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Updated:  May 18, 2006

Heading into the long weekend in May - wahhooo!  Happy Victoria Day! Please celebrate safely.  Don't forget to check out Kayte Burgess TONIGHT at Revival!  (Details below!)   Another jam-packed newsletter this week!

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




Kayte Burgess At Revival – May 18

Join Kayte Burgess and some special friends, Saidah Baba Talibah, Darp Malone and Ms Davis for Urban Soul Live on Thursday, May 18th at Revival!  It will showcase some of Kayte’s much-anticipated new material and I know you won’t want to miss it!  DJ Sean Sax will be spinning for the night as well.

DJ Sean Sax will be spinning
783 College St. (at Shaw)
Doors open at 9:00pm
Show is at 10:45 pm
$5 before 10:30’  $8 after


Free Fitness Newsletter


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Toronto's Elaine Overholt Teaches Ellen DeGeneres To Sing

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Reporter

(May 17, 2006) If you've ever seen the free-form mayhem that Ellen DeGeneres calls dancing, can you imagine what she'd be like singing?  That question will be answered on today's edition of her television program, when Toronto vocal coach Elaine Overholt steps in to teach DeGeneres how to lift her voice in song.  "It was definitely an out-of-body experience" is how Overholt jokingly describes her six minutes on the air with DeGeneres, which was taped on Monday.  "She was an absolutely terrific sport and tried everything I suggested, really throwing herself into it."  Overholt is known for her prowess at getting non-singers to vocalize and did some of her most notable work on the movie Chicago with Renée Zellweger and Richard Gere.  She employed a crash-course version of the same techniques she used with them on DeGeneres.  "I had her work on `Taking Away the Fear' by getting into her lower body and jumping up and down. She loved that. Then I got her to loosen her jaw and connect with her voice by doing what I call `Exploding Into Relaxation.'" 

Overholt demonstrates over the phone from L.A. with a shrill scream that somehow slides into a melodic sound.  "Can you imagine Ellen doing that?" she laughs.  The song they finally settled on performing was "California Dreamin'" and Overholt told DeGeneres not to enunciate so clearly but to "enjoy the consonants in a drunken way."  "I can get into that," announced DeGeneres as she proceeded to lie down on the floor, while she slurred her words.  The on-screen chemistry between the two women proved so hilariously successful that the producers of the show asked Overholt to stay on a few more days in L.A. and tape an additional two episodes, possibly leading to ongoing appearances on the program.  "I don't where this will wind up," says Overholt, "but I'm having a hell of a time."

Jay-Z's Hot Discovery Is Back: Rihanna Hits #1

Source: Amina Elshahawi, ThinkTank Marketing,;  

(May 5, 2006) Def Jam recording artist Rihanna is buoyed by the top 10 debut entry of her second album, A GIRL LIKE ME (follow-up to her RIAA gold debut, Music of the Sun), as she rides the crest of this year’s biggest crossover smash, “S.O.S.” – which takes over the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, Pop 100, Hot Digital Songs Chart, Hot Dance Club Play Chart, and Billboard Monitor and R&R (Radio & Records) Pop charts.  With “S.O.S.” popping everywhere, “Unfaithful” (co-written by Def Jam label mate Ne-Yo and produced by Stargate) is taking off as A GIRL LIKE ME’s second single pick. The song debuts at #34-bullet on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 chart and is #1 most added at Rhythm, putting the song on more than 85 stations as of impact date. The video for “Unfaithful,” directed by Anthony Mandler, made its MTV debut this week on TRL – where “S.O.S.” has already enjoyed its own #1 stay. The “S.O.S.” video, directed by Chris Applebaum , was also # 1 on AOL video (with over 8 million plays to date) and Top 5 at Yahoo! Music. Taking off behind an infectious taste of “Tainted Love” (the Soft Cell classic), “S.O.S.” has logged more than 157,000 iTunes downloads to date, and was the biggest first week digital single EVER! On May 15, go to MSNVIDEO.COM where MSN will feature an exclusive album release party and performance from from Barbados!

 “S.O.S.” is a worldwide phenomenon that has gone #1 on the Canadian Airplay chart, the Japanese International chart, the Australian singles chart, the French airplay chart and European airplay chart. In this country, it marks the second time Rihanna has topped the Dance Club chart since last summer 2005, when her #1 “Pon De Replay” stopped traffic in the U.S. and Europe, and was certified a triple-platinum digital download by the RIAA.  The beautiful young Barbados native, personally signed by Def Jam president and CEO Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, has caught the eyes of NIKE and JC Penny for high-level endorsement deals. NIKE chose “S.O.S.” as the theme for an exclusive video, choreographed by the world renowned Jamie King (Madonna and Shakira) which launched their newest clothing line (check out the video at Similarly captivated by Rihanna, JC Penny has chosen Rihanna as the new face of Miss Bisou in their stores nationwide as well as in their advertising campaigns. Her video and music will be featured in all Junior’s sections of the stores. Meanwhile, Rihanna is making her movie debut in a cameo role playing herself in the upcoming cheerleader flick, Bring It On: All Or Nothing, currently in production. After making appearances last week on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, Live with Regis & Kelly, MTV’s TRL and CD USA, Rihanna is looking forward to future appearances on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly and more.

Christina Milian is So Amazin’

Source:  Universal Urban

(May 15, 2006) It's official people! Def Jam recording artist Christina Milian returns with her new album entitled So Amazin' on May 16th! After putting the game on 'smash' in 2004 with her #1 single "Dip It Low" off her 2nd album It's About Time, Christina has been hard at work (did we mention she was also nominated for 2 Grammys?); not only in the recording studio, but also on the silver screen. She starred in such movies as "Be Cool" with John Travolta, "Torque" with Ice Cube, "Man Of The House" alongside Tommy Lee Jones, and her next movie project is due out this summer entitled "Pulse".

Steady on the grind, Christina Milian has also taken over the airwaves with her first single "Say I", featuring the 'Trapstar' himself Young Jeezy! Go cop the single from iTunes now! And it don't stop there! So Amazin' features production by Cool and Dre as well as a guest appearance by Academy Award winners Three 6 Mafia on the track "Who's Gonna Ride"! This marks Christina Milian's 3rd album and you best believe she's ready to turn up the heat this summer with the release of So Amazin'! You get a Sneak Peek of the album on Clear Channel now! Click here!

Make sure ya'll also look out for Christina as she graces the cover of Blender Magazine in May! It's about to get serious on May 16th people! Don't sleep 'cause Ms. Milian is back on the block! If ya'll feel me..."Say I"!

BIO:  Using the blueprint of rhythmic icons Janet Jackson and the late Aaliyah the singer/songwriter decided that the first step towards musical difference would be finding a team of producers who could musically transfer her inner feelings into outer hotness. It was during this period that Christina first met Cool & Dre.  Listening to Milian's first single "Say I " you quickly hear that she made the right choice. "I wanted to make a record that would be an inspiration to both me and my fans " Christina says whose 2002 self-titled debut (which featured the #1 Hot 100 Single "A.M. to P.M.") and last year's Grammy-nominated IT'S ABOUT TIME were both successful.  From the moment the hypnotic opening of "Say I" begins to soar and Miss Milian wails "I got the urge to scream out " one realizes that this is a brand new day in dance music. More than just a hit song "Say I" is an uplifting anthem that also features the southern drawl of celebrated rapper Young Jeezy on the hook. With its orchestrated music the high energy of "Say I" is pure sonic caffeine. Having appeared in such popular films as Be Cool (alongside John Travolta Uma Thurman and Steven Tyler) Love Don't Cost A Thing and Man Of The House (with Tommy Lee Jones) the young star also has a leading role in the upcoming movie Pulse (out July 14th). After filming she took a break away from the camera for the months it took her to finish SO AMAZIN'. "I was so committed to this project making it my number one priority " Christina recalls. "It was important that I be focused on music so while I was working I passed on other films and reading scripts. It was more important that I make a hot album." Without a doubt she has succeeded.  "I knew from the beginning when I started working with Cool & Dre that I had found something special " Christina says of the Florida duo that have constructed hit singles for 50 Cent and The Game. "Our relationship was so smooth Cool & Dre wound up producing the entire record something that is rare these days."

In fact it was Antonio "L.A." Reid who suggested she work with Cool & Dre while still allowing Christina space to be herself.  Traveling down south to Florida's Circle House Studios the producers talked to Christina for hours. "It was really about us getting to know each other " says Cool. "Learning about her likes and dislikes as well as a recent break-up that was bothering her. We really dug her vibe. From day one we knew Christina was special. In the first few days we knocked out four songs."  Falling in love with Miami there were also a few chance encounters that lead to wonderful collaborations. "We were working on a song called "Who's Gonna Ride " when Dre ran into Three 6 Mafia in the hallway. The song has a kind of Dirty South feel so we just asked them if they wanted to be down."  The song "Gonna Tell Everybody " opens with a soothing piano and offers teardrop-laced lyrics about the aftermath of heartbreak. "I moved on " she declares at the end of the slow song. "I just felt a need to express myself on "Gonna Tell Everybody." It was truly about thinking that I had something good what happens when it's over and going forward with my life. When I had conversations with Cool & Dre that relationship was one thing that kept coming up. I knew it was going to be something I needed to get off my chest." 

A songwriter since her teen years Milian has penned hit tracks for Jennifer Lopez ("Play") and herself but it wasn't until the SO AMAZIN' sessions that she felt any real growth. "Dre told me 'there are no rules.' That's all he said but believe me it was the best advice " Christina laughs. "Sometimes things can be so simple you don't know why you never thought of it before."  Taking us higher the title track "So Amazin'" is a slice of booming club life. With its bouncy flow that feels electro-sleek and street corner grimy at the same time "So Amazin'" lives up to its title. "I think this is the sexist song on the record " says Christina. "I can't wait until we make a video for that one."  Proudly displaying the various sides of her personality SO AMAZIN' proves that singer Christina Milian is ready to be taken seriously as an artist. Welcome to the next level.   

Musicians Push Hard, But No Copyright Changes Until Fall

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(May 11, 2006) New copyright legislation isn't likely to come until the fall, say Ottawa insiders, despite the publicity blitz by a coalition of musicians opposing certain restrictions. In just two weeks, the new Canadian Music Creators Coalition has shifted public attention sharply away from what the major record companies want out of the coming legislation: tighter legal controls and the ratification of the World Intellectual Property Organization treaties. Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies and other musicians in the coalition have instead grabbed the spotlight with press announcements and meetings in Ottawa about their position: Lawmakers shouldn't make it easier for record labels to sue file sharers or to allow tighter home-copying restrictions. However, the coalition has been less specific on alternative courses of action, though it has mentioned the possibilities of new levies on blank media or licensing file-sharing sites as a way to compensate artists for piracy. Despite the publicity push, NDP Heritage critic Charlie Angus and Liberal critic Mauril Bélanger, who met with the coalition this week, said that the Conservative government has indicated to them that a copyright bill likely won't come until the fall. It will affect not only musicians, but everyone from filmmakers and artists to writers and educators. Angus, who is a musician himself and sang lead vocals with the rock band Grievous Angels, has stood alongside members of the coalition as a show of support, and he notes that the new government seems to be approaching the copyright debate differently. Under the past Liberal government, the policy was driven more by civil servants and by former Liberal MP Sarmite Bulte; now he sees the Conservative government formulating more of a party position on the issue. The current government "is looking to take on the issue and when they make their decision, they are going to be fairly firm about where they're going," he said.

Heritage Minister Bev Oda wasn't available for comment. Bélanger, the Liberal Heritage critic, said that he appreciates that musicians would rather have their fans enjoy their music than be sued for copying and sharing it. "On the other hand, [musicians] also want to have an income. The question then becomes how do you generate that income? Is it a levy? Who administers it? Then you get into all kinds of complicated questions. So they have some homework to do in terms very specific proposals that they may want to put forward," Bélanger said. "And there's time for that. That is what I encouraged them to do," he said. He added that the debate will only heat up once the bill is eventually introduced and numerous arts, media and education groups begin trying to hammer their own proposals into the legislation.

Gatlin Breaks 100m World Record

Source: CBC Sports

(May 12, 2006) American Justin Gatlin broke the 100-metre world record with a time of 9.76 seconds at an IAAF Super Tour meet in Doha, Qatar, on Friday.  The 24-year-old world and Olympic champion trimmed the previous mark of 9.77 set by Jamaica's Asafa Powell in Athens on June 14 last year.  Earlier this week, Gatlin predicted he would break the world record at the Doha meet after he clocked 9.95 seconds in his first competition this season in Osaka last Saturday.  "It is amazing I did it. It took a lot of discipline and dedication," Gatlin said. "You will see many more performances like this from me in the future."  Olusoji Fasuban of Nigeria finished second Friday in 9.84 seconds, with Shawn Crawford of the United States third in 10.08.Canada's Anson Henry finished fifth in a personal-best time of 10.12.  The 27-year-old from Pickering, Ont., had a previous best of 10.15. 

Joining the history books

Since the world record in the 100-metre dash was first recognized in 1912 by the IAAF, track and field's world governing body, 15 different athletes have held the mark, including two Canadians (Percy Williams in 1930 and Donovan Bailey in 1996).  When Powell set the record last year, he topped American Maurice Greene's mark of 9.79 set in Athens in June 1999.  Disgraced sprinter Tim Montgomery's set a new standard of 9.78 in Paris in 2002, but that mark was erased from the record books after he was suspended for two years based on information uncovered in the BALCO doping scandal.  Gatlin, whose previous bests included a 9.85 in winning the Olympic gold in 2004 and 9.88 in capturing the world crown in Helsinki last year, is coached by Montgomery and Marion Jones's former trainer, Trevor Graham.  Graham was the coach who anonymously sent a syringe of the designer steroid THG to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, a key piece of evidence in the BALCO case.  At least six of Graham's athletes have tested positive for banned substances in the past. Gatlin has never been linked to steroids.  He did receive a two-year suspension from competition for testing positive for an amphetamine at the 2001 U.S. junior championships. The drug was contained in prescription medication he had been taking to treat an attention deficit disorder.  Gatlin and Powell, who also ran 9.95 last week at a meet in Kingston, Jamaica, will run against each other for the first time this season at an IAAF Grand Prix meet in Gateshead, England, on June 11."If I have to meet Powell in [England], so be it," Gatlin told the Associated Press on Thursday. "All I'm looking to be is technically sound and doing my best. I am not worried about my competitors."  The pair last met on the track in London last July when Powell suffered a groin pull that ended the rest of his season.


Honey Jam Auditions To Take Place June 4


The annual Honey Jam is a cross-country search for female artists, representing Hip-Hop, Jazz, Soca, R&B, Gospel, Rock, Dancehall, Blues, Alternative, Opera, Country - all styles of music. If you're interested in auditioning for the 2006 summer Honey Jam showcase, auditions will take place on Sunday, June 4 at 2:00 pm at Toronto's Mod Club (722 College Street). The organizers strongly suggest that you arrive by 1:00 pm to register due to the limited number of audition spots. Those wishing to audition must bring a bio, photo and background music on CD. Each auditionee has one minute to perform for the judges. Admission is $5.00 for spectators.  For artists outside of Ontario unable to attend the auditions, please mail a videotaped audition along with a photo and bio to:

Honey Jam Submissions
c/o Vivian Barclay
Warner Chappell Music Canada
3381 Steeles Avenue East
Main Level, Suite 100
Toronto Ont, M2H 3S7

For more information on Honey Jam and the auditions, visit the PhemPhat website and click on "Auditions".


Spotlight On Artist And Entrepreneur Malik Shaheed

By UMAC Marketing Coordinator Staffeen Thompson,

Artist and entrepreneur Malik Shaheed is an influential and highly respected player in the music scene. He's keeping busy organizing numerous activities within his own company, Versatile Entertainment, and producing reviews for Musique Plus, Influence and Insider 101. Shaheed, the recipient of the 2005 Canadian Urban Music Award for Francophone Recording of the Year (for the single "Qui Run Tings"), recently released his debut CD, Franglais.   Franglais is an original approach to the poetic merging of both French and English languages, a concoction that when applied to each track is definitely organic in nature. The process to use this technique speaks of Shaheed's upbringing, where this style of speaking was a cultural adaptation as well as a different method of communication. Applying this philosophy to his music, his sound, and his ultimate message, has inspired a fusion that is refreshing and challenges the typical norms that are present in Rap music today.   The production of this record contains strong resolves, such as his decision not to succumb to lyrics that degrade women, along with his conscious decision to avoid use of the 'n' word. As he adamantly states, "There is no need for that."   He holds a strong conviction to maintain 'clean' lyrics, and it is apparent that he refuses to fall into to what has become a significant part of Hip-Hop culture. He states, "Nobody cares anymore, nobody is willing to take a stand."  

acknowledges his aim to create a different sound - with the message that you can apply different ideas and elements, while avoiding certain stereotypes that are prevalent in the Hip-Hop community (both English & French) - and still create a strong and versatile album.   The songs on Franglais are intriguingly satisfying: Shaheed adapts interesting combinations in the mechanics of his songs. In my attempt to understand the French lyrics, I realized that I was moved by more than just words. This is Shaheed's goal; to create tracks that are powerful and will inspire you to move regardless of any language barriers.  In the future, Shaheed is anxious to work with other artists, supporting their careers and ambitions, while working on his own projects such as his Unity Tour and the promotion of this record. I believe that he is striving to be the change that he would like to see in Hip-Hop culture today - creating the type of music to promote Rap to different level, to raise expectations and to maintain artistry with integrity.   Learn more about Malik Shaheed at:;

Cohen, Not Protégé, Elicits Fans' Cheers

Source: Canadian Press

(May 15, 2006) TORONTO—He's best known as Canada's most influential singer-songwriter and sensual poet, but on Saturday, Leonard Cohen was an anxious stage mother.  Crouched in the dark corner of an outdoor stage, his elbows rested on his knees and his eyes were fixed on his romantic partner, Anjani Thomas, as she braved her first-ever live performance of songs they wrote together.  Singing words Cohen had written, the dark-haired Hawaiian beauty cooed through a short set as her mentor watched silently, hands clasped in front of his lips, mouthing the words.  Cohen is helping to promote Thomas's debut jazz CD, Blue Alert, which he co-wrote and produced.  But it was Cohen whom the several hundred book and music fans had gathered to see and it was only when he took the stage with Thomas that the street roared with cheers and applause.  "My apologies to pedestrians and drivers if they're inconvenienced," Cohen joked before reciting a poem from Book of Longing, his first collection in more than a decade.  Cohen, 71, also briefly joined the Barenaked Ladies for a rendition of "So Long, Marianne" after repeated calls for encores from his fans.  The free concert, held on the edge of Yorkville, also featured folk/pop singer Ron Sexsmith. It was a celebration of Cohen's return to the top of the literary charts: Indigo books president Heather Reisman declared Book of Longing the No. 1 bestseller in the country, the first book of poetry to reach that position in Canada.

Tower Of Song

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(May 15, 2006) At 71, he's still stopping traffic. Leonard Cohen made a splash with an outdoor performance Saturday in Toronto- a launch for Blue Alert, the new CD by his partner Anjani Thomas, that was also a celebration of his new poetry collection, Book of Longing. Hundreds of fans showed up on the rainy afternoon, applauding wildly when Cohen himself stepped up to sing with the Barenaked Ladies' Stephen Page, left, and singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith, middle. For an encore, they struck up So Long, Marianne; "You guys start,' Cohen said. 'I'll figure out a way to get in.'  -Staff, with a report from Canadian Press

Cohen's Muse -- Or Is It The Other Way Around?

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - James Adams

(May 12, 2006)
Leonard Cohen has long had the reputation of being a ladies' man. Yet for all the "conquests" of his 71 years, the apparent richness of his social life and the women he has celebrated in song and poetry, he's been a solitary figure, too -- "the infamous lover who lives alone," as one of his biographers has described him, the Jewish boulevardier with a taste for Zen monasticism. So it's been something of a surprise in recent months to see the creator of Suzanne and Hey, That's No Way to Say Good-bye associating himself so publicly with Anjani Thomas, the fortysomething singer-songwriter whose latest recording he both produced and co-wrote. Released last week , Blue Alert sports Cohen's name on the front and the back of its jewel case. That's him in the pictures on pages 8, 9 and 12 of the CD booklet, and it's his daughter, Lorca, 32, who shot all the photographs. In January, when Cohen was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, Thomas accompanied him to the televised ceremony in Toronto and he, in turn, helped her do advance promotion for the 10 songs on Blue Alert. They're going to be in Toronto again tomorrow, this time for an appearance at the Bloor-and-Bay flagship store of Indigo Books and Music. The main draw, of course, will be Cohen, who's just released Book of Longing, his first volume of new poems in more than 20 years. But Anjani (her preferred professional moniker) will be performing five songs for the expected crush -- an aural appetizer for the opening slot she's expected to have when Cohen embarks on a concert tour later this year or early next. Thomas is hardly a showbiz neophyte, however, nor is Cohen her Svengali. Half-Hawaiian, half-Okinawan, the Honolulu native has two previous solo records to her credit. In 1984 she met Cohen and subsequently provided background vocals on several of his recordings and later performed with his touring band as keyboardist and singer. Moreover, she's the ex-wife of noted Hollywood entertainment lawyer, Robert Kory, who also happens to represent Cohen, as well as a client of Macklam/Feldman Management, the Vancouver agency that took over Cohen's troubled affairs in late 2004 after the singer-songwriter acrimoniously split from Kelley Lynch, his manager of more than 20 years. You'd think Thomas might feel a touch, well . . . uneasy at being so much under or at least beside Cohen's shadow. All the lyrics on Blue Alert are Cohen's and, on many occasions, you anticipate Cohen's rumbly monotone to join her to traverse the songs' waltzy melodies. But, as Thomas quietly insisted during a recent interview, "I don't think of it as being the shadow of Leonard, but the grace of Leonard. This is certainly the most fulfilling piece of music I've done. If anything, Leonard is an inspiration. In some ways, this marks the beginning of my career. In terms of personal growth, musical growth, it's the sound of where I want to be. I feel like I'm finally inhabiting this body and using my voice to the best of its capabilities."

Blue Alert is a decidedly quiet and sparse recording, mostly just Thomas's voice and keyboards, with occasional, discrete flourishes of percussion, reeds and strings. The collaboration, she said, "arose in an organic way." One day in 2004 she spotted the lyrics to what would become Blue Alert at Cohen's home in Los Angeles (They live just a few blocks from each other: "He's the guy who makes my breakfast; I sew the buttons on his shirt"), and "I just thought I'd do a treatment of it and see if he'd do it." Cohen liked what she did, but thought she should sing it. Thomas proceeded to rummage through other Cohen fragments and worked up melodies for three more lyrics -- The Mist, Nightingale and Half the Perfect World. At that point, they decided the collaboration should begin in earnest, the focus being the preparation of a full-length album. "Yes, she pressed me into hard labour," Cohen said with a chuckle. "Now I won't say the album wrote itself," Cohen added. "But the freedom Anjani gave me to write for her and not for myself was great. The songs came almost fully formed. And the fact I knew I wasn't singing it did have an impact on the relative speed of the process. I was able to work with a kind of freedom I don't have characteristically." Cohen acknowledged that Blue Alert is a by-product of sorts of his increasing intimacy with Thomas. "It grew out of our relationship, out of the predicament I found myself in," he said -- a reference to the much-publicized "financial crisis" in which he found himself in late 2004 when he was awash in litigation and near insolvency and forced to spend long stretches of time in Los Angeles, meeting with lawyers. "When something works out, you feel good. Because most things don't. This had a particular grace to it. "We are neighbours in the deepest sense." A Tribute to Leonard Cohen begins at 3:45 p.m. Saturday at Indigo, Bay and Bloor, with a performance of Cohen's song Heart with No Companion by Ron Sexsmith and the Barenaked Ladies.

Ice Cube’s New Album ‘Laugh Now, Cry Later’ To Be Released June 6, 2006

Source: Capitol/Virgin Music Canada

(May 11, 2006) Multi-Platinum and Award Winning Hip-Hop Superstar Ice Cube makes his highly anticipated return to the mic with the debut of his seventh solo LP, titled Laugh Now, Cry Later.” Following the release of his greatest hits collection in 2001, the West Coast’s Greatest Rap Lyrist is back again, bringing forth his best musical work to date.  “Laugh Now, Cry Later,” which will be released by Ice Cube’s independently owned label, Lench Mob Records, will hit shelves on June 6th.  Boasting production from top level producers like Scott Storch, Swizz Beatz and Lil’ Jon, and featuring guests Snoop Dogg and WC, Ice Cube looks to settle back into his position as Rap’s Heavy Weight Champion, showcasing his creative and lyrical genius throughout 18 solid tracks. With the streets already talking about the buzz single & video “Chrome & Paint,” which blends low-riders and the West Coast lifestyle, the album’s first official single will be Scott Storch produced “Why We Thugs,” which delves into social commentary about weapons, narcotics, politics and the ghettos of America over a heavy baseline.  Always a true MC at heart, Ice Cube has spent this past year away from the big screen to create a well thought out and complete album which mixes rider music, club bangers and soon to be classics through his unique talent of cinematic storytelling. 

Regarded as one of the Most Important figures in rap history, Ice Cube began his career with the Notorious West Coast Gangsta Rap Group N.W.A a little over 15 years ago. At the height of the group’s success, Ice Cube broke away to start his own solo career. His initial release, “Amerikkka's Most Wanted” (Priority, 1990) sold over a million copies.  His sophomore solo effort, "Death Certificate" (Priority, 1991), a concept album about the fall and rise of the black man, debuted at #1 on the R&B Album chart, #2 on the Top 200 album chart and went on to sell over two million copies. His impressive musical career also includes the multi-platinum success of both his double album “War and Peace,”  and hit albums “Lethal Injection,” “Bootlegs & B-Sides,” and “The Predator.” Ice Cube has sold over ten million albums to date.

J Dilla’s Mother Pays Tribute To Son

Source:  Def Press Public Relations

(May 12, 2006) Maureen Yancey, the mother of the late hip-hop producer J Dilla, arrived with “Hustle & Flow’s” Taraji P. Henson at a star studded benefit last night, organized to raise money for Lupus L.A., an organization formed six years ago by Daniel Wallace, MD, one of the country’s most prominent Lupus specialists. The event was held to raise money for research through the Lupus Institute. Mrs. Yancey’s son, the beloved hip-hop producer, J Dilla, passed away on February 10, as a result of his battle with Lupus. Despite Dilla’s illness, he still managed to produce successful records, and he never lost his dedication to hip-hop. Mrs. Yancey is urging hip-hop fans to get involved in the quest for a cure.   Also at the evening's event, billed as “An Evening of Love, Light and Laughter,” were luminaries including actress Sharon Stone, Jason Alexander, and Omar Epps from the Fox Network’s Golden Globe winner television show “House.” Epps presented an award to the show’s Creator/Executive producer David Shore for his contribution to Lupus Awareness. Other honourees of the evening included some of the doctors who have been in the frontlines of the war against the illness, which as yet still has no cure.    Also attending were Howie Dorough of the Backstreet Boys and actress Kelly Stone, both of whom lost a sister to the illness. Malcolm Jamal Warner, Wayne Newton, Shari Belafonte and Scott Grimes were among the many other stars that attended to offer their support.

As part of the proceedings, Glenn Frey of the Eagles performed at the event. The Eagles’ greatest hits album is the highest selling album of all time. Ms. Yancey says she hopes that hip-hop artists will also lend their talents to help raise money for a cure, and that some of them have already contacted her, offering to get involved.  Lupus is one of the country’s most prevalent, unpredictable and potentially fatal diseases. It affects over two million Americans, most of whom are women. It is very difficult to diagnose. Lupus is a leading cause of stroke, kidney and premature cardiovascular disease in young women.   Mrs. Yancey says she fears that too many men may get diagnosed too late, thinking it could not happen to them.  The illness is three times more likely to strike black women than white women.  Ms. Yancey states that her son had told her that he planned to commit himself to making more people aware of the illness, but tragically, he never had that chance.  She urges people in the hip-hop community to get involved, and to also make sure they don’t have the illness, themselves. “Everyone’s case is different,” she points out, “and therefore, too many people may not realize they have it until it is too late.”   She adds, “It is time for people to get involved.”  In addition to helping save lives, it is a meaningful way to pay tribute to one of hip-hop’s prolific producers.

Ottawa Lyricist Finds New Purpose At Eurovision

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Patrick Evans, Entertainment Reporter

(May 13, 2006) Life can be cruel. Life can also send you a Latvian boy band long after you've given up all hope.  This is the story of Molly-Ann Leikin, born in Ottawa in 1944 with a soul full of song and a singing voice that could strip wallpaper.  Young Leikin made beautiful music at her piano lessons, provided she kept her mouth shut. When her mother locked the piano cover one day because the child played too much rock `n' roll, Leikin took up guitar. But the neck was too fat. "I had short fingers," she says. "When I tried to play the guitar chords, I couldn't."  Terrible voice, tiny fingers. Fine. She bought herself a baritone ukulele, got her fingers around its neck, and a songwriter was born.  After studying French literature at the University of Toronto, Leikin took her ukulele to Los Angeles in the 1960s, determined to break into the song-writing scene. Naturally, this led to a job in the social services. But even there she found music.  "Everybody in my file claimed the father of her baby was a rock star," Leikin says. "Elvis. All the Beatles, of course. It was my job to go after these rock stars." And so she did, a case file in one hand, her ukulele in the other. "Instead of me helping any of these single moms, the rockstars got me into the music business."  Singer Kim Carnes, who sang on Leikin's demo tapes in the early '70s, remembers her as a tiny woman with short hair and a one-track mind. "She was extremely ambitious, ambitious in a really good way," Carnes says. When they collaborated on a song, Leikin phoned constantly, breathless with news of a new note or a new turn of phrase she'd hit on. "She was really working hard at her craft."  The hard work paid off. Leikin's songs were sung by the likes of Cher, Tina Turner, Ann Murray, Karen Carpenter, even the Brady Bunch. In 1982 she was nominated for an Emmy for a TV movie theme song. She was high on success, high on her art.  But it was a dying art, and Leikin knew it. Throughout the '70s, she says, record companies got hotter and hotter for singers who wrote their own material. The craze was putting songwriters out of business.

Just as Leikin's career peaked, it disappeared.  "In 1983 I had no job, no nothing. The singer/songwriter thing finally buried me," she says. "I couldn't find an agent to represent me. I couldn't find anybody to write with me because they all wanted to write with a singer. I felt like a leper."  Leikin fell into a 10-month depression that included a suicide attempt on the day she took a hammer to her dishes and countertops. She remembers paramedics, broken glass and blood.  The art Leikin mourned for so deeply was about more than finding words to rhyme with "baby."  "I respect the art, I think it's a unique form," says Lee Holdridge, a composer who gave Leikin the melodies for two of her most famous lyrics — "An American Hymn," sung by Placido Domingo in 1981, and the theme song for the TV drama Eight is Enough.  A songwriter has to rummage through thousands of musical and verbal possibilities in order to find the ones that will make her client look good, Holdridge says. "You have to be a combination of a poet and a musician."  And you need some grace, too. Holdridge remembers watching the confident little ukulele lady choking down her ego when clients demanded rewrites. She would do anything to keep working.  Leikin emerged from her depression and reinvented herself as a song-writing consultant, teaching her art to young musicians for the next 25 years. She says she was alive, but not living. "A huge piece of me was missing because I wasn't writing. I got my hair cut every month and got my roots done. I kept in shape. Dated. But I wasn't there."  And then one day the Latvians came.  As a consultant, Leikin had clients around the world, and somehow her reputation made it to Latvia. In spring 2005 a Latvian composer who wanted English lyrics for one of his singers tracked her down and offered her the job. She wrote eight lyrics for his melodies.  "Every cell in my body was vibrating," she says. The composer used seven and shelved the eighth.

Then in March of this year Leikin's phone rang. A voice in badly broken English was trying to tell her about something called Eurovision. "I thought it was some kind of Scandinavian laser procedure (for the eyes)," Leikin says. No thanks, she told him, and hung up. He called back, but Leikin wasn't about to be bullied by some pushy Scandinavian telemarketer. "This is an unlisted number, so stop bothering me!"  Days later she got an email from the publisher of the Latvian composer she'd worked with. "Listen," it read, "you have to stop hanging up on us. We're semi-finalists in the Eurovision contest."  Eurovision: a mammoth pan-European music competition that made ABBA famous in 1974, and that nobody's heard of here. Leikin's lyric for that eighth song, "I Hear Your Heart," had been kicking around Latvia until an a cappella boy band called Cosmos wrote a new melody for it, performed it at Eurovision, and won Round One.  On to the semi-finals. But no matter what happens at Eurovision, Cosmos has put Leikin back in business as a songwriter. "I'm writing for a composer in Italy," she says excitedly. "I've had about 200 inquires for my consulting business. And I've even had a marriage proposal from a hog farmer in Iowa."  At 62, Leikin has seen her chance come around again. "These little miracles float in when you're not trying to make them happen," she says. "And the universe sends you flowers."  The semi-final round of Eurovision happens in Athens, Greece Thursday, May 18, with the final coming May 20. To hear Cosmos perform "I Hear Your Heart," visit

We All Scream For A Nice-Guy Troubadour

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(May 13, 2006) On the chorus of a slow twee-pop number, Matt Costa asked preciously: "Why can't you find the way? Won't you find the way back to these arms?" Because it would be unworkable to offer puppy dogs to all the young women in the audience, he crooned instead. The effect was the same, with the boy-next-door singer-songwriter the adorable hero. Just a minute, though -- it wasn't only the dolls in the house who were excited about the youthful Californian's visit. "Matt," a firm voice bellowed, perhaps joking, but more than once. "I wanna have your baby!" Yeah, it was weird, and, as could be imagined, just a little unsettling.  Another unfortunate moment, on an otherwise pleasant night, came when a plump, dark-haired gal swooned even before the main set. Costa had popped onstage briefly to squeals and shrieks, leading opening band The 88 in a loose, mediocre version of the Band's Ophelia. As a cross between John Boy Walton and a young John Lennon, the 23-year-old former skateboarder is fit and fine-looking. It was all too much for the lass, who, perhaps overcome by the sudden onset of Costa Fever, fell in a heap by the bar. Dragged away unceremoniously, somebody's daughter would miss the big show. A good show, too, which might have surprised someone familiar with Costa's sole long-playing album, this year's Songs We Sing. On the record, Costa comes off as a light folk-rock chameleon, altering his manner from song to song, sounding British here, like Buddy Holly there. The changeling approach, coupled with woebegone lyrics, presents Costa as a bit of a sap -- and not an original one. However, onstage, in front of a freshly scrubbed capacity crowd, Costa whittled down his presentation. A more neutral, often rootsy, troubadour pose suited him, allowing him to roam a bit stylistically more or less without seams. Often linked with mellow popster Jack Johnson, Costa differs from his mentor by drawing from country, blues and rock. The slightly grungy Sweet Thursday, for example, could have been written by Kurt Cobain -- Cobain reincarnated as a lamb, I suppose.

Appearing with a four-piece band (keyboards, drums, electric bass and guitar), Costa played an acoustic guitar himself. (On a couple of songs he donned a harmonica, but was not overly committed to it.) Opening with the dirt-road ditty Acting Like a Fool and the darker alt-country of Behind the Moon, Costa added a bit of Texas to his lighter Golden State fare. The yee-haw sway of Sweet Rose had a Holly feel, and later Costa performed his hero's Well . . . All Right, but too much reverence led to an inhibited, lacklustre cover.  Another of Costa's idols is hippie folk-rocker Donovan, whose influence was acknowledged not only with a politely rocking version of Jennifer and an introductory snippet of Mellow Yellow, but the vaguely British-sounding Costa original Oh Dear, which triggered images of a stoned walk down Penny Lane.  The audience was overly familiar with the material, singing along on many tunes and flicking Bics promptly as some of the slower numbers began. Plenty of Costa's lyrics deal with lost loves, most of them set to natural settings -- sunshine, skies, misty mountain mornings etc. On the hazy Americana of Wash Away, the night's final encore number, Costa sang about a being washed down a stream, away from someone who, one day, he might catch up to. Here's betting he will, or at least try. He's too nice a guy not to.  Matt Costa returns to the Opera House in Toronto on July 9.

Phil Collins On Endings, Beginnings

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(May 13, 2006) NEW YORK—It wasn't just another day in paradise for Phil Collins. But then, it seldom is.  After years of preparation, Disney opened his musical version of Tarzan on Broadway Wednesday night to mixed reviews.  But Collins is still smiling. The show has a hefty $20 million (U.S.) advance and — as always — the versatile entertainer is juggling more than one ball.  During a recent interview with the Toronto Star, Collins revealed the five original members of Genesis were planning to get together again for a series of concerts. "It wouldn't be a tour in the strict sense of the word," he said, "but we would play shows in major cities around the world and Toronto would definitely be one of them."  The 55-year-old singer-songwriter admits it's a logistical nightmare, but remains positive it will happen. "We're five strong personalities with five very individual lives, but we're moving toward the possibility."  As if all this wasn't enough for him to have on his plate, Collins is also in the middle of his third divorce. He announced in March that he was breaking up with his wife Orianne after six years of marriage and two children.  "To be honest, it's all a bit too much for me to take sometimes. I sit there in the theatre listening to the songs (for Tarzan) and it reminds me of my kids, who inspired me to write them. It's tough, mate."  He stirs his mug of tea and looks into the distance.  "Certain songs at certain points of your life are more difficult to listen to than others."  And music has been a part of that life since the very beginning.  He was born Philip David Charles Collins in London on Jan. 30, 1951, the son of a theatrical agent and an insurance broker.  "The whole show business thing was kind of in the family," recalls Collins. "My parents did shows with the local groups, my brother was a cartoonist, my sister was an ice skater."  And at the age of 5, an uncle gave Phil his first drum. "I knew by the age of 8 that I was deadly serious about having a career in music, but in those days, you had to wait until you were 18 or so."

While biding his time, he landed a role as the Artful Dodger in the London production of Oliver!, an experience he says has "definitely helped me in working on the stage version of Tarzan. Musical theatre wasn't a strange world to me."  He kept acting through his teens, appearing as an extra in films like A Hard Day's Night and even making it to the final short-list of candidates for Romeo in Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet.  "My girlfriend then was Olivia Hussey's best friend," he grins, "and since she (Hussey) was playing Juliet, I guess she put in a good word for me."  But it didn't pan out and by then, Collins was already on his musical path working as a drummer for a group called Flaming Youth. They fell apart after one album and in 1970, Collins found himself answering an ad in Melody Maker magazine for "a drummer sensitive to acoustic music."  The group doing the headhunting turned out to be Genesis, and Collins got the gig. For five years, he worked his drum kit in the background until Peter Gabriel left and Collins became lead vocalist.  "People don't want to believe it," he says, "but I was happy back there playing my drums. I had no ego dreams of glory. When Peter left, I was okay with taking his place, but it wasn't any fantasy of mine."  The next big step in his career came by chance in 1978, when his first wife, Andrea, left him.  "I didn't begin writing until my marriage broke up," he confides. "I just sat down at the piano and started to improvise my feelings. It just came out, I never even wrote it down. It seemed such an honest way to do it and that's pretty much how I've been writing ever since."  The next years were a whirlwind. Collins kept playing with Genesis, while launching a parallel solo career, playing with the jazz fusion group, Brand X, guesting on other artists' albums and even reviving his acting career on TV shows like Miami Vice and in films like Buster.  Between 1984 and 1989, he had eight Number 1 songs on the charts. But then his popularity cooled rapidly with critics dissing him as "a byword for aural blandness."  "Yeah, my 15 minutes were definitely up," Collins laughs. "Musical tastes had changed and my so-called Midas touch was over. I felt like the little mole at the fairground that comes out of a hole and people keep bashing at it."

It was at that point that "out of the blue, Disney called me and invited me to work on an animated picture. Suddenly, I was into a whole new way of working."  The result was Tarzan, which not only was a huge hit when it debuted in 1999, but gave Collins his first big song in years, "You'll Be In My Heart," which went on to win him the Oscar.  Now a stage version is opening on Broadway and Collins loves the process.  "I've been working here since Christmas. It's such an incredible group of people that I don't want to be separated from them."  A wicked grin crosses his face. "I don't drop the songs off and say `See you on opening night' like some people."  He's alluding to Elton John, who follows just that procedure in writing his musicals. A little schadenfreude is in evidence over the fact that John's latest show, Lestat, recently opened to critical derision.  "When Elton turns up at one of his shows, it's like `Oh God, he's here, he's here!' Me? I'm part of the furniture. I'm a good team player and I want to do more of this."  For the present, Collins plans to move to Manhattan from Switzerland where his wife and their two children still reside.  He has three other offspring from his two earlier marriages. One of them, his daughter Joley, is an actor who lives in Vancouver.  The end of his recent marriage is still a sore point with Collins, especially for the way it came to light.  "The press ran a rumour that pushed this thing far faster that it was supposed to happen. I had to phone everyone up — my mother, my sister, my brother, my kids — and say `Look, this is going to be in the paper tomorrow.' It's a hell of a way to live your life."  But ultimately Collins isn't bitter about the ups and downs of his career.  "I've had a great run and in the end, the personal satisfaction of writing and performing is what I do it for, not the cheers of the crowd."  But one thing does bother him. "Most of my history is made up of little peaks, songs people have heard so much that they get pissed off at them and never bother to find out what I'm really like.  "You see, I'm really just a kid who got a drum when he was 5 and never put it down."

Pearl Jam: After 15 Years, Still Kicking Out The Jams

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alan Niester

(May 11, 2006) Grunge is dead! Long live the Kings of Grunge! When Pearl Jam burst out of the Seattle alternative rock scene in the early nineties, it was one of a handful of ground-breaking acts that included, among others, Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. Of these so-called Big Four of the movement, Pearl Jam is the sole survivor of the bunch. But even more importantly, it continues to prosper and grow. Fifteen years on, Pearl Jam finds itself not only at the top of the charts again (with its single World Wide Suicide and new album Pearl Jam) but also continues to fill stadiums and hockey arenas with its coterie of ultra-devoted fans. Tuesday night, the Seattle quintet performed the first of two nights at Toronto's Air Canada Centre in front of 20,000 raucous fans, formally launching its first full-scale North American tour since 2003. Pearl Jam's revitalization may be pinned largely on the fact that the band seems to have made a sharp return to its grunge roots. Tuesday night, it opened its more than two-hour performance with a handful of kick-ass rockers from its new album. Both Severed Hand and World Wide Suicide are similar-sounding but both very aggressive numbers, pushed along by the relentless rhythm section of Jeff Ament and Matt Cameron, and guitar work (from Stone Gossard and Mike McCready) right out of the thrash-metal songbook. Other new songs such as Marker in the Sand and Life Wasted, while slightly tempered, still retained much of that newly rediscovered grunge punch. As ever, the band's sound revolves around the vocal strengths of singer (and sometime guitarist) Eddie Vedder. While not a technically gifted singer by any means, and a man whose vocal range stretches from rumbling tenor to, well, rumbling tenor, Vedder for the most part gets by on emotion and intensity. With his hair grown out again to early-seventies shoulder length, and a scruffy beard that made him look vaguely messianic, Vedder was as powerful vocally as he has ever been. "Seemed like this side of the border would be a safe place to lift off," Vedder told the crowd early on, capping off a batch of songs from the new album before leading the outfit into a pair of classic favourites, Better Man and Even Flow.

Since this was Pearl Jam and all (a band not given to excess, at least in terms of stagecraft), this was a relatively minimal production. A few lasers flashed out periodically, and the lighting was adequate at best. Seats were sold to the sides and back of the stage, which meant that for a large percentage of the crowd, Vedder's vocals sometimes got lost in a mix that was occasionally muddy. But there was no denying the energy levels emanating from the stage. From the opening crunch of Severed Hand right through to the last notes of the second encore (the band finished, typically with Yellow Ledbetter, which had been preceded by a furious version of Neil Young's Rockin' in the Free World), this was one of the most dynamic performances possible, a swirling mix of sound and motion. Despite the possible fear that this show might be given over too much to the new album, that really wasn't the case. Once the first four songs of the evening were dispatched with (and frankly, they did set the tone for the evening by providing a hefty opening kick), the band only returned there on a few other occasions. Unemployable had a kind of vaguely Bruce Springsteen feel (Vedder introduced the song by noting that many immigrants were leaving the U.S., "returning to Mexico to get the best American jobs") and McCready's Inside Job was sluggish. All of which meant that the crowd experienced a rich selection of classic Pearl Jam. Daughter, dropped in mid-set, was a crowd sing-along favourite. Jeremy and Alive were anthemic in stature, and saved for the encores. Others, like Corduroy, Not for You and Why Go, were sprinkled throughout for rediscovery. Since its inception, Pearl Jam has been one of the hardest-working touring bands out there, a fact that explains why it has remained so popular despite albums that have fallen well short of the standards the band set for itself in its early days. But judging from Tuesday's galvanizing performance, fatigue has yet to set in. This was Pearl Jam at its incendiary best, and it's frankly hard to imagine that the performance could have been any better than it was.

She Rocks, She Rolls, She's, Uh, Your Mom?

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Li Robbins

(May 13, 2006) Rock music has been about many things. Sex, politics, more beer. But "self empowerment"? Never. Until that is, the birth of "mom rock." As a genre, mom rock is very much about such things: empowerment, self- expression, creative voices of mothers. Still, it's a remarkably earnest-free zone. Its bands have names like HRT, Housewives on Prozac, the Mydols and Placenta, and their song titles run to the wackily domestic -- Eat Your Damn Spaghetti, Born to Iron or Pick Up Your Socks. Although hounding kids to clean up and eat their meals when served is a preoccupation of parents everywhere, the majority of mom rockers hail from the suburbs. Some even embrace the image. Take for example the Mydols, whose slogan is "rockin' soccer moms." Others send it up -- mom-rocker Lynda Kraar does a countrified number called Suburban White in a White Suburban, satirizing the clichés of privileged suburban motherhood. And like all bands recently hatched in garages and family rooms, mom-rockers tend to the jam-band sound of the freshly initiated, whether they're punky, pop or hard rockin.' The music is usually wildly enthusiastic, often giddily amateurish, and occasionally quite good. Mom rock became a bona fide movement courtesy of Mamapalooza, an event first held in New York in 2002, a gathering of musicians, comedians, and spoken-word artists -- all of whom were mothers. Today, Family Circle magazine sponsors Mamapalooza, which takes place in 30 locales. Its inaugural Canadian incarnation on Sunday -- Mother's Day -- will be held at Toronto's Lula Lounge. Joy Rose, Mamapalooza's founder and lead singer of Housewives on Prozac, says Mamapalooza strives to create "a safe, generous experience where artists of all backgrounds can freely express themselves and feel supported." Of course, pre-Mamapalooza there already were rockers who happened to be moms, without the benefits of organized support. It's difficult to imagine, say, Chrissie Hynde (front woman of the Pretenders, now into her 50s and the mother of two daughters) fretting about whether she was having a safe experience when she'd rip into Bad Boys Get Spanked. Hynde, and the pitifully few like her, have never been part of any movement, unless you count their automatic status as a visible minority.

For mom rock to matter, musically, it would have to create more Chrissie Hyndes, more Bonnie Raitts and Annie Lennoxes -- something that hasn't happened to date. Instead, it's possible to view mom rock as potentially undermining the legacy of women who actually made it in the boys 'n' guitars world on their musical strengths. The sassy jokiness that is one of the charms of mom rock bands is also what makes it all too easy to dismiss the music they make. That's a reality that some mom rockers, such as HRT, (who count AC/DC and the Rolling Stones as primary influences), admit is worrisome. HRT guitarist Marlane Pinkowitz says the "gimmick angle" is a double-edged sword. "In one way, mom rock does represent what we are about," she says, "because we are moms who rock. We certainly started out that way. But as we grow musically we are playing less on the fact that we are moms who rock and more on being women -- and a band -- that rocks hard and rocks good." HRT, who wisecrack that as they get older their acronym can double for hip-replacement therapy, don't consider their music a hobby, and steer away from cutesy song titles, writing numbers like I Hate My Fucking Family instead. But musically speaking they're newbies -- only one of the group's members had played before the mom-rock movement inspired them to form a band. This isn't the case with all mom rockers though. Kraar, one of the organizers of the Canadian incarnation of Mamapalooza, and author of the blog, Guitargirls Digital Diary, had a band in Toronto in the 1980s called Lynda Marks and the Marksmen, who performed gigs at such venerable establishments as Grossmans and the Isabella. For her, taking up music again in her forties, as a mother of two, is a return to one of her passions. "A lot of people give it up and stop and never revisit it again, and say, yeah, well mummy had a rock band when she was much younger, but not since you guys were here, because you're more important," Kraar says. "Playing rock now is a way of saying, you know what? Mommy's still a rock 'n' roll babe." Mommy may be a rock 'n' roll babe, but beneath the black velvet jacket is also usually a woman who's making a statement about the status quo views of motherhood. Or, as Kraar puts it, "The minute you take on the decision to drive car pool, you lose your status in the outside world." For these women, mom rock is partly a way of reclaiming status -- on new terms. But societal perceptions of the role of motherhood (particularly the suburban, "stay-at-home" ilk) aside, the question remains: What kind of status does mom rock give women in the rest of the musical world? So far, not much. There are exceptions, of course, for example the Mydols, whose recording Born to Iron is nominated in the Detroit music awards. But perhaps for bands who choose to identify themselves as mom rock bands, it ultimately won't matter -- not if as a genre it continues as one-part music, one-part empowerment, two-parts a rockin' good time -- a successful recipe, as long as there are mothers who want to get on stage, brandish their axe, and still drive the kid to the soccer game the next day.

Legendary Soul Songtress Teena Marie  Hot New Album “Sapphire” Released On May 9th

Source: Jeter & Associates

(May 9, 2006) LOS ANGELES, CA The incomparable vocal powerhouse, Teena Marie is back and taking over the airwaves.Sapphire”, the second sizzling Cash Money Classics/ Universal highly anticipated album, is available in retail stores, on iTunes and other online music stores. Sapphire is being released May 9, 2006 and features Smoky Robinson, Gerald Albright, George Duke, Kurupt and Lady Levi.   Sapphire is Teena’s second release with Cash Money Classics/Universal Records.  Sapphire, produced by Ms. Teena Marie is the fifteenth album from the effusive vocalist, who is regarded as one of the most influential R &B female singers of all times. Teena’s favourite songs on her new album are: Sapphire (Resilient) for Katrina victims, Somebody Just Like You, Cruise Control featuring Smokey Robinson, Romantica (written for Rick James) Simmer Down, "Baby Who's Is It" and "Love Is A Gangster."   Teena Marie was the first artist to be signed to Cash Money Classics, a subsidiary of brothers Ronald “Slim” Williams and Bryan “Baby” Williams’ southern rap empire Cash Money Records. Teena’s previous acclaimed CD with Cash Money Classics, La Doña, topped the charts delivering hits “A Rose By Any Other Name” and “Still In Love” which led to a 2005 Grammy nomination for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance.
It is impossible to overstate Teena Marie’s influence and respect in R&B music. As among the most accomplished artists within the universe of music since her debut in 1979, she is an outstanding singer, songwriter, producer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist (primarily guitar and piano) and performer – all rolled into one explosive 5’ 1” package. From the bedrock funk of “Behind The Groove” and “I Need Your Lovin’” to the ivory tickling jazz of “Casanova Brown” to the heart-melting balladry of “Out On A Limb,” “Dear Lover,”  “If I Were A Bell” and “My Dear Mr. Gaye,” she has thrown down her artistic gauntlet in every R&B arena.    Over the course of her illustrious career, Teena Marie has released fifteenth albums including her debut set, Wild And Peaceful (1979), and has released at least fifteenth compilations albums including 20th Century Masters: The Best of Teena Marie – The Millennium Collection (2001) and Lovergirl:  The Teena Marie Story (1997).  With over two decades in the music industry, Lady T proves that she is a still a force to be reckoned with. She is a classic with her phenomenal voice, her passionate performances and musical mastery. Teena Marie is at the top of her game.  For additional information on Teena Marie, to schedule interviews and appearances, please contact Lynn Allen at (323) 933-8007.Visit

Reliving Rock's Shaggin' Wagon Past

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(May 12, 2006) Mellow as a lava lamp, an afro-topped lead singer thoughtfully protests his band's reputation as derivative. "I'm looking at a car right now," says Andrew Stockdale, singer-guitarist of Australia's seventies-favouring hard-rock trio Wolfmother. "You see it has four wheels, and all these elements that have been in cars since the 1950s. Do you therefore say it's a retro car?" Well, I just might, especially if it's a purple Econoline van outfitted with an eight-track player, shag carpeting, fantasy artwork, and an "If this van's a rockin' don't come a knockin' " bumper sticker.  But that's not his point. Just because the vehicle is vintage, it doesn't mean it isn't groovy. And just because Wolfmother is a brand-new band in seventies clothing, it doesn't mean it isn't worth groovin' to. And he's right. It's a stoner's hoot, this thing the Wolfies do. The rhythm is sludge-and-thunder, the guitars are fuzzier than rearview-mirror dice, and the Viking lyrics are seemingly sung by April Wine's Myles Goodwyn. A bare-chested Myles Goodwyn who clutches a lightning bolt and rides a cloud-galloping white horse, to be most precise.  Detecting the influences while listening to Wolfmother's self-titled debut album is crazy-challenging. White Unicorn alone borrows from Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and the Doors, with some prog-rock thrown in for further chin-scratching. The hard-charging Woman is pure Deep Purple; on other songs, there's the heavy stomp of the White Stripes.

Beyond the obvious comparisons, Stockdale claims inspiration from the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. "I have a very superficial understanding of rock 'n' roll," he says over the phone from the band's tour stop in Tempe, Ariz. "We just kind of made it up as we went. It wasn't that we had those influences and copied it or anything like that." But surely the Led Sabbath likeness is apparent to Wolfmother, a young band that includes keyboardist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett. "Oh yeah," Stockdale admits, "for sure. But I find a lot of similarities between those bands to each other as well. I've heard the same riff in Dazed and Confused that's in Paranoid. You hear riffs in Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, then you hear similar riffs on the White Album, and again with Deep Purple." Stockdale perhaps protests too much -- Wolfmother fans embrace the music, not in spite of the familiar licks, but because of them. The world can handle -- maybe even needs -- another Zeppelin. What we aren't hungry for is another lupine-named band. Wolfmother comes from the Tom Robbins novel, Skinny Legs and All. But already, there are Wolf Parade, We Are Wolves and AIDS Wolf, all from Montreal. Wolf Eyes are noisemakers from Michigan, and there's Wolfnote, Sea Wolf, Vancouver's Raised by Wolves and Stockholm's Fox n' Wolf. The pack is oversubscribed. The thing is, wolves are not common in Australia. It seems that the dog-like dingo drove all the wolves off the island some time ago. "Those dingoes are pretty savage," Stockdale notes. True, awfully savage, just like a band we know. A hungry Wolfmother can swallow rock 'n' roll whole. Wolfmother, with Deadboy & the Elephantmen opening, plays the Opera House May 16. $20, 735 Queen St. E., 416-870-8000.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Source: Lellie Capwell /  (818) 238-6246 /

(May 10, 2006)  LOS ANGELES - A chart-topping soul shouter, Wilson Pickett never stopped testifying like a sinner singing for salvation with his hair on fire. His death earlier this year marked the passing of a brilliant singer and one of the greats from the golden age of soul music.   To celebrate the man the ladies liked to call Wicked, Rhino Records brings together the sweatiest soul and rawest R&B Pickett recorded, from his early singles to his biggest hits with Atlantic Records. THE DEFINITIVE WILSON PICKETT is available from Rhino July 11 at regular retail outlets and at for a suggested list price of $19.98.  The compilation contains 30 remastered soul classics recorded between 1962 and 1972 by the Alabama-born singer and songwriter, including a prodigious 18 Top 10 R&B hits. Arranged chronologically, THE DEFINITIVE WILSON PICKETT begins with Pickett's first single, "I Found A Love," a song Pickett wrote and recorded in 1962 for Lu Pine Records with The Falcons, an R&B vocal group from Detroit featuring Pickett along with renowned soul singers Eddie Floyd and Sir Mack Rice.  After writing and recording the Top 10 R&B hit "It's Too Late" for Double-L in Detroit, Pickett signed with Atlantic Records and began recording at the Stax Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Cowritten with legendary guitarist Steve Cropper, "In The Midnight Hour," was the first song Pickett recorded at Stax, his first #1 R&B hit, and went on to become his signature song. Other hits emerged from Stax including "Don't Fight It," "Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won't Do)" and the chart-topping R&B single "634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)."   Pickett began recording at Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in 1966, where he cut a pair of #1 R&B hits, "Land Of 1000 Dances" and "Funky Broadway."

A year later he recorded "Mustang Sally," a song whose shout-along refrain, "Ride, Sally, ride," is destined to live on forever so long as cover bands play for drunken crowds.   Pickett was a consistent hit-maker throughout his decade-long stay with Atlantic, and the second disc represents his latter-day hits including "I'm A Midnight Mover," "A Man And A Half," a cover of The Beatles' "Hey Jude" featuring Duane Allman's unmistakable slide guitar work as well as Pickett's final #1 R&B hit, "Don't Knock My Love - Pt. 1."

Soul-Jazz Artist Althea Rene On The Road

Source: Rick Scott, Great Scott P.R.oductions, 310.398.0260,

(May 15, 2006) It has been said that if one can fully immerse themselves in the moment, they will find everything to be perfect.  It takes tremendous determination and commitment to achieve such single-minded focus.    Soul-jazz seductress Althea Rene feels that her moment is upon us.  The flutist hits her stride on the recently released In The Moment album.  Although the title cut has been added to playlists at smooth jazz radio, this is an urban instrumental collection, an aural seduction comprised of sensual R&B grooves and danceable funk with laid back contemporary jazz nuances.  Althea will be performing at Spaghettini in Seal Beach on May 21st. The Detroit native is a physical presence with her sculpted body and long braided hair.  She exudes confidence and is very present.  Rene makes the flute funky and sexy.  Her instrument sings mellifluously with passion.  On In The Moment, her third album, she is backed by a tight rhythm section that keeps the beats driving and the grooves deep, gifted horn players who bring energy and warmth, guitarists who subtly dispense scorching riffs, classy keyboardists, and dreamy vocalists.  Musically Rene’s upbeat jams, mid-tempo grooves, and “Quiet Storm” ballads explore elements of R&B, pop, jazz and reggae.  

Rene produced or co-produced seven of the album’s tracks and had a hand in writing five new songs.  Beyond playing a variety of flutes on the disc, she also contributed vocals, keyboards, percussion, bass and drum programming.  In addition to the first single, standout selections include the affirmative “I Can”; the rhythmically spicy “Campari Juice”; Rene’s breathy vocal number, “More Than You Know”; “Number One,” the anthem-like Patrice Rushen composition; a cover of Beyonce’s hit, “Me, Myself and I”; and the cuddle-up-close album closer, “When You’re Around.”   A former police officer, Rene left law enforcement in order to pursue her passion for music.  More than anything, she loves going to work on the concert stage.  She thrives while performing and relishes each opportunity to entertain audiences.  She played gigs in Detroit as part of the Super Bowl events and in Houston during NBA All-Star Weekend.  We ask you to kindly consider Rene for a concert advance feature, interview, performance opportunity, and/or a concert review.  Please let me know your needs for covering the upcoming concert date.  Thanks for your consideration.

MTV Enters On-Line Music Fray

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

(May 16, 2006) The music downloading industry has made billions selling individual songs like items on a menu, but several companies are betting fans would prefer an all-you-can-eat buffet. When music industry giant MTV Networks Inc. launches its long-awaited downloading site, URGE, this week, it will be the latest player to experiment in the past year with unlimited downloads for a monthly subscription price. The strategy is seen by many companies as the next step for music downloading, particularly as a number of new players try to knock off Apple Computer Inc. as the dominant player in the market. In addition to selling individual tracks for 99 cents (U.S.), MTV is planning to offer unlimited access to millions of songs for a monthly fee of just under $10. Of course, the catch is that as soon as you cancel your subscription, the songs will no longer play on your computer or digital music player. Software used in the subscription download services prevents songs from being burned onto a CD and requires MP3 players to be updated once a month to ensure the subscription is still active. MTV, which is only launching URGE in the U.S. at this point, joins a handful of companies, such as Yahoo Inc., Napster Inc., Virgin Group PLC and Real Networks Inc.'s Rhapsody, that offer unlimited download subscriptions. With tastes and trends changing so rapidly, the companies are betting consumers would rather rent songs than own the music outright. "Of the CDs you own, in the last month how many have you listened to?" said Kerry Munro, general manager of Yahoo Canada Co., which launched Canada's first subscription downloading service a few months ago. "So instead of going out and buying a song at a time or an album at a time, your music choices change and evolve." For a fee of up to $8.99 (Canadian) a month, Yahoo Music Unlimited sells access to unlimited downloads from the company's catalogue. Stop paying the bills, however, and the time-stamped files shut down. Though Yahoo doesn't divulge how many subscribers it has gained since January, Mr. Munro said the customer base has been expanding quickly in Canada. "This is a relatively new concept compared to the downloading of songs," he said. "To some degree that's where the market is heading. It's where we want to see the market go, but also where users are taking the market."

Puretracks Inc., a Toronto-based on-line music store that supplies services operated by Telus Corp. and Future Shop Ltd. as well as its own site, has considered the subscription model. However, the company is not yet looking to expand beyond individual song and album downloads, which are still the bulk of the market. "The subscription model will appeal to people that we would venture are more music aficionados and early adopters when it comes to technology," said Alistair Mitchell, chief executive officer of Puretracks. "But we look at it all the time." Several large players are looking to carve out a piece of the lucrative market dominated by Apple's iTunes service, which has sold over 1 billion songs. MTV has been planning to launch URGE for months, but was delayed by testing. The site is expected to launch tomorrow.

Microsoft gets the URGE

Microsoft Corp. is teaming up with MTV Networks Inc. to introduce a music service that will challenge Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iTunes software.

The service

The ability to download from MTV's URGE music store's library of about 2 million songs will be available tomorrow to U.S. customers via a new version of Micorsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Player 11 software. It is also expected to be bundled into Microsoft's new Vista operating system.

The partners

MTV's URGE music store - MP3 device makers iRiver Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Creative Technology Ltd.

The cost

Like iTunes, songs will cost 99 cents (U.S.) to download. However, an "all-you-can-eat" subscription allows users to download as many songs as they like for a monthly ($9.99 or $14.95 if you want the ability to transfer songs to a portable player) or yearly ($99) fee.

The market

Sales of music downloaded from websites more than tripled last year to $1.1-billion, while overall global music sales slipped 2 per cent to $33-billion.

'Apple's model of a complete ecosystem -- the content and devices all working together harmoniously -- is the key to their success.  What Microsoft is trying to do is create  something similar.'



Stills Out With 2nd Disc After Discord

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Victoria Ahearn, Canadian Press

(May 16, 2006) Rolling Stone magazine and MTV called them one of the top 10 artists to watch in 2003. Fans compared them to the Smiths and the Cure. And soon they were opening up for indie giants Interpol and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, touring Europe and Japan.  The Montreal indie quintet The Stills were on a roll with their retro 1980s-sounding debut, Logic Will Break Your Heart.  But looking back, the suit jacket-clad hipsters say the album just wasn't very original.  "I think that after that first record came out, there was a lot of albums like it," singer Tim Fletcher said after a recent performance at XM Satellite Radio Canada in Toronto.  In some ways the debut album exceeded the band's expectations, he said, but it "was recorded really fast and was really, like, an innocent, naive and really passionate record because it was done so quickly."  For a follow-up, "we wanted to distance ourselves from that and do something that, to our own ears, would be exciting."  With that in mind, the band spent more than a year writing and recording tracks for its latest offering, Without Feathers, out earlier this month.  The 12-track disc, named after a Woody Allen book, is a lot more acoustic sounding than The Stills' first album and comes after an emotional year that saw feuds within the band and the amicable departure of guitarist Greg Paquet.  Drummer Dave Hamelin also threatened to leave but decided to stay and share vocal duties, while Colin Brooks took over the skins.

The group is rounded out by bassist Oliver Crowe and keyboardist Liam O'Neil.  Hamelin, who did half the production work on the new disc, said it was still "really difficult" switching from drums to lead vocals and guitar. "It's a lot of pressure," confessed the 25-year-old. "I've got to be as good as people playing guitar and singing for, like, 10 years."  The Stills have also dealt with turmoil outside the band.  Two years ago a few of The Stills exchanged punches with fellow Montreal indie outfit The Unicorns backstage at a concert in Baltimore.  "Nick (Diamonds) from The Unicorns was trying to pick up my girlfriend so I elbowed him," said Hamelin. "We fought. It came to blows."  "It's all good now though," added Fletcher. "It's like ... when you get into a fight with someone ... you're all bloody and then you help them up and you're like, `Oh, let's get a beer.' It was that kind of situation."  Then there was the reported "feud" with pop-rockers The Killers, who've been bashing The Stills in the media over the past couple of years.  "We're not in a feud. We didn't do anything," said Hamelin. ``They brought it up first. We don't want to have anything to do with them."  Without Feathers has collaborations from Jason Collett and Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene, as well as Sam Roberts.


Caramel City heats up the Mayor's Youth Task Force

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(May 12, 2006) With funky, warm, vibrant tones, the girls of Caramel City are ready to melt the hearts of Canadians. With the release of their debut album No Fixed Address, Kamaria, Lisa and Martina are being hailed as one of Canada’s most talented and recognizable female pop groups. With an R&B/hip hop sound, they have produced what critics like to call “sticky flavas you jus’ wanna savour.”  Catch this unstoppable trio as they help kick off the Mayor’s Youth Task Force Youth Week 2006 at Centre Court, Markville Mall in Markham, Ontario this Sunday, May 7.  The show runs from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and is guaranteed to be off the hook!

Sum 41 Guitarist Quits Band: Reports

Source: Canadian Press

(May 12, 2006) TORONTO — Sum 41 is minus one guitarist. Dave Brownsound has reportedly left the pop-punk group to focus on his new band, Brown Brigade, which will have a heavier metal sound. “I couldn't continue on creatively in Sum 41 without being a thorn in the side of the band,” Brownsound said in a statement quoted by “As people grow, they change. All I can ask is that our fans understand and accept my thanks for being there for me whenever I was feeling happy, sad or depressed.” Brownsound, whose real name is Dave Baksh, said the split was amicable after more than a decade of brash, catchy hits with bandmates Deryck Whibley, Steve Jocz and Jason (Cone) McCaslin. “We are brothers and no matter what, they are Sum 41 and they will make an incredible album. Peace love and all of the above,” he said. Mike Renaud, the president of Upper Management — which represents the guitarist — told that the split was simply a matter of Baksh wanting to focus his creative energies elsewhere. “He's got a new band called Brown Brigade, and he felt it was time to make a switch,” Renaud said. “There's no bad blood between anyone in Sum, and Dave is incredibly proud of everything he did with the band.

Tribe Called Quest To Reunite For Tour

Excerpt from

(May 16, 2006) *Ali Shaheed of A Tribe Called Quest tells that the group is planning a reunion tour to kick off sometime in the fall. "We're looking at October, November,” Shaheed told the Web site. “Q-Tip is working on his next solo record; Phife is doing the same thing. I'm working on my second solo album. I know people are like, 'Enough with the solos. Can we get a Tribe joint?' For us, that kind of love makes us feel really good.”  The group severed ties in 1998 following their 1998 album, “The Love Movement.” Q-Tip and Phife Dawg launched solo careers, while Muhammad founded the R&B group Lucy Pearl with Tony, Toni, Tone! front man Rafael Saddiq and former En Vogue singer Dawn Robinson. However, diehard Tribe heads never let go of the possibility that the group would eventually reunite.  "We never knew that all these years, people would be interested,” said Muhammad. “When we left, we meant it to be. When we disbanded, we never had any intentions of coming back."        According to Muhammad, it’s likely that the group will avoid recording new material for fear it would spoil their well-established place in hip-hop history. He adds, "As far as doing any albums, there's still a question mark on that. We're not that far along yet. We're going to take these shows and see how it goes."

BET Awards 2006 Announced

Excerpt from

(May 17, 2006) *It's safe to say the BET Awards have become THE awards show for Black America. This year's presentation promises, like the others, to not disappoint. Without question, the show continues to attract the biggest names in black entertainment.  Yesterday in Hollywood, Hip hop's Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott, R&B diva Mary J. Blige and Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx, earned four nominations each for the 2006 BET Awards, which will air live on Tuesday, June 27. Literally, because of popular demand for a bigger venue, the show will broadcast from its new location at the Shrine Auditorium at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT (tape delayed to the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones).  BET’s annual salute to superlative performance in music, television, film and sports promises 15 intensely competitive categories, including a brand new category recognizing innovation and originality in R&B music.  This year’s crowning recognitions will go to individuals whose names are synonymous with greatness as R&B icon Chaka Khan receives the BET Lifetime Achievement Award and actor/singer/activist Harry Belafonte is honoured with the BET Humanitarian Award.   Actor and comedian Damon Wayans, of the famed Wayans family of Hollywood achievers, will be this year's host. Performers already set are Mary J. Blige, T. I., Mariah Carey, Chaka Khan and Kanye West.  For MORE show details and a complete list of nominations, click HERE.

Beethoven Mighty 9th Sung Better Than Played

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

(May 15, 2006) Sometimes concertgoers are reminded how things that look good on paper don't always dazzle in the execution.  That was the case with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir blow-out season finale at Roy Thomson Hall on Friday night.  The main item on the program was Beethoven's magnificent, sprawling, hour-long Ninth Symphony. As people did at its premiere 182 years ago, the somewhat sparse Toronto audience rose rapturously to its feet following the rousing choral finale.  One can't help responding to Schiller's "Ode to Joy" poem and Beethoven's upbeat determination, even if the path leading up to it at the hands of Mendelssohn Choir director Noel Edison was less than smooth.  Edison is a consummate choral conductor, moulding and honing the sound of his various ensembles into burnished perfection. He did the same Friday night, with the help of four able soloists: soprano Laura Whalen, mezzo Vicki St. Pierre, tenor Michiel Schrey and bass-baritone Olivier Laquerre.  But the orchestra was not up to this standard. Edison's small pickup band was rough around the edges.  The evening opened with two smaller-scale works with themes of love, loss and joy. The first was a new composition by Toronto composer David Stone.  The Prophet: "On Love" draws its text from Kahlil Gibran's well-worn verses. This is an instrumental score written by a sure hand. But the choral writing was insipid and lacking in shape, making the overall effect dull and lifeless.  Montreal-born composer Pierre Mercure (1927-1966) supplied Cantate pour une joie (Cantata for a Joy), a seven-part work with words by Gabriel Charpentier. Written in the mid-1950s, this is a much more interesting piece of music, given a gorgeous extra touch on Friday by Whalen's solos.

Cockburn In Lineup For 2006 Winnipeg Folk Fest

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(May 12, 2006) Toronto -- Cerebral songwriting-activist Bruce Cockburn shares a bill with chanteuse Rickie Lee Jones one night, while extravagant Ontario pop-rocker Hawksley Workman and the self-proclaimed King of Rock 'n' Soul Solomon Burke appear on another evening.  Canadian stars and their U.S. counterparts are to share the main stage at this summer's Winnipeg Folk Festival, an award-winning annual music event held July 6-9 at Bird Hill Provincial Park, outside the Manitoba capital.  The diverse roster of headliners also includes country-rocker Steve Earle, alt-country singer Neko Case and British guitarist Richard Thompson.

Alicia Keys Wants Mayer, Legend On New LP

Excerpt from

(May 12, 2006) *Alicia Keys has a lot on her plate these days – the promotion of her feature film debut “Smokin’ Aces,” the shooting of “The Nanny Diaries” opposite Scarlett Johansson and the recording of a follow up studio album to 2003’s “The Diary of Alicia Keys.” For the latter, the Grammy-winning talent tells MTV about the hot collabos she has in store for the fans.     "Me and John Mayer are gonna write some stuff together," she said. "I love his writing style. He's funny, very witty. I think we'll do some writing together. Linda Perry, our styles combining would be very interesting — a soulful rock-blues thing. John Legend would be an interesting collaboration. We were on tour together but we never sat down and vibed and wrote. I want to do some interesting collaborations, things that are different, and see where it leads."  Keys, who is in the studio now, has a different plan of attack regarding the recording sessions this time around.   "I'm taking the approach of writing everything first, kind of old-school style,” she said. “Before cats stepped in the studio, the song was written, the music was done — that kind of thing. The idea of it was already developed. I want to do that.   "I want to write a lot, sit at the piano a lot and get all these things out that I'm going through and experienced. I just got back from Africa. I've been seeing things in my life that changed my whole perspective on everything."     Specifically, Keys said, she was moved to see firsthand the effects of extreme poverty on humanity.     "The way government takes advantage of people, there's so much disconnect, segregation — the way it's set up to just destroy the human spirit," she said. "So many things I've witnessed and felt and seen, I'd never seen before."

Ex- Wailer Loses Bid For Bob Marley's Royalties

Source: Associated Press

(May 15, 2006) LONDON — The longtime bass player for Bob Marley's group The Wailers lost his lawsuit Monday seeking a share of the late reggae legend's royalties.  Aston (Family Man) Barrett was seeking the equivalent of up to $115 million (figures U.S.) he claimed he was owed since Marley died in 1981 without making a will.  Justice Kim Lewison agreed with arguments by the Island-Universal record label and the Marley family that Barrett surrendered his rights to any further royalties from Wailer recordings in a 1994 settlement in exchange for $500,000.  Lewison made an order barring Barrett, 59, from taking any further action without the court's permission. Barrett, who sued on behalf of himself and his late brother, Carlton, the band's drummer, now faces a bill for legal costs estimated at nearly $3.8 million.  "We always felt that this would be the outcome and it was hard to listen to Aston Barrett reduce his friend Bob to someone who was more interested in playing football than making music," the Marley family said in a statement issued after the judgment was announced.  The Barrett brothers recorded with Marley from 1969 until his death 12 years later. Aston Barrett co-wrote the song, Rebel Music (3 O'Clock Roadblock), and co-produced 11 albums with Marley.  Lewison said Aston Barrett had the "greatest difficulty" in answering questions about business dealings, and his testimony was not reliable.  "He was plainly close to Bob Marley himself, whom he trusted implicitly," the judge said.  "At this remove of time, his recollection of events was hazy; and I also consider that, as often happens, he has reconstructed events in his mind according to how he would like them to have been."

Thirteen Year-Old Rapper Causing A Stir

Source:  Arbell / Special Ops Media /

(May 15, 2006) At thirteen years of age, Lil’J Xavier has caused the industry to take notice.   This young and gifted rapper has a style that captures the eyes and heart at first sight. He has the moves, the presence, and the personality.  Look for his new CD, "Young Prince of the South," to be available on August 15.  Lil’J Xavier makes a statement and a strong presentation that engages the young.  His performances at up fans and gets them to participate.  He has recorded with the legendary George Clinton and recently recorded with Bishop T.D. Jakes. In August 2004 Lil’J Xavier was named the winner of the “America’s Most Talented Kids Show”, a talent competition for youth across the USA and began airing on PAX-TV in October 2004.   His latest accomplishments were winning the 2005 Texas Gospel Excellence Awards for “Rapper of the Year” and recently signing a national recording contract with Music World Entertainment/NooDay Entertainment with co-management provided by Mathew Knowles, Manager of Destiny’s Child.

Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges Announces Partnership With Tantra Exotic

Source: Octavia Dosier | 323.286.8809 |

(May 16, 2006) ATLANTA  -- Multi-platinum selling artist and Academy Award winner Chris "Ludacris" Bridges is stepping into the energy drink business.   Ludacris announced his partnership, as spokesperson in the US, Canada and the Caribbean, with Austrian company Top Products TradeR GMBH and Chevour Marketing, Inc. (the manufacturer's Canadian agent) to release Tantra Exotic Elixir & Hi-Level energy drink.  "For me, it's about being versatile and doing the unexpected," says Ludacris. "At the end of the day, I'm still thirsty for the hot new product.  And when it comes to linking with brands, I look for those brands I can use everyday and Tantra Exotic is definitely at the top of my list."   Tantra Exotic is a classic refreshing drink that increases physical performance, mental alertness and reduces stress recovery periods.  Both Tantra Exotic & Hi-Level will appeal to adults looking for a better combination of refreshment that also revives the body and mind, especially after high activity levels.  "Tantra Exotic takes things to the next level by combining attributes from traditional energy drinks to provide adults with the taste, refreshment and energy boost they're seeking," said Eng. Tariq Hamami, Managing Director, Top Products Brands, "Tantra Exotic is a groundbreaking energy elixir that gives men and women the ultimate stimulating push and offers the best of both worlds in one appealing package." Tantra Exotic & Hi-Level will hit retail stores nationwide beginning in the Fall 2006.  The national launch of Tantra Exotic & Hi-Level follow on the heels of a successful debut in select markets and will be supported by an integrated marketing campaign, including television, radio, outdoor and print advertising, as well as point-of-sale advertising.   For more information on tantra exotic, please visit

Ageless Verse For A Song

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

(May 17, 2006) Sometimes, all it takes is a poet, a singer and a piano to freeze-frame our hectic lives and put our daily strivings in perspective.  These are miraculous moments — rare and precious.  More the irony, then, that one such moment happened yesterday at a free lunch-hour concert at St. James Cathedral in front of a few dozen people.  Vancouver-born mezzo-soprano Lynn McMurtry is among the remarkably large crop of wonderful Canadian singers who are in their 30s right now.  With the help of Boston-based pianist Alison d'Amato, McMurtry tackled a variety of settings of poems by Walt Whitman, written by American composers Ned Rorem, Lee Hoiby, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Ives and Celius Dougherty.  There were also four poems set by Toronto composer James Rolfe.  Whitman (1819-1892) could write about love, but his most powerful verse deals with hypocrisy and the horrors of war.  As we get daily reports of dead soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq, Whitman's words are as pointed and relevant today as they were during the American Civil War.  The songs McMurtry chose covered a wide spectrum of topics and emotions, a range she exploited fully with her rich, flexible and large voice. Her singing style remains easy and fluid even as she penetrates deep into our psyches.  The program itself was a masterstroke of careful pacing and stylistic counterpoint. Rolfe's pithy settings were a particular treat, from the drip-drippy piano accompaniment on "Trickle Drops" to the wistful "A Clear Midnight."  D'Amato proved a fluid, flexible accompanist with a similarly easygoing dramatic flair.  The program drew to a close with two powerful settings by Rorem of "Inauguration Ball," where perfumed ladies are juxtaposed with dying soldiers, and "The Real War Will Never Get in the Books." Sound familiar?  In his poem "That Music Always Round Me" (which wasn't sung yesterday), Whitman writes: "I hear not the volumes of sound merely — I am moved by the exquisite meanings ..."  Yesterday, his exquisite meanings were rendered by equally impressive interpreters. Art doesn't get any more moving than this, regardless of the price of admission.

We Remember Johnnie Wilder Jr.

Excerpt from

(May 17, 2006)   *Fans of R&B/funk band Heatwave, whose classic hits “Groove Line,” “Always and Forever” and “Boogie Nights” are a soundtrack to fond memories of the mid-70s, are mourning the passing of the group’s singer and founding member, Johnnie Wilder Jr.    Wilder died Saturday, May 13 at his Dayton, Ohio area home at age 56. The cause of death is unknown.  In 1979, a car accident left him a quadriplegic. In 1994, Wilder started teaching students about the music industry at Ohio's Central State University.   Wilder and his brother Keith Wilder were both U.S. Army soldiers stationed in West Germany when they began performing in clubs and bars. After their discharge from the military, they ended up in the UK and hooked up with songwriter/keyboardist Rod Temperton.   Heatwave, as they began calling themselves, toured London clubs while fine-tuning their sound, which mixed the era’s disco music with R&B/funk grooves. The hybrid soon caught the ear of GTO (Epic Records) in 1976, where they were signed and released their first album, “Too Hot to Handle” in the fall.   The album bore their first hit single, “Boogie Nights,” which in turn birthed a popular handjive game among young girls in urban neighbourhoods. The album also saw the release of the ultimate slow jam, “Always & Forever.”  A funeral for Johnnie Wilder Jr. will be held Friday (May 19) at 1 p.m. at Residence Park Church of Christ (4328 Hoover Ave., Dayton, OH). It will be preceded by a family visitation and singing at 11 a.m.


May 15, 2006

Beenie Man, Hmm Hmm, Virgin
Brooke Valentine,
D Girl, Virgin
Bubba Sparxxx,
Heat It Up, Virgin
Burning Spear,
Never [Single], Burning Music
Killa Season, Asylum/Diplomatic Man
Carolyn Franklin,
Sister Soul: The Best of the RCA Years 1969-1976, Kent
Christina Milian,
So Amazin', Island
Knucklehead Theatre, Thizz
DJ Format,
Fabriclive.27, Fabric
Freddie McGregor,
Bobby Bobylon [Bonus Tracks], Heartbeat
Love Me Right [Single], Sony
Johnny Clarke,
Rootsy Reggae/Visions of John Clarke, Wackies / Basic
Lil' Flip,
Court Session, Vol. 2, BCD Music Group
Mac Dre,
Mac Dre Presents Thizz Nation, Vol. 6 [CD/DVD], Thizz
Ron Sexsmith Time Being (Warner)
Various Artists,
Absolute Funk, Vol. 2, Body & Soul (Hep400)
Various Artists,
Dirty South: Tha Beginning, Warlock
Various Artists,
Get Higher: A Funky Tribute to Sly & the Family Stone, Calvin
Various Artists,
Smooth Sax Tribute to Outkast, Tribute Sounds
Various Artists,
The Manifest: Los Reyes del Reggaeton Fino, Vol. 1, Brentwood
Young Dro,
Shoulder Lean, Atlantic / Wea

May 22, 2006

Billy Preston, Drown in My Tears, Pazzazz
Bob Marley,
400 Years, DBK Works
Bob Marley,
No Sympathy, DBK Works
Bubba Sparxxx,
Claremont Lounge, Virgin
Christina Milian,
Say I [Single], Universal International
Dennis Brown,
Africa, Brook
DIXIE CHICKS Taking The Long Way (Columbia)
DJ Memo, La Revolucisn del Reggaeton, Machete Music
Gladys Knight,
Gold, Hip-O
Jagged Edge,
Jagged Edge [Bonus Track], Sony
Johnny Clarke,
Rootsy Reggae, Wackies / Basic
Gold: The Very Best of Luciano, Jet Star
Mobb Deep,
Give It to Me, Interscope
Obie Trice,
Snitch, Interscope
Pastor Troy,
Money and Power, KR Urban
Tell 'Em What They Wanna Hear, Bad Boy
Ray J,
What I Need, Sanctuary
Sean Paul,
Give It Up to Me, Atlantic
The O'Jays,
Greatest Hits [Collectables], Collectables
Various Artists,
40 Reggaeton Jewels [CD/DVD], Machete Music
Various Artists,
Best of 60s Soul [Madacy], Madacy
Various Artists,
DJ Love Songs Duets, DJ Choice
Various Artists,
Irie Reggae Hits: Best of Dancehall, Time Life/WSP
Various Artists,
Soul Classics, Vol. 12, Collectables
Various Artists,
The Best of Both Worlds Hip Hop and Reggaeton [CD/DVD], Universal Latino
Various Artists,
Tributo a Bob Marley, Delanuca
William Bell,
New Lease on Life, Wilbe
Ying Yang Twins,
Alley...Return of the Ying Yang Twins, Koch
Yung Joc,
New Joc City [Clean], Bad Boy


Cannes 2006

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt

(May 17, 2006) CANNES, FRANCE -- Cannes is always being invaded. Thousands of years ago, the Phoenicians came to this seaside town and were so distracted by its charms that they left an empire back home in Canaan to rot. In the early 19th century, when Lord Henry Brougham bought a chunk of land and spread the word among his friends of the azure blue sky and gentle waters, the British and Russian aristocracy made the place their home away from home. (Is it a coincidence that their empires also later fell?) So in the late 1940s, the town fathers finally made peace with their fate, turned lemons into lemonade (or citron pressé) and created the Festival de Cannes, an annual rite of being invaded by foreigners. In the cool of Monday night and under yesterday's blinding skies, the townsfolk here were still in the thick of preparations for this year's onslaught. Road workers applied fresh paint to the concrete, cranes hoisted banners into place along the Croisette, and the whir of hydraulic lifts echoed along the stretch of beachside pavilions where salesmen from Bulgaria to Turkey will hawk their country's films and scenic locations from today until May 28. As always, the American pavilion is the biggest of all: The invasion may be international, but for two weeks every May they call this town Hollywood on the Riviera. With that in mind, the 59th edition of the biggest film festival in the world begins tonight with a cross-cultural compromise of sorts, a world-stomping $130-million (U.S.) Hollywood thriller made in part right here in France. Indeed, it was made with the co-operation of the guardians of French high culture, the Louvre. Even the casting of Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code is a lesson in international co-operation, bringing together Tom Hanks with the winsome Gallic gal Audrey Tautou. Anticipation is especially high since Sony Pictures has refrained from holding preview screenings with members of the public to fine-tune the picture. The studio was fearful that in this age of bloggers, word would immediately seep out, perhaps further antagonizing U.S. and European church officials already in a state of high dudgeon over the allegedly anti-Catholic message of Dan Brown's novel.

As a direct result of that tactic, of course, the more than 4,000 accredited journalists attending the festival from around the world are primed to report the film's every detail, some of them as early as after last night's press screening. So where does a festival go from there? The Da Vinci Code is not in competition at Cannes. The official competition, which includes 20 films, kicks off with a film almost guaranteed to be the aesthetic opposite of Howard's slick blockbuster, a historical drama by the earnest British filmmaker Ken Loach. Revolution is one of Loach's favourite subjects, plumbed in films such as Bread and Roses. This year he brings The Wind that Shakes the Barley, a study of workers in 1920s Ireland who become guerrilla warriors to fight off the "Black and Tan" squads trying to squelch the province's independence movement. But then, revolution is in the DNA of Cannes. The festival was formed as a nationalistic response to Mussolini's effective takeover of the Venice Film Festival in the 1930s, and in 1968 the anti-government passion on the streets of Paris inspired young filmmakers including Jacques Rivette, Robert Bresson and Claude Berri to shut down the festival. The next year, they were rewarded when their new French Directors Guild had its own program of films: the Director's Fortnight. A much milder form of contemporary revolution will be ritually enacted on the streets of Cannes later this week when the French police stage a two-hour walkout to protest working conditions. But with half the town in the dark of screening rooms and the other half sunbathing topless at the various hotels along the Croisette, will anyone notice? Because, once again, people are here for the movies. After a few wayward years, the past couple of editions of the festival have brought Cannes back to artistic importance. Most of the films in competition last year found their way to North American movie screens, including David Cronenberg's A History of Violence, Michael Haneke's Caché, Atom Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies and the Palme d'Or winner from the Dardenne brothers, L'enfant.

All of which may be helping to fuel anticipation for films in competition this year. Pedro Almodovar continues to work out his mother issues with the comedy Volver, in which Carmen Maura plays a ghost who urges her daughter (Penelope Cruz) and friends to get on with their lives. Southland Tales promises to be one of the stranger U.S. entries in competition. Writer-director Richard Kelly's follow-up to his cult hit Donnie Darko is a comedy about the making of a movie starring, among other characters, an amnesiac action star (The Rock) and a porn star developing a reality-TV show (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Moviemaking is also on the mind of Italian director Nanni Moretti, a festival favourite who brings Il Caimano (The Caiman), about a bankrupt producer of schlock (Silvio Orlando) who lands an assignment to make a film that seems like a thriller but is in fact about (now former) prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu follows up his two critical hits, Amores Perros (which won the Critics' Week Prize in 2000) and 21 Grams, with Babel, starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Gael Garcia Bernal. Director Richard Linklater may be the It Boy of Cannes 2006, with two pictures unspooling. Fast Food Nation, his narrative take on Eric Schlosser's best-selling exposé about the U.S. food industry and its political might, starring Greg Kinnear, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Catalina Sandrino Moreno, screens Friday night in competition. His long-awaited adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story A Scanner Darkly, which plays out of competition, layers animation atop live action for an unsettling visualization similar to Waking Life. Starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson, the low-budget ($6-million) film sees Linklater taking on politics more directly, with a paranoid story about a futuristic America in which citizens spy on their friends. Sofia Coppola takes a big step up the Hollywood budget ladder with her follow-up to Lost in Translation. Marie Antoinette serves up Kirsten Dunst as another young woman in transition, the French queen whose reputation has been rehabilitated since her unfortunate meeting with the guillotine during the French Revolution. Coppola has taken Antonia Fraser's biography as the basis for a pop-culture riff on life in the French court. She apparently sees the royals like today's movie stars, and even some celebrity directors, who are never far from the public's judging gaze. After a high-profile divorce from her director husband Spike Jonze, Coppola probably knows whereof she speaks.

Cannes Can

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Pevere, Film Critic

(May 12, 2006) Here's the thing about the Cannes Film Festival, which launches its 59th edition Wednesday with a screening of Ron Howard's obscure adaptation of a barely read novel called The Da Vinci Code: no matter how many times you go, or how far inside you get, Cannes never loses its aura.  Of what, you ask? Of, well — and apologies for indulging in such an obvious but unavoidable cliché — of je ne sais quois.  "I can't really account for it, and I still feel it when I go there," says Atom Egoyan, the Toronto filmmaker who has had five films — Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, Felicia's Journey, Ararat and Where the Truth Lies — as part of the prestigious elite category called the Official Competition. "I know the place like the back of my hand, and yet there's a degree ..." The filmmaker, who has also served on the festival's jury, pauses momentarily to search for the words to convey the experience.  "There's a degree of consecration which is peculiar and distinct and quite impossible to really describe."  The event has maintained an almost irrational status in the world market, observes Canadian producer Robert Lantos.  "The only thing that's changed is that over time that many more festivals have mushroomed throughout the world," he says. "And other festivals that were marginal, like the Toronto film festival, became important, and in a way they compete with Cannes. Cannes was alone in 1974 when I first went ... Cannes is still the queen of festivals. It's still the most important one."  Lantos, long associated with Egoyan and former CEO of Alliance Films and current chief of Serendipity Point Films, also gets slightly mystical when talking about Cannes, despite the fact that he's produced 10 of the films invited to the Official Competition, and he's been attending since 1974.  Or even longer if you count the moment in 1968 when Lantos, then 18, found himself walking along the fabled coastal town's main, palm tree-lined thoroughfare when he was competing in Cannes as part of the Canadian water polo team.

"I had this mythological, magical experience walking down the Croissette, admiring all the fabled spots and names that I had heard so much about since I was kid," Lantos recalls. "Then I realized I couldn't afford the price of a Perrier at the Carlton Hotel and promised myself I would come back some day when I could."  He did, in 1974, as the neophyte producer of a made-in-Quebec movie, directed by Gilles Carle, called L'Ange et la femme. And he's been back many times since.  While Lantos can certainly afford the Perrier at the Carlton Hotel these days, and while he has produced films that have been fêted at events around the world, the festival in Cannes remains a singularly special professional experience. There's just something about it that's untouchable.  On the surface of things — and few places have nicer surfaces — Cannes should have tarnished its reputation as the premiere international movie event years ago. Over the decades, it has survived protests, disruptions, changing tastes, fashions and moviegoing habits, innovations in technology and even the gradual erosion of its elite status as the result of upstart North American events like Sundance and Toronto International Film Festival.  Despite all this, according to those who have had the experience, there is still nothing quite like having your movie invited to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

Says Lantos: "I've been to Cannes many times, but the most fun is when you go with a film in competition. It's the riskiest but it's also the most intense. Nothing really beats that."  As an example of the festival's unique sense of occasion, Lantos cites the moment when he was making his way to the gala premier of David Cronenberg's Crash in 1996.  "The film caused such a flurry of controversy," he recalls, "that it was like walking in the eye of the storm, and I happen to enjoy that.  "Just to get to the Palais du Festivals for the gala screening on the official night, we had a convoy of limos ... we couldn't get there. The road was so blocked by paparazzi and by gawkers because of everything that had been said about the film that we just couldn't get there. Telephoto lenses got shoved in through the windows of the limo and paparazzi climbed on the roof of the car. It was as if we were in the middle of some revolution somewhere, but all it was was a movie."  Part of the allure, as Egoyan admits, is generational. If you grew up transfixed by the European art movie's golden age of the 1960s and '70s, you inevitably grew up in thrall to Cannes, an event which continues to stubbornly — some would even say arrogantly — insist on the celebration of "le cinema" as a medium of personal artistic expression.  "I think that everyone who goes into any field has to have some kind of fantasy or projection of what the ideal playing area might be," says Egoyan. "Where the real game takes place. For me, that wasn't ever in the mutiplexes or even in the Hollywood Hills. It was in the film festival world. And Cannes, when I was at the beginning of my career, was the very peak of all of that."  Although Egoyan was first invited to Cannes in 1989 as part of the parallel Director's Fortnight program, it wasn't until 1994 that he felt as though he'd finally passed through the portals of his own fantasy. That was the year Egoyan's (Lantos-produced) film Exotica was invited, and the director, who would later be nominated for Oscar for his script of The Sweet Hereafter, found himself mounting the most famous red-carpeted steps in the world.  "When Exotica went into Official Competition in '94," Egoyan says, "that remains the most exciting night."  He lets the memory simmer for a moment before continuing.

"I don't think anyone can understand the physical sense of what it means to go up those stairs and have a world premiere of a movie. We all think of the Oscars as being exciting, but they really do come a distant second to the event of having a premiere at Cannes. First of all, it's not a premiere (at the Oscars). The film has already been consecrated. It just doesn't have the same physical rush."  If the arrival at the Palais du Festivals marks the moment of highest intensity for filmmakers like Egoyan and producers like Lantos, it's partly because the movie hasn't screened yet. The real moment of truth occurs when the lights dim, and then the truth can either be affirming or downright ugly.  But that's the built-in drama of the event. Most of the films in competition — 20 from 13 countries — are being unveiled for the very first time, which means that nearly everyone is present at ground zero of a movie's public life. But if this is what lends Cannes no small part of its excitement, it's also what makes it almost impossible to handicap. You don't know what you're going to get in Cannes until you get it. If it starts at all, the buzz starts here.  It's really just so much chatter in the dark at this point, but certain titles look promising this year — like Sofia Coppola's eccentric-looking costume drama Marie Antoinette, Richard Linklater's fictional adaptation of Eric Schlosser's non-fiction junk food culture book Fast Food Nation, Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly's dystopic sophomore work Southland Tales and the new Spanish-language films by the Mexican directors (of 21 Grams and Hellboy respectively) Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu (Babel) and Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth).  Most of the movies that people will be clamouring to see in Cannes over the next couple of weeks will be sitting on DVD shelves less than a year from now. So what gives? It might be nostalgia, were it not for the fact that nostalgia only goes so far in accounting for the fact that Cannes remains one of the most busily attended industry and media events anywhere in the world.

It might be the defiant persistence of the stubbornly French insistence of film as art, were it not for the fact that's only part of the story, as well. For Cannes is also about glamour, vulgarity, cleavage and the jaw-droppingly conspicuous display of filthy lucre. "They're not afraid of challenging their audience," Egoyan stresses. "And there's an arrogance to that approach which is deeply appealing to someone who was raised in a certain tradition. That being said, Cannes loves its stars and it certainly loves the glamour, but there's this focus on being able to justify choices artistically and quite rigorously, which is really inspiring."  While Lantos and Egoyan agree that there are both down- and upsides to going to Cannes, they nevertheless agree that refusing the invitation is pretty much inconceivable.  "It seems to me it is really and truly such an honour that, for as long as it's there, and for as long as you are part of that very select club, and a club that you've obviously fought very hard to be part of, you need to wear that membership with a degree of pride," says Egoyan.  "Even if it pisses a lot of people off."

At Last, Han Shot First

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell,

(May 12, 2006) Personally, I couldn't give a rat's hindquarters whether or not Greedo fired first.  So it was funny that I'd be sitting in a New York hotel room a few years back, pressing a reluctant Harrison Ford on the issue. I wanted his opinion on the controversial alteration of the original Star Wars, in which Ford's character Han Solo is made to look like an adroit defender instead of a dirty mercenary.  Creator George Lucas rewrote history for the 1997 special edition release of Star Wars by digitally changing the scene where Solo is confronted by the bounty hunter Greedo, who looks like a mutant Smurf.  In the original movie released in 1977, Solo fires a lethal ray gun blast at an unsuspecting Greedo, in the celebrated Cantina scene. For the film's 1997 re-release, Lucas manipulated it so that Greedo fires first and Solo second, making the exchange an act of self-defence by Solo rather than murder. Lucas said he wanted Solo to look like more of a good guy.  Many Star Wars fans took umbrage at the change, but Ford dismissed it out of hand. "You know, you are probably the only guy who cares about this," he told me.  He was wrong on two counts. There were a lot of people who cared about this buffing of Solo and besmirching of Greedo. And I wasn't fretting in the implied fan boy sense that a kinder, gentler Han Solo would upset the Star Wars cosmology.  I did care in the movie lover's sense of not wanting to see a film altered for specious reasons, especially for what looked like political correctness on the part of Lucas. So I must amend my opening statement and say the demise of dumb Greedo affected me deeply.

It was with great pleasure, then, that I read in the trades last week that Lucas has finally knuckled under to fan pressure and promised to release the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD in its unaltered form, the way people first saw Star Wars in 1977, The Empires Strikes Back in 1980 and Return of the Jedi in 1983.  The films is out Sept. 12 and available until year's end in "attractively priced" double-disc sets. They'll be bundled with the 1994 remastered editions in which Lucas made still more changes.  Lucas had vowed he would never reissue the original trilogy in its original form, but a vocal and ceaseless campaign by fans forced a change of heart. An announcement on official website puts maximum spin on his big climb-down:  "See the title crawl to Star Wars before it was known as Episode IV; see the pioneering, if dated, motion-control model work on the attack on the Death Star; groove to Lapti Nek or the Ewok Celebration song like you did when you were a kid; and yes, see Han Solo shoot first."  And hey kids, you can also buy exclusive T-shirts from the site, celebrating the new/old trilogy. The first one has the slogan, "Han Shot First."  I call this a big win for lovers of unmolested cinema, even if it galls to see Lucas fleecing the fans yet again, and it's been a long time coming. It gives me hope that Hollywood may finally be getting the message that movie lovers don't want to have their cherished memories trampled.  Around the same time Lucas was monkeying with the Star Wars trilogy, renaming and numbering each movie like some kind of mad Sesame Street exercise, Steven Spielberg was busy bowdlerizing E.T., to make Earthlings look less threatening to alien visitors. He digitally altered the scene where FBI agents aim guns at little E.T., replacing the weapons with walkie-talkies. His excuse, laudable in intent if not in execution, was that he'd become a father since he first released the film in 1982, and he couldn't tolerate guns in a movie made primarily for children.  The message from Lucas and Spielberg was that these films were theirs to do with as they pleased. True enough. Missing from their arrogance, however, was any notion that the public had any personal stake in the matter.

As with songs and photos, movies awaken powerful emotions in the human mind. They create connections, some of them completely irrational, which can last a lifetime. We can all remember movies from our childhood that changed the way we viewed the world. And when a movie achieves immortality, as Star Wars and E.T. certainly have, the memories and connections are all the stronger.  The advent of computerized special effects allowed filmmakers to return to their classic works and to easily make changes to characters and structure. I suspect these were done mainly for monetary motives, to sell old rope for new, even though Lucas and Spielberg made it seem like the work of a great painter, adding a few additional brushstrokes to make a masterpiece even more masterful. But if Leonardo da Vinci were alive today and wanted to paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa, would we be obliged to let him do it?  And if director Victor Fleming were around and wanted to have the Wicked Witch of the West sent to a halfway house, instead of being melted in The Wizard of Oz, would he have that right? If Fleming also wanted to have Atlanta flooded rather than torched in a remade Gone With the Wind, should we just hand him the digital hose?  I don't object in principle to directors' cuts of movies, so long as the original versions are left intact and still readily available. I preferred the longer versions of The Abyss and Apocalypse Now, and I found the colourized version of the The Night of the Living Dead quite interesting.  But to do as Lucas did up until now, denying fans DVD versions of original editions of films they cherish, was something unworthy of a Jedi master. And it seems many fans really do miss those old movies — a poll yesterday on the Internet Movie Database showed 41 per cent of more than 8,000 respondents are planning to buy the new/old Star Wars trilogy on DVD, compared with 32 per cent who are happy with the special edition version. (An additional 26.5 per cent couldn't care less.)  If you're looking for something really cosmic in all this, consider the announcement this week by Silicon Graphics, the high-end computer maker that supplied Lucas and Spielberg with the hardware for their digital vandalizing, that it is in big trouble and seeking bankruptcy protection.  Is it coincidence, or karma?

Norm McLaren Gets Special Tribute At Cannes

Source: Canadian Press

(May 11, 2006) Toronto — A Canadian filmmaker who has earned the praises of Pablo Picasso, Francois Truffaut and George Lucas? Certainly that justifies a career retrospective at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The films of National Film Board animation pioneer Norman McLaren will be the subject May 22 of the 2006 Cannes Classics programme, an annual tribute that profiles a great filmmaker whose work is currently undergoing digital restoration. Thirteen of McLaren's unique animation shorts have been compiled into a 90-minute film that will be shown at the celebrated festival. The event comes in advance of the June release in France (Canada this fall) of a complete works DVD boxed set called Norman McLaren: The Master Edition. It also kicks off a year-long tribute to the 65-year history of animation at the NFB. Board chairman Jacques Bensimon says they've spent four years calling in old scratched, faded prints from around the world of all 60 of McLaren's innovative works and painstakingly remastering them. "This guy is as innovative today as he was when he came out, except that he did it with his hands and with his fingers and by drawing on film," explains Bensimon who says the Cannes Classic event is a double tribute to the NFB, since McLaren is the first Canadian, and the first animator, ever to be so honoured. "The people who have been honoured prior to McLaren were (Spanish impressionist Luis) Bunuel and (Jean) Renoir, so we're into the right company." Bensimon recalls Picasso's reaction after a screening of McLaren's Hen Hop: "At last, something new in the art of drawing!"

And when Truffaut viewed some of the Canadian animation pioneer's work, he wrote to him: "I was amazed and also very moved. I had tears in my eyes watching your films." Even Star Wars creator Lucas acknowledges a creative debt. McLaren is also cited as an inspiration to such latter-day animators as Raoul Servais, Chris Hinton and Steven Woloshen. And how many adult Canadian film fans recall school days when they entered the classroom, delighted at the sight of a 16mm movie projector set up? Even the most boring documentaries were a break from studies but screenings of McLaren shorts like A Chairy Tale and Neighbours proved unforgettable. Bensimon says the restoration process was especially difficult, especially for works where McLaren drew and even scratched directly onto the film stock to create his effects. "You had to preserve the quality and at the same time (ensure that) it has a look of the artist's sight, and you don't want the electronics to render it so perfect that you betray the work of the genius." McLaren's name will be prominent on another Cannes front, too. For the second year in a row, the Board will be handing out the Norman McLaren Award to the winner of the Palme d'or for the festival's best short film. McLaren's Blinkity Blank won the Palme d'or for short films in 1955. He also won an Oscar for Neighbours in '52. Born in Scotland, he died in Montreal in 1987. Meanwhile, there are no Canadian feature films in competition at Cannes this year but the NFB will have a short-film entry, a co-production with France called Conte de quartier. A 15-minute montage of urban scenes that blur the line between reality and fantasy, the film looks like surreal finger-painting animated to music. The result, Bensimon concedes, would have been appreciated by McLaren. He says the technique recalls Martine Chartrand's 2000 Argentinean short Black Soul in which she drew directly onto glass with her finger. Telefilm Canada says the Director's Fortnight programme will close with a Canada-France-Belgium co-production, Congorama, by Quebec's Phillippe Falardeau (The Left Side of the Fridge). It's the story of a Belgian inventor married to a Congolese woman, who learns at 41 that he is adopted and that he was actually born in rural Quebec. So he journeys to Sainte-Cecile to find his family origins. En route, he encounters a man driving a hybrid car and the two have an accident, one which changes their lives and perhaps the future of the automobile industry. Telefilm is also showcasing 13 Canadian films that have enjoyed the agency's support. Called Perspective Canada, the screenings will include Florence Miailhe's Congorama, Thom Fitzgerald's director's cut of 3 Needles, Louise Archambault's Familia and Charles Biname's recent Maurice Richard story, The Rocket. Cannes runs from May 17 to 28.

Seven Questions with Richard Dreyfuss

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Bob Strauss

(May 12, 2006) Born Oct. 29, 1947 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Raised in Beverly Hills, Calif. Began appearing in episodic television in mid-1960s, then small movie roles (The Graduate, Valley of the Dolls). Significant films include American Graffiti, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz ("Many people still think I'm Canadian," he says), Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goodbye Girl (1977 best-actor Oscar winner), Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Mr. Holland's Opus. Conscientious objector during Vietnam War. Three children. Married three times, most recently in March to Svetlana Erokhin.

LOS ANGELES -- We haven't seen a lot of Richard Dreyfuss lately, but we've heard more and more of his pronouncements about the state of the world (in a nutshell, it's not good). Semi-retired from the acting game, the everyman star of breakthrough George Lucas and Steven Spielberg 1970s blockbusters still makes the occasional screen appearance. His latest is in Poseidon, Wolfgang Petersen's high-tech remake of The Poseidon Adventure. In the very soggy ensemble thriller, which opens today, Dreyfuss plays a suicidal gay man whom imminent death gives a new thirst for life. As energetic as ever in a grey T-shirt and navy blazer, the white-haired Dreyfuss seems supremely happy with the new directions his own life is taking.

With Jaws and now Poseidon, you must be hearing a lot of "I'm never getting on a boat with you" jokes.

No. That's the first time I've heard it. I've heard, "I'm not gonna go on a cruise ship," but I didn't take it personally. As a matter of fact, I was on the Queen Mary right before we shot -- we did the Atlantic crossing twice. I was madly in love and I thought it was a great idea to be with my lady. It was just a coincidence that it had something to do with my next film. Actually, I should have sent them the bill!

How have special effects changed since you made Jaws with a mechanical shark that kept malfunctioning?

Special effects have been changing since they parted the waters for the 1923 Ten Commandments. And there was always this sense of, not forgiveness, but "I know what you're trying to do so I'll go with you," y'know? Then I saw Jurassic Park and I saw Titanic and I thought, technologically, films can go anywhere and tell any story, and all you've got to do is have a genius director. So it was easy for me to see that there is not a culture in this world that will not want to see the first hour of this movie. I think certain films scream to be remade for that reason. You can believe things you see now, and there's no sense of forgiveness.

It looks like you spent a lot of time holding your breath in Poseidon.

That was not of great concern to me because I swim, I know how to swim and I'm not an idiot. I rehearsed what I had to do, I saw where the air was. There was a time when I came up in the wrong place and I had to find my way to the air, and there was a moment of "whoa!" But for the most part, I was pretty comfortable with the swimming.

I did a film once called Whose Life Is It Anyway? The character's paralyzed, so people would come up to me and say, "Wow, how did you do that? You just didn't move." I would tell them that doing it onstage, if you're still for three hours and flies can land on your face, that's rough. But a movie isn't, because you stop every two seconds. People don't realize it because that's the magic of movies. Holding your breath in this movie was never as long as it looks.

You said a few years ago that you were quitting the movie business to, maybe, concentrate on theatre. Have you changed your mind about that?

I really haven't changed; it's just that this is a good way of making a lot of money. But I'm not pursuing film any more and I haven't pursued it in a long time. The reason why is that I'd done something for 50 years and, all right already, give me a break. I loved it and it was kind of the momentum of my life, and there were always other things that interested me and I always put them off. I'd say, well, when I get a pot of gold; then I realized that there was never going to be a time when I got that safety net, so I just decided to do it.

So, what have you been doing?

Right now, I am a research fellow at Oxford. I am trying to develop curricula for the teaching of civics in American elementary schools. It's no longer taught and is inescapably important; to not teach it is suicide. So I decided that I was going to design a show for kids, and it is the biography of the idea of democracy as a Dickensian tale. And that turned into designing curricula to teach civics with entertainment and substance.

You've been quoted a lot lately criticizing the Bush administration, the mainstream media and other American institutions. Care to clarify?

What's really important is to remember that there's no date fixed for the death of the Roman republic and the birth of the empire, and we're in that process. It isn't about this issue or that issue, it's the sum. And we are walking down a road that will make whatever the Constitution of the United States represents to people -- and it does represent something very important -- it will be told as a fable very soon, and not as a fact. That's a bad thing.

Even though you're transitioning out of the movie game, how do you feel when you look back on the films that you've made?

F-ing great! I do; I've always been proud of my body of work. That's what I pursued. I wanted to have a great body of work. I spent my life doing something that I loved and the overwhelming majority of film projects that I did were things that I really admired and respected and liked. Actors are the only people I know to whom strangers walk up on the street and say thank you, and that's not a small thing and I don't take it lightly. I'm glad I did it. I'm thrilled. I'm blessed.

EUR Interviews Tim Alexander

Excerpt from - Kam Williams

(May 12, 2006)    *Rarely does a film generate a lot of controversy even before it’s been made. But that’s exactly what we have with Diary of a Tired Black Man, a movie ostensibly designed as an answer to such brother-bashing, revenge comedies as Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Two Can Play That Game and Waiting to Exhale.   What has spurred interest in the upcoming flick is a snippet available on the Internet at in which Jimmy Jean-Louis (who just starred as the African infatuated with Mo’nique in Phat Girlz) shows up with his white girlfriend to take custody of his daughter for the weekend. Although his ex-wife (Paula Lema) and her girlfriends (Shavsha Isreal and Natasha Dixon) proceed to rake him over the coals, the self-proclaimed “tired black man” manages to get the better of his adversaries during the heated exchange.  With the movie already enjoying so much buzz, I figured why wait for the release to talk to Tim Alexander, the writer and director about to make his feature film debut with the upcoming picture everybody’s been emailing, text messaging, chatrooming, instant messaging and clogging talk show phone lines about.

Kam Williams: Tell me a little about yourself. Where were you born?

Tim Alexander: I was born in Harlem, but I’ve been in L.A. since I was four.

KW: And what did you do before you decided to make Diary of a Tired Black Man?

TA: I dropped out of high school, became a locksmith. From there, I just kind of fell into fashion photography. I’ve been doing that as well as retouching, layout, and design. I’ve got a website company. And I did a few music videos.

KW: Who did you make music videos for?

TA: Howard Hewett would be the biggest star. Recently, I decided to help up-and-coming actors by making short vignettes that they could use to showcase their acting talent. So, I created a company called Screen Time Productions. Diary of a Tired Black Man was the first clip I shot. It was only supposed to be the three-minute clip to help the actors. But I put it on the Internet, did a Google the next day and I was shocked. It was all over the Internet. On one forum somebody created, there were 550 posts, 22 pages long, in only 24 hours. I said, “Oh my God!”

KW: How much help did you have in making the video clip that’s caused all the hubbub?

TA: I made it entirely by myself. I wrote, produced, directed, shot it, did the lighting, the sound and the editing. There was nobody on the set but me and the actors. I shot the whole thing in five hours, from set-up to tear-down.

KW: Unbelievable! And you built the website promoting it, too?

TA: Yeah.

KW: So, do you have enough money behind you to complete the project?

TA: I kinda have it and I’m in negotiations now, but I’m still open and weighing my options.

KW: So, what inspired you to make Diary of a Tired Black Man?

TA: I was dating a black woman who constantly wanted to go toe-to-toe with me. She was a good bit younger than I was, and even when she didn’t have any ground to stand on, she would still continue to argue with me. And then, one day, she reared back and said, “You need to get yourself a white girl. You can’t deal with a strong black woman.” So, I just said to myself, “You know what? I shouldn’t even deal with her anymore. I’m out of here.”

KW: What’s you’re dating history? Have you ever been married? Do you have kids?

TA: I’ve been engaged six times, but I’ve never been married, no kids. I find that when black women have issues with men, they bring their anger issues into a relationship.

KW: But don’t you think that many have been victimized by brothers with a player mentality? There are an awful lot of sisters who have been abandoned without child support to raise kids alone.

TA: I agree, there are a lot of men who aren’t good for them. But for some reason, when a black woman gets with a good black man, she thinks he’s weak, she thinks he’s a punk. If you’re a single-mom, I can appreciate that you’re facing certain challenges. But does that give you the right to treat a good black man with such anger and contempt? I don’t think so.

KW: What do you think is the source of their problem?

TA: I equate them almost with child molesters who grew up to become child molesters. They didn’t like it at the time but still grew up to do the same thing, because they understand how to fight, and the struggle, and all the drama. But what they doesn’t understand is how to get along. And so when they’re with a nice guy, they get frustrated, lose their comfort level, because all of a sudden they have more responsibility to actually pull their weight in the relationship. And when he doesn’t bring any drama, they bring the drama, because that’s what they’re comfortable with.

KW: So, what types of women do you date?

TA: Right now, I’m not dating anybody.

KW: What type of women were you engaged to?

TA: They were all black women. My preference is absolutely black women. That’s why I’m trying to expose the problem that we’re having, so that they maybe could learn from it.

KW: I recently reviewed a book called Mixed written by a sister who said that she started dating white guys after she moved to L.A. from Philly because no black men would even ask her out. Is that an accurate description of the state of affairs there?

TA: That is so far from the truth. I don’t agree because I live in Los Angeles. Most black people date other black people here, so she’s definitely speaking from a tainted perspective.

KW: Still, this might have been her real personal experience.

TA: There are many different points of view, but Diary of a Tired Black Man is dealing specifically with the issue of the anger.

KW: Do you think that there might be a connection between the anger and misogyny directed at black women by gangsta’ rap and the sort of anger you’ve witnessed? Maybe it’s a defence mechanism and a rational reaction to misogynist treatment?

TA: I think it’s partly the women’s fault, if they can’t tell that rap music is degrading them, and if they continue to respond to the rappers and get on the dance floor. The worse the song is, the more they want to dance to it. That’s definitely part of the problem. I’m trying to put the face of a good black man up, because the rappers have already had their day.

KW: How do you expect black women to react to this film?

TA: If you have a medical condition, first you have to go to the doctor to diagnose the problem, before you can heal it. But you cannot tell black women they have an anger issue. They won’t accept it. The reason I’m putting it in a movie is that you have a great forum, a situation where people have to sit there for two hours, shut up, and listen. And that’s something that you cannot do in person.

KW: You sound like a black Dr. Phil, talking tough love, here. This is likely to provoke some very heated exchanges. What type of reactions have you gotten from sisters to the clip so far?

TA: I’ve gotten thousands of emails. I’m definitely getting some that are kicking and screaming about it, but believe it or not, the overwhelming majority of women agree with it, even the very educated ones. And the few that called who disagreed, changed their minds after I talked to them and they said, “Is that what we do? I’m glad to see this from a man’s point-of-view. You know what? I suddenly see what you’re saying.” Some of them say, “We do need to check ourselves.”

KW: Have any women shown an interested in dating you because of the movie, and of what ethnicity?

TA: A few, primarily black women. Some were definitely enamoured, but I don’t get out much, because I work very hard

KW: Certainly some sisters must see it as a slap in the face of black women.

TA: Some try to make it a bigger issue than it is by saying it’s an indictment of all black people. But it’s not. He says, I’m tired of “angry” black women like you and pointed at them. It’s a very direct hit. They attacked him at the door. He just came to pick up his daughter.

KW: Do you feel uncomfortable about presenting black women in such a negative light?

TA: Whites make movies where we see white people as trailer trash? What’s the difference?

KW: Maybe the presence of the white woman is what makes the anger issue seem so explosive in your film?

TA: It’s not about the white woman. It’s about the angry black woman. And when have you ever seen a movie which shows a positive image of a black man who takes care of his family and carries himself with dignity, even when he’s under fire. You’ve seen us be the problem, the drug-dealers, the gangstas, the criminals, the losers, the buffoons, the cross-dressers. When have you seen a dignified black man handling his responsibilities? They say there’s no good black man? Here’s a good black man. This guy ain’t no pimp, and he ain’t puttin’ on a dress. In this particular scenario, a good black man can’t find peace and happiness in his home. No matter what he does, she relentlessly rakes him over. And finally he gets tired, and has to leave. So, she drives him away.

KW: Do you think your film could possible trigger more violence against black women or make even more of a rift between sisters and brothers?

TA: No, it’s not about that at all. Anybody who sees this movie and wants to go hit a woman is sick and has a problem. If anything, maybe women will realize that if they didn’t have to get in that last word, maybe they could circumvent some of the violence that they’re already going through.

KW: I gotta ask you one last thing, the Jimmy Bayan question. What area of L.A. do you live in?

TA: Studio City, in The Valley.

KW: Thanks for the interview and good luck with the film.

TA: Thank you.

Two Favourites At The Tribeca Film Festival

Excerpt from - By Dianne Quander

(May 16, 2006) JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT- Mos Def shines in this gritty drama. Set in the intriguing but seedy side of Sao Paulo Brazil, Journey to the End of the Night, is a gritty thriller that takes you into the lives of two exiled Americans - Rosso (Scott Glenn) and his older son Paul (Brendan Fraser).   This father/son duo has carved out a decent living in one of the most notoriously dangerous places in Brazil.   They own a successful nightclub and brothel but dream of having a better life.  Rosso wants to take his young second wife and 5 year- old son Lazare to a new city to start over and Paul wants to get from under mounting debt due to an uncontrollable drug habit and also get rid of his father.  Paul hates his father and blames him for all his troubles. A way for their dreams to come true presents itself when a customer of the club is killed and leaves behind a suitcase full of drugs worth a substantial amount of money.  Rosso and Paul see their opportunity and arrange a buy with some Nigerian drug dealers.   The Nigerians are not very trusting, however, and want the drop to be made by a Nigerian man who speaks Yoruba.  This is where Wemba (Mos Def) comes in.  He is the dish washer at the nightclub and a Nigerian immigrant who the father has grown to respect.  Wemba has to deliver the drugs and bring the money back safely traveling through the nocturnal and perilous underbelly of Sao Paulo.  Wemba is fearful but brave when he is faced with some harrowing situations on his way back to club.    During the course of the night there are a series of events, including Paul’s fateful encounter with a transvestite, that culminate into an unspeakable tragedy involving everyone. 

The cinematography is dark and dirty giving the film a disturbing realism (feels like you’re right there) in capturing the ugliness of a city filled with death, drugs and illicit sex. Mos Def gives an extraordinary performance as the immigrant Wemba - perfecting a Nigerian accent and speaking Yoruba.  This is a true testament to his talent as an observer of people and of life – reflected in him both as an actor and a rapper. Mos Def’s character in this film is somewhat shy and seemingly the only person in the movie that has a sense of value and morality. Brendan Fraser as the son Paul gives a stunning if not shocking performance – he is diabolic in this movie, scary and psychotic.  This is a side of Fraser’s acting that we have not seen.  Paul is a disturbed person who envies his father and is perhaps jealous of how he dotes on his younger son.   Rosso doesn’t seem to have a clue as to how strongly his oldest son feels.  The audience discovers only at the end what caused Paul to be such a sad and despicable character.  When a person is deprived of love/light, there is only darkness and Paul walks on the dark side. The rest of cast is great also.  Some of the other cast members are: Sandino Moreno (Angie), Alice Braga (Monique) and Matheus Nachtergaele (transvestite).  Nachtergaele is a very famous actor in Brazil and was captivating in this role.  The Nigerians were not actors but people the director/writer Eric Eason took off the streets and amazingly they delivered a convincing performance. Eason also revealed that a lot of the prostitutes in the brothel were actual working prostitutes- “street casting” is one of the factors that make this movie feel so real. You will find Journey to the End of the Night a fascinating film to watch.

LOCAL COLOR: TOUCHING AND INSPIRATIONAL – A nostalgic look back to an age of awakening. Ray Liotta (John Sr.), Armin Mueller-Stahl (Seroff) and Trevor Morgan (John) star in George Gallo’s coming- of- age story Local Color. Filmmaker George Gallo’s screenwriting and directing credits include Midnight Run and Bad Boys I & II.  He is an accomplished artist and the film features over three hundred of his paintings. Local Color is a semi-autobiographical account of Gallo’s life as an eighteen year old impressionist painter during the summer of 1974.  It tells the story of a talented but troubled art student, John, who in an effort to perfect his art befriends Seroff -an elderly alcoholic master painter.  John has idolized the genius of Seroff paintings for a long time and is elated when he discovers that he lives in his hometown. Sadly, Seroff has become a recluse turning his back on life and his art.  After several failed attempts by John to convince this cantankerous old man to be his mentor, Seroff finally gives in to teach him and invites John to his country home in Pennsylvania for the summer.  John goes with Seroff against his father, John Sr.’s, (Ray Liotta) wishes – John Sr. is a “man’s man” and is convinced Seroff is a homosexual.   He is also concerned that his son maybe gay as well because he loves painting.  This story line lends itself to some humorous moments and Liotta is hysterically funny in this part.  Once John is at the country house he starts to get paranoid and thinks his father may be right, especially when Seroff burst into his room one night to see if he is comfortable. His fears prove to be unfounded and Seroff and John become fast friends.  John’s eagerness, however, leads to disappointment when Seroff tricks him into wallpapering, painting and fixing his house instead of teaching him to paint.  Seroff is a complicated man and there is a method to his madness.  Gradually, he reveals his kindness, generosity and emotion hidden beneath a seemingly hard shell and finally shows John how to awake his imagination.  Seroff also learns, from John, how to awake his passion for life and art again.  The teacher learns from the student. The cinematography in this film is breathtaking.  Well framed landscapes are striking; much like impressionist paintings.  I’m sure things were done digitally to create this effect but it is so natural that it’s like seeing through the artist’s eyes - a beautifully shot film.   Armin Mueller-Stahl is charming, humorous and so delightful as Seroff.  After reading the script, he came out of retirement to do this role.  Trevor Morgan as John portrays a kind of impressionable vulnerability that is refreshing.  He engages you with his eyes and those eyes, according to the director, are what convinced him to cast Trevor for the part.  Ray Liotta is outstanding as John Sr.  Other cast members include Ron Perlman, Samantha Mathis and Charles Durning. There are valuable lessons in this movie.  Anyone who has a dream will be inspired by it. Gallo has given us a gift by sharing the wisdom and insight of his mentor through Local Color.

Dianne Quander is a writer in New York City.  She can be reached at

Yikes! It's Wanda Sykes

Excerpt from

(May 17, 2006)  *Born on March 7, 1964 in Portsmouth, Virginia, Wanda Sykes was raised in Maryland just outside Washington, D.C. The gifted comedienne attended Hampton University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing before embarking on an unfulfilling career in government. The world is grateful for the day Wanda first took a shot at stand-up at a local comedy club on open mic night, taking to the stage like a fish to water.  After spending several years on the nightclub circuit honing her act, the sassy Sykes’ big break arrived when Chris rock offered her a spot as an ensemble cast member on his HBO show. Since then, she’s had her own comedy special, Wanda Sykes: Tongue Untied, plus a couple of short-lived series, Wanda Does It and Wanda at Large. She’s also made appearances on countless other TV shows, including Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Tavis Smiley, Drew Cary, Carson Daly, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Mad TV. On the big screen, she's upstaged some of the best in the business, for instance, Chris Rock in Down to Earth and Pootie Tang, and J-Lo and Jane Fonda in Monster-in-Law. Recognized by both her peers and her fans as among the best in the business, Wanda was named one of the 25 Funniest People in America by Entertainment Weekly and was the only black female to make Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Comics of All Times. Here, she talks about her new film, Over the Hedge, an animated feature where she lends her distinctive voice to the character Stella the Skunk.

Kam Williams: Hi Wanda, I don’t know if you saw my annual Blacktrospective column, but I named you the second best black actress of 2005.

Wanda Sykes: Wow! Thank you. No, I didn’t see that. Who won, Queen Latifah?

KW: No, Thandie Newton for Crash.

WS: Great! That’s not too shabby at all.

KW: You definitely deserved the accolade, because once again you somehow managed to steal scene after scene from some very talented co-stars, in this case J-Lo and Jane Fonda. Why is it that when an audience comes away from Monster-in-Law, the most memorable thing about it is you?

WS: Wow! I’m not going to say that I stole anything. I guess you could say that they provided an environment for me to be comfortable in so that I was to carve out a little space that wasn’t being used. It just kinda worked  out.

KW: What interested you in your latest role as Stella the Skunk?

WS: Well, I started this process about three years ago, so I’ve had quite a few successes since then. But three years ago, my agent called me and says, “[producer] Jeffrey Katzenberg and some people at Dreamworks want to meet because they’re about to do a new animated movie and they want to talk to you about being in it.”

KW: What was your reaction?

WS: I said, “Oh my God, let’s get over there before they see Pootie Tang.” So, I went over there and they pitched the story and told me that they had me in mind for Stella the Skunk. And then they all kinda ducked, waiting to see if I was going to blow up. But I responded immediately and I got the role. I was looking forward to doing it and I loved it.

KW: Even though you’re self-deprecating about Pootie Tang, I loved that movie and it made the Top Ten List in my Blacktrospective for 2001. Even though it was a low-budget film, I thought that its message was great, plus I found it very entertaining.

WS: Thank you very much. I don’t put it down, because, like anything I do, if I’m in it, it’s because I believe in it. It’s just fun to joke around with it. And also, Pootie Tang is one of those movies that either people get it, or they don’t. So, they either love it or despise it. But, I’m not really ashamed of it or embarrassed by it at all.

KW: I see you’re doing a lot of animated voice work, as Bessy the Cow in Barnyard, Sister Moon in Brer Rabbit, etcetera. Why do you think you’ve become so popular as a cartoon character?

WS: My voice is distinctive, there’s a rhythm to it, and also it’s funny. I was just blessed with a funny-sounding voice.

KW: What do you think it is that makes you so funny as comedienne? When did you discover that you were funny?

WS: I knew I was outspoken when I was a kid, because whenever my parents had company coming over, they would pay me to leave. “Go see your grandmother. Get out of here.” That was my first paying gig. But it really wasn’t until junior high school, around my peers. They would laugh and always tell me that I was funny. I was like the unofficial class clown. So, yeah, back then, I knew that I had something, a certain wit.

KW: But you went to college and tried a career as bureaucrat before finally pursuing your true calling.

WS: I had never been to a comedy club, and I didn’t know any working comedians, so it just took a while for me to write some jokes and get into a talent show. But then it all made sense to me. I said, “Okay, this is why I am here on this Earth. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

KW: What was it like to explode into a superstar? Can you still go to a mall  or a supermarket?

WS: Oh, definitely. I still go wherever I want to go and do whatever I want to do. People… I hate to use the word “fans,” are very respectful. It’s not like I’m some pop idol or big movie star. I’m very approachable, and I love the people who enjoy me, because they react like they’ve run into a friend. Usually, it’s like, “Hey, Wanda! How ya’ doing?”

KW: I know you’re a member of AKA, the pink-and-green sorority. Are you still in touch with any of your sorority sisters?

WS: The ones I went to school with at Hampton, we still keep in touch. It’s just so hard getting together, because we’re scattered all over the country. But when I’m on tour, if someone is in that city, she’ll come out to the show and it’s always great seeing them.

KW: I saw that you’re in Clerks II. How did you hook up with [director] Kevin Smith and what was it like working with him?

WS: He was a lot of fun to work with. I met Kevin when he and [producer] Norman Lear, who I’m a big fan of, were working together on a project. They were doing public service announcements to get people to vote. They asked me to do one of them that Kevin was directing, so that was the first time that I actually worked with Kevin. Then, when he was doing Clerks II, he called me and said, “I’ve got a small part. Would you come aboard and just play with us for a day?” I said, “Sure!” since I loved the original. And after reading the script, I definitely wanted to be a part of it.

KW: You’re also in Evan Almighty, the sequel to Bruce Almighty. Have you started shooting that yet?

WS: Yes, we’re already in production and shooting in Charlottesville, Virginia.

KW: You’ve written a book, written scripts, done stand-up, been in movies, and on TV. Which type of work is your favourite?

WS: Stand-up, by far, is my favourite.

KW: Have you ever considered taking a dramatic role. I think you’d be great at that, too?

WS: Oh, thank you. What I love about comedy is that there’s room to have those dramatic scenes. As long as it’s real, there can still be something funny in a tragic situation. But while I won’t say never, right now I enjoy being funny, and that’s where I’m comfortable, so I think I’m going to stay with the funny.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

WS: You better be very passionate about it, because there’s a lot of rejection before you get to the good stuff. It’s something that you just have to love and be tenacious about and hang in there. If you don’t love it, and are only getting into it because you want to be famous, you’re going to be crushed. You’ve got to do it because you love it.

KW: What would you say was your big break?

WS: I would say that would be the Chris Rock Show, when I started writing on that show. I opened for Chris when he was preparing to do Bring the Pain. He was working at Caroline’s. Then when he got his own show, I got a call to submit some writing samples. I got the job and I can’t even put a value on what I learned from working with him. I still credit him and the exposure I got on his show for my big break. But I just credit him. I don’t write him a check or anything.

KW: Do you think you’ll work with him again.

WS: Yes.

KW: Is there a question you always wished someone would ask you that you’ve never been asked?

WS: Hmm…. That question right there that you just asked me is a good question, because I’m thinking about it. That’s a very good question.

KW: Are you willing to reveal what general area of L.A. you live in? I don’t mean to be annoying, but this is what I call the Jimmy Bayan question.

WS: I live in The Valley.

KW: He’s friend of mine who lives in Los Angeles and always wants to know the answer to that question, not that he’s a…

WS: A stalker?

KW: Stalker, right. Have you ever been to Princeton?

WS: Yeah, I think I played the school or somewhere around there back when I was doing a college tour. I used to live in Woodbridge, New Jersey early on when I was pursuing stand-up. I couldn’t afford New York, so I lived in Jersey for a few years before I moved into the City.

KW: Thanks for the interview, Wanda.

WS: Well, thank you. Appreciate it. Take care.


ACTRA Calls For Ontario To Help Actors In Poverty

Source: Canadian Press

(May 11, 2006) Toronto — Some of Canada's best-known stars of screen and stage want the Ontario government to provide more support to the province's artists. Members of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists say they want legislation to reduce the number of Ontario artists who are living in poverty. Colin Mochrie, best known for his roles on This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Drew Carey Show, says Canadian performers rarely have the privilege to retire. There are 21,000 ACTRA members in Canada, many of whom live on less than $20,000 per year. The group wants better protection for child performers, training to help aging actors find new careers, lower taxes on artistic income and affordable housing for older artists.

We Remember Michael ‘Bear’ Taliferro

Excerpt from

(May 11, 2006) *Michael “Bear” Taliferro, best known for his role in Eddie Murphy’s “Life,” is dead at 45 from a stroke he suffered last Thursday.  Funeral services are set for tomorrow. A viewing will be held today. A benefit celebration has also been planned at the Comedy Store in West Hollywood. Read on for specifics.   Taliferro parlayed a professional football career into a burgeoning life as an actor in movies and on television.  He made his 1990 feature film debut in “The Last Boy Scout”; followed by “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit”; “Bad Boys” with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence; “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate”, again with Lawrence; “Witch Hunt”, with Dennis Hopper; “Armageddon” and “Life” with Eddie Murphy. On television, Taliferro was seen on "Martin," "The Drew Carey Show," and he had a recurring role on the "Jamie Foxx Show."  A graduate of Texas Christian University, Taliferro was signed by the Washington Redskins in 1984, followed by two seasons in the USFL with the Denver Gold in 1985 and the Arizona Outlaws in 1986, finishing his career with the British Columbia Lions in the Canadian Football League the following year.   Taliferro’s latest projects before his untimely death included the role of Crixus in “3/5 of a Man” starring Ving Rhames and the project “Steppin'” in which he produced and  made his directorial debut.    Taliferro leaves behind his fiancée, Cathey L. Tyree and their three children; A grandson; two sisters and a brother.  The memorial fund has been set up at One United Bank and donations can be made via the internet or mailed to the above address. Please contact Lynn Allen Jeter & Associates at 323-933-8007 or via email at or for additional information.

Magic, Lincoln Seek Aspiring Filmmakers

Excerpt from

(May 11, 2006)  *NBA legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson has teamed with Ford Motor Company's Lincoln luxury brand in a search for aspiring filmmakers to "Define Lincoln Luxury" and win a place in the driver's seat of the 2006 Lincoln Zephyr.   Contestants must create an original commercial articulating their own interpretation of Lincoln luxury. The commercial should be 30 to 60 seconds in length and must feature at least one shot of a Lincoln vehicle. Judging will be based on originality and creativity, appropriateness of commercial to theme and overall appeal.     Official rules and entry forms are available on A Grand Prize winner will be selected on July 5, 2006, by a panel of experts from the advertising and film communities. In addition to a two-year lease on the 2006 Lincoln Zephyr or $10,000 in cash, the Grand Prize winner also will receive a 5-day, 4-night trip for two to South Beach, Florida on July 20 - July 24, where the winning commercial will debut at the ABFF Filmmaker Award Brunch.      Lincoln and "Magic" Johnson have been partners in various ventures since 2003, including the production of television commercials, charity events (Midsummer Night's Magic) and other joint appearances (NBA All-Star Game, dealer events); most recently at the world debut of the brand new 2007 Lincoln Navigator and Navigator L at the Chicago Auto Show.      Lincoln is also teaming with Film Life to present the American Black Film Festival for the seventh consecutive year. The annual event attracts a robust group of film aficionados for a five-day retreat of premieres, networking, panel discussions, hands-on workshops and competitive film showcases.

Johnny Depp: The Best Right Hand In Hollywood

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(May 15, 2006) Los Angeles — Johnny Depp has the write stuff when it comes to signing autographs while Cameron Diaz is the worst, according to a new list from Autograph Collector magazine. Depp, followed by George Clooney, topped the magazine's 14th annual survey of Hollywood's best and worst signers. The Pirates of the Caribbean star also was rated best last year. "Many stars become bad signers once fame and fortune hits, but not Depp. He's even signed autographs for crowds at the airport while carrying luggage," said Steve Cyrkin, editor and publisher of the Santa Ana, Calif.-based magazine. As for Clooney, "he'll joke as he signs, and make fun of how he looks in photos he's handed to autograph," Cyrkin said. When it comes to her moniker, however, Diaz gets a flunking grade. "Cameron Diaz may be a talented actress, but she's persistently a terrible signer. Instead of just turning down a person's autograph request, she'll lecture them about how dumb autographs are," Cyrkin said. Russell Crowe would have been named as the best of the worst, but in recent months he has been much nicer to fans, Cyrkin said in a telephone interview Friday. AP

Outkast’s ‘Idlewild’ Finally Sets A Date

Excerpt from

(May 15, 2006)  *After several delays, the new OutKast film “Idlewild” is scheduled to arrive in theatres on Aug. 25, three days following the release of its soundtrack via LaFace records. The set’s first single, “Mighty O,” somehow found its way onto the Internet last week.  The track features the Atlanta duo’s take on Cab Calloway’s famous scat from “Minnie the Moocher.”  In the song, Andre 3000 raps about defying categorization: "The damsels in distress but they a mess / They only like my armour and that I'm a performer/ They read one magazine and want to think they're getting warmer / They're only getting colder."  Big Boi, meanwhile, puffs out his chest with the lines:  "Intended for anyone filling out this application / An estimate is needed for your underestimation / I'm firing on the spot, go back and check your calculations." Later, he threatens, "I'll hurt you like the president's approval rating by serving your a** with words, fool."   As previously reported, "Idlewild" was written and directed by Bryan Barber and set in the 1930s around the running of a juke joint. The film co-stars Terrence Howard, Faizon Love, Ben Vereen, Cicely Tyson, Patti LaBelle, Macy Gray and Fishbone's Angelo Moore.

Chris Rock To Direct And Star In Comedy

Excerpt from

(May 16, 2006) *Chris Rock will step into the director’s chair for his next film, “I Think I Love My Wife,” a comedy that stars the comedian alongside Kerry Washington and Gina Torres. A remake of Eric Rohmer's 1972 French comedy "Chloe in the Afternoon," the film centers on Richard Cooper (Rock), a professional who is married to Brenda (Gina Torres), with whom he has a young daughter. When his old girlfriend (Kerry Washington) enters the picture, Cooper soon discovers he is in way over his head.   Rock penned the script with longtime collaborator Louis C.K. and replaces director Charles Stone (“Mr. 3000”), who recently dropped out of the Fox Searchlight project.  “I Think I Love My Wife” marks the second time Rock has directed a film, following 2003’s “Head of State,” in which he co-starred with Bernie Mac.


U.S. Debut For Baby-Only TV Channel

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - David Crary, Associated Press

(May 11, 2006) NEW YORK - Escalating an already heated debate, a first-of-its-kind TV channel premieres Thursday designed specifically for babies — an age group that the American Academy of Pediatrics says should be kept away from television altogether.  The new, round-the-clock channel is called BabyFirstTV. For $9.99 US a month, it will be available initially by satellite through DirecTV and later through cable TV providers as well. It will not be available in Canada.  TV offerings already abound for older toddlers, and a lucrative — though controversial — market has developed for baby-oriented videos, attracting the Walt Disney Co. and the makers of Sesame Street, among others. But, until now, there had been no ongoing TV programming aimed at infants.  "This is the first channel dedicated to babies and their parents — transforming TV from its original purpose into a way for them to interact," said Sharon Rechter, BabyFirstTV's executive vice president for business development and marketing.  "The fact of life is that babies are already watching TV," she said. "That's why having BabyFirstTV is so important — what we want to offer is completely safe, commercial-free and appropriate content."  A 2003 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 68 per cent of children under two watch TV or videos daily and 26 per cent have a TV in their bedroom. Nonetheless, the pediatrics academy recommends that children of that age not be exposed to TV or videos, saying that learning to talk and play with others is much more important.

The academy's guidelines were cited last week in a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission, challenging claims by leading makers of videos for babies that their products were educational.  Seattle-area pediatrician Donald Shifrin, chairman of the academy committee that studies television and children, urged parents to exercise prudence and to view the new TV options sceptically.  "Sesame Street has opened a Pandora's box by legitimizing the idea that TV needs to be developed for this demographic," Shifrin said. "We're not the nation's nanny, but we do want to provide a little balance — we don't want to make TV the default entertainer for children."  Critics of TV for infants also are sceptical of assertions by BabyFirstTV and other companies that their products are designed to be watched by babies and parents together in an interactive manner.  "Experience tells anyone that it's not going to be used that way," said Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston. "Parents use it to park their kids in front of the TV so they can get things done."  Rich said the companies "are basically letting parents off the hook from their guilt by saying, `This is educational,' so parents can justify it to themselves."  Rechter said BabyFirstTV is not claiming that its programs — designed for viewers from six months to three years old — will make babies smarter. "But having babies and parents interact helps children's development, and we give them that opportunity," she said.  Asked about the possibility that parents might simply use the new channel as a baby sitter, Rechter replied, "We could speculate as much as we like about what parents should do."

"If a baby is watching TV, let's put them in front of appropriate content," she said. "At the end of the day, parents make the decisions."  BabyFirstTV's advisory board includes Dr. Edward McCabe, a pediatrician who is physician-in-chief at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital.  "I was sceptical when I first heard about it," McCabe said. ``But I became convinced that this is a major evolution in media for kids."  Rechter said BabyFirstTV will start with 250 hours of content, 80 per cent of it original. Some of its programs will come from baby DVD companies, including Brainy Baby and First Impressions, and it has an agreement with Sterling Publishing, a Barnes & Noble subsidiary, to use children's books in a Story Time program.  By the end of 2006, Rechter said, BabyFirstTV also will be available in Spanish.  The three companies behind BabyFirstTV are Regency Enterprises, a film and TV production company that is a partner of Fox Entertainment; Kardan N.V, an investment group based in the Netherlands and Israel; and Bellco Capital, a private Los Angeles-based investment fund.

Hey, Light Entertainment Never Hurt Anyone

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - John Doyle

(May 11, 2006) The other day I read in the paper (this one, actually) that CBC-TV has appointed an "executive director of factual entertainment programming." This lucky person will "oversee the development, production, acquisitions and adaptation of talk shows, game shows, lifestyle and reality programs." The move was stoutly defended by CBC executives. I read this item with great interest. News from Fort Dork is always fascinating. In any case, I was wondering who or what I could mock today, and Thursday is the day for a dollop of mockery. (Think about it -- by Thursday everybody is fed up, so a cathartic sneer is good for the mental health.) I considered mocking Nancy Wilson on Newsworld for staring at the Teleprompter as if some terribly puzzling mystery was slowly unfolding on it. But I decided against it. At this point in today's epistle I should point out to the intrepid readers in the executive offices at Fort Dork that today's epistle comes in two parts. There's a fun bit and a serious bit. Before you reach for the indigestion pills and idly wonder how much it would cost to have me whacked, skip forward to the end, the serious bit. It will cheer you up no end. I promise. Anyway, the mind boggles at the entrancing vista presented us -- CBC's adventures in reality TV. Will it be all makeover shows and is there a posse from Fort Dork trawling the country looking for the next Mike Holmes? Will there be a throng of attractive single women corralled in the atrium at Fort Dork to audition for a multipart series about the perils of being single in Toronto? I mean, almost every channel in Canada has one of those shows. Or will CBC do it on the cheap? Is there a search on a for a florist-with-attitude who can host a program directing florally challenged CBC viewers on how to spruce up the average CBC viewer's home with daffodils and lilies from Peru?

Of course, on CBC, factual entertainment must include a certain seriousness. One possibility is a lively debating series, under the general title "Is CBC a Bloated Liberal Propaganda Machine? You Decide!" ("Closed-captioning brought to you in part by the National Post.")  You know how ABC got a lot of mileage out of that fool David Blaine trying to hold his breath under water for the length of a commercial break on Desperate Housewives? Well I'd suggest that CBC approach Michael Coren about a special in which he held his breath until he was allowed to disseminate his reactionary views on CBC News Sunday. Canadians would watch with awe, I'll bet. ("Closed-captioning brought to you in part by The Catholic Messenger.")  Hockey. Now, the CBC already tried Making the Cut, which had a disappointing number of viewers. However, it has recently emerged that although the CBC takes hockey very, very seriously, a certain portion of the Canadian female population sees the NHL Playoffs as an opportunity to drink heavily and expose their bosoms to young men in cars who call upon them to do so. I'm seeing a special called "Life on The Red Mile: Where The Party Is." ("Closed-captioning brought to you in part by Playboy's spring/summer collection of fun and flirty swimwear, fashion apparel, footwear and accessories.") Who could resist a follow-up to The Greatest Canadian, with a twist -- "The Greatest Canadian Dork?" ("Closed-captioning brought to you in part by The Globe and Mail, home of the Most Irritating Canadian (television-related) competition.") Oh, there is fun to be had in the speculation department. But there is a serious point to be made -- CBC-TV is perfectly entitled to expand its efforts in the area of "factual entertainment." Every public broadcaster in the world has a menu of fun, audience-grabbing programs that are original or clever variations on formats used on commercial TV. It's all about pleasing the widest array of viewers. I've just examined the schedule for the BBC channels in Britain this week. In prime time, BBC offers its version of The Apprentice. There are plenty of dramas and sitcoms but the schedule is peppered with numerous examples of chat shows, quiz shows and consumer-oriented advice programs.

On BBC Two you'll find Grumpy Old Men. It's described as "these aging males find maximum irritation in everything from bottled water to incomprehensible TV adverts." Also a program called School's Out, which carries this description: "A brand new quiz presented by Danny Wallace where everyone should know the answers because we were taught it at school." And there is a BBC twist on the Fox program COPS. Described as "an observational documentary series," it's called Traffic Cops and this week's episode is summarized thus: "Drunk drivers and late-night revellers leave traffic cop Pete Heywood and his colleagues with their hands full on a Friday night in Portsmouth. Strong language." See what I mean? Some people hold the absurd idea that CBC-TV is obliged to deliver a tight menu of news, serious documentaries and earnest dramas about socially relevant issues. It isn't. The BBC doesn't do that. Everybody needs to lighten up. Including the defensive executives at Fort Dork. Just don't imitate all those dreary makeover and single-gal shows on the Alliance-Atlantis channels. Airing tonight --the second-last episode (ever!) of Will & Grace (NBC, 8 p.m.) has Bernadette Peters as a guest star. It lasts 40 minutes. The season finale of My Name Is Earl (NBC, 8:40 p.m.) has Earl dealing with the first item on his list of bad-stuff he did. It lasts 40 minutes. The Office (NBC, 9:20 p.m.) is written by star Steve Carell. It lasts 39 minutes. Seriously. ER starts at 9:59 p.m. Dates and times may vary across the country. Check local listings.

Dule Hill Says Goodbye To ‘West Wing’

Excerpt from

(May 12, 2006)  *This Sunday at 8 p.m., NBC”s “The West Wing” will air its final episode, capping a seven-year run marked with numerous Emmy awards, critical acclaim and a satisfying ride for co-star Dule Hill.   “It was a bittersweet ending,” Hill says during cast interviews to plug the final episode. “It was such a major part of my life. I think I spent more time there than I did in high school. I even spent more time around them than I did my own family, so they became like a second family to me.”    For most of the show’s seasons, Hill’s character, Charlie Young, was the personal aide and confident of President Josiah “Jed” Bartlett, played by the venerable Martin Sheen. The lone African American cast member, Hill said he was a nervous wreck during the first day of shooting in 1999, but Sheen was quick to put the young Orange, N.J. native at ease – taking him aside early on and teaching him the soul brother handshake that a teenaged Laurence Fishburne taught him on the set of 1979’s “Apocalypse Now.”  Dule says he and Sheen have been tight ever since.     “The last scene that was shot was a scene that’s going to air in the season finale with myself and Martin,” says Hill. “That was very personal to me because he was such an important figure in my life for the last seven years. To be able to end my run on the show with Martin, I couldn’t ask for anything better. What was exchanged in the scene, I took it home as my little keepsake.”      Born to Jamaican parents 31 years ago, Karim Dule Hill started out as a dancer, eventually landing a gig on the 16-month national tour of “The Tap Dance Kid” as an understudy for Savion Glover. During his senior year of high school, he booked his first film role in 1994’s “Sugar Hill” as the younger version of Wesley Snipes’ character.      A subsequent Broadway turn in the original cast of "Bring in Da' Noise, Bring In Da' Funk," which reunited him with Glover, forced him to leave college early in his junior year. Soon film and television roles would follow in such works as “She’s All That” and the small screen’s “New York Undercover.” But Hill struck gold when Aaron Sorkin cast the then 23-year-old in his new television pilot about officials working in the White House.   Critics and viewers soon got behind the show, fuelled by Sorkin’s snappy writing and heavy plots that balanced dramatic political situations with layered back stories of the show’s characters. Hill and other members of the ensemble cast – the late John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, Alison Janney, Richard Schiff and others – were often filmed walking and talking down endless hallways, often in one take, a technique that quickly emerged as one the show’s trademarks.       The series went on to earn four consecutive Emmy Awards for television’s best drama, and Hill said more and more perks came along with the accolades.  

“John Spencer would always say, ‘You would never experience this if you were on a cop show.’ And it’s the truth,” Hill explains. “I mean we’ve met presidents, we’ve met ambassadors, we’ve been to the White House. Some of us have even played basketball on the top of the Supreme Court. I played basketball in front of the White House in front of Pennsylvania Ave.  It’s like, that’s pretty much never, ever gonna happen again. So, I’m definitely thankful for the ride.”     The show’s current and final season gave viewers a great presidential campaign storyline between senators played by Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda. But, despite great reviews, ratings slipped dramatically. And the program also had to deal personally and creatively with the sudden death of Spencer, who played vice presidential candidate Leo McGarry.  In recent days, NBC announced that it was cancelling a planned retrospective on the series’ history that was to precede Sunday’s final episode, which will feature the inauguration of Smits’ character, Democrat Matthew Santos.   While NBC would offer no official comment on their decision, money was reportedly at the root of the issue. According to The Associated Press, the network couldn't reach an agreement with the cast on what - or if - they would be paid to appear on the special. The network will instead air a rerun of the show’s pilot at 7 p.m.   The scrapped retrospective episode, however, doesn’t diminish the seven years of pure bliss experienced by Dule Hill. The actor believes firmly in the old cliché – that all good things must come to an end.     “I think it was the right time for the show to end,” he says. “It’s better the show ends when the people are still enjoying it than for the show to end where it’s trailed off and people have been over it. I think we were still a show that people paid attention to and were aware of what we spoke about. I just gotta give thanks for having that ride.”

Will & Grace Signs Off After 8 Seasons

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Hank Stuever, Special To The Star, The Washington Post

(May 16, 2006) On the death of Will & Grace, which will end its eight-season run Thursday night on NBC, the mind seems to have erased most of the clip reel. The gayest among us now profess to have shirked duty and stopped watching a couple of seasons ago.  Whether one needed him to be the gay Rob Petrie or the gay George Jefferson, there is very little about Will Truman (played by Eric McCormack) to recall, and even less about Debra Messing's Grace Adler. It looked like they were having fun, and not much else. It's been a huge hit, even overseas, but Will and Grace turned out to be rather boring people, and when you think about it, they turned out to be the exact same person.  For years, some viewers held on to the idea that the show was an example of pure progress in the way American culture views homosexuals. This turned out to be Will & Grace's burden to bear, and it discarded it happily.  Instead, Will & Grace will be better remembered for Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) and boozy Karen Walker (Megan Mullally), the auxiliaries. Will and Grace's barbs were no match for the cutlery wielded by Jack and Karen, whose surreal banter and insults defined the show. Despite a variety of accolades and awards presented over the years at gay rights and media-watchdog fundraising dinners — where Will & Grace was praised for its groundbreaking courage and supposed heavy lifting on the front lines of the culture war — its lasting imprint on actual gay people may be in its flawless demonstration of the cutting quip.  The point, then, was to get away from "gay" and veer into more universal subjects on which everyone could enjoy a good bite: for example, the immigration debate. Will & Grace taught America much more about another kind of platonic love that dares not speak its name, that of a filthy rich addict and her devoted Central American housekeeper (Shelley Morrison as the beatific but surly Rosario Salazar). Their love is, of course, expressed as contempt.

Karen: This one's gonna be spooning ceviche out of a bucket on a dusty soccer field back in Chimichangaville!

Rosario: Listen, lady, in my country, I was a schoolteacher.

Karen: Yeah? Well, in this country, you wash my bras.

Nobody in the real world talks like that to each other, though occasionally, some gay men try to.  The show improved on, and certainly added to, the patois of pop camp as uttered by people who watch too much TV and enjoy nothing more than a fresh cocktail and a cigarette. It meant the end of gay men who thought saying, "But ya are Blanche, ya are in that chair!" (channelling Bette Davis) was still hilarious, and gave currency to gay men who could do the dance routine to "Oops ... I Did It Again" (channelling Jack, who was channelling Britney Spears, who naturally did a guest appearance on the show).  Gays watched Will & Grace in part to become quicker on the draw, delivering lines like this:

Grace: Can you imagine me in a three-way?

Karen: Honey, I can barely imagine you in a two-way.

This is portrayed on the show as the dialogue of two women, but it was understood subconsciously as having sprung from the collectively raunchy gay male brain. Will was always making lush jokes to Karen. Karen was always making ugly jokes to Grace. Jack was always making fat jokes to Will, who was clearly thin, and wore snug wool sweaters and T-shirts to prove it.

The best time to have been watching Will & Grace was around the turn of the century, when it still felt like some new territory was being forged and some old problems had been solved. This was, perhaps, a false sense of security.  The show, co-created by a gay man, debuted in September 1998, three weeks before the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student in Wyoming. In those two entirely unrelated events rests a constant in the present-day story of gay rights: two steps forward almost always means one step back.  Will & Grace naysayers quickly realized that Will was never, ever going to have a sex life — certainly not the robust one enjoyed by down-on-her-luck Grace, who had sex scenes with Woody Harrelson and Harry Connick Jr. and plenty of other guest mates. NBC had been nervous all along about a show featuring a gay male character, and had even played down that part before the pilot aired. Although dates for Will did make cameo appearances (Bobby Cannavale, as police officer Vince, is the boyfriend-apparent in the final episodes), they were always chaste.  Another sore point was the elusive refusal of Will & Grace's breakout star, Hayes, to discuss publicly whether he is gay. This made him essentially unavailable for the marshal's float at the June pride parades, even though his logic for keeping his sexuality private would strike almost anyone as somewhat sound: Hayes said over and over again that he didn't want any role he was playing, now or later, to be overshadowed by the perception that the actor is gay.  More and more it doesn't matter and, in the end, some gays spurned Will & Grace, even as they remained good friends with it. The lesson here is not to look to sitcoms to fight your battles and the problem wasn't politics so much as a fickle heart: the show got boring.  Nevertheless, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued a news release this month thanking the show for inching forward on how gays are portrayed: "(It) has given unprecedented visibility to gay, lesbian and bisexual people," said Neil Giuliano, the group's president. So Will & Grace is dead, and already it's a pleasant thing to encounter in rerun form (all the time), good for a laugh and a glimmer of '90s-style hope, and a smidgen of resentment.  This is the sort of collectively bipolar response to the show — to appreciate Will & Grace all one has to do is think back to time logged in front of sitcoms on the family's Zenith and remember ... what exactly? Love, Sydney? Paul Lynde in the centre square? Billy Crystal on Soap? Mr. Roper calling Jack Tripper a "Tinker Bell"?  Will & Grace came along and it really was gay, and that turned out to be not gay enough for some, but plenty gay enough for the America it encountered.


Yoga Instructor Wins Survivor

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(May 15, 2006) NEW YORK (AP) — It was a high-stakes battle that didn't have a clear-cut favourite — but, as always, in the end there was one SurvivorAras Baskauskas, a 24-year-old yoga instructor from Santa Monica, Calif., beat out Danielle DiLorenzo, a 24-year-old medical sales representative from Boston, to win the 12th edition of the CBS reality show — and the $1-million champion's payoff.  DiLorenzo, who host Jeff Probst said in an interview was one of ``the weakest players who've ever played the game," won the final immunity challenge — a contest that involved balancing on a series of wobbly platforms on the ocean off Panama — to reach the final two.  The immunity win allowed her to eliminate one of the other two still remaining, Baskauskas or ex-Navy fighter pilot Terry Deitz. DiLorenzo chose to send Deitz packing, breaking the "alliance" agreement she'd made with him.  Baskauskas, who briefly played professional basketball in Lithuania, had an intense rivalry — a "macho" hostility, as DiLorenzo called it — with the 46-year-old Deitz, who won several immunity challenges during the 39-day-contest.  At the final council vote, however, when it came down to Baskauskas or DiLorenzo, Deitz voted in favour of Baskauskas.  "Out of the two of you, you were head and shoulders the winner," said Deitz in reference to his nemesis, flashing his vote card to the camera.  When he made his case at the final council to the jury of ex-Survivor castmates, Baskauskas said he deserved to win because he ``worked hard at establishing real relationships."  Booted contestant/jury member Shane Powers blasted Baskauskas, however. DiLorenzo, Powers said, was "useless at camp" and that Deitz, not Baskauskas, should have landed in the final two.  Cirie Fields, a 35-year-old nurse from Walterboro, S.C., was the first of the final four to be voted out of the competition during Sunday night's two-hour finale.  The show from executive producer Mark Burnett, who also produces NBC's The Apprentice, remains a top-level ratings performer.  After the final votes were cast at the tribal council in Panama, they were tallied on a live broadcast Sunday night from the Ed Sullivan Theatre in Manhattan.

Corner Gas Cleans Up At Leo Awards

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill

(May 15, 2006) Corner Gas might be filmed in Saskatchewan, but it's a winner in British Columbia. The CTV comedy series won three prizes at this weekend's Leo Awards for excellence in B.C. film and television, including best comedy series, performance in a comedy (Gabrielle Miller) and direction of a single episode (Trent Carlson).  The awards, established in 1998, are open to any productions that are owned or controlled by the province. Corner Gas was created by 335 Productions, a company owned by Brent Butt and David Storey and based in Vancouver.  "There's nothing weird about it," said Butt, after picking up his prize on Saturday. "This is a great honour." Capote, the multi Oscar-nominated film co-produced by Vancouver's Infinity Media, won the award for feature-length drama. Terminal City won for dramatic series. A full list of winners can be found at

Regis Philbin To Host Summertime TV Talent Show

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(May 10, 2006) NEW YORK (AP) — Former Millionaire man Regis Philbin is headed back to prime-time TV as host of a new NBC summertime talent competition.  America's Got Talent will air twice a week this summer — a competition and a result show. The show echoes American Idol for a good reason, since it is produced by Simon Cowell and FremantleMedia, the company that also produces the Fox hit.  The NBC show will include dancers, comedians and other talents instead of just singers.  It has a two-hour debut on June 21, and will air on Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer.  "For years I've thought about hosting a variety show on television but I could never put it together in my mind," Philbin said on Wednesday. "Finally, here it is and I'm thrilled to be a part of it."  NBC can only hope Philbin is as successful as in his last prime-time foray, as host of ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which a few years back dominated the TV landscape before burning out.

Six New Shows For ABC

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jim Bawden

(May 12, 2006) ABC is planning at least six new series for the fall, according to an early look at its schedule, due to be released Tuesday, including three dramas and three comedies.  The drama Six Degrees follows six New Yorkers whose lives are interconnected, and stars Hope Davis, Erika Christensen and Jay Hernandez (Hostel). The Nine from Without a Trace creator Hank Steinberg examines the effects of a bank robbery on nine people, and stars Chi McBride (Boston Public), Scott Wolf (Everwood) and Kim Raver (24). In Case Of Emergency stars David Arquette, Kelly Hu and Greg Germann (Ally McBeal).  The comedy Help Me Help You will star Ted Danson as a psychologist. Taye Diggs will star in Daybreak. And Notes From the Underbelly, from producer Stacy Traub (Kitchen Confidential), looks at a couple facing parenthood.  NBC's fall schedule, also due to be released next week, will include two new comedies: Twenty Good Years, with John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor; and The Singles Table, with Rhea Seehorn and Conor Dubin, about five strangers who become friends at a wedding party.  NBC dramas picked up include Heroes, with Milo Ventimiglia and Adrian Pasdar, about supposedly ordinary people with superpowers; and Friday Night Lights about a small-town football team (from Peter Berg's film). Raines with Jeff Goldblum looks at a detective solving cases by communicating with the dead.

Jewel Shows Up On Y&R, All For A Good Cause

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(May 15, 2006) Los Angeles -- Jewel is hitting the daytime-TV soap world to promote her new CD. The singer-songwriter will appear May 31 on The Young and the Restless. The CBS soap opera is daytime's top-rated drama. On the show, Jewel will perform at a fundraiser hosted by characters Nick and Sharon Newman to mark the first anniversary of their teenage daughter's death in a drunk-driving accident. She'll sing Again and Again and Good Day from her new Goodbye Alice in Wonderland CD, released earlier this month. At the end of the episode, Jewel will appear in a public service announcement for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The singer's acting credits include the movie Ride With the Devil. AP

Corus Looks To Internet To Sell Preschool Shows

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Grant Robertson

(May 16, 2006) Corus Entertainment Inc. may seek partnerships with Internet portals and phone companies to expand the distribution of its library of downloadable children's programming, the company said yesterday. Toronto-based Corus, is preparing to launch TreehouseDirect, a website offering several of its animated preschool shows for sale, including titles such as Franklin, Miss Spider and Babar. The programs will be sold as single episodes, bundles or full seasons starting this fall, the company said. Corus, which operates the Treehouse cable channel for children, is using TreehouseDirect to find new markets for the programming produced by its Nelvana division. CJR.NV.B (TSX) rose 16 cents to $38.39.

Grey's Anatomy Finale Draws Big Audience

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald

(May 17, 2006) Toronto -- The two-hour, tear-jerker grand finale of Grey's Anatomy drew an average 2.8-million viewers Monday night, setting its own personal best record. The final episode of the season, which saw Denny die and Meredith and Derek make out (again), won its time slot, more than doubling the average number of viewers (aged two and over) for 24 (1.2-million on Global), the superspy drama starring Kiefer Sutherland. The Apprentice, which aired on Global during the same 9 to 11 p.m. time slot as Grey's Anatomy, drew 1.3 million viewers, according to data supplied by CTV and Nielsen Media Research. Season 2 of Grey's Anatomy ends with a season average of 2.1 million viewers, up 48 per cent compared to Season 1.


If Canadians Can Make It There ...

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(May 17, 2006) The Great White North has conquered the Great White Way.  An unprecedented number of Canadians, all Torontonians, headed the list of nominees for the 60th annual Tony Awards, announced yesterday in Manhattan. Bob Martin, Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert, Greg Morrison, Des McAnuff and Alison Pill were all honoured for their work in various categories, which included acting, writing, directing and composing.  Although on one level it could simply mean that a lot of talented individuals are getting international recognition, there's also the very real possibility it indicates Canada is inching closer to achieving parity with America in more areas than the dollar.  "Think of it as Manifest Destiny in reverse," said the Scarborough-raised McAnuff, nominated for his work as the director of the smash hit Jersey Boys. "Today Broadway, tomorrow the White House."  The Tony Awards are given out annually for excellence on Broadway, and are generally regarded as the most prestigious and powerful honours in American theatre.  Martin, McKellar, Lambert and Morrison are all connected with The Drowsy Chaperone, the spoofy 1920s musical that started life in 1998 as a wedding present for Martin and his wife Janet Van De Graaff.  Originally presented for one night only in the back room of The Rivoli on Queen St. W., it became a Fringe Festival hit in 1999, and eventually wound up on the Mirvish Productions subscription season, before catching the eye of producers down south.  Opening late in the season with little advance hype, The Drowsy Chaperone garnered largely excellent reviews and surprised everyone yesterday by accumulating 13 nominations, one in every category for which it was eligible.

"I think that's what delighted me most," said McKellar, nominated for Best Book of a Musical. "It's that they appreciated every single aspect of the show."  Martin, McKellar's old high school buddy from Lawrence Park Collegiate, received two nominations yesterday, one with McKellar for Best Book and one as Best Actor in a Musical, for his performance as the ironic, post-modern narrator and show-tune geek called "Man In Chair."  "It's just so surreal," Martin said from New York, "I can't begin to tell you. I was hoping we'd get a nomination for the book, but I wasn't daring to dream about Best Actor. Look who I'm up against. People like Harry Connick Jr., whose work I admire so deeply. And they're gong to read my name on a list next to his."  Martin is reminded of another list, those of Canadians who've also been nominated for Best Actor in a Musical in the past.  They include Christopher Plummer, Martin Short, Robert Goulet, Brent Carver and Victor Garber.  "That's quite humbling, actually. The number of things that had to fall into place for me to get here is amazing."  Another person who was surprised by her sudden luck was Alison Pill. The 20-year-old actress left her hometown of Toronto two years ago to see if she could add theatre work to her already successful film career.  She began being cast in plays almost instantly, and yesterday she found herself nominated for playing a sharpshooting teenage Irish terrorist in Martin McDonagh's black comedy The Lieutenant of Inishmore.  "That was quite a nice wake-up call," she joked about hearing the news of her nomination early yesterday morning.  "I really wasn't expecting it at all. To come down here from Toronto and be so warmly welcomed by the people of New York is absolutely amazing."

It's a theme McKellar returned to. "Everybody on Broadway has accepted us so enthusiastically. Maybe there's something about the very structure of our show, which has an outsider commenting ironically on events bigger than he is, that they find a kind of Canadian-American allegory."  "We're known for our humour," Martin continued, "as well as our offbeat perspective on things. Maybe Americans want and need that perspective right now."  Another interesting feature of this Toronto juggernaut is that it pits The Drowsy Chaperone (written by Canadians) against Jersey Boys (directed and choreographed by Canadians) as the two top choices for Best Musical of the year.  But McAnuff , who has been nominated five times in the past and won twice, defused any thoughts of bitter rivalry between the shows.  "I wish everybody well. There are enough awards to give at least one to every Canadian nominated.  "It's all good."

Toronto-Born Chaperone Scores 13 Tony Nods

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Terry Weber

(May 16, 2006) Broadway musical The Drowsy Chaperone, which got its start at Toronto's Fringe Festival, has scored big in theatre's sweepstakes. When the Tony nominations were announced early Tuesday, the show topped the list of nominees, picking up 13 nods, including one for best musical. The musical version of The Color Purple followed with 11 nominations. Toronto actor Bob Martin, who made his Broadway debut with The Drowsy Chaperone, also scored a nomination for best performance by a leading actor in a musical. He was also nominated alongside Don McKellar for best book for a musical. Speaking with CBC Newsworld shortly after the nominations were revealed, Mr. Martin was quick to thank his mother for his good fortune. "Thank you for sending me to drama school when I was a shy child because that investment, I believe, now officially has paid off," he said. Mr. Martin also learned that the show had earned more than a dozen nods visiting the Tony on-line site, where he scrolled through the categories one by one. "It was surreal," he said. The musical comedy first played in the back room of a Toronto bar in 1998 before being mounted in successively larger productions.

Productions were later staged in both Los Angeles and New York. The show moved to Broadway on May 1, opening at the Marquis Theatre. In total, the musical picked up 13 Tony nominations, including best original score. In addition to Mr. Martin, Sutton Foster picked up an acting nod, with a nomination for . The nominations were announced Tuesday in New York. The awards will be handed out on June 11. Competing against The Drowsy Chaperone and The Color Purple in the best musical category are Jersey Boys, based on the life story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and The Wedding Singer, the stage version of the movie of the same name. The actor-play candidates included Ralph Fiennes who plays the title character in Brian Friel's Faith Healer, and Richard Griffiths, a beloved teacher in The History Boys, while among the actress-play hopefuls were Cynthia Nixon, the distraught mother in Rabbit Hole, Judy Kaye in Souvenir, and Kate Burton in The Constant Wife. Oscar-winner Julia Roberts, whose sold-out run in Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain failed to win over many critics, wasn't nominated. The show itself picked up two nominations for scenic design and lighting. Mr. Martin is joined in the best actor in a musical category by singer Harry Connick Jr., making his Broadway debut in the revival of The Pajama Game. They go up against Sweeney Todd's Michael Cerveris, Jersey Boys' John Lloyd Young and The Wedding Singer's Stephen Lynch. In the musical actress category, The Drowsy Chaperone's Foster is up against Kelli O'Hara, Connick's co-star in The Pajama Game, and Broadway veteran Patti LuPone, who was nominated for Sweeney Todd. Also nominated in that category are The Color Purple's LaChanze and Chita Rivera who plays herself in Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life.

With a report from Associated Press


Marion Andre, 85, Founded Theatre

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Robert Crew, Toronto Star

(May 11, 2006) Long before there was Soulpepper Theatre Company, there was Marion Andre.  Andre, founding artistic director of the now defunct Theatre Plus, which introduced classical theatre to a generation of Torontonians, died Tuesday night. He was 85.  Ever passionate about theatre, Andre founded Theatre Plus in 1973 despite sceptics who said Toronto would never support a summer theatre.  "Do you mean to say that human intelligence dies out here during the summer?" he fired back before setting out to prove them wrong with a rich diet of the best of modern classics.  "I think Marion was one of the unsung heroes of our theatre scene," said veteran actor/director James Douglas.  For Andre, theatre was a powerful instrument for moral and social change. "We do not have enough plays dealing with political and social situations on a human level," he once told me in an interview.  Born Marion Andre Czerniecki in Poland, he was active in the Polish underground during World War II before coming to Canada in 1957. He taught at McGill before becoming artistic director of the Saidye Bronfman Centre from 1967 to 1972.  He ran Theatre Plus until handing the artistic directorship to Malcolm Black in 1985.  One of his favourite actors was Lynne Griffin, who starred in two of his major successes, The Lark and Antigone, by French playwright Jean Anouilh.  "Everything I grew into as an actor was because of him," Griffin said yesterday. "He could be irascible and incredibly demanding, but everything was done with that wonderful European flair and sensibility."  Andre leaves his wife, Ina, and children John and Jennifer.


Goodbye Gaytown?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(May 13, 2006) For a generation, Church Street has been the epicentre of Toronto's gay nightlife scene. Its bars, clubs, coffee shops and restaurants provide an open, vibrant and often outrageous place to hang out and hook up.  But there is a growing sense that the central corridor holding together the amorphous "gay village" is under siege — from high rents, shifting demographics, condo expansion and complacency.  The street — a unifying symbol to the community — appears to be in serious decline. And while it might seem an issue of importance only to the gay community, it's actually a concern that goes beyond narrow local interests.  The street plays host to one of the largest summer celebrations, Pride Week. Not only does Pride bring in millions of dollars in tourism spending, it enhances the city's reputation for tolerance and brings Torontonians of all ilks and orientations closer together.  Increasing numbers of camera-toting suburbanites with kids in tow, for instance, make the trek to Church Street for Halloween festivities featuring a cavalcade of bizarre and colourful costumes. The area also has great shopping in small outlets like the This Ain't The Rosedale Library bookstore and Reither's Fine Food — part of the ambiance creating a vibrant downtown neighbourhood.  But residents of the area are expressing growing unease about its future.  "Certainly people I've talked to have voiced some concerns," said Steven Bereznai, editor-in-chief of fab magazine, a gay publication based on Church. "They're talking about how there aren't as many younger (people) coming into the village as there used to be, which is kind of a prelude to `Who's going to keep this neighbourhood gay if you don't have a younger generation coming in?'"

Councillor Kyle Rae, who has represented the area for 14 years, said the topic of the street's perceived decline is something he discusses with constituents on a growing basis.  "Here's the stuff I'm worried about — people are tired of the littering, tired of the street kids and the hustlers and the drug dealers and drug users on the street. People describe the neighbourhood to me now as sketchy," Rae said.  But Bereznai also notes that bars and nightclubs on the street — the queer community's equivalent of the Entertainment District — are being too complacent, as other entrepreneurs across the city make greater efforts to attract gay dollars.  Listings in fab of gay-friendly establishments include ever more places outside the traditional confines of the "village," with many in the College West area. In fact, the Church St. locales have become fewer than the number of "elsewhere" listings in the magazine, which include mainstream destinations like the Drake Hotel and the Gladstone Hotel.  "We've got tons of events happening outside of the village. People (elsewhere) are pushing the edge in terms of new events," Bereznai said, citing "queer alternative" happenings in the city's west end.  Also alarming for many is that the high-profile places that once defined the street are disappearing one at a time.  In April of 2004 "the steps" at Church and Wellesley — an informal hangout place for many years — disappeared when the store frontage was extended closer to the street.  While that may have displaced unruly street youths who were contributing to crime in the community, it also put an end to an iconic meeting place where people traditionally gathered for a coffee before heading to a bar or nightclub, or for a post-2 a.m. last-chance-for-romance bid.  In October of last year, the city's oldest gay bar, The Barn, closed following the brutal murder of Janko Naglic, a part-owner who ran the three-storey nightclub that featured dance floors on each level. A legal battle over the ownership of The Barn is expected to take years to resolve and the chances of it ever re-opening are considered remote.

Its closing means there are no dance clubs operating legally on Church St., a result of a 1988 bylaw which denies licences for such establishments beyond the borders of the Entertainment District.  Most recently Bar 501, which at one time hosted the wildly popular Sunday "window shows" — in which drag artists would play simultaneously to the room and to the street — closed up after 15 years.  Commercial real estate leasing rates along Church Street, among the highest in the city, are part of the problem. Vacant spaces often take months to rent, a factor many cite in expressing their concerns for the future of the gay village.  "I think Church Street's single biggest problem is greedy landlords and people who think that because a business is gay, it's automatically something that generates millions of dollars," said Peter Bochove, who owns the Spa Excess bathhouse on nearby Carlton St.  Bochove is also worried that with The Barn closed and few alternatives within a short distance of Church Street, "people who want to dance are going out to College West."  Robert Knight, owner of Pegasus Bar on Church, agreed the rents are "totally out of whack."  Knight also noted that aging gay Baby Boomers once needed the security of an enclave centred on Church Street while newer generations do not.  "Baby Boomers ... needed the village at their time in life and now they're diminishing. Who are they being replaced by? By young people who don't feel the same need for anonymity and protection," Knight said.  "There are straight clubs that you (as a gay person) can go to and be comfortable. People won't bother you as long as you're not deep-throating somebody," Knight said.  "As a business owner, I feel maybe a little concerned. As a gay man, I think it's quite nice."  Businesswoman Heather Mackenzie, who used to operate Slack Alice, a once trendy martini bar-nightclub on Church, recently opened Big Mamma's Boy, a bar-restaurant on Parliament St., a strategic location not far from the gay village.  "I left Church Street because it was dying," Mackenzie said. "I moved to Parliament because I'm paying one-quarter of what people pay on Church."  Her other big knock against the street is the arrival of "corporate" chain establishments like O'Grady's Tap & Grill and the Firkin group of pubs (the Churchmouse and Firkin is the Church Street version) that can afford to occupy prime real estate while crowding out smaller, gay-oriented proprietorships.  "People supported us because we were small-owned. Now people aren't so discerning, they go to the corporate-owned pubs. I don't think people care that much any more about supporting their local gay (business owner)," she said.  Mackenzie hopes Parliament St. may soon attract other entrepreneurs like herself, noting 80 per cent of her clientele is queer.

Another issue: new couples-oriented gay communities are springing up in places like Leslieville, South Riverdale and Parkdale, far from Church Street.  "I think the gay identity is diffuse now. There are so many neighbourhoods that you can walk in hand with your partner. In my time, you only did that on Church Street," Rae said.  "We're now able to feel `out,' comfortable and proud in neighbourhoods across the city," he added.  Meanwhile for Church Street, the other side of the coin is the influx of condo towers that is bringing in thousands of new residents, including young heterosexual couples.  Realtor and long-time area resident Gord Mason said the village is in a prime downtown location, close to Yonge Street and nightlife of all kinds and well-serviced by 24-hour public transit.  "They (straight couples) are very happy to be moving into the area because it has the perception of being a safe neighbourhood and a fun neighbourhood," Mason said.  Mason and others point to persistent rumours that strategic blocs of land along the street are slated to fall soon to the wrecker's ball to make way for new condos.  Dennis O'Connor, president of the Church-Wellesley Business Improvement Area, acknowledged big changes are afoot.  "I foresee (the street) will be a little less gay and a little more homogeneous," he said.  O'Connor said the street was "a backwater" until the first cluster of gay-friendly businesses started to take root there in the mid-1980s.  "Now we've arrived at the gentrification of Church Street (and) we've gotten to the point where we can no longer afford to be there. Smaller gay businesses are going to say, `Now we need to find ourselves a new neighbourhood,'" said O'Connor, who moved his own small business elsewhere in the past year. "Church Street definitely is evolving."  Will it still be known as the gay village in years to come?  "I don't know. Time will tell," he said.

Young Chef Develops Crush

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Amy Pataki

(May 13, 2006) Shaughn Halls is settling in as top chef at Crush Wine Bar, 455 King St. W. Halls was the Number 2 at Pangaea for years before making the move, a smart one for a 30-year-old chef since Pangaea chef/owner Martin Kouprie has no plans to step out of the kitchen in the near future. His debut Crush menu features snapper ceviche and seared halibut with mushroom broth.

·  The twosome behind The Rosebud, the winning new restaurant at 669 Queen St. W., is no longer. Chef Rod Bowers is now in charge after parting ways with former co-owner Jason Cameron; the pair opened the restaurant last October. In Cameron's place as manager/sommelier is Krista Raspor.  "The vibe hasn't changed," says Bowers. Phew.

·  Meanwhile, at The Laurentian Room, the art deco restaurant in the Winchester Hotel, owner Trevor Berryman is stepping behind the stoves to temporarily replace Colin Gallacher, who left due to creative differences.

·  Mirabelle, a self-described "gastro wine bar," has opened at 2112 Yonge St. south of Eglinton. Chef Deron Engbers (ex-The Savoy Bistro & Lounge) does a high-end spin on classic pub fare, such as bubble & squeak and baked plum tart.

·  It's in with the old and the new at Gooderham House, until recently Angelini's on Jarvis St. The historic mansion has been restored to splendour, with the promising menu (bone marrow soufflé, anyone?) similarly respectful of classic dishes.

·  The very Cuban Mambo Lounge has opened at 120 Danforth Ave. Located beside Café Brussel, the white-tablecloth space serves tapas ($6 to $24) straight out of Havana, including empanadas, fried plantain and roast pork.

·  A former Rosedale flower store at 1116 Yonge St. has become Seven East, a modern pan-Asian restaurant from the owners of Lime at Yonge & Eg. The brand-new dining room does brisk business in Malaysian grilled fish and lobster chow mein.

·  Big-name openings to watch for: After closing Avalon earlier this year, Chris McDonald is debuting tapas bar Cava any day now at 1560 Yonge St., in the old Delisle. Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner is set to open June 23 in the renovated Gardiner Museum.

And David Lee and Yannick Bigourdain of Splendido are taking over the three-storey Original Motorcycle Café at 355 King St. W. and plan to reopen it July 3. Each 7,000-square-foot floor will have a different use: A casual restaurant, a piano bar with seafood and champagne, and a dedicated event space. At press time, the duo was leaning toward the name King West.

Canadian Collectors Cry Foul On Report

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - James Adams

(May 11, 2006) Lawyers for a who's who of prominent Canadian businessmen, including Rolling Stones' tour manager Michael Cohl and broadcasting billionaire Allan Slaight, will appear in a Toronto court tomorrow to argue that a judge was wrong last year to let French authorities receive information critical of 28 plaster sculptures the businessmen owned and planned to donate to a small Ontario gallery. The dispute is the latest in a nearly six-year battle over the authenticity of a group of plasters attributed to the French master Auguste Rodin and destined for the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie, Ont. The Rodins, 52 plasters and several dozen bronzes in total, were to have served as leverage for the creation of an ambitious "international sculpture park dedicated to 20th- and 21st-century sculpture" in the small city 90 kilometres north of Toronto. That plan is now in ruins and the MacLaren is more than $4-million in debt. Tomorrow's hearing at Ontario's Court of Appeal pits 10 wealthy Canadians against the government of France and its agency, the Musée Rodin in Paris. Besides music and theatre producer Cohl and Slaight, executive chairman of Standard Broadcasting, the businessmen include Toronto investment banker Robert Foster, pollster Martin Goldfarb, developers Garnet Watchorn and Graham Goodchild, Standard Broadcasting CFO David Coriat, venture capitalist Anthony Lloyd, Mad Catz Interactive founder Pat Brigham and the estate of the late John M. S. Lecky, Calgary-based founder of Canada 3000 airlines. At stake is the fate of versions of some of the world's most famous sculptures, among them three plaster renditions of The Kiss, two of The Thinker and three of The Age of Bronze, part of a collection that the 10 businessmen bought from an Italian dealer in 2000. By donating their 28 plasters to the MacLaren, a registered Canadian charity, they would have been able to claim their full market value as a break against taxable income. At one time, the MacLaren valued the entire Rodin project at more than $40-million. In November, 2004, however, the French, acting on behalf of the Musée Rodin, which was created by the French government after Rodin's death in 1917, obtained an order from Ontario Superior Court Justice Jean A. Forget allowing them to send an expert to Canada to examine the plasters and prepare a report on them for the Musée Rodin, which has still not been made public.

The museum has zealously presented itself for decades as virtually the sole arbiter and purveyor of genuine Rodins. When the MacLaren announced in early 2001 that it was acquiring allegedly authentic plasters that had been used by Rodin's so-called "preferred foundry" in France, the Musée went on the offensive to discredit them. Its efforts became especially pronounced in the fall of 2001 when Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum hosted what the MacLaren hoped would be the start of a worldwide touring exhibition of its Rodins.  The Paris museum has claimed, variously, that the plasters are fake or "too far removed from the master's hand" and lacking in provenance, or, if they are genuine casts made during Rodin's lifetime, that they should have been given to the museum after Rodin's death. Last June, according to documents filed with Ontario courts, some French police officials were claiming the MacLaren plasters "certainly came from" a foundry in northern Italy that had been manufacturing bogus casts since the late 1990s. Lawyers for the Canadian businessmen became aware three years ago that the French wanted an expert to inspect their plasters, which, at the conclusion of the ROM exhibition in early 2002, were placed in storage in Ottawa and Barrie. Previously, the French had been making noises about seizing the plasters with the intention of exposing them as "fake and illicit works," then destroying them. The businessmen told Canada's Department of Justice that while, in principle, they had no objection to such an inspection, it had to be done by someone "mutually acceptable" to all relevant parties and the tests could not damage the plasters. In June, 2004, they consented to the tests. That consent, however, was yanked in the fall because, the businessmen argued, the expert assigned to the case wasn't a Rodin specialist but someone more familiar with "the restoration of medieval wood ecclesiastical sculpture." Moreover, the expert was in the pay of the Musée Rodin, they said, and, as such, his presence represented "a breach of Canadian sovereignty."

In a Nov. 4, 2004, letter to the Justice Department, Ottawa lawyer Paul Lepsoe declared: "There can be little doubt the Musée Rodin is looking to use an inspection as a tool to renew its baseless disparagement of [my clients'] collection." One of the collectors, Robert Foster, also asked Justice Forget "to bear in mind that the existence of the plasters and the possibility of the MacLaren marketing high-quality posthumous bronze castings [made from those plasters] would threaten the de facto monopoly long held by the Musée over such bronzes." (Rodin copyright expired in 1982.)  Justice Forget nevertheless agreed to have the disputed expert carry out the inspection. But he stipulated it would have to be conducted in the presence of an RCMP officer and whatever "things (samples), documents and notes" were collected had to be sealed and kept in Canada until an application was received "to forward those documents and things to the French authorities." The judge also impounded the 28 plasters, detaining the works under RCMP protection.  A French application to have the documents forwarded was heard by the judge in late June of last year. Earlier, Justice Forget also gave approval to the businessmen to have their own experts look at the French expert's findings. Both later filed affidavits harshly critical of those findings and urged Justice Forget to forbid the transmittal of any documentation on the Rodins since the expert's report would be "neither reliable nor fair." Just before Christmas last year, however, Justice Forget agreed the expert could prepare a report to send to France. At the same time, he lifted his impoundment order and ruled that the French, upon completion of the expert's report, had to "immediately" provide a copy of that report to the Canadian businessmen. It's this decision on sending the report to France that lawyers for the Canadians are appealing at tomorrow's hearing. They'll be arguing that the inspection of their plasters was done without their permission and that any such search should have been "conducted by a Canadian peace officer named in a search warrant."

Steven Wright Tells Jokes In 2 lines. The End

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Raju Mudhar, Toronto Star

(May 14, 2006) In the pantheon of distinct voices, his is right up there with the likes of James Earl Jones and Howard Cosell. On the line from his Massachusetts home, Steven Wright doesn't disappoint: he sounds deep and nasal with just a hint of an accent; perpetually tired but always direct, no matter how goofy the subject is. The word deadpan has been used to describe the comedian, oh, just once or twice.  Can such a gift be a curse?  "When I call up and make an airline reservation or something, someone might recognize me from my voice. But there's nothing really weird that happens," he says. "I remember this one time in a deli in New York, I was wearing a hat and when I ordered something, the guy in front of me, his head just whipped around. I had been standing beside him, and he didn't know me."  On the blower, he's not engaging in his trademark buckshots of non-sequitur humour. He's probably saving that for later this week, when he headlines shows on Thursday and Friday at the Elgin Theatre. His appearances there are being taped for a fall special to air on Comedy Central in the U.S.  These days, Wright spends most of his time touring, with the dates even more important of late as he road-tests material for the Toronto shows. It's the next big splash in a wide-ranging career that has spanned 20 years since his first Tonight Show appearance in 1982.  His choice of Toronto to tape the Comedy Central special is no accident.  "The reason I'm doing it up there is 'cuz the audience is so amazing in Canada," he says. "They are just more responsive, laugh more. I've toured a lot of countries, Australia, Ireland, England, and I would say the Canadians are near the top, if not the top. I don't know why. I don't care, really."  He chuckles at the last dry note. His sarcasm and his laid-back demeanour may make Wright come off as a slacker, but his resumé is more in the Renaissance man mould. That sounds like an odd thing to say about a guy whose sluggish persona connects everything from his performance as the dude on the couch in Half Baked, Dave Chappelle's pothead movie of 1998, to his radio-DJ role in Reservoir Dogs.

But Wright's list of credits is long and varied (he won an Oscar in 1989 for a short film) though it's his stand-up humour that has paid the bills. A creative guy — his website ( features his paintings, fiction and even songs.  (Also, his life story: "I was born. When I was 23,I started telling jokes. Then, I started going on television and doing films. That's still what I am doing. The end.")  "I didn't just want to list jokes," he says, "because so many websites do ... I wanted to put stuff up that people might not know that I do. I took (drawing) classes in college and even thought about going professionally into the art world ...  "I love to paint. I paint abstract. It doesn't need any rules ... Comedy, no matter how crazy it is, demands some kind of logic to it or it won't work."  Whatever else he does, Wright will be remembered for his two-line jokes. ("I accidentally put my car key in the door of my apartment building. I turned it and the whole building started up.") Lists of these quick hits of his have long been circulated in electronic mail and on websites, at one time even inspiring a "Random Steven Wright Joke Generator" (now offline) that claimed to be a complete compilation of his material.  "It's a bizarre thing," he says. "Seven years ago when the lists would come out, they were really my jokes. As time went on, now you get a list and half of the jokes aren't even jokes that I wrote. So it's disturbing to me, mildly ... some of the jokes I wish I thought of. And a lot are so bad that I'm embarrassed that people think I wrote them," he says with a laugh.  As for this week at the Elgin, he'll be doing what he does best.  "The show will be about 90 minutes and I'll be talking about ... let's see ... each joke is about five seconds. I'll be covering a variety of subjects, from lint to the expansion of the universe."  And just because he doesn't sound excited, comedy fans in town should be.

Richer Pastures For Canadian Models, Actors

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - By Prithi Yelaja

(May 14, 2006) Mumbai, India - Fresh from modelling designer duds at Mumbai Fashion Week, supermodel Jaipreet Nagra slouches on a turquoise leather couch, spurning the champagne flowing in the VIP lounge for a beer.  In jeans, T-shirt, flip-flops and a ball cap turned backwards, the 6-foot-3 Nagra looks every inch the basketball-playing Hamilton native he is.  "Mumbai is total chaos," he says. "You love it and hate it. You know that saying — `If you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere'? Well, I think Mumbai is the new New York."  The muscular 26-year-old — who has strutted the runways in New York, Milan and Paris — is part of a new phenomenon: Indo-Canadians looking to make their mark in the country of their heritage.  With its growing economic muscle, India perhaps for the first time ever is beginning to be seen in the vast diaspora as a land of opportunity.  To be sure, Canada still attracts waves of Indian immigrants — more than 25,000 a year — but, anecdotally at least, there is growing evidence of a return ripple.  The Canadian High Commission in New Delhi has noticed it, but says it's tricky to quantify because Canadian citizens moving to India aren't required to register with the embassy. All they need is grit and a renewable Indian visa.  Canadian expatriates find that professional salaries here, while modest by Toronto standards, buy a pretty cushy life in Mumbai, complete with fancy flats, servants and chauffeured cars.  The downside? Quality-of-life factors taken for granted in Canada, such as litter-free streets, clean air and punctuality. And coming face-to-face with India's underclass can cause culture shock, even for Indians who have lived here before.  Dealing with servants, for example, can be uncomfortable for expatriates, sparking feelings of guilt and noblesse oblige.

Most manage to reconcile those qualms, sort of.  Given the average daily wage of 75 rupees, or about $2, and an unemployment rate of 10 per cent, arrivistes can reason they're doing a good thing employing servants.  They also learn that finding fame and riches in a country of 1 billion people is not easy or instantaneous.  Just ask Nagra, who found cracking into the fashion world tougher here than elsewhere.  "Basically you have to network like crazy" to make it in India, he says. "It's like I'm starting all over again. I'm the new guy and labelled an NRI (non-resident Indian), so there's some resentment."  A University of Western Ontario grad, he was headed for a career in sports medicine when a modelling scout spotted him. In Mumbai, he makes 30,000 rupees (about $800) per show or shoot, enough to rent a flat in trendy Bandra.  He's taking acting lessons in hopes of breaking into Bollywood, and often finds himself partying with film stars and wealthy industrialists.  But visits home to Hamilton every three months keep him grounded, Nagra says. "You go through a phase here when you're always complaining about everything. Just simple things are really difficult, like getting a pizza delivered. But then you go back to Canada and realize how much you miss India."


Pop icon Ruby Bhatia's flat in the middle-class Andheri neighbourhood is testament to her more spiritual side, its minimalist décor dominated by a life-sized statue of Lord Krishna.  As a straight-A student growing up in Ajax, Bhatia had her sights set on becoming Canada's prime minister. That dream got sidetracked in 1993, when she won the Miss India Canada title. Her prizes included a flight to India.  "I was always in love with India. I guess it was my destiny to be here. It was throbbing with energy when I arrived, and I never had any intention of going back to Canada," says Bhatia, 33, whose pixie hairdo, wide brown eyes and waif thinness recall Audrey Hepburn.  An only child, she credits her immigrant parents — a homemaker and a retired GM worker — with pushing her to succeed.  Bhatia landed a VJ gig on Channel V in Mumbai, India's MTV, though the station first made her chop her waist-length hair and discard her nose ring. The show rocketed Bhatia to stardom. "I was at the right time at the right place," she recalls, pausing to ask one of her three live-in servants to bring tea. "We were told to be irreverent, so we were in-your-face, walking into people's homes with the camera rolling and inviting ourselves for dinner."  The show was in "Hinglish" — a slangy Hindi-English mix popular on the street. "We just had the audacity to put it on air."  Roles in Indian soap operas and films followed, along with her own show Planet Ruby. Now Bhatia is recognized wherever she goes and can charge appearance fees equivalent to more than $2,500.  Thanks to satellite television, she has a legion of fans in Canada and flies in for occasional fundraisers, including one last year for Trillium Health Centre.  She visits her parents in Brampton twice a year, revelling in the "fresh air, solitude, privacy and politeness of Canada."


For every Ruby Bhatia in this Bollywood-crazy capital, there are dozens more hopefuls — among them Shewta Subramanian, 23, who arrived here in February from Ottawa.  The move "freaked out" her parents, but she figures jostling with the hordes on commuter trains and living in a tiny 7,000-rupee-per-month ($180) studio apartment will be worth it if she achieves a Hindi singing career.  She has landed a job in promotions at the hip national FM station Radio Mirchi, which she hopes will open doors. But the modest salary means she's still drawing on savings to survive. " "Honestly, I don't find Mumbai very cheap at all," she says.


Vipin Sharma, 45, was doing well as a Toronto film editor, until a drama workshop reignited his passion for acting. (Trained in drama in New Delhi, he had followed a girlfriend to Canada in 1991.)  "It's going to be challenging because I'm not a young guy any more. I can't do the typical Bollywood singing-and-dancing roles, but Indian cinema is evolving with more emphasis on script and storylines."  He admits to experiencing "profound culture shock" upon arriving in January. "After living in Canada, the contrast between rich and poor here is huge."  He hasn't landed a part yet, and Mumbai's bad air has given him a cough, but he swears, "I'm here for the long haul."  Sharma does miss Toronto's Little Italy. "It's a very special place," he says. "You tend to value it more from a distance."


Though armed with a dozen years' experience, Atul Rao was struggling to get television work in Canada when he was offered a job with an animation company in Trivendrum, Kerala on India's southwest coast.  In three years, he's risen to vice-president of creative affairs at Toonz, which makes shows for the likes of Paramount and BBC.  "I'm treated like a king. They really respect my talent, and creatively it's fantastic," says Rao, 41, who lived in Hamilton after his family left India in 1966.  He visits Canada twice a year, with wife Vicki and son James, 7, but won't return permanently. "I'd be crazy to go back. What for — to beg for a job making $1,000 a week?" says Rao, adding that the film industry in Canada is "cliquish and very difficult to break into."  His job perks include a furnished flat, car with driver, cook, housekeeper and "errand boy."  "The thing with India is, you might not get a huge wage but you get a great lifestyle," he says.  On the other hand, timeliness is not a high priority, he says with a chuckle. "Indian Standard Time" is a euphemism for starting and finishing everything woefully late.  Rao and his wife feel India has a more child-friendly culture and better education system. Their son goes to a private school.  He does find the poverty can be overwhelming. "It's right in front of you. I find it pretty mind-blowing, seeing little kids living on the streets."

Kerr Rolls The Rivoli With His Comic Riffs

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Andrew Clark, Special To The Star

(May 16, 2006) Stand-up comedians mature at varying speeds. Generally, the first to bloom are the brash, hate-driven comics who find humour in bilious diatribes. Next come the observational comedians, yuksters who plumb life's minutiae for the ironic spin on the everyday. It is the hybrid comedians, the guys who cover all the ground, who take the longest to find their bearings. Take, for example, Bob Kerr. The lanky stand-up from Sarnia, now 26, has been working the local club circuit for four years while pursuing a style that stretches across stand-up's rigid borders.  Last night at the Rivoli's AltDOT Comedy Lounge, Kerr displayed the layered talent that may one day make him a major player. In a tight middle set, he playfully segued from clever one-liners ("I just had a tattoo removed. It read, `No regrets'") to a hilarious rendition of a relaxation tape that featured whale calls.  Kerr showed off a confident, controlled style and a syncopated delivery that had his audience rolling with his comic riffs. Just when he seemed to be going too silly ("If male yeast infections are such a problem, why aren't I at PharmaPlus buying a tube of Vagisil?") he'd aim his wit at darker material ("I see where two women died after taking the abortion pill ... Of course, on the bright side, you know it works").  Kerr's obtuse style may be a reflection of his training. He was one of the first students of the Humber College's two-year undergraduate comedy program, which introduces pupils to an eclectic array of comedy (from Le Jeu clowning to improv).  After graduating in 2002, he quickly immersed himself in the local circuit. Kerr is a regular at Yuk Yuk's and does one-night gigs around the city. He's also a founding member of The Sketchersons, a troupe which plays every Sunday night at the Brunswick House. In 2005, Kerr's work as a stand-up won him as nomination for a Tim Sims Encouragement Award (which celebrates new talent) but he has made the most headway as a writer. He has tried his hand writing TV pilots and has done a stint as a guest writer on This Hour Has 22 Minutes.  Kerr is far from the first Toronto-based comedian to adopt a varied style. He is, in fact, in good company. A young stand-up working the Yuk Yuk's circuit in the late 1980s, North York—bred Harland Williams, cultivated an absurdist bent (he once performed for six months wearing a chef's outfit, "just because"). As he matured, Williams came to possess a killer style that was at once childlike and menacing. He made a successful leap to Hollywood in the early 1990s, working in television and feature films as Dumb and Dumber and Half Baked.  Kerr has the potential to follow in those footsteps. The key will be patience. It's easy to come out of the gates making fun of reality TV, or spritzing with the audience, and when a young comedian sees other players getting easy laughs for such pedestrian material, it is temping to throw your hat in with the "Where you from, ma'am?" crowd. It takes dedication and insight to look long-term and invest in building a versatile and eclectic act. Here's hoping Kerr stays the course.

Dan Rather - Still Anchored To News

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Scott Simmie

(May 17, 2006) That familiar voice — the one tens of millions recognize and that has likely been a guest in your own living room — was heard in a more intimate setting last night in Toronto.  Former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather was at Roy Thomson Hall as part of the Headlines & Biographies lecture series, talking about the changing nature of the news business and technology, the role of journalism as public service, and the importance of having an informed citizenry.  Despite easing out of the anchor chair last year, Rather remains one busy guy. At 74, in a field where many eventually burn out, he told the Star in an interview held before his Toronto speech that he's still "addicted" to news.  "It may be that I'm not smart enough to have burned out," he laughs. "But I burn with at least as hot a flame — I think a hotter flame than ever. As long as I have my health, I'm going to be covering news."  It's an addiction Rather has fed, and occasionally struggled with, his entire life; a hunger for Big Stories that has given him an all-access pass to history, numerous accolades — and occasional controversy. Though some reverentially call him "the hardest working man in broadcast journalism," critics have sometimes doled out harsher assessments, including accusations of liberal bias.  Yet even they can't argue with the fact Rather has had a truly remarkable run. He's been reporting for 55 years, working his way through wire services and several radio stations before turning his sights to television in 1959. Once he discovered the magic of the camera, it wasn't long before the young reporter was exploiting the potential of the relatively new medium.  As Hurricane Carla neared the coast of Texas in 1961, a wind-whipped Rather appeared live and gave viewers a vivid picture of being in the path of an impending storm. It was riveting television.  (Countless television reporters have since gotten soaked while reporting live from hurricane zones; they can thank Rather for setting the precedent.)

If he'd intended to get noticed, it worked. Rather was hired as a CBS News correspondent and was soon reporting on far bigger stories: the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the U.S. Civil Rights movement. On the latter, he was on the road almost constantly for a year.  "It changed me as a person," he says, rewinding the memories in his New York office. "Keep in mind I grew up in a segregated society in Texas. It was not Alabama or Mississippi or South Carolina ... frankly I had no idea that any Americans could treat another group with such violence as I witnessed. I learned so much about social justice and inequality."  The education continued, with Rather gaining a reputation for aggressive reporting in Vietnam and during the Watergate scandal. There was a memorable scrape with Richard Nixon at the peak of that saga in 1974. When Rather prepared to pose a question to the embattled president at a press conference, applause and jeers broke out in the room.  Nixon: "Are you running for something?"  Rather: "No sir. Are you?"  Not the kind of question most reporters would ask of a U.S. president. (Rather would also butt heads with another president, George H.W. Bush, in 1988, and lose his one-on-one access.)  In 1981 Rather took over the CBS anchor chair from Walter Cronkite. And though it was a job he'd coveted, he also knew it would come with challenges. For starters, he was replacing an icon.  "I can be dumb as concrete about a lot of things, but at least I was smart enough to know that I wasn't going to be another Walter Cronkite. I had to be the best Dan Rather I could be."  While he would hold the title of managing editor and have tremendous influence over what appeared on CBS Nightly News, he wanted to avoid being literally "anchored" to the desk. As it turns out, the technology was emerging that enabled Rather — if the news warranted — to relocate the show.

"I was interested in pioneering the concept — I think it was our phrase — of `the mobile anchor.' The idea was that the anchor could move ... not just do some reportage, but go and take the whole broadcast. Better heads than mine will have to debate how successful it was."  During his tenure, Rather notably took the nightly news to Japan, China, South Africa, Russia, Bosnia and Kosovo, among other places. It's now commonplace for network anchors to travel to major stories.  Though some viewers never quite warmed to Rather's more formal style in the anchor chair, there were many who trusted him implicitly. They liked his habit of throwing in unexpected but folksy turns of phrase — dubbed "Ratherisms" — especially during live election coverage. You just never knew what Rather might say, including these memorable utterances:  "This race is shakier than cafeteria Jell-O" and "Tight as a too-tight bathing suit on a too-long ride home from the beach."  For all the highs Rather found in his news addiction, there were also lows. He may have touched bottom with the airing of his 60 Minutes story in 2004 on President George W. Bush's service with the Air National Guard. Almost immediately, authenticity of a key document was called into question and Rather and CBS quickly became the news. (Rather points out that the veracity of the document has yet to be proved or disproved.)  Some have speculated the controversy led directly to his departure from the anchor desk — or at least greased the wheels. "The people I work for would have to answer to that," he says. "What they told me was that was not the case ... I will say gently that I was anchor and managing editor of the Evening News for 24 years ... the longest anybody's done it."  Once described as "a restless soul, an innately hungry reporter stuck in an anchor's chair," Rather has no plans to retire. He continues as a correspondent for the flagship program 60 MinutesThe final speaker in the Headlines and Biographies series is Robert Redford, appearing June 6. Tickets range from $59.50 to $169.50: 416-872-4255 or

Strong Buck, Cheaper Books

By Ross Marowits, Canadian Press

(May 17, 2006) MONTREAL— The surging Canadian dollar is prompting book publishers to slash the prices of their new offerings later this year in the wake of consumer complaints.  "Book prices are going down. I can say that for sure," said Kevin Hanson, president of Simon & Schuster Canada, one of the country's largest book publishers.  "As the Canadian dollar has appreciated against the U.S. dollar, you're seeing a dramatic effect on prices of books and I think that's a really good thing."  Retailers have been conveying angry complaints from customers who cringe when they examine the suggested list price and see a difference between U.S. and Canadian prices that far exceeds the exchange rate.  "The reaction from consumers has been a murmur of discontent and lately we're getting cries of discontent," said Paul McNally, president of the Canadian Booksellers Association.  The rise of the dollar to about 90 cents U.S. has been a psychological barrier that seems to have ignited public concern, said McNally, owner of McNally, Robinson Booksellers Ltd. in Winnipeg.  He recently wrote to book publishers asking them to reduce prices to between 20 and 25 per cent above American list prices.  Marcy Cardwell is among those angered by the price disparity.  "You're being penalized if you're Canadian," the internal auditor said in Montreal after purchasing a book.

"I'm happy the price will go down, but I think it should reflect the exchange rate."  The view was shared by most of those interviewed. Some have dealt with higher prices by stocking up on books while travelling to the United States, increasing online purchases and turning to libraries for reading material.  Yet few said the price alone has dramatically affected their buying habits.  "It's one of my passions," said Anna Francou, who claims to spend nearly $200 a month on books. "I will buy no matter."  Canadians are voracious readers, spending $2.8 billion annually on new and used books.  Consumer queries prompted Indigo Books & Music Inc. to post signs in its Indigo, Chapters and Coles stores informing customers that publishers, not retailers, establish listed prices based on manufacturing cycles of six to 12 months. Some books are contracted two to three years before they hit store shelves.  "As the exchange rate has dropped more dramatically in recent months, we have been hearing more often from (customers)," said Joel Silver, executive vice-president of procurement for Canada's largest bookselling chain.  The industry must respond to consumer pressure or risk facing lower sales, he said. Sales decreased dramatically when hardcover prices rose above $40.

"It's a competitive industry, so I think everybody needs to respond as businesspeople to the marketplace and say we've got to get these prices down."  The publishing industry has responded by reducing cover prices over the past two years by as much as 25 per cent, said Hanson, who is also vice-president of the Canadian Publishers' Council.  "It's not like the gas pump where you can just flick a switch generically and change the price of our goods in the store."  The price of new listings could be five to 10 per cent lower by year's end, says Silver, whose company also offers a 30 per cent discount on bestsellers and additional reductions for club members.  The price change can be seen in various formats of Dan Brown's bestselling The Da Vinci Code. The hardcover format released in 2003 sold for $24.95 (U.S.) and $37.95 (Canadian) for a 52 per cent disparity. The recently released paperback version is priced at $7.99 (U.S.) and $10.99 (Canadian) for a difference of nearly 38 per cent.  The price differential for David Suzuki's newly released autobiography is 16.7 per cent ($29.95 U.S., $34.95 Canadian).  Each publisher has its own pricing strategy, said Jacqueline Hushion, an executive director of the Canadian Publishers' Council.


Diane Keaton To Be The Face Of L'Oreal Paris

Source: Associated Press

(May 12, 2006) NEW YORK — Diane Keaton has a new role. The Oscar-winning actress, who is 60, will star as a spokesperson for L'Oreal Paris and its brands. She will appear in print and TV ads beginning in late summer in the U.S. for L'Oreal Paris' Age Perfect Pro-Calcium Restorative Hydrating Cream and Age Perfect Skin Supporting & Hydrating Makeup, the company announced Friday. Carol J. Hamilton, president of the L'Oreal Paris division of L'Oreal USA Inc., said in a statement, “She's a natural beauty. Nothing artificial. And she's comfortable with who she is.” A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment on the terms of the deal. Keaton won a best actress Oscar for 1977's Annie Hall, and she received Oscar nominations for her roles in Reds, Marvin's Room and Something's Gotta Give. She most recently appeared in the TV movie Surrender Dorothy and the 2005 film The Family Stone.

Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ Wins NY Times Award

Excerpt from

(May 12, 2006) *A New York Times Book Review survey of 124 prominent authors, critics and editors has selected Toni Morrison's 1987 novel "Beloved" as the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.   The story of a slave who takes drastic measures to keep her child from being enslaved won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988.     The respondents who voted – including Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, National Book Award winners and Booker Prize winners – were asked to submit one title representing his or her choice for the best single work of American fiction published since 1980. No other guidance was provided, and jurors were not given a list of books to choose from.     While "Beloved" received the most votes of any single work of fiction, author Philip Roth amassed the most overall votes. Six of his novels were among the 22 books that received multiple votes.     The results of the survey, and a list of all 22 novels and short story collections that received multiple votes, will be published in the Book Review's special all-fiction issue on May 21 and listed on    An excerpt from "Beloved," read by Ms. Morrison, will be available at as well.

Mesley To Be Honoured With John Drainie Award

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald

(May 17, 2006) Toronto -- Veteran CBC journalist Wendy Mesley has been chosen as this year's recipient of ACTRA's John Drainie Award for distinguished contribution to Canadian broadcasting. Mesley, who started her career 30 years ago as a radio reporter in Toronto, will receive her award at the Banff World Television Festival, which is being held in the Alberta town June 11-14.


Veteran Journalist Joins Al-Jazeera Sports

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - William Houston,

(May 12, 2006) Brendan Connor has left the CBC to join Al-Jazeera International as a sports correspondent. The Qatar-based English-language service hasn't launched yet, but Connor is already on staff and plans to move to the Washington area next month to work out of its North American bureau. "I had a good run at CBC and enjoyed it," Connor said this week. "But this seemed like too good a chance to see the world, tell some long-form stories and be part of something new." Connor has worked in sports for TSN and the CBC, but for the past six years has been a news anchor at CBC Newsworld. He saw the Al-Jazeera job posting on the Internet during the CBC lockout last year and applied. The 54 applicants were reduced to 10 on a short list for the two spots. His beat will be North America and South America. When he isn't on the sports desk, he will develop stories and file four-to-six-minute features. The channel will broadcast from Doha, London, Washington and Kuala Lumpur to a widely disparate audience. Needless to say, Connor's reports will need to include plenty of context. "The old saying is, will it play in Peoria? In my case, will it play in Malaysia?" he said. "If I do piece on Sidney Crosby and hockey, it will have to be: Sidney Crosby, who plays ice hockey, which is a popular sport in Canada, etc." Connor signed a two-year deal with Al-Jazeera and says he's looking forward to producing in-depth features on a wide range of sports. "I may go to Brazil and do a story on the latest teen soccer phenom coming out of the slums," he said. "Or go to Belize and report on why it's become the world's diving Mecca." But what about the stigma of representing a channel that has a name which is, to many, associated with sympathy for and the support of terrorists?

"I wondered about that," he said. "What's it going to be like going to major-league baseball and asking for a press pass for Al-Jazeera? "But the channel itself has been working hard for a year now to educate people that it's Al-Jazeera International, not the Arabic channel. "The Arabic channel has its own perspective. This channel has no mandate to do that. Its self-imposed mandate is to present the news from a different perspective." What was said Rogers Sportsnet this week posted an apology on its website and paid $30,000 to a charity as a result of remarks made by hockey commentator Bill Watters about Ted Saskin, the executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association, and NHLPA president Trevor Linden. In the apology, which was also read on the air, Sportsnet described Watters' comments as "inaccurate and irresponsible." What did Watters say on the April 17 edition of Hockey Central that he has now apologized for and retracted? He said Saskin, enabled by Linden, negotiated a contract with NHLPA for a salary that was outrageously high. The remark was framed in exaggerated terms that suggested impropriety. Watters wouldn't comment.

"I respect my employer and our legal counsel, and I have acted upon their advice," he said. Several years ago, Watters, then working for Fan 590 in Toronto, said on the air that everyone on the starting line of the 1988 Seoul Olympic 100-metre final, including Carl Lewis, were using performance-enhancing drugs -- not just Canadian Ben Johnson. A complaint from Toronto lawyer Tim Danson, representing Lewis, resulted in an apology and retraction from the station. Senator TV slump The Ottawa Senators have been a bust on television as well as on the ice. Telecasts of the Senators' second-round Stanley Cup series with the Buffalo Sabres have been averaging only 1.2 million viewers a game on the CBC -- a smaller audience than the Saturday night regular-season telecasts pulls in. Game 3 on Wednesday drew only 1.125 million. Although it's difficult to hold an average audience over a long period of time, the Edmonton Oilers' triple overtime win over San Jose on Wednesday outdrew the Ottawa game, pulling in 1.285 million. It also had the disadvantage of a late start in the East.

Canadian Sports Stars Make One-Of-A-Kind Artwork For Charity

Source: Canadian Press
- Lauren La Rose

(May 11, 2006) Toronto — As the NBA's two-time MVP, Canadian basketball star Steve Nash has cemented his reputation as one of the sport's most dominant players, renowned for his deft passing ability and free-throw shooting. Now the Victoria, B.C., native is putting his skilled hands to new use as he takes on a new realm: the art world. Nash joins a host of prominent Canadian sports figures who crafted one-of-a-kind artwork for an exhibition that brings sports and the arts together to raise money to support ailing children. Score! features works from four-time world champion figure skater Kurt Browning, Toronto Raptors star Chris Bosh, three-time Olympic Champion goalie Sami Jo Small and Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vernon Wells. Proceeds from the auction of the pieces will benefit Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children Foundation. Nash's creation features his own blue handprints on a whitewashed basketball, his autograph, and a red smiley face drawn by one of his godchildren. Former Toronto Maple Leaf captain and Hall of Fame legend Darryl Sittler customized three hockey pucks — all incorporating the team's blue and white colours.  One puck is emblazoned with the number “10” referring to his record-setting 10-point performance in the Leafs' 11-4 victory over the Boston Bruins on Feb. 1, 1976. “I have no artistic talent whatsoever,” Sittler said. “I just did it more from knowing that there's hockey fans out there, that it's a good cause, and everybody would be a winner from it, and somebody will have something that's unique.” Toronto Argos linebacker Michael Fletcher drew the inspiration for his piece from his own life story. Using a whitewashed football as his canvas, Fletcher painted five scenes documenting different chapters of his life — from his rough beginnings in Compton, Calif., the joys of earning a full college scholarship and the tragedies of losing both of his parents. “The only art I ever had where I grew up is a little graffiti on the wall,” said Fletcher, humbly downplaying his artistic talents. “I'm still a stick-figure person. My six-year-old daughter draws better than me. Art is not my strength in life.”

Steven Petroff, whose Toronto gallery is featuring the exhibition, said the project took between four and five months to co-ordinate. The gallery supplied the athletes with paint brushes and canvases.  “I was surprised (by) just how well-thought every individual piece was,” Petroff said. “Everybody really took the time to give us something that they were very proud of.” “All of them did just such a wonderful job. I just appreciate all of their creativity, totally not what their persona might be on the field or on the court.” Petroff said he hopes the show draws attention from those beyond the average art connoisseur. “We want to take away a lot of the stigma of art maybe being intimidating for people to judge its value or appreciation of the piece,” he said. “By having a sports-related show, we really want to tap into a lot of men, specifically, who may normally be intimidated to go into an art gallery and think they won't appreciate anything.” The exhibit runs from May 11 to June 4 at Toronto's Petroff Gallery.

Senators Fold Again

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ken Campbell, Sports Reporter

(May 14, 2006)  OTTAWA—Jason Spezza stood there with his arms folded, voice quaking with emotion. Unlike a lot of players in the Ottawa Senators dressing room, he's relatively inexperienced at explaining his team's annual playoff failures.  "Yeah, that stigma is still going to be attached to us," Spezza said. "But we will win here. I have no doubt in my mind, we will win."  Spezza said it with some conviction, but it also sounded almost as though he was trying to convince himself. Lord knows, he and the Senators have a lot of explaining to do to the jaded fans here after their 3-2 loss in overtime to the Buffalo Sabres wrapped up another disappointing season.  If the Senators are ever destined to win the Stanley Cup, they'll have to do it with a lot more production from the likes of Spezza and their best players, a group that once again failed miserably to raise the level of their games when it mattered most.  The Senators outshot the Sabres 179-117 in the five-game series, but were doomed by an inability to put the puck past Sabres hero Ryan Miller. Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley had just one point each at even strength, while first-round hero Martin Havlat had just three. It was a shocking indictment of the Senators play at even strength.  To make matters worse, the Senators lost the game on the power play when Jason Pominville, who was on waivers early this season, slipped past Alfredsson, who was playing the point, to scored shorthanded.

It was the second time this series that the Sabres had done that to Alfredsson and considering all four of their wins were by one goal, many fingers will be pointing at Alfredsson as a huge factor in the Senators' latest loss.  In fact, Pominville and Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said that the Sabres actually exploited the fact that Alfredsson was on the blue line.  "When (Pominville) got the puck, we were yelling from the bench," Ruff said.  Alfredsson, who has been the face of the franchise for the past decade, might not have to endure another disappointing playoff loss in the nation's capital. Those who know this team are certain the Senators will entertain the possibility of dealing Alfredsson, who is 33, doesn't have a no-trade clause and is under contract at $5 million (U.S.) per year for another four years. Zdeno Chara, another playoff underachiever, is an unrestricted free agent and if it comes down to a choice between him and Wade Redden, Chara is gone.  GM John Muckler will almost certainly be the first to go, possibly as early as this week.  "This was the opportunity for some of these people to really step up," said Ottawa coach Bryan Murray.  "We had the ability to win here and we didn't win it. I didn't win it."  The Sabres, meanwhile, continue their improbable ride to the Eastern Conference final, which will likely begin next Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes if they can vanquish the New Jersey Devils on home ice tonight.  Should they face the Hurricanes, it should provide a dazzling display of speed and skill on both sides of the ice. Both teams have risen from the ranks of bottom feeders to legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, largely because of fortuitous personnel moves and an ability to build a team suited to the new, offence-friendly NHL.  "We have a good, sound offensive team that competes in both ends," Ruff said. "All year, we've found a way to score enough goals to win."


We Remember Boxer Floyd Patterson

Excerpt from

(May 12, 2006) *Floyd Patterson, the crew-cut-wearing boxer who became the first to regain the heavyweight title, died Thursday at his home in New Paltz, N.Y. He was 71. Patterson had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for about eight years and prostate cancer, his nephew Sherman Patterson said, according to  The fighter from Brooklyn, NY survived a troubled childhood to earn the Olympic middleweight championship in 1952. In 1956, the undersized heavyweight became, at age 21, the youngest man to win the title with a fifth-round knockout of Archie Moore. But three years later, Patterson was knocked down seven times in the third round in losing the title to Ingemar Johansson at the Polo Grounds in New York City. In 1960, their rematch saw Patterson knocking out Johansson with a left hook to reclaim the belt.    Patterson’s storied career included embarrassing losses and history-making victories, including a beating from Muhammad Ali and being knocked out twice in the first round during a match with Sonny Liston.  "They said I was the fighter who got knocked down the most, but I also got up the most," Patterson once said.    After Liston knocked him out, Patterson was so humiliated that he wore a disguise to help him slip out of the venue unnoticed. A rematch between the two 10 months later in 1963 left Patterson even more embarrassed. Liston dropped him to the canvas three times before the fight was stopped at 2:09 of the first round.  Patterson retired in 1972 following a loss to Ali in a non-title bout. His career record was 55-8-1 with 40 knockouts. He was knocked out five times and knocked down a total of at least 15 times; and inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.    Patterson and his second wife, Janet, lived on a farm near New Paltz. Funeral services will be private.

Marion Jones Back On The Track

Excerpt from

(May 12, 2006)  *Sprinter Marion Jones will race competitively for the first time in almost a year when she takes the track this Saturday at Veracruz in Mexico.  The former Olympic standout will face ex-world champ Torri Edwards in the 100 meters. The 30-year-old runner last competed on June 11, 2005 at Monterrey, Mexico, where she placed fourth in the100 meters. Saturday's meet will also include American record-holder Maurice Greene in the 100 meters, Olympic and world long jump champion Dwight Phillips and former Olympic and world champion Allen Johnson in the 110 meter hurdles.


Fab Abs: Extreme Belly Busting Formula!

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

The perfect no-stress environment is the grave. When we change our perception we gain control. The stress becomes a challenge, not a threat. When we commit to action, to actually doing something rather than feeling trapped by events, the stress in our life becomes manageable.
-- Greg Anderson, Author of The 22 Non-Negotiable Laws of Wellness

(May 15, 2006) At some point you just have to make a commitment.  Everyone wants a flat and tight abdominal area, but much like earning a Ph.D, few make the ultimate commitment to work and sacrifice for it. Unlike a Ph.D, attaining a tight and flat abdominal area is a reality for many, but it does take work and sacrifice. Ugh, awful huh? You want to hear about the easy three-minutes-a-day workout that will get you there, don’t you?  It doesn't exist.  If you read my articles often, you know that I place a great deal of emphasis on reducing body fat through a calorie-reduced nutrition program and by incorporating weight training and cardiovascular exercise to stimulate the metabolism.  Abdominal exercises serve to strengthen and tighten the abs, so when your body fat reduces -- you then see the fruits of your labour.  Abdominal work is vital, but it’s only part of the formula.  The formula consists of being consistent on your eDiets nutrition plan. Please note, I didn’t say perfect, just consistent most days of the week.  You then need to add three to six days of cardiovascular exercise. For those who've been sedentary for a long time, I recommend 15 minutes of cardio on three alternate days per week to start, but you’ll need to build from there slowly. As you progress, you’ll eventually be doing 30 to 50 minutes three to six days per week. This will accelerate fat loss, but you need to get into this range gradually.

The third key area of the formula is resistance exercise, otherwise known as weight training.  For every pound of muscle you gain, you will burn 30-50 additional calories per day to support the needs of that extra muscle. Muscle is a fat burning tool.  Afraid you’ll get bulky? You will if you don’t lose body fat. However, you’ll look lean and tight if you lose fat using the entire formula.  You expected a great abdominal workout I bet. I’ve written many of them, but every once in awhile I have to set the record straight and help you to remember the foundation -- the formula.  If you don’t, you’ll be one of those people performing ab crunch after ab crunch wondering why your belly just won’t flatten.  I don’t want you to be one of those people.  The clients I’ve trained will all tell you that I take my craft very seriously and one of my greatest joys is helping and watching people transform themselves. Transformation. That’s the real glory -- that’s the essence of it.  As always, please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

A drug-free competitive bodybuilder and 2004 winner of the prestigious WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding Federation) Masters Pro Card, Raphael Calzadilla is a veteran of the health and fitness industry. He specializes in a holistic approach to body transformation, nutrition programs and personal training. He earned his B.A. in Communications from Southern Connecticut State University and is certified as a personal trainer with ACE and APEX. In addition, he successfully completed the RTS1 program based on biomechanics.


Motivational Note – Message from God

Excerpt from - Inspired Q & A written by Jewel Diamond Taylor

Knock Knock

Q - Who's there?

A - It's God. Please invite me in.

Q - How could this be you? I'm feeling stressed and overwhelmed right now. It couldn't be you!

A - Yes, this is God showing up in your life today. Even though it doesn't look like it or feel like it, I'm here showing up as a blessing disguised as work. I showed up today as an idea. I was that nudge to speak up and another time I was that nudge telling you to be quiet. Remember?

Q - You mean that was YOU when I was sitting there thinking I was alone and tired?

A - Yes, remember when you were annoyed? I was there reminding you to slow down and take a deep breath. Sometimes you move so fast and talk so much that you don't hear my voice. I will continue to manifest and reveal myself through people, ideas, feelings and circumstances. All that comes your way that you think is good, may not really be good for you. All that comes your way that you think is so bad, could turn out to be a "blesson" for you.

Q - Was that you when I felt like I wanted to smile, speak and connect with someone, but I didn't because I was afraid.

A - Yes, I was there prompting you to come out of your cave of isolation, fear and false judgment.

Q - I feel like I'm stuck between "When" and "Why" in my life. When will I have my breakthrough?

A - Your timing is not my timing. Don't be fooled by these times of quick fixes and fast technology. Microwaves, e-mails, cell phones, overnight express mail, drive through fast food and air travel can make you think that your goals and dreams will happen fast too. There are no short cuts. Whether you are desiring deliverance from: illness, addiction, grief, depression, financial struggles or weight loss, don't give up. There is a process which requires time, sacrifice, focus, patience, learning and faith.

Q - I feel so inadequate and I don't like my body weight and appearance. What can I do?

A - I know. I hear your self-talk all the time. It sounds so destructive and hurtful. Everything you say and think vibrates in my universe and returns back to you. Please begin to be gentle with yourself. I think you are beautiful and whole as you are. But if you know there is an area in your life where you can improve --- then start today. Just be patient with yourself and know that beauty and acceptance starts within first.

Q - What do I do about my money and job frustrations?

A - Your discontentment is not to punish you but to push you. Let this discontentment lead to making a decision. Then follow through with a plan of action, perseverance, faith and courage. Remember, your health is your wealth. If you are poor in spirit and poor in health, it will be a challenge for you to maintain and grow in your career or business.

Q - What do I do with my guilt, shame, fears and procrastination? Is it too late for me?

A - The past has passed. Start today to walk with a purpose and with your head up. I know the plans I have for you. I have seen you struggle and I have seen your faith --- sometimes weak and sometimes strong. I made this day for you to rejoice and be glad in. The enemy wants to hold you hostage to your past. But I want to pour my glory and strength into you. I know what you are capable of being, doing and having. You are so worthy. Please learn to let go and grow. I am always with you.

Q - How do I let go?

A - When you get tired of it or when you are inspired --- you will let go. I AM able to give you exceedingly and abundantly above all you could ever ask or think --- but it's according to the power within you.

Q - What is this power you speak of?

A - There is power in what you say, think and do. There is power in your instincts, intuition, ideas and intelligence. There is power in forgiveness. There is power in love, sharing and serving. There is power in what you believe and focus on. There is power in your faith in Me.

Q - I'm feeling better. When can we talk again?

A - Maybe it went in one ear and out the other -- - but I'm always with you. Come here. L-i-s-t-e-n. I'm always with you --- anywhere and any time. If you ever feel far from me, guess who moved? You can speak to me on the job, at home, in the hospital, standing in line at the bank, in the courtroom or on the plane. You don't need any fancy words or fancy prayers. You don't need credentials or a church building to reach me. I see you. I hear you. I know you. I love you. I dwell within you. I move and show up in mysterious ways. So keep your eyes, ears, heart and mind open. Don't put me in a box. Don't be surprised when miracles, blessings, opportunities and favour show up in your life. I will speak to you through nature, music, people, ideas, books, poetry, silence and through the wisdom and testimonies of others. I will continue being your shade in the heat, your lily in the valley, your peace in the storm, your shepherd, your strong high tower, your shield, your resting place, your provider, your peace and your protection. Let your light shine my child because you are blessed.