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July 24, 2008

Where oh where did summer go?  If someone finds out, PLEASE let me know!

For all those that are continuously seeking advice about the music business, check out important information below under SCOOP on
The New Indie - you don't want to miss it!. 

Slow but sure recovery for me ... thanks for all your kind wishes and notes.

Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!



 Sir Paul McCartney Conquers Quebec

Source:  www.thestar.com - Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

(July 21, 2008) QUEBEC CITY–Paul McCartney exploded onto an old battleground last night, churning out a song list laden with Beatles tunes to a pumped-up crowd on the historic Plains of Abraham.

"Bon soir les Québecois, bon soir toute le gang," the ex-Beatle shouted to his Quebec City faithful after he opened the show by belting out the Wings song "Jet."

The crowd erupted and the band turned it up a notch by ripping into Beatles' 1965 classic "Drive My Car," "Only Mama Knows," and "All My Loving."

"I only speak a little bit of French," he said in French before switching languages. "So, I will be speaking in English."

Organizers expected some 200,000 people at the free outdoor concert on the Plains of Abraham. It was McCartney's first appearance in Canada since 2005.

"C'est ma premiére visite a Québec, and it's a great place," McCartney said, again using both languages and stirring a roar from fans.

Montreal band The Stills and up-and-coming Quebec City singer Pascale Picard opened the concert for the legendary rock star.

Tens of thousands of music fans streamed onto the Plains of Abraham and spilled into the surrounding streets yesterday in hopes of securing a good vantage point to watch the music icon.

Seven jumbo screens were set up on the historic battlefield and along downtown streets, which have been closed to traffic.

Hoping to guarantee themselves a spot in front of a screen, thousands of people camped early yesterday in the middle of the Grande-Allée, one of the provincial capital's main boulevards.

The much-anticipated show by the British knight is part of Quebec City's 400th birthday bash.

But there are some who would have preferred McCartney stay home.

Several Quebec sovereignists have questioned McCartney's participation in Quebec City's 400th anniversary celebrations because of his British roots.

They claim his presence evokes painful memories of Britain's conquest of New France in 1760.

But in an interview with Radio-Canada last week, McCartney brushed off the complaints.

"I think it's time to smoke the pipes of peace and to just, you know, put away your hatchet because I think it's a show of friendship," McCartney said.

Mookie Locks Up The Cool Category

:  www.thestar.com - Andrea Gordon

(July 21, 2008) Mookie Morris, the easy-going baby in a brood of four, has always been called "the coolest Morris," says his sister Deirdre.

Three weeks ago, Canadian Idol judge Zack Werner called the 18-year-old singer "the coolest guy in the history of the show."

Quite a leap for a kid who started teaching himself to sing and play guitar four years ago, when a broken ankle put his elite AAA hockey season on hold.

Quite an inspiration for zillions of kids banging drums and plucking bass strings in basements all over the GTA.

Morris is one of the remaining nine Idol finalists, including fellow Torontonian Sebastian Pigott, who compete tonight to become one of the top eight.

"Yeah, it's kind of a lot to take in," Morris chuckled over the phone last week between rehearsals.

Nicknamed for former Blue Jay Mookie Wilson's game-winning hit the evening he was born, the teenager (whose real name is Peter) honed his performing skills in garage bands and battle-of the-bands gigs around Toronto. "I must have been in about 10, I can't even remember them all."

After his ankle injury, he gradually eased out of hockey but diverted that same intensity to his music.

His first band was Gong Show, back in Grade 8. They got their start at a concert fundraiser set up by his brother in university. Deirdre Morris, 23, remembers Mookie rocking the house with his version of "Twist and Shout." The college kids went crazy. A woman's undergarment was flung on the stage.

Four years later, when he performed that classic at an Idol audition, judge Jake Gold said: "I really do believe you are a star."

At Northern Secondary School, he was lead singer for Blind Sight, which attracted a loyal following to all-ages events at teen haunts like The Kathedral and Reilly's. He finished his last school credits at City Academy in January and has been devoted to writing music, playing and "just trying to grow up" since then.

He's registered for Concordia University in the fall, but says he'd rather end up following his musical dreams.

His mom, Julie Wang Morris, is still in shock. "These were kids who played in the garage!" she hollers over the phone. His dad plays piano and harmonica, she likes to sing and figures musical genes also came from her parents, who lived in a fishing village in Taiwan. Mookie, who she describes as "remarkably secure in himself," is her only musical child.

She was one of those moms with a minivan who ferried guitars and amplifiers and wannabe rock stars all over the city on Friday and Saturday nights. She was also one of those parents who wasn't too keen on the venues packed with pumped-up adolescents, questionable supervision, and lots of noise and body-slamming.

"I always worried," she says. "But it was their only choice if they wanted to play."

Guitarist Sean Fischer, 19, says Mookie is "a regular dude," kind of shy. "And then once he starts to sing, he completely transforms."

Over six-feet tall, dark-haired, brown-eyed and clad in punky blazers and Ts, his look inspired Idol judge Sass Jordan to once describe him as "Louis Armstrong meets Elvis Costello."

"He has phenomenal presence and soul – you can hear it in his voice," adds his bandmate, drummer Daniel Singer, 19. But audiences love him mostly because "he's true to himself."

That showed up in some of his unusual song choices for Canadian Idol.

Deirdre warned him against "Valerie" by British band The Zutons. Too obscure, she said.

He did it anyway. The judges loved it – it was what prompted Werner's "coolest guy" compliment. And judge Farley Flex praised his understanding of "who you are, why you're here and what you want to do."

"Now I just keep quiet," Dierdre says.

Last week was "a bit of a low point" though, as Mookie describes it. The response to his rendition of David Bowie's little-known "The Man Who Sold the World" didn't overwhelm. He and Pigott were both in the bottom three. The judges noted Toronto isn't voting.

His mom and sister took matters into their own hands. They produced 300 "Vote Mookie" lawn signs, hung a giant banner over a Yonge St. overpass in their neighbourhood. They've organized another "Mookie Night in Canada" tonight at a pub to watch and vote.

Mookie meantime, is revelling in it all, but in his typical laid-back style.

Sure, he wants to win. But his ultimate goal: "just to be happy in life . . . I want to just be able to do music as a job, you know, go on tour, travel the world and record."

Family Issues Reporter

Roeper Leaving Popular Movie Show

:  www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(July 21, 2008) CHICAGO – Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper says he is leaving the nationally syndicated show "At the Movies With Ebert & Roeper" after eight seasons.

Roeper said in a statement Sunday that he had failed to agree on a contract extension with Disney-ABC Domestic Television so his last appearance on the show will air the weekend of Aug. 16-17.

"Several months ago, Disney offered to extend my contract, which expires at the conclusion of the 2007-08 season," Roeper said. "I opted to wait. Much transpired after that behind the scenes, but an agreement was never reached, and we are all moving on.''

A message seeking comment was left for a spokeswoman for Disney-ABC Domestic Television early Monday.

Roeper said he intends to "proceed elsewhere ... as the co-host of a movie review show that honours the standards established by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert more than 30 years ago.''

"I will be free to share the details on that program in the near future," he said.

He also said he wishes Disney "the best of luck with their new show, whatever form it may take.''

Roeper joined Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert on the show in 2000, after Ebert's original co-host, Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel, died of a brain tumour in 1999.

Siskel and Ebert had begun reviewing movies on television together in 1975 on Chicago public broadcasting's WTTW, which eventually took their program national. The pair jumped to commercial television through the Tribune Co.'s TV syndication wing in 1982, switching to Disney in 1986.

Roeper was chosen from among a large group of contenders to be the permanent replacement for Siskel after his death.

Ebert has been sidelined the last two years because of health issues that have robbed him of his voice.

"Over the last two seasons, as Roger has bravely coped with his medical issues, I've continued the show with a number of guest co-hosts," Roeper said. "It's never been the same without Roger, but I'm proud of the work we've done and I'm grateful to all the co-hosts who stepped in – and to the viewers that stayed loyal to the show.''

Critics Square Off On Emmy Nominations

Source:  www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber,
The Associated Press

(July 18, 2008) The TV world was abuzz yesterday with news that Mad Men and Damages were the first basic cable programs in history to get Best Series Emmy nominations. Star TV columnist Rob Salem and Canadian Press columnist Bill Brioux, in L.A. covering the fall preview tour, give their take on this year's contenders:

ROB SALEM: So I guess we should start with the Canadian nominees.

BILL BRIOUX: A twofer for The Tudors – CBC must be pleased. And Sandra Oh getting her fourth consecutive nod for Best Supporting Actress for Grey's Anatomy. I'm thinking this could finally be her year.

RS: And how about that Howie Mandel? Best Host, Reality Competition. Brand new category. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy, but where the hell is Cat Deeley from So You Think You Can Dance? It's not even up for Best Reality Competition, yet they nominated that cheese-fest, Dancing With the Stars. Mind you, So You Think did at least get three for choreography.

BB: I'm wondering what'll happen if Howie wins. The guy's a germaphobe. How do you congratulate someone if they won't shake your hand?

RS: And I see William Shatner's up again for Supporting Actor on Boston Legal. Enough is enough. James Spader's up again too. It's beyond redundant – and the way Spader's aging, I'm not entirely convinced they aren't the same person.

BB: Shatner can't win. Ted Danson has to take the category.

For one thing, he's got a much better rug. He's just such an icy good villain on Damages.

RS: That's up for seven. And how do you beat Glenn Close for Best Actress?

BB: It is a strong field ... speaking of which, isn't nominee Sally Field about due to say something really embarrassing again while standing at an awards-show podium?

RS: It's such a weird year. Look at all the summer cable shows that are up for multiple awards: Mad Men, Dexter, In Treatment, Breaking Bad ... and only one of those is an HBO show. They used to own this thing.

BB: Now it's FX, AMC, Showtime...

RS: HBO still has 85 nominations in total, but half of those are for John Adams.

BB: Twenty-three. But we still haven't heard from the southern states.

RS: With the collateral damage from the writers' strike, it's a wonder that any network stuff got nominated.

BB: In the prestige category, Outstanding Drama, it's an even split among Damages, Dexter and Mad Men and Boston Legal, Lost and House.

RS: Same for Outstanding Comedy ... almost. Only five nominees, two from cable – Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm – up against the networks' The Office, 30 Rock and Two and a Half Men.

BB: But if there were a sixth nominee, it would be Pushing Daisies. It was on the air for four minutes and picked up 12 other nominations. How could one of those not have been Outstanding Comedy?

RS: And 30 Rock did even better: 17 nominations, a single-show record, second only to John Adams. Alec Baldwin's a shoo-in, and so is Tina Fey for Best Comedy Actress ...

BB: I think you need a hyphen to win that one: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mary-Louise Parker.... Changing the subject: where the hell is Blair Underwood? I mean, here's a guy who was really great on three separate series – In Treatment, Old Christine and Dirty Sexy Money – and do you see his name anywhere on this list? What do you have to do to get an award in this town?

RS: Apparently, all you need is a guest spot on 30 Rock: Rip Torn, Steve Buscemi, Tim Conway, Carrie Fisher, Elaine Stritch ...

BB: What about Shelley Berman on Curb Your Enthusiasm?

RS: Yeah, but then it starts to sound like a Friar's Club roast. We did forget Will Arnett though, yet another nominated Canadian, also for guesting on 30 Rock. You know, if he wins, and his wife Amy Poehler wins for Saturday Night Live, their mantle could collapse.

BB: They'd be bi-Poehler.

RS: Bill ...

BB: Sorry. Here's something. Matt Groening was here earlier in the week, suggesting that the animation category be split into adult and children's programming.

I mean, this year you've got The Simpsons, King of the Hill and Robot Chicken, which is really out there, squaring off against SpongeBob SquarePants ...

RS: And you know this how?

BB: I have kids. My son would kill me if I didn't work in Robot Chicken.

RS: There's some interesting movement in late night ... I see Stephen Colbert has four nominations to Jon Stewart's three.

BB: It seems to me that Kimmel and Ferguson are the ones to watch in late-night talk, yet neither made it into the Outstanding Variety category. Even in total nominations, Letterman leads with five, Conan and Kimmel with four each ...

RS: And Leno's got zip ... unless you want to count Jay Leno's Garage for Outstanding Special Class Short Format Non-Fiction Program. How humiliating would it be to lose that?

BB: If you want to talk dubious single nominations, how does a truly great show like The Wire – not to mention Big Love, The Closer and Friday Night Lights – deserve the same crummy, one-off, also-ran acknowledgement as According to Jim, Kid Nation, Pirate Masters and Barry Manilow: Songs from the Seventies?

RS: Hey now. Don't be dissing my man Manilow. That guy's a genius.


CIRAA Presents The New Indie Educational Audio Series

Source:  CIRAA

(July 21, 2008) Download Your FREE Copy at www.thenewindie.com. Produced by the Canadian Independent Recording Artists' Association (CIRAA), The New Indie is an in-depth audio series featuring interviews with music industry experts discussing the new realities facing today’s independent recording artists. It is a current, national education program universally available at all times, for FREE, to all recording artists and music industry professionals. 

Topics covered in Volume 1 include Record Deals, Management and Publishing. More than 50 music industry insiders participated in the series, providing advice, insight from lessons learned and an honest take on the current state of the industry.

“Since we launched The New Indie at last month's North By Northeast music conference and festival, the series has already been downloaded thousands of times from www.thenewindie.com,” says CIRAA’s Executive Director, Aisha Wickham Thomas. “It’s clear that today’s independent recording artists are hungry for new educational tools to help them navigate this rapidly changing music industry paradigm.”

CIRAA interviewed some of the music industry’s top leaders and visionaries for Volume 1 of this landmark educational series. The roster of guests is:

BOB LEFSETZ, The Lefsetz Letter
RANDY LENNOX, Universal Music
CHRIS TAYLOR, Entertainment Lawyer
LOUIS THOMAS, Sonic Entertainment
ROBERT OTT, Ole Music Publishing
DENISE DONLON, Media expert
DAN BROOME, True North Records
IVAN BERRY, iB Entertainment
BRIAN HETHERMAN, Cerberus Management
TIM POTICIC, Sonic Unyon
JODIE FERNEYHOUGH, Universal Music Publishing
CHRISTI THOMPSON, Thompson Management
CHASE PARSONS, Chris Smith Management
ANNE-MARIE SMITH, Lonestar Music
ROB SZABO, Artist  
JAMES PORTER, Ram Jam Management
VIVIAN BARCLAY, Warner Chappell
REDEYE, Artist

FRANZ SCHULLER, Indica Records
GREG STEPHENS, Entertainment Lawyer
WAYE MASON, Halifax Pop Explosion

Visit www.thenewindie.com to get your FREE copy today!

About CIRAA:

Founded in 2005, CIRAA is a national not-for-profit association exclusively representing Canadian independent recording artists.  With over 4,000 members across Canada, our mandate is focused on advocacy, education and member services.

For more information and to sign up for your FREE membership, visit www.ciraa.ca.


Hot Hot Hot: A Taste Tour Of The Caribbean

Source: Melanie Reffes

“Oil down brings back memories of my mother who trained me to delight in its unique taste,” smiles 50-year-old Edwin Frank remembering the national dish of his native Grenada.  " Not only does it provide the energy that tropical life requires,” he continues with an air of British formality, “ but I have a huge suspicion that my weekly consumption of this nutritious concoction is responsible for concealing my aging cycle making me stronger, younger and more optimistic about all my future challenges” 

The therapeutic benefits of
oil down may be hard to prove although local legend is rarely disputed.  Also rarely disputed is that Caribbean cuisine starts at home. Recipes are passed down from one generation to the next and treasured like valuable family heirlooms.

Whether it’s Grenada’s oil down stew of breadfruit, spinach, coconut milk and salted meat, conch fritters from the Bahamas, Jamaican mouth-burning jerk or grouper fresh from the Sea, Caribbean cuisine is a delicious mélange of cultural influences.

Considering more than 7,000 islands make up the Caribbean, it’s no wonder its culinary history is peppered with inspiration from around the world.  Okra, pigeon peas, plantains, callaloo and breadfruit came with the West African slave trade. Columbus introduced sugarcane and European colonists like the Dutch, the Swedes, Danish, British and French came later with their own unique culinary trademarks like coconut, eggplant, onions, garlic, rice and coffee.  Labourers from India and China and merchants from Syria and Lebanon eventually arrived adding more exotica to an already long list of culinary influences. 

Close proximity also played a part in this edible kaleidoscope
of flavours with potatoes and passion fruit donated from South America and avocado, papaya and cocoa arriving from Mexico.  Guavas, pineapple, black-eyed peas and lima beans grew wild and still remain staples in many recipes.

Multicultural cooking
styles with regional Island differences are the Caribbean culinary trademark.  In the Dutch havens of Aruba and Curacao, for example, an Indonesian-style ristafeel is as common a sight as a palm tree and a pristine beach, the Spanish asopao stew, a meat or seafood and rice dish similar to paella, is popular in Puerto Rico and French flavours reign supreme   in Martinique with their version of the creole boudin or blood sausage.

Kai Bechinger is a Chef extraordinaire who brought his worldly experiences to the Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios after learning to cook in his native Germany and then honing his skills in Antigua and Bermuda. “ Island food doesn’t have to be spicy but it does have to be well-seasoned,” he says showing off his rum-spiked guacamole, “ Thyme, garlic, ginger, scotch bonnet peppers, black peppers, scallions and onions are a must in
every Jamaican kitchen”.

Seasonings are also a must in Bajan kitchens and according to Robertina Yearwood; the Chef at the Almond Resorts’ Enid’s Restaurant, bland food just doesn’t exist in Barbados. “We use our Bajan seasoning on everything before cooking, “she declares with bountiful enthusiasm.  “Seasoning is the Caribbean viagra, it hits the spot and puts you in the mood.”

Seasoning is also what pumps up soups and there
are as many soups as there are ingredients and there are as many ingredients as there are Islands.   Variations on the classic callaloo soup are the most popular. With  spinach-like callaloo greens, this hearty ‘stick to the ribs’ soup might also include okra, hot chilies, limes and for a more exotic taste, pork or crab.  An edible liquid is called ‘tea’ in the Caribbean and a fish broth aptly called  Caribbean Fish Tea is a tasty tropical combination of snapper or grouper, vegetables, peppers, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, breadfruit and small green bananas.

There’s a delectable whimsy about Island food with
  never too many colours or too many ingredients in one dish. Debbie St. Paul, the Chef of Grenada’s Bel Air Plantation believes this is what makes Island food distinct. “I like to mix flavours “ she explains buzzing around the kitchen of the Waters Edge restaurant, “adding fruit like the tart spiny-skinned sour sop to poultry adds a most surprising taste “.  

With an endless growing season, everyone has a garden in their front or backyard. Mangoes, coconuts, bananas and limes are picked fresh each day and pepperbushes supply stews, soups and salads with that fiery edge. Papayas are baked like squash, mangoes turn up in mousses and pies and pineapples add a touch of sweet to a chicken or fish dish. Plantains are one of the most versatile staples of the Caribbean diet and are eaten in every stage of ripeness.  They come deep-fried as chips, boiled as a side dish for meat or fried and mashed with pork cracklings and garlic in the Puerto Rican specialty called mofongo.

Shopping in the tropics means more than the air-conditioned aisles of a supermarket although you can find plenty of those.  Outdoor markets are the real deal and the place not only to shop but also to catch up on community gossip.  The market in Willemstad, Curacao floats
and takes up the entire length of the street just steps from the waters edge. The market in St. George’s, Grenada is typical of the English-speaking Caribbean with the liveliest action on Saturday. The rows and rows of   nutmeg stalls are particularly worth a slow stroll.  

 The market in the Antiguan capitol of St. John not only sells food but also clothes and house wares and the Coronation Market in Kingston, Jamaica has a reggae soundtrack piped in via large boom boxes.   Savvy travelers always find their way to the Market. Pungent aromas signal you’re in the right place!

See it, smell it, touch it and taste it. Street food and corner nibbles is an authentic slice of Island life.   Friday night means the Oisten Fish Fry in Barbados, sidewalk chefs in St. Lucia barbecue some of the best seafood in the Caribbean from oil drums transformed into
fire pits and vendors in Trinidad dish up East Indian street treats like lamb stuffed rotis, fried dumplings or phulouris and a snack called a pommes ce theure which are crisp green plums soaked in a coriander-tasting brine. Look for vendors attracting a crowd to ensure freshness and if you’re on an Island long enough, return to the same vendor a second time for a bigger and better portion.

Caribbean cuisine is all about humble home cooking. “Grandparents love to talk about their grandchildren, “smiles Chef Bechinger, “Especially then they get to say I was the one who taught them to cook."  Savouring the tastes and flavours of the tropics, is indeed, the next best thing to being there.


Gerald Albright 'Stax' Up


(July 18, 2008)  *Saxophonist Gerald Albright is a smooth jazz mentor that has helped create and shape the music genre for more than two decades, but the jazz star is now, actually, a new kid on the block.

Albright’s latest disc “Sax for Stax” hit stores just last month with 11 tracks inspired by the old and the new.

The disc features cover songs from the legendary Stax Records roster, including versions of “Knock on Wood” and “Respect Yourself” just to name a few.

In addition to a nod to the past, the disc is also born of Albright’s mindset of being in a new environment.

The artist traded in the lights of Los Angeles for the crisp air of Denver and credits some of his musical motivation on the move.

“I think it was good for not only a life change, but the creativity of writing music and just being in an environment where you’re pretty close to nature and things are more laid back,” he told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “I think you allow your creativity to breathe a little more. The past couple of projects, I think, have reflected a little stronger connection to that creativity.”

That connection produced another merge of jazz and R&B that has made him famous and this time, he’s paying tribute to a label that made names such as Isaac Hayes and the Staples Singers.

“The initial idea came from Mark Wexel who is one of the executives at Peak Records, where I’m signed. It just so happened that Stax Records, in ’07, celebrated 50th anniversary of being in business and bringing such great music,” he said.

Albright continued that Wexel approached him about doing a tribute to some of the Stax artists if he was comfortable with doing cover tunes. That was a no-brainer for the smooth jazz man.

“I’m a big fan of a lot of the artist on the Stax label, so we ended up with some Isaac Hayes, the Staples Singers, the Dramatics, Eddie Floyd and just a lot of the flagship artists that were on the label over the years and we turned it into something fresh and part of the new millennium,” he said. “I’m very excited about this project.”

On “Sax for Stax,” Albright plays alto, tenor, and baritone sax on all tracks, and also puts in work on flutes, percussion programming, and bass guitar on some selections. The disc features eight Stax classics and three original songs, but Albright admits it was rather difficult to whittle down the Stax options.

“It was quite a challenge,” he said. “I went through two full box sets of the Stax catalogue; we’re talking different time periods and about 15 CDs per box set. There was a lot of great stuff and some stuff that was conducive to my playing the saxophone with the melody and other stuff it didn’t really fit. We did get the choice down to 30 to 35 and then at that point, I took a break and then came back and narrowed it down to about 15 songs.”

Along with co-producer Rex Rideout, Albright started picking and choosing which songs would make the cut.

“We started recording in late September. We went to the studio and recorded it live,” he described. “We wanted to get as much spontaneity. We used synthesizers within the mix, but I wanted the base of the song to be live musicians.”

The result? A stack of good tunes. After all, the disc isn’t just reworked classics. Albright explained that the project was both an art and science that brought a new take on some timeless hits. And his work on the tunes along with the voices such as singers Philip Bailey and Ledisi lacing the tracks is an exceptional combination.

“It’s a feel thing,” he said of recruiting featured vocalists for some of the songs. “We listen to the song and we say, ‘The strength of this song is for it to be an instrumental,’ or we’ll say, ‘The strength of this song is to have a little bit of vocals in the hook, or we may have a song that’s just haunting for a lead vocalist. In the case of ‘Respect Yourself’, we sat back and listened to it and it was just calling for Ledesi’s voice. It just had that void that needed to be filled.”

Albright said that bringing in Bailey was about the same process. His arrangement of the Dramatics' smash hit song “What You See Is What You Get” was simply calling for the Earth Wind and Fire front man.

“When we were thinking about how we were going to bring as much originality of the song and still put our spin on it, we decided we wanted a falsetto in there to bring it home. Of course Philip Bailey has one of the best falsettos in the business, so I reached out to him. It was the perfect timbre of vocals for that particular tune and we were excited about having him on there,” Albright said.

Albright said he is extremely pleased with the project and those that collaborated including his daughter Selina, who, incidentally, is highly endorsed by her dad. Surprise surprise.

 For more on Gerald Albright, check out his website at
www.geraldalbright.com or his MySpace page: www.myspace.com/theofficialgeraldalbright to HEAR cuts from "Sax For Stax."

God Answers 'Family Prayer' on new Murrills CD

www.eurweb.com - By Mona Austin

(July 18, 2008)  *On the assembly line of gospel acts, groups of kindred come and they go, many failing the QA (quality assurance) check for longevity. 

The Murrills, a sextet of singing siblings are the latest brood under inspection for mass consumption. 

Produced by Donald Lawrence, the North Carolina natives and former members of the Tri-City singers released their first full-length CD, "Family Prayer" with an important Public Service Announcement. Life is too short ... put your egos  aside, God has come to heal the family, quivers the passionate voice of the only sister in the group on the lead song, "There's A Healing."

Deciphering the resistance to Godly morals and the deterioration of family, their message is relevant to a hurting society that wrestles with maintaining trust in God and each other. 

With a theme of reconciliation, love and hope, from the writing to their harmonious delivery, The Murrills approach every song with feverish optimism, suggesting that "family prayer" will make a difference.  The no-nonsense lyrics of "Better" tell us go get your future, it's your future-what's to come is better than what's been.

This family-reunion-ready CD, has a cut on it for everyone with lovely ballads (like "Can You Stand the Rain"-yes, it's a New Edition re-make and "Long Time Comin'" their impressive take on a Winans classic) and jammin' upbeat grooves (like "He Is A Friend of Mine" has a house music thump with strings and chords reminiscent of seventies compositions). 

Musically progressive ("We Declare War" has a grungy rock feel) and retro at the same time, the styles represented boldly escape "gospel" bounds nearly beyond recognition.  Subtract it the spiritual mood of the intro/outro and  lyrical content and it would be difficult to define the album as gospel at all, which they are perhaps attempting to broaden their appeal. This is a safe assumption since the tracks "Words and Rhythmn" and "Siyahamba (Janie's Song)" both sung a capella, reflect African influence.

Born with silver-tongues, it is evident The Murrills have been singing together all their lives. They establish the fact that background singing is strictly optional as each one gets a chance to anoint the mic on the 14 track CD, following in the tradition of proven family ensembles-such as The Staples Singers, The Clark Sisters and of course the first family of gospel music, The Winans. 

The Murrills are an incredible package and like their legendary gospel predecessors they have passed the QA test, destined to stand the test of time.

Hear cuts from "Family Prayer" via The Murrills'
MySpace page.

Nas Releases Tour Dates


(July 17, 2008) *Nas has released the schedule for his Jones Experience tour across the U.S. and Canada in support of his newly released untitled album, which at one time was named "N**er." Featuring special guests Talib Kweli, Jay Electronica and DJ Green Lantern, the Jones Experience tour will mesh with his 10 previously announced dates on the Rock The Bells hip-hop fest. Combined, the two outings cover more than 30 cities starting Saturday (7/19) in the Chicago area and wrapping Sept. 6 in George, WA. Details are listed below. Nas plans to preview his show Friday (7/18) with a free concert for his MySpace friends at The Roxy in West Hollywood, CA. His headlining run will stick to clubs and theatres. The rapper, born Nasir Jones, called the trek "a big show in an intimate venue." "I felt this experience was important because I wanted to touch my fans in an intimate setting with this new album," Nas said in a statement. "All the fans that have supported me over the years, I truly appreciate it and this is my way of giving back."

Here are the tour dates for the "Jones Experience":
July 2008
19 - Tinley Park, IL - First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre*
20 - Toronto, Ontario - Arrow Hall*
22 - Montreal, Quebec - Metropolis
24 - Burlington, VT - Higher Ground
25 - New Haven, CT - Toad's Place
26 - Mansfield, MA - Comcast Center*
27 - Columbia, MD - Merriweather Post Pavilion*
29 - Charlotte, NC - Amos' Southend
30 - Charleston, SC - Music Farm
31 - Atlanta, GA - Center Stage
August 2008
1 - New Orleans, LA - House of Blues
2 - Miami, FL - Bicentennial Park*
3 - Wantagh, NY - Jones Beach Amphitheatre*
8 - Las Vegas, NV - House of Blues
9 - Devore, CA - Glen Helen Pavilion*
10 - San Diego, CA - House of Blues
14 - Sparks, NV - New Oasis
15 - Chico, CA - Senator Theatre
16 - Mountain View, CA - Shoreline Amphitheatre*
22 - Park City, UT - Harry O's
23 - Englewood, CO - Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre*
24 - Austin, TX - Emo's
25 - Houston, TX - Warehouse Live
26 - Dallas, TX - House of Blues
28 - Cleveland, OH - House of Blues
29 - Detroit, MI - Chene Park
30 - Champaign, IL - Canopy Club
September 2008
3 - St. Louis, MO - The Pageant
4 - Milwaukee, WI - The Rave
5 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue
6 - George, WA - The Gorge Amphitheatre*

Kevin's Q&A with Robin S

www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(July 17, 2008) *Robin S. was signed to Atlantic Record subsidiary Big Beat Records in 1993. She is best known for the gold selling debut single Show Me Love, as well as the dance numbers I Want to Thank You, It Must Be Love and Luv For Luv. She also garnered R&B chart action with the stirring ballad What I Do Best.

Her follow up album From Now On released in 1997 on Atlantic Records reflected broader interests for Robin S., encompassing gospel and contemporary R&B ballads and high energy dance floor grooves. The album sold about 100,000 copies in the US by the end of its chart run.

These days, Robin S. continues to tour and record.  Though she is no longer signed to a record label, she is hoping to get the right deal and promotional muscle to take her music into the next millennium.  She recently recorded a new song with up-and-coming European artist Honest, whose debut album is expected later this year.

This writer caught up with Robin S while she was in Jamaica recently to perform at a Father’s Day concert at the Hilton Kingston hotel.

Kevin Jackson: This is your second visit to Jamaica. How has it been this time in comparison to the last time that you were here?

Robin S: Well I didn’t get to see too much of it the last time. We came in, did the show and we left. This time I love it, I actually love it.

KJ: How has the musical journey been for you?

Robin S: It’s been wonderful in all sincerity it’s been a joyous ride. I’ve been on this roller coaster of not performing, to performing to not performing to performing a little bit. It’s taken me through every facet of life and it has made me deal with every facet of life.

KJ: How did the Robin S name come about?

R: My birth name is Robin Jackson. My father was a professional boxer who went by the name Stonewall Jackson. In the beginning when I just came out, there were so many Jacksons. You had Michael, Janet, Millie and Keisha Jackson. So we decided to use Robin Stone which was part of my father’s boxing name. We dropped the Stone and kept the S.

KJ: You started out singing in the church before you got signed to the label. How was that for you and how did it change things for you?

R:  I did just about every facet of music. The only thing I hadn’t done was sing background for artistes. When I got signed to the label, I don’t think I was necessarily very excited. My singing wasn’t something that someone gave me. It was a gift from God. I was more excited when I did venues of 20,000 or 30,000 people than I was when I got a record deal.

KJ:  Were you surprised at the success of Show Me Love?

R:  Yes I was surprised.  After I heard the playback on the song, I didn’t like it. I never expected it to do what it did.  I can remember vividly when it was released in Europe first, it debuted at number 20. Every week it went up further on the charts. Then the song crossed over to the states. I flipped through the radio stations and every one was playing Show Me Love.

KJ: How did touring and recording affect your role as a mother?

R: My children were studio babies. I was pregnant while recording in the studios. My girls sing and my son raps. My oldest daughter sang background for me when she was 16. She is a beautiful writer. She is the only one who can double my voice perfectly. Motherhood was a challenge, because when Show Me Love just came out, I had just given birth to my son, but I had a wonderful support system. My sister took care of my children. When I wasn’t performing, I would just close off the world and spend time with my children. It had been a lifelong dream for me since I was a kid to be a performer. When we were younger, our parents would ask us what we wanted to become when we older. When I told them I wanted to be a singer, they said it wasn’t  lucrative, not stable and doesn’t have longevity. Inevitably when I look back, I have and still am fulfilling my dream. Now my kids are grown and I am helping them to fulfill their dreams. I have four grandchildren and one on the way. It’s always been about my children. I did a lot to give them a better life. If you can afford to have the nicer things but never forget where you come from nor the struggles you had to endure, it makes you appreciate life so much better.

KJ: What new are you working on right now?

R: The track that I just worked on with an artiste called Honest and he’s from Amsterdam. The song is called Make You Feel Good was produced by Solid Soul. The song is very slamming and they’re considering making it the first single from his album. We had so much fun doing the track. I also re-released Show Me Love and its been getting a lot of airplay. I also did a song called At My Best with my nephew who is a rapper called CTK.

KJ: Did record label politics interfere with your weight or how you looked?

R: I was always told I was overweight and that I had to lose weight and maintain a certain figure. I had to be something that I am not. I represent a life for full figured women. I represent letting them know that it comes from within first. I have always been full figured from as long as I can remember. When I lost weight, I was still considered full figured. I don’t think that I should be judged by other people by what I look like if I am presenting myself in a fashionable yet well preserved manner. I am a singer and that’s what you should judging me on. I give kudos to people like Martha Wash, the Weather Girls, Jennifer Hudson or anyone who is full figured. We live, we breathe, we have emotions and we are talented. I don’t have to sell anything but my vocals. It’s nice to be thin, but I’m fortysomething and I am really happy in the shell that I dwell right now. My weight fluctuates sometimes and it’s been that way all my life. I don’t make any excuses for it. As long as my health is not in jeopardy, I am ok with it. I probably didn’t get the things I could have gotten with the record label because of my weight, but I am still here. God is still blessing me and leading and opening up doors for me.

KJ: What happened why you parted ways with the record label?

R: I think it was a mutual agreement. Everyone has their season and their time and I think my time and my season was up. I couldn’t be happier right now. It affords me to do anything with anybody musically and I don’t have to seek permission. On one hand I don’t have the tour or distribution support; but I am able to do whatever I want to do.  The label didn’t know what to do with me. I am not a dance artiste. I sing R&B, gospel and jazz. I do have the different facets but no one wants to hear that.

KJ: What kind of advice would you pass on to anyone new in the industry based on your experiences?

R:  To learn about the industry first.  Take time out to learn about the ins and the outs. The snake pits and the snakes.  The intricate stuff that no one wants to tell you. Learn how to become the businessman or woman with your craft and don’t rely on other people to guide you through things. That’s basically what I am teaching a group called Five Verses that I am working with. I didn’t want them to go out and spend the money to work at someone else’s studio. I build a studio at my house for myself as well as for them. Teaching them how to run a studio and to more responsible with their business. The thing is with the record labels, if you do not consider yourself as a commodity then you will be take advantage of. If you look at yourself as a commodity or merchandise in demand, you will learn how to become a better entrepreneur. I had to learn the hard way and it was a very expensive lesson that I learnt.

KJ: Did you foresee the problems that the industry is experiencing today?

R: yes I did. The people that are in the industry now (and it’s no disrespect  because God knows I am looking for another label). There are no more Clive Davis’ out there. I love Clive Davis, never had the opportunity to meet him, wish, want to and would love to. I know that I can sell, I know I can do what I did ten years ago. There are no more Berry Gordy’s out there. There are no more people that are willing to take the time to cultivate, nurture or train. Everything is about instinct. We are now living in an industry where it doesn’t matter what you sing about as long as you threw it up on the wall and it sticks. Where is the music theory? Who’s taking music theory in college? Who knows the history of music anymore? It’s all about who you know and how long you’ve known them, and how you look.  I know how Clive worked with Whitney and how he held her back until the time was right for her to come out and he didn’t make her compromise who she was even though she was a model and a superstar’s daughter and a superstar’s niece. The Wendy Motens, she is wonderful. She does a lot of soundtrack music and she is a great singer. She sounds just like Whitney. But she is full figured. There’s no one in the industry who is willing to take the chance.

Raphael Saadiq Soul Power Reigns Again

Source: bd@catalystgroupsite.com, leyla@catalystgroupsite.com, andre.morris@sonybmg.com

(July 17, 2008) *In an era where any teenager with ProTools can compose an opus on his laptop, it is altogether rare to encounter a wholly live, sample-free, recording such as Raphael Saadiq's THE WAY I SEE IT (due September 16th on Columbia Records).

Particularly one that is a fully realized oeuvre; from the opening snare shots of "Sure Hope You Mean It" through the last string strains of the piece de resistance "Sometimes," the artist takes us on a journey that is like a lush feature film, not a string of hackneyed trailers.

And his timing couldn't be better. While plenty of ink has been spilled lauding various upstart 'Queens of Retro-Soul' from across the pond, Saadiq has lovingly synthesized the essence of the various regional scenes that underpin our best music - Motown, Stax, Chi-town, Philly - and seamlessly spliced in surprising aesthetic choices (an industrial vocal filter here, a Spanish vocalist there) that clearly earmark THE WAY I SEE IT as, literally, state of the art.

First single "Love That Girl" (stream here) lays it down with a club-ready update of classic Temptations-era swing - right down to the impeccable strings and Saadiq's clarion, falsetto vocals. In an album full of high points, "Never Give You Up" slays with its multi-generational line-up: the track includes Raphael's musical protégé C.J., as well as the legendary Stevie Wonder on harmonica. And the quick-paced shuffle of "Big Easy" finds Saadiq longing for a child lost in Hurricane Katrina with classic honky tonk flair replete with overlapping horn solos.

The album's inspiration was indeed global.

"I was cooling out and surfing in Costa Rica and The Bahamas," recounts Saadiq, "and ran into people from all kinds of places. I noticed everybody was listening to classic soul music. When I came back home the music for this album flowed organically, naturally. Since I have my own studio, I was able to perfect it, take my time to make it right. I was able to live with it, day after day and that had a lot to do with how the album turned out."

Grammy-winning Joss Stone (with whom Raphael worked on the best-selling 2007set INTRODUCING JOSS STONE) is a special guest on the song "Just One Kiss."

"The track reminds me of early '70s soul songs and getting Joss to sing on it wasn't hard because she has a profound appreciation for great classic musicm," says Raphael.

Saadiq's innate musical facility - he learned to play guitar, drums and bass by the age of six, was singing with a professional gospel group at nine and toured with Prince and Sheila E. upon graduating from high school - goes a long way in explaining his ability to craft an album that will delight baby boomers and groovesters alike. Saadiq, founder of hybrid super group Lucy Pearl, member and producer of Tony! Toni! Toné!, as well as acclaimed producer of artists like Joss Stone, D'Angelo, Mary J. Blige, The Roots, Snoop Dogg, and John Legend - is a virtual one-man show. He wrote, produced, arranged and performed the flawless grooves (drums, bass and guitar) and effervescent vocals on every song. And it is that combination of elements that will make THE WAY I SEE IT the go-to album for any setting. A worthy follow-up to his 2002 solo debut INSTANT VINTAGE - the first independent release to receive five Grammy nominations - THE WAY I SEE IT sets a welcome new standard.

Visit Raphael's on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/raphaelsaadiq

Costello Pumps Up The Party

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Fiona Morrow

In Whistler, B.C. on Saturday and Sunday

(July 22, 2008) 'There's nothing quite like a cool mountain breeze and the lingering smell of skunk," mused
Elvis Costello as he closed the Whistler Music Festival on Sunday.

What began on Saturday morning with a bear escorted from the venue half way up Blackcomb Mountain, ended with a sun-baked, dirt-caked crowd singing along to Costello's Peace, Love and Understanding, before tidying up after themselves and waiting patiently in line at the gondola for a ride back down to the village.

Festival Network's first year at Whistler was a success - if only modestly so at the box office (early estimates suggest 5,000 attended Saturday, slightly fewer Sunday). Carelessly clashing with the more established Vancouver Folk Music Festival, and just a week before the corporate behemoth of the Pemberton Festival rolls into the mountain region, Whistler felt a little forgotten in the mix. The low-key profile may do them no harm: With three more years already booked, this felt like a trail run, with Festival Network's CEO, Tom Shepard, in attendance throughout, making changes on the fly and taking notes for next year.

First on that list should be creating a more hospitable space: The lunar-like landscape, usually home to Whistler's Tube Park, was miserably rocky underfoot and every gust of air brought with it a fresh cloud of dust. Ticket holders were unfazed, trekking back to the village to return with chairs, tents and coolers (a "no outside food" rule was waived for the weekend), the chilled out, family-friendly atmosphere leaving the couple of cops doing cursory circuits nothing to do save smile and sweat. "Keep hydrated and ask us if you need sunscreen" became the m.c.'s mantra.

The searing heat made getting the audience onto its feet a tough call. On Saturday, it took Ontario's Bedouin Soundclash, with their reggae beats and easy stage presence, to get things moving. But it was Philadelphia's hip-hop group the Roots that cajoled the crowd to create a 3,000-strong mosh pit that stayed on for Washington, D.C.'s prime electronic/lounge band Thievery Corporation.

Day two opened with a last-minute addition: Stephane Wrembel's mellifluous Gypsy jazz, which proved to be the perfect soundscape for a hot and hazy hilltop. An eclectic, heavily instrumental afternoon continued with the psychedelic trance jazz of Medeski, Martin and Wood. Robert Randolph and the Family Band drove the funk a little dirtier, before Cajun legend Allen Toussaint sparkled brighter than his glittery necktie.

Expectations were high for Broken Social Scene, but the weekend's first sound problems saw them leave the stage in disgust after a couple of numbers. Whether it was the false start, or the fact the band's back-up singers were stopped from entering Canada, BSS never got its groove on. The ramshackle set, with long pauses between songs and a visibly irritated front man Kevin Drew, itching to come off early, threatened to wreck the good-natured vibe. Drew's final thanks to "those who only came to see Elvis Costello, anyway" ended a lacklustre performance on an unnecessarily sour note.

When Costello did storm the stage and launched into a high-octane reprisal of Pump It Up, it felt like a slap in the face to the Canadian indie band. The audience may not have been huge, but Costello couldn't have cared less. Ricocheting from classics such as Watching the Detectives and (I don't want to go to) Chelsea to tracks from new album Momofuku, Costello and his band, the Imposters, relished the venue's potential. Encouraging the crowd to turn around and look up the mountain, Costello summed up the weekend: "I can see a bear up there, and he's digging it. Every nightclub should look like this."

Toth Brothers Not Your Typical Boy Band

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(July 17, 2008) Laszlo Toth ushers a reporter through the main floor of his midtown home with a half-hearted apology: "We don't have a dining room, but I wouldn't have it any other way."

The rear chamber is chock full of music equipment. And Toth, a self-taught hobby bassist, is only partly responsible, even though most of the instruments were purchased with his credit card.

The explanation lies with sons Alexander, 17, and Anthony, 15, promising musicians who will showcase a blend of jazz standards, Latin and funk at the Beaches International Jazz Festival's inaugural Youth Stage this weekend.

Primping complete – with the approval of mom Patricia – the lads finally make their way downstairs to pose for a Star photographer. Dapper in a tan linen suit, Alexander picks up his bass. The leaner Anthony, in cool navy pinstripes, slips behind the drum kit.

As a toddler, Alexander hummed along when his father practised. Later, he would sneak to play pop's axe, absolved when was able to quickly figure out pop/rock bass lines the older man struggled with.

Freshly graduated from Oakwood Collegiate Institute – where Anthony is going into Grade 10 – Alexander is headed to Humber College's music program this fall. This year he was a finalist for both the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Band and the Brubeck Institute Fellowship Program.

But little brother's no slouch. Long before he dashed thoughts of a writing career to focus on music, Anthony would yell out from the bedroom whenever Alexander's nightly practices sounded the wrong note.

The ace drummer is also proficient on trumpet, which he plays with the noted Toronto All-Star Big Band. "Maybe I'm technically a little bit better, because I've been at it longer, but he's going to kill me anytime soon," says Alexander.

Anthony also edges big bro's six-foot frame by a half-inch.

"That just happened overnight," Alexander says ruefully. "I was supposed to be the taller one."

The duo says their on-and-off stage brotherhood narrows the gap between anticipation and reaction, so crucial to improvisational jazz.

Do these in-sync siblings who still share a bedroom ever fight?

"All the time," they answer in unison.

Do they ever fight about music?

"All the time."

Just the facts

Who: Toth Brothers with special guest Robi Botos

When: Saturday & Sunday, 5:30 p.m.

Where: Beaches Jazz, Woodbine Park

Admission: Free

Pianist, Venue Both Delight With Their Elegance

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Classical Music Critic

(July 23, 2008) It may appear to be narrow-minded to devote a festival's opening concert to a razor-thin slice of Western music history.

But when it's done as well as last night's opener to the third annual
Toronto Summer Music Academy and Festival, the breadth of the program becomes irrelevant.

Veteran Canadian pianist
André Laplante made magic as he performed Romantic pieces that are at the core of his specialty: Frédéric Chopin's Fantasy in F Minor, Op. 49, and Three Mazurkas, Op. 63, as well as Franz Liszt's famous Sonata in B Minor, and three excerpts from Années de pèlerinage (First Year, Switzerland).

All these pieces are from the middle of the 19th century.

There was even more magic in the air, as the 1,000-strong audience gathered at the Carlu, which was through the middle of the 20th century Toronto's premier recital venue, the Eaton Auditorium.

For those of us who had never heard a concert in the elegant Art Deco hall, the engaging acoustics and comfortable sightlines were a revelation.

Suddenly, the full weight of what the city had lost when Eaton's moved to Yonge and Dundas Sts. became clear.

The Carlu is in private hands as a rental venue for private functions, so we're unlikely to see many more public recitals there in the near future (which may be just as well, given the maddening delays in getting so many people up to the seventh floor in four small elevators).

But there is much more inspirational music-making on offer to Aug. 17 at the festival, which rents classroom and performance space from the University of Toronto at the Edward Johnson Building.

Laplante will give master classes to some of the advanced students. Like many of his fellow teacher-performers, he was given the opportunity to show how it's done in a public concert.

The music of Chopin and Liszt can easily tip into melodrama if a pianist goes overboard with the dynamics as well as variations in tempo. But Laplante managed the rare feat of showing restraint while cutting straight to the emotional core of the musical message in each piece. All this while making the enormous technical demands sound like nothing at all.

Best of all, like any expert storyteller, he let the music breathe, maintaining tension often as much with silence as with elegant garlands and cascades of notes.

This is leading by example.

M. Ward Caught A Rising Star And Put Her On An Album

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner,
Pop Music Critic

(July 23, 2008) "I treated her demos the same way I treat my own demos," says M. Ward, firmly putting to rest any notion that he was some kind of ringer called in to make actor Zooey Deschanel sparkle on their debut album together as She & Him, Volume One.

We didn't really think that, anyway; Deschanel's crystalline voice – robust and classic in the mould of Peggy Lee, Karen Carpenter and, occasionally, Neko Case – is too good for that. But Ward is evidently enamoured enough with his new muse and her talents to cede most of the credit for Volume One's charms to "She."

It was indeed Deschanel who hatched this collaboration in 2006 when, at director Martin Hynes' invitation, Ward agreed to duet with her on a Richard and Linda Thompson song ("When I Get to the Border") over the end credits to the film The Go-Getter.

Deschanel shyly let slip to the indie singer/songwriter afterwards that she had a storehouse of self-recorded songs she'd written at home, and with a little prodding, she sent them to Ward in his hometown of Portland, Ore. He was stunned, he says, not just at her "incredible" voice, but also how accomplished her girl group-worthy songs and vocal-and-keyboard arrangements were.

His job, he decided, was merely to bring out the natural elements of Deschanel's voice that were already there.

"The heart of the record is the songs and the songs have a nostalgic quality to them. And Zooey's voice, I think, also has a nostalgic quality to it," says Ward. "I got most of my inspiration from older records and older production ideas."

Volume One – released in March on venerable independent label Merge Records, home of Dinosaur Jr. and Arcade Fire, among other notables – has since taken on an unexpected life of its own, earning joyous reviews on both sides of the Atlantic and prompting the launch of She & Him's first tour.

They kick it off at the Opera House tonight.

Ward admits to feeling some vicarious excitement for Deschanel as he's watched her find her feet performing in front of a band. She'd performed briefly with a cabaret-jazz duo called If All the Stars Were Pretty Babies and memorably trilled "Baby, It's Cold Outside" onscreen in Will Ferrell's Elf, but the life of a touring pop starlet is new to her.

"Part of the joy of this project is that so many people are just so surprised, and that's a great feeling," he says. "None of it was planned. It just sort of happened.... We're already excited about Volume Two."


Where Multiple Worlds Unite

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Classical Music Critic

(July 17, 2008) Just as dogs and their masters tend to look alike, there is more than a passing resemblance between music festivals and their founders. Agnes Grossman has achieved the seemingly impossible task of corralling artists, students and audiences for the Toronto Summer Music Academy and Festival. It begins its third season next Tuesday night with a gala concert by Canadian pianist André Laplante at the Carlu. Artistic director Grossman, 64, leveraged every contact from her Rolodex, amassed over a long, multifaceted career as a conductor. Born in Austria, her father, a conductor, steeped her in music from infancy. She began her career in Vienna. But since being invited 27 years ago to teach conducting at the University of Ottawa, Canada has become a second home. Until she founded the Toronto festival in 2006, Grossman had left her deepest impression in Quebec, as music director of the Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montreal (now led by Yannick Nézét-Séguin) from 1986 to 1995, and as artistic director of the Orford Festival. In these and other posts she has held (or created), education and outreach have been part of Grossman's goals.  In almost any conversation with this magnetically charged individual, you know right away that classical music doesn't belong exclusively to stuffy concert halls. It needs to be in public view, part of our daily lives.

Earth, Wind & Fire Plan CD/DVD Package


(July 18, 2008)  *Earth, Wind & Fire is looking to release a major three-disc CD/DVD package to be sold exclusively for a major retailer by mid-2009. Frontman Philip Bailey tells Billboard.com that the project is expected to include a CD of original material -- its first since "Illumination" in 2004 -- a live CD and a concert DVD. "(Management) has done this twice with (the Eagles and Journey, both via Wal-Mart) and they've expressed interest in doing this with Earth, Wind & Fire," Bailey says. "That's the new thing today, so we're taking a template out of that whole thing. We have a history and a catalogue and everything, so you don't have to 'break' us. We're still viable. Now, they're able to make really good deals and make more money for (the acts), so it's a pretty good day for us old guys." Bailey says EWF hopes to start recording the new album after the end of its current tour in October.  "We're writing," he notes, "and we're gonna write with some of these writer-producer guys, and then make it happen."

Hiromi's SonicBloom: Beyond Standard

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Telarc Jazz)

(July 22, 2008) As the title hints, keyboardist
Hiromi Uehara, 29, takes on jazz tradition here.  After four albums of original material since her 2003 recording debut, the Japanese-born, U.S.-based performer pays homage to chestnuts such as "I've Got Rhythm" and "My Favourite Things," and bends them to her virtuosic will.  She deconstructs the songs so minutely one wonders how she'll find her way back to the iconic melodies. Uehara's futuristic expression and fleet-fingered touch are bolstered by guitarist David "Fuze" Fiuczynski and her regular trio rounded out by bassist Tony Grey and drummer Martin Valihora.  This well-executed disc, which also includes Jeff Beck's "Led Boots" as a fusion romp, is suited to adventurous ears.  Top Track: Latin rhythms and an eastern sensibility populate a wry take on Duke Ellington's "Caravan."

Kanye And Sway Spotlight Vets


(July 23, 2008) *Kanye West and MTV personality Sway Calloway are reaching out to young veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.   'Ye and Sway will be featured in an MTV News special called Choose or Lose & Kanye West Present: Homecoming that spotlights the difficulties faced by three vets trying to re-adjust to life at home.   Those difficulties range from psychological problems to financial issues.  Kanye and Sway actually help the vets by paying their bills or assisting them with tuition.   "There are hundreds of veterans out there who are falling through the cracks. They make the ultimate sacrifices for us by laying down their lives, but it seems like a lot of them just get forgotten about," West said. Choose or Lose & Kanye West Present: Homecoming will air on MTV next Monday, July 28, at 10 p.m. ET.

Bobby Valentino Lives His 'Dreams'


(July 23, 2008) *Former Def Jam and Disturbing Tha Peace artist Bobby Valentino has landed a deal at EMI Records for his own label, Blu Kolla Dreams.   Valentino commented on the new deal by saying, "I have been blessed to be in the music industry for over 10 years and my past endeavours have been great learning experiences.  Now I have the opportunity to step out on faith and use the knowledge and experience that I have gained to take my career to the next level."  Valentino's partnership with EMI comes just three months after he was dropped by Def Jam and left DTP.  But Valentino says he's still on amicable terms with DTP CEOs Ludacris and Chaka Zulu and the entire DTP/Def Jam staff.  His manager says launching the Blue Kolla Dreams imprint with EMI opens an exciting, new chapter in Bobby Valentino's career.   "(This is) the start of a new business venture for anyone who has taken the Blu Kolla approach and worked extremely hard over time to make an impact in their communities, achieve greatness and make their dreams come true," Courtney "Colt Luv" Stewart of Right Hand Management said in a statement. Bobby Valentino recently released an EP called Come With Me exclusively on iTunes.  Valentino described that project as "an exclusive online release with innovative material created specifically for my true fans."   His self-titled debut album was certified platinum and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard album chart.  His second CD, Special Occasion, went gold.


Director Bruce Mcdonald Is Red Mad At Toronto International Film Festival

Source: Sasha Stoltz

(July 17, 2008) Toronto- Just two days after festival organizers announced that legendary Director Bruce McDonald’s new film “Pontypool” would have its World Premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival in September, buzz quickly spread that the famed Director had gone “Red” and Hollywood is taking notice.

“Pontypool”, a $1.5 million psychological thriller starring character actor Stephen McHattie, (“300”, “Seinfeld” and who stars as Night Owl in Warner Bros. upcoming DC Comics “The Watchmen”), is the first full length Canadian feature film to be shot entirely using the new Red One 4k HD Camera and will be the first “Red” feature to ever screen at the fest.

The Red One Camera has been the centre of many heated industry debates as the leading technology that will quickly replace traditional 35mm film-making.  No film or tape stock is required at all.  Footage is instantly saved on a digital memory card much like a consumer digital camera.

“It wasn’t an easy decision for Bruce” says Producer Jeffrey Coghlan, “we conducted Red and 35mm comparison tests prior to shooting and we literally couldn’t tell the difference”.  Coghlan, praises Cinematographer Miroslaw Baszak (“Shake Hands With The Devil”, “Land of the Dead”), with his uncompromised vision for making the film look so good and Red Lab Toronto for ensuring a smooth and easy workflow.

“Pontypool”, which was shot using 100% private funds, a rarity for most films, wrapped production just 5 weeks ago and has quickly become one of the most talked about and anticipated films of this year’s fest.  McDonald can’t wait to unveil the film at “his favourite, the best and most important film festival in the world”.  Hollywood can’t wait either.  The Toronto International Film Festival is famous for supporting independent filmmakers and is often where distributors acquire new titles to release.  “Suddenly everyone is calling,” says Producer Jeffrey Coghlan, “from the mini distribs to a couple of major studios.”  When asked why, Coghlan responded “it’s such a great, intelligent thriller.  A real mind-blower.”

Director Bruce McDonald’s other credits include last year’s “The Tracey Fragments” starring Ellen Page, “Picture Claire” and ‘Hard Core Logo”.

Visual Effects for “Pontypool” are being done by leading special effects house Mr. X whose recent credits include the upcoming Tom Cruise produced “Death Race”, “Resident Evil”, “Silent Hill” and the 2004 “Dawn of the Dead” remake.

“Pontypool” is written by Tony Burgess and adapted from his novel “Pontypool Changes Everything”.  Producers are Jeffrey Coghlan and Ambrose Roche.  Executive Producers are Henry Cole, J. Miles Dale and Jasper Graham.

Bollywood Royalty Starts Tour In Toronto

Source:  www.thestar.com - Prithi Yelaja,
Special To The Star

(July 18, 2008) If Indian film legend Amitabh Bachchan hadn't apologized for his "dress code" at a news conference in Toronto you might have just thought he had perfected rumpled chic with his black leather jacket, white shirt, jeans, red scarf and sunglasses.

As it turns out, British Airways lost his luggage, so he was sporting the same clothes he wore when he left India two days ago.

That tidbit made national headline news in India after Bachchan, an avid blogger, posted it on the Web upon arrival.

Thankfully, he said, the elaborate costumes for Unforgettable – a song and dance extravaganza that kicks off its 11-city world tour in Toronto tonight at Rogers Centre – arrived safely ahead of time.

The Bachchan clan is indisputably the first family of Bollywood, attracting throngs of fans wherever they appear in the world.

Patriarch Amitabh Bachchan, the veteran of nearly 300 films, is headlining the show along with his son Abhishek Bachchan and daughter-in-law
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, often referred to as the Brad and Angelina of Bollywood. Joining them are a raft of other A-list Bollywood stars such as Preity Zinta, Akshay Kumar and Shilpa Shetty.

Abhishek belongs to the next generation of Indian actors and his glam quotient shot up when he wed Rai, a former Miss World, in April 2007.

The Indian film industry is the largest in the world, eclipsing even Hollywood, selling about 3.6 billion movie tickets a year.

"I'm 66 now and it looks a bit ridiculous for me wanting to come onstage again," Amitabh Bachchan, a 40-year veteran of Indian films, said yesterday. Indeed, Bachchan had vowed his live show in 1983 would be his last.

"Concerts are very laborious and tiring," he said. ``But once you see the crowds and their love and affection and cheering, it makes up for everything.... The kids said it would be nice if you came along so I said fine."

In response to one journalist, who dubbed the tour "Unaffordable" due to the pricey tickets, which initially ranged from $100 to $1,000, Bachchan replied, "I don't price tickets." He then quipped, "But if you're unable to get those tickets, come up to my room. I'll sing and dance for you."

As of yesterday, tickets sales were running at 80 per cent, prompting organizers to slash the lowest price to $65, though 150 floor seats at $1,000 each were sold out.

Fans will get to see Bachchan perform song and dance numbers from old Bollywood flicks such as Don, Silsila and Laawaris.

But the show-stopper will likely be Amitabh, Abhishek and Aishwarya together reviving "Kajra Re" from their hit movie Butny Aur Babli. The trio are a Bollywood goldmine, fresh off the success of their latest movie, Sarkar Raj.

"I'm nervous but also excited," said Abhishek, who has acted in about 35 films. He promised dance sequences from Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna – which had a Gala screening at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006 – including the upbeat "Where's the Party Tonight" and "Rock N Roll Soniye."

"Indian culture is a very musical culture," said Abhishek, 32, with an easy smile. "We like to celebrate every occasion. Our films are full of song and dance, so for us it's a very natural thing....

"Indian cinema has burst onto a world stage and aroused a lot of interest in a Western audience, so yes we expect people who are not only from the Indian subcontinent to come to the show. We'll convert them once they see it, I assure you that."

Toronto was chosen to premiere the tour because the "city is very close to our hearts. It's a city that's always given us a lot of love and affection," Abhishek said, referring to the thousands of fans who patiently waited hours in the cold outside the Guru premiere in January 2007.

Holding court across the room during interviews with the press, Aishwarya told of how she came down with German measles and was confined to home for 21 days earlier this year. Abhishek would come back from show rehearsals and teach her the steps.

Aishwarya said she consciously slowed the pace of her life, wanting to savour her new role as wife.

"At the end of last year, I decided to take six months off making movies. Five years ago, three days off from work was unthinkable. Six months of not working would have been crazy," said Aishwarya, 34.

As for having children, "Yeah we'd love to. It'll happen when it's meant to be."

The show is truly a family affair with Bachchan's wife, Jaya Bhaduri, a former actor, also along for the tour, though not expected to perform. The senior Bachchans live with Abhishek and Aishwarya in an extended family in Mumbai.

Ever modest, Bachchan denies being the star of Unforgettable. "I'm not the draw at all. It's all the younger stars today. It's just great fun to be with the family and relive some of the old memories, and connect with the audiences that watch our films.

"It's beyond the twilight of my life. I'm just faking it and hoping it lasts, but even if it doesn't that's fine, too."

The Front-And-Centre Sidekick- Christine Baranski

www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt

(July 17, 2008) NEW YORK — Christine Baranski may be known as a glamorous, martini-swilling Broadway baby - her credits include a pair of Tony-winning roles and a four-year stretch as the title character's tippling best friend on the TV sitcom Cybill - but there's one form of entertainment more compelling for her than either theatre or alcohol consumption: playoff hockey. (Well, actually, there's also playoff football and playoff baseball, but for the moment, let's stick with hockey.)

She's a Buffalo gal, born and bred, which means that on June 19, 1999, as Baranski and her family were visiting the Stratford Shakespeare Festival to take in the musical West Side Story, when intermission arrived she couldn't help but step across the street from the Avon Theatre to a sports bar to see how her beloved Sabres were doing in their sixth game of the Stanley Cup final against the Dallas Stars.

She never made it back to the show.

"Oh, I'm a sports jock," Baranski cracks in a comically husky voice, perched on a stiff sofa in a glittering hotel suite overlooking Central Park. She looks every inch the Connecticut housewife she is on her days off, glammed up in a Giambattista Valli tweed suit and Christian Louboutin pumps: She and her husband, actor Matthew Cowles, live in an 18th-century converted farmhouse outside Bethlehem, Conn., about two hours northeast of Manhattan.

She is supposed to be discussing her role in the film adaptation of the frothy ABBA musical Mamma Mia! (opening tomorrow), in which she plays the old friend and a former girl-group backup singer of Donna (Meryl Streep), a woman whose three former lovers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard) show up on the Greek island where she runs a small inn just as her daughter (Amanda Seyfried) is about to marry. But Baranski can't help coming back to sports.

"You don't want to be in a room with me when I'm watching a game. I am so loud, I'm so obnoxious - I need to be in a padded cell. Especially with Buffalo. I get so emotional."

And so, to conclude the story of that playoff match, which Baranski still carries like a cross: Around 1:30 in the morning, after almost three overtime periods, Buffalo lost the game - and the Cup - on a controversial goal by the Stars' Brett Hull. "We were beside ourselves." Baranski says. "I lived through that!"

She has also lived through four fruitless trips to the Super Bowl by the Buffalo Bills. And for good measure, her favourite baseball team is the Boston Red Sox, who went 86 years between World Series championships before finally winning in 2004. "Oh, it tests your mettle," she murmurs.

"But here's what I know: When your team finally wins - when the Red Sox finally had that year? Nothing that the Yankees ever did can match the orGASmic joy that that was for diehard Sox fans."

Baranski isn't necessarily a masochist. Her love of sports is simply connected to her childhood: to Bills games at the War Memorial Stadium with her grandfather (her father died when she was 8); to gathering around the black-and-white TV with her family watching Sabres and Red Sox games.

And besides, while she's a Julliard-trained treader of the boards (stage credits include Mame at the Kennedy Center, various off-Broadway roles, and seven plays on Broadway including her current turn as the French maid Berthe in the revival of the 1960s farce Boeing-Boeing), she explains that sports isn't as unlike theatre as conventional wisdom would hold. "In our day and age, everything - even reality shows - are rehearsed. Everything's kind of predictable. I mean, it's hard to see anything that is truly in the moment, that takes you by surprise. Sports will do that: What horse is gonna go over the finish line? What team is gonna pull it out? You live so in the moment. And great theatre should look like it's happening in the moment."

"In terms of your ability to just scream like that - primal screams? Nothing beats sports. But Mamma Mia!" - she begins, in a sing-songy fashion, as a smile creeps across her face, knowing she was supposed to be talking about the film all along - "is very interesting, because it elicits that kind of primal energy, where people are, by the end of that musical, in the aisles, releasing their inner whatever - rock chick, child, teenager - and just dancing, and it's kind of bacchanalian, isn't it?"

Though she's talking about the stage musical rather than its film adaptation, at a recent sneak preview in New York the audience was visibly swept along by the same giddy good cheer that has won over the 30 million fans who have seen the live show.

As Tanya, described by her friends as a serial bride and plastic-surgery aficionado, Baranski makes her entrance in Mamma Mia! tripping down a dock in stilettos and a white Chanel jacket, sporting diamond bracelets and a brassy personality. The role is a supporting one, but Baranski makes the most of it, including a show-stopping number, Does Your Mother Know, in which she shamelessly cavorts on the beach with a dozen younger men.

"As a sidekick, you don't have to be the sympathetic lead. That's always a relief," Baranski explains. "And I don't think I'd be very good at that. I'm too quirky, I think." She waves her hand in front of her face, indicating her pug nose.

Tanya is a milder version of the self-dramatizing, self-involved and sometimes self-medicating WASPs that Baranski seems to specialize in, from Bunny Caldwell in Cruel Intentions to her career-making four seasons as Maryann on Cybill, which wrapped up its run nine years ago.

"I think Cybill forever cemented my reputation as a woman who would be drinking a martini," Baranski laughs. "To this day, I can walk onto a flight and a stewardess will say," - and here she adopts a conspiratorial whisper - " 'I'll bring you a martini.' As though that's just what I do.

"Just think about the characters that followed after Maryann, in Will and Grace and Sex and the City: It became like a prototype, that there was a certain kind of middle-aged woman who was kind of sexy and a little bit irreverent and was a drinker - particularly martinis. I'm glad to have started that. Certainly in this country, nobody had ever done that before. They had in England with Ab Fab, not in America.

"I've never played that kind of character in a major film. I get to do it playing Meryl Streep's best friend which - if you're gonna be a sidekick - hello? Pretty good to be a sidekick to Meryl."

A few minutes later, a publicist enters the room to quietly draw an end to the interview, and Baranski jumps to her feet. "What a pleasure to talk to somebody else who knows sports," she exclaims. "I think the Sox are gonna hold onto their hegemony for quite a while now, don't you?" She'd love to continue chatting like this, but there's another interviewer waiting in the hall, and the publicist has a question for Baranski: "What's the name of a good martini bar around here? Meryl said you'd know."

Christopher Plummer A Modern Emperor As Caesar

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(July 19, 2008) STRATFORD–Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer walks into The Belfry Restaurant late on a summer's day.

He pauses by one of the stained glass windows, splendidly backlit by the afternoon sun and looks about as regal as it's possible for a man to be without benefit of royal robes.

At the age of 78, he still stands ramrod-straight, eternally tan, eyes flashing with mischief, as a slightly sardonic grin plays around his lips, making you feel he's just been told a joke that you couldn't possibly understand.

We don't confer titles on our North American actors, but if we did, he would surely be Sir Christopher, if not Lord Plummer.

Just the kind of man who should be playing Julius Caesar, which is a fortunate occurrence, because that's what he's here to do this summer.

Not Shakespeare's Caesar, a dusty bore who dies before the show is half finished, but the one imagined by George Bernard Shaw in Caesar and Cleopatra, directed by Des McAnuff and starting previews on Aug. 7 at the Festival Theatre.

Plummer sits down, orders a glass of red wine and relaxes. His jacket is stylishly cut, but the lack of a tie indicates that this man may be imperial, yet he's not imperious.

Ask him why he wants to do this particular script and he cuts right to the chase.

"Because it's very, very kinky. I feel like I'm playing Humbert in Lolita. A sexy, smart older man infatuated with a devilishly divine kitten of a much younger woman."

Having caused a shock wave with his daring opening line (as he knew he would) he instantly backpedals with grace, as the naughty but well-mannered Westmount boy that he was raised to be.

"It's not quite as lascivious as Lolita," he purrs, "but there is that naughty frisson behind the relationship that keeps the audience on their toes without being filthy.

"I've loved this play for a long, long time. It's not done very often because it's expensive to mount, but it's so fascinating because Shaw suddenly becomes a sexy writer, a sensual writer. My God! It's a romantic comedy up there on the stage."

Cleopatra isn't present this afternoon, but Plummer hastens to praise the actor playing the role, the 24-year-old Nikki M. James.

"I'm so glad we've got someone truly young in the part," exults Plummer, "and I'm thrilled with what she's doing. She's got great energy and grace and youth...ah, youth!"

But it takes more than a charming leading lady and a tempting script to get Plummer to commit his time and energy. He's still in demand for stage work in New York and London as well as for movies around the world.

So what brought him back to Stratford this year?

"I'm here because I wanted to come and support Des (McAnuff)," says Plummer simply, speaking of the Festival's Artistic Director. "I thank God that he's here. He takes risks, he dares, he's got a wonderful theatrical sense. He's just the right kind of person to take over at the moment."

Although always proudly Canadian, Plummer has been a citizen of the world for 50 years, working anywhere and everywhere he chooses, which is why he applauds McAnuff's decisions to broaden the Festival's artistic horizons by bringing in first-rate talent from America, England and Europe.

"Des has got such great antennae towards the right people in other lands," observes Plummer, "and he's not afraid to ask them to join us.

"We used to do it here at Stratford all the time and there were always some people who bitched and said `They've all got to be Canadian.' That's ridiculous! How can Canadian actors ever learn unless they pitch themselves against stars from other countries?"

Plummer is positive about a lot of the transformations he sees happening in this first season, even though he knows that some discord and a certain amount of financial pain has emerged.

"It's all good. It's all exciting. It doesn't matter if it's rocky or not. It's change and this place needed it."

Of course, he wouldn't be Plummer the Perfectionist if he didn't find some faults and he's ready to speak about them as well.

"We've got to get all the genteel theatre out of the place, the kind of thing that people love to come to see because they know they can drop off and have a nice snooze.

"I also feel there are too many plays being done here. Actors can't do their best work if they're constantly running madly from one show to another. It's like going to a restaurant with a menu that's so big you know the chef just can't prepare every dish well."

Plummer's passion for Stratford even surprises himself and he pauses to take a sip of wine, speaking more softly when he resumes.

"I guess I have an unconscious desire to always be a part of Stratford because the defining event of my life took place here.

"I was 26 years old, it was 1956 and I played Henry V here. It was glorious. The French were played by actors from Quebec and the whole concept of bringing this country together became something that actually seemed possible."

Ask him what he remembers about Stratford when he wakes up at four in the morning and he laughs.

"Going to bed at four in the morning. No, really, that's what it was. A big party. We were all like that.

"The company wanted to test me. They would keep me up drinking till all hours because they wanted to see if I was tough enough to carouse all night and then perform Henry V at a matinee the next day. And if you did, you were a man, my son."

The word "retire" isn't in Plummer's vocabulary and he grows excited again as he talks about the kind of work he still wants to do.

"I want to play characters who drive, who do, who make things happen.

"Al Pacino and I talked about doing Volpone together, but the only trouble is that Al always wants to do 14 years of workshops first and by the time he got through them, I'd be dead."

Plummer drains his glass of wine and looks off in the distance where the sun is sinking ever lower in the sky.

"I do want to play Prospero one day," he says a bit wistfully, "but it's always regarded as a farewell performance and I don't even want to think of that.

"No, not yet."

Dark Knight Sets Single-Day Box Office Record

Source: www.thestar.com - David Germain,
The Associated Press

(July 19, 2008) LOS ANGELES – Batman's joust with the Joker has set another box office record.

Stoked by fan fever over the manic performance of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker, "The Dark Knight" set a one-day box office record with $66.4 million (U.S.) on opening day, Warner Bros. head of distribution Dan Fellman said Saturday.

The movie's Friday haul surpassed the previous record of $59.8 million set last year by "Spider-Man 3." "The Dark Knight" might break the opening-weekend record of $151.1 million, also held by ``Spider-Man 3."

"I think they're in jeopardy," Fellman said of the "Spider-Man 3" records.

"The Dark Knight" began with a record $18.5 million from midnight screenings, topping the previous high of $16.9 million for ``Star Wars: Episode III – The Revenge of the Sith."

The opening day grosses for "The Dark Knight" far exceeded the full weekend haul of its predecessor, "Batman Begins," which took in $48.7 million in its first three days in 2005.

Reviews were excellent for director Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins," but they were stellar for his "Dark Knight."

"We've really never seen anything like this," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. ``The death of a fine actor taken in his prime, a legendary performance, and a movie that lives up to all the hype. That all combined to create these record-breaking numbers."

Buzz had been high for the Batman sequel well before Ledger died of an accidental prescription-drug overdose in January. Trailers last fall revealing Ledger's demented Joker, with crooked clown makeup, turned up the heat even more. The critical acclaim over his performance that built from advance screenings left fans in a frenzy.

"It's a combination of things. Certainly, that's a great part of it, but I think this movie's gross was partly because of the reviews it received and the incredible buzz and word of mouth that preceded it with our early screenings," Fellman said. "And the success and quality of the last one, `Batman Begins,' delivered by Chris Nolan just set the tone for the opening of this movie."

"The Dark Knight" reunites Christian Bale as Batman, the vigilante crime-fighter tormented by personal tragedy, and co-stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman. Maggie Gyllenhaal also stars.

The film spins an epic crime duel as Ledger's Joker orchestrates a reign of terror on the city of Gotham aimed to spread chaos and break down the restraint that keeps Batman on the right side of the law.

While critics are taking the film seriously enough to suggest Ledger could be in line for an Academy Award nomination, the action-packed movie also delivers as pure summer movie escapism.

"If you're worried about mortgage payments and gas prices, when you're sitting in `The Dark Knight' for 2 1/2 hours, you're not thinking about any of that stuff," Dergarabedian said.

Kelle Stewart: The My Boys Interview With Kam Williams


(July 17, 2008) *Kellee Stewart was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania on April 15, 1976 where she developed a love for the stage at an early age, appearing in school productions and studying drama at Philly's famed Freedom Theater.

She later attended SUNY Purchase where she would earn a bachelor's degree in acting. After graduation, she appeared in Off-Broadway plays and worked as a modeling agent in NYC, before heading west to try to make it in L.A.

In Hollywood, she landed recurring roles on several TV series, including the WB's "Living with Fran," Comedy Central's "Wanda Does It" and the UPN's "Sex, Love, & Secrets."

But Kellee is probably best known for her breakout performance as Bernie Mac's daughter Keisha in the feature film Guess Who? On the big screen, she has since appeared in the blockbuster comedy Monster-in-Law and in the recently-released indie flick I'm Through with White Girls.

Here, she talks about her career and about new TV show, TBS' "
My Boys," a sitcom set in Chicago where she co-stars opposite Jordana Spiro.

Kam Williams: Hi Kellee, thanks so much for the time.

Kelle Stewart: Oh, thanks for having me.

KW: Congrats on My Boys being renewed for a second season.

KS: Thank you.

KW: How do you like the evolution of your character, Stephanie?

KS: Oh, I love it. Stephanie actually writes a book about dating.

KW: I know. I watched the season premiere and the next episode, and saw how you and boyfriend had problems while vacationing in Italy. Is he written off the show now?

KS: Yes, he's gone. Lance [played by Schuyler Yancey] and I broke up. On the heels of that, Stephanie wrote a book and becomes famous, so some fun things start to happen.

KW: I like that your character isn't the stereotypical African-American sidekick. Not that very limited best friend we usually see, but a much more complex and well-rounded individual. 

KS: The role wasn't written that way.

KW: So, was this a case of colorblind casting?

KS: When I went for my audition, I saw every ethnicity there. Caucasian women, black women, Asian women.

KW: How did they settle on you?

KS: It was really about finding the right chemistry for the entire ensemble. After I read with Jordana Spiro for [show creator and executive producer] Betsy Thomas during a call back, they decided to screen test me with her. And after we finished, as I was getting into my car to drive home, my phone rang, and they said, "Don't leave, you got the job. Come back for the table read." And when I sat down for the table read I had not yet been introduced to any of the other actors. My first line was "Hi Mike. hi Kenny." I delivered "Hi Mike" in a nice way, but I decided spontaneously that I didn't like Kenny. So, I said, "Hi Kenny" in a very nasty, sarcastic manner, and he looked back at me and grunted and shot me this disapproving look which made the audience crack-up. And instantly the chemistry of our characters not liking each other was found. I believe that happens when the right actors organically just go with the flow and go with the moment. I hadn't even shaken his hand at that time. Now, here we are starting season two and we still can't stand each other and we don't even know why, but it works. 

KW: Do you think your experience as a modeling agent has helped you in landing roles?

KS: I think being on the other side of the desk helped me in terms of gaining a perspective on the business. I learned not to take everything personally or so seriously, because sometimes you're just not right for a particular job. You have to be able to take rejection quickly and honestly, know what you need to work on, and move on, all kind of in the same instant.

KW: Why is it I sense that you're a bit of a perfectionist.

KS: [Laughs] A little bit. I think that what makes my job so much fun is that I continue to try to grow. I still take acting classes and go to improv shows.

KW: Why is that?

KS: There are a lot of great actors and actresses out there who are trying to get the same jobs that you are. So, you've got to give it your best shot and think "I'm going to go for it and not look back."

KW: That reminds me of the documentary Confessions of a Superhero, which follows four struggling actors who panhandle on Hollywood Boulevard to survive in between auditions while they're waiting to make it.

KS: The things that dreams will make you do. Giving up is not an option if you want to succeed. That's how I feel about it. If you really want to be in this business, and it's something you can't live without, you just have to keep going. And one day that shot will be given to you.

KW: I think there's an "It" factor which some people have and some don't. After seeing you on this show, in Guess Who and I'm Through with White Girls, I'd definitely say you have that certain something. Despite playing the second banana, there's something magnetic about you which enables you to shine and almost upstage the lead.

KS: Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. I try.

KW: I'm guessing that it's a combination of attractiveness, intelligence, persistence and the "It" factor. So, when are going to land your feature lead role?

KS: [Laughs] I don't know. Hopefully, soon. I still feel like I'm getting my feet wet.

KW: What did you think of I'm Through with White Girls? I thought it was a charming little romantic comedy.

KS: I actually haven't seen it. Lamman Rucker, who plays my love interest in it, recommended me for the role. He's a friend of mine from way back.

KW: He's an excellent up-and-coming actor who's been in a lot of movies lately, including Meet the Browns and Why Did I Get Married? Tell him I want to interview him, and that I'm friends with a friends of his, Al Flowers.

KS: I will. I'll pass that message along to him.

KW: Are you anything like your character Stephanie in real life?

For the full interview by Kam Williams, please go

9.5 Reasons To Love Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

www.thestar.com - Daphne Gordon, Living Reporter

(July 18, 2008)  Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has been called the most beautiful woman in the world.

Up close and in person, it's easy to see why: Her skin glows, her eyes sparkle, her smile radiates. She's nice. And funny.

In town to perform in tonight's Unforgettable show at the Rogers Centre, Rai Bachchan, 34, has dozens of starring roles in hit Hindi films to her credit. As the wife of Indian cinema's heir apparent Abhishek Bachchan, she's considered the reigning Queen of Bollywood.

As well, since her 2002 crossover hit Devdas, Rai Bachchan has earned roles in Hollywood and now has a fan base that circles the globe.

When I managed to score a short one-on-one interview with Rai Bachchan, my goal was to find out her beauty and style secrets as quickly as possible.

"We have 10 minutes," I say, as we sit down amidst an army of journalists, publicists and security guards. "I'd like to ask 10 questions."

"I give long answers, so good luck!" laughs Rai Bachchan.

"What are you wearing?" I ask.

"Clothes," she says, shrugging. "I hate ... I really do not like mentioning labels," she says with a smoothly articulate British accent.

"But since you ask," she says. "My shoes are Armani. My jeans, I don't know ... My jacket is Chanel. My watch is Longines.

"I'm also wearing my wedding ring, and my family gave me this opal and sapphire," she says, flashing her hand.

"I notice you're photographed often wearing that ring," I say. "What does it mean to you?"

"My family gave it to me," she says, touching the opal cocktail ring on her index finger. "I've been wearing it for a while. I'm a less is more kind of person when it comes to accessories. This bangle is a Bengali wedding band. My husband put this on me the day we married and it stays on. My mother-in-law is Bengali and I like things that have real meaning."

"How would you describe your personal style?"

"As far as fashion goes, comfort is the biggest defining factor," she says. "Comfort and relevance to the occasion, rather than flashing the `in' thing ... Your attitude and personality, that's what you should wear."

"Do you like to go to fashion shows?"

"I'd love to. I've been invited, but I don't have time."

"Is there an Indian designer that you particularly admire?"

"Hmmmm," she replies. "I have so many friends, I like to do different things, so it's hard to pick just one. But I do like..." she says, rattling off several names in quick succession.

"Um, how do you spell that?" I ask, checking my watch.

"Here, let me write it down for you," she says, taking my notebook and pen on her lap: "Shahab Durazi, Hement Triveda, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, Neeta Lulla, amongst many," she writes neatly.

"And a favourite Western designer?" I ask, taking back my notebook.

"I have friends at Armani, Cavalli, Gucci."

"Do you dress differently for your North American and European fans than for your Indian fans?"

"I am Indian, and I enjoy the sari and Indian attire, but my experiences, right from the outset, have been across the globe. I mean look at me, I mix it up," she says.

"What's the best gift your husband has ever given you?"

"Togetherness." She smiles coyly and glances at her leading man.

"What's your skin secret?"

"When it comes to beauty, it's about how you feel. You've got to feel good inside. Apart from that, it's just hygiene. Hygiene of thought, word and action."

Just at that moment, Star photographer Lucas Oleniuk steps in with the tenth question:

"May I take your picture?" he asks.


And then she steps into the bright light, flickering her lashes just right.


Djimon Hounsou Reviving 'Doom'

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich,
Sports Reporter

(July 22, 2008)  *Djimon Hounsou is about to take on a huge film project based on a popular character in the "Conan the Barbarian" and "Kull" comic books.  Variety is reporting that the actor is teaming with Dynamite Entertainment to star in and produce a film version about immortal sorcerer Thulsa Doom, who will also be featured in his own comic book series next year from publisher Dynamite, an imprint of Dynamic Forces.  Thulsa Doom originally appeared in the Robert E. Howard pulp story "Delcardes' Cat," published in the 1930s.  The character was portrayed by James Earl Jones in 1982's "Conan the Barbarian."  The Thulsa Doom film, according to Variety, will showcase the origins of the flawed hero and show how his road to hell was paved with good intentions.

Don Cheadle Gets 'Marching' Orders


(July 23, 2008) *Don Cheadle will finally get to produce and star in "Marching Powder," a drama based on the memoir titled, "Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine and South America's Strangest Jail." The actor intends to play McFadden, a British drug trafficker who was arrested and jailed in La Paz, Bolivia's San Pedro prison. During his six-year stretch, McFadden served as a tour guide in a prison that thrived under a capitalist system made possible by bribery of officials.  Jose Padilha will write and direct the drama; Cheadle is producing through his Crescendo Prods., with Plan B's Brad Pitt, Periscope Entertainment's David Guy Levy and Benjamin Goldhirsh of Good Worldwide.


 Fame-Seeking Children: Adorable And Annoying

www.globeandmail.com - Catherine Dawson March

(July 18, 2008)  Imagine telling a nine-year-old - someone who's been up since the crack of dawn to wait in line to sing for a panel of judges - that her performance just wasn't star material. Then imagine being on the other side of the exit door, where the child - if she's managed to keep it together - lets her guard down and breaks into tears at the sight of Mom.

On YTV's
The Next Star, Canada's first reality-show talent search for kids 15 and under, that's a scene you'll see often in the first audition episode. Consider the show Canadian Idol's kid sister; just like a little sister, it can be both adorable and annoying as it apes the look and affectations of its older sibling.

"I don't mind describing it at all as a young Canadian Idol, but it [has] a different tone and a different purpose," says host Adamo Ruggiero, of Degrassi: The Next Generation fame. "We are trying to mentor and build the next generation of stars and artists."

In the episodes covering the cross-country auditions (1,300 tried out), children as young as 6 wearing their prettiest party dress or a freshly pressed shirt perform for three judges - singer Suzie McNeil (who almost won Rock Star: INXS), songwriter Christopher Ward and marketing executive Steve Cranwell. The goal is to win a spot in The Next Star's music school, where they will be mentored by pros, get a style makeover and learn how to talk to the press. One will win a recording contract with Universal Music.

Child after child comes before the judges. The younger ones are adorably precocious, doing their best Hannah Montana or Randy Bachman imitations, but they're clearly not ready to be chosen. The judges kindly send them on their way with a few helpful hints about finding their own voice. The older ones can take your breath away with their poise, playing and comments such as: "I play every instrument, except all those weird orchestra ones," from 15-year-old Jesse from Montreal. Or 13-year-old Savannah from Winnipeg, who exclaims: "The Canadian prime minister is like the Canadian president!" Taken aback by her sass, McNeil whispers, "I saw the early stages of a narcissistic rock 'n' roll vibe," as the girl heads for the exit.

Waiting outside the audition room door - Idol's Ben Mulroney never had it this hard - is Ruggiero. He's ready with a sympathetic hug because he knows how heartbreaking rejection is at a young age. "I'm kind of like the older brother who's been there," says Ruggiero, 22. "When they come out I tell them the truth, that I got rejected; at one of my first auditions I couldn't even leave my mom's car, but they did. And I tell them that when I first auditioned for Degrassi, I didn't get it either."

YTV's head programming executive Jocelyn Hamilton admits watching children cope with rejection is difficult but sees nothing wrong with using those scenes on the show. "There was no exploitation at all," she says. "They are natural feelings and you have to show the natural feelings."

"We're not capitalizing on the kids' vulnerability," Ruggiero insists, "we're trying to help develop them. ... When a kid goes before [the judges] it's not like the other shows, where they say, 'Oh my ears were bleeding!' There's none of that loud joking humour. It's more, 'If you work on that you can be better.' They're not mean."

Hamilton says The Next Star won't be pumping up the behind-the-scenes antics like most talent-show series do. The only drama, she says, will come from "the natural frustrations of dealing with 'Did I get it right?' There will be a lot of growth internally and externally that's what you are going to see." She's already looking forward to seeing how the kids handle performing the national anthem at a Blue Jays game - the first time any of them will perform in front of a large audience.

Ruggiero says the series is still taping while the top six hone their craft at The Next Star's "music school" and getting ready for the Sept. 28 finale, which will be live from Canada's Wonderland. "There will be one that stands out and they will be titled the Next Star," he says. "But the process is going to be more important than the result."

The Next Star premieres tonight at 6 on YTV.

Sing, sing, sing

It's a busy week for talent-search series on TV. On July 20, High School Musical: Get in the Picture begins on ABC and CTV at 8 p.m. (See page 40.) Canadian Idol also heats up Monday and Tuesday night, as there are only nine singers left competing. Judging by the teen and tween audience lined up along Front Street to catch Idol's live performance shows, this is the talent-search series that captures their imagination. They may only be old enough to try out for YTV's The Next Star, but Canadian Idol is where they're headed. C.D.M.

Montreal Actor Jay Baruchel Talks About Working In The House Of Apatow

Source: www.globeandmail.com -  STEPHEN COLE

(July 21, 2008) A child actor from the age of eight, co-host of his own show, Popular Mechanics for Kids at 16, a has-been one year later, Montreal actor
Jay Baruchel remembers his Big Break with characteristic exuberance.

"I was 18, I thought it was all over," he says, squirming in a Toronto hotel bar, a Coke in his right hand, his left knee pumping like a jackhammer. "The only work I'd done in a year was a couple of car commercials. I was in my sister's bedroom, in NDG [Notre-Dame-de-Grâce], where I still live, playing PlayStation."

Baruchel throws up a stop sign. "Wait, wait, I don't mean I still live in my sister's bedroom, I mean I still live in NDG, in Montreal." He is laughing now. "Anyway, the phone rings and this woman goes, 'Hello, I represent the Allison Jones Casting agency and we'd like to test you for the lead in Judd Apatow's new TV series, Undeclared. We think you'd be great.' "

Here, Baruchel pantomimes his reaction to the 2000 call, imitating a football referee throwing his hands in the air to signal a touchdown.

The windblown story is classic Baruchel, who has made a career out of playing sweet, jittery juveniles. After starring in Apatow's critically acclaimed Fox sitcom, the actor offered a memorable turn as a daydreaming boxer in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby (earning an Oscar-night thank you from Clint), then played a scaredy-cat wearing a mohawk in Apatow's big 2007 hit, Knocked Up.

In August, Baruchel appears as a flustered soldier alongside Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Nick Nolte and Robert Downey Jr. in this summer's most ballyhooed comedy, Tropic Thunder. He has another three American films in pre- or post-production.

But wait, there's more. For in addition to playing nervous worrywarts in Hollywood, the actor and devoted Montreal Canadiens fan is fashioning a parallel career as a lead in Canadian genre films.

That's why he's in Toronto, in fact: to promote his latest film, Just Buried, writer-director Chaz Thorne's ink-black comedy about a small-town, Maritime funeral-home director who promotes business by bumping off fellow citizens.

"There are what, maybe eight English-Canadian films made every year," Baruchel says, "and I want to appear in at least one of them. I always want to have a creative home here. I have a maple leaf tattooed over my heart."

That much we know. The red maple leaf was there for all to see on Baruchel's bared chest in Knocked Up's "shmashmortion" scene, when his character, also named Jay, makes a pro-life pitch to expectant dad, Ben (Seth Rogan).

Aside from nationalistic fervour, Baruchel concedes there is another reason he wants to make films here: "Great parts - stuff I would never get in Hollywood." For instance, in August, when Tropic Thunder hits, he will be in Montreal shooting The Trotsky, a comedy about a kid who believes he's the reincarnation of Marxist revolutionary hero Leon Trotsky.

Just Buried - which opens on Friday - is certainly a Canadian story Baruchel understands. Although the gangly, 26-year-old grew up in central Canada, his mother's family lived for "four or five generations" in Nova Scotia. Families are important to the Montrealer; in addition to the maple leaf above his heart, he has his mother's maiden name, Ropell, tattooed on his arm.

Arriving in Halifax to shoot Just Buried, Baruchel was tickled to discover everyone talked like his grandmother and that fish cakes, a mealtime staple growing up, were available in diners everywhere. He was also pleased to recognize the mordant humour in Thorne's script.

"I was 9 when my mom took me to see Monty Python's Life of Brian," Baruchel remembers. "The grotesque amputations and fountains of blood, we both killed ourselves laughing. I think there is a gallows humour that exists in Maritimers. That's in me, too, apparently. I was born to make a gory comedy. I knew I had to do Just Buried when I read the scene where my character, who inherits a funeral home, asks Rose [Byrne, his love interest and a mortician], 'How do you do it?' and she says, 'You wash the body with a germicide...,' then goes onto describe the embalming process in explicit detail, after which I say, 'No, I mean how do you do it, it's so gross.' "

Perhaps what's most intriguing about Baruchel's two-country career is that he has found a way of telling Canadian stories with an Apatow accent. Two of his upcoming films deal with this country's favourite pastimes: hockey and complaining. He is currently developing Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse, which he describes as two Canadians sitting around arguing while the world ends, with "best friend" and Knocked Up star Seth Rogan. He and Superbad screenwriter Evan Goldberg have also recently completed The Goon, a story about a hockey enforcer.

Baruchel's believes that his experience with Apatow changed his approach to filmmaking. "Judd loves actors and he has a knack for attracting interesting people and then just letting them go; that's the way I always want to work," he says, describing the semi-improvisational nature of Knocked Up, where Apatow kept cameras rolling after every take, allowing actors to embellish scenes, shooting over one million feet of film in the process.

Baruchel loves actors, too, and begins dancing in his chair remembering what it was like working with superbad actors Robert Downey Jr. and Nick Nolte in Tropic Thunder. "Those guys have such presence, you just watch them, off set, with your eyes open," he says, letting his jaw slacken. "I remember once everyone was relaxed, telling stories about stuff they've done in the past, and Robert just looked at Nick, smiled, and said, 'I could have given you a run for your money in my day.' "

At this point the Canadian in Jay Baruchel bursts to the surface. "It was so much fun working with those guys," he says. "It was a dream come true, like playing on the same line with Jean Béliveau and Guy Lafleur."

Special to The Globe and Mail

New Zip For An Old Code

:  www.thestar.com

It was perhaps inevitable that in the wake of the success of its contemporary heirs – The O.C., Gossip Girl, even (shudder) The Hills – that Beverly Hills, 90210, the 1990s' original glamorization of the pampered lives of rich, gorgeous, hormonally overactive teens, would be destined to return.

Indeed, it features some of the exact same former teens, now as adults, C-grade pseudo-celebrities ready to leap on the opportunity to relive their career peak.

It was announced yesterday that bad girl-turned-bad woman Shannen Doherty would be back on the reborn show – its title now a truncated 90210 (and its theme song essentially the same, with an enhanced bass line) – guesting in a multi-episode arc as the returning Brenda Walsh, now a stage director of note, asked back to her Beverly Hills alma matter to helm their annual high-school musical (does Disney know about this?).

Previously announced returnees include Jennie Garth's Kelly Taylor, now an adult guidance counsellor, Tori Spelling's Donna Martin, who now runs an "upscale boutique," and Joe E. Tata as Peach Pit owner Nat.

Not that there isn't some new blood on the Beverly Hills block. The first regular teenaged cast members hired and announced for 90210 turned out to both be Canadian, in the grand tradition of original co-star (and thus far apparently uninterested in returning) Jason Priestley as Brandon Walsh.

Degrassi star Shenae Grimes will play Annie Mills, proverbial fresh-faced new arrival, with Runaway's Dustin Milligan as local Ethan Ward. The Canadian casting was perhaps a given; the wife of co-producer Gabe Sachs, Debbie, is a former Toronto casting agent.

"We went all over the world looking for people," Gabe allowed. "Honestly, Shenae walked in and sat down in our office, and we were just like, `It's her!'"

"Dustin was the same way," added his co-producing partner, Jeff Judah. "There is, I must say, a certain wholesomeness about these Canadian kids."

"Don't let them fool you," slyly sniped their new young 90210 co-star, Tristan Wilds, fresh off the Baltimore mean streets of The Wire – apparently hired as a belated validation that there are in fact black kids in Beverly Hills.

Why Would A Canadian Comic Like Sean Cullen Risk Elimination On NBC's Last Comic Standing?

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Susan Bourette

(July 23, 2008)  A man walks into a bar - wait, trust me, you haven't heard this one.

Sean Cullen walking into a Toronto bar. It's not a joke, either. It's more like the kind of sketch comedy that has made Cullen a Canadian cult favourite. He's here to talk about his place in the cast of a reality TV show-cum-talent contest. It's not a situation comedy, just a situation in which he finds himself as a contestant on the sixth season of NBC's Last Comic Standing.

Listening to him describe his experience, it sounds as if he's standing not just at the mike but at a career crossroads, living proof that comedy isn't always pretty.

"I guess it seems strange," the 42-year-old comedian says, his pale green eyes unwavering, his arms crossed tightly across his chest, like he's trying to reason with a heckler. "There's this perception that it's some kind of amateur contest like Canadian [Idol] or American Idol. But it's great to be on the show. It's an opportunity to give me the kind of exposure that can open a whole new career in America. A chance to reinvent myself."

Undoubtedly, many who've watched Cullen's comedic rise over two decades did a double-take when his wild-eyed mug appeared in this year's line-up. His style of comedy seems less suited to the program's stand-up showdowns than creating quirky characters and satirical musical theatre. What's more, fans might wonder: Why would an established comic like Cullen risk a humiliating elimination - possibly even getting the boot tomorrow - without any assurance he'll walk away with the top prize?

Comedians can be even harsher. To their minds, appearing on the show is humiliating - not even a win can justify the ordeal.

The finalists are forced to live together in a house where the talent show gives way to Survivor-style politics. Each week, three comics are chosen to compete in a head-to-head contest. The studio audience is the ultimate arbitrator, deciding which two comics will leave. In the finale, slated for early August, the vote will be opened up to Americans. Canadians cannot vote.

"It's meant for people who have nothing to lose," scoffs Steve Patterson, a Montreal-based comedian who distinguished himself by being the first comic to decline an opportunity to participate in the show after being selected from a pool of hundreds of Canadian comics. "In comics' circles, people just snicker when you mention Last Comic Standing. You wouldn't put it on your bio. I don't know what it's about, but it's not about stand-up comedy."

Cullen flinches as he listens to Patterson's assessment of the show. In person, Cullen's not exactly a barrel of laughs - but he's easy-going, open and thoughtful. This clearly chafes.

"To hear anyone say it's a bogus show, that seems belittling to me," Cullen says. "If this is hokey, what isn't hokey? Hanging around in bars and hoping some day somebody taps you on the shoulder and says, 'You're a genius?' "

Certainly, Cullen has established himself as a formidable talent here at home. He's an alumnus of Corky and the Juice Pigs, the celebrated trio that first gained a reputation playing to the university crowd before winning prizes and audiences around the world and a regular gig on Fox's Mad TV. Ten years later, Cullen struck out on his own, eventually headlining CBC's The Sean Cullen Show and hosting his own Comedy Central special. He's made repeated TV appearances on shows such as Ellen, The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In 1999, it looked like Cullen was on the cusp of something really big when CBS came calling. He spent two years in Los Angeles working on a sitcom pilot with the executive producer of Ellen. It stalled in development. So did his career trajectory.

When Last Comic Standing held auditions last year for the first time in Canada, Cullen didn't think twice about auditioning. He didn't make the cut. However, two lesser known stand-up comedians scored top spots. Toronto comics Debra DiGiovanni and Gerry Dee both made it to the final 10. By the show's wrap, Dee had climbed to third place.

Dee says he's watched his club-price skyrocket and he's never been busier. "I'm making more money, getting a lot of great opportunities," explains Dee, who is setting out on a cross-country tour in August with stops in Brampton, Ont., Calgary and Vancouver. "I'm very thankful for all that Last Comic has done for me."

Clearly, Cullen is hoping for that kind of success for his own quirky routines. In a recent episode in Las Vegas, he closed his act with You've Got a Friend in Porn, an ode to the Spectravision channel that was still - somehow - suitable for prime time.

David Friedman, the show's executive producer, says he was looking to expand the types of comedic performers that could appear on this year's show. "Sean Cullen is clearly an entertainer far beyond stand-up. He just walks on to the stage and pow! He lights up the room. Like Jackie Gleason."

Away from the theatre, in the behind-the-scenes quasi-reality of the comics' shared accommodation, Cullen often comes off as the most likeable of the contestants. In fact, he's perfectly matched to the reality-TV portion of the show, flaunting his finely tuned improv skills while squeezing other contestants off the screen. Since three-quarters of what's aired on the show focuses on this large, dysfunctional and back-biting family, Cullen can charm the TV audience - as much a part of the performance as the head-to-head battles.

Cullen might be alone in understanding the importance of the reality component, and he believes his particular talents set him apart - talents that could translate into a far bigger score beyond winning the Last Comic Standing title, $250,000 (U.S.) and a Honda Pilot. The ultimate prize? Another kind of pilot - and eventually a series - something none of the show's winners have managed to secure.

And if he does land a series? Cullen envisages a variety show that would combine elements of reality TV. Or something weirder.

"I'm going to live on a space capsule and I'm going to laser programs into people's brains," he deadpans.

Special to The Globe and Mail


'Mad Men' Makes Emmy History

Source:  www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber,
The Associated Press

(July 17, 2008) LOS ANGELES – "Mad Men," AMC's sleek drama set in the advertising world circa 1960, nabbed 16 Emmy nominations Thursday, as the awards honouring the best in television looked beyond the traditional "big three" networks.

"Mad Men" was the leading drama series contender, receiving a nod for best drama as well as one for star Jon Hamm. In Canada, the show also airs on CTV.

The HBO historical drama "John Adams" was the overall frontrunner with 23 bids, including a lead-actor nomination for Paul Giamatti's turn as one of America's founding fathers.

"30 Rock," last year's best comedy Emmy winner, was the top nominee among sitcoms with 17 bids. "The Wire," the just-ended, critically acclaimed HBO drama about police and drug dealers in Baltimore, lost its last shot at a best-drama nod after years of Emmy snubs. It received one nomination Thursday, for writing.

HBO failed to field a best-drama series contender for the first time in nearly a decade, after "The Sopranos" claimed the honour last year. But the premium cable channel had a leading 85 bids overall, followed by ABC with 76.

Network audience favourites that failed to make a serious showing included "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives," both left out of the best-series categories, although "Grey's" stars Sandra Oh – who was raised in Ottawa – and Chandra Wilson received nominations.

"Lost," rebounding with a well-received season, joined "Mad Men" and "Damages" in the best-drama series category with six nominees, including "Boston Legal, "Dexter" and "House."

Other best comedy series nominees besides "30 Rock" were "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Entourage," "The Office" and "Two And a Half Men."

Oh and Wilson are competing in the best supporting drama actress category that last year was won by castmate Katherine Heigl – who took herself of the running this time, blaming her decision on lacklustre scripts.

"Lost," rebounding with a well-received season, joined "Mad Men" and "Damages" in the best-drama series category with six nominees, including "Boston Legal, "Dexter" and "House."

Other best comedy series nominees besides "30 Rock" were "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Entourage," "The Office" and "Two And a Half Men."

Joining Hamm with lead drama acting nods were last year's winner James Spader, "Boston Legal," Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad," Michael C. Hall, "Dexter," Hugh Laurie, "House" and Gabriel Byrne, "In Treatment."

Glenn Close was nominated as best actress in a drama for her role in "Damages." She'll compete against 2007 winner Sally Field for ``Brothers & Sisters," Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer," Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and Holly Hunter, ``Saving Grace."

Actresses nominated for best comedy series were Tina Fey of "30 Rock," the series she created; last year's honouree America Ferrera of "Ugly Betty," Christina Applegate, "Samantha Who?" and Mary-Louise Parker, "Weeds."

Nods for comedy series actors went to Tony Shalhoub for "Monk," Steve Carrell, "The Office," Lee Pace, "Pushing Daisies," Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock" and Charlie Sheen, "Two And A Half Men."

The best miniseries category that's dominated by "Adams" also includes "The Andromeda Strain," "Cranford" and "Tin Men."

Ryan Seacrest, host of top-rated series "American Idol" made the cut in the new category of best host for a reality or reality-competition show. Other nominees were Tom Bergeron of ``Dancing with the Stars," Howie Mandel of "Deal or No Deal," Heidi Klum of "Project Runway" and Jeff Probst of "Surivor."

Nominees in the top categories for the 60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences by Kristin Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris and TV academy Chairman John Shaffner.

Shaffner surprised Harris and Chenoweth at the end of the telecast by announcing each actor's supporting-actor nomination. Chenoweth, of "Pushing Daisies," stood open-jawed, while Harris, from "How I Met Your Mother," pumped his fist and said, "Nice!"

The trio then blew out candles on a birthday cake to celebrate the Emmys' 60th anniversary.

The Emmy Awards ceremony will be held Sept. 21 and broadcast on ABC. Other Emmy honours, including those for technical achievement and guest actors and actresses in series, will be given at the creative arts ceremony on Sept. 13.

Kenny `Testees' The Waters

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
Television Columnist

(July 17, 2008) LOS ANGELES - The Shield. Nip/Tuck. Rescue Me. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Damages. The Fox-owned FX channel was first and remains foremost American cable's most consistent source of prestigious, provocative original series, as the list above will clearly attest.

Add to that list a new half-hour comedy,
Testees, that could only have come from the twisted brain of Toronto's own, now Spenny-less, Kenny Hotz.

The Toronto-shot Canadian co-production, set to debut in early October on FX and Showcase, stars Camp Hollywood's Steve Markle and episodic veteran Jeff Kassel as a couple of slacker roommates who work for an unorthodox product-testing facility, subjecting themselves to the inevitably unfortunate side effects of an assortment of gadgets, devices, medications and treatments.

The inspiration, says producer Hotz, taking a rare break from the feverish, down-to-the-wire scriptwriting of the series' first 13 episodes, was Woody Allen's character Fielding Mellish in Bananas, who was similarly employed as a product tester.

"One of the greatest comedy scenes ever shot is Fielding Mellish testing out the exercise machine," Hotz enthuses. "And we take it from there. We've got these guys testing stuff from the military, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the CIA, French tanning cream ... it's unlimited."

But then, who would have imagined that Hotz and his long-time friend and comedy partner, Spencer Rice, would have been able to come up with enough ludicrous challenges to fuel 62 episodes of Kenny Vs. Spenny (the last season of which was co-produced by KVS fans Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who also hired Hotz as a South Park scribe).

In that sense, it is the end of an era. "Don't get me wrong," qualifies Hotz. "I love Kenny and Spenny ... well, I love Kenny."

Mock contentious to the end, he adamantly insists he is well rid of Rice, who has his own solo project in the works. "Look, I just got tired of carrying him," Hotz deadpans. "He was kind of like the Scott Thorson to my Liberace....

"Wait, let me retract that. I don't want to get sued."

Bottom line, Hotz is finally doing what he always dreamed of doing – creating his own kind of television. "The good news is, Canada now has its own Chuck Barris," he says in reference to the famously brash, neurotic, prolific producer of '70s TV schlock.

"And to all the girlfriends who have broken up with me because they thought I watched too much TV ... f--- you! That was research. And now I'm buying an apartment in New York.'"

Testees (a "working" title, though it is hard to imagine a better one) is to be a companion piece to the successful FX comedy It's Always Sunny. The creators of that show are branching out too, prepping a sci-fi parody called Boldly Going Nowhere for Fox. Meanwhile, the first of the channel's breakthrough original series, The Shield, is entering its final season, the already-shot finale directed by Toronto-bred Clark Johnson (who also starred in and helmed The Wire's final episode). And Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy has agreed to stick around for one final season, to air in 2011.

In FX guest news, as confirmed in these pages yesterday, Michael J. Fox will appear – in a wheelchair – as the new boyfriend of fellow Canadian Andrea Roth on Rescue Me. And additions to the cast of Damages this season, also to run on Showcase, include Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt, and despite his apparent murder at the end of last season, the return of rich bastard Ted Danson.

And the hits just keep on coming.

FX also premiered its latest original drama – also likely, though not yet confirmed, to run in Canada on Showcase – a riveting brutal biker saga, Sons of Anarchy, starring Brit Charlie Hunnam, from Nicholas Nickelby and the original Queer as Folk.

He has his work cut out for him, sharing the screen with an astoundingly good Katey Sagal, an intimidatingly understated Ron Perlman and, once again appearing in a pool of her own vomit (and I'm not referring here to Joey), Sopranos casualty Drea de Matteo.

Indeed, the series might more accurately be titled Married ...with Bikers. Or Hellboy on Wheels. Or Satan's Soprano ...

Alfonso Ribeiro Makes A Great 'Catch'

Source:  www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(July 21, 2008) *Actor
Alfonso Ribeiro, best known as high brow Carlton Banks on the hit 90s TV show “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and the tap-dancing kid of the Pepsi Generation, is taking on the role of host for the Game Show Network’s new series “Catch 21.”

 “I’m doing this game show because it’s really a fun game,” Ribeiro told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “With poker becoming very popular, I think card games are making a comeback. And this brings all of the great aspects of game shows together – multiple choice questions, cards, people having a good time. I think it’s a really fun show and people will really like it.”

Created by the game show gumption of Merrill Heatter, “Catch 21” pits three players in a game of cards. Each contestant is given one card and in order to up their number of cards, and thus their total, they have to answer a multiple choice question.

“Whoever gets that question correctly, they get $100 and control of the game (and) they get the next card in the deck,” Ribeiro explained. “They can keep that card or they can force it on one of the other players making their hand worse. The goal is to catch ‘21’ exactly, and if not, be the last player standing with a good hand. It’s a lot of strategy. You have to be really good. It’s almost impossible to win the game if you do not get the questions right.”

The blackjack component game has a possible jackpot of $25,000. But don’t think you have to be a card shark to follow along. Ribeiro assured that the game is actually really simple.

“Really it’s about ‘Can you count?’ It’s pretty obvious what you need to do in this game, but really the key is being able to answer the questions,” he said.

As for his hosting duties, Ribeiro explained that he has a few things he had to learn to be the lead in the game show.

“I have to know everything that’s going on in the game and all the different options. At any point in the game, I have to really be aware,” he said, but added that the producers of the show weren’t just looking for someone able to simply follow along with the game and the rules.

“I’m sure that there are game show host people that have been doing it for years that are good at that, but I think they wanted kind of the opposite,” Ribeiro said of his recruitment for the show. “They wanted someone who is going to bring their personality to the host position and are able to do the running of the game. They wanted fresh, new energy.”

Ribeiro brings a new energy, but he's not actually new to show hosting. In 1999, he hosted a show called “Your Big Break.” But this is his first entry in to the game show realm – and even though he's not the first, it could be considered key step for African American game show hosts.

“I don’t think that has any credence on it,” Ribeiro, however, said of any sort of racial breakthrough. “That’s great, but I try to live my live outside of the color lines. I think ultimately, if it’s a step forward it’s in the fact that there isn’t a color.”

So is this a career transition for Ribeiro. Slightly. The actor/director/writer/producer/singer said that he definitely has panache for game show hosting, but he’s clearly always been the type to wear a lot of hats.

“I’ve done a lot of different things in my career – hosting, singing, dancing, comedy, drama, producing, directing. I really believe that I’d like to do a little bit of everything. I can do this hosting thing. I like it. It’s fun.”

Plus, right now he’s working on creating a television show with Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment and hopes to craft another audience favourite.

“I feel like I’ve done some really good work on some really good shows,” he said. “I’ve created some memorable characters that have lasted for a long time that people still love. For me, if I go do another show and other characters, I want them to be memorable. I want to do good work. I’d rather not work than do bad work.”

Beginning today, July 21 on GSN, fans can watch Ribeiro do some good work with oversized playing cards. The 40-episode series airs on the network daily at 7:30p/ET. For more info, visit http://www.gsn.com/shows/catch21/.

'Golden Girl' Estelle Getty Dies At 84

Source: www.thestar.com - Bob Thomas,
The Associated Press

(July 22, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Estelle Getty, the diminutive actress who spent 40 years struggling for success before landing a role of a lifetime in 1985 as the sarcastic octogenarian Sophia on TV's The Golden Girls, has died. She was 84.

Getty, who suffered from advanced dementia, died at about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday at her Hollywood Boulevard home, said her son, Carl Gettleman of Santa Monica.

"Estelle always wanted to be an actress, and she achieved that goal beyond her dreams," former Golden Girls co-star Rue McClanahan told The Associated Press. "Don't feel sad about her passing. She will always be with us in her crowning achievement, Sophia."

The Golden Girls, featuring four female retirees sharing a house in Miami, grew out of NBC programming chief Brandon Tartikoff's belief that television was ignoring its older viewers.

Three of its stars had already appeared in previous series: Bea Arthur in Maude, Betty White in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and McClanahan in Mama's Family. The last character to be cast was Sophia Petrillo, the feisty 80-something mother of Arthur's character.

"Our mother-daughter relationship was one of the greatest comic duos ever, and I will miss her," Arthur said in a statement.

When she auditioned, Getty was appearing on stage in Hollywood as the carping Jewish mother in Harvey Fierstein's play Torch Song Trilogy. In her early 60s, she flunked her Golden Girls test twice because it was believed she didn't look old enough to play 80.

"I could understand that," she told an interviewer a year after the show debuted. "I walk fast, I move fast, I talk fast."

She came prepared for the third audition, however, wearing dowdy clothes and telling an NBC makeup artist, "To you this is just a job. To me it's my entire career down the toilet unless you make me look 80." The artist did, Getty got the job and won two Emmys.

"The only comfort at this moment is that although Estelle has moved on, Sophia will always be with us," White said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

The Golden Girls culminated a long struggle for success during which Getty worked low-paying office jobs to help support her family while she tried to make it as a stage actress.

"I knew I could be seduced by success in another field, so I'd say, 'Don't promote me, please,'" she recalled.

She also appeared in small parts in a handful of films and TV movies during that time, including Tootsie, Deadly Force and Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story.

After her success in The Golden Girls, other roles came her way. She played Cher's mother in Mask, Sylvester Stallone's in Stop or My Mom Will Shoot and Barry Manilow's in the TV film Copacabana. Other credits included Mannequin and Stuart Little (as the voice of Grandma Estelle).

The Golden Girls, which ran from 1985 to 1992, was an immediate hit, and Sophia, who began as a minor character, soon evolved into a major one.

Audiences particularly loved the verbal zingers Getty would hurl at the other three. When McClanahan's libidinous character Blanche once complained that her life was an open book, Sophia shot back, "Your life's an open blouse."

"I always told her she should be a stand-up comic. She was so funny in person," McClanahan recalled. "She would always say, 'Why couldn't we make these characters Jewish? Why am I Sicilian?'"

Getty had gained a knack for one-liners in her late teens when she did stand-up comedy at a Catskills hotel. Female comedians were rare in those days, however, and she bombed.

Undeterred, she continued to pursue a career in entertainment, and while her parents were encouraging, her father also insisted that she learn office skills so she would have something to fall back on.

Born Estelle Scher to Polish immigrants in New York, Getty fell in love with theatre when she saw a vaudeville show at age four.

She married New York businessman Arthur Gettleman (the source of her stage name) in 1947, and they had two sons, Carl and Barry. The marriage prevailed despite her long absences on the road and in The Golden Girls.

Getty was evasive about her height, acknowledging only that she was "under five feet and under 100 pounds."

McClanahan said her nickname for Getty was "Slats."

"Because she was so short, itty-bitty," she said.

In addition to her son Carl, Getty is survived by son Barry Gettleman, of Miami; a brother, David Scher of London; and a sister, Rosilyn Howard of Las Vegas.


Chris Rock Returns To HBO With New Stand Up Special


(July 18, 2008)  *Chris Rock brings his stand up back to HBO this fall with a new special shot from three different performances. Debuting Saturday, Sept. 27, "Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger" combines footage shot at South Africa's Carnival City Casino, New York's legendary Apollo Theatre and the Carling Apollo Hammersmith in London. "Chris Rock is a master of insightful comedy who never fails to engage his audience," notes Nancy Geller, senior vice president, HBO Original Programming.  "He has a unique voice that surpasses mere comedy." "I wanted to do the type of stand-up special that I've never seen before, and the only place that I could see doing that is at HBO," says Rock.  "I love HBO because they want to take chances." "It is certainly a fun challenge doing something radical with an artist of the magnitude and talent of Chris Rock," observes Marty Callner, who is directing the special, and executive producing along with Rock.  "Of course, it shouldn't be a surprise when you blend a brave artist with a brave network."


 'We Will Rock You': The Remix

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(July 20, 2008) What do you do with a musical that's more than six years old and has been a hit around the world?

You make it better.

At least, that's what Ben Elton, Brian May and Roger Taylor are hoping to do with the new version of
We Will Rock You, opening at the Panasonic Theatre Tuesday night.

After 16 successful (and identical) productions in everywhere from Melbourne to Madrid, the creators of this rockin', rollin' musical money machine aren't setting out to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, just giving her feathers a bit of a trim.

"This is the first time in my career I've ever heard of something like this happening," says Adam Brazier, who's recreating his role as the villainous Khashoggi. "Usually with a hit show, you freeze it solid, but these guys are in there mixing it up six years after they opened."

It's an amazing story of how practicality can sometimes spur creativity and how too many technical bells and whistles can be the worst enemy of musical theatre.

Our tale starts not that long ago, on March 12, when Mirvish Productions announced it would be closing We Will Rock You at the Canon Theatre in May after 488 performances.

"I know we had to move because we'd gone on longer than anyone thought we could and the Canon had other commitments," recalls Elton, "but I looked at the box office figures and we were still filling roughly 1,000 seats a day. The city really embraced the show and it seemed a shame to be closing it."

He recalled having visited the Panasonic Theatre, with less than half the seats of the Canon, and wondered if there was a way they could make that venue work.

"I approached David Mirvish and Brian Sewell and started bombarding them with my ideas." The hyperactive Elton is bobbing up and down, recalling the moment.

"Was there any chance of moving WWRY there? We'd have to strip it down a bit, but we could feature the music and the band more and the rock songs could land even better."

And that would be like a dream come true for Elton, May and Taylor. It was no secret they had problems with the original direction of Christopher Renshaw in London and Elton had taken over the production in all subsequent venues.

"Roger and Brian were always a bit uncomfortable with all the big dance numbers and things like that, so they were intrigued when I suggested redesigning it a bit."

May agrees that "WWRY was never My Fair Lady, but in this incarnation it is moving a bit further away from A Chorus Line. In a sense, the new show at the Panasonic is a new show. It's very experimental; a journey into a place where the show can become more personal, more in your face ... more raw and rock."

With the creative team onside, it was up to the people in the Mirvish organization and they responded positively by the next morning.

"They're really can-do kind of guys," enthuses Elton. "That's one of the reasons I like working with them so much."

But obviously, the physical aspect of the show would have to be totally reconceived for the smaller theatre. There would be 16 actors onstage instead of 28, there would be an increased use of the video wall instead of masses of mechanized scenery, but rather than viewing that as a loss, Elton suddenly found it a joyous gain.

"Brian, Roger and I always felt the show as very techno heavy, very costume and wig heavy, and it didn't liberate the rock as much as we wanted.

Even though Elton was now ostensibly in charge of the show around the world, he couldn't tamper with the physical production originally grafted onto it.

"Every time I wanted to make certain changes in the show." he fumes, "I was told `No, you can't, because there's an 18-ton piece of machinery moving at that point and if you change that we'll have to reprogram the whole thing.'

"So this is the first time I've been able to rethink the show."

And here's the amazing part: the man who wrote the show's book is now the one who's slashing away at with glee.

"There were scenes at the beginning we just didn't need, boring exposition. We cut right now from the opening number to Galileo's first song. After a bunch of kids in school uniforms you get a guy in a black leather jacket singing `I Want To Break Free.' They'll get the point."

And that's the way Elton is doing it throughout. "One Vision," the production number that started the second act, is gone. In its place, the Killer Queen will rock the joint with "Fat Bottomed Girls" and keep the plot moving.

"Scenes that were only there to allow scenery to change don't have to be there any more," says Elton. "The whole thing can now move the way I always wanted it to."

Yes, it was scary for the cast to have to learn a whole new show in less than a week when they originally thought it was going to be a matter of just rearranging things, but Brazier, who has to execute a lot of these changes, says it's worth it.

"The way they're rearranging the structure of the show to fit the theatre is definitely going to improve things," he says. "The flow is better, the pace is better. It’s got more of a rock concert feel. The quicker we get to the songs, the more we all enjoy ourselves."

But there are some things, Brazier cautions, that now seems bigger rather than smaller.

"You thought it was loud in the Canon? Well, they've brought that whole sound system into a theatre that's only a fraction of the size. I feel sorry for the Indian restaurant next door. They're going to have butter chicken everywhere."

Elton makes it clear that "everything people love about the show is 100 per cent there: the music, the characters, the band."

After giving things a few weeks to settle in, May will be back and he has no hesitation about describing the part in the show he's looking forward to the most.

"I love the moment when the audience makes the song `We Will Rock You' take off," he says. "And on every night that I have ever been to see the show – which must number hundreds by now – it happens, almost before the audience realize it's happening.

"And then from this point on, its like the final permission has been granted. The audience powers the show to its conclusion. I still get pretty emotional seeing the climax, when everyone is normally up and waving and singing.

"I think of Freddie. He would have loved it."


Kudelka Breaks His Silence

www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(July 19, 2008)  James Kudelka stunned the dance community when he stepped down as artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada in 2005, two years before his contract officially ended, to become resident choreographer. His bowing out was particularly surprising because the Toronto company was about to take up residence in the glittering new ballet-opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

What followed was a deafening silence. He created no new works. His position at the National came to an end without fanfare in 2007. And Kudelka then slipped under the radar. The result was a complete break with the company that had been his spiritual home for much of his dance career.

He would like this chapter to be fully behind him - but in a revealing interview last week, he held forth on what (and who) propelled his rupture with the National, how his own mercurial personality worked against him, and how he is working to build a new career that involves dance and - wait for it - baking bread.

We meet at a coffee shop, and Kudelka arrives in dishevelled whites, unshaven and sporting a straw boater. He describes himself as an overweight and bald middle-aged man. His days as one of the best dramatic dancers in Canada are long over.

We play catch-up. First item of business: the Good Bread Company, his about-to-be-opened bakery that he runs with his life partner, Jim Wies, in the tiny hamlet of Vittoria, near Lake Erie, which he now calls home. He delights in describing his top-of-the-line oven from France and his little white delivery van.

But when the conversation turns to his split from the National, his mood changes, and his words pour out in a torrent. According to Kudelka, it was the new performing-arts centre itself - which would house both the Ballet and the Canadian Opera Company - that created the fault line.

"I didn't want the pressures of living Richard Bradshaw's dream," he says, referring to the late general director of the COC. "What I do best is galvanize a group of dancers around the creation of a new ballet, and I didn't want to stop being a creative person."

When Kudelka looks back to that time, he sees a perfect storm of anti-creativity forces. Central to that storm were his fears that the new house would impact negatively on the company's budget, siphoning funds away from its creative mandate. A big drain would be an extra four weeks' pay for the dancers, due both to a longer season and to bringing the musicians' salaries up to par with the opera orchestra.

Also troubling to him was how audience attendance would be affected by the National's February season shifting to March, during the school break; and the May season shifting to June, putting it up against ballet-school recitals and the temperate outdoor weather; also, there were rumblings about the possibility of the new Luminato Festival, which has since become a regular June event in the city.

"I raised money so I could create ballets. I don't envy Karen because she has to use the money for other things," says Kudelka, referring to National Ballet artistic director Karen Kain. "Karen is more attractive than I am, which makes her a formidable fundraiser. The company has been able to realize a lot of new money through an artistic director who is respected and loved, and forgiven more easily than I could ever be, and they are managing to carry on quite successfully on these new terms."

Kudelka also worried about the necessary evil of raising ticket prices. He agrees with the thinking of most American ballet companies that the most expensive ticket should equal the price of a Broadway show. "I don't think that I, or anyone else, can make a ballet that should cost $200 to see," he says. (Currently, ticket prices range from $45 to $200). "Ballet in my Canada should be affordable and accessible. The company was founded by three society ladies, and today it's right back where it started, as ballet for the elite. The Four Seasons Centre is a symbol of the power of money."

Perhaps the biggest motivating factor for Kudelka's departure was the board's decision to concentrate on building up the endowment fund at the expense of artistic creation. "But you can't sleep in the park before you build a house," says Kudelka. "I was told there could not be risky full-lengths for at least four years or until we could afford them. That's like telling Stratford they can't do new productions. I had to go. On the other hand, other companies don't skip a beat on creativity when they are endowment-building."

He also came to the realization that any new artistic director would want to hire his or her own resident choreographer, someone who would conform to a new vision for the company. Kudelka represented the old guard. "After being the person in charge, it's hard to work for someone else," he says. "Karen Kain wouldn't have wanted me looking over her shoulder. When I lost the position of power, I became really powerless."

The result is that Kudelka has distanced himself from the National, which he now affectionately calls "the evil empire." There are no plans for new commissions from him. "Any discussions with the National usually made me feel like I was invited to stay in the motor inn while the real guests were staying in the main lodge. I had to clean my own room, because, you know, I was family."

But perhaps surprisingly, in the end, Kudelka places the blame for his rupture with the National squarely on himself. "It was obviously time for a director like me to go. I did try to make this tidal wave of change, if inevitable, at least palatable, but I was being unrealistic. It was clear to me that I didn't have any answers to the challenges, and I still don't. I had to face the fact I was miserable, and had been for some time.

"One day, I am sure it will seem right for me to go and see a ballet at the opera house, but since the building is a symbol of my failure as an artist running a major company, I am staying away. Right now, I can't find a re-entry point with the National, but that does not necessarily mean forever."

And so, at 52, Kudelka has had to make a whole new life for himself. "A ballet artistic director either is fired or dies," he points out. "It's unusual that someone steps down. I thought I'd be artistic director for the rest of my life, only to find that my career was over. I'm a caustic, difficult person and I made myself unemployable."

He is now a busy independent choreographer of both ballet and contemporary dance, but he accepts contracts only with companies with which he feels comfortable. In the new year, he is setting either new or extant works on American Ballet Theatre, Ballet British Columbia and Oregon Ballet Theatre. Contemporary dancer Claudia Moore has commissioned a new piece, as has the School of Toronto Dance Theatre. Kudelka also has ongoing joint projects with Coleman, Lemieux & Compagnie and countertenor Daniel Taylor.

"Dance is not a lively art any more, particularly in Toronto, and I have lost a lot of faith in dance," he says. "The National Arts Centre got it right - if you throw enough money in, a dance audience develops.

"Critics and audiences want everything spelled out for them. Ballet technique is not what I do. I use dancers in a way that inspires me, and it's not going to look like traditional ballet when I finish." He also bemoans the fact that ballet is now a slave to the bottom line. "I don't like being told the budget beforehand. It should be: 'What is the work?' and 'How do we get it done?' "

And then there is his bakery on Vittoria's main street. Its roots go back to the big family kitchen Kudelka grew up in, where his mother encouraged the children to cook. He became fascinated with bread - in particular, finicky, time-consuming artisan (or non-yeast) baking, which he describes as peasant bread that fills you up with one slice. In an ideal world, he would like to devote January through April to choreography, and the rest of the year to his bakery.

When he left the National, Kudelka studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York, learning French, Italian and German sourdough baking. As well as a variety of breads, he is offering what he calls "Canadian standards," including date squares, butter tarts, cinnamon buns, cookies and baguettes. He recently baked 12 dozen croissants for a wedding. "I'm a Virgo," he says. "I like all the planning and time management and detail involved in artisan baking. That's the best part." The Good Bread Company will open next month as a home-delivery and special-orders service only. Retail is down the line in 2009.

Says Kudelka: "I should have started my cooking career at 14, but it's easier to become a baker at 50 than a dancer. I'm in a really good place now, but still, I invested so much of myself in dance that it has to hurt."

Scenes from a life:

James Kudelka

Born in Newmarket, Ont., Sept. 10, 1955

Attends the National Ballet School, where he choreographs his first work to Bach's Goldberg Variations

Joins the National Ballet at 16, in 1972; promoted to soloist at 19, and creates seminal ballets, including A Party (1976) and Washington Square (1979)

Joins Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in 1981 as principal dancer; continues his choreographic development with such works as In Paradisum (1983)

Appointed resident choreographer of Les Grands in 1984; produces career-defining works for Les Grands, Dancemakers, Montréal Danse and several American companies

With the change of artistic directorship at Les Grands, leaves the company in 1990 to become an independent choreographer, but continues his association with the company with celebrated works such as Désir(1991)

National Ballet artistic director Reid Anderson invites Kudelka to be guest choreographer in 1990, and he creates the highly praised Pastorale

Wins the 1991 Dora Mavor Moore Award for best new choreography for Fifteen Heterosexual Duets created for Toronto Dance Theatre

Appointed the National Ballet's artist in residence in 1992

Wins the 1993 Jean A. Chalmers Choreographic Award in recognition of his body of work

Creates the phenomenally successful Nutcracker in 1995; it wins a Dora

Appointed artistic director of the National in 1996; among his creations is his signature work, The Four Seasons (1997)

In 1999, the National loses a wrongful-dismissal suit filed by former principal dancer Kimberley Glasco, who had been dismissed by Kudelka after criticizing his spending on a production of Swan Lake

Continues to create works for companies internationally; in 2002, is hailed by The New York Times as "ballet's most original choreographer"

Steps down as artistic director in 2005 to become resident choreographer, but when that relationship terminates, becomes an independent choreographer

Appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2005 P.C.


Old Favourites Out To Impress With New Twists At E3

www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman, Toronto Star

(July 19, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Gamers, get your thumbs ready.

The 14th annual
Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 – the world's premiere video gaming convention held each July – once again served as a glimpse into the future of the multibillion-dollar interactive entertainment industry.

Media, retailers and analysts packed the invite-only industry event held at the Los Angeles Convention Center July 14-17 to play games not available until this holiday season or next.

Here's a look at some of the most impressive titles.


In Electronic Arts' Mirror's Edge you play Faith, a "runner" who couriers information in a world where communication is tightly monitored by the state. Played from a dizzying first-person perspective, you goal is to save Faith's sister, who's been framed for a murder she didn't commit. This game will be available for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC by year's end.

Created by Ubisoft's Montreal studio, the new Prince of Persia refreshes the popular franchise by introducing a new hero, a new look and a fresh co-op gameplay mechanic as the prince must work with a computer-controlled heroine to solve environmental puzzles. The "cel-shaded" graphics gives the game a hand-drawn illustrative look and feel. Expect this game by November.

Fans of "survival horror" games can look forward to a couple of scary thrillers including Dead Space from Electronic Arts (to be released this holiday season for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC), which takes place on a spaceship a few hundred years in the future, and Capcom's creepy Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360, PS3). Set in a zombie-filled African nation, the game will introduce a new online co-op feature when it launches in the spring of `09.


Available this October, Sony's LittleBigPlanet for PS3 is an innovative puzzle/platform hybrid starring small burlap-covered dolls who must reach the end of trap-laden levels before their opponents. This innovative title blurs the lines between game player and game designer as the player is given the tools to create and share levels over the Internet. LittleBigPlanet supports multiple game modes. Fans of genius designer Will Wright (The Sims, SimCity) should circle Sept. 7 on their calendar. That's when the highly anticipated Windows and Mac game Spore from Electronic Arts is coming out. Spore is best described as a life simulation that begins with a single cell that evolves into a land creature who must survive.


As one of E3's most impressive showings, Bethesda's Fallout 3 (Xbox 360, PS3 and PC) reintroduces players to a post-apocalyptic world filled with memorable characters and radioactive mutants. Gamers can choose from multiple paths, and can also play from a first- or third-person perspective.

Also impressive at E3 was Electronic Arts' massively multiplayer online game Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (PC), Microsoft Game Studios' Fable 2 (Xbox 360) and Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIII (Xbox 360 and PS3).


Sony kicked off its press conference with a jaw-dropping live demo of Resistance 2 (for PS3, out in November), which takes place in an alternate 1950s. Rather than fighting in post-WWII battles, humans are working together to take on menacing aliens bent on world destruction. This gorgeous first-person shooter includes multiple weapons, enormous creatures (including a 300 foot-tall leviathan ) and online support for up to 60 players.

Also due out in November is Microsoft Game Studios' Gears of War 2 (for Xbox 360), which also pits man against vicious aliens, but requires a more tactical approach. As with its best-selling predecessor, you must hide behind walls and vehicles to take aim, find precious health packs and ammo, and work with your squad mates to make it to the end of the levels. This Xbox 360 exclusive also offers a host of online multiplayer modes playable over the Xbox live service.


Slated for a September launch on all console platforms, MTV Games' Rock Band 2 turns the original hit music game "up to 11" with new instruments (including a redesigned wireless guitar, drum kit and microphone) as well as local and global online group play (with a new "Battle of the Bands" challenge mode) and more than 80 master recordings from the likes of AC/DC, Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, Metallica, the Allman Brothers Band and Guns N' Roses, which will debut its new track, "Shackler's Revenge," from the highly-anticipated album Chinese Democracy.

On a disappointing note, Nintendo showed little for "core" gamers, but a lot for casual players. It's hard not to get excited about Wii Music, a clever Wii exclusive out this holiday season that lets up to four players use the motion-sensing wireless controllers to play one of 60+ instruments. Strum to play guitar or sitar, air band as a drummer to hear your beats (and stomp on the optional Wii Fit Balance Board for kick drum and hi-hats) or play conductor and lead a virtual orchestra by waving the baton to the beat.


Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre graces the cover of the 20th anniversary edition of the Madden NFL football sim from EA Sports (due out next month for all console and handheld platforms).

Madden NFL 09 contains more than 85 new features and enhancements including an all-new Virtual Trainer tutorial mode (in a holographic environment); realistic broadcast presentation (featuring play-by-play and colour commentary by Cris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond); and impressive graphics including high-definition player models, realistic weather effects and exterior stadium views. Madden NFL 09 also lets you create online leagues and compete with up to 32 teams.


Challenging The Stamp Of Disapproval

Source: www.thestar.com - Murray Whyte,
Staff Reporter

(July 20, 2008) Click on over to the "collecting" page at Canadapost.ca and you'll find an option called "Picture Postage." Send them a picture – babies, dogs, a favourite pair of shoes – and Canada Post will send you a sheet of 20 stamps sporting that very image – "plus a souvenir picture enlargement!" – all for the modest sum of $24.95.

Unless, it seems, you're Kent Monkman. Monkman, a Toronto artist, has twice submitted images to Picture Postage, and has been twice rejected.

"Dear customer," the rejection letter begins. "Thank you for your submission ... however, it has been determined that the image submitted is inappropriate for use on a postage stamp." The letter ends with an invitation to try again with a different image.

"They were denied, really, without much explanation. It was pretty ambiguous," says Su-Ying Lee, a curator with the Art Gallery of Mississauga, where Monkman's "inappropriate" work is at the centre of a new exhibition.

Granted, the images aren't of puppies or babies. A recent line of inquiry for Monkman, an Aboriginal artist who approaches his work from a contemporary gay context, has been the notion of an "Indian dandy," which has roots in the historical record.

But neither are they explicit. In one, an Indian tiptoes in a golden headdress, loincloth, long gloves and red pumps, sporting an animal-skin cape. In the other, a preening figure poses in thick fur and knee-high boots. Both are skilfully rendered in soft watercolour.

If anything, the images represent something of a softening for Monkman, whose more famous work includes Canadian landscapes serving as a heroic, fictional backdrop for the artist's unique critical commentary on colonialism. (One such painting featured a Mountie and an Indian in an aggressively romantic embrace.)

While the work rejected by Canada Post didn't feature such overt commentary, it does mesh with some of Monkman's principle artistic preoccupations, namely, officially sanctioned histories and whose right it is to portray them as "true."

Whatever grey area this notion might explore, Monkman's stamp designs are not ambiguous. George Catlin, the famous American painter of the 19th century whose body of work is largely portraiture of American Indians, wrote in his diaries of "glamorously garbed aboriginal men" with little tribal status. Monkman extracted his notion of the Indian Dandy from these accounts.

Monkman isn't the first Canadian artist to grapple with the Canada Post aesthetic. The show in Mississauga sets his work against that of an artist who created a series of stamps – "Explorations of Canada" – printed from 1986 to 1989. Frederick Hagan, who spent much of his career rejecting officialdom, entered into a bizarre collision of sensibilities when he found the series he created to be subject to the watchful eye of the post office.

Frustrated with the end results, Hagan, who died in 2003, worked the images after the series was done into ever-more ambiguous imagery, and dropped the official moniker for the personal work that resulted, calling it, simply, "Explorations."

Which, one could argue, is what Monkman is doing – exploring the fringes of history to see what qualifies as official and what does not.

The exhibition, "Explorers and Dandies in an Open Letter to Canada Post: Frederick Hagan and Kent Monkman," continues at the Art Gallery of Mississauga through Sept. 7.

Jason Alexander Still Laughing

www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(July 19, 2008) Shrinkage.  That's one of the words Jason Alexander hears most frequently from Seinfeld fans who still fondly recall his performance as the lovable nebbish George Costanza.

"They're mostly guys and they're all grateful," laughs Alexander from his home in Los Angeles, getting ready to host the Just for Laughs gala performance here at Massey Hall on Friday.

Alexander is referring to the Seinfeld episode about how a swim in cold water made George's equipment look less impressive when a potential lady love burst in on him as he was taking his bathing suit off.

One program out of 175 that aired between 1989 and 1998, but Alexander feels that's an example of the secret behind the show's lasting success.

"It was filled with so many crazy, particular, individual incidents that everybody had something they could relate to."

But does he ever get tired of people associating him with a sitcom that's been off the air for nine years?

"Not for a second," he says emphatically. "It has opened up so many opportunities in my life that if I wasn't grateful for them, I should be beaten to death immediately."

Born in Newark, N.J., in 1959, Alexander can still recall with perfect precision the moment he was drawn into show business.

"Clear as a bell," he says proudly. "I moved from one town to another when I was 12. The first bunch of kids that I met were the theatre kids and they said, `We're doing The Sound of Music and we're short one von Trapp kid.' So I said yes.

"I didn't think much of it until opening night when everybody started clapping and then I thought, `This is really cool.'"

But he needed one more incentive to push him over the edge and that came along a few years later.

"I went to see Ben Vereen in Pippin. The curtain came down and I thought this is what I wanted to do with my life. I started voice and dance lessons the next month, and within a year, I had my first professional job."

Alexander admits to having "a kind of laser-like focus in those days, which helped me move forward rapidly," and before he was 22, he was playing his first role in a Broadway musical.

But not just any musical. This was being directed by Hal Prince and composed by Stephen Sondheim. How could anything possibly go wrong?

Well, somehow it all imploded and Merrily We Roll Along died after 16 performances in 1981.

Alexander's big moment was as a cynical producer who rejects material from a pair of young idealistic songwriters by singing, "What's wrong with letting them tap their toes a bit?/ I'll let you know when Stravinsky has a hit."

With 27 years of hindsight, he doesn't mind the fact that it failed. "The gift was being able to work with people I considered gods and seeing the gods become mortal. That's a very important lesson for a young actor to learn."

But the rest of the decade kept Alexander working with blue-chip company: Neil Simon, Kander and Ebb, Liza Minnelli and then the big one: He was cast as the leading performer in Jerome Robbins' Broadway, the 1989 revue directed by the master himself.

Alexander won a Tony Award for his performance, but as for working with the tyrannical Robbins, he says, "Let's just call it A Tale of Two Cities: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

But it ushered in what would prove to be the annus mirabilis of Alexander's life. Even now, nearly 20 years later, he can rattle off the items like he's reading them from a teleprompter.

"Robbins opened in February," he begins, "I got the Tony Award in June, made Pretty Woman in July and then in October came the Seinfeld pilot."

Ironically, of all those projects, Seinfeld, the one that would prove the most lasting, had the shakiest beginning.

"It didn't start solid," recalls Alexander. "Far from it. In fact, we didn't really click until Season 4. They finally put us in a good time slot, right after Cheers, and then a few weeks later we did the masturbation show and that's when it all came together."

Alexander is recalling the episode called "The Contest," where the four leading characters tried to see who could abstain from self-abuse longest. It brought the phrase "Master of my Domain" into common usage and "we became the talk of the town from then on," says Alexander.

But even at the height of the program's fame, Alexander says there was a sense "of not really knowing how fully we were being appreciated by the outside world. Jerry (Seinfeld) used to say that we were the world's biggest garage band, just four kids banging on stuff."

Even at the end, Alexander insists, "We never got tired of doing the show, but we came to realize there was nothing new we could do with the characters and being surprising was part of our appeal."

And as for the legendary final episode, which disappointed so many viewers, Alexander is philosophical. "That whole thing was so overhyped we could have produced Jesus Christ Almighty and the audience would have said, `Is that it?'"

But Alexander will never deny the lasting power of Seinfeld. "I loved that character, loved that show and had a great time doing it.

"I have walked into the Palestinian territories where Israelis can't go, me, an American Jew. And they run after me shouting `George, George, come into my home, let me give you something to eat.'

"If you can have that much power over people, you better walk through every day feeling like you are blessed."

Although nothing in his subsequent career has resonated the way Seinfeld has, Alexander remains content.

"There isn't a Mecca for me. What I love is excitement and challenge. What would I like to do that I haven't done?


For more info on Just For Laughs galas, visit

Jimmy Fallon Proves His Comedy Chops

:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Reporter

(July 21, 2008) MONTREAL–If any of us had forgotten that Jimmy Fallon is one of the funniest impressionists in the world, he offered a killer reminder Saturday night when he hosted the Just for Laughs Gala in Montreal, a task he's going to repeat in Toronto Saturday night.

Fallon got things off to a flying start with a monologue about all the various comedy stars who've played the festival over the years. Without a break, he changed voices more than two dozen times as a projection behind him offered a usually unnecessary illustration of who he was imitating.

We knew from years past he did a great Jerry Seinfeld as well as a hysterical Bill Cosby, but his Rita Rudner and Norm MacDonald are also dead-on recreations.

He brought the house down with a mock Sarah Silverman video (yes, he plays Silverman and he's far hotter than the original). I don't think I need to say what carnal act he announces he's doing in the clip. The surprise is who he's doing it with.

There are also some engaging but pointed musical numbers and an astonishing finale. Assuming he does the same one in Toronto, I won't give it away, but you'll never look at another "let's do a benefit for peace" the same way again.

Fallon also did a nice job of keeping the show moving, using his own personality instead of a phoney "host" persona. It's a good sign for his future stint replacing Conan O'Brien.

People talk about how cute Fallon is, but he knows how to combine that with a surprising edge when necessary.

He singled out one latecomer and practically smothered her with caring attention. "Oh gosh, you're late, I'm glad you're here now, I hope you're alright. Can I get you anything . . . like a f---ing watch?"

The way he turned the knife was a masterpiece of comic timing.

On Saturday night at Massey Hall, he's one of the three gala hosts of Just Laughs Toronto, the other two (no slouches at comedy themselves) being Martin Short (Thursday) and Jason Alexander (Friday).

One of the most off-the-wall, envelope-ripping comedy events I've ever seen took place here on Friday at midnight, when the grungalicious Metropolitan on Ste-Catherine St. welcomed a sold-out-to-the-rafters show called "Apatow for Destruction."

Comedy movie king Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad) welcomed some of his favourite performers like Craig Robinson, Russell Brand and Seth Rogen, appearing as a stand-up for the first time in 10 years and scoring big. In a free-wheeling, loose-as-a-goose session, each tried to outdo the others in terms of how raunchy the material could be and, though no one onstage was smoking, the air was blue by 2 a.m. when they finally called it quits.

Robinson (Darryl on The Office) held the audience in the palm of his hand with an awesome sing-along sequence that I hope he repeats in Toronto.

The whole thing was a reminder that the events at Just for Laughs can equal much more than the sum of their parts. Check out some of them this week in Toronto.

Go to hahaha.com for details.

Cultural Philanthropist Helen Gardiner Dies

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman,
Entertainment Columnist

(July 22, 2008) Helen Gardiner, one of Toronto's most beloved cultural philanthropists, died this morning at her Caledon East farm, just four days after her 70th birthday.

She had been planning to mark that milestone birthday in Tuscany in the company of a small group of people near and dear to her. But a few months ago she fell ill and was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. So she spent her birthday at home in bed, losing consciousness, as family members took turns holding her hand.

She was born to working-class parents in the northern mining town of Kirkland Lake on July 18, 1938, where her father was a carpenter. Later, the family moved to Toronto where her father worked for General Electric.

She was a divorced working parent when her life changed as a result of meeting the late George R. Gardiner — a Bay Street leader.

Together they assembled a spectacular ceramics collection, and not only gave it to the people of Ontario but built the museum that houses it. Until recently, the total value of the Gardiners' gift, more than $40 million, was the largest single cultural donation made in Ontario.

And as the co-founder and recent capital campaign chair of the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, she took the cultural gem they established to greater heights of achievement than even her strong-willed visionary husband imagined.

"Her husband was a powerful man with great force of personality and, despite her many virtues, while he was alive she stood in his shadow," the museum's executive director, Alexandra Montgomery, explains. "But in recent years, she came into her own, especially by taking on the challenging role of chair of our capital campaign."

That campaign, which raised $17 million to expand and re-invent the museum, was extremely successful and insiders give much of the credit to Mrs. Gardiner.

"She made the museum her own and contributed to its growth in a way that he was no longer able to do," Montgomery says. "She had tremendous charm and patience and people skills. She was an amazing woman — thoughtful and generous, with a real sense of adventure."

George Gardiner, who was more than 20 years her senior and had children from his first marriage, was a successful financier who founded Canada's first discount brokerage firm and was part of a group that gained control of Maple Leaf Gardens.

In those days, one of his business partners was Jim Fleck, now a noted benefactor of the Art Gallery of Toronto and many other cultural organizations. According to Fleck, one reason Gardiner got involved in ceramics was that he read in Fortune magazine that as an investment, ceramics outperformed stocks and bonds in inflationary times.

"When George started something, it would become an obsession," Fleck recalls. The Gardiners had moved into a new home on Old Forest Hill Rd., with big spaces that needed to be decorated

"It all began with George's aversion to knick-knacks of any kind," Helen Gardiner once told Montgomery.

Instead he decided that he and Helen should collect ceramics. They had to have quality and individuality.

In the beginning, circa 1977, George and Helen did not know much about ceramics. "We were naïve," she would say later, "but that soon changed."

George had an academic approach, and Helen had a great eye. They began to collect Ancient American pottery as well as ground porcelain and Harlequin figures (George was a director of Harlequin Books).

In the late 1970s, they segued from being casual collectors to serious and expert investors in ceramics. A turning point came when they acquired a yellow ground tea and chocolate service manufactured in 1740 by Meissen, the first European hard-paste porcelain factory. It's a 50-piece service that once belonged to the Rothschilds.

By this time, the Gardiners were on their way to establishing one of the world's great collections of ceramic art. Just how seriously Helen took this became clear when she signed up for a year-long course in the decorative offered by Christie's, the London auction house.

She became an expert at identifying artists and factories, with the ability to evaluate the condition and historical significance of pieces. She had a shrewd instinct for the right price-point at auction. As well, she made her mission to befriend everyone who was a major figure in the international ceramics world.

By 1981, the Gardiners owned 2,000 ceramic pieces. That's when the Gardiners decided to establish a small museum. They made a deal with Victoria University to acquire a piece of land, previously a campus tennis court, across the street from the Royal Ontario Museum. They paid $500,000 for a 99-year lease.

The Gardiner Museum opened to the public in 1984, providing a jewel-like setting for the Gardiners' ceramic collection.

Conservative Premier Bill Davis made it an official Ontario museum. But later, when it was hard for the ceramic museum to cover its operating costs, David Peterson's Liberal government solved the problem by arranging to make the Gardiner a subsidiary of the Royal Ontario Museum — which it was for a decade.

Shortly before his 1997 death, George Gardiner secured the museum's independence from the ROM by setting up a $15 million endowment, which covers a major part of the museum's annual operating expenses. It now also gets support from the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council and the City of Toronto.

In 2002 the Gardiner Museum saw a chance to move to another level, and applied for provincial and federal funding under the SuperBuild program. The application was successful, but the catch was that the museum had to raise about twice that amount privately. Helen Gardiner made it her mission to do so.

After being closed for two years during construction, the museum had a triumphant re-opening in 2006. Helen Gardiner was subsequently named to the Order of Canada.

"Helen's leadership allowed the Gardiner to participate fully in Toronto's cultural renaissance, and to become more fully integrated into the life of this city as a result," says Alexanda Montgomery. "She has left an extraordinary legacy."

A funeral service will take place at 11 a.m. Monday at St. James Cathedral at Church and King Streets. The Gardiner Museum will be closed for the day as a mark of respect.

Mrs. Gardiner leaves her mother, Helen McMinn; her brother, Bob McMinn; her daughter, Lindsay Barrow; and the extended Gardiner family.


Bringing Iran To Toronto

Source:  www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber,
The Associated Press

(July 17, 2008) More than 100,000 people are expected to attend a mostly free four-day festival celebrating the culture of Iran at Harbourfront this weekend . The city's first Tirgan Festival, which starts tonight, showcases Persian artists in music, dance, theatre, film, visual arts and literature, including filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, and composer and setar player Mohammad Reza Lotfi. "This is the biggest Iranian cultural show ever to exist outside of Iran," says festival CEO Mehrdad Ariannejad. Tirgan is organized by the Iranian Canadian Centre for Art and Culture. Besides more than 50 performances by more than 100 artists, more than 90 per cent of them free, the fest features food and merchants selling Iranian artefacts.  "Toronto has a growing Iranian community as well as people who have a Persian background from various central Asian countries such as Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Republic of Azerbaijan," said Kerri MacDonald, community and education programmer at Harbourfront. "We don't know a lot about Persian culture in the mainstream, and it's really important to have such a festival to share the culture and history with Toronto."  The Iranian Canadian community in Toronto numbers 121,505, according to the 2006 census.  For more information, see the Night & Day listings, page E7, and harbourfrontcentre.com.  Shabnam Janet Janani, special to the Star

One X One Gala Snags Matt Damon For Third Year

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Canadian Press

(July 18, 2008) Toronto — For the third year running, actor Matt Damon will be putting on his hosting hat for the One X One children's charity benefit gala in Toronto, organizers announced yesterday. The Oscar winner will headline the fourth annual event, which raises money for domestic and global charities, on Sept. 8 at Maple Leaf Gardens - the first major public event to be held there since its closing in 2000. Also returning to the stage this year is Grammy Award winner Wyclef Jean, who will take musical leadership of the event.


 Tracy Mentor Dies In Cycling Accident

Source:  www.thestar.com - Norris Mcdonald,
Motorsport Writer

(July 17, 2008) The man who in large part rescued the career of Canadian driving icon Paul Tracy and then nurtured it until legislation forced his company to end its auto racing involvement has died.

Robert (Bob) Bexon, who spent nearly 30 years at Imperial Tobacco starting as a salesman and ending as president and CEO, died as a result of injuries suffered in a cycling accident in the Eastern Townships of Quebec on Wednesday.

He was 56.

When Tracy was fired by Roger Penske following the 1997 season, his career was in jeopardy. No top rides were available in the CART series and his tendency to be hard on equipment made all but the most financially secure of team owners wary.

Bexon, who was senior vice-president of marketing and sales at Imperial's U.S. affiliate, the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., had a deal with Australian Barry Green for a one-car CART team (with Dario Franchitti aboard) to promote Kool cigarettes.

Although it's never been clear whether Green approached Bexon about Tracy's availability, or vice-versa, the end result was that Green's budget was doubled, Tracy climbed into a second car and the famous Team Kool Green was born.

Tracy and Franchitti won many races but botched just as many others. In their first season together, for instance, Tracy wrecked Franchitti – who was leading – while trying to pass him late in a street race at Houston, Tex. Green was furious and he and Tracy exchanged words and came very close to blows.

In an interview I had with Bexon last year, he laughed about the incident.

"There was a story going around that Barry (Green) wanted to fire Tracy and came to me for permission to do it," Bexon said.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. Tracy was perfect for our brand (Kool) and I wasn't going to let anything happen to interrupt our relationship with him.

"Barry and I had a regular meeting scheduled the day after Houston. He had been making the case for an increase in (sponsorship) money – running two cars was costing more than he'd originally estimated – and so we agreed on an increase and that included extra money to extend Paul's contract.

"So, while the timing might have looked a little strange on the outside – you have a fight with your boss and he gives you a raise – it was a perfectly normal business transaction."

At the conclusion of the 2002 season, Green's team (then owned by Michael Andretti and partners) joined the Indy Racing League and Tracy moved to a CART team owned by Gerald Forsythe that had been sponsored since the mid-1990s by Imperial's most famous brand, Player's cigarettes.

By that time, Bexon was president and CEO of Imperial Tobacco and he told me in that interview that he essentially "opened the bank vault" to ensure that Tracy had whatever was needed in terms of manpower, talent and equipment in order to win the CART championship.

Tracy didn't let anybody down that 2003 season. He finished on the podium 10 times and won six poles and seven races, including the Molson Indys in Toronto and Vancouver.

Although some would argue that his championship was tainted because so many of the top drivers had either retired or gone over to the IRL, Tracy's 2003 season was still one of the best in racing history, which gave Bexon great personal satisfaction.

After all, it was Imperial Tobacco that had bankrolled the career of Jacques Villeneuve in his pursuit of the CART series title and the Indianapolis 500 in 1995 as well as his world championship run in 1997. With anti-tobacco legislation looming, Imperial was looking for a way to go out in a blaze of glory and Tracy's championship in 2003 proved to be "the final job," as Bexon termed it.

The passage of the federal government's Tobacco Act, which banned cigarette advertising and sponsorship promotions as of Oct. 1, 2003, meant Tracy had to finish his championship season "light," meaning his car did not have Player's decals on it.

It was up to an emotional Bexon to make the official announcement that it was all over.

"It is with sadness, yet also with considerable pride, that we announce" Imperial's withdrawal from racing, Bexon said at a reception prior to the 2003 Molson Indy Toronto.

It marked the end of 42 years of involvement in Canadian motorsport, going back to 1961 and Canada's first international racing event, the Player's 200, which was held at Mosport. And Imperial Tobacco supported racers, not just races.

In addition to Tracy and Jacques Villeneuve, Player's supported the careers of Gilles Villeneuve, Claude Bourbonnais, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani, Bill Brack, David Empringham, the late Greg Moore, Lee Bentham, Bertrand Godin and Andrew Bordin, among others.

"It's pretentious to think that if we are not involved (in racing), the world will come to an end," Bexon said. "But I would rather stay in racing, if I had the choice. I, personally, will miss this very much."

Following his retirement from Imperial Tobacco, Bexon partnered with Carole Brohman in a Montreal-based national public relations firm, Bexon Brohman and Associates.

Funeral arrangements and full obituary details have yet to be issued.

And The ESPY Winners Are…


(July 18, 2008)  *ESPN's 16th Annual ESPY Awards took place Wednesday night at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles with golfer Tiger Woods and the New York Football Giants among the evening's big winners.

Woods had a record night, winning his fifth Best Male Athlete ESPY, his fourth straight ESPY for Best Golfer, and the Best Championship Performance award for his victory at the 2008 U.S. Open with a severely injured left leg.  Woods’ three wins builds his record to 21, more than anyone in ESPYs history. 

The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants won ESPYs in three categories: Best Game, Best Upset and Best Play, the latter for David Tyree’s epic "helmet catch" of an Eli Manning pass that kept the Giants’ game-winning drive alive. 

This year’s number one overall WNBA draft pick, Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker, took home two ESPYs, for Best Female Athlete and Best Female College Athlete. 

 The Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which each year recognizes individuals whose contributions transcend sports, was presented by Samuel L. Jackson and Steve Nash to 1968 Olympic medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos who raised the black power fist on the victory stand as the national anthem played – an action the two men said represented not only the American struggle for racial equality but the universal struggle for basic human rights.   

Former Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett was presented the Jimmy V ESPY for Perseverance, in honour of the late Jim Valvano and The V Foundation for Cancer Research.  Everett, after suffering what was deemed a paralyzing spinal cord injury during an NFL game, has gone through rehab and is walking again, and was on hand at The ESPYs to accept his award.   

Other ESPY winners included Floyd Mayweather (Best Fighter), the Boston Celtics (its first Best Team ESPY), Tyson Gay (Best Track & Field Athlete) Alex Rodriguez (Best Baseball Player) and Kobe Bryant (Best NBA Player).

Ashanti, Fergie, Tony Gonzalez, Terrell Owens, Forest Whitaker and Venus Williams were among the presenters, while Grammy-winning rapper Lupe Fiasco entertained the crowd as part of this year’s house band.   

For the fifth-straight year, winners for all ESPYs were determined by online fan voting (except for the Arthur Ashe, Jimmy V and Best Comeback awards).  Below is a complete list of 2008 winners. The program will air Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT on ESPN. 

ARTHUR ASHE COURAGE AWARD: John Carlos and Tommie Smith, 1968 Olympic medalists

JIMMY V AWARD FOR PERSEVERANCE: Kevin Everett, former Buffalo Bills TE

BEST COMEBACK: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers


BEST FEMALE ATHLETE: Candace Parker, Tennessee Basketball/Los Angeles Sparks

BEST MALE ATHLETE: Tiger Woods, Golf

BEST MOMENT: “Great Sportsmanship” (Central Washington University’s Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace, Western Oregon University’s Sara Tucholsky)

BEST TEAM: Boston Celtics

BEST COACH/MANAGER: Pat Summitt, Tennessee Women’s Basketball

BEST GAME: New York Giants over New England Patriots at the Super Bowl


BEST PLAY: New York Giants Eli Manning’s pass to David Tyree at the Super Bowl

BEST FINISH: Western Kentucky over Drake in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, winning on a buzzer beater by Ty Rogers

BEST UPSET: New York Giants over New England Patriots at the Super Bowl

BEST BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETE: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings



BEST MALE COLLEGE ATHLETE: Tim Tebow, Florida Football

BEST FEMALE COLLEGE ATHLETE: Candace Parker, Tennessee Basketball


BEST FEMALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY: Shay Oberg, Softball (Montana State-Billings)




BEST BASEBALL PLAYER: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

BEST NBA PLAYER: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

BEST WNBA PLAYER: Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm

BEST NFL PLAYER: Tom Brady, New England Patriots

BEST NHL PLAYER: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

BEST MLS PLAYER: David Beckham, Los Angeles Galaxy

BEST MALE ACTION SPORT ATHLETE: Shaun White, Skateboarding/Snowboarding

BEST FEMALE ACTION SPORT ATHLETE: Gretchen Bleiler, Snowboarding


BEST DRIVER: Jimmie Johnson

BEST FIGHTER: Floyd Mayweather, Boxing

BEST GOLFER: Tiger Woods

BEST JOCKEY: Kent Desormeaux

BEST OUTDOOR ATHLETE: Captain Scott Smiley, Mountain Climber




The Glam Life: Little Cash, But Lots Of Hope

Source: www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly,
Sports Reporter

(July 20, 2008) There may be a glamorous life for tennis players, but Canada's best has yet to enjoy it.

Niagara Falls native
Frank Dancevic, the world's 83rd-ranked singles player, is a working pro. He travels the world, tournament to tournament, looking to accrue ATP ranking points and stay financially afloat. In between, he worries about keeping healthy while still trying to improve his game. There are no baggage handlers and entourages along the way.

"Let me give you an example," Dancevic, 23, said last week from Indiana, where he had just been knocked out of the Indianapolis Tennis Championships. "We were supposed to fly in Saturday. But there was a storm that went through. We were on the runway for four hours. Eventually, our flight got cancelled. I was at the airport for 15 hours. I had to fly into Cincinnati, then drive over here. I got in late last night. I practised for an hour and then I had to play today."

That hour was the first he'd spent on a hard court in over a month after working Europe's grass-court circuit. The results were predictable.

Dancevic came out swinging, winning the first set 7-6 in a tiebreak against American Bobby Reynolds. But lack of practice came back to bite in the second and third. He went down 6-3 and 6-2.

Even among the elite, it can be a grind. Added to that pressure is the tag Dancevic wears as Canada's great tennis hope.

"He has the potential to beat almost anybody. He has a shot at being a top-20 player," said Debbie Kirkwood, Tennis Canada's director of high performance, who has watched Dancevic over his entire career. Considering no Canadian man has ever cracked the top 40, that would be a feat.

Dancevic was turned on to the game by his father, John, an immigrant whose own preference was soccer.

Geography played a big part in the choice. The Dancevics grew up only a stone's throw from a tennis club. John Dancevic wasn't terribly familiar with tennis, but he could see that his son was good.

As his game improved, Dancevic gave up other sports to focus entirely on the court. At 15, his American coach took him south to audition for the U.S. Tennis Association. After a practice match against a U.S. pro, Dancevic was asked to sign up for Uncle Sam. John Dancevic sought a transfer to Michigan from his employer, General Motors. But Frank refused.

"He said, `I'm Canadian. I'm staying here,'" John Dancevic recalled.

"It was in my best interests to go there," Frank said. "But I chose to stay here because I love Canada. I wanted to play Davis Cup for Canada."

At 17, in his first ATP tournament, he took out Russian standout Nikolay Davydenko.

"That was the moment when I thought, `It happened,'" John Dancevic said. The reedy kid from Niagara Falls had announced himself as a young man to be watched.

His biggest professional breakthrough came in Indianapolis last year. He reached the final, a first for a Canadian at an ATP event in nearly a decade. En route, he defeated former world No.1 Andy Roddick. He later made similar inroads at the Rogers Cup event held in Montreal, reaching the quarters. He stretched Rafael Nadal to three sets in that match.

"All of last year, he was dancing around multiple wins over top-20 players. They just didn't happen," Kirkwood said. "But it's there."

Canada's most decorated veteran, doubles specialist Daniel Nestor, has said that tennis won't break into the Canadian sports consciousness until one of our singles players goes into the late rounds of a Grand Slam event. Then he tapped Dancevic to do it.

But from the sound of it, Dancevic is treading water at the moment.

A back injury felled him hard to start the year. Dancevic's world ranking plummeted. He struggled to rediscover his form.

"You're never guaranteed to make a living at this," Dancevic said. "Even now, I'm ranked in the top 80 and I was injured for four months. I know what it feels like to be wondering what's going to happen in the future."

He split with his coach, former Canadian pro and current coach of Canada's Davis Cup team, Martin Laurendeau. He's been working for three months with French coach Boris Vallejo.

He began clawing his way back up tennis's hill. Despite a nagging wrist injury, he notched a huge straight-sets upset over former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian in the first round at the All-England Club.

Afterward, he called it "one of the best matches in my career – if not the best." In his next match, he lost to 106th-ranked Bobby Reynolds – the same Reynolds from Indiana.

That has been Dancevic's reputation thus far – as a giant killer. There are a few of those around the men's game.

"Strange things happen," Dancevic said. "There's not really much difference on a given day between a guy who's ranked 100 and a guy who's ranked 20. If the guy who's higher ranked is just a little off and the guy who's ranked 100 is having a good day, then there's an upset."

So what separates the players who can win on a given day and the ones who do it reliably?

"They keep their bodies healthy. They're able to sustain their level the whole year. That's what keeps them up there. Mentally, they're strong," Dancevic said.

"There are plenty of guys who should be top 20 – guys who are ranked in the 90s or below right now – but their bodies just can't keep up with it."

The silver lining of the Indianapolis loss is that Dancevic can return home early. He's back in Niagara Falls right now, commuting to Toronto to practice. After being granted a wild-card entry, Dancevic will be the most watched Canadian in the Rogers Cup. He said he arrives completely healthy for the first time in a long time.

But Dancevic drew a tough first-round matchup with No. 24-ranked Croatian Mario Ancic. If he goes through, he could face defending champion Novak Djokovic

"Playing at home is my favourite thing in the world," Dancevic said. "Last year in Montreal I had a great run in front of an unbelievable crowd. It's great to play in a tournament and feel completely at home."

That long climb into tennis's elite – the one so many in and around the Canadian game expect Dancevic to make – starts again tomorrow.

"I think that I'm coming into my prime," Dancevic said as he signed off. "It's time for things to start happening in my career."

Canuck Receiver Catches Attention With Argos

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich,
Sports Reporter

(July 22, 2008) For a guy who went to his first pro football training camp simply expecting to improve his skills for university ball, Tyler Scott is turning a few heads in the CFL.

Including those of Edmonton Eskimos defenders, whom Scott beat for 89 yards in the Argonauts' 35-31 victory Sunday at the Rogers Centre.

Five of his six receptions, and all but 10 of those yards, came in the game-winning 109-yard drive. Meaning a guy who didn't even play football last season was quarterback Kerry Joseph's main target when it counted most.

"I never thought I'd be here, playing in the last drive of the game," the 22-year-old Windsor native said.

Scott didn't even think he'd be wearing an Argo uniform.

"I never thought I'd make this team, not even close," he said after the game. "I figured I'd just take everything as experience and be better at Western."

But Scott showed enough to make the 46-man roster. And when injuries to veteran Andre Talbot and NFL transplant Bethel Johnson opened up a starting spot, Scott was ready.

"Tyler's one of those guys who doesn't do anything except catch the football," head coach Rich Stubler said yesterday.

"If he stays healthy, he'll have as many catches as he wants."

That's a big change from last year, when Scott didn't make any plays.

Scott won a scholarship to Michigan's Saginaw Valley State University but left after three years.

"The way they utilized me wasn't the way I thought I should have been used," the Argos' sixth-round draft choice recalled. "After my receiver coach and offensive co-ordinator left, I figured there really was no point in staying because they were the ones who brought me in."

So he went to the University of Western Ontario, but was restricted to practising last year because of the CIS transfer rule.

Joining Scott on the Argos' list of improbables is James Robinson, who never played a down of major college football and played arena2 football last year.

Robinson scored his first CFL touchdown Sunday on an electrifying 90-yard pass play and came within six yards of being the first Argo in 10 years to top 200 yards receiving in a game.

"J-Rob has great speed and great talent," said Stubler, who pointed out Robinson should have had two touchdowns Sunday.

Joseph hit him near the Edmonton goal line but Robinson wasn't looking for the ball, a rookie error.

"I just try to go out and work hard every day and listen to my coaches," Robinson said.

So far, so good.

FOOT NOTES: Linebacker Kevin Eiben will be out at least one week with a sprained MCL suffered in Sunday's game. . . . Receivers Talbot and Johnson are expected back for Sunday's game in Regina.


Newest Raptor Has Sights Set On Gutting Canada's Olympic Hopes

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Doug Smith

(July 17, 2008) Roko Ukic has a nice, new three-year contract courtesy of the Toronto Raptors. And the first thing he'll try to do after signing it is to dash the Olympic dreams of Canada's national team. Ukic, who officially joined the Raptors yesterday, is expected to start at point guard tomorrow morning when Croatia takes on Canada in the quarter-finals of the Olympic qualification tournament in Athens. The winner of the game (6 a.m., The Score) advances to a semi-final against the winner of Germany-Brazil on Saturday. Croatia clobbered Puerto Rico 95-81 yesterday for its second win at the tournament and goes into tomorrow's game as solid favourites over Canada, which needed a near miraculous rally to subdue South Korea yesterday morning. "They're a lot like Slovenia in terms of just knowing how to play," Canadian head coach Leo Rautins said yesterday. "It's going to be a very, very tough game." Ukic, a 6-foot-5 point guard originally selected in the second round of the 2005 draft by the Raptors, played last season with Lottomatica Roma of the top Italian league.    Yesterday against Puerto Rico, Ukic had 12 points, a team-high six rebounds and six assists. Ukic leads a Croatian team that's not well known here but one that is considered dangerous on the international scene. Ukic is the lone NBAer on the squad – Zoran Planicic spent some time with the New Jersey Nets – but the majority of the team plays at the highest levels of the Euroleague.

Flutie And Paterno Inducted Into College Football Hall Of Fame

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(July 20, 2008) SOUTH BEND, IND.–Penn State coach Joe Paterno helped a lot of players make it into the College Football Hall of Fame. He counts former Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie among them. "We made Flutie. I told him that 10 times," Paterno said last night at a news conference before the pair and 18 others were enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame. "He came to our place and nobody knew who he was and he ended up throwing for 400 yards. "But we beat 'em," Paterno added with a smile. Flutie got a chuckle out of it as well. "He kind of liked me so I figured he let me throw for a bunch of yards, but not beat them too often," Flutie said. The Nittany Lions beat the Eagles three out of four times, although in his junior year Flutie passed for 380 yards in a 27-17 victory. As a sophomore, Flutie threw for 520 yards in a 52-17 loss and as a senior he threw for 447 yards in a 37-30 loss. Flutie also saw his first collegiate action as a freshman against the Nittany Lions, getting into the game in the fourth quarter. "I remember walking out on the field and thinking to myself, I'll able to tell my grandkids someday that I played in front of 85,000 people at Penn State against Joe Paterno," he said. Like just about everyone else being enshrined, Flutie said it's still hard to believe that someone who was told as a 5-foot-10 high school player that he was too small to play Division I football player not only won the Heisman Trophy, but made it to the hall. "I was believing I wasn't a Division I quarterback," he said.


Exercises That Make You Feel Sexy

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, RTS1, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

"Too much of a good thing is wonderful."
-- Mae West

One of the most popular words in the English language that best describes working out for most
people is "boring." Actually, it's more like "boooooring." One of the best words to describe great sex is, "WOOO HOOO!" OK, so it's not a word -- who cares? The question is: How do we turn your workout into a "wooo hooo" experience?

The act of sex can be a physical, psychological and emotional connection with another person. However, most people don't realize you can get this same connection with yourself. A great workout will have your muscles feeling stimulated, your cardiovascular system revved and your senses peaked.

I'm not referring to the typical weight training, cardiovascular workout. I'm talking about exercise that makes you look and feel absolutely sexy. The way to look and feel sexy is to look for movement that is, well... sexy.

Here are a few hot, new classes that will not only make you feel sexy, but will also help you to strip (no pun intended) some body fat.

Belly Dancing
Looking for a form of sexy movement not found in the hollow confines of a weight room or on a boring treadmill? In search of true woman-power? This is one of the most popular new classes taught in gyms and aerobic studios. Instead of boring crunches, you'll be learning diaphragm breathing; instead of performing rep after rep on an adductor machine, you'll be moving your hips like an out-of-control twister. Belly dancing is one of the best ways to gain complete control of your abdominal muscles and hips, learn how to breathe deeply and master your own body. Not only that, it's totally fun.

Cardio Striptease
This class is raising eyebrows and leading many women on a path of discovering just how wonderful and sexy they actually are -- no matter how much they weigh. Cardio striptease actually became popular a few years ago, but is experiencing resurgence lately.

PAGEBREAK The goal is a low impact, total body workout with slow and sensual movements commonly associated with the local strip club. Don't worry! No one will be recruiting you for the local happening spot -- but you will drop stubborn body fat. In fact, a 135-pound woman can burn 400 to 500 calories in one hour with this program.

The workout was developed by Jeff Costa. He refers to it as the "Circles of Movement" training techniques. The technique allows the body to engage the core muscles and teaches one to move in patterns that are natural and easy for people of all ages -- no matter what the fitness level.

A bit too inhibited to attend a class? No problem. Costa has a Cardio Striptease video series, which allows you to burn fat in the comfort of your home. Time to take it off!

Belly Fusion
This new and exciting class combines modern dance movements with belly dancing. The class is intended to tighten the waist, hips and abs by combining modern dance with sexy belly dancing movements. The dance moves improve your balance and coordination, and the belly dancing releases your sensuality. In a series of invigorating moves, you'll blend total-body muscle tightening exercises, body consciousness, female power and dance energy.

Pole Dancing
Like in strip clubs. Now you think I've lost my mind, no doubt. When I first learned of this class, even I doubted its validity, but this is one of the most popular new classes out there. For 60 to 90 minutes, women are increasing strength, burning calories, improving coordination and experiencing just how sexy they can be. Actress Sheila Kelley, formerly of the '80s hit courtroom drama L.A. Law, actually teaches others how to pole dance. The classes are intended to help women feel sexy and confident, without relying on anyone else to make them feel that way. As an added bonus, participants get in great shape, lose fat and feel amazingly empowered. One of my jobs as a trainer is to teach people to think "out of the box." If you hate the thought of exercise, then it's time to throw away the traditional sets and reps workout for awhile. It's time to get fit, lose fat and feel sexy.


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Alex Noble

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.