Updated: October 13, 2005
Hey everyone! Welcome to fall - warm weather and then BAM - it's
fall! Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and for those south of theborder
that you had a Happy Columbus Day! I went to the Argos game on Monday
with my brother-in-law and was thrilled to see a crowd of over 34,000! Tons
going on at those games - if you haven't been lately, check it out! (That's me
with Diane Clemons - Pinball's wife!)
Check out all the news below including more details on Russell Peters new deal, a recap of last week's Katrina fundraiser - what a night!
Check out all categories - 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 EVENTS. Want to be removed from the distribution, click REMOVE.
DeeKaye Ibomeka at Hugh’s Room – November 4, 2005
November 4 presents an opportunity to see rising jazz, soul and blues baritone DeeKaye Ibomeka headlining the prestigious Hugh’s Room in Toronto. The 25-year-old jazz baritone with enormous stage presence and 3-octave range has just completed the recording of his debut CD, co-written with and produced by jacksoul’s Haydain Neale. DeeKaye made an impressive Montreal debut this summer at the Jazz Festival’s spectacular “Voices of Soul” concert where he shared the stage with The Neville Brothers, Patti Labelle, Ann Peebles, Deborah Cox and Jully Black. DeeKaye’s debut CD is scheduled for release in early 2006 and features his unique blend of jazz, soul and the blues. Don’t miss this opportunity to check out the vocal stylings of DeeKaye Ibomeka who will be backed by a hot band featuring Andrew Craig on keyboards and Roger Travassos on drums!
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2005
DEEKAYE IBOMEKA IN CONCERT
2261 Dundas St. West
Special Guest performance at 8:30pm
Tickets $20 in advance $22 at the door.
Call for tickets: 416.531.6604
Kanye West In Concert – November 9, 2005
No matter who you are or where you lived - if you owned a radio, television, computer or CD player, you felt Kanye West’s presence. Since the release of his 3 million selling, critically acclaimed-debut The College Dropout, the Chicago-born 28 year old rapper/producer/hip-hop icon has been at the top of the charts and at the top of his game. From the red carpet of the 47th Grammys - where he topped all nominees with a historic ten nods and took home awards for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song and Best R&B song - to the millions of albums sold, a sold-out stadium tour with Usher, and his ubiquitous presence on MTV, BET, CNN, and radio stations nationwide, West grew from being an artist to watch to an artist you experience. This tour also features special guests Fantasia and Keyshia Cole.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2005
KANYE WEST LIVE IN CONCERT
with special guests Fantasia and Keyshia Cole
Air Canada Centre
40 Bay St.
ALL AGES SHOW!
Tickets ON SALE NOW
Tickets (incl. GST) $69.50, $59.50 and $45.50 (plus convenience fees and CRF)
8 ticket limit
Tickets available at all Ticketmaster outlets and at the Air Canada Centre Box Office
Call 416-870-8000 to charge by phone
Or order online at www.ticketmaster.ca
Peters Inks Development Deal With Warner Bros. TV-Based Talent
Toronto, Friday, October 7, 2005—Rising Canadian comedian Russell Peters has signed his first talent development deal in the U.S., inking a contract withfamed producer Tom Werner (Carsey-Werner) and his new associates Jimmy Miller and Eric Gold who are set up at Warner Bros. Television to develop comedy properties. The Peters contract was also the first development deal for the new trio. Werner is of course famous for his creation of “The Cosby Show” (not to mention his part ownership in the world champion Boston Red Sox) and Gold and Miller manage Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Judd Apatow (director of the summer smash, The 40-year Old Virgin), Ellen DeGeneres and Chris Rock, among many others.
"Russell Peters is an incredibly likeable and gifted comedian whose funny observations on race and everyday life are fresh and intelligent while at the same time, completely blow the lid off of racial stereotypes,” says Mike Clements, President, Werner-Gold-Miller Productions. His humour crosses a wide-range both in terms of age and race and we believe Russell Peters will prove to be the next breakout television comedy star in the vein of Tim Allen and Ray Romano."
“We are in fantastic company,” said Clayton Peters, who manages his brother Russell’s affairs. “Werner, Gold and Miller are three of the biggest names in the comedy field and we feel Russell can go the distance on network television - and in feature films - in the U.S. This deal is the first step towards making this happen. Other offers were made by very highly regarded producers as well, however we felt that this particular group of producers and managers would provide Russell with the best shot at going from a pilot to a series.”
Known for immediate connection with his audiences and his quick-witted humour exploring all races and cultures, including his own, the four-time Gemini award nominee Peters is wowing Canadian audiences with his seven-city Somebody…! Tour, beginning with his September stops in Ottawa and Montreal, in addition to Vancouver, Toronto, Mississauga, Calgary and Edmonton. Many of the shows are already sold out with additional shows being added in certain cities. In Toronto, Russell will be performing on Thursday, October 20 and Friday, October 21 at the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts and in Mississauga on Saturday, October 22 and Sunday, October 23 at The Living Arts Centre.
Peters, who has performed all over the world, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Edinburgh Comedy Festival, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival, says that his routines are based on life experiences. He’s also just finalizing his participation in the first HBO Comedy Festival in Las Vegas in November, as well as performing at HBO’s world famous Aspen Comedy Festival in 2006.
His television appearances include CBC-TV’s "COMICS!" "CLUB CLASS" on Channel 5 (UK) and two one-hour “COMEDY NOW!” specials on The Comedy Network in Canada. He has also hosted his own talk show on BBC-TV (UK) and performed on the David Frost Comedy Festival Special, broadcast on both the BBC and the CBC. Peters has appeared as a feature performer in a number of independent film projects, scheduled for release in 2006.
In April 2005, he was the first South Asian to headline and sell-out the world famous Apollo Theatre in New York City. Tens of thousands of fans have turned out to see Peters live across the United States throughout 2004 and 2005. He has been playing for sold out crowds from New York to Los Angeles, and creating a major buzz of excitement on university campuses, comedy clubs and now Hollywood.
Recap - Hurricane
Syreeta Neal's brainchild of having a musical showcase fundraiser tohelp those that lost their homes due to Hurricane Katrina turned out to be much more than your average fundraiser. Held at Revival this past Thursday night, it was a chance to see Toronto's massive pool of talent of artists. Thanks to Syreeta and friends Cindy Williams and co-host Howard M (one of the South's hottest producers - Master P., Lil Romeo, C Miller, Faith Evans, Lil Wayne), we witnessed what happens when all industry rules are thrown out and the music just flows.
The goal was to help raise funds for Habitat For Humanity's "Operation Home Delivery" project. This division of HFH is a program where "sample" houses are built and sent to areas in the gulf coast affected by Hurricane Katrina. Not only was the mere price of admission ($10) put into the fundraising efforts, but many artists also offered up portions of their CD sales to go to the effort.
Although I missed the beginning and the very end of the showcase, some standout performances for me included Zaki Ibrahim, James Bryan and Alessa, Jeen O'Brien, The Show and Andrew Craig, who engaged the audience interactively with a song he wrote for the event. The majority of the performers played acoustically or "unplugged" in the intimate setting and it was an amazing night of music and support. I heard that Divine Brown closed the night with an dazzling performance getting many other artists on stage as well. Special props also go to Adrian Eccleston who comfortably accompanied many of the artists on his acoustic guitar.
Alicia Keys Diversifies
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter
(Oct. 10, 2005) In between launching an acting career and providing anti-retroviral AIDs drugs to children and families in Africa, Alicia Keys foundtime to resurrect MTV's Unplugged franchise. Filmed in July at the Brooklyn Academy of music, the intimate mini-concert, available tomorrow on CD and DVD, features the 24-year-old New York native performing in the acoustic format made popular by Nirvana, Alanis Morissette and Mary J. Blige. Tracks include new arrangements of songs such as "Fallin'" and "A Woman's Worth" from her two studio albums, a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" and a finale jam with Mos Def, Common and Damian Marley. But Keys may need the boost as much as the network, which hasn't aired an Unplugged in three years. While her last disk Diary of Alicia Keys sold a respectable 7 million copies, that's still 3 million less than her stunning debut Songs in A Minor. If the decline continues in the demand for her impeccable singing, producing, songwriting and piano playing, the nine-time Grammy winner has a Plan B: She's currently in rehearsals for the action comedy Smokin Aces in which she plays a ruthless assassin alongside Ben Affleck; and next year she'll star in Halle Berry's film about classical Harlem piano prodigy Phillipa Schulyer. The Star spoke with Keys during her recent visit to Toronto — the first since her paid gig at UrbanAids last fall. Seated at a large conference table inside the swank Park Hyatt hotel, road manager by her side, the petite songstress nervously cracked her knuckles, but spoke eloquently about plans to ring in the New Year in Africa, liking men, and going to heaven.
· Tricks of the trade: "It really felt good to do this Unplugged album. It was like taking it back to my essence — playing in smaller places, very heavily piano-based and just dependent upon myself, a few jokes and my hands. I find that my best shows are always the smaller ones, because I can really connect completely with the audience. "I wanted to capture a magic and spontaneity of music and I wanted to reconnect every one with the essence of music and essence of song. "I also discovered a secret I've been searching for: how the hell do Aretha Franklin and Al Green get their strings to sound like that? I've tried so many recording strings for years. And I decided this time to use a string quartet with me. Boom! That's the answer."
· The definition of irony: "My mother is an actress. I grew up in the theatre. I acted before I even sang, in fact, but I sang first, to you. I feel that the connection between music and film is very close. I feel both are very passionate and about evoking an emotion from people. "For years now, very wonderful directors have approached me about doing some films and I've always kind of pushed it to the side because I didn't feel I could dedicate what needed to be dedicated; and one of my main stipulations was that I was not going to be a piano playing singer. "So, it's funny how God works that the first role that really engaged me was a piano player. But it's perfect for me."
· Giving back: "My organization Keep A Child Alive deals with AIDS in Africa. It's something that's going to take years to conquer and its something that I'm definitely dedicated to. I'm actually in the process of planning a pilgrimage back to Africa two days after Christmas. "I feel that for people with great exposure and access there is a certain responsibility. I hope other people feel the same responsibility; obviously if they don't, that's a personal choice, but I feel that what my whole pilgrimage when I go to Africa is about engaging all of us as working people. I do feel I would have that same kind of drive if I was working in the post office."
· Love is ... "For me, music is good when it gives me chills, when I feel it with every part of my body. There's no fronting in it, there's no acting in it, there's no pretending in it. It is truly the emotion that I'm trying to capture, or that I feel. And when I can sing it countless times and feel the same way about it, then I know its good. "Five new artists who give me the chills? In the past five years? Kanye West, Anthony Hamilton, Coldplay ... I've got three ... John Legend, John Mayer. Were there any women in there? What the hell does that mean? Jesus! That I like men; I guess that's what that means."
· Reading between the lines: "I have to be an open book with my music, because that's how I write, from my personal experience. But I feel like I have from the very beginning learned how to draw the line between what's too personal to speak about with the media and what's too personal to put in a song. "People ask me all the time `How do you stay out of these trash magazines?' Especially in Europe, they ask me that a lot. And I say `Because I just don't talk about it.'"
· Charting success: "When you have a dream, really hold on to it, because I feel like people try to break us down. Even our closest people who do say they love us, they are often the hardest ones to make it feel like its impossible. "Be the best at what you do. Know your business, because you will be broke if you don't and you will be soon taken advantage of. "And be open to doing numerous things; instead of being in the film, how about producing the film? Or being the assistant director who actually does the shots. "There are so many ways to make a living in this industry."
· Love is ... (remix): "Those little simple silly things are the things that keep me surviving. Like taking a walk with a really good friend of mine and having five minutes to really let it all loose for those five minutes and I don't have to pretend I'm cool and I don't have to pretend like I'm okay and I can tell her, or him, exactly how I feel. "It just makes me feel like I can continue on. The more I live I realize that all these things that we wear, all these things that we ... sure it would be nice to have and yeah, that car is hot, but at the end of the day, after I go to heaven, which I hope to go to, I want to know that I was loved and that I gave love."
Behind The Music, The Business And The Rumours
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 12, 2005) Forget everything you've heard about this man and believe everything you read from this sentence on. Mathew Knowles is not only the father and manager of this generation’s most adored R&B songbird, some say he’s an executive genius surrounded by good company. As their manager, Mathew has helped catapult Destiny’s Child to one of the most successful girl groups of all time. As an executive he’s been accused of driving profits into the ground at Sanctuary Urban Records, a label he helped create. Most recently, parent company Sanctuary Records axed 175 jobs to cut costs. We’ll tell you what role Mathew played in the layoffs. In part one of our two-part interview, EUR sat down with Mathew Knowles to discuss his new business ventures, his upcoming projects and the real reason why Sanctuary Urban suffered a $4 million loss. (Interview by Lee Bailey, additional reporting by Chianti Phillips)
Let’s get right to it. The streets are claiming that Sanctuary Urban Records has closed its doors because of the way you ran the company, resulting in a $4 million loss. Is the label still up and running?
Absolutely. I’m still the president of Sanctuary Urban and I still have staff. We had a layoff [at parent company, Sanctuary Records] but Sanctuary Urban was the least affected by that. You would have thought that Sanctuary lost $50 million!!! I can tell you that my profits from my management company greatly exceeded my loss from the record label. “Musicworld Sanctuary” exceeded $7 million in its first year.
So where did the loss come from?
The loss came from the record label but it was a small loss. We’re talking less than $4 million, which is more than natural when you’re doing a start up company. People are thinking that I brought down Sanctuary (laughter).
Yeah, that’s pretty much what people are thinking.
When you have a start-up record label that’s less than a year old and you have to go out and get a complete staff—I’m baffled that people thought that I’m going to make this significant profit.
How do you explain the reason why albums released under your power weren’t successful?
We shouldn’t have put any of those releases out because the culture at Sanctuary obviously is a rock culture and I have to take part ownership as the president. So if I wasn’t still running it, I wouldn’t say this: We should not have put those records out in retrospect because we did not have the long lead press that’s necessary to put out urban records. We have a rock culture with a new urban culture. We’re in a period of transition with both cultures coming together.
After selling your management company for $10 million, how has Music World Management been affected by this transition?
Music World Management is still part of the overall Music World Sanctuary Group Inc. All of that entity is still in tact for now. But we have a new venture that’s called Musicworld/Sanctuary Urban as well. My company was called Musicworld, their company is Sanctuary. In my negotiations it was real important to me to keep my name. I built the brand “Musicworld.” They’re not giving up their name; they built the brand “Sanctuary.” We have mutual respect about that. We merged the names to form the division, “Musicworld Sanctuary Urban Group Inc.” There are other companies under that umbrella: Sanctuary Urban Management, Sanctuary Urban Records and my new company Urbane Merchandising.
So you’re just all up in there?
Well, it’s not “all up in there” it’s a division that I run.
So what role do you play on the record side or Sanctuary?
Let me make this clear. On the management side of “Musicworld” I am an employee of Sanctuary. I don’t work for Sanctuary on the record side. I am not their employee. I am their partner.
And of course that’s important because as a partner you make the decisions?
Exactly! And if I don’t want to go to work for a f*****year. I don’t have to (laughter).
That’s true. Now just to clear things up…Sanctuary Urban Records is still in business?
Who is on the roster?
We did the soundtrack for “Roll Bounce,” we were fortunate to enough to get that soundtrack. Bow Wow did a phenomenal job. I think he’ll have a career in movies after this and it’s a great family movie. The soundtrack reminds me of my last soundtrack, Fighting Temptations. It’s been on the gospel charts for 102 weeks. Creatively I think we put together the same type of soundtrack with “Roll Bounce.” The movie takes part in the 70’s so what we did was go with a 70’s theme. We got Fabolous, Brooke Valentine, Yo Yo, Ray J, R. Kelly, Earth, Wind and Fire and Beyonce’s “Wishing on A Star.” We also put Michelle’s “Let’s Stay Together” on there from the Gap commercial. We sprinkled it with songs from the movie like “Lovely Day” from Bill Withers. We feel that this is a top ten record. I’m excited about this soundtrack, Earth Wind and Fire and Ray J record.
We heard from someone in Ray J’s camp that he is under Sanctuary and not Sanctuary Urban.
When they say it’s under Sanctuary it’s still Sanctuary Urban’s staff that’s promoting the record. We’re a joint venture. I don’t care, [the back of Ray J’s CD] could say your name, as partner it falls under our joint venture.
Check out part two of our Mathew Knowles interview next week! Find out where he was during his “alleged” two-month absence from his label, his plans to create a new girl group, and how he deals with controversy.
A Glut Of Goodwill To Honour An Icon
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Brad Wheeler
(Oct. 12, 2005) A day after Ray Charles died, biographer David Ritz spoke of the man known as Brother Ray. "He was crazy, he was wonderful, he was cranky, he was generous, he was gentle. He was harsh. Everything you heard in his voice was who he was as a man. He was raw, he was real, and he transformed all the genres into him. Most musicians go to the genres, but in Ray's case, he just kinda tore down the doors -- 'If I wanna do country, I'll do country; if I wanna play jazz, I'll do jazz; if I wanna play R & B, I'll play R & B.' "He was bad . . . he tore it all up." Ritz paid respect to Charles on a nationally televised U.S. news program, and since June 10, 2004, the tributes have continued to come. There have been books, boxed sets and magazine retrospectives; there have been duet records and cover albums. Everybody loves Raymond? Maybe, maybe not -- Charles wasn't the easiest guy to get along with -- but that a whole lot of people dug his music, that can be agreed on. Count John Scofield, a masterful contemporary jazz guitarist, among the Charles admirers. "His music moved me, as much as any music ever has," Scofield said from his New York residence. "He was incredible. Here he was playing rhythm and blues, but he could play jazz too, and he would write for his big band. He would do everything -- he was so versatile, way more of a musician than any of the other soul or blues singers."
Scofield recently released That's What I Say, a strong tribute album of Charles's material, featuring Dr. John, Mavis Staples and others. The record is one of several Charles-related albums to crowd record-store shelves since his death at age 73 of liver disease. The legacy of Charles perhaps received its biggest boost with the release of Ray, the 2004 biopic with an Oscar-winning performance by Jamie Foxx as the musician. The film grossed more than $70-million (U.S.), while the movie's soundtrack went platinum in Canada (100,000 copies sold). Then there are the books: David Ritz's book Brother Ray was reissued with an updated chapter. (In 2000, Ritz had approached Charles about a sequel to the original autobiography, to take in the changes in the musician's life since 1978. Charles saw no point, explaining "I don't see no changes, baby. I'm still me. Still kicking plenty of ass.") Another new biography, The Birth of Soul by Mike Evans, will be released in November. For the CD player, David (Fathead) Newman, Charles's long-time tenor saxophonist, released his tribute I Remember Brother Ray, a sombre instrumental collection. Just three weeks ago, Rhino Records released a pair of Charles products, including Genius and Friends, a set of duets recorded in 1998 featuring collaborations with contemporary R & B stars Angie Stone, Mary J. Blige and John Legend, as well as Gladys Knight, Diana Ross, Chris Isaak and Willie Nelson. A bolder, more expansive project is Ray Charles Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959). The hefty seven-CD, one-DVD set compiles remastered versions of Charles's entire Atlantic canon, including a disc of rarities that sports recordings made in a hotel room on the road in 1959. Another is Genius Loves Company, an album of duets recorded shortly before the Georgia-born musician's death and released soon after. It was extraordinarily successful, selling more than three million copies worldwide -- the best-selling recording of Charles's six-decade career. The disc, with participation from Natalie Cole, Elton John, Willie Nelson and others, earned eight Grammy Awards, including prizes as the year's best album and record of the year (Here We Go Again, with Norah Jones).
Notably, more than one of the posthumous releases attaches the label "genius" to its title, which is a strong contention. Neither Newman (who knew Charles well) nor Scofield (who never met the legend) are entirely comfortable with the lofty designation. "When it came to music, he had those qualities," Newman said. "On other subjects, I wouldn't want to expand on that." When it came to the man's shortcomings, perhaps Newman was referring to Charles's moments of irritability. Shortly after the musician's death, Rolling Stone published tributes from friends, bandmates and disciples. Robbie Robertson remembered seeing him at a New York studio. As Charles sat daydreaming at his piano, an intolerant producer went over to have a word with him. Charles, with no warning, cuffed the man in the chops. "I don't know what that was about," Robertson recalled thinking, "but I'm sure Ray was right." Scofield is unsure of the "genius thing" as well. "I think in a way, it was unfortunate. It was something that Atlantic used to promote him back in the fifties, and I remember reading in his biography that Ray was a little bit embarrassed about it. But if they did have some sort of scale that could measure that, which I don't even think they did, and when you look at his musical ability, I would say it went off the scale. I bet it was really easy for him to play music." As to why Charles's music provides such sturdy material for tribute albums, Scofield believes the answer is simple. "It's folkloric -- blues music and related forms, African-American early music. The songs are simple and bluesy, and you can do a lot with that." Scofield and company do, in fact, do a lot with the music on That's What I Say. The opening track Busted is an album highlight, with Scofield's short notes peppering the Hammond B3 organ of Larry Goldings and the laid-back beat of drummer and co-producer Steve Jordan. The version of What I'd Say has less overt sexuality than the original, favouring a more celebratory tone. John Mayer surprises with tough, soulful vocals on a funky I Don't Need No Doctor, while a growl-throated Warren Haynes hits the mark on the swaying (Night Time Is) The Right Time, a track better for Scofield's use of carnival-organ guitar effect. So, the question then: Just what would Ray say about Scofield's tribute? "I wish he had heard it," the guitarist said. "I hope he would have approved -- that would have been nice. Unfortunately, the idea to do an album like this only comes when somebody's gone." John Scofield pays tribute to Ray Charles at Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre on Friday, and at Le Casino du Lac-Leamy Theatre in Gatineau, Que., on Saturday.
One On One With Da Minista
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 6, 2005) DA MINISTA is the first Gospel Rap artist ever to join theranks of traditional gospel music label Malaco Records. Straight from the heart of the Hip-Hop generation, DA MINISTA is set apart from everyone else born out of the genre. He’s a minister of the word of God and DA MINISTA leads the congregation of Candlelight Ministries in his home town, McComb, Mississippi. Rap is as natural to DA MINISTA as gospel is to The Mississippi Mass Choir. This down South Hip Hop gospel artist is on a mission to use the gifts that God has given him to reach the hip-hop generation and give them hope in Christ. Leading them out of damaging lifestyles and into productive, God-centered ones is what he’s all about. DA MINISTA and I sat down for a Hip Hop Gospel one on one and this is how the conversation flowed: Queen James: Congratulations on being the first gospel hip hop artist to join Malaco Records traditional gospel family which includes Dottie Peoples, Luther Barnes, Mississippi Mass Choir and others. Tell us who DA MINISTA is.
DA MINISTA : I consider myself to be ministering and not entertaining. I want to make that clear every time I talk to somebody or when I do an interview that I’m not out here trying to entertain, I’m not trying to compete with secular artist, I’m not trying to compare styles and flows. My objective is to minister the word of God and each track deals with a different aspect of life.
Queen James: How would you describe your style?
DA MINISTA : Because I’m a pastor I’ve had to counsel a lot of people so I consider myself to be counselling over these tracks. When you hear these songs you’re going to hear something that’s going to be able to uplift you, encourage you, motivate you and let you know that somebody else out there understands what you are going through. So we deal with issues like child molestation, spousal abuse, the money aspect of life, the struggle that pastors go through and we’re just really ministering on this CD.
Queen James: What’s the testimony behind the title of the CD: “John Miller’s son… still preachin?
DA MINISTA : The title itself is one: a dedication to my father he passed away a couple of years ago. I’m number 12 of 13 children and so my dad hung around and he and my mom raised all of us together and by example he taught us a lot of things about life. So when he passed it was my intention to make sure that his name lived on forever.
The still preaching part of it, I’m a pastor and I’ve been pasturing for eleven years and pasturing in a small town you have to deal with a lot of the of the talk of the town. So I wanted to make a declaration that after all that I been through I’m still preaching. Even though we’re on some tracks and even though the music is playing and we’re using this style of music all of this is still preaching.
Queen James: You say you’re not trying to compete against secular artist. Because you are a hip hop gospel artist don’t you think the comparison is automatic?
DA MINISTA : I think at times we’re too focused on where we fit. Now don’t get it twisted my style is nice, my flow is tight. I’m not a preacher trying to rap and I’m not a rapper trying to preach. I am authentically both because I was doing hip hop before I started preaching and then when I started preaching God groomed me in preaching. I was taught about the bible from the old school preachers who were really into the scripture and so my scripture knowledge is tight and my flow is tight.
Queen James: Let’s talk about your tight flow. What’s the testimony behind your first single “Don’t You Wanna Be Saved?”
DA MINISTA : Don’t You Wanna Be Saved, from a church perspective, it deals with saving souls. I’m not talking to saved people because saved people are already saved but I’m speaking for saved people. That’s what we’re supposed to be asking the world, “Don’t You Wanna Be Saved.”
Queen James: Tells about “Rainy Days.”
DA MINISTA : Rainy Days tells three different stories. I consider myself to be somewhat of a story teller so, like Jesus, I like to speak in parables. Verse one talks about a single mother raising a man child by herself. Verse two talks about a young girl who finds herself pregnant and her boyfriend denies the baby. Verse three talks about a woman who is in an abusive relationship and makes up her mind that she needs to leave.
Queen James: I know it’s difficult to pick but do you have a favourite?
DA MINISTA : The title track John Miller’s son…. Still preachin. The second verse says “Daddy died but I’m carrying on the legacy. I got a son now so on live the pedigree. It talks about a continuation of what God is doing in my life and what my dad instilled in me.
Queen James: Nobody is one of my favourites. What’s the story behind Nobody?
DA MINISTA : In Nobody the first verse deals with a young girl who’s been molested by her step father. I’ve had the opportunity to counsel people who have been molested and have gotten older and weren’t able to at that time to get over the molestation. The second verse deals with a little boy and his mother. The daddy died and he says, ‘Momma trying to front like she alright but she’s sittin in her room by herself crying all night and I heard her ask the Lord why? Talking about daddy was a good man so why you have to let him die. He was the only man that cared for me now I’m scared cause I aint got nobody.’ In the third verse I introduce them to Christ saying that He cares for you.
Queen James: You are definitely keeping it real and living up to your motto by keeping it gospel. What is it that you want the saved and sinner to know about DA MINISTA?
DA MINISTA : We really need to bring this stuff together the way it should be. All ministry should be embraced by the church and all ministries should embrace the church. We all have our flaws and problems but we still need to work together.
DA MINISTA, John Miller’s son…still preachin available in stores now. To hear DA MINISTA tell his story listen to the Queen James Gospel Hour on your local gospel station.
Elements Return To ‘Illuminate’ R&B
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 10, 2005) *Fresh from a summer-long tour with Chicago, the members of Earth Wind and Fire sat down with EUR’s Lee Bailey to discuss their well-received new album “Illumination,” the band’s first studio effort in two years and the product of a collaboration with such talent as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Music Soulchild, Floetry and will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. “We wanted to take a fresher approach to the project,” EWF’s falsetto legend Philip Bailey said of the album, recently released via Sanctuary Records. The 12-track disc also includes input from Raphael Saadiq on three songs, Brian McKnight and Atlanta-based beatmakers Organized Noise. “These artists gave us that energy that we needed to rediscover some new things about who we are and where we are,” says Bailey of the album’s co-collaborators. “All of them have Earth Wind and Fire stories,” adds bassist, Verdine White. “So for us, the advantage that we had was that there had been a history enough for the writers and producers to really get into it.” “I think that makes a difference because you get a little bit more in depth with the writing,” drummer Ralph Johnson points out. “You’re not, as we say in the writing biz, an ‘early settler,’ where you just settle for the first idea that comes into your mind. They were fans, and I think that made a difference in the final product.” The final product sure was a long time coming for die-hard EWF followers.
“There were a lot of things that had to line up,” Bailey says of the current follow-up to 2003’s “The Promise.” “You just can’t do a record. There has to be a company, the company has to be aligned with you, everybody has to be on the same page. We’ve done records to play in our living room for ourselves, and that gets a little old. All those things have to line up, it just took time.” “You can not push the river, it’s all about God’s timetable,” adds Ralph. “Things happen when they’re supposed to happen.” Philip, Ralph and Verdine appear on “Illumination,” the band’s 23rd career album, along with Verdine’s brother and founding member, Maurice White. It was Maurice who in 1969 came up with the group’s name (the three elements in his personal astrological chart) one year before the crew would release their self-titled debut on Warner Bros. Various musicians have come and gone in the years that followed, and in the mid-80s, the group temporarily disbanded. In 1987, they reunited for the Columbia album, “Touch the World,” with Maurice, Verdine, Philip and Ralph alongside saxophone player Andrew Woolfolk and new guitarist, Sheldon Reynolds. In 2000, Maurice was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, but he continued to remain active in music – having produced a project for the group Xpression and recorded vocals for the current album.
“Maurice is doing well,” Verdine says of his brother, who remained home in Santa Monica, CA during EWF’s recent concert tour. “He’s had his health challenges, but all throughout the whole country, people are asking about him and saying their prayers and we’ve been carrying on without him, with his blessing. “In the beginning, everyone was wondering how it was going to be [without Maurice on tour]. And to our surprise and relief, they really accepted it well and we’ve been able to carry it on.” Earth Wind and Fire will also carry on its support of the “Illumination” album with a November tour through the West coast and a December swing through New York and Connecticut. Their successful summer dates with the band Chicago drew three generations of fans, according to the group. The feat underscores their ability to remain musically relevant “from 8-Tracks to iPods,” a new mantra adopted by the band members to describe their longevity. “We’ve been blessed to be able to still make music and still perform in front of a lot of people,” says Verdine. “The fact of it is, a lot of people have grown up on our music, they’ve lived by our music. Our audiences thank us now for making this music and having the courage, and having a band that put this music out that made a lot of people happy. Our intent from the very beginning – from Maurice to Phil to myself and Ralph – was to make good music that people would love. We’re proud of that.” You can check out "Illumination" and get more info about the project at http://www.earthwindandfire.com/.
A Beguiling It Girl: Feist
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Alexandra Gill
(Oct. 8, 2005) In the middle of this week's Feist concert at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, the current It Girl of Canada's avant-garde pop-rock scene almost bulged right out of her big round eyes, suddenly throwing off her guitar and waving frantically to security guards in the wings. "We're going to have to stop the show -- someone's passed out! " cried the Nova Scotia-born, Calgary-raised chanteuse, who recently returned to Toronto after three years in Paris. Her second CD, Let It Die, earned her two Juno Awards and has been garnering raves in the United States. "Okay, that's never happened before," said the still startled and genuinely concerned singer-songwriter, after a young woman had been picked up off the floor near the stage and carried out by two bouncers. "Were you guys moshing too hard? " Feist teased the audience. (Her first name is Leslie, but she goes strictly by her surname.)
There hadn't actually been any slam-dancing going on. But had there been, it would not have seemed out of place at this concert. In the first show in her cross-country tour, Feist and the back-up boys in her band frequently rocked out of the restrained, stripped-down arrangements of her album's quiet, spacious love songs, twinkling folk and jazzy bossa nova. In person, Feist's beguiling voice is deeper and fatter than the high, sinewy sounds that undulate through the studio recording, which was produced and co-written by MC/pianist Chilly Gonzales. She still, however, played those fine-tuned vocals (often unaccompanied) like a variegated instrument that ranged from the breathy vibrato of One Evening to a bluegrass yodel on the standard When I Was a Young Girl. Feist has an exuberant, warm and undeniably infectious stage presence. Dancing around in her seventies-style belted catsuit, under a shroud of thick bangs, she could easily be a crowd-winning disco-pop competitor on the Eurovision Song Contest. But her punk-rock roots came through loud and clear when she took her Technicolor version of Ron Sexsmith's Secret Heart from a sultry whisper to a full-throttled guitar slash in the course of a few short bars. Proving that this former indie darling (who once toured with the raunchy electroclash vixen Peaches as a spandex-clad sock-puppet rapper named Bitch Lap-Lap) is impossible to categorize, she surprised the crowd by pulling her radio-friendly, Euro-hip cover of the Bee Gees Inside and Out back to a lonesome country ballad.
"I want you to transmutate the sequins into lighters and the platform shoes into closed eyelids," she coaxed the audience, who eagerly flicked their Bics and lit up the room as if it were a rock stadium. This unexpected twist on one of her most popular hits was the first of a three-song encore that included a nod to her old bandmates in Broken Social Scene and her own seductively hypnotic Let It Die. "This song is an indication that all the rest of them are [expletive]," she explained at the end of the night. Feist is a genuinely modest, down-to-earth performer who kept engaging the audience by asking them to sing, finger-snap and hand-clap along. Earlier in the night, she helped out on drums when Jason Collett opened the show, later bringing him back to shake a tambourine for the encore. But all that lovely flugelhorn and xylophone-playing from her band is really just pretty wrapping for her voice. And as much as they all seemed to enjoy the evening, Feist and the band never really gelled. Perhaps by the time they get to Toronto, the act will have come together in a more cohesive way that makes the band sound like more than just the back-up Supremes. Feist plays Calgary tonight, Saskatoon on Oct. 11, Regina on Oct. 12, Winnipeg on Oct. 13, and Toronto on Oct. 17 and 18.
Kirk Whalum Performs Babyface Songbook
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 10, 2005) Combine the matchless artistry of Kirk Whalum with the timeless melodies of pop/urban/R&B icon Babyface and you have a double serving of soul and sensitivity. Kirk Whalum performs The Babyface Songbook is instrumental music at its pure, understated and consummately performed best. From the unadorned simplicity of the album’s first note, Kirk Whalum delivers an invitation to intimate communion and passionate interplay. Far more than a collection of covers, Kirk Whalum performs The Babyface Songbook is an expansion and exploration of the soulful insight and melodic interpretation that has become a hallmark of Whalum’s career. On his Rendezvous Entertainment debut he takes romance higher and deeper, revealing a greater transparency and vulnerability. Kirk Whalum and Babyface Edmonds share much in common. They are the same age and both are adept at performing, composing and producing. They both consistently top the charts in their respective areas of endeavour and both are known for their romantic acumen and ability to capture the heart of a song and captivate those who listen. Associated with the premier names in pop, R&B and urban, it was destined that the arc of their careers and artistry would one day intersect. Although unquestionably Babyface cuts a wider swath when it comes to name recognition, there are probably very few people who haven’t been lifted by the brilliant and plaintive sax solo offered by Whalum in Whitney Houston’s rendition of "I Will Always Love You," a single from The Bodyguard soundtrack (which also featured a Babyface composition). Countless listeners have been lifted, soothed, and energized by his soulful sax playing, pushing his album sales to over a million, a rare phenomenon in the jazz world. Together, Whalum and the album’s producer Matt Pierson took some very deliberate and risky positions. The sax would be out front, not submerged and layered. Production would be lean and recorded live with as few overdubs as possible. Emphasis on the sonic quality of the saxophone and other instruments would be pre-eminent and gloss and reverb would be dialled down. Kirk recounts, "We wanted to make a bold statement. We wanted to not just do what everyone else is doing, to use the same reverb, to use the same bells and whistles, to produce the same sound that everyone expects for a hit record. We decided to go with the strength of the sound of the saxophone, in particular, my sound, which is something I’ve taken very seriously for years and years. When I practice, I practice not just technique, but I also practice sound, really listening and developing that, the actual sound. "We wanted to find a way to put that sound right in front of you, not cluttered or overproduced, not crowded with a lot of ambience that we felt compelled to fill this big space with. When you hear Songbook, that’s the first thing you’re aware of. We’re not the first ones to do it, but we want to make sure that we bring that nuance and subtlety to the milieu of contemporary jazz. There’s an intimacy to this treatment. It’s like lovemaking, just two people, alone, personal, passionately in love."
Whalum’s gift for crossing genres and melding styles, for giving voice to the deepest human emotions and capturing the essence of romance and love makes him the ideal candidate for exposing the reach of Babyface’s artistry. Whalum has undressed some of Edmonds’ best loved and known songs, stripping them down to their bare essentials and in so doing, he has revealed a melodic depth, often obscured by all of the rich production, honest and insightful lyrics and vocal prowess usually associated with Babyface’s music. The Babyface Songbook focuses on Edmonds’ strengths as a composer and on Whalum’s lyricism and power as an instrumental interpreter of song. "I had the lyrics running through my mind as I played, I wanted to really feel every word and every note, to convey the emotional intensity. As I play them, I’m singing each lyric to myself." That union with his instrument and the song adds an irresistible warmth and richness to each track and the album as a whole. "A really cool thing about the Babyface Songbook is this is the first time that Babyface as a songwriter has been elevated to this level," Kirk notes. "I don’t pretend to be the one elevating him, but our treatment of him has that kind of integrity to it, that kind of dignity. In the pop world, you can be taken seriously…or not. As a pop songwriter, you can be here today and gone tomorrow. Babyface and his music have withstood the test of time. This project is a tribute to a great songwriter in the traditions of Cole Porter, Holland/Dozier and Irving Berlin. They all had the ability, through a lyric or a note, to find the common ground that unites us all, to find that something that thousands and thousands of people can feel intimately and profoundly. That is power, and that’s what these songs have. The music of Babyface goes straight to the heart." Kirk adds, "But here’s the catch: Many people have performed Kenny’s songs, but to do a whole instrumental tribute to him and just spotlight his melodies, that’s something new. We’re highlighting something that perhaps people have taken for granted or haven’t heard in the midst of the production. Sometimes you’re so concentrated on the lyric, it obscures the melody." Usually producers take a melody and dress it up, embellish and add. Whalum has done the exact opposite; he’s reduced these songs to their essential elements, revealing their beauty from a distinctly different vantage point. Producer Matt Pierson, former V.P. of Warner Jazz and responsible for signing Pat Metheny and Boney James, has long believed Kirk to be the most influential saxophonist of his generation and having worked closely with many of the best and brightest, from traditional jazz, experimental, pop, R&B and fusion, he is in a unique position to comment. Pierson played a pivotal role in Kirk’s career when he was transitioning from Columbia records to Warner Bros. Records and was instrumental in his chart-topping album For You. So when Pierson suggested a Babyface retrospective, Kirk was willing to listen. After a series of records where Whalum wore all hats (Unconditional, Into My Soul, The Gospel According to Jazz, II, The Christmas Message) composing, producing and performing (resulting in seven Grammy nominations) he was ready again to explore his gift of interpreting melodies. When Rendezvous Entertainment, the new label founded by fellow saxophonist Dave Koz, endorsed the Songbook idea, the stage was set.
Kirk comments respectfully, "Matt was the guy that put this record together. From his perspective, this was ‘the next logical thing to do.’ Matt has really applied himself in his post-straight ahead jazz years, building an understanding and a thorough knowledge of the R&B and pop scene. He put together a tremendous line-up." That line-up includes Whalum’s BWB cohorts, guitarist Norman Brown and horn player Rick Braun, both featured on "Can We Talk." Additionally Braun performed on the funkified jazz of "For The Cool in You" and Brown lent his amazing chops to "Whip Appeal." Chuck Loeb also offered atmospheric guitar on "Wey U," a track that features the breezy warmth and Latin stylings of vocalist Gabriela Anders. Additional vocal presence comes from Cedric and Victor Caldwell on the album’s opening track, "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)." Christian McBride furnished stand up bass and "Lil’ John" Roberts, drums. "Christian McBride on upright bass was fundamental." enthuses Kirk. "When we were able to get him, that was a coup. Then we got ‘Lil’ John’ Roberts, who had played on For You and Unconditional. Through John’s warm greeting for Christian on the first day of recording, we learned that they had been high school pals in Philadelphia, which, luckily for us, created a different kind of love that you could hear on their tracks together. I had also promised myself that I wouldn’t record without ‘Lil' John’ and Alex Al after the magic they delivered on For You. Alex comes from the Minneapolis school of Prince and R&B funk. He’s an incredibly gifted jazz bassist on the lines of Stanley Clarke: fusionesque, technically advanced." The two of them join Kirk and Keyboardist Ricky Peterson on the beautifully developed and passionately played album single, "I’ll Make Love To You." Peterson is only one in a stunningly diverse and uniquely expressive collection of keyboardists lending color to the emotional palate of this record. Award-winning producer and composer, John Stoddart, added amply to the mix. Kirk reflects, "He approached this with all his gifts, his chordal voicings, very classical, beautiful elements but, he also makes a true R&B statement, so you can hear the Donnie Hathaway, George Duke, Joe Sample and the Gospel. If that wasn’t enough, he added backing vocals to ‘Breathe Again.’ "Takana Miyamoto has a totally different approach, very organic. She draws something out of you. When I’m playing with her, I’m partly in control and partly not. She isn’t playing a lot. It’s very intentional. She brings the perfect chord at the perfect time to make you respond and play the perfect answer or complement. When she’s playing, you don’t want anyone to talk. That quality really comes through on ‘Betcha Never.’ Ricky added just the right touch on keyboards and B3 organ to move things along, harmonically and melodically. Every performance is rich, and so to the point." Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds’ vocal contribution to "I Said I Love You" was the coup de grace for Kirk. "I think it started when I was a little boy, around Christmas time when I developed the habit of not getting my hopes up until I was actually holding that special gift in my hands. Now that my very busy friend, and hero, Babyface is actually ON the CD we so painstakingly conceived to honour his gift—I guess I can do the "yessss" move! He showed up as expected with all the passion and quiet fire that he is now so famous for. Doing this tribute to Kenny was as natural and right to me as that first shot at ‘Amazing Grace’ in Sunday service when I was only 12! He's a guy I've known for a very long time—long before I knew him."
The guest-list is completed with some bluesy dueting between Kirk and Dave Koz on the Jon B. hit, "Someone To Love." "It’s interesting that for me, working with Dave and working with ‘Face were similar in that it was so relaxed and natural. When I worked ‘for’ Babyface the very first time I felt like we had been old buddies. That also describes the vibe in the studio when Dave and I played ‘Someone To Love.’" For Kirk, love is not only the defining emotion it is the defining reality. He celebrates his 25th wedding anniversary this year and thus has some insight into what it takes to find love and keep it. "I hope these songs impact people’s lives in the positive, make people think about love. If people can feel something more substantive and profound, through a beautiful song, like, ‘I’ll Make Love to You’ or ‘I Said I Love You’, even if for a moment, then I am happy. If they can touch that deeper place and feel a bit of what I felt when I played these songs, then I’ve done my job." Besides plans for renewing his marriage vows with his wife, Ruby, at the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Kirk continues his "Groovin’ For Grover" tour with Jeff Lorber and Gerald Albright through the end of 2005 and is working on the third instalment of The Gospel According to Jazz, a different collection of love songs to be recorded live in 2006. Plans are in the works for The Babyface Songbook Tour in 2006. For MORE info visit http://www.kirkwhalum.com/.
The Game, Mario Winans, Musiq
And Reggae Stars For MTV Tempo Launch In Jamaica
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson (In Jamaica) / MYfeedback@eurweb.com
(Oct. 6, 2005) A series of events will be held around the Caribbean to kick off MTV's Caribbean channel, Tempo. James Bond Beach in St Mary will be the venue for two days (October 15-16) for the Jamaican launch. Controversial US rapper The Game is among the line-up of acts scheduled to perform at the launch. Senior vice president and general manager for Tempo, Frederick Morton says that the strength of Jamaica's contribution to the entertainment industry warranted for the two days of celebrations. "We wanted to pay proper tribute to the genres of Jamaican music, the reggae champions and the legends so we decided to have the launch held over two days. Tempo is about celebrating our culture. It is also to provide a platform for our artistes so that they get seen to the world," Morton said in an interview last week. The channel according to Morton will be headquartered in New York, but eventually there might be little offices set up outside of the US. "We will not be having an office in Jamaica right away. We have to build on an economic model that works. There will be an established presence in the Caribbean and Jamaica will be the core. We are specifically targeting Caribbean people in the US, and we will spread out the UK and Europe afterwards," Morton said. Rapper the Game whose manager Jimmy Henchmen is from Panama, will be coming with his string of hits to thrill fans at the Tempo launch. His hot-selling album The Documentary has scored with hits including Hate It Or Love It, Dreams and This Is How We Do. He recently wrapped up shooting a movie, and he is in the process of launching a line of sneakers.
In a recent interview with this writer, The Game said that it was his son that kept him going at what he does. "My son is the inspiration for everything I do. He was born at a time when things were hard for me. I came into this rap game to secure my family's future financially. Making music was second." Born Jayceon Taylor, The Game hails from the infamous Compton in California. His debut album, The Documentary, made it clear from the outset that geographic squabbles weren't a part of his agenda. Rapping hadn't been at first, either. Having gotten involved in the drug trade after a rough childhood, it took being shot during a home invasion for The Game to have an epiphany. He began rapping in 2001 and has never looked back. His barbed and bold freestyles caught the ear of top-notch hip-hop producer Dr Dre, who signed him to the Aftermath label in 2003 and assumed the executive producer chair for his debut. It was delayed a few times, but The Documentary was released earlier this year and climbed straight to number one on Billboard's 200, R&B, and Hip-Hop album charts. Singles including This Is How We Do and Hate It Or Love It featuring one-time sparring partner 50 Cent, quickly shot up the charts, topping the Pop, R&B and Rap singles tallies. When asked whether or not The Documentary is a reflection of himself, The Game said: "The Documentary isn't reflective of anything except my life. Just my life strung over Dr Dre's beats." The Game said he got his moniker from his grandmother. "I was a real active kid and I was smart and played a lot of sports. My grandmother said I should be game for anything, so that's where the name came from," the rapper explained. With his recent much publicised falling out with fellow G-Unit member 50 Cent still fresh, The Game offered no comment about the situation. "I don't have regrets. I don't live with regrets", adding that he wouldn't change a thing.
Interestingly, The Game doesn't have any musical heroes, but he pointed out that the late R&B legend Marvin Gaye was a musical inspiration and he sampled an old Marvin Gaye classic on his recent chart hit Dreams. "Marvin Gaye is somebody that I listened to while I was growing up," he said. "His music impresses me. Anytime that someone can pass on, and his or her music can still live on, then that's a definite inspiration." Apart from The Game, other performers at the Tempo launch at James Bond Beach will include Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert, Mario Winans, Musiq Soul Child, Vybz Kartel, Bounty Killer, Assassin, Wayne Marshall and Spragga Benz. Other Tempo launches will be held in Trinidad, St Croix, Nevis, St. Martaan and Barbados during the month of October. Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico will see their launches unfold in December. Tempo will officially go on the air at the end of November. Local mobile phone provider Cable & Wireless and MTV Networks recently signed a partnership to promote the music of the Caribbean through various events, promotions and live performances throughout the region. The partnership with MTV concerns the use of the network's Tempo channel which will be dedicated to Caribbean music and culture.
The Affable, Unassuming McCartney
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail- By Carl Wilson
(Oct. 11, 2005) At 63 years old, he's indisputably still the cute one. Over a few hours at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto last night, Paul McCartney waggled his head when he hit the high "aaaahs," tugged his forelock when he thanked the audience, and warbled about the delights of English Tea and, "peradventure," a spot of morning cricket. It's down to the perversity of today's rock-nostalgia concert business that such modest charm had to be buttressed by a 12-metre-high movie screen showing literal video illustrations of his song lyrics, and at one point retracting to reveal a tightly disciplined shower of indoor fireworks -- possibly the most unwarranted pyrotechnics in rock history, coming during the distinctly sparkless new song Follow Me. The excesses began with a pre-show soundtrack of crescendoing strings that made it seem Mr. McCartney was about to descend from the heavens in a chariot of fire. Next came a brief set by DJ Freelance Hellraiser, who mashed up bits of Mr. McCartney's discography into dance tracks as he does on their recent collaboration Twin Freaks, to decent effect -- though for many of the greying boomers in the 16,000-strong sold-out crowd, this element must have seemed like a ploy to make them appreciate Mr. McCartney's eventual appearance all the more, as a respite from music they can't bear. Perhaps it was for their kids, who were also out in force mouthing along with every word of the Beatles tunes and looking a little lost during the Wings ones. But the most egregious part of the prelude was a lengthy home movie in which Mr. McCartney narrated the story of his life. Does one of the world's most adored pop personalities (an expletive-deleted Beatle!) really require such self-aggrandizement?
In the video, Mr. McCartney said he always thought of the Beatles as nothing more or less than "a great little band," which bespeaks at once his unassuming nature and the disappointing blandness of his ambition. This combination was what he brought to the stage. Nothing in the show would lead one to reflect, except on the passing of time, but you couldn't complain about his affable showmanship and the solid performance of his four-piece backing band. The set list was calculated only to please, and incidentally to introduce the crowd to Mr. McCartney's latest album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. True to reviews that are calling it his strongest effort in decades, its songs fit well into the evening's hit parade, which otherwise ranged from opener Magical Mystery Tour all the way back to pre-Beatles tune In Spite of All the Danger, as well as Drive My Car, Jet, Long and Winding Road, I Will, For No One, Fixing a Hole, Eleanor Rigby, and so on. The songs were bridged by chat and storytelling, including a mini-songwriting workshop showing how he developed Blackbird out of a passage of Bach, and the story of how earlier in the tour he fell into the hole in the stage from which his piano is raised and lowered through the set. (Fans have begun holding up signs reading "Mind the gap.") A moment of recognition for "departed loved ones -- John, George and Linda" brought an ovation. The Liverpudlian wit was still quick for bits of banter with the audience, though age and wealth have certainly smoothed and rounded the edge. Audience sing-alongs were always encouraged. "Twenty thousand backing singers," Mr. McCartney commented.
"What more can you ask for?" For him, the answer is nothing: In the end, he knows that fans come sentimentally, to celebrate what his life has brought to theirs. And he precisely shares the feeling.
The Last Great Beatle Puts On Fab Show
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic
(Oct. 11, 2005) It can't be easy being the Unfashionable Beatle. John got weird in a very sweet way and died too young, forever cementing his iconic status. George was respectably "quiet" until the end. And Ringo ... well, no one ever expected much from Ringo, so it's all pretty much icing on the cake, isn't it? Paul McCartney, however, has been saddled with a reputation as the Beatle most intent on undermining the band's legacy — not just because of his willingness to dabble in commercial treacle (remember "Say, Say, Say"?), but also because he's always seemed the Beatle most interested in reminding us of his role in the Beatles. Still, the dude was a Beatle. That's untouchable. And if the 63-year-old McCartney's erudite way with a pop melody yielded only one "Blackbird" in his entire lifetime, he'd still be responsible for one of the best songs ever. Most of his contemporaries don't even get a "Jet," let alone a "Band on the Run." Points to Paul, then, for showing up at the Air Canada Centre last night on a tour he could easily sleepwalk through and not totally coasting through a 2 1/2 hour performance that otherwise generally embraced nostalgia with wholehearted vigour. Apart from the set's state-of-the-art, subtly deployed video wrappings and the blazing pyro on "Live and Let Die," this was a relatively stripped-down McCartney show — at least in classic-rock terms, where the standard modus operandi is to surround yourself with as many backup singers, horn players and extraneous percussionists as possible to hide the fact your heart's not in it and you can't really pull it off any more. Joined just by two guitarists, the world's largest drummer and keyboardist/music director Paul "Wix" Wickens (the man in charge of filling in the strings on "Eleanor Rigby"), McCartney ran through a hit-heavy set list that, for the most part, let the music do the talking and, while professionally executed, betrayed enough rough edges to suggest he and his bandmates were actually having a good time playing the songs.
"I've Got a Feeling" and Wings' "Let Me Roll It," in particular, displayed a shambolic grit that was entirely unexpected, while the unearthing of the brash Beatles chestnut "I'll Get You," the dainty "I Will," the ancient Quarrymen track "In Spite of All the Danger" and "Jenny Wren" — a truly fetching acoustic echo of "Blackbird" from the new Chaos and Creation in the Backyard album — provided a whiff of surprise in a set list that also met the expectations of those who paid $350 a seat. It was only when the talking wasn't left to the music alone that it got grating. An opening bio reel of McCartney's life, for instance, seemed fairly unnecessary when the man had already hustled 20,000 people into the building, while the dubious modesty expressed onscreen ("To me, the Beatles were always a great little band. Nothing more, nothing less") was somewhat undercut by its inclusion within a 10-minute monument to McCartney's greatness. Shots of the NASA astronauts awakened by "Good Day, Sunshine" on the last, troubled space shuttle mission were likewise a bit much. How many of us get our songs played in space, though? McCartney's earned the right to be proud of his legacy and last night he did nothing to dishonour it.
McCartney The Cute One? Or The Cautious One?
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Michael Posner
(Oct. 8, 2005) We no longer have poets of moderation. Dylan Thomas's rage against the dying light seems more in tune with the times than Sophocles's warnings about the dangers of too much pride or ambition. Maybe that helps explain the ambivalence that many people feel about Paul McCartney. He has written many great songs, and created one of the most influential bands of the 20th century. But there's something about him that jars with the go-for-it rock 'n' roll mentality that still dominates popular music. Offer him a choice of extremes, and McCartney will take the middle course every time. "There is a fine line/ Between recklessness and courage." There it is, in the very first phrase he sings on his new album, Chaos and Creatio n in the Backyard. Be brave when you need to, but don't be reckless. The voice of moderation, personified in McCartney's youth by his father Jim, whom he resembles in more than appearance. "I think that [lyric] is somebody speaking who sees people taking perhaps the glamorous route, being reckless, and who doesn't wish to go that way himself," he said, on the phone prior to a concert in New York. "In my case, it just never was attractive to me to do that . . . I do like to be careful about what I do. I've been pretty successful with that formula, so why not?"
He could almost have been plugging a retirement fund. Come to think of it, he already has, not with words but with his image, in a series of TV ads for Fidelity Investments. The voiceover summarizes his attainments: "Beatle, poet, father, producer, business mogul . . . " He's worth over a billion, and he's renting out his face for mutual funds. More important, perhaps, he's getting a prime-time video (first shown during the first NFL game of the season) that serves the vital function of reminding us that he's still here. Ditto the children's book he has just published, entitled High in the Clouds (Faber & Faber). Will we still need him when he's 64? That date will be upon us, and him, next June 18. By then, he will have completed what he hopes will be his biggest and most successful solo tour. He could be back on top, not just monetarily but in terms of the kind of popular esteem he still craves. "I think he deserves some respect that in his recent history he hasn't got," said producer Nigel Godrich, in a promotional DVD made by EMI and packaged with the new disc. You can gauge the depth of the problem by the fact that this comment wasn't edited out. Yes, EMI is admitting, our man's prestige has slipped, knighthood or not. Yes, it would be useful for him to have a direct endorsement from the much younger producer of albums by Radiohead, Beck and Travis. Mind you, McCartney didn't go shopping for a hot young producer to spruce up his sound. He called the now-retired George Martin, producer of every Beatles LP, who pointed him toward Godrich. McCartney already knew of Godrich's work, liked the fact that he didn't enforce a sound on his performers (not like Phil Spector souping up The Long and Winding Road) and appreciated his expertise as a sound engineer. But he wanted a confirming word from Martin, who knows as much as anyone about McCartney's need to be careful.
Chaos and Creation in the Backyard is McCartney's best album in years. It stands comparison with the first solo disc he made after the Beatles split, when it was still possible to think: John Lennon and Paul McCartney are finished as a team, but they can go on making music as good as what they did together. McCartney had planned to record with his backing band, but Godrich wanted him to go solo, perhaps mindful that every band in his client's proximity suffers unfair comparison to the Fab Four. He got McCartney to play drums, piano, guitars, recorder and even his dad's old flugelhorn. To that extent, the new disc is just like his first solo effort, for which he played everything, partly to prove that he could carry on without the Beatles. "It was my idea the first time round, so Nigel obviously stole it this time," McCartney said. "I can claim it both times." He was joking — maybe. This is the man, after all, who recently tried to switch around some writing credits from Lennon & McCartney to McCartney & Lennon. But he accepted Godrich as an equal in the studio. "It was a collaborative thing," he said. "I was working with him, instead of him working for me... it's like if you're in a film. You should listen to the director, though you can argue as much as you want. I don't mind. I respond well to direction. "We sort of did the songs Nigel liked. There were one or two that I insisted on saying, look, what don't you like about this song?" One of those contested items was Riding to Vanity Fair, the longest and most adventurous song on the disc. It's a song about a refused personal connection, not necessarily a denial of love but of friendship. The vocal line hops and glides over an uneasy, atmospheric chordal base that recalls the kind of anxiety-ridden music Bernard Herrmann produced for Alfred Hitchcock. It feels unusually disoriented for a McCartney creation, as if he really has been propelled beyond a region of safety.
"I was interested in doing something other than what I normally do," McCartney said. "The whole song was originally angular and staccato, and uptempo. We slowed it down, and then we changed the lyrics, and I ended up changing the melody. So it was like a workshop sort of thing, it really had a lot of work on it. I knew there was something there, but we had to dig deep to find it. " "I always start a song having no idea where I'm going. That's why I love doing it. It's a thrill, like getting on a bus when you don't know where the bus is going." Or who might get on the bus with you. He wasn't far along in the writing of Friends to Go when he realized that elements of George Harrison's style were creeping in. "I started with this phrase, "waiting on the other side," so there was already a kind of ambiguity," he said. "Are you physically on the other side of the road, or the river Jordan, on the other side? And the melody and the chords I was doing started sounding a bit like George, going from major to minor and back, and there was this chromatic rundown like he used to do. And by that time it sounded very George-ish. It wasn't like I was channelling him, but I just got a feeling that if this had been a Beatle album, this would have been the George song." English Tea, another song from the disc, put him in mind of Noel Coward, whose plummy singing voice he can imitate to perfection, even over the phone. Too Much Rain was written with Charlie Chaplin's song Smile in mind. Jenny Wren is McCartney channelling an earlier version of McCartney, from his Blackbird days. He's always had great success imitating others in ways that produce songs quite unlike theirs. When he was younger, he wrote songs while imagining himself into the skins of Elvis Presley, Little Richard or Ray Charles, or even Richard Rodgers. He wrote When I'm Sixty-Four at his dad's upright piano when he was 16 and imagined it in a musical. Part of the initial appeal of "Lennon & McCartney" was that it sounded like "Rodgers & Hammerstein." When you step back from everything he's done, it becomes apparent that he's a figure in a longer wave than most of his contemporaries who strapped on electric guitars. Coward, Porter and other songwriters of his father's generation are vivid figures in his imagination. McCartney is an old-time professional songwriter and entertainer who happened to come to maturity when rock 'n' roll was current and a personal kind of writing was coming to be seen as inextricably linked to that sound and milieu. In an earlier era, he would have happily written for Broadway, which you really couldn't say about Lennon, in spite of a recent effort to put him there.
McCartney's new disc is full of backward glances. On the cover is a photograph taken by his brother Mike of the young Paul in the backyard of his dad's house in Liverpool, strumming guitar under a full line of laundry. In a way, he's never left that spot, with its irregular wooden fence, hard by the neighbour's homemade greenhouse. "Of course I've left Liverpool, but I haven't really," he said. "I've left physically, but I don't want to leave. I like roots. I go back every year, and there's always a recharging of batteries, and also a reminding yourself of who you are. Because at my scale of things you can forget, or some people notoriously forget. I don't think that's a clever idea." He might never have left, if this dutiful son had followed his dad's advice more closely. When the Beatles returned from their now-famous jaunt to Hamburg (seen from a new angle in Best of the Beatles, a DVD featuring vintage footage and commentary by ex-Beatle Pete Best), McCartney was hard-pressed to see that the adventure had been worth the paltry cash return. He took a job sweeping the yard of a factory, where he was told his grammar-school background marked him as future management material. When Lennon and Harrison came by to tell him the band had a gig booked at Liverpool's Cavern Club, McCartney initially resisted, before going over the factory wall. It was a reckless thing to do, maybe the most reckless act of his life. Without it, he might have become a front-parlour pianist like his dad, amusing himself and family with songs, and punching a factory clock. We might never have had those great Beatle songs that can't be defeated even by limp string arrangements oozing from department-store sound systems. There's a fine line indeed. Paul McCartney plays the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Monday.
Ranks Are Swelling
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter
(Oct. 9, 2005) For nearly 70 years, sitarist and composer Ravi Shankar has been enthralling Western audiences with Indian classical music. The 14-hour practices and hippie-idol days — mentoring to late Beatle George Harrison, performing at Woodstock — are well behind him, but the legendary musician who divides his time between southern California and New Delhi still plays more than 60 concerts annually. These days, he's best known for his daughters: jazz singer Norah Jones, 26, and his protégé Anoushka Shankar, 24. The 85-year-old sitar player spoke with the Toronto Star from a New York hotel about his upcoming performance at Roy Thomson Hall with an ensemble of Indian violin, folk drums, wind instruments and traditional vocals in his own compositions.
"It will be different, because in the first half I'm presenting 10 musicians in an ensemble, all pieces that I composed over the last few years. It's a wonderful group of musicians playing veena, flute, shehnai, violin, tabla, and different drums, led by Anoushka, my daughter, on sitar. "After intermission, I give my usual sitar performance along with Anoushka, of course. This is a format that I have not done before on tour. They are young and some of them are very well known in their regions, such as flautist Ravichandra Kulur from Bangalore."
"Anoushka's new CD (Rise) is very good and she is a wonderful inspiration for me. She's always been talented, but in the last few years she's really blossomed out to be a fantastic musician. When I was young, say around 24, 25, after having my training through my guru, Baba Allaudin Khan, I also sort of did the things which were according to my age — music for film, special orchestration ... but it didn't actually take me away from the tradition. What Anoushka has does is within the framework of Indian music, but techno sounds and things like that are very much interwoven, but it's still very Indian, very classic."
"At this age and with the journey I've had and all the development which I myself did, I am my own student and I am my own guru now, because it's all coming out in volume, all the new ideas and everything, but it has such a strong background of the tradition, I don't have to borrow or imitate."
"Here in North America, you are fortunate to have fantastic sponsors, so it is still alive and going strong. We want to do the same thing with our music in India. And that's one of the things (the Ravi Shankar Centre in New Delhi) aims to help. It is not simply a school, it has archives and is presenting music in the way to train listeners."
Appetite for travel
"My wife Sukanya accompanies me always on tour. I can't do this without her. It's a very rigorous schedule, even the young musicians feel tired sometimes. It's important to stay healthy. Whenever we can we have Indian food, but I'm quite used to Thai, Chinese, French, Italian ... In some places I have some students who bring me food. Toronto is a place where I feel very much at home. The love for Indian music is very great there and they have a lot of great listeners. I hope they like this new format.
The Melting Pot Served Steamin' Hot
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Tony Montague
(Oct 7, 2005) The urban tropical sound of Yerba Buena points to the future of Latin music. The eight-piece band, founded in 2001 and based in New York, is creating a fusion of styles from the city's neighbourhoods. Anchored by thumping bass-lines, the songs mix rumba, salsa, boogaloo, cumbia, flamenco, reggae, soul, funk, dance, electronica, hip-hop, and more -- often in surprising combinations. "What we play is a reflection of how things are right now in the city, and all the sounds around us," says Andres Levin, Yerba Buena's guitarist, keyboard player, chief composer and producer. "In our music, you can hear what's happening on the streets." Levin, who moved to the United States from Venezuela 16 years ago, is a master at synthesizing different rhythms and layering instrumental textures. "It's a very intuitive process for me. One of the things I've always had the most fun doing is taking various types of roots music and blending them in an organic way." Yerba Buena was conceived by Levin to be an ongoing sonic exploration of New York's immigrant soul, especially the increasingly large Hispanic communities. The band boasts four singers of Cuban origin: Levin's wife, Cucu Diamantes, dreadlocked rapper El Chino, percussionist Pedro Martinez, and the big-voiced and shock-haired Xiomara Laugart. In performance, Yerba Buena is sexy and dynamic. Dressed with a quirky sense of fashion, the athletic singers dance as if they were at a wild party in Spanish Harlem. "We get to express ourselves completely in this band -- who we are as people, our creativity, our political thoughts, our social interactions," Levin says.
"Yerba Buena is more than just a group of musicians. It's a family, and we all have a great time together." That sense of fun radiates from the grooves of Yerba Buena's two recordings. Its sizzling 2003 debut President Alien was nominated for a Grammy for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album. This summer, the band released Island Life, with contributions from a host of special guests, such as the late salsa queen Celia Cruz, and Havana rap quartet Orishas. "Yerba Buena will always be about Afro-Cuban roots, but the new record has more flamenco and cumbia influences. It's inspired by life on Manhattan -- the island music is right there, whether it's merengue, reggaeton or even steel drums." And as Levin sees it, the Yerba Buena experiment in forging links between the city's communities through music is still in its infancy. "The great thing about this concept is that it's limitless. I couldn't think of any style that wouldn't in the future fit into what we do."Yerba Buena plays tomorrow at Richard's on Richards, 1036 Richards St., 604-280-4444. $23.50.
Philosopher Kings: Reclaiming Their Rightful Place At The Top Of The Charts
The ground-breaking band The Philosopher Kings have just completed
album, 'Castles,' in stores
November 15. The first single, "Castles In The Sand," is already
climbing the radio charts. Each a successful and diversified artist in their
own right, Gerald Eaton, James Bryan, Jon Levine, Denton Whited and Brian West
decided the time was right to collectively bring their signature sound back to
the masses. The Philosopher Kings' unique grooves have been sorely missed on
the Canadian music scene. To celebrate the release of 'Castles,' The
Philosopher Kings will be touring throughout November and December. Log on to www.philosopherkings.com
for tour details announcements!
:: Castles In The Sand ::
WM Hi - WM Lo
Official website: www.philosopherkings.com
Newly Rock-Starred INXS Announces Tour Dates
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
(Oct. 6, 2005) Toronto -- Australian rock band INXS, along with their new lead singer, Canadian J. D. Fortune, have announced their first North American tour with the new line-up, starting Jan. 18 in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The group recently replaced late lead singer Michael Hutchence via the public audition/TV reality show Rock Star: INXS, which ended with Fortune landing the gig. The first leg of the band's Switched On world tour will play 20-plus theatre dates through to a Feb. 18 show in Washington. Tickets will go on sale Oct. 15-16, with details to be announced on the band's website (http://www.inxs.com). INXS is working on its debut album with Fortune, Switch, which is due Nov. 29. The only other announced Canadian date is Feb. 7 at Massey Hall in Toronto. Reuters/Staff
Levine Goes From Kanye To Ying Yang
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 6, 2005) *Fresh from his “Saturday Night Live” appearance with Kanye West – where they performed their duet “Heard ’Em Say” – Maroon 5’s front man Adam Levine drops dime about his unique collaboration with those crazy Ying Yang Twins for the track, “Live Again.” "To be totally honest with you, I actually didn't meet them,” he says, according to Contact Music. “Technically it wasn't so much of a collaboration because the song was written. All I needed to do was sing the lyrics that had already been written. I don't know those guys; they seem kind of kooky and crazy. I like their vibe." Levine, who surprised Philadelphia’s Live 8 audience by joining Stevie Wonder for a rousing rendition of “Signed Sealed Delivered,” stunned folks again when he appeared with Kanye West on “Saturday Night Live” last weekend to perform their duet from Ye’s new “Late Registration” album. Levine, himself, was surprised when he showed up to the taping wearing the same exact jacket that Kanye was sporting. He says: "I bought this jacket he had by mistake. It's just in my closet, and I can't wear it. It's a white YSL beautiful corduroy blazer. He wore that s**t to the American Music Awards, and I was like, 'Damn it!'"
Redman Sees Dead People On New LP
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 7, 2005) *The current television season isn’t the only place where ghosts are making a comeback. Forget “Ghost Whisperer” and “Supernatural,” rapper Redman appears to be the biggest phantom menace with the track “I C Dead People,” from his new Def Jam album, “Red Gone Wild,” due Nov. 15. Eminem produced the cut, which lives up to its name by featuring raps from late artists Big Pun, Big L and Notorious B.I.G. The set’s first single, “Rush the Security,” will be featured in the upcoming Activision video game "True Crime Pt. 2: New York City." Other tracks on the album include the Rockwilder-produced "Mary Jane All Nite," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg; "Future Thug," which hosts Ludacris, Ghostface and Icarus; the DJ Clark Kent produced "Dis Iz Brick City" featuring Ready Roc; and the cuts "Rite Now" and "Let's Go,” produced by EPMD vet Erick Sermon. "Red Gone Wild" is the follow-up to 2001's "Malpractice," which debuted at No. 4 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 683,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. (Billboard)
Makeba’s Bush Bash in Cuba
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct 7, 2005) *In Cuba to perform as part of her global farewell tour, South African singer Miriam Makeba used the opportunity to hurl harsh words at President Bush for his delayed response to black communities after Hurricane Katrina. She also praised the country for its open arms during her time in political exile during the 1950s. "I am 73 years old, and have been to many different countries of the world," the singer known as Mama Africa said at a news conference in Havana. "Since I'm feeling a little tired now, I decided I should return to many of the countries ... that applauded me during my career." She also joked: "I know that many young people in Cuba don't know who Miriam Makeba is. I can promise them I am not hip-hop."
New R&B Song About Hurricane Katrina Creating Buzz
Source: Dante Lee, Music U Can Feel, 562-209-0616, email@example.com, www.hurricanesong.com
(Oct. 7, 2005) Long Beach, CA - Kanye West said it first. Jay-Z agreed, and now there's an official song circulating on the Internet that confirms it - "President Bush Does Not Care About Black People." The song can be heard online for free at www.hurricanesong.com Sung by newcomer soulful singer Allen, the song is a great mid-tempo combination of old-school R&B and pop. The lyrics are very emotional and graphic; the words paint an extremely dismal picture of what it was like to be a victim of Hurricane Katrina. The song is so intense that many are asking whether or not the singer was a victim who was actually stranded for days on a rooftop. Some of they lyrics say: "Everything is gone. Everything is gone. The clothes on my back are all I own." "Then it hit me - Ain't nobody coming to get me" "No one feels my pain. Once again, the color of my skin reminds me things ain't changed." "Begging you for water - again and again. Please don't make me drink the water that I'm standing in." Many African-Americans like the song and agree with the lyrics. However, many politicians find the song offensive because it implies that President Bush just doesn't care about Black Americans. In the media, Bush has accepted the blame for what went wrong with Katrina, but still denies that race was a factor. The images seen from the devastation prove otherwise. Several artists including Prince, have released songs about the Hurricane Katrina situation. However, none have successfully captured the incident with the right lyrics, production, and emotion...until now! You can listen to the song for free at www.HurricaneSong.com Interested radio and television stations should call (562) 209-0616 to receive a copy of the song on CD.
Ciara Receives Five Vibe Award Noms
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 11, 2005) *Ciara has earned a leading five nominations from the 2005 Vibe Awards as it prepares its first ceremony since the chair-tossing brawl that left two men with assault charges and another ugly stain on rap-related public events. Jimmy James Johnson pleaded guilty to sucker-punching Dr. Dre as the famed producer was in the audience waiting to accept his lifetime achievement award. In September, Johnson was sentenced to one year of county jail and three years of probation. Dre’s protégé Young Buck, a.k.a. David Darnell Brown, is currently awaiting trial after pleading not guilty in the retaliatory stabbing of Johnson. This year's Vibe Awards ceremony will be taped Nov. 12 in Los Angeles, with the show to air Nov. 15 (8 p.m. EST) on UPN. In addition to Ciara, nominees for artist of the year are Kanye West, Mariah Carey, John Legend and 50 Cent, who each have four nominations. Nominees for album of the year are "Get Lifted" by Legend, "Late Registration" by West, "The Documentary" by The Game, "The Emancipation of Mimi" by Mariah Carey and "The Naked Truth" by Lil' Kim. Nominees for best rapper are West, 50 Cent, Ludacris, The Game and T.I. Other award categories include “reelest” video, video goddess and street anthem.
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 11, 2005) *OutKast has announced that the soundtrack to its forthcoming musical “Idlewild” will be released on Dec. 6, a month before the Jan. 6 release of the film, set in the 1930s. "It's like an OutKast record on film," Big Boi says of the movie, which follows the story of a struggling musician (Andre 3000) and a lovable Lothario (Big Boi). The first single, "Idlewild Blues," is described by Rolling Stone as “a jazzy romp loaded with drum stomps, muffled trumpets and piano; Dre gives his best Cab Calloway impersonation, and Big flips his hallmark spitfire rhymes.”
Dru Hill Offers Its Greatest ‘Hits’
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 11, 2005) *Baltimore-based R&B group Dru Hill releases the best of CD “Hits” and the DVD "Hits – The Videos" today, via Island Def Jam/UMe. “Hits” brings together 12 Dru Hill classics culled from the group's three albums plus a pair of soundtrack contributions along with three bonus tracks: the previously unreleased So So Def Remix of "In My Bed" featuring Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat, and Sisqo's solo cuts "Thong Song" and "Incomplete." "Hits -- The Videos" offers the clips for "Tell Me," "In My Bed," "Never Make A Promise," "5 Steps," "These Are The Times," "You Are Everything" (in a remix featuring Ja Rule), "I Should Be...," "I Love You" and Sisqo's "Thong Song" and "Incomplete." Two bonuses are the So So Def Remix of "In My Bed" and a remix of "Thong Song" featuring Foxy Brown. Each video has been digitally remastered in 5.1 Surround Sound and stereo. High school classmates Jazz, Sisqo, Nokio and Woody formed Dru Hill, named after their Baltimore hood Druid Hill Park, in 1995 and debuted the following year with a self-titled album.
They're Mad About C.R.A.Z.Y.
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Konrad Yakabuski
(Oct. 10, 2005) MONTREAL — After seducing even the cinematic cynics at festivals in Toronto and Venice, getting the nod as Canada's next contender for a foreign-language Oscar nomination, and creaming the U.S. competition at the Quebec box office this summer, the buzz surrounding C.R.A.Z.Y. might just be loud enough to drive you, well, out of your mind. After all, if it's not William Morris or Creative Artists, it's some other big Hollywood agent that's been hounding Jean-Marc Vallée to sign with them. The sudden pressure and fame could be destabilizing. But the director of the movie that beat out the latest and much-hyped offerings from David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan for top Canadian feature honours at last month's Toronto International Film Festival, is, in fact, in full control of his faculties and fully savouring the attention. "I've met with them all," Vallée says of the agents as he sips tea in a popular restaurant in Montreal's artsy Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood. "And I've told them my next project will be way more ambitious than C.R.A.Z.Y. [which cost $7-million to make]. I'm thinking $30-million to $40-million -- U.S. No one's said no." Needless to say, it's because they can smell boffo box office a million miles away. C.R.A.Z.Y. is a stylish crowd-pleaser that makes the most of its sixties and seventies soundtrack (Patsy Cline, Rolling Stones and, most memorably, David Bowie) to transport boomers back in time, while relying on quirky camera techniques -- think Amélie -- to rivet a music-video generation with a short attention span.
It's also alternately funny -- with a hilarious husband-wife discussion about anal sex -- moving, corny, sad, uplifting, energizing and heartwarming. If the toughest critics will find fault with it -- especially with a few of the cookie-cutter supporting characters -- it's not hard to see why the L.A. agents are on Vallée's tail or why audiences have loved it. Indeed, Quebeckers are so trippé (flipped out) over the film that it has taken in almost $6-million, is second only to Star Wars: Episode III in summer box-office receipts, and continues to play on more than 20 screens a full five months after its release. For Vallée -- who makes no secret of the fact that, with C.R.A.Z.Y., he sought to "put on a good show" -- this is payback time. And why shouldn't it be? It took 11 years to get C.R.A.Z.Y. to the screen, a sometimes exhausting odyssey that began over generous amounts of wine at an Eastern Townships summer cottage. Vallée and his then partner Chantal Cadieux sat mesmerized as their friend François Boulay told them of his troubled adolescence as the sexually confused fourth son in an all-boy suburban Montreal family. It would take a foreign pilgrimage (portrayed, literally, in the film as a walk in the desert) and a terrible family tragedy for him to achieve self-acceptance and, more important, gain the love and recognition of his traditionalist father. Vallée, now 42, pressed Boulay, a 45-year-old TV scriptwriter, to put his story onto paper. The 300-pages of "random memories" that Boulay plopped into Vallée's mailbox several weeks later became the basis for the C.R.A.Z.Y. screenplay that the duo completed five years ago. Vallée figured he needed $15-million to turn his script into the movie he wanted and was ready to peddle his project stateside, having hired a translator to produce an English version of the screenplay. But when he showed the script to Quebec actor Michel Côté, the latter gave him a serious sermon on the importance of making the film, in French, at home.
Vallée eventually agreed and cut his budget accordingly. Thankfully, for Canada's sake. Because although Vallée sought to make a movie with universal appeal, anyone familiar with Quebec's Quiet Revolution will also see C.R.A.Z.Y. as a chronicle of the social upheaval that unfurled in the sixties when the postwar generation threw off the shackles of Catholicism while their elders watched in horror. As a result, the setting adds to the poignancy of the central character's struggle with his sexuality. In the film, Boulay's character is called Zachary -- a clue to the riddle that is the film's title, which is not explained until the credits roll. The name change is not the only way in which Vallée and Boulay adapted their script to please the audience. In real life, Boulay lip-synched not to Bowie but to René Simard -- very uncool. And Zach's mother's unshakable faith (she believes her son has a divine gift to heal burns and other wounds) and her recipe for ironing toast were inspired by Vallée's own mom. C.R.A.Z.Y. is almost certainly Genie, if not Oscar, material. The performances of 21-year-old Marc-André Grondin as the teenaged Zach, Côté as his father, and Vallée's own son Émile, who plays Zach as a young child, are all prize-worthy. Little wonder that distribution rights have been sold in 50 countries. The jury is out, however, as to whether the film will find an audience in English-speaking North America, a market in which Québécois movies with subtitles have traditionally fallen flat. This year's multiple-Genie winner Mémoires Affectives (Looking for Alexander), for instance, drew only a handful of curious cinephiles when it was released in Toronto. And, despite all the buzz surrounding it, even Denys Arcand's Barbarian Invasions took in barely $500,000 in English Canada on its way to Oscar glory, compared to $6.6-million in Quebec and $40-million in France. "Launching a French-language Quebec film in Toronto is not the easiest thing in the world," concedes Yves Dion, president of TVA Films, C.R.A.Z.Y.'s Canadian distributor. "But I have a good feeling about this one."
C.R.A.Z.Y will open in Toronto on Friday on only two screens, and on one screen in Vancouver on Nov. 2, a modest launch that Dion hopes will lay the groundwork for a more extensive rollout across Canada around Christmas. The film's producer, Montreal-based Cirrus Communications, is still negotiating to sell the U.S. rights to C.R.A.Z.Y. Several distributors are in the running, according to Cirrus's Pierre Even, but it could take several weeks to hammer out a deal. There is some pressure to strike one: A U.S. release before the Oscars could make the difference between attracting the academy's attention or not. Vallée, meanwhile, is readjusting to the limelight. He enjoyed a brief moment of glory in 1995 when his first feature, Liste Noire (Black List), racked up nine Genie nominations. That also prompted offers from south of the border, but after directing a couple of low-budget features in New York and Los Angeles, a disillusioned Vallée came back to Quebec in 1999. "The whole U.S. experience left me feeling unsatisfied," he says. "As a filmmaker, I didn't like always being told what to do by the producer." If he returns to L.A. this time, Vallée says, it will be to direct the movie version of a French novel (he won't say which one) to which he has optioned the film rights. And, it goes without saying, he won't be taking orders from anyone.
Chasing The Buzz Of The NC-17
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
(Oct. 5, 2005) For a couple of weeks in the waning days of summer, Where the Truth Lies had the biggest buzz of any movie in Canada, even though at that point it likely had been seen by fewer than 1,500 people in the world, most of them media types. Tomorrow, audiences of the John Q. Public variety finally get to see what all the fuss is about as the Atom Egoyan-directed feature unspools on just under 100 screens across Canada, to be followed by a limited release next weekend on an estimated seven screens in New York and Los Angeles. The buzz, of course, had nothing to do with any fierce Star Wars-like anticipation for Egoyan's murder mystery or the thrill of seeing Kevin Bacon nude, and everything to do with the decision by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to slap on a prohibitive NC-17 rating for U.S. audiences and the subsequent appeal of that rating by Egoyan and producer Robert Lantos of Toronto-based Serendipity Point Films. That, at least, was the official line. In recent weeks, there have been suggestions that the appeal -- to get the classification of Where the Truth Lies reduced to a less-onerous "R" -- was launched as a sort of "Banned-in-Boston" tactic to generate some pre-release fizz. While Egoyan trimmed 20 or so seconds here and there (but not the movie's now-famous three-way sex scene), the widely reported appeal failed -- which was precisely the point, according to Maclean's film critic Brian D. Johnson. Writing last month, Johnson said Egoyan's North American distributor, Toronto-based ThinkFilm, "acted alarmed" when faced with the NC-17 situation, but privately "they were chortling." This was because, as an independent, ThinkFilm isn't a member of the MPAA and therefore bound by its conventions. "They could have released [Where the Truth Lies] unrated" without fanfare, said Johnson, "but deliberately went after an NC-17 rating as a gambit to generate publicity after failing to secure a wide release with a major distributor" when the Egoyan film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
Both Egoyan and Lantos have pooh-poohed Johnson's musing, with the director calling it "absurd" and "silly" and the producer dismissing the claims as "wild speculation. It doesn't have a great basis in reality. The strategy for every film is to make it available to as wide an audience as possible. Anybody who purposely tries to narrow an audience is being self-defeating." However, Johnson is holding to his view, not least because he says it's shared by Jeff Sackman, the president of ThinkFilm (a co-principal with Lantos). Admittedly, Sackman did say, on TVOntario's Studio 2 during the Toronto International Film Festival, that the NC-17 contretemps "has generated tremendous publicity . . . and brought [Where the Truth Lies] great attention." He also declared on that program that the Egoyan film would, in fact, be released "unrated" and uncensored in the U.S. (in Canada, most jurisdictions have rated it 18A), but in public at least he has refrained from acknowledging that the earlier U.S. classification bid and appeal were intentional attention-getters. Contacted last week, Sackman said simply: "I won't speak for Brian Johnson or his interpretations. I prefer you speak to Robert [Lantos] about this film." It is a truism that an NC-17 is a kind of death-by-rating for a movie with ambitions to reach a broad audience. Getting that tag means potential patrons have to be older than 17; if you're younger, you can't get past the ticket wicket even if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Given such an a priori demographic reduction, some exhibitors are understandably reluctant to give an NC-17 film a big showcase (doubly so, perhaps, in the case of a so-called "art-film director" like Egoyan). Or any showcase at all. Furthermore, a small number of screens means reduced promotional support and advertising in newspapers, magazines and on TV (doubly so if the movie, like Where the Truth Lies, depicts activities that may give pause to such watchdogs as Focus on the Family and the Christian Film and Television Commission). Egoyan insists he approached the MPAA in good faith. "Any film trying to screen as a commercial release in the States needs a rating. That's just how it is, and we wanted a good rating." The director said he "signed a contract saying 'I will deliver an R-rated movie' and that is what I thought I did." When the MPAA decided otherwise, "I flew to Los Angeles and virtually begged them to give me an R rating," which would have meant the under-17 set could have seen Where the Truth Liesin the company of their parents.
Both the filmmaker and Lantos confirmed that, even before they went to the MPAA , they had signed an "output deal" with Sony Pictures to provide both an "unrated" and R-rated version of Where the Truth Lies for the DVD and VHS home markets. The promise of the R-rated cut was made because some retail chains refuse to carry NC-17 pictures for sale or rent, Egoyan explained. "Once a movie gets past the theatrical release, changes have to be made. That's just a fact of life," Lantos averred. Asked if he went to Cannes with the hope that he could score a deal with a major U.S. distributor for the Egoyan picture (which, pre-Cannes, was being touted by some as the Toronto director's "most accessible film ever"), Lantos opted for a roundabout answer. He said he helped set up ThinkFilm in 2001 "because I wanted to control as much of the marketing over my films as I can." In some instances, he's open to having a specific company handle the U.S. distribution of something he's produced, or seeking out a U.S. distributor, but, "This wasn't the case here."
‘The Gospel’ Made Boris Kodjoe A Better Man
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Marie Moore
(Oct. 6, 2005) Making “The Gospel” was such a rewarding experience for Boris Kodjoe, he might consider doing another gospel film. “It would have to be another story,” however. “Something completely different, but absolutely.” Besides getting the usual goose bumps the average person gets hearing the amazing music in the movie, Kodjoe went through a transformation—something that does not usually take place on the average film: “It made me a better man all around. It changed my life because of the timing, because of the birth of my daughter and what I was going through while shooting this film. It definitely made me a better actor. It’s also given me more confidence. “My parents split when I was six. My father had never seen me work and he was on the set when I did the graveyard scene. Ironically, it was the scene with me finding closure with my onscreen father. I don’t believe in coincidences, and everything happens for a reason. When you meet someone, it happens for a reason. When you have a purpose in life. The way I met my wife and the way the script fell into my hands, happened for a reason. “It was a very spiritual and emotional time for me. My wife being pregnant and me having the anxiety of not being there when the baby was born. My father, who hadn’t ever visited me in the states, showing up three days after my daughter was born. I do believe things happen for a reason.” Echoing a concern moviegoers have when they pay their hard earned money to see a film, Kodjoe sounded the alarm for more quality films: "I think ‘The Gospel’ will do really great because people want to see good stories. They want to see different movies. They don't want to go and see the same crap over and over again, and that's what studios do, you know? If one thing works, they keep doing it even though it will run its course a million times, even if people aren't interested any more. So hopefully this will inspire them to think out of the box and do other stuff.”
In addition to being inspiring, Kodjoe saw his role as a demanding one. “I took this role because it was a challenge. I was looking for stuff to show people I could act. I was looking for stuff that took me away from the whole ‘Brown Sugar’ hunk riding off into the sunset thing that people wanted me to play after ‘Brown Sugar’. “My wife and I try to think out the box. We try to paint pictures of characters that have nothing to do with those stereotypical images we see everyday and have been sort of forced fed with for years. I think we’ve been underserved as an audience. We want to see ourselves in all our diverse glory and not just one specific guy or woman.” Another “Important” message Kodjoe wants the audience to walk away with is that, “You have to live in the present for the future. You can’t live in the past. Don’t ignore the past, but deal with it. Be free to embrace your life and be a happy, loving person. If you don’t, the past will come back to haunt you.” Ironically, Kodjoe’s co-star, Tamyra Gray, has similar beliefs about predestination because of her divine intervention. “When I came off of vacation, my agent called me and said, ‘They want you to be in the film,’ “ she enthused. “It was automatic—no audition—which I was really shocked about. Thank you! I read the script and just loved the concept, so I signed on immediately. The funny thing about it is that, it’s like it was meant to be…” Actor/director George Clooney is well known for his activism. So it was not surprising to see him take on McCarthyism in his film, “Good Night, and Good Luck.” As one of Hollywood’s most outspoken liberals, is it likely that he would one day run for office? “That’s ridiculous, don’t you think? [Laughs] I think that I should run on the 'Yes. I did it ticket’.” Dianne Reeves is, literally, the solo chorus in the film. While trying to work out the sound of the film, Clooney had originally brought in “a bunch of musicians” that worked with his aunt, singer Rosemary Clooney. “And then Dianne Reeves sent us a tape of her singing, ‘How High the Moon’. We looked at it and thought, ‘Well, there we go. We have the perfect singer.’ So we shot it all live, all of the songs. None of it is lip-synced. [We] had two cameras going the whole time, knowing that there was going to be no score.”
The Film Strip asked Clooney if, in his research, had he come across any information that had not already been known? “Oh, yeah. And there were also things that in doing the research you learned that made it important for us to go back to the original material…We had to make sure that we went back to all of the source material from the very beginning so that we weren't going to compound any sort of myth that had been made in an editing room. So it became more complicated because we thought that we could just use the source material that we had.” One source material they already had and always gives Clooney a big laugh is Senator McCarthy making a fool of himself during the hearings. Some who saw the footage thought the actor playing McCarthy “was too over the top,” not realizing it was McCarthy.” A chuckling Clooney says, “I was thinking about taking out an ad to the Academy [for McCarthy], that says, ‘For your consideration’.”
Going Out: The Dish: VIFF
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
(Oct 7, 2005) Roll out the red carpets and throw on some glitter. The Vancouver International Film Festival is beginning to look a lot like, well, Toronto. Although festival organizers have always favoured the serious contemplation of auteur cinema and foreign film over Hollywood-style hype, the city's glamour quotient during the opening of this year's 16-day event (which continues until Oct. 14) was rubbed to an extra sparkly sheen, what with the Film Festival Society's shiny new film centre, the concurrent BC Fashion Week, a commercial film industry raring to kick up its heels and star-spotting galore. The festivities got off to a raucous start last Tuesday with the third annual Red Carpet cocktail party at Cin Cin Ristorante, independently organized and sponsored by Brightlight Pictures and Vancouver Film Studios as a way of celebrating this year's local festival talent, filmmakers and various entertainment leaders. Vancouver party princess and film producer Rory Richards diligently organizes the event by having a fleet of limousines pick up the red-carpet arrivals at the Sutton Place Hotel, where the stars usually hang out in the Gerard Lounge, sipping a few drinks to help rosy up their cheeks for the cameras. It appeared as if Chris Kramer (star of the TV series The Collector), his producer J. B. Sugar and Joely Collins (Da Vinci's Inquest, The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess) were in a party mood. When their limousine pulled up on Robson Street outside Cin Cin, they popped their heads out the sunroof, screaming like grad students after their first taste of tequila.
"What's your favourite bottle of wine?" Star TV's Terry David Mulligan asked Kramer. "A full one," he replied. A few minutes later, Brendan Fletcher (who plays a leading role in the VIFF film Paper Moon Affair) rocked up screaming at the cast of TV's Stargate SG-1: "I love you, you're gorgeous," and generally acting crazy. The festival's official opening-night fete on Thursday was just as entertaining -- and splashed with irony -- as hundreds of guests gobbled down sushi rolls without any apologies while letting loose with the Beluga whales at the Vancouver Aquarium. And you thought VIFF was hopelessly mired in politically correctness? The venue, if not the nibbles, was appropriate enough, given that the festival had opened earlier that evening with a gala screening of Deepa Mehta's Water, the third in the director's "elements" trilogy. Mehta and Bollywood bombshell Lisa Ray were on hand to kick off the celebration. Later that evening, many in the crowd were seen doing double takes and shaking their heads in surprise when Daryl Hannah strolled in with Gil Bellows, both in Vancouver to shoot the Robert Lieberman-directed miniseries Final Days of Planet Earth. Hannah scampered straight outside to see the whales, or perhaps admonish the sushi eaters, given that she's a genuine eco-warrior who runs her home (a refurbished stagecoach station in Colorado's Rocky Mountains) on solar power and fuels her cars with biodiesel, an alternative fuel made from recycled vegetable oil. Homeboy Bellows was in less buoyant spirits than he had been the night before, when he told me he could "die happily" after having worked on Terminal City, the upcoming Canadian TV series about a mother with breast cancer.
The star of TV's Ally McBeal and Gore Verbinski's soon-to-be-released feature film The Weather Man, wasn't too happy with a photographer from The Globe and Mail who had taken a photo of Hannah without her permission. I can appreciate the chivalry, but come on Gil. This was a film festival party and Vancouver's no longer the small-town burg you grew up in. It was double duty on Saturday night when I hit the party for VIFF's world premiere of The Score, after watching one of my favourite Vancouver fashion designers, Mala Kuja Moda's Marina Mikulic, present her mermaid-inspired spring/summer collection at the very impressive and professionally organized 2nd edition of BC Fashion Week. Just as I was wondering why there weren't any synergies happening between the festival and film events (in Toronto, it seems as if every fashion boutique on Bloor Street hosts a party for the film festival), I ran into Zoltan Barabas. The Hungarian-Canadian actor (White Chicks, Jakob the Liar) was hanging out at the fashion shows to do research on a new film project he's producing, a thriller set against BC Fashion Week. No kidding. Over at Crush Champagne Lounge, Vancouver's Screen Sirens Pictures and Electric Company Theatre were celebrating The Score, their wonderfully wacky musical drama about a genetics cancer-research lab that was funded by Genome Canada and has caught the interest of the Hollywood's heavy-hitting Weinstein Co. Eric McCormack, a local Vancouver boy and star of Will & Grace, was there to celebrate with a friend, but bailed early. "I don't think he was getting enough attention," one insider observed. If only Daryl Hannah had been so fortunate. The Kill Bill: Vol. 2 star could easily have been mistaken for a gangster when she skulked in under a dark hood (no photographs this time). Bellows, her ever-accommodating co-star, had checked in with the doormen while Hannah waited in a cab to make sure she could be whisked right in. Bellows was lucky that I was there to vouch for him, since the doorman didn't initially recognize him. I guess I really should have warned him that the private party was already winding down and the bar had opened its doors to the public. Scared off by the punters, he and Hannah scooted right back out and made a hasty retreat. Inside, the delightfully eccentric Michael Hayden was having the time of his life. Hayden is the director and senior scientist of Vancouver's Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, who originally commissioned Vancouver's Electric Company Theatre to create the play on which the film was based. "Let's talk on Monday," said Hayden, as he scribbled his phone number on my stomach. He and his wife were having too much fun steaming up the dance floor to chat about the film. Forget crossing over with the fashion world. I think I've finally discovered the answer to the Canadian film industry's problem with popular appeal. All we need to do is get more wild scientists involved -- if not in production, at least the parties. Imagine what a hoot that would be.
Vivica in ‘Citizen Duane’
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 10, 2005) *Vivica A. Fox has been cast as a schoolteacher in the new Canadian comedy film "Citizen Duane," currently in production in Hamilton, Ontario, reports Canadian Press. The movie features Douglas Smith as a small-town outsider who decides to run for mayor, and stars Alberta Watson as his mother and Donal Logue as his Uncle Bingo. The feature is being produced by Accent Entertainment and will be distributed by ThinkFilm.
Jamie Foxx Back In ‘Dreamgirls?’
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 12, 2005) *World Entertainment News Network (WENN) is reporting that Jamie Foxx is back among the cast members of “Dreamgirls,” opposite stars Beyonce Knowles and Eddie Murphy. Negotiations had reportedly broken off when Foxx – fresh from receiving his Academy Award for “Ray” – was demanding way more money than the film’s budget allowed. According to WENN, Foxx soon got wind of the all-star cast and started thinking twice about the opportunity. He reportedly returned to the bargaining table and agreed to a drastically lowered paycheck to take part. He explains: "The first time, it was just me in the movie - no Eddie Murphy, no Beyonce. Then I hear Eddie's doing it, and I'm like, 'Hey, pay me a dollar.' I hear Beyonce's doing it, 'Pay me a quarter.' I just wanted to be part of that. At the end of the day, who cares, man? It's Eddie Murphy; he's my hero. If Dreamgirls works out as I think it will, it will be the greatest thing in the world, a real event. Maybe you won't get $15 million, maybe you get $3 million, maybe $2 million... (but) you are getting more than a paycheck."
Found: Bullard, Not Bitter
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By John Doyle
(Oct. 12, 2005) It's one of those sunny and warm October afternoons in Toronto and I'm on my way to a restaurant on Queen Street West to meet Mike Bullard for lunch. I have several questions for him, but one question is uppermost because I know it's what everybody is wondering. Bullard is at the restaurant already and it takes less than a minute to realize the answer to the question: No, Mike Bullard isn't bitter. In fact, he's as sunny as the weather. Wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and grinning, he looks better than he did on TV. He's relaxed, benign, bullish and wants it known that he's open for business. "I told you I'd be back," he says, all smiles. Indeed he did. Mike Bullard disappeared off the radar in March of 2004 when Global abruptly cancelled The Mike Bullard Show. He didn't return calls or answer e-mails. Nobody was surprised about that. It was ignominious to have the heavily promoted talk show cancelled after mere months on the air. After that, his sole appearance in the little firmament of Canadian showbiz was in a sketch at last year's Gemini Awards. He played a dead body. At the end of the sketch, he came to life and said, "I'm not dead yet." After that, it was more silence from Mike Bullard. Then, on New Year's Day of this year, he sent me a brief e-mail, wishing me a Happy New Year. He concluded with, "I'll be back." A few weeks ago, another e-mail arrived. It described a new project he's enthusiastic about -- The Great Canadian Roast. It's a simple idea. These days, Mike Bullard wants to keep things simple and straightforward. He describes it like this: "Take one Canadian icon and six comedic personalities and let the insults fly. It would be broadcast about every three months in a 1,000-seat theatre. It would be a sort-of tribute to those Dean Martin roasts of the seventies, with a very Canadian twist. I'd be the host but a changing group of comedians and TV stars would do the roasting. Each show would end with a retort from the man or woman who is the subject of the roast. We'd charge for tickets to the taping and a good portion would go to the charity of the subject's choice."
Bullard says he's getting a lot of interest in the idea from potential subjects to be roasted, such as Jean Chrétien.. "One thing I learned from the talk show is that politicians and sports figures are the real stars in Canada. . . . And I like the idea of doing something for a charity. I can see a DVD of these roasts going on sale and a portion of that money going to the charity." The Great Canadian Roast is one of a handful of projects Bullard is developing with Metal Works Studios, the successful recording studio co-owned by Gil Moore and Mike Levine of Triumph, the Canadian hard-rock band. Another is an in-depth interview show with internationally renowned musicians who record at Metal Works (Prince, Tina Turner, David Bowie, the Cranberries, D12, Guns N' Roses, 'N Sync, Christina Aguilera and almost every major Canadian artist has recorded there), and he likens it to the actor-interview series on Bravo! called Inside the Actors Studio. "You'd have an invited audience of fans, real experts on the music and it wouldn't be a series of puff questions about a new album. It would be a music-interview show for grownups." Bullard says he finds the optimism and business acumen of businessmen/musicians refreshing after the caution of television veterans. "For these projects, I'd rather not apply for grants and go through all of that again. Besides, I don't want to work for anyone else, ever again. I'm working for myself now." Obviously, Bullard wants to talk up the projects he's developing. But what I'm wondering, while listening to him, is how he feels about the high-profile crash of The Mike Bullard Show at Global, especially as he had left CTV with some apparent bitterness after six seasons of Open Mike with Mike Bullard. I'm also wondering what he did for the past 18 months.
I tell him I kept the announcement that came from Global about his show's cancellation, because it was extraordinarily blunt. Bullard smiles. "It just didn't work. I knew on the day after we taped the second show that it wasn't going to work. It's way too hard doing a nightly talk show in Canada. . . . We're beside the behemoth of popular American culture. Viewers here expect stars to sit in the guest chair. I think a successful Canadian TV talk show could be done on a once-a-week basis, but not every night. You can have Canadian stars like Don Cherry or Tie Domi on the show or a politician, but there are only so many big-name Canadians that viewers will tune in to see. "I knew the end was coming the day before the announcement was made. I told people working on the show. They didn't believe me, but I was right. They're the ones I felt bad about. It's so tough working on a Canadian show. You don't get the recognition, the money." Is he still angry? Does he have a hate-on for Global?" "No and no. It didn't work out. That's just business. But I'd do business with Global again, no problem." So what did he do after the axe fell on The Mike Bullard Show? Bullard grins broadly, relishing the opportunity to tell me. "First I drove to Florida. After a few days, I remembered that I hated Florida. So I drove home. I stayed in Mississauga for a bit and then I went to L.A. for a few months. I did some work there with Granada Television, developing a comedy show about TV from around the world. I enjoyed doing things without any pressure on me. And I got a divorce. In romance, I realized that my first love is "first loves" and I don't want to be married again. I enjoy being with a woman. But I really enjoy being with a woman and not having to hide anything." It was while he was in L.A. that he noticed the popularity of those old Dean Martin roasts done for TV back in the 1970s. "They came out on DVD and the DVDs were flying off the shelves. People were hungry for them and the company made millions. It's a simple idea and, if you've noticed, these days I like simple ideas."
Bullard came back to Canada a few months back and, apart from developing new projects with Metal Works, he says he wanted to keep a low profile and avoid media attention. He says he did some charity work and a few corporate gigs. "I go to the Good Shepherd Hostel sometimes and serve lunch there. It's good to be involved with charities. It gives you some perspective. You realize that a lot of people are worse off than you are. "I can look at myself in the mirror. I'm not embarrassed by anything I've done. It's unfortunate that in Canada, the business is so small that you can get tagged as a failure. Because the opportunities are few. Do you know how many talk shows have failed in the States? A lot. And nobody there believes that the host's career is over. Canada is different in every way. The way I see it now, the best way to do television in Canada is to forget about ratings. Just try to do something good and worthwhile. I've got enormous respect for a lot of people working in Canada, but it's the comics I really respect. They work for peanuts. I look at Brent Butt's career now and, God, I wish him well. Here's a great comic who stuck with his principles and he's got a hit TV show with Corner Gas. It's a good show, that's what's really important." The only time Bullard hesitates is when I ask him if he'll return to the stand-up-comedy circuit. He did it for years, slowly building a reputation as an acerbic, self-deprecating wit who could create long, funny routines from simply interacting with the audience. "Maybe at some point I'll do a few comedy clubs. But I'm in no rush to do that."
The last comment I get from him is a blunt request about this article. "Don't play up the negative," he says. As if. There's no need. If anybody is wondering what ever happened to Mike Bullard, the news is that he's back. He's unbowed, cheerful, optimistic and most definitely not bitter about anything.
Over There Is Everywhere: Canadian Actor Nabs Leading Role
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jim Bawden, TV Columnist
(Oct. 11, 2005) They are a study in contrasts, these two young and handsome stars of the new Steven Bochco TV series Over There.Erik Palladino, best known as Dr. Dave Malucci on ER, is sitting quietly, waiting for the interview to begin; he's done so many of them over the years. Next to him on the hotel sofa and almost bouncing off it is overly eager Luke MacFarlane, our Canadian content from London, Ont. Over There? It's a huge hit on pay-TV services all over the world: more than 100 countries and still counting. "It tells the truth about the Iraq war if you care to listen," Palladino says proudly. In other words, if you are pro- or anti-war it really makes no difference because Bochco's scripts are dramatizing the conflict in real time. The aim of Over There is to heighten viewer awareness about the triumphs and tragedies on both sides even if military blogs have been after Bochco for some factual blunders (such as misfired battle tactics). "It's not patriotic in any rah-rah sense," MacFarlane says. "That's why the scripts are so great, they mirror reality." And in a unique selling offensive, 20th Century Fox deliberately shopped the series to emerging pay TV and specialty networks around the world from Canada's History TV to Germany's Premier to Latin America's Movie City and the U.K.'s Sky One. Pay TV fare has to be distinctively edgy and substantive and Over There suits that bill. "We already have our pick up for a second season," Palladino reports. Palladino once joked he'd been on the lowest-rated U.S. network series of all time. That would be 1998's DiResta, wouldn't it, Erik? "Right! And then I was on the highest-rated (ER) and you tend to get more respect on the highest rated." And now comes the hottest new cable TV series and "great reviews. We couldn't do this on network TV, really."
Palladino has wracked up fine personal notices as gruff "Sgt. Scream" who really does care about his unit while MacFarlane has scored in his first substantial TV role as "Dim," the college-educated soldier with the floozy wife (Brigid Brannagh) back home. He's called "Dim" because he's in there fighting even though he was at graduate school and could have requested a deferment. Stories oscillate between the soldiers in the field and the families they've left back home. At the beginning the soldiers' ages flash across the screen: 19, 20, 22 ... showing how young and impressionable they all are. "My character is just that little bit older," smiles Palladino. "Meaning he sees that a 19-year-old has this fearless quality ... doesn't ever believe he'd be hit. Well, that kid has to be protected until he learns about death or he'll be a statistic all too soon." Filming of the superbly reconstructed war scenes is done in a canyon at Chatsworth on 25 acres of bulldozed terrain that actually does resemble Iraq. Chatsworth is near enough to Los Angeles that actors can be transported home after a day of play acting at war. "We all went to boot camp," MacFarlane remembers. "And it was pretty tough. We also use the same weapons as real troops but not live ammunition." Shots of the combat show a gauzy haze and oppressive heat conditions bound to wilt any able-bodied actor. "Bochco is there, he's around," MacFarlane reports. "We do see him, he's there for us. But he's more into the script, it's all there in the scenes. And at Chatsworth we have great directors out there."
Like Chris Gerolmo, who directed Citizen X for HBO and gave the premiere episode its distinctive grittiness. MacFarlane, only 25, nods vigorously when it's suggested he's lucky to have landed such a quality role first time out. "Nobody knows that more than me." A 2003 Juilliard drama graduate, he attended New York City's elite arts school for four years on a scholarship. At London's Central Secondary School, Luke first caught the acting bug and co-starred in several high school productions with twin sister Ruth. MacFarlane received astonishingly fine notices for his professional theatre debut last year in an off-Broadway piece called Juvenelia. Said one critic: "MacFarlane is convincing as the dangerously alcohol prone campus stud." Then he was Bruce, the son of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) and wife Clara (Laura Linney) in last year's movie Kinsey. According to news releases, MacFarlane was just one of hundreds of promising actors considered by producer Bochco for the part of Dim. In the same release, Bochco praises the young Canadian "as a very gifted young guy." MacFarlane says it's true he hasn't struggled too much to get where he is. "All I've met are very co-operative people who have helped me along." One of them is veteran Palladino, who at 37, is just about the oldest of the actors to be cast. He describes the audition as "a real stretch. I had studied the script and it was all there and I felt the character coming out. It was a part I had to get." Born in Yonkers, son of a heating contractor and a junior high school teacher, Palladino remains a diehard Yankee although he now lives in California. When he relocated to Los Angeles it was to co-star in the short-lived sitcom Love And Marriage (1996). He then jumped to a recurring part on Murphy Brown and was on the first five episodes of Joan Of Arcadia. Palladino agrees Over There is his biggest "and best" project so far. "It's shot like a movie, very expensive — those war scenes are well planned. I know we're being talked about, it's all I hear everywhere I go." Shooting has just concluded on Season One. Palladino is a race car enthusiast in off months but also says he'll get married this hiatus. MacFarlane, interviewed last week, only wanted to head home and celebrate a Canadian Thanksgiving with his family.
Eleventh Hour Late Love
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem
(Oct. 12, 2005) This year's Gemini nominees were announced "exclusively" last night by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television on its new broadcast home, Global Television's banana franchise E.T. Canada. Ironically, it was CTV's Eleventh Hour that dominated the major dramatic categories with 15 nominations — doubly ironic, actually, in that CTV cancelled the show last year. Even so, Eleventh Hour, in addition to the usual series and acting acknowledgments, accounts for three of five directing nominations and five of 10 nods to guest-starring actors. Four other guest stars were counted among the second-highest 11 nominations earned by CBC's This Is Wonderland — a show that somehow, even in these troubled times, has managed to remain on the air. In third place among Canadian comedy and drama series, ReGenesis (on Global and The Movie Network) makes a strong debut with seven Gemini nominations, including Best Drama and Best Lead Actor for the ubiquitous Peter Outerbridge. Last year another new show, Corner Gas, had five Gemini nods and was sent westward with no gold. This year the sitcom is up for only two, one being Best Website ... of course, the other is Best Comedy Series, a competitive category this year, with usual suspects The Newsroom and This Hour Has 22 Minutes joined by Puppets Who Kill and the chronically overlooked — and thus now cancelled — History Bites. Absent from that grouping is last year's winner, Trailer Park Boys. The Halifax-based show has three other shots at the podium, including an ensemble-acting nomination and a directing nod for Mike Clattenberg.
Perennial drama nominee DaVinci's Inquest makes its move this year to City Hall with less than half of last year's 10 nominations (three of which it won). But then, Nick Campbell's mantle is only so big. On the other hand, several worthy newcomers are among the multi-nominated — notably, the CBC test-balloon pilots for Colin Mochrie and Deb McGrath's Getting Along Famously, Mary Walsh's Hatching, Matching & Dispatching, and the Vancouver-shot series Godiva's and The Collector. Also worth mentioning — although in an industry this small, I'm amazed this doesn't happen more often — are the two sets of married nominees (not counting the Mochries): Outerbridge for ReGenesis and his wife Tammy Isbell for Paradise Falls, and Wendy Crewson for the CBC mini Sex Traffic and husband Michael Murphy for This is Wonderland. And finally, proof that TV biography can be a cruel mistress — in the TV-movie/mini categories, support actors wrested laurels from the ostensible leads. Brendan Fletcher was nominated for his killer performance in The Death and Life of Nancy Eaton, but not the titular victim, Jessica Pare. Alberta Watson was cited as Chava Morgentaler in Choice: The Henry Morgentaler Story, but not David Eisner as her top-billed husband. Then again, the Mini/Movie Lead Actor nomination was one of two (?!) earned by the Vancouver-filmed NBC bioflick (simulcast on Global), Behind the Scenes: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy. Cited, as the very convincing Robin Williams clone, was Toronto actor Chris Diamantopoulos. Out of luck was his support star, Brampton-born Tyler Labine, equally impressive channelling a doomed John Belushi. Labine will no doubt take some consolation at having subsequently landed a part in the big-budget U.S. series, Invasion. And anyway, if Gemini is in the business of acknowledging the work of home-grown actors in Canadian-made, erstwhile American shows — and particularly, it would seem, American shows that happen to be remakes of other, bad 1970s American shows — then where is Michael Hogan's nomination for his stellar work on the new Battlestar Galactica?
'Boston Legal' Tackles B.C. Fish Farm Debate
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail- By Dirk Meissner (Canadian Press)
(Oct. 10, 2005) Victoria — A British Columbia fishing story with a political hook will be featured Tuesday on an award-winning U.S. network television series. Boston Legal, with an estimated weekly audience of 15 million viewers, filmed its Oct. 11 episode at an exclusive B.C. eco-adventure lodge known for its spectacular scenery and access to some of the world's best salmon fishing. Nimmo Bay Resort plays a lead visual role in the episode that sees Emmy-winning actors William Shatner and James Spader, who play Boston lawyers, arrive at the remote fishing hole for a weekend of male bonding, but end up getting tangled in a local issue that involves the politics of fish farming versus wild fish. The episode is entitled Finding Nimmo. When Boston Legal's two stars hear that fish farms in the area are threatening local wild salmon stocks, they feel compelled to act. And that's where the ABC-produced series turns from television drama to real-life drama.
British Columbia's aquaculture industry, which operates salmon farms near the resort, and a local federal politician have voiced concerns the Boston Legal episode will give the local industry a black eye. John Duncan, the Opposition Conservative MP for the Campbell River area riding of North Island, stood in the House of Commons last month and raised questions about promoting a show that could hurt some of his constituents. “The U.S. television show Boston Legal has taped an episode that will feature a world-class resort in my riding,” Duncan said. “This is good news. The bad news is that the episode takes aim at salmon farming, a sustainable industry which employs 4,000 British Columbians, many of them in rural or First Nations communities.” The episode reportedly deals with the presumed threat that fish farms pose to wild salmon through the proliferation of sea lice, he said in a statement. “The premise that salmon farming and tourism are incompatible is not correct,” said Duncan. He said the federally funded Canadian Tourism Commission booked advertising space in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times newspapers to promote the show. The ads would only serve to manufacture polarization between fish farmers and the tourism sector, Duncan said.
Since Duncan's comments, the tourism commission decided not to run the ads, but a spokesman for the wilderness tourism industry in British Columbia said the Tory MP may have cost the operators valuable exposure to a huge audience of potential customers. “They didn't like the idea of the focus on a potentially controversial issue is what they told me,” said Brian Gunn, Wilderness Tourism Association spokesman. “They haven't seen the show, so they are making a decision, in my estimation, on knowledge they don't have.” Duncan has shown he has little time for tourism operators when it comes to their concerns about fish farming, said Gunn. Craig Murray, who runs Nimmo Bay Resort, said the show will send a message across North America that British Columbia and Canada offer out-of-this-world tourism experiences. “I'm celebrating the tourism message that's being sent to the Americans to come up and visit our country,” he said. “The American media has never highlighted Canada in this fashion before.” The show will suggest to Americans they drop everything and race up to Canada for a visit, Murray said. “ Boston Legal, I could only suppose, was looking for a venue to do a fishing show,” he said. “They wanted to send a couple of Boston lawyers fishing, to carry on and do stupid things, just like people do on a realistic fishing trip.”
Murray said the political reaction to the fish-farming sub-plot in the episode is a result of “uniformed rumour. No one has seen the show. It hasn't aired yet.” The resort, accessible only by air, is located about 350 kilometres north of Vancouver near Sullivan Bay in an area of the B.C. coast known as the Great Bear Rain Forest. Nimmo Bay has been operating for 25 years and its eco-adventures, which include guided fly-fishing excursions to virtually untouched salmon rivers, are estimated to start at almost $5,000 per person.
Relief As The Locked Doors Finally Open
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Guy Dixon
(Oct. 12, 2005) They came, they marched, they kibitzed under the towering atrium inside the CBC's Toronto Broadcast Centre and then they calmly returned to work. Replace the takeout coffee cups with wine glasses, and pockets of returning CBC workers would resemble a friendly media schmooze, with little groups surrounding CBC personalities such as Evan Solomon and Michael Enright. Union leaders had warned CBC workers not to return to their jobs feeling belligerent and confrontational on the first day back for all staff, now that the nearly two-month-long lockout is over. But CBC staff didn't need the warning. Many talked about residual anger -- but in an abstract sense, as something that is lingering out there, but which they didn't necessarily feel. Most were simply preoccupied with getting the broadcaster back up to speed. The regular, hour-long broadcast of The National with Peter Mansbridge is expected to resume tonight. (Whether or not yesterday's broadcast was going to be a full edition of The National wasn't clear yesterday afternoon.) Meanwhile, morning shows on Radio One, including Andy Barrie's top-rated program in Toronto, as well as regular afternoon drive-time shows, are expected to return tomorrow. Listeners may hear some morning shows and other local programming in various cities returning as early as today, said a CBC spokeswoman. There had been hints, though, especially at a large union meeting in Toronto on Friday, that some would be returning in a resentful mood. Toronto, being the CBC's hub, has the largest number of non-permanent employees. Even with the new contract between CBC management and the Canadian Media Guild, officially ratified over the weekend, many still won't be eligible to switch to permanent status.
But as a gathering of workers took a final symbolic lap around the building as a show of solidarity shortly after 8:30 a.m. yesterday, most said they were simply glad to be returning to work. "I'm really relieved to be back. I think the lockout was a huge mistake," said one radio producer who has worked for years under fixed-term contracts. "I don't see the problem being so much with the middle managers, but I do see it being at the top. The folks at the top don't seem to believe in this particular organization." "I'm very indignant about the fact that we were locked out," said Linda Theriault, a production editor for CBC television news. "My indignation comes from the fact that we're just considered numbers and there's no consideration for families." Others pointed to a firmer sense of unity among staff. Cheryl Krawchuk, an on-line news writer, said that she feels more connected with the workers in other departments than before the lockout. "I'm trying to go in with as positive an attitude as I can," she added. And as crowds lingered in the atrium yesterday to chat, Enright noted that there was a sense that the decisions of upper management will now be watched much more closely by staff. Guild officials have also said that they will police the new agreement, while also saying that political pressure will continue to be put on Ottawa to hold management accountable for the lockout and to conduct an audit to find out how money was spent. Yesterday, however, most seemed to see it on a more personal level. "I think the thing that hurt people the most was that we are the people who love the CBC. And they did it to people who love the CBC," Enright said. Then looking around the atrium, he joked, "But I don't see people rushing to their workstations."
What's on when?
Ask CBC spokespeople, and even they will confide that the exact return of normal programming is up in the air. But here, at least, is what the CBC is aiming for: The National: Peter Mansbridge was due back in the anchor chair last night. But they might not call it The National until tonight. Toronto's Metro Morning and other Radio One shows: Tomorrow's the big day when morning and afternoon drive-time shows will return in most cities. But even then, some local shows are likely to sneak back on the air today. Local radio programs across all of Canada and in the north: The goal is to resume normal service by tomorrow, too.
CBC Lockout Ends
Source: Canadian Press
(Oct. 9, 2005) Toronto — CBC employees have voted to accept their tentative deal with management, officially ending the bitter, seven-week labour dispute. The Canadian Media Guild said 3,514 ballots were cast and 88.4 per cent voted in favour of ratification. The official tally was 3,106 votes for, 394 against and 14 ballots were either spoiled or challenged and not accepted. The lockout focused on job security and the use of contract workers. The deal caps contract workers at 9.5 per cent of the full-time work force. It also allows for wage hikes of 12.6 per cent over the life of the contract through to March 31, 2009. Most of the CBC's 5,500 unionized workers are expected to head back to work on Tuesday. But it could take days and weeks before programming returns to normal.
CBC To Slowly Returns To Normal
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Mckay, Canadian Press
(Oct. 7, 2005) Most of the CBC's 5,500 unionized workers who were locked out for seven weeks will be heading back to their posts on Tuesday if they ratify the tentative deal reached last weekend. The workers are voting on the deal at present, with the official results to be made public Sunday. But don't expect Peter Mansbridge and The National news team to be up and running immediately, or your favourite CBC personalities to be on camera or behind their mikes for a while — perhaps days or even weeks. "They don't want to put stuff on the air that's sub-par," says Lise Lareau, president of the Canadian Media Guild. "They don't know what hurdles they need to overcome to get a National on the air until they get in . . . and find out." CBC management spokesman Jason MacDonald agrees there will be no rush to put on less-than-professional content. So Tuesday night's National newscast may be a pared-down affair, likely with no reports from CBC correspondents. "What they may do is limit it to a straightforward CBC newscast and then resume the National as you know it on Wednesday," says MacDonald. On radio, plans call for a national morning show out of Montreal and a drive-home show out of Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday, with some local markets back Wednesday and everyone back by Thursday.
"A lot of our people think it would be better for them to start the following week, that's Oct. 17, with really well done, well researched shows that can be properly promoted," says Lareau. Rick Mercer's Tuesday Night Report won't return until Nov. 8, while the Royal Canadian Air Farce expects to be up and running Oct. 28. The Trudeau prequel miniseries Maverick in the Making (co-written, by the way, by the CBC's new board chairman Guy Fournier), originally scheduled to air last month as the keystone to the network's fall launch, will now be telecast Oct. 23-24, while Da Vinci's City Hall debuts Oct. 25 with a two-hour special. The Walter Gretzky Story is slated for Nov. 6 and the Shania Twain biography movie Nov. 7. No dates are set yet for the Rene Levèsque and Tommy Douglas biopics. Lareau says union meetings and balloting were scheduled to take place across the country all day yesterday, today and tomorrow, at which bargaining committee members would explain the deal. At 200 pages, it is available on the guild website. "There is a need to get back to work, so we're trying to find a happy balance between letting people absorb the deal and ask all their questions about the deal and then voting on it," says Lareau. Keith Maskell, who is in charge of the guild elections committee, says the 20 to 25 CBC regions are to send their local count to head office in Toronto by 8 a.m. ET Sunday. "I am expecting to be able to release a result somewhere around noon eastern on Sunday," says Maskell. If the results are favourable, Lareau says some sort of special event is being planned Tuesday to welcome the employees back and hopefully ease their concerns. There is one notable exception to the slow return of familiar fare.
The CBC will be telecasting the Montreal-at-Toronto NHL match-up Saturday night even before the ratification results are announced, thanks to a complicated portion of the last-minute bargaining. "The hockey was clearly a priority of the CBC's (and) a major factor in bringing these talks to the end," Lareau explains. To avoid a situation in which the lockout ended for some and not others, it was agreed that all union members would start getting paid as of today, including holiday pay for Thanksgiving, she says. "It was negotiated separately to enable hockey to get on the air . . . it was a pressure point all round." Even then, it won't be easy on such short notice. Hockey Night in Canada crews were to head to work early today to set up what will likely be an extraordinary effort, especially since they haven't televised a game in more than a year. "There's no question it'll take some hustling, but these are professionals and they know what they're doing," said MacDonald. As well, the CBC plans coverage of two CFL games on Thanksgiving Monday — Edmonton at Toronto and B.C. at Winnipeg — complete with normal pre-game shows. Still lingering in the air is the question as to whether the lockout feud has done permanent damage to the CBC's image. Richard Powers, assistant dean of the University of Toronto's Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, doesn't buy that notion. "I think things will be back to normal very soon," Powers says. "Let's face it. The content that they put out is very good, very popular. I think people are just glad that they're back." He also doesn't see the country evenly divided in its views about the CBC. A lot more people think of the broadcaster as a vital cultural pillar than as a media dinosaur that should be put out of its misery, Powers says. "It's not unlike the hockey situation. Look at the crowds that were there (for the first NHL game Wednesday night). Watch the numbers climb as the CBC gets its regular programming back on the air."
HBO To Air Wyclef’s Life Story
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 6, 2005) *Wyclef Jean of the Fugees has signed a deal with HBO to produce and star in a sitcom loosely based on his life. The Haitian-born singer and musician is also set to write and produce original music for the series, which is currently in the early stages of development through his Platinum Sound studio. Jean has already gotten his feet wet on the small screen, appearing in four episodes of the NBC drama "Third Watch" this year. He also has roles in the current indie features "One Last Thing," which screened last month at the Toronto International Film Festival, and "Dirty," set to debut at next month's AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival. The son of a minister, Jean’s family moved from Haiti to Brooklyn when he was 9, and later to New Jersey. During his teen years, he learned to play the guitar and teamed with Lauryn Hill and Pras Michael to form the Fugees. The group had a hit in 1996 with the album "The Score," and recently reunited to begin work on a follow-up disc expected in early 2006. As previously reported, the trio will launch a European tour in Vienna on Nov. 30. Jean also released the solo album, "Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival," in 1997 and has worked as a producer and songwriter with such artists as Destiny's Child, Mick Jagger, Carlos Santana and the Black Eyed Peas. He earned a Golden Globe nomination last year for penning the song "A Million Voices" featured in "Hotel Rwanda."
Koppel Plans Last Broadcast
Source: Associated Press
(Oct 7, 2005) New York — Ted Koppel will anchor his last edition of “Nightline” on Nov. 22, with the first post-Koppel edition of the ABC newscast airing Nov. 28, the network said Thursday. Koppel, 65, has anchored the show since its official launch in March 1980. The show grew out of a series of special reports about the Iranian hostage crisis that began the previous November. Koppeland his “Nightline” executive producer, Tom Bettag, are expected to keep working together on news programs after leaving ABC News. How the late-night news show will evolve following Koppel's departure remains a mystery less than two months before its debut. ABC has appointed James Goldston, who produced a British show similar to “Nightline,” as the broadcast's new executive producer, and it has experimented with a multi-topic format on nights Koppel was off. The long-time Washington-based show is expected to split time between studios there and New York, according to published reports. Several reports have also suggested Koppel will be replaced by multiple anchors; ABC News has declined to talk about its “Nightline” plans until they are complete.
‘Being Bobby Brown’ May Not Return
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 11, 2005) *Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston provided us with a multitude of memorable moments over the summer, courtesy of their hit reality show, “Being Bobby Brown.” But, on the Red Carpet at Sunday's taping of the Black Movie Awards, the series’ namesake told EUR’s Lee Bailey that reports of a second season may be premature. “I’m just waiting. If they give me enough money, I’ll do it,” Bobby said of the show’s host network, Bravo. “They say it’s a done deal, but they ain’t give me enough money yet, so I’ma wait for it.” When asked if he had any regrets over the warts-and-all footage aired last season, he said: “I have no regrets in my life. I’m just thankful that God has blessed me with the opportunity to work, the opportunity to be standing on my feet, the opportunity to wake up in the morning. I’m just grateful.” And “very happy,” adds the 36-year-old singer, who said his decision to sit at the bargaining table with Bravo has nothing to do with the positive experience of filming the series with his wife Whitney and their daughter, Bobby Kristina. “That was the fun part. I wanted to show [fans] just what I could do as a person,” he said. “It ain’t no fun no more. This is business.”
Antoine Fuqua Signs Pact With Fox
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 11, 2005) *20th Century Fox TV is now in business with “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua. The studio has given the director an exclusive one-year television deal with a one-year option to renew, reports the Hollywood Reporter. Fuqua worked with 20th in the past development season, when he directed the drama pilot "Murder Book" for Fox Broadcasting Co. The experience sent Fuqua to "the top of our list in terms of directors we want to get in business with," said 20th president Dana Walden, noting that the studio pursues few exclusive pacts with directors. Walden praised Fuqua's contributions to the pilot, which centers on the methodical work of two Los Angeles Police Department homicide executives. "The work he did on 'Murder Book' was visually stunning," Walden said. "He sees things in a different way, a more artistic and original way, in everything from the camera angles he chooses to the way scenes are lit. It feels unique and very distinctive." The director will begin working on new projects for the studio through his Fuqua Films banner and TV development head Josh Dragge. As far as feature films, the director’s upcoming projects include the thriller "By Any Means Necessary," now in development at Paramount, and "Bastards of the Party," the Fuqua Films-produced documentary about the history of gang violence in Los Angeles. As previously reported, rights to the project was recently acquired by HBO.
Rodriguez On Pitfalls Of Getting ‘Lost’
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 11, 2005) *It didn’t matter that ABC’s “Lost” was the second most talked-about television show last season behind “Desperate Housewives.” The offer to join the drama full time was still a prospect that gave actress Michelle Rodriguez some pause. "TV makes you so easily accessible," Rodriguez, 27, tells Zap2it.com. "You don't want to overexpose yourself in the wrong way, and that's what I was scared about. I didn't want people seeing me every week and not getting the right idea about my career and where it's going -- directors especially. I worried about that, because for an independent film career especially, they don't want someone who is as well-known as a TV star. But I just really trust these guys, and I'm like, 'OK, I'm holding on. Take me for a ride.'" Part of her decision to join the shipwrecked crew of “Lost” came from the lack of quality roles sent her way, much of which cast her as either "the girlfriend" or "the girl who gets captured." With “Lost,” Rodriguez found her character Ana-Lucia Cortez to be both challenging and full of surprises. "She's a cornered animal, a total warrior: a fighter, take it down, matter-of-fact, all about survival," Rodriguez says of her character, who was introduced in a three-minute flashback scene last May where she flirted with Jack, the show’s lead character. Later in the episode, it was discovered that Ana-Lucia was seated in the back of the doomed flight. This season, we found out that survivors from her broken off section of the plane have settled on the other side of the island. "These people don't have a lot of the amenities that the people [in Jack's group] do, so they are constantly fighting for their survival," she says. The actress says she has no clue what her character is about to endure, but she looks forward to the possibility that Ana-Lucia and Jack will meet again. "I think that connection [between the 'old' and the 'new' Ana-Lucia] is going to come whenever my character finally meets Jack, because that's the only person she will recognize from the plane," she says. "That will call into question the whole issue of what kind of person she is really, because this whole barbarian side of her is definitely a self-defense mechanism. How will she feel when she sees Jack, who is someone she trusts? I have no idea what that will be like -- and having said all that, at this point, I don't even know if they are going to meet at all."
CTV Adds Gillers To Its Prize Collection
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press
(Oct. 7, 2005) CTV has added another arts awards show to its schedule. The network has become the exclusive broadcast partner for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in a deal that continues to 2007. The Giller is the richest literary prize for fiction in Canada. CTV also holds the telecast rights to the Junos, Canadian Idol and Canada's Walk of Fame, as well as the Academy Awards, the Emmys, the Golden Globes and the American Music Awards. "We're delighted about the move to CTV and the opportunity this affords the prize," said Jack Rabinovitch, who founded the prize in 1994 in honour of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller. "Working with CTV enables us to reach a larger audience and helps increase the recognition of Canadian authors and books." The Giller originally carried a cash award of $25,000 but after teaming with Scotiabank earlier this year, that has been doubled to $50,000, with $40,000 going to the winner and $2,500 to each of the four remaining finalists. The winner this year will be announced at a black-tie gala in Toronto Nov. 8, during a one-hour telecast live on CTV Newsnet. Three repeat airings will take place on the main network — after midnight, the following afternoon and the following weekend. In the past the Giller was broadcast on CBC and CHUM's Bravo and Book Television specialty channels.
Inside The Barrel Of Street Gun
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(Oct. 6, 2005) The sound of a new theatrical voice making itself heard is always an exciting thing, and that's what happened at Theatre Passe Muraille on Tuesday night. In co-operation with Obsidian Theatre Company, TPM launched its season with a bold initiative called Stage3, consisting of nine plays in repertory, as well as a late-night music series. If the first two plays presented are any indication of what's in store, then we can look forward to some provocative theatre over the next two months. Joseph Jomo Pierre has written two plays, Born Ready and Pusha Man, which both display the key signs of a unique vision: something to say and a desire to say it in unconventional ways. As they now stand, Born Ready is the more successful of the two, with the kind of originality that makes you take notice. Just the other day, I was carping that another production (Duel At Dawn) failed to establish a real resonance with the armed violence that has been spattering our city with blood over the past few months. No such hesitancy exists about Born Ready, which faces the issue head on. The playwright doesn't offer any answers to the problem, but he takes us inside the hearts and souls of two young black men to find what leads them to that point where guns seem like the only solution. Structurally speaking, the play is a series of three monologues for the pair of men and the woman who connects them. They exist first as fragments, only to come together by the end of the hour in a frighteningly cohesive whole. Even the supposed innocence of the childhood that these characters recall isn't all that unspotted, because poverty, violence and need are never really distant. They discover sex and drugs too early, lessons that, once learned, can't easily be forgotten. But at a time of insecurity, they grab whatever solace they can. As one of them says, "It was all just needing to be close."
We know the violent end these people are heading to from the moment the play starts, but that doesn't make it any less shocking or horrific when it arrives. Pierre's major strength at this point is the uncanny accuracy of his dialogue. The sound of the streets he hurls at us from the stage could have been lifted verbatim from the evening news. It's the tough, brutal language of people who've learned how to make words hurt, but never took the time to figure out how they could also heal. The three-member cast is superb, with the author himself contributing a wrenching portrait of innocence turned sour. Cara Ricketts is poignant as a girl who bought her dream of love on the instalment plan, while Mike G.-Yohannes starts in despair and manages to take us even lower. Philip Akin has directed the piece with a fine, sculptural quality and the bleak stairways and stark lighting Trevor Schwellnus provides couldn't be better. After such an impressive beginning, Pusha Man comes as a disappointment, even if it is a flamboyantly conceived one. A young woman (Ricketts) is giving birth in an alley and begs her boyfriend (G.-Yohannes) to get something to "mellow" her out. Enter the Pusha Man himself, played by David Collins in that jive-talking satanic mode he handles so well. His first appearance is a high-camp delight, but soon after, the play sinks into drearily repetitious dialogue that really goes nowhere. The urgency and accuracy of the first play are sacrificed for an exercise in mere style. Still, on the strength of Born Ready, I'd recommend this evening as an introduction to Joseph Jomo Pierre, a writer I bet we'll be hearing a lot more from in the future.
Voice Of The Jays Stilled
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Baker, Sports Reporter
(Oct. 10, 2005) It was in the final few weeks of Tom Cheek's life that his wife picked up the telephone at their Florida home and heard the voice of long-time Blue Jays shortstop Tony Fernandez. A deeply religious man who organizes regular Sunday worship services at a compound in his native Dominican Republic, Fernandez had called for an update on a gravely ill Cheek, the team's legendary radio play-by-play man. Told by Cheek's wife, Shirley, that the man whose name appears alongside his on the Level of Excellence rim at the Rogers Centre, was too sick to talk, Fernandez offered the best comfort he knew how. They remained on the phone for 10 more minutes as Fernandez recited a prayer he had written for Cheek. Countless others had prayed for, visited and written to Cheek over the last 16 months before his death yesterday at age 66 from brain cancer. Whether it was former players, media executives or the millions who listened to Cheek for the better part of three decades on the radio, his was a pioneering voice that both immersed and educated them on America's pastime and Canada's only remaining major league team. "He was more than just a broadcaster," said Len Bramson, the onetime talent-hunting guru for the Telemedia network, who lured Cheek to Toronto from his native Vermont nearly 29 years ago, hoping he'd establish an identity for the newly awarded Jays franchise.
"He was big, had the voice. He was cordial with everybody, he could talk to anybody. In front of a crowd, he was outstanding. He did it with no notes. He just loved to talk about baseball." And talk Cheek did, throughout 4,306 consecutive regular-season games — and every Jays post-season contest — from opening day in 1977 until June 3, 2004, when he booked off to attend the funeral of his father. It was soon after that Cheek was diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent surgery on his 65th birthday. "I thought he was a great ambassador for the Blue Jays," Toronto pitching ace Roy Halladay said. "He always talked very highly about the organization and we did a lot of stuff together to promote the team, with the winter caravan, the Blue Jays cruise. It was always very positive. He would always go out of his way to be nice to you." Former Jays general manager Pat Gillick, now a special consultant to the GM of the Seattle Mariners, remembered the passion Cheek brought "not only to his work as a radio broadcaster, but to his work for the Blue Jays. "He was sort of like Cal Ripken, in that you knew he was going to show up every day, you knew he was going to be there with the same pride, the same dedication to excellence," Gillick said. "You could always count on Tom to bring his very best each and every day." At an emotional Rogers Centre ceremony 13 months ago, Cheek was added to the Level of Excellence and spoke candidly of his illness to the crowd of more than 40,000, many of them teary-eyed. He described the warmth he'd felt at a letter of encouragement from a fan who called him "my sound of summer." Scores of Toronto baseball fans remember Cheek as the voice who guided them through their introduction to the sport, first as a broadcast partner with the late Early Wynn and then alongside Jerry Howarth since 1981. It was a voice that boomed "Touch 'em all, Joe!" when Joe Carter's home run won the 1993 World Series and one that, for varying generations of listeners, will never be completely silenced.
"He was my voice of summer growing up, so for the first few years when I used to come around here (for Jays games), I was so in awe of him that I avoided going over to speak with him," said Jamie Campbell, now the television play-by-play voice of the Jays for Sportsnet. "I did not have the (guts) to go over and sit with Tom for the longest time. And then, about two years ago, the two of us happened to be sitting side-by-side in the dugout and a Blue Jay and an opposing player were high-fiving and he and I wound up having this 45-minute conversation about how in the old days fraternization was such a sin. "From that day on, I had no problem engaging in conversation with him. I felt like he'd kind of welcomed me in just by talking to me." Fan 590 radio host and Jays reporter Mike Wilner, who worked in the booth with Cheek and Howarth at home games, also grew up listening to him. "I expected, when I went in there, this old, gruff, grouchy guy and he turned out to be the exact opposite," Wilner said. "He was so welcoming. The first game I did with them was at Fenway Park in Boston in 2002 and I had no idea I'd be on during the game. I figured it was supposed to be just before and after. About two minutes before they went on air, he turns to me and says, `Anything you feel you want to add, just jump in. The mike's open.' And that's the way it always was with him. He was always like that and he always encouraged." Howarth recalled a broadcast partner whose style differed greatly from his own. "We were so different in so many ways, in and out of the booth," Howarth said. "But I think that only helped the broadcast. I know that one day, he'll be going into the hall of fame and I'll be able to say that I had the privilege of knowing him and working alongside him for as long as we did." Cheek's mobility was extremely limited the final month of his life, but he'd made it out to a St. Petersburg, Fla., hotel where the Jays were staying during a September road trip. He sat on the hotel's front porch, a favourite spot where he'd spent many an evening in previous years, sharing an afternoon of conversation with assorted friends from both the Jays and media. "He really enjoyed that day," said Bruce Brenner, the long-time sound engineer on Jays broadcasts. "It was a good, fun time for everyone and I know he was happy he could see everyone again."
ESPN analyst and former Jays catcher and manager Buck Martinez visited with Cheek at his home in the latter stages of his illness. The pair spent hours reminiscing about baseball and talking about Martinez's son, Casey, a minor leaguer and one-time Jays batboy with Cheek's own son, Jeff. "Nobody ever accepts it, but it had become so final that I think he was almost at peace with it," Martinez said of Cheek's impending death. "His wife, Shirley, has been such a rock," Martinez added. "Tom was a very demanding man, a very impatient person, a very meticulous, proper person right down to his scorecard. His scorecard gets out of whack, he's all (messed) up. "But now," he said, "he couldn't finish a sentence. I'd talk to him, he'd try to finish a sentence and he was all frustrated. So, she's just right there saying, `It's okay, Tom. You'll think of what you want to say.'" And, for 29 years in Toronto, he always did.
Voice Of The Jays Touched All Who Listened
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Dave Perkins, Sports Columnist
(Oct. 10, 2005) Early on in the Blue Jays history, their radio voice, Tom Cheek, received a letter from a gushing fan. The content wasn't particularly vital, but Cheek responded and, presently, another missive arrived. Thus began a dialogue and, as Cheek recalled it, the letters got incrementally weirder. This is a not uncommon occurrence for persons of a certain measurable degree of celebrity in their dealings with those who tend to receive their signals from the mother ship through the fillings in their teeth. Cheek knew, ultimately, that the correspondence had become unsalvageable when it consisted of a letter, in the usual handwriting, whose entirety was, "Dear Tom. You know what they did to Petula Clark.'' "When I saw that one, I knew I had the title for my book,'' Cheek always maintained, although he also said he never figured out exactly what, if anything, anyone had done to the 1960s English pop star. Sadly, as wonderful a memoir as it would have been, that book won't be written. Another one was, though, one of rich contribution as a husband, father, grandfather, friend to many and outstanding baseball announcer. It ended early yesterday morning, when the not unexpected but still devastatingly sad news arrived from Florida that Tom Cheek, 66, had succumbed to the brain cancer he had fought so inspiringly and impressively until he could fight no longer. He knew, for more than a year, that he was doomed, but he never took a backward step, right down to his final breath. He made everyone who knew him admire the quality of struggle he put up and made a lot of us wish we could do it half so well, if we ever come face to face with the same enemy. "I know this is coming for me,'' he told friends, "but I'm not going to sit around and just let it find me.''
Even people who never met him will feel saddened by the news. Millions of fans, both passionate and casual, let him into their lives on a regular basis with the Blue Jays and almost everyone invited them — and him — back regularly. One of the final thoughts he was able to convey to his wife Shirley, his indomitable sidekick and bedrock of support, was that he wanted laughs, not tears, when the time came. So Cheek's countless friends will wear a crooked smile today, replaying any of the potentially hilarious or enlightening — but almost always unique — conversations they had with him over the years. The man was a raconteur of rare status, for certain. Favourite description here: A museum-quality human being. We toss the word "unique'' around like a Frisbee, but in Cheek's case it always landed correctly and fit snugly. No one else like him, no question. He knew baseball, certainly, and described it both well and, when the situation dictated, with a sometimes detached but easily detectable passion. His sense of humour was always close at hand, whether the microphone was on or off. He loved to play golf, usually with more enthusiasm than skill, but occasionally with equal parts of both. A little recreational gambling always went along with the latter, although more than $10 rarely changed hands, at least painlessly. Cheek enjoyed a practical joke, from either direction, and once, on a steamy day in Boston, his friends assembled a good one, setting up a golf outing to be known as the initial Tom Cheek Invitational and chartering a bus. Coaches, press, friends, even a player or two if memory serves, piled on to the vehicle early one morning. Cheek supervised the loading of the golf clubs, then collected handicaps and entry fees and assembled teams for the inevitable games of chance. He scarcely noticed any muffled laughter or even the bus leaving the highway and heading for a less than exceptional neighbourhood. As the landscape deteriorated, Cheek kept to the task of assigning handicap strokes and choreographing the line-ups. Finally, the vehicle pulled up in front of a sign that said "Welcome to the Tom Cheek Invitational'' — strung above an old, rundown miniature golf course. Everyone got out and played — for money, of course —and Cheek laughed more than anyone. This was not an unusual trait.
For what it's worth, he even knew all the words to "Woolly Bully," a frayed old novelty song from 40 years ago. He performed it one night in a Texas hotel, when the lure of the karaoke couldn't be denied. Fans knew and recognized his deep, rich baritone, a great radio voice. He'd occasionally break into song, just for the hell of it, on plane or bus rides. One night leaving Comiskey Park, the team was advised to turn off the bus lights and duck, because a nut in a nearby high-rise had taken to lobbing late-night bullets into passing vehicles. Nothing broke the tension better than Cheek, sitting up front, providing a chorus of "Shrimp Boat's A-Comin'.'' He liked the old-timey stuff. Neil Diamond, Sinatra, naturally. Cheek picked up all the lyrics, no doubt, from his pre-sports stint as a deejay in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and then Burlington, Vt., way back when. He was born June 13, 1939, raised in a Navy family as one of three children (twin sisters are four years younger). His father, Commander Tom Cheek, was a confirmed World War II hero — check out the fascinating website sometime — and moved the family extensively when Tom was a youngster. He joined the Air Force and was stationed in Plattsburgh, where he met Shirley, a native of Hemmingford, Que. They were married in 1959. Once out of the service, education at Plattsburgh State and broadcasting school in Boston led to his radio gigs, which included announcing King of the Hill bowling for nine years, then sports directorship at three Vermont stations. Cheek called games for hockey, baseball, basketball and football for the University of Vermont, graduated to radio work for the Expos in the 1970s and, when the Blue Jays were born, caught the well-trained ear of Len Bramson, who then ran the Hewpex Sports Network. Blue Jays fans know the rest. Cheek's Blue Jay career eventually — and amazingly — stretched into 4,306 consecutive games, a streak that ended last June after his father passed away while the Jays were in California. Soon afterward, his brain cancer was detected and he had his first surgery on his 65th birthday.
Early Wynn, the Hall of Fame pitcher, was his partner in the early years — Cheek kept an Early Wynn baseball card on his desk at his Florida home — and Jerry Howarth was the confederate for more than 20 years. But Cheek was the constant, through bad teams and good. Off-seasons included trips to the 1980 and '84 Winter Olympics for ABC radio, plus a bushel full of stops on the old winter caravans, when the Jays were selling themselves in smaller towns around Ontario and northern New York State. Cheek shook every hand and beat the drums better than anyone for the ball team. He was devoted to Shirley, of course, and to their children Tom, Lisa and Jeff and, eventually, seven grandchildren, the most recent of whom arrived this summer. When his health began to ebb, things certainly turned the other way around; they were all devoted to him and exceptionally so. They made the final chapter of his life as enjoyable and rich as it could be. A lot of his friends and admirers tried to do the same because, after all, he'd spent a long time doing just that for them. He was one of the best and more than earned the right to sleep well.
Sheryl Lee Ralph Hosts 15th Annual Aids Awareness Benefit
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Gerald Radford / Myfeedback@eurweb.com
(Oct. 11, 2005) Diva, noun: Sheryl Lee Ralph. Now that we’ve gotten that settled, the vivacious diva herself hosted an evening of "Divas Simply Singing!" last Saturday at the historic Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles to benefit the Aids Healthcare Foundation and The Black AIDS Institute. The night showcased a potpourri of talented divas from all walks of life, including white divas, black divas, young divas, seasoned divas, diva violinists, poetic divas, operatic divas, male divas, and even a post-op diva! The benefit, in its 15th instalment, brought together some of the most talented and respected names in the business, as well as a few extraordinarily talented newcomers, to share their gifts, all for the common cause of raising funds to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The list of performers included: Alfre Woodard, Loretta Devine, Lalah Hathaway, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Karen Briggs, Freda Payne, Latoya London, Kelly Price, Michelle Williams, Victoria Rowell, Mablean Ephram, Neicy Nash, Roz Ryan, Amanda Dumas, Rachel Price, Abenaa, Debbie de Crudeaux, Elaine Gibbs, Jody Watley, Max, and honorary diva Abraham McDonald. Watching the show humbled me, evoking the revelation of how our creator meticulously gifted each and every one of us with something unique to share with the world. From Alfre Woodard’s moving rendering of "For Sweet Honey in the Rock," by Sonia Sanchez to Freda Payne’s sultry delivery of "Here’s to Life," each diva in her own uniqueness metaphorically placed a hand on the lifeline that was being thrown to those that would otherwise be forgotten. The most glaring example, of course, was watching the Mistress of Ceremonies, Sheryl Lee Ralph, in all her splendour, prove that she was simply "born to do it!" She was right at home on that stage, passionate, poised, confident, and "dressed within an inch of her life" by renowned fashion designer, Tadashi, a long-time supporter of the event. Witnessing such a tremendously talented and stunningly beautiful woman (with the help of a host of volunteers) passionately devote her time to such a cause was truly inspiring.
The commitment and sacrifice to put the show on didn’t stop with those that were on the stage; it extended to the host of volunteers that helped to make the evening run smoothly, including a stage director who lost part of her finger after it was crushed in a door, yet still saw to it that the show went on. That may sound a bit gory, but it gives you an idea of what it means to be passionate about helping others. Sheryl Lee’s desire is for the show to find its way to being broadcast on a major network at some point, and I concur: This revolution MUST be televised! For more information on the Black Aids Institute or the Aids Healthcare Foundation, check these organizations out on the web at: http://www.blackaids.org/ and http://www.aidshealth.org/.
It's A Blast Working With McCartney
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic
(Oct. 10, 2005) The marriage of rock and pyrotechnics is a wondrous match forged in the very fires of hell, such a natural fit that one almost can't conceive of a time when these two close friends existed mutually exclusive from one another. Behind all the elemental thrills we derive from feeling the heat from those columns of flame at either end of KISS's stage prickle our faces in the 200th row, though, there lies some painstaking chemical, technical and logistical science. And much of that science has been written and rewritten in a nondescript industrial block in Markham. Pyrotek Special Effects has been creatively illuminating artists, occasionally zapping them with lasers and finding ingenious ways of lighting things on fire for 25 years — first as a small, Ottawa-born offshoot of the Professional Sound and Lighting (PSL) company dealing mainly with theatre and Canadian touring acts, and in recent years as one of the world's go-to outlets for big-ticket concert effects. This year alone has witnessed Pyrotek's oft-explosive work sharing stages with Green Day, the Foo Fighters, Kid Rock, the Backstreet Boys, Destiny's Child and, yes, KISS, among others. Metallica has retained the company to torch its sets for the past 13 years. In the non-rock world, the Super Bowl and Cirque du Soleil are recurring clients. Meanwhile, tonight's Paul McCartney show at the Air Canada Centre — which will erupt in coloured flame cultivated in Pyrotek's Markham warehouse during "Live and Let Die" — provides a fitting backdrop for the company's 25th-anniversary soiree. Interestingly, the man behind the business, president Doug Adams, is a former rocker himself who left behind singing and guitar-playing duties with the band Reckless when he developed an abiding curiosity in the klieg lights and flashpots going off around him onstage. "I took an invite from a friend and came down to the shop and took an interest in it and started helping them out," he recalls. "It eventually turned out I was making more money as a roadie than I was making as a rock star, so I started getting more into the production end of it."
Starting small with gigs doing set and lighting design for fashion shows, Adams progressed to doing stage effects for such Canadian road warriors as Rush and Triumph and such "corporate theatre" productions as Cats during the 1980s. It was, in fact, a contract with the Toronto run of Phantom of the Opera that allowed Pyrotek to first flex its muscles in the international concert arena. "That lasted a good 11 years," says Adams. "So it helped me have a little bit of security where I could branch off into other areas, be it lasers or more of a staging production, and be able to afford enough equipment that I could do more than one show at a time." Nowadays, it's not uncommon for Pyrotek designers and technicians (some of whom are headquartered in a development lab in Las Vegas) to be riding along on a dozen or more world tours at once. Indeed, the company is lucky to have that degree of presence. Pyrotechnics companies began dropping like flies three or four years ago in the wake of the horrific fire that killed 96 concertgoers attending a Great White concert at the Station Nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., in 2003. "Some cowboys were just going out there with soup cans and gunpowder and not being very safe, hence Rhode Island. Accidents like that really woke a lot of people up to how dangerous it can be and how responsible you have to be when you're working with materials like this in close proximity," says Adams, who watched his own business contract during the aftermath. "We were supposed to be doing the Tim McGraw tour at that time and working with Blue Man Group and the Foo Fighters, and when that happened they all said `forget it.' It scared a lot of people. You can die from this. It was just stupid and unsafe what they did, with no common sense whatsoever." Tightened regulations and soaring insurance premiums already jacked up by Sept. 11 "put a lot of companies down," he says, estimating that the number of players in Pyrotek's orbit rapidly decreased from 25 or so to "about five." A "safety first" credo in the pyrotechnics business is something of a no-brainer. After all, singeing — or worse, killing — your clients is rarely good for business.
Spotters are always on hand to make sure performers have hit their marks, while effects systems are programmed to shut down completely if any cues are missed or there's the barest hint of something gone awry in the tightly timed sequence. Trust between client and effects provider is, likewise, essential in the pyro game since nothing can disrupt a performance like the nagging fear one might at any moment perish in a column of pressurized blue flame. Adams and Pyrotek flame specialist Renato Sulmona, who created the nifty, multi-coloured flame jets employed on McCartney's current world tour, spent three weeks in rehearsal with the former Beatle to make sure everything was running smoothly. That's quite a bit of time, considering the 16 "dragons" spewing balls and columns of flame behind McCartney and his band make up a very small part of the show. "The odd thing will go off when you're doing rehearsals, but that's why you're doing this thing," says Sulmona. "You're doing it with everybody clear because you want to know the parameters." Sulmona, like most of his peers, picked up the trade through on-the-job experience, but he's never witnessed a serious accident ("I wouldn't be here") and counts the risks secondary to the satisfaction of pushing the artful science into new realms. "You're doing something different every day," he says. "You're using your head and it's not monotonous. People come up with what they want — they have an idea they're looking for and then they come to us and say: `Can you do it? Safely?'
English Getting Bigged Up, Says Language Book
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
(Oct. 5, 2005) LONDON (AP) — Crunk is good? Among the hot new words, it's ova-wicked, even uberbuff. Susie Dent, a long-time student of evolving English, has written the book Fanboys and Overdogs: The Language Report, which is being published Thursday and lists newly coined words with their definitions, as well as jargon used in technology, politics, television and the media. "Crunk" — the American hybrid for "crazy" and "drunk" — was a good example of how words evolved from popular culture, Dent said. "Crunk is generating all sorts of offshoot terms in the U.S. — crunk 'n' b, crunk rock, crunkster — and looks set to catch on in Britain, too," Dent said. "New words travel from one variety of English to another and at a rapidly increasing rate, thanks to the way language is exchanged today over e-mail, chat-rooms, TV, etc." Dent's new book also discusses the tendency "big up" our language. Nothing is ever "good" or even "great" anymore — instead, we opt for "ova-wicked" and "uberbuff." Government appointees are "tsars," and experts are "meisters." Job titles also reflect this kind of inflation. The "head of verbal communications" is really just a receptionist, while stockboys have been promoted to "stock replenishment executives." As for the "fanboys" referred to in the book's title, they're guys who are absorbed by a passion for comic books or computer games. "Fanboys reflects both British and American English," Dent said, explaining there was a clear relationship between the two as seen in the word "fanboy," which is predominantly used in Britain but started in the United States. The book also looks at vocabulary shifts from the past century, and gives a "Word A Year" list from 1905 to 2005. 1905 introduced ``peace economy," with "tyrannosaurus" following in 1906. Many words on the list are related to events — 1940 introduced "Jim Crow" and 1980 brought "Reaganomics."
Recent years brought "dotcom" (1994), "speed dating" (1998) and "SARS" (2002). "Podcasting" was last year's word. The frontrunner for the 2005 word of the year is "sudoku," the logic puzzle that has replaced crosswords as Britain's favourite way to kill time over lunch break. Fanboys is Dent's third annual language review book, publicist Sarah Kidd said. Dent is a resident word expert on Channel 4's Countdown program. Fanboys was compiled with the help of the language monitoring program behind the Oxford English Dictionary.
Spike Speaks In New Authorized Bio
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Oct. 11, 2005) *"People didn't really believe me when I told them that I was going to be a filmmaker," Spike Lee tells London-based producer and journalist Kaleem Aftab at the outset of the biography "Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It." "They probably couldn't name any African-American filmmakers then." The book goes on to follow Lee’s path to Hollywood – from working his way through film school, to his thesis film that attracted critical acclaim (and whose sound recordist was classmate Ang Lee) to his intention to create films that offered a fresh perspective of African American life. The reason for Shelton Lee’s nickname Spike is made clear in the book through detailed stories of budding film career, and the tenacity with which he pursued it. Securing financing for his projects proved the biggest challenge. To make "She's Gotta Have It," his breakout film of 1986, he had, Lee recalls, "to put the money together nickel by nickel." Take him literally; as Aftab writes, if you knew Lee you were sure to be hit up for money in the winter of 1984-85, often repeatedly. The 84-minute feature cost an estimated $160,000 to make but grossed more than $7 million in release -- enough to earn him attention from the major studios. Lee’s body of work has grown to include such films as “Do the Right Thing,” "25th Hour" and "Bamboozled." A reviewer of “Sticking to It” from the “Hollywood Reporter” notes: “Lee lives up to his nickname from page to page, making enemies of allies and sometimes baffling his closest admirers while making his films, themselves often the source of controversy. The candour is welcome. So, too, is this look at Spike Lee's life and work to date, a career of overcoming obstacles to make art -- and with masterpieces to come.”
Bigger Bust, Smaller Butt
By Joyce Vedral, eFitness Guest Columnist
(Oct. 20, 2005) Symmetry is "beauty arising from balanced proportions." So what do you do if your body, like most of us, is out of proportion? For example, is your hip-butt area too big and your breasts too small? Maybe you'd just like your breasts and butt to stand a little higher. Help is on the way. You can lift your breasts and, as a bonus, hone down your bra roll. You also can get a high, tight, shapely butt to replace that wide load. Let's talk about the breasts first. By working out a certain way, you can put minimuscles under your breasts. In other words, you can develop your pectoral muscles in just the right manner to lift your breasts and give you the look of cleavage. What about the butt? You have to do just the right workout, hitting it from certain angles in just the right way. Ideally you would to a minimum of three to five exercises for each of these areas. I'm going to give you a good start; one for each.
Standing Boobs/Bra-Roll Lifter
Position: Stand with your feet a natural width apart. Bend at the elbows, holding a dumbbell in each hand, dumbbells facing away from your body.
Movement: Flexing your chest muscles as hard as possible, move your forearms together until your side biceps are touching your breasts. Feeling the stretch in your chest muscles, return to start position. Repeat the movement 12 times. Back-To-Front Butt Zapper.
Position: Lie on the floor on your left side with your left arm extended so your head lies on your biceps. Make sure your body is in a straight line. Bend your left leg under you.
Movement: Flexing your right buttock as hard as possible, extend your right leg as far behind you as possible. Keeping the flex on your butt, bring your leg back to start position and then extend that same right leg as far in front of you as possible. Bring back to start position. Repeat the movement until you have completed 15 repetitions in each direction. Repeat for the other leg. Repeat both of the above exercises two more times.
For the ideal combo of exercises for your breasts-bra roll and butt, see my Just Bra-Roll Boobs, and Just Butt DVD or videos at www.joycevedral.com.