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Updated:  March 9, 2006

Well, Toronto weather continues to surprise me - I'm not complaining though! Guess what? I got approved to cover the St. Maarten Carnival at the end of April and I want to thank the St. Maarten Tourism Authority (and specifically William Bell) for allowing me this opportunity! Stay tuned for the line-up of artists rolling through the luxurious island of St. Maarten.

You asked for it and you got it! Thanks to Universal Canada, this week's CD giveaway is Ne-Yo! If you are one of five that can answer this question - what is Ne-Yo's real name? Look under MUSIC TIDBITS for the answer. CLICK HERE to enter the contest!

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.




Haggis 'Dumbfounded' By Crash Oscar Win

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Terry Weber
(Mar. 6, 2006) Canadian-born Paul Haggis said Monday he was more than surprised when the envelope for best picture revealed his race-relations drama Crash had won Oscar's top prize. Like many, he had been expecting the best-picture trophy to go to the cowboy romance, Brokeback Mountain. “I was dumbfounded,” Mr. Haggis told CBC Newsworld. Heading into Sunday night's climactic moment in Los Angeles, he said, he was convinced Ang Lee's highly praised – and Alberta-shot – film would win. “I didn't think [ Brokeback Mountain would win], I knew, didn't you? Everybody knew.” However, when actor Jack Nicholson read out the winner, it was Mr. Haggis's ensemble piece that academy members tapped as the year's best picture. “Getting it [the best-picture Oscar] from Jack Nicholson, that was pretty darn cool, I'll tell you that,” Mr. Haggis, who also co-produced Crash, said. “It was an amazing feeling. I mean, I'm just going to say all of the clichés everyone says. It was sensational.” Earlier in the evening, Mr. Haggis – who was born in London, Ont. – had picked up an award for best original screenplay, sharing that price with co-writer Bobby Moresco.  Although he was also nominated for best director, that prize ultimately went to Mr. Lee for Brokeback Mountain. Of his film's critical and popular success, Mr. Haggis said the current political climate – particularly in the United States – played a part in its finding an audience. “We're in a time of war here, and you either go one or two directions,” he said.
 “You head off and escape, or you start talking about questions, and all of the terrific films this year asked important questions about who we are, and I guess that's what we were trying to do, as well.” Still, he said, at the start of the process, he was doubtful that Crash, given its difficult subject matter, would get made at all. The same went for last year's boxing drama Million Dollar Baby, for which he also received a screenwriting nomination. “Who would want to see that?” he said of Crash, with its themes of racial strife, fear and intolerance. “I thought that my grandchildren would read the scripts, and go 'Look, grandpa tried to get in the movies, isn't that cute,' and that's the end of it.” Mr. Haggis studied cinematography at Fanshawe College in London, Ont. He moved, at age 22, to Los Angeles with his first wife in the late 1970s, and wrote for U.S. shows, including The Love Boat, Who's the Boss?, Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. His trophy shelf includes Emmys for his work on thirtysomething and Geminis for the Alliance Atlantis/CBS Mountie drama Due South.  Mr. Haggis has said in previous interviews that he got the idea for the screenplay after he and his wife were carjacked in the early 1990s.

Three 6 Mafia Wins Academy Award

 Excerpt from

 (Mar. 6, 2006) *If you thought rap/hip hop was not mainstream, we bet your world was rocked last night when
Three 6 Mafia WON the best song Oscar for, you ready? "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow. Yep, we bet you're not feeling too well right about now. You're thinking maybe it's not true. Sorry it is.  Anyway, now that we've established that fact, let's recap Hollywood's big night. We'll get back to Three 6 in just a bit.  "Crash" was the big story last night. It overtook the front-runner  "Brokeback Mountain" and won Best Picture. Lead-acting Oscars went to Philip Seymour Hoffman as author Truman Capote in "Capote" and Reese Witherspoon as country singer June Carter in "Walk the Line," meanwhile, best supporting-actor Oscars went to George Clooney in "Syriana" and Rachel Weisz in "The Constant Gardener." Also, Ang Lee took home the best-director prize for "Brokeback Mountain." 
 Now, back to Three 6 Mafia. Usually most Oscar nominated songs are boring and bland. Well, "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" doesn't fall into that category. The Memphis rap collective "represented" with a rousing performance of "Pimp," then walked away with the Oscar man. "I just couldn't believe it. I couldn't stand still," a giddy Jordan "Juicy J" Houston, said backstage. "I had to run somewhere. I started to run somewhere. People thought the police was probably chasing me somewhere." Speaking of funny lines, we loved Jon Stewart's crack after the group excitedly accepted their prize. "You know what? I think it just got a little easier out here for a pimp," the Oscar host joked. "How come they are the most excited people here? They are thrilled. That's how you accept an Oscar.” For a full list of winners go to

Rogers Wireless Canadian Music Week Announces Winners Of 2006 Canadian Music Industry Awards
Source:  Planet3 Communications Ltd.
TORONTO – Rogers Wireless Canadian Music Week would like to congratulate the winners of the
2006 Canadian Music Industry Awards which were held last night at the Fairmont Royal York, as part of a week-long celebration of Canadian music. The awards, which were hosted by comedian Brent Butt, included a special tribute to Hall of Fame inductees Bob Ezrin and Duff Roman.  Two new awards were added to the line-up this year, The Brian Chater Industry Builder Award and John Martin Industry Pioneering Award.

Sam the Record Man, Toronto
Entertainment One
Best Buy
Future Shop
HMV Canada
Metalworks Recording & Mastering Studios, Mississauga
Maple Music
Koch Entertainment
EMI Music Publishing Canada
Universal Music Canada
Arcade Fire
 Scott Rogers, Merge Records
 David Viecelli, The Billions Corp.
Paul Morris
 HTZ FM, St. Catherines
Chris ‘Dunner’ Duncombe
 CFOX 99.3, The Fox, Vacouver
Bruce Gilbert
 HTZ FM, St. Catherines
Alan Cross
 102.1 The Edge, Toronto
Roger, Rick & Marilyn
 104.5 CHUM-FM, Toronto
FM 96, London
JR-FM 93.7, Vancouver
Z103.5, Toronto
104.5 CHUM-FM, Toronto
97.3-FM EZ Rock, Toronto
102.1 The Edge, Toronto
Q107, Toronto
CHIN AM/FM, Toronto
680 News, Toronto
Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver
Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto
Niagara Fallsview Casino, Niagara Falls
Nettwerk Management
The Agency Group
House of Blues
 Rogers Wireless Canadian Music Week is Canada’s largest annual entertainment event dedicated to the _expression and growth of the country’s music, media and entertainment industries. Combining two information-intensive conferences; a cutting-edge trade exposition; five awards shows and the Rogers Wireless Canadian Music Week Festival, CMW spans a four-day period from March 1 to March 4, 2006 at the Fairmont Royal York and various downtown Toronto venues, attracting participants from across the globe.


Hawthorne Heights Makes MySpace Its Own

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Washington Post

 (Mar. 4, 2006)
For a guy who sings about being so wretchedly lonely that he's fallen into "a self-inflicted coma," J.T. Woodruff sure does have a lot of friends. Roughly 350,000 of them, in fact, on MySpace, the teen-centric website where word-of-mouth buzz helped turn Woodruff's scrappy little pop-punk band, Hawthorne Heights, into a relatively ginormous success.  Going about their business without much initial mainstream support, Hawthorne Heights became underground stars in 2004 mainly through incessant touring and the drumbeating done by their vast network of MySpace friends. Then the masses caught on, and sales of the band's debut, The Silence in Black and White, pushed past the 750,000 mark.  In this era of evaporating album sales, that's a terrific figure for an act on an independent label. (Victory Records signed Hawthorne Heights on the basis of an unsolicited demo.) Now the Ohio quintet is attempting to one-up itself with If Only You Were Lonely. Not only is the new album expected to enter the Billboard chart at or very near the top slot, but it's also destined to become the soundtrack to our lives ... assuming we're all angsty high school freshmen who have a nakedly emotional view of romance and rejection.  Listening to a Hawthorne Heights song feels almost like snooping on some 15-year-old's instant-message conversation, albeit one that's set to an aggressive triple-guitar attack. Never mind the group's members are well into their 20s; their dramatic, heart-on-sleeve lyrics about relationship-related anxieties and confusion are the stuff of adolescence (not to mention triteness).  Typically, Woodruff's sensitive-guy lyrics are presented in a screamo, post-hard-core frame — all soft-LOUD dynamics in which the layered guitars shift from gentle strumming to roaring punk and metal riffage without warning. Including, of course, guitarist Casey Calvert's bloodcurdling vocal howls; in fact, on "Cross Me Off Your List," Calvert manages to shriek so loudly and wildly that he sounds like he's being sacrificed.

India.Arie: New Album Coming May 9

Source: Amina Elshahawi, ThinkTank Marketing,,

(March 3, 2006)   Nominated 11 times for Grammys within two short years, India.Arie came onto the national music scene in 2001 with her Motown Records debut Acoustic Soul and then followed up in 2002 with her sophomore CD Voyage To India. Both CDs have sold over 6 million copies worldwide and have helped Ms. Arie garner numerous awards including 2 Grammys and 3 NAACP Image Awards, along with awards from BET, Billboard Music, Radio Music, MTV, VH1 Vogue Fashion, Essence Magazine and others.  She has received critical acclaim from USA Today to VIBE Magazine, Entertainment Weekly to People Magazine. A voice heard by women around the world, Oprah Winfrey acknowledged her popularity on national television by thanking her for writing the song “Video” saying- “We (women) needed this song-thank you for writing this song.”
 New York Times says "Ms. Arie's music only further enhances her reputation as an artist of substance; centering on her acoustic guitar and confident but restrained vocals, it recalls such soul masters as Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack."  In between touring and writing music, India.Arie finds the time to help promote things close to her heart- UNICEF and KENWA (Kenya Network of Women With AIDS) being two of them. Her recent performances have included MusicCares Salute to James Taylor where she performed alongside Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby and others, and at the televised 2006 Superbowl Pre-show where she performed with Stevie Wonder and John Legend.  An animated India.Arie appeared last year on Blues Clues’ BluesStock and she will be performing a duet with Aaron Neville at the 2006 NAACP Image Awards (where she is nominated for yet another award-Outstanding Female Artist). She recently co-wrote a song with Stevie Wonder, the title track for his new album A Time for Love. The song was nominated for a 2006 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Collaboration -making it Ms. Arie’s 12th nomination to date. India.Arie plans to release her third album, Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship in May 2006.

Congolese Band Shows Off Its Many Moves

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Emily Wax, Special To The Star and Washington Post

(Mar. 4, 2006) NAIROBI, Kenya—Under a rotating disco ball and steps from a clay pot sitting on fake flames, Congolese crooner Prince Fisecoze slams down a couple of shots of sambuca bar-side at the ritzy Club Afrique, the latest addition to Nairobi's otherwise edgy nightclub scene.  Hoping to court some loyal fans, he flashes a business card to well-dressed patrons filing in around 10 p.m. Printed in a hodgepodge of fonts, the card proclaims — in bold — that Prince Fisecoze Ikalaba M. Wembadio is president of Rumba Japan, an "international band with 6,600 dancing styles."  Minutes later, next to a babbling brook-and-waterfall installation, Prince sprays on some Paco Rabanne cologne for confidence. He smooths his wrinkled outfit, business attire from the waist down, Halloween party from the waist up: orange soccer shirt under a blue dinner jacket featuring an embroidered pumpkin on the lapel, a scarecrow on the back.  As the crowd starts looking toward the stage around 10:30, Prince huddles with the 20 members of his band for a pep talk: They'll try to run through at least a thousand of their 6,600 dance moves, the band's zany claim to fame as advertised in newspapers and on posters.  "You can take a dance from anything in life," Prince boasts, displaying his latest invention, "dancing like someone who is dressed smart and doesn't want to get sweaty."  He stiffens his back, lifts his chin and adjusts his imaginary tie to display the move.  "Never remove your eyes from the stage, ever," he tells some clubgoers. "You'll see every style we've mastered."
 The wiry and dreadlocked lead guitarist, Gabrielle Nfianfia-Lubanzadio, 27, saunters over to the group. The left side of his face is shaved smooth. The right side has a perfectly groomed, well, half-beard. Why? "I love funny," he says in French-accented English from behind huge bug-shaped sunglasses studded with rhinestones.  Among his favourite dance moves: smoothing his hair and pretend-shaving.  The band's style is known as Lingala, a big-band polyrhythmic style of African zydeco with Cuban flair that originated in Congo. Lingala dance moves range from the mimicry of the mundane — brushing teeth and eating — to overwrought displays of spirituality such as praying for spirits to come down from heaven.  For the most part, if Lingala music had an underlying message, it would be, "Stop thinking. Dance.''  And with good reason. Congolese have suffered through years of dictatorship and war. For them, finding humour is a way of coping.  So by 10:45 p.m., Rumba Japan unfurls a Japanese flag on stage — the band's name comes from Rumba, slang for Lingala music, and Japan, actually a French acronym for a phrase that in English pretty much means: "Young artists loved by all in all categories, young and old.''  "It's a very funny name," Prince says.  His songs are largely about his girlfriend and his admiration of poultry. "The chicken is an important bird, waking up man every morning," he says, just before climbing onto the stage.
 Club Afrique is one of his favourite venues, because the club, like his band, is a mélange of madcap styles. It has 1970s disco glitz — mirrored columns, lipstick-red trim and multicoloured light screens. Many of the rooms have African themes, including Sahara nomad and Lake Victoria village life. Two freezing air-conditioned rooms are for VIPs and "semi-VIPs."  At 10:50 p.m., Prince and three other singers step up to their microphones. The drummer starts up on the snare. The dancers burst onto the stage. The bongo player blows a whistle, like a drill instructor.  Dozens of couples shimmy onto the dance floor. Some start slowly, almost shyly, then submit to the music. Hips are gyrating. Shoulders are shaking.  "This place is heaven on earth," coos Margaret W. Gitow, 24, as she glides by in a backless red polka-dot shirt and skintight white pants.  The dancers and band members on stage are hard at work displaying some of their 6,600 moves: Drinking Shots. Telephone Switchboard. Chicken Walk. Pounding Corn. Shoveling Dirt. One of the dancers bends over to tie her shoe, but it's unclear whether that's an actual dance move.  The show climaxes at 1 a.m. with Congo Man, a dancer with bleached-white hair and a fur coat over a net shirt, Madonna-style, circa 1980s. He appears like a zombie set in motion by a supernatural force, twisting his body into weird shapes, spinning on his heels, punching the air and sometimes eating lit cigarettes.  "It's so funny," says Gitow, raising her arms above her head and shaking her hands to the beat. "I feel so free when I dance to Congolese.''

New Brunswick-Born Soprano Measha Brueggergosman

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic
 (Mar. 6, 2006) There's a special joy in seeing a deserving person arrive.  For the last six or seven years, New Brunswick-born soprano
Measha Brueggergosman has been a young singer with much promise. She was someone with a brilliant but still-maturing voice who, if she studied with the right people and tackled the right repertoire, would one day find herself a full-fledged diva.  That day has come.  It is safe to say that, after yesterday's recital at Roy Thomson Hall, Measha Brueggergosman can now officially be classified as one of the great young sopranos of our time.  And our pleasure at seeing and hearing her sing was matched with her obvious delight at being able to share her art and artistry with us.  In the company of veteran British piano accompanist Roger Vignoles, Brueggergosman tackled a tried-and-true art-song program that reminds one of former divas such as Leontyne Price and Jessye Norman.  After breezing smoothly though French mélodies by Reynaldo Hahn, Hector Berlioz and Ernest Chausson, Brueggergosman visited Germany with Lieder by Hugo Wolf and Richard Strauss. She then capped the afternoon with three rousing spirituals that brought the house down.  The well-thought-out arc of the program created a perfect emotional crescendo.  It started smooth and restrained for the French music. The last song, "Chanson perpétuelle" by Chausson, also included the Toronto Symphony Quartet (symphony concertmaster Jacques Israelievitch, first violin Paul Meyer, principal viola Teng Li and principal cello Winona Zelenka).
 This sublime piece was a high point, until Brueggergosman came back after the intermission with the emotional power of selections from Wolf's Spanisches Liederbuch and three Strauss chestnuts, including "Cäcilie."  Then all heaven broke loose for "Ride on King Jesus," "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."  Throughout the recital, Brueggergosman showed off her now-mature, powerful and flexible voice. She has particularly rich lower and middle registers. While her topmost notes are noticeably thinner, they lack nothing in power.  And the soprano demonstrated great artistry, whether it was shaping individual notes, or giving a pleasing arc to musical phrases. She also has a warm, engaging stage presence that was enhanced by a very diva-like strapless gown with several metres of plum tulle spilling out from the bottom of the skirt.  In a nutshell, Brueggergosman had all of Roy Thomson Hall in her hands. She has arrived.

Field Mob Readies New Album

Source: Kim Trick / Room Service Productions /

 (Mar. 7, 2006) Field Mob are back and preparing for the release of their latest album, Light Poles and Pine Trees on Disturbing Tha Peace/Geffen Records. Click on the links below to hear their new single “So What” featuring Ciara.  “So What” comes on the heels of Field Mob’s hit single “Georgia” with Ludacris and is produced by Jazze Pha.  It’s still real with the Field y’all, two slept-on albums, too many bad record deals and one still-going rumour about them splitting up, Shawn Jay and Smoke still need you to know that, feel that, and see that with the release of Field Mob’s third album Light Poles and Pine Trees on Disturbing Tha Peace/Geffen Records. Shawn Jay and Smoke have always thought the third time would be the charm. Now they’re banking on it with the release of their 3rd CD, Light Poles and Pine Trees on Disturbing Tha Peace/Geffen Records. Featuring sure-fire hits, all-star collaborations and too-true lyrics, the group’s release illustrates why Field Mob’s Smoke (Darion Crawford) and Shawn Jay (Shawn Johnson) are credited for adding fuel to the current Southern Hip-Hop explosion. Look no further than Ludacris, Bun B, Bone Crusher, Bobby Valentino and Jazze Pha as just a few of the heavyweights co-signing for these Albany, Georgia natives. The rappers formerly known as Boondox and Kalage are back – delivering more ghetto tales and good times!  It should come as no surprise that Field Mob’s highly anticipated third album is stacked with so many celebs. Their debut, 613: From Ashy to Classy, was hailed by hip-hop critics as one of the best albums of 2001. The follow-up, From Tha Roota To Tha Toota, includes the breakout hit “Sick of Being Lonely,” which struck a chord with hip-hop heads from the east to the west and all in between.  Field Mob’s underground classic, “Georgia” has created a buzz at radio comparable to the din of a million gnats in your ear. “Georgia,” powered by the hook from another great Georgia native, Ray Charles, is a historical collaboration with their new Disturbing Tha Peace family member, Ludacris. "We've been trying to do 'Georgia' since our first CD," Shawn Jay points out. "But we could never get the beat for it. We never had the means to actually put it together. Now, years later, after all we've been through, we ended up getting with the one person that could make it happen, Ludacris."
 On the heels of “Georgia,” Field Mob dropped their first official single "Friday Night," a swirling, funky roller skating jam crafted by one of their main beat-makers, producer Kenjo. "Oh, we have fun," Shawn Jay assures. "Me and Smoke have been through what we've been through, and done our dirt. But everything's got a place. And we still like to have a good time. Besides, people don't want to see you just trying to be hard all the time, mean mugging. I really want to ask some of these millionaires why they are on TV mean mugging and mad. And they're millionaires!" "There's nothing really deep about ‘Friday Night,’” continues Smoke, a.k.a. Chevy Pendergrass. “It's just about hanging out and having a good time, and that leads to our other song, 'D.U.I.'” On this particular rumbling 808 specialty, Field Mob and guest Bun B guzzle shots as well as Ernest Hemingway. Everybody in the club is getting tipsy, and as you might expect, when they hit the road, they sweeerrrve to the left and then sweeerrrve to the right. After all, as Smoke likes to put it, they don't drink. They drown. "Get this straight though," Shawn Jay is quick to clarify. "We're not trying to influence people to get DUIs, or say that DUIs are cool. But it is something that people do. A situation people get in. And we put it out there." Shawn Jay and Smoke are the poster boys for putting it out there. Just like they do on "Blacker the Berry," Smoke lays his soul bare in this skin tale. "It's basically a story about when I was young and the things I went through being dark skinned and picked on. And it came out black and beautiful." On “Deep Tonight,” the duo reintroduces the Mob side of Field Mob while ATL’s finest, Bone Crusher, lays a smack down on this track. "Again, true stories," Smoke begins. "I was coming to the club all by myself. But it got to the point when I came by myself, them folks tried to beat me up. I didn't have any back-up. I was vulnerable. But I had something for them the next time, like 'Yeah I came in here by myself, but this weekend I'm coming deeper than a skinny girl's coochie. This weekend, don't try me." There are more heaters to come out the barrel by producer Kenjo such as the roll-out smash “My Wheels,” adding just the right sound to an already phenomenal CD. “We’re talking about cars, partying, rims, trucks and just the whole Southern lifestyle,” Shawn J relays. “Again, where I’m from in Albany, Georgia, we put truck wheels on old school Chevy’s.  We really wanted to show people that side.”
 After producing the 2002 "Sick of Being Lonely,” Jazze Pha returns to bless the duo with "So What" which includes Ciara, the Princess of Crunk and R&B.  “Pistol Grip,” on the other hand, includes another Disturbing Tha Peace family member, Bobby Valentino who smoothes things out on "Sorry Baby." "Every rapper's got this girl that wants to lock him down. Keep him down. Keep him home," Smoke squirms. "But you know, we've got places to go, people to see, things to do and you can't lock me down... Of course, Bobby makes it all go down a little easier.” After listening to their album and getting to know the Mob and where they’re from, the album title becomes a no-brainer. "The name of the album is Light Poles and Pine Trees because there ain’t no skyline where we're from," states Shawn J. "There's no arch like in St. Louis or palm trees like California," continues Smoke. "You look up and that's what you see in Albany."  That’s Albany, Geor-giaaa. Looking to redirect the Southern spotlight their way, Field Mob is certain they’re delivering the hits to do just that. Having paid just as many dues and shown just as much heart as other Southern rap stars, Smoke and Shawn J reaffirm their status as pioneers of the Southern sound with Light Poles and Pine Trees. "I feel like we're the most posturpedic group in the industry right now," declares Shawn J. "Meaning, we're the most slept-on artists. Other artists know that if we finally get a little bit of light, it’s over.”

Mark Whitfield & Panther Create ‘Alternative Soul’ Music

 Excerpt from - By Kenya Yarbrough /

 (Mar. 8, 2006) *Jazz guitarist
Mark Whitfield may be considered a veteran of traditional jazz guitarist licks, but the six-string strummer has introduced an innovative sound to the genre. Whitfield is one of the world’s most respected jazz guitarists, but apparently 15 years of awing jazz fans is just the beginning.  The trained musician, who has built a major following, has now shed some of his jazz conventionality and amassed a quintet of up-and-coming jazz stars who have no fear of walking on the edge of music genres. They are Panther and the self-titled new disc is musically ferocious. What would cause a well-renowned, well respected jazz idol to tamper with a successful formula of energized yet traditional jazzy fretwork? Would you believe, a slight  case of tedium after 15 years of stardom? “I made my first record in 1990 for Warner Bros. called ‘The Marksmen,’” Whitfield reminisced. “I’ve been recording ever since.” The guitarist had been considered a pretty accomplished bassist by age 10, and was recruited by Berklee College of Music before he was even halfway done with high school. “I then started touring with  Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff, people like that, right out of school.” In the beginning, perhaps it was nurture? After all, Whitfield grew up in a house of jazz.  “My parents are huge jazz fans. So when I was six, seven years old, they were taking me to concerts in the early 70s. I got to see the Duke Ellington Orchestra with Duke leading the orchestra; I saw Count Basie lead his ensemble; I saw Ella Fitzgerald. I had the benefit of seeing a lot of great music. There are no other musicians in my family, but a lot of great appreciators of music,” he said.  Or perhaps it was nature.  “I started playing instruments as a hobby and I found that I had a knack for picking up instruments quickly,” Whitfield asserted. “One thing led to the next and I ended up at the Berklee School of Music in Boston and that was the beginning of everything.”
 Whitfield considered George Benson his childhood hero, and met the jazz guitarist great when he graduated from Berklee and was fortunate to be in his tutelage. “He opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities,” Whitfield said, in addition to the fact the Benson led him to a recording contract with Warner Bros. But, the shooting star didn’t really have his eyes set on anything greater than becoming a working jazz guitarist. “I just thought I’d work and keep developing into something I could do for the rest of my life. I may have to live modestly, but I would enjoy it and it would be spiritually fulfilling. Then I got married and had a couple of kids and all of a sudden spiritually fulfilling became something else,” he joked. “I sold some records, and did pretty well and enjoyed a pretty good run of industry success with straight-ahead acoustic jazz music. By that time I’d been doing it almost 15 years, and I was ready for a change. I think that’s what happens to every creative musician after a while.  I mean, just because you have a fan base and people really dig what you’re doing, doesn’t mean you don’t get bored,” His creativity was sparked by some very avant-garde musicians. He spent time with Herbie Hancock and hung out with Miles Davis and witnessed the energy these legends put into their newer music.  “I mean, how long do you really expect Miles Davis to play ‘My Funny Valentine?’ He had been playing it for 25 years. The man wanted to play something else. I began to understand that. His model certainly served as an inspiration for me. I started looking for ways to bridge the gap between what I was playing – what I’d been studying – and what was happening around me,” Whitfield explained.
Panther. “Panther is the newest thing. It’s CD release number 13, for me. I made three for Warner, five for Polygram under the Verve label, a couple for Herbie Hancock’s label, a couple for an independent label in Japan. Most of my records have been straight ahead, traditional jazz records. Along the way I’ve done a lot of real interesting side work. I played on ‘Brown Sugar’ with D’Angelo, and ‘No More Drama’ with Mary J. Blige.” But Whitfield contends that he’s always been one of those musicians that's kept his foot in the door of a lot of other music worlds, such as R&B, contemporary Rock ‘n Roll and progressive music.  Whitfield explained: “I’ve always tried to draw on the inspirational qualities of other styles of music. Finally I decided it was time to roll all of my influences together into one musical vision and put a group together that would encompass my musical journey. The music is called ‘alternative soul.’ The roots of the project are undeniably soul and R&B and we color it with elements of jazz and hip-hop and that gives the project a unique voice.” That unique voice began to develop about three years ago, and the vision of a funk-hip jazz sound was finally realized. Whitfield brought together an exciting group of musicians, singers, and songwriters. The five-piece ensemble includes songwriter/keyboardist/vocalist Sy Smith (Brandy, Whitney Houston, Usher, background singer for “American Idol”), vocalist/bassist Byron Moore (Chaka Khan, Groove Theory), drummer Donald Edwards (Wynton and Ellis Marsalis, Charlie Hunter, The Jazzy PhatNasties), and Jason Murden as songwriter/vocalist/rhythm guitarist. The first single, “Always Up,” featuring Byron Moore, was received at jazz radio with much acclaim, laced with Moore’s vocals that echo the vibes of Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. “Panther” was released earlier this year as the debut disc for the label Dirty Soap Entertainment. To sample Panther's music, go here:

Rock Promoter Leads Belly Dance Revival

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

 (Mar. 8, 2006) It takes a real showman to make a popular spectacle, let alone a respected art form, out of belly dancing. But
Miles Copeland is nothing if not a showman.  The rock music promoter managed The Police when it was the hottest band of its day, recorded bands like R.E.M. and The Go-Gos, saw Sting through seven solo albums and left his mark on the careers of numerous groups in the 1970s and '80s. He knows a good new entertainment prospect when he sees it.  The son of a top-level CIA operative, Copeland, 61, spent some formative years in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. His exposure to Arabic culture and his appreciation of its music made him an early proponent of world music. In 2002, looking to break open the American market to Middle Eastern music, he organized a belly dance competition in Los Angeles to promote an album called Bellydance Breakbeats. More than 100 dancers showed up.  Copeland's entrepreneurial antennae were up. "I thought, `My God not only do they have this grace and beauty, this is something I'd pay to see.'" His Bellydance Superstars made their first appearances at Lollapalooza in 2003, playing to more than half a million people in 30 cities.  Belly dancing has never had it so good. Over three years, the 16-member American troupe has performed more than 300 shows in 16 countries, touring the U.S. and Canada, Europe and Latin America. Nearing the end of their latest, 37-city North American tour, they will perform tonight in the Jane Mallet Theatre of the St. Lawrence Centre.  Hoping to do for Middle Eastern dance what Riverdance did for the Irish art form, Copeland has relied on his showbiz instincts.
 "I didn't know squat about music; I couldn't tell a C chord from a D chord. But just as you know a good song when you hear one, it's the same with a dancer," he says on the phone from his L.A. office.  Copeland has single-handedly changed the image of the belly dancer with a show that emphasizes artistry and the fusion of Middle Eastern styles with other forms, from Polynesian to Latin dance, to give belly dancing a contemporary look and create a show that doesn't look out of place in a concert venue.  Artistic director and choreographer Jillina danced hip-hop and jazz before starting in belly dance 14 years ago. The Superstars show, says Jillina, speaking on a cellphone from the tour bus, has a role in educating people about the dance form. "A lot of people in the West think it's like a hootchy-kootchy dance because there's a lot of hip and torso movement, but it's a cultural dance."  Cuban-born Bozenka, who began dance lessons as a child in Miami, says an element of the show's success comes from the blending of different styles that each dancer brings to it. "My style is Egyptian mixed with Turkish and Lebanese. One (performer) has fused Egyptian with modern dance. There's one dancer in the show who mixes her training in gymnastics with belly dancing."  Purists might disagree with their interpretations, but such criticism doesn't concern Copeland. The fusion of styles is what excites him, and what led to his success in the music world with artists who meld different sounds. "Pure anything, that's boring to me."


T.O. Fans To Film Coldplay Concert

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Amy Pataki

(Mar. 4, 2006) 
NEW YORK—Coldplay will film its March 22-23 gigs at Toronto's Air Canada Centre for potential use in an upcoming DVD. Taking a page from the Beastie Boys, who drafted fans to shoot footage for their upcoming movie Awesome: I F-----g Shot That, Coldplay is launching a contest to find five fans to handle the same duties.  Beginning Monday, Canadian fans can enter the sweepstakes by watching Entertainment Tonight Canada and then logging onto Global TV's website. Winners will take home a digital video camera that they will use to film the March 22 show. The footage will then be eligible for inclusion on the Coldplay DVD, a release date for which has not been announced.  The band is in the midst of a North American tour. International dates begin June 23 in Brisbane, Australia, and will run through July 18-19 in Tokyo. Afterward, Coldplay plans to get busy right away working on new material.  Meanwhile, next month will bring the release of "The Hardest Part", the fourth single from the band's 2005 album X&Y. Current single "Talk" is No. 13 this week on Billboard's Modern Rock chart.

Mariah Carey Wins Big At Soul Train Awards

Excerpt from

(Mar. 6, 2006) *
Mariah Carey adds two more awards to her extensive collection of bling for 2005’s “The Emancipation of Mimi” album. On Saturday, the singer picked up a best album statue and best single honours for “We Belong Together” at the 20th Annual Soul Train Music Awards, held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium outside of Los Angeles. "This has been the biggest and most successful year of my life," said Carey, who returned to the music scene last year following a successful run during most of the 1990s. While R. Kelly failed to win any of his show-leading three nominations, Kanye West won the award for best R&B-soul or rap music video for "Gold Digger," featuring Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx; and John Legend beat Kelly in the category of best male single. Sixteen-year-old Chris Brown, who earned best new rap artist for his single “Run It,” put things in perspective, stating: "Just last year I was just at home trying to balance my school work and basketball practice.” The Quincy Jones Award for Outstanding Career Achievement Male and Female went to Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx and Destiny’s Child, respectively. Foxx said Jones had given him advice to view a musical career as a marathon, not a sprint.  “‘You've got another 50 years to go,’” Foxx said Jones told him. Destiny's Child also won best group single for "Cater 2 U." Meanwhile, an award was named in honour of the legendary Stevie Wonder, and a bronze statue of the Motown great was unveiled before the ceremony. "I saw the sculpture and it looks really great," Wonder joked at the occasion. The entertainer was on hand to deliver the show’s first-ever Stevie Wonder Lifetime Achievement Award to R. Kelly. The Chicago crooner, who said he had grown up listening to Wonder's music, accepted the award doing an impersonation of Wonder – imitating his voice and rolling his head from side to side. The move drew laughs from the audience.  In accepting Soul Train’s Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year, John Legend said, "I'm truly humbled that you chose me for this."  The Soul Train Music Awards, hosted by Vivica A. Fox and Tyrese Gibson, will air in syndication beginning March 11.

Springsteen Honours Seeger In First Cover Album

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Mar. 5, 2006) Los Angeles -- Pete Seeger will have an extra gift when he celebrates his birthday this spring: a new album by Bruce Springsteen that was inspired by the folk-music legend. We Shall Overcome/The Seeger Sessions is scheduled for release April 25, Columbia Records announced Thursday. Seeger, the dean of American folk singers, turns 87 on May 3. The album will feature Springsteen's interpretations of 13 traditional folk songs that have been associated for decades with Seeger. Among them are Jesse James, John Henry, Shenandoah and the civil-rights anthem We Shall Overcome. The rocker said it shouldn't come as a surprise that he chose folk music for his first album of cover songs. Much of his own writing, he said, "comes straight out of the folk tradition." AP

Toni Braxton Shaping Up For Tour

Excerpt from

(March 2, 2006)  *Toni Braxton, who launches her first tour in more than six years March 10 in Atlantic City, N.J., says it’s an uphill battle trying to maintain good health with a 4-year-old and 2-year-old running around the house.  The Maryland-born singer was diagnosed with pericarditis two years ago after collapsing backstage on Broadway, where she was starring in the musical “Aida.” The condition, which causes the membrane covering the outer surface of the heart to become inflamed, left her immune system vulnerable to infections.  "My body had to build up immunity again," says Braxton, who has a regular walking routing and is the spokesperson for the American Heart Association's Red Dress campaign. "I have to take anti-inflammatories. If I catch a cold, I have to take antibiotics right away."  Her two sons, she says, will travel with her on tour.   "We never let more than a week and a half or two go by without being together, and that only in extreme situations," said the singer, who married Mint Condition keyboardist Keri Lewis in 2001. Braxton says her six-week tour in support of "Libra" (Blackground/Universal) will be "like a workshop for me, playing smaller venues, theatres. I'm getting comfortable, getting my chops wet again. It's a lot of work. It's like starting all over again. Except, in the beginning, you have nothing to lose. Now, I could have everything to lose -- or everything to gain. That's OK. I can gamble on myself."

Ne-Yo’s ‘Sick’

Excerpt from

(March 2, 2006) *
Ne-Yo’s hit single “So Sick,” which became the most downloaded song this week on the online music store iTunes, was written as an ode to his first girlfriend. The singer, born Shaffer Smith, penned the song after his girl found out that he had cheated. He tells MTV: "It's about the first girl I ever fell in love with and the way that I completely screwed that up by letting my friends convince me to cheat on her. It was a bad, bad thing. I was real messed up about it for a real long, long time, so actually writing that song was very therapeutic for me."

Bounty Killer Scores His First Number One Song In Jamaica In Two Years

Excerpt from - by Kevin Jackson

(March 2, 2006) *Throughout his fifteen year career, deejay Bounty Killer has decorated the local and overseas music charts with multiple hits. Among his most treasured chart nuggets are Gal Can’t Tek You Man, Gal, More Gal, Living Dangerously (with Barrington Levy), Maniac (with Richie Stephens), Eagle and the Hawk, Another Level (with Baby Cham), Benz and Bimma, Warlord Walk, and most recently Its Okay. He even scored a handful of hits on the Billboard charts including the No Doubt collaboration Hey Baby which picked up a Grammy Award. Bounty’s chart status have been further heightened with his latest number one hit Gangster Love which is featured prominently on radio jock Wayne ‘DJ Wayne’ Morris’ Istanbul rhythm.  Gangster Love which was written by one of the brothers from the Twin of Twinz duo is the new number one song on the MiPhone Mega Jamz Reggae chart. The song is presently top 10 on the BBC 1Xtra Dancehall chart in London. Gangster Love is the first number one hit on any chart in Jamaica for Bounty, since Raging Storm from Stephen ‘Lenky’ Marsden’s Masterpiece rhythm hit number one on the local charts in late 2002 into 2003.

Cohen's Ex-Manager Ordered To Pay $9.5 Million

Excerpt from

(Mar. 3, 2006)
Singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen may never see $9.5 million a court ordered his former business manager to pay after she failed to respond to allegations of stealing from his retirement savings, Cohen's attorney said yesterday (March 2).  A California Superior Court judge granted Cohen, 71, the default judgment Monday against Kelley Lynch in response to a lawsuit alleging she siphoned $5 million from the musician's personal accounts and investments. By late 2004, the suit alleges, his nest egg was reduced to about $150,000.  Cohen, known for such reflective songs as "Suzanne," may never be able to collect, according to his attorney, Scott Edelman.  "She's hard to get in touch with. I don't know where she lives now, and I don't have a phone number for her," Edelman said. "We don't know what she did with the money ... But she knows what's going on because she leaves me phone messages at all hours." Lynch could not be located for comment.  Edelman said Lynch, who worked for Cohen for 17 years until he fired her, also refused to return photographs, records and memorabilia, even after a court order. "We went into her home four months ago with a sheriff and a moving truck to get his stuff," the lawyer said.   Another defendant in the suit, tax professor and lawyer Richard Westin, reached an out-of-court settlement with Cohen on Feb. 13, details of which were not revealed.  Lynch allegedly hired Westin to help defraud Cohen. Westin's attorney did not immediately return calls for comment.  "Leonard is sad that this whole thing took place, but glad that this leg of the litigation is completed," Edelman said. "He would prefer to spend his time on his creative endeavours."

We Remember Ali Farka Toure

Source:  Almahady Cissé, Associated Press

(Mar. 7, 2006) Bamako, Mali — Two-time Grammy Award winner Ali Farka Touré, one of Africa's most famous performers, died Tuesday in his native Mali after a long illness. He was in his late 60s. Mali's Culture Ministry said Mr. Touré died at his home in the capital, Bamako, after a long struggle with an unidentified illness. He was known to be battling cancer. Across this deeply impoverished west African nation, people mourned Mr. Touré's passing, and radio stations suspended regular programming and instead broadcast his signature lilting sounds. Mr. Touré, one of the original progenitors of a genre known as Mail Blues, first played a traditional Malian one-stringed instrument called the gurkel. He was best-known overseas for his 1995 collaboration with U.S. guitarist Ry Cooder on Talking Timbuktu, which netted him his first of two Grammys. He won another Grammy this year in the traditional world music album category for his In the Heart of the Moon album, performed with fellow Malian Toumani Diabate. Mr. Touré was born in 1939 in the northern Sahara trading post of Timbuktu. Like many Africans of his generation, the exact date of his birth was not recorded. He learned the gurkel at an early age, later also taking up the guitar. He cited many Western musicians for inspiration, including Ray Charles, Otis Redding and John Lee Hooker. He once said in an interview that his songs examined education, work, love and society, according to the Web site He released at least 10 albums and toured often in North America and Europe. Mr. Touré spent much of his older age in his childhood town of Niafunke, which has become a pilgrimage spot for many music-loving Africans and tourists.

We Remember Ali Farka Toure

Excerpt from

(Mar. 8, 2006) *Grammy award-winning African musician
Ali Farka Toure, known as one of the originators of a genre known as Mali Blues, died Tuesday in his native Mali after a long unidentified illness. He was in his late 60s. Toure was best-known outside of Africa for his 1995 collaboration with American guitarist Ry Cooder on "Talking Timbuktu," which earned him his first of two Grammys. He won another Grammy this year in the traditional world music album category for his "In the Heart of the Moon" album, performed with fellow Malian Toumani Diabate.


2006 Academy Awards Preview: The Great Canadian Oscar Quiz

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Stuart Foxman, Special To The Globe And Mail

DO YOU KNOW YOUR NORTHERN STARS?  Ever since Louis B. Mayer -- raised in Saint John -- spearheaded the formation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927, Canada has had a connection with the Oscars. This year, Paul Haggis of London, Ont., is nominated for best director and best original screenplay for Crash. Will he take Oscar gold? Tune in tomorrow. In the meantime, try your hand at this Canadian-themed Oscar quiz.  (Note: All dates refer to the year of the award presentations, not the year of the film's release.)

1. Which one of these Canadian directors has never been nominated for best director?
A. Norman Jewison
B. Atom Egoyan
C. David Cronenberg
D. James Cameron

2. Oscar front-runner Brokeback Mountain, though set mainly in Wyoming, was filmed in Alberta. Which two of these best-picture winners were also shot in Canada?
A. Dances with Wolves
B. Unforgiven
C. The English Patient
D. Chicago
E. A Beautiful Mind

3. Which former Saturday Night Live star has received an acting nomination?
A. Dan Aykroyd
B. Mike Myers
C. Martin Short

4. Which best-supporting-actress winner from the 1990s was born in Canada?
A. Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny, 1993
B. Anna Paquin, The Piano, 1994
C. Dianne Wiest, Bullets over Broadway, 1995

5. Which of these Canadian authors has received a best-screenplay nomination?
A. Margaret Atwood
B. Pierre Berton
C. Michael Ondaatje
D. Mordecai Richler

6. Three of the first four best-actress winners were Canadian. Who was the only American to win in that span?
A. Norma Shearer
B. Janet Gaynor
C. Mary Pickford
D. Marie Dressler

7. Which of these Genie Award-winning films were not also nominated for an Oscar?
A. Jesus of Montreal
B. Decline of the American Empire
C. The Barbarian Invasions
D. Dead Ringers
E. The Triplets of Belleville

8. Which Canadian figure was denounced in the lyrics of Blame Canada, nominated for best song at the 2000 Academy Awards?
A. "With all their hockey hullabaloo/and that bitch Anne Murray too"
B. "Brian Mulroney/you're full of baloney"
C. "Wayne Gretzky, go puck yourself"
D. "Hey, hey Celine Dion/stop singing your crappy songs"

9. Several members of the same families have been nominated for or won Oscars over the years. Which of these famous Oscar families has a Canadian-born member?
A. Barrymore (John, Lionel, Ethel)
B. Redgrave (Michael, Lynn, Vanessa)
C. Huston (Walter, John, Anjelica)
D. Fonda (Henry, Jane, Peter)

10. Which of these Oscar-winners doesn't belong on this list?
A. Shirley Temple
B. Charlie Chaplin
C. National Film Board
D. Clark Gable
E. Groucho Marx

11. In 1947, Harold Russell of Nova Scotia became the only actor to receive two Oscars for the same performance. How?
A. The original Oscar was stolen backstage, so he was given a replacement
B. One Oscar was in a competitive category, the other was honorary.
C. He won for best actor and best supporting actor.
D. He played twins.

12. At the 1994 awards, Bruce Springsteen won best song for Streets of Philadelphia. Which Canadian music legend was up in the same category for Philadelphia, from the movie of the same name?
A. Gordon Lightfoot
B. Bryan Adams
C. Neil Young
D. Leonard Cohen
E. Joni Mitchell

13. Which famous Hollywood executive was married to a Canadian best-actress winner?
A. Daryl Zanuck
B. Irving Thalberg
C. Samuel Goldwyn
D. Jack Warner

14. Which documentary-feature winner was co-produced by Michael Donovan of Halifax-based Salter Street Films?
A. Bowling for Columbine
B. Hoop Dreams
C. Super Size Me
D. Spellbound

15. Toronto's Raymond Massey, brother of Vincent Massey, the first Canadian-born Governor-General, was nominated for best actor in 1941 for playing which American political icon?
A. George Washington
B. Benjamin Franklin
C. Abe Lincoln
D. Thomas Jefferson

16. This Edmonton-born director of TV shows such as Perry Mason, Gunsmoke and Route 66 was honoured at the 2002 Oscars.
A. Ted Kotcheff
B. Donald Brittain
C. Budge Crawley
D. Arthur Hiller

17. When James Cameron, originally of Kapuskasing, Ont., won best director for Titanic in 1998, he announced from the podium, "I'm king of the world!" Titanic was an Oscar king, with 11 wins, tied for the most ever with what movie?
A. Ben-Hur
B. West Side Story
C. Gigi
D. The Last Emperor

18. Through his Participant Productions, Montreal-born Jeff Skoll had a hand in financing three Oscar-nominated movies this year -- Good Night, and Good Luck, Syriana and North Country. In what Internet venture did Skoll make his fortune?
A. Google
B. eBay
C. Yahoo
D. Expedia

19. Chief Dan George, born on B.C.'s Burrard Reserve, and Graham Greene, born on Ontario's Six Nations Reserve, were nominated for best supporting actor 20 years apart -- George in 1971 for Little Big Man, and Greene in 1991 for Dances with Wolves. On what Canadian TV production did they each appear?
A. King of Kensington
B. The Friendly Giant
C. The Beachcombers
D. Wayne and Shuster

20. In 1995, Roger Avary, born in Flin Flon, Man., shared the best original screenplay award for this "indie" classic, featuring characters named Vincent, Jules and Honey Bunny:
A. Sex, Lies, and Videotape
B. Four Weddings and a Funeral
C. The Usual Suspects
D. Pulp Fiction


1. C. David Cronenberg. Jewison was nominated three times (In the Heat of the Night, 1968; Fiddler on the Roof, 1972; Moonstruck, 1988); Egoyan was nominated once (The Sweet Hereafter, 1998), and Cameron won in 1998 (Titanic).

2. B. Unforgiven, 1993 (shot in Alberta) and D. Chicago, 2003 (shot in Toronto).

3. A. Dan Aykroyd, for Driving Miss Daisy, 1990.

4. B. Anna Paquin, for playing Holly Hunter's daughter. Though she was raised in New Zealand, she was born in 1982 in Winnipeg.

5. D. Mordecai Richler, nominated in 1975 for adapting The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.

6. B. Janet Gaynor. Marie Dressler was born in Cobourg, Ont., Norma Shearer was born in Montreal, and Mary Pickford, "America's Sweetheart," was born in Toronto.

7. D. Dead Ringers. Jesus of Montreal, Decline of the American Empire and The Barbarian Invasions (which won in 2004) were all up for best foreign-language film, and The Triplets of Belleville was nominated for best animated feature.

8. A. Anne Murray. The song, from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, was performed by Robin Williams on the Oscar telecast.

9. C. Walter Huston, born in Toronto, was best supporting actor in 1949 for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Son John Huston won best director for the film, and in 1986 directed his own daughter, Anjelica Huston, to a best supporting actress win for Prizzi's Honor.

10. D. Clark Gable. All of the others have won honorary Oscars, the NFB in 1989. The NFB has received more Academy Award nominations than any entity outside of the Hollywood studios.

11. B. Harold Russell, who lost both hands in the Second World War, was best supporting actor in The Best Years of Our Lives, and received another Oscar for being an inspiration to returning veterans.

12. C. Neil Young.

13. B. Irving Thalberg. The No. 2 man at MGM married Montreal's Norma Shearer in 1927, boosting her acting career. After Thalberg died in 1936, the academy created the Irving Thalberg Award.

14. A. Bowling for Columbine, which won best documentary at the 2003 awards. Director Michael Moore thanked Donovan in a controversial acceptance speech, in which he called George Bush "a fictitious president . . . sending us to war for fictitious reasons."

15. C. Lincoln, in the movie Abe Lincoln in Illinois.

16. D. Arthur Hiller received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He directed, among others, Love Story and The In-Laws, and was president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

17. A. Ben-Hur won 11 Oscars at the 1960 Academy Awards. At the 2004 Academy Awards, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King equalled the record, going 11 for 11.

18. B. eBay. In 1995, Skoll was the first person hired by the website.

19. C. George appeared on the show in 1972, and Greene appeared in the TV movie A Beachcombers Christmas in 2005.

20. D. Pulp Fiction. Avary shared the award with Quentin Tarantino.

Oscar's Canadian Connection

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Mckay, Canadian Press

 (Mar. 3, 2006)
On Oscar night this Sunday, it may seem on the surface that there's not a lot of Canadian content in the films vying for that coveted golden statue.  True, Manitoba stood in for Kansas in Capote, and those gorgeous Brokeback Mountain settings were actually in Alberta, not Wyoming.  But this year Cancon involves a lot more than just flexible scenery, and fat government subsidies and tax breaks designed to lure Hollywood across the border to provide work for Canadian actors and crews.  Canadian companies are getting a piece of the financial action, too.  In the case of Brokeback Mountain, American filmmaker Focus Features had to bring on a Canadian partner to qualify for a production rebate under the terms of the Alberta Film Development Program.  That's where local company Alberta Film Entertainment came in. As an executive producer, it was able to bring $750,000 to the production budget. That helped persuade director Ang Lee to forget about his wish to shoot in Wyoming where the story takes place, but where there is hardly the same kind of industry infrastructure, says AFE partner Tom Cox.  "It actually became a creative differential that (Lee) could quantify. He was able to add some weeks to his schedule and go farther afield," Cox explained in a telephone interview from Calgary.  "He took a chance on Alberta despite his reservations, and by the end of the production was saying that it was the most positive production experience of his career."
 Not only did the production investment bring $9 million in spending to the province, AFE and the province now get a share of Brokeback's revenues. Cox said that also means further growth for the local film industry, noting that the same deal was struck for the upcoming filmed-in-Alberta Warner Bros. movie The Assassination of Jesse James, starring Brad Pitt.  Meanwhile, producer William Vince, a co-partner in Infinity Features, explains that his Vancouver company provided the key bankrolling for Capote, which was shot in and around Winnipeg.  It stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in the story of how the celebrity writer developed a relationship with one of the imprisoned killers of a Kansas farm family in the 1950s. But they sure weren't in Kansas any more when Manitoba surfaced as the best on-location site.  Like other provinces, Manitoba offers a juicy tax credit plus bonuses to companies that use local labour and locales. But it also required the hiring of a local company, in this case Eagle Vision, which brought more investment money to the table.  Infinity took responsibility for the financing for Capote — a $7.5-million (U.S.) production — in its partnership with MGM/UA/Sony Pictures Classics, and owns a significant part of the film, again a potentially lucrative situation.  Vince says the provinces are smart to be attaching investment strings to their traditional labour credits and rebates.  "So not only do they get the success of employing people ... With something like Brokeback and Capote, if they do well there will be returns."  If Capote wins best picture Sunday night, Vince also gets to hit the stage at the awards to help accept the Oscar.  There are other examples of behind-the-scenes Canadians investing in the big Oscar pictures. London, Ont., native Paul Haggis is not only nominated in the best director and best original screenplay categories for his film Crash, he is also one of its six producers.  And George Clooney's McCarthyism drama Good Night, and Good Luck was produced by Participant Pictures, an independent company run by former Torontonian Jeff Skoll, who helped found eBay back in 1996.

Movie Review: Chapelle's Party Plea

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic

Dave Chapelle's Block Party

 Starring Dave Chapelle, Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, The Fugees, Dead Prez, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, The Roots. Directed by Michel Gondry. 100 minutes. At major theatres. 14A
 (Mar. 3, 2006) Like Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion,
Dave Chapelle's Block Party is a plea for urban black community dressed up as meet-the-folks entertainment.  But where Perry's movie outfits its writer-director in drag and evokes God and traditional values as the means of inclusiveness, Michel Gondry's smoothly inviting documentary of a free rap event organized by Comedy Central star Dave Chapelle is all about the beauty of the beats.  For reasons that are only implied, but which the film's generally upbeat tone suggests might be about "giving back" to his people, the skinny-necked, expressive-eyed comedian (who has since decamped from his TV show) decided to throw a big block party on a run-down street in Brooklyn in September, 2004. (His original choice was Central Park, which would have made the movie a vastly different and considerably less intimate experience.)  Gondry, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and whimsically weird music videos for the likes of Björk and Beck, follows Chapelle through the streets of his Dayton, Ohio hometown as he hands out tickets and invitations to the big event. Already, we're keyed to Chapelle's consensus-building agenda.  With a TV host's easy, on-the-street affability and a politician's sidewalk savvy, he invites everyone, from a parole officer and a white middle-aged convenience store clerk to an entire university marching band, to his "party." When the marching band, midway through rehearsal on the football field, combust into spontaneous applause over the news — a response Gondry captures with cagey "spontaneity" — their expression of collective joy echoes throughout the entire movie.
 Sequences (some cut frustratingly short) depict the show itself — a genuine rouser featuring hip-hop artists like Mos Def, Common, Kaye West, Dead Prez, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu playing in front of a Stax Revue-like house band. In between are moments taken from rehearsals, community-building testimonials from folk on the street and folk backstage, and (natch) Chapelle.  He does what Chapelle does best: pokes mostly gentle fun at white people, Mexicans and police, does spontaneous musical impersonations of James Brown and Thelonius Monk, and generally reinforces the entire film's fetching climate of unrehearsed, open-door-policy fun.  While unlikely to enter the annals of great concert filmmaking, Dave Chappelle's Block Party does capture the moment at hand with a breezy, offhanded and utterly user-friendly charm. It feels like a TV special, but a crackling good one. And while the movie has moments of activist anger (as when Fred Hampton, Jr. takes the mic) and fleeting naughtiness (as when Chappelle graphically demonstrates to an interviewee that it's okay to swear), they seem less like what the party's about than proof everybody's invited to it.  Most telling is when two young black Daytonites recall being subjected to racial slurs while golfing one morning. They were going to kick the bigot's ass until they realized it might cost them their invitation to the party. The promise of fun trumped the feeling of fury.

A Best Actress At 10, She Already Wants To Direct

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald
 (Mar. 6, 2006) Two years ago at the Toronto International Film Festival, a precocious eight-year-old Torontonian named Samantha Weinstein made her feature film debut as Danielle in David Weaver's black comedy Siblings. In 2005, the petite redhead snagged the title role of Josephine in Big Girl, written and directed by Renuka Jeyapalan during her stay at the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto.  Big Girl, a touching 14-minute film, went on to win best short at TIFF. And it helped Weinstein, now 10, reach another milestone in her young career as she became the youngest actress to be nominated -- and win -- the 2006 ACTRA Toronto award for outstanding female performance. At a swank ceremony Feb. 24 at Toronto's Carlu, Weinstein skipped onto the stage and beamed as she eloquently thanked the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (which represents more than 13,000 of Canada's 21,000 professional performers working in English-language recorded media) for recognizing her work. "Hearing my name being called was unbelievable," said Weinstein, who was in the running for best actress with veterans Wendy Crewson (for CTV's movie The Man Who Lost Himself), Paula Boudreau (CBC's miniseries The Tournament), another former child-acting prodigy Megan Follows (CBC's movie Shania: A Life in Eight Albums), and Victoria Snow (CBC's movie Waking up Wally: The Walter Gretzky Story). Upon receiving her trophy, Weinstein got a squeeze from actress Sarah Polley, on hand to receive ACTRA Toronto's 2006 Award of Excellence . The two had worked together on Siblings.
 "Sarah was very happy for me," said the Grade 5 student in a phone interview. "I was overwhelmed up on the stage, looking at the huge community I work with, and have so much respect for. It felt like the audience was giving me a great, big, warm hug. It felt great." Called Canada's indie princess, Weinstein, who lives in Toronto with her mother, father and seven-year-old sister, recently wrapped the role of Sara in another short film, Ninth Street Chronicles. "I'm kind of hoping for a hat trick and that I'll be back at TIFF next year," Weinstein says, giggling. And she'll appear tomorrow night on CBC-TV, as Piper in Ken Finkleman's new six-part miniseries, At the Hotel.  "Imagine you're Courtney Love's daughter and you're 10," explains Weinstein. "That pretty much sums up my part in Ken's series." Big Girl, which co-stars Kris Holden, also screened at last month's Berlin International Film Festival. The film explores family politics as nine-year-old Josephine grapples with the fact that her single mom has a new boyfriend in her life. It's a "story of acceptance and letting people in. It stirs up a lot of feelings in only 14 minutes," says the worldly young actress. Like Follows (best known to fans as the feisty Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables TV movies) and Polley (Sara Stanley from the popular Road to Avonlea series), Weinstein and other busy preteen actors and actresses show Canada has a knack for producing quality young performers who can stickhandle their way through the nutty entertainment business. But Weinstein is already looking ahead to another career. "When I'm an adult," she says, "I hope to get into the director's program at the Canadian Film Centre. I think it's one of the coolest jobs in the world. I'd still like to act, like Sarah, but she's directing a film right now."

EUR Film Review: 16 Blocks

 Excerpt from

 (Mar. 7, 2006) *Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is an aging, depressed detective with a drinking problem. Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) is a trash-talking, petty criminal with marbles in his mouth who has spent about half of his life mumbling to himself behind bars while dreaming about opening his own bakery. So, with nothing in common, there’s not much reason for the grizzled NYPD veteran and the career perp to expect to meet, let alone land on the same side of the law.
  Yet, that’s exactly what happens the fateful morning their paths do cross when Jack is ordered to escort Eddie from jail to the courthouse just 16 blocks away in lower Manhattan. What should have amounted to an uneventful, brief car ride turns into a thrill-a-minute chase after the alcoholic decides to make a brief detour to a liquor store. For he emerges from the establishment only to find a hit man with a gun cocked at the head of his prisoner. Quick on the draw, Jack shoots the assassin first, jumps in the driver’s seat and starts careening across Chinatown pumping Eddie with questions to learn why anybody might want him dead.
 Turns out he’s scheduled to testify in less than two hours in a case against a half-dozen crooked cops. Next, when Jack calls for backup, his former partner, Frank (David Morse), makes it clear that the entire Department wants this key prosecution witness wasted. Confronting an ethical crisis, Jack must decide whether to look the other way or try to break the proverbial Blue Wall of Silence. Of course, he opts for the latter, which means he and his charge must run a gauntlet of the most corrupt, immoral and bloodthirsty officers imaginable.  The splatter which ensues in the ensuing escape is the essence of 16 Blocks, a high-impact action flick from directed by Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon 1, 2, 3, & 4). Ordinarily, the success or failure of a claustrophobic, odd-couple caper like this turns on the chemistry between the leads who have to spent the entire picture on top of each other. However, this flick’s pressurized plotline is simply too urgent to allow for much in the way of downtime for the two to develop any intimacy. Nonetheless, both Bruce Willis and Mos Def, though playing simplistically-drawn, almost cartoonish archetypes, manage to enhance their slight characters with enough endearing qualities and offbeat idiosyncrasies to sway the audience to empathize with their plight. Meanwhile, like your typical computer game, wave after wave of ghoulish adversaries arrive to be eluded, dealt with, or dispatched, soulless demons devoid of a conscience. Pound-for-pound, 16 Blocks provides the most pressure-cooked pyrotechnics, fisticuffs, gunplay, car crashes, back alley dashes and fire escape leaps ever crammed into a cinematic chase lasting less than a mile. Hollywood’s concession to anti-establishment video games like Grand Theft Auto, only sans joystick. And larger than life.


We Remember Gordon Parks

Excerpt from

(Mar. 8, 2006)
Gordon Parks, 93, a true renaissance man if there ever was one, died in New York City on Tuesday.  Parks, born into poverty in Fort Scott, Kansas, was a photojournalist for "Life" magazine for 20 years before turning to film making in 1969.  His initial Hollywood project, "The Learning Tree," was adapted from a novel he wrote about growing up poor and black in 1920s Kansas. He became the first black to write and direct a major studio production when Warner Bros. commissioned him to adapt his book to the big screen.  In 1989, the film was among the first 25 to be deemed culturally and historically significant and was preserved in the US National Film Registry for future generations. But as far as most people are concerned, it was the 1971 movie "Shaft" that brought him fame as a director. Starring Richard Roundtree, "Shaft" also spawned a hit song, the Oscar winning "Theme From Shaft" by Isaac Hayes. A remake of the film, in 2000, starred Samuel L. Jackson and was directed by John Singleton.   In a documentary for HBO called "Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks," he said the two "Shaft" films were hard to compare. "There was a lot of humanity in the first one that was lacking in the second one," he said. "People probably want more violence now and so on." During his time as the first black photographer for "Life," he covered everything from fashion to sport but was best known for his photo essays on poverty and the civil rights movement. Over the years, not only did he write volumes of poetry and fiction, he also became an accomplished pianist and wrote a ballet about the life of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., titled "Martin" which aired on the PBS. Gordon Parks had been in failing health, according to his nephew, Charles Parks of Lawrence, Kansas.

Long in ‘Premonition’

Excerpt from

(March 2, 2006) *
Nia Long has been cast in the Sandra Bullock film "Premonition," a supernatural thriller from Sony Pictures set to shoot in Shreveport, La. Long will play the best friend of Bullock’s character. The story follows a housewife (Bullock) whose husband (Julian McMahon of "Nip/Tuck") dies in a car crash, but then appears alive the next day. Amber Valletta also joins the cast as the mistress of McMahon's character and Kate Nelligan will play the mother of Bullock’s character.

Macaulay Culkin Says He's Home, Alone

Source:  Associated Press

(Mar. 6, 2006) New York — Macaulay Culkin wonders where he fits into Hollywood these days. “I don't know what people want from me,” the grown-up child star of the Home Alone movies told Time magazine. “I'm the most out-of-work actor I know,” said Culkin, who has a semiautobiographical, stream-of-consciousness novel, Junior, due out this month. “In the last two years I've basically taken meetings for a living.” He said he had considered a career in sports management, instead of acting, Time reports in its edition hitting newsstands Monday. “Acting found me. I thought maybe I should try to find it again. We'll see,” he told Time. Culkin, 25, said he has talked by phone once with his friend Michael Jackson since the singer left the United States and described him as “doing okay.”


Ice Cube Explores Issue Of Race In ‘Black. White.’

 Excerpt from
(Mar. 3, 2006) *Major racial issues will be explored in the upcoming six-part FX series “Black. White.,” the creation of rapper Ice Cube and veteran documentary producer R.J. Cutler (“The War Room.”)  On the surface, the show takes two families – one black, one white – and transforms them via Hollywood makeup to experience life as the other race. As evidenced on a recent episode of the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” their journey on the series left some unresolved issues between the clans.  “There’s definitely tension sometimes and I wouldn’t say that we were best of friends,” white family matriarch Rose Wurgel told us in January about their relationship with the Sparkses after the series wrapped. “I know that it’s a little bit interesting seeing everybody today because we haven’t kept in contact.” While the white Wurgel-Marcotulli family and the black Sparks family were enlightened by the experience, the two families clashed on many fronts – the biggest being a lack of understanding between the fathers, Brian Sparks and Bruno Marcotulli. On the show, which premieres Wednesday, March 8 at 10 p.m., Bruno has a hard time grasping the concept of subtle racism described often by Brian. For example, both are walking down a Beverly Hills street as black me when a woman coming their way moves to the side to let them pass. Brian observes the gesture as racist, while Bruno feels she was simply “moving out of our way.”   “Brian and I had different lives as a child,” Bruno Marcotulli told us. “And Brian explained this to me several times. I never experienced racism. So I felt that Brian brings his past scars to his present day, and a lot of the differences we had where I didn’t see what he saw.  And he felt I didn’t see what was there. And, of course, I felt he saw what wasn’t there. So, you know, who’s right? Who’s not? How much is what we see dependent on what we want to see or expect to see?”
 Brian quickly adds: “Let me just clear up one portion, just too make a clear understanding. It’s not past scars. Racism is still prevalent today. I am discriminated against often, so it’s not past scars. It still happens currently, so these are current scars.” The tension between Brian and Bruno would still be present a month after this interview, when both appeared with their families on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” in early February.  There, a clip was shown of Brian buying shoes as a white man in a golf shop, and having the salesman actually put on the shoe for the first time in his 40 years. Another clip showed the Sparks facing some blatantly racist language. While in white makeup, they attend a focus group with other white families to discuss racism. One man says that while he doesn’t feel racist, he feels he must wash his hands after shaking the hand of a black man.  “You know, after 40 years of being black, I don’t think one transformation or six weeks can accurately show what I go through on a day to day,” Brian told us. “You can get a little taste. Bruno said plenty of times that I go out looking for racism.  I don’t have to look for it. It finds me.  I just observe it when it gets to me already. By the time I observe it, it already happened.” Cube said this kind of dialogue is precisely why he decided to produce the series.         “I think the worst thing you can do about a situation is nothing,” says the rapper. “You have to get it out in the open. You have to talk about it. This show will provoke people to speak about it, to speak about race.         “At the end of the show, we realize that instead of worrying about everybody’s differences, let’s celebrate everybody’s differences because nobody should want the world to all be the same.  And that’s really what the show is bringing out. It’s kind of talking about the ills that face us everyday, the cancer of racism that faces America every day, and two families dealing with it, trying to teach each other about it and trying to learn about each other.  And it’s not always pretty, but it’s definitely gets us talking about it.”

TV Regulator To Axe Those Bundles Of Joy

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Beck

 (Mar. 3, 2006) Let's start this week's fiesta with a question: How many of you out there ever watch
Vision TV? How many hands? One . . . no, two? Okay, both of you, get over there and sit in the corner with the five badly dressed men who watch the Golf Channel.  The federal broadcasting regulator, the CRTC, this week tackled the thorny issue of how to protect tens of little-watched and little-liked cable channels from ruin in the brave new era of digital TV. Its answer: Do the right thing, but put it off several years so no one gets hurt. The issue is the bundling system that makes cable-TV subscribers pay en masse for more than 30 analog channels when we only watch maybe five or six of them. Now, there may be some folk out there who derive equal enjoyment from W, BET, Speed, MuchMusic, TLC and Vision TV and would happily support them all. But for the vast majority of us who possess a life, this bundling concept is akin to having to buy the entire catalogue of Rolling Stones CDs just so you can get Exile on Main Street. So the question is, why should Canadians have to support, through cross-subsidy, channels that are either so niche or so lame that they would have no chance of survival in the real world? (Okay, lay off the CBC jokes -- it's a national treasure, remember.) The sensible answer: Let subscribers buy them à la carte; if that leaves TSN and Rogers Sportsnet swimming in cash, and Vision TV resting in peace, so be it. In its best tradition, the regulator has decided to fudge the decision. It's complicated, but basically you'll still have to continue subsiding the no-hopers for at least another four years. Then you might be able to pay for what you, and not the diversity police, want.
 Now here's another question: How many of you out there have ever watched Talktv for more than 10 minutes? Do we hear anyone? Anyone?  Well, the good news is, Talktv -- otherwise known as cable television's big recycling box -- is being put out of its misery. CTV, which runs the "specialty" channel, is replacing it with MTV Canada later this month. The Canadian arm of MTV had one unspectacular run in the digital netherworld for a couple of years until its deal with Craig expired, but now CTV has bought the rights. But here's the thing: Don't expect (or fear) wall-to-wall hip-hop videos any time soon. Because of more arcane fine print in CRTC rules, CTV can't budge from the stipulations under which it first won the Talktv licence. In other words, MTV Canada will have to be Talktv with lots of loud music until it can convince the CRTC otherwise. CTV will presumably apply for a change of terms, but you can already hear the whining of MuchMusic's parent, CHUM Ltd., echoing all the way from Toronto to Ottawa. CTV went through a similar fight over the right of its Newsnet channel to air live events, and that wasn't pretty. As Marshall McLuhan might have said, there's never a dull moment in the Brezhnev-era bureaucracy that casts its shadow over the 21st-century world of mass communications in Canada.

They want their MTV. . . by cellphone

 Excerpt From The Globe And Mail - Grant Robertson, Media Reporter

 (Mar. 8, 2006) The fight for viewers that's brewing between MTV Canada and MuchMusic will have very little to do with the television set. Both networks are pursuing ambitious digital strategies that are poised to take them well beyond their TV operations as they expand rapidly into video downloads, on-line communities and broadcasts to cellphones. And as MTV Canada prepares for its launch on March 21, the new channel faces a key hurdle -- its TV licence is limited to talk and lifestyle programming. Rival MuchMusic is watching closely to make sure MTV Canada doesn't stray from those requirements by playing music videos, a format MTV is known for. CTV Inc., the owner MTV Canada, is putting the new station on the channel occupied by Talktv, which limits the type of programming it can show. Internet downloads and streaming broadcasts, however, could provide the freedom MTV Canada's television licence doesn't allow.  MTV Canada's flagship program, MTV Live, will focus on in-studio guests, debates and webcam interviews about fashion, relationships and celebrities. The digital strategy comes as CHUM Ltd., which owns MuchMusic, is also bolstering its on-line operations, adding more downloadable content and expanding streaming broadcasts through its website.  Both pop culture networks are chasing tech-savvy younger audiences whose viewing habits are shifting from the traditional TV set to Internet downloads and video iPods.
 MTV Canada is already planning to piggyback its digital strategy on the operations of its American counterpart. New York-based MTV Networks Inc. has launched several broadband TV channels, is building a music downloading site partnered with Microsoft Corp. called URGE, and in the past year has expanded into on-line communities, where users post music and video clips. CTV's plan for MTV Canada will be unveiled soon, but the network is keeping quiet on the specifics. "The MTV digital strategy will be in some ways the tip of the spear for CTV the company and how we move forward with the next wave in the digital world," said Mike Cosentino, a spokesman for the network. Over at CHUM, the company has spent recent months ramping up MuchMusic's on-line offerings, including the introduction of its first downloadable show, the reality series VJ Search. It has also started adding its programming to cable video-on-demand services and is expanding further into streaming broadcasts with an eye to future cellphone TV watchers. "Whatever we have rights for, we're experimenting with," said Maria Hale, vice-president of business development for CHUM. The rival network isn't saying how it will react if MTV Canada starts playing music videos on the Talktv format; however, CHUM suggested last fall it won't stand by if its competitor takes liberties with its broadcast licence. "We'll be intrigued to see how Talktv can be morphed into an MTV brand and still remain a talk channel as licensed," CHUM said in a statement in September.  A significant part of MTV's digital strategy is focused on building on-line communities. Websites such as have risen to prominence in recent years with on-line places for users to chat, post music and share photos. Myspace, a cult hit for independent bands posting their albums, has more than 60 million users. Now a host of other companies, particularly broadcasters, want into that business because of the audiences it draws. U.S.-based MTV has bought several websites, including a video game website and IFILM Corp., which allows amateur filmmakers to post movies. Such properties combine to form large communities of users. MuchMusic and MTV have moved away from video-dominated formats in favour of higher rated programs, such as celebrity reality shows and in-studio programs that draw bigger audiences. However, videos remain a significant part of MuchMusic's line-up.
 When MTV was last in Canada, under a deal that ended last year when Craig Broadcasting was bought by CHUM, the arrangement didn't involve access to the U.S. company's digital assets. While CTV is quiet about its plans for Canada, officials have said the Canadian channel's deal allows the use of those properties in Canada, likely foreshadowing where the digital strategy is headed. CTV is part of Bell Globemedia, which also owns The Globe and Mail.  Channels such as MuchMusic and YTV have been among the more aggressive specialty TV services in expanding their digital strategies.  CHUM expects to unveil additions to its digital strategy in the next few weeks, including new downloads of shows on MuchMusic. The company plans to bolster the digital offerings of its other networks, hoping to keep viewers loyal to its stations as they get older. CHUM owns several specialty channels, including Bravo, MuchMoreMusic and Star. "As those kids grow up we're going to need to make sure that all of our various properties are multiplatformed," Ms. Hale said.

Haysbert, Taylor Form Tight ‘Unit’ For CBS

 Excerpt from

 (Mar. 6, 2006) *Veteran actors
Dennis Haysbert and Regina Taylor star as husband and wife under extreme circumstances in tomorrow night’s premiere of CBS’ “The Unit,” a military drama about an elite Army unit and the wives left to maintain the home front.  Haysbert, whose role of U.S. President on Fox’s "24" was killed off earlier this season, stars as Jonas Blane, the respected leader of the unit that includes a recruit played by Scott Foley, and a colonel portrayed by Robert Patrick. Taylor, as Jonas’ supportive wife Abby, says her role required a lot of research with the show’s technical advisor Eric Haney.     “I did talk to some military wives. I did talk to Eric Haney, and I find the character very fascinating,” Taylor told us. “I think, bottom line, the situation that they live in is scary.  It’s that you have to keep a lot of secrets.  There are a lot of secrets that go through this base and you don’t have a lot of people to talk to about them, because if you talk about it, then it will jeopardize your husband’s life, the lives of his co-workers, and it could jeopardize what’s happening to your country." "The Unit" is based on Haney’s 2002 book “Inside Delta Force,” which details the retired command sergeant major’s years in counterterrorism and covert operations. Haney says his pitch of the show to CBS chief executive Les Moonves almost resulted in a flat-out rejection – until Haney emphasized the show’s equal focus on the wives. "Had you come in here with only an action series, I would have passed. But when you said the wives, the sweethearts, that depth of humanity, that's when you had me," Haney recalled Moonves saying.   “The relationship between Molly and Jonas is one of complete dedication,” explains Haysbert.  “They’re probably the longest-running couple in the unit.  The women are themselves a unit.  And the men, who go out on the missions are a unit.  When they are all together, they are one very large and loving and concerned unit.”
 Haysbert points out the distinct parallels present in Jonas’ leadership within the unit, and Molly’s maternal presence among the wives.   “The ladies look to Molly when there are problems and she helps them out, as do the men look to Jonas because Jonas has been around longer,” Haysbert explains. “They lead by example. Jonas never tells these guys really what to do.  He leads them into situations, and they follow his orders.  And they are fully free to question those orders, as you’ll see in certain episodes.  But that never really arises because he is on top of his game.”  “The Unit” is executive produced by Shawn Ryan, the creator of FX’s critically-acclaimed police drama “The Shield.” Some of the show’s 13 episodes this season will be written and directed by filmmaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet, whose challenging dialogue is famous for its poetic, profanity-filled, rhythmic patterns.   “There is definitely a certain cadence to David’s work,” says Haysbert. “And as you see more of the episodes, you’ll see that his fingerprints are all over scripts and it really makes for entertaining dialogue, and they were awfully fun to say.”  Mamet’s words mix stories of dangerous missions and domestic minefields that include an extramarital affair, adolescent angst and some wives who have difficulty accepting their husbands’ work.   “These men are very much disciplined in what they do,” explains Haysbert. “They train constantly. They believe not always in the mission, but they believe in what the unit represents.  They know that whenever they go out into the world – whether it’s Los Angeles, Atlanta, Afghanistan, Brazil, Indonesia –they are representing the United States Army.  And they are gong to complete their mission or die.  And they fully know what they are getting themselves into whenever they go out. So do their wives.” (“The Unit” premieres Tuesday, March 7 at 9 p.m. on CBS.)

Signs Of The New India

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Sarah Elton

 (Mar. 7, 2006) Step out into the street of any city in India and you will be surrounded by huge, colourful billboards advertising a new Bollywood movie, toothpaste or a local politician's platform.  These giant signs — "hoardings" to locals — are traditionally hand-painted by specialized artists and have long been a mainstay of the urban streetscape.  But technology is reshaping the streetscape, with computers replacing artists and shiny vinyl ads being postered over the traditional hand-painted ones.  Yet the art form is catching interest in the West just as it dies in India. Art shows celebrating hand-painted billboards have been organized in Toronto, Milan and even at the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.  Now, a new documentary,
Painted Nation, pays tribute to the art. It premieres in Canada on Vision TV tomorrow at 10 p.m.  The movie is the work of Toronto filmmaking couple Cyrus Sundar Singh and Vanessa Laufer, Gemini Award winners. Their crew travelled to India last year to interview artists and document the billboards they had admired so much on past trips to the region and knew would not last for much longer.  But even they were shocked by the speed of changes. The signs vanished even as their cameras rolled.  "We're talking overnight transformation," says Laufer. "Of not just the visual landscape, but of the work these guys do — empty studios."  Billboard artists have been forced to abandon their studios because advertising agencies prefer to create their ads from digital photos printed on enormous sheets of vinyl, just like the billboards that line the Gardiner Expressway. The often self-taught artists are faced with a tough decision: learn Adobe Photoshop or change professions.
 This India is a far cry from the one Sundar Singh left when his family immigrated to Toronto in 1971, when he was a boy.  "The signs were a part of the landscape," he remembers. "This is what brought the message to us."  Now the message is carried by up-to-the-nanosecond technology and the medium is shaping the culture.  The country's technology boom began in the 1990s and has only picked up momentum, with many pinning the country's future economic prosperity on the industry. Indian software engineers are wanted around the world and companies like Microsoft Corp. have headquarters in the country, employing hundreds of thousands.  All this business has created an enormous middle class with an appetite for anything modern, including high-tech products with advertising to match, the filmmakers say.  "India is now an emerging economy. They want to have the slick modern images. They've welcomed them," says Laufer. "A lot of people think the hand-painted ads were garish."  But the same qualities that render them garish to some in India have made them sought after here. You will find them hanging in Western galleries and on collectors' walls. Many online auction houses offer vintage posters, and for about $700 you can even commission an artist in India to custom paint a Bollywood poster featuring you as the hero or heroine.  "We've been inundated with generic images for ages," explains Laufer of the West's fascination with the art. "We are very attracted to things that are one of a kind. Where there's the human touch."  Laufer and Sundar Singh remain hopeful that the art form will not vanish completely from the Indian street. While vinyl ads in urban India advertise products like cellphones and cars, streets in India's rural areas look much like the streets Sundar Singh remembers.  That's in part because in the countryside there isn't the same market for the luxury items featured on the vinyl signs.  Hand-painted ads for items like fruit, shoe polish and dairy products remain. While they might not be the dramatic canvasses of the past, they are a quiet reminder of the way things used to be.

BET Premieres Controversial New Lil' Kim Series

Source: Tosha Whitten-Griggs, BET, , Zabrina Horton, BET, ; Tracy Nguyen, 5W Public Relations,  

 (Mar. 8, 2006) Los Angeles, CA  -
Lil' Kim is one of the most successful and celebrated rappers in the business, as well as one of the most intriguing and glamorous stars in entertainment. Now, she's starring in her own reality series, and no channel is better suited than BET to bring Lil' Kim's story to the small screen.  Lil' Kim: Countdown To Lockdown is a new half-hour series that vividly chronicles the petite rapper's last two weeks of freedom before surrendering herself to federal authorities. This six-episode docu-drama is produced in collaboration with Edmonds Entertainment and Queen Bee Entertainment, premiering on Thursday, March 9 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT.  BET's cameras were allowed full access to Lil' Kim, her entourage and family before she headed off to a maximum-security prison in Pennsylvania. Sent there on a conviction for false testimony to a federal grand jury about a shootout involving members of her posse outside a New York City radio station, Lil' Kim was sentenced to one year and a day for protecting friends involved in the 2001 incident. Lil' Kim's loyalty proved to be a costly lesson -- one that Kim, her closest friends and associates will discuss in this series.  "We take an unblinking look at her life and her choices, and the consequences of those choices," says BET President of Entertainment Reginald Hudlin. "We do not turn away from the hard truth of what's going on."  Is Kimberly Jones a victim, a soldier or a fool for refusing to break the "no snitching" code of the streets? Watch, and then decide for yourself, offers Hudlin.  Over the course of fourteen unforgettable days, BET viewers ride along with the rap diva and fashion icon as she sorts out her business and legal affairs, makes her last few public appearances to promote her new CD, shoots a video, attends fashion week, shops, hits the party scene and says goodbye to friends and family before turning herself over to authorities. Viewers witness Lil' Kim, the superstar, making the physical transformation to becoming Kimberly Jones -- peeling off the layers of hair extensions, acrylic nails, false eyelashes and stage make-up. The cameras also capture her private moments as Lil' Kim attempts to come to grips with who she is and where she's headed. This remarkable journey is set to a soundtrack punctuated by the hypnotic grooves and skilfully-delivered rhymes from Lil' Kim's latest critically-acclaimed disc, "The Naked Truth," in stores now.  "I've always been fascinated by Lil' Kim," says executive producer Tracey Edmonds, who pitched the project to BET. "She's such a dynamic female, on so many different levels. She's a businesswoman. She's a recording icon. She's a fashion icon. Seeing everything she was trying accomplish, preparing to go away, and being so strong . . . it was really fascinating to spend time with her for two weeks on this roller coaster ride."
 Also joining Lil' Kim on the journey is a colourful cast of characters including her legal team, manager, personal assistants, family and other members of her close-knit inner circle. They're all trying to deal with what's ahead for Kim and the impact on their lives of her imminent absence. By the time this series concludes, each will have helped viewers gain a whole new perspective on the diminutive, but larger-than-life rapper known as Lil' Kim.
 Comprising the cast is:
 Hillary - "The Manager"
 This former manager of the Notorious B.I.G. is no-nonsense, no-frills, and doesn't play when it comes to managing the hectic career of Lil' Kim. Often described by members of Kim's entourage as a "b*tch", she is the glue that holds Kim's professional and personal life together.
 Londell - "The Attorney"
 He may have a corner office overlooking Manhattan and be part owner of an NBA franchise, but the Brooklyn native maintains an enviable balance of book and street smarts. A prominent entertainment attorney (not criminal attorney) whose famous clients include Prince, Stevie Wonder and Spike Lee, Londell is well known for protecting artist's rights. Kim looks up to him not only as her entertainment attorney and business manager, but as a big brother - and he protects her like family.
 La La - "The Cousin"
 La La is that family member everyone has, but tries to keep under wraps. Kim's cousin La La is a Brooklyn-born spitfire who doesn't mince words and has no fear. Deeply devoted to helping Kim during her last days of freedom, La La's role as Kim's personal assistant is getting in the way of her obligations at home to her husband and kids.
 Gene - "The A&R Exec"
 Although Gene is the A&R executive for "Queen Bee Records," his opinions on upcoming talent and music extend far beyond his title. Whether it's his thoughts on how to publicize Kim, Nate's acumen or Kirk's attitude, Gene has an opinion on everything. And he has no trouble vocalizing those opinions out loud, with plenty of expletives.
 Tracy - "The Publicist"
 Tracy is all over the place as Kim's publicist - negotiating photo shoot schedules, clearing all questions for Kim to answer behind the scenes at music shows and radio stations, down to approving Kim's wardrobe. She always ensures that Kim looks and sounds good in person and in the media.
 Nate - "The Personal Assistant"
 Young and committed to making Kim happy, Nate is the over-zealous, former "Queen Bee" intern who hung around long enough to get on the payroll. Nate's side projects sometimes get in the way of doing his job well, but He has Kim's best interest at heart.
 Kirk - "The Music Video Director"
 They call him "Kirk Lee" (a reference to Spike Lee). Upon realizing that she hates the video to her first single, "Lighter's Up," Kim quickly taps Kirk to direct not one, but three music videos for her in two weeks. This is a huge break and challenge for someone who has never directed a music video before. Kirk is a classic case of being in the right place at the right time, but some folks wonder if he can pull it off.
 Lil' Kim: Countdown To Lockdown is an up-close-and-personal look inside the life of a controversial public icon and rap star. But, underneath the high-glam exterior is Kimberly Jones, a girl from the streets of Brooklyn. This groundbreaking reality series reveals the person behind the façade.  "You'll have a chance to really get a more intimate perspective on Kim, who she is and what her values are," Edmonds added. "She's not one to be underestimated. She has a lot of integrity. There were a lot of reasons why she made the decision that she did, and she was strong about facing the consequences and paying the price for it."  Editor's Note: Lil' Kim's latest critically-acclaimed release, "The Naked Truth," is in stores now. For more info, visit her website at Artwork and press information is available at For B-roll, requests for interviews and other media-related inquiries, please contact BET Corporate Communications at 818-655-6737.
 BET Networks, a subsidiary of Viacom, Inc. (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B), is the nation's leading provider of quality entertainment, music, news and public affairs television programming for the African-American audience. The primary BET channel reaches more than 80 million households according to Nielsen media research, and can be seen in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. BET is the dominant African-American consumer brand with a diverse group of businesses extensions:, the Number 1 Internet portal for African Americans; BET Digital Networks - BET J, BET Gospel and BET Hip Hop, attractive alternatives for cutting-edge entertainment tastes; BET Event Productions, a full-scale event management and production company; BET Home Entertainment, a collection of BET-branded offerings for the home environment including DVDs and video-on-demand; and BET Mobile, a service venture into the lucrative world of ring tones, games and video content for wireless devices.
 Established by Tracey Edmonds and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Edmonds Entertainment Group has soared like a floating star to the ranks of Hollywood's elite entertainment companies, producing award-winning film and television projects such as the critically acclaimed drama Soul Food for Showtime, winner of seven NAACP awards as well as the award winning Soul Food feature film. Other credits include the hit reality series College Hill for BET.
 Launched in 1997 by multi-Platinum, Grammy Award-winning recording artist Kimberly " Lil' Kim" Jones, Queen Bee Entertainment is a multi-faceted company that consists of a record company, a film division and a non-profit organization just to name a few. For more information on Lil' Kim or Queen Bee Entertainment, please log on to

Therriault Is His Own Man

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

 (Mar. 8, 2006) "When I first got the call to audition for Tommy Douglas," admits a blushing
Michael Therriault, "I didn't know who he was. Then I asked some friends and they thought I was talking about Tommy Hunter."  Fortunately, Therriault "did some research, discovered he was a remarkable guy" and wound up as the star of Prairie Giant: the Tommy Douglas Story, which airs on CBC-TV in two parts Sunday and Monday.  At first glance, this shy, 32-year-old actor of Acadian heritage may not have seemed like obvious casting for the messianic Scottish force of nature who started out as a Baptist minister and became one of the most progressive politicians in Canadian history.  But then, nothing in Michael Therriault's life or career has followed a path that anyone would call obvious.  No one else in his theatrical generation has risen as quickly, or mastered so many different styles as this slight, blue-eyed young man with the curly hair and the diffident smile.  "I'll tell you what I found most inspiring about playing Tommy Douglas," confides Therriault, "he makes you realize that a little guy can do big things."  And even though Therriault hasn't run for politics or helped create a system for universal public health care, he's done pretty well for himself.  He began with leading roles at Stratford when he was only 24, surviving the place's Machiavellian politics to build up an impressive resumé that included major Shakespearean characters like Ariel, Henry VI and Sir Andrew Aguecheek.  In 2003, he landed the plum assignment of Leo Bloom in the ill-fated Toronto production of The Producers but still came up smelling like a rose, with rave reviews and a Dora Award.  Just last year, he went straight from his portrayal of Tommy Douglas into the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, playing Motel the Tailor opposite Harvey Fierstein's Tevye.
 Like everyone who's ever worked with Therriault, Fierstein couldn't wait to sing his praises, saying "He's got energy and commitment and talent to spare. If he could only come up with a name Americans could spell, he'd be a big star down here."  And that may happen sooner than anyone realizes, because right now, Therriault is in final previews for The Lord of the Rings at the Princess of Wales Theatre.  He snagged the highly coveted role of Gollum over hundreds of other actors, because director Matthew Warchus found that he possessed "an intriguing originality, an unusual intensity and a powerful focus."  His eyes shine brightly as he says that the epic show "is going really well," but today he wants to talk about Tommy Douglas.  Therriault clutches a battered black notebook.  "This is where I kept all my notes about Tommy. Everything I read about him I wrote down in here. I was so impressed by his use of language." What was the first quote he wrote down? Therriault grins as he flips back the book's well-worn cover and reads:  "I don't know whether it increases the adrenaline in my system, but a fight always makes me feel better."  Like Douglas, Therriault started fighting early for what he believed in.  "I always knew I wanted to be an actor," recalls the Etobicoke-born, Oakville-raised Therriault, "but when you're in grade school, you're a loser if you want to go into the arts. So I just accepted I was a big nerd and that was it."  And he was short as well. "I was really small," he says, squirming at the memory. What saved him was the Etobicoke School for the Arts. He auditioned in Grade 6 and got in, but his family didn't have the money for tuition fees or the daily train transportation to and from Oakville.  "The principal of my grade school got involved," remembers Therriault, "and he got the school board to foot the bill. For five years, they paid for me.  "If I hadn't gone there, I might not have continued in the business. Sure, I was still a nerd, but everyone who went there was a nerd just like me and so I felt right at home."
 In 1997, two years after graduating Sheridan College's "really useful" theatre program, he landed an audition for Stratford and artistic director Richard Monette recalls him as "fabulous, very impressive and extremely versatile."  By the next summer, he was bowing on the Festival Stage as Mordred in Camelot, opposite Cynthia Dale and Tom McCamus.  "When we were doing The Tempest," recalls Monette, "I wanted Michael to do something dangerous and I asked him `Are you afraid of this?' He looked me in the eye and said, `Richard, I'm not afraid of anything.'"  It's that quality of quiet fearlessness that helps make Therriault feel so at home in the persona of Tommy Douglas. That and his basic generosity of spirit.  "Let me tell you a story about Michael," volunteers Monette. "On the night before he left Stratford to go to do The Producers, he came to do my door with tears in his eyes because he said he felt like he was leaving home.  "He gave me a cheque for $500 as a donation for our conservatory, so that other young actors could have the same chance that he did."  When asked if the story is true, Therriault lowers his head, bites his lip and nods affirmatively.  "If you can't pass something on," he says, "then what's the point of having it in the first place?"  And somewhere, Tommy Douglas is smiling.


Injured Newsman Woodruff Starting To Walk

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Mar. 7, 2006) NEW YORK (AP) — Five weeks after ABC anchorman
Bob Woodruff was seriously injured in an explosion in Iraq, he remains hospitalized but is able to say a few words and is starting to walk, his brother said Tuesday.  "In the last couple of days, he's taken a lot of great leaps forward," David Woodruff said. "He's definitely doing so much better."  Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt, a Canadian-born ABC cameraman, were standing in the hatch of an Iraqi mechanized vehicle, reporting on the war from the Iraqi troops' perspective, when the roadside bomb exploded Jan. 29. Both were wearing body armour, which doctors say likely saved their lives.  The men underwent surgery in Iraq and were treated in Germany before being flown to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.  Woodruff, 44, is still on heavy pain medication as his body recovers from the serious head injuries and other wounds. But he recognizes people, he can tell his daughter he loves her, and the multilingual journalist has even said a few words in Chinese and German, his brother David Woodruff told ABC's Good Morning America.  The first response David Woodruff recalls getting from his brother in the hospital was a smile when he told him: "I hate to tell you this, but you still have a face for TV."  "My brother's been an overachiever his entire life. I think none of us expected him to do anything less in this whole process," David Woodruff said. "We know that top on his mind is getting back to his family, to his kids and getting back to doing what he loves to do."  ABC News President David Westin, in an e-mail to his staff on Tuesday, said Woodruff is "exceeding expectations and giving us real reason for optimism."  Vogt left Bethesda Medical Center in late February and returned to France, where he now resides and where he is undergoing rehabilitation, the network said.  Vogt, 46, is a three-time Emmy award-winning cameraman. Born in Medicine Hat, Alta., and raised in nearby Lethbridge, he spent the last 20 years covering global events for CBC, BBC and now exclusively for ABC News.  Good Morning America anchors Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer have been substituting for Woodruff, who started as co-anchor of ABC's World News Tonight with Elizabeth Vargas earlier this year.  ABC is expected to announce a longer-range plan for World News Tonight in the coming weeks.

Black Journalist To Fill In On France's Main Newscast

Excerpt From The Globe And Mail - Grant Robertson, Media Reporter

(Mar. 8, 2006) Paris -- In what was described as a major step forward for French minorities, a black journalist has been chosen to present the country's most popular television news program this summer, the private broadcaster TF1 said. Harry Roselmack, 32, who is from the French Caribbean island of Martinique, will take over from star presenter Patrick Poivre d'Arvor while he is on summer break. "This is like a bombshell for us -- a black presenting the 8 p.m. news on the biggest television station in France. It is a huge advance," said Amirouche Laidi, president of Club Averroes, which campaigns for minority representation in the media. AFP

Could A Canadian Be Donald Trump's Next Apprentice?

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Richard Bloom

(Mar. 4, 2006)
While he sure doesn't appear to be a favourite after last week's season premiere, Toronto-born-and-raised Brent Buckman is one of 17 remaining contestants on the popular American reality program The Apprentice, starring the billionaire Mr. Trump. Mr. Buckman, 30, is a political-science graduate from York University who moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to attend law school.  According to a biography posted on, he works there now as a lawyer for an insurance-defence firm. Mr. Buckman is in for a tough fight, as his competitors -- who include a Harvard MBA, a Mensa brainiac, various successful entrepreneurs and a psychotherapist -- are arguably the strongest contingent of applicants the show has seen in its five-season history.  There's a reason why Mr. Buckman doesn't appear intimidated by the reality-TV cameras. His bio also notes that he went through "an enriched theatre program" during high school in Toronto, studying improvisation, mime, mask and clown -- all of which undoubtedly will be required if he wins the contest and has to start working for The Donald.

‘Class’ In Session For Andre 3000’s Animated Series

Excerpt from

(Mar. 4, 2006) *OutKast rapper
Andre 3000 appeared at a Cartoon Network press event to unveil his new animated series “Class of 3000,” which is scheduled to debut on the channel in November. As previously reported, the story revolves around a group of gifted music students at Atlanta’s Westley School of Performing Arts who look up to former graduate-turned-superstar Sunny Bridges, voiced by Dre. One of the kids, Lil D, is loosely based on Dre's childhood. "I come from the projects and [used to] go all the way across town to school, which is in Buckhead, a prominent part of Atlanta," Dre said at the breakfast event. "I went to school with mayor's kids and commissioner's kids, so it was a mash up then. One of my best friends, he was French. Another best friend was Indian.  "So when we created the show, we didn't want it to be just all black characters or all white characters," he continued. "We just created a world and it kind of mirrors what's going on right now. Everybody hang out with everybody. It's not like you just stay in your own little clique. There's a huge Crayola box going on." Dre says he’s looking to drop a soundtrack for the series and is seeking talent to make guest appearances on the show during a second season. "We're reaching out to a lot of people," Dre said. "A lot of people are interested. Every time you drop an album, you kinda go through this whole run. You do ‘TRL’-you do all those shows. I think 'Class of 3000' will be one of those places that record companies will say, 'We want our artist to be on this show.' It'll be a cool place."

Canadians Crazy For C.R.A.Z.Y.

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Scott Deveau

(Mar. 7, 2006) Canadian audiences went crazy for Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y., earning it a special nod at this year's Genie Awards.  The quirky coming-of-age film about a gay teen growing up in 1970's Quebec, which has already been nominated for 12 Genie Awards, grossed more than $6.2-million in theatres across the country last year, earning it the Golden Reel Award at this year's Genie Awards.  The Golden Reel is awarded to the top grossing Canadian film at domestic box offices.  Past recipients include Atom Egoyan's Crash, the Bob and Doug Mackenzie epic, Strange Brew, and the futuristic tale Johnny Mnemonic, starring Keanu Reeves.  The Golden Reel will be awarded at the 26th Annual Genie Awards on March 13.


Alon Nashman Turned His Back On The Law

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

 (Mar. 4, 2006) Franz Kafka once wrote about a man who turned into a giant cockroach.  Alon Nashman is currently playing the famed author in a play called Kafka and Son, which opens Monday night at the Al Green Theatre, and although he's never transformed himself into an insect, he's played some amazing roles on the Toronto stage over the years.  From a cocaine-addled Freud in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot to a Marx Brothers-esque Einstein in Picasso at the Lapin Agile, audiences and critics alike have cheered this chameleon of a performer, capable of the broadest comedy as well as the subtlest drama.  Now he's plunging into a project that combines all these elements, as he portrays not only Franz Kafka, the Prague-born author of such classics as The Trial and Metamorphosis, but Kafka's father, a difficult and demanding man whose presence haunted his son's life.  "I've learned over the years how delicate, nuanced and brain-bending a task acting can be," sighs Nashman as he settles in for a cup of tea along the Danforth, "but this work certainly brings all of that together in one project."  Getting here has been a long and fascinating road for the 46-year-old actor, one he's been heading down (with a few detours) since childhood.  Born in Toronto, raised in Forest Hill, Nashman's father was the director of Camp Wahanowin, on the shores of Lake Couchiching. "Every kid was in a play there," recalls Nashman, "and by the time I was 4, I was handing out tickets. My first role was the King in Cinderella and I walked around in this huge robe and people applauded. It totally freaked me out, but I was hooked."  Through his school years he played in the obligatory musicals such as Bye, Bye Birdie and The Music Man (in which, to all accounts, he was an offbeat but charismatic Harold Hill), but "I couldn't bring myself to decide it was going to be my life. It took me a long to realize that what I could do as an actor was a skill, an art, not just a great way of grabbing attention."
 Nashman's internal debate continued during his years at the University of Toronto, where he studied English and history, but "I was spending a lot more energy on the three plays I did every year rather than the five subjects I was supposed to be studying."  Still, when he graduated, he was torn between "heading down the paved road of law school or the dirt road of theatre."  He opted for the pavement, but lasted a mere two months. "I had a notion of how to get a law degree with no work," he says wryly, "but the dean talked me out of it."  Nashman retraces the moment when he knew the legal profession and he would never be lasting friends.  "I was in Torts (class) and we were studying this case about how a weight at a railway station fell on an old woman. I found myself thinking it would make a great play and that's when I knew I was in the wrong place."  Although older than most of his fellow students, he entered the National Theatre School the following year, which he found "an incredibly stimulating experience, especially working with the French artists who were so aware of theatrical and political possibilities existing at the same time."  Since graduating, he's rarely looked back, although he almost never, by choice, works away from Toronto, because he prefers to be close to his family. He also will always choose a meaningful role at a smaller theatre over an empty one at a high-profile house.  "I haven't done many projects for the résumé," he confides, "and when I have, they've always bit me on the butt."  He also enjoys creating opportunities for himself. Together with director Mark Cassidy, he brought Alan Ginsberg's Howl to life in 1999 and the pair wanted to work together again.  "He creates a space in which I can soar," says Nashman, admiringly, of Cassidy's work.  And so they took a 50-page letter that Kafka wrote, but never sent, to his father, cataloguing a lifetime of living under the older man's repressive hold.  "I responded to it powerfully," admits Nashman, "even though my father was not at all oppressive. But I did know what it was like to feel inauthentic, small and unrealized. It opened up a window that explained so much."  The show has been tried out at various workshops and festivals and the result has intrigued Nashman.  "It creates a debate in the audience which I find very exciting. I want to be doing work where people are on the verge of tears and yet laughing at the same time."  And he's never sorry he didn't become a lawyer.  "I fell in love with theatre,'' he says firmly, "and it remains my first love."

From Queen Street West to the Great White Way

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt

 (Mar. 3, 2006) New York — Let's say you're a Broadway producer. You've got a show, an entirely new show that you love. You're positive that everyone else will love it too: Why else would you have committed the last year and a half of your life to getting it onstage? You've assembled a consortium of backers who have put up $10-million (U.S.) just to get it this far. You've snagged a theatre in a crowded season. You've wrapped a successful tryout in Los Angeles. As we speak, your cast of 17 and creative team are flying into New York for rehearsals, which will begin this Wednesday. The first preview is only 26 days later, and opening night follows exactly four weeks later. All systems are in place. So here's the heart of the matter: How do you sell $1-million (U.S.) worth of tickets a week to a show that practically nobody's heard of? You cast your eyes across the Broadway musical-theatre landscape, and this is what you see stacked up against your baby: big stars and big brands.  There's Tarzan, music by Phil Collins, money by Disney. There's Lestat, adapted from an Anne Rice novel, music by Elton John, money by Warner Bros. There's a show about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. A show about Johnny Cash. A show produced by Oprah Winfrey. How do you position a smart, funny musical from first-time Broadway writers, with an ensemble cast and a lead from Canada? The producers of The Drowsy Chaperone figure they need to take an unconventional and slightly ironic approach, maybe sneak up on people with stealth advertising. So when the first ad hits in tomorrow's New York Times Arts & Leisure section, a splashy full-page trumpeting the show's May 4 opening at the Marquis Theater on Broadway, this is what it will say: “Sometimes you can tell just by looking at a title that a show is going to be amazing. This is not one of those times.” Not everyone is unaware of The Drowsy Chaperone. Some Canadians — or at least those in the Greater Toronto Area, where the show was mounted in four successively larger productions between 1998 and 2001 — know all about it.
 This may just be one of those examples of our country producing something extraordinary that has failed to jump the border just because of insufficient PR — like butter tarts and the concept of a purely symbolic head of state. For The Drowsy Chaperone, which will be the first musical created by Canadians to make it to Broadway in more than 25 years, is a charmer. It opens on an unnamed Man in Chair sitting alone in his dowdy apartment, surrounded by 78-rpm records of classic Broadway musicals and glamour shots of stars from long ago.  As he drops the phonograph needle on the album of a long-lost 1920s musical known as The Drowsy Chaperone, the show comes to life in his apartment, complete with ditsy chorines, a pair of gangsters and a host of other lovably stock characters. The Man in Chair, whose bottomless knowledge of musicals can verge on comically obnoxious, interrupts to comment on the show and, sometimes, to deliver delicious gossip about the stars we're seeing (the fictional ones, not the real ones). The show's ironic smarts may provide a joyful evening in the theatre, but they don't make for easy marketing: If you're a producer, you can't just promise “Singing Cats!” or “Dancing Hobbits!” “I always thought we would probably do a better job of confusing people by trying to explain, in the very limited space of an ad, what's really going on,” agrees Roy Miller, one of the show's producers. “We want people to know it's a musical and it's very funny, but we don't want people to think this is just a fluffy 1920s musical like any other 1920s musical.” Kevin McCollum, another producer whose credits include the Tony Award-winners Rent and Avenue Q, says , “This show comes from a wit and sensibility that celebrates not only the form but also actually anyone who has ever gone to the theatre, and anybody who might be suspicious of the theatre — and that's basically everybody.” McCollum came on to the show after seeing a workshop in New York in the fall of 2004. Miller was one of the men behind that; he'd first seen a production at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto in the summer of 2001. But its roots go back much further. Indeed, the origin myth of Drowsy Chaperone has been repeated so often it has acquired an almost Biblical sheen.
 In July, 1998, friends of the actors Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff, who were engaged to be married the following month, presented an evening of standup comedy and song in the backroom of Toronto's Rivoli bar on Queen Street West to toast the couple. Everyone had such a good time, they decided to remount the musical portion of the evening the following year at the Toronto Fringe Festival, adding a framing device of a man who would comment on the action. There were 13 actors and a pit band of four, and in a highly unusual move, the company created a royalty pool for everyone who had contributed material, promising a small share of whatever future revenues the show might generate. For more revenues were on their way. The fringe show was such a hit that it moved to Theatre Passe Muraille in November, 1999, where it sold out a three-week run. By then, the show was officially credited to the same four people who are on their way to Broadway for rehearsals: Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, who wrote the music and lyrics, and Bob Martin and Don McKellar, who collaborated on the book. (Martin, who also plays Man in Chair, is the only cast member remaining from any of the Canadian productions.) Mirvish Productions placed an expanded version of Chaperone in its subscription season in June, 2001, which ran for seven weeks at the Winter Garden, earning back its $2-million investment. It still wasn't quite the show envisioned by its writers, but no one in Canada had either the money or drive to develop it further. For three years, the property was shopped around to prospective directors and backers in the U.S., with no bites. Then, in October, 2004, the New York workshop attracted the attention of some deep-pocketed producers, and Chaperone was suddenly on a fast track to a major production. (It would thus become the first musical on Broadway created by Canadian talent since the two-man Billy Bishop Goes to War played 12 regular performances in the spring of 1980 at the Morosco Theatre, which was demolished in 1982 to make way for the Marquis: Chaperone's new home. The previous Canadian entrant was the rock ‘n' roll musical Rockabye Hamlet, which started at the Charlottetown Festival before moving to Broadway in 1976 and closing after only seven regular performances.) Casey Nicholaw, who won acclaim for choreographing Spamalot, agreed to make Chaperone his Broadway directorial debut. (He also choreographs.) Some major performing talent signed on, including the Tony-winning actress Sutton Foster ( Thoroughly Modern Millie), Georgia Engel (TV's The Mary Tyler Moore Show), and Edward Hibbert (TV's Frasier). They opened at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in early November to strong reviews, including a rave for Martin in the showbiz bible Variety.
 “That's when we could actually do the musical we were always sort of just evoking,” says McKellar. A long-time denizen of Toronto's alternative theatre scene, McKellar overcame his natural aversion to musicals over the years of writing and re-writing Chaperone, and ended up falling in love with the notion of creating a big, splashy, heartfelt song-and-dance show. “We've never really had dancing before,” he adds. “There's a certain primal pleasure of musicals that we're now able to exploit. When people are tap dancing their hearts out onstage, there's a pleasure that's undeniable.” Martin agrees. “The production in L.A. was the best we've had. It was the most complete, the most fully realized, and the most successful in terms of audience reaction.” And as the show became more polished, it achieved its greatest level of irony, too. “Doing a musical comedy is so American,” says McKellar. “And the whole Canadian thing is brought up constantly. I do feel this device we have, with the man observing, is a Canadian device: making wry commentaries, enjoying the excesses of the American musical, but also standing outside of it.” And, occasionally, being swept up in the surreal American swirl. Every night in L.A., celebrities popped by backstage after the show to offer praise. “We were all excited to meet Henry Winkler on opening night,” says McKellar. Eric Idle, Tracey Ullman, Elliott Gould, Jo Anne Worley came by. Mel Brooks shocked everyone when he burst in during a post-show Q&A Bob Martin was doing, to say how much he enjoyed the show. For the moment, the lives of the Chaperone foursome are a lot more mundane than that. They're finishing up their taxes, finding house-sitters, trying to locate people who will take care of their cats for — well, who knows how long they'll be gone? On Wednesday night, about 100 of their friends and relatives gathered at Rancho Relaxo in Toronto to wish Lambert, McKellar, Martin and Morrison farewell. It was a reunion of sorts, with some members of the original Fringe company seeing each other for the first time in years. All night long, until the bar closed down and people trickled out onto College Street and went their separate ways, they laughed and reminisced and talked excitedly of New York, as if still trying to convince each other that Broadway was not just a dream in their heads. This is what the evening's invitation promised: Music. Appetizers. Shared Disbelief.

Neve Campbell Appears In Arthur Miller Play

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Mar. 6, 2006) London -- A Robert Altman production of Arthur Miller's last play, starring Canadian Neve Campbell, opened to mixed reviews in London this weekend. Resurrection Blues, Miller's satire on the collision of violence, religion and commerce, features Campbell as a troubled silver-spoon revolutionary. Matthew Modine plays an American ad executive, and Austrian actor Maximilian Schell as an impetuous Latin American dictator. Most British critics savaged the show.  The Times' Benedict Nightingale called Resurrection Blues an "interesting, uneven play."  The Guardian's Michael Billington dismissed the "clumsily inept, poorly acted" production.  Miller's script was first staged in 2002, when the playwright was 86, and revised shortly before his death last year.  Resurrection Blues runs at the Old Vic in London until April 22. AP

Rings Ready For Reviews

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Mar. 8, 2006) Just like a baseball player who gets whipped into shape during spring training,
The Lord of the Rings looks like it's finally ready to face the major leagues.  All of this has happened just in time, because even though the official opening night isn't until March 23, media begin attending performances March 17.  And for the first time in recent memory, a truly impressive collection of press will be piling into Toronto to weigh in on The Lord of the Rings.  Even in the heyday of Garth Drabinsky's Livent empire, there was never such a turnout as the Mirvish organization is expecting this weekend.  Critics from England, Germany, Finland, France and Australia, international news magazines like Time and Newsweek and American reviewers from New York, Los Angeles and Chicago will be coming here to decide if it's thumbs up or down for Frodo and his Middle-earth friends.  Producer Kevin Wallace is thrilled at the response.  "You can't hide with a project like this and we never wanted to," Wallace says.  He's feeling optimistic because the $28 million dollar epic has slashed its running time to the relatively sleek 3 1/2 hours it always aspired to, a far cry from the nearly five hours it clocked in at its initial preview on Feb. 4.  There were also numerous technical problems and delays that cast a cloud over the proceedings initially, but the complex show is said to be running smoothly.  The 40-tonne triple-interlocking turntable stage with its 17 elevators, which caused the initial preview to stop dead in its tracks, has been spinning lately without a hitch.  Along with the reduced length and scenic ease has apparently come an increased confidence in performance.  Early comments from theatre-goers expressed severe reservations about the show, but Internet comments in the past few days have used words like "spectacular," "amazing" and "extraordinary."


We Remember: Dana Reeve

 Source: Jim Fitzgerald, Associated Press

 (Mar. 8, 2006) White Plains, N.Y. — Dana Reeve, who won worldwide admiration for her devotion to her "Superman" husband, Christopher Reeve, through his decade of near-total paralysis, has died of lung cancer at the age of 44. Reeve, a singer-actress who gave up some of her own career to be one of the nation's best-known caregivers, died late Monday at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Medical Center, said Kathy Lewis, president of the Christopher Reeve Foundation. Reeve had succeeded her husband as chair of the foundation, which funded research into spinal-cord paralysis cures. She announced in August that, while she wasn't a smoker, she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Lewis visited Reeve in the hospital Friday and said Reeve was "tired but with her typical sense of humour and smile, always trying to make other people feel good, her characteristic personality." "She was a woman with an incredible heart who really put herself out there to help people with disabilities and especially those who are caregivers — something she knew a lot about," Lewis said. Four months ago, at a fundraising gala for the foundation, Reeve looked healthy in a long, formal gown and said she was responding well to treatment and her tumour was shrinking. "I'm beating the odds and defying every statistic the doctors can throw at me," Reeve said then. "My prognosis looks better all the time." Asked how she kept her spirits up, Reeve said she "had a great model."
 "I was married to a man who never gave up," she said. She was still looking well on Jan. 13, when she sang Carole King's Now and Forever at Madison Square Garden during the retirement ceremony for Mark Messier's New York Rangers jersey. "Despite the adversity that she faced, Dana bravely met these challenges and was always an extremely devoted wife, mother and advocate," former president Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement Tuesday. They described Reeve as "a model of tenacity and grace" and an "inspiration to us." Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., said of Reeve: "I thought that after everything that she had gone through with Chris that she would have time to smell the flowers and be in the sun. But apparently that was not meant to be." Christopher Reeve, star of Hollywood's Superman movies, died Oct. 10, 2004. After a horse-riding accident paralyzed him in 1995, he became an activist for spinal cord research. Dana Reeve was a constant companion and supporter of her husband during his long ordeal and his work for a cure for spinal cord injuries. The couple had a 13-year-old son, Will, and Dana Reeve had two grown stepchildren, Matthew and Alexandra. Reeve, who lived in Pound Ridge, had appeared on Broadway, off-Broadway and regional stages and on the TV shows Law & Order, Oz, and All My Children. She was performing in the Broadway-bound play Brooklyn Boy in California when she had to rush home to reach her husband's bedside before he died. She gave up the role for the New York run.
 A month after she was widowed, before her own diagnosis, she told The Associated Press, "I definitely will be getting back to acting. ... I am an actress and I do have to make a living." Reeve also was on the board of the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts, where she met Christopher Reeve doing summer theatre, and the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. A year ago, she won a Mother of the Year award from the American Cancer Society. A society vice-president, Dr. Michael Thun, said Reeve "has shown strength and courage in the face of tremendous adversity." Doctors say one in five women diagnosed with the disease never lit a cigarette. In addition to her son and stepchildren, she is survived by her father, Dr. Charles Morosini, and sisters Deborah Morosini and Adrienne Morosini Heilman. No funeral plans were announced. The family said donations could be made in Dana Reeve's memory to the Christopher Reeve Foundation in Short Hills, N.J.


Make Tracks To Summerhill Restaurant

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Amy Pataki

(Mar. 4, 2006) In the category of "This I Gotta See," a developer is proposing to build a restaurant on an unused portion of railway track outside the Summerhill LCBO.  Woodcliffe Corp. plans to construct a gourmet restaurant on the southern edge of the CP Rail bridge above Yonge St., right beside a working track.  How will the rumbling influence the dinner experience? When I lived in the area, I heard the noise clearly though the tracks were three blocks away. The new restaurant might as well be in the centre of a Highway 401 cloverleaf ramp. Who the heck would pay big money to eat foie gras with the walls rattling?  In other neighbourhood news, Patachou, the oh-so-French patisserie amongst the Five Robbers gourmet stores, has decamped across Yonge St. to the former Demarco-Perpich flower store at MacPherson Ave. The stylishly renovated room still buzzes on a weekday morning with well-heeled locals taking their croissants and café au lait. Moving into the old Patachou will be MBCo., the Montreal-based bakery that first touched down around here in Yorkville. A third MBCo. — those in the know pronounce it "embiko," Japanese-style — is planned for the Toronto-Dominion Centre.  Further down Yonge St., the landlord has closed Banjara Indian Cuisine for non-payment of rent. Too bad, we liked the gingery butter chicken. Chef/owner Rajesh Veerella plans to reopen downtown.


Jays Have Inside Track Over Raptors

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Garth Woolsey
 (Mar. 6, 2006) Not that there is an easy answer, but it is a question worth kicking around anyway: Which of the Toronto teams — the Blue Jays, Raptors or Maple Leafs — is the most likely to be first to win a championship?  What's involved here is speculation, voodoo and an earnest effort at assessing not only the current state of the franchises in question, but also their longer-term prospects. And, yes, off the top, it is entirely possible that there will be no championship in the works for T.O. for a long, long time.  The Leafs have been in the wilderness since 1967, the Jays since 1993, the Raptors have never had so much as a sniff. The wait could be interminable.  (As for the Argonauts or Rock or any other team in any other league — congratulations, but you're excused from this forensic examination and reading of the entrails, CSI: Toronto, Pro Sports Division.)  The three operations are at radically different stages of development. The Jays, despite the fact they've had only one winning season in their last five, are laden with positive possibilities, thanks in large part to a free agent spending spree that followed several seasons of deep-down fiscal and competitive cleansing. The patient approach as preached by J.P. Ricciardi and Paul Godfrey has finally reached the stage at which there may be tangible payoffs in the won-lost column.  For what it is worth, the oddsmakers in Nevada have the Blue Jays in the range of 8-to-1 (bet $1 to win $8) to win the American League pennant this season. As they have to come out of the AL East, ahead of either or both of the Red Sox and Yankees, that's a tough job and a realistic number.  As for the baseball gurus, most view the Jays as legitimate, if still outside, contenders. The new players will have to live up to advance billing, Roy Halladay will have to stay healthy, there will have to be better production from the outfield and infield corners and, crucially, the infield defence must withstand the loss of Corey Koskie and especially, Orlando Hudson.
 The Jays time may be close, if not now. Their farm system is good, if not great. They may well be in the process of returning to perennial viability in a sport that places value on player development but also allows for wild spending, if Ted Rogers so chooses.  Those same oddsmakers look at the Raptors and come up with a number, any number, so long as it is at least, say, 350-to-1 to win the NBA championship this season. Which is entirely realistic. But the recent signing of a new GM in Bryan Colangelo and the promise of an emergent franchise player in Chris Bosh (with Charlie Villanueva in support) bodes well for the future, longer term. With this franchise "stab-ility" has stood for back-stabbing and the ability to avoid it (or not). Who knows what clear, informed thinking from the top down might accomplish. It is certainly true that given the small NBA rosters and the importance of the draft and salary cap that teams can be turned around relatively quickly.  Which brings us to the Maple Leafs. The oddsmakers, not surprisingly, view them as a fading contender. They've gone from 20-to-1 to win the Stanley Cup to 50-to-1 in a matter of days but most everyone understands their real chances are as remote as, say, Eddie Belfour winning the Vezina.  Realistically, most pre-season forecasts had the Leafs fighting for a playoff position, which is exactly where they stand. But GM John Ferguson Jr.'s off-season signings have been worse than most imagined. Jeff O'Neill is minus-19, Eric Lindros is done for the season, with 11 goals (the same as Mats Sundin); Jason Allison is erratic at best; ditto Alexander Khavanov. Two of team's top three scorers are defencemen, Belfour's save percentage is .891. And, so on.  Whatever long-term hope there is for the Leafs centres around the younger players, but that group hardly inspires wild optimism. When's the last time the Leafs drafted a genuine "franchise" player? At least they have depth at the all-important goaltending position, with Mikael Tellqvist, Justin Pogge and Tuukka Rask.  So ... of the three, odds to be the first to win a title: Jays 5-to-1, Raptors 8-to-1, Leafs 12-to-1. Chance that none will do it in the next 10 years? Say, even money.

Baseball Great Puckett Dead

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Dave Campbell, Associated Press

(Mar. 7, 2006) MINNEAPOLIS - Kirby Puckett, the bubbly, barrel-shaped Hall of Famer who carried the Minnesota Twins to two World Series titles before his career was cut short by glaucoma, died Monday after a stroke. He was 45.  Puckett, whose weight gain in recent years concerned those close to him, was stricken early Sunday at his Arizona home. He died at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.  “He was a Hall of Famer in every sense of the term,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “He played his entire career with the Twins and was an icon in Minnesota. But he was revered throughout the country and will be remembered wherever the game is played. Kirby was taken from us much too soon — and too quickly.”  Puckett was the second-youngest person to die already a member of the Hall of Fame, Hall spokesman Jeff Idelson said. Only Lou Gehrig, at 37, was younger.  Puckett led the Twins to championships in 1987 and 1991. He broke into the majors in 1984 and had a career batting average of .318. Glaucoma left the six-time Gold Glove centre fielder and 10-time all-star with no choice but to retire after the 1995 season when he went blind in his right eye.  “I wore one uniform in my career and I’m proud to say that,” Puckett once said. “As a kid growing up in Chicago, people thought I’d never do anything. I’ve always tried to play the game the right way. I thought I did pretty good with the talent that I have.”

He was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first try in 2001, and his plaque praised his “ever-present smile and infectious exuberance.” Yet, out of the game, the five-foot-eight Puckett let himself fall out of shape.  “It’s a tough thing to see a guy go through something like that and come to this extent,” former teammate Kent Hrbek said.  “That’s what really hurt him bad, when he was forced out of the game,” he said. “I don’t know if he ever recovered from it.”  Asked what he would remember the most from their playing days, Hrbek quickly answered, “Just his smile, his laughter and his love for the game.”  Puckett had been in intensive care since having surgery at another hospital. His family, friends and former teammates gathered Monday at St. Joseph’s. He was given last rites and died in the afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Kimberly Lodge said.  Puckett wanted his organs to be donated. In a statement, his family and friends thanked his fans for their thoughts and prayers.  “It’s tough to take,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said from the team’s spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla. “He had some faults, we knew that, but when all was said and done he would treat you as well as he would anyone else. No matter who you were.  “When you’re around him, he makes you feel pretty good about yourself. He can make you laugh. He can do a lot of things that can light up a room. He’s a beauty,” he said.  A makeshift memorial began to form Monday night outside the Metrodome, with a handful of bouquets laid on the sidewalk.  “This is a sad day for the Minnesota Twins, Major League Baseball and baseball fans everywhere,” Twins owner Carl Pohlad said.  Puckett’s signature performance came in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series against Atlanta. After telling anyone who would listen before the game that he would lead the Twins to victory that night at the Metrodome, he made a leaping catch against the fence and then hit a game-ending homer in the 11th inning to force a seventh game.  The next night, Minnesota’s Jack Morris went all 10 innings to outlast John Smoltz and pitch the Twins to a 1-0 win for their second championship in five years.  “If we had to lose and if one person basically was the reason — you never want to lose — but you didn’t mind it being Kirby Puckett. When he made the catch and when he hit the home run you could tell the whole thing had turned,” Smoltz said.  “His name just seemed to be synonymous with being a superstar,” the Braves’ pitcher said. “It’s not supposed to happen like this.”

Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk echoed Smoltz’s sentiment.  “There was no player I enjoyed playing against more than Kirby. He brought such joy to the game. He elevated the play of everyone around him,” Fisk said in a statement to the Hall.  Puckett’s birthdate was frequently listed as March 14, 1961, but recent research by the Hall of Fame indicated he was born a year earlier.  Perhaps the most popular athlete ever to play in Minnesota, Puckett was a guest coach at Twins spring training camp in 1996, but hadn’t worked for the team since 2002. He kept a low profile since being cleared of assault charges in 2003, when he was accused of groping a woman at a suburban Twin Cities restaurant.  The youngest of nine children born into poverty in a Chicago housing project, Puckett was drafted by the Twins in 1982 and became a regular just two years later. He got four hits in his first major league start and finished with 2,304 in only 12 seasons.  Though his power numbers, 207 home runs and 1,085 RBIs, weren’t exceptional, Puckett won an AL batting title in 1989 and was considered one of the best all-around players of his era. His esteem and enthusiasm for the game factored into his Hall of Fame election as much as his statistics and championship rings.  He made his mark on baseball’s biggest stage, leading heavy underdog Minnesota to a seven-game victory over St. Louis in 1987 and then doing the same against Atlanta in one of the most thrilling Series in history.  The Twins returned to the Metrodome that year after losing 14-5 in Game 5, needing to win two straight to get the trophy. Puckett famously walked into the clubhouse hours before Game 6, cajoling his teammates to jump on his back and let him carry them to victory.  Sure enough, after robbing Ron Gant of an extra-base hit with a leaping catch against the wall in the third inning, Puckett homered off Charlie Leibrandt to send the Series to Game 7.  “There are a lot of great players in this game, but only one Kirby,” pitcher Rick Aguilera said when Puckett announced his retirement. “It was his character that meant more to his teammates. He brought a great feeling to the clubhouse, the plane, everywhere.”  Puckett’s best year was 1988, when he batted .356 with 24 home runs, 42 doubles and 121 RBIs. A contact hitter and stolen base threat in the minors who hit a total of four homers in his first two major league seasons, Puckett developed a power stroke in 1986 and went deep a career-best 31 times.  He became a fixture in the third spot in Minnesota’s line-up, a free-swinging outfielder with a strong arm and a flair for nifty catches despite his 220-pound frame that made him look more like a fullback. The man known simply as “Puck” was immensely popular. Fans loved his style, especially the high leg kick he used as he prepared to swing. Public address announcer Bob Casey, who became a close friend, introduced him with vigour before every at-bat, ``KIR-beeeeeeeeee PUCK-it.”  As free agency and expansion turned over rosters more frequently in the 1990s, Puckett was one of the rare stars who never switched teams.

Hit by a pitch that broke his jaw on his last at-bat of the 1995 season, Puckett woke up one morning the following spring and couldn’t see out of his right eye. It was eventually diagnosed as glaucoma, forcing him to call it quits that July.  He received baseball’s Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award for community service that year, and the Twins — trying to boost sagging attendance during some lean seasons in the late 1990s — frequently turned to Puckett-related promotions. He had a spot in the front office and sometimes made stops at the state Capitol to help stump for a new stadium.  Though he steadfastly refused to speak pessimistically about the premature end to his career, Puckett’s personal life began to deteriorate after that. Shortly after his induction to Cooperstown, his then-wife, Tonya, accused him of threatening to kill her during an argument — he denied it — and described to police a history of violence and infidelity. In 2003, he was cleared of all charges from an alleged sexual assault of a woman at a suburban Twin Cities restaurant.  He kept a low profile after the trial and eventually moved to Arizona. The Twins kept trying to re-establish a connection and get him to come to spring training again as a guest instructor.  Puckett, who was divorced, is survived by his children, Catherine and Kirby Jr.

We Remember: Baseball Hall Of Famer Kirby Puckett Dies

Excerpt from

(Mar. 7, 2006) *Former Minnesota Twins player Kirby Puckett died Monday, a day after suffering a stroke at his home in Arizona. He was 44.  Puckett died at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. He had been in intensive care since having surgery at another hospital following his stroke Sunday morning. The hospital said Puckett was given last rites and died in the afternoon. "On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am terribly saddened by the sudden passing of Kirby Puckett," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "He was a Hall of Famer in every sense of the term. Puckett broke into the majors in 1984 and had a career batting average of .318. Glaucoma forced the six-time Gold Glove center fielder and 10-time All-Star to retire when he went blind in his right eye. "This is a sad day for the Minnesota Twins, Major League Baseball and baseball fans everywhere," Twins owner Carl Pohlad said. At EUR deadline time, funeral plans had not been released.

Raps' MoPete A Changed Man

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Doug Smith, Sports Reporter
 (Mar. 7, 2006) Vince Carter knows
Morris Peterson's game almost as well as the Raptor swingman knows it himself, having practised against him thousands of times and watched him in hundreds of games.  So when the two met on the weekend in New Jersey and Peterson started doing a few things that were out of the ordinary, Carter was a bit surprised.  And impressed.  No longer is Peterson simply a spot-up shooter who waits impatiently for passes that may or may not come so he can launch a three-pointer in the corner. No longer is he passive on offence, and people are really starting to pay attention to him.  "MoPete's game has changed, man," said Carter. "He always was a confident player but he's really growing and making the best of his opportunities."  Peterson, who had a team-high 27 points as Toronto snapped a six-game losing streak by beating Boston on Sunday, now gets as many of his points on mid-range jumpers as he does on three-pointers from the corner.  He's still pretty deadly from long range but teams have to be careful now or he'll blow by a defender for an easier shot.  "He' starting to pump-fake and step inside that three-point line a lot more and that's something we've been encouraging Mo to do since we got here," said coach Sam Mitchell. "People respect his three-point shooting so they're going to run out hard on him. That light is coming on that, `You know, I don't have to shoot a three every time.'"
 Peterson is enjoying his best season as a Raptor, averaging 15.2 points per game and shooting 40 per cent from three-point range. He has become integral to Toronto's offence, a testament to the faith Mitchell has in him to be more aggressive taking the ball to the basket.  "I want to be an all-around scorer," Peterson said. "I like to go right at guys when I can."  In a subtle move, Peterson usually gets the first shot of every game for the Raptors, curling off a screen to catch the ball near the foul line, from where he'll either get an open 15-foot jumper or a path to the basket. It's an early notice to opponents that Peterson's changed.  "He's more of a one-dribble shooter now ... and he'll go right a little more," said Carter. "I didn't want to tell him that, but I was thinking, `He has some new stuff.'"  That's thanks in no small part to Mitchell and the Raptor staff, who have been working with Peterson in practice to turn him into more of a catch-and-shoot specialist and driver than someone whose offence was static.  "He's been aggressive coming off picks, he's been working hard on his mid-range game," said the coach.  Peterson's heavy workload is no secret — he played 49 of 53 minutes against the Nets on Saturday and all 48 in Sunday's win over Boston — and neither is his defensive assignment each night.  He always gets the other team's best scorer and he'll get one of the best in the game tonight and tomorrow when Toronto plays a back-to-back, home-and-home set with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Having primarily covered Atlanta's Joe Johnson, New Jersey's Carter and Boston's Paul Pierce in his last three games, Peterson is about to get a double dose of LeBron James.  "He never complains, just does his job," Mitchell said.  Mitchell might give Peterson some defensive help tonight. The coach said the Raptors are going to start Eric Williams for a third straight game because the veteran forward's "basketball IQ" will come in handy with some game-plan changes Mitchell will put in place.  "We're going to have to do some different things against Cleveland and we're going to need people who can adjust on the fly," said the coach. "We're going to try some things a little different. They may work, they may not, but we're going to try."

Canadians Didn't Invent Skating, But Museum Of Civilization Shows That The Sport Is In Our Blood

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Val Ross
 (Mar. 8, 2006) GATINEAU, QUE. — Of the two exhibitions currently on offer in the nation's capital, the one that best achieves the desired effect of patriotic propaganda is not Weapons of Mass Dissemination, the Canadian War Museum's thought-provoking survey of wartime exhortation, but rather Lace Up: Canada's Passion for Skating, the celebration of skating's development and place in Canadian society, at the Museum of Civilization until next March. From your first exposure to the "taster" video -- it's a charming split-screen production showing a child taking tumbles on a pond, and moving on to point-of-view footage of speed skaters coursing down the frozen Rideau Canal, all set to plangent musical accompaniment -- Lace Up is a deft appeal to warm sentiment about Canadianness. The appeal works. "The numbers for Lace Up have been very good," says Museum of Civilization chief executive officer Victor Rabinovitch, "about 4,000 people a week." They'll likely keep coming, buoyed by the Canadian Olympic team's record haul of 24 medals, eight of them for prowess at long-track speed skating, four for short-track, and a gold for women's hockey. (The museum is investing another $5,000 in order to incorporate an extra minute of the latest Olympic triumphs into the video montage at the show's finale.) If there is a unifying force in this fractured land, it is our passion for moving fast on frozen surfaces, a passion even felt by some who don't skate (see sidebar). A highlight of the show is a pair of Dutch skates, circa 1730, their blades hand-painted with a scene of people gliding on a frozen canal. These are not the show's oldest skates. That claim belongs to a pair of bones, on loan from Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum -- objects drilled by a 10th-century skate-maker so that they could be attached to a boot by means of thongs. Medieval images show that users of these proto-skates propelled themselves along not by powerful foot movements, but with poles. And even this was perilous: A wall graphic replicates a 1498 engraving of St. Ludwina, skating's patron saint, whose fall on ice crippled her for life (but whose suffering led to many miracles). Canadians didn't invent skating, but they've slid right into it -- perhaps too eagerly.
 One of the show's rare acknowledgments of skating's unruly side is an ordnance issued in Quebec City in December, 1748, by François Bigot, Intendant de Nouvelle France: "It has been reported that children and even grownups slide on sleds, on skates . . . on the various hills of this city, exposing passers-by to accidents. . . ." The decree declared this "expressly prohibited and forbidden . . .," and threatened: "The said children shall remain in prison until their said fathers and mothers have paid the said fine." This raises an intriguing idea that our history includes repeated failed attempts to control the dark forces unleashed by people speeding around with knives on their feet. Alas, Lace Up skates past any controversy. You won't see exhibits of hockey violence; absent, too, is the Richard Riot of March, 1955, -- a pivotal event in Quebec history, when a hockey-drunk mob 10,000-strong rampaged through Montreal in support of their hero Maurice Richard, challenging Quebec's anglo authorities (in fairness, the museum deals with this in its Maurice Richard exhibition, now on tour). If almost the only allusion to hockey's iconic role in Quebec nationalism is a wall text from The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier, much is made of skating's role in Canadian nation-building. Canadians, we are told, constructed the world's first indoor rinks (one 1860s Montreal dome could hold 3,000 people). We invented the tube skate, a hollow cylinder of metal above the actual blade, which contributed strength without adding to a skate's weight. And we codified the rules of hockey (the exhibition attributes this to Montreal in 1875, over competing claims from Kingston and Halifax).
 Much is also made of skating's heroes. A clip of Barbara Ann Scott, Canada's sweetheart and 1948 Olympic figure-skating gold medalist, shows her talking about the great pride skaters feel in representing Canada (her skates are displayed alongside the baby skates of Wayne Gretzky). And there are homemade gold medals made of jewellery donated by fans of Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, after they were initially denied Olympic gold in 2002. Throughout the entire exhibition area, you are always in earshot of strains of the national anthem. That and cheering. This is the soundtrack for the final display, a video of Olympic highlights from Chamonix, 1924, (we won the hockey gold) to the latest haul (the updated footage should be in place by April). Museum project manager Julie Leclair says people sit and watch this video from beginning to end. Some even cheer. So clearly, Lace Up tugs at the right strings, even if it puts skating's more slippery aspects on ice. Lace Up: Canada's Passion for Skating continues at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que., to March 4, 2007 (800-555-5621).
Nice Ice, Baby
Of the 200 objects organized by curator Bianca Gendreau, more than 60 came from the private hoard of Jean-Marie Leduc, a retired Ottawa-area printing-press operator whose painful fallen arches prevented him from personally lacing up for most of his life. No matter, he became the world's foremost collector of skate artifacts. One of his loans to Lace Up is a pair of Bobby Hull's tube skates (pictured above), well-worn by the ace player in his National Hockey League career.