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


Updated:  June 29, 2006

Happy Canada Day people and for those south of the border, Happy July 4th!  Ahhhh, the excitement of the first long weekend of summer!  Enjoy!  And Happy 30th Birthday to the CN Tower (has it really been 30 already?!)

There are many great opportunities for music artists below under OPPORTUNITIES.  You can't say that you didn't know about them!

Check out my photos jacksoul, Divine Brown and DK Ibomeka (special thanks to Sony/BMG).  All three artists tore up the stage like only Toronto artists can - with all the talent we could hold that night!  Also check out photos from the De La Soul concert (special thanks to REMG) who brought that old skool hip hop vibe to Harbourfront.  Their 20 years in the business showed a real veteran performance - it was obvious they still have a good time!  All pics are in my PHOTO GALLERY

And tickets are selling fast - get them now for the Karnival Komedy Xplosion!

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


Western Canadian Music Alliance Accepting Submissions For Music Festival


The Western Canadian Music Alliance is currently seeking submissions for festival artists for the third annual Western Canadian Music Awards conference and festival, taking place in Winnipeg from Thursday, October 19 to Saturday, October 21. If you are a musician in Western Canada, this is one of the best opportunities for you to get heard and have a ton of fun! Performance slots are available for all genres: classical, hip hop, jazz, blues, rock, pop, roots, folk, country and more.  The deadline to submit your application is June 30, and there are two ways to submit:

1. Download and mail in your WCMA Festival application form; or
2. Send in your festival submission online via Sonicbids. Visit to apply online.

Atlanta-Based Atlantis Music Festival Seeks Artists From Canada


Calling all R&B, Hip-Hop and Reggae artists from across Canada! The 9th Annual Atlantis Music Conference and Festival (taking place in Atlanta from October 4-7) is searching for the best talent the world has to offer to play for top music industry professionals. This showcase will feature top urban music artists from Canada, France, England, Australia, USA and the Caribbean performing in front of top name producers, label reps, and artists. If you’ve got the talent, this is your chance to prove it, make the connections and quite possibly be the next artist to launch into urban music history!

Urban Music Showcase Date: Friday, October 6, 2006
Showcase Submission Deadline: June 30, 2006
What: The 9th Annual Atlantis Music Conference and Festival
Where: Atlanta, GA
Who Can Submit to Perform: Hip Hop, R&B and Reggae artists
Application Cost: $35 USD (includes full Atlantis complimentary registration for all selected performing members)
How to Submit: All submissions are accepted through

For more information on the Atlantis Music Conference and Festival check out

Canadian Music Cafe Back Again For 2006 Toronto International Film Festival


The official soundtrack to the world’s most successful film festival is back for 2006! The Canadian Music Café returns to showcase some of Canada’s hottest artists for delegates of The Toronto International Film Festival (September 7-16, 2006).  From September 12-14, 2006, the Canadian Music Café will usher filmmakers and music supervisors from around the world into a downtown Toronto venue, turn down the lights, raise the curtain and turn up the volume for some of Canada’s finest up-and-coming and established artists.  Last year, the inaugural Café showcased the talents of K’naan, Buck 65, Ron Sexsmith, Chantal Kreviazuk, Masia One, Jully Black and many more.  Applications are welcomed from all Canadian artists. Whether you’re a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar or a ten-piece band, you are invited to apply! The deadline for applications is July 21, 2006. Visit for more information and to download an application form.


UMAC Board Of Directors

Excerpt from

gives you a full report on the Annual General Meeting and introduces you to the new members of the UMAC Board of Directors.

Will Strickland: President (newly appointed):

Will Strickland's career as a trailblazer is extensive and ever-expanding. His growth as an impresario in entertainment and business has only just begun!

In 1986, Will started his career as one of the youngest deejays and on-air personalities in the country while still in high school. At Rice University in Houston, Texas, Will launched his first company, UrbanArt Marketing and Promotions, offering business solutions to the entertainment and urban fashion industries.

Will continued his quest as a renaissance man in urban lifestyle with one of his most daring visions when he conceptualized, implemented and executed the first ever online concert in Black music history. Adding to his impressive list of accomplishments, he created and taught a seminal course on Hip-Hop culture at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Will has also served as the music editor for Rap Pages Magazine, the Senior National Director of Promotions for Queen Latifah's Flavor Unit Records and worked for several of the record labels he once promoted for, such as Uptown, Badboy, RCA and Epic/Sony Music, where he played a key role in developing and guiding the careers of artists including: Mary J. Blige, Scarface, WuTang Clan, R. Kelly, The Notorious B.I.G and many others.

Moving to Toronto in 2001, Will has continued to forge his legacy. He is currently the creator, host and executive producer of several television properties in development for major North American networks such as ESPN2, BET, MTV and MuchMusic. In addition, Will works as a freelance writer for several publications and is a highly sought-after public speaker.

Will Strickland proudly identifies himself as an "Ameri-Canadian". He is a true champion for the cause and preservation of urban culture and UMAC is pleased to welcome him to the position of President.

Debi Blair: Vice-President (newly appointed) & Artist Relations Director:

Debi Blair has been appointed to the position of Vice-President. Debi is CEO and founder of Blacksugar Entertainment, a multi-faceted entertainment company. Addicted to music, her greatest training ground for participation in the music business was developed from over 15 years of hosting A-List private functions, club and concert promotions. Debi has played an integral role in UMAC since 1999 and has provided artistic vision for Urban X-Posure/Canadian Urban Music Awards for the past several years. Debi will also retain the post of Artist Relations Director until a call for submissions for that position is issued.

Note: the Secretary and Treasurer positions will be filled within the next several weeks.

The UMAC Board of Directors is pleased to announce your selections to join the UMAC leadership team in the positions of Special Events Director and Communications Director effective immediately:

Jordan Patterson: Special Events Director (newly elected):

Jordan Patterson is a skilled Special Events & Concert Production Manager with more than 10 years experience in multiple areas of the music and entertainment industry. He possesses a recognized ability to communicate well. His in-depth understanding of the importance of maintaining open communication while remaining open-minded and professional in complex time-sensitive situations and has been praised on numerous occasions.

Jordan is well versed and highly experienced in the negotiation of all pre-production work, including development of proposals, artist and venue contracts, finance, budgets, operations, post-production work and press/media liaison for various private and public firms through out North America. He has had the opportunity to work directly with many of the leaders in today's multimedia industry, including AOL-USA / The Breakers Program, MTV-USA, Urban Music Association of Canada, FLOW 93.5, GMR Live, House of Blues Concerts Canada, Nokia, Panasonic, Toyota, L'Oreal, Essence, People, Rolling Stone and Vibe Magazine, as well as various profile events such as LIVE 8, Vans Warped Tour, Edge Fest, Export A Extreme Music Series, Molson's House Party and Du Maurier Presents.

Jill Andrew: Communications Director (newly elected):

Jill Andrew CYW, BA, BA (Hons.), BEd is an award-winning journalist (Metro News), an educator, events host and philanthropist. As Director of Jill Andrew Media (JAM) Productions & Boutique Communications Jill has coordinated media campaigns and designed public relations strategies for local authors, musicians, festivals and business owners. As part of JAM, Jill also hosts charity "JAM For Hope" events donating partial proceeds to charities of her choice aiming to better the lives of disadvantaged and/or mis/under-represented social groups. Jill has numerous TV, radio and keynote speaker appearances discussing topics ranging from self-esteem and education to fashion and has been quoted and profiled in various publications.

Later this year she will co-host the Applause Institute Cotillion Ball alongside Desmond Brown of CTV. Former hosts for this event have included Tonya Lee Williams and Mike "Pinball" Clemons. Jill is a member of the Canadian Women's Foundation, Black Business & Professional Association, UMAC, the Canadian Ethnic Media Association (OMNI/Rogers) and the York University Alumni-Mentor STARS association where she was recently profiled for her work in the community and as a York mentor in the York U Alumni Magazine.

Visit Jill Andrew at

UMAC Board of Directors who will be continuing their terms for another year include:

Paul Martin: Marketing Director:

Paul Martin has a multi-disciplined and diverse background in technology, multimedia, marketing, and business. Through his multimedia marketing company, Encode Media Group, he specializes in developing corporate brand identity and awareness through the use of online and video strategies. Paul has experience working with the Reel World Film Festival on their web team, and he has also served as a board member on The BFVN (Black Film & Video Network) and the BBPA (Black Business and Professional Association).

Paul is responsible for building the UMAC and UMAC Membership websites, and for implementing the robust Canadian Urban Music Awards voting engine.

Paul Riley: Business Affairs Director:

Paul Riley is an entertainment litigator with a wide-ranging practice in music, motion picture, television, sports and media. His areas of practice through his firm, Riley Entertainment Law, include copyright and trademark matters, defamation and libel cases, production and talent agreements, labour and employment disputes, foreign and domestic motion picture and television distribution, licensing, and financing. Paul has a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, a bachelor's degree from Dalhousie University and a journalism diploma from Humber College. Paul has also worked at the CBC as a news anchor, reporter and producer.

Venus Santos: Membership Director:

Venus Santos is Promotions Director for Toronto radio station FLOW 93.5. Venus brings her love of urban culture and her strong contact base within the urban music industry to the important Membership Director portfolio. Venus has spread her entrepreneurial wings through numerous marketing initiatives within the Canadian urban industry.

Executive Director’s AGM Report

The following is an excerpt of the remarks delivered by UMAC Executive Director Aisha Wickham at the 2006 UMAC AGM:

When I assumed the position of Executive Director in February of 2004, I came with a passion and determination to help UMAC grow into a truly national voice with a broad membership base and to build on the foundation that UMAC's previous Boards had developed since the organization launched in 1996.

As you know, UMAC is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization, and we're focused on building the Canadian urban music industry both domestically and internationally. We offer professional development workshops, artist showcases and industry resource information to our members. We represent the interests of Canada's urban music industry with various levels of government and with policy makers. Our initiatives include the Canadian Urban Music Awards, the Music Lab professional development workshop series, the bi-weekly e-newsletter (Urban Music Minute), and the Urban X-Posure showcase series.

The current Board began their term at the beginning of 2004, and we look forward to welcoming some new members to the UMAC leadership team. The structural amendments that we made to the organization's by-laws are an important step in continuing to build the organization. We will be adding some new energy to the Board while maintaining the continuity that the existing Board will offer with their two years of history with the organization.

I'm pleased to be able to share with you some of the accomplishments that our burgeoning organization has achieved over the past couple of years:

• We launched a comprehensive membership outreach strategy resulting in 1,400 new members.
• We conducted a logo design contest and tag line contest resulting in a new brand for the organization.
• We negotiated strategic partnerships with organizations such as Canadian Music Week, North by Northeast, ANR Lounge (CIRPA), PhemPhat, Indie Pool, NABFEME and others.
• We launched a bi-weekly information packed e-newsletter, Urban Music Minute.
• We launched the Music Lab professional development workshop series (so far we have delivered the Producer's Lab, Songwriter's Lab, DJ Lab and Indie Lab).
• We have provided training and placements for more than 50 volunteers and interns who assisted with office administration duties and the Canadian Urban Music Awards.
• We implemented an online voting system for the Canadian Urban Music Awards, complete with streaming audio and video of the nominees.

UMAC's goals for 2006 and beyond will remain focused on building and serving a significant member base that is representative of our national mandate; continuing to deliver a highly valued and relevant newsletter; offering a wide range of professional development initiatives; showcasing our amazing creative and industry talent through the annual Canadian Urban Music Awards and the Urban X-Posure showcase series; being a key player in lobbying initiatives for Canada's urban music industry; and providing research and analysis of Canadian music industry and its policies.

On a personal note, I will be stepping down at the end of July. I'm going to have a baby in a few months, and there are a number of other projects and personal goals that I would like to accomplish before I welcome my bundle of joy.

Although I am leaving the post of Executive Director, I will remain active and engaged in the organization as a member. I feel that, while the organization has challenges - as do all not-for-profits - the combined dedication and commitment of the remaining Board members coupled with the energy and passion of the new Board members will keep the organization running strong.

I encourage you all to be actively involved in the organization's initiatives and events. This is your organization! Only with your support and participation can UMAC truly meet its full potential!



Toronto's CN Tower Celebrating 30th Birthday


(June 26, 2006) Since opening to the public on June 26, 1976, the
CN Tower in Toronto has been a magnet for tourists, attracting nearly two million people each year, half from places outside of Canada, officials estimate. The 553-metre engineering marvel marked its birthday with a large outdoor celebration Monday afternoon which included a barbecue, discounted rides up the tower and a concert by Canadian rock band Lighthouse. A giant sky-crane helicopter re-enacted the moment when the final piece was lifted into place Sunday night to commemorate the tower's completion. The CN Tower is recognized as one of the modern wonders of the world by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Built at an original cost of $63 million, the tower acts not only as a tourist hotspot, but the structure plays an important role in the telecommunications field for which it was built, as it transmits television and radio signals.

The CN Tower was designed to solve communications problems caused by the skyscrapers lining Toronto's landscape in the 1970s. The buildings, which hovered over transmission towers, caused poor reception for televisions and radios in the city. That's when officials decided to build a massive structure to tower high above everything else, said CN Tower general manager Jack Robinson. "Today, they tell us it's the best radio and television signal anywhere in the planet," Robinson told CTV Newsnet. Those who had a part in designing and building the CN Tower didn't think it would reign as the world's tallest for as long as it has, but that record could be surpassed when the current Burg tower in Dubai is completed. Officials of that structure won't reveal the target height, but promise it will shatter any existing record. The tower is expected to top 700 metres. It passed 50 storeys this month (the CN Tower is 181 storeys tall). Robinson is realistic about a new structure surpassing the CN Tower in the next few years. "Records are meant to be broken," he said. "I guess when they built (the CN Tower), they said, 'Don't expect it to be the world's tallest in eight or nine years.' Well, that was 30 years ago, so we still are. "But you're going to hear stories of large towers being built around the world. Some are fact, some are fiction."

A look at other towering world landmarks:


Ostankino Tower in Moscow, 537 metres (which the CN Tower surpassed to take the record);


Taipai 101, 508 metres;


Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai, 468 metres; and


Milad Tower in Tehran, 435 metres.

Some interesting facts about the CN Tower:


Construction began on Feb. 6, 1973, and finished about 40 months later;


More than 1,500 workers laboured five days a week, 24 hours a day to build it;


The structure was built to withstand an earthquake of 8.5 on the Richter scale


It can withstand winds of up to 416 km/h;


Lightning strikes the tower about 75 times each year;


Its glass-cased elevators travel 22 km/h to reach the observation deck in 58 seconds;


On a clear day, visitors on the observation deck can see more than 160 kilometres (past Niagara Falls and across Lake Ontario to New York State);


The tower's glass floor section 113 stories above the ground can withstand the weight of 14 adult hippos; and


The 360 Restaurant makes a full rotation every 72 minutes.

India.Aria Releases New CD Project

Source: Tracey Miller & Associates / Universal Motown Records

(June 28, 2006) NEW YORK  - 12-time Grammy nominee India.Arie, one of music's most inspirational singer/songwriters has released her third studio album Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship.  The much anticipated release also coincided with National HIV Testing Day- a worldwide cause close to the singer's heart and arrived the same day that the acclaimed artist performed with Prince, Yolanda Adams & Stevie Wonder as part of a special tribute to Chaka Khan on last night's BET Awards.   

Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship is India.Arie's first album since 2002's acclaimed Voyage To India, which reached #6 on the Billboard Top Albums chart and People Magazine called it, "A voyage worth taking." Her new disc was produced by long-time collaborators Shannon Sanders and Mark Batson (Seal, Beyonce), among others. The album's first video, "I Am Not My Hair," helmed by Barnaby Roper (Moby, Razorlight) has become a staple on both VH1 and BET.  Testimony... is also being hailed as a more personal expression from the singer/songwriter, with VIBE magazine calling it "a model of inner strength...rarely does she dote on the negative...her songwriting is pensive and poetic," and Glamour Magazine naming it among "Songs to Download Now" in their July 2006 issue. India.Arie recently completed an international promotional tour for the new disc, drawing raves in Europe: "Another earthy uplifting testimony of empowerment" (New Nation 6/12), "This magnificent return shows her at her very best (Mirror, 6/9) and "With Testimony, the world will be a better place." (Daily Star, 6/7) where she previewed the startling repertoire of new songs.

India.Arie emerged onto the music scene in 2001 with her platinum plus debut Acoustic Soul. A masterful meditation on self-acceptance and womanhood, she was dubbed the new "neo-soulstress" by no less than Newsweek Magazine, praising her as "one of the freshest talents to come out of 2001," the emotive singer went on to be nominated for seven Grammys for her debut album, and subsequently has won a host of awards including 2 Grammys, 3 NAACP Awards, as well as being recognized by BET, Billboard Magazine, MTV, VH1 and Essence Magazine, among others.  2002's Voyage To India cemented her rep as a seminal singer/songwriter, netting her 4 Grammy nominations and two statues. With more than six million albums sold, she most recently was nominated for her 12th Grammy in the Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals category for her writing collaboration with Stevie Wonder on the title song of his most recent album, A Time To Love.  India.Arie is also a U.S. Ambassador for UNICEF and is universally recognized as a tireless champion of social and humanitarian causes around the world. She recently returned from a trip to South Africa where she observed and assisted humanitarian efforts taking place in the epicenter of the global AIDS crisis.  She has performed with numerous artists including Sting, Elton John, Sade, Aaron Neville and Sergio Mendes to name a few and has collaborated with many others including; Stevie Wonder, John Mellencamp, Bonnie Raitt, Keb Mo, Rascal Flatts, Elmo and Cassandra Wilson. She has also written songs for several movie soundtracks including "Good Man" for We Were Soldiers, "Eyes of the Heart" for Radio, "Get It Together" for Shark Tale and "Purify Me" for Diary of a Mad Black Woman.  India.Arie was the featured musical guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on June 26 and will appear on Live with Regis & Kelly June 29. For further information, please visit India.Arie's website

We Remember Kool & The Gang’s Charles Smith

Excerpt from

(June 26, 2006) *Charles Smith, a co-founder and lead guitarist of the group Kool & the Gang, died Tuesday in Maplewood, N.J. after a long illness, his publicist David Brokaw confirmed. He was 57.  "We've lost a member of our family, as well as an infinitely creative and gifted artist who was with the band from the very beginning," band manager Tia Sinclair said in a statement.  Smith co-wrote such Kool & the Gang hits as "Joanna" and "Take My Heart," and co-wrote the group’s classic singles "Celebration," "Hollywood Swinging" and "Jungle Boogie."  A Jersey City native, Smith was introduced to jazz guitar by his father in the early 1960s. Later in that decade he was in a group of New Jersey jazz musicians, including Ronald Bell (later Khalis Bayyan), Robert "Kool" Bell, George Brown, Dennis Thomas and Robert "Spike" Mickens, who became Kool & the Gang. Other members would include lead singer James JT Taylor. Smith grew ill and was forced to stop touring with the group in January. His cause of death was unknown as of press time. He is survived by his six children and nine grandchildren.

Kool & The Gang Co-Founder Charles Smith Dies

Excerpt from

(June 23, 2006) Claydes Charles Smith, a co-founder and lead guitarist of the group Kool & the Gang, has died. He was 57.  Smith died in Maplewood, N.J., on Tuesday after a long illness, according to publicist David Brokaw, who did not know the cause of death.  "We've lost a member of our family, as well as an infinitely creative and gifted artist who was with the band from the very beginning," band manager Tia Sinclair said in a statement.  Kool & the Gang grew from jazz roots in the 1960s to become one of the major groups of the 1970s, blending jazz, funk, R&B and pop. After a downturn, the group enjoyed a return to stardom in the '80s.  Smith, who was known as Charles Smith, wrote the hits "Joanna" and "Take My Heart," and was a co-writer of others, including "Celebration," "Hollywood Swinging" and "Jungle Boogie."  Born on Sept. 6, 1948, in Jersey City, he was introduced to jazz guitar by his father in the early 1960s. Later in that decade he was in a group of New Jersey jazz musicians, including Ronald Bell (later Khalis Bayyan), Robert "Kool" Bell, George Brown, Dennis Thomas and Robert "Spike" Mickens, who became Kool & the Gang. Other members would include lead singer James JT Taylor.  Illness forced Smith to stop touring with the group in January. He is survived by his six children and nine grandchildren.

Bill Withers Finally Talks

Excerpt from

(June 26, 2006) *It was 1971 when Bill Withers blessed the world with “Ain’t No Sunshine,” a song about the profound emptiness surrounding the absence of a loved one.  The then 33-year-old singer was working during the days at a Ford assembly plant in Los Angeles and made the decision to stay on the 9-5 job, even as the single became a hit on the charts. Withers believed the music industry was too unstable to turn his back on a steady paycheck. Thirty-five years and an armful of hit records later – including “Lean On Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Use Me” and “Just the Two of Us” – Withers says he’s living proof that the music industry is not only rickety but down right shady. As he prepares to accept a special Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award tonight from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the Slab Fork, West Virginia native, who turns 68 on July 4th, says his sudden departure from the music business was the result of record company politics and a concerted effort by his label CBS Records to throw him under the bus. All the dirt that had been pent up for nearly 20 years came spilling out of the music legend during an interview last week with EUR’s Lee Bailey, who traveled to Withers’ office in Beverly Hills to talk about his impact on the industry, and the honour of his ASCAP award, given to members who have had a major impact on the legacy of soul music.   


Awards belong to the giver. I stole that from a guy that played basketball at UCLA very well, Gail Goodrich, and played for the Lakers. So if somebody picks you for an award, you should be gracious and accept the damn thing.


I don’t know. Who decides what you deserve or not. Like I say, it’s the giver. It’s nice to be remembered. I run into young people like Will Smith and Martin Lawrence and people like that, and they talk about growing up with what I did. So I guess I’ve been in people’s houses for a long time; more in a family context because of the kind of songs – you know, “Grandma’s Hands,” “Lean On Me” – which are not really about boy/girl stuff, but just about living. Through osmosis, word of mouth or whatever, you become aware of that and you become comfortable with it..


I wouldn’t call it importance. I would say there’s a certain impact that I’m aware of that I’ve had and that’s because people tell you. That’s something you get by bits and pieces from guys like you, other artists, they’ll let you know where you stand.  I’m not out and about and into things all the time. I hardly ever come up here. My wife and my kids, they come up here and run this place. And I’m mostly just off in my little corner of the world.


Right now, whatever crosses my mind, if that’s going to Home Depot, or watching “Judge Judy” or whatever. At this point, I don’t really have a structured plan. But yeah, you become aware of some of your effect. I get letters from people occasionally; people talk about “Lean On Me.” I got a lot about that over the years.


I’m not really famous. I can go out right now and you and me could walk around all over town and probably more people will know who you are than me.  I get a lot of calls to find out if I died or not. I got a call earlier this month from Jesse Jackson, he wanted to know whether I died or not.


He said his wife was walking around the house upset because she heard that I had died. We get a lot of those [calls], from foreign countries and everything. I’m used to it by now. I was at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, this is a true story, this was maybe within two years ago. There were some sisters sitting at the next table and they were talking about some “Bill Withers song,” you know. So I thought I’d have some fun, I leaned over and said, “You won’t believe this but I’m Bill Withers.” And this lady said, “No you’re not. Bill Withers is dark-skinned, darker than I am.” And she was a dark-skinned sister. So even if I’m standing there, people argue. So I just let it go.


I guess I said what I had to say for the time, and then life goes on. I wasn’t socialized as a music person. I was in my 30s when I started doing this. So I really learned how to live as an adult doing something else. So when I got a family and things, there’s plenty to do there.

I really stopped recording because I couldn’t get in the studio. For seven years, I was at CBS records and I couldn’t get a purchase order to go in the studio. There was a guy over there in A&R, Mickey Eichner, and he wouldn’t take my phone calls for three years. [A&R rep] George Butler, that used to work there, he told me when Eichner was in the building he would hide from me. Eichner came up with such brilliant suggestions like I should cover Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto.” I don’t cover Elvis Presley. For what? I got my own things. The songs that I’ve written did well for themselves, and brothers don’t cover Elvis, Elvis covers us. So that kinda turned me off to the whole process.

That’s why I did “Just the Two of Us” with Grover [Washington Jr.], because I couldn’t get into the studio [by myself]. Then, they said the only way I could get back in the studio is to work with this producer that they picked – and this is a true story. I can prove this if everybody [involved] ain’t dead. The studio was in this guy’s house. There was this little girl about 4-years-old, stark ravin’ naked, not a stitch of clothes on, running around in the studio. So she would go over to the board where I was, and I’d say, “We’re busy.” They’d say, “Go over there and talk to Bill.” Now here’s this little blonde-haired naked girl, and I’m black, from the South. And she’s coming over to me saying, “I’m ticklish, would you tickle me?” I’m thinking I gotta get the hell outta here, they can kiss my you know what. I could see myself standing up in front of some judge – you know, who was born in Oklahoma like half of California was – trying to explain myself. So I said man, this stuff is crazy. And it just soured me on the whole experience, so I left it alone. And I will never, ever again put myself in the position to where anybody has that kind of power over me.

At CBS Records, in 1981, Grover and I did “Just the Two of Us” which was a No. 1 record. It took me until 1985 to get into the studio, and I had been trying since 1977. Nobody will ever own that much of me again. 

**Why did CBS prevent Withers from recording? The legendary singer/songwriter answers in part two of Lee Bailey’s interview in Friday’s EUR.


8th Annual Celebrate Toronto Street Festival - July 7–9, 2006

Source: City of Toronto, Special Events

Toronto’s Yonge St., the world’s longest street, will once again be transformed into a curb to curb celebration of tastes, talent and all that is Toronto for the 8th annual Celebrate Toronto Street Festival, July 7 – 9, 2006.  Yonge St., where it intersects with Dundas St., St. Clair Ave., Eglinton Ave. and Lawrence Ave., will once again be converted into four distinct festival sites for free entertainment covering the artistic spectrum.    Each festival site provides a combination of musical entertainment, street theatre and visual arts ideal for the whole family.  Each site also features uniquely-themed stages — Dundas site:  Toronto Star Rhythms and Beats Stage, St. Clair site: the Scotiabank Big Band Stage and the Scotiabank Jazz Café, Eglinton site: the Midtown Mix Stage and Lawrence site: The McDonald’s® Main Stage and Discover the Arts Stage.

The celebration kicks off Friday, July 7 at Yonge-Dundas Square with Opening Ceremonies from 8 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.  Performers include:

8 p.m.  Pre-show wandering performances including “Accoules Sax” (tight funky beats and jumpy horn lines from this Marseilles-based mini-marching band); Dutch theatre group Close-Act’s new mobile act “Saurus” (strange oversized creatures that look like a sort of prehistoric animals generating atypical and flowing sounds) and from France’s Compagnie Colbok “Niki” (inspired by the sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle, these three big Mama's are curious, a little coquettish, sometimes provoking and sometimes lofty).  

8:30 p.m. — Hamilton-based “modern rock troubadour” Tomi Swick (gifted singer/songwriter’s current single “A Night Like This” reached #3 on the Canadian charts).

9 p.m. — Vancouver-based
R&B singer Rosette (Favourite Pop Artist at the 2006 Indie Music Awards)

9:15 p.m.Jane Bunnett (Award-winning Canadian soprano saxophonist, flutist and bandleader). 

9:40 p.m.  — “Tricycle,” the world premiere of this large-scale roaming spectacle production from Toronto’s Circus Orange.  Tricycle is a nomadic journey through public space by an ensemble of 16 Toronto-based performers.  Includes a spectacular special effects finale.

Over the next two days over 500 artists from every corner of the world perform at the four distinct festival sites. 


Musical highlights over the weekend for the Toronto Star Rhythms and Beats Stage at the Dundas site include:

Kobo Town (soaring calypso meets heavy bass grooves of dub and reggae) Saturday at 6 p.m.

Sisters of Sheynville (unique all-female fusion of high-energy, klezmer-infused 30s and 40s Yiddish swing) Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Eliana Cueves (a new voice on Canada’s world and jazz music scene) Sunday at 4 p.m.; Trinidad Bacchanal All-Stars (a collective of Toronto’s top Trinidadian and Caribbean musicians) Sunday at 5:30 p.m.

Reggae Cowboys (
reggae, flavored with Caribbean, old west, spaghetti western and, yes, even traditional reggae spices) Sunday at 7 p.m.

On Saturday night, July 8, at 8 p.m., the Toronto Star Rhythms and Beats Stage will feature:  Marron Matizado Salsa Superband (high-energy whirlwind of salsa, jazz, funk and hip-hop), the return of Circus Orange’s “Tricycle” (large-scale roaming spectacle production) at 9:30 p.m. and Tumbao Inc. (one of Toronto’s newest and most innovative Latin orchestras) at 10:20 p.m.

Street theatre and circus arts performers at the Dundas site include: 

The Silk Road Acrobats (award-winning acrobatic troupe); the North American premiere of the Ashton Brothers (four Dutch men with unnatural amounts of talent and ingenuity who will transform Yonge-Dundas Square into their playground); Accoules Sax (an eight-piece roving band from France, comprising of two drummers and six saxophonists); Roses (a Mandala project by Toronto visual and performance artist Chrysanne Stathaocs); and on the World of Dance Stage - Spirit of Toronto (high-energy dance masterpieces and innovative contemporary works choreographed by Van Arden Arts).


Musical highlights for Scotiabank Big Band Stage at the St. Clair site include:

Summerlicious Returns! - July 7 –23, 2006

Source: City of Toronto, Special Events

The phenomenally successful restaurant promotion Summerlicious presented by American Express returns to Toronto July 7 – 23, 2006.  Take advantage of the incredible value and exclusive menus offered at 130 of Toronto’s top dining restaurants.  The 4th annual Summerlicious offers three-course prix fixe menus available at both lunch and dinner and at unbelievable price points ($15 or $20 lunch menus and $25 or $35 dinner menus).    In past years Torontonians and tourists alike have enthusiastically celebrated Toronto’s diverse and innovative cuisine with delicious menus available at restaurants city-wide.  Summerlicious and its counterpart, Winterlicious, promote Toronto’s restaurant industry, are an open invitation to sample some of Toronto’s haute cuisine and are the perfect satiating opportunity for restaurant lovers to enjoy the best of the city’s eclectic cuisine.

In addition, Summerlicious Wine Sensations, presented by Vincor International Estate Wineries, allows diners to enjoy a glass of wine with their Summerlicious meal. Participating restaurants will be featuring a special selection of award-winning, limited edition wines offered by the following wineries:  Jackson-Triggs (Niagara), RH Phillips (California), Inniskillin (Niagara) and Goundrey Homestead (Australia).
American Express Cardmembers can automatically go to the Front Of The Line® to access reservations ahead of the general public by contacting participating restaurants directly on June 20 & 21, 2006.     All other reservations will be accepted June 22, 2006.  Summerlicious presented by American Express kicks off on July 7 to coincide with the 8th annual Celebrate Toronto Street Festival (July 7 – 9) and runs until July 23, 2006.

Visit  for restaurant descriptions and menus in mid-June.


Ladies Sing The Blues For Mentor

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(June 26, 2006) It was supposed to be all about the girls, but the spectre of a man kept rearing its head throughout the Real Divas showcase at the Toronto Jazz Festival last night.  The gentleman in question was MIA musician and broadcaster Bill King who programmed the second annual event which featured 16 singers on the Nathan Phillips Square main stage — at $25 one of the best values of the 10-day event and disappointingly under attended.  King, who recently turned 60, was at home recovering from a brief illness, much to the dismay of the slate of singers who dedicated songs to him and lauded his vision. He got the full treatment when Shakura S'Aida dialed him on her cellphone, during her turn centre stage, to listen to her bluesy-gospel tune "Come Sunday."  Earlier, King told The Star that he conceived the project, which grew out of a weekly nightclub series and has since yielded two CDs and coast-to-coast tours, to promote promising young jazz singers because of the nation's plethora of female talent.

"When you look at it, Canada has the best singers in the world — from Shania Twain to Sarah McLachlan. And they're not clones of each other, they have their own unique style that makes them stand out."  That was certainly the case last night, as the ladies of "different origins, ages and dress sizes" according to singer Lori Cullen, delivered blues, jazz, Latin jazz and pop with humour and pizzazz. They ranged in age from 14 to "a little over 14" in the words of Heather Bambrick, who kicked off the evening with a sophisticated rendition of the All in the Family theme "Those Were the Days" replete with Edith Bunker-style screech.  The lineup ran the gamut from the grey-haired June Garber, who wore five-inch sequined heels and resonated with a smouldering "Cry Me A River," to Winnipeg's Sophie Berkal Sarbit, 15, who was simply dressed and exhibited lovely tone and command on "Midnight Sun."  The women delivered one song apiece, then paired up for duets, ably back a swinging team of musicians — guitarist Jake Langley, bassist Duncan Hopkins, drummer Daniel Barnes, saxist Chris Gale, percussionist Daniel Stone and pianist Bernie Senesky substituting for King — who brought cohesion to their disparate styles.  As for the D-word, that's meant to "lift everyone from being an average singer and to let people know they have a reason to stand out," King explained.  It was unfortunate, though, to see some of the women exhibiting diva-like behaviour after their sets — chatting and posing for pictures sidestage while their sisters were performing.

The festival continues until July 3. For complete listings and prices, visit . Word is that tomorrow morning a final block of about 20 seats will be released for the Etta James show.

Sexy Vocalist Lynne Fiddmont Releases Debut CD

Source: Regina Davis / Davis & Associates Public Relations / 626-356-1300 /  or

(June 23, 2006)   Los Angeles, CA – St. Louis native Lynne Fiddmont takes center stage with her first solo release, FLOW, after years of being the music industry’s “go-to girl” background vocalist for a long list of Grammy winners and hit-makers: Stevie Wonder, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Patti Austin, Madonna, Seal, Mariah Carey, Barbara Streisand, Gloria Estefan, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Whitney Houston, Yolanda Adams, James Ingram, Frankie Beverly, Norman Brown, Bill Withers, and many others.  FLOW does not merely mark the graduation of a woman who has arguably stayed too long at the fair…globetrotting with superstars or milking a studio tan at the service of hit makers. FLOW represents a joyous ceremony of sweet, purposeful liberation. As A. Scott Galloway states in the liner notes, “Not only does singer/songwriter Fiddmont have a lot to say, she has boldly opened her own label, MidLife Records, to start spreading the news.” Los Angeles area fans are in for a treat. Lynne's having a “Record Release Party,” with a special debut performance, on July 11 at the Aura Night Club in Studio City. To attend either of these events, or to stay apprised of other INVITATION ONLY parties, performances, etc., sign up at  

FLOW, released May 30 in the USA, is available in selected cities, at various record stores, and online through INgrooves and at  Few musicians would take the risk of producing, arranging and writing the lyrics, In addition to singing on their debut CD. Fiddmont shows her strength in creating FLOW, an intensely personal 9-song collection of melodic, jazzy soul songs, all but one of which is not a Fiddmont original. “As things occur, you can either fight them or go with them, figuring out solutions and making the best of a challenging situation — it’s all about life’s ebb and flow,” she explains. Released as the CD’s first single through INgrooves and on a Tastemaker compilation in Europe, “Flow (The EP Remix Series),” has whet the appetites of listeners with her soul-stirring artistry. Fusing a boppin’ groove to catchy, clever lyrics, co-written and producer Tim Carmon and Lynne Fiddmont, hit the mark with a musical combination destined to touch everyone. Blue notes of bittersweet déjà vu fill Fiddmont’s breathtaking new acoustic version of “U R Loved,” a Quiet Storm classic that she first recorded in 1991 (under the Duo name “Linsey”) on their CD, PERFECT LOVE.  Fiddmont, the soulstress with the thousand-watt smile, invites the listener on a jazzy musical journey of love, sorrow and rebirth. She sings of luxurious daydreams, spur-of-the-mid-week holidays and torrid scented-candle nights of the so-good-so-right and oh-so-wrong varieties. And it’s all set to a mesmerizing score where jazz and pop — celestial and international incantations — swirl to seamlessness.  Fiddmont’s divine, sultry voice surrounds you in an intimate aural embrace of love, serenity and sensuality. Like sun-ripened summer fruit, the CD bursts open with the carefree samba “Holiday” (produced by bassist Freddie Washington, best known for co-writing Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots,” which was also sampled for Will Smith’s “Men in Black”).

Everything that Lynne has learned about relationships has manifested within her work. She poured her heart into the driving, inspirational mantra “Something I Can Feel” (which features her brother, Keith Fiddmont, on soprano sax, as well as her son, Courtney, and daughter, Alana, as part of the children’s choir). It was inspired by her lifelong musical idol, Stevie Wonder, and his masterwork “As,” because, “the hook has so many words and the structure goes through cycles,” she explains. “The song talks about wanting to believe in the love supreme and that love can conquer all. The main idea is ‘I don’t want you to tell me that you love me. I want to feel it.’  “Say” (which recalls vintage Rufus meets Minnie Ripperton) opens like a Calgon-inspired afternoon daydream before descending into a gentle plea to reignite romance. It features lovely piano work by Mark Stephens. And then there’s the intoxicating and mesmerizing “Cupid.” “I love the opening lines,” Fiddmont sighs. “‘You are the song that my soul sings / you give my melody a meaning.’ I’m a hopeless romantic. That’s how I look at the possibilities of love. The idea that it can exist is so inspiring.” FLOW’s one cover song is the CD’s closer “No Regrets,” which young Fiddmont discovered on a 1976 recording by Phoebe Snow (it was also recorded earlier by Ella Fitzgerald). Swingin’ in a sultry, sassy mode supported by a trio of piano, bass and drums, Fiddmont proves her jazz roots with aplomb. Fiddmont dedicated her debut CD, FLOW, to the late Carl Anderson, a peerless artist with whom she shared many personal and professional memories. He passed away in 2004. “Carl always pushed me to do my thing,” Fiddmont states. “One of the most precious memories I have of Carl is, while he was in the hospital, he asked me to sing “U R Loved” for him and I did.  I was glad I could comfort him in some way because he always gave so much to me.  He always made me feel like I had something special to give.’“   

Disco Spin Revives Material Girl

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Matthew Hays

Madonna: Confessions Tour At the Bell Centre In Montreal on Wednesday

(June 24, 2006) When Madonna arrived on stage at Montreal's Bell Centre on Wednesday night, it was clear that this tour marked one of those key moments in her career arc. Her arrival on the charts in the early eighties was often marked by critical derision (including a famous comment by a Time magazine critic who declared that Madonna was a fad that no one would remember in a decade). Since then, there have been celebrity relationships (among them with Sean Penn and Warren Beatty), brazen proclamations of libidinous bravado and religious transformation. Sure, there have been mishaps -- that famously tortured acting career, for example. But for the most part, Madonna's music has delivered. A few years ago, she faced some particularly nasty reviews that suggested the Material Girl had run out of material; according to a few critics, the pop goddess was redundant. But really, should anyone ever count this woman out? Not every track on every album is spun from gold, but she is an extremely savvy and clever performance artist, pop star and singer. Her latest album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, is a brilliant bit of career revival, full of spunky glam, ghetto chic and stimulating videos that have been among Madonna's hallmarks.

The first night of the only two Canadian performances of her Confessions tour was an example of the artist at her best: energetic, naughty, brazenly kitschy and wildly entertaining. She arrived, ingeniously, in a massive disco ball that descended from the heavens and opened like a blooming flower. Call it the damn-the-critics tour: Madonna seemed hell bent on engaging in some age-defying callisthenics, and, oddly enough, began the evening with a lengthy reference to her horse-riding accident of last year. This, she made entirely clear, was going to hold her back about as much as those occasionally bitchy reviews. Draped in a series of skin-tight outfits by Jean Paul Gaultier (a couple of them appeared to have been sprayed on), Madonna's body provides a point of fascination. While defying her critics, she also defies age: Why bother with a midlife crisis when there are no signs of crisis? (The list of factoids given to the press about the Confessions tour includes: "Foundation used on Madonna's skin: 0.") There were the expected and much-talked-about political statements: the depiction of a tragic gangland shooting; a reminder that one million children have been orphaned by AIDS in Africa; nods to her massive gay following (two male dancers embrace during one number, to Madonna's approval); and the obligatory trashing of Bush and Blair. But Madonna is at her best when she moves beyond literal-minded political statements and plays with cultural iconography. She performed a rendition of Live to Tell while strapped to a massive mirror-tiled cross, adorned with a crown of thorns. (Fitting in Montreal, a city that has its own lit-up cross.) Madonna seemed less intent on reminding us about her own suffering than about pointing to the religious overtones of contemporary celebrity culture (a point made equally well by David Bowie during his 1987 Glass Spider tour). Another sublime moment arrived when she sang her signature song, Like a Virgin. For this, a metal rod conveniently popped out of one section of the stage, allowing Madonna to pole dance, showgirl style.

But the play list was telling: This is not an artist who is settling for a greatest-hits retrospective. Madonna is confident that her best work is current, not past More than half of the songs performed were from her new album, culminating in a marvellously tacky disco medley, punctuated by Hung Up, the ludicrously catchy ABBA-sampled hit. By contrast, on some of her older hits -- notably Lucky Star -- she sang with far less enthusiasm. Madonna seemed intent on proving something with her Confessions tour: that she's still beholden to her worshipping fans (Montreal's two nights sold out in under two hours -- a record), that she still knows how to have fun (despite parenthood and the religious conversion) and that she remains culturally germane. To accomplish that, she needed to captivate, to provide exhilaration, to nod to her past while maintaining the aura of an artist whose best is before her. She delivered.

An Old Voice Learns New Tricks

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

(Jun. 24, 2006) 'Finding your voice" is a phrase that's seldom meant literally when referring to an artist's development. But for jazz singer Andy Bey, who performs at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival this weekend and the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival on Monday, finding his voice meant literally that -- learning to use the sound and power of his natural voice, instead of pushing his instrument to meet the demands of others. "I won't say that you waste your voice when you're young, but you do things because you have the youth and you have the power," he says over the phone from his home in Manhattan. "But as you get older, you learn more about control and more about wisdom, and just knowing when to do things." And, he adds, learning is an ongoing process, one that has him, even as he approaches 67, still working on his technique. All that effort has definitely paid off, though. Since recording his 1996 "comeback" album, Ballads, Blues & Bey, the singer has been hailed both for the subtlety and insight of his interpretations and the rich, resonant colour of his voice. Hailed as a lost treasure of jazz, some reviewers accompanied their praise with laments over the fact that he went unrecorded for more than two decades. Bey, for his part, is bemused by the notion that he was simply sitting out the decades. "Nobody asked me to record during those years," he says simply.

Still, it's not hard to understand why critics and younger audiences were so dazzled by his return. When singing quietly, Bey's voice has a warm, caressing quality that recalls the romantic qualities of the late Johnny Hartman, and there's a lightness to his phrasing that echoes the approach of Nat King Cole, his idol. But Bey can also turn on the power. On his most recent recording, 2004's American Song, he offers a version of Duke Ellington's classic Caravan that at one point finds his voice leaping into the upper register with the hard-swinging ferocity of a trombone solo. "See, I'm a bass-baritone," he says, "and the trombone is a pretty low instrument. Well, I can sing down there with the tuba, because I'm really low. But I'm able to shift from one voice to the other. "But a lot of that other sound came about because in the early days, when I was singing with Horace Silver and Gary Bartz, I had a tendency to sing a lot with power. But I always had this soft side to me, which a lot of people just didn't know." When he was younger, Bey simply went with whatever demands a job brought. "I had to sing in the keys that Horace wrote the songs in, because he had horn players and such," Bey says. "He tried to be thoughtful in some ways, but it was still about the band, so I had to adjust my voice. Gary's music gave me a little more freedom to do more improvisational things. I mean, I could improvise with Horace, but in another way, with rhythm and the melody. I wasn't allowed to do any scatting in the Horace Silver thing; he wanted me to interpret the lyrics. It was good for me, because it took a certain kind of discipline to develop within his concept, to try to get my ego out of the way and deal with what he was saying."

Focusing on the song has led Bey to recognize that a singer's first and greatest job is communicating to an audience and conveying emotion. "There's always something you can find in a song -- even a tune like My Funny Valentine that's been done to death -- if you can communicate a certain kind of honesty within the concept. It always has to relate to the honesty that you're trying to communicate to the audience, to the listener." That's why much of what Bey brings to a song has to do with the finer points of phrasing and rhythm, rather than scat acrobatics. "A lot of critics say, 'He doesn't improvise,' " Bey says. "I've been improvising all my life! It just has to be obvious to some people." Andy Bey performs tonight at Performance Works in Vancouver, and Monday at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto.

Host Damon Wayans calls 2006 BET Awards a 'big, black blast'

Source:  Sandy Cohen, Associated Press

(June 28, 2006) LOS ANGELES (AP) - Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Jamie Foxx and Chris Brown were all double winners at Tuesday's BET Awards.  Blige won female R&B artist. And in a tie, she, West and Foxx shared the prize for video of the year. Blige won for Be Without You, which features Terrence Howard, who was named best actor. West and Foxx won the video honour for Gold Digger, which was also chosen as best collaboration. The megahit also won a Grammy this year.  "Love to all black people," a jubilant Foxx told the Shrine Auditorium crowd.  "Y'all are stepping up black music," West said. "This is the best music right here, and we've got to keep on giving it to them like that."  Brown took home viewer's choice, for his Excuse Me Miss, and best new artist.  Chaka Khan, who was recognized for lifetime achievement, accepted the honour in star-studded style.  "I am so honoured to be honoured by my people. This means everything to me," she said as Stevie Wonder, Prince, India Arie and Yolanda Adams joined her on stage for a five-song celebration.  The 53-year-old singer was among a dozen performers, including Blige, Foxx, Brown, Beyonce, Busta Rhymes, gospel duo Mary Mary and rapper T.I.  T.I. won the male hip-hop artist trophy and dedicated it to everyone "who been told they can't do it."  Prince, who closed the show with his song "3121," won for male R&B artist.  "This was unexpected; I appreciate it nonetheless," he said.

The night's most touching moments came when Mary Mary dedicated the song Yesterday to survivors of Hurricane Katrina and when Harry Belafonte, 79, accepted a humanitarian award.  "This award doesn't just touch vanity," Belafonte said. "It is a validation of what I stand for, what Paul Robeson stood for. It's a validation of what W.E.B. Dubois stood for, what Malcolm X and Dr. King stood for."  Damon Wayans hosted Black Entertainment Television's performance-packed awards program, which recognizes the best in hip-hop, R&B, gospel and music videos, as well as athletes and actors.  NBA star LeBron James and tennis star Venus Williams were named best athletes. Hustle & Flow star Taraji P. Henson won best actress, and the best group was Black Eyed Peas.  Missy Elliott, who recently signed on to star in the big-screen version of her life story, won for female hip-hop artist, and Kirk Franklin for gospel artist.  "So many people owe BET a lot," Franklin said before the show. "Every African-American who's in music, television or film, BET has got us into this. And there's a lot of us."  BET Award winners were decided by a panel of executives from entertainment companies, record labels and the media, except the Viewers' Choice award, which fans voted for online. Not all award presentations were shown during the telecast.

Winners of the sixth annual BET Awards:

Video of the year: (tie) Mary J. Blige, Be Without You; Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx, Gold Digger.
Viewer's choice: Chris Brown.
Male hip-hop artist: T.I.
Female hip-hop artist: Missy Elliott.
Male R&B artist: Prince.
Female R&B artist: Mary J. Blige.
Gospel artist: Kirk Franklin.
New artist: Chris Brown.
Collaboration: Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx, Gold Digger.
Group: Black Eyed Peas.
Actor: Terrence Howard.
Actress: Taraji P. Henson.
Male athlete: LeBron James.
Female athlete: Venus Williams.
BET "J" Cool Like That: Anthony Hamilton.
Lifetime achievement: Chaka Khan.
Humanitarian award: Harry Belafonte.

Doubling the BET

Source: SANDY COHEN, Associated Press

(June 28, 2006) LOS ANGELES — Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Jamie Foxx and Chris Brown were all double winners at Tuesday's BET Awards. Blige won female R&B artist. And in a tie, she, West and Foxx shared the prize for video of the year. Blige won for Be Without You, which features Terrence Howard, who was named best actor. West and Foxx won the video honour for Gold Digger, which was also chosen as best collaboration. The megahit also won a Grammy this year. “Love to all black people,” a jubilant Foxx told the Shrine Auditorium crowd. “Y'all are stepping up black music,” West said. “This is the best music right here, and we've got to keep on giving it to them like that.” Brown took home viewer's choice, for his Excuse Me Miss, and best new artist. Chaka Khan, who was recognized for lifetime achievement, accepted the honour in star-studded style. “I am so honoured to be honoured by my people. This means everything to me,” she said as Stevie Wonder, Prince, India.Arie and Yolanda Adams joined her on stage for a five-song celebration. The 53-year-old singer was among a dozen performers, including Blige, Foxx, Brown, Beyonce, Busta Rhymes, gospel duo Mary Mary and rapper T.I.

T.I. won the male hip-hop artist trophy and dedicated it to everyone “who been told they can't do it.” Prince, who closed the show with his song 3121, won for male R&B artist. “This was unexpected; I appreciate it nonetheless,” he said. The night's most touching moments came when Mary Mary dedicated the song Yesterday to survivors of hurricane Katrina and when Harry Belafonte, 79, accepted a humanitarian award. “This award doesn't just touch vanity,” Belafonte said. “It is a validation of what I stand for, what Paul Robeson stood for. It's a validation of what W.E.B. Dubois stood for, what Malcolm X and Dr. King stood for.” Damon Wayans hosted Black Entertainment Television's performance-packed awards program, which recognizes the best in hip-hop, R&B, gospel and music videos, as well as athletes and actors. NBA star LeBron James and tennis star Venus Williams were named best athletes. Hustle & Flow star Taraji P. Henson won best actress, and the best group was Black Eyed Peas. Missy Elliott, who recently signed on to star in the big-screen version of her life story, won for female hip-hop artist, and Kirk Franklin for gospel artist. “So many people owe BET a lot,” Franklin said before the show. “Every African-American who's in music, television or film, BET has got us into this. And there's a lot of us.” BET Award winners were decided by a panel of executives from entertainment companies, record labels and the media, except the Viewers' Choice award, which fans voted for on-line. Not all award presentations were shown during the telecast.

Janet, Eminem Surprise Audience At BET Awards

Excerpt from

(June 28, 2006) *At the BET Awards Tuesday night, Prince didn’t do a performance drive-by like he did at the “American Idol” finale. He stayed, got comfortable and even made a heartfelt speech to accept his best male R&B artist award. In a night that featured high-energy performances by Beyonce, Busta Rhymes and surprise appearances by Eminem and Janet Jackson, it was Prince who seemed to electrify the Shrine Auditorium through both of his stage appearances – once during a show-stopping tribute to Chaka Khan featuring Stevie Wonder, India.Arie and Yolanda Adams; and another that actually did stop the show.  Meanwhile, Chris Brown, Mary J. Blige and the “Gold Digger” combo of Kanye West and Jamie Foxx  each picked up two awards apiece to lead the roster of winners (listed below).   For those who missed the show, here are the highlights:

• Beyonce channelled Tina Turner for her scorching performance of “Déjà Vu” to open the program.  Boyfriend Jay-Z dipped in for his part, then promptly dipped back out. The singer's new all-girl touring band also made their national debut and did not disappoint.

• Jimmy Walker, Bernadette Stanis and Ralph Carter had no idea that their former “Good Times” co-star Janet Jackson was even in the building when she sashayed across the stage and joined them to present an award. And just like that, she almost had another wardrobe malfunction when Thelma accidentally caused her right strap to fall off her shoulder. There was slight panic in her eyes as she read the teleprompter while yanking it back to its proper place.

• Don King, waving a tiny U.S. flag, introduced the self-proclaimed king of the South, T.I.  The rapper then had severe sound problems during his performance of “What You Know.” 

• Jamie Foxx brought out Fantasia to perform his latest single, “DJ Play A Love Song,” and then threw his tongue down her throat midway through the set.

• Chris Brown hit folks with a little “Run It” then brought out Lil Wayne for “Gimme That,” during which he channelled MiJac’s look in the “Smooth Criminal” video and did somersaults. Next, he climbed into a cage to perform “Yo (Excuse Me Miss)” and it floated over the audience toward the balcony, where he picked up a young lady and serenaded her while floating back toward the stage.

• Mo’Nique and Rihanna were presenting an award together when the comedian suddenly pulled a Star Jones Reynolds, who had announced her departure from “The View” earlier in the day with the opening phrase, “Something's been on my heart for a little bit.”   Mo’Nique said to Rihanna, “Excuse me, sugar,” then said to the audience, “I got something on my heart I gotta tell yall.” She pointed at Beyonce, who was sitting in the front row next to Jay-Z, and told the crowd she’d have to go “into rehearsal tonight,” insinuating she must learn the singer’s sizzling ‘Déjà Vu” choreography. (Several years ago, Mo’Nique opened the BET Awards with a dead-on re-enactment of Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” video.) Mo’Nique continued, “Jay-Z, I need you as my prop.” Meanwhile, Rihanna – who was rumoured to be dating Jay-Z on the side – simply stood by and smiled through the awkward moment.

• Prince actually uttered sentences upon receiving his best male R&B artist award. He said the honour was “unexpected but appreciated nonetheless.” He thanked – in this order – Jehovah God, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, India.Arie and Yolanda Adams for “continuing to be such an inspiration in my life.”  

• Mary J. Blige sang “Be Without You” before unleashing her rap alter-ego “Brooke” to help her through a crowd-pleasing performance of “Enough Cryin’.”

• Keyshia Cole started her performance of “Love” in the audience and strolled her way to the stage.

• Diddy dissed the soundman for messing up his mic, then blamed him for destroying T.I.’s entire set before introducing his Bad Boy artist Yung Joc and joining him for a performance of “It’s Goin’ Down.”

• Busta Rhymes, Kelis and of the Black Eyed Peas – and of course Spliff Star – performed “I Love My Chick.”  For the hyped performance of “Touch It,” Busta was joined one by one by Mary J. Blige (or shall we say, Brooke), Rah Digga, Missy Elliott, Lloyd Banks, Papoose, DMX (via the music video) and – surprise – Eminem (wearing a t-shirt that read “Shady” on the front and “Proof Forever” on the back).

• BET congratulated itself (through presenters David Banner and Vivica A. Fox) for its S.O.S. telethon that raised $14 million for the Hurricane Katrina effort.

• Jagged Edge presented an award in Capri pants.

• Steve Harvey introduced lifetime achievement award recipient Chaka Khan. Her musical tribute featured Stevie Wonder (who wrote her hit “Tell Me Something Good”), Prince (writer of “I Feel for You”), India.Arie and Yolanda Adams. They started with the opening notes of “Ain’t Nobody” (Prince on guitar, Stevie on keys), before moving into “Sweet Thing” (Adams on vocals). That gave way to “Tell Me Something Good,” (lead vocals by Arie and Stevie, with Prince pitching in). Chaka Khan herself took the stage for “Through the Fire” - speaking of which, Kanye West (who sampled the song for his first hit “Through the Wire”), was shown in the audience recording the whole performance with his digital camera. You can’t have Prince, Chaka and Stevie on the same stage and not do “I Feel For You,” which they did and brought the house down. The grand finale was “I’m Every Woman.” (Imagine if Whitney Houston had gotten herself together enough to join them onstage for that – marking her big return to civilization by saluting Chaka Khan. But it wasn’t to be.)

• BET head honcho Debra Lee and actor Danny Glover saluted Harry Belafonte with the show’s Humanitarian Award.

• Ne-Yo performed “Sexy Love,” with a chair as a prop, then flowed into “So Sick.”

• OutKast presented the final award, but not before promoting their “Idlewild” soundtrack and film (due Aug. 22 and 25 respectively).

• For the closing performance, Prince re-emerged with his hair wrapped in that black scarf that ties in the front and ripped through “3121” with protégé Tamar, who was dressed in a hot pink, Asian-influenced dress and toted a silk fan. When the song ended, Damon Wayans came out to close the show and tried to promote his upcoming Showtime series, but Prince started playing his guitar over him, firing up “3121” again and bringing out to spit a rhyme before ending the song for good. 

• The show ended at about 11:06 p.m., which means those who TiVo’d the program missed the last six minutes.

Foxx Out Front Of Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Finalists

Excerpt from - Courtney Lear, L.A.

(June 22, 2006) Jamie Foxx tops the list of finalists for this year's Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Awards. The artist, who took home a best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles in "Ray," is a contender in eight categories, including top R&B/hip-hop album and top R&B/hip-hop artist.  Foxx's collaborations with Kanye West on "Gold Digger" and Ludacris on "Unpredictable" garnered two mentions each. Both are in the running for top R&B/hip-hop song.  "It's an honour to be nominated for this R&B award. Billboard is a true testament to the fans and people out there and I truly appreciate all the love and support," Foxx says.  The awards ceremony will close Billboard's seventh annual R&B/Hip-Hop Conference, to be held Sept. 6-8 in Atlanta at the Renaissance Waverly.  With seven nods each, Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige vie against each other in all of the same categories, including top R&B/hip-hop album and top R&B/hip-hop album artist. The latter category includes West, who is a finalist in seven categories as well. His additional mentions include top R&B/hip-hop album and hot rap track for his work with Foxx on "Gold Digger."  Young Jeezy has four mentions, including best rap album for "Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101." He is also in the running for top new artist alongside Ne-Yo, Keyshia Cole and Chris Brown.  Top songwriter finalists are Johnta Austin, Robert Kelly, Scott Storch and Jermaine Dupri. Dupri and Storch are also finalists for top producer along with Mr. Collipark and Bryan-Michael Cox.

The Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Awards honour the most popular albums, songs and artists as well as the top songwriters, producers and major/independent labels. The awards are based on sales data from Nielsen SoundScan and radio airplay information for Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems.  This year's finalists and winners reflect the performance of recordings on the Billboard R&B/hip-hop and rap charts during the one-year period from May 28, 2005 through the issue dated May 20, 2006. New artists are those who have not appeared on a Billboard album chart prior to the March 26, 2005, issue or have not been a new artist finalist in the past.  For the full list of finalists, click here.

Keyshia Cole Helps Apollo With Black Music Month

Source: Apollo Theater / Nina Flowers /

(June 26, 2006)  *(New York NY) - The Apollo New Legends Series sponsored by Belvedere Vodka is pleased to present an exciting addition to the Apollo Black Music Month line-up with the princess of hip hop soul - Keyshia Cole.   In celebration of the one year anniversary of her smash debut album “The Way It Is”, released in June 2005, the popular soulstress will play her first concert at the world famous Apollo Theater on Thursday, June 29th, 8pm.   Tickets are $50, $40 and $30, and are on sale now through the Apollo Theater Box Office, 125th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, 212/531-5305 and Ticketmaster, (212) 307-7171,     With a voice that evokes pure emotion and an earthy realness that speaks to her generation in a way that has often earned her comparisons to the Mary J. Blige, singer/songwriter Keyshia Cole is a natural choice for an Apollo New Legend. The Apollo New Legends Series recognizes contemporary artists in a variety of musical genres whose undeniable talent and impact represent the best of today’s music and indicates lasting staying power. For her part, Ms. Cole finds it fitting that that her first concert at the Apollo will coincide with the one year anniversary of The Way It is. "I am so excited to be performing at the legendary Apollo on what just so happens to be the one year anniversary release of my first album.  What better way to celebrate than with my fans?"  After striking platinum (and still going strong) with The Way It Is and releasing four consecutive hit singles including the smashes “I Should Have Cheated” and “Love”, Keyshia Cole has accomplished a lot in just one short year and is showing no signs of slowing down. The talented singer was nominated for two awards for the upcoming 2006 BET Awards and was most recently featured on the lead single of the Mission Impossible 3 soundtrack alongside superstar rapper and producer Kanye West and platinum rapper Twista.  Ms. Cole is a frequent guest and co-host on BET's 106 & Park. In addition, a seven-episode reality show surrounding her life called Star Time: Keyshia Cole, is expected to air on the network in the summer 2006. Currently, Keyshia Cole is headlining the Love Tour and has begun work on her sophomore album, The Heart of Soldier, with noted producers Kanye West and Cool and Dre.

Raised in a tough neighbourhood in Oakland, California, Keyshia Cole aspired to have a career in music an early age. In fact, it was her determination that found her working with the Bay Area’s biggest artists before she was even a teenager, including MC Hammer, with whom she did some recordings at the tender age of twelve. She went on to work with other local artists such as Tony! Toni! Toné! member Dwayne Wiggin, who featured her on his soundtrack to the film Me & Mrs. Jones in 2001. Ms. Cole soon began contemplating a move to Los Angeles to pursue her career and upon discovering that her then-boyfriend had cheated on her, she did just that - immediately packing her bags and never looking back. In Los Angeles, she quickly impressed many with her golden yet gritty soprano voice. including A&M Records president Ron Fair, who signed her to a solo deal on the spot.   Ms Cole immediately went to work on The Way It Is, co-writing many of the album’s songs and working alongside a number of hit makers, most notably Kanye West, who collaborated with her on "I Changed My Mind", the album's lead single. Other big-name collaborators include 112 group member DuRon and veteran producer E-Poppi. She collaborated with one of her inspirations, Eve, for a song on the Barbershop 2 soundtrack, "Never," which was released as a single in early 2004. In June of 2005, Keyshia’s debut The Way It Is was released and the rest is history. The album has climbed the Billboard charts steadily for a year and was certified platinum in February, 2006. It spawned four hit singles and earned Ms. Cole legions of loyal fans  and widespread critical acclaim.   Since introducing the first Amateur Night contests in 1934, the Apollo Theater has played a major role in the emergence of innovative musical genres including jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, soul and hip-hop.  Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Brown, Bill Cosby, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, and countless others began their road to stardom on the Apollo’s stage. Based on its cultural significance and architecture, the Apollo Theater received state and city landmark designation in 1983 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.    The Apollo Theater Foundation was established as a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit corporation in 1991 and is dedicated to the preservation and development of the Apollo Theater. The historic venue hosts major concerts and special events and continues its tradition of discovering future stars with its weekly instalment of Apollo Amateur Night every Wednesday night and with the syndicated television show, Showtime at the Apollo, which is taped at the theatre and airs weekly in over 150 markets nationwide. Harlem is Manhattan's third most popular tourist destination and the Apollo remains Harlem's top attraction, drawing 1.3 million visitors annually.  The world famous Apollo Theater, “where stars are born and legends are made” ™ is located in the heart of Harlem at 253 West 125 Street, between Adam Clayton Powell Blvd (7th Ave.) and Frederick Douglass Blvd (8th Ave.). For further information about the Apollo Theater, visit the website at

Etta James Back In T.O. For Festival

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(June 26, 2006) ROCHESTER, NEW YORK—The most surprising aspect of Etta James's show at the Rochester International Jazz Festival earlier this month was not the legendary blues singer's trim new physique, nor the enduring power of her gravely vocals five decades into a professional career.  What was puzzling was that the L.A. native didn't deliver a single tune from her latest album All the Way, which was released in March. And when the veteran vocalist addressed the omission in a post-show interview, the reasons, though rooted in disagreement with RCA Victor executives, remained unclear.  "We had some kind of little confrontations," said the sassy songstress. "Sometimes when you get involved with a record company you have to do everything that a record company wants you to do and sometimes you want to do ... not exactly all I want to do, but I don't want somebody just pushing me around every day. So, that's what happened."  James has a reputation for being a capital-D-is-for-difficult diva. It's a perception bolstered by her 1995 autobiography Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story, in which she recounted unflattering and criminal behaviour triggered by drug dependency.  But seated in a dressing room at the Eastman Theatre, the erstwhile bad girl's frailties are at the fore.  James has lost more than 200 pounds since undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2001. While she no longer needs a motorized scooter to get her on and off stage, the weight loss hasn't been a complete panacea for the 68-year-old grandmother, who abused herself for decades with food, drugs and alcohol.

Clad in head-to-toe black velvet and cascading blonde curls, she stepped gingerly across the Rochester stage and held apparently swollen hands close.  Backstage, with staff and family members hovering nearby, the husky-voiced James is sweet and accommodating, but her answers are rambling and confusing — like on the subject of the label conflict over a record that she produced with her two sons, Donto and Sametto.  All the Way is a tepid effort that finds James covering a mishmash of songs from John Lennon's "Imagine" to Prince's "Purple Rain," but in interviews the singer has said it represents the first time that she's had complete control over an album from "start to finish."  Yes, she maintains now, she likes the disc even though it was the label's suggestion that she not record any blues — a suggestion that initially offended her. No, she didn't take their advice to use a more experienced producer, but yes, the company did promote the disc adequately.  So what's the problem?  "They're still pushing ... at one point ... they were asking `Well Etta are you going to do something with the album?' I'm asking them, `What are you going to do, man?' So that's the way it is right now."  Huh?  Whatever the basis, the impact on James's set list means that the sold-out Rochester crowd got exactly what tomorrow's almost sold-out audience at Toronto's Hummingbird Centre is hoping for — a showcase of her '50s and '60s hits such as "At Last," "I'd Rather Go Blind" and "Tell Mama."  This is welcome news for her fans, who haven't had a chance to see James, who's in town as part of the Toronto Jazz Festival, perform here in 12 years.

And the best part is that the voice that debuted on record in 1955 with "Roll With Me Henry" can still crank them out with potency and emotional resonance.  James is feeling so good about herself these days she's thinking about inking a follow-up to Rage to Survive, which laid bare her tumultuous past — unstable childhood, heroin and cocaine addictions, predilection for violent, conniving men and financial mismanagement.  "A lot of things in this book were kind of bad words. Sometimes, the other writer (co-author David Ritz) he would write what he wanted to write. And a lot of stuff was really what he felt about it. And so it ended up being kind of ... I don't want to say that he was wrong or any of that, I just want to say that I have something else to say."  James is eager to see her life portrayed on film.  "Roseanne (Barr) is cool, she had me on her show and told me she wanted to produce the story. They asked Queen Latifah about playing me, but she's busy doing so much stuff.  "I thought very hard about that girl that was married to the big boy ... yeah, Faith Evans. There's just something that's very familiar (about her). She's been though stuff that I've been through. I know she's straightened up and when I see her now I always smile and feel real good about her."  James is also working with her eldest boy Donto, 38, to create a foundation to benefit women battling drug addiction.

"About 15 years ago, I had an Etta James anti-drug abuse foundation and music programs, but I was so out there myself at that time. I was way out there, but I knew that there was something that I wanted to do. I saw women, men, children (who needed help), but I was one of the worst ones of all. How could I do anything unless I straightened myself up? Now Donto is doing it and I want to help him.  "When you have good intentions, God works for you and just sends whatever it is your way," she adds. "That's the way I find it to be. I'm not a real, real religious person that goes around speaking about God or just leaning on God, but I do believe in God. I was always just trying to make this living, but there's always been that little demon in there crawling around."  That devil seemed to raise itself during her concert, the reporter pointed out, given the raunchy subtext and libido-drenched gyrations the 37-years married performer maintains in her repertoire.  "He's there," she responded smiling, "but he's not there all the time, he just dances with me."

Hip-Hop Stars Help J Dilla 'Shine'

Excerpt from - Clover Hope, N.Y.

(June 22, 2006)The late hip-hop producer J Dilla's second solo project "The Shining," which was nearly completed when he died Feb. 10, will be issued Aug. 22 via BBE. The disc features appearances by Busta Rhymes, Common, Pharoahe Monch and Madlib, among others.  J Dilla's (also known as Jay Dee) long-time friend and collaborator Karriem Riggins served as the album's executive producer. "All the artists that contributed to this project Dilla considered family," says Riggins. "And when the world hears it, they will see that the love bleeds through the music."  A founding member of the rap trio Slum Village, J Dilla has produced for artists such as Common, D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Janet Jackson and Macy Gray. Before his death, he also racked up production credits for projects by Madlib, Busta Rhymes, Ghostface Killah, Truth Hurts, MF Doom and Frank N Dank, among others.  "The Shining" will be the follow-up to J Dilla's 2001 solo debut "Welcome 2 Detroit." Another album, "Jay Love Japan (Operation Unknown)" will be released later this year.

Here is the track list for "The Shining":

"Geek Down (Intro)," featuring Busta Rhymes
"E=MC2" featuring Common
"Love Jones," Dilla & Karriem
"Jungle Love," featuring Med & Guilty Simpson
"Love," featuring Pharoahe Monch
"Baby," featuring Madlib & Guilty Simpson
"So Far To Go," featuring Common & D'Angelo
"Over The Breaks"
"Body Movin'," featuring J. Rocc & Karriem
"Dime Piece," featuring Dwele
"Love Movin'

Tupac Legacy Continues With 25 Date Cross-Country Arena Tour

Source: Lonal X. Robinson, HyPursuit for A&M Entertainment, InC. / GrupoMex Holdings, LLC

(June 27, 2006)  Tupac Shakur is not only the rap world's all-time top selling superstar, he has also become its most recognized and revered icon and to mark the 10th anniversary of his death, Ms. Afeni Shakur and the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation along with A&M Entertainment proudly present the “Tupac Legacy Tour.”  Beginning in Los Angeles this fall, the tour will continue with 25 concerts across major US cities. The tour will celebrate the life of the legendary multi-platinum artist, actor, songwriter, visionary and poet by recounting his timeless music and achievements as an accomplished performer. The “Tupac Legacy Tour”, directed by A&M Entertainment’s Vice President & Tour Director Mike Coates, will feature major artists & guests presenting selected songs portraying the legendary artist in his element: the stage. An impressive line-up of artists have agreed to participate and will perform together with a full live band and DJ’s. The official artist line-up will be announced within the coming weeks. A portion of the proceeds from the Tupac Legacy Tour will go directly to T.A.S.C.A. (Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts located in Stone Mountain, GA) A&M Entertainment has also announced GrupoMex Holdings as the tour’s exclusive investor. GrupoMex is also involved in various other entertainment industry ventures including Gotcha Back Records. Makaveli Branded will assist with exclusive tour merchandise along with collaborating with A&M Entertainment on the tour’s advertising and marketing campaigns.

For more information please visit to sign-up for updates and notifications regarding the tour or contact the tour’s Marketing Director, Rick Edwards at (646) 452-5186. /

Costello Makes Himself At Home

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

The Vancouver International Jazz Festival
In Vancouver on Sunday and Monday

(June 28, 2006)  'We want to thank you for making it a special night," Elvis Costello told a capacity crowd at Vancouver's Orpheum Theatre Monday night. "It's good to be home." Vancouver counts as home for Costello thanks to his wife, jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall, and part of the reason the evening was special -- apart from the tumultuous response the audience gave his marathon, 32-song set -- was the news that Costello and Krall were expecting their first child in December.  "Does that make me a Canadian now?" he joked, to yelled congratulations. That Costello felt at home in Vancouver wasn't a surprise; that he felt at home as part of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival might be.  Despite touring with pianist and producer Allen Toussaint, as well as a horn section that occasionally soloed, nothing in his two-hour, 45-minute performance could be considered jazz. But then, jazz is hardly the only type of music on tap at jazz festivals these days. Rock, blues, hip hop, Afro-pop -- all sorts of sounds turn up, some with no jazz connection at all.  Being married to a jazz musician gives Costello better bona fides than most. Although emphasizing Costello's current album, a collaboration with Toussaint called The River in Reverse, the performance drew deeply from both artist's catalogues. Costello unearthed such chestnuts as Watching the Detectives, Clubland and a version of Alison that included an interpolation of Smokey Robinson's The Tracks of My Tears, while the Toussaint selections ranged from a solo piano Tipitina and Me to full-band versions of Brickyard Blues and Yes We Can Can.

Thanks to the horn arrangements (mostly by Toussaint), Costello's songs took on a mild R&B flavour, and his singing was unusually supple and expressive -- though not quite as slyly soulful as Toussaint's. Still, it was more than enough to get much of the crowd on its feet and dancing for the last third of the show. Dancing audiences may not be frequent at the Vancouver jazz fest, but they're not entirely anomalous, either. The Commodore Ballroom pretty much invites dancing, and Sunday's performance by Senegalese singer and guitarist Baaba Maal did not disappoint in that regard. Backed by two singers, a seven-piece band and a pair of dancers, Maal covered quite a lot of ground in his 90-minute set, offering everything from loping 6/4 grooves to upbeat numbers with a slight ska flavour, and even though few in the crowd understood enough Wolof to follow his lyrics, the audience hung on his every note. The small crowd gathered at an outdoor stage in Gastown earlier that day for Norway's Zanussi Five was equally appreciative, despite being almost entirely sedentary. Fronted by bassist Per Zanussi, the quintet delivered a heady mix of free jazz exuberance and mainstream drive, a balancing act that depended heavily on the chemistry between its three saxophonists. Alto and sopranino saxophonist Rolf Erik Nystrom was a particularly effective soloist, thanks to his fluid lines and sweet tone, but the group's impact owed as much to the writing and arranging as to the playing. Writing and arranging was also central to bassist Michael Bates's Outside Sources. This quartet, which recorded two sets at the CBC's Studio One Monday, evokes the intimacy and interplay of a chamber ensemble, with deft arrangements that find the instruments slipping almost imperceptibly between written and improvised playing. Saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff was a perfect foil for Bates's quietly lyrical writing, but it was the understated virtuosity of trumpeter Russ Johnson that ultimately lifted the music to the stratosphere. Baaba Maal performs at the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 1, Costello and Toussaint on July 3.

Michael Jackson Thrilled To Get Business Affairs In Order

Source: Associated Press

(June 28, 2006) LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson has fired his business managers, has hired a New York firm to oversee his financial affairs and is moving to Europe, his spokeswoman said Tuesday. His long-time spokeswoman, Raymone K. Bain, said in a statement that she has been named general manager of the new Michael Jackson Co., which will replace Jackson's MJJ Productions. The pop star has been living in Bahrain since he was acquitted of child molestation charges a year ago. Mr. Jackson has severed ties with his Bahraini lawyers and his long-time accountants and business managers, Bernstein, Fox, Whitman, Goldman & Sloan. Ms. Bain said he has hired L. Londell McMillan and The McMillan firm, “known for business restructurings and turnarounds.” Other management changes are expected and will be announced later, Ms. Bain said. Mr. Jackson had been rumoured to be on the verge of bankruptcy for some time. But in April his Bahraini lawyers announced that he had restructured his finances in a deal with Sony Corp. The company shares ownership of his valuable music catalogue, which includes the Beatles' hits. Mr. Jackson recently had to shutter his elaborate Neverland ranch in Santa Ynez because of unpaid salaries and insurance fees. The change in management, which Bain called “the first of a sweeping restructuring of his personal and business affairs,” is an apparent attempt by Jackson to salvage his finances.

The singer will maintain a house in Bahrain, Bain told The Associated Press in a phone interview. He decided to move to Europe for access to music industry figures, she said. “He is very serious about his music,” she said. “When you are a creative person and the creative juices are flowing again and you're about to embark on new projects, you want to make sure your organization is running smoothly.” Mr. Jackson was in Ireland on Tuesday “on personal business,” Ms. Bain said in her statement. Jackson's chaotic financial dealings will be put in the spotlight in a Santa Monica courtroom this week in a lawsuit over whether he owes $3.8-million to a former business associate. F. Marc Schaffel claims he is owed for unpaid loans, expenses and salary. Mr. Schaffel's attorney, Howard King, portrayed the 47-year-old singer as an incurable spendthrift who sought financial guidance from advisers, then ignored it. Mr. Jackson claims Mr. Schaffel defrauded him and hid facts of his shady past. Mr. Jackson is planning public appearances and performances again, Ms. Bain said. “He is reviewing numerous offers to tour musically, which he plans to embark upon within the next several months,” the statement said. She said he expects to release a new album next year.


Reggae Sunsplash Returns: Maxi Priest, Third World On Bill For Summer Tour Through U.S.

Excerpt from

(June 22, 2006)   *Maxi Priest, Toots & the Maytals and UB40 are among the performers set for the Reggae Sunsplash festival, which returns this summer following a seven-year hiatus.  Third World, Rik Rok and master of ceremonies Tommy Cowan are also part of the 17-city trek, which kicks off Aug. 10 in West Palm Beach, FL and ends in early September.  Reggae Sunsplash was born in 1978 when the event’s founder, Tommy Johnson, created the multi-day festival in Jamaica. Johnson, who died in 1997, later expanded the event’s concept by bringing a smaller, one-day version of the festival on tour throughout the US.  Here are the dates for Reggae Sunsplash:

August 2006
10 – West Palm Beach, FL – Sound Advice Amphitheatre
11 – Tampa, FL – Ford Amphitheatre
12 – Cocoa Beach, FL – Cocoa Beach Pier
15 – Bristow, VA – Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge
17 – Westbury, NY – North Fork Theater
19 – Boston, MA – Bank of America Pavilion
20 – Atlantic City, NJ – Hilton Atlantic City
22 – Clarkston, MI – DTE Energy Music Theater
23 – Cleveland, OH – Tower City Amphitheater
25 – Austin, TX – The Backyard
26 – Spring, TX – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
28 – Albuquerque, NM – Journal Pavilion
30 – Alpine, CA – Viejas Concerts in the Park
31 – Kelseyville, CA – Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa

September 2006
2 – Irvine, CA – Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
3 – Las Vegas, NV – Mandalay Bay Beach
4 – West Valley City, UT – USANA Amphitheatre

David Banner Given Humanitarian Award

Excerpt from

(June 22, 2006) *Rapper David Banner was given the Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes humanitarian award by Atlanta radio station HOT 107.9 for his work on behalf of Hurricane Katrina survivors. About 20,000 people were on hand for the station’s birthday event, which singled out the Mississippi native for raising over $500,000 last year through his non-profit organization Heal the Hood. Launched prior to the hurricane, the charity quickly shifted focus to assist displaced residents via a series of benefit concerts. "As a man raised in the hood, you only see our heroes being recognized for negative things," Banner told "Getting this award in Left Eye's memory shows me that people do recognize my efforts and that it is worth going the extra mile."      Proceeds from Banner’s “Heal the Hood” concerts were donated to such devastated areas as southern Mississippi, southern Alabama, and New Orleans.

Loon Goes Indie With His Label Boss Up Entertainment

Source: Betsy Bolte / 818-841-0959 /  

(June 22, 2006) Harlem native Loon has worked alongside the biggest names in the rap game including Diddy whom he toured the world with while penning some of the biggest rap songs of this century.   Now, Loon is striking out with his own label, Boss Up Entertainment and is releasing the sizzling album No Friends in conjunction with X-RAY Records.   After being part of one of the most influential crews rap has ever seen, Loon knows the value of putting together a potent project.    “The reason I called it No Friends is because this is the first project that I’ve put together by myself,” Loon explains.  “I put it together to put something out for the streets and show some diversity and balance, things I never got to show on Bad Boy.  This is me collaborating with my own artists and putting together some treats that people might not be used to be hearing from Loon.” After helping Ma$e establish himself in the late 1990s, the two former partners-in-rhymes fell out.  Loon decided to take on the new G-Unit rapper in the Ma$e diss song “What Happened To Pastor?” because of his flip-flopping between being a religious man and a gangster rapper.    “I got the record out there on my own independently and it made its waves,” Loon says of “What Happened To Pastor.” “Now that you’ve got Mase’s music pushed by the G-Unit machine, even though my record was hotter, his got visibility.  I wanted people to hear my lyrical achievement.” Since he was known primarily as a ladies’ man, Loon knows that the new, harder edge material he unveils on No Friends will surprise -- and impress -- rap fans around the world.

Bunny Rugs’ Cover Of 'Now That We Found Love' Continues To Race Up The Billboard Charts

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(June 22, 2006)   *Third World lead singer Bunny Rugs’ cover of Now That We Found Love moves up from number 21 to number 13 on the latest issue of Billboard’s Dance Music Club Play chart. The chart is led by Madonna who just logged her umpteenth number one dance hit with Get Together. In an interview earlier this week, Rugs said that Now That We Found Love was recorded 12 years ago at the Black Scorpio studios in Kingston. ‘We had Sean Paul on the song when we recorded it over by Jack Scorpio in 1994. But the label has subsequently released it without Sean Paul’s vocals’, Rugs explained. The song was first released on an album that Rugs had done for Shanchie Records. It later made the cut of songs on another solo album titled What a World. Rugs who later recorded a gospel album called I’m Sure under the moniker The Voice, says the version of Now That We Found Love that’s on the Billboard charts is a slightly up tempo version. The song has been released by a Florida based label called Global Records. Rugs says a video for the song is already in the planning stages, and the label plans to service the song to the US urban market.  Third World will be hitting Europe for a series of dates beginning the end of this month into July. The group will then head to Japan for ten days and then return to the US for the US version of Reggae Sunsplash which runs from August 8 until September 3. Morgan Heritage Toots and the Maytals, and Maxi Priest, will also be on that outing.

Lil’ Jon Gathers Big Talent For Next LP

Excerpt from

(June 27, 2006) *No release date has been set for Lil Jon’s upcoming album “Crunk Rock,” but the producer with the pimp cup is putting together a line-up of guest stars that will have fans counting the days until its arrival. “I think me and R. Kelly are about to do some new stuff together," Jon told backstage at the Boost Mobile RockCorps concert at Atlanta's Fox Theatre. "Two weeks into my record, and we already hooking up. I got with him on my last album, but I waited until I was almost at the end. Hooking up with him early is going to be crazy. I'm supposed to get one with Mariah and I got one with Snoop that's crazy.”  Currently on the charts with rapper E-40 in their hit, “Snap Yo’ Fingers,’ Lil Jon says the material he has in store for the next album is on another level entirely.   "The album is going to be stupid — as they say in the Bay, 'dumb, yellow bus,'" he said. "It's going to be that crazy. I'm just trying to give people good music on this album. Try something different. Just experiment. People are scared to try things. I'm gonna give them some stuff they would expect so they don't look at me like I'm crazy, but I'ma give them something fresh."   Lil Jon hopes to drop “Crunk Rock” sometime in the fall.

Bow Wow To Hang Up The Mic At Age 19?

Excerpt from

(June 27, 2006) *Bow Wow ain’t been in the rap game but a minute and already he's looking to bow out. It was just yesterday when the youngster announced he was dropping the “Lil” from his rap moniker to signify his transition into manhood. His maturity, the rapper says, also brings with it new interests that are drawing his attention away from recording. The star of "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" told that Hollywood is beckoning, and his upcoming fifth album “might be the last one.”  "[If so], we're going to go out with a bang," he said. "It's definitely going to be the biggest album that I've ever done.”    Due sometime around Halloween, the Jermaine Dupri-produced as-yet-untitled set already has a first single.   “It features Chris Brown and it's called 'Shorty Like Mine,' so that definitely could be the biggest record of my career," he said.    Describing the album’s style, he says: "I'm going for a more edgy, kinda mature sound. Now that I'm 19, I'm able to talk about a lot of things that I've experienced in my life."   As for acting, Bow Wow says offers are “coming into the office daily so I'm reading, trying to pick the next one.  There's actually one in negotiations right now, but they don't want me to say. But definitely get ready to see me in at least two more movies. Last year I promised myself I'd do three movies and this ["Tokyo Drift"] is one right here."

Arif Mardin Dies

Excerpt from

(June 27, 2006)   *Grammy Award-winning producer Arif Mardin, who worked with such stars as Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Norah Jones, died Sunday at 72 following a battle with pancreatic cancer. A native of Turkey, Mardin arrived in the U.S. in 1958 and became a graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 1961. His historic run as a producer and arranger at Atlantic Records began in 1963 and ended in 2001, when he joined the revived Manhattan Records and worked until his retirement in 2004. Throughout the years, Mardin also produced and arranged music for Hall and Oates, Bette Midler, Bee Gees, Roberta Flack, Barbara Streisand and Jewel.

EMI, Warner Music Reject Bids

Source: Associated Press

(June 28, 2006) LONDON — EMI Group PLC and Warner Music Group Corp. are again discussing a merger, but each has rejected a takeover bid from the other, EMI said Wednesday. Warner Music made a cash offer of $5.84 (U.S.) per share on Tuesday for EMI, which was rejected, EMI said. That bid valued EMI at $4.6-billion. The offer came four days after EMI bid $31 per share to acquire Warner Music, EMI said. That offer valued Warner at $4.2-billion. EMI shares gained 9 per cent to $5.62 Wednesday on the London Stock Exchange. ”Since EMI's approach, announced on May 3, to acquire Warner Music, EMI has been continuing actively to explore the potential acquisition of Warner Music, including in discussions with Warner Music and certain of its shareholders,” EMI said. ”The board of EMI continues to believe that an acquisition of Warner Music by EMI at $31 per share in cash would be very attractive to both sets of shareholders and would deliver value to EMI's shareholders which is far superior to Warner Music's revised alternative proposal,” EMI said. EMI and Warner attempted to merge in 2000 but the combination was vetoed by European authorities. The companies saw a merger as a way to improve competition with Paris-based Universal Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment, the joint venture of Sony Corp. and Bertelsmann AG. A combination of EMI and Warner Music, which boasts artists including Madonna and Green Day, would control about 25 per cent of the recorded music market, surpassing BMG in the rankings and moving into second place behind Universal, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

King, Austin, Mayfield feted at White House

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(June 28, 2006) Washington -- U.S. President George W. Bush honoured black U.S. musicians at a White House Black Music Month ceremony that featured performances from blues master B.B. King, singer Patti Austin and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield. "During this month, we recognize the great contributions that black music has made to our nation," Bush said Monday. "We express our gratitude to the artists whose works have inspired our nation and have brought such beauty into the world. "Some of the finest performances by black musicians have been heard right here in the White House," Bush said before the three musicians performed. Bush was given a guitar by the performers. AP



June 26, 2006

3D, Boys Will Be Boys, Body Head
7L & Esoteric,
A New Dope, Babygrande
Still Drunk and High,
International, Capitol
Ballin A$$ Dame,
Get Rich Quick Schemes,
Bettye LaVette,
Child of the Seventies, Rhino Handmade
Big B,
Random Sh*t, Suburban Noize
Big Sty,
Busta Rhymes,
I Love My Bitch, Pt. 1, Universal
Busta Rhymes,
I Love My Bitch, Pt. 2, Universal
Chaka Khan,
Platinum Collection, Wea
Politickin', Vol. 1, Raptivism
DJ Kay Slay,
The Mixtape Before the Album, Babygrande
DJ Spinna,
Intergalactic Soul, Shanachie Entertainment Corp
Dope Game,
4, Sum Day
Dr. Dre,
Death Row's Greatest Hits: The Chronicles, Death Row
Tell Me When to Go [Single], Reprise / Wea
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
Governor Washington,
Son of Pain, Atlantic
Grandmaster Flash,
Fresh and Furious: Hip Hop's Beginning, DBK Works
Gwen McRae,
Live in Paris at New Morning, Hi & Fly
Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship, Universal
Like a DJ [Single], Warner Bros.
Jamie Foxx,
Extravaganza, BMG/J
Jean Terrell,
I Had to Fall in Love, Soul Brother
Jenny Morris,
Clear Blue in Stormy Skies, Liberation
Jim Jones,
A Day in the Fastlife, Koch
John Holt,
I Can't Get You off My Mind: 18 Greatest Hits at Studio One, Heartbeat
Jurassic 5,
Feedback, JVC Victor
Way I Be Leanin' [Single], Atlantic / Wea
Kendo the Almost Famous,
Almost Famous, Slam Jamz
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
Youth [Single], Sony/Columbia
Millie Jackson,
Caught Up [Expanded], Southbound
Mr. Del,
Holy South: Kingdom Crunk, Holy South
Mr. Kaila,
Supersize, Oarfin
Sexy Love, Universal
So Sick, Universal International
Obie Trice,
Snitch, Pt. 1, Universal
Mighty O [Single], La Face
Fury [Maxi Single], Universal International
Unfaithful, Universal/Def Jam
Roc 'C',
All Questions Answered, Stones Throw
Sean Paul,
Never Gonna Be the Same, WEA/Atlantic
Block Music, Def Jam
Waterhouse Redemption, Greensleeves
Tha Dogg Pound,
Cali Iz Active, Doggy Style
The Brand New Heavies,
Get Used to It, Umvd Labels
The Chaperones,
Cruise to the Moon, Collectables
Tower of Power, What Is Hip [Collection], Collectables
Trick Daddy,
Trick Daddy: The Real Entourage, Body Heat
4:20/Reincarnated: The Mixtape, Rock Solid Ent.
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
Yung Joc,
I Know You See It [Single], Bad Boy
4/20 the Smokers Anthem, KMJ

July 3, 2006

Troubled Times, Luna
Busta Rhymes,
I Love My Chick, Universal
Fat Jon,
The Ample Soul Physician: Afterthought,
En las Calles, Univision
Gnarls Barkley,
Crazy, WEA/Warner
Harold B.,
Hector Bambino,
Here We Go [Single], Def Jam
Mary J. Blige,
Enough Cryin, Pt. 2 [Single], Universal International
Method Man,
Say [Single], Def Jam
Mixx Master Lee,
Mississippi Cha Cha Slide Stomp 2007 [Maxi Single], Alpine
Mr. Criminal,
Stay on the Streets, Thump
Obie Trice,
Snitch, Pt. 1, Universal
Rick Ross,
Hustlin', Def Jam
Unfaithful, Universal/Def Jam
Damn, Def Jam
Vanessa Randall,
Take a Chance,
Various Artists,
Doo Wop Favorites, Madacy Special MKTS


Tyrese, Meagan Good, Larenz Tate and Curtis Vondie Hall weigh in on ‘Waist Deep’

Excerpt from - By Marie Moore

(June 22, 2006)   "Waist Deep" tucked a little bit of "Boyz 'N the Hood"--only in the sense that there is a strong father figure present--"Bonnie and Clyde," and "Thelma and Louise" under its belt. But Tyrese Gibson says what attracted him to the film is the reality "that a Black man loves his kids, too." "I ain't running away from my babies. You don't see this type of image in movies too often," he says – and I agree. Although music is Tyrese's first love, he is basking in his acting game. "I'm working on the 'Transformers' with Michael Bey and I'm glad he had me in mind," he boasts. "Him and Spielberg discussed it and they came after me. Everybody else in the film had to audition."  On the other hand, Meagan Good says she had to fight for the role of Coco, the prostitute in "Waist Deep" because it was thought she was too young for the part. Some even felt it was a step backwards for her to play a 'hoe' in a hood film. "I came from playing a lot of girl characters and a lot of girlfriends, but the characters didn't have as much meat and heart," she explained. "She's not just a prostitute and con artist, she's a survivor." Larenz Tate was itching to get his punk on again. "I hadn't done it in a long time," he mused. "A lot of people who are fans of 'Menace to Society' are looking for me to do something like that. So I said, 'Alright, cool. Let me step to the plate’…I know a lot of people are fans of not only 'Menace to Society,' but 'Dead Presidents' and wanted to see me in edgier roles."

Director Vondie Curtis Hall defends his film and tells all the haters that "Waist Deep" is not the typical, stereotypical hood film. In most films the hooker is a throw away and never really dealt with as a human being. And most films never really show the drug dealer as someone with dreams, too. Everybody's got different dimensions and everybody's got dreams. We haven't seen any depth in those characters." Ironically, the Urbanworld Vibe Film Festival must not have shared Hall's feelings about depth in characters. "Waist Deep" was to be among the special screenings, but it was scrapped. Celebrating their 10th year, Urbanworld Vibe kicked off this year's schedule of events with the Filmmakers Ball on June 20. The New York Festival runs from June 21-25. The opening night Premiere is "VH1's Last Days of Left Eye" and closes with "Half Nelson," a film about an idealistic inner-city junior high school teacher who rejects the standard Civil Right curriculum in favour of an edgier approach. In addition to the seminars, screenplay readings, awards ceremonies and parties, there are over 70 selections that include special screenings of "Shaft" starring Richard Roundtree, "Purple Rain," "The Will to Survive: The Story of the Gullah/Geechee Nation," and the premiere of "Dirty Laundry." Also of special mention are "Hurricane Katrina and a Project Named Desire," "American Blackout," "Black and Blue: Legends of the Hip-Hop Cop," "Beyond Beats and Rhymes: A Hip-Hop Head Weighs in on Manhood in Hip-Hop Culture," "Bland Gold," "Swipe," "God Sleeps in Rwanda," "Untold Legacy," and "Blind: Consequences and Repercussions."  For further info, go to

The Robertson Treatment: Six Questions With The Lovely Meagan Good

Excerpt from - By Gil Robertson, "America’s Premiere Lifestyle Column" - Volume 9, Edition 8

(June 22, 2006) Meagan Good is on fire! Yes, the girl who first caught everyone’s eye in “Eve’s Bayou” is all grown up, and with her new role starring opposite Tyrese in “Waist Deep” steps away from ingénue parts into a role of a full bodied woman. Having earned her stripes in  recent years with films like: “Biker Boyz,” D.E.B.S.,” “The Cookout,” and “Roll Bounce,” Meagan has emerged as a solid performer with the looks and talent to make it all the way. She recently talked to the Robertson Treatment about her current role and upcoming projects.

Robertson Treatment: what was it like to work with Game and Larenz Tate?

Meagan Goode: It was already like a family unit. I have known Larenz for years. we did “biker boys” together. also game I have known him for years. three years ago Tyrese and I were talking about how we wanted to do a movie together and it was just funny last year Vondie came to me and asked me who I thought would perfect for this part and I was like probably Tyrese and he was like yeah. then eight months later he comes back to me and is like ‘I am sitting down with Tyrese and you know he’s attached to the movie now.’ and I said really and he said yeah and that he asked him who do you think would be good for lead and guess who he said? I said really [me?] it was just so random as we  had been batting for each other and didn’t really know it.

RT: what was it like on set?  did it feel like a boys club there?

mg: it was great. a huge family atmosphere. Larenz helped me  a lot, because he’s such a seasoned actor and he’s so on point and he gets it and for me this being my first leading lady role – I have been acting for almost 20 years, but this being like in every scene, I was nervous and he was just kinda there to remind me of certain things. it just helped a lot that was there. As for it being a “guys set”, well I am one of the boys, I am pretty nerdy and pretty guyish to be honest.

 RT: the bank scene – where did you get the hood from?

mg: it’s just….when I get mad mad sometimes I just burst out. I don’t know where I got it. I grew up in Valencia. sometime it just comes out, but this time I was able to just have fun and just go with whatever. I had a blast doing the bank robbery scene.

RT: what was like working with Vondie, from him acting with you in Eve’s Bayou and now directing you in this?

mg: it was alright and I was looking forward to it actually.  when I worked with Vondie in eve’s bayou I always used to say that I ‘d like to work with him again – him and Kasi are an incredible team and he actually helped me out a lot as that was my third movie role as a child. he knows how to communicate and he makes sure you are comfortable and you’re happy with goes in the camera.

RT: you just finished shooting steppin in Atlanta. what was it like shooting out there?

mg: majority of it was a fraternity and sorority which is so rare down there. a lot of it wasn’t so much dancing and it was a totally different scene because I didn’t go to college myself so I just got to see a whole sub culture. it was a huge learning experience. I had a blast onset. all of us like Neyo, Chris Brown… was a great cast and fun people. I had a blast. we shot in Morehouse and three different colleges. [with steppin] people were so in to. the rhythm is not like dancing, dancing. it’s really hard. they were trying to teach me how to step and it was so embarrassing.

RT: is steppin the next movie we are going to see you in?

mg: yes. I have something else in the works. it’s called ‘fast girl’ and it’s loosely based on a true story about a girl track team in college and loosely based on a  coach who was a big track runner that kinda lost his career and its kinda like his comeback.

Action Star Chan Leaving Half His Money To Charity

Source: Associated Press

(June 28, 2006) Hong Kong — Jackie Chan announced Wednesday he has bequeathed half of his fortune to charity, saying he looks up to philanthropists like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Chan disclosed the terms of his will when asked about tycoon Warren Buffett's recent $37-billion US donation at a news conference on a tiger conservation campaign. Buffett said he'd give away the bulk of his stock holdings in the company he runs, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., with five-sixths of the shares earmarked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the fund set up by the Microsoft chairman and his wife. I admire the efforts by Buffett and Gates to help those in need a lot,” Chan said. “Like Buffett and Gates, I want to help people, but I don't have as much money as they do.” The 52-year-old action star said the portion of his fortune reserved for charity would go to his own Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation, which was launched in 1988 to help needy Hong Kong youngsters but has since branched out into disaster relief, medical donations and supporting the performing arts. The exact amount that the fund would receive remains unknown, because Chan refused to disclose his net worth. Comparable stars make millions each year, according to estimates. Will Smith earned $25 million US in the period from June 2005 to June 2006, and Jennifer Anniston made $18 million, Forbes magazine has reported.

Chan's earnings may be lower because he primarily works out of Asia, where pay levels are generally lower in the entertainment industry. A significant source of Chan's income comes from his Hollywood films like the Rush Hour series. The actor has said he can fund entire movies made in Hong Kong with his Hollywood paycheques. His last Hollywood film was Around the World in 80 Days, released in 2004, but Chan is due to start filming Rush Hour 3 late this summer. Earlier this year, Forbes named Chan one of the world's 10 most generous celebrities. As for the remaining 50 per cent of his wealth, Chan said his wife may get 25 per cent but the amount wasn't fixed. Chan also has a son, actor-singer Jaycee. Wednesday's press conference aimed to raise awareness of the endangered South China tiger, which now numbers fewer than 100. Chan has filmed a video for the cause in which his face is painted in yellow and black stripes. “Tigers are the king of animals and are very beautiful, Chan said Wednesday.

Will There Be A Pitt Stop?

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald

(June 28, 2006) Brace yourselves, ladies, for the second half of the world-famous Jolie-Pitt duo may be coming to Toronto this fall. Brad Pitt -- People magazine's most beautiful man, as well as part of the world's most beautiful family, with Angelina Jolie -- is in negotiations with organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to attend a special presentation of Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's solemnly gripping Babel. The film garnered Inarritu the best-director prize at the Cannes International Film Festival this spring. TIFF won't know until the end of August if the 42-year-old actor will attend the North American premiere. But one seasoned festival organizer noted yesterday that special-presentation programs "tend to attract the big-name stars." Women across the country will be keeping their fingers crossed. Inarritu's feature film is one of 26 international titles that TIFF announced will be coming to the 31st Toronto festival, including the Cannes Palme d'or winner The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a story about Ireland's bid for independence and civil war in the 1920s from director Ken Loach. Of the 26 international entries, 25 are North American premieres. Reached yesterday in Paris, festival co-director Noah Cowan said Babel and The Wind That Shakes the Barley "were certainly among the best films at Cannes this year. They both speak to humanity's uglier side and the inhuman acts that so often characterize us, but with two radically different formal and political strategies."

Pitt, whom Newsweek chose earlier this week as one of "15 People Who Make America Great" because of his and Jolie's humanitarian efforts in Africa, is part of an ensemble cast in Babel that includes Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal and Koji Yakusho. It's a film that bounces back and forth across the globe, through two time frames, three linked stories and a babel of languages: English, Arabic, Spanish, Japanese and Japanese sign language. Expected to reach Canadian theatres in October, it was written by Guillermo Arriaga, who had worked with Inarritu on the director's two previous films, 21 Grams and Amores Perros. Pitt did not attend the movie's world premiere in May in Cannes because partner Jolie was about to give birth to the couple's child. "With the imminent arrival of the newest addition to our family, I am unable to join Alejandro, Cate, Gael and the rest of the cast and crew introducing the film," Pitt wrote to Cannes organizers in an e-mail. "I am tremendously proud of Babel and want to congratulate everyone involved for this great achievement." A few days later, their daughter Shiloh was born. The couple also have two adopted children, Maddox and Zahara. Cowan would not shed any light on the status of negotiations with Pitt's people, adding, "as always we'll announce all guests at our launch press conference in August. We don't want to disappoint our audiences, so until then we can't make any guest announcements just yet." Also in TIFF's international line-up, and included in the Masters program, are the North American premieres of Nanni Moretti's The Caiman, the story of a down-and-out movie producer who dives headfirst into a film on former Italian prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, and Aki Kaurismaki's Lights in the Dusk, the final film in a trilogy focused on social problems facing Finland and its people.

Real to Reel features documentaries such as Tahani Rached's These Girls, which chronicles the daily struggles of adolescent girls living in defiance of Egyptian social models on the streets of Cairo. Discovery will offer films by new and emerging filmmakers, such as Sheng Zhimin's Bliss (one family's struggle amidst death, heartache, secrets and lies) and the first feature from Joachim Trier, Reprise, a comedic portrayal of two young men whose shared dream of becoming a writer is trampled upon by harsh reality. Included in the Contemporary World Cinema program is Andrea Arnold's first feature Red Road, which took home the Jury Prize at Cannes, and Corneliu Porumboiu's debut feature 12:08 East of Bucharest, which won Cannes's Caméra d'or. Also receiving a North American premiere at this year's festival is Shortbus, the second feature from John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), which focuses on two characters who, for very different reasons, decide to explore the sexual prospects of open marriage. Yesterday Cowan said TIFF is the only major festival in the world that shows films that have previously played at other festivals throughout its program. "This is part of the history of the festival. We started out as the 'Festival of Festivals.' Toronto is a public festival and we know our audiences may not have the luxury of being in Cannes or Berlin like we do. As the festival has grown, we have certainly secured our share of terrific films as world premieres, and I'm sure Toronto won't be disappointed this year." The Toronto International Film Festival runs from Sept. 7 to 16.

The Passion Of The Superman

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic

Superman Returns

Starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella. Written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris.
Directed by Bryan Singer. 154 minutes. At major theatres. PG

(June 28, 2006) As if the answer could ever possibly be negative, especially in a movie designed to resurrect a commercial movie franchise, the question Superman Returns keeps asking of itself and its audience is this: does the world really need the Man of Steel?  As both a pivotal plot issue and a pop philosophy conundrum it's a question that proves essential to the qualified success of Bryan Singer's new movie, which finds itself grappling with one of the more daunting tasks of any recent comic book-inspired blockbuster.  In the months leading up to the opening of Christopher Reeve's lift-off as the title hero of Richard Donner's Superman in 1978, posters and trailers teased us with the tagline "You'll believe that a man can fly."  Now, not only are our digitized skies swarming with airborne comic hero traffic, they're littered with super psychological baggage. The current costumed crusader is expected to be conflicted, persecuted, misunderstood, reluctant and generally self-conscious. These are the psychological cracks through which mortals gain access to these pulp culture gods.  So how is Superman, at once the purest and most essential of superheroes, the one invented by two Depression-era proto-nerds who dreamt in colour and transformed 20th-century popular culture, supposed to matter?  Using the late '70s Reeve movies as the segue into the 21st-century franchise, Singer's movie (based on Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris's reverentially straight-faced script) begins with Superman's return after a five-year absence.  After dropping in (literally) on his adopted mother (played, as she was in Donner's movie, by Eva Marie Saint) in Smallville, the new Man of Steel (played by likeably earnest newcomer Brandon Routh), returns to Metropolis after a futile search for the remnants of his home planet, Krypton.  While this prodigal return may raise logistical questions — why would it take the fastest man in the universe that long, how could he fail to see the futility of the quest or why did he completely abandon the human race for so long? — it does establish a productive climate of doubt, cynicism and remorse for our hero to re-enter and redeem.  He falls into a fallen world. In his absence, not only has bitter ex-flame Lois Lane found another guy (James Marsh) and had a baby (more on this later), she's received a Pulitzer for writing a story the movie itself exists to disprove: "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman."

But there's another reason why the world has given up on Superman. It accounts for the otherwise curious span of five years' absence, and it also accounts for his first feat of holy cow, look-up-in-the-sky super heroic rescue: the saving of a planeload of passengers (one of whom is Kate Bosworth's Lois) after mid-air disaster has struck.  If this guy had been around, how could 9/11 have happened? It couldn't, of course, and just to bring the point home Singer has Superman not only rescue the plane, but set it down in the middle of a mid-game baseball field packed to the max: mid-air disaster averted in an all-American context, and Superman restored to his proper status as something everyone can cheer for. In showbiz, what's a saviour without an audience?  And what's a messiah without a doubting world to disprove, or a big, fat, heavenly sky to descend from? In Superman Returns, while the manifest plot may concern itself with Superman's reclamation of Lois Lane's abandoned heart — and of the child (this spoils nothing to say) who may be the Son of Steel — and with rather routine attempts of Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor to, you know, take over the world, the real story here is one that strives for popcorn-biblical significance.  From the moment Luthor and his stumblebum henchmen penetrate the Vegas-tacky Fortress of Solitude and watch a crystallized image of Marlon Brando (in outtakes from the 1978 movie) intoning about fathers, sons, legacies and other matters of divine responsibility, the movie's Super-Jesus agenda kicks into gear.  And for all the action, world-domination talk and lavish special effects assaults, the film's most recurring and resonant images are those that suggest the real title of this movie might as well be Superman: The Second Coming.

This is a man defined by his role as pained but predestined outsider, whose higher calling makes him both responsible for the human race, yet doomed always to live apart from it. This Superman is forever seen flying high above the Earth and looking down upon it, or (in a brief but brilliantly haunting moment) spotted by a lone pedestrian as he soars quietly above the streets of Metropolis at dusk.  Gosh, but this world-saving, all-powerful, hero-to-everyone stuff must be lonely work, and Singer's Superman bears the responsibility with the slightly clenched dutifulness of someone who's immortal enough to accept his destiny but human enough to suffer the weight. (He brings out the X-man in Superman.)  While Routh, who is buff but hardly hunksome, seems to have modelled much of his performance on Reeve's interpretation of Superman as a charmingly square stud (and his Clark Kent is a virtual Reeve impersonation), Singer's interpretation has him doing things Donner's Man of Steel never did: like using his X-ray vision to spy longingly on Lois's new domestic life, or flying her high above the city to tell her that it's not true that the world doesn't need a saviour, because he hears people calling for one all the time.  While this overtly messianic conceptualization of the granddaddy of all superheroes flirts occasionally with camp self-importance and fascist power-lust — when old Supe hits the crucifixion pose at the movie's climax, it's one nail too many pounded into the metaphor — there's no question that Superman Returns has lifted itself above the general flock of Hollywood's flying men by making the question of its own existence its main order of business.  The world — both on screen and off — that this Superman returns to is complicated, messy, violent and apparently beyond redemption. (When he turns on his super-hearing, he's bombarded by the voices of those in need.) And that calls for something more than a superhero. Singer's brand of canny pop religiosity recognizes that it's no longer sufficient that we merely believe that a man can fly. It asks us to believe in such a man.  In a way, it makes brilliant sense. After all, no comic book hero has been in the saving business for quite as long as Superman.


Release Dates Confirmed For Outkast’s ‘Idlewild’

Excerpt from

(June 22, 2006) *Five years after the release of their groundbreaking Grammy-winning album “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” OutKast is preparing an Aug. 22nd release of their heavily anticipated follow-up, “Idlewild,” which doubles as the soundtrack to their equally anticipated film of the same name, due in theatres Aug. 25. The dates, finally confirmed Tuesday by Universal/HBO Films, had been pushed back and postponed on numerous occasions since news of the project first surfaced. Set in a 1930s rural Georgia speakeasy known as The Church, “Idlewild” follows its two lead characters – lifelong friends Percival (Dre), the club's piano player, and Rooster (Big Boi), the club's lead performer and manager – through intersecting stories of love and ambition. The tone is driven by non-stop action, music and eye-popping dance numbers choreographed by legendary three-time Tony winner Hinton Battle.  Directed by veteran music video helmer Bryan Barber, “Idlewild” also stars Ving Rhames, Terrence Howard, Patti LaBelle, Malinda Williams, Macy Gray, Ben Vereen and Cicely Tyson.  "Mighty O," the soundtrack’s first single, was co-written by Dre and Big Boi and produced by Organized Noize. A second single, the Big Boi solo track "Morris Brown" (featuring Scar and Sleepy Brown), co-written by Dre and Big Boi and produced by Dre for Slum Drum!, features Eddie Ellis conducting the Morris Brown College Band.  The album is still in the final stages of production, however, other tracks expected on the finished product include "The Train" (featuring Scar and Sleepy Brown), "In Your Dreams" (featuring Scar and Janelle Monae) and "Don't Chu Worry 'Bout Me (Idlewild Blues)."

Cannes Winner Seen Next At T.O. Fest

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(June 28, 2006) The North American premiere of The Wind That Shakes the Barley — the top award winner at Cannes this year — is among the highlights of the first slate of movies announced yesterday for the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.  Ken Loach's portrayal of Ireland's bid for independence and sectarian strife in the 1920s, the surprise winner of the Palme d'Or, joins Nanni Moretti's The Caiman (Italy) and Aki Kaurismäki's Lights in the Dusk (Finland/Germany/France) in the festival's Masters series.  The annual roll-out of festival offerings kicks off with 26 international selections that will have previously premiered at film festivals worldwide.  Also on the list is Babel (Mexico) by Alejandro González Iñárritu; Tahani Rached's documentary These Girls (Egypt); Sheng Zhimin's Bliss (China); Reprise (Norway), the first feature by director Joachim Trier; Cannes Grand Prize winner Flandres (France) by Bruno Dumont; Big Bang Love, Juvenile A (Japan), by Takashi Miike; Rolf de Heer's Ten Canoes (Australia); Taxidermia (Hungary/Austria/France), by Hungarian director György Pálfi; Abderrahmane Sissako's Bamako (France/Mali/U.S.) and Kim Ki-duk's Time (South Korea).  Receiving its North American premiere is sexually explicit Shortbus by John Cameron Mitchell, which includes Sook-Yin Lee of CBC Radio's Definitely Not the Opera in its cast.  For a complete list of films announced today, go to and click on What's New.



Canadianizing the O.C. Effect

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill

(Jun. 24, 2006) VANCOUVER — Ski bums, sex, murder -- and music? Whistler, the new homegrown television series that premieres tomorrow night on CTV, is hitching a ride on The O.C. bandwagon. The creators of this 13-part drama are hoping they can take obscure Canadian indie bands and turn them into mainstream hits in the same way that the soapy U.S. teen drama made stars out of the Killers and Modest Mouse.  "I think we've easily got a dozen acts that will be huge in a year from now, or even a few months," says show creator and executive producer Kelly Senecal, who selected most of the pre-recorded music for the soundtrack from his own collection. "Catlow could be the next Death Cab for Cutie." Catlow who? That's what they said five years ago, when Death Cab for Cutie was just another rock band from Seattle getting little to no radio play. Then came The O.C., a nighttime soap that has become almost as well known for its music sequences as its steamy storylines. Seth Cohen, the show's resident music nerd, dropped the band's name. "Don't diss the Death Cabs," he told another character. Then the band performed live in an episode. Almost immediately, Death Cab for Cutie sold 200,000 copies of its CD Transatlanticism (about 10 times more than any of its previous discs) and the big labels came knocking. (The band signed with Atlantic.) The O.C. has grown into an alternative-music pop-culture phenomenon. In three seasons, the hit Fox series has released five CD compilations. Although Death Cab for Cutie has probably been the greatest beneficiary of the so-called O.C. effect, the show has substantially boosted the profile of other indie bands (the Killers, the Thrills and Modest Mouse all signed with major labels after being on the show) and broken a number of complete unknowns such as British trip-pop singer Jem. Now even established artists such as U2, Beck and Coldplay are debuting new songs on the show.

The all-Canadian Whistler soundtrack, which will be released later this summer by Universal Music Canada, features an eclectic roster of Canadian artists such as Pilate, Hawksley Workman, the Organ and the Waking Eyes. Most of the music, says Senecal, is catchy alternative rock in the "shoe-gazer-pop vein, à la Radiohead, Spiritualized, Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev." If Whistler's musical backdrop proves to be a hit with viewers, Vancouver singer-songwriter Natasha Thirsk is one of the artists with the most to gain. The series uses six tracks from Kiss the World, the debut album for Catlow, her new solo project. It also features almost every song from the two albums she produced with bassist Jennifer Deon when they formed the Dirtmitts. "I can't wait until it airs in the U.S.," says Thirsk, who has had her music licensed for other television shows such as 24 and The L Word. "That's when the real royalties start coming in." (Whistler is also being broadcast on the N, the U.S. nighttime cable network for teens.) Ordinary Day, Whistler's recurring theme song, is from the Dirtmitts' 2002 album Get On. "I wanted a song that felt happy, but had a creepy undertone," Senecal says of the dreamy pop tune with a catchy melody, twinkly guitar and faint discordant screeches. The show -- a mystery set in the British Columbia mountain-resort town that revolves around the murder of a gold-medal-winning snowboarder soon after he returns home from the 2006 Olympic Winter Games -- does not have any name-dropping music nerds similar to The O.C.'s Seth in the cast. The music was all pre-recorded (unlike The O.C., which also commissions original songs). And there will not be any live performances in the show, at least in the first season (it has already been green-lit for a second). But Senecal, who created the show for Toronto's Blueprint Entertainment and Vancouver's Boardwatch Productions (affiliated with SL Feldman and Associates, Canada's largest talent agency), says the music is still a main character.

The final episode, for instance, uses the title track from Pilate's new album Sell Control for Life's Speed. The climactic last six minutes were shot with the song playing on set. The song was also pivotal to the editing process. And when the scene crescendos, so does the song. "I don't want to compare myself to him in any way, but Cameron Crowe movies are my touchstone," says Senecal, who began working as a writer on NBC's Just Deal and more recently developed the series Radio Free Roscoe for The N. "I love the way he uses a song to play as a counterpoint against what's happening in a scene." Sam Feldman, who represents Joni Mitchell, Diana Krall and other musical icons, was apparently invaluable in securing the music rights. But Senecal swears the series' executive producer didn't force any musicians on him. "We happen to represent a lot of artists, but we didn't dictate to anyone about what went into the show," says Feldman. "Kelly's the creative guy. And if it didn't fit his vision, it didn't go in the show." The use of outside music for a TV series isn't new. In 1984, Miami Vice pretty much jump-started Phil Collins's solo career by using his single In the Air Tonight during its pilot..  Increasingly, though, the opportunities are going to new artists. Six Feet Under, Grey's Anatomy and Gilmore Girls are just a few of the hit series with soundtrack CDs full of indie and semi-indie artists with credible cool factor, such as Montreal's Arcade Fire.

The trend toward lesser-known indie acts is partly financial, but it is also being driven by the changing tastes of audiences and programmers. "The people making television now are younger and younger," says Feldman. "They're way more in tune with music and are using it as a way of identifying a show, as opposed to using a traditional score, which is usually more generic." But the Internet has probably been the largest influence. The O.C. effect wouldn't have happened if the show's website didn't list the artists in each episode and provide links to their websites and the show's own iTunes space. "My friend Soul Kid No. 1 had a song on The O.C. [More Bounce (in California)]. He got 70,000 downloads and was approached by a major label," says Natasha Thirsk, who is hoping for a similar effect for her music through Whistler. "The face of music is changing and the television-placement business has definitely helped. It helps introduce your music to people who would never normally hear it."

Candid Cameras - A New CBC Drama

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Suzanne Ma

(June 28, 2006) For 22 episodes, not once did actor Jessica Greco look into the eyes of her on-screen husband. Instead, she looked down the barrel of the camera. Greco stars in a new CBC Television series called 11 Cameras -- a dramatic TV show constructed primarily around fictional webcam conversations. 11 Cameras premieres tonight and follows 16 characters who are deeply entrenched in one another's lives in spiralling, scandalous plots about love, sex, family, money, jealously and loneliness. The drama unfolds on-line via e-mail, instant chat, blogs and on-line communities. The series reflects how so many people live out their lives on the Internet today. "This is really a new generation where you don't have to be physically near someone to be intimate with them," says Greco, 26, whose character, Tiffany, can only talk to her husband on the webcam while he works as a military contractor in Iraq. "The whole idea of a long-distance relationship has been taken to the next level. You can see someone and talk to someone and start a relationship or fall in love with someone and never be in the same room with that person." It is a concept co-creator Jeff Spriet first observed at home as his wife kept in touch with her family in South Korea through the webcam. One incident stands out in his mind -- when his wife's father was in hospital after a serious car accident. "From his hospital bed he told her, 'Please come home before I die,' and my wife completely broke down," Spriet says. "I watched how this drama unfolded on the webcam . . . how it was so pure, and so powerful." Two years ago, Spriet and co-creator James Wilkes originally pitched the idea for 11 Cameras for a spot on CBC-TV's daytime line-up. The CBC said the show would be too progressive for daytime, but suitable for prime time. Spriet and Wilkes worked with producers Christina Jennings, Henry Less and Robert Carney to sell an 11-minute demo to the network. The demo was well received, and filming for the pilot season began in March of this year.

"Ultimately, we want people to be entertained," Wilkes says. "Our favourite moments in the show are when the boundaries and the dramatic language collapses, and it feels that we are truly eavesdropping on a real moment. Our actors are looking right in the camera and truly connecting with the audience." 11 Cameras is already connecting with producers from the United States, Britain and Australia who have showed interest in the show. Spriet says he and Wilkes were inspired by shows such as Taxicab Confessions, which featured conversations between New York cab drivers and passengers in the early hours of the morning. It was filmed entirely by hidden cameras mounted in the cab. "People want truth," Spriet says. "They love being that fly on the wall to witness such real and riveting drama unfolding." The show also poses a unique situation for actors who have to stare straight into the camera to deliver their lines. "As an actor, you have to be so in tune with your character," says Yogesh Chotalia, 28, who plays Sumesh, a South Asian immigrant who sets up a fake office to convince his parents over the webcam that he works in a successful architect's firm. "The camera picks up everything, so everyone has to be on their toes. The saying 'the camera doesn't lie' is very true, especially since it is literally two inches from your face." 11 Cameras will air throughout the summer on CBC-TV, starting tonight. Two new episodes air every Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (repeats 11:30 p.m.).

Aaron Spelling Dead At 83

Source: Associated Press

(Jun. 24, 2006) LOS ANGELES — Aaron Spelling, a onetime movie bit player who created a massive number of hit series, from the vintage “Charlie's Angels” and “Dynasty” to “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Melrose Place,” died Friday, his publicist said. He was 83. Mr. Spelling died at his home in Los Angeles after suffering a stroke on June 18, according to publicist Kevin Sasaki. Mr. Spelling's other hit series included “Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” “Burke's Law,” “The Mod Squad,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “T.J. Hooker,” “Matt Houston,” “Hart to Hart” and “Hotel.” He kept his hand in 21st-century TV with series including “7th Heaven” and “Summerland.” He also produced more than 140 television movies. Among the most notable: “Death Sentence” (1974), Nick Nolte's first starring role; “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” (1976), John Travolta's first dramatic role; and “The Best Little Girl in the World” (1981), which starred Jennifer Jason Leigh. During the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Spelling provided series and movies exclusively for ABC and is credited for the network's rise to major status. Jokesters referred to it as “The Aaron Broadcasting Company.” Success was not without its thorns. TV critics denounced Mr. Spelling for fostering fluff and nighttime soap operas. He called his shows “mind candy”; critics referred to them as “mindless candy.” “The knocks by the critics bother you,” he admitted in a 1986 interview with The Associated Press. “But you have a choice of proving yourself to 300 critics or 30 million fans. You have to make a choice. I think you're also categorized by the critics. If you do something good they almost don't want to like it.” He liked to cite some of his more creditable achievements, like “Family” (1976-80), a drama about a middle-class family, and “The Best Little Girl in the World.” Among his prestige films for TV: “Day One” (1988), about an atomic blast in middle America; “And the Band Played On” (1992), based on Randy Shilts' book about the AIDS crisis.

Mr. Spelling had arrived in Hollywood virtually penniless in the early 1950s. By the 1980s, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at $300-million. He enjoyed his status, working in a Hollywood office larger than those of golden-era moguls (“I'm slightly claustrophpobic,” he explained.) He gifted his second wife, Candy, with a 40-carat diamond ring. The Spellings' most publicized extravagance was their 56,500-square-foot French chateau in Holmby Hills. The couple bought the former Bing Crosby estate for $10-million. It was levelled to the ground, along with two other houses. Construction cost was estimated at $12-million. The two-story house reached a height of 51 feet. Among the features: an entire floor for closets, a one-lane bowling alley, plus the usual elements for the Hollywood rich — pool, tennis court, gym, screening room. Built on rollers, it easily survived the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The mansion dwarfed nearby estates, and the neighbours were furious. One woman won an injunction during construction, calling the place “Look-at-me-I'm-rich architecture.” Mr. Spelling grew up in a small frame house on Browder Street in Dallas “on the wrong side of the tracks,” he wrote in his 1996 autobiography. He was the fourth son of immigrant Jews, his father from Poland, mother from Russia. The father's name, Spurling, was simplified to Spelling by an Ellis Island official. Mr. Spelling enlisted in the Army Air Corps after graduating from high school in 1942.

“I grew up thinking 'Jew boy' was one word,” the producer wrote in his memoir, “Aaron Spelling: A Prime-Time Life.” He was considered strange by his Dallas schoolmates because his parents spoke Yiddish. He was subjected to anti-Semitic taunts and beatings on his way home from school. At 8, the boy suffered what he termed a nervous breakdown, and he spent a year in bed. He later considered that period the birth of his creative urge. He fell in love with great storytellers, especially O. Henry. Of his early TV series he said, “They are all O. Henry short stories.” “I still have nightmares about being in a $6,000 house in Dallas, Texas,” he remarked in a 1996 AP interview. “Wall-to-wall people, one bathroom. I was the one to go to the local bakery a block away on Saturday to get the day-old stuff.” After combat and organizing entertainment in Europe during the war, Spelling returned to Texas and enrolled at Southern Methodist University, where he wrote and directed plays. He continued working in local theatrics after graduating. Finding no work in New York, Mr. Spelling moved to Los Angeles, where he staged plays and acted in more than 40 TV shows and 12 movies. His skinny frame suited him for the role of a ragged beggar in the MGM musical “Kismet.” He worked for three weeks, repeating his one line: “Alms for the love of Allah.” The “Kismet” experience resulted in two decisions: he abandoned acting for the typewriter; he married a young actress he had been courting, Carolyn Jones. She became well known, especially as Morticia in “The Addams Family” series. They divorced after 13 years, and she died of cancer in 1983. Mr. Spelling's friendship with such actor-producers as Dick Powell, Jack Webb and Alan Ladd led to his rapid rise as a prolific writer and later producer of TV series. In 1960, Mr. Powell, head of Four Star Productions, hired him to produce shows for Powell himself, his wife June Allyson and Lloyd Bridges. “Burke's Law,” with Gene Barry as a millionaire detective, became the first hit series Mr. Spelling created.

After Powell's death, Spelling teamed with Danny Thomas in a production company, scoring a huge success with “The Mod Squad,” about a trio of youthful undercover cops. In 1969, Mr. Spelling began an exclusive contract with ABC, helping the network to rise from a low third place to the top of the network ratings. Former ABC programming chief Leonard Goldberg joined him as partner in 1972. After ABC cancelled “Dynasty” in 1989 and his contract with the network had ended, Mr. Spelling found himself without a show on the air for the first time since 1960. “I was so depressed, I would have quit, but I like TV too much,” Mr. Spelling wrote in his memoir. Besides, his company had started issuing stock in 1986, and he had an obligation to his investors. After a year's respite, he returned with “Beverly Hills 90210,” which helped launch the fledgling Fox Network into the big time. “Melrose Place” gave Fox another hit. Throughout his career, Mr. Spelling maintained the same image: the skinny frame, slightly hawkish face. He usually posed with a pipe in his mouth, a custom he adopted early after seeing stars with pipes in fan magazine photos. Mr. Spelling and his second wife, Candy, had two children, Tori (for Victoria), who became a star on the two Fox serials (“Now I'm known as Tori Spelling's father,” he said in mock lament), and Randy, who appeared in the short-lived “Malibu Shores.” Mr. Spelling set a record of producing more than 3,000 TV shows. Besides the TV movies, he produced 10 theatrical films including “California Split,” “Mr. Mom.” “'night, Mother,” “Loose Cannons” and “Soapdish.”

Chris Gardner - From the Gutter to the Stars

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Sarah Hampson

(Jun. 24, 2006) Meet the new male Oprah. Chris Gardner may not have the television talk show he wants yet, but he feels nothing is out of his grasp. "There are a lot of people coming to us," says the millionaire stockbroker with laid-back delight. "We're not pitching [to] anyone. They're coming," he says, holding his two hands out and motioning with his fingers to suggest the influx of offers he has entertained. A tall, fit black man, he engages everyone he encounters with an unusual combination of soulfulness and potent sexuality. He wears a light grey suit and striped blue-and-white shirt, unbuttoned at the collar and cuffs, in a way that suggests a professionalism so confident he can don the corporate uniform like a bathrobe. His dark eyes are so intense, they could fry an egg. And he brandishes charm like a weapon. His story is mythic; as compelling as his personality. He has written a book about it, The Pursuit of Happyness, which has been made into a movie (to be released in December) starring Will Smith and Smith's son, Jaden. Born in Milwaukee, Wis., 52 years ago, Gardner had a difficult childhood. His mother, Bettye Jean, had three children by three different men. For three years, she served time in prison for welfare fraud. Gardner and his siblings lived in foster homes and with their relatives. Later, his mother married Fred Triplett, an abusive alcoholic, Gardner writes, who repeatedly beat her. When he grew up, Gardner's life did not become easier. As a teenager, he was raped by a man in the apartment block where his family lived. Then, as an adult, through a series of circumstances (and not because of drug or alcohol abuse), he became homeless for a year.

Working as a trainee broker in San Francisco, he was unable to afford an apartment when a former girlfriend gave him full custody of their child, a two-year-old boy named Chris Jr. The rooming house where he lived would not accept children, but he refused to give him up. "I had a stepfather who said to me, 'I ain't your goddamn Daddy,' and from early on, I knew how not to be. I would never leave my children fatherless," he says. He held down his job, and every night had to carry all their belongings from one place to the next, until the day he could afford an apartment. They slept on transit vehicles, in church basements and in seedy hotels when he had enough money. A few times, they bolstered themselves in the washroom of a transit station. "Food. Transportation. Daycare. Pampers, Sarah! Pampers! That's where my money went," Gardner booms with joie de vivre. Did he not despair? "Many times, many times. But joy is not winning the lotto, Sarah," he says. "Joy is in your soul, man. It's peace, Sarah. It's in here," he says, gesturing to his chest. After working his way through some of the top investment firms in the United States, including Dean Witter and Bear Stearns, he moved to Chicago and started his own firm, Gardner Rich & Co., where he now employs 15 people and has a huge 12-foot desk made from the tail wing of a DC-10 in his office. Uneducated, he was always driven to succeed. "It's my mother's fault," he says. "She always said, 'No test, no testimony.' She believed I could do anything." He owns three residences, including a condo in Trump Tower and a house in Cape Town. His transformation into an inspirational figure and media darling began in 2003 when he was honoured by the National Fatherhood Institute. "Someone at that conference made this speech about how, with my background, I should have been a statistic, you know, alcoholic, unemployed drug abuser," he says dismissively. "When I got up to talk, I said, 'Bullshit. You can make a decision to go your own way.' " A book offer soon followed.

Gardner is the perfect American Dream story of the self-made man, made more potent by the fact that he confounds racial stereotypes. Still, with fame knocking at his door, he is highly selective about what he will do. Recently, a talent agent chased him down, finding his way into an elite airport lounge where Gardner was en route to Maui, to get him to sign a contract. "We had talked on the phone. I would have signed anything. I was relaxed, man, on my way to Hawaii," Gardner explains, laughing. "But when it came time to sign, the guy didn't have a pen! And I thought, 'No. This is not good. This is a sign not to do it.' " Why? He leans forward. "Listen, Sarah, if you catch me buck naked, I'd have a business card and a pen somewhere on me!" he roars. He also got a call to do a reality show about homeless people. "The idea was to clean them up, and have a competition about who could do the best. The winner would get $100,000 in cash and a $300,000 house. I said, 'Homelessness is not a game! And if you think it is, then I won! So give me the money!' I was disgusted. Twelve per cent of homeless people in the U.S. have a job." Gardner exudes the equanimity of someone who has seen so many highs and lows that he doesn't care what life will throw him next. Did he ever encounter racism? "Absolutely," he purrs. He once had a client who didn't know he was black, and on the phone would tell him every racist joke imaginable. Then the client gave him a $25,000 commission, and he thought: For that I'm going to laugh at every racist joke you've got.

"Then, he wanted to come up to meet this broker who made him all this money. My boss was away, and he had this huge corner office. So I took down his nameplate and put up my name. And I put away his pictures of these nice little white kids. And I sent someone to bring in my client. Well, when he walked in that door, you could see the blood draining from his face. He gave me all his business," he says with a laugh. "You learn that on Wall Street, it's not a white thing, it's not a black thing, it's a greed thing." There is nothing Gardner won't address, even why he included so many of his sexual encounters in his book. "Look, Sarah, it's part of my journey." Women are? "Oh, yes," he says, smooth as butter. Any reason why marriage hasn't worked out for him? "Girl, now stop," he jokes. "You're messing with my breakfast! I have been married twice, and I give up. I'm out of that business. I just want to be happy." But the wannabe talk-show host can't leave it at that. He turns the heat on in his eyes again, and leans forward. "I am having a loving, committed relationship with the woman who invented sex! It's amazing, man, and you ain't gotta be married to have that!"

In his own words

His idea of education:
"I read everything, beyond what's required. I read financial stuff. I am reading a biography of Nelson Mandela. I read all kinds of magazines, from The Economist to Vanity Fair to Men's Health. I will even look at Vogue."

His fashion sense: "I have a huge wardrobe of clothes. I can go shopping in my own closet! I have had a couple of things made for me from women's fashion. Like a pair of pants with a high waistband with these small belt loops and this draped pant leg. Now, how many men do you know who will talk about the way a pant leg drapes? I am going to wear the same thing with it that the fashion model was wearing. A white muscle T-shirt."

His hope for the movie version of his book: "It's for the world. It's not a black thing at all. It's a story for anyone who had to go through life-altering shit and still go on. Pain is pain."

‘The View’ Is Over For Star Jones Reynolds

Excerpt from

(June 27, 2006)   *It’s a done deal for “The View’s” Star Jones Reynolds. After a spring full of rumours that her exit from the ABC chatfest was imminent following the April announcement of Rosie O’Donnell replacing Meredith Vieira, Reynolds herself made it official Tuesday morning. "Something's been on my heart for a little bit, and after much prayer and counsel I feel like this is the right time to tell you that the show is moving in another direction for its tenth season and I will not be returning as co-host next year," she said on the air.   However, she gave the real story to People magazine, stating: "What you don't know is that my contract was not renewed for the tenth season. I feel like I was fired." Reynolds said she was told her contract wouldn’t be renewed just days before news of O’Donnell’s hiring leaked to the press.  On Tuesday’s show, it was all love. Reynolds grabbed the hands of her co-host Joy Behar, who described her announcement as “shocking to me,” and asked the former prosecutor, “Who am I going to fight with?"   Reynolds replied: "Something tells me you will have somebody to fight with." To the show’s creator, Barbara Walters, Reynolds said: “Thank you for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime," adding, I'm not sure what the future holds, but I'm absolutely sure who holds the future."   From the day you came on this program, nine years ago, I cannot imagine 'The View' being the success it has been without you," said Walters, who asked the studio audience to give Reynolds a standing ovation. "Whatever is best for you is what I want, what we all want most for you. …It is a new chapter for Star. It will be a new chapter for ‘The View’ in the fall."

Reynolds, 44, was a member of the original line-up of co-hosts that included Vieira (who will replace Katie Couric on NBC’s The Today show), Behar and Walters.   The static between O’Donnell and Reynolds intensified after Rosie went public with her scepticism regarding Star’s recent weight loss. In multiple interviews, O’Donnell said she found it hard to believe the dropped pounds was all-natural as Star had claimed.   Meanwhile, rumours are already flying as to who will replace Reynolds – and the odds-on favourite seems to be South Carolina talk radio host Bo Griffin, a former co-host of the cancelled syndicated version of Fox’s "Good Day Live" and a one-time correspondent for "Extra." According to The New York Daily News’ Lowdown column, Walters began considering Griffin after failing to lock in Gayle King.   A source told Lowdown: "Bo is a journalist like Meredith, but is a dead ringer for Star. She's now the front-runner for Star's seat.”    However, a rep for “The View” responded: "Barbara Walters said, 'That's fascinating' because she's never heard the same and we are not looking for a co-host."   Although the real story behind Star's exit will be in People on Friday, including true her feelings toward Rosie O'Donnell, below is the official statement her camp sent to EUR and other outlets: “I’ve spent an amazing nine years as a part of “The View” family, and they have been the most professionally and personally rewarding years of my life.  Through it all, I have appreciated the support of my family, my friends and most importantly the viewers, and I am incredibly grateful for all of the love that has been shown to me.  'The View' is now moving in a new direction, and I will not be returning this fall – but, wherever I go, I will carry a lifetime of memories with me. Thank you all so much for your invaluable love and support.”


All Dressed Up For Dora

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Jun. 27, 2006) Hobbits rejoice! Critics be damned!  The Lord of the Rings took top honours at the 27th annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards last night.  Despite some contrary reviews following its March opening, the mega-musical rendering of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy was the clear favourite among Toronto's theatre cognoscenti, in particular for stagecraft.  Its seven awards included Outstanding Musical, New Musical, Direction, Costume Design, Lighting and Choreography in General Theatre. Michael Therriault's compelling performance as Gollum won Best Actor in a Musical Role.  The musical blockbuster, produced by Kevin Wallace and Saul Zaentz in association with David and Ed Mirvish and Michael Cohl, will continue at the Princess of Wales Theatre until at least late September. It is expected to reopen next June at the Royal Theatre, Drury Lane in London.  The remaining 11 General Theatre awards were scattered widely with Soulpepper Theatre's production of the Thornton Wilder classic Our Town winning outstanding production of a play.  D'bi.young was an impressive double winner, with her self-authored one-woman show, blood.claat — one womban story named as Best New Play and young herself named top female performer in a play.  In the Independent Theatre division, two companies dominated, sharing nine awards between them.  Birdland Theatre, a relative newcomer to the Toronto scene, won five awards for its short-run production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, including Outstanding Direction, Production and Lighting, and Best Leading Performances, Male and Female, by Diego Matamoros and Irene Poole. (The latter won a Dora the previous year for her role in The Leisure Society.)

Close on its heels in the independent category was Bombay Black, presented by Cahoots Theatre Project (in association with Nightswimming Theatre), which scored Outstanding New Play or Musical, Set, Costume and Sound Design.  The awards are presented annually by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts to recognize theatre, dance and opera hallmarks.  Director Jennifer Tarver was presented with the Pauline McGibbon Award last night by Ontario Minister of Culture Caroline Di Cicco. The award recognizes emerging young theatre talent in the province.  The panel of theatre professionals gave the award to Tarver, founder of Theatre Extasis and associate director of the Theatre Centre, for work that "resounds with clarity and sophistication."  The Silver Ticket Award was awarded to long-time director, poet and performer ahdri zhina mandiela, founder and artistic director of b current. The award is given to successful performers who nurture Canadian theatre. The winner is entitled to a lifetime of tickets to any production under the auspices of the theatre alliance.  The alliance's newly inaugurated Audience Choice Award was presented to the boy band spoof BoyGroove, produced by Michael Rubinoff and Derrick Chua.


General Theatre
New Play: d'bi.young , blood.claat-one womban story
New Musical:
Shaun McKenna, Matthew Warchus, The Lord of the Rings
Production (Play): Our Town, Soulpepper Theatre Company
Production (Musical): The Lord of the Rings, Kevin Wallace, Saul Zaentz, with David and Ed Mirvish, and Michael Cohl
Direction (Play): Nigel Shawn Williams, The Monument
Direction (Musical): Matthew Warchus, The Lord of the Rings
Male, Principal Role (Play): Shawn Doyle, A Number
Female, Principal Role (Play): d'bi.young, blood.claat-one womban story
Male, Principal Role (Musical):
Michael Therriault, The Lord of the Rings
Female, Principal Role (Musical): Corinne Koslo, Bunnicula
Featured Performance: Gord Rand, The Innocent Eye Test
Set Design: Michael Levine, Wozzeck
Costume Design: Rob Howell, The Lord of the Rings
Lighting Design: Paul Pyant, The Lord of the Rings
Sound Design/Composition: Jan Komarek, The Long Valley
Musical Direction: Richard Bradshaw, Götterdämmerung
Choreography: Peter Darling, The Lord of the Rings
Touring Production: Jimmy, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Independent Theatre
New Play or Musical:
Anosh Irani, Bombay Black
Production: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Birdland Theatre
Direction: David Ferry, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
Male Performance: Diego Matamoros, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
Female Performance: Irene Poole, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
Set Design: Camellia Koo, Bombay Black
Costume Design: Camellia Koo, Bombay Black
Lighting Design: Glenn Davidson and David Ferry, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
Sound Design/Composition: Suba Sankaran, Bombay Black
New Choreography:
Peter Chin, Stupa
Performance: Susanna Hood, She's Gone Away
Young Audiences
Wrecked, Roseneath Theatre
Performance: Helen Taylor, Wrecked
June Anderson, Norma
Production: Götterdämmerung, Canadian Opera Company

Panache, Power, Drama? Sorry, Wrong Show

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Jun. 25, 2006) Tomorrow evening at the Winter Garden Theatre, the 27th annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards will be given out to celebrate excellence on Toronto stages.  Okay, don't everybody cheer at once. Unless you're an active member of the theatre community, or someone with a vested interest in one of the nominees, it's likely that you're not exactly panting with anticipation. That shows us what a big chance we're missing.  Dianne Weinrib, the publicist for the event, was trying to convince me why I should write about the Doras. "They're our Tony Awards!" she gushed.  Well, actually, they're not and that's the problem. Yes, both are occasions when a theatre community honours its members, but that's where the similarities end.  The Doras are an industry party, plain and simple, with a list of winners from shows usually long closed printed in the papers the next day ... and that's that.  But the Tonys are also a nationally televised, glittering spectacle, which showcases numbers from all the nominated musicals and mixes up talented (but unknown) stage stars with high-profile glitterati.  The Tonys help sell millions of dollars of tickets. The Doras? Well, no matter how many statues The Lord of the Rings picks up tomorrow night (and it's nominated for 15), I'm willing to bet Michael Therriault's Gollum his "precious" that it will matter not a whit at the box office the next day.  I'm not saying I like this situation. As a matter of fact, I deplore it. Especially at a time when everyone is struggling to attract audiences in an ever-shrinking market, we need just the kind of boost the Doras could provide.  With the right imagination, initiative and oomph from all concerned, it's possible to take the Doras and transform them into a marketing tool that could help all of Toronto theatre.  What would I do? Convince one of our local TV broadcasters that they had to put this fantastic show on the air and then make it as wonderful as you had promised.  (Yes the Doras were televised locally in their first two years, but they were pretty lacklustre affairs from all accounts and soon vanished from the airwaves.)  I'd approach some Canadians with local stage roots who had gone on to make it big south of the border and ask them to host the evening. Let's say Sandra Oh and Eric McCormack for starters.  Next step would be to find the zippiest assortment of presenters possible. Dip into TV, film, pop music — anyone with a link to theatre. Hey, Kiefer Sutherland can't say no unless you ask him.

Then go ahead and fill the evening with selections from the nominated musicals, plays (as well as the opera and dance nominees, if they were so inclined).  On Broadway, shows often schedule their openings around the Tonys.  Why couldn't that happen here?  If the producers of BoyGroove (that too-soon-departed show) knew they could have gotten a spot on TV, I'm willing to bet they would have stayed open a couple of weeks more for the exposure.  And sure, Ross Petty's pantos only run in December, but if audiences saw a portion from this year's nominated laugh-fest (Snow White and the Group of Seven) they'd remember to buy tickets for the next time around.  Then there's the dramas. Toronto needs to see scenes from shows like Leo, Our Town, blood.claat and A Beautiful View, to mention just a few of the nominees.  There is great work happening in this city, but giving out a series of trophies in front of the people who already know it's great doesn't really help to raise the level of visibility.  Stratford and Shaw aren't eligible for Dora awards, but they run all summer so couldn't they be invited on to the show to strut their stuff?  A few minutes of Dan Chameroy from High Society, Colm Feore from Coriolanus or Blythe Wilson from Oliver! would probably help to sell lots of tickets.  Sure, I'm asking for a major effort, but that's what theatre in this city needs right now if it's going to survive. Isn't there somebody out there with the crazy vision and manic energy necessary to make this work?  Consider the gauntlet hurled. Somebody pick it up, please.  You know what would make me happiest? If, a few years from now, some one told me the Doras were just like the Tonys and I could say, "No they're not; they're better."

Signature Stages August Wilson’s ‘Seven Guitars’

Excerpt from

(June 23, 2006) *A complete cast has been announced for the Signature Theatre Company’s mounting of August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars,” directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson (“Lackawanna Blues”) and scheduled to run from July 31 through September 23.  The off-Broadway production will feature Kevin Carroll as Canewell, Cassandra Freeman as Ruby, Stephen McKinley Henderson as Red Carter, Brenda Pressley as Louise, Lance Reddick as Floyd Barton, Roslyn Ruff as Vera and Charles Weldon as Hedley.  The play, set in Pittsburgh's Hill District in 1948, follows seven people through journeys of frustration, joy and loss. Among them are Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton, an aspiring blues musician who returns home to seek his fortune and reclaim his woman; a sick old man who longs for an heir to carry on his name; and three single women who cope with betrayal and lost dreams. Carroll is currently appearing off-Broadway in “Satellites,” while Freeman was most recently seen in Spike Lee’s “Inside Man” opposite Denzel Washington. Henderson has appeared on Broadway in Wilson's “King Hedley II” and “Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.” Reddick starred on HBO’s “The Wire” as Lt. Cedric Daniels, and Ruff's off-Broadway credits include “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Pudd'nhead Wilson.”  

*Manhattan’s New Victory Theatre will feature Lydia Diamond's adaptation of Toni Morrison's “The Bluest Eye,” from Nov. 3-19.  The story centers on 11-year-old African American Pecola Breedlove, who believes her dark skin is at the root of vicious taunts by her classmates. She in turn prays for blonde hair and blue eyes.  The play, which will also run at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Oct. 3-28, is directed by Hallie Gordon.


Pride Week Parade Takes Over Toronto As Thousands Of Spectators Revel

Excerpt from The Toronto Star – By Carlye Malchuk

(June 25, 2006) TORONTO (CP) - Men clad in leather chaps, wigs, stiletto heels, feather boas or simply nothing at all worked the runway in Toronto on Sunday afternoon at the 26th annual Pride Parade.  Faces young and old alike smiled on the sidelines as the 147 floats cruised down Yonge Street, ranging from the whimsical to the risqué.  Members of the Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity strutted their stuff, following the Mr. Leatherman Toronto Competition, whose participants wore everything from chaps to kilts - all leather, of course.  Nudity is ubiquitous at the annual parade, along with black leather outfits and other attire not normally seen in Toronto's downtown on a Sunday afternoon.  "I love it, it's so much fun this year ... you get to meet people and have a blast," said 19-year-old Roslyn Matthews, who watched the parade from the top of a bus shelter.  Thirty-year-old Neal Schneider, who just moved to Toronto from San Francisco, said that while the city appears to be "pretty straight" on the surface, it's even more open-minded than his former home, considered by some to be America's gay mecca.  The city has become more tolerant, and homosexuals are feeling less ostracized in the community, said Hazen Colbert, who has been at the parade every year since moving to Toronto 10 years ago.  "It's a lot more fun now," he said. "People aren't as angry, and that's because they can be themselves."  Toronto Mayor David Miller, who was soaked by spectators with water guns as he marched with members of city council, said the parade is important for the entire city.

"Torontonians are so proud," Miller said. "We're here to have fun but also we're here to say a very important thing: everyone's welcome in our city, we respect their human rights, we respect people's life choices."  That message was prominent at this year's celebration and served as a reminder that while Canada is a tolerant country, homosexuals are still oppressed around the world.  Bill Schiller, the parade's international grand marshal, led the walk followed by a banner that read: We march for those who can't.  "It's very important for all of us . . . to be aware that half the world still bans homosexual relationships," he said.  Flags from six countries that don't give homosexuals the same basic rights as others were flown, including the colours of Russia and Iran.  Trisha Kaplan-Freed, one of the parade organizers, said having the international marshal fit well with this year's theme: fearless.  "It's really important to go back to our roots as a march and acknowledge all the fighting that's still going on around the world," she said.  Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman said the parade's theme honours people across the country who have fought for gay rights.  "We're making sure that we shove our chests out proudly and say, 'We're here and we're staying, we're proud to be here and we're contributing,' " the openly gay Liberal said as he marched along the parade route.  Pride Toronto co-chair David Anderson said he felt a responsibility "to recognize that many people around the world do not share those freedoms, and ... to put the spotlight on that issue."  The parade was Pride Week's signature event, and offered the most stimulation for the crowds in terms of elaborate costumes, floats and loud music.  "It's an enormous volunteer undertaking with a small dedicated staff that makes it all possible," Anderson said.  It takes about 800 volunteers to pull off Pride Week, an event which brings an estimated $80 million to the local economy.

Has Cobourg Lured Elton?

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Shimo

(Jun. 24, 2006) The small, sleepy town of Cobourg, Ont., about an hour's drive east of Toronto, rarely receives much press. But if local chatter turns out to be true, the town may soon get a splash of glamour -- and the flash of paparazzi. Word on the street is that Elton John and his partner, David Furnish, have bought a home in Cobourg.  "Everyone is talking about it," says resident Liiz Dillon, who works as a sales representative for independent fashion labels. "I've heard the rumour at parties, and at a couple of restaurants. There hasn't been this much excitement in Cobourg since I can remember."  Mayor Peter Delanty says the Elton John chatter has been going strong, although this week it took a back seat to hockey after Cobourg native Justin Williams "scored the goal that broke poor Edmonton's heart" during Monday night's Stanley Cup game. "You hear stories about it all the time. I heard that someone's been contracted to bring in furniture and stereo equipment."

No one interviewed by The Globe and Mail knew if the rumours were true or even where they had started. But with the talk at fever pitch, some residents have started to read meaning into every unusual occurrence. "I didn't think anything of the rumour at first," says resident Jim McLaren. "But I saw a black Lincoln with diplomatic plates parked right on the waterfront where they are building new condominiums. I thought it must be somebody from the British embassy doing something for Elton John out there." The properties in question are townhouses located on the waterfront downtown. Collectively known as The Esplanade on the Wharf, the individual units range from $500,000 to $700,000 for 2,200 to 2,800 square feet. Asked whether the rumours were true, Russ Henderson, whose company, Cobourg Marina Properties, is developing the site, wouldn't comment. "We can't talk about who's there and who's not there," he said. Some residents have heard a slightly different version of the rumour -- that Elton John is buying a home for David Furnish's mother. Mr. Furnish, a Toronto native, still has family in the Greater Toronto Area, including relatives in Newmarket who answered a call from The Globe but declined to answer questions.  Whether true or not, the residents of Cobourg apparently are enjoying the excitement. "I don't know if it's true or not," says Jodi Ware, administrative assistant for the local community development office. "But it's putting Cobourg on the map."

Quebec Brighten Distillery District Art Gallery

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Judy Stoffman, Entertainment Reporter

(Jun. 24, 2006) Today is St. Jean Baptiste Day, Quebec's national holiday, a good day to officially launch Toronto's first art gallery devoted exclusively to the artists of Quebec, living and dead. The Thompson Landry Gallery in the Distillery District will have on hand many of its artists from Montreal and Quebec City for some francophone revelry this afternoon amidst the huge rusty distilling tanks now hung, like the old stone walls, with glossy paintings and photo-based works.  "So many people have asked us, `Are you going to serve poutine?' that I guess we have to," says Sylvain Landry, a former opera singer and conductor, who quietly opened the doors of the gallery in March with his life partner Joanne Thompson, a former set designer.  The two met seven years ago while working on an opera in Toronto, and discovered their shared interest in art collecting.  The Distillery provided a dramatic setting for their first venture in art dealing, one that is being used to advantage also by Sandra Ainsley's glass gallery and Jane Corkin's photography gallery.  They work with a third partner, Gilles Charest, who owns the Gallery of Art & Style in Baie-Saint-Paul, Que.  The 16 artists on Thompson Landry's roster tend to abstraction, vivid sensual colours, and a high degree of finish — not avant garde or highly cerebral work but easy to live with. Magnificent ceramic jars as tall as a man, covered in copper, gold or silver leaf and glazed to a high sheen, stand guard in the corners, resembling archaeological finds. They are the work of Montreal potter Tommy Giovanni Zen, who throws them on a wheel and built a four-metre high kiln for firing them.

"It can hold a small car," remarks Thompson. Their meticulous finish is a reminder that Zen comes from a long line of Venetian furniture makers.  Another gallery artist, Dominic Besner, an architect by training, uses mixed media to create richly coloured canvases — acrylic paint, structural mortar, china markers — that he sometimes scrapes to achieve the textures he wants. His work, which contains mythical allusions, is in the collection of Cirque du Soleil and his current project is a mural for the Cirque's new Montreal building.  Claude St. Jacques celebrates the female body in her paintings of dancers, while Chantal Durocher incorporates leaves, twigs and blueberries into subtle but durable collages.  In the heart of the gallery, a small room holds landscapes and still lifes by Quebec's grand masters including Henri Masson, A. Suzor-Coté, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Paul Vanier-Beaulieu and other painters no longer living.  "We decided that Toronto needs a taste of Quebec," says Thompson. "Quebec artists are so passionate. They have a different flair."

Forgotten In Media's Culture Gap

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Murray Whyte, Entertainment Reporter

(Jun. 24, 2006) Every evening this week, Darshan Sahota will roll down College Street in Toronto's Little Italy, and take an elevator five storeys above ground to a sleek, state-of-the-art radio studio and settle in for a 3 1/2-hour broadcast that reaches a potential audience of hundreds of thousands.  When the on-air light flashes red, Sahota's listeners will tune in to hear a broad-ranging variety show, with interviews, music and news. But if you're reading about it here, in this newspaper, for the first time, you're probably not exactly the target audience Sahota has in mind.  Sahota's long-running program is entirely in Hindi and Urdu, beamed with clockwork-like consistency to a loyal community of listeners from the Indian, Pakistani, Afghan and Bangladeshi communities. He began the show in 1972, on CHW AM, and migrated over to CHIN-FM radio on College Street in 1992.  Sahota, in other words, is a veteran of this country's ethnic media, a wide-ranging field that now comprises more than 120 radio and television shows, 536 publications, and more than 100 languages.  Being a veteran affords Sahota a long view, and a rewarding one. "When I started, there were maybe 20 hours a week on the radio, and one or two papers," he says. "Now, you find Indian radio programs going neck and neck on three or four stations. There are many papers, in Punjabi and in Hindi. It shows that the demand has only grown."

Indeed, in a city like Toronto, which has seen an explosion in immigrant populations in recent decades, the thirst for information — about a homeland, a community, or simply how to manage a strange, new world — is a massive, unquenchable constant.  But it also underscores the mainstream media's struggle to keep pace with the changing population. An independent poll conducted by Solutions Research Group this year found that, among five major ethnic groups across the country, more than half of respondents at least "somewhat agreed" that the mainstream media put forth negative stereotypes about their ethnic groups.  In the poll, only Chinese Canadians and Italian Canadians fell below the 50 per cent barrier, and only just: Their numbers were 44 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively. The poll was conducted among 3,000 Canadians 16 years of age and over in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver metropolitan areas between June and August 2005. Depending on the ethnic group sample, the results are deemed to be accurate within 3.1 to 6.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.  That helps explain why, when you look at the poll's numbers on radio listenership, things turn upside-down. In Toronto, the top two radio stations on the whole are CBC Radio One and 680 News. Among ethnic groups polled, 680 News holds its own, but CBC drops off the map, replaced by non-mainstream broadcasters like Chinese-language Fairchild Radio and CHIN, which broadcasts in 32 different languages.  Sahota has seen some progress over the years, but not nearly enough. "The mainstream media, in my view, is what encourages ethnic communities to stay ethnic. They don't seem to view them as Canadian," he says. "It's very black and white. If you carry on every day telling me, `I'm Indian, I'm Indian, I'm Indian,' I'll eventually say all right, if that's what you're happy with, that's what I'll be."

Ethnic media is not just a product of distaste for the mainstream, though. "There is a need for these communities to connect when they first come here," says Amir Hassanpour, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Toronto who has studied the ethnic media in Canada. Hassanpour, who is from Iran, says first-generation immigrants rely on ethnic media more for practical purposes than as a haven from ethnic stereotypes.  "Canada is a very complex society, and the rule of law is very different here," he says. "The main motivation for them is their survival here, and the ethnic media is how they learn," he says.  Johnny Lombardi understood that long before any studies were initiated on media diversity. In 1966, Lombardi, an Italian immigrant, started CHIN radio, and by 1968, was broadcasting in 32 languages. Next week, CHIN will celebrate 40 years in business at its annual picnic, a cross-cultural extravaganza at the CNE grounds.  "Nobody believed it could exist — they thought it was a passing fad, that it would just fade away. It did everything but," says Lenny Lombardi, Johnny's son and current president of CHIN, now a multi-channel radio and television empire housed in sleek offices and studios on trendy College St.  Lombardi's vision predated any official recognition of what a strong multicultural media could do for nation building. In 1985, the CRTC drafted its first ethnic broadcasting policy, drawn from the template Lombardi had been practising for almost 20 years.  "My dad's goal was always to help people integrate. He would encourage people to stay, to become Canadian, to make it their home," Lombardi says. "He knew that if people could flip on the radio and hear local programming in their own language from the local community, they would feel a much greater sense of belonging, and that's extremely important."  The communities have changed — largely integrated second- and third-generation Italians no longer need Italian-language programming — but burgeoning immigrant communities from China and South Asia have increased demand.

CHIN has adjusted, boosting Chinese-language programming from two hours a week 10 years ago to 60 hours now. At the same time, Italian has dropped from 60 to 11. The languages may have changed, but the mandate has not. "We've never seen a waning of that need, for multicultural broadcasting," Lombardi says.  Thomas Saras, president of the Ethnic Media Association of Canada, says it was a typical pattern in the ethnic press: By the second or third generation, the native language was all but gone, replaced by English. The press of a particular culture then shifts from providing necessary information to being the glue for a cultural group spread out across the country.  "The cultural link we provide is a bridge for the whole community," says Saras, the long-standing editor of Patrides North American Review, a newspaper published in Greek and English.  More important, perhaps, is the gap such ventures fill in the often-myopic mainstream coverage. Saras chafes at mainstream efforts to cover even his own venture, which, he says, often smack of tokenism or even condescension.  Worse, he says, is the mainstream press impulse to report on ethnic communities only when crisis strikes. The recent arrests of 17 Muslim men provide a prime example.  "Those things have a very negative effect on a community," he says. "When you deal with a cultural group, you also need to deal with the positive aspects. Try to find something that shows you respect them — that's how you gain trust."  Trust, Sahota says, comes from the accepting difference, but also grasping what we have in common. "Sometimes, their views are so hurtful," he says. "The mainstream media should understand that anybody from outside who is coming here is coming to be a Canadian."  Saras says the mainstream media needs to understand that the goals of the ethnic press are not so different from their own. "Our job is to create a just society where everyone feels equal," he says. "Someday, in the future, our children and grandchildren will meet. If we build this bridge now, no one will care where you're from, or what your religion is."

True North | Artist Depicts The Pain And Tedium Of Everyday Life

Excerpt from The Toronto Star – Murray Whyte

(June 25, 2006) She is small and seemingly frail, hands clasped in front of her, shoulders hunched, her face tightly clenched. But there is a moment when Annie Pootoogook's eyes lighten, a shy, impish grin loosening her expression into one of elation.  Quickly scanning a wall of the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, where dozens of her recent drawings now hang, she steps forward lightly and singles out one: A favourite, she says, cast in bright green and pink, of herself as a young girl and her mother at her grandmother's bedside, watching her draw.  "She has very fond memories of that time," says Chris Pudlat, who travels with Pootoogook — who shrinks from using her halting English — to translate from her native Inuktuk.  Of all the memories Pootoogook has imported here from her life in tiny Cape Dorset, Nunavut, this scene is among the most gentle, a quiet moment of familial bliss amid the churn of everyday life in the far northern reaches of the country.  Not all of them can claim the same peace. On an adjacent wall, rendered in Pootoogook's simple line drawings and coloured pencil-crayon shadings, are a catalogue of various pains poverty and isolation can bring.  One shows an Inuit man in a fur-lined parka severing a noose from a rope, saving a suicide victim. In another, a violent husband wrests an infant from its mother as she bleeds into the snow, while a second child runs for help.  Annie herself appears frequently. In one, as a young girl, she is smashing liquor bottles to stop her parents from drinking. In one particularly brutal scene, she is prone on a bed and screaming in terror as a violent boyfriend rears up to beat her with a club.  It is not what the world at large thinks of as Inuit art in particular, or aboriginal art in Canada in general. Carvings of stoic seal hunters and polar bears in smooth soapstone, or drawings of cheerful Inuit happily housed in igloos with plump, rosy-cheeked children have long been the fodder of a tourist economy ever-hungry for trinkets of the Canadian exotic.

For the outside world, it is a traditional culture preserved in amber and eagerly scrubbed clean by artists just as hungry for the fiscal rewards.  Those rewards have been as reliable as they are lucrative. Just across the parking lot from the Power Plant at Queens Quay, a shop aimed at the tourist trade showcases Nunavut crafts. A display case contains dozens of soapstone carvings of dancing bears. The smallest, about 10 centimetres tall, was priced at $220; the largest, a bulky half-metre tall polar bear in mid-pirouette, was listed at $3,800.  Traditional icons never interested her. She explains with a shrug, matter of factly, as Pudlat translates. "The past is the past now," she says, through him. "She wants to depict what she experiences herself."  She is, to say the least, one of the most unlikely budding art-world stars the country has seen. At 37, she has only left Cape Dorset, a tiny settlement of about 1,200 people on the shores of Baffin Island, a handful of times. But her stark honesty about life in the north is being rapidly consumed by an ever-widening audience.  Yesterday, as the Power Plant show opened to the public, a clutch of collectors gathered at Feheley Fine Arts in Yorkville to gather up their prizes. Demand was so great for the 50 new drawings at Feheley, most of which sell for about $1,000 each, that collectors had to draw lots to see who got to choose first.  Earlier this year, Pootoogook was chosen as one of five finalists for the Sobey Art Award, a $50,000 prize given every two years to an emerging Canadian artist younger than 40. A documentary crew trails along behind her, filming her every move. This fall, Pootoogook will travel farther than she ever has from Cape Dorset, to an artist's residency in Scotland, sponsored by liquor giant Glenfiddich.  Her work was coolly received at first in her small community, whose carvers, many a generation older than her, sell their work at tourist shops all over the world. "Initially, it was looked at as, `why would you draw like that? Why ... these difficult subjects?'" said Nancy Campbell, who curated the Power Plant show. "Now that she's become more and more successful, that's changed."

This past year, Pootoogook imitators have been proliferating up north. "People are starting to see that you don't need to do the dancing bear carvings to be interesting, or successful. So they're very proud of her now," Campbell said.  It's a heady rush for an artist who started drawing less than 10 years ago. But Pootoogook is the third generation of women artists in her family, all of whom have garnered acclaim.  Her grandmother Pitseolak Ashoona was a master printmaker who worked with traditional Inuit forms, depicting the old ways.  Her mother Napachie Pootoogook broke with traditional forms — and market expectations — turning to the darker realities of hardship in the north.  Toward the end of her life, Napachie, who died in 2002, was fearless in her work, bluntly implying the dark realities of Inuit women in their unstable and impoverished society. Rape, suicide and abuse are recurring themes, baring a pain buried for years in the culture's exported artistic expression.  From her mother, she learned to speak the truth. "She watched her mother draw a lot, and she asked her what's this, and what's happening," Pudlat translated. "She would explain everything to her."  Annie's truth is not always so dark. At the Power Plant, bleak scenes of social trauma share space with the simple mundanity of everyday life.  These quiet pieces do as much to dismantle sentimental notions of the northern exotic as any of her more confrontational work. In contemporary consumer culture, daily life has a sameness, it seems, whether in Toronto or Cape Dorset.  In much of her work, a simple domesticity rules. A woman snoozes in bed, her head resting on her husband's chest as he watches late-night blue movies. Inuit families shop at the Co-op store, buy frozen foods, withdraw cash from an ATM. A still-life of an open box of Ritz crackers and a cup of tea depict a favourite northern snack.  In one scene, a woman chats on a cellphone while a seal is carved into meal-sized portions on her kitchen floor. The only polar bear seen here is not the great beast of a heroic hunting scene, but an errant one, tipping over a garbage can outside Pootoogook's home.  The mundane is shocking in her world, her truth.  "That's the perception of the people in the south: Everyone thinks what they see in the more traditional Inuit art is what's real," she said, through Pudlat. "But that's in the past now. She wants to draw today."


Wellington's Quiet Victory

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jun. 24, 2006) Toronto needs more streets like Baldwin St. Two blocks of that street, between St. George and McCaul, have always managed a laidback, village-like atmosphere — with good multi-ethnic restaurants, shops and summer patios — despite being a stone's throw from College, Dundas and University.  Few other side streets come close to what Baldwin has achieved. There's Forest Hill Village, on a narrow section of Spadina Ave., which has the shops but not enough patios; there's the Esplanade, which has the patios but lacks the warmth; there's Kensington, which has its own brand of mayhem.  And then there's the stretch of Wellington St. between Spadina and Portland St., which seems like a most unlikely candidate for destination status: It's too wide, it has too few mature trees, too many parking lots and uninspiring architecture.  Yet it's a pleasant break from the overcharged scene of King St. West area and the traffic is relatively nonexistent. It's far nicer to sit on a patio here than to inhale taxi fumes on King. So new businesses are cashing in: Le Select Bistro opened its gorgeous new location late last year; patrons are already swarming the patio at the recently licensed, attractive Bar Wellington, with a relaxed, parasol-shaded niche on the corner, across from a quiet park and a new apartment block.  Sure, it's no Baldwin — the wide-open spaces and parking lots remain — but in a city lacking in laidback, we take what we can get.

Walk Of Fame Adds Diddy, Mariah And Foxx

Excerpt from

(June 26, 2006) *Another milestone has been added to the explosive careers of mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Grammy vet Mariah Carey and Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx. The world famous Hollywood Walk of Fame announced Friday that the three entertainers are among the 23 chosen to receive stars along Hollywood Blvd. in 2007.   "It's beyond my wildest dreams to think that one day I'm going to be walking down the street and walk past all the different great names, Sidney Poitier to Oprah Winfrey to Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart," Diddy told of the honour. "Just to see my name down there. It's really an honour, it's really humbling." Diddy, Carey and Foxx were among 200 nominees submitted to the Walk of Fame committee for consideration. The final list, as ratified by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce board of directors, also includes Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Lauren Shuler Donner, John Goodman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Altman, Erik Estrada, Kiefer Sutherland, Jerry Stiller, Dick Wolf, The Doors, Crystal Gayle, Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain, Tim Rice, Lily Tomlin and Stu Nahan. "It's a privilege to honour these performers," said Walk of Fame committee chairman Johnny Grant. "I'm sure their fans and supporters will enjoy attending the induction ceremonies on Hollywood Boulevard."

Tom Green's On-Line Call-In Show An Instant Hit

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Jun. 27, 2006) Denver -- Tom Green can't get enough. Less than two weeks after started streaming Green's live call-in show from his Hollywood Hills, Calif., living room, the Ottawa-raised Green is turning the weekly show into a nearly nightly deal. Denver-based ManiaTV will broadcast four original shows a week, with a fifth night of either a repeat or an original episode. More footage could air on Green's own website. ManiaTV expects five million viewers for its site for July. AP

More Entertainment Dollars Heading Out The Door

Source: Canadian Press

(June 28, 2006) A new study suggests Canadian households have been devoting more and more of their budgets to four key entertainment services outside the home, but the amount they spend on such services is still less than 0.5 per cent of overall household spending. Households spent $3.2-billion in 2003 attending movies, performing arts, and spectator sports events and visiting heritage institutions, up 41 per cent from 1998. On average, each household spent $273 on these entertainment services outside the home. For every dollar of this amount, they spent just under 40 cents on movies, 31 cents on live performing arts, 17 cents on sports and 13 cents on heritage institutions. The $273 that the average household spent on these entertainment services in 2003 represented a sharp 31 per cent increase from 1998, well above the overall 19 per cent increase in the average household's spending on all goods and services. Average spending on live sports events increased 44 per cent between 1998 and 2003, the fastest growth rate among the four services, while growth was slowest for heritage institutions. The study found entertainment spending was lowest in Atlantic Canada, where the average household spent $189 in 2003, and it was highest in Ontario, where households spent $326 on entertainment services outside the home.


 New Bruins GM Talking To Quinn

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(Jun. 27, 2006) BOSTON — The Boston Bruins relieved Mike Sullivan of his coaching duties Tuesday in an announcement that was hardly surprising given the team has been interviewing candidates to replace him.  New Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has interviewed former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn and former Detroit Red Wings coach Dave Lewis and planned to speak to other candidates as well.  The announcement Tuesday was made by Bruins interim GM Jeff Gorton as Chiarelli remains under contract with Ottawa until July 15.  “Peter had not met Mike prior to coming to Boston and he felt that it was incumbent upon him to get to know Mike before making a decision on the coaching situation,” Gorton said in a statement. ``Mike went to Ottawa a couple of weeks ago and they had a good discussion about the game and how it needed to be played in order to have success. Peter advised Mike that he would be talking to other candidates. He went through that process and his decision was that at this time we are better served to have a clean slate.  “Peter communicated to us that he has talked to candidates and expects to give us his decision on a new head coach in the near future,” added Gorton.  Sullivan, 38, became the 26th coach in Bruins history in June 2003. He went 70-56-15-23 for a .543 win percentage over his two seasons behind the Boston bench, including a 41-19-15-7 record during his first season in 2003-04, the top record in the Northeast Division and the second-best record in the Eastern Conference that season.  But the Bruins were upset by Montreal in 2004 playoffs and last season missed the post-season after going 29-37-16.

Wives Deciding Athletes' Moves - Reported To Be Behind Trade Talks

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Mark Zwolinski, Sports Reporter

(Jun. 27, 2006) Oilers Chris Pronger and Mike Peca have reportedly had enough of Edmonton, in part because their wives are unhappy living in the city.  Bryan McCabe hit a glitch in an all-but-signed $28.75 million deal with the Leafs because his wife apparently does not want to spend five years in Toronto.  It's become increasingly evident that the lives of pro-team athletes earning millions of dollars have come into the 21st century, where wives, just as in normal families, help make influential decisions, including where their husbands spend their careers.  "I think the sophistication of wives and girlfriends has gone up over the years. ... The majority of them are extremely bright and motivated to contribute to their communities," said Cal Botterill, a sports psychology professor at the University of Winnipeg.  There are about half a million active and retired sports wives and more than 700,000 pro athletes in North America, according to figures from the Professional Sports Wives Association (PSWA), an organization that provides sports wives with self-help and motivational articles, from child upbringing and financial planning to security and loneliness.  Botterill, who has also served as a consultant to five NHL teams and eight Canadian Olympic teams, said that while most pro teams extend programs and staff to wives to help acclimatize them to their cities, the efforts are often not enough to erase the problems they face.  "One thing society doesn't see is the security issue. Who else do we know has their husband's schedule published in the newspaper?" said Botterill. "The one thing I saw in my experience is that as much as there is glory, it's scary ... people know when your husband is out of town."

The Blue Jays management staff includes a coordinator devoted to players' wives.  Concerns such as travel, child care at the park and family planning are covered. The feature is used by the team to help attract free agents to the city.  "It's like any family situation now. There are wives that need to be heard and the wife has a big say in (her) husband's life," Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said.  "A lot depends on what the hopes and expectations are for the entire family when you deal with an athlete. ... For any of us (in pro sports management) to sit there and say the wife doesn't matter is basically keeping our head in the sand."  Leafs GM John Ferguson said an integral part of any pro team is dedication to a player's family.  "That kind of support is always a factor in anyone's ability to be at their best," he said.  Former Raptors GM Glen Grunwald developed a pro-Toronto videotape and included it in a kit distributed to the wives of new players to promote a comfort level with the city.  "These players are such solid people and a large part of that is because they have such a strong support group behind them," said Kim Amirault, a sports psychology professor at the University of Calgary.  "They (wives and family) are the team within a team as we like to call them."  Botterill said a key factor to pro teams avoiding unhappy athlete marriages is helping the wives establish their own identity.  "It can be a little discouraging for a team and its community because they'd like to see players and their families settle down and become part of the community, but that doesn't always happen," he said.

"It's too bad because I think those issues can polarize the (fans). I'm sure it's (an issue) in Edmonton with the public and the organization (the Pronger and Peca trade demands).  "Having been involved in it, I can only say that the happiness of wives and girlfriends is very important."  The PSWA recently featured the theme of identity in its magazine for players' wives with a profile on Alison Mahay, the wife of Texas Rangers reliever Ron Mahay, who opened a shop for children's athletic clothing with three other major league wives.

Raptors Will Use First Pick

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Doug Smith, Sports Reporter

(Jun. 27, 2006) Having sifted through countless trade propositions and had more telephone conversations than he can possibly remember, Bryan Colangelo is certain today of one thing:  Toronto will make the No. 1 selection in Wednesday's NBA draft.  "There was nothing we felt was enough to change our course," the team's president and general manager said today. "The offers were not of the calibre we thought was enough to move the pick."  So Colangelo goes into tomorrow's draft with two prospective selections for the first No. 1 draft pick in franchise history.  He wouldn't divulge who they are but informed speculation would say the decision has come down to 7-foot Italian Andrea Bargnani and 7-foot Texan LaMarcus Aldridge, who are seen as far and away the best big men available.  If there is a long shot at No. 1, it would be Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison, thought to be the most NBA-ready of the draft prospects, while Villanova guard Randy Foye wowed the Raptors in his private workout for the team but not enough to make him the top choice overall.  Colangelo said he will be fielding calls and listening to more offers right up until the draft but that with all the conversations he's had already, he thinks he's heard the best that other teams had to offer.  "There have been some interesting and unique offers out there," the general manager said.  In a new wrinkle, Colangelo said he is trying to obtain a second pick in the top 10 of the first round without giving up the No. 1 selection. Which player he's trying to move in order to make the deal is unknown but Charlie Villanueva would be a logical choice given his age, his promise as a player and his relatively inexpensive salary.  Colangelo said what everyone had been speculating: That it would take a player of all-star calibre for him to give up the No. 1 choice and move right out of the draft; it would take a player of above-average ability and a draft pick to move back into the middle of the top 10 selections.

And the thought that Toronto could move back to somewhere around No. 5, 6, or 7 and still be able to draft Bargnani is simply wrong, the general manager said.  "He's gone (by then), he's off the board. There are a lot of teams that do have an interest in him," the general manager said.  Because the Raptors own the first pick and can determine their own fate, Colangelo said any thought that he might be putting out disinformation about his thoughts doesn't make much sense. If he keeps the pick, he's going to get the guy he wants to there's no need to purposely mislead other general managers.  "Sometimes in this game, telling the truth is the best smokescreen of all," he said.  Either Bargnani or Aldridge, both 20 years old, would fit a glaring need for big men that exists on the Raptor roster right now. Even with the acquisition last week of centre Rasho Nesterovic, Toronto really has only Chris Bosh and Nesterovic who could be considered capable centres in the NBA. They dealt away Rafael Araujo for Kris Humphries, who is more of a power forward than a centre, Loren Woods is a free agent who won't be invited back and the returning Pape Sow is far from big enough to play more than limited minutes against bona fide NBA big men.

Raptors Look To Build Team With Diversity

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Doug Smith, Sports Reporter

(Jun. 27, 2006) In the cultural mosaic that is Toronto, the Raptors are gaining footholds everywhere.  And in the changing world of the NBA, they are making bold statements about truly becoming the league's international franchise.  The assistant general manager is from Italy, the new centre is from Slovenia, one of the point guards is from Spain and a backup big man calls Senegal home.  They may indeed pick an Italian with the first selection in tomorrow's draft, one of the free agents they'll pursue this summer is another Spaniard and they've got a guy from Croatia and another from Slovenia waiting in the wings.  If it's all part of Bryan Colangelo's master plan to turn the franchise into the United Nations of professional sports, and the president and GM is well on his way to accomplishing that goal.  And the best thing about the city is the level of diversity.  "I think Toronto is a good city for that, a lot of nationalities, international people living here," Rasho Nesterovic, the Slovenian centre obtained late last week said at the Air Canada Centre yesterday. "It's a big international city ... it's going to help a lot."  Maurizio Gherardini, who is now Colangelo's right-hand man as vice-president and assistant general manager, said the fact Toronto's as cosmopolitan as it is was a big selling point when the job was offered.  "I like the town, the town is beautiful," Gherardini said yesterday. "I've been here before. I like the love for basketball, the possibilities that we have to do a lot of things in basketball; there is a lot of upside in this situation.

"I think it's a very great situation. It's an international city. Somehow, I feel closer to Europe than any other place in the NBA. Putting all these things together made my decision easier and this opportunity special."  Colangelo has said from the time he was hired that he wanted to build a model franchise for the future of the NBA in Toronto and tapping into the international scene in a large way is a bold move in that direction.  And a team that already has Spain's Jose Calderon and Senegal's Pape Sow on the roster, with its eyes on Spain's Jorge Garbajosa as a summer free agent. Former second round picks Roko Ukic (Croatia) and Uros Slokar (Slovenia) are also in the mix, so it makes sense that Italy's Andrea Bargnani would be a huge consideration for either the No.1 selection tomorrow or to be taken slightly later if there's a trade to be made.  Gherardini, who was the general manager of Bargnani's Benetton Treviso team for the past 14 years, was singing the praises of the 7-foot, 20-year-old yesterday.  "I think he's a very unusual Italian in terms of working approach," Gherardini said of Bargnani. "He's got the pro approach, he's very determined.  He knows where he wants to get to. You tell him, 'work on this part of the game or we want something like this' and he's one of those players who has the gift to do it kind of quickly.  "To me, he's got everything to be a successful player. I can't say more."  Word around the NBA yesterday was that Colangelo was actively seeking to either trade back for a player and a lottery pick or deal to obtain a second, high first-round pick. If he's looking to simply pick up another selection in the top 10 or so, it's likely he's dangling Charlie Villanueva as bait.  One thing is for sure, there are still many rumours to circulate and speculation to be made before the general manager makes up his mind.  "If Toronto keeps the pick, I think they'll take Aldridge," one NBA executive said yesterday. "But they're still trying to move down and take Bargnani, they think they can get him at 5-6-7 (somewhere) in that range."

Raptors Sign Sophomores Villanueva, Graham

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(Jun. 27, 2006) The Toronto Raptors have secured sophomores Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham, signing the pair of forwards through the 2008-09 season.  The Raptors had until Oct. 31 to exercise their options on Villanueva and Graham in accordance with the NBA's collective bargaining agreement. Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo has said he wants to build the team around his young core of Villanueva, Graham and Chris Bosh.  The first of two Raptors' first-round draft picks in 2005 (seventh overall), Villanueva averaged 13.0 points and 6.4 rebounds in 81 games last season, including 36 starts.  He set team rookie records for points in a game with 48 and rebounds with 18. Villanueva finished the season second on the team in rebounds and double-doubles (12).  He was selected to play in the rookie game at all-star weekend in Houston, where he scored 18 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. Villanueva also earned NBA all-rookie first team honours.  Graham was selected by Toronto in the first round (16th overall) of the 2005 draft, and averaged 6.7 points and 3.1 rebounds in 80 games, including 24 as a starter.  He scored a career-best 19 points and finished the season fifth among rookies in field goal percentage at .478 and sixth in free throw percentage.

Knicks Give Thomas 1-Year Ultimatum

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Jun. 27, 2006) NEW YORK—Isiah Thomas has one year to turn around the Knicks — something Larry Brown couldn't do. If he can't, Thomas will be gone, too.  "I'm saying this right with Isiah here. This is his team," Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan said yesterday. "He made this bed. There's nobody better than him to make this thing go forward.  "But he has to do that and he has one year, one season to do that. At this time next year Isiah will be with us if we can all sit here and say that this team has made significant progress towards its goal of eventually becoming an NBA championship team. If we can't say that, then Isiah will not be here."  The remarks by Dolan were his first since firing Brown on Thursday and replacing him with Thomas, the team president and general manager.  New York was 23-59 under Brown.


Wave Bye Bye To Flabby Arms

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

My Wave Bye–Bye To Flabby Arms workout series continues to receive great reviews. I just love when I receive emails telling me to not just focus on butt, hips and abs, that women want great arms, too!  The good news is anyone can sculpt a tighter set of arms. The not-so-good news is, you have to do the work and you have to maintain consistency and patience. You’ll need to reduce overall body fat levels through your eDiets nutrition program. eDiets members already know that the customized meal plans are convenient and produce results. Don’t take this point lightly -- sleek arms will not come to you without a nutrition program that provides the correct amount of calories.  I’ve designed a simple program for creating tighter arms that can be performed right in your own home. So if your goal is to show off tight yet feminine arms in a sleeveless dress, then you’ve come to the right place. Many of my customized workouts are based on years of my own personal experience as well as trial and error with my personal training clients. The muscles we’ll be focusing on will be the triceps (back of the arm) and the biceps (front of the arm just below the front of the shoulder). However, I’ve also included an exercise that may surprise you.  You’ll be performing a tri-set, which means three exercises in a row without any rest. Select a weight that’s challenging, focus on impeccable form and concentrate on the muscle you’re working.

The Wave Bye-Bye Workout

Dumbbell Cross Body Triceps Extension

You’ll really like the way the back of your arms feel when performing this movement.
Starting Position:
·  Lie on your back on a flat bench with your spine in a neutral position.
·  Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and place your left hand at your side.
·  The right arm should be straight up toward the ceiling with a slight bend in the elbow.
·  Bend your arm at the elbow across your body until your elbow is at a 90-degree angle.
·  Contracting the triceps muscles, slowly return to the starting position.
·  After completing the set on the right side, repeat on the left side.
Key Points:
·  Inhale while bending your arm.
·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.
·  Your upper arm should remain stationary throughout the exercise.
·  Use light weights when trying this exercise for the first time.

Perform 12 to 15 repetitions and immediately go to the next exercise.

Barbell Double Biceps Curl

Please don't be afraid of the word "barbell." A barbell will not cause bulky arms to develop unless you’re eating above maintenance calories and lifting very heavy weights.
Starting Position:
·  Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in the knees.
·  Hold the barbell with both hands shoulder width apart, a slight bend in the elbows and palms facing away from your body. The barbell should be resting lightly on your thighs.
·  Keep your shoulder blades contracted throughout the range of motion.
·  Contracting the biceps muscles, raise the barbell toward the shoulders keeping the upper arm stationary and elbows close to the body stopping just short of the barbell touching your shoulders.
·  Slowly return to the starting position.
Key Points:
·  Exhale as you raise the weight.
·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.
Perform 12 to 15 repetitions and immediately go to the next exercise.

Bent Knee Push-up

This is the surprise exercise I mentioned. At first glance one might think this is simply a chest exercise. However, we want to focus on the most efficient movements to attain those great looking arms. The Bent Knee Push -- up will work your biceps, triceps, chest, shoulder and back to some degree. It's all encompassing and very effective. You'll also notice that I place it after the arm specific exercises above. I'm following this flow to force your body to work a little harder at this point. Perform 8-10 repetitions. If you can’t get that many, don’t worry. Just keep practicing and the reps will improve.

Starting Position:
·  Start with your hands and knees on a mat. Your hands should be shoulder width apart and your head, neck, hips and legs should be in a straight line. Do not let your back arch and cave in.
·  Maintain a slight bend in the elbows.
·  Lower your upper body by bending your elbows outward stopping before your face touches the floor.
·  Contracting the chest muscles, slowly return to the starting position.
Key Points:
·  Inhale while lowering your body.
·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.
·  After mastering this exercise, you may wish to try the full push up.

All three exercises are considered one cycle. Beginners should perform one cycle on three alternate days of the week. Intermediates should perform two cycles on three alternate days of the week and advanced exercisers -- three cycles. Wait one minute between cycles before repeating.  You still need to perform strength training for your entire body as well as cardiovascular exercise. However, if you incorporate the above specialty arm workout routine, you’ll see some great results.  If you enjoy the animated exercise demos, join eDiets fitness program and enjoy the more than 200 exercises with animations and complete descriptions.  

Now, isn’t it time to say bye-bye to those flabby arms once and for all? Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.


Motivational Note: How Are You Today?

Excerpt from - - by Jewel Diamond Taylor,

The other morning I woke up with some pressing issues on my mind and then... I read some of your e-mails. So many were full of love and gratitude. My heart was stirred and tears of joy and sadness flowed. Some of you are really going through some tough times and some of you are sharing your praise reports of taking action, walking by faith and persevering in spite of your obstacles and disappointments. As I read your inspiring stories of strength, endurance and inspiration, I am reminded that I won't complain and that I am too blessed to be stressed. It is a choice to rejoice and it's a choice to hold my head up high or hold it down. I believe the enemy does not want our home, car, money, degree, status or diamonds. The destroyer of life really desires our faith, joy, peace, praise and worship, gratitude, perseverance and our destiny. Every moment...every and I can choose what we will allow to steal our peace of mind. Every day "stuff" is happening all around us in our homes, job, community, church and in the world news. The bitter and sweet, the good and bad are happening all at the same time. It's just that some days the bad stuff makes more noise. We are challenged on every side to stay in the light. We are challenged to stay in peace instead of falling to pieces. We are challenged to get up and be proactive instead of being procrastinators, worriers and hopeless victims. We are reminded to count our blessings and not our burdens. We are reminded to be compassionate of others. We should know that if we worry...don't even pray. If we pray and take action...don't worry. One cancels out the other. Whatever you are going and growing through...don't give up. Something great is about to happen. What a mighty God we serve!