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Updated:  August 17, 2006

So much to do in our great city of Toronto during the summer! Toronto hosts the International Aids Conference that began last weekend and there is lots of coverage below.  Canada is both host and witness to some of the most global discussions and performances to bring awareness to the AIDS epidemic.  Ironically, Canada's political presence has been missing which has been highly criticized.

There is so much entertainment news this week that I'll let you get right to it.  Check out all the categories.  Have a read and a scroll!  Tons of news including Canadian content in
MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, THEATRE NEWS, and OTHER NEWS!  This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTSWant to be removed from the distribution, click REMOVE.




Alana Bridgewater Now A “Powerful” Part Of  All-Canadian Cast of Menopause Out Loud! ™

(Aug. 14, 2006) Toronto will soon feel the heat of an all-Canadian Hot Flash as Alana Bridgewater joins the cast of Menopause Out Loud! ™ in the role of Power Woman. Alana is currently wrapping up rehearsals for the part and officially greets audiences Tuesday August 22. Ticket sales for the hit musical about women and The Change have also been hot, reaching a high average sell-out rate of 90 per cent. Menopause Out Loud!  is playing at the Capitol Theatre, 2492 Yonge Street.

Alana Bridgewater is known as the voice of the 2008 Olympic Bid Song and she brings an outstanding musical background to Menopause Out Loud!™ Alana is an accomplished jazz singer and songwriter who began her career as a child with the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus and the National Ballet. She has toured the east coast with jazz great Joe Sealy and his quartet as a member of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale. Recent credits include Smokey Joe’s Café, Little Shop of Horrors, Peter Gzowski’s Celebrity Golf Tournament, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and CBC Television’s In a Jam.Alana assumes the role of Power Woman along side Jayne Lewis (Soap Star), Nicole Robert (Earth Mother) and Rose Ryan (Iowa Housewife). Cynthia Jones, who has performed as Power Woman with Menopause Out Loud! ™ since its July 12 opening, will return home to Seattle to resume her role with the show’s Seattle production.  Menopause Out Loud!™ unites four women: an aging TV soap star, a lost-in-the-sixties hippie, a power professional and a naïve Iowa housewife with seemingly nothing in common but a black lace bra. A parody of songs and dance quickly proves to the women their similarities are greater than initially assumed. This fast paced musical parody pokes fun at hot flashes, memory loss, mood swings, too much sex, not enough sex, wrinkles and night sweats and a whole lot more.

Inspired by a hot flash and a bottle of wine, writer/producer Jeanie Linders, created the show featuring 26 re-lyricized pop hit tunes from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.  Popular baby boomer hits include: Lookin’ for Food in All the Wrong Places, Puff My God I’m Dragging, Change, Change, Change, Thank You Doctor, My Thighs and the disco favourite Stayin’ Awake, Stayin’ Awake, and are hilariously performed with the audience singing, dancing and laughing out loud.It’s a party every night as the doors of Toronto’s Capitol Theatre swing open to celebrate women. Happy Hot Flash Hour begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays and features complimentary hors d’oeuvres provided by some of Toronto’s top restaurants: Centro Restaurant, Daniel et Daniel, Encore Food with Elegance and Sequel Restaurant & Catering.  Themed drinks such as EstroGin & Tonic, Meno-Shots, Mood-Swing Martinis and I’m So Whiney Spritzers are also available for purchase at the Capitol Theatre Bar.


Ticket Information:

Tickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster outlets and may be purchased online at or by calling 416-872-1111. Tickets are $49.95 +GST.  For Groups of 15+ people call Group Sales at 416-438-5559 for special offers.

Evening performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinee performances are Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.   Discounts are available through Ticketmaster for Girls Night Out for 10 - 14 people.  Guests attending the 8 p.m. show Wednesday through Saturday are invited to arrive at The Capitol Theatre at 6:30 p.m. for Happy Hot Flash Hour featuring complimentary hors d’oeuvres provided by some of Toronto’s best restaurants and caterers. Themed drinks are available for purchase at the Capitol Theatre Bar.

For more information on the show please visit

Carey Shows Fans How To Shake It Off

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 14, 2006) You gotta love
Mariah Carey. What other performer would stop their show to point out a hole on the floor of the stage "about the size of a stiletto heel," then admit to having missed the first line of the song anyway, further acknowledge various goofs — including almost falling down — in the first quarter of the 90-minute set, and shrug it all off with a sweetly confident "You know how I am?"  It could be that Carey, 36, has learned the dangers of perfectionism, given the exhaustion to which she attributed her very public emotional breakdown a few years back.  Or perhaps, she's been nudged about some of the unflattering reviews (citing late starts and uneven singing) of The Adventures of Mimi: The Voice, the Hits, the Tour, which kicked off in Miami last weekend.  "I didn't want Toronto to think I didn't want to put on a good show," she said of her confessions, which came at the tour's fifth outing last night at the Air Canada Centre.  It helped that the New York native made these admissions clad in a butter yellow, low cut, bare back, midriff baring gown and then delivered a standout version of 1990's "Vision of Love" — the first of her 17 No. 1 singles.  

And to the reassurance of those holding tickets for Carey's Aug. 29 return date, as last night's sold-out crowd can attest, the pop songstress remains in the fine five-octave form that made last year's The Emancipation of Mimi a three-Grammy winner that moved 10 million copies — besting rapper 50 Cent for the year's top seller.  The concert began with video footage of a roller-coaster ride with a Carey voiceover that alluded to the ups and down that marred her personal and professional life for the first half of this decade: divorce from then-Sony boss Tommy Mottola, starring in the movie musical Glitter which tanked, being released from Virgin Records and erratic public behaviour that was widely documented and labelled a meltdown.

With the taped announcement, "after all the hysteria everything is up," Carey stepped out in a glittery black bikini top, matching boy shorts and a transparent cape, singing "It's Like That." Backed by an elaborate stage, six dancers and a seven-piece band, she performed many of her hits, including "Heartbreaker," "Dream Lover" and "Fantasy."  She was joined by erstwhile R&B crooner Trey Lorenz, with whom she'd recorded the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" for a pleasing rendition of the song. Unfortunately, she then conceded the stage to him to showcase a song from his forthcoming album. Momentum lagged, since few know the South Carolina native outside of the 1992 collaboration with Carey and he didn't even try to make nice by removing the I'm-so-cool sunglasses.  The other downside was a videotaped skit of a quartet of catty women dissing Carey in a washroom about her emotional problems and possibly fake boobs and legs. That was overkill for someone who's shaken off the naysayers to come within three songs of the Beatles No. 1 hits record. And let's face it — she didn't have such a substantial bosom in her 1990 debut.  But overall, Carey is a delight.  She is a bit quirky, and she can't really dance — her tendency is to preen and prance — but she sings her ass off and is a whole lot of fun to watch. And she really does try to connect with her fans, even performing two songs on a ministage in their midst.  Costume changes were well down from the eight on her 2000 tour and the healthy looking, no skinny Mimi has toned down the skank. In fact, it was dancehall reggae opener Sean Paul and his sexy frenetic dancers who pushed the boundaries of decency last night.

Ready To Go Supernova

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -Alexandra Shimo

(Aug. 15, 06) He may look like Pepé Le Pew and talk in trite tautologies,
but one has to admit, the boy has one fine set of pipes. And those pipes and his star presence are what have made Toronto boy Lukas Rossi the one to watch on Rock Star: Supernova. “What's special about me is that I'm just being myself and I believe that I'm the real deal,” says Rossi, on the phone from the Rock Star mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Those who know the industry concur. “He's fabulous,” says voice coach Elaine Overholt, who gave private singing lessons to Kalan Porter in the run-up to his Canadian Idol win and helped Porter prepare for his world tour. “A rock star has to be so in touch with themselves that nothing is phoney. It's all authentic. That's what's what I feel about him. And he sings in tune! Which is more than I can say for some of the others.”

To shed light on why Rock Star is the most popular show on Canadian television among the 18-to-49 audience, consider the numbers. The star search was worldwide; more than 25,000 contestants entered from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the United States. The audience is also global — the show airs in 40 different countries. Its predecessor, Rock Star: INXS, propelled the winner, Torontonian JD Fortune, to immediate stardom, and revived the fortunes of the Australian band. Whoever takes the helm of Supernova will join a rock group that already has A-list celebrity appeal with Mötley Crüe's Tommy Lee on drums, ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted and the former Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke. Currently, eight contestants remain. However, Rossi has emerged as the one to beat, says Jeff Melanson, dean of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. “In his last performance, singing [Radiohead's] Creep, the judges moved him away from the pack into being a front-runner,” Melanson says. “The music business, whether it is classical, jazz or pop, is about having a unique voice. This is where Rossi stands out. He's showing more range in the genres and styles of music than the others.” On camera, Rossi leans more to monosyllabic euphemisms than lucid locution. Lyrics such as “I hate you and you hate me/ I guess we understand/ You follow me like shadows/ Sorry I've made my plans,” or pronouncements such as “Songs that you overthink, they tend to be overthought,” are not clear indications of an overactive cerebrum, but inventive invective is not the point of the competition. The aim is to sing, to strut, to wail with woe, and Rossi does all of these with the utmost conviction. When he sang Creep, he seemed as angry, pained and mucked-up as the best of them. “He's raw,” Overholt says. “I sense a little anger in his performance. He holds it back, and then he lets us see it. That's very exciting.”

Rossi, 29, grew up near the intersection of Jane Street and Lawrence Avenue in Toronto, a neighbourhood he describes as rough. “I learned about life on the streets. You have to watch your back. Otherwise, you get squashed pretty quickly.” Early inspiration came from his brother Jonas Marcoechio. “My brother and I are really different, but we have one thing in common in that we would both die for music. When he would play his records, like Billy Idol and The Cult, I would get goose bumps and I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music.” In Grade 11, he quit his North York Catholic boys' high school to focus on his band, Cleavage. In 1996, he trained at the Royans School For the Musical Performing Arts. Four years later, Cleavage was selected as Canada's Best Unsigned Band by the North by Northeast Music Festival, and released its self-titled six-song debut CD the following year. But shortly after signing with EMI Music Canada in 2004, Rossi left Cleavage and formed his latest band, Rise Electric. These days, Rossi phones his brother from L.A., though he no longer speaks to his parents. He says his friends and fans in Toronto are following his progress on Rock Star avidly.

“He's very charismatic. You know, the way he walks. He does this shoulder strut,” says Vito Petrucci, 29, who grew up in the same neighbourhood as Rossi. “He's always had that star presence.” Other followers say the appeal is more about his singing talent and wonderful looks. “Seeing him for the first time on Rock Star,” says Ramona Thompson, 27, of Texas, “he had not yet sang [sic] or even spoken but just from looking at him you could tell a star had been born.” Thompson now runs a fan site called The Rossi Possi. That stage persona, the presence — and of course the pipes — are all helping him stand out from the other musicians, Melanson says. But even if Rossi doesn't go all the way, he adds, don't rule him out. “I expect some label will sign and promote him even if he doesn't lead Supernova. Whether or not he wins, we will hear some interesting things from him in the future.”

Hayden A Homegrown Ballet Star

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(Aug. 15, 2006)
Melissa Hayden was a dancer whose powerful personality equalled her technical expertise, a genuine ballet star whose career began in Toronto.  When she retired from New York City Ballet in 1973, Hayden had danced with the company longer than any other ballerina, having arrived in the 1949-50 season. Hayden, who died last week of pancreatic cancer at the age of 83, exuded a passion onstage that came from a never-ending love of dancing for an audience.  "She was an extraordinary artist, with astonishing range. She could dance a powerhouse role and then be a piece of feather," says former National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Joysanne Sidimus, who remembers admiring Hayden from the wings and eventually dancing on the same stage as her during her years with George Balanchine's New York company.  Balanchine created dozens of roles for her, in some of his most loved ballets: Theme and Variations, Stars and Stripes, Episodes, Trois Valses Romantiques and Agon. Hayden also premiered works by Jerome Robbins in her formative years in New York.  Lincoln Kirstein, co-founder of the New York City Ballet, estimated she appeared before audiences more than any other performer of her time.  For her farewell show, Balanchine created Cortège hongrois for her. The dance remains in the company's repertoire. "He came out and personally presented her with flowers," says Sidimus. "That was unheard of."  Then New York mayor John Lindsay gave her a medal and proclaimed her an "extraordinary ballerina who has filled the hearts of her audiences with joy."

Born in Toronto on April 25, 1923, Mildred Herman, as she was then, was a student of Boris Volkov and worked with his Canadian Ballet. In the early '40s, she went to New York City and joined the Radio City Music Hall dancers before entering the American Ballet Theatre, where she danced from 1945 to 1948. When that company went on hiatus, Hayden was invited to do a South American tour with Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso.  After Balanchine brought her into his company, she trained with him, transforming herself. In an interview for Balanchine's Ballerinas, she described the process:  "You make yourself a Balanchine dancer by dancing his ballets. Your legs change, your body changes, you become a filly."  "Milly wasn't born with the body to dance," Sidimus remembers. "She had beautiful feet, but she worked to make them beautiful. She was absolutely a role model for all of us, watching the way she worked on a role. She kept to a certain standard and dignity every day."  When her stage years were over, Hayden took up teaching, and continued right up to a month before her death. She taught in Seattle and for a time ran her own school in New York. From 1983 onwards, she was a faculty member at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.  During a two-year period when she was not dancing with New York City Ballet, Hayden married a businessman, Don Coleman. She was unusual for her time in having a family in mid-career. Her daughter Jennifer also danced. Her son Stuart is a lawyer.  Hayden returned to dance with American Ballet Theatre for a while, but "then I was ready to go back to Balanchine. I knew that other than having a good marriage with someone you trust the most exciting relationship is with him, being the instrument of his creative powers," she said in 1982.  Sidimus praised Hayden for her contributions onstage and off. "Everything she did was so thought out, but she had a layer of spontaneity on stage. As a dancer, a human being and a teacher she had so much to offer."


Alicia Keys, African Grannies Launch AIDS Conference

Source: CBC Arts

(Aug. 14, 2006) Blues singer Alicia Keys and Canadian AIDS activist Stephen Lewis led a group of African grandmothers through Toronto's streets to the CBC Broadcast Centre on Sunday to help launch the 16th International AIDS Conference. Keys and 300 grandmothers, 100 from Africa, chanted and sang African songs as they weaved through the downtown core prior to the official start of the conference, which runs until Aug. 18. The conference's official kickoff took place Sunday night, with a keynote address by Bill and Melinda Gates at Toronto's Rogers Centre, followed by music performances by Amanda Marshall, Chantal Kreviazuk, the Barenaked Ladies and Our Lady Peace. Keys and the grandmothers ended the march at the CBC Broadcast Centre Sunday morning, where they gathered to sing We Shall Overcome.

Supporting the orphans

The grandmothers, who are all raising their grandchildren because their children have died of AIDS, have been at the forefront of many projects in Africa to support the orphans of HIV-AIDS. The grandmothers were flown to Toronto as special guests of the conference, and will be speaking with Canadian grandmothers. "When I was in South Africa, I was able to meet many of the grandmothers … it really affected me to see their plight," Keys, a Grammy Award-winning singer, told CBC Television. "Their stories broke my heart." There are an estimated 13 million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa. "It is education that we need," said Mary Awino Onditi of Kenya, who has been taking care of three grandchildren since three of her children died from HIV-AIDS.  "It costs about [$350 Cdn] a year to send a child to high school in Kenya. I do not have the money. Nothing is for free."

Elton John to grandmothers: 'Keep singing, girls'

About 45 minutes after the grandmothers arrived at the Broadcast Centre, a video message from Elton John was featured. The British pop star apologized for not being there in person and said he had been touched when he met a grandmother in the South African township of Soweto who was taking care of 18 grandchildren. "She said, 'When it gets unbearable, we just all hold and hug each other,'" John said. He praised Lewis and the grandmothers for bringing Africa's AIDS plight to the world. "Keep singing, girls," he urged the grandmothers.

Western world 'always lets Africa down'

Lewis, the UN secretary general's special envoy on HIV-AIDS to Africa, urged the industrialized world to deliver what it has promised: money and aid. "What the Western world has to do is deliver on its promises and it never has. It always lets Africa down." Keys emphasized the importance of opening the dialogue between those in Africa and people in the West: "Once you feel it, understand it, you are able to have empathy. Then, you say to yourself, 'I can help.'" Other celebrities set to attend the conference include Richard Gere, Olympia Dukakis and Sandra Oh. The artistic component of the conference, Viral Culture, includes a film festival of HIV-AIDS-themed movies, related visual art and photography exhibitions, poetry and prose readings, theatrical performances, author sessions and panel discussions.

Rockers Raise Voice In AIDS Fight

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

(Aug. 12, 2006) With war raging in Lebanon, Iraqis dying daily from
sectarian violence and global warming reaching a tipping point, public concern about the ongoing AIDS epidemic has receded — particularly in the West, where increasingly effective medications are prolonging the lives of those afflicted by HIV.  None of this is lost on the musicians who have signed on to perform at the benefit concert being staged tomorrow at the Rogers Centre as part of the kick-off to the weeklong XVI International AIDS Conference.  "The world is in chaos right now. There are so many different and competing problems," says singer Raine Maida, whose band, Our Lady Peace, will be joined on the bill by fellow Canadians the Barenaked Ladies, Chantal Kreviazuk and Massari, along with visiting artists Thomas Mapfumo, Alicia Keys and others.  "Obviously the war (in Lebanon) has taken precedence in the media," Maida continues. "But AIDS is definitely not going away. It's exciting that this conference is in Toronto. And hopefully it is going to put AIDS back on the radar, even if only for a brief moment."  Massari, the Ottawa R&B singer who moved from Beirut to Canada at the age of 10, is acutely aware that priorities are conflicted.  "The war in Lebanon hits really close to home personally," he says. "It's unfortunate that after all we've been through as mankind we're still pointing the finger about who started it, while all the innocent people are paying the price. It's always the innocent who suffer from wars around the world, just like it's the innocent who are suffering at the mercy of AIDS.

"There are bigger problems in other people's minds. The war. Oil prices. All these things that are going on. Unfortunately people are starting to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to (AIDS)."  The concert is the second part of a program beginning at 7 p.m. tomorrow with a two-hour opening ceremony that will include a keynote address by Bill and Melinda Gates and remarks by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, Toronto Mayor David Miller and Frika Chia Iskandar, an Indonesian woman with AIDS.  It is one of a handful of arts events organized next week in conjunction with the conference, including Connect: HIV/AIDS & Youth Arts Festival, a multi-disciplinary program that has sold-out performances Tuesday and Wednesday at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, and Orphans of God: A Circle of Songwriters and Storytellers featuring Luke Doucet, Colin Linden, Mark Olson, Victoria Williams and others, Monday at Palais Royale.  While AIDS remains a universal phenomenon, the devastation is hardest felt in Africa, where the efforts to combat the disease are thwarted by political instability and poverty.  "My own country, Zimbabwe, is not exceptional," says singer Thomas Mapfumo, who now lives in the U.S. "Because there is no rule of law, the economy of the country is collapsing. Inflation is high. There is no medication. And people are dying every day because of this epidemic."  Mapfumo, who has lost friends — some of them band members — to AIDS, argues that most North Americans can't imagine the extent of the calamity.

"We have problems everywhere in the world," he says. "Africa is not exceptional. But the world is forgetting that Africa needs help, particularly when it comes to health issues. They need enough medications so that people can survive. In the West, people can live longer because they have enough medication. But what about people in Africa?"  Maida, who visited Darfur at the end of 2004, cites the case of Magic Johnson, the former Los Angeles Lakers star who was diagnosed with HIV almost 15 years ago, as the kind of AIDS story North Americans have become accustomed to experiencing.  "(Johnson) plays pick-up basketball, appears on talk shows," Maida says. "That's entered the consciousness of North American society. The problem is manageable here. Unfortunately in all of the Third World countries, it's completely unmanageable and destroying their societies."  The audience will include roughly 25,000 delegates to the conference. Another 20,000 tickets have been made available to the general public. Seats, priced between $24 and $150, are available through Ticketmaster.  Beyond the attempt to refocus public awareness, the concert aims to raise money for AIDS-related organizations, including the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund Canada, the AIDS Committee of Toronto's Community Partners Fund and the 2008 conference in Mexico City.

One aim for the musicians is to raise awareness among the people most likely to be influenced by their involvement: the fans.  "Any part that I can do to be a role model to the youth by showing them that it's important to give back to the community I will help," Massari says. "It's important that the fans I have who look up to me understand that I feel this is an important subject."  Mostly, though, the objective is to entertain.  "We're not really there to make a statement," says Kevin Hearn, keyboard player for the Barenaked Ladies. "(Singer) Steven (Page) is well spoken. He'll usually say something between songs that addresses the issue in a serious and sincere manner. But we're there to show support by doing what we do, which is to be entertainers."  Says Mapfumo, who performs with a 10-piece band: "We will play a regular concert because our concerts have a lot of variety. We play freedom songs. We play love songs. Just like a regular gig."  As part of the program, OLP's Maida will team up with his wife, Kreviazuk, to perform "Lebo's River," a song they wrote for the forthcoming War Child Canada benefit album, Help: A Day in the Life, which also features contributions from Coldplay, Radiohead, Metric and others.  "Lebo's River" was inspired by Ithuteng, a documentary about a 22-year-old South African woman who died of AIDS. It uses a melody that the woman, who aspired to be a musician, left on a cassette recording prior to her death.  "It's like a living eulogy for this one young girl from Soweto," says Maida. "In a small way, it shows that everyone can make a difference."

Visual Artists Come Out In Solidarity

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Goddard, Visual Arts Columnist

(Aug. 12, 2006) Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have met the
XVI International AIDS Conference with indifference but artists have responded with an array of thoughtful and trenchant exhibitions, installations and performances.  This was to be expected. Artists everywhere and in all fields have responded deeply to the AIDS crisis. Indeed, Tony Kushner's Angels in America, a 1992 Broadway hit and an acclaimed TV miniseries, viewed the entire history of the 20th century as a reflection of the AIDS pandemic.  Artists have every reason to want to respond to AIDS since the arts community has proven to be more likely than most to lose members due to the consequences of the disease. The visual arts alone have seen the AIDS-related deaths of painter Keith Haring, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and the two Toronto-based artists, Jorge Zontal (Jorge Saia) and Felix Partz (Ron Gabe), both part of the Toronto-based conceptualist collective General Idea.  So it is entirely appropriate that starting this afternoon, the Royal Ontario Museum will be displaying AIDS (1989), the General Idea word-based sculpture, at the ROM Plaza on the corner of Bloor St. W. and Queen's Park. until Oct.1.  The deep resonance of the GI work comes with our understanding of how it positions the four letters in the word "AIDS" in such a way as to exactly replicate the square form Robert Indiana achieved with the word "love" in his iconic 1970 sculpture Love.  On Sept.28, GI's one remaining member AA Bronson (Michael Tims), now living in New York, will lecture on "General Idea and Beyond" at the ROM's Signy & Cléophée Eaton Theatre.

Starting Wednesday, the Art Gallery of Ontario is presenting AIDS-influenced art appropriation as part of "SILENT/LISTEN," from the Los Angeles-based AIDS activist group Ultra-red. The installation, which gets its inspiration from composer John Cage's famous piece 4'33" (1952) of total silence, continues to Nov.26.  American artist Robert Rauschenberg's famous seven-panel White Painting (1951) is being appropriated by Ultra-red as part of a more complex installation based on the early AIDS slogan, "One AIDS Death Every Hour."  Ultra-red is one of the organizations given the rights by Rauschenberg to replicate White Painting.  Each individual panel of the new version of the Rauschenberg work — hanging before one of seven long tables representing earlier Ultra-red installations — is titled One AIDS Death Every Hour (After Rauschenberg's White Painting).  On Monday, Ultra-red is hosting a related sound-event at the AGO gallery school, drawing together a number of Toronto sound artists including Andrew Zealley, Isabelle Noël and Sandro Perri, as well as other non-arts participants who work in AIDS-related areas.

Already available for viewing is the remarkable "0.7% show" at Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts (984 Queen St. W.), a fundraiser with partial proceeds going to the Stephen Lewis Foundation. It continues to Aug.20.  Curated with remarkable empathy and intelligence by Antonia Lancaster, the "0.7%" group show in a wide range of media gets its title from the suggestion once made by the late prime minister Lester Pearson that Canada should donate 0.7 per cent of its GNP — that's 70 cents for every $100 made — to aid for developing nations. It is a still unrealized target.  An AIDS-related exhibition can be found outside the city as well. "Erotic Art XXXX: Lovers in a Dangerous Time," is on to Aug.26 at Artspace, 378 Aylmer St. N. in Peterborough.

A T-shirt Tells One Man's Story

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Moira Welsh, Staff Reporter

(Aug. 12, 2006) Among AIDS activists, there is a term that describes the physical signs of HIV medication, the gaunt cheeks, the upper body fat,
the slow nausea-induced gait.  They call it the Scarlet Letter.  For those who bear it, the stigma is inescapable. Many retreat into depression and isolation, worn down by the fear in the eyes that settle upon them.  One man, Believe Dhliwayo, has taken a different approach, similar to the Puritan heroine in The Scarlet Letter, who took ownership of the red `A' — a letter that marked her as an adulteress and was pinned to her chest — by embroidering it with shiny gold thread. Dhliwayo wears a T-shirt emblazoned with huge letters, "HIV POSITIVE."  "Some of my friends say, `Oh. Oh. I cannot hang out with you. Some called me and said, `You really embarrassed me.' Strangers look at me from head to toe. Some pointed. Some said, `Look at that.' You can see a lot in their expressions," Dhliwayo says. "To me, it is a sign of the inadequacies of addressing issues around the stigma."  For years, Dhliwayo worked as an AIDS activist in Zimbabwe, a country that has been devastated by the disease. Now 35, he says he became infected with HIV by having sex with a woman when he was a student away from home for the first time. He is now married, the father of three children, with a wife who is also HIV-positive.  For activists, especially those who fight for the rights of homosexuals, Zimbabwe is not a pleasant place. Dhliwayo requested refugee status in Canada last fall and moved to Toronto, where he became involved in the People With AIDS Foundation.

Canada started testing new immigrants for HIV in 2002, and many people coming from countries where AIDS is prevalent have tested positive. Dhliwayo has known for 11 years that he is HIV-positive but went through the same testing program.  He said he has spoken to many HIV-positive newcomers to Canada who feel lost.  "I am talking about the need for effective psychological counselling to prepare people to learn their (HIV) status. When someone tests positive, their life changes forever. It is very intimidating to come to a new country, and then learn they have this virus in their body. People have to understand how very stressful this can be."  Survival, for Dhliwayo, turns on the ability to live a spiritual life and move past the ignominy surrounding the disease.  "I have now accepted that I am HIV-positive. That means I have got a tiny little virus in my system which is battling to manifest itself, but, okay, here are the rules of the game. If I eat well, I don't get stressed out, I can suppress it.  "I had to plan what I want to do in life, and I want to fight the stigma. Because the truth is, life goes on."


Getting Into Gere

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Alwynne Gwilt, Entertainment Reporter

(Aug. 14, 2006) The spotlight shone on 48 youth involved in a film project for the International AIDS Conference yesterday, despite the fact a
passionate dialogue on AIDS issues was headed by silver-screen fox Richard Gere.  From the start of the chat on issues ranging from AIDS prevention to Stephen Harper, Gere and actor wife Carey Lowell made it clear the conversation was not about them but about how they could help the youth who will make films over 48 hours about HIV/AIDS topics.  "I don't really like giving speeches, so why don't you ask some questions so I know what you really want to talk about?" said the white-bearded Gere right off the start.  Both he and Lowell are HIV/AIDS activists. Part of Gere's foundation, Healing the Divide, works on projects in India that aim to reduce stigmatization and increase awareness of HIV/AIDS. He and Lowell spent 30 minutes yesterday afternoon chatting with the youth in the Community Dialogue Space of the Metro Convention Centre about how they can help bring HIV/AIDS issues to the forefront in their countries.  "In India, (many orphans) love cricket so we got cricket stars to do public service announcements ... and that really had a large effect," said Gere to one youth from Uganda who asked how younger generations can be taught the importance of HIV/AIDS early on and become productive citizens.  "And the investment that one can make in any kid is education. It gives them a sense of themselves, a sense of solidness and being in their own skin, an understanding of how they fit into the world and a sense of confidence in themselves."  "The best thing you can do for them is to give them a voice ... and empower them to tell their own stories," added Lowell. "That touches a lot of people."

For many, the issue was also about why more celebrities are not involved in activism, since their voices are often listened to by youth around the world.  "There are many celebrities who do this kind of work, but it wasn't always that way," said Gere, who will also speak at a "Media and AIDS" panel this evening. "That was one of the problems of getting the problems of HIV/AIDS known, is that no one would be even associated with the word.  "We had a president, Ronald Reagan, who never spoke the word AIDS ... and that pervaded all of our society, we had no leadership. So these things begin from the top, don't they?"  Perhaps the most poignant remark for Canadians came from Catherine Renaud, a 19-year old from Whitby, Ont., who brought up Stephen Harper's refusal to attend the conference.  "A lot of us feel abandoned ... people have spent their entire life savings to be a delegate in this conference ... it's demonstrating to us a huge lack of support and him (not) viewing the HIV/AIDS issue as a primary issue," said Renaud to applause. "I was wondering what your view is on the Prime Minister not taking (the time to be here)?"  "I don't know your Prime Minister, but let me tell you about ... Prime Minister Singh in India," said Gere. "We went to see him and he reiterated it was one of the most important things for us to deal with. We said, `We'd like to have a media summit of all the media in India,' and he said, `That's wonderful, where would you like to have it?' We said `We would like it at your residence ... and we'd like you to be there the entire day.' And that's what he did ... heads of all the media in India were there presided over by (Singh), discussing and making commitments.  "Now that is leadership, not what you have here."

"I do hope someone can approach our Prime Minister and get the same results," said Renaud.  "Absolutely. You have to keep working on it, but if he doesn't change don't re-elect him, that's what you can do," replied Gere to applause.  Chosen from more than 1,000 applicants, the 48 youth from countries as diverse as Armenia and Guyana will be split into eight teams of eight, and given two days — starting today at 4 p.m. — to write, shoot and edit a three-minute film that will be screened and judged at MTV headquarters Thursday night. Many are medical students who have never used a camera, and questions inevitably arose about how to make a good film and be a strong actor.  "I've been reminded that I am a western youth and I come from a lot of power and privilege ... I don't know how I'd have any right portraying someone who's so different from me," said Andrea Yip, 20, from Calgary. "How do you step into a role you're so disconnected with?"  "All of us have experienced, to some degree, a little bit of everything," said Gere. "We've all been sad, we've all lost people, we've all been angry, we've all done horrible things. We've basically had the same experience as every other being, so that's an easy thing to draw upon."  By the end, Gere was thanking the youth for their work, not the other way around.  "The world is always changed by the youth, always ... you have ultimate power," said Gere, adding he learned this as a child of the '60s. "Now if you can do it with generosity, with real love, with real understanding, then the transformation is joyous.  "If you can educate kids, they know how to educate (their peers) on a subject and that change then becomes organic ... there's nothing imposed from outside and that's when real change can happen. So I wish you a lot of luck; thank you for doing this."

Media Crucial In AIDS Fight, Says Gere

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Surya Bhattacharya, Staff Reporter

(Aug. 15, 2006) Actor and activist
Richard Gere, overwhelmed by the attention, briefly took centre stage yesterday to open a discussion on the role of the media in spreading the word about HIV/AIDS.  "I am not worthy," he said to applause at the International AIDS Conference.  An organization founded by Gere, Healing the Divide, focuses in part on the evolving HIV/AIDS epidemic in India.  Gere talked of the first time he was confronted with AIDS, in the early '80s when Rock Hudson was diagnosed. "The disease was just being known and it was in my community," said Gere. "It was such a shock to the system ... someone who was part of us. It was then, when as America, we took notice."  He spoke of his work with the Indian and Russian media, following the launch of the Global Media Initiative in 2004 by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, along with the Kaiser Family Foundation and UNAIDS.  "Seasoned CEOs and owners came together and they brought cultural icons to power it," Gere said. He told how the Indian media created public service advertisements targeted at specific audiences: families, youth, high and low income. Messages were incorporated into game shows and embedded into plotlines of television shows.  "If it's done with good actors, high-quality production, then you humanize it. This is something I deeply believe in," said Gere, mentioning an award-winning medical show on Star India that incorporated the story of an HIV-positive patient.  William Roedy, president of MTV Networks International and chair of the Global Media AIDS Initiative, moderated the special session. "Media has such a huge role to play and being in it, I can say we're not doing enough," said Roedy. "Media can be a force for good."


Equip Women In Fight, Gates Urges

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Isabel Teotonio and Rick Westhead, Staff Reporter, With files from Thulasi Srikanthan and Anna Piekarski

(Aug. 14, 2006)
Bill Gates wants world leaders and pharmaceutical companies to give women the power to prevent the spread of HIV by developing drugs that block the transmission of the virus.  "This could mark a turning point in the epidemic and we have to make it an urgent priority," Gates said last night to thunderous applause during his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the International AIDS conference at the Rogers Centre.  "We want to call on everyone here and around the world to help speed up what we hope will be the next big breakthrough in the fight against AIDS."  The Microsoft chairman explained that in many parts of the world, women are at the mercy of the men in their lives and do not have the right to refuse sex, let alone sex without a condom.  "No matter where she lives, who she is, or what she does, a woman should never need her partner's permission to save her own life," Gates said.  It was a sentiment echoed by Peter Piot, the executive director of UNAIDS, who said a "top priority is to immediately double funding for microbicide research and development."  A microbicide is a vaginal gel or cream applied prior to sex that will stop the transmission of HIV, while oral prevention drugs are antiretrovirals that, taken before infection, may prevent the transmission of HIV.

In a joint keynote speech, Gates and his wife, Melinda, also called on the audience of more than 30,000 scientists, advocates and health workers from around the world to increase global access to HIV prevention and treatment.  "While there is promising research to report, the world, in my view, has not done nearly enough to discover these new tools — and I include our foundation in that assessment," said Gates, referring to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has donated $650 million (U.S.) to the fight against AIDS — including $500 million just last week.  Last night's ceremony included speeches by federal Health Minister Tony Clement, Mayor David Miller, Premier Dalton McGuinty, Governor General Michaële Jean and conference co-chair Dr. Helene Gayle, as well as musical performances by Chantal Kreviazuk, Alicia Keys, Barenaked Ladies and Our Lady Peace.  There was much discussion among them about the simmering controversy over Canada's failure to get inexpensive generic drugs to poverty-stricken countries in Africa, as well as the Prime Minister Stephen Harper's absence from the conference.  Harper's office has said he could not attend the summit because he is touring Nunavut in the Arctic.  Comments by Dr. Mark Wainberg, conference co-chair and director of the McGill University AIDS Centre, prompted raucous applause and standing ovations from delegates.

"Mr. Harper, you have made a mistake that puts you on the wrong side of history," said Wainberg.  "The role of prime minister includes the responsibility to show leadership on the world stage. Your absence sends a message that you do not regard HIV/AIDS as a critical priority. Clearly, all of us here tonight disagree with you."  The clapping continued as Wainberg spoke of the "shameful" fact that as many as one-third of all new HIV infections in Canada today occur in our aboriginal populations.  Although Wainberg criticized Harper, he commended Clement for being present and for "making a difference in the global fight against AIDS."  He urged people in the audience to welcome Clement to the stage, but once there, part of Clement's opening remarks were drowned out with chants of, "Where's Stephen Harper?"  Delegate Michael Evangeli, a British psychologist who works with HIV/AIDS patients said: "What was he thinking? He's the one person in Canada who should've been here. You wouldn't get (Prime Minister) Tony Blair doing that."


Ottawa Promises Cheap Drugs

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Isabel Teotonio, Staff Reporter

(Aug. 14, 2006) The federal health minister wants Canada to keep its promise of supplying cheap AIDS drugs to Africa and is seeking advice on changing legislation that is hindering the flow of life-saving medication.  "If we can put a man on the moon, we can solve this issue," said Tony Clement of Canada's Access to Medicines Regime, which, ironically, was designed to boost the Canadian production of generic drugs for poor countries.  The problem, say critics, is that Canada based its law on an already complicated framework designed by the World Trade Organization, and muddled it further when implementing it into national law.  To date, not a single pill has been exported and not a single patient has benefited from the Canadian law, which was passed two years ago.  "Obviously the legislation isn't working," said Clement, while attending an international nurses forum in Toronto on the weekend.  In the days leading up to last night's opening in Toronto of AIDS 2006, the 16th international conference on AIDS — the theme of which is "Time to Deliver" — activists have been extremely critical of Canada's record.  Clement said he has sought advice from organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, as well as Stephen Lewis, the UN's special envoy for AIDS in Africa, on how to make the law work.  "We have failed lamentably," said Lewis. "It's almost unbelievable that two governments — one Liberal and one Conservative — can't get a single pill to Africa."  Lewis said Clement pressed him "fairly hard" for advice on Saturday on how to get the drugs flowing. The answer, said Lewis, is to issue compulsory licences to generic pharmaceutical companies that would allow them to make drugs without the patent holder's permission.

Currently, legislation stipulates the drug's patent holder and the generic company planning to reproduce the drug must negotiate at least 30 days before asking for a compulsory licence. But there is no time limit on how long talks can last.  "What's wrong with these governments?" asked Lewis. "In truth, the minister of health and minister of industry have all the power in the world to issue a compulsory licence and get the generic drugs that Canada promised to Africa at prices that Africans can afford and will save, ultimately, millions of lives."  One of the companies currently caught in the legislation is Apotex Inc., which has developed the generic Apo-triAvir, but is locked in negotiations with the patent holder, GlaxoSmithKline.  "This is not rocket science — a government has great power," said Lewis, adding that Clement seemed genuinely interested in doing what he could. But then again, said Lewis, he had a similar conversation with the minister three months ago and nothing came of it.  Richard Elliott, deputy director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said he and Doctors Without Borders met three of Clement's advisers last Thursday.  During the hour-long meeting, both organizations tried to hammer home the point that Canada needs to introduce a more direct and streamlined mechanism.  "There are a number of problems with the (WTO) framework and the Canadian legislation," said Elliott. "But at its core, it's got the process backward."  Melinda Gates, in Toronto for AIDS 2006 with her husband to represent the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said yesterday getting drug companies to lower their prices so more drugs can make it out to impoverished African nations isn't really an issue any more.

"The issue now is how do we retain enough personnel in these countries to help administer and deliver the drugs on an ongoing basis," she told reporters. "And that cost is still very high."  At a press briefing yesterday, Clement said Canada is doubling its investment in its national fight against AIDS from the current $42.2 million to $84.4 million by 2008. However, this is not new money — the original announcement was made in December 2005.  Internationally, Canada has committed $800 million in the present and as for the future, he hinted an announcement could be forthcoming.  The fight to get a better system to deliver generic HIV drugs dates back to Aug. 30, 2003, when negotiations among WTO members resulted in a landmark decision that allowed generic versions of patented drugs to be copied under compulsory licence and exported to developing nations.  According to the decision, a generic producer must negotiate a tentative contract with a developing country to supply a certain product in a certain quantity at a certain price. Based on that agreement, the country must send a notification to the WTO declaring its intention to import drugs and the generic company must negotiate with the patent holder for a voluntary licence. If those talks fail, then the generic producer must apply for two compulsory licences — one in its home country and one in the country where the drugs are destined if they're protected under patent there.  "Each of these steps is time-consuming and holds no guarantee of success," reads a report by Doctors Without Borders that will be presented at the conference.  In September 2003, Canada announced it would implement the WTO's decision and in May 2004 it passed the Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa act, which has since been renamed Canada's Access to Medicines Regime. But it topped its legislation with additional requirements that made it even tougher for generic producers to get drugs out.

For instance, since negotiations over voluntary licensing between generic companies and patent holders must last at least 30 days, it is tough to discern when talks are simply stalled or have broken down. Also, the law is limited to a list of specific medicines in specific formulations. Even if a generic company makes it through all those hurdles and a compulsory licence is granted, it is valid for only two years. After that, the entire process starts again.  At the bare minimum, said Elliott, Canada needs to get rid of the extra requirements it added. But that, he warns, would be "sort of like tinkering around the edges" and not addressing the real problem which is the original Aug. 30, 2003 decision by the WTO to allow copies of patented drugs.  It's clearly not working, he said, since no one has taken advantage of it. Not one country has notified the WTO that it plans to import cheaper drugs.  It's an indication the barriers to accessing the life-saving drugs are simply too high, said Elliott.  He said he proposed to Clement's advisers that legislation be enacted that would automatically grant a compulsory licence to a generic manufacturer.  With that in hand, the company could negotiate contracts with various countries and pay royalties to the patent holder based on whatever deals were reached.



The Gospel According To Patti Labelle

Excerpt from - By Mona Austin /

(August 15, 2006)
Patti LaBelle is up to something that is going to shake the foundation of the music world.   With the recording of “When You’ve Been Blessed (Feels Like Heaven)” she left lovers of gospel music wanting more and now they can get their fill with “You Are My Friend,”  the first ever gospel album release in her over forty year music career.   Spectators at the 39th Annual Gospel Music Association of America Convention kick-off celebration were first to hear an appetizer from the project when Patti delighted the crowd with her emotive presentation of the  gospel standard “Walk Around Heaven All Day,” which will appear on the October 17 release.    Through hot flashes and tired spells the legendary LaBelle (who frequently refers to her challenges with menopause and diabetes during performances) at 63 years old is going strong in spite of her challenges with health.  At the Dallas Convention Center at around 1:30 a.m. Monday she told the crowd, “I’ve got Diabetes, but Diabetes doesn’t have me.”  Over the past several years Labelle has shut down on stage on a few occasions from illness, leaving on-lookers wondering about her endurance as a performer.   When people ask how she is feeling, she says she answers, “I feel how God has me feeling today.” Often the singer has pronounced her spirituality and reliance on God on stage and gospel songs are in her regular concert repertoire, so she was in her comfort zone.  With an inclination toward dramatic performance not unlike many church singers, the crowd was also in their comfort zone with the majority of them standing throughout Patti’s set. 

She stamped out all doubt about her ability to deliver on stage with a world class performance.    Coupled with being signed to music pioneering guru Jheryl Busby’s label (Umbrella Records) and  collaborating with the young elite of Gospel, Hip Hop and Country music, the album is going to escalate the magnitude of her already massive appeal.  The first single entitled “Anything” will feature the soulful Mary Mary and envelope pushing Kanye West, favourites in both gospel and hip hop.   She began work on the album originally with Budd Ellison, her long time music director and friend who passed away last year.  Continuing in that vein of superiority, the album is being completed by some of the most recognized luminaries in the entire music industry. Master producers Buster & Shavoni whose blistering skills have shown up on the albums for Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin, T-Bone, and Tony Braxton will put their treatment on Patti’s project. The voices of Ce Ce Winans, Winona Judd, Tye Tribbett, The Gospel Soulseekers, and J Moss will intensify the offering.

While fanning herself, she asked the menopausal women in the audience to say “Whew!” Somewhat teary-eyed she told the crowd that God is taking her to another level and it was apparent when she tossed into the air the papers she was holding onto for the words to a few of the songs. She pressed her way through three other common church songs, ending with the “The Lord’s Prayer” which she finished with the audience singing “Amen.”    Nisan Stewart, a singer in the Stellar Award winning Soul Seekers and LaBelle’s drummer will share producing duties.   “I get to see from both sides why she’s so respected," says Stewart.  "In her regular show she talks about how she feels about God, but it’s like gospel is taking her to a whole new level.  God is doing a new thing for her.”  A flurry of “Amens” are expected for the upcoming album. The release of “You Are My Friend” will be followed Miss LaBelle’s tour featuring the Soulseekers.


Soulster Bobby Valentino Back For 'Special Occasion'

Source: Amina Elshahawi , ThinkTank Marketing,,

(August 10, 2006) Showcasing his vocal talents through a 14-track masterpiece, the album is beautifully balanced with harmonious, sexy, melodious ballads and mid-tempos synonymous with his signature sound. 
Valentino’s evolution as one of the most respected songwriters and artists today will be undeniable once listeners get a glimpse of “Special Occasion,” arguably his best body of work to date.   With Valentino co-writing more than three quarters of “Special Occasion,” the new album also boasts songwriting and production credits from award winning hit makers such as Rodney Jerkins, Sean Garrett, Tim & Bob, Bryan Michael Cox and Dre & Vidal.   On the heels of success off of the album’s buzz single, “Wreck,” a Sean Garrett produced track where Valentino sings and smoothly rhymes over a catchy, up tempo beat, the album’s soon to be released, first official single will be the Rodney Jerkin’s produced song, “Turn the Page” a heartfelt and emotional ballad about trust, love and taking chances in a relationship.   Singing professionally since the age of 13, the world was first introduced to the sound of Bobby Valentino when he was the lead singer in Organized Noize’s teen vocal group Mista who’s debut single, “Blackberry Molasses” remains a classic to this day.

 After taking a break to focus on his studies and graduate from Clark Atlanta University, Valentino was later “discovered” by Multi-Platinum and Award Winning rapper Ludacris and business partner, Chaka Zulu (President of DTP). Immediately impressed by Valentino’s talents, DTP signed Valentino and introduced him as a solo artist in 2005 with the release of “Disturbing Tha Peace presents Bobby Valentino.”  The album produced the hit single “Slow Down,” making it debut at #1 on the Hip Hop/R & B charts, followed by a second hit single “Tell Me,” which pushed the album to sell over 800,000 copies to date. Additionally, Valentino garnered nominations from the 37th Annual Image Awards for Outstanding New Artist, Soul Train Nominations for Best R&B/Soul Single, Male and Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist.


Rihanna Admires Alicia Keys’ Fashion Choices

Excerpt from

(Aug. 14, 2006) *
Rihanna says she is too darn bashful to be taking off all her clothes for a photo shoot. A German magazine discovered that recently when the singer refused to grace the cover after learning the editors wanted her topless.  "I don't like to wear things (that are) too skimpy... If I do shorts on the bottom, it's gotta be something very conservative at the top. If it's skimpy at the top, it's gotta be long jeans or something,” the Barbados-born pop singer said according to Female First. "I like to balance it out. I won't do short shorts and short top.” Rihanna said she’d rather emulate her idol Alicia Keys when it comes to decisions about showing skin: "That's what I admire so much about Alicia Keys. She became so successful off of just her music. She was really conservative about her style at first."

Rihanna may have gotten a dressing down of sorts by none other than Beyonce. Folks who have heard her track “Ring the Alarm,” which was leaked last week from her upcoming album “B’Day,” believe the singer’s fiery lyrics are meant as a not-so-subtle warning for Rihanna, who was rumoured to be dating her boyfriend Jay-Z in New York while she was filming “Dreamgirls” in Los Angeles.  In an angry, deliberately over-modulated voice – and with WWII air raid sirens blaring in the background – Beyonce shouts in the chorus: “Ring the Alarm! I been doin’ this too long! But I’ll be damned if I see another chick on your arm!” The song was supposed to be the second single from “B-Day,” due in stores Sept. 4, and it was tipped that Beyonce would be belting this number live at MTV’s Video Music Awards on Aug. 31, but then word leaked that another single – possibly “Green Light” (produced by The Neptunes) or “Get Me Bodied” (laced by Swizz Beatz) will be released instead after “Ring the Alarm” fared poorly among focus groups.    Another rumour says the song is not directed at Rihanna, but at singer Blu Cantrell, who apparently had a little thing with Jay-Z in the past. In any case, a video has reportedly been shot for “Ring the Alarm,” but it’s unsure when, if ever, it will be released.


Hip-Hop Miami Less Vice, More Scarface

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Brett Johnson, Associated Press

(Aug. 12, 2006) NEW YORK—For Miami hustler-turned-rapper
Rick Ross, the rise to the top hasn't exactly been meteoric. He toiled for more than a decade in the city's music scene, appearing on albums by fellow hometown rappers, including Trick Daddy and Trina, before having breakout success of his own.  So when Ross recently got his first chance to hold the jewel case and flip through the liner notes of his debut solo CD, Port of Miami, the laidback, bald-headed MC was nearly giddy.  "Just seeing the album, just looking at it ... It's legendary," the 28-year-old Def Jam artist says, sitting in the label's offices, transfixed by the disc's artwork.  "When you're young, first having dreams about being a rapper, I remember going into the local mom and pop stores, and seeing the Def Jam logo on the vinyl. Being a fan of LL Cool J and now being on this level, it's an honour."  Ross, who stands six feet tall and weighs about 300 pounds, acknowledges that his good fortune is largely due to his runaway hit, "Hustlin'". A local sensation that eventually gained broader attention, the song features ominous organs, stuttering handclaps, a hypnotic chorus ("Every day, I'm hustlin'") and Ross's deliberate rhymes about Miami's grimy side. He declares: "See all these killers around me?/ A lotta drug dealing 'round me/ going down in Dade County."  Upon recognizing the record's buzz, several labels vied for Ross's signature. But after taking a meeting with Def Jam President Shawn (Jay-Z) Carter and its chairman, Antonio (L.A.) Reid, Ross joined the label's roster, which includes rap luminaries such as LL Cool J, Kanye West and Nas.

"It was the ultimate motivational record," says Shakir Stewart, the label's senior v-p of A&R who also recently signed Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy. "The hook is not just about drug trafficking. Everybody hustles. Every day people hustle."  Still, Ross's gritty depictions — more Scarface than Miami Vice — are a far call from the glamorous images of bikini-clad models, resort hotels and Art Deco architecture most associated with South Beach.  Instead, Port of Miami reflects a hard-knock life about 32 kilometres away in Carol City, the lower class, predominately black suburb where Ross, born William Roberts, was raised.  "It's a real hardcore place," says Ross, adding that many of his friends are either dead or incarcerated. "And at the same time, you got to see some of the finer things being near Miami. That made me a big dreamer."  Ross considers Port of Miami a portrait of Sunshine State culture and hopes it will become a gritty guide to the region, as much as any Ice Cube album was for West Coast hip-hop.  "When you heard an Ice Cube album, you knew their slang, the automobiles of choice, the weapons, the gangs, the colours. He made you familiar," Ross says. "It'll be the same thing with Port of Miami. You gonna hear about the hustle, the grind and the shine.


Stephanie Dotson’s Miraculous Musical Debut

Excerpt from

(August 10, 2006) While speaking to Shreveport, LA born singer, the squeak of porch swings and thick aroma of a home cooked meal come to my mind.   Her smile is the warmth of a Southern sunset.  Her laugh a giggle, skipping like a rock flicked into a lake.  When she talks it sounds like her mouth is filled with more than just words. You know the sound ... buxom and round like cotton.  That down-home voice landed her an appearance at the end of the Tyler Perry film, Madea’s Family Reunion, singing the melancholy, yet reassuring a cappella “Pray On.”  Her musical foray was formalized this Spring with the introduction of her first album.  But, the recording of
Stephanie Dotson’s first CD almost didn’t happen. 

Although she loves to sing, entering The Gospel Dream contest that ultimately secured her recoding deal had not occurred to her.  But, Pastor Larry Brandon of the Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, recognizing her vocal opulence, encouraged his praise and worship leader to participate.  And then came that one moment in time, when all of her dreams were a heartbeat away. . .Stephanie Dotson was crowned the 2004 Gospel Dream Talent Search Winner, as millions watched the tears stream down her cheeks on BET’s most viewed Sunday morning program.  (She later earned a GED and nursing certificate.) The win was a genuine surprise for the unassuming artist, who said she dropped out of high school and was the least likely to succeed.  With firsthand experience she could attest that “Miracles Still Happen.”  This epiphany became the title of her Artemis gospel recording. Career in full throttle, the Southern lady is still very active in her church as a praise and worship leader and minister, and is grateful to Co-Pastors Larry and Wand Brandon for being her spiritual covering.  A more hectic schedule has made her even closer to her family.  At the time of our interview Stephanie was playing hostess to her five and nine-year-old nephews.  Stephanie shared with me how she is getting comfortable with this new season in her life and some surprise interests:

Mona Austin: How has life been different since your Gospel Dream win?

Stephanie Dotson: Not the same old praise and worship.  It’s on whole different feel, stage presence, the time schedule is different, all the traveling.  I opened for Lisa McClendon and my ‘God Brother Micah Stampley.’ I’ve been singing everywhere. . . Family knows you and our church is a big family and when you get before other people a lot times their not receptive until they hear the power and anointing  of God; it's a different thing.

MA: What's your reception been like?

SD: All glory goes to God. A lot of people knew me.  I didn't think they would recognize me. . .It’s been really good

MA: How are you adjusting to the change of pace?

SD: I'm adjusting well. It gets strenuous trying to balance things.  I’m still doing praise and worship at church and preaching.  I’m a minister.  My pastor taught me to put God first and everything else will fall into place.

MA: Tell me about your background?

SD: My Mother and Father raised me. Pastor L.R. Dotson and Diane Dotson. Grandfather is a pastor.  I was in choir, gospel choir in high school. Started singing at about the age of 3. My mom and Dad would stand me up on a table and I would sing “Yes Jesus Loves Me.” Been singing 30+ years now.

MA: Did you aspire to be anything other than a singer?

SD One while I wanted to be a model. I've been looking at this thing Mo'Nique is doing, I'm thinking about it (P.H.A.T Chance.)  I think her style and how she looks is excellent for a full-figured women--not her mouth, but the way she presents her body.

MA: What do you want your fans to know about you?

SD:  I'm cool, down to earth, believe in being a part of the people. You have to know your audience. I believe in conversing with the people. I’m somebody who loves life and loves God.  I’m not stuck up like some artists can be. You're really nothing without God.  I’m a praise and worship leader, and elder in the church. . .It’s not just a title, but I want people to know me for who I am and I try to live that life.  What would you like to see come of your gospel career?  . . .I wanna do things that hadn't been done.  I  want to go preach and sing to those who don't know about Jesus---to teach the masses-- I want a life changing ministry.  And I want to encourage people to go on through.  I don't focus on what I'm going through--I just go through.  I want the ability and the anointing.  With the two together lives will change.

(Aside.)  To work with Bishop Morton was very humbling, many have imitated but there’s nobody like Bishop Morton it was the right song for this time. He's my musical mentor. He chose the right song for Katrina and Rita.

MA: Why the title ‘Miracles Still Happen?’

SD: It's a miracle because it's been 30 years in the making and to have it finally come true--to walk in your destiny is awesome. I'm glad it came through.  And I enjoyed working with Ted  from Ted and Sheri who coached me through.

MA: If you had the power to change anything in the world what would you change?

SD: I would love to change religion.  I would “x” out all religions because we're just one body.  There would be no religion. Every body would just love Jesus.

MA: If you could be any inanimate object what would you be?

SD: I probably would be a spoon, so that I could taste Blue Belle Millenuim Crunch Ice Cream.

MA: But you get to taste it while you’re a person. …

SD: But I get to live in it if I'm a spoon.

MA: What words to would you share with our future generations, the young people of today?

SD: Holiness is right.  Trying to live a life that is holy is right and God will take them to heights unknown.

MA: What words would you like to appear on your tombstone when your journey on Earth is over?

SD: Roman 8: 28 "All Good." It’s still all good.


Sandi Thom - Rags To Riches, Thanks To A Webcam

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(Aug. 13, 2006) It's an old story. An unremarkable singer-songwriter flies to the moon, where she builds, at zero gravity, a better mousetrap, all the while being cheered on by mobs of frenzied rooters. The images are beamed directly to desktop computer monitors. Upon her return to earth, scepticism creeps in -- the novel feat was simply too outlandish to believe. Critics heap scorn and contempt; a fresh star is forced to defend herself. To explain: Freckled, sneaker-wearing
Sandi Thom, a 24-year-old Scottish-born Londoner, recently rose to the top of the U.K. singles charts with I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (with Flowers in My Hair), the same tune she had released in 2005 with much less success. A year ago, Thom was an unknown musician signed to a small independent label. Today, she's a cyber-savvy star on a major label. What follows is the story of how one artist used the Internet to her considerable advantage. Early this year, Thom purchased a $120 webcam, which she used to promote her art (exuberant folk-pop in the vein of Serena Ryder or Tracy Chapman). Tired of making it from gig to gig in her crumbling, black Ford Focus, she began streaming "concerts" on from her unadorned basement in Tooting, South London. Each "city" of her 21-night cyber-tour was much the same as the others, except for the use of unexceptional props. A small Eiffel Tower model placed on a coffee table, for example, created the illusion of a Paris-set performance. The 30-minute concerts may have been streamed out of a "piss-stained basement" that accommodated only six people, but the auditorium that is the World Wide Web was well larger. According to Thom's website, 70 folks tuned in for the first show. The viewership jumped to nearly 700 the second night, and by the end of the "tour," some 70,000 were watching Thom sing songs like When Horsepower Meant What it Said, a rockabilly-style number that laments, perhaps ironically, the furious process of keeping up with progress.

On April 3, after media fur began to fly, Thom went the rags-to-riches route, signing a substantial record deal with RCA for five albums, the first one being Smile. . .It Confuses People (out Sept. 12 in Canada). The inking of the contract was webcast from Thom's now "historic" cellar. It's a cute story, which now finds itself being poked at. How did a "struggling artist" (as she had been described) pay for the expensive bandwidth required to handle 70,000 simultaneous webcast viewers? (Answer: A company agreed to handle the bandwidth for the webcasts free of charge, to test their systems.) As well, it's now accepted that media hype is what triggered the upsurge in traffic to Thom's site, not any sort of organic word-of-mouth phenomenon. Thom shrugs off her detractors, saying that "the proof is in the pudding," that "you can't dispute the fact that the record is so successful," and that "you can't dispute the fact that we're already pulling in 200 to 250 people per night in the States, and this is the first time we've played a gig here." (A recent show at Joe's Pub in New York drew a sold-out crowd of 160.) As for the "impoverished artist" tag, Thom notes that is was the media who portrayed her as the pauper. "The word 'struggling' is a word I've never personally used," she says, with an upbeat Scottish inflection. Thom admits that, before the webcasts, she had already signed a publishing deal that allowed her to live "vaguely comfortably." Subsequent to all the hoopla, it was learned that a public relations agency had spammed up interest in Thom and the webcasts.  The way Thom sees it, the medium has changed but the game hasn't. "Promotion," she explains, "it's always been there. People have been controlling things since the fifties, ever since Elvis's manager had girls screaming at concerts."

As for the doubters, Thom understands. "Anything that changes the way a whole globe thinks, people will question it. When the astronauts landed on the moon, people thought it was shot in the desert," she says, making an immodest comparison. "It's always going to happen." Interestingly, her chart-topping I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker finds a wistful singer longing for days when the "media couldn't buy your soul, and computers were still scary," or when "pop stars still remained a myth, and ignorance could still be bliss." Thom wrote it before her cyber-spawned and media-hyped career took off, and so she deems the irony "acceptable."  "It's about longing for a simpler life," she explains. "There are certain times I want to shut away from the world and turn off every bit of connection I have on my person so nobody could ever reach me, so I could disappear for a bit. She might get her wish, more than she wants. Meanwhile, as for the snipers who attempt to discredit Thom's rise, who see the slick marketing as something more sinister than any pre-computer schemes, they should recall what Pink Floyd told us: "There is no dark side of the moon, really . . . matter of fact, it's all dark."


People Of Note: Grady Tate -- His Lifetime Of Music

Excerpt from - By Deardra Shuler

(August 15, 2006) *
Grady Tate sat backstage at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on the fifth floor of Jazz at Lincoln Center located at Broadway and 60th Street in Manhattan, where he discussed his first appearance at Dizzy’s as a singer.  He talked about his music, his tour, his artist development projects, and working with Jessye Norman in Vail, Colorado.   Diminutive in stature, Grady is known for his giant talent. This fact was corroborated by the applause Tate and his accompaniment Ray Gallon on piano; Paul West on bass; Montez Coleman on drums; Lance Murphy on tenor sax and Wilson Chembo Corneil on percussions received from the delighted audience when Grady sang many of their favourites, including one of his big hits, “Windmills of Your Mind.”  Windmills netted Mr. Tate a Grammy nomination as Best Male Vocalist in 1969. Known both as a drummer and singer, Grady Bernard Tate entered the world on January 14, 1932.  He began singing at the age of 4 in his home state of Durham, North Carolina.  A year later the boy prodigy taught himself how to play the drums.  “Most of the recordings I have done have been for my own pleasure.  There was a time I didn’t even know how many records I sold or how many hits I had.  I had no idea who listened to my music or who enjoyed it.  I was just pleased to sing and I enjoyed many of my recordings as I do now.  I sit and listen to my music quite often,” the 74 year old performer stated.  “I used to sing as a boy soprano until my voice changed.  I was so upset when it changed I didn’t sing for a long while after that.  I resumed singing when I was in the service,” mused Tate.  “Instead of fighting someone, or having to kill someone, I played the drums.  I was in the Air Force Band.  I went into the military as an entertainer and attended the Air Force Band School in Waco, Texas.  I learned a lot from the Air Force Band School and spent a lot of time entertaining the troops.  I really enjoyed the 4 years I spent in the military as a performer” continued Mr. Tate.

A graduate of North Carolina Central University where he earned a degree in English Literature and Drama, Grady now works with youth and also teaches at Howard University. “The music of jazz is extremely difficult.  It is music that you have to study for many, many years in order to participate in it.  It is very technical and you have to know a lot about chords, progression and all phases of music to understand and play jazz.  To me, jazz and classical music are one and the same.  They are both classics.” said the consummate performer who has participated in his art form for over 50 years.  “I have performed with so many artists I would have to say I have done thousands of recordings with them,” recollected Tate.  He has recorded and performed with such greats as: Quincy Jones, Jimmy Smith, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Grover Washington, Jr., Pearl Bailey, Peggy Lee, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughn, and Andre Previn et al. Grady also served as the resident drummer on the Tonight Show during the reign of Johnny Carson.  Some may remember when he worked with Lena Horne as assistant conductor and drummer for her Broadway show “Lena Horne…The Lady and Her Music.”  He worked in the same capacity on the Broadway hit show “Black and Blue.”  Not to mention his second and third Grammy nominations for “Multiplication Rock” in 1973 and for “She’s Out of My Life” in 1987. “In traveling with and recording with artists over the years, I learned a great deal.  I learned about singing from the singers.  I learned tunes galore and I learned how to play music from almost every musician I have ever played with.  It’s difficult to explain.  However, I guess I can explain it by stating that ‘…I have just been a musician all my life.’  There was a time I wanted to be an actor and I attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I actually did well there.  However, there was a problem because of my size.  During the time I was taking up acting, the only black actors getting roles were what I would describe, as the big strapping Black.  Obviously, I don’t fit that category.  Diminutive black actors at that time could not get acting parts.  It was different for whites.  They control everything and had the money behind them.  Many of these white actors could produce their own films” said Tate tersely.

Presently touring, and planning on going to Spain in the near future, Grady also intends to spend some time in the studio recording a new CD which is due to come out on High Note Records.  Having toured in Japan, Grady commented on the Japanese people and their appreciation of Jazz. “I have been going to Japan for 35 years.  The Japanese people understand jazz the way American Black people understand jazz.  In 1942, when Black soldiers were in Japan after Japan had been totally destroyed, the Japanese women and Black soldiers got together and had families.  Their children grew up listening to American music, especially jazz because the black soldiers brought the music over there, so the Japanese developed a real love for the art form.” Looking at his life to date, Grady commented: “There are many things I could have done better, but I am quite satisfied with what I have done in my life and how I have done it.  I have no qualms about the music that I have enjoyed because I have been a big part of it.  I am proud of all the music I have done and my role in it as a performer.”


Fathead Keeps Them On Toes - David Newman Backs Dance Stars

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Aug. 15, 2006) Though he's recorded more than two dozen albums as a leader, tenor saxist-flautist
David "Fathead" Newman is best known as an exuberant erstwhile accompanist to the likes of Ray Charles and Herbie Mann.  And a rare Toronto performance tomorrow will find him sharing the spotlight once again, with tap dancer Brenda Bufalino, flamenco star Esmeralda Enrique and break dancer Jason York at the Toronto International Dance Festival gala, Jazz and How It Moves You.  That should be a cinch for the Dallas-raised Texan, who cut his teeth on bebop and blues and has moved seamlessly between jazz and R&B in a six-decade career that includes recordings with Lee Morgan, Donny Hathaway, B.B. King and Greg Allman. The Star spoke with the father of four by phone from a Colorado mountain cabin on the eve of his Toronto visit.

Q:        How did this collaboration with the Toronto dance festival come about?

A:            The bass player in my group, John Menegon; his brother (Michael Menegon) is the (artistic director) of the festival and he thought that we could do a very nice thing. We had worked with (U.S. tap sensation) Savion Glover before, but it was just him. My understanding is that this will be with quite a few dancers, so this will be a little different for us. But if we play the music correctly, it's left up to the dancers to do their thing.

Q:        What will you be playing?

A:            The dancers have some music they want us to do and we have music from our repertoire that they may want. We'll also have an opportunity to play without the dancers and we'll probably do music from (recently released) Cityscape. For the past 10 years I had been recording with mostly drums, piano, bass and maybe vibes, and I decided it was time that I go back and have some nice arrangements with other horns, which was really like my very first recording, Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David Newman (1959). The record label I am with finally gave me the opportunity and budget where I could hire some other musicians.

Q:        Your Toronto tour date was cancelled last fall after you broke your hip; how long were you laid up?

A:            Only a couple weeks, they pretty much have that hip replacement thing down to a science now. But I am starting to scale back a little bit, though retirement is not in my vocabulary. I just had my 73rd birthday.

Q:        How do you and wife-manager Carol spend the downtime?

A:            I enjoy movies and we like to go down to New York City to catch a Broadway show. We have a fairly new house in Woodstock and we're just happy being at home ... and enjoying the Catskill Mountains. I have a perennial garden that I'm very fond of and I also have a lot of plants inside the house.

Q:        How did North Texas manage to produce so many stellar musicians: you, Red Garland, Ornette Coleman, Cedar Walton, Roy Hargrove?

A:            It goes back even further, to people like Charlie Christian and Buddy Tate. You can call it luck or coincidence. Of course, we all try to live up to the tradition of wonderful artists that come from the area and it's fortunate to be counted among them. Ornette Coleman and I grew up together. Cedar Walton and I went to the same high school and had the same band director, though he was a year behind me. Red Garland was a little older than Cedar and I; he actually left Dallas before we knew him, but we knew about him.

Q:        Is it true that the nickname "Fathead" came from a music teacher who saw you reading sheet music upside down during a high-school band practice?

A:            I placed the music on my music stand without paying any attention to it and when the band started I began playing without really looking at it, because I knew the music and had already played it several times. The band instructor happened to walk behind me and noticed that my music was upside down.... He thumped me on the head and said `You fathead, you're supposed to read the music, not memorize it.'  All my classmates laughed and that became my nickname.... Now it's a trademark. I didn't find it offensive; as a matter of fact, it's something that keeps me on my toes.


Method Man Performs With Wu Tang Clan

Source: Marilyn Lopez | FYI PUBLIC RELATIONS, Senior Director of Lifestyle & Entertainment, | 

(August 16, 2006) In the dark, womb-like sanctuary of Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady studios in downtown Manhattan-a place that has birthed historical musical moments-sits the artist known as Iron Lung, Tical, Wu Brother #1, Johnny Blaze, and of course...
Method Man. With a trusty, half-lit blunt by his side, he is lounging in front of white grand piano, his hands sweeping the keyboards, trying to remember a tune he memorized years ago.  Maybe the idea of one of hip hop's finest-and grimiest-emcees tickling the ivories sounds odd, or out of place, but Mr. Mef has never been the type to fit in. His husky, guttural voice is perhaps the most distinct in the game, his flow-dark and complex like the graphic novels from which he took his moniker from-can bury itself in cinematic tracks from RZA, complement the voices of R&B divas and or attack party tracks from Rocwilder. Whether he is trading verses with partner in rhyme, Redman, crowd surfing at a Wu Tang show, or stealing a scene in various television shows and films, Method Man is a true individual spirit. With his latest album, 4:21, The Day After, he is also focused on being a true artist. Unlike some previous efforts-where Meth admits his priorities were different-on this new album, he says he's focusing on lyrics. After his last album, Tical O: The Prequel, he went through an especially rough time in his life-both personally and professionally-which provided him with a bulk of material. "I had a lot on my mind at the time and the second thing was, I decided to really talk about something and I had a lot to draw from and when the pen hit the paper it was like damn, remember this? And by the time I was done it was like shit, let's go." The result is his most personal and introspective work yet.

Doing the work behind the boards on 4:21, are Wu Tang mastermind and long-time collaborator, RZA as well as Scott Storch, Havoc, K1 and Eric Sermon. "With Eric, we did three songs in three days," Meth says with an amazed smile, "He just comes in with ideas of top. And with RZA, shit, I've watched him build tracks from scratch, so all I really have to do is put the pen to the paper". Eric Sermon provided the beat for Meth's first single, "Say", featuring Lauryn Hill. The track finds Meth addressing critics, fickle fans and haters for disrespecting him and his Wu Tang brethren.  "I've been venting about all this for years and [my manager] was like, 'Write about it, Eric has the perfect joint.' And, Lauryn Hill herself, she just had the raw emotion, the small things she said on the song was enough for me to push my pen and let myself be vulnerable."  Meth says his ability to let himself be so open is in line with the entire concept of the album, and its title. "The national weed smoking day is 4/20, so I named my album 4/21 the day after. Because after that day, you have this moment of clarity when you're not high and you see things clearly." The Grammy-winner sighs and continues, a serious, determined look on his face. "You feel like you're not in on the joke, and everyone's laughing at you. I felt like no one was taking me seriously. I got real angry and I just starting writing." Anger proved to be a great motivator, as the Ticalion Stallion wrapped up the album in a few short months. He says the creative process has been cathartic, and though his skin hasn't gotten any thicker, he's able to use his writing talent to inspire self-confidence. "It's real talk, I'm going to keep my spirits up and not let it get things to me. You know, if you start reading your own press and feeding into it, and you start questioning yourself, like, 'am I wack?' and you have to be like, 'No!' I learned to pat myself on the back, and that it's ok to pat myself on the back sometimes."  We definitely agree.


Letoya: Child Of Destiny Follows Her Own

Excerpt from - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(August 16, 2006) *
Letoya Luckett was on the verge of super-duper stardom when she separated from the group Destiny's Child. The young singer received a Grammy award for her work on the hit single "Say My Name," which helped catapult the group to the status of one of the most successful girl groups of our time.  Now, as a solo artist, Letoya's name has not been forgotten. With the first single of  her solo debut, "Torn" hanging at #1 on the Billboard charts for three weeks, a successful music career is certainly her own personal destiny. As most R&B powerhouses do, Letoya's singing journey started in the church where she sang in the children's choir. Back then, the singer says she just wanted to perform; she had no idea and no designs on becoming a professional singer. Fortunately for music fans, fate shaped her path. "I was pretty much leading all the songs. I guess from then on I thought, 'This is what I want to do.' At the time, I was not thinking like that - to be a singer, professionally. When I was around 10 or 11 and I was doing the school plays. I would try out and get the lead role, and people thought I wanted to be an entertainer, but I just wanted to sing."

It was during Letoya's elementary years, while working in a production of "Pinocchio" that she crossed paths with Beyonce Knowles. This meeting would be turning point in her ideas of what the future held. At the time Beyonce was already in a group called Girls Time, but some changes were afoot. "They were going through some changes and she told me to come try out for her father. Once I got in the group, we changed the name to Something Fresh." Something Fresh was the basis for something very exciting for the girls. The group would soon take shape and become Destiny's Child, made up of original members Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, Latavia Roberson, and Letoya. "It was a lot of fun," Letoya said of being in the group. "I think it was a special case because we had been friends for so long. We met in elementary school and had hung out for so long, we became sisters. So it wasn't like the management just went and found all kinds of girls off the streets, I think we had a special situation." In 2000, the group broke apart due to conflicts with the group's management - Beyonce's father, Matthew Knowles. Farrah Franklin and Michelle Williams replaced Luckett and Roberson, who found out when they caught the video for "Say My Name" featuring the two new members.  Franklin left shortly after and the group has since remained a trio. Letoya explained that separating from the group came when she and Roberson attempted to approach Knowles with questions about the group's business.

"We were young. It was like, 'Oh, that's just Beyonce's dad.' I think once we got older, because he had become a male figure in our life, I think we felt as children it was difficult for us to come to him on a business level. Once we did, he kind of got defensive at times. It was nothing personal with the girls, but being as [Beyonce's] father was the manager, it became more of a personal situation. Latavia and I had questioned that weren't getting answered. The way everything was structured - he was in control. It was hard because we had built such a family thing than a
business situation." In 2002 Letoya and Roberson settled a lawsuit against group members, Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, manager Matthew Knowles, and the group's label, Sony Music. Terms of the settlement were never disclosed. "When we were removed from the group, I didn't feel like my career was over, but we were hurting more over the friendship part of it than our dreams had been taken away," Letoya said of the greatest cost of the break-up. "I was feeling like, 'Oh, Christmas time, birthdays, Sundays after church - all these days where we normally come together and hang out were gone. That was the hardest part." Now the singer says she's a lot more mature and understands that communication plays an important role in business and in personal situations.

"We didn't have that," she said. "I think if we had pulled each other aside and talked, things would have been totally different. But obviously, that's not what God wanted. Of course we were a big part of making the group, but they're Destiny's Child. When I think of Destiny's Child, I think of Kelly, Michelle, and Beyonce. They've gone on to do so many things, I'm a fan now." It was onward and upward for the young singer, although she never saw herself as a solo artist. In fact, right after the breakup, Latavia and Letoya moved to Atlanta to start another girl group called Angel with some production help from Jagged Edge.  That group dissolved and now Letoya is finally flying solo with her self-titled debut disc. The record hit stores in late July and features production work from hitmakers Jermaine Dupri, Scott Storch, Just Blaze, and Brian Michael Cox (who went to high school with Letoya and Beyonce). The singer also calls on Paul Wall and fellow Houstonian Mike Jones to lace a couple tracks. "It took a while, but I wanted to get everything right," she said proudly of the disc. "I knew people would be able to relate to the record. I wanted to experience some things and go through some things and be able to write about true situations before I just threw something together and came out."

Some listeners say they are surprised to hear that Letoya can actually sing. Letoya said that if you listen to the early DC, you'll realize it's her hitting the high notes, as she was the soprano of the group. She said that a lot of people don't realize that in a group, there is a lead on the song, but there are other parts in play. Now, she has to take on all the parts. "I had to get used to it; doing all the parts," she said. "And somehow I just turned into a solo artist. That was not my purpose. I was just going to write some songs. I'm just blessed to have a second opportunity to come out and do what I've always wanted to do." Letoya is poised for a hot music career and her past triumphs and tribulations have only created a good base to grow from. The singer is featured as the cover story for the latest issue of "Unleashed Magazine," on newsstands next week and she is opening for Mary J. Blige from Aug. 8 to Sept. 10. Check for the latest news and updates.


The Fab Four's Finale

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Cassandra Szklarski, Canadian Press

(Aug. 16, 2006) The year was 1966, Edith Manea had just turned 17 and the greatest band in the world —
the Beatles, of course — were about to play their last concert ever in Canada.  Short of cash, but desperate to see her heroes, Edith and her twin sister marched down to Maple Leaf Gardens, turned on the waterworks and unleashed a sob story at the box office involving lost tickets. It worked. Moments later, they stood mere metres from the Fab Four, screaming along with thousands of other young fans.  "We waited until people in the front were fainting and being carted off and we just took a seat and we sat in the very front," says Manea, now a 56-year-old mother of two who goes by her married name, Ippolito. "I took photographs right up beside Paul McCartney singing `Yesterday,'" she recalls on the eve of the concert's 40th anniversary, which is tomorrow.  At the time, no one knew it would be the Beatles' farewell to Canada. John, Paul, George and Ringo would play their last concert ever as a group in San Francisco on Aug. 29, 1966, and announce thereafter that they would focus solely on studio recordings.  A two-day convention Sept. 16 and 17 at Exhibition Place in Toronto will commemorate the final tour. Original drummer Pete Best and John Lennon's onetime companion May Pang are expected to attend, and a never-before-heard Toronto bootleg from that '66 show will be played.  Convention organizer David Goyette warns the bootleg is "mostly screaming." Ippolito concurs.

"It was about 25 minutes of total screaming," she says, adding that the musicianship left a lot to be desired.  Beatles expert Peter Miniaci says neither the matinee nor evening concerts sold out that day, the only Canadian stop on the tour. Amid controversy and waning fan frenzy, the Gardens sold just 15,000 of its 18,000 tickets for the matinee and 17,000 tickets for the evening show.  Miniaci, who runs Toronto's Beatlemania Shoppe, blames the leftover seats on Beatles fatigue.  Those who did go paid a mere $5.50 for a floor seat or $4 for a seat in the rafters. Inside, it was bedlam. Just like every other Beatles show, the audience was packed with screaming teenage girls, all clamouring for a glimpse of their idols, says Ippolito.  The real fun was had backstage, says the now-73-year-old Paul White, head of A&R for Capitol Canada at the time.  "Well, that was a bigger madhouse than the actual show because you had all the people in town that they knew from the record label and then musicians that they'd met along the way," says White. "And there were groupies, of course, but that's enough said about that."



Kanye West Headed To The Altar

Excerpt from

(Aug. 14, 2006) *
Kanye West has popped the question to his girlfriend Alexis, a woman who has reportedly dated the rapper for several years and was his girlfriend before the 2002 car wreck that broke his jaw and nearly took his life. People magazine reported on its Web site Friday that the six-time Grammy winner, 29, had broken up with Alexis in August of 2004, but rekindled the relationship sometime this year. According to People, he proposed during a recent two-week long overseas getaway with Alexis, whose last name and occupation were a mystery as of press time.  Also unknown is what happened to Brooke Crittenden, the 24-year-old assistant-turned-model who was reportedly dating West as recently as last April, reports E! Online. West told Rolling Stone recently that he had dated Crittenden for more than a year.  Crittenden once told the New York Daily News: "I don't think we've ever been apart longer than seven days. I trust him. He's got so much going on, but he never makes me feel like number two."  West’s camp has not commented on the reported engagement. This would be the rapper/producer’s first marriage.

Musicians Brace For Travel Restrictions

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Aug. 13, 2006) Paris -- Europe's summer music festivals faced a headache yesterday over a British hand-luggage ban sparked by an alleged bomb plot, with top performers deeply reluctant to be parted from their precious instruments. The conductor of Moscow's celebrated Bolshoi Theatre, which is performing in London until Aug. 20, warned that his musicians would under no circumstance check in their instruments. "I saw two violins being checked in as luggage, which is unacceptable," said Alexander Vedernikov, who flew back to Moscow ahead of the other musicians. Organizers at London's prestigious BBC Proms festival said they were hoping for minimum disruption from the security measures. "We are all concerned and working closely with the airlines and with the orchestras to ensure that everybody can travel as usual," said a spokeswoman for the festival. AFP

Roy Thomson Hall Unveils New Season Line-up

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Aug. 16, 2006) With the traditional weight of classical and world music,
Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall have announced their 2006-2007 season.  Brazilian artists Sergio Mendes and Gilberto Gil share a concert schedule that includes perennial visitors Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and the Afro-Cuban All Stars, as well as newcomer Pavlo, a fervent purveyor of Mediterranean-style music.  Other shows include a Canadian Songbook series with appearances by Bruce Cockburn, Ron Sexsmith, Randy Bachman and indie rockers the Rheostatics, whose inclusion perhaps even surprised the foreseeing mentalist, the Amazing Kreskin, who performs April 7.  Tickets for the shows go on sale Aug. 21. Staff

Ray J Independently Releases New Single 'Let's Play House'

Source: Evette Fergerson / The Courtney Barnes Group /  

(Aug. 14, 2006) Los Angeles --- KnockOut Entertainment label owner/R&B Artist
Ray J is making new strides in his career as he gears up to independently release the next single "Let's Play House" from his Raydiation CD.  The young entrepreneur has taken total control of promoting his project solely under his KnockOut Entertainment label.  "It's time for me to fly on my own," Says Ray J, the 25-year-old label owner who's first single "One Wish" was a smash hit at radio gaining over 200,000 spins nation wide. Now he's focused more than ever on his project as well as preparing to launch other artists off his roster.   "Let's Play House" is Ray J's third single, which is a grown and sexy mid-tempo ballad. The song is about Ray J, who's ready to settle down into a serious relationship and wants to invite a special lady to settle down with him and start a family. But first he has to find the special one before he makes the ultimate decision of choosing his perfect mate to "play house" with.  "The video is incredible, it was directed by Bernard Gourley (E-40 "Tell Me Where To Go," Too Short "Blow The Whistle") who's work I've always admired, he knew exactly how to capture my ideas and translate them to film, he's incredible." Say's Ray J, who has worked his fingers to the bone fully producing the video along with his creative team Norwood & Norwood.   To view "Let's Play House" click HERE.  

Smaller Flock For Idol?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Garnet Fraser

(Aug. 13, 2006) Has Canada's largest city turned its back on the nation's Idol? 
Canadian Idol has often been No. 1 in the national weekly ratings this year, just like every year. But in last week's Buzz, readers might have noticed it wasn't in the local top 10 at all, beaten out by summer-TV offerings as humble as Family Guy reruns.  "It is a bit of an anomaly," said CTV's Mike Cosentino. Viewership in Toronto-Hamilton seems to be off by perhaps 100,000 viewers (to about 250,000) compared to last year, when the show reached No. 2 locally.  Though the performance show from July 31 puts the show back in the lower reaches of the Top 10, it does seem to have suffered a bit of a slide around here — and given that it hasn't done so nationwide, it's worth wondering why.  One possible factor is that there's no local contender: Not one of the 10 finalists was from the GTA. However, the GTA was unrepresented last year as well.  Conversely, the Miss Universe pageant, which did better here than elsewhere in Canada with 243,000 viewers, had a Torontonian (Natalie Glebova) ending her reign and another local (Alice Panikian) aiming to succeed her.  File this under TV's familiar category of Unsolved Mysteries. Or as Cosentino puts it, "I'll take a page from Zack Warner's book and say `it is what it is.'"

Alicia Keys Made Boyfriend Wait For Sex

Excerpt from

(August 15, 2006) *
Alicia Keys is finally talking openly about her relationship with boyfriend Kerry “Krucial” Brothers, the longtime producer of her music and partner in their production company Krucial Keys.  In the new issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine, the singer/songwriter tells founder Jamie Foster Brown that she kept a lock on her goods for 12 months before moving the relationship to a sexual level.   "I made him wait a year because my body is too beautiful to be violated by someone who doesn't deserve it," she said.   .  Keys, until now, has kept her relationship with Brothers on the low. They have known each other since both were teenagers frequenting New York’s underground rap Mecca, Lyricist Lounge – Keys as an aspiring singer, Brothers as a burgeoning rapper.  The pair met before Keys signed with Arista in 1998. When her label head, Clive Davis, jumped ship to start J Records, Keys moved along with him and asked Brothers to produce her first album, “Songs in A Minor.”   “I felt like she was a real talent, and she was honest and she was a hard worker and I was like, ‘Yo, let's give it a shot,’ and she was like, ‘No, no, no, I really mean like work on my album - put your stuff on hold for a minute.’” Brothers recalled to in June. “So I thought about it and I was like, ‘Yo, let's go, let's do it.’ The rest is history.”

MTV Fades To Black

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 11, 2006) NEW YORK (AP) — The
MTV Music Video Awards are about to get a dose of Jack Black.  The actor-slash-rocker will host this year's version of the anything-can-happen extravaganza, set for Aug. 31, MTV announced Thursday.  "Prepare yourself for a rip snortin' humdinger," Black said. ``I am Jables, hear me roar."  The awards will air live from Radio City Music Hall in New York. Performers include Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Panic! at the Disco and Ludacris.  Black, 34, is the "perfect mix of comedy, rock, irreverence and star power," MTV President Christina Norman said in a statement.  Black's films include Nacho Libre, King Kong and School of Rock. He'll next be seen with his Tenacious D bandmate, Kyle Gass, in the semi-autographical comedy Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, slated for release Nov. 17.

Swizz Beatz To Produce Song For Global Peace

Excerpt from

(August 11, 2006) *
Swizz Beatz has signed on to produce a new track aimed at promoting peace efforts around the globe. The song is to have its world premiere during the International Day of Peace Concert on Sept. 21. The famed rap producer, who has collaborated with such artists as Mary J. Blige, Busta Rhymes, Whitney Houston and Beyonce, will shuffle through his Rolodex to assemble multiple acts for the as-yet-untitled project.  "Swizz Beatz is a perfect example of the calibre of artists who will be participating in the International Peace Concert," stated the concert’s producer Rick Garson of Garson Entertainment. "This is a global opportunity for celebrities, musicians and world leaders to reach out and communicate to the rest of world how we can all join together in the road towards peace."    The concert, to be taped for a two-hour television special, will feature live acts on a main stage, and videotaped performances from around the world on a second stage. All proceeds will be donated toward a peace initiative.   For more information on the International Day of Peace Concert please visit

Goapele To Be Honoured For Her Activism

Excerpt from

(August 11, 2006) *Neo Soul star and political activist
Goapele will be honoured with the first ever Human Rights Cultural Hero Award on Sept. 14 by the Bay Area based Ella Baker Center during its 10th Anniversary celebration, “Tribute to a Dream.”   “It is truly an honour to be honoured by members of the community that have worked tirelessly for over a decade to build a future that we can actually look forward to,” said the artist, a native of Oakland, CA.    Born Goapele Mohlabane to an exiled South African political activist father and New York-born Jewish mother, the singer began her career performing at rallies and demonstrations in the Bay Area.     Goapele (which means “to go forward” in Setswana, the South African language of her grandmother) has launched a new Web site to go along with her new album “Change It All” on Skyblaze/Columbia. The Internet spot,, provides a place to network and get inspired by those who are making innovative moves in arts, business and activism nationwide.

Howard Hewett Back With New Studio Album

Excerpt from

(August 11, 2006) *There must be something in the air over former members of Shalamar. On Tuesday, Jody Watley released her solo album “The Makeover,” ending a three-year absence from the music scene. Days later, her Shalamar band mate,
Howard Hewett, announced that he will have a new pop/R&B album in stores for the first time since 1994. Known for such solo hits as "I'm For Real," "Stay" and "Show Me,” Hewett is currently writing and recording the as-yet-untitled album for Groove Records, the Legacy Label division of multi-media entertainment company The Machine Productions. "We are so happy to complete this deal with Howard. He is a personal favourite of mine and we are privileged to have him on board as the anchor to our legacy catalogue of artists,” says The Machine's Director of Business Development Ralph Johnson, a founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire.   “He is the rightful heir to the throne left empty by the likes of Luther Vandross and Marvin Gaye, and this album will be proof positive that Howard is back as an R&B icon," Johnson said in a statement.  In the 12 years since his last R&B studio LP “It's Time,” Hewett has been busing touring the world. In 2003, he released an inspirational album titled “The Journey.” He has also recorded over the years with Babyface and jazz stars George Duke, Brian Culbertson, Joe Sample and The Rippingtons.



August 14, 2006

Alton Ellis, I'm Still in Love with You, Heartbeat
AP.9, AP. 9 of the Mob Figaz Presents: The Mob Shop, Mob Shop Ent
B.A. Boys, Days of Being Broke, Bungalo
Bavgate, Still Instigatin [CD/DVD], Thizz
Betty Everett, They're Delicious Together, P-Vine
Betty Wright, I Love the Way You Love Me, Water
Beyoncé, Deja Vu, Pt. 1, BMG/RCA
Bill Doggett, 1954, Classics R&B
Bob Marley, Trilogy, Music Brokers
Bounty Killer, Nah No Mercy: The Warlord Scrolls, VP / Universal
Bunny Rugs, I'm Sure, Cof Music
Cassie, Me & U, Bad Boy
Celph Titled, No Place Like Chrome, Antidote
Cham, Ghetto Story, Atlantic/Mad House
Chamillionaire, Ridin', Universal
Cherish, Unappreciated, Capitol
Cognito, Knucklehead Theatre, Thizz
Danny!, Dream, Interrupted, 1911 Music
DJ Nelson, The Kings of the Remix, Universal Latino
DMX, Lord Give Me a Sign, BMG/RCA
Dosia, Waiting to Inhale, Awol
Dr. Israel, Friction, Dougl
Dru Down, Cash Me Out, Sumo
Dubee AKA Sugawolf, Holdin It Down, Thizz
Earl King, An Introduction to Earl King, Fuel 2000
Field Mob, So What, Universal
Freddy Chingaz, Straight Outta Hunters Point, Thizz
Ghostface Killah, Back Like That, Universal
Ice Cube, Why We Thugs, Pt. 1, EMI/Virgin
Ice Cube, Why We Thugs, Pt. 2, EMI/Virgin
Ike Turner, 1951-1954, Classics R&B
J.R. Bailey, Just Me N You, Soul Brother
Janet Jackson, Call on Me, Virgin
Julie Lamontagne, Facing the Truth,
Keith Hudson, Entering the Dragon, Trojan
Killa Tay, Mr. Mafioso, Awol
Knightowl, King of the West, EMI
Kool & the Gang, Best of Kool & the Gang [Disky], Disky
Layzie Bone, The New Revolution, Thump
Lil Cyco, Get Money, Have Heart, Mob Shop Ent
Ludacris, Money Maker/Tell It Like It Is [Single], Def Jam
Lunasicc, A Million Words, A Million Dollars, Awol
Lupe Fiasco, Day Dreamer, Pt. 1, WEA/Atlantic
Lupe Fiasco, Day Dreamer, Pt. 2, WEA/Atlantic
Lyfe Jennings, The Phoenix, Sony
Mac Boo-Rue, West Coast Offense,
Mac Dre, Alaska 2 tha Bay, Thizz
Mac Dre, Mac Dre and J-Diggs Present Pillionaires, Thizz
Mac Dre, Mac Dre Presents Thizz Nation, Vol. 7 [CD/DVD], Thizz
Mac Dre, Rompalation 2006: Thugz of Honor, 2nd Life
Mr. Bonham, Rap Hustle, BCD Music Group
Mr. Kee, The First, The Last, The Only, Thizz
N2Deep, More Than Money,
Needles, Summer Girls, Dangerous
Nemesis, Nemesis Greatest Hits: 1987-2006, MacK Time
Obie Trice, Jamaican Girl [Single], Shady/Interscope
Obie Trice, Second Round's on Me, Shady/Interscope
Obie Trice, Snitch, Pt. 1, Universal/Interscope
OutKast, Morris Brown, BMG/Laface
Pablo Moses, A Song [Deluxe Edition], Young Tree
Paris Hilton, Paris, Warner Bros.
Paris Hilton, Turn It Up [Single], Warner Bros.
Paula DeAnda, Paula DeAnda, Arista
Pharrell Williams
, Number One, Pt. 1, EMI/Virgin
Pizzo, Pizzo, Awol
Princess Superstar, Perfect, Tinted
Randy Crawford, Feeling Good, Universal
Rich Boy, Throwing Some d's [Single], Interscope
Roger Robin, Take It Slow, VP / Universal
Sammie, You Should Be My Girl [Single], Universal
Sensational, Sensational Meets Kouhei, Wordsound Recordings
Styles P, Who Want a Problem [Single], Interscope
Teflon Don, Something the Lord Made, Str8 up Music
The Distants, Broken Gold, Blue Cave
Truths & Rights, Live Up, Stereo Dynamite
Tum Tum, Tum Thousand and Six, Universal
Various Artists, Old School, Vol. 3, Thump
Various Artists, The Best of R&B, Madacy
Various Artists, Anyone Can Dance: Hip Hop [CD/DVD], Style
Various Artists, Black N Brown/Thizzed Out, Thizz
Various Artists, G Force, Lideres
Various Artists, Heavy Rotation All Star Compilation, Vol. 4: Hot 97 Edition, Mastertapes
Various Artists, Heavy Rotation All Star Compilation, Vol. 5: Strictly R&B, Mastertapes
Various Artists, Legacy of Awol Videos, Awol
Various Artists, The New Awol Records: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1, Awol
Various Artists, The New Awol Records: Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, Awol
Various Artists, Thizz Is How We Eat!! [Bonus CD], Sumo
Various Artists, West Coast Trippin', Awol
Various Artists, Best of Reggaeton [Madacy], Madacy
Various Artists, D'Fame: La Fama, Machete Music
Various Artists, Dancehall Reggae [St. Clair], St. Clair
Various Artists, Reggaeton Extended 40 X 10, Lideres
Various Artists, Reggaeton: Club, Laserlight
Various Artists, Reggaeton: Gasolina, Laserlight
Various Artists, Reggaeton: Summer, Laserlight
Young Dru, Flame Spitter/V-Town, Thizz
Young Hot Rod, Be Easy [Single], Interscope

August 21, 2006

2Pac, The Sound of 2Pac, K-Town
Beenie Man,
Live in San Francisco, 2B1
Betty Everett,
They're Delicious Together, P-Vine
Deja Vu [Single], Sony
Deja Vu, Pt. 1, Sony BMG
Big Lokote,
Rage, Thump
Big Truck,
I Know U Want That/Monsta [Single], Universal
Bobby Womack,
Post, Castle
Cadillac Jones,
The Big Takedown, Arcthefinger
Candi Staton,
The Ultimate Gospel Collection, Shanachie
Me & U, WEA/Atlantic
Ghetto Story [Bonus Track], WEA/Atlantic
Ridin', Universal International
Danity Kane,
Danity Kane, Bad Boy
Dave Hollister,
The Definitive Collection, Hip-O
Lord Give Me a Sign, BMG/RCA
Easy Star All-Stars,
Radiodread, Easy Star
Field Mob,
Baby Bend Over [Single], Geffen
Field Mob,
So What, Universal
Georgia Anne Muldrow,
Fragments of an Earth, Stones Throw
Ghostface Killah,
Back Like That, Universal International
Gregory Abbott,
Rhyme and Reason, Collectables
Ice Cube,
Why We Thugs, Pt. 1, EMI/Virgin
Ice Cube,
Why We Thugs, Pt. 2, EMI/Virgin
Ice Mike,
Do Em Dirty,
J Isaac,
Welcome to the Planet, 306 Music And Entertainment
James Brown,
Live at Montreux 1981 [DVD/CD], Eagle Vision USA
Jay Dee,
The Shining, BBE
Particle [EP],
Keith Hudson,
Entering the Dragon, Trojan
Kelis Was Here, Jive
Kool & the Gang,
Best of Kool & the Gang [Disky], Disky
Itsuka Mita Aozora, Vap
Incredible: The Life of Riley,
Layzie Bone,
The New Revolution [Clean], Thump
Lee "Scratch" Perry,
Live in San Francisco, 2B1
Lee "Scratch" Perry,
Panic in Babylon, Narnack
Lloyd Banks,
Hands Up [Single], Interscope
Loer Velocity,
Song I Sing/Conversation Piece, Embedded
Lou Rawls,
The Lou Rawls Show: With Duke Ellington [Video], Hal Leonard
Luther Vandross,
Shine [Single], Sony
Luther Vandross,
The Ultimate Luther Vandross, Sony
Megan Rochell,
You, Me and the Radio, Def Jam
Method Man,
4:21... The Day After, Def Jam
Michael Franti,
I Know I'm Not Alone, Liberation
Minnie Riperton,
Come to My Garden, Airmail
Missy Elliott,
We Run This, WEA/Atlantic
Mitchy Slick,
Bass Chaser/Makin Your Money, Up Above
Mr. Shadow,
Gang Files, PR
Mr. SOS,
Pre-Op, L.A. Underground
Blood Brothers, Babygrande
Papa Levi,
Blue Honey, Counter
Patti LaBelle,
The Definitive Collection, Geffen
Pharrell Williams,
Number One, Pt. 2, EMI/Virgin
Pimp Black,
Hate the Game, Love the Pimp, Break the Law
Princess Superstar,
Perfect, Tinted
Randy Crawford,
Feeling Good, Universal
Raw Produce,
Selling Celery to Get a Salary,
S.E.GA Boys,
Business Bout Ya Self, Attitude
Scienz of Life,
Blaxploitation Sessions, Shaman Works
Shane Capone,
Heated Speech, Rock City
Smokey Robinson,
Pure Smokey, Universal
The Sequel, PR
Snoop Dogg,
The Sound of Snoop Doggy Dogg, K-Town
Street Kings,
Crown Gang Family,
The Bad Hand,
This Is No Time for Modesty, Prankster Dice
The High & Mighty,
Eastern Conference, Vol. 2, Eastern Conference
The Roots,
Game Theory [Bonus Track], Universal/Def Jam
Vanilla Ice,
The Best of Vanilla Ice [Collectables], Collectables
Various Artists,
Best of Black + Rap, Dance Street
Various Artists,
Crunk Hits, Vol. 2, TVT
Various Artists,
H-Town's Most Wanted, Wreckshop
Various Artists,
Hoodz DVD Magazine: Scarface, Hoodz DVD Magazine
Various Artists,
Hit Me with the Music, Vol. 1,
Various Artists,
Romantic Reggae, Vol. 7, Charm
Willie Boo Boo,
Fool, Ghetto Man Beats
Wilbert Harrison,
An Introduction to Wilbert Harrison, Fuel 2000
Young Buck,
Do It to Myself [Single], Interscope


Bilingual Buddy Film's Boffo Box

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(Aug. 16, 2006)
Colm Feore and Patrick Huard can't seem to shake their characters. They're reprising their buddy roles as OPP officer Martin Ward and Quebec policeman David Bouchard in publicity service to Bon Cop, Bad Cop, opening Friday in Toronto.  Two weeks ago, the action comedy topped records for a first-weekend box office gross in Quebec, at $1.4 million. It came in at 17 on the North American box office tally. By yesterday, receipts were nearing $4 million, for a movie that cost $8 million to make.  Surprised by their own success, the actors are finishing each other's sentences, enthusiastically accounting for the movie's popularity.  Huard, 37, is huge in Quebec as a hunky TV and movie star, a leading character in film Les Boys and its sequels, and a lead in the 2005 television series Au nom de la loi (In the Name of the Law). He wrote the script for Bon Cop and plays the rough-and-tumble, joual-spewing street cop who is ordered to work with his Ontario opposite.  Feore, starring in Stratford's Oliver!, Coriolanus and Don Juan this summer, has a string of films to his name as well (CBC's Trudeau and 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould). He plays the tight-assed, elitist Upper Canadian detective who goes to work in a suit and tie and speaks French with a Parisian accent. Ward and Bouchard loathe each other on sight.  That first sighting occurs at the scene of the crime: a male corpse draped over a provincial border sign on the 401, his head and shoulders in Ontario, his hindquarters in Quebec.  Huard says inspiration for the script came when he hosted the Genie Awards a few years ago.  "I was making fun of our differences, thinking that half of the audience would laugh at the other half, but that's not what happened. Everybody laughed at the same time. I had to improvise. I thought maybe what we have in common is actually our differences."

He kept his idea to himself because it seemed so obvious he was sure someone would get to it before him: a bilingual buddy movie, in the tradition of Hollywood films such as 48 Hours. His script both satirizes the form and embraces it, in equal parts French and English, with subtitles to leap the language barrier.  Feore jumps in.  "I saw the script when it was Good Cop, Bad Policier. I knew instantly that it was a wonderful movie. I also knew that it was a wonderful part for me if I could get it.  "I had no idea that they were interested in me, until someone said, `Well, come and have lunch.'  "I think, they're flying me up to Montreal to have lunch. That's a good sign. But it's not a lunch with any commitment to anything. These are terribly awkward lunches. You don't know what the strength of your hand is.  "What I did know was how much I loved the movie; how much I knew it would be a good idea for me to be in it. I just didn't want to tell them that, `I'll obviously do it for free and I'll bring my own lunch.'"  Feore, who turns 48 this month, flew to New York City the next day to audition for Cassius in a Broadway production of Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington. Of course he got the part, so he wasn't available for months. Things went his way though, as, inevitably, production was delayed.  "We managed to start in September (2005). I was always afraid it would go away and I knew I would hate whoever got my part."

Huard gets a word in now, commenting on the tight budget.  "For a Canadian movie it's a lot of money. Eight million bucks. For an action comedy shot in the U.S. ..."  Feore can't help himself: "It's lunch, it's the lunch money on Pearl Harbor."  Huard resumes. "The first day on the set you realize it's not enough and you have to do things differently. Sometimes rewrite some stuff the night before the shoot ..."  His partner completes another sentence: "... to accommodate the strictures of the budget. We could only blow up one car, because we only had one car."  Perceptive viewers will get the inside joke that Toronto — perennial stand-in for New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago — gets portrayed by Montreal. Huard says that was another money-saving measure.  Well, they had one thing going for them. They are both big names in their respective provinces.

Feore: "Is that true, are you big in Quebec?"

Huard: "Are you big here?"

Feore: "No, but now that you say so, I'm prepared to believe it."

Huard: "Well, I'm going to behave differently from now on."

Huard is a staple of the tabloids in Quebec, whereas Feore tends to show up in the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and the CBC.  Said the married Feore (to director and choreographer Donna Feore): "That's because they're trying to keep up with (Huard's) love life, but that's a different story."  Bon Cop's huge cast included a number of other name actors.  Apparently the cast and crew, many of them veterans of U.S. movie shoots, had a lot of fun doing way more work than they were being paid for. "We knew we'd have a film that would create the illusion that we spent a whole lot more money," says Feore. "We ended up with a lot of extra stuff that just adds that touch of gloss that's equal to a couple of million bucks of extra shooting, simply because people were willing to put themselves out for that extra take just before you break for the day."  For all that, Feore says, Bon Cop "is not Canadian in its attitude, in its style, and it's not Canadian in the sense that it's going to be any good for you. Stuff's going to blow up. There will be naked people. We're going to swear a whole lot. And people will die. Apart from your tax dollars I can see very little Canadian about it.  "On the other hand, it's shot on our street corners, it really speaks to us."

A Step Up From Most Dance Films

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic

Step Up

Starring Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan, Damaine Radcliff, De'Shawn Washington and Rachel Griffiths. Written by Duane Adler, Melissa Rosenberg. Directed by Anne Fletcher. 98 minutes. Showing in major theatres PG

(Aug. 11, 2006) Provided you don't confuse effect for sincerity, the footloose class-vaulting hokum of Anne Fletcher's ballet/hip hop mashup
Step Up can restore your faith in the American Dream. The showbiz version that is, the one that's been trumping presidential aspirations with show-stopping dance moves ever since Busby Berkeley tarted the Depression up in tap shoes, glitter and nylons.  After breaking, entering and trashing the auditorium of Maryland School of the Arts in an ill-advised orgy of lower-class pique, the fleet-footed thug Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum) takes the rap for his carjacking buddies Mac (Damaine Radcliff) and Skinny (De'Shawn Washington) and winds up pushing a mop at the school to meet his community-service requirements.  With his shuffling gait, backward baseball cap and gangsta-lite lingo, Tyler is marked both as an inveterate outsider and a potential barrier vaulter. Already a white kid from a black neighbourhood in tight with the homies, Tyler is also an extraordinarily gifted street dancer: whatever control he lacks in his life he more than compensates for with his body attuned to a big beat, and it's only a matter time before his innate gifts are noted by Nora (Jenna Dewan), an upper-class star ballet student in sudden need of a partner for her final graduation production.

You already know how it goes — class, race and cultural barriers are rushed and eventually vaulted, and street beats elite in a spectacular finale — but Step Up sprints over its own soggy foundation of dance movie clichés with the sheer exuberance of its propulsively cut dance sequences (Fletcher is a former choreographer making her directing debut) and the unembellished charisma of its two stars.  As Tyler, the strikingly named Tatum has a downcast, guarded quality that busts out all over every time he dances: there's no arrogance in his performance, and his character seems just as surprised and impressed as we are that his moves are not only cutting it with the upper crust but cutting through as well.  There's no problem in this movie that dancing your ass off can't reconcile, even if some of those problems — of class, race, frustration and rage — are some of the most vexing in American urban life.  But that's the unkillable beauty of escapism isn't it? For the time it takes to drop the needle and bust a move, it all looks so easy.

Ernie Hudson Masters Hollywood Grind

Excerpt from

(August 11, 2006) *Know this, we’ll be seeing a whole bunch of
Ernie Hudson before the year comes to an end.  The Benton Harbor, Michigan native keeps his Hollywood hustle tight with a number of high profile roles on the big and small screen, including a plush recurring role on the upcoming third season of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.”  “I’m playing a detective who’s trying to investigate a series of murders,” Hudson told EUR’s Lee Bailey of his role. “We shot the first episode that I’m involved with [within the past two weeks], and I’m still waiting to see how many [episodes]. I know it will run pretty much throughout the season.” Also in the fall, Hudson will appear in Snoop Dogg’s “Hood of Horror,” a feature film in a style echoing “Tales from the Crypt.”  Hudson, who admittedly took the gig with some hesitations, said the finished product “actually turned out not bad for a horror movie.”

Due in theatres Nov. 4, the hip-hop horror anthology features three tales narrated by Snoop Dogg, who goes by the tag Hound of Hell.   Hudson explains: “It’s Snoop Dogg who goes to hell and he comes back to do...I don’t know, do something. Anyway, he has a hood, and in the hood these awful things happen. And I star in the second episode with some Vietnam vets.”   Despite his initial reservations, Hudson said he had a good time during the shoot and felt that the finished product was quite entertaining.   “I saw it at the L.A. Film Festival and the audience really responded well, so people like it,” he said. “And I must say I really enjoyed working with Snoop, too. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he turned out to be pretty dedicated to what he was doing, certainly very professional and a very nice young man.”   Hudson had similar compliments for actor Matthew Perry, his co-star in Sunday’s TNT original movie, “The Ron Clark Story.” Perry takes the title role as a remarkable 6th grade teacher who leaves behind a productive run in his native North Carolina for the challenge of teaching in Harlem, NY - enough said.  The class, predictably, is filled with a bunch of disrespectful, unruly 11 and 12-year-olds when Clark first encounters them, but throughout the course of the school year, he takes personal interest in the students, and soon they are shaped and molded into a tight outfit of obedient individuals and academic marvels. 

Have we seen this before? Many times. Hudson thought so, too, when he first started reading the script. But the 60-year-old actor was swayed to participate in the project by the fact that it is based on the experiences of a real teacher.  “I get that whole Tarzan syndrome, you know, he goes in the jungle and cleans up the natives. But then when you start to get into the story, and once I realized who it was and read a couple of his books, you see that here’s a guy who really has made a difference," Hudson says of Perry's character. "Also, the good thing is there are actually people who go out there to make a difference and at some point so much help is needed, you kind of go, ‘I don’t care who does it, as long as somebody does something.’”  In the film, Hudson plays Principal Turner, a strict administrator who runs the Harlem school with a hardened weariness rooted in years and years of witnessing kids fall by the wayside. When Clark begs for the chance to take over a class vacated by another teacher who buckled under the pressure, Turner reluctantly gives in, but keeps a close eye on the new blood and his unorthodox methods.  “He’s tough, and he’s also up against a lot,” Hudson explains. “He’s dealing with what his idea of reality is. ...We’ve gotten to a place in our society where unfortunately we see that a lot, where people just figure they’ve figured it out and they don’t wanna hear it. Even though somebody comes along and says, ‘Hey, we can do this different,’ it’s like, ‘Nothing works, I know it and don’t even.’ So unfortunately, that’s a lot of what goes on. A lot of things get overlooked because people don’t want to risk stepping out there and taking a chance.”

 Hudson made certain that his character didn’t fall into a Hollywood version of the hard-nosed principal who runs things with neither heart nor reason. “I knew that I just didn’t want him to be the evil principal all the way through,” he said, noting that Turner softens up a bit toward the end.   Another convention of the so-called “white saviour” genre that birthed such films as “Dangerous Minds” and “Mississippi Burning” is the diminished role that African Americans often play in their own stories. Hudson says his experience was just the opposite in “The Ron Clark Story.”    “I’m glad, being a black male figure, to have been a part of this, because sometimes we get left out of those stories,” he said. “I’m really glad I found this project, because once we get past all the stereotypes and our own biases, it’s a wonderful story about a guy who’s still out there making a difference, and that’s really important.”

Bonham Carter Fits Into Many Varied Roles

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(Aug. 11, 2006) You can take it from her: "It's so rare to meet a woman on a page you actually recognize."
Helena Bonham Carter, who has appeared in 50 movies and TV shows, and earned an Oscar nomination for her role in The Wings of the Dove, probably sees new scripts more often than her peers see the hairdresser.  With the script in question, Conversations With Other Women (see review on next page), Bonham Carter saw a woman in her late 30s with "emotional maturity and many dimensions to her." The British actor was inspired by Gabrielle Zevin's screenplay, and appears opposite Aaron Eckhart as a woman meeting her first love at a wedding party, years after their separation.  It will surprise none of her admirers that Bonham Carter is as convincing in the part of an intelligent, privileged American woman as she was in her haute-English, Ivory Merchant period, beginning with her memorable Lucy Honeychurch in the 1985 adaptation of E.M. Forster's A Room With a View.  Zevin, a 28-year-old author and screenwriter from New York City, wrote Conversations as a narrative told on a split screen. Her partner, director Hans Canosa, intercut the conversation between the once-married couple with scenes from their youthful love affair and marriage. "I love the whole dance of their courtship," says Bonham Carter.  "Aaron and I had no idea," she says of the film's format. "It was a very liberating way of working: to do really long takes so you don't break your concentration. It made acting so much easier."  You'd think acting was easy, to witness the widely divergent roles this 40-year-old mother and partner of director Tim Burton takes on. When interviewed on the phone in a London hotel suite, she was about to begin shooting as the sadist Death Eater, Bellatrix Lestrange, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Last heard, if not seen, as the title character in Burton's 2005 animated feature Corpse Bride, Bonham Carter says being the director's wife is actually an obstacle to getting cast in his films. "There are no perks for sleeping with him. I have to work doubly hard."

The actor was pregnant with their son Billy Ray, now 2 1/2, when she worked on location in Alabama as Jenny and the Witch in Burton's Big Fish. They first met when she played the simian character Ari in Burton's Planet of the Apes.  She had already established herself as a classical English actor, directed by Kenneth Branagh (an earlier boyfriend) as Elizabeth in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. In 1995, Bonham Carter was Amanda in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite, and learned her love of Canada playing the daughter of a coal miner in Margaret's Museum. In 1999, she went in a whole new direction as the eccentric Marla Singer in David Fincher's Fight Club.  Small wonder that in her late 30s, Bonham Carter felt the need to do something new and acted on it. "It was a bit of a childish idea, really," she says of Pantaloonies, a fashion company she started with designer Samantha Sage. They hand-craft customized jeans, described by Bonham Carter as "a kind of scrapbook on the bum."  The actor met the sportswear designer at prenatal classes. "I've always loved working with my hands," she says in explanation of a business commitment that has succeeded almost too well. "People give us their jeans and their permission to cut them off. They fill out a questionnaire with questions like `Who's your favourite author?' or `What was your childhood nickname?'"  The finished products are lacy or frilled, decorated with stamped emblems or iron-on photos. The partners are swamped with orders.  Bonham Carter and Burton live mostly in England, where he finds the craft of British filmmaking well suited to his stylized way of working.  Recently they entered a new enterprise, purchasing a house with a family pedigree. The great-great granddaughter of prime minister Herbert Asquith (1852-1928), Bonham Carter heard that a favourite property of his was for sale. She and Burton now own the Mill House on the Thames in Oxfordshire. Strangely, she says, the eight-bedroom manor looks like Howard's End, the fictional Forster locale for another Bonham Carter feature role. "It's spooky," she says, "but happy-spooky."

Robert Lantos - Canada's Movie Magician

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman

(Aug. 14, 2006)
Robert Lantos, Canada's one and only movie mogul, likes to surround himself with stars. That includes the actors in his movies, such as Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, Michael Caine, James Woods and Ralph Fiennes, as well as ex-wife Jennifer Dale. It also includes celebrated directors like David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Norman Jewison and Ted Kotcheff, as well as famous writers such as Mordecai Richler, Brian Moore, Ronald Harwood and Anne Michaels.  But in The Outsider — Peter Gentile's bio of Lantos being aired on CBC's Life & Times series at 8 tonight — a star of the Lantos galaxy hitherto unknown to the public emerges and somehow manages to out-glitter all the others. Her name is Agnes Lantos: the charismatic and wonderfully expressive 90-year-old mother of the film's subject.  For decades, Robert Lantos, 57, has been the flamboyant and highly public last tycoon of Canadian film, but in a way he's an enigma — the familiar guy nobody quite knows. Agnes Lantos comes across as the one who does know, and holds the key to his secrets.  Like her husband Laszlo (who died in 1985, just after the world premiere of Joshua Then and Now in Cannes), Agnesis a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor. But unlike Robert's father — a workaholic small-business operator who was crushed first by the Nazis and then by the Communists — Agnes is a self-confessed bohemian who inhabited a world of make-believe.  "It was because of her that I grew up with poetry, opera and literature," Lantos explained the other day in a phone interview. "And she is still bursting with stories to tell."  When Robert was a child, Agnes — who had survived the war by passing herself off as a gentile — was a dress designer with a salon in Budapest and, later, Uruguay after the Lantoses went there, steerage-class, in the late 1950s to advance their son's prospects for a better life.

When the political and economic climate in Uruguay turned sour, they relocated again, this time to Montreal. At McGill, Robert studied film and literature while his father wondered how that would enable him to make a living.  The younger Lantos stumbled into the film business at the right moment, with the instinct of a street fighter plus the cunning and hunger of a latter-day Duddy Kravitz. He was clever enough to take full advantage of the Canadian government's eagerness to give away millions of dollars to subsidize films in the hopes of creating a Hollywood North.  Lantos was partly an artistic dreamer but also a savvy hustler with a flair for negotiating killer deals and exploiting controversy. When the Ontario censor board demanded cuts to In Praise of Older Women in 1978, he brilliantly used the scandal as a marketing tool. The movie became a turning point in his career.  One of the key factors in his astounding rise was a sharp instinct for knowing when to move on. In the 1980s and '90s, when tax-shelter money for movies dried up, Lantos shrewdly decided that to prosper he needed to create a huge international company with enough clout to flourish by feeding the commercial TV monster.  So he segued from scrappy hustler to jet-setting corporate czar, creating Alliance, and eventually to mogul emeritus. At Alliance he gobbled up government subsidy money while delivering TV series like Due South, ENG and Mount Royal. Then in 1998, at just the right moment, Lantos shook up the industry by selling the company, by then synonymous with Canadian showbiz. The buyers: his only real rivals, the boys from Atlantis. The upshot: Lantos walked away with $60 million in his pocket and the assurance of hundreds of millions for the movies he dreamed of producing.

A number of those movies have flopped at the box office — including Jewison's underestimated The Statement and Egoyan's baffling Where the Truth Lies — but Lantos just keeps rolling along. Perhaps it's because he has never made the mistake of acting like a humble Canadian and thinking small.  At 57, Lantos is free to pursue the passion for telling stories he learned from Agnes — and he has mastered the art of persuading others to give him millions to do so.  The story that gave him his greatest satisfaction is the one Agnes tried to shelter him from. It's the saga of his family's Jewish roots as told in Sunshine (2000). Agnes did not give her son a Jewish upbringing, thinking she would spare him the pain being Jewish had cost the family. In the end, Robert became obsessed with telling that story on the big screen in an epic movie covering many generations. And when he did, Agnes recognized it as his greatest achievement.  But there is still one story Agnes would rather not have told: the saga of why her famous son is always hours late for appointments. What compels him to keep the world Waiting for Robert?  When the subject is raised, Agnes turns away from the camera, shrugs despairingly and implores her interrogator: "Please don't talk about this."  Spoken like a diva.

Carell Humble On His Hot Roll

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bob Strauss, Special To The Star, Los Angeles Daily News

(Aug. 12, 2006) Things just keep getting better for
Steve Carell.  And if that doesn't change soon, he'll be mighty surprised.  "It's surreal," the comic star of The Office, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and now the indie sleeper hit Little Miss Sunshine says with a shrug. "It was not anything that I anticipated. I definitely don't take any of it for granted,’ says Carell, who turns 43 next week. "I'm not banking on it to continue into the stratosphere.''  That puts him in a group of one. The American version of the universally acclaimed British sitcom The Office — in which Carell stars as perpetually clueless workplace manager Michael Scott — returns for a third season this fall. Evan Almighty, the upcoming sequel to the hit film comedy Bruce Almighty — in which he had a brief but memorable role as a colleague tormented by Jim Carrey's godly powers — was rewritten specifically as a star vehicle for Carell.  And even though he made Little Miss Sunshine before Virgin turned him into a bankable movie star, Carell's participation in the ensemble comedy is certainly encouraging more people to check it out. A huge audience pleaser at January's Sundance Film Festival, where Fox Searchlight paid a record $10.5 million (all figures U.S.) for its theatrical distribution rights, LMS had taken directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris years to get financed.  Now it's the rare festival favourite that's slowly rolling out to equivalent box office success (it clocked a smokin' $25,520 per-screen average last weekend, more than twice that of any other film in the top 25; it opens wider this weekend). Co-starring Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin and little Abigail Breslin as members of a dysfunctional family struggling to get their daughter to a children's beauty contest, the film humorously calls into question common American notions of failure and success.  Kind of like the way Carell talks. He plays an uncle, Frank, who's just lost everything — his boyfriend, his tenured professorship, his will to live — who finds himself crossing the Southwest in a broken-down Volkswagen van with his unhappy relatives.

"I was looking specifically for a suicidal, gay Proust scholar when I just happened to come across this," Carell deadpans.  "No, I wasn't looking for a departure," he says of Frank, who couldn't be more different from the idiot weatherman (Anchorman) or hyperactive squirrel (Over the Hedge) Carell has played. "I just thought it was a really good script. It made me laugh and it touched me. I thought the script was sweet, and at the same time very unsentimental. There was a lot of grey area within the characters. They had a great degree of humanity and pathos, but not in a cloying sort of way.''  Indeed, Carell insists that funny is a secondary consideration whenever he takes on a role. As far as one LMS co-star is concerned, she was working with an actor, not a comedian.  "I'm glad I got to know Steve before the explosion of 40-Year-Old Virgin," says Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense), who plays his sister in the movie. "I believe an actor should be able to play anything, and he really can. And he's such a smart, softly spoken, lovely man ... I was actually shocked by The 40-Year-Old Virgin, because I got to know him through this project beforehand.''  Although he got his basic training at Chicago's improv comedy institution Second City and first got noticed as a correspondent for the satirical Daily Show now hosted by Jon Stewart, Massachusetts native Carell indeed put more thought into Frank's catatonic depressiveness than in dreaming up gags.  "Without overanalyzing it, he just seemed like a guy who had removed himself from others," the actor explains. "And when thrown together with this family, he starts to reconnect — with them and, a little bit, with himself.  "But I never thought of it in terms of what could make this guy funny. I thought if it's going to be funny, it will be because of the situations or something that someone else does in the context of a relationship.''

This from a guy who actually allowed his own chest hair to be yanked off for Virgin's squirm-inducingly hilarious waxing scene. According to collaborators, Carell will do whatever he feels a given piece calls for. Yet, whether he's playing an imbecile like Michael Scott or an intellectual such as Frank, there's a consistent comic standard in most of the actor's performances.  "There are completely different comedic voices between Steve and Jim Carrey," says screenwriter Steve Oedekerk, who completely rewrote Evan Almighty to accommodate Carell's sensibility after Carrey dropped out of the project. "They're both really good at physical humour, but from a dialogue standpoint, from where it really comes from, Jim's really more proactive and Steve is reactive.''  Or, at least, he puts on a good show of it. Never more so than when he won a Golden Globe award in January for his work on The Office. Carell read a speech allegedly written by his wife, fellow Second City and Daily Show alum Nancy Walls, who has also appeared in The Office as a potential love interest for Carrell's Michael Scott.  In that speech, his shortcomings as a husband were uproariously enumerated.  "I've always been conscientious about my wife's contributions; it's never too far away from my thoughts," insists Carell, who lives in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles with Walls and their two children. "I wrote that acceptance speech, but I ran it by her the night before so she could get a sense for what it was, and she thought it was great. And at the actual awards, she definitely played off of it. We share very similar senses of humour, and that's been great.''  As for the endurance of The Office — a show that was hived off the successful British show and was considered marginal from the start, despite fervent critical support — well, Carell is unsurprisingly as surprised as anybody.  "I didn't know whether The Office was going to go past six episodes, let alone elevate anybody's career," he says of the series that earned him an Emmy nomination for best actor in a comedy as well as a nomination for the production itself. "Obviously, the comparisons to the BBC Office, right off the bat, made everyone really dubious about re-creating what's now a classic show. Us included. We just thought it was a really funny premise and we hoped to make a pretty funny show out of it.  "So, no, I didn't expect anything. And the fact that it's incrementally grown and is gaining a following is nice.''  The same humble disbelief applies to this atypically thoughtful performer's view of his new status as one of the funniest people in Hollywood.  "In my wildest dreams, I thought if I could just be the wacky neighbour on a sitcom, I would be completely content and that would be the pinnacle of success for me," Carell insists. "So, really, this whole thing is beyond my wildest dreams, and I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around it.''  Meanwhile, we'll wait to see if he is wrapping his hands around that Emmy on Aug. 27.

Preaching To The Choir

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Ivor Tossell

(Aug. 11, 2006) The
Snakes on a Plane imbroglio hit new heights last week after people started getting phone calls from Samuel L. Jackson, telling them to go see his new movie. "I know it sounds ridiculous," Jackson hollered into the ears of untold thousands, "but Snakes on a Plane might just be the finest motion picture ever made!" The calls were the result of a promotional website that asked users to fill in some basic information about a friend and would then splice together a personalized message for them, mad-libs style. Then, the voice of Samuel L. Jackson would call their phones and yell it at them. It was a brilliant trick, not least for the fact that it mobilized an on-line fan base that was ready to jump all over anything relating to what must be -- at the very least -- the finest-titled motion picture ever made. It has legions of fans, and nobody's even seen it: It's set to be released next Friday. In fact, it must be the most popular movie in history that no one has seen. Why? Because it has a silly name, and because the thought of Samuel L. Jackson swearing his way through sentences involving the words "snakes on a plane" managed to get half the Internet giggling. The result was an outpouring of fan tributes to a movie that hadn't even been made when rumours of its title started spreading. Nobody knew what it was about, only that it starred Jackson and that he would be fighting snakes on a plane. It was enough. Crudely faked posters started circulating, picturing Jackson swearing out the words "snakes on a plane." Somebody made a phoney video trailer in which Jackson (known for his excellent swearing) swears through "snakes on a plane." On-line animations, endless reams of fan art: Snakes, swearing, planes, swearing. Variations on the phrase became required writing on blogs everywhere.

Of course, in the movie itself, nobody was really going to swear out the words "snakes on a plane." But then the movie's producers saw what was happening on-line, and went back and shot new scenes in which Samuel L. Jackson really does recite the lines that the Internet attributed to him. You might call it a coup. Internet types can't get enough of this stuff, since it's the kind of collaborative artistic activity that everyone can get in on. And, compared with other forms of collaborative artistic activity (screenwriting, say, or maybe ballet), the requirements for partaking are pretty low. In fact, the closer one can get to "low art" while creating Snakes on a Plane spinoff material, the better. It was really a kind of cultural limbo competition. But no matter. People felt they had a hand in it. Not just the people who were producing the fan art, but also the people on-line who were reading it and laughing. It became a giant in-joke, and that's what made it so funny: once you get past the grinding literalism, the words "snakes on a plane" aren't that funny at all. They only became funny when they became a catchphrase, a reference to a joke that Web surfers had heard before. And every time the words were taken to a new extreme, drawn with more garishness or sworn out with a more pronounced accent, they became funnier. You can already hear the cheers that will erupt from half the theatre audience when Samuel L. Jackson will swear out his fateful line. The other half will squirm in befuddlement.

It has happened before: This summer's X-Men 3 contained a similarly lewd line that was inserted in tribute to a popular Internet video about the character Juggernaut (Google for it if you must). Moreover, watch out for the movie version of the Darwin Awards (, an adaptation of the venerable website of the same name. The trailer features the oldest Internet in-joke of all, the myth of the man who strapped jet boosters to his Chevy Impala and met a fast but sorry end. Cultural critics love this stuff because it implies a new spirit of collaborative creation; the advent of the user-created movie. But I wonder if this is really the case. This strikes me less as the dawn of the Wiki-movie and more like garden-variety pandering. What it does demonstrate, though, is that Internet has a reach that's worth pandering to and a culture that's mature enough to see its in-jokes go mainstream. A week from today, the movie will be out, and the world's biggest in-joke will be over.

Kenan Thompson On A Plane

Excerpt from

(Aug. 14, 2006) *For the past several months, we’ve been attacked with unbridled Internet buzz – or shall we say hiss – over Samuel L. Jackson and his starring role in New Line’s “
Snakes on a Plane,” opening Friday. But what about that other brother stuck on the aircraft?  “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kenan Thompson is also in the summer’s most anticipated film, which explores the options available when a crate full of deadly pythons, cobras and boa constrictors are let loose during a flight over the Pacific.  “What would you do if there were hundreds of snakes everywhere on this plane and you’re over the ocean?” Thompson says. “I was nervous just flying from New York yesterday. I was like, look how high we are. Do we have to be this high?” The premise of the film is this: Samuel L. Jackson is an FBI agent forced to get his John Shaft on to battle hundreds of snakes released by an assassin bent on killing a witness in protective custody. Thompson plays a passenger named Troy. “I play a friend of this rapper who’s on the plane, so I’m like the entourage of this rapper dude. But, I end up coming in handy when the plane doesn’t have a pilot because I play a lot of video games,” Thompson said with a straight face. “I managed to survive until that point, so it’s good. It’s good that I got that far.”

The sheer absurdity of the film title alone (shortened by bloggers to “SoaP”) inspired Internet supporters to thoroughly embrace its campiness, tuck it tightly into their bosom and run with it like Reggie Bush. “I’ve seen people’s MySpace pages. They have a fan appreciation clip of like everybody’s blogs and commercials and videos they’ve done, it’s crazy,” Thompson says. The most popular fan site,,   was one of the first to grab the attention of New Line Cinema – who took up the battle cry of numerous SoaP fans to get Samuel L. Jackson to say the line, “Get these mother f*ckin’ snakes off this mother f*ckin plane!” To appease the only people likely to see the film, New Line actually had the actors come back to Vancouver for reshoots, during which lines devised by bloggers were added to the film. Thompson said he was hoping that someone would have his character say, “Oh s**t, snakes ni**a!” But the N-word didn’t fly with the studio. “I did get to toss around some good f-bombs in the reshoot,” Thompson says. Because of all the Internet crazies, the actor has even contemplated “SoaP” becoming a cult classic that people will be talking about 20 years from now. “I thought about the whole ‘Rocky Horror’ thing, and I was like, what if this movie just turned into this whole thing – like people started dressing up like snakes and like me in the orange polo shirt?” he says. “I’d be alright with it, but like, c’mon, let’s just watch it and enjoy it for what it is and then we’ll all move on.”

9/11 Hero Who Saved Buried Cops Emerges

Excerpt from

(August 16, 2006) *The identity of an African American U.S. Marine who helped to locate two police officers buried in the crumbled World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, has finally been revealed, reports the Associated Press. 
Jason Thomas, of Columbus, Ohio, was watching a TV promo for the new Oliver Stone film chronicling the events, “World Trade Center,” when he noticed two Marines with flashlights hunting for survivors atop the smouldering ruins.  "That's us. That's me!" thought Thomas, who lived in Long Island during the attacks and now works as an officer in Ohio's Supreme Court.  For years, authorities have wondered who the mystery man was that swooped in to assist in the recovery efforts – eventually helping to free Port Authority police officers Will Jimeno and Sgt. John McLoughlin – then took off, never to be seen or heard from again. The producers of “World Trade Center” were also unable to locate the serviceman, who had given his name only as Sgt. Thomas at the time. In the film, unaware of his identity or race, producers cast a white actor, William Mapother, to play Thomas in the movie.   After the television promo, Thomas, 32, hesitantly re-emerged last week to recount the role he played in the rescue of the officers, who were buried beneath 20 feet of debris when the twin towers collapsed.

As proof of his identity, Thomas provided the AP with photographs of himself at ground zero. Also, the movie's producer, Michael Shamberg, said Thomas and Jimeno have spoken by phone and shared details only the two of them would know.   Thomas had been out of the Marine Corps for about a year when he was dropping his daughter off at his mother's Long Island home on Sept. 11, 2001, and she told him about the planes crashing into the towers. He retrieved his Marine uniform from his truck, sped to Manhattan and had just parked his car when one of the towers collapsed. Thomas ran toward the center of the ash cloud.     "Someone needed help. It didn't matter who," he said. "I didn't even have a plan. But I have all this training as a Marine, and all I could think was, 'My city is in need."'   Thomas happened upon another former Marine, Staff Sgt. David Karnes, and the pair decided to search for survivors. Armed with little more than flashlights and an infantryman's shovel, they searched through the heavy chunks of debris, skirting dangerous crevasses and shards of red-hot metal, calling out "Is anyone down there? United States Marines!"  It was dark before they heard a response. The two crawled into a deep pit to find McLoughlin and Jimeno, injured but alive.   Shamberg said he apologized to Thomas for getting his race wrong in the movie. Filmmakers discovered the mistake after production had already begun. Thomas laughed and gently chided the filmmakers, then politely declined to discuss it further.      "I don't want to shed any negativity on what they were trying to show," he said. As for his story, Thomas said he is gradually becoming more comfortable telling it. "It's been like therapy," he said.

City Slicker Kirby Succumbs To Cancer

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jeremiah Marquez, Associated Press

(Aug. 16, 2006) LOS ANGELES -
Bruno Kirby, a veteran character actor known for playing the best friend in two of Billy Crystal's biggest comedies When Harry Met Sally and City Slickers, has died. He was 57.  Kirby died Monday in Los Angeles from complications related to leukemia, his wife Lynn Sellers said in a statement Tuesday. He had been recently diagnosed with the disease.  "We are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from Bruno's fans and colleagues who have admired and respected his work over the past 30 years," his wife said. ``Bruno's spirit will continue to live on not only in his rich body of film and television work but also through the lives of individuals he has touched throughout his life."  Born Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu in 1949 in New York City, he was the son of actor Bruce Kirby. His early work included the 1971 film Young Graduates, as well as appearances on the television show Room 222 and the made-for-TV movie The Summer Without Boys. 

In 1974, he scored a role in The Godfather: Part II, which won several Academy Awards, including best picture. In the film, Kirby played young Pete Clemenza, following Richard S. Castellano's role in the first instalment.  Over the next few years, Kirby made various TV appearances, including Fame and Hill Street Blues, before landing the role of 2nd Lt. Steven Hauk in Robin William's Good Morning, Vietnam.  That was followed two years later by the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally, in which Kirby played Crystal's best friend. In 1991, Kirby once again appeared as Crystal's cheery friend in City Slickers — along for a mid-life adventure driving cattle on a dude ranch.  He also appeared in 1997's Donnie Brasco, and recently in an episode of the HBO hit series Entourage.  Along with his wife and father, Kirby is survived by his stepmother Roz Kirby, brother John Kirby and stepbrother Brad Sullivan.  No information on funeral arrangements was immediately available.


Cronenberg, Egoyan On Top Of Guild Heap

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 11, 2006) Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg and Thom Fitzgerald are among those nominated for Directors Guild Awards after the Canadian trio put out their most commercial films in years.  After the announcement yesterday, Fitzgerald joked about being pitted against the celebrated Cronenberg — nominated for A History of Violence — and Egoyan — who got a nod for Where the Truth Lies — for the best feature film director award.  "I don't think they stand a chance, really," scoffed Fitzgerald, whose AIDS-themed epic 3 Needles stars Chloe Sevigny.  Also nominated for best feature film director is Gary Yates for Niagara Motel.  Cronenberg's film drew five nominations — in every category it is eligible — including director, feature film, production design, picture editing and sound editing. Egoyan is nominated four times for his showbiz scandal drama.  In the television categories, the bio-thriller ReGenesis led with six nominations, including best dramatic series and a best director nod for Clement Virgo.  The critical darling Slings & Arrows, meanwhile, snagged five nominations.  This year's prizes, to be handed out Oct. 14, also include a lifetime achievement award for famed director Allan King.  Complete list at

Toronto Filmmaker Drowns In Nova Scotia

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 15, 2006) HALIFAX—
Roberto Ariganello, a Toronto filmmaker, drowned while swimming on the weekend, shortly after bringing a truckload of donated editing equipment to Nova Scotia.  Ariganello, 45, was swimming with friends Sunday afternoon at a Halifax-area swimming hole when he slipped beneath the surface.  He was executive director of the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto.  Deirdre Logue, a friend and colleague, said she and Ariganello's friends were reeling over his death.  "It's really, really tragic," she said yesterday, her voice cracking with emotion.  "It's terrible."  Logue said Ariganello drove to Nova Scotia from Toronto last week to drop off the equipment to the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-operative.  "Roberto always says yes," she said.  "He figures out places that need stuff and then takes it to them — it's incredible."  Logue, who runs the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre out of the same downtown building on East Liberty St., said Ariganello's influence and impact on the national film community is "immeasurable."  Ariganello was to host a free artist talk and animation screening yesterday at the CBC in Halifax.  He was to show two of his recent films, Contrafacta and Non-Zymase Pentathlon.  "He was an accomplished and dedicated filmmaker," Logue said.  "It was his life, it was his passion."  Ariganello was described by family as an avid swimmer, but police said an autopsy determined he suffered "an immediate medical trauma" that caused him to drown. Officials didn't elaborate.  His body was recovered by RCMP divers later in the day.  Logue said Ariganello's funeral will take place Friday in Ontario.

Toronto Film Festival Launches Indie Award

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Aug. 15, 06) Toronto -- The
Toronto International Film Festival announced a new award for independent film producers, an often unrecognized category of film creator, at this year's festival. On the small independent, Canadian scene, striving producers can often go unnoticed outside the film community. So this year, the festival is inaugurating its Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA) Producer Award. The winner, to be announced Sept. 8, will receive $10,000 and be chosen by a jury including filmmaker Norman Jewison (The Thomas Crown Affair, Moonstruck), producer David Hamilton (Water, Bollywood/Hollywood) and Pierre Even (C.R.A.Z.Y.).

Film Fest Adds Children's Fare

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 16, 2006) A new all-ages program at next month's
Toronto International Film Festival will showcase the best of contemporary international children's cinema, organizers say.  "These films will captivate, delight and inspire audience members of all ages, and for the first time adult festival-goers can bring along their young friends and family," program director Jane Schoettle said yesterday.  Films in the Sprockets Family Zone will include a 3-D animated comedy called The Ugly Duckling and Me (Ireland/Denmark/France/Germany); the story of a princess and a unicorn called U (France); an adventure tale, The Hairy Tooth Fairy (Argentina/Spain); and spy adventure Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker (United Kingdom).  The gala presentation will be the documentary The White Planet, a Canada-France co-production that follows a seasonal change at the North Pole and how it affects various animal species.  The festival, Sept. 7 to 16, will also feature seven films commissioned in Vienna to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth.

EUR DVD Review: Cape Of Good Hope

Excerpt from - By Kam Williams

(August 15, 2006) *Set in post-Apartheid South Africa, this female empowerment flick was is a most impressive and engaging ensemble piece which devotes equal time to each of its principals' relationship issues, one of whom is black, one white, one coloured and Muslim. The three women are all connected by the animal shelter which serves as the hub which holds the story together. Housekeeper Lindiwe (Nthati Moshesh) is a single-mom struggling to find a way out of the slums to provide better opportunities for her family. She has an ardent admirer in Jean Claude (Eriq Ebouaney), a refugee from the Congo who is trying to decide whether to follow his heart or to seek political asylum in the West. Sharifa's (Quanita Adams) marriage is in crisis because her husband (David Isaacs) has been hesitant about visiting a fertility clinic, even though she has been unable to become pregnant. Finally, we have Kate (Debbie Brown), the self-destructive owner who gets along better with dogs than she does with men. As the movie opens, we find her emotionally involved with a married man, while ignoring the overtures of a kindly widower (Morne Visser) who is also interested in her. What makes this movie marvellous is how deftly it incorporates a social consciousness right into the plot, such as when Kate's boyfriend tries to rape Lindiwe while she is cleaning his home. When her enraged son learns of the attempted violation, he throws a rock through the creep's window and is arrested. A showdown looms as Kate must choose sides. Will she remain loyal to a white guy who has never been there for her, or help free a kid who she knows had good reason to act out?  A socially-relevant and meaningful film which supplies plenty of reasons to feel optimistic about humanity's prospects.



Executive Producer Moses Znaimer Reveals Rumours

Source:  Pennant Media Group

(Aug. 14, 2006) CBC Television has announced it will air
Rumours, a new comedy produced by MZTV and Sphere Media, with executive producers Moses Znaimer and Jocelyn Deschênes. The show premieres Monday October 9th, 2006 at 9:00PM with back-to-back episodes.  Rumours offers a modern look at high-urban living through the eyes of the staff at a Toronto-based women’s gossip and lifestyle magazine. Wickedly funny, the show explores sex, love, friendship, family and business, and the amusing way the lines between these things blur, fall apart and get smashed to pieces.  “I was attracted to it from the first moment,” said executive producer Moses Znaimer. “I liked its high urban drive. I felt like the issues and the personalities that were dealt with could find their replication in any big city in the world, regardless of language or culture.”  When ambitious but neurotic Sarah Barnaby (Amy Price-Francis) and “intellectual caveman” Ben Devlin (David Haydn-Jones) are thrown together as co-editors of a women’s magazine named Rumours, sparks fly with equal parts of repulsion and attraction.  While the pair attempts to bring integrity, improved ratings and sales to the struggling magazine, they receive little help from the Rumours’ self-involved staff, who are more interested in their own personal drama.

Rumours also stars Jennifer Dale as Michelle, the magazine’s beautiful but ruthless publisher who is responsible for forcing Ben and Sarah together; and Sadie LeBlanc as Helen, Sarah’s straight-shooting, free-spirited best friend who can’t seem to find Mr. Right, despite auditioning half the men in Toronto for the part.  Rumours is based on the Radio-Canada series Rumeurs, which is a huge hit in Quebec, launching its fifth season this fall. Rumeurs regularly draws more than one million viewers in Quebec, and has won dozens of awards since its premiere.  RUMOURS is written by Isabelle Langlois and directed by Eric Tessier. It is an MZTV/Sphere Media production in association with CBC Television.

China Bans Foreign Cartoons From Prime-Time Television

Source: Joe McDonald, Associated Press

(Aug. 13, 2006) BEIJING — D'oh!
China has banished Homer Simpson, Pokemon and Mickey Mouse from prime time. Beginning Sept. 1, regulators have barred foreign cartoons from TV from 5 to 8 p.m. in an effort to protect China's struggling animation studios, news reports said Sunday. The move allows the Monkey King and his Chinese pals to get the top TV viewing hours to themselves. Foreign cartoons, especially from Japan, are hugely popular with China's 250 million children and the country's own animation studios have struggled to compete. Communist leaders are said to be frustrated that so many cartoons are foreign-made, especially after efforts to build up Chinese animation studios. The ban hasn't been formally announced, but newspapers already were criticizing it Sunday as the wrong way to improve programming.

“This is a worrying, shortsighted policy and will not solve the fundamental problems in China's cartoon industry,” the Southern Metropolis News said. “The viewing masses, whether adults or children, will have no choice but to passively support Chinese products.” Chinese animators produce hundreds of hours of programs a year but aren't known for flair or originality. They draw on traditional stories such as “Journey to the West,” about the adventures of the Monkey King, and have yet to invent characters to match the appeal of Mickey Mouse or Japanese icons such as Pokemon. The cartoon campaign comes amid efforts by President Hu Jintao's government to tighten control over other pop culture, ranging from movies to magazines and Web sites. TV stations have been told to limit foreign programming, stop showing scary movies in prime time and have their hosts dress more conservatively and use fewer English words on the air. Most cartoons on
China Central Television, the national broadcaster, are Chinese-made. But more freewheeling local broadcasters show everything from The Simpsons to Japanese, South Korean and European cartoons dubbed into Chinese. Film studios have been pushed to merge in order to create big, well-financed competitors. Officials have set up 15 animation centres to nurture the industry, invoking communist guerrilla vocabulary by dubbing them “production bases.” “The reason for the regulation is clear. It is to protect domestic cartoon production,” the Southern Metropolis said. The newspaper cited what it said was a recent study that found that 80 per cent of Chinese children surveyed liked foreign cartoons and disliked domestic animation.

Chinese studios employ thousands of skilled animators, but many focus on doing work subcontracted by Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. and other Western or Japanese studios. Broadcasters were told to limit use of foreign cartoons in 2000 at a time when Japanese animation dominated the market. In 2004, the government stepped up controls, saying Chinese cartoons had to account for at least 60 per cent of the total shown in prime time. In February, regulators banned programs that mix animation with live characters in an apparent effort to protect Chinese studios, which don't produce such programming. Regulators haven't released details, but the ban could affect popular children's TV shows such as Blue's Clues from the United States and Britain's Teletubbies. The government also protects Chinese film studios by limiting imports of foreign titles. But that strategy appears to have backfired by creating a market for pirated movies, which both foreign and Chinese studios say robs them of box office revenues. On Sunday, Chinese moviemakers accused TV stations of becoming part of the nation's thriving movie piracy industry, airing up to 1,500 pirated Chinese movies a year. Beijing also has thrown up barriers to other pop culture. In April, the government disclosed it was no longer granting publishing licenses for foreign magazines in an effort to protect its domestic industry. That came after a joint venture that published a Chinese edition of Rolling Stone was forced to dissolve after a single issue.

FCC Warns Stations Over ‘Fake' TV News

Source: Associated Press

(Aug. 16, 2006) Washington — The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has mailed letters to the owners of 77 television stations inquiring about their use of video news releases, a type of programming critics refer to as “
fake news.” Video news releases are packaged news-like stories that usually employ actors to portray reporters who are paid by commercial or government groups. The letters were sparked by allegations that TV stations have been airing the videos as part of their news programs without telling viewers who paid for them. FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said Tuesday the letters ask station managers for information regarding agreements between the stations and the creators of the news releases. The FCC also asked whether there was any “consideration” given to the stations in return for airing the material. “You can't tell any more the difference between what's propaganda and what's news,” Mr. Adelstein said. The probe was sparked by a study of newsroom use of material provided by public relations firms. The study, entitled Fake TV News:

Widespread and Undisclosed, was compiled by the Center for Media and Democracy, a Wisconsin-based non-profit organization that monitors the public relations industry. When stations air video news releases, they are required to disclose to viewers “the nature, source and sponsorship of the material that they are viewing,” according to the FCC. The rules were prompted by payola scandals of the past, in which broadcasters accepted money from companies to hype their products without labelling the effort as advertising. Diane Farsetta, senior researcher with the Center for Media and Democracy and co-author of the study, said that did not appear to be the case in the study but that “the main reason is economy. These are free stories that are given to stations that are continually under-resourced.” Ms. Farsetta said despite the publicity, stations are continuing to air releases without disclosure. Stations that received the letters have been given 60 days to respond. If the FCC decides they have violated the rules, punishment could include fines or licence revocation.


Diahann Carroll To Join ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Excerpt from

(August 10, 2006) *The cast of “Grey’s Anatomy” will have an additional person-of-color for its 2006/2007 run. Veteran actress
Diahann Carroll, who made history in 1968 as the first African American woman to star in a TV series, will join the cast of the popular ABC drama when it kicks off its new season on Thursday, Sept. 21 at 9 p.m.  "Each time, I'm surprised [to still be asked to appear on a television show]," she tells Entertainment Tonight in an exclusive interview. "I feel as though they've counted me out. I might as well sit on the beach. Then the phone rings."  Thirty-eight years after breaking barriers with “Julia,” the 1968 series starring Carroll as a widowed nurse raising her son, the 71-year-old Bronx native received a call from “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes about becoming a regular for the new season.    "She said the most lovely thing," Diahann recalls. "She said, 'I knew when I was a girl that if I had any success in television or film that I wanted to work with you.' I said, 'When I hear things like that, you make me feel so wonderful that I'll work for nothing.'"    Unfortunately, Carroll promised producers that she would not reveal details about her character, nor divulge information about upcoming storylines.  "They explain that you just say nothing, and I think it's a wonderful idea. So I'm on the show, that's as far as we can go," she says.

Rick Fox Cast In FX Series ‘Dirt’

Excerpt from

(August 15, 2006)  *Former NBA star-turned-actor
Rick Fox, the one-time husband of actress Vanessa L. Williams, has booked himself a new TV gig on the FX network.   The 37-year-old Toronto native has signed on for a multiepisode arc on “Dirt,” a new drama created by and starring “Friends” alum Courteney Cox as the editor of a tabloid magazine, per the Hollywood Reporter. Fox will play a star basketball player who has problems in his marriage.   FX ordered a full 13-episode season for the series in June. Production is scheduled to begin next month for an early 2007 debut.    Fox’s resume includes a multiepisode arc on the UPN sitcom "Love, Inc.," several episodes of HBO's "Oz," as well as the films "Mini's First Time" and Spike Lee’s "He Got Game."


Healed Of Scars, It's Bombay Dreams

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Aug. 13, 2006) Some dreams take longer to come true than others. 
Bombay Dreams, the Bollywood musical comedy, is finally reaching Toronto — opening at the Hummingbird Centre this week — three years after it was first supposed to bring its lush melodies, spurting fountains and thousands of yards of multicoloured silk to this city.  The story of why it didn't come here originally is almost as improbably theatrical as one of the Bollywood movies that provide the inspiration for the show.  Along the way, the musical has been through various producers, numerous rewrites and a bashing at the hands of the Manhattan critics, but it has emerged as a sturdy survivor.  And Toronto actor Shane Bland has been aboard for most of the strange and wonderful roller-coaster ride.  "It's the same and yet somehow it's different" is how he describes the musical he's appeared in for the past 2 1/2 years.  The 29-year-old actor was interviewed while visiting his Toronto home during a break in the show's North American touring schedule. He stretched out in a sunny park near the Hummingbird Centre to talk about his involvement with this "beautiful, colourful, silly, sensual, amazing show."  Although Bland has been part of the full saga on this side of the Atlantic, he wasn't there from the start.

That part of the process began with Andrew Lloyd Webber, the famed composer and London theatre owner who always has his eye out for the next big thing.  For years, one of his guilty pleasures was watching the Bollywood musicals that Britain's Channel 4 aired regularly on Saturday mornings. (Remember when Citytv did the same here on Sunday afternoons in the 1980s?)  "I was attracted," Lloyd Webber recently told The Guardian, "by the combination of dazzling colour, haunting music and light-hearted fun that these films all seemed to possess." (For more on this Indian genre, see the sidebar at right.)  When Lloyd Webber discovered that on any given night in England, more South Asians were watching Bollywood films on screen than the combined audiences for stage musicals in the West End, the entrepreneurial side of his brain started thinking of a way to bring these already theatrical films to the stage.  He sought out composer A.R. Rahman, veteran of many Bollywood epics, and also asked film director Shekhar Kapur to help guide him in the process.  They brought on Lloyd Webber collaborators like Don Black (lyrics) and Steven Pimlott (direction) to join with Hindi film star and author Meera Syal in creating a story about a boy from the Bombay slums who dreams of being a Bollywood star and falls in love with the daughter of a big film producer.

The show that opened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre on June 19, 2002 received wildly mixed reviews. The tabloid critics from the Daily Express and Mirror were the kindest, calling it "great fun" and "predictable, but infectious."  The "serious" papers were less impressed, attacking its "under-powered melodrama" and savaging "dialogue that would test the patience of Mother Teresa."  Still, the South Asian audiences came in droves and the show paid off its investors within six months.  In the early months of the run when everything seemed golden, planning began to take Bombay Dreams to New York.  It became obvious, however, that the show wasn't clicking with conventional theatregoers and it wound up closing after two years, with the final 12 months playing to disappointing houses.  The Star's Martin Knelman reported as early as December of 2002 that David Mirvish was involved in negotiations to try the show out in Toronto prior to the Great White Way.  It seemed like an eminently sensible move. With more than 500,000 South Asians in the GTA, there would be a guaranteed audience while a new version of the show was calibrated to North American sensitivities before facing the Butchers of Broadway.  The Toronto Centre for the Arts in North York, which hadn't hosted a long-run musical since 1999, was the ideal venue, since it was located close to much of the South Asian community.  It almost seemed too good to be true. And it was.

Plummer — And French — Back At Stratford

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Aug. 12, 2006) As far as
Christopher Plummer is concerned, this year at Stratford, they're going to party like it's 1956.  "That was such a glorious summer back then," he sighs on the phone from his Connecticut home, recalling the days when actors from Montreal's Le théâtre du nouveau monde joined the Stratford Festival company to provide a bilingual air to the production of Henry V that Plummer starred in.  "Both languages represented at the festival," he says. "The uniqueness, the wonder of it all."  "I've been talking to the powers that be for years about getting the French connection back again."  His wish might finally have come true. The result of Plummer's labours was revealed last night at the Avon Theatre when Molière's Don Juan opened, featuring a cast drawn equally from the normal anglophone Stratford company and a contingent brought in from Le théâtre du nouveau monde.  Colm Feore heads the company in the title role and Plummer is along for the ride on video, playing the Statue of the Commander, once slain by Don Juan in a duel, who now returns to lead him down to hell.  "They offered me Don Juan years ago and I said no, but it wasn't the age," insisted the 76-year-old actor. "I mean he was still good at doing it with the ladies when he was 90.  "It's too much like work," admits Plummer, "especially in English, which doesn't flow like the French original."

Feore and most of the cast, in fact, are performing the show in both languages, with the French version opening on Oct.14.  "I think Colm is unbelievably brave," Plummer raves, "and I'm lost in admiration for him." Director Lorraine Pintal, the artistic director of Le théâtre du nouveau monde, was the one who suggested Plummer appear in the final scene on video.  "I think it's a very interesting way of ending it. You know, the original doesn't conclude that satisfactorily. I think Molière got bored with the whole thing, said `Rideau!' and just walked from it."  Pintal, together with choreographer Donna Feore, has worked out a dance of death that takes Don Juan down to the underworld while the Commander's spirit speaks a poem.  "In the English version, it's from Byron's Don Juan, logically enough," reveals Plummer, "while in the French, it's a hauntingly apt selection by Baudelaire.  "I was thrilled to be a part of it and yet not have to turn up every night, which is a wonderful way of doing it."  Plummer still retains his usual high level of activity, with two films waiting to be released.  The first, Man in the Chair, is a quirky independent movie still searching for a distributor.  "It's up for the Toronto film festival," says Plummer hopefully, "and I hope it makes it there, because that would give it a wonderful boost. I think it's rather a gem."

Written and directed by Michael Schroeder, it tells the story of Flash Madden (Plummer), a drunken old gaffer who is the last living person to have worked on the filming of Citizen Kane.  At the other end of the spectrum is the big-budget romantic epic Closing The Ring, directed by Richard Attenborough.  It's set in both the 1940s and the 1990s and it tells the story of a young man who tries to find the owner of a ring discovered when a U.S. bomber pilot crashed in Ireland.  "Shirley MacLaine and I are the old folks," laughs Plummer, "while Mischa Barton and Gregory Smith are the young'uns. There's also a fantastic young Irish actor I worked with named Martin McCann."  The stage, of course, remains Plummer's first love and he talks of some of the roles he'd still like to do.  "Falstaff, of course, now that they can make fat suits that no longer weigh a ton. And I'd like to play James Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night. I did some of it on a documentary about Eugene O'Neill last year and that sparked my interest.  "I never thought I was an O'Neill kind of guy and besides, my great friend Jason Robards had all of O'Neill sewed up as far as I was concerned, but he's gone now."  He hints slyly at a Broadway revival that he's currently in negotiations for, that reliable sources insist is the evolution drama about the Scopes trial, Inherit the Wind.  "When that's through, I wouldn't mind taking a crack at some Shaw. No, not Heartbreak House. After Lear (at Stratford and in New York) I don't want to go around in a damn long white beard again."  Plummer won't reveal what role interests him, but one can easily see the crowds lining up to say "Hail, Caesar" to this living legend of the stage.  "I never know which role is going to be the last one," he chortles, "so I guess you'll have to keep coming to see me in every one I do until I throw in the towel."  Hopefully, that day is still a long way off.

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Aug. 12, 2006) As far as
Christopher Plummer is concerned, this year at Stratford, they're going to party like it's 1956.  "That was such a glorious summer back then," he sighs on the phone from his Connecticut home, recalling the days when actors from Montreal's Le théâtre du nouveau monde joined the Stratford Festival company to provide a bilingual air to the production of Henry V that Plummer starred in.  "Both languages represented at the festival," he says. "The uniqueness, the wonder of it all."  "I've been talking to the powers that be for years about getting the French connection back again."  His wish might finally have come true. The result of Plummer's labours was revealed last night at the Avon Theatre when Molière's Don Juan opened, featuring a cast drawn equally from the normal anglophone Stratford company and a contingent brought in from Le théâtre du nouveau monde.  Colm Feore heads the company in the title role and Plummer is along for the ride on video, playing the Statue of the Commander, once slain by Don Juan in a duel, who now returns to lead him down to hell.  "They offered me Don Juan years ago and I said no, but it wasn't the age," insisted the 76-year-old actor. "I mean he was still good at doing it with the ladies when he was 90.  "It's too much like work," admits Plummer, "especially in English, which doesn't flow like the French original."

Feore and most of the cast, in fact, are performing the show in both languages, with the French version opening on Oct.14.  "I think Colm is unbelievably brave," Plummer raves, "and I'm lost in admiration for him." Director Lorraine Pintal, the artistic director of Le théâtre du nouveau monde, was the one who suggested Plummer appear in the final scene on video.  "I think it's a very interesting way of ending it. You know, the original doesn't conclude that satisfactorily. I think Molière got bored with the whole thing, said `Rideau!' and just walked from it."  Pintal, together with choreographer Donna Feore, has worked out a dance of death that takes Don Juan down to the underworld while the Commander's spirit speaks a poem.  "In the English version, it's from Byron's Don Juan, logically enough," reveals Plummer, "while in the French, it's a hauntingly apt selection by Baudelaire.  "I was thrilled to be a part of it and yet not have to turn up every night, which is a wonderful way of doing it."  Plummer still retains his usual high level of activity, with two films waiting to be released.  The first, Man in the Chair, is a quirky independent movie still searching for a distributor.  "It's up for the Toronto film festival," says Plummer hopefully, "and I hope it makes it there, because that would give it a wonderful boost. I think it's rather a gem."

Written and directed by Michael Schroeder, it tells the story of Flash Madden (Plummer), a drunken old gaffer who is the last living person to have worked on the filming of Citizen Kane.  At the other end of the spectrum is the big-budget romantic epic Closing The Ring, directed by Richard Attenborough.  It's set in both the 1940s and the 1990s and it tells the story of a young man who tries to find the owner of a ring discovered when a U.S. bomber pilot crashed in Ireland.  "Shirley MacLaine and I are the old folks," laughs Plummer, "while Mischa Barton and Gregory Smith are the young'uns. There's also a fantastic young Irish actor I worked with named Martin McCann."  The stage, of course, remains Plummer's first love and he talks of some of the roles he'd still like to do.  "Falstaff, of course, now that they can make fat suits that no longer weigh a ton. And I'd like to play James Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night. I did some of it on a documentary about Eugene O'Neill last year and that sparked my interest.  "I never thought I was an O'Neill kind of guy and besides, my great friend Jason Robards had all of O'Neill sewed up as far as I was concerned, but he's gone now."  He hints slyly at a Broadway revival that he's currently in negotiations for, that reliable sources insist is the evolution drama about the Scopes trial, Inherit the Wind.  "When that's through, I wouldn't mind taking a crack at some Shaw. No, not Heartbreak House. After Lear (at Stratford and in New York) I don't want to go around in a damn long white beard again."  Plummer won't reveal what role interests him, but one can easily see the crowds lining up to say "Hail, Caesar" to this living legend of the stage.  "I never know which role is going to be the last one," he chortles, "so I guess you'll have to keep coming to see me in every one I do until I throw in the towel."  Hopefully, that day is still a long way off.


 Monica Ali - Caught In The Headlines

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Tralee Pearce

(Aug. 12, 2006) While contemplating the small Portuguese village she's visiting, a character in London writer
Monica Ali's new novel, Alentejo Blue, thinks to herself, "I could run away and be here." Given the events that have unfolded for Ali in the past month, the line must be resonating with the author, who has a very good reason to remain holed up in the vacation home in Portugal, where she wrote much of the novel: Back in London, the filming of a movie adaptation of her best-selling first novel, Brick Lane, has caused a major ruckus. In the real East London Bangladeshi neighbourhood of Brick Lane, which was to star as itself in the movie, community activists succeeded in forcing Ruby Films to halt filming. They disapprove of the tale of a young woman who arrives in London's Muslim Bangladeshi community via an arranged marriage, and eventually starts an affair with a young Islamic radical. Community leader Abdus Salique said last month, "[Ali] has imagined ideas about us in her head. She is not one of us, she has not lived with us, she knows nothing about us, but she has insulted us." A very public debate rolled on earlier this week, with a high-profile dual in the press between Germaine Greer, who wrote in favour of the protesters, and Salman Rushdie, who called Greer's piece "pro-censorship twaddle."

Political sensitivities will be all the more raw in the wake of this week's news that British police thwarted a suicide-bombing plot to blow up several airplanes about to take off from Heathrow Airport — and announced the arrest of two dozen young men, most of whom came from Pakistani families in a poor but respectable neighbourhood in East London. No wonder authors like Ali — who was born to a Bengali father and white British mother in what is now Pakistan, and who grew up in England — feel like they're on the hot seat. And no wonder one of the first questions Ali faces these days while promoting Alentejo Blue is whether, in changing settings, she was fleeing the moniker of "British-Asian writer." "I found that amusing and a bit bemusing," she said in an interview in Toronto in late June. "I am British and I am Asian and those are very fine things to be and there's no reason to get away from that. But there's no reason why I shouldn't choose my subject matter any more than a white writer chooses their subject matter. A white writer doesn't get accused of trying to escape from being white." Although it is unlikely to incite the same kind of rage in Portugal that Brick Lane has caused in London, Ali says Alentejo Blue isn't as dissimilar to Brick Lane as it may first appear. It explores identity, place and belonging among its motley crew of characters, woven, short-story-like, together. "You can't get away from your interests," she said. "There are many issues I explore of identity and belonging and the radicalization of Muslim youth — the events following 9/11, the riots in the North of England. I'm very interested in the world around me and what's happening and the way identities are morphing and changing."

For instance, when she was growing up, Ali says the main soccer leagues had no black players. "The common currency was that they weren't team players. Now a lot of British players are black. Prejudices die hard, but they do die." That's the more nuanced reality first-time author Gautam Malkani aims to capture in Londonstani, a bold mash-up of South Asian street slang and text messaging telling the story of a crew of middle-class Sikh rudeboys. In the context of this week's arrests, last year's London subway bombings, and the arrest of several alleged young terrorists in Toronto this summer, Londonstani will likely be tapped for its insights, by those trying to get their heads around the idea of Western homegrown terrorism: It's about masculinity, not race or ethnicity, suggested Malkani in a telephone interview from London last month. And the audience he hopes most reads Londonstani is a young male one. "A lot of kids want to walk a little taller," he said. "The ideological stuff is just props. I'm not excusing Islamic fundamentalist kids. But in the novel, the characters haven't got a problem with Christianity. They haven't got a problem with the Royal Family, and they haven't got a problem with the British democratic way of life. Their only problem is they don't feel manly enough to stand as tall as they'd like to. This identity and subculture helps them do that." It's the kind of complexity that he and writers like Ali, Diana Evans and Yasmin Crowther constantly grapple with in their work at home in Britain. Willing to tackle immigrant issues, and open a window onto multicultural London, these writers are filling out the ranks of a new subgenre that got a kick-start in 2001 with Zadie Smith's White Teeth.

"It's not uncoincidental that there is this interest in British writers writing about the South Asian diaspora," says Renisa Mawani, a University of British Columbia sociology professor who keeps an eye on the modern literature scene. "Writers have been writing for some time around the experiences of migration and what it means. Writers like Malkani are capturing how this is resonating with a new generation in Britain. "One thing's for sure — we live in a world where our conceptions of difference and inequality have shifted," she adds. "One of the compelling things about writers like Malkani is they illustrate how completely hybrid our world has become." Londonstani's three sections represent the progress Malkani observed growing up in London's Hounslow district, the largely South Asian community near Heathrow. At the book's opening, we are introduced to the idea of the angry, victimized "Paki," which is the title of the first chapter of the book; then emerges the bold, aggressive lion or tiger, "Sher." Finally there materializes the synthesis of the two archetypes, the self-determined "Desi," a newly popular term which refers to members of the South Asian diaspora. "In the novel I compressed it into 10 months, but you still have the evolution from aggressive and hardcore to a more porous subculture," he said. Malkani also sees soccer as an example of the positive evolution he has witnessed and hopes to capture in his books. "You can see that at the World Cup — how many Indians were out there in Germany with their faces painted with the cross of St. George. You'd never have had that 10 years ago, five years ago. People can be down on multiculturalism, but there's a lot of integration in pop culture." But until the literary world is fully integrated (both in terms of the authors out there, and what they write), and in light of the unnerving events that rattled the world this week, writers like Malkani and Ali wonder if they will continue to face questions about representation and authenticity ad nauseum.

"It's because we don't have enough British-Asian writers," Malkani says. "We need to get to a stage where there are British-Asian versions of Hannibal Lecter and other baddies, and Harry Potters. Only when you get such a diverse amount of voices, then nothing can be representative or authentic; it's just fiction." For his second novel, he jokes that he's thinking of writing about space aliens or little green men, so "no one can accuse me or take me to task for not representing them properly. "It's an extra obstacle ethnic writers have to deal with. Some people say it's white, liberal, middle-class society that's putting these obstacles in front of us. It's not. It's usually coming from our own community saying, 'That's not the way we are.' "Well, get over it. You don't see middle-aged white men attacking Thomas Harris saying we're not all cannibalistic serial killers. It's ridiculous." Yasmin Crowther, author of The Saffron Kitchen, which follows a middle-aged London mother back to her troubled past in Iran, says she doesn't consider herself an Anglo-Iranian writer, simply an English-language writer who has chosen to write about Iran for her first novel. "My second book doesn't focus on the two cultures I inhabit, and so I suppose it wasn't necessarily the case that my first book should do so," she said in an e-mail interview. "I think of The Saffron Kitchen as primarily a book about family politics, questions of identity and psychology, the significance of trauma, its repression and the consequences of shame. I didn't set out to write a sociological or political book, although of course people may treat it that way." Crowther admits, however, that modern literature can help describe the complex psychological trauma of the immigrant experience. "Events and opinions can be so raw and overwhelming," she says, "that the search to understand, unpack and address motive can seem practically impossible." However much that might motivate a writer, though, Ali says it must take a back seat to craft. "Once you start writing, you have to close the door again and follow your own creative direction. Otherwise all is lost. Otherwise you may as well not have bothered to write."

We're In Outer MySpace

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Garnet Fraser

(Aug. 13, 2006) Earlier this year, Christine Dolce was just another blond bombshell dreaming of fame and fortune, working at a makeup counter in California.  Now she has her own line of jeans, major product endorsements and a photo spread coming out in the October edition of Playboy. The 24-year-old has already graced the pages of Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal and The Economist — which she confesses she didn't know existed — and will soon appear in FHM, Stuff and Rolling Stone.  Dolce is the new breed of amateur turned starlet, newer even than reality TV idols. Dolce has built her enterprise solely on her self-promotional activities on
MySpace.  She is one of countless success stories arising from MySpace, an Internet portal that invites everyone and anyone to build their own page within — complete with blog, photos, music and videos — for visiting by other MySpace browsers.  The Los Angeles-rooted MySpace has acquired supremacy within the American youth culture. Early last Wednesday the site — which as of May became the most visited domain after Yahoo! — hit 100 million member profiles. For some reason, despite the fact Canadians are inundated by every form of American media, the phenomenon is only starting to make significant noise here.  Although hyper-private MySpace, co-owned by Fox and Google, doesn't share its demographic information, Internet tracking group ComScore says one in six Americans had a MySpace profile as of June 2006, versus one in 11 Canadians. (These ratios may be slightly off because people have been known to set up multiple profiles.) But the gap is closing. Just last summer, only one in 45 Canadians used the service.

The American numbers have climbed steadily since the site's soft launch in fall of 2003.  It's not based on a revolutionary idea. The site is targeted to the 14-to-24 age demographic and is similar to other friend-connecting sites, such as Friendster and Facebook.  But while other services are mainly limited to being a place to check up on friends, MySpace has out-jockeyed the field by also being a dating service, a hotspot for musicians, comics, models and actors trying to get their names out there, and a platform for the self-publishing of just about anything — tasteful — by amateurs and celebrities alike.  The Black Eyed Peas, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, and Kelly Osbourne have all premiered songs or entire albums on MySpace. Even the Pirates of the Caribbean marketing team got in on the action by premiering the trailer for the sequel Dead Man's Chest for one lucky user, who subsequently made it available to the community.  Since you have to open a MySpace account (free) to view the blogs and photos of other members, this breeding ground of pop culture creates a snowball effect once it gets popular in a geographic area.  Any day now Christine Dolce's page,, will have garnered one million friends, making her the fifth most popular MySpace user. (The average avid user may have several hundred.)  The snowball has been slower to roll in some parts of Canada. Dolce's site has had a strong response from Toronto and other big cities, for example, but very little from elsewhere here.

No formal body has analyzed this Canadian lag time, but MySpace scholars do have theories.  Among them is danah boyd, who in true hipster fashion prefers that her name be lowercased. A PhD student at Berkeley, she's arguably the foremost expert on MySpace culture.  Boyd conducts her research solely on American users, but said via email that sites like MySpace "are taking off in different cultures because they make sense in that particular cultural context."  In an essay in a U.S. science magazine, boyd theorized that U.S. teens have increasingly fewer public places to socialize in, leading to "digital hangouts."  "Classic 1950s hang-out locations like the roller rink and burger joint are disappearing while malls and 7-Elevens are banning teens unaccompanied by parents. Hanging out around the neighbourhood or in the woods has been deemed unsafe for fear of predators, drug dealers and abductors," she wrote.  This, said University of Toronto professor Mark Federman, could explain why this country has been slower to embrace MySpace.  "In Canada there are still public spaces that teens aren't always shooed out of. Primarily, we're a cold (weather) nation with a lot of indoor places that people can just hang out in. (U.S.) malls have much stricter security getting rid of teens."  Keith Ruby, who discovered Dolce on MySpace when she was still a nobody and is now her manager, has another theory. A Calgarian who moved to California two years ago, Ruby, 29, said he at once noticed a difference in the technology culture.  "Here, if you don't have a MySpace profile, there's something wrong with you," he said. "The site doesn't cater to French-speakers, which knocks out a huge segment of the Canadian population. But essentially the company just hasn't made the advertising push in Canada."  Recently MySpace has launched custom sites for the U.K., Australia, Ireland and France. The domain name is slightly different, ensuring users are directed to localized home pages and content.  And while a close-mouthed MySpace representative said the company is "looking" at Canada — and was a sponsor at last month's Just for Laughs festival in Montreal — there are no plans to set up a Canadian interface.  "The way this is going to take off is through music. Checking up on friends, dating and music are definitely the top three functions of MySpace," Ruby said.  In fact, Canadian musicians have already embraced the site.  Last summer Jenna Andrews was a struggling singer from Western Canada trying to develop her jazz/soul/bluegrass sound in Nashville. She set up a MySpace account, moved to Toronto and is now "solidly booked" and plans to release an album in the near future.  "Honestly, it's amazing. I have gotten so many gigs and contacts — legitimate contacts — just from people viewing my MySpace profile. I get gig offers almost every day."  Virtually all her musician friends use MySpace, she said.  Something else she's noticed lately: "If you're playing shows, people ask about your MySpace instead of your website.  "It's going to be huge here."


Chappelle Takes Comedy On The Road

Excerpt from

(August 11, 2006) *Comedian
Dave Chappelle will launch a month-long East coast tour that will begin tonight in Norfolk, VA and roll through a dozen cities, including Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Toronto and Atlantic City.  The actor/comic, who walked away from his Comedy Central sketch series “Chappelle’s Show” last year over concerns about the show’s direction, just completed a sold-out run at San Francisco's Punch Line.  Here’s Chappelle’s August itinerary:

August 2006

11 Norfolk, VA Chrysler Hall
12 Richmond, VA Landmark Theatre
13 Pittsburgh, PA Chevrolet Amphitheatre
15 Wallingford, CT Chevrolet Theatre
17 Buffalo, NY Shea’s Perf. Arts Ctr.
18 Detroit, MI Fox Theatre
19 Rosemont, IL Rosemont Theatre
20 Cleveland, OH Tower City Amphitheater
20 Toronto, ON Massey Hall
22 Toronto, ON Massey Hall

23 Boston, MA Agganis Arena
24 Washington, D.C. Warner Theatre
25 Atlantic City, NJ Borgata Hotel/Casino
26 Atlantic City, NJ Borgata Hotel/Casino

Laughs Trump Sex Appeal On Canadian Power List

Excerpt from The Toronto Star – From Canadian Press

(Aug. 16, 2006) Actor
Jim Carrey has passed Pamela Anderson to take the top spot on Canadian Business magazine's second annual Celebrity Power List.  The magazine used four criteria — estimated salary, press clippings, number hits on and TV mentions — to rank 15 Canadians who have demonstrated clout in the entertainment industry over the last year.  According to the magazine, Carrey's improved web scores and a bump in the TV category put him ahead of Anderson. Carrey, who was born in Newmarket, Ont., is the highest-paid Canadian actor in Hollywood.  Anderson, a native of Ladysmith, B.C., slipped to No. 2 on the list after her sitcom Stacked was cancelled.  Rounding out the top five were Toronto natives Keanu Reeves and Kiefer Sutherland and Montreal-born actor William Shatner. Sutherland moved up three spots from No. 7 in 2005 while Reeves and Shatner stayed the same.  There were a couple new additions. Rocker Avril Lavigne of Napanee, Ont., debuted at No. 7 while Ottawa-raised actor Brendan Fraser came in at No. 10. The complete list:

1. Jim Carrey.
2. Pamela Anderson.
3. Keanu Reeves.
4. Kiefer Sutherland.
5. William Shatner.
6. Mike Myers.
7. Avril Lavigne.
8. Rachel McAdams.
9. Matthew Perry.
10. Brendan Fraser.
11. Hayden Christensen.
12. Eric McCormack.
13. Sandra Oh.
14. Ryan Reynolds.
15. Evangeline Lilly

William Shatner To Host Canadian Game And Animation Awards

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 10, 2006) Nominations for the first ever
Canadian Awards for the Electronic & Animated Arts were announced today at the River Rock Casino in Richmond, BC. UbiSoft lead the list of nominees in the Electronic Arts (Videogame categories) with multiple nominations, including best console game, best game design, and best graphics, for both Prince of Persia: Two Thrones, and Peter Jackson’s King Kong the Official Game of the Movie. The impressive list of nominees highlights the strength of video game development in Canada, which the award show’s producer, Holly Carinci called “Hollywood, of the videogame industry.” Each category has three or four very strong nominees, except for the Best PC Game of the Year category contested by only Doodlebops Club House Games and a game considered mediocre by most reviewers: Supreme Ruler 2010. Besides awards for the best Canadian-made video and computer games, the awards ceremony, which is to be held on September 14th and hosted by William Shatner, will recognize Canadian animation. There are also student categories, where students from Sheridan College, and the Vancouver Film School led in numbers of nominees. Besides the nominees for this year’s awards, the award statuette was unveiled at the press conference this morning. Sculpted by Dean Lauze, and named “the Elan,” the statue features a man holding up the world framed in a flat-screen monitor held up by a woman. The first year of this high tech/high glam awards event is being held near Vancouver, BC at the River Rock Theatre on September 14th, 2006, and hosted by William Shatner. More info at


Mutombo Needs Funds For Congo Hospital

Excerpt from

(August 16, 2006) *Houston Rockets center
Dikembe Mutombo is slowly-but-surely making headway in the building of a much needed hospital in his impoverished hometown of Kinshasa, the capital city of Congo.  On a salary of $2.2 million per year for the upcoming season, the NBA star has already contributed $15 million of the $29 million needed to construct the 300-bed Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital near Kinshasa, where the ceremonial opening is Sept. 2. To raise the remaining $9 million, he is launching a campaign to recruit 100,000 donors who would pledge $10 a month to his foundation for one year.      "With this we can reach even the (lower income levels) of the American public," he tells USA Today.  Mutombo learned about his country's medical deficiencies firsthand when his mother died of a stroke in 1998. The country was in civil unrest, and she was unable to get to a hospital because of a curfew.    

Mutombo says the hospital, named in memory of his mother, is in keeping with an African proverb: "When you take the elevator up to reach the top, please don't forget to send the elevator back down so that someone else can take it to the top."     According to USA Today, Mutombo has spent the last nine years working to build the hospital. He has met with presidents and princes, corporate executives and anyone he thought would make a donation, flying an estimated 500,000 miles for hospital-related business.      "I thank my wife for still loving me," he says. "I am gone so much, two to three days a week."     "Dikembe could have enjoyed all the luxuries and creature comforts of (the USA) and not been concerned," says TNT basketball analyst John Thompson, Mutombo's coach at Georgetown University. "I'm proud ... that he's applying his education, applying the values his parents taught him and helping people."   


The 3-Phase Abs Workout

By Michael Stefano, Special for eFitness

(Aug. 16, 2006) If you're like me, you've come across countless articles on how to tighten your tummy or flatten a flabby midsection, but to quote Mr. William Shakespeare, there's been "Much ado about nothing."  But before we explore some possible reasons behind your sub-pectoral protrusion, let's take a quick look at the actual musculature of the abdomen.  For a sure-fire way to flatten your belly, check out this great workout program.  The most prominent layer, the Rectus Abdominus, is a thin sheath of muscle that runs midline from sternum to pelvis. It’s what most identify as the six-pack.  Sometimes referred to as the lower and upper abdominals respectively, the Exterior Oblique and Interior Oblique muscles wrap the lower torso and also tie into the pelvis. Finally, the Transverse Abdominus are deep horizontal muscle fibres that from run side to side, holding together your internal organs. The major action of the abdominal muscle group is to support the back and spine, as well as bring the trunk toward the pelvis.

Traditional Abdominal Exercise

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

Phase One -- Hip Flexor Stretch:

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

Phase Two -- Crunch Time:

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

Phase Three -- Pelvic Tilt:

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

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



Motivational Note - A Motivation Metaphor You Can Use To Change Your Life

Excerpt from - by Jason M. Gracia,

Picture this. You're standing on conveyor belt. It's carrying you down a long, narrow hallway. Each side of the hallway is lined with closed doors, small signs hanging just above their frame. The messages on those signs is something that you need to pay close attention to. Very close attention. The speed of the conveyor belt isn't too fast - slow enough to let you comfortably open and step through one of the doors - but not much time to question your choice. After a few moments, a door has passed you by forever. Peering down the long hallway you see the belt is heading toward a larger door marked 'EXIT.' You have a fair amount of time before you reach this door, but make no mistake, you are forever moving toward it.

What is Written on Those Signs?

After a few minutes, your curiosity gets the best of you and you focus intently on the writing above each door. After passing a few doors trying your best to make out the small writing, you realize that each sign contains a personal goal, a change you've always wanted to make or a dream you've always wanted to achieve. This corridor is your life. Each door is an opportunity for change, for happiness, for success. Everything you have ever wanted to be, do, and have is represented by each door along the corridor. And just like life, the longer you wait to step through the doors, the greater the chance that they'll pass you by. Eventually nearly every door will be behind you, impossible to enter. I say nearly because only one will remain - the one at the end of the corridor. Before we move on, I have a question for you. Do you know what would be written above each door? Do you know what you really want today, tomorrow, and ten years from now? If you don't know what you want, you'll never get anything more than you have right now. But don't worry! If you only know that you are dissatisfied with what you have now, all hope is not lost. There is great power in dissatisfaction; it's the beginning of change and improvement. You just have to know what to do with it.