back when it still bore the name of its tobacco sponsor. The music was as piercingly loud as human eardrums can withstand, without a single moment of distortion in the entire performance.  Sarah Harmer and her band took the other route last night, closing a gorgeous-sounding two-hour set with an unamplified rendition of "How Deep in the Valley," the final track on the Kingston, Ont.-based singer-songwriter's current disc, I'm a Mountain.  Not all of the 21-song set was as hushed. But the music seldom strayed from a low-key arrangements that relied mainly on acoustic guitar, upright bass and piano, with violin, mandolin, harmonica, banjo, clarinet and other instruments joining the mix at various intervals.  Symbolically, a drum kit sat unused for nearly the entire show. And when it finally did come in to play ... No, sorry, the surprise is too delicious to be spoiled for readers who have tickets for one of the remaining three performances.  The approach suited the emphasis of I'm a Mountain, a disc of traditionally oriented country and bluegrass numbers, including the title track, "I am Aglow" and a cover of Dolly Parton's "Will He be Waiting for Me?"

"Salamandre," one of two songs connected to Harmer's advocacy on behalf of preserving the Niagara Escarpment, brought in mandolin (Joey Wright), clarinet (Spencer Evans), accordion (Chris Bartos) and upright bass (Jason Euringer). Older songs were similarly fitted. "Uniform Gray," from the 2000 breakthrough
You Were Here, featured backing vocalist Julie Fader on flute. "Black Coffee," a cover from Songs for Clem, provided a momentary evocation of a jazz club.  The air of intimacy imbued the enterprise with an adventurous spirit. In addition to originals from all four of her albums, Harmer also covered Johnny Cash's "Let the Train Blow the Whistle" and, perhaps more surprisingly, the Shins' "Gone for Good," while honouring a request for the singer Oh Susanna's "Alabaster," even though she seemed far from certain of pulling it off.  "It's nice here down at the water," Harmer observed.  Yes, indeed. 


O'Connor Discovers Her Roots

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic

(Dec. 5, 2005) There's a moment in the wonderful movie Ghost World that captures the horror that can potentially ensue when white people get their hands on Jamaican roots music.  The film's perpetually unimpressed heroines, Enid and Rebecca, are discussing the lack of bearable young men in their lives, with the latter trying to muster some positivity in the face of Enid's bleak fatalism.  Suddenly, a troupe of lantern-jawed jocks strolls past. The big, blond doofus at the back pauses, poses and says: "You guys up for some reggae tonight?"  There is a beat of silence. "Okay, you're right," Rebecca concedes.  Sinead O'Connor would likely get a good chuckle out of this vignette. The misunderstood Irish singer might not always seem to have her head screwed on all that tightly, but her heart is indisputably in the right place.  So when she chose to end a three-year retirement from music-making several months ago with an album of reverent Rasta covers, Throw Down Your Arms, she went at it the right way: she hooked up with essential '70s rhythm section Sly and Robbie, flew to Kingston's Tuff Gong studios and knocked it out as authentically as a 38-year-old mom from Dublin could have done. Without, mercifully, lapsing into a fake Jamaican accent.  Were O'Connor's new collaborators not impressed with her ability to handle the material or her legitimate conviction for the Rastafarian faith, it's unlikely they would have joined her on this tour. But there were Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare and four fellow Jamaican musicians surrounding the comparatively wee Celtic belter onstage at Kool Haus Saturday night, enthusiastically contributing to one of the most unexpectedly revelatory concert summits to hit Toronto in eons.

They wouldn't be there if they didn't think it would work. And, my word, is it working.  Preceded by a stirring, half-hour instrumental jam featuring Dunbar, Shakespeare and associates to stoke the crowd, O'Connor emerged diffidently from stage right and tore into a spine-tingling a cappella version of Burning Spear's "Jah Nuh Dead" and a righteous full-band attack on the same songwriter's "Marcus Garvey" that instantly set out the night's ocean-bridging agenda in a union of keening Irish folk and Jamaican protest music that felt neither uncomfortable nor unnatural.  O'Connor's flinty wail — so powerful she can hold the microphone at her waist and still have you wondering if car alarms are being tripped outside — is a surprisingly close fit for the high-register oscillations and militant bite required to pull off such classics as Peter Tosh's "Stepping Razor" and "Downpressor Man," Lee "Scratch" Perry's roiling "Obadiah" and Bob Marley's "War" (the tune she sang, incidentally, before ripping up that picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live 13 years ago).  Rather than turning them into Sinead O'Connor songs on Saturday, she seemed intent on tapping their original spirit and approximating, if decidedly not imitating, the songwriters' own vocal melodies. In recognition of their importance to the material — some of which they'd originally seen to fruition — Sly, Robbie et al were similarly treated as co-headliners rather than sidemen, with O'Connor sliding offstage periodically to let the band throw down some heavy, heavy grooves to the delight of the supportive, 2,200-strong crowd.  There were a few confused patrons who hadn't gotten O'Connor's pre-tour memo about this not being a greatest-hits romp. But while it would admittedly have been cool to hear dubbed-out re-versions of promising candidates like "Fire on Babylon" or "Troy," the general consensus was mass audience enrapturement for the entire, two-hour duration of the show. Most appeared comfortable to accept her recent assertions that "I need to be doing this."  You really didn't need to hear "Nothing Compares 2 U" again, anyway, with O'Connor delicately tackling the ballads "Rivers of Babylon," Perry's ageless "Curly Locks" and the sweetly earnest "Jah Is My Keeper" — a tune O'Connor says she wants her three kids to play at her funeral — with all the cut-to-the-bone emotion one might pray she would bring to them. God, can that woman sing. And in these instances, she really did make these songs hers.  The message of unity presented by two outwardly antithetical peoples from downtrodden island nations joining harmoniously in shared love of music and peaceful ideals wasn't lost, either. If two historical "have not" nations can find such sweet harmony in the planet's gifts, what the hell is wrong with the "haves" who are squabbling us all down the toilet. One of the shows of the year.

Rock, Shock, Reggae

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Robert Everett-Green

(Dec. 3, 2005) The little girl stands in her white dress and veil, her huge, dark eyes peering at the camera. The tips of her thumbs are pressed together over her breastbone, and her splayed fingers held together likewise, as if to symbolize a starburst of faith on the day of Sinead O'Connor's First Communion. "They asked me to hold my hands all holy moly, and I couldn't do that," she says, some 32 years later, on a phone line across the Atlantic. "It was only after I'd been to Jamaica that I discovered that what I'd done with my hands in that photograph is a Rasta symbol of the Holy Trinity," adds O'Connor, who will perform this evening at Toronto's Kool Haus nighclub. O'Connor's life has gone through many twists and turns since that day, including a recent three-year retirement from music, but she sees a straight line running from the girl pictured on the cover of her new album, Throw Down Your Arms, to the collection of reggae classics inside. Even at the age of seven, she says, O'Connor was looking for the God that she found much later in the music of Rastafari. "I understood prior to age seven that God needed to be freed from religion," she says. Her earliest understanding was that God was a bird (as represented in so many paintings of the Virgin Mary), and that He had been ritually trapped in the tabernacle. "I thought, all right, I'm going to rescue the bird from the tabernacle. I made a very conscious decision to serve the Holy Spirit." Music came into it at an equally early stage. She remembers, at the age of four, listening to the sound of her own footsteps on the pavement, and hearing in that rhythm something of the divine.

"I kind of understood that music was God, if you like. That it's a little connection, a telephone to God. . . . I hadn't wanted to be a pop star. I wanted to write prophecy, about saints and everything. I'm kind of obsessed with religion and theology. . . . I believe that God is underemployed, and extremely lonely." Pop star and prophet collided very publicly one night in 1992, when O'Connor went on Saturday Night Live and ripped up a photo of the man she blamed most for keeping God lonely: Pope John Paul II. She had just finished performing War, a reggae anthem about how the faithful will fight for as long as there is discrimination and injustice. The song comes at the end of Throw Down Your Arms, after numbers by Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Lee (Scratch) Perry, and other reggae heroes.  They're not party tunes, O'Connor says, but religious music put together as in a service of worship. "It's not a reggae record, it's a hard-core Rasta record," she says. "I was approaching these songs as scriptures, and honouring the priesthood of these artists. They're creating this space in their music where God can exist outside of religion, and I want to pass on their teachings and example. . . . In some ways, the album is a book of teachings, or a mass. I ran the songs in sequence the way I would celebrate a mass." The album traces a rough narrative and emotional arc, starting with Jah Nuh Dead, a Rasta paraphrase of O'Connor's own refusal to accept that what she saw as the moribund deity of Catholicism was the true God. After that come several songs (including Marcus Garvey and He Prayed) that refashion the experience of God as a way of Rasta living, culminating in two numbers of strong prophetic character: the title song, and Downpressor Man. Along the way, in a breathy performance of Curly Locks, O'Connor glances in the direction of the Song of Songs, which, with the books of the prophets, is her favourite section of the Old Testament. You don't mess with scriptures, which is why O'Connor chose not to come up with her own arrangements of these songs, but to replicate as far as possible those of the original recordings. The only thing different is her voice, still strong and distinctive, and more female and Irish than that of any previous reggae singer. She went to Jamaica's Tuff Gong Studio to do the recordings, with a posse of Jamaican musicians that included several veterans of the sessions that put the songs into circulation in the first place. For her current tour, which reaches Kool Haus in Toronto today, she's travelling with two of those musicians, Sly and Robbie (the Riddim Twins), whose drums and bass have been heard on innumerable reggae and dancehall tracks, and on albums by the Rolling Stones, Serge Gainsbourg and Grace Jones.

"There was certainly a lot of affectionate amusement" at the recording sessions, O'Connor says, "that this little Irish woman was coming in to sing these heavy Rasta songs. Usually the women just sing the love songs." In this case, the woman also put up about $1-million (U.S.) of her own money to make the project go. But she insists that this recording is in no way a continuation of the career she declared dead and buried in 2002. "I completely dissociate myself from anything to do with Sinead O'Connor as I used to be," she says. "This is the first album in a career in religious music. I hesitate to say that, because the perception of what that means is so gacky. I have at least created a new arena for myself, within myself, because the old arena was killing me." Next to come is an album called Theology, based on scriptures from the Old Testament, with Irish guitarist Steve Cooney. After that she may do a recording of Sufi music, or gospel, or any of the other types of spiritual music that now seem like almost the only things worth recording. She also wants to make "a silly record for babies." During the three years of her retirement, O'Connor hardly sang at all, even in the bath. She lived the life of a well-to-do single mother of three children, the youngest of whom is an 18-month-old daughter. (The eldest is an 18-year-old son, with a beard and a six-foot-tall girlfriend.) Halfway through her sabbatical (as it turned out to be), O'Connor presented herself at the gates of Glenstal Abbey, a Benedictine monastery on Ireland's southwest coast and asked if she could sing in the choir. She seems unable to leave all the institutions of orthodox Catholicism behind, even though she was ordained six years ago as a priest in the Latin Tridentine Church, a breakaway Catholic organization that has been condemned by the Vatican. "They very quickly inveigled me into singing with them for a recording," she says of the brothers at the Abbey. "And I got a kick out of standing there, a pregnant woman and a priest, singing Gregorian chant." Holy moly. Whatever she's singing, as pop outcast or rebel priest, O'Connor's sense of mischief remains as sturdy as her faith.


Reggaetón 'Pitbulls' Ready To Strike

Excerpt from - Katy Kroll

(Nov. 30, 2005) For the past five years, reggaetón duo
Alexis Y Fido have focused on building a loyal following in their native Puerto Rico and select U.S. cities. While they have recorded numerous songs for various compilations and mix tapes, but "The Pitbulls" is their first full-length album.   It's one that fans have been anxiously awaiting. In fact, last week, "The Pitbulls" debuted on not one but three Billboard charts: Top Heatseekers (No. 2), Latin Rhythm Albums (No. 2) and Top Latin Albums (No. 4).   Between promotional gigs, the duo, whose first language is Spanish, spoke to about what contributed to the success of the album.  Although both rappers have been entrenched in Puerto Rico's reggaetón scene since their early teens, Raul "Alexis" Ortiz and Joel "Fido" Martinez didn't join forces until the 2001 compilation "Desafio."  "The album had [room for] 24 tracks and they already recorded 23, so there was one spot free," says Fido. "I couldn't have my own song, and neither could Alexis, so the producer [asked] if we could do a song together. We did, and it was a hit in Puerto Rico, and that's how Alexis Y Fido was created."  Since then the duo has built a fan base with songs for such compilations as "Hector El Bambino Presenta Los Anormales" and Luny Tunes' "Mas Flow 2," among many others.   Their signature "barking" helped set them apart from the other artists and earned them the nickname "Los Pitbulls."

"I always do that on all the songs and at all shows," says Alexis. "Every time I bark you got to be careful, though, 'cause Fido is ready to bite."  "We worked hard on the compilations to impress the fans," adds Fido. "We didn't have promotion, our songs were just played on [Latin] radio stations in South America, Central America, Europe and the United States. So everybody was waiting for the album."  In the Latin music community, this tactical approach is one that's often used to make a name for reggaetón artists.   "Reggaetón is different from all the other [Latin] genres -– like meringue, pop and salsa -– because you have to work the streets. That's how we did this. We created the interest for the album on the streets; people got to know us before we prepared an album."  Although many hip-hop artists are known for their sexist lyrics, Alexis Y Fido pride themselves on embracing their female fans. That's why "90% of our fans are women," says Alexis.   "What happens in the streets we put in the songs very, very carefully," he notes. "We don't want to offend nobody. You're never gonna hear Alexis Y Fido talking about 'Yo, move that fat ass, bitch' or whatever."  With that unique mix of street sensibility and social awareness, the pair formed friendships with artists like Daddy Yankee, Don Omar and Wisin Y Yandel. In fact, Fido produced several tracks on Yankee's hit album "Barrio Fino."  Although contractual obligations kept Yankee and Omar from appearing on "The Pitbulls," Alexis Y Fido were able to work with Noriega, Luny Tunes, Hector "El Bambino" and Terror Squad's Tony Sunshine, among others.   On the next album the duo would like to work with a mix of Latin and American artists such as Ivy Queen and Ludacris. Alexis adds, "I would like to [record] something in English for the United States to prove myself. I have never done that before."


50: He's across the border!

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Alexandra Gill


(Dec. 5, 2005) Curtis (50 Cent) Jackson probably wouldn't have died trying to get into Canada, but he likely got a little bit richer thanks to all the controversy surrounding his Vancouver show on Saturday, the first of a national tour that arrives in Toronto on Dec. 20. Two weeks ago, Liberal MP Dan McTeague spearheaded a campaign to keep him out of Canada, asking Immigration Minister Joe Volpe to deny the gangsta rapper and former crack dealer a permit he needed to cross the border. The last time 50 Cent -- also known as Fiddy -- performed in Toronto, in 2003, 24-year-old Msemaji Granger was shot dead as the audience was leaving. More recently, another man was murdered after a Pittsburgh screening of his semi-autobiographical film, Get Rich or Die Tryin'. The rapper's new album, The Massacre, was released to a hail of gunfire outside New York hip-hop radio station Hot 97. The album went on to sell more than one million copies in four days. So is 50 Cent a thug, a showman or simply a lucky recipient of hype?


Other than the odd joint in the stands, there wasn't much for the authorities to worry about during the headliner's 70-minute gig. The audience, on the other hand, should have been peeved. With his pared-down posse, a hoarse voice, a DJ who was so clueless he played the same backing track twice, no semblance of real stagecraft and lyrics that were almost incomprehensible, Fiddy put on a soulless show that would have bored all but his most ardent fans to tears. The only time Fifty truly engaged the audience was when he asked his cameramen to zoom in a few busty females on the floor. "Now ya'll understand why I forgot the words to the song," he laughed.


If it weren't for all the controversy, 50 Cent would never have become one of the world's top-selling hip hop artists. The most interesting part of the concert was a video trailer for his new movie and a newsreel of anchors and reporters faithfully hyping his record sales, clothing line, video game, etc. Marketing genius? Guilty as charged.


All She Is Saying Is Give Peace A Chance

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(Dec. 7, 2005) Few contemporary American songwriters convey in their work the kind of fiery political conviction Dar Williams does.  Even when she's not performing, compelling issues of the times — the Iraq war, White House duplicity, globalization and fair trade — bubble to the surface of her discourse. She's troubled.  "I feel as if we're at the bottom of a deep breath, waiting for the next inhale," Williams says from her home in upstate New York, a few days before setting out on a trip to Canada that will bring her tonight to the Church of the Redeemer, where she's performing a rare solo concert.  Having just finished a short tour of her homeland to promote her latest CD, the well reviewed My Better Self, Williams is uncomfortable with what she has seen and can't wait to get to Canada, which she values, she says, "for your elevated dialogue and the participatory spirit I see there in art and culture, politics and municipal activity.''  "I retreated to Montreal for a while before I recorded The Green World album (which came out in 2000), and spent a lot of time driving around the country, to Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, listening to the CBC and Canadian talk radio.  "They were places that had mojo for me," she said. "There are only three cities in the U.S. where I feel the same magic. It's so different in America."  Her own country is in a bad mood, she says.  "In a few of the cities we played, no amount of rabble-rousing could get people out of their homes. It's too important a time not to get out and look around. We can't afford to drown our sorrows in the big box life. Now, more than ever, it's time to get political about how you spend your time and money.  "There's a criminal government in Washington and the pendulum has swung as far right as it should go. It's time for another big breath."  That breath may come from a new breed of socially motivated songwriters and thinkers — Ani DiFranco, Bruce Cockburn, Carrie Newcomer — who eschew both the flagged politics of the traditional Left and Right, and the "authority sucks" sophistry that was pervasive in the 1960s, and which she calls "hackneyed, imitation political posturing fostered by a record industry that courted disdain for profit.''

"It's so easy to mock, not so easy these days to even identify the causes that are worth fighting for. You have to pick your political battles carefully. Political songwriting now is very pointed. You have to choose specific issues that point to a better understanding of how to improve the general condition."  And just talking the talk won't cut it, she says.  "Music has a safety net. Some of it would slip right through the cracks if it didn't remind us that we shouldn't be killing one another.  "Political songs might not make it onto commercial radio, but they survive on satellite radio, Internet radio and independent networks like Air America.  "Even so, audiences need proof of your conviction. I talk and write about fair trade, and I support it in my wardrobe by wearing clothes made in collectives, not in sweat shops.  "Trade issues in these times are the life and death of democracy."  As troubled as she is about the state of her nation, Williams is content with her life in the Hudson Valley, with her husband and young son.  "You can despair or you can get on with your life. I enjoy my home, my friends, my family, my garden, the food we make, our conversation.  "I'm not sure the world is getting any better with cable and the Internet, with blogs and other kinds of hypnotizing technology.  "People need to get out and talk to each other, join the street-level intelligentsia. That's where the real dialogue is happening."


Lauper A Girl Of Playful Surprises

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vit Wagner, Toronto Star

(Dec. 7, 2005) Going in, there's a lot you can expect from a Cyndi Lauper concert.  You know, for instance, that the enduring '80s pop diva with the Brooklyn accent is probably going to close her set with "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," her most famous — although by no means only — hit.  You also know that she will find a way of working in other fan favourites "True Colors" and "She Bop," even if the arrangements have been altered in a way that freshens the familiarity.  It's the stuff you don't know that makes it interesting.  Who could have guessed that during last night's appearance at Massey Hall, Lauper would have sung "Money Changes Everything" while riding up and down the aisle on the back of one of the audience members?  Even more surprising, perhaps, who would have anticipated the headliner hauling out her two opening acts, singer/songwriter Jill Sobule and comedian Sandra Bernhard, to launch the encore with an acoustic rendition of David Bowie's "All the Young Dudes"? The notion that this was in any sense rehearsed was dispelled by Bernhard's dubious grasp of the words, even with a printed sheet of lyrics in her hands.  Just having Sobule and Bernhard along for the ride seemed daring enough.  Sobule, best known for her 1995 single "I Kissed a Girl," opened the show with a brisk but peppery set, culled largely from last year's Underdog Victorious. By the end, she must have had a lot of people wondering why they hadn't heard much from her lately — the singer had a few theories on that herself, most of which related in one way or another to her refusal to soften the expletives.

Bernhard is not in the habit of talking pretty either. With Lauper's five-piece band behind her, she opened with a send-up/homage to Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You," before segueing into a stand-up routine that included a hilarious impersonation of Laura Bush.  When an audience member shouted out a question about Howard Stern, Bernhard confirmed she and the popular radio host are still friends even though "he revealed that I had sex with Jay Leno, so I'll never be on (The Tonight Show) again. Can you think of a worse way of being outed?"  Lauper, touring in support of The Body Acoustic, a new disc that features low-key arrangements of her repertoire, took it from there with a mostly energetic romp through her catalogue. Before she was halfway through the second number, "I Drove All Night," she was lying on her back staring out at the audience with her head hung upside down over the apron of the stage.  And then things got strange.


Fun Science Turns 30

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Tabassum Siddiqui, Entertainment Reporter

(Dec. 7, 2005) What's the key to making sure your show stays on the air a long time? Animal sex and black holes, apparently. At least that's the immediate response Bob McDonald, the host of CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks, comes up with when asked to account for his program's longevity.  The popular science program, which airs Saturdays after the noon news on CBC Radio One, celebrates its 30th anniversary tonight with a special live taping at the CBC's Glenn Gould Studio. Known for its easygoing, often amusing approach to covering even the most complicated topics, from the beginning Quirks has operated on a premise that television is only now catching up to: there's nothing like reality.  "The world is far more complex than we'll ever know — it's an endlessly fascinating journey of discovery," McDonald says. "It's amazing to constantly be riding that wave of, `I didn't know that!'"  McDonald, who followed legendary environmentalist David Suzuki and science broadcaster Jay Ingram into the Quirks host's chair, began his career at the Ontario Science Centre in 1973 and hosted kids' science TV show Wonderstruck before landing the Quirks gig.  "So when it came time to put on the Quirks hat, I had some of that background already, in terms of having learned how to make science fun and interesting," McDonald says.  Those grimacing at the recollection of deadly dull high school chemistry labs or by-the-book dissections in biology class might be forgiven for wondering how on earth science can be entertaining. But if there's a reason why Quirks remains one of CBC Radio's most popular shows (with over half a million listeners each week on the standard radio dial, not counting others via shortwave, the Internet, podcasting and, now, satellite radio), it's because the show manages to open ears to the wonders of the amazing world we live in.

"The wonderful thing about science is that you'll never run out of ideas. Ideas are always entertaining, and the beauty of radio is that the listener is creating the images in their head," explains Suzuki, who was handpicked to host the fledgling show in 1975 by Quirks creator Diana Filer after she heard him speak at U of T.  Suzuki has fond memories of Quirks' formative years, recalling its disastrous first broadcast — the tape was sped up so that he and his guests "sounded like chipmunks" — and an April Fool's joke played on him: "There was this producer posing as a professor claiming that there had been eyewitness reports of prehistoric sharks seen in the ocean. He was going to use these dead cows to try to lure them out. And I totally bought into it, asking him all these questions. It was very, very funny, he totally suckered me in," Suzuki says.  When Suzuki departed in 1979 to focus on his TV show The Nature of Things, he "gave up the warmth and immediacy of radio with great regret." On the other hand, Ingram, who landed at Quirks after freelancing science pieces to CBC Radio's Morningside, later moved on to TV (he's currently the host of Daily Planet on the Discovery Channel) in 1992 because he was ready for a new challenge.  "I felt like I'd done it all — every conceivable interview in every conceivable setting," Ingram says. "But science and technology is always changing. It's not the evolving format that's kept (the show) popular, it's the content."  Ingram notes that Quirks, which has won over 40 national and international awards for science journalism, has garnered a loyal audience by explaining even the most abstract concepts in a way everyone can understand. He also points out it's one of few broadcasts in North America solely dedicated to science. Interestingly, that very short list includes Ingram's Daily Planet (going on 13 years now) and Suzuki's The Nature of Things (the granddaddy of science shows at 45 years).  Ingram and Suzuki's hectic schedules will keep them from being at the Glenn Gould Studio tonight, but they've already offered up their thoughts on tape for the anniversary show. Tonight's recording (an edited version will air Saturday) before a sold-out live audience will feature noted U of T scientists discussing the most dramatic developments since 1975 in five key areas of science: cosmology, genetics, paleontology, technology and the environment. Nobel Prize winner John Polanyi will be on hand, along with a live band led by the composer of the catchy Quirks theme song.  "There's never been a time in human history when science has been so ingrained in our lives. From technology like iPods and the Internet to genetic advancements in food and medicine, when we learn about science, we are finding out about our own society." McDonald says.  "Plus, people are always interested in the really bizarre stuff."



Alicia Keys, Bono sing to help kids with AIDS

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Dec. 1, 2005) NEW YORK (AP) — Alicia Keys and Bono are hoping to save the lives of children through song.  The two superstars have collaborated on Don't Give Up (Africa), and will donate all proceeds to Keep a Child Alive, which provides medicine to families infected with AIDS and the HIV virus.  The song will be available exclusively on ITunes starting Tuesday. The pair first sang the tune at a Nov. 3 fundraiser in New York City for the charity (Keys performed onstage while Bono crooned via satellite from a remote location).  "I love this song. And I love Bono. I really respect what he has done for Africa and how he has used his fame to do good in the world. I hope I can do half as much in my life," Keys, a global ambassador for the charity, said in a statement Wednesday.  "I believe AIDS is the most important issue we face, because how we treat the poor is a reflection of who we are as a people. I urge everyone to recognize the extreme disaster Africa is facing and step up for the motherland."  Don't Give Up was originally performed by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush in 1986, and was titled So

Saskatoon To Host Juno Awards In 2007

Source: Canadian Press

(Dec. 1, 2005) Saskatoon — The Paris of the Prairies will play host to the 2007 Juno Awards. "The City of Saskatoon is extremely excited to be hosting Canada's top musical talent," Saskatoon Mayor Donald Atchison said in a statement. "I can guarantee that the passion, enthusiasm, and hospitality of the citizens of Saskatoon will make The 2007 Juno Awards the best ever." The festivities will take place over three days, ending with the big award ceremony on April 1. The awards have been travelling the country since 2002. They've been held in St. John's, N.L., Ottawa, Edmonton and most recently in Winnipeg. Halifax will hold the Junos in April.

Howard Shore To Be Honoured In New York

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Dec. 7, 2005) New York -- Canadian composer Howard Shore will join Mariah Carey, Jay-Z and Yoko Ono today to receive an award celebrating his impact on the New York creative community. All four will be honoured at a formal dinner hosted by the New York chapter of the Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammy Awards. Toronto-born Shore has scored more than 60 films. He is currently working on an opera version of David Cronenberg's horror film The Fly for a 2007 premiere by Los Angeles Opera. AP

Lavigne, Black Eyed Peas cover Lennon for Amnesty

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Dec. 3, 2005) London -- Artists including the Cure, Avril Lavigne and the Black Eyed Peas are to cover songs by John Lennon as part of a fundraiser for human-rights group Amnesty International. Amnesty said Thursday that the first four tracks would be released Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day. They include the Black Eyed Peas' version of Power to the People, The Cure's take on Love and Grow Old With Me by the Postal Service. More songs, including one by Canadian rocker Lavigne, are due for release in the new year as part of Amnesty's Make Some Noise campaign. A compilation album also will be released next year. The former Beatle was shot dead by Mark Chapman outside his New York apartment building on Dec. 8, 1980. His widow, Yoko Ono, donated the rights to his solo songbook to Amnesty in 2003. The tracks will be available as downloads from noise for 99 cents (U.S.) each. AP

Mariah, Kanye, Yolanda Win XM Awards

Excerpt from

(Dec. 6, 2005)  *XM Satellite Radio announced Mariah Carey, Kanye West, Yolanda Adams and B.B. King among the winners of the first annual XM Nation Music Awards. Nearly 1.4 million votes were cast by music fans nationwide for nominated artists and categories selected by XM's programming staff in categories ranging from "Best Pop Sing-Along" to "Dream Duet" to "Artist Most Overlooked By FM Radio." Some of the winners include:

• "XM Next" – (Most Important Indie Emerging Artist)   M.I.A.
• "On the Rebound" – (Best Comeback of the Year)   Mariah Carey
• "The Single Life Is Good" --  (Best Solo Career)   Gwen Stefani
• "Dream Duet" – (Artist Collaborations We'd Like to See)   Shakira and Usher
• "Turn Up the Heat" – (Sexiest Song)    Pussycat Dolls (feat. Busta Rhymes)/ Don't Cha
• Best New Urban Artist: John Legend
• Urban Artist of the Year: Kanye West
• Blues Artist of the Year: B.B. King
• Best New Gospel Artist: Kiki Sheard
• Gospel Artist of the Year: Yolanda Adams
• Best New Reggae Artist: Jah Cure
• Reggae Artist of the Year: Damian Marley

The Master Is Back

Source: Marika Cooper, Echoing Soundz, Inc,,

(Dec. 6, 2005) LOS ANGELES, CA  - Legendary rapper Master P who built a New Orleans-based Hip-Hop empire in the mid-90’s encompassing platinum solo albums, movies, clothing and real estate is back to reclaim his legacy, this time with a new album Livin’ Legend in stores now and his new record label Gutter Music which already has several albums on its’ roster – and that is just the beginning. “There ain’t no other independent company on the streets more real than Gutter music. We are about that paper. We are about making it happen; Gutter Entertainment/Gutter Music,” says Master P.  Like his notorious success with No Limit discs – focusing on gangsta rap and the streets, Master P’s vision behind Gutter Music is to keep the label focused on the streets – “Keeping it Gutter” and making “Cookie Money.” “Cookie Money is when you double flip or triple stack your paper, you know when you take a negative and turn it into a positive, turning nothing into something,” says Master P. Busy with several projects which include the 504 Boyz (members Master P, Silkk Tha Shocker, Rowdy Playa, and Hallelujah) album also in stores now. The proceeds from the album sales go to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. Additionally, with the release of the Rich Boyz album, 10% of the proceeds will also go to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.  Although Master P has a lot on the table right now, he did take a hiatus of sorts to recharge and restructure. “We taken things to another level in the game. We going from records to making movies so be on the lookout for “Get Money” and “Repo” starring Michael Blackson and Katt Williams,” says Master P. The end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006 will clearly mark yet another big business year for Master P, once again!




Tuesday, December 5, 2005

5th Ward Boyz, Gangsta Funk [Chopped & Screwed], Asylum/Rap-A-Lot
Bettye LaVette, I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, DBK Works
Bob Marley, Man to Man, Jad
Chuck Jackson, Dedicated to the King!!/On Tour, Ace
David Banner, Touching/On Everything, Universal
Don Omar, Da Hit Man Presents Reggaeton Latino, Machete Music
Eminem, Curtain Call: The Hits, Aftermath
Funkmaster Flex, Funkmaster Flex Car Show Tour, KR Urban
Heather Headley, In My Mind, RCA
, I Am Not My Hair, Motown
Lil' Flip, I Need Mine, Sony
Lil Wayne, Tha Carter, Vol. 2, Cash Money
Mary J. Blige, Reminisce, Geffen
OutKast, * Idlewild, La Face
Slim Thug, Already Platinum: Chopped and Screwed, Geffen
Snoop Dogg, Welcome to the Church: The Album, Koch
Talib Kweli, Right About Now: The Official Sucka Free CD, Koch
The Duprees, You Belong to Me [Collectables], Collectables
The Notorious B.I.G., Duets, Bad Boy
Various Artists, Body and Soul: Down Home Soul, Time Life
Various Artists, Holding the Losing Hand: Hotlanta Soul, Vol. 3, Kent
Various Artists, 32 Super Latino Hip Hop and Reggaeton Hits, Universal Latino
Various Artists, Mega Reggaeton Remixes, Machete Music
Various Artists, Reggaeton Classics Collection, Machete Music


Tuesday, December 12, 2005

Anthony Hamilton, Ain't Nobody Worryin', So So Def Records
Ashanti, Collectables by Ashanti, Def Jam
AVANT Director (Geffen)
Chamillionaire, Ridin'/Southern Takeover, Universal
Cypress Hill, Greatest Hits from the Bong, Sony
Disturbing tha Peace, Ludacris Presents Disturbing tha Peace, Def Jam
Donell Jones, Better Start Talking [Single], La Face
Exile, Smoke and Mirrors, Sound in Color
Ike & Tina Turner, Live, Eagle Vision USA
Ja Rule, * Exodus, Def Jam
Jae-P, Juntos... Con Sus Exitos, Univision
Jaheim, Ghetto Classics, Warner Bros.
Lance Ellington, Lesson in Love, Dutton Vocalion
Lyfe Jennings, Lyfe 268-192 [CD & DVD], Sony
Mariah Carey, Don't Forget About Us, Def Jam
Marvin Gaye, Behind the Legend [Video/DVD], Eagle Vision USA
PHARRELL WILLIAMS In My Mind (Interscope)
R. Kelly, Slow Wind Remix [Single], Jive
Remy Ma, Conceited: There's Something About Remy, Universal
Rhymefest, * Blue Collar, J Records LLC
Soul G, Roundtrip 2 Tokyo, Mole Listening Pearl
The Notorious B.I.G., Nasty Girl [Single], Bad Boy
Trick Trick, The People Vs., Motown
Various Artists, Eddie Dee: 12 Discipulos, Machete Music
Various Artists, Hip Hop Uncensored, Vol. 6: Ready to Sign,
Various Artists, Maxx Mixes: Hip Hop y Reggaeton, Fonovisa
Various Artists, Oldies Forever, Thump
 Various Artists, Rawkus Records: Classic Cuts, Geffen
Various Artists, Reggaeton Nitido, Universal Latino
Various Artists, Reggaetonhits 2006, Sony International
Various Artists, Scream Tour IV Heartthrobs Live, Sony
Various Artists, Spliff TV, Vol. 1: Reggaeton Invasion
Various Artists, The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 1, Rhino/WEA
Young Buck, T.I.P. [Chopped and Screwed], John Galt Ent.
YoungBloodZ, Ev'rybody Know Me, La Face



Lavigne To Shoot Movie With Gere

By Karen Bliss -- For JAM! Music

(Nov. 29, 2005) Avril Lavigne will be in New Mexico at the end of the week to begin shooting a small role for her first foray into the acting world, a crime drama called "The Flock," starring Richard Gere and Claire Danes.  "I want to do this for a bit of a change," says Lavigne, now 21. "I want to start off small, see how I like it and make sure I'm comfortable."  She hasn't got an acting coach. "I'm just reading the script and acting out how I think it should be," she says.  In the independent film, Gere plays a federal agent investigating a paroled sex offender's connection to a missing girl. Lavigne will appear in scenes with the award-winning actor, who interestingly is also an accomplished pianist and composer.  "(Richard) plays a cop who is going to go interview this guy who is my boyfriend and he's asking me some questions about him," says the Napanee, ON native of her part.  The pretty blonde is also getting a makeover for the character. "I have a chipped tooth and glasses and all that stuff, so I had to get a mold of my mouth so they could fit a (fake) chipped tooth," she laughs.  Lavigne will still be recognizable in "The Flock," however, there's another role in which she won't -- unless you listen carefully.  Prior to the upcoming shoot, the multi-platinum-selling singer eased into the film world with a voiceover in the animated feature "Over The Hedge," due out May 19. In this Dreamworks adventure about some forest creatures, Lavigne plays Heather, a possum.

"William Shatner plays my dad in it and Bruce Willis and Gary Shandling are in it, so it's a cool cast," she says. "These animals are hibernating and they wake up and there's a hedge and we dare to cross it. We get over it and see the real world and it's really scary for us (laughs).  "My part's pretty small so it was easy enough, but it was my first ever film," she says. "It was easier because it was just voiceover so I didn't have to be on camera and it was fun. It's my voice and I'm just supposed to be young and my dad (Willis, as Ozzie, the senior possum) embarrasses me a lot."  Lavigne has already seen the finished product and says it was "cool" and "weird" to hear her voice coming out of the cartoon critter.  And she has started working on a film by director Richard Linklater ("School Of Rock," "Before Sunrise," "Dazed & Confused"), the details of which she can't yet discuss, and will also begin work on her third album. "I have songs. I'm probably going to go record some before Christmas, but next year is when I'm really going to start it."  Meanwhile, she has recorded a faithful rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine" for an Amnesty International campaign. "I just did a mellow version with piano," Lavigne says. "I just asked Chantal (Kreviazuk) to come play piano because I needed someone to play piano it and she's really good and I had Butch (Walker) produce it."


Disillusioned Carrey: Hell, No, He Won't Vote

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Dec. 3, 2005) NEW YORK—Comic actor
Jim Carrey, one of Canada's best-known cultural exports, is planning to return to Toronto to celebrate Christmas with his family and friends.  But he has no intention of voting in our Yuletide election — not even an advance or absentee ballot — because he doesn't think it's worth the trouble.  "I don't know enough about it," he told the Toronto Star yesterday.  "I'm not spending enough time there to know what's going on — and I wonder what the vote even means, anyway."  For once, the kidder isn't kidding. The man behind such comedy inventions as Ace Ventura and Bruce Almighty is taking a broader view of the world, and he doesn't like what he sees.  His disillusionment with the electoral process extends to both sides of the border.  Carrey, who turns 45 next month, recently became an American citizen, although he also retained his Canuck status. He voted in the 2004 presidential election — he proudly states he didn't check the box marked for George W. Bush — but he's not sure if that mattered, either.  "I really get the feeling sometimes, especially in this country — and it could be true for Canada, too — that the two parties get together in a secret room somewhere and they go, `They think there's a contest!'  "And it's all just being controlled by corporations, anyway. But they have us go out there and run through the paces just to make us believe that we have a choice. And sometimes I really think that we don't."  Carrey has been thinking this way a lot recently. His new movie, Fun With Dick and Jane, a remake of a 1976 film of the same name, is a satire about two Americans who suddenly find themselves impoverished thanks to the machinations of an evil corporation.  The film opens in theatres Dec. 23, and Carrey co-stars with Téa Leoni as Dick and Jane Harper, in the title roles that were originally portrayed by George Segal and Jane Fonda. The humour comes from their bungled attempts to become thieves to maintain their lavish lifestyle.

But Carrey finds nothing funny in how close the film is to real life. Dick is vexed by a corporation that bears similarities to the U.S. company Enron, which robbed many workers and pensioners of their life savings when the corporate masters scammed their way to bankruptcy in 2000.  "Of course it worries me," he said yesterday, sipping a cup of herbal tea to ease a scratchy throat.  "When I see these giant corporations sucking up every aspect of media and everything else, I realize you can't say anything to them, because they own the toilet paper you wipe your ass with. It's a very strange feeling, you know?"  The world's boundaries are rapidly vanishing as corporate globalization advances. That's one of the reasons why Carrey had no problem becoming an American citizen — although he realizes many Canadians view him as unpatriotic for having done so.  "It always hurts Canadians' feelings, but they've got to understand that we are world citizens," said the Newmarket-born Carrey, who lives full-time in Los Angeles, close to 18-year-old daughter Melissa.  "We are world citizens. Those borders were made up by people who want to friggin' keep us in somewhere. `Canadian' isn't defined by that. I will always be a Canadian, no matter what.  "I will die a Canadian. That will never leave me. And I have a dual citizenship. But I have to recognize a country (the U.S.) that has been so good to me. And a country in which I am raising my daughter. And a country in which I want to have a vote — not that it's done me any good so far."  It's not all serious for Carrey. He's pleased with Fun with Dick and Jane, and he seems more relaxed and confident than he's been in a good while, something he attributes to healthy living and strong spiritual pursuits.  He's become fascinated lately with the number 23, and how often it pops up in measurements — like the number of chromosomes in the human body, and the axis of the Earth.  He's about to make a movie on the subject, a thriller appropriately called The Number 23.  For his interview with the Star, he wore a T-shirt with the message "Buddha On The Inside" emblazoned on the front, topped with a business blazer. As one of the best-paid actors in Hollywood — he and Mike Myers are the sole Canucks in the $25 million-per-picture club — he knows he's had more than his fair share of success.  "It's hard to believe when you look at the details of it. God! How did this happen?" he said, shaking his head and smiling.  "I honestly feel blessed beyond belief."


His Geisha Coming To Life

Excerpt from
The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(Dec. 1, 2005) Get ready for a geisha craze when the movie Memoirs of a Geisha opens next Friday.  The man who started it all is Arthur Golden. It took him nine years to write the novel of the same name. Soon after it came out in 1997, Columbia Pictures bought the movie rights. Rob Marshall, the director of Oscar-winning Chicago, has made what Golden believes is a fine cinematic adaptation of his book.  The new Vintage paperback edition bears the geisha painting from the movie poster. Golden, an attractive man and proper Bostonian, thinks it's lovely.  He's sitting by the fire in the Toronto home of Martha Butterfield, who will introduce him tonight at the (sold-out) World Literacy of Canada benefit screening of the film. He has also taken part in the film's promotion, hanging out with stars Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Ken Watanabe at the Waldorf Towers Hotel in New York.  "They left a box of chocolates in my room with a note saying, `Thank you for bringing geisha back to the Waldorf Towers.'" Golden had a room on the 32nd floor, the same floor where his fictional geisha Sayuri resided after leaving Japan.  Sayuri, born with the name Chuyio in a little fishing village in pre-war Japan, is sold to a geisha house and grows up during the 1920s and '30s in an okiya, a geisha residence. She trains for a geisha's life and, with her unusual blue-grey eyes, develops into a leading figure in Kyoto's geisha district of Gion. And she harbours a secret love for one man, a Japanese businessman she calls the Chairman.  Lots of people will have a basis for judging the screen adaptation. Memoirs of a Geisha has sold more than 4 million copies in North America and has also come out in Japanese, Chinese and other languages.

It is Golden's first novel. He doesn't have any Japanese ancestors. Born in 1956 in Chattanooga, Tenn., he attended Harvard College, where he studied the Japanese language and culture. In 1980, he earned a graduate degree in Japanese history from Columbia. Golden also spent a year in Tokyo working for a Japanese company. Had he imagined becoming a novelist? "I wouldn't have believed it at all if somebody had told me," he says.  In his late 20s, Golden got this idea for a novel. "It took me a little while to realize I had no idea what I was doing. I was writing and writing and writing, and nothing was happening."  A scholar at heart, he then applied himself to learning fictional technique. "I was fascinated. That's what really focused me."  Perfectionism still slowed him down. He had written 800 pages of Memoirs when a Japanese friend of his grandmother's offered to introduce him to a geisha named Mineko. She had retired and lived in Kyoto.  "What I heard from her was the kind of information I couldn't get my hands on. How do you get your hair done? How long does it take? What time do you wake up? All of that stuff — those were the things that I had got drastically wrong."  Golden chucked his manuscript and started again. Then, after a tepid response to his manuscript from agents, he rewrote Memoirs again.  He figured he needed to change it to a first-person narrative, and go back before World War II to include his geisha's childhood.

"I had been afraid to intimately impersonate a woman," Golden recalls.  Then he figured out how to do it.  "If you ask yourself a question as a man, like, how does a woman feel when she wakes up in the morning, that's a meaningless question. What woman? What morning? Your task as a writer is to always imagine specific people with specific problems at specific moments."  Golden, married and the father of two children in university, feels it will not take quite so long to deliver his second novel to the publisher.  It has only been five years since he began a new narrative, set in the late 19th century and concerning a Dutch immigrant who becomes a successful American businessman.


Bringing Out The Boy In Him

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Linda Barnard, Movies Editor

(Dec. 5, 2005) When he was 8 years old, Andrew Adamson discovered C.S. Lewis's Narnia series, losing himself in the fantasy world of talking animals, mythic creatures, epic battles and high adventure.  "The main way they affected me was they spoke to my imagination," recalls Adamson, the director of Shrek and Shrek 2, who used his childhood love for the books as the foundation for his screen adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Adamson directed and co-wrote the screenplay for the movie, which opens Friday.  Speaking from his L.A. office last week after flying in from his native New Zealand (and celebrating his 39th birthday twice with cake on the trip, thanks to crossing the International Date Line), Adamson recalled how he read all seven books in the series over and over again.  So when he started work on Narnia, his first live-action film, he wanted to recreate the wonder he felt as a boy.  "I remember I got to those last pages (in the book) very reluctantly. I was trying to recapture that memory," he says, adding he wanted his version of Narnia to be as true to Lewis's words as he could make it.  The book follows the four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, who are sent to live outside war-torn London at an eccentric professor's country estate during the height of World War II bombing. They discover the fairy-tale kingdom of Narnia by stepping through a magic portal in a long-disused wardrobe. What they find is a land paralyzed by endless winter, held prisoner by Jadis, the White Witch (played by Tilda Swinton), who has wrested the kingdom from the majestic former ruler, Aslan (a digitally created lion, voiced by Liam Neeson).

Before turning back to the book to write the script, Adamson listed his clearest childhood memories of the story. "I remember the Turkish delight," he says with a chuckle, recalling how Jadis tempts young Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes) with a great mound of the sugar-dusted confection she makes appear with the use of a magic potion. In fact, he says, Lewis saves his most detailed accounts of Narnia not for battles, but for food, something Adamson suspects had a great deal to do with enduring wartime shortages.  But Adamson's favourite image, and one he wanted to recreate most faithfully, was Mr. Tumnus, the shy, forest-dwelling faun (James McAvoy), who first appears picking his way through the falling snow, umbrella in hand. He meets Lucy (Georgie Henley), the youngest of the Pevensie clan, beneath a flickering gas lamp. When Adamson shot that scene later, "I knew the film would work," he says, explaining he was suddenly confident he was creating the film from his childhood memories, something that would ring true to the millions of Narnia series readers. "Watching that scene play out was magical."  Working with the young actors (three were in their early- to mid-teens during filming) had its challenges, Adamson says, but they were unavoidable. Over the 10 months of shooting (the film took 3 1/2 years in all) the young cast members were physically maturing. So Adamson opted to make the movie in chronological order, allowing them to "grow up" on screen.  His actors weren't the only ones to experience changes. Adamson became a father — twice — during the making of the film. His daughters are now aged 2 1/2 and 2 months.  "It was the thing I was most terrified of doing," he says of working with the young actors. "When I started the film, I didn't have my own children. I hadn't been around a lot of teenagers and a lot of kids of that age. I really came to love the kids. We sort of formed a little family."  Besides his devotion to the Narnia books, Adamson had a literary link to the past on the set with him. Lewis's stepson, Douglas Gresham, was co-producer on the movie.  "Douglas and I saw eye to eye on a lot of things and when we didn't, he made his objections known," Adamson says with a chuckle. The only change he insisted on from book to script was the scene where Father Christmas gives the children magical weapons. Originally he skips the girls, saying weapons are ugly when women fight, something Adamson identified as "sexism in the book." In the film, both girls are armed, even little Lucy.

"My previous films were empowering for girls," Adamson points out.  There have been suggestions that the film may be too intense for young children, especially the pivotal stone table scene, where Aslan faces Jadis.  "When I got to the stone table sequence I found it very emotional," he says.  "It should be emotional, it should be traumatic. The key is not to let (children) exist in that state for too long."  And, he adds, this is a movie of the book and he was determined to be faithful to it. "It was difficult when reading the book," he points out. "I remember being in tears when reading the book."  And then there's the next book in the series, Prince Caspian, which brings the four Pevensie children back to Narnia. Does he have plans to make that movie next, bearing in mind his young cast won't stay that way much longer?  He's given it some thought, Adamson admits, but nothing has been confirmed. And he has more pressing plans for the time being. "My main priority right now," he says, "is to have a vacation."

God's Blockbuster

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Simon Houpt

(Dec. 3, 2005) NEW YORK — When
C.S. Lewis wrote his series of seven Narnia children's fantasy books, he envisioned them as stout Christian allegories. And in the new feature-film adaptation of the first book, which opens Friday, there are some unavoidably Christian images: A sinner is saved from death with a drop of magical potion that some audience members believe represents the blood of Christ; a majestic lion and Christ-like figure offers himself up to a Crucifixion-like death to pay for a young boy's sins and is resurrected. Still, when director Andrew Adamson was asked recently how he dealt with the books' religious content in making The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, he chuckled and said: "I ignored it." In fact, it may be that Narnia's most significant Christian component is only onscreen for a brief flash, during the credit sequence, with the appearance of the name Walden Media. Little known outside of Hollywood, Walden is about to have its coming-out party with the $150-million (U.S.) adaptation of Narnia it co-produced and co-financed with Disney. At a time when the U.S. Christian community is feeling empowered with its role in last year's re-election of George W. Bush and the growing belief that Hollywood is interested in making movies that reflect conservative values, Walden is a Medici-like figure with a profound interest in spreading its gospel of family values and education. Named in tribute to Thoreau's beloved Walden Pond, the company was founded in 2001 by Philip Anschutz, the founder of Qwest Communications, which offers phone, cable and Internet services in the United States. Worth an estimated $5-billion (U.S.), with interests in real estate, professional sports teams, energy, transportation, agriculture, newspapers and telecommunications, Anschutz is an unusual figure whose methods fly in the face of Hollywood's tradition of blowhard moneymen.  He lives in Denver, demonstrates little interest in socializing with filmmakers and actors, and hasn't given an interview since 1974.

He is also an evangelical Presbyterian. Douglas Gresham, a Christian minister who is the stepson of C. S. Lewis and his literary executor, as well as a co-producer on Narnia, told Variety that, though the subject of religion didn't arise during negotiations for the rights to the Narnia books, he and Anschutz now speak, "almost exclusively about God and Jesus. I admire him for bringing Christianity into the mainstream of everyday life as something that's quite acceptable and normal." And Anschutz is quietly changing the face of movies, making family-friendly entertainments such as the girl-and-a-dog comedy-drama Because of Winn-Dixie, the 2003 adventure drama Holes, the two Imax films Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey and James Cameron's Ghosts of the Abyss, and last year's spectacular $110-million flop, Around the World in 80 Days. Narnia tells the story of four English children shipped out of London during the Blitz who stumble into a magical but benighted fairyland controlled by an evil White Witch. A prophecy foretells that they will lead the creatures of Narnia in an epic battle to defeat the witch and win their freedom. Anschutz's adult-oriented studio Bristol Bay Productions also recently produced the action-adventure Sahara and the sex-and-drugs-and-rock 'n' roll biopic Ray, which won Jamie Foxx an Oscar this year. By most accounts, Anschutz practises a hands-off approach and even when he does meddle, there are rarely any hard feelings: Last year, writer-director Taylor Hackford noted that Anschutz insisted the harsh profanity contained in the early drafts of the Ray script be toned down. After loudly protesting against the demand, Hackford said he came to believe in the wisdom of Anschutz's request and made the changes. The film was granted a PG-13 rating in the U.S., which enabled it to be seen by a wider audience than if it had been rated R, and Foxx thanked Anschutz from the podium when he won a Golden Globe Award. Though he is interested in bankrolling movies with Christian themes, Anschutz's principal interest seems to be in supporting educational initiatives. For example, roughly 300,000 guides have been distributed to educators across the U.S. and Canada for Narnia, prompting students to think about the role of the imagination and the historical context for the film. Though not every pint-sized audience member will understand that context, the filmmakers worked hard to anchor Narnia in a particular time in history, while avoiding troublesome stereotypes. "I think there's a rather dishonourable tradition in Hollywood in giving, particularly children, the idea that evil characters are dark," suggested the British actress Tilda Swinton, who plays the White Witch. "She doesn't look Jewish . . . [or] like an Arab, and I figured it was extremely irresponsible to do anything other than make her look like the ultimate white supremacist, which is what she is, and as Aryan as possible. Because apart from being a fantasy film, it's also an historical film. These are Second World War children, and their father's fighting fascism, and I thought she should look like a Nazi so I actually threw [in] a Nazi salute."

The filmmakers did make one significant alteration to the source material. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which was written in 1950, is run through with the sexism common for its time. It includes a scene in which Father Christmas distributes weapons to a trio of children in anticipation of battle. "Battles are ugly when women fight," he tells the girls, Susan and Lucy. The line caused some consternation for Adamson and led to a discussion -- characterized by the producer Mark Johnson as a "fight" -- with Gresham over the director's desire to change the line. "That may have been acceptable in the 1940s," recalled Adamson, "but after doing two movies that I think are empowering for girls [he co-directed Shrek and Shrek 2], I didn't want to them turn around and say: 'Susan, you don't get to use that bow, you have to rely on your brother.' " Gresham, who is the protector of C. S. Lewis's words, accepted a compromise line that doesn't single out the girls. If little girls take the lesson of empowerment to heart and help make a hit out of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, there will be lots more where that came from: Walden and Disney are already developing the first Narnia sequel, Prince Caspian.


Rocky's Heart Still Beating, Filmmakers Insist

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Robert W. Welkos, Special To The Star, Los Angeles Times

Reporter: "Rocky, the press has labelled you a `Balboasauras' who should be in a museum. With all the `ring rust,' how do you think you'll hold up against the champ?"

Rocky: "Well, ya really don't know much about nobody until ya lend 'em money or punch 'em hard."

(Dec. 3, 2005) LOS ANGELES—Yes, as implausible as it might seem, Rocky Balboa is back for round 6. Though the script doesn't dance around the fact that the Italian Stallion is stepping back into the ring in his twilight years, Sylvester Stallone's decision to get back into the ring has become the fodder for countless jokes.  David Letterman's "Top Ten List" (Top Ten Signs Sylvester Stallone Is Too Old to Play Rocky) was among the first to take dead aim: "After tapping hands with other fighter, says, `Not so hard!'" went one crack. And a writer quipped in the Miami Herald: "Historians are calling it irrefutable proof that mankind has officially run out of good ideas."  Enough with the Rocky jokes already, complains Joe Roth, who heads Revolution Studios, which along with Sony Pictures and its new banner, MGM, is producing the new Rocky picture. "You can't turn on television without someone making fun of it," he said. "Jokes like, `Who's he going to fight, Alan Alda?' ... It's very easy to be cynical."  Roth said he expected the announcement to trigger some humour, but added: "I'm surprised at the vehemence. I don't want to believe people can be that nasty. They should reserve judgment, frankly, at least until they read the script."  The script for Rocky Balboa has the over-the-hill Balboa taking on the reigning heavyweight boxing champ Mason "The Line" Dixon. Both men are trying to restore their dignity: Dixon because he's reviled by fight fans for taking on unproven opponents; Rocky because it has been years since the aging boxer from South Philly has climbed into a ring.

The film, with Stallone as star and director, begins principal photography today.  It's the sixth installment in the landmark Rocky franchise. The original, released in 1976, won three Academy Awards, including best picture, and touched an emotional chord with moviegoers worldwide for its heroic tale of the small-time Philadelphia boxer who tries to prove he can go the distance with heavyweight champion Apollo Creed.  But in the intervening years, the Rocky sequels — Rocky V premiered 15 years ago — like Stallone himself, have see-sawed in box-office popularity until now both are seen as icons of a bygone era.  Stallone, 59, has also revealed that he will reprise his role as former Vietnam vet and one-man army John J. Rambo in Rambo IV, which is scheduled to begin production sometime in the spring.  Roth said that from a financial standpoint, Rocky Balboa makes perfect sense. The production budget on the 38-day shoot is projected to be $24 million (all figures U.S.) — less than half what the average studio film costs these days. And though Stallone's North American box office appeal may have tanked in recent years, the actor continues to have strong audience appeal overseas, as does Rocky.  In the early years, the franchise was lucrative. The original Rocky grossed $117.2 million domestically, with Rocky II grossing $85.2 million, Rocky III $125 million and Rocky IV $127.9 million. But by 1990, the one-time champ was on the ropes as Rocky V's domestic gross dropped to $41 million.  "It's interesting how Rocky and Sylvester have been so inextricably connected over the years," said Robert Chartoff, who, with Irwin Winkler, produced all the previous Rocky movies.  Revolution says there are plans for a special DVD collection next year to mark the 30th anniversary of Rocky, which should help boost awareness of Rocky Balboa, currently scheduled for release in 2007.

It wasn't the modest production cost that sold Roth on the Rocky Balboa project. He said Stallone's script harks back to the original.  It opens with Dixon (Antonio Tarver is set for the part) in the ring landing a blow on an opponent's chin, sending the other boxer to the canvas. But rather than cheer, the crowd reacts with loud booing and hurls ice at Dixon's corner. "Another disappointing title defense," says the ringside commentator. The next scene finds Rocky seated on an old folding chair in a graveyard where his wife, Adrian, is buried. Seated nearby is Rocky's brother-in-law, Paulie. Rocky rises, kisses the headstone and leaves.  The bittersweet script has Rocky living in a fast-changing world, but still driven to prove himself, even if it elicits ridicule from those around him.  Rocky now owns a restaurant in the South Philly neighbourhood where he grew up, posing for photos with fans who trickle in urging him to tell a few stories about the good old days when he fought Apollo Creed.  The old neighbourhood is changing. Asians have replaced the Italians. Rocky orders cheeses from a Vietnamese vendor, lettuce and other produce from a Korean vendor. Rocky's son, Robert Jr. (played by Milo Ventimiglia), now works for a big corporation. And he doesn't have time for his old man.  The script was already written when Roth came on board. Roth said he was attending a New Year's Eve party last year in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, when he happened to run into Stallone.  "I don't know Stallone very well, just enough to say `Hello,'" recalled Roth. "But he knows I'm a boxing fan and a big fan of his (Rocky) movie. He told me he had written a script for a new Rocky and wondered if I would be interested in reading it."  As fate would have it, Roth said, Rocky co-producer Winkler walked into the same party about an hour later and the project soon took off. "He believed, as we believed, that the time could be right for another Rocky."


Indie Mountain High

Excerpt from
The Globe and Mail - By Alexandra Gill

(Dec. 1, 2005) VANCOUVER -- The Whistler Film Festival, which launches its fifth-anniversary edition today in Whistler, B.C., is one step closer to becoming the Sundance of Canada with an aggressive new industry component that will sled in a slew of hot-shot sales agents and distributors from New York and Hollywood. And coming next year, China. "We're not trying to compete with Toronto or Cannes or Berlin," says WFF board member Harry Sutherland, a Vancouver producer and president of Long Tale Entertainment. "What we're trying to do is create a small niche festival with a really useful marketplace that helps focus and drive independent-film production in Western Canada. "We're different from independent producers in Toronto, where there's a certain sense of entitlement and the filmmakers feel very much part of the Canadian system. "Out here, we're much more focused on Los Angeles and Asia," says Sutherland, who is currently developing a number of projects in Asia, including Dim Sum Funeral, a feature film with American producer Clark Peterson (Monster) starring Russell Wong and Joan Chen. "If we ever want to go beyond being a service industry for Hollywood, it's important to focus on professional-development opportunities like this that will help us finance our own films, sell them and get them into distribution."

The festival's Bell Filmmaker Forum will present 10 workshops and panels from tomorrow through Sunday, with titles such as Rebirth of Canadian Dramatic Television and New Directions in Documentary. Tomorrow's focus on the international marketplace gives participating filmmakers the opportunity to discuss their projects at round-table sessions with an impressive roster of sales agents and distributors that includes: Shebnem Askin, president of 2929 International in Los Angeles (the worldwide sales and distribution division of billionaire Mark Cuban's 2929 Entertainment); Nicholas Chartier, founder of Voltage Entertainment, also in L.A.; Meyer Shwarzstein, president of L.A.'s Brainstorm Media and a former executive with MGM/UA; Ariel Veneziano, president of GreeneStreet Films International in New York; and Peter Wetherell, founder of L.A.'s Magus Entertainment, who was hired by B.C. Film to help pull the forum together. Sutherland says he wasn't entirely convinced about the future viability of the Whistler Film Festival until Wetherell got involved. "He works in the independent sales market out of L.A., but he knows people all around the world and has pulled together a very interesting group. This year is just the start. Two or three years down the road, the business fold will be even more impressive." Next year, the filmmakers' forum will invite 25 Chinese producers for a two-day seminar on pan-Pacific co-productions. Of course, the festival is about more than just business. The four-day program opens tonight with a gala screening of C.R.A.Z.Y., Canada's official entry for a best-foreign-language-film nomination at the upcoming Academy Awards. The line-up of 90 films -- 60 per cent of it Canadian content -- includes 36 features and mid-length films, 54 shorts, three world premieres, seven Canadian premieres and 16 B.C. premieres.

"We've been actively pursuing films that have somehow managed to slip under the radar of other festivals or are perhaps are a little too challenging for other festivals, but are still worth celebrating and discovering," says director of programming Bill Evans. Although the focus is on Canadian film, Evans says he received a big jump in submissions from south of the border this year. The 2005 program features several Canadian premieres of U.S. films, including a Sundance favourite from last year, This Revolution, a quasi-fictional homage to Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool, directed by native Torontonian Stephen Marshall. Other festival highlights include Saturday night's tribute to Canadian movie mogul Robert Lantos, who also heads up the jury for the $10,000 Phillip Borsos Award for Best Canadian Feature along with director Don McKellar and actress Molly Parker. A new non-cash award for Best Mountain Culture Film is also helping to bump up the festival's competitive component, which already includes a $5,000 development prize from CITY-TV for short scripts and the $5,000 award for best documentary from CBC Newsworld. And yes, there will be parties galore and plenty of opportunity for star spotting, especially at tomorrow night's invite-only Brightlight Pictures/Vancouver Film Studios soiree at Araxi Restaurant, to which Kelly Rowan (The O.C.) and the Wayan brothers (White Chicks) have been invited.

Still, no matter how many films are shown or how much glitter is tossed on the event, Whistler is a resort town and obviously has a limited audience base. That's why producers like Sutherland are betting on the festival's industry component as its best chance for growth. "We have a huge industry, but it's one that rarely gets recognized," says Sutherland. "The Toronto [International] Film Festival will never focus on Western Canadian films. And the problem with the Vancouver International Film Festival is that it's a public audience festival for international film. We need one event that's a little more focused on the business of Western Canadian film. For Western Canadian filmmakers, that's what Whistler can provide." The Whistler Film Festival runs from today through Sunday ( or 866-236-4394).


Six Canadian feature films at the Whistler Film Festival are in competition for the Borsos Award. Who will win the $10,000 prize?

The End of Silence
(World premiere)
Directed and written by Anita Doron (Ontario).
Produced by Fred Fuchs.
Starring Ekaterina Chtchelkanova, John Tokatlidis and Sarah Harmer.
A Russian ballerina faces poverty in a foreign land when her career is cut short. As the past pulls her home, she finds comfort and companionship with her lover's mysterious ex-wife.

Exiles in Lotus Land
(B.C. premiere)
Directed and written by Ilan Saragosti (Quebec).
Produced by Claudette Jaiko.
Starring Mélo and Ti-criss.
Documentary filmmaker Ilan Saragosti follows two Quebec street kids as they travel to and from Western Canada in this unsettling look at youth living on the edge.

Fetching Cody (B.C. premiere)
Directed and written by David Ray (British Columbia).
Produced by Carolyn Allain.
Starring Jay Baruchel, Sarah Lind and James Byrnes.
Time travel descends on Vancouver's gritty Downtown Eastside in this offbeat love story about a drug addict's attempt to change fate.

Love Is Work (World premiere)
Directed and written by John Kalangis.
Produced by Alan and Jean Barke.
Starring Shauna Macdonald,
Fabrizio Filippo and Kathryn Zenna.
Five couples meeting at the same restaurant delve into surreal meditations on love, sex, money, death, birth and fame.

Six Figures (B.C. premiere)
Directed by David Christensen (Alberta).
Produced by David Christensen, Susan Bristow and Jason Lee.
Written by David Christensen; based on a novel by Fred Leebron.
Starring J. R. Bourne, Caroline Cave and Deborah Grover.
A Calgary-based murder-mystery about a seemingly happily married couple with two kids and rewarding careers. Is the pressure of an overheated real estate market enough to trigger a murderous rage?

The Zero Sum (World premiere)
Directed by Raphael Assaf (B.C.)
Produced by Raymond Massey and Marvin Young.
Written by Armen Evrensel.
Starring Ewen Bremmer, Sarah Strange and David Richmond-Peck.
A story of two brothers who will do just about anything for each other even if it means doing time in jail for a crime that one of them did not commit.

Documentary Takes Feature Award At Whistler

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Alexandra Gill

(Dec. 5, 2005) Exiles in Lotus Land, a National Film Board documentary by Toronto filmmaker
Ilan Saragosti, is the winner of the Whistler Film Festival's $10,000 Borsos Award for best new Canadian feature.  The jury cited the film's "compassion, human insight and fundamental intelligence" as it follows two Quebec street kids travelling to and from Western Canada. Other award winners announced at yesterday's closing brunch included: The Best of Secter & The Rest of Secter by Toronto director Joel Secter (for the $5,000 CBC Newsworld Award for best documentary); Off Road to Athens by U.S. director Jason Berry (Best Mountain Culture Film); and Harvey the Indian, a short script written by Andrew Genaille (for CITYTV's $5000 Cinecity development prize).


Unprecedented Diversity Outreach Announced

Source: Punch Media / 310-280-3245 /

(Dec. 5, 2005) The Cannes Film Festival's International Critics' Week (SIC - "Semaine Internationale de la Critique") will join forces with hip hop multimedia communications company, Punch Media to ensure a greater influx of diverse films for potential 2006 jury selection.   As the time-honoured pinnacle of the Festival's strain which specifically supports and discovers new talent each year, SIC works under strict guidelines which allow film submissions by first- or second-time directors exclusively, while the main portion of the Festival focuses on established talent.   However, in order to better meets its goals of diversity in selection, particularly from the U.S. market, SIC is now working to extend outreach and attract greater hip hop/urban-themed films among its submissions of all genres. "The approach is two-pronged," explains Punch Media president Lauren Coleman.  "Our company has been selected to raise awareness regarding this portion of the Cannes Film Festival among new U.S. filmmakers while actively seeking hot hip hop films for possible jury selection for SIC.  It is a great opportunity for all parties involved.  SIC is always looking for well-crafted stories which have not yet necessarily been told, thus there is a wealth of possibility in urban-themed/hip hop cinema as it still seeks greater outlets of expression.  Unlike any other film festival today, Punch Media aligning with SIC finally brings the greater possibility of worldwide prestige and awareness to directors and producers of the right urban-themed projects."

The concept was developed during talks with SIC executives while Coleman was in her company's Paris offices from its Los Angeles offices. Both feature and short film submissions are encouraged.  Submission deadline is March 31, 2006.  The International Critics' Week of the Cannes Film Festival will take place May 17 - 28, 2006 in Cannes, France. Interested filmmakers should contact 310-280-3245 for further submission information. Further information on specific events associated with urban cinema at Cannes will be forthcoming.


The Man Behind Mehta

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Gayle MacDonald

(Dec. 5, 2005) Mention the name
David Hamilton to the average Canadian and you get a blank stare. But in film circles, this former engineering physicist and Harvard business grad has quietly -- yet steadily -- been gaining renown. As the executive producer of two of Deepa Mehta's most commercially successful films, Water and Bollywood/Hollywood, Hamilton has done what few English-Canadian film producers (besides veteran producer Robert Lantos) have managed: to make back-to-back home-grown films that easily surpassed $1-million at the box office. Bollywood/Hollywood, a raucous parody of Bollywood musicals that hit screens in 2002, has grossed roughly $1.5-million domestically, while its successor, the critically acclaimed Water, currently on 30 screens in Canada, has so far earned $1.25-million in ticket sales. Its Toronto-based Canadian distributor, Mongrel Media, expects the movie, a poignant look into the plight of Indian widows, to reap $2-million at the box office. Not bad for a guy who had never been on a film set until roughly eight years ago, when a chance meeting with Mehta (she needed financing for her film Fire and he was then running an Ottawa-based merchant bank/high-tech consulting firm) led to what so far has been a winning combination. Hamilton is Mehta's partner in life, as well as in art. But it's a subject he does not discuss. In the late nineties, Hamilton, who grew up in Whitehorse, sold his consultancy business to focus exclusively on producing movies. Of all his careers, he says this one is by far "the hardest job I've had to date, but it's also the most fulfilling, emotionally."

Since teaming up with the Indian-born Mehta, Hamilton has worked on the director's film trilogy of Fire, Earth and Water as well as the light-hearted Bollywood/Hollywood. Because Mehta's films, which typically explore sensitive religious and social issues, have often enraged her countrymen (and women) in India, Hamilton, who is responsible for keeping the production on track, has had film sets torched, received death threats, confronted riots, and been warned that the women he employs will be raped. "I was naive when I started, but I love it," says Hamilton, who still calls Ottawa home, but spends great chunks of time in Toronto. "Everyone thinks it's the financing that is so difficult -- and that's an important part -- but it's the challenges one faces every day that are monumental. "I love it because there are many moments on set where I've been moved to tears. Where we will film a scene and watch a performance that is so incredibly powerful that the whole set is still and quiet. And will remain that way, even after Deepa says cut, for one or two minutes. Things like that make you feel blessed." He was born in Hamilton, and his family moved to the Arctic when he was 7. Those years, Hamilton says, were magic. "It's such a free area. All the strange people who just can't quite fit in with everyone else go north. It's a wonderful place."

His father, who was in the air force, moved the family to Montreal when Hamilton was in his teens. Hamilton did a degree in engineering physics at McGill, but on the advice of his professors, decided a career studying small particle physics was best left to others. "They convinced me I wasn't smart enough, and I think they were right," he adds. "You have to be pretty out there to make any mark in that field." So he went to Harvard, did a business degree and wrote a book, published by MIT Press, on decision theory. ("It probably sold 100 copies," Hamilton says.) Then he applied for Harvard's Sheldon Travelling Fellowship, a campus-wide competition. He was the first business student ever to throw in his hat. "They were so shocked, they gave it to me," says Hamilton, who then set out with his wife at the time for India to complete a year-long comparative study of rural economies in developing countries. He wrote every motor home manufacturer in North America, pitching them on a marketing campaign: Your vehicle can go anywhere. One fell for it and shipped the vehicle to Rotterdam. Hamilton and his wife drove to India. He fell in love with the people and the place. And instead of producing a dissertation on rural economies, Hamilton gave Harvard one on Indian mythical philosophy. Apparently, they were still pleased.

After moving back to Canada, Hamilton says it took several months for him to acclimatize. "I experienced reverse culture shock for about three months," remembers Hamilton, who declines to give his age. Then he set up DCH Consultants (named with his initials) and started a lucrative business career that has given him the freedom to be able to explore the wild, wacky world of making movies. "Doing a variety of things seems to have been the pattern of my life," muses Hamilton. "I seem to enjoy a lot of variation. And I think sometimes that's a strength, and sometimes it's a weakness. You can be perceived as not specializing, but on the other hand, you bring to a situation a much more varied set of experiences and viewpoints." Of all the roadblocks he has endured making Mehta's films, the most arduous journey was the creative evolution of Water, production of which was halted for several years after violent protests in India. Hamilton remembers getting ready to begin production in Benares, India's holiest city. They had been prepping for six weeks before all hell broke loose. "Two days before we went to camera, we heard 1,000 people had marched onto one of our sets and set it on fire. We didn't stop because of that," he adds. An effigy of Mehta was burned, and death and rape threats came into the production office and to individual cell phones. Then a local district magistrate put out an order forcing Hamilton and his crew to stop. They appealed, and the Indian government gave them re-approval, plus 300 troops for protection.

Then disaster struck again. This time, a protester attempted suicide. "The police swooped in and shut us down," says Hamilton. "They said if this person dies, and there's a riot, they couldn't protect us. We didn't know what to believe at that point. Then all our cell phones went dead. And it was clear there were bigger forces at play here. The people supposedly protecting us were in collusion with the people who were against us. We had to go home." Hamilton describes that period as among the worst of his life. "At the time, you think you're okay. Your adrenalin's pumping. But I was pretty broken up when we got back. That's how Bollywood/Hollywood got made. After four or five months of being home, we decided we had to do something, but it had to be fun and frivolous. Not serious. "That's why I love what I do. The constant challenges of the kind that sometimes tear the sinew from your bone," Hamilton says. "I also love Deepa's work. It's rare you can do something that is so potently challenging while at the same time feel you're engaged in something profoundly creative -- and maybe making a small contribution to the human condition." Hamilton adds he never expected Water to be so commercially successful. "In many of the complexes where we're playing, we're beating out the American releases, which doesn't happen too often with Canadian films. "And it's subtitled. But word of mouth is incredibly strong. It's clear people are telling their friends. And, of course, we love that."



Two Canadian Film Shorts Get Accepted At Sundance

Source: Canadian Press

(Dec. 6, 2005) Toronto —
Smudge, a documentary film about a group of Aboriginal women seeking their own way to worship, has been accepted into next month's Sundance film festival at Park City, Utah. It was written and directed by Gail Maurice as part of the National Film Board's Momentum workshop program. Meanwhile, Hubert Davis, who was nominated for an Academy Award last year for his directorial debut, Hardwood, will also be going to Sundance. Davis's new film is called Aruba, the story of an 11-year-old boy seeking a way out of a home life filled with domestic violence and drug abuse. "I learned a valuable lesson with Hardwood," Davis said. "Write what you know and what is important to you and your story will emerge." Seventy short films have been selected out of about 4,300 submitted to the indie festival which was founded by screen star Robert Redford. It runs from Jan. 19 to 29.

Ontario Filmmakers Get $1.5-Million From OMDC

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Gayle Macdonald

(Dec. 7, 2005) Toronto -- The
Ontario Media Development Corp. gave 15 Ontario filmmakers an early Christmas present yesterday, doling out $1.5-million for indigenous feature film. The money, which comes from the OMDC Film Initiative, is aimed at providing capital to offset development and final funding costs for local productions. Under the program, Ontario-based filmmakers can apply for up to $50,000 for development projects and up to $250,000 for the final funding piece needed to ensure production.  This year, the OMDC received more than 60 applications.

Will Smith Wants An Oscar For Terrence Howard

Excerpt from

(Dec. 1, 2005) *He has absolutely no financial or creative stake in the film “Hustle & Flow,” yet
Will Smith has made it his mission to draw Oscar attention to the critically-acclaimed movie and its breakout star, Terrence Howard. Smith has arranged and will host back-to-back screenings of the Paramount Classics film Friday evening at CAA, the management agency that represents him. After the second showing, Smith and Howard will head across town to the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills where Smith will moderate a Q&A session following a special screening for invited members of the Screen Actors Guild.  "Will felt it was a wonderful showcase for Terrence and he wanted to help give it as much exposure as possible," said Smith's spokeswoman, Pat Kingsley. Smith’s cheerleading for Howard and the film began after he saw a screening of it prior to its July opening. During “H&F’s” big Hollywood premiere, Smith made a point to walk the red carpet with Howard in an attempt to draw as much attention to the actor as possible.   Nominations for the 78th annual Academy Awards will take place on Jan. 31, five weeks before the ceremony on March 5.

'Kingdom' Comes For Jamie Foxx

Excerpt from - Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter

(Dec. 2, 2005)
Jamie Foxx has signed to star in Universal Pictures' "The Kingdom," a political thriller being directed by Peter Berg. Universal is eyeing a May production start for the film.  Based on an original idea by Berg and producer Michael Mann, the story centers on Foxx's character, who is leading an elite team of counter-terrorism investigators trying to find those responsible for a deadly bombing attack on American workers the Middle East.  Once inside the previously off-limits desert kingdom, the Americans engage a local police officer to help in their investigation but end up frustrated by bureaucracy and tradition, and find their lives threatened.   Foxx won the best actor Oscar this year for his role in Universal Pictures' "Ray." He can presently be seen in Universal's "Jarhead" and also will star as Tubbs in the big-screen adaptation of "Miami Vice," which Mann is directing for the studio. Foxx will also shoot DreamWorks Pictures' "Dreamgirls" alongside Beyoncé Knowles and Eddie Murphy this month.  As previously reported, Foxx will on Dec. 20 release a new studio album, "Unpredictable," via J Records.

Blige To Play Simone

Excerpt from

(Dec. 6, 2005) *MTV/Paramount has announced that
Mary J. Blige will star as the late vocalist Nina Simone in a feature film about her rise to stardom and her relationship with Paris-based manager Clifton Henderson. Most known for her civil rights anthems “Mississippi Goddam" (written in response to the murder of Medgar Evers) and "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black," Simone made music on her own terms, defying categorization by swirling R&B with jazz and blues. In 1974, the chanteuse went into exile, eventually ending up in Paris, where she died in 2003.

Sept. 11's Flight 93 Gets Movie Treatment

Source: Associated Press

(Dec. 6, 2005) Has the American psyche healed enough?  It's been more than four years since terrorists crashed United Airlines Flight 93 in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, killing 40 crew members and passengers. Some movie producers are hoping that American audiences are now finally ready to watch what happened on that plane.  Outside London this month, British writer-director
Paul Greengrass began shooting a Flight 93 movie, produced by Universal Pictures and London-based Working Title Films. In Los Angeles, American filmmaker Peter Markle is finishing up his movie, produced by Fox Television Studios for the A&E cable network.  The films are part of a growing U.S. trend of new Sept. 11-themed movies. Oliver Stone is shooting an untitled 9/11 film; Mike Binder's Reign O'er Me deals with 9/11-related grief; and a movie adaptation of the book 102 Minutes and a TV miniseries on the 9/11 Commission's findings are planned.  Industry experts say it's not surprising filmmakers would want to tell the story of that day.  "It's probably the most dramatic story of my lifetime. It is a seminal event for people who are younger than the World War II generation," said Delia Fine, A&E's vice-president of film, drama and music.  Paul Dergarabedian, president of the Los Angeles-based box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co., said everyone was touched by the attacks, so it's a story that everyone can relate to. He said he believes that will make the films profitable.  Observers say it worked earlier this year, when the Discovery Channel attracted large audiences to its docudrama The Flight that Fought Back.  But that wasn't the case immediately following the attacks, when filmmakers and studios excised the Twin Towers from trailers, posters and some movies. They also postponed the release of films depicting terrorists and delayed the premiere of a counterterrorism TV show.

'Saw' Producer Dies

Source:  Associated Press

(Dec. 6, 2005) LOS ANGELES —
Gregg Hoffman, who produced the current hit horror films Saw and Saw II, has died. He was 42.  Hoffman died Sunday at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, where he had been admitted after complaining of neck pain, his business partners said. He died of natural causes, according to a news release from Lions Gate Entertainment, which distributed his recent films, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. An autopsy will be performed.  Hoffman and his partners at Twisted Pictures financed the low-budget films Saw (2004) and Saw II (2005) and stood to reap millions of dollars from their success. The first film cost $1 million (U.S.) to make and grossed more than $102 million in DVD and box office revenue; the sequel cost $4 million and has made $86 million at the box office in six weeks.  "We've won the lottery," Hoffman, a former Walt Disney Co. executive, told the Los Angeles Times in November.  Hoffman's colleagues and family described him as a modest man in an ego-driven industry.  "He never put himself in front of anybody," said Oren Koules, one of his Twisted Pictures partners. "He never did anything for the ego — everything he did was for the betterment of the movie."  Hoffman began working for Disney in 1995, rising to become a senior vice-president of production and earning a producer credit on George of the Jungle (1997).  He joined Koules and Mark Burg at their management and production company, Evolution Entertainment, in 2003. Soon after, the self-professed horror film fanatic saw an eight-minute short movie about a serial killer called Saw, which he believed would make lots of money as a full-length feature.  "He discovered this movie, brought it in and talked us into making it. He was the driving force behind it," Koules said.  In the summer of 2003, the three partners assembled the financing for Saw and started Twisted Pictures to make more low-budget horror movies.  The Saw films' success led to multi-picture development deals with Lions Gate and Dimension Films. Hoffman was working on the movies Saw III and Crawlspace when he died.

Disney Exec Is Hollywood's Most Powerful Woman

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Dec. 6, 2005) LOS ANGELES (AP) — Disney's
Anne Sweeney is the most powerful woman in Hollywood.  So says The Hollywood Reporter, which released its Power 100 list of the top women in entertainment Monday.  Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television Group and co-chair of media networks for the Walt Disney Co., has held the top spot for two consecutive years.  Judy McGrath, chairman and CEO of MTV Networks, was ranked second and Stacey Snider, chairman of Universal Pictures, was third.  Rounding out the top five were Amy Pascal, vice-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of its Motion Picture Group, and Nancy Tellem, president of the CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group.  Oprah Winfrey, ranked No. 8, was the only performer on the list.  The list will be published in The Hollywood Reporter's 14th annual Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue on Dec. 6.




Canuck TV Needs Bucks

Source: Canadian Press

(Dec. 7, 2005) Degrassi: The Next Generation and Corner Gas are breakout TV hits — so why isn't Canada producing more of them?  While there seems to be no shortage of talent — even given the traditional brain drain to Hollywood — the country's financing model for Cancon may be in need of serious repair as the industry looks ahead.  Producers and broadcasters say they intend to do their best to make funding for quality home-grown television fare a high-profile issue in the current federal election campaign.  Before Parliament was dissolved, Heritage Minister Liza Frulla doled out millions for various high arts programs, but not a word about the Canadian Television Fund, that public-private sector fount of money for domestic TV budgets.  Stephen Waddell, president of ACTRA, the actors' union, says they've been lobbying Ottawa intensely.  "We're going to be also demanding that the four parties show us what they are going to do with respect to culture in their election platforms."  Chris Haddock, creator and producer of the CBC drama series Da Vinci's City Hall — formerly Da Vinci's Inquest, which has seen its ratings dip into the 300,000 neighbourhood — says it's equally important to fund Canadian drama for export.  "The Americans got this down pat, they're all about hype, they know all about it, they ship those films abroad. This is how they build their image of themselves," Haddock says.  "We don't seem to understand this politically that if you want to have Canada's voice in the world, you've got to get Canada's voice out in the world."  Among the few truly successful domestic series are the CTV teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation and the prairie sitcom Corner Gas, which regularly gets close to two million viewers per episode.

Degrassi producer Linda Schuyler says it's not so much the amount of money that's the problem but the need for consistency, for a long-range, stable commitment from those holding the purse strings.  "That's the best gift the government could give," Schuyler says. "If we know we've got that, then the industry can look at a five-year plan. Right now, our industry scrambles from year to year (and) the rules as to how that money will be dispensed change every year."  Back in 1999 the CRTC, the federal broadcast regulator, relaxed the rules for what constitutes acceptable domestic drama content. Private broadcasters fled from the traditional but costly series format, opting instead for cheaper reality shows, quick movies of the week and more glossy U.S. imports. The CBC, meanwhile, was emerging from a decade in which its usual funding was gutted.  Ian Morrison, spokesman for the watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, believes whoever forms the next government will feel pushed to deal with the funding issue, because Canadians want Canadian programming.  But Morrison says tax subsidies lower the cost of domestic productions, which lowers the cost for the private broadcasters to acquire them which, in turn, leaves them with more money to buy U.S. imports.  "So you could make the case that some of the subsidy is going to Hollywood," he said.


Michael Ealy Debuts Sunday In ‘Sleeper Cell’

Excerpt from

(Dec. 2, 2005) *Michael Ealy plays a young F.B.I. agent who goes deep, deep, DEEP undercover on Showtime’s new original series “Sleeper Cell,” premiering Sunday night at 10.   Sure to be a Monday morning conversation piece, Ealy’s character Darwyn is introduced as a Muslim inmate in a federal prison on the verge of being released.  Once on the outside, he eventually becomes Darwyn al-Hakim and ends up with a crew of Muslims in Los Angeles who turn out to be an extremist Islamic terrorist group. Given tasks to complete by the cell’s leader Farik, played by Oded Fehr, Darwyn makes a good impression with the members, but his private battle with their activities is a daily struggle. The first episode culminates in a “Sopranos” style scene in which Darwyn must decide whether a man’s life is worth keeping his cover in tact.  “Ultimately, one of the big points of the show is to try and inform people that these terrorists, these people that you love to hate are among us,” Ealy says. “I mean, they’re among us, and that’s what’s terrifying. They’re blending into our culture.  They’re listening to hip hop. They’re teaching our kids how to drive. You just don’t know.”  “Sleeper Cell” writers and executive producers Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris include scenes in several episodes that attempt to dispel Islamic stereotypes and convey the reality that the type of radical fundamentalists led by Fehr’s character do not reflect the true Muslim faith.   “What I’ve learned is that Islam in itself, the real true Islam, is a peace-loving religion that is all inclusive, which is probably one of the reasons why it’s one of the fastest-growing religions right now,” Ealy says.  “Unlike other religions, it doesn’t exclude people so much.  And as far as the extremist side, I think a lot of that is people who take the words form the Qur’an out of context and they use them to serve their own political agenda, and that’s a tough enemy.  That’s why you got to know your enemy.”

The filmmakers say the idea of having a Muslim hero in the show was important because it served as a “metaphor for the entire series, which is, there are Muslims in the United States that are patriotic Americans, and yet the real face of Islam in the United States right now is terrorism,” says Voris. “We wanted to deal with both these issues.” Darwyn African American descent was a deliberate choice by the writers, who early on asked themselves, “Who realistically could actually infiltrate a terrorist cell?”  “We always said, ‘Well, it would have to be somebody who actually is a practicing Muslim,” said Voris. “And I think the fact that in the United States, at least, Islam was really popularized by African Americans, it just seemed perfect. The guy who would be able to do that, would be an African American Muslim.” Ealy says the race of Darwyn and his sleeper cellmates – including a radical French skinhead, a traumatized Bosnian and an All-American white boy – proves that the fear and paranoia surrounding terrorism in the U.S. should not be confined to a single racial group.  “The face of terrorism is not just in the Arab community, and that, to me, is one of the important things about the show,” says Ealy. “It creates some sort of awareness that there are people who are blonde and blue-eyed who are walking through airports that are terrorists.  There are people who look exactly like me who are terrorists.  And that kind of awareness, I think is extraordinarily important right now because if we believe that people of Arab descent are the only ones who are a threat, then we will continue to be ignorant of what’s really going on.” Showtime will air new episodes of “Sleeper Cell” at 10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday next week and the week after, followed by a two-hour finale December 18. In addition, Showtime will show two-episode blocks on Thursday and Friday and a four-episode marathon on Saturday.


Banks Bids Bye-Bye To The Runway

Excerpt from

(Dec. 5, 2005) *Tyra Banks’ final walk down the runway will air tomorrow night in CBS’ 10 p.m. telecast of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.  The supermodel-turned-television producer and host wore for her swan song a red lace bra and underwear with a belt made of military-style medallions.  Her catwalk colleagues Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum and one-time nemesis Naomi Campbell were by her side for the farewell.  Banks, who turned 32 yesterday (Dec. 4), will now focus 100 percent of her time to producing her two television shows – the syndicated Tyra Banks Show and UPN’s “America’s Next Top Model.”  The Associated Press caught up with the mogul just before the Victoria’s Secret fashion show for the following interview:

AP: Are you really retiring from the runway, not just taking a break?

Banks: I'm not just retiring from the runway, I'm retiring from all modeling. God, I love saying that! When I was 18, my mom said I have to have a plan. I decided I'd leave on top. I want to be like the athletes who seem stuck in time. When you see them at 50, you say they probably can still run like a champ.

AP: Did you get to choose what you'd wear in this Victoria's Secret show — a black satin corset, an embellished push-up bra with a beaded organza cape adorned with feathers and that red lace number with a crystal-covered baton?

Banks: They gave me sketches and I chose my three favourites. I've never had that clout before. Retiring is good.

AP: Are you confident that your new career as a TV host will be successful?

Banks: "America's Next Top Model" is shooting its sixth season. I created a template and I don't have to baby-sit it anymore. The talk show, I have to be devoted to that. I'm proud of it, but it's not exactly what I want it to be — yet.

AP: Now that you'll have a bit more free time, what will you do?

Banks: I love going to the movies. I keep a list in my purse of what I want to see. (She pulls out a list of more than 25 titles ranging from "Good Night, and Good Luck" to "The Constant Gardener.") I try to see movies whenever I can. I saw "Flightplan" and "Capote" from this list.

AP: Any other hobbies?

Banks: I love TV, too. "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Commander in Chief." I so want (Geena Davis) on my show. She was a model and now she's president of the United States!

AP: Do you think your experience as a top black model was different from a top white model?

Banks: I wanted to be the girl next door like Cindy Crawford, but I am a black model and that meant I broke down a lot of doors. When I look at young black models today, I hope they can just walk through the doors like everyone else.

AP: Models often lead a jet-set life. Will you be more of a homebody now?

Banks: I live in an apartment. I gave my mom my house in L.A. It's a beautiful Spanish house. I lived there a year, but it felt empty. I wasn't scared but I like nooks and small spaces. It helps me focus.

AP: Models aren't always known for their model behaviour. How do you deal with being a celebrity?

Banks: Well, I don't think of myself as a diva. I'm too dorky! Look at my shoes. (Points to her sneakers.) I always look like this. I don't always want to be "working." I don't want to have to put on that "thing" — I call it "the thing" when I have to do my hair, put on the lashes, get dressed up. When I go out for potato chips, I just want to go out looking like myself, which means you will see bad pictures of me. There probably are some out there right now, but it's just part of the life.



‘Everybody Hates Chris’ Wins Family TV Award

Excerpt from

(Dec. 2, 2005) *The folks who vote for the annual Family Television Awards love “Everybody Hates Chris.”  The freshman UPN sitcom, executive produced and narrated by Chris Rock, won the organization’s award for best new series Wednesday during a ceremony in Beverly Hills.   Best movie honors went to the TNT film, "The Wool Cap," which featured young Keke Palmer, the star of the upcoming “Akeelah and the Bee” opposite Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett.  CBS's "Amazing Race" won for best reality program, “Lost" was named best drama and "King of Queens" won for best comedy.  The Family Friendly Programming Forum, which includes advertisers representing 45 companies, created the awards to promote the development and airing of family-oriented programs during television's prime viewing hours, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Comedy Central To Piece Together New Chappelle Season

Excerpt from

(Dec. 6, 2005)  *Those handful of skits that Dave Chappelle filmed for the third season of his Comedy Central show before suddenly flying off to South Africa will be collected and aired in what the network is calling season three of “Chappelle’s Show.”   The sketches will premiere on Comedy Central's online broadband network, Motherload, sometime in 2006 before making its cable network debut, a spokesperson said.  Among the unseen clips Chappelle filmed are spoofs of MTV’s “Cribs” and Morgan Spurlock’s documentary “Super Size Me,” reports Daily Variety.        In August 2004, Chappelle signed a two-year deal with Comedy Central worth a reported $50 million. During the early stages of production on the third season, Chappelle took a sudden trip to South Africa for a little ill-timed R&R. The network was forced to suspend taping in May of this year.  Sources close to the show say they don’t believe Chappelle will ever return to the program.

Woodruff, Vargas To Anchor ABC's 'World News Tonight'

Associated Press

(Dec. 5, 2005) New York — ABC News named Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff co-anchors of World News Tonight on Monday, replacing the late Peter Jennings. The network said World News Tonight also would become the first network evening newscast to be broadcast live each night in three time zones, including for the West Coast. Vargas and Woodruff have been two of the chief substitute anchors on World News Tonight since Jennings announced in April that he had lung cancer. Jennings died on Aug. 7. Charles Gibson, who also substituted for Jennings and was considered a top candidate for the job, will remain as host of ABC's Good Morning America. The decision will make Woodruff and Vargas the first co-anchors of an evening newscast since Dan Rather and Connie Chung briefly worked together at CBS Evening News in the 1990s. ABC's World News Tonight is ranked second in the Nielsen Media Research rankings, and has been fading a bit lately to NBC's first-place Nightly News, anchored by Brian Williams. CBS is still searching for its replacement for Rather, who left in March, amid reports that it is seeking NBC's Katie Couric for the job. "Elizabeth and Bob together will be the anchors for this new broadcast and digital age of World News Tonight," ABC News President David Westin said. "Their experience as journalists, their familiarity to our audiences, and their commitment to gathering and delivering the news anywhere, anytime and in every way make them the right team to take us forward for the new generation." The three separate newscasts will begin on Jan. 2, as will a daily Webcast with the day's top stories. Vargas, 43, has been co-anchor of ABC's 20/20, and she'll keep that job. Woodruff, 44, was one of ABC's chief correspondents for Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami, and has been anchor of the weekend World News Tonight newscasts.

Conservatives Cut Funding For PEI'S TV And Film Sector

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Dec. 5, 2005) Charlottetown -- PEI's Progressive Conservative government is cutting its funding for television and film production by $300,000. The province gave out about $1-million in film and tax credits in 2004 and is concerned it's not getting enough return on its investment. Development Minister Mike Currie said that while production crews can still receive tax incentives, there will be no more handouts. He said benefits the industry brings to the province are often short-lived, and the province's focus should instead be on creating more full-time jobs. CP




Idol Performers Among Panto Cast

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Dec. 5, 2005) Ross Petty is counting on a pair of lucky numbers this year: 10 and 7.  The 10 is because this is the 10th year Petty's holiday pantomime has filled the Elgin Theatre with merriment. Every season, this capricious crew fractures one favourite fairy tale or another with topical jokes, cheeky musical numbers, audience participation and the obligatory appearance in drag of Petty himself, the Dame Edna of Don Mills.  And the 7 stands for the Group of Seven.  Don't worry: Tom Thomson and his cohorts aren't being skewered in the name of Yuletide yocks.  This time around, it's the name of a boy band who've lost their mojo and hide out in a woodland cottage hoping to retain it.  Somewhere along the way, they encounter a damsel named Snow White and, well, you can guess the rest.  Director Ted Dykstra and author David Finley have entitled the annual seasonal show Snow White and the Group of Seven, now in previews, prior to opening Thursday.  But leave it to the publicity-savvy Petty to put an extra spin on things and his cast this year is no idle collection of thespians. In fact, it's more like an "Idol" collection, with three of the group, as well as Snow White, being played by four veterans of CTV's Canadian Idol: Elena Juatco, Ryan Malcolm, Gary Beals and Billy Klippert.  Toss in the lead singer of Glass Tiger, Alan Frew, musical theatre types like Kevin Dennis and Jordan Bell as well as young TV veteran Taylor Abrahamse and you've got a vintage Petty potpourri of musical talent.  The Star spoke to the Group of Seven earlier this week after a boisterous student matinee and asked each of them what their characters were like, how they were enjoying the experience — and which of the archetypal seven dwarves from the 1937 Disney classic cartoon they most relate to.


Alan Frew (Pops): "I'm the father of the group. No dwarves here. They all moved out of the cottage and went to join the Lord of the Rings. Since I'm originally from Glasgow, I'm just playing every grumpy old Scotsman I've ever seen in my life and giving it my own spin. Who would I be from the original? Definitely Doc."


Ryan Malcolm
(Primo): "I find this all pretty awesome. I like to think I'm the lead singer, but it's just because I'm the oldest (in the musical family). The rest think I'm Pops's favourite and they pick on me all the time. Ted (Dykstra) is married to Melanie Doane so he knows what the music business is like and the jokes are all true. I always thought Grumpy was the coolest dwarf and I play a really good grump."


Gary Beals
(Duey): "I'm the second-born son and despite what Ryan says, I feel I get picked on the most. But I'm having a blast. I love doing all the comedy as well as the singing. I started out studying theatre in Acadia University and that's all coming in handy now. I'm just enjoying myself. You'd have to say I'm Happy ... in every sense of the word."


Billy Klippert
(Tracey): "I'm the third born and since I came in number three on Idol, they always make jokes about `Guess you'll always be third,' but it's all in fun. (Dykstra) told us we should act like ourselves when we were kids, which is great. And doing Jackson 5 moves with an Afro wig on my head is something else. I also sneeze a lot, so I'd be Sneezy."


Kevin Dennis
(Kat No. 1): "Jordan and I play twins — the two messed up ones in the middle. I've been an usher at the Elgin and now it's a thrill to finally get onto the stage. It's a great time of the year to be working and making people happy. I saw Snow White as a kid and, well, I've always been Bashful."


Jordan Bell
(Kat No. 2): "Yeah, Kevin and I are twins and very good-looking ones, too. Being in a boy band is awesome. I still don't believe the screams we get when we enter. Theatre is my first love, but this is a great learning curve. Dopey was always my favourite dwarf because he was funny and making silly faces, just like me."


Taylor Abrahamse
(Cinco): "I'm the youngest of the group so I argue and fight with everybody. It's a real test to do stage work and some of it's pretty intense. Like, we do this one medley where we go through the past 50 years of music in seven minutes, complete with costume changes. By the time we finish that, I feel like my favourite dwarf, Sleepy."



The Gladstone Reopens With A Slick Redesign

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Christopher Hume, Architecture Critic

(Dec. 3, 2005) As of today it's official: the Gladstone Hotel has reopened.  It never really closed, of course, but as of now this once run-down redbrick heap ranks among Toronto's hotspots, a West Queen West destination, and a sign of how successful we have become in reinventing and recycling the city.  Under its new owners, the Zeidler family, the 116-year-old institution has been transformed into a counterculture showcase, an artist-decorated venue where almost every room doubles as a gallery.  In one unit, just completed by Millie Chen, the walls have been covered in wallpaper with traditional Chinese motifs that she has altered very subtly and subversively.  Another chambre has been turned into a felt room. Designed by Kathryn Walter, it proves that felt, even industrial felt, can be a strangely sensuous material.  Melissa Levin created what she calls the "puzzle room." Decorated with jigsaw puzzles, all freely mixed and matched, it's a space where people can go to play games.  Despite being known as a dump for decades, the Gladstone began life as a respectable establishment frequented by late-19th-century commercial travellers.  In those days, Toronto was dotted with similar hotels; usually not more than four or five storeys tall and designed with the latest architectural fashion clearly in mind, they were small but proud operations.  But as the 20th century progressed and the chains took over the hotel business, the appeal of the local landmark diminished. Visitors preferred familiarity and brand names they'd heard before. The best surprise, said one hotel ad, was no surprise.  With the advent of the 21st century, however, the lure of the homogeneous world had started to wane.  What's the point of travelling halfway around the world to stay at a hotel that could be down the road?

Toronto has discovered that in a big way. Two years before the Gladstone became what it is today, the nearby Drake, a lesser landmark a block or two east on Queen Street, was remade as an artistic hangout, prime cultural real estate. Little wonder it has been wildly successful since the moment it opened.  The beauty of Toronto lies in these twin realities: first, that it has a stock of buildings from the 1800s, and second, that we have the entrepreneurs willing to renovate, restore and recycle them.  In addition to the Gladstone and the Drake, there are new boutique hotels, some of the city's most elegant, such as Le Germain on Mercer, the Pantages on Victoria and the Cosmopolitan on Colborne.  But why stop there? Queen Street East, despite being run down and long neglected, is now coming back to life. It, too, boasts some magnificent 19th-century architectural relics, some of them definitely worth a closer look and — who knows? — maybe a remake.The most obvious candidate, The New Broadview House Hotel, better known as Jilly's (Girls! Girls! Girls! Girls!), sits proudly on the northwest corner of Queen and Broadview Avenue.  Built in 1891 by Archibald Dingman, a self-made Victorian businessman with wide-ranging interests, this Romanesque heap makes an incongruous setting for a strip club, but beneath its tawdry skin lies a genuine urban landmark.  Given that the rumblings of an art scene are starting to be heard on Queen East, Dingman's redbrick palace is ideally situated to become its base. Like the Gladstone, it is anchored to the site by a four-storey tower that still looms over the intersection. The exterior surfaces, with their carved sandstone caricatures, rival those of Old City Hall.

Just west of Jilly's on Queen is another, apparently salvageable, building, the New Edwin Hotel. Built circa 1910, it was expanded in the early '50s. Though the addition is not much to look at, the original structure has a remarkable dignity; the overhanging cornice lends an air of elegance to this simple but assured establishment.  "There's been a lot of inquiries lately," says owner Chris Patadacos. "Yeah, I'd be interested. The area's changing. It's more affluent, that's for sure. The hotel was built when this was Highway 2, Kingston Rd. We have guys staying by the week and by the month."  There you have it: east Toronto's response to the Drake and the Gladstone, Broadview House and the Edwin. Close enough to each other to form a critical mass, they are a renaissance waiting to happen.  There's more. Travel east on Queen to Leslie and there's the hard-to-miss Duke of York Tavern. Though no longer a functioning hotel, it was built in 1868 as an inn. Today, its most distinctive feature is the mural of John Wayne — the Duke — painted on the front façade.  "It's not a hotel any more," explained a voice with a thick European accent. "It's bachelor apartments."  Then he hung up, clearly uncomfortable with the idea of discussing the history of the building.  Not everyone loves the idea of change; rather the devil you know than the one you don't. Like it or not, the middle classes are turning their spotlight even on this dark and dreary corner of the city. Three-and-a-half years ago, restaurateur Gio Rana opened a place directly across Queen from the Duke. It was an instant success.

Now Queen East is on its way to becoming yet another downtown destination. Art galleries have popped up, and condos, bars, restaurants and antique stores are appearing daily. The possibilities are vast.  The truth, however, is that Toronto has always preferred to go west. The west end has much more to offer in the way of hotels than the Gladstone and Drake. The intersections of Spadina Avenue with King and College Sts. provide two excellent examples.  The Waverly, at College, has been a neighbourhood fixture since 1900. Though it's far from the most exciting example of late Victorian architecture in Toronto, it's one of those rare places that actually has played a role in the cultural life of the city. Poet Milton Acorn was a long-time resident there, as was painter Mashel Teitelbaum. Novelist Elmore Leonard even mentioned the Waverly in his book Killshot. The building has seen better days, but its location couldn't be better. Can revitalization be far off?  Similarly, the old Spadina Hotel (northwest corner of King and Spadina) seems ripe for a rebirth. Though it comes highly regarded as a backpackers' hostel, it was in rough shape before that, seemingly forever. Sadly, the building suffers from one of the worst paint jobs of any building in Toronto. The vertigo-inducing colour scheme should be declared illegal. Somewhere beneath it all, there's an impressive Empire-style building, complete with mansard roof and dormer windows, waiting to get out.  It's only a matter of time.


BET News' In-Depth Look At Tookie Williams

Source: BET

(Dec. 7, 2005) His journey from infamous gang leader to death sentence and now fight for redemption is already the subject of Hollywood movie scripts.  But as the reality of his scheduled December 13 execution date looms closer, BET News will go inside the case of Los Angeles “Crips” gang co-founder Stanley Tookie Williams and the growing controversy over whether he should be granted clemency for a quadruple-murder conviction.  Hosted by BET News reporter Andre Showell, BET will televise Stanley Tookie Williams:  A Question of Justice on Wednesday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT, with an encore showing at 11:00 p.m. ET/PT.   This BET News production includes actual interviews with Williams and key figures involved both in his life and the high-profile case.  Among those featured in the BET telecast are Williams’ legal team member Verna Wefald, NAACP President and CEO Bruce Gordon, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, actress Alfre Woodard, and noted radio host and columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson.   The Williams saga is a long one, dating back to 1971 when he co-founded one of the country’s most notorious street gangs.  In 1981, he was convicted of murdering four people during two robberies and sentenced to death row at California’s famed maximum-security San Quentin State Prison.  While imprisoned, the transformation of Williams has garnered world-wide attention, with Williams having authored nine acclaimed children’s books educating youth to avoid gangs and crime.  So compelling are Williams’ works that he has received multiple nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize for literature.   In addition to presenting this in-depth review of the Williams case, BET News will closely and report on the pivotal events of this week which will determine Williams’ fate, including his clemency hearing before California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on December 8; the anticipated decision by the governor by week’s end; and Williams scheduled execution on December 13. 

Snoop, Foxx, Alfre Appear At Tookie Rally

Excerpt from

(Dec. 2, 2005)  *The life of San Quentin death row inmate Stanley “Tookie” Williams is now solely in the hands of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after the California Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to halt the execution of the famous gang founder-turned-peace activist.  Should Schwarzenegger decide against granting clemency in the case, the state will proceed as planned in executing Williams by lethal injection on Dec. 13. As previously reported, the governor has agreed to meet with Williams' lawyers next week to consider his petition for clemency. If granted, Tookie’s sentence would be commuted to life without parole.  "What I want to do is make sure we make the right decisions, because we're dealing here with a person's life," Schwarzenegger said Wednesday.  The decision from the high court was handed down as more rallies in support of Williams were being held around the state. They coincided with hundreds of demonstrations around the world for "World Cities Against the Death Penalty Day."  At a library in downtown Los Angeles, Snoop Dogg, Alfre Woodard and Jamie Foxx, who played Williams in the FX biopic “Redemption,” were among the participants at a rally organized on his behalf. During the demonstration, Foxx reached Tookie by cell phone and allowed him to address the gathered crowd.

"I'd like to thank all you youngsters," Williams said through Foxx’s cell phone held up to a microphone. "I am honored, truly honored, and regardless of what happens to me, whether I am alive or executed, I know you all will remember me."  Foxx gave the phone back and told the crowd: "If that don't move you, I don't know what it takes."  In a last-ditch legal move, defense attorneys had petitioned the high court earlier this month to reopen the case, alleging sloppy forensic testing and other errors led to Williams’ wrongful conviction. Lawyers for Williams, author of a series of anti-gang books for children, wanted to re-examine ballistics evidence that showed his shotgun was used to kill three people during a 1979 motel robbery. The defense dismissed the forensic evidence as "junk science," but prosecutors said that allegation was "based upon innuendo, supposition and the patent bias of (Williams') purported expert."  The high court voted 4-2 without comment to deny Tookie’s petition, with Chief Justice Ronald George voting to reopen the case.  "We think the chief justice's dissent highlights the seriousness of the issues raised," defense attorney Jonathan Harris said.


Urban League Honours Farrah Grey

Excerpt from

(Dec. 1, 2005) *Farrah Gray, the 21-year-old entrepreneurial who has recently been touting his money-making secrets everywhere from Tavis Smiley’s TV show to the “Starting Over” house, has received the Whitney M. Young Jr. Entrepreneurship Award during the annual National Urban League's Whitney M. Young, Jr. Center for Urban Leadership Conference.  Raised in the projects on Chicago's south side, Gray defied the odds and became a self-made millionaire by the age of 14. Gray began his entrepreneurial and personal development and civic engagement as a stellar young citizen at six-years-old by selling his own hand-painted rocks as bookends and homemade body lotion door-to-door.  At age 7, he was carrying business cards reading "21st Century CEO." At 8, Gray became co-founder of Urban Neighborhood Enterprise Economic Club (U.N.E.E.C.) on Chicago's Southside. U.N.E.E.C. was the forerunner of New Early Entrepreneur Wonders (NE2W), the flagship organization he opened on Wall Street. Gray became the youngest person to have an office on Wall Street. NE2W enlisted, educated and engaged "at-risk" youth to create innovative ways to acquire additional income.  Between the ages of 12 and 16 years old, Gray founded and operated business ventures that included KIDZTEL pre-paid phone cards, the "One Stop Mail Boxes & More" franchise and "The Teenscope: Youth AM/FM" interactive teen talk show. Gray was also executive producer of a comedy show on the Las Vegas Strip and owner of Farr-Out Foods, "Way-Out Food with a Twist," which targeted youth with the company's first Strawberry-Vanilla syrup product. Farr-Out Foods "Foodfulooza" generated orders exceeding $1.5 million.

As a pre-teen, Gray reached 12 million listeners and viewers every Saturday night as co-host of "Backstage Live," a syndicated television and radio simulcast in Las Vegas. Gray's inspirational spirit and grounded personality sparked requests from organizations around the country. According to Naples Daily News, "Farrah Gray touched them in a way few speakers can." Gray's sense of social responsibility motivated him to create the non-profit organization, The Farrah Gray Foundation.   “Mr. Gray’s participation in this conference is certain to enhance the experience of all in attendance as we seek to build a cadre of urban leadership, dedicated to empowering communities and changing the lives of those we serve, given his trailblazing career related to economic empowerment, leadership, and entrepreneurship,” said Michelle N. Bullock, Director of the Whitney M. Young Center for Urban Leadership.


Tony Bennett, Tina Turner, Robert Redford Honoured

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Juan-Carlos Rodriguez

(Dec. 5, 2005) Washington — Show business legends Robert Redford, Tina Turner, Tony Bennett, Julie Harris and ballerina Suzanne Farrell saw their careers celebrated by a host of film, stage and music stars at the annual Kennedy Center Honours. The honourees took in the tributes Sunday night from box seats with U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura. Redford -- actor, director and creator of the Sundance independent film festival -- took some pot-shots from Paul Newman, his co-star in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. Referring to Redford's reputation for lateness, Newman said: “Backstage they think the only reason he's even in the vicinity was because they told him this whole thing was yesterday.” Willie Nelson performed My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys and Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys as his tribute to Redford. Oprah Winfrey called herself “Tina's biggest known groupie” and spoke of seeing Turner perform live, advising the audience at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: “Add that to the list of things you do before you die.” In honour of Turner, Queen Latifah sang What's Love Got to Do With It and Melissa Etheridge sang River Deep, Mountain High. Beyonce got the crowd on their feet and didn't miss a step even though her microphone went dead about halfway through her rendition of Proud Mary. It was quickly replaced and she finished the song.

Farrell was celebrated by her former colleague at the New York City Ballet, Jacques d'Amboise. The company, led by George Balanchine, “was the centre of American ballet and she was the diamond in its crown,” d'Amboise said. Farrell was the lead dancer in Balanchine-choreographed ballets such as Meditation and The Nutcracker. She founded her own company and now teaches ballet there. Bennett was toasted with a jazzy interpretation of I Left My Heart in San Francisco by Wynton Marsalis. Actress and singer Vanessa Williams sang The Best Is Yet to Come, and chanteuse Diana Krall performed Fly Me to the Moon. Record producer Quincy Jones described Bennett as “a soulful messenger of American songs” and said, “Tony is the one who knows how to fly us to the moon and get us back.” Harris, a long-time veteran of stage and screen and winner of a record six Tony awards, won kudos from Kevin Spacey, who called her performances “not tricks, but transformations.” Harris' films include The Member of the Wedding, East of Eden and Reflections in a Golden Eye.  A troupe of Broadway divas including Tyne Daly, Christine Baranski, Leslie Uggams, Michelle Lee and Karen Ziemba performed Broadway Baby for Harris. Earlier Sunday, the president welcomed members of the 28th annual class of honourees at a White House reception. “Each of these honourees, in a lifetime of achievement, has set a standard of excellence that is admired throughout the world,” he said. The Kennedy Center Honours will be broadcast Dec. 27 on CBS.




Lose Your Santa Belly By Christmas

By Joyce Vedral, Special For eFitness

You can lose your Santa Belly or at least a few good inches of it by Christmas by working your stomach with interval aerobics. We all know that aerobic exercise burns fat. But plain ordinary aerobics can get very boring. In addition, does not reshape anything. But when you put a new component into the picture, and work in 30-45 second intervals, the result you get changes dramatically.  The good news is, you don't need any equipment whatsoever for this workout, but if you happen to have any piece of aerobic equipment around, whether it be an exercise bike, a stair stepper or any contraption you might have bought from a TV advertisement, you can opt to use it.  Here's how it works.

Thirty seconds walk in place fast, or jump on the exercise bike. Then do the following three exercises without stopping, 15 repetitions each.

Clamshell Crunch -- Tones your upper and lower abdominal area.

Start position: Lie flat on your back, feet flat to the floor, knees bent, hands behind your head for support, not for pulling.

Movement: Lifting your shoulders and hip butt area off the floor at the same time, and keeping your back flat to the mat, flex your entire abdominal area as hard as possible. Return to start and repeat the movement until you have completed 15 repetitions. Without resting move to the:

Floor Oblique Crunch -- Tones your side oblique muscles, making your waist look smaller and putting lines of definition. Gets rid of love handles.

Start: Same position as start for Clamshell Crunch.

Movement: Keeping your back flat on the floor, bring your right elbow to your left knee, while flexing your entire abdominal area and feeling the flex, especially in your side oblique muscles. Return to start position and repeat for the other side. Repeat until you have completed 15 repetitions. Without resting, move to the next exercise.

The Bicycle: Tightens your entire abdominal area with a side effect of toning the lower butt area.

Start: Lie flat on your back with your right leg bent and your left leg nearly straight up.

Movement: Do a bicycle-like movement, keeping your back flat to the mat, but flex your stomach muscles as hard as possible throughout the movement. Do 15 repetitions for each leg.

Without resting get back on your piece of exercise equipment, skip rope, or walk or run in place for 30 seconds. Ideally, you would now do intervals for your other troublesome body parts such as hips, butt and thighs and other body parts.



Motivational Note: The Three Stages of Your Life

Motivation123 Newsletter by Jason Gracia  

The purpose of today's newsletter is to open your eyes. Not to a new motivation tip or technique, but to a new way of looking at your life. A way that will change how you approach everything you think, feel, and do. A way that will help you put together the type of life you really want to live. You see, from the beginning we are constantly bombarded by the little, insignificant things in life, so much so that many of us have been blinded to the bigger picture. In a sense, we've missed the point of it all. This issue is your opportunity to push aside the small things and take a step back to view the larger purpose of your life.

Did You Know You Were an Author? I want you to think of your life as a story. Like all good stories, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and includes a wide array of characters, a fair share of comical situations, and a series of challenging experiences. But unlike most stories you read in a book or see on the silver screen, this one is yours. You call the shots from beginning to the end, deciding everything from the people who play a role to your response to the things that happen around you. You're the author of the story of your life. If more people realized their day to day choices and actions were their chance to create a remarkable story, we would have less regret and more happiness in the world. But that's just what we find. Regret. People get so wrapped up in their daily routines that they don't have the time to realize their life is passing them by. Only when it's too late does the truth hit them like a ton of bricks. The major acts of their life were consumed by the small things in life, leaving no time or attention to develop an amazing story. - - - If you're thinking to yourself it's not just the small things that get in the way, you're right. Many people take the time to think about living a better life, but don't have the confidence to follow through with their plans. Does this hit home for you? If so, we may be able to help. Confidence isn't a trait only a few lucky ones are born with. There are specific steps you can take to increase the confidence you have in your ability to change and succeed. I know you can do it, and have the facts to prove it. To learn more, visit the address below: