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LE NEWSLETTER

April 19, 2007

Weather is starting to warm up here in Toronto - it's a long haul!  Celebrated yet another birthday this past weekend - siigghhh.  Thank goodness for good friends that make it seem like there's something to celebrate!  (You know who you are!)

I have a special event for you led by a good and trusted friend of mine - if you've ever been curious about a career, image or personal makeover, then
Look Good Feel Wonderful is for you.  Details below.

 
 
::HOT EVENTS::

Look Good, Feel Wonderful – Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spring is a season of rejuvenation. It's a time when many of us clear out the clutter in our physical spaces and prepare for the joyful feeling that the warm weather and sunshine brings. So what better time is there than now to tidy up your life and eliminate the mental and emotional clutter that is keeping you from living up to your highest potential? If you have dreams of doing more with your life, but always seem to get deterred and if you want to freshen up your wardrobe and get in style without going in debt, then this is your season of change! Register today for 
Look Good, Feel Wonderful, a personal development and fashion consulting seminar sponsored by The Stepping Stone Image Consulting. Come discover what's really holding you back and why aligning your attire with your aspirations is an important step toward personal and professional success. If your home is worthy of renewal, then why aren't you?

Since sharing blesses the giver and the receiver, please join us on April 28th and bring everyone who you know wants to feel, be and do their best.

"One of the greatest feelings in life is the conviction that you have lived the life you wanted to live - with the rough and the smooth, the good and the bad - but yours, shaped by your own choices, and not someone else's"

- Michael Ignatieff, author, politician

SATURDAY, APRIL 28
LOOK GOOD, FEEL WONDERFUL
Verity Centre For Better Living
28 Milford Ave. (closest major intersections are Keele & Lawrence)
12:00 NOON
$20  in advance; $30 day of

Refreshments will be served
To register call (416) 534-1069 
Tickets are also available at: A Different Booklist - 746 Bathurst Ave (south of Bloor in Toronto)  and  Knowledge Bookstore - 177 Queen Street W. (east of McLaughlin in Brampton)

::TOP STORIES::

FLOW 93.5's Tricky Moreira Wins Toronto Media Idol Challenge 2007

Source: FLOW 93.5

(April 18, 2007) FLOW 93.5 would like to congratulate
DJ Tricky Moreira for winning the third annual Toronto Media Idol competition on Saturday, April 14th at Yonge-Dundas Square. Members of the Toronto Media auditioned by performing their favourite song acapella in front of Canadian Idol hopefuls as well Canadian Idol judges Farley Flex, Jake Gold, Sass Jordan and Zack Werner. After an exciting rendition of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” Tricky Moreira walked away with the Toronto Media Idol Challenge 2007 title and $1,000 for a charity of his choice. Moreira choose Save The Children Canada, a charity organization committed to bringing immediate and lasting improvements to children’s lives through the realization of their rights throughout Canada and overseas (www.savethechildren.ca).

In addition, Tricky Moreira will also receive the opportunity to shine in the national spotlight when he competes as a member of the Media Idol Top 10 on the actual Canadian Idol stage this summer.

Tricky Moreira can currently be heard every Saturday morning on FLOW 93.5 FM from 1 – 4 am when he hosts his popular radio show, This House.

Bailey Rae Ready To Write For Second Album

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Gary Graff, Detroit

(April 13, 2007) 
Corinne Bailey Rae is enjoying her time on the road with John Legend these days, but the British singer says she's looking forward to getting back home and starting work on the follow-up to her self-titled platinum 2006 Capitol debut album.  "When I get back from this tour I'm going to have quite a big break," Rae tells Billboard.com, "and over that time I guess I'll start writing and starting to get my head in that mode again, going from performing all the time and doing lots of promotion to actually being more creative again. I'm really looking forward to writing more. I can't wait for that -- for the next phase of things."  Nevertheless, Rae is enjoying opening for Legend, an early supporter whose audience has given her "a really good response, standing ovations and everything. It's a good match; I think his audience really appreciates what we do. They're quite open-minded. They like things that aren't in a box or limited to one style." 

Rae will tour with Legend through May 4. She then heads to New Orleans for a May 5 show at Tipitina's Uptown and will play the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis the following day. Afterward, there are two months off on the schedule before she plays the Live Earth show on July 7 at London's Wembley Stadium. With only appearances at the V Festival in August on her docket after that, Rae will presumably have plenty of time to work on her sophomore album.  She's currently working a third single, "I'd Like To," from "Corinne Bailey Rae." And she can be heard on "If I Don't," the new single from Detroit soul/electronic artist Amp Fiddler.  "That was really fun," Rae says. "It was a good match. It seemed like we fit together, though we actually recorded it separately. He was in London, and I actually did my part in Paris. I haven't seen the video yet; we're kind of animated characters, which sounds really cool."

Proud FM Makes History

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Reporter

(April 15, 2007) As of tomorrow morning, Toronto will get a chance to hear just what a gay radio station sounds like. Claiming to be the world's first commercially licensed radio station to specifically target the gay, lesbian and transgendered communities,
Proud FM 103.9 hits the local airwaves at 6 a.m. The station's arrival caps a 10-year wait for such a license, but almost as impressive are the folks who are going to be – ahem – manning the booth.  Ken Kostick and the (still non-gay) Mary Jo Eustace are a known commodity, as the pair hosted more than 600 episodes of the cooking show What's for Dinner. Now the two are taking their schtick to the audio airwaves with a morning show called What's for Breakfast. As they sit in the offices of the new gaydio station at Church and Wellesley, it's obvious their easy chemistry is no act. The pair finishes each other's sentences, but despite their long-standing relationship, there's still room for unpredictability.  Eustace is talking about switching to a new medium: "At the same time, because we have a 13-year history, you know it feels like ..."

"Don't even go down that road," interrupts Kostick.  "What?" she says. "You're going to say that it feels like being married," he says.  "No. Been there, done that. It doesn't feel like that," she quips.  "And what's your response?" he asks.  "My response is that it feels a bit like when we started What's for Dinner, how fun it was, and how much fun we had everyday, it was kind of unique," she says.  Eustace is still tabloid fodder, after her ex-husband Dean McDermott began a public affair with actor Tori Spelling while the couple was still married, but Eustace is certainly not above making fun of herself. The broadcast duo gets into another bit where Kostick needles her about how the show's early call time means she's been wearing the same clothes for three days, including a gorgeous yellow jacket. She sheepishly pulls out the latest issue of Hello! magazine, and the jacket's there – in a two-page spread featuring Eustace.

So far, Proud FM's website proudfm.com has been airing a loop of music along with some promotional clips, as the on-air personalities work on their acts. For Kostick and Eustace, it's been an easy transition – they like to bring up the fact that years ago, Eustace outed Kostick on television long before it was fashionable ("We though it was an obviousity, but not to all the viewers. Many thought we were married. Can you believe that?" she says). Although as they've been pre-taping a few pieces and preparing for tomorrow's debut, there have been a few slips of the tongue that come with the new gig, although none of the Don Imus variety. "My favourite is this, `you're listening to What's for Dinner.' But that's understandably hard to kick after 600 shows," says program director and operations manager Rob Basile. "It's What's for Breakfast now."

But does Toronto need a queer radio station? Eustace says yes. "We're not as liberal as we like to think. On certain radio stations we couldn't talk about some of the things we talk about, and how we express ourselves. And this is a different forum. There is going to be some leeway, and there is a different voice," says Eustace.  "I think what it's going to do is push the envelope with all the other radio stations," says Kostick. "I'm going to be able to say, `Hey, I think Justin Timberlake is pretty hot'." For
Deb Pearce [note: a friend of mine!], the midday deejay, the new station is allowing her to be herself. Formerly on the morning show at Jack FM, she says while she was encouraged to be out, she didn't really want that to be the focus of her on-air persona.  "(At Jack FM) I didn't want to be looked at as a lesbian, I wanted to be thought of as the talented woman on the morning show. So now I'm exactly who I am and I don't have to change pronouns, I don't have to pretend I have a boyfriend or say I went for dinner on King West last night, instead I'll say I went to Drag Idol on Church St. It's just a sense of honesty that I enjoy," she says.

"This feels like sort of an arrival. And almost a validation, it's important there's enough of us that exist to have a radio station built about taking about our issues, or gay people talking about any issues." Basile says that "We want everyone, the core audience and our mandate is to serve, represent and be a voice for the gay audience, but it's not exclusive to the gay audience. And this is my programming philosophy for the radio station ... It's going to serve that community but it's going to be inclusive for everyone. So it won't be gay talk all the time, but it'll be a good radio station first and foremost that's going to address issues as they arise." Ten years ago, they wouldn't have had the chance. In 1997, Toronto's FM airwaves were said to be full. Today, new engineering allows for more stations closer to each other on the dial without interference, and Basile points out that's the main reason that Proud could get a license at all. Now they'll be operating a low-power FM service, whose signal is meant to be heard from their Church St. HQ to Toronto's inner suburbs. The station's co-owner Evanov Radio Group owns several stations in the GTA as well as Halifax and Ottawa, including its flagship Z103.5 (Today's Hit Music) right next to Proud on the dial.  And once they're on the air, what will they sound like? Gay artists such as Elton John and stereotypical gay-community favourites like Madonna and Cher will be part of the Proud playlist. But Torontonians hoping to hear prominent, catchy local queer acts – the church-folkies in Hidden Cameras and the Polaris prize-winning Final Fantasy come to mind – will probably be disappointed. The current promos don't make Proud sound all that different from stations like Mix 99.9, using the so-called "hot AC" format – uptempo pop for the adult-contemporary market.

"Do we have to go `we're gay, we're gay, we're gay!' Wouldn't that be just as annoying as someone saying `we're straight, we're straight, we're straight!'" says James Collins, Proud's music director. "We all like the same music. It's not different – we might like a bit more kitschy stuff. We're a little more liberal than what the average station will play. Yes, we'll play more dancey stuff, and we're playing lots of openly gay artists and closeted gay artists, but it's just not discussed, like no one says we're playing Erasure, he's gay." Collins says that the station will decide whether they play gay-unfriendly artists, such as ones who make homophobic statements, on a case by case basic. But Collins says that it's more important that the artist fits the sound, which he describes as upbeat and feel-good music. Enter Maggie Cassella.  The comedian is going to be in the afternoon drive slot from 3 to 7 doing an odd sort of hybrid talk show: interviews, callers, music and of course Cassella's rants, last seen on her show Because I Said So in 2002 on Star TV. She'd rather people think of her more as a loudmouth than a lesbian.  "It is what it is, and they hired me to do what I do," she says of her new gig. "To be honest, I've never had any issues since I moved to this country," said the American ex-pat. "It's never been about me being a lesbian, it's been about me being a woman who's loud and aggressive and that doesn't always work on television, but with radio, every time I check myself, they say no, no, no, don't check yourself."  For listeners, it's a chance to hear how different sexual orientations sound. Or to find out if it sounds different at all.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Anthony Hamilton - "Southern Comfort"(Southern Soul/Nu Soul/Funk)

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Bob Davis

(April 12, 2007)
Anthony Hamilton and Leela James have come to symbolize "the best of breed" in today's mainstream music marketplace among younger artists in the "post Erykah/Jill era."  Both have received heavy radio and television exposure and deservedly so and yet, neither has really been able to rekindle the embers burning away slowly inside of the bellies of soul music fans. However with the album "Southern Comfort," Hamilton turns those long festering embers into a blazing inferno of the kind that can only be generated by the very best of Motown/Stax, etcetera translated into a modern context. This album is so good that it has the potential to turn the entire music world inside out, if it can be exposed to the masses. "Southern Comfort" is by far the best album thus far released in the career of Anthony Hamilton. Yet it consists of tracks that were left on the "cutting room floor." That says volumes about the ability of major labels to actually select the correct songs for someone who could possibly be the "monster mainstream soul music artist of the decade." I am reluctant to say much more about this album, because you may accuse me of "over hype."

However I will tell you a little story... The day that the album arrived in my mailbox, I took it out of the package and looked at it. A few seconds later I heard "mrs. earthjuice" calling me to hurry up and get ready to go food shopping. I threw on my coat and with the CD in my hands I jumped into the car. Once inside of the car I took the CD out of its jewel case and put it into the car CD player. "Mrs. earthjuice" then said, is that another one of your new artists that nobody ever heard of again. I said, "nah you have heard of this one." As we drove down the highway and the album advanced thru the tracks "mrs earthjuice" said to me, "who the hell is that CD by? It's pretty damn good." When I told her who it was, she said, "oh I've seen Anthony Hamilton before on VH-1 and I like him, but this is way better than anything I've heard from him previously. Remember what I said earlier... "with the album "Southern Comfort", Anthony Hamilton turns those long festering embers into a blazing inferno of the kind that can only be generated by the very best of Motown/Stax/etc. translated into a modern context." That is EXACTLY what I observed with "mrs. Earthjuice." The end of the story? Well there is no end to this story. That's because "mrs. earthjuice" still has my promo copy of Anthony Hamilton - "Southern Comfort" inside of her car and she refuses to give it back to me. I suppose that I could just wait till she is asleep and go out to the car and grab it, however I don't want to face the consequences of dealing with an angry Black woman who knows that you have "stolen her music." I am pretty good health right now, so I really don't want to find out how she would react to discovering "her copy" of Anthony Hamilton - "Southern Comfort" missing from her car :)

I guess I will have to go and buy a copy for myself?  I strongly urge you to do the same...

Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds: Back In Stride

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 13, 2007) His Hollywood Ex Wife Tracey Edmonds may be running around and making the scene with Eddie Murphy, but
Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds is back in business. This week, the legendary singer/songwriter signed an exclusive worldwide agreement with the Universal Music Publishing Group, which already owns or administers more than one million copyrights by artists such as U2, Elton John, 50 Cent, Prince, Diana Krall, Ludacris, Godsmack, Ice Cube, Mary J. Blige, The Corrs, Eve, Musiq, Jill Scott, Brian McKnight, No Doubt, and Paul Simon. "Babyface has long been one of our industry's leading lights as a writer, artist, producer and entrepreneur, offered Universal Publishing chief David Renzer. "He has written, produced and in many cases performed many of our modern day 'classic' songs. We are sure that the story of hit-making will continue for him, and are thrilled to welcome him to the UMPG family."

Babyface, as he is preferably known as, is credited on over 320 albums and he has produced for some of music's biggest legends and top-selling artists, including: Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Madonna, Aretha Franklin, OutKast, Vanessa Williams, New Edition, En Vogue, Usher, Phil Collins, Faith Evans, George Michael, Deele, Eric Clapton, Pink, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Carole King, Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, TLC, Boyz II Men, Bell Biv Devoe, John Mellencamp, Paula Abdul, Heather Headley, and many more. "I am pleased to be working with Universal Music Publishing," Edmonds, who turned 48 on April 10, said in a statement. "The team has demonstrated their appreciation of my music, and their commitment to my career as an artist, producer and songwriter."  The 10 time Grammy Award winner (four wins for "Producer of the Year") is currently recording his new album to be released via Def Jam, currently helmed by his former LaFace Records partner Antonio "L.A." Reid.  Previously signed to Sony/ATV -- who will retain his back catalogue -- the Indianapolis native currently has new tracks on new projects with Katherine McPhee, Fallout Boy, Nelly, Keyshia Cole, KeKe Palmer and Ashanti.  His last recording project, as an artist, was 2005's 'Grown & Sexy', released on Arista Records.

Andrae Crouch: Celebrating The Big 4-0

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 13, 2007) Would you believe it's been 40 years since
Andrae Crouch started his career in the business? And the 64 year-old-gospel pioneer is planning to celebrate the feat in high style with a star studded concert at the very church he first sang, California's New Christ Memorial Church -- the temple his father founded. On April 28, the nine-time Grammy Award winning inspirational music maestro will host an evening of celebratory praise with a concert featuring gospel heavyweights Tramaine Hawkins, Donnie McClurkin, BeBe Winans, and the New Christ Memorial Church Mass Choir.  For more than a decade, Crouch has served as pastor at the San Fernando Valley-based house of worship.

While the Saturday event is the centerpiece for a three-day holy rolling festival, festivities also include a special black tie affair featuring internationally renowned gospel powerhouses Shirley Caesar and CeCe Winans at the Sheraton Universal Hotel on April 27. Considered "The Godfather of Gospel," his classic songs that have been recorded by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley and Destiny's Child. His vast repertoire includes inspirational tunes such as 'Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus,' 'My Tribute (To God Be the Glory),' 'Soon and Very Soon,' 'Jesus is the Answer,' 'Take Me Back' and 'Through it All.' Aside from his nine Grammy awards, Crouch has been nominated for an Academy Award ('The Color Purple' soundtrack), collaborated with Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Quincy Jones and Elton John. He has also won nine Dove Awards, two NAACP Image awards, and even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame among other accolades.  Recently, he co-wrote the title track of CeCe Winans' gold-selling opus 'Throne Room,' and his latest project, titled 'Mighty Wind' was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

Timbaland Soars To No. 1 After Sales Explosion

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(April 13, 2007) 
Timbaland's "Give It to Me" featuring Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake explodes 42-1 this week on the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to sales of 248,000 digital downloads. This is the second biggest leap to the top in chart history (second only to Kelly Clarkson's 52-1 move with "A Moment Like This"). Only Timberlake, whose "SexyBack" shifted 250,000 downloads last September, has had a better opening week for digital sales.  Akon's "Don't Matter" slips 1-2, while Gwen Stefani's "The Sweet Escape," which also features Akon, is down 2-3. Fergie's "Glamorous" featuring Ludacris holds at No. 4, Mims' "This Is Why I'm Hot" slides 3-5 and Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" remains at No. 6.  Linkin Park's "What I've Done" is the chart's top debut at No. 7, its first top 10 placement on this chart since March 2002. The track also debuts at No. 1 on Modern Rock Tracks and No. 4 on Hot Digital Songs with 121,000 downloads. Linkin Park's new album, "Minutes to Midnight," arrives May 15. 

Gym Class Heroes' "Cupid's Chokehold" featuring Patrick Stump falls 7-8, while Beyonce and Shakira's "Beautiful Liar" is down 8-9. The chart's fastest growing track at radio for a second week is T-Pain's "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')" featuring Yung Joc, which climbs 14-10.  Hilary Duff's "With Love" is the chart's greatest digital gainer and jumps 43-24, thanks to sales of 57,500 downloads.  Other songs new to the chart this week include Dashboard Confessional's "Stolen" at No. 65, Ashley Tisdale's "Kiss the Girl" at No. 81, Fabolous' "Diamonds" featuring Young Jeezy at No. 83 and Maroon 5's "Makes Me Wonder" at No. 84. The latter song is just the third this decade to reach the top 15 of the Adult Top 40 chart in two weeks or less.  Robin Thicke's "Lost Without U" is No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for a ninth week in a row. 50 Cent has the top debut on that chart at No. 48 with "Straight to the Bank," the first single from his new album, "Curtis," due June 19.  Carrie Underwood's "Wasted" rises 2-1 on Hot Country Songs to give the "American Idol" champ her third No. 1 on the tally. It dislodges last week's No. 1, Tim McGraw's "Last Dollar (Fly Away)," which slips to No. 2.  On the Mainstream Rock chart, Breaking Benjamin's "Breath" is No. 1 for a fifth straight week.

XM Burning Through Cash To Catch Sirius

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Grant Robertson


(Apr. 17, 07)
John Bitove knew it would take a lot of cash to launch XM Canada, but the costly slugfest that has unfolded with rival Sirius Canada Inc. in the satellite radio market over the past year has forced the upstart company to hit up its U.S. parent for a loan. XM Canada acknowledged yesterday that it is lagging Sirius in the race to add monthly subscribers, particularly in retail sales of its radios.  Each new customer is costing $53 in marketing dollars and incentives, and XM is now planning to dip into a $45-million credit line from its Washington-based parent, XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.  The move illustrates how much cash the industry is burning through as it attempts to establish a base of paying customers. Analysts have expected for months that XM Canada would find itself in a cash crunch. It had more than $45-million in cash last August, but that number has dwindled to less than $18.5-million in the face of rising marketing costs. XM, which has been focusing mostly on the new car market, also plans to take "corrective" measures in the retail market in a bid to claim some of the ground it has lost to Sirius. "We're taking action to make sure we get a sizable share of the retail market going forward," said Mr. Bitove, chief executive officer of Canadian Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., the publicly traded company that operates XM Canada.

Those measures include cutting costs to free up more dollars and the recent addition of more channels to lure potential buyers away from Sirius. Because Sirius Canada is privately owned and not required to report its financial data, it is difficult to compare the financial health of the two companies. Even the number of subscribers claimed by both is a matter of dispute.  Sirius says it has more than 300,000 customers who pay the full subscription price, but XM said yesterday that it can't figure out how its rival arrives at that number.  "I'm not discrediting their numbers at all, I'm just saying we can't reconcile them. So I think that a comparison is very difficult," XM Canada's chief operating officer, Stephen Tapp, told analysts. Despite the doubts expressed by XM Canada, a Sirius spokesman said yesterday it counts only subscribers who pay the full subscription fee. XM Canada last month changed the way it defines a paying subscriber, which bolstered its numbers. It now counts radios installed in vehicles as soon as they roll off the factory floor, even if the car hasn't been purchased. The company says it collects revenue from the manufacturers, who subsidize free trials of the radios. That allowed XM Canada to add an additional 18,200 subscribers to its books in the second quarter, and contributed to a 60-per-cent increase in customers over last quarter. Of its 237,500 subscribers, 136,400 are "self-paying" customers, while the remainder are on promotional deals.

Observers have criticized the industry for lacking a standard way of reporting subscriber numbers and the friction between the two companies appears to be increasing in the face of a potential merger of Sirius and XM in the United States. That deal, if approved by regulators some time in the next year, would force consolidation in Canada. Though the U.S. merger has been called a merger of equals, ownership in the Canadian company would be divided based on the value of each business, meaning Sirius could walk away with a bigger chunk of the operation based on its higher subscriber numbers. "They're both jostling for position," said analyst Carl Bayard of Desjardins Securities. Mr. Bitove said using the XM credit facility is cheaper than taking on debt. However the arrangement still carries an annual interest rate of 9 per cent. The company will borrow in the "single-digit" millions in the coming months, he said.

Pop Princess Is Back Playing A Saucy Teen On The Best Damn Thing

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

Avril Lavigne
The Best Damn Thing (Sony)


(April 17, 2007) Nothing, it's safe to say, would give the kiss of death to
Avril Lavigne's relationship with millions of doting high school girls the world over more certainly than a "mature" third album about the responsibilities of marriage and home ownership. The love affair soured somewhat, after all, with the downbeat turn taken on 2004's Chantal Kreviazuk-supervised Under My Skin, a sullen sophomore disc that suffered a 35 per cent whack in the worldwide sales figures enjoyed by Lavigne's smash 2002 debut, Let Go.  So while Avril, the 22-year-old newlywed, now shops for Bel Air mansions, Avril, the global pop starlet, is shrewd enough and sufficiently cognizant of her strengths to return to playing the saucy teenager today on The Best Damn Thing.  Packaged like a garish Teen Beat takeout – save, perhaps, a couple of alluring CD-insert shots of the Napanee native in fishnets and Brigitte Bardot pout – and bursting at the seams with pugilistic variations on the "Sk8r Boi" template, it's pretty much ready-made to become the celebrity-cementing home run Lavigne narrowly missed the last time out.

There's a trio of goopily interchangeable power ballads here, including last year's Eragon soundtrack hit "Keep Holding On," to keep a foot in adult-contemporary playlists and set young hearts a-flutter. The lion's share though, is composed of brisk bubblegum-punk, and it's a better record – or at least, rather more fun – for it. If we're to nitpick, there's still a gnawing disparity between "executive producer" Lavigne's "punk" pose and the expensive, programmatic sheen brought to shouty four-chord kiss-offs like "I Can Do Better," "Hot" and contagious first single "Girlfriend," by a roster of A-list writing and production collaborators that includes Sum 41's Deryck Whibley, a.k.a. Mr. Avril Lavigne. A disparity laid barer, one might further argue, by the bleeping of cuss words. The title track, "I Don't Have to Try," kicks off with a Peaches-esque half-rap of "I wear the pants, I wear the pants" before steaming ahead into a full-bore punk gallop. Lavigne is at least honest about where her roots on the punk continuum lie, having fannishly lured Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker into the studio for a couple of tracks. Who cares what a 32-year-old male thinks, anyway? The Best Damn Thing wasn't made for me. But if I can privately and guiltily dig some of it, just think how freakin' awesome it's gonna sound if it was made for you.

Randy Bachman Explores New Musical Territory In Massey Hall Debut

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Geoff Chapman, Jazz Columnist

(April 12, 2007)
Randy Bachman is a key part of Canada's music fabric. Is there anyone in this country who hasn't heard of The Guess Who or Bachman-Turner Overdrive, or who isn't familiar with the siren calls of rock history staples "These Eyes" and "American Woman"? Few are likely to see Bachman as more than a bona fide rock star, but he's trying to carve out new territory as a jazzman. You'll hear some of the new Bachman tomorrow at Massey Hall, a show that's billed as a retrospective of his long career and a showcase for his new album, JazzThing II, on which there are two Mose Allison tunes ("Everybody's Cryin' Mercy," "Your Mind Is On Vacation") as well as his signature "Takin' Care Of Business." His finger-picking-style guitar is heard alongside fellow axemen Duke Robillard, Gerry Beaudoin and Jay Geils. It follows 2002's JazzThing.  On stage tomorrow – amazingly, it's Bachman's Massey Hall debut – he'll have Robillard for company, a rhythm section of keyboardist Chris Gestrin, bass Mick Dalla-Vee and drummer Roger Belanger. Guesting are pianist-vocalist Stephan Moccio and Jeff Healey.  Speaking from his home on Salt Spring Island, B.C., Bachman credited his jazz aspirations to a pal he grew up with in Winnipeg, guitar legend Lenny Breau.

"Lenny was like a brother and he introduced me to the Chets – Atkins and Baker – and all the '50s-'60s music that brought bluegrass, jazz, blues and rockabilly together. I began listening to (jazz guitarists) Barney Kessel and Tal Farlow. "I started the Guitarchives label as my thank you to Lenny. I never did really thank him when he was alive, but now there's seven albums of his music on the label with proceeds going to his family. I still play his discs – they still sound phenomenal." Bachman, who describes his playing as an amalgam of all styles, says he has had to work hard to master the jazz approach – "every night I practice for an hour or two, but then the guitar is a never-ending well of possibilities." He'll open the show with "a 10-minute ode to Lenny" that brings in rock, country, jazz and counterpoint. Then with his band he'll spin jazz out of his hits, for example "No Sugar Tonight" as a shuffle, "American Woman" a jazz bossa nova and "These Eyes" a blues-reggae vehicle. Then there'll be song excerpts from Vinyl Tap, his CBC and Sirius Satellite radio show. "It's challenging. The jazz work demands something different, but it'll be heard alongside old favourites. I like to think my music is a fluent mix of jazz and rock, my fulfillment as a songwriter and everything I've ever heard, influences like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Lenny and more. We'll close proceedings with `Centrepiece' ... and then maybe an encore." Bachman has sold more than 40 million records. But, to quote another of his hit titles, "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet."

Stephen Marley’s Mind Control Slam Dunks Its Way To The Top Of The Billboard

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(April 12, 2007) With a first week sales burst of 20,000 copies, Mind Control, the debut album from
Stephen Marley, debuts at the top of the Billboard Reggae album chart. The sales were strong enough to allow Marley to debut at number 35 on the big chart, the Billboard 200 pop album tally. Over on the Billboard R&B Hip Hop album listing, Mind Control debuts at number 18.   Let’s take a quick recap of the Marley siblings who have debuted on the Billboard album charts.  Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers have six charted titles. The group’s 1988 debut album Conscious Party debuted and peaked at number 23 on the Billboard 200. The disc got as far as number 26 on the R&B album chart. Their follow up album, 1989’s One Bright Day debuted at number 26 on the Billboard 20, but stalled at number 43 on the R&B album listing.   In 1991, the group’s Jahmekya disc rose to number 63 on the Billboard 200, while their 1993 disc Joy and Blues topped out at number 178 on the Billboard 200 and number 75 R&B.  Free Like We Wanna Be went to number 170 on the Billboard 200 in 1995 and number three Reggae album chart.  1997’s Fallen Is Babylon didn’t even pick up on the radar of any of the main album charts, but it got as far as number two on the Reggae album tally.

 Grammy winner Ziggy Marley’s solo effort Spirit of Music reached number four on the Billboard Reggae album chart in the year 2000. But it was the album Dragon Fly which picked up some steam debuting at number 84 R&B and 138 Billboard 200. It reached number three on the Billboard Reggae album chart.  Julian Marley only turned up on the radar in 2003 when Time and Place stopped at number eight on the Reggae album listing.  Grammy nominee Ky-Mani Marley reached number seven on the Reggae album chart in the year 2000 with The Journey, while 2001’s Many More Roads which contained the hit single Dear Dad, reached number eight.  Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley has fared better than the other Marley siblings. His 2005 disc Welcome to Jamrock debuted and peaked at number 7 on the Billboard 200 and number four on the R&B album chart. The disc flew to the top of the Reggae album chart. By stark comparison, his sophomore set Half Way Tree reached number two on the Reggae album chart in 2001, while Mr. Marley which was released in 1997, peaked at number two on that same chart.

Trey Songz Is Back

Source: Atlantic Records

(April 13, 2007) There are entertainers who sing for their people and then there are singers who speak for their generation.  Stevie spoke for hearts and souls; Marvin crooned for his country; Fela sent the rhythm of Africa abroad; Curtis gave the ghetto a voice.   Artists come a dime a dozen, but a spokesman for the masses who's been bestowed with a voice from the heavens, once every generation. With Songbook/Atlantic Records R&B blessing
Trey Songz, the first generation to come of age in the 21st century has one they can claim as their own. The anointment of the Petersburgh, Virginia inspiration will be solidified with his second collection, the emotional joyride entitled "TREY DAY."   Spanning a sonic spectrum, the album bathes in waves of chord colors (reminiscent of Jodeci's "DIARY OF A MAD BAND"), with Trey's pen painting so vividly it could pass for a crayon.  Much of this lush production comes courtesy of some of the best producers in the business.  To note a few:  Dre and Vidal, Danjahandz, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Troy Taylor, who signed Trey to his Songbook Entertainment imprint in 2003 and produced the lion's share of his 2005 debut, "I GOTTA MAKE IT." However, while the score for "TREY DAY" is fittingly grandiose, the source of its strength is its author.  Trey Songz's vocals have never been more mint.  The innovation and lyricism displayed on his sophomore effort belies his 22 years of age.  "I'm just taking my music to another level," he offers with an 'I'm just doing my job' tone.  "I'm challenging myself vocally, and as a songwriter and an arranger, I'm trying to become an all-around artist."

The evolution can be witnessed firsthand on the lead single, "Wonder Woman."  Over the heart- pumping drum track and brain-twisting futuristic sounds of Timbaland protégé Danjahandz, Trey flexes the scribe within.  He opens with a riptide rap verse that could put many an MC to shame, then teams with the album's A&R director, Nokio of Dru Hill fame, to express his need for that special lady.  "My Wonder Woman is just a strong woman," says Trey.  "The modern day woman is independent, doing her own thing, not depending on a man for anything.  So the whole basis is if you're invincible, let me see." "The boy is a star," praises Nokio of Trey.  "Many times he'll go in [the studio], write a record and record himself.  He doesn't wait for an engineer or anything.  His work ethic is crazy and then there's the feeling he puts behind his singing… it's just rare to work with an artist that can do it all."

"Wonder Woman" - Trey Songz (Audio)
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REAL:
 
One thing that Trey does better than any young R&B artist today is to create songs that resonate with fans regardless of gender, race, age, or residency.  His music soars above categorization.  You'll be hard-pressed to find many who can't relate to the gorgeous "Last Time."  With production by R&B sure-shot Bryan-Michael Cox, Trey documents the challenges of monogamy and the complexities of infidelity in one final episode with his female on the side.  The song is beautiful.  It's ugly.  It's common.  It's special.  It's human. While Trey has a gift to express the thoughts and experiences of most, he basks in the opportunity to speak for the fellas.  There hasn't been a song since Usher's stratospheric single "Burn" that has given the world a clearer inside view of the male mind than Trey's "Store Run."
From atop Dre and Vidal's instrument cornucopia, Trey tells the tale of a sex-capade that almost took an irresponsible turn until he came to his senses and raced to the store for prophylactics.  It's a story for the guys and a message for the world. The creativity on this album doesn't end until the last track does.  "Stereo" is a perfect example.  It speaks directly to the tech-age of today. "Imagine Trey's the stereo and the girl's just sitting there listening to it," explains the track's producer, Troy Taylor.  "Trey starts singing to her and the speaker moves as if it's his mouth."  Trey seduces: Turn me up don't turn me down/Promise that you'll love it/Now put your hands on the radio/Don't be afraid to touch it/Imagine I was there (baby) pullin' on your hair.  Even cyber-fantasies get fulfilled.

It's simple. Trey is at his best because for the first time we receive him in his entirety, as he makes a major leap forward from his debut.  "I used 'I GOTTA MAKE IT' as a staircase to achieve," he says.  In the wake of the release of his first album, Trey found himself reaching into the mainstream at the same time that the underground was feasting on his mixtape releases.  And Warner Music Group Executive Vice President Kevin Liles took notice.  "On the new project, Kevin came in and he really got who I am as an artist," tells Trey.  "Kevin always said 'I don't see "I Gotta Go" in the clubs.  I see "I Gotta Go" on stage and then I see this guy in the clubs, poppin' bottles and throwing money. It's not matching.'  So he said the image is gonna match the songs this time." The result is a gift for all.  Everyone's a winner.  The world will be able to enjoy the complete experience of Trey Songz, the future of R&B.  "This album, though he's a little older from the first album, is who he is," states Taylor.  "He's soulful.  He's street.  He's hip-hop.  He's sexual.  He's diverse." So Trey's reign begins.  The people of today are ready for their representation (over 400,000 of them are his Myspace friends!).  They've actually been ready since day one.  Just like Trey speaks up for them, they've reciprocated.  "Before my first album came out, the fans on my website were calling the release date, "Trey Day."  So I decided this time it's gonna be "TREY DAY" for real.  The first album was an introduction and this is the arrival."

A Hip-Hop Artist Finds Trouble Adds To The Mix

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(April 15, 2007) ATLANTA With arms folded and a grin that shows much bravado,
DJ Drama stands alongside his nine Aphilliate group members for an album cover photo shoot. His friend DJ Don Cannon suddenly starts crooning; the entire clique bursts into laughter.  No worries. No conflict. Just everyone having a good time. A few months ago, Drama thought such an enjoyable moment wouldn't come anytime soon. "I wasn't thinking about a photo shoot," he said. "I said to myself, `God, give me a bail and a bond.'" Drama, born Tyree Simmons, had become one of the top DJs in hip-hop after working with rappers such as Young Jeezy, T.I. and Lil' Wayne through his popular Gangsta Grillz mixtape series. Mixtapes are promotional CD compilations featuring top rappers and are often sold on street corners and online. Drama had just signed a record deal, which is rare for a DJ, and was co-hosting a local and satellite radio show. But as his star rose, he and his partner Cannon were arrested in January for reproducing recorded material for sales, violating Georgia's Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization law. Both were jailed one night and were released on $100,000 bond.

Although the case is still not resolved, Drama is looking to clear his name as a criminal and show people that mixtapes are an asset for the music industry. "They're the bloodline," he said. "They're the vein. So many people have capitalized off mixtapes. 50 Cent, one of music's top moguls, wouldn't even be where he is at if it wasn't for them. "I hope people learn more about mixtapes after our situation." Mixtapes are a compilation of songs that include teasers for upcoming albums, freestyle rhymes and remixes of popular hits. Artists often use them to gain extra exposure. Even though record labels often support mixtapes for their marketing strength, they also have been wary because bootleggers often sell the music for profit. Isaac Hayes III, son of soul singer Isaac Hayes and a music producer, said mixtapes have benefited unknown artists in the urban market and record labels as well. "It's a way to create a buzz in the streets," he said. "Rappers can easily go on mixtapes and say whatever they want about an issue at that moment, without having to wait for their album to drop. They help a lot." In efforts to crack down on pirated music, special task forces focus on copyright infringement in the recording industry. Drama and Cannon, born Donald Cannon, were investigated after a Georgia task force officer said he found mixtapes supplied by Drama that were for sale – without the consent of record labels whose songs were remixed – at a kiosk inside a south Atlanta mall. About a month later local police raided the Aphilliate Music Group office in Atlanta.

The company's assets were frozen, more than 81,000 mixtape CDs were destroyed, recording equipment, computers and cars were taken by officers. Even files for Drama's first mixtape album release under a major label – T.I.'s Grand Hustle Records, under Atlantic Records – were seized by police.  Drama said it was disturbing when officers repeatedly asked them if they had "guns and drugs" in their office. "Cops jumped out, M-16s were drawn," he explained. "They threw us to the ground and arrested me and Cannon. Drug-sniffing dogs went inside and they confiscated everything we worked so hard to achieve." Cannon, who is also a hip-hop producer, insists that they don't make money off mixtapes, but it does provide exposure from them. He said DJs try to gain recognition and get the major bucks through separate deals, like their own radio show, party performances or going on tour with an artist. The Aphilliates host an evening radio show in Atlanta and a program on Sirius Satellite Radio. Drama is also the official DJ for the bestselling rapper T.I.

After the album he had been working on for a year was taken in the raid, Drama recreated a whole new mixtape album in three weeks. OutKast, Busta Rhymes and Beenie Sigel were some artists who took part in the album, which is set for release in June. Drama's first single, "Takin' Pictures," speaks specifically on the raid and the importance of mixtapes. The track features Young Jeezy, Jim Jones, Young Buck and T.I. "I didn't have nothing, but everyone came to my aid," said Drama. "My engineer thought I was crazy about putting out an album in such short time. But I had no choice. This album represents the game and the obstacles that comes with it." The 28-year-old Philadelphia native attended Clark Atlanta University, graduating in 2000. His hyperactive voice over thumping but synthesized beats made him popular on his first southern-based mixtape, Jim Crow Laws. Drama decided to rename the series Gangsta Grillz, producing over 40 mixtape albums. Grand Hustle co-CEO Jason Geter signed him onto the label in 2005. "It's another chapter in my book," said Drama, father of two daughters. "I realize it's another challenge to overcome. I'm here to prove that I can put the game on my back and the Aphilliates can't be stopped."

Pleasing Connick Takes No Chances

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine
 
Harry Connick Jr.
At the Hummingbird Centre
In Toronto on Saturday

(Apr. 16, 07) For all the lip service given the notion that New Orleans is the home of the blues and the cradle of jazz, there remains one deeply ingrained part of the city's tradition that many jazz musicians (and a fair number of fans) seem unable to embrace: The urge to entertain. Louis Armstrong certainly had it, and his eagerness to please the audience -- combined with enormous charm and unparalleled musicality -- helped jazz be embraced worldwide. And there's no doubt that
Harry Connick, Jr. has it too, although on a considerably smaller scale than Pops Armstrong. Watching him run through a string of Crescent City chestnuts at the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto on Saturday, it was hard not be amused, and damned near impossible not to tap a foot or two. It wasn't just that Connick understands the milieu -- although it should be pointed out that he has a mastery of stride piano that would shame many musicians of his parents' generation, much less his own -- so much as that he recognized the importance of making the music personal.

One of the reasons later generations of New Orleans jazz entertainers were looked down upon by serious jazz fans was that their sense of showmanship came across as mostly shtick -- a happy, smiley bonhomie that seemed to have been dictated by some committee at the tourist board. This may be why Wynton Marsalis, for all his championing of the New Orleans tradition, maintains such a dour stage persona; heaven forbid he should be mistaken for Al Hirt! There was a time when Connick, too, would have been worried about his artistic image, but those days are long past. After making his name as a teenaged piano virtuoso, he went through his Young Sinatra phase (sparked by his contributions to the soundtrack of When Harry Met Sally), his funk phase, and big band phase. He even made a go at Broadway by scoring the musical Thou Shalt Not, a title theatregoers took a little too much to heart. His current project incorporates elements from his big band, funk and Sinatra personae, but mainly draws upon his roots in the clubs of New Orleans, where he cut his teeth. Along with saxophonist Branford Marsalis, Connick has been extremely active in post-Katrina relief efforts, and his sense of how much has been lost -- and how much more could potentially disappear -- seems to have turned him into a sort of musical evangelist for his beleaguered hometown.

And so we got everything from a soppy, somewhat sloppy rendition of Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans to a lean, James Booker-inspired solo piano version of On the Sunny Side of the Street, to a raucous, genuinely joyous run through Jambalaya. It wasn't always great musically, but it was never less than great fun. What Connick got absolutely right was his rapport with the audience. He may be pushing 40, but he still maintains an aura of boyish charm, and definitely isn't above exploiting his looks or physique, as the display of booty-shaking he gave during Mardi Gras in New Orleans made plain. At its best, his willingness to personalize his experience of the music, particularly through rambling, affectionate reminiscences of musicians such as pianist Booker or gospel musician Raymond Miles, brought an Oprah-esque warmth to the proceedings. Connick's obvious affection for the music and musicians was infectious enough to make any listener curious to hear more. If only the music that followed those soliloquies had been more inspiring. Connick is a supremely capable technician, but he tends to want to gussy things up when no gussying is needed. So he crowded the Armstrong-era classic Didn't He Ramble with unnecessary dissonance, reworked Hello, Dolly! to the point that it would have been unrecognizable without the vocal, and crammed so much brass razzmatazz into Yes We Can Can that the Allen Toussaint tune nearly lost its groove -- something Toussaint's tunes almost never do. There's nothing wrong with wanting to entertain. But Connick seems to be approaching the crossroads where he needs to decide whether he wants to please himself through clever tricks worked into otherwise pedestrian songs, or to please the audience by serving the songs straight up. Because Armstrong's third route -- in which the audience gets what they want while the band pushes the envelope -- doesn't seem to be on maps Connick is using.

Don Ho, 76: Hawaii's Breezy Crooner

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Nate Chine, Special To The Star, New York Times News Service

(April 16, 2007)
Don Ho, an entertainer who defined popular perceptions of Hawaiian music and held fast as a peerless Waikiki nightclub attraction, died Saturday in Honolulu. He was 76. The cause was heart failure, his daughter Dayna Ho said. Ho was a durable spokesman for the image of Hawaii as a tourist playground. His rise dovetailed with a visitor boom that followed statehood in 1959 and the advent of affordable air travel.  For 40 years, his name was synonymous with Pacific Island leisure, as was his signature hit, "Tiny Bubbles." Born Donald Tai Loy Ho in the Honolulu enclave of Kaka`ako, Ho had an ethnic background worthy of the islands' melting-pot ideal: He was of Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and German descent. He grew up on the island of Oahu, where he began his singing career at Honey's, his mother Emily's restaurant and lounge. Ho enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1954, receiving certification as a fighter pilot in Texas but never seeing combat. He transferred to Military Airlift Command and flew cargo across the Pacific before leaving the service in 1959.

Ho took over Honey's and resumed performing. He befriended a young songwriter named Kui Lee, who would soon write "I'll Remember You," one of the most enduring Hawaiian standards that Ho effectively introduced. With a repertoire that included some of Lee's earlier work, Ho developed a style that carried over to the nightclub scene in Waikiki. By 1962, he was headlining there with a backing group called the Ali`is. Their blend of two guitars, piano, drums and xylophone, along with Ho's Hammond organ, was well-suited to the breezy pop sound of the era; so was Ho's nonchalant, slightly slurred baritone.  Duke's, their resident lounge, became a hot spot for locals, tourists and stars taking a break from the mainland. Within five years, Ho had achieved widespread fame with several albums and the hit, "Tiny Bubbles." A full decade before Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville," the song painted an appealing portrait of tropical indulgence. He adhered to his lovable rogue character in his frequent television appearances in the late 1960s and early '70s, and on his own ABC variety series, "The Don Ho Show," from 1976 to 1977. While Ho was at his peak, a grass-roots movement called the Hawaiian renaissance was stirring. It was an effort at cultural preservation inspired by such folk traditions as Hawaiian falsetto singing, offering an implicit rebuke to the commercialization that Ho, as well as the CBS television series Hawaii Five-O, had come to represent.

But there was respect for Ho's representation of Hawaii to the world, even among artists in the Hawaiian renaissance. For decades, Ho was a steady Waikiki nightclub attraction, appealing largely to tourists. In his show at the Ohana Waikiki Beachcomber hotel, he would crack jokes and play familiar songs. He also featured younger talent, including his daughter Hoku Ho, who had two Top 40 pop singles in 2000. Late in 2005, Ho's regular engagement was interrupted because of a heart condition called nonischemic cardiomyopathy, a muscular weakness unrelated to coronary artery disease. He travelled to Thailand in December 2005 for experimental stem cell treatment. Less than seven weeks later, Ho returned to the Beachcomber and performed a sold-out show. He resumed performing on a weekly basis. Last September, Ho took another medical leave to have a new pacemaker installed. Around the same time, Ho married his long-time executive producer, Haumea Hebenstreit. As well as his wife, he is survived by 10 children.

Ashford & Simpson Live At The Apollo Theatre

Source: Nina Flowers, PR Coordinator, nina.flowers@apollotheater.org

(April 17, 2007)  (New York, NY)  -  The
Apollo Legends Series is proud to present the first concert of its 2007 season with a truly classic Apollo line-up starring legendary performing and songwriting team Ashford & Simpson and featuring R&B star Melba Moore.  The Apollo Theater will be the only place to be as music's most dynamic duo ring in the Spring season with an evening of perennial hits and favourites. Don't miss your opportunity to get your classic soul on with Ashford & Simpson and special guest Melba Moore on Saturday, April 21st at 8pm.    Tickets are $65*,$55 and $45(*prime seating and post-concert reception) and are available through the Apollo Theater Box Office, 125th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, 212/531-5305 and Ticketmaster, (212) 307-7171, www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets on Sale Now

Since embarking on their musical journey together more than four decades ago, husband and wife team Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson have established themselves as one of the most prolific, versatile, and exciting couples in recording history. They have created an unprecedented catalogue of chart-topping hit singles and albums as performers, writers and producers that has undeniably solidified their place in music history. Now, Ashford & Simpson will give soul music devotees a rare treat when they return to the world famous Apollo stage for the first time in over 10 years.  The Ashford & Simpson legacy began in 1964 when the two met at the famed White Rock Baptist Church in New York City.  After discovering their shared musical talents, they began writing songs together, eventually signing on as staff songwriters for Scepter Records.  Ashford & Simpson scored their first songwriting hit with, "Let's Go Get Stoned" for Ray Charles in 1966. That song caught the attention of Motown's powerhouse songwriting and production team Holland, Dozier and Holland, who brought the duo on board to the Motown dynasty as songwriters.  Their first Motown single, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", written for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, proved to be a smash hit  and  firmly established the signature Ashford & Simpson style with its soaring high energy harmonies and driving rhythms. While at Motown, the duo wrote several other hits for the Gaye/Terrell combination including "Your Precious Love," "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing," and "You're All I Need To Get By."  With the astonishing ability to sing anything from gospel to pop and equipped with a soaring five octave voice, Melba Moore first enchanted audiences in her debut as Dionne in the Broadway musical, Hair. She later became the first African American woman to win a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her role as Lutiebelle in the long-running show Purlie. The recognition she gained catapulted her into a successful television and recording career. Her credits include Broadway's Les Miserables; television's The Melba Moore/ Clifton Davis Show and the mini-series Ellis Island.

In 1975, Melba Moore and her husband Charles Huggins formed Hush Productions and began managing R&B artists, most notably Freddie Jackson. In the late 70's and early 80's Ms. Moore's solo recording career began to surge with hits like "I Am His Lady," "Love's Comin' at Ya," "Livin' for Your Love," "A Little Bit More" (a duet with Jackson) and the Grammy Award-nominated song "Lean On Me." Her 1990 recording of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was instrumental in having the song entered into the Congressional Record as the official African-American National Anthem. As one of America's best known actresses and recording artists, Ms. Moore has seen a series of ups and downs throughout her extraordinary career. Despite a  period of extreme personal and professional hardships in which she suffered through the pain of welfare, blackballing and other misfortunes, the talented performer was able to rebound. In 1996, she released Happy Together, her first album in six years, and toured the country with her one-woman autobiographical musical, Sweet Songs of the Soul in 1998. She was also featured in the Jackie Wilson Story at the Apollo Theater as well as in the Paramount/MTV movie The Fighting Temptations, alongside singing sensation Beyonce Knowles and Cuba Gooding JR, in 2003. Most recently, Ms. Moore is currently enjoying an exciting career revival with several new projects, including the release of her first gospel recording I'm Still Here on Warner Electra Light Year. The album serves as a powerful musical testimony of her trials and triumphant return.   Since introducing the first Amateur Night contests in 1934, the Apollo Theater has played a major role in the emergence of innovative musical genres including jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, soul and hip-hop.  Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Brown, Bill Cosby, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, D'Angelo, Lauryn Hill, and countless others began their road to stardom on the Apollo's stage. Based on its cultural significance and architecture, the Apollo Theater received state and city landmark designation in 1983 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Apollo Theater Foundation was established as a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit corporation in 1991 and is dedicated to the preservation and development of the Apollo Theater. The historic venue hosts major concerts and special events and continues its tradition of discovering future stars with its weekly instalment of Apollo Amateur Night every Wednesday night and with the syndicated television show, Showtime at the Apollo, which is taped at the theatre and airs weekly in over 150 markets nationwide. Harlem is Manhattan's third most popular tourist destination and the Apollo remains Harlem's top attraction, drawing 1.3 million visitors annually. The world famous Apollo Theater, "where stars are born and legends are made" ™ is located in the heart of Harlem at 253 West 125 Street, between Adam Clayton Powell Blvd (7th Ave.) and Frederick Douglass Blvd (8th Ave.). For further information about the Apollo Theater, visit the website at www.apollotheater.com.

Carrie Underwood Tops At CMT Music Awards

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - John Gerome, Associated Press


(Apr. 17, 07) NASHVILLE, TENN. —
Carrie Underwood's dark hit Before He Cheats won video of the year, female video and best video director Monday at the fan-voted CMT Music Awards. In the song, Underwood takes a baseball bat to a cheating boyfriend's “pretty little souped up 4-wheel drive.” “It was at the CMT awards last year that I gave my first acceptance speech ever,” Underwood said. “It's been such an amazing and blessed two years.” Kenny Chesney won male video for You Save Me and Rascal Flatts won group video for What Hurts the Most. Jack Ingram received the Wide Open Country award, a new category intended to honour artists outside the mainstream. Viewers chose Ingram's video over Johnny Cash's God's Gonna Cut You Down, rockers Sheryl Crow and Sting for their duet Always on Your Side and Jimmy Buffett's Bama Breeze. “Right now, I'm flying on the mainstream radar but for a long time I wasn't,” Ingram said. Teen newcomer Taylor Swift captured breakthrough video of the year honours with her hit Tim McGraw. Later, the Grade 11 student said she is taking her final exams Tuesday. She attended the show with her mother. “This is my first award show ever. I wanted my mom right next to me,” Swift said.

Sugarland won duo video of the year for Want To. “Thank you to the fans,” singer Jennifer Nettles said. “We love that you vote for that; it makes it that much more special.” Kris Kristofferson, who penned country classics like Sunday Morning Coming Down and Help Me Make it Through the Night, received the Johnny Cash Visionary Award. Kristofferson, 70, joins previous winners Hank Williams Jr., Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, the Dixie Chicks and his late friend Johnny Cash. Cash's daughter, Rosanne Cash, presented the award and Kristofferson received a standing ovation at the Curb Event Center at Belmont University. “He is an artist with nothing to lose,” Rosanne Cash said. “He can risk everything because he never compromises his integrity.” Kristofferson praised the late Johnny Cash and said: “Bob Dylan said it best. He said John was like the North Star — you could guide your ship by him.” Then Kristofferson looked up and raised the award high above his head in tribute to his late friend.

Later, Kristofferson recalled time spent at Cash's lakeside home near Nashville that was destroyed by fire last week. “We used to go down there when we got down on our spirits,” he said. “My wife put it best though when she said John and June (wife June Carter Cash) took everything that really mattered with them.” Comedian Jeff Foxworthy hosted the show and performers included Rascal Flatts, Chesney, Toby Keith, Sugarland and Bon Jovi. Foxworthy recapped the year in country music, including Dolly Parton's Kennedy Center Honor. “That's appropriate because if there's ever been a president who would enjoy Dolly Parton it's President Kennedy,” he quipped. But he quickly became serious when he addressed the fatal shootings at Virginia Tech. “There are a lot of hurting people associated with Virginia Tech and we want those people to know in the days and weeks going forward that you are going to be in the hearts and minds of everyone in the country music community,” Foxworthy said. “God bless you.” The Dixie Chicks were nominated for video of the year and group of the year — their first such nominations since country radio unofficially banned them. But the Chicks were nixed in both categories. The trio has been at odds with country radio since lead singer Natalie Maines told a London audience in 2003 they were ashamed President George W. Bush is from their home state Texas. But even without radio airplay, they managed to win three Grammys and sell 2 million copies of their latest album, Taking the Long Way. “I understand the songs on that album are great but I listen to country radio so I haven't heard them yet,” Foxworthy cracked.

Deniece Williams Returns!

Source: Lucy Beer, Elemental Consulting,
lucy@elemental-consulting.com

(April 18, 2007)
Deniece Williams will forever be one of the great all-time R&B divas. Possessing an infectious, angelic and soulful honey -coated voice with an awe-inspiring range, Deniece Williams set the bar high for R&B singers back in the 70s and to this day her influence can be heard on everyone from Mariah Carey to Beyoncé.  Her songs have been sampled by dozens of artists including Will Smith and Master P. Deniece's pure, rich and spine-tingling vocal quality, along with her impeccable diction and ability to honestly connect with any song has resulted in a vast catalogue of hits.  Some of her timeless anthems include "Silly," "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late" (her No. 1 pop and R&B duet with Johnny Mathis), "Let's Hear It For The Boy" (the million-selling pop/soul chart-topper from the movie Footloose), "It's Gonna Take A Miracle," "Free" (from her gold-certified This Is Niecy album) and "Black Butterfly."  In recent years the chanteuse has primarily been recording gospel records but on April 24, 2007 Shanachie Entertainment will release Deniece Williams' highly anticipated return to R&B Love, Niecy Style produced by renowned Philly soul producer Bobby Eli.  Deniece's label debut will mark her first major return to R&B in over a decade. 

For this momentous occasion Deniece called upon some of the artists who have been instrumental throughout her career: Stevie Wonder, George Duke and Philip Bailey. In 1978, Deniece Williams' sophomore album Songbird was released, coming two years after the classic "Free" (from her gold-certified This Is Niecy album) propelled her into international fame and success.  The title was a perfect description of the soulful vocal beauty associated with this legendary singer/songwriter and it is as appropriate now as it was back then.   Indeed, a songbird with a dynamic range, a distinctive sound and a true gift for lyrical interpretation, Deniece has long enjoyed a place in the hearts of music buyers who embraced her through a rich legacy of close to thirty charted singles and a dozen best-selling albums. Her career also includes four Grammy wins and an extensive list of credits including sixteen Grammy nominations, three Stellar Awards, an American Music Award and an Oscar nomination.

Audio Links:

"This Time I'll Be Sweeter"
"Love's Holiday"

As Deniece reflects "I wasn't really thinking about making a new record until a mutual friend put me in touch with Bobby, who I knew from the recording sessions I did with Thom Bell in the early '80s which included songs like "Silly" and "It's Gonna Take A Miracle."  Bobby talked to me about the idea of doing a project of songs that I've always loved. I thought it was a great way to honour artists like Luther Vandross, Donny Hathaway and Gwen Guthrie and what their music has meant to me.  When people listen to this project, I hope it will take them back down memory lane as well as create new memories for those who may not be familiar with all the songs on the album."    Within weeks of agreeing to Love, Niecey Style, Bobby Eli (whose extensive production credits include such favourites as Sister Sledge, Atlantic Starr, Major Harris, Blue Magic and Engelbert Humperdink and whose discography includes countless Philly soul sessions as a star guitarist with Billy Paul, The Spinners, Wilson Pickett, The Salsoul Orchestra, The O'Jays, MFSB, The Temptations and Elton John) and Deniece had begun selecting songs for it.  "There were so many songs I had been carrying around forever, humming them, singing them and never thinking I would be recording them!" she declares. "By the time we finished, I felt we had done what we set out to do."  For Eli, working with Deniece was "a pure pleasure.  She's a producer's dream, a very special artist and someone I always wanted to work with from being on the Thom Bell sessions with her."      Love, Niecey Style is particularly special, given the presence of three distinguished music men who have played an integral role in Deniece's career at different times: icon Stevie Wonder (with whom Deniece got her first gig as a member of his touring backup vocal group Wonderlove in 1972); super producer, songwriter and artist in his own right, George Duke (who produced 1984's Grammy-winning "Let's Hear It For The Boy"); and renowned vocalist Philip Bailey, of Earth, Wind & Fire, with whom Deniece was associated by virtue of working with EW&F's Maurice White and Kalimba Productions from 1976 to 1982. 
 
In addition, what distinguishes Niecy's new CD from other albums of R&B 'cover' tunes is the range of her choices, starting with the 1963 Baby Washington chestnut "That's How Heartaches Are Made" through to Donny Hathaway's eternal "Someday We'll All Be Free" and on to Luther Vandross' first solo 1981 smash, "Never Too Much."  For good measure, Deniece re-recorded her own "Cause You Love Me Baby," a staple in her repertoire since the track was included in her 1976 Columbia debut album as well as cutting a brand new song, "The Only Thing I'm Missing Is You," a prime romantic mood-setting, sensuous cut which showcases the songbird sounding better than ever!   The basic tracks on Love, Niecey Style were cut by producer Eli in Philadelphia;  an all-star cast of West Coast musicians including saxman Everette Harp, bass player extraordinaire Freddie Washington and Tower Of Power trumpeter Greg Adams then added their musical skills to the album.  Says Deniece, "It was an extraordinary experience to make music with such gifted musicians…words could never truly express how special it made me feel being in the studio again with Stevie, George, Philip, Greg, Freddie and Everette.  Truly, I was surrounded by friends and loved ones."   The spirit of love and celebration is displayed throughout Love, Niecey Style. Speaking about her choices for the album, Deniece explains, "I'd been wanting to record "That's How Heartaches Are Made" for years.  I was thirteen when I first heard Baby Washington sing this song.  It touched my heart because at the time, I was in love with this boy but he didn't love me the same way!   When we started recording the song, I could hear Stevie (Wonder) playing harmonica on it.  'Can you come down?' I asked and he was gracious enough to play on the track.  It turned out beautifully. Then, "Love's Holiday" has always been one of my favourite EW&F songs. 
 
It was also written by Skip Scarborough, who I feel was one of the best songwriters of our generation.  Then having my dearest friend Philip Bailey sing on it…it doesn't get any better than that!"   The standout ballad "This Time I'll Be Sweeter" (previously cut by both Angela Bofill and Roberta Flack, one of the many artists whose recordings - including Minnie Riperton and Esther Phillips - benefited from Deniece's work as a session singer in the '70s) is a tribute to a longtime friend: "The song was written by the late Gwen Guthrie who we lost to breast cancer. Gwen used to sing with me, Lani Groves and Patti Austin - we were in the same circle of background singers when I lived in New York and I remember when she wrote the song.  I always wanted to do it and it's my way of honouring Gwen."   Deniece says the two most challenging tunes were her reading of Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free" (which features Greg Adams) and one of the only covers ever done of Luther's "Never Too Much."  The vocalist shares, "I told Bobby (Eli) and Executive Producer Danny Weiss that I wanted to do Donny's song.  After I listened to his rendition again, I just broke down and cried. I thought, 'do I have the audacity to do this song?' I called the record company and told them I'd made a mistake.  They said, 'are you crazy?  No…you gotta do the song!'  It has a beautiful message of encouragement so I'm glad I did it.  As for the Luther song, well, he was a friend and certainly one of the best vocalists of our time.  I had no idea how hard a song "Never Too Much" was to sing - you can hardly sing and breathe on it. I tell people, when I get to heaven, I'm going to tell Luther how hard it was to do!"         Keeping with contemporary classics of the '80s, Deniece chose Kool & The Gang's "Cherish"  about which she says, "real love only happens on a few occasions and when we have it, we shouldn't take it for granted"; and George Benson's 1983 hit, "Love Me (One More Time)" which she declares is her favourite Benson song, given "something really special by George (Duke) who played on the track."  Rounding out this stellar collection are her own "Cause You Love Me Baby" and "If You Really Love Me," another nod to Stevie Wonder. "I sang this song so much as background for Stevie that at one time, I was singing it in my sleep!  I was very apprehensive about doing this song because he was and still is my mentor and I wanted to please him.  I think I've made him proud."  The choice for Deniece Williams to revisit one of her own classic tunes "Cause You Love Me Baby" was easy: "I've been very blessed as a songwriter and publisher to have so much of my music sampled.  I was going to re-do "Free" but then I thought it would be good to do something up-tempo because it's been sampled by so many other artists…and being the romantic I am, it seemed perfect for this project."  
 
Since the mid-'80s, Deniece has been busier than ever, recording a children's CD, Lullabies To Dreamland, appearing in the London cast of the pioneering musical "Mama I Want To Sing," producing and hosting her own radio program, "The Deniece Williams Show" for BBC Radio for almost ten years.  Purposely devoting much of her time to raising her four sons, Deniece says she made a conscious choice to limit her touring activities: "I've been doing maybe ten concerts a year and in recent years, I've really got into writing theatre pieces and developing film scripts with my older sons.  I felt it was time to test myself in other creative ways.  Now with my children grown, it's time for mom to be out there again!  I chose to stay at home and did only 10% of what I could have done.  Vocally, I think I'm stronger than I've ever been and it's time to get out there and do it.  I've been blessed with a fantastic audience and I'm always humbled by that.  My audience reminds me that this is what I'm supposed to be doing!"   For MORE, visit: www.myspace.com/deniecewilliams

Prosecutors Name Suspect In Jam Master Jay Slaying

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Tom Hays, Associated Press

(April 17, 2007) NEW YORK – Federal prosecutors have alleged that a low-level career bandit may hold the key to one of the more high-profile mysteries of the hip-hop world: Who killed rap pioneer
Jam Master Jay? In court papers, the prosecutors identify Ronald "Tenad'' Washington as the armed accomplice of a second unidentified gunman who shot Jay, whose real name was Jason Mizell, inside his New York recording studio in 2002. They say Washington also is a suspect in the 1995 fatal shooting of Randy Walker, a close associate of the late rapper Tupac Shakur. The papers were filed earlier this month in the federal trial of Washington, who was convicted in a string of armed robberies that occurred just after Jay was killed. Prosecutors declined on Tuesday to discuss the unsolved slayings. A Mizell family spokeswoman welcomed news that authorities had for the first time publicly identified a suspect. "We're relieved there's some information coming out, although we understand that it's not the full story," said the spokeswoman, Fern Yates. Washington, 45, has denied any connection to either the Mizell or Walker cases. In a sworn statement, he claimed hostile detectives had hounded him about the slaying of his "childhood friend" Mizell and other crimes. Washington's criminal record dates to 1982, and includes convictions for assault, drugs and grand larceny, authorities said.

During the 1980s, Mizell made rap music history working the turntables as Joe "Run" Simmons and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels rapped on hits like "King of Rock,'' "It's Tricky" and a top-40 remake of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way.'' Mizell was gunned down Oct. 30, 2002, at his 24/7 recording studio. According to a performer there, a man wearing a black sweat suit appeared, embraced Mizell, pulled out a .40-caliber pistol and opened fire. A first round missed Mizell and injured another person. A second bullet, this one fired from point-blank range, entered the left side of Mizell's head. The shooter vanished. For his part, Washington "pointed his gun at those present in the studio, ordered them to get on the ground and provided cover for his associate to shoot and kill Jason Mizell," prosecutors said in court papers. While being sought for questioning in the Mizell case, Washington fled and lived in various motels, authorities said. He held up several fast-food restaurants and other businesses with a pellet gun before his arrest in December 2002. Prosecutors claim Washington was among three men involved in a fatal car chase with another hip-hop figure – Walker – on Nov. 30, 1995. The suspect allegedly fired a gun out a car window, killing Walker and causing his minivan to crash. Walker had performed with the group Live Squad under the name Stretch. He also was known for producing several songs for Shakur, victim of an unsolved murder in 1996 in Las Vegas.

Corinne Becomes A Legend

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

(April 18, 2007) In the post-Don Imus climate that has misogynistic hip hop back on the front-burner, it's helpful to recall the genre's positive contributions.  After all, it was erstwhile thug posturing, ho-baiter turned corporate lackey Jay-Z who begat boastmeister Kanye West who begat
John Legend – the reigning prince of R&B. Usher and Justin Timberlake outdance and outsell the Ohio native, but Legend is an intelligent lyricist – prone to clever, risqué turns – and versatile musician whose adapted surname seems fitting for the ages. That's why it was puzzling to find the typically dapper, Grammy-winning former choir director acting like a commoner at his biggest headlining gig in Toronto, before a diverse near capacity crowd at the Hummingbird Centre.  Legend served up the highlights of Get Lifted and Once Again, along with soul covers and a Brazilian pop tune written for Sergio Mendes.  The thought-provoking, sophisticated material, delivered seamlessly on a simple, elegant set comprised of velvet curtains and icicle lights, deserved better packaging than the scantily clad female backup vocalists and his own boating casual attire.  Perhaps the 28-year-old singer-pianist stayed too long on the superstar circuit, opening for Kanye West, Alicia Keys and Usher, but the "C'mon y'all, hold ya hands up!" demands and queries to the audience about their purchases of his albums didn't suit him.

Those early moments would have been better served sorting out the distortion in the overwhelming sound, because the best part of his set was "Maxine's Interlude" – without the band. Accompanying himself on piano, Legend's intriguing lyrics and rich, beseeching voice were finally showcased.  But the stripes he lost were forgiven by having
Corinne Bailey Rae as the warm-up act. The British lass is truly deserving of the aggressive major label campaign that brought the former indie rocker to our shores.  Whether playing acoustic guitar, shaking a tambourine or singing acapella, Rae is a delight. Tow-headed and dressed in an diaphanous babydoll dress, her voice has a childlike quality that she evokes with her carefree manner.  But the 28-year-old is a serious musician, with great timing and sense of drama. She proved herself as a risk taker: not content to coast on hit singles, she introduce new songs, bowed to extended horn solos and rocked a Led Zeppelin cover.  Apparently Snoop Dog was trying to support the Rutgers basketball team when he said that rappers of his ilk would never speak badly of "collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports.  "We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh–, that's trying to get a n---a for his money," the rapper told MTV.

If that's what passes for a compliment from my generation of black male entertainers these days, I happily overlook Legend's sneakers and incongruous set design.  He was gracious enough to bring Rae out during his segment for a duet and rise from the piano to kiss her cheek when she left the stage.  Chivalry lives.

Wilkinsons Will Go Ahead With New Video For Song That Tackles School Violence

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter

(April 18, 2007) It is the kind of strange coincidence that sounds like a poor joke, but it isn't at all funny to Steve Wilkinson. He and two of his children, Amanda and Tyler, make up the country music trio
The Wilkinsons and today the group is hard at work at a local school on their latest music video "Nobody Died." Focusing on school bullying and violence, the song was inspired by the 1999 Columbine shootings, but it seems all the more ominous in light of Monday's massacre at Virginia Tech. "The timing flipped me out and it kind of pulled the rug out from under my feet ... I was in my basement finishing off my rec room when my video director called me. He said, `have you seen the news? You're not going to believe it.' "It's terrible, and it just made me sick," says Steve Wilkinson from his home in Belleville. "I tell you what, the song has been in our laps for 5 or 6 years. We recorded it once and it never came out because we didn't have the courage to do it.” Wilkinson says they were concerned that radio might not play the song due to its content, but after the Amish school shooting last year that resulted in the deaths of five girls, the group felt it was a necessary message to get out. He describes the song as reminiscence from the singer's point of view about what life was like when they went to school and how things have changed. It starts with these lyrics:

Back when I went to school, kid smoked and swore and bent some rules,

But didn't everybody? I mean almost everybody.

A fake I.D. bought a beer, had the devil's rock `n' roll ringing in my ear,

And people said that these kids got a problem here.

And I'm not saying that they weren't right,

But I'm crying and trying to understand what I'm seeing on the news tonight.

As a father with children still in school, Wilkinson understands the fear that parents are living with whenever these chilling incidents occur.  "I've got a daughter that's still in high school and I thought about the millions of fathers sending their kids to school these days. Nobody ever thinks that this type of thing would ever occur at any school." The Wilkinsons released their new album, Home, a little over a month ago, and the band applied for and received a grant to make the "Nobody Died" video.  Casting and plans have been in the works for weeks, Wilkinson says, adding Monday's incident did make them pause, but after speaking with their label and publicists, they decided to push forward.  "I just felt that we finally needed to shine a light on it," he says. "If one radio station and one person listens to it and thinks twice about maybe doing something drastic because they're being picked on or something went wrong in their world, it's worth the money, the time and it's worth the effort."

MUSIC TIDBITS

Deborah Cox is Coming Back!

By Jawn Murray, AOL Black Voices Columnist

(Apr. 16, 07)
Deborah Cox is finally readying a new album. The R&B and dance diva is set to deliver 'Destination Moon' to stores June 19, via Decca/Universal Classics. The covers record features Cox's renditions of classic tunes from the jazz, blues and big-band genres. The Toronto, Canada native, who now resides in Miami, also pays homage to Dinah Washington on the CD, offering renditions of Washington's "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes," "I Don't Hurt Anymore" and "Queen of the Blues." A one-time Clive Davis protégé, Cox's last album 'The Morning After' was released November of 2002 on Davis' J Records. Since then the singer has starred on Broadway in Elton John and Tim Rice's 'Aida' and starred in the David E. Talbert straight-to-DVD stage play 'Love on Layaway.' Cox also just wrapped production on the Fox film 'A Good Man Is Hard to Find' opposite Darrin Henson, Golden Brooks, Darius McCray and Hill Harper.

Lil Romeo To Play Hoops For USC Trojans

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 16, 2007) *17-old rapper/actor
Lil Romeo, the son of rap mogul Master P, has pledged to hang up the mic for several years and commit to playing basketball for the University of Southern California.  The 6-foot junior athlete at Beverly Hills High averaged 13.9 points and 5.6 assists per game, and reportedly impressed coaches last summer at the ABCD Camp in New Jersey. On Friday, Romeo and his best friend Demar Derozan visited the USC campus and told Coach Tim Floyd that they plan to play for the squad after they graduate next year.  Proud papa P, born Percy Miller, tells FOXSports.com of Romeo’s announcement: "It's great for him. USC is a great school and I felt like he made a great decision."  P coaches his son and Derozan on the P. Miller Ballers in the spring and summer. The founder of No Limit Records said his boy will focus solely on school and basketball for the next few years.  "He can be polishing up his film career at USC," Master P said. "When he's finished after four years at 21 or 22 years old, he'll hopefully be able to take either basketball to the next level or Hollywood to the next level. This is what it's all about. I'm just glad he has the opportunity to do both."  Derozan, meanwhile, is 6-foot-6, 215 pounds and ranks 46th nationally in Scout.com's list of the top junior players in the country.

Hip Hop Rocks Billboard

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 12, 2007) *Three of hip hop's best artists prove there's room at the top of the charts for everybody. Timbaland, Beyonce and Paul Wall enter the Billboard 200 at number five, six and eight respectively in the first week of sales. "Shock Value," Timbaland's solo project debut, sold 138,000 copies, according to Nielsen's SoundScan. The album features lots of guest appearances, including Nelly Furtado, Dr. Dre and 50-cent. The re-release of "B'Day," Beyonce's sophomore album, features five new songs including her collabo with Shakira. The deluxe edition disc sold 126,000 units. Paul Wall's "Get Money, Stay True" CD, his second project, pushed out 92,000 copies in it's opening week. Jermaine Dupri, Snoop Dogg and Juelz Santana are featured on his album.

Voice Mail’s New Album Let’s Go Set For April 18 Release

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(April 12, 2007)  *Dancehall group
Voice Mail’s new album Let’s Go is scheduled to be released on April 18.   The album boasts production work from the likes of Christopher ‘Langmann’ Birch, Donahue Riley, Donovan Bennett, Tony ‘CD’ Kelly, Delano Thomas from Renaissance, Rohan ‘Sno Cone’ Fuller, Nigel Staff and Danny Champagnie.  ‘This is a more mature album from our previous album Hey. We put a lot of work and effort into this album and we are confident that our fans will be pleased with the finished product’, said Oneil Edwards, a member of Voice Mail.  Let’s Go is the follow up to Voice Mail’s Japan gold selling disc Hey. It contains 18 tracks including songs such as I Need You, Clap Off, and Love.  Voice Mail recently returned to the island after performing on two shows in Japan. The three member group also played to sold out shows in Antigua, St. Lucia and the Bahamas. On April 7, the group performed in Boston.  In mid April the members will travel to the US East Coast for performances at three major colleges.  Voice Mail currently has two songs making moves on the charts. They are Flash Yuh Finger on the Renaissance label’s Quick Draw Rhythm and Dancing Fever featuring Cool Face.  The members of Voice Mail recently snapped up an endorsement deal with Prohibit clothing in Japan. The group was featured in advertisements last year for Bashco. Voice Mail is also one of the many entertainers featured in advertising campaigns for Cable and Wireless’ bmobile brand.

Ludacris: Still Getting Recognized

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 13, 2007) A gang of music artists including Michael McDonald, OutKast's Antwan "Big Boi" Patton, Bobby Valentino and Ex EnVogue diva Dawn Robinson will come together for the Atlanta Chapter Recording Academy Honors on April 26. The gala event, presented by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, will pay homage to
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Organized Noize, Trisha Yearwood and local recording studio owner Mike Clark. According to a spokesperson, The Recording Academy Honors Award was established to celebrate outstanding individuals whose work embodies excellence and integrity and who have improved the environment for the creative community.  Formerly known as the Heroes Awards, this annual gala supports the Atlanta Chapter's ongoing advocacy, education and professional development programs.  Island Def Jam chairman Antonio 'L.A.' Reid, who helped put Atlanta on the music industry hit-making map with LaFace Records in the 1990s, will be on hand as a presenter for the event, to be held at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel.

Rush Returns

Excerpt from www.thestar.com

(Apr. 17, 07) Hometown heroes
Rush will bring their Snakes & Arrows tour – named for the forthcoming album of the same name, due May 1 – to Toronto on Sept. 19 at the Air Canada Centre after a long summer slog around North America. Tickets go on sale exclusively to American Express cardholders tomorrow through Ticketmaster at $119.50, $75.50 and $55.50 apiece. The rest of the public can purchase them Friday through Ticketmaster or Saturday at the ACC box office. Eight-ticket limit per person.

::FILM NEWS::

Mahogany: Long Time Coming

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 13, 2007) They say good things come to those who wait. Well, the May 1 release of
'Mahogany' seems to be well worth it. The film is the last of Diana Ross' big picture movies that have made their way to home video format. ('Lady Sings the Blues,' and 'The Wiz' were released a few years ago.) In the ambitious follow-up to her Academy Award nominated breakout acting role as jazz legend Billie Holiday in 'Blues,' the former Supremes frontwoman reigns supreme in this dreamy romantic drama about an aspirational young woman with her sights set on something bigger. But, as many who have seen this film know; bigger is not better for Tracey Chambers, a fashion student and secretary who is transformed into the world's biggest black fashion icon of her time, Mahogany, before our eyes.

Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Perkins, and the late great Beah Richards help round out the cast of Motown founder Berry Gordy's directorial debut. And they all leave indelible impressions on the film-going experience. Like the masterful Diahann Carroll/James Earl Jones film 'Claudine,' 'Mahogany' was unfortunately lumped into the "Blaxploitation" category. But theses cinematic gems are far more superior in cinematography, scoring, writing -- and of course acting. And now 'Mahogany,' which takes its viewers from the rough and tumble streets of Chicago's south side to picturesque Rome, gets a new life with its disc debut. The film is arguably Ross' most formidable effort. It was the only one of her major motion pictures where she didn't sing, or portray a singer.

And she delivers. And coupled with Williams, who starred as Louis McKay in 'Blues,' the two 70s superstars ignite screen magic in what is considered a classic black love story. And who can forget the music from 'Mahogany'?

Its timeless theme -- officially titled 'Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To?)' became a #1 pop hit and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. With a movie running time of 108 minutes, the 'Mahogany' DVD includes a photo gallery as a bonus.

Keeping It Real

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic

(April 13, 2007) There's a moment in Toronto filmmaker Simonee Chichester's documentary Chichester's Choice in which two long-separated family members, a father and daughter, practically stumble upon each other in a Brazilian café.  In Jennifer Venditti's Billy the Kid, there's a long sequence in which an emotionally scarred 15-year-old boy finally works up the nerve to approach the girl he's been admiring from a painful distance. So deftly has the film aligned our emotional attachment to Billy, the ensuing exchange has all the raw, almost unbearable suspense of anything to be found in a contemporary Hollywood thriller. We pray that she will like Billy as much as we have come to.  Manufacturing Dissent, Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine's movie about the influence and controversial celebrity of Michael Moore, contains a surreal moment when the filmmakers are expelled from an event where Moore is speaking – on freedom of speech. These are just three of many such moments to be witnessed in this years
Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, which opens Thursday and runs until April 29, and they each provide dramatic evidence of what separates non-fiction movies from their scripted counterparts: instances of raw, on-the-fly actuality.

The largest event of its kind in North America, the Hot Docs festival has become one of the fastest-growing cultural events in the city.  For Sean Farnel, the festival's director of programming, this spurt in popularity – both among the public and the hundreds of international professionals who attend – corresponds with both a general resurgent interest in the form and the documentary's own growing vitality as an alternative to the carefully managed fictions dominating the mainstream. "We're the largest documentary event in North America in terms of number of films and public audience," says Farnel, "and generally considered to be second in the world to IDFA,'' the annual documentary festival in Amsterdam.  "Obviously in Toronto we're seen as a large public film festival," he adds, "but what is less well known here is that internationally we're also regarded as an essential event for financing documentaries. That, and our Doc Shop, featuring over 1,500 titles, is an important market for buying and selling documentary. It's this combination of art and industry that makes us unique, especially in North America, in the doc festival context.  "Featuring more than 170 titles from Canada and around the world, Hot Docs experienced a 25 per cent growth in attendance last year, a leap that Farnel fully expects to be repeated this year. Asked to account for this, Farnel suggests documentary is fulfilling a need among viewers that's especially acute right now.

"We're following the same upwards trajectory that documentary in general has seen over the past five years," he says, "and hopefully contributing to it." He adds: "Feature documentaries are simply providing something essential that is lacking elsewhere in media and movie culture: deeper access and insight into current political issues, fresh storytelling techniques and eclectic, complex characters ... real people who are not otherwise being represented on our screens. "Ultimately, people go to the movies for emotional experiences. Documentary seems to be tapping into that desire in fresh and interesting ways.” Here’s a selective sampling of some of this year's highlights.

Billy the Kid: Jennifer Venditti's portrait of Billy, a keenly intelligent and preternaturally sensitive 15-year-old with self-described "issues," is an extraordinarily affecting study in the life of an outsider. Following Billy as he cycles through the quiet streets of his small town, talking about music, love and the frustrating gap between imagination and reality, the film invites you to see the world his way. As quietly inspiring as it is genuinely heartbreaking, Billy the Kid is an act of passionate empathy. (April 20, 9 p.m., Bloor; April 22, 4:45 p.m., ROM.)

Campaign: The chronicle of first-time parachute candidate Kazuhiko Yamauchi's gruelling campaign for a city council seat in the Japanese city of Kawasaki, Kazuhiro Soda's Campaign is about both the universal tribulations of electoral politics – elation, fatigue, compromise, humiliation – and the specific codes dictating the proper rules of conduct in this culture. In attempting to strike the right balance between appealing to a largely indifferent constituency and an often authoritarian party, our man on the stump often looks more like a slave on a forced march than a potential leader charging the horizon. (April 27, 9:45 p.m., Royal; April 29, 6:45 p.m., Al Green.)

Chichester's Choice: Toronto filmmaker Simonee Chichester's first film is about her search for the father who walked out of her life more than 20 years ago. Traveling from here to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to pick up a trail now covered by thickets of remorse, resentments and confusion, Chichester embarks on a journey that's as much about solving her own sense of unfulfilled identity as it is finding her dad. Emotionally potent and sometimes painfully honest, Chichester's Choice is also a compelling case study in the legitimacy – in certain contexts – of documentary as a first-person form. (April 24, 9:45 p.m., Royal; April 28, 5:30 p.m., Al Green.)

Forever: The legendary Peré-Lachaise cemetery in Paris is full of prowling pilgrims, and filmmaker Heddy Honigmann is following closely with her camera. Mostly concerned with those who come to pay their respects to the many artists buried there – Proust, Chopin, Modigliani, Yves Montand, Jim Morrison – the film is ultimately about art as the ultimate confirmation of immortality. If the spirit lives on, it's in the senses it stirs. (April 27, 9:30 p.m., Isabel Bader; April 28, 5:15 p.m., ROM.)

In the Shadow of the Moon: What begins as a slam-dunk boomer nostalgia trip ends up as a fascinating metaphysical inquiry into the relationship between the body, the spirit and the universe. A movie about those two dozen select human beings who have actually looked at the earth from the surface of the moon, David Sington's film combines some electrifying archival footage with vivid first-person testimonies and, ultimately, some genuinely revelatory thoughts on what it all meant. Apparently, Stanley Kubrick was even closer than we thought. (April 19, 9:30 p.m., Isabel Bader; April 20, 4 p.m., Isabel Bader.)

Last Call at the Gladstone Hotel: A terrifically astute, conscientious and engaged work, Derreck Roemer and Neil Graham's movie about the five-year struggle to gentrify the formerly dilapidated Parkdale landmark (the city's oldest operating hotel) catches Toronto in the thick of its transitional awkwardness. Trapped between commerce and community, the hotel's various developers and owners find themselves constantly confronted by the establishment's status as a last-chance home for the otherwise homeless. As social history it's fascinating, and as a comment on hipster T-dot – especially when the art crowd collides with the regulars – it's painfully incisive. (April 22, 6:30 p.m., Bloor; April 28, 4:15 p.m., Bloor.)

Lovable: For anyone who's seen either of Alan Zweig's previous feature documentaries – either the one about obsessive record hoarding (Vinyl) or chronic crankiness (I, Curmudgeon) – it will come as no surprise to learn that the mercilessly self-excavating filmmaker has had trouble of the female variety. All the more remarkable then is Lovable, in which the rumpled, gravel-voiced filmmaker takes his camera inside both the domestic and emotional interiors of a number of funny, articulate, lovely and (initially inexplicable as it may seem) single women. For someone who claims to have spent too much of his life living apart from women, he establishes a truly intimate and touching rapport with his subjects. One complaint women have about guys is that they don't listen. Maybe they should talk to more men who don't spend enough time their company. (April 23, 6:30 p.m., Bloor; April 28, 2:15 p.m., Isabel Bader.)

Manufacturing Dissent: The makers of this film spent years fruitlessly trying to get an interview with superstar lefty activist/filmmaker/author Michael Moore – whom we see blowing them off repeatedly – and it was probably this very vacuum that facilitated the development of something likely quite different from what was originally intended: a film about the Moore phenomenon, with all the contradictions, controversy and complications that entails. At its best when dealing with the treacherous intersection of politics and personality, Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine's Manufacturing Dissent features a number of heads –Noam Chomsky, Christopher Hitchens, Ralph Nader – speaking quite cogently on the paradox of a multi-millionaire/working-class hero. (April 22, 9 p.m., Bloor; April 24, 7 p.m., Royal.)

¿¡Revolución!?: At first glance an apparent paean to the aggressively populist socialist politics of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, Charles Gervais' ¿¡Revolución!? acquires welcomed nuance and complexity as it proceeds. Positing Chavez's policies as an example of a "revolution" conducted through peaceful democratic means, the film is as generous in its admiration of the "progressive" accomplishments of the Chavez regime as it is concerned about its future. The biggest problem: Hugo Chavez. (April 25, 7 p.m., Royal; April 27, 4:45 p.m., ROM.)

Scouts Are Cancelled: Watching John Stiles performing his poetry – which largely evokes his childhood growing up in Nova Scotia's rural Annapolis Valley – is like watching someone lost in a trance. He squeezes his eyes shut, channels the voices of his speakers and loudly emits the sounds of growling dogs, wailing sirens and non-verbal whoops of joy and despair. An original artist with an unsurprisingly obtuse relationship with the world, he has become the subject of a film – made by his close friend John Scott – that is both true to the poet's art and understanding of the person's idiosyncrasies. (April 25, 9:30 p.m., ROM; April 28, 7:45 p.m., Al Green.)

Seven Dumpsters and a Corpse: If you can get past the opening images of a son rather gleefully supervising the removal of his mother's decompositional fluids from the floor of the astoundingly overstuffed apartment where she died, Seven Dumpsters and a Corpse evolves into a kind of macabre family situation comedy. Along with his brother, Swiss filmmaker Thomas Haemmerli spends weeks excavating mountains of debris – including a virtual archive of 8mm home movies – accumulated by the mother neither sibling seems terribly sorry to see gone. But that's where the movie wins you over. By the time it's finished and the apartment is finally cleared, you have a much better understanding of that gruesome opening. (April 25, 9:30 p.m., Royal; April 27, 11:30 p.m., Bloor.)

Super Amigos: Here's a novel subject: Mexican activist wrestlers. Unfolding between smartly animated comic-book interludes, this portrait of several self-appointed superheroes (directed by Arturo Pérez Torres) is about pop culture enlisted in the service of politics – or is it the other way around? Whether it's Super Animal (an animal rights, anti-bullfighting activist), Super Gay (a gay rights champion), Ecologista Universal (a radical environmentalist) or Super Barrio (a crusader for urban tenants' rights), each of the film's subjects cuts an initially comic figure – as large men wearing colourful tights and full-head masks will. But when one begins to see how they get the job done – and inspire others to do the same – you may find yourself rooting right along. (April 23, 9:15 p.m. Al Green; April 28, 11:30 p.m., Bloor.)

Yoga Inc.: According to one subject interviewed in this smartly witty but grimly cautionary movie (directed by John Philp) about mass-market transcendentalism, yoga is now a bigger business than Coca-Cola. Superstar gurus are making untold millions, franchise studios are popping up like Starbucks in sweatpants and apparently there are legions of lawyers out there bringing suits against instructors daring to teach "patented" postures. Needless to say, this hardly seems the stuff of a serene way of life, but that's what you get when you take an ancient Eastern health practice and introduce it into Western consumer capitalism. Perhaps this is what John Lennon meant when asked about The Beatles' world-famous flirtation with transcendental meditation: "We made a mistake there." (April 21, 1:30 p.m., Bloor; April 22, 7 p.m., Royal.)

Hot Docs runs April 19-29. For details, tickets call 416-588-8362 or go to www.hotdocs.ca

Filmmaker Discovers Big City's Warmth While Producing Let's All Hate Toronto

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Goddard, Staff Reporter

(April 16, 2007) To illustrate how cold and alienated Torontonians can be, documentary filmmaker
Albert Nerenberg and his crew last summer boarded a Yonge St. subway train. The problem was: everybody turned out to be warm and friendly. "All these people ran up to us and said, `What are you doing?' And when we told them, they said, `Oh, would you like me to act really alienated?'" Nerenberg declined but tried elsewhere. He directed his lead actor, Rob Spence, to walk around with a paper bag over his head during the Nuit Blanche arts festival last September, pretending he was ashamed to be a Torontonian. Spontaneously, passers-by came up and hugged him. "The clearest, most undeniable proof that Torontonians are human, too," Nerenberg says. "It was quite a magical experience." The hugging scene shows up in Nerenberg's Let's All Hate Toronto, to be screened twice at this year's Hot Docs festival, which starts Thursday.

For most of the film, the camera follows Spence, as "Mr. Toronto," on a cross-country tour staging rallies for "Toronto Appreciation Day."  Secretly, Spence keeps track of how soon a local resident will say, "Toronto sucks." At one point, viewers are told that Montreal holds the record at 10 seconds. "We want to say at the end that, `No, Toronto doesn't suck,'" Nerenberg said in an interview on the weekend.  "I think the film kind of says that, but I'm not 100 per cent sure because Toronto does suck a little bit." Nerenberg is a Montrealer who moved to Toronto in the mid-1990s, bringing with him an inventive cinematic style and a sometimes madcap sense of humour.  He takes his Toronto theme mostly seriously, however, sympathizing with a view expressed in much of the country that the national news is Toronto-centric, and that hockey coverage tends to be undeservedly Maple Leafs-heavy. He also reveals that there is no truth to the old chestnut that UNESCO once declared Toronto to be the world's most culturally diverse city. "I think Toronto is not honest with itself," Nerenberg says in the interview. "Like the speed of the streetcar – how can they call it the Red Rocket?" Nerenberg and Spence had no trouble finding Canadians with an opinion about Toronto, from average citizens to such celebrities as Dan Aykroyd and Mike Myers. And, mostly, the opinion was negative, Nerenberg says.

"If I had made this movie 10 years ago, before 9/11, I don't think I would have looked as deeply," he says at the age of 44. "I would have come back with my bucket of rage against Toronto and thrown it on a screen. "But is Toronto Canada's greatest enemy? No. There are much worse things. "And I realized that my philosophy as a filmmaker has evolved, too. I used to be much more of an angry filmmaker. I'm more of a lover than a hater these days. I think ultimately this is a loving portrait of Toronto, although maybe tough love." Let's All Hate Toronto screens at the Hot Docs film festival on Friday, April 20 at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 28 at 6:30 p.m., at the Bloor Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W.

FILM TIDBITS

Sweet Henry

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 16, 07) Prime-time television hunk
Henry Simmons has landed his latest film project -- 'Sweetwater,' a drama about Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, the first African-American to play for an NBA team. Simmons should be a shoo-in for the project, since he earned a basketball scholarship at New Hampshire's Franklin Pierce College, where he earned his business degree. This was years before the tall, dark and debonair Stamford, Connecticut native made head turns as Detective Baldwin Jones on the ABC cop drama 'NYPD Blue.' Simmons, who turns 37 in July, currently stars in the James Woods-fronted CBS drama 'Shark.' On the big screen, the former 'Another World' actor starred opposite Queen Latifah in 'Taxi' and in Tyler Perry's 'Madeas Family Reunion.' Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss will play Abe Saperstein, the owner and founder of the Harlem Globetrotters who coached Clifton and sold his contract to the New York Knicks in 1950, 'Variety' reports. Kiddie rapper turned actor Lil' Romeo is on board to play the young Clifton for the production, which is set to get underway in the summer.

Oscar Winner Forest Whitaker Has Star On Hollywood Walk Of Fame

Source:  Associated Press

(Apr. 17, 07) LOS ANGELES (AP) -
Forest Whitaker snagged Oscar, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild trophies this year for his role as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland." On Monday he cemented his winning streak with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "I remember as a kid coming to the Walk of Fame. It was like a field trip and very exciting to us," said the 45-year-old actor-director at the ceremony for the Walk's 2,335th star. The honour represents "where I came from, and where I am going and hopefully where I am at right now," he said. Guests included Kiefer Sutherland, Angela Bassett and Whitaker's wife, Keisha, and three daughters, Autumn, Sonnet and True. The ceremony came the same week as the DVD release of "The Last King of Scotland," in which Whitaker portrays the despot under whose reign thousands of people were killed in the 1970s. Whitaker began his foray into films playing an athlete in 1982's big teen hit, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," after a back injury ended his budding college-football career. He went on to star in such films as Clint Eastwood's Charlie Parker biopic "Bird," "The Crying Game" and as a hulking assassin in "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai." His directing credits include "Waiting to Exhale" and "Hope Floats." Upcoming films for the actor include "Vantage Point" with Dennis Quaid and "The Air I Breathe."

Meanwhile, Back In Far Far Away

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(April 13, 2007) REDWOOD CITY, Calif.–Time to catch up with your ogre friend Shrek, his greenish bride Fiona, and their two men Friday, the yammering Donkey and the overreaching Puss in Boots. The filmmakers behind
Shrek the Third offered a sneak peek at their PDI-DreamWorks animation complex near San Francisco recently. Key voice stars Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas return, with Justin Timberlake headlining the newcomers as geeky teenager Artie. "You feel you've got a lot to live up to, man," Timberlake said about being the new kid in the Shrek world. "Every character is so good. When you come into Shrek, you definitely feel you have a lot to prove." The gang is joined by a gargantuan cast as the filmmakers take advantage of advances in computer animation to load up on supporting players, among them magician Merlin, Captain Hook, wicked witches, ugly stepsisters and four of the fairy-tale world's fairest princesses. Shrek the Third opens May 18.

Forest Whitaker Joins Denzel In ‘Debaters’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 13, 2007) *Two Oscar winners and a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright are now involved in the upcoming film “
The Great Debaters,” which tells the true story of a debate team at a small black college who went on to beat Harvard in the national debate championships.  Forest Whitaker has just signed on to join Denzel Washington in the Weinstein Co. film, whose script has undergone a rewrite by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. Whitaker, who nabbed the best actor Oscar for his role in "The Last King of Scotland," will play the father of one of the debaters and a rival to Washington's character, Melvin B. Tolsen.       In the 1930s, Tolson formed a debate team at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. The school was one of the first and oldest historically black colleges west of the Mississippi River. Tolson’s team went on to beat Harvard in the national debate championships. Oprah Winfrey, Kate Forte, Todd Black and Joe Roth are serving as producers for the film, which is set to begin shooting in mid-May in Louisiana. Washington is a two-time Academy Award winner for "Training Day" and "Glory."

Co-Stars Join Martin Lawrence’s ‘Better Man’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 13, 2007) *Joy Bryant, James Earl Jones and Cedric the Entertainer have been added to the cast of “
The Better Man,” starring Martin Lawrence as a successful talk show host who leaves Los Angeles to reunite with his family in the Deep South. Bryant will play a former contestant on “Survivor” and Lawrence’s high-maintenance friend who accompanies the TV host on his trip.  Jones will play Lawrence’s father, while Ced stars as Lawrence’s childhood rival.       Malcolm D. Lee is directing and Scott Stuber and Mary Parent are producing via their U-based Stuber/Parent banner, reports Variety.  In other Martin Lawrence news, Starz premieres the second season of “Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment Stand-up” on Wednesday, April 18, at 11:15 p.m. Taped before a live audience at the world famous Improv in San Jose, Calif., each half-hour is hosted by stand-up comic Doug Williams. The show is directed by Michael Bohusz known by many in the business from his work with “Comic View” with music provided by DJ Biz Markie.  Topics range from airport security to sex to obesity to cultural stereotypes and more as they take center stage to provoke, prod and tell it like it is in their own explosive urban styles.

Mike Tyson To Appear In Bollywood Promo Video

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - AFP

(Apr. 14, 07) Mumbai -- Former world heavyweight boxing champ
Mike Tyson will soon make his presence felt in India's Bollywood. Firoz Nadiadwala, who produced last year's Phir Hera Pheri (More Fraud) is set to finalize a deal with Tyson to star in a promotional video for his film Fool-n-Final. The action-comedy is to be directed by choreographer-turned-director Ahmed Khan, and will star Sunny Deol, Suniel Shetty and Shahid Kapoor. "We are in talks with Tyson. Some paperwork is left for the deal to be absolutely complete," Khan said. The boxer is scheduled to stand trial over drug charges in a U.S. court in August.

Canadian Actors Vote In Favour Of Deal

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - CP

(Apr. 14, 07) Toronto -- Canadian actors have voted 98.7-per-cent in favour of accepting a deal reached with producers. The vote follows the union's first-ever strike that lasted six weeks early this year. The agreement covers the terms and conditions of work for professional performers in all independent film and television production in Canada, except for British Columbia, which has a separate agreement.

EUR DVD Review: Freedom Writers

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(April 16, 2007) *When 23 year-old Erin Gruwell started teaching English at Wilson High in Long Beach, California in the fall of 1994, none of her freshman students expected her to last very long. Afterall, the rope of pearls around her neck was a sign that the fresh-faced newcomer was from the other side of the tracks. Erin soon discovered that her class was comprised of a collection of cast-offs, all underprivileged kids with special needs. Although they had already been labelled losers by an educational system which expected them to fail, the spunky newcomer decided that she would challenge that prevailing attitude. She began by having them read The Diary of a Young Girl, 13 year-old Holocaust victim Anne Frank's heartbreaking autobiography about the her family's ill-fated ordeal as they tried to hide from the Nazis. Gruwell had settled on this moving memoir because Anne was about her class' age when she started writing, and because she had managed to maintain an admirable optimism and sense of perseverance in far more dire circumstances than theirs. Lo and behold, the approach ultimately paid off, as the students were able to recognize parallels between Anne's and their own predicaments.  For full review by Kam Williams, please go HERE

::TV NEWS::

Kimora Lee Simmons: Finally Facing Her 'Reality'

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 11, 2007) Something I've been waiting for the past few years will finally see the light of day:
Kimora Lee Simmons on reality television. This morning, The Style Network announced plans to premiere a self-titled reality series fashioned for the ghetto fabulous fashionista. The show, with the working title of 'Kimora,' is set to debut this summer on the niche digital cable channel -- a spin-off of E! Entertainment geared towards young women. "Kimora Lee Simmons is simply a fascinating woman," said Style's Executive Vice President Salaam Coleman Smith, in announcing the show. "She is refreshingly blunt, absolutely honest and outrageously entertaining...the kind of woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. Nothing she does is small, nothing she says is insignificant and nothing she wants is unavailable."

Lee Simmons, currently separated from hip-hop music pioneer Russell Simmons, has become a formidable player in the hip-hop fashion business ever since being discovered at the age of 13 by designer Karl Lagerfeld. From her sensational modeling career, the St. Louis native is credited as being the only multiethnic woman to have a successful fashion empire and lifestyle brand which includes fragrance, cosmetics, beauty, and home collections.  With her Baby Phat brand -- a spin-off of her hubby's Phat Farm fashion empire -- the half-Japanese/half-African American clotheshorse has helped make the term "phat" a household name. She is also the author of the inspirational/lifestyle guide 'Fabulosity: What It Is and How To Get It' and established the Kimora Lee Simmons Scholarship Fund at her St. Louis alma mater, providing college tuition support for academically successful girls with financial needs.  TV viewers got a taste of Lee Simmons' 'fabulosity' via stints as a guest judge on an early season of best friend Tyra Banks' mega-successful 'America's Next Top Model' competition, and as a co-host of the short-lived 'Life & Style' daily talk show.

Reality TV-wise, she owned every scene she appeared in on MTV's popular 'Run's House,' and even was the subject of her own VH1 TV special with 'Inside/Out',' which chronicled her history-making fashion show at New York's Radio City Music Hall. What can we fans expect from the new show? Viewers are invited along for the ride as she leads her company to new heights of success, from product launches to press tours to high fashion events. Her adorable two daughters, seven year-old Ming Lee and four year-old Aoki Lee are also apart of the program. And of course the family's New Jersey estate. "This series is going to open a lot of women's eyes to the possibilities life has to offer, and all of us at Style are happy to be working with such an inspirational woman," Coleman Smith added. Can't wait for this.

Mo'nique: Still Doing Big Things

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 13, 2007) For the third season of her "full figured beauty pageant," super-sized superwoman
Mo'Nique is taking her plus-sized protégées to the City of Light. 'Mo'Nique's F.A.T. Chance: Paris' will officially kick off with multi-city casting calls in Los Angeles (April 14), Chicago (April 19) and Dallas (April 21).  Official casting details here. The Oprah Winfrey-co-founded network has also given viewers the chance to be a season three contestants with the launch of its online contest 'America Votes' earlier this month.

Following the national casting calls, five finalists will be flown to the City of Light where the comedic icon will lead them through a new series of boot camp trials that will test their character and challenge their own ideas of beauty. Culminating in a runway fashion show, the contestants will compete for the title of Miss F.A.T. (Fabulous And Thick) and a $50,000 cash prize in front of a panel of expert judges, all while ushering in a new era of models to the Paris catwalk.  A one-hour casting special will air on the Oxygen Network on July 21, followed by the July 28 two-hour special, which will redefine beauty in the world's fashion capital. "We're excited to partner with Mo'Nique once again," Oxygen's President of Programming and Marketing Debby Beece said. "She is such a trailblazer and truly unafraid to do the unexpected, which makes her completely on-brand for us. Filming this third special in Paris, a city always in the foreground for fashion and glamour, is such a unique idea. It will make the show's message of self-acceptance resonate even more strongly with our audience and her fans."

Mo'Nique, legally known as Monique Imes Hicks, serves as creator, host, and executive producer of 'F.A.T. Chance.'  Next week, she will serve as an etiquette overlord on VH1's 'Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School.'

Calling All Muslims

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Stuart Laidlaw, Faith And Ethics Reporter

(Apr. 17, 07)
Irshad Manji's mother is her inspiration. This needs to be understood before any meaningful discussion of her call for a radical rethinking of Islam is possible. “I like to see my mother as the hope for Islam, not me," says Manji, whose book, The Trouble With Islam Today, has been made into a television special called Faith Without Fear, airing Thursday at 9 p.m. on PBS and Saturday at 8 p.m. on Global. And it's not because her mother, Mumtaz Manji, has come around to her daughter's way of thinking and embraced a more flexible approach to Islam. She remains, as Manji likes to say, a "five times a day on the rug praying" Muslim.  Manji's writing, and the thousands of keynote address, speeches and interviews it has spawned, calls for a rethinking of Islam in the modern world to break the hold of those who use it to use it to promote their repressive ideas. But in the end, she says, if someone rethinks Islam, and rereads its holy book, the Qur'an, with a critical eye, and still opts for a conservative approach to her faith – as her mother has – that's just fine. That’s because it's the process of reinterpretation that's important, not the achievement of some predetermined theology, Manji says, stressing that true faith cannot be prescribed by others.

Muslims, she says, need to read the Qur'an for themselves and develop a personal relationship with the faith – rather than having it handed to them by their imams or in madressa schools. “There’s a difference between faith and dogma," says Manji.  Manji says her mother has gone through that process, reading and rereading the Qur'an. Mumtaz Manji has discussed and debated its meaning with her daughter and others over and over again. And, in the end, she remained a conservative Muslim, covering her hair in public and attending prayer at her mosque faithfully. Manji says that's fine, because her mother has decided on her own to be that sort of Muslim. Nobody is forcing her. Manji, however, is a different sort of Muslim. In her book and the new television special, which is part of U.S. public broadcaster PBS's week-long special America at a Crossroads, she calls for a return to the Muslim tradition of ijtihad, a process of independent thinking that she says would renew Islam for the 21st century. “It’s high time we re-interpret – not rewrite – the Qur'an," she says. That kind of talk has earned Manji a lot of enemies. Faith Without Fear, in fact, opens with an explanation from Manji that she must keep the location of her home secret, since she receives so many death threats. Her challenge to Muslims to re-interpret the Qur'an is seen as blasphemy by fundamentalists. The New York Times has dubbed her "Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare" for inspiring people to question some of the basic tenets of traditional Islam. Take, for instance, the Qur'an, which Muslims are taught is the final word of God, handed down to the Prophet Mohammed – and therefore perfect.

"This supremacy complex is dangerous," Manji says. It cuts off debate and leads to a literal interpretation of the scriptures. Jihadists, she says, are very adept at quoting the Qur'an to justify their violence, making other Muslims reluctant to criticize them for fear of being seen as questioning the perfection of the Qur'an.  "We're talking moderates here," says Manji, who saves some of her harshest criticism for liberal Muslims who do not speak out more against fundamentalists. The problem, she says, is that even moderate Muslims believe in the perfection of the Qur'an, which feeds a tribal mentality in Islam and allowed fundamentalism to take root as the mainstream of the faith. Liberal Muslims, she says, are in denial about this, and so fail to effectively challenge those who use Islam to promote terror. “They are saying to the fundamentalists, `We are not going to go toe to toe with you with bold new interpretations of the Qur'an.'  "She fears for the future of her faith, saying it won't survive if cannot endure debate. “It’s calcified, it's brittle, and it cannot stand up to questions," she says. That’s what Faith Without Fear is all about, she says. It picks up where the book left off, challenging Muslims not to be afraid to question some of the basic aspects of their faith. From her experience, the result could be good for all of Islam. Like her mother, she has found that questioning her faith has given her a new appreciation for Islam and a stronger understanding of the Qur'an. "My own faith has deepened since this journey began." The trick now, Manji says, is to convince more Muslims to take a similar journey.

The Greying Of Letterman

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press

(April 12, 2007) Is there a pet out there that can blow out 60 candles? Today,
David Letterman turns 60. In February, the host of The Late Show With David Letterman – along with his Canadian-born bandleader Paul Shaffer – quietly celebrated 25 years in late-night TV.  The fact that Letterman is reaching the big six-oh is no doubt sending a chill out to millions of baby boomers: sooner or later, they'll have to surrender the desk. Letterman's not the only big name turning 60 this year. Hillary Clinton, Billy Crystal, Arnold Schwarzenegger, O.J. Simpson, Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, David Bowie, Elton John, Burton Cummings, Ken Dryden, Farrah Fawcett, Rob Reiner and James Woods all hit the milestone in 2007. If you buy into the whole "60 is the new 40" thing, Letterman is an inspiration. He's survived quadruple bypass surgery, become a father for the first time in his mid-50s, has a fat contract that will keep him at CBS through 2010, looks as trim and fit as ever, and even finally made up with Oprah Winfrey. He hasn't lost his flirty if fumbling touch with the ladies. Earlier this week, Letterman asked Halle Berry if she would ever go out with "a really old guy." Berry looked at Letterman and told him he doesn't qualify. "You make 60 look good!"

Still, the death at 85 last month of original Late Night stooge Calvert DeForest (a.k.a. Larry "Bud" Melman) – the bumbling everyman who went back to the NBC days with Letterman – was just the latest reminder that an era has ended. Late Show semi-regulars Warren Zevon, Tony Randall and comedian George Miller have all died in recent years. Letterman has wisely moved with the times. He goofs about his "hairpiece," his heart scares and being a doddering dad. His moving, heartfelt response to the attacks of 9/11 in 2001 marked a turning point. No longer just a joker who jousted with the likes of Cher and Madonna, Letterman became a father figure. Suddenly, the man inside the Ed Sullivan Theater was the new Ed Sullivan, American's respected entertainment elder. That's just the kind of rep the young, cynical Letterman would have ripped to shreds. As engaged as he becomes interviewing contemporaries Tom Brokaw or Bill Clinton, it can be painful to watch him try to fake his way though 10 minutes with Tom Cruise. There are nights when he looks like he just wants to hurl himself into the "Will It Float?" tank. Fortunately, the Late Show writers and producers have ramped up the "live and dangerous" aspects of the show. This week, Letterman did a bit where stage manager Biff Henderson supposedly wrangled a stranger off the street to play a game show. When the man entered, lost, then stole the prize and fled the stage, he was shot in the back by security guards. "You hate to see that happen, Paul," Letterman deadpanned to Shaffer of the scripted scene.

Letterman's hero, Johnny Carson, was 66 when he said goodnight to Tonight in 1992 after a 30-year rein. Letterman will be 63 when his latest contract expires in 2010 – a year after rival Jay Leno is scheduled to hand off The Tonight Show to Conan O'Brien. Letterman earns a reported $31.5 million (U.S.) a year. In return, CBS gets close to four million viewers a night. While that number hasn't grown (Letterman has come second to Leno for 12 years), Letterman's core audience remains loyal. CBS chairman Les Moonves bristled last January when reporters at the annual winter press tour told him another network boss suggested CBS was losing money on Letterman. "Whoever said that is a (expletive) liar," said Moonves. "It's obviously making money for me because I'm not a stupid businessman." Neither is Letterman, who will likely downplay his birthday on tonight's show (Bruce Willis and magician Jason Randal are the scheduled guests). Hopefully, Hello Deli owner Rupert Gee will bake him a cake – easy on the cholesterol.

A Crowning Moment For King

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan, jaryan@globeandmail.com

(Apr. 13, 07) If it seems like
Larry King has always existed, it's because he has, in most of our lifetimes. On radio and then on television, the owlish little guy with the Brooklyn accent is a CNN fixture who somehow became the most famous TV interviewer in the world, with Larry King Live the prime pipeline of American culture. Larry probably isn't the most accomplished interviewer in broadcast history, but he's the most famous, and in the U.S., viewers still watch Larry King Live each night for the simplest of reasons: Larry gets the guests. All the big names submit to the non-threatening Larry King interview treatment, eventually, and they've been doing it for decades. Larry King Live still ranks as one of CNN's most-watched hours and it holds a respectable following in this country too, with ratings in the half-million- viewer range. Regular viewers already know Larry normally opens each night's phone-in segment with a Canadian caller. “Sarnia, Ontario — what's your question?” Large of head and rather slight of frame, Larry King, born Larry Harvey Zeiger, helped to create the modern TV interview and his creative canon includes sit-downs with Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Ronald Reagan, Barbra Streisand and dozens of others on the super-famous or famously deceased celebrity tier. Larry is 73 now, and still doing it every night. The legends come and go, but Larry lives on.

And has it been 50 years already? A full half-century has passed since Larry began his broadcast career — at a Miami radio station in 1957, when the regular announcer abruptly quit — and CNN is making a tremendous fuss over its most recognizable face in the week ahead. The all-news network has scheduled five nights of King-themed programming to mark the occasion. Airing each night in the Larry King Live time slot (CNN, Monday, April 16, to Friday, April 20, at 9 p.m. ET), the successive tributes are part of the network's “King-Sized Week.” And if you log onto the CNN website, you can purchase a new DVD of his most memorable interviews, and even enter a contest to win a pair of Larry's suspenders, worn by the man himself. And of course, the big names come out for the extended tribute to the King. On Monday, Larry is allowed the rare privilege of interviewing Oprah Winfrey. On Tuesday, Katie Couric switches places and asks Larry the questions. Wednesday's show is a two-hour profile — Larry King: 50 Years of Pop Culture — hosted by the handsome couple of CNN's Anderson Cooper and American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. On Thursday, former U.S. president Bill Clinton drops in for a visit, and on Friday, it's a Friars-style TV roast helmed by Bill Maher. And throughout the week, expect gushy pretaped kudos from every celebrity, past and present, who has ever sat down across from Larry. The sustained appeal of Larry King became evident, in some ways, when CNN brought him out for the TV Critics Tour in January. It was a highly interesting experience. Once current CNN president Jim Walton finished numbing the assembled press with his scripted spiel on statistics and viewer demographics, Larry took a beat, scanned the crowd, and then took over the show. It was a masterful performance from a canny old pro. As might well be expected, King knows how to work a room of journalists, particularly when most of them grew up watching him.

He was straightforward in recalling his original decision to sign with Ted Turner's still-fledgling news network in 1985. “Ted gave me a unique, three-year contract,” he said.  “At the end of each year, if either one of us was unhappy, we could get out. I knew the first night that I loved it.” Larry was appropriately folksy in his childhood memories of growing up with reclusive baseball legend Sandy Koufax (“Sandy was always very quiet, very much into himself”). Larry joked good-naturedly about his decision to abandon his formerly enormous eyeglasses (“My wife suggested one day that doesn't look real good. And you know, when wives suggest, it's not a suggestion.”). And he plugged that week's Larry King Live coup: An appearance by hot Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. “He's become a major force through the sheer energy of becoming a major force,” Larry said. What does that mean? Smooth and seamless patter is Larry's stock in trade, and he kept it going for most of the hour. He worked in a mention of the Larry King Cardiac Foundation. He talked about his ongoing presence in feature films; he has guest starred in more than 20 so far, always playing himself — the only CNN personality allowed the honour. Next up: A voice role in Shrek 3 and playing a bee, named Larry B. King, in Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie. “Doing films is a hoot,” Larry said. And when the inevitable question regarding retirement came up — his current CNN contract runs until 2008 — Larry was simply Larry: “I have no inclination to leave,” he said with a shrug of the suspenders.  “I don't know what I would do; I couldn't be idle. As Milton Berle used to say, ‘Retire to what?' I'm sticking around for a while, or as long as they still want me around.”

Hustle Takes Its Con On The Road To L.A.

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bridget Byrne, Associated Press

(April 16, 2007) LOS ANGELES–The man's well-defined profile, highlighted by a duck-wing sweep of greying hair, is sharply etched against the landscape of arid scrub and barren brown hills visible through the window. The call sheet for AMC's caper series
Hustle states that the location for this scene is "a Las Vegas diner." But, actually, Robert Vaughn – sleek and stylish as ever – is seated in the booth of a shabby coffee shop on the north-eastern fringe of the San Fernando Valley, where stunted palms edge a highway and railway track. Once TV's famed The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Vaughn stars as smooth-talking con man Albert Stroller in this co-production with the BBC. The slickly made series had been set in England but moves to Los Angeles and Las Vegas for the first and last episodes of its third season. Hustle airs in Canada on CBC Tuesdays at 9 p.m., although it is being pre-empted by the Stanley Cup playoffs. As "the roper," Stroller's job is to wrangle the marks. The victims are then taken for all they're worth by a sexy gang of British grifters, including team leader Danny Blue (Marc Warren), ``lure" Stacie Monroe (Jaime Murray), "fixer" Ash Morgan (Robert Glenister), and streetwise Billy Bond (rapper Ashley Walters). Producer Jolyon Symonds says the show deliberately aimed for "a slickness in a good way, not in a disposable way" and that audiences have responded to the charms and wiles of the hustlers, whose first rule of business is, "You can't con an honest man."

"There seems to be an evergreen, perpetual appeal about an honest rogue.... They are slightly dodgy, but you are still rooting for them at heart," says the British-based Symonds. "It's a load of Robin Hood-style morality, I suppose, in as much as we rob from the baddies, but the difference is we keep it!" says Glenister, grinning. "It's a piece of entertainment. It doesn't purport to be anything else. We don't pretend to be plumbing the depths of social wrongs." Until this season, all episodes were produced on sound stages in London's East End and on locations in the heart of the capital's financial district. But filming moved to southern California a few months ago – just in time for a late-autumn heat wave. Symonds says the stateside shooting "enhances the show because we are always giving the nod to and borrowing a lot of things from the best of American movie and TV shows, so it was a liberating and natural progression for us to film in America."

Of course, the warmer weather wasn't bad, either. Like the intrepid pro he plays, Glenister welcomed the relocation because it would "up the ante a bit" on the look and content of the show. "I think the stakes are a little bit higher here, perhaps because they (the hustlers) are dealing with people who can potentially do them a great deal more damage than perhaps they could in London," he says, referring to the shady gambling and oil tycoons now populating the plot lines. The first episode of the new season, which takes place in L.A., guest stars Robert Wagner – like Vaughn, a suave icon of American caper television, including It Takes a Thief and Hart to Hart. Wagner plays Anthony Westley, a wealthy movie memorabilia fanatic whom the hustlers try to sting into buying the Hollywood sign. Vaughn explains that the new season's last episode, set in Vegas, will have an added element of tension because the powers-that-be recognize Stroller "from the old days when I used to be a grifter and play against the house." But nobody wants to give away series plot twists, which on this show, Vaughn admits, allow for a little "winking at the camera" and occasionally rely on some suspension of disbelief by the audience.

"I think there is an overall feeling of being a story well told, but also it's not that serious and if you find some holes in the plot, don't worry about it, because nobody else does," says the 74-year-old star with a smile. Vaughn's career history makes his presence a win-win situation for a clever caper show like Hustle, and his fellow cast members know it. "This show does sort of pay homage to the best of '60s and '70s American television," Glenister says. "And to have one of the icons of that period involved is a great bonus for all of us."

TV TIDBITS

Jackson Family Members Bring Reality Show To CBS

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 12, 2007) *Reality show veterans
Jermaine and LaToya Jackson have joined forces with their brother Tito to bring a new “American Idol”-style competition to CBS. The three famous Jackson siblings are behind “Pop Dynasty,” which aims to find the next big superstar singing family. Jermaine is one of the project’s principal partners, while Jamie Foxx and his longtime collaborators Marcus King and Greg Shelton will serve as executive producers along with Triage Entertainment's Stu Schreiberg. While the format of "Pop Dynasty" is still being ironed out, the show is expected to include the standard performance elements, as families try to demonstrate why they can be the next Jackson 5.  The show is also expected to spotlight the personal aspects of the families, exploring how they interact as a group.  LaToya is coming off of another CBS reality show, "Armed and Famous." While the series about celebrity cops tanked in the ratings, Jackson was singled out by CBS execs the program’s most popular element, reports Variety.   Jermaine recently placed second on Britain’s “Celebrity Big Brother.”

::THEATRE NEWS::

Aggressive Live-Theatre Entrepreneur Aubrey Dan Takes On The Mirvishes

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(April 18, 2007)
Aubrey Dan sits in a box at the Elgin Theatre and looks down at the rows and rows of seats. They may be empty now, but he intends to fill them very soon. "My father started in the back of a garage on Clinton Ave. and wound up with a world-wide pharmaceutical business. Can I do the same thing with the theatre?" It's a question Dan begins answering on Monday afternoon, when the Elgin will be packed with media, well-wishers and a whole plane-full of heavy-hitters from New York he'll fly up on a private plane to mark the official launch of Dancap Productions Inc. He plans to announce a series of six major musicals that he'll be presenting in Toronto next season – an event that marks the first real challenge to the dominance Mirvish Productions have held over the city's theatre scene since the demise of Livent in 1998."I have the greatest respect for the Mirvishes," Dan is quick to make clear, "but for this city to have a healthy theatrical life, they need a real competitor."

A grin lights up his usually serious face. "I genetically have a disposition against a monopoly ... unless I own it."  David Stone, the producer of Wicked (which the Mirvishes presented) and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (one of the shows on Dan's list) shares that feeling. "Competition is good for everyone," he said from his office in Manhattan, "it's good for the shows, it's good for the consumers, it's even good for the Mirvishes. It's not healthy for one organization to be the gatekeeper of what a city does or doesn't see."  David Mirvish was unavailable for comment.  Dan's playbill supposedly includes The Drowsy Chaperone, Jersey Boys, Avenue Q, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, 3 Mo' Divas and the Cameron Mackintosh revival of My Fair Lady. (This will mark the first Mackintosh show in the past 20 years, other than The Phantom of the Opera, which has not been presented in Toronto by Mirvish Productions.)If Dan talks more like a businessman than an artist, he comes by it honestly. His father, Leslie Dan, is a billionaire who made his fortune through generic drug manufacturing, but as his son points out, "he came here from Hungary in 1948 with $5 in his pocket and didn't speak a word of English.”In 1954, he graduated from the University of Toronto's school of pharmacy and years later, he donated $15 million to the school. The current pharmacy building is named after him.

Aubrey, the middle of three children, was born on Oct. 4, 1963."I was born in Don Mills," he affirms proudly, "I'm a true Torontonian, through and through.”Although Novopharm, the company his father founded in 1965, was expanding at amazing speed, "we grew up strictly middle class," Dan recalls. "Wealth was never an issue. We were focused on building up the company. After studying at the University of Western Ontario, Dan joined the family business full time at the age of 22."Since I was working for my father, I had to prove more than anyone else. I was given a territory that the sales rep before me hadn't done too well in," he remembers. "I had one major competitor who had a 70 per cent market share and within eight months, I flipped it the other way.”Does Dan think he can do the same thing with the theatre scene here in Toronto? "I learned a skill set in my 20s that's stuck with me today," he says confidently. "It was based on simple principles. You treated people well, you got to know their needs and you gave them a good competitive offer. I believe it works in show business as well as it worked in the pharmacy business. "Dan's interest in the performing arts began around the time he met his wife Marla in 1988. (They have two children, Alyse, 14 and Myles, 9.)"Our first date was to go see the comedy B-Movie: The Play at CanStage," grins Dan. "I wound up falling in love with Marla and the theatre at the same time."

He admits to being a fan of all the mega-musicals that played Toronto throughout the next decade and spent three years co-producing shows with CanStage (Urinetown, Ain't Misbehavin' and Hair), but then felt that "the time had come for me to move on from the not-for-profit sector. "Dan began to invest in Broadway shows to serve notice to the New York producers that, "I was ready to share the gamble with them." He started quietly at first, with what he calls an "under the radar" share of Jersey Boys. Then he grew bolder with the amount he put into The Wedding Singer and finally, on the recently opened The Pirate Queen, he characterizes his contribution as "significant" and Broadway gossip puts it well into seven figures. The New York producers appreciate the chances Dan is taking and have already accepted him as one of their own. Matthew Rego from The Araca Group (Urinetown, Wicked, The Wedding Singer) enthused that "the arrival of Aubrey Dan as a major producer in Toronto is a boon not only for that great city but for the industry at large. Aubrey has been diligently building a great team, strong industry relationships and legitimate theatrical experience. As a result, Broadway has gained a terrific new partner. "And while Dan's focus for now is on Broadway product, that's not where he wants it to end.”I want to return to the energy that was here in the 1990s," he says, "when Garth (Drabinsky) was producing all those shows that went from Toronto to Broadway. We have great artists here in this city and it's the human capital that's the most fascinating.  "Still, Dan needs a place for all these plans. His eyes are set on the Toronto Centre for the Arts in North York, whose mainstage theatre sits dark the vast majority of nights every year. However the centre's board of directors is not only treading timidly around Dan's proposal to manage the facility, they are even hesitating over allowing him a six-month rental to present Jersey Boys, one of the biggest hits on Broadway. The board has deferred a decision until May 15."They tell me they're doing a risk assessment," sighs a clearly exasperated Dan. "I'm trying to figure out just what risk they're assessing.”Sure there are challenges, but if you bring the best shows and promote them properly, you're going to win. "If you produce it, they will come."

Most Mirthful Music, Made From Scratch

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(April 15, 2007) They say the neon lights are bright on Broadview.  These days, that's absolutely correct, because if you head a few doors east down the Danforth, you'll find proof positive that musical theatre in Toronto is alive and well far from the downtown Entertainment District. At
Bad Dog Theatre Company, Friday nights at 10 are being devoted for the month of April to something called Showstopping Number, which is nothing less than a fully improvised, hour-long, song-and-dance spectacular, presented from scratch every week. "We love musicals and we love improv," explains Jan Caruana, the show's producer/director, "so we thought we'd just combine the two."

At last Friday night's show, it was obvious that Caruana's band of crazies had found an audience for their unique vision. The 60-seat theatre was filled with a wonderfully eclectic crowd that included everything from teenybopper showtune fans (who were singing "Popular" from Wicked before the show started), to a quartet of 60-something tourists from Indianapolis who had seen a poster downtown and thought "it sounded like a fun way to spend an evening." They were right. And at $10 a ticket, it's also one of the best entertainment bargains in town. Everything about the show changes from week to week. The company has 10 members but they don't always all show up. Last Friday, I saw seven of them – every single one hilarious. Their inspired musical director, Sean Fisher, is the one constant. Last Friday he stomped onstage, wild-eyed, shaggy-haired, with a number painted on his chest in imitation of Jean Valjean from Les Misèrables. He led the cast through the evening's one prepared piece, a nose-thumbing ditty he wrote to say that since so many local musicals have failed, they've decided to create one where "they open and close the show on the same goddamn night."

To hilariously apt choreography by M.J. Shaw, the company strut their stuff in an over-the-top style that gets you ready for what's to come next. And that's where the audience plays their part. All that the actors seek are two suggestions from the crowd: an occupation and an event. From nothing more than that, they create the rest of the musical on their feet. Caruana says that previous weeks have included The Bodybuilder's Funeral and The Dentist's Bar Mitzvah. This time, we got The Paramedic's Christmas. It's fascinating to see how this works. The first five minutes or so are a bit on the slow side, as you see the actors figuring out their characters and laying down seemingly innocuous bits of business they will turn into solid-gold running gags later. This time out Carmine Luccarelli, for example, played Devon, the lead paramedic, and he mimed taking off his helmet in the first scene. Then, either intentionally or accidentally, he forgot and repeated the action a minute or so later.

"Gosh," said the wide-eyed, handsome Rob Hawke as his buddy, "You're really careful. Do you always wear two helmets?" Besides quickly riffing into a series of jokes about how many jockstraps he wore as well, Luccarelli milked that joke all night and every time he took off yet another imaginary helmet, the crowd roared. Where was the music, you ask? Ah, it never stopped. Fisher was hunched over his electronic keyboard, pounding away like The Phantom of the Danforth, listening to scenes and trying to insinuate appropriate rhythmic and melodic riffs the cast can pick up on. It's amazing how well they do it. We're not just talking about some simple ballads with "moon-June" rhymes. Nope, these guys invent whole production numbers, complete with elaborate staging and four-part counterpoint. They're quite a group. Doug Morency kept things moving as a wacko narrator, while Sandy Jobin-Bevans offered yet another diabolical turn on the square-jawed dumbos he punctures to perfection.  Rica Eckersley radiated wide-eyed terror as the "girl with the hole in her heart" whose medical condition everyone keeps forgetting. Rob Baker was delectably slimy as her dad and Jamillah Ross had diva power to spare as the vodka-swilling, über-evil stepmother. Of course, not every moment worked and there were times when you could practically feel the company putting electrodes on a scene, stepping back and yelling, "Clear!" But the hits far outweighed the misses. I had to bow down in gratitude to a show where a love song features the following ad-libbed lyric: "I've got a feeling you're a keeper. We'll say `F--k you!' to that old grim reaper." Showstopping Number continues through April on Friday nights at 10 p.m. at the Bad Dog Theatre, 138 Danforth Ave. For tickets call 416-491-3115 or go to www.baddogtheatre.com

::DANCE NEWS::

Baker Meets The Hip-Hop Era

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(April 12, 2007) When she was just a little girl, her mother would sit her down in front of videos such as Imitation of Life, To Sir With Love, any movie with Dorothy Dandridge in it, and films that featured Josephine Baker. "I've known about Josephine Baker since I was 6," says
Monique Moses, dancer, dramatist and choreographer. The 24-year-old theatre graduate of York University has a lot of balls in the air, but she has her eye firmly fixed on the themes of the stories she's beginning to tell.  Tonight, as a participant in rock.paper.sistahz festival 6, Moses will present a dance work, Que Sera, and give a reading from the text of a one-woman show, The Banana Dance, in the theatre at the Palmerston Library. The title refers of course to Baker's famous 1926 appearance at the Folies Bergère, performing in nothing but a string of bananas tied around her waist. Moses may be working in different disciplines, but there's an attitude and a question that connects the two pieces she has created. Growing up the youngest of three sisters in London, Ont., Moses didn't have many positive images of black women in front of her. "BET (Black Entertainment Television) was all I knew about what it meant to be black. And I never related to it. I just didn't understand it," she says. "The only thing that connected me to being black was being able to dance."

At soon as she could walk, it seems, she was dancing to music videos on TV. At 8 she entered an air band and lip synch contest; in high school she started a dance group.  Choreography was what she wanted to do, but not the way anyone else was doing it. Hip hop circles weren't very original in London; she found it all a "bit Britney Spears-ish." At York, she attended Glendon College for theatre and took some film theory courses at the Keele campus. Her graduating year play was called Colour-coded Lullabies and Other Songs That Black Girls Sing. She pieced together excerpts from black women playwrights and wrote her own text for the transitions. Right after that play was performed in 2006, Moses was back in London and wanted to get into the annual Fridge theatre festival. So she turned to Josephine Baker, whom she'd researched for a paper in a French course at Glendon.  "It was the 100th anniversary of her birth," says Moses, and it was time to express through this amazing dancer, who led a very unconventional life, what it means to be a black woman when roles are served up to you through hip-hop culture. She set it in Baker's dressing room, where the performer was neither entirely her public persona, nor entirely offstage either. In private, Baker adopted orphans, acted as a special agent for France during WWII and was active in the American civil rights movement. Que Sera, from the song that begins "When I was just a little girl/I asked my mother what I would be," is a dance narrative, done entirely in dance, mime and music. Moses plays "a black female individual knowing what she likes, but not knowing there's anything wrong with it." She encounters reggae, hip hop, rejects the overly sexualized image of black women of the BET screen and finds out, in a jazz number, that you have to look inside yourself to find your identity.

Moses enlisted her friends for Que Sera, each of them a dancer with whom she's danced or taken classes, at studios such as DLM, Do Dat and Street Dance Academy: Liana Lewis, Kay Ann Ward, Miranda Liverpool, Monique Armstrong and Gigi Semajuste. She asked both Ward and Semajuste to contribute some choreography. Moses' favourite dance style right now is House, a form harks back to '70s disco dancing and contains elements of Latin dance, break-dance, hip hop and gymnastics. The Banana Dance addresses issues raised in Que Sera. Moses has Baker regarding life today. "I make comments about little girls looking at BET culture, saying, `I don't care if my breasts are real and my booty's real. Nobody really cares about that nowadays as long as they're big.'"  Baker revolutionized dance; she made the concert stage and the cabaret stage one and the same. "She was a symbol of beauty and she was an adored entertainer, but she was riding those stereotypes of being a heathen and being so sexual," says Moses. "In the end, she expresses guilt: `Did I do wrong to my daughter's daughters by leaving that stance – the banana dance?'"

Entranced By Creole Carnival

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

Contemporary Voices
(out of 4)
Choreography by Milton Myers, Gabby Kamino and Patrick Parson Until tomorrow at the Premiere Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W. 416-973-4000

(April 13, 2007) Milton Myers' latest contribution to the
Ballet Creole repertoire gives the company a clean new look. In Contemporary Voices, Philadanco's resident choreographer seamlessly merges traditional West African jump-up dance with lean, contemporary moves.  The broad black-and-white stripe motif in the costumes accentuates the long lines of the dancers' outstretched limbs. The music of Famoudou Konaté is an infectious mix of complex West African rhythms. In some sections of the dance the music sounds like drumming on the streets of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. This apprehension is a clue to the fusion of old and new world styles that continues to enhance contemporary music and dance. Particularly eye-catching was a duet between South African Mafa Makhubalo and Natassia Parson.  Book-ending the show is Patrick Parson's Ritual, from 1997, in this instance dedicated to the memory of Katherine Dunham. Parson trained with the pioneering African American dancer and choreographer who died last year one month shy of her 97th birthday. Ritual is described as "a spiritual journey of the transformation of one's being into an African deity." That much was clear from Parson's invocation of Ogoun, god of fire, iron, hunting and war, as he joined the musicians onstage. The Caribbean percussionists sit or stand to the side, as if at a feast or a wedding. The dancers perform in dazzling white traditional skirts and pants, the men shirtless. From a slow ritualistic beginning and the rising up of a female dancer lying under a white sheet, the piece grows in speed and volume. By the end it looks like the scene of a well-rehearsed outdoor carnival dance. A viewer could go into a trance just watching Ritual.

In the middle were two unremarkable works by Gabby Kamino. Suspended: Desire in Time is a duet set to music of Godspeed You Black Emperor, played at a deafening volume. Sharon Harvey does nothing much to stir the embers, and even Kevin A. Ormsby has trouble making this work look the slightest bit erotic.  Kamino's new work, St. Elsewhere, is set to songs from the Gnarls Barkley CD of the same name. Many of the women dancers in this ensemble work – little more than a scene from a high school dance prom – appear to be not very accomplished students.  The men, by contrast – with the exception of artistic director Parson – are looking very fine. Byron Beckford, Sean Smith, Ormsby and Makhubalo keep one's attention on the stage with some outstanding leaps into the air and vigorous, articulated moves.  Beckford seemed to be flying at one point. Makhubalo has a smile that projects to the rear of the auditorium; Smith stole the show in the last part of Ritual, and Ormsby appears to turn his willowy arms and hands in two different directions at once.

In The Palm Of Her Hands

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

Sign Language
(out of 4)
By Denise Clarke. Until Sunday at Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. 416-504-9971

(April 12, 2007)
Denise Clarke has taken physical theatre to an advanced level. An associate artist with Calgary's One Yellow Rabbit, she has been with the company since 1983. Several of the works she has choreographed and played in have come to Toronto. But until now – with an invitation from Factory Theatre's Performance Spring festival – we haven't seen any of her solos. Sign Language is a simple title for a show that operates in complicated ways.  Clarke comes onstage striding back and forth in chunky heels, wearing white ankle socks and a black dress that shows off her bare, long legs. She is smiling to herself, making absurd, exaggerated gestures, like the T for "time-out." After a greeting to the audience, she begins: "I am healthy ... I'm not drinking as much ... No more junk food in this temple ... I am a concerned and empowered member of my society." All through this narcissistic soliloquy she is signing: hands rolling over each other means "productive"; fingers wiggling over the abdomen means "anxiety." And then the bottom line: "But I still worry," she says, tracing little circles on her forehead with two index fingers. Her goofy smile shifts to a look of panic.

The music comes on, and it is a profoundly solemn: Arvo Pärt's Miserere. As the hour progresses, Clarke goes through countless sudden changes, from sublime to ridiculous to more ridiculous.  She has the audience in the palm of her hand, then she walks into the bleachers, involving the viewers in a terribly risky bit of mime. It would be unfair to reveal too much of what goes on in Sign Language, for it would remove the element of surprise. There's a crazy passage where Clarke mimes a struggling, paranoid female going for a shopping bag, contorting herself into unflattering positions. The bag unfolded ironically reveals the Winners logo. You're never sure where she's going to go next, from a straightforward, graceful ballet solo, to Martha Graham modern movements, to clutching her bare bum cheek and scratching it. Clarke seems to be performing, being herself and rehearsing all at once.  This character gets distracted easily, pausing at the end of a swan-like arabesque to do a little hip-shaking jive, like a girl alone in her kitchen when her favourite pop tune comes on the radio. But the music by now is Pärt's Sarah Was Ninety Years Old, still very solemn. Most dramatically, Clarke removes her clothes, turning her Calvin Klein sleeveless dress into a Madonna shawl over the head, a pair of dog's ears, a Muslim veil revealing only the eyes. Then the undergarments go, until she's down to nothing but a thong. Nudity onstage has never been so funny.  The lighting almost constitutes a partner in this performance. There's a trick done with mirrors that turns the audience's stare onto itself.  Solos like this can't be performed forever – even by one as agile as Clarke. Sign Language is a must-see-now.
 

::OTHER NEWS::

Radio Shock Jock Fired

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Beth Gorham, Canadian Press

(April 13, 2007) WASHINGTON–U.S. shock jock
Don Imus was fired from his CBS radio show yesterday after an emotional national debate about his latest racial slur. Everyone from the U.S. president on down has had something to say about Imus, who called female basketball players from Rutgers University "nappy-headed hos" last week. "There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of colour trying to make their way in this society," CBS president Leslie Moonves said in New York. "That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision." "Ho" is short for "whore." And the word "nappy" has been used since slavery times to malign the hair texture of many people of African descent. Several major advertisers dropped the show as pressure mounted from politicians and the public to fire Imus. Imus acknowledged again yesterday that his comments about the team, which competed in the NCAA championship last week, were "really stupid."  The broadcaster had initially been suspended for two weeks beginning next week. Ethnic and sexist slurs are nothing new for Imus, who's been in the business for 30 years, made the National Broadcaster Hall of Fame and has long attracted top pundits and politicians to his show.

But what makes this different is his target, said Roy Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute. "That has led to his downfall – a group of talented and charismatic student athletes who have earned public support," said Clark, who's been listening to Imus for decades. "They have emerged as the bright lights of this nasty business. Imus seems puny in comparison." The players, eight of whom are black, held a news conference this week to say they were deeply offended by Imus. "I think that this has scarred me for life," said Matee Ajavon, a junior guard.

Hill Harper: A Man For The Masses

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 18, 07) Get a load of
Hill Harper. The 'CSI: NY' hunk is continuing to make history with his critically acclaimed literary debut, 'Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny' -- which arrives in mass market paperback this week. Published by Gotham Books, the tome, with its inspirational and motivational message to black men, became a runaway hit when it debuted last April.  With a mission to dispel the stereotypical pop culture images of success and help youth find the true paths to achievement through education, community, and self-respect, the book landed on the best-seller's list of 'The New York Times,' 'The Washington Post,' and 'Essence' magazine, respectively. And has over 100,000 copies in print. And they say black men don't read.

Well think again. In 'Letters,' Harper -- who has starred in an array of films including Spike Lee's 'Get on the Bus,' 'He Got Game,' the poignant drama 'The Visit' and TV films 'Lackawanna Blues' and 'Mama Flora's Family' -- tackles young men's deepest fears, shows them they have real options, and urges them to find their passion in order to affect positive change in their lives.  Presidential candidate Barack Obama, hip-hop veteran Nas, tennis champ Venus Williams, screen siren Gabrielle Union, football star Curtis Martin, basketball star Jason Kidd, dirty south rapper David Banner, and even west coast hip-hop icon The Game all contribute to this worthwhile project, where no subject is off limits. About the book's inspiration, Harper explained to The BV Newswire: "I get invited to speak at schools all the time because of my educational background and so I accept those offers. And the more I did it, the more I got a chance to speak to young people --particularly young men-- and I started to realize that these young men, by and large, do not have any elder male role models that they can ask questions of and look to for answers. And I had to look at myself as a black man and say 'Where do I fit into it?' and 'What can I do?' and the book was the clearest thing for me."

Well, he's onto doing something great. But that's what can be expected from an Iowa City native who holds academic degrees from Brown University, Harvard Law School, and the Kennedy School of Government. "We are blowing that myth out of the water," he says of the publishing industry's staunch stance that black men don't read. 'Letters' has won the American Library Association's Best Book for Young Adults 2006 and the NAACP's Best Debut Author and Best Book for Youth/Teens 2006.  In between filming the Codeblack Entertainment film 'A Good Man is Hard to Find,' Harper will continue his grassroots efforts to promote the book, with upcoming scheduled appearances in Houston, Atlanta, New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, and more.  "Being multi-purposed, or multi-purposeful, is what I'm working on," he added, elaborating "the idea of trying to affect change in different areas where I have a voice or an ability to affect change."

3 Canadians Up For $140,000 Literary Prize

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner, Publishing Reporter

(April 12, 2007) Three of Canada’s most celebrated writers - Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro and Michael Ondaatje - are among the 15 nominees for the
2007 Man Booker International Prize.  Launched in 2005, the $140,000 prize is presented biennially and recognizes the winning writer's body of work, rather than one individual title.  To be eligible, an author's work must be written in English or available in translation. The announcement, hosted this year by Massey College, was made this morning at the U of T's Munk Centre for International Studies. Jurors Elaine Showalter of Princeton University, South African novelist Nadine Gordimer and Irish writer Colin Toibin, who all attended the news conference, will meet in Dublin in June to choose the winner. "Canada should take pride in producing such an extraordinary set of authors," said Showalter, while insisting that the jury gave no consideration to the nationality of the candidates. "The fact that you have an Irish passport or a Canadian passport is the last thing that matters," said Toibin.

Atwood joins Doris Lessing, Ian McEwan and Philip Roth as one of four writers who also made the short list in 2005. The winner that year was Albanian author Ismael Kadare. This year's shortlist also includes Chinua Achebe, John Banville, Peter Carey, Don DeLillo, Harry Mulish, Amoz Oz, Salman Rushdie and Michel Tourniet.  More than 70 writers were considered for the prize this year.  The prize is sponsored by the London-based broking business Man Group, which also sponsors the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. That prize is awarded for a single work, and is open only to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of former British colonies. Showalter is the author or editor of 18 books and is Professor Emeritus of English and Avalon Professor of the Humanities at Princeton. Gordimer was the joint winner of the Booker Prize for "The Conservationist" in 1971 and was the 1991 Nobel Laureate in Literature. She is also a spokesperson for the United Nations Development Project to eradicate poverty. Toibin is the author of six novels, two of which were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

With a file from Canadian Press

Artists Want PM To Restore Promotional Funding Cuts

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Joe Friesen
 
(Apr. 16, 07) Canadian artists will hold a demonstration on Parliament Hill Monday in an effort to persuade Prime Minister Stephen Harper to restore funding for the
promotion of Canadian artists abroad. The Conservative government recently cut $11.8 million from the Foreign Affairs Department's budget for cultural promotion at Canada's embassies. A coalition of writers, actors, dancers and others will hold what they call an “awakening” to get the Prime Minister's attention, with the help of cultural affairs critics from the NDP and Bloc Québécois. Susan Swan of the Writer's Union of Canada said she hopes that Mr. Harper, who is writing a book about hockey, will be persuaded to change course. “He has ended a 35-year tradition of External Affairs funding for the promotion of artists, writers, filmmakers and theatre people abroad,” Ms. Swan said.

“If you are published abroad now there's no money in the budgets of our cultural diplomats to promote your work. If a young Atom Egoyan had a film that was debuting at the Berlin Film Festival there would be no money from the Canadian cultural budget to promote that film.” Author Austin Clarke and actor R.H. Thomson are among the artists expected to attend the demonstration.  Yann Martel, writing in Saturday's Globe, announced that starting Monday he plans to send the Prime Minister a new book every two weeks to encourage him to think of the arts. He will record any response from the Prime Minister at www.whatisstephenharperreading.ca. Ms. Swann said the government is misjudging the economic significance of Canada's cultural industries.  For a relative pittance in the scheme of federal budgets, Canada could introduce itself and its artists to a worldwide audience, she said. “We've shown with literature that we're a very valuable export. Better than Mounties and maple syrup,” she said. “Now that the Prime Minister is an emerging writer, I'm hoping we can awaken him. If we're not able to awaken Mr. Harper, we're going to mobilize everyone in the cultural industries, which I think represents about 600,000 people in Canada, and vote him out of office.”

Jen Sookfong Lee Looked To Her Roots For Her Book About Chinese Immigrants

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Philip Marchand, Books Columnist

(April 16, 2007) It's a dramatic story, the tale of Chinese immigrants to Canada – the story of men who grew old and lonely because they couldn't afford to pay the head tax to bring their families over from China, the saga of younger generations trying to reconcile tradition and opportunity. For
Jen Sookfong Lee, a third-generation Chinese-Canadian writer from Vancouver, what better way to approach this story than to start with her own family? In Lee's family there happens to be a grandfather, a barber, who lived through the bad old days of the head tax. There is also a son who is an accountant – Lee's father – a member of the generation that first made its way into the mainstream of Canadian society. Sure enough, Lee's debut novel, The End of East, features a lonely grandfather, patriarch of the Chan family, who is a barber, and his ambitious son who is an accountant. The only question that remains is how much of the wrenching dramatic conflicts in the novel – the unresolved conflict between the barber and his son, the bitter relationship between mother-in-law and wife, and between wife and her own daughter – is also taken from life.

"I always say the frame of the novel is similar to my family but not the flesh, the skin, the hair of the novel," Lee comments. "My family is short on madness but certainly long on eccentricity, so there's the main difference between my family and the Chan family." Her mother the eccentric is a case in point. Her eccentric ambition for her five children, all girls, was for them to win the Miss Chinese Vancouver beauty pageant. "She would say all the time, `I paid for these piano lessons so you would have a talent to show in the pageant!'" recalls Lee, 30, the youngest of the daughters. "We were all these geeky, dorky young girls. The idea we would be in a beauty pageant was laughable. We thought our mother was blind." Her real-life barber grandfather was not the tormented soul of the fictional barber grandfather, either. "I think he was actually a pretty happy guy," Lee says. "He had a lot of friends. He was just a real sweet, happy man. He used to cut our hair, which meant we all looked like boys, because he didn't know how to cut girls' hair."  If acute suffering, especially as the child of a dysfunctional family, is a prerequisite for writers these days, then Lee is definitely operating at a disadvantage. Not even race consciousness reared its ugly head in her childhood. "My family has always been very good," Lee recalls. "I brought home a rainbow of boyfriends over the years. It was never a big deal."

This may explain why racial tension is almost played down in the novel. Only once does a character – the grandfather – use the common term "ghost" to describe a white person.  Even the movement for redress of the head tax did not stir political passion in her family. "I didn't actually have much to do with it," says Lee, whose grandfather died several years before the movement was launched. "We knew from the beginning that it was only going to be survivors and survivors' spouses. I didn't think there would be any possibility of my family getting anything out of it, so I was never involved in it." The redress, in a sense, was superfluous. The descendants of head tax victims have long since vaulted past racial barriers, including Lee and her four older sisters – all of whom have challenging, reasonably prosperous careers. "The Chinese-Canadian community has actually been quite successful in Canada, by and large," Lee comments. "Obviously I can't speak for everybody, but the Chinese community has created a really lively, dynamic, thriving community, and has succeeded in pretty much anything they wanted to."  It is probably no accident then, that Lee's next novel will not be set in Chinatown, or deal with the Chinese-Canadian experience. If you want drama and conflict, you go where it still festers. (Part of the next novel will be set in late 19th-century Brooklyn.)

Kurt Vonnegut, 84: Acclaimed Novelist

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Cristian Salazar, Associated Press

(April 12, 2007)  NEW YORK –
Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical novelist who captured the absurdity of war and questioned the advances of science in darkly humorous works such as "Slaughterhouse-Five'' and "Cat's Cradle," died Wednesday. He was 84. Vonnegut, who often marvelled that he had lived so long despite his lifelong smoking habit, had suffered brain injuries after a fall at his Manhattan home weeks ago, said his wife, photographer Jill Krementz. The author of at least 19 novels, many of them best-sellers, as well as dozens of short stories, essays and plays, Vonnegut relished the role of a social critic. He lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against the institutions he felt were dehumanizing people. "I will say anything to be funny, often in the most horrible situations," Vonnegut, whose watery, heavy-lidded eyes and unruly hair made him seem to be in existential pain, once told a gathering of psychiatrists. A self-described religious sceptic and freethinking humanist, Vonnegut used protagonists such as Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater as transparent vehicles for his points of view. He also filled his novels with satirical commentary and even drawings that were only loosely connected to the plot. In ``Slaughterhouse-Five," he drew a headstone with the epitaph: ``Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.'' But much in his life was traumatic, and left him in pain.

Despite his commercial success, Vonnegut battled depression throughout his life, and in 1984, he attempted suicide with pills and alcohol, joking later about how he botched the job. His mother had succeeded in killing herself just before he left for Germany during World War II, where he was quickly taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge. He was being held in Dresden when Allied bombs created a firestorm that killed an estimated 135,000 people in the city. "The firebombing of Dresden explains absolutely nothing about why I write what I write and am what I am," Vonnegut wrote in ``Fates Worse Than Death," his 1991 autobiography of sorts. But he spent 23 years struggling to write about the ordeal, which he survived by huddling with other POW's inside an underground meat locker labelled slaughterhouse-five. The novel, in which Pvt. Pilgrim is transported from Dresden by time-traveling aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, was published at the height of the Vietnam War, and solidified his reputation as an iconoclast. "He was sort of like nobody else," said Gore Vidal, who noted that he, Vonnegut and Norman Mailer were among the last writers around who served in World War II. "He was imaginative; our generation of writers didn't go in for imagination very much. Literary realism was the general style. Those of us who came out of the war in the 1940s made sort of the official American prose, and it was often a bit on the dull side. Kurt was never dull.''

Vonnegut was born on Nov. 11, 1922, in Indianapolis, a ``fourth-generation German-American religious sceptic Freethinker," and studied chemistry at Cornell University before joining the Army. When he returned, he reported for Chicago's City News Bureau, then did public relations for General Electric, a job he loathed. He wrote his first novel, "Player Piano," in 1951, followed by ``The Sirens of Titan,'' "Canary in a Cat House" and "Mother Night," making ends meet by selling Saabs on Cape Cod. Critics ignored him at first, then denigrated his deliberately bizarre stories and disjointed plots as haphazardly written science fiction. But his novels became cult classics, especially "Cat's Cradle" in 1963, in which scientists create "ice-nine," a crystal that turns water solid and destroys the earth. Many of his novels were best-sellers. Some also were banned and burned for suspected obscenity. Vonnegut took on censorship as an active member of the PEN writers' aid group and the American Civil Liberties Union. The American Humanist Association, which promotes individual freedom, rational thought and scientific scepticism, made him its honorary president. His characters tended to be miserable anti-heros with little control over their fate. Pilgrim was an ungainly, lonely goof. The hero of "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" was a snivelling, obese volunteer fireman. Vonnegut said the villains in his books were never individuals, but culture, society and history, which he said were making a mess of the planet. "We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard ... and too damn cheap," he once suggested carving into a wall on the Grand Canyon, as a message for flying-saucer creatures.

He retired from novel writing in his later years, but continued to publish short articles. He had a best-seller in 2005 with "A Man Without a Country," a collection of his non-fiction, including jabs at the Bush administration (``upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography'') and the uncertain future of the planet. He called the book's success "a nice glass of champagne at the end of a life.'' Vonnegut, who had homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons in New York, adopted his sister's three young children after she died. He also had three children of his own with his first wife, Ann Cox, and later adopted a daughter, Lily, with his second wife, the noted photographer Jill Krementz. Vonnegut once said that of all the ways to die, he'd prefer to go out in an airplane crash on the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. He often joked about the difficulties of old age. "When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life; old age is more like a semicolon," Vonnegut told The Associated Press in 2005. "My father, like Hemingway, was a gun nut and was very unhappy late in life. But he was proud of not committing suicide. And I'll do the same, so as not to set a bad example for my children.''

Associated Press writers Michael Warren and Hillel Italie contributed to this report.

OTHER TIDBITS

Faith Gaining Popularity In Entertainment

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Stacey Williams

(April 9, 2007)  In Hollywood,
faith is becoming more than something you discuss with your family and friends, it's becoming an acceptable part of the entertainment environment. From celebrities talking about their beliefs to the release of blockbuster Christian films, faith is making an impact - a big impact.  Until recently, to hear God mentioned in a celebrity's award acceptance speech was rare. Now, thanking God has become quite common, especially for black celebrities. Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson both thanked God when they won Oscars earlier this year.  In 2004, when Mel Gibson released "The Passion of the Christ," Hollywood hadn't completely accepted that a religious movie could draw audiences to the theatre. However, with the success of Gibson's film and others following it, including T.D. Jakes' "Woman Thou Art Loosed," Hollywood has realized that Christians will spend on faith-centered entertainment.  "Hidden Secrets," a new movie that tells the story of a diverse group of people dealing with the sudden death of a friend, will be coming to theatres on April 30. The film, starring John Schneider and Reginald Vel Johnson (pictured), will open nationwide with the hope that Christians will continue to venture out to see good quality Christian films.  Other faith-based movies are in the works. Gospel singer Kirk Franklin is getting ready to star in his first role in "Church Boy," a movie based on his life. The film is being developed with Lionsgate.   As more and more Christian films are released, box office receipts will be the real indicator of whether these movies will be produced more frequently in Hollywood.

Dave Chappelle Sets Laugh Factory Record

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 18, 2007) *Comedian
Dave Chappelle surprised fans at the Laugh Factory Sunday night by showing up unannounced for a set at around 10:30 p.m., and then remaining on stage for the next six hours straight. According to Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada, Chappelle’s set was the longest performance by any comedian in the venue’s 28-year history. It began at 10:36 p.m. Sunday and ended at 4:43 a.m. on Monday. "It was just one of those nights," Masada said of Chappelle's appearance. "He had everyone laughing for six hours."  The marathon session only lost about a dozen of the 150-plus audience members who were present at the beginning of Chappelle’s set, which covered such topics as President Bush's buffoonery, Comedy Central's decision to hype Carlos Mencia after Chappelle abruptly left the network, and Michael Richards’ use of the N-word on the very Laugh Factory stage last year. Chappelle also made fun of Masada’s post-Richards decision to impose a fine on any comic who uses the "N"-word onstage.  "I was his punching bag for a half hour," Masada said. Needless to say, Chappelle was fined $2200 for his multiple use of the N-word throughout the six-hour run.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Mitchell Has Done An Incredible Job: Colangelo

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Doug Smith, Sports Reporter

(April 12, 2007) With his team enjoying unprecedented success,
Bryan Colangelo has come out with his strongest public endorsement of Raptor head coach Sam Mitchell. "Sam's done an incredible job," the president and general manager said yesterday. Mitchell's future with the Raptors has been a topic of interest and debate since Colangelo took over a struggling franchise in February, 2006. He is in the last year of a three-year contract, working for a president and general manager who didn't hire him and coming off two bad seasons.  However, Colangelo said from the day he was hired that he'd give Mitchell every opportunity to prove himself with a better team and the proof is in Toronto's record.  For the first time in five years, the Raptors are headed to the playoffs and they have either established, or could still establish, a list of franchise firsts.

"He and the staff have the team performing at a high level and he's been the orchestrator of that," Colangelo said of Mitchell, who is the NBA's lowest-paid head coach at about $1.6 million (U.S.) per year. And with nine new players acquired by Colangelo – free-agent gems like Anthony Parker and Jorge Garbajosa, trades that netted T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic and Juan Dixon and the drafting of budding star Andrea Bargnani – the Raptors have improved more quickly than many imagined. They have clinched the first division title in franchise history, are likely to finish no worse than third in the Eastern Conference and have home-court advantage in a playoff series for the first time. And if they win three of their final four games, they'll have the best regular season of any Raptor team ever. Mitchell even drew praise from NBA commissioner David Stern yesterday, who also singled out the Raptors and Colangelo in his opening remarks of his pre-playoffs conference call with the media. "I'm very proud of the entire organization," Stern said. "I think Sam Mitchell, who used to take advantage of me when he was negotiating collective bargaining agreements for the players' association, is a very principled person and coach and his strong hand has also had a lot to do with the way that team has performed this year."

Mitchell, named the Eastern Conference coach of the month for January, is considered a strong candidate for NBA coach of the year. "It's absolutely deserving and, honestly, I'd be disappointed if he didn't get it," Colangelo said. There have been no discussions between Colangelo and Mitchell about the coach's future because that's the way both sides have wanted it since the summer.  Colangelo has stuck to his word and given Mitchell a team capable of competing on a nightly basis with the best in the NBA and will discuss the coaching situation after the playoffs are concluded.  Mitchell, who never had the benefit of a guaranteed long-term contract in his 13-year playing career, told his agent last fall not to create a contract negotiation distraction during the season. It has worked wonderfully, so far. Colangelo is a virtual certainty to be named the league's executive of the year, Mitchell and Utah's Jerry Sloan are seen as neck-and-neck in the coach of the year race and the team will get an infusion of talent for tomorrow's game against Detroit with the return of Bargnani. The 7-footer, who has missed 11 games after an appendectomy, practised yesterday and even though he left immediately without speaking to reporters because he's got a touch of the flu, is expected to play. "If he's ready to play (tomorrow), we'll play him a few minutes," Mitchell said yesterday.  "He needs to get back and start playing and get his timing back."

Bargnani's return will give a jolt of offence to Toronto's second unit and provide Chris Bosh with some scoring help up front. Bosh and Bargnani present a potent scoring duo – the former able to operate in the low post and the latter able to stretch defences with his shooting range – and Mitchell knows how to take advantage of it. "Andrea comes back (and) it makes us a better basketball team, it adds another good player to our basketball team," said Mitchell.  "We're playing well, Hump (Kris Humphries) and those guys have stepped up and played well but now we're getting another talented player back and it makes us a deeper and better basketball team."

With files from Canadian Press

Determined Sens Shut Down Crosby, And Vow To Bury Pens In Game 5

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Kevin Mcgran, Sports Reporter

(April 18, 2007) PITTSBURGH–Centre
Jason Spezza will tell anyone who will listen that this is a different squad of Senators. They're not the guys who have choked in past playoffs. They've learned from their mistakes. They've matured. The hockey world has heard that before – it's the Senators' mantra every playoffs, just before they bow out. This time, though, they're winning games they shouldn't. Bounces are going their way.  And last night, they pulled out a 2-1 win over the Penguins, putting a 3-1 stranglehold on their best-of-seven playoff series with Pittsburgh. "We want to digest the win now and enjoy it," Spezza said last night. "But (today) I guarantee we'll be talking about just putting an end to the series and not giving them any hope." If you want to look at how much the team has matured, look at Spezza.

The dynamic goal scorer and playmaker scored last night, a fluky first-period power play goal off Jordan Staal's stick blade that arced over goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. But Spezza spent most of the night shutting down Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby. The Penguins put Crosby with Evgeni Malkin, working that pair usually with Mark Recchi or Gary Roberts. They lined up against the Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson-Dany Heatley line. For the first time in this series, Crosby failed to score. "We did a pretty good job neutralizing their top line," Spezza said. "They were skating a little bit, we slowed them up.”When you play head-to-head like that, it's definitely a game within a game," Spezza added. "We figured if we could play even or a little better than them, on the score sheet, then our depth is going to pay off." He was right. Staal had tied the game in the second and Ottawa's depth showed through in the third when Mike Comrie set up defenceman Anton Volchenkov for the winner. "You put him on that line and people maybe forget about him a little bit, but he's got first-line skills," Spezza said of Comrie. "He can pass the puck, he's competitive. When you get big plays like that, it's great."

Until that goal, Pittsburgh had dominated the play. The Penguins out-hit the Senators 30-16 and played most of the first two periods in the Ottawa zone. As poorly as they played, the Senators didn't panic. They simply regrouped for the third period. "That's maybe the difference between us now and us before," Spezza said. "We may not have been patient to wait around for that goal. Now we're willing to wait around for it." The Penguins did everything they could – they drew four penalties in a row in the second period. But they couldn't convert their chances. "We have to be proud of the way we played," Crosby said. "We can come in the room tonight, and every guy can look at himself in the mirror and look at the guy next to him and say they gave an honest effort.”It's playoff hockey; you're not always going to come out with a win. We laid it out there and we showed ourselves and we showed them, we're a tough team to play against when we want to. Moving forward, going into Ottawa, if we bring that game, we'll give ourselves a chance." But after years of playoff futility, the Senators might have learned not to give them that chance.  "We've got a chance to close out the series," Spezza said. "You don't want to give this team any life." For the first time under coach Bryan Murray, the Sens won a playoff game decided by one goal. They had lost the previous six of those affairs, including four to Toronto. "We didn't have that energy early on, but (I'm proud) for them to be able to settle it down and win a one-goal hockey game and really be strong once we had the lead," Murray said.

::FITNESS NEWS::

The 5 Best Ways to Burn Fat!

By Michael Stefano, eDiets Contributor

The average American gains five pounds a year, every year over the age of 30. Some estimate that 60 percent of our society is overweight. Of course, the best way to avoid obesity is to resist temptation and never let the unwanted calories cross your lips in the first place. But what approach can we take that will help us balance exercise and food consumption?

1. Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise has been touted for years as a key to effective fat burn. Most experts agree -- a fitness program with the main goal of achieving weight loss must include at least three weekly cardio workouts. This translates into 20 to 30 minutes (or up to 60 minutes when working at lesser intensities), of any physical activity that gets your heart to beat at a rate that’s 60 to 90 percent of its maximum.  The specific exercise isn’t as important as its affect on your heart rate (and breathing rate). Generally speaking, cardiovascular exercise involves working the major muscles of the lower body in a continuous, rhythmic fashion. Activities such as brisk walking, jogging, riding a bicycle and jumping rope all qualify as aerobic exercise and should be incorporated into your weekly fat burning regimen.

2. Strength Training

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding regarding strength training, even amongst people that strength train on a regular basis. When you lift weights (or engage in any other type of strength training), you pit your body against a challenging (but controllable) level of resistance. If done right, muscles will adapt and grow stronger as they anticipate a progressively more difficult workout. This muscle growth will take the form of a sculpted and more toned physique, and unless taken to an extreme, will usually not materialize into big and bulky muscles. But what about that layer of fat that floats over every inch of your otherwise sculpted body? An increase in lean muscle, if only slight, will result in an increased basal metabolic rate, or your body’s requirement for fuel at rest.

If you consider that almost all the burning of body fat takes place inside muscle tissue, it’s logical to assume the more muscle you have -- the more fat you’ll burn just to exist. This translates into a 24-hour-a-day increase in demand for fat as fuel, and if accompanied by a steady decrease in supply, will result in major fat loss.

3. Flexibility Training and Yoga

Many would question the connection between stretching and fat burning. Flexibility training increases the effectiveness of the rest of your fitness program in many ways. It cuts down on injury and recovery time, reducing next day soreness, getting you back in the gym sooner. Stretching improves performance, balance and speed of motion, allowing you to perform more work in less time.  Interspersing some stretching exercises into an otherwise strength training routine keeps you moving between sets, adding to the overall caloric consumption of your workout. Yoga, with its unique blend of stretching and strengthening exercises, has gained unprecedented popularity. Many fitness enthusiasts, who at one time wouldn’t be caught dead in a cat pose, now find themselves attending regular yoga classes -- and looking as lean and fit as ever.

4. Sleep, Rest and Recovery

Most of us won’t resist this one, but you’d be surprised at how often lack of sleep or rest is the culprit behind a failed weight loss program. More of a good thing isn’t necessarily better. When putting together a fitness and weight loss plan, be sure to include adequate recovery periods between workouts. Rest at least 48 hours between full body strength training sessions and limit cardio to no more than 3 to 6 hours a week. If over-trained, your body will break down, you’ll lose precious lean muscle mass and actually get fatter.  Do whatever it takes to ensure a good night’s sleep. Get a new mattress, install heavier blinds or go to bed earlier. During sleep, the body’s recovery processes go into high gear. Depending on activity levels and individual requirements, get 7 or 8 hours of sound, restful sleep every night.

5. Meditation and Stress Reduction

Meditation has been proven to minimize the body's reaction to stress and alleviate many stress-related health problems. But few realize that it can actually raise your body’s levels of the anti-aging hormone, DHEA. Also available as an over-the-counter supplement, DHEA is a precursor to testosterone, which is necessary for muscle growth and fat loss. DHEA and testosterone levels decline with age, but tests conducted on people that meditate on a daily basis reveal that serum DHEA levels were restored to much more youthful levels.  In addition, stress has been found to generate dangerously high levels of the naturally occurring hormone cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol has a major role in the regulation of blood pressure and cardiovascular function as well as regulation of the body's use of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. When cortisol is secreted, it causes a breakdown of muscle protein, leading to the release of amino acids into the bloodstream. This process can also raise blood sugar levels.

Meditation, or any other form of stress reduction, can balance this hormonal shift. You can use your meditative sessions to visualize how you’d like to look, or even imagine yourself engaged in activities you once enjoyed. This type of visualization technique has been found not only to relieve stress, but also to increase your odds of achieving goals you've set -- a nice fringe benefit.

If your goal is to burn fat, take a five-pronged approach. Combine the above five methods with a sensible eating program, and you’ll be on the road to unprecedented fat loss and a health and fitness program that you’ll stay with for a lifetime.

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Henry Ford: Founder, Ford Motor Company, prolific inventor

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young."