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Updated:  August 31, 2006

Days are getting shorter, evenings are getting cooler - luckily I like fall even though it's the precursor to the dreaded winter! 

This week features an interview with the new President of UMAC (the Urban Music Association of Canada),
Will Strickland, who has lots of insight as an 'Ameri-Canadian' working within our community - if you have any interest in our global imprint, please read this exclusive interview! 

Saying a fond farewell to
Mardi Gras Bistro this week as they close today!  Please see a little tribute below to our Chef Anthony Mair.

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.




Exclusive with the Ameri-Canadian Will Strickland

Will Strickland is the latest addition to the UMAC Board of Directors, appointed as President.  He has an extensive history in 'urban' music both in America and since 2001, in Canada.  His accomplishments and acumens are many, including being one of the youngest DJs and on-air personalities in America while still in high school.  Also, Will created and taught an influential course on Hip-Hop culture at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He has also worked for several of the record labels he once promoted including Uptown, Badboy, RCA and Epic/Sony Music. 

Today we get to know Will a little better and speak on what contributions Will has already brought, and intends to bring, not only to UMAC but to the urban community as a whole. 

What do you think that you can bring to the table as President of UMAC? 

I think that the people who chose me, just chose the most qualified person.  I feel that I have a wealth of experience, from an entrepreneurial sense, a business side, an industry side and from a cultural side.  Having those aspects come together and being a foundation for what I’m able to do with this association [UMAC] is essential to the growth and visibility of this brand.   My goal as an American here in Canada is to take it from being the Urban Music Association of Toronto and let it really represent what it is, the Urban Music Association of Canada.  There are so many talented people who can contribute to the association outside of the GTA. 

I bring leadership, determination, pride, professionalism, an understanding of the protocol and an ability to deliver on what I promise.  I don’t make promises I can’t deliver on.  So, we’re going to do what’s necessary to reinvigorate the brand, create brand identity and brand loyalty across this country, hopefully to the point where it is a more globally recognized brand. 

You refer to yourself as an "Ameri-Canadian".  What was the purpose in first coming to Canada?

I am THE Ameri-Canadian! (laughs)  Work and a woman brought me here, but we won’t go there. 

What message would you like to convey to the urban music community in Canada?

That as the President of UMAC, I hate the word “urban”.  Because it’s Black music.  White people, yellow people, red people – all kinds of people live in the urban area but ‘urban’ is only meant to signify or is it a cute word to say ‘Black’.  So, let’s call it what it is. 

Also, [the community here] is a growing, burgeoning scene that needs a place to grow and a place to be exposed.  With the lack of ‘urban’ radio stations in this country, it is incumbent upon organizations such as UMAC and individual artists not to wait, sit by and hope there is someone who will give you a record deal.  Be proactive instead of reactive and figure out different ways to expose yourself artistically not only here in Canada but globally.  

We have access to some of the greatest technology in the world yet we’re prone not to use it.  We’re more willing to sit back and complain about what we don’t have, as opposed to appreciating what we do have and creating new opportunities for ourselves.  And that’s a problem that we hope we can alleviate to a degree with some of the initiatives we are planning in the next couple of years with UMAC. 

What do you feel are the unique challenges that the Canadian music industry faces that perhaps global music industries do not?

Definitely the amount of opportunities and outlets for this kind of expression – this ‘urban’ expression are limited.  There is one urban radio station which in the very near future, may or may not be urban, that presents s a whole level of challenges.  Do we wait another 12 years for another license, or do we figure out ways to create an environment and a dynamic by which it is not so dependent upon traditional brick and mortar structures for exposure of your art.  I really believe in Internet and in the power of being able to spread your message quickly and efficiently from your bedroom if you so choose.  But some people are afraid of technology and they don’t trust it.  That will be to our detriment that we don’t show with some initiative the way that young people and artists as a whole can go out here and empower themselves. 

I know that you have studied hip-hop culture, not just the music – what do you think is the most common misconception when someone says ‘hip-hop’. 

There is no such thing as hip-hop music.  It’s rap music.  Rap is something you do.  Hip-hop is something you live.  Hip-hop is a culture, it’s a way of life, it’s not something you can put in a box, put on a shelf and sell it.  You can’t put it in a video in a thong and dance on a $200,000 car.  That is not hip-hop.  Rap is the business of emceeing.  Emceeing is one of the four basic principles of hip-hop culture. 

Which are?

1.  Emceeing
2.  DJing
3.  B-boying
4.  And Graffiti art.

Some people may know those principles by other names, and this is where the misinformation comes in - it is a very dangerous thing, misinformation.  Rap is the business of emceeing.  Breakdancing is the business of b-boying.  Turntablism is the business of DJing.  All these things have been commodified and there’s an industry that’s been created for them.  But if the rap industry died tomorrow, there would still be a kid in Brooklyn who shuts and locks his bathroom door in his house and takes his mother’s hairbrush and he starts rhyming in front of the mirror.  That’s his 20,000 seater, that’s his Madison Square Garden, that’s his Air Canada Centre.  And it’s not for money, it’s not for record sales, it’s not a record deal, it’s for love.  Hip-hop culture is love.  It’s something that is part of life. 

People do this whether there’s a cheque involved or not.  There’s  a kid who is doing capoeira in Brazil and he gets with some of his friends and they start playing some music and they start uprocking – that’s b-boying, that’s love.  There’s no money involved, they just do.  It has nothing to do with the commodification of the culture.  Those are two different things. 

What are your thoughts on the recent firings at FLOW 93.5 and the rumour that it’s format is changing to Top 40 as opposed to ‘urban’?

Well, the on-air personalities are not responsible for the numbers of the station at the end of the day.  They’re responsible to keep listeners there but I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that the music and the personalities don’t necessarily drive radio.  It’s the advertising dollars.  If you hear 53 club ads or 53 local ads and no national ads, then you know the radio station is not making money and somebody’s got to take the hit.   They’ve got to justify some of the money that they’re spending and you’ve also got to figure out a way to attract advertisers so that you can have that revenue in-house.

And does that mean going ‘non-urban’?

That seems to be the mentality in Canada.  Because even though this music - ‘urban’ music, being rap music and R&B - makes up 15% of the market share in this country, second only to alternative rock.  Yet there is no radio representation for it.  That doesn’t make sense to me. 

You have soft rock, pop rock, alternative rock stations that serve the same purpose and they’re not at any risk of losing their ad revenue or changing their format because it’s not working.  There’s nothing for these young people to gravitate to because I guess they figure that young people are not utilizing their disposable income based on the ads.  I think it’s really sad that this format is the only format that has to conform to some sort of multicultural dictatorship. 

Urban radio stations in this country are the only stations that have that obligation and they become rhythmic crossover stations – top 40 rhythmic crossover stations – whatever little cute name you want to call it.  But it’s not Black music, not Black radio. 

What do you think it means for Canadian urban artists?

It means that instead of sitting and waiting around for someone to save you, you need to put on the cape and save yourself.  There are so many different ways that you can create revenue and create an identity for yourself here.  Then you have to find out how you can do it.  Everyone wants to run across the border.  But if you don’t take care of home, you can’t come back home! 

If people don’t believe you in Canada because you’re trying to be something else, when you go to the States, you really think they’re going to believe you?  Then when you try to come home ... you can forget about it.  Figure out who you are and then be that.  If you’re from Montreal, let your music reflect that. 

I think the problem that a lot of Canadian artists have, especially from the urban perspective, is that we’re victims of proximity.  Especially with rap.  Being so close to the United States.  Being so close to New York City – the place that created the culture.  You tend to have this big brother, little brother syndrome where you want to imitate what your big brother does.  Sometimes that can be beneficial and other times it can be a detriment to you because you’re not being who you really are.

Do you think it’s an identity crisis?

Absolutely but like I said, it really does come down to being a victim of proximity.  You see burgeoning rap scenes growing in Europe, even in Africa.  Don’t be ashamed or afraid to tell where you’re from and then represent that properly. 

One of the first guys, outside of Wes (Maestro), that I had respect for doing his thing was Kardinal [Offishall].  I remember almost getting ready to sign Kardinal back in 1996 when I was at RCA.  We were in serious conversations about it after receiving his demo.  And then I left RCA and then had a big project with Ghostface.  But when he came out with Bacardi Slang, the first thing he said was "‘we don’t say you know what I’m saying’ we say ‘ya dun know’".  He’s representing himself.  But we’re not seeing support for Kardinal or for a lot of Black music in this country.

I don’t understand if it’s a situation where people are trying to stick to the traditional form of the music industry, which is dying slowly.  You have to figure out new ways in this new millennium to go from analog to digital.  We live in a digital world.  We have to figure out different ways to access this technology and utilize it to the best of our ability.  So, let’s not sit around and wait for somebody – be proactive instead of reactive

You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in ‘urban’ music (Queen Latifah, The Notorious B.I.G., Public Enemy, Faith Evans, WuTang Clan, Ghostface Killah, Sade, Erykah Badu, Babyface, Dr. Dre).  What would you say was your most rewarding experience and why?

Hmm.  I mean they’ve all been rewarding in some form or fashion.  But I think helping get a group like WuTang Clan signed. 

What’s in your CD or MP3 player right now?

I’m listening to my girl, my artist up here – Ayah aka the Ayatollah of Rock and Soullah.  (laughs) She’s Palestinian so we’ve been playing up that whole thing.  Everyone thinks she’s Black.  It’s about good music and I think good music cures cancer. 

Also Lupe Fiasco, Ghostface Khillah – I have a biased there ‘cause I took him on the road – Dwele, Marvin Gaye, my man, Dwayne Morgan, Rochester aka Juice, Melanie Durrant.  I’m checking out this new rapper here named Isis.  I listen to a lot of jazz, I’m more of a traditional jazz fan, Mingus, Coltrane, Charlie Parker. 

My influences are so varied and wide, but the majority of the stuff I’m listening to is Ayah.  You definitely want to look out for her, man. 

What can we expect from Will Strickland this year?

Will Strickland is going to keep moving forward be it through my work with UMAC or the 411 Initiative For Change with the tour we take across the country, eventually across North America and the world.  Continuing to make content for people who look like me that everybody can embrace.  Just because I’m Black doesn’t mean that I don’t have a unique story and a universal story that anybody can understand and embrace without compromising who I am and what I’m trying to express.  Through the movies and screenplays that I’m writing or through the television shows that I’m doing, my whole goal was to never be embarrassed about what I put out there.  To be able to look at it and listen to it with my mother, my grandmother (God bless the dead) and my son. 

I feel that I could take it to any neighbourhood in any city and any town, especially in North America and people will be able to relate to it because it is who they are.  We just have a different zip code or different level of melanin in our system.  At the end of the day, we’re all people.  Hopefully, the things that I’m doing professionally will help and give back to my community – not waiting for someone else to take care of me but taking care of myself.  That’s been my whole thing. 

I saw an opportunity at UMAC to do something so instead of sitting back and bitching and moaning, I did something.  I think if I could leave people with anything, I would say learn to spend more time appreciating what you do have as opposed to complaining about what you don’t.  And if you want it, go get it. 

Who are some of your influences – both in music and in life?

My son.  He drives me every day to be a better person, a better man, a better father, a better friend.  He influences me dramatically. 

I couldn’t sit here and list all of my influences because I’ve been influenced by so many throughout my life – my parents, friends, teachers, professors, just random people that I meet on the street influence me.  I try to instil in my son, and those that work with me that you should always respect people.  No matter who it is.  Where that person sits today, they may not sit tomorrow.  They may be in a position to help you one day.  And you just never know who you’re going to meet sometimes.  Respect all people and be as humble as you can. 

What do you want people to remember you for? 

Hmmm.  That I’ll always keep it right with you.  I hate the phrase ‘keep it real’ – it’s so corny.  But I’m always going to keep it right with you – whether you like it or not.  We can agree to disagree but I’m going to keep it right with you.  Because if I keep it right, ‘real’ is a natural by-product.  Hopefully they say that he’s trying.  Or, 'I might not like what he said but I respect the fact that he said it and he was straight with me.' 

Many thanks to Will for taking the time for this interview.  It’s obvious that we have a lot to look forward to from this champion of Black music, either through his role as the President of UMAC or his many contributions to the community. 


Mardi Gras Bistro has been SOLD
One of my fav soul food restaurants in the city,
Mardis Gras Bistro, is saying goodbye.  I went by for my final unbelievable trough of soul food including beef ribs, coconut shrimp, and my absolute favourite, the mouth-watering Mardis Gras’s Jambalaya prepared by the one, the only, Chef Anthony Mair, the maestro, the personal chef.  Mouth watering, mood altering, even life changing are terms associated with the delectable dishes brought forth by this master chef.  I’m so sorry that we are losing this amazing bistro but know that good things are around the corner for this talented chef! 

Message from Chef Mair:

On the third anniversary of Mardi Gras Bistro it is with a heavy heart that I tell you this. Please know that this has not been an easy decision, but one that I could no longer sustain. Mardi Gras Bistro came about like a dream. I know most of you know the story.

Mardi Gras is my tribute to the restaurant "The Underground Railroad". The very first restaurant my Mother brought me to when I came to Canada. As a little country boy right out of Jamaica, with my first impression of Canada being Regent Park.   The Underground was my LIGHT: The Maitre'D in his Tuxedo, the servers (male only) in their overalls, the aroma of the greatest corn bread I have ever tasted flowing through the dining room, the professionalism, the decor, the placemats that depicted Black Historians and their achievements, (some of which I still have today). I carry theses memories with me at all times. I loved this restaurant.   Like all good things, The Underground Railroad came to an end. Although saddened, I knew that a connection had been made and I began formulating plan.

Almost thirty years after my first visit to The Underground my opportunity came, and I decided to attempt to re-create the "Vibe". That is how Mardi Gras Bistro came to be.   I believe all of you who know Mardi Gras feel the same way. The "Vibe" is real, it's a combination of comfort, love, soul. My brother Nigel B said at the end of a very busy Saturday Night not too long ago stated  " We (Mardi Gras) made love to 89 people tonight". Yes, I agreed, and it felt soooo goood.   Thank you for that Nigel. Thank you for believing.

Quote: "Those of us that go into business without a bankroll must invest time".

I didn't approach the business of Mardi Gras from entirely a dollars and sense position, but from the viewpoint of human emotion. I believe that the City needed a spot that served great Soul Food, in a atmosphere that was warm, welcoming and fun. I knew that it would take time to develop and build. However, now more than ever it stands true that the almighty dollar rules and as such I've had to take a very serious look at my Business Plan. I have always insisted on quality at every level of my business and in re-visiting the plan it appeared that cutting here and scrimping there or eliminating this or that might be the only way to stable my position. In short, in order to get above water, I would have to change some of the fundamentals that had created some success.

We've all had this experience. We go to our favourite spot and from the time you sit down, you notice the difference. the place is not as clean, the aroma isn't the same, the love is not as strong, the Vibe is not as real.    In refusing to compromise quality, I've decided to graciously step out of the game. For the moment.  The past three years have been one heck of a ride. The friendships that have been created here I'll take with me always.

I must say a very special thank you to my wife Sharon. I don't believe I've said this to you in quite some time. We seem to take advantage of the people closest to us. Thanks for everything.

Mardi Gras Bistro will close Thursday August 31, 2006.

BUT, I'll be back.



RECAP: Menopause Out Loud! 

Excerpts from

I went to check out the sold-out
Menopause Out Loud!™  this past Friday evening and I have to say that I laughed so hard and so often, that my face hurt (yikes - definitely a sign that I could relate to some of the symptoms!)  This musical is about women and The Change and is playing at the Capitol Event Theatre, 2492 Yonge Street. The show is so popular that ticket sales have reached a high average sell-out rate of 90 per cent.  This is definitely a must-see and would make an excellent girl's night out.  And men, if you want to know what to expect with your significant other female, then you should see this too!

What caught my attention to see it was that Toronto's Alana Bridgewater was back in Toronto after joining the cast as previously reported HERE.  So, I went to support Alana and just to hear her work those pipes (what a powerhouse!).  What I came away with was all of that plus a side-splitting musical. 

Alana’s cast members include
Jayne Lewis (Soap Star), Nicole Robert (Earth Mother), and Rose Ryan (Iowa Housewife) who were outrageously hilarious and engaged the entire audience for the full 1 ½ hour musical.  Set in the Lingerie Department of Bloomingdale’s department store, four women: an aging TV soap star, a lost-in-the-sixties hippie, a power professional and a naïve Iowa housewife meet by chance over a black lace bra. This fast paced musical parody pokes fun at hot flashes, memory loss, mood swings, too much sex, not enough sex, wrinkles, night sweats and a whole lot more.

Since its first performance, the show has evolved into a “grassroots” movement for women dealing with life after 40 and all the challenges that result – emotionally, physically and spiritually. No longer The Silent Passage,
Menopause Out Loud!™ also encourages a healthy dialogue about issues of aging and women’s health and provides a unique opportunity to raise awareness with female audiences of all ages.

Inspired by a hot flash and a bottle of wine, writer/producer Jeanie Linders, created the show featuring 26 re-lyricized pop hit tunes from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.  Popular baby boomer hits include: Lookin’ for Food in All the Wrong Places, Puff My God I’m Dragging, Change, Change, Change, Thank You Doctor, My Thighs and the disco favourite Stayin’ Awake, Stayin’ Awake, and are hilariously performed with the audience singing, dancing and laughing out loud. 

For ticket and more information on the show please visit

::top stories::

 Canada's Got Soul? Why Our R&B Artists Get Left in the Cold

Excerpt from - By Ryan B. Patrick

(July 26, 2006) There was a recent flurry of media activity surrounding the release of
Jamaica To Toronto, a compilation that exposes the “lost” history of R&B and soul music in Canada. The CD, released on American indie label Light in the Attic, collects recordings by Canadian-based R&B singers in the ’60s and ’70s. Toronto had experienced a wave of Caribbean and West Indian immigration that resulted in a highly charged music scene, and straight-up soul was the order of the day. Current press has marvelled at the fact that these soul artists even existed and how much they influenced the contemporary Canadian sound. The music was fresh and vibrant, but didn’t translate into sustainable success — Canadian soul detoured into a cultural cul-de-sac while Canadian rock became a well-paved road.

The struggles faced by a domestic R&B/soul scene remain an intricate mix of fear, prejudice and conservatism twinned with an inferiority complex when held up against American counterparts. R&B and soul artists in this country are afforded more limited opportunities — in terms of media exposure, touring opportunities, radio play and major label backing — when compared to Canadian rock. Despite a smattering of Canadian success stories both at home (Jacksoul, Ivana Santilli, Massari) and in the U.S. (Tamia, Deborah Cox, Glenn Lewis), the Canadian music industry still seems mystified what to do with them.  The number of active, successful Canadian soul artists can be counted on two hands with fingers to spare — but not for a lack of talent or ambition. Toronto-born vocalist
Jully Black is a good example; she was a well-known commodity (at least to the industry) for more than a decade before she finally unveiled her debut album. The fact that it was released after she had a Top 40 radio hit (1998’s “Rally’n”), a Juno nomination and an American major label deal underlines the challenges she’s faced. After signing a deal with now-defunct affiliate MCA Records, which evolved into a joint deal with Universal Canada and U.S., her album was reworked, renamed and re-jigged before finally being released last summer.

Black remains upbeat about the situation, saying “I’m happy because I wasn’t really ready anyway. The people who run the industry only know what they know so you can’t really fault them for not being willing to take the chance.” What those industry-running people don’t know is what to do with an artist like Black — is she R&B, soul or pop? How will she be received in Medicine Hat? Generally speaking, the industry hasn’t bothered to answer those questions, leaving it to the artists themselves to break ground and build a DIY touring circuit all their own. “I’m the person I am today because of the grind,” Black continues. “I got stronger and better at what I do. I sold 40,000 [records] and no one expected me to sell even five or ten [thousand].” “There aren’t a lot of outlets out there,” says
Haydain Neale, front-man for Jacksoul, arguably the most successful R&B/soul outfit in the country. He describes the band’s decade-long career as a “beautiful struggle” that, despite nationwide recognition, moderate record sales and inevitable Juno nominations, remains a challenge each time out. “There’s no circuit,” he continues. “You’ve got to create it yourself. It’s real easy to say that people don’t want to show us love, but you’ve got to demand that respect.”

Ivana Santilli is another Canadian success story; her early ’90s rise came at a time when there was some buzz around soul, R&B and hip-hop hybrids. “There was a genuine excitement at the time. Live music on the road was still a doable concept — whereas now it really is about making your band smaller.” Downsizing your artistic ambitions to keep your overhead low is one solution, but it doesn’t solve the problem of having nowhere to play. “If you’re playing rock, you can play 30 dates across Canada within a two month span,” Santilli says. “As an R&B artist, you’d be done in two weeks.”  Vancouver-based soul artist GreenTARA agrees, “It’s about finding that pocket of people that relate to your music. You have to be able to shave down all your extras and just go.”  Looking again at Jamaica to Toronto, it’s acutely ironic and wholly Canadian that it took an American label to recognise and legitimise the music before Canada took notice. This, more so than any other musical genre, relates to the perception of R&B and soul in this country.

“The Americans are laughing at us because Canada doesn’t have a system,” says Toronto’s
Melanie Durrant. The R&B vocalist knows all about the U.S. system. Once signed to the legendary Motown label, Durrant suffered countless delays to her American debut project and was ultimately dropped. She came back and her reworked album was released by Koch Canada. Still, Durrant says the experience was valuable, if only to highlight the differences between the American and Canadian approaches to the music. The American approach is soup-to-nuts — producers, studios, writing staff and labels work in conjunction. “It’s a whole package, Durrant says. “Here someone will play a beat for you and demand five grand. There are only scraps to win.”  David “Click” Cox, an Artists & Repertoire (A&R) rep for the Universal Music Group, knows there’s a market for soul music in Canada, but the industry hasn’t evolved with the scene. “Maybe the industry of yesteryear didn’t know what to do with a Jully Black,” Cox says. “This attitude has changed a lot, particularly with the relative success of R&B and urban acts.” Beyond the few Canadian R&B/soul success stories there are teems of artists who toil in obscurity. Even the successes are relative; most were forced to breakthrough Stateside before getting any love north of the border. Paradoxically, it had to be done before people could see it could work.

“Who wants to put their balls on the table?” Cox asks. “The Canadian market is so Americanised and it’s hard to compete with because it’s got to be something that sticks out enough, but not to the point where it doesn’t compete.”  One big reason why soul music doesn’t get any love is due to cultural points of reference. The industry has always been white — there’s no other way to describe its infrastructure. The mistake historically made by labels was the belief that the music’s appeal is limited only to the African-Canadian community. Canadian labels, who often operate as franchises of their American counterparts, look to the U.S. market as a model in most of their operations, but the Canadian market doesn’t share the same monolithic cultural experiences — in black or white communities or music markets — as the U.S. Targeting an African-Canadian market for soul music doesn’t work the same way because the socio-cultural experiences of black Canadians aren’t always shared with African-Americans.

What’s interesting is that soul and R&B, as popular music, have Canadian roots far deeper than rock and pop. Larry LeBlanc, Billboard magazine’s Canadian bureau chief, agrees. “Toronto was a strong R&B town in the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s — this was not a rock town until the late ’60s.” Yet that scene remained separate from the Canadian recording industry, which never quite figured out what to do with it. While the industry isn’t overtly racist, there exists a cultural disconnect, a “prejudice by exclusion” that hampers the success of domestic R&B and soul. “I can remember being at a Juno Awards dinner ten years ago. There was one visible minority in the room,” LeBlanc says. “Some of the labels have tried to tap into the market, but they saw limited rewards.” So the cultural thing is part of it. The industry was a composed of a generation that was raised on rock and simply couldn’t relate to the music, LeBlanc argues. The situation parallels the meagre gains the hip-hop community has had in terms of forging a place for the music.

According to music journalist Nick Jennings, the position of R&B and soul as an also-ran to Canadian rock is ironic, considering that soul music provided a key component in informing the quintessential Canadian sound. Jennings, the author of Before the Gold Rush: Flashbacks to the Dawn of the Canadian Sound, notes that Toronto in particular was a bastion for blues and R&B. The key player in the early ‘60s was Arkansas-born Toronto resident Ronnie Hawkins, who drew heavily from black American music in forging his popular rock sound. A lot of blue-eyed soul groups that were attempting a rhythm and blues sound looked to Hawkins, according to Jennings, including Little Caesar and the Consuls, and Jon and Lee and the Checkmates.

Black artists from the Caribbean or the U.S. found hospitable communities not just in Toronto but also Vancouver and Montreal; artists like Eddie Spencer, Johnnie Osbourne and Willie McGhie and the Sounds of Joy — all featured on the Jamaica to Toronto compilation — made an impact on the Canadian scene. But these artists, Jennings notes, soon became frustrated by a lack of opportunities to record — part of a larger prejudice against the worth of Canadian music in general. “There certainly wasn’t a shortage of talent,” Jennings says. “It wasn’t black or white — it was a national prejudice. Literally, at radio stations across Canada there was an assumption that if it was Canadian then it couldn’t be good.”

The Canadian music scene in general didn’t undergo the radical transformation required to build a domestic music scene until the early ‘70s, when Canadian Content rules (which dictate that radio stations must play a certain percentage of Canadian music) came into effect. That legislation gave Canadian music a leg-up, and an infrastructure — made up of producers, managers, engineers, writers, investors and label executives — began to grow. It’s a process that the R&B and soul scene is now in the middle of, according to Billboard’s LeBlanc. “What we fail to recognise in signing an R&B act now is that they are going through the same problem that the rock community experienced 20 years ago,” he says. Canadian rock grew by networking and a Byzantine system of joint venture deals between Canadian majors and their American counterparts, he adds — and most of the time, it was the Canadian labels that shouldered most of the risks.

For his part, Calgary-based soul singer Jeff Hendrick believes the industry doesn’t give Canadians enough credit. “Living out west, I think there’s still that notion it’s only happening in Toronto,” he says. More frustrating is a lack of promotional opportunities and diversity on the airwaves. “Obviously, radio is not looking to break new artists,” he says. “Let’s say there are five signed Canadian acts — those are the ones you’re going to hear.” He points to the fact that, outside of Toronto-based urban radio station FLOW 93.5, many other recently licensed urban radio outlets across the country didn’t last. “It’s strange that there were all these radio licenses that were able to apply under the guise of ‘urban’ and were all gone within a minute.” (Most switched to a Top 40 format.) “The wrong people are making the wrong decisions, there’s no other way to put it,” he continues. “There are still some dinosaurs in the music biz. They’re making decisions and they don’t listen to the music. That’s problematic, especially since there doesn’t seem to be great interest in trying to grow different genres.”

A rock music-based infrastructure is the only one available, according to Hendrick. “As a soul artist, you’re usually [booked into] rock rooms, sometimes you’re opening for artists that may not really complement you, or vice versa. I know the crowd is there, but when it comes to the booking side, there’s hesitancy.”  Nova Scotia-based singer Jamie Sparks takes a zen approach to the situation. “Being on the east coast, sometimes you feel like there are things going on in the rest of Canada that we may not be connected to,” he says. “But there’s a strong community here, which is a plus. You can exhaust the market pretty quickly but there are spots that are really supportive if you have your stuff together.”  Sparks runs an independent label and understands the money needed to successfully promote an artist. “Marketing and promotion is a big part and the majors may not want to put money into a format they’re not comfortable with. But it’s all about [getting] good music out there and getting good feedback.”

It’s a huge country with a small, spread out and diverse population. But when it comes to work in the music industry, sometimes the opportunities just aren’t there. “There is a level of frustration,” says Ivana Santilli, “but the moment that I stopped blaming things around me and started doing something about it, I became more productive and re-inspired.” She adds that, regardless of genre, Canadian musicians need to think beyond their local communities. “If you’re any good, consider Canada a building ground. It’s not about being bitter. If you’re any good, you should be able to play on a world stage. You have to see it as your responsibility to either improve the situation or find a solution for your specific situation.”  Those seeking a model example of success for an R&B artist in this country need look no further than Ottawa-based
Massari. His debut album, released on the independent Capital Prophet Records, has sold more than 75,000 copies (and counting) — that makes him bigger, sales wise, than artists who have been around longer, like Divine Brown, Jully Black, Shawn Desman and Keisha Chante.

“The formula is simple,” Massari says. “You’ve got to work ten times harder than the average artist. The overwhelming presence of the States means that we’ve got to work harder to get noticed. People have been waiting for something different, and I’m here to provide that. It’s not about the money but about longevity.”  “He’s got a structure around him,” says LeBlanc of Massari’s career trajectory. “Five years ago, a major wouldn’t know what to do with an act like Massari — I don’t think they’d be willing to put in the time and development.”  The template for success as a Canadian R&B/soul artist probably lies somewhere in the gulf between Massari and Jully Black. Black has been savvy about branding herself, working as a TV host and crafting a media persona that has raised her profile, which should help her upcoming sophomore album. “Since when has any successful person been one-dimensional?” she asks rhetorically. “An R&B artist in Canada has to build a brand and broaden your fan base.”

“Right now I’d say Jully’s career is at a crossroads. But I think it’s to her credit that she’s kept herself alive,” LeBlanc says. “The days of the million dollar record deal are over. You have to create an indie presence and most don’t have the money, infrastructure or business savvy. The majors are signing less.” “Sometimes, the best way you can represent Canada is by leaving,” Santilli says. “We don’t need to remind ourselves that there’s talent here. We know that. What we need to do is inform other people elsewhere that there’s talent here in that way it can be widespread.”  Calgary’s Jeff Hendrick has thought about moving out of Canada but decided against it. “At the end of the day it’s still a very rock-oriented country. I don’t think it’s inherently our music. But we do have people that love it and we’re producing some music of our own. I think that we’re doing ourselves a disservice if the answer is always ‘Let’s move away.’ There’s more to Canada than Nickelback.” 

Building a sustainable music community in Canada remains a challenge. The measure of success might well be if artists can avoid ending up on a Jamaica To Toronto type of “lost recordings” compilation 20 years from now.


A Tribe Called Quest Unsure About Future Projects

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(August 24, 2006) Although
A Tribe Called Quest's first tour in six years is looming next month, principal member Phife Dawg admits the pioneering hip-hop group is still uncertain whether the shows will lead to any further activity.  After all, one new song, "I C U Doin' It," was recorded in 2004 for a "Violator" compilation but never saw the light of day, and Phife is still disappointed Tribe didn't seize that opportunity to spend more time in the studio.  "I really thought it was going to jump off right then and there," he tells "It was the perfect time. Not that right now isn't, but if we don't make up our mind whether we're going to do it or not, nobody is going to care anymore. Let's break bread while we can."  "I'm not sure how it would be recording with each other," he continues. "It has been such a long time. The last time, we were 27 or 28. Now, we're 35 and 36. We're grown now. I don't want to say yes and we don't record, or no and we drop an album next March. It is up in the air, definitely. You have three different personalities."  For now, Phife, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad are focusing on the 2K Sports-sponsored tour, which opens Sept. 1 in Detroit. "We have to give it up to 2K Sports," Phife admits. "They had an idea to bring us out on the road, and for whatever reason we agreed. We really don't need too much preparation other than going over the song list and listening to the songs, and making sure we remember lyrics."

As for what fans can expect from the set list, Phife would only say, "Anything you remember as a single, we're doing it. Thank god we have some catalogue!"  Despite the passage of time, Phife says he is eternally "thankful" how frequently Tribe is still referenced as one of the most important acts in hip-hop history. "The rap game is so fickle," he says. "We could have been forgotten and left for dead a long time ago, especially since we haven't done anything since 1998. For people to still crave seeing us, that's a blessing. I really think we're doing ourselves, as well as the fans, an injustice by not handling our business. It's not going to be like that forever, and we need to take full advantage."  Meanwhile, Phife has just begun work on a new solo album, "Songs in the Key of Phife, Vol. 1: Cheryl's Big Son," named in tribute both to the classic Stevie Wonder album and the artist's mother. He says he's hoping to collaborate with Muhammad and Q-Tip for the project, as well as De La Soul, Method Man, Redman and Faith Evans. "Songs" will be issued by Phife's own Smokin' Needles label, which has yet to secure distribution.


‘Old Soul’ Chantal Kreviazuk Writes Hits For Other Songbirds

Source: Canadian Press - Cassandra Szklarski, Canadian Press

(Aug. 28, 2006)
Chantal Kreviazuk is no Nelly Furtado.  At least, not in the booty-shakin', dance-club rockin', glammed-up sexpot kind of way.  The piano-based singer-songwriter says she's content to be "an old soul," despite feeling frustrated with the state of today's pop charts and their obsession with celebrity, youth and beauty.  "It's really hard to be an artist and have deeper music out there — to get heard and fit in. Rock music is almost dead radio-wise," Kreviazuk bemoans as she returns to the spotlight with Ghost Stories, her first album in four years.  "We do have a bit of a hump to get over, with regard to things being a little more promiscuous-looking and so on."  Oops. Did she say promiscuous?  "I can't use that word! There's a hit song called "Promiscuous," so I can't use that word!" Kreviazuk wails, immediately backpedalling from an off-hand remark that could be interpreted as a slam against Furtado's hip-shaking summer hit.  "It's more about booty and being booty-licious. It's a little bit frustrating," she explains.  But that's not to say she doesn't dig Furtado's new hip-hop flavour.  Kreviazuk says she loves the song "Promiscuous," which spent six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.  "It's different, (but) she's still in there," Kreviazuk says of the B.C. artist's dancier, grittier sound — a radical shift in tone the low-key, folksy image Furtado put forth previously.  "But she's just sort of packaging herself with the rhythm thing. I don't know if I could really do that, but she can and so it's awesome.

"Everybody's got to figure out a way to make it work right now."  In recent years, Kreviazuk has made it work by licensing her songs to Hollywood films such as How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and popular U.S. television shows such as Laguna Beach.  The Winnipeg artist, who scored pop hits in Canada with catchy melodies such as "In This Life," "Far Away" and "Before You," has also found a successful career co-writing tracks for other artists including chart regulars Gwen Stefani, Kelly Clarkson and Avril Lavigne.  The svelte brunette says cracking the U.S. market with her own track is just not what her career is about any more.  "I've never had that kind of like, whatever, instant, wow, big pop song. That just didn't happen, but I really love my career," says Kreviazuk, a prolific composer who was a child prodigy with perfect pitch at age 3.  "I'm one of the most licensed artists in film and television in the U.S. I have hits with the highest profile artists in the world now in the U.S. There's nothing now that I feel like I haven't accomplished."  Kreviazuk's greatest accomplishments have included two boys — 1-year-old Lucca and 2-year-old Rowan — with rock singer husband Raine Maida.  She says writing and recording her infectious new album, out tomorrow, was very much a family affair. Ghost Stories was co-written with Maida, recorded at their home studio and even little Rowan makes a vocal cameo — calling out for his mommy at the beginning of "Waiting for the Sun."  "I was playing the piano in the studio kitchen and Rowan was outside the door ... just being silly, standing there waiting," she says.  "It was so cute and so we just left it, it's in the track."  Led by the first single "All I Can Do," the album features Kreviazuk's trademark rich vocals and chunky piano melodies against a strong driving rhythm — something she credits to Maida, lead singer for rock band Our Lady Peace.  She says the album is the "most natural" she's ever produced.  "It's the record I think I always wanted to make."


Bunny Chow Selected For Toronto International Film Festival

Source:  Kirk Cooper

(Aug. 10, 2006) Toronto – The Toronto International Film Festival announced that John Barker’ s feature film Bunny Chowhas been officially selected to participated in this year’s festival, running from September 7th – 16th.   Bunny Chow will have its world première in a new programme section titled Vanguard. Vanguard was created to showcase films that are stylistically bold, structurally playful and appeal to adventurous, risk-taking audiences. Baker, the South African filmmaker will be one of many innovative new directors that will have the honour of launching this section.   Other South African films that have been previously selected for Toronto included Tsotsi, Hotel Rwanda, Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon, Yesterday and Forgiveness. Both Tsotsi and Hotel Rwanda won the prestigious Toronto Film Festival Audience Awards in 2004 and 2005 respectively, and went on to Oscar acclaim.  “It’s not a joke”, says Barker and Lediga - producer. “We are thrilled. We are up against great films, and have a lot to live up to, but it’s a real honour.”

Directed by John Barker, and written by Barker and David Kibuuka, Bunny Chow follows the raucous and often ridiculous journey of three stand-up comedians as they make their way to a popular rock concert, Oppi Koppi. Along the way we get to indulge in their trails and tribulations, and generally unsuccessful attempts at relationships with women. Bunny Chow is a contemporary urban South African tale about young people and their journeys to self discovery, self destruction, self delusion and a good dose of selfishness.  Starring some of South Africa’s funniest stand-up comedians the film is based on a story by Kibuuka, Barker, Salah Sabiti and Joey Rasdien. Bunny Chow also stars the increasingly popular Kim Engelbrecht. It is produced by Kagiso Lediga and Leanne Callanan of Dog Pack Films, and Michelle Wheatley.  Phiri and Nathan of Dv8 Films: “This is really the first South African comedy that can work both locally and internationally. We are drumming up global interest at the moment and will launch the film with a big bang in Toronto.”  The film is being co-produced by Film I Vast and Republiken Films in Sweden, where it is currently being completed. The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and SABC 2 are also partners on the project.  The feature film will be released nationwide by Ster-Kinekor Pictures in early 2007. Dv8 Films is handling worldwide sales.


Outsourced Comedy DVD and CD Available August 29

Source:  WMI Canada

Fans of Russell Peters will get a chance to meet the world-renowned comedian at the Yorkdale Mall HMV store on Sunday September 3rd, 2006 at 2:00PM. Russell will be signing copies of his all-new release OUTSOURCED available on August 29th, 2006.  “A little Dave Chappelle, a little Dave Attell,” as the Houston Press describes him, Russell doesn’t discriminate when it comes to taunting his audience. His quick wit and uncanny mimicry of all races and cultures in the soon-to-be released DVD (also available on CD) will have you roaring with laughter.  Nominated for four Gemini Awards, Russell was the first South Asian to headline at New York City’s Apollo Theatre. He appeared at Montreal’s "Just For Laughs" Comedy Festival, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and the Edinburgh Comedy Festival. His television appearances include: BBC-TV’s David Frost Comedy Festival, CBC-TV's Comics, two Comedy Now shows and specials on The Comedy Network. Russell is currently in talks to produce a sitcom with a major US network and will appear next year in “The Take”, a movie starring Rosie Perez and John Leguizamo.

Three out of Russell’s five Canadian shows are already sold out, after which he sets out for a worldwide tour with stops in India, Singapore, England, Australia, New Zealand and the United States (Los Angeles, Chicago & New York).


Kat Eyez - Canadian Rap Artist On Heavy Rotation On MTV Base UK

Source:  Johnny Lee

Kat Eyez is known for his mysterious green eyez and his versatile approach to music. He has a versatile style and can drop reggae melodies, upbeat party tracks or grimy street anthems at any given time.  He has created a lifestyle out of his music (from CD sales he was able to quit his job, move out his parents’ crib and buy a new house in Richmond Hill). The combination of the energy of his voice, his hustle and hypnotic personality, adds up to a force that can’t be ignored.  Born to South Asian parents, K.E started showing his passion for music at a very young age. By the age of 16, girls in Rexdale crowded around the bus stop to hear him rap on their way to school. It was at that point that he realized that he might have what is takes to become an emcee.  A couple of years later the judges for Much Vibe’s Freestyle Battle at the Harbourfront awarded him a $1,000 dollars cash1st prize that reaffirmed his suspicions.   He draws most of his inspirations from his cultural background and childhood experiences. K.E’s musical influences along the way have come from a variety of different artist such as Apache Indian, Snow, Bob Marley, Sanchez, 2Pac and Biggie. With this diversity of music around him, he is able to capture his audiences with all different flavours of music.

Kat Eyez’ unique reggae and hip-hop flow began finding its ways to speakers and ears.  After doing numerous shows and freestyle battles K.E caught the buzz on the streets and was heard by Award Winning Multi-Platinum Producer Marcus Kane (Jae Millz, Joey Boy, Snow, Maestro, Gary Beals, Thrust, Michie Mee, Dominica, Ish, Suni Clay, X-Quiste, Adina Howard, etc…) Soon after, through Kane’s guidance and K.E's determination, they were able to put together a street platinum cd, called "Katastrophe". Recorded @ Moonraker Studios in downtown Toronto, the highly anticipated cd has sales currently running over Thirty-Five Thousand Units across the Eastern Seaboard.  This sales feat has many people calling Kat Eyez “Canada’s Master P”.  K.E's voice is being heard by people all over the U.S., U.K. and Canada. Outstanding tracks from Katastrophe such as “Girlz” and “I Need A New Whip” have been featured on many hit TV show’s across the world such as Tyra Banks’ “America’s Next Top Model”, P.Diddy’s “Making the Band Season Three”, Pimp my Ride, Punked, Next, Jamie Kennedy’s “Blowing Up”, Sweet Sixteen, C.B.S.’s NUMB3RS and A.B.C.’s Falcon Beach.  His latest hit single “Hey Love” featuring multi-platinum reggae legend Snow has been receiving play on radio stations across the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. The video is currently on rotation on stations such as: MuchMusic, MTV U.K., MTV Desi, Omni TV, Much Vibe, U-TV, and Channel Z.  Last week “Hey Love” got over 35 spins on MTV Base U.K. and was the only Canadian video you could vote for on their entire playlist! Here’s the link to the video (directed by Mike Portoghese of Next Element) and where you can vote for your fellow Canadians Kat Eyez and Snow:

MTV New York came up to the set of the “Hey Love” video. The footage was produced by MTV’s Akshay Bhansali and is introduced  by Sway of MTV New York. The interviews of Kat Eyez, Snow, and Marcus Kane can be currently scene on MTV Overdrive and Now based out of Richmond Hill, Ontario,  K.E continues to spread his energy through his music. Kat Eyez has succeeded in attaining what most artists strive towards. K.E has created his own signature style, made it his own, and continues to build a solid foundation on experience, business-savvy, friendship and skill. K.E is currently working in the studio on enhancing his debut album with major guest collaborations. It will  be released sometime this year.  He will be touring all across the U.K Canada, and the U.S. in the next couple of months to promote “Katastrophe V2”..   Watch out for Kat Eyez in your city…

ArtReach Toronto Will Spend $1.2m On Youth Projects

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(Aug. 26, 2006) For the past 15 or 20 years, artists, arts organizations and the agencies that fund them have been trying to prove — in the face of government cutbacks — the value of supporting the arts.  Mostly the focus has been on consumer spending and the job growth the arts fuel. Mostly, governments and politicians didn't listen.  All that time, the most persuasive evidence for supporting artists could have been found close to home, in the neighbourhoods whose residents can't afford to attend the opera, the symphony, the ballet or the theatre.  Studies have found that in these underprivileged communities, young people thrive when given a chance to express themselves. Where crime is a problem, where the oft-heard plea to "get kids off the streets" has gone unanswered, a video project, a music recording studio, or free instruction in painting, mask-making or putting on a play is one of the most effective ways to keep teens out of trouble, in school or on their way to jobs.  Using the arts as a tool for social change is not a new concept, but arts-funding bodies in Toronto are just now embracing it wholeheartedly.
ArtReach Toronto is the latest manifestation of a trend to put the arts back into the lives of children and young adults after arts education and job programs were killed by Conservative governments in the 1990s.  Projects funded by health and social services ministries, in GTA communities where violence, the drug trade and gang warfare have taken root, provided the inspiration for the Art-Reach fund. The pilot project will spend $1.2 million over three years on arts projects done by and for young people aged 12 to 25. Organizers expect to issue some grants within three months. Not-for-profit organizations, individual artists and artist groups working with youth are eligible to apply.

Those projects that come from the most underserved neighbourhoods will get priority.  At a launch this week, Toronto rapper and producer
Kardinal Offishall described what public funding once meant to him. The Jobs for Youth program, a provincial initiative in the late 1980s under Bob Rae's government, paid his wages when he worked in an antique store. The now-defunct Toronto program Fresh Arts — supporting spoken word, music and visual arts projects — helped Offishall get started in the music business.  "We made a rap video and recorded it at Mr. Greenjeans in the Eaton Centre," he said, his speech actually being read by his associate Solitair in the youth-run Whippersnapper Gallery. Offishall had a last-minute conflict: a Los Angeles date to record a video with Eminem.  Art empowers, Offishall maintained, rhyming off the names of successful local artists — k-os, Little X, Jully Black, Saukrates and Divine Brown — who got their start in arts projects.

Shahina Sayani, a 32-year-old former executive director of For Youth Initiative, is the program manager of ArtReach Toronto. She's also a founding member of Grassroots Youth Collaborative, consultants to the program.  ArtReach is different from other granting programs, says Sayani, because "it actually supports youth . .. as they are going through the granting process." The application forms have been simplified, and "listening to the voices of young people" is a priority, she says.  On hand to talk about what she meant was Adonis Huggins, director of Regent Park Focus. Funded since 1991 by the Ministry of Health and sponsored by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the $200,000-a-year operation is run out of a basement in Regent Park, Canada's oldest public-housing community.  The centre is home to Catch da Flava newspaper, Catch da Flava Radio, E.Y.E. video youth productions and a photography studio. Huggins manages programs serving people aged 12 to 23. "All of them are over-subscribed," he says. Young residents, many defined as "at-risk," have learned how to communicate what their lives are really like.  With such models in mind, the eight bodies that contribute to ArtReach Toronto have had to learn to co-operate. Canadian Heritage, the three arts councils, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Laidlaw Foundation and United Way of Greater Toronto are the main partners.  Talks began on the development of ArtReach two years ago at the Intergovernmental Roundtable of Arts Funders and Foundations. Instead of just trading information the group decided to design a joint project involving youth.  "We had two objectives," says one of the group, Denis Lefebvre of the Laidlaw Foundation. "Youth engagement through the arts and learning to collaborate as funders."  Some of the agencies were already focusing on helping young people in trouble through the arts. Laidlaw, for instance, had recently reformed its arts mandate to "enhancing the well-being of young people, through engagement, diversity, social inclusion and civic engagement."

Art is a tool for social change "but," says Lefebvre, "there's also the intrinsic value that arts bring. Young people talk about beauty, fear, horror — what artists generally do, trying to reflect society through an artistic medium."  It's no accident that youth-run arts projects create innovative and intriguing art. And ArtReach is flexible in its definition of art: it can be jazz or classical music, puppetry, documentaries, circus arts or multimedia.  "The arts are very powerful," says Sayani. "At FYI, I saw how programs engaged the most hard-to-reach kids. Sometimes it's only an arts program that will bring those young persons through the door, provide a creative means of expressing themselves (and) an outlet for anger or feelings about issues in their community that they don't know how to deal with.  "We had a group of young males that had no access to services. We put in a recording studio and suddenly they had an opportunity to speak about how they felt and do something really positive."  There is a lot of research to back up the social improvement outcomes expected from ArtReach, says Patrick Tobin, director of strategic policy and communications for the Department of Canadian Heritage in Toronto.  His department reviewed research by Robin Wright, of the McGill University School of Social Work. One of her studies examined the iHuman Youth Society in Edmonton, where young offenders are referred for rehabilitation. The teens willingly signed up for arts instruction. After 10 weeks they all reported an improvement in life and outlook. Said one participant: "I did quit crystal meth, because I wanted to make this video."  "The results were phenomenal," says Tobin, "in behavioural improvement, socialization, attachment to school and to jobs."  ArtReach represents a tough learning curve for arts agencies that have developed into bureaucratic fiefdoms.  "We all think we have our niche," says Lefebvre, "but we know that there is overlap. We don't collaborate and we should."  That may be changing. Among the interested parties circling the project, says Tobin, is the Raptors Foundation, charitable arm of the Maple Leafs and Raptors. Organizers are hopeful the Raptors' interest is a sign that ArtReach is just beginning to spread its arms.

Dean Of Canadian Composers A Pioneer

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman, Entertainment Columnist

(Aug. 26, 2006)
John Weinzweig, who died this week at the age of 93, had been known for years as "the dean of Canadian composers." But throughout a long and distinguished career, he always avoided becoming a member of any cultural establishment, preferring the role of a romantic rebel who never lost his fighting spirit.  "He was the great pioneer of Canadian music," says conductor Victor Feldbrill, who began his career as a Weinzweig protege, and went on to showcase Weinzweig's pieces across Canada and all over the world. "He was our musical Don Quixote, always fighting the windmills of this country's stupid prejudice against its own artists and composers."  Weinzweig was born in 1913, the year the premiere of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" announced that in the 20th century, the world of music would be shaken by revolution.  By the age of 19, Weinzweig knew he wanted to become a soldier fighting for that revolution. His father, a Polish Jewish immigrant in the fur business, did nothing to discourage him, though he must have been alarmed by his son's career ambitions. Weinzweig began playing the mandolin in the Harbord Collegiate band in the 1920s alongside his brother, who played the saxophone. Later he switched to the tuba before going on to take a music degree at the University of Toronto, where he founded and conducted the U of T Symphony Orchestra.  It was not until Weinzweig crossed the border and started attending the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., that he began to feel he had finally made it into the 20th century.  After that, Weinzweig — a tall, slender man with a sharp tongue and a princely air — made a point of demonstrating that it was possible for someone living in Toronto to be a classical composer. He spent a lifetime writing a wide variety of inventive, engaging music, favouring the 12-tone approach.

Among his political achievements was the founding of the Canadian League of Composers in 1951. Meanwhile at the U of T's faculty of music, where he taught for more than 40 years, his students included R. Murray Schafer, Robert Aitken, Harry Freedman, Harry Somers and Srul Irving Glick.  In July 2003, when the National Arts Centre Orchestra gave a special concert to mark Weinzweig's 90th birthday, two of his best-known pieces shared the program with works by Aaron Copland and Igor Stravinsky — composers who helped shape his musical vocabulary. His "Divertimento No. 1" for flute and strings was written in 1945 while Weinzweig was stationed in Rockville as an instructor with the Canadian Forces Band. Just a few months before his death, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra featured a Weinzweig composition — "Rhapsody for Orchestra" — in its New Creations festival.  At the conclusion he appeared on stage in a wheelchair — and received a thunderous standing ovation.  The composer leaves his wife, the novelist Helen Weinzweig; their two sons, Paul and Daniel and two grandchildren. A funeral will be held Monday at 1:30 p.m. at Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel, 2401 Steeles Ave. W. One-day shiva following the service at the Canadian Music Centre, 20 St. Joseph St.

Maynard Ferguson, 78

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Jeff Wilson, Associated Press

(Aug 26, 2006) VENTURA, CALIF. — Montreal-born Jazz trumpeter
Maynard Ferguson, known for his soaring high notes and for his recording of Gonna Fly Now, a hit version of the theme from the Rocky movies, has died. He was 78. Ferguson, who lived in nearby Ojai, died Wednesday night at Community Memorial Hospital of kidney and liver failure due to an abdominal infection, friend and manager Steve Schankman said Thursday. Ferguson's four daughters, Kim, Lisa, Corby and Wilder, and other family members were at his side when he died, he said. “Someone just said, ‘Gabriel, move over to second trumpet,'” Schankman said from his St. Louis office. “He was the last of the greats. That era is closed. There is no Kenton, no Basie, no Ellington, and now, no Ferguson.” Born into a musical family in Montreal, Ferguson began playing the piano and violin at age 4, took up the trumpet at 9 and soloed with the CBC Orchestra at 11, then quit school at 15 to pursue a career in music. The next year he was leading his own dance band, the first of a number of big bands and smaller ensembles he eventually fronted in a career that produced more than 60 albums and three Grammy nominations.

Ferguson, also a much admired teacher, became identified with ear-piercing power and dizzying high notes that he was still able to play with precision. He was named Down Beat magazine's “trumpeter of the year” three times. “My instrument is a thing of pleasure, and I play it only because I enjoy it,” he once said. “The most important thing is doing what feels right for me.” The trumpeter — who stood just 5 feet 9 — credited yoga with enabling him to harness the full capacity of his lungs and routinely hit a double-high-C. “He will be remembered for his soaring high notes, he'll be remembered as Stan Kenton's lead trumpet player and he'll be remembered for movie soundtracks like The Ten Commandments,” Schankman said. “But what they should remember him for is his work as an educator. “He played for students, visiting high schools, to raise money for instruments and music programs. And he left them with an inspiring remark.” Born in Montreal on May 4, 1928, Ferguson said his most important musical influences were Louis Armstrong and his mother, a violinist with the Ottawa Symphony and later a school administrator. He remembered being about 9 when he fell in love with the horn. “I went to a church in Montreal, sort of like a Sunday school get-together,” and had a chance to put a cornet to his lips, he told the St. Cloud (Minn.) Times in 2003. “It was my first time playing the instrument,” Ferguson said. “My parents were really surprised when I said, ‘I have got to get me one of these.'

“I remember having the feeling after I played it that the trumpet was the instrument for me.” As with many esteemed jazz players, mainstream success largely eluded Ferguson. But he scored a Top-10 hit with his cover of Gonna Fly Now, and the single spawned a gold album and a Grammy nomination in 1978. “I knew it was going to be a hit,” he once said of the Bill Conti composition. “Sylvester Stallone was in the studio when we recorded it,” punching a speed bag to the rhythm of the song. “If you listen very close to the original recording, you can hear in the mix the sound of him hitting the small bag,” Ferguson said. Ferguson moved to the U.S. at age 20, playing in big bands — including Jimmy Dorsey's — and performing solo in New York City cafés. He then joined Stan Kenton's orchestra, where his shrieking, upper-register trumpet formed the backbone of the group's extensive brass section. In 1956 he formed the first of several 13-piece orchestras known for the crisp vigour of their horns. They helped launch the careers of such jazz notables as Chick Corea, Chuck Mangione, Bob James, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul. As the popularity of jazz declined in the 1960s, Ferguson was forced to scale down his big band, touring less frequently and favouring a smaller sextet instead. He moved his family to India, where he absorbed Eastern music and philosophy, then to England. He later moved back to the U.S., settling in California. But he returned almost yearly to India. “I go to teach, but I always end up learning more,” he said. In the late ‘60s and ‘70s, he created a musical niche by rearranging pop and rock songs — MacArthur Park and the Beatles' Hey Jude, for example — for big bands. Meanwhile, Conquistador, the album that included Gonna Fly Now, reached No. 22 on Billboard's charts and helped rekindle the public's interest in big bands. Schankman said a memorial service will be held later in St. Louis.

Cherish Knows How To 'Do It To It'

Excerpt from

(August 25, 2006)  LOS ANGELES -- Fuelled by the powerhouse hit single "Do It To It,"
Cherish, the R&B sister act from Atlanta, has debuted at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 album charts.   Moving 90,733 copies in its first week, the album also lands at #3 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.   Executive produced by Sho'Nuff CEO and multi-Platinum producer Jazze Pha, known for his work with Ciara, Nelly and 2Pac, the vibe on "Unappreciated" (Capitol/Sho'Nuff) ranges from sassy to sensuous to crunk, reflecting each of the girls' unique sensibilities and resulting in a knockout musical presentation.  "Do It To It" has proved to be a monstrous hit for the quartet, peaking at #13 on the Billboard HOT 100 Chart and currently sitting at #14 after 15 weeks on the chart. The hit has spawned the latest dance craze, the Snap Dance, and the accompanying video spent 65 consecutive days on BET's "106 & Park" countdown, finally being retired on August 8. The next single, the title track "Unappreciated", was recently added to radio and the companion video debuted on BET on August 15. The group has also performed tracks from the album and appeared on "Good Morning America," "Live with Regis & Kelly" and "MTV TRL," among others.  "Unappreciated" is anything but with fans and critics alike. The fans have spoken and here is what the critics are saying:

Cham Continues To Climb Charts

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(August 24, 2006)
Cham’s Ghetto Story Chapter 2 (remix) with Alicia Keys continues to fly up the Billboard R&B charts *Cham has been making moves on the Billboard R&B Hip Hop Singles & Tracks chart with the inescapable Ghetto Story Chapter 2 (remix), which features rhythm and blues singer Alicia Keys. The song has given Cham's career a boost on the international scene, and promotion-wise, things have been on the go. Cham's latest chart saturation in North America isn't new. In 2004, he scored a Top 60 R&B chart hit with Vitamin S. But what is different about the ride this time around? This time, it is two times or three times bigger. "Ghetto Story is 3 times what Vitamin S did. Here in Jamaica, the song had a big effect. In America, it's a totally different world," Cham said in a recent interview with this writer. Cham has been busy on the promotional rounds promoting the Ghetto Story single and the album of the same name. The album was released on August 15 on Madhouse Records and is being distributed by Atlantic Records. "The promotions have been going well. I have been doing a lot of promotional shows to get spins on the radio stations. It's a lot of work. I just recently did a show with Ruben Studdard, Avant, Busta Rhymes and Cassie which had over 15,000 people. I did the Hot 97 Summer Jam show which had over 60,000 people, so everything is falling into place," Cham explained.

Cham's debut album WOW: The Story was released in 2000. Ghetto Story arrives some six years later, after Cham had penetrated the market with successive hit singles including Vitamin S, Bad Mind, Can't Stop Us Now and Girl among others. But just how different is the album Ghetto Story in comparison to WOW: The Story? Cham said growth was the main factor. "I am now six years wiser and a little more settled. I am more into my game now." At 28 years of age, Cham is already on top of his game. The father of two says fatherhood has brought out the kid in him. "The best thing to have happened to me was becoming a father. My first child is now six years old, and I have another who is now 11 months old. I have learnt so much from them.  They have taught me to be patient. They bring out the kid in me. I am really the coolest dad. They have even made me start watching cartoons again," Cham concluded.

A Year After Katrina, The Beat Goes On

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Mira Oberman, Agence France-Presse

(Aug. 26, 2006) NEW ORLEANS -- On an otherwise quiet night in the
French Quarter, there's a line snaking around the block to get into Preservation Hall for a taste of classic New Orleans jazz. The rich sounds of old standards and a room full of feet tapping will soon bounce off the stone walls as a vibrant reminder that there's no other city like the Big Easy. But in the courtyard behind the hall, the mood among the musicians getting ready to play is more sombre than it was before Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the city a year ago. Katrina swept ashore in the early morning of August 29, killing more than 1,500 people along the U.S. Gulf Coast and, after the dykes gave way, flooding 80 per cent of New Orleans. "We're terribly injured," said clarinetist Michael Pierce, 62. "We're in pain for the people we've lost -- the loved ones, the wives and the girlfriends. The morale is real low." It isn't just family members who are missed. With so many good musicians still scattered across the country, there are fewer quality gigs available, Pierce said. Less than half the city has come home. Musicians who tried to return have faced skyrocketing rents and venues that have remained shuttered because there aren't enough tourists to pay the bills. There is still enough amazing music in New Orleans to satisfy even the most discerning aficionado. And there have certainly been some incredible new songs inspired by the chaos of Katrina. But for a culture that evolved through rich social networks and a tradition of musical apprenticeship, more was lost than just homes. "Will it change? I don't know anyone who'd say no, there's no question," said Jordan Hirsch, the administrator of the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund.

"New Orleans music was the product of a dynamism that involved churches, schools and neighbourhood bands," he said. "It's a continuum that evolved generation to generation in this social context." The relief fund, along with several others, is handing out grants to replace lost instruments, subsidize the rents or home-rebuilding costs of musicians, and reopen local music stores and studios. Habitat for Humanity is building a "musicians' village" of low-cost homes in the midst of the rubble, and there are grants to replace the instruments of high school bands so the next generation of musicians has something to play. The big question for the music community -- as for everyone else who knows what it means to miss New Orleans -- is whether the reconstruction will restore the entire infrastructure that nourished it. Will enough affordable housing be rebuilt? Will the churches and schools all reopen? Will the uncles with an extra horn come back to pass it along to a kid inspired by a second line band marching through the streets? "There's an incredible will to sustain it," said Hirsch. "We've got people crammed into trailers, couch surfing, commuting two hours a day. As bad as things are here, the overwhelming majority is clamouring to come back." For many musicians, there isn't anywhere else to live. "I've been in New Orleans 20 years," said Mari Watanabe, 41, who lost two keyboards and a piano to the floods, while her husband lost 25 saxophones. "If I start somewhere new, looking Japanese, it's hard for people to think I'm playing New Orleans music, so I'd have to start all over again."

Vickie Winans Scores Biggest Gospel Debut Of 2006

Excerpt from

(August 24, 2006) Gospel legend
Vickie Winans’ much anticipated double CD, “Woman to  Woman: Songs of Life” (Verity Records) has just nabbed a position as  the biggest gospel debut of 2006 with over 25,000 in sales its first  week. The singer has recently graced the covers of Jet and Gospel  Today magazines. Steve Jones, a USA Today scribe, recently called her,  "one of gospel’s most dynamic artists," and wrote that the new CD,  "captures Winans at her show-stopping best. For her, life is a song  worth singing.”  A decade in the making, the thirty-three song, double CD features  the Top 5 gospel radio single “It’s Alright.”  Winans recently shot 2 new videos on the new urban and gospel radio singles, “Falling in Love” and “Madly in Love.” Meanwhile, gospel radio is being serviced with the same 2 singles plus 2 additional singles, “Waiting on Jesus,” and the dramatic ballad, “The Rainbow.” “I have worked so hard to make this the best project that I have  ever recorded,” Winans says!“ There are live orchestral strings on  every ballad.  There are contemporary upbeat songs and traditional songs; it is just packed with gospel goodness, with a little spice of comedy!  It  will definitely minister to all women regardless to what state they  are in. Although, it’s targeted to women, there’s plenty for men to  enjoy in there.  Anyone who needs to be inspired, can relate to the  songs on this CD!”

The first half of the groundbreaking project features studio tracks  by leading producers such as Rodney “Newchild” Jerkins; Warren  Campbell; Winans’ platinum-selling son, Mario Winans;  Cedric &  Victor Caldwell; and Vickie Winans herself.  Kayla Parker, who has done background vocals for Winans since 1991, creates  mesmerizing background vocal arrangements throughout the project. Winans co-wrote many of the songs and also has stellar contributions  from Walter & Edwin Hawkins, Angie Winans, Brent Jones, Mario Winans,  Marvin Winans Jr. and others. The second CD was hosted by Bishop T. D. Jakes and recorded before an  enthusiastic audience of 10,000 at the House of Hope Worship Center  in Chicago.  This portion was also produced by Winans and Steven Ford. Backed by an orchestra, a full choir and a phenomenal rhythm section, Winans laid down a string of heart-pounding music performances that ranged from traditional church songs, calypso praise numbers to tear-jerking ballads.  For more information, visit

Tego Calderón Has Dropped The Bling

Excerpt from - Leila Cobo

(August 22, 2006) A few weeks ago, after much soul searching, the Puerto Rican rapper took off his trademark chains, rings, diamonds and anything remotely ostentatious and continued about the business of making music as he has always done: quietly and with little fanfare.  Indeed, the change in accoutrements suits
Calderón well. The rapper has cultivated an image as the deep thinker and top lyricist of the reggaetón movement, a notion supported by his recent trip to Sierra Leone to film a documentary on the diamond mining business. Calderón returned a changed man, acutely aware of hardship and more determined than ever to lose that bling.  The marketability of that image will be truly measured with the Aug. 29 release of "El Subestimado/The Underdog." The album, arriving on Calderón's own Jiggiry label via a production and distribution deal with Atlantic, pairs his music with a marketing and promotional infrastructure far greater than has supported his music before.  But Calderón did not deliver exactly what Atlantic bargained for. "El Subestimado" is rich in rhythmic variety, ranging from straight-ahead reggaetón, salsa and Puerto Rican bomba to blues, reggae and funk. It is lyrically enticing and very rarely banal.  And, save for an occasional chorus, it is entirely in Spanish. "I have a hook in one song where I explain my position with the crossover," says Calderón, who is focused on Latin sounds. "I say, 'No, no, don't mess with the slo mo, you might not understand, but it's hot.' We purposefully had little English. Even though we had pressure from Atlantic to include Anglo artists, it wasn't what I wanted to bring, and they respected that."

Calderón's lone prior studio album, 2003's "El Abayarde," has sold a modest 132,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. (A compilation, "Los Enemigos Del Guaisibiri," has shifted 105,000.) Given the language challenge, Atlantic is initially working "El Subestimado" to Calderón's core Latin audience at Spanish-language radio via the single "Los Maté." The track is No. 46 on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart this issue. In the coming months, the label will work "Chillin' " and "Slo Mo," two songs that have some English content, to rhythmic and rap radio.  "It's all about starting with the core first and making sure -- and this is critically important to Tego -- that his core fan base and his core audience know he didn't change his musical philosophy because he linked up to Atlantic," says label chairman/CEO Craig Kallman, who signed Calderón. "For him, it was about staying true musically to what he believes in. And for us, it's about empowering him to do what he was musically inspired to do."  For Calderón, that meant biding his time between albums, to sidestep some of the hype surrounding reggaetón as a potential next big thing. "I didn't want to be the poster boy for this music," says the artist, who explained the album track by track during a recent evening in a Miami hotel room.  Instead of concentrating on creating an album of reggaetón hits, Calderón did some soul searching. He poured his heart out on "El Subestimado," including a track titled "O Dios" (O God), a word play on "odios" (hates) about fathers' rights to see their children, directly based on his own experiences with the mother of his oldest daughter. Another track talks about his deceased father. "Llorarás," the Oscar D'León salsa classic, features D'León himself. Even "Los Maté," an uptempo reggaetón track, deals with the struggle of rich against poor.  "It was a way to fulfill reggaetón and lyricism -- a kind of bridge between the two," Calderón says of his approach to the album.  The artists keeps close ties with many reggaetón acts and producers, including Don Omar (featured on "Chillin' "), Eddie Dee, Voltio and protégé Chyno Nyno. He says he is acutely aware of the lyrical and musical constraints of the genre, but also appreciates its advantages.  "The reggaetón beat is what makes people dance. And the dancing is an essential element. Even Anglos don't understand what we're saying, and they dance it," he says.  But for those who do understand, Calderón wants to make a difference, revelling in his Latin roots and shedding light on the plight of black Latins. "I'm done with denouncing and attacking," Calderón says. "What I want to do is educate: 'You are my fans, I want you to understand my people. Understand our pain.'"

Shakira Flexes Her Charm

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

(Aug. 28, 2006) Weird little bird, this
Shakira.  Whether it's a sort of all-points willingness to please or the stamp of a true artist with a relentless vision — the former seems rather more likely — the Colombian pop starlet operates on the live stage with an unpredictable spirit quite unique among performers of her stature.  For one thing, despite being known in these parts primarily for inescapable chart fodder like 2001's "Whenever, Wherever" and "Hips Don't Lie," this summer's massive duet with Wyclef Jean (currently tagging along with the Latin lovely as opening act on her Oral Fixations tour), Shakira delivered most of her close to sell-out show at the Air Canada Centre last night in Spanish.  This no doubt delighted the sizeable Colombian contingent that kept proudly unfurling flags around the ACC bowl throughout the night, but it didn't faze the far more numerous, English-speaking Shakira "latecomers" — mostly gals in giddy packs who took in every age from preschoolers to grandmothers, but not devoid of boyfriends, husbands and dancing queens of the "drag," "out" and "repressed" varieties — who kept the room in a buoyant, politely boisterous mood all evening long.  It is possible, since the sound was so bad where I was sitting that I often couldn't tell if Shakira was singing in any recognizable language at all, that no one noticed. Hell, the two dudes behind me never heard a note that came out of her mouth; they jabbered so excitedly about Shakira's famous hips all night that I was tempted to hand them napkins.

More likely, though, the room was won over by the teensy-weensy performer's unquestionable charm. And while Shakira's occasional tendency to play to the monitor cameras rather than the crowd and her "spontaneous" Céline Dion-esque stage banter ("The sky was full of stars like I've never seen. The waves were fluorescent. It was inevitable that, on that night, a song would be born") mark her with a Vegas heart, her show is free of the Vegas trappings that bedevil such commercial peers as Dion, Shania Twain or Christina Aguilera.  The melodramatic "No" was preceded by a taped modern-dance interlude and featured Shakira warbling in a long-trained scarlet gown that grew whirling, silken wings at the final chorus. She conducted a bit of rope-aided bellydancing during "La Tortura," which will haunt my dreams for the rest of my days. On one of the anodyne pop-rock numbers from last year's Fijacion Oral/Oral Fixation double pack — "Hey You" or "Don't Bother" or another of the night's Pat Benatar moments, I can't remember which because they all sound the same — she donned a sparkly guitar and appeared to mime a solo (if Shakira actually played it, I apologize, but in my experience guitars don't hold the same notes steadily when the strings are released and the body tucked abruptly against one's side).  Mostly, though, this was just Shakira flashing her chestnut eyes at the crowd, bounding around barefoot in a pair of black yoga pants and doing the "entertainer" thing. She's not blessed with much memorable material, but as pop tarts go she's likeably unfrilly. And, when she copped some reasonably authentic coo-coo bossa nova jazz style at one point, even this cold, cold heart warmed up a little bit.

Hold On, Sam Moore Is Back: Soul Man's New CD Features Mariah

Excerpt from - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(August 28, 2006) *Whether the initials “S” and “M” stand for soul man or
Sam Moore, it connotes the exact same thing. Believe it.  Powerful soulster Sam Moore will drop his latest project, “Overnight Sensational” tomorrow, August 29, featuring some of the realest rhythm & blues that’s hit the airwaves in quite a long time.  Formerly one-half of the 60s group Sam & Dave, Moore does what he does best – teams up and this time it’s with some major music star power. The 12-song disc features Moore with legendary musicians from different genres including rock icon Bruce Springsteen, gospel star BeBe Winans, country star Wynonna, and pop legend Sting. The disc also features Jon Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, Nikka Costa and Fantasia.  This cornucopia of cross-styles unite to soulful remakes of hits from stars ranging from country’s Conway Twitty to the legendary Ray Charles to shamed popsters Milli Vanilli (don’t worry, Fantasia sangs “Blame It On The Rain). “I think I achieved what I set out to do,” 70-year-old Moore said of the new disc. “We’ve had this in the process for about 20 years. When the time came, and Rhino [Records] came back and said we want you to do something, do what you want to do, and we got Randy Jackson from ‘American Idol’ to produce it – it went on from there.”  Moore describes the project as a bona fide record. He mentioned to EUR’s Lee Bailey that a lot of today’s music is not necessarily focused on the music part, but more on the production and performance of the songs. “Performers don’t perform for the public anymore,” he said. “They do productions. They have the dancing and all that – and that’s OK, I’m not taking anything away from them, but I have to stick to what got me there. My public got me there so I have to do something that they can share in. I didn’t want to do a production song. I wanted to do a song that when you get up from the show, like when Dave [Prater] and I were together, they can walk out singing, dancing, whatever they want to do. Not for them to walk out saying, ‘Awww, he didn’t sing enough. All that dancing and stuff.’ No. People can feel it and have a good time.”

In coming up with the teamings and concepts for the disc, Moore says he would watch late night TV and go through CDs of the latest chart toppers. “I sat at night and I would look at TV, I would listen to other people on CD. I did it because I wanted to go through saying, ‘That’s not what I want to do with that.’ I don’t want to sing a song and cut my eyes to see the mark where I need to stand and do that song.” Moore’s wife and manager, Joyce Moore, told Lee that she has been working toward creating this project for more than two decades. “I go back about 23 years ago and I remember coming to your house with you working on RadioScope. I remember working with you and giving you some story leads because I thought it was a great idea. This is the album that I was talking about then. I’ve wanted to do this almost from the beginning of the time that Sam and I got together, realizing that he deserved and the world deserved to really hear how brilliant he is an what a gift he’s got. I am so proud of this project; I’m so humbled by it. I feel so blessed that it’s finally seen daylight. Joyce Moore added that the only sad spot in the production of the album was the loss of Billy Preston. “Overnight Sensational” is the last disc Preston worked on. “To lose him was crushing and devastating. It’s a wound that is not going to heal, but at least there are things, I think, that Sam and I and Randy have done with this project – it’s the last thing that he ever did in the studio – that will help us keep his flame.” Preston plays on “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and also plays and duets with Sam on “You Are So Beautiful,” which he wrote. Mrs. Moore calls that piece, which Joe Cocker made famous in 1975, a “very poignant tribute to [Billy] and a showcase” for the late singer who, because of not being treated for pericarditis, suffered a respiratory arrest in November, 2005. Preston died this past June. Entertainment journalist Roger Friedman is the assistant executive producer of “Overnight Sensational, made the documentary “Only the Strong Survive,” a DVD featuring performances from R&B legends such as Wilson Pickett, Jerry Butler, the Chi-Lites, Carla Thomas, Mary Wilson, Ann Peebles, and more.

“I love soul music,” Friedman said of what motivated him to work on the project. “About 10 years ago I got really nervous that it was slipping away and I felt we had to do something. There were some really good books, but I said, ‘I gotta start getting people on film and on the record.’ This is a nice culmination of all that.” Friedman said that as the project progressed, he and Jackson were faced with the rare problem of having too much talent for the project. The two came up with a resolution: another record. “The record label told us that we had to get at least six guest stars. We cleared 20. I think we have 25 on the album and we had a whole bunch more waiting to be on the album,” he said. “So, we’re going to do a second album. We have Gladys Knight, Rob Thomas, and Cyndi Lauper [waiting] and there just wasn’t enough room for all these people.” He continued that the disc really isn’t about all the guest stars anyway, but Sam.  “Every one of these people that came into the studio, they would sing with Sam live in the studio and they were so in awe of him. Mariah couldn’t believe his voice,” he said. “Randy really made it a hit album. Some of the other albums like this tend to do just old standards. We really looked for songs that were hits and it sounds like 12 hit singles. That was the intention, not to make it some old fuddy-duddy thing, but to make it really contemporary sounding.” “Overnight Sensational” hits stores tomorrow, August 29. To HEAR the album and/or songs from it, click HERE. For more on the CD and Sam Moore’s upcoming projects, check out the singer's page at the Rhino Records website.

Via YouTube,  Sam Moore discusses how "Overnight Sensational" came together at the 2006 SXSW Music Conference:

Full Force -- Exercising the Power of Their Music

Excerpt from - By Deardra Shuler

(August 29, 2006) *
Full Force the six man group comprised of three brothers and three cousins rose to fame in the mid-1980s.  The three brothers are known as and nick named Paul Anthony, B-Fine and Bow Legged Lou with cousins Shy Shy, Baby Gerry and Curt-t-t. These talented performers, writers and producers came to prominence with their first big production and hit “Roxanne Roxanne” via the group U.T.F.O.  Full Force however has been the moving force behind the careers of several of today’s Top 40 Superstars.  “We discovered and co-managed U.T.F.O., who were fellow Brooklynites like ourselves” said Paul Anthony and Bowlegged Lou.  “Full Force produced all U.T.F.O’s albums and hits.  U.T.F.O. wrote their raps and we did the music.  It was a 50-50 music writing split.  The song Roxanne Roxanne peaked on the pop charts in the top 50 and was the most answered back record in the Guinness Book of World Records,” recalled Bow Legged Lou.  “There were 23 answer back records for Roxanne Roxanne.  There was “Roxanne’s Revenge,” “Roxanne’s Back,” and “Roxanne’s Dog,” etc.  We did “The Real Roxanne.”  It became a Roxanne soap opera” said Lou.   “Initially, we were Full Force the group and then Steve Salem became our co-manager.  He told us that we should produce other artists in order to bring attention to Full Force.  Steve suggested that by producing and writing for other artists we might get a shot at a record deal of our own.  At first, I fought against it, but then we did Roxanne Roxanne and later discovered Lisa Lisa” said Lou.  “We wrote a song called “I Wonder If I Take You Home” and then auditioned a bunch of girls to see who could sing it.  Then Lisa Velez a.k.a Lisa Lisa came in and rocked the audition and the rest is history.  Later it became Lisa Lisa, and the Cult Jam with Full Force.  Lisa was the first Hispanic diva to get into the hip hop dance music genre.  After her came Gloria Estafon, then Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin. Eventually, we did get our own record deal with Columbia Records.”

Full Force released solo material and had some minor R&B hits of their own such as “Temporary Love Thing,” “All in My Mind” and “Unfaithful So Much.”  They went on to produce James Brown’s comeback album “I’m Real” which gave Brown a substantial hit.  They wrote “All Cried Out,” “Head to Toe,” “Lost in Emotion,” “Ain’t My Type of Hype,” “Alice I Want You Just For Me,” “Old Flames Never Die” and “Thanks for My Child” for Cheryl Pepsii Riley.  “We also wrote “Try Me,” for actress Jasmine Guy, her first and only big hit which was a Top 10 record. I was excited about meeting Jasmine after seeing her on “A Different World.”  She actually picked me up from the airport in L.A., when I first met her and we became great friends.  We are still friends to this day” remarked Lou.  The cache of artists Full Force has written and produced for include the likes of The Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Selena, Patti LaBelle, Samantha Fox, Bob Dylan, Gerald Levert, B.B. King, Lil’ Kim, Method Man, The Black Eyed Peas, Isaac Hayes, Wanda Dee, Justin Timberlake, Teddy Riley, Ginuwine, Rihanna and  Britney Spears, etc.  “Patti Labelle was great to work with.  She was so fast and quick.  Everything she did was great.  We did a song for her called “I Got It Like That,” on the album “Be Yourself.”  Prince had a song on that album called “Hey Mister.”  We were so busy that when we had requests from Patti’s people to work with her we just didn’t have the time but sent word that we loved her.  Then one day she walked into a studio session we were doing and said: “I don’t want to interrupt you all, but I want to say something to you.  I have been asking to work with you and I know you are kind of busy and everything…but guess what – you all are going to work with Ms. Patti.  Just know that!”  Then Patti turned around and left.  And you know what, we did work with her” claimed Lou and Paul Anthony.

“We worked with Britney Spears who celebrated her 18th birthday in our Brooklyn studio.  All my brothers are songwriters.  Paul is the guy who can get the most out of a vocalist.  In fact, he told Patti LaBelle she was off key and even she had to admit she was.  My brother B-Fine was the one that wrote Lisa Lisa’s hit “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” which is still making us money to this day.  In fact, the Black-Eyed Peas just did a song called “Don’t Fuck With My Heart” using the Lisa Lisa song “I Wonder If I Take You Home” claimed the 2 brothers. It’s all in the family since Baby Gerry is a keyboardist and song writer and Shy plays bass guitar and writes songs, too. Curt-t-t is an instrumentalist, singer, and writer.”  Presently Full Force is working with new acts.  One act is called Diamonds in the Dirt which features Bow legged Lou’s son; another is Nikki Mirage, a solo female rapper and LOL, a white alternative rock group. They are also fine tuning Taishee, their 13 year old protégée, as well as working on a hip hop musical comedy entitled “Bouncer.”   We are bringing people from around the world to participate in vigorous training and creating a diet and exercise regime to strengthen the body, mind and soul,” added Paul Anthony as part of working on a reality show with Joe Jackson entitled ‘Hip Hop Boot Camp.’  The show will highlight strength endurance and dictate fashion as well.  Whatever, we do is sure to bear the Full Force stamp of approval” claimed the two brothers.   Learn more about Full Force at

Deardra Shuler is a journalist, radio talk show host of "Topically Yours" and producer of other talk shows on She is the PR Chairman of FESPACO/PRAI.  She authored a short story in Aurielle Ford's book, "Mystical Souvenirs," and has edited both book and newspapers. Ms. Shuler is a member of the Nat'l Assoc. of Black Journalist, The Nat'l Congress of Black Women, African American Women.

Dunn Leads Country Nominations

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Aug. 30, 2006) NEW YORK —
Brooks & Dunn and Brad Paisley were both nominated for six Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday, but Ronnie Dunn emerged as the leader with seven nominations, including one for the group’s inspirational song “Believe.’’  Both Paisley and Brooks & Dunn were nominated for entertainer of the year, single of the year and album of the year, among other nominations. For Paisley, who was also nominated for six Academy of Country Music Awards earlier this year, the CMA nominations underscore his hot streak.  “It has felt like a really good year, and getting these nominations, it feels really good because it feels like (I’ve) sort of grown into these clothes a little more, and that to me is one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had,” Paisley said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.  Other multiple nominees included Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban and ``American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood, who had four each.  Rascal Flatts and Dolly Parton, who sang with Paisley on his tearjerker hit “When I Get Where I’m Going,” were both nominated for three awards.  The nominations were announced in two locations; the first five categories were announced by Paisley and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, another CMA nominee, live on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in New York. The rest of the nominees were announced a bit later by Jason Aldean and Little Big Town in Nashville, Tenn.  Both “Believe” and “When I Get Where I’m Going” are tunes that reference the afterlife and a person’s waning moments on Earth; both were nominated for single of the year as well.  “I think it’s something that really relates to people who have ever lost someone,” Paisley said of his song. “It really captures that universal emotion that you’re trying to catch, that you really want people to share with people when you are singing it.’’  Other nominees for single of the year include Underwood’s ``Jesus Take the Wheel,’’ “Summertime” by Chesney and “Better Life” by Urban.

The nominees for the songwriter’s award for song of the year are ``8th of November,” by Big & Rich; “Believe” by Craig Wiseman and Ronnie Dunn; “Jesus Take the Wheel,” written by Hillary Lindsey, Brett James and Gordie Sampson; “Tonight I Wanna Cry,’’ written by Urban and Monty Powell; and “When I Get Where I’m Going,” by Rivers Rutherford and George Teren.  Nominees for album of the year are Brooks & Dunn for “Hillbilly Deluxe,” Rascal Flatts for “Me and My Gang,” Alan Jackson for ``Precious Memories,” Paisley for “Time Well Wasted” and Chesney for “The Road and the Radio.’’  The male-centric field of nominees for entertainer of the year include Rascal Flatts, Brooks & Dunn, Chesney, Paisley and last year’s winner, Urban.  Nominees for female vocalist of the year are Underwood, Gretchen Wilson, Faith Hill, Sara Evans and Martina McBride.  For male vocalist of the year, the nominees are Dierks Bently, Jackson, Paisley, Urban and Chesney.  Besides Sugarland, nominees for vocal group include Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Little Big Town, Lonestar, Rascal Flatts and Sugarland.  Miranda Lambert, nominated for the Horizon Award last year, was once again nominated for that award, which celebrates the breakthrough of an emerging artist. Other nominees include Little Big Town, Josh Turner, Sugarland, also nominated last year, and Underwood, who made her triple-platinum debut last year.  The CMA Awards, which were held in New York City for the first time last year, return to their Nashville home Nov. 6 to celebrate their 40th anniversary. The show will air on ABC.

Chet Baker Blast

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Aug. 30, 2006) It's been 18 years since
Chet Baker's death and 42 since he took a striking English model as his third wife, but the incomparable trumpeter-vocalist's widow doesn't hesitate when asked to recall the couple's happiest times.  "It was when he lost his teeth and couldn't play," said Carol Baker of the entertainer's forced 1966-69 hiatus after he got beaten up outside a jazz club in San Francisco.  For his wife and three children, the ignominy of being on welfare while the horn player's career languished was offset by their delight in having him at home.  But the bittersweet idyll ended when Baker got dentures, retooled his embouchure and resumed the peripatetic musician's life.  By the mid-'70s, he was separated from his family, chasing steady work in Europe. Baker died at age 58 after falling from an Amsterdam hotel window in 1988.  Sadness lingers in the corners of Carol Baker's eyes and lips, even when she isn't discussing her complicated marriage, her late husband's drug habit and related arrests, or the family's subsequent legal battles with record labels for his royalties.  But she doesn't care to dwell on the negatives, which she believes have overshadowed the player-singer's legacy. She'd rather focus on the inaugural Chet Baker Jazz Fest taking place this weekend. Organized by the Chet Baker Foundation to promote jazz and jazz education, the three-day homage to Baker's life and music includes concerts at Yonge-Dundas Square starting Saturday at 2 p.m. and The Rex that night, and ticketed shows ($25-$45) at The Music Hall on Friday and Sunday.  Participating musicians include trumpeters Randy Brecker from New York and Kevin Turcotte, who lauded the trumpet great's "natural, melodic tone."  There will also be eight veterans on stage who once played with Baker.

"He really was one of my favourites; he and Miles (Davis) are very close in sound," said Massachusetts trombonist Curtis Fuller, 72, recalling Detroit jam sessions with the romantic, lyrical player.  Oklahoma-born, self-taught on the trumpet, Chesney Henry Baker Jr. made his name as a young musician playing with saxists Charlie Parker and Gerry Mulligan in the '50s.  Blessed with the musical chops and the magnetism of his brooding James Dean looks, Baker helped define the more mellow West Coast style dubbed cool jazz.  Signature tunes such as "My Funny Valentine" and "Let's Get Lost" won him the prestigious Down Beat critics' award in 1953, but the burden of a long-term heroin addiction began to subtract from his glamour and cause chaos in his personal and professional lives.  Herb Geller, who's based in Germany, worked with the trumpeter early in his career and reunited with him for his final recording, The Last Great Concert, two weeks before he died.  "In the middle of the rehearsal we had to stop, because his dentures kept slipping," recalled Geller, 77, who is in town for the festival.  "Somebody had to go to the pharmacy to get some kind of glue to keep his teeth in.... His range was more limited than before, but he made beautiful use of those two octaves."  "Anyone who listens to music knows what his contribution has been, but that's always downplayed by other parts of his life," said Carol Baker, 66. She has temporarily relocated from Tulsa for the festival, which is being staged here primarily because it's home to erstwhile fashion photographer and concert promoter Jhames Lee, manager of the Chet Baker Estate.  "He's a young guy and go-getter, which I like," said Baker of the thirtysomething Lee. "He's not lost enthusiasm, as I have over the years, dealing with the record companies."  She was a 19-year-old model on her first trip away from home when she met the handsome 31-year-old trumpeter-vocalist at a Milan nightclub in 1960.  She describes him as an introvert and suggests self-doubt contributed to his drug use.

"It got back to him that some musicians said he was not deserving (of the Down Beat award) and that always bothered him. He didn't feel quite so insecure when he was (using drugs)."  She recalled his lowest point, when he had to put down his instrument after losing his front teeth.  "He came to me with tears in his eyes and said, `I can't make a sound, it's just air coming out — maybe I can just sing.' But I knew that wouldn't be enough, because his horn was his love. I just told him to go practise. I didn't know anything about embouchure (the contractions of facial muscles that define the sound for a horn playing). If I had, I would have been as scared as he was."  Baker retreated to the bathroom, his favourite room for the acoustics, and gradually got his sound back. Soon he was headlining again.  "It comes down to having to go back to Europe because that's where the work is," says his widow, putting the situation in the present tense.  "But I can't drag three small children from job to job. And when you can't be with your husband, other (women) are willing to step in ...  "In 1978, I called to tell him I wanted a divorce. I wanted a stable life. I loved him to death, but I'd rather be away from him than with him."  Children in tow, she settled in Oklahoma near her mother-in-law and found work as a college secretary.  But the couple never did divorce and the trumpeter visited her and the children several times a year until his death.  "Every time he came home, he asked me to come back to Europe with him. But nothing had changed, except we now had three older children. I just wish we'd seen more of him during the last 10 years, and taken more pictures when he came."

For the Chet Baker Jazz Fest schedule and ticket information, visit or call 416-880-2438.


Lyfe Jennings’ ‘Phoenix’ Rises To No. 1

Excerpt from

(August 25, 2006) *
Lyfe Jennings debuts atop Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart with his sophomore Columbia effort "The Phoenix," which sold 136,000 copies in its first week on the street.   The set enters The Billboard 200 album chart at No. 2 behind Christina Aguilera’s double-disc RCA set "Back to Basics." The first-week sales for "Back to Basics" are the most for a solo female artist since Mary J. Blige moved 727,000 in December with "The Breakthrough," reports Billboard. Aguilera's current single, "Ain't No Other Man," has peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100 thus far.    Elsewhere on the Billboard 200, Cherish opens at No. 4 with the Sho'Nuff set "Underappreciated," which sold 91,000 copies. After debuting on top last week, Rick Ross' "Port of Miami" (Slip-N-Slide/Def Jam) slides to No. 7 with 79,000, a 58% sales decline.  Rapper Obie Trice's "Second Round's on Me" (Shady) debuts at No. 8 with 74,000, while the Jive/Zomba soundtrack to "Step Up" falls 6-9 with 64,000 copies, a sales increase of 9%.  Jamaican superstar Cham's Atlantic debut, "Ghetto Story" bows at No. 53 with 15,000.

Unreleased Gaye, Classic Temps On DVD

Excerpt from

(August 24, 2006) *Reelin' In The Years Productions and Universal Music Group International are behind the release of "The Temptations - Get Ready! The Definitive Performances 1965-1972" on DVD, Sept. 12. Also due that day is "
Marvin Gaye - Live In Belgium 1981," marking the American debut of this rare concert footage in any format.   ‘Get Ready’ features for the first time on DVD the Motown group in 16 classic full-length performances -- 60 minutes of archival performances from television and film appearances captured during Motown's golden era, issued with the full cooperation of the original Temptations and their estates.    There's rare footage of vintage performances, from No. 1 hits "My Girl," "I Can't Get Next To You" and "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone" (the latter from the feature film "Save The Children," and on home video for the first time) to psychedelic soul masterpieces "Cloud Nine," "Runaway Child, Running Wild" and "Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today)." Further treasures include a bittersweet live performance of the #1 1971 hit "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" on "The Ed Sullivan Show," lead vocalist Eddie Kendricks' final performance with the original group; an amazing live 1968 performance of "I Wish It Would Rain" from "Hollywood Palace"; and a rare version of "Don't Look Back" from 1965 featuring Paul Williams on lead.    The performances contain re-mastered sound and video, plus the audio-only bonus feature "The Temptations in the Motown Studios": 15 original a cappella lead and backing vocal tracks to their greatest hits. Interspersed between the performances, only surviving original member Otis Williams reviews each song and recounts special moments in the history of the group.    "Marvin Gaye - Live In Belgium 1981" is an hour-long, televised concert from his self-exile in Ostende, Belgium, originally performed July 4th, 1981. He sings 10 of his biggest hits, including "Got To Give It Up," "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," and a medley of famous Tammi Terrell duets.    Also included on the DVD are bonus footage of a candid Marvin Gaye interview along with two rare lip-sync performances of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" and "Heavy Love Affair," from a local Belgian TV show promoting this upcoming show. Also featured is the original a cappella vocal track for "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."  For further information please visit  

Dave Hollister Kisses R&B Good-Bye For Good

Excerpt from - By Mona Austin

(August 24, 2006) Two years ago
Dave Hollister, an original member of Teddy Riley’s Blackstreet, surrendered his R&B career.  He was confronted with a life or death choice that would lead to his first gospel recording.  In order to appreciate the significance of the new album “The Book Of David: Vol 1 The Transition” (Zomba Gospel), one must understand the odyssey that brought him to the doorway of death.  He was on his way from a hotel where he was hosting a show. By his own admission he was driving drunk.  His poor mental state was augmented by the eighth of an ounce of cocaine he’d consumed in addition to the liquor.   It all happened so fast. Topanga Pass, a winding road overlooking a cliff outside of Los Angeles became a maze as he lost control of the wheel.  The car crashed into a guard rail. Then he recalls that it flipped three times. Amazingly, the PK (Preacher’s Kid) walked away from the accident unscathed. Narrowly escaping the kiss of death, Hollister realized he needed to make some major changes  in his life. He chose to rid himself of the wanton lifestyle the entertainment world offered him as an R&B artist.  The decision was divinely inspired: “God told me if I went back to R&B I would die.” His so called friends vanished with the past he denounced.  “I had money and fame, but I didn’t have God and I didn’t have peace,” he shares while being grateful for Kelly Price who has been a faithful friend and supporter during his transition. He was fortunate to leave the industry with money in his pocket and the void he felt is filled with a renewed relationship with Christ. Dave is tongue-talking saved and hopes to disciple others in the R&B industry, starting with a famous neighbour who lives down the street from him in Chicago: R. Kelly. “He’s just confused right now, but I’ve been talking to him.”  Like the biblical David he is a man after God’s own heart and says his hand is on the plow and there is no turning back. Stay tuned to Part 2 of the one-on-one with Hollister and be sure to check out his new CD on September 26.

Desmond Pringle Releases First Recording In Five Years

Excerpt from

(August 24, 2006) Nashville TN --- Gospel artist
Desmond Pringle has launched his new label, Magnum Opus Entertainment with a new CD entitled “Be Still…” released on Tuesday, August 22.  After inking a distribution deal with Central South Gospel earlier this year, the label has been gearing up for the release of Pringle’s first CD in five years, “Be Still…” The project contains new material—including a tribute duet with the late Rev. James Cleveland on “Jesus Is The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” and a stirring rendition of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” with gospel’s First Lady, Shirley Caesar. The fourteen-song praise and worship collection also features the songs “High Praise” from Bishop Paul Morton’s Multi-Stellar Award Winning “Let It Rain” CD and “Holiness is Right” from the Dove award winning “CeCe Winans Presents the Born Again Church Choir.”  “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with Desmond and his new label, and we are expecting Be Still and future projects on the Magnum Opus Entertainment label to be very successful” says Chuck Adams, President of Central South Gospel.  Radio stations across the country are already embracing the lead radio single, “Let There Be Praise.”  Pringle’s journey into professional music began in the lead role of the hit gospel musical, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.”  With the portrayal receiving an NAACP Image Award nomination. His work as a singer/songwriter gained him contributions to award-winning artists including Yolanda Adams, Bishop T. D. Jakes, and R. Kelly.  Pringle’s first class musical performances continue to gain the enthusiastic respect of diverse, multicultural music lovers and the accolades of industry professionals alike.   For further information or to schedule interviews, please contact Bill Carpenter at 202.636.7028 or

Elton John Looking To Try Hip Hop

Excerpt from

(August 28, 2006) *Perhaps inspired by the way his classic “Benny and the Jets” sounded under Mary J. Blige’s 1999 track “Deep Inside,”
Elton John is now looking to collab with the hottest hip hop producers in the game for a new album. "I want to work with Pharrell, Timbaland, Snoop, Kanye, Eminem and just see what happens," the rock legend says in the Sept. 7 issue of Rolling Stone. "It may be a disaster, it could be fantastic, but you don't know until you try."  The 59-year-old has already teamed with Eminem, albeit briefly, as the surprise piano player for the rapper’s performance of “Stan” at the 2001 Grammy awards. John says he’s always been a fan of Blackstreet's "No Diggity" and Tupac Shakur's "California Love." "I want to bring my songs and melodies to hip-hop beats," John says. "I love these beats, but I have no idea how to get them."  Now that the word is out, it’s no diggity his phone will be ringing with offers. In the meantime, his new album, "The Captain and the Kid," is due in September.

Hall, Oates On Cue For Fans

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

(Aug. 29, 2006) It takes a particularly brazen audience member to interrupt a performer who had just announced that he was about to sing his favourite song of all time. It takes an equally accommodating performer to scrap the original plan and consent to sing the shouted request instead.  "Screw my favourite song," said Daryl Hall near the end of last night's
Hall and Oates show at the Hummingbird Centre. "I'll play your favourite song."  Hall then added: "I aim to please. Always did. Always will."  The song in question, "Me and Mrs. Jones," wasn't even a Hall and Oates original, although the Billy Paul hit has been performed numerous times by the tandem.  "Me and Mrs. Jones," like much of the duo's own output, is steeped in the soul tradition of performers' native city, Philadelphia. It followed another classic of the genre, the Spinners' hit "I'll be Around," covered on Hall and Oates' most recent studio recording, 2004's Our Kind of Soul.  It wasn't as if the fan's request was entirely out of line. At the top of the show, Hall announced that a recording of the entire concert would be made available for sale as soon as 10 minutes after the end of the show, in the process encouraging the audience to contribute to the set list.  Most of them wanted to hear songs that Hall, Oates and their five accompanists probably intended to play anyway. The band's own catalogue, dating back to the early '70s, isn't short on guaranteed crowd-pleasers. And little time was wasted satisfying that demand.  The program opened with "Maneater" and by the end of the night included "One on One," "Rich Girl," "Say it Isn't So" and "She's Gone." "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" allowed sax player Charles DeChant to stretch out for an extended solo.  John Oates paved the way for another high point when he launched into the opening lines to "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," a song popularized by the duo's blue-eyed soul forebears, the Righteous Brothers.  Hall, whose demonstrative singing was the central focus of much of the show, has probably surrendered a bit of range over the years, but his interpretive impulses appear undiminished.  Maybe we didn't get to find out what his favourite song is. But he treated every one he performed as though it might have qualified for that distinction.

Leopold Simoneau, 90: Acclaimed Opera Singer

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 27, 2006) VICTORIA (CP) —
Leopold Simoneau, one of Canada's most acclaimed opera singers, has died at age 90. Simoneau died peacefully Thursday night in the Victoria home where he had lived for the past 20 years with his wife, soprano Pierrette Alaire.  Simoneau was born near Quebec City in 1916, but left as a young man to study music in Montreal.  The tenor rose to fame in the early '40s singing with the Varietes lyriques, performing such well-known pieces as the Barber of Seville and La Traviata.  His career gained an international dimension in 1949 when he began performing in Paris, working with famed composer Igor Stravinsky, among others.  Simoneau quickly developed a reputation as an expert interpreter of Mozart and would go on to sing with many of the world's major orchestras, including New York's Metropolitan Opera and the Lyric Opera in Chicago.  In 1970, Simoneau made his final public appearance, singing Handel's Messiah with the Montreal Symphony.  After teaching for many years, Simoneau and his wife settled in British Columbia in 1982, where they founded Canada Opera Piccola, an advanced training program for young singers.  Simoneau earned several honorary degrees throughout his career, and was made a companion of the Order of Canada in 1995.

Universal Offers Up Music Catalogue For Free, But First Watch This Ad

Source: Canadian Press

(Aug. 29, 2006) TORONTO — A new downloading website is promising to offer free tunes and videos — legally — through an ad-driven service. The New York-based company
SpiralFrog announced Tuesday that it has signed a deal with Universal Music Group to make Universal's extensive catalogue available for downloading in Canada and the United States. The only catch is that the target audience — those between the ages of 13 and 34 — would have to sit through advertising in order to access music and videos owned by the company, home to acts including Kanye West, the Killers, Primus and the Pussycat Dolls, and Canadians including Sarah Harmer and Rufus Wainwright. It was unclear how the ads would be combined with the downloading process, but the tactic was cast as a boon to music nerds and college kids who frequent illegal sites. “SpiralFrog will offer those consumers a better experience and environment than they can get from any pirate site,” SpiralFrog's CEO Robin Kent said Tuesday in a release. “This is the core audience we will attract by building a music-centric experience and destination that is second to none, legally delivering what the majority of users want — content they pay for only with their time. It's content that advertisers are willing to pay for on their behalf.” Kent said Universal Music Group benefits from the deal by sharing in the advertising income streams, but details of how the revenue would be split was not revealed. The announcement follows years of litigation battles over downloading on both sides of the border. SpiralFrog's audio and video content will include “digital rights management technology” to prevent illegal sharing of the downloaded music and videos, the company said.  SpiralFrog will launch in beta later this year.

Brian McKnight Joins Warner Bros. Fam

Excerpt from

(August 29, 2006) *After spending his last eight years releasing product under Motown, singer Brian McKnight has left the fold to sign an exclusive long-term recording contract with Warner Bros. Records, the label announced. His first project under the new venture, and 10th studio album over all, will be the appropriately-titled CD “10,” due in November. "Brian is a triple threat as a singer, songwriter, and producer," says Warner Bros. Records CEO Tom Whalley. "His ability to reach audiences of all ages and musical tastes is a testament to his talent and versatility. We're delighted that he is joining the Warner Bros. family."  McKnight started his recording career in 1992 with Mercury Records, which released his platinum self-titled debut and subsequent albums “I Remember You” in 1995 and “Anytime” in1996. His first release for Motown was the 1998 Christmas album “Bethlehem.” Four more discs followed, including his latest “Gemini,” released in 2005. The Buffalo, New York native has sold a total of 16 million records worldwide.  McKnight will also be a musical guest on the new Fox series "Celebrity Duets," which debuts tonight (Aug. 29) with a two-hour episode. The series pairs recording stars with celebrities, with judges and viewers deciding the fate of each duo every week. The celebrities will compete for a $100,000 cash prize that will be donated to the charity of their choice.

Talib Kweli Drums Up New Album

Excerpt from

(August 30, 2006) *
Talib Kweli’s new solo album, “Ear Drum,” will hit the streets later this year via the rapper’s newly formed Blacksmith Music/Warner Bros. imprint. The disc is led by the first single “Listen,” a plea for the return of real hip hop. (See the video below.)   Other tracks on the LP include "More Or Less" featuring Hi-Tek and "Country Cousins" featuring UGK and Raheem DeVaughn.  "The vast majority of my subject matter focuses on black self-love, black self esteem, black self-worth," he tells "That translates to other communities because if you're a human being, it doesn't matter what color you're talking about. You've been through some sort of struggle and you can apply it to your own life."  In the pipeline for Blacksmith are projects by rappers Jean Grae and Strong Arm Steady, whose members include Xzibit, Phil the Agony, Krondon and Mitchy Slick.   "With Blacksmith, I want it to be a flag that everyone can wave," Kweli says.

Sister Sledge Recruits Labelle, Ciara

Excerpt from

(August 30, 2006) *Patti LaBelle, Ciara, Brian McKnight, Chris Brown and Branford Marsalis have joined
Sister Sledge to record an update of their classic 1970s single, “We Are Family,” with proceeds of the single and DVD earmarked for the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. Rodney Jerkins, who produced the new version, was hoping to gather the guest artists together one more time for the video, but found their schedules to be uncooperative. "We're hoping to get everybody back in, but it was so hard just to finish this,” he said, according to WENN. "I was trying to wait on Mariah (Carey) and Mary Mary, but their schedules were just too crazy."  The “We Are Family” CD single and DVD was due to be released Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s arrival on the Gulf Coast.



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
B'day, Sony
Deja Vu, Pt. 1, Sony BMG
Bobby Valentino,
Special Occasion, Def Jam
Bobby Womack,
Post, Castle
Me & U, WEA/Atlantic
Ghetto Story [Bonus Track], WEA/Atlantic
Do It to It, Pt. 1, EMI/Parlophone
Do It to It, Pt. 2, EMI/Parlophone
Flagship, Q&W
Chris Farlowe,
Hungary for the Blues, SPV
Get Up, Pt. 1, BMG/Laface
Get Up, Pt. 2, BMG/Laface
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, Hip-O
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
My Name Is Gyptian, VP / Universal
High Po4mance,
Life in the Fast Lane, Imn
Is What?!,
The Life We Choose, Hyena
Janet Jackson,
Call on Me, Capitol
100 Grand Jin, Draft
Junebug Slim,
Gangsta Love, Lockdown
Bossy, EMI/Virgin
Kenn Starr,
Starr Status, Halftooth
Killa Kyelon,
Drank Epidemic, Vol. 2, BCD Music Group
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
It's Not That Easy, Pt. 1, Sony BMG
It's Not That Easy, Pt. 2, Sony BMG
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
Lil Wayne,
Shooter [Single], Cash Money
Lloyd Price,
Specialty Profiles, Specialty
No Friends, Cleopatra
Disturbing tha Peace, BCD Music Group
Luny Tunes,
Mas Flow, Vol. 2.5 [CD/DVD], Machete Music
Con Furia,
Method Man,
4:21... The Day After, Def Jam
Michael Franti,
I Know I'm Not Alone, Liberation
Millie Jackson,
Still Caught Up [Expanded], Southbound
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
Sage Francis,
Road Tested 2003-2005,
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, Jiggiri/Atlantic
The Chordettes,
Close Harmony [2006], 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
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,
Inspector, Greensleeves
Various Artists,
La Pelicula [CD & DVD], Universal Latino/New Records Ente
Various Artists,
Reggaeton Club Jamz, Sony International
Various Artists,
Reggaeton Squad, Universal Music Latino/New
Various Artists,
Take Me to Jamaica: Story of Jamaican Mento, Pressure Sounds
The Streets Will Never Be the Same, West Coast Mafia
Young Buck,
Case Dismissed, BCD Music Group
Young Dro,
Best Thang Smokin', Grand Hustle/Atlantic
Young Jeezy,
Live at the Seawall, Oarfin
Ziggy Marley,
Love Is My Religion, Tuff Gong

September 4, 2006

40 Watt Hype, Strong Feet on the Concrete, R.N.L.G. LLC
Aaliyah [5 Bonus Tracks], Edel
B'day, Sony/Columbia
Black Ice,
The Death of Willie Lynch, Koch
Blue Sky Black Death,
Blue Sky Black Death Presents the Holocaust, Babygrande
C.G. Guison,
2 Sides to Every Story, R.N.L.G. LLC
Mr. Predicter, Vol. 2, R.N.L.G. LLC
Celly Cel,
The Hillside Stranglaz, Real Talk
Do It to It, Pt. 1, EMI/Parlophone
Do It to It, Pt. 2, EMI/Parlophone
Hoodstar [Bonus DVD], Toshiba EMI
The Tru Story: Continued, Koch
DJ Spinna,
Intergalactic Soul, V2/Papa
Earl Bostic,
Complete Quintet Recordings, Lonehill Jazz
Another Early Evening, EV
Earth, Wind & Fire,
In the Name of Love, Kalimba
Esther Phillips,
Atlantic Years, WEA/Rhino
Fatsoe 1,
Is That Soe, Hungry Hustler
London Bridge [Single], Universal
Frankie J,
That Girl, Sony
Freda Payne,
The Best of Freda Payne, Collectables
Cursed Infernal Steel, Mega Force
Intellekt & Dirty Digits,
Intellektual Property, ATF
Janet Jackson,
Call on Me, Capitol
Jern Eye,
Authentic Vintage, Kajmere Sound
Jurassic 5,
Feedback [Instrumental], Up Above
Bossy, EMI/Virgin
Bossy, Pt. 1, EMI/Virgin
It's Not That Easy, Pt. 1, Sony BMG
It's Not That Easy, Pt. 2, Sony BMG
Torn, Capitol
Lionel Richie,
Coming Home [Bonus Track], Universal
Lupe Fiasco,
Food and Liquor [Bonus Track], WEA/Atlantic
Lupe Fiasco,
Kick Push, WEA/Atlantic
Master P,
The New No Limit Deluxe, Koch
Master P,
The Ultimate Master P [CD/DVD], Koch
Youth [Bonus Tracks], Sony
Missy Elliott,
Respect M.E., WEA/Atlantic
Midnight Green, EV Productions
Ms. Eryka Kane,
Flow, Legit Ballin'
Here, BBE
Uncomfortable Truth, Four Music
P.P. Arnold,
First Lady of Immediate [Bonus Tracks], JVC Victor
Public Enemy,
Bring That Beat Back, Slamjamz/Defbeat Posse/Koch
Redd Hott,
Redd Hott #1, P-Vine
New Kid on the Block,
Terry Callier,
Life Lessons: The Best of Terry Callier, Music Club Deluxe
The Coasters,
20 Greatest Hits [Teevee], TeeVee
The Commodores,
Colour Collection, Motown
The Razah Code,
Underground Hip Hop, Mercury Ent.
The Staple Singers,
In the Praise of Him, Collectables
The Platters,
19 Greatest Hits, King
Three 6 Mafia,
Side 2 Side, Sony
Trek Life,
Price I've Paid, Kajmere Sound
Convicted Felons, Laboratory
Various Artists,
Second Family of Southern Soul, Hep'me
Various Artists,
In Prison: Afroamerican Prison Music from Blues to Hiphop, Trikont
Various Artists,
Rhythm Traxx Music Presents: Latin Rap All-Starz,
Various Artists,
Reggae Sting, Vol. 1, ZYX
Various Artists,
Reggae Sting, Vol. 2, ZYX
Wade Waters,
Speak on It/Back in Time, Up Above
Ziggy Marley,
Love Is My Religion, Tuff Gong
All Iz, Sci Fidelity


Polley Swaps Acting For Writing And Directing In Adaptation Of Munro Story

Source: Canadian Press - By Lee-Anne Goodman

(Aug. 30, 2006) TORONTO (CP) -
Sarah Polley is a young woman, just 27, and a relative newlywed. Yet Alice Munro's short story about an aging couple dealing with Alzheimer's disease after a long and occasionally troubled marriage was enthralling to her.  "I am in the early years of marriage and I loved the idea of examining in a real way what marriage looks like after that long and what does happen after you fail each other and there have been obstacles," Polley said in a recent interview as she raced to put the finishing touches on Away from Her, her feature film directorial debut.  "The story is about devotion, and what devotion means after a real life and real failures."  Away from Her, starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent, will have its world premiere on Sept. 11 at the Toronto International Film Festival.  The film, Polley's adaptation of Munro's The Bear Came Over the Mountain, tells the story of Grant and Fiona after Fiona, suffering from Alzheimer's and living in a nursing home, becomes romantically attached to a fellow patient, Aubrey.  When Aubrey leaves the facility, a confused Fiona becomes deeply despondent. Out of love for his wife, Grant, with his own history of straying during their 50-year marriage, swallows his male pride and urges Aubrey's wife to re-admit him to the nursing home for the good of Fiona's mental health.  The movie put Polley, 27, in a potentially precarious situation: working on a movie about the complexity of marriage alongside her husband of three years, film editor David Wharnsby.  The couple assumed working side by side on a film delving into matrimony might be trying at times, said Polley, who also wrote the screenplay.

"We both had anticipated it would be difficult and it would be full of tribulation but it wasn't. It was an incredible experience to be able to sit in a room together 24 hours a day and make decisions about a film about marriage, and to disagree and to have it come together."  Atom Egoyan, the executive producer of Away from Her, said he was impressed that Polley chose the tale to make her feature filmmaking debut.  "I think it'll surprise a lot of people; it's very assured," he said. "It's just very interesting to see how a young person deals with these issues of an old relationship. She's a great filmmaker."  Away from Her is also a rare vehicle for Julie Christie, the iconic British actress who plays Fiona. Polley said it took some doing to get the reclusive star to sign on.  "It was a long process to get her to do it," said Polley, who had worked with Christie previously. "She really did like the script and spent a long time agonizing over it, but in the end she said no because she's really ambivalent ... she has a really odd relationship with acting, like I do. She's a pretty reluctant actor and she doesn't particularly want to work a lot right now.  "I felt it was my job to convince her, and it took seven or eight months to get her to agree to do it."  Indeed, getting Away from Her made was a labour of love on all fronts, Polley adds, but one that's given her much more satisfaction than acting.  "On the most basic personal level, it's something I had to struggle and fight to do. There's an incredible feeling or accomplishment in actually having to really struggle to make a decision and get something done," she said. "There's a huge difference in the amount of weight when you're coming up to a screening of a film you wrote and directed rather than a film you just acted in.  "It's so much more exhilarating to be starting up a dialogue with people and seeing an audience's response. It's really so great, and I can't wait to do it again - I've got a lot of ideas buzzing around in my head."


Outkast Continues To Break Boundaries With ‘Idlewild’

Excerpt from

(August 25, 2006)  *It seems like it has taken forever…foreva eva?...for
OutKast’s labour of love “Idlewild” to be released, considering the obscene amount of times Universal and HBO Films have pushed back the opening date. But the film is finally in theatres today, and according to early film reviews, the project was well worth the wait.  Set in the 1930s American South, “Idlewild” is an aural and visual feast from the creative minds of OutKast rappers Andre “3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton – as delivered through the lens of music video director Bryan Barber. In a rare joint interview, the childhood friends say they’ve never bothered to worry about staying within boundaries in hip hop, as evidenced by such hits as “Hey Ya,” and “Bombs Over Baghdad.” Dre said the same attitude applied to the crafting of “Idlewild.” “The only frame that we had on this movie was the 1930s theme,” said Dre. “We had to remember we were in a certain time period, but we still had to remember to keep up OutKast as well.” In the film, Benjamin plays a mortician named Percival, who works on the dead by day at a funeral home owned by his father (Ben Vereen), but comes alive at night as the piano player for a club managed by Rooster, portrayed by Big Boi. The club, called Church, sees some shady doings every night – between the various patrons who make money off of illegal side hustles, the larger-than-life owner Sunshine Ace (Faizon Love), the Shug Avery-like singer Taffy (Macy Gray), the dancers, the showgirls and musicians.  Throw in the influence by a gangster named Trumpy (Terrence Howard) and Rooster has a lot to deal with. Did we mention his suspicious wife, Zora (Malinda Williams)? Dre said it was Barber who decided to plunge all of that drama into a hot bubbling vat of the 1930s. “I think it was a great choice because we don’t get to see that a lot now. When you go to the theatre, you wanna be taken somewhere. I think it’s easier to take somebody somewhere else if you actually take them to another time.

An aspect of the time period particularly attractive to Big Boi was the stature and demeanour carried by African Americans. He explains: “It was a certain type of class; it wasn’t so relaxed where you’re slouched in your seat. I mean, you sit up with your back straight and you walk with your head high and it’s really like a distinguished gentleman – from the wardrobe down to the cars down to how they were dancing back then.” To get into the mindset of young men operating in the 30s, the duo said they watched such films as “Casablanca” and “Stormy Weather,” and looked to the veteran actors within arm’s reach, including Vereen, Cicely Tyson, Patti LaBelle and Ving Rhames.  “It puts you in another league. It lets you know that this project was something not to be taken lightly,” Dre says of the film’s elder statesmen. “It wasn’t like we were begging people to be in this movie. The script was done and it was circulated, and all these actors said they wanted to be a part of it. You had Ben Vereen around, and he acted as our set acting coach almost. And Cicely Tyson, these are people that you grew up with, you know, little kids watching ‘Miss Jane Pittman.’ And now you in a movie with these people.” “Chicken George training Rooster out in the parking lot,” Big Boi reminisces. “It was crazy.” “It says a lot for the work. It says a lot for what’s on paper,” Dre says, “because a lot of actors don’t even fool with mess.”


Malinda Williams Keeps Things on the Straight and Narrow in “Idlewild ”

Excerpt from - By Gil Robertson, The Robertson Treatment: America ’s Premiere Lifestyle Column, Volume 9, Edition 9

(August 24, 2006) *Beginning with her early work on “The Cosby Show,” to films like “The Wood,” “Dancing in September” and “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate,” actress
Malinda Williams has been one of America ’s most enduring sweetheart. Effervescent and spunky, the pint-size actress is definitely hard to resist. Best known for her starring role on the long running Showtime family drama “Soul Food,” Williams has since added entrepreneur to her resume with the introduction of her Modern Goddess clothing line. Currently a co-star of the NBC show “Windfall” and the highly anticipated film “ Idlewild” opposite Big Boi and Andre 3000, Williams recently met with the Robertson Treatment to give us insights on her upcoming projects. 

Robertson Treatment: What was life like for you after Soul Food? Did you go through any soul searching moments, apprehension or anything like that?

Malinda Williams:
No, I didn’t because we were shooting in Toronto and so I was really separated from my friends and family. I was excited to be coming back home. Career wise, I have worked fairly consistently, so I just thought it was a chance for me to take some time off. I have a son and he was entering the 1st grade and so it was important for me to really be there to keep a close eye on him and stay on top of the teachers and see that the whole thing went smoothly. No, I didn’t’ have any misgivings about leaving the show and plus I still keep in touch with all my co-stars so it’s not like I felt I was missing anyone. The only thing I did miss is seeing the crew everyday for we got to know each other pretty well. I was happy to be closing that chapter and moving onto something else .

RT: There’s a strong buzz around “Idlewild ” and just judging by the cast it sounds like there must of been some great times on set?

MW : We had Faison Love, Terence Howard, Paula Jai Parker all together on one set, which is a recipe for fun. There were lots of great people that worked on that project and the fact that it’s a period piece made things a lot more interesting. I had a lot of fun. The boys from Outkast are very interesting because you never know what it’s going to be like working with musical artists, but it was a great time. Working with them made me realized what they do on a performance level is pretty much the same as what actors do. They are stepping into a character when they step on stage and perform their songs. They were very receptive in terms of watching and listening and knowing that they were stepping into somewhat of a new arena.

RT: Would you say this movie is a somewhat black version of the film “ Chicago ”?

MW : I would say that’s somewhat accurate since Idlewild is a period piece presented as a musical. Like Chicago , our film has huge and lavish production numbers and lots of action. I feel like people have been waiting for this type of movie for a long time. Visually, it’s absolutely stunning, with a great story line and a cast full of very engaging personalities. And then you have Outkast who definitely bring a special magic to the film.  I am excited for it to come out because even if I wasn’t in the film I would be fighting to see it.

RT: You have been in the industry for a very long time – at least 20 years – what made you get into acting in the first place?

MW : I started off modeling when I was a little girl – probably about 8 or 9 years old. My parents took me to a modeling agency and I started doing ads like Macys or Bradley’s just catalogue stuff. The same agency I belonged to for modeling also did commercials and theatricals bookings and I think it was just naturally that I segued into it. One thing I have always had the ability to do is mimic. I can do voices and I’ve always had a natural curiosity about how people act and what makes them tick?

RT: How do you see yourself having evolved as an actress?

MW : I won’t necessarily separate myself the actress from myself personally. The two definitely go hand in hand. As you evolve as a woman, you naturally have to evolve as an actress because you take on your experiences you see different things and you learn more. So as you learn and grow as a person those are things that you are then able to apply to characters, because they are just characters. I’ve evolved a lot. Malinda has evolved a lot. I mean I’ve had lots of personal growth and many experiences in my life that contributed to my evolution as an actress.

RT: Let’s talk about your NBC show “Windfall” – at 31 it’s got to be great to still be able to play a 22-year old character.

MW : You know it’s funny because when people say that, that never occurs to me because I don’t think of people in terms of their age or how old they are. I mean I take it into consideration when developing the character for different traits, but I just think here is a women, a single women with a child, and then I just apply those attributes and it’s not necessarily how old she is. I mean I do look young, but it never really came into play for me exactly how old she was.

RT: So what would you do with a lottery win of that size -- $386 million?

MW : Oh my God! I would probably – I would faint! I would immediately call everybody I knew just to make sure that I am still living in reality. I would call my parents and say ‘okay, quit your jobs for you’re moving out here to California and we are going on a family vacation’, I would probably buy a home in Bermuda and a boat and fly all my family and friends out there and we would have a party.

Special thanks to Samantha Ofole for conducting the interview for this article.


Terrence Howard Continues To Be Everywhere

Excerpt from

(August 25, 2006)  *An Oscar nomination will do wonders for one’s career, but 2005 nominee
Terrence Howard will tell you that his latest string of film and TV projects is a result of years and years of working his Hollywood grind.  The actor opens today in the OutKast musical “Idlewild,” he just wrapped production on the film, “Pride,” where he stars as a swim coach for an inner-city team of kids, and it was announced yesterday that he has been chosen to host the 2006-2007 season of PBS’ award-winning series Independent Lens.   “I’m supporting Jodie Foster right now,” he adds, referring to the film he’s currently shooting, “The Brave One,” and “I go into the next movie and support Richard Gere” in “Spring Break in Bosnia.”   But at the present moment for Howard it’s all about Trumpy, the colourful mobster he portrays in the long-awaited “Idlewild.” Set in the 1930s, the musical revolves around a night club in the South, its piano player Percival (Andre 3000) and manager Rooster (Big Boi). Circumstances surrounding a shooting places Trumpy in the lofty position of controlling the influx of liquor into the juke joint, which, in turn, plunges Rooster into turmoil.   “I got to do a Clark Gable hairdo. How many people get to do that?” Howard said of his role, which included the peculiar coiffure as well as a memorable array of tailored suits. He says his wardrobe in the film reflects an era “when accessorizing meant everything – with the hat, the shirt, the suit and tie the stature, the manliness, the respectability in how you said hello to someone, taking your hat off – all of those things make it easier for you as an actor to believe what you’re doing. When you can look in a mirror and see 1930 in everything you have on – the hair, the costume – I love that.”

Howard will leave the 30s behind for more contemporary looks in a slew of upcoming projects, including supporting roles in “The Brave One,” where Foster is a woman seeking revenge on the man who brutally attacked her and Howard is a homicide detective on her trail; and “Spring Break in Bosnia,” starring Gere as one of two journalists (with Jesse Eisenberg) heading to post-war Bosnia on an unauthorized mission to find a notorious war criminal. There’s also “August Rush,” in which Howard takes on another supporting role in the story of an orphaned musical prodigy who uses his gift as a clue to find his birth parents. “I got to work with little Freddie Highmore,” Howard gushed about the film’s star, who received critical acclaim for his roles in “Finding Neverland” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”   And although the ink isn’t dry on the contract, Howard says it’s pretty much a lock that he’ll portray Thurgood Marshall in “The Crusaders,” a film about his work on the historic “Brown vs. Board of Education” case, which led to the desegregation of public schools in the United States.   “He’s been so layered in history. His contribution is what we live by today as a staple of our freedoms,” Howard said of the eventual Supreme Court Justice, adding that Marshall’s place in black history will give him insight on just how to portray the pioneer.    “I’m not going from some strange place, like wow, I gotta create this character,” he explains. “All I have to do is follow the path of historic truth and the moral values by which he lived and my job is done. Do I have to imitate his voice perfectly? No. I have to find the spirit of his voice and it will all fall right into play.”   In the meantime, Howard just completed a starring role in “Pride,” about the true story of a man who starts a swim team for troubled teens at the Philadelphia Department of Recreation. He has also been recruited by PBS to host its upcoming fifth season of “Independent Lens.”   Howard said of the honour: "In this season alone, our filmmakers take us from Ethiopia to Cuba to small-town USA, with portraits of people as diverse as the jazz genius Billy Strayhorn, the people behind the Enron scandal, and a man who saves a flock of wild parrots -- even teenage beauty queens who skin muskrats for their talent competition. I hope everyone will join us for the amazing season ahead."


Theatre Revenues Grow, DVDs Level Off

Source: Canadian Press

(Aug. 28, 2006) OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says Canadians showed a growing interest in watching
movies at theatres rather than at home in 2004-2005.  Figures from the film distribution and video wholesaling industry show revenues from distributions to theatres rose sharply, while revenues from sales of DVDs and videocassettes levelled off after surging since 2000.  Revenue from distribution to movie theatres grew 16.6 per cent to $446.3 million, while revenue from the wholesaling of DVDs and videocassettes remained unchanged at just over $1.8 billion.  At the same time, overall spending by the industry grew slightly after declining the year before and exports of Canadian films and videos expanded, but at a much lower rate than in the previous year.  The agency says total industry revenues climbed to more than $3.5 billion in 2004-2005, up three per cent from the previous year.  That increase was less than the 4.8 per cent revenue gain the year before, but the profit margin improved to 22.7 per cent from 21.8 per cent in 2003-2004.  "Film and video distributors and video wholesalers reported total spending of more than $2.7 billion in 2004-2005, up two per cent from 2003-2004," Statistics Canada said.  The increase in expenses did not affect the bottom line as industry profits rose to $802.1 million.  Licensing and royalty payments rose marginally.  "Of $847 million in total licensing fees and royalties paid, 17 per cent were for Canadian products, up from 11 per cent the previous year," the agency said.  The survey also found:

— Foreign sales of Canadian-content films and videos reached $331.9 million in 2004-2005, up 3.4 per cent from the previous year. The figure excludes productions distributed directly to foreign clients by producers.

— Fifty-one per cent of the $3.5 billion in total revenue of film and video distributors came from the wholesaling of pre-recorded videos, especially DVDs.

— DVDs, the favourite format in Canada, accounted for 77 per cent of the video wholesaling market, up from 71 per cent in 2003-2004.

— In the pay-TV market, Canadian content accounted for 24 per cent of revenues.

— At movie theatres, Canadian content maintained four per cent of the market, up from three per cent in 2002-2003.

— In the conventional TV market, Canadian content share fell to 16 per cent from 17 per cent in 2003-2004.


Not Everyone Is Afraid To Invest In Tom Cruise Inc.

Source: Associated Press

(Aug. 29, 2006) LOS ANGELES —
Tom Cruise's production company, which broke ties with Paramount Pictures last week in an unusually public dispute, has signed a two-year financing deal with an investment partnership headed by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. The deal between Cruise/Wagner Productions and First & Goal LLC covers overhead and development, which will allow Cruise and producing partner Paula Wagner to run their company and make deals to produce films, some conceivably starring Cruise. Financial terms were not disclosed for the pact, which has an option to renew for a longer term. Cruise/Wagner still must find someone to finance production of those films and a company to distribute them. Previously, Paramount had the first right to finance and distribute Cruise/Wagner films. In exchange, Paramount paid the producers as much as $10-million (U.S.) per year for salaries, expenses and discretionary spending. Paramount had offered a much lower amount to renew the deal, closer to $2-million annually, before talks broke off. First & Goal was set up specifically to invest in Cruise/Wagner. Snyder also heads an investment partnership that controls amusement park operator Six Flags Inc., among other companies. Former ESPN executive Mark Shapiro, who heads Six Flags, will oversee the investment in Cruise/Wagner, the companies said Monday.

“This gives us the opportunity to work with all the studios and broadens our base,” Wagner said. Long-simmering tensions between Cruise/Wagner and Paramount Pictures erupted last week with a public spanking of Cruise by Sumner Redstone, chairman of Paramount parent Viacom Inc. Redstone broke ties with Cruise through an interview in the Wall Street Journal, saying the actor's public behaviour, including jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey's couch, and his aggressive defence of Scientology, alienated moviegoers and cost Paramount money at the box office. Redstone claimed Cruise's antics cost Paramount between $100-million and $150-million in ticket sales for the actor's latest film, Mission: Impossible III. Wagner slammed Redstone last week, calling his comments “surprising” and unbusinesslike. She said last week it was their decision not to renew their 14-year partnership with Paramount, choosing instead to follow a long-standing desire to make smaller, character-driven films on their own. On Monday, Shapiro brushed off any discussion of Cruise's behaviour or Redstone's comments, preferring to focus on Cruise's proven box-office appeal. “We're entrepreneurs and we like exploring new opportunities that present an excellent chance for success and innovation,” Shapiro said. Shapiro and Wagner emphasized that Cruise's last two films for Paramount, War of the Worlds, and Mission: Impossible III, grossed about $1-billion worldwide combined. “We believe that Cruise and Wagner are a terrific investment,” Shapiro said. “The track record speaks for itself.” Last week, Wagner said her company had secured financing from two hedge funds to produce films. She declined to comment on those arrangements Monday. Monday's deal does continues to allow Cruise to star in films produced or distributed by any studio, the same terms he had under his deal with Paramount.


Flood Of Pirated DVDs Frustrates Police Efforts

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Chanakya Sethi

(Aug. 30, 06) There's a good deal at Pacific Mall -- four DVDs for 20 bucks And they're not movies nobody wants, but some of this summer's hottest flicks. Like all deals that seem to be too good, however, there's a catch: These DVDs are pirated. If the buyer is lucky, they are copies of original discs. If not, they're recordings that were made by people sneaking camcorders into theatres. "Original quality," the salesperson, a smiling young lady, promises a reporter. "It's very, very good picture. . . . Made in China, so it's cheap." A $20 note is offered in exchange for four discs. A receipt, please? "You don't need one."  This is illegal, isn't it? "Yeah," comes the reply from her male colleague. Why do you do it? Silence. Pacific Mall, located in Markham in a primarily Asian community, is among the top locations for pirated DVDs in the country. Although the overwhelming majority of storeowners there are conducting legitimate business, some specialize in peddling pirated wares. In many ways, the story of Pacific Mall illustrates the futility of current anti-piracy efforts across the country. Law-enforcement and industry officials say they're well aware that illegal discs are there, but they concede they are nowhere close to stamping them out.  "I can certainly say that we're making regular visits to the mall and the problem doesn't seem to be getting better," said Constable Judy Laurence of the RCMP in Toronto. The situation has only deteriorated; according to industry figures, Toronto is the source for 90 per cent of pirated discs sold in Canada. Last week, police shut down an operation that was capable of manufacturing three million discs a year. It was just one of 51 similar busts countrywide this year. In an effort to stem the tide of illegal copying, motion-picture industry officials have been pushing for aggressive enforcement and stiffer penalties for copyright violators, but they were dealt a blow yesterday when the federal Justice Department said it has no plans to change laws. The Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association is undeterred. "We understand that it's a minority government, but . . . we're trying to push to get something passed," said Serge Corriveau, vice-president of the association's anti-piracy operations. He said the "new trend" toward domestically manufactured discs was making it a lot more difficult to catch pirates and that lenient penalties aren't making the effort any easier.

While there is a tendency in Canada to plead down the cases the Americans tend to be more strident in prosecuting piracy cases, industry officials agreed. The stakes in the anti-piracy fight are high. In 2004, law-enforcement agencies seized about 40,000 pirated discs in Canada. A year later, that number soared to 400,000. The industry estimates $130-million in revenue and $38-million in tax receipts are lost to pirates each year. Total revenue last year was $965-million, a figure that includes legal DVD and VHS sales and rentals, meaning that piracy equalled roughly one-seventh of all sales. "It's fair to say that it's the single greatest threat to our business," said Richard Bicknell, vice-president of marketing with Universal Studios in Toronto.  Failing legal reforms, the industry has increasingly relied on local police forces, including those of Toronto and York Region, to charge suspects with fraud, which falls under the Criminal Code, not federal copyright law. The big difference between fraud and copyright charges, said John Sweeney, investigative co-ordinator at the CMPDA's anti-piracy unit, is that fraud statutes allow for the proceeds of crimes to be seized. "Copyright offences are not classed as enterprise crimes, so that's the major reason we prefer fraud."  Fraud convictions, he added, also allow for stiff penalties -- up to 14 years in prison -- but the courts have yet to hand out such heavy sentences. "Certainly, we're not happy," said Mr. Sweeney, a former police officer. Nor are some law-enforcement entities outside Canada's borders.

Globally, about 40 per cent of all movies recorded on camcorders in theatres and then distributed via the Internet and counterfeit DVDs come from the Montreal area.  Citing lax copyright laws and weak enforcement, the U.S. Trade Representative this year placed Canada on its "watch list" of countries -- along with China and Russia -- that have become havens for pirated goods. The International Anticounterfeiting Coalition, a group to which the RCMP belongs, said in February that "the Canadian government's reactive approach to counterfeiting is a serious obstacle to effective and deterrent enforcement in Canada." But do certain ethnic groups bear particular responsibility for movie piracy? Industry and law-enforcement officials acknowledge that the hot spot for pirated DVDs is often Chinatown, or other shopping centres frequented by Asians, but they were wary of drawing any conclusions about why that may be the case. Mr. Sweeney suggested that recent immigrants may be used to such activity in their home countries. Emily Ng, an organizer with the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Markham, said that view is "probably quite correct" because of a difference in "education and attitude" in countries such as China, which has been heavily criticized by the industry for its lax copyright laws. "I think education is one of the things that may be needed more, if you want to deal with those problems." Another obstacle is the attitude of customers. Back at Pacific Mall, at another store, only metres from the first, two women are flipping through a box of DVDs. The deal's better here -- five for $20. Says one of the women, "It's a good deal. The same price as renting, but you get to keep it."


A Star Determined To Shine On Africa

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt

(Aug. 30, 06) NEW YORK — 'It's the most pointless thing," says
Matt Damon, speaking of fame. "If not for something like this, if it can't be used to try to shine some light on some issues, what could celebrity possibly be for?" He's on the phone from Los Angeles, trying to reflect some of that light onto a handful of issues that are among the toughest facing the people of Africa today: institutionalized poverty, AIDS, water-borne illnesses. From Brad to Bono, Africa is taking up more room on the pop-culture radar these days, thanks largely to the celebrity globe-straddlers who attract spotlights wherever they step off a plane. Last summer, Damon's friend Brad Pitt sat for an interview with Diane Sawyer to talk up Africa (and to grimace as he was asked about Jen and Angelina). "Brad took a lot of heat," he says. Still, "in the prior year, Africa had been talked about for about four minutes in prime time, and Brad had gotten it out for 60 full minutes, talking about these issues, and it had a huge impact. "People were reaching out, saying: 'What do I do to help?' " Next month it's Damon's turn to help, when he serves as host of One X One, a gala fundraiser held at the Carlu during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), dedicated to helping children around the world. Singers John Legend, Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida (Our Lady Peace) are on the list of participants, which also includes noted American economist Jeffrey Sachs and a bevy of women in the stable of Ford Models of Canada. Organizers said last year's inaugural gala raised $1.3-million for charities that include War Child, Right to Play, the African Children's Choir and DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa), whose most famous figureheads and board members are Bono and Bill Gates. This year, the beneficiaries of One X One will include the Clean Water Initiative, which aims to build wells in thousands of villages to provide safe and easily accessible water. In April, Damon visited Zambia as the guest of DATA, where he spent a week travelling from village to village getting educated about the continent's challenges. And though he realizes he's no expert -- "one week, and here I am preaching to you about it," he says with a chuckle -- anything that brings attention to the problems is worth trying.

"Two-million people a year are dying from water-related illnesses," he says, noting that the wells cost perhaps $15,000 each. "I visited a village with one of these wells and collected water with a girl there. Just listening to the impact that the well had on this one village and looking at how many wells we had a chance to put in by me participating in this event, it wasn't something that I could say no to." The Sept. 10 gala will also help raise awareness for Damon's own Africa project, a $2-million-plus documentary called Running the Sahara. Produced by his company Live Planet, the film will shoot this winter, around the same time Damon will be in theatres with a clutch of features: Martin Scorsese's Irish mafia story The Departed, Kenneth Lonergan's drama Margaret and Robert De Niro's CIA thriller The Good Shepherd. His documentary will follow three ultra-marathon runners, including Canada's Ray Zahab, as they run the equivalent of two marathons a day, for about 75 days, to cross the Sahara Desert. Damon hopes to bring the completed film to next year's TIFF. One X One was founded by Joelle Adler, the president of Montreal clothing company Diesel Canada, who said this week that she resolved after a promotional TIFF party her company hosted in 2004 that any future large-scale events would be philanthropic in nature. "It was just kind of an epiphany I had. We threw the big party, the end of the night comes, I'm like: This is really not cool," she said. "I decided, if we're going to do something of this stature, let's make it for charity." Though she has never been to Africa, Adler was driven to do something five years ago after watching a television show about the human devastation on the continent. "We need to change the infrastructure of Africa," she said. "We're making economic choices with life. This is the biggest sin. "We believe Canada should take the lead in the G8 on the Millennium Promise," she said, speaking of the commitment made by the leading industrial nations to increase aid to Africa and eliminate debts. "We're an amazing country. We're a country of small population, big ideas, great executers." As for her One X One host, Adler has nothing but praise. "I would put my hand in the fire for this man and his partners. There have been situations where I have asked certain things and the answer always comes back from Matt: Whatever you do, make sure it maximizes the moneys for the charities," she says. "He'll stay at a Holiday Inn Express, if it means saving money. This is a very charitable man." Note to paparazzi and wannabe stalkers: Damon will not, in fact, be staying at a Holiday Inn Express. Other accommodations have been secured.



Bernie Mac Inks Deal With Lionsgate

Excerpt from

(August 25, 2006) *Now that his Fox sitcom is history, comedian
Bernie Mac is moving forward with a vengeance to secure employment for at least the next two years.  Mac and his producing partner Steven Greener have formed the production company MacMan Entertainment and have signed a two-year, first-look production deal with Lionsgate that will include the development of a concert film and a series of Dean Martin-style celebrity roast DVDs.  The deal, which involves film projects, has an option for a third year and marks the first time Lionsgate has partnered with an actor's production banner, according to the Hollywood Reporter.   The first order of business under the new deal is to complete the concert film. Afterward, Mac will focus on producing a minimum of four roast DVDs, with himself as the host.   Lionsgate gave Mac his first dramatic role in "Pride," a 1970s-set inspirational drama in which he co-stars with Terrence Howard in the story of a swim coach who inspired his team of inner city kids. The movie recently wrapped production.

Wahlberg's Invincible Tops Weekend Box Office

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Reuters

(Aug. 28, 2006) LOS ANGELES—The new
Mark Wahlberg football drama Invincible lived up to its immodest name at the weekend box office in North America, but overall ticket sales resumed their decline as the lucrative summer movie season drew to a close.  According to studio estimates, the true-life underdog tale opened at No. 1 with three-day sales of $17 million (all figures U.S.), in line with the studio's expectations.  Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby held at a distant No. 2 with $8 million in its fourth weekend. Its total rose to $127.7 million.  Little Miss Sunshine jumped four places to No. 3 with $7.5 million as the acerbic comedy added more theatres. Its total rose to $23.0 million after five weeks.  Invincible stars Wahlberg as a substitute teacher who wins a spot in his beloved Philadelphia Eagles football team against all odds. Greg Kinnear also stars, as he does in Little Miss Sunshine.  Last weekend's champ, the camp comedy-thriller Snakes on a Plane crashed to No. 6 with $6.4 million. Its two-week total stands at $26.6 million.  Besides Invincible, three other new releases entered the fray, not that many people noticed. The Oktoberfest comedy Beerfest guzzled $6.5 million, tying at No. 4 with the college comedy Accepted.  The retro hip-hop musical Idlewild, starring the members of Grammy-winning duo OutKast, opened at No. 9 with $5.9 million. And the adaptation of the children's book How To Eat Fried Worms opened at No. 11 with an unappetizing $4.1 million.  Tracking firm Exhibitor Relations said the top 12 films earned $83.9 million, the third consecutive week-on-week decline.  But sales were up 4 per cent from the year-ago period, when the hit comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin was tops for a second round with $16 million.  Although it fell four places to No. 12 with $4 million in its eighth week, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest now ranks as the No. 6 movie of all time in North America with sales of $407.6 million.

Tracey Edmonds Has ‘Stories’ To Tell

Excerpt from

(August 30, 2006) *Producer
Tracey Edmonds, the woman behind BET reality shows “College Hill” and “Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown,” has been named president and chief operating officer of Our Stories Films, the production company launched last month by BET founder Robert Johnson's RLJ Cos. and the Weinstein Co. to create family-friendly features for urban audiences. In the new gig, Edmonds will be responsible for acquiring new projects and shepherding them through development and production. As previously reported, Our Stories plans to release features – mainly in the $10 million-$15 million budget range – via Weinstein Co's genre arm Dimension Films and on DVD through the company's Genius Product partnership. "For a long time, the African-American creative community has wanted to have a studio where greenlight authority rests with an African-American," Johnson said. "I'm happy that Harvey and Bob (Weinstein) have joined me in making this vision a reality."  Films are to begin production "around the end of this year or the beginning of next," said Johnson, who plans to start with two pictures a year, increasing to three and possibly four eventually.   "I'm not necessarily looking for 'positive' or 'negative' type movies," Johnson told Variety. "I'm looking for funny -- that's it," simply because comedies are cheaper to produce and usually make more money than dramas. To keep production costs low, Johnson plans on asking top talent like Denzel Washington or Danny Glover to accept backend payment deals.    Edmonds’ resume as a film producer goes back to the 1997 movie “Soul Food,” which she later turned into a successful television series for Showtime. Through her film production company e2 Filmworks, Edmonds produced Patrik-Ian Polk's "Punks" and executive produced Christopher Scott Cherot's "Hav Plenty."  “When looking for someone to lead Our Stories, we identified an executive who has a track record of innovation and success, the respect of the industry and a strong understanding of, and relationships with, both business and talent," Harvey Weinstein said.



Emmys - The New Is Still Old Hat

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem

(Aug. 28, 2006) It ended up as
Kiefer Sutherland’s night: with his also-nominated father Donald cheering him on from the audience, the Canadian actor walked off with both a personal Emmy win and a shared overall award for Best Drama, for the best season yet of the five-year-old “real-time” drama 24, which he both stars in and co-produces.  An uplifting end to last night’s 58th annual Emmy Awards, which otherwise consistently managed to revert to type, reasserting their unassailable embrace of the predictable, the mundane and outdated, and the show business status quo.  After all the fuss about a new and improved voting process, this year’s nominations somehow managed to be even more oblivious and out of touch than usual.  And then there was the re-revamping of the recently revamped red-carpet coverage on E! (dutifully carried here on Star!), always awkward at best, but this year well beyond embarrassing — and overshadowed by an impending sense of doom, as the combination of trailing trains on gowns topped by barely covered breasts (Jenna Fischer, Ellen Pompeo, Kyra Sedgwick, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally, Evangeline Lilly) threatened any moment to bring the whole thing crashing down with an impromptu flash.  But at least it would have upped the entertainment value.

For that, we would have to wait for returning host (albeit four years later) Conan O’Brien’s arrival at the Shrine Auditorium, preceded by a not unamusing taped montage featuring the stars of Lost, The Office, House, South Park and Dateline NBC, and then a song-and-dance production number bravely lampooning his own hosting network’s bottom-of-the-barrel ratings status.  O’Brien and his writers continued to do a commendable job — particularly the devastatingly funny notion of pretending to lock an aghast Bob Newhart into an airtight glass booth with only three hours’ oxygen to keep the show from running overtime.  Good grouping of many of the writing and directing awards kept things moving at a fairly rapid clip, and the TV comedy veteran was happily spared — and released in time to help O’Brien present the Best Comedy award to The Office (British originators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant were in the audience to accept reflected accolades).  But it was a long time getting there, less so in actual minutes than the years of retroactive entrenchment the awards lapsed into.

It started with Best Supporting Actor, Drama, which went to Alan Alda for his last-gasp performance on the cancelled West Wing, instead of the vastly more deserving Gregory Itzin for 24, or Michael Imperioli for The Sopranos or, for the second time, Oliver Platt for the also-cancelled (though in its case, prematurely) Huff.  Instead, the academy honoured — for the second year running — that show’s more politically correct substance abuser, Blythe Danner, for Supporting Actress, Drama, over the more deserving Jean Smart (with Itzin, one of the primary reasons for 24’s stellar season), and our own, Golden Globewinning Sandra Oh for the redhot Grey’s Anatomy.  Things began to look up briefly when Jeremy Piven (who arrived with his drama-coach mom) walked away with a wellearned win for Best Supporting Actor, Comedy, for Entourage— another key contributor to yet another show that people actually watch and talk about.  And, shortly thereafter, another breath of fresh air, when My Name is Earl creator Greg Garcia, a winner for his pilot script, adamantly didn’t thank all the people who weren’t responsible for his success.  Similarly, Sopranos writer Terence Winter was acknowledged for his script for the season’s first episode: kicking off an astounding story arc that somehow failed to win nods for either of its deserving lead actors, James Gandolfini and Edie Falco.  Old-school sentiment was not entirely unwelcome or out of place; the first of the evening’s emotional acknowledgments, celebrating TV variety icon and recovering stroke victim Dick Clark, allowed the attending celebs to pay proper tribute with a standing ovation before the clearly moved (and though slowed, still remarkably youthful) Clark.  Musical Clark saluter Barry Manilow barely had a chance to leave the stage before being called back to accept a variety performance award for his own PBS special. (Loser Stephen Colbert had some fun with that when he and pal Jon Stewart came out later to hand The Amazing Race its fourth Reality Emmy, a category it has essentially owned almost since its inception).

Things were a little rockier later on, with the cringingly awkward tribute to the late Aaron Spelling, the industry’s most prolific producer of audiencepleasing, ratings-generating prime-time pap, by the Collinses, Stephen and Jackie, and Heather Locklear. Appropriately, though, the clip compilation that followed was almost a “guilty pleasure” unto itself. And it ended with an unexpected onstage reunion of all the original Charlie’s Angels — equally a testament to the erratic results of extensive plastic surgery.  But back to the actual awards.  “There’s been a mistake,” a clearly surprised Tony Shalhoub exclaimed, accepting his third statue for the well-past-it Monkas Best Actor, Comedy — a field in which the sole worthy nominee was first-timer Steve Carell for The Office.  Andre Braugher, too, seemed more surprised than anyone to be winning Best Actor, Miniseries/ Movie for Thief, a typically terrific performance in a show that supposedly no one watched.  HBO’s Elizabeth I was the biggest overall winner in the Miniseries/ Movies categories, taking the title overall, with additional wins for lead Helen Mirren, supporting star Jeremy Irons and director Tom Hooper. But in the awards’ final halfhour, it was back to business as usual. Mariska Hargitay won her first Emmy for Law & Order: SVU in a field where anyone else —with the possible exception of perennial nominee Alison Janney — would have been a better choice. But why not hand it over uncontested to four-time nominee Frances Conroy, her last chance at the gold for her consistently stellar work on Six Feet Under?  Then Julia Louis-Dreyfus tearfully stole away Best Actress, Comedy, for her astoundingly limp new sitcom, instead of Lisa Kudrow for her brave and brilliant work on The Comeback, and I was tempted to toss a brick through the screen (I had one standing by since, earlier in the proceedings, the same category’s support award went to Megan Mullally — again — over My Name is Earl’s Jaime Pressly and Weeds’ Elizabeth Perkins).  But I’m glad I managed to restrain myself long enough to see our boy Kiefer win his first-ever Emmy for Best Actor, for being the consistently solid anchor of what I (and others) have already referred to as the best season ever of 24, which was then itself deservedly named Best Drama.  And thus did last night’s Emmys almost redeem themselves — and save my TV screen from being prematurely perforated.

24 Hero Kiefer Sutherland, Dazed With Delight At Emmy, Wins Out At After-Parties

Source: Associated Press, By Solvej Schou, Associated Press writers Sandy Cohen and Frank Baker contributed to this report.

(Aug. 28, 2006) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) - "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride" - but not anymore for
Kiefer Sutherland.  Shouts and applause trailed the 24 star, who finally snagged a best actor Emmy after five years of being nominated for the TV drama, as he swept into Fox's after-party Sunday night at the posh restaurant Spago.  Sutherland seemed dazed and flattered by all the attention.  "It's surreal. It's surprisingly humbling when you look out and you see all those other actors - such great actors, and such great shows. I'm very thankful and grateful," Sutherland told The Associated Press just after ducking into the soiree.  24, in which Sutherland plays the counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer, also won for best drama series and best directing in a drama at Sunday's ceremony.  "I think I jumped up more when Kiefer won than when I won," said 24 director Jon Cassar, clutching a winged statuette in each hand. "That's the win we had to have. There was no way he could work that hard. I can't imagine an actor getting nominated five years in a row like that and not winning."  Inside the bash, throngs of guests stood shoulder-to-shoulder and barely had room to shimmy to disco spun by DJ Pesce. Instead, they chomped on shrimp, lobster and slivers of pizza, and celebrated all things 24.

Even Rescue Me star Denis Leary, who competed in the best actor category, championed Sutherland's win.  "It really couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," Leary said.  Later, the actor joked that he just barely nabbed himself an award while sitting at the Governors Ball with Tony Shalhoub, who won best actor in a comedy series for USA's Monk.  "I took it and almost got away with it, but he noticed," Leary said.  While Fox picked up 10 awards in all, HBO snagged the most - 26, including awards given out at last week's creative arts ceremony. ("Creative arts" is the Emmy term for categories such as non-fiction shows, guest appearances and technical jobs like sound editing.) NBC picked up 14 awards, the most for any broadcast network.  Other parties around town treated Emmy winners and losers to equal amounts of food, music, merriment, and sometimes, mayhem.  The grand Governors Ball at the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles kicked off just after the ceremony with a performance by singer Seal, who stood on a revolving stage.  Guests dined on avocado filled with shrimp and crab, fillet of beef and a milk chocolate mousse for dessert.  At HBO's lavish shindig at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, an underwater theme featured starfish-shaped designs on carpets and tablecloths lit by soft orange lights.  A DJ and three percussionists pumped out jazzy tunes, and guests feasted on beet salad, chicken, seared tuna and gnocchi.  A short distance from his Sopranos co-star James Gandolfini, Steve Van Zandt ate and voiced his support for HBO's crop of winners, including Jeremy Piven of Entourage, who won best supporting actor in a comedy, and Jeremy Irons, who snagged an acting award for the TV movie Elizabeth I.

However, Van Zandt said he was "a little disappointed" that Steve Carell of The Office didn't win for best comedy series actor. The NBC series was named best comedy.  As for his own mobster show, "we didn't expect to win anything this year. With these shows you get some heat in the beginning, and some heat in the end. 24 certainly deserves to win," Van Zandt said.  TV Guide's party at Social Hollywood - former home of the famed Hollywood Athletic Club - brought out a radiant-looking Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, who carried her award for lead actress in a drama.  Those who couldn't get into rock R&B singer Pink's ultra packed performance in the venue's giant ballroom could stick around afterward for the star-stuffed "Battle of the Network Stars" band with Desperate Housewives hunk James Denton on bass and House doctor Hugh Laurie on keyboard.  Over at the joint Entertainment Tonight-People magazine party at the Mondrian Hotel's Asia de Cuba restaurant and Skybar, Prince jammed his way through a funky hour and a half set.  Flanked by two sparkly dressed dancers, he got the crowd singing along to such hits as Purple Rain and Let's Go Crazy.  Bradley Whitford of The West Wing emerged from the crowd sweaty and smiling.  "I'm so sad the show is over," one admirer told Whitford.  Another concertgoer, Sara Ramirez from Grey's Anatomy - which was noticeably shut out of the awards - seemed optimistic.  "We're new. 24 has been on for five years. Sure, a part of me was disappointed, but we're still new. Next year, I think," she said, smiling.

Hour Arrives For '24' At Emmys

Source: Beth Harris, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Kiefer Sutherland always comes through in the end on 24. After years of being snubbed, the Canadian actor and series were finally victorious at the
Emmy Awards, too. The Fox show won for drama series at the Sunday night ceremony and Sutherland earned his first trophy as best actor in a drama series for playing counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer. It took five seasons for 24 to be rewarded in the major Emmy categories. The show also collected a directing Emmy. “Every once in a while you'll have an evening that just reminds you that you're given too much, and this is that evening,” Sutherland said. “This experience that has been 24 has been nothing short of remarkable for me.” The show's recent ratings boon, anchored by a loyal, cult-like fan base, has helped spawn a spate of thrillers and mysteries on the broadcast networks' upcoming fall schedules. They borrow heavily from the exciting escapades Sutherland's character endures during one dangerous day each season. Among the newcomers are: Kidnapped, Vanished, Standoff and Runaway. Another slow starter, NBC's The Office, was honoured as best comedy for its satire about cubicle life after almost getting a pink slip in its first season. Its star, Steve Carell, lost to Tony Shalhoub of Monk for comedy actor. Carell doesn't need the hardware, though, having become a critically acclaimed movie star in the hit comedies The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine. The sexy medical drama Grey's Anatomy, an Emmy nomination front-runner, was shut out. Ditto for Lost, last year's best drama. Rule changes for the Emmy nominations created significant snubs among other favourites — Hugh Laurie of House, Edie Falco and James Gandolfini of The Sopranos, the stars of Desperate Housewives and the cast of Lost. But the changes may have cleared the way for some fresh faces in the winners' parade. Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Julia Louis-Dreyfus of the freshman comedy The New Adventures of Old Christine won lead actress awards for drama and comedy, respectively. “Well, I'm not somebody who really believes in curses — but curse this, baby,” Louis-Dreyfus said, hoisting her trophy and making a veiled reference to the so-called “ Seinfeld curse” that kept its stars from launching successful new series on three different occasions.

“It's very hard in television right now,” said Louis-Dreyfus, whose first solo sitcom failed. “Getting a show on the air and getting it to stick is a bigger challenge than ever.” Sunday's slate of winners started predictably enough, with Shalhoub winning his third acting trophy for Monk and Megan Mullally honoured a second time as supporting comedy actress for Will & Grace, now off the air after eight seasons. Departed series The West Wing and Huff also picked up wins. Alan Alda's supporting actor trophy was the 26th Emmy for The West Wing, a drama series record. The show about life in the White House was cancelled after seven seasons. Second-time host Conan O'Brien kept the Emmy ceremony lively with a series of inventive comedy bits, including an ongoing gag that had Bob Newhart's life threatened if the show ran longer than its scheduled three hours. It didn't. O'Brien advised winners to keep their acceptance speeches short, avoid heavy-handed political comments and “don't say, ‘Wow, this is heavy,” he said. “Of course, it's heavy. It contains the shattered dreams of four other people.” O'Brien needled his employer, NBC, in a song-and-dance number that mocked the network's fallen ratings since its glory days with Seinfeld, Frasier and Friends. “He took us on,” NBC Universal Television Group CEO Jeff Zucker told reporters after the show. “That's okay.” Not okay to some was O'Brien's opening gag — a filmed comedy bit in which O'Brien was seen sipping champagne aboard a jetliner. “What could possibly go wrong tonight?” he says — before the plane crashes onto an island resembling the one in ABC's drama Lost. The sequence prompted criticism that it was in bad taste following the fiery crash of a commuter jet earlier in the day in Lexington. Ky., that killed 49 people. General manager Tom Gilbert of the NBC affiliate in Lexington was reportedly “stunned” and “horrified” when the live sequence aired on his station.

The Emmy show honoured producer/host Dick Clark of American Bandstand fame, who has been recovering from a stroke he suffered in 2004. “I have accomplished my childhood dream, to be in show business. Everybody should be so lucky to have their dreams come true. I've been truly blessed,” said Clark, his speech still slurred. He spoke while seated behind a podium on stage. Barry Manilow serenaded Clark with the show's bouncy theme song. Aaron Spelling, the prolific producer who died in June at 83, was paid a tearful tribute by former Charlie's Angels stars Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett and Kate Jackson. HBO emerged with the most Emmys — 26, including the awards given out at last week's Creative Arts ceremony for technical and other achievements. NBC got a shot in the arm with its cumulative 14 awards, the most for any broadcast network. ABC won 11 Emmys, while Fox picked up 10, including its first best drama series trophy. CBS had a total of 10, followed by PBS with nine.

Andre Braugher Wins Emmy For ‘Thief’

Excerpt from

(August 28, 2006) *It was a million degrees outside on the red carpet, but inside of L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium Sunday, about an hour and 40 minutes into the three-hour ceremony, the evening grew comfortably cool for veteran actor
Andre Braugher. The Chicago-born talent beat such competition as Ben Kingsley, Jon Voight and Donald Sutherland to win the Emmy for Lead Actor in a Mini Series or Movie for his role in the FX program “Thief.” In a traditional tux, the bespectacled star made a point to first thank “Thief” screenwriter Norman Morrill for penning “a beautiful script that allowed me to reach this level and I appreciate it.” Braugher thanked his wife for “pushing me in the right direction” to “be a better me,” and also acknowledged his cast members.  One group left off the thank-you list was viewers, whose gross absence led to "Thief's" demise after just one season – thus ending its chances of ever becoming a regular series. Backstage, Braugher told reporters: "I'm up in the air as to exactly why we're not on the air. We created something beautiful. But at a certain point, when the audience doesn't show up, we have to make a business decision and the show was canceled." The other major headline of the night was the fate of “Grey’s Anatomy,” the Shonda Rhimes-created drama that received the second highest number of nominations (11), including Supporting Actress nods for Chandra Wilson and Sandra Oh, but went home empty handed.  Fox’s “24,” which had a leading 12 nominations, won the two big awards: Best Drama and Best Actor for Keifer Sutherland. NBC’s “The Office” won for Best Comedy.  Showtime’s “Sleeper Cell,” starring Michael Ealy, lost to HBO’s “Elizabeth I” in the Best Miniseries category; and Alfre Woodard – the lone actress nominated from ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” – lost a Supporting Actress Emmy to “Will & Grace’s” Megan Mullally.

Here is the full list of nominees and winners of the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards:

"The Office," NBC (Winner)
"Arrested Development," Fox
"Curb Your Enthusiasm," HBO
"Scrubs," NBC
"Two and a Half Men," CBS

Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," NBC (Winner)
Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer," TNT
Geena Davis, "Commander in Chief," ABC
Frances Conroy, "Six Feet Under," HBO
Allison Janney, "The West Wing," NBC

Kiefer Sutherland, "24," Fox (Winner)
Denis Leary, "Rescue Me," FX Network
Peter Krause, "Six Feet Under," HBO
Christopher Meloni, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," NBC
Martin Sheen, "The West Wing," NBC

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "The New Adventures of Old Christine," CBS (Winner)
Lisa Kudrow, "The Comeback," HBO
Jane Kaczmarek, "Malcolm in the Middle," Fox
Stockard Channing, "Out of Practice," CBS
Debra Messing, "Will & Grace," NBC

Tony Shalhoub, "Monk," USA (Winner)
Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," HBO
Kevin James, "The King of Queens," CBS
Steve Carell, "The Office," NBC
Charlie Sheen, "Two and a Half Men," CBS

Helen Mirren, "Elizabeth I," HBO (Winner)
Kathy Bates, "Ambulance Girl," Lifetime
Gillian Anderson, "Bleak House (Masterpiece Theatre)," PBS
Judy Davis, "A Little Thing Called Murder," Lifetime
Annette Bening, "Mrs. Harris," HBO

Andre Braugher, "Thief," FX Network (Winner)
Charles Dance, "Bleak House (Masterpiece Theatre)," PBS
Donald Sutherland, "Human Trafficking," Lifetime
Ben Kingsley, "Mrs. Harris," HBO
Jon Voight, "Pope John Paul II," CBS

"Elizabeth I," HBO (Winner)
"Bleak House (Masterpiece Theatre)," PBS
"Into the West," TNT
"Sleeper Cell," Showtime

"The Girl in the Cafe," HBO (Winner)
"Flight 93," A&E
"The Flight That Fought Back," Discovery Channel
"Mrs. Harris," HBO
"Yesterday," HBO

"The Amazing Race," CBS (Winner)
"American Idol," Fox
"Dancing With the Stars," ABC
"Project Runway," Bravo
"Survivor," CBS

Blythe Danner, "Huff," Showtime (Winner)
Candice Bergen, "Boston Legal," ABC
Sandra Oh, "Grey's Anatomy," ABC
Chandra Wilson, "Grey's Anatomy," ABC
Jean Smart, "24," Fox

Alan Alda, "The West Wing," NBC (Winner)
William Shatner, "Boston Legal," ABC
Oliver Platt, "Huff," Showtime
Michael Imperioli, "The Sopranos," HBO
Gregory Itzin, "24," Fox

Megan Mullally, "Will & Grace," NBC (Winner)
Cheryl Hines, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," HBO
Alfre Woodard, "Desperate Housewives," ABC
Jaime Pressly, "My Name Is Earl," NBC
Elizabeth Perkins, "Weeds," Showtime

Jeremy Piven, "Entourage," HBO (Winner)
Will Arnett, "Arrested Development," Fox
Bryan Cranston, "Malcolm in the Middle," Fox
Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men," CBS
Sean Hayes, "Will & Grace," NBC

Kelly Macdonald, "The Girl in the Cafe," HBO (Winner)
Shirley Jones, "Hidden Places," Hallmark
Ellen Burstyn, "Mrs. Harris," HBO
Cloris Leachman, "Mrs. Harris," HBO
Alfre Woodard, "The Water Is Wide (Hallmark Hall of Fame Presentation)," CBS

Jeremy Irons, "Elizabeth I," HBO (Winner)
Denis Lawson, "Bleak House (Masterpiece Theatre)," PBS
Hugh Dancy, "Elizabeth I," HBO
Robert Carlyle, "Human Trafficking," Lifetime
Clifton Collins Jr., "Thief," FX Network

"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central (Winner)
"The Colbert Report," Comedy Central
"Late Night With Conan O'Brien," NBC
"Late Show With David Letterman," CBS
"Real Time With Bill Maher," HBO

"78th Annual Academy Awards," ABC (Winner)
"American Idol: Finale," Fox
"The Colbert Report: Episode 110," Comedy Central
"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart: Episode 10140," Comedy Central
"Saturday Night Live: Host: Steve Martin," NBC

"24: 7:00 AM - 8:00 AM," Fox (Winner)
"Big Love: Pilot," HBO
"Lost: Live Together, Die Alone," ABC
"Six Feet Under: Everyone's Waiting," HBO
"The Sopranos: Members Only," HBO
"The Sopranos: Join the Club," HBO
"The West Wing: Election Day," NBC

"The Sopranos: Members Only," HBO (Winner)
"Grey's Anatomy: It's the End of the World, as We Know It (Part 1 & Part 2)," ABC
"Grey's Anatomy: Into You Like a Train," ABC
"Lost: The 23rd Psalm," ABC
"Six Feet Under: Everyone's Waiting," HBO

Barry Manilow, "Barry Manilow: Music and Passion," PBS (Winner)
Stephen Colbert, "The Colbert Report," Comedy Central
Craig Ferguson, "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson," CBS
David Letterman, "Late Show With David Letterman," CBS
Hugh Jackman, "The 59th Annual Tony Awards (2005)," CBS

"My Name Is Earl: Pilot," NBC (Winner)
"Arrested Development: Development Arrested," Fox
"Entourage: Exodus," HBO
"Extras: Kate Winslet," HBO
"The Office: Christmas Party," NBC

"My Name Is Earl: Pilot," NBC (Winner)
"The Comeback: Valerie Does Another Classic Leno," HBO
"Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Christ Nail," HBO
"Entourage: Oh, Mandy," HBO
"Entourage: Sundance Kids," HBO
"Weeds: Good S-- Lollipop," Showtime

"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central (Winner)
"The Colbert Report," Comedy Central
"Late Night With Conan O'Brien," NBC
"Late Show With David Letterman," CBS
"Real Time With Bill Maher," HBO

"Elizabeth I," HBO (Winner)
"Bleak House (Masterpiece Theatre): Episode 1," PBS
"Flight 93," A&E
"The Girl in the Cafe," HBO
"High School Musical," Disney
"Mrs. Harris," HBO

"The Girl in the Cafe," HBO (Winner)
"Bleak House (Masterpiece Theatre)," PBS
"Elizabeth I," HBO
"Flight 93," A&E
"Mrs. Harris," HBO

Earth to Shatner: Are you for real?

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill

(Aug. 26, 2006) LOS ANGELES — I am as giddy as a schoolgirl at theprospect of meeting
William Shatner, the 75-year-old pop-culture icon who's up for another Emmy Award this weekend.  He is, after all, a Canadian legend who started off as a respected Shakespearian thespian at Ontario's Stratford Festival, meteorically rose to fame at the helm of the USS Enterprise and crashed back to earth as an object of camp ridicule, only to rise again by lampooning his own larger-than-life persona.  Despite my hardened journalistic misgivings, I desperately want to believe that somewhere inside this pompous, bloated, over-the-top caricature Shatner performs so well, there really is a humble man willing to laugh at himself. The interview starts off full of forced hilarity and brief promise when I find the actor in his private dressing room at the Los Angeles studio where he shoots the TV series, Boston Legal. He is seated at his newly installed Bowflex exercise machine, hamming it up just like he did in those self-deprecating All-Bran cereal ads.

When co-star Candice Bergen pokes her head in the doorway to see what all the grunting is about, he pumps up the theatrics. “It's a monster!” Shatner says of the workout equipment, huffing and puffing with blustery bravado. “With special permission, you can use it.” “I don't think so,” Bergen replies, drolly biting into a quesadilla. “I'll just eat and watch you.” Shatner shrugs as she walks away, and hauls himself off the machine. Straightening his shirt over a pumpkin-sized pot-belly, he lugs himself over to the couch and gets right down to business. “You've got lights? What kind of lights?” he says to the photographer I've brought along, and becomes suddenly annoyed when she excuses herself to fetch said lights from her car. Perhaps he's still upset The Globe and Mail refused to pay the $600 (U.S.) fee for hair and makeup that his assistant requested. “I wouldn't go far if I were you,” Shatner warns her. “My mind starts to wander after five or six minutes.”

He's not kidding. The next hour is a maddening game of cat and mouse. I ask serious questions, he jokes. I joke, he gets serious. I goad, he rambles. I probe deeper, he shuts down. The man is as impossible to read as a pointy-eared, emotionless Vulcan. We begin with Denny Crane, the bombastic, semi-senile, oversexed law partner Shatner plays on Boston Legal. Shatner has already won one Golden Globe and two Emmys for the role. Tomorrow night, he will vie for a third. ( How William Shatner Changed the World, a documentary about scientists inspired by the original Star Trek series, is also up for an award.) Shatner immediately makes it clear he isn't going to reveal any secrets about the upcoming season. “You'll have to get that information somewhere else,” he curtly informs. Okay. How about we discuss Denny Crane's significance to Shatner's career? Captain James T. Kirk may have turned Shatner into a household name, and eventually made him millions, but the sci-fi space stud brought him little critical acclaim. After more than a half-century in the business, Shatner is finally earning some respect. Is it possible that Crane will eclipse Kirk as Shatner's defining TV persona? “Oh, I don't know. That will be up to you and your readers,” he says nonchalantly, his watery blue eyes drifting.  “You just keep saying the words,” he adds, suddenly switching to the second person, “and someone else comes out.” Shatner has certainly kept saying the words, as he so humbly refers to the acting profession. Some have called Boston Legal a comeback, but the truth is Shatner never went away. From his first TV appearance in 1954 as Ranger Bill (a live-action sidekick to the freckle-faced marionette on Howdy Doody) to his upcoming role as host of the inaugural Canadian Awards for the Electronic and Animated Arts to be held in Richmond, B.C., next month, Shatner has never stopped working.

But who is this “someone else” Shatner so blithely refers to? In many ways, Crane is Kirk's mirror image: old where the captain was young; fat where he was fit; cynical where he was optimistic; irreverent where he was earnest. Boston Legal creator David E. Kelley wrote the character specifically for Shatner. “He's totally me!” Shatner once said to a reporter. To another, he explained: “With Denny Crane I have tried a lot of things — to play within the bounds of almost-farce, and then go right back to reality, so you don't know which is which: when the reality is farcical or when the farce is real. I'm toying with your mind, and I'm consciously doing it.” Indeed, Shatner has been messing with us for the past 20-odd years. And from the outside, it seemed like a brilliantly calculated career move. After the original Star Trek series ended in 1969, Shatner hit a dry decade in Hollywood. The first year was particularly tough. His first wife, Gloria Rand, had just left him (he has since remarried three times), taking his three daughters with her, and socking it to him with alimony payments based on the Star Trek salary he was no long earning. As recounted in his biography, Get A Life!, Shatner spent the summer of '69 driving across America doing small parts in stock theatre and sleeping in the back of a pickup truck. In 1979, his career began taking off again when Paramount produced Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Before long, he was back on TV with the hit series T.J. Hooker, followed by a long stint as host of the re-enactment series Rescue 911. Throughout it all, he dutifully attended Star Trek conventions and made several more Star Trek movies, produced three Star Trek-related memoirs, and helmed the ghostwritten TekWar sci-fi novels (adapted into made-for-TV movies) and the recently launched William Shatner DVD Club. Somewhere along the line, he loosened up with Captain Kirk and began spoofing the heroic, skirt-chasing space traveller in such films as National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon and Free Enterprise, in which he played a drunken, demented version of himself who crushes the illusions of the two Star Trek-obsessed lead characters.

Shatner was just as successful when he started poking fun at his much-parodied musical ambitions. In his early ads for (which sells discount airline tickets), he plays an aging lounge singer delivering hipster monologues over music. The ads were a sly reference to his 1968 album, The Transformed Man, now a camp classic, which included widely pilloried spoken-word interpretations of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Mr. Tambourine Man.  Shatner, of course, got the last laugh when Has Been, another spoken-word CD, produced by Ben Folds, was released in 2004 to favourable reviews. Eventually, the send-up version of Kirk was supplanted by increasingly blurred variations of Shatner playing himself. In Invasion Iowa, a reality series for Spike TV, he descended on Riverside (long cited in Star Trek as Kirk's birthplace) where he pretended to film a sci-fi movie, but was actually punking the entire population and capturing their reactions to the silliness of Hollywood. As cruel as it sounds, Shatner got away with duping a small town of hayseed farmers — and actually made it seem endearing — because he has so willingly been the butt of his own jokes for so long. And in truth, no one does it better: “The only thing that hurt me about tonight is that none of it was funny,” Shatner quipped last Sunday, after being roasted on the Comedy Central cable network in The Shat Hits the Fan, which will air in Canada this fall on the Comedy Network.  Shatner says there was never a defining moment when he began playing the clown. Looking me straight in the eye, he goes so far as to suggest there is no inside joke: He really isn't laughing at himself.

“Is it possible I never made fun of it, it just seemed funny?” he offers. He is consciously toying with me, I'm sure, but I badger on regardless. Let's take the laxative-cereal ads, in which Shatner, playing himself, moved in with an unsuspecting suburban couple, and urged them to take the All-Bran Challenge and “feel lighter in two weeks.” Was he not making fun of his weight or surname in those ads?  “I don't know, I just sort of go with the flow,” he jokes — finally — while distractedly brushing his neatly groomed silver hair. (If it's a hairpiece, and that roast would suggest it is, it's a good one). “When you're playing yourself, you're not really yourself. You're an exaggerated version of something you are. Or you're one aspect of what you are. If you're talking about the All-Bran commercials, the idea was to try and interest the observer to try the brand. So how to make it an entertaining message that this will keep you regular? You fool around until something occurs.” Did it work for him? He scowls. “More importantly, did it work for the brand? They seem to keep coming back for more.” So what part of Denny Crane is real? “Well, the buffoon, and the forgetfulness,” he say with a sigh. “The outgoing, outrageous facilitator, who cares nothing about public image, and is selfish, yet has occasional lapses of generosity.” And which parts of Shatner does he keep to himself? “Oh, I don't know. I never know how to answer these questions,” he says impatiently. Shatner perks up slightly when we turn to his early years in theatre. When he played Lucentio, Bianca's suitor in The T aming of the Shrew at Stratford in the mid-fifties, the late Robertson Davies said of his performance: “All through the play, he gave a dimension of comedy to a character which can very easily be a romantic bore.” “I love comedy,” Shatner exclaims. “I love people who can fashion a joke, because the good jokes require observation. It's as much an art form as any other. Not only are you an artist if you can make a good joke, but you are also an entertainer. People looking at a painting may not get it. A joke, usually people get. And they signify that through their laughter. So you communicate.”

He becomes melancholy when I ask about his third wife, Nerine Kidd, whom he found dead in their L.A. swimming pool on Aug. 9, 1999. An autopsy detected alcohol and diazepam, and a coroner ruled the death an accidental drowning. He and his fourth wife, Elizabeth Martin, commemorated the anniversary earlier this month. Shatner says they have a ritual. “We go up to the place where she died. At the same hour. When I got there,” he says dramatically, invoking the famous “Shatnerian” pauses. “It's just after dark. It's a full moon. The air feels the same. Everything is the same. It's remarkable how there is a continuity that we're not even aware of.” Then the phone rings, he picks it up, and the contemplative moment is gone. Shatner met his current wife at a horse show. They now breed American Saddlebreds together at their 360-acre ranch in Kentucky. He waxes romantic about his four-legged obsession. “It was the beauty of the horses that attracted me,” he says. “And along with that beauty of form following function, it's ability to run and stop and turn and do all those things that horses do. It's like a prima ballerina. They are what every human being aspires to be — the beauty, the grace, the physical elegance.” The ugly feet? “Yes, but not from a distance.” Many members of the original Star Trek series — George Takei (Sulu) and the late James Doohan (Scotty), in particular — remembered Shatner as a vain, egocentric prima donna who stole all the best scenes for himself. Shatner says the accusations came as a total shock. “What they said absolutely astonished me,” he says. “I don't know what they were talking about. I'm no different now than I was then, in terms of my professionalism.” Then he turns to the photographer, as if on cue, and cries: “You don't want it from that angle. You're shooting up my nostril. And I didn't even use any makeup. “So you see,” he continues. “‘Prima donna' is not in my lexicon.” As our time comes to an end, he trundles back to the exercise machine. “It's a mental exercise as well, you know. I still have to figure out how it works.” He fiddles with some levers, seemingly confounded. “Why does this pass in here? This thing's got to pull out? Can you try it?

I want to discover why it's doing that.” I reluctantly hop on. “Keep going, don't stop, I think I've got it,” he urges. Now he's playing me. And while it might not sound very funny, it did seem comical at the time. Finally, I get it. Shatner is a nut, all right. And a tough one to crack. But the joke's on us.

'Wonderland' Leads Gemini Nominees

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Julie Scott, Canadian Press

(Aug. 29, 2006) It was cancelled earlier this year but that didn’t stop the legal drama
This Is Wonderland from capturing the most Gemini Award nominations Tuesday.  The CBC drama picked up 12 nods while bio-thriller ReGenesis was second with 10. The miniseries Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story and the Fifth Estate, both CBC productions, followed with nine apiece.  The Geminis, which honour the best in Canadian television, are hitting the road this year. For the first time in its history, the award show will be held outside Toronto, with Richmond, B.C., playing host to the 21st edition on Nov. 4.  Global will broadcast the ceremony.  This Is Wonderland’s nominations include best dramatic series as well as best director (Gail Harvey), best writing (George F. Walker, Dani Romain) and best actress (Cara Pifko) in a dramatic series.  Created by Walker, Romain and Bernard Zukerman, the critically acclaimed Wonderland starred Pifko as Alice De Raey, a young Toronto lawyer who has her eyes opened to the realities of practising law in the criminal courts of Old City Hall.  In February, CBC cancelled the series in its third season, citing low ratings. This Is Wonderland had been averaging 376,000 viewers when it was axed. The series finale aired on March 15.  It’s not the first time a cancelled program has hauled in the most nominations. Last year, The Eleventh Hour led the pack with 15 nominations after it had been pulled by CTV.  Cancelled shows were also among the nominees at Sunday’s Emmy Awards.

ReGenesis, which airs on The Movie Network, received a Gemini nomination for best dramatic series while Ken Girotti will contend for best director. Peter Outerbridge, who stars as molecular biologist David Sandstrom in the series, earned a best actor nomination.  The Movie Network’s Slings and Arrows is also up for best drama as is Moccasin Flats, which airs on Aboriginal Peoples Television and Terminal City, another Movie Network show.  Other contenders for best actor in a drama are Gil Bellows for Terminal City, Nigel Bennett for CBC’s At the Hotel, Nicholas Campbell for the cancelled CBC drama Da Vinci’s City Hall and Mark McKinney for Slings and Arrows.  In addition to Pifko, Martha Burns of Slings and Arrows, Martha Henry of At the Hotel, Erin Karpluk of the CHUM Television’s cancelled Godiva’s and Andrea Menard of Moccasin Flats are also in the running for best actress in a drama.  The nominees for best comedy series are CTV’s Corner Gas and Jeff Ltd., History Television’s History Bites, Showcase’s Kenny vs. Spenny and Naked Josh and CBC’s Rick Mercer Report.  CTV and CBC dominated the TV movie category with CBC’s Heyday and Intelligence and CTV’s Hunt for Justice: The Louise Arbour Story, Terry, and One Dead Indian all in the running.  But CTV is absent from the news categories this year after announcing in June it was no longer participating in that area of the awards.  The nominees for best news anchor are CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, Global’s Kevin Newman and Norma Lee MacLeod of CBC News at Six: Halifax.  CBC’s Marketplace and Fifth Estate, along with Vision TV’s 360-degree Vision are nominated for best news information series while CBC’s The National, CityNews at Six in Toronto and Global National are up for best newscast.  For a full list of nominees go to

Patty Sullivan  -She Has A Big Tickle Trunk To Fill

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - David Parkinson

(Aug. 29, 2006) On a typically hot, muggy Saturday afternoon in August,
Patty Sullivan is outside Toronto's Rogers Centre, gamely trying to entertain roughly 100 kids and parents who are, for the most part, just killing time before a Blue Jays game. In her act -- sandwiched on this day between a team of break dancers and a juggler -- the diminutive, unshakably perky redhead enthusiastically dances, sings and jokes on stage with a 6½-foot costumed version of children's TV character Lunar Jim, urging the youngsters in the small crowd to join in. All the while, she competes with yelling hot-dog vendors, souvenir hawkers and program salesmen, not to mention the general din of the crowd drifting into the baseball stadium. Though her smile and her spirit show no evidence of waning, and though the youngest of her fans remain fixated on her with a combination of glee and awe, she's nevertheless losing the battle: About halfway through the half-hour show, almost a quarter of her audience -- a boisterous boys sports team, too old for this stuff -- ups and leaves. "I think Lunar Jim and I made the best of a bad situation," Sullivan says. "It was definitely not our usual show." She may not be a household name among baseball fans, but Sullivan -- host of Kids' CBC, the network's package of weekday-morning children's programs -- is a daily fixture in the households of many Canadian preschoolers, and the live stage show she does for Kids' CBC is a big hit with young audiences.

A 12-city national tour this year played to packed houses at every stop, with crowds of up to 2,000. The KidSummer festival at the CBC National Broadcast Centre last month drew 10,000 fans over two days of shows. Those numbers are testament to how big a national star Sullivan has become with small viewers.  As national "anchor" for the programming package, Sullivan (known on the air as just plain Patty, or sometimes as her costumed alter-egos Power Patty, Presto Patty, Princess Patty, P.I. Patty and Prehistoric Patty) is an omnipresent force of youthful energy, filling the interludes between programs with funny, educational and musical vignettes with the help of four regional co-hosts. Her easy smile, sense of humour and ability to connect with kids, both over the airwaves and on stage, have quickly made her the de facto public face of CBC Television's children's programming -- much as the late Ernie Coombs, as the beloved Mr. Dressup, was for a previous generation. And with Mr. Dressup finally poised to leave the airwaves early next month after a remarkable 39 years on the national public network (the last 10 in reruns), Sullivan is about to step even more into the sizable shoes left in Mr. Dressup's tickle trunk. On Sept. 10, exactly one week after Mr. Dressup's final airing ("The [ratings] numbers have been declining at a rapid pace," says Kim Wilson, creative head of children's and youth programming at CBC), Sullivan and her fellow regional hosts will begin their own half-hour weekly program, You're It. It will be the first half-hour preschool show produced in-house at CBC in five years. The show represents a new chapter in the network's rich tradition of in-house children's production -- a tradition that had lost its sense of identity before Kids' CBC was launched in 2003. "It's a huge responsibility. That's why you need to tread lightly," Sullivan says. "I've had a couple of people say to me, 'How does it feel to be the next Mr. Dressup?' But I would never say that about myself, because I don't think that's possible. He was an icon, and he will always be an icon.

"But if I can carve out my own niche, that would be great. I would love it." To see Patty on television, it's easy to think of her as a young pup straight out of school, propelled to the top by a network eager to establish a younger, hipper image. But she is, in fact, a veteran of 12 years of hosting children's programs in Canada, blessed with the kind of eternally youthful genes that only Dick Clark can fully appreciate. Even meeting her in person, the only hint that she might be older than her twentysomething appearance is the distinctive laugh lines around her eyes -- carved as much by her infectious smile as by the sands of time. (She won't say how old she is, but doesn't put up much argument when I suggest that she's 38.) The Burlington, Ont., native had actually envisioned a career in news when she graduated from Ryerson University's radio and television program in 1990. "I thought I was going to be an anchor," she says. But after a couple of years working in news radio in Toronto, "it got to the point where I just found it depressing," she says. "There are never any happy stories in the news." While working at TVOntario and performing in live theatre in 1994, Sullivan answered an internal job posting for a kids' show host, and spent the next nine years co-hosting the provincial public broadcaster's block of after-school kids' programs. She not only honed her on-air personality there, but developed an intensely loyal following. When TVO abruptly fired her in early 2003 -- saying she had put herself in a conflict of interest by hosting a documentary series on the W Network that aired at the same time as part of TVO's after-school block -- her fans launched a campaign demanding her reinstatement. (Sullivan never returned to TVO, but eventually received an undisclosed settlement.) CBC-TV, which at the time was planning to revamp its children's package, didn't wait for the dust to settle at TVO. Kim Wilson, who had worked with Sullivan at TVO, saw the opportunity to add a major talent to the new package and was quickly on the phone to her old colleague.

"I got a call a day or two after 'the incident,' " Sullivan says, referring to her TVO dismissal. "Kim said to me, 'We're making changes here, you may fit into it, come down and let's talk.' Five months later, I had a job at CBC." Wilson feels Sullivan is exactly the person she wants building on the tradition that CBC forged decades ago with the likes of Mr. Dressup and the Friendly Giant. "To me, she is the next generation," she says. "I think she's the best children's host out there -- and not just in Canada. "She's one in a million." So, what makes Sullivan so special? Wilson says she has the intangible "sparkle and banter" that all great children's TV hosts have had -- a friendly, fun presence that automatically attracts children, coupled with an easy, direct communications style that speaks to kids as equals. "If you break down what Patty has and what Mr. Dressup had, they're a lot of the same things," Wilson argues. Praise like that can go to a performer's head, but Sullivan is intent on staying grounded. It helps that she's hardly being paid like a star -- her salary is based on union scales for her job classification -- and she and her husband of five years, Mike, live a modest lifestyle in midtown Toronto. "People don't get into this for the money. You get into it because you love doing it," she says. Nor is Sullivan banking on the kind of longevity enjoyed by Coombs and other great children's-TV entertainers of the past. Indeed, her "humbling" experience at TVO has helped her appreciate simply having the gig. "I never want to be one of those people who thinks they're all that, and thinks that I can't be replaced. Everybody can be replaced. You learn that," Sullivan says. "I appreciate every day that I get to work, because you never know when it's going to be taken away from you. It's the nature of this business. People say it's not a secure career, and it really isn't. But that's okay. I love doing it and I'm going to keep doing it as long as people let me."


What's next? Gays v. straights?

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Andrew Ryan

(Aug. 26, 2006) American television has never had a great track record in regards to racial tolerance. Try naming a news anchor or a TV star of colour -- or a network series from the past few years that didn't come from The WB or UPN. The racial divide still exists in America and it's about to get worse, much worse. Reality-TV kingpin
Mark Burnett has changed the rules on Survivor, and the idea has made some people very angry. The new twist will be added to the reality series when Survivor: Cook Islands makes its debut on Sept. 14. Instead of the pre-existing formula of co-ed teams of mixed persuasions (but mostly white), the 13th season of Survivor will arrange contestants into four distinct ethnic groups -- white, Asian, Latino and African-American -- and pit them against each other in the castaway competition. Wow. The race-card move drew immediate indictments from various rights groups around the United States. Even the normally genial TV host Harry Smith was visibly irritated by the idea when Survivor host Jeff Probst appeared on The Early Show Wednesday morning. Both men work for the same network. Burnett is an Englishman, so presumably he has no axe to grind with American race relations. But he's also a showman who knows the value of stirring things up now and then. Burnett's decision to segregate Survivor at first seems a racial throwback, but it's really just a cheap trick. Survivor is nowhere near the ratings beast it used to be, and Burnett is surely aware race is a touchy issue in America. He knew that the mere announcement of the race contest would garner needed publicity for his sagging TV franchise. Just wait for the fuss when the show actually begins. Certainly it's wrong. We're supposed to celebrate each other's differences -- at least according to those cola commercials with kids singing on hilltops -- not cash in on them. But the real danger of Burnett's gimmick is that it could potentially usher in other unthinkable TV contests down the line. Gays against straights? Jews taking on Christians? Rich versus poor? The door has been opened.

Tyler Perry’s ‘House Of Payne’ Sold To TBS And Fox

Excerpt from

(August 25, 2006) *
Tyler Perry’s television show “House of Payne,” which was taken out for a test drive this summer in such cities as Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and Dallas, has inked distribution deals with TBS and Fox reported to be worth about $200 million. The Lionsgate's Debmar-Mercury sitcom sold 100 episodes to cable’s TBS, which will get exclusive rights to the show starting in June 2007. Beginning September 2008, four Fox-owned stations will have syndication rights for the series. Seventy-five episodes will be available to TBS by June, with 25 additional episodes to be ready by the time the Fox deal kicks in for fall 2008. Perry decided to circumvent the five main networks by using his own money to produce a two-week test run of the sitcom in 10 major markets. The filmmaker decided to go this route after realizing that a network deal would mean he’d have to give up control and ownership of the series.  Debmar-Mercury, acquired in July by Lionsgate Entertainment Corp., paid for marketing costs and convinced the test stations to promote the show as though it were a regular series in exchange for getting the test episodes for free.   "We selected 10 stations across the country and we said, 'Let's let the audience choose and if they don't like it, fine,"' Marcus told the Hollywood Reporter. "This breaks a lot of barriers."  The ratings success of the test episodes allowed Debmar-Mercury to sign up TBS and WCIU-TV in Chicago for the first run, and News Corp.-owned Fox stations in New York, Houston, Dallas, and Washington D.C. for syndication.  “Let me say thank you to all of you, especially to the ten cities who helped me with “House of Payne,” Perry wrote in his latest e-mail to fans. “Again, thank you to all my folks in, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Miami, New York, Philly, Raleigh and D.C. You made this show work and now the rest of the country gets to see it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”    “House of Payne” stars Allen Payne as a member of a multi-generational family living under one roof.

Paging Forest Whitaker, Stat!

Excerpt from

(August 25, 2006) *
Forest Whitaker has stepped in to replace Andre Braugher for a limited run on NBC’s “ER,” which begins its 13th season on Sept. 21.  Beginning Oct. 19, Whitaker will play a carpenter who arrives in the emergency room with what appears to be a harmless cough, but as he waits, he suffers a stroke that leads to paralysis despite the efforts of Dr. Kovac (Goran Visnjic).    Braugher, who received an Emmy nomination for his role on FX’s “Thief,” was previously announced in the role but had to pull out due to scheduling conflicts.  Whitaker just completed a riveting season on FX’s cop drama "The Shield," and will next star as ruthless Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the feature film, "The Last King of Scotland."

CBC Says Harper To Appear On Corner Gas

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(Aug. 28, 2006) REGINA — Everyone is being coy about whether
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be making a cameo appearance on Corner Gas in the new fall season.  Harper is in Regina for a golf-club barbecue and the CBC says his trip will include filming a segment to be used on the show.  Neither the prime minister's office nor the show's executive producer, Virginia Thompson, would confirm that but they wouldn't deny it, either.  Harper wouldn't be the first politician to do a Corner Gas walk-on.  Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert has done a guest spot and so has former prime minister Paul Martin.  Corner Gas, now in its fourth season on CTV, is filmed at a Regina soundstage and on location in Rouleau, Sask., 40 kilometres south of the city.



Good Knight, They're Funny

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Aug. 28, 2006) You couldn't really say it was a hard day's knight.  My assignment was to go out after a performance of Monty Python's
Spamalot with the actors who play King Arthur and his cohorts from the Round Table in order to find out what they were really like.  Did they say "Ni?" Did they walk around the streets of Toronto clacking coconut shells and pretending to ride horses? Did they fart in anyone's general direction?  The answer to all these questions, happily, was no.  But they did turn out to be five of the most agreeably entertaining companions you could ask for, and the most pleasant surprise was that none of them resemble the characters they portray on stage.  Michael Siberry isn't anything like the tight-jawed, pompous King Arthur, but a cheerful bloke who generously allows everyone to share the spotlight.  Bradley Dean plays Sir Galahad as a vapid, preening blond, but the actual dude is dark-haired, quiet and thoughtful.  Rick Holmes isn't the wildly conflicted closet queen Sir Lancelot, but a genial guy who reminds you of your next-door neighbour, if that neighbour had an amazing collection of theatre stories.  David Turner bears few similarities to the neurotic Sir Robin who soils his pants at the slightest opportunity, choosing instead to deliver hilariously self-deprecating comments with a twinkle in his eye.  And Christopher Gurr is totally removed from the shaggy-haired, flatulent Sir Bedevere. The genuine article is gleamingly bald and slyly witty, with a passion for showbiz gossip.

They're not total strangers to the Toronto theatre scene. Dean was here last year as Che in the tour of Evita. Holmes played Cliff Bradshaw in the production of Cabaret that passed through town with Joely Fisher in 1999, and the rest have worked with numerous members of our community on their side of the border.  After watching last Thursday's performance with an enthusiastic capacity audience, we walked to a pub a few blocks from the theatre and settled in around — what else? — a round table, to quaff draft Guinness and chow down on things like shepherd's pie, while I asked them questions about the show and their experience with it here.


SIBERRY: We love them.

GURR: We want to marry them.

TURNER: Or at least date them steadily.

HOLMES: You have the feeling that people in Toronto are real theatregoers.

DEAN: We also find they're the least offended by the gay and Jewish jokes in the show.

HOLMES: Maybe it's because this is such a liberal city. Look at how big the gay community is here.

TURNER: Really? Then why haven't I had better luck offstage?


GURR: The very first preview here was full of them. You could tell the minute the show started.

HOLMES: With an audience like that, as soon as I pop up as the French Taunter, they start laughing.

SIBERRY: But you have to be careful, because those people can hijack the evening.

DEAN: And the ordinary people in the audience wind up getting annoyed.

TURNER: I prefer playing to the crowd who don't know everything that's going to happen and aren't trying to shout your next line out ahead of you.

SIBERRY: And most of the time here, we've had a pretty good balance.


HOLMES: He did not disappoint me.

TURNER: He's very quotable. (Everyone laughs.)

GURR: But most of his best lines can't be repeated in a family newspaper.

SIBERRY: He's very challenging. He has a highly developed sense of what works and what doesn't. He'd say brilliant things that made you think.

TURNER: Like "It's the show that's funny, not you."

GURR: Or "You're heading out on tour. Bring your shit detectors with you."

DEAN: "Don't ever blame the audience."

HOLMES: "Individually they know nothing; collectively they know everything."

TURNER: He'd try to make sure we kept a sense of reality under everything we did. "Bring a little more Glass Menagerie into it" is how he'd put it

HOLMES: I've worked with some directors who try to get rid of isolated audience laughs and work on the big "house" laughs. Nichols isn't like that.

SIBERRY: He understands that Python humour is anarchic, gentle, even. It's not always about everyone getting the same joke at the same time.

GURR: If you listen to the early recordings he made with Elaine May, you can hear just that kind of sensibility. They were trying to get the chortles as well as the belly laughs.


HOLMES: It's best when they play along with us just enough.

DEAN: Yeah, if they try to be too funny, or if they freeze up with fright, it's not much good to us.

TURNER: I think women are generally better, because they're willing to show their real feelings. Men are always trying to be cool.

GURR: And failing miserably.

SIBERRY: When we bring them up, I say "Your name will be revered in this city along with ..." and then I stick a local name in. I tried Conrad Black and Wayne Gretzky, but they didn't work all that well, so now I pretty much keep to Tim Horton.


DEAN: Can we take the Toronto audiences on tour with us?

SIBERRY: Could they open the new opera house a week earlier, so we could see it?

HOLMES: Is Slings and Arrows an accurate portrait of the Stratford Festival?

GURR: And if it is, why don't we all go there on our next day off?

TURNER: I repeat: why haven't I had better luck offstage?

Monty Python's Spamalot, based on the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, continues at the Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria St., through Sept. 10. Written by Eric Idle and John Du Prez. For tickets, go to or call 416-872-1212.

Joan Collins - Return Of A Sexual Pioneer

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Aug. 26, 2006) NEW YORK—"I hate talking about sex," purrs
Joan Collins — her smile blindingly white, her nails killingly red.  And if there's truth in the old adage that "Those who do, do and those who don't, talk about it," one can certainly see her point.  After five husbands (including Anthony Newley), numerous lovers (including Warren Beatty) and hundreds of men she turned down (including Richard Burton), it's safe to say she knows her way around that particular carnal block.  In fact, we have a lot to thank (or blame) her for. Back in the early 1950s, when most girls were good girls, Collins dared to be different. Both on-screen and off, she flaunted her independence and sexuality with the same endearingly brazen take-it-or-leave-it charm she still possesses at 73.  "Why pretend to be what you're not, darling?" she asks. "They always find you out in the end."  If Collins hadn't paved the way, there would be no Madonna today, no Angelina Jolie ... and certainly no Paris Hilton.  "My God!" she exclaims, when that last point is made to her. "Don't blame me for her. I had some class, some originality. Nowadays, all the actresses look the same and all the movies are made for 11-year-olds.  "The girls all want to fall in love with Owen Wilson." She grins wickedly. "And several of them have, I understand."  She's on a lunch break from rehearsals for the show called Legends!, which starts performances at the Royal Alex Theatre on Sept. 12, and pouting very prettily as she toys with her arugula salad.

"Tell me something. How come people always think of me as either a bitch or a sexpot?"  Well, if you pose nearly nude for Playboy when you're 50 and star in movies with titles like The Stud, you can't expect people to picture you as a nun.  And as for the bitch part, let's not forget Dynasty. Anyone who wanted to sum up the glitz, guts and greed that made up the 1980s couldn't find a better representative than Alexis Carrington Colby, the sleek serpent that Collins portrayed to perfection on the popular television series.  "People still think I'm Alexis," she laughs. "I guess I played her too well."  And they may soon think she's at it again. In Legends! (which starts its North American tour here and hopes to end up on Broadway) she plays Sylvia Glenn, a veteran film star not unlike the tarantula-esque Joan Crawford.  But what will really cause heads to start nodding in recognition is the scene where she has a knock-down, drag-out catfight with her Dynasty co-star, Linda ("Krystal") Evans, the recreation of a moment they went through many times during the series' run.  In fact, on this particular afternoon, Collins is a wee bit nervous because they're going to be staging the fight right after lunch.  "Linda was always better at the actual fighting than me. I'd rather wound with words." Her eyes narrow slightly. "I learned how to do that very early on."  That would be May 23, 1933, when she was born in London, England, to Joseph Collins, a talent agent, and his wife, Elsa.  She recalls being her father's favourite ("the firstborn always is") even after her sister Jackie came along. But once brother William entered the picture, "and my father had the boy he always wanted, I totally lost his affection and I spent many years looking for it."  But it would still be quite a while before she found it in the arms of other men.

"I came from a generation of women to whom sex was a dirty word," she says. "We didn't even know what f--k meant. When I was 12, I saw it written on a railway carriage and I asked my mommy what it meant. She told me it was the most disgusting thing in the world and I should never ask her again."  Collins may not have known much about sex, but she knew that she wanted to be an actress and at the age of 16, "I went straight from playing with dolls to studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art."  Once there, she also discovered boys.  "But back then it was all flirting, nothing else. Having sex at that age? My dear, it just wasn't done."  But a rakish 33-year-old actor named Maxwell Reed seemed not to have heard of that code. When Collins was 17, he took her out one night, drugged her drink and raped her.  "It was horrible, degrading and demeaning," is her memory of that evening. "But I wasn't expecting it to be much more. Girls of my generation felt sex was something you had to endure. You know the old expression, `Close your eyes and think of England.'"  Collins opened her eyes shortly after her 18th birthday to discover she had married Reed. The union ended a short time later when he tried to persuade her to sleep with a rich Arabian sheik for £10,000.  While all this was happening, Collins was also put under contract to the J. Arthur Rank film studio. She'd started making an impression with her first film back in 1951, a trifle with the provocative (and prophetic) title of Lady Godiva Rides Again.  "I went into the jungle alone," she recalls. "Nobody gave me a single clue how to act, how to behave. But I survived."  She did better than that and by 1955 she was sent out on loan to work for Howard Hawks as Princess Nellifer in the big-budget biblical epic Land of the Pharaohs.  "Darling, William Faulkner wrote the screenplay," she chortles, "but you'd never know it from the tripe I had to say."  She shudders. "It was all hideous, except for Sydney."  That was Sydney Chaplin, son of famed comedian Charlie, who became her next lover.  "We had huge fun and we were drunk most of the time, but he wasn't much of a lothario and he didn't really like women that much."  Collins kissed Chaplin goodbye and by now, she was in Hollywood, under contract to 20th Century Fox, although some of her first roles were less than impressive.

"I wasn't happy in The Virgin Queen. Bette Davis played Queen Elizabeth and I was one of her handmaidens. She terrified me and kicked me across the set once. She didn't like them if they were young and pretty."  But then, she had a breakthrough with The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing.  "I thought I was pretty good in that and so did a lot of other people. Things started happening for me."  And the action continued off camera as well, with scores of famous admirers clamouring for a chance with the provocative Miss Collins.  Collins sighs. "All of this time, I never found sex that fulfilling. Arthur Loew, Nicky Hilton, none of them meant anything to me. They were just arm candy.  "I know that I never liked men who would promise me starring roles in exchange for their favours. I also was not interested in being a notch on anyone's belt. That's why I never slept with Richard Burton or Harry Belafonte."  Did the men in her life have anything in common? "Yes, they were all good looking. I never go to bed with an ug. Oh yes, I went out with lots of men, I slept with them, but they never had my heart. Except for George."  That was George Englund. He was an up and coming film director with credits like The Ugly American. He was seven years older than Collins and was married to Cloris Leachman.  "George was the one who did it for me," she says softly. "He finally showed me what sex was all about."  Their turbulent affair continued for several years and he kept promising to leave his wife for Collins, but never did. She finally walked out the door. A wise decision, considering he didn't divorce Leachman until 1979.  Next came Warren Beatty, then at the very start of his career. He kept persuading her to turn down any scripts "that would keep them apart." It worked fine, until he talked her out of doing a role in Sons and Lovers that would win Mary Ure an Oscar nomination.  "That I regret. Instead of being the pinup girl I could have been taken seriously as an actor. But Warren selfishly kept me with him. He was never a dummy about anything. Warren's number one priority at that time, and for many years after, was Warren."

By now Collins was nearly 30 and "I suddenly decided I wanted to be a wife and mother. And then Tony came along."  Anthony Newley had been a big British star for years, but his musical Stop the World — I Want to Get Off had made him internationally famous. He married Collins in 1963. She put her career on hold and had two children with him.  "I thought Tony would be a great father, but he was actually a child himself." By the time Newley had his wife playing the hateful character Polyester Poontang in his scabrous autobiographical film Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?, "I knew it was the death of our marriage."  The next decade was tough for Collins. Her decent screen roles evaporated and she found herself starring in things like The Stud and The Bitch. Her third marriage, to record producer Ron Kass, collapsed under the weight of his drug abuse, and in 1980 her daughter Katy nearly lost her life when hit by a car.  "That which does not kill you makes you stronger," she intones with steely calm. "Everybody has a tragedy in your life, so you pick yourself up, dust yourself down and get on with it."  Katy recovered, but Collins sardonically keeps one memory of that time.  "One night, when it was all nearly too much for me, I remember leaving Katy's hospital room, chugging a bottle of wine, smoking a dozen cigarettes and watching an episode of Dallas on the telly, thinking `God, it would be nice to have a show like that.'"  A year later, old friend Aaron Spelling asked her to step into his TV series Dynasty as the bitch goddess supreme, Alexis, and "My life, darling, has never been the same since."  From near oblivion, Collins became more famous than she ever was before.  "Infamous" might have been a better word, because no one was ever quite as bad as Alexis. Whether she was firing a gun near a skittish horse and causing her archrival Krystal to miscarry, or screwing veteran Canadian actor Lloyd Bochner so vigorously that his character died of a heart attack, Collins reigned supreme.  The buzz from the show still continues, nearly two decades after it left the airwaves. Since then, Collins has done lots of stage in England, written several novels and autobiographies, and continued to appear on TV and in the movies. 

She survived a fourth unhappy marriage and turbulent divorce to Swedish singer Peter Holm and since 2002 has been blissfully linked with hubby No.5, Percy Gibson, who's helping to produce Legends!   "Percy is my soulmate," she coos of the chap 32 years her junior. "He is the most wonderful, funny, kind, generous, sexy man."  The look that spreads across her face is pure Alexis Triumphant. "After all these years, I've finally gotten it right. The secret, you see, is in hanging around long enough to see your mistakes and your ghosts vanish into the past."  She smiles, no sadder, but much wiser.  "I've kissed a lot of frogs, darling, but I've finally got my prince."

Legends! starts performances at the Royal Alexandra Theatre on Sept. 12. For tickets, go to or phone 416-872-1212.

Actors Without An Audience

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
- Kate Taylor

(Aug. 29, 06) Five years ago, tour operator Mimoza Jakimi used to bring 100 Americans a day to Southern Ontario on packaged holidays that included tickets for shows in Toronto or trips to the
Shaw and Stratford festivals. Today, that U.S. business has simply disappeared, and she's lucky to sell a handful of single theatre tickets to day-trippers from Buffalo.  "For the last year and a half, they have dropped drastically," said Jakimi, who is general manager of Keith Prowse Canada Ltd., an international tour operator specializing in ticketed events. "What's keeping them home, it's really hard to tell." U.S. tourism to Canada fell by 5 per cent in 2005 and will have dropped another 1.6 per cent by the end of this year, the Conference Board of Canada predicts. That leaves the Shaw and Stratford festivals struggling to balance budgets in which as much as 40 per cent of box-office dollars come from across the border, and weighing the economic and political reasons that Americans still aren't travelling. "It's really unpredictable," said Colleen Blake, executive director of the Shaw Festival, where the box office is recovering from the 15-per-cent decline it suffered in 2003, the season SARS hit Toronto and the United States invaded Iraq. "We seem to be so vulnerable to what's going on in the world." Both the festivals, which experienced some of their best years in 2001 and 2002 despite the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and tourism operators trace the beginning of their problems to the summer of the panic over severe acute respiratory syndrome.  But a variety of other factors, including the strong Canadian dollar, which makes a trip across the border less of a bargain for Americans, and longer waits to get back into the U.S. because of increased security, are also to blame. The latest figures from the Tourism Industry Association of Canada show that car trips from the U.S. dropped 9 per cent in June compared with the same month last year.

"After the SARS issue, there was a sense of urgency . . .," said Stratford's general director, Antoni Cimolino. "But the impact was actually less than what has happened with the appreciation of the Canadian dollar."  While Stratford still attracts a loyal American following devoted to seeing Shakespeare on stage, Cimolino figures the combination of higher prices and the inconvenience of the border crossing is keeping casual American theatre-goers away. Stratford's American audiences, who account for more than their share of the box-office dollars because they see more shows and buy more expensive tickets, have dropped another 4 per cent this season. Before 2003, 40 per cent of the festival's box office receipts were accounted for by sales to Americans; today, it's about 36 or 37 per cent. Cimolino says he will be hard-pressed not to run a small deficit on this year's budget and that ticket sales, which ran as high as 670,000 during the festival's golden anniversary season in 2002, will come in under 550,000. The smaller Shaw Festival has experienced a better year and less precipitous drops -- American sales still account for an unwavering 40 per cent of the box-office dollars, Blake said -- but the larger financial picture is bleaker because the festival, which never posted the million-dollar surpluses Stratford enjoyed in the late 1990s, is left paying off a $4-million debt from 2003 and 2004. Blake hopes to generate a surplus of $300,000 or $400,000 this year that she can put against that debt; ticket sales are expect to reach at least 285,000, down from 325,000 in the late 1990s. Blake is less inclined to blame the strong Canadian dollar, pointing out that Americans who come to Canada for theatre are affluent, and is more concerned about the perception that crossing the border is increasingly difficult because of the American government's announcement it will require passports at all land borders by 2008. "Every time news about the passports hits the press, we can feel it at the box office," Blake said. "It's so confused. People think, 'Oh, I need a passport, I can't go.' "

Although most of Shaw and Stratford's adult U.S. patrons are regular travellers who do have passports, both festivals says the requirement will really affect school groups. "It will shut the border in terms of school kids," Blake said. "No one wants the liability if one kid on the bus doesn't have the passport."  Both Blake and Cimolino are lobbying U.S. politicians and officials on the issue, and have found a sympathetic ear, especially in the border states. Blake hopes proposals for family cards and day passes might ease the restrictions, but Cimolino points out that the youth of the terrorism suspects arrested in June in the Toronto area doesn't help the festivals when they plead for an exemption for school kids. When he visited Washington this year, he met with an official at the Department of Homeland Security who knew all about the Stratford Festival, but warned him that many Americans just want tighter security. Cimolino heard the same story again and again as sympathetic politicians told them they got it; the problem was their constituents. "As the world gets more complicated and the borders get tighter, our ability to understand each other through the arts is going to be limited," Cimolino said. "Doors are closing when they should be opening."

Master P Pens Play About Hurricane Katrina

Excerpt from

(August 29, 2006) *Rapper/actor/basketball player/music executive Master P can now add playwright to his title with the completion of “Uncle Willy’s Family,” described as a hip-hop, gospel comedy play about Hurricane Katrina. According to Yahoo! Music, the production stars P, his son Romeo, his brother Silk the Shocker and Terry Miles in the story of an ex-Vietnam veteran (Miles) who takes in his family after their home was destroyed by the hurricane. With the use of humour, the play tells the story of the family’s hardships following the deadly storm.     "The moral of the play is: put your trust in God," Master P says, "believe in your family. Nothing is impossible. Use hard times as an opportunity to grow."  P recognizes the similarity in theme to the gospel-tinged, inspirational plays of Tyler Perry – particularly the Madea franchise. "Madea opened the door, and there hasn't been another character who could stand on his own," P tells Yahoo! Music. "This is a great opportunity to open up a lot more doors for other people to have a play based around a character."   For information on Uncle Willy's Family, visit the website, Here is the tour schedule for “Uncle Willy’s Family.”

• Thursday, September 7
Meridian Mississippi
Temple Theater
7:30 p.m.
• Friday, September 8
Jackson, Mississippi
Thalia Mara Hall
8 p.m.
• Saturday, September 9
Jackson, Mississippi
Thalia Mara Hall
3 p.m.; 8 p.m.
• Sunday, September 10
Greenwood, Mississippi
Leflore County Civic Center
5 p.m.
• Saturday, September 16
Beaumont, Texas
Jefferson Theater
3 p.m.; 8 p.m.

In other Master P news, the original No Limit soldier will begin casting next month for his forthcoming reality TV show, “America's Next Hip-Hop Stars.” Interested parties may register at the show’s official Web site:  


What Makes A Must Read?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Philip Marchand, Books Columnist

(Aug. 26, 2006) Once in a while a book appears that seems to offer a new truth about the world. Everybody's got to read that book to stay informed and know what other people are talking about at parties.  These books sit on top of the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list — a recent "must" is
Blink by journalist Malcolm Gladwell, about the "importance of hunch and instinct to the workings of the mind." Or Thomas L. Friedman's The World Is Flat, offering the reader the inside dope on "globalization trends."  These bestsellers somehow bring me back to 1976, when a New York-based journalist named Gail Sheehy wrote a book titled Passages. It was about the phases of a person's life — how in your 20s you looked for a mentor, and in your 50s, having been amply mentored, you reassessed your career and thought about moving to Florida. Or something. I never read the book. But it was perfectly timed for a baby boom generation that had just passed the first blush of youth and was thinking about law school.  For years afterwards I could count on seeing the book whenever I visited an apartment with a brick bookcase. There it would be, right beside the yoga exercise manual. The owners of the book would eventually buy a house and take the book with them, and when they bought their bigger house the book would end up there, too. Perhaps they would try to sell it at a yard sale but would find no takers for it, even at 25 cents. Now the book is about to accompany them to their retirement home. The owners of the book haven't looked at it for 40 years, but Passages will still haunt their rec-room bookshelf.  Passages was a zeitgeist book, if ever there was one. Zeitgeist is the spirit of the age, the cultural atmosphere of an era. Zeitgeist books both form and feed off this atmosphere. Once in a while they are actually good books, genuine path-breakers, but for the most part the passage of time does not flatter them.  What do these zeitgeist books tell us about our society? A look at the No.1 non-fiction bestsellers on the New York Times bestseller list over the last 60 years reveals a good deal about how we as a culture have changed — and how we have not.

Consider 1943. A No.1 non-fiction bestseller that year was a book titled On Being a Real Person, by the Reverend Harry Emerson Fosdick, pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City. It was an inspirational book, presenting a positive view of life based on Christian beliefs.  Sixty years later — and still going strong — the biggest non-fiction bestseller in the United States was The Purpose-Driven Life, by the Reverend Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif. His offering was an inspirational book, presenting a positive view of life based on Christian beliefs.  Yet the two pastors are from two different moulds. Fosdick was a liberal, famous for his attacks on fundamentalist Protestants. He did not believe the Bible was infallible. He was a pacifist. Warren, on the other hand, delivered an invocation at the inauguration of George W. Bush and believes that "every word of scripture is chosen by God Himself." In 1943 Fosdick looked like the wave of the future — he was the thinking man's preacher. Sixty years later, his kind seems extinct while the woods remain full of Rick Warrens.  That same year, 1943, a No.1 non-fiction bestseller was One World, by a Republican politician named Wendell Willkie who had lost a presidential election three years previously. Willkie hoped that the book might revive his presidential hopes. One World was both a severe warning and a message of hope — a warning that the world could be consumed by war, and a message of hope that global unity might yet save the day.  Today, the No.1 non-fiction (paperback) bestseller is An Inconvenient Truth, by a Democratic politician named Al Gore, who lost a presidential election six years previously. Gore, despite his assurances to the contrary, no doubt hopes that the book will revive his presidential hopes. An Inconvenient Truth is both a severe warning and a message of hope — a warning that our civilization may be destroyed by global warming, and a message of hope that emissions reductions may yet save the day.  If Fosdick, the liberal, popular preacher, seems a vanished species, so does Wendell Willkie, the liberal Republican.  It seems, then, that the history of zeitgeist books over the past 60 years shows a remarkable consistency of form, with some change in content.

·  Inspiration and Self Help. This genre remains dominant among bestsellers and zeitgeist books. In 1946 the inspirational rage was Joshua L. Liebman's Peace Of Mind. Liebman was a rabbi who, like Fosdick, tried to combine psychological self-help with religious insights.  More secular, but still high-minded, was Dale Carnegie's 1948 blockbuster, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, followed in 1950 by Harry Overstreet's The Mature Mind. In 1953 came the monster of all inspirational books, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.  Peale, like today's televangelist Dr. Robert Schuller, was a happy Protestant, thoroughly American in his outlook, and defying both hell-fire preachers and gloomy intellectuals. (Failed Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, a favourite of intellectuals, once said, referring to St. Paul, that he found "Paul appealing and Peale appalling." No wonder Stevenson lost.)  In the 1970s and '80s, inspirational zeitgeist books delivered ever more heartfelt hugs to the stressed-out reader. They included Thomas Harris's I'm OK, You're OK (1972), How To Be Your Own Best Friend, a 1973 No.1 bestseller by three authors, Mildred Newman, Bernard Berkowitz and Jean Owen, Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne Dyer, which sat atop the bestseller list in 1976, Loving Each Other (1984), by champion hug-meister Leo Buscaglia, and All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Fulghum, who followed up this 1988 bestseller with a number of equally bestselling sequels.  In the 1990s, inspirational self-help books tried to sort out the wreckage of male/female relationships. Poet Robert Bly addressed men in his 1990 bestseller Iron John, reassuring them it was okay to be male, while Gloria Steinem sought to shore up the battered self-esteem of women in her 1991 bestseller Revolution From Within. The resolutely cheerful John Gray reached out to both genders and attempted to fashion a peace agreement with his 1992 bestseller Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.

·  Secrets of Business Books. An offshoot of inspirational self-help books appeared in the '70s and '80s. These were books that told readers (mostly men) that conventional business and management practices were all wrong, and that they could get a leg-up if they heeded the master.  The tone was slightly more hard-nosed than the I'm OK, You're OK school of human relations, as indicated by some of the titles of these bestsellers, such as Michael Korda's 1975 Power! and Robert J. Ringer's 1977 Looking Out for Number One. Others in this genre included Robert Townsend's 1970 bestseller, Up the Organization and In Search of Excellence, a 1982 sensation by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr.  Every business guru adopts the tone of a prophet who has seen the future and has figured out the way to make it pay. John Naisbitt concentrated on the aspect of seeing the future in his 1982 bestseller Megatrends; Malcolm Gladwell concentrated on the aspect of manipulating the future in his 2000 bestseller The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, a book even more popular than Blink.  "Tipping Points are a reaffirmation of the potential for change and the power of intelligent action," Gladwell concludes. "Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push — in just the right place — it can be tipped."

·  Social Issues. The optimistic tone of Gladwell's conclusion — the same tone of Chris Anderson's 2006 The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less Of More, a book perhaps trying to be the next Tipping Point — is typical of inspirational and how-to business volumes, which are essentially about good news. But good news requires bad news — otherwise good news loses its lustre.  This bad news has always been provided by another dominant genre of zeitgeist book, the sounding-the-alarm bestseller. Al Gore's "global warning" fits the bill; so does Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation.  A classic of the genre was Vance Packard's 1957 book The Hidden Persuaders, a work of pop social science that demonstrated the cunning duplicity of advertisers and PR operatives. Soon, the book suggested, we would all be robots in the hands of motivational researchers.  Some of the social issues raised by these zeitgeist books quickly fade — no one seems exercised about expensive funerals these days, and the revelations in Jessica Mitford's bestselling 1963 expose of the undertaking profession, The American Way of Death, seem to have lost their sting. Other social issues, such as the unresolved guilt over historical treatment of Indians, graphically recalled in Dee Brown's 1971 bestseller, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, are very much with us.

Some of these books, such as Charles Reich's 1970 The Greening of America, come from the left. Some of them, such as the late Allan Bloom's 1987 Reagan-era jeremiad, The Closing of the American Mind, come from the right. Some of them hold up very well, such as Rachel Carson's 1962 warning against poisonous chemicals, Silent Spring. Others, such as Germaine Greer's 1971 bestseller, The Female Eunuch, in which the author urges married women to say goodbye to husband and kids and join a commune, seem ridiculous.  Almost all these books are characterized by a certain naiveté — and over time we can see which of today's zeitgeist books were prescient and which were merely naive. Given a half-century or so, we can look back upon this decade's crop of Michael Moore's political rants and Gladwell's think pieces and determine whether they were worth the original fuss.


Above Average Italian, Miraculous Mexican

Excerpt from The Toronto Star – By Amy Pataki

(Aug. 26, 2006) Just in time for the Toronto International Film Festival,
Mistura co-owners Paolo Paolini and chef Massimo Capra have opened a lounge designed to appeal to celebrities and others seeking coddling. Sopra ("above" in Italian) is just that, on the second floor of Mistura at 265 Davenport Rd. Sopra offers live jazz, cocktails and a scaled-down version of the Italian food below.  There's a new kind of Mexican restaurant in town: a high-end one. Milagro is the brainchild of brothers Arturo and Andres Anhalt. They serve such sophisticated entrées as beef medallions in creamy poblano sauce and grilled adobo-rubbed tuna, with a long list of premium tequilas for washing it all down. The 5 Mercer St. location was until recently Monte Cristo.  Just down Mercer St. at the St. Germain Hotel, Chez Victor has opened. The restaurant, which used to be Luce, is now under the care of corporate chef Alain Labrie (ex-Auberge Hatley) and restaurant chef Hans Vogels (ex-Susur). The dinner-only menu includes a Rendang-style veal shank.  Eatertainment (Bloor St. Diner) is betting that North Toronto likes its beef with the opening of Meating, a modern steakhouse at 2411 Yonge St., just south of their Cfood property. The menu covers "tame, game and organic," including elk striploin and a $45 ribeye as grilled by executive chef Sean Simons (ex-Morton's).  Anthony Rose has moved into the kitchen at The Drake Hotel. Rose offers peach and arugula salad with cold roasted foie gras amongst other seasonal creations.  Splendido's Yannick Bigourdan and David Lee have scrapped their planned restaurant/piano bar for the ex-Original Motorcycle Café after losing the lease. The pair are "very actively looking" for another property, says Bigourdan.

Toronto Novelist Wins At World's Largest Arts Fest

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Aug. 26, 2006)
Goodness, a philosophical thriller by Toronto playwright and novelist Michael Redhill, has won the Carol Tambor Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Directed by Volcano Theatre's Ross Manson, it received some of the strongest reviews at the Fringe, the world's largest arts festival. It premiered in Toronto last October in a co-production between Volcano and Tarragon Theatre.

Mama Vandross Pushes Diabetes Awareness

Excerpt from

(August 25, 2006) *
Mary Ida Vandross, the 82-year-old mother of late R&B icon Luther Vandross, is using the publicity surrounding her son’s new album to warn people against the dangers of diabetes, the disease behind the deaths of three of her four children and one grandson. (Her fourth child, a daughter, died after suffering from asthma.)  "It is with me daily that my family was taken from me," Vandross told Reuters in a telephone interview. "Diabetes is really dangerous. Just get yourself checked." Her appeal coincides with the release of a nationwide survey of 2,000 Americans that found a growing number of adults aged 18 to 40 are living with or at risk of type 2 diabetes – a disease caused by genetic factors and often brought on by obesity and lack of exercise. Luther Vandross, who died last year due to complications of the disease, never fully recovered after suffering a stroke two years earlier. His weight fluctuated often, peaking at over 300 pounds.  Vandross’ new CD of hits, “The Ultimate Luther Vandross,” includes two new songs recorded right before his stroke called "Shine" and "Got You Home." 



Ticats Fire Coaches Paopao, Kauahi

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Dan Ralph, Canadian Press

(Aug. 30, 2006) Ron Lancaster is taking the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' troubled offence back to square one.  The Ticats, who've failed to score a touchdown in three straight embarrassing home losses, have fired offensive co-ordinator Joe Paopao and offensive line coach Kani Kauahi.  Lancaster, Hamilton's interim head coach, will team up with offensive assistant Perry Marchese and player-personnel director Craig Smith to handle the offence leading up to the club's traditional Labour Day showdown against the arch-rival Toronto Argonauts on Sept. 4.  "We're going to try and simplify things," Lancaster said. ``That's not saying it was too complicated for the players, but I'm a firm believer it's like it is in golf where if you're having trouble they say to go right back to the basics, to the grip.  "So we're going to try and start from the beginning and build outward and stay as simple as we can. The fewer plays the better and try to execute them with much authority."  This is Hamilton's second coaching change this season. Last month, the team fired head coach Greg Marshall, who later returned to the Western Ontario Mustangs, his alma mater.  "It's never good to let anyone go," said Lancaster, who became interim head coach when Marshall was fired. "Joe has been a friend of mine for 20 some years, but when you haven't scored a touchdown in your last three home games it leaves a bad taste in everybody's mouth and pushes the powers that be to take a hard look at things."  Hamilton also dealt veteran defensive lineman Adriano Belli back to Montreal yesterday for defensive tackle Clinton Wayne and linebacker Phillip Gauthier. Belli was a member of the Alouettes' 2002 Grey Cup team and played there through the 2003 season before joining the Ticats as a free agent.

Hamilton, last in the CFL with a dismal 2-9 record, has lost its last three home games by a whopping 100-10 margin. The latest was a lopsided 51-8 decision to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday night, in which the Ticats fumbled eight times. And up next for Hamilton is a streaking Toronto team that has won three straight and is tied with Winnipeg (5-5) for second in the East Division.  "We haven't scored a touchdown at home in three games and now we're playing a team that doesn't know what it is to give up a touchdown," Lancaster said. "But I've been in the Saskatchewan-Winnipeg series, I've been in the Edmonton-Calgary rivalry and now this one and some of the strangest things in the world have always happened on Labour Day."  Hamilton completely revamped its offence in the off-season, acquiring quarterback Jason Maas, running back/kick returner Corey Holmes and receiver Terry Vaughn while signing running back Josh Ranek.  Paopao was not only responsible for forming the offensive game plan each week, but also calling most of the plays. Surprisingly, Paopao didn't seem to involve Holmes into Hamilton's offence.  Holmes has rushed for just 157 yards on 29 carries after running for 899 yards for Saskatchewan last season.  But the biggest question mark has been Maas, a former 5,000-yard passer with Edmonton. Maas has rarely looked comfortable leading the offence, having thrown more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (six).  Last week, a CFL source requesting anonymity told the Canadian Press that Maas has never fully recovered from right shoulder and biceps injuries he sustained during training camp. The Ticats have maintained Maas is as healthy as he could be at this point of the season.  Hamilton couldn't have picked a worse time — or place — to struggle offensively. The team is enjoying solid support at Ivor Wynne Stadium, averaging more than 27,000 fans a game, yet the club is 1-4 there and has scored just 44 points.  Last season, the Ticats finished 5-13-0.

Lebron Wants To Be Sport’s First Billionaire

Excerpt from

(August 24, 2006) *During a press event Monday in Sapporo, Japan, where his Team USA is on a run to capture the 2006 FIBA World Championship, superstar
LeBron James of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers informs reporters of his bold plan to become the first athlete to reach the billion dollar mark in earnings.   Believing that real money lies in business ventures well beyond the U.S. borders, James and his new company, LRMR Marketing, are looking to China and Japan as fertile ground for lucrative endeavours.   “I say all the time, and I tell my friends and teammates, that you have to go global.  In basketball and business,” James said, adding that he wants to increase his exposure in Asia by Aug. 8, 2008, the opening of the Beijing Olympics. “It is only going to help my business. Once I knew the world games were going to be in Japan, I knew I was going to be on board."   James, who will again represent Team USA in the Beijing Olympics, says he’ll use the time spent in China to foster more business relationships.

He’s even taking Mandarin Chinese lessons with the hope of being able to conduct interviews in the language by 2008.   Nike, the company that features James as an endorser, is naturally behind the player’s ambitious goal 100 percent, as the athletic giant would ultimately benefit from the increased exposure of its star athlete. In fact, it was Nike that organized the press conference, strategically held on an afternoon when Team USA was off and no media access was granted to players, thereby avoiding any distraction.  Nike designed a new campaign for the world championship dubbed “The Ambassadors,” featuring James, Argentina's Manu Ginobili, Spain's Pau Gasol, France's Tony Parker, Germany's Dirk Nowitzki and the next potential Asian star, Yi Jianlian of China. Other campaigns have been directed specifically to the Chinese, including an initial launch of just 1,000 pairs of a special edition James shoe last winter that had teenagers lining up at stores like the character Turtle on Sunday’s episode of HBO’s “Entourage.    “There is a craving (in Asia) for basketball. You can see it in people's eyes," Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. “You get that atmosphere with that populous. I see this being the global sport eventually.”

Stojko Hangs 'Em Up

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Randy Starkman

(Aug. 30, 2006) Elvis has left the building — he even described it in those very words himself for the first time.  Three-time world champion Elvis Stojko is done with figure skating. A fierce competitor who forged an amazing career against great odds before retiring as a competitor after the 2002 Olympics, Stojko has decided he's had it with professional skating shows. He has performed on ice for the last time — and he's not leaving because he's just launched a singing career.  There'll be no gala figure skating TV special to celebrate the two-time Olympic silver medallist. And you can definitely forget about those sappy, money-grabbing farewell tours.  "No farewell tour. Not for this boy," said Stojko yesterday. "To go through the whole rigmarole of a tour and all that, I just didn't want to deal with that. It's just been really difficult, so I didn't want to drag it out. Short and sweet and to the point. If I'm going to retire, I'm retired. I'm not going to mess around."  The 34-year-old from Richmond Hill is adamant he'll remain retired as a skater, unlike so many athletes who experience a change of heart after a year or two away from the sport they loved.  The thing is Stojko's heart really hasn't been in it the past two years. It was no longer his passion: it had become a job. After taking two months off at one point, he found it very hard to motivate himself again.  "It was kind of funny because when you have no more words to say or words to write, then what? And that's kind of like with skating, I had no more words to say for skating," he said. "I was finished. It was like my book was done. The novel was finished. Why write a second movie when the first one went so well? Why ruin it?  "With music, I feel like I have a new book, not just a chapter but a whole new book to talk about things and live and I can express it through words."  Stojko's duet with Canadian Idol finalist Ashley Leitao on Braided's debut album is currently getting air play, while his own album is being readied for a pre-Christmas release. But he said his new venture didn't influence his decision.  "I think either way, if I had a music career or not, I would still retire at this point," said Stojko. "I wanted to make that clear, too. I'm not giving up one for another. I don't think it would be smart to do that. I think I should go as long as I can with one and see how I feel and be honest with that. It just happens to be that there's a nice transition now."

Stojko's announcement stunned figure skating fans who have traditionally expected their favourites to stick around for a decade and often even longer as pros once they've finished competing.  Rather than cash in on his last skate, Stojko chose to perform it at a low-key event, the Mariposa Gala two weeks ago at the Barrie Molson Centre, a fundraiser for his old club, where he skated under coach Doug Leigh for 14 years. There had been a difficult break with Leigh towards the end of his career, but Stojko came to his "second home" to wrap things up. No one knew that this was Stojko's final skate beforehand except his close friend and kung-fu coach Glenn Doyle and Doyle's wife, Roselle Soussana, who choreographed his routine.  He skated his last routine to Queen's The Show Must Go On.  "I always wanted to skate to that song," he said. "I think it was appropriate. No matter where I go and what I do, the show must go on."  When he caught his breath afterwards, Stojko took the mike and announced to the crowd they had just seen his last skate.  The first people Stojko thanked, strangely enough, were his legion of critics, the ones who said he'd never make it because among other things he didn't look at all like a figure skater and lacked the necessary artistry.  "I thanked everyone who talked behind my back and always criticized me, and I thanked them because they made me strong. They fuelled the monster. So I thanked them first. I told the people, `This will be an unusual group of people to thank, but they are a part of who I am as well.'"  After thanking Leigh, Doyle, his skating idol Brian Orser, and his parents among others, Stojko couldn't resist uttering the line he'd resisted his entire career up until then.  "I actually did say that at the end, because I never said it ever in my career. At the very, very end, I said, `And the old cliché, as many people would say — and this is my first time saying it — Elvis will be leaving the building.'"


Ottawa Pledges $55M More For Olympics

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 30, 2006) VANCOUVER — The federal government committed another $55 million Friday to cover cost overruns for the 2010 Olympics.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement in Vancouver, along with International Trade Minister David Emerson, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, Mayor Sam Sullivan and members of the Olympic committee.  B.C. also promised $55 million to match the federal government's cash.  For months the province and the Vancouver organizing committee have been pressing Ottawa for extra money to cover soaring construction costs.  Vancouver Olympic officials have been warning that British Columbia's booming economy was driving up construction costs.  The Games' original $470-million capital budget for building venues ballooned to $580 million out of an overall budget of $2 billion.


4 10-Minute Fat Burning Cardio Routines

By Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS, eDiets Guest Columnist

No time to exercise?  Everyone has 10 minutes they can steal. Studies prove several 10 minute bouts of exercise throughout the day are equally beneficial for your health and calorie burning as one longer continuous session.  If you spend your day at a desk, take 10 minutes out of every two hours to get up, get moving and get closer to a body you can be proud of. You will return to your desk refreshed, with more mental clarity and a renewed sense to continue working knowing you are closer to reaching your fitness goals. Giving your metabolism a boost several times through the day, adds up to more fat burning.  The four following 10-minute workouts can easily fit into your day, can help burn off your meals, and most importantly you'll have fun getting fit.

Climb your way to fitness -- Start out with two trips up and down a flight of stairs. For your next two trips, pick up the pace going up the stairs, and walk down at a moderate pace. For trips five and six, take giant steps by placing your foot on every other step. Walk down at a moderate pace. The seventh and eighth trip you should vigorously pump your arms (i.e. Rocky) as you climb, then walk down slowly. If necessary, hold on to the railing when descending the steps. Finally for the last two minutes, perform quick steps up and down on the bottom step (i.e. football drill).

Million Dollar Boxing Body -- Stand up in your office or anywhere you have a few feet of space around you. For the first minute, step side to side with your hands up as if to protect your face. For the second minute, make the side step a little deeper so that you are squatting at the mid point. For minutes three through five, plant your feet and work on repeating 16 of each of the following punches with each arm; cross punch, jab and upper cut. For minutes six and seven alternate 16 kicks to the front with 16 kicks to the side and 16 kicks to the back. Arms are protecting your face. For minutes eight and nine, shift your weight from side to side and shadow box using any combination of punches that feel good to you. For the tenth minute stagger your legs and shift your weight front and back (alternating feet every couple of seconds) as you throw jabs.

Jump for Fitness -- You can use a rope or pretend. Start out with the standard jump with feet together for one minute. For minute two, jump side to side. Minute three jump front and back. At minute four, jump on the corners of an imaginary square. At minute five, alternate hopping on the right foot then left. Minute six jump so that the rope is going to go under your feet twice in one jump (or pretend). Minute seven hop on the right foot for 10 jumps then the left and continue to alternate. Minute eight, go for speed, jumping as quickly as you are comfortable. Minute nine, spin the rope backward, and finally for the tenth minute perform a jumping jack with your feet as you spin the rope.

Speed Play -- Begin by walking and after a minute or two, accelerate until you have reached your peak speed, then slow down until you feel recovered. When you are ready, repeat another bout of accelerating. Continue to play with your speed for a total of ten minutes getting in three to five exercise bursts. This activity helps you to get in tune with your body and pay attention to how you (and your heart rate) are feeling.

It may take time to work up to performing some of these exercises for the whole 10 minutes. If you can make it for up to four minutes, or even one minute, be pleased you made the effort and try for a little longer next time until you build up to 10 minutes several times a day. You can choose to do all four routines once a day for variety. Or choose routine to be repeated several times a day then switch the routines daily or weekly.

Exercise is one of the very best things you can do for heart health, anti-aging, detoxifying, boosting metabolism and fat burning. Make a conscious effort to plan for several short bursts of exercise throughout the day. Short exercise bursts help to improve heart rate variability which is the greatest predictor of health. Take 10... you are worth it!

Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS is author of Feminine, Firm & Fit. For more information go to, e-mail Kelli at or call 817-490-1296.



Motivational Note – The Call

The following is an excerpt from the book "You Deserve More: Desperation is a Terrible Perfume to Wear" written by Jewel Diamond Taylor

We met and you said you would call. We danced and you said you would call. We made love and you said you would call. We laughed and you said you would call. We made plans and you said you would call. I asked myself every day, "Why hasn't he called?" Because you never answered my call, that WAS my answer. I now clearly see --- you weren't ALL that into me. Sitting by the phone all day --- I gave my power away. Instead of knowing I deserve more, I had dropped my crown on the floor. I was living in your sunshine. What happened to mine? Why did I think only you could make me shine? Real love answers the phone. Real love comes home. Real love is strong and true. It shouldn't leave me feeling black and blue. You ignored me and I thought this was rejection. I see now, this separation is my God's protection. I couldn't do it --- so I believe God closed that door because I'm precious in His sight. I deserve more.

To learn more about this popular book or e-book go to