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Updated:  May 25, 2006

Well, what a crappy weekend weather-wise here in Toronto but it's supposed to be fantastic this coming weekend - Happy Memorial Day for our neighbours to the south.

A new event features a fundraiser for Sickle Cell.  Check out the details below and get your tickets for the 2006 Mothers and Daughters Brunch.   And check out the recap of Urban Soul Live presented and hosted by the talented Kayte Burgess.

You know that feeling when a song just grabs you?  Well, it's not a completely new song but the lyrics to Stevie Wonder and india.arie's A Time to Love has been getting lots of replay on my MP3 this week.  Check out the lyrics and song HERE.  Given all the happenings  you've seen developing in the news regarding the Caledonia land rights issue, I thought it would be a good time to remember the basics, love can heal. 

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.




You're Every Woman - Fundraising Mothers and Daughters Brunch - June 4, 2006

Come out and support the Sickle Cell Association of Ontario's fundraising event on Sunday, June 4th for their Mothers and Daughters Brunch at the Pine Valley Conference Centre in Woodbridge. 

Brought to you by Motivation Sensation, the keynote speaker is Rosita Hall and Author of " I Found the Answer" & Women of the Year.  Entertainment is provided by Wade O. Brown, recording artist with an appearance on the award-winning hit television series, Soul food and Al St. Louis, spoken word artist of ‘When Words Are Not Spoken’.  Included in the special evening is a silent auction of local artists work within the GTA community, door prizes and more.  An arena of motivated awakening to strengthen the inner "you".

SUNDAY, JUNE 4, 2006

Mother & Daughter's Day Brunch
Pine Valley Conference Center
17 Vinyl Court, Woodbridge
1:00 - 5:00 pm
Tickets: $65.00/adult; $50.00/child
(Includes food, entertainment)
Contact info: 416-398-8200 or 905-453-3037
Purchase tickets at retailer or online: Guardian, 3932A Keele (at Finch) and Nappy's Hair Shoppe, 83 Kennedy (Brampton) and 23 Dundas Street E. (Hurontario) and Perfection Barber Shop, 178 Queen St. E. (Brampton)


Kayte Burgess and Friends - Urban Soul Live

Well, the goods were definitely served up last Thursday at Revival.  (Check out the pics in my PHOTOGALLERY!)  The whole idea behind Urban Soul Live is to showcase artist's original music - something lacking in Toronto.  Kayte hosted and performed her magic with her original tracks. 

The first artist up was Darp Malone - a talent I hadn't heard before and who captured me.  Next was Saidah Baba Talibah whose honest emotions in her original tracks brought out the goosebumps.  Then we moved on to surprise performances by Subliminal, the beatbox king, an unbelievable talent and phatt al who hit us with some old skool hip hop.  Miss Davis also brought her brand of originals - real cool, smooth vibes from this talented lady.  All of these artists' music can be found on

And I must mention the hot hot band.  The artists were backed by Joel Joseph, Roger Williams, David

Then Kayte closed up the special night with her tracks and by then it was a love fest.  Real music, real artists, real talent.  Is there anything better?

Thanks to Kayte for all her hard work in believing in this kind of night and bringing it in stellar form.  Look for the next installment of Urban Soul Live - coming soon.


Stakes Are High For Rapper

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Robert Everett-Green

EDMONTON — There's a heap of running shoes in the doorway of the house that Rollie Pemberton shares with three other people. On his walls, in a small room away from his quiet street on Edmonton's south side, are posters for Interpol, Death from Above 1979 and Ghostface. A pile of laundry lies on the floor near the futon, and a stack of vinyl records holds down the hardwood next to his desk and computer. A Hollywood set dresser couldn't do a better job of evoking the look of a typical 20-year-old music fan's bedroom. If this were a film set, the story line might run like this: 16-year-old kid makes a rap demo in his friend's kitchen, plays some shows with a little help from his funk-musician uncle, and gains a profile on-line through hip-hop reviews and remixes. He's just starting to get a record together when his mother sends him off to a conservative, business-minded university in Virginia. A few months in that environment are enough to convince him that he'd rather make beats and rhymes than become a model citizen in someone else's corporate utopia. He returns home, finishes the record, and conquers the world. For Pemberton, a.k.a. Cadence Weapon, that story has mostly come true. He's still waiting for the world-conquering part, but with a strong response in Canada and on-line to his debut album Breaking Kayfabe, big things could be in store when the disc comes out in the United States later this year on Caroline Records. Stakes is high,” reads the tattoo on his left forearm. That's an accurate summary of what the U.S. reaction to his disc could mean, not just for him but for the thugged-out scene down south. There's no gangsta action on his album, and his buzzy, brittle beats are much closer to the British grime style than anything coming out of New York or Los Angeles.

“I like to think I'm somewhere in the middle,” he said. He was referring to divisions in the rap scene in Edmonton, where the north side leans toward gangsta and the south toward what he calls a more “nerdy” style, but he could as easily have been talking about the gap between 50 Cent and Dizzee Rascal, the grime star who won the Mercury Prize in Britain, but who scarcely made a dent in the States. “My dream collaboration would be with Dizzee Rascal, but I think I'll be easier to swallow [than he was],” he said. “They can't get over the accent. I wouldn't have that problem. ... I'm a big grime fan. It's got a really raw element, it's still into authenticity, and it's true to its roots.” Pemberton's roots in Edmonton are deep. His grandfather was Rollie Miles, a legendary running back who won three Grey Cups with the Edmonton Eskimos. Rollie Miles Athletic Park is within a couple of kilometres of Pemberton's house. His uncle is saxophonist Brett Miles, who has recorded with Mick Jagger and Sam and Dave, and who returned home after a decade in New York to front his own band, Magilla Funk Conduit. Pemberton's musical roots aren't limited to hip hop. Growing up, he listened to rappers such as Jay-Z and Nas, but also to rock bands like Nirvana, and to groups within Edmonton's bustling indie scene. He's as much a part of that world as of the rap community. It's nothing unusual to see him on a bill with indie rock bands, such as the all-star touring brigade that reaches Toronto's Opera House Friday and Montreal's El Salon on Saturday. “I'm more likely to do a song with an indie rock singer than with another rapper,” he said. “I would meet people and be going to their shows, and it was totally natural for me to work with them. It was an organic thing.” His networking style in Edmonton left no doubt that he meant to be noticed. Eli Klein, a veteran promoter and talent booker for Edmonton's Union Events, recalled his first encounter with a kid busting with self-confidence. “Rollie came up to me and said, ‘I'm the best rapper you've ever heard,'” Klein said. “I said, ‘I've never heard of you,' and he said, ‘You will.'” Pemberton was 16 when he started writing reviews for the on-line music site Pitchfork, and not much older when a couple of favourable notices on a well-read music blog snagged him a remix assignment with Lady Sovereign, the tiny grime star with whom Cadence Weapon toured earlier this year.

He still wasn't sure what to do with his rapping when his mother sent him off to study journalism at Hampton University, a predominantly black college in Virginia where his older sister had earned a business degree. There he found a campus life ruled by conservative social norms, with strict prohibitions against hats, corn-rows, dreadlocks and any kind of sexual activity. “It was brutal. Virginia is a southern state. A lot of people there were really ignorant and close-minded. ... I put myself almost into exile. I wasn't really social, I felt I was in prison.” Breaking out, he lost most of the material he had been putting together for an album in a major computer crash. He gathered fragments from rough versions he had e-mailed to friends, and reworked them into the beats heard on Breaking Kayfabe (which is wrestling jargon for going against the script). “I sampled my own beats and made new beats out of them,” he said. “I did some real Frankenstein stuff.” That recombinant process may have put extra depth into his beats, which he developed with a low-cost software program. But you'd never know that his sharply vertiginous, unified-sounding disc took three years to put together, and that its oldest sections date from the time of his first demo at age 16. He's already got the next one well under way. It's going to be a concept dance album, called Urban Sprawl in North Texas. “North Texas is what I call Alberta sometimes,” he said. “The whole thing is going to be about houses. There's been a lot of changes in Edmonton lately, a lot of buildings destroyed, or gone down in fires. I know a lot of people who are moving away from town. It's all about moving away from where you're from.” Pemberton doesn't see any need to desert his home turf to make a noise in the wider world. As far as he's concerned he's already at the centre, in a town whose music scene is “about to blow up,” and a music-media environment that's quickly erasing the distance between a messy bedroom in south Edmonton and a dance floor anywhere in the world.

Halle Berry - In Praise Of Canuck Men

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Hiscock, Special To The Star

(May 19, 2006) NEW YORK—She is one of the most gorgeous women in Hollywood but for two decades she has struggled unsuccessfully to find the right man.  But at last Halle Berry has discovered happiness. And it has taken a Canadian to restore her faith in men.  "Canadian men are wonderful," laughed Berry, 39, who is romantically involved with Canadian model Gabriel Aubry, 30. "I like men again and I love Canada. Canadians are different. I've worked in Canada so much and once you're there you start to feel the subtle differences between Canadians and Americans.  "Canadians are very gentle people and very polite and sweet and I always appreciate that. I'm like, `Oh, wow, you said thank you.' They're very well-mannered people."  Berry met Montreal native Aubry while they were shooting a Versace ad in Los Angeles in November. Since then they have been together more than they have been apart although the actress is reluctant to tempt fate by talking too much about their romance.  "It's so new and fresh," she explained.  Berry survived an unhappy marriage to baseball player David Justice and a series of disastrous relationships — one former boyfriend sued her for $80,000 U.S. and another hit her so hard she became partially deaf.  Her second marriage, to musician Eric Bonet, ended in 2003 after two years because he could not control his roving eye. She bears no ill will towards the men who have disrupted her life. "I have no animosity and I don't seek revenge on anybody," she said. "The horrible things that happened are really just learning lessons."  Berry looked terrific during the interview, wearing skin-tight blue jeans and a beige, low-cut blouse as we talked in a suite at the Mark Hotel. She has a new film coming out next Friday, X-Men 3: The Last Stand, where she returns as the conflicted Storm.

She sees parallels between Storm, an African mutant dealing with racism, and her own upbringing as the black daughter of a white, blonde-haired mother in Cleveland, OH.  "We can't really relate to Wolverine having claws or Kitty who walks through walls, but Storm has a condition many people can relate to: she's a black woman trying to find equality in society," she said.  "When I was a kid I wondered why I didn't look like my mother, and when she moved us from a black neighbourhood to an all-white neighbourhood, I started to feel like an outcast. I thought my life would be easier and kids would accept me if I looked like her so I wanted to change myself. But as I've grown I've learned to realize that the best thing about me is that I don't have blonde hair and blue eyes and that I do have brown skin."  Berry's mother is moving to California to be near her daughter, who has bought a house for her four blocks from her own home.  "Finally we can have coffee in the morning and a glass of wine together at night," she said. "We can at last do the little things together instead of when I normally see her we have a week or two weeks and we cram so much living and loving into that time. Now we can do it a bit more casually and that is really exciting."  Berry's first acting roles were in television series until in 1991 she convinced director Spike Lee she could handle the demanding role of a crack addict in his Jungle Fever.  She became romantically involved with Lee and when that relationship ended she dated Wesley Snipes and then another actor, Shemar Moore.  She appeared in a number of films with varying success until in 1999 she won Golden Globe and Emmy awards for portraying Dorothy Dandridge, the singer-actress who broke through racial barriers by becoming the first black woman to be nominated for a best actress Oscar, in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which Berry also produced.  Then came the first of the X-Men series, the thriller Swordfish in which she appeared topless for the first time in her career, and her Oscar-winning performance as a struggling waitress coping with a husband on death row and an overweight child in Monster's Ball.

She recently finished filming Perfect Strangers with Bruce Willis in New York.  "I've reached a point in my life where I have realized that I need more than a career," Berry said. "I need a better reason to wake up in the morning than just to go to a movie set. I'm just realizing I need more out of my life ... a deeper meaning.  "I think the next chapter in my life is family and children. I mean, I'm going to be 40 for God's sake and I've done many things in my career I never thought I would ... that have made me feel satisfied and fulfilled, but this personal challenge is of much more substance.  "It's emerging as something much more important than anything else."  She turns 40 in August but she views the landmark birthday with indifference. "It must mean something because everybody is asking me about it but I've never been one to celebrate my birthday," she said. "I can't remember a birthday party as a kid and I didn't grow up celebrating my birthday or defining myself by a number. As I've got older and continue to grow, keeping track of my age hasn't been a real focus point.  "I'm happy to be here, happy to be alive and I celebrate that feeling on a daily basis."

Barry Bonds Relieved To Finally Tie Babe Ruth

Excerpt from

(May 22, 2006) *It was Oakland pitcher Brad Halsey who ended up with the distinction that haunted every pitcher facing Barry Bonds this season – the man who gave the San Francisco Giants slugger his 714th home run. History books opened up for both athletes during the second inning on Saturday, as Bonds broke a two-week slump to crack one out of Oakland’s McAfee Coliseum and tie the legendary Babe Ruth for second place on Major League Baseball's all-time home run list. "I'm just glad it's over with," Bonds told reporters after the game. "This took a lot off me. …This is a great accomplishment because of Babe Ruth and what he brought to the game of baseball. It's just great to be in the same class." Many of the fans who had booed Bonds upon his introduction and as he stepped into the batter's box, gave him a standing ovation after the home run. The game was delayed about 90 seconds as he acknowledged the salute and blew a kiss to his wife and two daughters seated in the front row. Later, his seven-year-old daughter Aisha smiled and sucked on a lollipop while seated next to her dad at a postgame news conference. The history-making hit over the 362-foot sign occurred in the long shadow of a federal grand jury investigation into Bonds on whether he committed perjury about possible use of steroids.  Meanwhile, 19-year-old college student Tyler Snyder, the man who caught Bonds’ home run ball has no love for the athlete. Asked if he would give the ball to Bonds, he responded with an emphatic no, adding: "I hate that guy. I really don’t care for the guy."  The Giants went on to win the game, 4-2, in 10 innings. Active home run leaders:

Barry Bonds 714
Ken Griffey, Jr. 539
Frank Thomas 455
Gary Sheffield 453
Jeff Bagwell 449
Jim Thome 447
Manny Ramirez 442


Art Of Jazz Kicks Off With Varied Weekend Program

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(May 22, 2006) A fine start — that's the consensus from organizers on the number of music lovers who turned out for the inaugural Art of Jazz Celebration held in the Distillery District over the weekend.  "We're overwhelmed," said co-founder and musician Bonnie Lester, who estimated more than 15,000 people passed through the event that ran from Wednesday to yesterday. "It's pretty exciting that so many people came in spite of the cool weather."  Though the festival is slated to become an annual event, it's just one component of the newly founded Art of Jazz, a non-profit organization geared to expanding the genre's audience in Canada, said co-founding member, pianist/educator Howard Rees.  "We want the average person to know this is an art form and an important one; and that it's not just a barroom thing."  Along with saxophonist Jane Bunnett and trumpeter Larry Cramer, Lester and Rees were already planning to launch a concert series when they were approached to fill the 2006 dates allotted to the postponed Distillery Jazz Festival.  The group funded the event through private donors, corporate sponsorship, advertising and ticket sales, and pulled the festival together in just six months.  The event ramped up Thursday with a slate of the deans of bebop — pianist Barry Harris, tap dancer Jimmy Slyde, drummer Leroy Williams, saxist Charles McPherson, bassist Earl May, pianist Hank Jones — some of whom hadn't shared a stage in more than 40 years. They met in a tribute to jazz educator Harris.  "As far as I'm concerned, this was the most important jazz concert in Canada since Charlie Parker played Massey Hall," enthused Rees.  However, the 400-seat Baillie Theatre at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (home to the Soulpepper Theatre Company) was just about half filled to hear Harris, who played with the grace and agility of a ballet dancer.  The following night's tribute to Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson, featuring guitar great Jim Hall (in Canada for the first time in 26 years), drew capacity crowds. But like most of the ticketed events, it hardly reflected the younger, diverse demographic the Art of Jazz team said they hope to attract.

"We were a bit rushed," said Lester. "Next year we want to get the schools in and we also want to inspire parents, so they can bring their kids."  Cost may also have been a factor. Admission to the tribute concerts, for example, which are to be rebroadcast on CBC Radio, were $39.50 to $49.50.  "Some of the events are quite pricey, which is not amenable to families," said local resident Ingrid Veninger, who attended Art of Jazz on Saturday with her husband and two children.  "I just love anything that aims to spread this music, especially to kids, but the price can be a turn-off, especially if you don't know who some of these (artists) are."  Veninger's family attended the Jazz for Juniors session where Chicago-based guitarist Fruteland Jackson delighted with songs and witticisms as he delivered a brief history of the blues.  Though Veninger's son, Jacob, 10, wished Jackson had done more singing and less talking, he was planning to try out some blues licks on his guitar at home.  In an art gallery, Detroit native Sheila Jordan held a clinic for about 30 aspiring singers, scatting along as she put them through their paces with Miles Davis's "Four." The 77-year-old vocalist remained in fine voice for her duet with New York City bassist Cameron Brown later that afternoon.  "My father was from Sarnia, so folks, I'm a little Canadian," she announced before launching a spirited set that included Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" and a Fred Astaire medley.  Meanwhile, much of the advocacy that Art of Jazz plans to do year-round is aimed at youth.  "We want to bring jazz to younger and at-risk communities, at a time when music education is declining in schools as a result of cutbacks," said Lester.  Future plans include monthly concerts and workshops, a summer jazz camp and even a high school jazz orchestra.  With the assistance of the San Romanoway Revitalization Association, they are assembling about 50 teens in the Jane-Finch area for a choir. Pianist Harris has agreed to make several return visits to help ready them for a late fall concert.

How To Speak Jazz

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

(May 19, 2006) Howard Rees remembers being thrilled and mystified by jazz when he first started listening to the music. “Everybody looks like they're having fun, but what are they doing?” he recalls. “It would sound like magic.” Now, of course, Rees — a pianist and jazz educator — knows exactly what goes into that “magic,” but he still sympathizes with those musicians and listeners who find the art of jazz vaguely mysterious. And so, as the artistic director of the new Art of Jazz organization in Toronto, he has added an educational element to the Art of Jazz Celebration at the Distillery Historic District this week. In addition to concerts, galas and jam sessions with such stars as Don Thompson, Jim Hall, Sonny Fortune, Hank Jones, Dave Holland, Kenny Barron and Charles McPherson, there will also be a series of clinics in which various musicians will not only demonstrate but teach the tricks of the trade. Pianist Barry Harris, who will be feted with a tribute concert Thursday, will be giving two clinics, one Saturday morning focusing on piano and guitar, and another Sunday for all instruments. Also on Saturday, singer Sheila Jordan will lead a clinic for jazz vocalists, pianist Hilario Duran will offer a clinic in Afro-Cuban rhythm, and singer/guitarist Fruteland Jackson will teach “Jazz and Blues for Juniors.” In addition, Hank Jones — whom Rees rightly describes as “the elder statesman of jazz piano” — will offer a lecture/demonstration Friday morning whose audience will likely include many of the musicians playing the festival. “Don Thompson told me that he heard Hank Jones play a chord once that he's still trying to figure out,” says Rees. “So he's going so he can ask about that.” Apart from Jones's presentation, Rees says the clinics will be very much “hands on,” so the participants can practise what is being taught. “The clinics are open to all level of musicians — people who are just starting out, people who have been playing a long time, and the general public is welcome to attend as auditors,” he says.

Having players of varying proficiency participate is part of the magic, apparently. Saxophonist Jane Bunnett, who used to take the bus from Toronto to New York to attend Harris's clinics at the Jazz Forum, recalls classes that included everything from teenaged prodigies to octogenarians. “Just to be in that kind of environment was positive,” she says. “Some people would just be trying to keep up, and some people would be way more advanced. There were some people who went every single week, and didn't miss a class.” Naturally, each teacher has his or her own method. Jordan, for example, is known for keeping her vocal clinics “fun and accessible,” so everyone feels drawn in. “I remember at one clinic she had everybody sing a blues, and what they needed to make up on the spot for lyrics was an introduction of themselves,” says Rees. Mostly, though, what the clinics provide are tools for understanding how jazz improvisation works. “The fact of the matter is, jazz is a language,” says Rees. “There are two parts to it — a technical part, and an art part — and the technical part is learnable. It has rules. The scales are like the alphabet, so first you learn how to put words together, and then you learn how to put sentences together. Then you learn how to put short stories together. Then you get to be Sonny Rollins.” Harris is particularly famous for his ability to teach the language of bebop, which he learned under the tutelage of bebop pioneer Bud Powell. The heart of his approach has to do with mastering the scales that make up any given tune. “Everything comes from scales,” says Rees. “Melodies are formed from scales, chords live on scales, and improvisations are developed from learning how to shape the scales, and add a rhythmic component to make it interesting.”

It's not just the basic do-re-mi, in other words. “People kind of think, ‘Oh, I know the scales, so I don't have to practise them any more. I can just shut my eyes and play,'” says Rees. “But the fact is, there are all sorts of ways to practise scales, and by doing so you can wind up with a really unlimited number of licks that then get applied to the tune.” Mastering that trick isn't easy, and developing and maintaining a musical vocabulary is an ongoing process even for professional musicians. As Bunnett says, “It's one of the most difficult [types of] music to get together. I'm not a dedicated bebopper, but I believe that you do need a certain command and understanding of that to be able to play jazz, no matter what sort of style you develop. It gives substance, it gives depth, it gives a framework. “It's a real life-long study.”

Prince Charles Admits He's A Fan Of Leonard Cohen

Source: Associated Press

(May 19, 2006)
LONDON — Even British royals need a dose of reality sometimes — reality TV. Prince Charles and his sons, William and Harry, appear with comedians Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly in a TV interview to air Saturday. Among the shocking royal revelations: Charles is a fan of Canadian folk singer Leonard Cohen. His sons, meanwhile, have an appetite for reality TV, watching shows such as The X Factor. He won't admit to it but we did both watch it, especially the American ‘Pop Idol,”' said the 21-year-old Prince Harry, pointing to his older brother, Prince William. The light-hearted interview — excerpts of which were released Friday — was made as part of the celebrations surrounding the 30th anniversary of The Prince's Trust, a charity founded by Charles to help the underprivileged. Charles' office said there were no ground rules for the interview, but that it was done as part of an entertainment extravaganza to mark the Trust's anniversary.

During the interview, Charles grumbled about his sons' taste in music and shed some light on his own preferences. “I tell you who I also think is wonderful is a chap called Leonard Cohen, do you know him?” Charles said of the brooding poet and singer- songwriter known for songs such as I'm Your Man.” “He's remarkable. ... I mean the orchestration is fantastic and the words, the lyrics and everything, he's a remarkable man, and he has this incredibly sort of laid-back gravely voice, it's terrific stuff, I think. I enjoy the jazz and things.” William, 23, joked about his younger brother's music tastes, saying they were “pretty shocking.” He gave no examples, but said they did like some of the same groups. The royal duo often fight over the television remote control. “ Friends is always a safe bet,” said Harry, a recent graduate of Sandhurst military academy. A concert at the Tower of London on Saturday will mark the anniversary of The Prince's Trust. Scheduled performers include Ozzy Osbourne, Annie Lennox and Lionel Richie. “I can't believe it is 30 years, do you know that?” Charles asked the comedians, known as Ant and Dec. “It is rather worrying. And I'm still alive.”

Madonna Once Again Courts Controversy

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(May 23, 2006) LOS ANGELES (AP) — Less than 12 hours after Madonna crucified herself on a mirrored cross, the Catholic League expressed its discontent with the concert stunt.  The controversial diva wore a crown of thorns and sang while hanging from a cross during Sunday night's opener of her Confessions world tour at The Forum in Inglewood.  "Knock off the Christ-bashing," Catholic League president Bill Donohue said in a statement Monday. "It's just pathetic."  Though Donohue said that Madonna "has been spicing up her act with misappropriated Christian imagery for a long time," he thought that her faith in Kabbalah might inspire new respect for religion.  "I guess you really can't teach an old pop star new tricks," he said. "Poor Madonna keeps trying to shock. But all she succeeds in doing is coming across as a boring bigot."  A message left with Madonna's spokeswoman was not immediately returned.  The Confessions tour continues through Sept. 4 with dates throughout North America and Europe.

Madge Rankles With Song On Cross

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Fred Shuster, Special To The Star, Los Angeles Daily News

(May 23, 2006) LOS ANGELES—
Madonna's new world tour kicked off Sunday, and the Church of England immediately weighed in with a bad review — something about the singer wearing a crown of thorns while being crucified on a mirrored cross.  It was a spectacularly exciting two-hour show, packed with skin-baring dancers, fine singing, some of the best dance music of the decade and one of the most memorable stage entrances in memory. And it included a scene where Madonna — age 47 and the mother of two — sang the ballad "Live to Tell" suspended from a giant cross.  Madonna's elaborately staged "Confessions" road show, which occupied a gigantic high-tech T-shaped stage, took in 22 songs from all aspects of her career, thematically broken into four sections.  The tightly choreographed concert began when a giant crystal disco ball was lowered from the ceiling to the end of a long catwalk stretching deep into the audience. Out popped Madonna, a dominatrix in jodhpurs, top hat and snapping a jewelled riding crop, delivering the recent "Future Lovers," surrounded by male dancers.  Madonna was in thrilling, non-stop-action mode, strutting up and down the catwalk, crawling on all fours, offering some expert pelvic thrusts and holding attention all around. The singing was strong, the material well chosen, and accompaniment by a top-notch, seven-member ensemble was solid.  The dozen or so dancers had as many costume changes as the headliner. Gymnasts worked out on platforms while massive video screens showed images of war, world leaders, horses — and Madonna.  While it was a flashy Hollywood production, there seemed to be little room for ad-libs, although Madonna did throw in some expletives to urge a sing-along during the finale of her current disco anthem, "Hung Up," as Mylar balloons fell.

A Chip Off Billy Joel Block

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(May 23, 2006) She doesn't have a recording contract or a finished demo, but with the financial backing of her superstar parents, musician Billy Joel and supermodel Christie Brinkley, and a popular Web page (,
Alexa Ray Joel has embarked on a singing career.  With a complement of original songs, classified as pop/rock/soul, and a decent set of pipes, the 20-year-old performs in Toronto tomorrow at the Hard Rock Café. After doing shows here and there, the New York native is on her first extended tour, travelling by bus for a month with three musicians, a sound technician and a road manager.  She spoke to the Star by phone from an Arlington, Va., tour stop.

Q:        How's life on the road?

A:            It's great. I'm lucky enough to have a nice bus. We have a TV and lots of space and a big bed in the back.... It's like a slumber party, but a long one.

Q:        Why are you doing this mini tour?

A:            To prove to myself and others that I can play gigs. I don't really understand how so many people just do like one or two gigs, or gigs for like a month, and then get a record deal and then start right away with the promotion for it. I'd rather get as much experience as I can, because I'm my father's daughter — I kind of have to prove myself more.

Q:        Are you concerned about people not taking you seriously?

A:            It's their choice. They can always write me off as Billy Joel's privileged daughter, but if they don't give the music a chance, then it's not a very good argument. So far I've been getting a really positive reaction.... The fact that I do write my own songs and that I've been staying in little motels and just playing local venues for months now gives people no reason to think I'm just some sugar-coated pop thing.

Q:        Are your parents funding your current endeavours?

A:            Yes. My dad always says, `Well, it's less expensive than paying for you to go to college.'

Q:        When did you decide to pursue a singing career?

A:            Just last summer. I was getting a little restless at NYU (New York University) and I really wanted to try something new. So I started to work with a vocal teacher, who told me, `You don't need voice lessons, you need to work with a band and get some stuff together.' So I started with these three guys who play bass, drums and guitar, and there was just a chemistry there and it felt so natural. After a few months of rehearsing my songs, we did the first show in December and it just took off right away.

Q:        What were you studying at NYU?

A:            Musical theatre. Songwriting was always in the back of my head and I'd always wanted to pursue it, but I was scared and almost just putting it off. I guess musical theatre was almost a diversion.

Q:        Was your father a big influence?

A:            I suppose so. Just watching my dad at the piano all the time, figuring out songs, gave me a peek into the whole process and the industry. We'd sing together and he'd play the piano. He was encouraging when I was learning the piano, but my mom was the one that really sat me down and made me practise.

Q:        What does he think about you following his path?

A:            He's very realistic about it and more cynical, which I think is a good thing. He says, "There's going to be a ton of people telling you to do all sorts of different things and throwing their opinions in your face. You really have to trust your opinion first, because your first instinct is a good one." And I'm learning this as I go, realizing how he's so right ...

Q:        What are your songs about?

A:            Some of it is classic teenage angst stuff and frustrations and insecurities, and some are just simple reflections on my life. In one, I'm angry about some guy; another is about how much in love I am; and another one ("The Revolution Song") is about wanting to start a revolution and being tired of the routines of society and school.

Q:        What's up with the use of the f-word in "Revolution"? Is your first album going to come with a parental advisory sticker?

A:            I really don't know. I realize that song has big potential as a single, because it's catchy and so many people like it. I have started to limit myself. We played a show a couple days ago in Nashville and the audience was an older crowd and seemed to be kind of religious, so the second I got up there, I thought, "I can't curse tonight." And when we played a Catholic college, I didn't. This is something that I'm really going to have to think about, because when I wrote that line and that song it was perfect for the song and it really expressed the anger I was feeling, and I would hate to have to take it out, but that might be the smart thing to do."

Q:        As a model's daughter, you must have given some thought to your image. What kind of look are you going for? Sophisticated? Collegiate? Eye candy?

A:            I just want to be as true to my style ... as possible. I have a very eclectic style and I love exotic jewellery. I'm very much not a girly girl. I can't see myself being on the covers of magazines in glitzy shiny dresses. I'm all for showing off your body and being a woman. But there's a difference (if you're) exploiting it.

Q:        Are you prepared for the rigours of living in the public eye?

A:            Once you get big enough, there's always going to be some bad press. My dad said he was flattered when there were rumours going around that he was gay, because that really meant he'd made it, because it was such an absurd thing to spread about him.

Q:        What does he say about your songs?

A:            My dad always gives me feedback on my stuff and I always value his opinion. But ... if he tries to get specific, I don't let him. Because then he'd be writing my songs for me and I don't want that.

Q:        Any chance of a Billy Joel duet on your debut album?

A:            There's no way I'd collaborate with him before I'm established. That would be ... as much as I'm influenced by him and would love to collaborate with him, right now I'm trying to separate myself and do my work.

Kenny Lattimore: New CD and New Projects 'Uncovered'

 Excerpt from
(May 24, 2006) Kenny Lattimore established himself in the late 90s as the new breed of crooner. With a smooth tenor voice, his track “For You” mesmerized female audiences and rang out as the matrimonial theme of the decade.   Building on the “Moore” the merrier, Lattimore teamed up with Chante Moore in the new millennium for not only a personal partnership, but an artistic one. The two released a very popular CD of duets called “Things That Lovers Do.”  The husband and wife team’s upcoming release “Uncovered” is expected to be the couple’s last CD together – at least for a while. And when Lattimore took a moment to chat with EUR’s Lee Bailey at a recent BET network shindig, he believes that this is certainly a great project to close their duo chapter.  The network launched BETJ in March, which is described as a more mature BET, featuring soul, neo-soul and jazz artists such as Amel Larrieux, India.Arie, Ann Nesby, Brandford Marsalis, and original R&B, neo, and soul programming. “I am so happy to be here because I have a reason to make a video again,” Lattimore laughingly said of the network launch. “To launch something that I think will be historic. BET has always been at the forefront in supporting my career, and my wife, Chante Moore’s career. We’re excited” The more musically inclined R&B artists have a new vehicle to shop their wares. “And just in time for what we do,” Lattimore added. “The soul music, the R&B, and the jazz -- the adult music. Our audience is 25 and older and we hope this brings them back to performance TV with music. It’s just in time because Chante and I have our new album. It was supposed to come out last year. We kept pushing it back and I’m glad we did. There were things that just needed to be settled with the BMG-Sony merger. We wanted to have some of that settled so that we would make sure we’d get some attention.”
 That attention finally came as anticipation grew for the project. The disc’s original release date was pushed back due to changes at the label, and Lattimore-Moore team’s insistence. “What we felt in completing the album, it sounded really timeless,” Lattimore described, “but at the same time, radio has changed and the industry has changed. So Jive Records and our management, Michael Mauldin, said, ‘Let’s get in here together and challenge this project and us to do something radio today.’ We are blessed to have the talents of Jermaine Dupri coming in. We believe he has all the sensibility that will allow us to be musical and be who we are, as well as fit into the marketplace without compromising. We don’t believe that what we record is something that you’ll look at and say, ‘Why would they do that? They’re trying too hard.’” The two had big plans about doing a tour and juggled a lot of ideas from their marketing team, but decided to take a step back. “In doing that I think we’ve done a better project,” Lattimore said. His better half was under the weather, while he chatted during the BETJ launch and mentioned that he really was overwhelmed without her. “It’s funny how dependent we’ve become on one another,” Lattimore said about making appearances without Moore. “People, in general, we can take each other for granted, but when one person is down you get to see really what they’ve brought to the table and how significant their contribution really has been.” Fans of Lattimore and of Chante Moore and of the two together won’t be disappointed by the new disc. It has both aspects of the artists as a team and as solo artists. “This album, I think is it. On this album, we did a few solo songs…to allude back to the fact that we haven’t forgotten about our solo fans. We really wanted to make this a really special album and talk about the heart of marriage and where we are, so it’s truly a reflection of who we are personally and where we are in our lives.” In talking about what’s in store after this, Lattimore revealed: “We’re going to go back to doing more solo projects. We’ve been in this industry for a minute, and we have so many dreams and aspirations. I have aspirations, as well as she, to do gospel albums. I have ideas about a trio… just some other projects with other people.” For more on Lattimore/Moore, check out

How To Make A Bad Day Good

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(May 24, 2006) It was a good day for
Daniel Powter to be singing Bad Day on American Idol. The Okanagan-born singer-songwriter performed his hit single before a live audience in Hollywood last night. About 30 million television viewers were expected to tune in, among them a 35-year-old Vancouver record producer who is intimately familiar with the catchy pop ballad. "I'd heard it a zillion times before anyone else," Jeff Dawson says. And he has a confession: "It was nice to not hear it for a while." Mr. Dawson, 35, helped craft a budding songwriter's tune about life as a struggling musician into a worldwide phenomenon. A brooding song with a catchy chorus, Bad Day, has topped the charts on this continent and in Europe, spending five consecutive weeks as Billboard's top song on the Hot 100. All of which means global airplay for a song whose lyrics were completed on a 95-minute ferry ride from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen and which was recorded in a West End apartment. On American Idol, the infectious Bad Day is an execution song, playing in the background as an about-to-be-banished contestant watches a video montage of their failed pursuit of stardom. The chorus -- "Cause you had a bad day/ You're taking one down/ You sing a sad song/ just to turn it around" -- nicely captures the dream-has-burst shock as the bittersweet retrospective rolls. The weekly exposure on television's top-rated show helped make the singer's eponymous debut album a success and the song a cultural template.  Bad Day first took off in France after the label, Warner Bros., convinced Coca-Cola to use a snippet of the song for a commercial that aired for a fortnight before Christmas, 2004. Like a virus, the tune began crossing borders, climbing the charts in Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany. Mr. Powter performed it live last June before thousands of sing-along fans at Berlin's Tiergarten during the Live 8 broadcast.

The singer's career is breaking late at age 35. He grew up in the Okanagan, where he took up violin at 4 before becoming a pianist. He has dyslexia, which turned musical notes on a page into incomprehensible squiggles. For years, he struggled without even a hint of success, perhaps finding in his frustrations the inspiration for Bad Day. Mr. Dawson remembers being impressed by Mr. Powter's sweet vocals. The producer also could not help but note that he did not carry himself like a rock star. "He was just a regular guy," Mr. Dawson says. "From the clothes he was wearing, I was surprised he even did music. You'd have thought he was a labourer or something." Mr. Powter is known for wearing tuques, which apparently hide a scar from a childhood accident. In the video that accompanies the hit song, the headgear makes him look like Woody Harrelson's portrayal of a demented soldier in Wag the Dog. (The Bad Day video can be viewed for free at The singer and his producer both found music at an early age. Born in North Vancouver, Mr. Dawson picked up the guitar when he was 12 and later formed a pop-rock band called Brundle Fly. (In the horror movie The Fly, the mad scientist, named Seth Brundle, splices his DNA with that of a fly.) He also spent several years with Nemesis Gypsy, a hard-rock outfit in the mould of Guns N' Roses. He decided he preferred producing music to performing. As a boy, he liked building with Lego, and Mr. Dawson saw he could do something similar with electronics and a soundboard. He also had a knack for winning the trust of an artist and "making them feel comfortable as they put heart and soul into a song." Mr. Dawson recorded a demo of Bad Day when he joined the singer while he was housesitting at the Powter family home in Vernon. "It came together quickly. Thirty minutes to an hour. A melody and an arrangement." The producer knew they were still far from a finished song. He had some advice. "It's good," he told the singer, "but keep thinking about it because it's not there yet."

Mr. Powter returned to his Victoria home, where he dabbled with the lyrics. He finished rewriting while aboard a B.C. Ferry on his way to Mr. Dawson's apartment in the West End. The producer used a spare bedroom as a recording studio, filling it with Mr. Powter on keyboards, Darren Parris on bass, and Brendan Ostrander handling percussion. Some of the vocals were recorded in the bathroom. "When we finished it, we knew the song was really good," Mr. Dawson said. "We knew it was great. Then you've heard it so much you begin to wonder; you get bored with it. Is it great?" The recording was then handled by Mitchell Froom, an A-list producer who built his reputation through collaborations with the likes of Los Lobos and Suzanne Vega. Mr. Powter has compared the original album to "an empty house" in which Mr. Froom "put in the furniture." After last night's performance at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, Mr. Powter was to fly to Europe for weekend concerts in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Mr. Dawson, meanwhile, recently finished a project with Tal Bachman for the Artemis label. He also produced John Wozniak's solo debut and has worked with Holly McNarland. He doesn't usually watch television. He missed his friend's appearances with Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres, but figured he would make an exception for last night's American Idol finale. Unless, that is, he fell asleep. He is accustomed to going to bed early.

Mariah Carey Announces Eagerly-Anticipated Tour

Source:  Universal Urban

(May 22, 2006 – New York, NY)  Capping one of the most phenomenally successful years of her entire career, performer and song­writer Mariah Carey will embark on a fun-filled North American tour this summer.  Bringing her big show on the road for the first time in more than three years, ”The Adventures of Mimi: The Voice, The Hits, The Tour”  will take fans on a summertime ride that will be the must-see tour event of the year.   “The Adventures of Mimi: The Voice, The Hits, The Tour” which launches August 5th in Miami and ends October 10th in Phoenix, will make stops in 30 cities across the U.S. and Canada.  Tickets for most dates will go on sale Friday, June 2nd.    The tour is being produced by Live Nation.  (Please see tour dates below.) Opening for Mariah on selected dates during her first month of shows will be dancehall superstar Sean Paul – with special surprise guests expected to add to the fun en routeThe Adventures of Mimi: The Voice, The Hits, The Tour” is shaping up to be a grand celebration for Mariah, who will draw on songs  - many performed for the first time ever - from her 15-year career.  Enjoying one of the most extraordinary years of her entire career,  Mariah Carey's 6x-platinum Island Records album The Emancipation Of Mimi generated three Grammy awards and recently passed its one-year anniversary on the Billboard 200 Albums chart (this week marks its 58th week on the chart).  Mimi includes Mariah’s 16th and 17th  #1 career singles, “We Belong Together” and “Don’t Forget About Us,” respectively – which tied one of the most enduring chart records in Billboard Hot 100 history, Elvis Presley’s 17 #1’s.  Mariah is now positioned as the only active recording artist with the potential to surpass the Beatles’ all-time high of 20 #1 hits.  Mimi, the biggest-selling album of 2005, has sold over 9 million units worldwide to date, bringing Mariah’s career sales to over 160 million units world­wide.

Mariah Tour Dates



Miami, FL

American Airlines Arena



Tampa, FL  

St. Pete Times Forum*



Atlanta, GA

Philips Arena*



Philadelphia, PA

Wachovia Center*



Toronto, ON

Air Canada Centre*



Montreal, QC  

Bell Centre*



Atlantic City, NJ

Trump Taj Mahal*



Boston, MA  

TD Banknorth Garden*



New York, NY

Madison Square Garden*



Uncasville, CT 

Mohegan Sun Arena*



East Rutherford, NJ  

Continental Airlines Arena*



New York, NY 

Madison Square Garden*



Albany, NY

Pepsi Arena*



Hershey, PA  

Giant Center*



Verona, NY

Turning Stone Event Center



Washington, DC

Verizon Center



Auburn Hills, MI

The Palace of Auburn Hills



Chicago, IL 

United Center



Houston, TX

Toyota Center



Dallas, TX

American Airlines Center



Denver, CO 

Pepsi Center



Edmonton, AB

Rexall Place



Vancouver, BC

General Motors Place



Seattle, WA

Key Arena



Sacramento, CA

Arco Arena



Las Vegas, NV 

MGM Grand Garden Arena



Oakland, CA

Oakland Arena



San Diego

Ipayone Center at the Sports Arena



Los Angeles, CA 

Staples Center



Anaheim, CA

Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim



Phoenix, AZ

US Airways Center


*With Sean Paul

All About Bob

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Vit Wagner, Pop Music Critic

(May 24, 2006) Any day now,
Bob Dylan will receive his first Social Security cheque.  Granted, the man born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minn., probably doesn't need the money. But that doesn't mean that the cheque itself won't have value to the legions of Dylanologists who have been sifting through the minutiae of the singer/songwriter's life and work since his first brush with fame back in the 1960s.  A photocopy of the cheque itself might prove an invaluable artefact. Perhaps the digits in the registration code, when added together, will combine to form a particularly significant prime number like '61, the year Dylan launched his career in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village.  No musical artist, with the possible exception of the Beatles, has proved a more torrential fount of biographical detritus than Dylan. A Google search of the terms "Bob Dylan" yields 16,300,000 hits, about 5 million shy of the total for the Beatles but twice as many as pops up for the Rolling Stones.  Narrow the search to "Bob Dylan" and "Newport Folk Festival," the event where the folk singer infamously went electric in 1965, and you can begin to pick your way through 120,000 digitized entries.  Online bookseller retails 335 titles pertaining to "Bob Dylan," including last year's The Bob Dylan Scrapbook, 1956-1966, a treasure trove of memorabilia replete with photos and reproductions of concert programs and handwritten lyrics.  In academia, PhD candidates have been awarded doctorates by elucidating such topics as "The Alchemy of Individuation: A Case Study of Bob Dylan" and "One Who Sings with his Tongue on Fire: Change, Continuity and Meaning in Bob Dylan's Vocal Style, 1960-1966." Finally, an explanation for the fits of garbled enunciation.  Now, presumably in anticipation of Dylan's graduation to senior citizenship, we have two new additions to the shelves, Bob Dylan Live in Canada: A Concert History, 1962-2005 (Trafford Publishing), and The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (Continuum, available June 15).

Each is exactly what it purports to be. Taken together, they encompass the more conventional domain of Dylanophilia, from the exhaustively factual to the relentlessly interpretive. And in both cases, the content easily exceeds the likely curiosity levels of all but the most obsessive devotee.  Before this year, Dylan performed 1,923 songs during 119 concerts delivered in 62 venues in 26 Canadian cities. This much can be gleaned without probing any further than the back cover of Bob Dylan Live in Canada, a 365-page compilation of set lists, newspaper reviews and related factoids assembled by Brady J. Leyser and Olof Björner.  If you want a list of the 28 songs Dylan played at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium on Saturday, Oct. 31, 1981, you are in luck. Turn the page and you will find a review from the dismayed Kitchener Waterloo Record that concludes, "His days are over, and the man won't even let us say goodbye." It turns out that summation was a tad premature, since we are only on page 78.  The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia delivers an altogether different category of door-stopping detail, beginning with "Aaronson, Kenny," an entry on the former Byrds bassist who later served as an accompanist at 75 Dylan concerts, and ending, more than 800 pages later, with "Zimmerman family, the," containing information on the singer's paternal ancestry dating back to the birth of his grandfather, Zigman, in Odessa, Russia, in 1875.  Author Michael Gray, who first waded into these waters back in 1972 with the early biography Song and Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan, does not confine himself to the menial chore of factual regurgitation. He has pages to fill, theories to float, axes to grind — an approach that is amusing at times, exasperating at others.  You might expect, for instance, that "Costello, Elvis" would start with a thumbnail sketch of the New Wave pop star's career and then cut directly to what, if anything, it has to do with Dylan. Instead, the tangential connection — Costello opened for Dylan at some shows in 1995 and apparently praised Dylan's 2001 album Love and Theft — doesn't begin to merit the size of an entry that, incomprehensively, runs longer than the one for "Grossman, Albert," the manager who had an indelible impact on Dylan's career and public profile.

Gray also makes time to get in a dig at Costello for aging into "one of the old farts he used to rage against." That sounds kind by the time you get to "Springsteen, Bruce," which uses the New Jersey rocker's commercial achievements to manufacture a bogus antagonism between the two artists.  "In the end, of course, to concentrate on Springsteen's greater music-biz success, or even his once great critical modishness, is to miss the essential point ..." Gray writes, that being "as an artist Dylan's achievements have been incomparably greater."  Gray's many jabs sometimes produce a gleefully complicitous grin, but after a while it's hard to withhold the impression that the only thing Gray is more full of than his subject is himself.  The essay-length examinations of Dylan's individual songs, even relatively obscure ones, often run to several pages.  This temptation to read too deeply into Dylan dates back as far as self-styled original Dylanologist "Weberman, A.J.," who basically drove Dylan from his Greenwich Village apartment in the early '70s after camping out across the street and sifting through the great man's garbage for whatever decomposing clues it might contain.  Gray is probably right to imply Weberman was cracked when he conjectured, among other things, that "lady" is actually a code for "oligarchy" in Dylan's music.  But you have to admit the guy was a complete visionary when it came to anticipating that nothing to do with Dylan is above — or beneath — scrutiny.  Note to the U.S. Treasury: please shred any copies of that Social Security cheque before it's too late.


Patrice Rushen Joins A New Group Canela!

Source: Lisa Redd, Lisa ReddPublic Relations,

(May 18, 2006)   Patrice Rushen has joined with friends Alex Acuna, Abe Laboriel and Justo Almario, to form the new quartet, “Canela!”   The group is scheduled to perform this summer in Europe and in the Los Angeles area. A special debut performance is scheduled for tonight in Santa Monica, however.  Four time Grammy Award nominee Patrice Rushen was asked to define Canela!  Rushen replied:    “Canela! is a quartet, interestingly enough, comprised of individuals who are among the most recorded people in the music business,  as they are often called to contribute to helping other artists sound good.  Canela means "cinnamon" and how this versatile spice speaks to the music that the quartet will play.  It will feature rhythms of the music of the Americas and the music of the World ....spiced with jazz, funk and fusion sensibilities.  It will be joyous and accessible, performed by good friends who share a  passion about the spirituality and healing powers of great music.” This couldn’t be a better time for Rushen to join her Canela! friends and step out on tour.  She has seen much success behind the scenes in the music business. She is the first female Music Director for the Grammy Awards and has scored the music for many movies and television shows.  Also, Rushen’s work has been sampled for hits by many artists including, Kirk Franklin, Will Smith, George Michael and Mary J. Blige.  The debut performance for Canela! will be tonight,  Thursday, May 18  at “The Vic for Jazz,” at 2640 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Two shows are scheduled: 8:00PM & 10:00PM. Call (888) FOR-JAZZ or (888) 367-5299 for show information.

Rihanna Set For Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest In Jamaica

Excerpt from

(May 18, 2006)   Jamaican reggae music fans will get the chance to see Barbados native Rihanna in performance at this year’s staging of Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest. She is scheduled to perform on Saturday July 22 the final night of the festival which is dubbed The Summit. Rihanna’s sophomore album A Girl Like Me debuted two weeks ago at number five and number two respectively on Billboard’s 200 and R&B Hip Hop album charts. Her first album Music of the Sun debuted at number ten on the Billboard 200.  Rihanna also has the number one song in America as SOS (Rescue Me) removed Daniel Powter’s Bad Day from the top of the Hot 100 chart. Rihanna didn’t top the Billboard Hot 100 on her first trip with Pon de Replay last summer. However the tune did manage to hit the top of Billboard’s Dance Music Club Play chart.  Now her third single SOS (Rescue Me) is also number one on Billboard’s Dance Music Club Play chart.  Rihanna is the first Barbados native to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100, since 2001 when Barbados native Rayvon, teamed up with Jamaica’s Shaggy for the chart topper Angel. Like Angel, SOS (Rescue Me) is a sampled hit. Angel sampled Merilee Rush’s 1960’s hit Angel of the Morning, while SOS samples the 1981 hit Tainted Love by the British duo Soft Cell.  SOS now ranks among the six songs with the shortest titles to have topped the Billboard pop chart. The others include Ben and Bad by Michael Jackson. Some more chart news for fans of red hot Rihanna, the eighteen year old singer’s SOS which galloped from number 34 to number one, is the second biggest jump to number one. In 2002, American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson rocked from number 52 to number one with A Moment like This.

Nas Declares 'Hip Hop Is Dead'

Excerpt from - Clover Hope, N.Y.

(May 19, 2006)
Recent Def Jam signee Nas will deliver his first album for the label in late September. The rapper made the announcement last night (May 18) while performing on the first leg of labelmates the Roots’ two-night stand at New York's Radio City Music Hall.  The album is titled "Hip-Hop Is Dead,” according to a Def Jam representative, who also confirmed the September release to  Nas capped off his roughly 15-minute set by pronouncing, “I'm working hard for y’all. I got an album coming out in September.”   Def Jam president Jay-Z added Nas to the label’s roster in January, two months after the pair mutually dissolved their longtime feud.   As previously reported, the new disc will be one of two albums to be jointly marketed by Def Jam and Columbia, Nas’ previous label.  During a live chat on the Roc-A-Fella Web site in February, Jay-Z said that plans were underway to begin working on the project. Black Eyed Peas leader also told that he was scheduled to record with Nas.  "Hip-Hop Is Dead” will be the follow-up to 2004’s “Streets Disciple,” which peaked at No. 5 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 694,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In his 11 years with Columbia, Nas' catalogue has sold 12 million units.  The Roots concert also featured Common, Talib Kweli, Big Daddy Kane and saw a brief cameo from comedian Dave Chappelle, who billed many of the same artists for his 2004 Block Party in Brooklyn, N.Y. Tonight's second round of performances will feature Erykah Badu, Mos Def, J. Davey and Angelique Kidjo.

Yusuf Islam Album Due This Fall

Excerpt from - Lars Brandie, London

(May 19, 2006)
As tipped here in March, Yusuf Islam, the 1960s and 70s pop-rock singer-songwriter formerly known as Cat Stevens, is returning with an album of new songs this fall. Released through Polydor Records, it will mark his first mainstream album for 28 years.  The as-yet untitled new album has been produced by Rick Nowels (Madonna, Dido). Its release will coincide with the 40th anniversary of the first record as Cat Stevens, "I Love My Dog" (Dream) which peaked at No. 28 in the U.K. following its November 1966 release.   Born Steven Demetre Georgiou in London in 1947 to a Greek Cypriot father and a Swedish mother, he scored hits as Cat Stevens with "Morning Has Broken," "Lady D'Arbanville," "Wild World," "The First Cut is the Deepest" and "Moon Shadow." He converted to Islam and changed his name in 1977. Two years later, he retired from the music business.  "There were one hundred reasons for leaving the music industry back in 1979, not least because I had found what I was looking for spiritually. Today there are perhaps one hundred and one good reasons why I feel right making music and singing about life in this fragile world again," Islam says.  In 1981, Islam began writing religious material, and he has released 10 albums of drum-and-vocal performances to date on his own U.K.-based label Mountain of Light. That material compiled on the recent album "Footsteps in the Light."  His first secular recording since 1977 came in early 2005 with a new self-penned song, "Indian Ocean." Proceeds from the download-only track were donated to victims of the December 2004 tsunami. In April 2005, Stevens struck a deal with EMI Music Publishing to administer his entire song catalogue, which had previously been handled by Sony/ATV Music.  "Much has changed, but today I am in a unique position as a looking glass through which Muslims can see the west and the west can see Islam," Islam adds. "It is important for me to be able to help bridge the cultural gaps others are sometimes frightened to cross."

Johnny Gill Has Star-Studded Birthday Bash

Excerpt from

(May 23, 2006) *The best and brightest of black Hollywood turned out in droves to join singer 
Johnny Gill as he celebrated his 40th birthday. Onhand at B.B. King’s at Universal City Walk in Los Angeles were such friends as Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson, Jermaine Dupri, Jimmy Jam, Eriq LaSalle, Cedric the Entertainer, Gabrielle Union, Sanaa Lathan, Nick Cannon, Wayne Brady, Raphael Saadiq, Regina Hall, Arsenio Hall, Carl Payne, Alex Thomas, Ananda Lewis, Anthony Anderson, Shawn Stockman, Nia Long and Sugar Ray Leonard. The celebrities in attendance danced and sang along to New Edition classics, while Union brought out a tray of champagne to sing happy birthday to Johnny Gill on stage.  An emotional Gill said to the revellers: “Los Angeles is always a treat for us, the people that started as our fans have become our friends. Our celebrity fans basically grew up with us whether they are in television or films or music artists themselves, they grew up listening to us. Seeing people we admire singing and dancing to our music is amazing. “It feels really great to watch these huge stars transform back into just plain music lovers. You can see a look in their face that a song brings back a special memory to mind and they sing every word. I feel so blessed to be where I am and that so many people came out to celebrate with us and for my birthday- what a wish come true.”

Andrae Crouch Celebrates 40 Years In Gospel

Excerpt from

(May 23, 2006) *To mark his fourth decade uplifting spirits with gospel music, singer/producer
Andrae Crouch is releasing his first new studio album in eight years on May 30 via Verity Records. Titled “Mighty Wind,” the disc was produced and recorded by Crouch on his own before he signed with Verity.  "I just wanted to do what I felt the Lord was telling me to do without anyone giving me (direction) as to what the industry wanted," Crouch tells Billboard. The only living gospel artist with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, Crouch’s album reflects his role and influence in the genre. Throughout his 40 years, he has gained worldwide acclaim as a songwriter, producer, arranger and minister.  He has been a pastor of the New Christ Memorial Church of God in Christ in Southern California since the late '90s, and has even blessed some of the biggest pop stars with his production talent, including Madonna, Michael Jackson and Elton John.  “Mighty Wind” was produced by Crouch and Luther "Mano" Hanes, and recorded live at New Christ Memorial, however studio-recorded songs are mixed in as well. The album features such guests as Crystal Lewis, Marvin Winans Sr., Karen Clark-Sheard and Fred Hammond. 

Stompin' Tom tells CBC to 'shove it'

Source: Canadian Press

(May 24, 2006) Toronto — Legendary country singer Stompin' Tom Connors says CBC-TV is refusing to air a television concert special he taped last fall. Connors says he recorded the show at the behest of repeated pleas from the national broadcaster. But when it was sent to CBC-TV, Connors says he was told the network was moving away from music and variety shows and that it was not interested in airing the performance. In an open letter dated Tuesday, Connors says the network added insult to injury by suggesting he perform a song on the CBC-TV series Hockeyville or be interviewed for a segment of the biography series Life and Times. This offer was flatly rejected, he says. “As far as I'm concerned, if the CBC, our own public network, will not reconsider their refusal to air a Stompin' Tom special, they can take their wonderful offer of letting me sing a song as a guest on some other program and shove it,” Connors writes, signing the letter “still a proud Canadian.” Connors says he and his concert promoter are trying to get federal Heritage Minister Bev Oda to look into the matter. “If this is not a complete snub to Stompin' Tom Connors by Canada's own television network, then I'd like to know what is,” Connors writes in the two-page letter. A spokeswoman for the CBC said the broadcaster never committed to airing a Stompin' Tom special nor did it ever order any production. “When we were told that a production was going ahead, we agreed to look at it upon completion,” said spokeswoman Ruth-Ellen Soles. “No commitment was made or no contract was signed at the time. We reviewed it and made the decision not to purchase the show.”


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)
Doujah Raze, Past, Presence and Features, Raptivism
Garnett Silk, Rule Dem, Trojan
Gladys Knight, Gold, Hip-O
Jagged Edge, Jagged Edge [Bonus Track], Sony
Johnny Clarke, Rootsy Reggae, Wackies / Basic
Junior Kelly, Reggae Max, Jet Star
Luciano, Gold: The Very Best of Luciano, Jet Star
Mobb Deep, Give It to Me, Interscope
Obie Trice, Snitch, Interscope
ODM, The Best of LSOB's, EMI
Pastor Troy, Money and Power, KR Urban
Rashad, Tell 'Em What They Wanna Hear, Bad Boy
Ray J, What I Need, Sanctuary
Sean Paul, Give It Up to Me, Atlantic
The Commodores, Live [Unidisc], Unidisc
The O'Jays, Greatest Hits [Collectables], Collectables
Various Artists, Best of 60s Soul [Madacy], Madacy
Various Artists, Soul Classics, Vol. 12, Collectables
Various Artists, The Best of Both Worlds Hip Hop and Reggaeton [CD/DVD], Universal Latino
Various Artists, Turn Up the Music: Hip Hop Rewind, Turn Up The Music
Various Artists, Turn Up the Music: Hip Hop Throwbacks, Turn Up The Music
Various Artists, 40 Reggaeton Jewels [CD/DVD], Machete Music
Various Artists, Fierce Reggaeton Hits, Universal Latino
Various Artists, Irie Reggae Hits: Best of Dancehall, Time Life/WSP
Various Artists, Reggae Master Blaster, Vol. 3, ZYX
Various Artists, Show Me Your Roots, Funhouse
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

May 29, 2006

Aaliyah [Bonus Track], Snapper Classics
Chris Brown,
Chris Brown's Journey, Jive
Gangsta Dre,
The Best of Gangsta Dre, Black Armor
Gheto Red,
Fed or Dead, BCD Music Group
Kanye West,
Late Orchestration: Live at Abbey Road Studios, Universal International
Tease U, Please U, Eve
Lil' Flip,
Roofback, BCD Music Group
Los Ninos del Reggaeton,
Los Ninos del Reggaeton: Solo Exitos, Sony International
Meli'sa Morgan,
High Maintenance, Orpheus
Gangsta Grillz: The Leak, BCD Music Group
The Average White Band,
The Very Best of Average White Band [BMG], BMG
The Commodores,
Live [Unidisc], Unidisc
Various Artists,
Best of Salsoul, Unidisc
Various Artists,
Groovin' with the Groovaloos: Learn the Hip-Hop Grooves, Peter Pan
Various Artists,
Hoodz DVD Magazine: Stop Snitchin', Hoodz DVD Magazine
Yo Gotti,
Full Time Hustlin', BCD Music Group
Young Jeezy,
You Can't Ban the Snowman, BCD Music Group


Three Of Five Festival Cinemas Are Slated To Close

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Hayley Mick
 (May 20, 2006) By Canada Day, Toronto will have roughly half the number of repertory cinemas it does now, and if business doesn't improve, that number could be halved again in short order. The Revue, the Royal and the Kingsway are all slated to close by the end of June. The Fox and the Paradise, the other two independents belonging to the Festival Cinemas Group, are also under threat.  Their owners say the recent practice of releasing DVDs earlier and earlier -- as well as the long-standing competition from the multiplexes -- is making it too difficult to stay in business. Now, as staff and customers mourn the loss of three landmark cinemas, the question remains: Is this the end of Toronto's vibrant rep-house scene? Kate McQuillan, owner of the three cinemas slated for closing, says the decision was difficult, but "it's just too tough an industry." She and her two brothers inherited the theatres when their father, Peter McQuillan, died in October, 2004. They tried to learn the business and compete, she says, but it proved too difficult.  "It was really my father's passion," she says. "It's a labour of love and you don't do it unless you're really passionate about it."
 Jerry Szczur, who owns the Fox and Paradise and helped to start Festival Cinemas Group 30 years ago, says he is considering selling his two cinemas and retiring. "Their problems are my problems too," he says, referring to the McQuillans. "It's not like it used to be."  In the mid-1970s, he and partners Tom Litvinskas and Peter McQuillan opened the Kingsway on Bloor Street West. The Revue and the Fox soon followed.  "The heyday was the most beautiful time, believe me," says Carmelo Bordonaro, who joined the others to buy the Bloor at Bloor and Bathurst in 1979. Opening night sold out on 99-cent tickets for Eraserhead, the first film it screened.  Over the past 20 years, the multiplexes have multiplied, and quick turnaround DVDs have meant that rep cinemas now often show second-run films that are already on store shelves.  In order to compete, some theatres, like the Royal and the Bloor, found niches by opening their doors to the Toronto festival circuit. The Revue introduced infant-friendly "mini-matinees" to accommodate the influx of young families to the Roncesvalles area.  The Royal, a mid-sized theatre with 450 seats, also rents its space in two-hour time slots, costing $500 to $850, for community groups and indie filmmakers who wouldn't ordinarily have their films touch the big screen. But the efforts proved unequal to the challenges of the marketplace.  Last month, Camera, a new Queen Street West bar-cinema experiment partly owned by Atom Egoyan, stopped its daily screenings. The ones that remain, such as the Bloor, the Regent and the Mount Pleasant, are seeming more like survivors than thrivers in an increasingly unworkable market.  The Royal building is up for sale with a $2.7-million price tag. The McQuillans are letting the lease run out on the Revue, a property they don't own. As for the Kingsway, at Bloor and Royal York Road, their options include leasing it, transforming it into a live theatre, or putting it up for sale. "Everything's on the table. Nothing's been turned down at this point," Ms. McQuillan says.  Mr. Szczur is also weighing whether to lease out his Beaches Fox cinema and the Paradise at Bloor and Dufferin Streets, or sell both businesses altogether.  Tim Bourgette, who has managed several of the Festival cinemas over the past decade, isn't giving up yet. "I'm hoping somebody -- a white knight, perhaps? -- will come in and try and save repertory cinema in Toronto," he says.

Bollywood Gets A Raucous Reception

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Surya Bhattacharya, Staff Reporter

(May 21, 2006) Please be warned that this is a family outing. That babies will bawl, cellphones will ring and the smell of half-eaten samosas will permeate your clothes.  You must be able to sit it out for three hours, and not be alarmed when the audience boos the bad guy or hollers at the rain-soaked heroine.  It's Bollywood-blockbuster time in Toronto. After a week in which we learned that three long-time rep theatres will be closing their doors, it's comforting to know film-going is still thriving in some corners locally. In fact, Bollywood aficionados can not only enjoy those noisy, packed-house sensations, they often get to see the latest blockbuster a few hours before people in India can.  "We have exclusive agreements with some of the big production houses in India," says Farzan Dehmoubed, vice-president of
Golden Theatres, which presents Indian movies at the Woodside and Albion cinemas.  India, of course, produces the largest number of feature films in the world, but not all of them make it here. When they do, fans like Prashant Berry are ready to get a flavour that they can't get from Hollywood.  "It's the dancing and the colours in the movies" that draw him in, says Berry, whose extensive list of favourite actresses includes Rani Mukherjee and Sushmita Sen, a former Miss Universe. "When you see the amount of work that goes into a dance sequence, and the locales and the fine details that make up these sequences, it's eye-catching."  Across the aisle from him on any given weekend might be Toronto filmmaker Richie Mehta. While in Mumbai a few months ago to negotiate financing for his latest project, Mehta noticed how aware the distributors are of foreign markets for their movies.  They've identified target areas in North America South Asians live, including Toronto, though only a few theatres here cater to the niche audience, says Mehta.  Even so, Albion Cinemas is rated as one of the biggest theatres in terms of gross sales, according to Dehmoubed, so his company can pull rank with big-name producers like Yash Raj Films. The pre-release hype for a film and soundtrack sales in India can often be used as a measuring stick for how well it will be received here.  "I am grossly generalizing but audiences in India are more sophisticated. And audiences here take a cue from them," says Mehta. "People here watch what's happening back home." The right film can produce big business for Golden Theatres. Take Veer-Zaara, a film produced by Yash Raj that stars three of the biggest names in the industry: Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta. (The former's one of Bollywood's biggest stars, matched here with the equivalents of, roughly, Meryl Streep and Liv Tyler.) The movie is the story of Veer, an Indian man, and Zaara, a Muslim woman, set against the turbulent backdrop of Indo-Pakistan politics.

Released during the Hindu religious festival of Diwali in November 2004, the movie was watched by 130,000 people in Toronto theatres, where it ran for 2 1/2 months, showing three times a day.  The theatres attract the biggest crowds at the time of Muslim religious celebrations like Eid or Diwali, says Dehmoubed. The movies, mostly rated PG by the Ontario Film Review Board, are a popular outing for extended families celebrating the religious occasion.  Combine that with attractive ticket prices — $9 for adults — and the theatres are usually packed.  "We want to keep (prices) competitive and we want families to come out," says Dehmoubed.  Theatres packed with families have drawbacks, but "the babies add an extra soundtrack to the movies," says Vishal Kaura, who often sees movies at the Golden Theatres locations.  "It is a nuisance for others at times, but it comes with the territory," responds Dehmoubed. Kaura mentions another nuisance.  "Sometimes they'll advertise a movie on their website but they won't show it if only a few people turn up," he says, telling how he showed up for a screening of a critically acclaimed movie, Morning Raaga (Morning Song) last year but never got to see it. He adds sometimes the screening of a movie is delayed in order to fill seats.  Dehmoubed's theatres might be in better shape than other local movie houses, but business is changing anyhow. He says the film industry in India is increasingly tailoring its big-budget movies for North American audiences, with more emphasis on plots.  "They're steering away from the typical song and dance numbers" involving lip-synching actors in exotic settings, he says. "As a result the movies are getting shorter."  Traditionally, Bollywood features run for three hours with an intermission. But one recent crowd-pleaser, Rang De Basanti (Colour Me Saffron), did not feature any song-dance numbers and ran for a scant 157 minutes.  Starring Aamir Khan, a box- office stalwart, it's the story of four college-going friends disenchanted by India's political corruption. Inspired by tales of yesteryear's freedom fighters, they take matters in their own hands to provide a chilling ending.

Rang De Basanti was watched by more than 65,000 at his two theatres last winter, attracting "the young crowd in large numbers," says Dehmoubed.  The South Asian touch extends beyond the screen to the concession stands. Along with popcorn and pop, one can order tea, and snacks like samosas and kulfi (Indian style ice cream in mango and pistachio flavours).  While you can purchase more than five samosas in a local store for $1, a single samosa at the theatre is $1. Even so Dehmoubed reckons his snack prices are "at least 25 per cent less than other (regular) theatres." Signs comparing ticket and snack prices at the two are posted by his ticket window and snack bars.  Another characteristic of South Asian movie-going: designated seating on the movie tickets.  Often more than 1,500 people line up to see a movie where the seating capacity in a theatre is only 750 or 550 (still larger than regular theatres).  "This is to set a priority for early ticket buyers," says Dehmoubed, who is bracing for a big turnout for Fanaa (Sufism) when it comes out on Friday. Hundreds of tickets have been sold well in advance and on the opening weekend Dehmoubed anticipates sellouts for the evening showings at least. Fanaa stars Aamir Khan, so Dehmoubed expects long lineups.  "The market here, they really love their stars. Big names like Shah Rukh Khan or Aamir Khan are a guaranteed seat-filler for at least a couple of weeks, even when it's not a great movie," he says. "Because they're like the Tom Cruises of Bollywood."

Coming Out On Film

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(May 19, 2006) It's candid camera through a queer and youthful eye.  For the eighth year, the
Inside Out Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival is letting seven gay youth express the pain, joy and humour of coming out in a straight world.  The festival spends $25,000 annually to support young filmmakers with this project.  In the process, those young people turn the camera's lens upon themselves and their own experiences, producing six-minute short films that touch on a range of issues relevant to all youth — looking for love, body image, the threat of HIV/AIDS and family ties among them.  "The people in this group ... aren't sure where they fit in either culturally or sexually," said project co-ordinator Adam Garnet Jones, a 24-year-old Ryerson University film graduate of mixed Metis/Cree heritage who understands what it's like to feel like an outsider.  "(But) these are all youth who are really interesting, engaged, exciting, awesome people who are sorting it out and they're not really worried about how long it takes or how they get there. They're interested in taking the time to explore along the way," added Jones, who produced his first film when he was 14.  Winnie Luk, manager of operations for the festival, said the money invested by the festival — which includes providing a youth worker — is worthwhile. Charles Street Video Centre, a non-profit artist-run centre, also contributes by providing technical support.  Though film is an expensive medium, the program offers participants — gay, lesbian, bi and transsexual — a "safe place to work with other queer youth and ... be encouraged to create and to produce art," Luk said.  "For us, this is one of our most cherished programs," she added.  The program has been such a success that to date, half of the 57 youth involved over the past eight years are still involved in filmmaking. The seven short films cover a range of ethno-cultural backgrounds.  Among this year's offerings:

·  Belly by Dave Deveau, which explores issues around body image and features a hilarious variation of the traditional belly dance.

·  Mother, May I? by Jerry Lee is a simple, poignant tale of one young Chinese-Canadian man striving to maintain a strong, loving relationship with his mother as he deals with his sexual orientation.

·  Calling Out by Trickee Bandido is an amusing short tale of a young lesbian's quest for love, which is invariably interrupted by her mother's cellphone calls.

The films will premiere Sat., May 27, at 5 p.m. at the Royal Ontario Museum. For more on Inside Out, which runs until May 28, go to

Filmmakers Shrug Off Defection

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald

 (May 20, 2006) The English-Canadian film industry reacted with more wry amusement than outrage yesterday after learning Michael Jenkinson, the man hired by Telefilm Canada to whip the moribund feature-film sector into shape, would not be showing up for work. Less than three weeks after Los Angeles-based Jenkinson was exuberantly introduced at a Toronto press conference as Telefilm's newly minted go-to-guy with a mandate to revitalize English-language cinema, a red-faced Telefilm issued late Tuesday a vague press release that suggested business complications in California had forced Jenkinson to back out at the final hour. He had signed an employment contract and was slated to officially start work at the federal funding agency the day before. Now Telefilm's embattled executive director Wayne Clarkson (pictured above) will assume those duties. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have been unable to extricate myself from obligations to the stakeholders and filmmakers involved in my company [Urban Entertainment],” Jenkinson, 44, is quoted in the release. “It is with much regret that I informed Wayne Clarkson of the situation.” At the April 25 press conference trumpeting his appointment as feature-film executive for English Canada, the Jamaican-born Jenkinson had said he planned to move shortly to Toronto — where he'd grown up — with his wife and two young sons. But to date, he had not rented or bought a place to live in the city. Jenkinson, who moved to the United States 13 years ago and was a senior executive with Twentieth Century Fox before starting his independent production company, did not return calls yesterday.
 A veteran film producer who attended Jenkinson's coming-out at the press conference said yesterday he “started giggling,” when he heard the latest news. “We spent months waiting for this, there was a big presentation, and for no real stated reason, he backs out of the job,” he said. “It just seems a little ridiculous. I would have thought these ‘entanglements' would have been figured out before he signed a contract. Sounds to me like the guy got cold feet.” “Who could blame him?,” chimed in another director, who asked not to be named. “There's no quick or easy fix to all that's wrong with English-language film.” Jenkinson would have been responsible for approving and funding English-language features, which make up 1.2 per cent of domestic box office (excluding Quebec). He would have replaced an antiquated and mostly loathed national decision committee that had been responsible for doling out roughly $80-million a year. Yesterday, Clarkson said he learned there were cracks in his deal after Jenkinson called him 10 days ago “to inform me he was having a much more difficult time extricating himself. His board of directors weren't happy, and he has service contracts with studios. He didn't think he could make the May 15 deadline.” Last week, the two ran into each other at the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. They had dinner at popular restaurant The Ivy in Beverly Hills, where they agreed “it wasn't going to work out,” Clarkson added. “We had a signed agreement but I'm not going to force someone to honour an agreement, who for understandable reasons, can't do it. It wasn't going to work out on our time line, and I wasn't prepared to wait three to six months, and he couldn't give me a firm answer. He was very apologetic. He's a very honourable individual.”
 Clarkson first met Jenkinson several years ago when he graduated from the Canadian Film Centre's producer's school. Jenkinson has a law degree and an MBA, and Urban Entertainment produced the spy comedy Undercover Brother. Yesterday, Toronto-based Foundry Film's founder Danny Iron said the whole thing “is a bit confusing, I've got to tell you. I think decisions have been on hold for a long time pending his appointment. [But] I would be hesitant to say there's a conspiracy of some sort. I don't think that. I don't know [Jenkinson] at all. I would tend to agree he probably got cold feet, but I don't know.” Iron, who produced films such as Childstar and Sarah Polley's directorial debut Away from Her (now in post-production), added that Clarkson as the new film czar would not necessarily be a bad thing. “It seems to me to be precisely the thing the industry was clamouring for. It's good because Wayne knows all the players and the creative people. Even if Jenkinson had come, Wayne wasn't going to be absent from the decisions in any event.” Some observers had liked the fact that Jenkinson came in with no baggage or allegiances to the tight-knit English-language film community. Fresh blood, they thought, was what the agency needed. Clarkson said he's got the time and energy to take on these responsibilities. Telefilm's regional offices will still be the first-line filter, he added, which means “if there's 100 projects, I'm going to see the best 10, not the other 90. “Also, I know the landscape and the players, big and small. So there won't be that learning curve.” Asked if it's logical that Jenkinson signed an employment agreement without approval from his company's stakeholders and other interested parties, Clarkson said: “I honestly don't know. I can't answer that.” He does not think Jenkinson bailed because he had cold feet. “I don't know the full details of his personal situation, or his thinking, but I think had I required him to meet his obligations, he would have done it. But it would have been an impossible situation for him and us.  “It's most regrettable. But the industry has been patient and we can't delay anything any further. It's time to bring peace, order and good government to the decision-making.”

Halle's Storm: The X-Men 3 Interview (& more) with Halle Berry

 Excerpt from
(May 24, 2006) *With X-Men 3, Halle Berry is back on the big screen for the first time in two years, unless you count her voiceover work last year as Cappy in the animated feature Robots. The Oscar-winning actress, who turns 40 in August, had been out of the public eye for awhile, recently returned to the gossip pages after the paparazzi caught her canoodling with Canadian supermodel Gabriel Aubry. The whirlwind romance with the broad-shouldered, 6’2” blond boy-toy reportedly began last December when the two fell in love while shooting some Versace ads together. This relationship comes on the heels of the bronze beauty’s brief fling with Michael Ealy, her cocoa-coloured co-star in Their Eyes Were Watching God. In the wake of her freshly finalized divorce last year from crooner Eric Benet, the two-time loser found herself fretting that maybe she just wasn’t marriage material, given her unfortunate track record of being victimized by infidelity and spousal abuse. Here, Halle opens up about reprising her role as Storm, about her biological clock ticking, about Oprah’s Legend’s Ball and she even updates us about her philandering ex-husband, but the coy cutie buttons her lips when it comes to her new beau.
 Kam Williams: Hi Halle, were you responsible for your character Storm enjoying an expanded role in X-Men 3?
 Halle Berry:
This time around, I just asked, “Please, please, please, can Storm have a voice? It’s not about me having more, but, if I’m going to be on for ten minutes, can I say something important for ten minutes, because I think Storm does a little bit more in the comic books, and the fans aren’t happy.” And then Brett [director Brett Ratner] came on board. And it’s really due to Brett, because Brett felt the same way, that Storm needs a voice. And he saw to it that this time it actually happened.
 KW: Would you like to have a superpower like Storm or one or the other X-Men in real-life?
HB: I have a hard time trying to expand my brain to even fathom that, because I know it’s not really possible. Keeping in line with what this movie is about, I would keep myself exactly the way I am. I would stay this mortal person that I am, and do life the way that I’ve been doing it. Because that’s what I know and that’s what feels good to me. And I honestly don’t know if I would choose one of these powers. I don’t want to change who I am. I don’t want to pick a superpower. I want to be just how I happen to come here. That’s good enough for me.
 KW: What was it like to participate in Oprah’s Legends Ball?
HB: That was a wonderful, once in a lifetime event, for sure, to be there with such legendary women. Forget about the TV show. What was most meaningful was to be able to go up to each one of them personally and say what was in my heart. To look each one of those ladies in the face and say what I really wanted to say about they inspired me over the course of my life. To be able to do that and give each one a big hug, and say “Thank you!” was really the most meaningful part of it.
 KW: What sorts of feelings did you share with them?
HB: A lot of it’s personal. I had some very personal moments away from the camera with Maya Angelou, and Tina Turner, and Diahann Carroll. And Coretta Scott King. Thank God I got to speak to her, because I’d never met her and she’s since passed away. That is a memory that I’m always going to have now, because I got to say what I always wanted to say to her.
 KW: Are you ready to talk about your new boyfriend, Gabriel?
HB: No, sorry I ain’t talking about him.
 KW: Can you at least say whether you’re planning to start a family any time soon?
HB: You know what? Here’s the thing. You say something once, and then it has a life of its own. Then everywhere I go, somebody asks me about it again, and then it keeps having a life. And that’s how it becomes this big snowball.
 KW: Then this is your chance to clear it up once and for all.
HB: [laughs] But you see, the fact that you’re asking again, adds another layer to the snowball.
 KW: Please.
HB: Okay, I’ll tell you. Of course, I’d like to have a baby, and have a family. I mean I’m getting to the age where for women something usually just kicks in and you start to feel maternal.
 KW: How long have you felt this way?
HB: I’ve felt it since I was 30, that I need to have a family, but it just hasn’t happened for various and sundry reasons. Hopefully, that’s where I’m looking for something more in my life.
 KW: Are you interested in taking a break from acting?
HB: No, work is great, and it’s provided me a lot of happiness and comfort and all those things. But I’m looking for that deeper layer of life. And it feels like children is that for me. So, hopefully, it will come into my life, when the time is right.
 KW: Does Eric Benet still try to call you hoping to reconcile?
HB: Un-unh, no, he doesn’t try to call.
 KW: Would you consider adoption as an option?
HB: Oh yeah, sure. My sister [Heidi] has two adopted children.
 KW: Would you go overseas to adopt like a lot of celebrities seem to do nowadays?
HB: If I go that route, I think I would adopt a child from here. There are many children right here in this country who need homes. That’s if I adopted. I don’t know if I ever will, but if I did, that’s what I’d do.
 KW: What advice would you give to aspiring black actresses trying to break into show business?
HB: I would say you just really have to love it. Honestly, if you don’t just love it, love it, love it, then don’t do it, do it, do it, because it’s a tough industry. Many industries are today, no matter what you want to do, but in this one, you’re faced with a lot of personal and public criticism and scrutiny. There’s a lot of rejection, so you need a tough skin and a certain amount of strength that if you don’t have, you have to develop really quickly. Therefore, this job isn’t for everybody. Not everybody can withstand that pressure and that public scrutiny.
 KW: You must have a good attitude about criticism, since you showed up at the Razzies to accept the Worst Actress Award for Catwoman.
HB: Yeah, that was fun. You know what? This is really true. When I got there, and I walked out, they were so happy that I was there, that I had a real emotional moment. I know I was there to get the Worst Actress Award, but I had a real emotional moment when I realized that none of it matters, whether you’re getting the Best Actress or the Worst Actress Award. The love that I got from the people who were in that room, who had voted me the Worst was sort of odd and twisted, yet it felt really good to be there, actually.
 So, I was really glad I went and had fun with it.
 KW: Will we see you in the Catsuit again in a sequel?
HB: I loved my Catwoman, but I doubt that’s going to happen. It would’ve been fun, because I really loved playing that character. We could’ve had a better script, granted. I wish we had a second chance to do it again, and to do it differently. And we would do it differently. But I doubt that we’re going to get that chance.
 KW: What’s your favourite of your movies?
HB: Any time I’m channel surfing and I see myself, I’m like “Oh! Turn that off! I can’t even look at it. So, I couldn’t even tell you. I usually see them once, at the premiere. Or twice, if I have to, and never see them again.
 KW: Which film are you most proud of?
HB: Probably Dorothy Dandridge, because that was the first project that I produced. It was a labour of love, and I wanted to tell her story so much. When I think back about my happiest moments, it was when that movie got made. At the first screening of it, I thought, “Wow! I had an idea, and we did it!” It was surreal to see the finished product, before the awards, before the accolades, from just a thought in our minds.
 KW: Do you ever feel any pressure to present yourself in public in a certain way?
HB: I didn’t used to, but now with all these paparazzi just out of control, and all these magazines that support seeing people at the dry cleaners, or going in and out of the doctor’s office, it has added a new pressure.  Because when you just go out being a normal person, you get put on this “When bad clothes happen to good people list.” Or they find a zit and they zero-in on it. Or it’s, “Look, she’s got cellulite.” It starts to make you feel like you can’t go out anymore and just be a normal girl, and go without your makeup.
 KW: What’s up next for you?
HB: Perfect Stranger which I just finished with Bruce Willis. It’s a suspense thriller about the darkness of the Internet and how everybody has secrets and nobody is who you think they are. My character gets all tangled up in some mess. And then Things We lost in the Fire is with Benicio Del Toro for Dreamworks. That’s an art movie about a woman with two little children who loses her husband and has to deal with the death. And Benicio comes into her life and helps her deal with the loss.


Toronto Filmmaker Among Paris Lovers

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Staff/Associated Press

(May 19, 2006) CANNES, France—Assignment: Write a love story, set it in Paris, and shoot a five-minute movie about it. And because love and Paris are irresistible, 19 filmmakers took on the task.  The result is
Paris, je t'aime, which includes short films by 19 directors from around the world, including Toronto filmmaker Vincenzo Natali.  Natali, whose 1997 Canadian Film Centre project Cube, was a hit in France, joins the likes of the Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven and Alfonso Cuaron.  Natali focused on the 8th arrondisement and stars Olga Kurylenko as "Vampire Woman."  The movie premiered yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival.  Everyone's take on love is different and each segment focuses on a different neighbourhood which is then linked together into a single story.  In director Alexander Payne's short, an American tourist falls in love with Paris because she treasures the mix of loneliness and joy she feels there.  Craven's film is set in Pere Lachaise cemetery — fitting for a filmmaker adept at horror tales. But there's no horror here: He has Oscar Wilde rise from his grave and advise a young lover.  Other members of the star-studded cast: Juliette Binoche, playing a mother grieving for her young son; Steve Buscemi in the hilarious Coen brothers segment about a tourist in the Metro and Miranda Richardson as a dying woman whose husband falls in love with her all over again.

Sidney Poitier Honoured By France

Excerpt from

(May 19, 2006) *During the Cannes Film Festival Thursday, France awarded actor Sidney Poitier its highest arts honour in recognition of his accomplishments in breaking down racial barriers in Hollywood.  Poitier, whose screen credits include "The Defiant Ones," "In the Heat of the Night," "A Patch of Blue" and "A Raisin in the Sun," was named a commander in France's order of arts and letters.    "You are the champion of equality between men," Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said of the 79-year-old film veteran.    In 1964, Poitier’s role in “Lilies of the Field” placed him in history books as the first African American to win a Best Actor Oscar. During Thursday’s ceremony at Cannes, he thanked his parents, who were field workers in the Bahamas, for giving him a sense of honesty, integrity and compassion.    He also thanked the directors who broke convention to hire him, calling them "men who chose to change that pattern because it was not democratic, it was not American, it was not human."

‘Raisin In The Sun’ Coming To ABC

Excerpt from

(May 24, 2006) *As tipped here by Sean “Diddy” Combs last week, the mogul and his co-stars in the 2004 Broadway revival of “A Raisin in the Sun” will reprise their roles for a two-hour television movie version to air on ABC.  Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald and Sanaa Lathan will join Diddy in the jump from stage to small screen. Cameras are scheduled to begin rolling in Toronto this December for a 2007 premiere. Paris Qualles ("The Tuskegee Airmen") will pen the script based on Lorraine Hansberry's original play and feature screenplay. Kenny Leon, who earned a Drama Desk nomination for his staging of the "Raisin" revival, is set to direct the project. Diddy will supervise the soundtrack as well as executive produce the film via his Bad Boy World Wide Entertainment Group, along with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron of Storyline Entertainment. Three of the Broadway producers -- Carl Rumbaugh, Susan Batson and David Binder – are also executive producers. The 2004 "Raisin" earned four Tony nominations and won two a best actress honour for Rashad, making her the first African-American woman to win in the category; and a featured actress win for McDonald. The play itself was nominated for best revival, and Lathan received a nomination for featured actress. Combs told Variety that bringing Hansberry's work to a new generation was the motivating factor for the telefilm. "There are so many things the younger generation can get out of this," Combs said. "It's an American story of overcoming obstacles that still rings true. It's important for people of color, especially younger ones, to see this."


Danielle Celebrated ‘Top Model’ Win With Sleep

Excerpt from

(May 19, 2006) *One thing about Danielle Evans on “America’s Next Top Model,” the girl did everything she was asked to do, did not complain when she disagreed, and used the fire and grit formed during childhood struggles to persevere and earn the title on Wednesday’s finale. The day after her win, "I slept," she tells People magazine. "Like, the whole entire day."   En route to her victory, the Little Rock, Arkansas native nearly broke her ankle while walking in high heels, reluctantly took host Tyra Banks’ advice to have a dentist close the gap between her front teeth, and was hospitalized for dehydration and exhaustion, brought on by a 22-hour flight to Thailand, where the show’s final four episodes were filmed.   But those challenges, believe it or not, paled in comparison to her biggest obstacle – her own Southern drawl.   "I didn't realize I had an accent until I watched myself on television!" the former babysitter told People.    Throughout the cycle, Tyra and fellow judges J. Alexander, Nigel Barker and Twiggy had serious problems with Danielle’s unique twang – which Tyra alluded to as “hood” on several occasions. In the season finale, as she stood next to fellow finalist Joanie, Danielle vowed to do whatever it took – buy tapes, hire a speech coach, etc. – to address the problem if she were to be crowned America’s Next Top Model. It was this determination that helped to tip the scales in her favour.

"Danielle is an amazing model," Tyra tells ET Online about selecting her. "She was really good when she first started. 'Top Model' just made her take it to the next level. She is so bubbly and non-edited and so beautiful from the inside out. It is beautiful when someone can be non-edited, but not be vulgar. She is pure and fresh and crazy. She is just special. She touches your heart."   Danielle tells ET Online: "When Tyra called my name it was shocking. I went into the competition not expecting anything. For a moment when she called my name, I remember looking at the screen like, 'Oh, my God, that's me on that screen.' I am actually living my dream right now."   As the winner, Danielle gets a $100,000 CoverGirl contract, a spread in Elle magazine and a contract with Ford Models. More importantly – as she noted following her win Wednesday night – she and her single mom will no longer have to struggle.  "She doesn’t know, but I’m going to get Mama a car," Danielle told People. "She's going to be so excited."

Robert Townsend & The Black Family Channel Network

Excerpt from - By Kenya Yarbrough

(May 18, 2006) *Filmmaker/Actor Robert Townsend has shuffled right out of Hollywood and is partly based in Atlanta taking the reigns as CEO and President of the growing cable channel The Black Family Channel.  EUR’s Lee Bailey ran into the entertainment executive at the Star Jones-Reynolds’ book unveiling earlier this year and chatted with Townsend about the growth and importance of the network and why Hotlanta can only get hotter.  “I’m having a ball at the Black Family Channel,” Townsend relayed. “We have 14 shows in production. We were just in Vegas shooting a show called ‘The Envy Life.” It’s about fashion and style and it’s three fashion stylists out of Atlanta that have styled people like Usher to Chris Brown to Sierra. Then I head to New York to shoot Steve Harvey for a one on one.” The seven-year-old network has been keeping Townsend quite busy. And though he's been at the network for only the past two years, changes have already come with the nomination of two shows for the10th Annual NAMIC (National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications) Vision Awards; the cable industry’s diversity awards.  “This is the first time they’ve been nominated in these categories. One of the shows nominated was “Partners In Crime: The Next Generation” with one of the funniest comedians out of Detroit, Howie Bell. The other was a kids show I created called “Lisa Knight and the Roundtable.” One of the episodes about peer pressure got nominated,” he said proudly.

Although Townsend admitted that he had never actually considered becoming a network head until the opportunity fell in his lap, he said that the position was actually a great fit.  “If anybody was ever designed to run a television network, I believe it’s me because I’ve done all kinds of concepts from sitcoms to variety shows, you name it,” he said. “The first year was just learning the business of running a television network and being a CEO and president. Now my team is finding their pace and they’re clicking and the world is now acknowledging our shows. I think we have some really good programming. We’re the smallest network in the game right now, but seeing where BET started and where it is now, it gives me a lot of hope.” Speaking of the BFC’s cable competitor BET, the powerhouse got a lot of flack for not broadcasting the funeral proceedings of Coretta Scott King, while its smaller competitors BFC and TVOne both aired the program.  “You’re talking about a living legend that passes; you’re talking about an icon of the Civil Rights Movement that has gone on. We had to carry it,” Townsend said of including the funeral in programming. “We think that is really responsible television. Now, I can’t comment on any other networks about why, why, why. I just know, at the Black Family Channel it was very important that we were there. People have called and asked for copies of the tape and called to say thank you. We’re at a day and age where our history gets swept under the rug. If all those presidents could’ve been there to say, ‘Hey, we acknowledge this lady,’… we just think it was important that we reach all of these people.” Townsend said that choosing to share the funeral proceedings with the community that the late Coretta Scott King served, was extremely important. And instead of heralding his network for broadcasting it, he laments over not being able to share it with more of the community.  “You get sad, you get disappointed because you want to reach these people, and BET has the lion share of our audience. It’s sad because you want more people to be able to say, ‘Hey, this icon has passed,’ and these young kids need to know.”

He mentioned that when it’s all said and done, “I love all the networks.” Townsend said that he understands that his kids love all the rappers and know all the videos, but that they need to know their history, too. “I want everybody to know our history. When it’s all said and done, we’re all in the same business of creating images for people of color.” Strange to many, the Black Family Channel does not have a Hollywood or Big Apple base. It’s happily set in the thriving city of Atlanta. And though the network does foresee plans to have satellites in the major entertainment metros, Townsend and BFC are quite content being a part of the new entertainment mecca – Hotlanta.  “The real world lives in Atlanta,” Townsend said comparing it to the dwellers of LA and NYC. “We’re gonna do what they're doing with the Dirty South – what Jermaine Dupri, Dallas Austin, OutKast, Tyler Perry have done. They’ve all found their own universe down there and we’re gonna take a page from that. We can make it work and I’m gonna make it work.” For more on the Black Family Channel information and programming, check out the website at

Gibson Named New Anchor Of ABC’s 'World News Tonight'

Source: Associated Press

(May 23, 2006) New York — ABC appointed Charles Gibson as the new anchor of its struggling World News Tonight broadcast on Tuesday, replacing Elizabeth Vargas. Vargas, who is pregnant and goes on leave later this summer, will return in the fall to co-anchor the 20/20 newsmagazine, ABC said. ABC's announcement did not specify a role for Bob Woodruff, Vargas's co-anchor on the evening news until he was seriously wounded in a roadside bombing in Iraq on Jan. 29. Woodruff is still recovering from serious head injuries and broken bones. In a news release, Woodruff called Gibson a mentor and friend, and said: "I look forward to contributing to his broadcast as soon as I am able." Gibson starts on Monday. He will continue on Good Morning America for June, and then leave that broadcast to concentrate solely on the evening news. Financial terms of the contract weren't announced. ABC did not immediately name a replacement for Gibson on Good Morning America. ABC News President David Westin's announcement came less than a week after World News Tonight fell to last place in the evening news ratings for the first time since 2001, behind NBC and the resurgent CBS. CBS has hired NBC's Katie Couric to become its evening news anchor. Westin had appointed Vargas and Woodruff in November to replace the late Peter Jennings in ABC News' lead anchor role. He had approached Gibson then about doing the job temporarily before the younger anchors took over, but Gibson balked.

Westin had said he envisioned the job being too much for one person, since he wanted the anchors to travel frequently to news sites and do separate versions of World News Tonight online and for West Coast audiences. But the Vargas-Woodruff team was in place for only a month before Woodruff was injured. Vargas said her doctors had asked her to cut back her schedule. "I have loved every day I spent at World News Tonight and have endless respect for my colleagues there," she said. "This broadcast needs someone who can give 150 per cent, day in and day out. I am not in a position to give that right now and it wouldn't be fair to do any less." Gibson, 63, said he was "humbled to accept this new assignment." It sets up a dynamic competition this fall in a tradition-bound television format that has seen its influence and viewership decline over the past few decades. NBC's Brian Williams has led in the ratings since taking over for Tom Brokaw. Couric will be the first woman to be sole evening anchor. Gibson brings a level of age and experience that matches the generally older audience for these shows. ABC was reportedly reluctant to break up its morning team of Gibson, Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts. Good Morning America was envisioning taking a run at NBC's dominant Today in the morning with Couric leaving. By staying on in the morning until June 30, ABC will have the benefit of having Gibson for a month on GMA after Couric leaves Today. Gibson also gets a head start on Couric at the CBS Evening News, where she is due to start in the fall.


CBC Television Names New Head Of Drama

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(May 19, 2006) Toronto -- Days after CBC Television announced that the creative head of drama was leaving the public broadcaster, it named her replacement. Sally Catto is returning to CBC-TV to fill the job vacated by Susan Morgan, who has decided to leave the CBC. Catto had been a CBC executive in charge of drama production from 2001 to 2005, before leaving to work as a consultant with SBS Independent, a division of one of Australia's national public broadcasters. She returns as CBC plans to increase the amount of drama and entertainment programming in prime time.


‘Color Purple,’ ‘Bridge’ Stars Comment On Tony Noms

Excerpt from

(May 18, 2006)   *The Tony-nominated stars of Broadway’s ‘Oprah Winfrey Presents: The Color Purple” and Special Tony-winner Sarah Jones of “Bridge and Tunnel” are sharing their reactions to the life-changing news announced early Tuesday morning in New York.  Actress LaChanze, nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, stars as Celie in the Broadway production, which received 11 nominations overall, including Best Musical, Best Featured Actor for Brandon Victor Dixon, and recognition for its writing, choreography and creative teams. "I was washing my hair. And then the phone started ringing,’ LaChanze told about first hearing that she had been nominated.  “And now I'm so excited; I've always felt that the show has such a strong story and creative team. I am just so pleased for everyone, particularly Brandon. I'm very, very, very happy for Brandon. He is, in my opinion, one of the gems of the show, and to see that his work is being acknowledged, it really fills my heart.”  “I couldn't ask for a better way to wake up in the morning,” Dixon tells the Web site of his first encounter with the news. “I was getting ready to go into work at ‘One Life To Live’ this morning, and my dresser Liz called me. Getting a nomination is a dream come true for me, and I'm ecstatic about it. But the show being nominated—as a whole—for so many awards, really, it warms my heart.”   Elisabeth Withers-Mendes, who plays Shug Avery in the production, received a Tony nod for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.   "I want to run down the street in my little silk nightgown and just scream,” she told early Tuesday. “The thing is, we laugh about this [awards] stuff backstage. We're knocking on each other's doors, 'Hey, congratulations! You got another one, girl!' I think if you do anything other than that, it gets in the way of the work. It's confirming. But you know, even without one nomination, we still feel good about the piece. The morale is still up. And I think that's plays a part, with the producers coming around — Scott Sanders and Roy Furman and Oprah popping in now and then.”

 “The Color Purple,” based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning third novel by Alice Walker, is still selling out crowds at New York’s Broadway Theater.   Meanwhile, “Bridge & Tunnel” creator and star, Sarah Jones, spoke to Playbill News about earning the season’s first official Tony for her acclaimed Broadway debut.    "I just feel like Sally Field or something. ‘They really like me!’,” said Jones, who was announced early as a Special Tony winner for her popular show. “I feel like it's especially a triumph for the little-shows-that-could. [‘Bridge & Tunnel’] is very different from the huge, multi-squillion dollar musicals that we love, of course, but they're very different from our little kind of mom-and-pop show." The solo play features Jones portraying the varied vocal stylings and physical mannerisms of more than a dozen participants of a local community poetry slam. After launching the show Off-Broadway, the actress soon picked up invaluable support by one of its presenters, Meryl Streep.  "She saw me at an event for Equality Now, which we both do volunteer work for, and she said 'What are you doing? I want to help you.' We connected right away and she was as generous with me as any artist could possibly be with someone else who they hope to nurture in some way," Jones tells Playbill News.    As for possibly taking “Bridge & Tunnel” on the road following its Broadway run, Jones said her decision will be based on the durability of her vocal chords. As previously reported, the actress had to cancel performances from March 14-16 due to bronchitis.   "For me, it's going to be a matter of making sure my voice is in the right physical health,” Jones says of her national touring prospects. “As long as it holds up, I know I can deliver the shows that people deserve."


Fallen Idols Idolized On Broadway

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Los Angeles Times

May 20, 2006) She was already a big star, adored by millions. When she made her Broadway debut, the buzz went through the roof.  Ads with her name popped up all over New York City. A mad scramble for tickets erupted. Fans squealed the moment she stepped on stage. Crowds mobbed her at the stage door. And producers of the show rejoiced in their good fortune.  But all this fuss isn't over Julia Roberts and her debut in Three Days of Rain. One of the hot draws on Broadway this year is Diana DeGarmo, a supporting player in the musical Hairspray.  Diana who?  Not needing to ask are the millions who saw her reach the American Idol 2004 finals.  "Idol has absolutely become a big deal in terms of finding new talent," says casting director Bernard Telsey, who placed DeGarmo and two other non-winners, Josh Strickland and Frenchie Davis, in Broadway shows.  "Watching this show has become another way to locate incredibly talented people — it's like a televised open call. Our inside joke is we root for our favourites to lose so that they can become available to us.''  With good reason.  When DeGarmo, 19, joined Hairspray playing Penny Pingleton, a perky and slightly clueless teen, weekly box office jumped from $465,000 (U.S.) to $530,000, then $673,000, topping $855,000 in mid-April.


Chef's Indian Buffet One Of The Best

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Amy Pataki, Dining Out,

Chef of India

Address: 30 Eglinton Ave. E., second floor, 416-485-5552
Chef: Rajesh Mazumder
Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner, 5 to 10:30 p.m.
Reservations: Unnecessary
Wheelchair access: Stairs at entrance
Price: Lunch for one with lassi, tax and tip: $15

(May 20, 2006) It has been my experience that "all you can eat" posted in a restaurant window equals "leave your expectations at the door."  
I come by such wariness honestly, the victim of too many kitchen shortcuts and too few reasons to see why eating 40 pieces of sub-par sushi is desirable. I'd rather order from any menu in Hell than troll through another cut-rate buffet encouraging gluttony and indigestion.  That conviction was shaken recently by a lunchtime visit to Chef of India, a northern Indian restaurant operating out of a second-floor location at Yonge and Eglinton.  With all the Indian restaurants nearby — Indian Garden, Bombay Bhel and Jaipur Grille are a stone's throw away, not to mention The Mandarin buffet — Chef of India is reeling them in for lunch.  Why? At $8.95 for your fill of 31 dishes, the price is hard to beat. But so is the quality. I've cherry-picked my share of Indian buffets and the spread at Chef of India is one of the best I've encountered, notable for its light touch and evident freshness.  "Many people have misconceptions about Indian buffets. They think we cook it in bulk and put in out day after day," says chef/owner Rajesh Mazumder.  "Not here. We cook what is required from scratch every day. Stale food is stale food."  One bite of his saag paneer proves the point. The coarsely puréed spinach is so pure and powerful that each forkful knocks you in the kisser like a wallop from Popeye. Hiding beneath the bright mineral flavour are hints of cloves, cumin and cardamom. Soft white cheese melts into the surface like icebergs in a warm green sea.  Other riches wait in the chafing dishes laid out against one long wall in the sunny yellow dining room. Note the greaseless vegetable pakoras that taste like peppery south Asian onion rings (a compliment) and a rapid succession of firm-floppy blistered naan sent out hot from the kitchen.  Also from the tandoor oven come smoky, tender vermillion chicken legs that yield beautifully to the gentle tug of teeth. (You're not seriously thinking of eating this with a knife and fork, are you?) The same chicken is ill-served by a masala sauce hijacked by green pepper, but the goat curry is unexpectedly mild in flavour, like the gentlest lamb.

With just four meat choices, the buffet is heavily weighted toward vegetables. On my first visit, the Calcutta-style cabbage grabs my attention. It's about time cabbage was treated with respect: Shredded then cooked until soft and sweet with cumin, potatoes, peas, tiny lima beans and cauliflower florets — and enough dried hot peppers to remind you that this ain't yer ma's boxty.  The black lentils in daal makhani wear their buttery mantle with greater style than the oversweet (but tender) butter chicken. I've also had better aloo gobi than the floury potatoes here. But no complaints about the chunks of eggplant glowing like cabochon jewels in baigan bartha. Enriched with melting caramelized onions and bulked up with chickpeas, the supple eggplant exudes surprise smokiness from "smoked oil" the chef uses instead of traditional clarified butter due to the health consciousness of his clientele.  Some of that clientele know Chef of India from its previous incarnation as The Siddhartha, one of three in the city. Mazumder broke with the partnership last September in order to uphold kitchen standards. The continental décor and wine list are also finer than the curry houses in Gerrard India Bazaar, and local office workers fill the restaurant on Fridays.  Staff patiently answer such questions as "Is this milk or mayonnaise?" during someone's presumably first encounter with the yogurt-based salad, raita. One waiter, an Indian who shows off Hebrew learned during years of working in Israel, urges a blushing customer to make room for dessert.  "You have to. It's million dollar," he urges.  He's right. Gulab jamun have the welcome look and mouth-feel of an old-fashioned doughnut hole, albeit one soaked in cardamom syrup.  You wouldn't know that cardamom is the world's second most expensive spice (after saffron) from its abundance in the Chef of India buffet. It's there again in the copper kettle holding creamy kheer, the rice pudding of my dreams.  At dinner, Chef of India is strictly a la carte. I'd love to say my meal is as much a revelation as lunch, but the food and service are simply ordinary. But we can't have one without the other, since profits from the dinner business keep the restaurant afloat. Mazumder says the margins are too low on the buffet lunch.  I say charge double; it's worth it.

Making Moves On The Dance

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

May 20, 2006)  In a church hall near St. Clair Ave. W. and Bathurst St., nearly 30 women of varying ages, shapes and sizes (and one lone man) are following Martha Randall's choreographed routines.  They are barefoot and happy, kicking out, breathing rhythmically and moving like real dancers under the tutelage of Randall, who teaches six such sessions each week.  Professional dancers attend a dance class every day to keep themselves in shape. They go because they have to. But a growing group of professional dance teachers like Randall are training ordinary stiffs in the rigours of modern dance, ballet and jazz for the pure satisfaction and self-improvement afforded by the art form.  Randall teaches a technique called Nia. Offered in classes throughout the GTA, it's designed to enhance both mental and physical fitness. Nia reveals the way that dance helps mend broken connections between mind and body.  "I was absolutely hooked after the first class. I always come out feeling better, happier, feeling more optimistic about the day and myself," says Nia enthusiast Jan Marriott, 65.  "Nia is to exercise what holistic medicine is to health care. Nia is movement as medicine," says the official website for this increasingly popular activity.  Proponents of this dance/martial arts/healing practice swear by it. Developed nearly 25 years ago by Debbie and Carlos Rosas, fitness instructors in Portland, Ore., Nia is an acronym for Neuromuscular Integrative Action. It's also a Swahili word meaning "with purpose." The technique is a fusion of Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, T'ai Chi, jazz and modern dance, Isadora Duncan dance technique, yoga, the Feldenkrais Method and Alexander Technique.

"Nia is teaching that kind of mindful movement," says Randall, an independent dancer who trained at York University. "There's a balance between form and freedom. Always the invitation is to do it your way, the way your body wants to adapt to the movements. I call it cross-training.  "There are yin and yang elements in each class, moments of stillness, and then it gets wild and crazy. The martial arts give you a chance to be fierce. The non-linear movement develops your body awareness and emotional awareness. But it's not too warm and fuzzy. Nia classes really focus the mind, so people can develop some skills."  Marriott discovered Nia after an ankle injury. "I was looking for an exercise class I enjoyed because I love to dance, but Nia has given me a lot more than that."  A dealer in vintage textiles, Marriott says Nia keeps her creative side alive. "You become a lot less self-conscious. Martha's classes have a lot of people from the theatre and the arts."  Randall has even had professional dancers in her classes. "They are older dancers who can't bear to go to a technique class, but need to keep moving." Others new to dance come, she says, "out of a deep longing to feel more grace and connection with their bodies. They discover something of what drives dancers to stay in a poorly paid, punishing art form. Once we've opened our hearts to music, it's hard to stop."  Most of the participants in Rebecca Hope Terry's dance classes have never seen anyone dance, let alone experienced dance themselves. In the second year of her Explorers Project — classes for the blind and visually impaired — Terry, an independent dancer, choreographer and writer, has learned a few new things about dance.  She was first motivated by the role all of our senses play in the creation and performance of dance. "I would notice when I danced and didn't wear my contact lenses that there's a completely different sensation, because you have to go completely into your body."

With support for the project from the Ontario Arts Council, Terry sought students through the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and a community organization for the blind and visually impaired. Last fall she had 10 participants. This session, in the Spadina Ave. studio that houses Terry's The Moving Company, the class is larger.  A former member of the contemporary company Dancemakers, Terry teaches the participants modern dance, even a few ballet positions, but has been adapting her teaching techniques for the non-sighted. "I actually took a lot of principles from Butoh(the Japanese modern dance form), because Butoh is very internal."  The class has the help of two assistants, dancers who guide the students through the movements. What they can't see is sometimes demonstrated by having students place their hands on a sighted dancer's hips to follow their steps.  Martin Courcelles is a repeat participant. "I've been improving my flexibility," he says. "It seems to energize you at the same time as relaxing you. I get out of there and seem to have more energy than when I came in."  Courcelles asks a lot of questions and has developed a strong interest in the art form. He mentions a ballet program in Britain: a "touchy-feely" night when the blind are invited to come in and have hands-on contact with performers as they demonstrate moves.  Wanda Fitzgerald, a member of the Glenvale Players, a troupe of blind actors, finds dance classes "bring out another layer of creativity and awareness of your body. Learning to dance builds your strength, in your feet especially." Currently directing a film, Fitzgerald has found ways to use what she has learned: "It has helped me incorporate movement sequences into things I've written."  The advantage of sticking to a dance syllabus, says teacher Terry, is "They need form ... otherwise they're just lost in space." She has introduced some basic yoga and elements of contact improvisational dance. Her current session will conclude with a performance in the studio. Participation is optional.  Terry's blind students, she says, "have taught me that they're not any different from other adults learning to dance. But there are always a number of moments in each class when I'm completely blown away and moved."  Dorothy Gordon took up ballet when she was 71. She has progressed to the intermediate level at Dance Teq, which operates six days a week in the studios of the National Ballet of Canada's centre on Queens Quay W. Gordon, now 80, travels from Brampton three times a week to stand at the barre, perfecting her technique and then getting in a few jumps and airborne strides at the end of class.

"I just love dance, and I've always done it," says Gordon, who is retired from her family's hydraulics business, "but ballet is the most mentally difficult form of dance I've ever done.  "It's difficult but it's possible and you can improve." The payoff shows in her toned physique: she feels younger and she looks it, too.  Dance Teq owner and director Kevin Pugh, who danced with the National Ballet from 1978-91, still teaches class to professional ballet dancers. But he's found an unexpected joy in watching the amateurs apply themselves to the discipline. Now in its ninth year and offering 30 classes a week in ballet, jazz, modern and, this summer, Uygur folkloric dance from the traditions of China's largest province, Dance Teq serves a wide constituency. Its drop-in classes are taught by performers both active and retired, including Martine Lamy, Robert Glumbek, Johanna Bergfeldt and Pugh himself.  "People thank me for making their lives happy," says Pugh. "They love the teachers, they love the pianists. It's a family atmosphere.  "I almost gave up on life when I stopped dancing. But this is reaching out to people and touching them in another way."  Athletes, especially skaters, are among Dance Teq's clientele. Champion figure skater Jeff Buttle is a regular, as are a number of Asian skaters on the international circuit. "It keeps their brain fresh," says teacher Cindy Macedo, a National Ballet dancer from 1982-94. "It helps them learn new things and they have to use both sides of their bodies. Skaters only jump and spin in one direction. They can become quite lopsided."  In Macedo's experience, "ballet takes a unique personality. It's for people who like to pay attention to detail, and it takes a lot of brain work and concentration. But it also encompasses the whole body, and it's like yoga in its meditativeness."  Dance Teq participants leave for home feeling younger, looser, more limber and more relaxed. And, probably, just a bit thrilled that they've been up on their toes at the same barre as ballet stars like Sonia Rodriguez or Aleksandar Antonijevic.

For more information on Dance Teq, call 416-361-9498 or see

See for information on Martha Randall's Nia classes, or for other Nia classes in Ontario.

For information about The Explorer Project, contact Terry at

Palais Royale Reno

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

May 21, 2006) Toronto has always had a waterfront, but unlike today there was a time when Torontonians actually used and enjoyed it.  Back in the days before the automobile, television and summer cottages, people flocked to Sunnyside Amusement Park in their thousands. During its heyday from the 1920s to the '40s, no lakeside attraction was more popular than the Palais Royale.  In that more innocent (and urban) age, patrons paid 10 cents to get in and five cents a dance. The strongest drinks available were coke and ginger ale. That didn't stop Duke Ellington from showing up, or Benny Goodman, Count Basie and a host of other big bands.  Then came the War, the Gardiner Expressway and the rise of suburbia. Suddenly Sunnyside was Sunnyset and the action moved uptown; the long slow decline of Toronto's waterfront had started. Even now, half a century later, the recovery has only just begun.  Appropriately, the Palais Royale will play its part in that revitalization. After years of neglect, the old dance hall is being refurbished, updated and enlarged to the tune of more than $3 million. The dust won't settle until early June, but by then this old wooden structure should have been coaxed back to life.  As to how Torontonians will respond, co-ordinator Nancy Malek is confident they will be as excited as she is.  "I think the location is brilliant," she insists. "It's easily accessible except by public transit. It won't take long to re-educate people that the Palais Royale is back. From what I've heard, it was always a hot place. It will be again."  Hot it was; when Eddie Duchin's Central Park Orchestra performed at the Palais in 1933, 3,000 people showed up. (The Rolling Stones, who played there in 2002, had only 1,000.) In between it hosted dozens of big band, rock and other musical acts and held countless dance nights. (See sidebars.)  So the revival couldn't have happened to a nicer building; in fact, the Palais and the nearby Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion are the only structures left from the glory days of the lakeside.  But "it's not a true restoration," explains architect Den Farnworth of Goldsmith Borgal, "it's more an adaptive reuse."  That means original details have been repaired where possible, but also that changes were made. Though the Palais will become a dance hall once again, it was built originally as a dual-purpose building; the bottom storey and the front strip were used by a boat-builder, while dances were held at the back of the ground floor.  And despite the myth of the famous floor on springs, no such thing existed.  Though designed by one of Toronto's leading architectural firms, Chapman, Oxley and Bishop, in the early 1920s, the building had fallen on hard times in recent decades. Structurally, it was sound, but numerous unsympathetic alterations and additions had messed up the interior. In the late 1970s when weekends saw it host new wave and punk concerts by the likes of Joe Jackson, a certain rundown quality might not have ruined things, but ...

"It was in pretty bad shape," Farnworth reports. "The stucco, wood siding and windows needed replacing. Now the north windows have been refurbished and the doors on the east and west are restored."  The ambience of the original 1922 Palais was established through architecture — the stone fireplace, the decorated columns, arched windows, carved insignias. Today, flourishes such as these have given way to the technology of entertainment, i.e. TV sets, video screens, speakers and the like. These may make up for obstructed views and poor acoustics, but they don't bring much character to a venue; indeed, they have introduced a depressing sameness to the world we inhabit.  That, of course, is precisely why the new operators of the Palais are so excited. In a time of ever-growing cultural homogeneity, here is a relic of long-gone authenticity, a forgotten outpost of architectural individuality, a remnant of a lost world, which, though hardly ancient, might as well have existed 1,000 years ago.  That's how much Toronto has changed during that time. Indeed, the big question about the future of the Palais will be whether it can be integrated into the 21st-century dystopia we inhabit. Back before there was a Gardiner Expressway or a double-width Lake Shore, the Palais was fully a part of Toronto, as was the waterfront. The place was packed six nights a week, and except for the Lord's Day Act, that would have been seven. But shopping and drinking , let alone dancing, were forbidden on Sundays. This was Toronto the Good, don't forget, the town that boasted as many churches as trees.  Even now, the city, which owns the building, has made it clear it doesn't want the Palais to become a nightclub. Instead it will be an event venue, a place for CD launch parties, corporate functions, weddings, bar mitzvahs and the like. As Brian Mulroney would have put it, the Palais is open for business.  But the emphasis now is on convenience and comfort as well as character. That means expanded washrooms, more bars and a bigger kitchen. It also means a parking lot, something that has upset many local residents, who, not surprisingly, can't understand why the waterfront must be paved over to make way for yet more vehicles.  Their outrage isn't hard to understand, especially at a time when waterfront revitalization has started, but the realities of the 21st-century entertainment/hospitality business is that the car is key. Getting Canadians out of their motorized chariots goes beyond the scope of the Palais Royale.

Originally, the parking lot was planned for the east side of the Palais, a forlorn space between it and the industrial-scale Boulevard Club next door. Neighbours complained about trees being cut down and valuable greenery being lost, but that's a bit of a stretch to say the least. This is no lakeside paradise, and the new operators insist they're going to plant 30 trees. (Hallelujah, that must mean the greening of the waterfront has finally started!)  Recently, however, there has been talk about moving the parking lot to the unused land between the east- and westbound lanes of Lake Shore Blvd. The spot is connected north and south by a footbridge, though patrons will have to climb the equivalent of a two-storey stairwell.  There is an existing parking lot to the west, but it's a full three-minute walk away, enough to put the fear of God into an operator's heart. People will come here for fun, not exercise.  Then there's that little problem of the Martin Goodman Trail, which runs right past the front of the Palais. It has evolved into a bicycle expressway; pedestrians cross at their own risk. The prospects for beer-laden Palais patrons lurching into the night after an evening of partying don't look good. Next thing you know, Martin Goodman will have to have speed bumps.  Still, the old building should be happy. The main hall will soon have a new dance floor and stage. The columns are being cleaned up, their cornices and bases replaced where necessary. Remarkably, the original ceiling, a marvellous wooden structure that arches over the space, remains intact. A large outdoor deck is also being constructed; it extends to the very edge of Lake Ontario and alone can accommodate 400 people. Downstairs, where boats were once made, there's now a series of "function rooms."  "It'll be 95 per cent complete by the time we open," says Joseph Borg, who with Pegasus Corp. now has a 16-year lease on the Palais Royale.  "The rest, including the landscaping, won't be finished for another year."  According to Malek, "We plan on being a banquet hall and event room. We expect there will be a lot of private functions. We will touch on all genres of music."  The Palais' next public appearance will be on Sunday, May 28, noon to 4 p.m., for Doors Open, the annual architectural extravaganza during which many buildings in the city welcome visitors.  Even for those who don't dance, the 84-year-old hall will be of interest; aside from the nostalgia of the site, it reminds us that cities, though written off by previous generations, are alive and well.  It's true that tremendous damage was inflicted on urban centres during the post-war period, but like the Palais itself, they have endured changing fashions and attitudes to see another day.  There's no better symbol of Toronto rejuvenated than the Palais Royale. Now if only they could do something about the Gardiner, one thing that should be buried, not rejuvenated.

We Remember Katherine Dunham

Excerpt from

(May 23, 2006) *
Katherine Dunham, a pioneering dancer and civil rights activist who balanced her Broadway career with teaching kids in the inner city, died Sunday in Manhattan at the assisted care home where she lived, said Charlotte Ottley, executive liaison for the organization that preserves her artistic estate. She was 96. The cause of death was not immediately known. Dunham launched the first-ever African American modern dance company in the 1930s, and went on to choreograph such productions as "Aida" for the Metropolitan Opera and "Cabin in the Sky" for Broadway. She also appeared in several films, including "Stormy Weather" and "Carnival of Rhythm." Born in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Katherine Mary Dunham studied both dance and anthropology while an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Chicago. She founded the Katherine Dunham Company, the nation’s first African American modern dance company featuring dancers, singers, actors and musicians. The company traveled around the world, including the then segregated South, where. Dunham once refused to hold a show after finding out that the city’s black residents had not been allowed to buy tickets.  Throughout the years, Dunham was given 10 honorary doctorates, the Presidential Medal of the Arts, the Albert Schweitzer Prize at the Kennedy Center Honors, and membership in the French Legion of Honor, as well as major honours from Brazil and Haiti.

After 1967, Dunham lived most of each year in predominantly black East St. Louis, Ill., where she struggled to bring the arts to a Mississippi River city of burned-out buildings and high crime. She set up an eclectic compound of artists from around the globe, including Harry Belafonte. Among the free classes offered were dance, African hair-braiding and woodcarving, conversational Creole, Spanish, French and Swahili and more traditional subjects such as aesthetics and social science. Dunham also offered martial arts training in hopes of getting young, angry males off the street. Her purpose, she said, was to steer the residents of East St. Louis "into something more constructive than genocide." Government cuts and a lack of private funding forced her to scale back her programs in the 1980s. Despite a constant battle to pay bills, Dunham continued to operate a children's dance workshop and a museum. In her later years, she depended on grants and the kindness of celebrities, artists and former students to pay for her day-to-day expenses. Will Smith and Harry Belafonte were among those who helped her catch up on bills, Ottley said. Dunham was married to theatre designer John Thomas Pratt for 49 years before his death in 1986.



Gatlin’s Record Rescinded

Excerpt from

(May 18, 2006)   *Somebody made a boo-boo when tallying the time it took for sprinter Justin Gatlin to run the 100-meter event last Friday in Qatar.  A timing error prompted track-and-field’s governing body Wednesday to take away Gatlin's announced record of 9.76 seconds. The International Association of Athletics Federations said his time was recorded at 9.766 and should have been manually rounded up to 9.77, which only equals the record set last year by Gatlin’s Jamaican rival Asafa Powell. "It is very disappointing to me that it has taken five days to determine the official time of a race with this significance," he said. "I remain confident that I am the world's fastest man and I look forward to proving it once again. My parents raised me to be a good sport, but I don't want to share the world record."


10 Most Effective Exercises

By Glenn Mueller, Senior Writer

(May 22, 2006) Let's face it: Some exercises are simply more effective than others. If you are going to make the effort to incorporate regular exercise into your life, then you want to get the most out of each workout session.  In order to help you get in the best shape of your life, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro Raphael Calzadilla provides a top-10 list of the most effective exercises out there. You’ll notice he didn’t say the best.  "I tend to get a lot of requests for the best exercises from people who are really just looking for a magic bullet," Raphael says.  It does take hard work to get in shape. Raphael recommends people follow a healthy meal plan and adopt an exercise regimen that includes both cardiovascular activity and resistance training. He also reminds people to consult their personal physician before beginning any new exercise routine.  Raphael believes certain exercises stand out in terms of overall effectiveness. Most of the exercises he selected involve compound movements, which impact multiple muscle groups. Though isolated movements are also good, Raphael believes performing exercises with compound movements can give you the best bang for your workout buck.  “I also selected these exercises based on a balanced approach to overall fitness,” Raphael says. “Most people are out of balance with regards to strength and levels of flexibility.”  If you choose, Raphael says you can do these 10 exercises as an individual workout. He recommends doing 10-12 repetitions for the upper-body exercises and 10-15 repetitions for the lower-body exercises.


1. Dumbbell Chest Press: This exercise activates the muscles in the upper, middle and lower chest, as well as the shoulders and triceps. In order to complete this exercise, you need to lie on a flat bench with your spine in a neutral position. Now, hold a dumbbell in each hand at chest level with your upper arm parallel to the floor and your elbows facing outward.  Contracting your chest muscles, press both of your arms upward above the chest until they are almost fully extended, with a slight bend in both elbows. Slowly return to the starting position.  “It is important to maintain proper form throughout the movement,” Raphael says. “When you reach the top of the movement, do not fully lock your elbows. And be sure to contract the chest muscles, as opposed to just extending the arms.”


2. Cable Wide Over Grip Lat Pull Down: This exercise impacts a number of muscles, including the upper back, the shoulder and the biceps.  “Ideally, I would choose the chin-up, but most people are unable to do them,” Raphael says. “This exercise simulates the same movement, though. It is a good alternative until you are strong enough to perform chin-ups.”  In order to perform this exercise, extend both arms up and reach for the straight bar. Now, sit tall with your knees supported under the leg pad -- with knees and hips at a 90-degree angle. Your arms should be a little more than shoulder-width apart, and you should use an overhand grip and keep a slight bend in the elbows. Relax your shoulders and keep your chest raised.  Contracting the upper back muscles, pull the bar down, leading with your elbows and stopping when the bar is just above your chest. Slowly return to the starting position and stop just short of the weight stack touching.  “Do not rock your body when performing this exercise,” Raphael says. “And do not allow your upper back to round or your chest to cave in.”

3. Fitball Prone Trunk Extension: This exercise works your lower back.

“Most people don’t work the lower back, and the lower back needs to be strengthened,” Raphael says. “You can also do this exercise in your own home if you own a fitball.”  Lie on the fitball with your knees on the floor and your feet up on their toes. Place your hands behind your head. Maintain a neutral spine with your head and neck relaxed as a natural extension of the spine.  Contracting the lower back muscles, raise your chest off the ball slightly. Now, slowly return to the starting position.  “Exhale while lifting your body and inhale while returning to the starting position,” Raphael says. “Do not hyperextend your back or overdo the range of motion.”


4. Dumbbell Alternating Shoulder Press: This exercise impacts the entire range of muscles in your shoulders, as well as the biceps and triceps. Sit up straight on a bench with your feet comfortably resting on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle with your palms facing forward. When you do this exercise, your hands should be slightly higher than your shoulders.  Contracting the shoulder muscles, raise one arm toward the ceiling and stop when your arm is fully extended, with a slight bend in the elbow. Slowly return your arm to the starting position. Raise and lower the other arm in the same manner. Alternate the right and left sides in order to complete the set. “You don’t have to do one arm at a time,” Raphael says. “They can both go up at the same time.”


5. Barbell Close Stance Squat:
This exercise works the butt, quadriceps, hamstrings, inner thighs and outer thighs. Stand tall with your feet closer than shoulder-width apart, with a slight bend in the knees. Place a barbell across your shoulders. Be sure the bar is not resting on your neck.  Contracting the quadriceps muscles, begin to lower your body by bending from your hips and knees and stopping when your thighs are parallel with the floor. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your knees fully extending. Do not let your knees ride over your toes (you should be able to see your feet at all times).  “You may want to try this exercise without weights until you master the movement,” Raphael says. “It is a very effective exercise that involves most of the muscle groups of the lower body but if done improperly, it can lead to injuries.”

6. Dumbbell Lunges: This exercise works the front of the legs and the butt. It also works the back of the legs to some degree.  Stand straight with your feet together. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides. Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor. Contract the quadriceps and push off your right foot, slowly returning to the starting position. Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set.  “If you have one leg that is more dominant than the other, start out with the less dominant leg first,” Raphael says.


7. Bench Dips: This exercise works the back of the arm, the triceps and the shoulder.  “I would prefer that you perform straight dips, but not everybody can do them,” Raphael says.  Using two benches or chairs, sit on one. Place your palms on the bench with your fingers wrapped around the edge. Now, place both feet on the other bench. Slide your upper body off the bench with your elbows nearly but not completely locked.  Lower your upper body slowly toward the floor until your elbows are bent slightly more than 90 degrees. Contracting your triceps muscles, extend your elbows and return to the starting position, stopping just short of the elbows fully extending.  “Beginners may wish to start with their feet on the floor and knees at a 90 degree angle,” Raphael says.

8. Dumbbell Double Biceps Curl: This exercise works the biceps and part of the shoulder. Sit on a bench or chair with both feet in front of your body and keep your back straight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms at each side and your palms facing forward.  Contracting the biceps muscles, raise the weights toward your shoulders, stopping just short of the weights touching the shoulders. Slowly return to the starting position.  “Your upper arms should remain stationary throughout the exercise,” Raphael says. “Do not rock the elbow.”


9. Double Crunch: “The reason I like the double crunch is that you are activating the entire abdominal area,” Raphael says. “The key is to contract tightly at the top part of the movement.”  Lie on the floor with your head facing up. Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle, with both feet on the floor. Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor. Now place both hands behind your head.   Contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor.

10. Bicycle Manoeuvre: “Research consistently rates this as one of the most effective abdominal exercises,” Raphael says. “It works your entire ab region.”  Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position. Put your hands on either side of your head by your ears. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle. Slowly go through a bicycle-pedaling motion -- alternate your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.  “This can be a more advanced exercise,” Raphael says. “Do not perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back.”



Motivational Note: Motivation Is The Most Important Skill You Will Ever Learn

By Jason M. Gracia President, Motivation123

1. If Not Now, When?

This is a simple method to adding a powerful boost to your goal-achieving project. People are gifted at the art of rationalization and procrastination. To put a stop to them ask yourself, 'If not now, when?' If you're honest, and I know you will be, you'll realize that now is as good a time as any to begin moving toward a better life.

2. Your Excuses Have No Uses

Excuses are scapegoats. They cover up the truth so we don't have to face it. You and I both know this isn't the way to a happy and successful life. You have to put a stop to excuses once and for all. Every time you catch yourself using an excuse to cover up the truth about why you aren't working toward your goal (e.g. I don't have the time), write it down along with at least three solid reasons why your excuse is completely wrong. And never use it again.

3. Fear is Part of the Puzzle

If you're waiting for a guaranteed success, you'll be waiting for the rest of your life. Fear is part of the process of success - there's no way around it. You might think that the people you look up to are free of fear as they work toward their dreams you are mistaken. Everyone feels fear when they take a step outside of their comfort zone, the question is whether or not you keep going.

4. Place Reminders in the Home and Office

Place powerful reminders around your home or office about the goals and desires you are working to achieve. With the hectic pace of life in today's society it's easy to forget about the truly important things. Placing pictures in your home of the ideal body you are dreaming about or the home you wish to build are effective tools to keep you going strong.

5. The First Step

A single step in the right direction is all it takes to put in motion great things. Every written masterpiece begins with a single word on a page. Every long journey begins with a single step. The things you desire most will be no different. Write down on a clean sheet of paper the absolute first step your goal requires - then do it.