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Updated:  March 16, 2006

We're well into March now and soon it will be spring ... right? Well, this week has soooo much news in every category - there's some big stuff in here this week so please feel free to have a look ok?

I have a special CD giveaway this week - Papa San, who gives us reggae gospel. This unique body of work is yours if two of you can answer what the name of his CD is (check under TOP STORIES). CLICK HERE to enter!

Mark your calendars for a special night - the Harlem Gospel Choir on March 6th! All details below under EVENTS.
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.


Papa San – Real and Personal

Source:  Sony/BMG Music Canada
 In Jamaican culture, and the reggae music of the last two decades, few names shine as brightly as that of
Papa San.  In the early 1980s, Papa San was putting a highly rhythmic and rapped spin on the traditionally melodic Reggae groove of Bob Marley, as well as others.   Papa San was often improvisational, intricate and extremely instrumental in forging what today is known as Dancehall Music. Papa San’s irresistible style of rhythm and wordplay became, and remains today, his trademark to millions of fans the world over!   On his new project, Real & Personal, Papa San continues his exploration of faith-based themes in his fresh, sonically entertaining style for reggae fans everywhere. The CD, produced by Papa San, Eddie Perez, Maurice Gregory and Rohan Harrison, is notable in its musical accessibility and recognizable rapid-fire lyrics along with solo highlights by special guests.

ole Signs Billboard Chart-Topping Ghetto Classics Collaborator To Multi-Year Deal

 Source:  ole
 (MARCH 13, 2006) TORONTO: ole, Canada's largest independent music publisher, is thrilled  to announce the signing of songwriter Derek Brin -- currently riding a  hot streak as a co-author of Jaheim's "Daddy Thing," a cut on the New  Jersey R&B singer's recent No. 1 Billboard album Ghetto Classics --  to  a three-year deal. The Toronto-based Brin, president of Fierce Music Entertainment  Inc., is one of those exceptional multi-hyphenate talents --  producer/songwriter/engineer/film and video game composer/talent  developer/up-and-coming fashion designer -- who has amassed an  extensive list of gold, platinum and multi-platinum credits throughout  his career. His songwriting, programming and production work with such  artists as Billie ("Makin' My Way (Any Way That I Can)" from the  million-selling Top 10 soundtrack Pokemon: The First Movie), platinum  Canadian Idols Kalan Porter and Ryan Malcolm, R&B sensations Robyn and  Kelly Price and the phenomenal gold songstress Keshia Chanté has  brought him recognition in international circles.
 Schooled in percussion and piano, Brin has not only produced,  mixed and remixed over 85 albums, but has also scored music to over  1500 television projects ranging from movies and episodic series to  song placements in such popular programs as Traders, Psi-Factor and  Blue Murder. "Derek is a significant pop and urban songwriter who also offers  an extensive film and television body of musical work," says Ivan  Berry, ole senior partner, International. "In the past few years, Derek has made an amazing impact on the  Caribbean Soca and calypso charts and I'm pleased to announce that this  deal also includes Derek's future work over the next three years." Co-founder and principle member of the Carib-Soca band Neu  Jenarashun, Brin has served as programmer for songwriter Diane Warren  ("I Don't Want To Miss A Thing", "Unbreak My Heart"); songwriter and  producers Guy Roche (Cher, Céline Dion, Brandy, "What A Girl Wants");  Jud Friedman (James Ingram, Ray Charles, Chaka Khan); Allan Rich  (Whitney Houston, 'NSYNC, Natalie Cole); Dan Hill ("Sometimes When We  Touch," "Can't We Try") and Jörgen Elofsson (Britney Spears, Il Divo). Currently Brin is enjoying success with his work on "Daddy  Thing," his collaboration with songwriter Balewa Muhammad ("Dirrty")  and Trakaddix's Tommy Oliveira ("Still Ghetto") that's on Jaheim's  chart-topping album Ghetto Classics. It's not the first time he's tasted top-drawer status: In 2000,  Brin topped the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart with the  Kristine W. hit "Stronger."
 More recently, Brin partnered with Rhode Island production team  Trakaddix and is developing Australian NuUrban wonder Che'Nelle with  Sir Charles Dixon for her upcoming Virgin Records debut later this  year. Derek Brin is also developing a stable of Caribbean artists for  his own Fierce Entertainment Inc., including Antigua's Kenne Bless,  Barbados' Olivia Waithe, Trinidad's Precious and St. Kitts' Jermul as  well as Toronto-based former In Essence singer Dru. Such networks as PBS, The Playboy Channel, the CBC, Global,  HGTV, CFMT, The Life Network and WTN in North America and SACM in  Mexico and APRA in Australia have licensed his music. Brin has also provided stock music for TM Century (Imagio  Collection),  Water Music and Nightingale Music, and music assembly and  editing for corporate clients ranging from McDonald's and Western Union  to the Toronto Sun and CHCH TV. For the past two years, The Bell  Mobility Celebrity Gala has relied on Derek Brin to create and provided  all music and performance tracks for Canada's largest charity event. Branching out into ringtones and other 3G media, Brin recently  completed his first video game score with Nayan Williams for Digital  Extremes/Brain Box Games Marine Heavy Gunner and is aggressively  hunting for future projects. Brin is setting another precedent: He's the first ole family  member poised to launch his own line of clothing called RASSWEAR,  demonstrating a versatility and ambition that fits perfectly with ole  philosophy.
 "We're extremely excited to welcome Derek Brin to the ole  roster," says Robert Ott, ole co-founder and managing partner. "Derek is a proven, world-class songwriter whose aggressive work  ethic is exactly aligned with the spirit at ole." For his part, the Toronto-born Brin is also elated to join the  ole family.  “I think what ole has accomplished in its first year is  amazing," said Brin. "Being a Canadian songwriter/producer, I’m  grateful to be part of a team that I can learn from, contribute to and  with whom I can enjoy worldwide success."
 about ole
 ole is a multi-national, Canadian-owned, full-service independent music  publisher with offices in Toronto, Los Angeles, London and Nashville.  Founded by Robert Ott (former VP/GM BMGMP Canada) and Tim Laing, the  company has initial financing of over $100 million dollars. ole boasts  an experienced team of some 18 industry professionals involved in  acquisitions, creative development and administration worldwide. The  ole catalogue includes over twenty thousand songs across all genres  ranging from pop, to country, to urban to rhythm & blues and soul. ole  has completed some 21MM USD in new acquisitions over the past year  including purchases of the, Balmur, Encore, Keith Follese, Dream  Warriors and David Tyson catalogues. Recent cuts include the lead-off  single "Shoes" by Shania Twain from Music Inspired by Desperate  Housewives, Sean Paul’s “Change The Game” and "He Ain’t Even Cold Yet"  by Gretchen Wilson. Additionally, ole has concluded publishing  administration agreements with film and television producers Nelvana,  Shaftesbury Films, Arcadia Entertainment, Devine Entertainment and  Slanted Wheel. ole is the Canadian administrator for the prestigious  Arc Music Group, a catalogue that includes songs by Jerry Butler, Chuck  Berry, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley and Otis Rush. The company has  signed songwriters Gerald O'Brien, Derek Brin, John Wesley Chisholm,  Ben Dunk, James Huff and Scarlett and struck a co-venture deal with  Last Gang Publishing a division of Last Gang Records bringing West  Coast rocker Panurge and Kinnie Starr to the roster. ole also recently  announced another co-venture with Roots Three Music, which includes  songwriters Denny Carr, Chris Thornsteinson and Dave Wasyliw. At ole  the goal is to be the home for the best songwriters, composers,  management talent and intellectual property investors and the first  choice music source for creators in all media. The ole website can be  found at

Pink: Fourth Album Exposes Maturity

 Excerpt from - Tamara Conniff
(Mar. 10, 2006) Alecia Moore's father is a Vietnam veteran and a staunch Republican. She is a devout Democrat. There was a point when their political differences almost ruined their relationship, until they decided not to talk about the war in Iraq, abortion, the government's failure to locate Osama bin Laden or any of President Bush's speeches or initiatives.   Then, Moore —- known to the world as Pink -— wrote a simple song called "Dear Mr. President" with songwriter/producer Billy Mann. Taking a young girl's perspective, Moore sings: "Dear Mr. President/What do you feel when you see all the homeless in the street?/Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep?/What do you feel when you look in the mirror?/Are you proud?"  "This is one of the smarter songs I've ever written," Moore says. "My way is usually waving the flag and saying, 'You're wrong, burn in hell.' This is subtle and provocative, and it's very innocent."  "Dear Mr. President," which features the Indigo Girls, may never be released as a commercial single, but Zomba Label Group president/CEO Barry Weiss says it will surely get critical acclaim and buzz.  
 "I'm Not Dead," Moore's fourth album, will be released April 4 in the U.S. via La Face/Zomba and April 3 internationally. Weiss says Moore has matured with this release -- as a singer and a songwriter. "She is among the best singers in the world, and people don't really realize it."    Above all, this album is pure Pink: rebellious and beautiful.   Not to worry -- Moore does take out her flag and attack stereotypes and negative images. The album's first single, "Stupid Girls," is an assault on Hollywood's obsession with thin, blonde and beautiful. In the video, which more than 8.6 million people downloaded as soon as it was available on the Internet, Moore mocks the likes of Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, among others -- and in a very telling scene, shows the repulsiveness and destructiveness of bulimia.  In fact, shortly after the video was released, the International Assn. of Eating Disorder Professionals issued a statement saying the song "highlights the culture's relentless and unrealistic pursuit of thinness and unattainable drive for physical beauty."   Moore, sitting in a New York bar, bounces in her chair and sips a glass of red wine. She is excited that "Stupid Girls," a song she fought for, a song her label did not want to release as the first single, is inspiring dialogue and raising awareness. It is healing for her, because she suffers, too. Moore has "fat days." She has days when she gets depressed and feels like she is not good enough. She is not superhuman, she is honest. She says writing and singing about it is cathartic. She wants young women to know they are not alone.  "I'm not trashing everyone in 12 tracks," she says. "I don't pick a different group to trash [in] each song. Most of the time, I'm just trashing myself."  The label changed its tune about "Stupid Girls" once it saw the video. "God, did she hit a chord," Weiss says.  Zomba Label Group senior VP of marketing Janet Kleinbaum says that because Moore is such a visual artist, the label actually released the video before going to radio with "Stupid Girls."   "Radio programmers went online to download the audio from the video in order to get it on radio," Kleinbaum says. "Lyrically, it's an important voice for her. It's a topic that a lot of people have wanted to comment on, but haven't."  Moore admits, "The first single is always hard, because it's supposed to represent a record that pretty much is like the first single. But with me, my only consistent thread is my voice, not even my humour is the same. My albums are just so eclectic. It's not all just funny, it's not all deep. It's everything in between."  
 Moore's breakthrough album was her 2001 sophomore release "M!ssundaztood," which sold more than 5.2 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Her next effort, "Try This," which hit stores in 2004, only sold 701,000 copies.   "'Try This' was my rebellion against deadlines," she says. "Fine, you want your f***ing records, I'll write 10 songs in a week, and you can press it and put it out. I don't have to think about it, I don't have to get emotionally invested. I was tired of talking about divorce. I was tired of talking about my life and talking about being lonely. I walked out of half of my interviews crying. I needed to coast for a while, and that's what I did."  Moore did not just coast -- she got back to herself; married her longtime boyfriend, motocross star Carey Hart; and spent time with her dogs. When she was ready, she headed back to the recording studio to make the album she wanted to make.   For Moore, the most fulfilling part of recording "I'm Not Dead" was her father's reaction to "Dear Mr. President."  "I saw goose bumps on his arms," Moore recalls. "He said, 'I feel like I'm back in the '60s. Isn't it great that you live in a country where you can say those things and they can be heard? Good for you for exercising the right that we fought for.'"  In Moore's view, "Bush is the worst president the United States has ever had." After hearing "Dear Mr. President," her father told her, "I think you're right."

Walk Of Fame Inductees Include Game-Show Host

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Mar. 9, 2006) Actress Pamela Anderson (above) and singer/songwriter (below) Jann Arden are among this year’s inductees into Canada’s Walk Of Fame. Visitors from around the world will soon walk all over Alex Trebek, Eugene Levy, and Pamela Anderson when their stars are set in stone on Canada’s Walk Of Fame in Toronto. Trebek, Levy and Anderson are among the Walk’s eight latest inductees, announced yesterday. In addition to getting a sidewalk star in Toronto’s entertainment district, they’ll be honoured at a June 3 gala at the Hummingbird Centre. New Walk of Famer Alex Trebek is so famous as the host of TV game-show Jeopardy, he’s played himself in scores of movie and television appearances. In a news release yesterday, Trebek expressed his feelings Jeopardy-style: “The answer is: this Sudbury native is very honoured and excited to be in the company of other Walk of Fame inductees,” he said. “The correct question, of course, is: ‘Who is me?’” Another star goes to comedian Eugene Levy, who used to spoof Trebek in SCTV skits where the contestants were so moronic he would furiously disconnect their buzzers. Levy later got into movies, and won a new generation of fans playing the inept father in American Pie. And Pamela Anderson, as a regular on Baywatch, helped millions of TV watchers around the world gain a greater insight into the issues facing beach rescue-workers. Since then she’s been all over movies and television shows, including V.I.P and Home Improvement. Canada’s Walk of Fame has celebrated the country’s celebrity class since 1998. This year’s other inductees are:

This year’s inductees will see their star embedded in the sidewalk in June, but only temporarily. This summer every star on the Walk will be dug up and replaced with something new and different.

Quinn Loses Friend, Mentor

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Mark Zwolinski, Sports Reporter
 (Mar. 10, 2006) Playing for the Atlanta Flames in the early to mid-1970s wasn't the ideal stop for an NHL player.  But for Leafs coach
Pat Quinn, a chance to play five seasons in the U.S. city with Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion as his coach left a lasting impression.  "I was fortunate to cross paths with him when he was a coach in Atlanta. He was a good experience in my life, one of the most up and caring guys I've ever met," Quinn said as the hockey world began mourning the loss of Geoffrion, who died of stomach cancer yesterday at age 75.  Quinn, who is guiding the Leafs through the toughest season of his six years behind the Toronto bench, was shocked to learn of Geoffrion's passing.  Most NHL teams were conducting their morning skates and were leaving the ice when news of Geoffrion's death, only a week after being diagnosed with his illness, arrived. The Canadiens had already planned to retire his No.5 sweater before last night's game in Montreal against the Rangers.  NHLers from Geoffrion's era have fond memories of the legendary Montreal forward who is credited with popularizing the slapshot. "I was a fan of his as a young player; you know, Doug Harvey and him used to be a great pair on the Montreal power play, they could really pass the puck around," Quinn said.  Quinn broke in with the Leafs in the late 1960s, then played on the inaugural Vancouver Canucks team in 1971 before moving on to Atlanta.  During the three seasons that Geoffrion coached the Flames (1972-75), he developed a close bond with Quinn that would later have an influence on his coaching style.
 "I have more vivid memories of his sense of humour and how he really cared for his players and, in a caring fashion, motivated his guys to play beyond where they might be playing at the time," Quinn said.  "For a short period of time, as much as a player and coach could be, we were friends."  Quinn and the Leafs were in Montreal last October in a game that was marked with a ceremony to honour Geoffrion, Yvon Cournoyer and Henri Richard. Geoffrion made his way over to the Leafs bench where he and Quinn hugged, sharing a moment only they understood.  "I watched how he treated people," Quinn said yesterday, referring to a lesson he learned from Geoffrion.  "I felt it was an important way to help teamwork. Coaches in those days didn't care as much as they do now about systems ... they coached the people they had in the room."  Similar sentiments flowed from all corners of the NHL yesterday, including Atlanta, where Thrashers coach Bob Hartley credited Geoffrion with helping shape his own career.  "Boom Boom was an incredible man who meant a great deal to me and I'm fortunate to have called him a friend and mentor," Hartley said in a statement.  "I'm sincerely honoured to be a part of the same coaching fraternity and to follow his lead as an NHL head coach in Atlanta."


Matthew Lien: Yukon Gold

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill
 (Mar. 11, 2006) VANCOUVER — Unless you live in Whitehorse, you've probably never heard of Matthew Lien, the Yukon-based musician and environmental activist who incorporates the sounds of rolling icebergs, calving glaciers and fierce peregrine falcons attacking grizzly bears into his classical and pop world-beat recordings. Why would you? In Canada, the experimental self-producer doesn't even have a distribution deal.
  Yet over in Taiwan, where Lien's instrumental albums top the charts and concerts pack stadiums with more than 30,000 fans, he's a superstar bigger than Jesus. Or at least that's the cheeky message of a new ad campaign in which he stars as the poster boy for the latest brand of suds from Taiwan's largest brewery. The Last Supper billboard is a takeoff of the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece. Now rolling out in Taiwan, it features the long-haired, bearded 40-year-old at a table surrounded by funky, young apostles drinking Gold Medal King, a new brand of all-natural, rice-fortified beer from Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp. (TTL). Just don't ask me to turn rice into beer," Lien says with a laugh over the phone from Taipei, where he lives part-time, has a small recording studio and drinks his fair share of Taiwanese beer. Lien says he was initially concerned that some people might be offended by the ad, part of a huge promotional campaign that includes more eco-friendly 30-second TV spots of him swimming, drinking and recording the sound of a waterfall in Taiwan's rain forest. But he notes that this East Asian country, still considered a renegade province by the People's Republic of China, is not predominantly Christian. And to him, the Christ-figure promotion just sounded like a lot of fun. "The environmental and cultural issues I address can be quite serious, so I feel it's good to lighten things up from time to time," Lien explains.
 "And if everyone does their patriotic duty, then you never know. Maybe Taiwan could drink its way to independence," he laughs. Slightly chubby and teddy bear cuddly, Lien might not be as sexy as rock-and-roll singer Wu Bai, the company's previous celebrity spokesperson. But as TTL chairman Ray Dawn told the Taipei Times, he's confident they made the right choice. "We wanted to show how fresh the beer is and how natural the ingredients are. But more importantly, we wanted to use an international image to prove that Taiwan Beer is accepted by people everywhere, not only in Taiwan." Indeed, Lien says he's drunk so much of the stuff he should be given corporate shares. This is the first time the TTL, which accounts for 80 per cent of Taiwan's $1-billion-a-year (U.S.) beer market, has used a foreign face to advertise its products. Mind you, it wasn't much of a risk. In Taiwan, Lien is a household name with international album sales that typically outpace Celine Dion and Eric Clapton. For someone who first set foot in the country a mere 10 years ago, Lien's list of achievements in his adopted home away from home is phenomenal: Last year, he was the first foreigner to win a Golden Melody Award (Taiwan's equivalent of a Juno, and his second nomination). In 1999, after an earthquake devastated the island, he headlined a series of benefit concerts that raised more than $600,000 (U.S.) for relief efforts. In 2000, his music was performed at the inauguration ceremony for Democratic Progressive Party President Chen Shui-bian. Last fall, the Taiwan National Chinese Orchestra premiered his commissioned work, The Eternal Beauty of Taiwan, for a National Day celebration commemorating human rights. And thanks to his environmental commitments, he has been appointed a cultural ambassador by two provincial magistrates and the central government, and is now directly involved in the overhaul of the national park system to allow for aboriginal co-management. So why is his music so popular in Taiwan, while in Canada he remains virtually unrecognized, save for a few small awards? "Good question," he says laughing long and heartily. "I like to think it's just good music. On a more serious note, he says the appeal of his supernatural-sounding compositions might have something to do with the insular nature of the country. "Because of Taiwan's dilemma with China, it doesn't enjoy the same international connectedness. Diplomatically and geographically, it's a very inward-looking culture. Things are changing and people in Taiwan are very aware of what's going on around the world. But I suppose they appreciate the composed quality of my music. It expresses the sounds and feelings and emotions of a pure wilderness far away." Taiwan's love affair with Lien began in 1995, when Bleeding Wolves, Lien's second independently produced album, was picked up by a tiny Taiwanese record company at a trade conference in France. The album, a mournful lament inspired by the Yukon government's wolf-kill program, sped to the top of the charts, reaching multi-platinum status in Southeast Asia within a year of being released. (For its 10th anniversary, Lien remastered and re-released the album in 5.1 surround sound. Sales have already topped 10,000 units in Taiwan).
 His initial success was helped along by inmates at a federal penitentiary who had written a best-selling book about their emotional responses to his music. On his first trip to Taiwan, he performed a concert at the very same Tingwan Prison in the remote Penghu Islands. "It was like staging a prison break," Lien recalls. "Many of the inmates had their eyes closed as they listened. I can't tell you how incredibly rewarding that is -- using music to bring people into a beautiful place when their own place is so miserable." During the cross-country tour that followed, Lien performed in many small communities where Taiwanese musicians don't typically tread. Along the way, he picked up a strong following among aboriginal people, who had discovered a kindred spirit through their shared connection to the land. Lien himself is of Norwegian, German and Iroquois descent. His most recent release, the Golden Melody Award-winning A Journey of Water, was commissioned by the Yi-Lan provincial government. Two years in the making, the double-CD involved more than 90 musicians (including an old man singing in his tea field) and 100 hours of unique nature recordings. Seamlessly weaving traditional instruments with drips, gurgles and roars of water, it follows the pathway of the northeastern region's ecosystem, from the 3,000-year-old Cypress forests in the mountains of Chi-Lan, across the plains of Lan Yang and all the way down to volcanic vents, located 40 metres beneath the sea at Turtle Mountain Island. "The underground volcano is still spewing out gas and boiling hot water. It makes an unusual sound," explains the self-professed tech geek. "I had to find out if we could record it." Lien arranged the complicated ocean dive, using specially manufactured hydrophones with extra-long cables. But because sound frequencies move too fast underwater to discern location, the team didn't even know until they got back to the boat if they captured anything at all before the microphones melted. "It did work and it sounds so cool," Lien exclaims. "There is a story from that island about a great general being cast into the ocean by a dragon king. The thundering sound of the volcano is supposed to be his heart still pulsating. To hear it so clearly is amazing." Lien says he does find it somewhat perplexing that he hasn't received much recognition in Canada, where he's been making similar nature recordings since the 1980s. Originally from San Diego, he spent his summers in Whitehorse, where his father lived. At 16, the self-taught guitarist and pianist made a permanent move to the Yukon, surviving for many years by playing popular pub tunes in smoky bars. His profile in Canada is largely restricted to a comprehensive website,, but he is set to ramp up his Canadian visibility later this year to support the release of a new album. Arctic Refuge is his latest project for the Caribou Commons Project, a coalition of environmental and aboriginal representatives working to protect Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas development. "It's still in peril," Lien says, sounding deeply worried. But should he not succeed, he can always drown his sorrows in beer.

André Previn - Eclectic Musician Takes Gould

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

 (Mar. 15, 2006)
He plays both jazz and classical piano, has written music for stage, screen and concert hall. In the sixth decade of a distinguished musical career, and just weeks from his 77th birthday, André Previn may be slowing down physically, but his creative juices still flow strongly.  Previn was in Toronto yesterday to accept the seventh Glenn Gould Prize. The $50,000 award, bestowed every three years, recognizes people who have left a particularly big mark on Western music. Previous recipients include Oscar Peterson, Yo-Yo Ma and Pierre Boulez.  The ceremony was in the form of a concert, presented at the Glenn Gould Studio in the Canadian Broadcast Centre.  The roster of performers tackling Previn's compositions last night included Nicole Cabell, the soprano who won the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition last year, members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Tania Miller, jazz pianist Don Thompson and the Oliver Jones Trio.  Also present on stage was young Quebec pianist David Jalbert, accompanying the evening's other prize-winning guest, Romanian double bass player Roman Patkoló.  The Glenn Gould Foundation, set up in 1982 to keep Gould's legacy alive, asks its laureate to select the recipient of a $10,000 City of Toronto — Glenn Gould International Protegé Prize in Music and Communication. Previn chose Patkoló.  Previn's wife and regular collaborator, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, had heard Patkoló play and insisted that Previn witness the talent.  "He is one of the strongest string players I've ever heard," said Previn yesterday afternoon.  The composer in him was so impressed that he has just completed a double concert for violin and double bass, which will get its premiere next season. "It's a light-hearted piece and people will love him."
 Previn's family arrived in Los Angeles after leaving Germany via France just before World War II. As a teenager, he began to play jazz piano, arrange film scores and, at age 19, he took up conducting.  And although he has tended to focus on different aspects of music over time, his eclecticism has never changed.  "I'm just happy when people give me the opportunity to try different things," he said, summing up his approach to music.  Currently music director of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and busy playing and recording with ensembles big and small, Previn said he favours composing right now.  "When you're performing, you're hemmed in by geography, but when you're writing music you can do it anywhere — in a plane, in a hotel room, in a car," he said.  One of several current projects is a new opera. His first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire (adapted from Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play by Philip Littell) was premiered by San Francisco Opera in 1998, with American diva Renée Fleming in the role of Blanche Du Bois.  Rave reviews have kept Streetcar on marquees. "Just this week, the opera is in its 17th production by its 17th opera house. It's been such an unexpected pleasure," Previn said.  The second opera "is overdue," he said. "It's based on Brief Encounter, an old British film" from 1945, with screenplay by Noel Coward. Previn said he is about a third of the way through and is hoping it will get a premiere in the 2007-08 season, although he declined to name the opera house.  In the meantime, there will be more recordings, some more jazz and hours spent conducting European orchestras in 2006.  Previn said that, although he knew Gould and is particularly fond of his first recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations, he never had an opportunity to work with "such an extraordinary man."  But Previn's is the sort of eclectic, energetic career that does justice to Gould's legacy.

Sting Returns To Road

 Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

 (Mar. 10, 2006)
Sting will return to the road this spring as part of the Broken Music tour, which has previously found him stripping down to a four-piece setup and revisiting Police material he hadn't performed in years. The trek will begin June 4 at the Rock in Rio Festival in Lisbon and run through July 26 in Moscow.  Beforehand, Sting will drop by the Caribbean island of Tobago (April 23) as well as Puerto Rico (April 27), in advance of a previously announced April 29 appearance at the annual Tiger Jam in Las Vegas.  The artist will be backed on the road by guitarists Dominic Miller and Lyle Workman (Beck, Tom Waits). Drummer Josh Freese, who was behind the kit for the 2005 legs of the tour, will be replaced this time around by Paul McCartney's touring drummer, Abe Laboriel Jr.   And while no details have yet been announced about Sting's next studio album or the live DVD shot last spring at New York's Irving Plaza, he recently recorded a duet with Sheryl Crow, "Always on Your Side," a tune that originally appeared on her 2005 album "Wildflower." The track, which can be purchased at Apple's iTunes Music Store, is the top debut on this week's Billboard Hot 100 at No. 35. A video has also been shot by director Nigel Dick.
 Here are Sting's tour dates:
 April 23: Plymouth, Tobago (Jazz Festival)
 April 27: San Juan, Puerto Rico (Coliseo de Puerto Rico)
 April 29: Las Vegas (Mandalay Bay; Tiger Jam)
 June 4: Lisbon (Rock in Rio)
 June 6: Pembroke, Malta (City Square)
 June 10: Limassol, Cyprus (Tsirion Stadium)
 June 12: Burgas, Bulgaria (Sunny Beach)
 June 16: Salonika, Greece (Earth Theatre)
 June 17: Athens (Terravibe)
 July 7: Weert, Holland (Bospop Festival)
 July 8: Werchter, Belgium (TW Classic Festival)
 July 15: Aarhus, Denmark (Town Square)
 July 17: Bergen, Norway (Koengen)
 July 19: Molde, Norway (Jazz Festival)
 July 21: Stockholm (Jazz Festival)
 July 22: Pori, Finland (Jazz Festival)
 July 24: St. Petersburg (New Ice Arena)
 July 26: Moscow (Olympiski)

Pinkett-Smith Fronts Metal Act

 Excerpt from - Katy Kroll

 (Mar. 8, 2006)
She's best known for her roles in "The Nutty Professor," "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions," and as wife of rapper/actor Will Smith. But now Jada Pinkett Smith has taken on her most unexpected role to date: singer of the metal band Wicked Wisdom.  "As women, we wear many different hats," Pinkett-Smith tells "For me, it's just as simple as when I go to the Oscars I wear one hat. When I leave that red carpet I take that hat off and put on the hat for the rock video that I have to do. That's pretty much my life, even when it's not in front of the camera. One minute you have to be the sex kitten in the bedroom with your husband, then you have to put on the mommy hat to go wake the kids up."  That wardrobe change has paid off for her and bandmates Pocket Honore (guitar), Rio Lawrence (bass), Cameron Graves (guitar/keyboards) and former Fishbone member Phillip Fisher (drums). Last week, Wicked Wisdom's self-titled debut on 100% Womon/Suburban Noize entered Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart at No. 44.  Melding speed metal, funk and melodic vocals, Wicked Wisdom began making a name for itself on last summer's Ozzfest tour.   "This is something that we've kinda done on a D.L., underground level," she says. "It's been kinda like this unravelling, this little discovery about Jada that nobody knew about. This music and this image is completely different from the persona that people know me as. It's nice when you can break down those perceptions and change ideas." 
 Like any actor turned musician, Pinkett Smith has found it challenging to make a name for herself on the road. But unlike most, her struggle goes beyond overcoming the fact that she's a celebrity trying to make a dent in the rock world.   "There aren't a lot of African-Americans. There aren't a lot of women. Period," she says. "I think the celebrity aspect overrides it all. That has been the most challenging part. I haven't even been able to concentrate on the fact that I'm a black female because the celebrity aspect overshadows every other strike I have against me.  "You have to give people time to decide whether it's something they want to be on board with. They'll be some people that are like, 'God, I'm glad she's doing this music, she's a better musician than she is an actress,' and some people will say, 'She needs to stick to her day job' or whatever," she adds with a laugh. "Yes, it's been difficult, but it's also been one of the most gratifying experiences to just knock people's socks off, because what I'm doing is so unexpected."  It's clear that audiences are warming up to the idea of Pinkett Smith as a rock vocalist, but what about husband Will?   "He's just been a wonderful asset in his undying support, and I can't ask for anything more than that," she says. "I don't know how many husbands could really flow like this. You know, total change of career, takin' the kids on the road, goin' to Ozzfest. I know it's been difficult for him, but he's handled it very well."  In fact, he even lent a hand as executive producer for the Wicked Wisdom album. In the end, the project was as much of a surprise to Pinkett-Smith as anyone else.   "I never dreamed I'd be fronting a heavy rock band," she says. "I've always wanted to. I grew up on rock. If somebody had a crystal ball and told me, 'Sharon Osbourne's gonna ask you to go to Ozzfest.' I'd have been like, 'You're f***ing crazy; there's no way in the world. Yeah, you trippin' with that one.'"   Wicked Wisdom is on tour with Sevendust through the end of March.

LL Cool J: 'I Do What Comes Natural, What I Love'

Excerpt from - Gail Mitchell

 (Mar. 8, 2006)
Grow. That word pops up frequently in conversation with LL Cool J. Indeed, since the rapper became the first Def Jam artist to release a single some 20 years ago, it seems to have become part of his mantra.   His focus on professional and spiritual growth has resulted in a slew of hit records, two Grammy Awards and noteworthy roles on TV (including hosting the 2005 Billboard Music Awards in December) and in film. That still does not take into account his numerous humanitarian efforts, his role as a product pitchman or the recent launch of his Todd Smith clothing line during New York's Fashion Week.   "I'm having a great time, a real good time," he tells Billboard. "Very thankful about where my career is at. Hopefully, I'll be able to give people some good, quality music and film in the future."  Fresh off the success of his latest film with Queen Latina, "Last Holiday," and on the eve of releasing his 12th Def Jam album -- "Todd Smith," which comes from the rapper's given name, James Todd Smith -- LL looks back on what has powered his double-decade career.
 The theme of "Last Holiday" was all about possibilities in life. This could be applied to your own. Did you think 20 years ago that you would be where you are now?
 Honest to God, I can tell you that the answer is no. I mean, where I'm at was a fantasy back then. I guess I focus so much on trying to build and trying to grow that maybe sometimes I don't even pay attention to where I'm at.
 What was your aim starting out? Just to record and album and get on the charts?
 A: My aim was just to hear my record on the radio. I just wanted to hear my record on the radio and get a Mercedes [laughs]. In that order [laughs]. That was it. I just kept working at it and God blessed me.  I've just been focusing on growing as a human being spiritually and as a businessman and as an artist; To consistently go after new things and allow myself to mature. Let more people into my life to help me creatively and on all levels. This all has just been a growing process.
 In the past you have said you feel you are at the beginning of your career again because there are so many possibilities out there. Do you still feel that is true?
 Yes, of course. I'm still very young in dog years. I've just been doing this a long time in terms of being a professional. I still look forward to having a lot more fun [and] introducing the world to some interesting things I have going on in my life, [like] doing more films [and] working on more companies.
 Since finishing your new album, "Todd Smith," how would you compare the studio process then versus now?
 If I had to choose whether or not it gets easier or harder, I would have to say it gets harder. Well, you know what, maybe that's not correct. It's just different. The challenge always becomes trying to do the best work you can, trying to make the best music you can, trying to do something that's really exciting -- and at the same time not repeating yourself.
 On the album you have as guests Mary J. Blige, Lyfe Jennings, Freeway, Jennifer Lopez again...
 Also Mary, Mary, 112, Teairra Mari, Ginuwine. Juelz Santana.
 What producers did you work with?
 Bink, Trackmasters, Pharell Williams, Jermaine Dupri.
 In such a youth-oriented industry, do you feel pressured to make records that will attract that market?
 I don't really know how to do that. All I can really do is what I do and what comes natural, what I love.  All I can do is make the best music I can and hope that people enjoy it. Whatever project I'm involved with, I try to make it positive and fun and cool. I just make it to my taste, in other words, and go from there.
 Along those lines, you're a father of four children whose ages range from 5 to 16. The subject matter of hip-hop and videos has gotten much racier over time. As your kids get older, how do you reconcile that with what you do?
 A: Look, let's be frank about: it could be cleaner. There's room for a little more positivity. I think women can be displayed in a way that's beautiful without making them look like tramps. It is what it is. There's no need in pretending that's not a problem. It is.  Everybody has the right to see what they want to see and at a certain age. God gave us free will, so who am I to try and impose my will on someone else? But that being said, he gave us liberty, but at the same time you still want to take responsibility for the people you're influencing.  That doesn't mean I won't do any sexy videos. It doesn't mean I don't want to have beautiful girls in my videos or in the stuff I'm doing. I just think it could be a little classier sometimes, that's all. I don't want this to seem like I'm bashing my industry because I'm not. The industry as a whole is in a good place. We've just got to take a few more risks [and understand] that people would like something different.
 What was your aim when you started out in this business?
 I just wanted to hear my record on the radio and get a Mercedes. In that order. [laughs] That was it. I just kept working at it, and God blessed me.
 What has changed the most about the music industry in the last 20 years?
 Rap music has become much more visually driven, much more money-driven and even more producer-driven.
 Is that a good or bad thing?
 Just different. The visual thing is tough but not necessarily bad. Nowadays, your video is as important as your song. So now you not only have to be a person who can make great music, but you have to be able to deliver a vision on it. But then again, that part is good, because it makes you really have to dig deep as an artist.  As far as it being more economically driven, I mean, you know, that's good and bad. You make more money, but at the same time it's a trade-off.
 Do you think you could start in the record business today?
 It's cool that's a question I'll never have to answer. [laughs] I'll let you answer that. Whatever you say is right. How about no? That's even funnier.
 After all these years, do you consider yourself a legend?
 A legend? I guess I'd say no, only because considering yourself a legend would mean letting your past hold your future hostage, and I don't do that. At some point you embrace what you've done and [are] happy. If you've got your hands on the plow and you look back, the lines won't be straight in the ground. You've got to keep moving forward.  But I definitely respect and appreciate the amount of time I've been doing what I'm doing, and I know it's a unique position to be in, and I don't take it for granted.
 But it's still fun for you?
 Absolutely. I love it. I love the creative and the people. The politics I could do without. But the politics and the hard work just come with that.
 Jay-Z once said no one wants to see a 45-year-old rapper. Do you agree there is a shelf life, so to speak, for rappers?
 We've got to see where this industry is going. As much as I respect that sentiment, the reality is there will be 45-year-old rap fans. Who will they want to see? So the question more importantly for me would be, do I want to be doing this in 10 years? I can't answer that. I don't know what I want to do 10 years from now. I don't know if when I'm in my mid-40s I'll want to do what I was willing to do in my mid- to late 30s.
 For the past 10 years you have managed your own music career. Is it hard juggling being an artist and a manager? Do people think they can take advantage?
 [laughs] Well, you can think what you want to think. Now whether or not you can actually pull it off, that's another conversation. This ain't just been... 20 years of champagne popping and going chain swinging. I prefer to take a hands-on approach to my career; it just gives me a certain level of comfort. I don't want to make it seem I'm the be-all, end-all and the buck stops here all the time. I have a lot of people I consult with.
 You have had your brushes with disses, and watched the feud between Nas and Jay-Z play out. How do you feel about these types of feuds in the hip-hop community?
 Peace is always better than war. Competition is fun in hip-hop, but you can be competitive by making good records. We don't have to dis one another. But at the same time, there's nothing wrong with that either as long as it stays [rooted] in fun.
 Which of your albums represents the quintessential LL Cool J?
 I don't think there is such a thing as quintessential. To use Michael Jackson as an example, you could compare "ABC" to "Rock With You" -- they are from different eras but equally important.  On a sentimental level, "Mama Said Knock You Out" is an important record, because it was dedicated to my grandmother [who] passed away. Album-wise, I don't really have a favourite. Maybe the "Mr. Smith" album to a certain extent, just because it was a time of maturity and a time when I went to a different level in my mind -- spiritually, emotionally, mentally, psychologically.  Art is funny. I don't have one [favourite] record. I have quite a few singles I like lot. My favourite single is "Doin' It."
 Who are your biggest influences?
 I'm influenced by everything. As music changes, my influences change. What influenced me in 1996 is not necessarily what influences me now. Right now, I'm influenced by everything that's out now, that's going on now.  Madonna has been a strong influence on me in a lot of ways. I've always admired the way she's handled her career. They counted her out, and she's caught up right now.  There's a very what-have-you-done-for-me-lately mentality in the music business. But art and the music business are two different things, and you can never count a great artist out.
 Who haven't you worked with yet who is still on your wish list?
 Those are the types of things I kind of let happen naturally.
 Are you planning to tour?
 I haven't toured on any of my albums since, like, "Mr. Smith," but I think I may tour on this one. I like it. I think it's worthy. Not that the others weren't. But I think this one feels like a record that I want to get out and tour on. It just feels right.
 Do you like touring?
 I like the actual concert. Everything in between I could do without. [laughs] The airports, [going] in and out of the hotels, that's tough for me. That's why I hardly tour. It's just so gruelling. But I think I'm going to go ahead and give people some love on this one.
 What is your take on the whole debate about rappers turning to acting?
 It's our responsibility as human beings to maximize the use of all of our talents. That's a biblical principal. You're supposed to use all of your talents. If you don't put everything to use, then it will be taken from you. So to limit yourself and not take advantage of everything you have the potential to do is foolish.
 Do you find yourself pigeonholed in terms of scripts because you are a rapper?
 People would only be able to pigeonhole me if I was greedy. I could work a lot more as an actor doing stereotypical roles that people associate with rappers, but I choose not to. It's not easy.  They didn't think of me for "Last Holiday," [because the role was] way, way different than anything I've ever done. The studio had to be convinced. People don't associate me with an everyday guy like the guy in the movie. It's not so much about the degree of difficulty, it's about how far away it is from how people perceive you. I've definitely been through that, and I still go through that. But I think "Last Holiday" is a perfect example of me getting the opportunity to get outside of that box.
 This next question is for the ladies. How often do you work out to maintain your physique?
 I'm actually in the process of doing a book. We just put together a deal for a workout book that will give people the ins and outs of how I do what I do physically -- my diet, my workout, my philosophy, my ideology. It will probably come at the top of next year.
 Is there a second autobiography on the horizon?
 I want to see what happens with this workout book. It has a lot of material in there, [and] it will be very personal. We'll see what happens from there. If, God willing, I live a little bit more, then we can address the sequel.

Mezzo-Soprano's Honesty A Second Rare Gift Songbird

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
By John Terauds

 (Mar. 12, 2006) You can make yourself crazy trying to figure out what makes an artist great. Until you have a chat with
Denyse Graves.  The American mezzo-soprano, now in her early 40s, has gone from a childhood in one of Washington, D.C.'s black neighbourhoods (the ones without the gleaming, wide boulevards) to the toast of the world's stages.  The diva, who will join a glittering who's who to honour retiring Metropolitan Opera general manager Joseph Volpe on May 20, has recorded pop, jazz, spirituals, art songs and opera. She also hosts the weekly Voce di donna show on XM satellite radio, which takes listeners backstage into the vocal world.  Despite the acclaim she commands, Graves comes across as remarkably down-to-earth during a recent interview. It quickly becomes clear that the secret to her success boils down to honesty in conveying music from stage to audience. "I try to mix it up," she says. "I like to listen to a little bit of everything, so I hope my audiences will, too."  When she arrives at the George Weston Recital Hall on March 16, the program will mix art songs with opera arias and traditional spirituals. Graves, who spends roughly equal time in opera productions and singing solo, loves the recital work.  "Opera is a collaborative effort. Usually, you're selling the ideas of the director. You're selling a story whether you believe it or not. But in a recital, I can do what I want and express it the way I want to express it."  Graves treats each song like a "mini opera." And she likes the challenge: "You have to create atmosphere, sets and lighting with your presence on stage." In a recital, she says, the performer must care; she must "shoulder all the glory or all of the blame."  In Toronto, Graves will be joined by her husband, French clarinet player Vincent Thomas. And perhaps backstage will be her 20-month-old daughter Ella Thaïs (Ella comes from Fitzgerald, and Thaïs is a favourite character from French opera.)
 She occasionally wishes she had a steady job. "But then, I tend to get itchy feet after three or four days. I guess I'm conditioned to being on the road."  One of Graves's most significant recent achievements has been in premiering the title role in the opera Margaret Garner. The deeply serious work, with music by Richard Danielpour, stages Toni Morrison's novel Beloved, the saga of a recaptured slave who kills her youngest daughter so she won't have to experience slavery again.  Margaret Garner — and Graves's portrayal — met with rave reviews in Detroit last May.  "It fills me with a great sense of pride and honour to tell these stories," she says. "This is a story from my own heritage, so felt I really needed to get it right and to do it justice."  The late American poet Laura Riding, in a preface to a 1975 collection, wrote: "Art, whose honesty must work through artifice, cannot avoid cheating truth."  Denyse Graves ends up enhancing truth with her honest artifice. It's a rare gift.
 George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge St., March 16; 8 p.m.; $50-$150 at or 416-872-1111.

Hip Hoppers Little Brother Bring Message To Youth Of Individual Responsibility

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter
 (Mar. 11, 2006) Two-thirds of
Little Brother took the stage at The Phoenix with a swagger that would make 50 Cent proud.  Clad in baggy jeans andT-shirts, emcees Phonte and Big Pooh (producer 9th Wonder was absent) didn't scrimp on the cuss words while delivering rhymes from their major label debut The Minstrel Show.  With the sound off — or on, if you're deficient in hip hop-ese, the North Carolina duo's hard-core posturing and propensity to rest the non-mic hand about their general crotch region could have one believe they're drawing from rap's gangsta well.  In fact, the pair take that side of the genre to task on The Minstrel Show, a soulful, satiric concept album organized like a show on fictional television network UBN (U Black N---ers).  Their songs delve into such topics as parenting, romance and fashion, while dissing the materialism, violence and misogyny flaunted by some of their peers.  Using as a metaphor the vaudeville acts of yore in which whites in blackface would put on musical performances mocking blacks, Little Brother posits that much commercial hip hop and R&B do just that.  "As rappers, we have to take responsibility for what we say and the images we portray," Phonte says in the group's publicity material. "If not, we're doing essentially what minstrel shows did: perpetuating negative images and reinforcing those negative stereotypes."  They shared that commitment to individual responsibility with the 70 local youth they met with at Scadding Community Centre before last night's show.  Big Pooh and Phonte sat on a panel with Flow 93.5 FM personality Jemeni, Toronto spoken-word artist Dwayne Morgan and the Argos Michael Fletcher for a discussion with the students of the Oasis Alternative School.  "My parents used and abused drugs ... my two brothers are in jail — one for armed robbery, one for attempted murder — my sister was pregnant at 13," revealed Compton, Calif., native Fletcher.
 But the 2005 CFL East Division defensive player of the year encouraged the teens, who had been expelled from their regular high schools for various reasons.  "Despite all that, I'm still living my dream," he said. "You're not the first or last person to be in your shoes. But still dream big and believe in yourself. If you work hard, someone will be there to help you."  Some of the youth responded with heard-it-all-before smirks, others weren't buying the love-in given the presence of TV cameras and photographers. "Is this a promotion or are you trying to talk to us?" asked Clarisa, 17.  "This is genuine; I'm not getting paid for this," Phonte responded fervently. "We want to talk to you, see what's on your mind. We have no control over the cameras. I have a better chance of making the news by shooting somebody, truth be told."  Warner Music Canada's Steve Waxman hastened to explain that journalists were present to "help get the message out," and that the label is in talks with other record companies about making such forums the norm for visiting hip-hop artists, given Toronto's rash of gun violence.  "A lot of what is happening in Toronto is the beginning of bad stuff," Waxman said. "A group like Little Brother who grew up in areas where the bad stuff was all around them and rose above it ... we want to encourage kids to keep working to empower themselves rather than fall in with gangs."  The discussion continued with debates about the depiction of women and thuggism in rap.  When Morgan challenged the girls in the audience to stop supporting artists who demean women in their songs and videos, a few interjected that the scantily clad dancers and actors in the videos aren't being victimized because they are paid for their services.  "She might not be a victim, but you might be or your sister might be," Morgan countered. "Because all these guys that watch these videos are going to think it's okay to treat you like that ...."  Brian, 19, said he was tired of rap getting blamed for its portrayal of women. "What about Hugh Hefner?" he asked. "Look what he's done to women. Let those girls do what they want in the videos."  Aspiring rapper Hilal, 19, was confused about how to meld his reality and his art. "If I rap about what I see in my neighbourhood — my homies selling drugs or dying — does that make me a negative rapper?" he asked.  "You have to talk about the whole thing, not just the money, the fame and the glamour," Big Pooh said. "Show all sides of the spectrum and listeners will decide for themselves."  As the forum ended, Clarisa said: "To be honest, they didn't say anything new, but it's good for them to refresh our memories and to keep our hopes up."

Hal Jackman Donates $5 Million

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman,

 (Mar. 9, 2006)
It was one of the longest courtships in the history of cultural philanthropy, but at last Hal Jackman has stepped forward as a major donor to Toronto's new opera house.  Jackman — a former president of the Canadian Opera Company board — has pledged $5 million for the Four Seasons Centre for the Arts.  In recognition of his gift, the patrons' lounge (which stretches along Queen St.) will bear his name.  In the tradition of the melodramatic, Jackman waited until the final act to make his move. Toronto's long-awaited opera house at Queen and University is now within months of completion, with opening gala concerts set for June.  Why now?  "I had to be sure I had the money," Jackman said yesterday in a phone interview. "I'm still paying off the $15 million I donated to the University of Toronto. The timing of my gift to the opera house has a lot to do with getting my affairs in order."  Maybe, but to anyone involved in the world of arts philanthropy, it would be unthinkable for Toronto to build an opera house without a major gift from Jackman, and a significant naming opportunity.  That is not just because Jackman — former lieutenant governor of Ontario and former chancellor of the University of Toronto — has one of Toronto's 20 greatest fortunes (estimated by Canadian Business magazine at more than $700 million).  It is also because in Toronto opera lore, Jackman is an almost mythic figure who started leading the fight two decades ago to build a true Toronto opera house. He was a key figure driving the doomed Bay and Wellesley ballet/opera house designed by Moshe Safdie.  But the cost escalated to $311 million, and the project was cancelled by newly elected premier Bob Rae after board leaders rejected Rae's plea to scale back the project.  Its demise was such a painful blow to Jackman that he had some hesitation getting behind the opera house that finally is being built — designed by Jack Diamond on a budget less than half that of the Safdie extravaganza.  "Hal is one of our greatest supporters, and I'm thrilled to bits," Canadian Opera Company general director Richard Bradshaw said yesterday. "I just hope his leadership will encourage others, including governments, to help ensure we not only finish the building but also build a solid endowment fund."
 What Bradshaw does not mention is that he has been involved in a dialogue with Jackman for three or four years, and Waiting for Hal became a recurrent, semi-humorous theme of the opera company's fund-raising team.  One reason Jackman opted to take his time: He was outraged and offended by the thought of paying capital gains tax.  But in the last election campaign, the Conservatives promised to eliminate the tax in the case of charitable donors giving money in the form of stocks. Donald K. Johnson, a former Nesbitt Burns vice-chair who crusaded to kill the tax, says chances are strong the tax will be eliminated in the Harper government's first budget.  "There's no guarantee but as a betting man I would say the odds are 10-to-1 the law will change," says Johnson.  In that case, since Jackman has made his pledge but not started payments, his gift will be tax-free. That should call for a joyful aria or two — and inspire others waiting for the right moment to make a big gift.  For the opera house as well as the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum, this spring is definitely crunch time, with fundraisers desperately scrambling for enough money to complete their projects without crippling deficits.  Bradshaw needs another $30 million or so to finish the job — and that's not counting a crucial endowment fund.

Rock Star Hopefuls Take Their Shot At Stardom

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Guy Dixon
 (Mar. 14, 2006)
Vince Benenati, who already has some rock-star credentials, still had to wait outside a downtown Toronto rock club startingat 7 a.m. yesterday, just one of the hundreds of would-be superstars lined up in the early-morning drizzle. Everyone wound up having to wait five hours or so to get inside just to sing one verse and one chorus to some TV producers in the hope making it to the televised finals of the reality show Rock Star. This is serious business. The majority of those auditioning are already in bands and work hard at their music. Most perform regularly in Toronto or in home towns such as Guelph or Burlington. Benenati is also in a rock group called Hello Libido, which gigs around Toronto and is planning to record an album. Benenati, a 25-year-old auto mechanic, made it to the top 12 on CTV's Canadian Idol last season and is now taking another run at fame with CBS's Rock Star, which will air this summer in Canada on Global. "Whatever way it takes to get there, we will get there," he said outside in the line, motioning to his friend and band mate Luca Caracciolo. In Rock Star's first season last year, Toronto singer J. D. Fortune won, becoming the new front man for veteran rock band INXS. Those auditioning yesterday had no idea what band they are ultimately trying out for. Rumours in the music industry -- and the industry does pay a lot of attention to these popular reality shows -- speculated that it could be Van Halen looking for a new singer or even Queen. Yesterday, the producers would only say that it wouldn't be a long-standing act, but a super group comprised of famous rockers from past bands.
 As the auditions move from city to city for the rest of the month, Vancouver on March 23 is the only other Canadian stop. Around noon, Benenati finally got his turn and sang a few bars of Stairway To Heaven with Caracciolo. They avoided the cringe factor by not trying to imitate Robert Plant and, in fact, sang and harmonized well. Immediately after they played, one of the producers walked over to them in the dark, noisy club, and asked them to come to a callback on Wednesday.  The two also had an interview with Entertainment Tonight, which never lets a hyped-up, reality-show mob scene go to waste. But there were many great auditions that will never past the test. Call it the true reality behind the reality show. There was Steve Curtis, 25 from Peterborough, Ont. An imposing figure on stage, he sang the Peggy Lee standard Fever soulfully and without irony. It was a gamble, he conceded afterwards, but, "If I can be the first big, fat, gay guy to win Rock Star, then rock on!" Grant Erlick, 33, of Burlington, sang the Star-Spangled Banner with maximum vocal gymnastics, like a male Mariah Carey. He had waited since 6 a.m. to perform.
 Joy Thompson, 27, a Toronto singer-songwriter who works in a call centre by day, sang Oasis's Hello. A short black woman with long braided hair, she sounded nothing like Oasis singer Liam Gallagher, but handled the song very well. "It's really nerve-racking at first, because you're waiting in line for so long. And then right before I'm going on, I completely blanked and I forgot the words and everything. But I had to do it," she said. Then there was musician Jason Taylor, 31, of Guelph, who performed pop-punk band Simple Plan's Untitled and thought he utterly failed. Accompanying himself on guitar, he nervously rolled his eyes at the occasional missed notes. Right after breaking into the chorus, "How can this happen to me/I've made my mistakes," he fell apart and even said into the mike how much he was messing up.  Taylor may have felt he had blown it, but it was perfect rock-star timing, given the words he had just sung. "I practise a lot, a lot, a lot and I totally messed up huge," Taylor said moments later, still racked with nerves. But as a clever send-up of the whole audition process, the performance was brilliant. When told this, and how fine his singing actually was, his eyes lit up.

Meet 13 Year-Old Singing Sensation Tiffany Evans

Source: Langston Sessoms / ThinkTank Marketing /
"I really admire Whitney, Mariah, Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, and Aretha Franklin. I have a real love of the music that came before me because it just feels so real. Without it we wouldn't have the music of today." -- Tiffany Evans
 (Mar. 10, 2006) Like many girls her age, 13-year-old Tiffany Evans practices dance moves in front of the mirror, pours over fashion magazines, goes to the movies, spends time reading (she's fond of history), and loves hanging out with her friends. Though her interests might be typical for a teen, her musical gifts are another story. Tiffany Evans, her eagerly-awaited debut album on Sony Urban Music/Columbia Records, will show the world how special her talents really are. Featuring songs and production from Grammy winners Salaam Remi (Fugees) and Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey) as well as Soulshock (Frankie J, Seal, Usher, Toni Braxton) and Karlin (Nelly, Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston), Tiffany Evans showcases a young lady blessed with determination, a multi-octave voice that's been compared to Patti Labelle and Whitney Houston, and a heart-soaring passion for music. Recorded in 2005, Tiffany Evans reflects the timeless soulful sensibilities of her musical influences. "I really admire Whitney, Mariah, Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, and Aretha Franklin," Tiffany offers. "I have a real love of the music that came before me because it just feels so real. Without it we wouldn't have the music of today."  Multiple Grammy-winner Narada Michael Walden helped Tiffany craft a new version of his "Let Me Be Your Angel," originally a smash hit in 1980 for the then-13-year-old Stacy Lattisaw. Tiffany makes the song her own, infusing it with a fresh and openhearted honesty.
 Tiffany reworks other classics including a show-stopping rendition of "And I'm Telling You," the "Dreamgirls'" signature song first performed by Jennifer Holiday during the musical's original Broadway run. Tackling musical staples might have been daunting, but Tiffany welcomed the opportunity to put her stamp on familiar material. Produced by Salaam Remi, "Who I Am," the album's inspirational first single, is a mid-tempo song with an unusual history (it was originally a hit for Nashville star Jessica Andrews). "At first I was like, 'A country song? How is that going to fit for me?'" Tiffany admits. She proceeded to pour her heart into the song, making its message relevant to her audience. "It tells young women that it’s ok to be who you are," she says. "You can have your make up off, you don't have to be trendy, you can just be who you are and show your real personality. It's ok just to be real." The groove-drenched "Strong Enough" is a song that will "…give young girls and women a sense of confidence, sort of like my own version of (Destiny's Child's) 'Independent Women.'" "Angels On Earth" is Tiffany's "favourite song" on the album. "I listen to it whenever I'm down," she says "It helped me realize that if I'm in a bad situation all I have to do is just pray on it, keep my faith up and things will work out."
 Thanks to faith, family and friendship, Tiffany's learned the importance of courage and faith from first-hand experience. Born in the Bronx, one of ten children, Tiffany was raised by caring parents who sang to their kids and encouraged their artistic expressions. From a young age, Tiffany's been in love with music. She would practice for hours and, before long, it became obvious she was blessed with a special talent. But, the Evans family had hard times to face before Tiffany would realize her dreams. When the house they'd been renting was sold out from under them, Tiffany's father moved the family to Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the hopes of securing work and a new home. To a little girl born and raised in the Bronx, the faded elegance of Atlantic City held out the promise of a new beginning. "When we got there--oh my goodness--the lights looked like stars!" Tiffany remembers. As the family toured the city, Tiffany noticed a hotel showcasing a room called the Tiffany Lounge. "Oh, Daddy! Look!," she exclaimed, "It's named after me!" Since the Tiffany Lounge was an all ages venue, Tiffany and her father decided to check out a show. The master of ceremonies looked out into the audience, saw Tiffany, stepped off the stage, handed the little girl a microphone and asked her if she could sing. Tiffany responded with a heart-stopping rendition of "I Will Always Love You" that left the audience slack-jawed and mesmerized. Before long, Tiffany was working with a vocal teacher who told the 10-year-old chanteuse she had "a gift from God" and should audition for "Star Search." Tiffany went to New York City to stand in line for four hours in the dead of winter before her audition. Delivering a roof-raising rendition of "Stormy Weather," she aced the audition and secured a spot on the show. In February 2003, on her fourth "Star Search" appearance, Tiffany Evans won the Grand Champion title in the junior singer division, becoming the only performer in "Star Search" history to receive perfect five scores on all of her appearances.
 That same year, Tiffany sang for executives at Columbia Records and was quickly offered a deal. With her musical career already on the upswing, she landed a small role on CBS's "The District," and appeared in the hit film, "The Diary of a Mad Black Woman," in 2004. Tiffany continues to pursue acting with an eye on more film and TV work. "I hope people will get to know who I am and get the chance to connect with me through my songs," she says. "I've had some tough experiences but I've come through it all. I know if you can dream it, you can achieve it." Take a listen to her debut single "Who Am I" produced by Salaam Remi.

Tony Terry Is Back: R&B/Pop Vocalist Set To Return With Gospel CD

 Source: Black Gospel Promo

 (Mar. 10, 2006)
Tony Terry has been wooing his fans all over the country for over a decade. His smooth enchanting melodies have captured the hearts of female and male patrons alike.  Tony Terry's style transcends age groups and his multi-selling hits, "She's Fly", "Lovey, Dovey", "Forever Yours", "With You," "Everlasting Love," "Head Over Heels," "When A Man Cries" and the now classic - "With You" to name a few, continue to sell, and have become timeless classics. In recent years he has performed live with Jodeci, Boyz II Men, Gladys Knight, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder and is currently touring with Roberta Flack.  Tony has collaborated with Gospel sensation Yolanda Adams on a duet entitled, "You Gotta Have Love," as well as with new Gospel artists, Denver Wright and The Collective on their hit "If You're Gonna Worry, Don't Pray." Tony Terry is returning to recording with a new image, new sound and two new hit albums entitled, "Changed!" Tony is a pure example of desire and determination. He's evolved throughout his career and still has been able to hold on to the essence of what he really is, a "True singer.  "I am grateful to God for all I've been able to achieve, but I'm not finished yet," Tony exclaims! He wants his fans old and new to experience an artist who is willing to give the best the he's got and then some. "Changed!" is a testament of just that. Featuring blazing tracks such as "Praise Him," "I Wanna Thank You, Lord" and "Nobody Like Jesus" and soul-stirring songs like "Look to the Hills," "Jesus to Hold" and "Come Child," Tony Terry is back and he's ready to give his listener's what they have been missing.
 In Stores April 18th!
 Tony is currently signed to Studio 25 Recordings. The first single from the new Gospel project is currently released and the forthcoming CD is scheduled for a release April 18th in conjunction with the Jordan Entertainment Group and Koch Entertainment.

Def Soul's 'Baby Makin' Music' Gets New Date

 Source: Langston Sessions / ThinkTank Marketing /  /

(Mar. 13, 2006) *Clad in jeans and a checkered shirt, Ron Isley is warming up at the mike at The Henry Fonda Theater in Los Angeles. It’s a few hours before showtime: Ron’s riffing and it’s one of those trademark vocal runs that have been seducing women and setting guys up for the seduction for decades of baby-makin’ music….  Fast forward and it’s showtime. Ron, now fitted out in a pale mauve suit hits the stage before a rapturous audience. “Between The Sheets” is the perfect opener, Ron giving the crowd his smooth, soulful best while brother Ernie, looking ever mysteriously hip and cool he lays down those mean guitar licks. Midway through the set, he delivers the Isley baby-makin’ classic “For The Love Of You”: women call out, the fellas nod approval, everyone is singing along. Later in the show, Ron leaves the stage for a brief outfit change. His musical alter ego, “Mr. Biggs” returns in a bright red suit, gangster lean, hat to the side. It’s on…  BABY MAKIN’ MUSIC, , a natural title for a new album by The Isley Brothers featuring Ron Isley aka “Mr. Biggs” For, in the annals of contemporary music, few groups or artists can lay claim to creating as many slow jams and bedroom classics, classics that set the perfect right mood for romance leading to seduction, seduction leading to passion and, yes, in more than one instance, passion as a prelude to a rise in the birth rate! “Yes, we’ve been making baby-makin’ music for quite a while,” Ron grins with confidence, aware that his smooth-yet-soulful vocal style has brought pleasure to millions of music lovers for five decades now.  The Isleys’ catalogue, filled with funky grooves like “It’s Your Thing,” “Fight The Power” and “Take Me To The Next Phase” is also rich with eternal love songs like “In Between The Sheets,” “For The Love Of You,” “Summer Breeze,” “Smooth Sailin’ Tonight,” “Voyage To Atlantis” and in more recent times, “Floatin’ On Your Love,” the 2001 pop/R&B smash “Contagious.” And for good measure, there’s Ron’s now-firmly established musical character “Mr. Biggs” offering “Down Low (Nobody Has To Know),” the 1996 hit collaboration with R. Kelly, showing another side of love, the lyrical subject matter for more than a few Isley standards… Now comes BABY MAKIN’ MUSIC, the team’s first CD for Def Soul, following in the tradition of great Isley Brothers’ records, filled with new love odes, hit cuts and future classics. From the album’s first single, the inviting, instantly memorable “Just Came Here To Chill” - a tune Ron says “sounds like vintage Isley Brothers” - written and produced by Troy Taylor (known for his work with Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston and Yolanda Adams among others) and Gordon Chambers (Grammy-award winning writer for Anita Baker and producer for Aretha Franklin, Brandy and others) to the insistent “Blast Off,” a new duet between “Mr. Biggs” and R. Kelly, completed just weeks before the album’s release, BABY MAKIN’ MUSIC continues the Isleys’ legacy without missing a beat.
 The first Isleys Brothers’ album since 2003’s gold Body Kiss set and Ron’s own 2003 solo album, Isley Meets Bacharach (a critically-acclaimed masterful collaboration with the legendary producer, songwriter, arranger and conductor), BABY MAKIN’ MUSIC begins the group’s incredible sixth decade in the music industry. “It’s our sound with an updated twist, “ Ron comments. “We’re always looking at new ways of interpreting love songs. On this album, I was introduced to some producers and writers who wrote material especially for me. I’d never worked with (producer) Jermaine Dupri before and I was anxious to do that. He did three songs: the first one he played me I liked right away and that was “Gotta Be With You” which tells the story of a guy who’s been in the game for a while. Then he also did “Beautiful” and “Forever Mackin,’” which is perfect for “Mr. Biggs”!” The ‘tough’ image associated with ‘Biggs,’ Ron’s musical alter-ego is “just a part of me,” he smiles. “I got the name from the younger artists telling me, ‘hey, you’re the man!’ It’s not so much that I’m playing a gangster…more a musical ‘godfather’!” Producers Tim & Bob (masterminds behind R&B sensation Bobby Valentino) wrote and produced the infectious “You’re My Star” which features a sample of “The Makings Of You,” the perennial 1974 recording by Gladys Knight & The Pips penned by the late great Curtis Mayfield as well as “Pretty Woman,” which features Ron’s wife Kandy on background vocals and brother Ernie adding his famed guitar licks to the track. Ernie can also be heard on “Heaven Hooked Us Up” (produced by Troy Taylor and “Zeke” Lewis) one of the standout ballads on BABY MAKIN’ MUSIC, which Ron says is “dedicated to Kandy because she is like a true blessing in my life.” Ron explains that he’d worked with producer Taylor on a duet with Patti Labelle (“Gotta Go Solo”) a few years back: “When he heard about Kandy and I getting married, he wrote “Heaven Hooked Us Up” and then “You Help Me Write This Song,” which is like the follow-up to it. It reminds me of our wedding, that first dance with Kandy at the wedding… I like to tell her she made me give up being a playa!”  Rounding out BABY MAKIN’ MUSIC are two special cuts from Manuel Seal, Jr., (co-producer of Mariah Carey’s smash “We Belong Together” and Usher’s smash hit, “My Boo” with Alicia Keys): the slow-building “Show Me” is “real baby-makin’ music!” Ron grins, “tasteful but explicit!” In the same vein, as its’ title implies, “Give It To You” gets straight to the point: “I’d say it’s a 2006 version of “Between The Sheets,” a song about a guy who didn’t get the chance to make love with his woman the last time they were together,” Ron adds. “When they do, well, you can imagine the rest….” BABY MAKIN’ MUSIC continues the unparalleled history of a group whose name has appeared on the charts for each of the last five decades, a feat achieved by no other family team in music history. The name “Isley” first graced the Top 50 in 1959 with “Shout,” four years after the group was formed in Cincinnati, Ohio. The original recording line-up included Ronald and older brothers O’Kelly and Rudolph (a fourth brother, Vernon, died in the ’50s).
 The ’60s began with another anthem, 1962’s “Twist And Shout.” The Isleys went on to score with “This Old Heart Of Mine” (1966, their first Tamla/Motown hit), and the massive, now classic “It’s Your Thing.” The R&B Grammy Award-winning #1 R&B/ #2 pop hit single launched their self-owned T-Neck label in 1969, and introduced younger brothers Ernie and Marvin and in-law Chris Jasper into the line-up. The label’s first release, “Testify”, featured Ernie Isley’s protégé, a young man by the name of Jimi Hendrix.  T-Neck went on to chart more than 20 pop titles in the ’70s (and nearly twice that many on the R&B side), a litany of hits that included Stephen Stills’ “Love The One You’re With”, “Spill The Wine” (originally recorded by Eric Burdon & War), “That Lady,” Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze,” the message-driven “Harvest For The World,” funky groove “Fight The Power Part 1,” classic slow jam “For the Love Of You,” “The Pride,” “Take Me To the Next Phase,” and “I Wanna Be With You,” among the group’s many hit singles. >From 1973 to 1980, the group scored an amazing two gold and five platinum albums (starting with the groundbreaking 3+3) and the platinum run continued in the ‘80s with Go All The Way and Between The Sheets, like five of their predecessors, No. 1 R&B chart-topping albums. The ’80s also included hit singles “Don’t Say Goodnight (It’s Time For Love)” and “Hurry Up And Wait,” followed by “Inside You” and “Smooth Sailin’ Tonight.” In 1986, O’Kelly passed away, and Rudolph subsequently retired to the ministry. The ‘Isley Brothers Featuring Ronald Isley’ returned in 1990, and all six members were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame two years later. The ’90s were marked by a number of collaborations – with Angela Winbush (“Lay Your Troubles Down”), Bobby Womack (“Trying Not To Break Down”), Quincy Jones (on his Q’s Jook Joint album, 1995), and the #1 R&B/ #4 Pop smash of 1996, “Down Low (Nobody Has To Know)” with R. Kelly and Def Soul label mate and former background singer Kelly Price. With the new millennium, came Ronald’s discovery of the famed vocal duo, JS, in 2003.  1996 also brought the Isley Brothers – Ronald, Marvin and Ernie – to Island Records for the first time, on Mission To Please. Contributing as producers and co-writers were Babyface, R. Kelly and Keith Sweat, three of the many artists whose lives and music were inspired by the Isley Brothers, whose line-up now comprises Ronald and Ernie, an accomplished songwriter, guitarist and vocalist in his own right.  In 2001, signed to Dreamworks Records, the Isleys returned to the charts with the hit album Eternal, featuring the crossover smash “Contagious,” written and produced by R. Kelly and signalling the arrival of “Mr. Biggs,” Ron’s now-famous alter-ego. Two years later, Body Kiss collaboration with Kelly) achieved gold status for the Isleys and also in 2003, the group won an American Music Award for Favourite Band, Duo or Group. 1996 recipients of a Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award, The Isleys received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual BET Awards gala in 2004. The same year, Ron suffered a mild stroke and after taking some time off, he began workin on tracks for BABY MAKIN’ MUSIC. "It was a little hard after the stroke because I felt I had to prove myself again," he reflects. "I took a year off and I didn't run through making an album like I used to. But once we got started with "Gotta Give It To You," we were right back in the groove. And working with (Island/Def Jam CEO) L.A. Reid has been really great because I don't have to worry. I know I'm working with someone who understands what I do..."  Feeling that the Isley Brothers are finally getting their due recognition for decades of great music, Ron says he still finds it hard to believe how so many of the group’s classics are constantly being used in movies, as samples by new artists and on television commercials. “I hear “Shout” more today than I heard it when we first did it and I didn’t know songs like “It’s Your Thing” and “That Lady” would have ‘legs’. You see, music has been my whole life. I listen to music every single day. It’s our way of expressing ourselves,” Ron Isley says of himself and his brother Ernie. And with a sumptuous new album in the form of BABY MAKIN’ MUSIC, The Isley Brothers featuring Ron Isley (aka “Mr Biggs”) are continuing – as the title of their 1996 hit album implies – their lifelong ‘mission to please,’ giving their loyal fans what they’ve come to expect from this enduring group while creating classic cuts for a new generation.

Donald Fagen - Black Days

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - James Adams

(Mar. 13, 2006) No, Donald Fagen says, he's not on the line from the foot of Mount Belzoni, nor is he high in the Custerdome. This afternoon he's sitting somewhere in upper Manhattan, in the Sugar Hill district, in fact, working the telephones, stoking the publicity machinery for an upcoming 20-city concert tour and the launch of a new CD. There's no real Mount Belzoni or Custerdome, of course. They're just the imaginary settings for two of Fagen's most famous songs, 1982's The Nightfly and 1980's Gaucho. But for a lot of Fagen fans, they're as palpable as the neighbourhood store or the high-rise on the corner, as cinematic as anything Fritz Lang or Ernst Lubitsch conceived. It's something Fagen has been exercising for almost 35 years, this knack of blending idiosyncratic sophistication and highly personalized slang to create places (Blues Beach, the Reefs of Kizmar) and persons (Hoops McCann, Slinky Redfoot) as glamorous and unsettling as that cravat-wearing, hashish-smoking dandy from your days at Gamma Chi who thought your date at the frat barbecue had "a touch of Tuesday Weld" and would you mind if he took her out? At 58, Fagen's latest conjuring act is Morph the Cat, the eight-song CD that, upon its release tomorrow, will mark his first solo turn since The Kamakiriad 13 years ago. As with that outing and his solo debut, The Nightfly, it's a loosely thematic work, a mortality-haunted New York hipster's exploration of the post-9/11 universe. Fagen says there's "virtually no premeditation" in his deciding whether what he's writing belongs on a Steely Dan record. Sometimes it happens by a process of elimination or default: He'll write some lyrics and chord changes and ask Walter Becker, the other, 56-year-old half of Steely Dan whom he first met in college in 1967: " 'What do you think of this?' And if no one answers, or Walter says, 'Y'know, that really doesn't speak to me,' then it's mine."

The same goes for the conceptual frameworks of his solo work. Generally, "the solo records are a little more personal or subjective, I'll put it that way." But usually it's only after the fact that Fagen notices resonances among the material. Take The Nightfly: "I just started working up these songs . . . and the first couple I wrote seemed to be from the viewpoint of an adolescent in the early sixties." Eventually, Fagen had seven songs and one cover (Dion's Ruby Baby) for an album that seemed to "represent certain fantasies that might have been entertained by a young man -- i.e., one of my general height, weight and build -- growing up in the remote suburbs of a northeastern city" during the hottest days of the Cold War. With Morph the Cat, the wellsprings were both personal and political. Personal in that his mother's death in January, 2003, from Alzheimer's, was "a big shock" and an intimation that "Oh, I'm in my late 50s, so I've got about 20 years to go, or something like that." Another blow was the death a year later of one of his musical idols, Ray Charles, at 73. The political dimension derives from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the invasion of Iraq and the noise and paranoia that have been in the ether ever since. Sometimes Fagen treats our life and times lightheartedly: Security Joan, for one, is about a traveller who decides to miss his flight from LaGuardia after he feels some sexual chemistry between him and the female security officer who "sweeps her wand over me." For the most part, though, there's mordancy and apprehension: In Mary Shut the Garden Door -- inspired, Fagen says, by the Republican National Convention that New York hosted in mid-2004 -- he sings of "Rough dreams/ Those voices in the kitchen/ I woke up/ And sensed the new condition/ They won/ Storms raged/ Things changed." Fagen plans to perform most of the album live when he visits Massey Hall in Toronto tonight with his first-ever touring band (he played Ottawa's National Arts Centre yesterday). For most of their association, Fagen and Becker have been profoundly averse to touring. In fact, between 1974 and 1993, the two Dans, as individuals and as a combo, were exclusively a studio outfit. Inviting one top musician after another to play their meticulously crafted songs, the duo would accumulate hundreds of reels of unused tape and thousands of hours of outtakes along the way. Today, Fagen insists such dedication didn't exemplify some perverse quest for perfection. Bringing in a Wayne Shorter or Mark Knopfler, often to play a part that lasted no more than 32 bars in the final recording, "happened in the process of Walter and me searching for musicians for an ideal band. In the seventies, there weren't that many musicians with equal facility in R&B and jazz."

By the nineties, "we got closer to that vision and started keeping guys we really started to jell with. And by 2000, we ended up with guys who seemed to know what we're after." Indeed, the last two Steely Dan records, Two Against Nature (2000) and Everything Must Go (2003), as well as Morph the Cat, have a remarkably stable cast of support musicians, with only the odd marquee player putting in a brief appearance. The late, great Mel Tormé was a big fan of Fagen's, featuring at least two of his compositions, The Goodbye Look and Walk Between the Raindrops, in live performances. In a 1996 interview, Tormé also lauded the whiny, nasalized croon that is Fagen's singing voice -- "He's got a funny street approach that I love." But when I tell Fagen that in that same interview Tormé also professed a fondness for Billy Joel's singing, Fagen seems taken aback. "Well, that's damning with faint praise," he finally mumbles, then slips into diplomacy mode: "Mel was a great singer, is a great singer and it's great that he gave me that compliment." Sarcasm and irony, of course, have long been staples of the Steely Dan oeuvre. So not a few Danites were surprised when Fagen committed matrimony with Libby Titus in 1993. Of course, it's always a mistake to interpolate art and autobiography -- but then Titus had been the companion for many years of Levon Helm, drummer and singer for one of the least ironic groups of all time, The Band, with whom she had two children. And, in the early seventies, she wrote one of the greatest weepies of all time, Love Has No Pride ("If I could buy your love/Then I'd surely try, my friend. . . . And love has no pride when there's no one but myself to blame/But I'd give anything to see you again.") Fagen on several occasions has said that marriage agrees with him. So would he ever cover Love Has No Pride in concert, say? Or is it just too damn sincere and unguarded for his sensibility? "Hey, I like that song a lot," he replies. "Bonnie Raitt did a good version -- Linda Ronstadt, too, I think. But I don't think I could give it the right, um, emotional reading. Hmmm, I'll think about it, that's interesting. . . ." There's a pause, then he says: "It's really a girlie song, a chick flick." Now, Donald, would your wife like to hear her work described that way? "She has her cynical side, believe me."

Sliding a recent Steely Dan CD or even the new Fagen into the player can seem a touch anachronistic. The guitars are in tune, the time precise, the chords rich and smart, the production polished. It's music, in short, with no tips of the hat to punk, hip hop or any other idiom that's commanded attention since Steely Dan appeared on the scene in 1972. "I listen to the same 40 records I did in high school," Fagen avers without apology. "Except now they're on CD." Occasionally he hears "something I like that's contemporary," but when he's asked to name an artist or two, there's a good 10 seconds of hemming and hawing before he declares: "Martha Wainwright, she's really good, a great singer. . . . My stepdaughter is pretty good, too." That would be Amy Helm, who has done backup vocals for Steely Dan and Fagen and serves as the lead singer for Ollabelle, an American roots-music sextet. "I don't think there's been any innovation or players that have added anything since [the late sixties and early seventies] or at least since reggae," Fagen opines. "There have been many claims to that. I mean, I was in the New York office of Warner Bros. a little while ago and there was this big poster for some guy who does crunk music [sometimes spelled krunk, it's a style of hip hop that surfaced about 10 years ago in Tennessee and Georgia]. So I asked to hear it and," he chuckles, "I just didn't see the innovation." Donald Fagen performs at Massey Hall in Toronto tonight at 8 (416-872-4255). Morph the Cat is in stores tomorrow.

'Cat' Scratch Fever

Excerpt from - Edited by Jonathan Cohen

(Mar. 12, 2006) Finding love in an airport security line, a ghostly feline hovering above New York and imaginary conversations with the late Ray Charles are not usual topics addressed in rock'n'roll. But they are in the alternate musical universe of Steely Dan principal
Donald Fagen, whose third album, "Morph the Cat," arrives this week via Reprise/Warner Bros.  This is Fagen's first solo effort since 1993's "Kamakiriad," and his first away from his main band since Steely Dan broke a 20-year hiatus from the studio with 2000's Grammy Award-winning "Two Against Nature."  For more than 30 years, Steely Dan's music has been synonymous with a disconnect between the mood it conveys and what its lyrics actually mean. And while a number of tunes on "Morph" offer the usual blend of smooth sounds and sarcastic sentiments, others strike a more unified chord, touching on such personal subjects as death, love and mortality.  "Sept. 11 on a global scale and my mother dying on a personal level were the two major things that got me thinking about all of this," the 58-year-old Fagen says. Tying it all together is the title track, different versions of which bookend the album.  "I was walking along one day and had this image of a phantom cat looking into people's windows," Fagen recalls of the "Morph" concept. "It's a terrifying image, but at the same time, there's something nice about the cat too. On the surface, it's something that would make you feel really good, but there is something sinister about it as well."

Juvenile's 'Reality' Upends Ne-Yo At No. 1

 Excerpt from -  Katie Hasty, N.Y.
(Mar. 15, 2006)
Rapper Juvenile scores the No. 1 spot on The Billboard 200 chart for the first time in his career this week. "Reality Check" (UTP/Atlantic) sold 174,000 copies this week in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and also takes over at No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Juvenile's previous peak was No. 2 with his 2001 album "Project English."  "Reality Check," which features the guest talents of Ludacris, Busta Rhymes and Fat Joe, bumps last week's Billboard 200 No. 1, Ne-Yo's "In My Own Words," down to No. 5. That set suffered a 62% sales decline from its opening frame, shifting 113,000 units compared to more than 301,000.  James Blunt's "Back to Bedlam," another Atlantic release, soars 9-2, a whopping 142% increase at 161,000 copies. In its 23rd week on the chart, "Bedlam" was boosted by Blunt's appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," on which he performed his hit single "You're Beautiful."   The soundtrack to Disney's television movie "High School Musical" slips slightly (2-3) with 138,000 units, an 8% increase.   Matisyahu's "Youth" makes history this week by garnering the best opening sales week for a reggae album since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991. The JDub/Or release debuts at No. 4 with 119,000 copies, slipping ahead of Sean Paul's 2005 reggae set "The Trinity," which bowed at No. 7 with 107,000 copies. Only Matisyahu, Sean Paul, Snow, Shaggy, UB40, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley and his father, Bob Marley, have cracked the top 10 on the big chart.
 David Gilmour's Columbia set "On an Island" lands at No. 6 with 96,000 copies. The solo project is the first from the Pink Floyd principal since 1984's "About Face." Carrie Underwood's Arista debut, "Some Hearts," lingers in the top 10 in its 17th week, climbing 8-7 at 74,000 copies (+2%).   The Johnny Cash collection "The Legend of Johnny Cash" (Legacy/Columbia Nashville/American/Island) slips 6-8 with 70,000 units, a 12% dip. The soundtrack to the Cash biopic "Walk the Line" (Fox), however, jumps 11-9 with 63,000 copies, an 11% increase. Jack Johnson and Friends' Brushfire companion album to "Curious George" rounds out the top tier, moving 7-10 with 60,000 units (-19%).   Rap veteran Scarface's "My Homies Part 2" (Asylum/Rap-A-Lot) enters the chart at No. 12 with 58,000 copies, far behind the former Geto Boys' member's best charting album, 1997's "Untouchable," which debuted at No. 1. Van Morrison's country effort, "Pay the Devil" (Polydor/Lost Highway) bows at No. 26 with 32,000 copies, the Irish rocker's 36th effort to impact The Billboard 200.   The soundtrack to Disney's "That's So Raven Too!" bows at No. 44 with 22,000 copies, while the Little Willies' self-titled Milking Bull debut enters at No. 48 with 20,000 copies. Alt-country chanteuse Neko Case's Anti- release, "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood," debuts at No. 54 with 18,000 copies, giving the artist her best sales week yet.  Exposure from the Academy Awards ceremony results in big jumps for the soundtracks to "Hustle & Flow" (143-73) and "Brokeback Mountain" (148-83).  At 10. 7 million units, overall CD sales were down by 2% from the previous week and down 1% compared to the same week a year ago. Sales for 2006 are down 3% compared to 2005 at 108.5 million units.

Nya Jade's 'One Pill' Debuts On VH1 Soul

Source: Amina Elshahawi, ThinkTank Marketing , E: ,; AIM: Somaya22
“I’m such a fan of different forms of music,” Nya Jade says.  “My goal from the start was to make a record where no two songs sounded exactly the same, with my voice tying it all together.”
(Mar. 15, 2006) As part of the re-launch celebration of VH1 Soul, the 24-hour network that brings music lovers the hottest soul, neo-soul and R&B hits from the 90s and today, premiered the video from the remarkable new talent, Nya Jade. ONE PILL, the first single from Jade’s debut album, MY DENIAL, saw it’s world premiere on February 27th and is currently running every hour on the hour.  In addition, VH1 Soul will add the video to their power rotation. The channel which airs in 20 million U.S. households, is currently airing videos by Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Mary J. Blige and Usher, to name a few.  This San Francisco-based singer/songwriter has already drawn acclaim throughout the Bay Area for her unique music, a bold blend of sounds utterly unbound by genre, unified by Jade’s passionate, perceptive vocals. MY DENIAL marks the emergence of a resourceful and gifted young artist, one whose fierce intelligence burns as brightly as her uncommon creativity.  A Stanford University graduate who once focused on a career in medicine, was forced to rethink her priorities when she was hit by a speeding car her junior year of school. While recovering, Jade’s guitar lessons became a crucial part of her physical therapy, while songwriting helped her heal emotionally.  Intent on going full on with her music, Jade recorded a series of tracks with up-and-coming Bay Area producer Tone (Green Day and Santana). The songs received airplay on the local alternative station, Channel 104.9 FM, whose support led to Jade’s sharing the stage with the likes of The Donnas, Evanescence, Ben Kweller and Maroon 5.
 When the time came to record her debut album, Jade headed down to Los Angeles to work with legendary producer Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, John Lennon). Combining the Douglas-produced sessions along with those helmed by Tone, the resulting MY DENIAL is unquestionably representative of Jade’s multi-faceted personality. At turns poignant, humorous, and fraught with great beauty, Jade explores the complex emotional terrain of interpersonal connections in all their many permutations while cruising effortlessly through irresistible ballads, buoyant rock, and soulful pop symphonies.  Following the world premiere of ONE PILL on VH1 Soul, Jade will be featured in Black Beat Magazine, Right On! Magazine and ONE PILL will also be featured on the influential AAA radio station, KFOG, a station that has made up the fabric of the San Francisco music scene for over 15 years.  MY DENIAL is currently available on and will be released nationwide May 16th on Katako Records.  Watch "One Pill" Video HERE on VH1 Soul. To hear more from Nya Jade visit her official website
Jaheim ... Hooked On 'Classics'

 Excerpt from -
By Kenya Yarbrough
 (Mar. 15, 206) *The buzz phrase of the music industry for R&B is “new classic,” and nobody does it better than Jaheim. His 2002 debut “Ghetto Love” splashed onto the charts with the single “Just In Case,” and now, his latest entry, titled “Ghetto Classics,” follows the path he’s laid of soulful storytelling – started off by the single “Everytime (I Think Of Her).”  The track was first released on the Wendy Williams compilation CD “Wendy Williams Brings The Heat, Vol. 1” It’s longevity success built the anticipation for Jaheim’s second album, which hit the streets last month.  “We snuck the record out on the Wendy Williams compilation and it happened to be a good thing,” Jaheim confessed. “A lot of people took to the record and just caught on to it and here we are now. The record was on the bench for maybe two years. We didn’t have a date to put the single out so we snuck the single to the deejays, like, Wendy.  We recorded it for the album, but we decided to give it to Wendy because she dedicated her time to the record and promoted it." It was a good marketing move to release a track on a compilation before his album made its way to the shelves, but we’re not so sure it was so much a business move as it was just that music fans desire to hear more from the city soulster. After all, it’s been two years since his last project – and that can be star suicide.  “God don’t make no mistake. Some people just take time off and just can’t come back. This record was anticipated for the last year or so, and I think people were ready to hear Jaheim; I think they been waiting. And I was ready to get back out there.” Jaheim’s hiatus was not just so he could sit back and hang in the studio working on his craft – though that’s pretty much what he did.  “There was a big transition with things in the world, and at Warner Bros. It was kind of a mess and I got caught up in it. What I did was just stay in tune to what I do. Stayed in the studio and dealt with things in the community” The singer says that he really didn’t concern himself with what was going on at the label, as it merged into the giant AOL media umbrella.
  “I wasn’t concerned because I couldn’t control it,” he said. “When it’s not in your hands and you’re just the artist – we just do what we do. The label has the last say-so.” In a radio dial full of songs of no substance, Jaheim has been heralded for the fact that his tunes often convey a story. He credits that talent to his team of writers and his musical influences.  “I thank God I grew up under a good umbrella to where I was listening to Luther Vandross and Sam Cooke. And having the right team around me, we were there working hard and here it is: ‘Ghetto Classics.’” He says that this album “hits every segment of what’s going on in the world today,” though the subject of love is his forte.   “We’ve been doing this for a while. And we’re trying to let the world know we’re still doing it. I doubt you can get this anywhere else.” Jaheim’s “Ghetto Classics” is in stores now.  In the mood for some Jaheim jams including "Just In Case," "Could It Be" and “Everytime (I Think Of Her)” among others, then all you have to do click over to his official website (


Dixie Chicks Get Personal On 'Long Way'

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Mar. 10, 2006)
The Dixie Chicks will re-emerge late this spring with the most personal album of their career. Due May 23 via Open Wide/Columbia, "Taking the Long Way" opens with "Not Ready To Make Nice," which addresses the controversy that ensued in March 2003 after singer Natalie Maines criticized President George W. Bush. Afterward, a number of country stations refused to play the group's music.  Lyrics for the track, which was co-penned by the Chicks with former Semisonic leader Dan Wilson, are available at "Forgive, sounds good / Forget, I'm not sure I could / They say time heals everything / But I'm still waiting," Maines sings.  "Taking the Long Way" was executive produced by Rick Rubin and finds the Chicks backed by such musicians as Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, Heartbreakers members Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell and veteran session multi-instrumentalist Larry Knechtel. In addition to Wilson, who collaborated on six tracks, Pete Yorn and the Jayhawks' Gary Louris contributed to the songwriting.  "Everything felt more personal this time," Maines says. "I go back to songs we've done in the past and there's just more maturity, depth, intelligence on these. They just feel more grown-up."  Among the album's selections are "I Hope," a co-write with blues artist Keb' Mo' that served as a charity download for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, "Everybody Knows," "Silent House" and "Lubbock or Leave It."   "Taking the Long Way" is the Chicks' first studio album since 2002's "Home," which debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and has sold more than 5.8 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.  The group is expected to launch an all-arena trek in June, with details to be announced.

Ne-Yo’s ‘So Sick’ Infects Billboard

Excerpt from

(Mar. 9, 2006) *After shipping RIAA platinum last week, “In My Own Words,” the debut album by Def Jam recording artist
Ne-Yo, debuts at No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and  R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts with first week sales of 301,005 units.  Def Jam President & CEO Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter said of the young singer’s accomplishments: "Ne-Yo's use of the harmonies and words has touched music lovers from all ages and backgrounds. He is the true embodiment of the word 'artist.'"   The set’s successful debut is propelled by the sizzling single, “So Sick,” written about the ex-girlfriend who left Ne-Yo after he cheated.  Born Shaffer C. Smith in Arkansas and raised in Las Vegas, Ne-Yo came to Def Jam's attention after he penned tunes for a string of multi-platinum artists, including Mary J. Blige, B2K, Faith Evans, Musiq, and Mario -- whose "Let Me Love You" (which Ne-Yo co-wrote with Scott Storch) finished out 2004 as the No. 1 most-played song of the year at radio.   The 23-year-old promoted last week’s release of “In My Own Words” through a string of TV appearances, including “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “CD USA,” “The Tyra Banks Show” and “Live with Regis & Kelly.”  On March 18, he’ll open "The LL Cool J Custom Concert" over the Oxygen Network (10:30 p.m. ET/ 9:30 CT); and March 27 will mark his debut on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Upcoming April appearances include “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “Showtime at the Apollo”; followed by Teen People's "25 Under 25" special in May.

The Two Sides Of Roy Hargrove

Excerpt from

(Mar. 9, 2006) *Hip hop jazz trumpeter
Roy Hargrove, on May 2, will release two new albums on Verve Records via his groups The RH Factor and The Roy Hargrove Quintet.  The discs, "Distractions" and "Nothing Serious" - from The RH Factor and The Roy Hargrove Quintet, respectively – showcase two aspects of the trumpeter/composer's musical diversity.   The RH Factor is his neo-soul/jazz fusion outfit which made its debut with 2003's successful "Hard Groove." The Roy Hargrove Quintet is a hard-bop/pure, straight ahead jazz group which has continued to tour as Hargrove experiments with different sounds.   Hargrove will continue to perform and tour with both groups following the dual releases of "Distractions" and "Nothing Serious." For dates and more information, visit  

Carmelo Anthony Launches Record Label

Excerpt from

(Mar. 9, 2006) *
Carmelo Anthony, a star on NBA’s Denver Nuggets basketball team, has started his own record label called Kross Over Entertainment, with Atlanta-based rapper Berg providing the company’s first single, “Hold Up,” featuring UGK. Kross Over has also signed producer/artist "Soundz," and R&B singer Alesia Miller, according to  Anthony, 21, is also investing his money in a forthcoming wireless communications firm, reports the Web site.  Meanwhile, the NBA star was recently selected to join the USA Basketball team that will compete in the 2008 Olympics. Anthony joins other recent draftees Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas and others. 

Miles Davis’ Family Cheers Rock Hall Induction

Excerpt from

(Mar. 13, 2006) *The immediate family of jazz icon
Miles Davis is “extremely honoured” that he is being recognized by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame during the organization's 21st Annual Induction ceremony, taking place tonight (March 13) at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The late trumpeter’s nephew, Vince Wilburn, Jr., along with immediate Davis offspring Cheryl and Erin Davis, said in a statement: "We acknowledge the uniqueness of a jazz musician being admitted into rock & roll's elite club. It is especially noteworthy and meaningful to the family that this honour is being bestowed on Miles as we celebrate his 80th birthday this year." Davis, who is widely acclaimed to be one of the 20th Century's most creative artists, is credited with changing the sound of popular music several times during his six-decade career. His musical experimentation, which began in the late '60s, created a highly innovative fusion of jazz with rock & roll, soul, funk and hip hop. His 80th birthday will be celebrated this year on May 26, while the 15th Anniversary of his passing will be recognized on September 21.  As the sole jazz inductee of the 2006 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he will be honoured alongside Black Sabbath, Blondie, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Sex Pistols.  Davis fans may view several of his personal items now on loan with the Cleveland Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. For more information, please visit

Hidden Beach Recordings Goes International

Excerpt from

(Mar. 13, 2006) **Santa Monica-based Hidden Beach Recordings, home to such talent as Jill Scott, and Kindred The Family Soul, has announced the launch of Hidden Beach International (HBI).   The primary mission of HBI is to hip the U.S. to an eclectic array of international artists who are breaking new ground and challenging the industry status quo. Artists on HBI will be able to create a body of work for a label that uses its independence to venture into non-traditional marketing and creative arenas frequently overlooked by conventional music imprints.      HBI’s first release will be “Jukebox – The Album,” from the internationally-renowned Bent Fabric. The disc, available for purchase tomorrow (March 14), will feature 11 new songs, including Fabric playing his Grammy Award-winning original composition “Alley Cat,” and the added bonus of two new remixes:  “Alley Cat” by Hit & Run and “Jukebox” by legendary DJ and remixer Ralphi Rosario.   The album will also incorporate additional enhancements such as the much-seen Cingular/iTunes commercial spot and the animated video “Jukebox.”  Both the “Jukebox” video and the Cingular/iTunes commercial can be accessed via or by visiting  “Hidden Beach International will continue the legacy started by Hidden Beach Recordings,” says Steve McKeever, President and CEO.  “We feel that we have created a recognizable brand where the consumer knows that if it’s on Hidden Beach, it is good, quality music that may not necessarily fall into the traditional genres of R&B or Pop.  But in the end, that’s what we’re all about.  At Hidden Beach we try to think differently, and we enjoy taking creative risks.  We imagine music outside of the calculated forms that results in signing artists whose musical styles are outside of the expected and is something new.  This is our primary mission.”   Hidden Beach Recordings also has among its roster Jeff Bradshaw, Lina and saxophonist Mike Phillips.   In the coming weeks, the company will announce the new music slated for release in 2006. 

Heather Headley Promotion In Full Swing

Source: Blackmon Entertainment Media /,

(Mar. 14, 2006) Woodland Hills CA -- Blackmon Entertainment Media, Gospel Insider (125+ US Markets) Club Society Hills (National Youth Club), RCA/BMG and J Records again join forces to present the exciting,
Heather Headley “In My Mind” National Promotion.  RCA’s musical wonder, born in Trinidad, started playing concert piano at the age of four. She studied communications and musical theatre at Northwestern University.  She parlayed her talent into starring roles in Disney's production of The Lion King as well as  Aida, which earned her a Toney Award. She's also garnered Soul Train Music, NAACP Image and Bet Awards.  Headley's highly, acclaimed new CD “In My Mind” boasts the spiritual contribution “Change” written by her, along with Warryn Campbell and E. Dawkins Gospel Insider Listeners along with Club Society Hills (35,000 Members) are invited to email entries with the phrase “Heather Headley In My Mind Promotion" to or 25 winners will receive a Heather Headley/J Records Gift Pack. Heather Headley will also be featured on Gospel Insider’s Website   (25,000+) Club Society Hills “411” Newsletter, and website Log on and win. Hurry deadline March 31, 2006.   “In My Mind” features guest artists Vybz Kartel and Shaggy. Producers include Warryn Campbell (Am I Worth It?), Babyface, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Shannon Sanders. “In My Mind” is available everywhere on RCA Sony BMG Records, log onto For additional information contact Paula Blue at Blackmon Entertainment Media via, or call 818 349-0364.

UMAC Announces Urban Music Showcases To Take Place During Juno Weekend


is pleased to announce the line-ups for the official JUNO Fest Urban Music Showcases taking place at Halifax's Waterfront Warehouse on Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1.

Friday, March 31 (starting at 10 pm):

Alpha Flight (Halifax-Based Hip Hop Group)
Universal Soul (Halifax-Based Hip Hop Group)
Eternia (JUNO Nominee)
Classified (JUNO Nominee)
Carl Henry (JUNO Nominee)

Saturday, April 1 (starting at 10 pm):

Nu Gruv (Halifax-Based Soul Band)
Senaya (JUNO Nominee)
Blessed (JUNO Nominee)
Jah Beng (JUNO Nominee)
Odel (JUNO Nominee)

For more info on all JUNO weekend events, visit

Montreal Underground Gala To Recognize Quebec Hip Hop


For the second year, the Montreal-Underground Crew presents
Montréal-Underground Gala, a celebration of the best in Québec Hip Hop.  The awards will be handed out at a ceremony taking place at Montreal's SAT on Saturday, March 18. Some of the nominees include:

Best Album (Anglophone):
Book of Bless - Bless
The Burbs - Karma Atchykah
The Diamond Mines - South Squad
Heartcore - Billy Nova

Best Album (Francophone):
Duo du balcon - Accrophone
Les gars du peuple - L'Assemblée
Deluxxx - Atach tatuq
Leur médiums:le remedium - Monk-e

Best Single:
"J'aurais voulu" - Damien
"Australie" - Dee
"Jealousy" - Bless
"Laissez moi dormir" - Accrophone

Public's Favourite Artist:
Loco Locass
Carl Henry
Atach tatuq
Frenchi Blanco
Roi Heenok

For more information and a full list of the nominees, visit

Gladys Knight Salutes Ella, Duke, Sammy

Excerpt from - Clover Hope, N.Y.

(Mar. 15, 2006)
R&B veteran Gladys Knight will honour a host of legendary vocalists with the release of a covers album, "Before Me." Due June 6 via Verve Records, the set features songs originally performed by Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Sammy Davis, Jr., among others.  Grammy-winning producers Tommy LiPuma (Natalie Cole, George Benson) and Phil Ramone (Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles) worked behind the boards on the album. The Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman are among the contributing instrumentalists.  "As I was getting this music together, the title, 'Before Me,' just rang in my head. I was impressed to make a reference to those glorious performers that set the pace for me to be a part of this industry," says Knight. "These people made great strides not just with their music, but because of who they were as people."  Knight's most recent album was 2005's "One Voice" with the Saints Unified Voices. The artist has a handful of upcoming shows on her itinerary, including tomorrow (March 16) in Huntsville, Ala., and Saturday in Westbury, N.Y. A six-date European tour begins June 30 in Birmingham, England.


Movie Titles Needed Rewrite, Says Haggis

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Martin Knelman
 (Mar. 11, 2006) After his double triumph at the Academy Awards last Sunday, you might expect
Paul Haggis to be cocky. Instead, he sounded surprisingly contrite in a phone interview yesterday.  "David Cronenberg is a terrific filmmaker, and I respect his talent enormously," Haggis said. "The last thing I'd want to do is upset him."  Earlier this week, Cronenberg told my colleague Peter Howell he was distressed because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts not only failed to give any Oscars to Cronenberg's A History of Violence but made matters worse by giving the Oscar for best picture to a movie that stole the title of his 1996 adaptation of a J.G. Ballard novel.  "I can understand his feelings," says Haggis. "If I had half a brain I would have used a better title."  In France, the Haggis movie was called Collisions, but he wanted the English title to be more visceral. Haggis confides he also wishes he had come up with a better title for Million Dollar Baby, which he wrote and co-produced in collaboration with Clint Eastwood.  "I regret using that crappy title," says Haggis. Nevertheless, it took the Oscar as best movie of 2004, just as Crash did in 2005, making Haggis the writer of back-to-back winners.  Many would argue there's no need for Haggis to apologize. If you do an Internet search for films called Crash, you'll find not just two of them but about a dozen — including a weird 1977 occult drama in which Jose Ferrer as a jealous handicapped husband tries to kill Sue Lyon as his witchcraft-practising wife.  Indeed, Cronenberg's 1996 movie is getting some renewed attention at the moment thanks to the high profile of the Haggis picture. It is being shown this month on the premium U.S. cable channel HBO — which rarely airs 10-year-old movies.  This clash of the titles is just one aspect of an anti-Haggis backlash that has been brewing since the envelopes were opened at Sunday's ceremony. Crash has been belittled as a safe, conservative choice for those too timid to endorse Brokeback Mountain.  "I have to say I find that view hysterical and absurd," says Haggis. "I thought Brokeback was a really good movie but, if you decided to vote for it, the best reason would be you thought it was a great movie about two human beings, not because it's a social statement.  "And if you wanted to see the gay community embraced by Hollywood, well, the fact is that happened a long time ago. I mean, look at the popularity of Will & Grace on television."
 Haggis has been alternately attacked and embraced by both right and left for the presumed politics of Crash.  Haggis says he targeted liberals because "I'm a liberal and I like to target myself. We like to think we're good people. It's a kind of hubris — the sin of pride."  That sounds almost religious. Could the philosophy of the movie have anything to do with his beliefs as a Scientologist?  "That has nothing to do with anything," says Haggis.  Some of his detractors — especially those who insist Los Angeles can't be comprehended by anyone who wasn't born and raised in southern California — argue that Crash gets L.A. wrong because it represents the views of an outsider from London, Ont.  On the other hand, chauvinists from his native land complained that he failed to mention Canada. "I guess when I thanked all the people who fight for tolerance and justice I could have added, `especially if they're Canadian,'" Haggis retorts.  Still, winning has taught him that weathering the backlash isn't as challenging as surviving the flattery.  "You can be very vulnerable if you start believing you're as good as people say. It's very seductive, and I never want that to happen."  Handling abuse is easier. "I like the fact that a lot of people are critical and upset. I feel it's a good thing if something I've written upsets people. Any artist who seeks to be loved is on the road to oblivion."  Still, there is one key way in which winning two Oscars has changed the life of Paul Haggis. He is currently working on several movie scripts and a television pilot — and he often likes to escape from his Santa Monica home and office by writing on his laptop at some unfashionable, half-empty coffee shop.  But during the past week, he says, "It is getting a lot harder to find a coffee shop where no one recognizes me."

Box Office Slumped In 2005

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star

 (Mar. 12, 2006)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The movie business was down worldwide last year, final box-office figures show.  Revenues in the United States dropped by six per cent to $8.99 billion (all figures U.S.) last year, compared with 2004. The worldwide market fell by 7.9 per cent to $23.24 billion from a 2004 all-time high, the Motion Picture Association of America said Thursday.  The number of tickets sold in the United States also continued its three-year decline. Total U.S. attendance fell by nine per cent to 1.4 billion — the lowest level in nearly a decade. About 240 million fewer tickets were sold last year, compared with 2004. At the same time, the average ticket price rose from $6.21 to $6.41.  It also was more expensive for Hollywood to market pictures. The average cost rose by about five per cent, from $34.4 million to $36.2 million. For specialty movies, such as the hits Brokeback Mountain and March of the Penguins, marketing costs soared by 33 per cent, reflecting the increasing competition for movies that often start in limited release.  Despite the success of independent and smaller movies, though, blockbusters continued to draw the largest audiences.  Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith was the top-grossing film with $380.3 million. Altogether, eight movies grossed more than $200 million each.  The good news for studios was their average cost to make a movie dropped by about $2.5 million to $60 million.
 However, that figure didn't count the often substantial contributions of outside investors, which in some cases made up one-half of the budget.  Theatres have worried their ticket sales are being undercut by DVD sales for home theatres. However, the MPAA announced results of an August study by Nielsen Entertainment/NRG of 3,000 moviegoers that indicated theatres remain popular.  It found those who had the most DVD players, big-screen TVs, digital cable and other high-technology movie options also saw the most movies at theatres — an average of 8.2 a year.  Also, 69 per cent of those polled said they preferred to see a movie in a theatre, rather than at home — although nearly one-third agreed their home offered "the ultimate movie-watching experience."  "Despite increasing competition for consumers' time and entertainment dollars, theatregoing remains a satisfying constant in people's lives," said Dan Glickman, MPAA chairman and chief executive officer.  "That said, we can't bury our heads in the sand. We do have to attract customers and keep regulars coming back."

Anthony Hopkins Is Comfortable With His Fleeting Life

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt
 (Mar. 9, 2006) NEW YORK — It's funny, the twists that life can take. Sixty years ago,
Anthony Hopkins was an eight-year-old lad growing up above his dad's bakery in Port Talbot, Wales. On weekends, he'd spend lazy days with his maternal grandparents, playing a real-life role that at the time he didn't fully appreciate: In the 1920s, they'd lost a 12-year-old daughter to diphtheria. "It really knocked them sideways," he recalls now, seated by the window of a Park Avenue hotel room in New York. "They were a tough generation, but I became the surrogate child." His grandfather had a shed at the bottom of the garden, where he would build contraptions to enchant young Anthony. "He made me a crane once, a steel crane with a jib and a boiler," Hopkins says with remembered delight. "Oh, I was devoted to him." In the fall of 2004, Hopkins stepped into his grandfather's shoes, figuratively speaking, when he spent a few months in Utah and New Zealand shooting The World's Fastest Indian. In the film, an unabashed crowd-pleaser that opens tomorrow in Toronto and Vancouver and later rolls out across Canada, Hopkins plays a spirited Kiwi by the name of Burt Munro who spends the last years of his life tinkering in his shed with a 1920s Indian motorcycle, obsessed with the idea of setting a world land-speed record at the salt flats in Bonneville, Utah. The film is based on a true story, although some liberties have been taken with the tale -- such as the addition of a young boy, a neighbour of Burt's, who treats the man as something of a surrogate grandfather. "When I got those overalls on, and the boots, and was there with the vice, and the shed, I thought: 'This is my grandfather,' " Hopkins says. " 'I've come back to my grandfather.' "
 At least on film. In real life, Hopkins will likely never have a chance to be a grandfather. He has but one child, a 37-year-old daughter named Abigail by his first marriage, which broke up when the little girl wasn't yet four. He doesn't see much of Abigail, who lives in Britain. He decamped permanently to California more than 30 years ago, and doesn't often get back to London or Wales, although he is planning a trip with his third wife, whom he married a few years ago. He's still got a few relatives in the old country, but there's not much pulling him back: He was an only child, and his mother and father died years ago. So when, in an early scene in The World's Fastest Indian, Burt lingers over a photo album containing old black and white pictures of his parents and dead twin brother, there are layers of melancholic reality at play. "There's my dad there. My mother," Burt says. "They're all gone, dead now. Eh, that's a long time ago, isn't it? My God, where's it all gone? It all goes by so fast."  Thinking now about the scene, which he partly improvised, Hopkins launches into an exploration of the mysteries of time and the meaning of life itself. "It meant something to me to say that, because, as I'm getting older, I remember my parents, my grandparents, and it's extraordinary what happens. Life turns and," -- he makes a flicking motion with his right hand -- "it's all gone with the wind. Whoosh! "I think it's kind of poetic and philosophical. It gives me a sense of richness in my life, because that is life -- nothing is of any importance. Everything we do here at this moment will one day be meaningless, in a few minutes it'll all be a dream." Hopkins's serenity is relatively newfound. In previous interviews, while his second marriage was still in its troubled, final throes, he could be a simmering, gruff presence. Perhaps his equanimity is partly an aid to help him accept his own sins -- his mid-career depression, his alcoholism -- and the heartache he has caused others.
 For he is not just mouthing humble platitudes; through the years, he has consistently backed his modest statements with action. Although knighted in 1993, he does not insist on being addressed as "Sir," as some others. (Hello, Ben Kingsley?) When he received the lifetime-achievement Golden Globe this year, Hopkins acknowledged in his speech those who never make it into the spotlight, including his long-time stand-in, and the crews on his various films. The attitude stems from a blend of blue-collar upbringing and a British sense of noblesse oblige. For this is the noblesse oblige time of his life. He is dabbling in painting -- in an Impressionist style, although he has never been formally trained -- and writing music, with the profits often going to various charities. He reportedly has extended financial assistance to some promising actors, although he refuses to discuss the details. And he teaches acting at UCLA and UC Santa Monica, although he could make far more money working on films. Lately, in the classes, he's been advising his students not to make the same mistakes he did. For starters, they shouldn't take themselves too seriously. "I say to these young actors: If you didn't act again, nobody would care. The world would not stop, it would go on without you. That's how important acting is. "Of course, you have to apply yourself, you have to do your preparation, do your homework, whatever, learn the lines. Show up on time," he adds. "But I just recently, in the last year, worked on a movie, and the director said there were a couple of people on the movie who would not come out of their trailers. Now, can you figure that out? The money people are paid and they won't show up on set? That to me is insanity. And they are complaining because their trailers are not big enough? That's bullshit. "I mean, these people are being paid more money than anyone could even dream of -- and they complain? Give me a . . . break. I mean, that's where I part company with it. You're there to do a job, you're there to show up, be polite, be pleasant to people, treat the film crew with respect and not think that you're something different to anyone, because you're not. You're just breathing oxygen just like everyone else."

Joy In The Midst Of A History Of Violence

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald
 (Mar. 14, 2006) If the documentary on the "making of" A History of Violence is anything to go by, Toronto director David Cronenberg had a damn good time -- all things considered -- making what was hailed as one of last year's most disturbing pictures. The behind-the-scenes documentary Acts of Violence, included in a recently released DVD of the critically acclaimed film, was directed by Cronenberg's wife, Carolyn Zeifman, who has been married to her subject for more than 26 years. And it's fascinating to observe the man -- reputed over the years to be the king of cinematic depravity because of his exploration of graphically violent and sexual themes -- walk his actors through horrendous, brain-blowing scenes or brutal sex, simply by using a considered, respectful approach. "The thing actors really want is to know they're being observed," Cronenberg says in Zeifman's film. It's clear after watching the one-hour documentary that the director managed to coax riveting performances from his two stars, Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello, because they respected -- and trusted -- Cronenberg to handle the risqué subject matter with his trademark deft touch. "When David's shooting a film, it's a very intense experience -- there are a lot of hours logged in a very short time," explains Zeifman, who worked as an editor on some of her husband's earliest films, such as The Brood, Fast Company and Rabid, but quit in the early 1980s to raise their three kids. She decided to teach herself how to edit on a computer, and direct Acts of Violence because she wanted to chronicle the easy-going, familial mood that the long time, loyal crew have long attested pervades a Cronenberg set. It's an experience that becomes like a family," said Zeifman. "When you're doing it, you become very connected. When your partner's in a situation like that, and you're not, you feel like you'd like to share that. Also, I just enjoy the work. And [this type of production] also sort of goes with my behind-the-scenes personality. I like being on the set, folding myself into small places, and shooting film."
 A History of Violence is not easy to watch. Like most of Cronenberg's films, it pores over "the beast within," which in this case is Tom Stall's (Mortensen) hidden, violent past, which suddenly erupts again and takes over a once seemingly wholesome family. Heads are blown off. Husband and wife engage in first playful, then animalistic, sex. But when the camera is not rolling, Zeifman's documentary shows a playful Mortensen who picks up his own props (including a truly ugly fish head that sat on the counter of Tom's diner), and also outfitted the entire cast and crew in fish-themed T-shirts that he'd pick up -- and bring back each weekend -- after visiting his folks in upstate New York. A tradition was born, Fish Friday, where everyone -- from Bello to a camera grip -- would don their gaudy T-shirts and strut around the set. Zeifman adds that New Line studio was extremely supportive of her project. "I think they wanted to show that in the midst of all this darkness and violence, there was this group of people who felt like a family, could joke around, and have an easy time of it. "David really likes to let his actors bring a lot to the role. He allows them to make a lot of suggestions, to collaborate, and tell him what they feel comfortable doing. He doesn't always listen to them, but he likes to hear what they have to say. He also never story-boards. He never comes in with a pre-set notion of how things should work." There is another shot, of Cronenberg climbing into bed between Mortensen and Bello, who are just about to take on another steamy sex scene. Again, putting his actors at ease, Cronenberg -- nestled between them -- quips: "I take the risks everyone dreams of." To help Mortensen's character Tom morph into his violent alter-ego, Joey, Bello offered the services of her Uncle Pete in Philadelphia. After a weekend of hanging out with Bello's relative in the City of Brotherly Love, Mortensen returned with the Eastern seaboard drawl down pat. The cast and crew also held a mock U.S. election, since Mortensen -- a die-hard George W. Bush basher -- could not be in the United States to cast his vote.
 The tally came up 75 in favour of John Kerry, six for Bush, one for a dog named Rosie, and one for Guy Lafleur. The hockey vote, Zeifman figures, was Mortsensen's -- an avid Habs fan. Despite accolades from film festivals, the Golden Globes and critics, A History of Violence was pretty much shut out of the Oscar race. Zeifman said she was disappointed -- like her husband -- that it didn't make the cut. However, she added that "it had gotten such wonderful critical acclaim . . . and that was really the important thing. I think the Oscars are one of those things that when you're in the race, it's exciting. But being left out of the race isn't necessarily a reflection of your film." Cronenberg's film ends with many questions -- Is violence innate to all of us? Do we ever really know anyone? Do we ever really know ourselves? In the documentary, the director says he decided to do the film because of its ambiguous ending. The final words of the script are "there's hope" -- although those words are never uttered on the screen. Zeifman says she's not sure if she believes the film's final message adhered to that unspoken tag line. "I haven't made up my mind. I felt that possibly there was hope for that family. But on a bigger scale? I guess all I can say is, I hope there's hope."

Genies Nuts For C.R.A.Z.Y.

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Mar, 14, 2006) The
Genies went nuts for C.R.A.Z.Y. last night, handing a near-record 10 awards — including Best Motion Picture — to a small Quebec film that helped prove just how popular Canadian movies can be in their own country.

Genie photo gallery

Montrealer Jean-Marc Vallée's coming-of-age story set in the glam-rock 1970s swept most of the top prizes at the 26th annual event honouring the best in Canuck cinema, taking all but two of its 12 leading nominations. The show was at The Carlu, Toronto's elegant venue downtown and broadcast nationally by CHUM Television.  Besides the top prize, C.R.A.Z.Y. also racked up wins for director, actor (Michel Côté), supporting actress (Danielle Proulx), original screenplay, art direction, costume design, editing, sound and sound editing, plus the special Golden Reel Award given to the film with the highest domestic box-office revenue of the year.  It's rare that the Genie for Best Motion Picture and the Golden Reel Award for commercial success are given to the same film, but C.R.A.Z.Y. is that rare movie that attains both critical acclaim and box-office glory in Canada. It made cash registers ring to the tune of $6.3 million — $5.8 million in Quebec, $500,000 in the rest of the country — a record take for a Canadian film playing in Canadian theatres.  This exceeds $6.1 million by the previous national champ, Quebec hockey comedy Les Boys, which was released in 1997 and didn't do nearly as well in English Canada as C.R.A.Z.Y. did.  It's been a good year for homegrown movies. For the first time ever, Canadian films accounted for 5 per cent of the total Canadian box office, which is traditionally overwhelmed by Hollywood films. The Canuck film percentage normally runs about 3 per cent.  With its 10 wins, C.R.A.Z.Y. also has the distinction of being the third-most successful Genie winner ever, after Denys Arcand's Jesus of Montreal and Jean-Claude Lauzon's Un zoo la nuit, both of which won 13 Genies.  "I'm touched," Vallée said of the accolades for his film, which took him 10 years to make.  "This has been a crazy experience."  In the pressroom backstage, he expressed frustration that more English Canadians hadn't seen the film, because it appeared on so few screens outside of Quebec — including just two in Toronto.  But he said it's the same problem for English-language Canadian films in Quebec, where screens are also scarce. "We don't know about English-Canadian films, also."

Vallée's film might have won even more prizes, but main C.R.A.Z.Y. actor Marc-André Grondin — who plays rock-obsessed teen Zachary — was competing with his co-star Michel Côté for the Actor in a Leading Role prize, and only one of them could win.  Côté expressed "mixed feelings" that he won instead of Grondin, because in other film contests — including Quebec's upcoming Jutra Awards — he's in the supporting actor category so the two don't compete. But the Genies insisted he compete as a lead actor.  The only category that C.R.A.Z.Y. was nominated for but lost to another film was Achievement in Cinematography, one of three awards snapped up by Toronto filmmaker Deepa Mehta's Water, another coming-of-age story and the night's only other multiple winner.  Set in the India of the 1930s, it tells the story of an 8-year-old child bride whose husband suddenly dies, forcing her to live as a virtual exile in a home for Hindu widows. Tamil actress Seema Biswas, best known for her earlier lead performance in Bandit Queen, took the Genie for Actress in a Leading Role. The third Genie won by Water was for Mychael Dynna's original score.  Water was another Canadian success story at the movies last year. It has earned more than $2.2 million at the domestic box office, a figure that dwarfs most other Canuck productions, C.R.A.Z.Y. excepted, and which is likely to rise significantly with its recent release on DVD. C.R.A.Z.Y. is also expected to do well with its DVD release, scheduled for April 4.  The combination of C.R.A.Z.Y. and Water made this one of the most successful Genie Awards shows ever, judging by the number of prizes that went to films that Canadians have actually seen. It recalls the Genie show of 1997, when The Sweet Hereafter, The Hanging Garden and Cube were all box-office successes and also prizewinners. But that year's show wasn't telecast live — ironically because the CBC was worried about low audience interest.

Genie Winners

The winners of the 2006 Genie Awards for the best in Canadian-made cinema, as announced Monday by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television:

Best film: C.R.A.Z.Y.

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee, C.R.A.Z.Y.

Leading actor: Michel Cote, C.R.A.Z.Y.

Supporting actor: Denis Bernard, L'Audition.

Leading actress: Seema Biswas, Water.

Supporting actress: Danielle Proulx, C.R.A.Z.Y.

Art direction/production design: Patrice Vermette, C.R.A.Z.Y.

Costume design: Ginette Magny, C.R.A.Z.Y.

Cinematography: Giles Nuttgens, Water.

Editing: Paul Jutras, C.R.A.Z.Y.

Original score: Mychael Danna, Water.

Original song: Glenn Buhr, Margaret Sweatman, Seven Times Lucky — "When Wintertime".

Overall sound: Yvon Benoit, Daniel Bisson, Luc Boudrias, Bernard Gariepy Strobl, C.R.A.Z.Y.

Sound editing: Martin Pinsonnault, Mira Mailhot, Simon Meilleur, Mireille Morin, Jean- Francois Sauve, C.R.A.Z.Y.

Original screenplay: Jean-Marc Vallee, Francois Boulay, C.R.A.Z.Y.

Adapted screenplay: Atom Egoyan, Where the Truth Lies.

Documentary: ScaredSacred (Velcrow Ripper, Tracey Friesen, Cari Green, Harry Sutherland).

Live action short drama: Milo 55160.

Animated short: CNote.

Golden Reel Award: C.R.A.Z.Y.

Claude Jutra Award: Louise Archambault, Familia.

Cocktails and C.R.A.Z.Y

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Rita Zekas

(Mar, 14, 2006) The
Genies have gone uptown.  The venue changed from the Metro Convention Centre to the art deco Carlu at Yonge and College so the Genie-al set could get a quick fix of Winners downstairs — and maybe even buy a few accessories — before they hit the seventh floor for the awards.  Bumped into Water director Deepa Mehta, decked in one of her fabulous saris, at the elevator. The stunning Lisa Ray, star of the film and a presenter, channelled Jean Harlow in a pale yellow Thien Le.  We didn't actually see her in the flesh at the pre-awards cocktailer, but photographer Tom Sandler had snapped her earlier, "somewhere in the building." Sorry, he couldn't be any more vague.  Wardrober Soo Luen Tom was also in Thien Le, accessorized either by a white Mongolian wrap or her Bichon frise.  Actor Ellen Dubin (Napoleon Dynamite) was babelicious in a start-the-revolution-without-me lilac satin Arthur Mendonça gown and vintage necklace she found in Los Angeles.  Maria Topalovich, head of the whole shootin' match, the Academy of Canadian Cinema&Television, also went Canadian in a Chanel-ish black pant suit by the young Canuck designer Jayn SimpsonMichel Côté, who picked up the leading actor hardware for playing the patriarch in C.R.A.Z.Y., said that the success of the film, last night's big winner, was because it appealed to the "simple people. The writing is great. They worked for many years on the script and it shows."  Côté had been nominated in the same category in 1989 for Cruising Bar, but "it was the year of Jesus of Montreal."  This was obviously the year the Genies went C.R.A.Z.Y.  "There he is, there's my son, the star," he said, referring to Marc-André Grondin, who plays his son in the film and was his rival in the acting category.  Katie Boland (Some Things That Stay), looked like a million Euros in a little red number, and caught up with her Shania director Jerry Ciccoritti.  Preternaturally chic producer Denise Robert, whose documentary Thieves of Innocence was nominated, was a Prada girl, head to toe.  Director Sturla Gunnarsson, whose delightfully subversive film Beowulf & Grendel opened last weekend, hung with his wife, former set designer Judy Koonar, who "directs me now," he laughed.  We walked into the middle of a heated conversation in French which ended with one of the gents proclaiming at the end of the sentence, "dry martini."  Ah, booze, the universal language.  And someone tell me Faux Bono's 15 minutes have got to be up. Now he's even got his own posse and camera people in addition to his fake security guy. How sad is that, crashing a party on the coattails of a look-alike?  Isn't there a lounge act somewhere calling his name?

Montreal Festival Battles Persist

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
James Adams
 (Mar. 9, 2006) A wise general knows the importance of pressing the advantage even when his foe already appears to be faltering under the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. So it is with Serge Losique, founder of
Montreal's World Film Festival, set to mark its 30th anniversary in August. Last month, Losique witnessed with satisfaction one of the greatest debacles in the history of the Canadian movie industry, namely the collapse, after just one year, of the New Montreal FilmFest. Bankrolled by Telefilm Canada and Quebec's equivalent of the Canada Council, FilmFest was created in large part to replace Losique's event, end his 30-year reign as the major-domo of Quebec's involvement in the international fest circuit and begin the reclamation of some of the lustre Montreal once shared with Toronto's famous celluloid celebration. However, when FilmFest managed to lure less than 90,000 patrons for its inaugural run Sept. 18-27, 2005, not a few predicted it wouldn't make a sophomore season. Even before this came to pass, however, Losique had been in active pursuit of "all the people plotting against the World Film Festival." And he continues to do so, with at least three suits moving through the legal system. They are: A $250,000 defamation action, initiated in 2003, against Montreal's La Presse for comments published May 31 that year that compared Losique with a famous U.S. gangster; A $2.5-million suit, filed in late 2004, alleging an illegal conspiracy on the part of Telefilm to put him out of business;
 A $1-million suit, filed in February, 2005, against L'Équipe Spectra and Regroupement pour un nouveau festival des films for "plotting to steal our business," in the words of Losique lawyer Claude-Armand Sheppard. Spectra, organizer of Quebec's popular annual jazz festival and FrancoFolies, and Regroupement, an umbrella organization of film professionals, were given almost $1.1-million by Telefilm and SODEC (Société de développement des entreprises culturelles) -- dollars previously earmarked for the World Film Festival -- as seed money for the inaugural FilmFest. Another defendant was added to the action against La Presse last March when Losique served papers on Moritz de Hadeln after he arrived in Montreal to serve as head of programming for the New Montreal FilmFest. This suit was prompted by comments de Hadeln allegedly made in May, 2003, while attending the Cannes Film Festival as head of the Venice Film Festival. He allegedly complained that the World Film Festival, running Aug. 25-Sept. 7 that year, was in conflict with Venice's Aug. 27-Sept. 26 schedule.  He allegedly charged that Losique had set his dates without consulting the International Federation of Film Producers Associations and was acting like an American gangster -- comments that later found their way into La Presse and other newspapers. Last month lawyers for Losique argued in Quebec Superior Court for permission to interview, under oath, Charles Bélanger, chairman of Telefilm's board. It was on Bélanger's watch in 2004 that Telefilm and SODEC commissioned an analysis of Canada's major film festivals -- an analysis that, upon its publication in July, 2004, proved critical of Losique and started the process to establish a substitute Montreal festival.
 That process came under attack recently when a member of Quebec's National Assembly revealed that, in fall 2004, Telefilm and SODEC quietly scrapped a points-based evaluation in choosing a parent group for the substitute festival in favour of "a more qualitative type of analysis." Under the points system, the Festival du nouveau cinéma was named the best of the four applicants; with the "qualitative" evaluation, Regroupement and Spectra got the nod. Sheppard, Losique's counsel, expects a judgment later this month or in April on his motion to examine Bélanger. However, as a Crown agency, Telefilm can designate who it wants to serve as its respondent in a suit and in this instance, it's insisting its director of communications, Jean-Claude Mahé, is the relevant individual. Meanwhile, Sheppard is hoping to continue the questioning of de Hadeln that he started last year. However, "Mr. de Hadeln has gone back to . . . Germany and is proving difficult to reach," Sheppard said. (De Hadeln, executive director of the Berlin Film Festival 1979-1981, established de Hadeln & Partners Film Consulting in Berlin in 2001.) Sheppard said SODEC hasn't been named in any of Losique's suits because "it's our view that SODEC was always dragged along by Telefilm." Indeed, on Feb. 24, the head of SODEC announced that Losique could apply to his organization for the $550,000 it awarded last year to the now-defunct FilmFest. "We don't have a blacklist," president Jean-Guy Chaput told Montreal's The Gazette. Losique has indicated he plans to apply this month.

3 Wives Seems Almost Normal

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon,

(Mar. 10, 2006) "You awake?"  Appropriately, this is the first line in Big Love (TMN, Sunday, 10 p.m.), a new HBO drama that's already generated plenty of pre-launch controversy with its dreamlike subject matter.  Big Love revolves around Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) who, on the surface, is not dissimilar to many clean-cut, suburban dads.  Bill lives in Salt Lake City. Bill drives an SUV. Bill takes an active interest in his children. Bill is a doting husband. Bill is a religious man. Bill is the savvy proprietor of Home Plus, a big-box emporium.  Like the rest of us, Bill worries about money, work, family — especially family. Because, well, Bill has three.  It's a peculiar situation. And one that's deftly captured in this early scene:  After a day at the office, Bill parks his GMC and stumbles toward his manicured abode, toting a briefcase and the dry-cleaning. He walks through the front door, kisses wife Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), jokes with a teenage daughter, hugs a young son, kisses wife Nicki (Chloë Sevigny), walks into the kitchen and kisses wife Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin), all in one non-stop trajectory of amplified domestic bliss.  The weird part? It seems so ... normal.  In fact, after you get over the startling conceit — Bill has three wives and seven children? — you'll find that producers are not interested in shining a tawdry spotlight on the polygamist subculture for the purposes of salacious voyeurism.  Inside the Henrickson household(s) — three detached but contiguous homes that have a compound-feel thanks to the removed party-fences in the backyard — the characters, especially the women, are shot through with universal traits that render them entirely sympathetic.  Barb, Bill's first and oldest wife, is a substitute teacher. She serves as the unofficial den mother to the extended clan. She has accepted "The Principle" of multiple marriage, despite some obvious psychological issues arising from an illness.

Nicki, the second wife, is a shopaholic who believes most convincingly in the "celestial" arrangement, despite some obvious jealousy issues.  And then there's Margene, Bill's third and youngest wife, a former clerk at Home Plus who has embraced the lifestyle despite some obvious self-esteem issues.  So what you get is a mix of the outlandish and the mundane, the sacred and the profane. This is not surprising for a network that has masterfully tweaked the conventions of "family" on shows such as Sex and the City, Entourage, Six Feet Under, and The Sopranos.  But here's the kicker: Big Love may be HBO's most earnest, sincere, non-judgemental, family-oriented drama to date.  Which brings us to the controversy. Although the Henricksons are not identified as Mormons, by the third episode, there's no mistaking the show's connection to that faith.  The Mormon Church has even taken the unusual step of issuing a statement pointing out that adherents who practise polygamy are excommunicated. Just so there's no confusion, Big Love tags each episode with this epilogue: "The Mormon Church officially banned the practice of polygamy in 1890."  This disclaimer, in turn, has angered anti-polygamists, such as the Utah-based Tapestry Against Polygamy, which claims that while the Mormon Church explicitly forbids the practice, implicitly, it's quietly tolerated.  Producers are thus faced with a curious dilemma: they must construct a series about Salt Lake City polygamists that doesn't tar one of that area's dominant religious groups, while hoping to avoid whitewashing something that's illegal and has been linked to criminal abuse.

The solution? Present polygamy in two separate made-for-TV contexts.  First, we have Bill and his wives, the present day polygamists — remember, there are still approximately 20,000 to 40,000 practitioners in the United States alone — who are trying to conceal their pariah status and integrate into modern society.  Second, we have Juniper Creek, an unsettling, fundamentalist compound in the hills where Nicki's messianic father, Roman Grant (the scene-stealing Harry Dean Stanton), rules among the squalor. Roman epitomizes the malevolent, anachronistic polygamist, a "Prophet" prone to extortion, violence, teen seduction, and perpetual menace as he inveighs against the unfaithful while riding in the backseat of a Hummer.  By the end of Sunday's premiere, it is the uneasy relationship between Bill and father-in-law Roman that seems destined to drive the conflict.  Undoubtedly, this Tom Hanks-produced series is sure to trigger more protests during its 12-episode run.  But this is fiction. So the real question is this: do you think Big Love will engage viewers with its themes and characters and storylines? I don't want to sound like a polygamist, but "I do," "I do," and "I do."

A Three-Ring Circus

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Liam Lacey

(Mar. 1, 2006) Big love. Beautiful love. Bad love. Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton), the hero of the big-buzz HBO series, Big Love, knows them all. The series, which has its premiere tomorrow night following the opening episode of The Sopranos' sixth and final season, is about one American man's struggle to be a good father and husband -- multiplied by three. Armed with his faith in the Lord, an overworked cellphone and a daily little blue Viagra pill, Bill stays married to three women, which means not only three times the sex, but three times the mortgages, cars, kids and in-laws.  The premise sounds titillating, but Big Love is aiming for something grander: The show is the heir apparent to HBO's other two critically acclaimed revisionist nuclear-family dramas, The Sopranos (89 Emmy nominations) and Six Feet Under (39 Emmy nods), both of which have challenged film's traditional reputation for being artistically superior to television. Like the Soprano family, running its "waste disposal" business in New Jersey, or the Fishers, maintaining the family funeral business in Pasadena, Calif., Big Love adroitly mixes the banal and the bizarre. There are, in each of these series, Shakespearian echoes of a lineage that has been broken, and a fatalistic sense that the twining DNA chains are ladders of destiny. In each case, the producers and writers, playing to a liberal intellectual audience, peel back the pat conservative sticker "family values" to reveal a tangled reality underneath. In an entertainment world where "edgy" is a marketing cliché, Big Love also aims for genuine political controversy. The show's creators, Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer, who are gay Californians, are out to have some fun with the idea of alternative marriage in the heart of red-state America: Not only are foreign-terrorist fundamentalists multiple-marriage minded, so were the founders of America's only homegrown mass religion, Mormonism.

Mormons introduced polygamy to the U.S. in the early 19th century. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as it is also called, has formally disowned the practice for the past 116 years. Its 12 million, often wealthy, churchgoers voted 95-per-cent for George W. Bush in the last election. Members include such prominent politicians as Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and New Jersey Governor (and Republican presidential hopeful) Mitt Romney, whose father, George, a three-term governor from Michigan, was born into a polygamous community in Mexico. Polygamy is still practised by somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 Americans, mostly Mormon fundamentalists in Utah and Arizona. The anti-polygamy activist group, Tapestry Against Polygamy (which has expressed concerns about Big Love), accuses polygamous communities of abusing women and children, and chides the Mormons for sending mixed signals on "plural marriage" and failing to do enough for polygamy's victims.  The church, after meetings with HBO executives, insisted that every episode of Big Love begin with a disclaimer declaring that Mormons are opposed to polygamy. The producers say they always intended to include such a disclaimer. One of the keys to making the series work was the casting of the central character, who had to be a likeable, all-American guy. The easygoing Paxton is best known for parts in such blockbusters as True Lies and Apollo 13. He has won critical acclaim for smaller films, including his part as a sheriff in Carl Frankin's One False Move (1992), but more recently the 50-year-old began forging a new career as the respected director of two features, Frailty (2001) and the golf drama The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005). He says he never imagined that, at this stage, he'd be getting what he has called "the role of my life" on TV.

We talked on the telephone the morning after the Oscars, which Paxton missed to fly overnight to New York to do the talk-show rounds promoting Big Love. ("I was happy to miss it," he said. "I'm kind of with George C. Scott, who described the Oscars as a beauty pageant in a slaughterhouse.")  By the time his agent sent him a script for Big Love, Paxton thought he'd finally made the break from acting: "I thought that was it, baby. Directing just lit me on fire. I always thought I had the stuff, and I felt like I was emancipated. I was in Montreal in preproduction on The Greatest Game Ever Played. We were getting the casting together, counting down to shoot, and then I got this call from my agent," who said he had something he thought Paxton should seriously look at, and sent it by overnight post. He read it reluctantly, but after finishing the last page immediately made a call to meet with the show's creators. "They had a witty but very compassionate take on this material," he recalls. "When you think of polygamy, you think of crazy, kooky people living in the backwoods, not this idea of using polygamy as a weird lens to view contemporary family and marriage." Because he still wasn't sure if he could get free to shoot the pilot, says Paxton, he was relaxed -- free from the "stink of desperation, or that habit of overingratiating yourself that can ruin an audition." Before Big Love, Paxton had mostly avoided TV. He had always believed that "in movies, the craft is of the highest order and that's where the best people are," he says. "Then I discovered they were filling this series up with movie people." Chloë Sevigny had already been cast before Paxton. Next came Jean Tripplehorn, Harry Dean Stanton, Mary Kay Place and Bruce Dern. There were other attractions. Paxton, married for 19 years and with two adolescent children, says he had never been cast as a romantic lead before, and "now I've got three romantic leads. There's a fantasy element of having amorous fun with three sexy stars, and the fun of juggling these different responsibilities. . . . I always imagine that Bill's role model in life is Bill Clinton -- the ultimate multitasker."

Wife No. 1, named Barb, and played by Tripplehorn, is worldly and educated, a cancer survivor, and mother of two teenagers, "who plays queen," says Paxton, "to my king." Wife No. 2, Nicky (Sevigny) is a devout Mormon fundamentalist with a bad credit-card addiction. Wife No. 3, Margene (Walk The Line's Ginnifer Goodwin) is a frisky flibbertigibbet, who was previously Bill and Nicky's babysitter. As well as the demands of the bedroom and the bank account, Bill has other problems: Nicky's sinister father (Harry Dean Stanton), an old-time Mormon fundamentalist known as the Prophet, demands a 15-per-cent tithe on all of Bill's earnings from his hardware business. Then there's the daily struggle to keep his home lives secret from his co-workers and neighbours. The risqué domestic life that Paxton portrays onscreen is a boon to his real-life one. The actor's wife, Louise (who he says resembles Tripplehorn), is happy the series will allow him to be home with his family six months of the year, while still having the chance to direct his own movies. She also likes the series' bedroom scenes, though she has a pet peeve about shows where the women are nude and the men aren't, "so," says Paxton, "I try to show an equal amount of nudity as the woman. It's believable. I try to do the love scenes differently with each woman: playful with the youngest one, lights out with my oldest wife, that sort of thing . . ." Paxton has also been discovering the pleasures of playing an evolving character. "He's on a real spiritual quest," says Paxton. "You start to enjoy the whole of the hero's journey, which has some parallels to Michael Corleone's in The Godfather: He's the one who doesn't want to be in the family, and the one the family doesn't really want, but it's inescapable. The funny thing about it is, polygamy is the last thing Bill wants. For him, the greener pasture is the simplicity of monogamy." As a viewer, Paxton likens Big Love to serialized novels in the Dickens tradition. He remembers his father, a Fort Worth businessman (who has had cameos in a few of Bill's movies) avidly reading Truman Capote's In Cold Blood when it was serialized in The New Yorker in the sixties: "The idea that you can create this story and then fine-tune it to the audience's reaction as it unfolds," says Paxton, "seems wonderful to me -- a lost part of the art of fiction." Big Love premieres tomorrow on Movie Central at 9 p.m. PT, and The Movie Network at 10 p.m. ET.

What Happened To Infallible Brutes We Worship At The Box Office?

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Malene Arpe, Pop Culture Writer

 (Mar. 11, 2006) When Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme made Universal Soldier in 1992, Sylvester Stallone had already done his last Rambo tour of duty and Arnold Schwarzenegger had moved into comedy with Kindergarten Cop.  The era of big guys fighting big evil with big guns and big biceps was inching toward an end. Waiting in the wings were acrobatic martial artists and guys who'd manage to be sensitive and caring while beating up their enemies.  Lundgren and Van Damme, the B-listers to Stallone and Schwarzenegger's muscle royalty, got to take the bow on behalf of the proto-action hero of the '80s. Mel Gibson and Bruce Willis were already at the height of their respective games and, being smaller, leaner, wittier, cleared the way for the self-doubting comic book heroes and the conflicted, the afflicted, the reluctant. 
 How did we end up in a place where Matt Damon is an action hero? Where someone like Tobey Maguire gets to fight injustice on behalf of the downtrodden? Where Kate Beckinsale and Charlize Theron and Angelina Jolie's never-ending who's-got-the-tightest-pants competition manages to make millions at the box office? Where a good beating has to take place under the hyper-cartoonish, we-all-know-this-isn't real auspices of Sin City or Batman
 Imagine for a moment, Schwarzenegger fighting Matrix-style or Stallone as an Underworld-ish vampire. Wouldn't work. Would be funny. But wouldn't work.  Lundgren, sitting in a Toronto hotel restaurant with a glass of juice, keeping an eye on the Swedish women's hockey team playing in the Olympics, has a couple of ideas on the subject of action hero evolution:  "I think the political climate was part of it. And it tends to swing from extreme to extreme. If you look at the '70s you have an anti-Vietnam, anti-government, very liberal climate," he says.  "Clint Eastwood was a different kind of anti-establishment guy; he was an anti-hero who didn't fight for the government, who didn't fight for ideas. He was a cynical hero. And Steve McQueen, too.  ``Then came Arnold and Sly, and myself to some extent, and it was all gung-ho, flag-waving Reaganism. What happened in the '90s is that you had the Eastern cinema come in, John Woo, diving with two guns, everybody shooting sideways, and then everybody started on the wires, doing back flips.
 "Now you see some little chick beating up on 10 guys. Look, I don't know what happened. I mean, cinema is evolving all the time.... Where there used to be some kind of hefty-looking man, some athletic-looking big guy who kicked ass, the guys got a little smaller and the women came in. Which I thought was kinda cool. And it all got a little more ballet-like and athletic; it was a new type of action."  Lundgren is in town to explore the possibility of making two movies here and to promote his sophomore directorial revenge effort, The Russian Specialist (aka The Mechanik), released directly to DVD. He is, at 48, still an imposing man. A fan walks over to ask for a couple of autographs — for women friends of his who will be very excited, as he's eager to explain — and is dwarfed by the big Swede.  It's clear it wouldn't work putting Lundgren in a harness and having him kick 25 villains to death. His physique, which gave him a career, also dictates that few would buy him in, say, a role like Bruce Willis's current drunken, broken-down cop in 16 Blocks — or Adrien Brody's bookish playwright hero in the new King Kong.
 The same can obviously be said for Stallone who has returned to both Rocky and Rambo in what looks like a last-ditch attempt at geriatric box-office dominance.  Nostalgia may get boomer bums in seats, but the likelihood of the coveted teenage audience checking out the sequels of a 59-year-old who, in both movies, comes out of retirement to fight, is probably slim.Allan Gedalof, a professor of film studies at the University of Western Ontario, for one, isn't bemoaning the loss of the sweaty, muscle-bound '80s hero.  "(W)e are now a little uncomfortable with that earlier performance of hyper-masculinity by the likes of Schwarzenegger, Stallone and so on," Gedalof says via email. "Our current action heroes are supposedly more sensitive, less driven by steroid rage. These more contemporary heroes are in fact more like the earlier ones ... Bogart, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. Those heroes talked a good game and could take a beating, but their personas were not those of violent men. Violence might be thrust upon them, but it was never their raison d'etre, their defining quality, as it is with Stallone, Van Damme, and so on.  "All of that is not to say that the action hero has disappeared," Gedalof continues. "He (and she, we should note) is still around, although part of the physicality of the action hero has been displaced into the world of special effects, the super-powerful extensions of the human body rather than the hyper-masculinized body itself."  Matt Damon as Bourne, Bruce Willis in Die Hard, Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan in Sum of All Fears, Ralph Fiennes in The Constant Gardener, Neo, Batman, Han Solo, Spider-Man and Superman are all characters who, to varying degrees, have had violence thrust upon them and have to dig a little deeper to get their rage on because someone — or the world in general — needs saving.  While these more multi-dimensional heroes can occasionally become gleeful after slaughtering an adversary, you just know there's going to be brooding later on. Where does that leave someone who, according to body count website, has more kills per movie than Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme, Seagal, Bronson, or pretty much anyone else you can think of?  Lundgren, who may still be best known for his turn as Apollo Creed-killer Ivan Drago in 1985's Rocky IV, has all kinds of ambitions when it comes to directing.
 The former chemical engineer likes the multi-tasking aspect of the job and finds it challenging, as opposed to the "having fun" and "playing around" of acting. But he realizes he has to capitalize on his persona to raise the money required to make the movies he wants to make.  "I'm trying to find material I can act in and also direct so I can get it financed. It's kind of a fine line I'm trying to walk, to find stuff where the buyers know they're going to get some action, but where the story can maybe be a bit more sophisticated."  He cites A History of Violence and Memento — both thoughtful thrillers very much of the present decade — as models of what he'd like to do.  "Those are the kind of movies, where as a director you can go from action to drama, without giving up the action, but with a complex, clever script."  The week Lundgren is in Toronto, fellow director (!) Sidney Lumet presents his Vin Diesel starrer Find Me Guilty in Berlin. I read Lundgren a quote from Lumet:  "We're all, and I include myself in this, big snobs about action heroes, we relegate them. It's what we used to do with beautiful actresses.... If you're an action hero and a star it means you cannot act — and all of this despite the fact that we know different."  Lundgren nods and expands:  "If action heroes start directing, people have a very hard time taking them seriously. It's almost like they don't want to believe that Clint Eastwood is one of the most respected directors in the world and that he produces, directs, acts and writes the score. And Mel Gibson, there's another guy. And Kevin Costner, too.  "It's almost as if when you're an action hero, you play blue-collar characters, simple people who get involved in extreme situations, and then it's hard to step away from that. You don't think of Clint sitting there composing movie scores or Mel Gibson starting his own distribution company."  In case anybody should think he's full of himself, Lundgren quickly adds: "I don't see myself getting places like, for example, Mel Gibson. But if I can do it on my level, enjoy my career and prove things to myself, challenge myself.... It takes some courage to get into some of these things. And then we'll see what the industry says." 
 The tagline for The Russian Specialist reads: "They took his family. Now he's out for revenge." Things blow up quite nicely and revenge is achieved in a timely, manly, bloody and no-nonsense way. Lundgren, who says he's "sick of CGI" and hopes "old-fashioned, old-school movies" are coming back, is doing his best to almost single-handedly continue the tradition of the stoic tough-guy hero who takes neither crap nor sweet-talk from anybody.  "There's no new generation [of Lundgren-style action heroes]. Maybe it will have to skip a generation."  According to Gedalof, we may have to wait until such time as the world is a bit more settled for a return to '80s form.  "Some of this has to do with the post-9/11, war-in-Iraq/Afghanistan world: In times of peace, our species wages mimic wars in our movies; when we have actual wars and supposed heroes and villains, we don't seem to need the cultural rituals quite as much. And when the war and its aftermath are as embarrassing and unresolved as the current situation seems to be, stock in that image of masculine performance is hardly trading at a high level."  But Lundgren is optimistic.  "I think it's going to change back again a bit. With movies like A History of Violence and Damon's Bourne movies, it's a little bit of a move back to brutal action. The pinnacle of the new action was, of course, the Matrix movies, where you're running up walls and doing back flips."  He pauses.  "You don't get any points for that in a real street fight."

Interview: Steve Harvey’s Change Of Heart

Excerpt from - By Kam Williams
(Mar. 13, 2006) **Born January 17, 1957, in Welch, West Virginia to Jesse and Eloise Vera Harvey, Steve (Harvey) got his start in stand-up in 1985 after winning an amateur night competition at a bar in Cleveland. He then proceeded to perfect his craft on the Chitlin’ Circuit where he put over 100,000 miles on his jalopy making the rounds till he was tapped to emcee the syndicated TV-variety show “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” in 1994.  That same year, the 6’2” funnyman landed a starring role on “Me and the Boys,” a TV sitcom which was eventually spun-off into “The Steve Harvey Show.” With a winning smile and a down-home charm, Steve soon blossomed into one of the most familiar faces in America. A versatile entertainer, Harvey has also had his own HBO special, hosted comedy and awards shows, handled both dramatic and comedic roles on the big screen, supplied voicework for cartoons and animated features, written a book, and made guest appearances on such television series as “The Parkers” and “My Wife and Kids.” Plus he presently has his own syndicated radio morning show emanating from New York City. In 2000, he toured with Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac and D.L.Hughley as one of The Original Kings of Comedy, bring an off-color brand of humour to sold-out crowds in stadiums all across the country. However, despite all the trappings of success, something didn’t sit well with Steve, a six-time, NAACP Image Award-winner. He admits to having had some misgivings about disappointing his parents, particularly his late mother, with his use of salty language on stage. So, he recently returned to the stage to perform a curse-free concert, which he’s turned into his latest movie, namely, Don't Trip... He Ain't Through with Me. When I initially interviewed Steve about his new film, I later learned that my recorder had malfunctioned and that the tape was blank. Fortunately, he was gracious enough about it to give me another interview the next day.
 Kam Williams: Steve, first I have to apologize profusely. My tape recorder malfunctioned somehow and I lost the original interview. And it was a great one.
 Steve Harvey: I’m so sick of you. You make me sick. [chuckles] No, man, you’re all right with me. You’re cool with me, baby.
 KW: Okay, let’s start over again. What interested you in taking on the challenge of working clean in front of a spiritual congregation?
 SH: Well, two things. She passed now, but I always wanted my mother to be able to see me work clean. She’d always say “I sho’ wish I could come see you perform, but you cussin’, and you know I don’t wanna hear that.” So, I wanted to do something to honour her request. Besides that reason, I wanted to do it for the under-served church community. I grew up in the church, so I understand it. I’ve always understood the humour inside of church. I knew it would still be a challenge for me to attempt to do something clean after 20 years of standing around saying what I wanted to say, any kind of way I wanted to phrase it. But I wanted to have a piece of work that I hope people will remember, when it’s a wrap for me. I hope this is the one that people play when they say, “Remember Steve Harvey? Remember how good he was?”
 KW: Most people find it impossible to make it in show business at even one thing. But you’ve flourished in a wide variety of endeavours. To what do attribute that success?
 SH: Number one, I’ve never gone outside of the one thing. It’s all very relatable. I started as a stand-up comedian. It’s a microphone. I’ve never attempted to make money another way, until I became an expert at the joke-telling business. Then, I got on TV. After I learned how to work in front of cameras, then I got into some movies. But I always kept stand-up in the forefront of all my positions. It’s the staple of everything that I do, whether it’s a movie, a TV show, a radio show, whatever. Stand-up is the core essence of that performance for the most part, even when I give talks as a motivational speaker in high schools and prisons around the country. I take that skill as a stand-up with me, ‘cause while I’m talking, whether it’s a serious subject or not, I always use humour to keep it alive and to hold their attention. So, I focus on one thing, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it on a lot of different levels.
 KW: So, how hard was it for you working clean?
 SH: [exasperated laugh] I would be kidding for you, if I said it’s easy for me to do, ‘cause it’s not. It very much was a challenge after 20 years of doing it any way I wanted to suddenly have to be conscious of your words, and of how you choose your words, and little phrases which have profanity in them that you naturally throw out. You have to edit all that, and you have to make sure that you’re developing punch lines that don’t have profanity in them, because you can’t clean up a punch line. It is what it is. So, it was a bit challenging, and it took me a while to write the material for the movie.
 KW: Did you try it out in a club, first?
 SH: No, the stuff had never been performed anywhere before. I just did it all that night. And it turned out pretty well.
 KW: I always think of comedians testing their material in tiny clubs first, in order to be able to see what works and tweak the act.
 SH: Yeah, that’s how they do it. But I don’t like working small rooms anymore, because I can’t get hyped for it. The Kings of Comedy kind of ruined that for me. The advantage I have over other comedians is that I have a daily radio show which exercises my comedy muscle. It’s really working for four hours every morning, creating comedy. So, when I go on stage, my timing is always still good, because that comedy muscle has been working out everyday. So, when I write a joke, all I have to do is have the faith that it’s funny. And, anyway, after doing it for 20 years, you have a real good idea of what’s funny, because I know what fits my style. I don’t have to wonder, “Man, will they accept this joke from me?” No, I already know, because this fits the charisma and style of the animal that I am on stage.
 KW: How has your adjustment to living in New York gone?
 SH: [snickers] This city, man. It’s such a pace up here. The people are great. Some of the best people I’ve met anywhere live here in New York. People are wrong about New Yorkers not being nice people. They’re honest. There are some great people up here. But the street… the hustle and bustle… the traffic… the cabs not caring that you’re crossing the street in the crosswalk, and you have the light and the walk emblem. They don’t care. That don’t matter. They’re turning anyway and blowing their horn.
 KW: It’s a tough city.
 SH: I saw this guy the other day feeding a pack of pigeons and this just sums up how tough New York is. I was watching him and he snapped, “You wanna feed the pigeons?” And I said, “Nah, no thanks.” He said, “You’re Steve Harvey, right?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “You think New York’s tough, don’t you?” I answered, “Yes, it’s been pretty hard on me.” Then, he said, “Well, let me ask you something. You ever notice that you’ve never seen any baby pigeons?” I said, “Wow, you know, you’re right, I’ve never seen a baby pigeon.” He said, “You know why? Because when you come down here you’ve got to be ready!” And I thought, that’s true, you’ve never seen a baby pigeon, because when you fly down here onto the streets of New York, you’ve got to be ready. And that sums up New York for me, when you come here, you’ve got to ready.
 KW: Yesterday, you also told me that there’s quite a difference living in an apartment when you’re used to living on 9 acres back in Texas.
 SH: 95 acres.
 KW: Whoa, 95 acres. That’s a lot of real estate.
 SH: Oh yeah. I got a lot of space. My front door is a half mile from the road. I can walk outside naked and nobody would know it. I got three lakes dug on it, plus I have huge Lake Lewisville that I live off of. Man, that gives you space, and it’s great. It’s where I go bass fishing, and just lay around. I wear t-shirts, and let go for a minute. It’s a breath of fresh air. No people.
 KW: I was surprised in the movie to hear you mention that you’d been in jail, you’d been shot, and that you’d lived in your career for a couple of years when you were younger. Is all that true?
 SH: Oh, yeah, very much so. Some of the film had to be edited for time restraints. So, the live audience got more of an explanation about what actually happened in jail. All that other stuff has been one of those lives for me. And living in my car was a part of it that people don’t know about. I never told anybody about. I just did what I had to do. I was just trying to make it. I wanted to be something so badly that I was willing to go through some things to get here. People just see the end results. They look up there and see you on stage. They just see that part. They don’t know really what it cost, and what it takes, and what you may have to go through to get here which makes you appreciate it.
 KW: So, what advice, then, do you have for anyone who follows in your footsteps?
 SH: My advice is, if you can get yourself an education and a good job, do it. This is rough. This is the New York City of entertainment. [shouts] If you come down here, you gotta be ready! [laughs] I tell my son, who wants to be a comedian, “Hey, man, this is not what you want to do.” It’s just such a tough business, man. It’s so difficult to get through all of the cracks and stuff. I recommend that you just follow your gift. Don’t worry about what you have a burning desire to be. You’ve got to match that up with your gift.  See, I had the wrong desire when I was young. I had a burning desire to be in the NBA, but a few things kind of slowed that up, like dribbling, shooting and running.
 KW: At the end of this film, it looks like you were emotionally drained and maybe even crying on stage. Was that actually the case?
 SH: Yeah, it was emotional for me. When the lights went out and they came back up, I tried to walk back out and say something to the crowd, but I was overcome. It was a big night for me. I had finished. I had done it without cussing. There was a lot of pressure on me. A lot of expectations, a lot of judgment that I was fighting against. And, at the same time, there was a lot of love. The last piece, my introduction of God, had really affected me while I was doing it.
 KW: Why so?
 SH: Because I was feeling the reaction from the crowd to this piece that I had never done before in front of anybody. It was just a very emotional and overwhelming experience for me. I couldn’t talk at the end. I just had to stop. Then when I walked off, I went into my dressing room and cried for 20 minutes. I couldn’t pull it back together. It was just the emotion of the night and being able to accomplish it. I had a feeling my Mom was watching.
 A lot of that was in my head at the time, so it was really deep for me for me to know that she was finally able to watch me work and that she was very proud of me at that moment. All of that was going on inside in me.
 KW: Well, Steve, thanks again for giving me the do-over. I really apologize.
 SH: It’s no problem, man. You’re a good guy.
 KW: I promise to do a good job spreading the word about the movie.
 SH: I sho’ appreciate it, man.
 KW: Later, bro.

Is South By Southwest Going Hollywood?

 Source:  Christy Lemire, Associated Press

 (Mar. 10, 2006) With Robert Altman's star-studded A Prairie Home Companion making its North American premiere on opening night Friday and celebrities including Charlize Theron, Ray Romano, Brad Garrett and Erykah Badu appearing throughout the week, observers might be forgiven for thinking the
South by Southwest film festival has gone Hollywood. Organizers say the festival will maintain the same laid-back, small-town atmosphere for which Austin, Tex., is known. "It's definitely bigger, definitely more people, definitely more premieres than we've ever had before, more films than we've ever had before, more filmmakers than we've ever had before," festival producer Matt Dentler said. From Friday through March 18, 230 features and shorts are on the schedule, 60 of which are world premieres. They include 95 Miles to Go, a documentary about Romano's stand-up comedy tour, and East of Havana, a documentary Theron helped produce about Cuban rappers. John C. Reilly is expected to appear with A Prairie Home Companion, based on the longtime Garrison Keillor radio program, which co-stars Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Woody Harrelson and Kevin Kline. Also arriving in Austin to take part in discussions of their careers are veteran rocker Henry Rollins and Peter Bart, the longtime editor-in-chief of Variety.
 Despite the presence of these high-profile celebrities and others, "I don't think it'll change at all," Dentler said. "I think people know they can come to South by Southwest and stay under the radar, blend in and mingle," he said. "South by Southwest is one of the rare festivals where you can look out at the audience and see five or six incredibly important figures in the entertainment business, all sitting next to each other — maybe they know each other, maybe they don't know each other — but they're just hanging out. There's just a friendly, communal vibe in Austin." Dentler said festival planners didn't realize Theron was involved with East of Havana when they became interested in it. South by Southwest always features a large number of documentaries and features about music, since it overlaps with the more established South by Southwest music festival, now in its 20th year. (The film festival is in its 13th year.) "This one struck us and we didn't even know it was produced by Charlize Theron," Dentler said. "Then we did a little homework and said, 'Is this THE Charlize Theron?' It's interesting that this Oscar winner, arguably one of the biggest movie stars in the world, would get behind a camera to produce a Cuban hip-hop documentary." Other music films include world premieres of the documentaries lo udQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies, which follows the influential band's hotly awaited reunion tour; Air Guitar Nation, which is about exactly what the title suggests; and Before the Music Dies, a historical piece featuring interviews and performances from Badu, Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews and Bonnie Raitt. An all-star musical line-up also can be found in Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, making its U.S. premiere. The documentary, which depicts heavy metal as a long-misunderstood art form, includes Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, Dee Snider, Vince Neil and many more.
 Sam Dunn, who directed and produced the film with his longtime friend and fellow Canadian Scot McFadyen, started out listening to Twisted Sister, Motley Crue and Van Halen in the '80s, then moved onto Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, followed by harder thrash and death metal. He's still a fan at age 31. "I've grown up with this music since I was very young and most metal fans grow up feeling somewhat on the outside by virtue of, this music marks you immediately as being different," he said. "I think that's a hard thing for a lot of kids. This is very special music to a lot of people. It's a big part of their identity." McFadyen added: "This is the perfect place to premiere a documentary about music. You have true music fans in the U.S. who all seem to come together for a week and a half." Annabelle Gurwitch also has amassed a cross-section of stars for Fired! a documentary in which people talk about — you guessed it — being fired. The actress-comedian, who hosted the TV series Dinner and a Movie, was inspired to make the film after being fired from Woody Allen's off-Broadway play Writer's Block — or rather, as she was informed, they were "going in another direction." "That firing led me to really think about what it means to get fired in America today in every profession," Gurwitch said. "Being fired by a cultural icon is pretty big. You'd like to think, 'Oh, I never have to hear from that person again. Who are THEY?' Well, THEY is Woody Allen." As the film's producer, Gurwitch interviewed actors David Cross, Illeana Douglas and Tim Allen, former White House executive chef Walter Scheib III, columnist and speechwriter Ben Stein and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who told her: "Every industry is becoming more and more like show business, where you're a freelancer and you go from job to job to job." Here's what Gurwitch has learned from her new job: "Making documentaries is a great way to hemorrhage money doing something you feel really passionate about."

ESPN Airs Rags-To-Riches Story Of Sebastian Telfair

 Excerpt from

 (Mar. 10, 2006) *On Sunday (March 12) at 8 p.m., ESPN will premiere the film “
Through the Fire,” a documentary that follows high school basketball sensation Sebastian Telfair through his tumultuous senior year in high school. The Brooklyn-born cousin of NBA star Stephon Marbury, Telfair is shown in the film trying to lead his Coney Island high school team to the championship while deciding whether to attend college at the University of Louisville under famed coach Rick Pitino; or go pro, secure an endorsement deal and move his family out of the projects. The youngster was all set to attend college, but the shocking murder of two former teammates in the hallway outside of his family’s apartment changed his mind.  Telfair, all of five-foot-ten, would be the first player under six feet to attempt a jump from high school to the pros.   The 92-minute documentary, directed by Emmy award-winning producer and director Jonathan Hock, came about after HBO had asked the filmmaker to shoot a piece about a subject that would air on Bob Costas’ program the night LeBron James was drafted in 2003.  “I said I know of a kid in Coney Island who they are talking about as maybe the next one.  So I went out and hunted him down,” Hock told us. “After spending two days with [Telfair] shooting a short, I learned about his older brother, I learned about his mother, I learned about the family and what was really riding on him.” 
 Hock sensed a story much bigger than a film short after learning of the family’s previous NBA-related letdown involving Sebastian’s older brother.  “Their mother wouldn’t have anything to do with anything that hyped her son for basketball because Sebastian’s older brother, her older son, was supposed to be a first-round draft pick in the NBA and was not selected. And it kind of broke everyone in the family’s heart, especially hers.” As Hock was filming the Telfair brothers, he suggested the idea to turn the piece into a movie, and requested to follow them around for a year to capture the life of a young, African American basketball star on the verge of sure NBA superstardom. Hock recalled: “Sebastian just kind of looked at his big brother, and his big brother said, let’s make a movie. So we shook hands, and for the next 15 months we followed Sebastian through one of the most remarkable emotional years that I’ve ever witnessed in the world of sports.” With only a three-man crew, Hock began filming without any distributor or financial backing.   “We just committed to making this movie, really, just the three of us, going out to Coney Island every day,” said Hock. And to have the opportunity now to see it air three years, almost, from that date, on this network that’s going to reach more sports fans than anyone in the world, it’s really a thrill.” Today, the 20-year-old Telfair, now six-feet tall, is a point guard for the Portland Trailblazers averaging 8.7 points per game. He was selected in the first round of the 2004 draft.  “Through the Fire” – a 2005 “Audience Favorite Award” winner at the American Film Institute Film Festival and 2005 “Best Documentary Award winner at the 9th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival – will be available on DVD Tuesday (March 14).

The Pixies Inside And Out

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Christy Lemire, Associated Press
(Mar. 15, 2006) AUSTIN, TEX. -- Twelve years after breaking up, the Pixies were more popular and influential than when they were together. So filmmakers Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin knew they had the potential for a great documentary when the band announced they were reuniting for a world tour in 2004 -- and sold out the concert sites within minutes. The result is loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies, which made its world premiere at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival. The documentary provides astonishing access to four musicians who were known as much for their reclusiveness and infighting as they were for their unique sound: a mix of punk rock, surf guitar, screaming vocals and sometimes discordant harmonies impossible to classify. Kurt Cobain admitted that when he wrote Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana's first hit, he was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. Radiohead also has pointed to them as an influence, and Bono and David Bowie have praised them as one of the best bands ever. "When we first heard they were getting back together, our first reaction was, 'Oh my God, we have to get tickets,' " said Cantor, an Oscar nominee for the 1993 documentary short Blood Ties: The Life and Work of Sally Mann. "I think while we were on the phone getting tickets from Ticketmaster, we said, 'Wait a minute -- we're filmmakers. This would make a good film.' " Galkin added: "Steven and I both felt that, because they were so influential but also so underdocumented when they were around -- there is virtually no intimate footage of the Pixies -- we both felt there was a beautiful opportunity to actually document something intimate with this band that had such a mystique about them that was fascinating to us."
 Cantor and Galkin followed the Boston-based band from its first hesitant rehearsal -- where bassist Kim Deal can't recall how many times to sing the word "chained" at the end of Hey -- to its thunderous final shows at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom. They rehearse and perform such favourites as Gouge Away, U-Mass, Bone Machine and Here Comes Your Man. And the way they sound, you'd never know they'd been apart. After their 1992 break-up -- which lead singer Charles Thompson announced on BBC Radio to the surprise of his band mates -- Deal formed the Breeders with her sister, Kelley, and went through rehab. Thompson launched a solo career under stage name Frank Black. Drummer David Lovering became a magician and guitarist Joey Santiago wrote documentary scores. "I was basically eking it out," Santiago says at the film's start. "[The reunion] couldn't have come at a better time." Both Cantor and Galkin said they were surprised to find that the band members were "shockingly normal" -- at first. "Early on, they were much more regular people, and as the tour went on they became the Pixies, they became rock stars, they became more reclusive and they talked to each other less," Cantor said. "I think they very quickly slipped into the same roles they always played," Galkin added. "They haven't changed that much in 12 years." At a party after the SXSW premiere, Santiago said he and the others let Cantor and Galkin in on intimate moments during the tour because they were "shooting a documentary and we knew they had to do that." But, he added, "I would bet that more than half of the bands don't hang out with each other that much and don't talk to each other that much. I mean, the only one I can think of is the Monkees." And he'll get that feeling again soon: Lovering said that, while they're not necessarily reuniting for good, the Pixies are planning to go on another European tour this summer.


Sophie Okonedo, Mos Def Line Up Black Panther Pic

Excerpt from

(Mar. 10, 2006) *Mos Def and Sophie Okonedo are in final talks to topline the independent drama "Stringbean and Marcus," a story written and directed by first-time feature helmer Tanya Hamilton. Mos Def and Okonedo will play two former Black Panther members dealing with a broken love affair in 1978. The story unfolds through the eyes of an adolescent girl. "It's not so much about the idea of race," Hamilton told the Hollywood Reporter. "I just wanted to show this world of ordinary people living under extraordinary circumstances, trying to outrun this past they all have."  Shooting is scheduled to begin in July in Philadelphia. Mos Def and Okonedo, have not officially signed on the dotted line, but "they've committed to the project," says one of the producers, Sean Costello.  Contracts are not likely to be finalized until June, he added.

Quebec Launches Inquiry Into Funding Of Filmfest

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - James Adams

(Mar. 10, 2006) Toronto -- A former Quebec culture minister will lead an inquiry into how the province's main culture agency ended up awarding the now-defunct New Montreal FilmFest to a Montreal company, L'Equipe Spectra, and a movie-industry coalition. Quebec Culture Minister Line Beauchamp named Denis Vaugeois, Parti Québécois cultural-affairs minister from 1978 to 1981, to the probe just one week after she told Quebec's National Assembly such an investigation was unnecessary. His report is due April 11. The Société de développement des enterprises culturelles awarded more than $500,000 last year to L'Equipe Spectra and the coalition as part of a $2-million start-up package from provincial, municipal and federal bodies, including Telefilm Canada. Last month the PQ's culture critic discovered that another Montreal organization, not the Spectra group, had scored highest in the initial evaluation to find an organizer for the Montreal FilmFest, designed to replace the World Film Festival. The new festival's debut last fall was a disaster, drawing fewer than 100,000 patrons and running a deficit of close to $900,000. A 2006 edition has been cancelled.

Crash’ Landing Gives Ludacris Much ‘Game’

Excerpt from

(Mar. 10, 2006) *Still basking in the afterglow of a best picture Academy Award for “Crash,” the film’s co-star,
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, has signed on to lend his voice to a new documentary about a Seattle high school girls’ basketball team.   “Heart of the Game,” due in June, tells the story of the Roosevelt Roughriders, and one teammate’s struggle to maintain her eligibility.    "My stock has definitely gone up," Ludacris told of his post-Oscar film prospects "People can get used to seeing me on the big screen more in the future [as I] continue to choose projects that I feel will change people's lives."  The Atlanta rapper-turned-actor has also scored a role in NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Luda will appear in several episodes beginning in May. Meanwhile, his new album, “Release Therapy,” is due this summer.

Film By Atanarjuat Director To Open T.O. Film Fest

Source:  Canadian Press

(Mar. 9, 2006) A new movie by
Zacharias Kunuk, who directed the acclaimed Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner), has nabbed the prestigious opening night spot at the next Toronto International Film Festival.  The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, directed by Kunuk and Norman Cohn, examines the history of the Inuit people from the perspective of a father and daughter.  "Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn have created a truly visionary work of art," festival co-director Noah Cowan said Wednesday in a statement.  "They have again redefined the scope and visual palette of Canadian film, while telling a profound and moving story."  The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, a Canadian-Danish co-production, will screen in Inuit communities in Canada and Greenland before it comes to the festival, which runs Sept. 7-16.  Five years ago, Kunuk won the Golden Camera prize for first-time directors at the Cannes Film Festival for Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner), a story of two Inuit brothers.  Made for $2 million, it was the first feature-length fiction film written, produced, directed and acted by Inuit in the Inuktitut language.

Biggie’s Mom Confirms Fuqua For Son’s Biopic

Excerpt from

(Mar. 13, 2006) *“Training Day” director
Antoine Fuqua has been chosen by the mother of slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. to direct a film that will detail his life story. According to, Fox/Searchlight is funding the untitled project from Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace, and his former managers, Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts. "The film [will be] directed by Antoine Fuqua - a very nice director. He's very talented. Who is gonna play Biggie? I don't know yet. Who is gonna play me, I don't know yet. But we are in the process of casting now," Mrs. Wallace told the website. Biggie, a.k.a. Christopher Wallace, was shot and killed in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997. His murder is thought to be linked to the killing of Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas, however, both murders remain unsolved.

Fishburne To Be Honoured By Showest

Excerpt from

(Mar. 13, 2006) *
Laurence Fishburne has been selected to receive the Distinguished Decade of Achievement in Film Award at the annual ShoWest exhibitors convention, which begins its run Monday (March 13) in Las Vegas. The actor, who will next appear in the Lionsgate film “Akeelah and the Bee,” is to be given the honour during ShoWest’s closing-night ceremony Thursday at Bally's and Paris Las Vegas hotels.   "Laurence Fishburne is an outstanding actor with the ability to captivate audiences and display great depth in his portrayal of confident and powerful characters, earning his performances long-standing critical acclaim and his movies box office success," said Mitch Neuhauser, co-managing director of the event.  Fishburne’s film credits include "Apocalypse Now," "The Color Purple," "Boyz N the Hood," "What's Love Got to Do With It," "Mystic River" and the "Matrix" trilogy. He will also be seen in the upcoming "Mission: Impossible 3.

Cube Bringing ‘Welcome Back Kotter’ To Big Screen

Excerpt from

(Mar. 15, 2006) *
Ice Cube as Mister Kot-taire?  The rapper’s company, Cube Vision Productions, just inked a deal with Dimension Films to bring “Welcome Back, Kotter” to the big screen with the “Barbershop” star in the title role. "There was no bigger fan of the original show than me, and I'm very excited to be able to put a new twist on it," said Cube, who will star in the remake as high school teacher Gabe Kotter, a slacker who returns to his inner-city alma mater to light a fire under the school’s apathetic students.  The original series ran from 1975-79 with John Travolta rising to superstardom as the clueless cutie Vinnie Barbarino, a member of a band of students in Kotter’s class nicknamed The Sweathogs.  Other ‘hogs included the smooth-talking Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington, played by Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs; the proud “Puerto Rican Jew” Juan Epstein (Robert Hegyes) and bonafide nerd Arnold Horshack (Ron Palillo). No word whether any of the stars from the series will make cameos in the film. Production is likely to begin this fall following the completion of Cube’s next project, “Are We Done Yet,” a sequel to last year’s hit “Are We There Yet.” The sequel, also a remake loosely based on the Cary Grant film “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse,” begins filming this June in Vancouver. Cube’s next rap album, “Laugh Now, Cry Later,” is also due in June. 

Don Cheadle In Talks To Star In Miles Davis Biopic

Excerpt from

(Mar. 15, 2006) *Don Cheadle has been in negotiations to star in a new biographical film about jazz legend Miles Davis.  Members of Davis’ family announced the news backstage at Monday’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, where the late trumpeter received a posthumous induction.  "It could touch on many things [like] the way he changed music in different decades," Davis' nephew, Vince Wilburn, said of the project. "From Bird to bebop to hip-hop and in between.  Wilburn added that filmmaker Antoine Fuqua was in discussions to direct the project, but noted, "First of all we have to get a script."  In the meantime, Sony's Legacy imprint will release several archival CD and DVD projects from Davis, including material from his various performances at Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival.

Kanye Conjuring Feature Film Debut

Excerpt from - Borys Kit and Sheigh Crabtree, The Hollywood Reporter

(Mar. 15, 2006)
Kanye West is digging for big screen gold. The rapper has teamed up with Anonymous Content and New Line Cinema to produce a feature film inspired by his music.  West also will appear in the film, which will create a multi-perspective portrait of the United States as seen through the eyes of West and several filmmakers. George C. Wolfe, the Broadway figure who directed "Lackawanna Blues," will oversee the creative process on the film.  The producers are assembling about six writers and 10-12 directors to craft short stories, not music videos, that will be linked by a central narrative. The movie will feature new and old music from West.  The untitled project will be produced by Richard Brown and Steve Golin ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"). West, West's manager G. Roberson and Wolfe will serve as executive producers.  "This project will synthesize Kanye's vision with a fantastic group of filmmakers and create what will be a one-of-a-kind film experience," Brown said.


The End Of The Sopranos Finally Begins

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Rob Salem, Pasadena
 Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in.
— Michael Corleone, The Godfather: Part III
 (Mar. 12, 2006) Some of us have been waiting almost two years for this — the return of
The Sopranos, the critically acclaimed, audience adored, industry honoured cable drama, starting its sixth and final season tonight at 10 on The Movie Network.  It's been a long wait — but then, it'll be a long season, with a dozen regular episodes running through the end of May, and then an additional eight "bonus" shows, which should start shooting about a month after that, to air next January.  But if you think you've had it tough waiting for The Sopranos, imagine what it must be like to be one.  The scrutiny. The secrecy. The uncertainty. The endless heaping plates of pasta. Months of intense 16-hour shooting days ... followed by many more months of enforced inactivity.  "It's terrible," acknowledges Vince Curatola, better known in Soprano circles as the family's New York liaison, Johnny "Sack" Sacrimoni.  "We finished production of the fifth season in December of 2003. It came on the air March '04, and came off the air early June '04. Then we did not go back to work until April 29, '05.  "It's tough. You're home a lot. You're washing your car a lot. It's like, `Gee, am I really on television? Because I don't feel it.' The cheques are there, but that's it. You still want to work."  And, in between Sopranos seasons, there is only so much work you can do.  "We're all under contract," Curatola says, "so we can only do little bits of television — we can't be series regulars or anything else during that. You can maybe do a movie, if one comes your way. But that's about it."  And even then, when you do come back to work, on The Sopranos you never can quite be sure of what you're coming back to. Or for how long. The show has an unusually high mortality rate.
 "You just don't feel you're in the groove," the actor allows. "You never know what you're going to be doing. Anything can come at you from out of left field."  But, even in a worst-case scenario, you at least get a good meal out of the deal — invariably at Il Cortile, a small, family-owned restaurant in New York's Little Italy, traditional site of what Sopranos insiders morbidly refer to as "the whacking party."  It is a longstanding cast tradition when someone's character is scheduled to die.  "We take them to dinner," confirms Michael Imperioli, the actor (and occasional screenwriter, on and off screen) who plays the newly minted Soprano captain, Christopher Moltisanti.  "Lots of rituals (on the show) revolve around food. But when you're asked to dinner, it's not such a good thing. You gotta remember that."  "Actually," muses his erstwhile mob boss, series star James Gandolfini, "I think we may owe a couple ..."  Nobody laughs.  At this level, among the regular, less at-risk actors (not coincidentally, the ones who tend to get the movie work), there is an understanding that these inordinately long lay-offs are essential to their visionary creator/producer, David Chase.  A notorious hands-on micro-manager, Chase insists on — and is happily given — ample time to map out and plot the entire season himself before work even starts on the scripts.  "He's never taken a hiatus," Gandolfini marvels. "Maybe once ... but even then, I'm sure that somewhere, some part of his brain is thinking about it 24/7."  "I know that everybody was always not very happy with us with our long hiatuses," concedes co-star Lorraine Bracco, a.k.a. Soprano therapist Dr. Jennifer Melfi.  "But I also think that it's also been extremely healthy for everyone. Besides, you know, the writing process, which David needs, because he edits and writes ...  "But I think it's been good for all of us, too. I mean, it's not like, you know, 11 months out of the year we're on the dole."  Still, 21 months is an awfully long time to wait for anything — within the same elapsed period, a woman could produce two entire children and have another one well on its way.  Is it too long to wait for a mere TV series? Particularly one now only 20 episodes away from saying "Ciao" forever?
 "I have no idea," shrugs Chase. "I really don't know. When I talk to people, they seem to want it to come back. But if somebody wants to watch another show, that's great."  "Yeah," agrees Edie Falco, a standout once again this season as the long-suffering Mob wife, Carmela Soprano.  "Nobody signed anything committing to watch this for as long as it's on the air. If they find something else, then God bless 'em."  But really, what are the chances of that? We're already all emotionally invested. We're not about to give up on The Sopranos — especially not this close to the end.  The end. Needless to say, a closely guarded secret. No one but Chase knows where this is all leading — not even the Sopranos themselves.  Nor do they wish to.  "I don't know what he's got planned for the ending ... and I don't want to know," Gandolfini insists.  "I would never want to know," agrees Falco. "I wish I didn't even know that we were ending when we're ending, because now I have this sort of gravity about the time I'm spending with these people I love that I wish I didn't have. But it's inevitable."  And no one is quite ready to consciously confront how that is going to finally feel.  "Right now, it's just about being with these people one more year," echoes Gandolfini. "This is the year we have, and let's enjoy it and really look at it and remember it."  "There's still a lot of work to be done," says Chase. "I'm just sort of still in the middle of it. So I'm not really there yet with any kind of emotional reaction.  "I think we're all going to be really sad when it's ended. I mean, everybody, I'm sure, will feel relieved and, to a certain extent, hopefully feel that we've done good work. There won't be that huge amount of responsibility and work to do anymore. But I'm sure we're all going to be very sad."  At least they'll have each other.  "We're a very close cast," Curatola affirms. "I don't think two weeks go by where we don't each see three or four of the others. We're on the phone constantly. We do a lot of travelling together. We do appearances. We all hang out together in Manhattan. That will continue. We're like an extended family."  The show, then, would be their family legacy.  "That in and of itself is a great calling card," acknowledges Curatola. "It's made every one of us famous."  None more so than James Gandolfini. "A lot of us, when we started out — well, except for Lorraine (Bracco) — but a lot us were reasonably unknown," Gandolfini says. "You learn so much from all the stuff that happened through this ... about success and money and celebrity, all kinds of stuff. It's been an incredible life lesson that none of us, I don't think, would have ever had if we hadn't had this opportunity."

From Teen VJ To TV Mom

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Vinay Menon,
 (Mar. 14, 2006)
Amanda Walsh knows what she wants.  But in the mercurial world of show business, where the gatekeepers are as capricious as they are conniving, "knowing" doesn't always translate into "getting."  So when the Quebec-born Walsh bid adieu to MuchMusic in 2004 — abandoning a high-profile VJ gig to pursue an acting career — more than a few eyebrows were raised.  "It was a very difficult decision," says Walsh, in Toronto for last night's Genie Awards. "But when I started working at Much, I knew it wasn't somewhere I was going to stay forever."  In fact, while wowing Much's youthful demo — at 19, Walsh was the youngest VJ in station history — the vivacious blonde was already focused on a bigger trophy.  Walsh would save vacation time and decamp to Los Angeles for auditions, entering the thrashing jetstream that is pilot season. There were readings and screen tests and callbacks and close calls. And, well, many reasons for the plucky optimist to lose faith.  But she didn't.  Last year around this time, after another round of baptism-by-fire auditions — "I can't even count, I went to so many!" — Walsh landed a role on a new American sitcom.  Sons & Daughters (ABC, Citytv, 9 tonight) is a "hybrid comedy" about an extended family living in Ohio. Co-created by Fred Goss, who stars, the series boasts the imprimatur of Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels, who serves as executive producer.  On the show, which premiered last week and continues tonight with back-to-back episodes, Walsh plays the winsome Jenna, a single mother and Goss's half-sister.  With its single-camera, documentary-style shooting and no laugh track, comparisons are already being made to Curb Your Enthusiasm, Scrubs and Arrested Development.  There are also some strange parallels between Amanda and Jenna: Amanda was a music station personality, Jenna dreams of becoming a pop star. Jenna works as a waitress, Amanda was discovered while doing the same in Hudson, Que.  For the actors, the improvised show presents its own challenges. "We do really long takes that can go off track at times," says Walsh, who also stars in the feature These Girls, which opens March 24. "But that's how you find the genuinely funny moments."  For Walsh, a background in sketch comedy — she was a member of the gold medal team at the 2000 Ontario Improv Games — has lessened the anxiety one might expect from a relative newcomer to the cut-throat world of U.S. television.
 "I've been acting since I was 11," says Walsh, who started on Nickelodeon's Are You Afraid of the Dark? and, more recently, had a guest role on Smallville.  Production has already wrapped on the 11 episodes of Sons & Daughters. A decision about renewal is expected by May. For now, though, the 23-year-old Libra is just trying to stay balanced: "I have moments where all of a sudden everything hits me and I get really, really excited."  Who can blame her? Walsh has, in fact, bucked the dream-making odds by finding success so quickly in a city where the tribulations vastly outnumber the triumphs.  "When you're going through (the audition process) it always seems like a really long time," says Walsh. "But I definitely recognize how this has happened pretty fast for me. I'm very fortunate because things have panned out well in the last year and a half."  So Walsh is adjusting to her new life. She's been jetting between Toronto and L.A. where, as of September, she has a new apartment in West Hollywood, equipped with a gym she's been forcing herself to visit.  Walsh, who didn't own a car in Toronto, now has her licence and is driving around L.A., a sprawling metropolis that's impossible to navigate without wheels. And let's not forget, she headed west with virtually no leads or contacts.  "It's been a pretty big adjustment," she says. "Because outside of the people I work with, I know about two people in the entire city."  The weather is great in L.A., a fringe benefit for the outdoors-loving Walsh. In her beloved Montreal Canadiens shirt, she's spent recent weeks playing tour guide to visiting friends and family.  Which raises a final question: has Canada lost another bright light? "Maybe they'll move the whole show up here," Walsh says, laughing. "That would be my dream." 

MTV Live Unveils Its New Line-up Of Hosts

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Scott Deveau

 (Mar. 15, 2006) They may be just fledgling stars now, but you can expect their celebrity status to skyrocket in Canada next week with the launch of MTV Live. Seven hosts of MTV Canada's flagship program were announced Tuesday, and while most have some experience on the small screen, none are exactly household names. "These hosts are going to be the first stars of MTV and soon, Canada will know all of them," MTV vice-president of production Mark McInnis said Tuesday. Perhaps the most recognizable would be Gemini Award winner Daryn Jones, who received the honour for his work on the Comedy Network series Buzz. He was also a writer and on-air correspondent for the Rick Mercer Report. Unveiled last month, MTV Canada will be broadcast from downtown Toronto starting March 21, and will be produced in partnership with CTV Inc. MTV Live will focus on in-studio guests, debates and webcam interviews about fashion, relationships and celebrities. "Our hosts are talented, clever, genuine individuals that are representative of Canada and of our audience," McInnis said. "And they reflect the MTV Brand - they're fun and passionate, they have attitude and style, they're emotional and they're leaders - which is what sets MTV apart from its competition." MTV Canada has been off the air since last year when its deal with Craig Broadcasting ended after the broadcaster was bought by CHUM Ltd., which owns Canadian rival MuchMusic.  The other six hosts announced Tuesday are:
 -- Jessi Cruickshank, whose previous television experience includes two seasons as the host of YTV's Weird on Wheels and principal roles in The Pretender, Virtuality, For Hope and Alive!
 -- Nicole Holness, whose R&B girl group X-Quisite earned a 2003 JUNO nomination for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year and snagged nominations as Best New Artist at the 2002 Urban Music Awards of Canada and Best New Artist (CHR) at the 2002 Canadian Radio Awards.
 -- Daniel Levy, who is said to bring an everyman perspective to the show. He describes himself as "slightly OCD" with an almost disconcerting knowledge of the city's best pizza.
 -- Gilson Lubin, who has spent the last couple of years racking up an impressive resume of accolades including a scholarship for Humber College's Comedy Performance and Writing program and a nomination for the Phil Hartman Award. He went on to win Chicago's Laugh Across America contest and the Las Vegas Comedy Festival and last year he picked up the best newcomer Canadian Comedy Award before taping his own Comedy Now! special.
 -- Diane Salema who was "discovered" by MTV while working at a Toronto retail outlet. When approached to audition for one of the host positions, Diane thought the offer was a scam, but she decided to give the audition a chance.
 -- Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, a former television producer for Chum, who says she owes her existence to rock 'n roll because her parents met and fell in love at a Kiss concert.

Prairie Giant's Scheduling Snafu

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Roy Macgregor

 (Mar. 11, 2006)
It was never intended as irony. The scene was straightforward enough: Upstart Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas taking on the establishment with revolutionary legislation that would prevent banks from foreclosing on destitute farmers. If the Eastern banks and their friends in Ottawa don't like it, he decides, he'll go directly to the people in a public broadcast. Not so fast, the spunky premier is told, the CBC won't give airtime to anyone about "to criticize the federal government." Twenty years after Tommy Douglas's death, the CBC was still denying him airtime. But not, mercifully, forever. Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story, the four-hour miniseries that was bumped from its originally scheduled broadcast so that it wouldn't interfere with the recent federal election, will finally be shown tomorrow and Monday. The people, the CBC appears to have decided, are now far enough removed from the voting booth to be reminded of a Canadian politician with integrity, a politician driven to bring about genuine change, a politician capable of moving oratory, a politician with -- how long has it been? -- genuine wit. John N. Smith, the Montreal filmmaker and director of this luminous miniseries, still seethes when reminded of the decision to keep his film away from the election. "I was horrified," he says. "I reacted with absolute outrage." What galled Smith was that he was chosen for the project in part because of his great success for CBC with The Boys of St. Vincent (1992), a controversial examination of priests and pedophilia that became a long, and successful, legal battle in defence of freedom of expression.
 "I spent a year of my life going to the Supreme Court trying to establish freedom of speech," Smith says. "If this could happen for this reason, who is to say next time it couldn't be somewhere else for some other reason? To me, this was the thin edge of the wedge." While Smith was somewhat mollified by CBC's decision to reschedule, his preference would have been for the series to run as planned at the time of the election call. "I think it would have made for a more interesting campaign," he says. "It would tell our history, tell us where we came from and tells us the values that Tommy Douglas lived his whole life for and espoused." He fought the CBC decision, but "no one ever returned my calls." They will likely be calling next week, though. And the call will be to congratulate Smith and his scriptwriter son, Bruce N. Smith, on a remarkable and moving portrayal of the little prairie premier who is known as "the Father of Medicare."  It is difficult to comprehend the hold Tommy Douglas has on this country. Slight, bespectacled and remembered for, of all things, legislation -- the 40-hour work week, government auto insurance, North America's first bill of rights, hospitalization -- Douglas was selected more than a year back as "the Greatest Canadian" in a contest run by the same CBC that bumped him in afterlife. He was, arguably, the least known of the finalists beyond Canada's borders, the others in the top 10 being Terry Fox, Pierre Trudeau, Sir Frederick Banting, David Suzuki, Lester Pearson, Don Cherry, Sir John A. Macdonald, Alexander Graham Bell and Wayne Gretzky. In fact, to younger Canadians, his story has faded dramatically. Michael Therriault, the 32-year-old lead actor in the miniseries, had never even heard of Douglas when the part came around. "This," says director Smith who, at 62, has vivid memories of Douglas as Saskatchewan premier and, later, as national leader of the New Democratic Party, "is a man who changed the world."
 Today, Therriault would agree. The young Shakespearean actor, with no previous film experience, immersed himself in Douglas's character to a point where he is now encyclopedic on the topic. He plays the part magnificently, the passion burning through but not, curiously, with the very distinctive sing-songy and clipped manner of speaking Douglas had. The odd time, in speeches, the actor rings like the original -- saying "me-di-cal care" in the Regina legislature -- but for the most part Therriault's voice is his own. He can, on the other hand, perfectly mimic Douglas, but Smith dissuaded him of following that route, convinced the mimicking was getting in the way of the acting. "He was 'parroting' too much," says Smith. No matter, by part two, Therriault is Tommy Douglas. The series covers the Saskatchewan years -- the arrival of Douglas as a Baptist minister, his relationship with wife Irma (nicely played by Kristen Booth), the 1931 Estevan miners' strike, Tommy's politicization, his five majority governments, the bitter doctors' strike and the birth of medicare -- and is shot mostly on location with genuine Saskatchewan faces and equally realistic Saskatchewan light. It is not a portrayal to everyone's liking -- Douglas's daughter Shirley, the original force behind the film, departed after "creative differences" with the script -- but it is a fascinating history lesson for those who don't know the story and a welcome reminder for those who do. It is also a sharp rebuke to what has become of politics in this country. In other words, airtime richly deserved.

Wayans Bros Wheeling And Dealing

 Excerpt from

 (Mar. 9, 2006) *It’s been nothing but serious business for comedic siblings
Keenen Ivory, Damon, Shawn and Marlon Wayans in recent days.  The brothers put down a $150,000 security deposit toward the development of their long-planned entertainment complex in Oakland, and have also inked a deal to bring their first animated project, a series of cartoons titled “Thugaboo,” to the kids channel, Nicktoons.   Keenen Ivory, Damon, Shawn and Marlon paid the security deposit and signed a negotiating agreement last week to develop 70 acres of vacant land on a defunct Army base, said family spokeswoman Kay Carney. As previously reported, the siblings are looking to build a movie studio and theme park on the abandoned lot.  The City Council voted eight months ago to give the brothers exclusive rights to analyze the site for possible development. The agreement was delayed for a while to accommodate their busy schedules, Carney said.  The next step is to analyze the site and come up with more specific plans, Carney said. The brothers have also floated the idea of building posh retail stores and a luxury hotel in the space in addition to the studio and theme park.  Meanwhile, the Wayans are also hoping to launch a following in the animation world with “Thugaboo,” a series of three specials – one hour-long and two half-hours – that feature nine very different kids growing up in the inner city. Each will learn valuable lessons about everything from the importance of friendship to never giving up on a dream.
 Shawn said he and his brothers have been looking for an animated project based on their childhood experience.  "(The characters) are dealing with universal themes like going back to school, falling in love, friendship, dreaming and that kind of stuff," said Shawn. "We're giving life lessons through the characters, (so the viewers) will be able to maybe make better choices when they are put in certain situations. . . . The content is unique and funny and has a heart, so I think kids will really like it.  The Wayans will produce, write and lend voices to "Thugaboo." The specials will also feature appearances by Michael Rapaport, Tracy Morgan, David Alan Grier and Kim Wayans, and each will end with a special musical number played out in music video format.        According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Thugaboo” will premiere on Nickelodeon first, followed by their debuts on Nicktoons. The first instalment will have a back-to-school theme and is targeted to premiere in August, while the second will be a Christmas-themed special. The details of the third special are still being planned.

We'd Prefer Old Elaine To Old Christine

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Andrew Ryan,

(Mar. 13, 2006) At long last, Elaine has come back to us, but then again, not really. Former Seinfeld diva Julia Louis-Dreyfus returns to television this evening, and happy to report she's adorable as before. She's still exactly like Elaine, not that there's anything wrong with that. Elaine was a grand TV character and Louis-Dreyfus seems to be a sharp lady. So why does she keep signing on to comeback shows that are obviously a bad idea? The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS, CH, 9:30 p.m.) is the latest comeback vehicle for Louis-Dreyfus. Her former cast-mate Jason Alexander has so far tried to shake the post-Seinfeld curse with two sitcoms -- both bombs. Seinfeld player Michael Richards, aka Kramer, gave up after one sitcom attempt; Jerry retired to raise a family. This is Louis-Dreyfus's second kick at the can and while I'm convinced everyone wants her back on television, Old Christine falls short of the task. She tried it three years ago with NBC's Watching Ellie. It was a strange TV experiment that started out as a real-time comedy without a laugh track and quickly evolved into a slapstick sitcom with Louis-Dreyfus way out of her element as a dizzy club singer. The writers even gave her a cadre of wacky male friends, in a limp effort to recapture the Seinfeld dynamic. Ellie was truly awful, but at least Louis-Dreyfus had a chance to sing -- she's surprisingly good -- and she was playing a single woman unlucky in love, which elicited brief flashes of Elaine. There's precious little of Elaine evident on Old Christine, which miscasts Louis-Dreyfus as a single mother. The cumbersome title pretty much spells out the setup: She is the Old Christine, whose husband has paired up with another woman named Christine, which makes her the New Christine. This leaves Old Christine to raise a precocious eight-year-old son, which mom squeezes in between her job owning and operating a health club. Stop me when any of this starts to sound like Elaine. Louis-Dreyfus, bless her, is at least game for the challenge. You can actually see her trying to work some of that old Elaine spunk into the show, but she can't pull it off. And it's traceable to the source: CBS is the TV repository for safe, old-school sitcoms -- like Everybody Loves Raymond, Yes, Dear et al. -- in which families goof around but deep down they really love each other a whole bunch.
 In the case of Old Christine, it's jarring to see Louis-Dreyfus as the woman who, let's say it, was dumped and left with the kid. At the same time, Old Christine appears to be cranked out of the same feel-good assembly line as Raymond and it's unsettling to see her situated among such decent people. Everybody on the show is painfully nice. The patrons at the gym are nice. The ex-husband is a super guy and supportive father who shows up at the son's first day of school. Aw. The New Christine is, of course, a babe, but she's a babe with a good heart, so even Old Christine can't help but like her. We are family. Everyone on Old Christine is so darn nice that Elaine never has a chance to surface. Viewers will forever know Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine and associate her only within the Seinfeld tableau. And Elaine was always in control, more or less, in that world. She was the take-charge New York gal who inspired either fear or desire in her weak male companions. Sometimes both. Elaine was a tough cookie, but Old Christine is just tired. Elsewhere, kindly observe a moment of silence for the loss of a loved one. There has been a death in the immediate family on 24 (Fox, 9 p.m.; Global, 10 p.m.) and life simply won't be the same any more on the real-time drama. Edgar is gone. The untimely demise of Edgar Styles was one of this season's most stunning TV events, qualifying right up there with last night's sixth-season opener of The Sopranos. Certainly it was a shock seeing what happened to Tony Soprano, but the death of Edgar was somehow a more poignant affair. Last week's 24 was a two-hour outing, which almost always means bad news for someone on the show. It was genuinely nerve-wracking television. In the closing moments, the CTV building was under nerve-gas attack by terrorists; all the principal characters scampered into an enclosed area -- except for computer whiz Edgar (Louis Lombardi). Edgar stumbled in too late, took one last, longing look at his co-worker Chloe (Mary-Lyn Rajskub) through the Plexiglas shield and then he dropped like a stone. It was a dark day for 24 fans. Edgar was a cuddly, bearlike character and one of few regulars carried over from the previous season. He was simply an average guy who was very good at his job. He even looked and acted like someone named Edgar. And you just know he was secretly in love with Chloe. From the stricken expression on her face last week, Chloe cared about Edgar, too, in her own abrasive way. Killing off such a beloved character may seem an odd way to hold an audience, but Edgar's death was not without purpose.
 In storytelling terms, the coldness behind Edgar's death is in keeping with the 24 tradition of giving that big midseason jolt to viewers, presumably to keep them engaged for the next 12 hours. Remember: Around this time last year, the midway point of 24 was marked with another two-hour episode that concluded with terrorists scoring a direct missile hit on Air Force One -- with the President aboard. He survived, but the sheer audacity of the act certainly had people talking. It wasn't the sort of story twist you normally saw on TV -- particularly after Sept. 11 -- but it surely kept viewers coming back. It's the sort of shrewd, near-ruthless strategy that continues to pull in new 24 followers, who likely want to see what everyone else is buzzing on about. That's why each episode opens with a concise recap of the previous week's activities. Events continue to unfold at breakneck pace on tonight's follow-up, in which the CTU staffers are faced with the problem of escaping an enclosed office surrounded by nerve gas. Sadly, there will be no time to mourn Edgar, but the big fella shall be dearly missed. Dates and times may vary across the country. Check local listings.

The Fresh Face Of CBC Comedy?

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill

 (Mar. 13, 2006) Out with the old, in with the new. Having recently cancelled Da Vinci's City Hall, This Is Wonderland and The Tournament, CBC Television has ordered two new half-hour pilot episodes of This Space for Rent. The Vancouver-based comedy about a group of twentysomething roommates originally aired as a one-hour pilot in January during the network's Comedy Week. The ensemble show centres around the ironically named Lucky (Dov Tiefenbach), who falls into a funk after his novel is rejected and holes up in his slummy apartment, driving his roommates and girlfriend crazy. It didn't achieve the highest ratings of the three pilots that aired that week (only 188,000 viewers, compared to Rabbittown's 251,000). And the new episodes won't go directly to air -- they'll be tested with focus groups before any decision is made about turning the show into a permanent series. But according to Anton Leo, CBC Television's head of comedy, This Space for Rent is an example of the kind of show the network is looking for.
 Last month in Ottawa, Richard Stursberg, CBC's vice-president of English-language television, told a conference of independent film producers that CBC's mix of genres will henceforth be driven by a new "audience-first" development strategy, with shows that aim to attract a minimum of one million viewers and are "fast-paced, accessible and escapist."  This Space for Rent, says Leo, "possesses a number of characteristics that are in line with what Richard was talking about. It has some lovely comedic situations, strong character and some outright funny lines. So much comedy now comes from either extreme discomfort or tremendous darkness. That's not what this is and not where we want to go." Television critics were deeply divided about the pilot episode, even here at The Globe and Mail. Henrietta Walmark called it a "knockout comedy" in Globe Television, the paper's Toronto-area TV magazine. Critic John Doyle, on the other hand, found the show's "stoned-slacker" attitude "deeply irritating." Leo agrees there were problems with the initial pilot: The pacing was too slow, some of the characters were underutilized and the tone wasn't sufficiently upbeat. That's why he asked for new scripts. "We had lots of positive audience reaction about the universe these kids inhabit, the look of the show and the independent soundtrack," says Leo. "These are good things to build on."

Aging Gracefully -- Isn't That An Oxymoron?

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Andrew Ryan
 (Mar. 14, 2006) Nobody wants to get older, but we are an aging nation and despite what you may have heard, there's no graceful way to ease into your twilight years. The march toward official senior-citizen status remains as inexorable as time itself, and even if you're lucky enough to reach 65, it's not such a great deal. From what I've observed, one day you're a productive part of society and the next you're watching The Price is Right and having a coffee at the mall with other retired people. I really hope I'm not around for it. But few of those cold realities are addressed in
Dr. Andrew Weil's Healthy Aging (PBS, 8 p.m.). The two-hour special espouses the same lifestyle doctrine of clean living and nondescript inner peace that has made the feel-good guru a very wealthy fellow over the years. Dr. Weil is the New Age Dr. Phil. Dr. Weil is neither diet doctor nor religious figure, but he's still a top-ranked celebrity in America. He's lesser known in this country, where our only healthy lifestyle role models are Tim Horton and the Participaction couple.
 The bushy-bearded Dr. Weil has made the cover of Time magazine. He appears on Larry King Live at least twice a month, and on other talk shows whenever lifestyle themes arise or he has a new book out. The ladies on The View just love the big bear. Dr. Weil is a wildly prolific author and his books have been filling the self-help shelves since the early seventies, for heaven's sake. His sales numbers rank right up there with Deepak Chopra and Dale Carnegie. Like them, Dr. Weil is an unsolicited life coach and the eternal optimist and in this special he asks us to believe that good times await us all in the declining half of lives. Don't believe the hype. The TV special, you see, is a direct adaptation of Dr. Weil's most recent book, Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Wellbeing, which came out last year. The first wave of sales have come and gone in the U.S., so tonight's program appears to be a two-hour infomercial push for the book. Dr. Weil is 64, in case that matters, and still quite capable of tailoring his sales pitch toward the geezer set. In his calm yet quick-talking manner, he recycles his spiel about merging mind, body and spirit and outlines a 12-point program designed to ease viewers into healthy aging. It all sounds terrific, but what does it mean? The galling aspect of Dr. Weil's life plan is the simplicity and vagueness of his regimen. I'm not certain of the origins of Dr. Weil's specific spiritual mantra, but most of it seems yoga-related. And the short version of his good-health plan: Eat grains, get exercise. It's information most of us picked up in Health Canada booklets back in public school. And it would be easier to accept Dr. Weil's plan if he weren't a rather stocky fellow himself. He was called out on exactly that fact, tactfully, in an interview with Evan Solomon on CBC News: Sunday last year. The good doctor chuckled and said something about different body types. I think it might be those snacks kids leave out for him each year. Dr. Weil preaches a benign lifestyle doctrine, and more power to him and the other hucksters subsisting on American dysfunction. It's putting their kids through college and presumably keeping people off Prozac. There's not much doubt following Dr. Weil's program will lead to better health, but so will taking the stairs instead of the elevator. And like everything else, that gets tougher as you get older.
 Also tonight: A sweet outing on Style by Jury (W Network, 8:30 p.m.) demonstrates why the Canadian-made series has twice the heart of U.S. makeover shows. Unlike the extreme makeover measures of, say, ABC's Extreme Makeover, Style by Jury takes a kind approach. The personal-style appraisals come from an assembled jury of regular people, who can occasionally be harsh but are usually spot-on, after which comes the requisite revamps via fussy stylists and beauty professionals. There's no radical plastic surgery or total body overhauls performed on Style by Jury, and every so often they really do make someone's life a little better. Tonight, the show focuses on a terribly unhappy schoolteacher named Robin, who is 41 but judged to be at least in her mid-50s by the jurors.  Robin has deeply discoloured teeth and a shock of hair not unlike Napoleon Dynamite's. She's painfully self-conscious about her appearance, especially her teeth, which in the past have prompted students to give her a toothbrush and toothpaste. The in-house experts are presented with the case of Robin. Her skin is sun-damaged. Her wardrobe is full of odd beaded clothing from the countries where she's worked. The stains on her teeth are unfixable through conventional means. And where to begin on the hair? Robin is taken to a spa for a facial, followed by a shopping trip for a new wardrobe. The hairstylist drops the ball by giving Robin an inappropriately sassy Georgie Girl hairstyle -- and then stands by fuming when she washes it out in the nearby sink. More important, Robin's teeth get shiny white veneers, and she's immediately brought to tears when she first witnesses her new smile. She truly does look and feel better. In her follow-up assessment, before a different jury, Robin is judged to be a confident career woman, with possible ties to high society. The Style by Jury process has gently transformed her into a different woman and all it took were some new clothes and dental work. Sometimes it's just that simple. Dates and times may vary across the country. Check local listings.

Maureen Stapleton, 80: Earned Rare Grand Slam Of Acting

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Jim Bawden, Entertainment Columnist
 (Mar. 14, 2006)
Maureen Stapleton was sitting quietly in her mobile dressing room on the set of the TV miniseries Little Gloria, Happy At Last (1982). The shoot was at the McLaughlin Estate in Oshawa, made to look like the Vanderbilt home in Newport, R.I.  Her door was open as she listened to fellow co-star Glynis Johns give a crew member a whole lot of grief. "Last week we had Bette Davis and Angela Lansbury, too," she smiled. "That was a very active set indeed."  The thing was Maureen Stapleton, who died yesterday at her home in Lenox, Mass., at age 80, made little fuss about acting. "I just get out there and do it," she sighed. "Work is work, I always do the job. When Reds (1981) started they gave me Emma Goldman's autobiography, but it was too heavy to read."  Stapleton was a legendary smoker and died from chronic pulmonary disease.  One of 10 performers to get the acting grand slam, she had an Oscar (Reds), Tony (1951's The Rose Tattoo) and Emmy (1967's Among the Paths to Eden). She won a second Tony for The Gingerbread Lady (1971). She was Oscar-nominated for Lonelyhearts (1958), Airport (1970) and Interiors (1978). 
 Stapleton was born in Troy, N.Y., June 21, 1925. After high school, she worked in an armament plant and left for New York City in 1943; she was a billing clerk at Hotel New Yorker.  She first acted in the summer of 1945, in summer stock.  "This was a time when Broadway was booming. I saw all the plays, usually from standing room. An unknown guy named Marlon Brando was always around me in those days; we had such fun trying to sneak into the theatres after the lights dimmed."  Brought up in a strict Catholic family with an alcoholic father, it was not surprising that her own life was chaotic. In an autobiography, she candidly described bouts of drinking, two failed marriages and a feeling of being isolated from her two children.  Cocoon (1985), she told me, was the movie people remembered her in. "You never know what'll strike people. I once asked Laurence Olivier — I was his Big Mama in a TV version of Cat On a Hot Tin Roof — what constituted great acting. He said an ability to read the lines, of course, but also the art of listening. So I've been listening really hard ever since."


Mike Wallace To Quit '60 Minutes'

David Bauder, Associated Press

(Mar. 14, 2006) NEW YORK —
Mike Wallace, the hard-driving reporter often seen as the symbol of CBS' 60 Minutes, said Tuesday he will stop being a regular correspondent for the show.  Wallace, 87, was careful not to say he's fully retiring and CBS News President Sean McManus referred to him as a "correspondent emeritus.''  But it is clear an era is coming to a close at television's leading newsmagazine, which Wallace joined at its start in September, 1968.  "I've often replied, when asked, `I'll retire when my toes turn up,'" Wallace said. "Well, they're just beginning to curl a trifle, which means that, as I approach my 88th birthday, it's become apparent to me that my eyes and ears, among other appurtenances, aren't quite what they used to be.''  Wallace has said for years that he was cutting back on stories at 60 Minutes, but his competitive instincts made it difficult for him to follow through.  Wallace said that "CBS is not pushing me" and that he'll keep an office at the CBS News headquarters.  "Mike Wallace has been the heart and soul of this broadcast since he and Don (Hewitt) started it almost four decades ago,'' said Jeff Fager, 60 Minutes executive producer. "Millions and millions of Americans have tuned in to 60 Minutes on Sunday night over all those years to see him in action and to find out what questions he would be asking each week."  A relentless reporter, Wallace was often the last person anyone accused of wrongdoing would want to see on his doorstep.  Wallace's television career dates back to the late 1940s, and he was even a game show host in the 1950s. Night Beat, a local news show in New York that was a series of one-on-one interviews, gave him his reputation as a tough interrogator.  But it was at 60 Minutes where he achieved his greatest fame.  Wallace has done six stories for 60 Minutes this season, including a profile of actor Morgan Freeman and a story on Iraq war veterans who had lost their limbs.

Diddy Inks TV Deal For Cooking Show

Excerpt from

(Mar. 14, 2006) *With “Dancing with the Stars” and “Skating with Celebrities” drawing viewers by combining famous faces with experts, it was only a matter of time before the popular concept wafted into the kitchen.  Next month,
Sean “Diddy” Combs and Reville’s Ben Silverman will bring to NBC “Celebrity Cooking Showdown,” a five-night reality miniseries described as a cross between Food Network’s “Iron Chef America" and ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."  “Showdown” will pair celebrities with such famous chefs as Wolfgang Puck, Cat Cora (Food Network's "Kitchen Accomplished") and Govind cq Armstrong (executive chef at Table 8 in L.A.) to create a dish for competition.    "The sexiest trend going on right now is young men learning how to cook," said Diddy. "There's nothing more sensual than a man cooking for his woman. We wanted to do something that fit that trend in the marketplace."   Also an attraction for Diddy is the show’s kitchen setting, a venue always ripe for drama.    "Cooking is a lot of pressure," he said, noting a chef risks complete disaster "if you cook something one second too long or measure something one millimetre of a spoonful too much."   NBC was so hyped on the “Showdown” concept pitched by Silverman that it agreed to fast-track the program over five nights beginning Monday, April 17.  Several celebs are close to signing on for the show, but as of late Sunday, deals were not ready to be announced, Silverman said.  Silverman approached Diddy to join the project, noting the rap mogul’s successful track record producing such TV shows as HBO's "The Bad Boys of Comedy" and MTV's "Making the Band" and "Run's House."   "We've been desperate to do cooking in primetime," Silverman told Daily Variety. "And who's more primetime than Diddy?"

CRTC Approves Channel Aimed At Retirees

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Mar. 15, 2006)
CALGARY (CP) — The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced approval Tuesday for Calgary-based 50+ TV, a new specialty digital channel aimed at seniors.  In a news release, officials with the channel said it would be devoted to "all aspects of an active retirement lifestyle."  Original Canadian programming would include talk shows, open-line and information programs and consumer, health and legal shows.  Topics to be covered will include grandparenting, mature second relationships, second careers, exercise and food.  Other programs will look at rock and roll music of the '50s through the early '80s, along with comedy, drama, movies and documentaries.  Lynne Kellner, president and CEO of 50+ TV, worked with the CBC for 31 years as producer, director and production manager, and was part of the launch team for Newsworld.  "We want to give all Canadians `of that certain age' across the country a place to kick back and talk, learn, laugh and just enjoy each others' company," she said.

In South Park, Isaac Hayes Is Chef No Longer

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Mar. 15, 2006) New York -- Isaac Hayes has quit South Park, where he voices Chef, saying he can no longer stomach its take on religion. Hayes, who has played the ladies' man/school cook in the animated satire since 1997, said in a statement Monday that he feels a line has been crossed. "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," the 63-year-old soul singer and outspoken Scientologist said.  "Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honoured," he continued.  As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices." AP

Isaac Hayes Leaves ‘South Park’ For Religious Reasons

Excerpt from

(Mar. 14, 2006) *Isaac Hayes has decided to quit his 9-year gig as the voice of Chef on the animated series “South Park,” stating he can no longer tolerate the show’s take on religion.   Hayes, a proud member of the Church of Scientology, said Monday that creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker - who regularly skewer religion on the show - have recently crossed the line.        "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," the 63-year-old said in a statement. "Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honoured. As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices." Stone, meanwhile, questioned Hayes’ motives for leaving in an interview with the Associated Press Monday, stating, “This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians." The Church of Scientology and its celebrity followers, including Tom Cruise and John Travolta, started becoming a favourite target of “South Park” in November with an episode called, "Trapped in the Closet."  It featured Stan, one of the show's four lead characters, being hailed as a reluctant saviour by Scientology leaders, while a cartoon Cruise locks himself in a closet and won't come out. Stone told The AP he and co-creator Trey Parker "never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin." The "South Park" cartoon character Chef was voiced by Isaac Hayes


When Harry Met Kelli

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

 (Mar. 11, 2006) NEW YORK—At its best, a Broadway musical can make you grin from ear to ear without ever really knowing why.  And these days, the lucky audiences attending the Roundabout Theatre's giddily enjoyable revival of The Pajama Game are sitting in their seats at the American Airlines Theatre with permanent — if slightly goofy — smiles attached to their faces.  Who would have thought that a piece of 52-year-old theatrical cotton candy could prove to be so tasty? When the show was first announced, the amount of eye-rolling that went on among the Gotham smart set was formidable.  Sure, The Pajama Game had been a hit back in 1954, but its one major revival, more than 30 years ago, had been a flop.  And the show's plot, dealing with a strike at a Midwestern pyjama factory, hardly set the pulse racing — even back in its original production.  So why is it such a treat this time around? You can pretty much thank everyone connected with it, because this is one of those times at bat when the whole team is hitting close to 1,000. The set, the lights, the costumes, the orchestra — everyone is in on the fun and singing from the same frayed but fabulous hymn book. But if you had to single out three people, they would be stars Harry Connick Jr. and Kelli O' Hara, as well as director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall.  As she's proven many times before (most notably in her champagne revival of Wonderful Town), Marshall knows how to get the old-fashioned charm of a musical just right. She keeps it bright, she keeps it moving and she keeps it lighter than air.  Marshall believes in the wink and the nudge, rather than the leer and the pratfall. Her work is sly and stylish, but never over the top into egregious campiness. You laugh with her people, not at them, and that may be her biggest secret weapon.
 But knowing how to pull some surprising pieces of casting out of your sleeve doesn't hurt either. Kelli O'Hara has built up a sturdy reputation as a sweet, slightly frosty ingénue. I once referred to her as "a vanilla frozen custard," but boy, that's not the case here.  As Babe, the head of the Union Grievance Committee, she's got spunk and sass and the sweetest kind of belting voice. What she does with "I'm Not At All in Love" is an object lesson on how to sell a song with just enough oomph.  And when Harry met Kelli, things got even better. Everyone knows Connick is a dynamite singer and knockout pianist. If you've seen his films, you even know he's a more than credible actor. But no one could have predicted what a complete musical comedy hero he is.  He plays swaggering Sid Sorokin, the macho factory manager, and manages to make this prehistoric chauvinist positively appealing. It's worth the price of admission just to hear him croon that standard "Hey There" into a Dictaphone.  But if you want to know what makes the whole show explode with joy, then visit the showstopping "Hernando's Hideaway" number in Act II. It starts with Megan Lawrence's guileless Gladys going from zero to 70 in 30 seconds with an amazing display of comic virtuosity as she takes us to the sleaziest nightclub in the Midwest.  Next, Marshall marshals her troops into a slinky Latin American dance that manages to be sexy and funny at the same time, while keeping the storyline moving ever forward (which is what all the best directors do).  And then, greatness: Connick steps up to the battered upright piano in the corner of this dive and breaks into a display of the barrelhouse style he grew up with in New Orleans. He does all of this while trying to seduce Lawrence's Gladys ... all in the name of labour relations.  It's one of the best sequences around and it serves as a reminder why this particular Pajama Game ought to be around for a very long time.

Hana's Tale Takes On New Life

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Judy Stoffman, Entertainment Reporter

 Hana's Suitcase
By Emil Sher. Directed by Allen MacInnis. Until Apr. 23 at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, 165 Front St. E. 416-862-2222
 (Mar. 13. 2006)
Hana's Suitcase is one of the most astonishing success stories in the annals of Canadian children's publishing.  Last week, a stage adaptation of the story opened at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, another step — and not the last — in the afterlife of the book.  It began as a CBC radio documentary by Peabody award-winner Karen Levine, who was inspired by a story in the Canadian Jewish News about George Brady, a Holocaust survivor of Czech origin in Toronto.  Brady had been contacted by a Japanese museum curator with questions about his sister Hana, who died at Auschwitz at age 13 and whose suitcase and drawings were in the museum's collection. Brady was able to provide family photos and fill in the gaps.  Levine turned her documentary into a book in 2001, which went on to win 16 awards and sell 100,000 copies in Canada and about the same in Japan. It has been published in 38 countries and has been translated into 20 languages.  Writer Emil Sher has adapted the story faithfully for the stage. He has slightly altered the sequence of Levine's story so that we learn a good deal at the outset about the Tokyo Holocaust Education and Resource Centre, its remarkable director Fumiko Ishioka, and Maiko and Ikira, two children who frequent the centre, before we know more than the bare facts about Hana Brady.  Ishioka's quest through Europe and Canada, in person and by mail, to find the answers to the children's questions about the owner of the battered suitcase provides the play's tension. Jean Yoon plays Ishioka with quiet dignity, furrowed brows and steely resolve. Richard Lee and Siu Ta try hard but are less believable as Ikira and Maiko, the inquisitive Japanese children. They never quite get the body language right.
 When Hana finally skips on stage, she is not a heroine but an ordinary, high-spirited girl who just wants to skate and play with her friend Maria. The bewilderment of the brother and sister at why they, as Jews, are suddenly forbidden to go to school or attend a movie is made palpable by Paul Dunn as George and Jessica Greenberg as Hana.  Designer Teresa Przybylski incorporates images of the camps and of Hana and her family in happy times in a sophisticated, yet economical, set. A shoji rice paper screen is sometimes the door of the Holocaust education centre and sometimes the doors of the train carrying Hana to Auschwitz.  But Hana's death is not dwelt on, and the play draws to an upbeat conclusion with Maiko and Ikira deciding to promote tolerance by re-enacting her brief life for other children.  More Hana's suitcases are on the carousel. Quebec film company Christal has bought rights to make a dramatic film. And Rhombus Media is in discussions with Second Story Press to make a feature-length documentary, to be directed by Larry Weinstein.  "Though the book is youth-oriented we'd hope the film would attract an adult audience," said producer Jessica Daniel. "It could resemble Larry's film Beethoven's Hair, which traced a lock of hair and incorporated stock footage and re-enactment. It might use some animation."  Ironically, the suitcase in the Tokyo museum, sent to Ishioka by the museum at Auschwitz, is not authentic. It was George Brady's daughter Lara who noted two years ago that its handle did not match the handle in a photograph of the original.  After the original was lost in a fire in Birmingham, where it was being exhibited, the Auschwitz museum found a similar valise and inscribed it with the same name and information.

Second City Home To Get Second Life

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

 (Mar. 13. 2006) It looks like there's a second life for the second home of the
Second City.  In an exclusive interview with the Star, producer Jeffrey Latimer revealed that he will reopen the theatre at 56 Blue Jays Way, which has remained dark since the comedy company left it in April 2005.  The 408-seat mainstage venue will be re-inaugurated April 21 with the preview of BoyGroove, the biggest hit of last summer's Toronto Fringe Festival.  That's great news for the downtown entertainment scene, but so is the added info that the 100-seat Tim Sims Playhouse will be reopened as well.  "We're going to be working closely together with Jeffrey," said Andrew Alexander, the head of Second City, "and we'll be continuing the tradition of developing local comedians in that space."  Interestingly enough, it was Alexander's own ups and downs that gave rise to this new situation.  From 1973 through 1997, Second City operated successfully from the Old Firehall on Adelaide St. In 1997, Alexander moved the company to the sleek new facility at 56 Blue Jays Way and almost immediately slid into red ink.  After struggling for eight years, Alexander finally gave up and crossed the street to a smaller space at 99 Blue Jays Way. Since reopening there last fall, Alexander pronounces himself "thrilled" with the size of his audiences.  A private investor who wants to remain anonymous purchased the space at 56 Blue Jays Way and waited for the right offer. It finally came from Latimer, who had been looking for a venue since he sold his longtime interest in the New Yorker Theatre to Live Nation in 2004.  "There's no name for the facility yet," said Latimer. "We're currently calling it the Theatre on Blue Jays Way. We are courting people right now regarding naming rights. The interest is mainly from alcohol companies because the space has potentially three great cabaret bar spaces."
 BoyGroove (officially opening April 27) is the ideal project to relaunch this venue.  In reviewing it last July, I called it "a zappy, happy deconstruction of the whole boy band phenomenon" and suggested that "it would only take the slightest bit of reworking to move comfortably into a mid-sized house for a nice commercial run."  That's exactly what local lawyer and producer (Game Show) Michael Rubinoff thought.  "This show appeals to everybody: either those who have ever swooned over a boy band or harboured absolute hate towards them," Rubinoff said. "BoyGroove is a smart and hilarious look at our obsession with building up and destroying our pop idols."  Rubinoff, working in co-operation with another prominent local legal-theatrical double-tasker, Derrick Chua, will be reuniting the cast and director of the hit Fringe version to polish the show before it faces the general public.  Although Latimer is planning to do some renovations to the space, he believes he can reopen both theatres for less than $200,000.  "We want this to be not only a place where you go to see a show," says Latimer, "but one where you come after a show or a game and always find something fun going on."


Eric McCormack To Star In Off-Broadway Play

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Mar. 11, 2006) New York -- Will & Grace is ending its long television run in May, and Eric McCormack already has his next job -- going off-Broadway to appear with Maura Tierney, another TV favourite, in Neil LaBute's play Some Girl(s). In it, the Toronto-born McCormack portrays a soon-to-be engaged man who is saying goodbye to four ex-girlfriends. The play opens June 8 at New York's Lucille Lortel Theatre. Some Girl(s) was a hit last year in London. Tierney, best known for her roles on ER and NewsRadio, portrays one of the four women. Casting is under way for the other three. AP


New Vision At Harbourfront

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

 (Mar. 11, 2006) After more than 20 years of presenting a dance season, including international and Canadian dance companies, Harbourfront Centre has announced two new programs for dance and theatre.  The money-losing Harbourfront Dance Season will not be renewed this fall. International dance companies will now be presented as part of the New World Stage, a series of 11 to 15 shows, encompassing all forms of theatre, running in its first year from January to April 2007. All Canadian dance shows booked into Harbourfront's Premiere Dance Theatre and Harbourfront Theatre Centre will come under the banner of NextSteps, running from September 2006 to May 2007.  Harbourfront dance programmer Jeanne Holmes estimates as many as 20 dance companies, including the DanceWorks series and those that only rent Harbourfront's theatres, will benefit from a program brochure offering packages to ticket buyers. The change means that groups like Esmeralda Enriques Spanish dance company will benefit from the same promotion given those performances formerly presented in the Harbourfront Dance Season, such as Toronto Dance Theatre.  The New World Stage program will contain the kind of shows formerly imported for the World Stage Festival, as well as dance performances.
 The program, says Holmes, "aligns theatre and dance in a way we've never done before. It gives us the opportunity to show works of different scales as we would do in a festival." Smaller companies and events that could not sustain a five-night run at the Premiere Dance Theatre might be accommodated on a shorter run or combined with other shows running the same day.  The two new programs will not be sold as subscription series, but Harbourfront will offer packages catering to dance viewers or to allow patrons to mix and match their selections. "They'll still get the same benefits as subscribers," says Holmes, allowing discounts on tickets and advance booking. Harbourfront's market research is showing less interest in subscription buying among theatregoers.  In audience terms, dance at Harbourfront is in a trough. "There's no money in presenting international dance. In some ways our numbers are softer than they've ever been."  Instead of being packed into three weeks of the World Stage festival, international theatre can now come to Harbourfront throughout the year, allowing programmers to co-ordinate with presenters in other cities. Details of the NextSteps and New World Stage programs will be announced later in the spring.

Haunted Hart House

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Goddard

 (Mar. 11, 2006)  Hart House, near the very centre of the University of Toronto campus, is remarkable for one decidedly non-academic reason — its over-the-top theatricality. "A strange elation" is the way its library was described in a Morley Callaghan novel. Put the emphasis on "strange."  Hart House's sandstone, pseudo-Gothic, bats-in-the-belfry quality gives an extra kick to "HIC: Installations and Interventions at Hart House," to be found throughout the various nooks and crannies of this student centre.  An exhibition by 17 solo artists and Quebec collective BGL, "HIC" offers metallic spiders hunkered down inside a narrow tower stairwell, a book that flaps its pages at you from the ceiling and a frozen pool of black vinyl surrounding Darth Vader's helmet, leaving the Star Wars villain looking more like the molten Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.  Given to U of T in 1919 by the Massey Family, and named after Hart Massey, Hart House epitomizes the glory days of old WASP Toronto. The logo of its legendary theatre was designed by J.E.H. MacDonald of the Group of Seven, the Canadian WASP's art movement of choice. The Group is not likely to be confused with the group behind the current installation, the Hart House Installation Collective (HIC).  "HIC" also gets its name from the Latin word for "here," recognition on the part of the artists of "classical education's ancient roots," according to a HIC brochure. Actually, "HIC" could also be taken in the more familiar context of "hiccup," to indicate the abrupt and unexpected interruptions in the daily Hart House routine.  Hart House's own art collection is estimated at around $20 million, most of it wrapped up in its paintings. But HIC's mandate is to show "that what's great about art in Toronto right now is what's happening outside of galleries," says HIC curator Gordon Hatt. HIC colleagues include artists Lyla Rye, Carlo Cesta, John Dickson, Catherine Heard, Lisa Neighbour and Max Streicher, whose Clouds installation floats over the heads of the marvelling swimmers in Hart House pool.
 "We wanted to explore the buildings and to talk about what recent Toronto art is about," says Hatt.  Two years in the making, with a threadbare $20,000 in grant money to work with, "HIC" pops up around Hart House like a lost ghost. A guide is available for visitors at Hart House, although its colour coding indicating each art site is difficult to use. Guided tours are available free on Mondays at 7 p.m., Wednesdays at 4 p.m. and Saturdays at 1 p.m. But the preferred way to tour the installation is to wander and let things happen.  Getting spooked is part of the effect. Look up into the vaulted ceiling over one stairway from the first to second floors and you find yourself facing the devilish grin of Beasts, actually a number of soft and floppy-looking mixed-media pieces made by Toronto artist Catherine Heard using human hair and glazed earthenware.  Try going downstairs from the outside and you're caught in the infinity of reflected images in John Dickson's Smoke and Mirrors. Two large mirrors face each other outside a doorway in this imaginative installation, each one with three young trees in front. You're immediately in an imaginary forest bigger than anything Tom Thomson ever experienced.  "HIC" continues to April 16. Sarah Stanners is moderating next Thursday's panel discussion from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Hart House Music Room.

MAGGS: A Life In Two Parts

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Sarah Milroy

 (Mar. 15, 2006) OSHAWA, ONT. — Arnaud Maggs's current touring exhibition celebrates the phenomenon of colour, and there's an irony in that. The 79-year-old Toronto photographer -- one of the just-announced recipients of the Governor-General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts -- is the very apotheosis of black and white. He even looks black and white, with his silver hair, his slate-grey eyes, his pale North Sea complexion and his all-black artist's attire cladding his sparrow-light frame.  Meeting him for lunch last week at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa to talk about his most recent works (on show there), I had to admit he seemed superbly art-directed, a study in grisaille. The only touch of colour was his handsome tortoiseshell Gucci sunglasses, a self-administered and characteristically understated perk of seniority, perhaps, for one of Canada's most respected artists. Colour is something he has avoided since his first days, he says, and he is fond of a quotation from the photographer Paul Outerbridge. "He said: 'With black and white you can suggest, but with colour you have to be certain, absolutely certain.' " Maggs adds: "For many years, I just didn't think there was a need for it. Colour doesn't help most photography." Since he left his career as a graphic designer and fashion photographer at the age of 47 (that was in 1973), Maggs has admitted only the occasional touch of colour, and only after 18 years of art making. His earliest work, titled 64 Portrait Studies (1976-78), was a suite of rigorous black-and-white portrait studies of friends and colleagues from his artistic milieu -- from his daughter, Caitlin, to Mavis Staines (who now heads the National Ballet School) -- observed with a systematic, laboratory-like detachment from the front, side and back. Other portrait series followed.
 Subsequent works in black and white have catalogued French hotel signs (which were fascinating to him for their variety of typefaces and designs), and the Complete Prestige 12" Jazz Catalogue (just the numbers, reproduced in Franklin Gothic Condensed typeface, "one of the most beautiful faces ever done"). Later works involved photographing various historical documents, and presenting them on a large scale. Increasingly, colour has crept in, but only, he says, because it was needed. His Travail des enfants dans l'industrie (1994) documents the paper tags on which the working hours of child textile-factory workers were recorded. "The tags are soft pink, beigey, soft yellow," Maggs says. "You get that dirty kind of pale colour, which is lovely. Then came his Notifications series. The black-bordered envelopes that were used for 19th-century death notices were often stained and sealed with blood-red wax; Maggs shot in colour to show us that. In all these cases, the things that Maggs places before us seem to stand in for something larger, something more amorphous, and intangible -- the hidden dramas that unfold behind the façade of a hotel, the motivations and conflicts that lie behind a human countenance, the life of a small child working in a textile mill, leaving his or her little trace behind on a dog-eared section of card before disappearing into historical oblivion. Maggs delicately points to our limitations in accounting for things, focusing instead on the oddly reassuring charms of those signs and symbols we can hold on to. His new work, in the Oshawa show, seems particularly to revel in all this. One series of 13 images draws its title from a 19th-century book that it documents, Werner's Nomenclature of Colours.
The little volume (with a title too enormous to give in full here) -- written in 1816 and presented in this show in a cabinet alongside Maggs's photographic homage -- was used by Charles Darwin on his expedition aboard the Beagle as a kind of field guide to colour, providing what was hoped to be standard names for the colours observed in nature. Describing its charms, Maggs suddenly turns rapturous. "It takes in everything. It takes in the world, and there's that wonderfully 19th-century vision of things. It's a colonial view, isn't it?" he adds, referring to how European touchstones were used to describe and categorize New World unknowns. "From our standpoint today, it seems very naive." Originally the work of a mineralogist named Werner, the Nomenclature was added to and refined by his subsequent editor Patrick Symes, an amateur botanist and flower painter. Thus the resulting volume describes colours by animal, vegetable and mineral equivalents, with a small watercolour sample of each pigment appended to each description. This produces an array of strange contiguities. Snow White is, variously, described as the colour of the "breast of the black-headed gull," "the snow drop" and "Carrara marble." Skimmed Milk White, on the other hand, is the colour of the "back of the petals of blue hepatica," "common opal" and "white of human eyeballs." The referents can be, by turn, madly esoteric ("inside quill feather of the kittiwake"), magic seeming ("belly of a warty newt"), poetically ambiguous ("gold fish lustre abstracted") and even shockingly vague ("flint"). Drawing our attention to these inscriptions, as Maggs does, he teases us with the futility of Werner's encyclopedic attempt at knowing and cataloguing. How can we presume to share a frame of reference that would make such comparisons meaningful? Like all attempts at universal language, it is imperilled from the start. Maggs's other work in the current show also deals with colour, but here the emphasis is on theory, rather than direct observation. The book under scrutiny here is a study by Michel-Eugène Chevreul's called Cercles Chromatiques, written in 1861. (Chevreul's ideas greatly influenced French painting, Maggs says, in particular the work of Paul Seurat and Robert and Sonia Delaunay.)
 Maggs's sequential work replicates, in 10 prints, Chevreul's study of the 72 colours he identified as pure, revealing their modulation through the incremental addition of black, in 10 distinct phases. Looking at the works installed on the wall, you see radiant dials of colour dampened down, step by step, to blackness, an entropic falling away of vitality that Maggs describes as a "passage from day to night, from positive to negative, from life to death." Is Maggs musing on mortality here, luxuriating in the glow of colour, and mourning its passing? It seems incongruous with the man -- fit as a fiddle and bursting with stories of his latest projects and passions. This, however, is not his only act of mourning. These days, he's shooting all the SX-70 Polaroid film he can get his hands on -- a technology that he says is soon to slip into obsolescence. He's also printing as many of his portrait studies as possible on the old-fashioned photographic papers he favours, which are also rapidly becoming obsolete. (Ilford Cold Tone paper is his favourite.) Maggs laments, too, the passing of the solitary artisanal craft of the darkroom.  "Now you have to look over somebody's shoulder and he's pushing buttons," he says, recalling the making of his most recent pieces, which have involved cosmetic tweaking. "It's incredible what you can do," he adds, deferential to the new technology. "But I don't quite like it." Arnaud Maggs Nomenclature continues at the Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery in Oshawa, Ont., until March 26 (905-576-3000) and travels on to Gallery One One One, in Winnipeg, McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton, and the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal.

NABOB To Honour Entertainment Elite

 Source: Chrissy Murray /
(New York, New York)  – The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) and the NABOB Foundation holds their 22nd Annual Communications Awards Dinner, Friday, March 10, 2006, 7:00 p.m., at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, 2660 Woodley Road NW, in Washington, D.C.  Comedian and radio personality Steve Harvey hosts a star-studded evening honouring African-American legends and leaders in entertainment and broadcasting.  The NABOB 2006 honourees include: Oscar-nominated actor Terrence Howard; nine-time Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys; Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG award winning actress S. Epatha Merkerson; Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and music icon Etta James; beloved author/poet Dr. Maya Angelou; the Queen of Gospel Albertina Walker and Robert L. Johnson, founder and Chairman, BET and the RLJ companies. The legendary Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin will provide the entertainment. Presenters for the evening will be announced as they are confirmed.  NABOB is a non-profit corporation and the only trade organization representing the interests of African-American owners of radio and television stations across the country. The NABOB Foundation was created to develop the next generation of broadcast station owners and managers. For Sponsorship or Ticket Information:  DeSane Associates / 201-342-0909


Ontario Women Are National Hockey Champs

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

 (Mar. 12, 2006) SYDNEY, N.S. (CP) — Team Ontario defeated Team Quebec 2-1 Sunday in the final of the Esso women's national championships.  It was the third straight title for Ontario, represented by the NWHL's Brampton Thunder, and 10th gold medal overall for the province.  Vicky Sunohara of Toronto scored with seven seconds left in the second period, converting a pass from Jayna Hefford for the game-winner.  Sunohara said Hefford looked like she was going to shoot but found her with a pass near the goalmouth.  "She saw me on the far post, made a great pass across and caught (goalie) Charline (Labonte) out of position," Sunohara said. "I just basically had to tip it in."  Kristie Zamora of Oshawa, Ont., opened the scoring in the first period. Quebec replied midway through the second on a goal from captain Lisa Marie Breton of St. Zachary, Que.  Cindy Eadie made 26 saves for Ontario.  Annie Desrosiers of St-Antoine sur Richelieu, Que., assisted on the lone Quebec goal. She finished with 14 points and was named tournament MVP. Hefford, of Kingston, Ont., was named the tournament's top forward. Labonte, of Boisbrand, Que., made 38 saves and was named top goaltender.  "Charline Labonte is a real tough goalie to beat, that's for sure," Sunohara said. "Our team played well. They had a few 5-on-3 power-play opportunities but we shut them down on that.  "The whole team played awesome."  In all, six players from Canada's gold-medal winning team played in the final — three from each team. Sunohara, Hefford and Gillian Ferrari of Thornhill, Ont., were on the Ontario squad while Labonte, Gina Kingsbury of Rouyn-Noranda, Que., and Caroline Ouellette of Montreal played for Quebec.  In the bronze medal game, Alberta defeated New Brunswick 7-3.  Kaley Hall of Calgary paced Alberta with a hat trick and an assist. Heather Logan of Napanee, Ont., scored twice while Monica Dupuis of Memramcook, N.B., and Laura Fridfinnson of Arborg, Man., added singles.  Carole Leblanc of Grande-Digue, N.B., and Kristine Labrie of St. Quentin, N.B, scored for New Brunswick, who secured their highest placing at the event since they won bronze in 1996.

Nash Returns To Lead Suns Over T-Wolves

 Source:  The Canadian Press

 (Mar. 12, 2006) The Phoenix Suns resumed their winning ways Saturday night with star guard Steve Nash back in the line-up.  Nash tied a season high with 31 points and added 11 assists to lead the Phoenix Suns past the Minnesota Timberwolves 110-102. On Thursday night, with Nash out due to an ankle sprain, the Suns dropped a 117-93 decision to the San Antonio Spurs that snapped their 11-game win streak.  "He's pretty good," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I don't know if you've noticed that."  Phoenix is 2-6 without Nash the last two seasons, and 114-44 with him.  Elsewhere, it was: Washington Wizards 110, Detroit Pistons 92; Chicago Bulls 95, Atlanta Hawks 90; Orlando Magic 103, Golden State Warriors 92; Charlotte Bobcats 116, New York Knicks 109; Los Angeles Clippers 106, Milwaukee Bucks 98; and Dallas Mavericks 90, Utah Jazz 87.  In Phoenix, Nash helped the Suns win despite a big night by Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, who led the Timberwolves with 28 points and 10 rebounds. But Garnett's numbers didn't improve his mood. He blasted teammates for clowning in the dressing room after the team's fourth straight loss.  "I guess frustrating would be the right word here," Garnett said after snapping at teammates. "I don't like to speak from a frustrated mind.  "There's no way — we're playing one of the best teams in the league, and you're not hyped, you're not up. The atmosphere in here is like we won. (It) hurts. I try to keep things in house. There's a certain tone in here, man, and we're going to keep that. If you can't abide by that tone, you won't be here. You won't play."  "I don't sign anyone's cheques, but you have to be prepared and ready to play," Garnett said. "And I don't know that as a team every night we're ready to do that. The focus is that it's got to hurt when you lose."
 While Garnett stewed, Nash and the Suns celebrated his return to the line-up. Nash sprained his right ankle Monday night against New Orleans, but he said he felt no ill effects Saturday night.  "I was lucky," Nash said. "I felt great.  "I felt pretty confident before the game, but there was definitely still some uncertainty. As the game went on, I definitely gained confidence and didn't feel any problem with it."  While Nash missed Thursday's game, so did his backup Leandro Barbosa, who had a groin injury. Both players returned Saturday night.  As if to underscore his importance to the Suns, Nash scored Phoenix's first six points. He scored, drew a foul on Marcus Banks and made the free throw. Then he hit from the beyond the arc.  The Timberwolves decided to stick with the Suns' shooters and make Nash beat them off the dribble, which is precisely what he did.  "They were more or less saying, `Hey, we're going to stay on the shooters, and let's see if you can beat our guy,' " D'Antoni said. ``He'll do that.  "He just reads the situation so well, and he takes what they give him."  Nash had a hand in 17 of the Suns' 28 first-quarter points. Phoenix trailed 54-48 at halftime, but Nash scored seven points in the first 3:29 of the third quarter to help the Suns pull even 61-61.  Nash either scored or assisted on 25 of the Suns' 30 points in the third quarter, when they outscored the Timberwolves 30-22 to take a 78-76 lead into the fourth.  The Timberwolves have seen this before. Nash also burned them for 31 points here Feb. 6.

NASCAR Legend's Life Is Back On Track

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Donovan Vincent, Sports Reporter

 (Mar. 12, 2006) For many retired sports figures, a crooked nose, missingteeth or scars from a past surgery are the "war wounds'' that remain with them. 
Former NASCAR star Bobby Allison's permanent limp is one of his reminders. It's a result of breaking his left leg in a 1988 crash at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, a collision that forced him to retire at age 50. The crash left another, less visible injury — serious memory loss from a concussion.
 Listen to Allison interview (mp3)
 But the sport has dealt far worse wounds to Allison and his family. His younger son Clifford died in 1992 during a Busch Series practice at Michigan Speedway. Son Davey was killed 11 months later after crashing his helicopter while trying to land at Talladega Super Speedway in Alabama. Davey Allison, a renowned racer with a Daytona 500 victory and 19 other wins under his belt, had flown to Talladega to watch another driver test a car.  Still, Bobby Allison, 68, gets a gleam in his eye as he shares anecdotes from a long and colourful career behind the wheel. And what a career it was. In 33 years he had over 2,400 starts and more than 700 wins, 85 in NASCAR. He won the Daytona 500 three times, was a three-time runner-up in the event, and was the Winston Cup Series champion in 1983. In 1999, he was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers.  But despite career earnings of more than $7.6 million (all U.S. figures) he admits he didn't plan for his retirement and still needs to bring in cash.  He was in town recently to promote a project he's involved in, the new NASCAR DVD board game. Allison, who has two surviving daughters, nine grandchildren, and lives on a lake in North Carolina with his wife, took time out to chat with Unplugged about "pit lizards,'' life after the NASCAR circuit and country singer Reba McEntire. 
 You've had a lot of injuries. 

 I had a few injuries along the way, but the first serious injury I had was many, many years ago at a short track in Minnesota, where I crashed into a wall and I broke 12 bones in my feet, five ribs, had a fracture to my right eye and 40 stitches to my face. I started to race the following week. I got out of the hospital on Thursday. They made me some orthopedic shoes, so I cut the casts off my feet. Broken ribs were something we put up with, and the fellow did a nice job on my face, as you can see (chuckles).
 Have there been any moments in your career where you felt total fear, or saw your life flash before your eyes, as they say?

 No, I have not. I had a few times where the situation was pretty serious, where I was pretty alarmed, but no fear.
 NASCAR is very popular now. Why do you think it's become so popular?

 NASCAR racing has always been about racing the family car, which is so attractive to so many people. It's attractive to women, children, older folks. ... The car is the most common piece of equipment we all have. To go out and compete in this car was such a great idea.
 If we were to jump into your family car right now, what kind of music would you have on?

 I like country music. I was a Marty Robbins fan, a friend of Marty Robbins while he was alive. I like a little of the modern stuff, but more to earlier country.
 The modern artists you like are?

 I'm a big Reba (McEntire) fan, Alabama, Brooks and Dunn.
 You've had some tragedies in your life.

 Both my sons were killed 11 months apart. My older son Davey, the world-renowned racing hero, was killed. Then, after 36 years of marriage, my wife Judy and I divorced. Then, four years later, we reunited. We're really doing good, enjoying each other. We were reunited through an incredible tragedy on somebody else's part. Richard Petty's grandson Adam was killed. (Judy and I) happened to be at our son Davey's widow's wedding that Saturday. Adam was killed on the Friday. As I came out of the church, Judy said to me we should put our differences aside and go try to help the Pettys. I said, "You're right'' and we've been back together ever since.
 How are things financially for you now?

 Judy and I are comfortable. We have very low debt. We don't have a lot of toys. We have a nice little pontoon boat at our place in North Carolina. And I have a little fishing rig, a pontoon pedal boat I fish off. I was able to keep a 1988 Reatta, with 120,000 miles on it. It's really nice, and that's my little toy. I've done very little to it. We have Buick sedans we drive.
 What about a pension?

 No pension. We're talking now about trying to get something worked out for the old racers.
 You're hoping the board game will help?

 Hoping that will at least contribute, but also bring some (awareness). See, part of the reason I don't have all the things I ought to have is because I spent my life (racing) and working on race cars instead of working on the financial picture and retirement and all these other things we should be responsible for.
 When was your first race?

 I (was in) south Florida. I got my own racing going and built a modified car. A 1934 Chevy with a V-8 Chevy engine with three carburetors. One week I went to Alabama just on a whim. Two friends had decided they wanted to go look for racetracks. They'd gone up through Georgia and hadn't found anything they liked and came back home. They heard Alabama had nice tracks so we went (there), and the second week I was in Alabama I won the first feature event of my career.
 A paid event?

 Yup. It was $300. In 1959 that was lots of money.
 Your Pocono injury. You're still feeling the affects of that. It's a reminder of your career, but also slows you down.

 I have a small limp because my left leg was broken badly, and it ended up healing back shorter than my right leg. So I have a very small limp. It (causes) a bit of discomfort. But I have some memory loss. The memory loss has done really well. I got an awful lot back. Early on I couldn't remember good friends. When I first started coming back into reality I didn't know which year it was, I didn't know where I was, didn't know which state I was in ... In 1988, on Thursday I won the 125-mile qualifying race at Daytona. Saturday, I won the Busch 300 race. On Sunday, I won the Daytona 500 for the third time in my career at 50, with Davey running second to me. What I remember is winning a fishing contest Wednesday, and there was a big party at a restaurant Sunday night for something. I have no personal memory of any of the racing events. It's weird because I do know it happened, but I have no personal memory of it at all.
 We've all heard the stories about women and their attraction to race car drivers.

 There always were the beauty queens and the lady fans, all the way to the pit lizards — the ones that got classified as pit lizards — the girls around areas trying to get a date with any driver. They were there, but I came from a Catholic background, a good Catholic family, good Catholic parents, brothers and sisters. So I had a little bit of support from that part of my upbringing. Then I had a wife (who) was very attractive and a very special person to me. So that helped me avoid at least the main, heavy part of this. When Judy and I divorced, it was over the grief of our sons. It wasn't directly attributed to some other person in either one of our lives.
 What gives you the most pleasure now?

 I would say activities with my grandchildren.
 What do you do?

 So many things. Two of my granddaughters I just walked up the aisle for their weddings because their father (Clifford) is deceased. I had the honour and privilege to walk them up the aisle.
 What's your biggest pet peeve?

 People who think the world owes them a living.