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Updated:  November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving to those south of the border!!

Well, I've been invited to cover the
Cayman Islands jazz festival next week featuring Natalie Cole as the headliner!  Take a look at the many other artists performing under TOP NEWS.  Exciting for sure and you'll hear all about it once I return!

Speaking of jazz,
Molly Johnson comes to us with her latest project, Messin' Around.  Check out my RECAP below for a taste.  And check out photos from her release in my PHOTO GALLERY.  

**PLEASE NOTE: Due to circumstances beyond their control, the opening of Harlem is postponed until further notice!  We apologize for any inconvenience and will keep you posted. 

Mark your calendars too for the
AroniAward Gala on December 10th - details for both below. 



2006 AroniAwards Gala -  Sunday, December 10

nominate :: participate :: celebrate

Help us honour the unsung heroes of our community who continue to work in their respective fields, with a dedication to social harmony.  

Join AroniAwards Foundation, the Harmony Movement, and Canada’s premier entertainers for an inspirational evening to empower our youth.

nominate :: participate :: celebrate

If one word could be used to describe what the Aroni awards means to our community – it would be “Inspirational".  The award will strive to inspire people – especially the young to reach for the stars, hence their greatest potential.  Aron was a forward thinker and a free spirit who always saw the glass as being half full, and never failed to see the potential in people – even when they didn’t see it in themselves. The award will honour individuals who exemplify through their work what
Aron Y. Haile epitomized during his short life. 

I N S P I R E  

Atlantis Pavilions
955 Lakeshore Blvd. 
4:00 pm-11:00 pm 
(Online $50 Early Bird  Tickets Almost Sold Out)


Racial Rants - Truth or False?

First it was
Mel Gibson spewing off anti-Semitic remarks to a police officer and now it's Michael Richard's (Kramer of Seinfeld fame) exciting disturbing racist remarks.  Despite the apologies from both these men, I just don't buy the sincerity.  I buy that they're sincere that they wish their remarks hadn't been repeated and that they hadn't been caught, but I believe that the elements of hatred, rage and racism exist in them both.  Specifically Michael Richard's rant during his comedy show in reaction to a heckler was particularly disturbing making references to lynching and using the 'n' word.  And he didn't just let one comment slip and catch himself, he kept going!  I mean if you can't handle hecklers, you really shouldn't be on stage, right?

I'm disgusted and incensed by this behaviour and think that it reflects a deep-seated and unresolved hatred that exists in our society.  But perhaps the hatred is really directed at hatred for themselves.  I think that they believe that they will be forgiven because of their success - for the most part, the public and even their colleagues think differently.  I'm not saying these traits are not redeemable as I believe we all are (only God can do this), but you are not exempt from the wrath of those affected.  And there will be a price to pay.

Hopefully these actions and the public outcry and humiliation will at the very least make these two and the many others like them examine their inner conflict and truth. 

We will soon see if Mr. Richards can recover from the damage done - I know that Mr. Gibson is still feeling the repercussions of his actions.

Granted, these apologies include the term 'I'm not a racist.'   Let's see, the very definition of racism is:

Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

Hmm.  You decide.  And that's just my opinion.


Where There's Smoke, There's Molly

Check out photos in my PHOTO GALLERY.

The smooth smooth stylings of jazz singer
Molly Johnson filled the room on Tuesday night in the midst of the daintily decorated Mod Club.  I've been a long-time fan of Molly's and anxiously awaited this release entitled 'Messin' Around'.  There is such a sultry depth to her voice which is mixed with a refreshing humour, usually directed at herself, during her performances. 

Ross Porter, President of Jazz FM introduced Molly who was wearing a delicate and feminine outfit by Ports.  Molly looked great, held roses during most of her performance and sounded more inspired than ever - a new look and a more experienced sound to launch her new jazz and bluesy album.  

But the music, ohhh, the music.  Molly delivered her haunting vocals and her band lifted us even higher.  Consisting of
Andrew Craig, Mark McLean, Colleen Allen, Mike Downes and Rob Piltch, this band is absolutely phenomenal.  Molly performed several songs written by her band members (and others) - the most exciting of which was one written by Andrew Craig in a van while touring in France, named Avignon Blues.  Ironically, this is not on this album but it's unconfirmed that this might be offered as a bonus track from the iTunes download of the album.  It's a BIG tune.

Other favourites include Messin’ Around, Let’s Waste Some Time and Rain.   Her first release under the Universal label, I predict big things and big numbers for 'Messin' Around'.  Another great Canadian artist!

Go out and get it TODAY!  Molly's music is available in most retail outlets as well as online.

Millionaire’s Club Canada

Source:  Elaine Quan, E.quan Entertainment Inc.

We live in a time where every modern convenience is at our disposal.  With the advent of the Internet, we can communicate with people all around the world in an instant, we can shop for anything we may need or want and we can search for information on anyone or anything that piques our interest.

Well, ladies, hold onto your hats, we have reached the ultimate in luxury online shopping - we can meet a potential millionaire husband!

The Millionaire’s Club, an online matchmaking website, which originated in Los Angeles, California, officially launched in Canada with a cocktail event at the Carlu in Toronto on Friday, November 17.  The Carlu was a beautiful venue to host over 275 diverse women from the GTA eager to audition for a spot on the Millionaire’s Club Canada website.  The audition process for each applicant started with a 4-page questionnaire, then a Polaroid photo and ended with a Q&A session before a panel of local celebrity judges which included Valerie Gibson, Relationship and Sex Columnist for the Toronto Sun and celebrity hairstylist, Jie Matar of Salon Jie.

Those women lucky enough to pass the audition were invited to return later in the evening for a special after-party with some of the millionaire bachelors and local Toronto scenesters.

We have definitely leapt into the 21st century.  Ladies; your future awaits you with a touch of your fingers and high-speed Internet, of course!! 

For more information, visit

::top stories::

Grammy Award Winner To Headline Third Annual Cayman Jazz Fest


(Sept. 29, 2006) Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands – Eight time grammy award winner Natalie Cole is confirmed as the headline act for this year’s annual
Cayman jazz fest, the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Charles Clifford, recently announced.  Performing alongside Natalie Cole will be Kem, Jeffrey Osborne, Boney James, Rick Braun, Mike Philips and the Caribbean’s very own Arturo Tappin. “With headline act Natalie Cole and other internationally acclaimed jazz and R&B artists, jazz fest 2006 is going to be another great event,” said the Honourable Minister of Tourism. “We are confident that jazz fans will seize this opportunity to not only be a part of jazz fest but also to experience the fine dining, incredible beaches and unique Caymanian culture. Moreover, the event provides a forum for local musicians in this genre to interact with and perform beside internationally renowned artists. This opportunity can only boost the development of local talent and bring greater international awareness and appreciation of them. I look forward to announcing the local line up very soon.”

The Cayman jazz fest will take place over three days from November 30th to December 2nd. The first night will be an intimate event in the Westin Casuarina ballroom, with the second and third nights at the original outdoor location of Pageant Beach.  The daughter of celebrated singer/pianist Nat “King” Cole, Natalie Cole is considered one of the core artists of the smooth jazz format, garnering frequent airplay on smooth jazz radio stations with both her classic songs and her newer material. Cole’s new album Leavin’ is a truly inspiring piece of work that finds Cole proudly revealing her soulful roots after a decade during which she enjoyed unprecedented global success as an interpreter of the standards. Her success during this time ushered in a wave of similar crossover smashes from other artists and added to an already whopping lifetime album sales figure that now tops 30 million worldwide.

The Cayman jazz fest is organized by the Department of Tourism in partnerships with BET J. Major sponsors include the Westin Casuarina Resort & Spa and Courtyard by Marriott. Tickets go on sale in October at the Department of Tourism, Funky Tangs, Standards by Atlantic and Atlantic Kids. Jazz fans can also sign up to receive regular updates on the third annual Cayman jazz fest by visiting

Meet The Jazz Singer - Molly Johnson

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry

(Nov. 20, 2006) So,
Molly Johnson's a jazz singer now?  It would appear so, based on her record company bio, that opening slot at the Toronto Jazz Festival earlier this year, the core quartet of outstanding musicians who improvise and solo around her, not to mention the Gershwin and Billie Holiday standards she's affixed her languorous voice to. However, the decidedly pop arrangements of most of the songs on her new disc, Messin' Around, portend otherwise.  What does the lady say for herself?  "You know, I don't scat," Johnson pointed out. "To me, the real jazz is improvisational; you're making it up as you go along. I never really do that. I sing pop music."  That this conversation takes place at the Cameron House is an indication of Johnson's musical diversity. For nearly a decade, she lived in a room on the upper level of the funky Queen St. club, sharing a kitchen and bathroom with up to a dozen other artists, and cleaning toilets and performing in lieu of rent.  It was here that she went from fronting the rock group Alta Moda, then the harder rocking Infidels, before morphing into a torch singer and subsequently releasing two acclaimed jazz-pop albums.  It may have been Verve's idea to rank Johnson with jazz heavyweights Diana Krall and Cassandra Wilson, but she isn't complaining.  "I wouldn't want to be a pop singer in this day and age," said the 40-something singer/songwriter, who is imbued with an exuberant, forthright manner.  "I'm glad I got out of it when I did ... I was never quite pretty enough, or cute enough, or white enough, frankly. I am so happy that I'm being called a jazz musician, because it is a lovely place to be. It's like being in the theatre business — it's respectful.

"I just make my records and let these guys sort the shit out."  Besides the brain trust at Verve, the "guys" to whom she refers also include her new management team at SRO Productions.  "I've been rapping on their door since my days with Alta Moda, but they were busy with a little band called Rush," said Johnson, who doubts she would have made another album if the company hadn't finally taken her on.  "I toyed with getting a job at United Way. I love fundraising, I love putting events together ... it was just going to be too much to manage myself, write those songs, be a mom, be a wife, keep a tidy home."  Married 11 years to political organizer Rob Moore, Johnson says raising their sons, ages 6 and 9, is more demanding than ever.  "We girls all think it gets easier as they get older and I don't want to be the one to spoil it for y'all, but the issues are different. The homework issues, the social issues ... children need their parents.  "I think one of the biggest problems we have with our youth is this is a very expensive city to live in, most people need two incomes. And this is where we're losing our boys: these kids come home from school and they get into trouble, because there's nobody there. I don't want that to be my boys. I don't want that to be anybody's boys — or anybody's girls."  Despite being signed to a major label and having new managers, Johnson said she and her long-time musicians were mostly left to their own devices to make Messin' Around.  "There's a long history there of me, so what could they really say?"  Halfway through the recording, though, she was caught off guard by a late-night call from the head of Universal Music France, suggesting a remake of Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia," because of her work with AIDS charities.  "I'm thinking, `Bruce Springsteen?' I don't hate the guy or anything, but ..."

When she returned to the studio the following morning, her producer had written a chord chart for the song.  "We just went in and recorded it twice and picked one of them and that's on the record.  ``That's the first and second time I'd ever sung that song. It's very straightforward. Imagine, Mr. Springsteen, Mr. Big Old White Rocker, writing them potent, gay-friendly, beautiful lyrics?"  She also co-wrote the French song "Tristes Souvenirs" as a nod to the 100,000 albums she has sold in that country.  "I love the idea of being able to acknowledge to my French friends that we're making an effort. They know all my songs, better than Canadians."  That's surprising since Johnson, who lives walking distance from the Cameron House, has never spent more than eight days in France.  "I'm not pulling (my children) out of school and dragging them around. Beloved Oscar Peterson (once asked), `Well, how do you tour?' When I told him, `I don't really tour, sir, because of my kids,' he said, `Well, you know we all had wives.'  "Isn't that helpful? I have an amazing lovely husband, but he is no wife."  There are high hopes for Messin' Around, which lands in stores tomorrow. Johnson's Verve bio declares her "on the brink of widespread crossover success."  "I hope it doesn't mean what they think it means, because I'm no Nelly Furtado and I'm not running around with my belly button hanging out, singing about sex.  "I done did that."

Grammy-Award Nominee Tamia Premiers Her New Single

Source: Sheila Eldridge , Miles Ahead Entertainment,

(November 21, 2006)  R&B singing sensation,
Tamia, makes her first national television appearance since the release of her new album "Between Friends" on the Montel Williams Show, tomorrow, Tuesday, November 21, 2006.  Check local listings.  Montel sits down with Tamia to discuss life as a new mother, to 4 year-old daughter, wife, to NBA Basketball superstar Grant Hill and the balancing act that it takes to be just as successful raising a family as she is in her career.   Along with giving the viewers an inside look to being a mother in the entertainment industry and providing them with tricks of the trade she has learned in the process, four-time Grammy nominee TAMIA gives a live performance of her first single, "Can't Get Enough," premieres the next single off of the album, "Me" and debuts her new video currently on playlists for BET J and MTV Jams.

As a mother, a wife and one of the most talented singers of today, TAMIA wears a new hat as an entrepreneur since releasing "Between Friends" on her independently owned record label, Plus 1 Music Group.  Like Montel, Tamia also lives with Multiple Sclerosis and is extremely proud of the personal and professional growth in her life since the diagnosis. Tune in tomorrow, November 21, to watch TAMIA on the Montel Williams Show which airs in New York and Washington, DC at 4PM, Chicago and Los Angeles at 2PM and in Detroit at 10AM.   To sample new music from TAMIA and her CD "Between Friends," visit her MySpace page:

TroBiz Cleans Up At Awards

Source: Dean Lisk, The Daily News (Halifax)

(Oct. 29, 2006) Hip-hop artist
TroBiz said getting any kind of recognition, let alone the three awards he got at last night's African Nova Scotian Music Awards, is enough for him.  "I was really surprised, I was more focused on performing tonight," said the 32-year-old, who received the rising star, artist of the year, and hip-hop artist awards.  TroBiz, whose real name is Tremayne Howe, wasn't even in Casino Nova Scotia's Schooner Showroom when his first award was announced to the audience of more than 300. It included Lieutenant-Governor Mayann E. Francis.

Took awhile

"Thank God for giving me the power to get up and do this everyday," said TroBiz, when he did make it onstage for his second award. Last night was the ninth year the African Nova Scotian Music Association honoured musicians within its community.

And the Winners are:

Here are the winners of the ninth annual African Nova Scotian Music Awards, which were handed out at Casino Nova Scotia last evening;

- Up and Coming Youth Award: P. Cain

- Galaxie Rising Star Award: TroBiz

- Artist/Group of the Year: TroBiz

- Best R & B Artist/Group: Asia & Nu Gruv

- Best Gospel Artist/Group: Marko Simmonds

- Best Album of the Year: Everything, by Shane C.

- Best Hip-Hop Artist/Group: TroBiz

- Best Live Performance: Asia & Nu Gruv

- Music Pioneer Award: Carl (Sleepy) Thomas

- Black Business Initiative Development Award: Jam On Records

- Music Heritage Award: Roland J Simmonds

African Nova Scotian Awards Boost For Local Musicians

Source:  The - By Stephen Cooke Entertainment Reporter

(Oct. 30, 2006) The
African Nova Scotian Music Awards Show moved onward and upward on Saturday night, hosting its ninth annual evening at Halifax’s Casino Nova Scotia for the first time. The glamorous Schooner Room hosted the celebration of homegrown gospel, soul, jazz, hip-hop and world beat, with a broad spectrum of performances throughout the night. "This music is the sound of triumph, of family, of joy," said Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis in her opening remarks. "It is the sound of success. "As the first black lieutenant governor, it’s a privilege to congratulate the African Nova Scotian Music Association, its volunteers and the nominees who enrich our culture every day. Their music is the very nature of diversity, enriching our lives in so many ways." One performer who heard the sound of success on Saturday night was Halifax R&B/hip-hop performer TroBiz, who earned three ANSMAs, including artist of the year, hip-hop artist of the year and the CBC  Galaxie Rising Star Award, which comes with a $1,000 cheque.

"I’m very, very surprised," said TroBiz, a.k.a. musician/producer Tremayne Howe, whose new CD The Beginning lands in stores on Nov. 15. "I feel blessed today! It’s a feeling I didn’t anticipate. "The support of the musical and business communities has really benefited me and our label could be blessed with a better situation, to be able to perform and showcase with all this talent. Putting a record out is hard, but events like this make you feel like it will fly." As for the sound of family, TroBiz’s parents, Yvonne "Muzzy" Marshall and Coleman Howe were honoured with an ANSMA Board Award of Excellence, sponsored by the Black Business Initiative, for their efforts in launching the new label Jam On Records, dedicated to providing a home for a wide range of African Nova Scotian performers. Other performances included a powerful gospel set by Shoulder to Shoulder and the Deep River Boys, the driving rhythm of the Diaspora Drumming Troupe and Cherry Brook’s Jamie Sparks, whose Gonna Get Down paved the way for the ANSMA after party in the casino’s Compass Room.

Ex-Politician Lets Music Do His Talking

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Goddard, Staff Reporter

(Nov. 20, 2006) As leader of the Northwest Territories, Stephen Kakfwi commanded respect for his strength and resolve.  People admired his good looks and ability to work hard, but some read his outer demeanour as "unemotional" and a few called him "Stone Face."  The rigid exterior covered a shameful secret, the former premier now says, one he has only been able to express in song.  "In the Walls of His Mind" began as a poem. A friend encouraged him to set it to music. The process led him to take up the guitar and, when he left politics three years ago, perhaps not permanently, he put his efforts toward an independent CD.  At this year's Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, to be held in Toronto on Friday, Kakfwi is up for Best Male Artist for his album In the Walls of His Mind.  "I don't know what to think of it," he says in his modest way of the nomination. "I just started a few years ago and can barely play."  He was born in 1950 at Fort Good Hope, a Dene Indian community on the Mackenzie River, just north of the Artic Circle.  From 2000 to 2003 he served as N.W.T. leader. He was also married with three children but, throughout his life, he says, he carried deep childhood wounds of loneliness and shame.  "For six of the first 12 years of my life, my mother was in Edmonton and Aklavik" being treated for tuberculosis, he says. "My father was raising four of us, cutting wood, washing our clothes, trying to keep us in school, and he used to miss my mother so much he would sing her a love song he made up."

Worse than his longing for his mother, Kakfwi was forced by federal authorities to attend residential schools run by the Roman Catholic Church in Fort Smith and Yellowknife, and in 1960 he attended the infamous Grollier Hall at Inuvik, at the Mackenzie River mouth.  Four Grollier Hall staff members have since been convicted of sex crimes against the schoolchildren in their charge, including Kakfwi.  "I have never addressed the issue of abuse in residential schools," he told the N.W.T. legislature in 1998.  "I just want the members to know, it is important to put it before you, so you will have a context for the kind of person that I am, and the way I act and conduct myself. I was there, in Grollier Hall, as a 9-year-old for five months in 1960."  The song "In the Walls of His Mind" is similarly discreet. The lyrics contain no explicit sexual references, but audiences understand it, he says.  "This July there was a Grollier Hall student reunion in Inuvik," he said in a telephone interview last week. "On the second day, they asked me to speak and I told them the little things I remembered just looking around at the school  "Then I started singing the song and the whole room (of about 300 people) was wailing and crying. There was a time when I couldn't sing it all the way through, but I sang the whole song. I didn't stop. There was incredible pain but ... (the song) is the beginning of a healing journey."  Kakfwi, who was elected president of the Dene Nation in 1983 and a member of the N.W.T. legislature in 1987, hasn't ruled out a career in federal politics, he says, and he continues to serve as a consultant in Yellowknife to several environmental organizations. But he also still writes and records songs.  A second CD is due out in early December and a third one is contemplated, he says, with a fiddle version by his brother Everett of their father's long-ago lament, "Noel's Love Song to Georgina."


Choclair feat. Karl Wolf - "Weekend"


It's just a matter of time before the release of Choclair's 5th studio album, "Flagship". If you fell in love with Choclair's new single "Weekend" feat. Karl Wolf, be prepared for a solid album. Choclair fans and industry have responded with overwhelming enthusiasm to advanced screenings of the new album.  Presently equipped with his newly formed label, Suave Dawg Entertainment Inc., a new energy drink "SkyLine", and his own charity "Love the People, Love the Music", the Canadian music icon's extensive knowledge of the music industry continues to garner respect from the international hip hop community.  Debuted nationally on MTV Canada with a live performance, the single "Weekend" has been serviced to CHR and Urban radio nationally in Canada, Rhythm and CHR radio nationally in the United States and is quickly moving up the charts.

Flagship features production credits from hitmakers Kardinal Offishall, Frank Dukes, Kemo, and Solitair. The album also features guest appearances from Canada's own Melanie Durrant and Bobby Blake.   Want more Choclair?  Check out:
... for tour dates, merchandise, message boards, and much, much more.

Black Eyed Peas Top American Music Awards; Nickelback Takes Best Album

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Nov 22, 2006) LOS ANGELES (CP) - The Black Eyed Peas were triple winners at the
2006 American Music Awards on Tuesday.  The hip-hop quartet was named favourite group twice, in the rap/hip hop and soul/rhythm & blues categories. They also won favourite rap/hip-hop album for "Monkey Business." Expressing gratitude via satellite from Costa Rica, the band's frontman,, thanked fans and artists "for keeping hip-hop progressive and pushing it forward."  Joining the Peas in the winner's circle was Vancouver-based Nickelback, who took home the trophy for best pop/rock album for "All the Right Reasons."  "This is extremely unexpected," marvelled lead singer Chad Kroeger, referring to the tough category that also included veteran rockers the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  "We just kinda showed up because we were supposed to give one of these away tonight," Kroeger said of his band, originally from Hanna, Alta. "We thought for sure the Chilies were gonna just like clean house tonight."  The Chili Peppers did clean up in two categories, taking the prizes for favourite alternative artist and favourite pop/rock group.

They accepted their award via satellite from London, with bass player Flea beat-boxing as lead singer Anthony Kiedis thanked "the American people."  Kelly Clarkson captured trophies for pop/rock female and adult contemporary artist, categories presented before the televised portion of the performance-filled show.  Among those performing was Canadian singer Nelly Furtado, who debuted her new single "Say It Right" as smoke swirled around the stage.  Rascal Flatts won favourite country group and the T-Mobile Text-In award, which is chosen by fans.  Mary J. Blige accepted the female soul/rhythm & blues artist award from surprise presenter Britney Spears.  The newly single Spears looked sleek in a knee-length cream-coloured frock and long blond hair.  Oscar winner Jamie Foxx was named favourite male soul/rhythm & blues artist.

"I'm like a rookie in this music thing," he said. "This means a lot more than you think, man."  Foxx wore a white tuxedo and sat behind a grand piano to perform "Wish U Were Here" from his 2005 album, "Unpredictable."  Dancehall singer Sean Paul was named favourite male pop/rock artist.  Among country honours, favourite female artist went to Faith Hill, male artist went to Toby Keith, and Tim McGraw's "Greatest Hits Volume 2" was favourite album. Country singer and American Idol Carrie Underwood was named favourite breakthrough artist.  Eminem was favourite male rap/hip-hop artist. Shakira won favourite Latin artist and Kirk Franklin captured the award for contemporary inspirational music.  "I know that a lot of people that say that they're Christians - you know, we don't always represent, and we don't always live it and we do sometimes some very stupid things, and you know we're not doing a good job," said Franklin, wearing blue jeans with a black velvet tuxedo jacket. "I want to make sure that when you see my life that it's a life that I'm gonna be proud of."

Talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel kicked off the three-hour ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium, televised live on ABC, with a skit that placed a ringer for Spears' ex, Kevin Federline, into a wooden crate dumped into the ocean. Kimmel cracked that Federline was the world's first "no-hit wonder."  Beyonce began the show, belting out her single "Irreplaceable" while vamping around the stage in a sparkly sequined minidress. The Pussycat Dolls also chose sequins for their performance, while Furtado opted for a skin-tight white dress and stick-straight hair.  Gwen Stefani made a stylish return to the music scene, performing the single "Wind It Up" from her forthcoming album, "The Sweet Escape." The new mom, wearing a skimpy sequined shift and a shoulder-length platinum bob, yodelled and rapped convincingly throughout the tune.  Not to be outdone, rapper Jay-Z stepped out of retirement and back into the spotlight, accompanied by scantily clad dancers as he performed the single "Show Me What You Got" from his new record, "Kingdom Come."  Lionel Richie made a festive return to the awards. Introduced by his diminutive daughter, Nicole Richie, the former Commodore performed a medley that included his '80s party anthem, "All Night Long."  Barry Manilow performed a medley of favourites from his latest collection, "The Greatest Songs of the Sixties."  The American Music Awards honour the best in pop/rock, country, soul/rhythm & blues, rap/hip hop, Latin, alternative, adult contemporary and contemporary inspirational music. Nominees were chosen based on record sales and winners were selected by a survey of about 20,000 listeners.

The Name Is Cornell. Chris Cornell

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(Nov. 18, 2006) He's mysterious, blue-eyed and rugged, and his broodingstamp is squarely put on the new James Bond film before the title credits even finish rolling. We speak of Daniel Craig? No. The name is Cornell.
Chris Cornell. The Audioslave singer penned and performed You Know My Name, the bold theme song to Casino Royale. Just as debate is sure to rage over Craig's performance compared to previous 007 portrayals, discussion will centre on the newest entry into the Bond opening-tune canon. The illustrious list of Bond songs includes classics (The brassy Goldfinger sung by Shirley Bassey, the radio-hit Nobody Does It Better sung by Carly Simon for The Spy Who Loved Me, and of course, Monty Norman's stirring, enduring The James Bond Theme first heard on 1962's Dr. No). At the clunker-end of the spectrum is the misfired The Man With the Golden Gun, sung by Lulu. Online scuttlebutt reveals that You Know My Name is liked by some, fiercely disliked by others. One frequently voiced opinion is that the song requires a few listens to fully appreciate — that it will "grow on you."

But then, one wiseacre cracked that he could think of a few things that grow on you, and if something like the song ever appeared on him, he would head straightaway to the nearest walk-in clinic. Cornell himself favoured the song so much he decided to keep it for himself — for his ears only, you might say. The track will be made available as an "e-single" for downloading, and a video version currently runs on music video networks. But the tune won't be found on a proper album until 2007, when Cornell releases a solo disc on the A&M/Interscope label. And so, on the back of the soundtrack CD, a disclaimer reads: "This album does not contain a Chris Cornell recording."  You Know My Name could be likened to Paul McCartney's exhilarating Live and Let Die from 1973. If so, the comparison flatters Cornell, a noted Beatle enthusiast. "It puts you on a list," Cornell told The Globe and Mail, when asked about composing and performing a Bond theme song. "Granted Lulu is on the list, but so is Paul McCartney. I like being on that list."

Inside The Idol Machine

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Christian Cotroneo

(Nov. 19, 2006) On a grey Monday morning,
Eva Avila sits in a Toronto café eating an omelette on a multi-grain baguette.  The instant the 19-year-old Canadian Idol finishes, Josh Glover, a media relations manager at Sony BMG, swishes the plate into the trash.  The Machine is hungry, too.  Avila's day with the media — TV, radio, print, Internet — has been scheduled to the second by Glover, her media liaison.  It begins just upstairs from the café, at the EZ Rock studio at Yonge and St. Clair W.  "You still have that look in your eyes," announces morning show host Stu Jeffries, in a booth cluttered with sound equipment, "Like everything is happening so fast."  Indeed, Avila signed her first contract with Sony BMG within hours of winning Idol two months ago. In the next three days, she did 74 interviews.  On this day, Avila faces another barrage in support of her about-to-be-released first album, Somewhere Else. She will do the same in major cities across the country.  "I'm super proud of this album," Avila says into the microphone. "This is my first album. I want it to be perfect."

"What was it like working with Cyndi Lauper?" Jeffries asks.  "It was really, really fun. She's very eccentric and wild."  As soon as the short interview is over, Avila is ushered into another studio down the hall, where Mix 99.9 hosts Steve Anthony and Sandy Salerno await.  "So how's things?" Anthony asks. "How's the family? They taking care of you? Got your coffee?"  At the end of that interview, Avila is handed a newspaper review of her album.  "That's me!" she declares excitedly, eyeing a small early review of her new album. "What are they saying? Oh God. Is it bad? Should I read it?"  A moment later, she wishes she had not.  "Two-and-a-half stars," Avila drones. "Okay, I'm never reading my CD reviews again."  Although she marshals a smile when the occasion demands, Avila now falls easily into silent spells.  "Don't let it bother you," someone offers.  Rudy Blair, entertainment reporter for 680 News, appears in the waiting room at the Rogers building — right after Avila disappears to the washroom.  Minutes later, Blair turns to Glover: "My God, did she fall in?"  "Would you like me to go check," the receptionist asks.

Four minutes later, Avila surfaces — "I was just freshening up. I had dark circles under my eyes."  The hallway gets comfortably dim on the way to the studio, as Blair leads his guests to a tiny booth.  "Girl, hello ... congratulations ... finally, the new album is out ..." he says into the microphone.  The segment ends at 9:55 a.m. — "Cool. How was that for you, girl?" Blair asks.  "Me?" Avila asks, seemingly stunned. "Good God, I thought you called me bro."  "I wear glasses," he extends his grin. "But I'm not blind."  At Sony BMG headquarters at Liberty and Dufferin Sts., Avila waits for her next interview in a cozy, curtained shrine to the King, called the Elvis Room.  Advertising and promotions director Jonathan Ramos appears and Avila instantly flings herself into his arms.  He tells her not to worry about the lukewarm newspaper review — "This is just something that most media do."  "If I got a BlackBerry," she asks him, "would it be covered by the label?"  "Uhhhh ... no."  "All right, you've got to start doing some phoners," Glover announces, stepping into the room.  First up? Metro News.

"She's very, very wild," Avila cheerfully says into the phone, describing her experience with Lauper. "She was very fun to work with ... and we had a really great bond, connection."  At 10:50 a.m., Glover switches couches in the Elvis Room to ensure he's facing Avila. The instant he catches her eye, he makes a circling gesture with his finger — wrap it up.  Five minutes later, he snares her eye again — and runs a finger across his neck. End it.  Now, Glover is pacing. Now, he's sitting. Now, he's pacing.  Now, Avila hangs up the phone.  "Never be ashamed to tell them it's not you, it's someone else making you get off the phone," Glover tells her.  At 11 a.m., TV and print journalists representing several Hispanic media outlets are led into the Elvis Room.  "Just want to warn you," Glover says. "We're going to have to be quick about setting up because we don't have a lot of time today."  A moment later, he makes a game-time decision.  "I'm going to pull you away for five minutes while this guy is setting up because we are running a little bit late."  "So we wait here?" says one of the journalists.  At 11:03, Avila gives a 15-minute interview to the Winnipeg Sun.  "I also worked with Cyndi Lauper," Avila explains over the phone. "She's wild. She's very eccentric. She's pretty crazy. She had me doing jumping jacks in the studio."

At 11:20 a.m., Avila returns to the Elvis Room, where the crew is still setting up their equipment.  The interviewer asks Avila to sign a few CDs. The photographer turns to Glover.  "Do you guys have an extra one?" he asks. "I'm a DJ. I would love to have one."  But before Glover stalks off to his desk to get more CDs, he pauses in the doorway.  "Are we pretty much ready to go, guys?" he asks. "I hate to rush ... "  The interview begins at 11:27 a.m., just in time for a herd of heavy-heeled executives to step down the hall outside the Elvis Room. The thunderous din annoys the cameraman no end, as he vainly tweaks the curtains covering the doorway.  He paces, with hands behind his back, until the cloppety-clop fades, at last. But then Glover's BlackBerry begins vibrating. And vibrating.  Glover takes a break from the 'Berry at 11:40 a.m. to give the interviewer a familiar sign. Wrap it up.  At 11:46, Glover gestures harder.  "Thank you very much for your time," the interviewer says to Avila. "You really are the pride of the Peruvian and Latin-American community."  It's over by 11:50, but the media crew still has a request or two. They want to pose for pictures with her.  When Avila finally steps outside the Elvis Room — it's right into the waiting arms of two more Spanish-language reporters.

They retire to a small boardroom, and Avila rolls gamely with the questions.  Until Glover steps into the room at 12:20 p.m. He doesn't close the door behind him — lets the office soundtrack of sharp heels and clattering cubicles wash right in.  It's a not-so-subtle sign that time's up.  Back in the Elvis Room, Avila sits with Diana Chu, a young reporter from One80 Media, a teen magazine. They're about the same age and chatter like schoolgirls on the couch, a tape recorder between them.  "And what do you do in your free time?" Chu asks.  But Glover is drawing the curtain on this interview. "Can I take a picture with her?" Chu asks.  At 12:41, Glover and Avila scramble into the Suburban.  She holds Pink's recent CD to her nose.  "I love the smell of new CDs."  Pinching the CD booklet, she abruptly turns to Glover.  "How come this paper's so thick and my paper's so thin?"  She eyes Glover's BlackBerry.  "So the record label won't pay for the BlackBerry," she says.  "I'm sure we can trick a company into doing it," Glover replies.  Some company, somewhere. After all, for the next two weeks, Avila will be covering a different Canadian city every day. Just like today.  At 1:08 p.m., CHUM radio personalities Richie Favalaro and Cory Kimm interview Avila for a pre-recorded segment.

"Radio doesn't do you justice," Favalaro says. "Because you are very, very pretty. I understand you're going to do some modelling?"  "Yes, I have a contract with Ford Models," she replies. "I'm a girl. I love beauty and fashion."  She chats about spirituality, yoga, Lauper.  "Cyndi's really wild ... she had me doing jumping jacks in the studio."  Shortly after 2 p.m., Avila picks up an order of Pad Thai near the downtown condo provided by the record company, naps for about an hour and steps out to buy an industrial-sized bottle of Cold FX to keep her healthy during her western media tour. The black Suburban is waiting for her.  At 5:30 p.m., Avila screams three times in MTV Canada's make-up room: once, when she learns the hair straightener is still plugged in and hot; twice when she pours too much hair gunk in her hand; and a third time when she hits the wrong tap and water squirts her.  "If it's any consolation," the make-up woman says. "Dave Navarro did the same thing. But he got it in the face."  Avila meets MTV Overdrive host Johnny Hockin in a tiny basement studio at 6:20 p.m. His colleague flicks on a camera and the interview begins.  "I believe very strongly I'm meant to do this," she says.  "What was it like working with Cyndi Lauper?"  "She's very wild ... she had me doing jumping jacks in the studio."  A moment later, Avila is led up a dark staircase and into the light of the MTV Live studio. She takes her place on a circular couch, with hosts and guests.  "Six, five, four, three ... "  "Eva Avila, everybody!" a host declares.  "How does it feel when you put out an album?" he asks.  A familiar face waits for her just offstage. He's known only as JD, a floor director for Canadian Idol, and Avila heads straight for her old friend. JD leaves her with a bit of advice.  "Get some sleep."

Gordon Lightfoot - Timeless Songs From A Wiry Old Icon

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alan Niester

Gordon Lightfoot
At Massey Hall
In Toronto on Thursday

(Nov. 18, 2006) Growing old. It ain't pretty, but it sure as hell beats the alternative. Which is why it was still so good to see
Gordon Lightfoot gracing the Massey Hall stage on the first evening of his four-night Toronto run. That he was there at all is still something of a miracle. In 2002, in the middle of a similar appearance, he had to be airlifted to a hospital in Hamilton, the victim of a major abdominal haemorrhage that could well have killed him. (My mother was in the same hospital that day, being treated for a similar condition by the same surgeon -- Mr. Lightfoot and I are forever bound by that, whether he knows it or not.)  It took him a long time to recover. And frankly, he's never really been as robust since. But he's a wiry old icon, still happy to be up onstage cranking out the hits from his 40-odd years of defining the singer-songwriter genre. Is his voice as strong as it was 30 years ago? Perhaps not, but is yours? Or your father's? Or your grandfather's? All that said, it's still a bit of a shock to hear Lightfoot's reedy and breathy voice today while mentally comparing it to the earthy, solid baritone it was back in the sixties and seventies.  The guitar playing is as good as ever, though, largely because, well, Lightfoot was never really known for his guitar playing. As he says himself, he really only knows five chords. The music? That's what the backing quartet is for. So this concert is for the memories -- not so much the memories of Lightfoot and the stronger man he was in his youth, but for the songs, and the memories we associate with them. It was obvious that most in this audience identified with the songs from their own earlier days.  And there were lots of them sprinkled through the two-hour set. Early on: Cotton Jenny, not really a Canadian-sounding song, being about the Deep South and all, but one that felt like it, having been best known as a hit for Anne Murray. Then later: Beautiful, perhaps his most haunting and romantic ballad, a song played at the end of every high-school dance in Canada in the seventies.

And the travellin' songs, of course, the ones that defined him as much as anything else -- Carefree Highway, perhaps the ultimate road song, and Canadian Railroad Trilogy, with its looping rhythms echoing the sound of an old steam engine roaring down the track. Now 68 (his birthday was yesterday, a fact acknowledged by the crowd when it sang a raucous Happy Birthday), Lightfoot seems more determined than ever to reach out to his audience, delivering little anecdotes and asides in his terse, almost shy manner.  "Is the Don River up yet?" he inquired early on, referring to the downpour that had deluged Toronto. "God, what a night to come out to a show, eh?" That would have been a perfect time to launch into Rainy Day People, but he saved it for a few songs up the road. Interestingly enough, for a singer / songwriter so strictly defined as a Canadian icon, many of Lightfoot's songs have an American bent. Old Dan's Records, a welcome but surprising choice, has an Appalachian feel. Sundown seems more Arizona than Alberta, and even the Edmund Fitzgerald was an American ore carrier. But what this suggests, and what we need to be reminded of once in a while, is that Lightfoot's music was always more multidimensional than the CBC's constant replaying of Alberta Bound and Railroad Trilogy would suggest. On this night, Lightfoot was accompanied by his long-time quartet of Rick Haynes (bass), Michael Heffernan (keyboards), Barry Keane (drums) and the sublime Terry Clements on lead guitar. So quiet as to be almost unobtrusive, they gave new meaning to the term "backing musicians," so far in the background did they seem to be. But given Lightfoot's now less-vibrant vocal abilities, pulling the volume knob back down to three was a necessary touch. There was one troubling sidelight though.  Go to a Rush concert or a Tragically Hip show, or even a Burton Cummings / Randy Bachman Guess Who revival, and you will see a multigenerational audience, kids and teenagers sprinkled throughout the crowd. Lightfoot's audience lacks that. Suffice it to say that when Lightfoot mentioned a slide rule in one of his songs, most of the audience knew exactly what he was talking about. Too bad, because so much of Lightfoot's work not only stands the test of time, it transcends it. Songs like If You Could Read My Mind, Beautiful and Carefree Highway, well, they just never grow old. Gordon Lightfoot performs at Toronto's Massey Hall tonight and tomorrow, at 8 p.m. (416-872-4255).

Timbaland Fires Back At Critics

Excerpt from

(Nov. 17, 2006) *
Timbaland himself admits there was a little lull in the timeline of hits he produced between his Missy Elliot/Jay-Z/LL Cool J era and his current Nelly Furtado/Justin Timberlake resurgence. But, the Virginia native has a problem with haters who thought the brief period of inactivity was an indication that he had lost his Midas touch. "Everybody was talking their little trash, y'all know who y'all are," Tim told MTV news at studio last week. "They said, 'Timbaland is falling off.' I don't never fall off. I just relax like a vampire in the coffin. When I wake up, you better be prepared, because somebody is going to get bit on the neck. Next thing you know, I have a slew of vampires running around. When you become the best like me, you never fall off, you just lean back." His next production project is much closer to home…his own guest-filled album tentatively titled, “Timbaland Presents Shock Value.” The compilation project features everyone from Dr. Dre, 50 Cent and Jay-Z to Elton John, Bjork and the Fall Out Boys.  "I'm not just hip-hop," Tim insisted. "My mission is to take over top-40 radio — what they call popular music, different genres of music — and reach all types of people."

"The set’s first single, “Give it to Me” featuring Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, is already on radio. Internet gossip sites are suggesting that Justin’s verse is aimed directly at Janet Jackson over the whole Super Bowl halftime debacle.  Timberlake says in the song: "I saw you tryin' to act cute on TV, 'Just let me clear the air'/ We missed you on the charts last week/ Damn, that's right, you wasn't there/ Now if sexy never left, then why is everybody on my sh**?/ Don't hate on me just because you didn't come up with it." A source close to the record said that Timberlake's lyrics have nothing to do with Ms. Jackson — but he is responding to another pop artist who has seen career heights few other singers can boast, reports MTV. Timbaland is hoping to release the new album in March via his Mosley Music imprint, which also dropped Nelly Furtado's “Loose.’

Can Retired Rapper Reclaim His Kingdom?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry

(Nov. 19, 2006) What you want me to do? I'm sorry. I'm back!" declares
Jay-Z after a fanfare of horns on "Show Me What You Got," the single that heralded his return to the rap spotlight when it was leaked back in October.  That statement, however, is followed by a devious chuckle from the self-described "hustler disguised as a rapper."  On Tuesday, the Brooklyn, N.Y. native, a self-confessed former crack dealer turned über entrepreneur, will deliver Kingdom Come, his 10th disc — and his first since announcing his "retirement from solo performing" after 2003's 3.2 million selling Black Album.  But if he's pulled a fast one on hip-hop lovers, they seem unconcerned.  "I believed Michael Jordan when he retired the first time, too," said Justin Dumont, music director at Toronto's FLOW 93.5. "I can't fault people for wanting to do what they love. Everybody's just excited that Jay-Z's back."  Based on the phone requests, downloads and online chatter generated by "Show Me What You Got," Dumont predicts a No. 1 chart debut for Kingdom Come, despite competition from a Beatles remix, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur — and he believes the record will land in hip hop's Top 5 for the year.  It's already been widely heard, through authorized streaming at Listeners are debating not only the record's quality, but its significance to a genre that some fans think has been moribund lately.  "He's probably one of the most lyrical (rappers) in the game, he's very thought-provoking and he just has this certain swagger and charisma that I don't think anyone else has," Dumont explained. "He also epitomizes the rags-to-riches story."  With an estimated net worth of $320 million (U.S.), it's unlikely the artist hit the comeback trail for money or respect. Since 2003 Jay-Z, 35, established himself as a serious corporate player; he's president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings, co-owner of the NBA's New Jersey Nets and "co-brand director" for Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser Select.

Not to mention his rhyming on other artists' projects, such as the remix for protégé Kanye West's "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" — in which Jay-Z fired the memorable salvo, "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man."  The mogul's return may be rooted in hip hop's baser elements, opines Rashaun Hall of the hip-hop website "He's had an ongoing dispute with (rapper) Cam'ron, who dissed him on records and ... in the press.  "That's one of the things that usually draws an artist out. Most MCs are interested in the MC battle — proving their supremacy over other artists."  Jay-Z plays to the hardcore rap set by eviscerating detractors verbally on Kingdom Come (though he doesn't deign to name them) and he plays to the pop crowd with sexy dance tracks. That the glossy video for "Show Me What You Got" is used for a Budweiser TV ad suggests his broadening appeal. But that's not a selling point for some hip-hop fans; nor is the host of singers (John Legend, Ne-Yo, Chris Martin) on Kingdom Come.  "It's the mainstreaming of Jay-Z," said Toronto's Dalton Higgins, co-author of the book Hip-Hop. "For folks into the hip-hop counterculture, the rebel music, I don't think it's going to come across as being a great record.  "It was once taboo to be doing so many R&B tracks, collaborations, but this album is just rife with them." But Higgins does laud two tracks — the introspective "30 Something" and the stinging "Minority Report," which delves into the effects of Hurricane Katrina.  In fact, Higgins sees Jay-Z's maturation as "a metaphor for the maturation of hip hop and how some aspects of it have left the hood and moved to the Hamptons, how hip hoppers are increasingly thinking about land ownership and entrepreneurial pursuits.  "`Minority Report' doesn't sound that great sonically, but his approach to the subject matter is brilliant. It's great seeing hip hoppers who generate millions speak more about topical matters and less about bling and booty — although he has those tracks, too."

Rockin' Bands Shatter Silence At The Library

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Murray Whyte, A&E Reporter

(Nov. 18, 2006) On a recent Saturday evening at the North York Central Public Library, Ken Sparling, the institution's affable marketing director, walked into the small, airless auditorium there and smiled nervously.  "We've never done anything like this at the library before," he said, surveying the rapidly-expanding, vintage-clad crowd, most of whom were sitting patiently on the floor.  "It looks like storytime for adults in here," he said. "We've done piano recitals, that sort of thing. But nothing like this."  "This," in this case, was the first of a series of decidedly unlibrary-like events: A free full-blooded rock-out session with some of the city's most bleeding-edge bands — on this night,
The Creeping Nobodies, Ninja High School, Hank, Bob Wiseman and the inaugural Polaris Prize-winner himself, Owen Pallett, otherwise known as Final Fantasy. (The second, featuring Elliott Brood, Great Lake Swimmers, LAL, The Old Soul and Shad, goes tonight at 7:30, at the Toronto Reference Library. All seats have been claimed)  It was loud. Very loud. Louder, perhaps, than some expected. On the Toronto site for Stillepost, a who's-where message board for the local music scene, posters shared a laugh over "the look on the librarians' faces" when Ninja High School, a self-described "positive hardcore dance-rap band" — on this night, a wildly kinetic, instruments-free foursome, one dressed in an ochre-coloured bear costume, rapping over an electronic beat — took the stage.  Granted, "You're going home in a fucking ambulance," the opening lyric from NHS's "It's All Right to Fight," wasn't exactly storytime fare.  "I had so many people ask me: `Are you going to get in trouble for the language?'" laughed Lisa Heggum, the city library system's youth collections librarian. "But really, that's the point: It makes people realize that the library is current and relevant, and changes our image slightly in people's minds."

Slightly? Hardly. On this night, the bulk of the crowd — most of them downtown staples on the underground music scene — had traveled to the wilds of North York, coming from as far as Kingston and Peterborough, an indication of the pulling power of this moment in Toronto music history.  Heggum, a young librarian who sports the thick black glasses and Chuck Taylors of her target audience, sensed both opportunity and responsibility for the library. "My thinking was, we collect local authors, why not local bands?" she said. "I just thought there's such a vibrant scene here in Toronto, it makes sense for the library to help people get involved in what's going on in their own city."  Heggum fashioned a proposal, asking her supervisor Susan Caron for a $40,000 acquisition budget. It was enthusiastically accepted. Guided by Soundscapes, a serenely serious record shop on College St. well-connected with the local scene, ("They're kind of like the library of music stores," Heggum said) the library started gathering work from local independent collectives (don't say `labels') like the Blocks recording club and weewerk.  The budget was enough for Heggum to acquire 14 to 17 copies of each album, which circulate through all 99 branches of the TPL system. The bands volunteered to help launch the program with free concerts. In North York, more than a little affection was apparent.  "North York Central Public Library has been a place close to my heart for many years," purred Derek Westerholm, the frontman for the Creeping Nobodies, sweat streaming from his face midway through an ear-splitting set.  "I used to study quietly in the library. It was a nice, quiet, calm, inviting place. And I would encourage you all to go," he said quietly, before re-launching the assault — a drum-heavy, high-speed dirge competing with Westerholm's periodic howls.  Destined to be a classic? Only time will tell. But Heggum says that's the point: a library should engage the present, not just store the past. "It's important to have documents of this moment," she said. "It may be fleeting, but you can't predict that."  What won't be fleeting, she hopes, is the library's effort to remake its dowdy image.  "We're not just trying to do something really unusual," she said. "But there is something kind of crazy about playing loud music in the library."

Gerald Levert Remembered By Dad, O’Jays, Family

Excerpt from

(November 16, 2006) *The family of
Gerald Levert has released the following statement through their spokesperson, Patti Webster, regarding the death of their beloved son, brother, nephew, uncle, cousin and father, Gerald Levert:  "I love my son.......there is nothing more to say," states Eddie Levert. "We are overwhelmed by the generous outpouring of love, condolences and support from the many friends, fans and admirers of Gerald’s life and legacy.  As everybody knows, Gerald was a man who loved and breathed music. To his family and friends he was a man of strong character, who had an infectious personality and a zest for life.  For his fans, his greatest love was touching the hearts and souls of all people through his music.  At this very difficult time, we thank you for your prayers and hope you will understand our need for privacy."   Walter Williams, Sr., co-founder of The O'Jays, says: "We are deeply hurt by the sudden loss of our son, nephew, and close friend, Gerald Levert. We watched him grow up and he developed into a fine young man, writer, producer, and entertainer in this extremely tough world and business. God has Blessed the Road Gerald  traveled", he says.  He adds, "we may have lost him along the way, but he will forever remain in our hearts." 

O'Jays member, Eric Nolan Grant, states: "I LOVED Gerald as much as I love my daughter...I have known him since he was 16, he's the reason why I got to audition for the O'Jays...he's my lil brother, he was ALWAYS there for me...ALWAYS!...and I'm gonna miss him EVERY DAY of my life."   Gerald Levert is survived by his parents; Martha Levert and Eddie Levert, Sr., four children, seven siblings, many loving family members, dear friends and dedicated fans.   Levert was pronounced dead at 1:50 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, after a relative found him unresponsive in bed at his Newbury Township home. Preliminary results of an autopsy done Saturday in Cleveland by the Cuyahoga County coroner's office indicated no signs of trauma or foul play, Geauga County coroner's examiner John Hopkins said. The autopsy revealed mild to moderate heart disease, Hopkins said. It may take up to eight weeks to complete toxicology and microscopic studies before a final ruling can be made.  As previously reported, a memorial service will be held at noon on Friday, for the general public at The Music Hall located at 500 Lakeside Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44114. The family has requested that the guests wear purple in remembrance of Gerald.   In lieu of flowers, the Levert Family is asking that donations be made to the R&B Foundation.  Checks should be written in the name of the R&B Foundation and forwarded to:

Mr. Andy Gibson
Trevel Productions, Inc.
13816 Cedar Road
University Heights, OH 44118

Jazzy Jeff Nabs Meth, De La, Rhymefest For Solo Set

Excerpt from - Clover Hope, N.Y.

(November 16, 2006)
DJ Jazzy Jeff is putting the finishing touches on "The Return of the Magnificent," the follow-up to his 2002 solo debut "The Magnificent" (Rapster). Due early next year, the entirely self-produced disc will feature appearances by Method Man, Big Daddy Kane, De La Soul, Rhymefest and KRS-One, among others.  Although the material is relatively set, Jeff says he is still perfecting tracks. "I technically could be done. I probably was done about a month-and-a-half ago and I'm just really tweaking stuff," the DJ tells from a trek in Scotland. "I came to the conclusion today that I'm just gonna go home, finish everything that I've done so far and just close it out, but I never want to say I'm done."  Similar to his first offering, "The Return" will merge various genres and collaborators such as Raheem DeVaughn, Kardinal Offishall, Little Brother and CL Smooth.  "As a DJ, I like playing all kinds of different music so it's the same thing when it comes down to making it," says Jeff. "A lot of producers don't really have the ability to go outside of what they're known for [but] I've done a little bit of everything. So to be able to do a record that touches on R&B, soul, some hip-hop, house, and not really be confined was a treat for me because it's not really an artist album. It's more like a producer album."

In the disc's interim, Jeff issued the mixtape "Hip-Hop Forever III," a blend of classic and rare hip-hop cuts and current hits, including songs by A Tribe Called Quest ("Award Tour"), Mobb Deep ("Quiet Storm") and Eric B & Rakim ("Eric B Is the President"), among others.  And for "The Return," Jeff chose to stick with his usual recipe. "I have a very weird philosophy when it comes down to music," he explains. "It's almost like you're going to your favourite restaurant and you order your favourite meal. When you go back, you're really mad if they don't have itm so I wanted to keep the same formula that I had with the last album but be a little bit more progressive with it. I went from every genre of music that I had something to do with."  Next up, Jeff is setting up projects with Biz Markie, Jean Grae and Eric Roberson. He will return to the States Nov. 21 before heading to Asia for a two-and-a-half-week outing.  "I've been pretty much touring the world for past four=and-a-half years since the last album came out," he says. "Just to get a really good grip of where the world is musically, not just the United States. It seems like the genres are starting to change around the world."

MTV Targets Unsigned Bands With New Initiatives

Excerpt from - Brian Garrity, N.Y.

(November 17, 2006)
MTV is expanding its programming geared at promoting little-known and unsigned acts. The network is rolling out two initiatives, one for rock- and rap-focused MTV2 and another for college music specialist mtvU, which will focus on promising young bands toiling in obscurity.  In the most ambitious program, mtvU is teaming with Epic Records on a $1.5 million new-artist discovery contest called "Best Music on Campus." The winner, to be selected in May 2007, receives a record deal with Epic that promises a minimum of one album, two videos, retail and radio support, marketing, video premieres on mtvU, booking on mtvU events and a "Making Of" series on mtvU.  Competing bands must have at least one member in college. To enter, artists upload their music and videos to an interactive profile on MtvU will name 50 finalists in April 2007.  Offering label deals via undiscovered-artist contests is nothing new. But a payday on the scale that Epic and MTV are proposing is rare. The companies are hoping that the financial commitment, coupled with the power of their respective brands, will draw a better than average pool of talent to the contest. Online unsigned-band contests are notoriously poor at actually discovering commercially successful acts.

Epic Records president Charlie Walk says the label is aiming high in the type of band it seeks. "Looking at MySpace and all of these online spaces, nothing has really broken yet," Walk says. "We're going to try to identify the next big artist." mtvU GM Stephen Friedman says the winner will be selected in part based on which act attracts the most views and streams on  For bands that may not be ready for a major label deal, mtvU is also offering short-term deals with Epitaph Records, Definitive Jux and Drive Thru under its "Best Music on Campus" banner. Winners receive EP deals ranging in value from $35,000 to $110,000.  In the second initiative, MTV2 is pushing emerging indie bands through a program called "MTV2 Dew Circuit Breakout." The program, which highlights acts whose videos have never before been played on MTV2, pits six up-and-coming groups against each other in a battle of the bands. Three finalists will be featured in a Dec. 9 live special, where an ultimate winner will be unveiled. The week prior to the special MTV2 viewers will vote online for their favourite band, "American Idol" style.  "Exposing our audience to new bands is important and we're trying to find ways that are unique for each [MTV] platform," MTV president Christina Norman says.

R&B Singer Ruth Brown Dies At 78

Excerpt from

(November 17, 2006) Singer
Ruth Brown, whose recordings of "Teardrops in My Eyes," "5-10-15 Hours" and "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" shot her to R&B stardom in the 1950s, has died. She was 78.  Brown, who later in life won a Grammy and a Tony, died today (Nov. 17) of complications from a stroke and heart attack at a Las Vegas-area hospital, said Lindajo Loftus, a publicist for the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, which Brown helped establish.  "Ruth was one of the most important and beloved figures in modern music," singer Bonnie Raitt said in a statement. "You can hear her influence in everyone from Little Richard to Etta (James), Aretha (Franklin), Janis (Joplin) and divas like Christina Aguilera today. She was my dear friend, and I will miss her terribly."  Brown's soulful voice produced dozens of hits for Atlantic Records, cementing the fledgling record label's reputation as an R&B powerhouse. Trained in a church choir in her hometown of Portsmouth, Va., Brown sang a range of styles, from jazz to gospel/blues, in such hits as "So Long" and "Teardrops in My Eyes."  She later crossed over into rock'n'roll with "Lucky Lips" and "This Little Girl's Gone Rockin'," a song she co-wrote with Bobby Darin.

But as R&B and rock'n'roll fell out of style in the late 1950s, Brown and her musical contemporaries were forced into retirement. She spent most of the 1960s raising her two sons alone and earning a living as a maid, school bus driver and teacher.  Brown enjoyed a career renaissance in the mid-1970s, when she began recording blues and jazz tunes for a variety of labels and found success on the stage and in movies. She won acclaim in the R&B musical "Staggerlee" and won a Tony Award for best actress in the Broadway revue "Black and Blue."  She also played a feisty DJ in the 1988 cult movie "Hairspray." A year later, she won a Grammy for best jazz vocal performance for the album "Blues on Broadway."  Brown continued to perform and record in her later years, becoming a popular host of National Public Radio's "Harlem Hit Parade."  She also became a prominent advocate for the rights of aging R&B musicians during her long struggle to recoup her share of royalties from Atlantic. Her effort led to the formation of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit dedicated to providing financial and medical assistance, as well as historical and cultural preservation of the musical genre.

The Billboard Q&A: Yusuf Islam

Excerpt from - Nigel Williamson

(November 17, 2006) It's the comeback no one ever expected. November sees the return to the world stage of the artist known internationally as
Cat Stevens, more than a quarter-century after his last commercial recording.  The global release of Yusuf's album "An Other Cup" marks the latest stage in the musical and spiritual journey of the British singer/songwriter, born Steven Georgiou some 59 years ago. As Cat Stevens, he enjoyed his first success in the 1960s with such self-penned U.K. chart hits as "I Love My Dog" (1966) and "Matthew & Son" (1967) on the Dream label. Stevens hung out with the Beatles and toured with Jimi Hendrix, but was struck down with tuberculosis in early 1968 at the height of his success.  After hospitalization and convalescence, Stevens re-emerged in 1970 a changed man. Gone was the brash young pop star and in his place, newly signed to the Island label (A&M in the United States), emerged a sensitive, introspective singer/songwriter whose albums "Tea for the Tillerman" (1970), "Teaser and the Firecat" (1971), "Catch Bull at Four" (1972) and "Foreigner" (1973) went on to sell millions internationally.  But an even bigger change came in 1978, when he became a Muslim. He changed his name to Yusuf Islam, sold his guitars and turned away from his fans to become a pillar of the British Muslim community, donating the royalties from his old records to fund Muslim schools and Islamic charities.

Now, finally, comes "An Other Cup," the artist's first album since 1978's "Back to Earth." The name may have changed but the singer's gentle voice remains reassuringly familiar, his melodic gifts are intact, and his lyrical insight seems undimmed. In a rare interview, Yusuf talked to Billboard in London to explain what brought about the return of the Cat.

How does it feel to be talking about a new album for the first time in 28 years?

Going into the studio was like going back to a second home for me. What I wasn't quite prepared for was the commercial and business side, which has grown incredibly corporate and made it more difficult to maintain your balance as an artist. But I've been through it before and I can cope.

Did you ever think you would make a record again?

Music had been one of the most important things in my life and I'd done it as Cat Stevens. But as Yusuf, this was a challenge. I never really planned it, but ["Cup" co-producer] Rick Nowels set me going. I'd done a live thing for Mandela's AIDS charity in South Africa, so he knew I was moving towards musical expression again. We met and ended up in a studio and I pulled out an old song and it felt so good-my voice was still there. We did one track and then he rang and asked if I wanted to do some more. It was very organic.

Were you nervous about returning?

The last place I wanted to return to was the music business. But it's the people and the cause that matter and right now there's an important need, which is bridge-building. I wanted to support the cause of humanity, because that's what I always sang about.

Music can be healing, and with my history and my knowledge of both sides of what looks like a gigantic divide in the world, I feel I can point a way forward to our common humanity again. It's a big step for me but it's a natural step. I don't feel at all irked by the responsibility-I feel inspired.

How did you set up the record deal?

I paid for making the record myself, so I was the captain of my own destiny. The album is on Ya, which is my label, via Polydor in the U.K. [and internationally] and Atlantic in the U.S. They won the day when it came to the deal because what they put up was good for Ya. I was almost able to write my own contract.

Why is the record being released under the name Yusuf rather than Yusuf Islam?

Because "Islam" doesn't have to be sloganized. The second name is like the official tag, but you call a friend by their first name. It's more intimate, and to me that's the message of this record.

Why also put "the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens" on the sleeve?

That's the tag with which most people are familiar; for recognition purposes I'm not averse to that. For a lot of people, it reminds them of something they want to hold on to. That name is part of my history and a lot of the things I dreamt about as Cat Stevens have come true as Yusuf Islam.

How long was it since you had played a guitar?

Many years. I was never convinced that the Koran prohibited music, but I abstained from musical instruments to keep my balance and avoid any conflict. I'd got rid of them all.

But there's a nice irony, because I wrote a song called "Father & Son" [in 1970] about the son running off to do his own thing. Now the story is about my son coming back and bringing a guitar into the house. A couple of years ago, one morning after prayers, his guitar was lying around. I picked it up and my fingers knew exactly where to go. I'd written some words and when I put them to music, it moved me and I realized I could have another job to do. Things just grew from there.

How strongly did your faith affect the new songs?

I think purposefulness and a feeling that we have a direction is probably the message of the album. One song, "Whispers From a Spiritual Garden," sets to music a poem called "Universal Love" by the 13th century Islamic Sufi poet Rumi. I read him even before I read the Koran-at one point I never went anywhere without my book of Rumi's poems.

When we come to the message of Islam, the root of the word itself comes from peace. Many people on all sides-and some Muslims particularly-have gone extremely far from that basic understanding, and I have a role to play in helping to remind people of the gift of this wonderful religion, which has been politicized and used for other purposes.

In retrospect, do you regret the long years away from music?

No way, because I had to get a life and get off my high horse and join the human race. I'd been a pop star since my teens. When you're in that privileged position of being rich and famous you can lose touch with reality.

Also, I had another agenda to fulfill; I had to learn my faith and look after my family, and I had to make priorities. But now I've done it all and there's a little space for me to fill in the universe of music again.

Excerpted from an article that ran in the Nov. 25, 2006, issue of Billboard magazine. Subscribers can read the issue's content online via


Furtado Entertains Chilled Fans At Grey Cup

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Nov. 19, 2006) WINNIPEG (CP) —
Nelly Furtado put a charge into a frigid Canad Inns Stadium during the Grey Cup halftime show Sunday, finding room for a sports hero from each of the B.C. Lions and Montreal Alouettes in her hit song "Promiscuous."  The Victoria pop star, bundled up in a black leather jacket, black studded gloves and a sleek white hat to combat the below-freezing weather, performed a three-song set, surrounded by dancers in white down-filled poof coats with fur-trimmed hoodies.  She opened with "Forca," the theme song at the Euro 2004 soccer championship played in her ancestral homeland of Portugal, followed by "Promiscuous," with Canadian rapper Saukrates subbing for Timbaland, and capped by "Maneater," her take on the Hall and Oates hit from the 1980's.  In "Promiscuous," Furtado asks a male suitor "Is your game MVP like Steve Nash?" in tribute to the Phoenix Suns star from her hometown. But adjusting the lyrics for the occasion, Furtado instead asked, "Is your game MVP like Dickenson? Is your game MVP like Calvillo?"  Dave Dickenson is the Lions quarterback while Anthony Calvillo is his Alouettes counterpart.  A pyrotechnics show lit up the night high above the stage, set up at midfield and ringed by a tier of cheerleaders.  Many in the stands stayed outdoors during the break to sing and cheer. Plenty danced along, some because they loved the songs, others no doubt trying to combat the biting windchill.  Earlier Eva Avila, 19, the 2006 Canadian Idol winner from Gatineau, Que., sang the national anthem.

Furtado Plays Herself On Portuguese Soap

Source:  CBC Arts

(Nov. 8, 2006)
Nelly Furtado made a guest appearance on a popular Portuguese soap opera and told local television she wants to move into acting. The Grammy-winning Canadian singer, whose parents are Portuguese, recorded a guest appearance on the prime-time show Floribella, to air in December. Furtado plays herself in the episode taped on Tuesday, her publicist said. The 27-year-old singer is in Portugal promoting her third album, Loose. The soap opera about a poor girl who dreams of being a singer is a remake of the Argentine hit Floricienta and draws more than a million viewers each week night. Furtado had earlier expressed a desire to get into film and television and said she was taking acting lessons, in part to help her record music videos. "Acting's taught me a lot that I've used already in performance, videos and photo shoots, and even in the studio," she told music website Contactmusic in January. She was set to appear in the yet-to-released independent drama Nobody's Hero, about an Iraq war veteran, but had to withdraw because of scheduling conflicts. It was the second time she had been linked to a film project. She was originally supposed to have a role in the 2006 Bollywood film Rang De Basanti alongside actor Aamir Khan. Furtado returns to Canada to perform at halftime of the Grey Cup in Winnipeg on Nov. 19.


Hidden Beach Helps Music Lovers Get 'Unwrapped' For The Holidays

Source: Chris Cathcart,, OneDiaspora / Brenda Walker,, Hidden Beach Recordings

(November 20, 2006) Santa Monica, CA – On November 21, and just in time for the holidays, Hidden Beach Recordings (HBR) will release a special four-CD box set of its groundbreaking “Unwrapped” series, the widely popular collection of jazzy, instrumental interpretations of standout Hip Hop classics and recent chart-toppers.   Officially titled Hidden Beach Recordings Presents: Unwrapped The Ultimate Box Set,” the multi-disc compilation features re-sequenced and re-mastered songs from all four previously released Unwrapped CDs (Vols. 1-4), broken down into “old school” and “new school” themes, as well as bonus tracks and music videos culled from the life of the project. Among the more than 50 songs included in the Box Set are jazzy takes on such Hip Hop standards as Notorious BIG’s “One More Chance,” 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” Outkast’s “The Way You Move,” Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story,” The Roots’ “I Got You,” Common’s “The Light,” Tupac’s “I Get Around,” Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See,” Nelly’s “Hot In Here,” A Tribe Called Quest’s “Electric Relaxation,” and the Terror Squad’s “Lean Back,” among many, many more. These songs are given new life by some of the music industry’s most talented and accomplished instrumentalists, many of whom are featured across the span of all four Unwrapped editions.  Included in this All-Star line-up are such notables as keyboardists Frank McMcomb, Jeff Lorber and Patrice Rushen; guitarists Paul Jackson Jr., Everett Harp and Dennis Nelson; violinist Karen Briggs; bassist Andrew Gouche; and flautist Louis Van Taylor, as well as Hidden Beach’s own sax sensation Mike Phillips, trombone impresario Jeff Bradshaw, and guitarist/singer Peter Black, among other leading musicians. The Unwrapped series burst onto the music scene in 2001 with the critically acclaimed release of Unwrapped Vol. 1 and, without the benefit of national airplay or a high-priced marketing campaign, quickly went on to debut at the top spot on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart.  Subsequent editions in 2002, 2004 and 2005 followed in the tradition of the premiere disc, all serving to build on the Hidden Beach legacy of fusing the two genres and building bridges between diverse music audiences.

Music producers Tony Joseph and Darryl Ross, who served to produce a majority of the material throughout the series, originally brought this specific concept, unnamed at the time, to HBR Founder/CEO Steve McKeever.    The rest, as they say, is history.   The success of the Unwrapped series is best gauged by the impact it has had in the industry; it has spawned a number of copycat projects and, in many circles, the term “unwrapped” has come to be synonymous with the merging of jazz and Hip Hop. The Box Set’s bonus material includes songs that were included on a limited edition version of Unwrapped Vol. 2 (Jay Z’s “Girls, Girls, Girls,” Junior Mafia’s “Get Money,” and Mystikal’s “Bouncin’ Back”), as well as music videos for “You Got Me,” “In Da Club,” and “Bouncin’ Back.”   Also included are tribute medleys to fallen rappers Biggie, Tupac and Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay.  Based in Santa Monica, CA, Hidden Beach Recordings publicly bowed onto the entertainment scene in 2000 with the introduction of multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning vocal sensation Jill Scott.  The label went on to release projects from such standout artists as award-winning songwriter/vocalist Brenda Russell, Kindred the Family Soul, saxman Mike Phillips, songstress Lina, gospel legend/Grammy-winner BeBe Winans, Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker, and trombone maestro Jeff Bradshaw, among others. On October 17, Hidden Beach released the debut CD from TribalJazz, the multi-cultural jazz group led by John Densmore, the legendary drummer and co-founder of the seminal rock band The Doors. In 2007, the label will debut new Hidden Beach artists including vocalist/musician Keite Young, singer Leigh Jones, singer/guitarist Peter Black, and the Still Waters (HBR’sy inspirational imprint) releases of song stylist Onitsha, and talented vocalist Sunny Hawkins. 

The New Year will also bring a new studio album from Jill Scott, as well as a specialty compilation release of joint efforts between Scott and an eclectic array of hip hop, soul, instrumental, jazz, pop and gospel artists.  The disc of wide-ranging collaborations shines a spotlight on the singer’s incredible diversity as she has teamed over the years with the likes of Sergio Mendes and of the Black Eyed Peas, Chris Botti, George Benson, Al Jarreau and Kirk Franklin, Lupe Fiasco, Common, The Roots and Will Smith.  Also returning in 2007 will be such Hidden Beach favorites such as Kindred, Mike Phillips and Jeff Bradshaw. Hidden Beach is distributed by Universal Music Group Distribution.  Please visit for more information on Hidden Beach Recordings.

Mashing Up The Beatles? Call Martin

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Nov. 21, 2006) All you need is love?  No, all you need is
George Martin.  If you're going to attempt the kind of deconstructive, reconstructive, mash-up, remix version of the Beatles' complete output that forms the soundtrack for Cirque du Soleil's Love, then you better make sure you go right to the top.  The man who produced the Fab Four's albums, the chap they often called "the fifth Beatle," is 80 years old now and yet it's impossible to think of anyone else who could have attempted this amazing piece of musical manipulation.  "When Cirque came to me about this project," Martin told the Star last June just before Love's triumphant opening in Las Vegas, "they told me they wanted authenticity.  "Fair enough, I said. After all, we didn't want some kind of hideous new-age remix of these glorious songs."  But he raised one bushy eyebrow as he indicated the other area he didn't feel like visiting.  "I didn't want to be any part of yet-another `Greatest Hits' collection. That didn't interest me," Martin said plainly. "I'd done that once. Now I wanted to see how I could use the music differently, to make it live in the theatre, to create a 3D world."  Together with his son, Giles, he came up with a simple concept: everything the Fab Four had ever recorded was fair game. Every fragment of chat uttered in a studio, each rough-hewn demo of a tune, all the changes wrought during the hours of rehearsals: they would all be part of the package.  "It was like walking back in time and reliving my life," Martin sighed, with a world of memories flashing behind his eyes.

"Sometimes we left things pretty much as they were," Giles Martin explained, "but with other tunes, we went for something different. On `Strawberry Fields Forever,' for example, we started with the original demo, then went on to the first take, and ended with the master that everyone's familiar with."  Or some songs that were never meant to be heard together play side by side in an inspired sort of counterpoint.  "Take `Within You, Without You' and `Tomorrow Never Knows,'" Martin suggested as an example. "You'd never think of them as two sides of the same song and yet they fit together perfectly."  Martin allowed himself one new creative touch as a tribute to his departed friend, George Harrison.  "When we got to `While My Guitar Gently Weeps,'" Martin related, "it was decided to use the very first acoustic take that George ever did of it. Haunting, simple, beautiful."  "But I thought it needed something to set it off properly," Giles added, "and so I persuaded Dad to arrange some strings to go with it. He didn't want to at first, but he finally did and it's magic."  Does "the fifth Beatle" think the other four would have been happy with what he's done?  "Paul and Ringo have heard the music and loved it," Martin said confidently. "I think George would have approved of everything too.  "John? He was never satisfied with anything. In his mind, he always had a dream that could never become reality. That's what made him the man he was."  Martin's eyes shone. "I love those times. I miss those times. I'm glad I got to visit them again.  "You see, I believe in yesterday."

Dancehall Producer Sean Reid Takes Flight With The Reverse Rhythm

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(November 22, 2006) *Beenie Man’s latest scorcher Reverse Di Ting has been creating some waves. The track sees Beenie Man spitting out lyrics in a reverse mode. The tune was produced by new up and coming producer
Sean Reid, who is just 21 years old.  Reverse Di Ting is featured on the hot new Reverse rhythm project from the Sean Nizzle imprint.    Just who is this new cat in the game and what does he bring to the table?  Well for starters, Reid started out creating beats for some well known producers in the game.  ‘I build rhythms and that’s really how I got my foot into the business. I have build rhythms for producers like Mr. G, the Free Willy label, Amplex Records, and Pyrano. It’s a lot of people whom I have build rhythms for’, Reid said in a recent interview.  What started out as a hobby has somewhat become a career for this enterprising young man.  Based in the Kingston 20 area, Reid explained that creating rhythms can be profitable, especially if the beats are hot and garner mainstream acceptance. ‘My interest developed while I was attending Pembroke Hall High.  For you to survive doing this, your rhythm has to really hit and you get a percentage from it’, said Reid.   Some of his creations include the Stepfather, the Klamputae, Impact and Fast Lane rhythms.

Asked why he decided to set up his own production entity Sean Nizzle Records, Reid explained, ‘I started my own production because everyday a new talent is on the hunt for the big break and I had to have something solid in the business’.  And just what does he bring to the table? ‘Difference and real hardcore. I always aim to create something new’, he said with authority.  Reid pointed out that a few established producers have had an impact on him. He had high praises for the likes of Bobby Dixon (Bobby Digital), Donovan Bennett (Don Corleon), Chad Simpson (Mr. G), and Sheldon Stewart (Calibud).    Reverse is the debut solo project for Reid. He says that the response and support at radio has so far been overwhelming.  ‘The feedback has been really good.  The response has been encouraging that I am heading back into the studio to start working on another project’, said Reid.  His ultimate goal is to help to push dancehall music to a higher level.   The Reverse rhythm features the songs ‘Mek Dem Whisper’ by D’Angel, ‘Walk Out’ by Delly Ranx and Patchy, ‘Mi Mi Mi’ by Razor, ‘Lane and Trenches’ by Daps, ‘Prettiest Gal’ by Ras Ptah aka Galaxy P, ‘Hand Mi Dung’ by Mr. G, ‘Rick Tick’ by Kapri, ‘Flex Hard’ by Hit Maker, ‘Haul and Pull Up’ by Ras Ghandi and D’Angel, ‘Dat Yuh Love’ by Kari Jess, ‘Forever’ by Rakeli, and ‘War Dem Want’ by Spotlight.


TLC’S Chilli Becomes A Konvict

Excerpt from

(November 16, 2006)  *Missy Elliott, the Black Eyed Peas' and Timbaland are among the producers tapped to work on the debut solo album of
Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas under her new deal with Akon’s Konvict Muzik label.  The Interscope-distributed label will release a set that promises to offer a different side of the vocalist who grew up before millions of fans as a member of the trio TLC.   "This will be totally opposite from when she was with the multiplatinum group," Akon tells Billboard. "She's an incredible artist and I want people to reconnect with her."  Akon says he will produce half of Chilli’s album, which is due to be released in mid-2007.   In related news, Akon will begin casting in February for "Illegal Alien," a film inspired by the Senegalese-born singer's life story.    "The majority of the film is basically true," says Akon, who will write, produce, co-direct and score the movie.

Jackson Gives Lacklustre Performance At Music Awards

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Associated Press

(Nov. 18, 2006) LONDON —
Michael Jackson gave his first public performance Wednesday since his acquittal on child molestation charges a year-and-a-half ago — a fleeting rendition of “We are the World” surrounded by youthful singers. Jackson, 48, sang at the World Music Awards in London, which was honouring him with an award commemorating the 25th anniversary of his hugely popular album, “Thriller.” But the reclusive pop icon, who has been travelling in Europe since his June 2005 acquittal in California, did not perform the album title song as some expected. Instead he appeared on stage and sang among a group of swaying, clapping kids — until the musical accompaniment inexplicably stopped.  “There have been so many people who have loved me and stood by me. I love all the fans from the bottom of my heart,” Jackson said before flinging his black jacket into the crowd and exiting the stage. Earlier, Jackson's appearance outside the Earl's Court Arena in west London inspired glee and bedlam among hundreds of fans, who scrambled for photos and reached out to touch his gloved hand. Jackson, clad in black and wearing his trademark shades, also spoke briefly to journalists. But the roar of the crowd combined with the singer's own low-decibel delivery ensured few could hear anything he said. Asked where he has been living, Jackson replied: “All over the place.” In recent days, he reportedly rented an entire London hotel for $95,000 (U.S.) a night. Jackson has spent time in Bahrain and Ireland since he was acquitted, making few public appearances. Jackson's “Thriller” album won eight Grammy Awards and sold more than 50 million copies.

Barenaked Ladies Playing Your Song?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Nov. 19, 2006) The
Barenaked Ladies have sung about The X-Files, Aquaman, underwear and Brian Wilson, and they plan to write lyrics about ... you?  Well, they'll be about you if you happen to be the consumer who buys the one-millionth song downloaded on eMusic, which is second only to iTunes as digital retailers go in the click-and-listen sector.  The band known for hits both loopy and literate — among them "One Week,'' "If I Had $1000000" and "Pinch Me" — has agreed to compose an ode to the lucky eMusic customer. Sales patterns suggest that will happen sometime in the next few weeks.  The specially tailored song will be available as an exclusive free track on for a week in January and then sold on the site as a bonus track bundled with the upcoming album Barenaked Ladies are Men, due out Feb. 6. That album is a companion collection to its last CD, Barenaked Ladies are Me, from earlier this year.

Richard Smallwood Inducted Into GMA Hall Of Fame

Excerpt from

(November 20, 2006)   The musical genius of
Richard Smallwood was recognized on Nov. 14 with an induction into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame.  Smallwood, a piano prodigy, composer and arranger has produced some of the most sung music in the contemporary church such as “Jesus, You’re the Center of My Joy,” and Total Praise.”   Here are a number of reasons the musical lynchpin is deserving of the high honour:  Mr. Smallwood has earned several Dove and Stellar trophies (the gospel industry's two major awards shows) and a Grammy for his work, which spans from urban gospel to jazz and classical. His work as a performer and songwriter earned him success in the gospel market, but he's been connected to mainstream artists as well, having Whitney Houston perform his "I Love the Lord" in the film "The Preacher's Wife," and songs recorded by the likes of Destiny's Child.  Also spotlighted in this class of inductees were Southern gospel group The Hinsons, inspirational singer Doug Oldham and longtime contemporary Christian music business executive John T. Benson III.  "Each new inductee to the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame represents a vital part of the history and legacy of gospel music," GMA Present John W. Styll said in a statement. "We honour them as a way to ensure their contributions are never forgotten and to remind us always of the rich heritage and beautiful diversity that is unique to gospel music."  Styll also talk about the future prospect o the actual building of a physical property of the GMA Hall of Fame. 



Africa's Ills Put In Focus

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(Nov. 16, 2006) Raised in a village in the northern part of South Africa,
Khalo Matabane never saw television, or a film for that matter, until he was 15. Now in his early 30s and the director of a dozen film and TV projects, he stands apart from contemporaries who grew up with normal access to cameras and movie houses.  "I discovered myself before I discovered cinema," says Matabane, who gives a lecture tonight at the Ontario College of Art and Design.  "I wanted to express what it means to be repressed and to defy that repression. My beginning was political. Then I realized I could express all I wanted to express through cinema."  Matabane's documentaries, including Story of a Beautiful Country and Love in a Time of Sickness, do indeed bear the stamp of their maker and in their making, make his political point of view clear.  In Story of a Beautiful Country, made in 2004, a decade after the election that ended apartheid in South Africa and paved the way for black rule, Matabane tours the country in a minibus and interviews his subjects while they sit in the back seat of his moving vehicle.  Some are white Afrikaners, some are descendants of English settlers, and others are young African men and women — all with a passion to express the anger and pain that is the legacy of apartheid. In one very moving interview, a black singer and his white wife converse with Matabane, heard but not seen. "We are not free," says the man. "We are fighting for our independence."

Tonight at OCAD, Matabane will show clips from his latest film,
Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon. The film is an unusual blend of fiction and documentary; Matabane was driven to make it after meeting a young Eritrean woman exiled in South Africa. "She told me, `Please make a film about people like me who are displaced by war.'"  Matabane made the movie, set in the migrant neighbourhoods of Johannesburg, without a script. His characters include people from Somalia, the Congo, Kenya, the former Yugoslavia and Palestine. Conversations is not a docudrama, the filmmaker insists. "You put in fiction when it feels as if the story needs fiction, documentary when it feels as if you need it."  He talks about making films organically. "It's like baking. You assemble the ingredients, start mixing and see what happens."  This prolific director has two new projects underway, including a dramatic TV series set against the backdrop of student protest in South Africa in the 1970s. He believes that making films should be like life. "There are no rehearsals."

Critter Films Reach Cartoonish Number

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - David Germain, Associated Press

(Nov. 16, 2006) LOS ANGELES—Prancing penguins. Rascally rodents. Sociable squirrels. Saber-toothed tigers. The Hollywood hills were alive with talking critters in 2006, possibly the biggest year ever for
movie animation.  Considering the barrage of cinema ads for cute, fuzzy wildlife and other cartoon creations, are audiences having trouble telling one from the other?  "There's definitely an overload, and I think everyone recognizes that," said George Miller, director of the latest, the penguin romp Happy Feet, which reaches theatres tomorrow.  In the decade since Disney and Pixar's Toy Story revolutionized the industry with computer-generated images, first DreamWorks with Shrek and then other major studios leaped into the animation business.  Computer animation's early appeal resulted partly from its fresh look. Now, CGI films have become so commonplace that the story is more crucial than ever to a movie's success or failure.  "No longer will people go see CG animation simply because it's CG-animated, as they did with Toy Story. Everything will have to work on its own merits," Miller said.  Ten years ago, Hollywood released as few as three or four animated movies a year, with Disney the only steady player. This year, 16 films will be eligible for the feature-length animation Oscar, only the second time in six years that there were enough movies for a full field of five nominees.  Happy Feet, the story of a penguin ostracized because he can't sing like his brethren but who can dance up a storm, features a voice cast led by Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Robin Williams. If the movie becomes a holiday hit, it should lift overall North American revenues for this year's animated films well above $1.2 billion (all figures U.S.), according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.  That would beat Hollywood's previous best of $1.18 billion for 2004's animated movies, which included Shrek 2 and The Incredibles.

But no animated film in 2006 has come close to the $300 million and $400 million returns of Shrek 2, Finding Nemo and The Lion King.  They simply weren't as good, and with a new feature rolling in every few weeks, it becomes easier for audiences to shrug off a so-so animated comedy.  "I don't know if it was the best year, but I think it was the biggest year for animation, with a lot of good work, but a lot of work that maybe fell short of expectations," said Carlos Saldanha, director of Ice Age: The Meltdown.  Disney-Pixar's Cars, from Toy Story director John Lasseter, leads the 2006 lineup with $244 million, followed by Ice Age: The Meltdown with $195 million and DreamWorks' Over the Hedge with $155 million.  Movies such as Monster House and Open Season, both from Sony, Paramount's Barnyard: The Original Party Animals, Universal's Curious George and the Weinstein Co.'s Hoodwinked all did decent box office in 2006. DreamWorks' rodent tale Flushed Away also is off to a good but unexceptional start.  "I think in a couple of years we'll maybe see fewer animated films and studios being more cautious,'' said Flushed Away co-director David Bowers.  The year's notable bomb was The Ant Bully from Warner Bros., despite a clever premise and a voice cast led by Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. Critics called it a retread of past animated tales.

Bond Ambitions Pay Off With Craig

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Nov. 15, 2006) NEW YORK—The goofiness of Austin Powers and the grittiness of The Bourne Identity threw down the gauntlet for the relaunching of the James Bond movie franchise.  But when all was said and done, it was the ridiculous disappearing car that really drove home the need for change.  It's the vanishing Aston Martin Vanquish that Pierce Brosnan wheeled in Die Another Day, the 2002 film that was to be his fourth and last outing as British Secret Agent 007. The movie earned $456 million (U.S.) worldwide, the most ever for a Bond film. But it also brought hoots of derision for its wacky gadgets and excessive use of computer-generated images.  "With the last one, I think we kind of went a little bit too fantastical," co-producer Barbara Broccoli told the Star, in an interview following a press roundtable to discuss
Casino Royale, opening Friday as the 21st official Bond movie and the first to star Daniel Craig as 007.  Broccoli and co-producer Michael G. Wilson, her stepbrother, decided it was time for radical change. Having finally acquired the rights to Casino Royale, the 1953 Ian Fleming novel that launched the Bond legacy, they wanted a complete rethink of who Bond is and what he stands for.  This is a franchise, after all, that is so much a part of British culture, it drew Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to its London premiere last night.

Broccoli calls Casino Royale "the Holy Grail" of her Bond ambitions. It had previously been adapted only as a minor TV play and a major movie spoof.  She and Wilson wanted to make a picture to silence critics who felt that Bond, with his saucy sex puns and increasingly outlandish stunts, was becoming too much like Mike Myers's mocking counterpart Austin Powers.  "Sometimes when we're sitting down trying to write a story for the new Bond film, we'll sit there and we'll come up with a suggestion and we'll go, `Oh, no, I wish we were making an Austin Powers film, because that would be great for Austin Powers!'" the California-born Broccoli, 46, said with a chuckle.  There was also the challenge of rival franchise The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy, featuring a no-nonsense spy played by Matt Damon that critics and Bond fans alike pointed to as the template for a retooled 007.  Broccoli, Wilson and three screenwriters (including Canada's Paul Haggis) stripped away most of Bond's gadgets and groaners. They dropped such series staples as seductive secretary Moneypenny, fumbling gadgeteer Q and the boilerplate villain who wants to blow up the world with a laser beam (new baddie Le Chiffre, played by Denmark's Mads Mikkelsen, just wants to win big at poker).  Most significantly, they opted for a new actor to play Bond, choosing the rugged Craig over the more conventionally handsome Brosnan, who still wanted the job.  "It was very painful for him and it was very painful for us, too," Broccoli said of parting ways. "It wasn't about him. It was about wanting to make a change in the direction (of the franchise)."  To pull it all together, the producers turned to journeyman director Martin Campbell, 66, who had introduced Brosnan as Bond in GoldenEye in 1995. Campbell well remembers the fierce debates about whether Bond was still relevant in the 1990s. GoldenEye introduced Judi Dench as spy boss M, the first woman to play the role, and she tanned Bond's hide for outdated sexism and misogyny. No one was sure if the fans would buy the changes to a character that Sean Connery had forever stamped as a patriotic predator, both in and out of the bedroom.  "This one was a tougher job," Campbell said of Casino Royale.  "The last movie was a huge hit, the biggest financially that they've had. So there is a risk of `don't break what's not broke.' Also, Daniel is not your conventional pretty-boy blond. He's a good-looking guy, but he's tougher and darker, perhaps, than the Bonds we've established in previous movies. So all of that has a risk to it. Fortunately, I think it's paid off. I think he's damn good."

O'Hara's Oscar-worthy Barrymore Moment

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem, Entertainment Columnist

(Nov. 18, 2006) It could be described, with all due irony, as "an Oscar-worthy performance" — were comedy ever to be taken seriously by the voting members of the Academy. Let alone unscripted comedy.  The irony, of course, is that
Catherine O'Hara, in her virtuoso lead performance in the new Christopher Guest improv comedy For Your Consideration, plays a timid, tenuous no-name actress who morphs into a kind of Hollywood monster when rumours start to circulate about her possible Oscar nomination.  It spoils nothing to reveal that she does not get it — the Oscar or even the nomination. Guest's films, in addition to being consistently, wildly, organically funny, tend to revolve around eccentric people who aspire to great heights and rarely achieve them.  Thus comes the Toronto actress's magical moment, near the end of the film, when her performance transcends its heightened reality and becomes ... something else.  It is the morning of the Oscar nomination announcements, and the very hopeful Marilyn Hack (O'Hara) has pre-emptively prepared a vast celebration brunch — which we never get to see. Nor do we have to. "You just know," suggests co-star Michael McKean. "You don't even have to see the food. You just know what it looks like, with, you know, those plastic containers, all the carrots and ..."  And booze, of course. Bottles and bottles of booze. Most of which Hack seems to have consumed herself when she is discovered — many hours later in front of her home, as she drunkenly dumps the empties into a bin — by the prying eyes of tabloid TV reporter Chuck Porter (Fred Willard) and his crew.

At which point O'Hara's performance causes a visibly astonished Willard to drop completely out of character.  For Jane Lynch, also in the For Your Consideration cast, it is the film's defining moment.  "It's my favourite scene," she says. "Fred's trying to interview Catherine out by the garbage, with the empty bottles, and he keeps trying to do his announcements into camera, and she's so out of control ... she leaves him, like, just standing there. He is completely affected by this woman. And he's playing a character who has no sensitivity whatsoever.  "You can tell it really struck him," she says, turning to Willard to ask him: "I mean, was that really happening? Because you didn't know ... you could barely do your `Chuck' thing ..."  "It was real," confirms Willard. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I don't know. I was awestruck. Flabbergasted. It was like she had been shot out of a cannon ..."  When this earlier conversation is related to her later, O'Hara can only stammer and blush.  "I just can't believe I said `f--k' in that scene ...  "It's scary, you know? Exhilarating, but scary. You want to do well, you want to please, you want to make people laugh, and you want to please Chris (Guest) ... it's scary that way.  "These are such good people, and the comfort level on the set is amazing. But developing a character, speaking for the first time and then remaining consistent ... all that never gets easier. If you're in the moment and someone says something to you, and you react, you just hope that you're in character. That's the best you can do, to be there as the character, so when you respond, you've got to be using that other side of your brain. And that's still scary."

All the more impressive, then, that hers is the movie's most fearless performance as the needy and insecure Hack, the faded C-list actress cast as the dying matriarch in a cheeseball melodrama, Home for Purim — seeking approval and validation from even the grips and caterers on set. (Hack's voice, O'Hara says, was inspired by the clipped tones of CBC announcers.)  And then, when the supposed Oscar buzz peaks, out comes her monster Hack, all pretence and fake boobs and hideous perma-grin, calling to Jack Nicholson as Batman's Joker (a film in which O'Hara was originally supposed to cameo as the newsreader who literally grins herself to death).  O'Hara does her about-face virtually without special make-up or prosthetics. "Her work in the film is amazing," says McKean, "but when she makes the transformation when John Barrymore did Jekyll and Hyde without any makeup; you see him transform and he just did it from the inside ...  "Catherine looks a little worse than Mr. Hyde in a lot of ways when she does that. Sheer genius."

Nick Cannon & Joy Bryant In ‘Bobby’

Excerpt from - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(Nov. 17, 2006)  *Today, the story of the assassination of U.S. Senator
Robert F. Kennedy comes to the big screen, this time brought to audiences as a labour of love of actor/writer/director Emilio Estevez. The film chronicles the shooting of the popular senator on June 6th, 1968, and centers around 22 people who were at the Ambassador Hotel where he was killed.  Some of those 22 characters are played by major talents such as Harry Belafonte, Lawrence Fishburne, William H. Macy, and Anthony Hopkins, but the film has also become a catalyst for craftwork for young Hollywood-ites Nick Cannon, Joy Bryant, Elijah Wood, and Lindsey Lohan. Cannon plays a young activist and campaign volunteer who sees Bobby Kennedy as the last hope to cement the social change of the times after the loss of President John Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; quite a contrary role to those audiences are accustomed to. After the comedic character roles he mastered in “Underclassman” and “Roll Bounce,” not to mention his very funny improve show “Wild N Out,” it’s seemed a tough pill to swallow to accept Cannon in such a film and such a role, but the young actor pulls off the vulnerability and humility of the character. “I had to definitely prove myself for this role,” he said. “I had to prove myself to Mr. Emilio Estevez and we had a connection after I read the script. In Hollywood there’s not a lot of great material floating around so when you get your hands on something like this – to have the opportunity to play a young political activist – I had to.”  Cannon said that taking on the role was absolutely the best move for his career. “I thought it was a perfect move in my career. People know me as a funny guy or from the music thing. As an actor I wanted to show people that this is my craft,” he added.

He continued that to find his comfort in the role, he did a little historical research to add to the information and reflections his family had shared with him. “I’ve admired Stokley Carmichael and listened to Dr. King’s speeches, but even right at home, my grandparents would tell me about that time. And the character was so well written – every scene and every word that he spoke meant something,” he continued. “I just took that in. I took the balance of the anger of what was going on at the time and the hope of what could happen in the future – that brought the humility to the character.” Bryant, who many remember from her role in “Antwon Fisher,” continued that the all-star cast also inspired her and her castmate Cannon to really delve into the characters and the story. “Whenever you’re in the company of people you respect and admire or great people, you’re going to rise to the occasion and aspire to be the best that you can possibly be – not that I don’t ordinarily – but when you’re surrounded by that you kind of go to another level. But even though I didn’t have any scenes with them, it was a nice little boost,” she said. As young actors who don’t have the history that the film covers, Cannon and Bryant both explained that they got a lot more out of the film than the film itself. “It wasn’t until I saw the film for the first time that I got hit over the head with a couple of things,” Bryant said. “One of the messages of the film is that when Bobby Kennedy died so did the idealism and the innocence of a nation; the hope for a better future, and the country got spun into this age of cynicism and distrust of the government. I always thought of myself as being informed and abreast of issues and what’s going on in the world, and when I saw the movie, it made me look in the mirror and say, ‘You’re a lot more cynical than you pretend to be.’ It made me think that I need to inject more optimism in my whole being and have more hope.” Cannon also called the film “life-altering” not just career-altering. The young actor had a great opportunity to learn from Belafonte, who plays a good friend of Ambassador Hotel owner (played by Anthony Hopkins). “I was given the opportunity to share hours of time with Harry Belafonte and he just dropped wisdom on me. I remember sitting in his trailer and thinking, ‘I’ve got to get my life together.’ He just showed me so much. To this day, in his 80s, he’s one of the most vigorous activists out there. He changed my perspective on the type of roles I want to do and the things that I do stand for. It changed my perspective on what being a public figure is all about.” “Bobby” opens today, November 17, in limited release and opens nationwide November 23.

Water Ratchets Up Oscar Bid

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Nov. 16, 2006) All Canadian film producer
David Hamilton has to do is sit back, let the discourse begin among members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (perhaps poolside at the Hotel Bel-Air) and simply see what happens to Water, a favourite to get an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film. If only it was that easy. For weeks, Hamilton and Water's U.S. distributor Fox Searchlight have been huddled in campaign mode, after Telefilm Canada submitted the film in September as Canada's entry for an Oscar. As the film's producer, Hamilton has been working with Fox Searchlight and a budget of roughly $100,000 to $150,000 (U.S.) to get the word out about Water, director Deepa Mehta's visually rich, emotionally jarring film about an Indian child widow. Expensive half-page ads have already run in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. Yet the actual Academy Awards isn't until Feb. 25, and Water still faces rounds of voting by academy members before it could even be named one of the five official nominees for best foreign-language film. And now Fox is also considering submitting the film for possible nominations for best cinematography, best music and best song, which could mean even more campaigning. So uncork the wine and dole out the hors d'oeuvre. The prenomination campaigns are in full swing, in the hope they produce those all-important nominations in late January and even an Oscar in hand come February. As Hamilton explained, the nomination process for best foreign-language film is different than the more academy-wide voting for other categories. Each country is allowed one submission, and the 61 foreign-language entrants are divvied up and screened by four volunteer groups of voting academy members. Each group screens 15 films or so. To participate in the voting, members of each group have to see at least 12 of the 15 films. So if Water is in the Greater Los Angeles film community's consciousness, voting members might be more likely to see it, Hamilton explained. That's where the prenomination campaigning can help.

After screening each film, committee members score the film on a 1-to-10 scale on a written ballot.  Maybe the ads for Water could help sway the votes. The nine highest-scoring, foreign-language entrants then go to another committee in January. This higher committee screens all nine and chooses the five that ultimately receive official nominations. So the trick is to tap that L.A. consciousness. The academy doesn't really like to publicize this kind of campaigning though, and it has a long set of rules about what the studios can and can't do to promote Oscar contenders. For instance, studios can help voting members see films in theatres by providing free passes. But they can't send the members promotional material extolling a film's virtues or press kits filled with favourable reviews. Studios also can't embark on telephone and e-mail campaigns. But ads in Variety are fair game. So are cocktail parties, just as long as the event isn't explicitly a private function for academy members solely aimed to get votes. Tonight, the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles, under consul-general Alain Dudoit, is hosting a reception for Mehta, not specifically for Water, but as an opportunity for Hollywood types to meet and talk with the director. The president of Fox Searchlight is on the guest list. So is the president of the talent-agency powerhouse International Creative Management, and apparently other high-profile names. Yet Water won't be shown at the event. The German consulate did show The Lives of Others, Germany's official entry best-foreign-language film, at a private function last weekend, although that event was aimed more as a celebration of German films. So it's a fine line, and those familiar with these kinds of campaigns say organizers pay close attention to the rules. The Canadian consulate's involvement this year with Water is much like its campaign for Deny Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions, which won for best foreign-language film in 2004. Film producer-distributor Miramax was putting much of its promotional heft that year behind Cold Mountain, which went on to win best picture. So the consulate helped with The Barbarian Invasions.

Yet you have to be careful. "If you know people, you can invite your friends. But you can't just solicit people to come to a party so that they can vote [for your film]," said Denise Robert, a producer of The Barbarian Invasions. Water's main objective now is simply to remain within the same breath as the lead contender for a foreign-language nomination, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's Volver. Hamilton's appearance at the consulate reception will be his third trip to Los Angeles for the prenomination campaign. Fox Searchlight, the division of Twentieth Century Fox that specializes in artier films, had even considered submitting Water for best picture. But the strategy comes down to picking categories that the film is most likely to win and, this being Hollywood, it comes down to money. "First of all, the campaign for best picture is extremely expensive. They gave me a budget of what it would cost: $1-million. That's just for the prenomination part," Hamilton said. The ads in the trade papers for a best-picture campaign are bigger, and there's the expense of giving out hundreds, if not thousands of theatre passes, DVDs and videos so that voting members can see the film. (All voters for the best foreign-language category have to see the films in theatres.) Fox was also concerned that a campaign to push Water for best picture would dilute its best foreign-language campaign. "So we decided not to do that," Hamilton said. But even the smaller budget for the prenomination campaign for a best foreign-language film can be difficult to raise. Fox's plan to submit Water for best cinematography, best music and best song will no doubt raise costs. So Hamilton has had to ask other investors who helped to finance the film. "It makes it difficult to put up all the funds necessary to really mount a campaign." Hamilton said.

Water is already somewhat of an anomaly for Fox Searchlight. According to Hamilton, it is the studio's first Canadian film, and the company has tended to shy away from films with subtitles. Water's original theatrical version is in Hindi. (A special DVD contains an alternative version of the film shot in English.) And while the film has been a major release for Fox Searchlight, the company has larger Oscar candidates such as The Last King of Scotland, starring Forest Whitaker, and the comedy Little Miss Sunshine, which are eating away at Fox's campaign funds. Most foreign-language films also tend to have studios in their home countries that help to put up money. "Whereas in Canada, we don't have studios. But we do have investors, like Telefilm. Basically we go to the investors and try to get some help from them." Besides the obvious prestige, what would happen to Water if it won a nomination and even an Oscar? "It could be re-released. It's possible. And it certainly would mean more DVD sales. And also it's very good for Canada. . . . So, there are some, what you might call, contextual benefits that don't specifically relate to the film. And that's no doubt part of the reason that the government is supportive, [one reason] that the consulate in L.A. will put on a function," he added. And yet, like so many other things in the world, it isn't solely about the quality of the candidate, but about convincing the voters that it's a winner: "There's a certain bandwagon effect in any voting that takes place in the world, whether political or in film," Hamilton said. "If people feel you are in there, in the running, then they have more of an incentive to make sure that they get their ballot in for you."

Denzel Washington: The Déjà Vu Interview

Excerpt from - By Kam Williams

(November 22, 2006)  *Here, two-time Oscar-winner
Denzel Washington, an icon who needs no introduction, talks about his latest movie, Déjà Vu, where he plays Doug Carlin, an ATF Agent who travels back in time to prevent a crime and ends up falling in love with a beautiful woman (Paula Patton) he’s trying to save.

Kam Williams: How does it feel to still be a sex symbol at 50?

Denzel Washington: [Fakes snoring] I don’t know anything about that. I’ll be
52 in December. Turning 50 made me realize that this is not the dress rehearsal. I was already sort of in that mind set before that, but it really hit home to enjoy every day, to try to lead and live a good life, a healthy life, and to keep things simple. Sex symbol? I don’t think about it. I don’t even know what any of that stuff means.

KW: What about generating screen chemistry with your co-star, Paula Patton?

DW: What about it? [laughs]

KW: How did a virtual unknown come to be your co-star?

DW: Well, [director] Tony Scott said, “I got this girl. You don’t know her.
She hasn’t done anything, but she’s right for the part. After I read with her, I wasn’t nervous, but I was just like, “Well, she hasn’t done anything.” But he was right. She’s a lovely girl, a sweetheart. And she has that quality that you want to care about her, or take her of her.

KW: Have you ever had premonitions in real life like your character in Deja Vu?

DW: You know what? I had an odd one today. I’m going to get the mail out of the mailbox, and I’m standing out on the street by my front gate when I had a feeling somebody’s going to drive by. So I just stood out there. I just had a feeling somebody was coming, so I decided to stand there for a minute.  And it wasn’t ten seconds before a white truck goes by. Then it stops, and backs up. And it’s Eddie Murphy, and he gave me the whole scoop on Dreamgirls.

For Kam Williams' full interview, GO HERE.

Jaleel White: Thanksgiving Dish On DVD

Excerpt from - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(November 22, 2006) *Actor
Jaleel White created a favourite TV icon with his role as Steve Urkel on the sitcom “Family Matters.” It’s a character that the star has difficulty shaking, or rather, getting his fans to shake, but the young Hollywood-ite says that it doesn’t really matter.   It was his talent and gumption that made Urkel a household name and it’s just that combination that helps him maintain his continued success in the industry with a straight-to-video comedy flick called “Who Made the Potato Salad?” just released. “Fortunately I’ve had youth on my side, so we’re gonna see what happens in this next phase,” White said about his success as a young star on the popular ‘90s sitcom and the projects he’s completed. “It’s not really something that I focus on because I know that in this industry you’re only as good as your opportunities. It’s not like I’ve been inundated with a lot of worthwhile opportunities, to be quite honest. Even the Steve Urkel character – it was supposed to be a guest role and I happened to come in and make more of it. I’m the kind of guy that’s going to get a base hit off a bunt.”

Getting audiences to realize that he is now a 29 year-old working writer/actor and no longer the annoying lovelorn neighbour on the series that ended in 1998, has apparently been more work than work itself. “The bottom line is I made a terrific living for myself and it’s almost like I’m not allowed to become a man,” White complained. “For anyone, you’re going to go from 21 to 30 growing up, maturing, and becoming an incredible man. So here I am 29 and things look rosier than ever and I’ve been fine and I’ve been, and I’m not bragging here, living in the lap of luxury. You still get people that say, ‘Oh, that guy fell off.’ No, I didn’t fall off. I’ve been maturing and I take my writing seriously.” If having people think you’ve “fallen off” is bad, how do you think White handled having people think he actually died? Over the summer, Internet buzz gathered steam that the young star had passed away. Fortunately, rumours of his death were greatly exaggerated. When White got the news of his untimely death, he was alive and well enjoying a day at the ballpark.   “I was in New York City going to the Sox-Yankees game. It was incredibly annoying [hearing the news of my death],” he said. “But what can I say? The Internet is the land of the great sucker punch. It’s just unfortunate that people can do that to you and hide behind anonymous names. We have no idea who did it. But I will say this; the good thing that came [from] it was that I really discovered just how many people’s lives I was able to touch. Even though it was for a negative reason, it was very beautiful to see that.” White says that the rumour didn’t really affect his life and quietly shrugged off the incident, but said that though there was no real way to respond to the rumour, but to keep breathing, he was none to happy about the terrible hoax.

“I didn’t take it well, but I’m a different kind of person where I just jump right to the consequence. There is no consequence. The consequence was that unfortunately there were some people that had their days interrupted with some erroneous information – period. My life is terrific. I had just finished working on a pilot. I’ve done two movies this year. It just wasn’t true. I’m alive,” he said. When not working as an actor, White writes and does punch-up work on screenplays. He’s worked with companies from Disney Channel to Imagine Entertainment, and calls writing one of his favourite passions. However, comedy on screen is his forte. In fact it was the comedic opportunity of the “Who Made the Potato Salad?” that brought him in front of the camera. “I have a simple criteria. If it’s funny, I gotta do it,” White proclaimed. “The script was funny. It’s kind of a black ‘Meet the Parents.’  In the film, White plays a cop named Michael who's going home to meet his fiancée’s parents only to find out that her father was a former Black Panther leader and he hates the cops more than anything. “It’s a simple, straight-forward story,” White described, “but the cast, including Clifton Powell and comedians Eddie Griffin and DeRay Davis, was just funny. So I [couldn’t] shy away from it. This is definitely something worth popping into the DVD on Thanksgiving weekend; just make sure you put the kids to bed first. It’s a funny movie.” “Who Made the Potato Salad?” is available on DVD and the next onscreen Jaleel sighting is in the upcoming “Dreamgirls.” 

Robert Altman, 81: Movie Maverick

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Nov 22, 2006) If you had only listened to the director and screenwriter
Robert Altman, you'd have sworn he hated movies, his audience and Hollywood.  "The general public just wants to go out and see people's bodies get chewed up," he once groused to the Star, explaining why his films weren't big ticket-sellers.  "I don't make films for those kinds of people. If that's an important thing to do, I should be put in jail or something, because I don't know how to do it."  Yet the truth was that Altman, who died of cancer Monday night in Los Angeles, loved everything about the movie business — even as he set about scolding and defying it over a career that spanned more than a half century.  Altman was both gracious and mischievous last March when he won a lifetime achievement Oscar at age 81. He gently chided the academy for giving him the prize under a "false pretence." He revealed he'd had a secret heart transplant 11 years earlier and the donor was a woman in her late 30s.  "And so by that kind of calculation, you may be giving me this award too early. Because I think I've got about 40 years left on it and I intend to use it."  Sadly, his prediction was wrong and the foot-dragging academy was nearly too late. Altman's death stopped the clock on his prodigious output of more than 30 feature films, but he leaves a brace of challenging movies — including such notables as Nashville, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Player and his late-career gem Gosford Park — that will long continue to fascinate and infuriate cinephiles.

Obits and tributes to the former World War II bomber pilot from Kansas City will inevitably, but understandably, refer to him as iconoclastic and anti-Hollywood. He could indeed be maddeningly obtuse and wilfully anti-commercial, and he scored just one major box-office hit, the 1970 anti-war comedy M*A*S*H.  But the gruff Altman had a bigger heart than he let on, even when it was second-hand. He adored making movies in almost every conceivable genre — everything from soap opera to sci-fi, meditative historical dramas to tart contemporary satires — and he never tired of seeking to reward the faithful and observant movie-watcher.  He may have scorned Hollywood and all it stood for, and he never did win the competitive Oscar for Best Director, despite five nominations. Yet he was profoundly grateful for everything, even if the applause he received was late and muted.  He treasured working with actors, and they with him. He crowded his movies with such famous devotees as Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin and Richard Gere, often to the detriment of the plot.  He scorned the traditional three-act narrative, allowing scenes to run on with dialogue overlapping so as to force the audience to pay closer attention.  He packed 26 roles into his magnum opus Nashville, a political satire set to country music that seemed cynical in the pre-Bicentennial America of 1975, yet which comes closer to curdled reality with each passing year. A scene where many of the characters end up in one traffic jam made for a handy metaphor of Altman's filming style, which has influenced many a director.

Altman was both amused and frustrated by the lingering acclaim for M*A*S*H, his 1970 comedy set in the Korean War that made stars out of Elliott Gould and Canada's Donald Sutherland. The movie scored the Palme d'Or at Cannes and the first of his five Best Director nominations, and it also spawned a popular TV series.  Yet it was unrepresentative of what he was trying to achieve as a filmmaker, although its questioning of wartime ethics and the existence of God sowed the seeds of subversions to come. He accepted the M*A*S*H assignment as a strategic career move, only after some 17 other directors had turned up their noses at the film's gallows humour.  Altman didn't have the luxury of waiting for better offers. He was 44, having spent the first part of his post-war life writing and directing industrial and sports films, and toiling unheralded on such TV hit series as Combat!, The Millionaire and Bonanza. The rule-breaking decade of the 1970s was Altman's most artistically fruitful. He was considered a peer of such young turks as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Coppola, despite being their elder by a generation.  He embraced the rebel notion that film was meant to make a statement, not to boost a bank account. And while the critics frequently applauded him (in particular The New Yorker's Pauline Kael, his most faithful champion) audiences often found him baffling, pretentious — or horrors! — downright boring.  For every triumph like the visionary Nashville and the western redux McCabe and Mrs. Miller, it seemed there were two misfires or outright disasters. Even Altman's most ardent supporters has trouble defending such head-scratchers as the two mid-1970s bombs he made with Paul Newman, the sci-fi non-thriller Quintet and the western jumble Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson.

By the 1980s, it seemed Altman's fire was close to being snuffed. It began with the roundly panned Popeye, Robin Williams's first starring screen role, which turned a beloved cartoon character into a squinting cipher. Altman continued to spin his wheels with such time-wasters as the teen comedy O.C. and Stiggs, released in 1987 after being shelved for several years.  Everything changed with The Player in 1992, Altman's scabrous and well-received assault on Hollywood, a place where you could get away with murder if you spun it the right way. He had survived to be viewed as a loveable crab- apple rather than a bitter cynic. The decade also brought the triumph of Short Cuts, based on a series of Raymond Carver short stories.  Altman continued in this mercurial fashion until his final days, which ironically he anticipated earlier this year with the release of A Prairie Home Companion, an ensemble comedy about the end of an era marked by the shuttering of an idiosyncratic radio series. But the current decade also saw the release of one final major work, the class act of Gosford Park, an Oscar-nominated satire of Britain's multi-levelled society, made in England with the cream of Blighty's actors.  To the last, Altman remained irascible, impertinent and politically incorrect, but you always knew a heart was beating behind the bluster.  "I grew up in a house full of women," he once told the Star while promoting Dr. T and the Women, his mocking assessment of the gender divide.  "And you learn to manipulate them, you know. You can't beat them up. That isn't acceptable. So you have to manipulate them a little bit."  He could have been talking about the movies, a medium he grew to love and learned to manipulate with equal passion and skill.


Will Smith Gives Props To His Son

Excerpt from

(November 20, 2006) *Will Smith continues to heap praise upon his youngest son Jaden, who stars with the actor in the upcoming drama “The Pursuit of Happyness.”  In Premiere magazine’s December issue, Smith says his 8-year-old boy stole practically every scene in which he appears.  "It's a good thing he's my kid," the 38-year-old actor jokes. "‘Cause if he wasn't, I would have been sabotaging his performance."        Due in theatres Dec. 15, “The Pursuit of Happyness” is based on the true story of a struggling single father who went from being homeless to becoming a millionaire tycoon. Jaden plays the 5-year-old son of Smith’s character.        "He changed my performance," Smith says of Jaden. "You know, when you really capture your greatness, there's going to be something childlike about it. There's going to be something at play, not at work, and watching him I rediscovered that thing that made me successful with ‘The Fresh Prince (of Bel-Air).'"

Freeman Tells S.A. Film Industry To ‘Do You’

Excerpt from

(November 20, 2006) *Appearing at a film festival in South Africa, actor Morgan Freeman told an audience that the country’s budding film industry should focus on stories from its own rich and painful history of apartheid, and not try to copy the big-budget fare favoured by Hollywood. "Go your own way. Trying to emulate Hollywood is a mistake because the Hollywood way is not always the best way," Freeman said during his appearance at Cape Town's Sithengi film festival. "You don't need large amounts of money to make a film." The 2004 Oscar-winner from Memphis, Tenn. was invited to the annual festival to help the South African film industry learn from the experiences of Hollywood. He appeared alongside 22-year-old Presley Chweneyagae, who starred in the Oscar-winning South African film "Tsotsi." The acclaimed movie is part of South Africa’s burgeoning film industry following years of isolation and neglect due to apartheid. "Tsotsi" won the best foreign-film Academy Award this year, and the South African film "Yesterday" was nominated the previous year.        But despite the recent good fortune, South Africa’s film industry still sits in the long shadow of America’s Hollywood and India’s Bollywood, as local producers and directors struggle for funding and acclaim. Freeman, 69, warned South African filmmakers not to let recent success go to their heads.    "This whole thing of `if I get one success, the next will follow like bowling pins' is almost never true," he said.

ACTRA, Producers Agree To Continue Talking

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Nov. 16, 2006) Toronto -- The film actors' union and the association of film producers have so far only agreed to disagree -- except on one point. As their labour dispute continues, negotiators from the
Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists and the Canadian Film and Television Production Association agreed this week to continue talks on Nov. 28 and 29 in Montreal. On Tuesday, the CFTPA made what it described as major concessions, including modifying its position on wages.  ACTRA countered that the CFTPA has only tinkered with its proposals "without fundamentally changing them." ACTRA will send out strike ballots to members in the coming days and announce around the Dec. 15 the result of the vote on whether the union can strike or not.  The current labour contract between ACTRA and the CFTPA expires on Dec. 31.

Cruise To Team Up With Redford For Next Project

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Nov. 16, 2006) Los Angeles --
Tom Cruise will join forces with Robert Redford after confirming his first movie since an enforced break following the completion of Mission: Impossible III, reports said yesterday. Cruise has been mulling his options since the release of M:I3 and his subsequent bitter divorce from Paramount Pictures. Last month Cruise scored a surprise coup when it was announced that he would relaunch the mothballed United Artists studio. His collaboration with Redford -- Lions for Lambs -- will be his first UA venture, Variety reported. Redford will direct and star in the political drama. AFP

D.C. Go-Go Flavors New Film

Excerpt from

(Nov. 17, 2006) *
Wood Harris and Clifton Powell have been cast in "Jazz in the Diamond District," described as a candid drama set in the world of Washington D.C.’s thriving go-go scene.  The story follows a D.C. native who joins a go-go band in hopes of becoming a star. Derailed by pressure from her family and the music industry, this young woman is forced to redefine for herself the true meaning of success.   When Jasmine "Jazz" Morgan loses her mother to a long-time battle with lung cancer, she can only focus on one thing - becoming a famous singer. Ignoring the wishes of her father, Blair Morgan (Powell), a strict doctor who prefers that she return to college, Jazz rebelliously spends the summer entrenched in the hyper-sexualized, drug-influenced D.C. music scene, dragging along her younger, more naive, sister Leah (Erica Chamblee).  One night, after an impromptu audition, Jazz is invited to join a popular go-go band (music by Uncalled 4 Experience) managed by a charismatic barber, Gabe (Harris) and supported with drug money provided by the lead MC, Flight (Andre Strong). With ease, she falls in line with the band and in love with the stage and together they all reach new heights of popularity. But just as quickly as her success rises, so does the pressure and Jazz recklessly tries to maintain control.  The film was shot on location in the often-overlooked residential neighbourhoods of Washington, D.C., where the thump of go-go music reverberates in the streets and where the volatile energy that spawned the nickname "Murder Capitol" in the 90's still lingers in the air.

Real-Life Divorce Fuels Murphy Role

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Nov. 20, 2006) CHICAGO —
Eddie Murphy says a difficult divorce helped his performance in the upcoming movie "Dreamgirls.''  "It was real emotional," Murphy said Monday on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," where he appeared with Jamie Foxx, Beyonce and other members of the cast.  "So it was really good because I had all that going on and that's going on under your skin; you get on the set and when you're acting ... (it took) me to a different place emotionally," the 45-year-old actor said.  Murphy's divorce from his wife, Nicole, came up as Murphy deflected Foxx's compliment about how Murphy could instantly transform himself into the character of James "Thunder" Early, then revert to "this quiet, docile thing" when the cameras stopped rolling.  "I don't want to make it seem like I was, you know, all Joe Actor ..." Murphy said. "I was going through a big divorce, so between shots I was like, `damn.'''  During the hour-long show, Foxx joked that his character, a manager of a female singing group, The Dreamettes, appeared to be ruthless — to everyone but real music executives.  "Everybody thinks Curtis is mean, but all the executives from the studio and the music places called me and said, `Hey, I love the character ...'''  Murphy's wife filed for divorce last year, citing irreconcilable differences. The couple were married in 1993.  The former "Saturday Night Live" star's film credits include the "Beverly Hills Cop,'' "Nutty Professor" and "Dr. Doolittle" movies.  "Dreamgirls," a DreamWorks/Paramount film, is set for release Dec. 25.



Testing His Will Power

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Nov. 16, 2006) Never forget this:
Eric McCormack is a hometown boy and the town is Toronto.  He may be in a suite at the posh Windsor Arms, but there's a telltale box of Timbits nearby to let you know where his heart really lies.  Not that there's ever been much doubt of that, not when it comes to Gilda's Club, the cancer support centre named in honour of Gilda Radner, star of Saturday Night Live.  This is the fourth year that McCormack has come back to either host or star in the comedy, song and dance fundraiser, It's Always Something. The fifth annual show takes place on Monday night at the Elgin Theatre.  "It's the cause that brings me back," he insists between sips of a Starbucks latte. "Usually we try to raise money to find a cure for a disease, but this is all about helping the people in our home town who have to live with cancer.  "You've got Marlene (Smith) producing, Eugene (Levy) hosting, Jann (Arden) singing ... it's a very, very Toronto show and I'm proud to be a part of it," he says of the gala that will also include the Radio City Rockettes and 2006 Canadian Idol, Eva Avila.  McCormack, known to perform Burton Cummings songs, is contemplating different options this year.  "There's one number I'm thinking of doing; I actually sang it at Elton John's stag and it's a little dirty. It's called `Blow Me a Kiss' and, of course, you pause at a key point in the title.

"But if that doesn't seem right, maybe I'll just settle for doing `It's Not Unusual' in full Tom Jones leather."  McCormack grins, more loose and relaxed than he's seemed in a long time. This is the first fall in eight years that he hasn't been working on Will & Grace, the comedy series that made him a star. He likens the feeling to "graduating from college and suddenly not having your life planned out year by year any more. It's exciting, but it's also a bit scary.  "Television is fantastic, but it can damn you with its success," he says, reaching for a Timbit. "It's hard to give up the comfort, because there's so little of it in this business. It was a wonderfully stable and reassuring place to work.  "But all of us in the cast realized the seduction of that was going to start turning around on us and make us lazy, so I'm glad to be kicked out in the world."  When asked what his next move is going to be, he holds up his hands like a director framing a scene.  "I'm now figuring out very slowly, very carefully, what to do with the rest of my career."  But it's not like he's been idle since Will & Grace finished shooting last spring. He immediately sprang into a new play by Neil LaBute called Some Girl(s), opening it off-Broadway to excellent reviews, but puzzled audience response.  He played a typical LaBute hero — amoral, misogynistic and cruel — and a lot of his TV fans weren't ready for that.  "You won't believe," he marvels, shaking his head, "the number of people who showed up expecting to see Will and wound up 10 minutes later just hating my guts. I'm glad I did it, but in hindsight, it happened just a little too soon."  He also set up his own production company and saw its first project, a largely improvised sitcom called Lovespring International develop a cult following on Lifetime TV.

"I love the beginning of producing," admits McCormack, "finding the talent, getting the money, pitching, selling — that's all exciting to me. But after that, I hand it over to a line producer, because the day-to-day stuff is too exhausting for me."  Of course, like any actor, he's also looking at directing and his pet project is a script he and his wife Janet Holden developed together.  "It's called What You Wish For," he explains, "and it's based on that imaginary list most couples have. You know, the list of the celebrities each would let their partner sleep with.  "Well, our hero actually gets a chance to go to bed with his fantasy celebrity and so the wife plots her revenge. It's a cute idea, but the problem is you need two incredibly big superstars willing to play themselves for a very small salary."  Amazingly enough, it looks like he lined up two enormous stars at the last Emmy Awards ceremony, but he's got to keep their names quiet for now. (Hint: one's Australian, one's South African.)  "It's amazing to me," he says, "that this kid from Scarborough is sitting at the Emmys networking people to star in his movie. That was the power of Will & Grace."  He has nothing but fond memories of the program, even though he knows it's a badge he'll wear for a long, long time.

"The amazing thing," he chuckles, "is that I was never stereotyped as gay because of it. All the roles I'm offered now are straight leading men. The problem is that everyone thinks of me for comedy because of the series, and I'd love to play a villain every now and then."  He might get more of a chance to do that on stage. He reveals that he's been talking with Antoni Cimolino, the newly appointed general director of the Stratford Festival, about returning to the company where he spent five seasons in his youth.  "We discussed playing Iago," he says, "and also Richard III. But I wouldn't give him a hump ... just a lisp."  And then he breaks into a campy rendition of the opening speech: "Now ith the winter of our dithcontent, made gloriouth thummer by this thon of York."  He stops dead in his tracks.  "You see? Now I'm typecasting myself."  Yes, he won an Emmy and was nominated for a Golden Globe five times, but McCormack's greatest source of content doesn't come from the world of show business; it's his son, Finnigan.  "He's four now," beams the proud father. "He's really into costumes. The whole Tickle Trunk thing. He went to school as a pirate the other day. Man, I really see myself in him.  "You know something? If he wanted to be an actor, I'd be secretly thrilled. Yeah, that would be me at the Oscars, crying like Paul Sorvino did when Mira won."  A fleeting glance at the Timbits box prompts the question about what other Toronto food delights he misses when in Los Angeles.  "Oh Harvey's, for sure," he claims unashamed. "And Swiss Chalet. We're totally into supporting that chain."  Looking at what he wants from the future, McCormack maintains, "My ambition in life was always to do original material. No one else will ever play Will Truman. I love that. It goes in the pantheon and it's mine.  "The part I'm most looking forward to playing is the one that hasn't been written yet."

NBC Won't Risk Offending Anyone With Madonna Special

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Andrew Ryan

(Nov. 18, 2006) The Material Girl still knows how to work a cross. Viewerswill be mercifully spared the sight of the planet's biggest pop star suspended Jesus-like from the cross in the concert special
Madonna: The Confessions Tour Live (Wednesday, NBC, 8 p.m.), but the media furor over the crucifixion imagery, and its public exclusion from the TV version, has already served Madonna's purpose. More people will watch the special than might otherwise — just to see what won't be there. The new Madonna is a humanitarian Madonna, but she's still a sharp cookie. She knows how to rattle people just enough to keep them coming back and she always pulls it off — via sex, politics or religion. Like any smart, self-appointed earth mother, Madonna knows the best publicity still comes from shocking the yokels. And NBC knows when it has a hot ticket. The network has been flogging the Madonna concert as a mammoth network event and it's the capper of a very busy month.  The TV special involves a Madonna concert taped a few months back at London's Wembley Stadium, by which time the controversy was already old news. A set piece in Madonna's recent European concert tour, the crucifixion scene stirred up churchgoing types when she played Rome and Moscow this year. Local clergy in both cities railed on against her blasphemy and prayed for her soul. The German government threatened to put Madonna in jail and a priest in the Netherlands phoned in a bomb scare in an attempt to cancel her concert there. This all took place in Europe, where no one blinks when naked people appear on TV.

But America doesn't mess around with religion, missy. NBC has excised the potentially offensive imagery from the TV concert, despite initial promises the Madonna show would run intact. “She's not going to revise her act,” NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly said, with a straight face, when announcing the Madonna special on the summer TV critics tour. “She's going to do her show, and we'll decide which numbers are in the special and which are not. And that's whole numbers; we're not going to make piecemeal edits.” The NBC edits are, of course, clearly connected to the hubbub over the mock crucifixion. At the time, Madonna defended her right to climb the cross in typically humble manner: “I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today, he would be doing the same thing.” She really said that. The contentious scene was a waiting firestorm for NBC, which came under pressure from U.S. family-rights groups to cancel the broadcast. The network has since solved the problem with some not very creative editing. In the original broadcast, available on and dozens of other sites, Madonna is affixed to an enormous mirrored cross and wearing a thorn of crowns while singing Live To Tell, a hit single from 1986. Alongside her, monitors flash images of impoverished African children and statistics on the AIDS pandemic. After a few bars, Madonna magically descends to the stage and finishes the song. That's it. What you'll see on the TV concert: Madonna, but not on the cross. NBC has taken out the entire crucifixion scene and will cut to crowd-reaction shots for the opening of Live To Tell. The network version will begin with Madonna picking up mid-song and onstage. The big shiny cross will still be visible, but in the background. Nobody can object to that, can they? By all accounts, the artist has accepted the change. “At first, I was upset,” Madonna said in one of her of her famously prepared statements. “I said, ‘Oh, forget it. I don't want them to do my show at all.' Then I realized I could find a way to edit my section where I am on the cross out, and it still achieved my goal, which was attention to raising money for Malawi. ... As long as I could do that, I was cool with it.” Madonna hasn't orchestrated a passion play this slick since her 1989 video for Like a Prayer. Anyone even remotely familiar with the Madonna oeuvre will recall the ruckus: The video — which featured burning crosses, stigmata and religious statues with bleeding eyes — inspired protests in front of MTV and prompted Pepsi to drop a planned advertising campaign with Madonna (who nonetheless received her reported $5-million fee). And she did it again. No doubt the hype generated from the crucifixion tempest will make Madonna's two-hour special the week's top-rated program in the U.S. Nielsen ratings. As with all things Madonna, people will watch just to see what the fuss is about. Funny how the old tricks still work, isn't it?

Party With Reggae And Soca Stars Tempo-Style In Trinidad

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(November 16, 2006)  *
Tempo, the Caribbean’s premier entertainment network is pleased to bring you the opportunity to celebrate Tempo Turns One by switching places with your favourite Tempo celebrities at “Party With The Stars--Party Like The-Star-You-Are:” a one year anniversary bash to be held at The National Stadium in Trinidad on December 2, 2006 at 9pm.   Tempo VJ’s Jeanille and Anushca will be MCing the festivities while DJ Pops (special guest DJ from St. Croix) and Funk Master K (Winner of the Local Heineken Green Synergy DJ Championship in Trinidad and Tobago) spin your favourite hits.    Win tickets and VIP passes for “Party With The Stars” at Trinidad’s Crobar on November 17th at 7pm during the taping of Tempo’s “Soca Countdown Special” hosted by, Rupee, Denise Belfon, and Hypa Hoppa of 96.7 Red FM.

At “Party With The Stars,” Tempo artists and VJ’s will provide red carpet treatment by interviewing and photographing YOU!  This is the ultimate chance for the Tempo fan to rub elbows and party into the night with elite Caribbean celebrities including: Machel Montano, Denise Belfon, Rupee, KMC, Voicemail, The Mighty Sparrow, Collie Buddz, 3 Suns, Trinidad’s Reggae All Stars: Jah Bami, King David, Ziggy Rankin and many more.  Tempo will transform The National Stadium’s grounds into an outdoor lounge complete with a stage area for select live performances.   
For one year Tempo has successfully delivered programming dedicated to music, culture, food, and social awareness; a true celebration of Caribbean life beyond entertainment, rising to inspirational, progressive and educational.   "I am extremely thankful for the love of Caribbean people and the many blessings Tempo has received over the past year.   As we reflect on the past and look to the future, we wanted to celebrate the vision and mission of Tempo, to unite the Caribbean through culture.  As Tempo turns one, we celebrate the "oneness" that is being raise One flag, as we are truly One people united together in One cause, moving to the beat of One Tempo for the elevation of One Caribbean."  So Caribbean People, Tempo loves you.....let's celebrate our channel as Tempo Turns One and Party Like The Stars We Are", said Frederick Morton, Senior Vice President, General Manager, and founder of TEMPO.

Tom Skerritt Has Face Value

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jim Bawden, Television Columnist

(Nov. 21, 2006) People are stopping in the mezzanine of the Fairmont Royal York hotel to gaze at the impeccably dressed man with grey hair. He's lounging in a chair, chatting with a reporter, but passers-by swear they've seen his face somewhere else.  "I think he's on that new TV series Brothers and Sisters," says a teenaged girl. "But I can't quite get the name."  "He was in Alien," says a waiter who's passing by. "I've got the DVD. He was in the first one. His name? Not sure." 
Tom Skerritt shrugs and says he gets this wherever he goes. He was in the pilot of ABC's Brothers and Sisters —"two pilots," he says with a laugh — but got killed off, although he was well cast as the patriarch Thomas Walker. "But it just so happens I'm going from this set back to L.A., where I'll do at least two more flashbacks for the series."  For the past month Skerritt has been here to co-star in Paul Gross's next political thriller, H20 II: The Trojan Horse. The detailed pilot has Gross as Tom McLaughlin, Canada's last prime minister, watching from the sidelines as Canadians vote to unite with the United States. Ten provinces are merged into five new U.S. states as McLaughlin plots his revenge on his enemies, one of whom is the Bush-like U.S. president played by Skerritt.  Armed with support from European powers, McLaughlin decides to run for U.S. president to give President Stanfield, up for re-election, a run for his money.  "I couldn't resist the script," chuckles Skerritt. "It has everything and the (continental) politics, while complicated, could very well happen in the future."  Trojan Horse will be seen on CBC next season. Other co-stars include Greta Scacchi and Canadian actors Martha Burns, Saul Rubinek, Kenneth Welsh and William Hutt. The original H20 was shot mostly in Ottawa. The sequel is shooting mostly in Toronto and Hamilton on a $10 million budget, with Charles Biname back as director.

Skerritt says Brothers and Sisters "has had a few problems." The first one was Betty Buckley, who starred in the pilot as the matriarch and was so tough and uncompromising she blew away the rest of the cast.  "Betty is some actress," laughs Skerritt. "When you see her onstage, you see a real powerhouse. The producers wanted a change. They brought in Sally Field and she just seemed to work better." A new executive producer, Greg Berlanti from Everwood, was imported and NBC ordered a new pilot shot just weeks before the season began.  Although Skerritt's character may be dead, he's appearing so frequently on the show that the actors have started an ongoing joke. During lulls in shooting, they'll ask each other "Dad's dead?" because Skerritt always seems to be around.  "Maybe I'll come back as a ghost," he jokes.  A veteran face both on TV and in films (Top Gun, A River Runs Through It), Skeritt is still a busy actor after just turning 73. Last year he played the stage director in a Seattle production of Our Town and in 2004 was back on TV in the short-lived series The Grid and Homeland Security.  Last year he became so bothered by the war in Iraq that he wrote a script based on an incident that took place involving U.S. troops there. He half-expected this would make him unpopular, but American public opinion has since been turning against the conflict. The script is still being shopped around.  Skerritt has also been travelling down memory lane of late, contributing to the DVDs of two of his best movies. For M*A*S*H (1970), he revealed on the DVD that he had phoned mentor Robert Altman about a writing problem he was having and the director said "Skerritt, yeah, right, hang up, I'll call you tomorrow." And Altman did call — to offer him the plum role of Capt. Augustus "Duke" Forrest.  For Alien (1979), Skerritt had seen an early script and dismissed it as a low-budget sci fi thing. "When (director) Ridley Scott came on board, the budget rose and I decided to join in. The (space) suits were awful, I almost passed out from lack of air."

Of the two, Skerritt says he prefers watching Alien with an audience. "In M*A*S*H the audience laughter was continuous. With Alien there's nothing, just silence. Not a sound."  Then the screams break out, he says, during the "face-hugger" scene, when a creature bursts from an egg onto crew member Kane's (John Hurt's) face. He said it won't be the same seeing the scene on DVD.  In person Skerritt is humble and soft-spoken, full of praise for co-workers.  His TV show Picket Fences (1992-96) worked, he says, "because Kathy Baker is just terrific."  On this afternoon, he seems more interested in talking about the many differences between a president and prime minister. He was surprised to learn Canada's leaders aren't surrounded by security once they leave office. Pressed to talk about acting, he says, "The character parts out there just keep getting better and better."

Big Boi Guest Stars And Performs On 'Girlfriends'

Source: Kristen Hall, ; Carmen Davenporte,

(November 22, 2006) LOS ANGELES -
Big Boi, the Grammy nominated singer, producer, and actor from OutKast, will guest star in multiple episodes on "Girlfriends."  Big Boi, who will play himself in three episodes, will discover Lynn (Persia White) as a talented musician and will hire Lynn to write music and collaborate on an album.   Big Boi will also perform a song written by actress Persia White, who plays Lynn's character.  The first of the episodes will air on Monday, November 27 (9:00-9:30PM, ET/PT) on The CW.   Antwan "Big Boi" Patton is one half of the OutKast dynamic duo.  Most recently, he starred in the Universal film "Idlewild", a musical set in the prohibition-era South.  He was also seen in the Warner Brothers film "ATL" and is currently shooting the lead in the independent film "Who's Your Caddy." Musically, Patton started his own label entitled "Purple Ribbon" in 2004 and has released Got Purp Vol 1 and 2.  OutKast released their seventh album this year, Idlewild.  Outkast has earned six Grammy Awards, three World Music Awards, three BET Awards, and four American Music Awards. 

GIRLFRIENDS, now in its seventh season, is the top-rated sitcom among   African American viewers, and is The CW's #1 comedy.  This half hour series focuses on the bonds that keep friendships together. Joan, Maya and Lynn are a group of women who started as friends and became a family. Joining the ladies in their journey through life is William, a man that has endured the good times and the bad with the ladies he adores. As each woman travels down their own paths they still lean on each other for support and guidance while trying to live their lives to the fullest. GIRLFRIENDS airs on Mondays (9:00-9:30PM, ET/PT) on The CW and stars Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White and Reggie Hayes.  Kelsey Grammer and Mara Brock Akil serve as executive producers. GIRLFRIENDS is a production of CBS Paramount Network Television in association with Grammnet Productions and Happy Camper Productions.  CBS Paramount Network Television is a division of CBS Studios, Inc.

CSI And Similar Shows Are Blurring The Lines Between Television And Reality

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Timothy Appleby

(Nov. 22, 2006) Sometimes, a little knowledge really is dangerous. Just ask a forensic expert who has to contend with "the CSI effect." In one of the more memorable episodes of
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the hugely successful television cop show that always ends with an arrest, the murder of a mental-institution resident was solved with help from a "Doppler laser optical transducer" -- to resurrect the sound of arguing voices from a clay pot the victim had made. Pure fantasy -- like much of the forensic science depicted on the Emmy-winning CBS series, originally developed in Las Vegas but now with two spinoffs set in New York and Miami. But plenty of people believe what they see on television. And when those credulous viewers sit in a jury box weighing judgment on an accused, the potential problems are enormous, especially where DNA is involved, police, prosecutors and defence counsel agree.  Separating fact from TV fiction is crucial in the arena of sex crimes, which commonly have significant forensic elements, forensic biologist Alison Morris of Toronto's Centre of Forensic Sciences will tell the city police force's week-long annual sex-crimes conference, which as usual has drawn hundreds of participants. "The technology you see on CSI doesn't really exist and it's become a concern although less here than in the U.S., where it's getting used as a defence tactic," concurs Toronto Crown attorney Paul Culver. "Expectations get raised and [people] say, 'How come you can't do that?' "

Ms. Morris's presentation this morning, The CSI Effect, will thus have a twofold theme. The first will contrast television police shows with laboratory reality: what's doable, what isn't, along with explaining how lengthy multi-strand procedures such as DNA analysis really are. As well, Ms. Morris will also stress that CFS is staffed by scientists, not police officers, and that forensic expertise is just one component of a case -- a distinction that scarcely exists inside the CSI universe. After taking a role in close to 800 homicide investigations, Detective Sergeant Jim Van Allen of the Ontario Provincial Police's criminal profiling unit is singularly unimpressed with CSI, particularly the way the cast is all rolled together.  "You have these crime-scene technicians who are also doing interrogations, follow-up investigations and arrests, with only a modicum of support from the primary investigator," he said. "It's all very simplistic in that you always get the evidence. Even when they do outside crime scenes they don't factor in degradation or climate." Other irritants to professional crime-busters include the lightning speed with which cases are solved; the computer software that from a partial tire print can tell you the model and year of a suspect car; fingerprints miraculously pieced together from a shattered glass; and scads of plain misinformation.

But it's with DNA that the blurring of forensic fact and fiction stirs chief concern. Because DNA technology has become so familiar, and viewed as highly reliable, juries are sometimes reluctant to acquit an accused without DNA evidence in his favour, defence lawyer Steven Skurka says. Or things can work the other way. "Juries have great expectations," Mr. Skurka said. "They come into court expecting cold, hard physical evidence, what's called trace evidence -- physical evidence connecting someone to a crime. But crimes don't get solved in a courtroom, and CSI is like Perry Mason. . . . There's no question there's a buzz in the profession about all this." Television expertise in the courtroom is not all bad news, says Jonathan Newman who heads the biology lab at CFS. In many ways, he says, the information age has created a public far better informed than a generation ago. And while acknowledging shows like CSI bend reality, "there's no clear conclusion about the impact of these programs on the criminal justice system." On that score, Ontario's deputy chief coroner, Dr. Jim Cairns seems to disagree. Time of death, he says, can be particularly nettlesome. In the real world that's often a tough detail to nail down, which can affect witnesses' credibility, because television suggests otherwise.  "CSI is almost accepted as reality," Dr. Cairns said. "The number of forensic courses being held at universities has leapt because of the CSI effect." Nor is it just in court that expectations are high, he adds. "I've had relatives of people who have died call me and say, 'Have you done this test?' And I'll say, 'What test, never heard of it.' Or they'll say, 'How come it's going to take such a long time to do this? They can do it in no time at all on CSI.' " Dr. Cairns wouldn't really know about that, since he has yet to watch a full episode of a show he describes as "the bane of our lives. . . . It makes people think we can do things that we can't. And this is not just in Toronto, I'm hearing this from across the country. It's a well-recognized forensic issue. Judges have commented on it."


'Degrassi' Debuts Online

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(Nov 22, 2006)
CTV is trying a bold experiment on today: the private broadcaster is showing online the eagerly anticipated premiere of the sixth season of "Degrassi: The Next Generation" a week before the show airs on television.  The first episode of the show can be seen at at noon EST Wednesday. All of the following episodes will be shown on the Internet at 9 a.m. EST every Wednesday — the morning after the show is broadcast on television.  The move has series producer Linda Schuyler sligShtly uneasy.  "We're trying something new so of course, I'm a bit nervous — if kids watch it on the Internet, are they then going to say we're not going to watch the premiere on TV and then are my ratings going to be lower and then is CTV going to say: `We don't want you back this year?"' Schulyer wondered Tuesday.  "But CTV has been tracking it and they tell me that it's a different experience watching it on the web than it is watching it in a room, and they're of the opinion that it will drive traffic to the show. And the great thing about CTV is we've all decided we're in this together so let's just try it."  The network says the early showing of the premiere episode — it debuts next Tuesday night with back-to-back episodes — is aimed at generating buzz for the upcoming season of the popular show.  The show, an international hit, returns this season with the usual high-school drama but also an added element — some of the Degrassi kids are headed off to university this year and dealing with the problems of living in residence and away from home for the first time.



Crow's Theatre Founder Millan Plans To Fly Away

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Nov. 18, 2006) "As the crow flies" isn't just a folksy image to
Jim Millan; for the past 23 years, it's been a way of life.  Millan founded Crow's Theatre in 1983 and has been responsible for steering some of the most imaginative and successful Canadian plays onto our stages since then.  Brad Fraser's Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, John Mighton's A Short History of Night and Lee MacDougall's High Life are just three of the more than 50 shows that Millan has helped bring to life.  This Thursday, his latest play, Director's Cut, debuts at the Factory Studio Café. Then in January, he stages Morris Panych's new work, What Lies Before Us as a co-production with CanStage.  And after that, this particular crow flies away.  At the age of 45, Millan is stepping down, turning the reins over to Chris Abraham, who has already established himself as one of the more interesting young directors on the scene today.  It's a good time for him to reflect on what he's done and Millan can look at the past two decades with justifiable satisfaction.  "I've been proud to have been involved with a lot of artists who've put their nails in history," is how Millan puts it on a break from rehearsals.  He began fresh from a season at the Shaw Festival, working with iconoclastic directors like Denise Coffey and Derek Goldby. Watching mavericks like that in action made him realize that "I didn't exactly see a place for myself in Canadian theatre as it stood just then, so I thought I'd better start something of my own."

Initially, he largely explored existing texts like Ionesco's The Bald Soprano and Brecht's The Exception and the Rule with a talented young ensemble that included the likes of Oliver Dennis, Allegra Fulton and Guillermo Verdecchia.  But after the success of his own play, Dali, in 1986, Millan began drifting more and more toward new scripts.  He has no trouble in pinpointing Brad Fraser's Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love in 1990 as the company's turning point.  "I liked it because it wasn't a nice, typical Canadian play," says Millan in his usual no-nonsense way. "It was risky and provocative and overtly sexy. I loved it."  So did audiences. It made Fraser's reputation as well as Crow's and proved successful around the world.  What Millan typically remembers best about the whole "out of body" experience is convincing superstar Brent Carver over the phone to come down to the Poor Alex and play the brilliantly self-loathing gay-actor-waiter named David.  "Brent was backstage at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax ready to go onstage as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha with full costume and makeup," Millan recalls. "He finally said `Oh hell, I'll do it,' and from that moment on, I kept picturing him as Don Quixote all throughout the production."  Getting mathematician-turned-playwright John Mighton into the Crow's family was relatively easy because "we had socialized for years. He's a tremendous individual and his plays are all very precise, very distilled, drawn from the life he's lived."  On the other hand, the wildly successful High Life, about junkie con men (1998) came unsolicited in the mail from author Lee MacDougall.  "Lee sent it to me with a note saying he thought it was a Crow's Theatre kind of play. He was right. I read it and thought, `I have to do this.'''  But other theatres didn't agree. "I brought it to Urjo Kareda at Tarragon, hoping for a co-production, and he just shivered and said `Ooh, too many needles!'"

Don Shipley at Harbourfront thought otherwise and the play went from a triumphant opening there across Canada.  Over the years there have also been Crow's productions better left forgotten, like Brother André's Heart, Danceland and Godzilla, but Millan is philosophical about them.  "One always loves all your children equally," he says, "but you come to realize that sometimes plays weren't as ready as you thought. We have some high water marks and some things which didn't work as well. I'm happy with that."  In recent years, Millan has become a much in-demand freelance director around North America, steering the Kids in the Hall through their wildly successful comeback show, Same Guys, New Dresses, and mounting the Kids' touring stage version Scooby-Doo, "which has been seen by one and a half million people on three continents," he announces, as well as staging The Marijuana-Logues around the country.  "Sitting and writing dope jokes with Tommy Chong," he laughs, "now that's a trip! But then, I've always been interested in the oddballs of life."  Well, it's worked for Millan for the past 23 years, so there's no reason to assume it shouldn't succeed for the next 23 as well.  Director's Cut by Jim Millan starts previews Tuesday and runs through Dec. 10 at the Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. Tickets at 416-504-9971.

Morris Chestnut To Produce And Star In Talbert Play

Excerpt from

(Nov. 17, 2006) *Film star
Morris Chestnut will make his theatrical stage and producing debut in David E. Talbert's 12th stage play “Love in the Nick of Tyme,” described as a classic tale of relationships, challenges, and dreams deferred.   The story centers on smart and sexy salon owner, Tyme Prentice, who is doing her best to raise her seventeen-year-old son, while attempting to maintain a relationship with his father, Marcelles.  Marcelles has never made Tyme a priority, but goes out of his way to make sure no one else does, either. Chestnut says of his producing gig: "This is a unique opportunity for me, as an actor and now as a producer. I've been in front of the camera but always had a strong desire to produce.  I've always had ideas for content, especially content that supports the African American community.  So, linking up with someone as creatively accomplished as David just makes good sense. With the ever-changing marketplace, now is the perfect time to diversify by incorporating all that I've learned over the years." “Nick of Tyme” will begin a 12-city limited engagement tour in January 2007 and visit the following cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore, Miami, Orlando and more. "’Nick of Tyme’ marks my 15th anniversary in theatre," said Talbert, "And what better way to celebrate than to link my brand with Morris Chestnut. Starting with a play makes all the sense in the world given his status as a romantic leading man, and that most of my bigger plays have been romantic musicals. The fact that we've been on different sides of the camera makes our collaboration interesting."  BET has signed on as the title sponsor of the national tour, and a DVD of the production will be distributed through UrbanWorks Entertainment.  Meanwhile, the producers have scheduled an open casting call (non-union) in Los Angeles on Monday (Nov. 20) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Theatre 68 (5419 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood). The following actors are being sought:

• African American female lead (role of "Tyme"), late 20s to mid 30s, attractive, independent, salon owner. Must be able to sing.

My Name Is Rachel Corrie - War Of Words

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Nov. 18, 2006) Late in the afternoon of March 16, 2003, an Israeli Defense Forces Caterpillar armoured bulldozer began moving through the Palestinian residential area of Rafah, on the Gaza Strip.  Shortly after 5 p.m., a 23-year-old American activist named
Rachel Corrie lay dying, her battered body beneath a pile of rubble in front of the bulldozer.  Those are the only facts of the day that everyone can agree on in what has come to be one of the most hotly debated incidents in the recent history of the Middle East.  They are also the motor driving a piece of theatre called My Name Is Rachel Corrie, which has proven to be the single most controversial play of the past few years.  It has created intense polarization and heated debate in London, where it debuted last year, and in New York, where it finally opened this fall.  And it looks like Toronto will be next. The Star has learned that CanStage is in final negotiations for the show and hopes to present it as part of its 2007-2008 season.  “I think this is a really important piece of theatre,” said artistic producer Martin Bragg. “I was absolutely reduced to tears when I read the script.”

The play had a private reading without incident at Hart House on the University of Toronto campus in April. But other people have viewed the script with emotions ranging from predictable anger to less comprehensible fear.  “Rachel’s voice is very clear,” said Lynn Moffatt, general manager of the New York Theatre Workshop, which originally announced the show, and then later decided to cancel it. “But it sits in the larger world and that larger world is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”  Ironically, what happened to Rachel in death is what she had studiously avoided in her brief but eventful life: partisan politics overwhelmed a desire to see that justice, pure and simple, be done.  Within hours of her demise beneath the bulldozer, totally disparate stories were being sent around the world.  On one extreme, she was an idealistic volunteer coldly murdered while trying to stop the house of a Palestinian doctor from being destroyed.  On the other, she was a covert member of Hamas who slipped while interfering with an attempt to clear rubble that concealed terrorist escape tunnels.  And while her supporters rushed to hail her as a courageous martyr, her enemies were just as quick to paint her as a Palestinian dupe and a traitor to her own country.  Some American websites were filled with statements like “she should burn in hell for all eternity,” and “that’s how all stupid lefties ought to die.”

Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, still finds it hard to remember the way that her daughter’s reputation was blackened before she was even cold in her grave.  “Within a week,” she recalled sadly, “we heard from our other kids that all these terrible rumours were being spread about Rachel. I feel sad about it. Because I wish that people could have really known her and understood who she was, and how she genuinely had compassion for people on all sides.”  Indeed, that is the story My Name Is Rachel Corrie tries to tell, rather than enlisting anyone’s support for a particular political point of view.  It’s why the show has gone through the same pattern in both London and New York: an initial storm of anticipatory dialectic that gradually disperses once people see or read the play.  “Isn’t it astonishing,” said Katharine Viner, the play’s co-editor, from her London home with a chuckle, “how everyone feels so strongly about a work that they don’t even really know? It’s because everyone wants to use Rachel as a symbol of which side they’re on, be it Palestinian or Israeli.”  Viner has been through the journey herself, so she knows what she’s talking about. As a journalist for the Guardian, she followed the Corrie case, reading the emails she had sent to her parents in the days before her death.  “This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world,” Rachel wrote. “This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. ..... This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me.”  Those words touched Viner. “I wanted to learn more about this young woman who came to a particular point in the journey of her life and chose a road that she thought would lead her to knowledge, but only brought her to death,” she said.

The Royal Court Theatre asked her to collaborate with actor/director Alan Rickman in creating a piece of theatre based on the writing and life of Rachel Corrie. Viner agreed, even though she knew “that I would be walking into a minefield.”  She sums up the essence of what could be called “the Rachel Corrie problem.”  “No one really knew who Rachel was when she died. They only knew what they thought she stood for. They never bothered to look past the politics to discover the woman.  “And so her partisans raced to canonize her, while her enemies vilified her because she had been killed and that made her ever so much more dangerous.”  But Viner found the answers she was searching for when Rachel’s parents — Craig and Cindy — sent her an enormous package of Rachel’s journals, essays and poems, some written as early as when she was 10.  It’s these writings, more than the emails Rachel sent from Gaza in the final weeks of her life, that make up over half of My Name Is Rachel Corrie and allow us to meet the person Viner calls “the human being, the ordinary girl.”  We discover a young woman who grew up in Olympia, Wash., with parents who, in Cindy’s words, “tried really hard to connect our kids to the whole world while they were trying to deal with the details of day-to-day life.”  By age 10, Rachel was writing poems about how many of the children in the world were starving and at 12 she could acutely observe “the name Rachel means sheep, but I’ve got a fire in my belly.”  “Rachel was always looking for meaning and the meaningful in her life,” Cindy recalled. “She often struggled with that. She recognized very early that she was a lucky kid living in a middle-class, comfortable place.”  While still a teen, she travelled to Russia to fight poverty and worked with the mentally challenged back at home. Her focus, Cindy insisted, “was always social, rather than political.”

In light of how Rachel is now held up as a Palestinian terrorist out to destroy Israel, it’s revealing to look at the actual world she was raised in.  “Rachel’s uncle is Jewish,” Cindy said, “and she grew up feeling a strong allegiance to Israel because of that. We didn’t have any connection with the Palestinian movement at all.”  This is why it’s possible to see Rachel struggling with her feelings once she actually arrives in Gaza.  In one of the most difficult passages of the play, she wrote in her journal: “The scariest thing for non-Jewish Americans in talking about Palestinian self-determination is the fear of being or sounding anti-Semitic.  “The people of Israel are suffering and Jewish people have a long history of oppression. We still have some responsibility for that, but I think that it’s important to draw a firm distinction between the policies of Israel as a state and the Jewish people.”

Is My Name Is Rachel Corrie anti-Semitic?  It’s this very issue that has caused much of the controversy surrounding the play elsewhere, although the response from major artistic figures in Toronto has been highly positive.  Joel Greenberg, artistic director of Studio 180, which has brought such politically sensitive plays to Toronto as The Arab-Israeli Cookbook, said: “I don’t think it is anti-Semitic, because I see nothing in Corrie’s writing that goes there. She is conflicted about Israel’s position with the Palestinians, but then thousands of others are, too.”  Ross Manson, artistic director of Volcano Theatre and one of the guiding forces behind the Wrecking Ball, Toronto’s political cabaret theatre, said, “I believe a Canadian theatre audience could be asked this question, and I believe they would be up to the challenge of answering it.  “And frankly, I’m not even sure this is the central question of the play. How humans treat one another, time and again, through history — that might be the more valuable question, and that’s a question that transcends any specific racial context.”  When the play was presented at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 2005 there was a fair bit of heated public debate, but things got even uglier on this side of the Atlantic.  James Nicola, artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, had originally scheduled My Name Is Rachel Corrie to open at the theatre March 22 this year, only to announce “an indefinite postponement” a few weeks before performances were to start.  There were rumours that members of the Jewish community had pressured Nicola to drop the play. In a radio interview, he admitted he had had several conversations to that effect “with very good friends who were Jewish.”  He told the Guardian: “In listening to our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation. We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict that we didn’t want to take.”

The Royal Court Theatre angrily withdrew the rights, but there was no shortage of producers and organizations willing to leap into the breach.  Dena Hammerstein and Pam Pariseau finally emerged with the rights to present the show in New York, where it opened without major incident Oct. 15 at the off-Broadway Minetta Lane Theatre.  “Most people who have the strongest feelings about the material have neither read it nor seen it,” Pariseau said.  “But once people sit down and experience the words of this truly gifted young woman, many of them are willing to put aside their preconceptions,” Hammerstein added. “That’s when the real talk can begin.”  “Rachel was a human being who had a voice and had things to say,” Viner said. “Yes, she had a point of view and it may bother some people, but she certainly earned her right to have it.”  One of the things that gives My Name Is Rachel Corrie its unique power onstage is our awareness that Rachel will die by the final curtain. It adds an almost unbearable poignancy to speeches like the one where she says:  “I can’t believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry. It hurts me, again, like it has hurt me in the past, to witness how awful we can allow the world to be.”  To hear these words spoken on stage by a 23-year-old woman who will soon be dead transcends any individual political issues.  “We grow older,” said Cindy, the pain of loss still in her voice, “and even when you care a lot, you realize that you can’t fix everything, so there’s a kind of acceptance that you slide into. That’s why we need our children. They become our consciences and they take a stand.”  In the end, that’s one of the things that has made Bragg so committed to bringing this play to Toronto.  “I’m a parent with a 17-year-old daughter and a son in university,” he said quietly. “I hear Rachel and I think of them.  “The hysteria surrounding this play comes from the fear of the unknown. The issues come from people who want to find issues in it.  “This is about a young woman who believed in something enough to die for it. And I think that’s the kind of story we need to be telling in our theatres.”

Our Top Musicals Smartly Bundled

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Nov. 21, 2006) Just think: if you want to see a Canadian musical this week, you won't have to go to New York, London or Chicago.  With Evil Dead making its mark off Broadway, The Drowsy Chaperone set to hit London's West End in 2007 and Leslie Arden's The Boys are Coming Home having proved the toast of the Windy City this summer, you might wonder where all our local songwriters have gone.  Don't worry: they're alive and well and setting up camp this week just west of Broadview and north of the Danforth.  Thanks to the organization known as
Script Lab and its devoted artistic director, Jim Betts, the first Canadian Musical Theatre Festival will take place at the Papermill Theatre on Pottery Rd., at the Don Valley setting of the Todmorden Mills Heritage Museum.  From today through Sunday, the festival is presenting an incredible assortment of events involving some of our country's finest musical talents — past, present and to come.  With Betts providing the vision and producer Michael Rubinoff taking care of the logistics, it promises to be a week that no one interested in the future of our musical theatre should miss.  It starts tonight at 8 with an opening gala that is a benefit for the Actors' Fund of Canada.  The likes of Louise Pitre, Adam Brazier, Charlotte Moore and Judy Marshak will present what is being billed as "an entertaining and fast-paced tribute to the history of musical theatre in Canada."  Selections from My Fur Lady, Spring Thaw, Billy Bishop Goes to War, The House of Martin Guerre, The Drowsy Chaperone and other top shows will be presented by the all-star cast.

  Tomorrow at 8 p.m., a
· symposium on the Canadian musical theatre called "Where We've Been, Where We Are and Where We're Going" will feature veteran producer Marlene Smith and Mirvish Productions' director of development, Kelly Robinson. Total disclosure: I will be moderating the discussion.

Mehta's Next Project: Live Radio Drama

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Lee-Anne Goodman, Canadian Press

(Nov. 22, 2006)
Deepa Mehta is having a good year: Her labour of love, Water, has been selected as Canada's submission for a best foreign-language film Oscar nomination, and she's now trying her hand at something completely different -- directing a live-to-broadcast stage show. Mehta, 54, one of Canada's most acclaimed filmmakers, will be at a downtown Toronto theatre today for dress rehearsals for Funny Boy, a dramatic play based on an excerpt from Shyam Selvadurai's bestselling debut novel of the same name. "It's lovely -- it's charming, it's warm, but it deals with a subject that is intense but from a point of view that is innocent," Mehta said yesterday of the novel that tells the story of an eight-year-old boy coming of age in the midst of the Sri Lankan civil war. "I've always been a fan of the book, and when CBC asked me if I'd be interested in doing anything for radio, this is the one that I clamped onto and it's been such fun to do." The production will air live on CBC Radio One on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET from Toronto's Young Centre for the Performing Arts. The cast will also perform the show three times -- on Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- before the live-to-broadcast performance on Sunday.

For the Indian-born Mehta, it has been a pleasant diversion from her usual business of writing screenplays and making films. She has just finished the first draft of a script for her next film, Exclusion, about a 1914 incident in which Canada refused to let the Indian passengers of a steamship land in British Columbia. And she's still delighted about the Oscar buzz surrounding Water, a film set in India in the 1930s. The movie, the third in a trilogy after Fire and Earth, has been described as "magnificent" by author Salman Rushdie. Some of Mehta's satisfaction comes, of course, from the fact that Water was such a difficult film to get made. During the initial shoot in the Indian city of Varanasi in 2000, Mehta and her crew were terrorized by religious fundamentalists who claimed they had seen her script and deemed it anti-Hindu. The set was destroyed and Mehta herself received death threats and was burned in effigy. Production shut down and it wasn't until 2004 that it started anew, this time in Sri Lanka -- giving Mehta four years to contain her anger. "I said to myself that I would not even try to make Water again unless I stopped being angry about what happened," she said in an interview from her Toronto home. "You can't impose your own personal anger on a script, or it becomes something else"

The Oscar talk, she says, is a "real honour." "As filmmakers, you should try to have few expectations because you don't know how things are going to work out, but you hope for the best, so this is great." She adds that she's also delighted to see a Hindi-language film considered Canadian. "When it was chosen to open the Toronto International Film Festival last year, it was really good, because it said to me that yes, even though a script is in Hindi, that is Canada," she says. "So now being nominated by Canada -- again, a Hindi-language film -- is really putting your money where your mouth is. This is Canada, and it's fantastic." But until the Oscar nominees are announced in January, Mehta is focusing her energies on her new film and, this week, on Funny Boy. CBC Radio says it's the first time in 10 years it has "embraced the classic style of Orson Welles's theatrical radio dramas of the 1930s" -- something Mehta describes as a shame. "I wish they would do more, and maybe this will help convince them," she said. "It's so Canadian; it's such a Canadian thing to do."

Kevin Spacey Returning To Broadway

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -  Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press

(Nov. 22, 2006) NEW YORK —
Kevin Spacey and Eugene O'Neill — together again. Spacey, who has appeared in several O'Neill classics on Broadway, will return next spring to star in a revival of A Moon for the Misbegotten, portraying the failed alcoholic actor James Tyrone Jr. Moon will open April 9 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for a limited engagement. Preview performances begin March 29. The production, directed by Howard Davies, comes to New York after a triumphant run at London's Old Vic Theatre, where Spacey serves as artistic director. Until Moon, Spacey's tenure at the Old Vic had been rocky, but the O'Neill revival, which will also feature London cast members Eve Best and Colm Meaney, may have changed that. It closes there Dec. 23. Paul Taylor, writing in The Independent in September, called the London revival of Moon “beautiful, funny and cathartic ... The marvellous evening gives one the sense they have learned by past mistakes and may go on to a thrilling future.” The Times of London described the production as “a major triumph,” while The Evening Standard praised Spacey's “electrifying displays of rage and sly shafts of comedy.”

The 47-year-old Spacey first appeared in an O'Neill play on Broadway in 1986 in the Jack Lemmon production of O'Neill's masterpiece, Long Day's Journey into Night. In it, he portrayed James Tyrone Jr., the same character he plays in Moon. Spacey's last Broadway appearance was in the 1999 revival of O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, also directed by Davies. A Moon for the Misbegotten has had four previous productions on Broadway. Its initial Broadway run, starring Franchot Tone and Wendy Hiller, in 1957, closed after only 68 performances. But the play's reputation was cemented with a 1973 revival starring Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst and directed by Jose Quintero. It ran for over 300 performances. Subsequent revivals have not been as successful. A 1984 production starring Kate Nelligan and Ian Bannen lasted 40 performances, while the 2000 revival, featuring Cherry Jones and Gabriel Byrne, chalked up a 120-performance run.


Sheryl Lee Ralph, The Original Deena Jones, Speaks

Excerpt from

(November 21, 2006) *Gossip columnist Cindy Adams caught up with the woman who originated the role of
Dreamgirls” character Deena Jones on Broadway.  Beyonce may play her in the film, opening on Dec. 25, but it was Sheryl Lee Ralph who is most identified with the role of Deena among folks of a certain age.  "The film opens Christmas Day, which makes it exactly 25 years and five days after our Michael Bennett landmark musical rang up the curtain,” Ralph told Adams. “We opened Dec. 20, 1981. That night was the greatest rush of excitement you can imagine. Like your wedding, prom, 16th birthday all rolled into one. I knew then my life would never be the same.    "I played this role 1,247 performances. Six years of my life doing this show. It was the best of times, the worst of times. Best because we were the toast of the town. Worst because it was when the mystery disease AIDS began wiping out the talent on Broadway."    Adams asked if Ralph had seen the film yet. She replied: "No. Seen absolutely nothing. Haven't even been invited to a screening. Nobody ever reached out to me. I guess that's just showbiz. I always said I wanted someday to do the movie, but they told me then, 'By the time Hollywood gets it hands on this it'll be too late for you to do the role.'    Ralph’s thoughts on how Beyonce will fare?    “Wonderful,” she replied. “What can I say but 'wonderful.' She'll be different from me. Understand, our creative process was different. We were two years in workshops, hashing it out, creating it out of improvisations like 'A Chorus Line.' The show paid homage to the Supremes but wasn't based on it. Yes, my role paid homage to Diana Ross. In the '60s, everybody paid homage to Diana Ross.    "Of the other ladies in it, Loretta Devine and I have kept a deep friendship. She was at my wedding. I'm not in touch with Jennifer Holliday. Don't even know where she is."

Cirque Strikes Deal With Madison Square Garden

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(Nov. 21, 2006) New York — Montreal's
Cirque Du Soleil has signed a four-year deal to put on theatre shows at Madison Square Garden. The as-yet-unnamed production will run at the famous New York venue for 10 weeks each winter, beginning in 2007. Cirque founder Guy Laliberté says the family-oriented show will be seen by nearly one million people. Creative details will be announced in the new year, but the show will have a narrative thread and storyline designed to present the theme of winter.  The show will feature traditional stage techniques and the latest in theatre technology to bring the audience of nearly 5,000 as close as possible to the performers. CP

$2.75M for Harbourfront Theatre Name

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Nov 21, 2006) The
Harbourfront Centre Theatre has a new name, a new corporate sponsor and a 10-year deal that will pump almost $3 million in new funding into arts and cultural programming.  Three years ago, after strict federal legislation banned corporate sponsorship by tobacco companies, the theatre was required to stop using the name DuMaurier.  Since then, Harbourfront Centre CEO Bill Boyle said the non-profit arts and culture group has been shopping for a new corporate sponsor.  It approached Enwave, a city-owned corporation that provides green energy through steam heat and deep-water cooling and a deal was recently sealed. Under the terms of the agreement, Enwave will pay $2.75 million over 10 years to have its name on the theatre.  New signage for Enwave Theatre is expected to be erected as early as tomorrow.  "Today I am happy to welcome a new site sponsor who understands the critical role that diversity of expression and cultural awareness play in our daily lives and proudly lends its name to one of our major facilities," Boyle said.



Konvalina Brings World Of Experience To His New Role With The National Ballet

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(Nov. 21, 2006) He wears his hair longish, in the style of Rudolf Nureyev and the other stars of that earlier era.
Zdenek Konvalina speaks English with a patrician-sounding Czech accent, ordering his words somewhat differently but well enough to make jokes, sometimes at his own expense.  He dresses unlike his contemporaries, in a soft woollen pullover, possibly cashmere, over a pair of thick woollen trousers with a herringbone pattern. Soft brown leather loafers of a style you would not find at Harry Rosen encase his famously perfect ballet dancer's feet.  At 27, Konvalina, the latest principal dancer to join the National Ballet of Canada, is very much his own man, on and off stage. He's also very aware of his pedigree, a long line of male dancers who preceded him, especially Nureyev.  The dancer with the chiselled cheeks and the elegantly sculptured legs made his debut with the company during last week's run of The Sleeping Beauty, in steps created by and indelibly associated with Nureyev, who made the production for the National Ballet in 1972. It was quite apparent, from Konvalina's seemingly effortless mastery of the ever-airborne Prince Florimund role, that he is a product of the Russian school that gave rise to The Sleeping Beauty.  Accepted into the eight-year program of the Czech National Ballet's school when he was 8 or 9, Konvalina remembers his first year there, before the Czech "Velvet Revolution" broke the grip of Russian rule over his country. The Czech Republic, separated from Slovakia in 1991, celebrated 17 years of freedom on Nov. 17, their independence day.  "I was exactly 10," he says of that day. "I had one year in the school that was pure Russian. I had to learn to speak Russian; the history of ballet was Russian; the best way to do ballet was the Russian way. But after that year it changed, slowly at first because they could not be sure whether (Soviet rule) might come back."

His teachers were either Russian or trained in St. Petersburg in the Vaganova technique that was taught to Alicia Markova, Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and countless Russian ballet dancers before and after them.  Reverence and support for the performing arts, especially ballet, was preserved by the Soviets. But Konvalina's father, who ran a restaurant in Brno, the Czech Republic's second largest city, thought it would be better if his son went into business. His mother, on the other hand, remains his biggest fan, and flew to Toronto last week to watch him perform.  Konvalina is new to Toronto, but he is well established on the international stage. In August he was invited to perform in the four-week Tokyo Ballet Festival, sharing Japanese adoration with stars such as The Royal Ballet's Sylvie Guillem, Manuel Legris of the Paris Opera Ballet, and Jose Carreno and Alessandra Ferri from American Ballet Theatre.  He first made his mark in 2001, following two years dancing with the National Ballet of Moravia-Silesia. That year, after guesting with a number of companies, including the Dutch National Ballet, the National Ballet of Cuba and Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico, he entered the prestigious Helsinki International Ballet Competition.  The plan had been, he says, "I go to ballet competition. I win gold and I go to a company. And it actually happened. It was bizarre." A thirst for North American experience was satisfied when the Houston Ballet hired Konvalina as a principal dancer that same year. He danced there with distinction, receiving much critical praise for his beautiful lines: looking in a photograph as if his grand jeté could span an entire stage.  A sexual harassment suit Konvalina brought against the Houston company and its artistic director, Stanton Welch, is not up for discussion, but it seems likely that Konvalina would have moved on anyway, given his hunger for a challenge and exposure to the world's ballet cultures.  His reasons for coming to Canada are very clear. "Karen Kain," he says, with emphasis. "She is the connection to an era when ballet was at its best. I always thought of the National Ballet as this institution that had these glorious years with Nureyev and Erik Bruhn, and the other day I saw a movie of Celia Franca. It was amazing to see how much history the company has."

It seems that the Czech dancer's ambitions might have nicely dovetailed with the National Ballet artistic director's intention to reignite a passion for classical ballet. The words "star" and "prima ballerina" were never whispered during the James Kudelka era that lasted from 1996 to 2005, but Kain's very presence is a reminder of a time when ballet burst into the public consciousness on the strength of individual talent.  Dismissing a North American trend to give precedence to the artistic director and the company as a whole, Konvalina says "a company is wonderful because of its dancers.... Ballet was built around a star."  Technically proficient is not enough, he says. Originality is what he strives for. "It's the hardest to achieve. If anyone came to tell me, `I love your Manon and I love your Sleeping Beauty, but they look the same,' I think I would stop dancing."  Tomorrow night, he'll dance with Sonia Rodriguez in Balanchine's Symphony in C. Thursday he'll be the Messenger of Death in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Song of the Earth. He's excited to dance in a work that MacMillan created for the Royal Ballet in 1965.  "I love the piece," he says, relishing an opportunity to bring new life and his own interpretation to a 40-year-old ballet.


Emmitt Smith Wins Dance Competition

Excerpt from

(November 16, 2006)  *Former Dallas Cowboys running back
Emmitt Smith took home the crown on “Dancing with the Stars” last night, beating out Mario Lopez for the top spot. Smith’s smooth style and smile eventually won over both the judges and the audience, though the race was tight until the very end.  “It is awesome, it is awesome,” Smith said, holding the disco ball prize like it was the Vince Lombardi Trophy. “We’ve come a long way, we really have.”

Fergie Wants A Spot On TV's Dancing With The Stars

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Nov. 18, 2006) New York -- Actors and athletes have busted some amazing moves on
Dancing With the Stars, including its new champion, football great Emmitt Smith.  Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, is hoping the show will make room for a royal. "I'd quite like to go on Dancing With the Stars," Ferguson told Inside Edition in an interview on Thursday. "I'd like them to teach me the tango." Ferguson, 47, says she was turned on to the romantic dance during a visit to Buenos Aires. "I did go to the oldest tango place and I did look at it and think 'I can try this,' " she said. AP



Whoopi Prepares For Return Of Comic Relief

Excerpt from

(November 16, 2006)  *
Whoopi Goldberg will reunite with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams Saturday in Las Vegas to host another Comic Relief, a concert featuring more than 20 comedians that will raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  The event, which will air at 9 p.m. ET Saturday on HBO and TBS, began in 1986 as a way to raise money for the homeless.   In an interview with Newsweek’s Steve Friess, Goldberg talks about Katrina’s influence on the decision to bring back Comic Relief, plus she discusses her fear of flying and why there still aren't many black people on television. 

NEWSWEEK: Why are you getting the Comic Relief gang back together again?

Whoopi Goldberg: I don't think any comics really have done a benefit on a large scale for Katrina victims, which is to say we go to the people and say, 'Listen, send us what you have and we'll make sure 100 percent of it actually gets to people. It doesn't have to go through an agency that's gonna figure out what to do with it.' We know where it's going to, we know the folks who are going to be benefiting from it.

The old Comic Relief events raised $50 million for the poor.

Oh yeah. When we first did it, people mistook homelessness for being bummish, not interested in working or changing their life. What Comic Relief did was put a face to the homeless because it really became “There but for the grace of God go all of us.” We're all just one step away when you figure that people are working three or four jobs to hold onto their homes.

 You're taking the bus to Vegas. Why don't you fly?

I haven't flown in 20 years. Everybody's said to me, “Have you tried this, have you tried that?” I've tried everything. It's not for me. I don't like airplanes. I take the time I need and I get where I need to go and I'm much happier that way. I arrive and I'm rested and I'm on everybody's schedule wherever I'm going.

GG Winners Invoke Past Ordeals

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Philip Marchand, Books Columnist

(Nov 22, 2006) If the winners of this year's
Governor General's literary awards in English demonstrate anything, it is that history can strike a nerve in the present.  In his acceptance speech for the fiction award, novelist and screenwriter Peter Behrens, 52, whose The Law of Dreams deals with the Irish potato famine, mentioned being in Ireland in 1992 as news of a famine in Ethiopia broke in the world media.  "The morning after in Dublin, I recall walking around, and on every street corner downtown was a kid with a can collecting money for victims of the famine," Behrens told his audience at the Jane Mallett Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, where the awards were announced yesterday. Famine, he concluded, was still a subject embedded in the Irish consciousness.  With reason. "Famine," Behrens continued, "is not just something that happened in sepia tones, but it is with us now.  "Western Ireland was peripheral to the world's consciousness in 1845, 1847. Parts of Africa are almost as peripheral to us now," he told literary colleagues and media as he accepted the $15,000 prize.  He recommended support for two organizations: the African Medical Research Foundation and Doctors Without Borders.  Even poetry, in our culture an artefact that tends to the personal and private, can address history and politics, if John Pass's winning book of poetry, Stumbling in the Bloom, is an indication. The collection contains a poem entitled "Twinned Towers." It deals with 9/11, but also with other towers in history and mythology as well as present day. (The CN Tower gets a mention).  Its message ("No straight lines in art or nature. No perfect circle. No finish./ But shades of resemblance, remembrance") is not quite as stark as the message of Behrens's novel, but it does resonate.  "I tried to keep the language of the poem very communicative and open," said Pass, 59, who teaches composition and writing skills to adult students at the Sechelt campus of Capilano College in British Columbia. "There are not many opportunities poets have where they are encouraged by events to speak in a compassionate and truthful way to their fellow citizens."

Ross King's non-fiction award-winning book, The Judgement of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism, has a less weighty but still piquant message to deliver to the present. One of the book's major figures is the painter Ernest Meissonier, who enjoyed huge esteem in late 19th-century France. Now he's forgotten. Moral of the story: posterity will deliver varying opinions of today's revered artists and writers.  Any possibility that poor Meissonier will enjoy a revival? "Not a chance," replied King, 44, a Saskatchewan native who resides near Oxford, England. "Napoleonic battle scenes are never going to be that popular again."  Behrens, a Montrealer who lives in Maine, said it was a joy to be back in Canada, "which always feels like being amongst family to me, in a certain way."  Jurors singled out Behrens for his "ethereal imagination and a wealth of historical detail," praising his book as "an epic novel populated by extraordinary characters."

With files from Canadian Press


Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance Write A Book

Excerpt from

(November 21, 2006)  *In January,
Angela Bassett and her husband Courtney B. Vance will release a non-fiction romance book that details their real-life love story.  Co-written with Hilary Beard, “Friends: A Love Story” features separate recollections of the actors on their humble beginnings, past relationships and the busy careers that ultimately led their paths to cross.  “Told in alternating he said, she said chapters, the book takes a realistic but entertaining look at how friends can live parallel love lives and experience the typical male-female misunderstandings on their way to discovering and falling in love with each other,” according to publisher Kimani Press.  “Friends: A Love Story” also includes personal photos that chronicle the couple’s experiences, along with exclusive family photos of their young twins.    Kimani Press states; “This compelling memoir offers a rare peek into their lives, which have previously been private, and offers the reader valuable lessons for relationships and life.”

Magic Johnson To Launch Media Company

Excerpt from

(Nov. 17, 2006) *Always looking for the next lucrative hustle, former NBA star
Earvin “Magic” Johnson is about to stake his claim on a new frontier. Speaking before about 300 attendees at the Association of National Advertisers' Multicultural Marketing Conference this week, Johnson announced the launch of Magic New Media, a new venture that will include wireless communication and the Internet, reports Advertising Age. "Every company's looking for these eyeballs," Johnson said later in a brief interview with the magazine. "There's no urban play."  The new company's CEO is John Huffman, who was CEO of mobile hip-hop community Real Hip-Hop. Huffman said social networking is all about community, and that Magic already has a strong urban community.  During his talk at the ANA conference, Johnson mentioned his 103 Starbucks outlets, 32 Burger King restaurants, AMC movie theatres, 12 gyms and other holdings in what he describes as "Urban America." He also stressed the importance of investing in urban media. "It can't be from 20,000 feet; your marketing now has to be on the ground, whether it's black radio, magazines, newspapers or street teams," he said, according to Ad Age. "And the budget can't be $100 million and here's $2 million for you. By 2014, half of Americans are going to be minorities. That's the way budgets are going to have to go. And you've got to get started now, not later. Somebody beat you in, we're going to stick with them."

Another Model Starves To Death

Source:  Fashionwatch

A 21 year-old Brazilian model died in a Sao Paulo hospital from complications caused by anorexia.  At 5 feet 8 inches
Ana Carolina Reston starved herself down to 88 pounds. That weight is considered normal for a 5 foot tall 12 year-old girl.  Reston had recently worked abroad and did a cover shot for Giorgio Armani. Ironically, Armani announced just last week that he finds skinny models offensive and will not be using them to showcase his clothes. Last summer the starvation death of Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos resulted in a ban on super skinny models at some fashion weeks and sparked a controversy that is still very much in the news.



Lions Win Grey Cup

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(Nov. 19, 2006) WINNIPEG — Paul McCallum kicked a record six field goals as the
British Columbia Lions defeated the Montreal Alouettes 25-14 to claim the Grey Cup in a defensive battle tonight.  Ian Smart had a touchdown for the Lions, the CFL’s best team in the regular season, who won their fifth Grey Cup and their first since they beat Montreal in the 2000 championship game.  Robert Edwards ran in a TD for the Alouettes, but fumbled on the one-yard line to kill a late comeback attempt with 4:06 left in the game. Otis Floyd recovered for B.C.  Damon Duval booted a field goal and the defence forced two safeties for Montreal, which was in its fifth Grey Cup in seven years and remains with only a win in 2002 to show for it.  McCallum tied a record for Grey Cup games shared by three other kickers, including his kicking coach Don Sweet, who booted six in 1977, Hamilton’s Paul Osbaldiston in 1986 and Edmonton’s Sean Fleming in 1993.  In a losing cause, Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo got the 87 yards he needed to pass Doug Flutie for the most career Grey Cup passing yards and slotback Ben Cahoon broke Als great Hal Patterson’s record of 29 career Grey Cup catches.  A full house of 44,786 turned out in clear, -3 C cold to see a game that unfolded as predicted — a clear B.C. win.  The Lions entered the game as seven-point favourites and showed it in a dominant first half in which Montreal only twice moved the ball into B.C. territory.

But the Alouettes defence limited first-half damage to a 19-3 Lions lead on Smart’s TD and four McCallum field goals. Paris Jackson caught five passes for 65 yards and Ryan Thelwell had four for 39 yards in the opening 30 minutes alone.  Lions quarterback Dave Dickenson led a long opening drive that resulted in a 34-yard McCallum field goal and then took his team from his own 18 into range for a 35-yard McCallum boot.  CFL outstanding rookie Aaron Hunt forced a Calvillo fumble at the Montreal 23, setting up yet another McCallum field goal.  Smart scored the game’s first TD on a 25-yard run untouched around the left side 4:12 into the second quarter.  Montreal finally got into the B.C. end midway through the quarter, Duval’s 46-yard attempt was wide left. On Montreal’s next possession, Duval was good from 43 yards to put Montreal on the board.  Dickenson led a final drive for a 30-yard field goal as time expired in the half.  The Montreal defence returned with renewed resolve in the second half and momentum shifted as it forced a Dickenson fumble at the Als’ 46 that stood up after a challenge and video review.  The offence was stopped, but Duval angled a punt out at the B.C. one and two plays later, McCallum conceded a safety at 8:47.  Getting the ball back, Calvillo led his best drive to that point and Edwards scored on a two-yard run to cut B.C.’s lead to seven points.  The Lions are 5-4 in Grey Cup games while the Alouettes are 5-10. B.C coach Wally Buono, going against Grey Cup rookie Jim Popp, improved his record in championship games to 4-4.  It was a fifth trip in seven years to the Grey Cup game for the Alouettes, but their only win was in 2002 in Edmonton. The Lions lost a Grey Cup to Toronto in 2004.  As they have done often this season, the Lions used all three quarterbacks, with backups Buck Pierce and Jarious Jackson going in for short running plays.

There was some nastiness before the game as Montreal’s Avon Cobourne and B.C.’s Floyd got into a jawing match and others joined in as the teams passed each other for player introductions.


Canada's Nesbitt Wins Two Speedskating Medals

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(Nov. 19, 2006) BERLIN (CP-AP) —
Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont.,raced to a pair of medals at a long-track speedskating World Cup event Sunday.  Nesbitt won bronze in the women's 1,000 metres, then teamed up with Kristina Groves of Ottawa and Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg to collect silver in the team pursuit.  Canada men's team of Arne Dankers of Calgary, Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., and Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., added a bronze in the pursuit.  Anni Friesinger of Germany remained unbeaten in five races this year after winning the women's 1,000 in one minute 15.53 seconds. Ireen Wust of the Netherlands was second in 1:16.13, edging Nesbitt, who crossed in 1:16.30.  Groves was fourth in 1:16.51, followed by Rempel, who took fifth in 1:16.74.  The Netherlands won both the men's and women's team pursuit to cap three days of racing.  Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands captured the men's 1,000 in 1:08.88.  Wennemars beat Joon Mun of South Korea, who finished in 1:09.33. Lee Kyou-hyuk of South Korea was third in 1:09.40. Morrison was fifth in 1:09.54.



6 Great Exercises (In Just 20 Minutes)!

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, Glee Contributor

I have good news! You can improve your fitness level without a gym membership. If you’re the type of person who hates to exercise or you just can’t find the time, then I have a solution.  This series of movements will take about 20 minutes. If you do them three to four times per week, your entire body will be stimulated and you’ll feel rejuvenated without all the added stress of having to go to the gym.  I’ve designed this routine so that each exercise stimulates multiple muscle groups. This way you’ll get the biggest bang in the least amount of time. Perform each exercise in succession. After completing one movement, immediately continue to the next. Go through the sequence twice, attempting 20 repetitions of each movement.

1. CHAIR SQUATS -- Perform this exercise with the aid of a sturdy chair. Stand in front of the chair with your back to it and feet shoulders-width apart. Keep your head up as a natural extension of your spine. Begin to sit in the chair, lowering your body until your legs are at a 90-degree angle. Contracting your quadriceps (front part of the thigh), slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of the legs being fully extended.

2. BENT KNEE PUSH UPS -- Start with your hands and knees on a mat. Your hands should be shoulders-width apart and your head, neck, hips and legs should be in a straight line. Don’t let your back arch and cave in. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows. Lower your upper body by bending your elbows, stopping before your chest touches the floor. Contracting the chest muscles, slowly return to the starting position. Inhale while lowering your body and exhale while returning to the starting position. After mastering this exercise, you may wish to try the full push up.

3. LUNGE (with household cans) -- Stand straight with your feet together. Hold a can in each hand with your arms down at your sides. Take a big step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor. Contracting the quadriceps muscles (front of the thigh), push off your right foot and return to the starting position. Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set. The step should be long enough that your left leg is nearly straight. Also, don’t let your knee touch the floor and make sure your head is up and your back straight. Your chest should be lifted and your front leg should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement. Lastly, your right knee should not pass your right foot, and you should be able to see your toes at all times. Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.

4. BENCH DIPS -- Use two benches or chairs. Sit on one and place your palms on the bench with your fingers wrapped around the edge. Put both feet on the other chair. Slide your upper body off the chair 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 (back of the arm), extend your elbows, returning to the starting position and stopping just short of the elbows fully extending. Inhale while lowering your body and exhale while returning to the starting position. Beginners should start with their feet on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle. As you progress, move your feet out further until your legs are straight with a slight bend in the knees.

5. ABDOMINAL DOUBLE CRUNCH -- Lie face up on the floor. 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. Place both hands crossed on your chest. 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. Exhale while rising up, and inhale while returning to the starting position. Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck. Your hands should not be used to lift the head or assist in the movement.

6. BICYCLE MANOEUVRE -- Research consistently rates the Bicycle Manoeuvre as one of the most effective abdominal exercises.  Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position. Place your finger tips 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, alternating your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.  Don’t perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back and don’t pull on your head and neck during this exercise. The lower to the ground your legs bicycle, the harder your abs have to work.



Motivational Note - A Brand New Way To Look At Your Goals And Dreams

Excerpt from - by J. M. Gracia,

(Nov. 17, 2006) I have great news about your goals. News that is sure to motivate you to do the things you have always wanted to do and be. And how can I be sure of this news without knowing your particular goal? Because it is something that all goals share. It doesn't matter what you want, you can use today's idea to give you a powerful boost in confidence and motivation. And it's quick and easy to do.

The Answer is Under Your Nose

You probably don't realize it, but you are wearing the secret to success at this very moment. It's true. You can discover it by looking down at your shirt sleeve. Go ahead, look down. Can you see it? The same law of success can be found on your bookshelf, in Egypt, and even on the top of your head. Any guesses?  Let me help you out. Your sleeve may seem to be a solid piece of material, but taking a closer look will show you hundreds of smaller strands woven together. That heavy book on your bookshelf is no different. It's a combination of thin pages stitched together. The great pyramids in Egypt are awe-inspiring and overwhelming, but as you know they are made from bringing together thousands of smaller pieces. And your thick head of hair? You guesses it. Thousands of single hairs brought together to create your signature style. What does all this have to do with your goals?

The Truth About Success

Your shirt, books, pyramids, and hairstyles hold the key to helping you get and stay motivated to achieve everything you want. And the secret they hold is this: Success, no matter how immense or overwhelming it may seem from afar, is a matter of small, simple steps. Most people take a look at a successful business, sports team, or family and believe it happened overnight. 'Those people were just born lucky.' They couldn't be more wrong. If you could go back in time and watch over the shoulder of a great and worthy success you would find a man or woman following a series of small steps every day that would combine to create something amazing. A phone call, a letter, an afternoon meeting, a hug...these are the things that lead to powerful and lasting success. Before we get to the specifics of what you can do with your goal, I want to mention an important note about goals and success. Namely, what if you don't know what you want? It's a very important question and one that can drive any sane person crazy. It's such a frustrating situation to know you want happiness but not know how to make it happen.