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


Updated:  June 22, 2006

Welcome to summer - officially!  Congratulations to all the winners of the MuchMusic Video Awards this past weekend - Kardinal Offishall scores big! Check out all the coverage below, including photos and the list of winners! 

This week I have a special offer for those on my distribution - two FREE tickets for one lucky winner for the Karnival Komedy Xplosion - one of the hottest shows during Caribana.  But you must write me back with the names of the two Caribbean hosts -  CLICK HERE.  

And welcome to those who are here in Toronto to celebrate Pride,
one of North America’s largest Pride parades -Sunday, June 25th.  Bring an outburst of energy, flamboyant colour, costumes, humour and creativity to express your interpretation of "Fearless".  Please celebrate safely. 

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.




Debut Sports Presents The Karnival Komedy Xplosion

Source: Debut Sports

Join one of Canada’s fastest rising black comics, Jay Martin as he hosts the Karnival Komedy Xplosion.  Presented by Debut Sports & Entertainment, the show will feature Don DC Curry and Earthquake.  DC Curry is best known for his memorable portrayal of “Uncle Elroy” in the hits Next Friday and Friday after Next and his reign as BET’s comedian of the year. Earthquake attracted fans during his time on the Def Comedy Jam Circuit and BET’s Comic View. 

Special guest hosts include Caribbean comedians Marc Trinidad and Jean Paul. There will be two chances to catch this comedy extravaganza, with shows on Friday, August 4 and Sunday August 6, 2006.

About Debut Sports:

Debut Sports and Entertainment is dedicated to the personal and business service needs of professional athletes and entertainers alike. We specialize in the creation and execution of their events, sponsorship, marketing, endorsements, public relations, speaking engagements and public appearances. We also are dedicated to the marketing and promotion of athletes and entertainers by integrating them into the corporate business world.

Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts
5040 Yonge Street
Friday, August 4-, 2006 - 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 6, 2006- 2:00 p.m.
For event information please visit
Or call Kirk Brooks at (416) 213-0123 ext 555
To purchase tickets, please visit or



Fame Becomes Me Starring Martin Short

Mirvish Productions invited me as a media guest to the Opening Night of Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me starring Canada’s Martin Short - an incredibly funny musical theatre production that is a retrospective of Short’s “fabulous, perfect life.”  When a cast member criticizes Short for having a boring life and wanted one full of scandal and angst, Short creates a funny false life including an unhappy childhood, drug dependency complete with 12 steps and his premature death.  The show also parodies many past musicals and plays with clever and funny references. 

Short’s impersonations (including Katherine Hepburn, Richard Burton and Simon Cowell), as well as those of his cast including Judy Garland, Liza Manelli, Celine Dion, Brittany Spears and Joan Rivers, were bang on.  When Short brought out familiar characters from various SCTV and SNL skits (Brock Linehan, Jiminy Glick) as well as characters from his movie roles (Franck Eggelhoffer in Father of the Bride), the audience laughed with recognition and there were often bursts of applause. 

The piece brings out a real-life celebrity from the audience each night; this night’s being Ben Mulroney, and the real genius of Martin Short’s improv was showcased.  With props to Ben for being able to ad lib as well, that comedic moment was not only full of Canadian content but laughter. 

Short’s cast was a very talented mix of theatre actors - Brooks Ashmanskas, Mary Birdsong, Capathia Jenkins and Nicole Parker playing a wide variety of different characters, both real and imagined, who figure into Short’s parallel reality.  Also part of the cast is Marc Shaiman who received both a Grammy and a Tony award for his work on Hairspray, wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics with Scott Wittman. 

Despite the occasional lull in the many moments of hilarity, my overall consensus was that this is a production worth seeing.  I'm not a theatre critic but it is especially refreshing to have a successful Hollywood actor and comedian come back to Canada and include many Canadian references in his production, which to me equates his pride in his heritage. 

Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me is currently playing at the Canon Theatre (formerly Pantages) until July 2nd and will play Chicago at the LaSalle Bank Theatre (formerly the Shubert) July 5 – 16 before it opens on Broadway at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre August 10, 2006.

Saturday May 27 – Sunday July 2, 2006
Tuesday – Saturday 8PM
Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 2PM

Tickets $25 - $99 at the Canon Theatre – 244 Victoria Street
416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333


Kardinal Offishall Leads MuchMusic Video Awards

Excerpt from - Larry LeBlanc, Toronto

(June 19, 2006) Thousands of fans surrounded MuchMusic's headquarters in Toronto while hundreds of music industry insiders partied inside to performances by Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland, Fall Out Boy, Rihanna, Hedley, Nick Lachey, Simple Plan, City and Colour, Metric and Yellowcard at the 17th annual MuchMusic Video Awards. Canadian rapper Kardinal Offishall's "Everyday (Rudebwoy)" released by Toronto indie label Black Jays, was the night's big winner, taking home three of the 17 awards. It won top video, director honours for Ray Robinson and a VideoFACT award.  Fall Out Boy was named top international group, Kelly Clarkson won top international artist, Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends" won for top international group video and Rihanna's "S.O.S. (Rescue Me)" was named top artist international video. 
Among those presenting awards during the event were an array of TV and music celebrities including Paris Hilton, Tori Spelling, Elisha Cuthbert and Shawn Ashmore.

A Parade Of Stars Rocks City

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Shimo, With a report from Canadian Press

(June 19, 2006) TORONTO -- In the midst of such celebrities as Rihanna, Kevin Zegers and Massari, outrageous entrances drew cheers from thousands of fans lining the red carpet at the MuchMusic Video Awards in downtown Toronto last night. Kardinal Offishall stole the show when he arrived in a fire truck, sirens blazing.  "I'm a fire starter, you know what I mean. Sometimes the world just explodes when my foot touches the ground," Kardinal told The Globe.  "They were like 'Yo, just come in a fire truck, and that way if a fire starts you can put it out in a hurry.' " Kardinal was also the big winner yesterday, snagging three of the coveted trophies for his single Everyday (Rudebwoy) -- taking honours for best video, best director, and the VideoFACT award. Jacob Hoggard, front man for the Vancouver-based rock band Hedley, also caused a stir with his entrance. Walking toward the edge of the red carpet with his hands in handcuffs, he mooned thousands of teenage girls to display the name of his band tattooed across his buttocks. "Take a look at this," Mr. Hoggard said and laughed before walking off. Fans said they were just pleased to be that close to the celebrities.

Celebrity gawkers caught glimpses of presenters and performers including party girl Paris Hilton, actress Tori Spelling and tabloid cover boy Nick Lachey.  Massive outdoor stages featured live performances by Nelly Furtado, featuring Timbaland; rockers Simple Plan; and video favourites Fall Out Boy. Kardinal was one of three acts to lead the list of nominees with five nods, but the only one to take home multiple awards.  Multiple nominee Massari took only one trophy -- for best pop video -- while rockers Billy Talent went home empty-handed despite their five nods. Karolyn Gauvin, 22, had taken the bus from Sherbrooke, Que., to watch the awards. "My feet are killing me," Ms. Gauvin said. "I work in a fish market back home, so I'm on my feet all day. I just came to see some stars. I came down on the bus overnight and I haven't slept a wink. I'm really excited. Everyone back home wants autographs, but I'm not sure I can get them," she said, just a few metres from where Mr. Hoggard was pulling his attention-grabbing stunts. Actress and model Tricia Helfer, one of the awards presenters, also made a dramatic entrance in a long, flowing, low-cut orange dress.  "I've never seen anyone that skinny in my life," said Angeline Tetteh, 25, who had come to cover the awards for Vibe 985, a radio station out of Calgary.  "She looks good but I think she's lost weight."



Best Video

Kardinal Offishall, featuring Ray Robinson -- Everyday (Rudebwoy)

Best Director

RT! for Kardinal Offishall, featuring Ray Robinson -- Everyday (Rudebwoy)

Best Post-Production

The Trews -- So She's Leaving

Best Cinematography

Buck 65 -- Devil's Eyes

Best Pop Video

Massari -- Be Easy

Best Rock Video

Nickelback -- Photograph

Best Rap Video

Classified -- No Mistakes

Best Independent Video

Metric -- Poster Of A Girl

MuchMoreMusic Award

Michael Bublé -- Save The Last Dance For Me

Best French Video

Stephanie Lapointe -- La Mer

Best International Video (Artist)

Rihanna -- S.O.S. (Rescue Me)

Best International Video (Group)

Green Day -- Wake Me Up When September Ends


Kardinal Offishall, featuring Ray Robinson -- Everyday (Rudebwoy)

Sex, Hugs & Rock 'N' Roll

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jen Gerson, Staff Reporter

(Jun. 19, 2006) Coiffed teenaged fans glued themselves against the barriers guarding the red carpet as dozens of celebrities entered the CHUM City building for the 17th annual MuchMusic Video Awards.  Autograph books and glossy posters in tow, the screaming young women, many wearing Paris Hilton's trademark face-eating sunglasses, were not disappointed as celebrities such as Nelly Furtado, Rihanna, Simple Plan and Metric glided past.  Loudspeakers warned TV and live audiences alike that "anything could happen."  In the muted back entrance, away from the hot white lights and humid crush of bodies, a real-life drama was rumoured to be taking place.  As love triangles and babies seem to be all the rage, Tori Spelling and new husband, Canadian actor Dean McDermott, followed the trend.  Rumour was that McDermott's ex-wife Mary Jo Eustace was seen behind the building trying to get into the award show.  When McDermott heard the news he blanched.  "Are you serious?" he asked.  "And they didn't let her in? ... Good."  He and Spelling, who married McDermott in May, said that the newlywed life has been good to them.  "The best thing about being a newlywed is the sex," McDermott said.  "Well, that was good before the wedding," Spelling countered.

The red-carpet pre-show was not without its now-traditional stunts.  Rapper Kardinal Offishall — wearing a gold and mother-of pearl happy-face necklace — appeared on the carpet in a flashing fire engine, and halfway through the show, fans were regaled with the antics of a geriatric marching band.  "I'm here to say stuff people need to hear," Offishall said, in an attempt to boast Tourism Toronto's morale. "Canada is still the greatest place to live despite these terrorist accusations."  The sentiment was a popular one. Most celebrities expressed universal adoration for Canada.  Beloved homegrown star of X-Men 3, Shawn Ashmore, said he was overwhelmed by the turnout, which choked Queen St. W. like a chicken bone.  "I love that Queen St. is shut down and we took over the city," he said. "I just love coming home. Anything that I can do at home is amazing."  The clear fan favourite, Paris Hilton, who wrapped up the scene by wandering across the carpeted Queen St. W. streetcar tracks, echoed the sentiment.  "I love Toronto," she said in her honey-smooth voice before being ushered inside.  Battlestar Galactica beauty — and makeshift mentor to aspiring Canadian models — Tricia Helfer, stole the scene before she could even open her mouth.  Helfer stood out by wearing a bright orange Grecian dress so flimsy that it looked like it could be knocked off by either a swift wind or a sneeze.  "Double-sided tape is a fantastic thing," she said, looking eerily at ease in a V-line that came down almost to her waist.  Meanwhile, band Hedley were even less afraid to bare their souls. The band tattooed the name of the band on their butts and mooned the crowd.

Bigger, but better?

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

(Jun. 19, 2006) It doesn't necessarily mean "better," but the MuchMusic Video Awards are certainly bigger than they've ever been.  One merely had to approach the stages, trailers and tents engulfing the entire block around CHUM-Citytv's Queen West headquarters last night to absorb the ballooning scale of the MMVA enterprise. What began 17 years ago as an appealingly anarchic piss-up in the City parking lot is now a super-smooth operation that rivals the Juno Awards in terms of national media attention and music-industry marketing plans.  To those of us who came of age during Much's infancy, the station's transition in recent years from threadbare homegrown MTV counterpoint to glitz-chasing MTV wannabe has been a slightly painful one.  But, hey, the MMVAs certainly delivered what the young'uns are told to be into in spades this year. Nelly Furtado and Timbaland sauced things up with a performance of her hot new single "Promiscuous," while half-Torontonian indie kids Metric gave the show a bid for respectability. Otherwise, the cookie-cutter non-punk of performers Hedley, Fall Out Boy, Simple Plan and Yellowcard, and Alexisonfire front man Dallas Green's iffy solo acoustic-emo guise as City and Colour, dominated the program, with soon-to-be-forgotten idols Nick Lachey and Rihanna reminding the audience that the awards show is about video, not music.  If you don't get it, you don't fall into the increasingly younger demographic towards which Much has been skewing in recent years. One former veejay from the station remarked in passing that he'd "jumped at the right time" and had to rely on his just-teenaged kids for a window into what the station is playing these days.

The party and the production at the MMVAs has today superceded the actual awards to the extent that who takes home the trophies is sort of a non-issue.  Was anyone really excited to see The Trews score a best post-production award for "So She's Leaving"? Did anyone not expect Nickelback to add another "Best Rock Video" to its trophy chest of Can-rock corporate endorsements?  In any case, it was pretty awesome to see hyper-talented Toronto rapper Kardinal Offishall get at least a modicum of domestic acknowledgement for his fine 2005 album Fire And Glory, in the form of three awards shared with collaborator Ray Robinson for his single "Everyday (Rudebwoy)." Maybe now the cat will sell some records (same goes for East Coast indie MC Classified, who nabbed a best rap video for "No Mistakes").  "You know what?" said Kardi, enthused that he had a larger venue from which to address everything from the "War on Terror" to the AIDS epidemic in Africa. "Say what you will about the whole thing, but the industry has never given me a platform to say some shit the kids can take home with 'em.  "It is what it is, but I've worked hard enough at this for long enough that I'm just gonna take it as it comes and enjoy it."  Someone's gotta kick the country's ass, too, to alert it to Metric's arch charms. Much at least extended the quartet (two from Toronto, two from California) a performance slot and a "Best Independent Video" for "Poster of a Girl."  Front woman Emily Haines is a fairly vocal adversary of the brand of femininity sold in mainstream music videos, so Metric's appearance towards the end of the evening threatened a few sparks. A fact that apparently wasn't lost on the people who got Metric on the show.  "I got three calls today. Three calls," said guitarist James Shaw at the beginning of the night. "They were all: `I don't know if this is inappropriate, but can you ask Emily not to cause any shit.' So there you go. I guess now I'm causing some shit."

Unfortunately, Metric was sufficiently muzzled that a live rendition of "Monster Hospital" was all it needed to trump everything around it. Otherwise, this year's MMVAs were more about the appropriation of Hollywood glamour-through-association. Paris Hilton! Tori Spelling! Elisha Cuthbert!  The latter is, at least, Canadian. The others have nothing to do with a homegrown music-video program other than ratings. And it's pretty sad if you tuned into the MMVAs just to see what Paris or Tori was wearing.  Not sure, either, how much interest Canadian troops in Afghanistan or potential viewers in the 65 countries where MuchMusic has licensed the show had in seeing third-place Canadian Idol runner-up Jacob Hoggard shirtless on or flashing his buttocks on Queen St.  Still, it's fun to see Much throwing a party Paris Hilton deems worthy of attention. You might as well go with it.  As Robin Black, recently co-opted as a judge on MuchMusic VJ Search put it: "I would normally slam a great party like this, but MuchMusic pays me really well, so f--k it: Nick Lachey is my favourite artist. If you can call that f--ker an artist."

MuchMusic Video Awards Bare Much

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Cassandra Szklarski, Canadian Press

(June 19, 2006) TORONTO — Maintaining its reputation as the wildest music awards party in Canada, the MuchMusic Video Awards riled fans and guests alike with outrageous acts Sunday from duelling romantic rivals, fashion foibles and bare rock star bums. Screaming fans and scandalous celebrities overtook downtown Toronto for the freewheeling awards show, in which big winner Kardinal Offishall was overshadowed by a celebrity spectacle that included an ongoing cat-fight watch for former 90210 star Tori Spelling and Canadian television celebrity Mary Jo Eustace. Eustace, spurned a little over a year ago by ex-husband Dean McDermott for the billionaire heiress, said she had been told to leave the MuchMusic building for the awards portion of the party when Spelling learned both would be at the party. I was asked to leave the building because Tori Spelling was going to be presenting an award and I guess felt uncomfortable with me here," Eustace said in the crowded Much environment in which Spelling and McDermott stood just metres away. "The excuse was that there was a restraining order against me, which is of course completely false and untrue." "I was just here to have a nice time at the party, that's all," she said, adding that to accommodate MuchMusic she left the building temporarily. Spelling denied even knowing that Eustace was at the party. "I'd love to see her, I have a few words. Anyone see where she is?" joked Spelling, draped in a loose and flowy green, pink and yellow mini-dress.

Outside on the red carpet, Jacob Hoggard and the boys from Hedley left celebrity gawkers with a night to remember after they pulled down their pants to reveal Hedley tattoos on their bottoms. The B.C. band had fans screaming with their outrageous red-carpet arrival in a white police van, pouring out of the vehicle with hot female cops — dressed in miniskirts and heels — on their tails. Meanwhile, FashionTV maven Jeanne Beker was spotted wearing the same dress as teen movie star Amanda Bynes. Both were decked out in a black and white Ports 1961, empire-waist evening gown. Kardinal, who led the nominees with five nods, revelled in the cheers that greeted him as he arrived in a screaming red fire truck, doing his best to one-up fellow nominees in what's become an annual test of the wild factor. "We have to do everything in style, you know," Kardinal said. The Toronto-based rapper snagged three of the coveted trophies for his single Everyday (Rudebwoy) — winning for best video, best director and the VideoFACT award. "This is real good right here. ... This is for all my hip-hop people from east to west," Kardinal said before receiving his trophies. "It's funny, though, that I'm not in the best hip-hop category." Celebrity gawkers turned out in droves to catch glimpses of presenters and performers including party girl Paris Hilton, tabloid cover boy Nick Lachey and chart-topper Rihanna, who took home the prize for best international artist. Massive outdoor stages featured live performances by Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland, rockers Simple Plan and video favourites Fall Out Boy. Hilton smiled and waved at fans after emerging from a simple black SUV. She said she wasn't fazed by tabloid scrutiny over her personal life, a favourite topic since her X-rated video floated through the Internet years ago. "It's just life — I don't care," Hilton said. "I know I'm a good person." Inside the sprawling Much complex, McDermott's spurned ex-wife was one of several Canadian notables clogging the hallways. Dressed in a low-cut yellow summer dress, Eustace was accompanied by her former TV sidekick Ken Kostick from their kitschy cooking show What's for Dinner.

Liberal MP Belinda Stronach toured the building in tight black jeans, while Canadian Idol host Ben Mulroney chatted with federal NDP Leader Jack Layton and NDP deputy leader Olivia Chow. Young music fans turned out in the wee hours to catch their heroes. Sammy Katz, 18, said he showed up at 5 a.m. to get a good spot in front of one of three streetside stages. "It's amazing," said Katz, who waited in line nearly 10 hours last week to score a wristband pass to his third MuchMusic awards show. "It's like our awards show. It's all about the fans." Alannah Azzoli, 16, said she was there to see Lachey but "almost had a stroke" earlier Sunday when she met Hedley during band rehearsals. "I'm not even kidding," Azzoli said. "I was having a panic attack in Starbucks." Kardinal Offishall was one of three acts to lead the list of nominees with five nods, but the only one to take home multiple awards. Multiple nominee Massari took only one trophy — for best pop video — while rockers Billy Talent went home empty-handed despite their five nods. Favourite Canadian artist went to City and Colour. Awards are determined by an in-house MuchMusic panel, except for the People's Choice Awards, which are selected by fans via an on-line and telephone voting system.


Nelly Turns Up The Heat

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ben Rayner

(June 18, 2006) You win some, you lose some. And then, sometimes, you win a lot more back. There's a vocal contingent in the virtual universe already hating on Nelly Furtado for abandoning her "roots" and tarting it up musically — and, ahem, physically — for her third trip to the record shops this coming Tuesday with Loose.  Whatever. Where were those fans when the proud Portuguese-Canadian took a huge hit in world-wide album sales by earnestly flaunting her roots to half the planet on her second album, 2004's awkward, but honest, ethno-pop effort Folklore?  And do they really think her first big single "I'm Like a Bird" represented the full bubbling-forth of Furtado's artistic vision when, as a callow, 22-year-old Victoria gal beloved of American rap and R&B and U.K. trip-hop, she was handed a huge U.S. record deal in 2000 to release that wildly successful debut album Whoa, Nelly?  Screw 'em. Barring some sort of horrid cosmic accident, Loose will soon rank as the biggest album of Furtado's career. Why? Because it's the record where the 27-year-old singer — with a little help from Timbaland's magic touch — elbows her way into the company of Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Gwen Stefani as one of pop's great levellers.  Timbaland, at 36, is already a legend as a hitmaker in urban music, both as a record producer and rapper. And the fruits of the Furtado-Timbaland labours are such that, even if saturation airplay reduced Furtado's "Bird" to the authentic sonic approximation of prying your fingernails off one by one, there's a very good chance you have in recent weeks reacted (at least privately) to the twitchy, come-hither charms of Nelly and Timbo's boy/girl club throwdown, "Promiscuous." And most of you haven't even heard her other single "Maneater" yet.  "You always wonder how people are gonna perceive things. But I don't know, more than any time in my life, I just kinda show up to my job and do the best I can — leave the marketing and everything to the people in suits. I'm kinda like, `whatever,'" says the tirelessly buoyant singer, on the phone from Los Angeles.

"The video for `Promiscuous' has been incredibly popular all over the place and it's the video where I was the most relaxed. I didn't know what I was gonna wear until I showed up and just kinda picked something. It just goes to show you sometimes you can get very worked up over nothing."  Ah, the video for "Promiscuous." Nelly might not be getting worked up over it, but a lot of people are.  The song itself — now vying with Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" on two sides of the Atlantic as the most in-demand download — is a ribald, call-and-response baiting session between Furtado and Timbaland in the guise of "on the prowl" clubbers. The visuals have fittingly unveiled a slinkier and more blatantly "hussied up" Nelly than some observers may have bargained for. And looking mighty fine, as most who see the clip are compelled to observe, for a young lady who gave birth to a daughter two years ago.  "Isn't that funny? Isn't that weird?" giggles Furtado when tastefully advised of her ascension to the top of the "yummy mummy" hierarchy. "The one thing that was different was that I worked with a choreographer (Fatima Robinson) for some of the moves I'm doing. Someone like that can make you look really hot, really quick.  "It's just a fun song. I think people are responding to it because it's a smart, sexy song. It has flirty lyrics and people can relate to that. That's the vibe of the song, and I guess people are feeling it. It's summertime, it makes you feel good, it's got this girly, feminine energy to it. It's kinda cool — the guy and the girl are on this even playing field, bugging each other a little bit."

Not all critics and fans are enthused by the refurbished Furtado.  Associated Press writer Caryn Rousseau put out an open letter this month entitled "Oh, Nelly Furtado: A Rant" that pines for the days when the singer wrote brainy lyrics and "didn't try to dance like Beyoncé or sing frothy Britney Spears-like songs." The writer said Furtado looked uncomfortable "slinking in a bikini top" and "trying to rap" in a Saturday Night Live gig with Timbaland, and accused her of abandoning early fans.  And this from a disgruntled Welsh poster on one of her fan sites: "This new stuff is throwaway tosh, 10-a-penny pop crap that's already clogging up our chart just to get a number 1."  Speculation has been floated from some quarters that Furtado's moist exhalations for Timbaland's grinding future-funk R&B on most of Loose is a calculated response by her new label, Interscope, to the diminished sales of Folklore.  Or Interscope/Geffen. Or Interscope/Geffen/Universal. By any name, Furtado's new label is actually under the same Universal Music Group umbrella that covered her previous one, DreamWorks, so do the math: If she wasn't dumped to an indie, the Machine still believes in her.  Nice, though, that this particular wing of the corporate monster allowed Furtado a couple of years and a cavalcade of rejected A-list collaborators — Nellee Hooper, Madonna/Dido producer Rick Knowles, Shakira muse Lester Mendez and her own longtime partners Track and Field (a/k/a Philosopher Kings Gerald Eaton and Brian West) — before she reached Miami and hit the studios with hip-hop hitmakers Pharrell Williams, Scott Storch and, finally, Timbaland.  The latter didn't work on all of Loose, but he's responsible for cultivating the bulk of it that affirms it as the best record of Furtado's career. And, in fact, Timbaland should probably have been there from the beginning, since it was a remix of his own Missy Elliott collaboration, "Get Ur Freak On," that first flaunted Furtado's hip-hop chops five years ago.

Furtado is such a natural fit for the high-tech-diva thing on Loose that one wonders why no one allowed her to go there in the first place (for her part, she says she would have felt "pretentious" indulging her inner B-girl without the right material). The fact that the disc gelled in the mixed circumstances of recent motherhood and a break-up with her daughter's father simply provided the serendipitously libidinous icing on the cake that gave life to the self-explanatory, big-'n'-dirty club come-ons like "Maneater," "Do It" and "Glow."  "When I got to Miami last summer, I just started — I don't know — maybe just feeling more sexy, because Miami's just that kind of city," says Furtado. "It's a holiday town and the state of mind I was in was extremely carefree. And that's when I cut that song. And once I cut it, I went: `Oh, I'm glad I went.' "It has the `easy breezy' feel of summer. The album's made for listening to in a car and driving around, hopefully with the top down. Or maybe getting ready for a party."  Furtado isn't just blowing smoke when she gushes about finding a fruitful new path in her midnight sessions with Timbaland. In the early stages of recording he would get up and walk out of the studio mid-tune if he thought she was under-performing. But he came to be her valued friend.  The pair's intentions to tour together in support of Loose have temporarily been scuttled by Timbaland's ridiculous schedule ("He's kind of a busy producer"), although he has diligently joined her for TV appearances — including a much-anticipated spot right here at tonight's MuchMusic Video Awards — to hype the record.  "Nelstar" and Tim have not abandoned dreams voiced several months ago of mounting an touring "artist collective" effort akin to U.N.K.L.E. or Gorillaz "where we collaborate with other artists and do this band thing," Furtado says. Ludacris, Justin Timberlake and M.I.A. are some names being floated. If Loose hits big, the way it seems poised to hit, Furtado should be able to make it happen.  "We've only scratched the surface of what we can do together," she says of Timbaland. "This was a really fast effort, maybe three months. And I really think he's the one producer who can push me to my limits, and I love feeling that way. I love feeling so inspired."

Loose Woman

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(June 20, 2006) A picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes more. A few hours before her appearance at the MuchMusic Video Awards on Sunday, Nelly Furtado is busy talking to reporters and being drop-dead gorgeous. During a break, she's told about a cover story in one of the local papers, and she needs to know more. Not whether her new album, Loose, is positively appraised; not whether a quote has been taken out of context. No, she really doesn't care what the story says. "Which photo did they run?" she asks excitably, her mammoth green eyes widening, impossibly. Good question -- so many possibilities there. They could have run the cheeky photo, or they could have chosen the saucy one. Maybe the fiery Latino sexpot, or was it the lips-parted-suggestively shot? Did they show her bare belly, or did they focus on the head of luxurious brown hair? You get the idea. The Portuguese-Canadian singer was a wholesome, girly voiced chirper when she broke to superstar status in 2000 with the album Whoa, Nelly! and single I'm Like a Bird. Now, she is stunningly a woman, more ooh-la-la than hubba hubba. 

The music of Loose, released today, is altered too. The eclectic world pop of her first album and the singer-songwriter style of 2003's Folklore is replaced with a record of urban hip hop and sensual R&B. The first North American single, Promiscuous, is a rapping, tawdry conversational number that also features the album's in-demand producer, Timbaland. Tarted-up music, tarted-up image -- the reason for both is a bit of surprise. "I have a daughter now," Furtado, 27, explains between sips of warm tea on a day that is searing. "My music's heading in a wonderful, creative direction. I feel really in control of my life, really empowered. I'm in a good place, and that sexiness, I just exude that." No argument. Hottie mommy, chatting keenly about album and daughter Nevis, is a mesmerizing sight, from her gold-dust eye shadow right down to her cherry-red toenails. A slinky, tan dress sets off the darker bronze of her elfin body.

But wait a minute. Being a single parent of a 2½-year-old (she has split with her long-time boyfriend) must involve strollers, drool and various wipe-y things -- hardly the stuff of saucy inspiration. What's the deal? "When we were in Miami recording this album, I had a wonderful life," Furtado recalls. I'd wake up and play with my daughter in the ocean and by the pool all day, building sand castles. When you have a child, it focuses you to get down on the ground, to taste life again. "And then at nighttime, it was a very different environment, a sort of clandestine recording affair. I think that's why there's a vivaciousness to the album, a sensuality and aliveness." Vivaciousness -- there's a word. Dirty, bawdy and bootylicious would be others, at least when it comes to the video for Promiscuous, a steamy deal in which Furtado engages in a club-set mating ritual with Timbaland. She: "You expect me to just to let you hit it, but will you still respect me if you get it?" He: "All I can do is try, gimme one chance, what's the problem, I don't see no ring on your hand." If the performer's sexed-up image is new, so is the album's urban style.

Cynics might suggest that Furtado resorted to the hip-hop genre in a bid to jump-start her career. Folklore, the follow-up to her debut mega-seller, was a commercial disappointment compared with its predecessor. Furtado dismisses that kind of talk. "The reason I called the album Loose is that when I do urban and hip-hop music, I feel very relaxed, very comfortable." One wonders why an artist would wait until a third album to make the music that she's supposedly most assured with. "Fear, I think, of not being recognized as a musician," Furtado answers, referring to her previous records. "I really wanted to prove myself as a singer-songwriter first. On this album, I was like, 'Okay, I've proven some things, so let's do the stuff I personally love.' " Others love it too. Promiscuous is the most downloaded song on iTunes, and in England the bumpy-grooved Maneater single has topped charts for two weeks now. Reviews of the album have been generally positive, although Rolling Stone's judgment was mixed. Moreover, the magazine mostly dismisses Furtado, deciding she's a has-been and an "unlikely choice as an R&B goddess." Instead, it reads as if the album is Timbaland's, with Furtado as hired singer. Surprisingly, Furtado is not upset. "I don't mind, actually," she shrugs. "When we were in the studio, we were working like we were in a band, like an actual ensemble."

Oddly, Furtado sees the new album as a signal of her artistic development -- not despite the collaboration, but because of it. "That's part of growth, feeling so confident in your abilities that you can take advice. "On my first album, it was good and dandy that I wrote I'm Like a Bird in my bedroom," she continues. "But I want to do other things too, and until I go to university and train myself on the guitar, my songwriting ain't going anywhere -- it's hitting a brick wall. So, I'd rather work with other people who can bring it out." Furtado says she doesn't read articles about herself any more, but she was amused when the New York Post linked her romantically to NBA superstar Steve Nash, a fellow Victoria native whom she has met only once, but gives a shout out to on Promiscuous. Furtado name-dropped Nash before he had won his second consecutive MVP award, a trophy that she mentions in the song. She hedged her bet, though, briefly considering a reference to Dirk Nowitzki in another version of the tune. The German 7-footer was also up for the hoop award, but Furtado decided it "just didn't work." She's got that right. What if the tabloid had linked that unlikely pair -- Nowitzki, the stoic willowy blond, and Furtado, the dark, tiny stunner? Now there's a picture.

After The Sweetness

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Garnet Fraser

(Jun. 18, 2006) Young people get old. Being a sweet young pop star probably gets old, too. The racy new Nelly Furtado is on a path taken, with varying success, by many female pop stars before her.  Jewel, who once earnestly sang of kindness and saving your soul, in 2003 came out with "Intuition," a huge musical about-face. It derides selling out lyrically ("Sell your sin/ Just cash in") but musically was built for pop-radio play, while the satirical video critiqued empty glamour and racy images by giving us lots of both, including a closer look at her physique.  Christina Aguilera's "Dirrty," a randy call for dance floor action (Sample lyric: "I need that, unnh, to get me off/ Sweat until my clothes come off"), changed her image irreversibly. The first single from her 2002 album Stripped, it was a chart flop in the United States but did well elsewhere and is well remembered for its grimy, raunchy video from director David LaChapelle (later to make Avril Lavigne's squeaky-clean "I'm With You").  The once-virginal Britney Spears put out "I'm a Slave 4 U" in 2001 and reached only No. 27 in the U.S. charts. Like Aguilera's flop, Spears had sweaty dancers all over her in the video. (Both claimed their lyrics were about dancing, not sex, but Spears' invitation to "dance upon me" hardly helped.)  Even squeaky-clean '80s popster Debbie Gibson went outré for 1990's "Anything is Possible." The video is positively Amish compared to other clips mentioned here, but Gibson recalls, "I got hate mail for wearing a black miniskirt." "Anything" didn't go far and her pop career was over.  Sheena Easton's 1984 hit "Sugar Walls" was a bit of a stunner from the "Morning Train" girl. The video was innocuous, but was banned by some broadcasters purely for the lyrics (by Prince): "Blood races to your private spots/ Lets me know there's a fire ... Come spend the night inside my sugar walls."  Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" (1981) was highly libidinous for the sweetheart behind "I Honestly Love You." In the video, the leotard-clad singer was rejected in the gym by countless men, revealed at the end to be gay. Some outlets refused to air it, but the song itself was No. 1 in 1981 and 1982 for 10 weeks.

Heat Win First NBA Championship

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Greg Beacham, Associated Press

(June 21, 2006) DALLAS — Dwyane Wade dazzled Dallas one last time — and with a sizzling four-game comeback, the Miami Heat are NBA champions for the first time. Just as Shaquille O'Neal and coach Pat Riley predicted nine years apart, there will be a parade in South Florida. Wade will lead it. “It's one of the best feelings, next to my wife and my son, that I've ever had in my life,” Wade said. “I'm going to live it up!” The man they call “Flash” had 36 points and 10 rebounds in the teeth of a hostile Dallas crowd, capping his magnificent playoffs by leading Miami past the Mavericks 95-92 Tuesday night as the Heat roared back from a two-game deficit to win the NBA finals in six games. Wade, the obvious finals MVP, cemented his superstardom with a dominant four-game performance capped by four pressure-packed, final-minute free throws in the same building where Miami lost the first two games of the series. He missed a pair in the waning seconds, giving Dallas a final shot to tie. But Jason Terry missed an open look for 3, Wade grabbed the rebound and flung it into the stands as time expired. Where there's a Wade, there's a will. His grace added a fifth ring to Riley's finger — third-most among NBA coaches — and a fourth to O'Neal's big hand. “The great Pat Riley told me we were going to win today,” O'Neal said. “I didn't have the best game. But D-Wade's been doing it all year. He's the best player ever.”

Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points and 15 rebounds for the Mavs, but Dallas couldn't manage the last basket it needed to topple Wade's tenacity. The Heat finished their franchise's 18th season with one of the league's greatest rallies in a finals, and the last period of Game 6 was appropriately gritty. Miami nursed a narrow lead, taking an 89-85 advantage with 2:36 left on two jumpers by James Posey. Jerry Stackhouse cut it to a point with a 3-pointer in his first game back from suspension, but after Udonis Haslem and Josh Howard traded jumpers, Wade hit two free throws with 26 seconds left. Erick Dampier then fumbled a pass on Dallas' next possession, and Wade fought to get the loose ball. He hit two more free throws with 17.7 seconds to play, but after Howard hit a pair, Wade missed two with 10.3 seconds left. But Terry missed an open 3-pointer — the last of 11 straight misses. Miami hung onto the clincher in front of more than 20,000 Dallas fans still furious at every NBA official and commissioner David Stern for the Mavs' three losses in Miami last week. Owner Mark Cuban stoked the furor with his antics after Game 5, which resulted in a $250,000 fine earlier Tuesday. But while the Mavs worried about every perceived slight, the Heat focused on fulfilling the promises of Riley and O'Neal. The veteran coach promised a championship 11 years ago before his first stint on the Miami bench, while Shaq also guaranteed a trophy when the Los Angeles Lakers traded him to South Beach two summers ago.

“I came to Miami because of this young fella right here,” O'Neal said, indicating Wade. “I knew I wanted to make him better.” Dallas' fans both booed and cheered the trophy presentation, and commissioner David Stern was booed repeatedly. Cuban stole the finals spotlight earlier in the day, getting socked with the fine for his complaints about the officials and general conspiracy theory. All of Dallas caught the Mavs' us-against-the-world vibe: Signs supporting Cuban and suggesting a league conspiracy against the Mavs dotted the stands for Game 6, and fans screamed at Stern in his courtside seat. But the series actually was controlled by Wade, who ascended to the most elite tier of NBA stars with commanding performances in each of the final four games. He scored 121 points in three victories in Miami before capping it with one more tenacious win. Riley wiped away tears while hugging his players, and Miami crowded onto the hastily assembled podium with the excitement of a high-school graduation. Riley, who won his first ring since 1988, claimed he never considered the possibility Miami wouldn't finish with four straight wins. “I packed one suit, one shirt and one tie,” he said before the game. “That's it.”

O'Neal, who had nine points and 12 rebounds while fighting foul trouble, was held to two of his worst career playoff games in the earlier Dallas debacles, and he endured another extraordinary struggle at the free-throw line in the series. None of it will matter to the Big Champ: He'll take a special pride in winning his first ring without Kobe Bryant. Their partnership resulted in three titles and four finals trips for the Los Angeles Lakers, but their clashing egos caused a power struggle that led to Shaq's trade. O'Neal has no such problems with Wade, and their cohesion peaked in Miami's four finals wins. Riley, the slick-haired strategist who led the Lakers to four titles in the 1980s, now has vindication from those who criticized his decision to take over the club from coach Stan Van Gundy early in the season. Leaning on Riley's savvy in coaching veterans and defence, the Heat rolled through the postseason with surprising force — never even facing a seventh game. Riley now has seven rings, counting his single championships as a player and an assistant coach. And the Heat's roster is studded with stars who never won a title. Point guard Gary Payton reached the finals with three teams before finally grabbing the ring, while Alonzo Mourning played through 13 seasons, two retirements and a serious kidney ailment for a championship. Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, James Posey, Udonis Haslem — all endured serious career troubles, and now they're all champions, too.

Miami Wins 2006 NBA Championship

Excerpt from

(June 21, 2006) *The Miami Heat come back from a 0-2 deficit to win the 2006 NBA championship title. The Heat snatched the title from the Dallas Mavericks with a four-game sweep, winning the final game of the series in Dallas.   The final score was 95-92.   This is the first title win in the Miami franchise history, which now four-time title winner Shaquille O'Neal promised he'd deliver, and a first for NBA veteran Alonzo Mourning, who emerged from a temporary retirement after beating life-threatening health issues. "It was my job to come here and make [Miami] better...and coach Riley told us on June 8th that we were gonna win on June 20th,"  Shaq says about the win.  "It came to pass." It's coach Pat Riley's first championship win since 1988 with the Lakers and he's only the second coach to take over with the season underway and win the championship title. Dwyane Wade received the MVP award, scoring 36 pts.

Stratford Finally Changes Its Tune

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kamal Al-Solaylee

(June 16, 2006) Djanet Sears has a problem with being first. As previews begin next week for a revival of her 1997 Governor-General's Award-winning play Harlem Duet, she officially becomes the first black playwright and the first black female director in the 54-year history of the Stratford Festival of Canada. The production will also be the first on any of its stages with an all-black cast.  When her follow-up play The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God was picked up by Mirvish Productions in 2003 for an extended run at Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Sears became the first black Canadian playwright to be featured on the playbill of this country's largest commercial producer. Impressive, even if shockingly belated, achievements all, but the jury inside Sears's head is still out on what they mean in the long term. "Firsts are only great as the beginning of something," she explains in an interview in Toronto earlier this week. "If it's not, it's the only one." The racial-representation ratio in Canada's larger theatres is far from perfect, but there are some positive signs.

In 2005 Mirvish Productions followed up Adventures with a production of Trey Anthony's black-women confessional 'da Kink in My Hair, to date the most commercially successful single production of a Canadian play in the history of Toronto. At Stratford, there's a feeling that the end of Richard Monette's reign and changes in the festival's artistic directorship structure will bring about more culturally diverse programming. "Things are changing, people are looking around and saying 'The world doesn't look like us here,' " Sears acknowledges. 

The world of Harlem Duet certainly doesn't look like anything Stratford has created before even if one of its key players should feel at home in a festival with classical and Shakespeare credentials. The play is a modern reworking of Othello from an all-black perspective. Set over three time periods -- the 1860s, 1928 and the present -- Harlem Duet traces three relationships between Othello (Nigel Shawn Williams) and his black lover Billie (Karen Robinson), all of which end when he leaves her for an offstage white woman. The play dwells the longest on the present in which Othello and Billie have already broken up but continue a sexual relationship that's both romantic and politically bifurcated. There are many debates in Harlem Duet but the central one examines integration versus separatism among the black community. Whether they embrace the colour of their skin (as Billie does) or refuse to be seen as just that (as Othello insists), "the burden of race" weighs as heavily on the characters in the play as it has for more than two decades of playwriting on their creator. I ask Sears if she's ever tired of carrying such a burden on behalf of a community as diverse as Canada's black population.

"You're going to carry it anyway," she says. "When you hear that there have been three shootings, you go, 'Oh my god, I hope they are not black.' You identify with your race even when you don't know who these people are. You know it's going to have an effect on you, whether you like it or not. If you are going to have the burden, you might as well do something with it." Rereading the original text of Harlem Duet was like downloading a soundtrack of the nineties' racial debates, from the phenomenon of The Bell Curve (a book that relates intelligence to race) to the O. J. Simpson trial. The latter case is particularly worth reprising. It may have been eclipsed by more devastating incidents (Katrina, for instance), but when the play opened in Toronto in 1997, the "Othello Syndrome" was still fresh. "Jealous black men who are going to kill the white girl," Sears explains it in more straightforward terms. Yet, Harlem Duet doesn't attempt any kind of apology on behalf of Othello or Billie.  "The error that people often make is to think it's one-sided," says Sears. "I'm Billie and I'm Othello. That's the conflict. This is the effect of 400 years of white supremacy [and] what that has done to the psyche of black people."

Even if Sears has updated some of the references in the play to include Condoleezza Rice and Oprah Winfrey as the new faces of black America, Harlem Duet holds up, Sears suggests, because it asks questions and avoids answers. "I find the questions still alive and real," says Sears. What's more disturbing perhaps is that these questions have passed on to another group in North America, its Arab and Muslim population, who collectively find themselves the latest addition to a long list of dangerous and suspicious racial others.  But any new meanings to Harlem Duet don't tone down or nullify its essential blackness. Harlem is more than a location backdrop for a postmodern twist on Othello. "There's something about Harlem," Sears says. "I can't liken it to anything in the mainstream world. The place of Harlem Renaissance, the place of extraordinary poverty, of riots. . . . It feels like an axis, a central point, a hot spot."  Previews from June 20 and opens June 29. $56 to $64.40. Studio Theatre at the Stratford Festival, 1-800-567-1600,


Jazz Artists Swing Into Fest Season

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

(June 19, 2006) For fans, jazz festivals are terrific, a citywide smorgasbord of music that allows for everything from tasting menu to whole-hog gluttony. And the bigger a festival is, the wider the range of options, from lunchtime recitals to big, multi-course concerts to late-night club snacks. Canada's three biggest jazz festivals -- the Toronto Jazz Festival, the Vancouver International Jazz Festival (both of which open Friday), and the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (which opens on June 28) -- each offer their own variations on that theme, and as such, the listener's experience is likely to vary from city to city. But what of the musicians? Is festival season as much fun for the players as it is for their audience? Obviously, there's more work to be had, and bigger audiences to play to. But in terms of joining the feast, well, as saxophonist Mike Murley puts it, "I'm so busy playing, I don't have a lot of time to check anything out." Still, he has his priorities. This year, for example, he definitely wants to be in the audience on June 29, when pianist McCoy Tyner's septet plays Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. "I always enjoy seeing who I consider the old masters," he says. "Not that McCoy's that old -- he's in his 60s now -- but anyone like that. Or at past festivals, people like Sonny Rollins and Elvin Jones." For Murley, who will be doing multiple gigs at the Toronto fest with his trio and septet as well as shows with the Rob McConnell Tentet, the issue is finding free time; for saxophonist Kenny Garrett, who is playing Toronto with Pharoah Sanders's group, and Montreal with his own quartet, the problem is logistics. "I'll be coming from Miami," he says over the phone from New York. "When I come in [to Toronto], I'm playing with Pharoah, but then the next day I have to go to Montreal with my band. "So it's pretty quick. You don't really get a chance to hang out. Sometimes, we don't even get to see the other acts [on the show]."

Still, some musicians like to make time to hang out when coming to Canada. Cuban reed player Paquito D'Rivera will be doing his first Canadian tour this month, and arranged things so that it ends with his June 30 performance at the Toronto festival. That way, he'll be able to hang around the city an extra day to see Hilario Duran's big band. "I recorded with him as a guest artist a couple of months ago, and he is doing a fantastic job," says D'Rivera from New York. "That's why I am staying to see the big band, and have fun. He's such a wonderful human being, too." D'Rivera also hopes to do a little sightseeing -- specifically, he wants to see Massey Hall. "I think the best recording of Charlie Parker was in that place," he says, referring to Jazz at Massey Hall, a 1953 recording with Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. "He played a lot of great stuff, all his life. But when he played Massey Hall -- my God! That place must have some kind of magic or something." Another musician who likes to make sure he has some free time when visiting Canada is bassist Christian McBride, who plays Toronto June 26 as part of the What Is Jazz? package, with the Charlie Hunter Trio and DJ Logic. "Toronto has always been by far -- by a landslide -- my favourite Canadian city. It just has a cosmopolitan thing about it that's very, very hip," he says by phone from New York. "Going to Toronto, I feel like I'm still in New York to a certain extent, and I like that about Toronto." Of course, McBride admits to being a bit biased, as his wife, singer Melissa Walker, is Canadian. But unlike some touring musicians, he definitely notices a difference between the three festivals. "Well, the Montreal festival, to put it nicely, is a zoo," he says , and laughs. "There are so many people, and so many bands, that for me it's sensory overload." From a playing perspective, he has great memories of playing the Spectrum and the Chapelle du Bon Pasteur. "When you have some intimate venues like that, and people are really focused on what's happening in the music, it's an awesome experience -- for the audience as well as the performer," he says.

"However, when you play on the outdoor stage, where you have the sea of people out there, unless you're doing a big rock show, I think the music has a tendency not to get past the first couple of rows. "Whereas in Toronto, I've felt that the audiences were able to focus more. I personally love a big crowd, coming from an R&B background and being on the road with some pop and R&B stars, I love huge crowds. But when you're playing music that's kind of partly intended for listening, it's really hard to get it across to really, really big audiences." Some of that has to do with the fact that performances before large audiences require big gestures, which can mean that the musical subtleties which have great impact in clubs sometimes go unnoticed on a big stage. There's also the issue of sound quality. Since big shows are by necessity dependent on amplification, the musicians are likewise dependent on the soundman. "We usually travel with a soundman, and he knows what we're looking for," says pianist McCoy Tyner, who will be performing at all three festivals. Soundmen, he says, "have to understand what an acoustic piano sounds like. It's very important, because some musicians -- not all -- lean toward an electronic mode. So the soundman has to be keen on what's going on, and the guy that we use, he is. He plays a little piano himself, so he knows what it sounds like." Getting a good mix from the soundman isn't the only thing a touring pianist has to worry about. Because the instruments are big and somewhat fragile, few pianists go to the trouble and expense of taking their own pianos on tour; most expect the promoters to provide one. But even when the make and condition of the piano is spelled out in the contract, it's still possible to end up with an instrument where the playing action is stiffer than the performer would like. "You really have to have enough strength in your fingers so you can compensate for the difference in the touch of the different pianos that you confront."  Fortunately, that's not often a problem for Tyner, a pianistic powerhouse who is famous for sometimes playing hard enough to break strings. "Well, I try not to bang," he says, and laughs.

On the schedule

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

June 28-July 9, Montreal. Tickets through TicketPro, 514-908-9090.

TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival

June 23-July 2, Toronto. Tickets through Ticketmaster, 416-870-8000.

TD Canada Trust Vancouver International Jazz Festival

June 23-July 2, Vancouver. Tickets through

Ticketmaster, 604-280-4444.

Blue Skies Music Festival

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(June 18, 2006) Think of it not as the little music festival that could, but as the little music festival that is more than happy to remain a little music festival. Sprouting 33 years ago as a community picnic in a field near Clarendon, Ont., Blue Skies (Aug. 5 to 6) is now a well-established, yet modest music fest, highly communal in its approach. Although weekend attendance is capped at approximately 1,200, organizers make room for new festival-goers each year. Still, repeat visitors are common -- kids have virtually grown up attending the homespun event over the years.  Performers, who fall broadly under the folk-music banner, speak glowingly of the all-about-the-music integrity. Family activities, songwriting workshops and informal holistic seminars complete a two-day schedule of concerts. Some fans drop by for the day; others camp for the weekend. (The weekend camping passes for this year's fest are already spoken for. Day tickets go on sale July 1 at shops in Kingston, Ottawa and Perth, Ont., and roughly 100 more tickets are doled out at noon on the Saturday and Sunday of the festival.) Blues Skies, in a bid to keep things fresh, rotates its music, rarely booking acts in consecutive years. This year's roster includes Rick Fines, who does cordial acoustic folk and blues. Also appearing are aboriginal roots-rockers Digging Roots, effervescent blues singer Dawn Tyler Watson, the Marigolds and the Hootenanny Revue.  Blue Skies, Aug. 5 and 6, Clarendon, Ont., (north of Kingston), 613-279-2610.

Off the beaten festival track

Live from the Rock Folk Festival:
Another fest that proves small is better, this annual event features three days of main-stage performances, plus artisans, family stage and the Festival Pub. (Aug. 11-13, Red Rock, Ont.,

Trout Forest Music Festival: Music in the Ontario woods, this year featuring the likes of Kim Barlow, Jeremy Proctor and Katherine Wheatley. If you don't want to drive yourself, you can board the bus from Kenora, Ont., or Winnipeg. (Aug. 11-13, Ear Falls, Ont.,

Shelter Valley Folk Festival: This year featuring Murray McLaughlan, plus Madagascar Slim, Lori Cullen and others, on a farm just east of Toronto. (Sept. 1-3, Grafton, Ont.,

A-Alikes Debut Album “I Eat, You Eat’ In Stores Now  - Features Bilal and Dead Prez

Source:  Supreme Management –

(May 2006) – Featuring the production of D/R Period, Black Jeruz & Ayatollah, the
A-Alikes released their debut album I Eat, You Eat in stores on Tuesday, May 23, 2006. Described by Dream Hampton as “…the best debut by a group since Mobb Deep’s The Infamous,” I Eat, You Eat have received rave reviews in major hip-hop and other influential publications such as The Source, Urb, Urbanology and BLOW! Magazine. The group cites Kool G Rap, Nas and Tupac as musical influences, and leaders such as Malcolm X as historical guides towards the mission of their music. The group recently joined Ghostface Killah for select dates on the East Coast in April 2006.  Orders can currently be purchased at or at List for I Eat, You Eat:

1.                   Born Free (featuring Afayah)

2.                   Greyhound

3.                   We Hungry (featuring I.G.)

4.                   ‘Til We Free (featuring M-1 & of Dead Prez)

5.                   They Wanna Murder Me

6.                   Protocol

7.                   What You Give (featuring Bilal)

8.                   What’s Your Politic

9.                   Our Story (featuring Maya Azucena)

10.                Share (featuring Afayah)

11.                My Niggaz (featuring N.I.M.R.O.D.)

12.                Chronicology 101

13.                More Than Music

14.                Un-Alike

15.                Diary of a G (featuring of Dead Prez)

16.                Child of the Street (featuring of Dead Prez)

17.                Heaven on Earth (featuring of Dead Prez)

Babyface and L.A. Reid To Be Honoured As BMI Icons

Source: Patti Webster or Jacinda Chen/W&W Public Relations, 732-469-5955; or / Hanna Pantle/BMI LA, 310-289-6328;

(June 20, 2006) *NEW YORK - Prolific songwriting and production team Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and Antonio "L.A." Reid will be honoured as BMI Icons at the performing right organization's 6th Annual Urban Awards.  The invitation-only gala, which will also recognize the past year's most performed BMI urban songs, is set for Aug. 30 at Roseland Ballroom in New York City, coinciding with the MTV Video Music Awards being held Aug. 31.  The Icon designation is given to BMI songwriters and artists who have had "a unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers." The LaFace Records co-founders, who will be saluted with an all-star musical tribute during the ceremony, join an elite group that includes James Brown, Isaac Hayes, Al Green, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and last year's honourees, the Gap Band.  With more than a dozen Grammys between them, including the Producer of the Year crown they shared in 1993, seven-time BMI Songwriter of the Year Babyface and Island Def Jam Chairman L.A. Reid are responsible for launching the careers of such multi-platinum artists as Toni Braxton, TLC, Usher and Pink under their successful LaFace label. The list of stars that the hitmaking pair has worked with - both together and individually - is unparalleled and includes Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, Eric Clapton, Boyz II Men, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Outkast, Dido, Ciara, Jay-Z, and countless others.

Hosted by BMI President/CEO Del Bryant and Atlanta Writer/Publisher VP Catherine Brewton, the 6th Annual BMI Urban Awards will recognize the songwriters, publishers and producers of the top BMI urban songs played on American radio and television. An Urban Song of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Publisher of the Year and Producer of the Year will be named during the ceremony. In addition, the writers of the songs that reached the No. 1 spots on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop and Hot Rap Tracks charts will also be honoured.  Now celebrating more than 65 years in business, BMI is an American performing right organization that represents more than 300,000 songwriters, composers and publishers in all genres of music. With a repertoire of more than 6.5 million musical works from around the world, the non-profit-making corporation collects license fees from businesses that use music, which it then distributes as royalties to the musical creators and copyright owners it represents.

Beyonce Chooses Her All-Girl Band

Excerpt from

 (June 21, 2006) *Beyonce was in Los Angeles over the weekend choosing the members of her all-female touring band as rumours of a possible split with boyfriend Jay-Z began surfacing on the Internet.   After simultaneous nationwide auditions were held in four different cities, Beyonce and her dad/manager Mathew Knowles made their final selections at Sony Studios Saturday. The pair helped to select the nine lucky women who will perform with the singer to promote the Sept. 5 release of her new album, “B-Day.”  "I wanted to get together a group of fierce, talented, hungry, beautiful women and form an all-girl band," she told MTV after the band was picked. "I'm all about female empowerment. I'm all about pushing the envelope. I know it's my responsibility to do something different. I said, 'I want a band, I want something different.' I had worldwide auditions; people flew in from Atlanta, Houston, Israel, all over the world.”  Beyonce said she will announce the name of her band at a later date. For now, the former Destiny’s Child leader is looking forward to gelling with the band after the gruelling audition process.

"It was extremely difficult," she said about choosing the winners. "[There are] so many talented women. I wanted only a nine-piece band, but the girls were so amazing, I couldn't decide. I think I'm going to wind up having 12 people so I have two [people playing] certain instruments, because [some of the contenders] were just brilliant. It's a thing called star quality, it's a thing you can't put your finger on, can't describe. When they were playing, I said, 'I want to see y'all battle.' I brought in two of every instrument and that's how I chose. You see the one that really wants it. It was so entertaining, the energy, seeing the girls battle ... God, it was the best. It was magical." One of the songs the ladies had to know was “Déjà Vu,” the Rodney Jerkins-produced first single currently heating up radio airwaves.   “When I recorded ‘Déjà Vu’ ... I knew that even before I started working on my album, I wanted to add live instruments to all of my songs," she explained. "It's such a balance [of music on the song], it has live congas, live horns, live bass. It's still young, still new and fresh, but it has the old soul groove. The energy is incredible. It's the summer anthem, I pray. I feel it. It's already broken records. Rodney Jerkins is incredible, Jay of course is on it, he blessed the song, I'm happy with it." Speaking of Jay, a blog is claiming that he and Beyonce are very close to splitting up.   “She wants a man, who supports her, loves her, [to] stand by her side”, a source told SocialRank. “B is sick of him possessively trying to keep things private. She doesn’t feel enough affection or love from him.”  Word is she’s upset over coming in last to his work at Island Def Jam and his obligations to the New Jersey Nets, the NBA team he co-owns.  “Jay is obsessed with keeping basketball game scores” another “close source” tells SocialRank. “Beyonce is looking to the future. Her sister Solange already has a baby. Her own parents have an amazing, fulfilling relationship and she not only wants a steady career, she wants to have a tight family circle around her as well.”  Since blogs are the new tabloids, only time will tell if this holds any water.

Rollins Tops Jazz Awards

Source: Associated Press

(June. 21, 2006) NEW YORK — Saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins took top honours at the 10th annual Jazz Awards, notching a double victory as musician and tenor saxophonist of the year.  The 75-year-old Rollins re-established himself at the top of the jazz scene during the last year with his Grammy-winning CD Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert, his first live recording in nearly 20 years.  Rollins might have won a third award for album of the year at Monday's ceremony at B.B. King's Blues Club and Grill were it not for two departed jazz legends. Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall (Blue Note), released after tapes of a 1957 concert by the short-lived but historically significant group were discovered in the Library of Congress vaults, was chosen the year's top album.  Several generations of drummers figured prominently at this year's awards which were based on votes cast by more than 400 members of the Jazz Journalists Association worldwide.

The 81-year-old Roy Haynes received the award for lifetime achievement in jazz, while Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto was named up-and-coming musician of the year. Paul Motian was chosen the year's top drummer.  Conga player Ray Barretto, who died in February at age 76, was chosen percussionist of the year, with his wife and son accepting the award on his behalf. Barretto's last album, Standards Rican-ditioned, also the final recording by pianist Hilton Ruiz who died earlier this month after leaving a New Orleans club, is due out in August, featuring an all-Puerto Rican line-up of musicians playing straight-ahead jazz standards.  He wanted "to show how his people have also touched and affected this music...because he always believed that jazz is something that comes from all people, not necessarily white, not black," Barretto's son Chris, a saxophonist, told the audience of more than 500 musicians, journalists and industry executives.

A trio of octogenarians also were recognized for their contributions. The 87-year-old Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes, now based in Sweden after serving as musical director of Havana's pre-Castro Tropicana nightclub, garnered the award for Latin jazz album of the year for Bebo de Cuba (Calle 54). Gerald Wilson, also 87, whose career as a big band leader and sideman goes back nearly 70 years, received the award for top large ensemble.  Belgian-born Toots Thielemans, 84, who pioneered the harmonica as a jazz instrument, was voted the top player of an instrument "rare in jazz."  "There is no instrument in jazz that is so much represented by one person ... jazz harmonica is really Toots' baby and has been for many decades," said a Thielemans disciple, Hendrik Meurkens, a German harmonica player based in New York City, who accepted the award on his mentor's behalf.  "Toots as a European-born made a major contribution to the music and that is a great compliment...not only for Toots but maybe for jazz because it is a global music."  Saxophonist Wayne Shorter's quartet, which earlier this year won the Grammy for jazz instrumental album for Beyond the Sound Barrier (Verve), was chosen the top small ensemble.  Other individual winners included: Andrew Hill (composer), Maria Schneider (arranger), Kurt Elling (male singer), Dianne Reeves (female singer), Dave Douglas (trumpeter), Phil Woods (alto saxophonist), Jane Ira Bloom (soprano saxophonist), Paquito D'Rivera (clarinettist), Bill Charlap (pianist), Jim Hall (guitarist), Ron Carter (acoustic bassist), Christian McBride (electric bassist) and Regina Carter (strings player).


Prince, Beyonce Bookend BET Awards

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(June 16, 2006)  *Beyonce will debut her new single “Déjà Vu” to open the 2006 BET Awards on June 27, while her boy Prince is scheduled to close the show in what organizers are billing as a “Grand Opening, Grand Closing” event in Los Angeles. “Prince’s song selection is a closely guarded secret…even to the show producers…at this point,” BET said in a statement. Other confirmed performers include nominee Jamie Foxx, Busta Rhymes, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Keyshia Cole, Lil Wayne and Mary Mary. Previously announced show talent Mary J. Blige and T.I. will round out the set list, “along with a few surprises,” the network promises. Others confirmed to attend BET Awards ’06 include Lifetime Achievement Award winner Chaka Khan, Humanitarian Award recipient Harry Belafonte and presenters Vivica A. Fox, Outkast, NFL first-round draft pick Vince Young, Rihanna, Shawn and Marlon Wayans, “Good Times” stars Bernadette Stanis and Jimmy Walker, and former BET Awards host Steve Harvey. Damon Wayans will host this year’s three-hour telecast, which will broadcast live from the Shrine auditorium beginning at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CT; tape-delayed in the Mountain and Pacific zones). In addition, BET viewers can cast their votes for Favourite Performer in the Viewer’s Choice poll at, which takes place in “real-time” during the course of the telecast.   Viewers can tune in to the ceremony to see if their chosen performer won the Viewer’s Choice award, and also check out other interactive features.

Robert Deniro To Produce Missy Elliott Biopic

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(June 15, 2006)  *Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott always thought her life story would make a good movie. And thanks to none other than the sista-loving Robert DeNiro, the dream is about to come true in a major way.  DeNiro’s Tribeca Films, along with Missy’s manager Mona Scott, will produce an as-yet-untitled biopic of the entertainer for Universal Pictures. The journey to Universal began with a pitch to Scott from writer Dianne Houston, who penned the screenplay based on Elliott’s life. Scott helped flesh it out a bit before taking it to long-time friend Jane Rosenthal, DeNiro’s partner at Tribeca Films. The company decided to produce the project through its first-look deal with Universal.  Elliott, born 1971 in Portsmouth, Va., began writing and performing with the girl group Sista in the 90s before moving and becoming a producer and eventually a solo artist more than 10 years ago. Houston’s writing credits include an Oscar nom for her work on the short film "Tuesday Morning Ride," and the recent release "Take the Lead."

Studdard Wins $2 Million In Suit

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(June 16, 2006) "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard has been awarded $2 million in his lawsuit against his ex-manager for misappropriating the singer's money and credit cards.  Studdard, 26, of Birmingham, Ala., won the television talent show in 2003 and filed suit last year against ex-manager Ronald W. Edwards and Edwards' promotions company, Sez Inc.  Jefferson County Circuit Judge Scott Vowell yesterday (June 15) awarded Studdard $500,000 for his actual losses and another $1.5 million in punitive damages, the Birmingham News reported.  Vowell dismissed Edwards' promotions company from the suit because it was bankrupt and had no assets. Edwards filed a petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on June 17, 2005.  The suit claimed Edwards misused more than $246,000 of the singer's money. According to the judge's ruling, Edwards took money from Studdard's checking and other bank accounts, improperly used his credit cards and even used Studdard's money to repay a $10,000 bank loan.   Studdard has sold more than 2.2 million records, but the damage to his credit because of the fraud made it hard to obtain financing to buy a home, Vowell's order said.

Barenaked Ladies Enjoy 'Easy' Living

Excerpt from - Rachel Surwit, N.Y.

(June 15, 2006) After three years out of the limelight, Barenaked Ladies will on Sept. 12 release their first non-holiday studio album since splitting with longtime label Reprise. "Barenaked Ladies Are Me" will hit stores via the band's own Desperation Records imprint. First single "Easy" will be delivered July 17 to U.S. radio outlets.  The follow-up to 2003's "Everything to Everyone" was self-produced by the band with aid from producer/engineer Susan Rogers. On street date, it will available in several other incarnations besides a standard 13-track audio CD, including a digital version with two bonus tracks and a 27-song "deluxe edition" featuring two dozen non-album cuts from the album sessions. The latter release will also be sold on a USB flash memory stick.  Beginning Aug. 12, fans can pre-order another version of the "deluxe edition" that boasts 29 tracks exclusively via Apple's iTunes Music Store.  As reported yesterday, BNL is making the multi-track studio recordings for "Easy" and four other new songs available for fans to remix. The five best submissions to the band's Web site will be featured on an upcoming EP, with proceeds earmarked for charity.   The group will support "Barenaked Ladies Are Me" with a fall tour and will also anchor its Ships and Dip cruise, which sets sail Jan. 15 from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Kierra 'Kiki' Sheard Readies New Release

Source: LaMarr Blackmon / 818.766.0087 /

(June 19, 2006) (Hollywood, CA) - EMI Gospel presents the dynamic Kierra "KiKi" Sheard, and her second release "THIS IS ME." The 18-year-old sensation is the granddaughter of the late Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, and daughter of Karen Clark Sheard, a founding member of Gospel legends The Clark Sisters.  Both wise and talented far beyond her years, Kierra has been a celebrated artist for the last decade and has garnered a host of nominations and awards, including nods from the NAACP Image Awards, the Stellar Awards and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards. She is not only the next generation of Clarks, but one who will be of greater significance, reshaping the very face of modern Gospel, just as her grandmother, mother and aunts did before her  Kierra's new single "Why Me?" from her new CD, "This Is Me", is projected to make a huge splash when it hits stores June 27. The continued consistency of such heavy-hitters like Smokie Norful, Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers, and Myron Butler & Levi  have entrenched EMI Gospel's name as a bonafide power-house in the music industry. That consistency won't change either with the first of several major summer projects headed your way from the entertainment giant starting with the dynamic Kierra "KiKi" Sheard.   With the self determination of a seasoned veteran and working in the excellence of producers Fred Jerkins, Warryn Campbell, Tommy Sims, PJ Morton and younger brother J. Drew, KiKi delivers a sound that will captivate ears, minds, hearts and souls-as well as capture the airwaves-for a long time. To see EMI Gospel's fantastic roster & get more information on new projects visit   DirectEFX can be heard nationally on 50 + college campuses including Howard U.(WHBC-FM), Florida A&M U. (WANM-FM), Grambling St. (KGRM-FM), Chicago St (WCSU-FM), Texas Southern (KTSU-FM), Lincoln U St. Louis (KJLU-FM), Norfolk State (WNSB-FM), U Of Windsor Canada/Detroit (KDVS-FM) check campuses for daily show times or log onto to listen to Directefx encore 24/7.   

Ziggy Marley Shares The Love With First Radio Single From New Album

Source: Dvora Vener Englefield  / B|W|R Public Relations   / 310.248.6161 /;  Myleik Teele / B/W/R Public Relations / (310) 248-6120

(June 19, 2006) Los Angeles, CA – Ziggy Marley’s “Love Is My Religion,” the first single from his highly anticipated new album, is the #1 Most Added Song at AAA radio this week.   Stations that have added the record over the past week include The Joint and XM Café on XM Satellite Radio, KBCO in Denver and WRLT in Nashville.   The video for “Love Is My Religion,” directed by Frank E. Flowers, will be serviced next week.  Ziggy Marley’s album, Love Is My Religion, is slated for release July 2nd on Tuff Gong World Wide Records and will be sold exclusively through Target stores.   Ziggy Marley’s early immersion in music came at age ten when he sat in on recording sessions with his father.  He later joined his siblings to front The Melody Makers, whose eight best-selling albums generated such chart-topping hits as “Tomorrow People” and “Tumbling Down.”   Ziggy’s solo debut, Dragonfly, was released in 2003 and featured such artists as Flea and John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Mike Einziger and DJ Kilmore (Incubus) and included the AAA chart hits "True to Myself" and "Dragonfly."    For more information on Ziggy Marley, please log on to

Jermaine Dupri Developing Mariah/Janet Duet

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(June 21, 2006) *Virgin Records exec Jermaine Dupri says he’s working on bringing together superstars Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey on the same track for Jackson’s upcoming album, “20 Years Old.” "It's gonna happen on this record," he told MTV. "Please believe that. I got a mean idea, so look for it. We definitely gonna do a repackage on [Janet's ‘20 Years Old’] once it comes out. Hopefully it's successful and people buy into it, then I'm going back in the studio.” Dupri, who produced tracks for Carey’s multi-platinum selling “The Emancipation of Mimi” LP, gave the audience at Hot 97’s recent Summer Jam concert in New Jersey a teaser by bringing both artists together on stage. JD said the idea for their collaboration came out of recording sessions with Jackson. “What happened was, when I was working with Janet, I got into the zone. This was my first time ever working with her,” he said. “When I get into my zone with artists, I just want to create and create and create. That's what happened with me and Mariah [on ‘The Emancipation of Mimi’]. We don't run outta ideas; we keep coming up with sh**. The closer I get to that idea [for Janet and Mariah], the more I know where it should be at. It's feeling like it's gonna happen."  Dupri said he also plans to pop up on certain dates along the upcoming “Mimi” tour.  "I'mma go to the hot spots," he told MTV. "She's going to Miami first. I'm definitely gonna be at that show. I'm definitely gonna be in New York, in Atlanta. That's my partner. Whatever she needs me to do, I'm there."  Outside of the Janet/Mariah realm, JD is currently working on records from his So So Def artists, including Johnta Austin, Manish Man, T. Waters and Young Capone. He’ll also work on new albums for Bow Wow, 3LW, JoJo, Ludacris, Young Jeezy, Frankie J, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Nelly, Usher ("We gonna start on his record at the end of the year") and Mariah Carey once her tour ends.

Ciara To Co-Host ASCAP R&B Awards

Source: Bobbi Marcus Bobbi Marcus Public Relations & Events, Inc. /

(June 21, 2006) LOS ANGELES  - The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is pleased to announce that multi-platinum award-winning superstar, Ciara, will co-host the 19th Annual ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards with ASCAP President and Chairman Marilyn Bergman.  The invitation-only event, which honours the songwriters and publishers of the most performed ASCAP songs on the 2005 R&B, hip-hop and rap charts, is scheduled to take place on June 26, 2006 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Ciara was recently honoured with three awards at ASCAP's Pop Music Awards, held May 22, 2006, for her chart topping singles "1, 2 Step," "Goodies" and "Oh" from her multi-platinum selling debut album Goodies. After bursting onto the scene in 2004, the multi-talented star quickly rose to the top of the charts selling over three million albums, which produced three No 1 singles - "Goodies," "1,2 Step and "Oh" - in addition to two No 1 collaborations - "Like You" w/ Bow Wow and "Lose Control" w/ Missy Elliott. To date, Ciara has received over 35 award nominations and wins total, which include accolades from the Grammy Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, Billboard Awards, American Music Awards and BET Awards, to name a few. Ciara is currently in the studio recording her yet untitled sophomore album and, most recently, is coming off the success of her first starring role in MTV Film's All You've Got, which was released on DVD on May 23, 2006. As previously announced, Marilyn Bergman will present special awards to LL Cool J and Bill Withers during the awards ceremony. LL Cool J will receive the ASCAP Golden Note Award, which is given to songwriters and composers who have achieved extraordinary milestones, and Bill Withers will be presented with the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award, which is given to ASCAP members who have had a major impact on the legacy of Rhythm and Soul music. "Top" awards will be presented in the following categories: Songwriter of the Year, Publisher of the Year, Soundtrack Song of the Year, Reggae Artist of the Year, Ringtone of the Year, R&B/Hip-Hop Song of the Year, Rap Song of the Year and Gospel Song of the Year.


June 19, 2006

Aretha Franklin, Legends Collection [Madacy], Madacy
Chaka Khan, Platinum Collection, Wea
Chamillionaire, East Coast Shakedown: Documentary [DVD],
Daz Dillinger, Daz Thang, Virgin
Diana Ross, Blue, Motown
Donell Jones, Journey of a Gemini, La Face
Earl King, 1953-1955, Classics R&B
FEFE DOBSON Sunday Love (Island)
Field Mob, Light Poles and Pine Trees, Geffen
HardNox, Panic, Hardnox Productions
Jackie Ross, Take the Weight off Me, Grapevine
Jamie Foxx, Extravaganza, BMG/J
J-Diggs, Bay Commission, Thizz
J-Diggs, Both Sides of the Gate, Thizz
JT the Bigga Figga, Don't Stop Til We Major, SMC Recordings
KC & the Sunshine Band, Legends Collection, Madacy
Kurupt, Same Day, Different Sh*t, Dogg Pound Gangstaz Recordings
Lee "Scratch" Perry, An Introduction To Lee Perry, 030206158120
Lil' J, Back Like I Left Somethin', SMC Recordings
Mac Dre, 16's Wit Dre Mixed by DJ Backside, Thizz
Mariah Carey, Say Somethin' [Single], Def Jam
Matisyahu, Youth [Single], Sony/Columbia
Millie Jackson, Caught Up [Expanded], Southbound
Mr. Shadow, Mr. Shadow's Mahem Clique, Sidewayz Ent
Mr. Shadow, Thug Connection, Sidewayz Ent
NELLY FURTADO Loose (Geffen)
Ne-Yo, Sexy Love, Universal
Nick Cannon, Stages, Motown
Obie Trice, Second Round's on Me, Shady
Pharrell Williams, Number One [Single], Interscope
Sean Paul, Never Gonna Be the Same, WEA/Atlantic
Smokey Robinson, Timeless Love, New Door Records
The Crests, Collectors Gold Series, Empire
The Youngsters, Juvenile DeLinquents, Aries
Three 6 Mafia, Most Known Unknown [Bonus Tracks], Sony Urban Music/Columbia
Tzu, Position Correction, Liberation
Urban Tribe, Authorized Clinical Trials, Rephlex
Various Artists, Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Brothers, Atlantic
Various Artists, Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Sisters, Rhino
Various Artists, Hip-Hop Super Hits, Universal Music Latino
Various Artists, 50 Ultimate Reggaeton Collection [CD/DVD], Machete Music
Various Artists, Mega Reggaeton [Universal Latino], Universal Music Latino
Various Artists, Reggae Gold 2006 [CD/DVD], VP/Universal
Various Artists, Soca Gold 2006 [CD/DVD], VP / Universal
Young Dru, If I Had a Million Fans, Thizz
Young Ed, Big Breaded,
Yung Kingpinz, What's Really Good,

June 26, 2006

3D, Boys Will Be Boys, Body Head
7L & Esoteric, A New Dope, Babygrande
Afroman, Still Drunk and High,
Bettye LaVette, Child of the Seventies, Rhino
Big B, Random Sh*t, Suburban Noize
Big Sty, Stycology,
Capleton, Free Up, Penitentiary Records
Capleton, Live in San Francisco, 2B1
Chaka Khan, Platinum Collection, Wea
Chan, Politickin', Vol. 1, Raptivism
Country Boyz, Dirt Road Pimpin, Mastermind
Dr. Dre, Death Row's Greatest Hits: The Chronicles, Death Row
Elephant Man, Direct from Jamaica, 2B1
Fats Domino, Fat Man's Frenzy, Rev-Ola
Fats Domino, Whole Lotta' Fats Domino Hits Live, Compendia Music
Gnarls Barkley, Crazy, WEA/Warner
Grandmaster Flash, Fresh and Furious: Hip Hop's Beginning, DBK Works
H.A.W.K., Since the Gray Tapes, Vol. 4, Screwed up Click
India.Arie, Testimony, Vol. 1: Life and Relationships, Universal
Jaheim, Like a DJ [Single], Warner Bros.
Jamie Foxx, Extravaganza, BMG/J
Juvenile, Way I Be Leanin' [Single], Atlantic / Wea
Killa Klump, I'm Good: Tha Mixtape, Rex Recording
Kool Keith, The Return of Dr. Octagon, OCD
Lil' Flip, I Need Mine, Sony Urban Music/Columbia
Lil' Kim, Remixes [Maxi Single], Atlantic / Wea
Mariah Carey, Say Somethin' [Single], Universal International
Matisyahu, Youth [7" Single], Sony/Columbia
Millie Jackson, Caught Up [Expanded], Southbound
Ne-Yo, Sexy Love, Universal
Ne-Yo, So Sick, Universal International
OutKast, Mighty O [Single], La Face
Prince, Fury [Maxi Single], Universal International
Rihanna, Unfaithful, Universal/Def Jam
Roc 'C', All Questions Answered, Stones Throw
Sean Paul, Never Gonna Be the Same, WEA/Atlantic
Shawnna, Block Music, Def Jam
Tha Dogg Pound, Cali Iz Active, Doggy Style
The Chaperones, Cruise to the Moon, Collectables
The Diplomats, History in the Making, Koch
The Hip Hop Bebop Junction, Bop Cubed: The Hip Hop Bebop Junction, Scufflin
Tower of Power, What Is Hip [Collection], Collectables
Trae, Restless, Asylum/Rap-A-Lot
Trick Daddy, Trick Daddy: The Real Entourage, Body Heat
T-Rock, 4:20/Reincarnated: The Mixtape, Rock Solid Ent.
Tzu, Position Correction, Liberation
Various Artists, A Tribute to Jamie Foxx, Big Eye
Various Artists, Northern Soul: The Essential Collection, Metro
Various Artists, Reggae Action, Castle Pulse
Various Artists, Tropical Reggaetonero [DVD],
Yung Joc, I Know You See It [Single], Bad Boy


Learn The Movie Craft By Living - Advice For Aspiring Filmmakers, Writers

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Geoff Pevere

(June 16, 2006) The time of year has arrived when young people march toward the horizon of their futures. Increasingly, these futures seem to involve the pursuit of careers in film production and journalism, and accordingly the lines begin to form. Film and journalism schools, which were both scarce and suspicious when I was a mere stripling, are now as common as iced cappuccinos.  Is this good? I wonder. While this surge in professional training opportunities certainly marks a significant change from the educational climate in which I was reared — in which film study was strictly Mickey Mouse and journalism was more practised than theorized — you've got to wonder if all this training hasn't sapped some of the spirit out of the very professions it aims to prepare one for.  Let me put it this way: if journalism functioned perfectly well for more than a century without journalism schools, and if some of history's most important movies managed to get made for more than 50 years by people who never studied movies, maybe it's time to reconsider the value of jumping straight into film or journalism school for people inclined toward these practices. Maybe it's time to advise these people that the best way to become a good journalist or filmmaker is to get out and learn something else first.  I would argue that, in the mainstream particularly, both movies and journalism have never been afflicted by a more powerful tendency toward drab homogeneity: the covers of most newspapers will not only have the same stories but will have them told in the same manner. And the style and content of most movies are only too consistent with the kinds of fast food one eats while watching them or the products "placed" strategically within them. You know what I'm talking about because you live in the same world: a commercial culture of infinite choice and scant innovation.

Meanwhile, both theatrical movies and newspapers are experiencing a steady decline in the size of their traditional constituencies. So it only seems reasonable to presume a certain cause-and-effect synchronicity: at the same time that both journalism and film schools have become such a staple part of the post-secondary education curriculum, both journalism and film have become duller and less adventurous than ever.  (A sure sign of the dubious nature of contemporary film study: the increasing institutional emphasis on pitching and marketing projects over creating them.)  I went to journalism school — for a year, at Carleton University in Ottawa in the mid-1970s. I wound up there because the only thing I really wanted to do, which was study movies and write about them, had no legitimate educational context in which to do so.  Or so I thought. Halfway through my miserable first year in J-school — a program that was then neatly divided between students who wanted to be Robert Redford or students who wanted to be Hunter S. Thompson — I discovered Carleton had just initiated a degree program in film studies. Not filmmaking — film study: watching, reading, listening, and learning. At the earliest opportunity I bolted, and proceeded to spend the next several years in blissful darkness.  Now, several decades later, I find myself working as close to journalism as I probably ever will, and it's precisely because I hightailed it from journalism school as soon as I could.  That's why, when I'm approached by students or aspiring movie critics (frankly, a breed of aspirant who continues to mystify me) and asked for advice on what path to pursue to get a gig like this one, I suggest doing anything but going to film school or studying journalism. At least initially. Get out into the world first: explore, study, discover. Give yourself some experiences to build the kind of foundation that both journalism and filmmaking can only be enriched by.  (Or try this: study movies, if you want to practice journalism; or journalism, if you want to make movies.)

In some cases this might mean literally backpacking into the world and exploring it; in others, it might mean intellectually doing so: study philosophy, history, art and literature first, and then go into film or journalism.  Both are at their best when they engage with the world from an enlightened perspective. If all you've done is study them, your window of enlightenment will be pretty narrow. You'll know how to record with state-of-the-art proficiency, but not what to record or why.  And while that might be good for factory-drone media production, it will produce nothing but more wallpaper.  In recent interviews I've done with figures as disparate as the Chinese director Chen Kaige and the American actor-director-producer-festival chief Robert Redford, both stressed the importance of stumbling into what they did: Chen Kaige because the Cultural Revolution had stripped him of any educational eligibility other than film school, and Redford because acting seemed to fall logically between his two dream vocations: painting and playing professional baseball.  Similarly, the actor Josh Lucas (Glory Road, Poseidon) told me that the best decision he'd made as an aspiring young actor was not to study drama. If you were observing life closely enough, he said, what more did you need?  And when you get down to it, how many of the greatest journalists or filmmakers who ever lived actually learned to do what they did at school? A very, very small percentage.  I'm not suggesting that either film or journalism schools are utterly useless. After all, I went to film school myself, and if I hadn't I would never have seen most of the movies that changed my life, nor met many of the teachers who trained me to think and see.  What I am suggesting is that both filmmaking and journalism should ideally be viewed as means of engaging with and understanding the world. If your knowledge of that world is restricted to what you learned in school, how could you do anything but reproduce what's already been done? You can't.  And thus we live in a culture where movies get made by people who have done nothing but make movies, and news is reported by people who have done nothing but report news.  Want to become a really good journalist or filmmaker? The kind who distinguishes him or herself from the rest, or who stands to make a mark that might last?  First thing I'd do is get out of line. Walk away into the world and come back only once you've learned enough to actually have something to say.

EUR Gets ‘Waist Deep’ In The Game

Excerpt from

(June 16, 2006)   *“I remember when we first got ‘Boyz n the Hood’ in the hood, with the masking tape on the box with the Sharpie-written ‘Boyz n the Hood’ on it, and we put it in [the VCR] and I seen Ice Cube do his thing,” says rapper The Game, reminiscing on his first experience with the hood movie genre.    “And ever since then,” he continues, “[I’ve seen] the “Menace to Societies,” the “New Jack Cities” and all those good hood flicks. It was dope to be presented with the opportunity to co-star in my own.” Some teenaged fan, perhaps in his hometown of Compton, CA, may come across a bootleg of “Waist Deep,” pop it in the DVD player and have a similar experience of watching The Game do his thing for the first time on a big screen.  Just like Cube’s Dough Boy, The Game’s character, Meat, lives by the code of the street, and is by no means a stretch from the actor’s real persona. “Me playing a gangster role, being a gangster rapper from a gangster town was just too cliché,” Game said while in Los Angeles last weekend promoting the film. To shake his own image from the character, the rapper wore a prosthetic eye and tried his best to make Meat stand on his own.  “People see me in my raw form everyday, and playing a character walking into the movie like that with all my same tattoos, I didn’t want anybody to be like, ‘That’s the Game.’ Sorta like Will Smith as Muhammad Ali. I was like, ‘Yo, that’s Will.’ And then the difference would be Jamie Foxx in ‘Ray’ because Jamie Foxx to me was Ray. I wanted to fall all the way into character and I think that with making the minor adjustments that I did, it turned out to be successful.”

In the film, Meat is the leader of the Outlaw Syndicate, a street gang that has kidnapped the young son of O2, played by Tyrese. O2 was trying desperately to leave the gangsta life behind and avoid his third strike, or a third felony conviction that automatically carries a life sentence. O2’s cousin Lucky (Larenz Tate), meanwhile, can’t decide whether his loyalty lies with the gang or his family. So in order to get his son back, O2 gets assistance from a hustler named Coco (Meagan Good). Soon, the two find themselves in a Bonnie & Clyde tear through South L.A., pitting rival elements against each other in a dangerous attempt to outsmart Meat. “I got a whole new respect for the Denzels, the Tom Cruises and Angelina Jolies,” laughs Game, adding that he’s in no hurry to star in another film. “It’s some crazy sh*t – the 4 a.m. wakeup calls, and you gotta be on set, then it’s the hurry up and wait. You get there at 4 a.m. then you don’t shoot until 12 noon. It’s crazy, but it’s a situation that I appreciate. Vondie [Curtis Hall] was a great director, Larenz and Tyrese were in my trailer every morning when I got there going over lines with me, so it was a dope experience, but it was just hard as a mother f**ker, excuse my French.” For now, the Game will stick to his day job, which has been kind to him ever since jumping from Cali’s crowded underground scene to worldwide notoriety with the release of his debut Interscope/Aftermath/G-Unit album “The Documentary” in January 2005. At the time, Game was a member of 50 Cent’s G-Unit crew with rappers Lloyd Banks and Young Buck, but as the world knows, things have since changed. Following a long and  nasty feud with 50 Cent, Game has finally severed business ties with the G-Unit label and now has his own Black Wall Street record label directly under parent company Interscope, which will release his new album “The Doctor’s Advocate” this summer.

“For the last 8 to 9 months I’ve been fighting for my independence on Interscope and I finally got it,” Game says. “So there’s no more 50 and we’re not in each other’s way. I don’t wish any harm on him or have anything bad to say about him at this point because I pretty much exhausted the possibility of doing that whole back and forth thing with him.” Game says his issues with 50 began with the release of “The Documentary,” when his name started to bubble throughout the industry and multiple opportunities came knocking. “At the end of the day, I just gotta be respected as a business man,” Game says. “Where me and 50 bumped heads was that he didn’t want anybody else to co-exist when he was on top. He wanted to be on top alone. He didn’t wanna give me the same opportunities that Eminem and Dre had given him.”  “All my life, I’ve been a leader and not a follower,” he continues. “I’ve had people behind me following me, doing whatever I do. I wasn’t Lloyd Banks, Young Buck, I wasn’t a G-Unit soldier, so I left the group and started my own label. I already had my own label, but it’s blown now, and we full-fledged, and we working and we’re gearing up for this album.” Free of his long-time nemesis, The Game is now completely relaxed and happy in his new crib nestled in the Kenneth Village neighbourhood of Glendale, Calif., about 30 minutes up the 5 freeway from his place of birth.

“I could’ve moved anywhere, but Glendale, as I learned, is heavily Armenian-owned, and I don’t know, it’s just nice,” he explains to EUR’s Lee Bailey. “It’s so close but yet so far, man. It’s a lot better than Compton, but not better than Compton, if you know what I mean.” The Game, born Jayceon Terell Taylor, was driving through the city just south of Glendale last May 20th when police pulled him over for not having a proper license plate. In Burbank, he was arrested and charged with possession of a dangerous weapon after a search turned up the presence of brass knuckles. “That situation was pretty much my fault,” Game smiles. “I had a photo shoot earlier that day where I featured some brass knuckles in a magazine, gearing up for my new album. Just playing around with one of my cousins, I took the brass knuckles away from the photo shoot. And when I got pulled over going to the studio because I had dealer plates on my Bentley, they shined the lights. I was talking so much sh*t because I didn’t have any weapons, I had a legit license and insurance. So I was doing my black man talk-the-sh*t-to-the-white-cop [thing].” When asked if he thought racial profiling had anything to do with his traffic stop, he said: “I tried to play the racial card, but it didn’t really work. They pulled me out [of the car]. So in the midst of me talking all this crazy stuff, they reached in my pocket and pulled out the brass knuckles. After I was an asshole, it was like [they thought] ‘I might as well take him in.’ So that situation was more my fault and I learned a lesson to just sit in the car, shut up, be black and rich.”

EUR Interviews Bow Wow: Canine In Driver's Seat

Excerpt from - By Kam Williams

(June 15, 2006)  *Shad Gregory Moss, aka Bow Wow, made an impressive screen debut, back in 2002, starring in Like Mike. Since then, the young, hip-hop sensation has also appeared in Johnson Family Vacation and Roll Bounce. Though now 19 years-old, he's listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "youngest solo rapper to ever hit number one."  On its way to going double-platinum, his most recent album, "Wanted," featured number one hit duet singles with Omarion ("Let Me Hold You") and with Ciara ("Like You"). Besides acting and music, Bow Wow has developed his own clothing line (Shago) and a variety of other business ventures, which helps explains why in July he will be receiving an award from Hollywood Life for being the most exciting crossover artist.  Here, he talks about his latest role, as Twinkie, in the Fast and the Furious 3, a picture shot in Tokyo, which brings to the screen for the first time the phenomenon known as "drifting," a style of modified car racing first popularized in Japan.

Kam Williams: What interested you in making this movie?

Bow Wow: There hasn't been a movie about drifting. And especially for "The Fast
and the Furious" and for us to come out and do something big like this, it just
opens a whole new wave of racing. I'm sure a lot of people up here in the States
probably don't know about drifting that much. But it's big over in Japan. So,
hopefully, we'll just open up a lot of people's eyes, and they can see what this
whole drifting thing is all about.

KW: Were you familiar with the phenomenon before you were offered the role?

BW: No, I was one of those guys that didn't have no idea what drifting was. But I went to Japan and worked with all the stunt drivers and stunt
coordinators, who are actually drifting champions, and they taught me and Lucas
[co-star Lucas Black] and everybody about this whole world that we didn't even
know existed. So, it's crazy.

KW: What's drifting about? It's not the same as conventional car racing?

BW: Honestly, in my opinion, it's all about the driver. It's all about how you
manoeuvre that car and make everything look great. How you make yourself look
good, and make that car look good, without any scratches or dents in it.

KW: What do you think of this style of racing now?

BW: It's just wild, man, the way these drivers can just step in these cars and
do what they do best. I mean it amazes me.

KW: Were you tempted to try to do some of your own drifting stunt work?

BW: Lucas, he loved it. He tried to drift anything and everything on set. Every car he saw, everything. Me? I'm more like, "I'll watch. I'm a stay back and watch. I'll watch a couple times then yaw'l can teach me." I mean, it was crazy, man. It's definitely an adrenaline rush.

KW: What was it like working with Taiwanese director Justin Lin?

BW: Aw, man, Justin is the best director I ever worked with, and so far, in my
career, I've done seven movies. The guy's incredible. He moves at a fast pace,
definitely at a pace I like moving at. He doesn't really like to stay on things
too long. He likes to get things done, and just keep it moving.

KW: Is there any truth to the rumour that he beat you in basketball?

BW: No, he talks a lot of smack about basketball. He thinks he can beat me, but
Justin can't beat me. And he knows that. [laughs]

KW: Do you think drifting could catch on in this country after this movie?

BW: I think it definitely will, because there hasn't been a movie which really
represented drifting. This is a big deal. It's almost like a tribute.
I think when people see it, that really get down with this drifting thing,
they'll get a kick out of it. They're gonna love it.


Paul Newman Prepares For ‘Last Hurrah'

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Michael Hill, Associated Press

(June 18, 2006) SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Paul Newman is considering his final scene. “I will probably have one film left in me,” the 81-year-old actor told The Associated Press on Thursday. “The last hurrah.” Newman's latest role is playing a cantankerous 1951 Hudson Hornet in Pixar's new animated film, Cars. His film career stretches back to the 1950s and includes The Sting, Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. “It's time. When it's time to get out, it's time to get out,” Newman said. Newman said he had a project in mind, but would not provide further details. He was visiting this upstate resort town as part of a fundraising campaign for the Double H Ranch, an Adirondack camp he co-founded for children with cancer, AIDS and other illnesses. The camp is one of eight affiliated with the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Connecticut, the first camp Newman created for gravely ill children. “When we started the camp we had no idea of the profound impact these camps would have on these kids,” Newman said at a news conference. The Double H Ranch, co-founded by Newman and the late amusement park developer Charles Wood in 1992, is raising money for a $15-million (U.S.) fund. Camp operators say the fund will help them provide services to the roughly 1,000 summer campers and 500 skiers visiting annually.

Worldwide Short Film Fest Wraps Up With Prizes

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald

(June 20, 2006) Toronto -- Ontario filmmaker Greg Spottiswood walked away on Sunday with a $5,000 cheque and the top prize for best Canadian short film for his intense movie Noise. Spottiswood was one of 10 recipients of $125,000 worth of prizes handed out at the end of the Canadian Film Centre's Worldwide Short Film Festival.   Directors Maxime Giroux (for Red) and Chris Nash (Day of John) shared the Jackson-Triggs Award for best emerging Canadian filmmaker. The C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures Award for best animated short went to Torill Kove for The Danish Poet. Best live-action short was captured by Norwegian director Hisham Zaman for the touching refugee tale Bawke. The $5,000 Kodak Award for best cinematography in a Canadian short was presented to Ontario's Tess Girard for Benediction. The best-documentary-short title went to Poland's Maciej Adamek for On the Road. Best-experimental-short honour went to Britain's Osbert Parker for Film Noir. The Audience Choice Award went to Spain's Marco Besas's The Legend of the Scarecrow.

Rick James Documentary Due In The Fall

Excerpt from

(June 21, 2006) *In October, HiddenDoor Documedia will release a new feature-length documentary about the life and times of late funk master Rick James. The film will feature reflections from his daughter Ty and offer a rare glimpse into the musician’s childhood in Buffalo, N.Y. during the 1950s, including his experience learning different instruments and the influence of his mafia-connected mother.  "We're trying to give people an accurate glimpse into the energy, charisma and magnetism that Rick James possessed throughout his life and used to become a superstar," said Perry Santos, producer and co-director of the documentary. "Through his own words and many interviews with everyone from club owners to Hollywood's biggest celebrities, you really get a good look at Rick in all his glory."  The film also chronicles James (born James Ambrose Johnson, Jr.) as he travels to Toronto and forms a band with Neil Young and Bruce Palmer. He learns to play the sitar during his stint as a drug runner and pimp in South America and Asia, and he later returns to the streets of Buffalo to craft his famous song "Superfreak."   After Rick's music launches him into stardom, he becomes a well-known figure at the legendary Studio 54, an energetic rival of Prince and a close buddy of Eddie Murphy. Throughout the documentary, HiddenDoor relies on existing camera footage of James to give the artist an active presence in the film and includes extensive interviews with many of his closest friends, colleagues and contemporaries.  Tales of James' encounters with the U.S. Navy, Rod Stewart, parking attendants, and his personal crack cook, Chef Boy R Dee, keep the documentary moving at a brisk pace. James' candid comments and thoughts are heard throughout the documentary, including "I abuse drugs, not women," "Cocaine is a hell of a drug," and the famous line, "I'm Rick James, b*tch."

Singleton In Control At Universal

Excerpt from

(June 21, 2006)  *Filmmaker John Singleton is making headlines, both for his decision to leave United Talent Agency and join Creative Artists Agency for professional representation, and his new five-picture deal at Universal that still allows him to retain complete creative control over projects.    Universal, or its Focus and Rogue divisions, will market and distribute the five pictures, each with a budget of under $15 million. All of the creative decisions, however, will be made by Singleton alone.  The autonomy was important to Singleton, the director of such African-American-themed films "Boyz N the Hood," "Four Brothers" and "2 Fast 2 Furious," as well as producer of "Hustle & Flow."  Singleton knows exactly what it's like to pitch an idea that revolves around people of color to a roomful of white executives.    "Basically the American studio structure is the same as it's been since Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner ran the business," he tells the Los Angeles Times. "This is not one of these businesses run by affirmative action. In Hollywood, affirmative action is all about — how much money can you make?"   Before approaching Universal, Singleton says he pitched the five-picture deal to Paramount Pictures, which released "Hustle & Flow," but the studio turned down his offer. Universal was a perfect fit, not only because the studio has already made a number of multi-ethnic pictures, but because Singleton has a close relationship with new Universal Chairman Marc Shmuger.   "I've known Marc for 16 years and I consider him a friend," Singleton tells the newspaper. In fact, "Boyz N the Hood" was the first picture Shmuger worked on when he came to Sony in 1991 as an advertising executive. When Shmuger later moved to Universal, he worked with Singleton on "2 Fast 2 Furious."

Master P Founds Hollyhood Cinemas

Excerpt from

(June 21, 2006) *Rap mogul Master P has launched “HollyHood Cinemas,” a new production company that will churn out films by black actors who tend to be slept on by major studios.   “I feel hands down that Kat Williams is the next Richard Prior, A.J. Johnson is the next Bill Cosby and Michael Blackston is the next Sidney Poitier,” P told   The three actors star in HollyHood’s first DVD release, “Repos,” due in stores July 4. Master P says the company is planning to release 100 DVD films by 2007, with each package containing a free CD soundtrack.   “If I had to compare any of my movies to any movies out there I would compare them to ‘Uptown Saturday Night’; it’s funny, it has a great cast, and it’s meaningful,” Master P. told the Web site.   For more information on the movie, visit  


CBC Aims To Attract The Young

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald And Guy Dixon

(June 18, 2006) CBC Television's newly minted programming team for English Canada presented a fall schedule yesterday that is skewed younger, is more populist and is padded with reality shows, longer-running dramas and documentary series. On the 10th floor of CBC headquarters in Toronto, Kirstine Layfield, executive director of TV network programming, told the crowd that she was extending prime time (7 p.m. to midnight) and looking to beef up all programming genres. In her position for a scant three months, Layfield said the “stakes are high and the needs are urgent” at the public broadcaster. “But the rewards will be great.” She then unveiled a schedule that moves away from CBC-TV's former emphasis on high-impact miniseries to concentrate on giving audiences (hopefully) meatier dramas such as the Moses Znaimer-produced Rumours (a 20-part comedic drama modelled after a successful show in Quebec set at a women's magazine) and Chris Haddock's Intelligence, a mob/cop drama based out of Vancouver. The new reality shows include The Canadian One — a Canadian Idol wannabe about the search for the country's great unsigned musical talent — as well as Dragon's Den, where entrepreneurs have to pitch a hard-edged team of venture capitalists à la Donald Trump's The Apprentice.

In the 2006-07 season, CBC will also air a 10-hour documentary called Hockey: A People's History. It will serve up a national game show, Test the Nation: National IQ Test, and Wendy Mesley will host a new five-part series, Underdogs, where fed-up consumers can take on big business. CBC also introduced the eight-part October, 1970 (a look behind the FLQ crisis) and a forensic docudrama, 72 Hours. The beleaguered network is even entering late-night talk-TV with George Stroumboulopoulos's fast-paced CBC Newsworld show The Hour now occupying the 11 p.m. slot on the main CBC-TV network. Lagging in ratings, the network has set a goal of one million viewers for a dramatic episode and 800,000 for documentaries. Layfield said the analogy being kicked around in the CBC executive suite is that the public broadcaster used to create its TV schedule like a potluck dinner. The problem was “everybody brought salad,” she said.

CBS Rather Not Have Rather

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Matea Gold, Special To The Star, Los Angeles Times

(June 16, 2006) NEW YORK—CBS News officials have decided to end the network's relationship with Dan Rather, the face of the news division for almost a quarter-century, and are finalizing negotiations for the former anchor to leave before his contract expires at the end of November.  Rather confirmed yesterday that he is wrapping up talks to conclude his four-decade run at CBS, despite the fact that he had hoped to stay on in a new role.  "If it had worked out for me to be an important contributor to CBS, I would have liked that," he said in a phone interview. "The work has not turned out what I hoped it would be ... the network executives decided that I should go on to the next step of my work.''  The 74-year-old newsman said he doesn't view his departure with disappointment.  "I'm a pro and it's a business and I'm focusing on the future," said Rather, who said he is excited by other, unnamed opportunities. "That's where my focus is. I tend to be an optimist."  Still, those close to Rather say he has been dismayed and perplexed by the pressure put on him by network executives to make an early exit.  "It's clear I have some difficulties with the current corporate management, but that's not unusual with reporters," he said.  The abrupt ending to his 44-year CBS career is a painful conclusion for Rather, who stepped down as evening news anchor in March 2005 in the wake of a storm of criticism about a story he reported that raised questions about President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard.

An independent panel commissioned by CBS concluded that the piece, which aired on the now-defunct 60 Minutes Wednesday in September 2004, was based on documents that could not be corroborated. In the fallout, four staffers lost their jobs. Some colleagues, including 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace, suggested Rather should have quit as well.  Instead, he left the anchor desk to return to reporting. This season, Rather was kept half-busy as one of nine correspondents on 60 Minutes while network officials worked to leave behind the controversy.  Long-time Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer was brought on to serve as interim anchor of CBS Evening News and a slew of new executives were installed in the news division. With Katie Couric taking over for Schieffer this fall, CBS officials decided they want to signal a fresh start for the news division and there was no longer an appropriate role for Rather.  News executives have sought an amicable agreement with the former anchor and stressed their respect for his contributions to CBS. They've cast his departure as a move to showcase a new generation of correspondents. Along with Couric, CNN's Anderson Cooper is coming aboard this fall to do pieces for 60 Minutes, and producers are hoping the new faces will attract younger viewers.  But Rather said he had more to contribute to the network he first joined in 1962.  "I think now as much or more than ever, Americans need hard-news reporting. I'm committed to that. When my feet hit the floor every morning, I'm looking for a great story.''

Znaimer To Spread Rumours Across Canada

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(June 17, 2006) MONTREAL — Moses Znaimer hopes to boost the flagging fortunes of Canadian TV by exploiting a talent pool that English Canada typically ignores: Quebec.  Znaimer and Quebec producer Jocelyn Deschênes have brokered a deal with the CBC to make Rumours, an English version of the hit Québécois series Rumeurs. The new half-hour comedy, starring Alberta-born, L.A.-based actor David Haydn-Jones, revolves around the tension between a smart but neurotic journalist and an acerbic former sports writer who end up working at a third-rate women's magazine. Shot in Montreal, it will air on the CBC this fall.  While the script has been translated, and stars imported from Toronto and beyond, the original set and the Québécois crew — including director and editor — remain the same. “I'm trying to mine the talent in the Quebec market,” says Znaimer, the executive producer of MZTV and CITY-TV co-founder. “In English Canada, we are always asking ourselves, ‘How can we learn what Quebec knows?' Quebec has a television industry. Quebec has a star system. We don't. So I decided to do something about it.” Indeed, while English-Canadian TV has been largely struggling to define itself for over half a century, the Quebec television industry has been thriving ever since the first téléroman, or soap opera, La Famille Plouffe, aired in 1953. Per capita, Quebec produces more than twice the number of series that American networks do. The province's Top 20 shows are all made right in Quebec.  Znaimer discovered Rumeurs serendipitously two years ago, at the launch of the fall TV line-up of Radio-Canada. While at the launch, he recalls, “I was struck, yet again, by the enormous amount of production being done [in Quebec]. So I started to ask people who the hot Quebec TV producers are.”

That same day, Znaimer met Deschênes, one of Quebec's most successful TV producers. He advised Znaimer to watch Rumeurs, which had been a hit for two seasons. Znaimer, who grew up in Montreal and understands French, loved it. “We already have a hit comedy about rural Canada, Corner Gas,” he says. “But I'm a downtown boy. Rumours is a better fit for me.” And so he and Deschênes put together an English pilot, and peddled it to the CBC. The broadcaster purchased 20 episodes — the biggest order of any series other than This Hour Has 22 Minutes, according to Anton Leo, CBC's creative head of TV comedy. “We bought it because the script was good,” says Leo, “and Jocelyn Deschênes has an excellent track record.”  Because the set already existed, and a crew was in place, the series wasn't nearly as expensive as it might have been, notes Znaimer: “The equivalent drama made in English Canada would cost $600,000 to produce. This show will be made for less than $400,000.” In fact, most Quebec dramatic series are significantly cheaper to produce than the movies of the week and big-budget dramas made in English Canada. In 2005, the average budget for a French-language, hour-long drama was $259,000, compared to $1.3-million in English Canada. Born in Tajikistan, Znaimer grew up in Montreal, and is obviously enthusiastic about bridging Canada's TV solitudes, despite the fact that similar cross-cultural small-screen experiments have failed in the past. Although some Canadians tuned into the English version of La Famille Plouffe in the 1950s, the series was far from a hit outside Quebec.  And the rest of Canada didn't care much for He Shoots, He Scores, the English version of the wildly popular Quebec hockey series, Lance et Compte, first broadcast in 1985. As one critic wrote at the time: “Where the French series seems like hip, exciting and contemporary TV drama, the CBC's telecasts tend to plod punchlessly along.”

According to Paul Rutherford, the author of When Television Was Young: Primetime Canada, 1952-1967, the CBC has been “searching for the Holy Grail for a long time. If they are successful, it would be a dramatic form that would be entirely Canadian. But history speaks against them.” Still, unlike The Plouffe Family and He Shoots, He Scores — in which the French actors starred in the English versions — the Rumours cast are all native English speakers. The fact that most of them are telegenic hotties bent on finding love will no doubt also help to pull in viewers. “ Rumours is a very urban series with a lively undercurrent of sexuality,” says Znaimer. “Getting laid is of universal interest. That desire is well expressed in this series.” Znaimer — who stepped down as president of 17 CHUM TV stations in 2003, has since co-founded Cannasat Therapeutics Inc. (which is researching the benefits of cannabis and developing marijuana-related medicines), and is also president of the ideaCity conference, a broad-ranging “meeting of minds” to be held in Toronto next week — also plans to produce Brazilian-Portuguese and Spanish versions of Rumours. As well, he's purchased the rights to another Quebec series, Vice Caché, about the weirdly complex lives of a group of male suburbanites, which aired in Quebec in 2005. “It's Desperate Housewives,” he says, “from a male perspective.” Actor Haydn-Jones, for one, has certainly been impressed by the world of Quebec television. “This crew is a finely oiled machine,” he says. And he predicts that “Canada will be pleasantly surprised by this. The writing is so good. [The] stories are very rich. The characters are contemporary and smart, so that translates very well.”

Time For Your Celebrity Fix

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Andrew Ryan,

(June 16, 2006) Summertime . . . and the viewing is sleazy. The panting public obsession with celebrity creeps up a notch with the onset of hot and sticky weather. Each summer brings a succession of movie blockbusters designed to lure people into air-conditioned theatres, but the real stargazing remains firmly fixed on the small screen. The relentless coverage of Hollywood stars has become one of the few growth areas in the TV industry. Ratings for a lot of reality programming are waning, as are the numbers for network dramas and sitcoms. But life is dandy for shows devoted to entertainment news. It's called exposure, babe. The glitzy showbiz shows pull the stars because TV audiences dwarf the movie-going demographic. Far more people will watch Adam Sandler in an Entertainment Tonight interview than will ever see one of his silly comedies. The entertainment newsmagazine field was already fairly congested with ET and the knockoffs Access Hollywood, Extra! and Canadian entry etalk. Newer arrivals include Star! Daily and Entertainment Tonight Canada, which is identical to the U.S. show but with Cheryl Hickey wearing the Mary Hart blazer. The celebrity fixation even plays out on local newscasts, where in most cases the old Entertainment Minute concept has been stretched into its own segment. Do viewers in Lethbridge require the full details of Britney Spears's pregnancy tests? Probably not, but it's all there, right alongside the sports, weather and farm reports.

The stars come out in force each summer and very often they turn up on late-night talk shows, where they magically appear a few days before the release of their new movie or project. This explains the presence of Paris Hilton on Late Night With David Letterman earlier this week. Ms. Hilton is now a recording artist, don't you know, and her CD is scheduled for release in early autumn. Celebrities are more willing to step into the media glare this time of year, but their co-operation isn't always necessary. Charlie Sheen & Denise Richards: The E! True Hollywood Story (Star!, 8 p.m.) is a newer entry in the ongoing series of scurrilous star treatments. Their recent ugly divorce proceedings and pending custody battle have turned Charlie and Denise into a lead news story. The program is identical to every other E! True Hollywood Story episode, with the same sombre narration droning over top of capsulized career profiles: Charlie is painted as the original eighties Hollywood bad boy, with a history of substance-abuse problems and a penchant for prostitutes; Denise is portrayed as the wide-eyed model turned wooden actress. Her biggest break was a one-shot appearance as a Bond girl. Charlie and Denise met, they married, they had a child. They split up, then reconciled. Denise became pregnant again and then they split up, again. In the divorce papers filed, she claimed Charlie had returned to his wild ways. Oh, that Charlie. It's the standard tabloid-TV affair pulled up from a lower Hollywood rung. No one really cares about these two B-listers, but the real star couples are otherwise engaged: Tom and Katie are in seclusion and allegedly changing diapers, as are Brad and Angelina. And Jennifer and Vince aren't talking. To fill the gap, the entertainment press simply moved Charlie and Denise up the star ranking. Sometimes it's that easy.

Just in case you're partial to this sort of celebrity piffle, there's more of it on display this evening in 10 Ways to Be a Cover Story Couple (Star!, 9 p.m.) and Gone Bad: Hot Love (Star!, 9:30 p.m.), with Jennifer Lopez figuring prominently in both programs. Only slightly removed from the obsessive celebrity culture: Child Stars II: Growing Up in Hollywood (A&E, 8 p.m.), which takes a slightly softer tack. As with the first special, the interviews with currently bankable celebrities like Ron Howard and Kurt Russell who began as child stars are transposed with sad follow-ups with those whose celeb status has slipped, such as the Olsen twins and the girl who played Blossom. The star fawning is more obvious in Biography Home Videos (A&E, 9 p.m.), surely one of the lowest-budget shows in TV history. The concept has actors contributing their own daily video diaries, with supposedly candid moments captured at home and on movie sets. The celebrities include Chevy Chase and former Partridge Family star Danny Bonaduce, so don't expect much work footage. Thankfully, the celebrity approach is occasionally put toward a positive cause. Moby Dick: The True Story (History, 9 p.m.) offers new perspective on the classic novel. Most people assume Moby Dick sprung entirely from the mind of Herman Melville, but it turns out the story was based on a real-life incident in which an enormous sperm whale attacked and sank a whaling ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Naturally, the fictional version of the whale received all the literary acclaim and wealth. The real Moby could have used a good Hollywood publicist.

Dates and times may vary across the country. Check local listings.

'Idol' Knockoff To Bump Mansbridge

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald, With a report from Unnati Gandhi

(June 21, 2006) Veteran news anchor Peter Mansbridge and The National will be bumped from their 10 p.m. time slot this summer to make way for an American Idol knockoff reality series, The One: Making a Music Star. CBC has confirmed it is moving its flagship national newscast back to 11 p.m. to make way for the flashy American import, produced by Endemol USA, which will make its two-hour debut July 18 and run through Sept. 6. The change has raised the ire of Mr. Mansbridge, anchor of The National for 18 years, who said the newscast went through months of being delayed this year — first for the Olympics, then for hockey. I always object to that and make my voice heard on that and sometimes they listen to me, and other times they don't,” he said. ABC's new 16-part reality show, which will be simulcast on CBC, will air Tuesday nights from 9:30 to 11 p.m. EST, as well as on Wednesdays from 8 to 9 p.m. CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said The National will definitely be bumped Tuesdays in Central Canada, but may not be affected in other parts of Canada. “We're very excited about this program,” Mr. Keay said. “We think it's got terrific potential. “We recognize some people may be uncomfortable with it. We recognize that,” he said. “We are trying to accommodate everyone's needs. In a perfect world we wouldn't need to move things around, but given the strengths of the new program, we thought it was applicable under the circumstances.” This fall, CBC plans to make a local version of The One, the musical-talent contest show that has also been a hit in other territories. Similar to the Idol franchise, with contestants performing their hearts out and vying for the top prize of a recording contract, The One is different in that contestants will get vocal coaching and tutoring by celebrity mentors.

Mr. Mansbridge said in an interview that while moving The National upsets him, “I also see the possibility of it helping us in the long run. Because if the Canadian version is a success in the fall, then it can precede us, and it can deliver an audience to The National. Arthur Lewis, executive director of Our Public Airwaves, said the decision to bump The National for a reality show is “sad testimony of the extent to which CBC Television has become a commercial network. “The very fact that they're running an American program, simulcast with ABC, is appalling,” Mr. Lewis said. “The CBC has got to find a way to wean itself off this incredible dependence on commercial sales in order to pay its bills. In October, 2005, CBC president Robert Rabinovitch told the House of Commons Heritage Committee that “there are certain types of programming that we don't have to do or should do. For example, we don't do reality television. “We think we're enough of a reality on our own, in terms of surviving. But we do not do reality programming. If we only were chasing rating points, we could do reality programming,” he said, in response to a question from Bev Oda, then Conservative Party heritage critic. “Quite frankly, some public broadcasters in the world do reality programming. But we don't do that.” At CBC's fall 2006 launch last week, the network also unveiled two more reality shows, Dragon's Den, as well as a game show, Test the Nation: National IQ Test. Ian Morrison, spokesman for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, said the schedule change for The National “proves that hockey is not the only thing that the current management of CBC thinks is more important than the news. We've noticed during the period Mr. Rabinovitch has been president a decline in Canadian content that's available in prime time. “It's a steady erosion and ... reflects the values of the current management.”

Oswald Boateng Begins American Invasion

Excerpt from

(June 19, 2006) *Most folks on this side of the Atlantic have never heard of Ozwald Boateng. The 39-year-old Savile Row sensation has designed and tailored suits for the likes of Jamie Foxx, Laurence Fishburne and Samuel L. Jackson, and is hoping that his new reality series on the Sundance Channel, “House of Boateng,” will introduce Americans to his unique approach to fashion.  “A lot of men here have no idea what Savile Row is or what a bespoke suit is,” Boateng says, explaining the difference between chaps in the U.K. and men in the States.   “There is a big difference, the history of the suit and the fact that the suit was born on Savile Row in London, for instance.  And so hopefully through this series, there will be a bit of an education in that as well.”    The half hour documentary series, airing Thursdays at 9 p.m. beginning this week, will follow the British designer as he works to launch his line of clothing in the U.S. and duplicate over 20 years of success in Europe. His entry into fashion came at 16, after helping his girlfriend design a collection as a college project. While studying computers at Southwark College, he began cutting and designing clothes, using his mom’s old sewing machine to make outfits for fellow students. He sold his first collection to a menswear shop in Covent Garden, and by the time he was 23 he had opened his own business. He became the youngest tailor ever to set up shop on Savile Row, London’s famous center of traditional bespoke tailoring.   “Bespoke” is the British term for clothing made at a customer's behest and created without a pre-existing pattern, setting it apart from made to measure (or tailoring), which alters a pattern to fit the customer. Bespoke suits are Boateng’s bread and butter. “In London, we have a museum called the Victoria & Albert [V&A] Museum who did a tribute to my work for 20 years because I’m quite well known for all I’ve done and being quite a revolutionary tailor and influencing a lot of designers around the world,” Boateng told us.  And that was being modest.

Born in Ghana and raised in North London, Boateng is the first black designer to be accorded space at the V&A, and is widely credited – on both sides of the pond – with changing the way men dress, mixing traditional elegance with his own brand of cutting-edge style.  In 1994, he made history as a tailor-turned-designer showing his first line at the International Menswear Collections in Paris. The heat from that event led to the opening of his shop on Vigo St. at the end of Savile Row. He eventually caught the attention of French menswear giant Givenchy, who hired him in 2004 to become its Creative Director. He was recently named one of the 100 Great Black Britons by the Voice newspaper and the Greater London Authority, and in January received the Order of the British Empire in the 2006 Queen’s New Year’s Honours. To Brits, he’s already a fashion superstar. His attempt to wield the same influence here in America is something the Sundance Channel hopes will attract a loyal following.  Ben Silverman, the show’s executive producer, has been trying to sell his British buddy on the idea of filming his journey in America for a television series.  “He’s been on me to do something like this for ten years,” says Boateng. “So when I saw him at the Vanity Fair party at the beginning of the year, he said, ‘So are you ready now?’  I said, ‘You know what? I am.’  So there you have it.” During the series’ eight-week run, viewers will see Boateng scout locations in Los Angeles and New York, jet to Paris to tighten up Givenchy’s latest collection before a public showing and oversee the showing of his own line in Milan. In the second episode, cameras follow him during a meeting with “American Idol” judge Ryan Seacrest.  Explaining his celebrity clientele, Boateng says, “Fortunately a lot of my clients are very good friends.  I’m a very instinctive, intuitive creator, and I think they trust me. Fortunately, people really appreciate what I do, and they tend to call me and say, ‘Make me look beautiful.’ Then I go to work.”

He also says good old word of mouth and networking play a huge part in drawing famous faces to his services.     “I met Jamie Foxx through Will Smith because I dressed Will Smith for the Oscars when he was nominated for ‘Ali,’ he explains. “And after the Oscars ceremony there was a party. And I was introduced to Jamie, and we just got on really well. I hung out with him and we became friends.  So when he got nominated for ‘Ray,’ it was just like there was no hesitation.” His work for Foxx caught the eye of director Michael Mann, who hired Boateng to design the suits for Detective Tubbs, the character played by Foxx in the upcoming film adaptation of “Miami Vice.” Careful not to give away too much about the characters’ look, Boateng said none of the pastels and pushed up sleeves of the 1980s NBC series were recreated for the film.   “I did what I do, you know. Michael Mann, he didn’t want that approach because it happened [back] then,” he explains. “He wanted to do what’s happening now, and that’s part of the reason he asked me to do the clothes for the movie.”   Sundance Channel president and CEO Larry Aidem is quick to point out that Boateng doesn’t just design suits for the well-known. “I was audited by the IRS about a year and a half ago, and he dressed me for my audit,” Aidem said. Official site:

Surfing The Internet At Work? Alliance Wants To Reel You In

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Grant Robertson , Media Reporter

(June 20, 2006) TORONTO -- Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. wants to show people at their desks how to make soufflés, and teach them during lunch breaks how to grout a bathroom. The Canadian broadcaster, which owns 13 cable television channels, including the Food Network and HGTV, is bolstering its presence on the Web in a bid to reach the vast number of people who surf the Internet at work. It is part of a bigger strategy in the broadcasting sector, where networks are developing Web programming for people who log on at work, either during lunch or on their coffee breaks. "Internet delivery of content is at its peak not in TV-viewing prime time but at noon, when people at work surf the Net on their lunch hour," Alliance Atlantis chief executive officer Phyllis Yaffe told the company's annual meeting yesterday. In addition to video clips and streaming broadcasts, user-generated content, including recipes and tips on gardening and home renovations that are supplied by viewers, are also being explored. Alliance Atlantis is one of several broadcasters hoping to build audiences of daytime viewers on the Web, since many offices have high-speed Internet connections and Internet use soars during the day. CBS Corp. expanded its Web programming this year with the addition of the March Madness college basketball tournament during the day. Viewership for the games set records as office workers visited the site in droves.  While some U.S companies fear lower productivity, analysts suggest Internet-based TV watching will eventually become entrenched in the workplace.

Alliance Atlantis is rolling out a broad digital expansion that also involves selling downloadable versions of the CSI television franchise. The show can already be downloaded in the United States and plans are under way to pursue that strategy elsewhere.  The Toronto-based company owns the global distribution rights to CSI outside the United States market. Alliance Atlantis also wants to explore options for its catalogue of Hollywood movies, owned through its 51-per-cent stake in Motion Picture Distribution LP (MPD).  The business, which owns the rights to many of the top films distributed in Canada, could play a significant role in the company's digital strategy. Alliance Atlantis was looking to sell its stake in the unit last year. However, given the rapidly evolving digital world, where rights to programming are an increasingly valuable commodity, it is now "pausing to consider that decision," Ms. Yaffe said. Some analysts and industry observers have interpreted such comments as an indication Alliance Atlantis has decided not to sell. Though Ms. Yaffe said recently "the most prudent thing to do may be to wait," she said yesterday that the company has not made up its mind either way. "To be clear, in no way have we made a decision regarding the future of MPD," Ms. Yaffe said. Alliance Atlantis also said it plans to continue buying back shares. It repurchased $17-million worth of stock in the past year. Despite those efforts, the company's shares have been slumping lately. The stock has fallen sharply since peaking at about $38 in mid-April, suggesting a correction is "overdone," analyst Carl Bayard of Desjardins Securities said in a recent research note.  The stock closed yesterday at $32.63, up 90 cents, on the Toronto Stock Exchange.  Alliance Atlantis chairman Michael MacMillan said yesterday he believes the slump is part of an overall slide in the market. "It obviously has been weak in the past couple of weeks," Mr. MacMillan said. "[But] the market's been off."

YouTube Confers Instant Star Status

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Scott Collins, Special To The Star, The Los Angeles Times

(Jun. 20, 2006) When Brooke Brodack, a 20-year-old receptionist who lives in western Massachusetts with her mom and younger sister, started getting fan mail from Carson Daly's people, she figured it was all a joke, that somehow she'd been punked.  But strange things can happen when you post goofy homemade videos of yourself on, the website that the TV industry can't decide whether it should embrace or dread.  Daly, former MTV phenom and currently host of NBC's late-night show Last Call, was noodling around on YouTube one weekend this spring when he told an executive at his production company to check out Brodack's short video parodies.  An intense young woman with flyaway hair and a gap-toothed smile, "Brookers" had in eight months become one of the most popular hosts on the video-sharing site, which logs roughly 200 million page views per day and is ranked No. 18 in worldwide Internet traffic. One of Brodack's videos, "Crazed Numa Fan!!!!," a wry takeoff on the Internet lip-synching craze inspired by the popular dance tune "Dragostea din Tei," has been viewed more than 1.4 million times since October.  "I thought there was something extremely charismatic about this girl," Daly said. "Her directing, her use of music — it was very MTV to me.''  You can probably write the next paragraph yourself: Carson Daly Productions signed Brodack to an 18-month overall programming development deal, splashed across the pages of Variety last week.  Other terms weren't disclosed, but it's believed to be the first time a recognized Hollywood firm has established formal ties with one of the homegrown (and mostly young) talents on YouTube.

To many in the industry, YouTube, launched in February 2005, and other sites like it are potential enemies, the TV version of Napster, whose early reputation as a song-piracy enabler made it a pariah to record companies.  After all, in addition to allowing people like Brodack to distribute their own work, these sharing sites also allow the free exchange of previously broadcast, copyrighted material — exactly the kind of stuff that studio executives hope to make big syndication and DVD dollars from down the road.  That's why in February, NBC, Daly's own employer, asked YouTube to take down the Saturday Night Live clip "Lazy Sunday" — even though the site was largely responsible for turning the rap spoof into an Internet sensation.  (NBC now sells it for $1.99 on Apple's iTunes site, though you can still watch it free plenty of other places online).  Daly isn't alone in seeing YouTube as a fertile frontier rather than a pirates' cove.  Major TV studios have also started trolling YouTube and similar destinations for the next generation of acting and directing talent.  In the process, the Web is offering the kind of instant connection to Hollywood that countless denizens of public-access talk shows have craved and seldom received.


Final Curtain Set To Fall On Mr. Dressup

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(June 15, 2006) Toronto — After a decade in reruns, Mr. Dressup is being pulled off the air. The pioneering children's TV show will be removed from CBC's weekday line-up on July 3 and will air on Sundays only. On Sept. 3, it will end altogether.  The show stopped production in 1996 when Ernie Coombs retired after three decades of appearing as Mr. Dressup, a low-key, yet iconic character in Canadian television history. Coombs died of a stroke in 2001. A spokesman for the CBC said that since 1996, the show has been repeating episodes from the final four seasons.

Moses Wanders Out Of Wilderness

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman

(Jun. 21, 2006) In the brave new world of specialty TV channels, surely there should be one devoted exclusively to the limitlessly fascinating subject of Moses Znaimer.  The boy wonder who invented Citytv 34 years ago has been wandering in the wilderness for the past few years after being rudely cut loose by those heartless rulers of the CHUM empire, a mere 25 years or so after buying his enterprise.  But for the past week, it seems everywhere I turn, I'm watching all Moses all the time. And he's more ubiquitous than ever.  Last Wednesday, at the opening of Toronto's new opera house, Znaimer was smiling even more than other champagne-quaffing celebrants.  His happiest secret, he confided, was that he was on the verge of buying a prestigious radio station: Classical 96.3 FM. Indeed, two days later it was announced that his application is before the CRTC. A favourable decision is expected in August.  But is he really going to revolutionize FM radio the way he once revolutionized television? I doubt it. But perhaps the voice of actress Marilyn Lightstone, Znaimer's longtime companion — once a signature on his Bravo! arts channel — will be heard introducing Mozart.  For the next three days, Znaimer is presiding at his annual intellectual festival of talking heads, a.k.a. ideaCity — boasting 500 attendees, 50 speakers and nightly parties. Znaimer has already planned the 2007 edition, which will star Conrad Black, direct from his appearance in a Chicago courtroom.  Meanwhile the CBC has just announced it hopes to boost its sagging ratings with an English-language version of the Quebec comedy Rumours, with Znaimer as executive producer.  Speaking of rumours, there's one around town that Znaimer will soon be opening a museum at Harbourfront devoted to his collection of antique TV sets.  In case all that is not enough Znaimer to satisfy your appetite, CBC's biography series Life & Times kicks off its season on Monday with an episode called "Encounters With Moses" — wherein many lifelong Moses watchers duck questions, waffle, pause and decline to tell whatever true, deeply revealing secrets they know.  Is the man a profound media genius or a self-promoting monster? Tune in if you want to be sure not to learn the answer to this and other key questions.

Shatner Joins TV Hall Of Fame

Source: Associated Press

(June. 21, 2006) LOS ANGELES — William Shatner, Tom Brokaw and Regis Philbin are joining the Academy of Television Art & Sciences Hall of Fame.  Director James Burrows (Will & Grace, Cheers) and former network executive and producer Leonard Goldberg (Brian's Song, Hart to Hart) also are among those who will be honoured, academy chairman Dick Askin announced.  This year's inductees have helped shape the television industry and serve as an inspiration for others, Askin said in a statement Monday.  Shatner starred in Star Trek and is an Emmy-winner for his role in ABC's Boston Legal. Brokaw, who retired as NBC anchor in 2004, continues to work on documentaries. Philbin co-hosts Live With Regis and Kelly and will host the new NBC series America's Got Talent.  The induction ceremony has yet to be scheduled.  More than 100 people are in the Hall of Fame, founded in 1984, including Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson and Walter Cronkite. The TV academy administers the annual Primetime Emmy Awards.


Stratford Finally Changes Its Tune

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kamal Al-Solaylee

(June 16, 2006) Djanet Sears has a problem with being first. As previews begin next week for a revival of her 1997 Governor-General's Award-winning play Harlem Duet, she officially becomes the first black playwright and the first black female director in the 54-year history of the Stratford Festival of Canada. The production will also be the first on any of its stages with an all-black cast.  When her follow-up play The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God was picked up by Mirvish Productions in 2003 for an extended run at Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Sears became the first black Canadian playwright to be featured on the playbill of this country's largest commercial producer. Impressive, even if shockingly belated, achievements all, but the jury inside Sears's head is still out on what they mean in the long term. "Firsts are only great as the beginning of something," she explains in an interview in Toronto earlier this week. "If it's not, it's the only one." The racial-representation ratio in Canada's larger theatres is far from perfect, but there are some positive signs.

In 2005 Mirvish Productions followed up Adventures with a production of Trey Anthony's black-women confessional 'da Kink in My Hair, to date the most commercially successful single production of a Canadian play in the history of Toronto. At Stratford, there's a feeling that the end of Richard Monette's reign and changes in the festival's artistic directorship structure will bring about more culturally diverse programming. "Things are changing, people are looking around and saying 'The world doesn't look like us here,' " Sears acknowledges. 

The world of Harlem Duet certainly doesn't look like anything Stratford has created before even if one of its key players should feel at home in a festival with classical and Shakespeare credentials. The play is a modern reworking of Othello from an all-black perspective. Set over three time periods -- the 1860s, 1928 and the present -- Harlem Duet traces three relationships between Othello (Nigel Shawn Williams) and his black lover Billie (Karen Robinson), all of which end when he leaves her for an offstage white woman. The play dwells the longest on the present in which Othello and Billie have already broken up but continue a sexual relationship that's both romantic and politically bifurcated. There are many debates in Harlem Duet but the central one examines integration versus separatism among the black community. Whether they embrace the colour of their skin (as Billie does) or refuse to be seen as just that (as Othello insists), "the burden of race" weighs as heavily on the characters in the play as it has for more than two decades of playwriting on their creator. I ask Sears if she's ever tired of carrying such a burden on behalf of a community as diverse as Canada's black population.

"You're going to carry it anyway," she says. "When you hear that there have been three shootings, you go, 'Oh my god, I hope they are not black.' You identify with your race even when you don't know who these people are. You know it's going to have an effect on you, whether you like it or not. If you are going to have the burden, you might as well do something with it." Rereading the original text of Harlem Duet was like downloading a soundtrack of the nineties' racial debates, from the phenomenon of The Bell Curve (a book that relates intelligence to race) to the O. J. Simpson trial. The latter case is particularly worth reprising. It may have been eclipsed by more devastating incidents (Katrina, for instance), but when the play opened in Toronto in 1997, the "Othello Syndrome" was still fresh. "Jealous black men who are going to kill the white girl," Sears explains it in more straightforward terms. Yet, Harlem Duet doesn't attempt any kind of apology on behalf of Othello or Billie.  "The error that people often make is to think it's one-sided," says Sears. "I'm Billie and I'm Othello. That's the conflict. This is the effect of 400 years of white supremacy [and] what that has done to the psyche of black people."

Even if Sears has updated some of the references in the play to include Condoleezza Rice and Oprah Winfrey as the new faces of black America, Harlem Duet holds up, Sears suggests, because it asks questions and avoids answers. "I find the questions still alive and real," says Sears. What's more disturbing perhaps is that these questions have passed on to another group in North America, its Arab and Muslim population, who collectively find themselves the latest addition to a long list of dangerous and suspicious racial others.  But any new meanings to Harlem Duet don't tone down or nullify its essential blackness. Harlem is more than a location backdrop for a postmodern twist on Othello. "There's something about Harlem," Sears says. "I can't liken it to anything in the mainstream world. The place of Harlem Renaissance, the place of extraordinary poverty, of riots. . . . It feels like an axis, a central point, a hot spot."  Previews from June 20 and opens June 29. $56 to $64.40. Studio Theatre at the Stratford Festival, 1-800-567-1600,

Circus Makes Performers Out Of Troubled Youth

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Jen Ross

(June 16, 2006) SANTIAGO — Beneath a sprawling big top in the north end of Chile's capital, a tiny woman in an ornate tutu carefully balances herself with a pink paper umbrella as she walks up a tightrope. Watching her every step is a wide-eyed Soraya Sepulveda. The 23-year-old circus student is one of 450 young people who were invited to a special private performance this spring of Cirque du Soleil's internationally acclaimed show Saltimbanco. It's the Quebec-based circus's first performance in Chile. But it's not its first time here. In 1995, Cirque du Soleil came to plant the seeds of a social circus program to teach techniques to troubled youths. Chile became home to the first non-profit Circo del Mundo (Circus of the World), followed by a similar non-governmental organization in Brazil. Today, the initiative has expanded to 19 countries. "We don't want a uniform program around the world, but one in sync with the rhythm of the country and its culture," explains Michel Lafortune, co-ordinator for the Cirque du Soleil's international social circus programs. The programs' team works with circus-arts instructors to teach troubled youth how to clown around, juggle and do more advanced circus techniques. Kids learn to use their imagination and balance, and to test their own physical limits.

The instructors help them improve self-esteem, develop social skills and gain a sense of humour. They also teach self-control and discipline, and channel risk-taking and adrenaline in a positive way. "Everyone who has experienced violence or trouble knows that adrenaline," says actor Bartolome Silva, director of Chile's Circo del Mundo. "What we do is modify that adrenaline. The difference is, people applaud you for it here." Mr. Silva grew up in the north end of Santiago, in an area called Quinta Normal. Rife with drugs and other social ills, this graffiti-covered community is considered one of the most vulnerable in the capital. On a recent day, Mr. Silva went back to his own elementary school, Lo Franco, armed with some juggling pins and colourful rings and balls. In the school gym, two dozen 10- to 13-year-olds scrambled to grab one of the new fluorescent toys. Among them was David Escobar. At 13, he admits he is a troublemaker: "Sometimes I fight, or I feel like skipping class with my friends." After circus classes once or twice a week for nine months, circus instructor Juan Francisco Hormazabal has seen many youths like him turn around: "After a boy like this has completed the process, of ideally two years, he starts changing his behaviour for the better, both at home and at school." The grand finale to these nine-month workshops is a performance, at which kids get their chance to shine before their parents and peers in their own community. As a result of this intervention, school dropout rates have gone down, marks have improved and many kids have reduced or stop using drugs. The instructors have been so successful that last year Chile's National Drug Control Commission (CONACE) began funding Circo del Mundo initiatives and pairing them up with its own social workers in high-risk communities. Chile's Circo del Mundo is now reaching about 500 young people a year. Many youths who go through the workshops end up wanting to become circus professionals. It was their drive that gave birth to a professional circus school in Santiago last year, the first with international recognition in all of Latin America.

"I'd say Chile's Circo del Mundo is the flagship for the development of social circus in Latin America," says Cirque du Soleil's Mr. Lafortune. "They've developed their own autonomy and created a mini-troupe and get their kids to be trainers for younger kids. They're working organically with them." Chile's Escuela de Artes Circenses (Circus Arts School) took in its first 16 students in April, 2005, for a three-year program. It not only teaches music, dance and circus techniques, it also trains students to become teachers doing the same social outreach that drew many of them in. Enoc Silva started with a social circus workshop six years ago. "Getting into the circus helped me get out of my neighbourhood's slump," says the hefty, long-haired 19-year-old. "I'd see fights and drugs all the time. But being here helped me a lot. It's a positive environment with healthy people." Today, he's one of 10 new students accepted to the professional circus school this year. "They started from scratch, and now they have a national school," says Sonia Sauvé, international co-operation co-ordinator for Cirque du Soleil's touring shows. "They've really developed on their own and have adapted their experiences, so we're now taking their model to other sites."

Sandra Oh - Woman Rage Revealed

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(June 17, 2006) NEW YORK—"Why don't you just tap into your primal Korean woman rage?"  That's the advice Sandra Oh got from her then-husband Alexander Payne before shooting the scene in Sideways where she smashed her faithless partner into a pulp with her motorcycle helmet.  And if you look back on the 34-year-old actor's successful career, you can see that same anger simmering beneath the surface in most of her major roles.  From her very first appearance as the streetwise teen prostitute in The Diary Of Evelyn Lau through to her Golden Globe-winning role as the sardonic Cristina Yang on Grey's Anatomy, there's a cold blue flame burning inside Oh and the fascinating part is wondering when the full conflagration is going to occur.  It happens near the end of her current project, the New York Public Theatre's production of Satellites, a new play by Diana Son, which opens tomorrow night.  In it, Oh plays a Korean-American architect, married to a black man, who has just had her first child. The pressures of parenthood, career and racism all crowd in on her until she finally explodes, shattering the plate-glass front window of her house with a hammer.  It's vintage Oh, the kind of terrifying meltdown she does so well. That's why it's so shocking to see her glide through the lobby of the theatre a few minutes later, all sunny smiles and easy charm. And when she finally settles to dinner at a quiet restaurant down the street, she initially seems perplexed when questioned about where all that volcanic onstage energy comes from.  "I'm just playing a part," she shrugs, "that's all I ever am, an actor playing a part."

But as she sips at a glass of red wine and toys with some grilled octopus, the two things that Payne identified as fuelling her "primal rage" quickly come to the surface: she's a woman and she's Korean.  "It's a little difficult to talk about this," she begins tentatively. "I'm not going to complain about being a woman, but I'm also not going to tell you that it's easy. Can we talk about a million things? That we're not paid as much as men are? The danger that it is to be a woman? Everyone thinks the battle was fought and won. No way."  Oh is a wonderful study in contradictions. Her look tonight is fashion model-elegant, cool and poised in a beige linen pantsuit. But whenever a subject truly seizes her interest, her face fills with emotion, her hands gesture wildly and all thoughts of sophisticated control fly out the window.  "It's the same thing with racism, you know," she says, shifting gears to the other topic never far from her mind. "I've gotta live with it, gotta deal with it, gotta roll with it. Just don't tell me it doesn't exist, because it does. And the real problem is that it's supported by many infrastructures and paradigms that we're living in every day."  She flashes a tart smile. "And one of them happens to be the entertainment industry that I'm a part of."  Feelings as deeply rooted as Oh has on this subject don't happen overnight. In her case, they were there from the start.  She was born on July 20, 1971 in Nepean, the child of first-generation Korean immigrant parents. "Did I know racism as a kid?" she laughs scornfully.  "Oh yeah, totally. I grew up in Nepean in the 1970s. Let's face it, Canada was mostly white back then, for Pete's sake, and the smaller and less cosmopolitan you got, the whiter it got."

When pressed for individual incidents from her childhood, she insists, "What's more important to me is not that individual moment when somebody calls you a name. Sure that hurts, but the worst part is growing up and wanting to fit in, thinking you're a part of the whole, but then never seeing yourself represented."  And like many other young people who feel outside of things, she found a place in the arts.  "My parents put me into dance lessons because I was pigeon-toed and they thought that would help. But the first time I stepped onto a stage — I don't know how to describe it — it was an amazing feeling. A feeling of being whole, of being attached to something important."  Even then, Oh recalls feeling the sting of racist casting. "I definitely wanted to be the sugar plum and they always made me an elf. But I was on stage and that was enough. And that will never change for me."  She came to be drawn more and more to the stage during her years at Sir Robert Borden H.S. in Ottawa.  "My adolescence was so depressing," she moans, reaching for the glass of wine. "I never had a boyfriend. Never. I didn't have a romantic life. I remember my best friend Margo saying, `Don't worry, we're going to be those girls who get boyfriends in college.' Well, that didn't happen either."  Oh decided she wanted to go to the National Theatre School in Montreal, only to run into a solid wall of parental opposition.  "It's taken me years to appreciate what my parents did for me," she says softly.  "At the time, I thought they were only trying to stop me from doing what made me happy, but now I realize they were trying to spare me a lot of pain.  "My parents were immigrants. They had suffered through being poor and being rejected. They didn't want me to share the same fate."  Her eyes look back into the past. "I remember auditioning for an outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, but the entire cast wound up white. It doesn't have to be that way! I was devastated and I cried on my mother's lap in the kitchen.

"She's an extremely sensible woman and she said, `Baby, you don't have to do this. Because they're going to hurt you. Over and over again.'"  Oh didn't listen to her mother and applied to the NTS, which accepted her, but that created another level of parental conflict.  "Now, I'm extremely grateful for every barrier my parents put in front of me. They tried to discourage me so thoroughly that the need to succeed defeated the need for my parents' approval.  "From then on, I've never needed anyone's approval. It didn't matter what any producer said, I'd already stood up to the most important people in the world."  Her three years at the NTS liberated Oh. "I definitely felt that my presence there had to do with my ability and not my race. The colour of my skin never came into play, which was the gorgeous thing about it. I got the chance to express myself to my full potential and that grew inside me and helped me withstand the next 15 years."  But before she could even graduate, fate intervened. "Timing and luck were on my side," she says. "I'm still so grateful for that."  The CBC was planning to film The Diary of Evelyn Lau, based on the true story of the Vancouver street kid turned prostitute. They auditioned 1,000 young Asian women from across North America and Oh was one of them.  "We weren't supposed to audition for anything while we were at school," she recalls, "so I would lie and take the midnight bus from Montreal to Toronto. I'd sleep in the bus station for a few hours and then go to Queen's Park and do a full vocal warm-up. Then I'd audition, get back on the bus to Montreal and sneak back into class."  Oh got the role and the shooting date was postponed, so she was able to graduate from NTS and make her screen debut.  She looks back now on the folly of tackling a part "that I wasn't technically or emotionally ready to play," but admits that "when you're young, nothing is scary, that's the beautiful thing. I know I'm not young anymore because now I'm scared of stuff..."

Oh got tremendous acclaim as Evelyn Lau and followed it with another virtuoso turn in Mina Shum's Double Happiness, playing a Chinese Canadian girl fighting against her parents' expectations, for which she won a Genie.  "I got all the attention, I got all the prizes and then I couldn't get a job," is how she remembers that time.  When the U.S. distributor Fine Line picked up Double Happiness, she went down to L.A. with visions of red carpets dancing in her head. Wrong.  "It just started running at some crappy theatre at 11 a.m. You show up in your terrible shoes and your okay dress and you look mismatched and you're humiliated because you think it's going to be important and it's not."  But still, she toughed it out, finally landing a role in the 1996 HBO series Arli$$, only to find that the doors still weren't opening the way they should.  "I wanted to audition for one project and I was told, `They won't even see you because you're not white.'" Her face collapses. "You know it's out there your whole life, but I never thought I'd hear, `No, you can't even audition.'"  She remembers the moment, pain behind her eyes. "As time goes further and further away from that golden time of your life when the moon and the stars teamed up, you have to learn to be tough."  But she remained soft enough to fall in love with director Alexander Payne and marry him in 2003. Shortly after, he decided to cast her in a quirky film he was going to start shooting called Sideways.  "It was a glimpse of a world where everything could work at your ultimate potential," enthuses Oh. "Everyone was being respected and it made it the most relaxed and easy thing I've ever done in my life."  Oh made a great impression as biker chick Stephanie. So did the film itself, which went on to be nominated for five Oscars and gross $110 million worldwide. 

At the same time, Oh was cast in the ABC TV series Grey's Anatomy, which became a huge popular hit.  "The fame bubble," is how Oh describes that time. "I don't care who you are, you can't know what it will be like or how you will react. But I tell you one thing, friend: it will, it will, it will affect you.  "It's so intense. You change in a way you don't really want to. Your privacy, your identity, your anonymity is gone and that's a terrible thing for a human being. Everyone thinks they want to be famous, but there's so much energy coming at you, that all the boundaries are gone."  Then, in the middle of all this, Oh filed for divorce from Payne.  She's never publicly discussed the details of the case, but tonight she'll admit that behind her decision was the realization that "you start to understand what your priorities are, what's important to you in life and you have to act accordingly. It's a shift and a shift you don't especially want to make, but you know you've got to do it."  The reasons, she says, are "deeply personal ... and that's as far as I'm willing to go."  She tries to wrap her memories of the divorce up along with the rest of 2005. "It's all just part of a very, very difficult year in my life. There were many highs and many lows."  Oh's "primal Korean woman rage" seems subdued for the moment, with a new play, a hit TV series and a 35th birthday on the horizon.  She raises her wine glass in a toast. "Good, bad, I'm grateful for it all ... because I've survived."

Alan Cumming Is One Busy Bloke

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Jun. 19, 2006) NEW YORK—Quietly, stealthily — likely while you weren't completely paying attention — Alan Cumming took over show business.  You can find him on Broadway. You can see him in movies, from Spy Kids to The Anniversary Party. You can play one of his characters in a video game. He hosts his own TV show and has written a semi-autobiographical novel, Tommy's Tale.  You can even smell like him — courtesy of a line of beauty products that bears his name and wit. His body lotion is called Cumming All Over.  "I think I work better when I'm multi-tasking," he says during an interview, between bites of salad and performances of The Threepenny Opera on Broadway. "I think I focus more."  Howard Stern, the so-called King of All Media, should give up his crown to this Scottish-born performer who seems to pop up when you least expect it.  His current project is a modern interpretation of a German expressionist musical that's always irked people. In The Threepenny Opera, Cumming plays Macheath, a vicious mohawk-wearing street thug who occasionally breaks into song.

The fact that the musical — by Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill — is on Broadway stuns Cumming, the 41-year-old product of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama who won a Tony Award in 1998 as master of ceremonies in Cabaret.  "It's sort of a weird thing that you'd normally find off-off-Broadway," he says. "Broadway is now a code word for a certain type of experience — and we're not giving that experience."  So provocative is the material that the audience is usually shell-shocked at the end of performances. "You're not supposed to know what to make of it ... All these songs suddenly appear for no reason and there's no actual narrative," he says.  "If you came for a trip to New York and went to Tarzan last night, Beauty and the Beast tomorrow and have us in the middle, you'd absolutely be on crack. You wouldn't know what the heck was going on."  In that way, it seems a perfect vehicle for Cumming, who has a knack for provoking theatregoers. "Pleasant is not good. I think pleasant is boring," he says. "You should have an experience. It shouldn't just be an experience."  Cumming's film career has been eclectic. That was him as a hotel desk clerk in Eyes Wide Shut, a computer nerd in GoldenEye and Saturninus in 1999's Titus. He also played opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in Emma and in X2: X-Men United as Nightcrawler, the demonic-yet-cuddly blue-skinned mutant.  During the Opera run, Cumming has been finishing a labour of love, a film he's directed called Suffering Man's Charity. On TV, Cumming hosts Midnight Snack for Sundance Channel. And though he doesn't appear in the new X-Men movie, he did lend his voice to X-Men: The Official Game, reprising his role as Nightcrawler.

Canadian Among Festival's Advisers

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kate Taylor And Kamal Al-Solaylee

(June 21, 2006) The Stratford Festival is about to name a trio of advisers to serve as the artistic directors who will back up general director Antoni Cimolino as he takes over leadership of the company in 2007. One Canadian, one American and a Briton will advise Cimolino, sources close to the Stratford, Ont., festival told The Globe and Mail. One is Marti Maraden, a former Stratford actor and director who until recently served as artistic director of English-language theatre at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Another is Des McAnuff, a director with Canadian roots who currently runs the La Jolla Playhouse in La Jolla, Calif. The third is a British theatre director the sources were unable to identify. In an unusual arrangement announced in April and necessitated by the festival's apparent inability to find a suitable replacement for outgoing artistic director Richard Monette despite compiling a short list of about a dozen candidates, Cimolino has been named general director but not given full responsibility for artistic decisions. Cimolino, a former actor, has served in various administrative capacities under Monette and was named festival executive director in 1998. He has earned respect for his organizational skills but mixed reviews as a stage director. The new structure will fill that gap by providing him with some artistic expertise, especially when it comes to picking what plays the festival will program. Part of Cimolino's goal is to re-emphasize Shakespearean production at the festival and to build stronger links with both national and international artists.

In that regard, Maraden will bring with her a network of national theatre contacts that she developed during her years at the NAC. McAnuff has been successful in moving shows from his U.S. regional theatre to Broadway and would provide Stratford with advice on picking and staging the musicals that have become the festival's financial foundation. That leaves a Briton to expose the festival to international thought on the production of Shakespeare. "Cross-pollination is critical to growth. We wanted to make sure we were open to other influences," Cimolino said in a telephone interview yesterday. He declined to confirm that McAnuff and Maraden are the names he will be announcing at a news conference scheduled to take place in Toronto on Monday. Maraden, for her part, is no outsider where Stratford is concerned. An American by birth, she was a favourite ingénue at the festival in the 1970s. Her directing career is a product of the Stratford system of drawing directors straight from the acting ranks. It's a method of grooming directors well established in Canada, but not favoured in either the United States or Britain. With critics, Maraden has the reputation of being a cautious stage director, but she is particularly well liked in the theatre community for re-establishing the English theatre program at the NAC and inviting artists from across Canada to perform there. Sources said she was one of those who did not apply for the artistic director's job as originally advertised.

A native of Toronto, McAnuff began his theatre career here before moving to New York. As a young director, he was touted as a possible leader for Stratford in the 1980s before he left for the United States. He took over the La Jolla Playhouse in 1983 and has established it as the pre-eminent regional theatre in the American West and a workshop for international hits, sending shows such as Big River, the Who's Tommy and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on to Broadway. His production of Jersey Boys won this year's Tony award for best musical. He left the La Jolla artistic director's job in 1994, but returned again in 1999, currently sharing his duties with a managing director and an artistic associate. McAnuff was one of those on the short list for artistic director. The sources also said the abandoned short list of people who had applied or been invited to apply included Richard Rose, artistic director of the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto; Don Shipley, former artistic director of the World Stage Festival at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto; Canadian Miles Potter, who regularly directs at Stratford; British director Leon Rubin, who has directed extensively at Stratford in recent years and the young British director Edward Hall. The son of veteran director Peter Hall, Edward Hall has numerous Shakespearean productions to his credit and was recently appointed an associate director at the Old Vic, the venerable London theatre now run by Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey. The subsequent short list for the multiple artistic directors also included Stratford actors Colm Feore and Martha Henry. The hiring process has drawn complaints from some in the theatre community and the Stratford acting company that the new jobs were never advertised after the search for a single artistic director was abandoned, and that the new structure will result in leadership by committee. "Since Richard [Monette] announced his retirement over a year ago, the board has searched the globe . . . interviewing actors past and present, ignoring headhunters, and finally meeting with prospective candidates for the job of artistic director. And after this exhaustive search, the board's committee decided to go out on a limb and maintain the status quo. But to make it seem new, they've repackaged it with some new names and titles," Stratford actor Thom Marriott wrote in his blog when Cimolino's appointment was announced. Cimolino defended the process, saying that many of the initial candidates expressed concern that the job was so large that it became all-consuming, leaving the artistic director closed to outside influences. He added that several of the nine people interviewed for the trio of artistic directors' jobs were new candidates not identified in the initial search for a single candidate. He said the artistic directors will live in Stratford about half the year and direct one or two shows each season, leaving half the playbill to be directed by freelancers. The first season under this new structure will open in 2008.

Playwright's Trip From Fan To Fame

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Jun. 21, 2006) If you can tell a man by the company he keeps, then Daniel Goldfarb is doing very well indeed.  The 33-year-old Toronto-born playwright is back in his hometown as co-author of Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, currently on one of its pre-Broadway tryout stops at the Canon Theatre.  On this show alone, he's involved with Tony Award winners like Short, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, which would be enough to turn most people's heads.  But once Goldfarb starts discussing his brief but highly successful playwriting career, the names come ever more fast and furious.  He's worked for or studied with many major names in contemporary theatre, a list that includes Tony Kushner, Marsha Norman, Christopher Durang, Alfred Uhry, William Finn, Dan Sullivan, James Lapine, Molly Ringwald and Ron Liebman.  How does he wind up attracting more celebrities than Short's alter ego, Jiminy Glick?  "I'm a fan," says Goldfarb, blushing slightly. "I just love to sit and listen to their theatre stories. I'm probably the best audience in the world; that's my secret weapon."  He's sipping coffee in a midtown Starbucks, looking for all the world like an eternal college student, rather than the play-writing teacher at New York University that he actually is.

Boyish and soft-spoken, Goldfarb is more amazed by his success than anyone else. "I still sort of pinch myself when I realize that I get to do what I do for a living."  In addition to his current musical project in Toronto, he's the author of three well-received off-Broadway plays, one of which (Adam Baum and the Jew Movie) was produced by CanStage several seasons ago.  Goldfarb has been hailed as "sharp and ironic" by Time magazine and was given the Oppy Award by Newsday, for "the most impressive off-Broadway debut by a playwright," in 2000.  And in some ways, it all started with Anne of Green Gables.  He was born in Toronto on June 17, 1973 to a family that "exposed all of us to the arts. Ironically, I was the only one of five kids who went in for it as a career."  It was on a family trip to the Maritimes when he was only 4 that Goldfarb saw the musical version of Anne of Green Gables and "I was hooked."  So clearly did his passion register with his parents that when his sixth birthday rolled around "they took me down to Broadway and we saw five shows in four days."  That was really it. "From that weekend on, what I wanted to do more than anything else was work in the New York theatre."

Goldfarb started writing plays in Grade 9. Then, as now, most of his works were concerned with defining the nature of Judaism. He admits his obsession with the topic initially puzzled him because "even though I went to religious schools and had a bar mitzvah, I wasn't religious per se. I don't have `God-fearing parents' in the Old Testament sense of the word. I was in a Jewish family, that was it.  "I finally realized that trying to find out what it means to be Jewish is the very essence of being Jewish."  Goldfarb went to Claude Watson School for the Arts, near Sheppard Ave. and Yonge St.  He wrote "a lot of black comedies that I thought were very sophisticated as a teenager. Now I think they're kind of silly and they're in the bottom of a drawer where they belong."  After that, he went to NYU, because he thought "everybody there would identify with the Jewish themes of my plays." He grins. "Well, there were a lot of Jewish kids there, but I was the only one writing Jewish plays.  "The issues I was struggling with weren't issues to my peers in New York. I guess the Toronto Jewish community is a lot less assimilated than the New York one."  After NYU, he spent two years at Julliard, where he studied playwriting under Norman and Durang, and his fellow students included David Auburn (Proof) and David Lindsay-Abaire (Fuddy Meers).  Then it was back to NYU for an MA where he studied under Tony (Angels in America) Kushner.  After reading Adam Baum, Kushner recommended it to actor Ron Liebman and the roller-coaster ride began.  After Adam Baum ended, Molly Ringwald and Craig Bierko starred in the five-month run of Modern Orthodoxy. Most recently, Goldfarb's Sarah, Sarah earned excellent reviews at the Manhattan Theatre Club.

But something was missing. "Musicals made me fall in love with the theatre in the first place," lamented Goldfarb, "but I hadn't gotten a chance to work on one." Then along came Short. He had been working on Fame Becomes Me for a while but decided it needed a bit more structure, so turned to Goldfarb.  "We hit it off immediately. Hey, I was Canadian and polite; he felt right at home."  By Goldfarb's admission, the rehearsal process was "a giddy, hysterical time," but after opening it grew even crazier. "We were meeting in Marty's hotel room until 3 in the morning, coming up with new scenes and songs to go into the show. There's a madness about it."  But he loves what he's doing. "I am so invested in Marty and his success in this show that it drives everything I'm doing."  Asked if he has any advice for kids at Claude Watson hoping to be the next Daniel Goldfarb, he thinks a moment, then answers.  "Write not just what you know, but what you're confused about. I know that sounds contradictory, but if you discover something about yourself in what you write, so will the audience.  "Don't try to be commercial. Don't try to write what other people want you to write. That can come later."  He breaks into a smile. "Hey, you have your whole life to sell out."


Weigh In On Canada's Culture

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jun. 21, 2006) Is Porky's more important to Canadian film than Goin' Down
the Road? Should The English Patient be on required reading lists? Could Franklin the Turtle conquer Superman? Is k-os's "Crabbuckit" still too fresh to be considered a classic?  These are just a few of the questions that kept Toronto Star journalists and some of Canada's artistic leaders awake at night as they struggled to determine the very best our country has to offer in arts and entertainment.  The result? Essentially Canadian, our (almost) definitive guide to the works Canadians need to know in order to understand our cultural history.

To be published in the Saturday A&E section on July 1, Essentially Canadian will reveal our picks as the Top 10 in architecture, movies, books, music, visual arts, theatre, design, children's entertainment and television.  We're spoiling for a fight. Or a war of words, at least, along the lines of the debate sparked by CBC's Greatest Canadian search, People magazine's Most Beautiful list and the American Film Institute's Top 100 movies.  We want to get everyone thinking about what should constitute the Canadian cultural canon and then weigh in with their opinions.  Even choosing the preliminary entries wasn't a simple task. The rules limited nominations to things people could read, listen to or see — the idea being that readers might be inspired to seek out the book or the song or the DVD of a TV show they had missed. Only individual works, not artists, were to be considered. And most importantly, the choices had to resonate. So while, Broken Social Scene's "Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl" might be stunning, the 2002 tune is not quite canon material yet.  The Star's entertainment department came up with long lists in each category. Then we asked Canada's arts community to lend us their expertise. Our panels, each of which include a Star staffer, were:

·  Children's Entertainment — Kids' entertainer Fred Penner; Degrassi star Miriam McDonald; Eleanor LaFave, owner of Mabel's Fables bookstore; and family issues reporter Andrea Gordon.

Cruise Hops To Top Of Forbes' Celebrity List

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Sandy Cohen, Associated Press

(June 16, 2006) LOS ANGELES — Never mind the couch-jumping and the depression-dismissing. Tom Cruise is the world's No. 1 star, according to Forbes' annual “Celebrity 100 Power List,” which ranks famous folks based on earnings and buzz. The less-than-scientific ranking tracks the highest-paid stars from the worlds of television, film, music and sports, said editor Lea Goldman. “It's what kind of currency does the star's name have,” she said. “It's increasingly important how they are perceived both in industry circles and commercial circles, and this list represents who has cachet in both arenas.” Cruise is the only celebrity to top the list twice, she said. He was also No. 1 in 2001. “He's one of the few guaranteed bankable stars,” Goldman said. “No one in Hollywood can negotiate the kind of salary he gets.” With an estimated income of $67-million (U.S.) last year, Cruise wasn't the top money-earner, but his couch-hopping antics on Oprah, his dismissive comments about Brooke Shields' postpartum depression and whirlwind romance with Katie Holmes made him one of the most talked-about stars of the year. He ranked 10th on last year's list.

Perennial Forbes-list favourite Oprah Winfrey, who claimed the No. 1 spot last year, dropped to No. 3 in the latest rankings. The $225-million she pulled in, according to Forbes, should ease the pain. Winfrey's windfall pales next to Steven Spielberg's take of $332-million. The director-producer was the year's highest-paid celebrity. He ranks sixth on Forbes' list. Satellite radio star and self-proclaimed “king of all media,” Howard Stern, was the second highest-paid celebrity, with $302-million. He placed seventh on the list, up 20 spots from last year. Tiger Woods, who pulled in $90-million in earnings, ranked fifth, besting fellow golfer Phil Mickelson, who placed 18th. Rapper 50 Cent never made Forbes' list before, but this year he captured eighth place thanks to his top-selling ringtones, G-Unit clothing line and record sales of more than 20 million. No other rapper made the list. “There's a lot of fluctuation,” Goldman said. “It has to do with what [celebrities] are doing and how much they're getting paid for it.”

International concerts helped earn the Rolling Stones and U2 top positions on the list. The veteran rockers ranked second and fourth, respectively. The cast of The Sopranos, which earned a total of $52-million for their seventh season, placed ninth. Author Dan Brown, whose mega-bestseller The Da Vinci Code sold a staggering 61 million copies and inspired the year's most anticipated and controversial film, rounded out the top 10. Brad Pitt, who ranked 11th last year, dropped to 20th place, despite his high-profile relationship and resulting offspring with Angelina Jolie. Jolie, not surprisingly, made the list, too, tying for 35th place — with Pitt's ex, Jennifer Aniston. Mel Gibson, who topped the list in 2004 and ranked third last year, didn't make it this time. Neither did Madonna, who ranked eighth last year. Lance Armstrong, Will Ferrell, Julia Roberts and Lindsay Lohan all placed prominently last year but dropped off the latest list. New to the “Celebrity 100”: pop psychologist Phil McGraw (22), tart-tongued American Idol judge Simon Cowell (29), actor Kiefer Sutherland (68) and ubiquitous TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest (88). Nothing in Hollywood is complete without Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. Hilton was No. 56 and Richie No. 95.

Klanbuster In The Spotlight

Excerpt from - By Kam Williams

(June 21, 2006) *Everybody admires the bravery firemen exhibit by rushing into a burning building when the human survival instinct calls for exactly the opposite behaviour. It is for similar reasons that you are likely to find Daryle Lamont Jenkins so fascinating, since this 37 year-old black man born in Newark devotes most of his free-time to monitoring the movements of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.  When you’re watching the evening news coverage of the latest Klan rally, odds are Daryle’s there as part of the counter-demonstration, shouting at  the racists to crawl back under a rock. Just as importantly, he’s there to take photographs in order to expose their identities by posting their mug shots on his website. Daryle has been compiling information about white supremacists since 1988, and in 2000 he joined with some like-minded activists in forming One People’s Project in order to monitor racist right-wing activity. Established in Morristown, NJ, in the aftermath of a Klan rally, the watchdog organization currently maintains a database of records and information not only on hate groups but on their individual members as well. It is Daryle’s aim to make certain that these groups are not allowed to function in any capacity. Thusfar, his group has been successful in outing several neo-Nazis and those that give them financial support.

Don’t think that being the very visible spokesman of an organization dedicated to the outing of hate groups all across the country doesn’t come with considerable risks. As Daryle explains, he routinely receives anonymous death threats, and frequently finds his website the subject of sabotage. In fact, he didn’t even feel comfortable sharing his home address or the nature of his day job with me, which is understandable, given the information he had recently received from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office. On June 16th, a couple of neo-Nazis already in custody for possession of bomb-making materials admitted that Daryle’s name had been prominent on their hit list. While I don’t necessarily recommend joining Mr. Jenkins on the frontlines, I do hope folks will consider visiting his homepage and sending a contribution to his most worthy cause.

PO Box 8291
Jersey City, NJ 07308

Kam Williams: How did you get started chasing the Ku Klux Klan and their ilk?

Daryle Jenkins: Well, monitoring politics is something I’ve done since I was a kid. I was always fascinated by the struggle for civil rights. And as a student of history, I developed an interest in those who had opposed it, trying to figure out what made them tick, so to speak. I probably began collecting data on hate groups around the time when Oprah featured some skinheads on her show and Geraldo had that incident when he had his nose broken by neo-Nazis. So, I’ve basically been doing this since I was in my teens.

KW: I remember years ago once checking into a motel in a rural part of Western Connecticut, picking up the local paper and seeing the front-page story about how the Klan had a permit to march up Main Street the very next day. Needless to say, I decided maybe I wasn’t too tired to drive another 100 miles, and I checked right back out. Besides, I don’t think I would have slept well knowing Klansman could be in the room right next door. When most black people hear that the Klan’s in town, they want to get away.

DJ: I don’t know that people of color are necessarily afraid of them, but I will definitely say that there is some confusion about what to do about them when they come around. One People’s Project is here to help people find the answer to that question.

KW: What is the ethnic make-up of your group?

DJ: It’s predominantly white. In fact, I’m one of the few people of color in the underground, anti-Fascist scene that is this active. There are a number of us, but you don’t see a lot. I’m always trying to encourage others to get involved.

KW: About how many die-hard black activists are involved in the anti-Klan movement?

DJ: Ironically, maybe two or three, and I’m one of the founders. That has to change. I’m definitely interested in recruiting more people of color.

KW: Why hasn’t that been a priority before?

DJ: Basically, because a prime way to get information is by being inside these groups. And there aren’t too many black people who could work undercover in that fashion. A lot of white people who have been a part of this organization have extracted the information that we need by infiltrating a hate group.

KW: What makes you want to show up at a Klan rally to confront them?

DJ: [laughs] I love a good fight. Basically, I’m a guy that wants to find some solutions to the problem. We can’t keep on allowing groups like the Klan, the Aryan Nation, the National Alliance, the National Vanguard, and the National Socialist Movement (neo Nazis) to hold society at-large hostage. You have to take them out.

KW: How do you go about that?

DJ: The first thing you have to do is get as much information as you can on them, determine their weaknesses, and then you go after them on that level.

KW: What type of help is your organization looking for besides financial contributions?

DJ: The main thing we need are volunteers to do research. And we also need writers. Unfortunately, we’re so short-handed that we often get frustrated by the fact that we can’t deal with a lot of things we are aware of. We’re also frustrated by our very limited finances. Everything is out-of-pocket. Since I’ve made myself high-profile, the white supremacists have taken to going after me in any way they can. For instance, after a demonstration in March, the neo-Nazis put out a totally false press release saying that One People’s Project passed out the rocks and eggs that were thrown at the police, when none of us were even there. That inaccuracy was reported by CNN, which in turn, affects our credibility. So, we could also use some pro bono legal help to respond to libellous allegations like that.

KW: About how many white supremacist rallies a year do you monitor?

DJ: Over the past five years, an average of about five to ten.

KW: When you attend a Klan or neo-Nazi rally, how close have you come to a violent confrontation?

DJ: One People’s Project really tries to stay away from that, but you can’t guarantee that it won’t explode into that like what happened in Valley Forge in 2004, and in York, Pennsylvania on January 12, 2002. That one was huge.

KW: How huge? Were you outnumbered?

DJ: There were about 150 of them, but there 300 on our side.

KW: How did it escalate into violence?

DJ: The police didn’t keep the people apart all that well, and the next thing you know, all hell broke loose. That was one of the biggest confrontations in the past 30 years.

KW: What happened?

DJ: One neo-Nazi who ran over a dozen people with his truck, you had a number of arrests. It was crazy.

KW: As an expert on the subject, what areas of the country would you say are hotbeds of white supremacy?

DJ: In the Northeast, definitely Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is insane, because a number of groups are based there. As a matter of fact, I think the Southern Poverty Law Center lists it as the state having the largest concentration of white supremacists. Then there’s Florida in the South, but also Portland, Oregon that has a number of Nazi groups.

KW: How do other counter-supremacist groups located close to those areas, like Anti-Racist Action, deal with the Klan?

DJ: They get into underground wars with them, by getting into battles with them in the streets, by going after them at rallies. Most of the press doesn’t cover what’s going on at that underground level, but it’s very intense and heats up.

KW: How large a contingent can One People’s Project get to attend a counter-demonstration?

DJ: We’re small. I’d say there are only about 20 or 30 people in our group right now. So, whenever we go out to an event, there are usually just a handful of us, so our main mission is to gather information. We want people to understand exactly what’s going on. We’re there with our notebooks and pens taking down names, and with our cameras taking pictures and videotaping everything. We want every moment documented, so that people know what’s going on. One of the main features of our website is our “Rogues Gallery,” it’s loaded with a long list of people we’re concerned about that we used to call “The Scum of the Earth.” And we post their names and home addresses.

KW: Is what you’re doing legal?

DJ: Yes, we do not wish them harm, or call for anybody to do anything illegal with our information.

KW: They must still get upset about being outed over the Internet. Do they try to retaliate?

DJ: Yeah, we expect for them to try to respond and we’re prepared for it. Our website gets hacked and our servers get threatened with lawsuits.

KW: Are you at all afraid for your personal safety?

DJ: What protects me is the fact that I move a lot. So, by the time they put my information on a website, I’m pretty much out of there.

KW: You’re single, but what about your folks?

DJ: My parents have gotten calls from white supremacists, but they know how to handle the situation. My siblings haven’t been hassled as much.

KW: So, you have some enemies who would like to silence you?

DJ: Yeah, and it’s not for a lack of trying. I just won’t let them. I got a call from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office yesterday about the case of a couple of New-Nazis who were arrested on weapons charges and for conspiracy. They were caught with bomb-making materials. My name came up during the interrogation of one of them, and I was told during that call that the bomb was actually meant for me. Apparently, I was mentioned on an FBI transcript of all this.

KW: Does that scare you?

DJ: Needless to say, it’s something that I have come to expect. It’s nothing that’s going to slow me down. But it’s definitely something to stay mindful of in this line of work.

KW: Speaking of work, what’s your day job?

DJ: Sorry, but I can’t divulge that for security reasons.

KW: I suppose you wouldn’t want to- answer what I call the Jimmy Bayan question, namely, where are you living now?

DJ: I can’t.

KW: Well thanks for the interview and keep up the good work.

DJ: Not a problem.


Man Named To Edit 'Village Voice' Backs Out

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(June 16, 2006) NEW YORK — The man named two weeks ago to be the new editor in chief of the Village Voice has announced he will not take the position.  Erik Wemple was to assume his post at the weekly alternative newspaper on July 24. But in a statement Thursday, Wemple said that ``the paper's ownership and I have failed to come to terms in our many discussions about moving forward, particularly with respect to newsroom management."  Wemple said he will remain in his current job as editor of Washington City Paper, a position he has held since January 2002. He previously was senior editor and political columnist for the paper; before that, Wemple worked for and CableWorld magazine.  Wemple's announcement is the latest setback for the Voice, which has seen its share of turmoil following its parent company's merger with a publisher of other alternative weekly newspapers.  Wemple was to replace interim editor in chief Ward Harkavy, who took over when acting editor Doug Simmons left following a scandal over a writer's fabrication of material under his watch. Simmons held the post following the resignation of veteran editor Don Forst in December.  In January, Village Voice Media, which runs the Voice and five other papers, merged with Phoenix-based New Times Media, the publisher of 11 alternative weeklies.  Michael Lacey, executive editor of Village Voice Media, said in a statement that "Erik's concerns are not unreasonable."  "The Voice is an enormous and complex horse race. We asked Erik to mount several ponies mid-stride, and he was alarmed to find us still in several of those saddles," Lacey said.


Hurricane Season

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ken Campbell, Sports Reporter

(June 20, 2006) RALEIGH, N.C.—Lord Stanley, it appears, has become something of a snowbird, without the blue hair and those really big sunglasses.  In the first season of the new, anyone-can-compete NHL, it's only fitting that the Stanley Cup was won by the Carolina Hurricanes — nee Hartford Whalers — who just happen to be situated in the least traditional hockey market in the league and two seasons ago were its worst team.  It's a franchise that has been so enveloped by mediocrity that it couldn't even win the draft lottery that year. But it settled for the second pick overall in 2003 and selected Eric Staal, who led the league in playoff points and could someday captain this team to a couple more celebrations like last night's.  The Cup-clinching win certainly didn't come easily to the Hurricanes, but nothing this valuable is supposed to be a cakewalk, anyway.  It took everything the Hurricanes had to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in a thrilling Game 7 to cap what was a wildly entertaining series.  The Hurricanes came into the game having dropped two demoralizing games after having the Oilers on the ropes 3-1 in the series, but responded with an aggressive, physical effort and were backed by some spectacular goaltending from Conn Smythe Trophy winner Cam Ward, who became the fourth rookie goalie to win the award after Ken Dryden, Ron Hextall and Patrick Roy.  Ward is due to get married July 22 in the Edmonton suburb of Sherwood Park and might just have the big silver bowl as an honoured guest. It's the least he could do after contributing almost nothing to the nuptial preparations, not that he'd be the only man to ever be guilty of that.  "I haven't put much thought into that," Ward said, "but it would probably make a nice centrepiece."  Much was made of the resilience exhibited by the Oilers through these playoffs, but the other team in the building was not exactly a wallflower, either.

Picked by almost everyone to finish in the bottom third of the league, the Hurricanes looked finished less than a week into the playoffs when they fell 0-2 to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round.  "There were too many guys who were not going to be denied," said captain Rod Brind'Amour. "We had too many guys who waited their whole careers for this.  "Since Game 5, I've had a big lump in my chest. This is really emotional."  Fans of the Oilers who have lived through this remarkable run have to be a little down today. But anyone who truly loves this game has to be thrilled at how exciting a product the NHL has become.  For more than two months, the league has showcased its best teams in what have been terrific, high-scoring and intense series that culminated in a final that could not have been more compelling or exciting.  "The one thing I wanted the players to do is to get through the disappointment as quickly as they can," said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. "When your life's work is to try and win a Stanley Cup and you fall short like we did tonight, it is a disappointment."  One player who couldn't possibly hide that disappointment was Ryan Smyth, the face of the Oilers and a man who was born to play hockey. He lost three bottom teeth during these playoffs, but gained even more lustre to a reputation for being one of the most relentless players in hockey. Even by the time he came to be interviewed, his eyes were still red and his voice cracked with emotion.  "When you give everything and fail," he said, "it's not a good feeling."  That feeling was obviously contrasted on the other side of the rink by the Hurricanes. Carolina coach Peter Laviolette, a journeyman minor leaguer as a player who began his coaching career in the hockey backwaters of Wheeling, W.Va., goes into his negotiations for a new contract this summer with just a little bit of leverage.  "It's probably the greatest feeling I've ever had in my life," Laviolette said. "Long after I hold the Cup tonight and have my time with it this summer, what I'll remember most is how far this team came."  Meanwhile, the trophy that hasn't had a home in Toronto in 39 years probably won't be making a visit to the GTA this summer. None of the Hurricane players has much of a Toronto connection, with the exception of Cobourg native Justin Williams, who played minor hockey in Vaughan because he couldn't make any of the hockey teams in his area.  Assistant coach Jeff Daniels is a native of Oshawa.

Canucks Hire Vigneault To Coach

Source: Canadian Press

(June 20, 2006) Alain Vigneault is the new coach of the Vancouver Canucks.  The NHL team made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon, promoting Vigneault from their AHL team in Winnipeg and giving him the task of motivating a team GM Dave Nonis says needs a "kickstart."  The former Montreal Canadiens bench boss will take over for Marc Crawford, who was fired in April after the Canucks missed the playoffs for the first time since 2000.  The Manitoba Moose were third in the AHL’s North Division with 100 points under Vigneault this year and advanced to the second round of the AHL playoffs.  The 45-year-old Vigneault has spent most of the past 20 years as a head coach.  In addition to leading the Canadiens from 1997 until 2000, he’s spent time as an assistant with the Ottawa Senators and a head coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with Trois-Rivieres, Hull, Beauport and PEI.

Avalanche re-sign Sakic

The Colorado Avalanche have re-signed captain Joe Sakic to a one-year deal worth $5.75-million (U.S.).  The move keeps Sakic with the organization for an 18th season.  Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman is the only active NHL player to have been with the same team longer. He’s played in Detroit for 22 years.  Sakic would have become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.  He led the Avalanche in scoring this past season with 87 points and scored 30 goals for the eighth-straight year.

Muller joins Habs as coach

Former Montreal Canadiens forward Kirk Muller has been named an assistant coach of the NHL club.  Muller, who played four seasons in Montreal and won a Stanley Cup there in 1993, joins the Habs coaching staff that includes head coach Guy Carbonneau and assistants Doug Jarvis and Roland Melanson.  Muller was the head coach of the Queen's University Golden Gaels in 2005-06 and the team went 8-13-1-2 under him.  The 40-year-old from Kingston, Ont., was drafted second overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 1984 NHL entry draft behind Mario Lemieux.  Muller went on to play 19 seasons in the NHL and compiled 357 goals, 602 assists and 1,223 penalty minutes in 1,349 regular season games. Muller also had 33 goals and 36 assists in 127 playoff games.  The Habs acquired Muller on Sept. 20, 1991 and he had 104 goals and 143 assists in 267 games for them.  Muller was also captain of the team in 1994-95, but was traded to the New York Islanders at the conclusion of that season. He reached the Stanley Cup final with the Dallas Stars in 2000.  He retired from the NHL on Sept. 2, 2003.  Muller played for Canada at the 1984 Olympic Games and world junior hockey championship as well as the world championships in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1989.


Michael Jordan Signs On As Part-Owner Of Bobcats

Excerpt from

(June 16, 2006)  *In a deal signed Thursday, Michael Jordan became part owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and a stakeholder in most of Robert Johnson’s existing ventures.  Johnson's portfolio consists of several media, entertainment and financial services. "I'm thrilled to have my friend, Michael Jordan, join me in my business and sports pursuits," said Johnson. "I not only respect Michael for his basketball knowledge and expertise, but also for his business skills, particularly in branding and marketing." Taking full advantage of Jordan's extraordinary basketball expertise (he led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships), Johnson also named him the managing member of basketball operations.  Jordan's involvement comes just in time, as the Bobcats are in the midst of a major management shake-up and could benefit from his experience. "Michael will provide invaluable management input to a Bobcats team that is poised to deliver results for the 2006-2007 season and beyond."  Johnson, who spent $300 million on the expansion Bobcats three years ago and became the first black owner in the NBA, will retain majority ownership of the team, but Jordan's investment makes him second to Johnson as the team's largest individual owner. (Johnson sought to bring Jordan on board at the outset of purchasing the Bobcats, but he initially turned down the offer to pursue majority ownership in his own team.)   "I'm excited to join Bob, and invest alongside one of the most astute businessmen I know," Jordan said of the venture. "I am also looking forward to providing my advice, where needed, to Bobcats management in order to put the best possible team on the court."


8 Ways To Health And Fitness

By Gary Matthews, Guest Columnist

(June 19, 2006) After writing weight-loss, weight-gain, fitness and nutrition tips, I had a few left over that couldn't really be placed into these specific categories. But as you will see they are right on the money for your general health and fitness and can be used in your everyday activities. Let’s take a peek:

What Is A Healthy Diet -- A healthy diet satisfies two criteria: It contains enough fibre and a number of micronutrients including vitamins and minerals to maintain a healthy body. It's balanced in fat, protein, and carbohydrates and micronutrients.

Don't Train With The Flu -- This is one of the biggest exercise blunders you can make. A number of temperature raising viruses, including the flu can affect the muscles. People often forget that the heart is also a muscle and can be weakened by the flu virus. Normally our hearts can cope with the strain of this, but exercising on top of an already weakened heart is potentially fatal. After a bout of the flu, you should wait at least 48 hours before exercising again.

Cool Down -- When you do a strenuous workout the blood vessels in your muscles dilate to deliver more blood for the muscles to operate. The skin vessels also dilate to increase the heat loss from your body, which is why you get flushed after exercise. If you don't give your blood and skin vessels enough time to recover, and jump straight under hot water your skin vessels will dilate even further. Then your heart goes into overdrive trying to pump blood throughout the body. Ultimately you might notice symptoms like faintness, dizziness or at worst, you could even collapse.

Don't Eat Before Exercising -- Always try to eat two or three hours before your exercise and not after that. If you do eat before exercise you can develop what is known as Dumping Syndrome where the blood supply that normally goes to your muscles during exercise is diverted to your gut. This means that you’re not getting enough blood to your muscles, which can cause you to become lethargic and faint.

Give Up Smoking -- The best and easiest way to give up smoking is to replace it with another habit. Unfortunately, quitting has been associated with weight gain if you replace your cigarette habit with a candy or snack food habit. So replace the smoking with the habit of exercise! Nothing tough or painful at first and build up to it. Try a five minute walk instead of a cigarette and aim to build it up slowly and easily.  You will feel better in the morning. Your breath will be worth being near again and fingernails, hair and skin will take on a much younger fresher look! Of the people who die from lung cancer, 95 percent of them smoke.

Protein Power -- Carbohydrate supply the sort of calories easily burned during cardiovascular exercise, but protein plays an important part in building muscle mass, or rather in not storing food as fat. This is largely because the bulk of protein that is eaten will be used to build muscle.  The average male will lose 500gms of muscle -- not fat -- every year once he stops regular exercise. While older men and women are usually touted as the beneficiaries of strength training, so to are the young.

Planned Exercise -- I suggest you start with 100 minutes per week of mild exercise, be it 2x50 mins, 3x35 mins, 4x25 mins, 5x20 mins all of which produce the same results. Mix up your aerobic activities in the gym; use the treadmill, bike, climber or any other training gear available to you.

Keep A Training Log -- Keep a training log for all your fitness requirements, keeping account of the reps you are using, how many sets, what weights you are using and also the date, time and where the workout took place is imperative for gauging your day to day progress. Recording all cardiovascular activities is just as important.

Gary Matthews is the author of the popular fitness eBooks Maximum Weight Loss and Maximum Weight Gain. Please visit right now for your free weight loss or muscle building e-courses.


Motivational Note - Dimensions

Excerpt from - - by Jewel Diamond Taylor,

You have many dimensions of life that require your focus in order to experience a full, balanced and successful life. They are your health, income/savings, family/friends, spirituality, education, community involvement, goals/life purpose, social activities, business/career and personal development. Which areas need your attention and action? I have discovered there are three things that will motivate you to take action.

1. Desperation (fear) - So change before you have to change.
2. Inspiration - Be inspired and energized from observing and learning from other people's mistakes, wisdom and achievements to grow and soar. Remember your own accomplishments and dreams. The love you have for God, your life, your family, your talents, your community, etc. - these are great motivating factors? Who and what do you love?
3. Reality - Denial is costly. What can you do now --- with what you have --- and with who you know --- to take your life to the next level?

Your life is in your hands. You hold the control buttons and choose which ones to push. Using the "remote control" metaphor, which button do you need to push in regards to each of your life issues listed above? Will it be: Power Volume Change Channels Eject Pause Rewind Play Forward Mute