Langfield Entertainment
88 Bloor Street E., Suite 2908, Toronto, ON  M4W 3G9
(416) 677-5883


Updated:  February 9, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!  OK, so you still have a few days to make special plans for this day - although I'm a big believer in treating those you care about great every day! 

Check out my little recap and lots of pics from the
Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala this past Sunday night. 

Check out the Grammy winners
HEREThe rest of the coverage will be next week.

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




Wade O. Brown CD Release - February 13, 2006

Check out the exciting invitation about this hardcore soul concert featuring Mr. Wade O. Brown!  Click on flyer to see more details and reviews.  It's only free for those that RSVP to  This is a MUST ATTEND event if you love soul and R&B. CLICK HERE for more on Wade and put  MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13TH in your calendars after you RSVP!


783 College Street (at Shaw)
9:30 pm

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.

Urban Vanguard Series II

Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.  
9:00 pm

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

All Kuumba events are located at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto), and are free unless otherwise noted.  

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. 


February 2006
1982 Bloor St West
Just outside the High Park Subway Station


?uestlove's Babies Makin' Babies

Source:  Universal Music Canada

Why in the world would ?uestlove make a sequel to the classic Babies Makin' Babies? "Well, because Valentine’s Day can represent a few things: If you are in love…It can be the best day on earth. Or this can be the worst reminder ever.”

?uestlove teams up once again with BBE to present the follow up to 2002’s Babies Makin' Babies. This is a soul album about the Heartache! A collection of rare groove tracks with melancholic and bittersweet vocals, from timeless classics like Al Green’sHow Can You Mend a Broken Heart” to Ohio PlayersOur Love Has Died”. Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta, Bobby Womack, Average White Band and The Delfonics are also featured on this album. 

?uestlove is not just a founding member of and integral part of the world famous and Grammy award winning band The Roots, he has also won critical acclaim for his own work as an individual musician, remixer, producer and DJ. ?uestlove has gone on to work with Jay-Z, Fiona Apple, N*E*R*D, Josh Stone, John Mayer, Dave Chappelle, Common, Jason Mraz, and countless others. 

?uestlove Behind Chappelle’s ‘Party’ Soundtrack

Excerpt from

(Feb. 8, 2006) *Roots drummer
Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, who served as the musical director for Dave Chappelle’s “Block Party” concert in Brooklyn, has also been tapped to oversee the soundtrack for the Michel Gondry-directed film of the occasion, due in theatres March 3.   Titled "Dave Chapelle's Block Party," the film chronicles the planning and execution of an impromptu concert featuring such artists as Erykah Badu, Kanye West, Common, Mos Def and the Fugees.    The soundtrack, due March 14 via Geffen, was so far confirmed to include songs from Badu, Jill Scott, Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and the Roots themselves.  "To me, it's one of the best things that I've worked on," Thompson tells, adding that he was in the process of finishing the mix on Mos Def's track.

Revolutionary Hip Hop Band A.D.D. Challenges The Stigma Of Attention Deficit Disorder

Source: The Terrie Williams Agency

(Jan. 26, 2006)— (ATLANTA) A.D.D., a new music super-band and lifestyle movement, is busting into the Hip Hop world, bringing not only a collection of hot new songs, but a controversial statement about the disorder ADD and what it can stir up in an individual to contribute and create.  Public Productions, an Atlanta-based independent production company and music label, presents Generation A.D.D., also known as “High-Energy,” consisting of three talented Atlanta-based young men: L-Vis, Real and Pacino, producer, lyricist and concept mastermind.  The trio has created a High-Energy lifestyle through their unique sound and innovative style. This eclectic, energetic musical movement takes listeners to new heights while breaking the stigma attached to ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder. This disorder is rampant in all walks of life and affects some of the most creatively genius and utterly successful people.

A.D.D. will grab your attention!  They have channelled their collective energy to produce a unique sound which is a fusion of Hip-Hop, Jazz, R&B, Reggae and even Classical music.  Their debut album, scheduled for release later this year, represents their diverse style; and true to form, A.D.D. will always keep the listener guessing.  They work as a team—they do not have a single voice or a signature sound.  One never knows which direction their music will take, but listeners are guaranteed a HIGH-ENERGY experience!

* Contest/Promotion: will supply .99 cents downloads of “Hey Ya” starting the last week of January. 

Ø       The 2 millionth person to download “Hey Ya” for (.99 cents) wins $200,000.

Ø       The 1 millionth person       "               "             "           wins $100,000.

Ø       The 500,000th person       "               "             "           wins $50,000.

* Ten-percent of the proceeds from sales of “Hey Ya” will go towards efforts, such as the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) (, or The Ludacris Foundation (, in developing musical initiatives and creative outlets for youth and young adults to embrace their “High Energy.”  Xavier Artis, founder and president of Public Productions and creator of the High-Energy sound, personally knows the stigma of living with ADD.  He has transformed a source of frustration and shame for many into a progressive musical movement!  Artis has emerged as an entrepreneurial powerhouse and acts as the band’s coach and manager.  Public Productions is also the home to High-Energy stars Brown Egypt, the R&B trio discovered by Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and the “Nicholas Max Project,” a One Love Entertainmint pop soul recording artist. 

Attention Deficit Disorder, also referred to as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), affects approximately 8 million adults or 4% to 6% of the U.S. population.  Common manifestations are impulsivity, distractibility and hyperactivity; however, many adults reap positive benefits such as increased creativity, hyper-focus, and great imagination.  Generation A.D.D. harnesses these virtues to create the High-Energy lifestyle.  They aim to break barriers and challenge the way society thinks about the ADD disorder.    

A.D.D.’s music is their form of expression.  This movement represents a way to improvise when traditional means of learning go wrong.  Through their lyrics, A.D.D. communicates their varied emotions and challenges listeners to be part of something without having to part with themselves.


I was fortunate enough to attend the Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala on Sunday night.  What an incredible night of Canadian music history honouring some of Canada's brightest songwriting stars.  Hosted by Andrew Craig and Sophie Durocher, some of the highlights for me included performances by Willie Nelson and k.d. lang and our Jully Black, who received a standing ovation alongside Willie and k.d.!  Watch CBC Television on Monday, March 6 at 9 p.m. for the television special.  See pictures in my PHOTO GALLERY!  For more information on the inductees (and a history lesson on our fantastic musical legacies, go to the Songwriters website).  

Gala Honours Leonard Cohen

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

(Feb. 6, 2006) When
Leonard Cohen is in the house to be honoured, no self-respecting Canadian audience worth its salt-encrusted snow needs any instruction on how to show its love.  Moments before last night's 3rd Annual Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame gala at the Metro Convention Centre, patrons in the John Bassett Theatre were given pointers on how to respond to the evening's events. One moment they were drilled in how to give a credible appearance of "polite applause." The next they were directed toward a proper standing ovation.  Presumably, the choreography was intended to impress future broadcast audiences who will listen to performances when they air tonight at 10 p.m. on CBC Radio Two, tomorrow at 11 a.m. on Radio One and March 6 on CBC-TV. Never, however, were the instructions less necessary.  And it wasn't only Willie Nelson's characteristically true-voiced rendition of "Bird on a Wire," played with campfire intimacy to the backing of guitar and harmonica, that brought the house down. There was also k.d. lang's reverential and hymn-like but quietly joyous cover of "Hallelujah.''  The performances, also including Rufus Wainwright's affectionate take on "Everybody Knows," capped an evening of wonderfully expressive music-making, not all of it related to the Cohen canon.  The evening's other inductees, including iconic Quebec songwriter Gilles Vigneault, Canadian songbird Anne Murray and Quebec singer and vocal teacher Lucille Dumont were also the subjects of generous tributes. The program also featured performances of some of the 26 songs, written by various composers, that were enshrined, including Andy Kim's "Sugar Sugar" and the Stampeders' hit "Sweet City Woman."  Cohen, however, was the focal point of the program. The 71-year-old, Montreal-bred poet troubadour was inducted along with five of his songs — the aforementioned three as well as "Bird on a Wire" and "Suzanne."  "We shuffle behind our songs into the hall of fame, shuffling not quite believing that we wrote them but happy that you do," said Cohen during his acceptance speech.  The international recording star, whose music has been the subject of more than 32 tribute albums, kept his comments brief.

"The brevity and poverty of these remarks do not reflect the abundance of feeling in my heart for you," he said. Others, including presenter Adrienne Clarkson, had no trouble articulating their devotion.  "He's changed all of our lives with the complexity of his sadness, the breadth of his love," said the former Governor General. "He is our connection to the meaning of ecstasy."  Clarkson also jokingly thanked the "millions of people who didn't buy (Cohen's) early collections of poetry ... because without that he might not have turned to songwriting."  Vigneault, 77, author of the nationalist Quebec anthem "Mon Pays," offered a new metaphor for Canada's two solitudes in the English-language portion of his acceptance speech.  "A song is a small bridge between the banks of a river, between two people or two cultures," he said. "The bridge never denies the existence of the river. When the river overflows, no one will blame the bridge. And when the flood waters have receded the bridge remains."  Fellow Quebecois singer Lucille Dumont, 87, who retired in 1999, said she "will cherish this moment for the rest of my life — so probably for the next 30 years."  Murray, inducted as a legacy candidate, thanked the many songwriters who have helped her sell more than 50 million albums worldwide, paying special tribute to Gene MacLellan, who wrote her hit "Snowbird."  In a neat segue, singer Jully Black, backed by a full choir, then led a scorching rendition of another of MacLellan's hits, "Put Your Hand in the Hand."  Murray's home province was also honoured when Jimmy Rankin covered "Farewell to Nova Scotia," another of the songs inducted this year.  Other standout performances included Louise Pitre's elegant and playful version of Willie Eckstein's "S'Nice." Sarah Slean, dolled up like a 1930s movie star, made fine work of Carmen Lombardo's "Powder your Face with Sunshine" and Divine Brown offered a saucy "A Guy is a Guy."

Broke Cohen Forced Into 'Incessant Work'

 Angela Pacienza, Canadian Press

(Feb. 5, 2006) Financial difficulties have pushed
Leonard Cohen back into the spotlight, propelling the semi-retired poet and musician into "incessant work" and even into attending a glitzy celebrity-studded gala honouring his songwriting skills.  "I'm not really drawn to these kind of events," Cohen, clad in a sharp but worn suit, said in an interview Saturday on the eve of his induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.  "I don't think anybody really wants all that attention. I love the attention given to a song or a concert — something you've actually done and worked at and sweated over ... But this, where you're somehow being honoured, they're always tricky."  Usually a private man who rarely gives interviews and shies away from Hollywood-style red carpet events, Cohen was persuaded to attend the gala, where the likes of Willie Nelson and k.d. lang will pay tribute to him, by his new Vancouver-based manager.  "I left the decision up to Sam Feldman. I'd gotten into a bit of trouble ... I had to change management. My former management had relieved me of all my earnings," said the 71-year-old Cohen, who was contemplative yet warm and amicable while responding to questions.  His "bit of trouble" has him all but broke and involved in a couple of nasty lawsuits.  It all started last year when he learned that his life savings of $5 million, which he'd planned to retire on, had been nearly wiped out.  The Montreal-born poet alleges his former manager bled his personal savings and investment accounts dry during the time he spent living in a Buddhist monastery, the Mount Baldy Zen Center in Los Angeles.  "It's enough to put a dent in one's mood," he says of the betrayal by his manager, who'd looked after him for 17 years.  "Fortunately it hasn't," he adds after a short pause as if to show that while he's dejected by the situation, he's not completely undone.

In fact, some good has come out of the ordeal, something he refers to as only a "tiny disaster" in relation to a flood or tsunami.  Cohen will have several new works published in the coming months.  "I'm always blackening pages and scratching away, but that particular crisis produced a real financial problem," he explains, fidgeting with a handkerchief.  "Almost everything I had was gone . . . It produced a sense of urgency.  "What it did was not so much influence the writing itself — most of the writing was done. What it did do was promote a kind of swiftness in gathering the material together and presenting it. Usually I'd let things sit around for a few more years, so for better or for worse, they haven't matured for that long."  He'll have a book of poetry out in May as well as a new CD later in the year.  As well, Cohen's girlfriend, Hawaii-born Anjani Thomas, will release a CD on May 2. Blue Alert features her singing lyrics penned by Cohen. But for this weekend, at least, Cohen is thinking of his past material rather than trying to hawk his new wares.  Ain't No Cure For Love, Bird on the Wire, Everybody Knows, Hallelujah and Suzanne are being highlighted at Sunday night's gala, to be televised by the CBC on March 6, for their impact on Canada's musical landscape.  "I'm really happy that I've written them. You always try to write a good song but you don't always do it," he said bashfully. ``It's a really wonderful thing to write a song and have it move into the world and have it touch people."  Singer lang says she feels a "kindred connection" to Cohen.  "I feel as a singer that singing his songs is an offering, and for me to sing one of his songs to him on Sunday night is a gesture of gratitude," said the Alberta-born performer who will sing Hallelujah for Cohen, a song she covered on her most recent album.  "It's no debate that he's one of Canada's greatest poets and songwriters, if not one of the world's greatest poet-songwriters. He always put himself in the turmoil but also on the compassionate end as well. He really was able to examine the human condition from a personal point of view."  Cohen says he continues to get fan mail referencing the impact his songs have had in people's lives. (Yes, he opens and reads all of it.)  Suzanne, in particular, is getting some additional attention by way of the CBC, which tracked down the woman who inspired the song after feeding Cohen "tea and oranges that come all the way from China."

Cohen actually caught the feature upon turning on his hotel's TV on Friday night.  "I turned on the news and found this long dissertation on the song and Suzanne," he said. "I haven't been in touch with her."  But he still lauded the woman who lives a sparse life in California.  "It's a radiant spirit that she has . . . an unusual woman and an unusual life."  "She doesn't know my life . . . Our lives are a lot closer than she suggests," he said.  So does Cohen welcome the unplanned return to the spotlight?  "These situations help me survive in the marketplace. I have no ambiguity about it. I'm very happy that people want to talk to me about my work."  But he says he'd welcome back privacy, especially if he could spend more time in Montreal, rather than Los Angeles.  While he shares his time between the two cities, he'd relish the opportunity to retreat to the home he purchased in his hometown back in 1972.  "I really miss it now that I have to be in Los Angeles (for court proceedings)," he said.

Emotional Cohen Enters Hall Of Fame

Source: Cassandra Szklarski, Canadian Press

(Feb. 6, 2006) Toronto — His lower lip quivering, poet Leonard Cohen could not hide his emotion Sunday as he was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame with stirring performances by country stars Willie Nelson and k.d. lang. Tears dropped from Cohen's wide-open eyes as he took the stage to accept the honour, clearly overwhelmed by the video montage highlighting his lengthy career and worldwide influence. “If I knew where the good songs came from, I'd go there more often,” said Cohen, drawing laughter from the audience just as the mood threatened to tilt to the sombre. “So it is that we shuffle behind our songs into the hall of fame -- shuffle awkwardly, not quite believing that we wrote them but happy that you do.” “You have been so good to me over the years, my heart is full of gratitude.” The public appearance was a bit of a rarity for the 71-year-old Cohen, a devoted Buddhist known nearly as much for his quiet modesty as his incredible songwriting. Former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson lauded Cohen for changing lives “with the complexities of his sadness, the breadth of his love” in songs such as Suzanne and Bird on the Wire. “He gets inside your brain, your heart, your lungs -- you remember him, you feel him, you breathe him,” Clarkson said.

“He is our connection to the meaning of ecstasy, our access to another world we suspected existed, but which he puts into song.” The third-annual gala also honoured country sweetheart Anne Murray, who was bestowed with the legacy award for her interpretation of defining Canadian classics such as Snowbird. Pop star Bryan Adams, previous inductee Gordon Lightfoot and folk singer Bruce Cockburn praised Murray's unique voice and heartwarming style for bringing their compositions to life. Murray smiled broadly as she took to the stage to a standing ovation.  “It's a real honour to receive this legacy award from the songwriters who have... been the backbone of my career,” said Murray, who has garnered 21 Juno awards and four Grammys over a 35-year career. “Over the years, I have recorded the equivalent of eight albums, 80 songs written by Canadians, and I am grateful to finally have the opportunity to say thank you to all of you.” Backed by the Faith Chorale, R&B singer Jully Black brought audience members to their feet with a rousing rendition of Murray's Your Hand in the Hand. Nelson, meanwhile, took on Cohen's Bird on the Wire, while pop singer Rufus Wainwright sang Everybody Knows. A barefoot lang closed the evening with a soaring Hallelujah.

Not all of the performances were as successful. One awkward musical collaboration featured singer-songwriter Andy Kim, made to mesh his inducted song, Sugar, Sugar, with the reggae sounds of chart darlings Bedouin Soundclash, the trippy Esthero and an unfocused children's choir. The gala will be televised by the CBC on March 6. Five songwriters, 26 songs and three Legacy Award recipients were honoured Sunday, including big-band artist Carmen Lombardo (younger brother of Guy), record-industry pioneer Herbert Samuel Berliner, composer and lyricist Lionel Daunais and early jazz master William Eckstein.

Leonard Cohen: Renaissance Man

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - James Adams

(Feb. 8, 2006) We're going to be seeing a lot of Leonard Cohen this year, in a lot of ways. It's not necessarily what one expects of a 71-year-old man who otherwise could be forgiven if he chose to rest on his already considerable laurels. But these are extraordinary times for Leonard Norman Cohen, and a combination of necessity, creativity and circumstance are bringing Canada's most famous poet/troubadour somewhat reluctantly into the public domain. Just last weekend, Cohen was inducted, along with five of his songs, into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame at a gala/lovefest in Toronto.  Blessedly, CBC-TV was there to tape the ceremony, which featured arresting renditions of Hallelujah, Bird on the Wire and Everyone Knows by, respectively, k. d. lang, Willie Nelson and Rufus Wainwright.  A one-hour highlights package will be aired by the national broadcaster March 6. Five weeks ago, the death, at 93, of literary mentor Irving Layton brought Cohen back to his hometown of Montreal for the poet's much-publicized funeral, where Cohen served as both eulogist and pallbearer. Looming on the horizon is Book of Longing, his first collection of all-new poems since 1985's Book of Mercy; Blue Alert, a record by his muse and former back-up singer, Anjani Thomas of Cohen lyrics and Thomas's own melodies; a likely concert tour and a possible CD of new songs. Don't hold your breath for the last, however, Cohen admitted during an interview a few days ago.

He's a notoriously slow writer. As he told the audience at the Hall of Fame ceremony: "If I knew where the good songs came from, I would go there more often." As it is, Cohen often spends up to four years, on and off, working on a single song (Hallelujah being a classic example) before he deems it satisfactory. The new CD is only about one-quarter complete, so it could be 2007 or even 2008, he acknowledges, before the follow-up to 2004's Dear Heather sees daylight. More likely is a series of live concerts in the fall that would feature some of the new material and, of course, a substantial sampling of Cohen's catalogue of classics. Details are sketchy at this point, but in all probability it also will involve opening sets by Thomas, who used to play keyboards in Cohen's touring band and contributed vocals to his songs in the studio and in concert. Cohen functioned as producer on Blue Alert, , recorded in Los Angeles in 2004 and 2005, and coming out in May, but the rumbly gravitas of his voice is nowhere to be found on the record because, he says, "the actual acoustic space of the songs were so appropriately filled by Anjani's voice and her playing. . . . To put another note into it would have cluttered that space." Coinciding with the release of Blue Alert is the appearance of Book of Longing, a 250-page collection of Cohen poetry and line drawings that's being published simultaneously in hardcover by McClelland & Stewart in Canada, HarperCollins/Ecco in the United States and Penguin in Britain. M&S, which acquired world rights to the title in negotiations with Cohen's new manager, Vancouver-based Sam Feldman, already has sold translation rights for the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, francophone Canada, Italy, Israel, Poland and Norway. More deals are expected to be signed next month when M&S attends the London Book Fair. Originally M&S had planned to publish Book of Longing in September, at a suggested retail price of $30 to $33, in anticipation of a new Cohen CD and live performances. "But talking with [editor] Dan Halprin with Ecco Press in New York, his marketing people wanted it earlier," explains Ellen Seligman, M&S's vice-president and Cohen's long-time editor. "Since the book is finished, we agreed. The other factor is that Leonard is doing some travelling around that time in support of Anjani's CD, so the book can benefit from that exposure."

Cohen will do "selected events" to promote the poetry, including an appearance June 9 in Toronto at a gala to mark the 100th anniversary of M&S, but it's unlikely he'll do a nationwide tour as he did for Book of Mercy. Nor will excerpts from the collection be published in advance of its publication. "The general feeling is we don't need to do that for this," Seligman says. Underpinning virtually all of Cohen's activities for the immediate future is his need for money. In late 2004, Cohen fired his manager of almost 17 years after he concluded that financial irregularities had reduced his retirement nest egg to $150,000 (U.S.) from what he believed was more than $5-million. Since then, Cohen has been enmeshed in a series of now much-publicized lawsuits and countersuits, most of which are months away from being resolved and which have kept him close to his Los Angeles home (on which he took out a mortgage last year to help cover his legal costs).  Cohen remains a model of grace under pressure, a self-described "grocer of despair" who still puts on a fine set of threads each morning. But he admitted: "Things are tough now." Fortunately, he has always found meaning in his work, so that is what he is doing, buoyed by the love of his muse and romantic partner Anjani, "the deep hospitality" his legacy has received over the years and by the hope that the new work will get a similar reception in what he calls "the marketplace."

7 Questions: Anne Murray

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

 (Feb. 4, 2006) Born June 20, 1945, in Springhill, N.S. Passed over for CBC's Singalong Jubilee, then given a regular spot on the show, later taught high school P.E. in Prince Edward Island for a year before her solo career and string of hits. Snowbird, You Needed Me, etc., etc. An avid golfer with two children in their late twenties, she has called Thornhill, Ontario home for the past 27 years. Still touring and singing Snowbird, Anne Murray could have called it quits years ago, but says she is enjoying her career more than ever. The pressure's long gone, along with the fight against being typecast as a country singer. Now it's time for retrospection. On Sunday, she'll be given a Legacy Award from the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame for a career spent turning the songs of numerous Canadians into major hits.
 During your career, particularly in the seventies when Snowbird and You Needed Me were hits, did you think of yourself as representing Canada, or was it really just about making music?
There were times when that [representing Canada] was loaded on me. But for the most part, I was too busy to really think about that. And I was also having children. I had my first child in 1976. So, there was not a lot of time to think about that kind of thing. But every now and then it surfaced. It didn't really bother me. I didn't take it on personally. But I wore the flag very proudly, and I waved it proudly wherever I went.
 The whole point of the Songwriters Hall of Fame event is to recognize Canadian talent. But you started in the late sixties, before Canadian-content rules. Is some of the talk about how difficult it is for Canadian musicians to make it really just a refuge for those who can't make it?
Not everybody in the business can make it. It's as simple as that. I mean, there are so many people in the business now who can't even sing who are making it. You don't have to be able to sing any more to be able to have a career, and that to me is sad.
 Not only can you doctor the vocal in the studio and make it in tune, but you can also now doctor it live. It can go through a machine while you're performing live. So you could pick anybody off the street, throw them in a studio -- it's just not a very good time to be in the business if you're a good singer. [laughs]
 When you started out, you were singing Bruce Cockburn tunes and working with the soul choir Dr. Music. Things seemed less restrictive and categorized then. But was that true for you, or did you get pegged early on?
I definitely fought against being labelled country at a very early stage in my career because I wanted to do everything. I didn't want to be labelled. I love all the music and was influenced by so many different kinds of music that I should be able to do any of it if I chose to.
 Once you were called country you were country forever. . . . But I was the queen of middle of the road, definitely the queen in those years, the late seventies, early eighties. But now I can't even keep up with all the categories. I don't even know what hip hop is -- what is that? [laughs] I don't know what that means.
 Don't you wish you could bust out sometimes and sing some Janis Joplin or full-throated gospel rather than all the usual songs people expect from you?
I have done that on record. In the middle 1980s, I did some albums that were definitely -- what would you call them? -- techno-pop kind of things. I can't remember how many there were. There were two of them. One did well, one not so well. But people didn't like me doing that stuff. And it's funny. You know, you can do all this stuff. But people go, no, we're used to this.
 Have you thought to yourself, I never want to sing Snowbird again as long as I live?
No, I haven't, because it's such a great song. It's the kind of song that every time you do it, it's a vocal exercise. There was a time when I didn't like it quite so much, but I'm travelling [and performing] less now. But that song has withstood the test of time. I'll sing it till I die.
 In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently?
You do the things the best you know how. I was flying by the seat of my pants. I didn't really have a role model in this country. I was just doing it as I saw it, as best I could. Sure there are lots of songs I wouldn't record. And I would love to take all of those 30-some albums and cut them down to maybe 10 of the best. But it happened.
 What's one thing people have wrong about you?
I have friends who have known me for years who still think that it's one big picnic. That you go out and you get on these buses -- they don't know about getting on the bus after the show, going to sleep and waking up at 4 o'clock in the morning to check into a hotel. Then trying to go back to sleep. Then trying to find a treadmill or swimming pool, somewhere to try to stay fit. I mean, it is a treadmill, this whole thing. It's work. It's hard work.

Classical, But Not Traditional

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

 (Feb. 2, 2006) Aging audiences and a general aversion to new works have driven classical music to a crossroads where a posse of imaginative artists is encouraging us to take an unexpected turn.  Over the next few days, you can hear Larry Beckwith and his Toronto Masque Theatre serve up a mix of Renaissance and blues. Or you can see Andrew Burashko and the Art of Time Ensemble mix 20th-century classical music and dance.  
 A kindred spirit is classical music presenter
Andrew Craig, who co-hosts the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame gala on Monday night.  All three men have a deep love of music to share with new listeners.  Craig is the least visible but the most heard. Based at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, he is the affable voice of In Performance, CBC Radio Two's weeknight concert program.  His ambition is to reach beyond the genre and its traditional audience. Craig went to St. Michael's Choir School, where he learned to sing and play the piano and organ. But he has spent much time since studying, performing and facilitating other genres.  "I never knew when I was leaving classical music at age 18 that I was going to have to come back to it and bring all that experience with me," says Craig. But he believes that's why the CBC hired him 16 months ago. "I see classical music in the context of world music-making. I don't put it on a pedestal."  Craig worries about how insular and backward-looking the classical music world can be. Music in other genres is "so living, so current, so spontaneous," he says. The musicians are "major contributors to what we are hearing."  But in classical music, "the audience expects only to hear what they know. And you have to be formidable to break through that tradition. You have to be Yo-Yo Ma in order to be able to not play it any more."  Craig would love to break through the traditional repertoire, but, as he says, "it's like putting a rope over your shoulder and trying to pull a battleship."  Helping pull that boat onto the stage are people like Burashko and Beckwith.
 The child of Russian immigrants who came to Toronto in the early 1970s, Burashko's first taste of pop was the Beatles. "I've always loved pop music and jazz and theatre ... the Beatles are a big musical influence. I listened to them more than anything else when I was a kid," he says.  Burashko wasn't sure he wanted to pursue a career as a classical pianist, even though he made his debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in his late teens. Now, two decades later, he devotes much of his energy to the Art of Time Ensemble.  For seven years, the group has been mixing classical music with jazz and movement. It's an ongoing experiment. "I'm searching, doing stuff that I really love with people who I love to work with, just constantly trying to figure out a new angle or a new way of presenting classical music alongside other elements," says Burashko.  He is conscious of how aged classical music audiences have become, and how open younger people are to different kinds of music. Beckwith and Craig echo these sentiments.  "There is a new generation of listeners who approach music from a completely different perspective," drawing links through things like electronic music, says Craig.  With the advent of the iPod, says Craig, "people's listening patterns are more eclectic than they've been in years."  Beckwith, who teaches music at Unionville High School as well as singing and playing violin with professional ensembles such as Tafelmusik, was specifically looking for new ears when he started the Toronto Masque Theatre three years ago.
 Beckwith asked himself what the classical music audience would be like in 20 years. "The young generation doesn't seem to be going to traditional offerings," he says. "So we decided to build a new audience. We meet them more on their turf rather than teaching them all the time."  For Beckwith, it's not the music's style that matters. Rather, "it's honesty and the lack of pretension."  Burashko says it comes down to "the passion, the poetry in the performer. It doesn't matter what you're going to see; if they're a passionate performer, it's going to be worthwhile."  
 As for Craig, "There is content that I know I could bring to the CBC that it doesn't have yet.  "There are large numbers of people who are not represented on the public broadcaster in any way. And I'm one of them. I'm a 35-year-old African-Canadian from Toronto. There isn't much programming aimed at me ..."  It sounds like that's going to change soon.


Canucks Grab For Grammys

 Source:  Angela Pacienza, Canadian Press

 (Feb. 4, 2006) Toronto — Daniel Lanois is no stranger to the world of award ceremonies. As the producer of albums by Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, U2 and Brian Eno, he's won countless trophies. But this year's Grammy Awards will be a little more special than usual.  He received two nominations for his solo work, and he also shares U2's album of the year nod for How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. “I guess it holds a special place in my heart,” the Quebec-born musician said recently of being recognized for Belladonna, an instrumental album. The celebrated maestro joins a small but acclaimed contingent waving the Maple Leaf at the annual awards bash, to be held next Wednesday in Los Angeles. The show features performances by Kelly Clarkson, Madonna with Gorillaz, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay and Faith Hill. Leading contenders for awards include Mariah Carey, Kanye West and John Legend, with eight nominations each. What it lacks in size, the Canadian clique makes up for in variety with representation in pop, rock, polka, jazz, comedy, video and soundtrack. The group includes rock luminary Neil Young, who's competing for two awards based on his acclaimed country-rock album Prairie Wind; comedy star Rick Moranis, who has a chance at some hardware in the best comedy album category for Agoraphobic Cowboy; and Howard Shore, who is in the running for best score soundtrack album for The Aviator, which featured performances by Montreal natives Martha and Rufus Wainwright.
 And there'll be plenty of attention cast on Canada's first-time Grammy nominees the Arcade Fire and Michael Buble. In addition to a nomination, Buble will be a presenter at the TV show, alongside Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher.  “I've watched her a lot. I hope she's not that tall. I don't want to have to wear my heels,” quipped the Vancouver native, nominated for best traditional pop vocal album for his CD It's Time.  The 28-year-old crooner is facing his idols — Tony Bennett, Rod Stewart, Carly Simon and Johnny Mathis. “So I've got a chance?” joked Buble, who will be recording a duet with Bennett during Grammy week. “I'm keeping my fingers crossed.” Turning serious he added: “When you're nominated against iconic stars it really is a huge thing to be nominated. They can never take that away from me.”  With swooning fans, friends like David Foster (who received a separate nom for his arrangement work on Buble's album), over four million in sales and sold-out tours around the globe, Buble wasn't all that much of a Grammy surprise. The Arcade Fire recognition was a bit more unexpected, given the Grammy tendency to follow radio hitmakers. Perhaps Grammys voters will be swayed by the outfit's rabid following which includes the likes of David Bowie and U2's Bono. It was “surreal” to be nominated for two Grammys, said Arcade Fire publicist Martin Hall from Durham, North Carolina where Merge Records has its headquarters. The tiny label took a chance on the Montreal band, releasing Funeral in 2004. “It's incredibly, incredibly flattering,” he said. “From the first time we heard the demo we were like ‘This is amazing.' But we didn't necessarily know that it's the kind of thing that's going to get play on commercial radio.” The band, fronted by husband and wife duo of Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, will compete against Beck, Death Cab For Cutie, Franz Ferdinand, and the White Stripes for best alternative album. Their song Cold Wind, written for the Six Feet Under soundtrack, is also up for an award. “They're all from major labels. We're not used to being on that roll call,” said Hall. Hall says the publicity-shy band, which resembles an orchestra thanks to its inclusion of violas, cellos and horns, will attend the show but are trying hard to remain under the radar.  “They've been offered covers of magazines and they've said ‘We don't want to do that right now. We want to disappear for a while and come back when we have something new to say, both in general and in the form of a new record.' ”
 Some other Canadians in the running on Grammy night:
 — Sarah McLachlan's video for World On Fire is competing for best short form music video. The video was made with just $15 — the cost of a blank video tape — of her $150,000 budget in order to donate the remaining cash to charity.
 — Montreal-born composer Galt MacDermott for best music show album for a new version of Hair. He won a Grammy for the same album back in 1968.
 — Walter Ostanek's Time Out For Polkas and Waltzes is up for best polka album, marking the 19th Grammy for the St. Catharines, Ont., native. He's won three times.
 — Winnipeg rapper Fresh I.E. is up for best rock gospel album for his CD Truth Is Fallin' In The Streetz. He was nominated in the same category two years ago.
 — Toronto-born trumpeter Kenny Wheeler is nominated for best jazz instrumental for his album What Now, which features Dave Holland, Chris Potter and John Taylor.

CBC Admits To Qualms About Stern's Return

 Source: Canadian Press

 (Feb. 2, 2006) Toronto — The
CBC and Howard Stern? Not exactly a conventional media marriage. And the public broadcaster, part owner of the new satellite radio service that will bring the shock jock back to Canadian airwaves next week, admitted Thursday it has qualms about the move. "It's no secret that Howard Stern's programming is not consistent with the kind of programming you would find on CBC/Radio Canada's airwaves, but this is a Sirius Canada decision," said CBC spokesman Jason MacDonald. "Have we expressed concerns? Sure we've expressed some concerns about it." Stern's satellite radio program, which began in the United States on Jan. 9 will finally come to Sirius Canada on Monday morning. The subscription-based network is 40 per cent owned by the CBC, 40 per cent by Standard Radio and 20 per cent by Sirius in the United States. "Sirius Canada is a separate company," noted MacDonald.
 "Yes, we're partners and Sirius Canada made the decision that was right for it based on what the market demands." After initially opting to exclude Stern from its line-up, Sirius Canada was deluged with complaints from Canuck fans of the controversial DJ. It's been suggested that the CBC held up Stern's arrival, but MacDonald said that was "unfair," noting that network program line-ups are reviewed regularly. He said new technology that allows Sirius Canada subscribers to block out Stern if they so choose was a significant factor in finalizing the deal. For his part, Stern has called his pending return to Canadian radio "good news." A posting on his website says he told listeners he'd been thrown off Canadian airwaves in the past for alleged "hate speech." In fact, the self-proclaimed "King of all Media" was dropped by CHOM-FM in Montreal in 1998 and in 2001 by Q-107 in Toronto after thousands of complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council — the industry's voluntary watchdog agency. Sirius Canada has said it does not expect Stern to run into censorship trouble this time because his satellite show is a pay service. In the U.S., satellite radio is not federally regulated while in Canada, it falls under the jurisdiction of the CRTC. "It's really up to the public to decide whether it wants to submit a complaint, regardless of the fact that it's a service that is purchasable," says CRTC spokeswoman Miriam Gennaro. She couldn't immediately say, however, whether different standards will apply to satellite radio.

Jaheim's 'Ghetto Classics' In Stores Valentine's Day

 Source: Kim Trick / Room Service Productions /
(Feb. 3, 2006) Like more than a few R&B warriors hailing from the cracked sidewalks of Any Ghetto, U.S.A., be them a Motown rambler like Marvin Gaye or a Chicago born hustler like Curtis Mayfield, many soul singers have found that their childhood often serves as a lifelong inspiration. Indeed, it’s from those sugar water, pissy staircase and broken big wheel memories that new-millennium soulster Jaheim’s third disc Ghetto Classics were first conceived.  “I love the ghetto,” says the New Brunswick, New Jersey native soul-man. Titling the two former platinum smashes Ghetto Love (2001) and Still Ghetto (2002), tough but soft-spoken Jaheim has literally gone from rags to riches. “For me, the ghetto has always been hypnotic and colourful. Man, it’s just who I am, what can I say…I love the homies and standing on those street corners.” Four years later, the brother is still chilling on the block in the latest drop-top. "My music is all about my life," Jaheim asserts. "I take my stories straight out of the inner city and my sound is about what¹s happening on the street. I might have gotten into a lot of trouble when I was younger, but the ghetto also kept me sane.”  With the release of Jaheim’s third disc, perhaps the most mature of the trilogy, Ghetto Classics serves as a re-introduction to a stellar talent that has been laying low for a minute. “I’ve been off the grind, so I have a whole lot to make-up,” Jaheim laughs. “I just needed to spend time with my family and recharge, but right now there’s no stopping me.” Having released the hot buttered single “Everytime I Think About Her” last year with rapper Jadakiss riding shotgun, Jaheim left an exquisite calling card for ladies. Like black velvet clouds drifting over the bed, the track produced by Bink and Bernard Bell takes the art of baby making rhythms to the next plateau.  “Me and Eric Williams [formerly of Blackstreet] co-wrote this song,” Jaheim informs. “I knew that it was important for me to come back tight in terms of music and storytelling; this song was a step in the right direction. ‘Everytime I Think About Her’ is so soulful; it’s everything I imagined it could be.” Discovered by Naughty By Nature/Zhane maestro KayGee, who signed, shopped and produced him, the two have a thrilling chemistry that can happen in the studio between a select few producers and singers. Their brilliant collaborations blend a love for tradition with a new jack soul sensibility.  From the dazzling street-corner Casanova tracks of “The Chosen One” and “Daddy Thing” to Bacharach b-boy styling of the weeded anthem “Fiend,” it is obvious that KayGee and Jaheim bring out the musical best in one another. What Gamble and Huff were to Teddy Pendergrass, so is KayGee to Jaheim.
 Proving themselves as a soulful dream team, the dazzling street-corner serenade of “The Chosen One” is an aural standout. As Jaheim sings, “I chose you,” over the swirling soul music constructed by KayGee, this superb track is sure to have sisters swooning across the world. Having picked-up some studio tips, Jaheim flexes his own production muscle on the hot chocolate bubble-bath of “Come Over.” With his smooth voice convincing a beautiful woman to leave her no good man, this ballad proves Jaheim to be a triple treat (singer, writer and producer) in the universe of soul.   From the very beginning, life has never been easy for Jaheim. After losing his father when he was still a child, he and his two brothers were raised by their loving, yet constantly struggling mother. Moving through various relatives’ floors and taking overnight stays in motels, Jaheim says, “Without stability in the home I found myself getting in a lot of trouble, running around with a crazy crowd, and getting locked up.”  Serving his last bid at 16-years-old, Jaheim came out of prison a new man. After he was set free, his then sick mother suddenly died.  “My mom’s was everything to me, and when I lost her, I learned a lot about life.” Listening to Ghetto Classics, one can hear the grains of those experiences, in Jaheim’s wonderful voice. Certainly, the magic of singing seems to run in the family. “My grandfather, Victor, used to be a member of the doo-wop group, The Drifters, and I can’t help but feel that he passed his soul torch onto me. Grandpa saw me when I was performing at open-mic nights, he was there when I won the Apollo Amateur Night, three dates in a row, and before he died he knew I had signed my record contract. I dedicate my career to him. And believe me, accepting that responsibility has just made me work that much harder.”  Indeed, that responsibility spills over into the real world. Having started the Urban Dreams Foundation in 2005, Jaheim’s motivation was to give urban youth opportunities he didn’t have as a child.  “We started off by putting on sports tournaments to keep the kids off the streets.  During the tournaments we bring in successful people from the community as well as entertainers and athletes to speak to the kids to give them hope and faith that their dreams can become a reality,” Jaheim states.
 In addition, Urban Dreams will give away a house to a single-parented family headed by a mother this coming Mother’s Day. “I watched my mother struggle and do the best she could for us. I know that having a home would have eased some of the pain.  Giving back to a mother on Mother’s Day is something that my mother would have really cherished.” While citing Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Sam Cooke as musical muses, it is the harmonies of the great, late Luther Vandross that really encouraged him to move towards the mic. From the time he was just a kid singing in the mirror; it was all about the music of this true R&B superstar.   “There were times when I could feel Luther’s spirit when I was recording Ghetto Classics,” Jaheim remembers. “I can’t think of another popular Black singer who was able to hold it down from the ‘70s until he suffered that stroke in 2004. Yet, though he was a major star, I’ve never felt that Luther ever got his real props as a genius.” Ironically, like musical muse Vandross, the vast popularity of Jaheim throughout America has not translated into the kind of crossover success that has been afforded his contemporaries.   With the release of Ghetto Classics, Jaheim returns to the limelight and Billboard charts with his finest effort to date. Says Jaheim, “If there was one thing that kept me focused during the making of Ghetto Classics it was the fans, and just anticipating the reaction when they hear these songs. I’m doing what I was born to do, and I love it.”

Memo To Music Industry: Cut Your Prices, Make Better Music

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By David Bauder, Associated Press

 (Feb. 2, 2006) New York — Music executives love to blame illegal downloading for their industry's woes. But, based on the results of a new nationwide U.S. poll, they might want to look in the mirror. Eighty per cent of the respondents consider it stealing to download music for free without the copyright holder's permission, and 92 per cent say they've never done it, according to the poll conducted for the Associated Press and Rolling Stone magazine. Meanwhile, three-quarters of music fans say compact discs are too expensive, and 58 per cent say music in general is getting worse. “Less talented people are able to get a song out there and make a quick million and you never hear from them again,” said Kate Simkins, 30, of Cape Cod, Mass. Ipsos' telephone poll of 1,000 adults, including 963 music listeners, from all states except Alaska and Hawaii was conducted Jan. 23-25 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus three percentage points. The music industry has spent several years in turmoil, as downloading and the popularity of iPods upend its traditional business model. A total of 618.9 million CD albums were sold during 2005, sharply down from the 762.8 million sold in 2001, according to Nielsen Soundscan. At the same time, 352.7 million tracks were sold digitally in 2005, a category that wasn't even measured five years ago. Digital sales of music and ring tones offer new revenue opportunities, but often at the expense of more lucrative CD sales. Although buying music digitally hasn't exactly become widespread -- only 15 per cent of poll respondents said they have done it -- there appears to be a growing acceptance of this type of transaction. The poll found that 71 per cent of music fans believe that a 99-cent download of a song is a fair price or outright bargain. Even though millions of tracks are downloaded for free each week on peer-to-peer networks, a sense of queasiness remains. “Somebody is putting their art out there. They should be compensated for it,” said Mickey Johnson, 41, from Charleston, Tenn.
 The industry would be wise to embrace downloading, said Greg Hoerger, 42, of Minneapolis, who suggested that customers could receive five or six free downloads from an artist when they buy a CD. For fans like Mr. Hoerger and Ms. Simkins, buying a CD for about $20 (U.S.) is no bargain. They'd rather download one or two favourite songs to their iPods. The digital music revolution also has other benefits, Ms. Simkins said: with the iPod, she no longer has to have cassettes or CDs cluttering her car. The last CD she bought, a few months ago, was by the Killers. “It was on sale,” she said. Many fans also say they just don't like what they're hearing. It may not be surprising to hear older fans say music just isn't what it used to be when they were growing up. But the poll also found that 49 per cent of music fans ages 18-to-34 -- the target audience for the music business -- say music is getting worse. “Even if our parents didn't like how loud rock 'n' roll was, or that it was revolutionary, at least they could listen to some of it,” said Christina Tjoelker, 49, from Snohomish, Wash. “It wasn't gross. It wasn't disgusting. It wasn't about beating up women or shooting the police.” The last CD she bought was Neil Diamond's new one, “because Oprah was raving about it,” she said. Overall, music fans were split on why music sales have been declining for the past five years: 33 per cent said it was because of illegal downloads, 29 per cent said it was because of competition from other forms of entertainment, 21 per cent blamed it on the quality of music getting worse and 13 per cent said it was because CDs are too expensive. FM radio is still the main way most fans find out about new music, according to the poll. Television shows are a distant second. Rock 'n' roll is the most popular style of music, cited by 26 per cent of the fans. It runs neck-and-neck with country among fans ages 35 or over. Rap music is the source of the biggest generation gap. Among fans under age 35, 18 per cent called rap or hip-hop their favourite style of music, the poll found. Only 2 per cent of people ages 35 and over said the same thing.

Neil's Still Young At Heart

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic
 (Feb. 3, 2006) PARK CITY, Utah — His once-thick hair has turned steel grey and his sharp Western hat now provides warmth as much as it makes a fashion statement.  At 60,
Neil Young isn’t attempting to fool anyone about the passing of the years, but neither is he resorting to cardigans and loafers. His all-black cowboy attire, set off with a silver string necktie, reminds a visitor of the anti-hero Paladin from the Have Gun — Will TravelÖ TV series of the 1950s and ’60s. But the most noticeable thing about the Canadian rock icon is his easy smile and relaxed manner.  He’s rarely been comfortable around journalists, and previous encounters with him more than a decade ago were terse affairs, his answers blunt and his eyes concealed behind sunglasses.  “Come on in!” he says, extending a welcome into the Western-themed Hotel Park City suite where he’s been holding court during the Sundance Film Festival. A picture window overlooks the snowy Wasatch Range, the tail of the Rockies. He’s sharing interview duties with Oscar-winning movie director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs), the man who helmed Neil Young: Heart of Gold, an emotional concert movie that premiered at Sundance two weeks ago, signalling Young’s readiness to return to the public eye after a turbulent year mainly out of it.  The two friends are both in high spirits, pleased by the rapturous response to their movie and joking about aging, the ever-Rolling Stones and why it is that Young has suddenly become a raconteur, willing to talk about his life, family and songs on stage. He used to just let his lyrics and his guitar speak for him.  “We drugged him up!” Demme quips, bringing another smile from Young.  Fans will see for themselves next Friday, when the movie arrives in theatres. Filmed over two nights last August at Nashville’s storied Ryman Auditorium, the stage where Hank Williams made his Grand Ole Opry debut, Neil Young: Heart of Gold is a life statement that very nearly had no life behind it.
 Five months earlier, Young underwent surgery to treat a brain aneurysm that, left untreated, could have killed him, or paralyzed him. The doctors tied off the aneurysm so well that his recovery was swift and he was left without speech difficulties or other after-affects.  “They did an excellent job,” Young says, with a palpable sense of relief. “They stopped it from doing anything to me. They caught it and they tricked it. I did the concert after I had the operation, so what you see is what you get.”  And what you see is a honeyed and homey look at a performer who is as beloved for his intimate folkie side as for his hard-rocking stadium alter ego. He’s captured on multiple cameras by Demme, the restless rock lover whose 1984 Talking Heads concert picture Stop Making Sense is considered one of the finest of the genre.  The first half of Neil Young: Heart of Gold is devoted to new album Prairie Wind, with Young accompanying himself on guitar, harmonica, piano and banjo before a painted backdrop of wheat fields and grain silos. It looks like he’s actually out on the Canadian Prairies, where he and his family lived for a spell.  The second half canvasses his huge catalogue of hits, including “Heart of Gold,” “Old Man,” “Harvest Moon,” “Needle and the Damage Done,” “Comes a Time” and the film’s emotional highlight, a cover of fellow Canuck Ian Tyson’s “Four Strong Winds.”  Young calls the song “the most beautiful record I ever heard in my life,” and says he used to play it over and over on the jukebox when he was a teenager.  The film closes with Young alone on stage, singing “The Old Laughing Lady,” a tune from his eponymous debut solo album of 1969. A favourite of Demme’s, it includes the line, “You got to move, there’s no time left to stall.”
 The music is almost entirely acoustic. Young is backed by a large number of fellow musicians (including long-time guitarist Ben Keith), three male and three female back-up singers (including country legend Emmylou Harris and Young’s singer/guitarist wife, Pegi Young), a horn section and a gospel choir.  The Ryman concerts filmed were two months after the death, at age 87, of Young’s newspaperman father Scott Young, who had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In the movie, Young reminisces about how his father gave him a ukulele as a child.  “I didn’t know what to do with it, but he said, `You might need this sometime.’.”  Young Sr. could not have suspected that Neil would grow up over the following half-century to be a rock star of international renown, sharing the stage with such contemporaries as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, and penning tunes both sweet (“Cinnamon Girl,” “Heart of Gold”) and sour (“Southern Man,” “Ohio”).  When he debuted on the rock scene at end of the 1960s, as both a solo act and as a member of the politically aware bands Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the Toronto-born rocker’s plaintive yelp most often expressed his unhappiness with the state of the world.  Little did any of his early admirers think that Young would one day be performing shows, backed by his family and friends, where he’d be wistfully looking back on a life well lived.  This is the same flannel-shirted, guitar-charging artist, remember, who famously sang about how, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”  Prairie Wind has a tune called “Here for You,” which Young wrote to his 21-year-old daughter Amber when she was preparing to leave home for college.  “There was a time I used to write these kinds of songs for girls my own age,” he quips. The album and the movie are so emotionally charged, it raises the question as to Young’s career intentions. Is this a stocktaking or a leave-taking?  “Yeah,” Young says, pondering the question for a long minute. “I don’t know. I don’t know what it is.”  Demme interrupts with his own interpretation. “It’s a state of the heart. It’s not the state of the union; it’s the state of the heart. That’s what I see it as, literally.”
 Demme has done a lot of thinking about this. “Everybody talks about the Ryman being the mother church, the church of country music,” he continues. “And my little secret theory, Neil, is that that was like the confessional dimension of the church. When you were up there saying what you said, you were confessing.”  Young doesn’t comment on that, but he does allow that he’s been looking at life a lot more intensely since his health scare.  “Since that happened, I feel much more aware of my mortality. I realize that things happen and you don’t know about them. I was lucky. By accident, we caught this thing. It had nothing to do with the symptoms that caused us to go looking for it. It was just a fluke. I was just lucky.”  “And I’m very fortunate to have probably the best surgeon ever to perform the operation or the procedure.”  He’s not sure if he could tour behind Prairie Wind, his best-reviewed album in at least a decade. He may have said all he can say on the stage at the Ryman, where he played a well-worn guitar formerly owned by Hank Williams, which Young bought 35 years ago.  “Well, you know, you never know what’s going to happen,” he says, wrestling with the idea of touring once again.  “I’m sure if I went out and did this on the road I wouldn’t be telling that many stories. That’s the part, that’s the key thing that tells me it would be difficult to do this.  Because after people have seen this, (they’ll know) it’s a very sincere and original version of all this stuff. I was surprised by the emotion of it. I was pleasantly surprised and elated, actually, at the quality of the emotional communication we were able to get.  “To go out and do it again, would not be the same.”
 He clearly wants to hit the road, but his health may not be up to a lengthy tour.  “It would be fun to go out and celebrate these songs and play them live and do the show for people. But I don’t know how many times I can do it.  “You know, it’s a feel thing. We’ll just see how it happens. How the movie goes, we’ve got the album out. I have other things I could do.” Those other things include a possible Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young reunion, for an album, a tour, or possibly both.  “I have a CSNY album and tour that is out on the horizon, just a breath away from commitment. I know I’m going to do it; I just don’t know what the sequence of events is going to be.”  One thing that won’t be holding him back is his age. He doesn’t see turning 60, which he did Nov. 12, as any reason for slowing down.  “I could do this indefinitely. Willie (Nelson) is over 70, he’s out there doing it so we’ll just see what happens with me.  “Music is good that way. So we’ll see what happens. The Stones keep rolling.”  But the Stones, who are also in their 60s, don’t like to admit to getting older. There was a scandal recently when it was revealed that organizers of Sunday’s Super Bowl telecast from Ford Field in Detroit didn’t want dancers older than 45 to be on the field when the Stones perform at the halftime show. The edict was rescinded after a vocal protest by rock fans.  Young hadn’t heard of this. He laughs at it. “Who said that?” He shakes his head in wonder.  Demme interjects with a joke about an old Stones tune: “I heard that Mick changed the title of that song to “Let’s Take A Nap Together.”  Young roars with laughter as he repeats the punch line: “Let’s take a nap together!”
 If the Canadian rocker is feeling mellow about his life and music, he still retains the passion for the integrity of his art, which he refuses to compromise in any way. He had a hit in the late 1980s with “This Note’s For You,” a song about his refusal to accept commercial sponsorship, and he refused to perform at the Woodstock ’94 event because Pepsi sponsored it.  “I don’t see any advantage in sacrificing the validity of the music to the corporate world. I don’t think it shores up people’s belief in the words.”  “I still feel as strongly about it as I did in the first place. I haven’t done any commercials and some places I play where there are signs all over, that’s not my problem. They’re not paying me. They’re saying they’re presenting all the music that plays there, but they have no deal with me. I have no deal with them. They just bought space.  “And when I play a television show and it comes on afterward that this musical guest was brought to you by Budweiser or something, I’m going, `I never talked to Budweiser. I don’t have anything to do with them.’ You get (union) scale when you play those shows. You don’t get paid. So you know, they “brought” you? What the hell is that? Where is the beef? They didn’t bring anything, man.”  Does it bother him that other rock icons of his generation have sold their songs to big corporations, as the Stones did for Microsoft and Dylan did for Victoria’s Secret and the Bank of Montreal?  “No, it just leaves more room for me.” Speaking of Dylan, Young has no intention of writing his memoirs, as his friend Bob has been busy doing of late.  “No, I’m not going to be doing that,” he says firmly. “I’m just organizing my music. That’s what the songs are about. A chronological rollout of everything I’ve ever done. I think that’s the only way for me to do it.”  After more the 40 years as a composer and performer, it’s still all about the music for Neil Young. He still loves to perform live, and his songs still mean something to him, which is why you have to believe he’ll be back on the road again, and for as long as he is able to.  “When you don’t see me any more,” Young concludes, wishing his visitor a warm farewell, “you’ll know I’ve stopped caring about it.”

Between Rock And A Hard Place
 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
- Guy Dixon
 (Feb. 6, 2006) Terry McBride, who runs the music conglomerate that manages Avril Lavigne, the Barenaked Ladies and other big acts, may not be making as many enemies in the industry as thought
. In late January, McBride came out against the whole idea of major labels suing fans who have downloaded unauthorized copies of songs. His company, Nettwerk Music Group in Vancouver, will cover the legal costs of the Gruebel family in Arlington, Tex., which is accused by the Recording Industry Association of America of having 600 unauthorized copies of songs on the family computer. One of the songs is Lavigne's old hit Sk8er Boi. According to Nettwerk and the family's lawyers, the RIAA is demanding that the family pay a legal settlement of $9,000 (U.S.), or half that if paid within a certain period of time. If they don't pay, the family will likely have to fight the RIAA in court. McBride said his company could face millions of dollars in legal fees if it turns into a major court battle. "I could be out on the limb for millions of dollars. Face it. If they decide to press ahead aggressively and if [the RIAA] win, then there is payment to pay," McBride said. But he added that there is no way that the RIAA, which often sues around 750 people each time a new wave of lawsuits are announced, will stop unless "artists and managers step up and say stop. Those are the only people that can make them stop," McBride argued. "The major artists, besides my roster, they need to stop being silent and let their views be heard," McBride said. "I can't see any artist, who has all of the information in front of them, saying that it is a good idea to sue a 15-year-old fan."  Elisa Greubel, who is 15, contacted Nettwerk artist MC Lars who has a song called Download This Song. The e-mail eventually found its way to McBride.
 "It's stupid to fight it. Embrace it and monetize it," McBride said. He backs the solution often proposed by technology advocates to require some form of collective licensing. This would be a regular fee such as, say, $5 a month which the user would pay to their Internet service provider, allowing unlimited access to file-sharing services. This would then help to compensate artists and the recording industry, proponents such as McBride say. Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, countered that this would mean the "Sovietization" of the industry, by charging everyone for something only some people are using. He argued that many artists themselves are against the idea because they would lose control over how their recordings are sold. So far, apart from dissident views expressed by small, independent record labels, the recording industry has tried to maintain a solid front, arguing that the lawsuits in the United States (and the threat that lawsuits might be coming one day in Canada) has helped in the battle against unauthorized downloading. But does Henderson believe that McBride has made a slew of new enemies in the industry? "No one questions Terry's commitment to his artists, his passion about the industry. What I would say here is that I think he's mistaken about the effectiveness of the lawsuits. Our data tells us it's working. In the United States, the reason that people give nowadays for curtailing or stopping [unauthorized downloading] is either they're afraid of getting sued or they are worried about artists not getting paid," Henderson said.
 However, as the new figurehead of the counter view, McBride is a visible figure in the industry and is scheduled to speak, for instance, at the Canadian Music Week convention/schmooze fest in Toronto in a month's time. Does he expect the cold shoulder? "I don't think that the creative people are happy with their corporations' positions. They realize that suing the fans is not the right approach. But if they go public about it, they're going to lose their jobs. What I need to do is create a great dialogue, because I can talk to these people and I can talk to the [company] chairmen head on," he said.

U2 Rocker Offers Help To Victims Of Katrina

 Source: Solvej Schou, Associated Press

 (Feb. 4, 2006) LOS ANGELES -- With a long-held affection for New Orleans, a city he calls "very unique and very special," U2 rocker The Edge felt compelled to try to help it recover from hurricane Katrina. The result: Music Rising, an organization that provides instruments to musicians blasted by the storm. The city especially took hold of his heart in 2001 after he and the band, while playing there, suffered a catastrophe back home. A storage area in Dublin where they kept a lot of instruments was wiped out in a flood. "Luckily," he recalls, "my main guitars were with us in New Orleans . . . the Gibson Explorer that I've had since I was 17 years old, and the amplifier I've used on every album for every show since we got a record deal." Four years later, after Katrina blew through New Orleans, the memory of that good fortune led him to create Music Rising, along with Gibson Guitar, the Guitar Center Music Education Foundation and the MusicCares Foundation. For The Edge, a.k.a. David Evans, that relief work topped off a packed year of touring and five Grammy nominations for U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. The Grammys will be handed out Wednesday. The normally soft-spoken guitarist, 44, grows passionate when he talks about Katrina's impact and his efforts to help with Music Rising. "When I heard about the hurricane, the devastation of the city and the area, I pretty soon started thinking about the musicians, started to think about the cultural loss, not just to New Orleans, not just to America, but really to the world," he told the Associated Press. Does that mean he's planning to follow band-mate Bono's worldwide activist footsteps? Not likely, he responds.
 "Bono is kind of a one-off character in music. His skills as a communicator are amazing, and his powers of persuasion are equally amazing," he said, smiling. "I would never think of trying to take on quite that level of commitment." True, but New Orleans's mark on the modest musician -- known for his humility as well as his thunderous melodies -- runs deep. In the early nineties, a visit with Bono to a small New Orleans club had an unexpected impact. "We walked in and the place was jumping. There was this little funk band, but they were all playing brass instruments, which is something I'd never heard of or seen before," he recalled. There, the pair saw a 12-year-old trombone player named Trombone Shorty. "We were just mesmerized by him," The Edge said. He returned last November and found a different city -- one torn apart by natural disaster and a lack of aid.

'Runaway' With Bradley Leighton 'Back To The Funk'

 Source: Rick Scott, Great Scott PR,
(Feb. 3, 2006) One of the coolest things to come out of the 1970’s was groove-heavy jazz-funk.  Alto flutist Bradley Leighton fondly recalls the halcyon days of bellbottoms, platform shoes, fur coats, big hats and lots of gold jewellery on Back to the Funk, which was released by Pacific Coast Jazz.   Leighton’s third album features booty-bumping funk, seductive R&B, chill jazz nuances, and lilting pop hooks produced by Allan Phillips.  Presently collecting adds at radio is “Runaway,” a driving feel-good joint boasting a full horn section and a fiery exchange between Leighton’s scorching alto flute and a sweaty, bellowing sax. Having previously released two critically-acclaimed albums that delved into straight-ahead jazz with occasional splashes of Latin rhythms or R&B grooves, Leighton wanted to fully indulge his love of jazz-funk.  He co-penned five tracks for Back to the Funk that reveal some of his musical influences: the Brecker Brothers, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Tower of Power.   Leighton also set out to prove that in the contemporary jazz world dominated by guitars and saxes, the flute can also be soulful and funky.  Real guitar, piano, bass, drums, sax, trumpet and trombone give the production an organic sound.  Leighton’s alto flute gracefully leaps above the muscular horn arrangements and rhythmic R&B base to deliver eloquent jazz-pop statements.   In addition to the original material, the artist covers three classics: Stevie Wonder’s “Love Light In Flight,” Ray, Goodman & Brown’s “Special Lady” and Bread’s “Make It With You.”    Although the album was just released, the critics are already taking notice.  L.A. Jazz Scene wrote, “Mesmerizing backbeats, programmed drum rhythms, wah-wah synthesizers and flowing horn melodies weave with the leader's deep-throated alto flute for a significantly vibrant effect.  Leighton's horn section works well with him in a spot-on performance that features expertly synchronized melodic lines…These songs carry powerful memories, and Leighton's soulful flute brings them around clearly…it succeeds in reminding us that music remains the lifeblood of what inspires us every day.” enthused, “The album’s a knockout, and should do extremely well for the talented artist.  This Seattle native, in San Diego since 2001, once again shows us why jazz flute is one of the most sensual instruments around…Bradley Leighton’s Back to the Funk is loaded with inventive, inspired playing…”
 During the month of February, “Runaway” will be heard in select movie theatre chains across the U.S., including United Artists, Regal, Edwards and Hoyt.  Plans are underway for Leighton to mark the album release with intimate club performances with his band in Renton, Washington and in San Diego, California.  Last week, he participated at the International Association of Jazz Education conference in New York City.   Leighton debuted in 2003 with a collection of jazz standards on the Groove Yard CD.  Last year’s Just Doin’ Our Thang straddles the line between traditional and contemporary jazz.  It consists of fresh interpretations of standards along with four original compositions that find Leighton backed by a Hammond B3 organ trio.  The album has been hailed by such respected outlets as JazzTimes, Audiophile, All About Jazz, All Music Guide, and the San Diego Reader and was nominated for “Best Jazz Album of the Year” by the San Diego Music Awards.   Pacific Coast Jazz is distributed in the U.S. by Big Daddy Music and in the United Kingdom by The Woods.  Additional information about Leighton can be found at    

A Bluesman Who's Aging Well: Colin James

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

 Colin James and Cowboy Junkies
 At Massey Hall
 In Toronto on Saturday
 (Feb. 6, 2006) The bounding boy blues-rocker is now a man, age of 41. Now, don't get it wrong --
Colin James, the Regina Kid, is neither paunchy nor grey. In fact, in blue jeans and an untucked button-down shirt, the singer-guitarist was presentable and spry on Saturday, even taking a trademark jaunt through the crowd at Massey Hall, bending a Stratocaster's blue notes as he took to the red carpeted aisles. But something was different here. The number James walked to was the set-closing Keep On Loving Me Baby, a swinging Otis Rush blues that meandered with quotes from Howlin' Wolf and the obscure Jessie Mae Hemphill. His version dates back to 1990, and can be grouped with other James hits of the era -- the cute and excitable Five Long Years, the guitar bravado of Voodoo Thing or the oversold emotion of Why'd You Lie. The crowd, one suspects, would have loved to hear those songs, but James chose instead to concentrate on his latest album, the confident blue-eyed soul of Limelight. Here was either a sign of an artist's maturation or just plain good sense: the showoff shenanigans of youth rarely age well, and James's old flash would be no exception. What has aged well is James' voice, always a soulful instrument, but now better employed. As a spitfire young'un, James could try his hand at Stevie Ray Vaughan's hurricane guitar, but the deep blues voice was unapproachable. With the material of Limelight, James looks to other heroes -- singers who are titans, but surprisingly within range.
 On the show opener, Better Way to Heaven, we heard Van Morrison. The hooky, up-tempo When I Write the Book, though composed by Nick Lowe and Dave Edmonds, sounded like an old Sam Cooke outtake. And the Blind Boys of Alabama might have perked their ears to Far Away Like a Radio -- "atheist gospel," according to James, but essentially a slower, darker version of his Just Came Back from 1990.  A rendition of If You Need Me paid tribute to the late Wilson Pickett, and Bobby (Blue) Bland would have to approve of the last of three encores, Ain't Nothing You Can Do (for a Heartache). Both those numbers, and all the rest, were completed by a band that included a pair of horn players and Colin Linden. The hirsute, ever-grinning guitarist traded slide licks with James on the rocked delta blues of Dylan's Watching the River Flow. "I've done the same old trick so many times," James sang on the Van Morrison-ish Limelight, "looking for a way to make it new." He's found it: The new James is a good James -- sha la la, sha la la. Before James, we heard an opening set from the Cowboy Junkies, local suppliers of noir, countrified ballads for nearly two decades now. Judging solely from their set, it doesn't appear the band's approach has changed much over the years. The band (including an accordionist, harmonica player and Margo and Michael Timmins on vocals and acoustic guitar, respectively) stuck to stools and chairs. Whether performing their own material (such as 1992's Black Eyed Man) or covers (Springsteen's You're Missing from the recent Early 21st Century Blues), the presentation was uniformly narcotic and melancholic.  It could be said that the Junkies make others' songs their own, but, really, that would sound too much like praise. Twenty years of musical brooding become less and less an artistic statement, and more a cause of clinical concern.
 It must be said that singer Margo, dressed in black and looking very Geena Davis-like, was much cheerier with her between-song banter than her murmurous vocal style would suggest. She humorously recalled past poor moments of her youth and compared Massey Hall favourably to Carnegie Hall, where the band had just taken part in a Joni Mitchell tribute. With that, she sang, quite nicely, a version of Mitchell's River. Attractively, Timmons seemed more comfortable on stage than ever, to the point of mocking her band's gloomy image. "Heartache and misery," she remarked lightheartedly. "We made a career out of it."  Colin James plays Belleville, Ont., today, and Richmond, B.C., Feb. 3 and 4.

Sony BMG Launches Burgundy Records

 Source: Burgundy Records via PRNewswire
 NEW YORK  -- The Sony BMG Strategic Marketing Group (SMG) announced the launch of its new record label,
Burgundy Records. The new Sony BMG SMG imprint label, which is spearheaded by Executive Vice President Joe DiMuro, is set to sign legendary multi-platinum artists and release new titles in conjunction with an innovative marketing campaign that will promote the artists through traditional and non-traditional channels. Burgundy Records marked its debut with the signing of music icons Chaka Khan and Aaron Neville. "I am looking forward to working with many of the artists that I grew up with and making their music available to everyone, including new and old fans alike,"  said Sony BMG Executive Vice President Joe DiMuro. "I am confident that Burgundy Records will be a fantastic addition to the Sony BMG myriad of labels." "I am excited to be a part of Burgundy Records and look forward to giving my existing fans and hopefully new fans some brand new music," says Aaron Neville. "New Orleans' first son" and four-time Grammy award-winning artist, Neville has a trademark angelic voice and an impressive body of work to go along with it. "I am very much looking forward to my partnership with Burgundy Records. I think that Burgundy was made for me, and I know that we'll do great things together," says Chaka Khan. As one of the most important female artists of the 21st century, Chaka Khan has continued to influence and inspire the music industry as well as her fans through her dynamic voice and stage presence. Burgundy Records is set to sign additional artists who have retained strong consumer affinity and produced a catalogue of music that is still relevant and appreciated today. The label's primary target audience will be the often under-served adult consumers who may consider themselves fans of the artists' earlier work and are eager to hear new material. In tandem with this outreach to a loyal consumer base, the label will also bring widespread exposure for these iconic artists and their new music to a contemporary audience. "The exciting thing about Burgundy Records is that it will expose legendary artists to consumers who don't even know they are fans," said Matt Stringer, Senior Vice President of Marketing & New Product Development. "Most people do not realize that today's chart-topping artists are influenced by artists that their parents grew up with."
 With the launch of Burgundy Records, The Sony BMG Strategic Marketing Group will extend its unique approach to music marketing, operating under the conviction that an artist's success is not defined exclusively by radio spins. Central to every project executed by SMG is the concept of a "360-Degree Approach." By operating much like an agency, the Group analyzes artists from every angle and promotes them through a variety of channels, including licensing, strategic partnerships, mobile applications, DRTV, tour marketing and publicity. "Artists and their labels can no longer rely on exposure through radio and video to get their new music into the hands of existing or potentially new fans," said DiMuro. "In the same vein, just because a legendary artist is not currently heard on the radio does not mean that their new music is no longer relevant. Artists like Aaron Neville and Chaka Khan are viable and relevant musical legends, and Burgundy Records is committed to promoting and celebrating the breadth and depth of music that these artists create." Sony BMG Music Entertainment is a global recorded music joint venture with a roster of current artists that includes a broad array of local artists and international superstars, as well as a vast catalogue that comprises some of the most important recordings in history. Sony BMG Music Entertainment is 50% owned by Bertelsmann A.G. and 50% owned by Sony Corporation of America. The newly formed SONY BMG Strategic Marketing Group, a division of Sony BMG Entertainment, works closely with the company's labels to oversee and coordinate activities in a variety of areas, including master television, film and commercial licensing, creative product development, partnership marketing alliances, and the coordination of joint soundtrack projects between the Sony Music and BMG label groups, as well as overseeing Elvis Presley content management.

J.D. Fortune - This Bad Boy Is For Show

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

 (Feb. 7, 2006) In 2001, the surviving members of the mega-selling Australian rockers
INXS stopped through Toronto on a media promotion tour to drum up interest in a career-spanning CD retrospective.  At that point, the band's hit-laden past was assured. Its future, four years after the suicide of singer Michael Hutchence, was substantially more murky.  It was clear that INXS wanted to soldier on. But guitarist Kirk Pengilly admitted to being at a complete loss for options on how that might happen.  He said at the time: "It's not as simple as putting an ad in the paper, saying `Singer Wanted.'"  Well, no, surely nothing as desperate as an appeal in the classifieds.  By now, most of you know the rest of the story. After an American Idol-styled TV contest that resulted in the coronation of Canadian J.D. Fortune as the sextet's new singer, INXS (version 2.0) has its first new album in nearly a decade and has returned to the road for a world tour that stopped last night for the first of two sold-out shows at Massey Hall.  It's unlikely any of this — including the scalpers lined along Shuter St. — would have been possible without last season's publicity-building boost from U.S. network TV.  Judging from the rousing ovation that greeted opener Lovehammers, a quartet fronted by Marty Casey, a contestant Fortune eclipsed on his way to the top, the house contained nearly as many fans of Rock Star: INXS as it did of INXS itself.  Casey, jumping on the bass drumming and climbing equipment all the way to the first balcony, had all the showy rock star moves down pat but was betrayed by negligible singing talent and weak, formulaic songs.  Fortune, working with much better material, wasn't nearly as limited.  Perhaps inevitably, the 30ish singer still looks more like someone who auditioned to become a rock star than someone who was born to it.
 His movements, even during stretches of apparent abandonment, came across as choreographed.  And his remarks, which were meant to sound off the cuff, almost always ended with the title of the next song the band was about to play. At one point, potential frustrations encountered on the 401 or the Gardiner Expressway were invited to "Disappear."  Hutchence had a capacity for reckless volatility that was both his gift and his undoing. Fortune, while not trying to copy his predecessor, at times suggested an element of risk, but it was all for show.  Not that comparisons were invited. Fortune, who has his own way of working the crowd, displayed plenty of stamina. And he is a strong enough singer to put across crowd-pleasers like "New Sensation," "Original Sin," "Kick" and "What You Need" without making the enterprise seem as tawdry as some of the hype surrounding it.  For that, a lot of credit goes to the band — Pengilly, Gary Beers and brothers Jon, Tim and Andrew Farriss — who can still deliver their particular brand of soul-flavoured rock with ample amounts of energy and skill. Whatever the back story, it's obvious these guys wanted a new singer because they were desperate to keep playing songs they loved. They can't be faulted for that.  Despite a heavy emphasis on songs from 1987's Kick and 1990's X, the largely weaker songs from this year's Switch blended in more or less seamlessly.  In that sense, INXS was no different from any other veteran band whose writing hasn't quite kept pace with its chops.  While the new INXS doesn't seem entirely natural, it comes a lot closer to something that approximates legitimacy than most of the other TV-hatched artists and bands that have plagued our stages and airwaves in recent years.

Boy Wonders Wow 'Em

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Terauds, Toronto Star

(Feb. 7, 2006) Everything else aside, it's pretty amazing to see a pop group that can bring all ages together in this fragmented musical world.  There was no generation gap last night at the Air Canada Centre as
Il Divo, Simon Cowell's boy-wonder pop quartet, sang its first-ever Canadian show.  And judging from the adoration these 30-somethings received, they're welcome back anytime.  Women young and old cheered, screamed, clapped their hands and snapped away with their digital devices as, in number after number, the quartet raised its voices in great crescendos of sound.  Il Divo's first two albums have ridden high on the pop charts. The second, Ancorra, released last fall, is still in the Top 10. Now, after 18 months of publicity appearances in person, on TV, radio and in print, the foursome is on their first world tour.  The journey, which will literally take them around the globe, began on Jan. 31 in Connecticut, continues tomorrow in Montreal, and makes a return jog to Niagara Falls for Valentine's Day.  Last night's was only the fifth outing on this tour, but there were signs the boys — American tenor David Miller, Spanish baritone Carlos Marin, Swiss tenor Urs Buhler and French pop singer Sébastien Izambard — were already suffering from the wear and tear of 18 months of intense publicity and travel.  Not that anyone seemed to notice or care, but Miller's voice, so strong and operatic on disc, was sounding ragged around the edges.  Classically trained singers with high voices can often sing through vocal problems by pushing a little harder in their upper reaches, but this is a game of diminishing returns. One hopes that Miller's problems were due to a passing cold rather than something more serious.

Also showing some mild signs of vocal strain were Buhler and Izambard. Marin, fortunately, has one of those cast-iron medium-low voices that should stand the test of a long tour.  Given that the sound in such a big venue is heavily miked, the electronics can pick up where the natural voice trails off, so the effect on the audience was minimal. Let's keep our fingers crossed that the Il Divo vocal chords can stand the next few months of sustained fortissimo singing and high notes.  The program was largely made up of tracks from their two albums, but there were a couple of new numbers as well: a very nice, American-flavoured piece called "Come and Rejoice," nicely introduced by Izambard on acoustic guitar.  There was also a rousing rendition of Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere" from his 1950s musical West Side Story.  Accompaniment was courtesy of a five-piece band (guitars, keyboards and drums) and a 20-piece classical ensemble that was introduced as "the Il Divo Orchestra."  The two groups of musicians were split by a central stairway that joined the two levels of the classy-looking stage.  The evening got off to a bit of a late start, which meant that opening singer, New Zealand's Haley Westenra, had to begin her short set while the audience was still getting seated.  But everyone was really there for the main act. The crowd's consensus on Il Divo? Bravi!

Hey, Hey, We're Il Divo: Opera Meets Boy Band

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

(Feb. 8, 2006) Conventional wisdom to the contrary, it is sometimes possible to look like a duck and quack like a duck, yet still not be a duck. Take Il Divo, for example. Even though the hunky, international quartet boasts that three of its four members are classically trained and likes to show off big vibratos and quasi-operatic harmonies, the truth is they're pop singers, not opera guys. Yes, they're more likely to sing in Italian than in English, even if the material in question is from the Righteous Brothers, not Rigoletto. But they sing even more frequently in Spanish, which sounds quite romantic but is not well known as an opera language. And yes, they do tour with a 20-piece orchestra (plus a rock rhythm section), and their show includes both an overture and an entr'acte. But come on -- the "entr'acte" was actually an instrumental version of Paul McCartney's Live and Let Die, and was included mainly so the guys could duck backstage and change into fresh suits. Perhaps the least operatic thing about the group's first Canadian concert was that it took place not in a palace of song, but in a palace of ice: Toronto's Air Canada Centre. "Wow, this is the biggest venue we've played," remarked tenor Urs Buhler at one point, and there were times when that size worked against the music. The amplification left the instrumental accompaniment sounding flat and tinny, like a cassette on some giant boom box, while the singers were entirely microphone reliant, something that left baritone Carlos Marin out of the mix during parts of Passera. Then again, it's likely that a good number of the (mostly female) fans on hand were more interested in seeing Il Divo than in hearing them. Certainly, there was much frenzied waving from the stands -- gentlemen all, the lads onstage invariably smiled and waved back -- and for the last number, the four sat on the edge of the stage, which allowed fans to dash up and shake hands or offer a token of esteem. A number of roses were tossed onstage, along with a few pairs of panties.

Holding some undies and pretending to check the size, Marin looked over at tenor David Miller and joked, "But David, these are not your size!" Sebastien Izambard (also a tenor, but credited as "vox populi" due to his lack of conservatory time) added: "I feel like Tom Jones." Oh, the hilarity. It's well known that Il Divo was assembled by English promoter (and snarky American Idol judge) Simon Cowell to cash in on the popularity of such quasi-operatic acts as the Three Tenors and Andrea Bocelli. Watching them in concert, however, it becomes obvious that Il Divo's master plan also draws heavily from the Monkees. Each of the four takes on a "character" based on some broad, national stereotype (Miller, the earnest American; Marin, the macho Spaniard; Izambard, the love-addled Frenchman; Buhler, the dry, meticulous Swiss) and then plays the part for laughs. So after each welcomes the audience in a different language, the banter begins. A typical exchange will have Izambard rambling dreamily about some girl he'd been kissing, only to have Buhler interrupt. "We've got to move it along -- we're already a minute and 26 seconds behind!" (Swiss precision, get it?) The music, though equally formulaic, did at least deliver the expected thrills. Nearly every Il Divo arrangement follows the same pattern, introducing each voice individually, then slowly building harmonies into a loudly triumphant finale, yet the power they pull from such pop fare as the Toni Braxton's hit Unbreak My Heart, Mariah Carey's Hero or the Vegas chestnut My Way is undeniable. It helps that the arrangements make the most of the singers' skills, cranking the climaxes by pushing Marin's baritone into its upper reaches while leading with Miller's powerhouse falsetto. But the material is equally solid, and the few unrecorded selections included Monday -- particularly Somewhere from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story -- suggest that Il Divo's act is far from played out. Il Divo performs at the Bell Centre in Montreal tonight, and the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls on Feb. 14.

Geldof Defends Musical Legacy

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

 (Feb. 8, 2006)
Bob Geldof remains confident of his legacy as an activist and a musician, whatever thoughts fellow rocker Paul Weller might have to the contrary.  The Live Aid/Live 8 organizer and former front man for the Boomtown Rats also expressed confidence, during a phone interview yesterday, that new Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper would honour commitments agreed to by predecessor Paul Martin at last year's G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, as well as live up to the Conservative Party's campaign pledge to boost foreign aid.  Weller, a singer/songwriter who formerly fronted both the punk-era London band the Jam and the poppier Style Council, will be honoured for lifetime achievement at next week's Brit Awards, the U.K.'s Grammys. He has questioned the worthiness of several past winners, including Geldof.  "What did (Geldof) win it for?" pondered Weller in an interview with the English press. "Can't be for his music, man. I mean, if it's for his charity work in Africa, then you can't knock it. But Boomtown Rats? F—k off."  Geldof, who didn't dismiss Weller's assertion, doesn't see his period with the Boomtown Rats, best remembered for the hit single "I Don't Like Mondays," as separate from his organization of 1985's Live Aid fundraiser for African famine relief and last year's Live 8.  "I wouldn't have won it for the Rats, that's for sure," he said. "But I wouldn't have won it for Live Aid either. It's a lifetime achievement. It's what you did for music over the course of your life.  "The Rats were a great band," he added. "We consistently outsold the Jam, which is probably what irritates him. The Jam were Who copyists. Then came the execrable Style Council, which was just an embarrassment. His solo stuff is better, but it's sort of Stevie Winwood-lite."  But Geldof commended Weller for his support of Live Aid, including his performance in the Band Aid single "Do They Know it's Christmas?"  Geldof was forceful in defending Live 8, both politically and artistically. The July 2 concerts, staged in nine locations around the world, including Barrie, aimed to spotlight global poverty before the G-8 confab.  G-8 leaders agreed to forgive $55 billion in foreign debt owed by 14 impoverished African countries. There was also a commitment, signed by Martin, to increase total African aid to $50 billion annually by 2010.  "When the prime minister of Canada signs his name to something — and it doesn't matter what party he represents — it's a contract. It's the word of a country. And I seriously doubt that Canada, of all countries, would renege on that."
 Geldof is also counting on the Tories to fulfil their campaign pledge to meet the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's foreign aid average by 2010, which would raise Canada's level of foreign aid to 0.42 per cent of GDP from the current 0.26 per cent. It's still less than the 0.51 per cent agreed to by most European countries. But, Geldof said, it is more than what the previous government was willing to do.  "I'll never understand why Paul Martin and the Liberals were reluctant to go down that route," he said. "It was very disappointing. So from our point of view, this is better than what the Liberals pledged."  Live 8 can be judged by the concert DVDs released in November, he said. "Live 8 was a great cultural event. Please don't tell me that seeing all those legendary bands — and the latest bands — together on a stage on Barrie is a pretty good imprimatur for the Canadian musical heritage. And the same was repeated everywhere in the world."


Bryan Adams Set To Enter Hall Of Fame

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Feb. 8, 2006) Toronto — Rocker-photographer
Bryan Adams at last will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, receiving the honour at this year's Juno awards ceremony.  The fact that the multiplatinum musician, who was such a bellwether of post-Springsteen 1980s pop, hasn't been inducted already may surprise many, especially given how long it's been since his career-defining 1983 album Cuts Like A Knife and 1984's Reckless. The awards take place on April 2 in Halifax. Adams will also perform at the show.

Madonna And Gorillaz To Open The Grammys

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Associated Press

(Feb. 2, 2006) New York — The Grammy Awards will open with a meeting of the Material Girl and the virtual world.
Madonna and the Gorillaz will perform together for the first time at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards, which will be presented Wednesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The 47-year-old pop star will sing with the Gorillaz, who will be appearing in 3-D animated color. The brainchild of Blur frontman Damon Albarn, the Gorillaz are a melding of rock and hip-hop that represents band members as cartoon alter-egos created by animator Jamie Hewlett. Paul McCartney has been added to the list of performers, the Recording Academy announced Thursday, who also include Mariah Carey, John Legend, Kanye West, Bruce Springsteen, U2 with Mary J. Blige, Coldplay, Faith Hill with Keith Urban, Sugarland and Jamie Foxx. It will be McCartney's first ever performance at the Grammys, the Academy said. This year, he is nominated for three awards, including album of the year for Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. The Gorillaz are nominated for four Grammys, including record of the year for Feel Good Inc., which features De La Soul. Madonna, who has won five Grammys, released Confessions on a Dance Floor in November. She is not nominated this year. The Grammys will be broadcast by CBS on Wednesday (8 p.m. EST).

WSO Names Mickelthwate As Next Musical Director

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Robert Everett-Green

(Feb. 2, 2006) Toronto -- German conductor
Alexander Mickelthwate will be the next music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra announced yesterday. Mickelthwate, 35, is assistant conductor at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and has been a vigorous proponent of contemporary music. A recent review in The Los Angeles Times described him as "fearless. . . . No musical style seems to faze him. His technique is first-rate, his beat reassuringly precise." He was in Winnipeg for the announcement. In a phone interview, he said he would act quickly to revitalize the WSO's celebrated contemporary music festival, which has seen declining audiences in recent years. Mickelthwate said he planned to seek new collaborations with Winnipeg's vibrant visual-arts scene, and to perform works liable to attract listeners in a visual age. "I would love to do Thomas Adès' opera Powder Her Face, or Osvaldo Golijov's Passion, or John Adams's El Nino," he said. "These are all very visual pieces." He also said he would revive the orchestra's annual composers competition, possibly combining it with a workshop for young conductors. The boyish-looking conductor was born and did his foundation studies in music in Germany. He moved to the U.S. to accept a scholarship at the Peabody Institute, and later studied with Seiji Ozawa and Robert Spano, who hired him as assistant conductor at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 2002. Mickelthwate will take up his new job in September, and will conduct for 11 weeks during his first season. He'll initially commute from Los Angeles, where he was just promoted to associate conductor for one year. He said he plans to move his family to Winnipeg in the summer of 2007. The WSO is still searching for a new executive director, following a successful recovery from a financial crisis and players' lockout three years ago.

Keith Sweat In The Hotel Business

Excerpt from

(Feb. 2, 2006)*On Valentine’s Day, R&B crooner
Keith Sweat will open the doors to his brand new hotel in Atlanta, GA.  The artist’s S Hotel, located at 395 Piedmont Ave in Midtown, boasts 294 rooms designed by Sweat himself with an eye toward pulling in the business market.  Each room comes with flat screen televisions, CD/DVD players, high-speed wireless Internet and an en-suite bathroom with bath and separate walk-in power shower. A number of rooms also have a nice view of downtown Atlanta. Additionally, the hotel offers several smaller meeting rooms, a business center, club lounge with complimentary breakfast, all-day refreshments, evening drinks and snacks, 220 car parking spaces and a host of leisure facilities, including a gym, sauna and steam room.  The S Hotel’s Grand Opening ceremony on Feb 14 will feature live performances by Kut Close, Silk, Charlie Wilson and more. The night will be filmed for a DVD.

Hot New Reggae Artiste Gyptian Hit Bound With Beautiful Lady

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(Feb. 2, 2006) Hot new reggae artiste Gyptian hit bound with Beautiful Lady   Undoubtedly the Best New Reggae Act for 2005, Gyptian continues to ride the hit streak. After topping the charts with Serious Times, he is again on top of the charts. This time, he has muscled his way to the top with Mama Don’t Cry.  However there is another Gyptian-sung tune that looks hit bound. It comes in the form of Bring it On. Bring it On is featured on the Vertex label’s Rebellion rhythm. The rhythm also features Bescenta’s Universal Love as well as tracks from Norris Man, Sojah, Xray and Pam Hall, Fantan Mojah and Bertus. Bring it On demonstrates Gyptian’s versatility with this mid tempo ditty which provides an antidote to the sameness that we hear pounding the airwaves on a daily basis.  Truth is, this song has a vibe that puts hook and melody at the top of the priority list.  A memorable song which knocks the competition with a quick swipe! Unlike his recording on the Seasons rhythm, we hope that this one isn’t pushed under the rug by radio.

Prince Remixed And Remastered By Rhino

Excerpt from

(Feb. 3, 2006) *Rhino Records will drop a two-disc collection of remastered hits and remixes from Prince on March 21.    “Ultimate,” due in stores a week before Prince's new NPG Music Club/Universal album "3121," features such Prince classics as "I Wanna Be Your Lover," "I Would Die 4 U," "Controversy," "Sexy MF" and "Purple Rain," as well as the NPG remix of "Cream," an acoustic version of "7," dance mixes of "Little Red Corvette," "Let's Go Crazy" and "Pop Life," an alternate mix of "Gett Off" and extended versions of "Kiss" and "Hot Thing."   Don’t forget, the Minneapolis native will perform as the musical guest tomorrow (Feb. 4) on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."  Here is the track list for "Ultimate":

Disc one:

"Purple Medley"
"I Wanna Be Your Lover"
"Little Red Corvette" (dance mix)
"Let's Go Crazy" (dance mix)
"Erotic City" (12" version)
"Purple Rain"
"When Doves Cry"
"I Would Die 4 U"
"Pop Life" (Fresh dance mix)
"She's Always in My Hair" (12" version)
"Raspberry Beret" (12" version)

Disc two:

"Kiss" (extended version)
"Sign 'O' the Times"
"U Got the Look" (Long Look)
"I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man"
"Hot Thing" (extended remix)
"Alphabet St."
"Thieves in the Temple" (remix)
"Diamonds and Pearls"
"Gett Off"
"Money Don't Matter 2 Night"
"Cream" (NPG mix)
"7" (acoustic version)
"Sexy Mutha"
"Nothing Compares 2 U"
"My Name Is Prince"

Mike Phillips Update: Sax Man's Dream Comes True

Source: Denise L. Mc Iver, Hidden Beach Recordings,

(Feb. 6, 2006) Santa Monica, California - So, if you think you've got all the facts on contemporary jazz saxophonist
Mike Phillips (or Mike Philly as his friends and fans often call him), check this: He's played with Prince on his Musicology Tour last year, and was all over the world, literally, with Stevie Wonder in support of the 'Fingertip's' creator's latest album, A Time To Love, and on which Mike is also featured. He's the heat behind the scorching cover of Maze's We Are One (which comes in just under seven minutes) from his sophomore Hidden Beach Recordings release UNCOMMON DENOMINATOR.   He is currently the only non-athlete who's an endorsee of the "Nike" brand (for real), and he's just been nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Artist.  But most folks aren't aware that Mike Phillips has had a long, fruitful relationship with the Civil Rights organization that began in 1989 when Mike became a participant in the NAACP's year-long mentoring and competition program known as the ACT-SO Program (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics). While still in high school, Mike was selected to participate in this prestigious program, and for four years managed to compete at the local level winning the Gold medal each year.  In 1990, Mike competed at the national level, but he lost out to another participate. The presenter that year of the medals was none other than Stevie Wonder, one of Mike's musical heroes.   "Not being able to meet Stevie Wonder hurt," said the chocolate-hued saxophonist. "I was more than disappointed.  During the awards ceremony, I remember sitting there with tears in my eyes. To any kid hoping to make it in the music biz, Stevie clearly was an inspiration."   But fate has an interesting way of working things out. Mike performed with Stevie Wonder as part of ABC Television's pre-game extravaganza for Superbowl XL just before kick-off.    And, if you're a voting member of the NAACP, Mike Philly's in the running for Outstanding Jazz Artist and he'd like your vote! And, if you're a voting member of the NAACP, Mike Philly's in the running for Outstanding Jazz Artist and he'd like your vote!

Radio Station Bans `V' Word

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Reporter

(Feb. 7, 2006) Sometimes Easy Listening isn't as easy as it seems.  Toronto radio station
CHFI has refused to run a series of promotional spots for Eve Ensler's play The Good Body, which opens next month at the newly refurbished Music Hall on the Danforth.  The reason? The commercials use the word "vagina."  This, according to the play's Toronto producer, Corey Ross, is the text of the ad that the home of "Toronto's Lite Favourites" refused to run:  "The creator of The Vagina Monologues is back on stage exposing even more! Don't miss Eve Ensler in her hilarious and poignant Broadway hit, The Good Body. March 7th to 12th at the Music Hall."  Although other Toronto broadcasters, including CP24 and EZ Rock, also initially hesitated about using the word "vagina," they changed their minds.  "It was all a matter of context," said Ross. "Once they heard that it was being used as part of the title of an acclaimed piece of theatre, they had no problems."  No other Toronto media outlets have had concerns, with the overall attitude being typified by CBC Radio's Marichka Melnyk from Here and Now.  "As long as it's being used appropriately, we're fine with it," she said.  The one exception was Julie Adam, program director and general manager of CHFI.  She turned down $20,000 in advertising revenue because she didn't want to hear "vagina" on the air.  "I know this is a fabulous event," she said. "I've heard nothing but great things about it and, personally, I'm a woman who has no trouble with saying that word.  "But our mandate on CHFI is that we're family friendly. We don't put anything on the radio that a parent could be uncomfortable hearing with their child in a car. You use a word like that and the next thing you know they're asking, `Mommy or daddy, what's that mean?'"  Adam didn't seem concerned that her fellow Easy Listening stations, or the national public broadcaster, had no trouble with their listeners hearing someone say "vagina."  "These decisions are not personal. They're made for your audience.  "If you want safe, CHFI is your station."


Kriss Turner: Her Film Offers Women of Colour Alternatives

 Excerpt from -
By Deardra Shuler
 (Feb. 7, 2006) It isn’t unusual these days to see women alone, especially women of color.  You see them dining with friends, shopping with a gal pal or catching an afternoon matinee. These women are strong, attractive, and intelligent women from all walks of life.   Many of whom have successfully carved out a winning niche for themselves.  As they push open the corporate doors, some women have managed to stash away funds, drive nice cars, and even purchase a home of their own.   These women are not unhappy.  Some even enjoy the freedom that a single lifestyle affords. Yet, for many women, the American Dream of achievement has a slightly bitter aftertaste.  Without that special someone to share their success with what is a single black woman to do.   Many ask: Where are the black men?  These women are not just seeking any black man.  They seek black men who are their intellectual and spiritual equivalents. While black women may not expect black men to match their salaries, they do expect them to be emotional and financial contributors.  With an increasingly limited dating field what is a loyal black woman’s choice?  Statistics estimate that 10 percent of black men are marrying white women. These numbers continue to grow as some black men hop color lines after achieving success. Therefore, is it now time, for loyal black women, to consider other alternatives?  Television writer/co-executive producer Kriss Turner explores these options in her upcoming movie, “Something New” starring Sanaa Lathan, Simon Baker, Mike Epps and Taraji P. Henson.
 Born in Hawaii, transplanted to Seattle, then California, Kriss Turner presently resides in Los Angeles where she writes for television.  She formerly wrote for shows such as “Sister to Sister,” “Living Single” “Cosby” “The Whoopie Show,” “Bernie Mac,” and presently “Everybody Hates Chris.” Turner’s interest in television started at age12, when director Tony Singletary first handed her a “What’s Happening” and “What’s Happening Now” script.  Turner was hooked.  “I knew I wanted to be in show business but initially I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I thought perhaps I would write a book or be a producer or director.  I ended up being a PA (production assistant).  I got folks coffee, lunches and answered phones for many years.  I did whatever it took to be around the business.  I even developed major secretarial skills as a writer’s assistant” elucidated Ms. Turner.  “But frankly, that is the best way to learn the business; from the bottom up.  People often ask me how they can get into television writing. I tell them get in on the ground floor, meet people, ask questions, observe and hopefully when ready, you will know someone to give your work to” explained Kriss.  “On my shows, my title is co-executive producer but that is really an elevated TV writer’s title. An executive producer/writer for television is usually the creator.  For example, on “Everybody Hates Chris,” Chris Rock and Ali LeRoi created that show and are definitely involved with it.” 
 Turner explained the complexities a budding writer faces when presenting ideas/scripts to the television industry. “It is very difficult for people who haven’t done television before to get into television writing and/or sell an idea about a show, mainly because the buyers who are buying shows are looking for experienced people.  However, there is always the possibility that if you haven’t developed a show before, they might pair you up with a more experienced person.  Usually, the way it works is that you have to have already written a few shows.  If you have a story concept, you would then discuss your concept with an agent, who in turn, sets you up with a studio.  If the studio likes your story the studio presents your idea to the network.  If the network likes it, they order it and then pay a licensing fee to the studio to air it.  The studio pays the writer to write the show.  The writer writes a few drafts of the pilot.  If the pilot goes over, then the brass orders 13 episodes which in TV language is called ordering your pilot to series.  Staff writers, crew, and cast for the show are then hired” continued Kriss. “I did not create the characters in “Everybody Hates Chris.”  I was hired after the pilot was written.  I am one of the co-executive producers which basically means, I am a senior writer. The show is about Chris Rock’s childhood and he contributes a lot of ideas to the show.  It’s hard to come up with ideas week after week and that is why you have a staff.  We all sit around brainstorming until someone comes up with an idea, others contribute their ideas, and before long we have an episode.  It’s truly a collaborative effort” remarked the attractive scribe. 
 Turner talked about her upcoming movie. “As an African American woman doing well professionally, I found I wasn’t doing well personally, meaning not married.  I know a lot of women like this.  They ask: “Where are the brothers?  Why are we still single?  Many successful women just want companionship. Women realize not everyone can make crazy doe. However, they do want men to be responsible. I think black men and black women often move at different paces.  Many black men grow up without fathers so may not know how to give love. But I do think men want to feel needed. Chris Rock once said to me: Black women should not be mad at black men for dating white women, they should be mad at themselves for not exercising their options. I started to think about this and eventually wrote my film.  It’s about a woman who crossed the color line.  My film opens up new possibilities to Black women.  It says perhaps its time to let go of embedded outdated ideas and discover love can come in many hues.”  “Something New” was released Friday, February 3, 2006.

Steve Martin, The Pink Panther: A Wild and Crazy Clouseau

 Excerpt from - By Kam Williams

 (Feb. 8, 2006) *
Stephen Glenn Martin was born in Waco, Texas on August 14, 1945. Over the course of an enviable show biz career, Steve has evolved from a zany stand-up comic wearing an arrow through his head on Saturday Night Live to a film star making his mark in comedies, dramas and musicals to the point where he now commands over $10 million per picture. Recognizable for his trademark, prematurely-white, thick head of hair, the gracefully aging leading man made People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful List as recently as 2003. Here, he talks about playing the bumbling, French detective Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther, reviving the role first brought to the big screen by the late Peter Sellers.
Kam Williams: How does the plot of The Pink Panther unfold?
Steve Martin: There is a murder, and the famous Pink Panther, a 70-carat diamond is stolen. The reason it’s called the Pink Panther is there’s a flaw in the center that if you look at it the right way, you can see a panther. And Kevin Kline’s character, Chief Inspector Dreyfus, is up for a prize, and he wants to solve the Pink Panther murder. But instead he hires me, an incompetent detective who will bungle it, so he can step in, solve the crime, and get all the glory.
KW: Was it hard sharing scenes with another comedian like Kevin Kline?
SM: No, we both understand that in order to play a scene, two or three people have to be working together. And if somebody’s trying to hog it, the scene won’t work.
KW: Would you like to work with him again?
SM: I’d love to.
KW: And how was it working with the veteran character actor Jean Reno? He’s normally known for action thrillers like Ronin, The Professional and La Femme Nikita.
SM: Jean is such a gentleman, and a genuinely happy person with a great joie de vivre [enjoyment of life]. But he’s also a great actor. And he brought this kind of weight. And here am I, as Inspector Clouseau, kind of dancing around and falling over while he was so solid, and his character is so kind to me. We get along as characters in that way. He kind of appreciates Clouseau, and Clouseau develops this boss relationship with him, but you know that, in his heart, he just loves the guy.
KW: How did you perfect your French accent?
SM: I had an accent coach, Jessica Drake, who did a great job, I think, with me.
KW: Do you think the role of Inspector Clouseau suited you well?
SM: It just couldn’t have been more of a perfect match for me. I went into The Pink Panther as a fan. And I was looking for something physical to do. So, the opportunity to play the role was really so exciting.
KW: How do expect audiences to respond to this movie?
SM: I hope that they just say, “That was so fresh, that was so funny,” in the best sense of the word. I really love some of our gags and our jokes. I love the cast. We had fun making it. I just think they’re going to go away repeating lines and reliving some of the gags in their heads.


Canadian Filmmaker Takes Top Writers Guild Prize

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Feb. 6, 2006) Los Angeles -- Paul Haggis's Crash won the best original screenplay award Saturday night at the 58th annual Writers Guild Awards. Haggis, a native of London, Ont., wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Bobby Moresco. Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana won the best adapted screenplay award for Brokeback Mountain, based on a short story by Annie Proulx. The ABC television show Grey's Anatomy won the writing award for a new series. AP

Freeman in ‘Jazz’

Excerpt from

(Feb. 6, 2006) *
Morgan Freeman will star as jazz great Duke Ellington in New Line Cinema’s "The Jazz Ambassadors," a script with Antoine Fuqua attached to direct. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Jazz” follows the Ellington orchestra's tour of Iraq during a 1963 CIA-led coup that would eventually pave the way for Saddam Hussein's rise to power. This will be Fuqua’s first directorial outing since 2004's “King Arthur.” He developed “American Gangster” with Denzel Washington attached to star, but Universal dropped the project over budget issues. Fuqua had also joined the Warner Bros./Icon drama "Under and Alone" until Mel Gibson decided to pull out. The director is expected to helm the Paramount drama "By Any Means Necessary" this spring.

Marvin Gaye Biopic To Star Jesse L. Martin

Excerpt from

(Feb. 7, 2006) *Finally, a feature film about the life of
Marvin Gaye has been given a green light. Jesse L. Martin, star of NBC’s “Law & Order” and the feature film “Rent,” will portray Motown’s finest in the independently-financed film “Sexual Healing,” due to begin production in May. The movie, to be directed by Lauren Goodman from her own script, will focus on the years preceding his sudden shooting death at the hands of his father on April 1, 1984, one day before his 45th birthday. The film will include his self-imposed exile in Europe after years of battling drugs, domestic issues and label headaches. There, he was rescued by a promoter who helped Gaye record his biggest-selling album, "Midnight Love," supported by his comeback smash, "Sexual Healing."   “More than just being the voice of a generation, Marvin Gaye proved to be its very heartbeat,” Goodman told the Hollywood Reporter. “As a filmmaker, I was drawn to tell the story of a human being who was never fully realized, one with faults and foibles and an uncommon grace expressed every time he picked up the microphone.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, producers have been trying for years to get a Marvin Gaye biopic off the ground.  Originally, “Sexual Healing” was intended to cover a larger portion of his life but was refocused on his final years because of rights issues with his Motown-produced records.

Toronto Festival Names Documentary Programmer

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Feb. 8, 2006) Toronto -- The well-regarded documentary director, lecturer and journalist Thom Powers has been hired by the Toronto International Film Festival as its new program head for international documentaries.  In this capacity, the New York-based Powers has considerable sway in helping documentary films receive wide public notice.  Powers is known as much for his programming work and teaching as for his own documentaries. A lecturer at New York University, founder of the production company Sugar Pictures and documentary programmer in Manhattan, he is working on a history of American documentaries called Stranger Than Fiction.  He replaces documentary programmer Sean Farnel, the festival said yesterday.


CBC Names New Chief Of Programming

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Gayle MacDonald
 (Feb. 2, 2006) CBC Television named
Kirstine Layfield as its long-awaited executive director of English-language programming yesterday, ending a five-month search for an executive who now faces the unenviable challenge of boosting the network's lacklustre ratings and seriously revamping its drama schedule. The 38-year-old Layfield, who most recently was a senior vice-president in charge of lifestyle content for the lifestyle channels at Alliance Atlantis Communications, said yesterday she has the grit, determination and experience to take on this new role. "CBC came knocking, which was interesting and flattering," said Layfield, who is married to a high-school teacher and has two young daughters. "Here [at Alliance Atlantis] I have a good track record of ratings increases, year after year, that far surpassed the industry average. I see that as the direction they want to go in." Layfield added she was drawn to the public broadcaster because it was "an opportunity to try something new . . . and bring a fresh eye to the CBC programming and line-up. I bring international, domestic and U.S. experience to the table. I want to make some great Canadian programming that resonates with an audience. And I am very audience-centric." A graduate of University of Toronto, Layfield has worked 20 years in broadcasting, including positions as a senior vice-president, programming, at Hallmark Entertainment, where she oversaw the programming of 17 international cable and satellite broadcast channels distributed to over 50-million viewers. Earlier in her career, she had a connection to CBC as general manager and vice-president, programming, for Trio/Newsworld International, a CBC/Power Corp. joint venture. Prior to this, Layfield spent over 10 years in international program distribution, culminating in the role of senior vice-president of Paragon Entertainment's distribution division. In her role at Alliance Atlantis, Layfield had overall programming responsibilities for the company's eight lifestyle channels, including BBC Canada, National Geographic Canada and Home and Garden Television.
 Also yesterday, Richard Stursberg, executive vice-president CBC Television, named CBC veteran Christine Wilson as deputy program director. Layfield fills a vacancy created after Slawko Klymkiw, who formerly held the position for nine years but quit last August. He is now head of the Canadian Film Centre. Layfield's official start date has not yet been determined, but Stursberg told CBC employees in an internal memo that she will be installed at the CBC in March. In the memo, Stursberg told staff that "we chose Kirstine after a comprehensive search, both inside and outside the CBC. I personally interviewed a large number of potential candidates for this key position, and I am convinced that she is the ideal person for the job. She brings us a wealth of national and international experience, plus a deep understanding of and commitment to our special role here at CBC. "Ours is an increasingly competitive industry, and our audience's expectations of their public broadcaster continue to increase exponentially," added Stursberg. Stursberg said Layfield will work closely with him and senior management. "Kirstine will establish, articulate and implement a strategic vision and overall direction for English Television on a multi-year basis. She will also be working closely with the program area heads to co-ordinate the development and commissioning of programs from both in-house and independent producers, acquiring completed programs from domestic and international sources, and leading the scheduling process. Kirstine will also be responsible for ensuring that CBC Television's program schedules meet agreed performance targets, including audience and financial measurements, mandate, policy and regulatory requirements, and public value."
 Yesterday, Ian Morrison, spokesman for the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, said Layfield's appointment is a critical position inside the institution "because Mr. Stursberg lacks programming experience and scheduling experience. It's been left vacant way too long and Sturberg has been under pressure from the CBC board of directors to fill it." Morrison added that while Layfield's resume looks good, she has a low profile in the industry. In recent days, CBC executive Rae Hull, senior director of network programming, was rumoured to be a front-running candidate. Norm Bolen, executive vice-president of Alliance Atlantis (and Layfield's former boss) sang her praises yesterday, saying "she is one of the best schedulers I have ever come across. We're sorry to see her go, but it's a great thing for public broadcasting, who needed to hire the best person they could get, inside or outside of the corporation. She's very results oriented, and she know how to increase audiences. That's what the CBC needs."

Chappelle Says Stress Caused Him To Walk Away

 Source: Associated Press

 (Feb. 4, 2006) Chicago — Dave Chappelle told Oprah Winfrey he was stressed out and not crazy or on drugs when he abruptly left his hit Comedy Central show last spring during production. In his first television interview since ditching Chappelle's Show in May, the comedian said that after he signed a $50 million deal for the third and fourth seasons in August 2004, too many people were trying to control him and his show. "I wasn't crazy but it is incredibly stressful," Chappelle, 32, said during his appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show that aired Friday. "I felt in a lot of instances I was deliberately being put through stress because when you're a guy who generates money, people have a vested interested in controlling you," Chappelle said. Last May, with the premiere date looming for the third season, Chappelle stunned his fans and the entertainment industry by leaving the show in mid-production. He spent two weeks in South Africa before returning home to his farm near Yellow Springs, Ohio, about 110 kilometres northeast of Cincinnati. Chappelle has since resumed performing live standup. The provocative comedian denied reports that his mysterious departure was caused by mental or drug problems. But he told Winfrey that other people were trying to get him to take psychotic medication when he decided to leave the show and country, without telling anyone except his brother before he left. Chappelle stressed that the fame that grew as his show became increasingly popular wasn't the problem, but the environment he faced at Comedy Central. "I would go to work on the show and I felt awful every day, that's not the way it was" he said. "I felt like some kind of prostitute or something. If I feel so bad, why keep on showing up to this place? I'm going to Africa. The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching."
 The comedian did not rule out returning to film the rest of the third and fourth seasons of Chappelle's Show but only under certain circumstances. For example, Chappelle said he would like to donate a portion of the proceeds from DVD sales to the less fortunate. The status of his show has hung in limbo since May. Comedy Central announced in December that four half-hour episodes of Chappelle's Show — based on what Chappelle taped before leaving the production — will premiere in weekly airings this spring. A full season would have been between 10 and 13 episodes.

McKellar's First Radio Victim: Oprah

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jim Bawden, Television Columnist

 (Feb. 4, 2006) It turns out the CBC was looking for somebody to host a new radio series called High Definition, an up-to-the-minute guide to television's influence on contemporary pop culture.  There really was only one Canadian who truly fit the bill. You want twitchy, ironic, pop-savvy, self-aware? Try
Don McKellar of Twitch City, Last Night and Childstar fame.  The first hour is on this morning at 11:30 on CBC Radio One and it will run eight weeks, with more to come if McKellar's equally twitchy fans can rouse themselves to turn on the radio at (for them) such an early hour.  To begin the series, there was only one possible choice of subject, McKellar says in a phone interview.  "Oprah. She's in the news again after her James Frey interview," he says of the recent episode of Oprah Winfrey's show in which she attacked the author for falsifying elements of his autobiography. McKellar calls that piece of television "riveting," although some viewers felt sorry for the cringing Frey.  To get things rolling on this morning's show McKellar calls Oprah's Chicago headquarters to talk to the great lady herself. Big surprise! She doesn't answer, but a secretary does, who reroutes McKellar to a voice recording from the PR department.  I ask McKellar what would have happened had she answered. "It would have become a different show," he says simply. Not better, just different, since McKellar manages to find his own spin:
 ·  He speaks to a Sierra Leone talk show host who has patterned herself after her heroine. She first started listening to The Oprah Winfrey Show from bootleg tapes smuggled into her country by relatives.
 ·  Outside the Oprah studios a CBC soundman collects the feelings of fans waiting to get in. One suggests Oprah should be a candidate for the Nobel Prize, which may not be a completely outlandish idea.
 ·  UN ambassador Stephen Lewis talks about her sadness at meeting disadvantaged people and how much money she has funnelled into UN projects.
 But McKellar can't stop thinking about her kitchen's pewter accessories. And, he's right — she does flaunt her wealth, but it seems to be something fans like.  McKellar says each episode will be taped the week it runs, so themes will be fresh. Future subjects might include terrorism on TV or the Olympics.  And after the initial eight-week run of the show, who knows? McKellar could become Canada's Oprah Winfrey.

T.O.'s J.D. Moves To CNN

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -  Vinay Menon, Television Columnist
 (Feb, 2, 2006) After nearly 16 years with CBS, Toronto's
John Roberts is headed to CNN.  "Change is sometimes daunting," Roberts said yesterday. "It's difficult to tear yourself away from the familiar.... But change can also be energizing and invigorating."  CNN announced its prized hire yesterday, ending speculation about Roberts' future. Just a few months ago, he was touted as the leading candidate to replace Dan Rather on The CBS Evening News.  "It sort of became clear toward the end of last year when new management came in to CBS that they were looking in a direction other than mine," Roberts said. "I had been at the White House for about 6 1/2 years. It was probably time for a change."  Roberts, who joined CBS in 1992 after burning up Canadian airwaves at Citytv and CTV, wouldn't comment on possible discussions with other networks.  He joins CNN on Feb. 20 as "senior national correspondent."  "When you're a reporter, what do you want to do? You want to report. And you want to get your stories on the air. (CNN) is a terrific place to do that."  Roberts will cover a range of stories, breaking and feature, and plans to spend time on investigative pieces. He will remain in D.C. but expects to travel.  "The sky's the limit," said Roberts, now 49. "This is a huge country with more news than you could ever report. So it will be really a matter of picking and choosing the great stories."  CBS News is in the midst of an identity crisis. Last March, a flawed 60 Minutes II report by Rather on George W. Bush's military service triggered a firestorm. More recently, CBS News president Sean McManus — who replaced outgoing Andrew Heyward, a supporter of Roberts — said he was looking outside the network for Rather's replacement. (CBS veteran Bob Schieffer, who is anchoring now, does not want the job on a permanent basis.)  "There's no question that, speaking as a CBS employee, it's gone through some difficult times," said Roberts. "But it has a good management team in place that's trying to turn it in a winning direction."  
 So would he have stayed if CBS had offered him the anchor job?  "Well, they didn't," he said. "So it's a moot point."  The move reunites Roberts with CNN president Jon Klein. The two worked together at CBS in the '90s. Roberts said CNN viewers can "expect me to throw every ounce of my energy, drive and determination into putting the best product that I possibly can on the air."  The Emmy-winning correspondent, who anchored the Sunday edition of CBS Evening News for more than a decade, covered Tuesday's State of the Union address.  "I've treasured every moment that I had at CBS. It was an honour just to play some modest role in that fine institution's history."  I had one last question, which Roberts dismissed with a laugh: When you see that damn Lou Dobbs, could you please put him in a headlock?  "That will be for you to do, not me."

Music Plays A Starring Role: Love Monkey

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem

 (Feb. 6, 2006) PASADENA, Calif.—True romance, male bonding, music industry intrigue, snappy one-liners, two affable Canadian actors ... and you can dance to it.  As originally pitched — and conceived in the novel by Kyle Smith —
Love Monkey was the story of a single journalist looking for love in all the wrong places.  Not the most exciting world (and you can trust me on this one) in which to set a weekly romantic comedy series.  Apparently, CBS didn't think so either.  Which is why, in the very well-received new CBS hour (airing there Tuesday nights at 10, Mondays at the same time here on Global), former Blue Light pitch man Tom (Ed) Cavanagh's character, Tom Farrell, is an indie record-label talent wrangler and not a lowly, ink-stained wretch. Fellow frostback Jason (90210) Priestley plays his plastic surgeon pal.  "CBS was very excited about the show," says creator/producer Michael Rauch. "And they brought up the possibility of changing careers for Tom, putting him in a different venue. So I spent about two days thinking of different ideas ... all of them really, really bad."  And then, inspiration: "I had a friend in New York who was an A&R (artist and repertoire) rep. I hung out with him a lot, and after work we'd go out and hear bands play in Manhattan at midnight, 1 in the morning, 2 in the morning. And there was something very exciting about that lifestyle and something very alive.  "There is also something about the music industry that I find fascinating, especially at this time, when it seems to be in such flux.  "I kind of feel like we lucked into a world that hasn't been dealt with that much on television. And it's become this really fun story engine for us."
 It works both ways. As much as the music motif has meant to the series' storytelling, there is the reciprocal effect a weekly network showcase can have on the actual featured music.  The man in charge of finding that music — essentially, the show's real-life equivalent to Cavanagh's fictional Tom — is the well-respected industry veteran Nic Harcourt.  So far, says Rauch, "We've had two bands that Nic has recommended: She Wants Revenge, which is in our third (this week's) episode, and a band called Si Se, which is in our fifth. I had never heard of either of them. But I went on iTunes last week and they both were on the cover page. So that was a really good sign.  "It feels like, with Nic's help, we're kind of staying as close as we can to the cutting edge of new indie music."  "There's plenty of really good music out there," allows Harcourt, the influential L.A. DJ credited with jump-starting the careers of Dido and David Gray.  "When you talk about other shows, and bands playing on other shows, I think the key difference with Love Monkey is that music is a character of the show," he insists.  "The show is about music. It's not just putting a band in a bar. (Tonight's) episode, where She Wants Revenge is featured, Tom's character says, `Come on. Let's go see this band.' It's a part of what's going on. It's not just they happen to be in a club and there's some band playing.  "In some cases, obviously, music is just used as underscore and you can't really tell what it is. But we're using music, I think, in a way that's a little bit different from that.  "There have been other programs in recent years that have used music a lot and have exposed artists that can't get played on the radio. And those artists see a huge amount of interest just from being played on a show, let alone an appearance on a show.  "So it's another way to get the music out there. And as the music industry stumbles along, trying to figure out how to break new bands, with radio in general not being receptive to playing new music, then television becomes another option."  And it's an option even signed artists are anxious to exploit.
 "Part of the problem," acknowledges series star and co-producer Cavanagh, "is when you get an established musician who's willing to do the show, you know, can they act? So far we've been really fortunate. And I think that we would be able to marry the slightly independent unknown thing with a couple of established names everyone will recognize.  "We've had LeAnn Rimes, Ben Folds and Aimee Mann on. And I think there's an immediate connection to those type of people, because you already have a relationship with them through their music."  And then there are those — well, one, anyway — for whom that relationship and the TV exposure are more or less simultaneous.  And by that I mean Teddy Geiger, the 17-year-old singing/songwriting sensation who plays "Wayne" — essentially himself — as the fictional Tom's fictitious find.  "One of the great fears that I had when writing the pilot," confesses Rauch, "was that since one of the issues that Tom, the character, is going through is kind of being stuck between adulthood and childhood, I thought it would be fun to put him with a kid in the first episode, knowing that never in a million years could we find a kid who could do it.  "And the second the show sold, Sony said to me, `We have your guy.' And my first reaction was, `This is going to be a war, because this guy is going to be terrible and they're going to try to shove him down our throats. And we're not going to want him.'  "And they gave us Teddy Geiger and said, `Check him out.' And we all just fell in love with him. And both musically and also as a presence, as an actor, as a person, he totally helped make the pilot work."

Symone, Tyler Star In Lifetime’s ‘For One Night’

 Excerpt from
(Feb. 6, 2006) *Tonight, Raven-Symone stars in a Lifetime original movie inspired by the true story of an Atlanta area student whose actions helped end her high school’s 31-year-old tradition of holding segregated proms.  The kicker?  This desegregation happened only four years ago. “I was not surprised at all,” said Symone, who stars in the film “For One Night” as high school senior, Brianna McCallister.  Symone says she has pretty much “been a part of racism” growing up in Atlanta. “But I was surprised when there was a girl who actually stuck through it to the end and took all of the pain and suffering that she went through and just kept going.  I was surprised at that because most people are too scared to go all the way through to the finish line.  They’ll just sit there, and hopefully somebody else will take over.  But she had enough strength, so I was more surprised at her story than the actual situation.” The actual situation was sparked by Gerica McCrary in real life. Before her stand in 2002, Taylor County High School had two proms sponsored by parents and students – one for the whites and one for blacks. It has been this way since 1971, the year Taylor County High - located midway between Columbus and Macon - stopped sponsoring a prom altogether.   Through the years, the two races would mingle freely in the hallways and outside of school, but on prom night, the blacks and whites parted ways, and that’s just the way it was. While students throughout the years had gotten used to the tradition, it just never sat well with McCrary.  
 “We attended a public school facility, this is not the civil rights era anymore,” she said of her decision to protest the segregation. “A lot of changes have been made, a lot of diversity and unity has also been made. We listen to the same music, we hang out together outside of school.  And I feel like we need to be united 100 percent in all ways, not just outside of school. We should also attend the same prom.” At Taylor County High, preparations for the senior prom begin in one’s junior year. It was at that time that McCrary started planting the seeds of change among her fellow classmates. Just weeks before the big night, word of McCrary’s movement reached local journalist Shandra Hill Smith, 34, who had grown up in the area and attended her all-black prom while her peers attended the all-white prom. After speaking with McCrary on the phone and getting her blessing to pitch the story to national publications, Smith began working the phones.  “The first people I reached out to were the national networks, ABC and CBS,” said Smith, played in the film by Aisha Tyler. “I also e-mailed the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show,’ BET and one of the publications that I freelanced for in Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Within a week I had made a contact with the Associated Press, and the Associated Press actually wrote the story first and put it out a week after the pitches. And then everybody else kind of started coming on board. It received international attention. The BBC traveled to the prom to cover it.”  Public schools in the rural South looked the other way when federal orders came to desegregate for decades. Taylor County did not allow blacks and whites in the same classrooms until 16 years following the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that declared segregated schools unconstitutional. Many rural Georgia high schools didn't integrate until the 1970s. After that, many school officials stopped sponsoring proms, in part because of the fear of interracial dating.
 “There’s this old saying that I like to go by sometimes,” said McCrary, now a college student in Georgia. “It’s really hard going up the hill, but then once you get to the top it’s really, really easy going down.  So basically, leading up to the prom, there was a lot of tension and chaos and a lot of misunderstandings because of being stuck in old traditional ways of thinking.  But once the prom happened and everyone came together, they had a wonderful, wonderful time for that particular night.  We had our first joined prom in history, and it really made us feel a closeness to each other that we really had never felt before.” “For One Night,” starring Raven-Simone, Aisha Tyler and Jason Lewis, premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on Lifetime Television.


 ‘Lost’s’ Akinnuoye-Agbaje Delivers State Senate Prayer

 Excerpt from
(Feb. 3, 2006) *On the ABC hit series “Lost,” Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was added to the cast as Mr. Eko, a mysterious passenger located in the doomed plane’s tail section and not introduced until this season.  Several weeks ago, on an episode entitled “23rd Psalm,” viewers found out that Mr. Eko is really a former African drug lord who seems to be spiritually cleansed by his adopted identity as a Roman Catholic priest.  On Tuesday, Akinnuoye-Agbaje himself was requested by the state Senate in Honolulu, where “Lost” is filmed, to recite the 23rd Psalm as part of the political body’s traditional daily prayer. Sen. Fred Hemmings, R-Lanikai-Waimanalo, requested the London-born actor deliver the invocation after he saw the episode featuring Eko's backstory. Dressed in a gray suit adorned with a single strand of maile leaves, Akinnuoye-Agbaje told the senators: "I thank you very much, deeply, from the root of my heart because I believe this is what my mission is in life to share this practice and to create dialogue with others."  Despite a boat-load of awards and critical acclaim received by the show and its actors, including a Screen Actor’s Guild award for the entire cast last week, Akinnuoye-Agbaje, a devout Buddist, called his appearance before the Hawaii Legislature "the pinnacle" of his career. "This to me is the greatest reward because it's based upon my faith," he told the Associated Press in an interview following the invocation.


The Real McCoy - In Black And White

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
 The Real McCoy

Written & directed by Andrew Moodie. Until Feb. 16 at Factory Theatre Mainspace, 125 Bathurst St. 416-504-9971

 (Feb. 6, 2006) Did you know that one of the most prolific inventors of the late 19th century was a black Canadian named Elijah McCoy? You probably didn't and that's just how the white establishment wanted things to remain.  That's the disturbing kernel of truth that lies at the heart of
The Real McCoy, Andrew Moodie's play now on at the Factory Theatre.  Moodie was astonished to discover McCoy's identity only a few years ago, even though at one point, there were so many imitators of his work that people had to request "the real McCoy." Hence the expression.  But most people weren't aware that the man whose inventions they held in such high esteem was black, which was due to the machinations of the power brokers of the day. They felt that white consumers wouldn't purchase anything they knew a black man had created and, unfortunately, they were right.  Moodie has taken the few facts available about this man and spun them into a full-scale biography. Although it's slickly crafted and always interesting, there are times when one wishes that the political activist in Moodie had overridden the playwright.  There's a lot of material about the personal tragedies that dogged McCoy's life and although they're often moving, they have little to do with the real horror of McCoy's existence: how he was denied the acknowledgement and praise that were rightly his.  Moodie touches on the prejudice that surrounded McCoy at several points in the narrative, but the events all pass by quickly and McCoy himself is almost too saint-like in his acceptance of them.  Maurice Dean Wint turns in a wonderfully subtle and eloquent performance as McCoy, delighting in the baroque turns of language the man favoured and letting us peek inside the way his incredible mind functioned.  He also has an imposing presence that draws you towards him at all times.  The rest of the cast play a variety of roles. Particularly memorable are Kevin Hanchard as a well-meaning friend, Matthew Deslippe as one of the few honest white men and Ardon Bess as McCoy's unforgiving, fundamentalist father.  Designer Steve Lucas has given Moodie a clean-lined space filled with modular units that he can manipulate imaginatively, and Lucas's lighting is customarily impressive.  Moodie the director keeps things moving smoothly, but perhaps he could have been tougher on Moodie the writer. There are scenes that have a sort of made-for-TV glibness about them and much of the personal side of McCoy's life is depicted in a disappointingly generic manner.  Whenever McCoy grows extraordinary, however, so does Moodie, and the scenes of creation and intellectual struggle have real bite and interest to them.  The Real McCoy may not be "the real McCoy" all the way down the line, but it has enough quality to more than warrant your interest. 

The Lord Of The Rings: They Really Like It

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Michael Posner
 (Feb. 6, 2006) The critics' reviews are still several weeks away, but for the 2,000 people who constituted the first public audience of the most ambitious theatrical project in history, the verdict Saturday night was a decisive thumbs up. No matter that the first preview performance of Lord of the Rings -- at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre -- suffered a couple of technical glitches that forced the show to stop for 15 minutes or so. And no matter that, when the curtain finally fell on the $27-million musical adaptation of the classic Tolkien novels, nearly five hours (including 50 minutes worth of intermission, accompanied by drinks and snacks on the house) had elapsed. Although there were a handful of walkouts when the clock neared 11 p.m., interviews with audience members conducted before, during and after the show -- the Globe and Mail was the only media organization invited to actually watch the show -- suggest that this epic production will go a long way toward satisfying the enormous appetite for the inhabitants of Middle Earth. "It's a thing of great beauty," said entertainment lawyer Brian Wynn, after the show ended with a standing ovation. "But the world needs to know what the concept is. It's not a musical. It's not a Stratford production. It's somewhere in between. If you come expecting a new Les Miz or Oklahoma -- it's not. But I think they've pulled out the poetry and the themes better than the movies." "Very good," said Toronto teenager Andrew Buchanan who came with his father and brother. "The length didn't bother me at all. I want to see it again." "It will be brilliant," said one woman who requested anonymity. "They have work to do, but I think it will be our next Phantom [of the Opera]," the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that ran for 10 years in Toronto. Although the Globe agreed not to review this first preview, it's fair to say that the world created by director Warchus and his creative team is unlike anything anyone has ever seen in conventional commercial theatre before.
 The gnarled forests of Middle Earth thrust out to embrace the audience. The automated, cantilevered stage turns, twists, rises, falls and tilts in myriad and extraordinary ways -- at one moment, a winding forest path, the next, a soaring battlefield promontory, while wind and smoke swirl through the auditorium. Menacing orcs leap and tumble like pre-historic Raptors.  A dozen Ents --14-feet-high humanoid trees (actors on stilts) -- conduct a council of the forest.  Frodo and his fellow Hobbits run in fear of the ominous Black Riders. Michael Therriault is Gollum made animate, a writhing, wheezing, gymnastic incarnation of creepiness. The music -- jointly composed by the Finnish folk ensemble Varttina and India's A.R. Rahman -- owes more to opera than musical theatre, an almost continuous score that includes lush ballads, a rollicking drinking number (at the Prancing Pony Inn), a powerful anthem song, as well as the stirring, discordant strains of the battlefield.  Indeed, the show's sets, lighting (designed by Paul Pyant) and special effects (by Graham Meeh and Paul Kieve) were mentioned by many theatregoers as the single most stunning aspect of the production.  New York financier John Halle, who flew up for the preview, said the central question for him was whether audiences would tolerate a show that even at its optimum is scheduled to run three hours and 30 minutes with intermissions. Halle apparently couldn't; he left toward the end of Act II. "Awesome," said Bruce Lovitz, an emergency room physician from South Carolina who flew up with his eight-year-old son, Carl, for the show. Calling himself "almost the world's biggest fan" of the novels -- he's read each of them every other year for 30 years. "It absolutely meets my expectation. I like the originality of the songs. My concern was that they would borrow too much from the movie versions, but they use just enough. . . . The books are so global -- they encompass the entire human experience, different facets of the human personality. It's a wonderful escape for us on this earth to escape to Middle Earth." In his pre-curtain remarks to the audience Matthew Warchus explained that this was his second delivery in four weeks. A month ago, his wife had given birth to a Canadian son. "Births can be scary, unpredictable, painful and messy," Warchus said, "but there's nothing like being there at the beginning."

Soulpepper Triumphs In New Home

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
 Our Town

By Thornton Wilder. Directed by Joseph Ziegler. Until March 25 at Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill St. 416-866-8666

 (Feb. 2, 2006) Not many shows begin with a standing ovation, but this one did and it was well deserved.  As Albert Schultz stepped forward to start his first speech as the character of the Stage Manager in
Our Town, the applause from the opening night audience in the Baillie Theatre at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts grew and grew.  Then someone near the front stood up and the rest of the capacity crowd joined him in one spontaneous impulse.  Yes, they were paying tribute to Schultz, whose steely determination was the single most important factor leading to the opening of the new $14-million facility, but I'd like to think they were cheering several other things as well.  Soulpepper, for example, the theatre company which Schultz helped found and which has made an indelible mark on this city in seven short years.  Then there was the brilliant design of Thomas Payne, which has given us an arts space that's not only superbly functional, but warmly inviting as well. As the audience milled around the sociable lobby and clustered by the fireplace, you just knew this would be a place people would feel welcome in.  And then there was the fundraising team, led by Roger Garland, who saw to it that a wonderful creative dream could be translated rapidly and well into a pleasing reality.  With all this to celebrate, no wonder we rose as one in tribute.  And then, when the opening production had finished, another ovation greeted the cast, because this time around, fulfilment was every bit as sweet as anticipation.  Thornton Wilder's Our Town was an inspired choice to open a new theatre. It's meant to be performed on a virtually bare stage, which puts the focus on the actors who bring the story to life, and Soulpepper has always been about its actors.
 The leading roles are brilliantly played by the likes of Schultz, Jeff Lillico, Nancy Palk, Oliver Dennis, Martha MacIsaac, John Jarvis and Jane Spidell.  But with the profligacy only a repertory company can provide, leading actors like Bill Webster, Diego Matamoros and Ben Carlson dazzle us in minor parts, because tonight, when The Government Inspector opens, they'll do the heavy lifting.  It's a joyous celebration of what an acting company can do, and a true actors' director like Joseph Ziegler knows how to orchestrate their rhythms and melodies to create an emotional symphony that touches the heart.  Wilder's script plunks us down in a small New England town called Grover's Corners at the turn of the 20th century and makes it stand as a microcosm for human existence.  "This is the way we were," says the omnipresent Stage Manager, "in our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and in our dying."  And indeed, that's what we see. The minutiae of everyday existence — from a garden heady with heliotrope to the joy of a strawberry ice cream soda — these are the things we savour.  But there's a price to be paid for all this happiness and it comes in a final act that is as quietly devastating as anything in modern drama. The dead sit quietly in judgment on the living and one of the deceased finally asks the jackpot question: "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?"  This production is filled with moments of pure theatre you'll never forget: the look of loss that crosses Palk's face on her son's wedding day, the way Jarvis never quite dares to gaze in his daughter's eyes and the hairpin turns from tragedy to comedy that Schultz navigates so deftly.  But it's only right that, ultimately, this evening belongs to the young. Jeff Lillico's George is the essence of every young boy trembling on the cusp of manhood: wanting to grow but fearing it at the same time.  And Martha MacIsaac is simply superb as Emily, with a worried look that never really leaves her brow. She's an old soul in a young body, reaching out to life, wondering if it will return her boundless affection.  The scene where the two of them fall in love at an imaginary soda fountain, while an understanding Schultz dispenses wisdom and ice cream, is quite simply, one of the finest moments on stage it's been my privilege to witness in a long, long time.  But then, the evening is full of such treasures. This production of Our Town is truly ours and this town should reach out to embrace it.

A Director For The Audience

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kamal Al-Solaylee
(Feb. 6, 2006) Shortly after landing the artistic directorship of the Stratford Festival of Canada in 1975, the British Robin Phillips did something that couldn't possibly have appeased the many nationalists already up in arms about the colonial implications of his appointment. "I removed the word Canada from all our ads during the seventies," says the 63-year-old, internationally renowned director, a proud Canadian citizen for many years now, whose home is a farmhouse just outside St. Mary's, Ont. Such a simple act of erasure was a brave move from a man who had already been challenged to a duel in defence of Canadian culture, complete with slapping his face with a glove, by a Toronto theatre director during a CBC Radio interview. ("With the microphone right under my nose, you could hear me yelp," he recalls with a believe-it-or-not tone still detectable nearly 30 years after the fact.) "I thought, 'We are big enough and strong enough that when we say Stratford, people in this continent should know what it is,' " he explains. " '[We] don't mean Stratford, Connecticut.' Very shortly, that one closed and we did stand alone. . . ." Today, stories of offstage amateur theatrics or advertising chutzpah for the festival he ran until 1980 -- and returned to as guest director and founder of its now-defunct Young Company in 1987 -- may seem like ancient history or a particularly exuberant chapter of local-theatre nationalism.  Yet they are essential to understanding the fine line between cockiness and confidence, the existing order and the possible, better one, that animates Phillips as a director, mentor and soldier in cultural wars. Although we're here to talk about his current project, I Am My Own Wife -- a 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning one-person drama by the American Doug Wright about an East German transvestite -- the conversation inevitably draws on his British and Canadian theatrical roots. The production, starring Stephen Ouimette, opens this week at Toronto's CanStage after a successful run at Ottawa's National Arts Centre last month.
 He declined, quite firmly, all requests for an interview during the Ottawa run. The production was still percolating in his head and he didn't want to talk publicly about it to anyone outside of the "colossally supportive group of people" working with him on it. But today, after a friendly warning that he's not the easiest person to interview, there's no stopping him from sharing his memories and experiences -- at least for an hour. His theatre training at Bristol's Old Vic in the carefree 1960s, he stresses, was spent in the company of like-minded Canadian expatriates. In this "El Dorado" world, "what was possible in theatre somehow became synonymous with Canada." To Phillips, classical acting in British institutions and, after two lengthy visits in 1973 and 1974, at the Stratford Festival, was "confident and sure of itself, not totally with justification." Declamatory performances and a slavish attention to period details in costumes in particular created overblown acting that Phillips spent most of his professional life deflating. His first production at Stratford's thrust stage was of Shakespeare's "problem play" Measure for Measure; a show that embodied the Robin Phillips methodology. Some of its details sound like common sense and Direction 101 today, but his phrasing and his passion give his thoughts a new shine. The key elements to his approach, he says, are "detailed and deep performances that engage the heart and mind -- and hopefully the soul and the spirit -- but done without in any way flamboyantly stating a theory about a play or a playwright or whatever. "I believe that while the work is going [onstage] on a human size, if you get it right a great balloon of something opens up above the play. So when the thing is complete, you're overwhelmed by the stature of the thing that you've seen or revealed." Whether it's the words of Shakespeare or Wright, ancient Rome or 20th-century Germany, Phillips has never lost his faith in a mysterious exchange that happens at every performance between actors and audiences. A conscientious director has to de-clutter a play in order to reveal its richness. "The thing that's finally penetrating a great novel or a great play is just universal," he offers. "You have to be cutting away the extraneous to be getting to that. We suffer a bit here from what I call CBC naturalism which is not the same thing as truth. I shy like a frightened horse from naturalism." In truth, he himself has frightened, startled and bruised the egos of a number of actors over the years and has developed a reputation for being, in his own word, a "tyrant" in the rehearsal room. But it's equally true that he's given a generation of Canadian actors, both his contemporaries in age and others significantly younger, their first breaks in the business or led them to the next level in their career. Ask Martha Henry or any of the founding members of Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre Company.
 "I have such admiration for so many talented people in this country. It's a country of such amazing potential." I stop him at the word potential. Still? "Potential in the sense that I hope we never come to a finality," he continues. "The hardest thing for a director is stopping people thinking they have arrived. I'm not greatly loved for the fact that I am a tyrant, demanding more. Only because I can't bear the thought of people not achieving what I know they can achieve. That's personal too. I don't want to feel that I stopped. I want to go on re-exploring and re-discovering. But I watched many of my -- I guess I should stop calling them my babies -- arrive. I keep thinking that it's time to retire. Then if nobody else is going to get up and pull the whip, then I'm going to get up and do it, for heaven's sake." It's fitting that our interview should take place one day before Soulpepper, a company he helped launch in 1998 with productions of Don Carlos and The Misanthrope, begins its 2006, year-long season at its new theatre in Toronto. That first season was considered a triumph for Soulpepper -- for the record, I detested his production of The Misanthrope but was in a minority on that -- but aggravated what has since been euphemistically referred to in Canadian-theatre retrospectives as Phillips's "history of ill health." Like the romantic poets of the early 19th century, Phillips is a man of great passion but weak constitution. Physically, he says, "I have very little heart as far as the object is concerned. I went through a series of heart attacks when we were trying to do these two shows [for Soulpepper]. . . . For a while, [heart surgeons] didn't think there was anything they could do. There was nothing they could fasten the arteries to." Another surgeon from a different hospital in Toronto thought otherwise. "That's the reason I'm still here," he says. Other ailments, from kidney to consumption, have plagued him. "You name it," he's quick to confirm his ill-health checklist. "It comes from being born at the last remnants of the war. . . . My father was a gardener, my mother a cook. My grandparents had an outhouse john, a well, oil lamps. You're brought up on a very bad diet, really. I guess to a certain extent that's where things may have begun. I don't know. Also I haven't been very sensible. Just the amount of work. Far too many hours, stress and strain." While he admits to "coming up to refresher courses" every now and then, the hectic pace of the last 30 years are behind him now that this working-class Englishman is a Canadian country gentleman. "I get more and more anti-social. I get so used to the deer," he muses. "I get very nervous when I'm in the city doing the weekly shopping in the supermarket." As for the Stratford Festival, he sees most of every season's playbill. "There are some things where I say, 'I think I'm going to give that one a miss.' " It's that less-is-more thing again. This time it's as a regular audience member in the aisles rather than a legendary director.


Post-Gomery, Will Funding Slow Down?

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon And Kate Taylor

 (Feb. 7, 2006) Retired broadcasting executive, former regulator, member of the Canadian Broadcasters Hall of Fame: Arts organizations aren't so worried about the newly appointed Heritage Minister Bev Oda being a defender of the arts in Canada. The question is more about the current, post-Gomery mood in Ottawa. Oda is already well known within the arts community, given her long résumé and recent role as Heritage critic for the Conservative Party, arts groups say. "It's terrific that we've got a minister that's so up to speed on the whole file," said Sarah Iley, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Arts Coalition, which has been lobbying for more arts funding. "She's been a very conscientious critic, so she's very familiar with all the different issues. I think that it's really good news for the arts and cultural community, because it means she can hit the ground running."  That optimistic, honeymoon mood seemed to waft throughout the arts community yesterday. "We are thrilled that her hard work and dedication to heritage, culture and arts issues has been recognized by the new prime minister," John McAvity, the executive director of the Canadian Museum Association, said in a press release.  Yet some suggest that the concern isn't about Oda, but the new drive to make the path of money through federal agencies more transparent and accountable. The worry is that this could slow down promised funding increases, particularly the past Liberal government's pre-election promise in November to double the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts, the umbrella arts funding agency, in three years to $301-million. "The processes of the Canada Council are among the clearest and best established, and the most transparent of processes," said Alain Pineau, national director of the Canadian Conference of the Arts. "They may be improved. But in terms of accountability, we think there are other areas [of government] up for scrutiny before this one. And given the fact that [the Canada Council money] is a phased-in increase that is much needed, it would not be the right thing to do to delay it or cancel it -- which would be even worse."
 He noted that the promised funding increases will become be a major priority for his group, along with multiculturalism, tax credits for artists and the need to stop too much foreign ownership in Canadian broadcasting. Before the election, Oda told reporters that she supported the promised Canada Council increases -- "We will honour the money," she told The Globe and Mail -- but she has also indicated that there must be guarantees that the money is reaching artists. In an interview with Le Devoir before the vote, she seemed to emphasize that point, suggesting that the Conservative government would first judge the plan's efficiency before giving out the money. Oda wasn't available for comment yesterday afternoon. Unlike Liza Frulla, the outgoing minister who would sweep into a room as if perpetually attending a gala performance, but who also lost her re-election bid last month, Oda has much more of a managerial demeanour. When she was the Heritage critic for the Conservatives, there was the sight of her bending down low as she read her notes, while grilling the CBC's top brass during a parliamentary standing committee hearing on the lockout of workers. Oda was widely seen as the obvious front-runner for the cabinet job. Yet the arts weren't a major campaign issue to say the least. Granted, public funding for the arts or, for instance, the CBC rarely gets any attention as an election issue. Still, Oda's campaign website continues to make little mention of arts interests, other than to detail her background in broadcasting.
 A graduate of the University of Toronto, she taught public school for six years in Mississauga, before working for TVO, the Ontario public broadcaster, in the mid-seventies. By the late eighties, after numerous production and management jobs at CITY-TV and other broadcasters, she joined the ranks of federal regulators, becoming a member of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in 1987. She served until 1993 and was involved in helping to free up the market for long-distance telephone competition. She then jumped to various executive positions. First, she was chair of a private film funding agency, the $2-million Harold Greenberg Fund. She later worked as senior vice-president of programming and then senior vice-president of industry affairs at CTV. But for all her managerial experience in broadcasting, some note that the pressure within the Conservative government to streamline cabinet responsibilities could effect Oda's new job too. "There has been all sorts of talk about the Heritage ministry reshaped and reconfigured," with some departmental functions going to other ministries, Pineau said. However, there hasn't been any indication of this yet, he added. "It is a fact that it's a rather unwieldy ministry," from arts and culture to the status of women and sports. And Oda will now become the government's public face for all of these interests.

Advertising To Women Gains Super Yardage

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Keith Mcarthur, Marketing Reporter

 (Feb. 7, 2006) For Super Bowl advertisers, 2006 may go down as the year that women claimed a central spot in front of the TV. And a Torontoad agency was behind the ad that best illustrates the trend. Nestled in the U.S. broadcast among the usual beer and burger ads was a 45-second spot showing young girls uncomfortable about their looks. It was the latest ad in Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty from Unilever PLC. Canadians may be familiar with the ad, since a longer version of it aired in Canadian movie theatres last year. The original ad was developed and shot in Canada by the Toronto office of New York-based Ogilvy & Mather. Ogilvy & Mather's Chicago office used the Canadian footage to create a shorter version of the ad for the Super Bowl. "There were questions about whether to put something like that on the Super Bowl . . ." said Janet Kestin, creative director of Ogilvy & Mather in Toronto. "But of course, there are tons of women who watch, too." According to Advertising Age magazine, last year's Super Bowl attracted an audience comprising 44 per cent women. The Dove spot did not air on the Canadian broadcast, although a different version of the TV spot will debut in Canada this month. Some viewers have long complained that they don't get to watch most of the high-budget, high profile ads that run in the U.S. broadcast. John Farquhar, creative director of GJP Advertising, said he was able to watch U.S. commercials last year through a high-definition feed. But this year's HD broadcast included only the Canadian commercials. "I got to see a fine selection of 12 commercials that just ran over and over again," he said sarcastically. "There was not a lot to look at there, and a lot of repetition, too." Mr. Farquhar said he liked some of the Budweiser ads that ran in the Canadian broadcast as well as a new Bell Canada campaign that aired outside of Quebec for the first time. Shawn King, creative director with Extreme Group in Halifax, particularly liked a Budweiser spot in which a man builds a bar out of sand. "I remember watching it and thinking that's a different take on the whole thing . . ." he said. "I didn't know where it was going." Mr. King is also a fan of the new Bell campaign, which features two beavers auditioning for the role of Bell spokespeople.

Artist Empowerment Coalition (AEC) Announces Honourees

Source: Angela Thomas, Prana Marketing & Consulting, ,

(Feb. 2, 2006) The industry’s most influential stars and executives –
Victoria Rowell, Ludacris, John Legend, Ciara; BET executives Debra Lee and Reginald Hudlin-all to be honoured for giving back to the community during the celebrated 48th Annual Grammy week with a special posthumous tribute to Sammy Davis Jr. The Artist Empowerment Coalition (AEC), the entertainment industry’s leading social responsibility organization announced today the honourees for its highly anticipated, star-studded, 4th Annual AEC Artist Celebration Luncheon.   This year’s attending honourees include Multi-Platinum Artists and Grammy Nominees Ludacris, Ciara and John Legend. Honourees also include BET executives Debra Lee and Reginald Hudlin for answering the call to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina with their quick response with the S.O.S Telethon.  Also being recognized for outstanding community work is actress Victoria Rowell for her committed work with Rowell’s Foster Children’s Positive Plan.  This year’s event will also include a special posthumous tribute to the legendary late Sammy Davis Jr.  The exclusive event is presented by Mercedes Benz, ASCAP, Avon and Foxwoods Resort & Casino and will take place at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Tuesday, February 7, 2006 at 10 AM. Hosted by Shaun Robinson (Co-Anchor from Access Hollywood), the AEC Artist Celebration and Pre-Grammy Lunch is a celebration of music, arts and culture, recognizing those who continue the mission of “giving back.” This high profile, invitation only affair will be attended by 400 of the industry’s top artists, leaders.

“The AEC Artist Celebration & Pre-Grammy Luncheon serves as a platform for artists and industry leaders to come together, recognizing those who understand and share the importance of giving back to their community,” states L. Londell McMillan, AEC Co-Founder.  “We’re proud to celebrate these influential creative leaders who use their celebrity status to make a difference, while encouraging others along the way to reach back and help others who are less fortunate” Past and present honourees/attendees of the AEC Artist Celebration & Pre-Grammy Brunch events have included Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Queen Latifah, Chaka Khan, Tyra Banks, Danny Glover, Prince, Roberta Flack, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Nas and others.  For more information, please visit


 Founded in 2002, the AEC was initiated and inspired through the efforts of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, Doug E. Fresh, Chaka Khan, Roberta Flack, Najee and the law firm of L. Londell McMillan, P.C.  The AEC works to improve the quality of life for artists, performers, musicians, songwriters and others in the business of entertainment and for all people by preserving artistic freedoms and empowerment within our communities.   

Material Men

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Leanne Delap

 (Feb. 4, 2006) Marcus Doyle arrives at Doku 15, the new restaurant in the Cosmopolitan boutique hotel in downtown Toronto, with a clever striped scarf under his cashmere topper. "Where'd you get that?" comes from the crowd of young business types we've assembled to discuss the phenomenon of guys becoming the new clotheshorses. Shopping secrets have become the new chat subject, replacing golf for the money set.  "It's Paul Smith, one of only five in the world," says Doyle, a 37-year-old entrepreneur whose Mandeville Corporation invests in fledgling enterprises.  Doyle isn't being fey. This young man about town, seen as frequently hosting tables at charity balls as at the private Spoke Club, is wearing a Versace tux jacket over Earnest Sewn jeans. "We're no different from women," he says playfully of the drive to fill his closet. He reports that he is often asked the source of his treasures.  "Clothes are the outward symbol of the new economy," says Jeff Farbstein, general merchandise manager of Harry Rosen ( But the new Material Man is not just the by-product of today's bull market. Appreciation for design has grown steadily in the past decade, as has the acceptance of male vanity. These guys are a phenomenon beyond the manicured metrosexuals (a label as tired as information highway): They are a new boys' club cutting loose with their credit cards, cranking the style volume on the stodgy old Bay Street serge set. Indeed, it's less about impressing chicks than impressing each other, says Fernando Rego Sr., of Rego Bespoke Clothiers in the Exchange Tower in Toronto (416-366-7346). "Men used to come in with their wives. Now they get married later, they learn to shop on their own."  And they want everyone to know it: "Your tailor used to be your secret weapon," he says. "Today, the name of your tailor is valuable information to trade."
 Rego Sr. has invented a computerized measuring machine that combines old-world craft with new-age precision that appeals to this younger generation. "They have their own style, and they want something different from everyone else," he says.  That means everything from flared-leg trousers to lower waistbands on their flat fronts, which fit more like jeans than dress pants -- these boys are carrying nightclub into boardroom. The high-fashion world has also rallied to the business potential of dressing this customer. Designers the likes of Tom Ford and Narciso Rodriguez are just two who recently announced they were getting in on the men's wear action.  No doubt the sex appeal that Ford commodified during his tenure at Gucci will translate to big sales on the floor. But today's trend is more sophisticated than the label flashing of the American Gigolo era.  "In the power eighties, we'd see guys come in at lunch on a good day in the market and buy three suits," Farbstein says. "Today, we see three guys together at lunch. We are seeing a surge of young men who are laissez-faire about buying the house, and instead showing off their success with their clothes. They are in competition with each other." Chris Zownir is a 32-year-old Toronto commodities trader who has a penthouse at the exclusive Candy Factory lofts. "Even a couple of years ago," he says, "no one talked about clothes." Now, he says, "I get lots of 'Where'd you get that shirt?' "  Zownir has even started a sideline business, Cuffwear, selling Paul Smith-like, rhodium-plated novelty cuffs on the Internet to cash in on this new male consumption.  He adds that the fabled Hong Kong tailor Kay Maxwell, who flies into Toronto quarterly and was once a closely guarded financial-sector secret, is now a shared commodity.  "You get custom-made shirts for about $75. If you are sitting on a trading desk, they get covered in ink, the elbows wear out; the shirt is not the place to spend your money."
 This new sophistication (and the Visa bills that come with it; these guys are spending $1,500 and up on a suit; and of the group of seven guys, four of them had Gucci shoes) has created a new batch of old boys.  "The circle has come around, and the restraint of the nineties is over," Farbstein says. "They are living the very good life, particularly in Toronto and ever more so in oil-rich Calgary. The good life is about good clothes. And great accessories." Some guys find the drive to shop has led to problems commonly associated with women's closets. The owner of Doku 15, Zark Fatah, has had to put a clothing rack in the dining room of his downtown condo to accommodate his burgeoning collection of Dolce & Gabbana, Cavalli and Zegna duds. He blew the bank on a $2,200 (U.S.) Dolce three-piece in Bal Harbour recently.  Like Zownir, though, he has concerns about living hard in his duds. He "doesn't want to spend so much on clothes that might get red wine spilled on them" so gets his shirts custom cut in bulk. After all, he is a restaurateur -- his other hot spots are Blowfish and Century Room. "Guys see my Z monogram and ask me where I get them," he says of the $200 shirts that come in "punchy" colours. (Yes, $200 is cheap for these boys.) His business partner, Antonio Tadrissi, is sporting Alessandrini threads, a Prada shirt and logo-laden Gucci shoes. He's all about European men being way ahead on the wardrobe mania.  "Here, people will respond with the big labels when you ask them what they are wearing. They will tell you Armani. In Europe, it is more subtle. It is normal for men to talk to each other about clothes." Campbell Beecher, 32, who is a partner at Bearbeech, a private investment firm, is a holdout on the trend, maintaining that despite his Armani suit, he doesn't discuss fashion with his business contacts. He does, however, admit to a hoard of some dozen other suits in his closet at home, and a Cartier watch.  "I guess I've heard other guys talking about clothes. But I have never asked anyone where they got anything." Contrast that to Zlatko Starkovski, 28, a former developer who has embraced fashion fully with his Muzik entertainment venue, the site of last season's Toronto fashion week. "I've been shopping forever," he says, "since I discovered Versace."  And these guys are loyal to their salespeople. "Douglas is amazing," Mike Burns, 34, a senior vice-president of marketing at Clearsight, clad in Armani pinstripes with another 10 little numbers at home, says of his favourite Harry Rosen man. "I send all my friends to him.” Ever the forward warrior, Doyle spent this past film festival admiring a New York bouncer flown in for celeb minding.  "I finally was drunk enough the last Saturday night to ask him where he got his amazing suits. It was a little Haitian business in New York called Ron & Ron. I'm having three suits delivered to L.A. this week."

Master Of Colour Finally Gets His Due

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Goddard

 (Feb. 4, 2006) OTTAWA-It's a complete triumph.  With 59 dynamic paintings bringing a sense of occasion to all the rooms they're in, the National Gallery of Canada made
Norval Morrisseau one of its own yesterday.  And with walls bursting with colour as brash as a brass band playing, there's a feeling with "Norval Morrisseau - Shaman Artist" that the circus has come to town.  There's Indian Jesus Christ (1974) with his hands bursting into holy apocalyptic acrylic flame. There's a fiery Mother Earth reclining wantonly in Artist in Union with Mother Earth (1972), gritty evidence of the artist's sexuality.  And there's the unearthly Morrisseau menagerie of spiritual critters, including the evil cat that lives at the bottom of lakes and the sacred turtle carrying a world of blues, reds and yellows on its back.  Make no mistake about what's happening here. It's Morrisseau, the one-of-a-kind creative genius, leading this parade. Yes, he remains the great visionary shaman figure, his work testifying to the imagination and imagery of Anishinabe legend. But he's also very much a 20th-century modernist. The exhibition says nothing less.  "His standards were always very high in his conception of what it meant to be an artist," says curator Greg Hill. "He read about the other artists, about Picasso, in books. Norval wanted to be known as the greatest artist in the world."  But this triumph comes with a good number of cautionary notes that need to be sounded. Note, for starters, the growing realization that the exhibition - spanning 1958 to 2002 - comes about 20 years too late.  The National Gallery is shamefully misguided in taking any measure of pride in the fact that this is the first solo show from an Indian artist in its 126-year history. (For the record, Inuit arts have been given a fair rattle at the gallery, which has also previously placed Morrisseau in group shows.)  Note also that the artist's ability to revel in this triumphant moment is restricted by health problems, including Parkinson's disease, that confine him to a wheelchair in a nursing home in Nanaimo, B.C.  These very problems are the result of years of hard-core boozing and other unhealthy facts of living on the streets - the very unsavoury excesses used for years to justify keeping Morrisseau's rascally younger self out of our national gallery.
 And then there's the authenticity issue. The 74-year-old artist, although barely able to form a sentence some days, is besieged by lawyers, dealers, buyers, sellers, gallery owners and critics all prepared to brawl over exactly how many of the 9,000 works that have been attributed to him are in fact his own. (For a guy who's had such a flamboyant disregard for money all his life, Morrisseau is sure being treated now as a major money-spinner whose value will increase enormously when he goes to meet the spirits he's been painting for all these years.)  The good news is that Hill believes interest in "Norval Morrisseau - Shaman Artist" will help drum up financial support for the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society, which is preparing "the definitive listing of his genuine work" (a catalogue raisonZe), says Hill, to keep the Morrisseau fakers at bay. "It's an organization still looking for funding sources."  The painter's reputation was flying high after his brilliant breakthrough sold-out show that opened in Sept.12, 1962 at Jack Pollock's Toronto gallery, which landed a story about Morrisseau in Time magazine and eventually connected him to Pablo Picasso.  His status sagged in the '80s, though, when he was at times better known for his drunken episodes, and for selling sketches to passersby on the streets of Vancouver, than for his dazzling art.  Now, "Shaman Artist" has him flying again without most of the old baggage visible to weigh him - or us - down. Although somewhat compact in number of works, the exhibition offers a clarifying look into the logic of Morrisseau's enormous intellectual development, something that far too often has been treated as some sort of natural "Indian thing," like canoe-paddling.  "The way Morrisseau actually painted was extraordinary," remembers Lister Sinclair, the former host of CBC's Ideas who wrote The Art of Norval Morrisseau with Pollock in 1979, a book cited in the gorgeous exhibition catalogue.  "He'd load up the brush with a colour he'd like, maybe red, and put blobs of it here and there. He'd do it with yellow for more blobs, then with blue. Gradually the entire painting would appear. He had it in his head from the start."  The exhibition's other aim is to connect Morrisseau's shamanistic practices, his "technique of ecstasy," with the primitivism so attractive to Picasso and Paul Gauguin, and with the spiritualism of Yves Klein and Joseph Beuys - in short, with streams of European modernism.  Born near Thunder Bay somewhere between 1931 and 1933 - 1932 is the compromise date biographers generally agree to - Morrisseau early on was bent on being an artist. This was likely a refuge from a hard life that included sexual abuse at school - which he quit for good in 1947 at age 15 - and near-fatal illness in 1950 and in 1956.  At the beginning, "he used a vast image bank of spiritual creatures, ancestors and spirits," says Hill.  "Later, he freed himself up from this a bit to explore colour a little more. Those characters become containers for his colour. The later works are really more about the colour than they are about the vehicle that is containing them.  "In the later works, there's an explosion of colour. There are colour combinations that are daring.  "But he makes it all work. He's a master colourist."  The exhibition, closing in Ottawa April 30, will be at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinberg beginning Sept. 30.

'Out of Bounds': Coming Out of Sexual Abuse, Addiction, and My Life of Lies in the NFL Closet

 Excerpt from - By Kam Williams

 “There was this constant worry in the back of my head about being found out for liking men. I’d venture to say that the stigma of homosexuality among young black men is three or four times greater than it is for young white men. Because I was a football player, folks just naturally assumed I was straight … I was living a closeted life in my own little closeted world.  Nobody knew. I doubt anybody even suspected.”    -- Excerpted from Chapter 5
(Feb. 8, 2006)  
Roy Simmons played in the NFL for seven years, enjoying an enviable career which began with the New York Giants and peaked in 1984 when he was one of the famed “Hogs” on the offensive line of a Washington Redskins team that went to the Superbowl. At one point, Roy seemed to have it all. Not only fame and fortune, but he was expecting a newborn baby with his fiancée, Sheila, the childhood sweetheart he called “the love of my life.” Unfortunately, the two never married. In fact, he abandoned his daughter entirely, leaving his ex to raise the little girl alone. For not only had Roy been shamelessly two-timing Sheila with other women, but he was also very busy on the down-low, compulsively seeking out secret liaisons with homosexuals in parks, gay bars, bathhouses, men’s room stalls, anywhere, anytime it didn’t conflict with his gridiron schedule. In addition, Roy had a pretty awesome narcotics habit, over-imbibing in everything from alcohol to amyl nitrite to weed to coke to crack. So, it’s not surprising that before time he bottomed out, he found himself broke and out of football, homeless, on food stamps and shoplifting, stabbing a drug dealer, and dressing in drag to satisfy strangers at $20 a pop as a male hooker. What Roy didn’t know till it was too late to apologize to his innumerable, unprotected sex partners was that he was HIV+ and spreading a lot more than love. Anyhow, this Prodigal Prostitute has apparently finally found God, and just as importantly, a book agent, and a trio of ghost writers. And if you’re interested in the sordid details of what Roy’s life in the closet was like ought to read Out of Bounds, a memoir which is, quite frankly, a strikingly graphic and unapologetic memoir. While his co-authors might really be the ones responsible for the autobiography’s frank tone, it is only Simmons himself who emerges as unsympathetic at the end of this explicit recounting of his self-destructive road to Hell and back. Sad that the first openly-HIV NFL star would have to be a guy that’s so unlikable, his recently being Born Again notwithstanding.

'It's The Only Company That Became A Country': Hudson's Bay Co.

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Val Ross
 (Feb. 8, 2006) When a private company changes hands, that's business news. When a private company is also a national icon and repository formore than three centuries of papers, artifacts and art related to Canada's very genesis, it's news for the history books, and also for the policy-makers watching over national heritage. The issue arises because Jerry Zucker, the South Carolina financier, is taking over Canada's Hudson's Bay Co. with a $15.25-a-share offer worth $1.1-billion. "It's the only company that became a country," notes Peter C. Newman, author of Empire of the Bay. And with the transfer of the company could go artifacts and art that are part of this country's DNA. Founded in 1670 by a stroke of Charles II's royal pen, HBC was first known as the Company of Adventurers -- greedy and daring men given a charter to be "true Lordes and Proprietors" of all the lands whose rivers drained into Hudson Bay. At its early 19th-century peak, that definition encompassed 1.5-million square miles. An area of woods, barrens, prairies and tundra vaster than the Holy Roman Empire, it was traversed by trappers and mappers bringing furs and reports in to company men, who, half-mad with cold and isolation, kept and sent meticulous records back to London. "Talk to any natural scientist or historian," says Newman. "These people in their little outposts across the North are one of the only records of early Canada -- geography, geology, social history, of illnesses, weather, mosquitoes, everything." In 1994, HBC donated many of its treasures to the public. An estimated $49-million worth of documents went to the Provincial Archives of Manitoba; meanwhile, objects (carvings, early company kettles, guns and a pair of Midewiwien, Ojibwa religious scrolls -- a collection whose value is as much as $10-million) were given to the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature. And HBC established a foundation to continue to help underwrite the housing and preservation of its gift -- a model of how corporations should treat their own legacies.
 But important material is still owned by HBC, and its fate is what is now of interest. What will happen to the two HBC heritage museums, one in Victoria and one in Montreal? "Even before ownership issues emerged, the company wasn't sure how we would invest in these -- just that we would continue to do so," says Rob Moore, vice-president of corporate and public affairs.  "Frankly, they had a lot to do with our desire to be involved with the Olympics. Our history and our place in Canada is important."  As well, HBC retains a 600-piece art collection, including portraits of Charles II, Prince Rupert and the company's third governor, John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, and Inuit art, 12 carvings and 200 prints. And there are two remarkable paintings by William Berczy. Executed around 1806, they once hung in the mess hall at York Factory on Hudson Bay. Berczy's The Battle of Trafalgar depicts fighting ships under billowing sail blasting one another to smithereens. The other painting, a likeness of the dignified Admiral Nelson, bears signs of having been dented by a flailing elbow in a long-ago drunken brawl. "Generally, it's a big concern when ownership status changes," says Fred Farrell, chair of the board of the Canadian Council of Archives. He says that the rest of Canada needs legislation mirroring Quebec's strong requirements to keep and maintain material of historical interest. "No one else has such a strong sense of history, or if they do, it hasn't translated into legislative protections." Victor Rabinovitch, president and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, observes: "A corporation operates freely -- that's a given in our society. But aspects of their corporate wealth become part of our public memory. Hopefully, with a combination of good citizenship and reasonable tax laws, this heritage will some day become part of public collections."
 HBC isn't the only venerable Canadian company currently facing ownership changes. Last week, Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal became a partner in a U.S.-led bid to buy Toronto-based Fairmont Hotels. This empire includes Toronto's Royal York, the Banff Springs Hotel and the Château Laurier in Ottawa, with its antiques; its Yousuf Karsh suite once occupied by the great portrait photographer; photos of Sir Wilfrid Laurier opening the hotel and of Winston Churchill ambling through the lobby during the Second World War. Fairmont is technically just the manager of these grand old railway hotels; they're owned by the Toronto-based Legacy Hotels Real Estate Investment Trust. However, Legacy is partly owned by Fairmont. Will Fairmont's ownership change make itself felt through this complex structure? HBC's new owners are reassuring. Robert Johnston, vice-president of Jerry Zucker's Maple Leaf Heritage Investments Acquisition Corp., has pledged to "honour the undertakings with the Manitoba Museum." Archival material still with HBC is being prepared right now for a second round of donations to the Manitoba Museum and the Manitoba Archives, according to Hillary Stauth, HBC corporate spokeswoman. She cannot give details of what material, or when it will be transferred -- but at the Manitoba Archives, the third floor and its 6,954 linear feet (2,120 metres) of shelf space awaits. But HBC will retain the grand portraits of past governors of the company, and the company charter. Discoloured with age, adorned with a haughty portrait of King Charles, the document that gave away part of this continent now hangs in HBC's Toronto headquarters, the Royal Seal gleaming behind protective glass: "We doe [sic] grant unto the said Governor and Company. . . . " The charter that launched Europeans into Western Canada belongs to whoever owns the company. "We are very sensitive to the historical importance of the material," says Johnston, speaking from Charleston, S.C. "Our intent is to continue in the tradition the company has committed to."


Tricky Steelers Look Super

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
 Dave Feschuk
 (Feb. 6, 2006) DETROIT—It was fitting that the
Pittsburgh Steelers sealed Super Bowl XL running a play known as a reverse. On a night of back-and-forth momentum shifts and hand-wringing in a Ford Field filled almost exclusively with Pittsburgh fans, the highlight of the night was a pitch-handoff-pass special that summed up the moment.  It will be replayed for the ages, the fourth-quarter footage of Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers quarterback, dishing off to Willie Parker, the running back going left, who hands it to Antwaan Randle El, the wide receiver speeding right. With 68,206 watching the biggest moment of the sport's biggest game, Randle El, an athlete so versatile he played quarterback at Indiana and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs, launched a perfect spiral to Hines Ward, the game's MVP, for a 43-yard touchdown and a 21-10 lead that held up through the final 9:04.  With that — a timely play called, the moving dots connected — the Steelers capped an unlikely run to their first Vince Lombardi Trophy in 26 years. A perfect reverse and coach Bill Cowher's 14-season head coaching legacy in Steeltown went from also-ran to champion. A perfect reverse and Jerome Bettis, the Motown homecoming king, went from nearly squandering the AFC division game with a goal-line fumble to announcing his retirement amid a championship celebration.  A perfect reverse ("The perfect call at the perfect time," Roethlisberger would say later) and a team once wobbling with a 7-5 record was winning its eighth consecutive game and the franchise's fifth championship ring. A perfect reverse and Ward, who dropped a pass in the end zone earlier, went from butterfingered schlep to big-play hero, confetti machines showering him in a blizzard of red, white and blue.  Said Ward, who caught five passes for a game-high 123 yards on a night when the biggest names sometimes struggled: "We pulled it out of our bag of tricks."  Said Cowher: "It's almost surreal."  It was long-awaited ecstasy for Steeler fans, who frolicked in black hard hats and waved their Terrible Towels and wore frizzy black wigs in homage to Troy Polamalu, the strong safety with the uncontainable curls. Pittsburgh's loyalists outnumbered Seattle's perhaps 30 to 1.  Mind you, the Seahawks subdued the noise in the early going. Seattle's defence held the Steelers without a first down until early in the second quarter. And just when the Steelers got rolling, Michael Boulware intercepted a Roethlisberger pass thrown way short in the second quarter. The Seahawks were dominating everything but the scoreboard. And they hurt themselves with a raft of bad penalties, dropped balls and clock mismanagement.  In the first half's biggest play, on third down and 28, the 23-year-old they call Big Ben hit Ward on a 37-yard pass to the Seattle three-yard line with 3:09 left. Moments later, the QB convinced the officials, if not the cameras, that he'd snuck into the end zone for Pittsburgh's first touchdown. After the referee reviewed video evidence that didn't compel him to reverse the score, the Seahawks found themselves trailing, not leading, at halftime. They had to be regretting their squandered dominance, down 7-3.
 In the two years since Janet Jackson set off the censors with a nipple-baring halftime storm-starter, the conservative NFL has turned to Baby Boomer comfort tunes. Last year, Paul McCartney ran through old Beatles tunes. And last night the Rolling Stones ground out three songs accompanied by the pyrotechnics and the smoke machines.  "This one we could have done at Super Bowl I," cracked Mick Jagger, the 62-year-old lead singer, cueing the opening riff to "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," which topped the charts more than a year before the inaugural big game 40 years ago.  Only 22 seconds into the second half, Parker broke a 75-yard touchdown run — the longest in Super Bowl history — that made it 14-3 and returned the black-and-gold-clad tourists to fever pitch. The Steelers threatened to nail it shut when Roethlisberger, third down and seven from the seven-yard line, looked to Cedrick Wilson in the end zone. But the ball was under-thrown. Kelly Herndon, the Seattle cornerback, was gifted the pickoff. And after Herndon was brought down on the Pittsburgh 20 with a Super Bowl-record 76-yard return, which led to a Jerramy Stevens touchdown reception, suddenly a game on the edge of a blowout was turning into a beauty.  But just as the Seahawks marched deep into Pittsburgh territory in the fourth quarter's first few minutes, there came a reversal. Hasselbeck threw his only interception into Ike Taylor's arms. Despite Roethlisberger's rough night — thanks to Seattle's many mistakes — the Steelers were four plays away from Randle El's rolling throw to Ward. They were a few electric moments away from the stadium exhaling and exalting in another change of course in a classic turnaround season.  Said Joey Porter, the Pittsburgh linebacker: "We took the scenic route. We went the hard route this year. We did everything they said we couldn't do and we got it done today."

Davis Ready To Help Raptors

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Doug Smith, Sports Reporter

(Feb. 8, 2006) On one of his first plays in his first scrimmage with a bunch of strangers as team-mates, observers say
Antonio Davis set a screen with such precision and professionalism that Raptor guard Mike James got so ridiculously wide open for a jump shot that eyebrows were raised and smiles crossed the faces of coaches and players.  It was the kind of play only a veteran could make, a play that no Raptor centre since Davis was traded away three years ago has made with any regularity.  It's the prime reason that the 37-year-old is almost assured to be in the starting line-up tonight against the San Antonio Spurs when he begins is second stint in Toronto.  Coach Sam Mitchell wouldn't say for sure yesterday what his plans were for Davis but having seen him play with passion and purpose yesterday — and because he's simply better now than any other centre on the roster — if Davis doesn't start, more eyebrows will be raised and quizzical looks will replace those smiles.  And while it remains to be seen just how much Davis has left in the tank, he seems to have arrived back in Toronto determined to do the right thing in the 34-game rental period following a blockbuster trade for Jalen Rose last Friday.  "My biggest thing is, one, to protect Chris Bosh," Davis said his role with the Raptors this time around. "Defend the middle, help down low as much as possible, rebound and defend the paint, the things I've always done."  And the things the Raptors have sorely missed since he left in 2003, disgruntled and shipped to Chicago in a trade that also involved Jalen Rose. And while much time has past since that trade, no one can be sure how the local fans will react when Davis is introduced with the starters tonight and he will understand whatever happens.  "I think they have a right to feel how they feel," he said of the fans. "My job is to come here and play basketball. Even if I would have left on a good note, there are still going to be people who don't like you, don't like what you stand for. But I can't really worry about that.

"I think any reaction they give is the reaction they feel and they have the right to give and it's one I have to accept."  Davis also realizes that one of the undercurrents to his return to Toronto is the role his family played in his departure the first time. And family seems to be always an issue with Davis who was suspended for five games this season for going into the stands to intervene in an incident involving his wife, Kendra. She has since been back in the news after being charged with misdemeanour battery following a traffic dispute.  "I don't really want to talk about my family right now," said Davis. "The most important thing is I'm here. This team worked real hard before I got here and I hope me coming doesn't distract anything from what they've done up to this point.  "There are a lot of positive things going here and I hope I can just come here and add to those positive things."  One way for Davis to quickly win back the fans will be to play hard and help the Raptors win games. If nothing else, local fans have shown a love for success and while Toronto isn't about to become an Eastern Conference contender just because Davis is here, if they win, he can be forgiven.  Davis said there was never a question that he would play for Toronto to end this season; he asked for, and got, a few days off to settle some personal issues.  "That wasn't a question," he said. "They have my contract, I'm here to play basketball and it wasn't a matter of reporting, it was a matter of clearing my head to make sure I can come here and do the job they need me to do. I don't think it's fair to them if I don't come in here ready to play, ready to help, ready to do what I do. I really appreciate Sam Mitchell and Wayne Embry giving me the opportunity to step away for a day or two, it really helped me out a lot.  "I didn't think it was fair to them if I didn't come here ready to play some basketball."  Bosh welcomes his help.  "I have to make sure sometimes when I have the ball I look for him and reward him for looking out for me," he joked. "A.D. is a smart player, he's big and physical."  One thing making the transition easier for Davis is his relationship with Mitchell. The two were team-mates in Indiana.

"Before I left here I was trying real hard to get Sam in here to coach this team so we talked about that a little bit," said Davis. "I told him I was proud of him and what he's done for this team and for these young guys.  "We have a lot we can do in a short period of time so let's both concentrate and put our efforts towards not only getting this team better but making sure we play the right way."

Davis Should Dress For Spurs

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Doug Smith, Sports Reporter

(Feb. 6, 2006) The wait for
Antonio Davis goes on.  The 37-year-old centre-forward did not arrive in Toronto in time to practice with the Raptors today but team officials still expect him in town to work out Tuesday and make his debut with his new team Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs.  Interim Raptor general manager Wayne Embry said Sunday he fully expects Davis to "fulfill his obligations" after being obtained from the New York Knicks on Friday for Jalen Rose, Denver’s first-round pick in June’s NBA draft and cash.  Davis, who spent 3 1/2 seasons with Toronto before being dealt to the Chicago Bulls in 2003, met with Embry and coach Sam Mitchell on Saturday before getting permission to return to New York to take care of some personal business and then to travel to Chicago to talk his options over with his wife and family.  They had expected him in today or tomorrow. Davis has few options, after Embry said there is "no possibility" the Raptors would buy him out of his contract: He can retire and forfeit the remaining five months and approximately $6.9 million (U.S.) left on his contract; he could stay away from the Raptors and risk suspension, or he could report.  Toronto could conceivably trade the 6-foot-10 veteran but the salary cap benefits they will realize by keeping him and letting his contract expire far outweigh any player they would now get in return - unless that player also has a contract that expires after this season.  Under league rules, Davis cannot be traded to either the Knicks or the Chicago Bulls, who sent him to New York before the season began.


Artest on ‘NBA Access’

Excerpt from

(Feb. 2, 2006)  *“NBA Access” with Ahmad Rashad, the new real-life drama television series hosted and executive produced by the Emmy Award winner, takes an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the recent trade negotiations by the Sacramento Kings for
Ron Artest, in its second episode on ABC on Saturday (Feb. 4) at 1 p.m. ET. The show's second episode takes viewers inside the "war room" during the on-again, off-again negotiations with the Indiana Pacers which led to the eventual acquisition of Artest for Peja Stojakovic, as it chronicles 72 hectic hours in the lives of Joe and Gavin Maloof, owners of the Sacramento Kings.

Fox Sports’ James Brown Moves To CBS

Excerpt from

(Feb. 8, 2006) *Veteran sports anchor
James Brown is leaving his 12-year gig as host of “Fox NFL Sunday” to take a better offer for the same position at CBS, where he worked from 1984 to 1994.   While both Fox and CBS reportedly made similar financial offers to Brown, it was the opportunity to call CBS’s college basketball and NCAA Tournament games that lured the 54-year-old away from Fox, which was unable to extend that offer.  “Yes, I'm going to the competition,” Brown said on a conference call. “But I don't view it as the competition because I started at CBS.”       Also a factor in Brown’s decision was the shorter commute from his home in Bethesda, MD to CBS’ studios in New York. While at Fox, Brown had to fly to its home base in Los Angeles every weekend.   Beginning with the 2006-2007 NFL season, Brown will take over the anchor chair from Greg Gumbel, who moves from the studio to the No. 2 NFL announcing team with Dan Dierdorf.  Dick Enberg will fall from the No. 2 to No. 3 team and will be paired with Randy Cross, while the network’s No. 1 team will remain Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.  Brown said he had emotional exchanges with former “Fox NFL Sunday” co-anchors Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson. He said Johnson “was a little upset to say the least but wished me the best,” Brown said.


The Amazing 10-Minute Workout!

By Scot Dawson, eFitness Guest Columnist

(Feb. 7, 2006) This is a five-day-a-week workout designed for people on the run. It takes between 10 and 15 minutes. This will kick start your metabolism and introduce you to working out. The best part is that it can be done in the comfort of your own home with a minimal amount of equipment (you just need an exercise ball and some light dumbbells).  You can learn the basics of exercise and get started on building the body you have always wanted. However, to get the results you are really looking for, you also need to add cardiovascular exercise as well as have a balanced diet. For more information on weight training, cardiovascular exercise and nutrition please feel free to email me and ask any questions.

Day 1 -- Legs

Warm up: two minutes -- jumping jacks, skipping rope, or up and down 2 or 3 stairs.

Ball squats 2 x 10-15
Ball curls 2 x 10-15
Ball crunches 2 x 10-15
Single knee ups on ball 2 x 10-15
Quad stretch 2 x 20 sec
Hamstring stretch 2 x 20 sec
Cat and horse stretch 2 x 20 sec

Day 2 -- Bicep and Triceps

Warm up two minutes -- jumping jacks, skipping rope, or up and down 2 or 3 stairs.

Ball push ups 2 x 10-15
Dumbbell bent over row 2 x 10-15
Bicep curls (dumbbell) 2 x 10-15
Dumbbell triceps extensions on ball 2 x 10-15
Chest Stretch 2 x 20sec
Back Stretch 2 x 20sec
Triceps Stretch 2 x 20sec
Bicep Stretch 2 x 20sec

Day 3 -- Abs

Warm up two minutes -- jumping jacks, skipping rope, or up and down 2 or 3 stairs.

Free squats 2 x 10-15
Bum ups 2 x 10-15
Oblique crunches 2 x 10-15
L crunches 2 x 15 -20
Cat and horse stretch 2 x 20 sec
Quad stretch 2 x 20 sec
Hamstring stretch 2 x 20 sec

Day 4 -- Chest and Back

Warm up two minutes -- jumping jacks, skipping rope, or up and down 2 or 3 stairs.

Dumbbell bench press on ball 2 x 10-15
Dumbbell bent over row 2 x 10-15
Side arm rises 2 x 10-15
Supermans 2 x 15-20
Chest stretch 2 x 20 sec
Back stretch 2 x 20 sec
Shoulder stretch 2 x 20sec
Lower back stretch 2 x 20sec

Day 5 -- Legs

Warm up two minutes -- jumping jacks, skipping rope, or up and down 2 or 3 stairs.

Reverse lunge 2 x 10-15
Ball curls 2 x 10-15
Adductor ball squeeze 2 x 10-15
Reverse crunch 2 x 15-20
Quad stretch 2 x 20 sec
Hamstring Stretch 2 x 20 sec
Adductor stretch 2 x 20 sec

Workout Instructions

Do the warm up for as long as it takes to get a little bit of sweat built up. Super set the first two exercises, then the next two exercises. The remaining exercises are done as a circuit.

Super Set: A super set is two exercises done at the same time. Perform the first set of the first exercise then right away do the first set of the second exercise. With no rest go back to the first exercise for the second set and then to the second exercise for the second set. Follow the same procedure for the third and fourth exercises.  For the remaining exercises on each day complete as a circuit. Just follow the same pattern as a superset. Just complete one set of each of the remaining exercises and then start back at the top.

Director and Head trainer for Apollo Fitness. Scot has been working in the fitness industry since 1998. He has experience in every aspect of fitness from training athletes, sports teams, and body builders. He is a certified personal trainer and fitness consultant, C.P.T., C.F.C. You can learn more by visiting his website


Motivational Note: What Has You?

 By Willie Jolley, Visit

 Everyday is a brand new day, and a brand new opportunity to make your dreams come true. Yet in order to take full
advantage of that day and to make those dreams come true you must first have a dream. You've got to have dream! You must have a dream, a goal to go after, not just a resolution that you make the first of January and forget by the fifteenth of January, but also a dream that drives you to keep going and drives you to achieve it. Some one once said, "A resolution is something you have, but a dream is something that has you!" I encourage you to work on your goals and your dreams TODAY! Don't wait because everyday is precious and the sooner you get started the sooner you can start to actually Live Your Dreams!