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Updated:  August 24, 2006

This year's Honey Jam was another successful showcase of Canadian female talent - hosted by Jemini and Mark Strong!  Props to Ebonnie Rowe for bringing us this important addition to the music industry.  Check out some pictures in my PHOTO GALLERY from the show (Note: not all artists are shown). 

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.




Legend Avoids The Obvious On Sophomore Album

Excerpt from - Tamara Conniff and Hillary Crosley, N.Y.

(August 18, 2006) R&B singer/songwriter
John Legend will follow-up his Grammy-winning 2004 Sony Urban debut "Get Lifted" on Oct. 24 with a new album, "Once Again." Among the producers involved with the project are Kanye West, Raphael Saadiq and, with whom Legend wrote seven songs in their first five days of collaboration, including the single "Save Room."  "I didn't go into the new album thinking about the Grammys I had won," Legend tells Billboard. "It's one of the greatest challenges of writing music-for it to not sound like what you think it's supposed to sound like or sound like the last album."  "The mind state we kept while working on this record was one of hunger, humility and fear," says. "Since John and I first met, both of us have sold a lot of albums and won a bunch of Grammys. But we didn't think about that." 

Saadiq adds that the pressures of recording a follow-up to a Grammy-winning album can be extraordinary. "You always put the pressure on yourself," he says. "That's how bad [songs] happen."  Legend spent about six months working on "Once Again," during which time he amassed 30 songs. "It was one of the most productive periods of my life," he says. "I was focused only on music. For the first time I didn't have to worry about school or a job."  Though many of his new songs are about the emotional angles of love == from bliss to the pain of a cheating partner, "Once Again" also houses a few social gems reminiscent of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, particularly the song "Show Me."  "It's a spiritual love song," Legend says. "You could be talking to God or your loved one in bed at night. It asks real questions about what's happening in the world today -- about wars and people dying and why God takes some and not others."

John Legend Readies New Album

Excerpt from

(August 22, 2006) *Kanye West, Raphael Saadiq and are among the producers contributing to the sophomore album from
John Legend, titled “Once Again.”    Due Oct. 24 via Sony Urban, the project includes seven songs written within the first five days of Legend collaborating with the above-mentioned producers. Among them is the track, “Save Room.”    "I didn't go into the new album thinking about the Grammys I had won," Legend tells Billboard. "It's one of the greatest challenges of writing music-for it to not sound like what you think it's supposed to sound like or sound like the last album."    "The mind state we kept while working on this record was one of hunger, humility and fear," adds. "Since John and I first met, both of us have sold a lot of albums and won a bunch of Grammys. But we didn't think about that."    Legend says he has written some 30 songs during the six months he has spent working on “Once Again.”     "It was one of the most productive periods of my life," he says. "I was focused only on music. For the first time I didn't have to worry about school or a job."     Topics on the LP range from the pain of a cheating partner, to socially relevant tunes reminiscent of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, particularly the song "Show Me."   "It's a spiritual love song," Legend says. "You could be talking to God or your loved one in bed at night. It asks real questions about what's happening in the world today -- about wars and people dying and why God takes some and not others."


Black Canadian Playwrights Find Cause For Optimism As They Gather For Theatre Festival

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Aug. 21, 2006) It may not have the scale or grandeur of Martin Luther King Jr.'s, but
Djanet Sears also has a dream: that some day, the voices of black playwrights will be an integral part of Toronto's and Canada's theatre scene.  The fourth triennial meeting of the AfriCanadian Playwrights Festival — running tomorrow to Sunday — is an important step on that journey.  "I have a dream that one day, I'll wake up and look in a newspaper or magazine and see that, somewhere in the city, I'll find a play by people who look like me," Sears said.  "I want my progeny, those younger than me, to grow up with that choice of having a huge chorus of voices about what blackness is," said Sears, an acclaimed author and director.  The six-day event, the fourth held since 1997, suggests there is cause for optimism.  More than 60 playwrights will be among the more than 200 theatre folk attending. There will be readings from almost two dozen plays, many of them new and by young, contemporary playwrights.  "It is the best time (for black Canadian playwriting). I think these stories have not been heard enough; I think they're being heard more and more and they can only enrich everyone's lives," said Sears.  Her play, Harlem Duet, a Dora Award winner in 1997, is being produced at the Stratford Festival this season. Sears will serve as playwright-in-residence for Tarragon Theatre during its upcoming season while developing a new work of her own.  That is just part of a mini-renaissance for black Canadian talent that makes the upcoming gathering even more relevant.

d'bi young, who was honoured at the Doras earlier this year, winning Best Actress and Outstanding New Play for blood claat: one womban story, will restage the production for a two-week run at Theatre Passe Muraille beginning on Aug. 29.  Young, who spent the first half of her life in Jamaica before coming to Toronto, said she is simply carrying on the long-established tradition connecting storytellers and their communities.  "The festival ... reminds us of all the storytelling traditions we're coming out of. It celebrates the relationship and the reciprocity between storytellers and the community. I feel like in the absence of celebrations ... we lose sight of what's important in our lives," she said.  George Elliott Clarke, an English professor at the University of Toronto specializing in black Canadian literature, said the festival is particularly important in bringing together a far-flung and diverse black community from across the country.  That includes black communities in Nova Scotia dating back seven generations such as his own, and those who arrived from the Caribbean during the 1960s and '70s, speaking French and English to more recent African immigrants.  "We sometimes forget that we live in the world's second largest country. There are many black communities across the country; they have different ethnic compositions, they have different cultural concerns and linguistic expressions. And it's difficult for us to communicate with each other," Clarke said.  "This kind of event helps bring people together, helps us network with each other and discover new actors — very important for a playwright — and for actors to discover new playwrights," he added.

Clarke, already a published poet and scholar, will present one of the festival's more interesting new works.  It's entitled Trudeau: Long March/Shining Path and explores the late prime minister's special relationship with the black community, which embraced him as a cultural icon.  There will be a dramatic reading on Saturday and the work will premiere as an opera at Harbourfront Centre in 2007.  "Many (black Canadians) would say that their parents, if not themselves ... have had a fascination or an admiration of Trudeau as somebody who seemed to have made Canada more welcoming to them," Clarke said.  "He was somebody who seemed to be comfortable with people of colour ... and he appealed to many African Canadians. There seemed to be an outré quality, an outrageous quality, a dynamic about him that made him seem cool," Clarke added.  A stage version of The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke, which won the 2002 Giller Prize, will be presented on Friday.


TIFF Screens Africa

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(Aug. 18, 2006) The
Toronto International Film Festival is highlighting films from Africa and the African diaspora with screenings of nine features throughout this year's festival, Sept. 7-16.

·  Spike Lee's four-hour documentary, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts records the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and tells the story of the New Orleans disaster through its citizens.  It screens in the Masters series.

·  The Last King of Scotland, based on a prize-winning novel by British author Giles Foden, is the story of a Scottish doctor taken on by Idi Amin to be the Ugandan dictator's private physician.  Forest Whitaker plays Amin in director Kevin Macdonald's adaptation, running in the Special Presentation program.

·  Phillip Noyce (Rabbit-Proof Fence) directs the U.K./South African film Catch a Fire, based on a real story from the apartheid era. Patrick Chamusso, a victim of police squads turned into an underground rebel, is played by Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher). Tim Robbins plays a policeman.

·  A best actor award at Cannes went to the ensemble cast of Indigènes, the story of North Africans who join the French army in 1943 to drive the Nazis out of France. Rachid Bouchareb directs the drama.

·  A Congolese-French co-production in the Visions program, Kinshasha Palace is directed by Zeka Laplaine in the form of a diary.

Laplaine also plays Kaze, a man in search of his brother in travels across France, the Congo, Portugal and Cambodia.

·  Childhood chums meet again later in life as Abeni, the daughter of a wealthy Beninoise man runs from an arranged marriage with Akanni, who is from a poor family, in Abeni, directed by Tunde Kelani.

·  Jamaican filmmaker Perry Henzell, who made The Harder They Come, directs a musically enhanced, politically spiced story of a New York City film producer on a descent into a world she's ill-prepared for, No Place Like Home.

·  Sistagod is the name given to Mari, pregnant by an unknown man, and forced to wear a costume to disguise her shame.

The movie, from Trinidad and Tobago, is directed by Yao Ramesar.

·  A Brazilian film, Antonia is about childhood friends who become back-up singers for a rap group. Tata Amaral directs.

·  Additional films from Africa, North America and the Caribbean include: Akim Omotoso's Gathering the Scattered Cousins; Tahani Rached's These Girls; Abderrahmane Sissako's Bamako; Asger Leth's Ghosts of Cité Soleil; Jerome Laperrousaz's Made in Jamaica; John Barker's Bunny Chow; Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's Daratt; and Teboho Mahlatsi's Moekgo and the Stickfighter.

Film Festival Information

Passes and coupon books go on sale Aug. 25, single tickets on Sept. 6. Call 416-968-3456 or visit


Rogers OMNI.1 Exclusive: We Jumping Higher

Source: Rogers

(August 22, 2006) Toronto – As official television media partner and sponsor of the
2006 Toronto Caribbean Carnival (Caribana), Rogers OMNI Television is pleased to present its viewers with a front row seat at North America’s largest cultural celebration!  OMNI’s exclusive broadcast of We Jumping Higher – a two-hour special presentation that captures the visual pageantry of the floats and the revelry of the Mas’ bands – will air on Rogers OMNI.1, Sunday, August 27th from 9PM to 11PM ET.  An encore presentation of We Jumping Higher will air on OMNI.1, Sunday, September 3rd.  In addition to familiar on-air personalities from the OMNI’s News and Diversity Programming teams covering carnival highlights, We Jumping Higher will be helmed by powerhouse guest talents:

·Anthony “Master T” Young, Host –  Urban-music icon and former veejay;   

·Rudy Blair, On-location Co-host - Entertainment Reporter, 680 News;

·Laverne Atkinson, On-location Co-host - Anchor/Reporter, FOX News

And relive the fun and excitement of the 39th annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival (Caribana) through the eyes of its participants. For almost 40 years, the Toronto Caribbean Carnival (Caribana) has been not only a joyous celebration of the city’s diversity but also a boon to local businesses, annually generating more than $200 million in tourist revenue from visitors who to come to the GTA from all over the world specifically to attend. This year’s event showcased no less than 16 flamboyant Mas’ (masquerade) Bands and We Jumping Higher will feature all of them!  Further information on these bands, their king & queen and their music, along with host bios may be accessed at   For those who wish to re-experience the 39th annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival (Caribana) in its entirety, OMNI Plus On Demand will be re-broadcasting the full event soon; details to be announced @



Bolton Revives Sinatra Standards

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Aug. 22, 2006) It's been nearly 10 years since
Michael Bolton's last No. 1 single ("Go the Distance"), but the 53-year-old Connecticut native remains a committed balladeer, touring and releasing a new album every 18 months. After forays in R&B, pop and classical, the singer-songwriter's latest effort Bolton Swings Sinatra finds him in big-band mode. The Star caught up with the genial entertainer during a recent Toronto visit.

Q:        Why an album based on Frank Sinatra's songbook?

A:            Initially I just wanted to make a swing big-band record with a little bit of jazz, but in listening to hundreds of songs to find a dozen for an album it became clear that Sinatra's version had launched a lot of these songs. He's a storyteller. The tough-guy image disappeared when he stepped up to a microphone and sang "In the Wee Small Hours" or "My Funny Valentine."

Q:        "New York, New York" seems an odd choice given the album's romantic bent.

A:            That's a song that I knew some people were going to say was a red herring and yet it brings the house down every night. In the line "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere" is a bit of what everyone relates to in being successful in pursuit of their dream. But I was on the border (about including it), not because it didn't fit the body of work, but I thought maybe if you were in Detroit or Chicago you might not want to hear it, because your team is going to compete with the New York Yankees. It was actually Nicollette who said to me "Everybody wants to go to New York sooner or later; people love that song."

Q:            Speaking of (fiancée and Desperate Housewives star)
Nicollette Sheridan, how did you balance privacy concerns with your desire to record a duet of "The Second Time Around" with her?

A:            By not caring too much, not overthinking it too much and by doing something that feels organically great. We were together 14 years ago for six years and I've heard her sing in the house, in the car, but when she would notice that I was listening she would clam up. She's frightened to death about her own voice. ... Nicollette would always sing in key and she has a really beautiful tone to her voice, so I would always encourage her to sing. And of course the lyrics were very timely for us. The song captured what we've been feeling, love really is better further down the road.

Q:        You've sold 53 million albums and won two Grammys, do you miss being at the top of the record charts?

A:            I think in the pop culture where you matter is where you are in the papers, in magazines, on radio and you just can't look at what the downside is as compared to what the upside is. I was a kid who wanted to sing when I was 12, 13 years old, and 40 years later I'm selling out Royal Albert Hall.... And if this record does two or three million worldwide it won't be (1991's) Time, Love & Tenderness, which sold 14, 15 million, but it will allow me to do what I've always loved: sing.

Dirrty Is As Dirrty Does

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Carl Wilson

Back to Basics
Christina Aguilera

(Aug. 19, 06) Over the first half of this double album, you sometimes feel like you're in the shower with
Christina Aguilera. But not the way you did when you heard Xtina's last racy record, Dirrty. It's more like you're eavesdropping as Aguilera tests the stall's tiled acoustics by singing along to her record collection. Aguilera would be a particularly nice singer to hear that way. The Latina ex-Mouseketeer's brassy yet supple voice has stood out since Genie in a Bottle, and her wiggles and crescendos now sound more like pleasure and less like bids for approval. The record collection is a pile of soul and jazz sides from producers DJ Premier (of 1990s hip-hop legends Gang Starr), Kwame, Mark Ronson and others. Premier, in particular, puts enough spin on his samples and layers to offer Aguilera's pipes a real game, as you know if you've heard the hit single, Ain't No Other Man. The basics of the title are meant to be classic singers' genres gone by -- gospel, soul, jazz and blues. Negotiations between that legacy and Aguilera's own teen-pop past produce several robust hybrids, in not only No Other Man but the Betty Harris-quoting Understand, the fluttery Here to Stay and Oh Mother, a moody memoir of her family experience of domestic abuse. Elsewhere, though, Aguilera sounds as if she's making up words and melodies as she goes -- more like notebook jottings than finished songs, especially on jaw-droppingly indulgent tracks such as F.U.S.S. (a poison-pen e-mail, at best, to former producer Scott Storch) and Thank You (Dedication to Fans). The latter, as anyone approaching this album deserves to be warned, consists largely of voice messages from devotees telling Aguilera how cherished and life-saving she is. It's almost brazen enough to be amusing, but there should be a memo circulated to let today's singers know that what's funny or rousing in rap -- such as puffed-up recaps of the gossip around your own career -- can provoke a seizure's worth of cringing when it's belted out in song.

An exception would have to be made, though, for Still Dirrty, Aguilera's answer song to herself, which flips a pre-emptive bird at any notion that being happily married and done up in Vargas-pin-up hairdos must mean shutting off her inner, lusty "freak."  The argument -- "why is a woman's sexuality/ always under so much scrutiny?" -- is a perfectly proportional retaliation, and so is Premier's literally horny backing track. There are no such redeeming qualities to the second disc. Aguilera's out of the water now, and it turns out she was getting scrubbed up to do a Broadway show. Written and produced with Linda Perry, her co-writer on the hit ballad Beautiful, this suite of songs is supposedly a further tribute to old-school jazz and soul, but it's a dog's breakfast that would make Elton John or Andrew Lloyd Webber blush. If it were just the usual exercise in singing standards, it might have been sort of pointlessly all right. As it is, despite her damnedest vocal efforts, there's no exit from this over-rouged wreckage. Chalk it up as a lesson learned for a newly grown young starlet. Meanwhile, the basic that Aguilera's admirers should get back to is just to enjoy the singles as they come -- and let the rest fade away with all decent haste, like the soapy residue on a glass shower door.

Downtown Beach Party

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Raju Mudhar

(Aug. 20, 2006) For all the talk about waterfront revitalization, there is already a place by the lake that the citizens have taken over and created into something quite special. Down in the port lands,
Cherry Beach in summer has long been a party spot of choice for DJs, promoters and scene-seekers looking for some serendipity in Toronto's nightlife.  During the summer, almost every Friday or Saturday night sees various organizers lug in generators, sound systems and lights to hold beach parties that harken back to the early days of the '90s rave scene. Drawn by word-of-mouth and web message boards, hundreds of people have begun to show up, struggling in the darkness to find the beats by the beach.  It's not really a secret, it's been happening for years — but most people still don't like to talk about the Cherry Beach scene for fear of jeopardizing future events. For the most part, police at the 51 Division station that sits on Cherry St. just up from the beach let the events happen undisturbed, provided things don't get too out of hand.  "Don't wreck the parties," is the common sentiment of those who have been enjoying the free outdoor fun, when asked pesky questions.  While the nights are active, the flagship event actually happens during the day. Cherry Beach Sundays are the labour of love of David Macleod and Irving Shaw. As the braintrust for the Promise events, the two have been throwing successful parties around town for years, but their decision to stage Cherry Beach parties (first held as a one-off in 2002) in the light of day has shown they are a breed apart.  "We love it," says Macleod. "You don't know how many people we've met through it, how many people email us to make sure it's still going."

"How we've always positioned it is that Cherry Beach is a gift and we've been lucky enough to be allowed to continue to use it for such an extended period of time," says Shaw.  "Also we've really pushed over the years to create it — not as something to continue your weekend in terms of a clubbing experience, per se — but more to unwind, to hang out with your friends. You know, bring your kids and your dogs, Frisbee, hammocks, have a picnic and just relax."  This is the fifth year for the pair's Sunday jams. Starting at around 3 p.m. from May until Sept. 1, the guys' eclectic programming brings in DJs and performers of all stripes to jam in the sun. Usually a few hundred people come out; on long weekends, the event is moved to Monday and the turnout can double.  Shaw and Macleod talk about the events as a way of giving back to the community, but it's also obvious that hosting brings them a lot of joy.  "We go through about 70 performers, DJs, musicians and bands through the summer, so the ability it gives us to explore different kinds of music is unbelievable," says Shaw. "It's to the point that we can call just about anyone in the city and they'll happily do it."  Completely free, the events have a definite hippie vibe, which comes straight from the top guys imposing very few rules other than a "leave no trace" policy — that is, clean up your mess and don't damage anything. It is a place where you'll see young club kids and older partygoers mingle. There are families there who have stumbled onto the event, and older ravers who bring their kids. The tone is laidback and mellow, with most people laying on blankets and others dancing. It's one of the closest things this city has to Montreal's Tam Tams — summer Sunday events in which vast numbers of people spontaneously cluster to play hand drums on the eastern slope of Mount Royal.  "We're inspired by those events in Montreal, like Tam Tam and Picnic Electronique, that are ad hoc community events, loosely organized and mainly based on the participation and goodwill of the people that attend," says Shaw. "Really that's what shapes Cherry Beach — the people who come."  The two organizers accept donations to pay for the generator and sound system, but the rest comes out of their pockets. While the guys are a bit reticent to talk about the events, this season there are three more weekends left.

Close by Cherry Beach is The Docks nightclub complex, long the focal point for noise complaints. Last month, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission capped a 10-year legal battle by ruling in favour of Toronto Island residents and revoking The Docks' liquor licence.  After The Docks appealed the ruling, its licence was restored, temporarily at least, under certain conditions. While a truce currently seems in place, Shaw and Macleod were asked by Jerry Sprackman, owner of The Docks, to discuss the situation. According to the Promise duo, he told them that he respected how they are responsibly handling their Cherry Beach events, but if his liquor licence is jeopardized, he may have to cite them as another source of the noise along the waterfront. "He basically said that he had to protect his investment," says Shaw. "Which we understand."  After the meeting, the Promise duo detailed Sprackman's position in a message to their huge mailing list, and offered pointers for other promoters using Cherry Beach. Their note, written in an even-handed way and expressing sympathy for both the Islanders and The Docks predicament, suggested sound systems should be pointed away from the island, and people should avoid getting lippy with police officers if they show up.  "The response has been overwhelming, although a lot of people are surprised by how articulate we sound," says Macleod with a laugh.  It's a respect-thy-neighbour approach that many others in the city could learn from.  "The fact is, it doesn't have to be loud to be fun," Macleod says.  He and Shaw are pledging to hold Promise events on a spot inland from the beach, and to make routine checks to make sure the sound isn't travelling across the water. As well, they say they'll check with friends living on the islands to make sure they aren't being disturbed.  For those looking with a critical eye at Cherry Beach, there may be violations here and there, particularly at night. Sure, there are people being freely recreational in what they smoke or pour into their plastic cups. Just as people are doing, less publicly perhaps, in every other corner of the city.  That said, if you want an exhibit for the city's T.O. Live with Culture campaign, here it is at Cherry Beach — living and breathing in a part of city that most people couldn't care less about.  For those who do care, it's one of this city's best summer traditions.

A Glorious Giovanni

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Chapman, Special To The Star

(Aug. 21, 2006)
Don Giovanni is a popular opera, one that succeeds when the presentation takes special note of its special needs: an acute sense of style and drama and meticulous attention to textual detail.  That was the case yesterday, when a rousing production of the Mozart creation brought a packed house at the U of T's MacMillan Theatre to its feet and signalled the end of the inaugural Toronto Summer Music Festival.  Heap most credit onto Agnes Grossman, who not only conducted four Giovannis but was festival artistic director. Her yeoman work with the National Youth Orchestra demonstrated real harmonic awareness, unfailing taste and the ability to inflect great colour and range into the challenging score. Moreover, she maintained an elegant balance between the intense expressiveness of the singing with the need to display understanding of the volatile narrative as it unfolded.  That's no mean feat, one aided by eight principal singers who should all make significant progress in their careers and a set that made full use of large video projections to project not only distanced backdrop but specific instances, such as the arrival of aristocrats using coach and horses and, of course, the stone statue of the slain Commendatore.  The ancient story is one of moral, the punishment of sin. The title character is a restless rake bent on deflowering every female. His put-upon servant Leperello protects him; three women he has or wishes to betray bemoan their fates and others plot revenge. Ultimately the Don is nailed by the statue and consigned to Hell.  If the instrumental playing was of high quality, the singing of this cast (there were two) and the chorus was exemplary. Their acting ability, so often a letdown even on the world's top stages, was extremely good.

Overall the women carried the day, but by the merest whisker. Best of all was soprano Jessica Bowes as Donna Anna, the Commendatore's daughter who Dirty Don tries to rape. Her singing was beautifully realized, shimmering and sparkling, clear and agile and, like her two soprano colleagues Rachael Harwood-Jones as Donna Elvira and Lisa DiMaria as Zerlina, capable of generating heartbreak.  In a way, Elvira and Zerlina are tougher roles, in that they're required to show some ambiguity towards the Don, who married then abandoned Elvira and stole Zerlina on the day she was to marry Massetto (baritone Matthew Cassils).  They projected substance in spades. In the title part, baritone Philip Carmichael possessed a winning charisma, a glamour that suggested one reason why his conquests were virtually irresistible while ripe-voiced fellow baritone Neil Aronoff as Leporello scored well in the comedy moments of this clever libretto.  Tenor Joey Niceforo as Don Attavio was clear with a nice vibrato but seemed emotionally undernourished.  The ensemble singing, usually a pleasure in Mozart-land, was uniformly glorious.

Juanita Bynum And Jonathan Butler Hook Up

Source: Amy Malone / GIC Public Relations /

(August 21, 2006):  LOS ANGELES - Flow Records and Maranatha Music presents an extraordinary and enchanted night in Birmingham Alabama, when Classical, Jazz, and Gospel music came together to produce a sound that was nothing short of miraculous.  Combine the pure anointed voice of gold recording artist
Juanita Bynum, and the smooth sound of Jazz great Jonathan Butler, couple them with the 60-piece Gospel Goes Classical Symphony Orchestra and the seventy-five voice mass choir, and you have a live recording that transcends all musical genres - Gospel Goes Classical, an inspirational new double CD, that debuts September 26, 2006. The orchestra and choir were led by renowned arranger/conductor, Dr Henry Panion, III, who has worked with legendary artists such as Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, and the Winans. This talented visionary brought together singers from across the state to create a choir with the soulful sound of one great gospel singer, and merged them with the full resonance of a world-class symphony orchestra. This combination is the musical backdrop for Juanita Bynum and Jonathan Butler's Gospel Goes Classical. Live performances include favourites such as the new single "One Night With the King" and "Psalm 121" performed by Bynum, and Butler's popular "Falling In Love With Jesus" and "Don't You Worry." Both artists premiere new songs - Juanita introducing "X" and Jonathan performing the new single "We Need You Lord." The CD is capped off with a special duet featuring both artists, "I Don't Mind Waiting," an affirmation of love and trust in Jesus.

Bynum is a gifted vocalist, internationally acclaimed Bible teacher, prophetess and psalmist. She is fuelled by a passion to fulfill God's mandate for these turbulent times. Her thrust on character building by merging spirituality with everyday living provokes people to pursue a life of integrity. Wherever she goes, Bynum exhorts and encourages her listeners to deepen their intimacy with God and arise to their divine calling and destiny. "The evening was spectacular," said Bynum whose record company, Flow Records is partner in the project with Maranatha! Music. "This CD will truly usher listeners into the presence of the Lord. The fantastic orchestra and the various cultures and backgrounds of people who participated in this live recording truly speaks to music being universal, and I believe that this project will transcend to all music genres and will be appreciated by all humankind." Butler, multiple Grammy Award nominated, Gold-selling, international recording artist, has had successes over his twenty-five year recording career in pop, R&B, smooth jazz and adult formats. His canvass is even more expansive than the above mentioned genres, he masterfully dips his brush into vibrant hues of Africano, world music and gospel colorings. Butler, is a soulfully inspired man, who sees music as his salvation and "the purpose and tool which God has used for my life." If we must label and define this individually gifted artist and his music, "Soul Jazz" seems to be the most fitting. "Gospel Goes Classical was such an exciting project to be a part of. It is more than gospel; it brings together all forms of music and shows that you can bridge all genres. Not only is this an anointed project but also a message that transcends age, color and background," said Butler. Rarely does one find a musical collaboration that works on every level, but Gospel Goes Classical embraces the beautiful sound of the instruments and intertwines them with harmonious vocals producing an unforgettable evening of music, inspiration and praise.

Musical Fusion On The Menu

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

(Aug. 19, 2006) Push the guitar, violin and piano aside a bit, and make room for the oud, guzheng and tabla.  We're not afraid to mix Japanese, Indian, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Moroccan, Chinese, Chilean, Persian or Mexican on the subway during morning rush hour or in a restaurant. But we've tended to be more standoffish with music.  Some cultural boundaries in our global village have yet to come down.  But that's changing quickly. 
The Royal Conservatory of Music is expanding its World Music Centre to include traditional Chinese genres. And Western classical music is not dominant in the coming season's OnStage concert series at the Glenn Gould Studio.  Talk around the Canadian Broadcast Centre on Front St. W. suggests that classical-music bastion Radio Two is in for a major makeover in the next year. World music may become part of the new programming mix.  When two of this country's most venerable cultural institutions turn to our immigrant cultures, you have to pay attention.  The estimated population of the Greater Toronto Area in 2005 was 5.8 million. More than 10 per cent of that number are people of Chinese background, while another 10 per cent are of South Asian origin.

This is only a small selection of people who are not of European descent. And their music is becoming as much a part of our city as indie bands at Lee's Palace or classical recitals at the Jane Mallett Theatre.  Harbourfront Centre, the city's largest programmer of world music, had 5 million visitors last year, according to spokesperson Bill Bobek. The Masala! Mehndi! Masti! festival of Indian culture, held at the end of July, outgrew its Harbourfront home and relocated to Exhibition Place this year.  Even the out-there, two-day Beats, Breaks & Culture festival, which mixes world music with hip hop and electronica, has grown attendance from 80,000 in 2004 to 95,000, says Bobek.  Lula Lounge, in an otherwise lonely strip on Dundas St. W., has become a magnet for the city's growing Latin American music scene. "It has that kind of cachet now that special things happen there," says musician and producer Jowi Taylor.  Afrofest gets bigger each year. And Caribana is one of the continent's major tourist draws.  There are two different audiences for world music, explains Alan Davis, a producer and promoter of global sounds through his Small World Music organization. One is each ethnic community. The other is made up of Toronto's eclectic world-music fans, who like to mix styles and ethnicities.  "Blending audiences is something we strive to do," says Davis, whose next Small World Music Festival in late September will include performers from Egypt, India and Spain.  Davis thinks that it's the right time to start breaking down ethnic barriers for good. He is frustrated that smaller communities, like ex-Iranians, still enjoy their music in isolation. He says that concerts of Persian classical music typically are heard by an audience that is "85 per cent Iranian."

"I may be dreaming larger, but I want to see those communities exploring other stuff," says Davis. "Wouldn't it be great if we could get all these communities speaking to each other?"  You can witness a pan-Latin version of this at Lula Lounge, thanks in part to concert promoter Billy Bryans. A celebration there tomorrow night is a perfect example.  Bryans' old band, Parachute Club, will share the Lula stage with Madagascar Slim, Samba Squad and seven other performers or bands in a riot of Latin-centric beats and melodies. It's all in celebration of Bryans, who is recovering from lung-cancer surgery.  Bryans is thrilled at Lula Lounge's diversity. Describing one night there not long ago, Bryans says, "There were 250 non-Latino people dancing to a Cuban band."  Jeff Melanson, the dean of the Royal Conservatory's Community School, and main advocate of the World Music Centre, sees the future in crossovers.  The charismatic singer-turned-arts administrator is boldly tying in the conservatory's 120 years of Western tradition with the musical realities of a multi-ethnic city. He hopes that one day, his institution will be at the forefront of creating a new musical fusion that will incorporate elements from all Toronto cultures.  It might also do wonders for music education, given that the Community School has 230 faculty and about 6,000 students.  Melanson tells of an experiment where a group of teens were offered workshops in Western classical music theory, drumming and turntabling.  "In the first (workshop), the teens couldn't wait to get out. In the other two, the teens didn't want to leave."  He laughs, saying that from an educator's point of view, "each is rhythmic analysis, but using completely different means."  People considering taking Conservatory-approved lessons can now choose from a wide range of styles, from traditional Western classical to Latin jazz, Taiko drumming, traditional Chinese music and turntabling.

And you don't need any prior background in a particular style to get started, which is less intimidating for people who are simply curious about alternative performance styles.  Matthew Baird, the senior producer for CBC Radio Two's OnStage series, says that Toronto's "population makeup and cultural diversity have certainly made huge inroads" in the world music area.  Baird says that another reason for the CBC to pay attention is that "many communities are marginalized by Top 40 radio."  As for traditional Radio Two listeners, Baird thinks they will "find interesting and diverse things" in the corporation's new programming.  Alan Davis is determined to witness a Toronto musical fusion: "It's going to have to happen over the next 20 years if this society is going to get over its myopic multiculturalism."  What he means, of course, is breaking down barriers between communities. You can't argue with that.

EUR New Artist Spotlight: Seven


(August 17, 2006)  *After years of gansta rap and commercial hip-hop; it seems like hip-hop is finally returning to its roots --the days of MC battles, B-Boys, Graff Artists, scratching, block parties and mental gymnastics.   Over the last few days, the Who's Who of the Underground Hip-Hop world, gathered at the legendary Hip-Hop Music Festival - Scribble Jam in Cincinnati, Ohio to celebrate the essence of true Hip-Hop culture.   Scribble Jam, now in it's 11th year is America's largest Hip-Hop festival, and has become an annual tradition for Hip-Hop enthusiasts from all parts of the US, forging all the skills of hip-hop and the urban culture together under one roof.  Past Scribble Jam participants and attendees include Eminem and a host of other underground greats. Among Scribble Jam 2006's headliners were Big Daddy Kane,
SEVEN, Juggaknots, Brother Ali, and Mr. Dibbs. Stealing the show this year; was SEVEN, the newcomer, whose debut album Dirt 2 Diamonds, is to be released on Mercy Soldier Recordings in September 2006. Seven performed his hit tracks 'Hip Hop', 'Dirt 2 Diamonds', 'Doesha', 'Fat Laces' all from his debut album.  As South Florida's very own hip-hop maestro, New York native Seven walks the walk and talks the talk on his exceptional debut album, Dirt 2 Diamonds. Upheld by his already stellar local reputation, the microphone prophet born T. Haimes delivers his keen life observations on the title track, gets nostalgic on 'Fat Laces,' the buoyant, upbeat ode to old school, and bumps with 'Club,' a celebratory look at nightlife.

Yet as much as he portrays strength and vision, Seven has endured his share of hardship, including the 2004 shooting death of his older brother. The very same sibling, who as a young teen, encouraged him to pursue music. 'He heard me rapping,' Seven remembers, 'And he gave me the confidence that I could do this. Losing him so tragically has been hard, but he will always be in my heart.'  Persistent and sturdy from front to back, Seven's spitfire rhymes coupled with a diverse stylistic approach has helped him become a sensation on Sunshine State stages and local radio. Fuelled by the desire to elevate himself and uplift the genre, the deserving artist on the verge of success is definitely one to watch for. As Seven puts it, 'My name, which is Society's Evolutionized Vision for Eternal Nation (S.E.V.E.N) is way more than just lucky number seven. People may see me as a certain kind of artist, but there is always a message in my music, and it's more than likely that I'll project positive stuff.' Listen at

80 Years Of Tony Bennett

Excerpt from - Tamara Conniff

(August 4, 2006) 
Tony Bennett is a rebel -- he has walked away from recording contracts to keep his integrity and won't sing a song he does not believe in. He adheres to the philosophy of art for art's sake -- whether he's recording an album or painting a portrait.  "You have to be different," Bennett says. "If you do what everyone else is doing, you're just one of the crowd."  This year, Bennett marks several milestones. On Aug. 3, he turned 80. On Sept. 26, his own RPM Records and Columbia Records will release "Tony Bennett: Duets/An American Classic," which pairs the singer with an all-star artist roster for live duets of his best-loved songs.  And in December, Bennett will be presented with the Century Award, Billboard's highest honor for creative achievement, during the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. Happy 80th birthday, Tony!

 What does it mean to be honored with the Billboard Century Award?

It means everything. Billboard is the bible of the music business. I'm going to be 80 years old and to still have people interested in me is fantastic. My 80th feels like a big payoff to me. It's really the best year I've ever had in show business. It's been a yearlong celebration.

Your career spans more than five decades. Does your success still shock you?

I've been very fortunate. I've always had sold-out [shows and albums] throughout my life. The public has been great to me. It was because of the thrust from Billboard magazine originally. Billboard always had me on the charts. It really institutionalized me when I was very young, in the '50s and right into the early '60s. That was enough of a thrust that everyone in America got to know me.

I was the first to kick off "The Merv Griffin Show," "The Steve Allen Show" and Johnny Carson. And Rosemary Clooney and I would always be invited to "The Ed Sullivan Show" to get them the ratings. We were the first American Idols. Then Michael Jackson came along, and they gave it over to him.

What did it mean to you to record with these younger artists?

Years ago, the artists that were 10 years my elder were masters like [Frank] Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat "King" Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie. That's what I grew up on. So these artists for the duets album were all new to me. Now all of a sudden, they are telling me I'm the master. I couldn't believe it.

Did you leave Columbia Records in 1972 because you did not want to follow its pop formula?

Columbia was owned by CBS, and they had to bring the level of popular music down so it would sell immediately. I understood it. They needed to pay their employees every week and wanted records that sold right away.

But I had a different training. In the American Theatre Wing, they insisted on no compromise. When you go out into the world, you find out everyone is going to tell you, "You have to do this, or we can't book you." You just have to hold out and go for the best level you can go.

Mitch Miller [then head of A&R at Columbia] actually understood where I was coming from even though he was frustrated with me. I try to just never compromise. Not to be stubborn, but I don't like to insult the audience. I don't look down at the audience, I never do. I don't have a philosophy that says, "Well, I'm more intelligent than they are because I'm on the stage and they aren't."

People that think that way in the business are very strange to me. I'm not that greedy. I don't ever want to insult an audience. A mass audience is very intelligent. They are geniuses about whether something is good or not. They will let you know right away. That's been my education. Being in front of audiences teaches you just what to leave out and what to put in a show.

What did you do when you left Columbia?

I went to England. The reputation was that my career dropped when I went there. But I went to paradise. I went to England and studied with Robert Farnon, who Sinatra called "the governor of all orchestrators." I went to paradise. The records didn't sell, but they'll last forever.

How did Bob Hope give you your stage name?

I was working at the Greenwich Village Inn. Pearl [Bailey] heard me rehearsing. She went to the boss and said, "If this boy isn't in my show, I'm not singing here next week." She put me on the show.

Bob Hope was at the Paramount Theater with Jane Russell and Les Brown's band. He came down to see Pearly May, and he got a big kick out of me because I was the only white kid in the show. He said, "Come over here, son. What's your name?" I had a name that I thought would be catchy, and I said, "Joe Bari."

Bob said, "That's a city in Italy! What's your real name?" I told him Anthony Dominick Benedetto. He said, "That's going to be too long for the marquee. We'll call you Tony Bennett." He gave me my name. I was about 26 years old. He had no idea there'd be a singer one day called Engelbert Humperdinck.

Bob took me on the road and was wonderful to me. I went all over the country. He taught me how to perform for an audience. When I got back, Mitch Miller heard that Bob Hope had taken me on the road, and he signed me and Rosey Clooney to Columbia.

What was it like to be in New York at the birth of bebop?

That was the greatest. I didn't know who Charlie Parker was, and I went into Birdland with a friend of mine and we had front-row seats. Charlie Parker performed, and it was so percussive and something so different from anything I'd ever heard that I actually got up and ran out of the club and regurgitated in the street, I was so moved. I didn't know who he was. I'd never heard anything like it.

How did you find your vocal sound?

My vocal teacher Mimi Spear was on 52nd Street in New York City. Across the street from her brownstone, we could see marquee signs that read "Count Basie," "Art Tatum," "George Shearing" and "Stan Getz." They were all on that street.
She said, "Tony, go down there and listen to all the musicians and find out who you like and imitate them. Don't imitate singers, because if you do, you'll just be one of the chorus." That's how I got my own style. Fifty-second Street was the best. At 3 a.m., the clubs would close, and it would be Billy Jo Jones, Miles Davis, [John] Coltrane, and I would sit there and listen to them until 12 in the afternoon. The clubs were dark, no lights. I'd walk out and be blinded by the sun and sleep in the afternoon. That happened day after day after day. It was the greatest. They don't do that now.

You were the first white singer to perform with Count Basie. What was that like?

It changed my career even though people didn't like it. He always had the right tempo.

Did you encounter a lot of racism?

There was a lot of it. It's still not right, even now. Look at [Hurricane] Katrina and the United States, with the money and power that we have in our great country. I have traveled around the world to Asia and Europe. They show you what they have contributed to the world. The British show you theater, the Italians show you music and art, the French show you cooking and painting, and the Germans show you science. The only thing that the United States, which is still a young country, has contributed culturally to the world is jazz-elongated improvisation. It's tragic.

Fifty years from now people will be bowing to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, just like the impressionist painters like Monet, who were starving in their day. The Americans don't even know what they have come up with.

How did the advent of rock'n'roll affect your career?

I learned a lot, and it's different than what anybody is doing today, even now. I went to the Paramount Theater with Louis Prima. We had to do seven shows a day -- start at 10 a.m. and go until 10 p.m. Sinatra did the same. It was tough. Bob Whitman and Nat Shapiro, who were the managers of the Paramount in those days, gave us advice and said, "Never do anything but good songs. Don't ever sing a bad song, ever."

Plus, my mother used to be a seamstress and raised three children by herself when my father died. She used to get a penny a dress, this was during the Depression. Every once in a while, she'd take a dress and throw it over her shoulder and say, "Don't have me work on a bad dress. I'll work on a good dress. I won't work on a bad dress."

There are small stories, but looking back they really molded how I think. If you do good songs, the young people will like it, and their parents will like it. I always tried to do good songs. So when the whole rock'n'roll change came in with the marketing of Elvis Presley, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, I kept doing good songs. So I went right through.

I just kept working. I wasn't playing stadiums, but I'm not interested in that. I like a nice acoustical [setting] where the whole family can come and hear me. My ambition was never to go to No. 1, over the top, bigger than anybody. To me there's God, and then there's the rest of us.

If I'm sold out, and people want to come back 11 months later and see me again, I'm successful. I like show business. I don't even question it. My hero is Louis Armstrong, because the audience was it for him. He knocked them right out. He went for the jugular vein when it came to the audience.

Why didn't you choose between painting and music?

I've always had to do both. The late Joe Williams, the famous jazz singer, met me on a plane once, and he said, "The thing about you, Tony, is not that you want to sing-you have to sing." It was very accurate. It saved me a lot of money. I didn't have to go to a psychiatrist and try to figure it out. I still have the commitment and craving to sing and paint every day and stay in shape. I'm always learning. You never stop learning. I really enjoy my life, because I'm doing the two things I love to do. I don't feel like I worked a day in my life. I can't wait to get to the stage and hit the painting.

Do you have any regrets?

My greatest teachers are the mistakes I made. I made many, many mistakes.

Kleopatra Girl's Ringside Report

Excerpt from - By Eugenia Wright

(August 22, 2006)    Alrighty then! There’s a new showcase that features up and comers that is off the hizz.  Truly, this new passionate, fiery and super talented line-up makes American Idol look like the Ted Mack Hour (for those wet behind the ears, that’s good research info).   Primarily, Next Shinning Stars Showcase presents an R&B music offering. So if you love hip-hop and rap, this is not the deal. Although, the calibre of the singers was beyond measure and everyone I saw exuded a “I'm ready to be signed” attitude, with talent to match. The show opened with encouraging props from Comedian Chris Spencer who passed the mike to the evening’s co-hosts T-Rex and Coffee (a superlucious café-mocha model with a long, long ponytail dressed in a fiery skin fitting red dress).   On Wednesday, August 16, the Henry Fonda Box Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. was transformed into a cabaret style setting and those in attendance were given ballots.  The performances were so sensational, I don’t think anyone had time to write. People were dancing and singing along with the artists and showing their love with mega applause and shout outs.  By the end of the evening it appeared to me that the audience’s ballots had been set aside, and voting took place with their cheers like Showtime at The Apollo. Next Shinning Stars Showcase is an ongoing competition that will hit many cities in the US. Chicago and Miami are on the list with the finalists receiving their awards and monetary prize at the national competition in Miami. Who are the next shinning stars? Remember these names, Khaliyah Williams, Bryan Sledge, Rachel Assil, Velvin Lamont, Carmel Exhols, Vincent Walker, Sharon Youngblood, Johnny Paddio.  Every showcase has its standout and in my opinion Velvin Lamont was “it.” He was dressed super clean all in white: white hat, necklace, suit. He was untouchable and sang his heart out.  I was screaming my lungs off for this act. The winner for the night was Ms. Sharon Youngblood who reminded me of a young Jennifer Holliday and sang like her too.

The judge’s panel included veteran Music Producer Kashif.  I asked him what advice he could offer these young people, some do’s and don’ts of the biz.  "The first thing is don’t take these opportunities for granted," he responded. "Just because you're talented doesn’t mean you're going to be discovered, so you have to be pro-active. (So be) on top of your game. When the brother came out with the nice white suit, he was at the top of the game”.  I also asked him the importance of major names supporting these young artists.  ”I think it’s important for celebrities to come out so new talent can interface with them to give them some level of excitement and encouragement through all the ups and downs," Kashif said. Other celebrities in the house included singer, Remone Redmond who says, “The industry is tricky, timing is everything you never know when someone is going to call you for an interview so be prepared.” Billy Moss from BMA was on the distinguished judges panel. The producer of the event was spear headed by Don Russell from Chicago, who describes himself as a “frustrated musician.”  Russell is committed to helping young people put together a “full package” from showcase to signing at a major music label.  He is offering a top monetary prize of $50,000.00. I have to say Don was a gracious host and made sure everyone in the media had something to eat and drink.   Faith Evans and Jamie Foxx were scheduled to attend.  And in what has become typical Hollywood fashion, they were no shows and you know what, they missed out!  It was an awesome showcase. For more info log on to  

Eugenia Wright is a former actress turned freelance writer/publicist.  You may write to her at

Kierra Kiki Sheard Shares

Excerpt from - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(August 23, 2006) *Born in Detroit out of legendary gospel lineage,
Kierra Kiki Sheard released her debut follow-up, “This Is Me,” to a legion of gospel, hip-hop, and neo-soul fans.   The granddaughter of gospel trailblazer Dr. Mattie Moss Clark and the daughter of Rev. J. Drew Sheard and popular gospel star Karen Clark-Sheard, Kierra has forged her own way in the gospel genre, appealing to young listeners with her contemporary sound.  With her sophomore outing, Sheard has morphed into an even more mature young adult. The aptly titled, “This Is Me” shows her growth as a person and as an artist, as she participated in penning a number of the tracks – eight to be exact and selecting producers – such as Darkchild’s Fred Jerkins and her brother J. Drew, and therefore defining the album. “This record is more personal and it’s more of [my] writing than being behind the scenes,” she explained. “A lot of my fans listening will be able to have more of a personal relationship and somewhat get to know me through this record because I’m just much more involved. It’s me talking about my testimony and experiences throughout this album. It has a different sound, too. It shows the type of music that I listen to.”  Sheard described the disc as chronicling her “growth spurt,” as she puts it.  “[It’s just me just growing into a young adult and me developing spiritually and naturally. We all go through certain struggles and the Lord bringing us out of certain situations we got ourselves into. It’s pretty much just talking about basically my growth; finding out who my friends really are and having to get out of some relationships. It pretty much talks about things the Lord has brought me out of and brought favour on my life.”  She continues that being an 19-year-old and a third-generation gospel star has its difficulties; particularly as a teenager in the music industry and a minister of sorts at the same time. But Sheard says that these temptations and conflicts are just a test.

“As far as any individual goes, there’s always some temptation there. I’m just growing and when you go through any growth spurt, you gotta realize who you need to be around, you gotta change your environment – there are a lot of changes that take place. As far as singing [about the word] you could consider me a minister ... Being a minister, it can certainly be a test also. It can be a little difficult.”  In addition to those difficulties, Sheard shared with EUR’s Lee Bailey that she faces some discontent in the gospel community with her music.  “A lot of people may talk me down or may disagree with things I may say or how I present myself on stage, but I just have to deal with it. I can’t confront everybody, so I just go on. But a lot of people support me and believe in me and believe in what I’m trying to do. When you have people constantly bringing you down, it can be hard. I’ve prayed and asked the Lord to give me the strength. People have to accept me for me, ‘cause this is just me.”  Just like the album title says: This Is Me. Nonetheless, Sheard submits that her music is gospel music, even if it has an infectious bass line and a few lines of rap.  “It definitely is gospel music,” she said. It’s basically for the young people. I wanted to reach out to young Americans because I think we all have potential and visions, but it has to be brought out of us. My music is for the real folk. It has a contemporary sound, but it still has that gospel message; it still has the Word in it; it has scriptures in it.”  But can you dance to it? Sheard is a little on the fence about grooving to her disc. While the disc is described as “hip” “modern gospel” with “up-to-the-minute R&B and hip-hop language” the young artist does not really want to encourage massive club play.

“I don’t want people to be distracted and feel like they can just dance and just get their groove on,” she explained. “That’s not what it is as a gospel song. It’s supposed to minister the truth; it’s supposed to help lost souls. You need to listen to this word because it’s helping you get closer to Christ. I mean you can groove a little bit and throw your hands up, as long as it doesn’t get out of control.”  Not surprising, Sheard’s disc player is filled with a number of contemporary and traditional artists. The singer says she likes secular artists like Lauryn Hill, Sade, and Mary J. Blige. What might be surprising is that she also spins the sounds of rappers T.I. and 50 Cent.  “I appreciate what every artist does,” she said considering some of her hip-hop tastes. “Every artist has their own uniqueness, but I know that with me being a minister, I have to limit what I listen to, so that I can have the authority to defeat the enemy when I need to.” When asked if she had set this path in gospel music for herself or if it had been laid out by her famous family, Sheard explained that it was her every intention to be a gospel singer and spread the Word through music.   “My parents didn’t make me do this. It was my plan to follow in their footsteps, but I wanted to do something a little different. They made their legacy; they reached out to a lot of people. I want to reach out to a lot of people, too.”  “This Is Me” is in stores now, with a special edition available at Wal-Mart. For more on Kierra Kiki Sheard, check out her website at or


Patti Labelle - The First Collection To Span Her Entire Five Decade Career!

Source:  Universal Music

Patti LaBelle is the shining brass cannon of the soulful divas. For over four decades, she has been a recording artist unparalleled. More importantly she has been a beacon of fortitude and a ball of flashy fire for a legion of fans that like their music unbridled and electrifying! When you’ve been blessed with a voice that commands ovations, awe and respect, not to mention a stage presence that flat out floors folks, you accept with those gifts enormous responsibility.  Patti LaBelle has met and exceeded expectations, particularly in her choices of songs. This collection culls some of her finest, a catalogue of classics spanning from 1963-2004, that soothe, inspire and fill your heart with joy. It includes hits with the Bluebelles, LaBelle and Patti’s solo years, features guest performers like Grover Washington Jr., and Michael McDonald, and also includes tracks produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Burt Bacharach & Carole Bayer Sager and Prince!

Tony Bennett To Appear On Canadian Idol

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(Aug. 23, 2006) Toronto -- Three Canadian Idol finalists will be over the moon when legendary crooner
Tony Bennett appears with them on episodes of CTV's twice-weekly star-searching series, to air Sept. 4 and 5.  After next week's audience vote-off, the trio of Idol hopefuls will fly to New York for rehearsals and mentorship with Bennett, a Grammy-winning interpretive singer famous for hits such as I Left My Heart in San Francisco and Fly Me to the Moon.  During his own concerts, Bennett, 80, is known to perform a single song without benefit of amplification or microphone, demonstrating to younger audience members the lost art of vocal projection.

Jazz Series Changes Name, Venue

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Aug. 17, 2006) It has a new name and location, but plenty of familiar faces are on tap for Canada's longest-running jazz concert series.  Tickets ($25-$30) go on sale today for
JAZZFM91's Sound of Jazz program that kicks off Sept. 18 at Harbourfront with saxophonist Jim John's Swing Shift big band.  Organizers have dropped "Toronto" from the moniker of the annual Monday night shows that run through March to signify "that it is truly an international phenomenon," said Ross Porter, the station's president and CEO.  Plus, "there are so many musicians living here that come from other parts of Canada, (the name) is a reflection of that."  None of this year's concerts will be held at the Ontario Science Centre, which was the event's headquarters for its first 30 years. The 11 shows will be split between the Old Mill Inn and the Harbourfront Centre Theatre, which is being utilized for the first time.  It began in 1976 as eight live concerts broadcast from the Science Centre on CJRT-FM, Ryerson's radio station and the forerunner of Toronto's only 24-hour jazz station.  Sound of Jazz Series, a compilation of 20 performances from the event's first three decades, is now available in record stores. The two-disc retrospective demonstrates the various styles and formats the popular program offers: big band, vocalists, ensembles.  Though continually drawing from the talent pool of local performers, such as trumpeter Guido Basso, pianist Bernie Senensky and multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson, organizers build the shows around listener-friendly themes. The 2006-07 bill includes tributes to Oscar Peterson, Chet Baker, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, plus showcases for flute, organ, trios and Jazz on Broadway.  For full schedule and tickets, visit or call 416-595-0404. 

Kelis Disappointed With Handling Of Album

Excerpt from

(August 21, 2006) *Eclectic R&B artist
Kelis is upset with her record label Jive for including the track “F*** them B*tches” on her upcoming album against her wishes.  "I just did [the song] to get it out of my system," the singer explains to the New York Daily News. "I did not want it on the album. It's just not a statement I want to make right now."  The 26-year-old Harlem chanteuse and wife of rapper Nas feels Jive is treating her like a naïve newcomer by going against her creative decisions. "My label is constantly trying to take control of me," she says. "I'm not a new artist. I've been working hard to create my persona and have longevity and they went against my wishes." A born again Christian, Kelis says many folks are misunderstanding the message behind “Bossy,” the first single from the new album “Kelis Was Here,” due Aug. 29.  "A lot of people think being bossy means bossing somebody around," she says. "But it's about being in control in your life. I'm fighting to be my own woman."  The statement is underscored by Kelis’ decision to sever ties with former producers The Neptunes, which produced her biggest hit “Milkshake.” In her decision to avoid them for her new album in favour of such beatmakers as Scott Storch,, Raphael Saadiq and Linda Perry, Kelis said she no longer wanted to be perceived as the Neptunes’ puppet.  The singer, born Kelis Rogers, says her album title is “about leaving a mark; it's about letting people know someone was here before you." 

Mack 10 Grabs Record Label Job

Excerpt from

(August 17, 2006)  *West coast rapper
Mack 10 has taken a position on the staff of Melee Recordings as an A&R scout for new talent.   Melee is run by industry vet Bryan Turner, who founded Mack 10’s former label home, Priority Records. Under Mack 10’s new title, the rapper will also look for talent to join his own Melee-distributed Hoo Bangin’ Records imprint.  "I'm very excited to join forces with Bryan once again, this time as an executive," Mack 10 said. "We both have years of experience in this music game. The streets of L.A. are full of talent ready to explode, and the West is ready to come back hard. Hoo Bangin' and Melee will be the perfect structure to put the ‘Left Coast’ back on the map in a major way.”  Turner, whose era at Priority saw the rise of signed artist Ice Cube and label moguls Eazy-E, N.W.A., and Master P, says Mack 10’s mind for business was evident during his days as an artist on the rap label.   “He'll be a great executive and I will completely support his efforts,” Turner said. 

Soul Man Sam Moore

Source: Paula Witt /

(August 18, 2006)
Sam Moore of the classic soulful duo, Sam & Dave, has a new CD out. The  first single from the album -  'Sam Moore: Overnight Sensational' -  features Sam, Wynonna, BeBe Winans and Bekka Bramlett doing the Ann Peebles classic "I Can't Stand the Rain."  It impacted radio on Monday, August 14.  The song, originally a hit for it's co-writer Ann Peebles, in 1974 and has also been successfully covered by Tina Turner and sampled by Missy Elliott. Moore's version features country superstar Wynonna, and a collaborative ensemble that also includes Bekka Bramlett and BeBe Winans's special inspirational vocal touches and the genius of Billy Preston who tied it all together on the Hammond B3 organ, which was sadly to be his final recorded performance.  "Everyone put such passion into the recording of this track, I'm moved and proud of how it turned out and thrilled it's the first single for the album," Sam Moore said of the track.  Check out the video featuring Sam in the studio with Randy Jackson and hear what music superstars like Sting & Jon Bon Jovi have to say about Sam Moore. The 12 tracks on 'Sam Moore: Overnight Sensational,' which will be released nationally on August 29 to traditional retailers, online outlets and all Starbucks Company-operated locations features the one and only soul man's amazing performances of exceptionally diverse material in collaboration with 20 of his musical superstar friends and fans including Jon Bon Jovi, Bekka Bramlett, Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, Nikka Costa, Sheila E., Fantasia, Billy F. Gibbons, Vince Gill, Van Hunt, Billy Preston, Robert Randolph, Paul Rodgers, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Travis Tritt, BeBe Winans, Steve Winwood, Wynonna, and Zucchero. -

Trina Says ‘See Ya’ To Atlantic Records

Excerpt from

(August 21, 2006) *Rap diva
Trina has ended her professional relationship with Atlantic Records and is currently seeking a new label home.  According to Ted Lucas, owner of Trina’s label Slip-N-Slide Records, the self-proclaimed “baddest b**ch” needs a company that can take the MC to the next level. “We decided to look for another label that will be able to promote Trina more effectively, and turn her into an even larger selling artist,” Lucas told, adding that the "departure was amicable." Trina, born Katrina Taylor, is said to be working on a new album called “Rock Starr” that will drop in 2007.   “She is in the recording studio now, and we hope that her fans will be patient until her new material is ready,” Lucas said.   

Tanya Stephens' Rebelution

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(August 17, 2006)  
Tanya Stephens’ Rebelution album to be released on VP Records on August 29  If the preview of what’s coming out on Tanya Stephens’ VP Records album ‘Rebelution’ is anything to go by then dancehall lovers can gear up for another hit from the sassy singer/deejay. These Streets a single released off the album is now kicking up steam on local and overseas reggae charts. The single is an airy acoustic guitar track where Tanya pleads with her thug-love to realize that “these streets don’t love you like I do.”   Rebelution is due out on August 29.   The video for These Streets was shot in Miami and Jamaica under the direction of Dale Restighini who brings a wealth of experience having directed the video for Cam’ron’s Touch It Or Not, Juelz Santana’s ‘Clockwork’ and Sizzla’s ‘Ultimate Hustler’.    Tanya’s last album Gangsta Blues yielded a string of hits including The Other Cheek, Little White Lie, What a Day and the tear jerker Its a Pity.

I Can Play Piano

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 20, 2006)  To them it's a video game, but to you it's an inexpensive piano teacher.  As its name suggests,
I Can Play Piano is an electronic toy that teaches children how to tinkle the ivories (er, in this case, plastic) through a handful of interactive lessons, games and jam sessions with a virtual band.  While the three-octave piano can be played on its own with its built-in speakers, most kids will plug it into a television (RCA cables included) to see and hear their performance on TV. For example, in "Old MacDonald" — one of the eight songs included on the bundled cartridge — a drawing of a farm serves as the background, while multi-coloured eggs float towards a coloured keyboard at the top of the screen; players must press the corresponding colour-coded key on the piano at the correct time in order to rack up points.  Children can also tweak the difficulty as they improve by selecting to play the right or left hand (or both), increase the tempo or pick a different on-screen view of the song that makes it harder to follow along.  Each of the additional cartridges (sold separately for roughly $20 each) includes eight new songs, two musical games and a freestyle mode that lets kids to create musical melodies. Downside: You can't save your performances.

Fergie's 'Bridge' Earns Second Week At No. 1

Excerpt from - Clover Hope, N.Y.

(August 17, 2006)
Fergie's "London Bridge" holds atop the Billboard Hot 100 for a second week and also leads the Hot Digital Songs chart for the same time span. The Hot 100's No. 2-5 slots see no movement, occupied respectively by Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous," Cassie's "Me & U" and the Pussycat Dolls' "Buttons" featuring Snoop Dogg.  Elsewhere on the chart, Sean Paul's "(When You Gonna) Give It Up to Me" featuring Keyshia Cole jumps 7-6 and is the greatest sales gainer. Panic! At The Disco's "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" climbs 10-7, Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man" warms the No. 8 spot and Ne-Yo's "Sexy Love" ascends 14-9.  Young Dro's "Shoulder Lean" featuring T.I. rises 12-10 to round out the Hot 100 top tier and also leads the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for a third week.  Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" is the Hot 100's greatest airplay gainer, rising 52-35, while the top debut belongs to the Killers' "When You Were Young" at No. 29.  Also new are Heartland's "I Loved Her First" (No. 75), Chris Brown's "Say Goodbye" (No. 79), Omarion's "Entourage" (No. 85), Dierks Bentley's "Every Mile A Memory" (No. 95), Ludacris' "Money Maker" featuring Pharrell (No. 96) and Frankie J's "That Girl" featuring Mannie Fresh & Chamillionaire (No. 100).

Willie Nelson Teams With Ryan Adams For New CD

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(August 16, 2006) Seventy-three-year-old music icon
Willie Nelson collaborates with 31-year-old singer/songwriter Ryan Adams on his new album, "Songbird." Due Oct. 31 via Lost Highway, the 11-track set was produced by Adams, whose band the Cardinals back Nelson throughout. Veteran harmonica player Mickey Raphael also appears.  The track list features covers of Gram Parson's "$1000 Wedding," Christine McVie's "Songbird," the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter favorite "Stella Blue" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."  In addition, Nelson reworks his own "Rainy Day Blues" (which opens the album), "Sad Songs & Waltzes" and "We Don't Run," as well as tackling the traditional "Amazing Grace."   Nelson is in the midst of a tour with John Fogerty and also has headlining dates on tap through a Sept. 15 appearance at the Austin City Limits festival. On Sept. 30 in Camden, N.J., he will join Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews and Jerry Lee Lewis for Farm Aid in Camden, N.J.

Dallas Austin Talks About Dubai Debacle

Excerpt from

(August 22, 2006) *EUR caught up with super producer
Dallas Austin at last Thursday night’s big 25th anniversary party for Radio One in Washington D.C. and wasted no time trying to get him to speak on his drug bust in Dubai.  “It was blown way more out of proportion than what it really was,” Austin said of the ordeal, which saw him detained in a Dubai jail after pleading guilty to possessing 1.26 grams of cocaine in July.  “I wasn’t in prison, it was nothing like that,” he clarifies, adding that the facility where he was kept had plasma TVs and other creature comforts. “Knowing that I was gonna leave this place, I had one of the best experiences I could ever have.” Austin said he never once thought that his incarceration would be permanent, despite reports that his offence carried a life sentence, and in some cases, an execution. “I appreciate everybody’s prayers and everything, but it was no where near what got out in the press,” he told Bailey. “It got turned into a big issue just from hearsay.” Austin said he was worried about what all these so-called false press accounts were doing to his worried mama back home in the States.  “I left a message for her that said, ‘Don’t listen to the press. You’re gonna start hearing stuff, that’s not what happened,’” he said.   “Well what did happen?” Bailey asked, as his handler tried to pull him away and into the party. “I’ll talk to you about that one a little later,” he yelled back. “That takes a longer time, but I will talk to you about it.” According to reports, Austin was arrested May 19 at Dubai's airport while en route to a birthday bash for supermodel Naomi Campbell. He told a judge that he unintentionally broke the law by bringing cocaine into the country.

Beyonce Prefers Her Curves

Excerpt from

(August 22, 2006)  *During her “B’Day” promo swing through the U.K.,
Beyonce stopped at Britain’s GMTV morning show Thursday and got into a discussion about the liquid diet she used to drop pounds quickly for her upcoming film, “Dreamgirls.”   The 24-year-old admitted that it’s a dangerous way to go about losing weight, and would not suggest that folks try it at home.  "I would not recommend it if someone wasn't doing a movie, because there are other ways to lose weight,” she said. “But I needed to lose it really quick, and I put the weight back on as soon as I finished, so I am no smaller or bigger than I've always been. It was strictly for the movie."    Beyonce said even she was amazed at how great her body looked in “Dreamgirls,” an adaptation of the Broadway musical due in theatres in December. Beyonce portrays the svelte lead singer of a girl group who rises to fame, but not without internal conflict.    "It's great because I look at (the movie) and I don't recognize myself – which was the point," she told GMTV.    Now that the film is over and her upcoming album is set to drop on Sept. 5, Beyonce is happy being back to her normal “bootylicious” self.     "The funniest part was putting the weight back on and eating my doughnuts and all the other things," she said. "So now I'm back to my body. I'm very conscious of being a curvy woman and I'm very happy that I am a curvy woman."

Ne-Yo's Love Goes Beyond 'Sexy'

Excerpt from

(August 22, 2006) *"Sexy Love" singer Ne-Yo was honoured Saturday for his humanitarian work by "The Disabilities and Special Needs Board of Clarendon" in South Carolina, reports    The artist was given a plaque during an impromptu appearance at the board's facility in Manning, where more than a hundred fans cheered his arrival.   "I heard that I had some fans over here," Ne-Yo told the local newspaper. "I had a little extra time so I came to say hi, take some pictures and show love to those who show me love. I've been blessed beyond anything I could hope or want; this is another way for me to give back."

Usher’s Broadway Arrival Boosts Box Office

Excerpt from

(August 23, 2006) *Things are looking up for Broadway’s “
Chicago,” which last night began its first staging with music sensation Usher Raymond in the role of Billy Flynn, and has enjoyed a 30 percent boost in ticket sales since word of the singer’s casting hit the streets earlier this year. "I don't know if you can win a Tony for a few months on Broadway but, hey, why not, wishful thinking," he told Reuters Tuesday on the evening of his scheduled six-week run, due to wrap on Oct. 29. "It is more challenging than anything that I have ever done, and I am yet to even begin it."   Other folks who have played deceitful lawyer Billy Flynn on the New York stage include Taye Diggs and Wayne Brady.  "This character is a well-rounded guy. He is always in control, always knows exactly what he wants and he loves his women," Usher said.   Chicago also features Brenda Braxton as Velma Kelly, Kevin Chamberlin as Amos Hart, Lillias White as Matron "Mama" Morton and R. Lowe as Mary Sunshine.   The James Naughton revival is playing at the Ambassador Theatre, located at 215 West 49th Street. To purchase tickets, click here.

Gotti at Universal

Excerpt from

(August 23, 2006)  *Irv "Gotti" Lorenzo is said to be on the verge of bringing his Inc. Records to Universal Motown. According to the New York Times, the mogul is about to sign a three-year deal worth $10 million in advance for future revenues and payment of overhead expenses. The deal also would allow Gotti to buy the master tapes from The Inc’s previous incarnation, Murder Inc. "It feels exhilarating," Gotti told The Times. "It's like a rebirth. It feels like God put me through hell, showed me a lot of things, showed me who the good people and bad people are around me, and lined me up to do what I'm put here to do." Ja Rule and Ashanti are among the artists signed to The Inc.


August 21, 2006

2Pac, The Sound of 2Pac, K-Town
Beenie Man, Live in San Francisco, 2B1
Beenie Man, Miss Angela, MPG
Betty Everett, They're Delicious Together, P-Vine
Beyoncé, Deja Vu [Single], Sony Urban Music/Columbia
Big Lokote, Rage, Thump
Big Noyd, The Stick Up Kid, Traffic Ent.
Big Truck, I Know U Want That/Monsta [Single], Universal
Bob Marley, The Best of Bob Marley [Cherished Class], Cherished Class
Bobby Womack, Post, Castle
Cadillac Jones, The Big Takedown, Arcthefinger
Candi Staton, The Ultimate Gospel Collection, Shanachie
Cassie, Me and U, Pt. 2, WEA International
Cassie, Me & U, WEA/Atlantic
Cham, Ghetto Story [Bonus Track], WEA/Atlantic
Chamillionaire, Ridin', Universal International
Danity Kane, Danity Kane, Bad Boy
Dave Hollister, The Definitive Collection, Hip-O
DJ Kayslay, The Champions: North Meets South, Koch
DMX, 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
GB3, Emptiness Is Our Business, Rubber
Georgia Anne Muldrow, Olesi: 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
Kai, Particle [EP],
Keith Hudson, Entering the Dragon, Trojan
Kelis, Kaleidoscope/Wanderland, EMI
Kelis, Kelis Was Here, Jive
Kool & the Gang, Best of Kool & the Gang [Disky], Disky
Kouichi, Itsuka Mita Aozora, Vap
K-Riley, 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 [2006 Collector's Edition], Sony
Luther Vandross, The Ultimate Luther Vandross [2006], Sony
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
Movie Soundtrack, Exit Wounds, Believe
Mr. Shadow, Gang Files, PR
Mr. SOS, Pre-Op, L.A. Underground
Outerspace, Blood Brothers, Babygrande
OutKast, Idlewild, La Face
OutKast, Idlewild [Clean], La Face
Papa Levi, Blue Honey, Counter
Paris Hilton, Paris, Warner Bros.
Patrick Adams, The Master of the Masterpiece: The Very Best of Patrick Adams, Traffic Ent.
Patti LaBelle
, The Definitive Collection, Geffen
Peggy Scott, She's Got It All: Rare 70's Soul, Shout
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,
Raydar Ellis, Late Pass, Brick
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
Snapper, The Sequel, PR
Snoop Dogg, The Sound of Snoop Doggy Dogg, K-Town
Street Kings, Crown Gang Family,
Suga Free, The Features, Siccness
The Bad Hand, This Is No Time for Modesty, Prankster Dice
The High & Mighty, Eastern Conference, Vol. 2, Eastern Conference
The Roots, Game Theory [UK Bonus Track], Universal/Def Jam
Trilltown Mafia, It Goes Without Sayin, Rap-A-Lot
Vanilla Ice, The Best of Vanilla Ice [Collectables], Collectables
Various Artists, Asian Hip Hop, Sony
Various Artists, Best of Black + Rap, Dance Street
Various Artists, Crunk Hits, Vol. 2, TVT
Various Artists, Crunk Hits, Vol. 2 [Clean], 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, Calibud Music
Various Artists, Romantic Reggae, Vol. 7, Jet Star
Willie Boo Boo, Fool, Ghetto Man Beats
Young Buck, Do It to Myself [Single], Interscope
Wilbert Harrison, An Introduction to Wilbert Harrison, Fuel 2000

August 28, 2006

50/50 Twin, Mobb Boss of Da Nawf, Oarfin
Agony Life, Slab Soldiers Scars and Stripes, Vol. 2, Oarfin
Beenie Man, Undisputed, Virgin/EMI/Empire
Beyoncé, B'day, Sony
Beyoncé, Deja Vu, Pt. 1, Sony BMG
Bobby Valentino, Special Occasion, Def Jam
Bobby Womack, Post, Castle
Cassie, Me & U, WEA/Atlantic
Cham, Ghetto Story [Bonus Track], WEA/Atlantic
Cherish, Do It to It, Pt. 1, EMI/Parlophone
Cherish, Do It to It, Pt. 2, EMI/Parlophone
Choclair, Flagship, Q&W
Chris Farlowe, Hungary for the Blues, Blue Label
Cory Mo, Houstons Most Unknown, Oarfin
Crazy Toones, CT Experience, BCD Music Group
Crime Mob, Rock Yo Hips [Single], Reprise / Wea
Curtis Mayfield, Back to the World, Snapper UK
Diana Ross, The Definitive Collection, Motown
Diddy, Come to Me, Bad Boy
DJ Fame, Sullivan Room, Vol. 1,
DJ Spinna, Intergalactic Soul, V2/Papa
Dr. Alimantado, House of Singles, Greensleeves
Earl Bostic, Complete Quintet Recordings, Lonehill Jazz
Esther Phillips, Atlantic Years, WEA/Rhino
Gloria Gaynor, All the Hits: Remixed, Megahit
High Po4mance, Life in the Fast Lane, Imn
Is What?!, The Life We Choose, Hyena
Jin, 100 Grand Jin, Draft
Kelis, Bossy, Pt. 1, EMI/Virgin
Kenn Starr, Starr Status, Raptivism
Killa Kyelon, Drank Epidemic, Vol. 2, BCD Music Group
Kouichi, Itsuka Mita Aozora, Vap
Larry Williams, Specialty Profiles, Specialty
Lee "Scratch" Perry, Mastercuts Presents, Mastercuts / Artist
Lee Dorsey, Holy Cow!: The Best of Lee Dorsey, Snapper UK
Lil Cuete, The #1 Gun, East Side
Lil' Flip, I'm a Baller Mixtape [CD/DVD], BCD Music Group
Lil' Flip, Southern Lean, Vol. 2 [Chopped & Screwed], Oarfin
Lil' O, Hood Hustlin, Vol. 12, BCD Music Group
Lil Wayne, Shooter [Single], Cash Money
Lloyd Price, Specialty Profiles, Specialty
Loon, No Friends, Cleopatra
Ludacris, Disturbing tha Peace, BCD Music Group
Luny Tunes, Mas Flow, Vol. 2.5 [CD/DVD], Machete Music
Mesianico, Con Furia,
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
Mr. Capone-E, Don't Get It Twisted, SMC Recordings
Murphy Lee, Dat Bullshit [Single], Universal
O.G. Ron C., Breaking Sh#t, Vol. 1 [Chopped & Screwed], Oarfin
Paula DeAnda, Paula DeAnda, Arista
Peggy Scott, She's Got It All: Rare 70's Soul, Shout
Percy Mayfield, Specialty Profiles, Specialty
Red Cafe, Diddy Bop, Universal
Redd Hott, Redd Hott #1, P-Vine
Rick Ross, Push It, Def Jam
Ronnie Baker, Ronnie Baker, BNT/Sharp Objects
Salah, Jesus 101, Five L-Ements
Sam Cooke, Specialty Profiles, Specialty
Screamin' Jay Hawkins, The Whamee, Rev-Ola
Tanya Stephens, Rebelution, VP / Universal
Tego Calderón, The Underdog/El Subestimado, Atlantic
Tego Calderón, The Underdog/El Subestimado [Clean], Atlantic
The Chordettes, Close Harmony, El
The Foundations, The Foundations [Disky], Disky
The Impressions, The Very Best of the Impressions [Snapper UK], Snapper UK
The Meters, The Very Best of the Meters [Snapper UK], Snapper UK
The Ohio Players, Trespassin', Snapper UK
The Roots, Game Theory, Def Jam
The Spinners, In Concert [DVD], Cleopatra
Third World, Now That We've Found Love, Snapper UK
Too Short, Blow the Whistle, Jive
Uptown, Bonafide G, BCD Music Group
Various Artists, Dance Machine 1991-1992 [Bonus CD], Megahit
Various Artists, Old School, Vol. 4, Thump
Various Artists, Piano Tribute to Lionel Richie,
Various Artists, Asian Hip Hop, Sony
Various Artists, Buzz, Vol. 2, KGB
Various Artists, Chicano Power, Vol. 2, Imn
Various Artists, H-Town Underworld, Vol. 1, Oarfin
Various Artists, Roc 4 Roc Documentary and Soundtrack, Oarfin
Various Artists, Showtyme: H-Town Underworld, Oarfin
Various Artists, Showtyme: State 2 State, Oarfin
Various Artists, La Pelicula [CD & DVD], Universal Latino
Various Artists, Reggaeton Club Jamz, Sony International
Various Artists, Reggaeton Squad, Universal Latino
Various Artists, Take Me to Jamaica: Story of Jamaican Mento, Pressure Sounds
Woodpile, The Streets Will Never Be the Same, West Coast Mafia
Young Buck, Case Dismissed, BCD Music Group
Young Jeezy, Live at the Seawall, Oarfin


Hip-Hop Gets Jazzy In 'Idlewild'

Source: Roz Stevenson PR /

(August 17, 2006)  
Antwan Patton( Big Boi) and André Benjamin (Andre 3000) from the multi-platinum and Grammy winning hip-hop duo, OutKast, lead an all-star cast in Idlewild, an original musical masterpiece with electrifying choreography set in a speakeasy in the rolling 30s.   Benjamin portrays Percival, a shy, but talented pianist and writer, while Patton plays Rooster, an uninhibited lead singer and club manager who must elude the notorious gangster-killer “Trumpy” portrayed by Terrence Howard.  Universal Pictures will release Idlewild on August 25th.  Benjamin is bursting with pride about the film, “The movie is pretty much every genre.  It has drama, action, music, comedy, a love story and gangsters.  On top of that, we are styling.  It takes place in the ‘30s, so we are impeccably dressed.  The look of the film is moody.  It’s really, really dope.” Patton adds, “Our wardrobe in the film is fantastic.  We have the whole ‘30s look down to the tee.    My special thanks go out personally to Mr. Giorgio Armani for takin’ care of me for ninety percent of the movie,”  OutKast fans will recognize similarity between Benjamin and Patton real personalities and the roles they play in the film.  Patton plays Rooster, a family guy who is thrown into a situation where he has to take on the responsibility of managing the nightclub.  There is a lot of hustling going on, lots of liquor and booze running.  It is a fun place.  Then things start to go wrong.     Benjamin tells us, “Just like his character Rooster, Big Boi likes to be the life of the party.  He likes to throw the parties and have everybody come down.  He’s the festive guy.  So, for him to run the speakeasy in the movie, that’s Big Boi.  Just like Rooster, Big Boi is a family man, too.”

Percival, on the other hand, is the son of a mortician, who is expected to take over the family business.  After his Mom dies, he and his Dad lead a sad and lonely life.  In the film, Rooster and Percival meet when they are just six years old and form a lifetime friendship.   Patton says, “I met Dre when we were sixteen in high school and we bonded with each other. Dre’s character, Percival is kind of reclusive, the only child.  Dre is an only child, too, but I think Percival might be a bit more troubled.  The friendship that we have in the movie is very similar to what we got going on.” Benjamin offers, “In the movie, the only way that I let loose is by playing the piano.  Rooster gives me a job down at the club, that’s my outlet.  When a new singer, Angel Davenport, comes to the club, we begin working on music together and eventually fall in love.  She turns my life around and encourages me to leave Idlewild, so my talents can blossom.”   Veteran actor Ben Vereen, who plays Percival’s miserable father, generously offered Benjamin acting insights, “Ben taught me about being in the moment and not worrying about if I was good, because if you do, then you’re not in it.  And that gave me a lot of freedom and helped me to get to where I needed to be.  I will be eternally grateful to him for sharing his wisdom with me,” Benjamin says. Idlewild is the motion picture debut of writer/director Bryan Barber, who has had a long affiliation with Benjamin and Patton as a video director.  Benjamin says, “Honestly, it’s full circle, because I originally met Bryan in Atlanta when I was getting out of high school and he was in film school. At that point we had only put out one album.  He would come to me with scripts because he wanted to make films.  Eventually we gave him a chance to direct our videos.  That was his training ground.  I have seen his growth, because I’ve been on the set with him in videos and you can hide behind the music a lot.  Videos are big commercials for selling music.  However, films are more challenging, and I’m proud to say Bryan has shown his ability to deal with hundreds of people, hundreds of attitudes and hundreds of problems.  He does an amazing job.” Highlights of the filming include the lavish dance numbers choreographed by three-time Tony winner, Hinton Battle.  Patton shares, “Hinton pulled together top dancers, who could blend the old dance styles with day’s moves, and put together some incredible dance numbers.   I came in and when it was time for me to perform, we had our bits that we did together.  I had a ball doing the song and dance sequences.” 

Benjamin’s acting credits include the films Four Brothers, Be Cool and the hit TV series The Shield.  He also plans to launch his own clothing line this year.  Patton most recently starred in the film ATL.  He has appeared on television’s Martin and as a featured voice in the MTV series Volcano High, about a teenager with special martial arts skills, and in two episodes of Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show. Idlewild’s all-star cast includes Academy Award nominee Terrence Dashon Howard (Hustle & Flow), Ving Rhames (Don King:  Only in America), singing sensations Macy Gray and Patti LaBelle, Faizon Love, who has starred opposite Will Ferrell in the blockbuster Elf.  Malinda Williams, who is best known for her television role as Tracy ‘Bird’ Van Adams in Soul Food, for which she garnered a NAACP Image Award nomination.  Paula Jai Parker’s, whose film credits include Hustle and Flow, Spike Lee’s She Hate Me, Phone Booth, High Crimes, Get On the Bus, Friday, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, and HBO’s Always Outnumbered.  Newcomer Paula Patton was first seen in last year’s smash comedy Hitch, starring Will Smith.  Finally, the legendary Cicely Tyson makes an appearance in the film, as well. One of the most sought-after directors in the music business, Barber was recently nominated for his directorial work on the Christina Aguilera video “Ain’t No Other Man” which garnered four MTV Video Music Award nominations, including Video of the Year.  Barber has directed many of OutKast’s videos including “Hey Ya,” which was Grammy-nominated for Best Short Form Video last year, and which was previously honoured with four MTV Video Music Awards for Video of the Year, Best Hip Hop Video, Best Special Effects and Best Art Direction.  His previous collaborations with OutKast include “The Way You Move” and “Roses” from their disc “Speakerboxxx/Love Below.”  He was honoured by his peers in London in May 2004, when he won three Music Video Production Awards (MVPA) for “Hey Ya,” including Video of the Year.  Canada’s MuchMusic’s Awards honoured him with two wins for “Hey Ya” for Video of the Year and Best Hip Hop Video.  His diverse slate of projects includes directing videos for Bow Wow, Faith Evans, Destiny’s Child, Anastacia, G-Unit, Nelly Furtado, Ludacris, Macy Gray, Kelly Clarkson, Missy Elliott and JC Chasez.  His striking video work has put him in high demand for commercials,  including Victoria’s Secret and Sunkist. Battle won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in Sophisticated Ladies, Miss Saigon and The Tap Dance Kid, which was also honoured with an NAACP Image Award and The Fred Astaire Award.  His esteemed career started early in his life when he received a scholarship to attend The School of American Ballet where he studied under George Balanchine.  At the age of 15, he made his Broadway debut playing the Scarecrow in The Wiz.  His additional stage credits include Ragtime, Dancin’, Dreamgirls and Chicago.  He also founded the non-profit organization Hinton Battle Theatre Laboratory to develop ethnically diverse theatre projects.  His television credits include choreographing the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Stars Set To Shine For Toronto Film Festival

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Aug. 22, 2006) Attention star seekers: Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lopez, Jude Law and Sean Penn are among the major names confirmed to walk the red carpet and grace the hotel lobbies in and around Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood for next month's film festival, while features by directors Ridley Scott and Michael Apted were among the last gala films announced yesterday. While the
Toronto International Film Festival doesn't have quite the same non-stop Hollywood star wattage as, say, an event like the Academy Awards, it nevertheless continues to attract more major names than it can barely handle as one of the world's biggest and most closely watched film festivals. Also on the list of those expected to make an appearance between Sept. 7 and 16 are Sharon Stone, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Penelope Cruz, Anthony Hopkins, the Dixie Chicks, Carrie-Anne Moss, Dustin Hoffman, Viggo Mortensen, Liam Neeson and more than 500 other actors, filmmakers and the simply famous. Even Yoko Ono is scheduled to come. A cynic may think that some of the festival's films, such as the J-Lo drama El Cantante, might be chosen to attract the stars and therefore more publicity for the festival. “Fifteen years or twenty years ago, we were probably a bit more calculated, [thinking] it would be nice to have this particular movie star in the festival, that it would be really good for us in terms of profile,” said festival co-director Piers Handling.

But now, as the festival has become one of the biggest in the world, Handling said it doesn't need to program certain films for their star power. The festival already attracts more than its fair share of major names: “To be honest now, you saw the line-up of people that we announced. Obviously, there's a certain point where you don't have to run a film because a [major] star is in it. Far from it.” The festival will be showing a total of 352 feature films and shorts, up from 335 last year, with more than 300,000 movie goers (both film industry people and the general public) expected to attend the screenings. Most importantly, the festival emphasized, was that 91 per cent of the feature films will be premieres of one sort or another. For instance, Pitts' film Babel is a North American premiere about three interlaced stories, including Pitt and his character's wife (Cate Blanchett) as tourists facing catastrophe in Morocco. Meanwhile, Penn and Law star in the world premiere of All the King's Men, a remake of the classic film and novel about Depression and post-Depression era politics in Louisiana. Scott's film A Good Year is based on the Peter Mayle novel and stars Russell Crowe as a “self-satisfied financier, with a trail of dodgy deals and one-night stands in his wake,” according to the festival's description. Apted's Amazing Grace, the festival's closing gala film, is a period piece about British abolitionist William Wilberforce fighting against the slave trade.

EUR 'Idlewild Interview: Paula Patton -- Girl Gone Idlewild!

Excerpt from - By Kam Williams

(August 23, 2006) *2006 is probably going to be the breakout year for
Paula Patton. The emerging ingénue hails from Los Angeles where she attended Hamilton High for the Performing Arts.  After graduation, she initially enrolled at Berkeley, though the would-be director returned to her roots to transfer to the prestigious USC Film School where she would pursue her passion for moviemaking. Despite graduating magna cum laude and being picked as one of the subjects of a PBS-TV series focusing on four promising young filmmakers, Paula soon decided to step in front of the camera to try her hand at acting.  Making the most of modest appearances in Hitch and London last year, she went on to land a couple of coveted lead roles, one, opposite two-time, Oscar-winner Denzel Washington in Déjà Vu, which opens in November, the other, in her latest release, Idlewild, opposite hip-hop artist Andre’ 3000. Idlewild, a period piece set at a speakeasy in the South during prohibition, is a musical with an ensemble cast which includes Terrence Howard, Ving Rhames, Ben Vereen, Macy Gray, Faizon Love, comedian Bruce Bruce, Patti LaBelle, Cicely Tyson, Paula Jai Parker and Big Boi (Andre’s partner in OutKast). As for her private life, Paula is married to Interscope Records recording artist Robin Thicke, son of entertainer-of-all-trades Alan Thicke (actor, singer, songwriter, deejay, emcee, game show host, etcetera). She’s appeared in her hubby’s music videos and was featured butt naked on the cover of his debut CD, A Beautiful World, where the bronze beauty’s body provided proof positive that, yes, it’s a beautiful world, indeed!  Here, she talks about Idlewild, including her steamy sex scene with Andre.

Kam Williams: Tell me a little about your character?

Paula Patton: My character, Angel Davenport, is a singer who arrives in Idlewild as a semi-celebrity from St. Louis. And to make a long story short, without giving anything away, she becomes involved with Percival Jenkins, who’s played by Andre’ 3000. He’s the piano player in this place called Church, which is a fabulous club for Idlewild, Georgia, but not too fabulous for me, coming from St. Louis, Missouri.

KW: What’s the picture’s plotline?

PP: It’s, basically, kind of our love story, and the love that happens between us with music. It actually has many different storylines, but I think the overall theme of the film is really about people trying to achieve their dreams. It’s a simple story about love in terms of friendship.

KW: What was the most challenging aspect of this role?

PP: The real challenge was to become a performer. I’m not a singer, I’m not a dancer, but I had to perform on stage. So, that was the biggest challenge, truly. It was a challenge to get up there, but once I got on that stage, and they started playing the music, it was like living out your childhood fantasy. It was amazing stepping into these shoes where you get to pretend to be a rock star. Even though I was really just a lounge singer, it felt like that, and that was the most amazing feeling.

KW: Did anyone serve as your inspiration to help you bring Angel to life?

PP: You know what? My inspiration was Lena Horne in a 1930s movie called Cabin in the Sky. She’s a little bit more mischievous than I am in this movie, but her energy, the way she was a diva in that film was something I wanted to emulate. She had this charm, and this great smile, and yet she radiated this wicked sense that something else was going on there. And my character does have a secret she’s carrying, so I used that as my inspiration. I also listened to as much Thirties’ music as possible, Bessie
Smith, Count Basie, Duke Ellington… and I tried to keep in that mind state of the 1930s. And I watched a lot of old movies to see how the women carried themselves.

KW: Since this picture’s your breakout role, what do you want to share with people who are suddenly curious about you?

PP: I sort of came to acting later in life, though I always love acting since I was a little girl. I put on plays in my parents’ back yard and attended a performing arts high school where I was always in all the plays. I went to Berkeley for a semester before deciding that I really wanted to be in film school. At that point I was getting very shy and introverted, so I was sure I wanted to be behind the camera. Then I went to USC and after I graduated I did some work as an assistant. I probably should have known that I was lying to myself at that time about my true desire to be an actress.

KW: How could you tell?

PP: I just didn’t have that passion to be a filmmaker that you’re supposed to have. Something was missing. I remember sitting at my desk thinking I was lying to myself. I asked myself what I loved to do since I was a little girl. And that was to act. So, I started taking lessons and classes, and luck brought me here.

KW: What was it like acting opposite Andre’ 3000, who plays your love interest in the movie?

PP: It was a bit intimidating at first, because he’s a huge star. But then when I met him, he was so kind and humble and generous, he really made it feel like both of us were on this journey together. He became my confidant on the set. We’d talk about anything, our noses, our excitement; he behaved as though no one knew his name. No one made me feel like, “Who are you kid? Prove yourself.” Then, of course, I’d go home and see him on MTV and be like, “Who is this person? He’s so fabulous?” So, to be honest with you, it was a really comfortable experience.

KW: Even the love scene?

PP: Well, you know, you always joke. I mean, there started to be that countdown to the sex scene. It’s like, “Okay, five days to sex scene, no more carbs. You know what I mean?

KW: Yep.

PP: There’s a nervousness about that, but Andre really became my friend on the movie, and he is just a gentleman through and through. I’m not going to lie to you; of course it’s nerve-wracking when you’re nearly naked. I just had on a few strategically placed nude items. But Bryan [director Bryan Barber] set up a good situation in that the lights were low. And he had about five cameras set up, so that we didn’t have to do tons of takes. We just sort of did it, and they caught pieces. And the end result is these sort of beautiful images that are pieced together to create something that’s not vulgar. Hopefully, my mom will not die at the screening of it. I’m telling her to close her eyes.

KW: Did you get to keep the wardrobe of period outfits you wore in the movie?

PP: I did not. Actually, some of the clothes were Cher’s old costumes that Bob Mackie had designed for her. They were quite tight. I guess I needed one less rib.

KW: What’s up next for you?

PP: I have a movie called Déjà Vu coming out November 22nd. It’s with Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott. I play Denzel’s love interest, sort of. It’s a very interesting film, but I can’t give away much of the plot.

KW: Thanks for the time.

PP: Thanks so much, I appreciate it.

Paul Giamatti Plays Against Type In The Illusionist

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Aug. 18, 2006) Important note on the care and watering of
Paul Giamatti, accidental celebrity: Should you encounter Mr. Giamatti in the wild, please do not mistake his potbelly, receding hairline and ready smile as indications that he would make a great drinking buddy.  He's actually a really shy guy, still coming to grips with being an Oscar-nominated somebody.  "There are a lot of people who tell me they want to buy me a beer, and in point of fact I'm not actually that social," Giamatti says from New York, where he's on the hustle for The Illusionist, his new movie opening today.  "It actually weirds me out a little bit, that `let me buy you a beer' thing. It certainly works for Mel Gibson, but it doesn't work for me. You know, I'm polite and friendly but also diffident. I move away from people. And I always feel bad, because there's nothing I can do about it. It's just who I am. I'm just sort of aloof in a lot of ways."  This will come as a surprise to the many people, moviegoers and filmmakers alike, who have come to think of 39-year-old Giamatti as just a regular schnook, eager for brews and sympathy. He's forever playing put-upon characters whose plans go awry. He rarely gets the girl, and when he does he doesn't know what to do with her.  Giamatti plays guys like the wine-guzzling Miles in Sideways, the whiny Harvey Pekar in American Splendor and the winning Joe Gould in Cinderella Man. These three recent roles have vaunted him from obscurity into beer-attracting celebrityhood — especially since Cinderella Man earned him an Oscar nomination this year for Best Supporting Actor.  He also has starring roles in two big movies released this summer, The Ant Bully and Lady in the Water.  Fame came suddenly for Giamatti, after taking its sweet time to find him. His Internet Movie Database listing shows him with a whopping 56 movie and TV roles since his 1990 debut on the small screen playing "Heckler #2" in a forgotten telefilm called She'll Take Romance. But many of those early roles were bit parts at best for this Italian-American scion of a Connecticut family. He's the son of the late Bart Giamatti, whose career included stints as president of Yale University and commissioner of major league baseball.

Giamatti was flying so far off the radar in his early career that you could probably win a Trivial Pursuit question identifying him as the speaker of a famous line from Donnie Brasco, the 1997 gangster mentor movie starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.  Giamatti plays the FBI wiretap technician who asks Depp about the meaning of "Fahgeddaboudit," the mob expletive that is the verbal equivalent of both a shrug and slap to the head. Everybody remembers Fahgeddaboudit; few remember Giamatti as the one who first said it.  But previous assessments of Giamatti will likely fall by the wayside following today's release of The Illusionist, in which he plays a scheming police inspector named Uhl in 1900 Vienna. He's assigned to track and unmask the pesky magician Eisenheim the Illusionist (Edward Norton), whom the Austrian Crown Prince (Rufus Sewell) suspects of having designs on his fiancée (Jessica Biel).  When the movie premiered at Sundance in January, Giamatti joked to the audience that he took the role because "I got to smoke a pipe and wear a cool hat." But the real reason was that it gave him a chance to play an unlikeable character in a drama, rather than a figure of amusement or pity in a comedy.  Uhl is definitely not the kind of guy you'd want to have a beer with. He's a bit like Tommy Lee Jones's cynical tracker in The Fugitive. But now Giamatti is worried Uhl may be too unlikeable. Some people are never happy.  "Did you think he's a nasty guy? I think there's meant to be certain decency in him, or at least a certain wiliness. He's definitely a compromised, cynical guy. He was nastier in the way he was originally shot.  "But the audience needs to go with that guy in order to follow the story along. My nastiest character, I think, is the guy I played in Private Parts."  That would be the uptight radio boss not-so-affectionately known as Pig Vomit in the 1997 biopic of shock jock Howard Stern. But Pig Vomit was more fussy than frightening.  "It all depends," Giamatti counters.  "I've played lots of dark characters, some really dark things. Not much on film but on the stage. I was in a production of The Iceman Cometh where I played the worst drunk and the worst screwed-up guy in it. And I've just done this movie called Shoot 'Em Up in which I play a psycho. But he's kind of a silly psycho. I kind of get it on with a dead body in the back of a car. That stuff can be exhilarating, in a weird way. But it's not that much fun while you're doing it."

There are a lot of people, women especially, who will never forgive him for something his character Miles does in Sideways. Miles is the straight man to Thomas Haden Church's horn dog Jack in the 2004 road movie, a Best Picture nominee. Miles surprises and shocks the audience early on by stealing several hundred dollars from a stash his mother keeps hidden in a bedroom drawer. You can actually hear gasps in the theatre. Giamatti is fascinated by that reaction.  "I've had women, when we did Q&A sessions at festival screenings, stand up and tell me, `I actually despised your character from then on when you did that!'" Giamatti recalls, chuckling.  "I thought it was great that the guy steals the money from his mother. I thought it was funny, and you know the mother probably knows that he did that. It's a game they probably play. The other guy Jack is running around on his wife and screwing this fat waitress, and that's okay. But my guy Miles stealing some money from his mother makes him Satan. It's very interesting. I'm actually glad it made it hard for people. I like it if somebody is not entirely sympathetic all the time. I don't want everybody to like me. People need to think on their own."  There was a time, not that long ago, when it seemed Giamatti would forever be fated to playing buffoons, fusspots and losers.  "I think what I was uncomfortable with was thinking I was only good for broad comedy roles, which I actually don't think is my strength. I'm fine with comedy, but I was put in a mould that I didn't feel terribly comfortable with."  He still plays characters like that, but at least they're in A-list movies instead of the C-list stuff he was so often stuck with in the past.  "I've always felt like a character actor, and there are some advantages to that. If you're the leading man type, you have to work at it. The easiest thing to be is a middle-aged light character.  "The fact of the matter is that even when I weighed 30 pounds less I still looked like kind of round and chubby. It's just how I look on film and there's really nothing I can do about it. But I don't want to get really fat, if only for my health."  His recent acclaim has certainly added to the number and variety of roles he's being offered. His busy schedule includes playing Santa Claus in a comedy titled Fred Claus and Elvis Presley's manager Colonel Tom Parker in the horror satire Bubba Nosferatu. Just last week, he was announced as the choice to play Philip K. Dick, a biopic about the late author of the books behind the movies Blade Runner, Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly.  "I'm turning away stuff now and it's hard for me to get used to it. Clearly for a long time, I didn't turn anything away because I didn't have any choice. I'd be offered something and it was the only job, and I'd do it.  "It's crazy, but as long as I keep having choice, it's fine."  You could drink to that, if he'd only let you buy him a beer.

Spike Lee's Katrina Documentary A Milestone

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Associated Press

(Aug. 17, 2006) NEW ORLEANS — Several weeks after Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, HBO documentary executives were stumped. How to respond on film to something so monumental? “We were in a meeting one day and I said, ‘I guess we'll have to let Katrina go,”' said Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary and Family. “Then, literally within the hour, Spike called. It was like, ‘Eureka!”'
Spike Lee was quickly signed to chronicle the storm and its aftermath in New Orleans. The first half of Lee's heartbreaking film, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, debuts Monday. The four-hour documentary marks a career milestone for Lee. Twenty years ago this month, his first feature film, She's Gotta Have It, hit theatres to instant praise from critics. Since then, he has released an average of one film every year, including this year's Inside Man, his most profitable with $185-million (U.S.) in global sales. Nearly all of Lee's films have strong African-American themes and characters. Though filmmakers have always dabbled in racial topics, Lee, who is black, has been unique. Steadfastly chipping away at the subject in ever more complex ways, he has helped make race and ethnicity central to American film. “He's made a tremendous difference in the history of American cinema,” said Jacqueline Stewart, a film professor at Northwestern University in Chicago who teaches a class on Lee's work. “Spike Lee's films get people to talk about what race means and how race continues to function in our society.”

For years, Lee did that with an in-your-face approach — characters that yelled racial slurs at the screen, on-screen brawls between whites and blacks. Lee himself was often in front of the camera, playing a string of incendiary sidekick characters. He also often wrote, produced and directed his films, enlisting family members to contribute music, writing and acting. But in recent years, he has stepped back. He did not write or appear on-screen in Inside Man, She Hate Me in 2004 or 2002's 25th Hour. Though he remains focused on black America, his approach has become quieter, less self-conscious. Levees reflects that. Using current and historical footage, music and more than 100 interviews, the film reminds viewers that although Katrina shattered the entire Gulf Coast, New Orleans and its mostly black residents got hit especially hard. Thousands fought to survive deadly floodwaters for days while federal help was slow in coming. Many are left today with a nearly ruined city and broken hearts. Lee conducted each of the interviews, and viewers occasionally hear him asking questions, but he never steps in front of the camera. There is no narrator telling viewers that New Orleans was abandoned, or that this may have happened because most residents are black. There is no need. “Let the people tell it, the witnesses,” said Lee, 49, during an interview this week. “People are giving testimonial, sharing all the rage and anger. What they're doing is sharing their humanity with us.” Nevins said the film is “a surrender of the ego of the maker to the people.”

Despite heavy media coverage of Katrina, the film pulls together the before, during and after of the storm in a way that manages to be agonizingly fresh. One man tells of being forced to abandon his dead mother's body in the city's Superdome. He pinned a note with his phone number on her shroud. Some spew rage as they insist that the city's protective levees, which gave way and flooded most of the city, were bombed. Cameras follow trumpeter Terence Blanchard, the long-time composer for Lee's films and a New Orleans native, as he and his mother visit the family home in the Gentilly Woods section of the city for the first time since the flood. “Oh Lord have mercy,” weeps Wilhelmina Blanchard, nearly hysterical. “You can rebuild this stuff,” Terence murmurs, clutching her shoulders. “That's easier said than done,” she says. “I knew it was devastation but I didn't think it was this bad.” Blanchard reflects later that day: “When we went into the house, that was really hard because, you know, it's like I can't go home.” He stops, choked up. An ominous drumbeat finishes his thoughts. The film, Lee said, is ultimately a plea to renew the city, where most of those forced out have not yet returned, tons of debris remains and there is no comprehensive rebuilding plan. “We want this film to spur action,” he said. “Things still aren't right. People are still suffering.” Lee has not tried to hide his anger about New Orleans' devastation by levee breaks and the government's slow response. He has even gone so far as to call the events “criminal.” “The devastation here was not brought on solely by Mother Nature,” Lee said. “People in charge were not doing their job.”

If nothing else, Lee said he hopes his documentary will bring attention back to the region, where it's needed. “People are still in dire straits. We want to put the focus back here,” he said. This is partly why HBO gave it four hours, making it the channel's longest documentary. Two-hour segments air Monday and Tuesday at 9 p.m. (EDT). It also will be shown in its entirety Aug. 29, the one-year anniversary of Katrina's landfall. “You never could tell the whole story because the story's still being told, but you sure couldn't tell it in two hours,” Nevins said. “I don't know any other filmmaker who could have been a better match. I just don't know anyone with that kind of talent.” It's a long way from 1986. Lee, four years out of New York University's film school, was selling T-shirts outside a midtown Manhattan theatre urging people to see She's Gotta Have It, about a black woman and her three boyfriends. He was living in a rented basement apartment in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, where he grew up and still has offices for his production studio, 40 Acres & a Mule Filmworks. Three years later came Do the Right Thing. It weaves a sentimental gaze at brownstone Brooklyn with the explosive tensions among blacks, Italian-Americans and police on a scorching summer day. After the police kill a black man, a fiery riot erupts and the neighbourhood is ripped apart. It firmly planted Lee on the culture map, winning him staunch critics and supporters. Lee is “the epitome of the independent auteur of the '90s and the 21st century,” said William J. Palmer, a film professor at Purdue University who has included Lee's films in his classes for 14 years.

Stewart, the Northwestern professor, said it's hard to imagine a film like last year's Crash, which explored ethnic clashes in Los Angeles, being made without Lee's influence. It won the Oscar for best picture. Lee himself says he's most proud that he helped the careers of some of the nation's most celebrated actors and filmmakers. Halle Berry's first film role was a crack addict in 1991's Jungle Fever. Rosie Perez and Martin Lawrence were first seen on film in Do the Right Thing. Filmmaker John Singleton — who wrote and directed Boyz n the Hood in 1991 and directed Four Brothers last year — was in high school when he sought out Lee and declared that he, too, would become a filmmaker. Lee says he's considering a follow-up documentary to Levees, perhaps focusing on how New Orleans' black middle class has been gutted, and what that may mean to the city. For now, he's spending little time pondering his 20-year milestone. “What I'm trying to do is just get better,” he said. “Become a better storyteller. That's what I do.”

Studio Cuts Tom Cruise Loose

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Steve Gorman, Reuters, with files from star wire services

(Aug. 23, 2006) LOS ANGELES—
Paramount Pictures is ending its 14-year-old relationship with Tom Cruise's production company because of his off-screen behaviour, the chairman of the studio's parent company said yesterday in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.  Sumner Redstone, Viacom chairman, said the behaviour of the star of the Mission: Impossible series and Top Gun was unacceptable to the company, according to the Journal story emailed to reporters yesterday.  Yesterday's report signalled the end of one of the most lucrative production deals commanded by any A-list Hollywood star and followed other signs that Cruise's public stature had been damaged by his conduct during the past year.  Days after his latest film, Mission: Impossible III, opened to lower-than-expected domestic ticket sales in May, an online opinion poll seemed to show his star power had dimmed considerably. The movie, still in theatres, has taken in almost $390 million (U.S.) worldwide, while Cruise's War of the Worlds (also a Paramount film) made $591 million at the box office.  Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that Paramount chairman Brad Grey had informed representatives for Cruise and his production partner, Paula Wagner, that the studio planned to slash the amount it spends on their company, Cruise/Wagner Productions.

The studio allowed his deal to lapse and warned Cruise that it would not back any more of his movies until he agreed to a significant pay cut. The 44-year-old star is said to have earned $70 million for the first Mission Impossible movie.  But months ago, Grey was one of several movie industry executives who publicly rallied to Cruise's defence, insisting his status and popularity were undiminished.  They were reacting to a USA Today/Gallup poll in which half of those surveyed registered an "unfavourable" opinion of the actor. Many cited his off-screen behaviour, including his outspoken defence of his religion, Scientology, and his blunt criticism of psychiatry and actress Brooke Shields' treatment for postpartum depression.  Cruise also became the butt of jokes for his manic, couch-hopping appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show last May to declare his love for actress Katie Holmes, who recently gave birth to Cruise's first biological child, a daughter they named Suri.  "As much as we like him personally, we thought it was wrong to renew his deal," Redstone was quoted in the Journal report. "His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount."  The Journal story said Paramount believes Cruise's behaviour hurt the box office of the third Mission Impossible film.  According to Access Hollywood yesterday, however, Cruise's representatives said that his production company had decided to set up an independent operation financed by two top hedge funds, which they declined to name. Paula Wagner, Cruise's partner in the company, said such an arrangement represented a new business model for top actors prominent enough to take advantage of the flood of money coming into Hollywood from Wall Street.  "This is a dream of Tom and mine," Wagner reportedly said.  She challenged Redstone's assertion that Cruise's behaviour had cost the studio ticket sales, pointing out the huge grosses. Cruise/Wagner Productions has been based on the Paramount lot since 1992.  Cruise, one of the most successful movie stars of all time, also starred in Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July, The Last Samurai and Jerry Maguire.

Studio Cuts Tom Cruise Loose

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Steve Gorman, Reuters, with files from star wire services

(Aug. 23, 2006) LOS ANGELES—
Paramount Pictures is ending its 14-year-old relationship with Tom Cruise's production company because of his off-screen behaviour, the chairman of the studio's parent company said yesterday in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.  Sumner Redstone, Viacom chairman, said the behaviour of the star of the Mission: Impossible series and Top Gun was unacceptable to the company, according to the Journal story emailed to reporters yesterday.  Yesterday's report signalled the end of one of the most lucrative production deals commanded by any A-list Hollywood star and followed other signs that Cruise's public stature had been damaged by his conduct during the past year.  Days after his latest film, Mission: Impossible III, opened to lower-than-expected domestic ticket sales in May, an online opinion poll seemed to show his star power had dimmed considerably. The movie, still in theatres, has taken in almost $390 million (U.S.) worldwide, while Cruise's War of the Worlds (also a Paramount film) made $591 million at the box office.  Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that Paramount chairman Brad Grey had informed representatives for Cruise and his production partner, Paula Wagner, that the studio planned to slash the amount it spends on their company, Cruise/Wagner Productions.

The studio allowed his deal to lapse and warned Cruise that it would not back any more of his movies until he agreed to a significant pay cut. The 44-year-old star is said to have earned $70 million for the first Mission Impossible movie.  But months ago, Grey was one of several movie industry executives who publicly rallied to Cruise's defence, insisting his status and popularity were undiminished.  They were reacting to a USA Today/Gallup poll in which half of those surveyed registered an "unfavourable" opinion of the actor. Many cited his off-screen behaviour, including his outspoken defence of his religion, Scientology, and his blunt criticism of psychiatry and actress Brooke Shields' treatment for postpartum depression.  Cruise also became the butt of jokes for his manic, couch-hopping appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show last May to declare his love for actress Katie Holmes, who recently gave birth to Cruise's first biological child, a daughter they named Suri.  "As much as we like him personally, we thought it was wrong to renew his deal," Redstone was quoted in the Journal report. "His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount."  The Journal story said Paramount believes Cruise's behaviour hurt the box office of the third Mission Impossible film.  According to Access Hollywood yesterday, however, Cruise's representatives said that his production company had decided to set up an independent operation financed by two top hedge funds, which they declined to name. Paula Wagner, Cruise's partner in the company, said such an arrangement represented a new business model for top actors prominent enough to take advantage of the flood of money coming into Hollywood from Wall Street.  "This is a dream of Tom and mine," Wagner reportedly said.  She challenged Redstone's assertion that Cruise's behaviour had cost the studio ticket sales, pointing out the huge grosses. Cruise/Wagner Productions has been based on the Paramount lot since 1992.  Cruise, one of the most successful movie stars of all time, also starred in Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July, The Last Samurai and Jerry Maguire.


Depp To Take Lead In Movie Musical

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 17, 2006) LOS ANGELES (AP) —
Johnny Depp is going from woozy buccaneer to murderous barber.  Depp is reuniting with director Tim Burton (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) to play the title role in a film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd, about a 19th-century barber seeking bloody revenge over his wrongful imprisonment.  The star of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, this year's biggest hit with a domestic gross of $400 million (U.S.), is expected to do his own singing, said Marvin Levy, spokesman for DreamWorks, which is co-producing Sweeney Todd with Warner Bros.  Sweeney Todd marks the sixth collaboration between Depp and Burton, who scored a blockbuster in summer 2005 with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which the actor played the reclusive candyman Willy Wonka.  Their other films together are Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow.  The filmmakers plan to start shooting Sweeney Todd early in 2007.

Darwin's Nightmare Filmmaker Lashes Out

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Aug. 19, 2006) Paris -- Austrian filmmaker
Hubert Sauper has accused the Tanzanian government of targeting people who took part in his award-winning documentary Darwin's Nightmare, an indictment of the pitfalls of globalization in Africa. "The Tanzanian government has decided to put pressure on everyone who participated in my film," he said, denouncing "authoritarian methods of another age." Tanzanian investigative journalist Richard Mgamba, who is interviewed in the film, was arrested and faces being stripped of his Tanzanian nationality and expelled from the country, Sauper said. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kiweete charged this month that the film aimed to tarnish his country's image and damage the Lake Victoria fishing business. AFP

Will Smith Partners With Bollywood Company

Excerpt from

(August 22, 2006) *Indian Entertainment company UTV has announced it has signed a deal with
Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment and Sony Pictures to produce two films worth a total of $30 million.   Under the terms, Overbrook and UTV will serve as co-producers on the films, while Sony will distribute them in theatres worldwide, explained UTV chief executive officer Ronnie Screwvala on Monday.  "This deal will see UTV expand its presence globally," Screwvala said.   Details of the two movies were not made public, though one would be live-action and the other an animated film, according to AFP.   As previously reported, Smith visited Mumbai in February and toured the city’s film production houses. He also met with major Bollywood actors, such as India’s biggest star, Aishwarya Rai.    "I would love to work with Bollywood queen Aishwarya Rai and feel a marriage between Bollywood and Hollywood is required," Smith was quoted as saying then.   UTV's group company UTV Motion Pictures runs a specialized children's channel Hungama TV and produced the blockbuster movie "Rang De Basanti" (“Color Me Saffron”), which has garnered 1.25 billion rupees (27 million dollars) at the box office to date.

EUR Film/DVD Review: Flip The Script

Excerpt from - By Kam Williams

(August 22, 2006) *The opening scene of this DVD (available 08-22-06) features a shocking, full-frontal shot of Lucky (
Teck Holmes) moments before he perishes in a naked, skydiving accident off the coast of Australia. Unlucky Luck’s untimely demise gives rise to a reunion of sorts, since seven of his college classmates convene in L.A. to toast his memory while sorting out some unfinished business.   These bourgie, black thirty-somethings have all done fairy well in life, except, it seems, when it comes to relationships. Rain (Robin Givens) is a popular massage therapist and proprietor of an establishment called Cheeks & Buns. Jamal (Randy J. Goodwin) is a chef at an A-list restaurant, while Bruce (Mel Jackson) is a high-priced attorney. Preston, an M.D., refers to himself as a vaginologist, because of his obstetrics practice. Then there’s Tiffany (Victoria Gabrielle Platt), an attractive Ph.D. who is also a best-selling novelist, plus Nikki (Jazsmin Lewis), Nelson (Laz Alonso), and Angel (Bianca Lawson). The first problem I had with this African-American version of The Big Chill (which also revolved around seven friends reminiscing at a wake) is not that it was blatant rip-off, but rather that I couldn’t figure out just what the heck the movie was about. Secondly, though these characters were supposed to have arrived at a higher station in life, they definitely behave like lower-class losers. They’re getting high on weed, cursing, pulling knives on each other, yelling at the screen in the movie theatre, befuddled by subtitles, using the N-word, and above all, interrelating male-female wise in a jive fashion.  Patently manipulative lines like “When the tears flow, the panties go,” were simply lost on this critic, as was the notion that a professional would slip his business card into a stripper’s g-string. I suspect, regrettably, that there’s an audience out there for this sort modern-day minstrel show, people eager to be entertained by the age-old “You can take the Negro out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the Negro” theme. But pardon me for expecting African-American fare to be far more sophisticated than the new millennium’s equivalent of Amos & Andy, complete with Kingfish-quality buffoonery and an array of other degenerate coons.


CBC Spares No Expense For Series On Canada's Game

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - William Houston

(Aug. 23, 06)
Hockey, A People's History, started out as a good idea and has now taken shape as a 10-episode documentary series that will begin Sept. 17 on the CBC. It's clearly a high-end production. Actor Paul Gross provides the narration. The content includes expensive re-enactments as well as commentary from a bevy of persuasive and, for the most part, qualified observers of the game. But after viewing the first hour, plus additional minutes from later shows, we'll withhold a final opinion until the whole package is available. Twice in the first episode, new voices enter the narrative. The voices seem to be speaking, much as they do in a Ken Burns production, from entries recorded in a period diary or memoir. The difference is, Burns applied the precept of good journalism and told us the names of the people.  The CBC doesn't, which means the voices were either made up or the names sloppily omitted. It's a relatively small point, but speaks to the authenticity of the work at hand. The truth is, the first episode is closer to being a slick docudrama than a well-developed report on hockey's early years.

The controversies associated with the game's birthplace are ignored, although we were impressed by the revelation that a pair of Starr skates from Halifax was at the top of a young Leon Trotsky's wish list. The series doesn't mention an important 2002 probe into the game's origin conducted by the Canadian-based Society For International Hockey Research, although the show uses the SIHR's conclusion that the game was not invented, but rather evolved. Nor is there a reference to the discovery in 2003 of correspondence by explorer John Franklin in which he writes about “hockey” being played by his men on Great Bear Lake in 1825. That's the earliest recorded mention of hockey on ice. Still, several colourful stories are told well. They include good accounts of the passion for the game shown by the family of Governor-General Lord Stanley of Preston, and the remarkable trek of the Dawson City team to Ottawa to challenge the famous Silver Seven. Some of the commentary is excellent. Michael McKinley and Erik Zweig, journalists who have written books on hockey, bring plenty of smarts and enthusiasm to the narrative. And what would a CBC hockey production be without Don Cherry and Ron MacLean? But the ruminations of Wayne Gretzky and, in particular, Ken Dryden, who seems to think every word out of his mouth is a lightning bolt of insight, seem old, tired and predictable. In the final minutes of the 10-hour production, the People's History gets dewy-eyed as it moves into glorification mode. Hockey is about purity, authenticity, honesty, grace, humility, etc.  It's the Canadian way.  “Hockey's home is Canada,” Dryden says.  “We're not going to win every tournament,” Gretzky explains. “But nobody can take away the fact it's our game.” Well, okay, but here's hoping most of the 10 hours provides an eyes-wide-open, clear-headed view of the sport's problems as well as its triumphs.

Hockey TV deal

NBC's profit-sharing television agreement with the National Hockey League will expire at the end of the coming season, but sources say the deal is likely to be extended two more years through 2009-10. The U.S. network's long-term strategy, insiders say, is to use NHL programming over the next four years to promote its coverage of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic hockey tournament, in which NHL players will participate, but perhaps for the last time. The NHL could demand a rights fee in a contract renewal, but NBC will be in the driver's seat because it's unlikely another U.S. broadcaster will compete for rights. Hockey ratings on NBC last season were down from 2003-04, when ABC aired the games. In the regular season, NBC had a 1 rating (percentage of U.S. households watching the telecasts) compared with ABC's 1.1. For the Stanley Cup final, NBC earned an average rating of 2.3 for five telecasts, down 11.5 per cent from ABC's five telecasts two years ago. But given that the league shut down for a year and saw its profile decline on cable television when ESPN was replaced by OLN, the numbers were viewed as acceptable. As well, NBC's national ratings were superficially downgraded when some affiliates did not carry the telecasts. For 2006-07, NBC has increased its regular-season schedule to nine weekends from six last year. The main reason for the increase was the reduction in the 2005-06 schedule because of NBC's commitment to the Turin Winter Games in February.

Crimes Of Passion Go Better With Bill

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Aug. 18, 2006) No one ever accused
Bill Kurtis of cracking a smile. For nearly 20 years, the A&E fixture has maintained the same dour presence, as befits the host of such grim TV offerings as American Justice and Cold Case Files. Bill Kurtis dwells in the dank realm of true-crime television, where you either get serious or go home. And it's oddly comforting the big guy is still around. Bill Kurtis is one of the few holdovers from a previous A&E era. He arrived in the early nineties, in the salad days of Peter Graves, Jack Perkins, Bob Vila and others long since put to pasture in light of the network's increasing reality trend.  A&E will never allow Bill Kurtis to escape its grasp, because it knows there are a great many viewers addicted to his true-crime sagas. The kids may be mad about Dog the Bounty Hunter, or the tattooed skateboard types on Inked, but a more stable viewership keeps coming back to Bill Kurtis's sombre dissertations on serial killers and crimes of passion. What's more, Kurtis owns the company that produces his own specials for A&E. And he's a cult figure, of sorts. As TV folklore goes, Kurtis's break came when he was anchor of a local newscast in Topeka, Kan., in the mid-sixties. When he learned that a tornado was winding toward the city, Kurtis told viewers: "For God's sake, take cover!" and subsequently remained on air for the next 24 hours. That's our Bill. And there's the sexy Bill. Apparently there are fan clubs of women who regard him as a silver-haired sex object. The ladies simply love that broad-shouldered Bill. There's more than enough of the big man to go around this evening with a four-episode run of American Justice (A&E, 8 to 12 p.m.), which includes one new episode and three from the vaults. In the first show, Kurtis tells the story of a middle-aged American man charged with killing his mail-order Russian bride. The second episode recaps the tragic abduction and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klass. The third American Justice episode re-examines the baffling case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a high-profile African-American journalist convicted of murdering a police officer.

The fourth show is the most chilling: Titled The California Killing Fields, it retells the sick partnership between serial killers Leonard Lake and Charles Ng. When the duo's killing rampage finally ended, police found a property ridden with human remains, a torture chamber and videotapes. As with the other cases presented, it involves the retelling of horrific deeds, but somehow it's made palatable, courtesy of the host's serious approach. Kurtis's calm delivery has become his TV stock in trade and the 65-year-old isn't likely to change his style any time soon. And like a real crime reporter, Kurtis occasionally goes missing from the A&E line-up for extended stretches of time, which he presumably spends chasing down leads in waterfront bars. And then, like tonight, he suddenly reappears with new crime stories. The funeral-director suits may change, but he's still the same old serious Bill..

CBS To Simulcast Katie Couric On-Line

Source: Associated Press

(Aug. 18, 2006) NEW YORK — CBS said Thursday it will become the first network to simulcast its evening news broadcast on-line, starting on the night of
Katie Couric's debut as anchor Sept. 5. All of the broadcast networks have aggressively pushed onto the Web over the past two years to interest more people in what they do, particularly at a time the audience for their evening newscasts is growing smaller and older. ABC streams a World News unique to the Internet audience in the mid-afternoon. NBC's Brian Williams contributes to both a video and written Web log during the day. However, NBC doesn't make a replay of Nightly News available until 10:30 p.m. ET, after it is shown on television throughout the country. The concern among network affiliates that Web simulcasts would slice into their TV audiences — making their advertising time less valuable — has been a barrier to TV networks doing this. But CBS News President Sean McManus said the network was able to reach a deal with its affiliates by arguing that the programs will reach a different audience on-line. Television ratings for the first few days of the NCAA basketball tournament went up this year even though CBS showed the games on the Web at the same time, he said. "It makes sense if you have access to a television, why would you want to watch it on computer?" he said. People will have to specifically register on-line to see the Web simulcast, however, in order to prevent people in later time zones from watching the news before it is broadcast in their area, CBS said.

McManus envisions the on-line simulcast appealing to people stuck late in the office or commuting with a laptop who might want to be filled in on the day's news. "I think it could help us potentially grow our audience," he said. Advertising for the on-line simulcast will be sold separately, he said. ABC's afternoon World News averages about two million downloads per week, the network said. The Webcast, anchored like the TV version by Charles Gibson, is tailored to the Internet audience, said Jon Banner, World News executive producer. For example, in addition to the day's top story, it offers a heavier concentration of technology and pop culture stories, he said. ABC sees its Webcast less as a way to build its television audience and more as a way to build loyalty among people who seek news on-line, he said. "We take the approach — and we believe it's the right approach — that the Internet audience is different from the one watching the broadcast and is looking for different content," Banner said. CBS is offering its simulcast in the face of trends that show people who watch video on the Web prefer it in shorter bursts. But CBS said Internet users who prefer this approach will still be able to pick and choose news video from the network's Web site. The network also said it was setting up a new Web log, Couric & Company, that will include written and video contributions about the news from CBS personnel.

T-Bag Actor Playing Hidden Hand

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem

(Aug. 20, 2006) Give this man a hand. 
Robert Knepper was as surprised as anyone when his Prison Break character, Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell, violently lost an appendage at the end of last season.  "They don't throw the scripts at me too early," the actor said during a promotional visit to Toronto. "And I don't really care to know about the story plot — I've got too much to think about as T-Bag in the moment."  Knepper said he only learned about T-Bag's loss just before the scene was shot. Not much of a TV watcher, he said he sought assurances "this isn't something that everybody else is doing on every other show.  "The only other thing I said," he grins, pulling down his sleeve to unconvincingly obscure his hand, "was, `Please, don't make me do this.'"  The sleeve trick was apparently not an option — though at that point, the writers hadn't yet worked out how Knepper's left hand would be concealed in future scenes.  The way Knepper sees it — and who knows T-Bag better? — the desperate escapee would do everything in his power to rescue and re-attach the severed mitt.  "I figure he'll be going, `I got my hand, I gotta put it back on.' So he'll convince somebody to do it, and they'll probably do it half-assed, and he'll probably think ... my guess is (miming a shrivelled limb), `Hey, it's working! It's working! ... It's not working. It's not working!'"  Even one-handed, T-Bag remains one scary-ass dude. Which is a testament to the skills of the thoughtful and well-spoken actor, whose television credits include the L.A. Law pilot a couple of decades ago, in which he portrayed a covertly transsexual legal secretary.  Not the first guy that comes to mind when you think vicious, cold-blooded killer.  "The interesting tidbit is, when the part was put on paper, (T-Bag) was 240 pounds with a gold tooth."  Yet "I loved the part right away," he says. "I loved the charm and the wit of this guy. He's not playing any of the obvious stuff, like, `Hello, I'm in here for raping and killing 12 children.'"  That T-Bag charm doesn't always play off-screen.  "I had one bad reaction," Knepper says, in a hotel in Dallas. "I'm waiting for the elevator, and the doors open up, and this sweet, young, tow-haired, blond couple from Denver are standing there, just looking at me. And the girl kinda freaked.  "But generally, people just come up and say, `Great job.' They know it's acting."


Rick Fox - Canadian Hoops Star Ready For Prime Time

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Aug. 17, 2006) Los Angeles --
Rick Fox may have given up basketball, but not the spotlight. The Canadian-born former Los Angeles Laker has scored a recurring role in the new FX television series Dirt, his spokeswoman, Lori Jonas, said Tuesday. Production begins this month on the hour-long drama for the U.S. cable network, which stars Courteney Cox. Fox will play Prince Tyrese, Jonas said.  Fox, 37, has collected a handful of acting credits over the past 12 years, including Holes, Eddie and He Got Game. He was married to singer-actress Vanessa Williams for five.  The couple split in 2004 -- the same year he ended his basketball career. AP

Eriq La Salle Brings Two Projects To TV

Excerpt from

(August 21, 2006) *Amidst the hollow absence of television dramas starring African Americans in lead roles next season, former “ER” star
Eriq La Salle is hoping to stem the tide with a new drama from his own production banner, Humble Journey. CBS has purchased La Salle’s “25 to Life,” a crime drama that will also star the actor as FBI agent Gabriel Santana.  The premise follows federal agents who work with criminals to solve cases. The show represents the first major development to come out of La Salle's talent and production deal with CBS Paramount Network, which was signed last year.   In addition, NBC has given a script commitment to “The Four Next Door,” a Humble Journey comedy centered on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War, Famine, Pestilence and Death – as referenced in Revelations, Chapter 6 of the Bible – arrive on earth a decade too soon for the end of the world and are forced to blend in among humans.

TVOntario veteran Grant finds a new home at CBC

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Aug. 19, 2006) Toronto -- Broadcasting veteran and former TVOntario executive producer
Doug Grant, whose popular current events show Studio 2 was suddenly cancelled in June as part of a massive overhaul at the provincial public broadcaster, has found a new home at the CBC. Grant has been named director of current affairs and weekly programs for CBC-TV and Newsworld and will help to create new current affairs programs.  He replaces Julie Bristow, who recently took a newly created position heading factual entertainment programming. 

Byron Allen Behind ‘Comics Unleashed’

Excerpt from

(August 22, 2006) *Imagine “The View” but with comedians such as George Wallace, Dane Cook and Howie Mandel discussing hot topics. The idea has been snatched by actor-comedian
Byron Allen for a new television show entitled, “Comics Unleashed.” The new nationally-syndicated comedy series, Allen’s latest project from his production banner Entertainment Studios, will premiere Sept. 25 and mark the first time stand-up comics sit together in front of a live audience to discuss various topics thrown out by Allen himself.  Stand-up comedy gave me my start in this business and I've always enjoyed the backstage comedy with other comedians before and after we took the stage," said Allen. “‘Comics Unleashed’ will bring those hilarious conversations to households worldwide and laughter to viewers each night."  In addition to Cook, Mandel and Wallace, the first comics slated to appear include Jon Lovitz, Carol Leifer, David Brenner, Pauly Shore and Brad Garrett.    Allen, who got his start as co-host of the TV show “Real People,” founded Entertainment Studios in 1993 and launched the celebrity-driven television show "Entertainers with Byron Allen," a weekly, one hour program profiling the most current stars in film and television.


EUR Gets Sneak Peek At 'Dreamgirls'

Excerpt from

(August 18, 2006) *Monday night EUR was among a handful of media outlets and influential persons that were invited by the DuVernay Agency to attend a special screening of selected scenes from the highly anticipated film "
Dreamgirls." The event was held at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.  In case you hadn't heard, the movie stars Beyonce, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose.  While we can't confirm the budget, it's obvious from the look of it that Dreamworks and Paramount spent mega millions to make the musical. It easily could have cost north of $75 million. That's unheard of for a movie with a black cast – even one this great.  All we can say is when this movie comes out make sure you purchase your tickets in advance 'cause we have a feeling that this one will pack them in at the box office and tickets might be scarce opening weekend.  If you're wondering, the singing and stage production is unbelievable and the acting is top notch. (Yep, Miss B has stepped up her game in that department, too). Several scenes blew our minds: Eddie Murphy's James Brown-like singing and performing along with his patented comedic antics. Also, Beyonce's incredible beauty is highlighted like never before in a photo shoot montage that's breathtaking. Come to think of it, every scene we saw was mind blowing. Oh yeah, it's a cinch for multiple Academy Award nominations, too. In particular, there's already Oscar buzz for Jennifer Hudson's portrayal of Effie.   Speaking of Hudson, after the screening we were directed to an outer room for refreshments and a special treat from the singer (and now actress).

The now slimmer and trimmer vocalist, who came to prominence on "American Idol," treated us to three songs accompanied by a pianist. Afterwards, while meeting and greeting well wishers, Hudson reflected on her performance and told us her dream has been realized.  "I always wanted to do 'Dreamgirls' on Broadway and I wound up in the movie of 'Dreamgirls' and to sit back and watch and say I did that? I'm in a movie? It's a dream. It's nothing short of it," she told us.  Hudson also admitted that she always dreamt of doing Effie as well because she is a huge fan of Jennifer Holliday, who created the part on Broadway. "I grew up singing 'I'm Changing' and 'I'm Telling You' just for my performance songs and now it's my music and I'm going to be singing this for the rest of my life,” Hudson said. “And  ... c'mon now, Jennifer Holliday ... I think she is one of the greatest vocalists of all times. To be able to shadow her, to come behind her and do this, are you serious? I get to be the one?! I think the world of her.”  "Dreamgirls," written for the screen and directed by Bill Condon, will be released on December 22. For more visit  

Summary/plot of "Dreamgirls" from

Effie White, Deena Jones, and Lorrell Robinson - three friends from Chicago - are a promising singing trio called The Dreamettes. Accompanied by their songwriter C.C. White (Effie's brother), they travel to New York to compete in a talent show at the Apollo Theatre. Although the girls lose this first bid for fame, their talent attracts an ambitious manager by the name of Curtis Taylor, Jr., who uses unscrupulous tactics to move the girls from backup singers of superstar James "Thunder" Early to superstars of their own. Curtis reshapes the group to "crossover" from R & B to the lucrative pop music scene. Lead singer Effie gets replaced by the more attractive Deena and is eventually dropped from the trio. The group evolves into a more sophisticated group, The Dreams, with a lighter sound and chic look. They successfully attract a "whiter" audience and The Dreams rise to international stardom. The money, fame, and adulation, however, doesn't bring them happiness. Deena decides to leave The Dreams and pursue a film career, and when the group finally learns of Curtis' drug problems and payola schemes, they decide to let it all go. At the final appearance of The Dreams, they reunite with Effie for one final number. The score includes And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going, I Am Changing, One Night Only, Fake Your Way to the Top, When I First Saw You, Dreamgirls, Steppin' to the Bad Side, and Cadillac Car.

Two Young Actors Skip Class To Play Key Roles In Oliver!

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Aug. 19, 2006) One of the more heart-warming performances at the
Stratford Festival this season comes from an actor who, nine months ago, had never heard of the place or set foot on a professional live stage. In fact, when he was called for his first-ever audition at Stratford, Tyler Pearse's entire acting career consisted of one commercial and one movie role as a walk-on extra. The audition was for the title role in Oliver!, Lionel Bart's popular 1960 adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel that the Stratford Festival had already announced as its signature musical for the 2006 season. Director Donna Feore and husband Colm (as master pickpocket Fagin) were already onboard. The search was on for a child actor who could embody Oliver's angelic innocence and plucky spirit.  It's safe to assume there was some pressure. Feore had already decided that Oliver was to be played by one actor for the entire run, eschewing the normal practice of rotating the taxing part between two (or more) young performers. A miscast Oliver can inflict some serious damage on the production which, in turn, can handicap its box-office chances. And the Stratford Festival's budget depends heavily on the revenue from musicals at the Festival Theatre. . Seven months after landing the part and five months into the production's run, Pearse, 10, can still recall his feelings during that first audition in January and the three callbacks that followed. "It was a little bit nerve-wracking," he said last week in a interview in Stratford. "It's you with a song that you're going to sing in front of three people in an empty room. And a piano. So yeah, I was a little bit nervous."

So nervous perhaps that his mind has blocked the audition details. He can't remember which song he used in the first audition. It was one of many he learned as a member of a children's choir in Mississauga, Ont., where he lives with his parents and his 13-year-old brother.  In person, Pearse seems even smaller, younger and more innocent than he looks on stage. It's hard to equate this 10-year-old with all that talk about under-12s facing criminal trials in Canadian courts. He's in the habit of looking at his father, who sat through the interview, before answering questions, not for approval but reassurance.  The multiple auditions were the first and easy part. Pearse then had to juggle grade-four schoolwork and a six-days-a-week rehearsal schedule. To make it as easy as possible, Tyler's parents rented a house in Stratford and transferred him to a local school.  "His teacher would put away stuff for Tyler to do during the week," says his father, Paul, who runs a warehouse that distributes personal-hygiene products across the country. "At the end of the week, Tyler would hand it back and they'll have the next batch for him to do." Tyler only attended school like a regular kid on Mondays, his day off from rehearsals. The rest of the week, he did his homework at night at home and sent it back to the school.  It would be great (in a sensational sort of way) to report that the rehearsal hall was a Dickensian workhouse of order and discipline, that mistress Feore was cracking the whip and putting the fear of the theatre gods into Pearse and other child actors, or that stories of abuse, hunger and Hollywood-style, studio-era manipulation were heard in the corridors. Not a chance, says Pearse. The rehearsals were tough, but everybody was "really, really nice."  With more than 50 performances to his name since the show's opening on May 30, Pearse says he's no longer nervous about going onstage. On performance days, he doesn't do any strenuous activity, and his pre-show routine is down to an exact science. (Science, incidentally, is his favourite subject in school.) "We come here two hours before the show," he explains. "We have makeup on. We have a vocal warm-up and I'm in the fight warm-up. We get ready and go on stage."

He hopes to land more acting work in the future, but he'd prefer something along the lines of an action and adventure film to singing Victorians. He adores Johnny Depp and has seen the first two instalments of Pirates of the Caribbean more than once. "Film work is easier than theatre," he says. "Theatre is live and if you mess up, everyone sees it. But in movies if you mess up, they can stop and redo it." If Pearse seems a very young 10, his co-star Scott Beaudin is more typical of a 14-year-old showbiz kid. He's done commercials, voice-overs and considerable TV work, mostly as a guest star on several miniseries -- "usually the child of a suspect," he says. He's poised, articulate and in the habit of saying things like, "I've kept the house in Stratford," or "I stay here when there are three performances in a row so I don't have to drive back and forth."  What the Hamilton native, who starts grade nine in just over two weeks, means is that one of his parents stays with him in Stratford or drives him between the two cities. Such an independent spirit is in keeping with the character he plays, The Artful Dodger, who invites Oliver to London's underground of petty criminals and considers himself at home. Like Pearse, he completed most of his academic work by correspondence last year. Although he thinks school is a "chore" and is "not too upset" to have been away most of the last academic year, Beaudin confesses he misses a normal education -- "to sit down and actually focus, have a teacher sitting over me and telling me what to do." While his older co-stars were sick with anxieties as the run approached, and with stage fright before actual performances, Beaudin barged in fearlessly. "We just knew our stuff so well that no matter how nervous you got, there was no way of screwing up," he explains. "I knew my dance steps inside out." Chances are he won't sign on for another project that will dominate more or less a year of his life. "I've done nothing I've had to commit to for this long before," he says. "I don't think there's anything you have to commit to for an entire year, unless you're filming The Lord of the Rings or something."

Bridging Reason And Faith

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Richard Ouzounian

(Aug. 22, 2006) Bertolt Brecht died 50 years ago this month and no greater tribute could have been offered to him than the National Theatre's powerfully chilling production of
The Life of Galileo. The story of the famed Renaissance astronomer, who faced execution at the hands of the Catholic Church, merely because he insisted the Earth moved around the sun and not vice versa, now seems more relevant than ever. In a world where truth is ever elusive and those in power will do anything to hide it from the rest of us, there is no better company or fitter hero than Galileo Galilei. Self-indulgent, self-obsessed, mentally sharp and physically flabby, he is in many ways the least likely of secular saints. In Howard Davies' modern-dress production, he's played with rare brilliance by Simon Russell Beale. In a rumpled linen suit, swigging at a bottle of Johnny Walker and dusting himself with a perpetual shroud of cigarette ash, he seems just one step removed from the gutter. Yet, even though he lands there occasionally, he is always — to echo Oscar Wilde — looking at the stars. And what he finds up there in the heavens is the key to opening the last locked door of the Middle Ages and allowing the full glow of enlightenment to shine through. The Catholic Church claimed the Earth stood still. Galileo insisted it moved. The one who was right would set the course for the future. This may sound like dry and intellectual stuff, and for some people the mere mention of the word "Brecht" produces instant slumber.

But that's without counting on the impressive bench strength that the National can bring to a production like this. The translator, to begin with, is no half-baked German scholar writhing through a mass of footnotes, but David Hare, one of the most dramatically and politically astute minds in our theatre. Davies, the director, is a man of impeccable credits, who combines the rare gifts of being able to paint on an epic canvas while still knowing how to illuminate the smallest personal details. And Beale, of course, is one of the modern stage's treasures, a crumpled hedgehog of a man, devoid of conventional physical glamour, who still somehow manages to command our attention the way no conventional Adonis ever could. What does he do to Galileo? He presents him as neither sinner nor saint. He's a man who won't hesitate to claim another's invention as his own if it will help him make a point. He destroys his daughter's chances for married happiness, risks the lives of all around him and doesn't think twice about what he's doing. Yet underneath, he is terrified of many things. When finally faced with the Inquisition, there is no need to apply torture to get him to recant. "They showed me the instruments," is his quiet admission of all it took to make him step down from his pedestal. The play runs over three hours, but you'd never know it, thanks to the tag team of Hare, Davies and Beale. They make Galileo's story more thrilling than any Da Vinci Code could ever hope to be.

As usual at the National, the rest of the team is first-rate as well. The design of Bunny Christie is a marvel of structural beauty and precision, using the revolving stage as a metaphor for the whirling of the solar system. The supporting cast is too full of gems to mention them all, but Elizabeth Dermot Walsh is immensely touching as Galileo's daughter and Bryan Dick has all the right intensity as his leading disciple. But in the end, it's Beale you will rightly remember. Even in the final scene, when, nearly blind, he staggers around the set like a character from Beckett while waiting for a goose dinner, he still sets an incandescent intellectual fire blazing through the underbrush of compromise and collusion that surrounds him. "Truth is the child of time," he finally proclaims, "and is not the prisoner of authority." It seems that Brecht indeed had truth on his side — even if it took some people 50 years to realize it. This production runs in London until Oct. 31. If you're on the other side of the Atlantic, do anything you can to see it, even if you have to try to make the Earth stand still.


Chappelle's Fans Have Last Laugh

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Raju Mudhar, Staff Reporter

(Aug. 22, 2006) Although the tickets said 7:30, an hour later there was still no sign of the comedian. It got to the point that the capacity crowd for the first of
Dave Chappelle's four sold-out shows at Massey Hall began cheering every time it looked like the warm-up deejay was about to stop, in hopes of bringing the main man out.  But after he blazed through a wicked 75-minute set, no one remembered the wait. Wearing a grey shirt with "Power, Corruption and Lies" stencilled on it, blues jeans and white kicks, the man took the stage at 8:45 to a raucous ovation. Looking fit and trim, he used the night to make with the funny, but also to tell his side of his own story.  Honestly, it felt like this current tour is a way for the fans to check up on Chappelle, and he wants them to know he's okay. The man made headlines after signing a $50 million deal last year with Comedy Central for his hit sketch program, Chappelle's Show, but in the middle of the third season of production he abruptly quit — fuelling rumours of drug use and mental instability — and eventually left for Durban, South Africa.  He walked away from the contract, although recently Comedy Central released the odds and sods collection of the third season on DVD.  Chappelle has since done selective high-profile interviews, with the likes of Esquire and Oprah Winfrey, often saying he left because during one particular skit where he wore blackface, he heard a crewmember chuckle and he felt "like they were laughing at me, not with me." After quitting, he returned to his first love, stand-up, which is why he's in Toronto.

It's not like the mystery has deterred his fans. The shows sold out in four minutes and, considering some people in the crowd knew a few of the punch lines, it's obvious some folks are following him around.  It's impossible to tell most of Chappelle's jokes in a family newspaper. Sprinkled with profanities, mostly motherf---er and bitch, he was everything his fans expected. He moved through his racially charged humour but also talked about sex, drugs and politics in his breezy, casual style.  Make no mistake, despite quitting his day gig, his fans are still completely onside, and Chappelle is smart enough to milk it, making fun of the media sensation but also using the stage to explain why he did what he did. He chalked much of it up to the deteriorating state of America, and also praised Canada.  "Thank God for Canada. Otherwise Americans wouldn't have a place to get away to," he said. "It's a little closer than Africa . . . Your s--- is freer up here."  About the media frenzy that he caused: "They called me a crackhead in Newsweek. I'm never going to forget that. Even when I read that I was like, `do I smoke crack?'"  Like the shirt he was wearing, Chappelle — who's always been observational with his material — was a bit more overtly political than his previous recorded stand-up.  Talking about the Iraq war and the truths his countrymen can't afford to tell themselves, he said: "What if the truth is that America is living a lifestyle it can't afford? America is living like MC Hammer did. He got a $30 million record contract but bought a $29 million house."  Throughout his set he touched on everything from Mel Gibson ("His career's not over, he made an action movie about Jesus") to AIDS, Canadian health care, his wife, masturbation, porn, and even got a SARS shot in ("Everybody looking like Michael Jackson. It's like there's an outbreak of Ninjutsu in Canada.")  It was a great show, and a good way to check up on the man. And, although I'm sure he knows it — Dave, we're definitely laughing with you. Keep it coming, however you like.

Kenyan Novelist, 68, Refuses To Be Silenced

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Freeman, Special To The Star

(Aug. 19, 2006) Forces within Kenya have tried to silence the voice of
Ngugi wa Thiong'o twice.  In 1977, future president Daniel arap Moi threw him into a maximum-security prison without trial for co-authoring a play critical of the government. Ngugi was released a year later, and eventually left the country fearing for his own safety in 1982.  For a while it looked like he would never return. "Moi used to say, `I can forgive anybody but Ngugi,'" says the 68-year-old novelist today at his home in Irvine, Calif.  So when Moi agreed to abide by term limits, and his handpicked successor lost in the presidential elections, Ngugi realized he had a chance to go home.  It was good timing. He had just completed a six-volume satirical novel called Murogi wa Kagogo — a ribald satire of a fictional African dictator. It was also the longest novel ever written in his native Gikuyu language, one of 40 languages in Kenya.  He decided to turn his homecoming into a book tour and lecture circuit.  He brought his wife and his children. "At the airport the crowds were there," he remembers, "some weeping, some holding on to books. All the newspapers headlined my talk."  "Some of the books were covered in dirt," his wife, Njeeri, remembers. "Because they had to bury them — to hide them — when his books were banned."  And then things went horribly awry. On Aug. 11, 2004, intruders broke into the apartment where they were staying. "We felt that this was no ordinary robbery," Ngugi recalls, "because they didn't take anything first, they just sort of hung around, waiting for something to happen.

"Quite frankly, I thought we were going to be eliminated."  They managed to escape that fate, but not without suffering. Ngugi's wife was stabbed and raped in front of him. When Ngugi tried to intervene he was burned with cigarettes on his forehead and arms.  The couple emerged from the hospital a day later, and Ngugi issued a profoundly sad but generous statement. "We have to keep rising up," he said. "The Kenyans who attacked me do not represent the spirit of the new Kenya."  Messengers then came to the hospital to warn his wife against speaking out: "We do not speak of that in this country," she remembers being told.  Neither Ngugi nor his wife has complied. While the robbery and rape trial drags on, Njeeri has spoken about her experience, and Ngugi laboured to translate his magnum opus from Gikuyu into English, no small feat given that the book runs to 766 pages. It is now being published as Wizard of the Crow (Knopf, $40).  Sitting on his back patio before a garden of mangoes and avocado trees grown by his wife, water trickling from a fountain, Ngugi explains why he feels it was essential to write Wizard of the Crow in Gikuyu.  "If I had published this book first," he said, holding up the English edition, "this book," he says, patting the Kenyan edition, "would not exist."  Set in the fictional African republic of Aburiria, the novel conjures a ruler who has surrounded himself with comically sycophantic cabinet ministers. One has surgically enlarged his ears to prove he always has an ear to the ground, the other has had plastic surgery on his eyes, to show he has his eyes on the public. For the ruler's birthday, this group suggests building a tower up to heaven so that the ruler can speak to God directly.

For funding, Aburiria's majestically self-important ruler turns to the Global Bank for cash, but he must constantly fight against the mockery of his public. An underground resistance called Movement for the Voice of the People protests his ceremonies, while long lines of unemployed workers betray his failure to provide for his people.  At the crux of the resistance are a young beggar named Kamiti, and a revolutionary he falls in love with named Nyawira. Kamiti discovers he has the capabilities of a seer when he sets up shop as a fictional wizard, dispensing advice to people who want to crush their enemies.  Nyawira occasionally sits in for him when he cannot make his engagements.  "The trickster character is very important in this book," says Ngugi.  "All the characters perform themselves; they are inventing themselves all the time." This is especially true of the ruler, whose sense of self-importance is so large he literally becomes the body politic. When the state becomes buoyant with the possibility of improvement, he swells up like a hot air balloon, causing speculation as to whether a curse has been put upon him.  "The playfulness with language you find in the novel is very much to do with the language it was written in," says Ngugi. "Pregnancy is a phrase as well as a term in Gikuyu. So when there are strange things happening, you say she is pregnant — as with possibilities. So it's a kind of warning. You might say: the situation is pregnant."  Although the leader's westernized suits recall Moi's jackal dapperness, Ngugi insists this is not just a novel about Kenya and the failures of Western aid. "I was drawing from lots of Third World dictatorships: I was thinking of Moi, but also of Mobutu, Idi Amin and Pinochet. They were all on my mind."

"In 1982 when I was exiled I was based in London and I worked on the committee for the release of political prisoners in Kenya. I worked closely with people from Chile, from the Philippines. I carried the images of those people with me."  Ngugi lived with Wizard of the Crow for 10 years, but it almost seems that now the book is finally done he is happier talking about other things.  Since 2003, he has been distinguished professor of the humanities and director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine. Among his duties for the latter, he has been running workshops, panels and giving residencies to writers working in marginalized languages. He also edits a journal in the Gikuyu language.  "What is so devastating in a dictatorship is the taking away of a voice," he says. And the prevalence of English in the world, he argues, has only sharpened that blade against the larynx of indigenous peoples.  So Ngugi has been unbending in this arena. He began writing fiction in Gikuyu while he was in prison 30 years ago, scribbling out a novel on toilet paper, and has never turned back. This has made his job a little harder, even as the circumstances of writing Wizard of the Crow were much cushier than before.  "I began it in Orange, New Jersey, and I finished in Orange County," he says. And yet this book's flavour is anything but sweet.

John Freeman is president of the National Book Critics Circle in the U.S.

How To Party Like A VIP

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Alwynne Gwilt, Entertainment Reporter

(Aug. 19, 2006) We've all been there. It's a hot summer night and the weekend has arrived. The best antidote to the stressful workweek would be a strong martini and some sexy tunes. But the last thing you want is to wait 45 minutes in line to get into one of the city's hottest clubs. That's a definite buzz kill and a certain blood-pressure enhancer.  After my own misfortunes lining up at a certain west-end club that shall remain nameless, I wondered what it would take to get the VIP treatment and bypass the lineup at one of the more upscale places on a busy night. On that particular evening, I had gone to celebrate my birthday with a small group of friends.  I walked up to the jumble of a line shimmying my way to the front, to speak with the bouncer. "How many?" he asked me. "Only five," I replied. "Wait two minutes and there should be no problem," he said. Figuring I was in, I motioned my friends — two girls, two guys — to the front. We waited. And we waited. And watched the slinky-dressed divas float by into the club; and the wrist-banded chicas who apparently were on a guest list.  After 15 minutes, my friends and I were frustrated. I motioned to the bouncer and he coolly strode over, asking, "Is there any particular reason you need me over here?" I swear I saw a sneer.  "You said two minutes; it's been 15," I replied.  "Well, what can you do for me?" he said nonchalantly, obviously wondering how much I would pay him. Annoyed, my friends were ready to depart. My boyfriend told me this club wasn't worth our time. After another 10 minutes of getting crushed by dozens of anorexic bodies, I finally told the bouncer he wasn't getting anything extra out of us. But my curiosity was piqued. Like the apple Eve just couldn't have, my temptation to get into one of these clubs sans hassle was decidedly heightened.

I started in on some research, finding a well-known club manager to chat with. Mike Chalut has worked at Lobby, at Bloor St. W. near Avenue Rd., and is now manager and VIP host for Ultra Supper Club on Queen St. W. He's dealt with them all, from Hollywood superstars to Toronto's big shots.  "As simple as it sounds, coming to the door with self-confidence and the right attitude is a huge thing," he tells me over the smooth tunes that indicate the club is gearing up for a steamy night. "It's not about having $55 million in the bank or $5 in the bank; it's how you carry yourself.  "You can easily go to H&M and get an upscale shirt but not spend the money."  Chalut adds that name-dropping is not the key to a successful line-skip, because that can often go terribly wrong.  "My favourite line is when I'm outside and they come up to me and say, `I'm friends with Mike Chalut,'" he says, laughing and adding that people try everything from dressing up like a celebrity, to bringing rented security guards to get in.  "It's about being nice.... The doorman has to be your friend.... He's the one that controls everything," says Chalut, who still remembers the difficulty he had trying to get into the Big Easy when he first arrived from Windsor.  I think over what Chalut has told me. Maybe I wasn't confident enough when I strode up to the doors of that club. Or maybe I just didn't know the correct way to act. He tells me that large groups of guys are also a no-no because of the "rowdy" factor. And he adds that people under 25 can also be a problem because many posh clubs are attempting to be "Hollywood's hangout."  "You don't want to have people who are going to get really hammered, and fall down and go boom; you want people who know how to party and look sophisticated," he says.  With this in mind I decide to formulate my own tricks of getting into these places. These are a few suggestions:

·  Guest of Honour. If you call a few days ahead of time you have a chance of getting on the guest list. This tactic doesn't guarantee a quick entrance because there's often a line even for the special crowd. And sometimes the list is just plain ignored. 
·  By the Bottle: Touted as the hot new thing in this city, shelling out for bottle service will get you in with plenty of servers ready to wait on your every move. At $160 for a bottle of champagne, grab seven friends to split the cost and you'll be guaranteed VIP treatment. 
·  The Entourage: Get a big group of friends, dress to the nines, rent a limo for the shortest possible time allotment (to save for drink funds) and wear big sunglasses. You might just be able to fake being the next big thing, especially during the film festival. The bouncer will be so stunned by your presence, he won't even ask for I.D.  Of course, nothing would be more humiliating than to go through all this trouble only to be rejected. It is at this point you go to the final desperate step. 
·  The Payoff: If all else fails, slip the doorman a $20. Don't be rude about it because that could make him angry. Many clubs have no strict policy on this; some bouncers may turn you down while many others will be more than happy to pocket some extra bills. 
Armed with knowledge, I returned to the scene with a few extra tricks up my sleeve.

Attempt No. 1: Credentials Friday 11 p.m.: I get out of the taxi a block away. I'm worried even though I called ahead. The conversation went smoothly enough. I told the hostess I was working on a story about clubbing for the Star and that I wanted to make sure there would be no hassles when I got to the door. With my boyfriend in tow, we make our way to the sexy entrance that is Lobby. To fit in, I've even put on my pair of Carrie Bradshaw Manolo Blahnik knockoffs.  The bouncer looks at me and says, "Sorry, private party tonight." I wince, just briefly, but I say, "I'm on the list," as confidently as possible. "Go right in ma'am," says the bouncer, lifting the velvet rope. I try not to smirk. I'm in, and he didn't even ask for any I.D. Couldn't anyone do this?  Theoretically, anyone could pretend to be someone they're not — print up some impressive-looking business cards, perform your best Keira Knightley accent, assume the air of an exotic visiting dignitary or a rising media tycoon. The worst that could happen is you get laughed at and turned away, and your face will soon be forgotten among the thousands of patrons who visit the club in a night. The best: People believe your fib and you get the royal treatment all night.

Attempt No. 2: I'm meeting somebody  Saturday, 11 p.m.: This time I'm taking a gal pal who has happily volunteered saying, "I'm just your sexy accessory ... apply me at will." We decide to conquer Yorkville first, thinking it will be the toughest. I walk up to Amber nightclub's covered entrance and the sophisticated doorman asks if we have reservations.  "We're actually meeting someone here for drinks," I say, the words tumbling out before I can stop them. "Did she make reservations?"  I look to my friend who plays up the puzzled expression. "I think she did," I say, trying not to go red. "Did Angie make reservations? She told us to meet her at 10:30. What time is it now?"  "I'll just give her a call," she says. We move to the side. "We're so not getting in," I think. "There's no answer," she says, looking sadly at the other doorman.  "Don't worry," says the first. "We'll let you in."  "Will that be for bottle service or just cocktails this evening?" asks the woman on his right. "Oh just cocktails," I say nonchalantly, my confidence rising. We're let in and head down the steep stairs, wandering to the far back of the restaurant and up to the softly lit patio. "That was excellent," exclaims my friend.  We sidle up to the bar, order a couple of martinis from the sexy bartender and settle in. People are friendly, not snobby like I anticipated. The only problem: how do we get out?

Attempt No. 3: The celebration 12 p.m.: After a dramatic fake entrance, yelling on the phone to our imaginary friend "Angie" — who had decided to abandon us for a fight with her boyfriend — my now-drunken accessory and I catch a cab to head over to The Brant House on King. St. W. I had planned to use the "we know someone inside" line for this club, so I'm a bit more nervous walking up to the doors.  I pretend we're celebrating. My friend here has just landed a fantabulous interview at Vogue in Paris and they're paying her way there! With some liquid courage edging me on we approach the door but are stopped suddenly, only metres away.  "Just the two of you?" a broad and tall man who's obviously important asks us.  "Yes, just the two of us," I say, attempting to use what I've learned from Chalut about looking confident."See that guy over there?" he says pointing to a man standing by the front entrance. "He'll take care of you."  I'm puzzled. I haven't even made it to the door yet and there's a line to the end of the block. We walk to the front, and the man — sure enough — lets us in, wishing us a good evening.  That's it? I figure there must be a way to make this more challenging and head past the throngs of dancers to the VIP section. "Can we come up? It's much too crowded down there and I want to use my VISA," I say to the six-footer holding the rope to the off-limits section. "To open up a tab?" he says. "Of course," I add, throwing in a wink. "Just the two of you? Come up then." Easy as pie.

Most valuable lesson: Leave the entourage at home. If you want to enter a busy nightclub hassle-free, your best bet is to be young, female and free of male company.

Margaret Atwood - Have you Always Been Funny?

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Aug. 19, 2006) MOOSE JAW, SASK.

Ian Brown: First I want to talk about
The Tent, your latest book, and I'm gonna start with the dark stuff, if you don't mind. At least six of the stories in here seem to be about a writer contemplating his or her life's work, not always in the most positive way, sort of looking back thinking, "What was all this fuss about?" And I happened to be reading this at the time that I also read an essay by Alice Munro — you know she's not writing any more; it makes her too anxious — and I thought, well, there's these essays in here about, you know, "Writing! Meh!"

Margaret Atwood: Not yet.

Brown: Good. I'm relieved to hear that. If you don't mind my asking, has getting older changed the way you write? Does it make it harder?

Atwood: Well, let me just tell you a little story about myself as a teenager. When I first started writing I was 16, and I started writing all the things I still write, and among those things is prose fiction.   I wrote a short story about this really, really old, older than old, old woman, who was no hope, I mean no hope. She was just all kind of dried up and depressed and wrinkly and just end of the road, and she had this horrible job teaching high-school students, such as myself, and she was at the unimaginably old age of 40.  So, it's relative. But when you're older, you do know more of the plot, insofar as the plot relates to yourself. You kind of know how it came out — not the very last chapter, but of 40 chapters, you know up to maybe chapter 35. That's why people in their 20s are really quite anxious.  Alice might be anxious now about writing, but she's not anxious about how her life went because she already knows that, okay?  But when you're in your 20s, you really don't know, "How is it all gonna turn out?" So you just know more when you're older, you have a wider range. Although younger people have no problem making up what it's like to be older. But they are making it up.  It's sort of like writing about a foreign country to which you've never been.

BROWN: So when you write in this book, "It's begun to happen," or when the narrator in this book says, "It's begun to happen."

ATWOOD: This is the piece called Voice.

BROWN: Which is a beautiful piece. They're almost, do you call them short stories? I call them prayers. They remind me of [Samuel] Beckett in a way. They're almost incantations.

ATWOOD: Some of them are. I call them mini-fictions, and when I'm trying to describe the book, I say it's like those boxes of chocolates that you used to get called a sampler. Each chocolate would be different but what they had in common was that they were all chocolates, and they were all a certain size. So they're all different, but they're all fictions and they're all a certain size.

BROWN: Well, in Voice, you say: "It's begun to happen. The shrivelling. Only I have noticed it so far." This refers to the voice?

ATWOOD: Yes. The person speaking in Voice is a singer. And singers' voices usually go a bit earlier than writers' voices do, although sometimes, because I read late Tennyson, sometimes you wish that writers had stopped a little bit earlier. But a singer knows because they can't hit the high notes any more — your voice lets you know that. But it's an analogous thing. Let me put it this way: I said to my agent, who's about my age: "When I get like that, you've got to tell me." And she said: "I won't be able to because I'll be like that myself."  And by "like that," I mean that my dilemma [now] is I could publish the telephone book and some publisher would buy it.

BROWN: And I personally would read it.

ATWOOD: Yeah, once. You might read it once.

BROWN: So you do think about it, though?

ATWOOD: Oh yes, yeah. Because you don't want to be in the position, um, in which you start believing your own billboards. You know, that's quite fatal.

BROWN: I want to ask you a little bit about being famous. In this book there are gentle, and sometimes not-so-gentle stories about fame and the way people react to fame. But I was surprised to read that when you published The Edible Woman, one of your first public appearances was signing books — it can't be true — at the men's sock and underwear department at The Bay?

ATWOOD: In Edmonton.

BROWN: No wonder you have an apocalyptic view.

ATWOOD: Well it was the publicist's first week on the job. But I don't know why they put us there. I was there with a male Albertan historian, selling his history book, and I was selling in the men's sock and underwear department, which was right near the escalator. They must have thought, "Oh good, right near the escalator, people will see it." So, I'd see these guys on their lunch hour. I like to think they were oil tycoons — they probably weren't though, they probably worked in the bank — coming in to pick up their jockey shorts, taking one look at The Edible Woman, and literally running in the other direction. And it was winter, so they all had their rubbers on — their toe rubbers.

BROWN: It could have gone the other way, you know.

ATWOOD: It didn't. It was just too scary, way too scary for them.

BROWN: You know the other thing that always surprises me every time I read you. You're a serious writer and you're a serious person and a serious thinker . . . but you're very funny.

ATWOOD: What can I do? It's an act.

BROWN: Have you always been funny? Were you funny up in northern Ontario, growing up there?

ATWOOD: I've been pretty funny from time to time. But I wasn't always funny all the time. In fact I'm not funny all the time. Just ask Graeme [Gibson]. Um, that's my guy.

BROWN: You've written very beautifully about women trying to be taken seriously in novels and essays. And you write in this book about being a woman, a young woman, a woman period, in the fifties and early sixties, late forties. It's almost become artifactual.

ATWOOD: Oh, this is Winter's Tales, in which the narrator is in fact trying to astonish and horrify the young, which is what older people try and do quite a lot of the time. It's like that skit, I think it was Monty . . . no, it was Beyond the Fringe, about how poor they were. So the person in the book is doing this about all these things that happened to you when you were a woman before the audience that she's addressing, before these people were born.

BROWN: Can you mention a couple of those now? Tell me about, for instance, I'm not even sure what this garment is, the rubber . . .

ATWOOD: Playtex rubber panty girdle? That one?

BROWN: The thing that makes the sound like marsh gas coming out when you pull it down?

ATWOOD: That's a different piece. That's a different poem. That would be the two-way stretch girdle. BROWN: Can you explain the difference?

ATWOOD: All right, do you really want to know this?

BROWN: I was fascinated. I was reading this thing and I thought: "My God, it's medieval! Oh wait a minute, it's 1958!"

ATWOOD: Well, all you need to do is go to the reference library and get some old Eaton's catalogues, and you will know all.

BROWN: You said, famously, that survival and victimhood constitute the great theme of Canadian literature — surviving the climate, et cetera. In this globalized world, in a technologically sophisticated world, in a world that seems to happen faster, do you think that's still the great theme of Canadian writers or do you think it's changing?

ATWOOD: Okay, I published Survival in 1972. But it was a book which I could write in 1972, because there was so little material to be examined. You couldn't write it now because there's just too much. But you can say that some of the things in that book still hold true, and that usually the chapters go, "Here's what we've done, here's what we might consider doing in the future." And in many cases we have actually done that. In other words, we have now done what I said in 1972 that we were going to do. Creepy. Very creepy.

BROWN: Mm, seer-like almost.

ATWOOD: I'm not too fond of those kinds of things, but in some instances I'm not sorry that we're doing them. For instance, our attitude towards nature has changed quite a lot. We no longer see it as this monster to be fought, but as this treasure to be protected, and you're going to see more of that in the future because it will become more threatened. As for the survival theme, there's still a certain amount of it around. It's taken different forms. I suspect it will be back in yet another form, which is going to be connected with global warming. I hate to bring that dire subject into this pleasant auditorium, but I think it may be something like that. Anyway, you can't tell. You can't really predict the future at all. There's too many variables.

BROWN: Well, that is my last question. I had so many others, including, maybe you'll tell them about this anyway, about being the runner-up in the Consumers Gas Miss Homemaker Contest?

ATWOOD: Yes, I didn't win it. Yes, but you know it was good. I didn't win the doll's-dress sewing competition in Grade 3 either, but I got second prize. But it is a good preparation for things like the Governor-General's Literary Award and the Giller Prize. Consumers Gas Miss Homemaker, you had to go. I had a partner from my high school. We were the team. Why was I doing it? Because I made a wrong career choice. I took Home Ec instead of Typing. I shouldn't have done that. But I didn't know I was going to be a writer.

BROWN: Well, I'm surprised,  really . . .

ATWOOD: You had to cook the meatloaf, the peas and the baked potatoes, you had to iron the shirt, all with gas appliances, and you had to do a third gas-related thing that I can't remember. And you had to do them all really quickly. So we didn't win. But nonetheless, I know how to make a meatloaf, in case you're interested.

BROWN: Well you know I am, but I have to go. And we're all richer for it. Anyway, thanks very much. It was nice to talk to you.

Teen Choice Awards - Can K-Fed rap? Sadly, yes

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 21, 2006) UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. (AP) - Britney Spears' hubby Kevin Federline capped off the eighth annual
Teen Choice Awards on Sunday with an enthusiastic version of his single 'Lose Control' — his first time performing on network television.  It wasn't genius but it wasn't half bad either.  The bigger surprise, however, came in the form of pregnant presenter Spears, who wore a cleavage-baring dress and introduced her "man" onstage with a shout and a giggle.  "This show has been very good to me and my career over the years. And I'm hoping that it will be as good to our next performer," she said.  In a loose white shirt and white hat, Federline prowled and jumped around the stage, surrounded by young dancers.  "I ain't here to brag," he rapped in a tough-guy style.  American Idol judge Paula Abdul, when asked before the show what advice she would give the 28-year-old singer and rapper, didn't hesitate.  "Do what you gotta do and have fun," she said.  Federline, who married Spears in 2004, is expected to release his debut hip-hop album Playing With Fire in August. The tabloid-popular couple have an infant son, Sean Preston and they are expecting their second child.

With celebrities sweating in the late-summer heat, the show's mood was light and clothing sparse.  Hosts Jessica Simpson and comedian Dane Cook jump-started the broadcast, aired live on Fox from the Gibson Amphitheater in Universal City, with riffs on nominees including Pirates of the Caribbean.  Votes were cast by fans on various online sites for the hottest celebrities in television, music, fashion, sports and film.  Reese Witherspoon, who won best actress in a drama for her role in Walk the Line, said backstage her surfboard-shaped green and yellow award was going to her daughter.  "I love the younger fans," said Witherspoon, who spent the summer hanging out with her kids.  Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, who won for best movie liplock for their long smooch in The Lake House, joked backstage about their first respective kisses.  "I started out young. I was making out at nine years old like a bandit," said Bullock, who added she "didn't like being a teenager at all."  Girlish screams welcomed the handsome duo Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp, who each snagged an award for their swashbuckling parts in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which picked up seven honours.  Even potentially uncomfortable moments were smudged with humour.  "I just want to start off by saying, awkward, a little bit," said Nick Lachey, who won choice love song for What's Left of Me, his top-selling number recreating his publicized breakup with Simpson.  Performers other than Federline included breakout female musician winner Rihanna and V Cast Music winner Nelly Furtado, who donned snug-fitting jeans and a spangly black top to sing her hit song Promiscuous with producer Timbaland.  "If you truly want to be hot, be yourself," said choice hottie winner Jessica Alba.

Complete list of 2006 Teen Choice Awards winners


Action adventure — Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Actor, drama/action adventure — Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Actress, drama/action adventure — Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
Actor, comedy — Johnny Depp, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Breakout, female — Jessica Simpson, Dukes of Hazzard
Chemistry — Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, The Break-Up
Liplock — Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, The Lake House
Rumble — Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) v. Commodore (Jack Davenport), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Summer movie, action/adventure — Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest


Comedy/musical — High School Musical
Reality — American Idol
Actress, drama/action adventure — Rachel Bilson, The O.C.
Actor, comedy — Wilmer Valderrama, That '70s Show
Personality — Ashton Kutcher, Punk'd
Actress — Mischa Barton, The O.C.
Breakout show — So You Think You Can Dance
Breakout star — Zac Efron, High School Musical
Chemistry — Vanessa Anne Hudgens and Zac Efron, High School Musical
Summer TV series — So You Think You Can Dance


Single — Fall Out Boy, Dance, Dance
R&B artist — Rihanna
Rock group — Fall Out Boy
R&B/hip-hop track — Nelly Furtado, feat. Timbaland, Promiscuous
Rock track — Fall Out Boy, Dance, Dance
Love song — Nick Lachey, What's Left of Me
Breakout, female — Rihanna
Song of the summer — Nelly Furtado, feat. Timbaland, Promiscuous
V Cast Music artist — Nelly Furtado

Other awards:

Hottie female — Jessica Alba
Hottie male — Orlando Bloom
Comedian — Adam Sandler
Red carpet fashion icon, female — Jessica Alba
Red carpet fashion icon, male — Nick Lachey
Choice grill — Brooke Hogan
Action sports athlete, male — Shaun White

Former Hef Hutchmate Tells All

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Colin Hunter, Special To The Star

(Aug. 22, 2006) KITCHENER, Ont.—It sounds like the setup to a bawdy joke: did you hear the one about the female lawyer at the
Playboy mansionIzabella St. James giggles when she ponders the unusual journey that took her from a quiet upbringing in Kitchener to a couple of years living at Hugh Hefner's mansion.  "When I finally left the mansion and found myself in the outside world again, I was like, `Wow, what just happened?'" she said recently on the phone from her Los Angeles home.  What happened was she became one of a half-dozen live-in "girlfriends" of Hefner.  The details are outlined in her new book, Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion (Running Press Book Publishers).  "I didn't want to kiss and tell," said 30-year-old St. James, who was born Izabella Kasprzyk in Krakow, Poland.  "But our society is absolutely fascinated by sex. I'm giving them what they want to hear."  St. James hopes her book will not only titillate readers with juicy details but also overturn misconceptions.  "I'm tired of the stereotypes," she said. "People see a blond woman with a full figure and they think she's dumb, but that's not the case. I'm a very strong, independent, opinionated woman. Hef liked that in me."

St. James was a second-year student at Pepperdine University law school in Malibu when she met Hefner at a Hollywood nightclub five years ago. Hefner invited her to one of the frequent garden parties at the mansion, where women sunbathe, play volleyball and do other things clad only in bikinis that regularly occur in the imaginations of adolescent boys.  Though she expected a hedonistic sinfest, St. James was surprised by the relative cordiality of it all. It was only by fluke that she met Hefner again a year later in a Hollywood nightclub.  "He personally asked me to go on a date with him and some of his girlfriends," she said. (To clarify: "With Hef, there are always way too many girls around.")  "He was just basically wooing me, the way any boy would woo a girl," St. James said.  "Except he had a couple of other girlfriends already."  The dates were lavish and glitzy, but not X-rated. It would be months before she was physically intimate with Hefner, and such activities happened on a voluntary basis, she says.  St. James moved into the mansion as an official "girlfriend" in 2002 after finishing law school. The girlfriends were pampered with 24-hour room service and access to the mansion's pool, gym and legendary grotto.  "It's like a bubble. It's Hefworld. But when you've been living on the inside, it's like you get the Stockholm syndrome: you start to identify with the surroundings and people there."  She moved out of the mansion in 2004 amid infighting between two factions of Hefner's girlfriends.  Writing the book, she says, was a form of "therapy," a way to re-acclimatize herself to the relative normalcy of the outside world. She knows Hefner is none too pleased about it. She has read his comments in the New York Post's Page Six gossip column, in which he bemoans having "put her through law school" only to have her write a tell-all exposé.  This upsets St. James. "Let me get one thing straight," she said. "Hef did not contribute a dollar to my education." St. James's law career is on hold as she pursues modelling and acting gigs. She's co-starring in Thunder Over Reno, an aviation action flick "like Days of Thunder with Tom Cruise, but plane racing."



Tiger Wins

Excerpt from

(August 21, 2006) *
Tiger Woods was nearly impeccable en route to winning his 12th major Sunday at the 88th PGA Championship in Chicago. With a score of 18 under par, Woods earned his third career PGA Championship victory and second at the Medina golf course. “This is sweet, really sweet,” Tiger said after receiving the tournament’s Wannamaker trophy. “I was hitting alright, but I felt if I could just get the ball anywhere on the green, I felt like I could make anything today.” Going into the day tied for first place with Luke Donald at 14 under par, Tiger birdied the first hole Sunday and went on to birdie five more times to leave his competition in tatters. Dressed in his traditional Sunday red shirt, he stayed pretty much in the middle of the fairway off the tee and bogeyed only once on the 17th (3 times over the whole tournament). When it was all over, Tiger won by five strokes over Shaun Micheel (-13). Spaniard Sergio Garcia placed second at 12 under, followed by Adam Scott and Donald tied at -12.

Sony’s ‘NBA ‘07’ Picks Kobe For The Cover

Excerpt from

(August 22, 2006) *Here’s more proof that the 2003 scandal involving Los Angeles Lakers guard
Kobe Bryant and a woman accusing him of rape is no longer of concern to companies hoping to benefit from his star power.   Two years after his sexual assault case ended with the accuser refusing to testify, Bryant has been chosen by Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc to grace the cover of its new NBA ’07 videogame, due in stores this Fall.   "Kobe Bryant has distinguished himself as one of the truly elite players in the NBA and we are thrilled to have him represent NBA '07 as our newest cover athlete," said Sharon Shapiro, senior director, promotions and sports product marketing, Sony Computer Entertainment America. "With his explosive game and storied rise to the top of the NBA's ranks, Bryant is a great ambassador for NBA '07 and its unique gameplay-driven story mode ‘The Life: Vol. 2.’”    In “The Life: Vol. 2,” of the acclaimed Life Mode, players not only continue to experience the ups and downs of life in the NBA but will also delve further into team politics, press conferences, endorsement deals, and the contentious relationship between returning characters The Kid and Big W. “The Life Vol. 2” introduces the ability to play from the perspectives of both The Kid and Big W at various stages, further building the story of their rivalry and highlighting the glory and anguish of NBA stardom. Additionally, players can challenge Big W and others for league MVP honours based on overall skill progression and head-to-head match ups.    NBA '07 also features more than a dozen mini-games including favourites such as 21, Own the Court, and 3-Point Shootout. "Showtime Gameplay" returns, providing players the opportunity to manage and balance a variety of game time elements including temperamental crowds, eager teammates, and individual basketball skills.


Tips For Fitness In A Rush

By By Michael Stefano, Special for eFitness

Today's 9-to-5 means starting your day at 6 a.m. and hobbling home sometime after 8 p.m. For many people in this modern work force, the precious weekend remains their only refuge.  Here, you will learn:

·  Why mental and physical fatigue require recovery

·  Why exercising only once a week can be ineffective

·  How to perform mid-week active rest workouts

Beat Fatigue

But it's normal to feel exhausted even though you've sat on your butt all day. We live in a world where our energy requirements are very cerebral, and sometimes not much energy is left for physical work. Whether you're desk jockey or ditch digger, mental or physical exertion can create extreme fatigue.  Unfortunately, mental effort doesn't pack the same caloric burn. An article written as far back as 1930 (on the energy requirements of intense mental effort by American researchers, Francis and Cornelia Benedict) summed it up nicely.  The doctors reported that "even though a sustained mental effort produces a noticeable increase in heart rate and volume of air passing through the lungs, body heat production as a result of intense mental effort is never greater than 3 or 4 percent above normal, not nearly enough to effect overall caloric burn."  When working 60-plus hour weeks, longer workouts will have to be reserved for the week's end. A couple of mid-week mini-workouts can make a huge difference, keep your muscles and metabolism revved up AND still provide adequate recovery.  As a weekend athlete (or gym rat), you typically participate in some type of intense sport or physical exertion faithfully at every week's end, and then remain completely sedentary for the next five days.

You build strength, muscle tone and endurance, just to have it wane before your next strenuous session. There is too much recovery time between bouts, allowing all your gains to slip back to previous levels. There's pain AND no gain.  There's a simple way to reverse this process. Develop a simple, in-home, progressive routine, with as little as two or three exercises that don't take too much time or crush recovery. In other words, utilize an Active Rest approach.  Sort of an oxy-moron, active rest implies training at an intensity level that falls a bit under your maximum work capacity, but intense enough to maintain levels of fitness previously reached. You can also break the active rest program down into two sub categories.  Level One (Near Max Effort) will be performed at full intensity with an extreme effort exerted on every set but volume (total number of exercises and sets) will be substantially reduced. Level Two (Sub Max Effort) drops it down a notch to about half to three quarters of the effort needed at the first level. Reps, sets, and overall effort exerted should be moderate.  For example, at Level One, you do three sets of 12 reps of exercise A. When working at Level Two, do one or two sets at six to nine reps (using the same resistance). Below I'll structure a sample routine based on three classic and highly effective exercises that create a complete mini-workout routine.

Mid-Week Mini Workout

Exercise List Dumbbell Dead Lift (max goal of eight to 10 reps)

Incline Dumbell Press (max goal of 12 to 15)

One-Legged Leg Raise (max goal of 15 to 20)

Level 1: Near Max Effort

·  Select a resistance that allows you to hit muscle fatigue at suggested rep ranges

·  Do three sets of all three exercises (nine total sets)

·  Alternate exercises with one or two minutes of rest between each set

·  Keep moving while resting (walk, step in place, perform a stretch)

·  Increase rest between sets for more strength development

·  Decrease rest between sets for more endurance gains and toning

Level 2: Sub Max Effort

·  Do one or two sets of each exercise (three to six total sets)

·  Work with the same resistance, do only 50 percent to 75 percent of reps done at Level 1

·  Keep rest between sets the same or slightly longer

Alternate workouts performed at Level One with workouts at Level Two. Do as many workouts per week as your energy levels allow, but no more than three of each. Refer to the text and illustrations below for detailed exercise instruction.

Dumbbell Dead Lift

Position your body as shown. Feet are hip-width apart, straight or toed slightly out. Shins are kept as vertical as possible throughout the exercise. Back is tight and arched, your butt is way out behind you. Your head looks up. If your back rounds during the lift, switch to a lighter dumbbell.  Exhale, as you lift with the legs (push the floor away with your heels). Elbows remain locked out as your knees straighten, first bringing bar to knee level, then locking out your hips as you come to a full standing position.  Be sure to bring your shoulders back and down, as you completely straighten your back. Arms remain straight. Pause briefly while standing and inhale. Exhale and quickly (but with total control) lower the weight to the floor in exactly the reverse order (be sure the back never rounds).

Incline Press

Lie flat on a properly supported bench that's inclined to about 45 degrees. Start with two dumbbells you can safely handle at about shoulder level. Exhale, press both bells to the ceiling (forearms remain vertical with the heel of your hand under the weight (wrist not bent back). Inhale as you slowly and with total control lower both bells back to shoulder level.

Leg Raise

Lie in the position shown. Flatten your lower back to the floor as you hold one leg at 90 degrees (at both the hip and knee) for the entire set. The other leg kicks out and back to the chest in a very slow and controlled manner, all the while keeping the lower back pinned to the floor. This will take an intense abdominal contraction. Exhale as you bring your leg up, and inhale as you extend.

Your head, neck and shoulders also remain on the floor. To reduce intensity on this move, fix the knee of the working leg at 90 degrees so that all movement takes place at the hip joint. Extending the leg with the knee bent will result in the sole of your foot tapping the floor (versus full extension of the leg) before bringing knee toward chest.

To increase intensity, hold each extension (kick out) for a few seconds before returning the knee to the chest.



Motivational Note - The Secret To Getting Started With Your Goals

by Jason M. Gracia,

Someday ... It's a pretty useful word - someday. It gives people the chance to put everything off until another day. 'It will happen,' they tell themselves, 'but not right now.' Unfortunately, it hardly ever works this way. Millions of people will tell themselves that a happier, more successful life will happen someday - but it never will. They'll continue to put off the things they want to do with as they grow older and older, until the day comes when they run out of time. It's a sad situation, but you know as well as I do that it's true. So what can you do to avoid this trap? Let's find out.

It's Time for a Wake-Up Call

The first thing you need is a friendly wake-up call. To put it bluntly, this isn't a dress rehearsal. Excuse the cliché, but it sums up the problem quite well. People treat life like they're preparing for the 'real' thing. All of their somedays keep adding up until an entirely new life is planned to take place somewhere down the road; the happy, successful life they've always dreamed about. Until then, they drag through life looking forward to that magical 'someday.' Are you guilty of this? It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's only natural to put off things that scare us, to sidestep goals that require us to leave our comfort zone and take a risk. But now that you're aware that it's happening, you can't let it continue. You have to realize the truth, but before we get to that, I have a question for you.

Do you know what you want? It's not always an easy thing to figure out. And I know how confusing and frustrating it can be to not know what you want and what will make you happy. If you need help in this area, our latest resource, The Motivated Mind, can help. With insightful and eye-opening exercises it helps you uncover the goals and dreams that are right for you. To learn more, spend a few minutes at this address: