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Updated:  April 13, 2006

Happy Easter to those who celebrate the Christian holidays and Happy Passover to those of my Jewish distribution!  I'm off to celebrate this year in New York City with Kayte Burgess to check out more of the US scene!   Then I'm off at the end of the month to celebrate the Carnival in St. Maarten

Check out all categories - tons of Canadian content in MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, THEATRE NEWS, and OTHER NEWS!  Have a read and a scroll!  This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTSWant to be removed from the distribution, click REMOVE.


Shaggy Returns To Rock St Kitts Music Festival

Source: St. Kitts Music Festival

Basseterre, St Kitts -
Shaggy returns to rock the 10th anniversary St Kitts Music Festival slated for June 29 to July 2, 2006.  The double platinum recording artiste is the latest addition to the 2006 star-studded line-up which includes Crucial Bankie, Culture, Morgan Heritage and Dionne Warwick to date.  Shaggy won his first Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 1996 while the album’s title track “Boombastic” shot to number one on the Reggae, R&B and Rap Charts all over the world. Hits such as “Summertime”, “Angel”, “That Girl” and “It Wasn’t Me” further solidified his international appeal.  The Jamaican Dancehall sensation was a major hit when he appeared previously at the St Kitts Music Festival. “Shaggy was so well received when he was here three years ago that patrons have been clamouring for his return”, Allister Williams told SKNIS. “We are pleased to again feature his thrilling onstage performance for the 10th anniversary special.” Shaggy’s unique style can be described as a blend of Reggae, Ska, Hip-Hop and R&B, with an ample serving of natural charisma”.  The St Kitts Music Festival is well established as one of the top summer concerts in the Caribbean offering spectacular local, regional and international talent mixed with the unique Kittitian experience.

Australian Duo To Charm Audiences Of The 10th Annual St. Kitts Music Festival

Source: St. Kitts Music Festival

Basseterre, St Kitts - All flights must lead to St. Kitts for its 10th annual Music Festival (June 29th- July 2nd, 2006), because of the outstanding line up that has been coordinated. The Australian soft rock group
Air Supply is the new addition to the Saturday evening performance schedule.  With hits such as ‘All out of Love’, ‘Lost in Love’, ‘Every Woman in the world’, ‘Making Love out of Nothing at All,’ and many, many others. The sweet ballads of Air Supply will surely woo audiences and rekindle love.  Allister Williams, Executive Director of the St. Kitts Music Festival said of the group, “ they are extraordinary performers. Air Supply’s inclusion is all part of our efforts to reach out to a wide cross-section of music lovers. We continue to be trendsetters with the festival, as they have never performed in this part of the region. We are therefore delighted to be the first to feature them.”  Air Supply became a staple of early-1980s, scoring a string of seven straight Top Five singles. The group consists mainly of the duo vocalists of Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell. Their first international exposure came in the late 1970s, when Rod Stewart had them as his opening act on a North American tour. Air Supply signed a record contract with Arista in 1980; and the rest, as they say, is ‘history’.  Shaggy & Air Supply will be joined by other performers to complete the Saturday evening line up. These will be announced very soon.

Beenie Man & Bankie Banks To Captivate Fans At St. Kitts Music Festival

Source: St. Kitts Music Festival

Basseterre, St Kitts - As Excitement mounts for the much anticipated 10th Anniversary special of the St. Kitts Music Festival from June 29 to July 2nd, 2006. The organizing body announces, from the reggae heartlands of Jamaica, Grammy recording artiste
BEENIE MAN, as the purely dancehall addition to the four-day concert roster.  Beenie Man has dominated the dancehall scene from his initial number one hits “Who Am I “ and “Girls Dem Sugar” and remains one of reggae’s most successful DJ’s and cross over artiste with numerous worldwide hits. Beenie Man’s world-class energetic stage performance has earned him the status of an undisputed musical legend and entertainer. He has appeared on music stations such as MTV, BET and VH1 to name a few and can lay claim to the crown of “Dancehall King”, a title only bestowed previously on Yellow man in the early 1980’s.  Also appearing on the Friday night concert on June 30th is Anguilla’s most enduring and celebrated reggae star, Bankie Banks. Bankie has been on the reggae music scene for decades and has survived the evolution of music, thus establishing himself as a musical icon. The maestro of Reggae will stir the musical pot with his unique blend of folk, jazz, blues and reggae flavours.  Beenie Man and Bankie Banks will join previously announced acts-Morgan Heritage, Culture, Crucial Bankie and Shaggy for a spectacular night of the best in reggae and dancehall music.

Soulful Legend & Jazz Icons Join The Fabulous Line-Up Of The 10th Annual St. Kitts Music Festival

Source: St. Kitts Music Festival

Basseterre, St. Kitts- Grammy nominee
Yolanda Adams & highly acclaimed Caribbean Jazz musicians calling themselves NEWA, will bring a delightful diversity to the St. Kitts Music Festival. It is such diversity that has allowed the event to stand the test of time and set the trend for music festivals in the region.  The 10th annual St. Kitts Music Festival (June 29th-July 2nd, 2006) aims to be a memorable showing and with the calibre of artists already confirmed, the festival may very well achieve its goal!  Since her 1988 debut, with the acclaimed and uplifting ‘Just As I Am’ Yolanda has been wowing gospel audiences all over the world and embraces the fact that Gospel music has gathered influences from-jazz, hip-hop, R and B. Of this she has said, “I need to be in a place where my message can be heard by everyone. I understand my purpose. I understand what I was put here for. I take that on every day of my life." It is this conviction that has caused critics to refer to Yolanda as one of gospel's most influential voices.  Since debuting, her achievements include a number of brilliant albums: 1991's ‘Through The Storm’, and 1993's ‘Save The World’, won several Stellar awards, Gospel's highest accolade. In 1995 ‘More Than A Melody’ propelled her into the world of R and B Gospel, with hit singles such as "Gotta Have Love, "and "Open Arms." The disc won a Soul Train Lady Of Soul award and earned her a Grammy nomination. Her album, Yolanda.... ‘Live In Washington’, won her yet another Stellar award, and another Grammy nomination. Her "bring-the-crowd-to-their-feet" reputation has now become the stuff of pop legend.

NEWA is Nicholas Brancker, Eddie Bullen, Wilson Laurencin and Arturo Tappin; a group of Caribbean musicians joined together by their love for jazz. In exploration of the genre, NEWA's style translates to be an edgier version of typical smooth jazz. Nicholas' rhythmic bass licks, Eddie's tickling of the ivories, Wilson's kicking drums and Arturo's sensuous sax are an absolutely delightful combination. Son of the soil, the enormously talented Bruce Skerritt, has been invited by NEWA to join them in treating audiences to ‘smooth Jazz with an edge to cut you loose’.  Allister Williams, Executive Director of the St. Kitts Music Festival commented that, “ the quality line up of world renowned performers is a testimony to our commitment to provide festival patrons with superior entertainment.”


FREE Film Seminars – ReelWorld Film Festival

Source: ReelWorld Film Festival

ReelWorld Film Festival and Tonya Lee Williams presents two exciting seminars catering to those in the film industry.  Check out the info below.

Empowering The Artist Within
April 20, thurs 7:00am – 9:00am

If you are an artist working in the cold hard harsh reality of the film and television industry, then this seminar is for you!

Do you have feelings of frustration in your ability to succeed as an artist?  Does it seem like every road you go down is a dead-end?  Are you beginning to doubt your choice in pursuing the path of an artist?  It's important for you to understand what is happening to you and around you, and why it appears you're not getting ahead in your career.  The road to success in the entertainment field has been changing dramatically over the past 20 years...we are entering a new age of awareness and the artist MUST be in tune with that or failure is imminent.   Do you understand what your artistic talent is and how it is to serve the community around you?  If you have not pondered this question, then you are pursuing an empty in which you cannot succeed and where chaos lives.   Join me in a two hour seminar, in an effort to quiet your mind and centre yourself, to travel the new road to success.  Let's look at your fears and why they exist...Let's work towards empowering and awaking your true artistic purpose!

The Secret to Writing is Writing!
April 20, 10:00am-12:30pm

The most important component to any film is the script.  No matter how brilliant the director, producer, cast or crew if your script is weak you have no foundation.  Writers Boot Camp has been hailed in Hollywood as the most effective program for screenwriters, emerging or professional, to learn practical tools for them to keep moving through the arduous and difficult task of bringing a script to completion, and then the more arduous task of rewriting, rewriting, rewriting!  Founder Jeff Gordon will personally be guiding the audience through a 2 hour seminar explaining the Writers Boot Camp process.  This is an introductory course that will give you greater understanding towards the more intensive 5 day course that will be presented by Writers Boot Camp and facilitated through ReelWorld in the fall of this year.

"I took this course and it allowed me to get out of my own way, my overwhelming fears, and just get down to the brass tacks of writing."

- Tonya Lee Williams.

Tonya Lee Williams presents
Empowering the Artist Within
April 20, thurs 7:00am-9:00am
Rainbow Cinemas Market Square
- and –

For the First Time in Canada!

Writers Boot Camp Free introductory Seminar!
The Secret to Writing is Writing
Thursday, April 20, 10:00am-12:30pm
Rainbow Cinemas Market Square

The Toronto Rap Project documentary to have World Premiere at 2006 ReelWorld Film Festival

Source: The Toronto Rap Project

(March 23rd, 2006) The Toronto Rap Project makes its World Premiere at the ReelWorld Film Festival in Toronto on Thursday, April 20th, 2006 @ 9:30 pm at the Rainbow Cinemas, Market Square on Front St.  A second screening has already been added for Saturday, April 22nd @ 10 pm.  The Toronto Rap Project ( is a feature length documentary directed by Richard Budman.  Part music video, part investigative journey, the documentary travels to diverse neighborhoods including Jane-Finch, Cataraqui Park in Scarborough, and ends up at the recent 50 Cent concert in Toronto.  A firestorm of debate was set off when Liberal MP Dan McTeague tried to have 50 Cent barred from entering Canada for a series of concerts. Was rap music somehow to blame for the increased gun violence Toronto had seen? A fan of urban music, director Richard Budman muses, 'when the debate about gun violence started to point the finger of blame at rap music, I knew there had to be a better answer then that." 

The documentary features commentary and interviews from aspiring rappers and established music stars Kardinal Offishall and Wes 'Maestro" Williams.   Reverend Eugene Rivers, BBC documentary filmmaker Don Letts, journalists, politicians, and the everyday person on the streets of Toronto also weigh in on the debate. John Bortolotti, owner of urban record label Disc Connected Records produced The Toronto Rap Project with Budman.  'When I wanted to go into some of Toronto's toughest hoods' and interview rappers – I knew John had the network of contacts that could set it up.  After the Real Toronto DVD, a lot of street rappers were not so willing to appear on camera." says Budman.  John also supervised the production of a soundtrack of music featured in the documentary.  Documentary trailers and teasers can be seen on the website. The Toronto Rap Project is produced by ReelWorld Film Festival is Canada's premiere event dedicated to showcasing diverse film and video on the big screen. FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT US RAP@HOUNDSTV.COM

Pink Brings Girl Power Message To T.O. Students

Source:  Canadian Press

(Apr. 7, 2006) Hundreds of screaming teenage girls welcomed singer
Pink and her message of girl power Friday at a local high school., "A girl should not have to dumb herself down to be cute " the Los Angeles-based singer told a crowd of about 750 girls as she answered students' questions at Humberside Collegiate Institute.  "How smart we are is what makes us so interesting."  Pink visited the city to promote her new album I’m Not Dead out this week.  The event was organized by Blockheadz a non-profit organization specializing in "edu-tainment" — using celebrities to promote learning.  Minutes before Pink was brought into the auditorium her video for the song "Stupid Girls" was shown for students.  In the song Pink sings: "What happened to the dream of a girl president? She's dancing in the video next to 50 Cent."  The video pokes fun at celebrities like Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and Jessica Simpson. In one scene 26-year-old Pink — whose real name is Alecia Moore — is wearing oversized sunglasses while buying a fluffy little dog. In another, she's getting an orange  spray-on tan. Yet another has her lying on a plastic surgery table.  "My definition (of a stupid girl) is any girl who wastes her opportunity trying to be like somebody else, because we're all pretty awesome " said Pink about what she was trying to convey in the video.

"Everybody has something they're good at. It doesn't have to be shopping."  The singer spent 45 minutes answering questions on topics ranging from boys to body image and what her favourite school subject was (English).  The video has caused plenty of buzz, with media pitting Pink against Hollywood starlets.  Students attending the afternoon event cheered during the viewing, breaking into laughter during Pink's send-up of Hilton's sex tape and Simpson's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" video.  Pink also addresses eating disorders in the video. At one point she enters a bathroom declaring she ate "like 300 calories today" and pretends to make herself vomit in a sink.  "It's really good. It sends out a good message " said Chiara Tariarnold, a Grade 10 student. "She has a point. I think it's funny.  The 15-year-old said she often feels the pressures to emulate Hollywood beauty.  "It's hard not to let it get to you since it's everywhere. You always look at the TV and always see these girls that are really skinny and really pretty — not everyone looks like that."  Acknowledging how tough it is to avoid the images, Pink urged the crowd not to get caught up in the "stupid girl epidemic" and instead try to be a "smart girl."  "For me it was a long road " she admitted. "Self-respect and self-love took me many, many years to find."  But she acknowledged the girls would have a tough time in today's world.  "Every image we see is you have to be a size zero. you have to have a certain handbag . . . don't contribute anything to the world just shop all day " she said.  On the topic of boys, Pink told the students to force them "to deal with our minds before our bodies."  "Guys are going to like us anyway. We don't have to take our clothes off for them to like us and chase us around. It's gonna happen " she said.


Musicians Get Wired With Old Gadgets

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Daniel Werb

(Apr. 6, 2006) While Canadian music's best and brightest gathered for the Junos last weekend, another kind of artist was working far from the spotlight, searching for a different buzz -- the kind you get with a soldering iron and copper. Circuit bending, the art of rewiring old electronic machinery in order to create unreliable instruments, is gaining a following in Canada. Chris Von Szombathy, an artist and multi-instrumentalist independently releasing his three-CD electronic album, Audio Ahdeo Awdio, on Saturday, has been destroying and creating electronics for the better part of a decade. A strange mix of low-fi synth and complex, harmony-laden songwriting, his project wouldn't have been possible, claims Von Szombathy, without his homemade "Doombox." A breadbox-sized metal case containing parts from a toy steering wheel (complete with horn and siren), a battery-powered oscillator, and a Playskool keyboard, the Doombox, he says, "was made out of a love of constructive destruction." While Von Szombathy admits that "it's too unreliable to play The Well-Tempered Clavier on," the instrument's unpredictability and the strange tones it emits form the nucleus of Audio Ahdeo Awdio. For Toronto's David Dineen-Porter, a comedy writer, part-time accountant and electronic musician, circuit bending was a fascination from an early age. "I loved Commodore 64 music when I was a kid. A lot of it sucked, but the good stuff was . . ." Dineen-Porter's voice trails off wistfully. "It was maybe some of the best music of the 20th century." He later went on-line and discovered a whole network of like-minded people, mostly living in Sweden and Germany. "So I said to myself, 'If that guy got his printer to play Beethoven, what can I do with a Commodore 64?' " His current projects include making a drum machine out of a dozen vibrators and rewiring old Nintendo games to make playable synthesizers.

Dineen-Porter is surprised at the outsider status of circuit benders and bemoans Toronto's lack of venues for such experimentation. The situation of circuit benders, he claims, is like that of synthesizer aficionados in the 1960s.  "They had a debate in the late sixties about whether synthesizers could ever have a place in 'real' music. Most people said that it could never happen. Then Walter/Wendy Carlos released the all-synth Switched on Bach, which became one of the best-selling classical albums of all time. And that ended the debate." While both Von Szombathy and Dineen-Porter are pessimistic about their work appealing to the music industry, they also believe it's just a matter of time before circuit benders reach the mainstream. "Pop is just an approach towards the audience," says Dineen-Porter. "You can please a crowd with pretty much anything if you apply it properly." So don't be frightened if at next year's Junos, you're treated to the sights and sounds of a dozen mangled vibrators rattling around the stage. It could be the buzz everyone is looking for. Chris Von Szombathy's Audio Ahdeo Awdio launches April 8 at Vancouver's WRKS DVSN gallery, 269 Powell St., at 8 p.m. David Dineen-Porter's PDF Format plays Toronto regularly.

Powter's 'Day' Reigns Again On Singles Chart

Excerpt from - Clover Hope, N.Y.

(Apr. 6, 2006)
Daniel Powter's charmed U.S. introduction continues, as the single "Bad Day" maintains the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for a second week. The cut also remains atop the Pop 100 for a second frame and the Hot Digital Songs chart for a third. On the Hot 100, Sean Paul's "Temperature" and James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" hold at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. T.I.'s "What You Know" rockets 39-4, just as its parent album, "King" (Grand Hustle/Atlantic), debuts at No. 1 on The Billboard 200. Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" and Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten" stick to No. 6 and No. 7 on the Hot 100, respectively.  The Blige track also reigns atop the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for a 15th week, where it is the longest-running No. 1 song since the tally it was reintroduced in 1965 after a brief hiatus. (For more on this, read this week's (For more on this, read this week's Chart Beat column.) Ne-Yo's "So Sick" descends 3-7 on the Hot 100, while Dem Franchize Boyz' "Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It" featuring Lil Peanut & Charlay falls 7-8. Bubba Sparxxx' "Ms. New Booty" featuring Ying Yang Twins and Mr. ColliPark remains at No. 9 and is the chart's greatest sales gainer. "Booty" also rises 3-1 on the Hot Ringtones chart, ending the nine-week run of Nelly's "Grillz" featuring Paul Wall, Ali & Gipp," which drops to No. 2. T-Pain's "I'm N Luv (Wit a Stripper)" featuring Mike Jones slides 8-10 to round out the Hot 100's top tier.

Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" ascends 60-41 and is the chart's greatest airplay gainer, while Tim McGraw's "When the Stars Go Blue" is the week's top debut at No. 57. Also new are Ghostface Killah's "Back Like That" featuring Ne-Yo (No. 76), Anais' "Lo Que Son Las Cosas" (No. 79), Godsmack's "Speak" (No. 85), the Fray's "How To Save a Life" (No. 93), Juanes' "Lo Que Me Gusta A Me" (No. 94), Yung Joc's "It's Goin' Down" (No. 95), Christina Milian's "Say I" featuring Young Jeezy (No. 98) and Joe Nichols' "Size Matters (Someday)" (No. 100). "Lo Que Son Las Cosas" climbs 3-1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart, trading places with Wisin & Yandel's "Llame Pa' Verte," and Rascal Flatts' "What Hurts the Most" remains atop the Hot Country Songs chart for a third week. On the Adult Contemporary chart, Lifehouse's "You And Me" jumps 2-1, swapping positions with Blunt's "You're Beautiful." Godsmack's "Speak" maintains the top spot on the Mainstream Rock chart for a third week and Pearl Jam's "World Wide Suicide" holds at No. 1 on the Modern Rock tally, also for a third. On Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Sales chart, Morrissey ascends to No. 1 with "You Have Killed Me," his first singles chart-topper since "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get" was No. 1 on Modern Rock Tracks in 1994. It's the lead track from his new album, "Ringleader of the Tormentors," released Tuesday in North America via Attack/Sanctuary.

National Jazz Awards Honour Our Best

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Writer

(Apr. 11, 2006) Don Thompson capped off his recent Juno — for traditional jazz album Ask Me Later — with three wins at the fifth annual National Jazz Awards.  "He's just an extraordinary musician," said pianist-publisher Bill King, organizer of the event attended by about 500 at the Old Mill Inn last night. Thompson led the field with awards for top composer, instrumentalist and musician, while several annual favourites picked up two awards apiece:  Rob McConnell won in the trombone category while his all-star Tentet was chosen top big band. Singer Diana Krall was named international musician of the year and jazz vocalist of the year. Bassist Dave Young won for both his instrument and his quintet, which was acoustic group of the year. Also with two honours, for keyboards and for best jazz album for his collaboration with Ranee Lee on Just You, Just Me, was first-time winner Oliver Jones.  "It's been a long 67 years of playing since my first concert," said the stately Montreal resident, who lauded public school music programs in his acceptance speech.  Another noted first-time recipient was the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival as jazz festival of the year, which ended the Montreal festival's four-year sweep.  

Several special awards were handed out: The Ken Page Memorial Trust award for lifetime achievement went to Lothar and Brigitte Lang, owners of the Montreal Bistro & Jazz Club and the now-closed Café des Copains, while veteran bandleader Phil Nimmons (who also won in the clarinet category) received Jazz.FM91's artist of distinction award.  Pianist David Virelles was given the CBC's Galaxie Rising Stars prize and 84-year-old, New York-based percussionist Candido Camero was honoured with an NJA Pioneer award. Camero recalled learning to play bongos by practising on an empty condensed milk tin when he was 4 years old.  The winners were chosen online from among 194 nominees in 27 categories by 3,000 jazz fans across the country. The new Latin jazz category was reflected in last night's theme which featured songs from several Latin jazz acts, including bassist Roberto Occhipinti, trumpeter Alexis Barro, singer Eliana Cuevas and pianist Hilario Durán.  The latter scooped only one of his six nominations — Latin Jazz artist of the year — but enthralled the jovial crowd with a bombastic performance by his 18-piece Latin Jazz Orchestra.  "This community has come into its own," said King. "Wherever you go to festivals now, a great component is Latin jazz and that's because of immigration, the people resettling here for the last 15 to 20 years. And the musicians are tremendous."  Other awards went to Terry Clarke (drums), Kevin Turcotte (trumpet), Mike Murley (sax), Reg Schwager (guitar), Phil Nimmons (clarinet) and Ed Vokura (violinist).  Media awards went to Star columnist Geoff Chapman, Jazz FM's Larry Green and photographer Don Vickery.  Visit for a full list of winners.

Time For A Junos Shakeup: Our Best Artists Often Don't Make The Grade

By Mike Ross, Edmonton Sun

(Apr. 2, 2006) Something has got to be done about the Juno Awards. They're an embarrassment.  Check out this year's "album of the year" nominees: Christmas Songs, Diana Krall; 219 Days, Kalan Porter; It's Time, Michael Buble; All the Right Reasons, Nickelback; Under the Lights, Rex Goudie.  So let's see: there's a lovely Christmas album by an overhyped jazz singer, a new Nickelback album that breaks no new ground from any previous Nickelback albums, a David Fosterized collection consisting mainly of jazz standards and two stunningly mediocre records of committee-produced radio friendliness from Canadian Idols. The majority of the music here was not written by the artists. This must be a Juno first.  This is even more of a woeful list than in the bad old days when Anne Murray would dominate to the oblivious exclusion of other things happening in Canadian music, no offence to Anne Murray.  Could they find nothing better to represent "the best of Canada" this year? A short alphabetical list of artists more deserving of the top album honour this year include Jann Arden, Bedouin Soundclash, Blue Rodeo, Broken Social Scene, Elliott Brood, Divine Brown, the Duhks, Matthew Good, Hot Hot Heat, K'Naan, Corb Lund, Metric, the New Pornographers, Kardinal Offishall, Our Lady Peace, Daniel Powter, Relient K, Martha Wainwright and Neil Young - and those are just the artists who actually got nominated for other Junos this year. At least they got in, just not in "album of the year." Sure, all Junos are supposed to be equal, but announcement of album of the year is always the most-anticipated moment of the Juno telecast. It is the most important Juno. It is "best picture." Watch the Junos live from Halifax tonight at 7 on CTV (Cable 2), if only to see Coldplay, Black Eyed Peas and for some double-D Canadian content, Pamela Anderson!

So-called "artist of the year" is a joke: Krall, Buble, our two Idol boys and the token French guy you've never heard of, Boom Desjardins (basically a raspy Roch Voisine with a ponytail). Why not just let the fans decide? There is the Doritos fan choice award. Vote for your favourite: Celine Dion, Diana Krall, Michael Buble, Nickelback and Simple Plan. Did Celine Dion even perform in Canada last year? Did she even have any new material? Is Simple Plan's Crazy the most maudlin pile of socially conscious power balladry you ever heard in your life? Simple indeed. And where's Sum 41, while we're at it?  Whom shall we blame for this sad state of affairs? Who shall be forced to listen to Paul Anka's new version of Smells Like Teen Spirit until they beg for death?  Look in the mirror, Canadian public - you are to blame. You literally paid the way for these talent contestants and crooners to enter the Juno elite. Nominees for album of the year and other major categories are "sales" based. They are determined by selecting the top-five selling albums among those submitted. There. Done. No jury of peers. No "expert" opinion. No critical assessment whatsoever. Just a selection based on popularity and biased heavily towards Canadian Idols who are already popular before they record a single note. It's simply unfair to artists who don't have the marketing benefit of a national television show. I don't want to bang on the Idols specifically - so you Rex fans can stuff that anti-Newfoundland outrage; it has nothing to do with Newfoundland. However, the presence of their debut albums - albums made far too quickly to truly reflect the personality of the artists - in major Juno categories is like a disease marker. The major categories of the Junos have been sales-based for years. Only now has it become so obviously sick with the results of this flawed policy.  The Grammys aren't set up this way. All decisions come from peers, from the 12,000 or so voting members of the Recording Academy, which is not to say that shady backroom dealings don't come into play, but it's why 50 Cent didn't sweep the Grammys this year. It's why most government decisions are left out of the public for the public's own good. Besides, the Yanks already have the populist American Music Awards. Maybe we could rename the Junos the Canadian Music Awards.

To help shed light on a murky issue, I talked to Kim Cooke, volunteer co-chair of the Juno nominating and voting committee; he also sits on the TV and talent committee and is on the board of directors of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), which administers the awards. By day, he's the GM of Maple Music Recordings. As the head of a record label whose roster includes Juno-nominated artists, he proclaims he has "not one iota" of effect on who wins. By night (and other parts of the day), however, Cooke is member of the sinister cabal of shady powerbrokers who shape the direction of the Juno awards much more than one Iota.  Words like "sinister" may be a bit harsh. Cooke seems like a nice enough guy. Asked if he would change the rules to limit the effect of sales if it were up to him, he replies diplomatically, "My personal view is that the process needs a thorough airing and discussion in the off-season."  So that's a yes? Maybe. He says there hasn't been much media interest in the inner workings of the Junos up until this year - probably because it hasn't been necessary, but also because it's so insanely complicated.  There are 39 categories of Junos, all with their own eligibility requirements. Most are not sales-based. Most are "craft" awards, meaning that panels of impartial jurors are assembled to determine which submitted album in a given category should make the short list, and in some cases, win. Each craft category has a different committee, whose members are kept anonymous. I have to come clean here and reveal that I was a juror one year - in a jazz category, despite not being an "expert" in jazz by any stretch. They asked me. I said yes for the sheer hell of it. Hey, at least I didn't vote for Carol Welsman.  Some categories are "mixed." Nominees for new artist of the year, for instance, are determined half by sales and half by a committee vote. How especially large sales affect this result isn't clear.

Aside from the fan choice award, the public has no input into who wins. The 2,000 or so CARAS members - including people with a "clear and tangible association" with the music industry, from artists to booking agents - vote for the winner in some categories. Judging panels of more music experts determine the winner in other categories. Cooke says that only about 25% of CARAS members are employed by major record labels, so, Cooke says, "There's this perception out there that the Junos are controlled by the majors, but it's so wrong."  It's up to the artists to submit themselves in the proper category, though CARAS will often make recommendations to change it if, say, Neil Young suddenly decided to enter the rap category. There's a good deal of overlap. Pop, rock and alternative blur, while the faint lines between blues, roots and country seem largely determined by what sort of hats the artists wear. There was a new category introduced three years back called "adult alternative," basically to find a home for quirky folk like Rufus Wainwright.  "That one was my baby," Cooke says. This award is not sales based.  Then there's the question of the eligibility time period. For sales-based categories, any album released between Sept. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2005, is eligible to win a Juno Award this year. The period for craft categories ended on Nov. 15, 2005. It sounds simple, but some categories don't require a full album - specifically, awards for single of the year, country, R&B, soul, reggae, dance, rap and aboriginal. An artist entered for these awards can be eligible if a single is released within the set time period, even if the album it came from is two years old.  So while we can complain about the Arcade Fire not being nominated for best album and then backtrack when we find out their album is ineligible because it actually came out in June 2004, we can scream all over again that this great band gets a nod this year for songwriter, but not single of the year!

Clear as mud?  We trust that the dedicated music-industry people who work pro bono for CARAS will count through the beans to give the public a more or less accurate reflection of what was good in Canadian music in the last year - but something clearly went awry this year. It was an accident waiting to happen. A couple of years ago, both the rock and the pop Juno categories were changed from being craft awards to sales-based awards. That may account for further instances of Idolized disease markers appearing - Theresa Sokyrka in pop album, Jacob Hoggard's Hedley in rock album.  Coincidence? Cooke says yes. He goes on, "It has been a long-term CARAS philosophy to acknowledge the marketplace and the will of the consumer in some categories, by making a select group of category nominees based on sales. I don't think that's a bad thing. It's been one of the broadstrokes of CARAS philosophy for a long time."  But hopefully for not much longer. Philosophy is subject to change, right?  Cooke adds, "We go over all aspects of the previous year in the off-season. Obviously the sales issue has been a hot button this year and it will get a thorough airing."  Constructive suggestion: Set a sales threshold - say, gold or better - for a recording to be eligible for album of the year, then let the nominees be determined by CARAS members or a panel of impartial experts or a combination of both.

Korn's Metal Still Has Life

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

(Apr. 6, 20060 Every scene has its survivors, so thank whichever deity or demon it is who watches over the music business that
Korn is the last band standing after all that ugly "nü-metal" business.  Fred Durst appeared bound for the casino circuit whilst crooning Who covers on Limp Bizkit's last tour; Slipknot is essentially Gwar with neither tunes nor the self-aware sense of comedy; and Sevendust and Papa Roach should probably consider ringing up hair-metal castoffs like Dangerous Toys and Shotgun Messiah for advice on eking out a living on Middle America package tours attended by ironists and total losers.  So it falls to Bakersfield, Cal.-bred misanthropes Korn to guide the 1990s' most maligned strain of heavy music towards a semblance of maturity.  It's not been the smoothest ride, mind. Since 1999's incendiary Issues, the band's uneven explorations in Goth-metal bombast have chipped away enough casual fans that it was booked Tuesday night into the Ricoh Coliseum for 6,000 or 7,000 fans, rather than the mob twice that size that would have assembled at the Air Canada Centre three years ago.  The diehards are the ones you want, though, and most Korn fans seem to have taken to the Reznor-esque industrial thrash of last year's See You on the Other Side more so than they did Untouchables or Take a Look in the Mirror.  That said, the emphasis on seething, mid-tempo grinders like "Liar" and "Coming Undone" that provoked yawns on the new record had the same effect in concert, although the slow bits did make the expected audience eruptions during "Got the Life" and the molten slow-motion coda to "Somebody Someone" that much more pronounced.  Singer Jonathan Davis, guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer, bassist Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu and drummer David Silveria pointedly avoided plumbing the catalogue for hits, instead dumping such barbed chestnuts as "A.D.I.D.A.S.," "Make Me Bad" and "Shoots & Ladders" into a clipped medley towards the end of the show.  The addition of a showboating electronics overseer fond of ghoulish samples and two percussionists rocking a Slipknot-sized drum rig at stage left hasn't quite gelled yet. Digressions into power balladry and a lengthy Shaffer solo were also worrisome signs that Korn's future might have a hard time living up to its past.  In any case, better them than Bizkit.

Gilmour In The Post-Pink

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

(Apr. 7, 2006)
David Gilmour understood that Pink Floyd's appearance at the big London Live 8 concert last summer would spark renewed speculation that the beloved stadium rockers were about to reunite on a more permanent basis.  It was one of the reasons he didn't want to do it — that and the fact that he was in the process of putting the finishing touches on the solo album, On an Island, that brings him to Massey Hall for sold-out shows Sunday and Monday.  "I knew that it would bring all this `Pink Floyd are back together' shit to the foreground. None of which was helpful to the course I was taking," the singer/guitarist said during a recent phone interview.  "I was very busy making this album. And frankly I knew that it would knock me off my course considerably for a month or two. But they schemed behind my back. (Bassist) Roger (Waters) called me and said, `How about it? Come on ...' And I said, `Well, okay.'  "But as far as I was concerned, it was a one-off. It was closure.  "It's a huge compliment that people are still interested in all that stuff. But it's a double-edged sword. It's a little bit inconvenient when you want to get on with something different."  For one thing, a Pink Floyd tour, with the inflatable pigs and all the pyrotechnical trappings, would more likely have meant a couple of nights at the Air Canada Centre or even the Rogers Centre, a prospect Gilmour doesn't particularly relish at this point in his career.  "I just want to have a more relaxed time, play what I feel like playing without a great, big massive show. It's a great liberation to be able to do it a different way."  On an Island is Gilmour's first studio effort since 1994's The Division Bell, a Pink Floyd album made without Waters' involvement, and first proper solo outing since 1984's About Face. The new disc was released March 7, the day that Gilmour also celebrated a milestone birthday.  "It gave me something other than turning 60 to think about," he says. "You can't delude yourself that you are a young man any more when you hit 60. People say to me, `60 is the new 30.' And I say, `It f--king isn't: 60 is the old 60.'"  Not that Gilmour is complaining. While a handful of On an Island tracks deal thematically with mortality, the music floats gently on a sea of contentment.

The album was written with Gilmour's wife, the novelist and short-story writer Polly Samson, who also contributed lyrics to The Division Bell. The supporting cast includes Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright, Jools Holland, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera, who also produced the album.  Wright and Manzanera are part of Gilmour's seven-piece touring band. During the shows, the album is played in its entirety, followed by a second set made up largely of Pink Floyd tunes.  "I made this album with the idea that people would want to sit and listen to the whole thing," he says. "While it's not what one would call a concept album, it has a flow. This is something I remember from lots of albums from years ago."  Gilmour acknowledges that playing an album sequentially from beginning to end is no longer fashionable. But that has never been a concern, even dating back to the early years with Pink Floyd.  "We deliberately ignored any advice that we got from record companies and fans, and just plowed our own lonely furrow, although it didn't get to be so lonely after a while. That is still what I do. I make what I want and hope that it will turn enough people on that they'll want to come along for the ride and enjoy it.  "So there's no big difference. Except, I suppose, that when you're younger you are more ambitious. Success means more and you work very hard toward those goals. Now I'm in the lucky position to have been there. I have seen the view and enjoyed it. Now I'm interested in something a little quieter and easier to manage."

NE-YO: Saving Music From The Matrix

Excerpt from - By Kenya Yarbrough

(April 6, 2006) Ne-Yo has come to save us. Not the Neo character played by Keanu Reeves, who freed mankind from the Matrix – NE-YO, the young musical brother who’s come to save music.  At just 23 years old, Ne-Yo has become a force to be reckoned with. Fresh from penning the very popular Mario hit, “Let Me Love You,” Ne-Yo released his debut album, “In My Own Words.” Aptly titled, as he is the sole writer of all tracks on the disc, the record soared up the charts thanks in part to the momentum of the first single “So Sick.” It’s safe to say that music fans are hardly sick of the record. “In My Own Words” was certified platinum just one month after its debut. The young Arkansas native sat down with EUR’s Lee Bailey to discuss what he considers the return of R&B. And what really is in a name? Perhaps this young cat out of Arkansas, so called Ne-Yo, can deliver us from mediocre music. After all, he was bestowed the moniker by a producer who explained to him that he sees music the way Neo sees the Matrix in the movie.  “In the beginning, I didn’t really like [the name] because, if you remember in the movie, Neo was like Jesus. He was like the closest thing to a god. And I don’t think of myself that highly,” Ne-Yo explained modestly. But folks kept calling him that and the name finally stuck. Anyone’s who has taken a listen to the disc might be inclined to agree that there is a bit of lyrical purity that appears to be quite a conundrum to contemporary R&B music makers. Perhaps it’s true that Ne-Yo is one of the few who can solve the mystery.  One tool Ne-Yo, whose real name is Shaffer Smith, uses to decipher the musical matrix are lyrics with substance. The artist finds that he draws upon that old school drive in his writing.  “People underestimate the power of a good story,” he wisely professed. “Everybody likes to be entertained and that’s what stories do. I think if more songwriters concentrated on actually putting out a good story line, I think there would be better songs out right now. There’s nothing I hate more than a song about nothing. But, hey, let ‘em keep doing it, because the more they do songs about nothing; that makes my songs sound that much better.” Of his disc, which hit stores last February, Ne-Yo said: “I was going for a more traditional sound of R&B. I don’t have any quarrels with hip-hop/R&B or crunk & B or none of that stuff. Actually, I’m a fan of a lot of that stuff and at some point in my career you will hear me do some type of stuff like, but  for this album in particular, I very much wanted a specific kind of sound. I wanted what Boys II Men used to do; what Stevie Wonder does to this day; what Guy used to do and Jodeci and groups like that. I wanted thick, rich melodies and harmonies and lyrical content that was really talking about something.”

Even more, Ne-Yo’s influences got way beyond smooth R&B of the 90s. Would you believe he thanks the Rat Pack for developing his sound? It’s true, cats and kittens.  “My musical influences came from my mother,” Ne-Yo attributed. “Anything my mom was into, I was in to. And once we moved to Vegas, my mom was in and out of the casinos with odd jobs and back then, just blaring through the loudspeakers at these casinos was Tom Jones, The Rat Pack – Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. all of that, so my mom developed an ear for it, so she brought it home and let me hear it and I was floored by it. I took a liking to Sammy Davis Jr. Him, Prince, and Stevie Wonder I call the Three Kings. These are the three men that if I can form them into one person – that is the person I aspire to be.” Ne-Yo explained that he really loved what the Rat Pack represented and that they were masters of their craft.   “I think if the music industry went back to what it was back then, a lot of people that are making money today would be out of a job. Sammy Davis Jr. was all of that. He was a singer, dancer, and composer. He had the whole shebang – as someone back then might say.” Although Ne-Yo says he can dance, artistically he doesn’t really liken himself to the infamous tapping Candy man. After all, he doesn’t really sound or look like Sammy Davis Jr. But Ne-Yo aspires to have his hypnotic style.   “Take Sammy, take Frank Sinatra, take any of those guys and you put them on stage and you’re enthralled. You can’t stop watching them. Sammy Davis Jr. was a guy that, whether it be him standing in one place and singing a song or tap dancing across the stage, you were just amazed as what he was doing.” But of those he is likened to, Ne-Yo says: “I’ve heard people say there are elements of young Michael Jackson in my voice or that at times I sound like Usher. But I just sing. I don’t really focus on who I sound like in particular. I just sing.” Now, now Ne-Yo, what kind of music industry messiah just sings? The artist doesn’t just sing. He also writes.  “I have a song on Mary J. Blige’s latest album. But, the most famous song I have written to date is ‘Let Me Love You’ that I did for Mario. I met him through Dr. Dre and we became friends really quickly. He said if ever I’m in Miami, just come down and we’ll do some work. It just so happened that I was in Miami when [Scott Storch] was working on the album for Mario. He played me the chords and I sat down and penned the song with Scott and Kam Houf in about 30 minutes. We knew that we’d done something special. At first I thought Mario wasn’t going to be able to pull it off because he had just turned 18 and the song had such an old feel to it. But, he shut my mouth. He got in the studio and knocked that song out in an hour. He did it.” And he produces. Ne-yo has his own production, management, and marketing company named Compound Entertainment, which produced most of his album and the “Save the Last Dance II” soundtrack. He also acts, and has a small role in the film, which is set to hit theatres this summer. He also designs. His has a clothing line that will be revealed this fall. The line is urban couture described as upscale street wear for men and women. Look out for the video for his next single, "When You’re Mad", and the work he’s doing on Beyonce’s upcoming new project. For more on Ne-Yo,  check out his website at

Opera Hits A High Note With Diversity

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
William Littler

(Apr. 8, 2006) NEW YORK—Thanks to the unprecedented success of joint concerts by José Carreras  Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti  it has become easier to encounter tenors in threes  even at New York's Metropolitan Opera  where Canadians have formed the latest informal threesome.  It was Toronto-based tenor
Richard Margison who brought this fact to my attention recently in a lounge at London's Heathrow Airport  as we were both returning from European musical adventures — he from singing Radames in Verdi's Aida in the spa oasis of Baden Baden  Germany.  To his own expressed regret  Margison is easier to hear abroad than at home these days and the same can be said of Ben Heppner  with whom he has been sharing the role of Florestan in Beethoven's Fidelio at The Met. Should either of these gentlemen become indisposed  North America's leading opera company has even hired a third Canadian  John McMaster  to step in as their cover.  The presence of three Canadians  though surely coincidental  pays tribute to the way singers from once-tertiary operatic countries now routinely appear on the world's major stages — a far cry from those early 20th-century days when Guelph's Edward Johnson had to change his name to Edouardo Di Giovanni. Marie Louise Cécille Lajeunesse  from Chambly  Que.  had to change hers to Emma Albani for the sake of an international career.  Indeed  one of the reigning divas at The Met these days hails from another  once-tertiary country. Finland's Karita Mattila has been singing Leonore in Beethoven's only opera  opposite the Canadian tenors  and I have never encountered a more convincing interpreter of this role of a woman who disguises herself as a man in order to free her husband from prison.

The night after hearing Fidelio  I listened to more high-powered voices in The Met's first production of Tchaikovsky's curiously undervalued Mazeppa.  It is a tribute to the internationalism of today's operatic world that a cast of Russian-speaking singers can now be assembled in New York. When Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere of arguably the greatest of the Russian operas  Mussorgsky's Boris Godounov  it had to be sung in Italian. When Heinrich Bender conducted its Canadian Opera Company premiere in Toronto  it had to be sung in English.  Mind you  The Met has a powerful Russian ally these days in the person of its principal guest conductor  Valery Gergiev  whose main job is as artistic and general director of St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre  home of the Kirov Opera.  Thanks to Gergiev's initiative  Mazeppa was co-produced by The Mariinsky and The Met  ensuring a handsome Yuri Alexandrov production  conducted with characteristic dramatic flair by Gergiev himself.  With a cast headed by such Kirov stars as Nikolai Putilin (in the role of Mazeppa) and Olga Guryakova (Maria)  as well as the internationally celebrated Paata Burchuladze (Kochubey)  one could hardly have encountered a more authoritative account of this surprisingly underexposed Tchaikovsky opera.  By comparison  Verdi's La Forza del Destino  which has been performed at The Met more than 200 times  seems able to survive polyglot casting  witness the presence in the performance I attended of a Leonora from Chicago (Deborah Voigt)  an Italian Don Alvaro (Salvatore Licitra)  a Spanish Brother Melitone (Juan Pons) and a Ukrainian Father Guardiano (Vitalij Kowaljow).  Originally a German-dominated house  The Met today numbers among the most ethnically diverse. What has not changed is its awareness of the value of using ethnically style-conscious people as guides  hence the employment of two major Italian artists  Gianandrea Noseda and Giancarlo del Monaco  to conduct and produce La Forza del Destino.  Across Lincoln Center Plaza from The Met stands the New York State Theatre  home of Manhattan's No. 2 opera company: the New York City Opera. It has historically borne a relationship to The Met roughly similar to that of the English National Opera to Covent Garden in London  which is to say it has functioned in part as a lower-priced house championing native talent.  Important foreign singers have certainly appeared there  including Spain's Placido Domingo and Canada's Louis Quilico. But as an exhibition of photographs currently decorating the New York State Theatre's multi-tiered grand foyer makes abundantly clear  New York City Opera has never lost its sense of national mission.  Additional testimony to this fact can be found on stage this season in the shape of Lysistrata or The Nude Goddess  by one of the most successful American composers for the stage of recent years  Mark Adamo.

Adamo's success has been founded on his setting of the popular Louisa May Alcott novel  Little Women. Thus far Little Women has received more than 20 domestic productions  including those by New York City Opera and Glimmerglass Opera.  The Glimmerglass production I saw drew its primary strength from a well-crafted libretto  something that could scarcely be said of La Forza del Destino  Fidelio or Mazeppa but which certainly can be said of Lysistrata  given Adamo's wit as a wordsmith.  Although Lysistrata is based loosely on Aristophanes' vintage 411 B.C. comedy  its text is in American English rather than Attic Greek. New York City Opera's all-American cast  headed by Texan soprano Emily Pulley in the title role  idiomatically and passionately delivered their lines  over a sometimes challengingly complex orchestration.  In the days before the Canadian Opera Company's introduction of subtitles  most opera companies  especially those in Europe  performed much of the time in the vernacular  hence the need to employ native singers. Today almost every singer worth hearing carries a passport, which is why Canadian tenors can currently be found singing German opera in New York.

Sergio Mendes 'Timeless' In Many Ways

Excerpt from - By DeBorah B. Pryor

(Apr. 11, 2006)  When
Sergio Mendes opened the door of his home to see Black Eyed Peas front man standing there with an armful of Brasil ‘66 vinyl LPs and a smile, he knew he was in for something special. According to A&M president, Ron Fair, the young hip hop artist had been a fan of Mendes for quite some time and wanted to meet with him to talk about a possible collaboration.   Mendes, the legendary Brazilian pianist and brainstorm behind the impeccable sound of Brasil ’66 and beyond, had taken a self-imposed, 10-year hiatus from record making; spending his “off-time” traveling with his band and working concerts internationally. One couldn’t possibly blame the man for wanting to take a “break” --after all, he had been recording for the past forty years; with thirty-four albums to show for it.   Now, this unlikely union of classic Brazilian, bossa nova beats and urban, hip-hop and R&B soul has given birth to “Timeless,” Mendes’ latest CD.    “After making thirty-four albums I thought it was time to take a break. I didn’t realize it would be a long break like that,” says Mendes, via telephone from his home in Woodland Hills, California.   Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mendes has called California home for quite some time, but it doesn’t take close listening to hear the prominence of his native Portuguese language when he speaks.   “I‘d had invitations to do albums and record again but, to tell you the truth, it was not really motivation for me to do it, musically speaking. It was nothing that I was really excited about, until I met”

Thanks mainly to who, as producer, suggested all of the American artists on the record; “Timeless” unites an impressive list of luminaries who, although performing to a style of music that may be new to them, manage to stay true to the genres they are best known for.  Mendes was admittedly surprised that Will had become familiar with his music at age 16 He was so impressed with the artist and their earlier collaboration on the Black Eyed Peas CD, “Elephunk,” he wanted to repeat and expand their union, and called soon after that project ended to suggest they work together on “Timeless.”   Mendes reveals how the process of making the record began to unfold.   “First, we selected a repertoire; the songs that both me and Will loved...we’re in the studio at The Record Plant one day, recording a track and Stevie Wonder is in the studio next door. He walks in, he listens to the music, loved the song...I knew him from many, many years ago and I asked him if he wanted to be part of the record. He said, ‘Are you kidding, of course!’ The next day [he] brings the harmonica and does a killer songwriting [session].”   With that, the floodgates began to open and the creative juices went on overload. Mendez wrote the music for “Timeless,” and Will suggested it to India.Arie.    “Then she called back and wrote the beautiful lyric and sang on the song. It’s gorgeous...and as we began progressing...we’d cut like, this old song called “Let Me” that I recorded years ago and we redid it and Will, again, [said] ‘You know, this would be perfect for Jill Scott...and we cut another one and he said, ‘this would be perfect for Q-Tip’”.    Justin Timberlake, John Legend, Erykah Badu, who strikes some serious poses on the video from the record’s first single That Heat; Black Thought from The Roots, Chali 2na of Jurassic 5, the Black Eyed Peas and of course Will, who performs vocals on several numbers, join Costa Rican vocalist Debi Nova, Brazilian artists such as Gracinha Leporace and rapper Marcelo D2 and others who lend their incredible talents to the eclectic project.

 Asked if he recognizes any perceivable difference in working with today’s artists versus those from back in the day Mendes, who resides in Woodland Hills, California, responds…   “I think it just has to do with the person you’re working with. Will was a very enthusiastic, exciting, intelligent musical person to work with so...Years ago I did an album with Cannonball Adderly--in the early 60’s, and I think the same joy I get working with’s in a way similar to working with Will because everything is fresh, everything is new to me. It’s like two musicians getting together to create something fresh and different...not only generations [differences] but culturally different backgrounds. I grew up in Brazil and Will grew up in El Segundo. I mean, this is a guy from Rio de Janeiro and a guy from L.A. getting together through music, you know, which is a beautiful thing.”  “Timeless” was released on Valentine’s Day to mixed reviews. Seems some critics can’t fully appreciate the diverse blend of guest artists on the CD.   Rolling Stone says, “When Timeless succeeds its beautiful, boundary-breaking music.”   While E Online quips, “It’s a well-produced disc, but the cavalcade of stars and cartoonish beats make the songs sound more dated than the originals.”   Prefix Magazine goes for the jugular with, “...Had this album been titled Remixes Sergio Mendes and Brings in a Bunch of Big Names to Distract You, the album would at least honestly reflect its content.”   For the most part, WE think the project works. In fact, we won't be surprised if Timeless ends up being nominated for a Grammy next time out. If you haven't experienced the CD for yourself, you can check out the video and get more info HERE.    While at deadline he had only a few U. S. dates, audiences will get to judge the project for themselves when Mendes appears at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, June 25th to celebrate 40 years in music. In September he’ll come back to the states following his tour to Europe and Asia during the summer, to appear in Detroit, Michigan on September 2nd at the Annual Detroit International Jazz Festival. What do you call an artist who describes himself as “curious...interested in learning new things and meeting young people”? Timeless, in every sense.

Smooth Jazz, Rough Ride

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

(Apr. 6, 2006) How did the term "smooth jazz" become an insult? Usually meant to describe soulful, melodically accessible jazz that relies on electric instruments and funk-derived rhythms, smooth is perhaps the most popular subgenre in jazz. It includes all sorts of ensembles, but tends to prefer guitar, soprano sax, synthesizer or vocals, and invariably emphasizes lush and pretty over brash and abrasive. Some of the musicians whose music is classed as "smooth" are well-established jazz veterans whose bona fides are beyond dispute, such as guitarists George Benson, Pat Metheny and Earl Klugh, as well as saxophonist David Sanborn and bassist Marcus Miller. Bob James, who will be honoured at the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards tomorrow with the George Benson Lifetime Achievement Award, is a keyboardist and arranger whose credits over the last four decades include recordings with such greats as Sarah Vaughan, Stanley Turrentine, Milt Jackson, and Grover Washington, Jr. Others -- for example, the trumpeter Chris Botti, saxophonist Dave Koz, and such singers as Norah Jones, Michael Bublé and Anita Baker -- seem to have stronger roots in pop music than in jazz, and as such their popular success tends to be held against them by some jazz musicians and listeners. Branford Marsalis, himself no stranger to pop, complained in an interview a few years ago that smooth jazz was just "elevator music. It's instrumental pop. "I just wish they wouldn't call it jazz, because it demeans what we do." But is such criticism entirely fair? Or has smooth jazz's reputation become a victim of its marketing success? Guitarist Jeff Golub is certainly inclined toward the second theory. "All 'smooth jazz' is, really, is a moniker for contemporary jazz," he says. "The problem is that people aren't hearing a wide variety of the music that's available. They're just hearing what's been programmed as background music, which is really just the most Pablum parts of smooth jazz."

Nearly everyone knows the cliché version of the smooth sound. There's a soprano sax playing a melody line, a synthesized electric piano filling in the harmony, and a gently funky groove laid down by six-string bass guitar and drums. It's a formula familiar to anyone who has ever been put on hold, ridden in an elevator or tuned into the Weather Network for the local forecast. Saxophonist Kenny G -- who doesn't, by the way, consider his music jazz --is generally credited with having established that template, but radio stations and record companies generally get the blame for its having come to define the genre. "Even if one is thinking about elevator music, or Weather Channel music, there isn't any necessity for that music to be bad music," says Bob James. "I remind people all the time that Mozart would probably sound great in an elevator. A lot of Mozart is very smooth to our ears, but that doesn't mean there isn't an amazing amount of subtlety there for the listener who digs deeper." The problem, as he sees it, is that marketers and business people have tried to reduce the creative process to a commercial formula, which gets imposed on music and musicians. "The best example in our genre is when the guidelines given for what would be a commercially viable smooth-jazz recording -- one they could guarantee would get played on smooth-jazz radio --would be a recording that doesn't have any solos in it," he says. "They've either been edited out or cut back so far that it's what the formula has demanded, a melody that repeats over and over again, with a funky rhythm in the background. "But when you take solos away from jazz, then you're deep into the danger zone. What are we talking about here? We're not really talking about anything that relates to the history and the tradition and the spirit of what jazz should be all about." It didn't start out that way. James's big early break came when he worked on the 1969 Quincy Jones album Walking in Space and met producer Creed Taylor, the founder of CTI Records. Taylor believed that jazz could be both accessible and artistic, and produced a number of hugely successful jazz albums in the seventies by such artists as Grover Washington Jr. (best known for Mister Magic), Eumir Deodato (who cut a jazz version of Also Sprach Zarathustra), and James himself.

"He wanted to compete with the much more expensively produced pop records that were successful at that time, so he also added a lot of production values, such as strings and large ensembles of brass and woodwinds," James says. "But the most important ingredient certainly was the jazz aspect of it -- to get the greatest musicians who were available to play, and to give them plenty of space, plenty of opportunity to open up." The production and packaging was, says James, "the icing on the cake that made it more palatable to the ears of people who weren't hard-core jazz fans." That element in jazz sometimes gets discounted by the jazz establishment, which considers it less of an achievement artistically. "People have become so convinced that jazz has to be a serious, intellectual music," James says. "I like to go back to the bigger picture, to the long history of jazz, and remind people that the roots of jazz were dance music and popular music. Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman -- they played for dancing. It was the popular music of its time. "Certainly, it's wonderful that jazz has earned respect and dignity, and a place in the history books as America's original art form," he adds. "Every aspect of that, to me, is great. "But to lose the other aspect of it -- the music that's great to dance to, and aimed not so much at the intellectuals as to the people at large -- well, that's where I end up wanting to be on the side of the music still being fun." The Second Annual Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards will be held at Hammerson Hall at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Ont., tomorrow at 8 p.m.

House Catches Fire As Rules Go Out The Window

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

(Apr. 8, 2006)
In Toronto on Wednesday Time was when jazz performances all worked off the same rulebook especially for small combos and solo artists. It generally went like this: With each tune first you played the melody and then you improvised your solo. If there were several players in the group you took turns and the rhythm section didn't try any fancy stuff until it was their turn. At the end you repeated the melody if only to remind people what started it all. Although easy enough to follow this formula has a tendency to make jazz performances a bit well formulaic. It makes playing jazz seem a bit routine and seems to lock players into certain preset roles. In short playing by the old rulebook sometimes makes the spark of inspiration hard to ignite. Perhaps that's why pianist Brad Mehldau and the Wayne Shorter Quartet both decided to play by their own rules at Toronto's Massey Hall on Wednesday. For instance Mehldau liked to keep the melody repeating through an entire number instead of wandering away for an obvious burst of improvisation. Shorter's group by contrast sometimes seemed hesitant to state the melody at all and instead of taking turns frequently engaged in collective improvisations with all four members improvising at once.

Rewriting the rules can be risky for it demands a lot from both the performer and the audience. But that wasn't a problem with this show largely because the performers were imaginative and virtuosic enough to make wondering where each tune was headed seem edge-of-the-seat suspenseful. With Mehldau the thrill of wondering what he would play next was heightened by the fact that his taste in tunes is unusually broad. Wednesday's set ranged from the Broadway chestnut On the Street Where You Live to John Coltrane's hard bop Countdown to English folkie Nick Drake's Day Is Done. Moreover no two tunes were played the same way. Sometimes Mehldau would play it straight and sometimes he would litter the melody and harmony with unexpected dissonances until the tune resembled an LP that had warped in the sun. On one tune he might wander off on a lengthy improvised ramble while on another he would continuously repeat a 12-bar theme inverting the performance so the accompaniment became the "solo" while the melody was simply the frame that held things together. With Shorter's group the tunes constituted a different sort of frame. Clearly each member of the group had a mental picture of the basic components -- the melody, the harmonic, structure, the rhythmic accents and so on -- but there seemed to be no preset starting point for any of the performances.

Consequently each rendition unfolds in a different way. That's not the easiest way to make jazz but fortunately Shorter has an extremely capable and complementary group of musicians with him ensuring that the interplay carried the thrust and wit of good conversation. In particular the communication between bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade was astonishing; not only would the two finish each other's phrases but they seemed to egg one another on building such intensity during the thunderous Joy Rider that the group seemed about to explode. The two were having such a hot night that even pianist Danilio Perez was playing more percussively than usual at one point damping a string by hand to turn his piano into an oversized cowbell while the normally imperturbable Shorter at a couple points traded the Zen cool his saxophone usually conveys for honking impassioned bursts on his soprano. Rules? They didn't need no stinking rules. And that night neither did anyone in the audience.

Urban, Underwood triumph at CMT Awards

Source:  John Gerome, Associated Press

(Apr. 11, 2006) Nashville — Keith Urban won video of the year and Carrie Underwood of American Idol was the only double winner at the
Country Music Television awards show Monday. Keith performed the song for his winning video, Better Life, with a displaced choir from the Gulf Coast and scenes from the hurricane-damaged region. “We just wanted to present a better tone for Better Life, and I had been down to New Orleans and was struck by a combination of things -- how much has been done and how little has been done,” Urban said. “We just wanted to bring a little more awareness back to the cause down there.” Underwood, launched her career last year after winning American Idol, took home honours for breakthrough video and female video for her inspirational hit Jesus, Take the Wheel. “This is my very first acceptance speech so I made a list,” Underwood said before thanking everyone from God to Idol. “Music videos are a huge tool,” she said after the ceremony for the awards, chosen by fans. “Fans love them because they add a new dimension to the song, and we love them because it's just another way to get [the music] out there. For my first video to win two awards tonight was amazing.” Another song with a strong spiritual theme, Brad Paisley's duet with Dolly Parton When I Get Where I'm Going, won for inspiring video. Bon Jovi and Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles won collaborative video for Who Says You Can't Go Home, and Kenny Chesney won the male video award for Who You'd be Today. “I think everybody has lost somebody before they were meant to, and Shaun Silva and I did this video to help us all remember those people,” Chesney said. Rascal Flatts won the group/duo video award for Skin (Sarabeth), about a girl with cancer. “I think this song took on a life of its own,” said Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts. “It became almost bigger than we are, honestly. We were just the voice behind it.”

Billy Currington won hottest video for his R&B flavoured hit Must Be Doin' Somethin' Right, and Sophie Muller won video director for the Faith Hill-Tim McGraw duet Like We Never Loved At All. Dwight Yoakam paid tribute to his friend and mentor Buck Owens, creator of the twangy Bakersfield Sound and long-time Hee Haw host, who died of a heart ailment March 25. Yoakam called Owens the “best friend country music could ever ask for” and an inspiration to thousands of musicians. Owens pioneered the California country rock sound that flourished in the 1960s with such groups as the Byrds, he said. Hank Williams Jr. received the Johnny Cash Visionary Award for his contributions to country music, joining such previous winners as Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire and the Dixie Chicks. “My father changed and moulded country music. Johnny Cash changed and moulded country music. Waylon Jennings changed and moulded country music,” Williams said. “I'm just a guy that is another carpenter in a long line, and there's a lot more new ones here tonight.” The son of the legendary Hank Williams began his career performing his father's songs, but in the 1970s forged his own identity by fusing country music with the Southern rock of groups, such as the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Marshall Tucker Band. Last month, his daughters -- Holly Williams, 25, and Hilary Williams, 27 -- were seriously injured in an auto accident. Holly Williams attended the awards show; Hilary is still recovering, the singer said. “I was spared and Hilary Williams has been spared,” said the bearded singer, who almost died in a mountain-climbing accident in 1975. Surrounded by scantily dressed dancers, Trace Adkins opened the show with his hip-shaking anthem Honky Tonk Badonkadonk, and host Jeff Foxworthy's monologue included cracks about the age of some of the newer artists. “Miranda Lambert is so young that her tour is being brought to you by the letter J and the number 7,” Foxworthy joked. Newcomer Lambert had been nominated for female video and breakthrough video for Kerosene. Fans voted on-line through April 7 to determine the winners in each category except video of the year, which was chosen by fans during the live telecast. The awards were first presented in 2002.


-- Music Video of the Year: Better Life, Keith Urban
-- Male Video of the Year: Who You'd be Today, Kenny Chesney.
-- Female Video of the Year: Jesus Take the Wheel, Carrie Underwood.
-- Group/Duo Video of the Year: Skin (Sarabeth), Rascal Flatts.
-- Collaborative Video of the Year: Who Says You Can't Go Home, Bon Jovi featuring Jennifer Nettles.
-- Hottest Video of the Year: Must be Doin' Somethin' Right, Billy Currington.
-- Breakthrough Video of the Year: Jesus Take the Wheel, Carrie Underwood.
-- Most Inspiring Video of the Year: When I Get Where I'm Going, Brad Paisley featuring Dolly Parton.
-- Video Director of the Year: Sophie Muller, Like We Never Loved at All.


MuchMusic's Comeback Kid Named New VJ

From Canadian Press

(Apr. 11, 2006)
Tim Deegan is the latest addition to the MuchMusic VJ crew after fans voted the amiable college student their favourite.  "I went from being a MuchMusic fan to being a VJ," said Deegan, 23.  "It's honestly a dream come true. I just scored the best job in Canada and knowing it was fans that voted me in makes it that much sweeter."  Deegan, who hails from Kitchener, Ont., had been studying woodworking when he was selected as a contestant for MuchMusic VJ Search: The Series.  Last October, producers stopped in 21 cities, auditioning thousands of hopefuls for the job.  Ten finalists were flown to Toronto to live in a downtown penthouse. Their movements were captured for the weekly reality show, in which a four-person panel — which included glam rocker Robin Black and rapper Kardinal Offishall — judged their every move. The final decision was left with the fans who voted online and via text messaging.  Deegan's win secures him a three-month VJ contract with the station, which will begin in about a month.  If all goes well, MuchMusic says they'll keep him on as they've done with past VJ Search winners like Devon Soltendieck and Diego Fuentes, who now works on sister station MuchMoreMusic.

D12 Member Shot Dead In Detroit Club

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon

(Apr. 12, 2006) DETROIT (AP) —
Proof, a member of rap group D12 and a close friend of Eminem, was shot to death early Tuesday at a nightclub, apublicist said.  The death of Proof — whose real name is Deshaun Holton — was confirmed by Dennis Dennehy, the publicist for D12's label, Interscope Records.  "Memorial service arrangements are still being made, and his friends and family would appreciate privacy during this difficult time," Dennehy said in a statement.  Family members gathered at a home on Detroit's northwest side. The residential street in front of the two-storey home was lined with vehicles.  Proof was the best man at Eminem's wedding in January and often appeared alongside the superstar rapper at concerts and public appearances. He also appeared in the film 8 Mile.  D12, which includes Eminem, has been around since the mid-1990s, when members of the rap group met at Detroit's Hip-Hop Shop, a clothing store by day and a hip-hop club by night.  Detroit police wouldn't confirm that Proof was killed, but said two people were shot in the head — one fatally — early Tuesday at a nightclub on Eight Mile Road.  An argument at the CCC nightclub escalated into gunshots, Detroit police spokesman James Tate said.  Wende Berry, a spokeswoman for St. John Health System, said Holton was dead on arrival at St. John Conner Creek, an outpatient treatment facility. Berry confirmed that he had a gunshot wound.  Another member of Eminem's inner circle — rapper Obie Trice — was shot while driving on a Detroit-area highway in December.

Nelly Gears Up For Busy 2006

Excerpt from

(Apr. 11, 2006) *
Nelly tells MTV that he will be seen more than heard this year, as a number of artists under his Derrty Entertainment label are preparing to release major projects.    "I'm always in the lab, but I'm playing CEO right now," he told the network at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards. “I have a project coming out of my label called Kinfolk, which is Ali from the St. Lunatics and Big Gipp from Goodie Mob. They did a collabo album together, and we're real excited."     Kinfolk just finished shooting the video for their first single, "Go Ahead," and are planning a spring release for the album. Nelly, Big Boi, Young Buck, Three 6 Mafia, Jackie-O and Murphy Lee will make guest appearances. Lee, meanwhile, is completing work on his own new album, which will be supervised by Nelly.     "We also have a guy by the name of Avery Storm coming out, who I think is gonna blow everybody away," Nelly said, describing Derrty Entertainment's first R&B singer.     As for projects outside of the studio, Nelly says he’s currently mulling through movie scripts to follow up his role in last year’s “The Longest Yard.”      "I'm working on a few things," the rapper said. "Hopefully everything goes as well as planned, but I'm really into the action. I'm really into the sports movies as well. I don't think I'm ready to cry on set yet. So you know, I'm trying to stay away from the sentimental things and stick to what works for me."     The pattern has proved successful for the artist in the shoe arena as well. His new sneaker, Rbk's the Derrty One, gives Nelly the opportunity to blend two of his passions together into one business venture.     "I come from a real athletic background, so I try to merge the athletic background with the entertainment background," he said of the kicks. "I think this is the shoe to do it. I feel real fortunate that Rbk gave me the chance to design my own shoe. I'm a real sneaker freak, so this is like a dream for me."     Nelly’s only planned project to have fallen by the wayside is a reality show announced last fall that would document his life.  According to MTV, plans with A. Smith & Co., the television production company behind "The Swan" and "Hell's Kitchen," are now off.

New Ear Candy Always A Treat

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
John Terauds, Classical Music Critic

(Apr. 6, 20060 There's something comforting in finding a theme in a concert program, especially with recently composed music. But such comfort wasn't forthcoming as the
Toronto Symphony Orchestra finished the last of three concerts in its New Creations Festival last night at Roy Thomson Hall.  Instead the comfort came from hearing dynamic music played well. These compositions took advantage of the full breadth of orchestral colour and rhythm. All were carefully and cleanly shaped by music director Peter Oundjian, who has been the impetus behind this now two-year-old endeavour.  This was also a program that highlighted soloists in two Canadian premieres. First were concertmaster Jacques Israelievitch and his son, marimba and percussion player Michael, in Toronto composer Alexander Levkovich's Isle of a Beautiful Illusion. Then came American pianist Peter Serkin in Peter Lieberson's Piano Concerto No. 3.  Levkovich's piece is something of a tone poem that builds to — and then recedes from — a sweetly sensual main statement via a hardscrabble path. This is evocative music that contains lovely solo passages that were beautifully performed by Israelievich père et fils. Michael, now a student in Boston, is a very stylish and subtle musician who should have a very bright future.  Serkin had less interesting music to deliver, but it was well done, despite trembling hands that made this onlooker nervous. Lieberson's score quickly ran out of new musical ideas, which made its 31 minutes feel 10 minutes too long.  The evening closed with Béla Bartók's 1944 Concerto for Orchestra, which highlights soloists and ensembles in a colourful tapestry of melodic figures, rhythms and textures.  Hardly a new creation, Bartók's Concerto had the double-edged task of reminding us how fresh this music still sounds — and how seldom new ear candy gets heard by symphony audiences on a regular basis.

Bublé Takes Three Trophies At Smooth Jazz Awards

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

(Apr. 8, 2006)
Toronto -- If you think Michael Bublé is smooth you’re not alone. The Vancouver-born crooner took three trophies at the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards presented in Mississauga last night. In addition to male-vocalist honours Bublé won album of the year for It's Time and the SOCAN Award for best original composition. Bublé was the only multiple winner leading a field that paints smooth jazz as a man's world. Molly Johnson (female vocalist) and Carol Welsman (piano) were the only women called to the podium. Other winners included American heartthrob Chris Botti (international artist) the Clayton-Scott Group (group) Jesse Cook (guitar) and Bob Farrow (broadcaster). Flutist Alexander Zonjic and saxophonist Warren Hill shared the wind-instrumentalist award.

Alicia Keys Visits Aids Facilities In Africa

Excerpt from

(April 7, 2006) *Kenyan police and bodyguards kept journalists from speaking to
Alicia Keys Thursday as she visited facilities in the country that are funded through Keep a Child Alive, a charitable organization committed to assisting HIV patients in Africa.  The Grammy winner, who is supporting the project along with Oprah Winfrey, got a first hand look at how the money was being used at a pediatric HIV clinic at the Coast Provincial Hospital in Mombasa, 275 miles southeast of the capital, Nairobi, reports AP.  Some 400 children are currently benefiting from the program, which gives them access to free anti-retroviral drugs, said Dr. Anderson Kahindi, head of the clinic, adding that Keys had been buying the drugs herself and shipping them directly to the hospital since 2004. "She learned about the plight of children from a medical doctor who used to work at the hospital and is now studying in the U.S. After the tour of the hospital she will also visit selected homes of the children who are undergoing treatment to find out how they are responding," Kahindi told AP.  Reps for the singer said Keys did not grant interviews because she considered the trip to be a private visit.  However, privacy quickly became non-existent, as news of her visit to the hospital spread quickly and fans flocked to the site in hopes of catching a glimpse of her. Kenyan security guards had a difficult time trying to block people from getting too close.   Later Thursday, Keys was scheduled to unveil a commemorative plaque, plant a tree and address the local community at the Bomu Medical Clinic, on the outskirts of Mombasa.

EW&F Musical ‘Hot Feet’ To Hit Broadway April 20

Excerpt from

(April 7, 2006) *“Hot Feet,” the new Earth, Wind & Fire-laced musical having its only pre-Broadway run at Washington, D.C.'s National Theatre,will arrive on the Great White Way April 20 – two days later than first announced.   A publicist said the extra 48 hours was needed to properly load the production into Broadway’s Hilton Theatre. The show’s opening is still April 30, which means “Hot Feet” will have a rather-short 10-day preview period. Its D.C. run ends on April 9.   “Hot Feet” features a book by Heru Ptah and music and lyrics by Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire. According to, New York audiences should expect a show slightly different from the one seen in the Nation's Capital, where “Hot Feet,” choreographed by Maurice Hines, opened to largely negative reviews.   Peter Marks of The Washington Post wrote: "Hot Feet dances the night away merrily oblivious to the fact that ultimately, the foot bone is connected to the brain bone… It banks on the notion that you'll believe perspiration can be a substitute for inspiration... This is one of those odd occasions on which the performers in the background become stars by default.   Paul Harris of Variety wrote: "[An] infectious dose of energy soars while the band's hits are performed. But an inane book and subpar acting undermine the fancy moves... [Heru Ptah] strives to give his dialogue a streetwise rap feel, but his book is more conspicuous for its insufferable lines and frequent forays into areas of questionable taste. Attempts at rhyme and alliteration produce lines like 'You repugnant, rancid little wretch' and 'Music courses through my veins like crack cocaine…'   Work continues on the book by Ptah, and the musical’s Broadway version may also be trimmed down. In D.C., it lasted two hours and forty-five minutes, the last 20 minutes consisting of an extended ballet sequence called the "Hot Feet Ballet."

Gene Pitney, 65, Dies On Tour

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Associated Press

(Apr. 6, 2006)
LONDON—Gene Pitney, whose keening tenor voice produced a string of hits including "Town Without Pity," was found dead in his hotel room in Cardiff, Wales, yesterday following a concert acclaimed as one of his best. He was 65.  Pitney apparently died of natural causes, police said.  "We don't have a cause of death at the moment but looks like it was a very peaceful passing," said U.K. tour manager James Kelly. "He was found fully clothed, on his back, as if he had gone for a lie down. It looks as if there was no pain whatsoever.''  "Last night was one of the best performances, not vocally, but from the enthusiasm. He just wanted to please — and he did," said Wendy Horton, who reviewed Pitney's Tuesday night concert for the South Wales Echo newspaper.  Nigel Corten, critic for the South Wales Argus, said Pitney appeared healthy during the show. "It came through in his voice because he really let it rip. The audience were in raptures.''  In the 1960s, Pitney had hits as a singer — "24 Hours From Tulsa,'' "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance," "Mecca" and "Half Heaven, Half Heartache." As a writer, he penned "Hello Mary Lou'' for Ricky Nelson and "Rubber Ball" for Bobby Vee.  In 1962, Pitney's rendition of "Only Love Can Break a Heart" was at No. 2 in the U.S. charts, just behind a song he wrote for The Crystals, "He's a Rebel.''  Pitney's hit songs, like many a pop crooner, grew scarce after the Beatles ushered in the rock music era. He later had some success as a country singer, pairing with George Jones to record "I've Got Five Dollars and It's Saturday Night" and "Louisiana Man.'' He also took second place twice at the San Remo Song Festival in Italy.  Pitney was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.  Born in Hartford, Conn., Pitney married his high school sweetheart, Lynne, in 1967 and kept a base in Connecticut all his life. He is survived by his wife and three sons.

Lady T’s ‘Sapphire’ Ready To Shine

Excerpt from

(April 6, 2006) *It’s probably safe to assume that Smokey Robinson and rapper Kurupt never thought they’d appear on the same album. The artists have Teena Marie to thank for the common ground.  Her new album, “Sapphire,” drops on May 9 with guest appearances from both artists: Robinson is featured on two songs, "God Has Created" and "Cruise Control," while Kurupt laces "Baby Who's Is It." The disc is Marie’s second project under Cash Money Classics/Universal, and is executive produced by label founders Bryan "Baby" Williams and Ronald "Slim Tha Don" Williams. The pair also co-produced the set’s lead single "Ooo Wee," along with Marie. A duet with the late Rick James was supposed to be included, but it was removed from the album, according to a label spokesperson.  Marie's first Cash Money Classics album, 2004's "La Dona," peaked at No. 6 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 458,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Marie will hit the road in support of "Sapphire" later this year.

Assassin, Tami Chynn And Cutty Ranks Team Up With Reggae Singer Elan

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(April 6, 2006) Remember Tony Kelly’s Buy Out rhythm? Not only did it contain the Sean Paul hit Like Glue and the Beenie Man nugget Miss LAP, but it also featured Gal Dem Every time by white reggae singer Elan. Elan is now signed to No Doubt member Tony Kanal’s record label Kingsbury Studios. Elan’s debut album Together as One is due out on May 23 and will be distributed by Interscope Records. Assassin, Tami Chynn, Cutty Ranks and Sly and Robbie appear on Elan’s album.

Exclusive: Wu-Tang Videos Making DVD Debut

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Apr. 6, 2006) Videos from throughout the career of seminal hip-hop act the Wu-Tang Clan have been rounded up for the DVD "Legend of the Wu-Tang: The Videos." The set will be released June 13 via CMV/Loud/RCA/Legacy, has learned. "Legend" also features a previously unreleased 21-minute documentary, "Enter the Wu-Tang," which was taped in 1994.  Beyond classic clips such as "C.R.E.A.M.," "Triumph" and "Protect Ya Neck," the DVD includes a previously unreleased alternate version of "Method Man" and the Masta Killa video "Old Man," which features the late Ol' Dirty Bastard and RZA.  As previously reported, Wu-Tang recently reunited for its first extended tour in years. Group members have expressed in interest in making a new studio album but at present nothing concrete is in the offing. Wu member Ghostface Killah recently enjoyed a No. 4 debut on The Billboard 200 for his new Def Jam album, "Fishscale."

Eve Aligns With Swizz Beatz Label

Excerpt from - Hillary Crosley, N.Y.

(Apr. 10, 2006)
Rapper Eve has aligned with producer Swizz Beatz's Full Surface imprint, which previously fell under the J Records umbrella but is now a part of Interscope. She remains affiliated to Dr. Dre's Aftermath label, having split with Ruff Ryders after the 2002 release of "Eve-olution."  That set debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 6 on The Billboard 200. It has sold 629,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.  "I'm doing all the work," Swizz Beatz tells "[The album] should be out in the fourth quarter [of 2006]." A post on Aftermath's Web site last summer said both Dr. Dre and Scott Storch would be contributing to the production on the as-yet-untitled set.

Amel Larrieux Album To Premiere On VH1 Soul

Excerpt from

(April 12, 2006) *The digital cable channel VH1 Soul will present a new episode of "Inspirational Soul Show" featuring Kirk Franklin, an Album Release Party for Amel Larrieux, and world premiere videos by R&B artists Raheem Devaughn and Corinne Bailey Rae. Franklin will host "Inspirational Soul Show" on Easter Sunday, April 16 at 8 a.m. The hour-long program will showcase viewers' video requests and will also highlight some of Franklin's favourite inspirational videos. The program will re-air on April 16 at 4 p.m. and 12 midnight. Then on Friday, April 21 through Tuesday, April 25, VH1 Soul will air an exclusive Album Release Party spotlighting Larrieux's upcoming album, "Morning." The release party will include airing the new album in its entirety and a block of the singer’s music videos, as well as exclusive interviews and live performances and concerts. On Monday, April 17 at the top of every hour, VH1 Soul will World premiere Devaughn newest video "You" and on Monday, May 8 the network will debut Rae's video "Put Your Records On. In addition, VH1 Soul continues to support R&B artists such as Anthony Hamilton and Heather Headley by presenting their current tours which includes promoting the concerts and ticket information on the channel and at the VH1 Soul web site ( VH1 Soul has already presented tours by Leela James, Jaguar Wright, Kindred, the Family Soul and Floetry.

Nas And Rakim Eye Joint Project

Excerpt from

(April 12, 2006) *Rakim and Nas solidified plans to record a project together during a joint interview on MTV News. "Me and Nas, we been talking about this for a long time,” Rakim said. “Our people around us been talking about it and the whole world [has been talking about it], but it's about time, man. We gotta do a joint together, man. We gotta do a joint." "We got to," Nas replied.  Rakim continued: "I'm working on my sh*t now, I know you working on yours, I got some things in my mind. If it's both [albums we collaborate on], that's even better. Let's think about that in the next few weeks." Both artists exchanged numbers while cameras were rolling.  "MTV, you got it first," Rakim said enthusiastically. "Hopefully we'll find the right chemistry and right track — because you know [Nas] as well as me, we not going to do it if it don't make sense. [It's gotta be] on and poppin'. I just wanted to get that out of the way, because it's [been] a long time coming." Meanwhile, both rappers are working on their next solo albums. Rakim’s forthcoming disc, “The Seventh Seal,” should be finished within the next two months, while Nas is keeping quiet about his upcoming album, and first for Def Jam.


Beowolf Portrayer Has A Wolf Pack Of Loyal Fans

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Malene Arpe, Pop Culture Writer

(Apr. 11, 2006) Good thing it wasn't super-fan Linda MacFarlane who was talking to the Scottish actor
Gerard Butler last week.  "I can't believe I did the full interview in my kind-of-American accent," a surprised sounding Butler said at the end of our phone conversation. "I'm very proud of that. If I really turn it on, I can strengthen it and make it even more American. But I try to have still a bit of me in there, and then turn it up a notch when I get on set."  MacFarlane would have been disappointed to hear the Glasgow-born, Paisley-raised Scotsman abandon his burr in favour of generic American.  "I think initially my attraction to him was his accent. I saw him in Tomb Raider. I've always been attracted to the way people talk," the 59-year-old Torontonian says.  She is among a growing number of fans drawn to the star of Sturla Gunnarsson's film Beowulf & Grendel. Butler, 36, has inspired a feverish devotion somewhat disproportionate to his celebrity. "We think he deserves a little more fame than he's got," MacFarlane says.  His fans, who congregate online at and at screenings, see it as their personal mission to make a success of Beowulf & Grendel, a Canadian film made in Iceland that played on 22 screens in this country earlier this month and, as of yesterday, had taken in $446,000 at the box office.  "I've watched all (Butler's) interviews and he's just a charming fellow, funny, witty. He's just a joy to watch, and to participate in what is going on in his life. We're all behind him and try to support him, which includes going to see Beowulf as many times as possible. I've seen it eight times," MacFarlane says.  Fans in the U.S., where the film based on the epic Anglo-Saxon poem has not been released, have braved the roads headed north and the unknown to see the movie in Canada.  Butler plays the troll-slaying, longhaired hero Beowulf and he can't heap enough praise on the movie crafted by Gunnarsson, an Icelandic native who is a veteran director of movies and TV episodes in Canada.

"There's just something about the film's message and its essence and the power behind it ... a richness to his storytelling."  Another fan, Sandra Horyski, 40, of Winnipeg, says she's talked to Americans who've driven "thousands of miles, not even knowing where they're going" to take in Beowulf & Grendel at a Canadian cinema. She adds that the film's DVD, which has just become available for pre-order for a June release, is doing well on thanks to American fans "ordering many, many copies." It was the fourth best seller last week, behind only Narnia, Brokeback Mountain and Final Fantasy VII. Not too shabby for a low-budget Canadian movie.  "I read a few consumer (movie) reviews and I'm amazed how many people say they came from the States," Butler says. "There's been a big outcry, you know, about the fact that it didn't have any distribution in the States and hopefully that will be remedied. I guess it's a story that's important in some people's minds, there's been a lot of enthusiasm for the movie coming out and that's great."  As for the Americans travelling north in their cars to see Beowulf & Grendel, "personally I think it's crazy, but I love it as well ... if I was going to see a movie I was interested in, I think maybe 10 miles would be my limit."  When it's pointed out that the main reason that people are travelling great distances is him, Butler laughs (which he does a lot) and says, "well, then they definitely are crazy."  Butler, who also starred in the 2004 film Dear Frankie, played the Phantom in the movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera and just finished filming 300 in Montreal, is on the phone from Vancouver where he's working on the "very Hitchcock" thriller Butterfly on a Wheel with Pierce Brosnan and Maria Bello.  He's a bit sheepish about the blatant zealotry of fans, some of who recently held a Gerard Butler convention in Scotland. He says the adoration is "very surreal. I never quite know how to deal with that question."  The mere thought of the convention, which had his mother as an honoured guest, prompts another round of that fantastic laugh.  "I don't know. I didn't call them up and say, `Have a Gerard Butler convention! Why don't you all fly to my home country and have a big convention in my name.' I heard about it and said, `Is this a joke? Why would they do it?' It's, er, well, you'd have to ask them why they would do it. It would be a little narcissistic for me to even comment.

"I'm sure that for them, it's a chance to get away and do something together. Because what's amazing is that these fans have made friends with each other ... apparently they're having two more conventions this year, one in Colorado and one in Vegas, and they're all caught up in the great friendships they've made with each other. I just kinda gotta go with it, and say, `Well, enjoy yourselves.'"  MacFarlane, for one, is thrilled with the friends she's met.  "I've never joined a fan club before, this is the first time. It's a great club to belong to, because there's a lot of camaraderie. I was part of the Toronto gathering on the day Beowulf opened and got to make a lot of new friends. The fan club is great — we support Gerry any way we can, but we support each other too."  Her fandom has paved the way for new experiences. When Beowulf played at last year's film festival, MacFarlane was inspired to attend the festival for the first time.  "I've lived in Toronto all my life and I don't go downtown any more because the suburbs have everything. But it was wonderful being down there, seeing everybody having a good time, interacting ... I intend to go back this year, even if Gerry doesn't have a film there."  Butler's next film is the Zack Snyder-directed 300, based on Frank Miller's graphic novel on the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., when all of Greece became unified by the heroism of the King of Sparta and his 300 soldiers in confronting Persia's invading army.  The preparation for the Quebec-made film, in which Butler plays King Leonidas of Sparta, was gruelling. "I trained for this like I have never trained before. We made something that I think is going to be like nothing ever seen on film."  Such comments make MacFarlane fret.  "I'm old enough to be his mother. And I think a lot of the ladies on the website feel that way about him. We get concerned when he's working too hard because he seems to put so much into his roles. 300 was gruelling because the training was hard for the 300 Spartans to get their bodies to look like they needed to.  "We hope he got a chance to take a bit of a break ... We worry that he takes care of himself."

7 Questions For Josh Hartnett

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Bob Strauss

(Apr. 7, 2006) LOS ANGELES — Born July 21, 1978, in San Francisco. Raised in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. First film: Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998). Others include The Virgin Suicides, Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, Hollywood Homicide and Sin City. Has made multiple "Hottest"/"Sexiest" lists in various editions of People magazine. Does not discuss his love life, but has been romantically linked to Scarlett Johansson, with whom he co-stars in upcoming The Black Dahlia. Josh Hartnett was supposed to become Hollywood's next big thing a few years ago, but that plan didn't pan out. It wasn't because the tall young actor with the piercing eyes lacked the goods -- he proved himself equally adept at drama, action and comedy -- and was only partially because the big-budget films he made failed to match their high commercial expectations.  At heart, he was never really down with the superstar agenda, avoided moving to L.A. and shrugged off most aspects of the up-and-comer game.  Hartnett's much happier with the approach he's taking now, concentrating on new pieces like the elaborately plotted mystery Lucky Number Slevin (see review, page R12). In the film, which was shot mostly in a wintry Quebec but set in New York, he plays an amiable dork who gets mistaken for someone he's not by warring crime lords. That's just the start of Slevin's story. The movie itself looks like the beginning of a gratifying new chapter in Hartnett's career.

How would you describe your character, Slevin?

He's bombarded by people from all sides. He's unobtrusive and, except for with his voice, a non-threatening schlub. He's not the kind of guy that you should be too afraid of. I think that he's allowed access to definitely strange worlds because of this. And I love that both of these worlds are so beautifully realized, by the director [Paul McGuigan, with whom Hartnett also made Wicker Park] and by Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley.

Along with Freeman and Kingsley, you're also co-starring with Bruce Willis. And you've also worked with Harrison Ford in Hollywood Homicide. Was it intimidating to work with them?

None of them intimidated me because none of them tried to impose anything on me. They were all incredibly gracious; there were no egos on set. Across the board, everybody was just there to have fun and make an interesting film. And everybody was on the same page as far as the script goes -- not that we always knew what that was! So, no; I was intimidated to a point before I met them, but once I met them I was at ease.  Somehow I don't associate "at ease" with snowy exteriors -- at least not when you're only wearing a bath towel, as Slevin does in the film.

New York and Montreal in the middle of the wintertime . . . they're not good places to be walking around with nothing but a towel on. Y'know, it's a kilt, essentially, without a top. But I liked the idea of putting me in a towel for the first third of the film. It enhanced the character's vulnerability, which I think is his strong suit at the beginning.

Aside from freezing, how'd you like Quebec?

I've worked there twice. Montreal is a fun city. People know how to live up there. They work a lot, but they don't work too much. They spend enough time out having a good time. So it was fun to once again be with a crew that just knew how to handle themselves off the set.  Enjoying life is what life is all about. Work is the essential -- you have to be proud of what you do in order to feel really satisfied. But when you're not working, why not?

Your next movie, The Black Dahlia, is also a mystery thriller. Written by James Ellroy, directed by Brian de Palma, it co-stars Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank. How different is it from Slevin?

They have nothing in common. The Black Dahlia is set between 1945 and 1948 in Los Angeles, and like all James Ellroy novels, it deals with the politics within the police force. L.A. Confidential dealt with that and its relationship to Hollywood. This deals more with its relationship to a murder case that remains unsolved to this day, where this woman was killed and sawed in half. I play the main character, Bucky Bleichert. He is a detective and an ex-boxer who figures everything out but is unable to tell for some reasons.

Speaking of boxing, do you have any plans to punch out Isaac Mizrahi?

[Chuckling] Uh, why? I mean, what would be the point of that? He's fine.

Movies such as Pearl Harbor, 40 Days and 40 Nights and Hollywood Homicide were supposed to make you Hollywood's hot new hunk, but now you seem to have set your sights on more interesting films, such as Sin City and the soon to be released Mozart and the Whale, that aren't necessarily designed to be mass entertainments. Is this a conscious strategy?

Yeah; I mean, just the way you say it kinda proves why I did it. I want to stick around; I want to be an actor for a long period of time, and I don't think the best way to achieve that is to be chasing the brass ring all the time. For me, anyway, it's too stressful.

And I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I'm working with the best actors and amazing directors, and that's all I really care about, that and a chance to create different and interesting characters. I care very much about my work, but I don't care about the other stuff -- it just wasn't for me. I let things happen, hopefully, the way that they should. And I work my ass off when I do get the opportunity to work on something great.

Can Your Little Star Make It Big?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Evan Henerson, Special To The Star

(Apr. 8, 2006) Jonathan Lipnicki was barely 5 years old when he followed his older sister into an acting workshop. Big sis always came out looking happy, and Lipnicki figured he might enjoy it, too. He was right. Never mind what a kid could decide to be when he grew up; as an actor, Lipnicki quickly learned, you could pretend to be a policeman, a fireman or an astronaut right now. The workshop led to auditions and to his first commercial for Kodak film. "I was washing the bulldog, and that was fun," recalls Lipnicki, now 15. Then the Lipnicki family got wind of a role for a young boy in a new film by director Cameron Crowe, starring Tom Cruise.  There figured to be hundreds of boys who would be seen for Ray, the weirdly precocious son of Renee Zellweger's character, who bonds adorably with Cruise's Jerry Maguire. Rhonda Lipnicki tried to caution her son not to get his hopes up. No problem, the 5-year-old assured her. "That role is mine," he said. "I'm going to be Ray."  He wasn't initially cast, but Rhonda learned that the boy who won the role wasn't working out and the filmmakers wanted to recast the role. A career was born. The chemistry, as anyone who has seen Jerry Maguire can attest, was electric. Lipnicki went on to roles in The Jeff Foxworthy Show and the first two Stuart Little movies.  Every child onstage or onscreen had to start somewhere. Often the parent drives the train of his or her child's acting career, although that will only take a kid so far. Professional representation by an agent or manager is essential, as are such things as a great look, a winning manner, or the twist of fate that lands that role everyone notices.  Who doesn't remember Anna Paquin, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Piano at age 11, or Keisha Castle-Hughes, who was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in her film debut, Whale Rider?  But there are many more: Just turn on the tube and spin the dial. Although it's never a bad time for a kid to express an interest in show business, the glut of family programming and kid-friendly TV demonstrates the demand for young performers of all shapes, sizes and abilities. "When I first started out, it was almost like an oddity to have a show built around a child actor. Now it seems to be part of the culture," says Thomas W. Lynch, the producer of such shows as The Secret World of Alex Mack and Caitlin's Way. "It's a great time for young actors."

How, then, do you know your photogenic little darling is destined for such a career? For one thing, if you want it more than your child does, that's a recipe for potential disaster. In the first chapter of her book Raising a Star: The Parents' Guide to Helping Kids Break Into Theater, Film, Television or Music, author Nancy Carson lists 10 qualities successful young performers invariably possess. These range from performing talent to balanced interests to, of course, a winning look. In most cases, you won't secure an appointment with Carson — who runs New York's Carson-Adler Agency — without a reference or some experience, even a juicy part or two in a school play. But she has taken on clients who had nothing under their belts but an unquenchable drive to perform.  In her book, she recounts meeting an obviously talented 8-year-old from Louisiana who, after not winning a role on the new Mickey Mouse Club, temporarily relocated with her family to New York at Carson's urging. With a little training and a bit of work off-Broadway, the child finally became a Mouseketeer and saw her career take off. Her name? Britney Spears.  Young actors don't have to be perfect looking, says Carson, but: "The child should be someone you wouldn't mind watching for two hours in a movie, a TV show or a Broadway show. The child has to be interesting, someone you just can't take your eyes off. That's sort of my criteria — someone you want to know more about."  Cameron Bright, now 13, is one of those. He had done commercials in his native Vancouver when, in 2004, he scored a role in the thriller Godsend opposite Robert De Niro just as his mother, Anne Bright, lost her job of 24 years. "I was wondering how we were going to hang on to the mortgage and he got Godsend," she recalls. "What a name for that movie!" Bright followed that with another heavy hitter, romancing Nicole Kidman as the possible reincarnation of her late husband in Birth.  These days you'd be hard-pressed to go to a multiplex and find a movie that doesn't feature the young actor. Ultraviolet and Running Scared were followed by his sharp turn as the son of tobacco lobbyist-spin doctor Nick Naylor, played by Aaron Eckhart, in Thank You for Smoking. When Bright filmed a role for X-Men: The Last Stand, he was jazzed to discover Hugh Jackman knew who he was.

Bright can't recall any early conversations about his interest in acting. "In the early stages, Mom just kind of asked me if I wanted to do it," he says. "I said sure. I thought of it as putting money away for college and all that stuff. I never thought it would get this big, and when it did, it came all in one blow. You kind of have to get used to it."  Caitlin Wachs has no problem with that. After nearly 10 years doing everything from soaps to playing the president's daughter in ABC's political series Commander in Chief, starring Geena Davis, Wachs says she's always "felt like I had a purpose, a reason for being there. It was never about fame or money. It still isn't. ... I guess that I've always felt that it was my calling, what I'm supposed to do."  Intrigued by the music videos her father, Allan Wachs, produced, she found herself in a Santana video. An agent was secured, and Wachs won the first role she auditioned for: a guest spot on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She wasn't quite 6.

Profile: Lukas Haas

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Leah Mclaren

(Apr.7, 2006) It makes sense that a kid who got his first movie role at the age of four and his big break at seven (when he was cast opposite Harrison Ford in Peter Weir's Witness) would experience his career low point in his mid-teens.  "I started getting sick of it,"
Lukas Haas recalls a few weeks before his 30th birthday, sitting on a sofa in a hotel suite in Toronto. "I started getting flakey. I didn't read scripts. Up until then my life had been charmed. I was spoiled. I figured if I wanted to act, I could." That moment, he says, is when life (and Hollywood) wound up and sucker-punched him in the gut. "I was up for the lead in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. It was down to me and one other guy. And when I didn't get that role I was surprised. Basically Leo [DiCaprio, who won the role] was my first adult competition. After that I was like, 'Screw it, I'll just play music.' " But it was too late for Haas. The acting bug had already embedded itself deep in his DNA. He did play music -- guitar, drums, piano -- and he still plays well, performing recently with Outkast and Macy Gray. But before long he was back at the drama trough, sorting through scripts and looking for roles that challenged him. Ending up a struggling actor at the age of 20 was a little hard to swallow. The shock was enough to make Haas realize that from then on, if he wanted to be an actor, he would have to work at it -- something that, like most talented child stars, he'd never really had to do.

His effort paid off, because since then Haas has worked steadily, under the direction of Woody Allen, Tim Burton, Gus Van Sant and others. But it's his latest role in Brick, a small feature by first-time writer-director Rian Johnson, may be the one that defines his adult career as an off-kilter character actor.  The film, which cost only $500,000 (U.S.), won the 2005 Sundance Special Jury Prize. Haas plays The Pin, a teenage drug lord just out of high school who runs a mob-like operation out of his mother's basement. A noir detective story set in an out-of-time suburban California high school, the film casts Haas as the villain, albeit an unusual one. While The Pin surrounds himself with murderous flunkies and works in an eerily immaculate office at a desk decorated with a gold eagle statue, he is also the movie's most comically sympathetic character. In spite of his demonic tendencies, his mother still fixes him milk and cookies. And in what is perhaps Brick's most poignant moment, he innocently asks the film's leading straight man (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) if he's ever read The Lord of the Rings. Haas laughs remembering the moment. "He's starts off as this sinister evil dude and then slowly you get to see his vulnerable human side," he says, chewing on a toothpick. While he says the story attracted him right away (the cast and crew began shooting only a week after he read the script), the language posed some issues. The script, written in a fictitious teen dialect, took some getting used to. "At first I found it confusing," Haas says, "but after a while it was almost like doing Shakespeare." Despite his big-studio beginnings, Haas now seems committed to the indie ethic. He's just finished shooting another small film, a romantic comedy tentatively titled Who Loves the Sun, about two friends fighting over one woman. The second feature from Canadian director Matt Bissonnette, the film also stars Bissonnette's wife, Molly Parker, Adam Scott, R.H. Thomson and Wendy Crewson.  As for his spoiled inner-child star, Haas says he's paid his dues and is a grownup pro. "Now," he says, "I'm just in it for the love of acting."

School Of Film Noir

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(Apr. 7, 2006) Actors promoting a film often feel duty-bound to remark on the warm feelings engendered among the cast and crew during shooting. But when
Lukas Haas talks about how on the set of Brick director Rian Johnson "created this world and a feeling that translates on to the film to give it more substance," one is inclined to take him at his word.  Johnson's location was the San Clemente high school where he'd spent most of his time advancing a childhood ambition of making movies.  Among the young cast he assembled were a number of former child actors, including Haas, who played the title character in Witness when he was 7, Noah Fleiss, who is Tugger in Brick and lead Joseph Gordon-Levitt from Third Rock From the Sun, who got his first TV role when he was 7.  Despite the length of their combined experience, to Johnson it sometimes felt like "being back in high school making a movie with my friends."  The end result, which won the 2005 Sundance Film Festival's Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision, is a movie that is sophisticated in its plot and language but fixed in a make-believe world of adolescent crime and punishment.  An admitted geek, who had been making short films since he was 12, Johnson wrote a script that combined his love of film noir and the novels of Dashiell Hammett, replete with rapid-fire dialogue larded with unfamiliar drug-trade jargon.  "I didn't want (the high school) aspect of it to be realistic," he says, speaking on a cellphone from the streets of New York. "Brick is to high school as Gotham City is to New York City."  As the black-cloaked character called The Pin (for kingpin), Haas, both an actor and musician, relished the language of the script. Johnson had the actors watch some old movies, such as Casablanca. "A lot of the dialogue was very lyrical and he wanted us to listen to the musicality of the intonations they used back in the old days. It really did help to form our characters and the way we worked together. It was an interesting sort of experiment, not like anything I've ever done."

Johnson was mimicking the detective genre. "The dialogue is all about information," he says. He didn't expect viewers to understand every line and has been pleasantly surprised by the approving word of mouth from younger audiences who couldn't be expected to pick up the references to film noir.  Brick was shot in 20 days and made for about $500,000 (U.S.). But it took six years to get the project into production. Johnson eventually went to family and friends for the financing. By the time the cameras were rolling, he says dryly, "we were very prepared."  Haas, who lacks any of the sinister qualities he projects as The Pin, was one of the last to join the cast. Like the others, he took the role out of love of the script, uncertain that it would ever see commercial release.  "Only actors who really got the material and were really willing to throw their souls into the movie turned up," says Johnson of the casting process. As for future projects, he's sticking to his independent instincts.  "My goal is to stay relatively small," he declares, with a bit of self-mockery.  "This isn't the type of movie that someone in Hollywood sees and says `We got to get that kid.'"

Ne-Yo Tries Acting In Urban Dance Film

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Apr. 7, 2006)
He's got a No. 1 album, In My Own Words, and roles in two upcoming films, but R&B sensation Ne-Yo (nicknamed after the Matrix films character) wants you to know there's more to him than intricate dance moves and sexy abs. The 23-year-old Arkansas native, born Shaffer C. Smith, previously penned songs for Mary J. Blige and Mario ("Let Me Love You"). The Star caught up with him by phone from the Atlanta set of Stompin', an urban dance film co-starring Meagan Good and newcomer Columbus Short, on the eve of tonight's show at The Docks.

I didn't know you could act.

"It was a shock to me as well."

When did you realize you could?

"When I got here. I met Columbus, the star of the movie, on the set of Save the Last Dance 2 that I had a really small cameo role in. They first asked me to contribute to the soundtrack of that film, but then they saw one of my shows — I have elements of drama in it — and after asked if I'd ever acted before. I said no and they said if I wanted to try they'd write me a role in the film. So they wrote me a small part. I had five little quick lines; I play a character named Mix who owns the club that everybody comes to dance at. Then when Columbus was approached about doing this movie he said my name to them. I auditioned and they dug me, so here I am."

What kind of role is it?

"I play the best friend of the main character. The story is based around black fraternities in Atlanta. They have a style of dance that they do called stepping. The choreographer is Dave Scott who is responsible for all the dance routines in the movie You Got Served."

Dancing is a pretty crucial component of your genre. Can you hold your own against artists like Chris Brown Usher and Omarion?

"Absolutely! The only reason I didn't come out doing a whole lot of dancing for this first single was because I didn't want the attention to be taken off the lyrics and the melody by a slick dance move. You'll watch a video and there's all kinds of crazy dancing in it and you'll go, `Oh, wow, that's great; what was the song about?' It was very important to me to let it be known to the people that I'm a songwriter — even before I'm a singer. But I can dance and as time progresses you'll see me get out there and do some routines. Right now I just get on stage and tell a story."

When you're writing a song, is it melody first or lyrics first?

"Melody, melody, melody, then I shape the lyrics.''

Do the singers you write for give you guidelines?

"Every situation is different. Sometimes the artist will approach me and say, `Write me a song' and not really give me any guidelines. In other instances, like with Faith Evans, she was very hands-on. She wanted to be there during the writing process just to make sure the topic I was writing about was something that she wanted to sing about, or that the lyrics I was using was something she would say."

It must be tempting now to hoard all the good songs for yourself.

"If someone comes to me requesting a song and I write a song with them in mind and it turns out to be a smash (it's) their smash. But if I'm writing just to write and I come up with a smash then of course that's one I'm going to put on the backburner for myself."

Did you anticipate In My Own Words' No. 1 debut?

"I tend to set very realistic goals for myself. My whole thing was if I could get in the Top 20, that was cool. And then when they told me it was No. 1, I was pleasantly surprised."

You've said "So Sick" is about an old girlfriend; does she know that?

"I think she knows, because I say a lot of specific stuff in that song ... but she hasn't gone as far as to try to contact me about it."

What's the next single?

"When You're Mad." We just shot the video. That's another true story about a relationship I was in — different girl. This girl had this face that she would make when she was upset with me, which was just the sexiest thing I'd ever seen in my life."

A sexy angry face?

"Not really angry, just kind of aggravated when I would do little stuff that would upset her. That was one of (my) relationships that stood out ... so I wrote a song about it and it came out pretty darn cool."

What's the Def Jam experience been like?

"The cool thing about (label chair) L.A. Reid and (president) Jay-Z is that they allowed me to do what I wanted to do on this record. They would give their expertise, criticisms ... but for the most part they left me alone."

What's been the best part so far — the No. 1 album, the fans travelling around the world?

"All that. I just love that I'm able to do what I love to do. This is like playing video games — I get paid to play video games! This is fun to me."

You enjoy being interviewed too?

I hear different cats complaining about that and I'm like, `Man, you could be somewhere lifting boxes right now. This ain't work, this is leisure. You get to sit and talk about yourself for hours, all day long. What's hard about that?' You'll never ever hear me complain, because I know what I could be doing."

A Big ‘Phat’ Dose Of Mo’nique

Excerpt from

(April 7, 2006) Sixty percent of the women in this country look like me, so imagine,” comedian
Mo’Nique says of her new film “Phat Girlz,” this is our story.” Fox Searchlight slips the comedy into theaters today after refusing to screen it for film critics. The strategic move is usually a sign that the studio has little-to-no faith in any of the reviews being positive. Their action could also serve as a metaphor for the low expectations of women in general who carry around extra weight.  “I think that fat women have more trouble in everything, because we live in a society that says we should have trouble,” says Mo’Nique, who stars in the film as one of a crew of plus-sized friends searching for love and acceptance in a culture that prefers women be thin.   “I thought [the script] was brilliant because it tells a true story,” she says. “It hits it on the nail what our walk is. Often times, Hollywood was afraid of that story, because we don’t like to look at what we’re really doing. We often do a fat girl character and we make fun of her so bad, that when she walks out of that theater, she’s sick in her stomach.  When [fat girls] walk away, even when we’re out in that theater lobby, people are still pointing, saying, ‘Look at her. She's getting some popcorn and she's getting some extra butter. She’s getting snickers.’ This story will make people walk away saying, ‘Let me treat them a little nicer when I go to work Monday morning, because I didn’t know we were doing that kind of damage.’”  Mo’Nique and her phat girlz in the film – Joyful M’Chelle Drake and Kendra C. Johnson – are thrown for a loop when they meet men from an African culture that celebrates a woman’s thickness – the thicker, the better.

Mo’Nique’s own blinding self-confidence is rooted in similar unconditional acceptance experienced from her family throughout her entire 39 years.   “I have a very strong mom and dad,” she explains. “If I said, ‘Mommy, I wanna be a modern dancer,’ she’d be like, ‘Okay, let’s go get you the stuff.’ Or ‘Mommy, I wanna be a cheerleader.’ She’d say, ‘Okay, let me help you with your tryouts.’ I mean, they never told me no because I was fat. And my grandmother Minnie, who still thinks I’m a virgin - I just had twins. How is that possible? – she believes that I’m just her angel. And even to this day when I see her, she says, ‘You’re just the prettiest child.’ I had a really solid foundation.” Armed with that foundation, Mo’Nique was always ready, willing and able to shut down any hater's attempt to use the extra pounds as a weapon against her.   “I was never one to tolerate you trying to hurt my feelings,” she laughs. “I just wasn’t that girl. They knew, don’t bring that to me. I used to wanna be a fighter, but then I was like, ‘Okay, I’m fat. Now what?’”  Mo’Nique says she quickly figured out how to throw psychology at her tormenters by agreeing with their taunts.   “It would kill them to take the power from them,” she said. “[I’d say] ‘You’re right, I’m fat. Now what? You have nothing else to say.’ That got to be my mentality as a teenager. As a little kid, you could call me fat in the sandbox if you wanted to. You gonna get a fat-ass whuppin. It was like saying nig**r.”  (Story continues below photo.) The Baltimore native is careful not to suggest that toting around excess weight is the healthiest way to live.

“You know what I like to tell people? Dedicate one hour to yourself everyday for your health,” she says. “Go for a walk, go jogging, go to the gym, put on some music and dance, do jumping jacks.”  Any physical activity, she says, is better than going under the knife for plastic surgery.   “I’m not saying go out there and let them cut on you, and nip you and tuck you. That is the most violent thing I’ve ever seen,” she says. “I’ve seen somebody get liposuction. That’s violent. And that’s so unnatural, and no one’s saying that. They’re saying, come on, it’s the hottest fad. They’re not telling you how many people are dying. All they’re saying is, ‘Look at how she turned out.’ But they’re not saying, ‘She had to go back for 20 surgeries,’ and ‘oops, we’re sorry about the 21st surgery, she didn’t make it.’   “So in reference to your health, just start going for walks. If they tell you you have high blood pressure, you have sugar diabetes, okay. What can I do to make this better? You have to eat in moderation? Okay. You have to start exercising? Okay. Should I start hating myself? No. Will I die if I start doing these things? No. Will I die if you suck something out of me? It’s a possibility.” For MORE, visit:

Heroic Measures - That's What It Took To Get Sidekick Made

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Murray Whyte, Entertainment Reporter

(Apr. 8, 2006) In 2003,
Michael Sparaga applied to Telefilm Canada for a screenwriting grant. He was turned down.  The end? Hardly. It was just the beginning.  "That was the best thing that could have happened " Sparaga says, speaking almost too quickly to draw breaths. "I could have gotten caught in the stream. This way, I was just going to make my movie — and that's it."  It may seem a little odd for a Canadian filmmaker — a perpetually cash-strapped lot — to be glad of a further lack of funds. But Sparaga, whose loquaciousness is matched only by his tenacity, isn't exactly the norm. And neither is the story of how his film, Sidekick, a proudly low-budget twist on the convention of the superhero movie, fought its way out of the evil clutches of obscurity and into the light.  Which means, of course, that Sparaga did manage to make it — he's touring coast to coast with the lone print of Sidekick literally tucked under his arm from now until May 1; he brings it home to Toronto next Saturday at the Royal Cinema — but that's hardly been, as he says, it.  A rough early cut of the film, in the fall of 2004, precipitated a curious offer. Sparaga had sent the cut to Focus Features, the production company behind Brokeback Mountain, in September of that year. Two months later, Focus called. They wanted to buy it. Not to release it, exactly. Rather, to remake it. Completely. Put your film in a drawer, Michael, they said. Pretend it didn't happen. We'll take it from here. Here's your cheque.  It didn't quite work out that way. Focus still holds the rights to remake it, but Sparaga negotiated down — yes, down — reducing his take by less than half, just so he could do exactly what he's doing now: Take Sidekick across the country, into theatres and in front of audiences, by any means possible.  "I walked away from the table. I couldn't give it up like that. I just couldn't " Sparaga says. "I'm not in this for the cash. I'd take a deal that was almost financially against me, just to have it in theatres. I want to tell stories. And I believe in this one."

Weighing in at a lean $35 000 — and no, there are no missing zeroes — Sidekick is, of all things, a low-fi super-flick in an era of multimillion-dollar, effects-driven hero blockbusters.  Or, to be more precise, Sidekick is a movie about a comic book-obsessed loner who uncovers a means to make his fantasies into reality. And as the title might suggest, no, he's not The Hero; the rest you'll have to see for yourself.  Sidekick is also the strangest of animals in Canada: the privately financed film. Most, if not all films in this country come across some kind of public money windfall at some point in their development, or they don't get made. But that wasn't going to stop Sparaga.  His main investor? Visa. "I had about $15 000 on my credit cards, and that was essentially all the money we had to do it " he said. "I started paying one credit card off with another. Then they raised my limits. By the end, I had about $35 000 in credit, so that ended up being the budget."  Riding a heavy debt, Sparaga started calling in favours. It proved to be one of his greatest talents: From old classmates at York to William F. White, who provided grip and gaffer work for free, to Pizza Pizza, which provided on-set nourishment, Sparaga became an expert at beating the bushes to see what would tumble out. He even managed to secure some C-list Hollywood talent — a minor Baldwin, no less: Daniel.  "I'll make 3 000 phone calls to get one `yes '" Sparaga says. "But that one `yes' is saving us money."  His credit cards maxed, Sparaga held a fundraising screening last June; it was to raise money for colour correction an essential process that restores light balance lost when shooting on video. Problem: He couldn't screen the film until it was colour-corrected. No colour correction,, no fundraiser; no fundraiser,, no colour correction.

Sparaga has learned to be convincing. He promised Technicolor he'd pay up after he'd raised the money. Miraculously, they relented. "Normally, they don't let anything off the property that hasn't been paid for " he said. "I got lucky."  Luckier still, the fundraiser covered costs — and then some. Out of nowhere, Sparaga managed to fill the Isabel Bader Theatre at the University of Toronto.  Rule 1 of the Sparaga school of independent film marketing: Know your audience: "It was all the comic book guys that were buying the tickets " he says. "I realized we have a captive audience of guys who don't do anything but hang out in comic book stores, and then, when they go home, they hang out on the web. It was perfect."  As it toured a handful of small festivals that fall, Sparaga got a taste of what was to come: Nerd-filled theatres, gratefully lapping up his bargain offering.  When he embarked on this tour, it wasn't hard to figure out where to focus his admittedly sparse promotional budget.  "We talked to owners and managers of comic book stores all across the country, to help get the word out " he said. "Telefilm asked if I had a publicist; I said I'm my own publicist. I'll call as many people as I need to, anywhere, to get the word out on this."  So far, so good. A pair of screenings at the Varsity last month, as part of the Canadian Filmmakers Festival, played to packed theatres. A website slicker than the film's modest provenance would suggest has helped steer Sparaga's chosen demographic theatreward. Any money he's garnered has gone right back into the film, namely, a small grant he managed to coax from Telefilm in the fall for "alternative distribution."  It was enough — just — to transfer Sidekick from video to 35-mm film, thereby making it playable at theatres coast to coast.  The rest is, by now, second nature: Sponsorship deals with Delta Hotels so Sparaga and his entourage could stay for a discount or free in most cities; and, of course, a mountain of credit card debt.  "We need the box office every day, literally, to live on, just to get from city to city " he says.  It's the kind of lean living to which Sparaga has become accustomed. Would he trade it for a big-dollar remake — and the commensurate payout — to sit quietly in the background, like Focus had wanted? Not a chance.  "There have been moments, like standing up in front of an audience at the Varsity, to huge applause, where you truly feel like this is your movie " he says.


Atom's Sweet Afterlife

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Rob Howatson

(Apr. 7, 2006) Some Canadian directors head south to play the Hollywood game (eg., Paul Haggis with Crash), while others "lala" on their home turf (David Cronenberg with the Indiana-set, Toronto-shot A History of Violence).  But only Atom Egoyan (Exotica, Where the Truth Lies) managed to squeeze a couple of Oscar nods out of the academy for a distinctly Canadian feature. The Victoria-raised, Toronto-based auteur did it nine years ago with The Sweet Hereafter. Although he lost best director to James Cameron (Titanic) and best adapted screenplay to Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential), the film marked a watershed point in Egoyan's career and confirmed him as a world-class filmmaker. On Thursday, his movie returns under the monthly banner of the Canadian Classics series for a one-night screening at the Vancity Theatre, here in the province where its wintry exteriors were shot.  The Sweet Hereafter is laudable for its unsentimental examination of a rural town that mourns the loss of its children in the wake of a school-bus accident. Egoyan savagely reworks the Russell Banks novel of the same name.  He transplants the setting from upstate New York to Merritt, B.C. (without ever naming the Coquihalla rest stop). He jettisons the book's demo-derby climax and weaves in a Pied Piper conceit. The narrative is Atomized -- Egoyan's signature style of telling stories through non-linear fragments.  Sarah Polley sings the Tragically Hip song Courage. And somehow the changes work; the finished product retains the book's sardonic yet compassionate spirit. Actor Gabrielle Rose makes a guest appearance at a screening of The Sweet Hereafter on April 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St., 604-683-3456.

Casablanca Tops Writers Guild Top-Screenplay List

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Apr. 7, 2006)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Casablanca and a pair of Godfathers are among the 101 greatest screenplays ever, according to members of the Writers Guild of America.  Film and television writers ranked the screenplays in the guild's first best-of list (, released Thursday.  The screenplay for 1942's Casablanca, by Julius Epstein, Philip Epstein and Howard Koch, was chosen from more than 1 400 nominated works.  Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Billy Wilder each have four screenplays on the list. Charlie Kaufman, William Goldman and John Huston earned three mentions each.  The guild's picks for the top 10 screenplays:

1. Casablanca.
2. The Godfather.
3. Chinatown.
4. Citizen Kane.
5. All About Eve.
6. Annie Hall.
7. Sunset Boulevard.
8. Network.
9. Some Like It Hot.
10. The Godfather II.

Chuck Berry Film Bolstered With Extras

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Apr. 11, 2006)
As tipped here in January, Image Entertainment is prepping a June 27 DVD release for "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll," the Chuck Berry movie masterminded by the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards. Originally released in 1987, the film chronicles Berry's 60th birthday concert the previous year in St. Louis.  "Hail! Hail!" will be issued as a two-disc "Special Edition" and a four-disc "Ultimate Edition." Both include 54 minutes of previously unreleased Berry rehearsals, encompassing performances with Richards, Eric Clapton, Johnnie Johnson and Etta James. The one-hour documentary "The Reluctant Movie Star" is also included on both versions, detailing the film's genesis.  The four-disc set is bolstered with "Witness to History," an hour-plus roundtable with Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley discussing their shared experiences for the first time. Other featurettes include "The Burnt Scrapbook," with Berry and the Band's Robbie Robertson sifting through Berry's personal memorabilia, and "Chuckisms," a roundup of classic Berry sayings.  The final disc of the "Ultimate Edition" is "Witness to History 2," featuring director Taylor Hackford's three-and-a-half hour collection of interviews rock icons such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Sam Phillips, Ahmet Ertegun and Willie Dixon.

Belafonte Turns Cameras On Himself

Excerpt from

(April 12, 2006) *Harry Belafonte was in Jamaica last weekend finalizing arrangements to bring film cameras into town to shoot a documentary about his life.   "We started filming a year ago," Belafonte told the Jamaican Observer. "I will be back in Jamaica in the latter part of this year to shoot footage on my childhood days." Belafonte, 79, was born in New York to Jamaican parents. He and his family returned to the island when he was a year old. He would spend the next 11 years there before returning to the U.S. at age 12. The documentary will include footage of Belafonte visiting his childhood home in Brown's Town, St Ann and many of the other places that hold significance for him.  "I will just be going to where I grew up; some of the houses I grew up in, Wolmer's school, the Half-Way-Tree school and the Morris Knibb school," he told the Observer. Known for such tunes as “Banana Boat Song,” “Matilda” and “Island In The Sun,” Belafonte said he was producing the as-yet-untitled documentary, planned as a 12-hour mini-series. He has already fielded offers of interest from the BBC and HBO for distribution rights.

'Sisters in Law': Abuse of African Females Focus of Feminist Documentary

Excerpt from – By Kam Williams

(April 12, 2006) *Prosecutor Vera Ngassa and Judge Beatrice Ntuba are determined to bring rapists, wife beaters and child abusers to justice. What is remarkable about their mission is that they are members of a mostly Muslim community in Cameroon’s city of Kumba, a place where women are considered second-class citizens. Thus, the frightened victims of a variety of abuses find themselves under intense pressure to remain silent.  Sisters in Law chronicles the valiant efforts of these two intrepid black women to coax incriminating testimony out of reluctant witnesses in order to put some pretty sick felons behind bars. With a camera rolling right in the courtroom, we get to see some fairly heartbreaking cases, such as the one involving a sexual assault on a young virgin by a neighbour who claims that the sex was consensual and that she was a prostitute. Although the 25 year-old creep gives the prepubescent adolescent intimidating stares, she bravely recounts how he bound and gagged her before raping her repeatedly. Fortunately, Judge Ntuba is not swayed by his obvious lies, and she orders him shipped off to the penitentiary summarily.  Another case involves a badly battered housewife who helps set a precedent by making her husband the first person in town to be incarcerated for spousal abuse in over 17 years.  Generating a range of emotions from compassion to outrage to satisfaction, Sisters in Law packs a powerful punch by exposing the evils of a patriarchal culture inclined to look the other way whenever men oppress women. A first-rate female empowerment flick.


The View's Vieira To Succeed Couric At Today

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - David Bauder, Associated Press

(Apr. 6, 2006) NEW YORK — Already flashing signs of an easy rapport with Matt Lauer four months after their first "blind date,"
Meredith Vieira was introduced Thursday as his new Today show partner.  NBC moved swiftly to get Vieira, 52, in place one day after Katie Couric announced she was taking a job as CBS Evening News anchor. It's the first on-air personnel change in a decade on television's dominant morning program.  Vieira has spent the last nine years on the daytime chat show The View but also has an extensive news background, including a stint on 60 Minutes.  "If you were building a morning show host from scratch, she would be the prototype," said Jeff Zucker, CEO of the NBC Universal Television Group. "She has the perfect combination of news background and talk background. She's got intelligence, grace, humour and those are the qualities you look for when you're trying to fill this role."  Zucker began his courtship of Vieira last October, when he called and asked to give her a ride from The View studio to where she was taping shows as host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. It's normally a three-minute ride on Manhattan's upper West Side.  Zucker showed up in a black SUV with tinted windows. Aware that Couric was considering leaving, he asked Vieira to think about whether she wanted to get into morning television. 

She met Lauer at his apartment for dinner in December. "It was like going out on a blind date and finding out you really like the guy," she said.  With chemistry as important as ability on morning TV, Lauer and Vieira tried to display it at Thursday's news conference announcing their pairing, which will begin in September. He flashed mock anger when Vieira interrupted one of his stories.  "Can I tell the story?" he said. "Is this going to happen? I've been going through 10 years of this."  Vieira said she expects to leave The View at the end of next month.  NBC chose Vieira over several internal candidates, including weekend Today anchor Campbell Brown, newswoman Natalie Morales and Today newsreader Ann Curry. Brown and Morales had subbed for Couric on Today while she was on vacation at the end of last month.

Meredith Vieira Selected As Couric's Successor

Source:  Associated Press

(Apr. 6, 2006) New York — A day after Katie Couric announced she was leaving for CBS, NBC has chosen Meredith Vieira as Matt Lauer's new partner on the "Today" show. NBC chose Vieira over several internal candidates, including weekend "Today" anchor Campbell Brown, newswoman Natalie Morales and "Today" newsreader Ann Curry. Brown and Morales had subbed for Couric on "Today" while she was on vacation at the end of last month. "Meredith's vast experience as an award-winning journalist, as well as talk show host, make her the ideal candidate for this job," said Jeff Zucker, CEO of the NBC Universal Television Group. Vieira told her audience on "The View" Thursday about her decision. "I'm thrilled, I'm really thrilled," she said. "You would love these people." With her background as a former "60 Minutes" correspondent and co-host on "The View," Vieira's experience matches a morning show host's need to do serious news and interview Hollywood celebrities and do cooking segments. Vieira has also won a Daytime Emmy award for her job as host of the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." She's expected to join Lauer on "Today" in September. It will be the first anchor change on morning television's top-rated program since 1997. "Meredith is a real pro, and I think it speaks volumes that NBC has brought her here to 'Today,"' Lauer said. "I have been her fan for years and I can't wait to be her partner. She has the perfect background and personality to make a real mark on this show and in morning news in general. I'm thrilled to welcome her aboard." Couric announced Wednesday, her 15th anniversary on "Today," that she was leaving next month to join CBS. She'll become anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News" in September. Vieira had been reluctant in the past to move back to news, despite other offers, for family reasons. But "Today" gives her the chance to join a broadcast that has led in the ratings more than 10 years in a row.

"I believe in growth, but right now I'm feeling terrific growing pains," Vieira said, fighting back tears. She made the announcement while sitting next to Barbara Walters, a former "Today" personality herself and creator of "The View." Walters said "The View" would continue with the same format. "This is a very sad day for us but a very happy day," Walters said. "I know this is a wonderful new chapter for you." If Couric is to make her dawn-to-dusk move a success, she'll need more people like Amy Lindgren. "I really love her," said Lindgren, a 27-year-old mother of two from Denmark, Maine. "I watch ABC now, but I'd rather watch Katie than the person doing the evening news (at ABC) now. She's outgoing, she's energetic and she seems to relate to the people nicely." Lindgren is among the 29 per cent of people responding to an Associated Press-TV Guide poll this week who said they preferred Couric in the evening. Forty-nine per cent of the people said they favoured Couric in the morning. Despite the public's initial wariness, the poll suggests Couric has a chance to catch on at night, or at least lift the CBS broadcast from third place behind NBC's "Nightly News" and ABC's "World News Tonight." About half of the respondents said they'd be willing to give Couric a try in the evening. One is Dian Miller of Shepherdsville, Ky., who is a loyal CBS viewer. "I like hearing Bob Schieffer," she said. "I liked Dan Rather, but I think a change is in order. I think it will be a lot better for other women coming up." During a time of transition in television news, Couric at least has a chance of making an impression. Brian Williams, who with only a year in the job at NBC's "Nightly News" is the longest-tenured evening news anchor, was judged most popular in a list of nine TV news personalities that also included Schieffer and Elizabeth Vargas of "World News Tonight."

That's the good news for Williams. The bad news is he was named by only 6 per cent of the respondents. More than two-thirds didn't list a favourite. Paul Wendel, a 30-year-old accountant from Newtown, Pa., said he associates the evening news with a sombre, older person. "It doesn't mean she couldn't do a good job," he said, "but it isn't a person I would associate with the evening news." Only veteran broadcaster Diane Sawyer of ABC's "Good Morning America" received higher marks than Couric, with more than seven in 10 viewing her favourably. Unfortunately for Couric, she also had 12 per cent of the people who flat-out didn't like her, higher than for any of the news personalities tested. "I don't like her phoney perkiness," said Desiree Dillon, a writer from Benicia, Calif. "I find her to be rather patronizing. Some of her guests she just talks down to, and she wears her opinions on her sleeve." The AP-TV Guide poll of 615 adults was conducted by Ipsos on Monday and Tuesday. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Six in 10 women said they would watch Couric in the evenings, compared with 38 per cent of men. "She kind of bugs me," said Ethelene Fortner of Tulsa, Okla. "I watched Bob Schieffer. He wasn't cocky and a know-it-all like most of them are." Couric turned down an offer of about $20 million a year to stay at NBC in order to take CBS' five-year deal at near her current salary of about $15 million, according to people close to negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because networks do not speak publicly about salaries. She's also agreed to do "60 Minutes" stories and prime-time specials for CBS.

Log On: It's Time For Your Favourite TV Show

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Shawn McCarthy

(Apr. 11, 2006) NEW YORK — Walt Disney Co.'s ABC network is further loosening the shackles of the prime-time schedule, saying yesterday it will offer U.S. viewers four of its most popular shows any time through free Web streaming. The two-month trial comes as the networks look for new distribution channels to offset the erosion of the prime-time audience, which has fragmented in a world of cable, digital video recorders, other on-demand services, and games. Disney-ABC Television Group, which had followed a more conservative strategy under former chief executive officer Michael Eisner, is now leading the charge into digital distribution under current CEO Robert Iger. Viewers will be able to pause, fast forward or rewind the shows. But they cannot skip the commercials, a sign ABC is not entirely abandoning the traditional TV model. Analyst Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research Inc. said the advertising-based service stands to transform the television industry, providing a profitable, Web-based way to expand audiences beyond the regular TV schedule. "The prime-time audience has been eroding for quite a while and this is just the networks reacting to the fact that their audiences are declining," Mr. Bernoff said. "But what's happening is an evolution, not a revolution. There are still going to be people watching prime-time TV for quite a while." Viewers have increasingly been able to choose their own time slots for their favourite shows, through the use of video recording devices and pirated downloads. Now, ABC will provide its own custom-viewing plan -- at least for its most popular shows -- and by doing so, blazing a trail that the other networks will have to follow.

"ABC's move will lock in loyal viewers, generate revenues, broaden relationships with advertisers and turn its website into a high-traffic destination. As of this moment, CBS, Fox and NBC are behind." Disney-ABC Television Group said yesterday that, from May 1 until July 1, current episodes of Lost, Desperate Housewives, Commander in Chief and Alias will be available free for viewing on-line, but not downloading. Major advertisers for the trial include AT&T Corp., Ford Motor Co., Procter & Gamble Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and, of course, Walt Disney Pictures. The streaming will be blocked in foreign markets, including Canada, to protect foreign broadcasting rights. Disney-ABC president Anne Sweeney acknowledged that the move onto the Internet represented a "learning experience" for the company, its advertisers and its affiliates, which worry that the network could undermine the value of the prime-time schedule. But Ms. Sweeney said no company can survive with a single-minded business model. She suggested that the content providers, rather than the distributors like cable companies and telephone companies, will drive the consumer's use of the Internet. "In the future, consumers will rely more and more on strong brands to help them navigate the digital world, and we have some of the strongest brands in entertainment," she said. "Our digital media efforts will help us strengthen our connection with our consumers. Stay tuned, because this is just the beginning." Disney-ABC has moved aggressively into the Internet space since Mr. Iger took the helm last year. Soon after he became CEO, Disney inked a deal with Apple Computer Inc. to distribute five of its television shows and movies, commercial-free, through Apple's iTunes technology for a fee. The company recently announced that full episodes of popular kids' programs such as That's So Raven and Kim Possible will be available for free streaming from its websites.

Other networks are also experimenting with Internet streaming. CBS Corp. last month offered free-streamed versions of the "March Madness" college basketball tournament, and declared the venture a success. Analysts expect more viewers would tune in to Internet versions of such shows rather than pay additional fees to download the programs to their iPods or view on-demand. "The ones most threatened are local [television] stations and then the cable operators," said Brad Adgate, senior vice-president of research at media buyer Horizon Media. "How much opportunity is there for local retailers to advertise?" Deborah McDermott, president of Young Broadcasting Inc., which owns five local ABC affiliates, said her company has consulted with the network on its Internet strategy and wants to ensure it does nothing to devalue its prime-time schedule. "We're in a multiplatform world; we're all adjusting and looking for opportunities in a multiplatform world," Ms. McDermott said. "And we will work with ABC to move down that road. "But we'll always put pressure on the network if we see erosion in prime time. The primary focus of our business is really the traditional airing of something and we'll be watching for any of that erosion." She said local affiliates all have their own Internet strategies, but see them as complementary to, rather than a replacement for, the prime-time schedule.

Beyond Black And White

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon

(Apr. 10, 2006)
Black.White. Could use a bit more grey.  The controversial series, which premiered last month in the U.S. (FX) and made its Canadian debut last night (Sun TV), is inspired by one of popular culture's timeless subjects: racial identity.  The Crash-worthy premise: For six weeks last summer, a black family (Brian Sparks, wife Renee and son Nick) resided with a white family (Carmen Wurgel, her daughter Rose and partner Bruno Marcotelli) in Tarzana, a Los Angeles suburb.  They laughed. They bickered. They ate together. They discussed their lives. Oh yes, they were transformed by a crew of Hollywood makeup specialists in what might be called Extreme Makeover: Skin Colour Edition or Trading Races.  Make no mistake. Thanks to the wizardry of lead artist Keith Vanderlaan — who used prosthetics, dyes, wigs, extensions and chemical potions — the before-and-afters make for an impressive spectacle.  As Renee exclaimed: "Damn, I'm white!" But now what? From this moment of transformation when Black.White. successfully executes its overarching visual gimmick, executive producers R.J. Cutler, Ice Cube and Matt Alavarez are at a fork in the creative road.  If they veer one way and pursue docu-sociology, they follow in the shadow of John Howard Griffin. In 1961, he published the seminal Black Like Me, a first-person account of his distressing experiences in the segregated South while masquerading as an African American.  If they veer the other way, chasing down White Chicks-style entertainment, they risk creating a show that's culturally indistinguishable from recent role-swapping TV fare — from the domestic (Trading Spouses), to the socioeconomic (The Simple Life), to lifestyle (30 Days), to professional fantasy (Dancing With The Stars).  To complicate matters, there is a potential pitfall lurking along both paths: death by self-inflicted stereotype.  When producers want Rose to experience life as a "black girl," why do they send her to an instructional workshop for slam poetry? When Nick is turned into a white teen, why is he promptly enrolled in a Beverly Hills etiquette class? Aren't the underlying messages in these contrived situations, ahem, a bit racist? The stereotyping abounds: Carmen asks if she should talk "jive" or "high-five" people when she's in her black makeup; Bruno practises his "black walk." In her blond wig, Renee tells an all-white focus group she enjoys "shopping;" Brian says he must learn to "speak white."

The show attempts to penetrate the invisible walls of polite society. It hopes to posit some grand commentary on bias and equality. But it stumbles, ironically, because of the participants' own slanted views and dime-store ignorance.  Brian is amazed by the genial conversations he has with golfers at a country club when he poses as a white man. His wonder continues at a pro shop when an obliging salesman helps him try on new shoes.  "I've never had anyone actually unlace it, open it, shoe-horn the back and slide my foot into the shoe," he tells the cameras.  While it would be folly to draw broad conclusions from one person's experiences, the most interesting aspect of watching "white Brian" was observing his behavioural changes, not those of others. As a white man, Brian was relaxed and cordial. When he appeared on camera in his real skin, he seemed defensive, angry, resentful and suspicious.  I don't want to be accused of blaming the victim. However, isn't it possible the prejudice Brian ascribes to many social encounters is either, a) an illusion predicated upon his own false expectations or, b) the result of some self-fulfilling prophecy carved by the very large chip on his shoulder?  In contrast, Bruno didn't experience racism in the premiere: "I'm finding that I'm treated exactly the same whether I'm black or whether I'm white."  Bruno happens to believe this has something to do with his personal philosophy: "You get out of life what you put into it," and "I don't get suspicion because I'm not looking for it."  This attitude not only infuriated Brian, it drew venom from some American commentators who called Bruno a "sanctimonious jackass" (Washington Post), "the show's most incendiary figure" (New York Times) and an "awful creature" (Los Angeles Times).  I don't know. To be perfectly honest, I often found myself agreeing with what Bruno had to say, if not with the way he said it. This doesn't mean that racism doesn't exist, an assertion that's glibly idiotic. But maybe this isn't a binary proposition. Maybe there's some truth in what Bruno ("You see what you want to see") and Brian ("And you don't see what you don't want to see") say about each other.  I could bore you with several more paragraphs about how "race" is scientifically meaningless. I could encourage you to read The Mismeasure of Man or Man's Most Dangerous Myth or Race Is A Four Letter Word. This would be a waste of time. Because the real lesson in Black.White. is one that's immune to argument: perception is reality.

Gerry Garvin: Turning Up the Heat

Excerpt from - By Deardra Shuler

(Apr. 11, 2006)  Gerry Garvin discussed his TV series, “Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin,” after doing a taping in observation of Black History Month at the Cellar in Macys. Garvin’s show airs on TV One, the lifestyle, and entertainment cable network for African American adults. The on-air chef, who generally tapes his show in California, has whipped up gastronomic delights for Hollywood types and luminaries such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
“My cooking show is in its third season.  It’s informative and for me, it’s a lot of fun.  I share recipes I’ve created with people who love to cook and are learning to cook.  My style of food is universal.  I can provide whatever a person’s palate requires: Italian, French, American, Southern cuisine, whatever.  On the show, I try to showcase a range of menus.  I will be in the studio July 3rd until July 18th knocking out about 2 or 3 shows a day.  For example, I’ll prepare a white roast potato and crab bisque or a roasted red bell pepper and yellow bell pepper bisque with saffron.  The average meal can be done in 35 to 40 minutes or less,” stated the Atlanta native.
“My mother and grandmother taught me to cook at an early age.  I had very bad eyesight as a kid so I missed a lot of school. I would go to my mother’s job where I cut and peeled vegetables.” Garvin recalled.  “I was 5 then.  By 18, I really had cooking down.  My mother taught me the discipline of cooking. I learned ingredients, preparation, and presentation.  When I started cooking as a kid it was just a way of making extra money but then I learned to love it.  I am from a working class family and I guess you could say I grew up in the Atlanta Ghetto.  It wasn’t ‘Ghetto’ in the sense that it was improper or bad, it was simply where we were.  People think the Ghetto is where you live so that makes you poor. The Ghetto is not about where you live, but rather the things you see around the neighbourhood.  It’s the walk from home to the bus stop and everything in between that makes it the Ghetto.  But there was a lot of love and discipline there.  Varied avenues present themselves such as sports, music, or a life of crime,” explained Gerry.  “Cooking forced me in a different direction.  I began to realize there weren’t a lot of African Americans in the culinary world at that time, so I decided I really wanted to be good at cooking.”
Garvin went on the road to hone his culinary skills.  He traveled around the U.S.A. and went to Europe, where he worked in kitchens in Paris, London, Hamburg, Germany, and Warsaw, Poland.  He read, listened, and received the core of his training with French chefs such as Pastry Chef Jacques Torres, once the executive pastry chef at Le Cirque, but presently co-owner of Jacques Torres Chocolates in Brooklyn.  “I learned how to bake cookies from Torres at the Ritz Carlton in Palm Springs.  I also apprenticed with Chef Jean Paul Harechabache, a French-Vietnamese, who taught me about cooking fish.  I worked at Laguna Niguel and The Ritz Carlton in Atlanta and in Palm Springs. I became the executive chef at the Italian restaurant, Veni, Vidi, Vici before relocating to Los Angeles where I became the executive chef at Morton’s, the original Hollywood Steakhouse.  I eventually moved onto Kass Bah, a little bistro that served a California/Italian faire. After that I became the executive chef at Reign where I earned a bigger salary and favourable reviews” said Gerry of his climb to gastronomic fame.  Gerry eventually opened his own restaurant G. Garvins in L.A. in 2001 which is presently in the final stages of escrow.  Television presented itself through TV One and three months after talking to the top brass Turning Up the Heat with G. Garvin became a reality.
Garvin enjoys making pastries but seafood is his special passion.  “Food is exciting around the world with many wonderful ways to prepare it. I think Italians are truly authentic in how they cook.  They squeeeeeze an olive!  There are 7 different versions of olive oil in Italy.  But the French believe they are the best, so technique-wise I have to give it to the French.   I also think the Americans are underrated.  There are some great chefs in America.  Americans can provide excellent regional foods cooked in a variety of delicious styles.” 
“I try to cook healthy.  I will use butter but I won’t use pork fats.  I use a lot of fresh ingredients.  I bake, boil, broil, and occasionally fry.  I try to make food look attractive.  The look is as important as the taste,” explained Garvin of his presentation.  “I may start to highlight, individuals, various restaurants and bakeries on my show.  I am planning a show with firefighters and some of the boys and girls in blue.  Though we’ve taped in LA primarily, this upcoming season we are planning to tape on the east coast in New York, Chicago, and Atlanta.”  Garvin has a learning DVD series in the works called “Real Time Cooking with G. Garvin.”  The DVDs are paired with wine choices and appetizers, eventually the DVDs will feature desserts. Its more about menu than meal,” stressed Garvin about the DVDs.
Single, with a two year old daughter, Garvin finds a way to make it all work. “I’m working on my first cookbook, I travel. I interview. I am in the studio. It takes commitment to do all I do,” says the creative epicurean.  “I believe in God first and family, exercise, and doing your best.  So, for me, it’s about integrity.  If you can imagine it, you can make it real.  A man becomes a man once he’s found his self worth and only after finding that certain grace within himself.”

Steven Spielberg Getting Into Reality TV Business

Source: Lynn Elber, Associated Press

(Apr. 7, 20060 Los Angeles — Turns out even Steven Spielberg can't resist the lure of reality television. The Oscar-winning director of films including Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan will join with reality TV mogul Mark Burnett for On the Lot, a competition in which the winner receives a studio deal. “All through my career I've done what I can to discover new talent and give them a start,” Spielberg said in a statement Thursday. He called the series, scheduled to air next season on Fox, a chance to open “a much wider door.” A nationwide search, with details yet to be determined, will be conducted to find 16 finalists, Fox said. The group will be brought to Hollywood, divided into teams, then given the task of producing one short film each week. Each weekly project will reflect a different genre, ranging from comedy to drama to horror, and professional writers, actors and crew will be made available, the network said. “If the contestants are resourceful enough, they may even be able to land Hollywood celebrities to star in their films,” according to Fox. The films will be shown before a studio audience and panel of judges to include a movie executive, film critic and guests. TV viewers will decide which film is the loser and the team member who directed it will be out of the contest -- a new twist on the term “director's cut.”

The winner will be “whisked away to the DreamWorks studio, met by Steven Spielberg” and to an office on the lot and a development deal, Fox said. Terms of the deal weren't available, the network said. Fox has some experience with talent contests: American Idol, in its fifth cycle, is holding steady as television's most-watched show this season. Burnett, whose series include Survivor and The Apprentice, called the chance to work with Spielberg “a dream come true.” They are the show's creators and executive producers. This is the second time Burnett has teamed with DreamWorks (which recently became part of entertainment giant Viacom Inc.). Last year, he and DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg produced the reality boxing contest The Contender.  It was a ratings flop for NBC but was picked up for its second season by ESPN, starting in summer.


TV One Swoops ‘All Of Us,’ ‘Eve’ Other Sitcoms

Excerpt from

(Apr. 11, 2006) *Reruns of “All of Us,” “Eve,” and “Living Single” are coming to
TV One following a multi-year programming agreement between the network and Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution (WBDCD).      The acquisition of current UPN sitcoms “All of Us” and “Eve” marks the first time the new network for African American adults has acquired the off-network rights to sitcoms currently airing on a broadcast network.      As part of the deal, TV One will also pick up rights to air recent episodes of “Showtime at the Apollo,” including new episodes two weeks after their syndication debut.      A broad range of movie titles are part of the WBDCD programming package, which includes windows on classic dramas such as “The Color Purple,” “Malcolm X,” “Lean on Me,” “Round Midnight” and “Rosewood”; action movies such as “Boiling Point” and “New Jack City”; comedies such as “Uptown Saturday Night” and “Strictly Business”; musicals such as “Purple Rain,” “Cabin in the Sky,” “Krush Groove” and “Sparkle”; and classic blaxploitation films such as “Shaft” and “Superfly,” among others.      Additional series to which TV One is acquiring rights under the deal include “For Your Love,” “Hangin' with Mr. Cooper,” “The Parent 'Hood,” “Wanda at Large,” “All About the Andersons,” “Fastlane” and “A Man Called Hawk.”      Under the deal, TV One's rights to air All of Us, which ranks among Nielsen's Top 10 primetime series in African American households this season to date, and Eve begin in fall 2006, and the rights to air Living Single begin in fall 2008. TV One is renewing the rights to air Martin and Roc, which currently air on TV One.      "Martin and Roc have already proved very popular with TV One viewers, and we expect the rest of this Warner Bros. package to help ensure we continue to have a strong line-up of acquired scripted programming to complement our original programming as we work toward making TV One the premier viewing destination for African American adults," said TV One Executive Vice President of Programming and Production Rose Catherine Pinkney.

Sutherland Signs On For Three More Years Of 24

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Apr. 12, 2006) Los Angeles -- Jack'll be back -- despite all the firepower the bad guys rain down on him.
Kiefer Sutherland has signed on for three more seasons as superhero agent Jack Bauer on Fox's 24. As part of the deal, Sutherland will establish a production company based at Twentieth Century Fox Television to develop original programming, the studio announced. AP


Canadian Marla Rubin Won Danes' Approval To Unleash A Family's Shame Onstage

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Apr. 8, 2006)
If you wanted to turn a groundbreaking Danish film into a smash British stage hit, and then transfer it to America, who would you call on to do the job?  A Canadian, of course.  Montreal-born Marla Rubin is the woman in question and having conquered London's West End in 2004, she's hoping theatrical lightning will strike twice tonight when Festen opens on Broadway.  "I've been with this project for six years," laughs the producer over lunch at a theatre-district restaurant, "and it's taken me places I never thought I'd go. There's an awful lot I owe to Festen."  If you're a cinema buff, the title may ring a bell, and for good reason.  It was the first project to come out of the Dogme movement, founded by four Danish film directors in 1995, in what their manifesto called "a rescue operation to counter certain tendencies in film today."  They defined their art in terms of 10 points of self-denial: no phoney sets, no artificial lighting or sound, cameras must be hand-held, everything that happened on screen must actually take place, etc.  Festen (The Celebration) was the initial result of their theories, and proved to be an incredibly powerful film. It dealt with the 60th birthday party of a Danish patriarch and the horrible family secrets that are revealed during the course of the "celebration."  It premiered in Denmark in June, 1998, and opened in London the following March.  In the audience on one of those first nights was Marla Rubin.  She had arrived at the cinema by a long and circuitous route. She was born in Montreal, but moved to Ohio to go to college at Oberlin when she was 18. "I became enamoured," she smiles, "of the idea of breaking the chain where all my family had gone to McGill."  While at Oberlin she revived her childhood interest in theatre, which had laid dormant during her adolescence. But after graduation, instead of the expected move to New York, she fled to the opposite coast — "Sodom and Gomorrah West" is how she now refers to L.A. — where she spent a decade working on documentary films before advancing to the world of features.  "But I knew from Day One I didn't belong there," she insists. "It's a company town and there's no interest in anything beyond what project you're doing next."  She chuckles sardonically when asked about what finally made her decide to leave. "There was no `I've got to get out of here' moment. It happened several times a day, every day."  So, in 1998 she fled to London and started working in an antiquarian bookstore while trying to figure out what to do with her life.  Then, one night, she went to see Festen.

"By the end of the film," she recalls, "I was in an altered state. I sat stock still in the theatre when it ended for nearly a half hour in a state of profound emotion."  It was a few weeks later, when she found herself telling a dinner party about the movie with the same intensity, that she knew she had to do something with her feelings.  "The film kept percolating in my head and I thought that it was so self-contained that it would make a marvellous play."  First Rubin had to get the rights to the film, so she sought out the two primary creators of Festen, Thomas Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov. She vividly remembers her first trip to see them.  "They have a compound outside of Copenhagen in an old army barracks. They all eat together, work together, live together.  "They're like a group of late 19th-century artists with their own manifesto and artistic ethos. An intimidating but incredibly exhilarating experience."  Their first reaction to Rubin's request was, "Yes, it's interesting, but it's not our thing."  For 18 months she pursued them, while searching for an English author to adapt it to the stage. After seeing the play Under the Blue Sky at the Royal Court in London, she immediately knew that its author, David Eldridge, was the man she was looking for.  "There was something in the quality of his writing that was very bold," she says. "He could handle a comedic edge in the midst of desolation, which is what I needed."  Unfortunately, Vinterberg and Mogens were working on their own adaptation, which Rubin recalls as being "a script that was exactly the film, only put on a stage.  "It was an excruciating crossroads. I told them I couldn't use their script and they called me arrogant. We had some ball-bustingly intense meetings, but they kept holding onto their original."  Things got so tense that Rubin finally remembers telling herself, "This is very important to me, but I will not let it crush me. If I have to, I will let it go."  At just that moment, she says, Vinterberg came to her and said, "You know what? I think the game we play now is that you're in charge."  From there on, it moved like a dream. The show opened at the Almeida Theatre on March 25, 2004. Although staged without the film's original Dogme rules, it received rapturous notices from the London critics. "Electrifying," "unforgettable," "outstanding," "dazzling," "haunting" were among the words they used." It ran through 2005, has toured to Australia and is about to reopen in England.  Now, Rubin stands ready for the show's opening tonight on Broadway. Although understandably nervous, she admits that "this is where I was meant to be all along. I just came to it later than I had expected."

Heavier Hopefuls Queue To Try Out As Tracy Turnblad

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Star Staff

(Apr. 8, 2006)
They are young women of generous proportions, with big voices and big dreams. But have they got what it takes to make it on the big screen?  Producers are hoping auditions held yesterday at the Elgin Theatre will yield a Rubenesque new talent to play the starring role of teenager Tracy Turnblad in the new film version of Hairspray, to be shot in Toronto.  The original 1988 film by director John Waters spawned a highly successful and award-winning Broadway musical in 2002, which in turn led to the latest $75-million production, slated to begin shooting in early September.  With stars like John Travolta — playing the gender-bending role of Tracy's mom Edna — and Queen Latifah already on board, producer Neil Meron said a conscious decision was made to cast an unknown as Tracy.  "It's a real star-making part. A lot of casting calls are to get publicity (but) this is actually to find and create a new star," Meron said, adding he is making no bones about seeking a big actress to fill a big role.  "They have to be large girls because ... Tracy is overweight. Not just overweight, but fat, and no apologies. That's why she's such a trailblazer. We want every girl that feels disenfranchised by their weight to audition, if they can sing," said Meron, who along with creative partner Craig Zadan has produced films including the Oscar-winning Chicago.  Hundreds of hopefuls were queued up outside the Elgin's stage door when auditions began in the morning. Scores of young women, many accompanied by stage moms and dads, were more than willing to brave a long wait in the early morning chill to land the role that could be the opportunity of a lifetime.  Angela Hettinger, 18, made the journey all the way from Largo, Florida after relatives chipped on for the airfare from Tampa to Buffalo. Aunt Jamie Giammona accompanied her on the flight and grandmother Anna Francis of Niagara Falls, New York did the driving to get Hettinger to the audition on time.  "She (Angela) would be perfect for this part. It was made for her. So we're hoping," said an anxious Giammona.  "I'm absolutely in love with John Travolta. I want to marry him, even though he's married," Hettinger cried. She acknowledged coming woefully unprepared for the crisp weather but managed to borrow a pair of warm socks while in line.

Following a stage appearance on Friday night in a theatre production in Port Perry, Katie Fockler, 26, managed to grab a few hours' sleep before heading to Toronto. She said that the role of Tracy provides a rare opportunity for bigger women to shine.  "The last thing we're allowed to make fun of in our society are fat women," Fockler said, adding she loves the part "because it's about beauty transcending fat or skinny or black or white."  Sarah Franklin, 21, of Trenton, agreed. "I feel that this is an excellent opportunity for young women to feel positive about themselves," said Franklin, who decided to try out at the last minute, then spent about 15 hours overnight in her car parked on a street near the theatre.  Catherine Veitch, 17, of Etobicoke, said she saw the Hairspray musical on Broadway and in Toronto and "it was like I need to play that part.  "Tracy is just so much like myself. She's a bigger girl and she's just so spirited and fun and she thinks that the whole world should be a happy place."  Auditions were also held yesterday for two smaller roles in the film, that of Li'l Inez, a young black woman, and Link, a cool Elvis Presley-type with an edge.  Casting director Tina Gerussi said a few contenders will return today for callbacks. From there, producers and the film's director, Adam Shankman, will examine clips of the short-listed candidates — from here and auditions in Las Vegas and Baltimore — before a final call-back.  Hopefuls were asked to sing an excerpt from one of the film's big musical numbers, "Good Morning, Baltimore" — but not the whole tune.  "They're going to come and sing their hearts out and they're going to want to sing the whole song. We'll say `thank you' after eight bars because we have 300 people to see," Gerussi said, as auditions began.  "It doesn't take long for us to know whether someone has got the ability to carry the movie ... whoever will get this part will be a star at the end of it and go on to a great career, hopefully."

$3 Million For St. Lawrence Centre Rejuvenation Will Improve Economy

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Writer

(Apr. 11, 2006) After nearly four decades drawing in Toronto theatre audiences, the
St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts is undergoing a $3 million facelift.  The centre, conceived as one of Canada's Centennial projects, opened in 1970.  It is home to seven resident companies — including the Canadian Stage Company — and is used by more than 50 other arts and community organizations annually.  But not much has changed at the Centre over the years, so the management board decided a "long overdue renovation" of the exterior and interiors was in order, said chairwoman Susan Crocker.  "The Centre has good bones ... (but) there's sort of universal agreement that it is tired. It's time — let's doll this place up."  The project will be funded 50-50 by the Centre, which places a surcharge for capital improvements on tickets, and the City of Toronto as part of its 16-month "Live With Culture" campaign.  Crocker said the initial phase of renovation, beginning in July, will focus on restoring the Centre's exterior, which was designed in the New Brutalism style of architecture popular in the 1960s.  New canopies and signs will be added.  The second phase, commencing next May, will refurbish the Bluma Appel and Jane Mallett Theatres and public areas.  Toronto Mayor David Miller, who performed at the Centre in the mid-1970s in a high school drama festival production, said he felt "very personally attached" to the theatre.  "The original mission for this Centre ... was to provide a space for local artists to perform affordable theatre while servicing community needs. And that vision can be seen in how we use the theatre today," he said.  Rejuvenating theatres like the St. Lawrence Centre brings important economic benefits, Miller added.  "A thriving, creative city today ... is a place where people want to live and therefore a place where businesses will locate."  Rita Davies, Toronto's executive director of culture, said the Centre has played a role over the decades in transforming the character of the neighbourhood — formerly a "wasteland."  The renewal at the theatre shows the city is "back on track," after allowing its cultural institutions to be neglected in recent years, Davies said.  "The St. Lawrence Centre is both symbolically and literally a wonderful manifestation of how Toronto is alive with culture."  Tourism Toronto president Bruce MacMillan said such projects enhance the city's reputation as a theatre destination.


ShakespeareWorks's Toronto Season On Hiatus

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill

(Apr. 11, 2006) Shakespeare by the Lake is taking a summer holiday. ShakespeareWorks has suspended what was to be its third summer season under the big-top tent in Toronto's Ashbridges Bay Park, and will work on a proposal to turn the 500-seat Home Depot Theatre into a year-round, multi-use facility for 2007.  "It's very expensive to take up and down," board chair Pauline Couture says of the durable dome-roofed theatre and thrust stage. "We're come to the conclusion that that to be financial sustainable, this has to be year-round facility, closely tied into the community with a broader base of support." Couture says the proposal, which still must be approved by city council, could include the laying of a concrete foundation for a winter skating rink.  ShakespeareWorks will continue to offers its summer student program and smaller-scale performances in the Beaches and Toronto East communities and its ShakespeareWorks in the School program this year, and is still going forward with its plan for a Young Professional Company headed by Christopher Newton, the former artistic director of the Shaw Festival.

Tony-Winner Rashad Honoured

Excerpt from

(Apr. 11, 2006)
*Tony Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad was honoured by the National Corporate Theatre Fund during its Annual Chairman's Awards Gala Sunday at New York’s Tavern on the Green restaurant.     In a recent statement NCTF Executive Director Bruce E. Whitacre said: “Phylicia Rashad’s great performances and her service to the community demonstrate her commitment to enriching our lives through her roles on and off the stage.”     Rashad has starred in such Broadway productions as “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Jelly’s Last Jam” and August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean.”     The National Corporate Theatre Fund is an association of ten not-for profit theatres dedicated to increasing the participation of corporations and their employees in the support of theatre across the country and in New York.


SNL Graduate Still Live From New York

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Apr. 8, 2006)
NEW YORK—Whether it's Schwetty Balls or Bertolt Brecht, Ana Gasteyer certainly knows how to get the most out of her material.  The woman who blew audiences away for six seasons on Saturday Night Live with her devastating comic takes on everyone from Céline Dion to Martha Stewart is currently in previews for the Roundabout Theatre's new production of The Threepenny Opera.  And while that may seem like a giant leap for some people, to the canny Gasteyer it's all part of the same package.  "It's all social satire, that's the one thing everybody's got to remember," says Gasteyer, who begins rehearsals this morning at Studio 54, where the show is opening on April 20. "Brecht and (Kurt) Weill didn't sit down to write a classic; they were out to kill a lot of sacred cows, score some political bull's eyes and make people laugh. I can get behind that."  The 1928 show is still best known to some people for its opening number, "Mack the Knife." But this current version sounds like it's planning to carve out a place of its own.  Renowned iconoclast Wallace Shawn has written a new adaptation, hot director Scott Elliott is in charge of the staging and — besides Gasteyer — the eclectic all-star cast includes Alan Cumming, Jim Dale, Cyndi Lauper and Nellie McKay.  It has made this a high-profile event, with lots of buzz surrounding it. But that brings along some problems, as well.  "This is one of those shows," observes Gasteyer, "that everyone seems to have heard of and they've all got an opinion of what's right and wrong. There's the Brecht scholars, the Weill fanatics, the Cyndi Lauper fans, all with their own take on it."  She modestly doesn't mention the Ana Gasteyer partisans, who not only admire her for her years on SNL but for her formidable singing talents as well.  Those who have caught her work on Broadway as Columbia in The Rocky Horror Show, or as the green-skinned Elphaba in the smash Chicago production of Wicked, know that she's got the stuff for musical theatre.

It's not all that surprising, because her first impulses were towards live performance, but in a somewhat different vein.  She was born in Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1967 and "started playing violin at an early age. My family's bent was towards classical music. My mother had been a singer but had terrible stage fright and so she became a ceramicist and sculptor."  Gasteyer even wound up in the children's chorus of the Washington Opera, doing La Bohéme, but even then, "I enjoyed doing musicals in school more. Carmen and Mimi? Not what I ever thought of doing. Fanny Brice was more my speed. I was always a natural comedian, even as a kid."  She went on to the music school at Northwestern University in Chicago, but quickly found herself attracted to the theatre crowd instead.  "You play the violin, you spend hours alone. You work on a show, you meet people. Guess which I liked doing better?"  Her work at Northwestern was all over the map — musicals, plays, improvisational comedy. She even did some of the earliest shows of director Mary Zimmerman, who was then in graduate school.  By the time Gasteyer got her degree, she knew she wanted to perform for a living, but she moved to the West Coast, instead of the East.  "I had a lot of ambitious friends," is how she explains it, "who were all going out to L.A. and they talked me into coming with them."  She pauses, then the real reason emerges. "Besides, I was scared to death of trying to make it in N.Y. I would have been eaten alive."  Over the next few years, she worked on a wide assortment of jobs, everything from playing housekeeper Alice on a national tour The Real Live Brady Bunch to a cameo role on the famous "Soup Nazi" episode of Seinfeld.

But it was her work with the comedy company The Groundlings that brought her to the attention of Lorne Michaels, and finally landed her on SNL in 1996.  In her six seasons there, she created a memorable series of characters, but Gasteyer now reveals that "everything I've mocked over the years has been something I've been deeply interested in."  Her music teacher character, Bobbie Moughan-Culp, is traceable to "all that time I spent in choirs and choruses. Her Delicious Dish host Margaret Jo on National Public Radio (discussing Schwetty Balls with Alec Baldwin as Pete Schwetty) is based on "my lifelong love of NPR." Even her lethally satiric Martha Stewart finds its roots in "the big domestic streak I have in me."  When it comes to her legendary send-up of Céline Dion, however, she laughs and admits that it all began "with a Canadian writer on the show named Lori Nasso. You know, I only played Céline four times, but I think we did it at the very moment when the entire globe got sick of her singing that song from Titanic and that's why it seemed so popular."  Looking back, she characterizes her years at SNL as her time on "the Battleground of the Alpha Male. It's never going to be a matriarchy. It's not that kind of place. It needs women who compete well in a masculine environment. I didn't like it, but I was good at it."  When asked if she longs to return to those years, she's of two minds. "I don't miss the pressure and the all-consuming lifestyle. It's really grinding. But I do miss the frivolity. I'm still the cut-up in the back row and that was okay there."  Right now, Gasteyer's focus is on The Threepenny Opera and she's a bit concerned about her mother coming to see it.  "She's going to bring her running club from Washington and it's going to be pretty racy. There's drug use and nudity and pipes and snorting.  "In a way, it's the perfect show for both sides of my nature," she concludes. "It may have the word `opera' in the title, but it's going to be crazy. And fun."

Arts Kept Waiting By Feds

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman

(Apr. 5, 2006) It was not exactly the biggest shock of the season that yesterday's Speech From the Throne contained nothing about the arts — unless, of course, there are details in forthcoming law and order legislation introducing jail time for those who commit aesthetic offences.  Realistically, no one but the official spokesfolk for
ACTRA could be genuinely surprised Stephen Harper did not jump right in and declare that his top priority would be protecting cultural sovereignty on the airwaves by insisting on more hours of Canadian drama.  ACTRA members are entitled to dream on. But certain other arts people have a more realistic chance of prodding the new federal government into addressing their concerns.  Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario's culture minister, wasted little time in advising her federal counterpart, newly appointed heritage minister Bev Oda, that Queen's Park has serious expectations concerning Ottawa's support for the cultural community.  In a letter written in February shortly after Harper named Oda to his cabinet, Meilleur combined her warm congratulations with a plug for major top-up funding for six current Toronto arts building projects.  Meilleur's letter said the McGuinty government would be looking to the new federal government to affirm support for Ottawa's half of "the request for $98 million" in additional building funds for the Canadian Opera Company, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, the National Ballet School, the Royal Conservatory of Music and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art.  According to Meilleur's letter, the previous government, led by Paul Martin, had indicated its support for this funding. Meilleur went on to remind Oda about the previous government's pledge to increase Canada Council funding by $342 million over three years — but few are expecting a quick decision on that.  It's the top-up funding for the Toronto building projects that has to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

In a phone interview last night, Meilleur confirmed that she had sent the letter, adding that those leading the six projects "need an answer soon."  She added: "In the scheme of things, $49 million is not a lot of money for the federal government."  The top-up money and Canada Council funding are "both important topics," according to Meilleur, who says she expects to have a meeting with Oda soon to discuss these issues.  Shortly after Meilleur sent her "Dear Bev" letter, rather than waiting for a federal-provincial agreement, the Ontario government in its budget allocated its $49 million share of the money.  That was great news, but now everyone is anxiously waiting for the other shoe, the one with Ottawa's $49 million cheque, to drop.  It didn't happen yesterday, but it could still happen soon. One reason for optimism: Finance Minister James Flaherty recently told Maclean's that he's thrilled about what's happening to this city's cultural institutions, and proud of his role funding the arts building spree when he was Ontario's finance minister. Flaherty added: "When people say, `Well, that's money for Toronto,' I say, `It's money for Canada.' Because Toronto is important to Canada."  Just days ago, Flaherty received a delegation representing the six Toronto institutions seeking top-up money. Stay tuned.

Nude Dancers Get In Touch

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

Sly Verb

Choreographed by Christopher House. Performed by Toronto Dance Theatre. Until Saturday at Premiere Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W. 416-973-4000

(Apr. 6, 2006) There are moments in
Sly Verb that look like a lazy afternoon at the nudist camp.  By then the sight of bare-naked dancers is no longer as arresting as at the beginning when we get our first full-frontal eyeful of Louis Laberge-Côté. The point being that the flesh is a costume, too, wrapping the inner dancer. Sly Verb lifts awareness of the breachable boundary between the tangible and intangible.  The "verb" in this playful — in the sense of toying with ideas — piece first mounted in 2003 is touch. Choreographer Christopher House offers a quote to illuminate an often puzzling dance show: "Our skin is the surface layer of our brain. Without the sense of touch we have no relationship with the present moment."  Images of containment and barriers broken, including the imaginary fourth wall when the dancers climb down from the stage into the auditorium, dominate this piece. Twelve performers, evenly divided between men and women, cavort on stage, occasionally bursting into exciting formations of high-energy dance, but mostly grabbing, poking, exploring and compulsively touching each other. Sometimes they manipulate each other's hands as wands to touch themselves or another. In one oddly off-putting sequence, a dancer extracts blood, saliva, body hair and a fingernail from a semi-dressed "patient," as relayed to the audience in close-up via live video.  Sight is a kind of touch and if we're feeling uncomfortable at this point, like voyeurs, then House has achieved his purpose. Much of the performance is in shadow or in front of blinding back-lighting, forcing us to look hard to see the stage.

Unlike the taut and tightly muscled dancers' bodies on display, Sly Verb is loose and baggy and lacks a discernible shape. One thing happens and then another. The dancers raise and lower large silver-wire sculptures, like three-dimensional diagrams of the nervous system. They move among them, or in and out of them. Bodies flop on the floor like freshly landed fish. The performance space literally becomes a playground when Sean Ling swings a wire ball at the end of a long rope for the dancers to jump over.  Phil Strong's soundscape, often punctuated with long silences, frequently features music with the kind of heavy rhythm a stripper might use.  A verb can be conjugated and there are lots of conjugal suggestions here: dancers embracing and deeply kissing or clinging together in teasing duets. The grammar of the dance is evident, but it could use a little more styling to give it an elegant flow.

ROM Galleries Shed Fresh Light On Chinese Art

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - James Rusk

(Apr. 7, 2006) A year ago, Klaas Ruitenbeek, chairman of the Far Eastern art department at the Royal Ontario Museum, experienced one of the most poignant moments in his career as curator of Chinese art. He went to Yongtai village, near Qinghe, north of Beijing, and saw the Zu family cemetery, the origin of one of the ROM's most important pieces: the tomb of the Ming Dynasty General Zu Dashou, who fought against the Manchu conquest that established the Qing Dynasty in 1644 and died 12 years later. Although the ROM had pictures of the site from which the tomb was taken for the museum in 1919, it had not known its location. "It was very emotional for me . . . to have finally found the tomb," Dr. Ruitenbeek said as he showed a reporter around the ROM's stunning new Chinese galleries before they were officially opened last night. The ROM's Chinese collection has been brought out into four new galleries along the west side of the museum where they are bathed in natural light flowing in from the reopened windows.  ROM director William Thorsell said the new galleries bring "a very graceful clarity to every artefact. . . . The darkness has been taken away and the light has been let in." Rita Tsang, chairperson of the committee that raised $11-million for the gallery renovations, described the new galleries as "a great transformation." She said the fundraising has received strong support from the Chinese community in Toronto.

At the centre entrance to the Chinese galleries is a sculpture court, donated by Judy and Wilmot Matthews. It displays a broad range of sculpture brought together for their visual impact, Dr. Ruitenbeek said, and shown in a way "that we can really enjoy their beauty." The sculpture court is flanked by two galleries. The Bishop White Gallery features three of the world's best-preserved Yuan Dynasty Chinese temple paintings.  The other is the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Gallery, where 2,500 objects, grouped thematically, illustrate the history of Chinese culture to the beginning of the last century. The fourth gallery, the ROM Gallery of Chinese Architecture, uses the soaring, four-storey atrium space between the original ROM building and later additions to show some of the museum's largest and most important pieces, from Zu's tomb to a reconstruction of a corner of a Qing Dynasty building in the Imperial Palace in Beijing.

He's A Hit But He Knows It

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Robert Everett-Green

HIP HOP: The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living The Streets
679 Recordings/Warner

(Apr. 7, 2006) Success has spoiled
Mike Skinner (a.k.a. The Streets), and he's not afraid to say so. When we last met him, in his 2004 album A Grand Don't Come for Free, the Brit-rap anti-hero was telling tales of ordinary hungers and humiliations, his nose pressed against the pub window. Now, he's more likely to be sliding into unconsciousness, or a girl, in a posh hotel. Or so he claims on a disc that keeps you guessing where the line falls between truth-telling and piss-taking. Skinner's a star in Britain, with a tabloid profile to match. This disc can be heard as his own tabloid-style account of his current life. The central track, from that point of view, is Can't Con an Honest John, about a petty scam involving a dog and a bartender. Skinner's point that there's no harm in conning those who try to con you could also mean that tabloid fictions can be exploited by all parties, including those being written about. It may be true that Skinner finds it all too easy to get girls now, and goes after other stars because it reminds him of the days when scoring was still a challenge (as he claims in When You Wasn't Famous).  Or it could be, as he hints in Hotel Expressionism, that clichés of stardom (including wrecking the celebrity suite) are just so much fodder for a rapper with imagination.

Without this kind of tension between possible truth and probable fiction, Skinner's work falls flat. No doubt he means every word of Never Went to Church, his tribute to his dead father, but you don't need to hear it more than once. The sweaty unease of his earlier, hungrier work is still evident on this album, along with the put-on Cockney swagger (he's actually from Birmingham) that got him in front of the microphone in the first place. His patter is still dense with imagery and wordplay, which makes his flow seem faster than it is. His music is driven by catchy choruses, shallow beats, cheesy keyboards and soulful backing vocals. The whole thing feels refreshingly ad hoc, as if Skinner were still having to make records on the cheap. And maybe he is, if the financial complaints of the title track are in any way true.  Or could he just be conning us?

Time Up For Canuck Staff

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - James Adams

(Apr. 11, 2006) The Canadian edition of Time magazine is laying off its only full-time Canada-based reporting staff and drastically reducing the number of Canadian freelancers it uses to meet demands, it says, from readers who want more international coverage. Writers Steven Frank and Leigh Anne Williams, both based in Time Canada Ltd.'s only news bureau, in Toronto, were told last Friday that they would be losing their jobs at the end of April. Their departures are part of a larger convulsion orchestrated by Time Inc. headquarters in New York. Last Friday it announced it was laying off 250 U.S. jobs this spring, in addition to the shuttering of 205 positions announced late last year. The Toronto-based weekly will still bear the slug "Canadian Edition" on its cover and carry Canadian advertising, but its Canadian editorial content will be severely curtailed. Time Canada's publishing director Joan Brehl said yesterday that the Canadian edition will continue to have a Toronto-based editor who will oversee coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival, the annual Canadian Newsmaker of the Year story and the annual Canadian Heroes issue, among other features. Canadian reportage will be done on an as-needed basis by Canadian-based freelancers and Time staffers in the United States. The sales staff of five will be kept on, although two employees in advertising production are to lose their jobs by the summer. "It's what the readers want," Brehl said, noting that the "Canadian press is [now] covering Canada thoroughly on a week-to-week basis." As a result, "our editorial strategy has changed. . . . We're going to be beefing up and extending our global coverage for Canadians."

Since Time, which has been published in Canada since the 1940s, was "grandfathered" with Reader's Digest several years ago under the Foreign Publishers Advertising Services Act, Canadian companies will still be able to claim 100-per-cent deductibility for taxation purposes if they advertise in Time's Canadian edition. Thus, if Ford Canada were to hypothetically pay $35,000 for a full-page, full-colour ad in Time Canada, it would be allowed to reduce its taxable operating costs by that amount. William Shields, editor of Masthead, the bible of Canada's magazine industry, said yesterday that Time's retreat from Canadian coverage is "something of a curiosity at a time when Maclean's is reinvigorating its Canadian coverage." At the same time, "it makes some sense," he said. "Time was never leading in the news game in Canada. They did some good stories, but they rarely broke them." Losing two-full time staffers is a cost-saver, he added, and "maybe they're taking a page out of The Economist's game plan by focusing on global-minded business executives and policy-makers." Time's Canadian edition remains one of the country's most successful magazines. According to figures released recently by the Print Measurement Bureau, it enjoyed an average of 11.5 readers per issue in 2002-2005 on a paid circulation of almost 240,000. Last year Masthead gave it a fifth-place ranking nationally for its performance in 2004, when it earned an estimated $28-million, including almost $19-million from advertising.


Rock the Casbah

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Deirdre Kelly

(Apr. 8, 2006) With MTV taking over the once staid Masonic Temple rock and roll has definitely come to the 'hood.  Since last month's launch the stone edifice that wraps around the corner of Yonge and Davenport has been vibrating nightly with strobes and a wildly whirling palette of acid hues. Son et lumière have taken Rosedale.  The day-glo vibe is infecting the entire district brightening the pallor of the surrounding buildings including the rather dull-looking Canadian Tire across the street.  Neighbours with a clear view stare agog as if it's Christmas all over again. MTV general manager Brad Schwartz said the light show isn't seasonal however.  Rather it will be a consistent feature as long as MTV is a tenant of the building.  The idea is to make every night at the Temple seem like an opening night.  "We will flash up the building as you've seen it when we have special events going on and on normal nights we will keep it one colour.  We have this legendary building -- it's 88 years old -- and we want to bring it back to life."  Few it seems are complaining. Neighbours with an unobstructed view like George Snyder who has lived on nearby Rosedale Valley Road for the past 35 years welcome the nightly spectacle.  At 61 he remembers the old days when the concert hall within the Masonic Temple played host to everyone from Sinatra to the Stones.  It was lit up then and the fact that it's back as a beacon on the longest street in Canada warms his heart:  "I think it's fabulous. It's wonderful to see some colour." 

Jada in ‘Essence’

Excerpt from

(April 7, 2006)    *Jada Pinkett Smith talks about her relationship with husband Will Smith in the upcoming 36th anniversary May issue of Essence – which features the actress on the cover. "People think I'm kidding when I say Will saved my life,” she says in the interview. “But he did. I was literally killing myself when we started dating ten years ago. I was doing drugs, drinking alcohol, and sleeping around. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was trying to off myself because I just hadn't found a way to cope with the things we all go through in life. But Will gave me the comfort zone of knowing that I had a relationship that was solid and was going to be there."  Pinkett leads Essence’s second annual list of The Bold and the Beautiful, celebrating 25 of the world’s most courageous, powerful and inspiring women. Included this year are Oprah Winfrey, Robin Roberts, S. Epatha Merkerson and Raven-Symone.


Scott Hanging Up Her Skis

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

Apr. 12, 2006) CALGARY (CP) — Canadian cross-country skiing is losing its trailblazer.  Two-time Olympic medallist Beckie Scott, whose fight for drug-free competition will be an even more important legacy that her storied career, announced her retirement Wednesday, saying her heart wasn't in the daily commitment needed to retain a spot at the top of international sport.  "I can no longer sustain the incredible amount of focus and dedication, and commitment, the energy and time it takes to be successful at a high, high level," an emotional Scott told a news conference.  "It's just time to say goodbye."  Scott was the first North American to win an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing, a bronze at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. But after both Russians who finished ahead of Scott in the five-kilometre race were later caught in blood doping tests, she was eventually awarded the Olympic gold.  On Wednesday, she said the resolution of that fight was the most satisfying part of her career off the snow — even though she never wanted to become known as a champion for anti-doping.  "It wasn't so much for me personally this gold medal," said the 31-year-old native of Vermilion, Alta. "What I had done was help rewrite the history books: that these athletes were not going down in Olympic history as champions. They were going to suffer consequences for what they'd done and I had played a role in that, a significant role. I felt very happy with that."  But that wasn't the pinnacle of her career, which included a silver medal at the Turin Games with Sara Renner, four World Cup victories and overall runner-up in the 2006 World Cup season.  "It was educational and enlightening but it wasn't all positive," she said. "When the gold finally was rewarded it was more a sense of relief that the good guys had come out on top. It was so important for sport."

In fact, Scott says her highlight was capturing bronze in Salt Lake City.  "I can't remember ever feeling as happy, as thrilled with a race as I was with that bronze medal," she said. "We celebrated it as if it was gold."  Scott feels comfortable knowing she's leaving the sport in good shape, with youngsters like Chandra Crawford of Canmore, Alta., who stunned the world with a gold medal in Turin in the cross-country ski sprint.  "When we went to the Nagano Olympics in 1998 there wasn't even a glimpse of hope for medals, Salt Lake we weren't sure," said Scott. ``By the time we got to Torino and to have three women come home with medals, part of that is because of the path I've paved."  Her retirement will create time to continue her battle for clean competition.  In February, Scott was elected to represent athletes on the International Olympic Committee. She will have full IOC membership status during her eight-year term and hopes to be able to lobby for more integrity in sport.


Leafs Re-Sign Aubin

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

Apr. 12, 2006) The Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin to a one-year contract.   Terms of the deal were not disclosed.  Since Aubin was recalled from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League on March 14, he's played in eight games for the Leafs, going 6-0-2, with a 2.19 goals against average, and a .925 save percentage.  The 28-year-old native of Montreal has played 176 career games in the NHL with Toronto and Pittsburgh. Aubin has a career record of 69-72-13, with a 2.88 goals against average, and a .902 save percentage.  Aubin was originally selected by Pittsburgh in the third round, 76th overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.

Ali Sells The Marketing Rights To Name, Image

Source: Associated Press

Apr. 12, 2006) NEW YORK—Muhammad Ali, one of the world's most recognized people, has sold 80 per cent of the marketing rights to his name and likeness to a firm for $50 million (U.S.).  The 64-year-old former heavyweight champion, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, will retain a 20 per cent interest in the business. The new venture will be operated by a company called G.O.A.T. LLC, an acronym for The Greatest of All Time.  Ali and his wife, Lonnie, are expected to work with CKX Inc. to market his interests around the world. It includes trademarks owned by the boxing great.  "This relationship with CKX will help guarantee that, for generations to come, people of all nations will understand my beliefs and my purpose," Ali said in a statement.  CKX holds the rights to the IDOLS television brand, which includes the popular show American Idol.

Louis Remembered, 25 Years After Death

Source: Associated Press

Apr. 12, 2006) ARLINGTON, Va. — With the laying of a wreath and the playing of taps, Joe Louis was remembered at Arlington National Ceremony on Wednesday on the 25th anniversary of the boxing great's death.  Family and friends gathered at Louis' grave, beneath the long branches of a splendid oak tree not far from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. "The Brown Bomber," the nickname etched on his tombstone, was remembered as a black sports hero who transcended the divisions of race in the segregated U.S. of the 1930s and 1940s.  "Joe Louis challenged the conscience of the country," Louis' son, Joe Louis Barrow Jr., told the gathering. "You couldn't have it both ways. You couldn't put Joe Louis on a pedestal and admire him as the heavyweight champion of the world and yet not allow him and his people to eat where they wanted to eat, live where they wanted to live, and be educated where they needed to be educated."  Louis was heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949. His most memorable victory came on June 22, 1938, when he avenged a loss to Germany's Max Schmeling with a first-round knockout at Yankee Stadium, a blow to Adolf Hitler's campaign for Aryan supremacy.  Louis also served in the Army during World War II, achieving the rank of staff sergeant. He did not meet the requirements for burial at Arlington when he died at 66 in 1981, but President Reagan honoured the request of Louis' widow and granted a waiver.  The cemetery's superintendent, John Metzler, said Louis' grave continues to attract many visitors. An image of Louis, wearing boxing shorts and gloves, is engraved on the stone.  Barrow said he has been working with filmmaker Spike Lee on a movie about his father. Such projects keep the Louis legacy alive.  "It's extraordinary to me that it doesn't seem to fade,'' Barrow said. "I'll be reading a paper somewhere, even in Europe, and the bottom line is there's a reference to Joe Louis. He died 25 years ago. He held the title from '37 to '49. He was essentially out of the limelight, and yet they still make reference to him. I don't know why the world doesn't want to let go of this man, and I'm thankful that it doesn't.''


Get On The Ball For Spring

By Joyce Vedral, eFitness Guest Columnist

(Apr. 6, 2006) Okay, it's that time of year again. Spring is here and you're thinking, "God help me. I can't hide my body anymore." Add to that the fact that you're so bored with working out you can hardly stand thinking about it. Well, help is on the way. I invented a ball workout that makes working out so much fun you don't even realize you're getting in shape. Just lying, leaning, squeezing, or sitting on a ball makes you feel so relaxed, that it tricks you into thinking you're not working out! It's fun. There are many days my 33-year-old daughter Marthe and "old Joyce" would simply not want to work out if it wasn't fun. The best part is it works fast because the ball allows your body to take unique, painless positions resulting in new workout angles and better results. So what can you do with that exercise ball? You can tone your whole body in just 16 minutes a day -- but today I'll give you a few exercises for thighs; first your inner thighs and then your front and back thighs.

The Lying Inner Thigh Ball Squeeze:

Position: Lie on the floor with an exercise ball held between your legs. Push the ball as far as it goes, toward your groin area.

Movement: Lying flat on your back as you work, squeeze the ball as hard as possible, flexing your inner thighs as you go. Without resting return to start and release the pressure. Continue until you have completed 15 repetitions. Without resting, move to the next exercise.

On The Ball Knee Saving Hack Squat. (This exercise tones your front and back thighs.)

Position: Place the ball directly in front of you, and stand with a dumbbell in each hand -- your arms extended fully downward and behind you -- palms away from your body. Each front hand will be touching one buttock.

Movement: Feeling the stretch in your front and back thighs as you go, squat down until your knees land on the ball. Flexing the front and back of your thighs as hard as possible, return to start position and repeat until you have completed 12 repetitions. Repeat both exercises two more times.

Note: You can allow the wonderful bounce feeling of the ball to give you a little momentum on the way up. It really saves your knees also because you can go down just so far with the ball. You can work your entire body using the ball -- it's a fun painless way to shape up!

For information on toning your whole body with the ball in minutes a day, get a copy of Joyce's new On The Ball workout DVD, or, for an even faster shape up with more variety, get a copy of her Spring Into Shape package deal.