Updated: February 23, 2006
Well, wish us luck! Kayte Burgess goes on stage at Showtime
at the Apollo this weekend! I'm sure Kayte will represent the scene here
in Toronto - will give you a full report once we return!
Black History Month at Mardi Gras!
Mardi Gras Bistro: This special New Orlean's style restaurant and entertainment hive has some exciting talent lined up ... and don't forget to try the baby back ribs and jambalaya - I'm telling you, it will change your life!
What better way to celebrate this month than with good food, good people and great entertainment. Check out the line-up below in a calendar format. Chef Anthony Mair insists on flawless, unobtrusive service and has managed to master this with his staff while earning their respect and still delivering the undeniable level of excellence in his food preparations. In celebration of Black History Month and Mardi Gras we are putting together a calendar of events featuring some of the city's best and brightest musical talent.
MARDI GRAS CELEBRATIONS
1982 Bloor St West
Just outside the High Park Subway Station
Irie Food Joint – Urban Vanguard Art Showing – February 27, 2006
Regular patrons of Toronto's Irie Food Joint Restaurant might have noticed gregarious owner Carl Cassell has been scarce lately. Little do most know, the business entrepreneur is usually in the studio apartment just upstairs of the restaurant, preoccupied with completing his latest works of art of 2006 - the Urban Vanguard Series II.
The succession of 20 portraits represent for Cassell an emerging creative mass in Canadian arts and entertainment. Some of his featured subjects include filmmaker Clement Virgo, photographer Michael Chambers, opera soprano Measha Brueggergosman, and some emerging artists breaking ground. It's Cassell's belief these urbanites are in their own work reflecting, exploring, challenging and/or obliterating popular perceptions by way of sheer ingenuity. "The industry that defines North America right now is entertainment," says Cassell.
Catch Carl's own vanguard innovation when he unveils his medium of creation -- a mode that has become his signature style.
Now, we all know that Carl knows how to throw a party so come out to the Urban Vanguard Series II of 2006 which is slated for showing February 27 at the Irie Food Joint.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 27
Urban Vanguard Series II
Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.
KUUMBA at Harbourfront Centre
KUUMBA means Creativity in Swahili. Celebrate African Heritage Month with Kuumba at Harbourfront Centre! Two fun-filled weekends of music, film, concerts, workshops, kid’s activities, discussion panels and more await you beginning Thursday, February 2nd!
Highlights include a rare live appearance by UK film and music legend Don Letts, the Canadian Reggae Music Summit, Showcase and After party, and the Donné Roberts CD release party. Calypso legends Lord Superior, Mighty Sparrow, and Calypso Rose participate in a panel discussion, workshops on Caribbean Indigenous and African contemporary dance, culinary demonstrations with Chef Dwight Boswell and a celebrity
Cook-up with MuchMusic VJ Matte Babel and singer/songwriter Jully Black are also scheduled.
For more information the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com.
All Kuumba events are located at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto), and are free unless otherwise noted.
Harlem Gospel Choir at Hummingbird Centre
– March 6
Source: Hummingbird Centre
The renowned Harlem Gospel Choir, one of the pre-eminent gospel choirs in the world, is coming to the Hummingbird Centre of the Performing Arts for one show only on Monday, March 6, 2006! Featuring some of the finest singers and musicians from various churches in Harlem, the Choir shares their message of love, peace and harmony with people of all cultures. The theme of every performance is about bringing people and nations together. Their songs of inspiration touch the depths of the soul and raise the spirit to angelic heights. Founder Allen Bailey sums up the experience – “Regardless of the language and the country, everyone who comes to our concerts has the spirit.” Established over 20 years ago, the Harlem Gospel Choir has performed around the world. They have performed with U2 on their concert film “Rattle and Hum,” Diana Ross, The Chieftains, Harry Belafonte and they have performed for the Pope, Nelson Mandela and Paul McCartney.
To see the Harlem Gospel Choir during a live performance is an opportunity that should not be missed. Audiences will be treated to jazz, blues and gospel spirituals while having a moving and rockin’ good time.
MONDAY, MARCH 6
HARLEM GOSPEL CHOIR
The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front Street East
Ticket prices range from $25 – $55
Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 416-872-2262 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.ca, or in person at the Hummingbird Centre Box Office
GROUPS of 10 or more call: 416-393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805
Presented by the Toronto Star
Sponsored by Tyndale University College & Seminary
KOCH Donates Portion Of Sales Of J Dilla's DONUTS To Family
Source: KOCH Entertainment
(Feb. 16, 2006) KOCH Entertainment, the leading audio and video distributor in Canada announced today it will donate $1.00 from the sale of each copy of J Dilla’s DONUTS CD sold in Canada to Dilla's mother to re-cover medical and related expenses. Hip-hop producer J Dilla, whose soulful beats formed the backdrop to songs by artists like Common and A Tribe Called Quest, died Friday. The cause was cardiac arrest, according to his mother, Maureen Yancey. She said he had been suffering from lupus and had recently been hospitalized for pneumonia. "We've been a part of Dilla's career since 'Fantastic Vol. 2' which we had licensed for Canada in 2000," says Dominique Zgarka, President of KOCH Entertainment Canada. "Now with our current partnership with Stones Throw Records, we were fortunate enough to release the acclaimed ‘Jaylib: Champion Sound’ album and his most recent release ‘Donuts.’ We are all deeply saddened and shocked by his death, and want to help out in any way. We're also calling on Stones Throw's other distributors from around the world to help out in their own way and pay tribute to one of music's best producers." J Dilla or Jay Dee (real name: James Yancey) was born and raised in Detroit. He had been living with his mother in Los Angeles since being diagnosed with the immune system disease about three years ago.
Dilla had formed the trio Slum Village in the late 1990s but left after its successful second album to pursue a solo career. In 2003, he teamed with fellow rapper-producer Madlib for the critically acclaimed Jaylib project "Champion Sound" in which each rapped over the other's beats. Dilla contributed tracks to The Pharcyde's second album, 1995's "Labcabincalifornia," produced much of A Tribe Called Quest's "The Love Movement" in 1998, and worked with Common on several albums. Other production work has been completed for artists Madlib, Busta Rhymes, Ghostface Killah, A.G., Visionaries, Truth Hurts, Phat Kat, MF DOOM, Skillz, and Frank N Dank. His most recent CD, the instrumental "Donuts," was released last Tuesday through Stones Throw Records/KOCH Entertainment. Recorded while hospitalized, the CD has touched fans with the intimate nature and circumstances surrounding the recording. Dilla’s mother, Mrs. Yancey relocated to Los Angeles in order to care for her son during his lengthy illness. On behalf of Mrs. Yancey, the KOCH Entertainment donations will be sent to a fund which has been established in her name. The general public can also send donations in honour of Dilla. Please note that donations made to Mrs. Yancey are not considered a charitable deduction to help re-cover medical and related expenses. This will be considered a gift of help. Donations can be sent to:
Made Payable to Mrs. Maureen Yancey
132 N. Sycamore Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Bank Wires can be sent to:
Wells Fargo Bank of Los Angeles, CA
Routing Number: 122000247
Account Number: 6043250676
Mix Masters Share Their Tricks
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Sarah Efron
(Feb. 17, 2006) DJ Leanne is spinning a soulful house record on one turntable as she cues up another track on her headphones. At just the right moment, she releases the record and its thumping beat syncs perfectly with the music booming through the speakers. As usual, she's playing for an audience, but this time they aren't club-goers -- they're students of the Rhythm Institute. DJ Leanne originated DJ instruction in Vancouver in 2002, but she is no longer the only one selling turntable secrets. Three other companies now offer courses for people who want to get the dance floor moving. The rise of superstar DJs over the past decade has inspired many people to take up the art of mixing. Traditionally, disc jockeys were self-taught or learned from other DJs, but some people are now trying to jump-start their club careers by enrolling in formal courses. DJ schools serve as an entry point to hopeful mixers who don't have connections in the music scene, and they allow students to test the waters before investing in costly decks and mixers. Students learn the technical and promotional skills they need to become DJs much quicker than self-taught musical selectors, DJ Leanne says. "If you have a piano in front on you and you've never played, sure, you could bang out a few notes, but you'll progress faster if you have someone to show you what to do," she adds. "I've played for 12 years and I coach the students through it. It takes students months on their own to learn what we teach here." DJ Leanne (Leanne Bitner) started her school in the back of Boomtown Records, but in November she left the "little box" that housed the Rhythm Institute and opened a 214-square-metre facility on West Hastings. The basement office has been transformed into a sleek centre of DJ culture: There are two soundproof studios, an extensive vinyl library and walls decorated with club-themed artwork. With more than 300 graduates, the Rhythm Institute is the most established local DJ school. Students are matched up with one of seven instructors, depending on their preference for techno, hip hop, rhythm and blues, or house. Beginners learn to cue and beat-match CDs or records, while advanced students make demo CDs to showcase their mixing skills.
Meanwhile, Boomtown Records has started its own DJ school in Leanne's former digs. Owner Sherwood Seabrook -- a.k.a. DJ Wood -- teaches students to play house, trance, hip hop, soul and reggae. Most students are in their late teens or early 20s, although Seabrook is currently teaching an 11-year-old boy to spin. Another option is the School of Mix, a long-running bartending school that expanded into DJ instruction last year. It looks so much like a real bar that people often wander in and try to order drinks. Instructor RC Lair, a new-wave/electro DJ, says the bartending students on the other side of the room provide instant feedback on the aspiring DJs' mixes. Much of the school's business comes from Asian students learning English in Vancouver. "The international students love to be involved in something Western," RC Lair says. "They want to be the master of the nightclub." A few blocks away, the Granville Island Music School is offering its own mixing-and-scratching lessons. The turntables are set up in a glass room above the Pacific Drum Centre. Instructor Mike Jones, also known as the Phonograff, has performed with hip-hop stars Moka Only, Swollen Members and Maestro Fresh Wes. None of the DJ school owners seem too concerned about the rise of competition in the marketplace -- all say their instructors' reputations will continue to attract students interested in specific musical subgenres. The proliferation of scholarly DJ-ing could inject fresh life into Vancouver's club culture and even help produce superstar DJs to call our own. If not, at least visiting Japanese students will have something to brag about to their friends back home.
Scratching The Itch
The Rhythm Institute. Nine hours of instruction and six hours of studio practice for $500. 437 W. Hastings St., 604-806-0435.
Boomtown Records. Six hours of instruction and six hours of studio practice costs $349.99. 102-1252 Burrard St., 604-893-8696.
School of Mix. Ten hours of lessons for $481.50. 1666 W. 1st Ave., 604-738-1446.
Granville Island Music School. A one-hour scratch class costs $50 and 10 hours of mixing instruction is $450. 1918 Fir St., 604-551-4415.
Toronto's Masonic Temple Is Born Again, And Again
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon
(Feb. 21, 2006) Many will see it as oh-so-emblematic of the times: Toronto's historic Masonic Temple yesterday began its new renovation and "rebranding" as the home of MTV Canada. Of course the landmark building has long been the home for CTV studios and, particularly when the site was known as the Rockpile and simply the Concert Hall, hosted legendary rock concerts by Led Zeppelin and others. More recently, Mike Bullard's talk show used the building, as did the Rolling Stones as a rehearsal space. Now CTV has hung a three-metre by four-metre MTV sign outside, trying to do what CHUM did for the old Methodist Church administration building and printing plant on Toronto's Queen Street West. CTV is turning the temple into a pop-culture hub. The building will host Canadian MTV's flagship show, MTV Live. It will be a weeknight program, shot with a studio audience and based on the same format as TalkTV's The Chatroom. Once the new Canadian MTV launches in the coming months (CTV is coy about saying exactly when), the cable channel will be quite different than what most people associate with the original American MTV, which has increasingly moved away from music videos toward reality shows and other original programming. The Canadianized MTV will put an emphasis on talk and lifestyle shows with no music videos at all, more like a redesigned version of CTV's TalkTV cable channel. CTV said yesterday that the program MTV Live will include "interviews, debates, surprise guests and roving reporters," discussing everything from politics and the environment to entertainment, sex and social issues. It will continue with The Chatroom's pan-media flavour, inviting viewers to contribute to the program in person, by phone, e-mail, text messaging, Internet blogs and presumably whatever other messaging device is invented between now and when the show eventually begins airing. One insider could only hint that it would be some time this year.
MTV in Canada isn't positioning itself as a competitor to MuchMusic. With its roster of talk shows, "we are going to be something very different," said MTV senior vice-president and general manager Brad Schwartz. Instead, the aim is to use the valuable MTV brand to relaunch TalkTV. Since the rebranded channel will use the same broadcast license CTV currently has for TalkTV, it is bound by a 68-per-cent Canadian content requirement and an emphasis on talk-show programming. For all the talk of getting the Masonic Temple MTV ready with new state-of-the-art studios, CTV still promises that many of the architectural details of the temple will remain intact. These include an original spiral staircase and raising the stage to its original height. The idea won't be to suddenly open the interior to the sidewalk by replacing the stone walls with, say, glass walls, as CHUM has done with its Queen Street building, Schwartz said. The renovation is being led by the design firm 3rd Uncle, which revitalized the dilapidated Drake Hotel into one of Toronto's hippest nightspots.
10 Questions With Gregg Terrence
This issue, UMAC continues its 10 Questions With... feature by focusing on Gregg Terrence, President of Indie Pool and Founder of the Canadian Independent Recording Artists Association (CIRAA), which dedicated exclusively to Canadian independent recording artists. UMAC Executive Director Aisha Wickham recently joined the CIRAA Board of Directors, and will be involved in developing the structure and direction of this important new association. One of CIRAA's first, and most important, initiatives will be to represent the interests of independent and emerging artists at the CRTC's upcoming Review of Commercial Radio Policy. Visit CIRAA for more information or to sign up for your free membership.
Q1: How did you get your start in the music business?
Terrence: I bought my first guitar at 13 and started singing in my first band was when I was 15. I remember my parents wouldn't let me join a band (I was having enough problems), so I'd come home early and go to bed, only to sneak out of my bedroom window and go jam. I was driven to do it and once I got a taste, I was hooked and kept sneaking out. Eventually I got caught sneaking out, but I never stopped playing and eventually my parents gave in to the idea.
Q2: What made you launch Indie Pool in 1996, and what inspires your passion to advocate for independent artists?
Terrence: There was a clear need for someone to do what Indie Pool has done (pooling indie bands to create access and lower prices). If I didn't do it, I'm sure someone else would have. Back in 1996, digital technology was making recording music more affordable, which was creating a whole new set of problems. I had faced some of those problems as an independent artist: distribution, manufacturing, design, etc. There was no support network anywhere. It was you, your ideas and the yellow pages, that's it.
So when the idea of pooling local Ottawa bands together first came up, it was immediately clear to me that this was my calling. I was blessed with the ability to think like an artist and think like a business person well enough to be able to communicate with both sides and help bridge the gap.
Helping thousands of underserved Canadian emerging artists and having an impact inspires me to do more. It continues to snowball, and now I find myself working with CIRAA, pushing even further.
Q3: Can you give us a couple of examples of artist success stories that you have seen through your experiences with artists who have used Indie Pool's services? (i.e. creative marketing/distribution/merchandizing strategies, etc.)?
Terrence: One guy in Alberta made a real sexy R&B record and scored a huge deal with LaSenza (lingerie chain). That one deal, which saw his CD sold at the cash registers for the month preceding Valentine's Day, was enough to fund his career.
Many artists are skipping distribution to retail and selling their CD only online, so they can collect data on their fans (some artists have tried digital distribution only without a CD and all have failed to date, the time is not quite here yet).
Many artists spend their money on clothing lines and get their brand out there first, with minimal tracks recorded.
Q4: What is the mandate of CIRAA and how it will serve its members?
Terrence: Strength in numbers. CIRAA's mandate is to unite all of Canada's unsigned recording artists under one political umbrella to finally have a say in the policies that affect us. Is CANCON working for us? Is FACTOR working for us? Are we being properly educated? No one has ever bothered to ask us because we have never been united.
Q5: With the CRTC announcing an upcoming review of Canadian radio policy in May 2006, what are the key issues that independent and unsigned artists should be paying attention to?
Terrence: CIRAA will be proposing changes to Canadian Content regulations that encourage Canadian radio stations to play more emerging artists as part of their commitments. Please visit www.letsfixcancon.ca to read all about it.
We'll also be asking for unsigned artists to have a substantial voice in how funding programs are created and operated. Record companies are dictating how unsigned artists need to be funded, and that needs to change. Only we can know how to best invest in ourselves.
Q6: What has been the biggest challenge you've faced working in the music industry?
Terrence: Convincing the establishment that we are actually in the music industry. Many of the old guard thinks that unless you are signed to a good old fashioned record contract, you are a nobody. It is a challenge we have always faced and continue to face. Fortunately, I believe the new music industry will be following our decentralized model and that this challenge will be in the past.
Q7: What are some of the key things that unsigned artists need to do to successfully build and manage their careers in the music industry?
Terrence: 1. Data is king. The new music industry requires you to track and keep in touch with your fan club. Every sale, every fan at a show, every friend and family member should be in your database.
2. Fresh material. Seems like a no-brainer, but everyone we've seen succeed has had original material, not rehashed hippie rock or the same old boring rap rhymes. Be new and be you. Don't sing about stuff you know nothing about just because your heroes are singing about it.
3. A good web site. It is your central identity, your top salesman, your 24-hour employee that says exactly what you want, showcases the best of you and your music to the entire planet. Spend more on this than you think you should.
4. Play live. It is very, very rare for an artist to make a CD, not play live, and get anywhere. In today's age of diminished CD sales, you better have good live chops to have any hope to survive.
Q8: What are the biggest challenges that unsigned artists face today? How can they counteract those challenges?
Terrence: The challenge is that the entire music industry is changing rapidly. Some would say it's imploding. Back in the day, you could get signed, make money and be happy, if you were good enough. Today, you can be brilliant and people will still have a hard time figuring out how to make money off of your talent.
The solution is to be ahead of the game. You can move faster than labels can. If myspace is the new thing, get there quick. If iTunes is the new thing, get there quick. Build your army (fan club) every day. Get your fan club to spread the word by posting free tracks to the fan club. If you haven't added someone to your fan club database today, you didn't do your job. Write a lot. Find a place to record stuff real cheap and get good at it. Apply for grants, all of them. Ask UMAC, Indie Pool and CIRAA for advice. Keep reading these columns.
Q9: In your opinion, what impact has the satellite radio decision had on unsigned Canadian artists?
Terrence: The "decision" hasn't had much impact yet, in terms of Canadian artists cashing in on their US airplay to break south of the border. On the other hand, the potential is evident and will continue to grow as more millions of US subscribers sign up.
For the first time in our history, 18 Canadian radio stations are beaming throughout the US to millions of customers. At the same time, the Canadian satellite radio stations are asking Canadian artists for more material because the terms of their licenses require them to play 25% new music and 25% emerging artists. That combination of events is unprecedented and has enormous potential.
Q10: How do you define professional success?
Terrence: Making enough money to feed my family and still sleeping well at night.
To sign up for your free membership today, visit www.ciraa.ca.
Bar Wars Heat Up In City
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Raju Mudhar, Staff Reporter
(Feb. 18, 2006) Chris DeVita is acting like it's his day in court. "This is what it sounds like at 12:30 on a Tuesday night." He hits a button and holds up his laptop. Silence. He pulls the computer back to his lap. "And this is what it sounds like on a Thursday night." Loud voices fill the room. There's some music, but it sounds more like a big crowd, laughing, chatting and sometimes yelling. He stops the recording after a few minutes. It's just a tiny piece of his prosecution, though this is hardly a courtroom. It's early January and about 25 stakeholders have gathered at a community meeting to deal with Supermarket, Kensington Market's hottest nightspot. While many locals consider a new place to party good news, DeVita and his wife, Cara Valiquette, take an opposing view — one that stares directly from their bedroom to Supermarket's front door. "Since Supermarket has gone in there, we haven't slept properly from Wednesday to Saturday nights. It's constantly waking up in the night. People have puked and urinated on our door. There have been lots of fights," DeVita tells the room. He goes on. About the cabs idling. About the yelling and the noise violations. Today's meeting was supposed to help solve some of these problems, but it devolves into bickering. Residents start fighting with one another over "who's lived here longer." By the end, nobody leaves happy. And no one is any closer to an answer. A few weeks later, at their home, renovated from the "sh--hole" it once was, the couple is still frustrated. "The city has bylaws on the books about noise, but they aren't enforcing them. If they want another entertainment district here, all they have to do is tell us, but by doing nothing, the situation just gets worse," DeVita says. "The question is, what kind of Kensington Market do they want?"
Skirmishes like this are happening all over the city. As Toronto's population grows, downtown becomes more concentrated, leaving an increasing number of new bars and restaurants bumping up against residential neighbours. It has long been an issue in the entertainment district — the area bounded by Spadina Ave., York St., Queen St. W. and Lake Shore Blvd. — but as businesses and condos proliferate in areas such as Kensington Market and King St. W., tensions increase between residents and bar owners. When conflicts arise, both sides expect resolution to come from the city and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, but it's rarely an easy path.
A Friday night at Supermarket starts casually enough. The restaurant is half full at 8 p.m. Deejay music plays and it's relatively quiet. Co-owner Greg Botrell has a mantra: "This is a restaurant." Technically speaking, under its license Supermarket is a restaurant. This is supposed to limit the dance floor to no more than six per cent of total space. But there's a grey area here. Early in the evening, there is no dance floor at Supermarket. By midnight, it has transformed. Some tables are cleared away for dancing. It's a battle of elbows just to walk to the bathroom. Outside, a line-up is forming, and people are smoking on the patio. This has been Botrell's formula for years. Get the early customers with food, then lure the clubbing crowd later. "You can't just do dinner," says Botrell. "I think in the past five to seven years, with all the development and big boom of construction and the changing crowd in the city, operators are doing more with restaurants, bars and supper clubs as opposed to big nightclubs." But the city seems to see the restaurant-then-nightspot trend as a loophole. "Yeah, it's war on the supper clubs," Botrell says. But the city has no designation for supper clubs — it's either a restaurant or a nightclub. At the community meeting in January, Botrell was praised by authorities as a good operator who has acted quickly when told of problems. Despite that, he's wary of what's coming down. "I can just tell that they are going to do something. I don't understand why the city doesn't want to sit down with operators that are not doing anything illegal," Botrell says. "It seems like they want to change the rules because they've never had a good set of rules for nightclubs, restaurants and bars, as it never has been differentiated. We follow the rules ... but it sometimes feels like the city is looking at us for violations."
Since Supermarket has moved into the area, Kensington has experienced a renaissance. Other bars like the Embassy and Ronnie's Local have moved in. Galleries like X-Space and cool skate shop Adrift also host parties on a regular basis. Some residents see the revived Augusta Ave. as a good development for the market. Lifetime resident Bert Rebelo, 46, says the new places are "a problem, but it's better than all the drug dens going down the street that it used to be." He's sympathetic to Supermarket, but is pretty pissed off at Neutral, another bar on Augusta that has kept him up nights.
Down on West Queen West, another battle has been settled. Sort of. "A lot of people point at our case and say, `See, the system works.' But to my point of view, the system didn't work," says Misha Glouberman, who wound up the neighbourhood representative in a brawl over a bar's patio. "We came to a happy conclusion and that's wonderful. But it's also fair to say it took like six to 12 months of work by about a half dozen neighbours who were working really intensely, the bar owners, and much more work from the city councillor's office than they should have done," he said. "It should have taken an afternoon." Glouberman's a man about town who hosts the lively Trampoline Hall debates and the Room 101 gaming night at the Drake Hotel, among other things. He lives next to The Beaconsfield, the hipper-than-thou pub across from the Drake. After The Beaconsfield moved in, neighbours were alarmed by a plan to open a 120-person patio. Glouberman acted. He started the Queen-Beaconsfield residents association to organize the neighbourhood and contacted the city and Councillor Adam Giambrone. Eventually they struck a deal: There would still be a patio but smaller than planned and it would close nightly at 11 p.m. "It's working well," says Beaconsfield manager Carlos Fernandes. "Since (Glouberman's) so close I'll call him on a Friday or Saturday night to make sure that things aren't too loud." Glouberman says compromise and communication are crucial. "There are still some conflicts, but both sides are in touch with each other. And that's the way I think the city should work."
It's easy to be sympathetic toward residents. They have roots in their areas, while bars attract a transitory clientele. But good bar owners are business people who have done a great deal to help revitalize the city. "What's driving the residents downtown? What came first? When we first opened a club in the entertainment district it was a desolate area, all the warehouses had closed down, there was nobody there," says Nick Di Donato, owner of the Liberty Entertainment Group, which runs several bars across the city including The Phoenix, C Lounge and the Crystal Room. "Clubs and restaurants bring a vibrancy to the city. Without those, nobody's going to live downtown and then the condos that the city loves will be worth even less." Di Donato is one of the poster boy operators in town, often consulting on city committees and industry associations. He's not too concerned about some of the changes to licences, such as additional security, since "there's not one (change) that's new that we don't already do in our facilities." He wants people to remember that bars are not necessarily an enemy. "You can't say the bars are always the bad guy. We have requirements for intoxicated patrons. Now (the city has) implemented requirements for noise. There are requirements for security. We were doing these things already," Di Donato says. He adds that it's hard to know where responsibility lies for any conflict: with the business, the city, the police department or the rowdy individuals. "That's the biggest challenge. The people who are really causing the trouble aren't the ones who are being treated as guilty." Di Donato understands the city's need to crack down, but worries that good operators will be driven out of business.
"Why don't you move?" is the top question asked of people who choose to live downtown and complain about living near bars. It usually elicits a strong response. Kensington Market's Valiquette and DeVita have thought about moving, but say the options for selling are limited. "As it stands, we can't sell this as residential or rent it out for that matter, because people won't be able to sleep here. So that pretty much only leaves the commercial listing service," says Valiquette. "But I love this home. We've put a lot of work into it." DeVita is more blunt: "I've got 350,000 reasons to stay right here." Others are equally attached to their neighbourhoods. Kate Sheppard is an artist who lives on the Toronto Islands, and is involved in a protracted battle between the community and the massive nightclub The Docks nearby on the mainland. "My parents courted on these islands. It's in my roots. It's a safe place to raise my children. I did consider moving many times, and at times it felt like it may have been easier to move as opposed to take on this business. But this is my community and it's my home," says Sheppard. "I'm representing islanders who are 70 and 80 years old and going absolutely crazy because of the noise," she says. "There are certain rights that you have when you are a homeowner, and you can't be taken hostage by a big business." Glouberman considers the question of moving. "You should not expect (downtown) to be as quiet as the suburbs, or as the country," he says. "But I think if you live downtown and you pay rent or own a house, you should be able to live in the reasonable expectation that somebody isn't going to play really loud music outside your window every night of the week until 2:30 in the morning." Glouberman says regulating bars and nightclubs will help ensure balance. He points out the only area in town built without regulation is the entertainment district, which he says "looks more like Spring Break with guns" than a sophisticated, urban area. "If I lived in a real big city, like New York or Berlin or Chicago, I'd live in a city with much stricter regulation on bars than Toronto does," Glouberman notes. Sheppard also points to New York City, where within a few years police officers will be equipped with handheld noise detectors to deal with disputes immediately.
Though the city has been slow to enforce its bylaws and deal with complaints, there does seem to be new effort to cope with the escalating tension between bars and neighbours. The city has enacted moratoriums on busy strips, such as College St. W. Former councillor Olivia Chow called for another one, banning new club construction in the entertainment district. And this week, the King/Spadina residents association won a decision through council banning any new nightclubs in the area west of Spadina. The city now requires bars and nightclubs to pay more for insurance and provide one security guard for every 100 patrons. As well, the Ontario government now regulates private security guards, including bouncers, who require training and licensing. All this recent momentum has some owners concerned. "I'd definitely call it a crackdown," says one club owner who preferred not to give his name. "Some of the things make sense, but you can see it as just another means of trying to take control of something that they really haven't thought very much of." Helen Kennedy, assistant to city Councillor Martin Silva — who took over when Olivia Chow became an M.P. last month — sympathizes with frustrated residents. "It takes a long time from the time that you call in your first noise complaint to the time that anything is done to respond, to be accountable," Kennedy says. As well, it seems that there are levels of bureaucratic wrangling. While the city and Ontario's alcohol and gaming commission have differing responsibilities (the commission grants liquor licences, the city deals with business licences), both can deal with these conflicts. However, according to spokesman Ab Campion, the alcohol and gaming commission is wary of wading into some of these issues.
"Basically our position is that we don't want to take on the role of becoming the planning authority for 600 municipalities in Ontario," Campion says. He says it should be up to the city, not the province, to take action in controlling the bars and dealing with these conflicts. Glouberman sums it up rather simply. "A big part of it is that the laws are incredibly poorly written, really badly enforced and incredibly unclear to everybody and that's true for the neighbours and the bars. It gives a false sense of civic involvement," he says. "So I have tremendous sympathy for the bars in this situation too. I don't think the bars are the villains here at all." DeVita and his wife aren't sure what they're going to do next. Kennedy says Silva's office has decided to hold another community meeting in Kensington in March. But after feeling the last one was a waste of time, the couple don't know whether there's a point. They have talked about getting a lawyer but hope things can be resolved peaceably. Otherwise, DeVita may have his day in court after all.
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - By Raju Mudhar
(Feb. 19, 2006) With club goers of a certain vintage, Roxy Blu left a lasting impression. When it opened in the late '90s, an adventurous booking policy, parties like Movement and a young and sexy crowd made it, for a time, the place to go in the now-booming King St. West area. Its location at King and Brant has since become flanked by the extremely popular Brant House, Touch Lounge and other bars. But Roxy petered out and closed late last year. In its place stand the restaurant Eight and its sister club downstairs, Eight Below, which opened last night. Gone is the sweatbox of the dance floor room and smaller lounge room. While Roxy was dark, the new restaurant is bright and airy, with the main dining room done in whites and yellows. There's also a separate lounge area in darker tones, with a room for private dinners. This kind of renovation makes it hard to remember where things used to be. While the restaurant soft launched a couple of weeks ago, this weekend marks the official opening of both spots, and the arrival of a new player in Toronto nightlife. Eight is the Hingson Entertainment Group's first venture, but the group has been making news because they are entering the market in such a big way. Beyond Eight, the group has bought Fez Batik, Banzai Sushi and has plans to open a boutique hotel. The biggest news: Hingson took over the giant Lucid space on John St. and will turn it into a new club called Circa. So who are these guys? "I'm absolutely not a party guy. I'm a family guy," says John Cheong, sitting at the chef's table next to the open kitchen at Eight. Cheong, 46, is a businessman and speaks like one, and he admits he'd rather be at home with his kids than out on the town. The family business (Hing was his father's name, hence the name) is in engineering and construction and he took it over after his father's death in 1999. He and his partner Fred Bain are the men behind Hingson. "As part of our engineering and construction portfolio, we've built a lot of clubs, restaurants, football fields, whatever. With that in mind, I decided to diversify the company ... so we looked around and looked around and found this place.
"We've targeted six places to complete this year. That's good so we have enough volume for us to have central purchasing and good enough to tell the sponsorship `Hey, we're here. Give us a break.' So I think we need to be felt as a presence instead of just another kid opening another club and restaurant." The way Cheong talks about clubs could tend to suck the fun right out of it. But that's where Peter Gatien comes in, preceded as usual by his reputation. The short version: born in Cornwall, Ont., he moved to the U.S. and opened a string of nightclubs like the Tunnel and became the club king of New York. If you mention his name, the first thing people will likely say is "Have you seen Party Monster?" It's the 2003 movie about an infamous 1996 murder case among Manhattan club kids; Dylan McDermott plays Gatien ("that's not too bad," he says with a smile) but the tale isn't entirely flattering: One of his party promoters kills a drug dealer. As well, there was a death due to an Ecstasy overdose at the Tunnel in 1999; after that Gatien was targeted by New York authorities for a drug case. He was found guilty of tax evasion, served 45 days in prison and returned to Canada three years ago; this is his first foray in Toronto's nightlife. Gatien consulted on Eight and Eight Below, but what's to come is really where his vision will be brought in. "I'm basically taken on to be sort of the visionary of the concepts of what we're going to do, whether it's this place, whether it's Fez or the boutique hotel," he says sitting on the top floor of Circa, slated to open in April. Gatien says he was first brought in to consult on the hotel and had pretty much sworn off clubs. But during a walkthrough with his designers Travis Bass and Joachim Hannerz, the plans for Circa are laid out. What's planned sounds very impressive; on the other hand, so did Lucid when it opened up in 2004. Then the former Playdium space, capacity 3,000, encountered a litany of problems: There was only one entrance and if there was a line-up, patrons had to be penned across the street. Because of its size, music would bleed out everywhere and it felt empty if it wasn't packed to the gills, and it wasn't even on its opening-night party, an obvious warning sign. (If you can't fill it when you're giving away drinks ...) It flamed out quickly, but the new owners are not daunted.
"Quite frankly, I wasn't interested in re-entering the club world, but upon visiting this place, I was astonished by how great the facility is," raves Gatien. "It's got an incredible layout — I really like that from almost any room you could have total visual access to everywhere else in the club, and I got very enthusiastic about it." Fez is going to undergo a major overhaul, but the plan is for it to be more of a food-driven venue. They're not ready to reveal what they'll do with Banzai Sushi, across the street from Fez, though the group is already using it for corporate events. But Banzai shows the risks Hingson faces. The highly designed spot opened up in November 2004, never really caught on and died with a whimper. The major complaint about the club district is that it's oversaturated, so the drive for something new is always paramount. That's one big reason that it seems the area seems to be constantly undergoing Extreme Makeover: Clubland Edition. There's currently a moratorium on building new clubs in the entertainment district, as well as a new ban on adding clubs west of Spadina. A new club must be in a space that already has a liquor licence. So what's left is putting new faces on old spaces. Some have speculated that this has upped the value of the existing clubs, but owners disagree. "I still think that clubs are selling for cheap because there are so many of them," says Charles Khabouth, one of the city's most prominent club and restaurant impresarios. "You can go downtown and buy a club for $200,000 right now." Well, he can and has. Khabouth is the current king of Toronto's club scene, and the reno-remake model has been his modus operandi for years, first with the Guvernment and Ultra. More recently, he bought Loft on King St. W. and turned it into Lux. He bought and renovated This Is London, which marks his return to confines of clubland, but now that he finally feels he's making the most of the Guvernment, his ambitions are extending beyond Toronto. He's working on a nightclub in Niagara Falls' Fallsview Casino. He talks of opening a rock club here and of expanding into the U.S. — and, he says, he almost bought Lucid himself. "They tried to make a deal with me. We were to buy into Lucid and combine it with my other venues and then we were to go public which is what really got me excited, but actually, it was the week of signing that I walked away ... they were $18 million in debt, and by me getting in I would have had to carry the debt."
He also had issues with the layout and foresaw other logistical problems. These issues don't faze Cheong. "The people who opened it were theme park operators. There's nothing wrong with theme parks, but if you put them in charge of a multimillion-dollar business, you're basically letting a blindfolded person drive a Ferrari down a highway." As an example, Cheong cites the lease. The former owners were paying upwards of $260,000 a month plus utilities. He says his company pays $140,000 a month for everything. Lucid's owners also had to take on high-interest loans to survive, "whereas all Hingson entertainment venues will be financed by Hingson Financial at a much more favourable rate," he says with a chuckle. The giant club demands giant plans. There will be a sauna-themed bar; a tech-inspired bar with sensors that react to touch and will send beams of light to the another area in the bar; and an area to be created by Kid Robot, a design firm best known for its remarkable toys. Gatien is also in negotiations with what he calls a big name fashion designer to design the top-floor lounge. There's much, much more, and Gatien is supremely confident. "Everything from art to fashion to music is extremely well represented here (in Toronto) and that gives me the ability to really put together exciting concepts. The design element is important, but the reality is that it's the people that you draw to your spaces in the end that make them institutional and make them go on forever, or not." Cheong and Gatien seem like unlikely partners, but if their plans come to fruition, by the end of next year they'll join the ranks of the Liberty Entertainment Group (owner of bars like the Phoenix and C Lounge) and Khabouth as the key movers in Toronto's club scene. "That's not really a motivation," says Gatien, as a sly smile forms on his lips.
Turning Standards Into New Treasures
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Chapman, Special To The Star
(Feb. 22, 2006) Once upon a time jazz piano playing was a male preserve. Even nowadays, there are few female pianists who can assert their position in the top ranks without resorting to a traditional jazz role, that of vocalist. The Canadian arsenal boasts a few names: Nancy Walker, Michelle Gregoire, Min Rager, Marilyn Lerner spring to mind, while south of the border there's Marian McPartland. And Joanne Brackeen, perhaps the most brilliant of them all. She was the artist who opened the solo piano series at Café des Copains more than 20 years ago, and since its demise she's lightened winter's darkness frequently at the café's successor, the Montreal Bistro. Last night, the opening set of a week-long gig at the Bistro, she was in exquisite form from the first note, making standards you thought you'd forgotten into sparkling, brand new treasures that have just been rescued from history's ashes. She started "Days Of Wine And Roses" with angular lines before easing into a crafty approximation of the melody, every phrase a launch pad for surprise with tricky time games, hints of dissonance and percussive thrusts that challenged her familiar Hogtown trio-mates, Don Thompson on bass and Terry Clarke at the drum kit. Before her restless energy kicked in, Brackeen found time to trace the pretty lines of "Mona Lisa" with considerable grace, always expansive and expressive, nuanced and nimble, as she developed a long lyrical ride, one that was answered with authority by Thompson's unerring precision and smart ideas.
The New York-based pianist went into feverish mode on her terrific composition "Zapatos Espanoles" (Spanish Shoes), her ideas deeply doused in Iberian motifs and choppy meters. A relentless right hand foraged fiercely, while the left complemented the quick-witted improv with well-chosen chords. The excitement index was boosted effectively by the hair-trigger responses and intuitive understanding of her pulse team. The cheery exhaustion this engendered on the bandstand and among the large, enthusiastic audience demanded a respite, and it came with a superlative treatment of "Body And Soul." Mind you, it took a while before the composition's identity was revealed as we were treated to a delightfully ornamented intro that was a triumph in itself. Brackeen was a model of good taste as she examined the infinite possibilities of the jazz anthem's strands, but soon all were rejoicing in the rich and succulent textures she coaxed from the keys. There is absolutely nothing ordinary about this player who's now well into her seventh decade but as dazzling now as she was growing up with the hot beboppers, with Art Blakey's Messengers, Stan Getz and Joe Henderson. All the vigour of youth was present in the set closer, "Knickerbocker Blues," where she sped from clumping boogie to double-time trills to deep in the pocket grooves and then to a rambunctious, chord-heavy conclusion, her colleagues along for the charge.
The 40-Year-Long Epiphany’ - Eric Burdon
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Sarah Hampson
(Feb. 18, 2006) 'Ach, I'm used to people writing me off," scoffs the blues legend from the edge of a hotel sofa, where he's perched, holding forth about the women, the music, the drugs, the start, the end, the comebacks, the wild trip of it all. Pull up the hood on his baggy, black sweatshirt, emblazoned with the words Harley Davidson across his chest, and the gnome-like singer is a wizened oracle of all things sixties. He speaks in riffs, about this and that, memories like dreams, only fragments of which he can remember. Short and round, he has pointy ears and a craggy face that looks as if it could pop a carbuncle on cue.
It's Eric Burdon, man, alive and thriving at 64; the king of grit. His eyes are the colour of dirt, and he's got enough gravel in his deep voice to pave a road from the present all the way back to when it all began with the Animals, that other British invasion band that knocked the Beatles down a few pegs on the chart with their 1964 hit, House of the Rising Sun. He may be in Toronto to perform north of the city at Casino Rama, the palace for has-beens, but he's got a new CD out, Soul of a Man, and critics are raving, proclaiming that it has a 2007 Grammy nomination written all over it. "Well, I don't know about that," Burdon demurs. "Might be nice," he says with a shrug. Produced by Tony Braunagel, who has recorded Bonnie Raitt, among others, the CD features covers of some blues classics, from the title track by Blind Willie Johnson to Muddy Waters's Forty Days and Forty Nights, Howlin' Wolf's 44 Blues and Fred McDowell's Red Cross Store. A mixture of blues, folk, rock and gospel, the recording smells of dark alleys and tastes like a binge you would rather forget. "I realized it was like a pack of Tarot cards," Burdon growls, when talking about how he and Braunagel, with whom he had collaborated on a previous album, chose the songs to perform for Soul of a Man. "I thought, let's see what elements are in blues that make blues so interesting to me." And those are? He sits forward, legs splayed. "First of all, sexuality, sensuality, violence, race." He lets out a long, low rumble of an umm. "Laughter, spirituality, God and the devil," he concludes with the self-satisfied expression of a professor who has just delivered a lengthy dissertation. Burdon has outlived many of the legends he counted as friends -- Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison. "Oh, it was painful," he groans, recalling their deaths. But the tone in his voice is not one of survivor's guilt as much as survivor's pride. Burdon has an air of intellectual superiority about him, a sense that the wild life of rock 'n' roll never controlled him -- he controlled it. "I knew the difference between what was right and wrong from my Scottish grandmother," he says, before going off on a tangent about how she punished him once as a child for allowing the fire in the hearth to go out. He claims that fame never interested him. "It was awful," he spits. "We were chased everywhere by screaming kids. And that's not how I wanted my performances to be received. I was deadly serious about my music."
Even his decision to go to the United States was born out of intellectual curiosity, he suggests. "I knew that the minute that America moved in some way that the price of bread for my mother was going to go up or down. And so I thought, if it affects me and the world on that level, then you have to go to America to find out what it is." He would have gone into the army if he hadn't joined the Animals, he says. Later in the interview, Burdon, an electrician's son who dropped out of art school when he joined the band, pads this perception of himself as a philosopher by saying, "I wanted to be a production designer in films. Either that or a combat photographer. I thought I could get the high-speed buzz being close to violence and bringing it home for a lesson for people to learn from." It's as though Burdon's fabled LSD trips left him with some lasting epiphanies. He makes pronouncements as if he is on some higher plane of art and truth and cosmic purpose. This may be why he doesn't seem to care whether he gives a coherent interview, or if his appearance suggests he has just rolled out of bed, or, more likely, never went to bed in the first place. He has a couple of days' worth of grey stubble on his chin, and in his grungy sweatpants, leaves little to the imagination. To put it as delicately as possible, it's hard to forget that he once, rather famously, attempted to immortalize his private parts by having a plaster cast made of his prized erection. (Reportedly, the attempt took place on an airplane, but with turbulence and some plaster getting stuck in his pubic hair, let's just say he wasn't able to make a lasting impression.)
Jay-Z Chats With Fans About Music, Def Jam
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Clover Hope, NY
(Feb. 16. 2006) Def Jam president Jay-Z took time out of his busy schedule to address fan inquiries about a variety of subjects during a live chat yesterday (Feb. 15) on the Roc-A-Fella Web site. As previously reported, Jay-Z officially welcomed one-time rival Nas to the Def Jam roster in January, two months after the pair ended their longtime feud. Though he didn't offer up specific details on Nas' new offering, Jay-Z remarked, "We start working on his album soon." As for the status of his rumoured album in the works, the artist-turned-label head simply stated, "I don't know this time about doing a new album, although I'm itching to do one. We'll see." Explaining the genesis of the Roots signing to Def Jam Left, he related, "I've always had a friendship with [drummer] Ahmir [Thompson]. We've done a lot of work -- 'Unplugged,' different concerts. I just felt that he was the one to lead that whole Def Jam movement. He led the movement that was considered to be neo-soul. I hate that word but you know what I mean." The Roots' label debut, "Game Theory," is due in September.
Jay-Z also addressed a litany of other topics, including: New Def Jam signings: "We just signed Rick Ross and Slip-n-Slide [Records]." Foxy Brown: "She just had an operation out in L.A. and hopefully within the next couple of weeks her hearing will slowly start to come back." The death of Slum Village rapper/producer Jay Dee: "I didn't know him personally. I was a fan of his work from afar. I was talking to Ahmir from the Roots the other day about him and he told me he was the producers' producers' producer and they had made a song dedicated to him before he passed and we're gonna put that out in honour of him." The status of Beanie Sigel: "We're working out a situation where Beans can do his own label but right now he's still signed to Roc-A-Fella." Ne-Yo: "We're excited about Ne-Yo. We're about to have the number one single in the country with 'So Sick' and could possibly have the number one album when it comes out." Memphis Bleek: "Bleek is doing a clothing line and possible movie." Rumours that rapper Freeway may align with G-Unit: "Him and 50 [Cent] spoke and talked about doing some work together but he is [still] on Roc-A-Fella." Cam'ron's "dis" record: "I think it's obvious he is just doing this for attention. I think he's killing himself so I don't feel a need to do anything at this time." Movies: "I had a couple meetings about doing a whole Roc Films division that went great." The status of his autobiography, "The Black Book": "I'm having anxiety about reading it so at this time I can't put it out."
NALEDGE Signs To Hustle / Rawkus Records
(Feb 13, 2006) CHICAGO - Major League Entertainment & Hallway Music in Association with Hustle. & Rawkus Records are proud to announce that Chicago lyricist Naledge has signed a worldwide exclusive recording agreement. In a joint venture between Hustle. and Rawkus Records, Naledge is poised to be the cornerstone of the new Rawkus, and the face of hip-hop in the future. Hustle Period Entertainment is the team behind Kanye West and a host of other notable Hip-Hop stars. Rawkus Records has been one of the premier brands in urban music since it was founded in 1996, launching the careers of stars such as Mos Def & Talib Kweli. "This deal is monumental for me. Not because it's my first record deal but because it's a perfect marriage of a brand with an artist. I grew up off of the catalog of the old Rawkus roster. It literally inspired me to become an emcee and for me to be an extension for the legacy, I am honored. I thank John Monopoly for making this deal happen. At the same time, I feel I am very much built to accept the responsibility of being one of the first artists on the label. I firmly believe I will be able to carve a classic debut album," says Naledge. he principles involved in the deal made the following statements upon the completion of the agreement.
John Monopoly CEO Hustle. / COO G.O.O.D. Music
“Naledge is the quintessential next generation MC, he is definitely carrying the torch for Chicago and is certainly a perfect fit for the HUSTLE / RAWKUS BRAND”
Datu Faison COO-Hustle.
"Naledge embodies the true hip hop emcee and the moment we heard him we knew he was a star. Hustle is proud to join Rawkus Records, Just Blaze and Kidz in the hall in creating the next hip hop movement."
Jarret Meyer CEO/Co-Founder Rawkus Records
“Naledge represents everything that Rawkus stood for in our first decade in the business, and we look forward to Naledge carrying the Rawkus flag into this new and exciting phase for the label. In Hustle we have an incredible partner that understands the music and the Rawkus movement. We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship.”
Brian Brater CEO/Co Founder Rawkus Records
“The Rawkus team could not be more excited to be working with Naledge and his team. He brings not only an incredible lyrical depth but a true understanding of Rawkus and the music that we are always striving to deliver to our fans.”
Look for the Naledge debut album this summer with production from JUST BLAZE & DOUBLE 0 on Hustle/Rawkus Records.
Jaheim's 'Classics' Crash In At No. 1
Excerpt from www.billboard.com – Katie Hasty, N.Y.
(Feb. 22, 2006) For the first time in his career, singer Jaheim has reached the top of The Billboard 200 thanks to the Divine Mill/WarnerBros. album "Ghetto Classics." Bowing at No. 1 on both the big chart as well as Top R&B Albums, the set moved 152,000 units in its first week of U.S. sales, according to Nielsen Soundscan. Jaheim has never previously cracked the top 5 of The Billboard 200. 2002's "Still Ghetto" and 2001's "Ghetto Love" peaked at No. 8 and No. 9 respectively on the chart. Jack Johnson & Friends' companion album to the film "Curious George" slides down a notch to No. 2 after debuting at the helm last week. The Brushfire/Universal set sold 117,000 copies this week, a dip of 28%, but is still top monkey on both the Top Internet Albums and Top Rock Albums charts for a second week in a row. Barry Manilow's "The Greatest Songs of the Fifties" (Arista) holds tight at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 for a second week, with an 18% decrease to 116,000 units. Mary J. Blige's Matriarch/Geffen release "The Breakthrough" falls 2-4 at 111,000 copies, a 27% decrease. Andrea Bocelli's "Amore" follows closely behind, selling just 154 copies fewer than Blige's album. The Sugar/Decca/Universal album drops 4-5 with a 5% slide in sales. The "High School Musical" soundtrack from Disney makes a big rebound, moving 13-6 (its highest position yet) with a 32% increase in sales to 97,000 units. Carrie Underwood's Arista debut "Some Hearts" jumps up 11-7 with 87,000 copies, an upswing of 8%. James Blunt's "Back to Bedlam" (Custard/Atlantic) also achieves its best position yet, moving 12-8 with 87,000 units, a surge of 11%.
Jamie Foxx's "Unpredictable" (J) climbs 10-9 with 81,000 copies, a sales increase of less than one percent, switching places with the Eminem retrospective "Curtain Call: The Hits"(Shady/Aftermath/Interscope) which falls 9-10 with 73,000 copies (-11%). In a slow week for debuts, only three albums bow amid the top half of the Billboard 200. Matchbook Romance earns its first entry on the big chart, with "Voices" (Epitaph) debuting at No. 43 with 28,000 copies. Sergio Mendes' "Timeless" (Concord), produced by the Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am, opens at No. 44, selling just 115 copies fewer than "Voices." It is the veteran Brazilian artist's first appearance on this chart since 1984's "Confetti." Sales were up by 2% over the previous week at 12 million but down 3% compared to the same week a year ago. Sales for 2006 are down 2% compared to 2005 at 75.7 million units.
Dancehall Deejay Alozade Is Back After Brief Stint In Prison
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson
(Feb. 17, 2006) It has been four years now since deejay Alozade was released from prison. During that time he has worn the producer’s hat where he released two rhythm projects namely the Chrome rhythm and the Bhingi Trod. Both projects were licensed by VP Records. However as a recording artiste, Alozade came across some bolted doors which have now been flung open, thanks to his latest hit Bad Out Deh. ‘From I came out of prison people have been asking me what I have been up to. I have been recording songs, but I think I was getting a direct fight. But at the end of the day, I just have to continue doing my work’, Alozade said in an interview on the weekend. He added ‘When I came out of prison I was literally shunned by the fraternity. Some people were even condemning me.’ Prior to his six month absence from the recording scene, Alozade whose real name is Michael Sterling jockeyed his way up the charts with songs such as Street Dreams, More Woman (featuring Mr. Vegas) and Bad Man Nuh Pet Gal (from the Hurricane rhythm) which featured Chico and Kip Rich.
Jamaica (produced by Cordell ‘Skatta’ Burrell for Kings of Kings) hit the charts in late 2001 and was featured on the Martial Arts rhythm. These days, Alozade has a hit single sitting in the top ten of the charts. Bad Out Deh, featured on producer Richard ‘Shams’ Browne’s revived Baddis rhythm, has given Alozade a new lease on life. The song features Chico and Kip Rich. ‘I was exercising one day and the idea for the song just clicked in my head. I decided to bring an artistic vibe into the song and strike a balance. At the end of the day is unity we a deal with’, Alozade explained. Alozade says he has been busy recording songs and promoting them at the same time to maintain his place in the game. ‘Since Bad Out Deh took off, I have been getting a lot of rhythms to voice on. I just finished a song with TOK called Father Abraham on a rhythm for Lenny Hype from Amplex. I also have a song on the Sweat rhythm, and there is one called Peace and Love on a one drop rhythm. That song is basically showing my versatility’, said Alozade. His next rhythm project which is called Bone and Arrow. So far he has recorded the likes of Vybz Kartel, TOK, Assassin, Spragga Benz and Tanto Metro and Devonte.
Shostakovich: Sweet Musical Catharsis
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic
(Feb. 17, 2006) It's not often one leaves an auditorium thinking that the music couldn't possibly have been performed any better. But that was precisely the case last night at Roy Thomson Hall, as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra closed a two-night, all-Shostakovich program. The works of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) may not be most people's first choice for a night of entertainment. But he is a prime candidate for supplying an evening of catharsis, of being confronted with the great dilemmas of life before heading back, cleansed, into the day-to-day. The 100th anniversary of the Russian's birth (on Sept. 25) is the perfect excuse to give his music a listen — and there's a wide variety of it, from intimate chamber works to great symphonies, to opera. Most of his output was deeply influenced by the turbulent Russian century that witnessed revolution, two world wars and Stalin's tyrannical excesses, not to mention perpetual run-ins with communist censors. Some art critics have described painters as falling into two categories: those who create with shadow and those who work with light. If one can apply this to music, Shostakovich could be called a master of shadow. He layers on orchestral charcoal with great subtlety and, just when we think we've had enough, he lifts the darkness with a shimmer of something brighter.
Capturing these effects with a large orchestra takes skill, which music director Peter Oundjian displayed over and over again in the Symphony No. 11. This work, which dates from 1957, commemorates the massacre of protesters in St. Petersburg in 1905. Running over an hour, this massive orchestral creation gathers its shape over vast stretches, which Oundjian and all the players bridged with careful, precise, subtle work. The result went straight to the gut. The feeling after the final tolling of bells is of release, not unlike what we feel after a really good cry. The evening opened with Turin-born cellist Enrico Dindo delivering a masterful rendition of the 1966 Cello Concerto No. 2. This is also a plangent, tense work that demands great skill in execution. Here also, everyone concerned rose to the occasion magnificently. (On Wednesday night, Dindo had performed the Concerto No. 1.) One thing that became very clear last night was how Oundjian, as well as Dindo, are the best sort of artists. They do not let their egos get in the way of allowing the music to speak clearly and directly to our ears. It is a surprisingly rare gift. There will be more Shostakovich by the Toronto Symphony on March 22 and 23, and at the end of May — unfortunately without Oundjian conducting.
Teens Launch Global Uke Attack
Source: Amy Carmichael, Canadian Press
(Feb. 17, 2006) VANCOUVER -- They have been called the nexus of the ukulele music scene outside of Hawaii. The teens who practise the instrument, once considered an oddity, day and night in suburban Langley have spread their tunes around the world, travelling to places like Japan and Hawaii to perform. The Langley Ukulele Ensemble is hired to play private concerts in Hawaii every year, and has won special praise from the media and the Ukulele Occasional, a magazine dedicated to the instrument and its culture. "Some people think the ukulele is a joke, but it's not," says 17-year-old Leanne Hessels. "When I first heard the band perform picking songs, the reputation of the instrument went way up for me. Picking songs sound incredible and are really challenging." Members of the Langley Ukes say that being in the group has taught them many things, from discipline to leadership skills. Many in the band say learning the instrument will help them get into postsecondary music programs. Ms. Hessels says she joined the Langley band because she wanted to travel. Members also get to hang out on Hawaiian beaches for two weeks every year.
The Langley Ukes have an annual tour in the tropical 50th state. They put on as many as 80 concerts a year. The band has also travelled to perform in many other U.S. states and even in Japan. When Hawaiian musicians first brought the ukulele to the U.S. mainland in 1915, people weren't sure what to think. Because of its unique musical voice and diminutive size, many mainland musicians thought it was more of an oddity than a serious instrument. Strange, but sort of cool. Sales of Hawaiian music took off immediately, and it seemed everyone wanted to try the uke in the 1920s. Manufacturers couldn't keep up with the demand. It was inexpensive, small and easier to play than other stringed instruments. Legendary rocker Neil Young started out on a ukulele. It's now played in modern styles, and used in blends of reggae, rock and traditional Hawaiian music. In recent years, the Langley ensemble has participated in, and co-produced, an event sponsored by Sheraton Hotels and local business groups in Hawaii known as Ukulele: The Legend Continues. This concert has become a showcase event for some of the best ukulele artists in the world. The Langley ensemble shares the stage with ukulele performers such as Herb Ohta (known as the world's greatest player) and Jake Shimabukuro. The Canadian contingent holds its own among this elite group each year. Katie Miller, 15, has been a Ukes member for five years and is still enthusiastic about the instrument. "The ukulele -- who would have thought a group of kids could be so successful with it!" she says.
'Pimp' Gonna Bring Down Da Oscar House
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt
(Feb. 22, 2006) New York -- On the off-chance that a handful of social conservatives remain undisturbed by the prospect of this year's Oscars -- which the anti-Bush comedian Jon Stewart is hosting, and where the gay love story Brokeback Mountain is expected to dominate -- word finally comes of the third pillar in the ceremony's unholy trinity: Last week came confirmation that the March 5 awards will feature the first rap song ever performed during an Oscar telecast. How will the predominantly aged and white academy membership react to the sight of Jordon (Juicy J) Houston, Paul (DJ Paul) Beauregard and Darnell (Crunchy Black) Carlton of the Memphis rap group Three 6 Mafia storming the stage of the Kodak Theatre? The three (shown above) will be joined by actress Taraji Henson and Cedric (Frayser Boy) Coleman for a performance of the Hustle & Flow track It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp, a contender for best song. Some of the more palatable lyrics include: "Man it seems like I'm duckin' dodgin' bullets everyday / Niggaz hatin' on me cause I got hos on the tray / I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too / You pay the right price and they'll both do you.” Even if it doesn't prompt an explosion of coronaries across the auditorium, the profanity-laced number could still present challenges for Oscar producer Gil Cates. ABC is expected to again deploy a five-second delay to aid network censors, as it has for the last two years since Janet Jackson's 2004 Super Bowl nipple mishap.
Three 6 Mafia has assured Cates they will perform an expurgated, "radio-friendly" version of the tune. "They are a nice bunch of guys," said academy spokeswoman Toni Thompson. "They are thrilled about it, and we think it's going to be all good.” Still, ABC and the academy are likely relieved some other songs from the film's soundtrack weren't nominated instead, including Let's Get a Room (sample lyric: "Mister do it till you're hard") and Bad Bitch ("Caress the bad bitch now the girl gon' wild / I'll feed it and treat it like that's my child / Then freak it up and beat it up and that's my style").
'Rock Star' Returns To Canada
By Karen Bliss for Lowdown
(Feb. 17, 2006) Toronto proved fruitful last time around when Mark Burnett Productions took its talent search north of the U.S. border for Rock Star: INXS. J.D. Fortune won the coveted spot and is now living out his rock star dream. A little more than a year after that cattle call, the CBS television series returns for a second season with auditions being held all over North America, including two stops in Canada. This time, there is no name band seeking a singer, but guest musicians will be involved in the weekly summer show mentored again by Dave Navarro. It is simply a search for rock singers/songwriters who wish to earn a major label contract with Burnett Records/Epic. Men and women, ages 21 and up, can sing up to three songs (covers or originals) to a CD track (with no vocal) or with one musical instrument. Toronto auditions will be held at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern on March 13; the Vancouver ones on March 23 at The Roxy. Like last time, there will be a closed, industry referral day, which are scheduled appointments the following day by invitation-only. Call backs for both days are the day after that. Contact Peter Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Juno Tickets Sell Out In 15 Minutes
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
(Feb. 20, 2006) Halifax -- The roughly 3,000 tickets available for this year's Juno Awards here sold out in just 15 minutes on Saturday. The April 2 awards ceremony at the Halifax Metro Centre will feature performances by Coldplay, Michael Bublé and Nickelback. Some disappointed fans blamed the low number of available seats. The centre's lower bowl and two sections above have been reserved for members of the industry. CP
The Real Prize: Sales
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
(Feb. 19, 2006) A year after the fact, even the most attentive music fans can't recall who won what at the Grammys. But the short-term benefits, at least, appear to be somewhat bankable. R&B stylist John Legend, winner of three Grammys last week including best new artist, catapulted 65 rungs, returning to the top 10 with the aptly titled Get Lifted. Further down the chart, U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, winner of five awards, jumped from 88 to 27. That album was released in November 2004. So you have to assume that some consumers were holding out for that crucial Recording Industry Association of America endorsement.
Milian Prepares 'Amazin' New Disc
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Clover Hope, NY
(Feb. 16. 2006) Christina Milian is readying the spring release of her third album, "So Amazin,'" produced by Miami-based duo Cool and Dre. Due April 25, the Island Def Jam set also boasts appearances from Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne. A music video for lead single "Say I" featuring Young Jeezy was shot over the weekend in Los Angeles. Behind the scenes footage of the making of the video, which was directed by Ray Kay (Destiny’s Child's "Soldier"), will air March 1 on BET's "Access Granted." "So Amazin'" is the follow-up to Milian's 2004 sophomore set, "It's About Time," which bowed at No. 14 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 382,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The album spawned the top-10 Hot 100 single "Dip It Low" featuring Fabolous. Milian is also gearing up for another film role in the horror thriller "Pulse," due in July. The movie is directed by Jim Sonzero and based on Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Japanese film, "Kairo." Milian previously co-starred in 2005's "Be Cool" and "Man of the House."
New Musical Based On Bob Dylan Songs
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rita Zekas, Entertainment Columnist
(Feb. 15, 2006) NEW YORK (AP) — Can Twyla Tharp do for Bob Dylan what she did for Billy Joel on Broadway? The Times They Are A-Changin', a new musical conceived, directed and choreographed by Tharp and using Dylan songs, will open next fall on Broadway. Exact dates and the theatre will be announced. The show currently is on view at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, where it received mostly positive reviews. The San Diego Union-Tribune called it an "exciting, flawed, phantasmagoric fable," while the San Francisco Chronicle said it "looks like a success." So much a success that the musical, which features Thom Sesma, Michael Arden and Jenn Colella, was extended until March 19 at the Old Globe. The love-triangle plot, set in a travelling circus, concerns the circus manager, his son and the female animal trainer they both lust after. Tharp scored big on Broadway with Movin' Out, her Vietnam-era dance musical that used Joel songs. It closed last December after a run of more than 1,300 performances.
Band's Comments Send EMI Stock On A Roller-Coaster Ride
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
(Feb. 17, 2006) Shares in EMI Group PLC dropped yesterday after the lead singer of the band Coldplay said fans won't see them for a "long time." The stock recovered most of the loss after EMI said the band was "not quitting." Coldplay picked up two honours at Wednesday night's Brit Awards, the U.K.'s answer to the Grammy Awards, and singer Chris Martin suggested from the podium that the group would lay low. "You won't see us for a long time," he said. "We mean it." He also said, "People are fed up with us -- and so are we." His comments prompted a front-page headline yesterday in the London Evening Standard newspaper reading, "Coldplay quit," with an article saying the band will "quit the music scene for up to two years." Shares in EMI declined as much as 8 pence (16 cents), or 3.2 per cent, to £2.45, before closing at £2.49½ pence in London after EMI said the band would continue. The shares were hit by the Coldplay thing," said Conor O'Shea, a media analyst at Teather & Greenwood in London. "They made some ambiguous comments at the Brit Awards, and the market took it badly because Coldplay is the most successful act EMI has at the moment." Coldplay's comments at the Brit Awards weren't the first time the band has affected EMI's share price. The shares dropped 16 per cent on Feb. 7, 2005, after the company said Coldplay's third album, X&Y, would be delayed beyond the end of EMI's fiscal year ended March 31. The album was released in June and became a global smash, debuting at the top of the Billboard album chart in the U.S. and topping many charts around the world. The band won awards Wednesday night for best British album for X&Y and best British single for Speed of Sound. "Coldplay are not quitting," EMI said in a statement, read by a spokeswoman. "They are on the road until July when their 16-month world tour ends in Japan. They will then continue working on new material."
Kanye Teams With Coldplay; Fights With Foxx?
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Feb. 17, 2006) *Kanye West and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin reportedly recorded a song earlier this week that may appear on the rapper’s upcoming third album, “Graduation.” According to Virgin’s Newswire, the pair laid down the track at London's Abbey Road Studios while Kanye was in town working on the theme song to “Mission Impossible 3.” The two artists reportedly set up a playdate after West took in the band’s show. "Kanye didn't mind [his studio session] being interrupted and after Coldplay's show, Chris joined him in the recording booth for a jamming session," a source told Virgin's Newswire. "They did a track together which sounded amazing. Fingers crossed it will see the light of day." Meanwhile, Us Weekly is reporting that Kanye and his “Gold Digger” partner Jamie Foxx got into a disagreement at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party over how to perform the song that night in front of industry folk. "Kanye didn't agree with Jamie on how he wanted to do it,” a witness told the magazine. "Kanye walked out of the party, but returned after 15 minutes, out of respect for Clive." The duo ended up performing together at the party. Afterwards, Foxx was seen hugging rappers Snoop Dogg and Ludacris, who also performed with him that night, but noticeably snubbed West, who walked off the stage and out of the Beverly Hills venue. As the world witnessed, Foxx and West teamed up again the next night for a memorable performance of the song on the Grammys. Both were dressed as marching band leaders joined by the Florida A&M University marching band.
Etta James Returns With New Album
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Feb. 17, 2006) *The legendary Etta James is back looking slim and trim and toting a brand new album of songs made famous by the likes of Marvin Gaye (“What’s Going On”), Prince (“Purple Rain”) and R. Kelly (“I Believe I Can Fly”). “All the Way,” due March 14 via RCA Victor, is described by James as “an album of songs that I've always loved, tunes that I heard and thought, 'wish I could have been the one to do that one first.” During the month of its release, Etta will also be honoured by NABOB (The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters) with the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award at its 22nd Annual Communications Awards Dinner, a staple event held each year in Washington, D.C. Hosted by comedian and radio personality Steve Harvey, the show will take place March 10 and include other NABOB 2006 honourees Alicia Keys, S. Epatha Merkerson, Maya Angelou, Albertina Walker and Robert L. Johnson - with Aretha Franklin providing the evening's entertainment. James’ new album and honour comes with a new look, as the singer has shed more than 200 pounds. "Now I can flaunt my figure wherever I go,” the Los Angeles native grins. “I can go shopping and buy those outfits I always wanted to wear!” The loss of weight has also dramatically changed Etta's stage performances: "Now I can stand up on the stage again like I used to after five years of sitting down while I sang ." Other artists covered on James’ new album “All the Way” include: Bobby Womack ("Stop On By"), Simply Red ("Holding Back The Years") James Brown ("It's A Man's Man's Man's World"), John Lennon ("Imagine"), "Calling You," (from 'Baghdad Cafe'), Leonard Bernstein ("Somewhere" from “West Side Story”), "Strung Out" (Johnny 'Guitar' Watson) and "All The Way," the standard most often associated with Frank Sinatra.
‘Idol’ Star Fantasia Prepares Sophomore Album
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Feb. 17, 2006) *“American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino began work on her second album this week with the goal of expanding her sound beyond the rich R&B from her debut CD, “Free Yourself.” "We're bringin' it different this year," she told MTV. "I fell in love with a lot of people. I've performed with a lot of people that I want to work with, so this album is gonna be very, very different." Her immediate plan is to seek the services of Kanye West and Maroon 5 on the new project. "I just got off tour with Kanye, so of course I gotta work with him and I made him promise," she said. "It's gonna be poppin'. I just turned 21, so I've been doin' a lot of different things and I've got a lot of new stuff to talk about." One project that failed to make her busy 2006 slate was the “Dreamgirls” movie, currently filming in Los Angeles with her “American Idol” competitor Jennifer Hudson in the Effie role that she auditioned for last summer. "I was like, 'You took my part!'" Fantasia recalled telling Hudson after her casting was announced. "But I was very proud of her. It wasn't for me, it was for her. And because I was happy for her blessings, something else will come around for me and then I'll be blessed. You know what? Jennifer is my girl. And when I first met her on 'Idol,' I told her, 'You remind me of Shirley Murdock' and she's like, 'Oh, get out of here.'"
We Remember Ladysmith’s Jockey Shabalala
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Feb. 17, 2006) *Ladysmith Black Mambazo member Jockey Shabalala has died. The singer, whose brother Joseph founded and still leads South Africa's leading a cappella ensemble, died Saturday (Feb. 11) of natural causes surrounded by family at his home, said Mike Wilpizeski, a spokesman for the group's record company. He was 62. The group, which mixes Zulu and gospel music traditions, was touring the U.S. in support of their album “Long Walk to Freedom” when hearing of Shabalala's death. Joseph Shabalala said they would continue to tour. "We must continue to spread our culture and our message of peace, love and harmony," he said in the statement from Cambridge, Mass. "Jockey helped me and the rest of the group on this mission for almost 40 years. As we were performing tonight's encore song, Amazing Grace, ... I could hear his voice, once again, as part of our harmony. I'll always hear his voice, even as he is now with God." Jockey Shabalala is survived by his wife and four children.
Latin Jazz Legend Barretto Dies
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Leila Cobo, Miami
Legendary percussionist and bandleader Ray Barretto, one of the leading figures of the Latin jazz movement that exploded in New York in the late 1940s, died Feb. 17 in Hackensack, N.J. He was 76. Born in Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents, Barretto was a virtuoso conguero and a fixture in New York's fertile Latin jazz scene, equally at ease as a sideman, frontman and session player. He recorded and played with greats like Red Garland (he received guest billing on the cover of "Manteca"), Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Stitt. Barretto also had a prolific solo career, which spanned more than 50 albums. His profile rose following the release of his 1962 album "Charanga Moderna," whose single "El Watusi" spent several weeks on the Billboard charts. He also released several albums on Fania in the label's glory days, and became a key member of the Fania All Stars. He would later record extensively with his New World Spirit sextet on Concord, issuing albums that explored jazz, soul and Latin music. His albums "Taboo" (1994) and "My Summertime" (1998) received Grammy nominations for best Latin jazz performance. Barretto's career continued unabated up until the time of his death. Just last year, Barretto released "Time Was-Time Is" on O+ Music. Barretto's health had been fragile since the beginning of the year, when he underwent a quintuple bypass operation in New Jersey. He was hospitalized Jan. 30 with post-surgical complications and pneumonia, according to a statement.
Moore Stirring Up New Soul 'Sensation'
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen, L.A.
(Feb. 15. 2006) Sam & Dave principal Sam Moore has inked a new deal with Rhino, the first release under which will be an in-progress album, "Overnight Sensational." Due May 16, the project is not a duets album, but will feature guest appearances from a number of high-profile acts. And while the line-up is still not yet complete, Billboard.com has learned that Sting will be among the artists contributing. Moore will be covering material penned by Paul Carrack, Conway Twitty, Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, Diane Warren, Bobby Womack and Garth Brooks, whose "We Shall Be Free" is confirmed to be part of the Randy Jackson-produced project. "Overnight Sensational" will be Moore's first contemporary solo album. It follows 2002's "Plenty Good Lovin'," which was originally intended for release in 1970 but was shelved for more than three decades. Moore was featured last week during the Grammy salute to New Orleans, offering up a version of the late Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour" backed by such artists as Bruce Springsteen, the Edge and Elvis Costello.
Obituary: Billy Cowsill, 58
Source: Canadian Press
(Feb. 20, 2006) Calgary — William (Billy) Cowsill, 58, lead singer of the 1960s family band The Cowsills, has died at his home in Calgary after a lengthy illness. News of his death Friday night was confirmed by family members who had gathered in Rhode Island for a memorial service for Barry Cowsill, a brother also in the band who drowned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in September. Billy Cowsill had moved to Canada 35 years ago and continued his music career with Blue Northern and later The Blue Shadows. But it was the Cowsills that led to his greatest success as lead singer with such hits as Hair and Indian Lake. The band was also the inspiration for the TV series The Partridge Family. The Cowsills also had their own television special, performed a headline act in Las Vegas and did milk commercials. Family members gathered Saturday at the memorial service for Barry Cowsill say Billy had been ill for several years with emphysema, osteoporosis, Cushing syndrome and other ailments. But they did not have details on his cause of death. Paul Cowsill, another brother in the band, told the Providence Journal that Billy had a history of problems with drugs and alcohol that “caught up with him.” “He'd be the first one to tell you he's paying the fiddler,” he said. The Cowsill family included parents Bud and Barbara, a daughter Susan and brothers William, Robert, Richard, Barry, Paul, and John. Billy is survived by two sons, Travis and Del.
Mario Has No Love For Former Manager
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Feb. 20, 2006) *Baltimore teen Mario has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to free himself from a production deal signed when he was still a minor. Billboard reports that the “Let Me Love You” crooner filed suit on Feb. 16 against Troy Patterson and Third Street Music Group, who have allegedly made "hundreds of thousands" of dollars from Mario's album sales. Mario says he’s only received about $50,000 of the over $20 million in sales of his two albums. Patterson, who signed Mario in 2000, entered into a seven-album record deal for Mario with J Records. The label is not named in the suit. According to the lawsuit, Mario says Patterson "insinuated" himself into his life eight years ago during a time when the singer's father was not in his life and his mother was addicted to drugs. Patterson eventually became Mario's legal guardian and acted as his personal manager, business manager, record company and publisher. Patterson and Mario ended their business relationship in 2004.
Braxton To Tour
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Feb. 20, 2006) *Toni Braxton has booked her first tour in 10 years in support of her latest album, “Libra.” The trek will launch March 10 in Atlantic City, N.J., and will wrap July 3 at the Essence Music Festival in Houston. "I'm thrilled to be going out on the road again," Braxton said Friday in a statement. "I can't wait to bring not only the hits that people know and love but to share the new music from 'Libra' with the audience."
When Canadian Idol Isn't Humiliating Enough
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
(Feb. 21, 2006) Toronto -- Canada proved a fertile rock star breeding ground for INXS, who found lead singer J.D. Fortune at an audition in Toronto. Now, another band is going to try its luck north of the border. Singing hopefuls can try out for a yet-to-be-announced band when reality-TV show Rock Star: The Series brings its open casting tour to Toronto and Vancouver next month. Auditions for the new season begin March 1 in Austin, Tex. The show is visiting 12 cities in North America, including March 13 at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern and March 23 at Vancouver's Roxy. CP
Common ‘Forever’ Prepping
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Feb. 21, 2006) *Common is about to hit the studio to record a new album, to be entitled “Finding Forever.” The follow-up to his critically-acclaimed 2005 LP “Be” will feature songs the Chicago rapper hopes will stand the test of time. “‘Finding Forever’ really means to find a place in music where you can exist forever," the rapper told MTV.com. "Music can be forever if you make it from the heart, if you make it from the soul and it's good. And I look at music like Bob Marley's or Marvin Gaye's or Stevie Wonder's or A Tribe Called Quest's, that's forever music. And I'm continuing on the quest to make forever music." Common says he already knows what producers he’d like to use for this seventh studio album. "I want to work with Kanye again," Common said. "And I would love to work with Dr. Dre because it'll be something fresh for me, because I feel like he's someone who is a classic producer. I like people who can consistently do it throughout time and be great, and I feel that Dr. Dre is one of those individuals." In the meantime, Common is in the midst of a tour scheduled to wrap in early March. He’ll also appear later this year in the feature film “Smokin’ Aces” opposite Alicia Keys, and he performs in the documentary “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” due March 3. "My hat line, Soji, is coming out too," Common added. "I know I've been talking about it for a minute, but it's coming now."
`Exceptional Year' At Berlin Festival For Canadian Film
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Michael Levitin, Special To The Star
(Feb. 17, 2006) BERLIN—What do Leonard Cohen, a potter's apprentice in Japan, Jews at an old-age home and an autistic woman in the northern Ontario town of Wawa have in common? They're all protagonists in the tide of Canadian films that are sweeping through this week's Berlin International Film Festival. From Marc Evans's competition opener, Snow Cake, to Claude Gagnon's widely praised Kamataki, flicks from Canada are grabbing public attention. Throw in Telefilm's new marketing initiative, called "Perspective Canada," which has lured further foreign buyers and distributors into purchasing Canadian films, and you've got a sudden boom in interest. "This is an exceptional year," said Brigitte Hubmann, chief of festival promotions for Telefilm, Canada's public film investor. "We don't always have a film in competition (for the Golden BearAward) — and we don't always open the Berlinale." International recognition of Canadian films has grown in recent years. From Venice to Sundance, and from Cannes to Karlovy Vary, movies out of Canada are getting more play — and winning more prizes — than they ever did at the foreign festivals. Now, with 14 Canadian films screening at this year's Berlinale, some say the home-grown industry is finally reaching a turning point. "This has been the biggest festival for us in Berlin — all the major buyers are here. It's the start of a new solid market," said Anick Poirier, vice-president of international sales for Montreal-based Seville Pictures. Poirier's revenues from Canadian sales have doubled at this year's event, she said, with countries as diverse as Brazil, Turkey, Korea and Israel scooping rights to Canada-made films. One of the big winners here has been Lie with Me, Clement Virgo's feature film about a young woman's over-charged sex life, which screened first at last September's Toronto International Film Festival, and has now sold rights to Germany and some 30 other countries. Certainly the most high-profile Canadian film in this year's line-up is Evans's co-production with the U.S., Snow Cake, shot in Wawa and starring Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss. The witty, wintry drama brings together a lonely middle-aged man with an autistic woman who's just lost her daughter to a car accident. Lian Lunson's documentary, Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man, has drawn sold-out crowds of Berliners eager to catch a glimpse of Canada's musician-poet legend on screen. Lunson, from Australia, mixes interviews of Cohen with footage from last year's "Came So Far From Beauty" tribute concert in Sydney, including performances by Nick Cave and U2.The film will be released by Maple Pictures in Canada later this year.
Another notable Canadian film is Allan King's documentary, Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company, about the emptiness and loneliness — and also the deep feeling and playfulness — of growing older the modern way. At a Toronto Jewish nursing home, Fay Silverman cries because her son never visits; Helen has Alzheimer's and doesn't recognize her daughter. Ida, a former nurse, says without her memory "I'd go crazy." King's film, which brings humanity to this final chapter in people's lives, has sparked discussions here about putting on a retrospective of the director's work at the Munich Film Museum. But perhaps the biggest surprise has been Montreal director Claude Gagnon's Kamataki, the uplifting story of a young Canadian's (Matt Smiley) journey from despair to affirmation of life as he learns the art of wood-fired pottery, or kamataki, from his uncle in Japan. "Society doesn't teach kids any more because the older presence has disappeared," said Gagnon, whose film won five awards, including Best Director, at last year's Montreal Film Festival. Screening in the Children's Film section at the Berlinale, G-rated Kamataki is set to hit Quebec theatres March 3. Other Canadian productions in the line-up include Guy Maddin's collaboration with Isabella Rossellini in My Dad is 100 Years Old, a tribute to the Italian director Roberto Rossellini on the 100th anniversary of his birth. In Between Days, a U.S.-Canada co-production shot in Toronto by director So Yung Kim, won an award at this year's Sundance festival for its compelling story of a Korean teenage immigrant who falls in love. Short films like Kent Monkman and Gisele Gordon's playful meditation on art, Group of Seven Inches; Dennis Heaton's mock snuff-film Head-Shot; and three short children's films are also screening. Awards from the festival will be announced Sunday. But the early winner is Canada as Germany, and its European neighbours, pay more attention to Canadian films. "When there's a positive word of mouth," Gagnon said, commenting about his widely-talked-about film, "the chances are the movie will have a career."
Felicity Huffman - From Housewife To Man To Woman
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald
(Feb. 17, 2006) For 20 years, Felicity Huffman paid her dues, landing mostly bit parts in film and television, and suffering the double indignity of being best known as "the wife" of actor William H. Macy. Then 18 months ago, ABC took a gamble on a soap-opera drama and cast this 43-year-old as the harried Lynette Scavo, the closest thing to a "real" wife and mother on the hit show Desperate Housewives. Huffman, who was used to walking down the street with her two young girls pretty much unrecognized, was suddenly ignored no longer. Earlier this year, she won an Emmy for her work on Desperate Housewives. And now -- thanks to an unforgettable performance as a transsexual in writer-director Duncan Tucker's debut feature film Transamerica -- Huffman's name is on the tip of everyone's tongue again. Last week, she became a Golden Globe best-actress nominee for this film, and she and her Desperate co-stars have grabbed four of the Golden Globe's five best-actress-in-a-TV-comedy nominations as well. And now, she's being touted as a likely Oscar nominee. In Toronto in September to promote Transamerica, Huffman joked that in this challenging role she's basically "a woman playing a man about to become a woman." In the small-budget film, Huffman transforms herself into Stanley (Bree) Osbourne, a man who just before undergoing a long-awaited sex-change operation finds out he long ago fathered a son (played by Woodstock, Ont., native Kevin Zegers). The two begin a cross-country road trip, by turns heartbreaking and hilarious, that is a journey of self-discovery and reconnection. Huffman, a fit, trim woman with a self-deprecating wit, says she is so convincing as a male that many people get halfway through the movie before they recognize her. "I was chatting to a journalist earlier this morning who was 20 minutes into the film going, 'Okay, I've got it. I've seen this before. It's a guy pretending to be a woman. Big deal,' " laughs Huffman, who grew up in Aspen, Colo., the youngest of eight kids -- seven of them girls. "Then an hour later she told me she went, 'Oh my God! That's Felicity Huffman.' She said she kept waiting for me to come on the screen."
The actress plays Bree (ironically, also the name of the most uptight of the Desperate Housewives) as an awkward, gangly brunette who is clearly a work in progress. Her makeup is too heavy, her hair too big. She wears church-lady clothes with poofy scarves. Her hands seem oversized, and she speaks in a deep, but breathy rasp that seems painful for her to elicit. Huffman, whose natural voice is slightly nasal and mid-pitched, says she didn't fully appreciate the emotional truth of her character until she mastered her male voice, a process that involved the help of several health professionals who coach transsexuals in their transformations and resulted in her lowering her vocal tone six octaves. It took her an hour each day to drop her voice to Bree's speaking level. "It's incredibly difficult because I don't even have the size, the chest capacity to resonate," says Huffman, who has been with her husband for 20 years and has two daughters, aged 3 and 5. "But for me, the voice was critical. I felt the voice had to mirror the internal life. So it had to sound self-conscious and it had to sound empty. It also had to sound lost. All of those things were going on inside of Bree. Once I found the voice, it unlocked the character for me." But her role-playing didn't stop there. Huffman also insisted on wearing the underwear -- control-top pantyhose and restrictive girdles that pre-op transsexuals wear to minimize their genitalia (already shrunken somewhat by the hormones). Director Tucker left it up to Huffman to figure out the mannerisms, style of dress and movements of her character. One day, she decided something was missing. So she sent her assistant to the Pink Pussycat in New York. She came back with a prosthetic penis. "They're used to pad men's bathing suits," explains Huffman, totally straight-faced. "In case you just don't feel big enough. They're just like falsies. Men have falsies, too." Huffman immediately christened her new friend Andy. And she wore Andy every day of the shoot. It taught her a thing or two, she adds, about the male psyche. "Having it in your pants is really different," Huffman quips. "Because all your focus goes there. It's like this thing, dangling, which takes all of your attention. It's no wonder that it's all they think about."
Transamerica was Huffman's first starring role in her 20-plus-year career. To that point, she was probably best known to viewers as the plucky Dana Whitaker on Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night. Tucker cast Huffman just after she'd finished the 10-day shoot for the pilot of Desperate Housewives -- long before she was a bona fide celebrity. He took a risk. Huffman took a risk. Now the pair are reaping the rewards. Huffman has already received the National Board of Review of Motion Picture's best-actress prize for Transamerica. In early January, she'll receive the Breakthrough Performance Award at California's 17th-annual Palm Springs International Film Festival. One of her toughest scenes, she adds, is when Bree pulls over to take a road-side bathroom break. Frantic that her son might discover her true identity, she fumbles awkwardly, and everything falls out. And apart. "I had some coaching about how you handle it. How you hold it. I talked to my husband. I talked to Duncan," Huffman says. "That scene was not originally in the script and it came toward the end of the shoot. When Duncan came to me and said, 'We want to shoot this,' I burst into tears. And I have to say it's the only time I lost it on set with him. "I think because I'd lived with Bree for so long, it just felt so intimate and exposed. She says in the film she can't wait to get it cut off. So she didn't want to show it to the world, and oddly enough, I didn't want to show it to the crew." The gender-bending role was often emotionally gruelling and downright humbling, but Huffman still says she never once considered not tackling it. "Are you kidding? This is an actor's dream," says Huffman, whose husband was the executive producer of Transamerica. "The scary part is not taking the role. The scary part is that you might fail. That you might not be up to the challenge. I was terrified every day we shot this film."
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams
(Feb. 21, 2006) When Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore) arrives bruised, bleeding and mute at a hospital emergency room after a carjacking, Detective Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson) is soon summoned to the hospital. In the course of patiently taking the shaken woman’s statement, it only belatedly comes out that her four year-old son, Cody (Marlon Sherman), was asleep in the back seat of the automobile at the time of the heist. The veteran detective immediately calls headquarters and an all-points bulletin is issued. Because Brenda is white and her young assailant was black, cops descend in droves on the African-American neighbourhood where the incident allegedly occurred, virtually shutting down all traffic both into and out of the Armstrong Projects, as civil rights are violated in order to catch the culprit. This development doesn’t sit well with the inconvenienced residents, who bitterly complain that the authorities only care in this instance because the missing child is white, and that there’s never been a similar police presence on behalf of a black crime victim. So, by the time Council shows up on the scene with Brenda in tow, ethnic tensions are already well-stoked and threatening to boil over. Adding fuel to the fire is the presence of her hot-headed brother, Danny (Ron Eldard), who happens to be an officer on the force in Gannon, the lily-white town located just across the tracks. It falls to Council, as the only sympathetic cop around, to prevail upon the community to let cooler heads prevail.
This is the highly-charged point of departure of Freedomland, a heavy-handed morality tale which unfolds primarily in the mythical metropolis of Dempsy, New Jersey. If this city’s name rings a bell, that’s because it also served as the setting for Clockers, the Spike Lee film based on another best seller by Oscar-nominee Richard Price (for The Color of Money). But this movie, with its ever-present threat of a race riot, is actually more reminiscent of another of Spike’s flicks, namely, the incendiary Do the Right Thing. Freedomland’s success is clearly due to a first-rate cast talented enough to overcome an alternatively preachy and preposterous script which betrays them in the end. Academy Award-nominee Samuel L. Jackson (for Pulp Fiction) plays to his strength, here, as the irrepressibly intimidating sort of character he first found fame playing. At every turn, Detective Council seems to be shouting in someone’s face, whether at suspects, colleagues, superiors, or even at Brenda, as he becomes increasingly sceptical about her unlikely story. Four-time Oscar-nominee Julianne Moore is just as effective in a familiar role she’s handled before, that of an anguished mother who has lost a child. Equally-engaging performances are turned in by Aunjanue Ellis, Anthony Mackie, and three-time Emmy-winner Edie Falco (for The Sopranos) as the co-leader of a volunteer search team. Rounding out the cast are Freedomland’s author Richard Price as Brenda’s attorney and Samuel L. Jackson’s real-life wife, LaTanya Richardson. By frequently relying on dizzying, hand-held camera work, director Joe Roth (Christmas with the Kranks) manufactures a palpable sense of perhaps unearned urgency. This electricity in the charged atmosphere is only amplified by the Council’s incessant barking which imbues the screen with an emotional edge, even in situations which aren’t as volatile as a scene might suggest. An intensely engrossing melodrama, despite its ultimately squandering an opportunity to deliver an emotional payoff. Freedomland, which opened Friday, took in approximately $7 million to place # 7 at the box-office. Final estimates will be released today. Scroll down for full top 10 listing.
Stewart Gets Ready For The Big Game
Source: Sandy Cohen, Associated Press
(Feb. 18, 2006) New York — Jon Stewart just won the Heisman — the comedians' version. As host of the Academy Awards, Stewart joins an elite group that includes Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, Bob Hope and Johnny Carson. “It doesn't mean you're going to have a good pro career, or even do well in the bowl game,” Stewart says, sitting in his Manhattan office behind a desk cluttered with papers. “But to get to that point means something. Now you're in the club.” Membership requires entertaining a television audience of more than 40 million, plus getting laughs from some of the most powerful people in Hollywood. Stewart's up for the challenge. It's why he took the gig. The huge audience. The intense glare. “For a comedian,” he says, “it feels like the ultimate stage.” But between preparing for the Oscars, hosting Comedy Central's award-winning fake news program The Daily Show and caring for his newborn daughter and 19-month-old son with wife Tracey, Stewart is going for a record-breaking season. Punctuated with a smirk. “Some people will burn themselves to the nub,” says the 43-year-old. “I've decided to exist in a sea of mediocrity. That's allowed me to do all my tasks, but to in fact do them poorly.” He's even allowed his familial obligations “to suffer and absolutely corrode.” “What we're hoping is, in my daughter's first two weeks, she's not going to remember a whole lot of this,” he says. “So instead of me being there, I just take my deodorant and jam it in her crib. She'll have the faint smell of me but won't really know I haven't been an influence.” In reality, Stewart and his Daily Show writing team are putting on the nightly program while preparing material for the big night on March 5. They'll do that until the week before the Oscars, when Stewart will land in Los Angeles with just a handful of writers in tow. He hasn't even had time to see all the nominated films yet. But if he's nervous, he's not showing it. “If I had to go out there and surf, that would be a problem,” Stewart says. “But you know, it's just comedy.” The New Jersey native started doing stand-up in New York in 1986. He moved to television in 1990 as host of Comedy Central's Short Attention Span Theater. Stewart also hosted his own show on MTV and appeared in such films such as Half Baked and Big Daddy before taking on hosting duties at The Daily Show in 1999. Since then, the program has become a cultural touchstone, even the main source of news for many young people. “Hopefully I've done enough things that prepare (me) to walk out in front of an (Oscar) audience and do the jokes,” he says.
Besides, what he's really excited about is “getting to use the same bathroom Steve Martin did” and enjoying “refreshments” in the green room. “My sincere hope is that there are some fun-size chocolate bars backstage, in say, a wicker basket,” Stewart says. “Whether they be Musketeers or Milky Way, not really the issue.” Though he's known for his irreverent approach to comedy and current events — Dick Cheney's recent shooting incident was like “a gift” — Stewart says he won't get too topical, even in this year of highly political Oscar contenders. It's not The Daily Show, he says. Accepting the gig means abiding by Oscar convention. “He's 78, I'm 43, I will defer,” he says. “I'm not an anarchist. I'm a comedian.” Stewart and his staff have free comedic rein and plan to focus their jokes on the Oscar pomp, he says. But the serious subject matter of the year's best picture candidates — revenge, racism, injustice, murder and doomed romance — could present some challenges. “You're gonna see a ton of Munich stuff. Lots of hilarity to be mined there,” Stewart deadpans. “This would not be the easiest song parody in the world to pull off. Not a whole lot rhymes with Syriana or Capote.” The comedian's reputation for cracking wise on political affairs adds interest to the Oscars, says Robert Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University, who called Stewart a “public intellectual.” Time magazine named Stewart one of its most influential people of 2005. Outside the United States, The Daily Show is broadcast on the news channel CNN International. “To have a public intellectual host the Oscars, that doesn't happen too much,” Thompson says. “My biggest worry would be that he'd upstage the entire night.” Stewart says he's just hoping to deliver a competent performance. He hopes to avoid “doing something so screwy,” a la David Letterman's infamous Oprah/Uma, that it's repeated every year as Oscar lore. Besides that, even bombing would be OK, he says. “I've bombed in front of many fine audiences filled with many talented people,” he says. “And if this is that night, well, that's the way it goes.”
Brokeback Mountain Wins 4 British Film Awards
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jill Lawless, Associated Press
(Feb. 19, 2006) LONDON (AP) — Gay cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain took four awards including best picture Sunday at the British Academy Film Awards, a result that boosts its hopes for the Oscars in two weeks' time. The film beat a strong best-picture shortlist that included literary biopic Capote, L.A. story Crash, 1950s drama Good Night, and Good Luck and British favourite The Constant Gardener. The Constant Gardener, a spy thriller and love story that went into the ceremony with 10 nominations, took only one award, for editing. Memoirs of a Geisha won three awards, for cinematography, music and costume design. Ang Lee was named best director for Brokeback, which is up for eight Academy Awards on March 5. Jake Gyllenhaal won the best supporting actor prize for playing Jack Twist, one of two cowpokes who fall in love over the course of a Wyoming summer. Gyllenhaal said onstage that the movie, whose commercial success is unprecedented for a gay-themed film, "means even more to me socially than it does artistically." "I've had a lot of people say to me after the film, to my surprise, 'Thank you for making it,"' Gyllenhaal told reporters backstage. "It's made a social impression, and that social impression to me is the aftermath of an artistic impression, and so much more important." Lee thanked the British people for their support. "I don't know what makes me so connect to you," he said. "I'm pretty sure it's not the food." Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, who adapted Annie Proulx's short story, won the adapted screenplay prize.
Gyllenhaal's co-star Heath Ledger was beaten to the best-actor prize by Philip Seymour Hoffman for his depiction of troubled writer Truman Capote in Capote. Reese Witherspoon was named best actress for playing June Carter Cash, wife and muse of country great Johnny Cash, in Walk the Line. Thandie Newton took the best supporting actress award for Crash, an edgy depiction of racial divisions in modern-day Los Angeles. The film, which had nine nominations, also won the prize for best original screenplay. A host of stars brought Hollywood glitz to rainy London as they walked a sodden red carpet in Leicester Square before the ceremony. George Clooney, Charlize Theron, Renee Zellweger — in a black Caroline Herrera gown — Desperate Housewives' Felicity Huffman, The O.C.'s Mischa Barton and Crash star Matt Dillon were among the performers cheered by hundreds of fans huddled under ponchos and umbrellas against the downpour. Clay-animation romp Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was named best British film, beating nominees including The Constant Gardener and Pride and Prejudice. Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright won the award for best first-time writer, producer or director. De Battre Mon Coeur S'est Arrete (The Beat That My Heart Skipped) — an acclaimed French film about a man torn between a love of music and a life of crime — was named best film not in the English language. Producer David Puttnam received the Academy Fellowship for outstanding contribution to the film industry. In a nod to the often-unsung professionals who make movie magic, the award for outstanding British contribution to cinema went to veteran gaffer — head electrician — Robert (Chuck) Finch and his assistant, or best boy, Bill Merrell. Clooney went home empty-handed despite three nominations, as director for his study of repressive 1950s anti-Communism, Good Night, and Good Luck, and as supporting actor for that film and for political thriller Syriana. But he said he was pleased that political cinema was undergoing a renaissance. "In our country we hadn't talked about politics or anything interesting since Watergate," Clooney said on the red carpet. "Now you go to a coffee shop and people are talking about politics. It's good."
Capote Actor Credits Success To Sobering Up
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
(Feb. 16, 2006) NEW YORK (AP) — Philip Seymour Hoffman, the favourite to take home the best actor Oscar next month, says he never would have reached such heights if he didn't get sober 16 years ago. Hoffman, whose performance as Truman Capote in Capote has drawn enormous praise, speaks in an interview on CBS News' 60 Minutes to air Sunday (7 p.m. EST) about nearly succumbing to substance abuse when he was younger. The 38-year-old actor says that after graduating from New York University's drama school, he fell into a fast-paced city social life. "It was all that (drugs and alcohol), yeah. It was anything I could get my hands on ... I liked it all," Hoffman says. He changed quickly, however. "I went (to rehab), I got sober when I was 22 years old," says Hoffman. "You get panicked ... and I got panicked for my life." Hoffman's first notable movie role was in Scent of a Woman in 1992. He gradually became one of the most critically acclaimed character actors after films like Boogie Nights, Happiness and Cold Mountain. He's glad fame didn't come until he had cleaned himself up. "I have so much empathy for these young actors that are 19 and all of a sudden they're beautiful and famous and rich," he says. ``I'm like, `Oh my God, I'd be dead.'
Wanted: A Darling Julie C.
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rita Zekas, Entertainment Columnist
(Feb. 17, 2006) Do people keep telling you that you look like a young Julie Christie? Then Sarah Polley wants you. Polley is casting the film Away from Her, based on the Alice Munro short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain and starring Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent and Olympia Dukakis, and requires an actress who is a ringer for Christie circa Darling, when Christie was in her early 20s, to play her in flashback. "Who didn't want to be Julie Christie then?" Polley asks rhetorically. "Who doesn't want to be her now?" Polley has written and directed the project, her feature film debut, though she won a Genie Award for directing the short film I Shout Love. Christie and Pinsent play a couple whose 50-year marriage is disrupted when Christie's character, Fiona, is consigned to a nursing home because of Alzheimer's disease. The young Fiona must be 18 to 28 years old, no acting experience necessary but she must be "a stunningly beautiful model type." Auditions will be held Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Central Studios, 680 Yonge St., 2nd floor. "It is really important that she feel right as Julie Christie at 20," Polley stresses. "She was iconic. If it feels wrong, it will take us out of the film. This quest has been the bane of my existence." Though Polley has interviewed hundreds of potential Christie lites in Toronto and come up empty, she scored big time with the three leads. "I was really lucky that every single part is played by the person I wrote it for," she allows. "And it's pretty low budget." Polley, who is a ringer for early Uma Thurman, says she won't be making a cameo. "I have way too much to learn about directing to split my focus," she demurs. "Maybe five films from now."
Secrecy Of Their Success
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
(Feb. 19, 2006) What do When a Stranger Calls, the Big Momma's House sequel and the Underworld sequel have in common? Near-universal critical derision, for one. But the other uniting factor is that the critics had to go out of their way to hate these movies, because they weren't allowed an advance screening. The presence of three such movies at once in the Top 10 means that (a) lack of early reviews doesn't hurt the box office and (b) the trend is likely to continue for that reason. If a movie aimed at teenagers does its advance advertising right, its success may already be in the bag. In other words, mediocre movie-making is mitigated by marvellous marketing.
Godfather Actor Richard Bright Killed By Bus
Excerpt from The Toronto Star
(Feb. 19, 2006) NEW YORK (AP) — Richard Bright, a character actor who appeared in all three Godfather movies and more recently on TV in The Sopranos, was struck and killed by a bus, police said. Bright, 68, was hit by a private Academy Bus as he crossed the street at about 6:30 p.m. Saturday in his Manhattan neighbourhood, police Detective Bernard Gifford said. The actor was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital, police said. The bus continued on to the Port Authority bus terminal, where the driver told police he was not aware that he had hit anyone. There were no arrests as of Sunday but police said the investigation was continuing. Bright played mob enforcer Al Neri in the Godfather movies, a bodyguard to the Corleone family patriarchs played by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. He played a con artist hustling Ali McGraw in 1972's The Getaway and acted in dozens of other films such as Sergio Leone's gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America and Looking for Mr. Goodbar and in TV shows such as Hill Street Blues, Law and Order, and The Sopranos. "He always said it was the work that was the reward," said Brett Smiley, a friend and fellow actor. Bright was arrested in 1965 on an obscenity charge for language he used in a San Francisco production of poet Michael McClure's two-person play The Beard, which was shut down. The American Civil Liberties Union took up the case and the charges against Bright were later dismissed in what was considered a precedent for artistic expression rights.
Jones Feature Floats Away With Film Honours
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
(Feb. 21, 2006) Toronto -- Tommy Lee Jones's directorial debut, Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, took home the Floating Film Festival's Jay Scott Award for best feature film, an honour named for the late Globe and Mail film critic. At the ninth Floating Film Festival (the brainchild of Dusty Cohl, co-founder of The Toronto International Film Festival), Barry Avrich's biopic on Lew Wasserman, The Last Mogul, won the Brian Linehan Award for best documentary. And Big Girl, directed by Canadian Renuka Jeyapalan, won Best Short Film. The 11-day festival, aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean, included 23 films and seven shorts, a frame-by-frame analysis of In Cold Blood and a tribute to one of its stars, the character actor Scott Wilson. The festival ended on the weekend. Staff
Ving Rhames Brings Nat Turner To Big Screen
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Feb. 21, 2006) *Ving Rhames is producing a low-budget film adaptation of Michael Henry Brown’s off-Broadway play, “3/5 of a Man,” which centers on Nat Turner and the 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia. Turner led the most successful slave revolt on record, but was ultimately lynched for his actions along with many other slaves. According to Variety, “Freedomland” star Anthony Mackie will play Turner, and Rhames will portray his best friend, Hark. John Amos, Beverly Todd, Zeljko Ivanek, Peter Dinklage, Tiny Lister, Michael Taliferro and Dana Delany are also in the cast, Variety reports. Rhames will produce “3/5 of a Man” via his Freedom Reign Productions banner, with “The Color Purple” star Akosua Busia making her feature directing debut. Playwright Michael Henry Brown has penned the screenplay, reports Variety.
Hong Kong Aims To Revive Ailing Film Industry
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt
(Feb. 22, 2006) Hong Kong -- Hong Kong film workers joined forces yesterday to promote the city's largest entertainment event, hoping to revive its ailing movie industry. The second Hong Kong Entertainment Expo will be held March 10 through April 19 and will combine film, digital entertainment, music and TV productions. The event will include the Hong Kong International Film Festival, which will showcase more than 200 movies, a movie trade market as well as local awards. The push comes as the territory's film industry suffered its worst year in a decade in 2005 with plunging domestic box-office receipts and a decline in the number of local productions. Hong Kong released just 55 films last year, the lowest number in 10 years and well down from the 64 movies that hit cinema screens in 2004. AFP
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Feb. 22, 2006) *Jada Pinkett Smith is in talks to star in the Columbia Pictures drama “Reign O’er Me,” which stars Adam Sandler as a man still wracked with grief following the Sept. 11 attacks and Don Cheadle as his best friend and psychiatrist determined to help him cope with the loss. Smith would play Janeane, the wife of Cheadle’s character. Also, Saffron Burrows joins the cast as Donna, a patient of Cheadle’s character; and Liv Tyler has been added as Angela, a psychiatrist.
FLQ on CBC (English only)
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
(Feb. 18, 2006) HALIFAX — The middle-aged man lies on a filthy mattress, his wrists shackled by chains. There is fear and boredom in his drawn gaze and he seldom takes his eyes off his kidnapper, a young man with a swagger, a Polaroid camera and a French-Canadian accent. It's a Quebec accent, to be precise. This hostage drama has zero connection to the Middle East or Europe. The place line is Montreal in 1970 and the terrified man on the floor, played by veteran actor R. H. Thomson, is James Cross, the British trade commissioner who was kidnapped from his Montreal home on Oct. 5 and held for two months by members of the Front de Libération du Québec. By the time he was freed in December, 1970, another FLQ hostage, then-Quebec minister of labour Pierre Laporte, had been strangled by his captors and Canada was a changed country. Armoured tanks were patrolling the streets of Montreal and Ottawa, along with 7,500 troops, who arrested and detained more than 500 suspects, including writers, artists and journalists. Political violence, once confined to war-torn hot spots, had come to the Great White North. Now, more than 35 years later, the drama is coming to TV as an eight-part series. It's written and co-produced by Wayne Grigsby, the same man who brought two Trudeau miniseries to the small screen. Shot in Montreal and Halifax, October 1970, which is to be broadcast this October, is more police thriller than political drama, which is how Grigsby wanted it. “The idea was to take the story back to the street level, where it started,” Grigsby said in an interview at Halifax's Electropolis Studios, where a set has been built to replicate the seedy north-end fourplex where Cross was held by young, jittery members of the so-called Libération cell of the FLQ, led by Jacques Lanctôt. A different faction, the Chénier group, later took Laporte. Grigsby, a Montrealer who was 23 during the crisis, depicts the young kidnappers as naive, impulsive idealists who failed to foresee the tumult their actions would provoke. A secondary storyline tells the story through the eyes of Montreal Police lieutenant-detective Julien Giguère, the man in charge of the anti-terrorist squad, who, on October 4, 1970, has 12 officers working for him. The next week, he had a staff of 112 and was under enormous pressure to find the hostages. Executive producer Laszlo Barna said few Canadians — be they English- or French-speaking — know the facts about what happened that October.
“There is no collective memory at all,” Barna said in a telephone interview from Toronto. To illustrate his point, he recounted a recent conversation he had with a young francophone graduate student in Montreal, who thought the October Crisis referred to the Oka standoff (between Mohawk natives and Quebec provincial police in 1990). “If we don't look at this moment in our collective history, we can't learn from it.” Barna, who was a student at McGill in 1970, said the October Crisis was a seminal moment in Quebec history, when its citizens rejected violence “once and for all.” After Laporte was killed, the FLQ, as a political force, died too. “The subject matter is fraught with politics,” Barna continued, the chief questions including: Was the War Measures Act really justified? Or was it an excuse for English Canada to clamp down on sovereigntists? The miniseries doesn't take a political stand. It simply dramatizes the events as they played out. At the time, the FLQ, a leftist, nationalist movement, had support from students and radicals impatient with the slow pace of Quebec's Quiet Revolution. “Here's a rip-roaring yarn about some naive, but spunky kids who kidnap political targets, thinking it will all be over fairly quickly and they'll get what they want,” Grigsby said. “And they misunderstand the nature of the political regime, they misunderstand what kind of reaction there is going to be.” (Others would argue that the FLQ — in word and deed — was not so naive. In the years leading up to the October Crisis, it was responsible for a wave of bombings on Anglo symbols and institutions from federal mailboxes to the Montreal Stock Exchange. The attacks killed two people and injured dozens.) The miniseries begins the morning of Oct. 5, 1970, when armed men from the Lanctôt-led group dragged Cross from his Montreal house. They demanded the release of 23 imprisoned FLQ members, $500,000 and passage to Cuba. They also wanted their so-called manifesto broadcast on radio or television. Five days later, the Chénier faction kidnapped Laporte from his front yard, where he was playing touch football with his family. Grigsby depicts the Libération cell as the more idealist of the two groups, whose members believed the Quebec government would agree to their demands, Cross would be returned and the kidnappers would spend the rest of their days in Cuba.
One of the series' lighter moments comes when kidnapper Marc Carbonneau, played by Normand Daneau, gets fed up with his colleagues and quits in disgust. He leaves the house and walks into a café only to see his face on the cover of Le Journal de Montréal. Terrified of being recognized, he races back to his apartment, rifles his wife's closet and returns to the kidnappers' hideout dressed as a woman for cover. Meanwhile, Montreal police, under pressure from Ottawa to find the British diplomat, also miscalculated, Grigsby said, overestimating the size and organization of the FLQ. The cop in the eye of the storm, Lt.-Det. Giguère, was bombarded with thousands of tips per week, most of which went nowhere. Grigsby's main source of reference for his script was the 1980 report by Jean-François Duchaîne commissioned by the Quebec government. The report reads like a novel, Grigsby said. Among the nuggets: The decision by then prime minister Pierre Trudeau to suspend Canadians' civil liberties — now viewed as an abrogation of individual rights — is depicted as a last-ditch effort by an overwhelmed police force. The idea for the War Measures Act came from the City of Montreal's lawyer, who was ordered by his bosses to find a legal way to detain suspects. The series takes a dark turn when Laporte is killed, a moment Grigsby said is shown in terrifying detail. He said Laporte's death instantly killed any sympathy Quebeckers had for the kidnappers. “Essentially, it stopped the FLQ in its tracks. Anyone who had toyed with the idea of political violence as a way to get there, stopped. It just went cold. And Quebec society just turned its back on the FLQ in a way that's quite remarkable.” On film, Laporte's killing is depicted as accidental. The day before he was killed, Laporte injured himself trying to escape through a window. The next day, in a weakened state, he panicked again and began screaming. His kidnappers tried to subdue him and grabbed him in a chokehold. “It's really important to zone in on what the consequences of that act were, and how shocking and awful it was. We wanted to make sure that moment was as horrifying and terrifying as it must have been.” It's a bitter irony then, that this Quebec drama, whose cast is made up almost entirely of French-speaking Quebeckers, won't be broadcast in French. When Grigsby and Barna pitched the series two years ago, they hoped it could be shot in both English and French, and broadcast on both CBC and Radio-Canada. But Radio-Canada refused the project, citing other priorities, a decision that still rankles. “I hope that one day it will get there in dubbed or subtitled version. But it should have been there as a double-shoot, because we had the resources to do it,” Grigsby said.
“They [the actors] did a great job in English, They would have done a brilliant job in French. And it's absolutely a scandal that the national public broadcaster couldn't get its act together to make this happen. “And it's not like the CBC didn't try. The responsibility is entirely on the [Radio Canada] side.” Cast members are also puzzled. “When something is a part of history, it belongs to everyone,” Daneau said. “Lots of people in Montreal will see it. It will create a debate.” Daneau, who was a baby in 1970, said the issue is taboo in Quebec. “I'm glad it's being made,” he said. “It will put in our face what we didn't want to see for so long,” he said. Radio-Canada, for its part, said the network rejected the co-production because the subject matter has been done exhaustively in Quebec. “In terms of the October Crisis, we've had documentaries, we've had movies,” said Radio-Canada spokeswoman Marie-José LeBlanc. “There have been numerous different platforms where the October Crisis has been featured and documented. “It's nothing new for our audience.” Thomson is among the few English-speaking actors in the series. To prepare for the role of Cross, he studied archival footage of interviews conducted with the diplomat after the crisis, as well as recent footage of Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Sooden, who are still missing after being kidnapped in Iraq last fall. Thomson said Cross's even-tempered personality was the antithesis of Laporte's. Laporte fought and panicked in his captivity. Despite his calm demeanour, Cross believed he would be killed. “When he heard the manifesto being read on TV, he prepared himself for his death,” Thomson said. “He was not a religious man, but he knew that he would see his wife again [after death] and this idea gave him comfort. He made for himself a mental place where he could go.” Thomson said the diplomat felt no sympathy for his captors. “There was no Stockholm syndrome with him. He hated them. He forgave them, but he hated them.” Fanny La Croix plays kidnapper Louise Lanctôt, the older sister of Jacques Lanctôt. Cross called Lanctôt “the witch” and said he feared her the most. “She grew up in a household where she was overshadowed by her younger brother,” La Croix said. “She saw her uncles working at [factory] jobs and she wanted control.” In his research, Grigsby interviewed some of the real-life players, including Giguère and Jacques Lanctôt, most of whom live in Montreal. “After all the dust has settled,” Grigsby said, “everyone except Pierre Laporte is getting on with their lives.”
Telus Tunes In To The TV Revolution
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Eric Reguly, email@example.com
(Feb. 18, 2006) Has Darren Entwistle had fun running Canada's second-biggest phone company? Well, not exactly. To listen to the Telus boss, it's been six years of misery, more or less, interspersed with bouts of fear, loathing and rage. The union contract expired five months after he arrived. The Clearnet wireless purchase killed the stock. Analysts and the media beat him up. Two or three regulatory decisions went against him. Wireless boy wonder George Cope defected to Bell -- that one stung. He's had no proper holiday since 2002. So quit, then. Forget it, he says; too much to do. Like what? Telus TV, he says. It's all about TV. "We are convinced our launch of Telus TV is the most exciting initiative for the organization in the past five years," Mr. Entwistle says. "We're looking to build a real business over the next 10 or 20 years." Mr. Entwistle is 43. He's done the big moves on the phone side. Clearnet worked well in the end. Telus stock is finally above the price it was when the youngster was recruited from Britain's Cable & Wireless, the global telecom giant, where the McGill MBA and network engineer was president of U.K. and Irish operations. The post-strike union contract will save the company about $150-million a year. The broadband network had been substantially upgraded through a $1-billion-plus investment. Profit guidance was raised three times last year and the dividend was boosted by 37.5 per cent. It's now time to do battle with Shaw Communications on the television front. You probably didn't hear that Telus TV, or TTV as insiders call it, launched in Calgary and Edmonton in early November. Telus kept it quiet. Fred Di Blasio, the new products vice-president who is TTV's de facto head, calls it a "soft launch." Telus wanted to make sure the technology worked for the 2,000 initial customers, all of them Telus employees, and didn't want competitive information to leak to Shaw. Only since January has Telus talked openly about TTV, though it has given few details. That month, it announced a $15-million investment in a television centre that will take satellite-TV signals and distribute them in digital form through the Telus network. It struck a deal with Twentieth Century-Fox for films such as Robots and Mr. and Mrs. Smith for its video-on-demand service.
Mr. Entwistle also hired CITY-TV founder Moses Znaimer as a creative consultant, though the appointment has yet to be formally announced. He will join Kevin Shea, the former Global TV executive who last year launched Sirius Satellite Radio in Canada, on the new TTV advisory board. In recent weeks, TTV has been doing some consumer marketing -- "Telus TV is entertainment your way," says the brochure -- but the service is still largely unknown. Telus says more than 200 channels are available and many more are coming. The basic service starts at $22 a month, rising to $77 when goodies such as movie channels and a number of "theme packs" are included. If you're a Telus customer, all you need to do is buy or rent a set-top box and choose your channel packages. TTV can't be viewed on personal computers, because of unresolved regulatory and intellectual property issues. But Telus hopes to offer what it calls PCTV in the not too distant future. The company won't release subscriber numbers or targets. You can assume the former is tiny, maybe a few thousand, and the latter ambitious. The message is: Watch out, this is going to be big. "We're pleased so far," Mr. Di Blasio says. "TV is in Darren's DNA." What's going on here? To Mr. Entwistle, TV is the future, a growth story studded with razzle-dazzle technology and fat margins. To others, including Shaw, analysts and investors, TV is a merely a product Telus has to offer as phone and cable companies -- Telus and Shaw, Rogers and Bell -- tread on each other's turf. If you want to offer "bundles," as the industry calls the customer packages, you need to throw TV in with the wireless, traditional phone and Internet offerings just as banks have to offer chequing, wealth management and insurance services. "We see Telus TV, and the telcos' TV efforts in general, as being more defensive than anything else," says Merrill Lynch telecoms analyst Glen Campbell. Defensive or offensive -- the stakes are high. Telus says the multichannel TV market in its territory (B.C., Alberta and a small part of Quebec) generates annual sales of $1.4-billion. In that arena, Telus has been a big fat zero. Shaw's cable operations would be the biggest player, with satellite companies Star Choice (owned by Shaw) and Bell ExpressVu coming up the rear. Here's another way of looking at the market. TV is growing, phone isn't, so Telus has to make a move.
Analyst Neeraj Monga of Toronto's Veritas Investment Research says national cable and satellite-TV EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) should come to about $1.8-billion in 2005. His estimate for 2010 is $2.6-billion, a 44-per-cent rise. And phone EBITDA? He expects it to decline from $8.1-billion to $7.7-billion, excluding wireless income, over the same period, a 5-per-cent fall. In other words, the core phone business is dying. The decline has to be made up somewhere, and that somewhere for Telus is TV. Little Manitoba Telecom has figured this out too. At last count, it had 51,000 TV customers, up from a mere 200 three years ago. The bad news is that, as the phone companies chomp into the TV pie, the cable companies chomp into the phone pie, and the phone pie is far bigger. Shaw, with 2.1 million cable customers, is pushing hard in VoIP or voice over Internet protocol (as Vidéotron is in Quebec) and has already signed up 90,000 phone customers. You get the picture. These are the early days of the cable-phone company wars As both the phone and cable industries become less regulated, the war can only intensify. The battle between Telus and Shaw has the potential to be especially brutal because their "footprints" have an 85-per-cent overlap. "For Telus, TV is not a growth game," Mr. Monga says. "It's more about replacing lost revenues on the telephony side with gains on the TV side." Mr. Entwistle agrees that the launch of TTV is partly defensive, but argues the service has the potential for "significant value creation." He thinks it could follow the same path as the wireless industry. Cellphones, he notes, have been around for almost 20 years. But the service became a cash spinner only recently. In the earlier years, the cost of building the network and acquiring customers was a cash drain. As late as 2001, Telus's wireless operations burnt through $280-million in cash. Last year, they pumped out $1-billion in positive cash flow. The cash flow arc of TTV probably will be similar. Mr. Entwistle won't say how much cash TTV is expected to burn in the early years -- he may not know at this early stage in the game -- though the amount might not be horrendous. That's because TTV will ride on the back of Telus's broadband infrastructure, which has been substantially upgraded to handle voice, wireless, Internet, home networking and home monitoring services. TV's signals will be sent over high-speed Internet lines and is entirely digital. Shaw's cloak-and-dagger operatives have obviously kept a close eye on TTV. So far, no worries, they say. "We know they're coming, but we don't disparage our competitors," says Shaw president Peter Bissonnette. "The market is well served right now. We feel very confident that our service bundles will meet the needs of our customers." That's what you would expect a Shaw boss to say. Since so little is known about TTV, it's hard to draw up a TTV v. Shaw scorecard.
What the market does know is that the prices charged by the two competitors are roughly similar. Neither side wants, or needs, to start a TV price war now or any time soon. Shaw's cable network has one huge advantage: It can transmit high-definition TV signals, which provide stunning contrast and clarity compared with regular signals. High def or HDTV, as it's called, is the growth story. Shaw offers 10 HDTV channels and more are coming. Star Choice offers 19. Rogers announced in November that it has 100,000 HDTV viewers, more than double the number it had in early 2005. Rogers offers dozens of HDTV channels. As high-definition TVs become commonplace and more affordable, the number of channels and viewers can only rise. TTV can't offer a high-definition picture. But Mr. Entwistle says it's coming and should be available in the second half of 2006, when Vancouver will be added to the viewing area. But before HDTV comes, the Telus network requires another upgrade -- at a cost yet to be revealed -- to double the network's bandwidth capacity. "We want to make sure we're at the forefront of high definition," Mr. Di Blasio says. TTV's main advantage appears to be the touted ability to offer a vast array of video and audio channels, thanks to a fundamental difference in technology. The channel switching is done remotely at the TV centre inside the network, so only the channels you want to see get zapped to your TV's set-top box. Since the head end can receive hundreds or even thousands of channels -- whatever TTV can obtain in the content market, in effect -- channel choice could emerge as the prime attraction. On cable, all the channel signals are delivered to the set-top box at once. The channel selection is done at that point. The number of channels is constrained by the capacity of the pipe into the home. For some viewers, having dozens and dozens of cable-TV channels -- the number rises all the time -- may be more than enough. Other viewers will want even more choice. Think niche TV to the smallest niche -- all Bollywood all the time, or the knife-sharpening channel. On top of that, Mr. Entwistle says, TTV gives customers greater programming flexibility than the cable companies. An à la carte menu allows customers to pick individual digital channels at $2 a pop. TTV can do nifty things such as moving a program to the corner of your TV screen so the rest of the screen can be devoted to a personalized channel that can provide content such as sports, weather and news. In time, the service could become much more sophisticated, with TV and music signals going to any digital device and your movie collection converted into digital form and stored inside the Telus network. "You will be able to watch TV, text message, surf and e-mail from any screen or play music on any device," Mr. Entwistle says." All of this is still fantasy. You can bet that if TTV turns into a competitive threat, the cable companies will respond in kind. The fact is, TTV is still something of a mystery and has to prove itself. The other fact is that Darren Entwistle seem utterly determined to make it work. With the cable companies eating into his phone market, he has no choice. But will the challenge of the TV project, flirting with TV producers or partying with Moses Znaimer make him any happier in his job? Don't count on it. "My angst is permanent," he says.
Telcos square for battle
Cold War: The phone and cable companies have been talking for years about getting into each other's market. Until recently, this has been a cold war as neither side has been able to do more than jawbone because of technological hurdles and the need for huge investment in infrastructure to make it all happen.
Weapons: Phone and cable companies want to offer television (to your TV set or to your computer), wireless voice and data services, high-speed Internet and local telephone service. The dream is to dominate communications in the home.
First shots: The offensive has been all about the cable guys getting into telco; specifically, by introducing residential phone service over the Internet (voice over Internet protocol or VoIP). Quebec's Vidéotron launched VoIP phone service in January, 2005; Shaw launched in February; Rogers and Cogeco followed later last year. Vidéotron had 163,000 VoIP customers by last month.
Telcos return fire: Analysts see telco TV as a new battleground this year. Manitoba Telecom (MTS), Saskatchewan Telecommunications, and Aliant have been the early movers. MTS has over 50,000 TV subscribers in Manitoba, while SaskTel has a TV customer base of about 42,000. Big moves are now expected from Bell and Telus.
Strategy: Analysts say the rollout of TV is a defensive measure as it's something they have to do. While the return on investment might not be attractive, the alternative is losing subscribers and revenue in other areas.
First-Rate Line-up For New Canstage Season
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(Feb. 18, 2006) Sweet transvestites, migrant workers and a lot of first-rate stars are all going to be appearing at CanStage in their 2006-2007 season, which will officially be announced Monday. The big news is that Ted Dykstra will be directing the cult favourite The Rocky Horror Show, complete with shout-outs, sing-alongs and full renditions of "The Time Warp." Popular leading man Adam Brazier (Mamma Mia!, Pal Joey, The Woman in White) is in negotiations to play Dr. Frankenfurter in the mad romp that opens March 29, 2007. A smaller, but equally promising musical is the world premiere of The Story Of My Life, written by Torontonians Neil Bartram and Brian Hill, who have been working in New York for the past few years, where the project about two lifelong friends has gotten considerable attention. It opens Nov. 2, 2006. Reliable reports indicate that one of the two leading roles is being seriously considered by the Toronto-born star of a long-running American sitcom, who will find himself at liberty next season when his series leaves the air. Nicola Cavendish makes a welcome return to our stages on Nov. 23 in Glorious!, the Olivier-nominated comedy about Florence Foster Jenkins, the 1940s diva whose singing was so bad, it made her a star. And Seana McKenna will also be appearing in the world premiere of Damien Atkins' Lucy, about the relationship between a mother and her autistic daughter. March 8, 2007 is the opening. Morris Panych has a double-header season. His latest script, What Lies Before Us, is about two railroad workers lost in the Rockies and it has its world premiere on Jan. 18. Meanwhile, Panych's internationally acclaimed hit, The Overcoat, will be returning for an engagement that starts on Feb. 15, 2007. In a bold (but much appreciated) move, CanStage will be reviving the highly acclaimed, award-winning Necessary Angel production of John Mighton's Half-Life, originally seen as part of the Tarragon season in 2005. This moving drama about memory, aging and true love has also toured successfully to Scotland and England before returning home to Toronto. It begins on Jan. 11, 2007. Rounding out the season will be Theatre Calgary's hit production of the John Steinbeck classic, Of Mice And Men, to be directed by Theatre Calgary's artistic director, Dennis Garnhum. The whole thing begins this summer with the annual "Dream In High Park." This year, it's going to be Shakespeare's The Comedy Of Errors, that daffy romp for two sets of identical twins, to be directed by Kelly Thornton. It starts on June 28.
In The Hair And Now
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(Feb. 17, 2006) All of a sudden, it was 1968 all over again. The 21 bright-eyed cast members of the CanStage production of Hair burst into the Berkeley St. rehearsal hall yesterday morning, bringing the summer of love into the winter of our discontent. "The Tribe" of the original "love-rock musical" sang, danced and radiated youthful vitality that was impossible to resist. By the time they had finished their two numbers, the snow outside was melting — at least in our minds. After only 2 1/2 days of rehearsal, artistic producer Martin Bragg was anxious to show the city's media what his long wished-for project was going to be like. "I've wanted to produce this show at CanStage as long as I've been here and that's been 14 years." The 1968 musical was a worldwide hit in its day, spawning numerous companies around the globe, including a smash 1970 Toronto run at the Royal Alex. Its score remains popular to this day, with songs like "Aquarius," "Hair," "Good Morning Starshine," "Easy to be Hard" and "Let the Sun Shine In." But while the score has stayed golden, the show hasn't always kept its lustre, with most revivals proving unsuccessful. This version, however, has a secret weapon: one of the original two authors of the book and lyrics, James Rado, is planning to make a few revisions to the script he originally wrote (and starred in) nearly 40 years ago with Gerome Ragni. Although into his 70s now, it's still possible to see the idealistic but haunted innocence he brought in the original production to the character of Claude, who didn't want to die in Vietnam. "The basic things the movement was about still remain true, but the message has been spread so widely over the years, I fear it's been demeaned," lamented Rado, "and we've got to find a way to make it seem as relevant as it did back then." Although, as Rado points out, the existing political climate in America isn't much different now than it was back when the show opened. "It makes me sad to see people being bombed and killed, knowing that it's all because of the political actions of my country."
In moments like that, you still see the impulse that led Rado and Ragni to pepper their original script with acid observations like: "The war in Vietnam is white people sending black people to make war on yellow people to defend a land they stole from red people." Although to the generation between the ages of 20 and 29 who make up the cast, the show may have initially seemed more about groovy music than harsh political realities, those facts are starting to dawn on them as well. "When I first got picked," admits Jamie McKnight, who's playing Claude, "all I could think of was how cool it was when I saw it in Grade 8 and how much I loved the songs. "It's amazing how it seems like we're in a different time, but nothing's really changed. The fighting was in Vietnam then; it's in the Middle East now, but it's all the same. It's scary." Still, when you think of the show, it's the joy you remember most; as McKnight and his fellow tribe members lifted their voices in their anthem to follicle activism, all seemed well: "They'll be ga-ga at the go-go, When they see me in my toga, My toga made of blonde, brilliantined, beautiful hair. My hair like Jesus wore it, Hallelujah, I adore it!" So go on, dig out those love beads. Previews start March 20 at the Bluma Appel Theatre.
EUR Interview: Tyler Perry On Madea And More
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams
(Feb. 22, 2006) Born in New Orleans on September 13, 1969, Tyler Perry’s is a true rags-to-riches story. He overcame a troubled childhood during which he had to endure the endless abuse of his own father. In 1992, inspired by Oprah Winfrey, Tyler started writing some soul-searching letters to himself as a catharsis for his pain. These journal entries, in turn, would ultimately serve as the basis for his first play, entitled I Know I’ve Been Changed. The 6’5” actor/writer/director’s success with that hit musical would change the face of urban theatre, enabling him to tour the country with his company in a string of sell-out performances of that and Woman, Thou Art Loosed, Behind Closed Doors, and I Can Do Bad All by Myself. A year ago, he parlayed his most popular character, Madea, into a major motion picture via the big screen version of Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Here, he talks about his return for another round in drag as the sassy, 68 year-old senior citizen in Madea’s Family Reunion.
Kam Williams: How does all the success you’re enjoying impact you, given where you’ve come from having once been homeless?
Tyler Perry: What it does is it completely makes me grateful, totally. I’m really so grateful for all this stuff that happens. Whenever I think of any of the other stuff I’m hearing, the good or the bad, which tries to take me away from the gratitude, I always remember to get back to the base of the gratitude and to thank God for it. I thank God for it everyday. I really do.
KW: In Madea’s Family Reunion, like Diary of a Mad Black Woman, you tackle the serious issue of the abuse of women. Is it a burden trying to deal with such a serious subject while making a comedy?
TP: I try not to take on the weight or the burden of it. Once it’s on the paper, I try to leave it, because I want to surrender to what I’m supposed to write about. I’m supposed to write about this character, how she overcomes, and completely just let that go, after I do that. But I think a part of me, at some point, remembers the little boy that I was, and watching my mother go through a lot of things, and hopes that some other child’s mother will see this and go, “You know what? My kid is watching this.” And maybe that will make them better. I do get that kind of letter, and those are priceless for me.
KW: How did life change for you following the release of Diary of a Mad Black Woman at this same time a year ago?
TP: I was still working. I stayed on tour all the way until June, so I didn’t feel any of what was happening. I just knew when I got back to Atlanta and tried to go to the mall, something had changed. Before, I could always go to the mall, and a few people might recognize me and stop me, but after that, there was a lot of pointing and stuff, and I realized I had worked my way completely through it.
KW: So, where are you living now?
TP: It’s in Atlanta. It’s an actual plantation. There were 150 slaves living on it at one time. It’s called the Gaither Plantation.
KW: Are you concerned that Madea’s spanking a kid in this movie might be controversial?
TP: I wrestled with that. I asked myself, “Do I take this out? She’s spanking a foster child, of all children.”
KW: How did you resolve it?
TP: You know what I did when I found myself wrestling with it? I asked 30,000 people a week, at the end of the stage show. I said, “Listen, there’s a scene in here where I’m spanking this kid. What do you think? Should I leave it in?” They went, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” So, I went with the people on it.
KW: To what do you credit your uncanny ability to tap into something that resonates emotionally with so many people?
TP: I totally give credit to God for all of this stuff, because if I had tried to make these things happen, I couldn’t have. To have all these things happen has been absolutely amazing. The road that I’m on is a path that I didn’t choose. It chose me. I’m just trying to walk it, and to do the best that I can to honour and respect it.
KW: What’s involved in your creative process as a writer? Do you squirrel yourself away from the world and then start recalling experiences from childhood?
TP: No, I don’t, because a lot of times what happens is, I’ll write something, and my sister or somebody will see it and they’ll go, “Do you remember when that happened? That’s probably where you got that from.” And I go, “Wow! You know what? You’re right.” Because once I forgave a lot of things from my past, I really have forgotten a lot of them.
KW: How important was it to you to have Maya Angelou and Cicely Tyson participating in this project?
TP: It was extremely important because I speak across generations, and I thought this was a great opportunity to introduce Dr. Angelou and Ms. Tyson to a whole younger generation of children who may not even know who they are, but they know Madea. So, I just think it was a wonderful thing.
KW: Why did you decide to direct Madea’s Family Reunion yourself? Afterall, you let someone else direct Diary of a Mad Black Woman.
TP: Because I know the story and the character, and when I tried that with Diary it kept coming back to me. The more I tried to throw it out, it kept coming back to me like a boomerang. All the questions kept coming back to me. “Why is this like this?” Since I had all the answers, this time I decided to save the headache and just direct it.
KW: Who inspires you?
TP: Overall, the person on Earth would be the legacy of Oprah, and what she’s done. Both her great business sense, and what she’s tried to represent.
KW: Thanks a lot for the interview.
TP: Thank you, take care.
"Madea's Family Reunion" opens Friday in theatres throughout North America.
Cirque: Razzle-Dazzled To Death
Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Paula Citron
Cirque du Soleil
At the Air Canada Centre In Toronto on Monday
(Feb. 22, 2006) Does anyone remember the very beginnings of Cirque du Soleil? The little tent with the hard benches. The waif-like lost souls who tried so hard to please. The stunning simplicity of a superbly skilled human body. The magic of the close encounter. The company has come such a long way from those mean times that it is groaning under millions of dollars of technology that has completely obscured intent. All the razzle-dazzle has just become one big yawn. The concept behind the new show, Delirium, currently on a North American tour, is to turn music into motion. Cirque co-founder Guy Laliberté had the idea of taking instrumental music written for various company shows, commissioning lyrics for the tunes, then creating a new multimedia production around these songs. Presumably, the fact that this was to be a music-driven show led Cirque to think that the ideal venue would be an arena. That's where rock stars perform, right? With Laliberté listed as guide, and Gilles Ste-Croix as director of creation, the nuts and bolts of the show fell to designers Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, with Francis Collard as the music director.
Collard is the only one who goes home a winner because the music is fantastic. In fact, Cirque could have saved itself a bundle by merely putting out a CD. Latin, African, New Age, Rock, Urban -- a whole range of music is performed by a group of astonishingly gifted musicians and singers, with the emphasis on infectious percussive dance rhythms. What transpires on stage is a sensory overload mess. The arena is bisected by a long platform with openings to allow performers to emerge from the depths. There are giant screens at both ends for visual projections, as well curtains that open and close across the entire length of the playing area. Live-action video is interspersed with filmed and animated images.What this multimedia barrage is attempting to say is another matter. Some bizarre set pieces like giant half-moons just seem to get in the way. Michel Robidas's costumes are flat and unfocused, while Alain Lortie's state-of-the-art lighting just runs riot. Apparently the theme of delirium is the quest for balance in a world losing its grip on reality. Everyman is represented by a gymnast attached to a hot air balloon who hovers over the surreal chaos below. The singers aim their lyrics at Everyman, and most of the songs seem to convey advice, such as "Don't let life slip by" or "Make up your mind."
The three other key characters are an obstreperous clown on stilts, a melancholy transvestite and a cheery girl in white. Their movement is staccato and fragmented, and there is no flow to their stage activity, which is a distraction. Surrounding them is an army of dancing gymnasts who perform the worst choreography ever to grace a stage, courtesy of Mia Michaels. This woman, who has been given a blessing of music, has managed to come up with nothing more than an irritation of stamping feet and pumping arms. Occasionally a real circus performer does his or her shtick supremely well -- a handstand artist, a hoop girl, a duet of aerialists and four amazing acrobats -- but how they fit in remains a mystery. There are certainly some sequences of stunning beauty, such as the balloon man being swallowed by a giant wave and immersed in a gorgeous underwater world, but they are few and far between. In short, someone has to rethink this show and come to grips with what the lyrics are saying, and take that as a point of inspiration for the dramatic, visual and choreographic content.
Put Pangaea Back On The Food Map
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Amy Pataki
Address: 1221 Bay St., 416-920-2323
Chef: Martin Kouprie
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Closed Sunday
Reservations: Recommended for lunch
Wheelchair access: Ground-floor washrooms
Price: Lunch for two with wine, tax and tip: $170
(Feb. 18, 2006) When one kitchen door closes, a window of opportunity opens. So it is with the imminent end of Avalon, chef Chris McDonald's fine dining destination restaurant on Adelaide St. W. That March 18 closing may be just the ticket for boosting the profile of Pangaea Restaurant, where chef Martin Kouprie turns out sophisticated and restrained cuisine served by a well-oiled machine of discreet hospitality. Why connect the two? Because Kouprie, like McDonald, displays a rigorous intellect and a hands-on approach in the kitchen. "I'm a working chef. I don't believe in the executive title. I'm the best-trained pair of hands I have, and I lead by example," says Kouprie, 44. The path he's blazing for his brigade is filled with food that is complex but not overdone. He pairs ingredients intelligently, the polar opposite of the "let's put gorgonzola in the scallops" kind of sloppy experimentation nowadays foisted on the dining public by less mature chefs. There is one sauce, not five, on Kouprie's plates. His is cooking that seduces and soothes. But ask a savvy diner where to eat around town, and chances are that Pangaea won't rate high on the list. The restaurant's low profile is partly due to its location; while technically in Yorkville, it is a bit too far east of the bustling strip and too far north of Bloor St. W. to attract walk-by traffic. It's also partly due to a decision made by co-owners Kouprie and Peter Geary not to publicize which Hollywood celebrities eat there (and there are plenty). Or possibly it's the name (pronounced "pan-GEE-ah"), hard to spell and obscure in its reference to the supercontinent that once covered Earth. Geary and Kouprie met while working at Jump. When the pair opened Pangaea in 1996 in the former Acrobat space, they rid themselves of the showy decor and stripped the tall room down to bare walls. The restaurant's sole decor statement is the reproduction Mission high-backed dining chairs, both comfortable and timeless. Sitting in these chairs, we turn ourselves over to Kouprie's vision of dinner on a slow winter night. He sends out textbook-perfect seared foie gras ($25), enhanced by melting shards of gingered pear. There's lime-scented tuna tartar ($18), simplicity itself, and as pretty as a flower sitting on a fan of pink petals shaved from Cookstown Greens Valentine radishes. My only objection to the pair of homemade lamb sausages ($14) is that they are mislabelled as an appetizer. The juicy grilled sausages are so large and rich — richer, still, thanks to the Stilton folded into the risotto-like barley alongside — that they would better make an entrée. Generous portions like this should be every restaurant's problem.
Such largesse is there in a lobster risotto ($45) with a shocking abundance of sweet, firm lobster meat. Where the kitchen could cut back is on the grano padano cheese, which muscles out the delicate lobster flavour. I wouldn't change a thing about the papardelle ($27). After eating ill-prepared sweetbreads at numerous other Toronto restaurants (hope springs eternal), it is with profound gratitude that I tuck into the properly cleaned, expertly cooked, creamy morsels swaddled by slippery noodles in a dark veal jus redolent of truffles and baked garlic. With the duck three ways ($40), the kitchen pulls together multiple elements without overkill, a hallmark of Kouprie's cooking. The dense breast is roasted, the leg confit'd (the skin could be crisper) and the liver seared firm atop crisp rosti. It is a textural tour de force, complemented by a classic orange sauce. The only meat to go one better is the minerally rich wild caribou hind ($41) that just makes sense paired with bacon-braised cabbage and juniper. The menu is almost the same at lunch, when Pangaea does brisk business in dealmakers. Calf's liver ($23) is grilled and served atop potatoes whipped with more butter than I care to think about. Wobbly seared sea scallops ($28) couldn't be more pristine, free of preservatives. This pursuit of quality permeates Pangaea's menu, elevating a mere steak to a hand-selected, 28-day, dry-aged Canadian AAA grade strip loin cut to order. Desserts ($12 at dinner) similarly hit the high-water mark. Pastry chef Joanne Yolles is a wisp of a thing with a reputation for inventing some of Toronto's most iconic desserts. Her banana coconut cream tart, which she perfected at Scaramouche, is a rainmaker at Pangaea. I know women who've booked dinner here just to eat the blissful custard, the caramelized bananas, the spiky ball of coconut sherbet. In their loyalty, they miss out on one of Yolles' newer desserts and an icon in the making. She poaches hothouse rhubarb in syrup until it is whisper-tender and as pink as a Caribbean sunset. She layers the fruit with whipped mascarpone, sandwiched between a crumbly cornmeal cake and a hauntingly good caramelized puff pastry. The resulting napoleon is fresh and light, the best ending to a meal at Pangaea. (Barring the ripe, raw milk cheeses served here with panache.) Pangaea can fall short of its own high standards in its service. Not in the overall feeling of being cared for, which is engendered from the warm greeting onwards, but in such details as not pointing out which soup is which in a trio of bowls. Or being unable to offer any insight into our potential wine choices outside of reading the labels. Or ignoring our water glasses when they're drained dry. These little things, once corrected, will bring Pangaea fully in line with its mantra of thoughtfulness. It's good to return the favour, and think of Pangaea next time someone asks you where to eat around town.
Gehry Doesn't Expect More T.O. Projects
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Christopher Hume
(Feb. 18, 2006) There are only a few things you need to know about Frank Gehry: He's a proud Canadian, a huge hockey fan, adores Wayne Gretzky and, yes, is one of the leading architects of his generation. Though he left Toronto, where he was born and raised, for California in 1949, the northern connection remains strong. If nothing else, it is a part of his past that he has carefully enshrined as personal mythology. Gehry, who turns 77 at the end of the month, was back at it this week: talking up the Art Gallery of Ontario, defending Gretzky (one of the "straightest arrows in history") and discussing architecture, the discipline that made him a household name, so celebrated he was even caricatured (badly) in an episode of The Simpsons. The business at hand, however, was the exhibition that opens today at the AGO, "Frank Gehry: Art + Architecture." A companion show, "Frank's Drawings: Eight Museums by Gehry," will also be unveiled today at the University of Toronto Art Centre. This city's enthusiasm for all things Gehry knows no bounds. That's not hard to understand, but that enthusiasm isn't shared. It's clear at this point his lone Toronto project will be the AGO expansion now under construction. "I don't have much yearning to do anything more in Canada," Gehry admitted this week. Not only is Gehry awash in commissions, he charges in American dollars. That means Canadians pay an automatic premium of roughly 15 per cent, enough to put him out of range of all but the most deeply pocketed clients. Here, of course, that client has been Ken Thomson, son of Roy, Lord Thomson of Fleet and, if not a great philanthropist, certainly a hugely generous art collector. It was he who conceived the idea of giving his vast collection to the AGO and getting Gehry to build the space to display it. Normally, galleries refuse such requests, simply because they are so difficult and expensive to accommodate. But in this case, Thomson's plans coincided with the AGO's desire to grow, and also project itself onto the global stage through the power of Gehry's name. Which isn't to say that the appeal of Gehry's architecture resides only in the lure of celebrity. Gehry is the real thing; a genuine architectural original, an artist whose vision has changed the way we look at design. The AGO exhibition, put together by collections and research chief Dennis Reid, surveys a series of schemes completed by Gehry's office in the past 10 years. They include, naturally, the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, the most famous building of the late 20th century; the controversial Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; the masterful DZ Bank in Berlin; Millennium Park in Chicago and Toronto's very own AGO. Incorporating models, photographs and video footage, Reid's show is the perfect introduction to Gehry. He is one of those architects whose work simply cannot be rendered in two dimensions; indeed, three are barely enough to contain Gehry, whose buildings almost seem to embody speed and motion.
For the AGO, Gehry has produced a design that's restrained by his standards. But being the contextualist he says he is, that's appropriate. Given the constraints of the AGO property, it's obvious that discretion was the better part of architectural valour this time around. Had he been given an empty site, say, on the waterfront, that wouldn't be the case. But as he himself points out, "That's flogging a dead horse." Such restraint has left many observers non-plussed. What do you do when Gehry isn't Gehry? "It's a real Gehry building," he declared at the AGO. "I know. I did it." But don't expect any titanium exteriors, or cascading sculptural forms. This is Gehry at his most thoughtful, sensitive and — dare one say it? — Canadian. Unlike the Guggenheim, where the art (except Richard Serra's) seems almost incidental, here everything has been designed with art in mind. These days, he explains, "I'm working with Ken (Thomson). I'm like a little old lady who says, Ken, can you buy me this or that artwork? He's really trying to do something special." Gehry considers Thomson, like Gretzky, a quintessential Canadian — modest, self-effacing, unfailingly polite and uncomfortable in the limelight. So, too, is Gehry, though for him it seems more a matter of tedium than shyness or self-deprecation. There was a time when Gehry could come to Toronto and pass as a regular guy. Now his day is doled out in five-minute segments. To get up close and personal with Gehry, go to the U of T show, which offers a small, quiet and intimate look at how he works. Comprised of several dozen drawings — messy, unselfconscious and deeply idiosyncratic — it is an exhibition that connects Gehry's architecture to the mind (and hand) that created it. There's something quite touching, not to mention revealing, about these modest offerings. In one sketch of the Guggenheim, Gehry has scribbled a note in the margin. "I hope you like it," he writes to a client. "I hope it does what you intended. This could be great in terms of image for Bilbao." Considering that the Guggenheim quickly became the most discussed piece of architecture on the planet, he needn't have worried. "He'll start with a sketch and then his guys do a rough model," says curator Larry Richards. "Then he sits down, looks at the model and does more drawing." According to Richards, "Gehry loves village-making." That's a nice way to put it; not only does Gehry embrace complexity, he makes a virtue of it. He doesn't design buildings so much as mini-cities, encapsulations of an entire skyline in one structure. In this way, Gehry is the ideal architect of our time, a designer who uses advanced computer technology to achieve a freedom that's childlike in its looseness. Then there's the sheer playfulness of Gehry's works, which despite their profundity are never solemn. Not only does he make it look easy, he makes it look like fun.
Gail Sheehy Says Women Over 50 Now Have Sexier Lives
Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Judy Stoffman, Entertainment Reporter
(Feb. 18, 2006) Gail Sheehy, who has made a career out of chronicling the stages of boomer life, has some advice to rekindle a flagging relationship. "If you want to prolong romantic love or reignite the spark in a long-time marriage, do something dangerous together. Try skiing or snowboarding or snorkelling," she says over breakfast at her hotel. "And there is another thing that's surefire: if some kind of disaster strikes, a snowstorm, a hurricane, make sure you face it together." Sheehy, a glamorous blonde 68-year-old grandmother, is planning to follow her own advice and go downhill skiing in Vermont with her husband of 21 years, Clay Felker, the legendary founder of New York magazine and former editor of the Village Voice and Esquire. These days Felker heads the magazine journalism program at the University of California at Berkeley and Sheehy splits her time between their homes in New York and San Francisco. Wearing a hot pink jacket, black skirt and a multistrand choker of seed pearls, she spent Valentine's Day in Toronto promoting her 15th book, Sex and the Seasoned Woman: Pursuing the Passionate Life. "Seasoned" is sure to flatter her intended readers; the term certainly sounds better than "old." The "seasoned woman is spicy," she writes. "She has been marinated in experience." Ironically, when Sheehy first began to chart the lives of the baby boomers 30 years ago in her best selling Passages, she assumed that adult development ended with the Deadline Decade, the stretch between 40 and 50. Alfred Kinsey did not study sexual behaviour past 50, and in 1996, the largest U.S. sex survey since Kinsey's did not interview people older than 59. When she started to research her latest book, however, Sheehy discovered a world of lusty, liberated women who were eager to relate their stories of post-menopausal erotic adventures. It turns out that the Deadline Decade is followed in Sheehy's inventive terminology by the Feisty 50s, the Selective 60s, the Spontaneous 70s, the Enduring 80s and the Noble 90s. In other words, it ain't over till it's over. "The baby boomers believe that they invented sex and they are not going to give up on it just because they have turned 50," says Sheehy, a pre-boomer herself, over breakfast at her hotel. In her book, she writes: "Do people really think we all trade the delights of touching and being touched for some hobby utilizing yarn?" She began her research by posting a questionnaire on her website (http://www.gailsheehy.com) that asked older women, "How do you feel about dating over 50?" and "Are you tempted to have an affair with a younger man?"
"I got 775 responses over a year. Women were excited about having somebody ask about their sex lives. I called up the ones who had the most interesting stories, I asked them to bring together a group for a discussion." She went around the country taping such discussions, looking for evidence of changing attitudes toward sex (including lesbian sex) and aging. The seasoned women she talked to are taking strip-dance classes and buying sex toys at Passion Parties. Some have found satisfaction in learning new skills or starting a successful business. But even for those not having torrid affairs, continued sexual self-confidence seems to underlie all forms of late-life self-renewal. Many of the women had recently left stifling long-term marriages and were not looking for another husband, but for a "Pilot Light lover" to reignite their libido. "To me, more important than the quantitative research were the regional comparisons. Are single women in the Deep South as likely to date after 50 as women in California?" She found the trend to be nationwide. The boomers, she says, have moved all the markers. "Young people take longer to grow up — adolescence now lasts till about 30 — and middle age goes on for another 10 years. Surveys found that boomers think `old' begins at 79." She scrupulously sent the manuscript of her book for approval to each woman whose story she used, whether under a pseudonym or her real name. "Advertisers are so behind," she says. "They are stuck on the 18-to-35-year-olds as their market, while American women 45 to 60 control the largest pool of discretionary spending in the world. They are travelling, they buy new wardrobes to appeal to their Pilot Light lovers, they are joining health clubs and spending freely on their grandchildren and adult children." Sheehy herself has two grown daughters from her first marriage: Maura, a psychotherapist married to a magazine editor who has a 5-year-old and a 1 1/2-year-old and an adopted Cambodian daughter, an artist who is also married and living in Cambridge, Mass.
Increased longevity, new pharmaceuticals and the Internet all facilitate the more active sex life of the Senior Goddess. Many of the divorced or widowed women Sheehy interviewed were finding partners on Internet dating sites, which Sheehy argues are safer and less embarrassing than previous ways of meeting men. After 10 email exchanges, she writes in Sex and the Seasoned Woman, you know a man better than if you'd spent an evening together. But do men really want a Senior Goddess? Some women are irritated by Sheehy's optimistic take on the erotic possibilities of late middle age and seasoned reviewers have been marinating her book and its capitalized epiphanies in sarcasm. Writer Daphne Merkin wrote in The New York Times Magazine that the older men she finds on Internet dating sites are not looking for seasoned women like herself but for women in their 20s. And in her review of Sex and the Seasoned Woman in the same paper, Toni Bentley complains the book is full of clichés and recycled information. The subject of aging "merits far more depth and attention than even the best vibrator can provide," she says. "That reviewer was an ex-ballerina who wrote a book about surrendering to sado-masochistic sex. Her point was, `Must we go on having passages? Why not just accept that aging is a series of unavoidable humiliations?'" says Sheehy heatedly. "Women complain that after a certain age they are invisible, but the women I write about refuse to be invisible and that's new. "My book has really touched a nerve. The glass-half-empty crowd is apparently threatened by this book."
Jennings To Be Honoured With New York City Block
Source: Associated Press
(Feb. 22, 2006) New York — A block near the headquarters of ABC News has been renamed Peter Jennings Way, honouring the long time anchor of “World News Tonight,” who died of lung cancer last August. The portion of 66th Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park was renamed Tuesday after the Canadian-born anchorman who worked in the neighbourhood and also lived nearby. He even knew shopkeepers and street vendors in the neighbourhood, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Peter spent decades speaking directly to each of us, with his face and that voice, and we'll walk down Peter Jennings Way, smile at the thought of an old friend and then continue on,” Bloomberg said. Jennings' wife, Kayce Freed, and two grown children, Elizabeth and Christopher Jennings, joined ABC News President David Westin, City Councilwoman Gale Brewer and the mayor for the dedication. Jennings' family members said the gesture was especially meaningful to them and they hoped it would remind journalists and passers-by of his life and legacy.
Canadian Ice Dancers Withdraw
Source: Canadian Press
(Feb. 20, 2006) Marie-France Dubreuil tried all day to talk herself into the possibility she could complete the Olympic ice dancing competition, but her injured right leg wouldn’t listen. Dubreuil and partner Patrice Lauzon decided to withdraw three hours before they were to present their free dance. Dubreuil was hurt when she crashed to the ice late in their original dance Sunday. Lauzon practised alone earlier in the day in the hope that day-long treatments would enable his partner on and off the ice to carry on. The music played, and Lauzon danced alone. The first song they played in the warm-up as he skated around the ice all alone in the midst of four other couples was Sounds of Silence. Hello darkness my old friend. It was as if somebody was trying to torture him. “I came because there is a chance we might skate tonight, and if she does, at least I’ll have had been on some ice and be able to help her more,” said Lauzon. With that, he turned away, he leaned over as raw emotion grabbed him by the throat, and he cried. It’d been a rough night after getting to their room at 1 a.m. after X-rays in hospital. “Me, a bit,” he replied when asked if they’d got much sleep. ``Her, I don’t think so.” The five-foot-three skater landed heavily on her right hip and then on her back when she lost her grip during a rotational lift in which she extends her arms behind her and clings to his arm with both hands. She slowly made her way off the way with Lauzon’s help, and he carried her to the kiss-and-cry area to await their marks and then to the dressing room.
“Nothing was broken, so that’s good,” Lauzon said the morning after. Team physician Julia Alleyne confirmed that there were no fractures. The injury is to her muscles between her hip and knee. She was unable to put weight on the leg Monday morning, according to team media liaison Brenda Gorman. As the competition neared, word spread that Dubreuil and Lauzon intended to try the warm-up before making a final decision about competing or withdrawing. They aborted that idea at the last moment, realizing she was in no condition to get through a four-minute dance. The Canadian champions from Montreal use in their free dance music from Somewhere In Time and act out the parts played by Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour in the 1980 romantic fantasy movie about a playwright who uses self-hypnosis to find the actress whose vintage portrait hangs in a grand hotel. The playwright meets the actress and later loses contact with her when his spell ceases to work. An eerie parallel can be drawn with what happened to Dubreuil and Lauzon. At the practice in front of more than 2,000 skating fans eager to see the free dance dress rehearsal, Lauzon took his position at centre ice, the music started, and he spent four minutes pretending Dubreuil was on the ice with him through all the fancy footwork, twirls and, yes, lifts. “I felt really strange doing it,” said Lauzon. The OD mishap dropped Dubreuil and Lauzon to sixth place from fourth in the standings. They would be unlikely to win a medal even if they could perform their free dance.
They were seventh at the 2005 world championships, and Somewhere In Time launched them towards the top this season. They won both the Grand Prix meets which they entered and they took bronze in the GP Final in December. An Olympic medal had seemed out of reach last autumn, but the successful winter buoyed their hopes. The podium had become a possibility — until Dubreuil crashed to the ice. Dubreuil, 31, and Lauzon, 30, have skated together since 1995. It’s been a long haul striving to break into the top five in the world. This was the year they were going to do it. Dubreuil participated in gymnastics as a child and quit when she saw another girl fall on her head. Little did she know that the sport she then took up could be equally as dangerous.
Stokes 'The Man' For Argos
Source: Canadian Press
(Feb. 20, 2006) The Toronto Argonauts signed versatile wide receiver Keith Stokes on Monday, shoring up an already-potent offence. Stokes played the last two seasons for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers where he broke a number of team records, and earned the CFL's most outstanding special teams player in 2004. "We're like the Mounties. . . we got our man," Adam Rita, Argos GM and vice-president of football operations, said in a statement. ``We believe with his versatility, Stokes can bring an added dimension to our offence. He can play receiver, running back and return balls up the field to secure great field position for the team." Stokes, 27, had a standing offer to return to Winnipeg, and also spoke with the Montreal Alouettes, where he played his first two years of his CFL career before being dealt to the Bombers. "I'm glad to have found a new home," Stokes said in a statement. "I have watched the energy in Toronto change over the last couple of years and it's great to see the fans loving the Argos and coming out to the games in a big way." The five-foot-eight, 180-pound Stokes led the Bombers in kick returns last season for the second straight year with 47 for 1,022 yards and a 21.7-yard average. He finished the season ranked fourth in the CFL in kick-off return yards. He also led Winnipeg in punt returns with 79 for 662 yards and one touchdown. "The addition of Keith Stokes gives us the most dynamic set of returners in league history," said Argos coach Michael (Pinball) Clemons. "Keith has grown into a very productive receiver that shows flashes of sheer brilliance." In his best game of the season against Hamilton on Aug. 13, he had 139 yards receiving and one touchdown.
Canadian Women Golden
Source: Canadian Press
(Feb. 20, 2006) Canada has defended its Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey. The Canadians defeated Sweden 4-1 in the final at the Winter Games. Gillian Apps, Caroline Ouellette, Jayna Hefford and Cherie Piper scored for Canada. Charline Labonte got the win in the Canadian net. Gunilla Andersson scored the lone Swedish goal. Sweden wasn’t even expected to be in the final. But an upset win over the Americans in the semi-finals gave the Swedes a shot at gold. It’s the second straight gold medal for the Canadians. They beat the U.S., in the final four years ago in Salt Lake City. The Americans won the gold at Nagano in 1998 when women’s hockey made its Olympic debut.
LeBron James wins All-Star MV
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Feb. 20, 2006) *The 2nd half of the 2006 NBA All-Star game belonged to LeBron James. He led a big second-half comeback by the East on Sunday night. James, 21, finished with 29 points in the East's 122-120 victory while showing the all-around skills that have made him perhaps the NBA's most talented young player. "I was just showcasing my talent today and we got another win," James said.
Retired Steeler Jerome Bettis joins NBC
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(Feb. 21, 2006) *Retired Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome “The Bus” Bettis has found employment with NBC as a studio analyst for its brand new franchise, Sunday Night Football. The athlete, who publicly hung up his helmet for good on the Super Bowl victory stand, will join newly-acquired veterans Al Michaels, John Madden and former Fox analyst Cris Collinsworth at the Peacock network. "I am looking forward to this new opportunity and to still be involved in the game I love," Bettis said. The Bus’ first day on the job will be in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Sept. 7, when the Steelers receive their Super Bowl rings. "It will be the proudest night of my life," Bettis said. "I will finally get my ring and I will start my new career in television in front of all the Steelers fans."