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Updated:  September 7, 2006

Fall just started to drop on us!  All good things, i.e. summer, must come to an end I suppose.

I watched the new Russell Peters' DVD -
Outsourced - this past weekend - HILARIOUS!  (See related article below.)  Please go out and purchase this - I truly didn't stop laughing most of the way through with Russell's ability to mock and engage the audience.  True Canadian content!

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



::top stories::

Steve Irwin, 44: Crocodile Hunter

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon

(Sep. 5, 2006) On television,
Steve Irwin always seemed invincible.  Whether he was scampering away from a lunging crocodile or stalking a venomous snake with demented ebullience, the "wildlife warrior" was himself a force of nature.  "Nothing would ever scare Steve or would worry him," said John Stainton, his long-time friend and manager. "He didn't have a fear of death at all."  Stainton was speaking to reporters in Australia yesterday, hours after shocking news jolted the world: Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, had been killed.  Irwin, 44, was shooting scenes for a new documentary titled Ocean's Deadliest. During a break, and on a fateful whim, he decided to tape some footage for a new TV series that was to feature Bindi, his 8-year-old daughter.  Accompanied by a cameraman, Irwin snorkelled in the shallow waters at Batt Reef, off Port Douglas in northern Queensland. He swam atop a large stingray. Suddenly, its tail lashed forward, and the large, serrated barb — think of a bayonet coated with toxins — sliced into Irwin's chest, puncturing his heart.  That Irwin should be killed by a usually docile stingray was grimly ironic given the more harrowing encounters that stoked his legend over the years. According to experts, it was only the third stingray-related fatality in Australian history and the 17th worldwide.  Irwin's body was pulled from the water seconds after the attack. Crew members aboard his boat frantically performed CPR and called for an emergency helicopter. But by the time Irwin reached the closest hospital at Low Isle, he was pronounced dead.

The tragedy stunned fans who couldn't believe the beloved TV personality known for his wild-eyed energy and catchphrases such as "Crikey!" and "Crocs Rule!" was gone.  "I am quite shocked and distressed at Steve Irwin's sudden, untimely and freakish death," said Australian Prime Minister John Howard yesterday, as mourners left flowers and handwritten notes outside Irwin's Australia Zoo near Brisbane.  "He was a wonderful character. He was a passionate environmentalist. He brought joy and entertainment and excitement to millions of people."  Irwin's wife, Terri, was in Tasmania on a walking tour with the couple's children, Bindi and 2 1/2-year-old Bob. She returned to Queensland yesterday.  The self-taught Irwin, who was given a python at the age of 6 and wrestled his first croc three years later, grew up around reptiles. His father, Bob, moved the family to Queensland in 1970, quitting a plumbing business to open an animal park, which would later become the popular Australia Zoo.  The Crocodile Hunter premiered in 1992 and, four years later, became a hit in the United States on Animal Planet. Like that, a TV star was born.  His trademark attire — khaki shorts, grimy short-sleeve shirt, thicket boots — only bolstered the Outback image Irwin projected with casual aplomb.  He had twin gifts: one for the unpredictable natural world and another for the predictably unnatural world of television. In a 2004 interview with CNN's Larry King, Irwin explained it like this:  "I can do stuff with animals that no one else in the world can do ... Then, on top of that, I've got a gift that I didn't know I had, of communicating to cameras, which is in essence talking to millions of people."

Later, he drew this now eerie distinction:  "I know that if I'm respectful and I understand and I'm well-researched and well-rehearsed, that the animal is not going to just swing around and knife me in the back, unlike some people will."  This was a pointed reference to the firestorm Irwin unleashed earlier that year after news cameras showed him feeding a massive crocodile while cradling his infant son, Bob. The incident sparked a public outcry and investigation, though he was never charged with any crime.  Later in 2004, Irwin was in the crosshairs of another investigation after being accused of getting too close to humpback whales and penguins while shooting Ice Breaker in Antarctica. But, again, he was vindicated.  The Crocodile Hunter led to several spin-off projects, including other shows, games, books and the 2002 feature film, The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course. Yet, despite his financial success, Irwin remained true to his humble roots, shunning the material trappings he easily could have indulged in and pouring millions into conservation efforts.  Yesterday's terrible news follows other recent cases involving high-profile animal attacks. In October 2003, grizzly advocate Timothy Treadwell was killed in Alaska's Katmai National Park by one of the bears he had studied for 13 years. That same month, Roy Horn — of Siegfried & Roy fame — was seriously injured by a white tiger during a show in Las Vegas.  The absurd, heartbreaking death of Irwin will undoubtedly leave a tortured series of "What ifs?" for family and friends. What if bad weather hadn't forced him to deviate from his original schedule? What if he had picked a different spot to shoot? What if the stingray's barb missed his chest?  Ray Mears, whose TV work includes Extreme Survival, told Associated Press Irwin "clearly took a lot of risks and television encouraged him to do that."  I suppose we're hardwired to seek out explanations, even when none exist. To the uninitiated, Irwin's antics often bordered on foolish but, for him, it was always an exercise in calculated risk.  So take your pick: he was either a victim of a freak accident yesterday or his luck finally ran out. This much is certain: Irwin died doing what he loved doing. This was all he knew.  As he said once, grinning broadly, "I was running around in the wilderness since the day I was born."


Allen Eclipses Moon

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rick Matsumoto, Sports Reporter

(Sep. 5, 2006) HAMILTON—The historic moment finally came five minutes and two seconds into the third quarter.  But it took a few moments for
Damon Allen to realize that he had finally passed hall of famer Warren Moon and become pro football's all-time passing yardage leader.  And the venerable Argonaut quarterback had to convince slotback Arland Bruce III, who had scampered 29 yards to not only pick up the necessary yards for Allen to set the record but also score the game's first touchdown, to give him the ball.  Allen said he didn't know he was 17 yards away from eclipsing Moon's mark of 70,553 yards when he called a shovel pass to Bruce on a first-down play.  "I didn't know where I was number-wise (in relation to the record)," said Allen, who finished with 207 yards on the night and 70,596 for his 22-year CFL career. "All I knew was that the score was 5-3 and the Ticats could be back in the game at any moment."  The speedy Bruce took the short toss and deftly eluded two Ticats before powering over the goal line.  But he didn't realize he'd played a major role in Allen's record-setting feat as he celebrated in the end zone.  "I didn't know it was the record," Bruce said. "If I did, I would have loved to have handed (the ball) to him right out of the gate. I thought it was a run."  As he firmly clutched the record-setting ball outside the Argo dressing room after the game, Allen laughed as he related Bruce's initial reluctance to hand over the ball.  "The (p.a.) announcement was the first time I knew it because Arland didn't want to give me the ball," Allen chuckled. "I had three (officials) come over to me and I didn't really understand what they were coming over for. They were like, `We want the ball, you've broken the record.'  "I went to Arland and said, `Give me the ball.' And he was like, `No, no, this is mine.' I said, `They want the ball because it's the record-breaking ball.'"  Bruce also smiled as he recalled the moment, adding he felt "blessed to be a part of history."

"It's a beautiful thing," he said. "I'm glad he got it. Hats off to him. I hope he'll be in Canton, Ohio (home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) as well as Hamilton (site of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame)."  Bruce, who has been Allen's go-to receiver this season, also scored a second touchdown late in the game on a pass from Michael Bishop as the Argos broke open a lacklustre contest and routed the woeful Ticats 40-6.  Cornerback Byron Parker also had a pair of touchdowns, both on interception returns, while Jeff Johnson caught a pass from Allen for the other Toronto TD. Noel Prefontaine kicked a field goal and five converts.  Allen was honoured at midfield after the Bruce TD, with CFL commissioner Tom Wright formally presenting him the ball as Argo owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon looked on.  Also on hand was former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci (San Francisco and Detroit), who was Allen's college quarterback coach at Cal State Fullerton.  "Words cannot describe how proud I am of Damon," said Mariucci. "This is truly remarkable. Having been Damon's coach when he was an 18-year-old, 139-pound kid from San Diego I can say he always pursued the game with a great deal of determination and a great love and respect for football.  "After 22 years of pro football excellence he continues to amaze us all. He is certainly a credit to his sport."  Argo head coach Michael Clemons said he was in awe as he watched Allen being honoured.  "I was emotional, I was full, I was happy," Clemons said. "It felt like I'd done it. It was one of the most amazing moments I've ever had during a football game."  Allen will be honoured at Saturday's rematch between the teams at the Rogers Centre, with Moon and Allen's brother, Marcus, also a Pro Football Hall of Fame member, in attendance.  The victory moved the Argos into sole possession of second place in the East Division with a 6-5 record, two points behind the slumping Montreal Alouettes.  The Ticats slipped deeper into the East cellar with a 2-10 record.  The Tabbies have now lost four consecutive games and have not scored a touchdown at Ivor Wynne in 16 quarters.


Comic Russell Peters On His New DVD

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Raju Mudhar, Staff Reporter

(Sep. 5, 2006) With a new DVD on the shelves and another world tour to embark on, Brampton-born comedian
Russell Peters should be on top of the world.  But he sounds more like he's feeling the weight of it.  In Canada, he's long been a bright light on the national comedy circuit and, with several of his videos spreading online, his popularity is growing worldwide. Much of his comedy is race- based. Despite his being the great brown hope, all races are fodder for his sly, observational humour.  Since moving to L.A., he's been pursuing TV pilots and movies. Last week, Comedy Central aired his latest comedy special, Outsourced, and the DVD version hit the shelves.  We caught up with him last week. What follows is an edited Q&A.

STAR: What's it like playing a show in Brampton? I'd expect it'd be like return of the conquering hero ...

RP: I don't know, to be honest with you ... I think it was 1996. Ten years ago was the last time that I played in Brampton.

STAR: I hear brown kids quoting your lines. That's gotta be pretty crazy.

RP: Yeah, I get emails from people saying they did a study on me in university. And recently someone said in one of their world geography classes somebody played a clip of me talking about different races and stuff, which is kind of cool, I guess. But since I was never the studious kid, I never expected to become the subject of study.

STAR: So the show just aired. What's the feedback so far?

RP: We got a bunch of new fans, I think. I mean, I don't think it was one of my best performances, but people like it. But I'm my harshest critic. I can spot every single thing that I do wrong.... We recorded in January, so it's been sitting around since then, which is the thing. Subsequently, I kept doing the act, so it got stronger and better because I tweaked it more. Unfortunately, they taped it early in the year, you know, when actually I didn't want to tape it. Again, I got bunged into these things by all the powers that be.

STAR: Like your evil label.

RP: The f--king label. All the agents, managers and everybody who has their hand in your pocket. Do I sound bitter? Yes, I do.

STAR: Just a tiny bit.

RP: Nah, I'm just irritated with the whole process. I can really understand why (Dave) Chappelle ran away ... and I ain't anywhere near his level, so I can only imagine how much worse it gets. When people say why did people stop doing stand-up, like when people say, "Why did Eddie (Murphy) stop doing stand-up?" It's because you've got so many people around you wanting to tour you and not let you build like you used to.  The normal building process for a comic is (to) stop touring. Go in the clubs three or four times a week or as many as you possibly can, and just get onstage and just jam with the audience, you know? But now people want you to tour right away. And it's not like being a musician where you can tour and sing the same songs. People don't want to hear that. A joke is not fresh and new any more. I got no time to build a new act right now. So at the end of the day, everybody else makes their money and I look like an idiot. That's why I'm irritated at the whole thing right now. But what can you do?

STAR: But do you like going on the road?

RP: I love going on the road when I've got something to perform. Right now, I feel like I've got nothing to perform and I don't want to feel like I'm ripping off my fans. I'm doing these big venues, and I'm like, there's no sense in doing these, I don't have big venue material. I should be doing a club tour with club material. That's how you build your new act. But hey, who am I? I'm just the performer. I'm just a dancing monkey.

STAR: Well, you do get to go around the world.

RP: Yeah, it's a great thing to have. I mean it's a fortunate problem, it's not one of those things where I go ``Why me?'' It's one of those things where you know, I just want to make sure I do the best for my fans and I don't feel like I can do that right now, but I'm going to go out and give it my all and see what happens. I think once I go out and go to India and Singapore I should have a lot of new material by then.

STAR: Going back to the motherland should help.

RP: Yeah, that always helps. If you're Indian, you go back to the motherland. It helps you make decisions. If you want to get married, go back to the motherland. If you want to lose weight, go back to the motherland. If you want to gain weight, go to the motherland. It's good for everything.

Russell Peters is performing sold-out shows at Brampton's Rose Theatre tomorrow and Friday.


Game On For The Roots

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Joshua Ostroff

(Sept.2, 2006) Hip hop may be an art form, but from street corners to the pop charts, rap practitioners often treat it as a competition. As in any game, there are rules, and while it's possible to upend them -- Eminem pulling a reverse Jackie Robinson, for instance -- anomalous acts often find themselves shut out of the major leagues. Over the course of eight albums and a non-stop tour,
The Roots have won widespread acclaim, a dedicated fan base and even a Grammy, but hip hop's lone live band has yet to hit one out of the park. In fact, their misnomered last album, The Tipping Point, topped out at 400,000, their worst showing since their 1993 independent debut. When bandleader/drummer Ahmir (?uestlove) Thompson and rapper Tariq (Black Thought) Trotter formed The Roots at Philadelphia's High School for the Performing Arts almost two decades ago, their live instrumentation provided a boost by setting them apart. However, mainstream hip hop's orthodoxy has made the difference between anomaly and albatross increasingly negligible.

But they haven't been cowed into conformity. Instead, their dark and moody LP
Game Theory is their most musical and political yet, despite synthesized club bangers being bigger than ever.  "That dilemma was heavy on my mind, especially with the current state of hip hop. I see it like a tsunami and we just held onto the tree long enough to breathe air," says Thompson, slouched on a chair in a downtown Toronto hotel room, a light blue Prince concert shirt hugging his healthy frame and a pick comb sticking out of his trademark afro. A well-worn Sudoku book sits on the coffee table. "Now we got to make sense of this all. What are we gonna do? Hip hop is so quick to forget. If there's a slight indication of a misstep, chances are you'll be counted out." Their last misstep was Don't Say Nuthin', the first single off The Tipping Point. When long-time label MCA was absorbed into the larger Interscope, their new boss demanded a commercial hit, so they enlisted producer and original Roots keyboardist Scott Storch. But with Storch better known for working with Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and 50 Cent, it was seen by fans as a sell-out and failed to crack radio. The Roots asked to be released from their contract. The label happily obliged.

When they began recording again in the summer of 2005, the band was "pretty much homeless." Though they assumed someone would pick them up, the tense uncertainty bled into the songwriting. Eventually, retired rapper Jay-Z, now president of Def Jam Recordings, signed them, leading to further fan consternation. But despite Jay's commercial rep, he didn't want to be blamed for ruining The Roots. "He was like 'C'mon, man, give me that artsy-fartsy stuff.' I'm trying to explain that could be troublesome and he says: 'You guys are not radio. Get over that. Now make me an album,' " Thompson recalls. Though The Roots are seen as a conscious rap group, Trotter is more of a boasting battle rapper than a Chuck D disciple. But the world had become too grim to ignore and Katrina proved the final straw, especially with Trotter's children living in New Orleans and briefly missing in the hurricane's aftermath.

It was time for The Roots to say somethin'. So what took so long? Well, the Clinton era made it easy to ignore politics, and when 9/11 happened, Thompson says the "cultural divide" was the biggest he'd seen since the O.J. verdict. "Whereas white people were panicking, the prime concern for my age range was 'Yo, we gotta get [Jay-Z's album] The Blueprint,' which came out that day," he says. "Someone explained to me, 'Man, this will be the first time America will know what it's like to be other than white. You want to know what a terrorist's life in a Third World country is like, come live in the Bronx projects.' " So hip hop got down on the dance floor instead of up in arms, "because we know the ugly side of life. It's a denial thing. Screw it, let's celebrate." Luckily, the tension-filled Game Theory find The Roots feeling less than celebratory. False Media has Wadud Ahmad interpolating a classic Public Enemy rhyme to launch an indictment of the terror era, with Black Thought rapping from the President's perspective: "We gonna pimp the shit out of nature / send our troops to get my paper / Tell them stay away from them skyscrapers." Livin' in a New World is a boom-bap track about government surveillance and Game Theory brings it home with a fiery report from the still-dangerous streets of Philadelphia. "The one thing we wanted to avoid was the bandwagon," says Thompson. "I didn't want to be accused of just reading the first four pages of Time magazine. It's Tariq's worldview, but it also deals a lot with his personal struggles."

Curiously, the most personal tracks -- Pity the Child, about the murders of Trotter's parents, and the Katrina-inspired Bread & Butter -- were taken off the album, though they'll emerge on iTunes and mixtapes. "I didn't want it to look like we were pimping tragedy to sing about," Thompson says, adding Katrina's influence is still felt because Trotter was struggling to find a new home and school for his children during the recording. "It was the reason for the atmosphere and darkness of the album." Then at least something good came out of it -- Game Theory's anxious funk, unusually taut songwriting and pointed rhymes may not rule radio, but they firmly establish The Roots as one of hip hop's most valuable players.


Ziggy Marley Sings a Lifetime of Experience

Source:  Sweet T aka Teresa Castellucci

(Sept. 6, 2006) As
Ziggy Marley emerged from the depths of darkness backstage, a brilliant light shone through as he made his way to the Guvernment’s centre stage in Toronto. African sounds brought forth applause, cheers, and welcome greetings from the fans gathered to catch a glimpse of reggae royalty. The first-born son of the late, great, Robert Nesta Marley, quickly got people ‘Into the Groove’, of his sophomore-solo album, Love Is My Religion.  Guiding the populous on an enlightening journey through time and space, Ziggy revisited tracks Bob once sang and shared his perspective, his side of the story. Songs like ‘Forever Loving Jah’, evoked images captured on film, of a time when he was merely a young boy on stage with his father, watching, singing, and dancing as the Reggae icon evolved and later was crowned King. Ziggy carries on this legacy, in his own words, in his own way.

Ziggy continues to share music indigenous to life, evolution and struggle through word, sound and power. A spirit of unity, a spirit of oneness resonated through his words, through the music, through the vibe. Attentive and alert the crowd longed for every word cheering in appreciation and later calling him back for an encore.

Thankful to be blessed in such presence…

Ziggy drew ‘Shalom Salaam’ from his debut-solo project, Dragonfly, prior to leading us through the jungles that have kept people from their dreams. Sharing poetically crafted lyrics, Ziggy delivered ‘A Lifetime’ of music and messages in a couple of hours allowing the audience to venture to a place of melancholy, a reality check if you will, to hear messages of politics and injustices throughout the world. ‘Justice’ was questioned, reminding people of the innocent lives of Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Steven Biko. From here we ventured through another meditation, the same “Concrete Jungle” his father once warned about…

…and still “no sun will shine…”

Spirits of warriors and revolutionaries seemed present in the powerful drumming patterns and in the words of ‘Be Free’ and ‘Still the Storm’.  Accompanied by his seven piece band and two songbirds, Ziggy’s messages “I don’t condemn, I don’t convert” were conveyed during ‘Love is My Religion’, the final track of his regular set.  Upon returning to the stage, he picked us up in what appeared to be a distant land, where the sounds of the drummer and the bassist were effervescent and felt through every cell in one’s body… Again hypnotic rhythms captivated the audience during ‘Looking’ and his final piece ‘Africa Unite’.  Ziggy Marley, like his father before him also writes songs of freedom, songs of redemption, songs of love, and songs of religion; a personal religion, better described as a way of life, a way of living. This is what we as RasTafari call livity.

This concert was an Africa calling, “me wan’ go home!” Set my people free-with a hint of Tupac, Paul Simon, and Peter Gabriel rolled into one-Ziggy-Marley-kinda-vibe. Make love your religion…spread the word and spread the love…  For more information on Ziggy Marley and Love is My Religion visit

Special thanks to REMG for another great presentation and particularly Lisa Louie for being thorough and to Dawn Langfield ( without whom you would not be reading these words.  [Note from Dawn: Many Thanks Teresa!]

…and so…

I leave you with a natural mystic, felt throughout the night; I leave you with the words of a son, written to and for his father, entitled ‘Keep on Dreaming’ and I livicate them to you and to everyone who has ever lost someone, particularly to a loved one I’ve lost recently…

Keep on Dreaming [David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley]



Elmore Leonard Part Of Literacy Campaign Hip-Hop Used As Basis For Charity Projects

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
—Alwynne Gwilt , Entertainment Reporter

(Sep. 2, 2006) For
Raoul Juneja, hip-hop is about much more than just the music or the stereotypes associated with it.  Since starting his company, Lyrical Knockout Entertainment, the 25-year-old South Asian DJ's focus has been on literacy, politics and inspiration.  "In general there's misconceptions and stereotypes — in terms of people who work in hip-hop — and we said, `It's not always all about the money — sometimes there's more important things to focus on,'" says the Thornhill resident.  Through his company — which celebrates its five-year anniversary this month — he uses hip-hop as the basis to create charity projects.  Juneja, who goes by Deejay Ra although he takes on the producer role most often, gets his projects jumpstarted by his huge contact list. From college radio stations in Canada and the U.S., to artists, musicians and DJs who donate their time, Juneja spends most of his time sending emails, networking and working behind the scenes to get people involved in his projects.  He makes appearances on radio stations to promote things like his literacy campaign — which focuses on getting youth to read by introducing them to books on hip-hop artists — and gives away donated books while on the show.  He also hosts club nights and last February held a large Hip-Hop for Africa benefit concert to promote a CD for the Mandela Children's Fund at the Rivoli emceed by George Stroumboulopoulos.  Juneja was born in Mississauga, but raised for a good portion of his life in New York, where growing up was "very much black and white."  "There was no middle ground ... for me it ended up being a really good cultural experience because I was able to blend in with both crowds," he says.  His father's job as a financial consultant caused the family to frequently relocate, something he disliked then but considers a blessing now.

"The best time to travel for kids is when they're younger because that's when their minds are being developed ... especially if they're living in the States or the cities, because you really don't want them to think that is the way the whole world is, or these are the types of situations that everyone goes through," he says.  "That way if there is someone who has some racism I think it opens up their minds because they have the personal experience of going somewhere and meeting someone, and can say, `No you're just making a generalization of this certain religion or culture.'"  His family eventually moved back to Canada after his parents noticed "he was getting beaten up a lot more" due to racism issues.  Back on Canadian soil, he says, he faced a much different reality while attending the University of Western Ontario in London.  "Here, (I find) multiculturalism really allows different cultures to have the youth be westernized (while) exploring their own cultural background."  Since leaving London, he's produced a charity hip-hop EP for the Nelson Mandela Children's fund with Imaan Faith, an Iranian/Canadian rapper, and started his most interesting project, a hip-hop literacy campaign.  "The whole thing is to get lots of people involved and not say we're only going to focus on one market, culture or religion ... it's for everyone," he says.  The literacy campaign was spawned out of his realization that as a radio DJ he was always giving youth CDs and movies, but not books.  He was helping Harper Collins with some radio awareness campaigns when they told him about Be Cool, the movie sequel to Get Shorty, which had hip-hop artists like Outkast's Andre 3000 and Christina Milian. The idea: Collaborate with author Elmore Leonard — on whose books both movies were based — to get youth interested in hip-hop also interested in books.

"Our phrase was: Put down the gangsta rap CD and pick up the gangster novel, because his books are all about crime fiction," says Juneja. The hope is that youth will get interested in the books because the topics are similar to ones they already hear about in music.  "It's not to encourage that type of stuff amongst the youth but to get those 16 and over — who already watch Tarantino movies — reading, and assume they'll progress to Shakespeare eventually," he adds.  Harper Collins began donating books for Juneja's events. He finds that many people don't realize that hip-hop writers express deeper issues in their work.  "People are often surprised, (saying) `How can you be in hip-hop and be giving away Gandhi books at events?'" says Juneja, who's also worked with director Deepa Mehta and actor Lisa Ray on the literacy campaign. Both helped promote books about Gandhi during the release of Mehta's movie Water.  "I try to explain there's a connection with everything. ... Malcolm X said, even if the means are different, everyone has the goal to make things better for the youth and society, so whether it's Gandhi or Mandela ... we always try to promote political history too.  "At the end of the day, it can only help things if the youth are inspired."  For more information on Juneja's projects and upcoming events, check out his company's website,


What Becomes A Legend Most? Grace, Charm, Sweet Advice

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt

(Sept.4, 2006)  NEW YORK -- The music industry is one of the most notoriously cynical playpens in modern culture.  But there's one place where aspiring singers can still find succour and the sort of emotional support to keep them striving for greatness: at the feet of
Tony Bennett. That's how it seemed Thursday afternoon when the trio of fresh-faced contestants still standing in the summertime run of Canadian Idol were granted a brief audience with the 80-year-old singer. You may be confused. After all, American Idol and its various spawns have a reputation for taking fragile talent and crushing it for the entertainment of millions on national TV.  When dismissing hopefuls, Simon Cowell, the lead judge on the show's U.S. franchise, practically licks himself in delight over his own nastiness. So while Bennett isn't a regular viewer of American Idol, he's seen enough to know he doesn't like Cowell and the cynicism he represents.  "He gets a little tough for the young people," says Bennett. "If you say to someone that's just starting out, 'Just go drive a truck, get out of show business, you don't belong in it' " -- as Cowell once instructed a contestant -- "that's too cruel. I don't think that's necessary." Bennett follows Cyndi Lauper, Nelly Furtado, former Styx singer Dennis DeYoung and a handful of others who have served this season as workshop mentors on Canadian Idol. Two weeks ago, the final five contestants flew to Nashville for a similar encounter with country singer Martina McBride.  Thursday's rendezvous in New York, where each performed a different pair of American-songbook classics for Bennett and the Canadian Idol cameras, provided a warm-up for the episode on Monday night, dubbed A Tribute to Tony Bennett.

The singer himself will perform live on Tuesday's show from Toronto, which he says was one of the cities where he honed his craft playing at the Imperial Room of the Royal York Hotel. On Thursday, Bennett was sitting all but alone in a quiet room in the hotel's basement, and although he seemed a little drained from spending the previous two hours standing next to a grand piano listening to, and then advising, the Idol wannabes, he had enough energy left to get exercised about Cowell. "I'd like to meet him personally some day and find out why he does that. It's like corporate thinking: You're not it, you're fired. It's like Donald Trump. Years ago, if you told somebody they were fired, onstage, they'd give you the hook. They'd say, 'How could you just put somebody down like that? How could you be so cruel?' " Bennett is a different sort of fellow. Nestled in a wood-panelled salon choking on the spaghetti cables snaking to CTV cameras, the three contestants took their best shots in front of a show-business legend, and then held their breath to await judgment. In each case, the crooner delivered homilies and critiques that were unfailingly generous. He praised Eva Avila, the 19-year-old chanteuse from Gatineau, Que., who sang God Bless the Child and They Can't Take That Away from Me, telling her that, if he were a judge on the show, he'd give her a 10.  When Craig Sharpe, the angel-voiced 16-year-old from Upper Island Cove, Nfld., forgot the lyrics for Danny Boy and then stopped singing, Bennett told him gently that he should just make up the lyrics because the audience usually wouldn't know the difference anyway. Even when Tyler Lewis led off the afternoon with a rendition of It Had to Be You that started noticeably off-key, Bennett held back a wince, and later said to the handsome 20-year-old from Rockglen, Sask., "You look good for TV." "He's very kind," said Lewis later. "He reminds me of a grandpa, it's really cool."

"I think it's actually pretty flattering that he actually didn't give me any advice," said Avila. "It tells me maybe he didn't have anything he particularly disliked or wanted me to work on." Between numbers, Bennett inspired his three young charges as he reminisced about old friends and contemporaries, from Louis Armstrong and the Gershwin brothers, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Louis Prima to Art Tatum, Elvis Presley and Rosemary Clooney. "If you don't know the past," he advised them, "there's no way you'll know what the future's going to be." In our interview later, he turned to an analogy from his hobby of painting. "I'm 80 years old and I studied the early masters, Rembrandt and Velasquez, to try to learn their technique, see what they were going into, because nobody did it better." And then he brought it back to music. "If something's good, it's always good," he said. "It's not 'What's saleable right now?' . . . There are certain artists that are the truth, and then there are certain artists who are promoted like crazy, and they go away quickly. "It's better to sing quality than sing for demographics," he said. After more than 50 years in the business, Bennett has earned the long view for himself. His career began in tandem with Clooney when the two were featured on an early progenitor of the Idol shows called Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. Some winners were awarded contracts with Columbia Records -- but weren't promised the world, as some Idol champions are today. Bennett hopes the winners don't get an unrealistic view of what it takes to succeed. "The record company, their attitude was, 'We may get a hit out of these two artists,' " he says, recalling his early years, "but it took us time to learn and rub shoulders with the great Woody Herman and the great Count Basie or Oscar Peterson, people that really have a talent. We did get hit records, but we had to learn how to do that." After Bennett had a minor hit with the song Boulevard of Broken Dreams, promoters were willing to book him into clubs in "Buffalo and Cleveland and Akron. Small clubs. It's a beginning, but you're learning. This is how you do it."


Q&A: Janet Jackson Still In Control

Excerpt from - Gail Mitchell

(September 05, 2006) Super diva. Very few artists can legitimately lay claim to that title. Fewer still can sustain an extraordinary career that, despite a few bumps along the way, has fans anticipating your every move after 20 years. Two decades after the debut of
Janet Jackson's career-making album, "Control," fans are eagerly awaiting the Sept. 26 release of her new Virgin Records set, "20 Y.O." (formerly titled "20 Years Old").  The album reunites Jackson with original "Control" collaborators Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and pairs her for the first time with Grammy Award-winning producer Jermaine Dupri (who is also her boyfriend). Some would expect a super diva to possess an exalted sense of self. After all, this is the singer behind an album that yielded no fewer than six crossover hits that exuded female empowerment, songs like "What Have You Done for Me Lately," "When I Think of You" and "Let's Wait Awhile."

Then, three years later, with 1989's "Rhythm Nation 1814," she became the first artist to produce seven top five hits from one album, trumping big brother Michael.  After jumping to Virgin from A&M for a reported $32 million, Jackson continued her platinum-selling ways with "janet." (1993), "The Velvet Rope" (1997), "All for You" (2001) and "Damita Jo" (2004). Along the way, there have been movies ("Poetic Justice," "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps"), TV ("Good Times, "Diff'rent Strokes," "Fame"), sexy and provocative (read: topless) magazine covers (1993's Rolling Stone and Vibe this September), a bout with depression, a legal battle over her musical income and the now-infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.  Yet the Janet Jackson who sat down with Billboard fits anything but the diva prototype. The baby sister of the Jackson family was shy but forthcoming with her answers, at various times humorous and self-deprecating.  She says she's at the happiest time in her life, but still in control and determined to take her career even higher, with one proviso: "I've got to have some fun," she says.

How would you assess your career to this point?

It's still a great ride. Along the way there have been highlights but thankfully not a dull moment. Looking back, the highlights include the albums "Control," "All for You," "janet." and "Rhythm Nation 1814." Hanging with Tupac, Regina King and Joe Torry while filming "Poetic Justice." Then there's "Velvet Rope," where I showed more of my feminine side. That was a crossroads for me: sharing what I'd been going through personally and how I felt about what was happening in the world. That turned out to be a very intimate record.

Then there's this new album. It's a highlight not just because I'm celebrating the 20th anniversary of "Control." Once again, as back then, I'm making my own decisions.

This will sound corny, as if it's not me talking, but it hasn't always been easy, and I'm proud of "her" [Jackson refers to herself in the third person]. This is my private celebration because truly, for the first time in my life, I'm very happy.

Was the creative process for this album any different from its predecessors?

No. This time it was four of us collaborating -- Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jermaine and myself. But it was the same process: Everyone getting all of their thoughts and ideas out on the table, then talking about which ideas to keep or throw out. [Singer/songwriter] Johnta Austin also played a part in the album.

It was really a collaborative effort, and that's what made it so nice. Jermaine would run into the studio and talk about the songs Jimmy and Terry had done on someone's album. Then Jimmy would start playing the song, and Jermaine would say, "You know what? Let's do something kind of along those lines as a base." He understood them, he understood me and vice versa.

How would you describe the musical mind-set of "20 Y.O."?

This album takes me to a place where I haven't been in a while: R&B and dance. I give that credit to Jermaine. I like to say he brought the country to the album, while he says he brought the ghetto [laughs].

But the dance element was the one thing I was adamant about having. The album also features samples from music that inspired me 20, 25 years ago. There are also some midtempo songs and some of what everyone calls my "baby-making songs."

Basically, the album is everything that's always been a part of me, but with freshness to it.

The "Call on Me" video carries a retro vibe. What inspired its concept?

Hype Williams was the director during the 10-day shoot. All the visuals you see in the video are how Hype hears the music; it's very colorful. The idea was to do something different from what you see on TV; to go back to the way we used to do videos.

A lot of videos seem the same to me. And that's fine. But young kids don't get the opportunity to see the way it was done before and where imagination can go. That takes money, and labels aren't doing that now.

So what was it like working in the studio for the first time with Jermaine?

It was just absolutely wonderful, very easy, not one hiccup. When we're at home in Atlanta, I'll sometimes go to the studio with him. But I'll never, obviously, walk in and disturb him while he's at work creating. So this was my first time actually seeing him at work, and I loved it. Sometimes I'd just peek in there. His back would be to me, and he never knew that I was in the room. I'd just sit and watch him.

Jermaine has said the album will include a duet between you and Mariah Carey. Is that still in the works?

We want to do something together, and we're trying to make something happen. However, it's been really tough since she's on tour. But it's something we definitely desire to do.

He has also mentioned plans to stage a "Control" concert a la Jay-Z's recent "Reasonable Doubt" performance in New York. Has a date or dates been set?

That idea came from the fans, saying how cool it would be. It's just a matter of getting it done. We haven't figured out the cities, but hopefully it will happen this year.

Before "Control," you recorded two albums: a self-titled debut, followed by "Dream Street." How do those albums fare in your looking glass?

I don't exclude those albums from my life and career like they never existed. [The] producers were wonderful to work with. It's just that I didn't want to sing then. I did it for my father. Then I was told what to sing.

I celebrate "Control" because that's when I made the decision that singing is what I wanted to do. Working so close with Jimmy and Terry and writing about my life ... that was the start of my music career. And that's why those two albums have a different meaning for me.

Besides Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, how pivotal a role did John McClain play in your career?

I would say, well, John was doing his job. He was an A&R person [at A&M] and definitely an important person in the beginning with "Control." My family knew him from way back. But he really didn't have anything to do with "Rhythm Nation."

From then to now, how have you evolved artistically in the last 20 years?

I think you hear it lyrically. And I think you can hear the maturity as time has progressed. Still from time to time you'll hear that kid come out, too. That's still there, somehow. I'm also just more relaxed, more confident.

My family would tell me to just relax and enjoy what's going on. I'd say, "OK," but wouldn't do it. But time goes so quickly. I'm doing that now, because there are things that allow me to do that: having a much happier life where I'm able to sit back, smile and enjoy everything that's going on around me.

Was the buying-public's reaction to "Damita Jo" what you expected?

A lot of people said they didn't even know the project was out, and I think that had a lot to do with the response. Yet a lot of fans in Europe came up to me saying they absolutely felt it was my best album.

There were all kinds of reactions to the album, and there was obviously a lot of drama surrounding that album as well. Plus deadlines are hard for me; I don't like being forced to do things when you know you're not ready; when you're on the right path but you know you haven't gotten to the place you want to be. That's what it was about for me.

Do you feel any added pressure each time you record in terms of maintaining your chart success?

There is no pressure. It's about experimenting and putting things together that don't normally go together. Like [opera singer] Kathleen Battle doing "This Time" on the "janet." album. It's about writing from the heart, life experiences and following my gut.

What would you consider the highest and lowest points in your career?

"Velvet Rope" is both the highest and lowest point. On a personal level, it was a low point, because I was going through a depression. That was a difficult time for me. At the same time it was my highest point, because I overcame the depression by talking about the crossroads I was at.

There were so many things resurfacing that I'd suppressed: stuff from my childhood, stuff from all over the place. I was crazed trying to figure out where it was all coming from and how to deal with it.

I could have made a wrong turn and tried to drink and drug it away. But drinking and drugs never appealed to me. I wanted it to stop. Talking it out and creating such an introspective work as "Velvet Rope" helped me do that.

Some people might expect you to say your low point was 2004's wardrobe malfunction.

That's the past. [Jackson's publicist intervened and stopped this line of questioning.]

You first gained national attention as a sitcom actor, later turning to films. Do you plan to resume your acting career?

I do. It's a passion of mine that came before music. I've got scripts I have to read that I haven't gotten to just yet, but we'll see. I've read some comedy scripts, but I'd love to do something very dramatic and something more action-packed.

I would love to do more films and more behind the scenes in terms of producing films and creating television shows. Also, so many people have come up to me to talk about my weight loss, so we're going to do a book and a video on that.

Given your music experience, have you ever thought about starting your own label or producing new artists?

At one point, there was some part of that that I found very interesting. If anything, it would probably not be another artist but something from a creative aspect. I can't even imagine trying to run a record label. You would have so many headaches running left and right. I've got to have some fun, so it would be something more on the creative end.

From your perspective, how has R&B evolved during the last 20 years?

Music is always evolving. In terms of R&B, it feels like it's going to take another turn. You can hear the tempos changing, and artists are pushing for a little change. It's a matter of whether or not the audience is ready for a change.

There are also more women coming into play-and not just in R&B. A journalist asked me that once a while back, and I said that would happen. And slowly and surely it is happening. You're seeing a lot of female artists who are talented and doing very well.

What's your take on having to compete against these female artists?

I've already been where they are. Many of them only have one or two albums at this point. At the risk of sounding arrogant, it's not often that an artist lasts as long as I have who can be consistent and whose work is still anticipated. There's something to be said for that. It will be curious to see 20 years from now who's still around.

Any predictions as to who will follow in your 20-year footsteps?

I'm sure there will obviously be somebody, but I don't know who.

Do you feel labels treat veteran artists with deserved respect these days?

Granted, everybody wants to make money. But I remember when they thought more of the artists, their music and career longevity. I felt more of that in the past than you feel today. It's just a different game, different all around.

I was talking to someone earlier about how it used to be so taboo to endorse anything other than a soft drink. You were selling out if you did. Today, you can sell a sock and it's OK.

Even with films. People in the film industry didn't want anyone from the music industry, and people from the music industry didn't want anyone from the film industry. Now they do. It's all money-driven. They're realizing how they can capitalize off one another, and they're going for it.

I'm sure you get bombarded about endorsements and other business ventures. Yet you haven't taken the bait. Why not?

People have definitely asked me, but I really have to love something in order to do it. I can't do it just because it may be a very lucrative deal. It has to be something I really like from my heart is not going to go into it and I'm not going to have any fun. Maybe that's the kid in me. I love to have fun.

And as an artist, are you still having fun?

Yes. I can't sit here and take credit for everything. Everyone has someone behind them, and I've been fortunate to have a strong team behind me. Some people may do this because they think it's a great way to make a lot of money. But I really love what I do.


Big Compositions Shine In Cuban/Jewish Music Mash-Up

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

David Buchbinder and Hilario Duran
At Harbourfront Centre Theatre
In Toronto on Saturday

(Sept. 5, 2006) If one were to catalogue the many points at which Jewish and Cuban cultures intersect, odds are that Halifax would not loom large on the list. Yet it was there that trumpeter
David Buchbinder -- in the city this past April for the annual flurry of Juno-related musical events -- first played with pianist Hilario Duran. Although both are fixtures on the Toronto scene, the two moved in markedly different circles. A klezmer specialist and leader of the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, Buchbinder had only recently begun to expand into jazz, while Duran -- a Cuban émigré who had made his name in trumpeter Arturo Sandoval's band -- was a jazz giant from the moment he set foot in the city. Yet the two not only hit it off but found themselves intrigued by the possibilities of a klezmer/Cuban fusion. Hence Saturday's concert, a collection of new works by the two presented as part of the Ashkenaz festival and dubbed Odessa/Havana: The Klezmer Cuban Connection. At first, the experiment sounded as if it were little more than a clever cultural mash-up. Buchbinder and Duran had assembled quite an ensemble for the performance. Joining Buchbinder in the front line were Quinsin Nachoff, on clarinet and tenor saxophone, and violinist Aleksander Gajic, while supporting Duran in the rhythm section were Roberto Occhipinti, whose bass lines sometimes seem an extension of Duran's left hand, as well as drummer Daniel Barnes and percussionist Mario del Monte. Despite the eminence of the ensemble, the evening got off to a less than impressive start. Miko Mikono, the Buchbinder tune that opened the concert, basically just ladled klezmer melodic ideas over a steamy Cuban pulse.  Although there are some interesting musical parallels between the two styles -- for instance, the elaborate scales on which klezmer improvisation is based have much in common with the harmonic minor scale sometimes used in the Cuban son -- this piece went no further than mere juxtaposition, and the loose interplay between trumpet, clarinet and violin seemed a bit ragged against the roiling precision of the rhythm section.

Fortunately, other tunes dug deeper. Lila's Dance, another Buchbinder original, cleverly contrasted the Bulgar fondness for compound time against the rolling complexity of Cuban polyrhythm. Compound time subdivides each bar into smaller groupings of two or three beats (think of Dave Brubeck's Blue Rondo à la Turk), which is what gives klezmer dance music its jittery energy; polyrhythm layers one set of accents atop another (think rubbing your head and patting your belly) to generate a delicious rhythmic tension.  With Lila's Dance, what Buchbinder and Duran found was a way for two different sets of melodic and rhythmic patterns to sync up even as they were being phrased differently, allowing the flavours to merge while remaining distinct. It helped, of course, that the players were versatile enough to ensure nothing got lost in translation.  Nachoff was equally at home with driving, post-bop tenor and the fluttery ornamentation of klezmer clarinet, and Occhipinti used his bow to deliver melodic lines (particularly on Invictus) that were as stunningly expressive as his ostinato figures were effortlessly propulsive.  And the two bandleaders were no slouches, offering a duo version of the klezmer classic The Rumanian Fantasy that at some points evoked the glory days of Yiddish popular music and at others recalled the bravura power of Freddie Hubbard playing with Herbie Hancock. But it was the writing that truly made the concert an event.  From Buchbinder's epic Cadiz -- named for the southern Spanish port where Cuban and Jewish culture first intersected -- to Duran's concert-closing arrangement of four klezmer melodies, it was the bigger pieces that made "the Klezmer-Cuban Connection" seem more than a clever gimmick. Here's hoping Buchbinder and Duran continue to explore this particular brand of fusion.


Jazz At The Crossroads

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Sep. 5, 2006) African Americans risk becoming irrelevant to the music they created, fears long-time Village Voice writer
Greg Tate.  Tate, who delivers the keynote address at a Guelph Jazz Festival symposium Thursday, has been studying contemporary jazz and doesn't like what he's been hearing: lack of adventurousness and creativity.  He blames musicians' unrelenting adherence to early acoustic tradition and their reluctance to incorporate popular technological advances in the spirit of trumpeter Miles Davis's later work.  The Guelph festival is noted for its stellar line-up of avante garde music and has also earned kudos for incorporating a heavy educational component. The 13th annual event runs tomorrow through next Monday.  Tate, a veteran U.S. cultural critic and co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition, has called his address "The End of Black Musical History — Jazz and the Digital Age."  The Star spoke with the New York-based Tate, 47, who is musical director for Burnt Sugar, a 20-piece band that melds electric, acoustic and digital instruments. He's also completing a book about the 100 best hip-hop lyrics of all time.

STAR: What are you going to be talking about?

GT: I've been marking the difference between the black musical culture that I grew up in and the one that exists now in terms of issues of experimentation and community and audience, and the tradition of live instruments and mixing live instruments with electronics.

STAR: What was the musical milieu in which you came of age in Washington, D.C., in the mid-'70s?

GT: A lot of live music around. A community of people who were advocates for avante-garde jazz. Forward-thinking radio programming; the rock station would also be the first to play Stevie Wonder and Miles Davis's new albums, and the main jazz station would also play a lot of blues and Earth, Wind & Fire. All those self-contained rock bands of the era — Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire — used to come through literally every week. Those bands would also tour with a lot of the fusion bands, so you'd see Bob Marley & The Wailers opening for Chick Corea's Return to Forever.

STAR: So, strong links between jazz and popular music.

GT: Miles Davis was the one who kept the dialogue at a certain equilibrium. He took a lot of ideas from popular music and elevated them. And a lot of those ideas in turn, and his musicians, had a huge impact on the sound of popular music and still do. He was able to find a way to combine the lyricism and improvisational thrust of jazz with the new technology and with popular rhythms in a way that didn't sound contrived and exploitative or cynical. The generation of black jazz musicians that came in the '80s were committed to an acoustic ideal of what jazz had been before (Davis went electric), so they didn't pick up on what their predecessors had been doing — whether in the acoustic avante-garde side of things or on the electronic side.

STAR: Maybe that's because of all the criticism Miles got for that work.

GT: It's taken 20 years for people to hear how prophetic it was and predictive it was. For me, the first hip-hop album was (1972's) On the Corner. Miles basically built that whole record around the notion of the break beat and his own version of rhythmically cutting and scratching with a real percussive kind of sound. We haven't really heard any younger players that have been able to synthesize so much of what's going (on) in all music into their own electric acoustic sound.

I think that we're at a real crossroads in terms of black people in jazz culture, because a lot of people worldwide have been studying the tradition and trying to get a hold on all these different creative trends that came about: Miles, Weather Report, Anthony Braxton, Art Ensemble of Chicago. All this music that is eschewed by the black jazz community in America has been picked up by everybody else working in music, whether it’s in hip hop or Norwegian jazz. One of the questions I pose is whether from a creative standpoint is it even necessary for black people to play jazz for the tradition to extend through this century?

STAR: Aren't the majority of jazz musicians still black?

GT: Because of the dwindling talent pool and opportunities for learning about jazz culture in black communities now, there really aren't that many black jazz musicians under the age of 50 who have international stature. Beyond that, it's are they bringing anything to the language of jazz? Also, if the audience for jazz has almost become predominately not black, is it necessary for black people to even listen to jazz? I'm throwing those out in a real rhetorical kind of way, because if we do a reverse anthropology we know that the music exists because of the ethnological circumstances that produced it.

STAR: I trust you are dutifully ambitious with your own music?

GT: I'm working with the limitations of my talent ... I feel like I know what needs to be done, but who's going to activate this stuff — I don't know.

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Hip Hop Maestro On The Verge -- Q&A With New Artist Seven

Excerpt from - By John D. Luerssen

(September 1, 2006)  *As South Florida's very own hip/hop maestro,
Seven walks the walk and talks the talk on his exceptional debut album, Dirt 2 Diamonds.  Upheld by his already stellar local reputation, the microphone prophet born T. Haimes delivers his keen life observations on the title track, gets nostalgic on "Fat Laces," the buoyant, upbeat ode to old school, and bumps with "Club," a celebratory look at nightlife.  Yet as much as he portrays strength and vision, Seven has endured his share of hardship, including the 2004 shooting death of his older brother. The very same sibling, who as a young teen, encouraged him to pursue music. "He heard me rapping," Seven remembers, "And he gave me the confidence that I could do this. Losing him so tragically has been hard, but he will always be in my heart."  Persistent and sturdy from front to back, Seven's spitfire rhymes coupled with a diverse stylistic approach has helped him become a sensation on Sunshine State stages and local radio. Fuelled by the desire to elevate himself and uplift the genre, I had the opportunity to speak with Seven, a deserving artist on the verge of success.

JOHN LUERSSEN: Congrats on Dirt 2 Diamonds. Is the title track a personal story?

SEVEN: Oh yeah. That's been around with me in my head forever. And it's pretty much my life story. I've had a lot of doors closed and a lot of people that wouldn't help me out in terms of music and my trials in life. It was drawn up from a lot of anger and sorrow that comes from everyday livin'. And I think it's really sharp lyrically. My skills are on display for all in the industry to hear.

JW: Talk about your stage name, what does it signify to you?

SEVEN: Seven is just a gifted name, a special child name in my family. I've always been, kind of like, spiritually connected, and it's devised from "God's Gift" on the biblical side. I actually break it down as Society's Evolutionized Vision for Eternal Nation. People may see me as a certain kind of artist, but there is always a message in my music, and it's more than likely that I'll project positive stuff. Its way more than just lucky number seven.

JW: Now you recorded this with the help of a live band, which is a little unusual for hip/hop, especially with the technology that exists today.

SEVEN: Yes. I used a live band on the majority of the project. And I think it really balances everything out. I don't want everything to sound electronic. I want it to sound more holistic and feel real.

JW: So, when you play live, you're also executing everything with a band?

SEVEN: Yes. It's pretty unusual I know, but that's how I roll.

JW: There are a number of single contenders on this record, have you thought about what you might emphasize to radio and the clubs?

SEVEN: Honestly, everything that I write is designed with appeal in mind. I want every song to feel as though it could be played anywhere at any time. I want to be accessible.

JW: How did hip/hop shape your life?

SEVEN: I've been into hip/hop forever. I first started groovin' on the old school stuff - Grandmaster Flash, Run D.M.C., L.L. Cool J, Public Enemy - and that's what drew me in. I was born in Syracuse, New York and my family relocated when I was young, around nine years old, to small town Florida.

JW: What was that like adapting from the city to the country?

SEVEN: Oh man, it was hard. It took a while, that's for sure. I believe if I could have run away then, if there wasn't so many woods and trees around, that I'd have been gone. My granddad had passed and left the house for my mom and my mom wanted to move down here. It was pretty drastic.

JW: Was hip/hop readily available in the rural south when you were coming up?

SEVEN: Well, we had urban radio, but the trend in music was different from what was going on up North. But the hip/hop stayed with me. And when I was thirteen, I started spitting rhymes and freestyle.

JW: How old were you when you hit the stage?

SEVEN: I think I did one of those Justin Timberlake things when I was a kid. I was in elementary school and I did real good in talent shows and at parties I'd always entertain. I'd dance or sing or rap.

JW: So it always came easy to you?

SEVEN: Yeah. This was about the easiest things for me to do. And it's funny, because part of my gift was that I didn't need to write things down. I'd come up with songs naturally. I would think of them, start singing the melody and come up with the beat. My mind would just go to work and I'd be able to remember it all.

JW: I guess when it comes to music you have a photographic memory?

SEVEN: Yeah. And that has to be the best part about my gift. My ideas would always stay with me.

JW: Where do you think you fit in with hip/hop? Your sound is pretty diverse and your attitude is pretty refreshing. You're not bragging about rims or a diamond encrusted Breitling.

SEVEN: As far as the hip/hop scene right now, I've studied the game. I can hold
my ground. As an artist, as far of skills and productivity, I'm right up there with Nelly or Ludacris or Jay-Z - people who are prone to not only being successful, but pulling off something that's really, really going to be remembered.

JW: As an independent artist, you've become something of a local phenomenon. How have you done it?

SEVEN: I'm just working the record on a face-to-face, hand-to-hand level. I've been doing it out of the trunk, but it's been a challenge. It's the Dirty South and all, but we're not like Houston or anything on that level. I'm using the internet, anything I can to keep elevating my profile.

JW: You've shunned a lot of the materialism that has become the norm in modern hip/hop. Why is that important for you?

SEVEN: Well, we've got guys who don't put time into the music, as far as being truthful and genuine. To me, I'm natural. I tell my life's story. You can make a song about any materialistic thing, but to make music that's successful across many cultures, I think you need to be original, a little unorthodox and make music people can identify with.

JW: What goals do you have to take your career to the national level?

SEVEN: As far as the Dirty South goes, I want to be one of those artists who comes out of Florida and puts himself on the map. Unlike Atlanta or Houston, I don't have a network. There really isn't a regional scene here. But I want to prove you can be a success, regardless of where you come from. I want to be one of the guys who is a trendsetter, who becomes a legend and a legacy through his music.  

Check out Seven's music HERE.


MTV Gala Lame, Tame

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Associated Press

(Sep. 1, 2006) NEW YORK — When a wooden politician delivers the best line of the MTV Music Video Awards, you know the thrill is gone.  So was the decadence, outrageousness and spontaneity that used to make the VMAs such a guilty pleasure.  James Blunt and Gnarls Barkley each took home two awards Thursday night. Pink's parody of bubble-headed pop tarts, "Stupid Girls," won for best pop video, Beyonce took home the best R&B video trophy for her booty-shaking "Check On It" and Fall Out Boy won the viewer's choice award for "Dance, Dance.''  But nobody except a video choreographer's mother watches this show for the awards. Fans watch for the FCC-flaunting skits, nearly naked starlets, foul-mouthed speeches and those embarrassingly bad dance numbers.  They do NOT watch for lectures from former Vice President Al Gore on global warming. When does the phrase "here's a photo of a glacier melting" ever fit into an awards show?  Gore did get a laugh, however, when he intoned, "I actually was not intending to be here tonight, but then MTV explained that Justin Timberlake was bringing sexy back.''  Somewhere along the way, the MTV Awards seemed to have morphed into the Grammys.  "This show has been lame farts for the past 20 years," Jack Black said before he took the stage for his opening sketch. "And I'm going to light the match!''  Instead, Black continued a trend.  In the opening sequence, he had a promising bit that poked fun at the show's increasingly staid reputation. Painting himself as the man to inject life back into the VMAs, he took to the stage in a moonman outfit — which caught fire.  But Black's shtick quickly got old. "You didn't bring the thunder. You didn't bring anything," he said during one skit, looking at himself in his dressing room mirror and unintentionally summing up the evening.  Even Lil' Kim, who once appeared at the VMAs wearing a pasty on one breast, failed to get the party started. Recently released from prison after serving time for perjury, she stripped off an orange jail suit to reveal ... something that resembled a funky business suit. Hillary Clinton has worn more revealing outfits.

The only unscripted moment of mayhem came when some unidentified person crashed the acceptance speech of Panic! At the Disco, who won video of the year for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies." Before any group member got to say a word, the crasher took the mic, giving shout outs to rapper Remy Ma and saying, "MTV never gave me my own show!" before making way for the winners.  But that still fell short of MTV's once trademark water-cooler moments, like Eminem punching out a puppet.  Christina Aguilera, who previously shocked our senses as the dirty Xtina, looked downright classy as she performed a low-key ballad. There were no wardrobe malfunctions whatsoever during Timberlake's perfunctory show kickoff. Shakira and Wyclef Jean performed a colourful but rote performance of her smash "Hips Don't Lie." Ludacris and Pharrell posed their way through ``Showstopper." Not even Britney Spears and Kevin Federline, who appeared via videotape, could strike a spark.  There was just one profanity-laced acceptance speech, courtesy of the rock group AFI, whose frontman accepted the award for best group video by saying: "We just won a moonman — I am getting so trashed tonight!''  The night's hottest couple, new recording partners 50 Cent and LL Cool J, introduced one of the awards. But 50, perhaps with no more foes to beef with, was almost Zen-like onstage and offered no fun disses to excite the crowd.  The lack of outrageousness almost made you long for the days when Michael Jackson was making out with Lisa Marie Presley — that was creepy, but at least it kept viewers talking.  Beyonce got some points for at least trying to deliver a showstopper. Singing her call-to-arms, the anti-cheating single ``Ring the Alarm," she appeared wearing a sexy trench coat and a searing gaze.  While her voice was in perfect form, the performance was disjointed, and the out-of-place dance number in the middle seemed to steal the choreography from Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation'' almost 20 years earlier.  At one point, the crew from the MTV gross-out show "Jackass'' gave one of its members an electric shock.  If only they could have delivered a similar jolt to the whole show.


Bassist Charlie Haden Moves Freely From Jazz To Pop And Beyond

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

(Sept.2, 2006) Because the bass generally takes an accompanist's role in jazz, it's rare for a bassist to rise to the sort of prominence
Charlie Haden enjoys. Then again, it's just as rare to find a bassist whose sound and playing are both as distinctive and broadly appealing as Haden's. Since making a big splash with Ornette Coleman's revolutionary "free jazz" quartet in 1959, Haden has played and recorded with a veritable Who's Who of jazz giants: John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Pat Metheny, Chet Baker and Carla Bley, to name a few. He has also made more than 30 albums as a bandleader, with projects ranging from the Liberation Music Orchestra (an all-star, socially conscious big band he co-leads with Bley) to his currently touring Quartet West (which performed this week in Guelph, Ont., and does so again this weekend at the Rimouski Jazz Festival in Quebec). And that's just the jazz side of his résumé. "Other people hire me because of my sound," he says, over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. Instantly identifiable, the warm growl of Haden's acoustic bass has a richness and liquidity that lends his playing the sort of sustained, singing tone other players need a bow to attain. It's truly a one-of-a-kind sound.

"I can't talk about my sound because I'm me," he says with a chuckle. "Other people talk about it. But I developed a sound, and people who want my sound, they call me and I'm on their records. Recently, I did Ringo Starr's record called Ringorama. I've been on some of Beck's albums. I've been on Ricki Lee Jones. Different people." Haden's ability to move from jazz to pop and beyond -- he has also recorded with Brazilian bossa nova pioneer Antonio Carlos Jobim, Cuban jazz great Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Portuguese fado legend Carlos Paredes -- is not just a matter of sound, however. His background and attitude are also factors. "I've never seen music in categories," he says. "I just see music as necessary for the planet. People need to hear beautiful music. Especially with the shape that the world is in now, we need beauty more than we've ever needed it. And so I just make it a priority in my life to play with people who have the same musical values that I do, and strive for as much beauty as I can, so that hopefully you'll touch somebody else's life in a positive way." Haden, 68, has literally been making music his entire life. "I started singing hillbilly music on the radio with my family when I was 2," he says of his youth in Iowa. "I think that if from the very beginning you start in music, it's helpful. Because I learned how to sing all the harmony parts by ear, and played bass on our radio show when my brother wasn't able to."

Not surprisingly, Haden's wife and children are also musicians. His wife, Ruth Cameron, is a singer, while his triplet daughters, Petra, Rachel and Tanya have been in a number of rock bands, including That Dog and the Replicants. "My son Josh had a band called Spain, and now he's doing a solo record," he adds. "And Petra's on the road with the Foo Fighters, she's like a permanent member of the Foo Fighters, so Dave Grohl called, and he wants me to do a tune with them when they're in L.A. That'll be fun." Of course, for Haden, playing with other people is the whole point of being a musician. Some of his most affecting work has been in duets, from the star-studded seventies albums Closeness and The Golden Number, which featured Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett, Alice Coltrane and others, to Beyond the Missouri Sky with guitarist Pat Metheny or Steal Away, a collection of spirituals recorded with pianist Hank Jones. "I always seek out musicians who I know are going to strive to create something new," he says. "They try to play new music all the time, and they never stop. Like Ornette. I played with Ornette while I was in New York recently. I went over to his house and we played, and that was a revitalization." But playing new things doesn't necessarily mean abandoning the old. Indeed, the most impressive thing about Haden's work with Quartet West is the way the group brings fresh perspective to what many listeners would consider very mainstream jazz. It helps that his key collaborators in the group, saxophonist Ernie Watts and pianist Alan Broadbent, are just as open to different kinds of music as he is. "They play with a lot of different people," he says.  "Alan has recently been conducting for Linda Ronstadt and Elvis Costello and Natalie Cole and Diana Krall, says Haden. "He's a great conductor, and also a great arranger. They both have fans that come to hear them play individually. They get around." Charlie Haden and Quartet West perform at the Desjardins-Telus Hall in Rimouski, Que., tonight at 8 (866-337-8452).


`Before Aznavour, Despair Was Unpopular'

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Sep. 4, 2006) MARSEILLE, FRANCE—Charles Aznavour stands behind the large bar in his studio and pours himself a pre-lunch glass of port. He pauses as a memory lights up his eyes.  "Edith Piaf. When she was trying not to drink, she would always order Melon au Porto. She asked them to leave the bottle on the table and kept pouring more and more of it over the fruit. When she finished, she'd smile and say `I love to eat melon; it always makes me feel so good.'"  The earthy laugh that rings out belongs to a much younger man than the 82-year-old singer, who's getting ready to begin the farewell tour that brings him to Toronto's Hummingbird Centre on Sept. 15.  "I am saying goodbye to all the parts of the world where I sing in different languages," he says. "I have already done the German countries. The English-speaking ones are next, then the Spanish, then the Japanese."  But he leaves the door open to performing in his native country, in his native tongue. "In France, I will sing until it's time to stop and that's when the voice gets shaky." He raises his glass of port. "It hasn't happened yet."  When reminded that he embarked on a tour several years ago that was supposed to be his last, he quips: "Singers are like politicians. They say something today and they say something else tomorrow. We are all liars."  Then he puts his glass down to make a point. "Except in my songs. I never lie in my songs."  Those songs — hundreds of them — have formed the backbone of his career. English audiences know him best for numbers like the achingly nostalgic "Yesterday When I was Young" and the romantic "She," but his work contains more colours than Joseph's biblical coat.  Politics, religion, ecology, war, ethnic cleansing, divorce, homosexuality, alcoholism, despair — there's hardly a topic he hasn't explored in the past eight decades.  He has several homes around the world — Marrakesh, Geneva, Paris — but every summer he returns here to his retreat near the Mediterranean, a short drive from Marseille in the south of France.

The house is gated, but when you ring the bell it is Aznavour's distinctive growl that answers.  The rambling structure is decorated in the classic Provençal colours of yellow and blue. There's a large pool in the distance where grandchildren splash happily in the bright August sunlight, but inside his cool, dark studio, it's work, not play.  Yes, the large zinc bar — it's from a 1920s bistro — stands ready to offer refreshment as needed, but the rest of the room is dominated by a giant piano, holding the unfinished sheet music for a new Aznavour song.  Posters on the wall point to key moments in his life — his triumphant return to the Olympia in Paris, the 1960 film Tirez sur le pianiste he made with François Truffaut — and there's a comfortable chair he sinks into with his glass of port as he commences the long journey back to the beginning.  "It all started," he recalls, "when a little Armenian boy of 3 stepped through a curtain and recited a poem about a beautiful woman and her perfumed kisses.  "Maybe," he smiles, "I haven't changed that much in all these years."  He was born Vaghang Chalnough Aznavourian on May 22, 1924 in Paris to a pair of Armenian expatriates who were waiting for a visa to the United States. It never came and they settled in France. His father was a singer and restaurateur who kept going broke because he insisted on providing free meals to all the Armenians and artists visiting his restaurant.  "We were always moving," Aznavour remembers, "always going to a new apartment and a new job that was going to be the one that lasted. It was good training for a life in show business."  From an early age, he wanted to be an actor and a singer. His father would take him to endless talent competitions, where he would always wind up second to "a tall, blue-eyed handsome guy. I was short, I was dark, I had a hooked nose. Who would listen to me sing `I love you'?"  Those insecurities would plague Aznavour for many years. Even today, the 5-foot-3 singer says, "My stature was not the stature of a star. I hate that word anyway. Look up to the heavens. Many stars die there every day."  World War II and the German occupation of Paris put showbiz dreams on hold while young Aznavour worked as a black marketeer. He shrugs. "I was young and when you're young, everything is an adventure."  He teamed up with another singer, Pierre Roche, and they began to acquire a certain popularity in the heady climate of post-war Paris, even drifting into the inner circle of his idol, Edith Piaf.  "What was she like? She loved good food. She loved to drink with other people, not alone. Sometimes, of course, she would call you up at 3 a.m. and tell you to come over so that she'd have someone to drink with."

His face grows severe. "But not drugs. Never drugs. They say she did heroin, cocaine. I never saw that. She might have taken some prescription drugs she grew too fond of, but not the hard stuff, not Piaf."  When asked what he learned from her, he generously says, "I have learned something from everyone. Maurice Chevalier taught me panache, Charles Trenet lyricism, Al Jolson energy and Piaf, of course, passion."  He took that passion across the Atlantic, where Piaf promised him and Roche she would find them work. They wound up in Montreal in 1948, spending several years at clubs like Café Society and Le Faisan d'Or.  "It was starting to be a very swinging place," he recalls. "A richness of two different cultures that lived side by side but never crossed over. A tension, maybe, but an excitement too."  By now, Aznavour had broken up with Roche and begun writing songs, darkly personal documents that weren't like anything anyone else was singing.  The first, "J'ai bu," told of a man who boasted drinking himself senseless to forget the pain of life and a later number "Je haïs les dimanches" attacked the whole bourgeois culture on which France was based.  "They called me the first existential songwriter," he boasts proudly. "I always said `Je' not `vous' and everyone thought my songs were autobiographical, even when they weren't."  He sips deeply from the port. "And then a funny thing happened. The songs grabbed hold of me. They may not have been my life when I wrote them, but they soon turned out that way."  As Aznavour became increasingly successful, his life grew equally complicated. He married and divorced twice and nearly lost his life in a 1957 car crash. And he continued to be dogged by doubts about his personal inadequacy even while he was filling the Olympia Theatre in Paris three times a night, starring in successful films and touring around the world.  Some of his best songs of the period tap into this despair. His 1964 "Hier Encore" (later translated into "Yesterday When I Was Young") paints a picture of man with no lovers and no friends who concludes "j'ai gâché ma vie" ("I wasted my life").  "Yes, that was me back then," he admits. "Not a pretty picture. Mon ami, don't let them tell you fame is everything. I have been there. When it's all you have, fame is nothing."  Aznavour credits two things with changing his life. He married his third wife, Ulla Thorsell, in 1968 (they are still together) and he shifted the focus of his songwriting to include more social issues.  "When I looked outside myself, I found that the world was in much worse shape than I was," he says sardonically.

He began addressing issues of urban violence, homosexuality and racial inequality in his songs and found that it liberated him.  "If a man is curious about the world he lives in, he must learn. If he learns, he must see, and if he sees, he must write. That is how I feel."  One of the areas this led him into was a deeper exploration of his Armenian roots and the Turkish genocide that destroyed so many of his ancestors. "When I was young," he reveals, "my parents never told us much about the Armenian holocaust. It was years later when I discovered how horrible it had been."  In 1975, he was asked to write a song for a movie called Armenia. The film was never made, but the song "Ils sont tombés" with its moving tribute to "the children of Armenia," began a new chapter in his life.  "Our dead people have the right to have a grave," he says, "even if it is only in our hearts."  Over the past 30 years, he has participated in numerous concerts for his homeland, started a foundation to aid the victims of the 1988 earthquake that killed 50,000 and, in 2002, starred in Ararat, Atom Egoyan's film that explored the legacy of the Armenian holocaust.  "Let me make it clear," he insists, "I do not hate the Turkish people. My dream is to go to Turkey and sing there, but they tell me it is not safe for me; one crazy man with a gun is all it would take.  "Look, one crazy man with a gun is all it takes anywhere."  Aznavour finds himself deeply troubled by the religious wars that beset the globe these days. "I respect every religion. The husband of one of my daughters is Jewish; the husband of another daughter is Muslim. We all live in peace with this. Why can't the world?"  He puts down his empty glass.  "I'm anxious to meet my audiences one last time. When I was a young man, I sang foolish songs, but I have grown older and wiser and my public have grown older and wiser with me."  With such a long and full existence, is there anything he would do over again?  "I regret nothing. Not even my young anger. I have done more than I ever expected ...  "I would not change anything in my life. Even the bad moments have been constructive. Love disappears? Well then, you say goodbye." sCharles Aznavour will make his farewell Toronto appearance on Friday, Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. at the Hummingbird Centre. Tickets are available through or by calling 416-872-2262.


Beyonce’s Media Blitz In Overdrive

Excerpt from

(September 5, 2006)  *Now that the massive build-up is over,
Beyonce and her people at Sony Records have now shifted into fourth gear and slammed down the pedal to promote today’s release of her second solo album, “B’Day.” AOL Music LIVE! is offering an exclusive, live broadcast of Beyonce performing from the Budokan in Tokyo. Fans can hit up today to see her belt such “B’Day” tunes as “Déjà Vu” and “Ring the Alarm.”    This afternoon, BET jumps into the promotion wheel with an entire “106 & Park” dedicated to the album release, as well as the singer’s 25th birthday.  The network won’t reveal who’s invited to the party, but viewers can expect a transformed set for the occasion and “surprise appearances by special guests.”  Hosted by “106 & Park’s” Terrence and Rocsi, the special airs at 6 p.m. ET/PT. As previously reported, Beyonce taped an episode of “The Ellen Degeneres Show” last week that will air today in honour of the album release. It’s the singer’s first-ever appearance on the show, which took place in New York’s Central Park and also included surprises for the Houston native’s 25th birthday. Ellen joined Beyonce’s backup dancers as the former Destiny’s Child member sang “Déjà Vu” and “Irreplaceable” from the new album. During the Q&A session, Ellen got Beyonce to talk about the recent rumours of a November wedding to boyfriend Jay Z and her plans for retirement. (Click here to see a clip from the show, courtesy of Here’s a partial transcript of the interview:

Ellen: Should I get a bridesmaid dress ready for your wedding with Jay-Z?  Are you marrying Jay-Z?

Beyonce: I’m not engaged. It’s a big fat rumour.

Ellen: Do you think it a possibility that you will be engaged?

Beyonce: One day I hope to be married and eventually with children.  I grew up with both of my parents and my sister and a big family so it’s important to me so I would love to have a family.

Ellen: When will you and Jay-Z get married then?

Beyonce: I don’t know

Ellen: You all seem like a great couple

Beyonce- Thank you

Ellen: I don’t know if this is right but you’re 25 today and you want to retire when your 30 years old?

Beyonce: I don’t want to retire when I’m 30 but, I want to be able to relax and take it a lot slower.   I work really hard now I want to be a lot pickier and just kind of chill out and calm down when I’m 30.

Ellen: I think we will disappointed in that we don’t want you to slow down,

Beyonce: I still will make albums and movies but just at a slower pace. 

Ellen: That’s a great goal..We should all have that on our life list to retire at 30 ….but you can you have been working for a long long time.

Beyonce: We started at nine years old together in Destiny’s Child.


Skip Martin Releases Jazz CD 'Miles High'

Source: Tynicka Battle, ThinkTank Marketing,,

(September 6, 2006) * Grammy winner Skip Martin of Kool & the Gang and the Dazz Band has released his debut jazz CD 'Miles High.' 'Are You Ready' the debut single with Skip on trumpet and vocals, features Wayman Tisdale on bass guitar and 6-time Grammy winner Ricky Lawson on drums.  The 13-track CD also features sax man Ronnie Laws, 5-time Grammy winner Al McKay of Earth Wind & Fire and Bruce Conti of Tower of Power.   The idea of Skip Martin's debut jazz project was pure and simple - "it was just time". With over 26 album releases as lead vocalist with the Dazz Band, Kool & the Gang and his own solo projects, Skip wanted to record a project where he did his 'singing' through his trumpet.  "I've recorded with both groups in the horn section but never as a solo artist," stated Skip. The result is 'Miles High' filled with hip, cool, funky, smooth jazz grooves. "You'll definitely come away ... with ... a sense of what Miles might be doing musically if he were still with us." (Scott O'Brien for 'Are You Ready' is "...a laid back blend of classic styles. If Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd were in the same band they would open their set with this tune..." (Gene Harris, Jr., MBA and Cat Lee for Ronnie Laws appears on the 'Smooth Sailing' track in a beautiful trumpet and sax duet - ranging from sultry grooves to profound narratives.  'Miles High', the title cut, a tribute to Miles Davis written the night Miles died, clearly shows an insightful range of diverse influences from the modern jazz era known as the Miles Years. "... jazz that can appeal to the novice and seasoned listener..." (Enorman for soulpatrol.netradio).

Al McKay comes through on guitar with the track 'Old School Rules' and Bruce Conti also on guitar is featured on 'Careless Whisper'. The album includes the first recordings of spoken word poet Bronze Paragon on the tracks 'Are You Ready' (Spoken Word) and 'Apropos' (Spoken Word) - which just make you sit up and listen.  "I'm very excited about this project" admits Skip Martin. "It took 2 years in the making with a few starts and stops but the journey was well worth the time." The album is beautifully mastered by multiple Grammy winner Bernie Grundman.  Listen to a snippet of "Are You Ready" here (Quicktime required):  


Positive and passionate about life, is the best way of describing Grammy Award winner Skip Martin - lead vocalist, trumpeter, songwriter and producer. Originally from the Bay Area, California and now based in Las Vegas, Skip has a string of impressive professional achievements and performances to his name. To date Skip has entertained millions of people around the world as lead vocalist for both The Dazz Band, (which won them a Grammy Award for the song "Let It Whip") and Kool & the Gang - and continues to perform with both bands concurrently.  Other achievements include Platinum & Gold Records recipient with the two major recording groups, a total of twenty-seven albums (seven with Kool & the Gang and fourteen with The Dazz Band), MOBO Awards recipient, R&B Song of the Year recipient, six consecutive Top 100 albums, two Top 100 singles, music publisher and producer of pop, R&B and jazz albums to name a few.  His tenor voice has a warm eclectic style developed through the years under the guise of maestro Stevie Wonder.  Skip lists Miles Davis, Sammy Davis and Donny Hathaway as major influences on his musical development.  Besides his work with the Dazz Band and Kool & the Gang, Skip is also involved in an all-star band called United We Funk. This show-stopping act uses the identifiable voices of the biggest selling bands of the funk era performing as one band. Groups include - Dazz Band, ConFunkShun, BarKays, SOS Band, Midnight Star and more.  Skip's debut jazz CD titled 'Miles High' featuring Ronnie Laws, Wayman Tisdale, Ricky Lawson, Bruce Conti and Al McKay is in stores August 8, 2006. For more information, please visit



Clive Davis Confirms Whitney Comeback

Excerpt from

(September 6, 2006) *J Records founder Clive Davis, the man responsible for signing a teenaged Whitney Houston to his former label Arista Records in 1983, tells MTV that he and the troubled singer are currently working on songs for a new comeback album. Davis says they’ve already chosen six tunes that she’ll record, yet warns against fans having unrealistic expectations about the album’s music production and lyrics, the latter of which will likely avoid mention of her recent challenges. "Whitney doesn't write," Davis told MTV. "It's a gift — you either got it or you don't. I've seen more artists lose a career over trying to do that. Ella Fitzgerald didn't write. Lena Horne didn't write. Whitney is Whitney, and there ain't nobody like her. It'll be Whitney. It won't be somebody reaching for a current trend, that's for sure."  The disc would be Houston’s first since “One Wish: The Holiday Album,” which reached No. 49 on the Billboard 200 album chart after its November 2003 release. 

Beyoncé To Play As Best Buy Opens

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vit Wagner, Music Critic

(Sep. 5, 2006) Popular singing stars
Beyoncé and John Mayer will perform free concerts at Best Buy's new Toronto flagship store as part of the outlet's opening weekend festivities.  Beyonce performs Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. at Yonge-Dundas Square, a block away from the new store's Bay-Dundas location. Wristbands, entitling fans entrance to the VIP section, will be handed out to the first 250 people the line up at the store before noon on Sept. 13. The first 150 people to line up before 3:45 p.m. on Sept. 15 will be invited to an autograph session where Beyoncé will sign copies of her new CD, B'Day, which comes out today.  John Mayer will take the same stage Sept. 16 at 4 p.m. VIP wristbands, also numbering 250, will be available on Sept. 14 before noon. Mayer will sign copies of his current CD, Continuum, for the first 150 fans who turn up at the store before 6 p.m. on the day of his concert.

Babs Adds Second T.O. Show

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(Sep. 5, 2006) TORONTO—
Barbra Streisand has added another show for Toronto fans.  Those who missed out on tickets for the diva's Oct. 17 show can now try to catch her on Oct. 20, the promoter said Tuesday.  Tickets — ranging in price from $85 to $550 — go on sale through Ticketmaster on Sept. 12 at 10 a.m ET.  There will be a six-ticket limit per person.  Streisand's Oct. 17 show sold out in a mere 30 minutes when tickets went on sale last month.  The concert dates, also featuring the operatic boy band Il Divo, will mark Streisand's first time performing in Toronto.  She will also perform in Montreal on Oct. 15.

Universal Music said to buy BMG for $2.05-billion

Source:  Associated Press

(Sept. 6, 2006) LOS ANGELES — Vivendi SA's
Universal Music Group reached a tentative agreement with German media company Bertelsmann AG to acquire BMG Music Publishing for $2.05-billion (U.S.) in cash, a person familiar with the deal said Tuesday. The agreement was expected to be signed as early as Wednesday, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the confidential nature of the negotiations. BMG Music Publishing owns the rights to more than a million songs by recording artists such as Nelly, Maroon 5 and Mariah Carey, as well as classic hits by the Beach Boys, Barry Manilow and other entertainers. Universal edged out a slate of rival bidders for the publishing unit, the person said. Universal is already the biggest recorded music company in the world. The BMG publishing unit is expected to be absorbed by Universal Music Publishing Group, making it the largest music publisher. Bertelsmann put its music publishing business up for sale earlier this year to help finance a $5.8-billion bridge loan used to buy back a 25.1 per cent stake held by Groupe Bruxelles Lambert. The move, announced in May, freed Bertelsmann from the prospect of an initial public offering for the stake.

Amy Grant First CCM Artist To Receive Hollywood Star

Excerpt from

(September 5, 2006) 
Amy Grant will be the first Contemporary Christian music artist to receive a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Sept. 19, just before the release of her first live recording "Time Again ... Amy Grant Live."   Grant is joining a new line up of movie stars, music artists, and others whose names will be etched onto the 18-block star-studded sidewalks in Hollywood .  After selling over 25 million albums worldwide and winning numerous Grammy Awards, Grant will get a star in anticipation of her live recording which will be released Sept. 26. The album, which follows her Grammy-winning album "Rock of Ages ... Hymns of Faith," is a live recording from Ft. Worth, Texas.   "I feel this project is marked by a longstanding relationship between a singer/songwriter and her audience, and I think you feel that," said Grant, according to LifeWay. "That's the unique quality of any artist/audience relationship that develops over a period of decades, because it's not even about a particular song, it's about the familiarity with something that's been a part of your life for a long time. That's why the whole emphasis of everything from the stage set up, the way we did the songs, the banter in-between, was 'let's highlight the familiarity, relationship, and friendship - the shared experience." The recording features Christian and mainstream hits from the past 25 years along with a new studio recording of "In A Little While."  The celebration of Grant's 25-year career comes as she launches a symphony tour this week. Grant will be performing with local symphonies in Atlanta, Nashville , Minneapolis and Kansas City . She is also scheduled to film an NBC Christmas special with several pro ice skaters, including Kristy Yamaguchi. Other figures who will be given a Hollywood star include Michelle Pfeiffer, Matt Damon, Mariah Carey, The Doors, Tim McGraw and Shania Twain among others.

NFL Football Turns To Pink

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Aug. 31, 2006) NEW YORK — Pink, the Grammy Award-winning singer known for her single Get the Party Started, has recorded the opening music for NBC Sunday Night Football.  "We chose Pink as the signature voice because she is a tremendous talent with a crossover appeal that makes her relevant to all segments of our audience," said Fred Gaudelli, who will produce the Sunday night broadcasts for NBC.  Pink has created Waiting All Day for Sunday Night, set to Joan Jett's I Hate Myself for Loving You, with new lyrics, NBC said Wednesday.  "A football fan knows the anticipation of waiting all day for the big game. When you hear this song on Sunday nights, you'll know the big game is about to kick off," Gaudelli said in a statement.  Film composer John Williams (Star Wars and Superman) has written theme music for the network's Football Night in America studio show and Sunday Night Football broadcasts.  "It has been great fun and a rare privilege to have been asked to contribute music for NBC's broadcast of one of our country's greatest traditions — football!" Williams said in a statement. ``The outstanding athletes that play this game are similar to our great musicians in that they all require complete dedication and rigorous daily practice to stay sharp."  NBC will broadcast the Sunday night game that had previously been shown on ESPN as part of its six-year, $600 million US deal with the NFL.

Mya Ready For ‘Liberation’ Day

Excerpt from

(September 5, 2006) *R&B singer
Mya said she had to leave the superficiality of Los Angeles behind and return to her native Washington D.C. to get her head right for the recording of her new album, “Liberation,” due Nov. 14 from Universal Motown.    "I just knew that I had to get back to my roots and rediscover what had made me excited in the first place," she tells Billboard. "I have all this creative energy and all these ideas but LA it was too impersonal of a place to develop a real creative family."   “In addition to first single "Ayo" featuring DJ Kool, “Liberation” includes "I Got That" featuring the Game, "Lock U Down," produced by Scott Storch and "I Am," produced by Kwame.    Mya also makes a guest appearance on Marques Houston's upcoming album, "Tug," and will be seen in the Bill Duke-directed drama "Cover," due in theatres this fall.

Farm Aid Goes Reggae

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Aug. 31, 2006) CAMDEN, N.J. — This year's Farm Aid benefit concert will feature not only the nearly annual show's mainstays such as Neil Young and Willie Nelson, but also genres from polka to reggae.  The line-up for the Sept. 30 concert at the Tweeter Center was announced Wednesday.  Farm Aid board founders Nelson, Young and John Mellencamp will be there, along with board member Dave Matthews.  Other acts include reggae's Steel Pulse, polka star Jimmy Sturr, pedal-steel guitarist and New Jersey native Robert Randolph, and rock 'n' roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis with Roy Head.  The line-up also includes Los Lonely Boys, Arlo Guthrie, Gov't Mule, Steve Earle and Allison Moorer, Shelby Lynne, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Pauline Reese and Danielle Evin.  The benefit concert has been held most years since 1985 and raises money to help farmers keep their land.

Bob Dylan's Modern Times

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Robert Everett-Green

Modern Times
Bob Dylan
Sony & BMG
Rating: ***

(Sept.1, 2006) He lives mostly in hotels, and roams the globe in jet planes and tour buses. Only on his records does
Bob Dylan ride the rails, creep around back porches, and call out his love or resentment at a face retreating from a dirty upstairs window. There's nothing newfangled about Modern Times, which revisits the imagined past in much the same way (though not quite as well) as 2001's Love and Theft. "I keep recycling the same old thoughts," Dylan sings in his grainy whine. He began as a self-mythologizing student of Woody Guthrie and his era, and at 65 he has come round again to much the same position, though like an orbiting planet his path never exactly repeats itself. These songs are more knowing, and more stylistically diverse (running through the blues, boogie-woogie, rockabilly and western swing) than Dylan's work in his Guthrie period. He still has lots to say, too much sometimes for the redundancy of a chorus. Thunder on a Mountain, the opening track, runs to 12 verses, with a chorus-like vamp after each three. Other numbers extend for seven or eight minutes, and feel as if they could go on much longer. They begin in the middle of things and end that way, throwing out a playful, contemplative mixture of anecdote, aphorism and self-description that mostly dares you to take it at face value. "I've sucked the milk out of a thousand cows," Dylan sings, somehow giving a wizened dignity to a line that's both rustic and randy. Many of the 10 new items on this disc are love songs, though the character of the beloved remains strangely indistinct. Not for the first time, Dylan seems more interested in the face in the mirror, and in the challenge of finding a new angle on pop's central obsession. He doesn't always find it. Spirit on the Water sounds as if he were warming up for a duet with Norah Jones. Beyond the Horizon is Dylan's Over the Rainbow. Can a cover of What a Wonderful Day be far behind? The best moments find the old trickster contemplating last things, in the mystic garden of Ain't Talking or in the simple avowal of When the Deal Goes Down. The worst moment, with no close second, comes in his mediocre rewrite of Rollin' and Tumblin' by Muddy Waters, who doesn't even get a credit. Love and theft, indeed. Bob Dylan plays the Coliseum in Vancouver on Oct. 11, Scotiabank Place in Ottawa Nov. 5, Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Nov. 7 and the Bell Centre in Montreal on Nov. 8.

Mariah, Kanye Win Big At BMI’S Urban Awards

Excerpt from

(September 1, 2006) *BMI held their
6th Annual Urban Awards show in New York Wednesday night, with top honours going to Mariah Carey, Kanye West and producer Jazze Pha. Carey, currently on tour across the country, took home Song of the Year for her smash “We Belong Together” and Songwriter of the Year, which she shared with Miami-based producers Bigg D and Jim Jonsin.  West earned the Producer of the Year title for the second consecutive year, and Jazze Pha nabbed the BMI Urban Ringtone Award for his production of Ciara’s “1, 2 Step.” Also, Warner/Chappell Music Group was named Urban Publisher of the Year.  The songwriting/production duo Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Antonio “L.A.” Reid were crowned BMI Icons for their “enduring influence on generations of music makers.” Executives from music trade magazine Billboard were also on hand to give out No. 1 Awards to the BMI songs that reached the top spot on its urban music charts. For a complete list of winners, please visit

‘Danity Kane,’ ‘Idlewild’ Top Billboard 20

Excerpt from

(August 31, 2006)  *Voice lessons from Betty Wright and beats from the likes of Scott Storch and Rodney Jerkins go a long, long way. Just ask
Danity Kane, the quintet of young ladies featured on MTV’s most recent “Making the Band” series who find themselves at the top of the Billboard 200 album chart this week – even outselling the long-awaited new LP from OutKast. Danity Kane’s self-titled set from Bad Boy Records sold a leading 234,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, while OutKast’s “Idlewild” debuted at No. 2 on sales of 196,000 units. The “Idlewild” film opened last weekend at No. 9 with just $5.7 million. Storch’s former friend Christina Aguilera's RCA album "Back to Basics" fell from its top perch to No. 3 this week with 135,000, while the album from Storch’s new buddy, Paris Hilton, titled “Paris,” entered the chart this week at No. 6. Elsewhere in the top 10, Luther Vandross' "The Ultimate Luther Vandross" debuted at No. 9 with 59,000, and Kelis’ "Kelis Was Here" (Jive) bowed at No. 10 with 58,000, which easily trumped her previous best charting position with 2003's "Tasty" (No. 27). 


Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Sep. 3, 2006) It was suggested in this space last week that Christina Aguilera would have a hard time maintaining the top position on the chart for more than one week, with high-profile releases by Paris Hilton and OutKast due to join the battle. Well, Xtina managed to hold her ground against both challengers, only to cede the top spot to popular hard-rockers Alexisonfire. The Dallas Green-fronted St. Catharines, Ont. outfit's third album also straddled the peak nationally. Alexisonfire, which spent the summer on the Vans Warped Tour, performs Saturday at Virgin Festival on Toronto Island before another extensive trek takes them across Canada, through the U.S. and then to the U.K. in November.

Ben Harper: Fun Music, Good Times

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alan Niester

(Sept.4, 2006)  BACK TO THE PAST Of all the rockers to grace stages in Ontario this summer, California's
Ben Harper is about the least likely to merit the description "cutting edge." In fact, there is no other active performer (with the possible exception of Lenny Kravitz) who is so successful at reinterpreting the recent and not-so-recent past for today's audiences. Saturday night at the Molson Amphitheatre, Harper entertained 15,000 cold, sodden, but wildly enthusiastic and beered-up supporters with a wonderfully  entertaining performance. From the funky soul of the Curtis Mayfield-inspired Both Sides of The Gun through the raunchy Faces-styled rocker Get It Like You Like It to the Dylan-esque Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating, Harper certainly wore his influences on his sleeve. But with his backing quintet the Innocent Criminals providing first-rate jam-band style backing, he was easily able to integrate his various influences into one seamless whole. BACK TO THE FUTURE Harper was preceded by Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, the youngest of reggae legend Bob Marley's singing sons. But while Marley's crack backing band beggared the Bob Marley connection with its opening instrumental medley, Marley Jr. is almost single-handedly pushing the boundaries of reggae into new directions. Mixing elements of rap, R&B and soul into the reggae/dancehall mix, numbers such as huge crossover hit Welcome To Jamrock made Bob Marley sound like some sort of Jamaican Frank Sinatra by comparison. BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD Openers Bedouin Soundclash actually have nothing to do with Bedouins at all. Their style is not Arabic, but a synthesis of rock, reggae and ska that mimics somewhat the white-boy reggae introduced by the Police in the late seventies. It was an amiable enough opening set, ratcheted up a notch with a guest appearance by Vernon "Maytone" Buckley on a trio of numbers. But later, when Damian Marley's band began to play, it put into focus just how thin Bedouin Soundclash's sound really was. The trio shows promise, but still has a way to go.

French Rappers Rapped Over Anti-Police Video

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Sept.4, 2006)  Nantes, France -- Two French rappers from the western city of Nantes are facing possible legal action after they used a local council grant to make a video accused of glorifying violence against the police. Downloadable over the Internet, Colt 44 by rappers
Tipikal and K-Pster contains images of guns and drugs as well as scenes filmed during a clash earlier this year between police and youths in a poor suburb of the city. The lyrics include the words, "Fill the police HQ with mustard gas, do it Russian-style," as well as other threats. AFP

Common Falls Into The Gap

Excerpt from

(September 4, 2006)  *Chicago MC
Common is among the celebrities that will appear in the latest ad campaign for Gap’s new line of t-shirts. Under the title “long live individuality,” black-and-white photos taken by acclaimed photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin will feature celebrities wearing their favourite Gap t-shirt in a way that expresses their individual style, personality and energy. Other stars participating in the campaign include Jeremy Piven, Mia Farrow, Aaron Eckhart, Natasha Bedingfield, Fall Out Boy member Pete Wentz, Eva Herzigova, Lou Doillon, Paula Patton, Kristen Stewart, Brice Marden and Yvonne Force.  The "T-shirt Shop" print campaign will run in the September issues of magazines, including Vanity Fair, Elle, InStyle, Vogue and GQ. Common and Piven attended recent promotional events for the campaign at the Gap's Hollywood and Highland store in Los Angeles and the Lexington Street store in New York City.

Ronald Isley Sentenced

Excerpt from

(September 1, 2006) *On Friday
Ronald Isley was sentenced to three years in federal prison for tax evasion.  Isley, 65, was also ordered to pay about $3.1 million to the Internal Revenue Service, having engaged in "pervasive, long-term, pathological" evasion of federal taxes, according to U.S. District Court Judge Dean Pregerson. The sentences were handed down after Isley was convicted last October of five counts of tax evasion and one count of wilful failure to file a tax return. During the three-week trial, prosecutors said Isley failed to make any voluntary payments to the IRS between 1976 and 1996. Isley's lawyer said his client had been selling his assets to pay down his IRS debt. He had sought probation for Isley, citing his client's medical condition, which includes the effects of a stroke and a recent bout with kidney cancer.

Janet Ready To Dance Again On New Album

Excerpt from - Janine Coveney and Gail Mitchell, L.A.

(Sept. 1, 2006)
Janet Jackson conceived her new album, "20 Y.O.," as a celebration of the joyful liberation and history-making musical style of her 1986 breakthrough album, "Control." That musical declaration of independence launched a string of hits, an indelible production sound and an enduring image cemented by groundbreaking video choreography and imagery that pop vocalists still emulate.  For the new album, Jackson reunited with producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and was joined by her boyfriend, Jermaine Dupri, to craft a musical reflection of who she is today and how the artistic promise of "Control" has been fulfilled some two decades later.  "This album takes me to a place where I haven't been in a while: R&B and dance," Jackson tells Billboard. "I give that credit to Jermaine. I like to say he brought the country to the album, while he says he brought the ghetto [laughs].  "But the dance element was the one thing I was adamant about having," she continues. "The album also features samples from music that inspired me 20, 25 years ago. There are also some midtempo songs and some of what everyone calls my 'baby-making songs.' Basically, the album is everything that's always been a part of me, but with freshness to it."  In addition to lead single "Call on Me" featuring Nelly, the album also features "Show Me," which Jam calls a "happy record," "With You," which Dupri calls a bona fide smash, "So Excited," a sexy fantasy called "My Body" and "Get It Out Me."  "It was really a collaborative effort, and that's what made it so nice," Jackson says. "Jermaine would run into the studio and talk about the songs Jimmy and Terry had done on someone's album. Then Jimmy would start playing the song, and Jermaine would say, 'You know what? Let's do something kind of along those lines as a base.' He understood them, he understood me and vice versa."

LL Working With 50 Cent On New Album

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Sept. 1, 2006) Although his last album came out only five months ago, LL Cool J is already working on another new project that will be produced by 50 Cent. "We did six records in three or four days," 50 said last night (Aug. 31) during the MTV Video Music Awards preshow. LL then said the as-yet-untitled album would be his last for longtime label home Def Jam.  "For me, I needed to go and work with somebody who really had my best interests at heart," he said. The artist has released 12 albums for Def Jam; the most recent of which, "Todd Smith," debuted at No. 6 on The Billboard 200.  LL previously acknowledged allegiance with 50 Cent's G-Unit crew by featuring Lloyd Banks on a recent single, "Bump This." The track was reportedly intended for a re-release of "Todd Smith" but failed to appear on any Billboard charts.  During the VMA telecast, LL and 50 appeared onstage together to present the best female video award. Later in the evening, they hosted a VMA after-party at the hotspot Tao, which featured a performance by Gnarls Barkley.

Lil Wayne, Juelz Santana Teaming For Album

Excerpt from - Clover Hope, N.Y.

(Sept. 1, 2006) While honing their respective solo projects,
Lil Wayne and Juelz Santana will expand their mixtape collaboration, "I Can't Feel My Face," into a full album, due early next year.  "Me and L are like brothers," Lil Wayne tells Santana adds, "We had a mixtape that leaked in the streets and there's a big demand. He's on fire, I'm on fire and I respect him on a musical level as well as a friendship level. It's the same vice versa so we thought we might as well get together and make it happen."  Santana has all but completed his next solo album, the follow-up to 2005's "What The Games Been Missin'," which has sold 655,000 units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "I have about 75 songs done," he says. "I like to do 100 or more songs and pick [tracks] out."  Lil Wayne is also working on his next album, "Tha Carter III"; a collaboration set with rapper Baby, "Like Father, Like Son," is due Oct. 10. The first single is "Stuntin' Like My daddy." Wayne will also launch a line of women's jeans called W Jeans, which he likens to Nelly's Apple Bottoms.



September 4, 2006

40 Watt Hype, Strong Feet on the Concrete, R.N.L.G. LLC
, Aaliyah [5 Bonus Tracks], Edel
B'day, Sony/Columbia
Black Ice,
The Death of Willie Lynch, Koch
Blue Sky Black Death,
Blue Sky Black Death Presents the Holocaust, Babygrande
C.G. Guison,
2 Sides to Every Story, R.N.L.G. LLC
Mr. Predicter, Vol. 2, R.N.L.G. LLC
Celly Cel,
The Hillside Stranglaz, Real Talk
Do It to It, Pt. 1, EMI/Parlophone
Do It to It, Pt. 2, EMI/Parlophone
Hoodstar [Bonus DVD], Toshiba EMI
The Tru Story: Continued, Koch
DJ Spinna,
Intergalactic Soul, V2/Papa
Earl Bostic,
Complete Quintet Recordings, Lonehill Jazz
Another Early Evening, EV
Earth, Wind & Fire,
In the Name of Love, Kalimba
Esther Phillips,
Atlantic Years, WEA/Rhino
Fatsoe 1,
Is That Soe, Hungry Hustler
London Bridge [Single], Universal
Frankie J,
That Girl, Sony
Freda Payne,
The Best of Freda Payne, Collectables
Cursed Infernal Steel, Mega Force
Intellekt & Dirty Digits,
Intellektual Property, ATF
Janet Jackson,
Call on Me, Capitol
Jern Eye,
Authentic Vintage, Kajmere Sound
Jurassic 5,
Feedback [Instrumental], Up Above
Bossy, EMI/Virgin
Bossy, Pt. 1, EMI/Virgin
It's Not That Easy, Pt. 1, Sony BMG
It's Not That Easy, Pt. 2, Sony BMG
Torn, Capitol
Lionel Richie,
Coming Home [Bonus Track], Universal
Lupe Fiasco,
Food and Liquor [Bonus Track], WEA/Atlantic
Lupe Fiasco,
Kick Push, WEA/Atlantic
Master P,
The New No Limit Deluxe, Koch
Master P,
The Ultimate Master P [CD/DVD], Koch
Youth [Bonus Tracks], Sony
Missy Elliott,
Respect M.E., WEA/Atlantic
Midnight Green, EV Productions
Ms. Eryka Kane,
Flow, Legit Ballin'
Here, BBE
Uncomfortable Truth, Four Music
P.P. Arnold,
First Lady of Immediate [Bonus Tracks], JVC Victor
Public Enemy,
Bring That Beat Back, Slamjamz/Defbeat Posse/Koch
Redd Hott,
Redd Hott #1, P-Vine
New Kid on the Block,
Terry Callier,
Life Lessons: The Best of Terry Callier, Music Club Deluxe
The Coasters,
20 Greatest Hits [Teevee], TeeVee
The Commodores,
Colour Collection, Motown
The Razah Code,
Underground Hip Hop, Mercury Ent.
The Staple Singers,
In the Praise of Him, Collectables
The Platters,
19 Greatest Hits, King
Three 6 Mafia,
Side 2 Side, Sony
Trek Life,
Price I've Paid, Kajmere Sound
Convicted Felons, Laboratory
Various Artists,
Second Family of Southern Soul, Hep'me
Various Artists,
In Prison: Afroamerican Prison Music from Blues to Hiphop, Trikont
Various Artists,
Rhythm Traxx Music Presents: Latin Rap All-Starz,
Various Artists,
Reggae Sting, Vol. 1, ZYX
Various Artists,
Reggae Sting, Vol. 2, ZYX
Wade Waters,
Speak on It/Back in Time, Up Above
Ziggy Marley,
Love Is My Religion, Tuff Gong
All Iz, Sci Fidelity

September 12, 2006

BARENAKED LADIES Barenaked Ladies Are Me (Nettwerk)
BASEMENT JAXX Crazy Itch Radio (XL Recordings/Beggars Group)
BLACK KEYS Magic Potion (Nonesuch/Warner)
BLACK LABEL SOCIETY Shot to Hell (Roadrunner)
BOB SEGER Face the Promise (EMI)
ELTON JOHN The Captain & The Kid (Universal)
EVERCLEAR Welcome to the Drama Club (Universal)
JOHN MAYER Continuum (Columbia)
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE FutureSex/LoveSounds (Jive)
LIONEL RICHIE Coming Home (Island)
MARS VOLTA Amputechture (Universal)
PAPA ROACH Paramour Sessions (Geffen)
R.E.M. And I Feel Fine...The Best of the I.R.S. Years '82-'87 (EMI)
SWOLLEN MEMBERS Black Magic (Battle Axe)
TV ON THE RADIO Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope)
VERUCA SALT VSIV (Sympathy For The Record Industry)
YO LA TENGO I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador)


Pssst. You have to see . . .

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Guy Dixon

(Sep. 3, 2006) Actors shrug it off. Directors like to think they're above it. Producers and film distributors acknowledge it, but wonder if it's real, while publicists and journalists are attracted to it like flies. Buzz -- it's what the
Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is all about. So what are the must-see films everyone is already talking about, even five days before the festival opens? Sarah Polley's feature directorial debut Away from Her, an adaptation of Alice Munro's short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain, is on everyone's lips. But equally interesting are some of the individual picks, such as the South African film Bunny Chow.  Films such as these can start out with just one person mentioning it to someone else. Suddenly, buzz is born.  GUY DIXON asked some insiders for their must-see films at this year's festival. Here's what they had to say:

(Multidisciplinary artist, CBC Radio personality and star of the
sexually graphic Shortbus by American director John Cameron
Mitchell at this year's festival), via e-mail:
Canadian must-see: I am very much looking forward to seeing Away from Her, because it combines two of my favourite creators. The movie is based on a short story by Alice Munro, and it's the first feature by writer-director Sarah Polley, who is amazing!
International must-see: Yokohama Mary is a documentary by
Takayuki Nakamura. It's a very special movie you'd have a hard time finding elsewhere. It's the true story of a postwar prostitute infamous for catering to American GIs in Japan. By the 1990s, she was a street person in Yokohama performing her eccentric Kabuki-inspired dances. A few years later, Yokohama Mary disappeared. This documentary is a search for her that uncovers a lot on the way.
Festival must-do: The Shortbus party! Definitely. Sunday, Sept. 10 at the Phoenix after the premiere of the movie. It's gonna be fun!
(Festival programmer for Canadian feature films):
Canadian must-see: Just one?! I do want to see the Guy Maddin film Brand Upon the Brain! again because it's playing with a live orchestra [and] with foley artists.
And there's a film from Montreal called Sur la trace d'Igor Rizzi by Noël Mitrani. It's the only Canadian feature playing in [the Venice Film Festival]. It's about an ex-professional soccer star from France who
decides to move to Montreal.
International must-see: I guess Il Caimano [Italian director Nanni Moretti's take on former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi]. And one of the midnight films, the Borat film, just for fun [British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen of The Ali G Show].
Festival must-do: We're doing a Peter Mettler retrospective this year . . . and he has this thing the last Friday [of the retrospective] called Elsewhere [Sept. 15]. It's multimedia, so he's going to have live mixing and live video.
(Winnipeg filmmaker with two films in the festival, Brand Upon the Brain! and the short Nude Caboose), via e-mail:
Canadian must-see: I'm dying to see Away from Her by Sarah Polley and Monkey Warfare by Reg Harkema.
International must-see: Babel by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who did 21 Grams and Amores Perros.
Festival must-do: I'm from out of town, so I always like to go to Pages bookstore when I come. I almost never get to see movies because I'm too busy hyping some picture, so I perennially vow to check out more titles, but my own screening is so early in this festival I just might get out to all the ones I want.
(Prima ballerina turned filmmaker, who has a short in the festival's
Motofilm project, which uses video-capture cellphones provided by
Motorola in the filmmaking process):
Canadian must-see: Opening night is the wonderful Zacharias film
[directors Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn's The Journals of Knud
Rasmussen]. I see that as truly international. I've always had a great love of Inuit culture. And my other choice is Sarah Polley's film, just because I'm so fond of her and I have such belief in her. And I hear it is just absolutely fantastic.
International must-see: There are so many. There's Anthony Minghella's film [Breaking and Entering, starring Jude Law]. Certainly I want to see his film very much.
Festival must-do: I hope I don't sound too boring, but what I like to do is go to TIFF to see films, and that's all I do. I look down the list, go from one theatre to the next and just cram as many in a day as I can. I'm not a party animal. I won't say I won't go [to parties]. But that's not my first choice at TIFF. In fact, I hide. I kind of dart around from theatre to theatre in the cloak of darkness.
(Film critic and festival programmer):
Canadian must-see: I can mention one that I've seen which is Monkey Warfare by Reg Harkema, which I liked for a lot of reasons. One of the things that has often driven me crazy about Canadian films is that they seem so turned in on themselves. A lot of them seem so hermetic. And this is a movie about engaging with the world.
International must-see: There's one that is already attracting buzz. It's called Bunny Chow from South Africa. A "bunny chow" is a big, sloppy sandwich you get at the end of a night when you've drunk too much and you just want to soak up the booze. It's a bun filled with curry and all kinds of stuff. It's a metaphor for South Africa today, according to the filmmaker. It's the story of three standup comics on the road to a big rock fair where they try to become stars. But it's gorgeous, black-and-white, widescreen cinematography, really funny, really sexy, not at all political. It's the new South Africa.
Festival must-do: When the festival is a professional gig for you, a lot of the social events are work. Fancy parties, free booze and food, but you're dreading it. [But] what I do always enjoy is the barbecue at the Canadian Film Centre because it's in the middle of the day. It's totally casual and it feels like an escape from the festival.
(Chairman of the National Film Board of Canada):
Canadian must-see: The special retrospective of Norman McLaren films and The Journal of Knud Rasmussen -- as you know [regarding the latter], a second film is always where people are waiting to see whether that talent is confirmed or not, or whether it was a fluke. [Co-director Kunuk's first film was The Fast Runner.] There is a lot of nervousness and anticipation, and I'm sure that Kunuk and Cohn must be really anxious to see a Canadian audience react to the film.
International must-see: For its originality in storytelling, it would be
Babel by Inarritu. One thing I've been looking into myself -- first as a filmmaker, but also as the head of the film board -- is how do you tell a very complex, international story without being artificial about it? Babel is one of those films capable of breaking this debate, like we have in Canada, about should we make commercial films or should we make artistic films. This film manages to capture the two type of approaches.
And let me give you another film, which would be Volver by Pedro Almodovar. It's such a warm and emotionally strong film. If you want a feel-good movie, go and see it. It rehabilitates your trust in the world and mainly in womanhood and motherhood.
Festival must-do: We're bringing over to TIFF a very strong Brazilian
delegation [of filmmakers]. . . . For me, it is one of the key turning points, the key moments that I'll be looking forward to at TIFF, because it'll make more concrete some of the projects we've put forth. On the other side, the real thing for me is to allow enough time between all those meetings to at least catch some films. That's the time that unfortunately I'm missing. I
always reserve some time in my schedule and say, I'm going to take the time to go to some films. And I really mark them down, and for some
reason I miss them.
(Executive director of Bravo!FACT, which provides funding for Canadian short films):
Canadian must-see: Short Cuts Canada, TIFF's program of Canadian shorts: I'm keeping my eye out for the Bravo!FACT-funded shorts. We have six this year in the program, including Guy Maddin's Nude Caboose, which I would put high up on everybody's list. So it's a must-see in terms of an event I wouldn't miss for the world -- the public screening as opposed to an industry screening. I want to see that with the public and [see] how they react. It's always such a heterogeneous group that is drawn.
And this year, I must see the Maddin feature [Brand Upon the Brain!] with the live orchestra, the silent film which I understand he shot with a collective in Seattle. That's an experience not to be missed. It can't be duplicated. You can't sit around saying I'll wait for the DVD to come out, since it's a live orchestra.
International must-see: There's a documentary on Cuba [Camila Guzman Urzua's The Sugar Curtain] that I've heard about and pencilled for myself. And of course Sook-Yin Lee's feature film has caught our attention, Shortbus.
Festival must-do: Definitely the Schmooze. This year it's called the Star TV Schmooze that takes place in the CHUM building. It's an awesome opportunity to mingle. It's quite exciting. If you've heard of someone's film or you've just seen their film, there they are. The trick is to be able to recognize people, to know who's who.
Canadian must-see: Sarah
Polley's Away from Her.
International must-see:
Christopher Guest's For Your
Festival must-do: An evening with Michael Moore [who is giving a talk at the festival and showing clips of his new film Sicko about the American health-care system and The Great '04 Slacker Uprising, a work-in-progress about the U.S. 2004 election.]
Canadian must-see: Monkey
Warfare -- I haven't seen it yet but have heard amazing things.
International must-see: Volver.
Festival must-do: Just to see movies! I absolutely have to get out and see as many movies as possible.
Got A Sudden Itch To See A Film?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Sep. 3, 2006) If you've not noticed, the festival's deadline for coupon books and passes has already flown by. The good news is, single tickets are still an option. Here's the lowdown:

Advance Tickets: Starting on Wednesday, these can be bought online at, by phone at 416-968-FILM (3456) or in person Monday to Friday at the Manulife Centre (55 Bloor St. W.) or College Park (444 Yonge St.) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Or you can pay up right at the theatres — from 11 a.m. at the Elgin Theatre and Roy Thomson Hall, or one hour before the first screening at all other participating theatres. Tickets can be ordered until 7 p.m. on the night before the screening, limited to four tickets per person. They should be picked up one hour before the screening.

Same Day Tickets: If any remain, they will go on sale at 7 a.m. online or by phone, and one hour prior to the first screening at the theatres.

Rush Tickets: Grab a coffee and get in line one hour before the screening. Many shows with sold-out advance tickets will still have some for those pounding the pavement. Theatre reps are instructed to let those in the line-up know how many tickets are available.

Online Alerts: If you sign up online (, daily email alerts will be sent to your inbox with hot tips of films to see that day. If a film is on the list of "best bets," you're practically sure to get a ticket if you get to the rush line. It's also a way to find out which films are an absolute no-go.

Tickets cost $19.75 for adults and $15.75 for students and seniors, plus GST. Added to this will be a Building Fund surcharge, with the money going into the kitty for the festival's gala home in the making. A service fee will also be added when purchasing online or by phone.

Students must buy their tickets in person at the box offices, in order to provide proof of ID.

Gala tickets are $35.

Wesley Jonathan: Crosses Over To The Big Screen

Excerpt from - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(September 1, 2006)   *The name
Wesley Jonathan may not ring a bell, but his repertoire does. The actor made his debut on the 80s young cop drama “21 Jump Street.”  His signature dimples took him to the Saturday morning teen sitcom “City Guys” and then on to the WB’s “What I Like About You.” This versatile actor is one of those TV actors that you know and love. With decades of acting under his belt, the actor is now making his move to the big screen in the sports film “Crossover.” The film, opening this weekend, stars Jonathan as a young athlete who’s heading to UCLA to play college basketball. In a fateful trip to Los Angeles with his best friends, he gets a taste of the struggle he faces in trying to pursue his dream of using his basketball scholarship to become a doctor and the dream his friends have for him to become an NBA star. “I play a cat by the name of Noah Cruise who is a young, pretty intelligent kid who is extremely talented in the fundamentals of basketball. He’s talented in basketball, but his mother, his grandmother – who raised him, and he himself, want him to be a doctor. So he uses the basketball scholarship to get his degree in medicine. All the while, everyone is on his back and those in the ‘hood to be an NBA player,” Jonathan described. While the story has it’s attraction as a coming-of-age-slam-dunkin’ sports drama, Jonathan was attracted to the script on a more societal level.

The actor was drawn to the focus of the dilemma that many young African-American males face today.  “What attracted me to the script is that in a lot of cases, this is really true of young brothers – that an African-American man may not feel noble enough to want to be a doctor and save lives,” he said. The film also stars Anthony Mackie as his b-ball buddy, “America’s Next Top Model” star Eva Pigford as his love interest, and Wayne Brady as an unscrupulous bookmaker. “Wayne Brady is the bookie and the illegal underground snake. It’s a stretch, but I think he did a great job. I think he did a wonderful job,” Jonathan said of the actor who's most known for he’s comedic persona displayed on the improv TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway.” The very modest and humble Jonathan explained that the film has three main plots, his being just one, but he realizes that being a lead in a feature film is a pretty significant step in his career. “It’s an accomplishment in itself,” 28-year-old Jonathan said of his movie headlining status. “I’ve been acting for 20 years. My first job was when I was 8 years old.” Fortunately for the film’s producers, he has also been playing basketball since he was a kid.  “I can play ball pretty doggone well. It’s not just for movies, it’s for real,” he said. “That was part of the casting; they wanted somebody who could play basketball and act. I’ve been playing since I was a kid; I just went into a different type of training for the film to make things a little more defined. I can better ball than [co-star] Anthony Mackie, but he can play.” Jonathan didn’t get to test that theory, though. The two were too tired and too busy training for the film than to do a pick up game of one on one. “We were hanging on each other’s shoulders saying, ‘Oh, please let this end,’” he recalled. “Crossover” represents a new phase for Jonathan. The actor is hanging tough with his sitcom “What I Like About You” and he’s also completed three other films waiting to be either released as features or straight to video.

Small Minds, Big Cuts

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell

(Sep. 1, 2006) One of the many bitterly amusing things about Kirby Dick's important new documentary is the NC-17 rating recently slapped on it by the Motion Picture Association of America, due to the brazen display of "some graphic sexual content."  It makes the movie's title hilariously incorrect: This Film Is Not Yet Rated. At the time of its Sundance premiere last January, the handle was accurate. Oh, and that so-called "graphic sexual content"? It's a comparison of censored and non-censored film clips used by Dick to show the MPAA's arbitrary rulings. They're a big part of the movie's thrust, if you'll excuse the pun.  The MPAA is not coincidentally the unhappy subject of Dick's inquiry. An NC-17 rating is the MPAA's official kiss of death. It means no admittance to anyone 17 and under, which in practical terms means a film can only be seen in smutty art houses, with family newspapers shunning advertisements for it. I believe the Mafia uses dead fish to deliver similar messages.  Along with the MPAA's stamp of disapproval comes that familiar feeling for Canadians of living on top of a banana republic. This Film Is Not Yet Rated is opening today in just two cities stateside, New York and L.A., and there's no word of a Canadian release. It might just end up on DVD here. The movie deserves a much wider release.  Why should we care? We should because the MPAA is not just the official nanny censor of the U.S. film industry. It's also indirectly the censor for the world, because everything Hollywood releases is cut to the association's outrageously unfair standards. And as Dick's film demonstrates with great verve and humour, the MPAA is nothing more than a private club used by the ignorant to beat the artful.  Its mission is to maximize the amount of violence seen by impressionable young minds while sparing them the sight of a barenaked breast.  That's not how the MPAA would put it, of course, but any alert filmgoer wouldn't disagree.

According to MPAA logic, it's more than okay to show people getting shot or brutally killed if you want a family friendly rating. But to show sex, or even to talk about it, will get you hobbled with an R or NC-17 rating — the latter being the most feared because its condemns a film to a tiny and profitless theatrical run.  In fairness to the MPAA, it is enforcing standards it believes Americans hold dear.  "Violence is fine; sex isn't. That's what America believes," says John Waters (Pink Flamingos), who succinctly describes the MPAA mindset.  Waters is the subject of Jeff Garlin's This Filthy World, which is premiering at this month's Toronto International Film Festival (Sept. 7-16), a rare film event when the censors sheathe their blades.  It's unfortunate that This Film Is Not Yet Rated isn't part of this year's TIFF festivities, because there's no place like a festival to discuss issues important both to filmmakers and the community at large. It's even more unfortunate that the film isn't getting a bigger theatrical rollout, because it demonstrates so well how illogical and unjust the MPAA is.  Dick interviewed two Toronto filmmakers, Atom Egoyan and Mary Harron, who have both felt the sting of the association's rulings.  They explain on camera exactly what happened to them when they appealed the punitive NC-17 rating the MPAA gave their films: Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies and Harron's American Psycho. The sense of frustration on their faces is palpable, and so is the vindication of being able to state their cases.

Egoyan and Harron both lost their ratings appeals and as a result had to put their films out in the U.S. with minimal advertising and reduced exhibitor support, seriously hurting box-office receipts.  All because they had a few sexual thrusts too many — but a chainsaw murder scene, as in the case of Harron's film, was perfectly okay. Egoyan talks about how he was so angry with MPAA chairman Joan Graves, "I felt like saying, `Would you like to edit my next film? You're a visionary!'"  Kirby interviews many other directors, who all complain about having to adjust their art to suit nameless and faceless people who make decisions for the most bizarre of reasons.  But the film by the Oscar-nominated Dick (Twist of Faith), isn't out to settle scores, as he explained to me in an interview at Sundance. It's a serious — albeit very funny — probe into the nether regions of the MPAA operation, which conducts its business like the CIA or KGB.  "It's something that's been building for a long time," he said. "I've been an independent filmmaker all my career, and I've lived in Los Angeles all during that time. I've been influenced by many of the filmmakers caught up (by the MPAA's ratings) and I just decided I wanted to make a film about it.  "I also really rankle at the oppressiveness of it. Six major studios control 95 per cent of the film business. It has really deadened the art form in the U.S. in a lot of ways. My film is a combination of being upset about this censorship and also being upset at the studios' overall impact on what I consider my art form."  The MPAA never publicly identifies its censors, and reasons given for their ratings are often terse and unclear, when they're given at all.  Kirby's film invades the secret society. He hires two intrepid female private detectives to covertly track and photograph MPAA censors. He discovers that most are people in their 40s, 50s and 60s, some married and some divorced, and with children well past the age of majority.  Not exactly the vision of parents with young children that the MPAA likes to promote as its image of the type of guardians it hires to snip-snip-snip out all the sexy bits.  "One of the odd impacts of this rating system is that filmmakers actually censor themselves because they're trying to make a film that will get an R, rating," Dick said. (R in America means people under age 17 require adult accompaniment; in Ontario it means the film is restricted to people aged 18 or over.)  "As a result, that's one of the reasons American sex scenes all look the same. The MPAA has deadened that form of expression. And I think that's why Atom Egoyan was caught up in this. He wasn't thinking of the American system. It was just a master shot, a scene to him, and he was totally cut off because he wasn't self-censoring. It's pretty astounding."  Dick unmasks another insidious aspect of the MPAA system: homophobia.  "The MPAA rates gay films much more harshly than straight films. I find that very troubling. You have to raise the question: If the society's values or standards were racist would the ratings board reflect that? If they were anti-Semitic, would they reflect that?"  You have to wonder. And you also have to applaud Dick for having the courage to take on a monolithic and vengeful organization that has the power to damage his career. The best way to thank him would be to ensure the widest possible release of This Film Is Not Yet Rated. Are you up for the challenge, distributors and exhibitors?

Glenn Ford, 90

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Canadian Press

(Sept.1, 2006) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. Actor
Glenn Ford, who played strong, thoughtful protagonists in films such as The Blackboard Jungle, Gilda and The Big Heat, died Wednesday, police said. He was 90. Paramedics called to Ford's home just before 4 p.m. found Ford dead, police Sgt. Terry Nutall said, reading a prepared statement. “They do not suspect foul play,” he said. Ford suffered a series of strokes in the 1990s. Failing health forced him to skip a 90th birthday tribute on May 1 at Hollywood's historic Grauman's Egyptian Theatre. But he did send greetings via videotape, adding, “I wish I were up and around, but I'm doing the best that I can.... There's so much I have to be grateful for.” At the event, Shirley Jones, who co-starred with him in the comedy The Courtship of Eddie's Father, called Ford “one of the cornerstones of our industry, and there aren't many left.” Ford appeared in scores of films during his 53-year Hollywood career. The Film Encyclopedia, a reference book, lists 85 films from 1939 to 1991. He was cast usually as the handsome tough, but his acting talents ranged from romance to comedy. His more famous credits include Superman, Gilda, The Sheepman, The Gazebo, Pocketful of Miracles and Don't Go Near the Water. An avid horseman and former polo player, Ford appeared in a number of Westerns, 3:10 to Yuma, Cowboy, The Rounders, Texas, The Fastest Gun Alive and the remake of Cimarron among them. His talents included lighter parts, with roles in The Teahouse of August Moon and It Started With a Kiss. On television, he appeared in Cade's County, The Family Holvak, Once an Eagle and When Havoc Struck. He starred in the feature film The Courtship of Eddie's Father, which later became a TV series featuring Bill Bixby.

A tireless worker, Ford often made several films a year, Ford continued working well into his 70s. In 1992, though, he was hospitalized for more than two months for blood clots and other ailments, and at one point was in critical condition “Noel Coward once told me, ‘You will know you're old when you cease to be amazed.' Well, I can still be amazed,” Ford said in a 1981 interview with The Associated Press. After getting his start in theatre in the 1930s, he got a break when he was signed by Columbia Pictures mogul Harry Cohn. In 1940, he appeared in five films, including Blondie Plays Cupid and Babies for Sale. After serving with the Marines during World War II, Ford starred in 1946 as a small-time gambler in Gilda, opposite Rita Hayworth. The film about frustrated romance and corruption in postwar Argentina became a film noir classic. Hayworth plays Ford's former love, a sometime nightclub singer married to a casino operator, and she sizzles onscreen performing Put the Blame on Mame. Ford speaks the memorable voiceover in the opening scene: “To me a dollar was a dollar in any language. It was my first night in the Argentine and I didn't know much about the local citizens. But I knew about American sailors, and I knew I'd better get out of there.” Two years later he made The Loves of Carmen, also with Hayworth. “It was one of the greatest mistakes I ever made, embarrassing,” Ford said of the latter film. “But it was worth it, just to work with her again.” Among his competitors for leading roles was William Holden. Both actors, Ford said, would stuff paper in their shoes to appear taller than the other. “Finally, neither of us could walk, so we said the hell with it.” Ford also played against Bette Davis in A Stolen Life. One of his best-known roles was in the 1955 The Blackboard Jungle, where he portrayed a young, soft-spoken teacher in a slum school who inspires a class full of juvenile delinquents to care about life. In “The Big Heat,” 1953, a gritty crime story, he played a police detective.

“Acting is just being truthful,” he once said. “I have to play myself. I'm not an actor who can take on another character, like Laurence Olivier. The worst thing I could do would be to play Shakespeare.” He was born Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford on May 1, 1916, in Quebec, the son of a railroad executive. The first name reflected his family's Welsh roots. When Ford joined Columbia, Cohn asked him to change his name to John Gower; Ford refused but switched his first name to Glenn, after his father's birthplace of Glenford. He moved to Southern California at eight and promptly fell in love with show business, even sneaking onto a Culver City studio lot at night. He took to the stage at Santa Monica High School. His first professional job was as a searchlight operator in front of a movie house. He started his career in theatre, as an actor with West Coast stage companies and as Tallulah Bankhead's stage manager in New York. In 1939, he made his first Hollywood film opposite Jean Rogers in the romance “Heaven With a Barbed Wire Fence.” His director, Ricardo Cortez, told Ford he would never amount to anything and the actor returned to New York. He didn't stay away from Hollywood long, though, signing a 14-year contract with Columbia Pictures. He married actress-dancer Eleanor Powell in 1943; the two divorced in 1959. They had a son, Peter. A 1965 marriage to actress Kathryn Hays ended quickly. In 1977, he married model Cynthia Hayward, 32 years his junior. They were divorced in 1984.

The EUR Interview: Anthony Mackie

Excerpt from - By Kam Williams

(September 5, 2006) *A graduate of Juilliard, classically-trained
Anthony Mackie is a young thespian set to emerge as one of the foremost talents of his generation following a string of impressive outings. Born in New Orleans in 1979, he made his professional stage debut while still in school, playing Tupac Shakur in an off-Broadway production. Since then, the versatile actor has played characters ranging from a gay college student to a biotech exec to a ghetto gangsta' to a flashy boxer in such films as 8 Mile, Million Dollar Baby, She Hate Me, The Manchurian Candidate, Brother to Brother, The Man, Freedomland, and Hollywood Homicide.  Here, he speaks about his two most recent ventures, Crossover and Half Nelson, both of which are currently in theatres and were released just a few weeks apart from each other.

KAM WILLIAMS: I first noticed you a couple of years ago, when you did such a great job in what I consider your breakout role in Brother to Brother.

: Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

KW: What interested you in Half Nelson?

AM: I was just blown away by the sincerity of the story. I felt like it was very well put together, because it was judgmental, but simply an honest portrayal of these people in that situation. I enjoyed that because I feel that writers, as well as actors, are very judgmental about the characters they're creating in bringing them to life.

KW: Yes, this film struck me as a very realistic slice-of-life.

AM: And that's what's so great about it. It's not dressed up at all. I've never been a fan of slice-of-life movies, but I was very impressed by the way they were able to capture everyday living.

KW: Do you see yourself as a lead actor or as a character actor?

AM: My thing is this: I want to be able to do the stuff that they say Don Cheadle is too old to do. If that means that I'm a character actor, so be it. But I would never describe myself as a character actor. I think of myself more as an actor who makes good choices. Don Cheadle isn't a character actor, he's just a great f*cking actor. So, to limit yourself to being a quote-unquote "leading man" is nonsense.

KW: How have you gotten so many good roles?

AM: One thing that I've been very vocal about, and my representation has been very smart about, is that I didn't go to Juilliard to be "Thug #2" in movies. I like to be challenged. I'd say that about 40% of the roles I've done have been written for white men.

KW: Do you think Hollywood has finally arrived at a point where we've got completely colorblind casting, and you can audition for any role?

AM: [Laughs] No, though I think because of the work that I've done, people are starting to pay more attention.

KW: Tell me a little about your new film, Crossover.

AM: I'm really excited about it, because it's something that parents can take their kids to and come out and have an intelligent conversation about issues from day-to-day life. I feel that nowadays, kids don't have role models. They don't have anybody to look up to, or anything to aspire to. I wanted to make a movie where the kids could see themselves in the people on screen. With Crossover, they can realize that if you work hard, there will be a bounteous amount of opportunities in the future.

KW: What's your character, Tech, like?

AM: Tech is a very important character in this film because he understands how he can use basketball to further himself to go to college, and if he doesn't make it to the NBA, use it to help him achieve whatever he wants to do next.

KW: What's the demographic for this flick then?

AM: If you love basketball, and if you love a good story, then I feel this is a great movie for you and right up your alley.

KW: Are you interested in doing a TV series?

AM: My problem with TV is that 85% of the people don't know Steve Urkel's real name.

KW: That's true. What is his name?

AM: Exactly my point.

KW: I just saw him guest starring on Girlfriends the other day, and the first thing I thought was, "Hey, there's Urkel!"

AM: That's the problem. He's an extremely talented cat, but with TV, you develop a relationship with people.

KW: You get burned into their consciousness as that character.

AM: Because of that, I shy away from television.

KW: So, what's your next movie, Haven, about?

AM: Haven is a coming-of-age story, set in the Cayman Islands, which is told from three different perspectives.

KW: What advice do you have for anybody who wants to follow in your footsteps?

AM: The same advice my dad gave me: "To know is to study." Get some training under your belt, so that nobody what somebody asks you to do, you know how to handle it accordingly. I learned so much while working, because I developed a solid work ethic in school. Whereas, a lot of my friends had no work ethic; and because of that, they're sitting at home today.

KW You were born and raised is New Orleans. How're your family and friends doing?

AM: [Hesitates] They are. alive, I'll put it that way. It's been a very rough situation. And it's still at the beginning stages. Nothing has really been done.

KW: Where are your relatives living?

AM: Most of them are living elsewhere.

KW: Have you been back to New Orleans?

AM: Several times.

KW: What is it like?

AM: It's hard to describe it. I've been to the far reaches of the world. I've been to the backwoods of Brazil. I've been to the jungles of Costa Rica and Jamaica. But I've never seen anything this barren. It's a wasteland. There's really no way to describe the amount of unadulterated destruction and devastation that took place. It really looks like an A-bomb just wiped out everything.

KW: I'm sorry to hear that. I'll keep your folks in my prayers. Thanks for the time, and best of luck with the recovery and with your career.

AM: Thanks so much, I appreciate it. Talk to you soon.

EUR Film Review: Crank

Excerpt from - By Kam Williams

(September 6, 2006) *Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) is ready to retire from his career as a mob hit man in order to settle down with Eve (Amy Smart), his clueless girlfriend who has no idea about his unseemly line of work.  In fact, just last night, this previously callous contract killer actually proved to himself that he was through with the business when he uncharacteristically allowed his targeted mark to escape unscathed. But as bad luck would have it, today, a very groggy Chev has received an explanatory wake-up call from Ricky Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo), a thug from a competing, West Coast crime syndicate. It seems that, while asleep, Chev was injected with a gradually activating Beijing cocktail comprised of poisons certain to stop his heart in an hour unless he figures out a way to prevent his ticker from grinding to a stop. The ailing assassin contacts his primary care physician (Dwight Yoakum) who snap diagnoses the condition over the phone and surmises that his patient’s only hope rests with keeping adrenaline coursing through his veins by any means necessary. So, with the proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging over his head, Chevy proceeds to ingest whatever stimulants he can get his hands on, while making the most of what might be his last minutes on Earth.  Crisscrossing Los Angeles like a madman on a mission, he takes no prisoners, seeking vengeance and an antidote as he tries to save his naïve moll from the clutches of his tormentors. With a manic sense of urgency most reminiscent of Speed (1994), Crank is a similarly premised, high-octane, edge-of-your-seat, roller coaster ride.  However, instead of a careening bus rigged to explode if allowed to slow down, here we have a human who must maintain a certain pulse-rate or perish.

The movie marks the praiseworthy debut of Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine, creative collaborators who share both the scriptwriting and directing credits. And it features the stellar stunt work of martial arts maven Jason Statham, who enjoys his best role since The Transporter (202), a flick which made this critic’s Ten Best List. Be forewarned, however, this ethically-challenged outing ups the ante not only in terms of outrageously gruesome gore and politically-incorrect antics, but also when it comes to indulging in gratuitous nudity, sexuality, and profanity. That being said, Crank is nothing if it is not original, compelling and relentless, as it proceeds to assault the senses tirelessly with wave after wave of momentum-building intensity. Whether jabbing himself with an EpiPen, snorting nasal sprays up both nostrils, having sex on a crowded street in Chinatown, or deliberately scalding his own arm in a waffle iron to jumpstart his heart, Chev never runs out of inventive ways to stay alive or to keep the audience riveted. Plus, the production benefits immeasurably from its constantly clever dialogue and a litany of humorous asides which serve to lighten the more macabre aspects of this attention-deficit adventure designed with the Joystick Generation in mind. For better or worse, the cinematic equivalent of crack.

Invincible Is Exactly That At The Weekend Box Office

Source: David Germain, Associated Press

(Sept. 5, 2006) LOS ANGELES --
Mark Wahlberg remained invincibleover the Labour Day weekend. Disney's Invincible, with Wahlberg as a pro-football rookie who makes the team in open tryouts, was the No. 1 movie for the second straight weekend, taking in $15.2-million (all figures U.S.) from Friday through yesterday, according to studio estimates. The movie lifted its 11-day total to $37.8-million. Lionsgate's action tale Crank, with Jason Statham as a hit man out for revenge while racing to find an antidote after he's poisoned, opened at No. 2 with $13-million. Nicolas Cage's The Wicker Man, a Warner Bros. remake of a 1973 thriller, took in $11.7-million to debut in third place. The weekend's other new relatively wide release, Sony's basketball tale Crossover, opened outside the top 10 with $4.5-million. Two acclaimed films continued to expand to more theatres and scored again with audiences. Fox Searchlight's road-trip comedy Little Miss Sunshine, starring Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and Steve Carell, was No. 4 with $9.7-million. The Illusionist, starring Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti in a drama about a mysterious magician in early 1900s Vienna, expanded into wide release and broke into the top 10 with $8-million. After gradually rolling out following debuts in a handful of theatres, the two films maintained the best per-theatre averages among the top 10. Playing in 1,602 locations, Little Miss Sunshine averaged $6,071 per cinema, while The Illusionist averaged $8,261 in 971 theatres. After domestic revenues went into a tailspin in 2005, Hollywood has rebounded with a sturdy year, with movie attendance rising about 3 per cent compared to last summer. "This was a summer that I think reflected the fact that people still want to go to the movies," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "We didn't break any records, but the box office is alive and well." Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Monday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released today.

1. Invincible, $15.2-million.
2. Crank, $13-million.
3. The Wicker Man, $11.7-million.
4. Little Miss Sunshine, $9.7-million.
5. The Illusionist, $8-million.
6. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, $7.7-million.
7. Barnyard: The Original Party Animals, $6.4-million.
8. Accepted, $5.9-million.
9. World Trade Center, $5.8-million.
10. Step Up, $5.5-million.

Mazdak Taebi - Struggle Of A Young Artist

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Sep. 6, 2006)
Mazdak Taebi brings an immigrant's zeal and penchant for hard work to the arduous art of filmmaking.  It has been a long struggle, but Taebi's determination has paid off: his first feature-length film, Mercy, will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.  The film was shot in Iran last year — Taebi's home country — with Canadian friends and associates comprising one-third of the crew.  Despite efforts to get Canadian government support, Taebi ended up spending $40,000 out of his own pocket — with promises to pay crewmembers if and when he sells the film. He saved the money by working impossibly long hours in the film industry and through frugal living.  At 44, he lives in a rooming house to keep down expenses, and thoughts of marriage and family, despite his family's constant urging, are low on his priority list.  "I have no regrets. Nothing comes easy to me, therefore I have to work hard. I'm not bitter about it. I'm a hopeful person ... I go on and just continue," Taebi says.  Taebi arrived alone in Canada in 1984, fleeing the new conservative Islamic revolution and the Iran-Iraq war.  Since then, Taebi says he has lived the typical new immigrant's existence: starting as a dishwasher, rising to cook, waiter and bartender before becoming a taxi driver, a job that sustained him during his years studying media arts at Ryerson.  Even when he finally received money through the Ontario Student Assistance Program, he had to keep working.  "I remember I would hop into a cab on Friday at about 3 p.m. and pretty much drive non-stop to 5 a.m. on Monday. I remember in my first year (at school), my first class was at 8:30 in the morning," Taebi says.  Throughout, Taebi sought connections in Toronto's film industry, volunteered at its annual film festival and met with Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami and others.

He has made a number of trips to Iran, but it wasn't until a serious bus accident on New Year's Eve 2001 in Tehran — which nearly claimed his life and took 25 others — that Taebi decided once and for all to return to Canada and stick with his dream of being a filmmaker.  "I didn't want to be a typical working immigrant. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It wasn't my cup of tea," Taebi says.  While Taebi says he is a "proud" Canadian and praises the country for giving immigrants a chance to live freely and express themselves artistically, he — like other budding filmmakers — wishes there was more financial help available.  "There is a serious lack of funding for film development in Canada.... It's just so hard to make a film in Canada. The cost is really high and Toronto has become this service industry (centre) for Hollywood productions," he says.  Adds Canadian director Norman Jewison: "Making a film is the most difficult thing in the world. It doesn't matter where you are in the world.  "I'll tell you something: I'm trying to get two pictures off the ground right now and I'm having a lot of problems because nobody wants to give you any money.  "That's the nature of the film industry," he says.  "Is it easy for a young filmmaker to get started? No, it's not. It's not easy for a young novelist ... a young sculptor or a young painter. Film just happens to have a few more barriers," Jewison says.  "Even if you just make a film with a video camera, it's still going to end up costing you a lot of money. There's an economic barrier."

Jewison, who founded the Canadian Film Centre, says though it nurtures new generations of screenwriters, directors and producers, "we can only do so much."  "Telefilm Canada does what it can, but it's a drop in the bucket because the entire budget of Telefilm Canada is probably smaller than one American film directed by (Steven) Spielberg," he adds ruefully.  But Jewison insists that the struggle of young artists is essential to the future vitality of film.  "That's what makes film festivals exciting: young filmmakers, who don't have any money, come in with a film that just grabs everybody and captures their imagination, and that's what's exciting about film."  Taebi's 75-minute film follows the efforts of a fairy giant who uses the traffic and security cameras in Tehran to find someone affected by war who is worthy of being granted a wish.  Taebi said his film reflects his own experience with war — many of the characters in it were touched by the 1980-1988 conflict — his love of film and his own conflicted identity as an immigrant who has lived more than half his life in Canada.  "When I'm in Iran, I feel more like an immigrant than when I'm in Toronto. When I go to Tehran, I feel weird ... though I know the language and the culture," Taebi says.  But Taebi insists retaining that "immigrant" sense is critical to the vision he brings to his work.  "I want to stay an immigrant. Maybe if I hadn't had that kind of a life, I wouldn't be a filmmaker.  "When you are in the majority, you become silenced. When you are in the minority ... you learn more, you have a different perspective," he adds.  Mercy premieres next Wednesday at the Cumberland Theatre.

Why Hollywood directors picture Oscar and TIFF in the same frame

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - James Adams

(Sept. 6, 2006) TORONTO -- The 79th
Academy Awards ceremony is still a half year away, but the fight for Oscar supremacy begins tomorrow when Toronto unspools its 31st annual international film festival. In recent years, but especially the past three or four, Toronto has become the key event for Oscar-conscious studios and distributors, what veteran Hollywood Reporter Online columnist Martin Grove calls "the perfect staging ground." It is more important than even Cannes and Sundance. And certainly more important than the Venice and San Sebastian fetes that occur, respectively, just before and just after the Toronto International Film Festival. Neither of the two is attended by any sizable contingent of North American media.  Indeed, of the five films up for best-picture honours at the 2006 Oscar ceremony, three -- Capote, Brokeback Mountain and the eventual winner, Crash -- had their official international or North American premieres at Toronto. Furthermore, says film festival co-director Noah Cowan, Toronto's impact seems to have increased "on the worldwide bouquet of international award shows in the last couple of years." In February, for example, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts had three Toronto film festival premieres in its shortlist of five for the prize of best picture of 2005. These days, it's hardly uncommon for Mr. Cowan or his senior film-festival colleagues to be consulted by a studio or distributor on the "awards-consideration potential" of a particular film.  "Definitely the idea of awards consideration stands as a factor in [a] studio's decision to come to the festival," Mr. Cowan said. Sometimes, too, "studios will show us films that they're not sure about, so they seek our counsel," he added, while refraining from naming names.

"If we express a bit of enthusiasm for a film, their plan might change on where they'd like to place it." Indeed, at this year's festival, there's a film that its Hollywood handlers initially thought they would position more modestly. "Now," Mr. Cowan said, "they're intending to go pretty big," after festival organizers said it deserved more serious consideration and a higher profile.  Toronto has been seen as an important platform to launch Oscar and other awards hopefuls since at least 1981. That's when producer David Puttnam decided to give Toronto's festival, then barely five years old, the North American premiere of Chariots of Fire after it had been snubbed by the jury at Cannes. The film went on to win four Oscars, including one for best picture. Until then, conventional wisdom had it that a movie should start its Oscar run some time in November, maybe late October.  Now, "it really is a prelude to the Oscars," Mr. Grove said. "You start in September with Toronto, then you take that momentum and sustain it through October and November, then you get the critics, many of whom were in Toronto earlier, weighing in with their 'best-of' lists and the Golden Globes coming out with their nominations in mid-December." According to Mark Urman, head of U.S. distribution for ThinkFilm, "every film has Oscar potential until people see it." Or, as Mr. Grove puts it, "In September, anyone's a contender who wants to be."  Which explains, in part, why Toronto this year is presenting a staggering 261 features from 61 countries over 10 days, including more than 65 credited to U.S. producers alone, with more than 80 per cent enjoying some sort of premiere status.

Oscar buzz is already fizzing around Babel starring Brad Pitt, All the King's Men with Sean Penn and Jude Law, Infamous featuring British actor Toby Jones as Truman Capote, and A Good Year, directed by Oscar winner Ridley Scott and starring perennial Toronto visitor Russell Crowe. Toronto's rise in the Oscar firmament (and ferment) undoubtedly owes a lot to the decision in 2002 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to move the Oscar ceremony to a Sunday evening in late February from its traditional berth on a Sunday or Monday in late March. The switchover occurred in the winter of 2004. This "narrowing of the Oscar corridor," to quote Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart, means that the official screen-credit forms for Oscar wannabes have to be completed earlier. Nomination ballots are mailed to academy members in late December, instead of in the second week of the new year. Of course, exposure in Toronto cuts both ways: for every TIFF success like American Beauty, Sideways and Hotel Rwanda there have been such fizzles as Kevin Spacey's Bobby Darin vanity project Beyond the Sea, Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown and The Human Stain with Nicole Kidman and Sir Anthony Hopkins.  "It's very hard to overcome a bad Toronto reception," Mr. Urman said.


Calgary Film Fest Shines Spotlight On The Cowboy

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill

(Sept.1, 2006) Vancouver -- Cowboy culture gallops into the spotlight at this year's
Calgary International Film Festival, which runs from Sept. 22 to Oct. 1. Cowboy Cool, a new series celebrating all things western, will feature a keynote speech from John Scott (the Alberta horse wrangler who taught Brad Pitt how ride a horse for Legends of the Fall), a public lecture on the historical mythology of cowboy films by University of Calgary professor Rod McGillis and a retrospective screening series of such eclectic westerns as Nicholas Ray's 1954 baroque-style Johnny Guitar and Jim Jarmusch's 1995 postwestern Dead Man. Under the new direction of long-time board member Jacqueline Dupuis, the festival has firmly shifted its focus to Canadian and Albertan filmmakers. Its seventh year kicks off with The Journals of the Knud Rasmussen, the story of the Danish's scientist's encounter with the Inuit, by Norman Cohn and Zacharias Kunuk, the same award-winning team that wrote and directed Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner).

Tyler Perry To Host ‘Black Movie Awards’

Excerpt from

(September 5, 2006)  *Filmmaker/playwright
Tyler Perry has been recruited by Film Life to host its 2006 Black Movie Awards - A Celebration of Black Cinema: Past, Present & Future, presented by Turner Network Television (TNT).  This year’s top award nominees include “Akeelah & the Bee” and “ATL,” each of which earned four nominations, including Outstanding Motion Picture of the Year; and “Inside Man,” “Madea’s Family Reunion,” “Something New” and “Waist Deep,” which picked up three nods each.  Meanwhile, special awards will be handed out to Cicely Tyson (Distinguished Career Achievement), Laurence Fishburne (Honoured Excellence in Arts) and the movie “Lady Sings the Blues,” which will be inducted into Film Life’s Classic Cinema Hall of Fame.   The gala awards show, which launched on TNT last year, recognizes creative achievement by persons of African descent in feature-length motion pictures, both in front of and behind the camera, and honours outstanding films portraying the black experience.    Executive produced by Suzanne de Passe, CEO of de Passe Entertainment and Jeff Friday, CEO of Film Life, Inc., the 2006 Black Movie Awards will be taped at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, Oct. 15 and premiere Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 10 p.m. (ET/PT) on TNT.

Two Films Share Top Montreal Fest Prize

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(Sep. 5, 2006) MONTREAL — The Japanese film Nagai Sanpo split the Grand Prize of the Americas with Brazilian production O Maior Amor Do Mundo (The Greatest love of all) for the top award at this year's edition of the
Montreal World Film Festival.  Organizers were quick to declare the 30th edition of the festival a success Monday, despite being forced to operate on a razor-thin budget following heavy funding cutbacks.  Rock Demers, a noted Quebec producer who sits on the festival's organizing committee, said the 2006 edition drew more than 100,000 spectators for its slate of 409 films.  The festival's jury, headed by Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates, awarded its annual special prize to Snow in the Wind, a Chinese film whose female lead, Ni Peng, also won for best actress.  A Canadian-French co-production, Les Filles du botaniste chinois (The Chinese botanist's daughters), was voted the festival's most popular film, as well as most popular Canadian feature.  The work of the film's Montreal-born cinematographer, Guy Dufaux, earned an award for artistic merit.  That there was a festival at all this year was enough for some to qualify the event as a success.  The World Film Festival's future was uncertain when it wrapped up it's 29th edition last year after losing most of the funding it had previously received from the city, provincial and federal governments, including about $1 million from Telefilm Canada and the Quebec film funding agency SODEC.  Festival founder Serge Losique, whose autocratic style has come under fire in the past, now has a lawsuit pending against Telefilm, which he accuses of damaging the reputation of his event.  Still, organizers were confident that they would soon shore up the festival's shaky financial foundations.  "I think that good sense will prevail and solutions will be found quickly during the months of September-October so that for next year the festival finds itself once again with the budget's it needs to organize a prestigious event," Demers told The Canadian Press Monday.  Other films to pick up awards at Monday night's closing ceremony include the German production Warchild for best screenplay, Puerto Rican film Ruido for innovation and Norway's Comrade Pedersen for directing.  Films from 79 different countries were entered in the 12-day festival.

Another ‘Hour’ Draws Near For Chris Tucker

Excerpt from

(September 6, 2006) *Chris Tucker is in the midst of a nationwide standup tour in advance of his role opposite Jackie Chan in “Rush Hour 3,” which begins shooting Sept. 25 in Paris, France.   The comedian’s 21-city tour, which began June 11, will wrap Sept. 17 in the ATL. As previously reported, Tucker’s material includes riffs on President Bush, violence in the Middle East, rumours of his $25 million payday for “Rush Hour 3” and various aspects of pop culture. None of the jokes, however, contain profanity.   "I don't cuss in my personal life," Tucker told The Associated Press. "On stage, I do cuss every now and then. But it's not like it's overshadowing my act. ... I don't want the cussing to get in the way of what I'm saying. … I'm a role model and I watch what I do. I don't want to misguide any young people."   Tucker has been off the grid for about five years while spending time raising awareness about education issues and helping children through his charitable organization. He has recently been focusing on poverty and the HIV epidemic in Africa, after accompanying Bono and former President Clinton to the continent earlier this year.    “Rush Hour 3,” due in theatres next summer, will offer fans a lot of outrageous moments, according to Tucker. "People love the out-takes," he said. "This one's gonna be one long out-take."



Swim Star Victor Davis Gets Biopic

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jim Morris, Canadian Press

(Sep. 5, 2006) In many ways
Victor Davis broke the Canadian mould. The Olympic champion swimmer was aggressive, brash and outspoken.  It was a story Montreal-born actor and writer Mark Lutz said needed to be told to a new generation. Davis, just 25, died in 1989.  Production began in Toronto late last month for a made-for-TV movie on Davis's life. Lutz wrote the screenplay and will star in the movie titled Victor, slated for broadcast on CBC in March 2007.  As a young competitive swimmer with the Pointe-Claire swim club in suburban Montreal, Lutz said he "had a couple of encounters" with Davis. As an adult, when Lutz was looking to write a script, Davis seemed like a natural choice.  "It's such a great Canadian story that not a lot of Canadians know, especially the depth of the story and the depth of his character," Lutz said in a telephone interview.  "This guy wore the Maple Leaf (tattooed) over his heart. It doesn't get any more Canadian than that."  The swimmer from Guelph was one of the best Canada ever produced. During his career, the powerful breaststroker won a gold and three silver medals over two Olympics, was a world record-holder and raced to two world championships. 

In November 1989, just a few months after retiring, Davis was struck by a hit-and-run driver outside a suburban Montreal nightclub. He died two days later.  Lutz finished the screenplay in 2004, then began trying to sell the idea.  "A very well-known producer on a Top 10 show right now in L.A. read it and said he loved it and would be interested in doing it," Lutz said.  "He said there was only one thing he would change. `Don't make him Canadian, make him a cowboy from Texas.' I said no, it's a true story. He said, `Like a true, true story?' I said yes. He said `You'll never sell it down here.'"  Eventually Canadian producer Bernie Zuckerman took on the project. The film will be directed by Jerry Ciccoritti, a Gemini Award-winner whose credits include the Trudeau miniseries.  Playing the lead meant spending three hours a day in the pool and weight room getting into the shape of an Olympic swimmer.  "As an actor you have to keep yourself in reasonably good shape ..." Lutz said. "But getting into the shape I am currently still constructing, you realize what fantastic shape these guys were in."

Who Needs You, Katie Couric?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - David Kronke, Los Angeles Daily News

(Sep. 3, 2006) When Katie Couric assumes her role as anchor of The CBS Evening News on Tuesday, it will be a historic moment — she'll become the first lone female anchor of a nightly newscast.  But will it turn around the flagging fortunes of a venerable journalistic tradition, or, after curiosity inspires an initial ratings bump, will the moribund trend of skulking network newscasts continue?  On any given evening, about 27 million Americans — mostly older viewers — tune in to ABC, CBS and NBC for a recap of the day's events.  That's roughly one-tenth of the nation, down precipitously from 1969, when a full half of the country would pause to watch the evening news.  Naturally, those responsible for network newscasts remain bullish on their prospects.  "I think they're still pretty impactful," says CBS chairman and CEO Les Moonves, who is paying Couric $13 million a year to anchor The CBS Evening News. "It's not what it was, but you still get 28 million viewers a night watching the three network evening newscasts. That's a pretty powerful statement. Clearly, we wouldn't have spent the time and money that we have this year if we didn't believe in the long-term force of the evening news."  NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams agrees. "Some have written the obituary, going back a couple of decades, of the time slot that I now occupy. It is and remains the largest single source of news in America every day. Here we are, in a world of 600 channels and all these websites and all these podcasts, and yet Americans in very large numbers for our day and age sit down and make it appointment viewing — maybe because there is so much other stuff, and this is where they go for a reasoned, sober analysis of the day."  Williams believes the attention being paid to Couric will strengthen all three networks. "That there is all this talk about the time slot and this competition can only be good. It makes us better. It keeps us on our game."

CBS has long been mired in third place in the network newscast ratings race, behind first-place NBC and second-place ABC. When Bob Schieffer replaced Dan Rather at CBS, he drew more viewers.  Likewise, when Charles Gibson recently took the reins at ABC, he gave his newscast a ratings bump.  Couric will be closely scrutinized in the upcoming days. The former co-anchor of NBC's Today show is expected to jettison many aspects of the persona that won her a loyal viewership on the morning program — yes, we're talking about that famous perkiness — when she enters the world of straight news.  "This is a very different venue," Couric concedes. "But hopefully there are cases where I can interact with people and I can occasionally have fun doing a story. It's been challenging for me because the morning format is so multidimensional, and because it has such a variety of pieces and you are asked to do such a variety of things, that sometimes people forget that I have done a lot of very serious things. It's almost as if, if you do the fun stuff well, then you can't be serious.  "Just because you embraced all the different things on that show, that should not in any way diminish your intelligence or your ability to do serious news.''  But while the evening newscasts may remain viable for the foreseeable future, can they remain meaningful and relevant? Or will a culture of megacorporate ownership and the spectre of partisan bullying from all sides of the political spectrum dilute their content and force them to skirt controversial issues?  Ted Koppel, former anchor of ABC's Nightline, says of the network newscasts: "They're trying to appeal to the kinds of things that their audiences want to see. In entertainment programming, there is absolutely nothing wrong with networks catering to not just the needs, but the desires of their audiences, but when it comes to news coverage, I think we have an additional responsibility, and that is to tell people what they need to know and what they ought to know, and it is our business to make that as easily understandable and interesting as possible, but not to avoid subjects simply because they drive away young viewers.''  Sometimes, that can be difficult, Koppel concedes.  "There are pressures that come from the corporations that own our respective networks and news divisions to get larger audiences, even if that means ignoring some of the more important subjects ... I hope they will recognize over the next few years and as audiences continue to diminish somewhat that the future really does lie in continuing to provide substantive and responsible coverage.''

Dan Rather, who departed CBS earlier this year, agrees. "To be relevant, you have to constantly put out the signal, `I'm trying to do work of good quality; I may fail sometimes, but that's what I'm trying to do.' That's my version of trying to stay relevant.  "Clearly, there's another argument. The trend line now is toward the other argument, which is, `Dumb it down, sleaze it up, tart it up, go for what's interesting over what's important.' Don't misunderstand me; there are a lot of good people trying not to have that happen. But if you look at it, that trend line is clearly heading off in that direction.''  Still, Rather struggles to maintain a sliver of optimism for the institution. He says, "Somebody is going to remain in the evening newscast, and that will be the person who says, `We're going to stake out the position of doing news that's really news, rather than sound-bite-regurgitating press releases. That kind of broadcast can survive for a very long time, and it's important that it can survive.  "We'll see.''  Couric insists she's received the message. She spent a week in July touring the nation and hearing from viewers their concerns about television newscasts.  "Some people felt that the media in general had abdicated its role of really talking about facts and information rather than just points of view," she says.  "I also think that we heard from many people that the news is just too depressing. Now, obviously, we can't sugarcoat what's going on in the world, but there are cases where I believe we can be a little more solution-oriented ... All those things will inform the way we approach the news.''  All of the anchors agree that the country's current contentious political climate makes covering world events all the more tricky.  "The thing that worries me more than anything else is about the disappearance of the political middle, the center of the country,'' says ABC's Gibson. "So we've got a wide-open election, and we've got an anchor over at ABC who is worried about where we find the political center and (where) we find political common ground as a nation. I wish there was a way the television news could really get at this issue, because I think it's a vitally important one.''  Williams, for one, says he refuses to be cowed by political partisans who prefer their news spun to reflect their ideologies — the upstart Fox News Channel is often cited as an example. Williams uses his blog to explain the reporting process behind stories.  "I think journalism has changed a bit — some of it has come the other way around, from the readers and viewers," he says. "This is where my blog has been — I wouldn't say cathartic, but very, very helpful, where I can explain, `Here is how tonight's story aired. A bunch of you have written in to accuse us of `X.' This is why `Y' is, in fact, the case. And you should know this about our mechanics.' ''  Network newscasts must not be afraid of upsetting some viewers, Williams believes.  "This is not (a case of) let the viewer decide what they want to see," he says, "because I fear we know what would happen then.''

Cancon, With A Murderous Twist

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Dawn Walton

(Sept.2, 2006) CALGARY --
Kim Coates has played opposite such Hollywood big guns as Kevin Costner, Wesley Snipes and Bruce Willis, and grabbed roles in American war movies including Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor. But the Saskatoon-born actor, who has been based in Los Angeles since 1995, found himself back home in Canada playing an unseemly and perhaps forgotten homegrown murderer and rapist, David Snow. "Yes, yes, yes, yes," says Coates, when asked if it was the Canadian content that attracted him to the project. "That's the selling point." Many of those on the set of A Friend of the Family, a made-for-TV movie shot largely in Alberta, which airs tomorrow on CTV, seem to agree with that sentiment. Some talk about a penchant for telling homegrown stories; others are expatriates who yearn to reacquaint themselves with their roots -- even if it is a psychological thriller based on a shocking moment in Canadian history. Coates, whose hair was transformed into dark, mad-scientist curls for publicity photos shot in a musty church in Calgary, said he had hoped to insert some "ehs" into the script. But director Stuart Gillard, who was born in Coronation, Alta., and is now a hard-working Hollywood director, asked him to tone it down. "I really wanted to go, 'Nice to meetcha, eh?' I really wanted to put a Canadian flavour to it," he says, but adds that the filmmakers favoured a more Canadian-American sound. A Friend of the Family is based on Alison Shaw's 1998 book of the same name. In it, Shaw detailed how she and her husband, Darris, moved to Orangeville, Ont., in 1988, and soon became friends and business partners with Snow, the town eccentric who paid more attention to his antique dealership than his personal hygiene. Snow would later be convicted of murdering Ian and Nancy Blackburn, a Toronto couple whose bodies were found in the trunk of their car on April 14, 1992. Snow was also convicted of a string of abductions and sexual assaults in British Columbia that followed the Blackburn killings. It was Shaw who put the police onto Snow, after recognizing his handwriting, and penchant for military paraphernalia, in an article published in the Toronto Star in May, 1992.

"It's very much Canada," says Jon Slan, president of Slanted Wheel Entertainment -- which co-produced the movie with Calgary-based Alberta Filmworks -- when describing the reasons for his own involvement in the movie. Slan, who has a penchant for turning Canadian books into movies, is a voracious reader who rifles through books with an eye to securing the rights to this country's best stories. "People watching television movies always are interested in true stories," says Slan. "A lot of people both in the East and West will remember -- even though it was 10, 12 years ago -- David Snow as a pretty famous serial killer." Laura Harris, who portrays Shaw, says she was either too young or too sheltered by her parents as a 15-year-old in Crescent Beach, B.C., to remember the Blackburn murders and the rampage that followed -- but that she was drawn to the story nonetheless, in large part for reasons similar to those of Coates, Gillard and Slan. "I love doing Canadian stuff, true Canadian stories. They mesmerize me more than most," says Harris, who now lives in L.A. and has had roles in 1998's The Faculty, the 2003 film A Mighty Wind and TV's Dead Like Me. "I'm very patriotic . . .," she adds. "It's a chance to reconnect, even if it is about serial killers." A Friend of the Family airs tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET, on CTV.



Donald Trump Sidekick Gets Shown The Door

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Associated Press

(Sept.1, 2006)
Carolyn Kepcher, who sat by while her boss Donald Trump dismissed one would-be apprentice after another, has now felt the full force of his iconic phrase: "You're fired." Ms. Kepcher, a co-star with Mr. Trump from the start of The Apprentice in 2004 and a long-time employee of the Trump Organization, has been let go. "Mr. Trump wishes her the best," said Jim Dowd, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, who confirmed she is no longer with the company. She had been chief operating officer of two of Mr. Trump's golf courses. "Donald and I had different visions for my future role in the company," Ms. Kepcher said in a statement. "Donald has been an extraordinary boss and a great mentor over the years, and I will always be grateful."  Her absence will have no impact on the coming sixth season of The Apprentice, originating for the first time from Los Angeles.  Though production is completed, she was not part of the cast. Ms. Kepcher's dismissal was first reported in yesterday's New York Post. The slender, striking blonde had become familiar to viewers as one of Mr. Trump's two sidekicks on the NBC series.  She was an adviser to one of the rival teams and was often seated beside Mr. Trump for boardroom sessions where one or more competitors would hear Mr. Trump declare, "You're fired." The Post story attributed Ms. Kepcher's firing to excessive self-promotion as a star at the expense of her performance at her day job, an account echoed for the Associated Press by a person close to the situation. The person insisted on anonymity because it was a personnel matter. Ms. Kepcher could not be immediately located for comment. Since TV fame beckoned, Ms. Kepcher has been active with speaking engagements, made a number of talk-show appearances and two years ago wrote a book, Carolyn 101, which promised to reveal the secrets of her success and give readers guidance for their professional lives.

‘Lost’ Star Perrineau Finds Much Work

Excerpt from

(September 1, 2006)  *
Harold Perrineau has seen his stock in Hollywood fly through the roof since entering the homes of millions each week on the ABC drama “Lost.” His stranded character Michael Dawson was last seen betraying fellow castaways in order to retrieve his kidnapped son from “The Others.” The 43-year-old Brooklyn native will not be a part of the show’s upcoming third season, but may return the following year to resume the role full time. During his time away, Perrineau will remain busy shooting three upcoming films. “28 Weeks Later,” a sequel to the sci-fi hit “28 Days Later,” will star the actor as an upbeat American Special Forces pilot who documents and leads to safety the families returning to London after the viral outbreak. Perrineau will also star in "Your Name Here," described as a Charlie Kaufman-esque story set in the last days of the life of sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, the man behind such films as "Blade Runner" and "A Scanner Darkly." Matthew Wilder wrote and is directing the film, in which Perrineau will play Richard Roundtree, a star in the fictional '70s thriller "Earthquake," obsessed with Dick. Perrineau has also joined the cast of "Gardens of the Night," starring John Malkovich and Jeremy Sisto in the story of kids who were abducted as children into a prostitution ring. They run away years later, and now live as teenage street kids.

`Hell of Sept. 11' Shouldn't Be Sanitized, CBS says

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Sep. 4, 2006) NEW YORK—Broadcasters say hesitancy by some CBS network affiliates to air a Sept. 11 documentary next week proves there has been a chilling effect on free speech rights since federal regulators cracked down after Janet Jackson's breast was exposed on TV in 2004.  Actor Robert De Niro hosts the award-winning documentary that began as a quest to follow a rookie firefighter on an ordinary day but resulted in the only known video of the first plane striking the World Trade Center. It includes profanity and some horrific scenes.  Several dozen CBS affiliates have decided to either replace the documentary or delay its broadcast until after 10 p.m., when the Federal Communications Commission loosens restrictions — even though the film has already aired twice with little controversy.  "This is example No. 1" of the chilling effect over concerns about profanity, said Martin Franks, executive vice-president of CBS Corp.  "We don't think it's appropriate to sanitize the reality of the hell of Sept. 11," Franks said. "It shows the incredible stress that these heroes were under. To sanitize it in some way robs it of the horror they faced."  The announcements to postpone or replace the documentary come as the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association readies its three million members to flood the FCC and CBS with complaints after the documentary airs, an effort that may trigger a close examination of the program by the FCC.  FCC spokeswoman Tamara Lipper said the commission routinely takes context into account in any decency analysis. "Context is always important," she said. "We don't police the airwaves. We respond to viewer complaints. We haven't seen the broadcast in question."

Rosie Takes Her Place At The View

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon, Entertainment Columnist

(Sep. 5, 2006) Think of it as the honeymoon period.  Rosie O’Donnell made her highly anticipated debut on
The View today, joining Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and matriarch Barbara Walters.  Many expected Rosie to start with a bang. You know, lob a few grenades into the show’s estrogen-soaked battlefield. Alas, she came armed only with fizzling pleasantries.  After the new opening credits, O’Donnell was led toward the new set by the old Walters, who tugged on her sleeve like a bored toddler at a museum. Walters then wondered aloud if Rosie needed a public introduction.  “My name is Meredith Vieira and welcome to The View,” quipped Rosie, referring to the woman she replaced. (Somewhere, Star Jones was gobbling a quart of ice cream and plotting her revenge.)  Before guest Jessica Simpson arrived, the Segment 1 chit-chat veered wildly between summer holidays, toilet training, fear of flying, high heels and, of course, haircuts.  Rosie’s do, it seems, is a source of considerable anxiety stateside. So while referring to her previous “lesbian haircut” as an error of “epic proportions,” Rosie allayed Soccer Mom fears with this promise:  “It’s going to be long from now on and I’m taking my medicine so everything is fine!”  Actually, Rosie, if today’s ho-hum debut was any indication, you might want to try a different prescription.



Veteran Ascends To King Lear Role

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Aug. 31, 2006) The tears well up easily in William Webster's eyes, but that's just as it should be.  When a man is about to play the title role in King Lear, as he is after 44 years in the professional theatre, climbing the emotional mountain of what he calls "the greatest part ever written" is bound to touch something deep inside him.  And now, with the Soulpepper Theatre production's opening next Wednesday staring him in the face, the veteran actor finds — more than ever — that he is reaching back to those people and events his life has been built on.  "You can't begin to understand Lear until you start tearing away at the bullshit of youth," he explains. "You can't come to grips with it until you've had some great loss in your life."  For Webster, there has been one great love and one great loss in his 64 years on this earth. And they are both the same.  "My father," he begins, "is the hero of my life."  As he tells the story of the small-town Ontario doctor who served in World War II, landed at Normandy on D-Day and was later wounded at Caen, you wonder what there was about the man that touched his son so deeply.  Webster has a finely tuned radar for what others are thinking and feeling. It's one of his greatest gifts as an actor. He senses the question and answers it before it's spoken.  "My dad was my hero because his greatest gift was to give people hope. He told them that everything was going to be all right, and they believed him. It was his gift for human interaction that made him exquisite."  Many people would attribute that last quality to his son, as well. During his 14 seasons at the Stratford Festival and his eight years as a founding member of Soulpepper, he has distinguished himself time and time again.  His multi-faceted Polonius in Hamlet, his even-handed portrait of the title character in Nathan the Wise, his deeply-conflicted Antonio in Twelfth Night are all the work of what Soulpepper's Artistic Director Albert Schultz calls "one of the finest actors in this country."  Webster won't hear such compliments. He looks away modestly and says softly, "I've had a very privileged life."  He was born in Hamilton on March 17, 1942 to William and Jean Webster who were always, he says fondly, "very much in love." Three sisters came along later, but while Webster's father was away at war, "it was just me and Mom. We recently celebrated her 90th birthday ... which she organized," he chortles.  One cloud on Webster's childhood horizon was his eyesight. "I was so nearsighted," he recalls, "that I was technically blind without glasses and my parents were afraid my condition would deteriorate. So they decided to give me visual memories." 

That meant, among other things, taking him to the theatre.  "The first show I ever saw was Donald Wolfit's company in Twelfth Night when I was five years old. I was so transfixed, I cried when it was over." His eyes mist over again at the memory. "I can still see the colours ... autumnal.  "I knew that's what I wanted to do. I could never formulate it in words, but there was a magic there I had never known was possible."  The next big moment in his life came when his parents brought him to the second season of the Stratford Festival, in 1954.  "I saw Oedipus Rex with James Mason which had a huge impact on me. That blew my head off. I knew I had to be there."  While a student at Hillfield College (now Hillfield Strathallan College) in Hamilton, he played a variety of roles, including Gertrude in Hamlet. His memory of his prep school days: "In everything other than theatre, I was appalling, or at least I was made to feel that I was."  He went on to study at The University of Western Ontario, along with such future lights of Canadian theatre as Paul Thompson and Martin Kinch, but he was really just biding his time.  "I wrote Stratford every year, applying to be one of the young actors in the company and finally, in 1962, I was accepted."  It's when he remembers his initial day there that the tears become visible.  "I walked into the auditorium and there were Bill Hutt and Martha Henry rehearsing The Tempest.  "I suddenly realized how small that thrust stage actually is. But you never think of it being small. You think of it as being the world."  He wipes his eyes and laughs at a different memory.  "I had to get coffee for everyone and I was so nervous that there was more coffee on the tray than there was in the cups. I got to meet Christopher Plummer, Kate Reid, Bruno Gerussi — people who were all too human but had sublime talents."  He also worked with John Colicos on the first of the seven productions of King Lear Webster has been involved with. His other Lears have included Hutt and Peter Ustinov.  "When I started rehearsing this time, I had to learn how to get rid of all those ghosts, lovingly."  But there was another ghost Webster clung to and is now using as the heart of his performance.  "My father died 20 years ago, but I still remember it clearly. It was a beautiful day like today. There was no pathetic fallacy. It wasn't grey or stormy. Just a beautiful spring day, right after Easter.  "We were living on a farm outside of Caledonia. There was this beautiful old apple tree, a magnificent gnarled thing which kept producing fruit.  "I left the house where my mother and sisters were mourning and I went down to that tree. Somewhere out of me, a single yell of rage, of loss, of bereavement came as I clung to the tree."  As Webster relives the moment, it's clear to see how he's searching for the way to channel that ever-present grief into the core of Shakespeare's tragic monarch, who loses everything.  "I've had such love and support throughout my life," he concludes, "that the only thing I can do is try to share it in my work."  And even though Shakespeare may have Lear rage that "nothing will come of nothing," William Webster intends to prove with his performance that the opposite can be just as true.


Historic Hamilton Theatre Gets New Lease On Life

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Val Ross

(Sept. 6, 2006) Toronto — Tomorrow, Belma Diamante, president of the board of the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble, will unveil the CYBE's design for turning the
Tivoli Theatre in Hamilton into a permanent home for her company and a designated school for the performing arts. The building was erected in the 1870s as a carriage factory, and was converted into a cinema in 1924. It became one of the first movie houses in Canada to show "talkies" -- movies with soundtracks. In the late 1980s, the Tiv was acquired by the Sniderman family, who wanted to turn the site into a Sam the Record Man outlet. Instead, after seeing its gold chandeliers and sumptuous red-velvet seats, Sam Sniderman tried to use it for live theatre and as an arts-organization headquarters. But in 2004, part of the 1870s building collapsed, and its front portion had to be demolished. Last year, the Tiv made a Top 10 list of Canada's most endangered heritage properties. This year, the family sold the Tiv to the CBYE for "a nominal sum." Prima ballerina Evelyn Hart, who two weeks ago gave her farewell professional dance performance, will become artistic adviser to the CBYE. The renovated Tivoli facility will also become the permanent home of ProArteDanza, a visionary dance company founded by choreographer and former National Ballet of Canada dancer Roberto Campanella, who will also teach at the school.

Apollo Theater To Unveil New Look Today

Excerpt from

(September 6, 2006) *After years of renovation, New York’s famed Apollo Theater is finally ready to face the public, which is scheduled to take place tonight for Wednesday’s traditional “Amateur Night at the Apollo" "When people walk past, they see the new marquee," Apollo mainstay Billy Mitchell told the New York Daily News.  "Inside, the audience will see plasma screens on the walls, a brand-new stage, new seating and new stairs." he added. "We've taken a beating from fans for the way the place looked in the past. Now, when one comes to the Apollo Theater, they say, 'My God, look at this place.'" The total extreme makeover won’t be complete for another two years, but in the meantime, fans will be able to see upcoming performances from Dionne Warwick, Queen Latifah and "American Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino.


Intrepid Journalist Comes Home

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Shimo

(Sept.2, 2006)  There are a number of terms one could choose to describe
Carol Off, who will take the reins of the flagship CBC Radio One show As It Happens tonight, most of which may appear incongruous when taken together. High-school dropout. Single mother. Award-winning filmmaker. Author. Arts reporter. War correspondent. She's a woman who's comfortable in many roles. And as such, it might seem that Off is a perfect fit for the host job. As It Happens, which has been on the air since 1968 with its nightly blend of up-to-the minute news, thoughtful analysis, humour, wit and whimsy, requires a radio personality who has an incredible range and depth, says Jennifer McGuire, executive director of programming for CBC Radio. However, although the CBC believed her to be the right person for such a high-profile and demanding position, Off herself wasn't so sure. "When they offered me the job in April, I had just come back from Kandahar, where I was riding around in an APC [Armoured Personal Carrier] hearing the life stories of the soldiers, and how the mission was going. And I thought, 'My God. If I take the As It Happens job, I'm not going to be in the back of that APC; I'm not going to be going to be in that village; I'm not going to be having tea with those old sunburned faces where they tell me their stories of war.' Her decision took time to make, and required a lot of hard thought. It was hard to give up a 25-year career of reporting news from the field, and flying out to wherever the story was, she says. In the end, a lot came down to where Canada is as a nation. "We are in a period of writing a new narrative," Off says. "There are a lot of questions about how we want to govern the country, about whether we want a more decentralized government, or whether we need more services from Ottawa. We have to decide what role we want to play in Afghanistan. And I thought 'Where is the best place for me to be directing a discussion about that narrative?'. . . In the end, I decided at As It Happens."

The urge to put the story first is typical of Off, says Anita Mielewczyk, a producer with The National, who has worked with Off on a number of documentaries. "When she's into a story, she's really into a story," Mielewczyk says. "She's involved in all the research. She wants to know as much as possible about the subject." Off's range of interests are as broad and varied as her résumé. She has won two gold medals from the New York Festival of television for her documentary; one for A Flight from Bosnia, about suspected war criminals living in Canada, and another for Of Crimes and Courage, the story of a Kosovo girl who survived the massacre of her family and then went on to personally bring the killers to justice. In 2002, Off was awarded a Gemini Award for In The Company of Warlords, about the U.S. support for paramilitaries in Afghanistan. Her bestseller on the war in Croatia, The Ghosts of Medak Pocket: The Story of Canada's Secret War, won the prestigious Dafoe Foundation Award in 2005. Her first book, The Lion, the Fox and the Eagle: A Story of Generals and Justice in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, became a bestseller. Her most recent book, Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet, will be published this October. It's a glittering career that eclipses its humble beginnings. At 18, Off quit school to go travelling. For just under two years, she hitchhiked across Canada, looking for "where it was happening . . . the edge, the spark, the creative juice; you had to find it." After two years of searching for that extra-special vibe, she returned to London, Ont. There, she decided to marry the man who had lent her the money for her travels, a painter named Fred Harrison. They were in love, but he refused to marry her unless she returned to school and graduated. "He said, 'I won't be married to a woman who hasn't finished high school,' so I went back and did Grade 13. "We were just free spirits back then," the veteran journalist reflects. "We thought the wind would determine your future. It never crossed my mind that I'd have to worry about my career. I just thought, 'Career, what's with the career? I have no idea.' " After graduating from high school, Off began a degree in English literature at the University of Western Ontario. That year, at age 21, she also gave birth to her first and only child, Joel. It took her five years to complete university, while raising her son. When she graduated in '81, she left five-year-old Joel with his father, Harrison, whom she had divorced, and moved to Toronto. It was an emotionally tough decision, she admits. "Of course it was difficult. But I wanted to be a writer of some kind, and Toronto was the only place you could find work." Off worked freelance in both radio and print. She earned barely enough to survive -- about $10,000 per year -- and shared a house with friends, and travelled around on her bicycle, which was "a real grind" during wintertime.  In 1986, she covered an international story that changed her life, she says. At that time, Off wanted to interview Benazir Bhutto, who was in jail at the time, and believed she had enough of an in to do it. She called the CBC Radio show, Sunday Morning, who told her that if she could score the interview, they would buy the story and put it on the air. Not having the money to cover her travel expenses, she sold most of her possessions, and bought a plane ticket to Karachi. On arriving, she realized she had made a serious mistake, she says. She was totally unprepared to work in a dangerous dictatorship, and had no idea about operating in an Islamic state.

"I began to pray. I only pray when I'm desperate. I said, 'God, if you are there, if you really exist, do something to help me, because this is seriously bad.' " Then Off called the only Canadian she knew in Pakistan, the consul general. "He said, 'I'm so glad you called. Where are you? You've got to get to the airport. There's been a hijacking.' And then he told me it was my plane. The plane I had just gotten off." On Sept. 5, four men stormed the aircraft, as it waited to take off from Karachi airport to go to New York. The pilots escaped during the takeover, leaving 379 passengers on board. The hijackers, all members of the Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal Organization, demanded that prisoners in Cyprus and Israel be released. After a 16-hour standoff, the hijackers gathered passengers and crew in one area, and began shooting, and throwing hand grenades. In all, 22 people were killed, and more than 100 were wounded before the hijacking ended. Because Off was one of the only journalists in Karachi airport, and the airport had shut down, she filed radio stories for all the international media, the CBC, PBS, ABC, Irish stations and stations across the United States. But despite the international reputation she was developing, she felt she had done something terribly wrong. "I felt horrible that I had asked for something to happen," the 51-year-old host cautions. "I realized as a journalist, you should never hope for the outcome of a story. You must take life as it is, and cover things as they are." Once she returned to Canada, the CBC offered her a job as the Ottawa reporter for radio news. There she met prominent CBC journalist Linden MacIntyre, whom she went on to marry in 2000. In 1989, Off became the CBC's Quebec correspondent, based in Montreal. In 1993, she moved into television to cover the arts, because she "hadn't done it before," and wanted a new challenge. Off loves to report on the artistic scene, with its colourful and passionate characters, and rich and complex narratives. She loves the challenge and the struggle to engage viewers who don't always care. But even though this beat always piques her curiosity, she is always drawn back to current affairs. Which is why, in 1995, she returned to news reporting. "This career has taken a lot of my time," she says. "I had a holiday this year for the first time in five years; I've written a book every holiday since 1999. I haven't kept much for myself. But there are so many stories to tell."


Hundreds Gather For Funeral Of Quebec Comedian Claude Blanchard

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Canadian Press

(Sept.1, 2006) St-Sulpice, Que. — Quebec's artistic community gathered today to say goodbye to popular actor and singer
Claude Blanchard, who died at the of age 74. Singer Ginette Reno was at the funeral to sing two songs made famous by Mr. Blanchard. Hundreds of fans lined outside the church, near Repentigny east of Montreal. Mr. Blanchard died Aug. 20 of a heart attack a couple days after leaving hospital for a lung operation. He was a vaudeville entertainer and cabaret owner whose life inspired a popular CBC television mini-series Music Hall.



Serena Left Gasping

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Howard Fendrich, Associated Press

(Sep. 5, 2006) NEW YORK—Gasping for breath after long exchanges,
Serena Williams ran out of energy and answers against Amelie Mauresmo.  In a showdown between two women who have been ranked No. 1 and own a total of nine Grand Slam titles, the top-seeded Mauresmo won nine of the last 12 points last night to beat the unseeded Williams 6-4, 0-6, 6-2 and reach the U.S. Open quarter-finals.  "I could have came out on top had I made a few more shots and had I just been a little bit more consistent," said Williams, who didn't think her recent lack of matches was a factor. "Maybe a little bit more fire or something."  Williams, a seven-time major winner and 9-1 against Mauresmo going in, was superb in the second set. But the outcome turned at 3-2 in the final set, when a 35-stroke exchange ended with Williams pushing a backhand into the net, then pausing for air — something Mauresmo noticed.  That sent Mauresmo on her way to a key break and Williams wouldn't win another game, saying later: "Just fell apart after that."  On match point, they engaged in a 24-stroke rally that Mauresmo ended with a sharply angled volley Williams couldn't get to in time.  "I don't think she picked up her game 1,000 per cent or even that much," Williams said. "I just think that she cut back on the errors."  What Mauresmo didn't do was force the issue: she finished with only 12 winners, 10 fewer than Williams. But Williams was largely her own undoing down the stretch, with 15 unforced errors in the third set alone, only one fewer than she had in the first two sets combined.

Williams, who won the Open in 1999 and 2002, arrived at Flushing Meadows this time having played only 12 matches all season because of a six-month break she used to rehab her surgically repaired left knee and to refresh herself mentally. Williams tumbled out of the top 100 in the rankings and needed a wild-card invitation to play at the Open.  If there have been questions about Williams' health and preparation of late, Mauresmo has been steadily erasing doubts about her mental toughness. She didn't win any of her first 31 Grand Slam tournaments, but she's now closing in on her third such championship this year, after the Australian Open and Wimbledon.  "The experience I've got really helped me tonight," Mauresmo said. "It's starting to show a little bit on the court.''  That was certainly the case the way she hung in there after a disastrous second set. Mauresmo lost 20 of the set's first 26 points and finished it with one winner. But she regrouped in the third.  "Being able to keep the composure in these key moments is probably making a huge difference at the end of the day," Mauresmo said.  Now Mauresmo plays No.12 Dinara Safina, whose path to the final eight hasn't included a seeded player.  The match under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium brought back some electricity to a tournament that felt a bit yesterday afternoon like a party carrying on after the guest of honour has left.  The U.S. Open did indeed proceed without Andre Agassi, although a fan cried out, "Do it for Andre!" during Andy Roddick's fourth-round match.  Roddick obliged, putting together a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Benjamin Becker, the German qualifier who ended Agassi's career the day before.  Roddick and No.5 James Blake, whose fourth-round match against No.12 Tomas Berdych is today, are the only U.S. men left in the tournament.  Roddick moves on to a rematch from the 2001 quarter-finals against that year's champion, Lleyton Hewitt, who got past No. 25 Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 in a match that lasted more than 3 1/2 hours and ended at 12:53 a.m.


Canada 5-1 At Women's World Softball

Source:  Canadian Press

(Sep. 1, 2006) BEIJING — Kaila Holtz of North Vancouver threw a no-hitter and Alison Bradley of Pinkerton, Ont., added a two-run homer in Canada's 12-0 mercy-rule win over South Africa at the women's softball world championship Friday.  Holtz struck out 11 batters over her five innings and was one walk away from a perfect game in helping Canada improve to 5-1 at the tournament. It was the team's fourth shutout win.  Canada plays host China (5-1) Saturday in the final round-robin game before the playoff round begins. Second place in Pool A will be on the line.  "Five-and-one, we can't ask for much more right now," said Bradley. "(Saturday against China) is the important game that we need to take care of."  Melanie Matthews continued to be strong for Canada going 3-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs.  "The players accepted the challenge offensively," said coach Lori Sippel. "Holtz and (catcher Tammy) Howren set the standard defensively with a no-hit shutout."  China dropped a 2-0 decision to the United States (6-0).  In other action, Japan remained unbeaten with 2-1 win over Australia, Britain beat New Zealand 2-1 and Taiwan defeated Botswana 11-0.

Mike Tyson Is Now A Vegas Act

Excerpt from

(September 1, 2006) *And so it has come to this. The once mighty
Mike Tyson, who amassed more than $300 million throughout his boxing career before losing it all, is now earning a living these days as a side show on the Las Vegas strip. According to the Associated Press, the former heavyweight champion works in a makeshift boxing ring inside of the Aladdin hotel. His job is to throw a few punches into the mitts of his “trainer” Jeff Fenech as tourists take pictures. "I'm looking to make a buck like anyone else," Tyson explained to an AP columnist. Tyson says he's uncomfortable going out in front of people masquerading as the fighter he once was when he knows it's all really a charade. But with creditors breathing down his muscled back, he feels he has no choice. "I truly hate fighting," he said. "I've got a bad taste in my mouth." There's talk of a series of three-round exhibition fights to earn the former boxer some extra cash. It's a time-honoured tradition in boxing, where no one gets hurt and the former champ who is down on his luck gets a small taste of the money he used to make. Tyson still manages to drive a BMW, but is quick to add that he used to roll in Bentleys and Ferraris.  He says he doesn’t want anyone’s sympathy, and isn't quite sure why many fans are still concerned about his well being.  "I had a great life. I had 20 lives. No way should they be sympathetic to me," Tyson said. "People truly believe and support me. I realized that over time. I don't know if it's for sympathetic reasons or just something that they can relate to me in life." 

Stackhouse Gives Mom A Church House

Excerpt from - By Mona Austin /

(September 5, 2006)  Three-time NBA all-star
Jerry Stackhouse won big with a recent gift to his mother. The Dallas Mavericks guard paid to have the House of Hope Free Will Baptist Church refurbished for his mother Minnie, the pastor.   The new church is located in his hometown Kinston, NC in the heart of "the hood" which keeps her close to the lives she would like to touch.  She hopes to deter young people from the vices of drugs and poverty that surround them. "She now has a place where she feels she can best manage her programs and best serve the community," Stackhouse said. Pastor Stackhouse could have asked her millionaire baby for a new property instead of a fixer-upper, but preferred being in the midst of the concrete mission field. And besides, the new church is a stark improvement from her "old country church" with contemporary amenities including a new sound system. The Stackhouse family (Jerry is the youngest of 11) and more than 300 attendees witnessed the church dedication last Sunday.  Mayor Pro-Temp Robert A. Swinson IV was on hand to presented Minnie Stackhouse with a medallion in recognition of her community service. To the packed house the generous son said, "She knew I wasn't going to tell her no."  His 'yes' to paying for the $500,000 church's facelift was an answered prayer. Pastor Stackhouse, 77 was overwhelmed with joy: "I don't know what the future here will be, but God does." Another local pastor, Ernest Fisher of Integrity Ministries in Kinston, lauds House of Hope as the light at the end of the tunnel, “This church is dedicated to reach the people of our community,” he said. “There are a lot of positive things going on here ... maybe some of these people will come into this House of Hope to get help.”


Walk Your Way To Fitness

by Michael Stefano, Special for eFitness

(September 6, 2006 ) Smaller than a cell phone, a pedometer is a simple device that can change your life. Simply attach it to your belt or waistband, and it will do the rest. Digitalized pedometers record not only steps taken, but convert those steps to miles. Some even include a stopwatch and an estimate of caloric expenditure.  Pedometers work really well for those who don't have the time to invest in a formal cardiovascular exercise program. Experts approximate about 10,000 steps as the equivalent of the Surgeon General’s recommendation of 30 minutes of daily exercise. Remember that this is an eventual target.

Benefits Of Walking

Number of Steps
8K to 10K = Improve health and prevent disease
12K to 15K = Achieve sustained weight loss
3K fast pace* = Improve aerobic fitness
*Refer to information on Target Heart Rate

Two thousand steps add up to approximately one mile. Throughout the course of one full day most healthy adults cover about two miles, or four thousand steps. For walking to function effectively as cardiovascular exercise you’ll have to generate an extra three or four thousand steps per day.  When it comes to adding steps, remember that a little bit here and there can have a huge impact on results. Park at the far end of the lot, take the stairs, choose the scenic versus the fastest route, walk your children to school, leave the car at home whenever possible.  For individuals forced to sit at a desk all day, or who are otherwise sedentary, set short term goals that are somewhat easier to reach. But, be sure to add a few steps whenever possible. Log your steps nightly, and attempt to make gradual increases.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

For two full weeks, just fix the pedometer to your waistband and note your daily steps, while keeping as close as possible to your normal daily routine. Be sure to follow the rules on pedometer protocol. Keep an exercise log next to your bed and enter your steps traveled at the end of every day. Upon conclusion of the two-week period, take a look at how many steps you are taking each day while performing your NDR.  Next, take the greatest number of steps walked on any given day, or the average number of steps for the two-week period plus 500, and use that number of steps as your initial daily step goal (DSG). Feel free to work more conservatively and select a lower number of steps as your try to determine your best possible DSG. Strive to reach your goal every day for the next two weeks. Before bedtime each night, be sure to log in the number of steps you actually took then reset your pedometer for the next day.

At the end of the second two-week period, review your logbook and decide if you are ready to add another 500 steps to your DSG. For example, if your DSG was originally 3,000 steps, your new goal would be 3,500. For more information please review the section below on Pedometer Protocol.  Progress until you reach 10,000 steps per day, more if your personal goals dictate (see comparison chart). It takes about six months to crystallize a new behavior. Sticking with a program for six months dramatically increases your likelihood of lifetime compliance. If you skip a few days due to illness, work or other obligations, get back into the groove as soon as possible. The more days you miss, the more likely you are to abandon your program altogether.

Pedometer Protocol

· Firmly clip your new pedometer to your belt or waistband. It needs to be positioned above your hipbone and directly in line with the pant crease. Attach it firmly, and be sure the device is level for accurate recording. Another point worth noting; be careful to not drop your new toy down the toilet.

 · Pedometers work best when walking on regular terrain. They lose some accuracy with most gym equipment (like elliptical or step machines), remain reasonably accurate on a treadmill, and are completely useless on a bicycle.

 · To avoid overuse injuries, work up to your goals slowly. If you have any concerns about joint health (back, ankles, knees or hips), discuss your exercise plans with a physician. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to always discuss a new exercise program with your family doctor.

 · You’ll need a good pair of sneakers or walking shoes that provide adequate comfort and support, but at the rate of 10,000 steps per day, don’t expect more than six months from even the most expensive brands. Taking 8,000 daily steps with improper or worn out footwear could do more harm than good, and not only damage your feet, but create structural imbalances that show up as overuse injuries. If you experience pain or discomfort anywhere on your body, first check your footwear.

 · If any incurred pain persists more than two or three days or is severe (even briefly), check with your physician before proceeding. Also, if you experience any pain or tightness in the chest, or have difficulty breathing while exercising, STOP what you're doing and seek immediate medical attention. Call 911 if necessary. Getting a physical prior to exercise, and progressing gradually is the safe way to go.

Also remember walking limitations. A walking program addresses cardiovascular fitness and weight loss, but does little to improve muscle tone and functional strength. To experience full body health and fitness, a personalized resistance and flexibility program are absolutely necessary.

Fitness guru Mike Stefano specializes in designing fitness and weight loss programs that include a full spectrum of exercise modalities that will precisely fit your needs. To find out more about Mike or his workout programs, click here


Motivational Note: Reap What We Sow

By: Jewel Diamond Taylor;

Life has a way of giving back to us what we put out. Whatever we say, think or do is mirrored back to us. If you think you're not capable, worthy, attractive or strong --- life will mirror back to you what you believe. We are spiritually taught that we reap what we sow. If you need a friend, be a friend. If you give kindness, it comes back to you. If you want more out of life, put more of yourself into life. If you dwell on pain and negativity, it is reflected back to you. If you send out thoughts of anger, jealousy, hatred and bitterness, they will echo back into your life. If you speak the language victory, faith, peace and love --- life will mirror back to you confirmation of what you see and believe. Choose higher thoughts. Choose the road less traveled. Don't allow the ugliness of this world to take your eyes off the beauty in this world. There will be good days and some hard days. You still have hills to climb and overcome. But when you stop and think about it --- all of your good days out weigh the bad days. So you don't complain.

Lift your eyes to the hills from where your strength comes from. --- Psalm 121:1