January 8, 2009
Happy New Year everyone! I'm back from the beautiful island of St. Maarten (see TRAVEL article below where I've added some photos). I hope that you all have your own stories about good times over the holidays as well. I wish you all a year of health, happiness and prosperity!
You'll see below some articles from SWAY magazine - noted with - these are really cool and interesting stories and keep us up to date on the Black Canadian community - and there's SO much more than what I've listed below! Now if you'd like to subscribe and get your own issues sent right to your door for the mere cost of $16 for four issues (Canadian customers), please go to either http://swaymag.ca/subscribe/ or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested advertisers can write to me directly at email@example.com.
Don't forget that to see the full newsletter with all lead lines, just hit WEEKLY NEWSLETTER above!
Tons of entertainment news again so take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
Celebrates 20 Years As A Canadian Entertainment Icon
Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Jon Sarpong with files from Andrew Miller
(Winter issue) Very few artists have navigated the road to success as well as Wes "Maestro" Williams. Over the past two decades, Williams has become a fixture in Canadian music culture, inspiring new artists to follow in his footsteps. In 2009, Williams celebrates the 20th anniversary of his monumental album, Symphony in Effect, which remains the top-selling Canadian hip-hop album of all time. Ever the trendsetter, Williams turned his triumph as a musician into a successful acting career well before it became the norm for rappers like Bow Wow, Andre 3000 and T.I. Looking back on his accomplishments, Williams sees the connection between success on stage and on screen.
"You get that confidence working through music. One thing with hip-hop is that you have to be assertive. You have to have some type of confidence and work ethic to get you to a certain level. I applied what I learned in hip-hop to help me become a better actor with my television projects. "
Having starred on OMNI TV's Metropia as Quincy Daniels, and on CTV's Instant Star, playing music mogul/manager Darius Mills, Williams' acting resume is growing. His current project has taken him to Vancouver to film a new independent drama series for the Movie Network titled The Line.
"I'm excited about my character, Andre, on The Line. I'm looking forward to showing more people what I can do," says Williams. "There's a lot of negative stigma in hip-hop culture with acting. People have their prejudices and whatnot and they expect you to be not as good of an actor."
Determined to once again prove to the world that he is a first-rate talent, Williams is taking his passion for art and experience as a musician to the silver screen.
"With music, I write all my lyrics — when I'm performing a show, I've got one take, and it had better be good. But in television, if the take is no good, the director says ‘do it again.' We have so many different times to get the right scene. When you act, you have to submit to the character; you have to humble yourself to make him real."
Williams is the only Canadian rap artist to have a platinum selling album with Symphony in Effect and a gold single with 1989's "Let Your Backbone Slide." With 12 Juno nominations, two Juno Awards and four MuchMusic Video Awards under his belt, Williams is proud to see the success of his fellow Toronto MC's.
"A lot of Canadian artists, whether up-and-coming or established, are doing their thing right now," says Williams. "Artists like k-os and Kardinal; they are like my younger brothers. A lot of artists grew up watching me so they show me that respect and I love and greatly appreciate that."
Seeing himself as a role model and elder statesman of the hip-hop industry, Williams embraces his role as an inspirational figure. Recognizing the good fortune that he has enjoyed, Williams is satisfied to know that he has left a legacy on which other artists can build and grow.
"Canada's been really good to me, in terms of artists acknowledging me for the work I've done. People have told me that I've inspired them to work throughout the years, and that makes me feel good. It makes me feel really good to know that I've helped someone achieve, that I've done something positive."
The Dearly Departed Of '08
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Polly Anderson, The Associated Press
(January 01, 2009) Charlton Heston's powerful screen presence dominated The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur. Paul Newman portrayed lovable rogues in smaller-scale films that reflected changing attitudes toward sex and society.
Moses and Michelangelo. Hud, Butch Cassidy and “Cool Hand Luke.” Heston and Newman created indelible roles on screen – and strove to shape their world as well, through activism that put them on opposite sides politically.
They were two of the fascinating figures in the film and television world who died in 2008. Here, we remember others who left the world of entertainment this year:
Brad Renfro, 25. Schoolboy-actor; played title role in The Client. Jan. 15, drug overdose.
Allan Melvin, 84. Actor; Sam the Butcher on The Brady Bunch. Jan. 17.
Suzanne Pleshette, 70. Beautiful, husky-voiced actress; sardonic wife on The Bob Newhart Show. Jan. 19.
Heath Ledger, 28. Actor nominated for Oscar for Brokeback Mountain; the Joker in The Dark Knight. Jan. 22, accidental drug overdose.
Christian Brando, 49. Marlon Brando's troubled son. Jan. 26, pneumonia.
Eva Dahlbeck, 87, Actress in Ingmar Bergman films ( Smiles of a Summer Night). Feb. 8.
Roy Scheider, 75. Two-time Oscar nominee ( The French Connection, All That Jazz); police chief in Jaws. Feb. 10.
Perry Lopez, 78. TV, film actor ( Chinatown). Feb. 14.
Anthony Minghella, 54. Oscar-winning director, turned literary works ( The English Patient) into acclaimed movies. March 18, haemorrhage.
Paul Scofield, 86. British actor; won Oscar for A Man for All Seasons. March 19.
Richard Widmark, 93. Hollywood leading man; made sensational debut as a giggling killer ( Kiss of Death). March 24.
Jules Dassin, 96. Director who starred wife Melina Mercouri in Never on Sunday. March 31.
Charlton Heston, 84. Oscar winner ( Ben-Hur); later headed National Rifle Association. April 5.
Hazel Court, 82. Actress in 1950-60s horror movies ( The Raven). April 15.
John Phillip Law, 70. 1960s actor ( Barbarella). May 15.
Sydney Pollack, 73. Oscar-winning director, a Hollywood mainstay ( Tootsie, Out of Africa). May 26.
Earle Hagen, 88. Composed Andy Griffith Show theme. May 26.
Harvey Korman, 81. Emmy winner for The Carol Burnett Show; conniving politician in Blazing Saddles. May 29.
Harry Bernsen Jr., 82. Film, television, stage producer ( The Awakening Land); father of Corbin. May 31.
Mel Ferrer, 90. Actor ( War and Peace), producer of movies starring then-wife Audrey Hepburn. June 2.
Paul Sills, 80. Co-founded Chicago's Second City comedy group. June 2.
Dino Risi, 91. Italian film director whose Profumo di Donna ( Scent of a Woman) was Oscar-nominated, remade in English. June 7.
Jean Desailly, 87. French stage, screen actor. June 11.
Cyd Charisse, 86. Dancer turned actress; starred in musicals with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly. June 17.
Jean Delannoy, 100. French filmmaker ( La symphonie pastorale). June 18.
Evelyn Keyes, 91. She played middle O'Hara sister in Gone With the Wind. July 4.
Youssef Chahine, 82. Acclaimed Egyptian film director. July 27.
Bernie Mac, 50. One of the “Original Kings of Comedy” who connected with audiences across a wide spectrum ( Ocean's Eleven). Aug. 9, pneumonia.
Howard G. Minsky, 94. Produced the blockbuster 1970 weepy Love Story. Aug. 11.
Don LaFontaine, 68. In a world where voiceover artists are rarely known by name, his distinctive work livened up innumerable movie trailers. Sept. 1.
Paul Newman, 83. Oscar-winning actor/race driver/philanthropist who never lost the heartthrob cool of his anti-hero performances. Sept. 26.
Servando Gonzalez, 85. Film director in Hollywood ( The Fool Killer) and his native Mexico ( El Elegido). Oct. 4.
Lloyd Thaxton, 81. Hosted popular 1960s teen dance show. Oct. 5.
Mr. Blackwell, 86. Designer whose worst-dressed list skewered fashion felonies. Oct. 19.
Merl Saunders, 74. Jazz, rock keyboardist; collaborated with Miles Davis, Grateful Dead. Oct. 24.
Estelle Reiner, 94. Had famed line in When Harry Met Sally – “I'll have what she's having.” Oct. 25.
Gerard Damiano, 80. Directed Deep Throat, 1972 porn film that became unlikely hit. Oct. 25.
John Daly, 71. Producer of Oscar-winning movies ( Platoon). Oct. 31.
Studs Terkel, 96. Broadcaster, Pulitzer Prize-winning author; bestsellers celebrated the common people. Oct. 31.
B.R. Chopra, 94. Bollywood director who sometimes tackled taboo themes. ( Misled). Nov. 5.
Irving Brecher, 94. Comedy writer; Oscar-nominated for Meet Me in St. Louis. Nov. 17.
John Michael Hayes, 89. Screenwriter; worked with Alfred Hitchcock in 1950s ( Rear Window). Nov. 19.
Nina Foch, 84. Oscar-nominated actress ( Executive Suite, Spartacus). Dec. 5.
Van Johnson, 92. Boy-next-door Hollywood star ( Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.) Dec. 12.
‘Heartbroken' At Son's Death
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Chris Gillette, Associated Press
(January 04, 2009) FREEPORT, Bahamas — John Travolta said Saturday he and his wife Kelly Preston are “heartbroken” over the death of their chronically ill 16-year-old son, who collapsed at the family's vacation home on Grand Bahama.
Police Superintendent Basil Rahming has said a caretaker found Jett Travolta unconscious in a bathroom late Friday morning and he was later pronounced dead at a Freeport hospital. The youth was last seen entering the bathroom on Thursday, according to Mr. Rahming's police statement.
“We are heartbroken that our time with him was so brief. We will cherish the time we had with him for the rest of our lives,” Mr. Travolta and Ms. Preston said in their first public statement since Jett's death.
“Jett was the most wonderful son that two parents could ever ask for and lit up the lives of everyone he encountered,” said a statement posted Sunday on Mr. Travolta's website.
“We have received many messages of condolence from around the world and we want to thank everyone for their prayers and support. It has meant so much to us. It is a beautiful reminder of the inherent goodness in the human spirit that gives us a hope for a brighter future.”
Ms. Preston and Mr. Travolta have said that Jett became very sick when he was 2 years old and was diagnosed with Kawasaki Syndrome, an illness that leads to inflamed blood vessels in young children. Ms. Preston blamed household cleaners and fertilizers, and said that a detoxification program based on teachings from the Church of Scientology helped improve his health, according to People magazine. Others said Jett was prone to seizures.
Michael McDermott, an attorney for the actor, said Sunday that although Jett was last seen Thursday and found the following day, he doesn't believe that the teen was in the bathroom for a substantial amount of time.
“The police left the impression that the boy was unsupervised. No. There were two nannies with him for the entire evening,” Mr. McDermott told The Associated Press. “They made it seem like he was sent to the condo and nobody checked in on him until the next morning.”
“(Jett) was spectacularly supervised,” said Mr. McDermott, who said he has not had the chance to talk to the two nannies himself.
Mr. McDermott said he had no knowledge of Jett's medical history but “understood he had a history of seizures.” It is unclear whether Jett was taking medication for that.
The Bahamas' health minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis, has said that a second, U.S.-certified pathologist will fly in at dawn Monday to assist with the teenager's autopsy.
“I have spoken to (Mr. Travolta) and informed him that the government is doing everything it can,” Dr. Minnis said Sunday, adding he could not disclose further specifics about the autopsy.
About a dozen security guards and Bahamian police officers patrolled Sunday around the luxury Old Bahama Bay resort community where Mr. Travolta and Ms. Preston remained inside their home. The white-sand beach in front of the suites was closed.
The couple also has an eight-year-old daughter, Ella Bleu.
Mr. Travolta, 54, is trying to finish funeral arrangements and hopes to fly his son's body to Florida by midweek, Mr. McDermott said. Mr. Travolta and Ms. Preston, 46, have a house in Ocala, Florida.
The Church of Scientology, established in 1945 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, has attracted numerous celebrity followers, and among its more famed members is Mr. Travolta, who has long been one of Hollywood's biggest names.
Travolta And Wife Heartbroken At Son's Death
Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Gillette, The Associated Press
(January 05, 2009) FREEPORT, BAHAMAS – John Travolta said Sunday he and his wife Kelly Preston are "heartbroken" over the death of their chronically ill 16-year-old son, who collapsed at the family's vacation home on Grand Bahama.
Police Superintendent Basil Rahming has said a caretaker found Jett Travolta unconscious in a bathroom late Friday morning and he was later pronounced dead at a Freeport hospital. The youth was last seen entering the bathroom on Thursday, according to Rahming's police statement.
"We are heartbroken that our time with him was so brief. We will cherish the time we had with him for the rest of our lives," Travolta and Preston said in their first public statement since Jett's death.
"Jett was the most wonderful son that two parents could ever ask for and lit up the lives of everyone he encountered," said a statement posted Sunday on Travolta's website.
"We have received many messages of condolence from around the world and we want to thank everyone for their prayers and support. It has meant so much to us. It is a beautiful reminder of the inherent goodness in the human spirit that gives us hope for a brighter future."
Preston and Travolta have said that Jett became very sick when he was 2 years old and was diagnosed with Kawasaki Syndrome, an illness that leads to inflamed blood vessels in young children. Preston blamed household cleaners and fertilizers, and said that a detoxification program based on teachings from the Church of Scientology helped improve his health, according to People magazine. Others said Jett was prone to seizures.
Michael McDermott, an attorney for the actor, said Sunday that although Jett was last seen Thursday and found the following day, he doesn't believe that the teen was in the bathroom for a substantial amount of time.
"The police left the impression that the boy was unsupervised. No. There were two nannies with him for the entire evening," McDermott told The Associated Press. "They made it seem like he was sent to the condo and nobody checked in on him until the next morning."
"(Jett) was spectacularly supervised," said McDermott, who said he has not had the chance to talk to the two nannies himself.
McDermott said he had no knowledge of Jett's medical history but "understood he had a history of seizures." It is unclear whether Jett was taking medication for that.
The Bahamas' health minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis, has said that a second, U.S.-certified pathologist will fly in at dawn Monday to assist with the teenager's autopsy.
"I have spoken to (Travolta) and informed him that the government is doing everything it can," Minnis said Sunday, adding he could not disclose further specifics about the autopsy.
About a dozen security guards and Bahamian police officers patrolled Sunday around the luxury Old Bahama Bay resort community where Travolta and Preston remained inside their home. The white-sand beach in front of the suites was closed.
The couple also have an 8-year-old daughter, Ella Bleu.
Travolta, 54, is trying to finish funeral arrangements and hopes to fly his son's body to Florida by midweek, McDermott said. Travolta and Preston, 46, have a house in Ocala, Florida.
The Church of Scientology, established in 1945 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, has attracted numerous celebrity followers, and among its more famed members is Travolta, who has long been one of Hollywood's biggest names.
Fifth Straight Gold For Canada
Source: www.thestar.com - Damien Cox
(January 06, 2009) OTTAWA — Lest we forget, this was all five seconds away from not happening.
Incredible, when you think about it, that Team Canada was that close to being eliminated from the gold medal game at the 2009 world junior championship by the Russians on Saturday night.
Once that hurdle was cleared, however, the Canadians arrived for last night's championship game against Sweden surer of themselves and their place in junior hockey history than ever.
The 5-1 final score was an accurate barometer of how this game went. The Canadians were on the board before the game was a minute old, opened a three-goal margin by the first minute of the third and generally behaved as if they couldn't have been more comfortable on this familiar stage, claiming a fifth straight world championship before a record crowd of 20,230.
That familiarity, you have to figure, is the product of having been in the gold-medal game of this tournament the past eight consecutive years.
Success, it's clear, begets success.
Compared to the thrills and spills of the 6-5 shootout win over Russian and the New Year's Eve spectacular against the United States, last night's game was rather pedestrian in terms of excitement.
The Swedes, it seemed, showed up with a plan to counterpunch their way to a victory over the reigning champions, something that just wasn't going to happen against a Canadian team that seemed to have worked all the bugs out of its game.
Sweden's featured attraction, Victor Hedman, was oddly passive and not even the best defenceman on his team. On the other hand, Canadian forward John Tavares, now a lock to go No.1 in next summer's draft, was named tournament MVP.
In the end, however, the two most compelling stories out of the Canadian camp were ones of vindication for goaltender Dustin Tokarski and forward Angelo Esposito.
Just a day before the final, Canadian coach Pat Quinn indicated a lack of faith in Tokarski by saying his team was "in a spot" with backup Chet Pickard having sat for so long that, with no other choice, Tokarski would get the start last night. Nice vote of confidence.
Last night, however, Tokarski was protected brilliantly in the first period, which seemed to give him the confidence he needed. By the end, he had efficiently turned away 39 shots, while his Swedish counterpart, Jacob Markstrom, had found himself the target of angry boos from the pro-Canada crowd for a series of perceived theatrics.
Was he hit or was he diving? A bit of both, but flopping like a fish – once after being bumped by his own teammate – sprawled on the ice like he'd been shot and losing his mask at the slightest touch helped produced an unusually nasty atmosphere for a Canada-Sweden game.
Esposito, meanwhile, made this team after being cut three previous times. He started slowly but emerged as one of Canada's best forwards by the conclusion of the tourney.
He scored a breathtaking shorthanded goal against Russia, then collected the winner last night in the second period on a pretty solo effort, walking out of the corner with Hedman parked helplessly in front.
Quinn now has put together an impressive triple in international hockey, winning gold in the Olympics, the world juniors and the world under-18 championships.
Given the rampant speculation here, one almost expected Quinn to be handed a contract rather than a gold medal by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk in the post-game celebrations.
Two of the next three junior tournaments are on Canadian ice and the one in between, the 2011 event in Buffalo, will feel almost like a home tournament.
Fair or unfair for the rest of the world, it's what the IIHF apparently wants. So an unprecedented sixth consecutive gold for Canada in Saskatchewan next January seems a distinct possibility, as is an even longer run than that.
If that happens, no one should forget the five seconds that almost ruined it all.
Source: Agent@Home Magazine - September 2008 Destinations - By Melanie Reffes
The dual island of St. Maarten/St. Martin offers a little Dutch and a little French blended in two lively cultures. Both sides bustle from dawn to dusk with gourmet eateries, duty-free shopping, casinos, nightlife and an array of accommodations. The smallest territory in the world shared by two nations also boasts some of the finest beaches in the region and is the top pick with the sailing and yachting crowd.
Lately the island has been repositioning itself as a luxury destination that still attracts a wide range of travelers. The recipient of two TripAdvisor 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destination Awards, St. Maarten is a perennial favourite of American tourists, but with airline cuts and high fuel costs, tourism officials are relying on repeat visitors and new marketing strategies to keep arrival numbers high.
To stimulate tourism, port authorities are building new docks to accommodate Royal Caribbean’s new Genesis and Freedom-class ships. Other improvements include palm trees and cobblestone walkways on Front and Back Street in Philipsburg and a new seaside pedestrian promenade. On the French side, upgrades to the Marigot waterfront and the construction of a mega-yacht and cruise terminal are in the works.
Accommodations: Adding to the luxury inventory on the Dutch side of the island, the 52-room beachfront Coral Beach Club opened in May near the Westin Resort on Dawn Beach. The five-star boutique hotel mirrors a white Greek village with 24 townhouses, condos and apartments placed in the rental pool at the owner’s discretion. Call 866-978-7278 or visit www.coralbeachclub.net.
On a peninsula between two bays, Divi Little Bay Beach Resort is upgrading 63 rooms and suites, which will bring the property’s total to 210 when complete in December. Sixteen one-and-two bedroom seaside villas opened in March. The Toucan Bar – one of three restaurant options - has also been renovated and attracts a hip crowd during happy hour. Unique water sports include swimming with dolphins, lagoon tours of the mega-yachts and cruises on the island’s only glass-bottom boat. Catering to the growing demand for vacation ownership, the resort converted its hillside casitas into 10 premium suites. Call 800-367-3484 or visit www.diviresorts.com.
Upgrades to the restaurants and bars at the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort will be ready in early 2009. The 257-room, four-star property fronts a one mile stretch of sand on the Dutch side. Call 800-223-0757 or visit www.sonesta.com/greatbay.
In Simpson Bay, Mary’s Boon may be the best-kept secret with rates as low as $75 in low season. Opened in 1970, the hotel has new owners who spruced up the property with cathedral ceilings, wraparound verandas, four-poster beds and stairs leading to the beach. The 36 rooms, suites and bungalows are arranged among huge natural boulders and a riotous array of flowers. The laid-back Caribbean vibe extends to an “honour bar” although bartenders are on duty at night for professionally-shaken, or stirred, martinis. The upgraded Tides restaurant rotates four chefs who have been with the property for more than 30 years. The resort also offers 15 percent commission to agents. Call 599-545-7000 or visit www.marysboon.com.
On Front Street in Philipsburg, Holland House blends European chic with Caribbean pizzazz following a design upgrade. The 53-room property faces the beach and offers free Wi-Fi, beach chairs and towel service (most of the other seaside hotels charge for these extras). The elegant Ocean Lounge is an international kitchen with an impressive selection of wines. Dutch Chef Ricardo Niels offers a menu of seafood and produce flown in from Europe. Call 599-542-2572 or visit www.oceanloungesxm.com.
Following an $80 million renovation, Radisson St. Martin Resort & Spa will open in September as the largest property on the French side. The resort is located on 18 acres nestled in the picturesque cove of Anse Marcel bordered by hills on three sides and the Caribbean on the other. The 188-room property was originally Le Meridian and most recently operated as L'Habitation de Lonvilliers. Stand-out features include a water taxi from the airport, which will take less than half the time of a land taxi; a meal plan that includes dinner in nearby restaurants; and Club Les Enfants. Call 800-333-3333 or visit www.radisson.com/stmartin.
Dining: The slogan “Bring Your Appetite for Life” is appropriate with more than 400 restaurants, cafes and bistros dotting both sides of the island. A visitor can easily spend one week eating wonderfully well and never be in the same restaurant twice. Aura at the waters edge in the Dawn Beach Westin (www.starwoodhotels.com) excels with a French fusion menu. Reservations are recommended and prices are high but worth the splurge.
In the Atlantis Casino Courtyard, Temptations (www.noveaucaribbean.com) is the best steakhouse on the island with an impressive selection of dry-aged cuts imported from the U.S. and South America. Eateries in Philipsburg include the colourful Creole cottage L’Escargot (www.lescargotrestaurant.com), which does snails half a dozen ways; Oualichi, a nautically-themed eatery on the Boardwalk; and Taloula Mango’s, which features succulent ribs.
The original island “lolo” or roadside barbecue is in Cole Bay. Johnny Under the Tree is quite literally under a tree and there really is a “Johnny.” Revered for his lip-searing pepper recipe, Johnny Bridgewater sells 60 pounds of ribs daily and eight-pound lobsters. “My regulars come here as soon as they land at the airport,” he says. “With a suitcase in hand and a taxi waiting, they order takeout and then check into their hotel.”
In the Simpson Bay Yacht Club complex, Top Carrot is one of a few vegetarian restaurants. Shaded bistro-style on an outside terrace, the new eatery has a fruit and vegetable juice bar and is open early for breakfast. Close by, gigantic pails of garlic mussels are the star attraction at the Wharf, which has expansive views of the lagoon and reggae and Soca bands nightly. Sea views are the big draw at Bliss (www.theblissexperience.com) in Maho. Attracting the young and hip, this is the place to see and be seen. The open-air nightclub and bar stays open until the early hours.
Off the beaten track on the French side, Yvette’s is a homespun eatery that has been delighting foodies for three decades. Founded by Yvette Hyman and her husband Felix, the restaurant offers a delectable conch stew and dumplings from tried and true family recipes. Affordable and without pretension, Yvette’s countryside ambience is conducive to a relaxing night out. For no-frills authenticity, the beachfront Lolos on the French side offer grilled chicken, ribs and fish for under $10.
Attractions: Ringed by 37 beaches (clothing-optional on the French side) the island is a nirvana for swimmers, divers, sailors and those who prefer to top off their tan from the comfort of a beach chair. Voted the number shore excursion in the Caribbean for 10 consecutive years by Princess Cruise Lines, the 12-Metre Challenge is a shortened version of the America’s Cup race. Sailor wannabees serve as crew aboard the Canadian yachts or Dennis Connor’s Stars & Stripes. Half-day excursions where guests serve as crew for the racing yachts start at $75. Call 599-542-0045 or visit www.12metre.com.
Ludot Shore Adventures offers an array of tours, including horseback riding on the beach and excursions on a tall “pirate” ship. The company also pays commission to agents. Call 800-638-5153 or visit www.shoreadventures.com. With five locations, Blue Bubbles Watersports & Dive Center sells kayak and bicycle tours as well as reef charters, scuba, parasailing and snorkelling. A half-day deep sea fishing tour for five people on a 37-foot Tiara Motor Yacht is $ 1,250, with participants allowed to keep all the yellow fin tuna and marlin they catch. Call 599-55-42502 or visit www.bluebubblessxm.com.
Bernard Tours offers customized programs with a minimum of eight people for shopping, sightseeing and beach excursions. Tours start at $30 per person. Call 599-557-0788 or visit www.bernardstours.com. Steps from the cruise ship pier at the Great Bay marina, Scuba Fun Dive Center sells tours to top dive sites, including the wreck of the two-century old British Proselyte, which lies preserved on a reef just a mile from the shore. Free shuttle service is available from most hotels with dive times coordinated with the arrival of the cruise ships. PADI-certified instructors teach classes in shallow water to beginners for $75. Call 599-557-0505 or visit www.scubafun.com. Tri Sports Tours are sold in most of the hotels with a storefront in Simpson Bay that rents bikes and gear. Tour options include paddling excursions through the largest saltwater lagoon in the Caribbean, as well as kayak and snorkel tours. Call 599-545-4384 or visit http://trisportsxm.com.
On the French side of the island, the Butterfly Farm is one of the most distinctive attractions in the region. Within a large meshed enclosure hundreds of butterflies flit about freely, including the rare iridescent Blue Morpho from South America. Gift shop sales support conservation and preservation efforts. The adjacent Hidden Forest Café, serves a Caribbean cornucopia of flavours virtually in the middle of the rainforest. Call 590-590-873121 or visit www.thebutterflyfarm.com.
Also on the French side, the Fly Zone Extreme is the newest addition to the Loterie Farm, a nature preserve at the base of Pic Paradis, the highest point on the island at 1,400 feet. Using a series of ropes, cables and suspended bridges, participants soar over the forest between ancient mango and mahogany trees. The junior version, Ti’ Tarzan, is designed with swinging ropes for children. Call 599-590-8786 or visit www.loteriefarm.net/
Getting There: Direct flights from the U.S. are available to St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana Airport on Continental Airlines, American Airlines, US Airways, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Spirit and JetBlue.
For more information, call 800-786-2278 or visit www.st-martin.org (French side) and www.vacationstmaarten.com (Dutch side).
Ania Soul Brings The Groove Back To T.O.
Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: AFRO P
(Winter issue) In a city where rock is king and the most popular clubs blast techno and dance into the wee hours of the night, soul music has always had a tenuous existence. Canada's early-'60s and '70s immigrants from the US and Caribbean brought with them the sounds of soul music which satisfied the hunger of music fans who craved Aretha Franklin wannabes and the smooth Motown groove.
More than four decades later, Toronto is still a city that is reluctant to embrace the power of soul music. But through her music, T.O. artist and resident Ania Soul is intent on making soul supreme in this city. Ania says she found her love of soul in western Canada: "I can say my first introduction to soul music was in the church. I was born in Toronto and moved to Edmonton when I was eight. My mom became an ordained minister so I spent a lot of time at her ministry. I grew up as a singer in her church. I moved back to Toronto in 1999 and started going to places to see some local artists perform. I recall going to Lava on College to see Divine Brown and Jully Black."
Catching the sparse soul offerings in the city energized Ania to start performing in local clubs. She soon became a mainstay at live music nights where her daring interpretations left crowds mesmerized.
"I'm not afraid to express different styles of soul or to have people express to me what their style of soul is. There are now a few other soul artists in the city. If you check out Myspace or other sites like that, you see a lot of soul performers based in Toronto — the vibe is changing and soul is making a comeback."
Ania is looking forward to the release of her debut album, which features collaborations with a few emerging music groups that fuses soul, R&B and reggae.
"There are a lot of stories and experiences in my new album. Soul is at the centre, but there are definitely some spiritual and secular vibes a well. My album is coming out next summer and it will be a real representation of Toronto's new soul movement.
To find out more about Ania and her new album, visit: myspace.com/aniasoul
Speaks With Sway About The Passion Behind Her Life And Art
Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Melissa Bessey
(Winter issue) Deborah Cox’s soulful sound has kept fans satisfied for more than a decade. Singing since the age of 12, the Toronto-born artist got her start as a back-up singer for Celine Dion.
Now, with nine Billboard-charting hits under her belt, she is recognized as Canada’s Queen of Soul. Sway caught up with Cox while promoting her new album The Promise.
Describe your inspiration for The Promise.
This album was inspired by my love of old-school soul music. I recorded it over a three year period, so the final product and release of the album was a long time coming. During the last few years, there were a lot of different R&B vibes happening and I really didn’t want to get locked into one of the sounds you were hearing on the radio. So I took my time.
In 2007, you released a jazz album Destination Moon. How did that come about?
I’ve always loved jazz and wanted to put together a project like that for a long time. The process came together by hanging out with friends in the studio. The first jazz concert I saw was Miles Davis and it was a real turning point because it opened me up to what jazz was all about.
Throughout the past decade you have started a family and grown a lot as a person. How have you matured as an artist?
I know a lot more about the business now. Today I’m not afraid to do what I love, including switching genres and styles of music. The fear of needing to be one particular type of artist is just not there anymore so I don’t hold back.
What advice would you offer to up-and-coming musicians and youth wanting to get into the biz?
There are way more resources out there now than there were when I was starting out. So the best advice I can offer is to take advantage of these outlets as much as you can. The internet is such a great resource; you can put out an entire album online and have it be incredibly successful, without a huge budget.
Do you have any new projects in the works?
I’m involved with a not-for-profit project based in South Africa called Broadway that works with artists like myself to bring art and music to the underprivileged, school-aged children of South Africa.
The Promise is available at all major music vendors. Fans should anticipate a North American tour in 2009. For more info, visit: deborahcox.com.
A Trio Poised To Roar Onto The Scene
Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic
(January 04, 2009) True to its name, Lioness is all about stalking and overpowering you.
The Toronto trio likes it dark, likes it loud and really, really likes its low end, so one can understand why the band prefers to unleash its black, buzzing death-disco infernos only upon those rooms it can properly overwhelm.
"We want to play dark, dirty parties or a giant stage with a massive sound system," says drummer and resident electronics maestro Jeff Scheven.
"Somehow, in between, the aesthetic doesn't work," concedes bassist Ronnie Morris.
That aesthetic is both minimal and toweringly huge, a wall of determined rhythm and pure, engulfing electronic sound cooked up by Scheven and Morris and topped off by the knife-edged vocals of Vanessa Fischer. Not quite rock, not quite dance music, no guitars. And that's exactly the way Lioness would like to keep it.
Onstage and on its recent self-titled debut EP – released late in the fall by upstart local indie label New Romantic Records – the band comes off as remarkably self-assured for a project that, by its members' own admission, is still in the developing stages.
This might have something to do with the highly respected pedigrees that led to Lioness's creation: Morris and Scheven were the sturdy rhythm section behind mildly notorious local outfit controller. controller until their vocalist quit and the band splintered in late 2006. Fischer was the prowling focal point of recently defunct crypto-punk crew No Dynamics.
The internal tensions that blew those bands apart before they could really crack wide shouldn't be a problem for Lioness, though. Scheven, 31, and Fischer, 25, are a couple who've longed to make music together for some time and, as Scheven puts it, "just needed a kick in the ass" to do it, while he and Morris, also 31, have been chums since their high school days in Brampton.
"With all the drama that went on in controller," says Scheven, "Ronnie and I were always pretty much okay."
"No matter what, when there was that point when you started butting heads, Jeff and I were fine," says Morris. "Even if we had an argument on the road, we could yell at each and then it'd be like, `Let's go get some Chinese food.' ... It doesn't take a lot of intellectualizing, what we do. It's pretty organic."
Lioness is already packing rooms to bursting about town, landing prime opening slots with folks like Hercules and Love Affair, and they've been MySpacing up quite a tizzy online.
The next logical step is, of course, getting a proper album together to take to the people. They're shooting for the fall.
"We've got a fair amount of stuff that we've been playing out live for a while and we're kind of itching to get that recorded," says Morris.
"But we've got a bit more to do. We're trying to find some way to build on what we have without adding guitars or something like that. ... Our most consistent criticism that we keep hearing is, `It's good, but you've gotta do something else, too.'"
Fischer laughs. "Lioness says: `New moods and rhythms for the new year!'"
Hard Living Burton Cummings Still Standing
Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic
(January 06, 2009) It becomes obvious, as the hotel door swings open into a wall of tobacco smoke, that Burton Cummings has not held onto that famous rock 'n' roll howl all these years by cutting cigarettes out of his diet.
Or by cutting anything out of his diet, by the looks of things. Delighted that his inquisitor will join him and a managerial type in their next round of smokes – "Always good to meet another brother in the great fraternity of smokers," he crows – he settles his portly frame back behind a half-eaten burger-and-fries plate and divulges the secret health regimen that allowed a 60-year-old Burton Cummings to sound reassuringly, robustly like the Burton Cummings of yore while recording his latest album, Above the Ground.
"Good Canadian beer and good Canadian cigarettes, man," says the former Guess Who singer, who turned 61 on New Year's Eve. "Yeah, my health regimen: I eat junk food, I do all the wrong things for a singer. But I do use my voice a lot. When I'm at home, I'll pick up a guitar and sing songs or go to the piano and sing. I think your voice is like any other muscle: if you don't use it, it'll let you down. But if you use it all the time ...
"There are some singers who don't lose it, and I would like to try to be one of those for another 10 or 20 years maybe."
The voice is there, then. But Cummings realized just how long it had been since he'd provided the world with any evidence that he could still write a song when his songwriting foil of four decades, Randy Bachman, went down for a shoulder operation in November 2007 and begged off touring duties in their Bachman-Cummings nostalgia act for a few months.
Was he going to keep schlepping around, sans Bachman, doing "American Woman" and "No Sugar Tonight" every night? Or was he going to stop dithering and do something with the stacks of songs he'd accumulated since his last solo album, Plus Signs, was released in 1990?
"This window opened up, so rather than just touring and playing the old songs as Burton, I thought: `Here's my chance to make this new album I've been thinking about for a few years,'" he recalls. "And next thing I know – bang-o! – the studio was booked for Jan. 11, 2008, and the flights were booked for my band, the Carpet Frogs, to come down from Toronto to L.A. Once I heard officially that it was gonna happen, it was like a bit of weight was lifted off my shoulders."
Perhaps conscious of past mistakes made in the studio, for Above the Ground Cummings stuck to the bluesy, meat-and-potatoes rockers and wistful hippie-dippy ballads upon which his and the Guess Who's careers were built.
The Carpet Frogs, a versatile Toronto outfit that's served as Cummings' touring band for most of the 2000s, were crucial to maintaining the record's likeably straightforward, classic-rock feel, says Cummings, who wanted to avoid making a studio record that sounded "synthetic and machinistic," and go for something that sounded more organic this time around. Thus, he shot up to Toronto for a few days of prep work with the Frogs in a Brampton rehearsal studio before recording began.
"This is a real band that plays live, that works live and we just took that into the studio and recorded it. The album wouldn't be what it is without the Carpet Frogs," he says. "We're very good friends. We've been working together for seven or eight years now. You can get the high-dollar, hotshot studio players to come in, and they play great and it's all good and they get their huge cheque and they leave. And the next afternoon, these guys wouldn't remember one thing about these songs that they've played on and you'll never see them again in your life. There's a detachment to it.
"I've worked that way before. When I first went solo we had all these hotshot players: Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon, Jeff Porcaro and Scotty Edwards on bass and Ray Parker Jr. on guitar sometimes, Jim Horner on sax. I had my choice of the cream of the crop of L.A. studio players and, don't get me wrong, those were good records. But to have my own band and take that band feeling into the studio, it sounds like a `band' record."
Curiously, after 40 years in the business and armloads of gold records, Cummings also managed to notch a personal "first" with Above the Ground: it's the only record in his career written and produced entirely by Burton Cummings and Burton Cummings alone.
"This is the first time I've ever written all the songs myself without one co-writer on anything. When I looked at the back cover and saw `All songs by Burton Cummings,' I thought: `Aaaw, isn't that nice to see?' After 33 releases, that's the first one," he says.
"I was exhausted by the end of that, but I'm proud it and I'm pleased with it. There was no interference, no intervention from anybody. There was nobody telling me, `Do this, don't do that!' or `Don't do this, do that!' So I've really made the album I wanted to make."
Brandy’s 'Human' Right: Singer Releases Relatable Album
Source: www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough
(January 5, 2009) *Singer Brandy has had a storied career and is not even 30 years old. As a matter of fact, it was half her life ago that she released her self-titled debut album, laced with popped-out R&B hits, and landed her first television gig.
Since then, Brandy has starred in four films and more than a handful of TV shows, including her hit series “Moesha,” and four more acclaimed discs including her new one, “Human.”
In between times, Brandy’s life in the public eye shelled out some major celebrity scoops. In 2001, she was secretly “married” to producer Robert "Big Bert" Smith and soon announced that she was pregnant.
However, the couple “divorced” shortly after the birth of their daughter Sy’rai, and their union was exposed to be a ruse to protect the young singer’s image. In 2004, Brandy had a high-profile engagement to NBA star Quentin Richardson, which dissolved in 2005.
Then, just a year later, Brandy was involved in a car accident that claimed a woman’s life. While she was not arrested (or charged due to "insufficient evidence") it is reported that the singer is facing $50 million wrongful death lawsuit set to go to trial this April.
“It was a very difficult time in my life,” Brandy said of dealing with the aftermath of the fatal accident. “I tried to push through it as much as possible with having family and friends by my side to help me move through it. I journaled a lot. I had to get in touch with the strength and the faith that is in me and I had to realize that that’s what I needed to get through it.”
Brandy also told EUR’s Lee Bailey that she found therapy in diving into her music, too.
“I really needed to sing about a lot of the emotions that I felt through that and through other experiences that I also went through,” she said. “I wanted to do an album that reflected those different emotions about who I am and relate to the fans in so many different ways. Everybody goes through something that they don’t understand or they feel shouldn’t have happened in their life, but at the end of the day you can pretty much anything if we find that faith and that strength to do it.”
Brandy explained that by talking about her feelings and what was happening in her life seemed like a meditation. She says that journaling, discovering her talent for writing poetry, and subsequently writing lyrics has helped her a lot and played a part in developing her new disc, “Human.”
“I was able to reflect and release a lot of different things on this album that I think a lot of people will relate to and that’s one of the reasons I called the album ‘Human,’” she said. “It talks about my struggles, and my ups and my downs, and my imperfections. It celebrates my growth and my strength and the love that I’ve discovered within myself.”
Brandy clarified that the new album is about her, and not about the highly publicized car accident.
“It’s an album that reflects me as a person – not just that, but the struggles that I’ve gone through with love and life in general. It also celebrates who I am as a woman and who we all are as human beings. That’s something that happened to me and something that I had to move through; I had to grow from, I had to understand, but those things are personal. With this album I just wanted to show the side of me that was vulnerable and celebrate that I’m back doing with I like to do. My life has so much purpose now and so much meaning. I just want to be an inspiration to others.”
Critics are finding that the new disc is a new Brandy.
“It’s very different, because I’m different,” she simplified. “Naturally, if I’m different, my music is going to change with me. I wanted this album to be about who I am now. All of the old stuff – you have that. You know the old Brandy. Now, I’m older now and my life has brought different things for me to experience and grow from. I wanted to sing about that on this album. They are beautiful songs, they’re passionate. They are very inspirational and they are very message driven.”
And even though the album and songs are different from what fans might think they know of Brandy, the singer still teamed up with Rodney Jerkins who helped create her initial sound.
The first single, “Right Here” is picking up radio rotations.
“I love the melody,” she said of the track. “I love the words. I felt like it was a song that everybody could relate to. I thought it was a great song to reintroduce me to the new generation and my fans.
Brandy’s new album, “Human,” is available in stores now. For more on Brandy, check out her website at www.foreverbrandy.com.
Music: New Discs And High Expectations For The Unknown
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Robert Everett-Green
(January 02, 2009) The devil laughs. I mean really, with the economy the way it is, who's to say that the plans and expected doings of musicians and their organizations for the coming year will actually happen?
That said, I'm looking forward to a bunch of new recordings, and the tours that usually go with them, as well as shows that classical outfits committed themselves to a year or more ago. I want to see and hear the Canadian Opera Company's first-ever performances of Dvorak's Rusalka, and I hope that Morrissey will decide he's done his bit for our baby seals and will put some Canadian dates on his forthcoming tour. I want to hear Neko Case wreck the house with that big, almost unrecordable voice of hers, and to take in Opera Pacific's version of Handel's Semele. Most of all, I want to hear some music I don't already know about and can't presently imagine, whether it's by a composer in an electronic studio or a kid in his parents' basement.
New discs are on the agenda for Lily Allen, Metric, Eminem, the Junior Boys, Antony and the Johnsons, Franz Ferdinand, Jenn Grant, the Bad Plus, Andrew Bird, Robyn Hitchcock, the Handsome Furs, Lady Sovereign, Gillian Welch, Carl Newman, Bird and the Bee and Eleni Mandell.
A few young Canadian conductors could be making headlines in 2009. Alain Trudel is planning to raise the National Broadcast Orchestra from the ashes of the CBC Radio Orchestra in the spring, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin will take up his two plum European jobs (principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic) in the fall. Julian Kuerti, who caught a big break when a few Boston Symphony Orchestra gigs fell in his lap, could conceivably make a move for a bigger platform than he has as a BSO assistant conductor.
As for the organizations supporting all this activity, I'm thinking that any ailments that were untreated before the current financial turmoil began are going to get a lot worse. Don't be surprised if we see a few orchestras and opera companies look for their tiny share of the kind of rescue money the federal government is offering the auto industry. And if the people who were making big bucks selling SUVs a year ago are hurting now, what are the prospects for a record industry that has been shrinking for the past decade?
Album Sales Keep Falling
Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press
(January 02, 2009) NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Music sales continued to slump in 2008 as the increased number of downloads of digital tracks failed to make up for a plunge in the sale of compact discs.
Year-end sales figures released Wednesday by The Nielsen Co. show total album sales, including album equivalents made up of single digital tracks, fell to 428.4 million units, down 8.5 per cent from 500.5 million in 2007.
Physical album sales fell 20 per cent to 362.6 million from 450.5 million, while digital album sales rose 32 per cent to a record 65.8 million units.
Digital track sales, such as those conducted in Apple Inc.'s iTunes Music Store, were up 27 per cent from last year, breaking the one billion mark for the first time, reaching 1.07 billion.
The report continues a troubling trend for the recording industry, which has a harder time maintaining profits when consumers buy single songs instead of albums. The number of transactions rose 10.5 per cent, to 1.5 billion, although the figure treats single track and whole album purchases the same.
“You can see the overall unit sales as a positive, but their model is really built on album sales and that just continues to decline,” said Silvio Pietroluongo, director of charts for Billboard magazine.
“Music consumption has never been at a higher clip, it's just a matter of trying to turn it into revenue,” he added.
Some record labels are making progress. Craig Kallman, chief executive of Warner Music Group Corp.'s Atlantic Records, whose artists include Kid Rock and T.I., said his label passed a milestone in the year to September by having its digital revenue exceed that from physical CD sales.
The label, the top-selling in the United States in 2008, has had to become more careful in choosing which artists to promote and more patient in waiting for their songs to break out, he said.
“You have to really be right about your hits. If you're going to invest that amount of time in them and not run as many records, you have to be way more right today than wrong,” Kallman said.
Nielsen SoundScan said album sales fell in every genre. Classical music saw the biggest drop at 26 per cent, followed by country at 24 per cent and Latin at 21.1 per cent.
Taylor Swift was the year's best-selling artist with more than four million albums sold, followed by AC/DC, Lil Wayne and Coldplay. Sugarland finished No. 8.
Swift had two albums on Nielsen's Top 10 sales list: her self-titled debut at No. 6 and her sophomore album Fearless at No. 3.
“Taylor Swift is a great artist development story that started as organically as you can in the digital age,” said Scott Borchetta, president and CEO of her label, Big Machine Records. “It involved online, non-stop radio tours and strategic TV opportunities which led to non-stop touring. But – most importantly – Taylor connected with her fans like no other artist in 2008.”
Lil Wayne had the year's top-selling album, The Carter III, with 2.87 million units sold, with Coldplay's Viva La Vida (2.14 million) and Swift's Fearless (2.11 million) rounding out the top three.
The top selling digital artist was Rihanna with 9.94 million tracks sold, followed by Swift and Kayne West.
Paradoxically, as digital downloads grew, vinyl album sales also climbed. In 2008, more vinyl albums were purchased (1.88 million) than any other year since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.
More than two of every three vinyl albums were purchased at an independent music store during the year, the company reported. The top selling vinyl albums were Radiohead's In Rainbows (26,000 units), the Beatles' Abbey Road (16,500) and Guns 'N Roses' Chinese Democracy (13,600).
Nielsen also reported that music sales exceeded 65 million in the final week of 2008, representing the biggest sales week in the history of Nielsen SoundScan. The previous record was Christmas week of 2007 with 58.4 million music purchases.
Source: Kam Williams
Naturi Cora Maria Naughton was born on May 20, 1984 in East Orange, New Jersey where she started singing in the choir at New Hope Baptist Church at just 5 years of age. She turned pro by 14, when she became a member of the girl band 3LW. The group soon signed with Sony/Epic Records and went on a nationwide tour while their debut album, entitled “3LW,” went platinum, selling 1.3 million copies.
Away from the entertainment business, Naturi always remained an honour student, attending Seton Hall University where she majored in Political Science until her career became too demanding. Just before her junior year, she joined the Broadway production of Hairspray as Little Inez. As gifted as gorgeous newcomer may be, she remains humble and grateful to God for her blessings, and praises her parents for supporting her dreams and for raising her with so much love, encouragement, and faith.
Here, Naturi talks about her performance as Lil’ Kim in the much-anticipated motion picture, Notorious, a bio-pic about the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Christopher Wallace). In addition, she recently landed a lead role in the re-make of the screen version of Fame, the 1980 musical revolving around students at the New York Academy of Performing Arts.
KW: Hi Naturi, thanks for the time.
NN: No problem, thank you.
KW: What interested you in Notorious?
NN: Well first off, just the fact that it was a biopic about Biggie Smalls. I was a fan of Biggie growing up and I felt it was about time that someone told his life story.
KW: What song of his is your favourite?
NN: Juicy! That’s my song.
KW: What did you think of the East Coast-West Coast turf war? Whose side were you on?
NN: I think it was senseless and I am so glad that we have risen above that East Coast- West coast rivalry. I’m from the East but I never felt like I had to choose a side...Both coasts have made great music.
KW: Who do you think killed Biggie?
NN: I have no idea and that’s why his death still hurts so many people to this day. His murder is unsolved.
KW: How would you assess Jamal Woolard’s work in the title role?
NN: Jamal killed it! He captured Biggie so well, it was scary at times. He was made for this role and I had a great time working with him.
KW: How was it to make your screen debut with such a talented cast which also included Angela Bassett, Derek Luke and Anthony Mackie?
NN: Wow! I still can’t believe it. I feel so honoured. These actors are people that I looked up to and admired, and here I am, making my debut in a movie with them. It’s really a dream come true!
KW: How did you prepare to play Lil Kim?
NN: I studied her...HARD! I watched her in videos, stage performances, behind the scenes footage, and listened to her voice in radio interviews. I also read a lot of material that the director [George Tillman Jr.] gave me about Kim’s back story. It helped to understand her struggles as a child growing up in Brooklyn. I even went to Brooklyn and spent time in her neighbourhood. Talking to the guys from Junior Mafia, especially Lil Cease, helped me out a lot too.
KW: Has Kim seen the film? What does she think of your portrayal of her?
NN: I don’t know if she has seen the film, but hopefully when she does see it she will be proud of my portrayal.
KW: Is it true that you’re planning to do a duet with her on your debut album? How would describe your sound?
NN: I don’t actually have an album coming out any time soon. A lot of people are referring to my song “Real Chicks” which was a song I wrote and recorded way before I even knew about Notorious. It’s crazy because, back then, I was working with producers from “Full Force” and we thought it’d be hot to get Lil Kim to do a verse on the song. So they made it happen. We never actually did that song in the studio together, though—the song was done and then we put Lil Kim on it. But this all happened over a year before my first audition for “Notorious”. Little did I know that I would soon be playing her in a movie. I am still looking forward to doing solo music. I am just waiting on the right situation and the right team to put it all together. I don’t just want a deal...I want a GOOD deal, so sometimes you have to be patient for that to come around. But when I make my album, it will be R&B with sprinkles of Hip Hop.
KW: You got your start in showbiz in music as a member of 3LW. How hard was the transition from singing to acting?
NN: I must admit, it is challenging and requires a lot of hard work. Growing up, though, I always knew I would be a singer and an actress. I just felt it! To me, singing and acting have always gone hand and hand. Even though my career started off as a singer, there is still a level of acting you have to bring to be an artist. Singers have a lot in common with actors because you have to dig deep into a song and show the audience what you are feeling as you sing. You have to be expressive and vulnerable as a singer which is some of the things you have to do to be a good actor. I’m still learning what it takes to be a great actress, but I don’t feel like I am in completely foreign territory.
KW: Which do you prefer at this point?
NN: I want it all! I love to sing...it’s in my heart and it’s a major part of who I am. But I also love to act...its organic. Growing up all my friends used to say “Naturi, you are soooooo dramatic!”.and I would think to myself, “Thank you!” [LOL]
KW: You’ve been on Broadway playing Little Inez in Hairspray for a couple of years. Are you going to have to leave the show in order to be able star in the remake of Fame?
NN: I have been on Broadway for two and one-half years. First off, I am so blessed to have maintained a Broadway gig that long. I loved my experience in Hairspray and I credit a lot of my acting success to that experience. I learned so much. But all good things must come to an end. I left the show on October 12th to take the role of Denise” in MGM’s Fame. I had a great run and I’m excited to start this new chapter of my life. I have recently started shooting for Fame and it’s been a blast. I’m so excited to be a part of such an amazing project.
KW: How do you feel about Barack Obama’s becoming President of the United States?
NN: I feel so inspired because he achieved something that so many people said was unattainable. I feel triumphant! I voted for Obama and as a young person, it feels good to be a part of history. I believe in change and so many other things that he represents.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
NN: Extremely happy, thank God! Both personally and professionally.
KW. The “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan question: Where in L.A. do you live when you’re out there?
NN: I just keep it simple. I have a nice apartment right outside of L.A. I’m enjoying my experience out in LA. I am mad they don’t have a “Roscoes” back home in Jersey! [LOL]
KW: You’re originally from East Orange, New Jersey. Do you still have family there or live there yourself?
NN: I was born and raised there and most of my family still lives there.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
NN: Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
NN: A lot of times...this is a scary business.
KW: Is there a question no one ever asks you that you wish someone would?
NN: Umm, I don’t think so.
KW: Music maven Heather Covington’s question: What music are you listening to nowadays?
NN: I love Beyonce’s new album, I Am… Sasha Fierce. The song Halo is great!
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
NN: My advice is to be prepared for rejection, but never let people tell you that you can’t do something. If you think Big...you can achieve BIG!
KW: Rudy Lewis asks: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
NN: Barack Obama!
KW: Do you have a website where fans go to hear a sample of your singing?
NN: Actually, yes. Go check out my MySpace page: www.myspace.com/naturinaughton. The song with Lil Kim, “Real Chicks” is on there and a few others.
KW: Do you answer your fan mail?
NN: Yes, I do, on my MySpace. If it wasn’t for the fans, I would not still be here. They’re dedicated to me and I am dedicated to them.
KW: How do you want to be remembered?
NN: Professionally, I want to be remembered for how hard I worked and how I put my heart and soul into my work. Personally: I want people to remember my heart. I hope they say, “She really loved people!”
KW: Thanks again for the interview, and best of luck with all your endeavours.
NN: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Outlines 2009 Schedule
(January 2, 2009) *Prince has revealed that his plans for 2009 include the release of three new albums, including an electro-flavoured solo effort tentatively titled MPLSOUND that was recorded at Paisley Park Studios.
"Prince experimented with Pro Tools and 'new ways of recording' on these trippy, experimental pop songs," reports Ann Flowers of the Los Angeles Times music blog Pop & Hiss. "One features a Q-Tip rap; another calls a 'Funky Congregation' to worship and may become a live set piece."
He also plans to drop a guitar-driven album titled 'Lotus Flower," sometime this year, an album previewed earlier this month on Indie 103.1. "Prince said he refocused on his playing while performing live dates with the singer Tamar Davis in 2006; with the spotlight trained on someone else, he could fall back in love with solos and riffs," writes Flowers. "'Lotus Flower' is a varied album, featuring cuts recorded over the course of two years, but standout tracks include some heavy rockers -- especially the apocalyptic 'Dreamer,'" which Prince said was partly inspired by radical comedian Dick Gregory.
This year, the artist also plans to introduce his newest singing protégé. "We got sick of waiting for Sade to make a new album," Prince said, introducing Bria Valente's new album, "Elixir." Flowers writes of the disc: "The tracks are chill, with Valente's buttery voice melding with beats by Morris Hayes and Prince's guitar lines. Some are explicitly sexual."
"This music is nasty, but it's not dirty," Prince said, explaining how sensual music fits in with his much-discussed Jehovah's Witness faith. "There's no profanity. It isn't promoting promiscuity. She's singing about her lover, who could be her partner for life."
He also addressed quotes from a recent New Yorker interview that made national headlines, among them, his refusal to vote in the November election because of his religion.
"I didn't vote for Obama either," he explained to the Times. "Jehovah's Witnesses haven't voted for their whole inception."
Prince felt the New Yorker piece wrongly implied that he supported California's gay-marriage ban. "I have friends that are gay and we study the Bible together," he told Flowers, adding that the two sides fighting "only benefit the third person" who instigated the fight.
Apple Unlocks ITunes, Offers 69-Cent Songs
Source: www.thestar.com - Jessica Mintz, The Associated Press
(January 07, 2009) SAN FRANCISCO–Apple Inc. is cutting the price of some songs in its market-leading iTunes online store to as little as 69 cents and plans to make every track available without copy protection.
In Apple's final appearance at the Macworld trade show, Apple's top marketing executive, Philip Schiller, said Tuesday that iTunes song prices will come in three tiers: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29. Record companies will choose the prices, which marks a significant change, since Apple previously made all songs sell for 99 cents.
Apple gave the record labels that flexibility on pricing as it got them to agree to sell all songs free of "digital rights management," or DRM, technology that limits people's ability to copy songs or move them to multiple computers. Apple had been offering a limited selection of songs without DRM, but by the end of this quarter, the company said, all 10 million songs in its library will be available that way.
While iTunes is the most popular digital music store, others have been faster to offer more songs without copy protection. Amazon.com Inc. started selling DRM-free music downloads in 2007 and swayed all the major labels to sign on in less than a year.
Schiller also announced that iPhone 3G users will be able to buy songs from the iTunes store using the cellular data network. Previously, iPhone users could shop for tunes when connected to a Wi-Fi hot spot.
The iTunes changes marked the highlights of Schiller's run as a stand-in for CEO Steve Jobs, who used to make Macworld the site for some of Apple's biggest product unveilings, such as the iPhone. Apple said last month that Jobs would not address the throngs this time because the company plans to pull out of Macworld next year.
Apple shares slipped $1.56, or 1.7 per cent, to close at $93.02.
Schiller got a warm welcome from the attendees – who packed the convention hall despite the pall cast over the industry by the economic downturn – especially at the start of his talk, when he thanked them for showing up despite Jobs' notable absence. He ran seamlessly through his 90-minute presentation, getting applause and oohs from the audience, varying little from the format of slides and demos established by Jobs. And like Jobs, he gushed about Apple's products being the best in the world.
"Phil did an exceptionally good job in representing Apple,'' said Tim Bajarin, president of technology analyst group Creative Strategies Inc.
Lower iTunes prices were Apple's only nod to the recession – and an oblique one at that, as record labels have been asking for years to set varying song prices. Rather than an inexpensive new Mac to lure budget-conscious buyers, Schiller unveiled a new $2,800 Macbook Pro laptop with a 17-inch screen and the sleek aluminum casing the company debuted with the super-thin Macbook Air.
He also unwrapped new versions of two software packages for Macs, including the iLife multimedia programs. For instance, iPhoto '09 can recognize faces and sort photos based on who's in them. GarageBand '09 includes videotaped, interactive music lessons given by Sting and other musicians. Apple added more professional video editing features to iMovie '09.
Apple's answer to Microsoft Corp.'s Office productivity suite, called iWork, also got a makeover, including zippy new ways to add animation between slides in the Keynote presentation software. And Apple unveiled a "beta" test version of a Web site for sharing documents, iWork.com. Unlike Google Inc.'s online documents program, however, Apple's version does not allow people to edit documents in a Web browser.
Apple said the thin new 17-inch aluminum-cased Macbook Pro, which joins an existing 15-inch model, will start shipping at the end of January. Perhaps the biggest twist is the laptop's battery, which is designed to last longer on each charge – up to seven or eight hours – and work after more charges than older batteries. But like Apple's iPod and the super-slim Macbook Air, the battery will be sealed inside and the owners won't be able to remove and replace it themselves. Instead, they'll have to spend $179 to have an Apple store expert swap in a new one.
Jobs' decision not to attend Macworld sparked a new round of fears that the CEO, a survivor of pancreatic cancer who has seemed gaunt in recent appearances, was in worsening health. To put the questions to rest, Jobs said Monday he is getting treatment for a hormone imbalance that caused him to lose weight, and urged Macworld attendees to relax and enjoy the show.
And after the Tuesday keynote, in which nothing purely new was disclosed, the company's decision to substitute veteran salesman Schiller for master showman Jobs seemed even less questionable.
Opera Company Makes Bold Choice With New Director
Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic
(January 07, 2009) The Canadian Opera Company has succeeded in not only steadying itself but is walking boldly toward the future less than 18 months following the sudden death of its general director Richard Bradshaw.
Today, as the company raised the curtain on its 2009-10 season, new general director Alexander Neef also announced the appointment of a new music director, 34-year-old German conductor Johannes Debus.
The next season, the company's 60th, relies on sure-fire box-office draws and a couple of more daring efforts – one led by star director Robert Lepage, back for the first time since 1993.
The company has also invited a famous alumnus, tenor Ben Heppner, for a one-night solo recital with the COC Orchestra on Nov. 7.
Debus will conduct the Heppner concert, as well as a production of Richard Wagner's The Flying Dutchman in April and May, 2010.
The new season begins Sept. 26 with a revival of an old-chestnut, Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. Neef says the company is doubling the cast and adding seven performances to the run. Since the COC sells approximately 75 per cent of its tickets to subscribers, this will give more single-ticket buyers a chance to experience the Four Seasons Centre.
Madama Butterfly is paired in repertory with the Lepage project, The Nightingale and Other Short Fables, built around three short operas by Igor Stravinsky.
The new year in 2010 begins with Georges Bizet's Carmen and a new production of Otello by Giuseppe Verdi featuring star American tenor Clifton Forbis. These are followed by The Flying Dutchman and the first fully staged Canadian production of Maria Stuarda by bel canto master Gaetano Donizetti. The season closes with a new production of Mozart's Idomeneo, featuring soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, mezzo Krisztina Szabó and tenor Paul Groves.
Canadian singers are well represented throughout the season.
Instead of being featured in their own production, members of the COC Ensemble Studio will take over one performance of Idomeneo, giving them the opportunity to sing on the company's main stage.
The atmosphere at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts was almost giddy as Neef introduced conductor Debus.
"I didn't expect to be announcing a new music director today," he said of a hiring process that he expected would take another couple of years. "But we had to take advantage of this opportunity."
Debus, who recently completed 10 years in increasingly more responsible musical positions with Frankfurt Opera, was the conductor for the COC's critically lauded production of War & Peace last fall.
By the time Neef sat down to listen to a rehearsal with Debus, the conductor had already charmed the orchestra – a spell that made its way through the company and out into the audience once the curtain rose.
"The chemistry was amazing," said Neef. "I felt we had to act quickly."
This decisive leadership earned praise from COC Orchestra concertmaster Marie Bérard. "We're so happy to have a director who can seize the ball," she said.
In his remarks, Debus commented on the positive atmosphere he encountered during his two-month War & Peace engagement. "There is a team spirit that's essential to making opera," he said.
Debus, who lives in Berlin, will begin taking on the administrative side of the music director's job almost immediately. He says he is considering moving to Toronto, but will not make a decision until sometime next year.
Although the music director is not expected to conduct all of the company's productions, he does have input in the company's choice of future repertoire and guest conductors.
We Remember Bernie Hamilton & Vincent Ford
(January 2, 2009) *Bernie Hamilton, the actor who played the no-nonsense police captain on the 1970s TV series "Starsky and Hutch," has passed away. He was 80. His son, Raoul Hamilton, said his father died of cardiac arrest Tuesday night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Hamilton appeared in more than 20 films, including "The Young One," "The Devil at 4 O'Clock," "Synanon," "The Swimmer," "Walk the Walk" and "The Organization." *Vincent Ford, a songwriter credited with composing the Bob Marley reggae classic "No Woman, No Cry," died Sunday at a hospital in Jamaica of complications from diabetes. He was 68. The song, which appeared on Marley's 1974 "Natty Dread" album, was inspired by the Kingston ghetto of Trench Town where Marley and Ford lived in the 1960s, reports the Associated Press. Although Ford is credited with the song, some critics believe that Marley penned it himself but gave Ford the credit to help his friend support himself with the royalties. Ford, who ran a soup kitchen and lost both his legs to diabetes, is also credited with three songs on Marley's 1976 album "Rastaman Vibration."
Bass Behind An 'N Sync Reunion
Source: www.thestar.com - Billboard.com
(January 06, 2009) He may be dancing with the stars this winter, but Lance Bass says he can foresee an 'N Sync reunion somewhere down the road. "I mean, I hope so," says Bass, who's on the road as part of the Dancing With the Stars live tour after finishing third in the ABC reality show's seventh season. "You never know what the other guys are going to be able to do or what they're thinking, but I hope in the next few years we would definitely be able to do another tour and another album." Bass says he considers 'N Sync's separation, "definitely a ... very long hiatus," and the length of the break has surprised most of the group members. "We didn't know where our different careers would take us and we especially didn't know that Justin Timberlake's career was gonna take off like that. There's no way we'd ever stand in his way. We talk all the time and are always involved in each other's careers." Post 'N Sync, Bass trained to be certified as a Russian cosmonaut and still hopes to fly one day to the International Space Station.
Bedouin Soundclash's Drummer Quits Band
Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(January 07, 2009) Bedouin Soundclash has lost one of its founding members. Drummer Pat Pengelly has decided to leave the trio, according to a release from the band's management. Frontman Jay Malinowski and bassist Eon Sinclair will continue on in the group. "All three are grateful for each other's friendship and contribution to the band, and will continue to support each other moving forward," read the statement. The Kingston, Ont., band released its third album, "Street Gospels," in 2007. Their debut, "Root Fire," came out in 2001. The band will go ahead without Pengelly for their Feb. 7 date at the Hillside Inside Festival in Guelph, Ont., and for their five-date festival tour of Australia at the end of the month. The band's spokesperson couldn't confirm who would round out the group for those performances.
Stooges Guitarist Ron Asheton Found Dead
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Reuters
(January 07, 2009) DETROIT — Ron Asheton, a guitarist and founding member of the influential rock band The Stooges, was found dead at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Tuesday, police said. Asheton, 60, was found on his couch and appeared to have been dead for several days, Ann Arbor Police Sergeant Brad Hill said. “We do not expect foul play,” Sgt. Hill said. Police were called to Asheton's home shortly after midnight after an acquaintance reported that he had been unable to contact him for several days. Stooges frontman Iggy Pop, who went on to enjoy a successful solo career, said in a statement that he was in shock about the death of “my best friend.” The Stooges formed in 1967, with the line-up rounded out by Asheton's brother Scott on drums and the late Dave Alexander on bass. Known for a violent and primitive style that featured stage-diving and outrageous antics by Pop, The Stooges were part of a late 1960s Detroit-area rock scene that also included the MC5. They broke up in 1974 after three now-classic albums, limited commercial success and mounting drug problems for Pop. But backed by Asheton's guitar riffs on songs such as I Wanna Be Your Dog and TV Eye, the band's music has been credited as a powerful influence on a wide range of punk and alternative bands including The Sex Pistols, The Ramones and The White Stripes. “As a musician Ron was The Guitar God, idol to follow and inspire others,” Pop and the Stooges said in a statement. “That is how he will be remembered by people who had a great pleasure to work with him, learn from him and share good and bad times with him.” After The Stooges broke up, Asheton acted in a series of low-budget horror films in the 1980s and 1990s. Asheton, ranked as the 29th greatest rock guitarist by Rolling Stone, rejoined The Stooges when the band reunited in 2003 and for the 2007 comeback album, The Weirdness. The band has been nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Lil Wayne's 'Carter III' Is 2008's Top Seller
(January 07, 2009) *Rapper Lil Wayne's latest CD, "Tha Carter III," sold almost 3 million copies last year to become 2008's best-selling album. However, its 2.88 million copies marks the first time since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991 that the best-selling album of a calendar year has moved less than 3 million copies, according to Billboard. Also among 2008's Top 10 best-selling albums are T.I.'s "Paper Trail" at No. 8 and Beyonce's "I Am ... Sasha Fierce" at No. 10 with 1.46 million. The rest of the top ten is as follows: Coldplay's "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends" ranked No. 2, followed by Taylor Swift's "Fearless" at No. 3, Kid Rock's "Rock N Roll Jesus" at No. 4, AC/DC's "Black Ice" at No. 5, Swift's self-titled debut at No. 6, Metallica's "Death Magnetic" at No. 7 and Jack Johnson's "Sleep Through the Static" at No. 9. Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" was 2008's best-selling digital album, and Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" was the year's best-selling digital track, according to Nielsen SoundScan's year-end data.
Ohio Players Founder Robert Ward Dies
(January 07, 2009) *Robert Ward, a vocalist and guitarist who played with various Motown acts and founded the R&B/funk band Ohio Players, died on Christmas day at his home in Dry Branch in central Georgia, reports the Associated Press. He was 70. His wife, Roberta, told the Telegraph of Macon that her husband had suffered a stroke in 2001 and never fully recovered. The Georgia native moved to Ohio and in 1959 founded the Ohio Untouchables, which later became the Ohio Players. Ward left the group well before its resurgence in the 70s with such No. 1 hits as "Fire" and "Love Rollercoaster." During that decade, Ward moved to Detroit where he performed with the Temptations, Wilson Pickett and other Motown artists. The one-time blues musician recorded multiple albums over his career, starting in 1991 with "Fear No Evil." His last album, "New Role Soul," was released in 2000.
Nicole Brooks Gets Canada's Black
Experiences On Film
Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Chris Penrose
(Winter issue) When Nicole Brooks began studying film 10 years ago in Ottawa, it was clear that her interests, voice and personality were not reflected in Canada's film industry. During one instance, Brooks put in a proposal to her professor to examine Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues. Permission was denied on the basis that the professor had not seen the film, so he could not grade her work. Rather than accept this response, Nicole provided the professor with a copy for him to watch (which he did). Throughout the rest of the year, Nicole recalls, Mo' Better Blues became a regular topic in the course.
It was during that period of study that Brooks began to question the absence of Canada's black stories within the widely recognized cannon of Canadian film.
"While I related to Spike Lee's movies or John Singleton's Boyz n the Hood, I wondered, where's my story?" she says. "The answer to that question, in large part, came from strong mentorship, relationships and influence from black Canadian film and television pioneers such as Claire Prieto, Karen King, Clement Virgo and Joan Jenkinson. Through those interactions, it became clear that my career vision and conviction was to tell black stories."
Brooks has stayed true to her vision. As the co-creator of ECHO, a profile series that features the individual success stories of Torontonians from multicultural ethnic backgrounds, Brooks is bringing private success to the public sphere. Her most recent project, a documentary slated for release in early 2009, brings to the screen the life of Lincoln Alexander, Canada's first black member of parliament.
"I began studying him and I realized what he was able to accomplish in such turbulent times. He was elected in 1968, the year that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. As I began to look at how that was possible at that time, it raised a lot of questions."
The project, tentatively titled A Linc in Time, will give viewers insight into the life of the highly decorated living legend, who has worked tirelessly to advocate for equality for all Canadians, and whose impact on Canadian society is little-known. "In essence, his life became a beacon," Brooks says. "His life lights a path into Canadian history."
The Film Strip: Jamal Woolard
Is Biggie On The Big Screen In 'Notorious'
Source: www.eurweb.com - By Marie Moore
(January 2, 2009) Angela Bassett says rap is like films, Voletta Wallace ponders the call Biggie received from Tupac, Samuel Jackson takes charge of his character in the ‘Spirit’ while Gabriel Macht brings hope, Tom Cruise tells why it’s important not to listen to other people, and Leonard DiCaprio shows a side never seen before.
*Just before the holidays more celebs than usual were in town to talk about their films and The Film Strip was there up close and personal to ask them about their projects. Brooklynite Jamal Woolard is Christopher “Biggie” Wallace in “Notorious” and his main concern was to be convincing.
“I just wanted to make sure I got it right,” he says. “It was just a matter of being a perfectionist with what I was doing, playing this iconic figure and what he meant to Brooklyn and the world. The pressure, the pressure.
One thing Woolard explained he didn’t get, even after looking at a lot of footage of Biggie, was the man.
“I couldn’t get the man. I would only get the Notorious Big, the iconic figure that we know. I couldn’t get behind the glasses or the wall ‘cause he had a shield up at all times. He was always silly when he was around his boys. Other than that, when it was camera time or media time, he’s like a still picture.
“It’s a blessing how things turned out. In high school I always had a dream to be a rapper and who wouldn’t want to be Big, you know? It’s just amazing how it turned out. It’s a beautiful thing.
“And you ask if there is a message in this film and will it influence my own lyrics, the answer is yes. In the film it was how to be a man. Definitely the message is how to be a man. From the vulnerabilities of a boy and how to treat his mother to the idea that money doesn’t make the man.
“With reference to my lyrics, we both come from the same struggle. We all got dreams to be something in life and whether you live it or not, you still have responsibilities as a man to uphold when you have kids. The similarities of me and big is that he had his daughter when he got his first big break with Bad Boy Records and I had my daughter on set for my first big break. I had my daughter March 10th and he died on March 9th. Yeah, it’s crazy.”
Even crazier are some of the things that have happened in Woolard’s life. In response to the Hot 97 incident he replies, “Don’t know anything about that situation.”
Angela Bassett, who plays Biggie’s mom in the movie and his real life mother, Voletta Wallace, sat together and rapped about the man and the music. Bassett was drawn to the script because of “the strength of this woman,” looking at Wallace when she said it. “I specifically asked that she play me,” Wallace offered,” and was very excited when she agreed.”
Angela, did you walk away with a different opinion of rap music after doing this film?
“I don’t think so,” she mused. I recognize that there is some that is very good and some that’s not so good. There’s some that has a depth and complexity to it and some that’s just fluff, you know what I Mean? It’s just like filmmaking. There are some films that have a depth and complexity and some that are a cobbling together of pieces we’ve seen and heard from this, that and the other. Because it’s on record is it music that can endure? There are some films that are art and they endure. Art endures. So there is some rap that endures, it’s telling. And then there is some that I really don’t need to subject my ears to.”
As would be expected with most parents, Ms. Wallace did not understand her son’s music either.
“There were days at home sometimes I heard things in the room. I called it noise [laughs]. I didn’t know what it was. I thought maybe the radio was playing something and then they would talk. One day he opened the door and he said to me, ‘Mom, we’re not making noise. That’s music. I said, ‘Oh my God. What kind of music is that? Mom, that’s called rap music. To me music was singing and he said, ‘Mom, I don’t sing, I rap!’ So over the years I tolerated the noise [laughs].”
Could a call to Biggie change the events of their lives? Voletta Wallace remembered Biggie getting a call from Tupac when he was out of state and being upset he wasn’t there to get it.
“I said Christopher why would you want to do something like [call him back] when he’s saying terrible things about you? He said, ‘Mom, that’s why I wanted to talk to him.'”
Samuel Jackson’s latest film is “The Spirit” and he’s more excited, it seems, than he’s been about all his other films because he had a lot to do with his character’s development.
“It’s quite an honour to actually walk into a situation and put flesh and blood to a character and I thank Frank [Miller] for that opportunity,” he beamed. “He gave me license to pretty much be as demented and as ingenious and as funny as I wanted to be. So I kind of took that as my license to do all the things that I’ve ever wanted to do in a film and chew as much scenery as I felt like chewing and not be criticized for it.”
The ads read, “He's [The Spirit] something the world needs.” What does the world have too much of and not enough of, The Film Strip asked The Spirit in the body of the film’s star, Gabriel Macht?
“Selfishness and a little bit of self-involvement. I think the world could use a little more goodness and outreach. There’s a lot of fear going on it seems The Spirit is the essence of goodness and the return of goodness to the city. With the downturn of the economy and the war, the world could use some more goodness.”
Could it be a coincidence that a man with the name of an angel gets to star in a film that opens on Christmas day?
“I do believe that things do happen for a reason,” he laughs, “but I don’t know if it was meant for me specifically to play this part. I can tell you it was an incredible opportunity to be given this part and I just had an incredible time working with everyone. It was just a blast. It’s an actor’s dream to be able to play a crime fighter like this who fights a notorious criminal mastermind and tangles with beautiful women, yeah.”
“Valkyrie” is a film dealing with an assassination plot against Hitler during WWII, so I asked Tom Cruise, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg in the film, why is this film relevant today?
“I tell you when I first read it, I thought it was an incredible suspense thriller.” But what’s more important, he imparted was the message it delivered. “As a father there was something that struck me to the core because I have an incredible relationship with my children and to be able to discuss anything and everything is imperative. The way that I was raised you were encouraged to think for yourself. That no matter what people are saying or what images are coming at you, I was always encouraged to think for myself as an individual, and not going just with the crowd, the masses.”
One of the reasons Hitler rose in Germany, Tom alluded to was the fact that “People weren’t standing up to this insanity and tyranny…and children were being educated and inculcated into that craziness. Also, I love the stories of the little fish swimming upstream against insurmountable odds and this was a true story.”
In “Revolutionary Road” Leonardo DiCaprio is like I’ve never seen him before. And it wasn’t just me who saw this. Asking Kate Winslet, his co-star who starred with him in “Titanic,” if she noticed anything different in his performance this time, she concurred.
“I was seeing someone for whom I have so much respect doing things as an actor that I have never seen him do before and morph his face into positions that I've never seen him morph his face into as an actor and as a person. There were many moments like that pretty much every single day.”
And of course, Leo had nothing but kind words to say for Kate.
“As far as how Kate has changed or not changed, I think the truth of the matter is she's always sort of had that pursuit of excellence within the characters that she plays. She's got an unbelievable work ethic that she's retained ever since I knew her in her early twenties. Kate and I have remained close friends for many, many years. Since that film [‘Titanic’] I think we've both been actively looking for the right project to do. The fact that Sam [Mendes] was attached to this, the fact that this was a great piece of material and such a departure from what we'd done before, that it wasn't at all treading on similar territory which we know is a complete setup for disaster, this was the right project.”
Film Critics Pick Sean Penn As Best Actor
Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Michaud, Reuters News Agency
(January 03, 2009) NEW YORK – Sean Penn, who stars in Milk, and Happy-Go-Lucky's Sally Hawkins were named best actor and actress Saturday by the National Society of Film Critics, positioning them as front-runners for next month's Academy Awards.
The critics' association chose Waltz With Bashir as the year's best film in a surprise move. Other film associations had picked Slumdog Millionaire, Milk or Wall-E.
Israeli director Ari Folman's memoir of his years as a soldier during the 1982 war with Lebanon, Waltz With Bashir has been described as an animated documentary. The New York Times calls it "an altogether amazing film."
Happy-Go-Lucky, about a cheerily optimistic schoolteacher in North London, also won best director and best screenplay honours for Mike Leigh, as well as best supporting actor for Eddie Marsan.
Penn's award, one of several prizes ahead of February's Oscars, was for his acclaimed performance as San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, a gay rights leader who was assassinated along with the city's mayor by a fellow politician in 1978.
Best supporting actress went to veteran Hanna Schygulla for The Edge of Heaven, while Man on Wire, the story of a daredevil's walk across a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974, was named best documentary.
Slumdog Millionaire won for best cinematography. Ken Jacobs' Razzle Dazzle was named best experimental film.
The National Society of Film Critics includes members from major newspapers in Los Angeles, Boston, New York and Chicago as well as from Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker and Salon.com.
Critics' awards help build momentum heading toward the Academy Awards, or Oscars, which are the world's top film awards given out on the final Sunday in February by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Shut out of the 43rd annual awards were highly touted films including Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino and The Curious Tale of Benjamin Button. Both are seen as front-runners in several Oscar categories.
The organization's special Film Heritage awards went to Criterion for Samuel Fuller's 1982 film White Dog; Kent MacKenzie's 1961 film The Exiles; Flicker Alley, which distributes rare silent films; and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment for its DVD boxed set, Murnau, Borzage and Fox.
The Script Stops Here
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald
(January 06, 2009) Every aspiring Canadian filmmaker knows the multitude of hoops they have to jump through to get a thumbs-up for financing from Telefilm Canada.
But some probably don't know where the buck stops: that the woman sitting atop the decision-making heap for the English Canadian market is 35-year-old Stephanie Azam – a commerce grad and married mother of one who shot into this plum, but extremely daunting, job last fall.
In an interview at Telefilm's Toronto headquarters, Azam, who was appointed the new feature film executive for the English-language market last September, exudes a quiet confidence as she talks about her love of film – especially the movies made in this country. And she readily concedes Canadian filmmakers face huge box-office challenges on account of all the Hollywood product inundating Canadian screens.
But while she comes across as a calm, practically minded sort, make no mistake: Azam is hell-bent on shaking up English Canada's moribund film sector, which currently accounts for less than 1 per cent of total Canadian box office, excluding Quebec. (With La belle province in the picture, that figure is 2.3 per cent of overall gross).
“Before I green-light anything, I make sure we say, so who's our audience? Who is actually going to see this film? It may be a wonderful story, but if it doesn't attract bums to the seats, then we've only done half our job. And that's not good enough.
“My No. 1 priority is making – or surpassing – our box-office targets,” which she has set at 1.5 to 2 per cent of box office in 18 months in English Canada.
“Telefilm has been criticized by some who say we are making commercial stuff now. Well, what does commercial mean?” she asks. “For me, commercial means we are going to find an audience for our films. That people are going to want to pay to see our movies. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's very healthy for our industry to be going for that. It doesn't mean we won't make auteur-driven films. One does not exclude the other. I just believe we can make a Juno or a Little Miss Sunshine.”
Azam is the point person at Telefilm for English-language filmmakers, and is responsible for all investments over $1.5-million in the Canada Feature Film Fund. Her total annual budget is $15.1-million.
Working closely with her regional offices, she spends her days reading scripts, talking to people in the industry about upcoming ventures, meeting with creative teams about their projects and, most significantly, keeping an eye out for that one special team, that one special script.
By the close of Telefilm's current fiscal year, which ends March 31, Azam and her regional teams expect that English-Canadian films will ring in $9.5-million in domestic ticket sales. So far, that figure sits at about $8-million ($4.3-million of it generated by Paul Gross's Passchendaele).
But she is confident they will reach the goal with the imminent release of several promising features, including Atom Egoyan's Adoration (nominated for a Palme d'or last year at Cannes, and winner of the Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival) and Kari Skogland's Fifty Dead Men Walking (which premiered at TIFF in 2008 to much critical praise).
Prior to joining Telefilm in January, 2008, Azam worked for five years at New York's auteur-driven Zeitgeist Films (distributor of The Corporation and the Academy Award-nominated Nowhere in Africa). “Working at Zeitgeist was very similar to what we're doing here in the Canadian film business,” asserts the Ottawa-born business grad, who also spent four years at Canada's Business Development Bank. “We're up against all the studio films so, in a sense, all our films are indie films.”
That experience made her the top candidate for her first job at the federal funding agency in January, 2008, as national marketing specialist for the English-language market. The first thing she did was to invite various Canadian distributors and exhibitors out for lunch, primarily to ensure the various factions would start working more co-operatively than they have in the past.
“Distributors are really our clients because they receive public money from Telefilm to release our films,” Azam explains. “I was the relationship person there. And I think we got to a level where I managed to make an impact with them.”
Indeed, Alliance Films' Mark Slone calls Azam a breath of fresh air, adding that “the first thing she expressed to me was her desire to end a history of adversarial relationships between distributors and Telefilm.
“Telefilm's goal is not a return on investment, but achievement on gross box office. She wants us all to work together to figure out a way to build a film industry in Canada that isn't resting on the shoulders of a few filmmakers who choose to stay here,” Slone adds. “Stephanie comes from a very realistic position and a marketplace-driven position. She's not a bureaucrat. She's someone who had to fight in the trenches of New York.”
In 2006, Telefilm executive director Wayne Clarkson appointed his first so-called English-Canadian film czar (Azam's predecessor), a Los Angeles studio executive named Michael Jenkinson, who was introduced to Canada's film industry at a splashy event. But shortly after accepting the position, Jenkinson changed his mind, leaving Clarkson red-faced as well as in the unenviable position of having to do his own job as well as the feature film executive post.
He chose Azam for her professional background, particularly her marketing/distribution savvy. “Our primary objective is more Canadians seeing more Canadian films. That's the fundamental principle that will drive Stephanie. It's not something that she will change easily – or overnight – but I promise you, you will begin to see her influence next fall for sure.”
“I want to find the quirky comedies, the moving Canadian stories, the little film that could,” Azam says. “It's not easy – and those films don't come around all the time – but I think we can do more of those.
“We've told them in the past. And I know that we can tell more of them. In fact, those are the kinds of films that have opened the door, in terms of audiences. More than ever, those are the kinds of films audiences want. And we have the talent – including a whole new creative generation – to pull this off.”
DiCaprio, Eastwood Among Palm Springs Film Winners
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Michael Cidoni, Associated Press
(January 07, 2009) PALM SPRINGS, CALIF. — The world economy is in dire straits, but you sure wouldn't know it from the red carpet at the 20th-annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala. The actresses were dripping with jewels, actors donned high fashion, and logos of jeweller Cartier and auto maker Mercedes-Benz loomed large behind all as they posed for photographers.
“I'm just doing what I know how to do, and that's make movies and hopefully get people to go see them so I can continue to make more movies,” said actor Leonardo DiCaprio, when asked if he felt uncomfortable in this setting, given widespread financial woes.
DiCaprio was on hand Tuesday night to accept the fest's Ensemble Performance Award for the drama Revolutionary Road, for which he's a nominee at Sunday's Golden Globes.
This year's other Palm Springs honourees included many who are widely considered strong Oscar contenders, including The Changeling director and Gran Torino star and director Clint Eastwood, who showed up to take home the Career Achievement Award.
Milk actor Sean Penn and Rachel Getting Married actor Anne Hathaway each came to pick up a Desert Palm Achievement Award.
Is Hathaway ready for eight more weeks of awards-show mania, ending with the Oscars on Feb. 22?
“I've decided to keep a journal about it, and write down my reflections every night. Because I know that if I don't do that now, when I look back, I won't be able to remember things so clearly,” Hathaway said. “So I think that's what I'm going to do.”
The Oscar-winning Penn summed up the red-carpet experience in two words — “It's loud!” — and Eastwood had only a few more. “Once in a while it's fine,” he said. “But, after a while, you go blind by the time they hit you with about 400 flashbulbs.”
Awards Gala presenters included Frost/Nixon star Frank Langella, there to give the film's director Ron Howard the Director's Lifetime Achievement Award, and actor Ben Stiller to hand his Meet the Fockers co-star Dustin Hoffman the Chairman's Awards.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button composer Alexandre Desplat received his statuette from Button actor Taraji P. Hanson — herself an awards-show veteran, thanks to her role in the acclaimed Hustle and Flow.
The red carpet is “a lot of work and I really would like to find out who said it was all glamorous and I'd like to kick them in their shins because it's not so glamorous,” Hanson noted. “You have to be on, you have to be personality, you know, even if you don't feel like it.”
Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg Wins $10,000 Prize
Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(January 06, 2009) Guy Maddin's bizarre, fantastical tribute to his hometown, My Winnipeg, has won a new $10,000 film prize.
The avant-garde director was given the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award, presented by the Toronto Film Critics Association. A gala dinner was scheduled Tuesday to recognize the association's favourite releases of 2008.
Sarah Polley, whose film, Away From Her was named best Canadian feature last year, was due to present the award to Maddin in front of an audience expected to include heavyweight filmmakers including Atom Egoyan, Robert Lantos, Bruce McDonald and Don McKellar.
Other films in the running were Stephane Lafleur's film, Continental: A Film Without Guns, and Yung Chang's acclaimed documentary Up the Yangtze, about the issues surrounding the Three Gorges Dam in China.
"Our three finalists for the year's Best Canadian Film are all strongly evocative tales of characters adrift in manufactured landscapes," association president Brian Johnson, film critic for Maclean's magazine, said in a release.
"My Winnipeg gleefully obliterates the line between fact and fiction, documentary and drama between lucid memoir and fevered dream. It's an exquisitely Canadian film that has won praise from around the world, and we are pleased to add our voice to the acclaim with this inaugural prize."
Established in 1997, the Toronto Film Critics Association is comprised of Toronto-based journalists and broadcasters who specialize in film criticism and commentary.
12 Must-See Movies For '09
Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell, Movie Critic
(January 02, 2009) Polytechnique (Feb. 6)
A drama to dread as much as to anticipate, dealing with a horrific chapter of Canadian history still fresh in many minds: the Montreal Massacre of Dec. 6, 1989, when 14 women were killed, and 10 women and four men injured, by deranged gunman Marc Lépine at the École Polytechnique.
Filmed last year in Montreal under tight security, it demands attention. Will it provide insights, as Gus Van Sant's Elephant did for the Columbine school shootings, or just be seen as exploitation?
"Everybody I know is afraid of the movie," director Denis Villeneuve told the Star. "Some people love the idea; others hate the idea to make a film about such an event. But that's what I like about it. I love those kind of movies that have roots in reality and deal with real events."
Watchmen (March 6)
Lauded as the best and also the grimmest graphic novel ever published, Alan Moore's serialized tale of Cold War superheroes is set to reach the big screen after numerous setbacks.
Directed by Zack Snyder, whose 300 was certainly graphic, it's set in a mid-1980s America where vigilante superheroes fight crime, conspiracies and their own mixed emotions, all while the nuclear "Doomsday Clock" ticks towards Armageddon between the U.S. and Russia.
Hints that this might not be your average comic book movie come in the casting, which includes such indie redoubts as Billy Crudup, Jackie Earle Haley and Patrick Wilson. Could it be this year's The Dark Knight?
Monsters vs. Aliens (March 27)
DreamWorks Animation vows to come out swinging with reborn and revised 3-D technology in 2009, and the leadoff batter is this comedy of Earth freaks versus outer-space geeks. Directed by Rob Letterman (Shark Tale) and Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2), the film is loaded with inside jokes guaranteed to twirl the beanie propellers of sci-fi fans – like how Reese Witherspoon's giant bride, Susan Murphy, stands just one inch shy of the iconic 50-foot woman. The kids will like Seth Rogen's happily brainless blob B.O.B. and everyone will figure out where Stephen Colbert got his inspiration for the brainless U.S. president. I've already seen a 30-minute preview. So far so good – and that includes the 3-D.
Star Trek (May 8)
Will this reboot of the Star Trek film franchise blandly go where so many instalments have gone before? My reason for optimism that this might be the one that refuels the Starship Enterprise has much to do with the premise of starting the whole damn thing over, right back to rocket class when Spock first met Kirk. Director J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible 3, TV's Lost and Alias) has blockbuster chops and the ability to cross the TV-cinema divide that this project demands. I'm also jazzed by the casting – who'd have figured Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg for Scotty?
Public Enemies (July 1)
Michael Mann's movies are always interesting, even when they don't completely work, and how could he miss with both the pirate Johnny Depp and the Batman Christian Bale in his corner? Depp plays gangster John Dillinger to Bale's G-man Melvin Purvis in this adaptation of Bryan Burrough's book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34. (Glad they aren't using the full title for the film.) I'm a sucker for a good gangster flick, but I'll fill this one full of lead if it fails to deliver.
Inglourious Basterds (Aug. 21)
Quentin Tarantino has been talking about making this World War II thriller longer than the real war lasted. The official release date was only announced this week, and Tarantino is determined to annoy newspaper copy editors (and nitpicking readers) with that deliberately misspelled title. It's a double-barrelled story about a team of prisoner-soldiers sent to open a can of whup-ass on a band of Nazis, while a Jewish woman seeks to avenge the deaths of her parents caused by the same swastika scum. The story reteams Troy stars Brad Pitt and Diane Kruger, with a cameo by Mike Myers and narration by Samuel L. Jackson. Bet on this to make a splash at Cannes come May.
Jennifer's Body (Sept. 18)
Was Juno a one-off for Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody? We'll find out when her smartass brand of comedy takes a horrific turn with this yarn about a Minnesota cheerleader (Transformers' Megan Fox) who becomes demon-possessed and dangerously attractive to local farm lads. Will this be a revised Carrie or Ginger Snaps, or will Cody give us reason to shout, "Thundercats are GO!"? It's directed by Karyn Kusama, who helmed the underappreciated Girlfight.
Amelia (Oct. 23)
Female heroes don't often get their due in this male-dominated world, so this biopic about the late, great flying ace Amelia Earhart is long overdue. There have been only a handful of previous film and TV treatments of the daredevil pilot whose 1937 disappearance during a globe-circling flight still fuels many a conspiracy theory. Hilary Swank stars in the title role, a casting choice that looks ideal on paper, Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) directs and Ronald Bass (Rain Man) scripts, for a combination that seems like a natural for a TIFF gala premiere.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Nov. 6)
This is Wes Anderson's first animated film, a stop-motion one at that, and I'm already there. It's based on a Roald Dahl children's classic about a wily fox seeking to outwit three brainless farmers. Check out the voice artists: George Clooney as Mr. Fox, Cate Blanchett as Mrs. Fox, Bill Murray as Mr. Badger and other characters played by Meryl Streep, Anjelica Huston and Jason Schwartzman. Anderson's been in the doldrums lately, but this could be the tonic to jolt him back to his 1990s brilliance.
The Wolf Man (Nov. 6)
The world doesn't need another horror picture, but who can resist Benicio Del Toro as El Gran Lobo himself? It's directed by Joe Johnston, who showed much promise with Hidalgo and October Sky, and it also stars Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving and Emily Blunt. It's an origin story, taking it right back to the bearded basics on the soggy moors of Victorian England, and that bodes well. This could be a disaster along the lines of Van Helsing, but I'm hoping it will howl.
Sherlock Holmes (Nov. 20)
This has every chance of being a ripping good yarn if Guy Ritchie can reign in his usual Blighty triteness. Here again casting is key: a revived Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes, Jude Law as Watson and Rachel Mc- Adams as the love interest. Ritchie wouldn't have been my first choice to direct a movie about Arthur Conan Doyle's deerstalker detective, since he's too clever for his own good. But maybe he's lusting for something a bit more serious after the failure of last fall's mob farce RocknRolla. And he won't have to worry about Madonna offering any unsolicited advice.
Avatar (Dec. 18)
Has it really been only 12 years since Titanic? Canuck-born writer/director James Cameron had better have something good up his sleeve with this sci-fi saga, which has been in the works so long it was beginning to look like his big boat blockbuster would be his feature film swan song. Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana star in this outer-space survival epic, which Cameron says has the most eye-popping of effects. We'll see.
Star movie critic Peter Howell's new year resolution is to watch more movies.
Monster Film Spawns Monster Ad
Source: www.thestar.com - The Associated Press
(January 05, 2009) Talk about a monster of a promotion. Some 150 million 3-D glasses will be given away for Super Bowl viewers to watch a three-minute 3-D sneak preview of the big-screen animated feature Monsters vs. Aliens. While 3-D telecasts are nothing new, this marks the first time one has been done for such a large audience. DreamWorks Animation chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg called the stunt "perhaps the biggest media-advertising event in history." He wouldn't give a hard figure on the cost but said it "involves tens of millions of dollars." Katzenberg promised the quality of the 3-D will be superior to what has been done in the past. He said the glasses will use Intel InTru 3-D and ColorCode 3-D, which updates the old red-blue Anaglyph system. The technology will also allow those without the glasses to see an almost ordinary image on the TV screen. But, Katzenberg added, it still doesn't come close to the 3-D quality moviegoers will see in theatres when the film opens stateside March 27. Monsters vs. Aliens follows a group of ragtag Earthling monsters who are out to save the world following an alien invasion. The film features the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen and Kiefer Sutherland. The glasses will be distributed free at 28,000 grocery, drug and other stores in the U.S.
Will Smith Voted 2008's Top Film Moneymaker
Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press
(January 02, 2009) NEW YORK — No name on the marquee was more pleasing to theatre owners in 2008 than Will Smith, according to a survey of movie exhibitors. Smith, star of Hancock and Seven Pounds, was voted the star who generated the most box office revenue for theatres in an annual survey by Quigley Publishing Co. Smith is only the second black actor to be chosen in the Quigley poll, which since 1932 has asked movie exhibitors to vote on the 10 stars who brought in the most business. Sidney Poitier topped the poll in 1968. Smith's superhero summer blockbuster, Hancock, grossed $228-million (U.S.). Seven Pounds, currently in theatres, has pulled in a somewhat lacklustre $39-million in two weeks. Following Smith, in order, were Robert Downey Jr. ( Iron Man, Tropic Thunder), Christian Bale ( The Dark Knight), Shia LaBeouf ( Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and LaBeouf's Indiana Jones co-star Harrison Ford. The top 10 were rounded out by Adam Sandler, Reese Witherspoon, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and Daniel Craig. Last year's winner, Johnny Depp, who didn't have a film released this year, didn't make this year's poll, nor did seven-time winner Tom Cruise. Anne Hathaway ( Rachel Getting Married) was voted the top “star of tomorrow,” along with Chris Pine of Bottle Shock.
Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Saada Branker
(Winter issue) OCCUPATION TV host, Cabbie on the Street
CONTRIBUTION Cabbie on the Street has evolved from an energetic streeter segment to a feature show profiling the world's most renowned athletes. Stars such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Steve Nash, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla have all appeared on Cabbie on the Street, which is known for cornering guests in humorous situations. Appealing to a fresh, young demographic, Cabbie is one of a handful of African Canadians to host a nationwide sports show. Cabbie on the Street has become The Score's most recognizable feature.
INSPIRATION "The Cosby Show was the original show I remember us watching as a family. You saw strong black role models on television — being funny! You got all these kids in the house, a two-parent home. Dr. Huxtable and Claire, who was a lawyer. It was a different side to things and gave people a different look at what black people could be like on TV."
A Gal Both Sexes Can Root For
Source: www.globeandmail.com - John Doyle
(January 05, 2009) If it's January then CBC must be back on its ceaseless, Casanova-like quest to seduce female viewers.
This time, mind you, I think CBC has scored. It has lured, charmed, beguiled and possibly bedded that elusive lady viewer who needs a narrative in which she is comfortable, coddled and always intrigued.
Being Erica (CBC, 9 p.m.) is very fine TV drama. It's entertaining, smart, serious and nuanced. It's definitely not silly chick-flick material, which is a relief, though it is obviously intended to please female viewers, especially twenty- and thirtysomethings. It fetishizes high-school experiences a tad too much but, in the three episodes I've seen, there are no letdowns, no segments that feel false. Its strength is that it has an emotional heft that feels authentic, not contrived.
And that means it's not just for those women viewers that CBC lusts after.
It's all about Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk, who is very good), a 32-year-old singleton in Toronna who feels like a failure. She's single while so many of her friends are married or secure in a relationship.
She's had too many dead-end jobs while so many of her friends have successful careers. She's feisty and very smart, but nothing seems to be going right. She tends to blame herself for mistakes she's made and her list of “bad decisions” is a long one.
What happens in the excellent opening episode tonight (written by series creator Jana Sinyor, who worked on Degrassi: The Next Generation) is that Erica sinks to a new low. Her job evaporates. She's about to go out on a date when the fella calls and informs her that he has to cancel because – wait for it – he really needs to go to the gym. (I can tell you, in strict confidence here, that this actually happened to a certain female TV executive, hence its inclusion.) So Erica goes to the nearest coffee shop in the pouring rain. One thing leads to another and she ends up in hospital. There, she's visited by a therapist, known simply as Dr. Tom (Michael Riley), who coaxes her into talking about her problems.
Eventually, Erica realizes that Dr. Tom can send her back into her past and she can make an effort to correct her mistakes. (Or can he? You decide what's going on here.) Thus, Erica is back in high school and, well, because she's overwhelmed by what's happening, things don't go exactly as she'd hoped they would in the new version of her past.
Meanwhile, there's the present, and Erica's search for a fulfilling job and a fella she can love. There's Ethan (Tyron Leitso), but he's her friend, not her boyfriend. Her family is supportive, but a little impatient with Erica. And there's some darkness there, because it becomes clear that Erica's brother died some time ago.
In this show, an enormous amount of credibility hinges on Erin Karpluk, who has to carry the show. And Karpluk is magnificent, superbly effective on screen, an actor playing the role with physical and emotional gusto, but in control. Erica is no ditz and Karpluk maintains the essential dignity and integrity in the character. Her eyes can stab at you, give the character a fierceness that's absolutely necessary to avoid the trap of Erica Strange as helpless, hapless female.
In a later episode, Erica gets to confront a young man who exploited her sexually in high school. The situation could have been played for laughs, or Erica could have been made a mere victim, but it's superbly done as Erica's rage and contempt is crystal clear. There's no self-pity, just the fury of a woman who realizes she was duped by a dumb, handsome male.
That kind of tone is necessary to keep the show on an even keel dramatically. There's whimsy and occasionally there's broad humour, but Being Erica is a smart show, buoyant and unpredictable.
There's no shame in CBC's search for female viewers. But there's always a temptation in the mainstream TV racket to make the central female character indulge in ludicrous and self-pitying impulses. Being Erica doesn't do that. Erica Strange is a character anyone can like, root for, and admire. CBC has the woman it needs and wants.
Check local listings.
As The New Host
Of Citytv's Talk Show, Tracy Moore Just Keeps It Real
Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Saada Branker
(Winter issue) Tracy Moore emerged from the ranks of media in Toronto as an on-camera news reporter. Last summer, when Rogers Media Television renewed the daytime show CityLine and auditioned its guest hosts for a permanent position, Moore took the chance to prove she could make the transition from news to lifestyle. In front of audiences across the country, she delivered and, by fall, from a stellar group of colleagues, she was tapped as CityLine's new host.
"I'm a news girl, that's my background," says Moore. It's Thursday and she's sitting in Citytv's boardroom after taping an episode on holiday home decor a week early. Still in makeup, she recounts her starts and stops. She obtained her masters in journalism from Concordia University and later got her break as a videographer for CBC Toronto News at Six. At the three-year mark, she left the public broadcaster, spending a minute at Toronto One until its swift collapse. She moved on to CTV and eventually Citytv in 2005. "All as a news reporter," she confirms. Moore was even courted by ABC News in the US for a correspondent role in its London bureau. At the last minute that "all ended up falling through."
City's morning show, Breakfast Television, was her best training for CityLine, she says. "It's the kind of format that allows you to switch gears quickly. So even as a roving reporter, one day I might be covering a homicide. The next day it's, ‘What would you do if you won a million dollars?'"
Moore adds she wasn't afraid to show personality on camera. Good thing. Toronto fans had been surprised by Marilyn Denis' departure from CityLine after 19 years as host. Its producers took that moment to plan some changes for Canada's lifestyle show, now in its 24th year and now a division of Rogers Media Inc. The company announced it was searching for a different personality for the successful program.
Moore says CityLine producers wanted her to reveal the girl next door, sharing tips for better living while talking to experts. The journalist from Richmond Hill wondered how to pull that off in front of an audience, surrounded by strangers. She says good advice came from an executive producer: "Simply have a conversation." Even Moore's husband, Lio Perron, suggested she not overthink the auditions, reminding her, "You're likeable. Just be yourself, but do it on television."
That's how she approached it. "Every time, I would pretend this is how I would talk to one of my girlfriends. On Fashion Friday when you see a pair of pants and it's: ‘I would never fit my bum inside of those pants,' that's what they wanted. Just be real."
What's unreal is Moore forgetting what she once uttered to Perron. "I met him at the CBC, that's when we started dating…," She digresses: "It was actually an atrocious first date. We were both bragging — two journalists together trying to impress each other. Ugly." When he asked about career goals she responded, "I'd like to host my own show." Eight years later, he remembers that.
Now married to Perron and the mother of their first child, Sidney — her most major accomplishment in a banner year, she maintains — Moore laughs about calling her fate. In her new role she's imagining new goals. CityLine is now national, so broadcasting from the road is one idea, she says. "In the New Year I'm looking forward to implementing fitness… and having chats about personal finance."
For CityLine's showtimes, go to cityline.ca.
Canadian Programming Saves Television From Itself
Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem, Television Columnist
(January 05, 2009) This time last year, halfway through the U.S. writers' strike, our primetime choices were pretty much limited to reruns or reality ... short of the somewhat more drastic alternative of gutting the set and converting it into an aquarium (or, for flatscreeners, a very expensive ant farm).
But now, TV's vast wasteland is starting to look just a little bit less barren and bleak.
And get this: Canada deserves a good deal of the credit. This is not in itself necessarily a good thing, but it is a rather interesting turn of events.
Credit the combination of karmic convergence and a somewhat begrudging learning curve. The increasing result: entertaining shows that people actually want to watch; shows that neither ponder nor pander, teach nor preach; shows not based on, adapted from, inspired by or co-produced with anyone or anything else.
They don't get much better than Being Erica, a clever, character-driven, high-concept comedy debuting tonight at 9 on CBC, the time slot following the returning, superficially similar Sophie (which could either kill it or benefit both).
The new single-camera sitcom, though admirably original, does somewhat echo in premise and tone the recent short-lived series The Ex List and Journeyman.
It is, however, much more than the sum of its parts, propelled by its uniquely engaging lead, Erin Karpluk, plucked fresh from Godiva's and The L Word, as Erica Strange, a frustrated 30something underachiever re-examining a life of bad decisions, missed opportunities and paths not taken.
She does this by apparently jumping back and forth through time, courtesy of an intriguingly enigmatic "therapist," played with wonderful detachment by This is Wonderland's resident eccentric Michael Riley, a character so fully realized you really don't want to know anything about his actual agenda and origin.
CBC strikes again tomorrow night, right after the returning Mercer Report and 22 Minutes, with the brand new Wild Roses, which would appear to be a younged-down, sexed-up Dallas, relocated to wilder, woollier Calgary.
Then there's this Friday night – truly the best and the worst of primetimes, with Canadian-produced shows commanding a solid two-hour block of the American network schedule.
The good news is the mid-season return of the addictive police procedural Flashpoint, a well-deserved ratings hit here on CTV and on CBS in the U.S. Led by Canadians Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars) and Hugh Dillon (Durham County), the superior cop series showcases our own gleaming metropolis – on this rare occasion, representing itself.
The previous hour, 8 p.m. on Global and NBC, is the debut of Howie Do It, a woefully derivative hidden-camera prank show, essentially a chance for homegrown host Howie Mandel to come back to Canada and still maintain a weekly presence on the American network home of his waning game show, Deal or No Deal.
Mandel, alas, reaps the only benefits of the show's sophomoric ambush humour. Not only are the pranks themselves predictably lame, but the framing format, a live studio audience (in this case a Windsor casino showroom), borrows from America's Funniest Home Videos the unlikely conceit of a massive live audience assembled to sit through an endless succession of video clips projected onto a screen.
That, and the repeated requirement, before and after every commercial break, to enthusiastically respond, en masse and in kind, to Mandel's annoyingly constant invocation of the misbegotten thing's title/slogan.
Howie, don't do it. Reassemble that audience and treat them to a couple of hours of the one thing at which you absolutely excel, stand-up comedy.
Traditionally, the Canadian influence on American television has been largely covert, with actors, writers and directors infiltrating subtly, from within.
That tradition continues into this new year, commencing this week with tonight's return of the prime-time teen soaps Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill, and then tomorrow the wretched remade 90210, starring Canadians Shenae Grimes and Dustin Milligan.
Scrubs, co-starring our own Sarah Chalke, is resurrected tomorrow night on a new network, ABC, for what could be its final season. Zach Braff's contract has expired and he's been making noises about hanging up his stethoscope and, new network notwithstanding, I really doubt the production will be able or want to continue in his absence.
Then comes Sunday and the long-awaited (and I can assure you, rightly so) return of 24, starring Canadian Kiefer Sutherland, and this season featuring fellow Canucks Colm Feore and Gil Bellows.
Next Thursday, Jan.15, the Vancouver-shot Smallville – co-starring Canadians Erica Durance and Aaron Ashmore – returns for what must surely be at least the beginning of its end. I mean, there is only so long the guy can hold off donning the tights and cape.
Friday the 16th, it's geek culture's most anticipated TV event, the climactic last 10-episode season of Battlestar Galactica – need I repeat, shot in Vancouver and co-starring Canadians Michael Hogan, Tricia Helfer and Grace Park (now in Toronto protecting The Border).
The following Monday, Jan.19, The Movie Network debuts what I am (thus far) anticipating as the hot new cable comedy, Diablo Cody's The United States of Tara, starring Toni Collette as a suburban Sybil, coping with three extra multiple personalities ... and young Toronto-raised Keir Gilchrist as her son.
Finally, though it hasn't yet even been picked up in Canada (Hello? Anybody out there?), a new TNT comedy called Trust Me, debuting there Jan.26 and starring two of our most successful south-of-the-border TV comedy stars, Eric "Will & Grace" McCormack and Tom "Ed" Cavanagh.
Rob Salem is the Star's television columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Funeral Held For `Star Trek' Actress Roddenberry
Source: www.thestar.com - The Associated Press
(January 05, 2009) LOS ANGELES – Friends, family and fans gathered this weekend to bid a final farewell to Star Trek actress Majel Barrett Roddenberry. More than 250 people attended the funeral Sunday in Los Angeles. Roddenberry was the widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and had been involved in the Star Trek universe for more than four decades. The 76-year-old Roddenberry died of leukemia Dec. 18 at her Bel-Air home. Among the mourners were Star Trek stars Nichelle Nichols, George Takei and Walter Koenig. Three people wore Star Fleet Academy formal tunics, and many others sported Star Trek rings, pins or medallions. Roddenberry played the dark-haired Number One in the original pilot, but metamorphosed into the blond, mini-skirted Nurse Christine Chapel in the original 1966-69 TV series.
Large Audience Tunes In For Air Farce Finale
Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(January 05, 2009) Roughly 1.5 million Canadians spent New Year's Eve watching the final flight of the Royal Canadian Air Farce, according to numbers released by CBC-TV on Monday. The venerable political sketch show wrapped up its 16-season run with a special on Dec. 31. The finale featured regulars Roger Abbott, Don Ferguson, Luba Goy, Penelope Corrin, Jessica Holmes, Craig Lauzon, and Alan Park. Guests included author Margaret Atwood, hockey legend Johnny Bower and CBC broadcasters Ron MacLean and Peter Mansbridge. The New Year's Eve numbers for Air Farce" are impressive. A rating of 1.5 million often lands a show in the Top 10.
Walker's Classic Novel Gets New Life Onstage
Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Pamella Bailey
(Winter issue) The Color Purple dances onto the Toronto stage as part of a highly anticipated national tour, after running on Broadway for more than two record-breaking years. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Alice Walker, made popular by Steven Spielberg's cinematic adaptation, The Color Purple is a deeply moving story of a woman named Celie, who finds the strength to triumph over adversity and oppression.
Turning this classic novel into an engaging musical nominated for 11 Tony Awards proved no easy task. It took producers Scott Saunders and later Oprah Winfrey eight years to bring this epic story to the stage. Loyal readers with well-worn copies tucked away on a bookshelf will be glad to know the production follows the novel much more closely than Spielberg's film, providing thoughtful insight into the characters.
"What I love about Celie is her sense of humour despite what she is going through," says Jeannette Bayardelle, the Bronx, New York native, who understudied several female roles before becoming Celie on Broadway. "You really see more dimensions of her character in the musical. It also dives into her relationship with Shug a little more. It's deeper than a sexual relationship between two women. They are both wanting and craving something that they find in each other."
But the bigger change is the transformation of Mister, Celie's domineering, abusive husband who is in love with the vivacious Shug Avery played by Angela Robinson, and who often left many black men uncomfortable with his depiction on film. "It was very important to me that this character have redemption," says Rufus Bonds, Jr. the chemist-turned-actor who is no stranger to the Toronto stage, garnering a Dora nomination for his role in Miss Saigon. "Alice Walker had written that Mister and Shug were deeply in love. They used to play dress up as kids. When he is with Celie, it's a reminder of the love he could never have. People are not just bad characters. Everyone does something for a reason. That I can play. That I understand."
Rounding out the cast of main characters are Felicia P. Fields as Sofia, originally played by Oprah Winfrey in the film, Stu James as Harpo, the Renaissance man, and LaToya London of American Idol fame as Nettie, Celie's sister.
With its Grammy-nominated score ranging from jazz to gospel, and its universal themes of love and redemption, The Color Purple continues to attract audiences from all backgrounds. "It's the people's story," says Bayardelle. "There's something you can relate to that you have dealt with in life. Family, friendship, forgiveness, faith... everyone can relate to those things."
The Color Purple runs from February 10 to March 14, 2009 at The Canon Theatre, 416-593-4225, mirvish.com.
A Star Is Born At Stratford
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(January 04, 2009) Every actor dreams of getting cast at the Stratford Festival. But to make your debut starring in the leading female roles of the two musicals being presented there is something beyond anyone's wildest expectations.
But that's just what has happened to Chilina Kennedy, who will be headlining as Maria in West Side Story and Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum this season.
The 30-year-old Uxbridge resident says she wanted to be at Stratford "ever since I saw The Music Man and Amadeus back when I was studying at Sheridan College."
But it's taken her a while to get there.
Not that she has lacked for work. Kennedy has been constantly employed ever since she left school, doing everything from the iconic role of Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables at Stratford to appearing in the ill-fated musical of The Lord of the Rings.
She's also spent some time playing Sophie in one of the touring companies of Mamma Mia! and spent a couple of seasons at the Shaw Festival, as well as working numerous gigs at regional theatres around the country.
"I want to try as much as I can in my life," is how she explains her peripatetic career.
"I'd like to play all the parts I've ever wanted to."
Anne Shirley was one of them, and Maria in West Side Story is another.
"I think every little girl in show business is drawn to one of the two Marias," she says. "It's either the one in The Sound of Music, which is definitely not me, or it's the one from West Side Story, which is right up my street.
"The show's tragic ending and emotional content are so moving. I do love my drama! And I'm thrilled to be working with Gary Griffin," she says, speaking of the show's acclaimed director, who is best known for his work on the Broadway musical The Color Purple, coming to Toronto via Mirvish Productions next month.
Kennedy's life is looking unusually charmed these days and, in fact, she'll be spending the summer subletting the Stratford home of another icon of hers, Louise Pitre.
She'll be accompanied by her husband, Fenner Stewart, who's working on a Ph.D. in corporate governance at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School, and their Portuguese water dog, Molly.
When asked what advice she has for young performers, she counsels, "just to be yourself. I know everybody says that. but there comes a point when you have to stop listening to advice and just go out there and do it.
"At the end of the day, you have to believe in yourself and show people you have that belief."
Man ... What a rush!
Source: www.thestar.com - Lou Kesten, Associated Press
(December 20, 2008) Notwithstanding the success of Wii bowling, video games exist largely to give most of us abilities we don't already have. I'm not even talking about careers as exotic as NFL quarterback or spaceship captain; I mean physical activities like executing a backflip or scaling a cliff.
Even if I got off the couch and started working out every day, I still couldn't pull off such feats with the panache of a video-game star like Lara Croft. Perhaps she'll inspire a younger generation of gamers to take up gymnastics. Me, I'm thrilled when I can create one of her moves by pressing the buttons on an Xbox controller.
Prince of Persia
(out of 4); Ubisoft; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99
The latest incarnation of Ubisoft's Prince is one of the most acrobatic game heroes ever. He can leap across pits, scramble along walls and somersault over enemies. And this time he gets invaluable assistance from a princess named Elika, who can magically retrieve the prince if he takes a wrong step.
Compared with the last couple of Prince titles, this chapter focuses far more on movement and exploration than on combat. The lush landscapes look like watercolours come to life, and Elika is an unusually appealing sidekick. It's a refreshing new direction for this once-gloomy franchise.
Tomb Raider Underworld
Eidos; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99; Wii, $39.99 Lara Croft may not be the icon she once was, but she could be making a comeback. She looks better than ever, and Underworld presents her with a series of massive architectural ruins that demand the most of her athletic ability and your wits.
The adventure takes Lara from an undersea city to the Arctic Circle (and beyond), and each environment serves as a clever multi-stage puzzle. Combat is considerably less interesting; fortunately, it doesn't happen too often. Underworld is marred by occasional technical hiccups, but it delivers awe-inspiring sights and satisfying challenges.
Shaun White Snowboarding
Ubisoft; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99; Wii, $49.99; PlayStation 2, $39.99
White, the snowboarding gold medallist from the 2006 Winter Olympics, may not have the superhuman skills of Lara Croft, but he has definitely mastered stunts most of us haven't dreamed of. He's your guide to this fast-paced tour of the most vertigo-inducing mountains, and he'll soon have you executing flips and spins.
The boarding is smooth, but the events scattered around each slope get repetitious. The Wii has the best version, which you can control with the Balance Board (that thing you put in the closet after you gave up on "Wii Fit''). It's not a very deep game, but it does deliver a rush.
New Wave Of Minority Comedians Gets Attention
Source: www.thestar.com - Nicholas Keung, Immigration/Diversity Reporter
(January 04, 2009) Ali Rizvi jokes that Muslims procreate by touching their thick, caterpillar-like eyebrows and that every four years, those brows turn into butterflies and fly away.
"I am creating such an absurd stereotype because we have zero representation in the media, and some moron is actually going to believe me," says the Toronto-born comic.
"That's the real joke."
Taking stereotypes to their absurd extreme is one way the up-and-coming Toronto comedian generates laughter and brings people of diverse backgrounds together in this multicultural city, where political correctness can hinder honest dialogue among communities.
"Comedy is a great medicine to get people to open their minds and hearts," says Rizvi, who grew up in neighbourhoods throughout the city and its environs, including the Esplanade, Regent Park, the Annex, Rexdale and Brampton. "I moved around so much," he laughs, "that I thought my folks were in the military."
The 30-year-old, born to Muslim immigrant parents from Pakistan, is part of a new wave of Canadian comedians of minority backgrounds. Last year, he opened for renowned comic Russell Peters, a Canadian of Anglo-Indian descent, in front of 8,000 people in Kitchener.
Yet Rizvi's path to a career in comedy has taken many detours. An only child, he grew up as a break-dancing latchkey kid. Not unlike his immigrant counterparts, he was pressured by his accountant father, Syed Ali Ahmed Rizvi, and microbiologist mom, Zakia, to become a professional and shine in the family's adopted homeland.
After graduating from Mississauga's Woodlands Secondary School, he enrolled in fine arts at York University – he had a talent for drawing and graffiti art, and excelled at breakdancing. He dropped out to study business at Ryerson, and then quit again to study television production at Seneca College. Rizvi owes his determination to becoming a comic to the manager of the bank where he worked while pursuing a business degree. The banker refused to give Rizvi time off for an audition for the conservatory at The Second City. That's when he quit his job and business studies. He got into the two-year conservatory program."It devastated my parents," recalls Rizvi, now an associate producer with MuchMusic.
In the early years Rizvi had flashes of success and moments of despair. After tanking in a 2003 performance in front of 800 people – only the third after his debut that year – he quit for a full year.
"I got heckled," he recalls. "It was rough. I was still doing sketch and improv, but no stand-up."
He never gave up his dream of being a solo performer, even after marrying his Kabul-born wife, Monika, and fathering son Roek, 2, and daughter Emma, 1.
And once Rizvi returned to comedy, things started to turn around. In 2006 he was featured on The Comedy Network as one of the "next generation of great Canadian comics." A year later, he was a finalist on the CBC comedy series The Second City's Next Comedy Legend.
Last October, he was one of six comics to perform in front of more than 1,000 at the Danforth Music Hall as part of CBC Radio One's annual Accent on Toronto.
This year, he headlines a cross-country Canadian tour with Yuk Yuk's and plans to break into the U.K., Middle East and Asian live comedy markets.
"I've always been told to get out there and kill the crowd," says Rizvi. "And I do it by bringing them to life."
Choose The Path Less Profitable
Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter
(January 03, 2009) If great art results from great suffering, this emerging generation of young artists is poised to reach new heights.
Finding success has always been difficult for young actors, painters, musicians and dancers in Canada, and a gloomy economy will only make the struggle more precarious.
Toronto can boast of being the country's largest base for live theatre and independent music, its second largest film production locale, as well as a cultural epicentre that's home to organizations like Canada's National Ballet School.
But people in the industry agree on one thing: There are just too many talented young people in the city for the number of opportunities available. "It's an unchanging condition. There's always a wild oversupply of artists. That's just the way it is," laments Ontario College of Art and Design professor Charles Reeve.
While the number of artistic institutes of higher learning has grown in the last decade, "the industry hasn't grown sufficiently to be able to absorb all those poor little bunnies coming out with their shiny faces and their brand-new certificates, looking for work," says Arden Ryshpan, executive director of the Canadian Actors' Equity Association.
In fact, the association, which represents live theatre performers, has only 29 per cent of its membership working in an average week. Many of the 20,000 members of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists are struggling, too, as U.S. film production dries up here due to a prolonged dispute with the U.S. Screen Actors Guild. Only 54 per cent of ACTRA members in the past year have reported income from performing. (For more troubling statistics, see Page E11.)
In the Internet Age, the music industry also finds itself in a state of flux, with CD sales in decline and major labels cutting rosters to focus on fewer acts.
In the face of such daunting odds, one might ask: Why do young artists continue to starve for their art, choosing financial uncertainty over more profitable and stable employment?
"Most artists, regardless of how they choose to express themselves, are driven by the desire to create art," Ryshpan says. "The positive side of that is when you do it, it is the best thing in the world and there is nothing – and you can ask anyone – nothing that will compare to the extraordinary satisfaction and pleasure that you get when you're able to dance, to sing, to act."
Steve Reflects on His Career
and on the Passing of His Pal Bernie Mac
Source: www.eurweb.com – Kam Williams
Broderick Steven Harvey was born in Welch, West Virginia on January 17, 1956, although he grew up in Cleveland where he graduated from Glenville High School in 1974. After brief stints as a boxer and an insurance salesman, he paid his dues for several years on the Chitlin’ Circuit honing his craft as a stand-up comedian.
Steve found national fame in 1994, when he was picked to emcee “It’s Showtime at the Apollo.” Soon thereafter, the versatile funnyman landed his own sitcom, “The Steve Harvey Show” and went on to enjoy an enduring career in show business.
In 2000, he crisscrossed the country with Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and the late Bernie Mac as one of The Original Kings of Comedy, a sold out tour filmed and turned into a phenomenally-popular concert flick by Spike Lee. A six-time NAACP Image Award-winner, Steve currently hosts a nationally-syndicated radio show broadcast from New York City.
Here, he talks about his career, the passing of fellow King of Comedy Bernie Mac, and about Still Trippin’, a DVD of his latest stand-up act which was recently filmed in front of a live audience in Newark, New Jersey.
KW: Hi Steve, thanks again for the time.
SH: Hey man, what’s happening? How you doing?
KW: I’m fine, thanks. I loved this new concert film, Still Trippin’ and I gave it four stars, but I felt that you were just as funny on your previous DVD, Don’t Trip, which was clean. Why did you add the curse words back into your act?
SH: Well, you know it’s really not that I added them back in. When I did Don’t Trip with Bishop T.D. Jakes, it was really to take me to a place where I’d never gone in my stand-up before, working spotlessly clean before a religious organization. I had to write a lot of material just for that show, and I was very proud of it. It was really a tribute to my mom because she had passed. Since my mother was saved, she never saw me perform because of the profanity. So, I wanted to do something to honour her. That was the one time I worked totally clean, other than on TV and sitcoms and stuff like that. So, I don’t really know that I added it back in, but I dug your review though and I appreciate what you said.
KW: But didn’t you become a Born Again Christian after your association with Bishop Jakes?
SH: The truth is I’ve always been a Christian. What’s amazing, man, is that the flaws that come with Christianity are really weird, because mine have a microphone and a camera attached to them. Most people don’t have to live under that microscope. I’m still very much a Christian and have a great relationship with God. I love Him, but one of my flaws is that I cuss. I’m just being honest with you, man. But I’ll tell you this, the thing I did with Bishop Jakes, Don’t Trip, is to date my absolute greatest piece of work. Even as crazy as I am, I have enough sense to know that.
KW: Yeah, that performance wasn’t just funny, but that finale was very powerful, spiritually.
SH: I’m even thinking of doing another concert like that as my farewell DVD, because I don’t know how much longer I’ve got at this in terms of touring. I’m think 2009 and 2010 could be the farewell tour, because I kinda want to walk out of the business leaving a legacy behind that I was clean but a really, really funny guy, before people stop paying to see me.
KW: You’ve enjoyed so much success in terms of TV, radio, movies and stand-up, that I don’t think you have to worry about your legacy. I think it’s already established as first rate.
SH: I appreciate that. A lot of that is going to be up to you guys in the press and how you write about it.
KW: Speaking of leaving a legacy, you worked with Bernie Mac on The Kings of Comedy tour and on television. How did you feel when you learned about his passing?
SH: Man, that was tough, because I never knew exactly how old Bernie was. On the Kings tour, we played golf, we swapped cigars, and we told the funniest stories in the dressing rooms, stuff that you couldn’t say on stage. But we must have never mentioned our ages. So, it hit me really hard while I was watching a tribute to him by Larry King, which we all were a part of, when I saw 1957-2008 on the screen under Bernie’s picture. It hit home, because I was born in 1957, too, and except for the grace of God, that could easily have been me. It’s too young to pass, I think, but Bernie’s time was up. It struck me very deeply when I saw the dates on the monitor. That’s what hit me the hardest, to realize how fortunate I am to still be here.
KW: And then, the day after Bernie died, Isaac Hayes passed away. And both of you were radio show hosts in New York.
SH: Right. And I saw Sam [Samuel L. Jackson] at Bernie’s funeral. And all three of them were in this movie together.
KW: Soul Men, which opened a couple of months later.
SH: It was kinda weird that Bernie and Isaac Hayes had passed, and Sam was living. It must have been pretty tough for him and it probably had him thinking about a lot of things. I’m pretty sure he didn’t feel like promoting the movie. It was tough, that whole run right there. ’08 was a stressful year, man.
KW: I want to talk a little about your new DVD. I thought that bit you did about the homely women in that polygamous cult in Texas, comparing them to Aunt Bee from Andy of Mayberry and Jane Hathaway of The Beverly Hillbillies was hilarious. How do you come up with your material?
SH: When you do radio, you’re kept abreast of all these news stories. On the air you have the FCC restrictions, but when you get to the concert stage it’s weird, because I have the same subjects, but I’m just free to adjust my timing, and to add facial expressions which reflect my thought processes. In actuality, when you hear these news stories as a stand-up comedian, you see them totally differently. For instance, I see these women, and I’m asking, “Wow! Why would anybody want eight of these as a wife?” I’m looking at their outfits, and I’m going, “Man, these ain’t the most appealing-looking outfits.” Nobody says, man, these chicks are hot. If I had four of them…” Instead, everybody’s looking at them and asking, “Who the hell does their hair like that?” And then, how do you get away with just loading these women’s kids on a bus? Ain’t nobody trying to turn the bus over?
SH: Come on, man! See, my gift is in pulling out the absurdity of a news event.
KW: And how about the riff you did about the female astronaut arrested in adult diapers?
SH: Nobody can actually plan on driving and just urinating. That cannot be your plan. How pissed off are you? When you stop for gas, that might be a good time to unload yourself. Why would you sit there, when you’ve wet your pants? Now we have some other problems because your urine at this age is very different.
SH: See, what I do is take a situation and extract all the absurdity out of it. That’s what makes the bits great, man
KW: How do you feel about Obama’s victory?
SH: I think it’s the greatest thing ever for this country. Even deeper than that, I think it’s big for the world. When I was overseas in France this summer, everybody who came up to me said, “Obama! Obama! Obama! Please!” So, I think his winning has done a lot for the reputation of America. I’m also happy for African-Americans that they get to feel a sense of belonging, finally, and that their vote does count, and just being able to point to our children and say, “Okay, here’s the deal, everything is possible now, for real.” It’s all possible now. This kills the excuses for everybody, and it helps those of us who are parents to be able to say, “Hey, this can happen for you. You can become the President of the United States. Let’s not use our color as a crutch anymore, but rather as a pole vault stick to get over all these barriers.” That’s what I think is great about Obama’s election.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
SH: Am I happy? Yes I am.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
SH: Uhh… no.
KW: Is there a question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
SH: [Chuckles] No, they’ve asked me everything, man.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
SH: Ex-Free: 9 Keys to Freedom after Heartbreak by Troy Byer.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What’s music are you listening to right now?
SH: Christmas music.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Steve.
SH: No problem, I sure appreciate you, man.
KW: Same here, bro.
To see a trailer for Still Trippin’, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sK-VeQ8howI
Help Wanted: Young Morris Dancers
Source: www.thestar.com - Reuters News Agency
(January 07, 2009) LONDON–Britain's morris dancers, known for bells on knees, coloured rags and flower-bedecked hats, are launching a recruitment drive to convince young people their art form is not a thing of the past.
The folk revival of the 1960s and 1970s led to a surge in interest in morris dancing in Britain.
But dancers who started out then are now in their 60s and often unable or unwilling to try to keep up with the accordion music.
Many troupes, known as "sides," are aging fast, and will soon disappear, predicted Brian Tasker, 62, the leader of the Morris Ring, which represents dozens of morris dancing groups across the country.
But he played down gloomy predictions of morris dancing's imminent demise that hit the headlines in newspapers this week.
Charlie Corcoran, "bagman" of the Morris Ring, was quoted as saying that in 20 years' time there was a risk there would be "nobody left."
The art form's roots in England have been traced back as far as the 15th century.
Tasker countered that there was "no way" morris dancing would die out in 20 years, and added:
"Overall, if you take all dancers into account, there are more dancers (in Britain) today than at any time in the past."
He estimated there were around 800 sides in Britain with roughly 12,000 members, a number that includes other traditional forms like sword dancing from northern England and border dancing in the west of the country.
Tearful Memorial For Port Perry Hockey Player
Source: www.thestar.com - Paola Loriggio, Staff Reporter
(January 05, 2009) Hundreds of mourners, many clad in Whitby Dunlops jerseys, packed into a Port Perry church this morning to say a final goodbye to local hockey player Don Sanderson.
Many, including hockey commentator Don Cherry, were forced to stand at the back during the emotional hour-long ceremony.
"I love him so much, he was my world," Sanderson's mother, Donna, said in a statement read by pastor Peter Lackmanec. In a similar message, Sanderson's father, Michael, called his son his "best friend."
Friends remembered the 21-year-old player's passion for sport, and his devotion to the people he loved.
Sanderson, a defenceman for the Ontario Hockey Association's Whitby Dunlops, died Friday after he went into a coma following a fight with Corey Fulton of the Brantford Blast during a Dec. 12 game at the Brantford Civic Centre.
Sanderson's mother had him baptized in hospital, the pastor said, noting the young man's faith.
The crowd sang "Silent Night" in Sanderson's honour – his favourite Christmas carol, Lackmanec said. The defenceman loved Christmas more than any other time of year, and insisted on having a real tree at home, he said.
As the ceremony ended, the tearful Dunlops formed an honour guard by the doors and shook hands with mourners.
Outside the chapel, Cherry said the public's reaction "shows how much he was loved."
"It's a tough deal. His mom and dad are strong people."
Police in Brantford have opened an investigation into Sanderson's death.
Video footage and eyewitness accounts of the brawl seem to indicate Sanderson's helmet fell off as he fell to the ice.
The NHL has indicated it has no plans to alter its rules in the wake of Sanderson's death.
OHA president Brent Ladds said the issues arising from the death of Sanderson will be raised at the organization's next monthly board meeting.
League rules state helmets approved by the Canadian Standards Association must be worn and fastened securely with a chinstrap, and already stipulate automatic game misconducts for players who fight.
- with files from the Canadian Press
Michael Clemons: "Influence Is Not Given From The Leader
Down To Those He Leads"
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Kent Cousins
(December 29, 2008) The sports business, like any business, loves numbers and Michael "Pinball" Clemons has posted outstanding figures. He is a leader on the field, on the sidelines, in the front office and away from the stadium.
Clemons' career with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts ranks as legendary. His jersey number — 31 — is one of only four to have been retired in the 134 year history of the team. He played, coached and is now the Argos' CEO.
Since joining the Argos in 1989 Clemons has set two league records for combined yards, and numerous team records for receptions, returns and touchdowns. He was the CFL's Most Outstanding Player in 1990, his second year in the league. He has four Grey Cup victories, three as a player and one as a coach. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame this year.
Clemons is a leader away from the field with an intense commitment to community involvement. He makes hundreds of appearances, speaking to business groups, community organizations and schools. After taking a lead role in forming the Argos Foundation he set-up his own, "Michael 'Pinball' Clemons Foundation". It targets young people and focuses on academic excellence, character, health and generosity.
Clemons, who was born and raised in Florida, lives in Oakville, Ontario with his wife (who is also from Florida) and his three daughters who were all born in Canada. Clemons calls himself a Canadian and is a permanent resident here, but he retains his American citizenship.
Clemons, who is an incredibly popular figure, is routinely wooed for political office and many believe that maintaining his U.S. citizenship is a convenient way to avoid having to run.
Michael Clemons talked to the Report on Small Business about leadership, the changes that come with rising through the ranks and the core elements that remain the same.
Atlanta's Mike Smith Wins NFL Coach Of Year
Source: www.thestar.com - Barry Wilner, The Associated Press
(January 04, 2009) NEW YORK–Mike Smith and Tony Sparano performed so brilliantly as rookie head coaches it was almost impossible to separate them.
Atlanta's Smith edged Miami's Sparano by one vote Sunday for The Associated Press 2008 NFL Coach of the Year award.
Both coaches oversaw sensational turnarounds, leading their teams from last-place finishes in 2007 to playoff berths this year. Their achievements were reflected by the closeness of the balloting, with Smith getting 23 1/2 votes and Sparano 22 1/2 from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL.
After improving from 4-12 to 11-5 and making the NFC playoffs as a wild card, the Falcons fell 30-24 at Arizona on Saturday night. That should not detract from a memorable season that bodes well for the football future in Atlanta.
"I think we have tried to establish that we'd be very systematic in how we did things, that we were going to have a plan," said Smith, who helped guide quarterback Matt Ryan to the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Smith also had a first-time starter at running back, Michael Turner, who rushed for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns. "We laid that plan out from the very beginning how we were going to practice, how we were going to travel, how we were going to meet, how we were going to communicate, and I think the guys really appreciated definitely how we presented the plan in the framework for us to start the season."
Smith also had to deal with a makeover of the Falcons organization and its image following the incarceration of quarterback Michael Vick for dogfighting and the resignation after 13 games last season by coach Bobby Petrino. He left Jacksonville, where he was the defensive co-ordinator, to take on one of the biggest rebuilding challenges in sports.
"We went through every bit of pain last year that an NFL owner or a franchise or a community of fans could imagine," said Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who hired Thomas Dimitroff away from New England to be general manager before hiring Smith. "At least that's my viewpoint. On the other hand, to see things come around this year as well as they have, it's just a tribute to the men involved who are making these decisions."
Sparano, a former offensive line coach in Dallas, joined Bill Parcells with the Dolphins and the makeover in Miami was just as impressive as in Atlanta. The Dolphins were 1-15 a year ago before cleaning house, and Sparano guided them to an 11-5 mark that won the AFC East. They were hosting Baltimore on Sunday in a wild-card game.
Sparano echoes Smith's philosophy on establishing a winning identity.
"You have to have some kind of luck," Sparano said. "But I think part of it is a philosophy you try to put into place. You want to make sure they understand from Day 1 that if you're a guy who thinks being in the training room is a good habit, it can get you beat. Not being on the practice field, we don't get better at fundamentals and our techniques."
Only one team has ever improved as much as Miami's 10-game turnaround: the 1999 Indianapolis Colts.
Just four coaches received votes despite a year in which a half-dozen did exemplary work. Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, the longest-tenured coach in the league, received three votes, while last year's winner, Bill Belichick of New England, got one.
Smith is the second Falcons coach to win the award; Dan Reeves got it in 1998 – when the Falcons went to the Super Bowl.
Donald Sutherland, Howard Shore Launch Olympic Campaign
Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw
(January 05, 2009) Canada's Olympic broadcasters unveiled the first stage in a six-phase advertising series Monday, promising the largest Olympic campaign ever fielded by a media company.
Dubbed BELIEVE, the campaign features heavyweight talent including actor Donald Sutherland and composer Howard Shore ( The Lord of the Rings trilogy , The Silence of the Lambs).
Slated as a rallying cry to Canadians ahead of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, it's designed to make household names of Canada's elite competitive athletes.
The most ambitious aspect of the first phase, which officially launches Monday, is a pair of 60-second commercials.
The first two of a dozen athlete-focused ads to hit the airwaves tell of the stories, hopes and dreams of downhill skier Jan Hudec and skeleton racer Melissa Hollingsworth.
The clips are lofty in prose, imagery and production value.
Sutherland voices a narrative in his deep, husky bass that is heard over sequences shot in colour but with heavy use of light and dark contrast that at times gives the feel of black and white film.
The orchestration from Shore, who also composed the scores for a host of David Cronenberg films, is alternately inspiring and contemplative.
The evocative music is also why broadcast consortium president Keith Pelley describes BELIEVE as a “head-and-heart” campaign.
The athletes talk about the central role belief plays in sport, and end each segment looking directly into the camera and asking, “Do you believe?”
The next two ads to air will introduce Canadian figure skating champion Patrick Chan and hockey dynamo Gillian Apps.
The consortium's many other broadcast partners will air a series of more lighthearted, multilingual 30-second spots that feature Canadians aged 5 to 20 years old exuberantly expanding on the theme of belief, backed by Canadian landmarks and landscapes. Composer Stephan Moccio, whose credentials include songwriting for Celine Dion and Josh Groban, has composed a rising mix of piano and orchestra to accompany them.
These shorter pieces will air on the combined resources of media giants CTV and Rogers Media Inc.: in English on TSN, Rogers Sportsnet, OMNI, OLN and Rogers radio stations; in French on RDS, RIS Info Sport and TQS; and in both languages on APTN and ATN. One line from each version will be spoken in either French, Punjabi, Mandarin, Ukrainian or Cree.
The campaign is partly about raising awareness of Canada's prominence in winter sports. Across all disciplines on the world cup circuit last year, Pelley points out, Canada ranked second in podium finishes with 184, trailing Germany (230) but well ahead of the United States (152). And the ads seize on the tantalizing possibility that a Canadian athlete could win a gold medal on home soil for the first time in history.
“Really, the question is, will it come on day one or day two?” Pelley said.
Pelley has readily put the consortium's reputation on the line. He expects Vancouver 2010 will “become a defining moment in Canadian history” and said the commercials will give viewers a taste of the calibre of coverage they have planned for the Games themselves. He said his team has assets “of monumental proportions” and he'll consider it a failure if the featured athletes aren't widely recognized by the time the opening ceremonies roll around.
“Right now, Canadians know who [hockey player] Steve Yzerman is. They don't know who [speed skater] Jeremy Wotherspoon is,” he said.
The BELIEVE campaign was designed by the CTV Creative Agency, the network's in-house shop for marketing, promotions and advertising. Pelley said the consortium looked hard at using outside talent but decided they already had the best team in their midst.
Pelley is eager for stage two of BELIEVE, which will launch in February to mark the one-year countdown to the Olympic opening. Pelley would say only that the next set of ads will showcase athletes “in a different light.” Others set to adorn the series include downhill skiers Erik Guay and Britt Janyk, snowboarder Maelle Ricker, skeleton racer Jon Montgomery and freestyle skier Jenn Heil.
“All of the memories and images of [the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics] are etched in our minds, so we wanted to believe that these Games will unite the country,” Pelley said.
Ugly Back Flab: 3 Exercises!
Source: By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, RTS1, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro
An eDiets member (Laura) once asked me for a workout that would focus on reducing her back flab and tightening her back muscles. She felt her back looked flabby and was uncomfortable with the unsightly fat that seeped through the back of her bra.
I get hundreds of requests for improving the abs, hips, butt and arms, but hardly ever get any for improving the back. This request brought a smile to my face.
When someone begins to realize the importance of the back muscles from a practical and cosmetic standpoint, they have advanced to the next level of their fitness evolution.
When properly developed, it is absolutely amazing to see the beauty and artistic perfection of the multitude of back muscles. As I always mention, the ultimate key to a beautiful back and tight body is the combination of proper nutrition that places one in a slight caloric deficit, exercise and consistency. Luckily, Laura already had the nutrition part humming along with her eDiets program. She is also lifting weights twice a week and performing cardio three times a week.
All I needed to do was provide a specialty workout that she could perform twice a week along with her current program.
PAGEBREAK From a practical standpoint, building strength in the back, particularly the lower back, helps to prevent injury. How many times have you heard someone tell you they have a bad back? I hear it almost every day.
I'm providing a simple, yet practical understanding of the major back muscles. First I'll briefly describe each major area of the back and then I'll give you an exercise with one of our totally cool animations so you can practice on your own. The exercises focus on the major areas, but in reality, there are even more isolated areas of the back.
1. Latissimus Dorsi -- The latissimus dorsi muscles (also known as the "lats") are the largest muscles of the back. The lats are large, fan-shaped muscles. If you spread your back and touch the outer end of each side of the back, you're touching your lats. The function of the lats is to pull the arm down toward the pelvis. When properly developed, the lats will actually make your waist look smaller. Now, there's some good incentive.
Here's a great exercise for the lats:
Cable Two-Arm Lat Pulldown
· Extend your arms up and reach for a straight bar with an overhand grip.
· Sit tall with your knees supported under the leg pad, with the knees and hips at a 90-degree angle.
· Arms should be wider than shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in the elbows.
· Relax your shoulders and keep your chest lifted.
· Contracting the upper back muscles, pull the bar down, leading with the elbows stopping when the bar is just above your chest.
· Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of allowing the weight stack to touch.
· Exhale while lifting the weight.
· Inhale while returning to the starting position.
· Do not allow your upper back to round or your chest to cave in.
Other exercises that target the lats: Close Grip Pulldowns; Wide Grip Pulldowns; Chin Ups; One Arm Dumbbell Row; Seated Cable Row; Stiff Arm Cable Pushdowns.
2. Rhomboid Muscles -- The rhomboids originate on the spinal column and attach to the middle area of the scapula. They get their name from their shape. The function of the rhomboids is to assist in squeezing the shoulder blades together. When even slightly developed, the rhomboids give the back a look of utter beauty.
A great exercise for the rhomboids:
Dumbbell Bent Over Row
· Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in the knees.
· Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend forward from the hips until the upper body is at about 45 degrees.
· Extend the arms down, keeping your shoulder blades together.
· Contracting the upper back muscles, pull the dumbbells up toward your sides stopping when your upper arm is parallel to the floor. Remember to slightly squeeze the shoulder blades together as you pull up to the contracted position.
· Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of the arms being fully extending.
· Exhale as you lift the weights.
· Inhale while returning to the starting position.
· If you have any discomfort or weakness in your lower back, avoid this exercise.
· Start out with light weights to make sure your lower back can tolerate this position.
Alternative exercises for the rhomboid muscles: Rear Delt Raises, Seated Cable Rows, Dumbbell One Arm Bent Over Rows.
3. The Erector Spinae -- For the most part, we're referring to the lower back when we discuss the erector spinae. The erectors are a group of muscles that support the spinal column. The functions of the erector spinae group are to extend the spine as well as provide support for it. This area is extremely important to strengthen and very seldom exercised by the majority of the population.
A great exercise for the erector spinae:
Fitball Prone Trunk Extension
· Lie on the ball with your knees on the floor and feet up on the toes.
· Place your fingertips gently on the sides of your head.
· Maintain a neutral spine with head and neck relaxed as a natural extension of the spine.
· Contracting the lower back muscles, raise your chest off the ball slightly.
· Slowly return to the starting position.
· Exhale while lifting your body.
· Inhale while returning to the starting position.
· Do not hyperextend your back or overdo the range of motion.
Alternative exercises for the erector spinae: Machine Back Extensions, Dumbbell Deadlifts.
Attempt two to three sets of each exercise for 10 to 12 repetitions on two alternate days of the week and focus on precise form at all times.
Whether it's a sleeveless dress you'll be wearing, tank top or just need that extra strength to pick up your kids and groceries, then focusing on your back muscles is your ticket to success. As always, check with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program.
Source: www.eurweb.com — Alexander Graham Bell
"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus."