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September 20, 2007

The beginning of Fall is just around the corner - can you believe it? 

Get right into it and chomp down on all the news this week including, lest we forget, the
Chaka Khan new release at the end of the month. 

Look for a
Morley recap and pictures next week!  What a great show!!



Chaka Khan To Release First New Studio Project In 10 Years

Source: Sony/BMG Music Canada

Celebrating over three decades of milestones, Chaka Khan will release her first new studio album in over 10 years.  Khan’s music and celebrity have influenced generations of fans and contemporary recording artists setting standards across every music genre: Pop, Rhythm & Blues, Rock, Disco, Soul, Jazz, Hip Hop and even Classical.   Chaka Khan is a musical Icon.   FUNK THIS produced by the Grammy Award winners Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis embodies the funky soul of her musical roots with Rufus and her signature passionately-honest vocal styles that make Chaka Khan timeless.   “The album may remind people of my early Rufus albums because I’m in a similar ‘soul space.’  I’ve been on a little journey in the last few years, finding Yvette again.” (Referring to her birth name) “I went through a period of being insecure.  I’m walking a different path now.  I’ve changed.  This album is different from any other album I’ve recorded because it reflects what I’m about, who I am now.  The album is called, ‘Funk This!’ because it’s funky!”  The thoughtful work ranges from original copyrights, collaborations with superstar artists, to adding her signature stamp on important contemporary classics.  

The collection includes fresh renditions of Prince’s “Sign ‘O’ the Times”; a duet with Michael McDonald on “You Belong To Me,” a song he co-wrote with Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies Man,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Castle Made Of Sand,” the soul classic “Foolish Fool” and Rufus medley of  “Pack’d My Bags,” and “You Got The Love.”    FUNK THIS original’s include “Disrespectful,” the tour-de-force duet with powerhouse Mary J. Blige, a poignant poetic ballad, “Angel,” the acoustic “One For All Time” penned by Chaka and Terry Lewis, the deeply beautiful and soulful “Will You Love Me?” and self affirming “Superlife” among others.   Eight-time Grammy Award winner singer, songwriter and community advocate – Chaka Khan has been active in lending her support to the community for many years.   The Chaka Khan Foundation, founded in 1999, raised over $1.4 million through its funding raising efforts last year alone.   The Foundation assists women and children at risk and benefits Autism research, awareness and therapy.   For more information, please go to www.chakakhanfoundation.org.

Track List:

 1) Back In The Day
 2) Foolish Fool
 3) One For All Time
 4) Angel
 5) Will You Love Me?
 6) Castles Made Of Sand
 7) Disrespectful (Featuring Mary J. Blige)
 8) Sign ‘O’ The Times
 9) Pack’d My Bags/You Got The Love (Featuring Tony Maiden)
10) Ladies Man
11) You Belong To Me (Featuring Michael McDonald)
12) Hail To The Wrong
13) Superlife



Promising Signs For Jacksoul's Neale

Source: Rebecca Penty, National Post

(Sept. 13, 2007)
Haydain Neale, frontman for the soul ensemble jacksoul, remains in a coma six weeks after he was badly injured in a Scarborough car accident, but has begun to respond to therapy, his mother says. “He moved his eyes and he moved his fingers on Monday,” Geneva Neale, said yesterday. “It is a blessing to me to come from Hamilton and see this,” Mrs. Neale said, adding that Mr. Neale cannot talk, eat, or move his limbs. Mr. Neale, 36, was critically injured Aug. 3 at 9:53 p.m. when a car turned into the path of his Vespa while he was travelling southbound on Kennedy Road at Foxbridge Drive. Twenty-year-old Kyle Samuel of Toronto has been charged with making an unsafe turn, and is scheduled to appear at Old City Hall court on Oct. 25.  Mrs. Neale is scheduled to visit Mr. Neale Mondays and Fridays but as his mother, she said she visits when she needs to. “If I feel I need to be there, I am there,”  she said. “I am a very spiritual person and we have to make spiritual connections.”

The 67-year-old Trinidad native emigrated to Hamilton in the 1960s and said she raised Mr. Neale and his three sisters in Hamilton alone after Mr. Neale’s father left when he was five years old. The first few months as a single mother were hard, Mrs. Neale said, until a woman and her husband in Grimsby, where Mrs. Neale lived at the time, dragged her “kicking and screaming” to the welfare office. Days later, Mrs. Neale moved the family to Hamilton and they lived in social housing until Mrs. Neale bought a home when Haydain was 18 years old. Mr. Neale always expressed his affinity for music and the arts, even while studying biology at the University of Guelph, said Mrs. Neale, who was a light opera singer in Burlington when Mr. Neale was in diapers and now performs her poetry. “I was proud to see him singing away on stage with the Robbie Burns Society,” she said of Mr. Neale’s musical involvement in university. “He was singing away in a kilt! I told him not to lift his leg,” she said, laughing. Mr. Neale has enjoyed great success with his band jacksoul, since they formed in the 1990s. In the spring, he was presented with his second Juno Award for best R&B/soul recording of the year for the album mySOUL, a compilation of cover songs. The first Juno came in 2001 for the album Sleepless. On jacksoul’s My Space page, Mr. Neale wrote that among other things, he enjoys “changing the world one song at a time.” Mrs. Neale said she has faith her son will recover. “He’s responding to the therapy − they’re doing a great job,” she said. “Even the worst part of it, I am hopeful because of ‘I am.’ ‘I am,’ is the prayer Jesus prayed,” she said. “I never expected him to leave us.”

Gregory Kieth - The Noah’s Arc Interview with Kam Williams

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - by Kam Williams

(Sept. 13, 2007) Born on in Detroit on Sept 28, 1976,
Gregory Kieth caught the acting bug as a child while entertaining at family gatherings, doing impersonations and storytelling. At the age of five, his family moved to California, where his interest in athletics and modeling eventually took a backseat to his true desire, acting.   Parents never forget their children’s first word. Well, when Greg began to speak, his folks say he didn’t have just one word to say, but a whole rap song and beat, snapping his fingers and the whole nine yards. And while he grew up in the ‘hood where fun and games were nonexistent, he didn’t let his dire circumstances destroy his creative impulse.    Instead, he used his environment as a source of inspiration. As long as he can remember, music has been second nature with Greg. He began composing songs at 11, however, his first priority was still sports at that point. Realizing where his heart was, he gave up playing ball and headed to Hollywood. Not long after, Greg was recording his first demo album and testing his material at the local hot spots. After overwhelmingly positive feedback, he became even more ambitious to begin on his next album.    Eventually, he found his niche as an actor, landing bit parts in various television series, including Suddenly Susan and The Jamie Foxx Show. Although his heart is in performing, he also works in music production and dabbles in screenwriting. Plus, he strives to maintain a healthy mind and body through a strict workout regimen while living life to its fullest.

You can hear Gregory’s music on many movie soundtracks as well as television shows, including Noah’s Arc, a gay-themed, African-American-oriented TV series, where he is a member of the ensemble in the role of Trey, a gay doctor.  He’s currently working on Johnny 99, an action film in which heaven and hell are at war on Earth; and he’s recently entered talks with Tommy Boy Records about a recording contract.  Here, he talks about his career, including his work on Noah’s Arc.

KW: Thanks for the time, Greg.

GK: My pleasure.

KW: You were born in Detroit, but raised in L.A. Do you still have any childhood memories of Motown?

GK: Too many to mention, but one that comes to mind is when my brother and I were playing upstairs in our house when my dad would call us down to listen to the latest jam on the radio.

KW: How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an entertainer?

GK: I was around five.

KW: Did you perform in many school productions?

GK: No, I was shy in my school but started to come around in junior high. That’s when the talent shows and acting started to take root.

KW: Did you study acting and singing formally in school?

GK: Not really. singing and acting came kind of naturally. Singing was from my heart, and acting was what you learned to do to stay out of trouble.

KW: Which do you prefer?

GK: Both the same.

KW: What was your first professional acting gig?

GK: A commercial for Gatorade.

KW: How did you land the role of Trey on Noah’s Arc?

GK: I actually auditioned for [Noah’s Arc producer] Patrick Polk for another film and he thought I would be perfect for the role of Trey. We had lunch and he talked to me about the script, the next thing I knew we were in Vancouver shooting season 2.

KW: How would you describe your character?

GK: Compassionate, stern, and loving with a twist of nerd.

KW: Do they have anything interesting planned for your character this season?

GK: From what I hear, Trey and Alex are making some major changes in there lives.

KW: How do you get along with the other actors in the ensemble?

GK: (LOL) Probably the funniest bunch of guys I’ve been around in a long time.

KW: Do you see the show as having social significance beyond its entertainment value?

GK: Definitely. I think the show has done so much in respect to the gay and lesbian community, not to mention the gay African American male. 

KW: Are you worried that playing a gay character on TV might leave you typecast in the way that Jaleel White had a hard time shaking the nerd image after playing Urkel? 

GK: The show had meaning and the story was one that I thought was as interesting as any I had seen on prime time television. So, not really. No.

KW: Do think that being a handsome, light-skinned brother with a buff body is a blessing or a curse in Hollywood?

GK: A little bit of both. but you learn to gain and lose weight when you have too.

KW: What type of regimen do you have to maintain to keep in that shape?

GK: Don’t remind me. (LOL) Six days a week for two hours at 7am .

KW: What do you do in your spare time?

GK: Write music and produce indy films with my brother and best friend.

KW: I listened to some samples from your CD (here), and enjoyed the tunes I heard, especially Don’t Play. How would characterize your singing style?

GK: Schizophrenic.

KW: Who are your musical influences?

GK: Prince, The Temptations, Ray Charles.

KW: What sort of roles are you looking for?

GK: Anything that makes me think, and/or something that pushes me to expand my craft.

KW: What actors and actresses would you like to work with?

GK: Chris Walken, Robert De Niro, Stallone, Don Cheadle.

KW: Directors?

GK: Ridley Scott, Spike Lee.

KW: What area of Los Angeles were you raised in as a child?

GK: I guess most parts. We moved every year so.

KW: Where in the city do you live now?

GK: Outside of L.A., actually.

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

GK: Smile, when you think things just can’t get any worse.

KW: Thanks for the time Gregory, and best of luck.

GK: Thanks for having me.

Jawn Murray Writes And Open Letter To Beyonce Knowles

By Jawn Murray, AOL Black Voices Columnist

(Sept. 17, 2007) See what he has to say to the pop superstar.


Let me first commend you on your newest philanthropic endeavour, The Knowles-Rowland Temenos Apartments to help those needing assistance after natural and personal disasters. I'm sure the 43-unit; single-room occupancy housing for men and women will be a blessing to those in the Houston area.

I'm actually writing this letter out of genuine concern and I hope you receive it in the spirit that it is intended. At 26-years-old, you have accomplished things that your peers could only dream of. Both as a member of Destiny's Child and as a solo star, you have won Grammys and sold millions of records. Your strong brand has helped you to transition into Hollywood ('Dreamgirls,' 'The Pink Panther,' 'Austin Powers in Goldmember'), sell fragrances and beauty brands (Tommy Hilfiger, Emporio Armani, L'Oreal), appear in commercial campaigns (Pepsi, McDonalds) as well as launch your a clothing line with your mom, Tina Knowles (House of Dereon). Those are all significant feats!

But I recently became concerned when I heard that you intend to go back into the studio come November and plan to release a new album next summer. That's really disturbing to me. If you take the time look those artists and musicians who are master's of their craft, you will see that most of them take a few years off between projects to (1) rejuvenate and find inspiration for their next endeavour and (2) not over-saturate the marketplace. You are without a doubt teetering on the brink of over-saturation and I wanted to 'Ring the Alarm' before you become an industry 'Bug-A-Boo!'

As an entertainment professional who respects your hustle, I tip my hat to your gifts and salute your accomplishments. I know its not just 'Me, Myself and I' who feels that if I see you on another magazine cover or hear you give another blah acceptance speech at an award show anytime soon, I'll 'Lose My Breath' and be full of 'Resentment.'  I can use Mariah Carey as example of an artist who waited too long to take a break and nearly ruined her career. Better is Alicia Keys, who brilliantly takes at least three years off in between CD releases and typically reinvents herself every time. It's clear that every great artist needs down time for longevity. (See also: Madonna, Tina Turner, Maxwell, Dr. Dre, Diana Ross, Outkast, Sade, etc.) I believe that an extended vacation is necessary for an artist, just even if to 'Upgrade U!'

In addition to giving the industry and the all-important consumer a break, I genuinely believe you did a disservice to your Destiny's Child group member Kelly Rowland, by re-releasing that deluxe edition of 'B'Day' just months before she was set to unveil her sophomore solo effort. How could anyone really expect her to get her career 'Jumpin Jumpin' with you still monopolizing the marketplace?

I know you are an 'Independent Woman' who may not want to take direction from this man you've only met in passing, but I really hope that you will take a couple of years off and consider not releasing your next CD until at least the fall of 2009 (and that's still pushing it). Make no mistake: I recognize that you're the premiere vocalist of this generation and a spectacular international brand. But I think the consumers are going to begin telling you, 'No, No, No,' and ultimately leave you 'Speechless' if you don't retreat for a while!

[See my related opinion HERE.]

Znaimer Ready To Reinvent Classical Radio

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic

(September 18, 2007) You would be hard-pressed to get 24 of Canada's top performers into the same room in one day. But
Moses Znaimer has a way of making the impossible happen. The arbiter of televised hip – as owner of Citytv, he reinvented local news and brought the music video to Canada in the 1980s – turned 65 this year. Now, as a senior citizen, Znaimer may have set himself his most difficult goal ever. He is storming the barricades of traditional FM radio to drag classical music kicking and screaming into the 21st century. From 5 a.m. to an hour past midnight tonight, Znaimer hosts a private party to launch the New Classical 96.3 FM. There will be champagne and snacks. There are also live performances every hour. The day's highlights include visits by violinists Angèle Dubeau and Lara St. John, pianist Anton Kuerti and singers Ben Heppner, Measha Brueggergosman, Russell Braun and Michael Schade and Sondra Radvanovsky. During the course of the festivities, Znaimer will announce his plans for Classical 96.3, which he bought in August 2006. The station – whose call letters were recently changed from CFMX to CFMZ to match Znaimer's initials – has had a stable listenership for the last five years. With an audience share of 4.6 per cent this spring, CFMZ squeaked into the top third of the 23 Toronto stations surveyed by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement every quarter. This trumps perennial ratings laggard CBC Radio Two. Despite numerous changes to its mainly classical programming over the last year, the station sits at a dismal 1.8 per cent share of Toronto listeners.

Despite today's hoopla, many of Znaimer's changes are cosmetic – a new logo and a fun ad campaign. There have also been improvements on the air. Like its commercial competition, Classical 96.3 now has a morning show, dubbed Good Day GTA, running from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. It is hosted by Mike Duncan and Jean Stilwell, a working mezzo-soprano. You don't hear much wisecracking morning-show banter with this duo, but you do get live vocals. At 9:20 a.m., Stilwell and pianist Patti Loach perform "Taylor the Latte Boy," from their cabaret collaboration, Carmen Unzipped. "Moses will be our muse, standing there in his tux," says Loach. She adds, with a laugh, "Maybe we'll be able to convince him to hold a green barista towel."  The drive-home show is Alexa's Oasis, presided over by Alexa Petrenko, the station's most engaging – and engaged – voice.  Petrenko can be seen regularly at performances around the city and she is on the air every day with a playlist that goes deeper than the station's typically light fare. On Sunday evenings, she now also hosts an opera show. In a recent conversation, Petrenko indicated she was happy with the latitude Znaimer is giving her in developing her programs. The station's main transmitter is in Cobourg, where the original CFMX has been renamed the New Classical 103.1. The programming is shared with its Toronto sister.

When he bought Canada's only privately owned English-language classical station from Trumar Communications last year for $12 million, Znaimer told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that he had three main goals: Attract younger audiences, sell more advertising aimed at mature listeners and acquire new licences. The current changes target baby boomers in particular. Znaimer and his sister Libby, who can be heard on-air, are calling this audience "Zoomers – boomers with zip," says Classical 96.3 spokesperson Catherine King. In a related move, Znaimer's MZ Media bought www.50Plus.com, "the Internet portal for Boomers, 50+ and retired people," in late August. You can bet that Znaimer will cross-pollinate as much content as possible. If this sounds too sedate for the former bad boy of Canadian television, rest assured that there is more news to come. Last December, Znaimer quietly received CRTC approval for a specialty TV channel that would broadcast a wide range of documentary and live-performance programming, as well as classical-music videos. Znaimer should call the new creation MuchMore Classical Music.

Kam Williams Interviews Columbus Short: Discovering Columbus

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com – by Kam Williams

(September 19, 2007) *Born in Kansas City, Missouri on September 19, 1982, Columbus Keith Short, Jr. started entertaining at the age of three by putting on shows for his folks’ enjoyment.  Whether impersonating relatives, dancing or just making people laugh, everyone sensed something special about the boy.  Fortunately, his family later relocated to Los Angeles where, by his early teens, Columbus had landed work in such television commercial campaigns as Mountain Dew, Denny’s Restaurant, NIKE and  Pizza Hut, to name a few. As a senior in high school, he was offered an opportunity to graduate two months early in order to see the world with the traveling production of the Broadway show STOMP!  And after a couple of years on the road with that famed dance troop, he would parlay his professional success into a stint as the choreographer of Britney Spears’ In the Zone tour. However, when rumours of his conducting a clandestine affair with the pop icon surfaced, the tabloids were quick to make much of the illicit liaison. For, by then, Columbus was not only married but his wife was expecting. This didn’t sit well with Britney’s mother who didn’t like her daughter being labelled a home-wrecker. So, mom dealt with the case of Jungle Fever by firing him and finding another dancer. Though a very versatile Renaissance Man who is also a writer, musician and director, Columbus came off the road to pursue his primary passion, namely, acting. His motion picture credits include You Got Served, War of the Worlds and, Save the Last Dance 2. In addition, he has guest-starred on TV shows like “ER,” “Judging Amy,” and “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”

But his big break arrived earlier this year when he played the lead role of “DJ” in Stomp the Yard which was #1 at the box office two weeks in a row and grossed over 73.4 million dollars. Now one of the most sought emerging talents in Hollywood, Columbus can next be seen in a lead role alongside Lauren London and Mekhi Phifer in a holiday film called
This Christmas.  Furthermore, he recently wrapped a starring role in the Warner Brothers thriller Whiteout opposite Kate Beckinsale. When not working, Columbus loves football, basketball and snowboarding.  Here, he discusses all of the above, and Britney’s lacklustre performance at the MTV Awards.

KAM WILLIAMS: Thanks for the time, Columbus. What have you been up to?

COLUMBUS SHORT: I’m writing a pilot for a TV show that I’m trying to get off the ground. I’ve been diligently working on that about 12 hours a day for the past couple of weeks.

KW: Are you going to star in it?

CS: No, no, I’m really keen on producing, and doing projects with my company. And this is one that I really wanted to create.

KW: You act, dance, choreograph, write, play music, etcetera. How do you decide what to focus on when you’ve been blessed with so many talents?

CS: I’ve learned that I can’t do it all at once. So, you have to figure out your angle of attack. Coming in on the acting front, acting is a passion of mine. It’s a true love. Dancing, I kind of just fell into. Choreographing, the same thing. But making films, producing and directing, that’s the heartbeat of my existence.

KW: How did you come to choreograph Britney Spears?

CS: Honestly, I don’t know, Kam. It’s just one of those things in my life like, “How did that happen?” First, I got hired as a dancer for her by another choreographer who was later let go, and one thing led to another.
Here I was 20 years-old, and I was running the tour for the biggest pop artist at the time. Jumping into that was overwhelming, but I learned so much, and it was great to have that experience. I’ll never forget it.

KW: What did you think of Britney’s recent performance at the MTV Awards? Judging from her performance, it looks like she could use your help again as a choreographer.

CS: Oh man, I felt bad.

KW: Who’s to blame for such a disaster?

CS: In terms of that, it’s not the choreographer’s fault. It’s not the label’s… It’s not her management’s… It’s not her team’s… I guess MTV can take part of the blame for exploiting her like that, but it’s basically Britney’s fault. She knows the drama that would be surrounding a highly-anticipated, return performance in front of the masses.  Yet, she wasn’t ready to do her job. So, I blame no one, because there’s no one else to blame. I say my prayers for her, and hope that she can pull it together.

KW: Yeah, it seems like she’s been spiralling out-of-control for a couple of years now. From not putting her kid in a car seat to divorcing her husband to not wearing panties in public to substance abuse to attacking the paparazzi to shaving her head impulsively to having to re-enter rehab.

CS: All I can say is, this business is tough, Kam. You never know who or what’s real. That’s why you’ve seen it with everybody. It’s tough when you get in this business, if you have no grounded foundation other than Hollywood, because this business isn’t real. We’re getting paid to do what we love, but it isn’t real. If everybody could remember that, they might not take it for granted, and hold strong.

KW: What was it like for you when you were in the tabloids and romantically linked to Britney?

CS: At first, I thought that was the dream, to be chased by paparazzi. I thought that was the life, to be jet-setting around the world with a pop star. But once I was immersed in it, I honestly didn’t have a moment of happiness, Kam. I don’t think I was happy even one day when I worked for Britney, simply because it was all too much. It was my family calling me, editors calling my family members and friends I hadn’t talked to in years. It was so much, it almost completely broke me.

KW: How did you get involved in the first place?

CS: The scandal was manufactured by these magazine publications that have to make money, so I can’t be mad at them.

KW: But I remember seeing photos of the two of you kissing.

CS: I don’t know why they singled me out, because all the dancers were giving her hugs after rehearsals. And there were ten other dancers. So, when that first photo came out, it made me laugh, because they made it look like we were kissing. But there’s no way that would be happening during a rehearsal. Then, it kind of spiralled out of control from there, because I was hanging out with her all the time. I didn’t realize that it was going to be scandalous when you hang out with someone who’s followed by thousands of cameramen, especially when, my friend, you’re a black man, and she’s the hot blonde princess. It was a recipe for $50,000 photos. That’s all that was. I kind of laugh at it now.

KW: How do you feel about her today?

CS: I’m so far removed from that past, that I look at Britney like everyone else does. I don’t know her.

KW: How has the experience change you?

CS: Going through that thing with Britney showed me what’s real. But it was tough. I won’t even lie. Now, I’m just interested in doing good work, and in earning the respect of my peers.

KW: Did your marriage survive the controversy and constant exposure?

CS: No, my marriage was already finished before that.

KW: How’s your relationship with your son?

CS: My son’s four now, and my relationship with him is what keeps me grounded.

KW: Jimmy Bayan reminded me to ask you where in L.A. you live now.

CS: I live in the Valley, but after that triple-digit heat wave this summer, I’m out of here. I think I’m going to moving to Santa Monica, and maybe get a place in New York.

KW: How’s your upcoming release, This Christmas?

CS: It’s a great movie. It’s one of those classy, black family films we haven’t had in a long while. It’s the embodiment of class. Remember what the Cosby Show was like back in the day? It makes you feel good to see an affluent African-American couple doing well and having regular problems.

For full interview with Kam Williams, go HERE.


Kenny 'Babyface' Edmonds Makes 'List'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(September 17, 2007) *After a two-year hiatus, hitmaker
Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds is releasing his 11th album, titled “Playlist.”  The new disc has what music fans know about Babyface – his mellow style and it also has what music fans may not know about Babyface – his love of classic pop.  “Playlist,” which hits shelves tomorrow, September 18, is a collection of covers of classic melancholy pop hits that the R&B crooner grew up loving. “This is music that I grew up with and that influenced me to write how I write,” Babyface said of the new disc. “It’s music that’s close to me, so it’s kind of like my playlist.” The singer explained that while growing up in Indianapolis, his music tastes were shaped by a Sunday morning ritual. “I would go to church on Sundays and stay as long as the choir sang, but before the preacher would start I’d go get in the car and listen to the AM station,” he confessed. “That’s where I heard James Taylor and Roberta Flack. All these songs were beautiful songs that I wanted to learn how to play. That was part of it: grabbing the soulful part of the church and then going back and hearing pop in the car. That’s who I am. I’m a combination of those things.” The new disc features remakes of classic pop-rock hits such as James Taylor's "Fire & Rain,” Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle," and Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” just to name a few. "Playlist" is reportedly the first release for Island Def Jam's relaunched Mercury Records division, and it reunites Babyface and his former writing/production partner IDJ chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid, who Babyface said is very optimistic of Edmond’s change of pace for the project. “I’m comfortable with my choices,” he said of the playlist on “Playlist.” “I don’t think I have abandoned who I am. This is just another part of me.”

However, the question remains, “Will this seemingly significant shift in genre surprise die-hard his fans in the least?” Babyface doesn’t think so. “It’s such a wide range of fans. Ever since I worked with Eric Clapton, and also when I did ‘When Can I See You,’ I’ve done some things acoustically, and this is kind of like an acoustic record,” he said. “I think that if they just listen to it, it’s very heartfelt and still very soulful in its way. I think it’s very musical. It’s not so much a left turn for me as it is another part of me. I could have done a total R&B kind of record, but that’s not the kind of record I really wanted to do. I wanted to do music that has always been a piece of me, but I haven’t been able to follow the thought all the way through.” Still, Babyface admitted that he isn’t quite sure how the album will relate to his fans overall, explaining that even on his previous albums, there are fans that listened to certain tracks consistently, while other fans who favoured a completely different set of songs on the same album. He continued that he is not expecting urban radio to necessarily flock to the majority of tracks on “Playlist,” but explained that this project is not about jockeying for position on genre-specific radio. “The music that I’ve done, I think is soulful even if it’s not R&B,” he said, “and my fans are just people who love music. I wouldn’t ever think that I’d have to curve my music to say, ‘You can only do R&B music.’ You have to look inside and say, ‘Do you like the work that you do?’ That’s the only gauge you ultimately can go by. You don’t make the music for a particular radio format. This music just happens to be what it is.” Surprisingly, the music industry philosophy of not using radio to promote a record has been extremely successful for a number of multi-genre artists and remake albums. Babyface relayed that these artists have turned to television to promote their projects, a path he plans to follow.

“I could make a very young R&B record, but what difference does it make – it’s going to go to Urban AC,” he said of the industry’s need to categorize. “The way this campaign will probably be done is through more TV and not radio. Like when you look at Norah Jones, she doesn’t sell her records through radio. You look at Rod Stewart and the record he did of the old standards – it’s not on the radio. It sells a lot of records, but it’s not on the radio.” “You never can predict on any record that you do,” he continued. “All I can say is that I feel really good about it. It’s heartfelt. I did eight covers and two new songs. I feel like it all blends in. I feel really good about it. I really feel like it’s a very well produced record.” Still, Babyface acknowledged that this path to records sales is a new one for his career, but explained to EUR’s Lee Bailey that he is at a point where he can make the music he wants to make and expand his repertoire and his reach. “Initially, we made songs to make sure we could get on radio. We made sure we could fit the format,” he said of his early days as a young musician with the group The Deele as well as his successful solo projects. “Today, the format is so different and so specific; I think ultimately good music is going to rule the day again. And mostly, good music comes from what’s honest.” Released tomorrow (Tuesday), fans can weigh in on whether or not “Playlist,” Edmond’s honest attempt at classic pop covers, makes the list.  For more information, go to babyface.islandrecords.com or www.MySpace.com/babyface.

Phyllis Hyman’s 'Strength' Revealed

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(September 14, 2007) “You see the deck was really stacked against her. This was her start. This was her childhood. This is how she grew up. The issues continued into adulthood. She turned to alcohol and to drugs as to sort of self-medicate. The substance abuse only further complicated mental health issues. She tried twice to clean up and go to rehab, but she couldn’t maintain sobriety. I think the depth of her issues were too great for her.”

Phyllis Hyman, one of the most gifted and critically acclaimed vocalists and performers from the 1970s through the 1990s is also considered one of the most overlooked by music historians and one of the most tragic in pop culture.  After a lifelong bout with mental illness and depression, and battles with racism and sexism in the music industry, the singer took her own life in 1995, just hours before she was to perform at the legendary Apollo Theatre. 

Journalist Jason A. Michael recognized that Hyman’s story was one that not only needed to be told, but wanted to be told, and after several attempts and 12 years, Michael released the biography, “
Strength of a Woman: the Phyllis Hyman Story” on September 4. The delay in putting the story to paper was not for Michael not trying.   “Shortly after Phyllis died, I had the dream to do this,” he said. “I felt there was a story there, but I was in college at that time. I tried and couldn’t get it off the ground and was sort of dismissed at that time by Phyllis’ estate. They had some other folks in mind to write this story. Finally, in 2001, six years after Phyllis’ death, nothing had come out. I figured that if I wanted to read a book about Phyllis Hyman, I was going to have to write a book about Phyllis Hyman. I tried for the third time and the pieces sort of fell into place. I’m really happy with how it turned out.” Publishing the book still wasn’t that easy. Michael presented his idea of a Hyman biography to several prominent New York publishers, but was told emphatically that no one remembered her and that there was no market for a book.

“We got turned down time and time again,” Michael exasperatedly told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “I went through two literary agents and both agents thought that it was going to be an easy sell. Both were surprised, as was I, that a book on Phyllis wouldn’t sell. I was told things like she had not become a cult icon like Marvin Gaye became after his death, or that not enough folks remembered her story.” Michael said that he just felt the publishers were naïve about how big her fan base is.  “My goal is, I’ll prove them wrong and help them see they missed out on a great opportunity.” Even though Hyman wasn’t a million-seller, the singer had an illustrious career of hits, with two gold records.  “She was always on the cusp of that major hit,” the writer said. “I think that folks had a hard time knowing what to do with her. Clive Davis certainly tried to make her into a more commercial superstar, but she felt that that did not really reflect her artistry. She was sort of the queen of the power ballads and her music did not always translate to the more commercial, youth-oriented radio audience. But for those in the know, there was no one like her.” He continued that like many others, he became a big fan of Hyman’s as soon as she heard her voice, but that the time – the disco era – wasn’t right for her kind of music, that disco funk didn’t do her voice any justice. But it wasn’t the genre that drew fans to the powerful songstress. Like many others. Michael was drawn to her emotion.  “I heard a note of pain in her voice and I think it spoke to me. I had suffered from depression issues and had been diagnosed as bipolar, as Phyllis was. At the time that Phyllis died, I was working with soul singer Betty Wright who had been working with Phyllis since the early ‘70s. I saw that Betty was devastated, but not surprised with how Phyllis’ end came about. I think my journalistic instincts kicked in and said, ‘There must be a story there.’” The more research Michael did on Phyllis, the more similarities he saw between the two of them, which attracted him to the story even more.

“She has taught me so much and even though she ultimately chose to end her life, I sort of credit her with giving me the courage to fully live mine. In examining some the traps and pitfalls she fell into and I feel as though I now know how to avoid them. That’s really what I’m hoping this book will do for its readers – to help them see what’s inside of them ... that they need to work on and inspire them to get started. ‘Strength of a Woman’ is a cautionary tale and I think the moral of the story is to take care of your issues or your issues will take care of you. With Phyllis’ case that’s sadly what happened.” As Michael covers in the book, mental illness was prevalent in her family. Her mother suffered from chronic depression; her father was alcoholic. Two of her siblings also battled bipolar disorder, and another suffered from chronic depression, and yet another struggles with schizophrenia.  “You see the deck was really stacked against her. This was her start. This was her childhood. This is how she grew up. The issues continued into adulthood. She turned to alcohol and to drugs as to sort of self-medicate. The substance abuse only further complicated mental health issues. She tried twice to clean up and go to rehab, but she couldn’t maintain sobriety. I think the depth of her issues were too great for her.” Hyman was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1985 and was prescribed Lithium to treat it. Considered a newly diagnosed disease back then, medications and treatment options were limited at that time.  “A lot folks, Phyllis included, thought that a very creative individual would take these meds and would miss some of the highs that bipolar brings about, which they thought was somehow connected to their creativity. They didn’t like being levelled out, which is what Lithium and other mood stabilizers do. So [Hyman] thought the meds were not for her and that she could somehow handle this on her own, but I think bipolar disorder was bigger.”

In 1989, Hyman failed at her first suicide attempt. She tried again in 1990 before succeeding in 1995 at the age of 45.  “It was pretty much kept under wraps,” Michael said of her failed suicide attempts. “A lot of her issues and drama were kept under wraps to the extent that it could be. But if you’ve ever seen a Phyllis Hyman concert, she put a lot of her feelings on display. She was very open with her audience. The darker issues were sort of kept under wraps as were her trips to rehab.” Friends, fans, industry execs, as well as music journalists also got a taste of Hyman’s tumultuous personality. Bailey, himself, called her “candid,” to say the least.  “It depended on where she was in her emotional spectrum when you encountered her,” Michael said of how others saw Hyman. “Phyllis was an extremely generous person, an extremely giving person, and at the right time, a hilarious person. It just depended on where she was in her struggle emotionally as to which Phyllis you would meet. She could be very difficult, but she could be incredibly sweet. She was all of those things in one body and you could see a great deal of them all in one day.”

Michael, on the other hand, did not have the pleasure, or displeasure for that matter, of meeting the recording star. His first biographical novel, he credits that to how the voice of the book remained balanced.  “I never met her, which I’m sort of thankful for and which Phyllis’ estate was appreciative as well. Had I met her, I may have had my own response to how I was treated. I think not having met her, it allowed me to speak to all these folks who had different recollections and sort of remain unbiased. I prayed for the gift of discernment. I had to sort of read between the lines and endeavour to remain impartial and write a very balanced story.”  “Strength of a Woman” candidly explores the singer’s torment and her successes, and includes revelations on how she lost the role of Shug Avery in the movie adaptation of “The Color Purple”; her clashes with record industry legend Clive Davis; and her assessments of female singers of her time including Jody Watley, Vanity, and Paula Abdul. For more on the book, the author, and the star herself, check out www.phyllishymanstory.com.

Prince to sue YouTube, eBay

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Mike Collett-White, Reuters

(September 13, 2007) LONDON — U.S. pop star
Prince plans to sue YouTube and other major websites for unauthorized use of his music in a bid to "reclaim his art on the Internet." The man behind hit songs Purple Rain, 1999 and When Doves Cry said on Thursday that YouTube could not argue that it had no control over which videos users posted on its site. "YouTube ... are clearly able [to] filter porn and pedophile material but appear to choose not to filter out the unauthorized music and film content which is core to their business success," a statement released on his behalf said. YouTube did not immediately reply to questions e-mailed to its pressroom. In addition to YouTube, Prince also plans legal action against online auctioneer eBay and Pirate Bay, a site accused by Hollywood and the music industry as being a major source of music and film piracy. The legal action is the latest bid by the music industry to wrest back control over content in an age where file sharing, mobile phones and video sites make enforcing copyright increasingly difficult. But it is believed to be rare for an individual artist of Prince's stature to take on popular websites, while some up-and-coming performers actually encourage online file sharing to create a fan base and buzz around a record.

"Prince strongly believes artists as the creators and owners of their music need to reclaim their art," the statement added. "These actions mark a historic moment for music artists in terms of the battle to regain control of their rights on the Internet." British company Web Sheriff has been hired to help co-ordinate the action. "In the past couple of weeks we have directly removed approximately 2,000 Prince videos from YouTube," said Web Sheriff managing director John Giacobbi. "The problem is that one can reduce it to zero and then the next day there will be 100 or 500 or whatever. This carries on ad nauseam at Prince's expense," he told Reuters. He said his company had also removed around 300 items from eBay, where whole lines of pirated goods trading on Prince's name had appeared, including clocks, socks, mugs and key rings. Prince's latest initiative is likely to please record industry executives and music retailers, who have not always seen eye-to-eye with the 49-year-old. He has referred to the record industry as "the speculation business" and gave away copies of his new album "Planet Earth" for free with a British Sunday newspaper.

The UK Corner: Introducing Tor

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Fiona McKinson

(September 18, 2007) 25-year-old
Isatta Sheriff Cesay has the same name as her mother hence the nickname Tor, which means namesake in Krio (sierra Leone).  But Tor is unique. Hailing from East London, she has been making a name for herself in a bold way for example at the Urban Classics event, a one-off show which saw her rapping along with the BBC Concert Orchestra or at the live performance at the Olympic 2012 bid winner's announcement in Trafalgar Square viewed by one billion people.  She says of the former, "It felt real good. Like I was stepping into new territory. The audiences aren't as vocal and I can't say they understood everything but I feel it was a very good step into the right direction. I've kept up with musicians and an artist from Urban Classic and it's really helped me to understand the different circles that exist. 'Strivin' (one of the songs performed) ended up in a short film and I'm constantly getting work due to the exposure it gave us.  "The 2012 Olympic announcement was surreal. One second I was in the tube station trying to figure out if I had enough coins to get on the tube, the next second I was sharing a dressing room mirror with (Olympian) Kelly Holmes and (pop star) Rachel Stevens. I went on after her and before (former spice girl) Mel C. London had just been announced as the winners and everyone was jumping around and screaming. I had to go on stage right after it had been announced while everyone was still celebrating. The three Red Devil planes flew over the stage while I was performing...I felt like Michael Jackson-ha ha!" Tor signed a five-album deal with Go Beat in 2001. Following financial difficulties at the label, she was left to find a new route to her dream.

She says, "Back then things were different for me. Things were happening for a number of years, but its now that I feel focused, especially in regard to solo material. I was getting good feedback from labels, but they had a different vision to me, for my music. "It didn't really hit me at the time. I was too young to understand what a big deal having a record deal was. To me it was just better studios and cars everywhere. You get spoilt but the music wasn't there. I wasn't enjoying music anymore and I couldn't stand some of the "Industry" people I came across.  "By the time Go!Beat went down, I was already really fed up with it all. I really liked my MD and didn't blame him for how things turned out. I even called him to say "Hey man, sorry about what happened to your label"! He was like "Don't worry, It's happened to me twice before". He was cool though, he signed Keane a couple of years later "Don't call it a come back" ha! If anything it's inspired me. "Right after we all got dropped I went to stay with my best friend in Vegas for five weeks. Not because I was upset but because I needed to enjoy life a little. I had been stuck in a situation for two years where people didn't know what to do with me.  I was too young and needed to nurture my talent. I was a pirate radio MC who knew how to write bars for days, but not make tracks. "I've been enjoying and learning my craft since then and now I'm ready. I want it more and know how to get it and hold onto it. Put it this way, back then, I was having a dilemma about whether I was going to audition for dance colleges or take a major deal...I wouldn't be in no dilemma now trust me!" Tor has now teamed up with UK producer, DJ Mentat. Mentat, has credits including London's Skinny Man and Roots Manuva, and the Platinum selling Canibus. She has won support from influential UK DJs from Radio 1, XFM and Kiss.

She has also appeared on Bugz In The Attic's 'Move Aside' and Ms Dynamite's 'When I Fall In Love' along with remixes, including Soundbwoy Ent's Top 20 hit, 'Never Wanna Say' and Terri Walker's 'Drawing Board'. Tor's worked with producers including Wonder (Dizzee Rascal/Sway), Ignorance (Craig David), Fusion (Estelle), Destruction (Adam F) and Rashad Smith (Biggie/Erykah Badu/Nas).  Tor's is also due to feature on the forthcoming album of former 702 member Kameelah to be released by Atlantic Records. Other collaborations include Sway who is signed to Akon's Konvict music.  Her influences range from rap to Alanis Morisette, Skin (Skunk Anansie) and Queen.  She says, "When I was studying dance, I met a lot of different people who listened to lots of different music. I realised that the likes of Queen and Skin write equally good songs as my favourite artists such as Nina Simone, Billy Holiday and the Motown greats. I can flip the script to suit all genres but these artists aren't what I'm about. I hope when people hear what I've done with Bugz In Attic, they'll get a better grip of on me musically." I was curious about why a girl who names soul/R&B inspirations has become a rapper instead of a singer but rather than a bad voice its an undeniable passion behind that one.  "I'm a rapper at heart. I love the patterns you can make with words. I feel like singers have more space on a track to get emotional. I know rappers can too but not many take that option. They might have one or two tracks on their albums but the thug/money talk is boring to me. When I was a kid, I loved that stuff and was a little thug myself but I grew up and was like...this ain't cool.

"I still respect big rap icon's talent and still love some of their music but, it doesn't inspire me very much. Soul inspires me. I love to express the same feeling in my own way and rapping is where my voice takes me naturally." Tor released her debut single, 'Strivin' in September 2006 from her overseas compilation EP Beatz International' which also featured 'Back on the endz'.
'Strivin' was also licensed in Japan by Handcuts Records. Her debut album is due to be completed this year. Last September saw Tor travel to Australia, New Zealand and Japan to expand her recording repertoire sponsored by Red Bull music academy.  She also recorded a track with Phonte (Little Brother) and Oddissee (Jazzy Jeff's Magnificent- 'Music Lounge').  In future Tor has her eyes on working with Talib Kweli, Bjork, Lauren Hill and Kanye West. With her single released digitally in July, Tor is in good spirits about continuing to promote rap abroad but how?  "By making quality music and actually supporting one another. People are attracted to togetherness and passionate artists making the music they love.
That's how hip-hop started. People from other places see that rawness in us but we haven't quite got it together yet. Everyone's too busy competing with their next-door neighbour." Hopefully the new generation of British rappers will continue to work together to enshrine the old school attitude that Tor represents.

Visit: www.myspace.com/toruk; www.toruk.net

Singer Joins Canadian Athletes To Raise 2010 Funds

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Chris Johnston, Canadian Press

(September 18, 2007) TORONTO — Singer
Suzie McNeil and freestyle skier Steve Omischl make an unlikely pair. But the two Canadians share a belief they can rise to the top of their professions and have teamed up with Bell Canada to help give Olympic athletes a reason to believe they can do the same. McNeil has released a remix of her song Believe and the proceeds will be used to support winter athletes such as Omischl ahead of the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. Those will be the third Olympics for Omischl, who finished a disappointing 20th in Turin after entering the 2006 Games as the reigning world champion in aerials. He understands exactly what McNeil means when she sings "No one says it's easy." "I've won everything else in the sport except for an Olympic medal, it's all I'm really shooting for," Omischl said yesterday. "That's why this song, when I first heard it, I was, like, 'This is like my career.' " McNeil was part of the reality television series Rock Star: INXS in 2005 and was the last woman standing on the show. She sought out Bell executive Loring Phinney on her own and proposed the idea of using Believe in an Olympic campaign. That meeting got the ball rolling on the project. The "Olympic-inspired version" of the song is performed by McNeil and Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra, which was conducted by Dave Pierce. It is available for download in both English and French at http://www.bell.ca/believe. All of Bell's proceeds from the sales will go to Own The Podium, the national program designed to help Canada top the Olympic medal standings in 2010.

For audio downloads, which cost 99 cents, more than 60 per cent of the proceeds will be given to Own The Podium. For mobile audio and ringtone downloads, which are about $3, more than 80 per cent will be donated. McNeil is thrilled about how the song and accompanying video turned out. "It's out there for people to get excited about the Olympics and bring the country together," she said. "The bottom line is that we need to support out athletes so that they can win golds." Canada won a record 24 medals in Turin and finished third in the overall standings. Own The Podium estimates the country needs 35 medals to win in 2010. Omischl, who was born in North Bay and lives in Kelowna, B.C., is hoping to find his way to the Olympic podium in his adopted province. He has been a member of the national team for eight years and says the biggest difference between the Olympics and a World Cup event is the buzz. He was "blown away" in 2006 after learning that school was stopped in North Bay so kids could watch him compete. "Everybody that I've ever met in my entire life stops to watch the Olympics," Omischl said. "That's what makes it special. "There's a mystique around competing at the Olympics that everyone wants to be part of and wants to support." McNeil is now one of his biggest supporters. She recently spent two years living in Los Angeles and had a Maple Leaf tattooed on the back of her neck during that time. McNeil hopes her song will help get Canadians thinking about the Vancouver Games and allows for homegrown athletes to have the best chance at succeeding. "We are a breed unto ourselves," she said. "There's no other country like us out there." Omischl thinks Believe will do more for athletes than simply generate money for Own The Podium - he thinks it will inspire them. The 28-year-old Omischl is grateful for all the funding he receives and believes it's an essential step to success. "Without that support that we receive from Own The Podium and from sponsors like Bell, no Canadian athlete would be able to put themselves in an ideal situation to do well," he said. "You need that support. You need that backing. It's a struggle."

A Drummer's Personal Saga

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Allan Maki

(September 19, 2007) Percussionist
Steve Negus is not one for doing things the traditional way. You could say he drums to the march of a different beat. Before helping found Saga, one of the legendary prog rock quintets of our time, the Hamilton-born Negus played for a heavy-metal group, a rhythm and blues group and a 1950's-style show band dubbed Bananas. Before that, he was a management trainee for the Bank of Montreal. These days, the so-hailed lord of the drums has a new project, one that coincides with Saga's 30th anniversary: He's about to release his own CD, entitled Dare to Dream. "I had all this great material and I offered it to Saga, but they weren't interested," Negus explained. "I didn't think it would take almost four years to complete, but I wanted to make a great album and I think I've done that." Negus did it his way from start to finish, by playing drums (left-handed, a rarity among his brethren), guitar and keyboards. He also produced and brought in various musicians, such as former Saga keyboardist Jim Gilmour, to help fill out the sound he wanted.

Every track on Dare to Dream is penned by Negus and singer Al Langlade. How they teamed together is a whole other saga. Looking for a little advice, Negus sent a few of his songs to Langlade, who has known Negus for years and has his own recording studio in Thunder Bay. Langlade listened to the songs, added some vocals, then shipped them back to a surprised Negus in Hamilton. The exchange was done on the Internet, with the two collaborators sending one another e-mails and files. It was the beginning of a virtual partnership. "When Al sent the songs back, I really liked his voice," Negus said. "Throughout the whole process, we were never in the same room. I'd send him a chord change and he'd send it back with a vocal change and we'd do it, say, eight or nine times each in the course of a day." Negus left Saga in the summer of 2003 bent on doing a solo CD as quickly as he could. He had been with the band from the very beginning, back when it was originally dubbed Pockets. At its height, Saga had several hits such as Wind Him Up, On the Loose and Scratching the Surface, numbers that still get considerable air play on classic rock FM stations throughout North America. Negus left the group in 1986 figuring he was done for good, only to rejoin, then quit again. Asked why he wanted out from a band that has recorded 18 albums (not counting live efforts and compilations) and is still cashing in on its popularity, Negus replied: "The charm that Saga had when we started, certainly it was progressive rock but there was an organic quality to it; the sounds we got. And that later went away.

"Saga was a shared vision, but I was sharing more of their vision than mine." Having invested his soul in Dare to Dream, Negus soon surrendered his heart. Another musical pal, guitarist Mark Severn, helped out on several songs and quickly established himself as a key contributor to Negus's vision. After watching Saga perform at the 2006 Canada Day celebration in Hamilton, Negus received a phone call telling him that Severn had been killed in a car accident. Dare to Dream is dedicated from one friend to another. "He played some wonderful solos and I miss him," Negus has written on the CD's linear notes. "It is still hard to hear some of his performances without getting teary-eyed." Dare to Dream is what Negus calls "a groove album." Some cuts are rocky; some are almost funky (catch the guitar work in Nightmare); and then there's I Rest My Case, a tasty little track where the lord gets to cut loose on the drum kit in a tribal, rhythmic manner. "Did I plan [for the CD] to come out on Saga's 30th anniversary? This is when it came together," Negus said of his project. "I've done it on my own; with my own label. I recorded it here and can distribute it over the Net off my website. I decided to take control of my own destiny. "There are still a lot of unanswered questions, a lot of work to do, but I'm glad I did it. It had to be done."


Promoting Hip Hop's Bright Side

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(September 14, 2007) Hip hop has such a negative connotation in some circles that some people equate it with thuggery or crime – an unfair depiction that
DMC of the legendary rap group Run-DMC is trying to dispel. "Every time – if it's pimp, pusher, drug dealer – they relate it to hip hop. Those are just elements of society. But for some reason, whether it's a dog fight, whether it's the n-word or the b-word ... It kills me," he said.  DMC aims to fight rap's bad rap by highlighting the hip-hop community's positive contributions with the J.A.M. Awards, set for Nov. 29 in New York City. Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, De La Soul, Cassidy and Snoop Dogg are among the confirmed artists. The awards will honour contributions from members of the hip-hop community in the fields of social justice, the arts and music.

T.I. Shows Why He Wears The Crown

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(September 14, 2007) *
T.I. just might be right in titling himself as the "King of The South."  The BET Hip-Hop Award nominations have just been announced and T.I. has landed on top.  The Atlanta based rapper racked in nine nominations for the second annual awards show. Last year his Majesty garnered eight nominations, and won three awards. Following right behind, Lil' Wayne is second with seven nominations.  Kanye West drew six, Common earned five, Jay-Z took home four, and Ludacris and 50 Cent got three each. "We are so glad to be back in Atlanta again for this year's version of what, in its debut, became the single hottest show in hip hop," said Stephen Hill, executive vice president of entertainment, music and talent at BET. With all the nominations being announced, let's not forget about the honouree for the night.  Mr. Hip Hop himself KRS-One, will be honoured with the "I am Hip-Hop" icon award.   KRS-One is known for his politically and socially conscious raps. Nelly, Lil' Wayne, Kanye West and Common are just a few of the expected performances.  But the main man of the hour will be comedian Katt Williams, as the host for the second time around.  The BET Hip Hop Awards will air on October 17.

Reba named Woman of the Year

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(September 17, 2007) Billboard magazine has picked
Reba McEntire for its first Woman of the Year award. The award coincides with the music magazine's Women in Music issue, due out early next month. Billboard Group editorial director Tamara Conniff says the country star was chosen for the honour because of her wide success in music, television, movies and publishing. "Reba is an inspiration to women everywhere and we are delighted to be presenting her with this award," Conniff said. McEntire, 53, has a new album of duets out next week that pairs her with such varied artists as Justin Timberlake, Don Henley, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny Chesney, Carole King and Faith Hill.

Neneh Cherry Reteams With Youssou N’dour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(September 18, 2007) *Senegalese singer
Youssou N’Dour is hoping to make magic once again with Neneh Cherry, the rapper/vocalist who graced his biggest international hit, “7 Seconds,” in 1994.  Thirteen years later, the two come back together for “Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling),” the lead single from N’Dour’s forthcoming album, "Rokku Mi Rokka" (Nonesuch/Warner). The single combines traditional African instrumentation, R&B beats and a rapped vocal from Sweden native Cherry, who is best known in the States for her 1989 hit, “Buffalo Stance.” "'7 Seconds' opened so many doors for my music, and I've always wanted to sing with Neneh again, but we didn't want to make another '7 Seconds,"' N'Dour told Billboard. "This is much more African-sounding, and it's got a strong message that the continent is not just war, poverty and AIDS; we are trying to move forward." Cherry, who splits her time between homes in Sweden and the UK, is a member of Swedish-based trip-hop act CirKus, which released debut album "Laylow" in 2006 on its own Tent Music label.


Eastern Promises wins People's Choice Award at TIFF

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Laim Lacey

(September 15, 2007)
Eastern Promises, a London-set thriller by director David Cronenberg, won the Cadillac People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, which closed on Saturday after screening 349 films over 10 days. The award came with a $15,000 prize. The top Canadian award went to Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg. Eastern Promises, which stars Viggo Mortensen as a Russian gangster and Naomi Watts as a midwife who finds an incriminating diary. Because Cronenberg was busy doing promotion for the film in New York, the award was accepted by Cronenberg's long-time distributor and colleague, Victor Loewy, who reported that Eastern Promises, which opened in limited release on Friday, was currently No. 1 in each of the multiplexes where it is playing. The first runner-up for the People's Choice award was a film by another Canadian, Jason Reitman. His comedy, Juno, stars Ellen Page as a pregnant teenager who decides to give her baby to a yuppie couple.

The second runner-up was Body of War, a documentary by Ellen Spiro and former talk show host Phil Donahue about a year in the life of a paralyzed Iraq war veteran and political activist. The Toronto-CITY Award jury picked Maddin's film as the best Canadian feature, which carries a $30,000 cash award. The film, described by Maddin as a “docu-fantasia”, blending silent footage and melodrama in a poetic meditation on Maddin's hometown. The jury cited My Winnipeg as a film that “within its specific, personal vision finds a universal appeal.” In accepting the award, Maddin offered a “heartfelt thanks” to the Toronto Film Festival, with which he has been associated over his 20-year filmmaking career. He referred to the years leading up to the prize a long “mating ritual that has culminated in this moment, a consummation of sorts.” Maddin also thanked his family for “allowing me to vivisect them. I promise I won't do it again.” Producer Jody Shapiro announced the film has three new international distribution deals (with IFC Entertainment in the United States, Soda Pictures in the United Kingdom and Maximum Films in Canada). Shapiro also made a point of thanking Michael Burns, formerly the director of programming for the Documentary Channel before its recent take-over by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “Without Michael this film wouldn't have been made. It was his idea."

Shapiro said the award represented a significant first for Maddin in that it “puts him in the history books at this festival.” The $15,000 CITY-TV prize for best Canadian first feature film went to Stephane Lafleur's Continental, Un film sans fusil (Continental, A Film without Guns), which follows four lonely characters in a mixture of absurdity and pathos. Lafleur has had three previous short film at the festival before this feature film debut. The Canadian short film prize of $10,000 went to Chris Chong Chan Fui's Pool. Other winning films included two Mexican offerings. The Diesel Discovery Award, voted on by the 1,000 members of the international media attending the festival, went to Cochochi, from directors Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guzman. The film is about two brothers who become separated when attempting to deliver a package to a faraway community. The award from the International Critics Association (FIRPRESCI Prize) to an emerging filmmaker went to Rodrigo Pla for La Zona, a revenge drama set around a gated community in Mexico City. The Artistic Innovation award went to another Spanish-language film, Anahi Berneri's Encarnacion, an Argentinean film about an aging actress who returns to her hometown, which was cited by the jury for its for its “critique of mainstream cinema” and issues around the “fetishization of the female body.”

Directors Let Music Do The Talking

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(September 14, 2007)
Anton Corbijn is in denial, but you can't blame the guy. The rock photographer turned film director says his movie Control, which is about the rock band Joy Division and its tragic singer Ian Curtis, is "not a music film, at least not in my eyes." He calls it a "personal" film, whatever that means, but most viewers of Control will take it as a musical biopic. Just as they will the documentary Joy Division by Grant Gee, which like Control has been screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. Corbijn's problem with labels is forgivable, because it's possible that no film genre is more misunderstood or mismanaged than the pop music movie.  For starters, there is the technical difficulty of putting a three-dimensional concert experience within a two-dimensional frame. But the biggest problem is establishing the conceptual parameters. How do you nail down an art form, as John Lennon once observed, that can best be described by the little Richard scream, "A wop bop a lu bop, a wop bam boom!" Frank Zappa – or was is Elvis Costello? – once said of rock journalism that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture."

The absurdity doubles for films about music, which have evolved over the decades from sheer economic exploitation – think of all those corny Elvis movies – into something that unsteadily attempts to combine scholarship, creativity and fan worship into one unsteady package. This current edition of TIFF offers a wealth of selections to test the thesis. Movies about Bob Dylan (I'm Not There), The Beatles (Across the Universe), The Who (Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who) and Lou Reed (Lou Reed's Berlin) join the two Joy Division films on the festival slate, each of them alternately bolstering and dismantling various rock legends to arguable effect. Todd Haynes' I'm Not There is the bravest – or maybe craziest – of the lot, since he approaches Dylan on the rock bard's own fractious terms. Dylan has forever dodged easy pigeonholing of his work and persona, to the point of inventing names and events that have muddied his many biographies and even his own autobiography. And Haynes rolls with that deception. He employs six different actors, of varying ages and sexes, to imitate and elucidate Dylan at various stages of his career. Some of it works – especially Cate Blanchett as the Blonde On Blonde-era Bob – and much of it doesn't, but Haynes at least recognizes Dylan as the most indefinable of pop icons, and he stays true to that vision. Julie Taymor's Across the Universe goes to opposite extremes by painting literal interpretations of Beatles songs. More interested in making a visual statement than an intellectual one, she presents the music of the Fab Four as a series of glittering fragments, none of them adding up to a recognizable whole. It's the rock movie for people with short attention spans and a taste for the obvious.

Next to these radical interpretations of rock artists, the old-school biographical format of Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who, by Paul Crowder and Murray Lerner, comes as a something of soother for people who just want a straight-up account of a favourite band. Crowder and Lerner haven't exactly reinvented the wheel here, and their work doesn't exceed the earlier documentary The Kids Are Alright, but the scholarship and archival footage are impressive, especially the material from the band's earliest incarnations as The Detours and The High Numbers. The two Joy Division movies lie somewhere between art and journalism, Corbijn's Control more the former and Gee's Joy Division more the latter. Control offers dramatic insights into why the band's frontman, Ian Curtis, committed suicide at age 23 in 1980, just as his gloom-rock quartet was on the brink of international success. Sam Riley offers a spooky portrayal of Curtis that deserves attention come awards time. Joy Division, meanwhile, sticks to the known facts, but it includes interviews with surviving band member Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris that shine welcome new light onto one of rock's most legendary and mysterious bands. Achieving closure is also the impetus for Lou Reed's Berlin, a film by Julian Schnabel that, on the face of it, is simply that most basic of rock film products, the concert movie. It's a no-frills document of a series of shows Reed gave last year over five nights in Brooklyn, in which he performed live for the first time the songs from his 1973 album Berlin, a landmark of poetic rage and loss. Reed, the former Velvet Underground leader, had been wounded by savage early reviews of Berlin and abandoned plans for live performances. It took his 33 years to muster his nerve, but the wait was worth it. Backed by an impeccable band and a gospel-infused youth choir, he delivers a masterpiece of artful despair that alerts the brain even as it heads straight for the soul. Which, come to think of it, is the best kind of rock, on or off the screen.

Peter Howell is a movie critic at the Star who has covered the Toronto International Film Festival since 1991. His column runs alternate Fridays in the Entertainment & Movies section.

Homeless Man Film Fest's Hottest Celebrity

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Tim Lai, Entertainment Reporter

(September 14, 2007) The media circus swirling through Yorkville yesterday wasn't chasing an elusive movie star, but an enigmatic homeless man whom many of his brethren describe as having "a bar of gold up his ass." Still, they wonder how long his luck will hold.
 The talk of the avenues of luxury – Dave, who goes by the street name "Stress" – was nowhere to be seen at his regular spot in Yorkville, planted outside Remys. On Wednesday, Cassandra's Dream star Colin Farrell took Stress on a shopping spree at a camping store and supposedly fronted his rent for up to a year.  It's not the first time Stress has benefited from the movie heartthrob. A few years back, Farrell picked Stress as the winner of a $2,000 radio contest, but he apparently blew it quickly on drugs. Stress has another strike-it-rich story, but fellow Outreach newspaper seller, Steven, said that tale is one kept to themselves.  "He draws good luck," said Steven, who enjoyed a successful day selling papers, since media and celebrity hounds pestered him with questions about the now-notorious Stress. "I don't want him back on the streets. He got a lottery ticket and it's the best thing. He needed it."  His story was apparently the most-read online at the Toronto Sun. Stress's street celebrity grew throughout the day as rumours about his whereabouts churned out faster than some celebrity blogs.

Some people on the street said they had heard he was trying to double up at Casino Rama or in Niagara Falls. Others said he flew the coop for the U.S. Many figure this loner will be back on the street soon enough, though – but ducking low for his own safety.
 "Thank God (for) Colin Farrell. And more people should do that," Steven said.  "For someone to take you off the streets and give you something like that, that's a gift."  Steven said Stress's story made it hip yesterday to give homeless people money, a much better perception than being labelled a murderer, referring to the recent case in which Ross Hammond of St. Catharines died of stab wounds inflicted by alleged panhandlers.  He added he has had his own financial windfalls from celebrities. During previous festivals, he said, Robin Williams and Bruce Willis each dropped him a few hundred.  But, compared to others, Steven was tight-lipped about Stress.  "We call him `Stress' because he stresses people out. He's not all there. He has his, you know, problems. He's a recovering alcoholic and (crack) addict," claimed Shorty, who's usually planted across the street from Sassafraz.  "I'm pissed off he got all this money and all this good stuff, but I have to be happy for him." Despite hopes he's wrong, Shorty expects to see Stress back on the street because of his addictions. Shorty said if there were more resources put into detox and rehab centres, then perhaps this fresh start could be sustained.  "He's got a disease like the rest of us," said Shorty, who saw Stress's high-end sleeping bag, one of his gifts from Farrell, a few hours after it was purchased.

Even Non-TIFF Movies Got Deals

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(September 17, 2007) The
Toronto International Film Festival, which ended a 10-day cinematic orgy on Saturday, is not just about movie lovers lining up on the sidewalk, glitzy parties and Hollywood celebrities strutting the red carpet at Roy Thomson Hall. It is also about round-the-clock business deal-making. About 3,200 buyers and sellers were registered with TIFF's sales office. And though there were no mega-bidding wars this time, the volume of distribution rights sold is in the $50 million to $60 million range. But perhaps the most intriguing deal of all does not involve a completed movie that was screened at the festival. It's the deal that Toronto producer Niv Fichman inked with Miramax for Blindness – a $25 million Canada/Brazil/Japan co-venture currently being filmed. And it's an indication that this festival has become a sophisticated film market, where anything goes. According to the trade paper The Hollywood Reporter, Miramax has agreed to pay $5 million for U.S. distribution rights now, rather than wait until they see the finished movie. The story concerns a mysterious plague of blindness that devastates a city. A small group of the afflicted band together to overcome the horrific conditions of their quarantine. Fichman, a Rhombus Media co-founder who is best known internationally for his 1998 epic The Red Violin, was represented at this year's TIFF with Silk – another expensive epic (co-produced with partners in Japan and France), screened in the Special Presentations section and set to be released theatrically by Alliance Films.

It took Fichman eight years to get Blindness into production. It was Don McKellar – who works frequently with Fichman –who suggested making a movie of the disturbing novel. In 1999 Fichman and McKellar flew to the Canary Islands and talked the Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese author José Saramago into giving them the film rights. The script was written by McKellar (who won a Tony for The Drowsy Chaperone). One of the author's conditions: the film must not be set in any recognizable country. Fichman made a deal with co-producers in Brazil and Japan and signed Fernando Meirelles (City of God and The Constant Gardener) to direct. Shooting began in and around Toronto six weeks ago and moves to South America in mid-October. Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo play two of the victims who have been imprisoned in an insane asylum. Among Canadians in the cast are Maury Chaykin, Susan Coyne, Martha Burns and McKellar. My guess: Blindness will have its world premiere as the opening TIFF gala in September 2008. Bravo for Burns When director Guy Maddin accepted his $30,000 prize for My Winnipeg – a jury's choice as best Canadian feature at the festival – he took the chance to praise Michael Burns, the former Documentary Channel programming director who came up with the idea and commissioned Maddin to make it (on a $600,000 budget). Just a week before the movie had its premiere at TIFF – to an ecstatic pro-Winnipeg audience – Burns was fired by the CBC, which recently gained control of the channel. Apparently, imaginative films that win prizes are not what the CBC wants. Perhaps its brass prefer to take revenue flowing from the channel's subscribers and old docs from the archives. Burns, who is in Romania, was not present at the awards bash, but is sure to be savouring the vindication. PRIME-TIME MADNESS The biggest glitch of TIFF '07 happened at Thursday's late Roy Thomson Hall gala. The movie: The Walker. The right first reel was followed by the wrong second reel, so the projection abruptly stopped. After 20 minutes, hundreds of people left. Then director Paul Schrader and star Lauren Bacall did an entertaining Q&A to keep the crowd happy until the screening resumed. Last year, the audience was sent home after the projection for Borat went awry at a Midnight Madness screening.


Paltrow On Comeback Trail

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Mike Collett-White, Reuters

(September 16, 2007) LONDON — Actress
Gwyneth Paltrow is on the comeback trail after a break from acting, appearing in "The Good Night" directed by younger brother Jake. The 34-year-old, who won a best actress Oscar for the 1998 film "Shakespeare in Love", admitted she was nervous about being shunned by the industry after three years away looking after her two children. And while she is ready to return to regular work, it will be at a slower pace than her pre-motherhood days. "I really stopped working for three years and I really wanted to be at home with my kids, and I still do. But there's also part of me that is an artist," she said in an interview with her brother to publicize "The Good Night". "But it's hard, it's always hard to get the balance of it all right," she told Reuters. Paltrow is also slated to appear in "Iron Man" alongside Robert Downey Jr., due in theatres next year. "So I'm going back to work, definitely, and I'm really excited about it. But I won't work at the pace that I used to work -- I won't do three, four films a year, it'll be more like one, one-and-a-half films a year."

The actress, married to British pop star Chris Martin with whom she has two children, was concerned that her time away from the film set could hurt her career. "I was worried that everybody would have forgotten about me, so there was an ego thing involved as well. "Will I actually be able to go back to work if I want to go back? Will there be parts for me? Will people care? And you know, so far they kind of seem to care, I'm getting some interesting jobs, it's fun, it's nice to be working again." First-time director Jake Paltrow, three years Gwyneth's junior, said his sister was the last major role he cast for his dark romance "The Good Night", so concerned was he that the project would be "eclipsed" by his famous sibling. Spanish actress Penelope Cruz, Britain's Martin Freeman and U.S. comedian Danny DeVito were all on board first, he added. "It's just I didn't want her involvement to eclipse the movie, and I didn't want to seem like the movie was getting made only because she was in it." With the film about to be released in the United States in early October, he is bracing himself for some scepticism.

"I'm perfectly prepared for any sort of ... negative response to that. What can I do about it?" Gwyneth plays Dora, the dark-haired and downbeat girlfriend of Gary (Freeman), a former pop star now writing commercial jingles for a living and stuck in a mid-life rut. He dreams of Anna (Cruz), a mysterious beauty who fulfils his sexual fantasies, but when he meets her in the flesh their brief friendship goes nowhere. "Here is a feeling about chasing perfection that a lot of people can identify with," said Jake, describing Gary. "His ideas of self-perceived failure are very strong." Early reviews of "The Good Night" have been mixed. The Hollywood Reporter said the film "just makes you sleepy", while rival publication Variety called it "enchanting", and with the potential to be a surprise hit.

Oscar Winner Says Film Studio At Risk

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(September 19, 2007) HALIFAX–Academy Award-winning film producer
Michael Donovan says Nova Scotia Power Inc. wants to pull the plug on his waterfront film studio in Halifax. "I'm convinced they'll put locks on the doors," the chairman and CEO of DHX Media Ltd. said Monday. DHX Media is the parent company of Halifax Film Co. and Electropolis Studios Inc. Nova Scotia Power owns the old power station on Lower Water St. that houses Electropolis Studios, the province's only dedicated large-scale film studio. Halifax Film holds a 10-year lease on the property, where it produces a variety of children's programs. That lease expires in November. Donovan, who won an Oscar for producing Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine, said that after repeated attempts to renegotiate the lease, he's convinced that the power corporation wants to close the studio.

"We do not believe that there is any will to have us there," he said, adding that he doesn't know what plans the utility or its parent company have for the site. Rumours have circulated that the utility's parent company, Emera, might want to use the waterfront location for a liquefied natural gas terminal or may build a commercial-residential development. Utility spokesperson Margaret Murphy called the "unfortunate situation" an impasse between a landlord that wants to increase its lease price to better reflect current market conditions and a tenant that had enjoyed a favourable long-term lease. Donovan said running a studio is a complex and expensive proposition, but the decision was made to go ahead on the basis of a 10-year lease at a nominal rent of $50,000 per year. Donovan said his firm met every condition imposed by the utility during lease renegotiation talks, including a 500 per cent rent increase, but he said the terms kept changing.


Jamie Foxx Gets His Walk Of Fame Star

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(September 17, 2007) *On Friday,
Jamie Foxx took his official place among Tinseltown’s elite with the unveiling of his star on Hollywood Blvd’s Walk of Fame. "My grandmother's gotta be spreading her wings and flying around in heaven, just so happy," Foxx said in his acceptance speech, honouring the woman who raised him in Tyler, Texas. "This is one of the most amazing days of my life." Flanked by his daughter, Foxx received the 2,347th star on the famous boulevard, in a spot right outside of the Kodak Theater where he picked up an Oscar in 2005 for his portrayal of Ray Charles in the motion picture, “Ray.”  The same year he was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar in the Tom Cruise film "Collateral."  The ceremony came two weeks before the release of Foxx's newest film "The Kingdom." He stars with Jennifer Garner and Chris Cooper as members of a U.S. counterterrorism unit chasing after the mastermind of a bombing in Saudi Arabia.

Jada Pinkett Smith Is Only ‘Human’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(September 18, 2007) *
Jada Pinkett Smith has been tapped to write and direct “The Human Contract,” a feature-length motion picture to be produced by her husband Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment, reports FilmJerk.com. The story revolves around Julian Wright, a charming and successful businessman who hides a secret from the rest of the world which tears his soul apart every day. With his personal life a complete mess, Julian happens to meet Michael Reed, a gorgeous stranger who entices him to forget his rigid corporate world and try a more bohemian lifestyle. It's a decision that will not only affect his own life but those of his boss and co-workers, as well as inspire his half-sister Rita to re-examine her life with her abusive husband. Production is scheduled to begin in Los Angeles on Nov. 12.

Street Named For Late Jerry Orbach

Source: Associated Press

(September 17, 2007) NEW YORK — A stretch of 53rd Street at Eighth Avenue was renamed Monday for Broadway and TV star
Jerry Orbach, who died in 2004 at age 69. Orbach's widow, Elaine Orbach, unveiled the new street sign at a ceremony attended by actors including Richard Belzer and Robert Klein. Nominated for three Tony Awards, Orbach originated the roles of El Gallo in “The Fantasticks” and Billy Flynn in “Chicago.” He was known more recently as Detective Lennie Briscoe on the NBC television series “Law & Order.” He also voiced the character Lumiere in the animated film version of Disney's “Beauty and the Beast.”


New Canadian Movies And Mini-Series

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(September 16, 2007)
CTVCTV's new TV movies include Elijah, the story of Elijah Harper, the aboriginal Manitoban MLA who changed the course of history by turning back the Meech Lake Accord. The cast includes Billy Merasty in the lead plus Maury Chaykin as Premier Howard Pawley, Currie Graham as Premier Gary Filmon and also stars Gabrielle Miller, Tina Louise Bomberry and Gary Farmer.

To Serve And Protect: Tragedy At Mayerthorpe stars Henry Czerny and Brian Markison and is based on the tragic events of March 3, 2005, that saw four RCMP officers gunned down in one day. Also David Sutcliffe (Gilmore Girls) and John Robinson co-star in Sticks and Stones about how a Canadian pee-wee hockey team, tried to mend U.S.-Canada relations. In March 2003 thousands of antiwar demonstrators in Montreal harassed a bus carrying 12-year old American boys to a tournament. A year later the boys were welcomed back thanks to the efforts of New Brunswick families. The Terrorist Next Door looks at the double life led by Fateh Kamal who served as a key member in a terrorist organization and turned Ahmed Ressam into the notorious "Millennium Bomber". And corruption turns a police family apart in the two-part four-hour drama Would Be Kings from the team that made The Eleventh Hour. The stars include Robert Forster, Stephen McHattie, Currie Graham and Ben Bass.

CBCBig coup of the season is the two part miniseries St. Urbain's Horseman starring Elliot Gould, Andrea Martin and in the lead David Julian Hirsch (Naked Josh) airing this week. Peter Moss directed sensitively, capturing much of the flavour of the Mordecai Richler novel and Hirsh proves he can carry a major proect –he's in virtually every scene. But the miniseries won't be for everyone – it was started under the old regime – because of its blend of humour and sadness. But it is different fare from American drama. Let's see how it does compared to last season's The Robber Bride (CBC Sept. 19, 20 at 8 p.m.). Down the pike and waiting is The Victor Davis Story, already twice postponed but sure to attract a big audience. Mark Lutz stars (he also wrote the script), director is Jerry Ciccoretti and CBC has said it will run this fall. It's exciting stuff. Shot in Hamilton and ready to go is The Celine Dion Story titled Celine from Toronto's Barna-Alper Productions the same company that made Shania: A life In Eight Albums. Newcomer Christine Gawli has the lead but Jodelle Ferland plays Dion from the age of 10 to 12 (Toronto-born Enrico Colanttoni from Just Shoot Me co-stars). There are also going to be two more adaptations of Booky – but the little girl's age is being backed up from 13 to 10 meaning a new actress must be cast; Megan Follows continues as the mother and the time frame is slightly before the depression hits Canada. Other CBC projects include The Border billed as "a fast-paced, hard driving series set in Toronto in a paranoid post 911 world". And an adaptation of Douglas Coupland's Jpod being developed by Coupland. Plus a new Nutcracker arrives at Christmas time.

Decision On TV Fund Delayed To December

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Canadian Press

(September 14, 2007) The federal broadcast regulator says it will delay its decision on the future of the
Canadian Television Fund until December. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission was supposed to make its decision public this week, but put it off because of what it called the high level of public interest and the complex issues involved. The agency has been studying the recommendations of a task force on the fund, which released its report in June. At the time, Michel Arpin, CRTC's vice-chair of broadcasting and chairman of the task force, said the report recognized the importance of the fund when it came to producing Canadian programs. The report offered a number of suggestions to improve the financing of Canadian programs, enhance the efficiency of the fund and give cable and satellite companies more say. The regulator then started a public process to seek the views of stakeholders and ordinary Canadians.

The fund is jointly financed by the federal government and the cable companies, but cable mogul Jim Shaw and Quebecor Inc.'s Vidéotron Ltée have balked at paying into the fund. Mr. Shaw says the system is broken and can't be fixed. He says the fund essentially subsidizes Canadian programs so broadcasters can spend more money on U.S. shows. “This is just wrong,” he said last winter, when he cut off payments to the fund. Shaw and Vidéotron contributed about $74-million a year to the $250-million fund, which was set up by the federal government in 1996.

Least Watched Award Goes To ... The Emmys!

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(September 17, 2007) LOS ANGELES – A big loser at this year's
Emmy ceremony? The Emmys broadcast, which may have been the least-watched in history. Preliminary figures from Nielsen Media Research put the audience for Sunday's show, aired on Fox, at 13.1 million viewers. That's 3 million fewer than for last year's telecast, on NBC, and less than the record low 13.8 million three years ago on ABC. One likely reason for Emmy's poor performance: Tough head-to-head competition in much of the country from NBC's National Football League game. About 13.3 million viewers chose to watch the New England Patriots clobber the San Diego Chargers, according to preliminary numbers. (Final audience numbers are expected from Nielsen on Tuesday.) Ratings aside, The Sopranos claimed its final Emmy as best dramatic series. Winners in other top categories were scattered across the prime-time landscape like the bodies of the show's fallen characters across New Jersey. A stunned James Spader felt like he just "stole a pile of money from the mob" in winning best drama series actor as a devilish lawyer on Boston Legal at Sunday night's ceremony. And Sally Field was her flustered self as winner of best actress in a drama for her matriarchal role in Brothers & Sisters. Spader rubbed out three-time winner James Gandolfini of The Sopranos and last year's upset victor, Kiefer Sutherland of 24. Field, fondly remembered for her years-ago TV stints as Gidget and The Flying Nun, bumped off Edie Falco of The Sopranos. "Surely this belongs to all the mothers of the world," Field said in a rambling acceptance speech that wound up with a swear word that had to be bleeped by Fox censors. Field's speech recalled her much-parodied 1985 acceptance of the best-actress Oscar for Places in the Heart, in which she said the famous line: "I can't deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you really like me." Presenter Ray Romano also got attention from the evening's word police. Fox blacked out the show for a few seconds when Romano used a strong word in a joke about his former Everybody Loves Raymond wife, Patricia Heaton, sleeping with her new Back to You co-star Kelsey Grammer.

Supporting dramatic actress winner Katherine Heigl of Grey's Anatomy mouthed another expletive, which Fox unsuccessfully tried to evade by switching camera angles. 30 Rock took top comedy series honours for its behind-the-scenes look at the craziness of a late-night sketch show. Tina Fey, the show's star and creator, acknowledged the show's low ratings in its freshman year by thanking its "dozens and dozens of viewers.'' Ricky Gervais of Extras beat out Steve Carell of The Office for lead comedy series actor. Gervais originated the buffoonish boss role that Carell fills on the American version of the British sitcom. The biggest laugh of the night was earned by presenters Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, after they announced that Gervais won. "Ricky Gervais could not be here tonight. Instead we're going to give this to our friend, Steve Carell," Stewart said. Carell bounded on stage, sharing a group hug with Stewart and Colbert. America Ferrera, TV's breakout star as the dumpy fashion magazine assistant on Ugly Betty, was the lone acting front-runner to win. She added an Emmy as leading comedic actress to her Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild victories this year. "This is such an amazing, wonderful achievement," Ferrera said. "The award is to be able to get up and go to work tomorrow." Regarded as one of television's best-ever series, The Sopranos aired its final show this past June, leaving many viewers grumbling about its enigmatic, cut-to-black ending.

Yet the show got some final respect Sunday night with two standing ovations – first, when the cast was introduced, and again when the series received the night's top honour. "In essence, this is a story about a gangster," show creator David Chase said. "And gangsters are out there taking their kids to college, and taking their kids to school, and putting food on their table. "And, hell, let's face it, if the world and this nation was run by gangsters" – Chase paused and shrugged, as the audience laughed – "maybe it is." Rookie host Ryan Seacrest of American Idol was seen sparingly after opening the three-hour telecast. Instead, he turned the Shrine Auditorium's in-the-round stage over to the veteran comedy chops of Romano, Ellen DeGeneres and Lewis Black. One of the nights other standing ovations went to former vice-president Al Gore, whose Current TV channel, which features viewer-created videos, was honoured for achievement in interactive television. "We are trying to open up the television medium so that viewers can help to make television, and join the conversation of democracy, and reclaim American democracy by talking about the choices we have to make," said Gore, whose global-warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth received an Oscar earlier this year. Queen Latifah helped salute the groundbreaking miniseries Roots on its 30th anniversary. The saga about a black American family's history "brought great honour to the art form that we celebrate," she said. "Let us all work to ensure that we all honour the legacy of Roots not just tonight but in everything we do," added Roots star John Amos, reunited onstage with his castmates to yet another standing ovation.

Online Television Knows No Season

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(September 17, 2007) The
Internet knows no seasons. Unlike television, there's not a flood of new shows to match our humble retreat to the indoors after the summer doldrums. But that doesn't mean the many worthy Web shows should miss out on all the fun of fall previews. Though complex action dramas like 24 and Heroes aren't being made successfully on the web, comedies (which are much less expensive) are thriving. Here are a handful of the most interesting series now playing online: The Michael Showalter Showalter: Many might know this comedian from sketch comedy TV shows The State and Stella, or the cult 2001 film Wet Hot American Summer. Showalter is now hosting The Michael Showalter Showalter on collegehumor.com and michaelshowalter.net.  In each episode, Showalter calmly and absurdly interviews a guest (among them Paul Rudd, Andy Samberg and David Cross) in a dark studio across a round table. The result looks something like the program Charlie Rose would make if he were bonked on the head right before going on air. Showalter shows both an on-camera and off-camera persona, the latter of whom is pathetic to the point of asking comedian Zach Galifianakis to repay him for gas money for a two mile ride. He keeps a straight face even while Rudd mixes Gandhi and Yoda impressions into one. "I'm definitely one of those people that has really taken the comedy as serious to heart," he says. "There's just something very funny about foible and imperfection."

Wainy Days: Showalter's friend and Stella co-star David Wain also has an unmissable web series. Seven episodes of Wainy Days have aired on MyDamnChannel.com, a site Wain had a hand in founding with comedian Harry Shearer and music producer Don Was. The episodes, which premiere weekly, follow Wain through conventional sitcom plots, handled unconventionally.  Derek & Simon: The Show: This series stars Simon Helberg and Derek Waters and can be found on superdeluxe.com, where the duo have put out 13 videos, each about 3 to 5 minutes long. Helberg (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) and Waters are both young comedic actors with some experience in Hollywood, but it's Bob Odenkirk's name that tops Derek & Simon. Odenkirk, best known for the late '90s HBO sketch comedy show Mr. Show, directs the series and plays Derek and Simon's acting teacher. In one episode, Waters attempts to cover up an accidental "I love you" confession to his girlfriend by saying he loves everything (``I love bowling shoes!"). Some videos that contain R-rated material are for those 18 and older. Livin' `Neath the Law with Jack McBrayer: McBrayer introduces himself in his first video as "The Hollywood Entertainment's Jack McBrayer." McBrayer's best known (real) role is as the network page Kenneth Parcell on NBC's 30 Rock. He recently began airing Livin' `Neath the Law at FunnyOrDie.com, the video site founded by Will Ferrell and comedy director Adam McKay. McBrayer's innocent charm is still the gag here, but this time his persona is dedicated to cheerfully explaining the ways of the street.

Proudly Canadian. More, Please!

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - TV Columnist

(September 17, 2007) Underfunded and underappreciated,
Canadian TV comes tiptoeing back into view after summer's reruns. It's not that Canadians don't like watching themselves on TV. Try saying that to the million-plus fans who eagerly await each new episode of Corner Gas. Or what about the sudden hit status of last year's Little Mosque on the Prairie, definitely a breakaway success after only seven episodes, big enough for the stars to get interviewed on CNN and written up in The New York Times?  What Canadian TV doesn't have, and never did have, is a plethora of smartly scripted hour-long dramas. This fall, CTV only has one hour of Canadian drama a week in Whistler, which is back for its second season, airing Saturdays at 9. CBC has the second season of the well-made thriller Intelligence (Oct. 1 at 9) and a new family entry, Heartland (debuting Oct. 14 at 7), to entice the Sunday suppertime audience that once doted on Wind At My Back. Citytv is back in the hour-series game with the vampire detective story Blood Ties (in November, there'll be another one titled Across The River to Motor City). Ten years ago there were 11 well-crafted hour Canadian series, but the glory days of Traders, ENG, Street Legal, Wind At My Back, Due South, and The Eleventh Hour are long gone. It's not that they weren't popular – Global's Traders valiantly found its audience despite being smack dab against red-hot U.S. import ER. Programmers say it was the mounting cost – these days an hour of scripted drama costs at least $1 million in Canada, a top U.S. hit like CSI or Grey's Anatomy hovers at the $4.5 million (U.S.) mark. In the U.S., studios make up the difference between the network license fee and actual cost by selling these shows around the world.  Some Canadian dramas have travelled very well in the past, including Wind At My Back and Due South. But these days competition for foreign dollars is so fierce Canadian sales haven't been as steady as before. Foreign networks tend to want big Hollywood names, even if many of those names belong to expatriate Canadians.

But Canadian TV still supports TV movies – a genre that has virtually disappeared from U.S. mainstream networks. In fact, CBC rolls out one of its biggies this week, the two-part, four-hour version of Mordecai Richler's St. Urbain's Horsemen, airing Tuesday and Wednesday. Still awaiting and airdate on CBC is the compelling The Victor Davis Story. I was on set last year and I've watched the DVD. This one's as exciting as it gets. Another big one all set to go is Céline – the life and times of Céline Dion, with newcomer Christine Gawli in the lead (co-starring Veronica Mars' Enrico Colantoni). CBC has another Booky TV-movie shooting in Hamilton for Christmas release. There's a new series called The Border shooting, although it probably won't get on until next season, and there's a brand new version of The Nutcracker shot in Calgary. CTV has a proud tradition of getting high ratings for TV movies snatched from the headlines.  There's one called Elijah about aboriginal MLA Elijah Harper who stopped Meech Lake. To Serve and Protect dramatizes the 2005 Mayerthorpe RCMP shooting-deaths tragedy. And the team from The Eleventh Hour has made the thriller The Terrorist Next Door. That doesn't mean there aren't new Canadian shows coming on, as well. CBC is in the midst of its own reality craze. Debuting Oct. 3, No Opportunity Wasted with Phil Keoghan is one. Theatre impresario Garth Drabinsky has another called Triple Sensation (debuting Oct. 7) – contestants must be able to sing, dance and act. A blue-ribbon panel treats them far nicer than Simon Cowell ever would. Even Global gets into the Canadian-content act with a strong entry: Debuting Oct. 14, Da Kink In My Hair is a vibrant adaptation of the hit Canadian play that's been wildly successful everywhere it has played. And there are signs cable and digital channels are coming to the rescue. Check out Discovery's dramatic space adventure Race to Mars with Michael Riley (Sept. 23). And what about the new ballet Fiddle & The Drum created by Joni Mitchell, upcoming on Bravo!? A food show I've screened and like is the high school saga Fink, airing soon on the Food network. More please! That's the reaction of viewers. But Canadian TV production is notoriously short of money.

Kelsey Grammer's Back, But This Time He Plays Chuck

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan

(September 18, 2007) HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. — No more playing the fop for
Kelsey Grammer - but are viewers ready for Frasier with a Fox attitude? Traces of the effete Frasier Crane unavoidably exist in Grammer's TV comeback role of pompous news anchor Chuck Darling in the new fall sitcom Back to You (starting Wednesday on Fox and Global at 8 p.m.). There's no mistaking that booming baritone, for starters. But this time, the affable actor isn't assuming nearly as endearing a character. Whereas Frasier was a well-meaning windbag, Chuck is a jerk. As Dr. Crane might surmise, the two men present a classic case of ego and id. "Certainly Frasier and Chuck are both self-obsessed, but they exist in very different worlds," mused Grammer at the recent TV critics' tour. "For all his flaws, Frasier really was out to do the world some good; Chuck is out to do himself some good. He's in the TV news business, after all." Back to You is the sole sitcom arrival in Fox's new season - possibly because Fox spent all the money in one place - and one of only six new half-hour comedies to be launched on U.S. network television in the coming months. According to most critics and media buyers, it's the closest thing to a sure thing there is this TV season. Grammer walked away from Frasier in 2004 after 11 successful seasons - and nine previous years playing the same role on Cheers - but his return to television was always inevitable. For some TV stars, it's simply in the blood. "Coming back to sitcom television wasn't motivated by money or ego," he says. "I came back because I'm a performer, and I need to perform. And I'm good at storytelling. That's what I do, and that's why I'm here."

There's little doubt people will watch Back to You, if only to see if Grammer can step outside his Frasier persona. He does. Since every good cad needs a sparring partner, Back to You pairs Grammer with sitcom fixture
Patricia Heaton, a face well known to viewers from nine seasons as Ray Romano's long-suffering wife on Everybody Loves Raymond.  The series was developed expressly for the two stars by TV veterans Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, both of whom worked in senior creative roles for several years on Frasier. "We wanted to create someone who was obviously not Frasier," Lloyd says, "but at the same time, he couldn't move so far away from Frasier that people would say, 'What? He's a sheriff in Alaska?' We had to stay within the realm of believability." Directed by sitcom legend James Burrows - the man who breathed first life into Cheers, Friends, Frasier and Will & Grace - the first episode of Back to You firmly establishes the aging newsreader as overbearing and boorish, and an aging lothario in the bargain. In the set-up, the character's pushy ways have taken him to the top of the TV news food chain - lead anchor on a top-rated L.A. newscast - until, that is, an obscenity-laden, off-camera tirade by Chuck somehow ends up on a YouTube-like website. "Our nod to reality television, or reality," Grammer quips. Chuck's career freefall sends him hat in hand straight back to the small, Pittsburgh station WURG-TV, where years before he started in broadcasting. Chuck didn't make many friends in his first stint at the station, particularly not with his original broadcast partner, Kelly Carr, played by Heaton. A fiery-tongued single mom, she was the one who stayed behind while Chuck hit the big time, however briefly. Her opinion of Chuck: "A preening gasbag." Naturally the pair are immediately teamed on the station's evening newscast.

"There's obviously bad blood between the two characters, which opens a wealth of opportunities for comedy," Grammer says. "Chuck and Kelly have their own history, which won't be revealed until later in the story." The show's concept required the stars to familiarize themselves with the TV news milieu. Grammer admits to minimal preparation before assuming his brash anchorman persona - "Chuck is an amalgamation of my imagination. He's simply a man who takes comfort and arrogance in his own ego." Heaton, meanwhile, became transfixed watching tapes of small-market American newscasts. "It was amazing to watch how the hairdos actually changed in the different markets," Heaton says. "You've got your local New York anchors - the gals who really could use a little wax on the brow. And it keeps changing all the way to the West Coast, where some of them look like hookers." In terms of its loftier ambitions, Back to You hopes to start a renaissance of the old-school TV sitcom. Unlike current single-camera sitcom hits such as 30 Rock and The Office, the show is filmed in traditional sitcom style and boasts a smallish, quirkily written ensemble cast that includes a bumbling sportscaster (Fred Willard) and a bombshell weather lady (Ayda Field). Evoking the spirit of WKRP in Cincinnati, most of the onscreen activity in the first few shows is restricted to the WURG newsroom. "Somehow, a TV newsroom just seems the perfect backdrop for farce and satire, and it allows us to build the relationships between these people thrown together," Grammer says. "It's not unlike the situation we had on Frasier, though this feels a little more like Cheers." They may be getting ahead of themselves, but all the players on Back to You seem to be planning for an extended network run. And even though Grammer played the stuffy Frasier for two decades, he's not averse to another long haul. "It's up to the viewing public, of course, but I'm fully committed to the story," he says. "Really, what could be wrong with being on three of the most beloved shows in television history?"


Uptown Survivor Recounts Her Harrowing Tale

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Omar El Akkad

(September 18, 2007)
Kate Wagner reached blindly through the wreckage of her classroom's collapsed ceiling and made contact with a student, whose face was covered in blood. Ms. Wagner was the head teacher at Toronto's Yorkville English Academy on Dec. 8, 2003 - the day a section of Yonge Street's old Uptown Theatre collapsed on the adjacent school, injuring 14 and killing one student, 27-year-old Augusto Mejia Solis.  The theatre was being torn down by Priestly Demolition, which has since paid a fine of $200,000 after pleading guilty to a violation under the Health and Safety Act. Yesterday, Ms. Wagner was the first witness at a coroner's inquest into the tragedy. Breaking down and sobbing, the teacher recounted the moments immediately before and after the building collapse. "[I turned around from the whiteboard] and the ceiling was right at my eyesight," she said. "The next thing I remember, I was on the ground." A jury of five listened to Ms. Wagner's testimony, as well as that of several emergency officials who rushed to the school.  Jurors were instructed to ultimately provide recommendations for how to avoid such tragedies.  However, presiding coroner Bert Lauwers also told the jury it cannot make a finding of criminal or legal fault with anyone involved.

Emergency workers say it is likely Mr. Solis died trying to save 10-year-old Tommy Cho. Although his legs were crushed by the debris, Tommy survived. The inquest heard that the death toll might have been considerably higher had it not been for timing.  The collapse happened during a 15-minute break between classes and many of the students were not in the building at the time. "It was just total chaos," said Toronto Police Constable John Angus, one of the first officers at the scene. "It could have been a lot worse." Ms. Wagner described watching from under the rubble as debris fell from the remaining ceiling above her.  Believing that news of the collapse would soon be on TV, she grabbed her cellphone and called her mother. "I said, 'The ceiling collapsed but I'm okay.' " Eventually, a firefighter's head appeared from behind the debris, but he couldn't get to Ms. Wagner and her student.  Ms. Wagner asked the firefighter to find her boyfriend, another teacher who, before the collapse, was in an adjacent classroom. Her boyfriend was able to poke his hand through an overhead vent and Ms. Wagner guided him to a safe area of the classroom, where firefighters were eventually able to reach them. Both were taken to the nearby Manulife Centre, where a triage had been set up. There, the wounded gathered - bloodied and in some cases seriously injured.

Some of the jury's work consists of formalities. For example, it must determine the time when Mr. Solis died; however, that simply entails referencing the time at which a doctor pronounced the student dead. Where the jury will provide its most useful recommendations is in determining how such tragedies can be prevented in the future. The inquest heard yesterday that demolition regulations may not have been as stringent as they could have been.  To obtain a demolition permit for the Uptown Theatre project, Priestly had to retain an engineer for the job. However, the inquest was told the engineer never even visited the site until after the fatal collapse. The inquest is expected to focus on this and other technical and regulatory issues. Various firms and departments have been granted standing at the inquest, including Priestly, the Ministry of Labour, the Professional Engineers of Ontario and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. In all, about eight lawyers representing those parties were at the inquest. None of the lawyers had questions for any of the witnesses yesterday. Coroner's counsel Lorna Spencer said the Uptown Theatre incident helped illuminate what the demolition industry may have been like under less stringent regulations. "I think it revealed a bit of a disconnect between what you and I think is happening versus what is really happening,' she said. The inquest is expected to last about a month, and the focus will likely switch within the next day or so from personal stories to more technical issues.

Bob Martin Takes A Bow

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(September 19, 2007)
Bob Martin isn't one to say I told you so, but alone among those involved with The Drowsy Chaperone, he was sceptical of whether it would succeed in London's West End. As it happened, he was right.  A smash hit on Broadway and a critical success in London, Drowsy was nonetheless a commercial failure, for reasons that speak volumes about the current state of musical theatre.  It closed in August, after less than three months on the boards. By then, Martin, the droll, affable, self-effacing star of the Tony Award-winning show, was back home in Canada. He left a few weeks before the birth of his and his wife, Janet Van de Graaff's first child, Harrison, now eight weeks old. (He's named for Martin's favourite Beatle.)  "The timing worked out very well," Martin said in a recent interview. "It would have been horrible if I hadn't made it."  The Drowsy Chaperone, of course, is the charming little musical that famously graduated from 1998 stag skit - The Wedding Songs, a gift to Martin and his then-fiancée, Van de Graaff, from their many friends - to Toronto fringe show to Theatre Passe Muraille to Mirvish Winter Garden production to Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre and thence to Broadway, where it was nominated for 13 Tonys (and won four) and is still running, 18 months later.

Now, Martin, 44, will again play the Man in Chair, when The Drowsy Chaperone kicks off its North American tour - and Dancap Productions' inaugural season - Sunday night at Toronto's Winter Garden Theatre. (The show begins previews tonight.) When the Toronto run here ends on Oct. 14, he plans to take some time off to enjoy his family. Toronto actor Jonathan Crombie will take over his part for the rest of the tour. I asked Martin, who has been a part of every production except the original wedding skit, whether he was sick of the show yet. "I thought I would be," he confesses. "But actually in performance, the show continues to come alive for me. It's a different crowd every night. I have to be engaged for it to work. And it's still a lot of fun." Rehearsal, on the other hand, is another matter, since Martin's performance involves speaking directly to the audience. When it isn't there, he's left with "the bemused stagehands." The show theatregoers will see here is considerably changed from the one-hour show performed eight years ago at the Fringe. It evolved with new material and new songs. The biggest change occurred before the Los Angeles production, which was about 50 per cent new. "The feel of the show, the comic sensibility is still the same," Martin says, "and two of the original songs have survived, but everything else is new. These were things we wanted to do anyway because to become a full-blown musical, you needed to make these changes."

The Broadway experience was "fabulous," Martin says. He was housed in a posh apartment a few blocks from the theatre, appeared on Live with Regis and Kelly and The View, and performed in the Macy's parade. "I loved New York. It's a community that's so into theatre and being the first to try new things. They treated me very well." He says he and his wife are now looking to find a pied-à-terre there, while he weighs two new musical theatre opportunities. "London was more difficult," he concedes, "because we simply could not get our audience. And there were things in that production that were stronger than the Broadway show." But the West End has shown more appetite for shows based on better-known material, either revivals or musicals based on familiar films (Dirty Dancing) or music (Queen's We Will Rock You). Shows that arrive without a brand name tend to struggle, Tony awards or not. It was these trends that made Martin question whether Drowsy would translate well to the British market. According to Variety, Drowsy has grossed about $56-million in New York, a significant achievement since less than 10 per cent of all Broadway shows earn back their investment. Subtracting about 10 per cent for expenses and taxes, the authors - including Martin, book writer Don McKellar and the musical composers, Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison - would be traditionally entitled to royalties of about 8 per cent. That means each of them has probably walked away with something close to a million dollars. A wedding gift for them all, as it turned out. The son of a bus driver turned house painter, Martin was born in Harrow, near London, and immigrated with his family to Toronto as a child. "It was a very British family," he recalls. "Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, yes. There was tea in my baby bottle. Really." Concerned about his shyness, his mother enrolled him in acting classes at 11. "I really liked it. She had a little radio studio and we did all these old radio scripts."

He met Lambert, another student there, and McKellar in high school. Martin took a degree in English and film from the University of Toronto, then launched a career in improv. By the time Drowsy began to develop, Martin had turned to writing, co-creating the cable TV series Slings and Arrows. "I assumed I would follow the TV path, but doors opened. It was a bigger roll of the dice. It did pay off. My love of performance came alive again. Writing can be a miserable existence, lonely and alienating, in your head all the time." Martin says he doesn't think it's possible to create another Drowsy, but he and his writing partners are about to try. "The material is most in my head for now," he says, "but I've been making notes." As for Drowsy, when it finishes its commercial life, Martin would like to see it licensed (for a modest royalty) to high schools. "It's ideal. It's very small, an ensemble production and the Man in Chair character can easily be adapted to make fun of your physics teacher." What Drowsy proves, ultimately, is the power of collective work, Martin says. "I tell students this - that the people you work with in the early days will be your colleagues for the rest of your life. It's not about the ego or the individual. It's about the collaboration."


A Fond Farewell To Stratford

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

(September 18, 2007)
Richard Monette, who is saying goodbye to the Stratford Festival, has left it $50 million richer.  A gala tribute to Monette, the festival’s artistic director since 1994, was held in the Festival Theatre last night.  The event was scheduled to include performances from such stars as Christopher Plummer, Cynthia Dale, Brent Carver and Martha Henry.  But the even bigger news yesterday was the announcement that the festival’s endowment fund had reached the $50 million goal that Monette and the board of governors set in 1999.  Kelly Meighen, the board chair, saluted Monette on his accomplishment. “Richard has left the festival in an outstanding financial position and can be very proud of this remarkable achievement.  “The For All Time Endowment Fund not only ensures the festival’s continued success, but allows it to dream and reach new artistic heights. His forethought in creating it will be appreciated by generations to come.”  The endowment fund will help protect Stratford against the financial ups and downs that can befall any organization, no matter now successful.  It will also help to train a younger generation of actors, directors and designers, as well as developing new audiences for the festival as it begins a new era next season under general director Antoni Cimolino and the artistic directorate of Marti Maraden, Des McAnuff and Don Shipley


Sarah Fulford Named Editor Of Toronto Life

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(September 19, 2007) Toronto Life – one of North America's top city magazines – is getting a new editor.
Sarah Fulford, 33, will have the challenging task of refreshing a formula that has worked for four decades and bringing it into the brave new media world of the Internet and the 21st century. Fulford is the chosen successor of John Macfarlane, a dominant figure in Canadian magazine journalism for the past 35 years, who is stepping down after 15 years as editor of TL. "This has been in the works for a while," Macfarlane says. "I felt it was time for a change." But he is going out in a blaze of glory; the current issue has a superb cover story by Peter C. Newman on the Conrad Black trial – edited and orchestrated by Macfarlane. To media insiders, it had become clear long before that Macfarlane was grooming Fulford to take over a position he defined ever since she joined the staff eight years ago. But the script was muddied a year ago when Fulford moved to New York with her husband, novelist Steve Marche, who had an academic position. Fulford continued to work as senior editor of Toronto Life even while living in New York. But it was by no means certain that the couple and their infant son would be returning to Toronto. Though there was no doubt in Macfarlane's mind who should be editor, senior executives of the magazine and its owners, St. Joseph Media, went through the process of doing a search and interviewing other potential candidates.

It wasn't until Fulford – daughter of writers Robert Fulford and Geraldine Sherman – was offered the job of editor that they decided to leave New York. "We weren't sure what was going to happen," Fulford explained in a phone interview yesterday, "and there was barely enough time to make plans. But it's the perfect arrangement. I get to do what I love, and Steve gets to write novels, which is what he should be doing." Macfarlane (a former Toronto Star entertainment editor) was editor of Toronto Life early in his career and returned to the job almost 20 years later. In the interim he was editor of Weekend, publisher of Saturday Night and editor of the Financial Times. He remains as editor until the end of 2007.

Spring Styles Soft, Floating

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bernadette Morra, Fashion Editor

(September 14, 2007) NEW YORK–Grab yourself a tablecloth and knot it at your neck and knees. Now you're ready for spring/summer 2008. Okay, not quite, but you get the drift. The direction for spring according to the designers showing at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is soft, romantic and light. And why not. There's enough harsh reality on the news and in the streets. Might as well keep the fashion spirits up, up, up. And that is just where some of the bubble coats and dresses looked as though they were headed – into the clouds. The stiff couture drama of fall has relaxed into a somewhat leaner silhouette. There is still volume, but it has settled into a soft egg shape, which somehow seems to make more sense. Or maybe it's just that our eyes have adjusted. Vera Wang took the fluidity of the toga as an evening look for her collection, inspired by Ancient Rome. She swagged, rolled and scrunched silk jersey, wool gauze and metallic basket weaves with a papery or wrinkled finish. Sapphire blue jersey spilled from one shoulder of a dress at Generra, designed by one-time Toronto Fashion Incubator resident Pina Ferlisi. Unstructured anoraks, all over the runways here, also had that nonchalant attitude. Jersey rippled like drapery on Doo. ri Chung's dresses and tulle cocoons veiled silk sheaths. "That's all the buyers want to see – dresses," said Erin Leslie of Jeremy Laing. Some seem straight out of a '70s French Vogue shoot by Guy Bourdin, one of the influences cited often by designers for next spring. Shorts are prevalent as a modern suit staple. Jackets are still cropped and shrunken, as are coat sleeves. Vests are worn singly or layered. And embellishment continues – how else to distinguish between a designer's signature collection and their lower-priced interpretations for the fast-fashion chains? You'll find minuscule feathers and gold leaf in Proenza Schouler's main line, but not at Target.

Canadian Designer Wins Raves

NEW YORK–A neighbour's suicide attempt added more than the usual stress to Jeremy Laing's pre-show mania.  The Canadian designer and his team were fitting models at his downtown studio when an NYPD squad came knocking.  "We're on the 23rd floor and there was someone directly beneath us who was going to jump," said Laing's business partner Erin Leslie. "It was surreal. Here we were doing fittings while a negotiating team were hanging out the window with telescopic poles. There's always something, but this was something else."  In the end, the life was saved and Laing's show was a hit.  There are scarf dresses all over Seventh Ave. but none more beautiful than Laing's.  Buyers and editors from Neiman Marcus, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Lane Crawford, Vogue, Elle and W lapped up the winged shifts with Swarovski-studded half-belts, white cotton balloon-back dresses and silk shifts bearing sunspots and fireworks by Toronto artist Karen Azoulay, who recently moved to New York.  "I was inspired by Arctic landscape photos that had the sun making a flare of light," Laing explained after the show. "So it's an Arctic palette with frosty jacquards, glacial blues and pebbly nylon/cotton. And we used Swarovski crystals as apparitions of light."

As always, though, it's Laing's experimental construction that astonishes. This time he played with wedges, not cut into the cloth but engineered at the pattern-making stage, so a triangle of volume ballooned down the back of a dress or spiralled around the torso. "It's really complicated," Laing smiled, offering a baffling mathematical explanation.  The intellectual approach should be no surprise. Laing's dad is a retired teacher. His mother looks after the dietary needs of a daycare in Peterborough, Laing's hometown. They were both at their first Jeremy Laing show, along with the designer's sister Johanna, who helped dress the models. And they seemed overcome with the lavish praise after the show.  "This is world class," gushed Holt Renfrew VP of fashion direction Barbara Atkin. "We're seeing a lot of dresses here in New York but he makes those cocoon shapes and batwing details very wearable.  "We're doing really well with his collection," she added. "He's under the radar but our customer is discovering him and coming back for more. He's one of our new superstars."  "If I had money, I would invest in him," declared Suzanne Timmins, fashion director of HBC.  "I really think he's got what it takes for international fame. He's got the business mind, the intelligence, the extraordinary creative talent – and the strength of character to handle it."

Women Executives Create Women in Entertainment Empowerment

Excerpt from www.allhiphop.com - By Chris Richburg

(Sept. 7, 2007) Fashion mogul Kimora Lee Simmons has joined forces with Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) executive director Valeisha Butterfield, Motown Records president/Universal Records executive vice president Sylvia Rhone and singer Joss Stone to help launch the
Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN). Led by women executives in music, television, film, radio and other forms of entertainment, WEEN is dedicated to supporting, promoting and defending the positive, balanced portrayal of women in entertainment and in society. The coalition, which is comprised of women of all races and ages, was created in light of recent discussion surrounding the portrayal of women of color in entertainment, specifically in Hip-Hop music.  It will target three core areas which include corporate social responsibility, media/artist responsibility and community programs/outreach. "I am truly honoured to join forces with the Women's Entertainment Empowerment Network and this amazing collective of women," said Simmons, the coalition's national spokeswoman. "I firmly believe in WEEN's mission and hope that together we can begin making a real difference with our work." More than 80 influential women in the entertainment industry, including corporate executives, recording artists and educators, helped develop WEEN's mission statement, program and strategy. The coalition will formally launch with a special invitation-only "pink" carpet event on Sept. 19 at Bo Concept, an exclusive furniture store in Manhattan. The event will kick-off a twelve month countdown to enrol 1 million women into WEEN.

To help develop its network and enrol members, the coalition created WEENonline.org.
 Valeisha Butterfield believes WEEN will be a catalyst for motivating women to be more active in how are viewed. "It is imperative that as women in leadership positions, we take back responsibility, raise awareness and implement programs that reach the young women and men in our communities that need it most," said Butterfield, the coalition's founder, in a statement. "Young girls are crying out for our support and mentorship. Dialogue is important, but not enough. Dialogue followed by strategy and subsequent action is necessary for the type of change we hope to see in our communities." For details visit www.weenonline.org.

Alan Alda: Wise Guy

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Bert Archer

(September 17, 2007) When
Alan Alda, reviver of Groucho Marx, worker with Woody Allen, and star, writer and director of one of the most successful and serious sitcoms in television history, defines the essence of a joke for you, you listen carefully. "A joke," says Alda, 71, sitting in his hotel room at Toronto's Soho Metropolitan, promoting his new book, Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, "is when you set up an expectation, then you mess with it, and then you resolve it, and it's both surprising and inevitable at the same time, and that means you have to do things in the right order and you have to not lean too heavily on one thing and not too lightly on another." Well, that explains things. I'd been wondering, ever since I was handed this book, Alda's second, about to enter The New York Times bestseller list at No. 8. I mean, Alan Alda as bestselling author? His first book, a memoir called Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, was a surprise hit. This one is a surprise tour de force, a sort of collected wisdom of Alda that's actually wise. I didn't get it. Now I do. Alda's career's been a joke. When M*A*S*H started in 1972, it was slapstick. You got that there was a serious subtext, because it was set during a war - when the United States was at war - and it was based on a Robert Altman film, but the text of the show was mostly straight-man set-ups and goosing nurses. The expectation? We've got a new funny-guy in star Alan Alda. But then, as the show went on and grew more and more popular, it also grew more and more serious, never losing the comedy but including things such as the deaths of major characters and, in the final episode in 1983, a scene in which Hawkeye, played by Alda, forces a woman to smother her crying baby as they hide from enemy soldiers. We were being messed with. The messing continued as Alda went on to a film career of the sort that other prime-time kings and queens have tried but failed to achieve.

The Seduction of Joe Tynan (which he also wrote), The Four Seasons (which he also wrote and directed) and Crimes and Misdemeanors. He was one of the most outspoken proponents of the Equal Rights Amendment and a woman's right to choose, an all-round serious, political guy whose big TV comeback was as Senator Vinick on the last seasons of The West Wing, TV's most serious political drama. Then came an intestinal blockage while he was in Chile in 2003. It almost killed him, and he decided to write his life story. Publishers Weekly said it was "tempered with humility and a depth rarely found in celebrity memoirs." The Los Angeles Times called it striking. And it sold really, really well. Was it a surprise for Alda? "I hoped people would read it and enjoy it, of course," he says, his beige jacket and flat-bottomed knit tie reminiscent of the decade during which he was Hollywood's Liberal poster boy, a sort of seventies George Clooney. "In show business, you never know at all, everything's a surprise. In fact, it's hard to be surprised, because you just never expect anything." This is his ambling way of saying that he didn't anticipate the book's success. As for the reviews, though he's gratified, he notes: "I've been trying to be a writer since I was 8, trying to be a good writer." If the Emmy he won for writing M*A*S*H or the Golden Globe screenplay nomination he got for The Four Seasons didn't convince people of his talents, this latest book should. What could have been a very dull follow-up to a surprise hit celebrity autobiography - a collection of speeches he's given at commencements and other events over the past 25 years - turns out to be wholly rethought, sometimes moving and occasionally profound lessons-on-living book that edges closer to the How Proust Can Change Your Life than the Chicken Soup end of the spectrum.

The chapters range widely. He's got one on celebrity, a grand-rounds psychiatric lecture he gave at Cornell medical school in which he presented himself as the case study, teasing the meaning out of a back-to-front phrase, "You're my biggest fan," which he says he and many famous people hear over and over again from autograph seekers. In another, he likens people's small career compromises - selling people things they neither need nor want, writing shows that are all titillation and no substance - to throwing poison in a reservoir. "If everyone's little bit of poison combines with everyone else's," he writes, "then together we're tampering dangerously with the moral ecology." The image is simple, but masterfully expressive. It's the resolution to the joke. It's easy to think, given cases like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, that celebrity is some random excrescence of a culture amusing itself to death. But when you run across Alda, you can see that it can also require, and confer, insight, values, even wisdom. After the comedic lightness and the political seriousness comes, appropriately enough, a sort of Beckett-like conclusion. "It's very interesting to me, this question that I again recklessly decided to tackle. 'What's the meaning of my life?' " he says, tired, rubbing his eyes, but unstintingly affable, speaking of the final chapters of his book. "That's the kind of thing you stay up all night talking about in college. And so it was a quixotic thing to do, but one of the things I've realized is there really doesn't seem to be an answer, there only seems to be something that stands in for meaning, or gets rid of the worry about meaning. It's like, 'Stop the heartbreak of psoriasis!' It doesn't get rid of it, it just doesn't itch any more."

Ondaatje, Vassanji up for Giller Prize

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

(September 17, 2007) Michael Ondaatje, M.G. Vassanji and Richard B. Wright are among the authors who have made the long list for the
2007 Scotiabank Giller Prize. All three writers are previous winners of the Giller, which is worth $40,000 to the winning writer. The runners-up on the short list receive $2,500 each. This year's jury, former Giller winner David Bergen, author Camilla Gibb and author, poet and artist Lorna Goodison, selected 15 titles out of a record 108 books, submitted by 46 publishers. Vassanji, who has twice won the Giller, made the cut for his novel The Assassin's Song (Doubleday Canada). Ondaatje was recognized for his novel Divisadero (McClelland & Stewart) while Wright got a nod for his novel October (HarperCollins Canada). The shortlist will be announced on Oct. 9 while the prize itself will be awarded Nov. 6. The Giller was created in 1994 by businessman Jack Rabinovitch in memory of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller. Last year's winner was Toronto doctor Vincent Lam for Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures. In addition to Ondaatje, Vassanji and Wright, the authors on this year's long list are:


Kubina Says He Won't Be Puttering Around On Leafs' Blue Line

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Paul Hunter, Sports Reporter

(September 18, 2007) The
Maple Leafs hit the links yesterday, smacking the ball around Angus Glen Golf Club in the name of charity. For Pavel Kubina, it was the wrong summer sport. The defenceman mostly left the clubs alone – "I've never played and I don't want to ruin anyone else's game," he said – and, instead, acted like a Las Vegas greeter, glad-handing with the guests and hanging out with teammates. Though he did try, unsuccessfully, to slap shot a five-foot putt for Alex Steen. If the ball had been panelled instead of dimpled, the 30-year-old might have enjoyed a starring role. Kubina who, at times, felt the wrath of Leaf fans for a season that didn't live up to his annual $5 million (U.S.) price tag is something of a soccer hero at home. Nothing he might do on the ice here could lessen his status in Janovica, a village of about 2,000 in the Czech Republic. There he owns the local men's soccer team and he assembles another squad of celebrities (called Team Kubina) that barnstorms through small towns and raises money for charity. He also makes sure the local kids have balls and nets for their games – not to mention a decent field – even if that means digging into his own pocket. "I love soccer. It's my second sport," said Kubina, a midfielder himself until the demands of hockey forced him to give it up at 15.  "I do a lot of charity with the fancy soccer team with the famous people. We play games and try to raise some money. We'll go to another small town where I'd say 1,000 people live and we'll get 1,000 people at our game. So it's 100 per cent. The best one I think was 5,000."

On that fancy team are a half-dozen NHLers, including Marek Malik, Filip Kuba, Rostislav Olesz and onetime Leaf nemesis Vaclav Varada. A few real soccer players and Czech singers round out the roster. Kubina plays but he draws the line at suiting up for the local team. "Too risky," he says of the injury potential. Especially since Kubina says that club is trying to move up from what he called the "beer-league" level into a more serious division for next season. While frustrated Air Canada Centre fans likely won't care that Kubina puts back into his homeland – with the help of the NHLPA's Goals and Dreams program and Reebok he also outfitted 40 Czech youngsters in full hockey gear – but they will care that Kubina believes he will be faster on the ice this season. Soccer helped. So did countless hours in the gym riding a stationary bike and working on foot speed.  "The game has changed. You have to skate and I was working on my skating, trying to get a little quicker. I prepared hard for this year," he said. "I want to get better every year and last year was definitely a tough year for me. I never had so many injuries in my whole career, then, in one year, it started with the groin, then a knee, then a finger. I got hit with the puck a couple of times, lost some teeth and couldn't finish the game." "I hope this year, I can stay healthy and help this team out more than last year."  Toronto coach Paul Maurice is expecting more from Kubina, and by extension of his logic, Bryan McCabe. He said it's not uncommon for a player, particularly a defenceman, to sign a big contract and then become overwhelmed by the expectations it creates.  "They get the contract because they've earned it based on free agency and how the market views them. Then they put a huge amount of pressure on themselves. Usually in that first year, they find themselves making a lot more mistakes than they normally would, trying to justify (the money)," said the coach. "There is more pressure."


Paralyzed Buffalo Bills Player Shocks Doctors

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(September 14, 2007) *Doctors were not too optimistic regarding the future of Buffalo Bills tight-end
Kevin Everett, who suffered paralysis after sustaining a near-lethal neck injury during his team’s season opener last Sunday.  After undergoing emergency surgery, doctors held out little hope that he would ever walk again. But by Wednesday, the athlete had shown such remarkable improvement in his motor function that his orthopaedic spinal surgeon, Andrew Cappuccino, was calling his recovery a “minor miracle.” Dr. Kevin Gibbons, director of the neurological ICU at Millard Fillmore Gates hospital where Everett is being treated, adds: "He was able to move his legs together and apart, wiggles his toes and had slight movement from his ankle. He was able to kick out his lower leg against gravity with his knee raised. He was able to slightly extend his elbow with his triceps muscle.” Everett was taken off of the ventilator Wednesday that had helped assist his breathing.  This time, when asked if the player would ever walk again, Gibbons answered: "I wouldn't bet against it." Everett sustained the injury when tackling Denver return man Domenik Hixon on the second half opening kick-off. After making what appeared to be a routine hit, Everett fell to the turf and lay motionless for 15 minutes before being removed from the field and rushed to the hospital.