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July 23, 2009

Lots of great and interesting news this week.  It's coming up to
Caribana - are you ready?  Do you celebrate it?  Perhaps if you haven't been for a few years, you should try again this year.  So many things to celebrate and who couldn't use a little 'happy' this summer?!

Went to see Toronto's own millionaire,
Russell Peters at Yonge-Dundas Square as part of the Just For Laughs festival in front of tens of thousands of people.  See pics in my PHOTO GALLERY.  The fans were so impatient to see Russell  that they booed the opening bumbling comedic gymnasts.  All they wanted was to chant "Russell!  Russell!".  What a proud moment to see our comedic son take the stage and slam down his brand of comedy on the massive crowd.  See a related story under TOP STORIES.

You've probably started to hear the buzz out the new show at Canon Theatre called
The Harder They Come ... now here's your chance to win a pair of FREE tickets!!  If you can tell me who the show is based on, and are available on July 29th, you could be the winner!  Answer under SCOOP!  Enter HERE and please include full name!

Did you know how talented
Kate Voegele is?  Yes, the star of One Tree Hill has a hot CD out.  Pick up her newly released CD, A Fine Mess

Now, check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!


North American Premiere! The Harder They Come Direct From London's West End!

Source: www.mirvish.com

David Mirvish presents the Theatre Royal Stratford East and UK Arts production of the smash hit musical THE HARDER THEY COME, by Perry Henzell, at the Canon Theatre for a strictly limited engagement, July 21 through August 23, 2009 (Media night Thursday, July 23).  Tickets are now on sale.

Based on the iconic 1972 film by Perry Henzell that launched Jimmy Cliff and reggae music onto the world stage, this exhilarating musical tells the story of Ivanhoe Martin (played by the superb Rolan Bell), a country boy who makes for the bright lights of Kingston, Jamaica.  With a head full of songs, including You Can Get it if You Really Want, Many Rivers To Cross, Higher and Higher, Rivers of Babylon and The Harder They Come, he dreams of becoming a reggae star.  When the harsh reality of the music scene drives him into a fast and furious life as an outlaw, he would rather die than kill his dream.

This new musical production by the esteemed Theatre Royal Stratford East in London, England, is staged in the spare, Brechtian style for which the company has become internationally famed. The performers, almost all of Jamaican descent, tell this cautionary tale with a passion that energizes the audience as only few shows have ever done.  

When the production first opened, it was loudly acclaimed by both critics and audiences. It transferred to the prestigious Barbican Bite Festival, but the demand for tickets was so high that it was moved again, to London’s West End.  Toronto is the first stop on an international tour.

“A superb production that faithfully captures not just the movie's music and characters, but also, its soul” – Evening Standard

“Astonishing! Scorching! Swaggering!” – The Guardian

 “Irresistible! Thrilling! Tremendous!” – The Telegraph

 “Exuberant! Extraordinary! You’ll want to see it again and again!” – Daily Mail

THE HARDER THEY COME stars: Delroy Atkinson, Rolan Bell, Cavin Cornwall, Jacqui Dubois, Derek Elroy, Victor Romero Evans, Joanna Francis, Lain Gray, Zalika King,  Joy Mack, Matthew Newtion, Kirk Patterson, Marcus Powell, Susan Lawson Reynolds, Simone Richards and Chris Tummings.

The book is by Perry Henzell, direction by Kerry Michael and Dawn Reid, original costume design by Sally Henzell, choreography by Jackie Guy, lighting design by Jo Joelson and sound design by Stefan Lumsden. The score includes many of the legendary songs that have defined reggae music, including many of Jimmy Cliff's international number one hits (You Can Get It If You Really Want, Many Rivers to Cross, The Harder They Come , Sitting in Limbo,  Higher and Higher ), and songs by The Maytals (Pressure Drop, Sweet and Dandy), The Melodians (Rivers of Babylon ) and other great, pioneer Jamaican artists.

THE HARDER THEY COME is the first show of the 2009-10 Mirvish Subscription season. Air Canada is the presenting Season Sponsor.


CANON THEATRE, 244 Victoria Street
Performance Schedule: Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00 PM; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00PM 
Tickets $25.00 to $95.00


$25.00 (weekday performances) and $30.00 (weekend performances)
Available online at www.mirvish.com or by calling TicketKing at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333  or in person at the Box Office Theatre Groups call 416-593-4142 or 1-800-724-6420

Kate Voegele Multitasks with Music and Acting

Source:  Universal Music Canada

(July 9, 2009) You could say
Kate Voegele is an overachiever. At 22 years old, the Cleveland , Ohio native has spent the better part of the last two years juggling life as a full-time singer-songwriter, part-time actress and a college student, rarely pausing to take a breath. "Multi-tasking has always been my thing," she says.
Ridiculous in the sense that Voegele went from being a complete unknown to a TV star, and from a girl writing songs in her dorm room to a bonafide recording artist with legions of loyal fans, all in less than a year. Voegele is still pinching herself just to make sure it's really happening.
Now the huge star of the hit TV series One Tree Hill, Kate Voegele has released her new album ‘A Fine Mess’ after it was the incredible musical soundtrack to the show’s latest season. Kate’s sophomore record is flying off the shelves across Canada, with stunning songs like 'Lift Me Up', '99 Times' & 'Angel'.
KATE VOEGELE is a new and very bright star in music right now - check out her music at: www.myspace.com/katevoegele & pick up 'A FINE MESS' wherever you buy music!


Michael J. Fox Earns 11th Career Emmy Nod

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporter

(July 16, 2009) Television has been good to Canadian actor Michael J. Fox and living with Parkinson's Disease hasn't prevented him for continuing to do acclaimed work.

Fox has just chalked up his 11th Emmy nomination for his five-episode appearance as a scrappy paraplegic on the cable series Rescue Me.

Fellow Canadian Kiefer Sutherland also scored another Emmy nomination for his work on the espionage series, 24, although this time it was in the category of best actor in a miniseries or movie.

Sutherland scored six successive nominations for lead actor in a drama series from 2002 to 2007, winning once in 2006.

The leading Emmy contenders announced today include Tina Fey's 30 Rock with 22 nominations, '60s retro series Mad Men with 16 nominations, and the TV movie Grey Gardens with 17 nods.

The number of contenders in series and acting categories were expanded this year, which may have allowed room for some unexpected bids, including a rare best-comedy series nomination for an animated series, Family Guy.

The series fields are especially crowded, with seven contenders in both drama and comedy categories. Joining Mad Men are fellow cable dramas Big Love, Breaking Bad, Damages and Dexter. Two network dramas, House and Lost, also made the cut.

Among comedies, the nominees besides 30 Rock and Family Guy include other network series How I Met Your Mother and The Office. Cable contenders include Entourage, Flight of the Conchords and Weeds.

What makes Fox's Emmy record so impressive is that his nominations and wins cover four different television series.

Fox won the Emmy three years in a row from 1986 to 1988 as lead actor in a comedy for his role as Alex Keaton on Family Ties.

After three consecutive years of being nominated in the lead actor in a comedy for Spin City, Fox finally won the Emmy in 2000.

He was subsequently nominated in the category of guest actor in a drama for his appearance on Boston Legal in 2006 as a CEO battling for access to a life-saving experimental cancer-drug.

Fox was forced to abandon Spin City in 2000 but has been an active campaigner on behalf of stem cell research because of its potential to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's, an incurable neurological disorder.

Other Canadian nominees include William Shatner, nominated as outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for Boston Legal, and Sandra Oh, nominated as outstanding supporting actress in a drama series for Grey's Anatomy.

Shatner won an Emmy in 2004 for the role of lawyer Denny Crane in the series The Practice. He won for playing the same character in 2005 in Boston Legal, which was a spinoff series.

Oh has been nominated five years in a row for her role in Grey's Anatomy.

With files from Associated Press

Russell Peters : There's Money In Ethnic Jokes

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Kyonka,
Staff Reporter

(July 16, 2009) Russell Peters has always banked on his ability to make people laugh, but now he's laughing all the way to the bank.

Peters was included on this year's version of the Forbes Top 10 Earning Comedians list, coming in tied for ninth place with an estimated $10 million (U.S.) in earnings last year.

"It's pretty exciting for a kid from Brampton," the comedian said yesterday in a telephone interview from Woodbridge, where he maintains a Canadian home.

"I think it's a reflection of how sad the state of comedy must be."

Peters said he first learned of the honour Tuesday night while checking email in his Los Angeles-area home.

He might be forgiven if he wasn't exactly jumping for joy after reading the message from his publicist.

"The funny part was, I was on the toilet when I checked it, so I can actually say I s--t myself when I read it."

A racially charged and self-deprecating humorist who is known to mock and salute his Indian background in a single sentence, Peters said his wealth is largely driven by tickets sales to his year-round comedy shows.

He is in the middle of his 20th anniversary tour. Tickets to his shows can cost as much as $200.

Despite the $10 million he earned last year, Peters said he had only made one large purchase: a new home just outside L.A. He's also taken his mother's advice to save some of his money, even while she's spending it.

"When my mom tries to tell me to save my money ... the next sentence out of her mouth is that she's going to the casino," he said yesterday.

"She'll never ask for money though ... because she knows her son's a sucker."

The Forbes list leads off with Jerry Seinfeld, the estimated $85-million-earner who continues to cash in on his self-titled hit TV show from the 1990s.

Also on the list is Toronto-born funnyman Howie Mandel, who ranked sixth with approximately $15 million in earnings last year.

"He's a guy I used to watch on TV as a kid, so being on the same list as him is extra cool," Peters said.

Russell Peters hosts a free show at Yonge-Dundas Square Saturday as part of the Toronto Just for Laughs Festival, from 5 to 11 p.m. For more information about the festival, go to hahaha.com.


Here's a sampling of the ethnically insensitive humour that has made Russell Peters a rich man:

Is this their way of fighting terrorism? You can't smile in your passport? ... You want to find terrorists? Make everybody smile. Then the people that don't want to smile, question them.

Terrorists and Indians are not the same. Terrorists hate Americans. Indians hate each other. Terrorists want to blow up airports. Indians like to work at airports, so it would be counter-productive. Yet we always get pulled aside at the airport.

Clearly we've got some Asians in the house. I saw all the Honda Civics in the parking lot – I knew you were here.

Indian people were taken to South Africa as slaves. Who the hell uses an Indian slave? Do I look physically ready to do hard labour?

Hook up a Jamaican with an Italian – they can have little Pastafarians. I could hook up with a Jewish girl – we could have little Hinjews. You get a woman from the Philippines, a guy from Holland – little Hollapeños. A guy from Cuba, a woman from Iceland: little Ice Cubes. A French and a Greek: Freek. A German and a Newfie: little Goofies. It's going to happen. We might as well help it along.

Same-sex marriage doesn't affect me. I got bigger things to worry about. I got to worry about arranged marriages, you know what I mean. It's going to be out of control when they've got same-sex arranged marriages. That's when it's going to be out of control.

Compiled by Astrid Lange / Toronto Star Library. Sources: Star files

Walter Cronkite, 92: Iconic TV News Anchor

Source: www.thestar.com - Lynda Hurst,
Feature Writer

(July 18, 2009) He quite likely held America together during the horrifying events of Nov. 22, 1963.

Only for the briefest moment, when he took off his glasses to blink back a tear, did
Walter Cronkite show emotion at the news of President John F. Kennedy's death.

The legendary CBS Evening News anchor, "the most trusted man in America," who died yesterday at 92, was the dean of American newscasters; authoritative, credible, the epitome of integrity.

CBS senior vice-president Linda Mason says Cronkite died at his New York home at 7:42 p.m., after a long illness. His family issued a statement weeks ago that Cronkite had been suffering with cerebrovascular disease and was not expected to recuperate, CBS said.

His stirring reports on everything from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the Apollo space program and the Vietnam War often had as much impact as the events themselves.

Every night for nearly 20 years, millions of Americans tuned in to hear the day's events as reported by Cronkite, whose avuncular manner and deep voice made his show the top-rated news program from 1962 until he retired in 1981. Cronkite's demeanour inspired the nickname "Uncle Walter," and when he signed off his newscasts with his signature saying, "And that's the way it is," few doubted him.

"Anybody who has sat in the (anchor's) chair for the last 40-50 years has had to be measured against Walter Cronkite," said CTV news anchor Lloyd Robertson.

"He was a huge figure, the face of trust," says Peter Mansbridge, anchor of CBC's The National. "He defined what an anchor has to be; not just a presenter, but a journalist. He had the battle scars."

The Missouri-born dentist's son joined United Press wire service in 1939 to cover World War II. He waded ashore with the troops on D-Day, flew on bombing missions over Germany, covered the Nuremberg war-crime trials and opened UP's first postwar Moscow bureau.

His credo as a reporter, and later as an anchor orchestrating the work of others, was to get the story "fast, accurate, and unbiased."

In 1950, Cronkite signed with CBS's TV news department. He became anchor in 1962 and held the post until retiring in 1981. He later said that within 24 hours of leaving, "I was already regretting it, and I've regretted it every day since."

"News was Walter's life," says former CBC anchor Knowlton Nash. "He was a matter-of-fact man, the quintessential anchorman in the heyday of network news. He became the godfather of them all."

It was Cronkite people turned to as a guide through the turbulent events of the '60s and '70s – the war in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal and the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty – the list goes on. Though often conducting penetrating interviews himself, it was high-pressure live coverage at which he excelled.

The camera never lies, says Global National anchor Kevin Newman. "TV news exposes who you are, especially when you're on live during crises. Everything Cronkite was, was transparent: his experience, his discipline, his humanity."

In 1968, after the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive, Cronkite famously told Americans: "It is increasingly clear that the only rational way out will be to negotiate, not as victors but as an honourable people who lived up to the pledge to defend democracy."

President Lyndon Johnson's reaction was said to be bleak: "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." It was true.

Mansbridge says it was the only time Cronkite broke his objectivity rule. "But he felt so strongly, he had to speak out."

Retirement didn't mean the newsman dropped out of sight. He published his autobiography, A Reporter's Life, in 1997, coinciding with a two-hour TV special, Cronkite Remembers. Last month, on the 65th anniversary of D-Day, he presented a moving field report from the beaches of Normandy.

Looking back on his life in the 1990s, Cronkite said, "I had a pretty good seat at the parade."

With files from AP, Reuters

Drake Lands Top 10 Hits

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Lee,
Los Angeles Times

(July 21, 2009) By any modern measure of musical popularity – YouTube views, radio airplay, ring-tone ubiquity – the single "Best I Ever Had" by Toronto rapper Drake is not only a hit but is arguably 2009's "Song of the Summer." Since debuting on iTunes last month, the hip-hop lust track has sold 600,000 digital downloads and topped three pop charts.

Even if you can't summon to mind its rap-sung vocals or brassy syncopated beat, you probably have heard "Best I Ever Had" blaring out of a convertible somewhere.

Less than a year ago, Drake was unsigned and virtually unknown as a rhyme-sayer. But thanks to some out-of-the-box branding efforts by several of the best-connected marketing executives in the urban world and the institutional backing of his mentor, rap superstar Lil Wayne, Drake landed two songs in the Top 10 this month: "Best I Ever Had" as a solo artist and "Every Girl" as part of the rap group Young Money. He already had amassed a devoted fan base before he even had landed a record deal.

Drake's breakthrough arrives as a happy accident built on plenty of high-level networking, a label bidding war and an astonishing degree of cooperation among rap world big shots. Chief among them, Drake's career overseers: the heads of the New York management company Hip Hop Since 1978 and Cortez Bryant, Lil Wayne's longtime manager. "They have given me one of the greatest situations in hip-hop," Drake, 22, said of his team.

Although already famous in Canada for portraying a disabled high school basketball player on the teen television drama Degrassi: The Next Generation, Drake (government name: Aubrey Drake Graham) didn't exactly take the music industry by storm when he self-released a mix-tape, the appropriately titled Room for Improvement, in 2006.

"I was recording, and the music was decent. But I was on my own. I had no team in place," Drake said. "What you learn as you progress is this business is based on relationships in a major way."

After a subsequent mix-tape brought the rapper to the attention of Lil Wayne, everything changed. The rap star, whose Tha Carter III was the bestselling album of last year, contributed a scorching guest verse on Drake's September underground banger "Ransom," effectively vouching for the newcomer's legitimacy. More important, their "collabo" compelled Bryant to sign on as Drake's manager.

From there, Bryant entered into a managerial tandem with the heavyweight firm Hip Hop Since 1978, whose marketing prowess has resulted in two of the biggest rap releases of the decade: Kanye West's Graduation and Tha Carter III, both of which sold around one million copies in their first week of release.

The plan, going forward, was to build Drake's "brand" in much the same way they had built up West's. According to Gee Roberson, the key would be "old-fashioned artist development – the kind that doesn't exist any more.

"Put out a record and a video and work it station by station, city by city, club by club," said Roberson, chief executive of Hip Hop Since 1978. "Earlier this year, we had Drake on tour opening up for (Lil) Wayne. He was selling out 5,000-seat theatres. It's a grassroots way to build him up."


Staycation Got You Down? Five Ways To Ditch The City

Source: www.thestar.com -
Tanis Fowler, Special To The Star

(July 19, 2009) Summer in the city can be a stifling ordeal, especially when any welcome breeze carries with it the scent of rotting garbage. Music fans in southern Ontario don't have to go far or break the bank to get away. Read on for our guide to some of the major multi-day music festivals within driving distance of Toronto.

Hillside Festival, Guelph (July 24-26) hillsidefestival.ca

This long-running music festival on Guelph Lake Island is one of the biggest draws in southern Ontario with an eccentric mix of music.

Who's playing: Loreena McKennitt and Xavier Rudd are the folkier draws. Indie staples include Final Fantasy, Julie Doiron and Tokyo Police Club, while Library Voices, The Rural Alberta Advantage and Green Go are a few groups to watch out for. Hillside has a habit of booking bands right before they become superstars. (Arcade Fire played in 2004; six months later they were sharing a stage with U2.)

Atmosphere: The festival is steeped with an intensely local, family-friendly spirit. Hillside is run by about 1,200 volunteers, meaning there are no corporate sponsors.

Tickets: Available online for Friday, $50, or try your luck with the ticket swap board. Kids 12 and under and seniors 65 and over, free.

Transportation tips: Mainland parking is available but limited, or hop a free shuttle bus from the Stone Store at 14 Commercial St.

Where to stay: If you aren't camping, you aren't really Hillsiding, so bring a tent. Overflow camping is available.

Don't miss: "Loreena McKennitt is bringing a nine-piece band and performing a 90-minute set, which is one of the longest sets we've ever had," says artistic director Sam Baijal. "That is going to be a magical, mystical experience."

Bring: Your own water bottle and dishes. "It's ridiculous to pay for water, so we're giving it away for free," says Baijal. Hillside's dish ninjas wash reusable plates for hungry diners.

Electric Eclectics, Meaford (July 31-Aug. 2) electric-eclectics.com

A festival of experimental music and sound art, Electric Eclectics is in its fourth year and continues to evolve.

Who's playing: Organizers scored a coup when they booked Holy F---. "Holy F--- is taking a post-modernist approach to electronic music and being able to see the process by which it's made really opens it up," says assistant director Chris Worden. Other artists include Damo Suzuki and operatically-trained singer Katie Stelmanis.

Atmosphere: The festival is small enough to seem like a big backyard party. Artists tend to stick around to enjoy the weekend.

Tickets: Weekend passes, $65; single day tickets, $35. Available online or in person from Rotate This at 801 Queen St. W.

Where to stay: Ticket prices include camping, or there are hotels and B&Bs around Meaford.

Transportation tips: Reserve a bus seat from Toronto online or link to a facebook group where festival-goers are encouraged to carpool. Greyhound also goes to Meaford.

Don't miss: Damo Suzuki is "a living legend," says Worden. "He doesn't perform here often. He's extremely energetic and a consummate performer.

He's played with everybody."

Bring: An open mind and a willingness to hear new things.

Cutting Edge Music Festival, Kitchener (Aug. 1-3) cuttingedgemusicfestival.com

This festival's motto is "more beer less pants," which should give you some idea of what you're in for when signing up for a weekend at Bingemans camping resort .

Who's Playing: The Roots, Bedouin Soundclash, Andrew W.K., as well as the Bronx, Moneen, Thunderheist and drum and bass DJ Andy C.

Atmosphere: With a mostly under-30 crowd, this festival has an undeniably youthful energy. "For me, electronica never really resonates until the night," says Cutting Edge promoter Carey Kurtin.

Tickets: Single day, $49.50; two-day, $89.50. Available online at Ticketmaster.ca and in person at venues listed on the festival's site.

Transportation tips: Shuttle buses depart from Nathan Phillips Square at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, $30 roundtrip, or $180 including festival and camping pass. Tickets at breakawaytours.com.

Where to stay: Camping passes at Bingemans are $50 a day.

Don't miss: "Andrew W.K. is performing his first live Canadian show with a full band in five years."

Bring: Your own booze. For those over 19, alcohol is allowed in designated areas and at campsites only.

Eaglewood Folk Festival, Pefferlaw (Aug. 28-30) eaglewoodfolk.com

Located on the south shore of Lake Simcoe, Eaglewood is entering its 20th year, attracting some of the most creative artists in the country who are writing original material "with no thought of getting it on commercial radio," says artistic director Trevor Mills.

Who's playing: In addition to festival favourite Kinnie Starr and Tom Wilson and his band Lee Harvey Osmond, catch acts who are on the cusp of broader notice, such as the Good Lovelies. "They're poised to break nationally and we get a sneak peek at them," Mills says.

Atmosphere: "At other festivals, you can't get to the front of the stage," says Mills. Here, count on being able to get up close and personal.

Tickets: Weekend pass, $45 until July 24, $55 after July 24, $65 at the gate. Available online or by calling 1-888-655-9090.

Transportation tips: If traffic's good, you can make it in about 90 minutes. GO transit also serves the area.

Where to stay: Camping costs $10 per person per night, available at the gate. All stages can be reached by wheelchair and there are wheelchair-friendly cabins and tents available. This year, Braille programs are being provided.

Don't miss: Jonathan Byrd from North Carolina is "one of the best songwriters going and this is his only Canadian festival stop."

Bring: Instruments. "There are also song circles and swaps in the evening," Mills says.

Virgin Festival, Barrie (Aug. 29, 30) virginfestival.ca

The grand-daddy of Toronto summer music festivals has moved from Centre Island about 100 km north to Burl's Creek Park.

Who's playing: Nine Inch Nails, The Pixies, Franz Ferdinand, Ben Harper and Relentless7, Sloan, Pet Shop Boys, Our Lady Peace and more.

Atmosphere: With this monster festival on the move and new camping logistics, it's anybody's guess.

Tickets: Weekend pass, $99; VIP weekend pass, $275 (not including camping). Available online at Ticketmaster or Future Shop.

Transportation tips: Sign up online for the rideshare program PickupPal. The free service tracks the miles participants have travelled and the amount of carbon emissions collectively reduced.

Where to stay: Camping is per site, not per person, so the more friends you have, the cheaper it is. Available online through Ticketmaster before Aug. 14. Two-day pass, $100; three-day pass, $135; three-day VIP camping pass, $180.

Don't miss: Headliners Nine Inch Nails might be a bit of a throwback, but you know you wrote Trent Reznor's name on your Finder Binder.

Bring: Some loose change. Without a VIP pass, showers are $2 a pop.


Even As She Headlines Annual Jazz Event, Kellylee Evans Is Taking Flight

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

(July 16, 2009) Kellylee Evans has had an uneasy relationship with jazz.

The genre has served her well, to be sure. She placed second in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition in 2004, a contest adjudicated by Quincy Jones, Al Jarreau and Dee Dee Bridgewater, among others.

On the strength of her luscious vocals and 2006 debut Fight or Flight?, the Ottawa-based singer/songwriter has amassed a respectable following, racked up a Canadian Smooth Jazz Award and Juno nomination and landed opening-act gigs for easy-listening heavyweights such as Tony Bennett and Chris Botti.

Still, she feared, the melange of jazz-based, soul-pop originals threatened to pigeonhole her.

Her sophomore disc should fix that.

"I don't think it's fully leaving, but I don't think I was ever fully in it, to be honest," said Evans of The Good Girl, due this fall, comprised of tunes centred on love, yearning and obsession, which she describes as "more pop-soul with a jazz feel."

"I think people always scratched their heads, that it was a little bit more pop than jazz. Now I'm pushing it still further from where it was.

"I don't know what to call it, I don't know who's going to like it, but I know that I love it and the people that have been listening to it have loved it."

This evolution isn't calculated. An independent artist, who once studied law at Carleton University, Evans learned long ago to follow her own path – barefoot, of course, as she always is on stage. She'll be showcasing the new material at her only Toronto appearance this summer at the Beaches International Jazz Festival, the popular annual free gathering that kicks off tomorrow.

"I feel more stable," she says of her trademark shoeless performances. "Even if I wore flats, something would be off. I just feel like I need my toes to touch the ground. It makes me feel really steady; I could be in my house. I feel like I'm freer."

One of the new songs, "No Disguise," sums up Toronto-born Evans's self-directed vision. It commemorates the day, in 2005, she was turned down by prestigious jazz label Blue Note, after having acquiesced to her then-manager's entreaties to clad her "earthy" self in a "crisp white suit" and sing standards for the audition with the label.

"It was clearly a blessing without a disguise," she explained in a phone interview. "I remember being so broken up about it, but then I sat back and realized if (Blue Note boss Bruce Lundvall) had said yes to that Kellylee, then I would have to be that Kellylee and that's not me. I was going down that road because I wanted the deal. But what else would I have had to compromise on? Were they going to make me record standards?"

Ultimately, she continues, "I was so happy, because I didn't like her either. Not to say that if I'd been myself they would have said yes, but now I have a chance to work on me and really embrace who I am. And not to say I'm never going to wear a white suit, or never wear heels, but then I didn't want to."

The new album's power-pop title track also references that outlook. "I know my place in the world and it's not as your good girl," goes a recurring line.

"So many women are always trying to make everybody around them happy," explained the married mother of three. "This is my own little manifesto. I desire to make myself happy."

The album is not entirely inward-looking. One of the strongest songs Evans has ever recorded is "Free," co-written with producer James Bryan and inspired by Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama – "I'll always be free/ No trouble/ No struggle/ Nobody could ever defeat me."

With music and lyrics in hand, the only question was an appropriate signifier for the entertainer's new sound.

"It was keeping me up at night for a while," she admitted. "Alternative soul? Pop soul? There's no desire to say forget jazz. I still have in mind to do a jazz-standards CD. I know that I'll be back."

Just the facts
WHO: Kellylee Evans

WHERE: Beaches International Jazz Festival. Kew Gardens mainstage

WHEN: July 25, 12:30 p.m.

COST: Free

Beyoncé Puts A Zing In It With Varied Show

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

(July 20, 2009) When Beyoncé Knowles announced a line of upcoming fashion creations a couple of weeks ago, the pop sensation said, "There's a little Sasha Fierce in every girl."

The capacity turnout at Molson Amphitheatre for the Beyoncé Experience last night eloquently proved the point.

It was a Sasha Fierce fest, as a sea of smiling, screaming fans basked in a 90-minute explosion of sound, movement and big-screen video.

But there's no reason why this tour in honour of last year's megahit album I Am ... Sasha Fierce could not have been called Beyoncé in Concert.

When all was sung, danced and done, this show was about a pop star delivering some of her favourite tunes with seemingly genuine emotion.

The Beyoncé Experience was also a communal act of female self-empowerment, dressed up with all the pop world can pull out of its video-generated hat.

Cellphones and cameras held high to capture the moment, the boys and, in overwhelming numbers, girls of all ages took it all in with a party spirit that's been lacking in Toronto so far this summer.

The program itself – warmed up by Richgirl and Eva Avila – was exactly what you would want to get from your best musical girlfriend ... and her 10-strong all-female backup band, three backup singers and a quartet of female dancers in skin-tight costumes.

There were also four ripped dancing boys to spice up the scenery from time to time, but they were clearly beside the point.

The nicely layered program alternated sets of booty-shaking numbers with something with a bit more soul.

There were the obligatory hits selections from Sasha Fierce, including a fairy-tale bride-turned-angel sequence for Beyoncé's take on "Ave Maria."

The night was also peppered with best-of seasoning from the artist's remarkable development from the lead of girl band Destiny's Child into a redoubtable musical force.

Who else in the 21st century has started her own dance craze? When Beyoncé stepped forth for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," the crowd went wild, with fans jostling each other with wild abandon.

Who else can cross from pop to dance to R&B to hip hop without skipping a beat?

We even got a taste of the past in an all-too-brief quotation of Donna Summer's old dance-rouser, "I Love to Love You, Baby," and Alanis Morissette's melancholy "You Oughta Know."

But for all the big show onstage, one of the finest moments came two-thirds of the way into the evening, as the thousands of women in the audience (and some of the men) sang the lyrics for "Irreplaceable" to Beyoncé.

There was a sudden, special bond between everybody at the lakeside venue. To paraphrase the song's lyrics, the message to Beyoncé was that we cannot have another you in a minute, and we know it.

Station Devoted To Indie Musicians Finds Listeners And Curious Advertisers

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Adrian Brijbassi, Toronto Star

(July 20, 2009) Musician Alan Sochan has invested about $100,000 and more than two years of his life in a "wing and a prayer and a hunch we're onto something."

That something is an
Internet radio station that plays music exclusively from affiliated independent Canadian artists. Indie Love Radio (indielove.ca) launched on Canada Day in 2007 and now includes 3,000 acts, including 700 from Greater Toronto, in genres ranging from hip-hop to country.

Last month, it started to sell downloadable songs from its roster of musicians. On Wednesday it finalized an advertising deal with Cameron's Brewing Company, a small brewery in Oakville, which was sold on the website's metrics.

"The numbers without question impressed me," said Mike Laba, head of marketing for Cameron's. "I've been in the beer industry for seven years and been in talks with a lot of radio stations as far as what they can deliver in listenership, and what Indie Love has isn't far off from what the big radio stations are doing."

That's sweet news to Sochan, who was driven to create Indie Love after the music industry shunned him and the album he released in the mid-1990s.

"I realized you could send your stuff off to 100 people at different stations and not get one reply," said the 39-year-old from Toronto. "It's possible my stuff sucked, but I don't think that matters. If you're not represented by a record company, your CD is just going to be put on a shelf. I felt pretty hopeless, but also felt I wasn't the only one and I knew there weren't enough places to go where people would support you."

In early 2007, Sochan scoured the Internet for independent artists and invited many of them to join his fledgling enterprise.

"The reason we think we'll keep an audience is because of our niche," says Sochan. "If the Black-Eyed Peas come out with a hit single, sure, you're not going to hear it on our station, but that's okay. We're here for Canadian musicians whose talent isn't getting the attention it deserves and we're also building a network of bands who are helping to get the word out on their own."

One recent sign-up is Mississauga's Cut Throat Kids, who headlined the first of a regular series of Indie Love concerts sponsored by Steam Whistle Brewing on Thursday night. Singer Tyler Tasson says the opportunity to be spotlighted in the Gladstone Hotel show and from coast to coast on radio is a gift for musicians struggling to break out of their local markets or from crowded Internet platforms.

"MySpace is so oversaturated and you need somewhere to channel music out to people, and at Indie Love they take the time to listen to good bands," says Tasson, 20, whose group is polishing songs that soon will be for sale on the station's website for $2 each.

The artists keep $1 from every sale while the Toronto-based company takes 70 cents and pays a 30-cent transaction fee to PayPal, the online payment processor. On Apple's iTunes, the biggest music seller in North America, songs cost 69 cents, 99 cents or $1.29, and artists keep about 10 per cent on each sale, although that share can vary greatly depending on recording contracts.

While all independent artists can sign up to sell their music in the Indie Love store, the volunteer DJs control the playlist for the station's 15 programs. They're limited to the Indie Love catalogue but aren't mandated to play anything in particular from it, says Anny Slama, who hosts a show on Saturdays. The DJs spend hours preparing for shows and volunteering in other ways. Slama says she makes the effort in part because of Sochan's lead. "It's definitely motivating to see someone pour his heart and soul – and every penny he has – into something."

One key investment was a $5,000 digital-to-analog converter that produces a rich, consistent sound by allowing computer audio files to be remastered on a studio mixing board before being streamed on the Internet.

The website receives about 50,000 visits a day and listeners spend more than an hour per visit – "well above the average of major radio stations," says Laba. Although his company's initial commitment is only $2,500 in sponsorship of an upcoming Indie Love event, he said Cameron's "will be looking to do much more going forward with online advertising."

Sochan feels his aim of making a profitable business from supporting Canadian musicians is near. If Indie Love succeeds, he might return to his music career.

"This is the biggest backup plan ever," he says. "Plus, I know if I ever do put out another record, I'll always be played on my station."

Keys, Latifah, Lil Kim Play Mandela Concert


(July 20, 2009) *Big names from both entertainment and politics – including Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah and Lil Kim – toasted Nelson Mandela's 91st birthday as part of an all-star concert at Radio City Music Hall. 

The tribute, held Saturday night, included a diverse collection of musical collaborations that ranged from pop to disco to gospel, reports The Associated Press.

France's first lady Carla Bruni made her American stage debut at the show paired with Eurythmics founder Dave Stewart as her husband, President Nicolas Sarkozy, sat cheering in the audience. She paid homage to Mandela's social activism by covering Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," calling it a song by another famous activist (scroll down for performance).

From an early performance by disco queen Gloria Gaynor to the star-studded finale led by Stevie Wonder, the crowd was on their feet for most of the night.

Latifah performed a booming rendition of "There's a Light" that ended with thunderous applause. She originally recorded the song for the 2007 movie, "Hairspray."

Among the eclectic collaborators were Aretha Franklin, who joined Josh Groban for his "You Raise Me Up." After the song, Groban told the crowd that performing with Franklin was "the thrill of a lifetime."

Keys and African artist Angelique Kidjo performed the spiritual "Afrika." Rapper Lil' Kim's (SINGING) duet with Cyndi Lauper offered a stripped-down rendition of Lauper's "Time After Time." (See the performance below.)

Before the show, the rapper spoke of how Mandela inspired her, saying: "He was very instrumental in my experience in prison." Lil' Kim spent a year in prison on conspiracy and perjury charges.

African artists such as Suzanna Owiyo, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Sipho Mabuse, and the Soweto Gospel Choir played backup for the night and were part of the one of the strongest performances, notes The AP.

Mandela could not make the festivities, but the South African freedom fighter appeared last year for a concert in London's Hyde Park to celebrate his 90th birthday. Since then, Mandela's doctors advised that he no longer travel internationally. The concert Saturday, therefore, culminates the first ever "Mandela Day" as a means of honouring his inspiration by observing the day annually.

Ex-Beatles, Rolling Stones Manager Klein Dies

www.globeandmail.com - Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press

(July 18, 2009) NEW YORK — Music manager Allen Klein, a no-holds-barred businessman who bulldozed his way into and out of deals with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, died Saturday, a publicist for his company said. He was 77.

Klein, who was one of the most powerful figures in the music business in the 1960s but ended up feuding with some of his biggest clients, died at his New York City home of Alzheimer's disease, said Bob Merlis, publicist for ABKCO Music & Records.

An accountant known for his brashness, temper and tenacity in tracking down royalties and getting better record deals, Klein garnered clients including Sam Cooke, Bobby Darin and Herman's Hermits.

But he became most famous – and later infamous – for signing on the Rolling Stones and then the Beatles. Both arrangements eventually spurred lawsuits, with some Beatles fans blaming Klein for contributing to the tensions that broke up the group.

Klein was convicted of tax fraud in 1979 and served two months in prison for failing to report income from sales of promotional records by the Beatles and other groups; the records were supposed to be given away. The Rolling Stones grew so infuriated with Klein – whose company still owns an enormous chunk of their 1960s songs – that Mick Jagger once chased him down the hall of a posh hotel.

Klein was reputed to be the basis for the slick manager “Ron Decline,” played by Jon Belushi, in the parodic 1978 film The Rutles , and the inspiration for John Lennon's bitter 1974 song Steel and Glass .

Regardless, Klein remained “very proud of the position he was in and what he was able to do with the different artists he was able to work with,” Merlis said.

Klein began building his reputation by auditing record companies' books and finding unpaid royalties for Darin and other artists. After meeting Cooke in 1962, he helped the soul singer secure a then-unusual level of control over his music and finances.

“I never wanted to be a manager,” he told The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., in 2002. “It was going over the books that I loved. And I was good at it.”

That helped him win over the Rolling Stones, who hired him in the mid-1960s. He helped the group negotiate a new contract with its label, but the relationship soured after Klein bought the rights to the band's 1960s songs and recordings from a former manager.

He was fired in 1970, but the animosity continued for decades, culminating in duelling lawsuits over rights and royalties and a 1984 trial. Jagger testified in a federal court in New York that Klein “wanted a hold on us, on our futures” – and that a 1974 discussion about money ended with a shouting Jagger chasing Klein down a corridor at London's Savoy Hotel. The lawsuit was settled soon after, with Klein keeping the song rights but agreeing to pay royalties promptly.

In the meantime, Klein had set his sights on managing the Beatles and saw his chance when their long-time manager, Brian Epstein, died in 1967.

Initially rebuffed, Klein eventually won John Lennon's favour.

“He not only knew my work, and the lyrics that I had written, but he also understood them, and from way back. That was it,” Lennon told an interviewer in 1970.

The group hired Klein in 1969 over the objections of Paul McCartney, who preferred his father-in-law, Lee Eastman.

At the time, a New York Times profile referred to Klein as “the toughest wheeler-dealer in the pop jungle.” Klein himself once sent out a chest-beating holiday card with a profane takeoff on the 23rd Psalm: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because I'm the biggest bastard in the valley.”

But his relationship with the Beatles was bitter and short-lived. The group broke up the next year, and McCartney sued his band mates in an effort to break free from Klein, an action once unthinkable among the harmonious foursome. McCartney went on to revile Klein in a 1997 biography, Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now .

The other Beatles lost faith in Klein and sued him in the mid-1970s. Lennon sent him off in song in Steel and Glass , which describes how “your mouthpiece squawks as he spreads your lies.”

Klein was born in Newark on Dec. 18, 1931, and spent several years in an orphanage after his mother's death during his infancy. He was later raised by a grandmother and an aunt.

Klein graduated from Upsala College and served in the U.S. Army before joining a Manhattan accounting firm, according to his company.

He started his own firm, which later became ABKCO, in the late 1950s. Besides managing music, he co-produced 1971's The Concert for Bangladesh , a forerunner of modern charity concerts, and films including 1978's The Greek Tycoon , starring Anthony Quinn and Jacqueline Bisset.

He is survived by a long-time companion, Iris Keitel; his estranged wife, Betty; three children, four grandchildren and a sister.

Three Keys Music's Marcus Johnson Releases New CD, 'Poetically Justified'

Source: www.eurweb.com -
By Eunice Moseley

(July 16, 2009) *“Everybody, all my life, said, 'No, you couldn't do music, you couldn't go to law school (and become a lawyer), you couldn't have a label, you couldn't be at the top of Billboard.' This is my 14th record and guess what (I did all those things), I got something for you,” Marcus Johnson stressed this to me during my interview on his latest CD, “Poetically Justified,” which is released on his own “indie” label Three Keys Music. His label is distributed exclusively in all  FYEs, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Walmarts and Best Buys.

This current album has an extensive variety of impressive collaborations with Baltimore native Maysa, legendary saxophonist Najee and vocalist Miles Jaye. “Poetically Justified” offers a contemporary Jazz selection “Master of my Heart,” which features the masterful vocals of Maysa. On this song Maysa sings in a whisper, very effectively. This unusual style is currently getting heavy rotation on Adult-Contemporary radio stations.

On his 14 track release Marcus also covers a Michael Jackson song, “This Place Hotel,”  very lovingly and it is also the first single off the album.

“I had planned to place this song on my previous albums,” Johnson pointed out when asked about the coincidence of this MJ cover and the death of the Pop superstar. “It just happened to work out this time...I listen to my higher power, I am 'Poetically Justified'.”

The “Poetically Justified” CD also offers another cover, the Floety song “Say yes.” Aside from “Master of my Heart,” “The Place Hotel” and “Say Yes” other favourites of mine on the CD include “Chillaxin,” “I See you” featuring Najee on sax; “Danni's Song,” which sounds like a piano battle is going on; “Stand by me” a sweet love song, and “Cherish the Journey” a great track for a long road trip.

For more on  Marcus, his label, his awesome recording studio in Silverspring, Maryland and his newest album release log onto www.threekeys.com, www.marcusjohnsonmusic.com or www.myspace.com/marcusjohnsonproject

Clinton's Funkadelic Evolution

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill,
Entertainment Columnist

(July 19, 2009) For George Clinton, the crazed, wildly costumed creator in the 1970s of a flamboyant hybrid of energetic R&B dance grooves, kinky outer-space kitsch and psychedelic fuzz-rock that became his trademark in the bands Parliament and Funkadelic in the 1980s, and more recently as a solo artist, there is no end to funk.

The 68-year-old is perpetually on the road, touring the U.S. and Canada, South America, Japan and Europe with a full contingent of funkateers, and performing for up to five hours a night.

He's in Toronto tonight for a show at the Phoenix.

On the road somewhere south of Detroit promoting his current album, Gangsters Of Love – love songs from the 1950s and '60s given the typically outrageous Clinton makeover with help from Carlos Santana, Sly Stone, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The RZA and others – the one-time New Jersey street-corner doo-wopper filled in a few blanks over a dodgy cellphone earlier this week.

Q. Rappers give you credit for laying the groundwork for their musical movement. Are they exaggerating funk's influence?

Whatever it takes to keep us around ... I'll take whatever praise comes my way. But I do believe that funk is rap's DNA. The riffs and hooks were there in our music before rap even had a name. We started rhyming over grooves when radio started dropping deejays and playing five tracks in a row. You lost something in the `hood when the deejays stopped talking, an important connection to the listener, something personal. We tried to put it back on (Parliament's 1976 album) Mothership Connection, by just talking over the grooves, like segues from one track to the next.

Q. What was the genesis of funkadelic music?

A. In a way it was just natural evolution. By the time we got our first record deal with Motown, which had always been our target, R&B was more or less over. Up against the Beatles and the Stones and Clapton and those guys in the British Invasion – they were all playing songs I heard while I was in Grade School – Motown was starting to sound like the Ink Spots and the Clovers, the bands in the 1950s that had preceded us. It was old-fashioned.

We had to come up with something that would get (black American) music some attention ... the best idea we had was basically to crank up the volume on Motown and load it up with psychedelic rock `n' roll sounds.

Q. What's next for you?

An album of Motown classics and B-sides done in the Clinton style. I keep going back to Motown. They made the best music out there.

George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars play Phoenix Concert Theatre (410 Sherbourne St.) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $46.50 at ticketmaster.ca.

Just the facts
Who: George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars

When: 8 p.m.

Where: Phoenix Concert Theatre, 410 Sherbourne St.

Tickets: $46.50 at ticketmaster.com

McCartney Talks About Rift With Mijac

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 17, 2009) *Paul McCartney speaks about his rift with the late Michael Jackson on tonight's broadcast of "The Late Show with David Letterman."

Taped earlier today at The Ed Sullivan Theater – where the Beatles made their American debut in 1964 to launch the "British Invasion" – McCartney explained that he and Jackson "fell apart" over the Beatles catalogue, which the King of Pop snagged only after McCartney told him that he planned on purchasing it himself.

The year was 1985. Jackson and McCartney had just recorded two songs together, "The Girl is Mine" for Michael's "Thriller" album and "Say Say Say" for Paul's "Tug of War." Jackson, one day, asked the Beatles singer to explain the value of artists owning their own music publishing rights.

In the tutorial, McCartney mentioned he was planning to buy rights to the Beatles music at an upcoming auction. McCartney said Jackson commented that he would buy the rights first. McCartney laughed it off as a joke.

Cut to the auction, where McCartney found out that his buddy paid $47.5 million to outbid him for the catalogue. Adding insult to injury, the moonwalker then turned around a few years later and sold the rights to Sony for $95 million.

According to McCartney, Jackson informed him, "That's just business, Paul."

"We've never kind of got to it, and I thought 'hmmm,' so we kind of drifted apart," the 66-year-old told Letterman, but then added that "there was no big bustup."

He then said Jackson "was a lovely man, massively talented, and we miss him."

Buzz Aldrin's Rap Video Aims To Make Space Sexy

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner,
Staff Reporter

(July 17, 2009) For Buzz Aldrin, Snoop Dogg was a passable first step. More boots on the moon would be even better.

As the world observes the 40th anniversary of the first moon shot, no one's working harder to drum up support for space exploration than Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, the man who followed Neil Armstrong out onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.

His tactics are, to say the least, bizarre: Aldrin, 79, recently teamed up with rapper Snoop Dogg – a space case of an altogether different sort – to record a hip-hop single and viral video entitled "Rocket Experience" (preceded last month by an amusing "making of" documentary on the website FunnyOrDie.com). Aldrin hopes it will awaken interest in the stars amongst members of the generations who have never experienced the vicarious thrill of watching a moonwalk – at least of the non-Michael Jackson variety.

It's hard to say whether Aldrin's endearingly clumsy rap ("I tell the story 'bout my time on the moon now / The sky was black even though the sun shine down / Moonwalking's such a trip, it's so fine / When you're walking in the lunar dust") will rally the youth of the world to his cause, but his heart's in the right place.

"We have to take the new generation with us, so they can say that their generation participated," Aldrin told The Guardian two weeks ago. In a statement reprinted around the globe, he argued that "young people have lost any interest in space that isn't in a video game or a movie house.

"Many don't know that man has stood on the moon. But these incredible rappers speak to the new generations and know how to reach them. The Americans who will take man to Mars are already born and they don't even know that space is man's fate."

Aldrin is gunning for a manned Mars mission to make space travel sexy again. But, as we've learned this week from the confluence of the moon-landing anniversary and the space-shuttle voyage of Julie Payette, who is joining fellow Canuck Robert Thirsk at the International Space Station, all we need to foment public excitement are more human beings in space.

"Robotic missions and all that kind of thing, they're very efficient and cost-effective and less risky, but they don't generate that same level of excitement," concedes Greg Fahlman, director general of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria.

Apathy has even set in around the space shuttle missions, he says, noting that "if Julie Payette wasn't on this shuttle, it would be on page 26 or something like that."

Routine, day-to-day research, meanwhile, is off the public radar. How many of us know, for instance, that in astronomy, Canadians are among the most prolific and most cited researchers in the world?

Phil Plait, creator of the hit blog Bad Astronomy and one of the scientists who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, blames politics and budget-slashing at NASA for all but stalling the space program after the final Apollo mission to the moon in 1972.

The space shuttle was supposed to be the saviour, he says, but the aging, expensive and increasingly unsafe fleet never became the "elevator into space" it was billed as. The space station failed to galvanize the public, too, because no one's really figured out what to do with it. It is, Plait says, "essentially useless."

"The reason for the space station was to give the shuttle something to do and the reason for the shuttle was the space station. Hello? We're going around in circles," he says.

Plait disagrees with MC Buzz that Mars is the answer, pointing out that we have to relearn how to land on the moon first. But he says another off-world mission is still key to getting the public back on board.

"People are interested in the cool, `gee whiz' stuff but they don't think the shuttle or the space station by themselves count as that," he says.

"It's not necessarily that there's an ennui setting in with space exploration. They're bored with what NASA's doing right now. They want the Buck Rogers stuff, but the old joke is that without the bucks, you can't have the Buck Rogers ... And NASA has to pull its head out and figure out what it's doing."

Electro-Rockers Depeche Mode Touring The Universe

Source: www.thestar.com - Karen Bliss,
Special To The Star

(July 19, 2009) It's as if time has stood still for British electro-rock veterans Depeche Mode. The band is still selling out stadiums, arenas and sheds around the world and creating the same kind of excitement for its concerts as it did in the 1980s.

"There is, obviously, this huge worldwide recession but one of the things that isn't suffering is the live scene," says keyboardist, guitarist and main songwriter Martin Gore. Ticket sales for Depeche Mode's Tour of the Universe have been going "phenomenally well," he says.

Toronto's Molson Amphitheatre show July 24 is completely sold out, with not even a single lawn seat to be had. The date at Montreal's Bell Centre the following night is also standing room only. In America, the tour includes back-to-back nights at New York's Madison Square Garden and L.A.'s Hollywood Bowl in August.

"That just goes to show that people are still as excited about music as they ever were," Gore says. "They're just not into buying CDs as much as they were because there are other ways that they can get music now."

The music Depeche Mode has created on its 12th studio album, Sounds of the Universe, is a return to the dark, seductive sound that made it one of the world's biggest bands with sales of more than 100 million albums.

The tour, featuring Gore, lead singer Dave Gahan and keyboardist Andy Fletcher, kicked off in May in Israel. It was a country the band had never before played in its three-decade career.

"The last show of the last tour (behind 2005's Playing The Angel) was supposed to be in Israel," Gore explains. "That got cancelled because it was at the height of the Israeli-Lebanon war and we didn't feel it was safe to have 50,000 people congregating in one place when there were rockets flying. But to make up for that (we started) this tour in Israel. Our fans there have been very patient."

After Israel, Tour of The Universe included some of Europe's top venues but was interrupted when Gahan was operated on for a low-grade malignant tumour. Most of the nine shows that were cancelled have been rescheduled, some into 2010.

In all, Gore thinks Depeche Mode will be on the road for about 10 months. The last date listed on Poll star.com is Feb. 6 in Moscow.

For all the exhilaration of touring, Gore concedes it can be a strain.

"You sort of get used to it after a while, but we know that we have odd periods where we're just at home for two or three years, then suddenly the workload starts again and we're gone for half-a-year recording, and then the tour starts and we're gone.

"Two of my children are older – my oldest daughter is just about to go off to university this year – but my youngest one is only 6, so he's at that stage now where he's going to be really confused. Obviously, in the summer I'll take him as much as I can but when he's off (at) school, it's difficult."

Green Day's Armstrong Steals The Hearts Of The Crowd

Source: www.thestar.com - Jeff Mahoney,
Hamilton Spectator

(July 17, 2009) There was no authority at last night's Green Day concert at Copps Coliseum, save for one. Billy Joe Armstrong, but he was enough to rule the world, or at least the mad, cackling rapturous world on fire that he created for the thousands who filled the stadium and did every last thing he told them to, gladly.

Pointing up to the high seats at the far end Armstrong bounded onto the stage at the start of the show and shouted, `Get up out of your f--- ing seats, right now. This ain't TV.' And up they went, at least the few who weren't already on their feet at the very sight of him.

There was extra security last night to help smooth the procedure that the band and HECFI put into effect to reduce scalping. And the front of the stage and runway were lined with beefy yellow-shirted centurions. But Armstrong, the band's lead singer and galloping heart, was the true crowd control.

He was like some frenzied, irresistible demagogue, pulling children out of the crowd in a weird parody of political glad-handing and firing the stadium up with his wild, half-formed but totally compelling street oratory and his calls to chaos.

And it absolutely worked. There was so much energy in the building within the first 10 minutes that it felt as though the building were leaving the ground.

It wasn't just Armstrong's stage antics, full of half-completed gestures and lines of dialogue that went nowhere but somehow said everything. It was the music. The band was so tight and driving, and Armstrong's voice so full of clarity, perfect pitch and nitro-glycerin that you'd think it was pre-recorded. But it obviously wasn't because, as he did with his antics, Armstrong would interrupt songs in the middle, share some musings, get the crowd to sing along – they knew all the words to all the songs – then return with the band to finish up the song.

It proved a terrifically successful anti-structure for the show. You never knew where he would go or how much of the song the band would play. Some songs never made it past a few bars. But it didn't matter. Whatever spontaneity and instinct Armstrong threw in, it hit the mark.

Armstrong's was a leadership by chaos and yet there was a rhyme to it all.

Green Day has become an increasingly political band. How could they not have, given their punk-ish roots combined with the disaster of the Bush administration, which they skewered in American Idiot.

If your band is political, that makes you a politician, and in a way that's what Armstrong is on the stage. A politician of song and a champion of anti-authoritarianism. And while there is a lot of anger in Green Days's music and sadness at some of the things America has become, there was no note of gloom or defeat or even of agenda. It was pure energy and excitability, with a motif of fire and flames throughout, from the effects to the arty video screen. And that energy and excitability went through the crowd like pink eye at a day care centre.

The band did effortlessly explosive renditions of so many of their songs, from different stages in their careers.

There was a paralyzingly dynamic take on Holiday from American Idiot. And also from that album, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, sung almost entirely by the audience.

They opened with 21st Century Breakdown from their new album of the same name. Also from their latest, they performed 21 Guns, Know Your Enemy and several others.

One of the highlights of the evening was a novel approach to Hitchin' A Ride, with loads of audience participation.

The whole show – in fact, Armstrong's whole persona – is a paradox of chaos and control. For all the madness, there were times when Armstrong was like a magician who has plates spinning on one rod, rings twirling on another, a ball on his nose and a unicycle under his butt.

At one point he had a child on stage firing water into the crowd from a super squirter gun, while he launched T-shirts from a T-shirt bazooka and audience members writhed toward the stage on a sea of arms.

Some of them Armstrong would bring on stage with him to help him sing. It was a party and Armstrong involved the audience as an essential ingredient of his act.

One fan whom he invited onto the stage tried to find his way off only to be told by Armstrong that there was only one way back – he had to charge down the runway and dive into that sea of arms. Did the guy jump? Of course. You do what Armstrong tells you to. It was a truly amazing show. One of the best I've seen at Copps.

Opening act The Bravery put in a very strong set.

Gordon Waller Of 'Peter And Gordon' Dies

Source:  www.thestar.com - Dave Collins,
Associated Press

(July 20, 2009) HARTFORD, Conn.–Gordon Waller of the pop duo Peter and Gordon, who were part of the 1960s British Invasion and had a string of hits including several written by their friend Paul McCartney, has died. He was 64.

Waller died Friday at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, Conn., nursing supervisor Nity Oris confirmed Monday. The duo's website says Waller, who lived in Ledyard, Conn., went into cardiac arrest Thursday night.

Waller and Peter Asher hit No. 1 on music charts around the world in 1964 with their debut single "A World Without Love.'' McCartney, who at the time was dating Asher's sister, actress Jane Asher, wrote the song.

The duo also hit the charts with other songs written by McCartney, including "Nobody I Know" and "I Don't Want To See You Again." Although McCartney wrote the songs, they were jointly credited to him and John Lennon, as was all their work at the time.

Peter and Gordon's other hits included their versions of Del Shannon's "I Go to Pieces" and the Buddy Holly song "True Love Ways," both in 1965; "Lady Godiva," 1966; and "Knight in Rusty Armour" reached the top 20 in 1967.

"Woman," another McCartney song not to be confused with Lennon's later song of the same name – also reached the top 20 in 1966.

According to the book The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz, McCartney had started writing "A World Without Love" as a teenager. By the time the Beatles reached the top in 1963-64, it wasn't up to their current standard, and it had also been rejected by another singer as "too soft.''

McCartney then rewrote it a bit and gave it to Asher. He and Waller "sang it with a pleasant laid-back yearning that transformed the song into a perfectly acceptable pop hit," Spitz wrote.

Peter Asher's website says Peter and Gordon had nine Top 20 records from 1964 until they split in 1968.

"Gordon played such a significant role in my life that losing him is hard to comprehend – let alone to tolerate," Asher said in a statement. "Gordon remains one of my very favourite singers of all time and I am still so proud of the work that we did together. I am just a harmony guy and Gordon was the heart and soul of our duo.''

After the duo broke up, Asher went on to a long career as a producer. Working for the Beatles' Apple records, he produced James Taylor's first album. In the 1970s, he produced other Taylor albums as well as Linda Ronstadt's string of hits.

Waller was born in Braemar, Scotland. He met Asher at Westminister School in London, according to the duo's MySpace page.

Peter and Gordon, who both played acoustic guitar during their shows, reunited in 2005 for occasional performances. They had several dates this year, including two shows in Kentucky Aug. 27 and 28 and one at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut on Nov. 29.

On his own web page, Gordon said his time with Asher was "some of the happiest moments of my life.''

"I was able to tour with the Beatles in 1967 and see the world with Peter Asher and most of all play the music that I love,'' Gordon said on his Web page. "I still follow the same simple philosophy today and that is if it sounds good and the words mean something then you have a good song.''

Ernest Pugh's New Black Smoke Music Release

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 21, 2009) *Earnest Pugh, one of gospel music's gifted praise and worship leaders, is known for his moving gospel songs and exceptional vocal ability. 

Remembered for songs like "Wrapped Up, Tied Up" and "Holy Spirit", the 2006 En Sound Male Vocalist of the Year and his EPM Music Group has just teamed up with gospel music industry giant Kerry Douglas of Black Smoke Music Worldwide for an exclusive recording contract and distribution deal. 

The first release from the new partnership will be the artist's new CD entitled "Earnest Pugh Live: Rain On Us" set to drop on Tuesday, July 28, 2009.

Douglas' Black Smoke Music Worldwide (formerly Worldwide Gospel), the home of artists such as James Fortune & FIYA (known for their Billboard chart-busting single "I Trust You"), Keith "Wonderboy" Johnson, Jimmy Hicks & V.O.I and Shawn McLemore, is now where Pugh will be hanging his "musical hat." 

Kerry Douglas, revered as an icon in gospel music, started Worldwide Gospel from his garage in 1996.  The label has grown to one of the largest independent record companies in the genre. 

In addition, he's the founder and publisher of Gospel Truth Magazine, one of the best known publications for gospel music.  As businessman and entrepreneur, Douglas specializes in faith-based marketing and endeavours to connect artists with consumers.

Earnest is confident that the connection with Douglas was God-ordained.  He says, "I have been in constant prayer for God to open a door, a major platform, to release my new album 'Earnest Pugh Live: Rain On Us'. It seems that out of nowhere Kerry and I went from discussing the gospel music industry to connecting as business partners."

Eric Foss, an executive at Black Smoke Music, is very optimistic about the signing of Earnest Pugh as well. "Kerry and I are very excited about this artist," says Foss. "We are confident that the songs on the Earnest Pugh Live: Rain On Us CD will resonate in the hearts and minds of the listening audience.  Kerry Douglas is confident he has a winner in Earnest Pugh."  Douglas himself says, "Not only is Earnest an incredible vocalist and artist, but he is also a businessman who is well learned and familiar with the 'ins and outs' of the gospel music industry."

Pugh's EPM Music Group/Black Smoke Music Worldwide release will be in stores Tuesday, July 28th 2009. Pugh plans to kick off the promotional tour in the Nation's Capitol, the location of Temple of Praise where the live recording took place. The 17-song disc features Vanessa Bell Armstrong and Richard Smallwood. Washington, DC's Charles Butler and Trinity provided background vocals and Producer Mike Bereal's 'Band of Life" brought the house down on every song.

Below are Earnest Pugh's dates during the week of the release:

- Ebenezer AME Church (7707 Allentown Rd., Ft. Washington, MD 20744) @ 7:45am and 11:15am services
- Community of Hope (3701 Branch Avenue, Hillcrest Heights, MD 20748) @ 6pm
- Listening Party at K Street Lounge (1301 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005) @ 7pm
- Release Concert/Greater St. John Church (11425 Old Marlboro Pike, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772) thru Friday, July 31st - GMWA Various Showcases (Cincinnati, OH) @ 7pm Nightly
August 1st - Mt. Ararat Baptist Church (271 Paulson Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15206) @ 7pm

 For more information about Earnest Pugh's upcoming events, go to www.EarnestPugh.com or www.MySpace.com/EarnestPugh and stay connected to the Gospel Slice for a full event re-cap.

Newly Coiffed Susan Boyle Back on U.S. TV

Source:  www.thestar.com - Reuters

(July 22, 2009) LOS ANGELES–Susan Boyle, the singer who became a global star with a show-stopping performance on Britain's Got Talent, told NBC's Today show that her sudden fame was like a "demolition ball."

When the church volunteer from Scotland failed to win the final of Britain's Got Talent, she became ill and was treated for exhaustion at a London clinic.

"The impact, like a demolition ball, you know, and anyone who has that kind of impact ... finds it really hard to get a head around it," Boyle told interviewer Meredith Vieira in a segment to air today.

"I guess I had to get my head around it, but through the ... the guidance of a great team, and they are very good, I was able to see that in perspective and really turn that around a little."

Boyle is working on an album, under the direction of Britain's Got Talent creator Simon Cowell.

"Being plucked from obscurity is a bit like, you know, going on a long journey," Boyle said. "You don't know what's going to happen. You don't know how it's going to end. I don't want it to end."

During her rise to fame, media outlets commented on Boyle's dowdy appearance, but she had a new haircut for her interview, prompting Vieira to say, "I'm loving the hair."

Rob Thomas Gets Dark With New Album

Source:  www.thestar.com - Jason Miller
, Staff Reporter

(July 22, 2009) Rob Thomas delved into a dark realm that inspired some emotionally charged songs for his new record, Cradle Song.

He says he used Cradle Song to delve into themes of despair, failed relationships and death.

The record is a candid reflection of maturity for the 37-year-old, best known as the front man and driving force of Matchbox Twenty and for penning a string of hits including "Smooth," a 1999 collaboration with Carlos Santana that won Thomas three Grammy Awards.

Thomas dedicated the lead single, "Her Diamonds" to his ill wife, Marisol, who also sang backup on the album's title track.

The songwriter was in Toronto recently and talked to the Star about his sophomore album. His upcoming tour hits Toronto's Massey Hall on Nov. 4.

Q What have you done with this record that you didn't experiment with in the past?

A On the last solo record we programmed everything. We programmed the drums on everything, then we had musicians come in and play over that, and it sounded more of the moment. That was the one thing we didn't want to do when we started making this record. For this record I had more input. I came in with a realized blueprint of how I wanted it to sound.

Q Were you worried about the reception you would get?

A I don't want to make a record that sounds like my last record. I want to know that it didn't do well because what I felt like was right didn't resonate with the world. The kind of music that I write is all about being as honest as I can be about where I'm at that moment when I'm writing that song. I'm lucky enough that no one at my record company hears the record until I'm done. Once they take it, it's out of my hands.

Q What are some of the influences behind the tracks?

A There's a lot of '80s in there because I grew up in the '80s. I realize that when I'm put in control of everything I wind up getting '80s melodies and tones. There is a lot of that in there like somewhere in between INXS and the Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon '80s period. This record is a little more pop rock than my last solo record.

Q Why did you visit such a dark realm?

A That's just the sum of where my head was at. You don't set off and say, "I'm going to make a dark record." At 20 years old I would write about subjects that you realize later on that you were just speculating about. Over the last few years my wife has been suffering from autoimmune disease and my mom passed away before the last Matchbox record, so that put a lot of perspective on my life.

Q Did these experiences make it easier to write for this record?

A In the last 15 years I don't think I have written just a happy song. Usually the only time I write was when I was in a dark place. I sit down at the piano or guitar and work my way through it. If I didn't have that outlet I would be a wreck. It's not on purpose; it just happened that way. Even though they're darker there are some more upbeat tracks. We started a lot more with drums than the guitar.

Q Did this album help with material for future records?

A I'm going to tour this record for as long as the world wants me to do it. The next record is going to be a Matchbox record.


New Maxwell CD Tops Billboard

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 16, 2009) *Maxwell's "BLACKsummers'night," his first album in eight years, has entered the Billboard 200 albums chart at No. 1 on sales of 316,000 – a career-high for the crooner.  The singer's last set, 2001's "Now," also opened at No. 1 with a then-best 296,000 copies sold. Elsewhere on the chart, the "Now 31" compilation slips two spots to No. 3 with 101,000 (down 41%), while the Black Eyed Peas' "The E.N.D." holds on at No. 5 with 63,000 (down 10%).  Eminem's "Relapse" stands still at No. 9 with 34,000 (down 12%) and Jonas Brothers' "Lines, Vines and Trying Times" rounds out the top 10 with 34,000 (down 19%).

Barenaked Ladies Sign With U.S. Managers

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
The Canadian Press

(July 21, 2009) Toronto — The Barenaked Ladies have switched up their management, bolting Vancouver-based Nettwerk in favour of new L.A.-based firm, CAM 8 Management. The Toronto band was the inaugural signing for the new firm, which was formed after a merger between Career Artist Management and Hard 8 Management. Other CAM 8 clients include Maroon 5, Dashboard Confessional and Jakob Dylan. Nettwerk suffered another blow in December when Canadian pop-punk star Avril Lavigne cut ties with the company, despite the fact that Nettwerk CEO Terry McBride was credited with initially discovering the singer from Napanee, Ont. Nettwerk Management's artist roster still includes Sarah McLachlan, Raine Maida, Chantal Kreviazuk and k-os. For the Barenaked Ladies, it's just the latest change in a turbulent year. In February, the group's co-founder Steven Page announced he was leaving the group to pursue a solo career.


From Child Actor To Canada's Sunniest Star

www.globeandmail.com - R.M. Vaughan

(July 16, 2009) After two years of pestering celebrities, I still get the same questions at parties and at, well, more parties. Who is the nicest celebrity? Who is the biggest jerk? Who is the smartest, the stupidest?

Being a gentleman, I politely respond: Wait for my tell-all book. But I can say I have learned that British celebrities are the funniest, American stars the most cautious, and Canadian artists the happiest. Draw your own cultural conclusions.

And the happiest of said gleeful lot has to be Montreal-born actor
Emmanuelle Chriqui, a.k.a. Sloan McQuewick in the hit dramedy Entourage (now in its sixth season on HBO Canada).

Having worked her way up from sought-after child actor (with dozens of credits in such family-friendly material as Are You Afraid of the Dark ?, Snow Day and The Adventures of Sinbad ) to adult co-star (the Adam Sandler vehicle You Don't Mess with the Zohan , and the upcoming Saint John of Las Vegas , wherein she plays a disabled stripper no less), Chriqui's career trajectory gives her every reason to be sunny. She's too busy to be otherwise.

Another truism gleaned from this job: People who survive childhood fame to become successful adults do not always end up sleeping in oxygen tanks and becoming best friends with chimpanzees.

Entourage has been described as Sex and the City for men. Are the female characters secondary?

Yes. I think in the past, that was definitely true. I think, in all fairness though, the show was created for the boys – it's their journey, from New York and coming to L.A., finding superstardom and all the stuff that goes with that. The show's really been about their path, so the women have been, you know, accents. But, I feel as though the show is evolving. As our characters are growing up and their priorities are shifting, we are seeing the women behind the men. I feel in this season, that relationship is explored so much more.

Your character has a turbulent, on-off relationship with the character ‘E' [Kevin Connolly], and you are in three upcoming films. Is this perhaps your last season?

Um … I … don't think so … Ha I don't think so. I think that, oh, I think that there's just a lot to look forward to. Unfortunately, I so can't give you details. But it's very up and down, and surprising, and it's great. But I don't think we've seen the last of Sloan.

So, you'll continue with the show?

I would love to. I love working on this show. I love it so much – after this many years, it does feel like a family. It's kind of astonishing. We shoot this half-hour show, totally on location, and it feels like we're making mini movies every week. And with the guest stars, and everything, there's just such a great rhythm to it now. And I love that it takes virtually no time. Four months of my year, then the rest of the year I can do movies. So, yeah, I would love to continue on the show.

What's the most Entourage -like thing you've ever done?

Oh my God, this is bad, but I did do something that was totally “celebrity” once. I had to go to Europe, and my passport was almost expired, and I was in Toronto, and in a complete panic, and I went to the passport office and told them I needed it done in a rush – and a “rush” is like, minimum 10 days – and the clerk looks at me and says: “Are you the girl from Entourage ?” And I totally charmed them. I said, “Yes, I am. Thank you for recognizing me.” Then the clerk went into the office and brought out her supervisor, another officer, and they talked to each other, and they were looking at me, and I was smiling and smiling, and then, like, in 10 minutes, I had my passport. It was kind of a bad thing to do, but I thought, okay, I am going to use my celebrity this once, I am desperate

The people behind you didn't lynch you?

Oh, I went out the back.

There's a back door at the passport office?

Yeah, they let me go out the back. I know, I know, it's not fair, but I almost never, never do things like that. It's not me.

Is that because you've been acting since you were a child, and the whole celebrity business is familiar to you?

I think that's definitely a part of it, because I have been working a long time. From the outside, it looks like it happened overnight, but it was years and years of work, since I was a kid. And I think that it's better this way, because if you get famous all of a sudden, it's too much for most people, it's just too overwhelming.

You had a major part in Cadillac Records – what happened to that film? It seems like it never got released.

It's weird, I know. Was it even released in Canada? I don't know what happened, because it's such a great movie, and Jeffrey Wright and Adrien Brody were so good in it. But I guess it's the economy, and just, I guess, the nature of the business. It's all ups and downs, and you have to learn to take the downs.

You don't appear plagued by downs.

Oh my God, are you kidding? I have had so many downs. Stuff happens every day. But then, so many great things have happened as well. I don't think you can appreciate the good things that happen unless you get the downside, too.

Rocksteady:The Roots Of Reggae Is Stascha Bader's First Commercially Released Feature

www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(July 20, 2009) One of the pleasures of popular music is its unpredictability: You just never know what sound or song is going to strike that magical, mystical chord with a listener and change his or her tastes, maybe even his life.

Stascha Bader is a case in point. As a teenager living in his hometown of Zurich, Switzerland, during the early 1970s, he developed a passion for the reggae music originating then from Jamaica - a passion he continued to entertain through his years at Zurich University, to the point of writing a PhD thesis titled Electro-Oral Poetry in Jamaica and England. In 1988 the thesis was adapted into a book called Words of Fire.

Now 53, Bader admitted the other day on the phone from Switzerland that by the mid-1990s he'd "pretty much overdosed on reggae."

A documentary filmmaker by this time, producing programs for Swiss, German and Austrian television, he'd "long since stopped listening" to those Rastaman vibrations. Then about four years ago, while flipping through his music collection, he became intrigued by some Jamaican rocksteady records bought decades earlier. "Hearing it again, I realized how unique and beautiful that sound was," he said.

Soon Bader was on the prowl for more rocksteady recordings. As he did, he began to think the idiom just might serve as the subject of a film - an inkling that became reality this year with
Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae, Bader's first commercially released feature. (It had its North American premiere at Montreal's jazz festival earlier this month, and begins its commercial run this Friday in Vancouver and Toronto.)

A bit of context: Rocksteady is generally regarded as the bridge between ska and reggae. Ska, starting in the late 1950s, in pre-independence Jamaica, is distinguished by a speedy, off-kilter rhythm underpinning R & B-flavoured Jamaican folk tunes played on electric guitars, horns and keyboards. Rocksteady surfaced in 1965, three years after Jamaica became self-governing. It essentially "calmed down the [ska] rhythm" while heightening the lilt of the melody. Rocksteady's mass appeal, however, lasted no more than three years before being superseded by the now-familiar sounds and cadence of reggae and with it the rise of Bob Marley, the first Third World music superstar.

Realizing the concept

Bader had the concept for what would become Rocksteady pretty much sorted out in his head by early 2006. He would gather as many "stars" of the rocksteady era as possible for "one last reunion" in Kingston, Jamaica's capital. He'd get them to reminisce on-camera and visit their old haunts. Then, "to make it brand-new one more time," he'd crowd them into Kingston's Tuff Gong Studios to record a CD of new versions of their most famous tunes, followed by a revue-style concert before a large, live audience. In the meantime, he'd dig up as much archival footage as possible "to bring in the social, cultural and political context."

Realizing the concept, of course, proved a lot harder. Several rocksteady giants were either dead (Jackie Mittoo, Delroy Wilson) or dying (Alton Ellis, Roy Shirley). Moreover, while Jamaica's population is close to three million, at least that many Jamaicans are scattered around the globe, including many rocksteady progenitors. Fortunately, in fall 2006, Bader got a grant from the Zurich Film Foundation to travel to Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, London and Kingston to meet with musicians, co-ordinate itineraries and firm up the reunion concept. "The feedback from the rocksteady community was extremely positive. ... It made me really want to continue and finish the job."

However, all the parameters only gelled in early 2008, including the participation of producers Muse Entertainment from Montreal and Zurich's HesseGreutert Film. "It was a logistical undertaking, a financial undertaking, a psychological undertaking, a cultural undertaking," Bader says. "Very often we were at our limits."

One of Rocksteady's key figures is 64-year-old Wilburn Theodore Cole, better known as Stranger Cole (because, as he explains in the film, "when I was a baby, I was told I didn't resemble anyone in my family") and sometimes StrangeJah Cole.

Cole, who began writing and performing songs in Jamaica in his mid-teens, is the documentary's narrator and dominant presence - functions Bader only ascribed once filming began. "I visited Jamaica three times before I started shooting and each time Stranger Cole was there," the director explained. "He was incredibly open; he shared his time with us; he provided us with precious links and insights. Plus, he's such a charmer, so I kind of fell in love with him, his talent at speaking, his reflectiveness."

Further, with Cole, Bader was able to realize his determination "to avoid having some unknown voice, like an actor - an outsider - explaining the rocksteady world to us." For Bader, Rocksteady had to be as much an ethnographically correct oral history as a compelling documentary.

In 1968, Cole, with saxophonist Lester Sterling, recorded in Kingston what is now considered one of the first reggae songs, Bangarang. Unable to parlay this into a financially viable musical career, however, Cole joined the Jamaican diaspora, emigrating to England in 1971, then moving to Toronto two years later. "It was to get a job," he explained in a recent interview. "It wasn't so much a musical thing." Indeed, for the next 15 years Cole did factory work for Tonka Toys and Snap-On Tools, saving enough in the process to open a specialty music store in the late 1970s in Kensington Market called (what else?) Stranger Cole Records.

By 1988, however, Cole was back in Jamaica, and it's been his base ever since. "The music thing wasn't going for me in Canada, and music is always what I wanted to do so I figured I had to get back. And, y'know," he said, "it really worked." Not only has Cole's recording career flourished - he recently released two CDs, both produced by his son, Squidly - he has travelled to Germany, France, England, Italy and Japan to perform his rocksteady and reggae songs.

Cole, who now has dual Canadian-Jamaican citizenship, is a genial presence throughout Rocksteady's 98 minutes. But he's not around for one of the film's most affecting moments: a visit to the legendary Trenchtown neighbourhood of West Kingston by Rita Marley, wife of the late Bob Marley and an esteemed singer in her own right.

Trenchtown, with its government housing projects, poverty, overcrowding and criminality, is sometimes called the cradle of reggae, but it was a rocksteady hotbed, too. (Rita Marley, for example, sang there with a female rocksteady trio known as the Soulettes.) Bader originally had planned to have singer-songwriter Ken Boothe tour Trenchtown for his crew. "But on that very day Ken was not available and, unfortunately, that very day was the last day of shooting. So the day before, there we were wondering, 'Who's going to take us there?' Then we remembered Rita Marley [who has lived in Ghana for many years] was on the island because of Bob Marley's mother's funeral." Luckily, they were able to locate her and, thankfully, she agreed to participate.

Right now Bader is letting two ideas for possible feature films marinate in his brain. One has to do with the music of the Balkans, the other with "where reggae has gone today. Maybe it'd be a Stranger Cole road movie, with Stranger travelling the world to non-Jamaican places. I mean, you have reggae music, reggae culture in Hawaii, Eastern Europe, Japan, even in Arab countries. I was in Bali and reggae is strong there. The seed has been taken wherever the wind blows."

Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae opens in Vancouver and Toronto on Friday, and other Canadian cities later this summer. The Rocksteady soundtrack was released June 30 in Canada on the Moll-Selekta label.

Janks Morton : The “Men II Boys” Interview

Source: Kam Williams

Born August 18th, 1963 in Cincinnati , Ohio , Janks Morton, Jr. is a documentary filmmaker and founder of iYAGO Entertainment Group, a company he created to reflect both the conscious and unconscious soul of Black America. Mr. Morton is a 20-year veteran of the entertainment industry whose services are much in demand as a lecturer, commentator and motivational speaker. In those capacities, he has convened workshops, seminars and served as a panellist and keynote speaker at numerous universities, prisons, conferences, churches and community centers all around the world.

Janks made his directorial debut with the groundbreaking feature-length documentary, What Black Men Think, for which he also assumed the duties of producer, cameraman, editor and narrator. The thought-provoking expose’ challenged everyone to rethink the negative misinformation about black men generally circulated in pop culture by asking one simple question, “Are there more black men in jail or college?”

Here, he talks about his new documentary, Men II Boys.

KW: Hi Janks, thanks for the time. How are Ava and the baby?

JM: Thanks for asking, Kam. Ava sends her regards. Mother and son are doing extremely well. L.J., Janks III, is a whopping 22 lbs at 4 months, so I’m already looking for a good NFL agent.

KW: Getting any sleep yet?

JM: Rice and solids are the key to a somewhat normal sleep pattern. But with the enthusiasm and excitement around Men II Boys, I’m finding that 4 to 6 hours per day is going to have to suffice.

KW: In 2007, I named you the Best Director of the year in my annual Blacktrospective for your first film, What Black Men Think. How did the success of the movie change your life?

JM: What Black Men Think was, and still is, this amazing journey. Even 2 years following its release, I have received calls from London, Toronto, and the University of Alabama over the past week. Because the film was never picked up by a major studio or network, I have had to rely solely on the strength of the film as well as word of mouth to continue advancing the message of the film. For me personally, it has been so satisfying to be able to travel to colleges, community groups and churches throughout the world, spreading the concept of the restoration of black relationships, through dismantling too often quoted myths about black men.

KW: How would you describe people’s response to the film as you showed it around the country?

JM: I began incorporating the phrase “Life Changing Event” early on, as I toured the country and even abroad. As you recall, there was so much data, statistics, history, politics and commentary, wherever I was, when the lights came up in the room at film’s end, there was always this 2 to 3 minute pause with audiences, when I would ask for questions. People were almost overwhelmed, as the film attempts to bridge the gap between what is real and what is perceived.

KW: Did you feel any pressure that your second film had to be just as good as your impressive directorial debut?

JM: [Laughs] The sophomore jinx? And my nickname is Jinx! Oh, the pressure was intense. The expectations I put on myself were enormous. What Black Men Think was my first feature length doculogue. Any artist knows with their first work, it’s like you’re pouring a lifetime of thoughts, creativity, energy, and your soul onto a canvas, or into a record or film. So, after you leave it all on the table with your initial effort, where do you go? Where you go is back to “our” story, and while they may differ, there are intriguing aspects about dynamics in the black community today. I think the greatest advantage the modern era documentarians have is that audiences have grown accustomed to the format, embracing the non-sterile imperfections of independent expression. Just surf YouTube and you’ll find the next wave of brilliant filmmakers hungry to seek out this alternative to mainstream media, Hollywood , and networks. And because too often we see a more skewed representation of Black America, and biases in “our” story, there is an excellent niche’ for black filmmakers to capture the true representation of the status of our community.

KW: How did you come up with the idea for this new project, Men II Boys? 

JM: Men II Boys was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend of mine named LaMarr Darnell Shields. He called me on the phone asking me to contribute to his book “101 Things Every Boy of Color Should Know,” conceptually a set of lessons for young men affected by the lack of positive fathers and mentors giving them “pearls of wisdom” as they try to ascend to adulthood. As the conversation evolved I stopped him and said, “You know, a book is competing with the iPod, the internet, text messaging and 572 cable stations. If I can put these tidbits on camera from a mosaic of men, a DVD might just get popped in the player.”

KW: Was your approach to making it the same as What Black Men Think?

JM:  Not at all. What Black Men Think took 9 months to film, edit and produce Men II Boys took 40 days. I learned so much in the process of making What Black Men Think that my processes have been streamlined, my editing technique is faster, and my overall ability to deliver a finished product to market is much easier.

KW: How did you decide who to interview for Men II Boys? It seems to have less of you as a narrator and fewer African-American icons as commentators. Why so?

JM: I got some pushback from several of my dearest friends as I began cutting this film. As you view the respective projects side by side, making What Black Men Think is a social and political analysis, while Men II Boys is completely social. The challenge with people who are familiar with making What Black Men Think is, I spent so much time bouncing around on camera, in front of whiteboards, in front of the US Capitol and such, people were expecting to see me all over the screen once again. I decided early on that Men II Boys was not about me. Men II Boys is a testament to the men who are willing to roll their sleeves up, pitch in, and fill the gap where this tremendous void is in young boys’ lives.

KW: What’s Men II Boys’ intended audience, and what effect do you want it to have on them?

JM: Men II Boys is an extension of my initial efforts though What Black Men Think. Who does Janks want? As you recall, black Americans have the highest divorce rate, the lowest marriage rates and highest out-of-wedlock birth rates. My goal is to try to close this great divide and bring reclamation to the black family. This film is an attempt from multiple to angles to first reach young boys to give them urgent and necessary messages in order to help them along their way to adulthood. Secondly to quote Marian Wright Edelman “We don’t have a youth problem in this country, we have an adult problem.” We have got to address the fact that too many people are not wearing the title of “parent” correctly, and to challenge us all to be the best caregivers and providers we can be. So the messages of the film are for young and old, men and women.

KW: What has the early feedback to the film been?  

JM: Another “Life Changing Event.”  The movie is cut to 44 minutes for a very specific reason. So that audiences can engage in debate around the subject-matter afterward. As the film and lecture tour moves across the country, audiences will be able to tap into Lamarr and myself to get valuable information around the central thesis of the book and DVD. Plus, for the first time in the history of black cinema, a film is being utilized as the centerpiece of a Congressional initiative. Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland , at this year’s Congressional Black Caucus, will be launching Men II Boys as part of his annual legislative agenda. Susan Taylor of Essence Magazine, Steve Perry of Capitol Prep, Leon Harris from CNN, 100 Black Men of America, and more churches than I can name have witnessed the effect this tour is having on audiences everywhere, and have endorsed it as a starting point around the issue of young boys.

KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?

JM: LaMarr made an interesting comment as we spoke at a church last night. “Jesus didn’t have the internet, and he’s got the best-selling book of all time,” I would love for fans to use the power of social networking, blogging, YouTube and email to ensure that the tour comes to your city.

KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome in life?

JM: Without giving away the film, it is the last scene of Men II Boys. The message of forgiveness and reconciliation happened for me recently, and I believe it is the key to ensuring that young men do not replicate the behaviours of their parents. The sins of the father, maybe?

KW: Teri Emerson asks, when was the last time you had a good belly laugh?

JM: Wow, I have so much joy in my life with my family and career it’s hard to remember the last time I had tears in my eyes laughing. Oh yeah! While I was filming a basketball player for the film, he said, “Know how to wash your clothes, separate the whites from the darks…Real easy, but your woman will love you for it.”

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

JM: Overjoyed! Now Stevie Wonder will be in my head the rest of the day.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

JM: A regular guy who wants the best for his people, and who has been given extraordinary blessings to help facilitate a renaissance in the hearts minds and souls of the black community.

KW: How do you feel about the death of Michael Jackson?

JM: Michael was brilliant. I was always a Prince fan so while I recognized his genius, I was more appreciative of the purple one. With that said, what saddens me most about his passing is the apparent struggle he had with challenges from a marginalized childhood, and how that affected him throughout his life. Men II Boys is drawing on the same narrative. Michael publically professed the traumas of Joe Jackson, but do you think we would have heard of Michael Jackson had there been no Joe? My point being, there is a generation of young men of color, who can’t even understand what it means to have a father in the home, and that trauma is probably the wellspring of most of the social ills we see in this country.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

JM: I’m reading a book called The Doomsday Key as we speak.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

JM: That’s as tough as the belly laughing question. I think I have a normal fear of living, taking care of the family, paying the rent, but the crippling inability to move fear only happens when I get stuck in an elevator. I’m claustrophobic.

KW: What is your favourite meal to cook?

JM: Breakfast. It’s like heart disease on a plate. And I only do it on weekends. Waffles, cheese, eggs, smoked ham, taters…yummy.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

JM: The never asked question, I alluded to earlier. What does Janks want? Again the goal is to bring about the restoration of the black family.

KW: When did you know you knew you wanted to be a director?

JM: When you named me the best of 2007! [Laughs], I really don’t consider myself a director or even a filmmaker. I say that I am a social/political activist documenting 21st century black America for the analysis of posterity. I just happen to do it through celluloid.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays? 

JM: That doggone Soundscapes is all over my house and car. The baby loves that serenity music and gets fussy when you try to change the station. Let’s see, peace and quiet or the new Maxwell album. At this juncture, it’s peace and quiet.

KW: How do you feel about Barack Obama’s becoming President of the United States ?

JM: I’m careful to differentiate the persona from the politics. His achievement is to be celebrated by all Americans and the world. But if I see one more stimulus coming across the crawl, I’m going to lose what little hair I have left.

KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?

JM: My father, Janks Morton, Sr. And I challenge every young boy in this country and every father, to make the answer the same as mine. I like to be able to talk with have contact with and see my heroes.

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

JM: Know the difference between persistence and perseverance. And work your craft for the benefit of others and not yourself.

KW: What movie will you be making next, another documentary?

JM: Red Tape and Brick Walls. Here’s a sneak peek into the concept.

By the numbers: 67.9% of black men pay their child support. Guess what percent have joint custody? I can drive a mile radius in any urban area and find a black man who has been incarcerated for past due child support. 90,000 black men have sole custody with court-ordered child support. There’s a 72.8% delinquency-rate among the women. But I can’t find a woman who has been incarcerated for a past due child support bill. Does that sound a little biased?

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

JM: Who started the Harlem Renaissance? Who knows? I would like that my works are the beginnings of a restoration. A man from the film told me, “If you do not care who gets credit, a movement can never be stopped.”

KW: Thanks again for the interview, and best of luck with all your endeavours. 

JM: Thank you, Kam.

To see a trailer for Men to Boys, visit: www.mentoboys.com

To order a copy of What Black Men Think, visit: www.whatblackmenthink.com Or: visit HERE.

Standing Up For Canuck Superheroes

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(July 17, 2009) The fuss this week over a non-Canuck opener for our annual Toronto film celebration is a maelstrom in a maple syrup jug.

The choice of the British-made Charles Darwin biopic Creation for the Toronto International Film Festival curtain-raiser on Sept. 10 is neither startling nor unique. While it has been tradition to start TIFF with a Canadian film, it was never law.

TIFF has opened with non-Canadian movies several times, and on other occasions the Canuck status was more honorary than actual.

In 2004, TIFF bowed with Being Julia, a movie directed by a Hungarian, starring Americans and Britons and filmed in England and Hungary.

Deepha Mehta's Water the following year had a Canadian director and star, but it was set in India and filmed in Sri Lanka. Both were fine films but not distinctly "Canadian."

May I humbly suggest that there's something slightly more worthy of getting our red-and-white knickers knotted over? I'm referring to the second-class status that our Canuck superheroes have been relegated to by Hollywood's imperialist Americans. This was supposed to be a grand year for hoser heroes, but our national pride has been banished to the beaver dam.

Hugh Jackman's hairy avenger in X-Men Origins: Wolverine hails from Canada's north and actually proclaims himself Canadian in the movie. Yet he's working for Uncle Sam and for a military boss who considers his hairy butt to be American property.

Watchmen was filmed in Vancouver and contains much Canadian talent. But it's set in a grimy future version of New York and the major Canuck star, Nova Scotia's Stephen McHattie, plays a burned-out U.S. superhero by the lame name of Nite Owl.

What truly galls, though, is recent news that two of our brightest exports, Ryan Reynolds and Seth Rogen, are set to play the dullest of Yankee super dudes, Green Lantern and Green Hornet, in movies due out next year or 2011.

As a kid growing up in the 1960s, scarce allowance money for comic- book purchases and valuable time for television watching were allotted on a priority basis by my buddies and me. A-list heroes like Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men were given VIP treatment, as they have been in Hollywood's blockbuster movies.

Way down the pecking order were Green Lantern, who gets his quasi-superpowers from a ring he has to recharge from a weird emerald lamp, and Green Hornet, a retro detective in a jade mask who is chauffeured to his assignments by his Asian driver, Kato.

Green Lantern was the last-resort comic you bought only when you'd already bought the biggies or if an aunt gave you extra coin for your birthday. And The Green Hornet barely lasted a single year from 1966-67 as a TV series, despite the presence of the great Bruce Lee in the role of Kato. As the Green Hornet, Van Williams just didn't have that sting.

Why is it that now that Hollywood is scraping the bottom of its superheroes barrel it is turning to Canadian talent for the lead roles? This seems manifestly unfair when you consider that Superman, the first and greatest of all super freaks, was created by Canadian Joe Shuster and Metropolis, was modelled after Toronto.

In fairness, it should be noted that Reynolds seems delighted to be playing Green Lantern, and he beat out current American hottie Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) for the role. He also has the distinction of playing a second super type, with the anti-hero role of Deadpool from X-Men Wolverine in development for a spin-off.

And Rogen is into The Green Hornet in a big way. He's lost a passel of poundage to get the role and he's also writing the script, along with his pal Evan Goldberg.

But I doubt that either Reynolds or Rogen would have chosen these green cats as their first pick amongst action heroes. My paranoid Canadian mind also sees a grassy knoll in the "green" connection, which may not be coincidental. Why is Hollywood giving Canucks the heroes with the environmental colour? Will they also be munching granola, wearing Birkenstocks and fighting to save the Kyoto Protocol?

It May Not Fit On A Marquee With Ease, But Zach Galifianakis Is Making A Name In Movies

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard,
Movies Editor

(July 17, 2009) "A lot of people sleep their way to the top," Zach Galifianakis deadpans. "I couldn't do that."

Even said in a low voice over the phone from New York, the line – wry, self-deprecating and perfectly timed – gets a laugh.

Bearded, portly and turning 40 this fall, Galifianakis had been making his name as a stand-up comic for more than 10 years. With his laid-back style and sharp wit, he'd noodle at the piano while musing on life, or dress up like Little Orphan Annie, lip-synching to "Tomorrow" and using a flip chart with sayings like: "I'd start a revolution, but I just bought a hammock."

Sometimes he'd just walk onstage, peering at a notebook with a hangdog expression, or run his hands through his hair and – get laughs.

Galifianakis had done small parts in movies (What Happens in Vegas, Into the Wild) and had recurring roles on shows like Comedy Central's Dog Bites Man and the made-in-Vancouver drama Tru Calling. He'd even put out a comedy DVD, Live From the Purple Onion. Fans knew to parrot his signature line: "That's so Raven!" But he was far from a household name.

Then came The Hangover, Todd Phillips' hilarious summer smash about a Vegas road trip where Galifianakis plays awkward for laughs as a confused man-child desperate to fit in with the bachelor-party buddies. He, and the picture, drew rave reviews.

Now, with The Hangover earning more than $200 million (U.S.) and more people checking out his videos on Funny or Die and stand-up bits on YouTube, this is shaping up to be the breakthrough summer for Galifianakis.

To top it off, he's got a role in the new Disney movie G-Force, starring as Ben, the human leader of an animated troop of guinea pig super spies. It opens next Friday. Disney takes the prize for great timing in signing Galifianakis for G-Force, a movie he made more than two years ago when he was far from the hot property he is now.

Acting opposite animated (and therefore invisible) guinea pigs required a special kind of discipline, Galifianakis says.

"It's difficult to do simply because you have to know your lines, which is hard enough for me, and then you have to memorize where your eyeballs have to be at any given time," he says.

"You're emoting to things that aren't there – and on top of that it's a four-inch guinea pig," he adds. "All those elements together makes it a little intimidating. There's not really an acting school for guinea pigs. Maybe I should start one."

The G-Force crew is voiced by Sam Rockwell as team leader Darwin, Tracy Morgan as weapons expert Blaster, Penelope Cruz is sexy martial arts expert Juarez and Nicolas Cage plays the star-nosed mole computer whiz, Speckles.

While some actors might be less than thrilled playing ringleader to a bunch of talking rodents, not Galifianakis. He clearly doesn't do pretentious. Ask him why he uses flip charts for his comedy act and he doesn't talk about lofty things like inspiration or his craft.

"It comes from writer's block. It comes from ... okay, I'm going to try not to be so self-deprecating. A lot of it is that it's kind of funny and it's something I haven't seen. That's important to me."

As for his comic style, "I find that rudeness is in inappropriate. In my real life, I'm not that at all."

He is prone to bouts of yelling onstage, though, something he traces back to his Greek-born dad.

"My father, when I was growing up, was so sweet, so gentle. He's Greek and he cries at everything, but make him angry and he'll turn on a dime. I mean loonie."

Did he say loonie?

"Go ahead – ask me anything about Canada," he says excitedly. "Ask me about Vicki Gabereau! I know all the prime ministers!"

Two years shooting a series in Vancouver can do that for a guy, plus having an Edmonton-born girlfriend helps. They met on the set of Tru Calling.

"Canadian women are so much more low-key and not as high maintenance," he says. "Maybe it's just a B.C. thing, but you interview 10 Canadian women vs. 10 American women and much more of the Canadian women are going to want to camp out."

But as much as he loves us, he does have a bone to pick with iconic Canuck label Roots, which is publicizing its connection with the man-bag satchel Galifianakis' character proudly wears in The Hangover.

"I was in Vancouver last weekend and I go inside a Roots store to get change for the meter and I look over and there's my picture in an ad for the man purse hanging there.

"So can I do an open letter to the Roots owners? I want 30 man-satchels sent to me right now and I want Roots to start outfitting the U.S. Olympic team."

Now that he's made it big and can order up man-purses on a whim, will Galifianakis be able to continue doing stand-up in addition to flicks? (His next, Due Date is out next year, followed by Hangover 2.)

"No. God. Forget it. I've left that life behind. I'm a movie star," he deadpans. But a beat later, he's back to vintage Zach.

"Actually, when I wash up in a year, I'll be back doing Capt. Chuckles in Tampa."

Before The Jungle Rumbled, It Had Soul

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(July 21, 2009) James Brown in 1974 is muscular, moustached, at his peak as Soul Brother Number One.

When a camera follows him backstage, the electrical charge of singing The Payback to a stadium in what was then Zaire still courses through him. In his makeshift dressing room, he's exhausted and needs his space. He thanks the filmmakers, and they slowly pan the camera away. But Brown continues to wave back for an unusually long time, raising his arms in gratitude to the fans who will be watching this footage. It speaks volumes about how he sees himself, as an entertainer and figurehead.

It should be as classic a scene as Crosby, Stills and Nash harmonizing in Woodstock or Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar in Monterey Pop. Except that the film is only coming to theatres now – 35 years after the legendary show.

For the newly released Soul Power, American filmmaker Jeffrey Levy-Hinte plowed through the largely forgotten, 100-plus hours of footage of the concert dubbed Zaire '74. “Stewart Levine, who was one of the main organizers, was like ‘Right on, brother, this is the film that we wanted to make,'” says Levy-Hinte. The film assembles material from the three-day music festival that was meant to accompany Muhammad Ali and George Foreman's October, 1974, bout for the world heavyweight title. The famous “rumble in the jungle” was delayed six weeks when Foreman cut his eye during training. But the festival – organized by promoter-musician Levine, trumpeter Hugh Masekela and boxing promoter Don King – had to go on.

There were the logistics of bringing star performers from Brown to B.B. King to the Spinners to Kinshasa, the capital city. And while Zaire's autocrat Mobutu Sese Seko had underwritten the heavyweight match, he didn't fund the festival. It was paid for by a group of Liberian investors. As for the film, according to Levy-Hinte, the company behind it, International Records and Films, overspent and went belly up.

That left Leon Gast, the original director and producer, with a decade-long legal battle to gain control of what was shot (including material by such notable documentary filmmakers as Albert Maysles).

He finally won the legal battle. But then spent another 10 years shaping the footage into When We Were Kings , the Academy Award-winning documentary that concentrates almost solely on the Ali-Foreman match.

“I think that was such a successful film and so exhausting that they were very happy to push [the festival footage] back in the vault,” says Levy-Hinte.

“I was working as an editor on that film, and I remembered all the wonderful aspects of the footage that wasn't explored. In fact, thematically, the whole concert was really never given its due. So a couple years back, I approached [music manager and film producer] David Sonenberg, who was Leon Gast's partner in this and a friend of mine, and he gave me his blessing – and not much else.”

But Levy-Hinte felt a duty to get the material out to the public, and he would still like to release all the available footage of the festival on DVD, if he could find backers.

“As with all these great musical events, Woodstock and Monterey Pop, they enter the public imagination through the film itself. And certainly when they were making it, there was no sense that the film wouldn't get made in the natural course of things, and that it would be out the next year, and that there would be albums and probably a whole other tour of the bands. I'm sure there was enormous planning around that. But it all just fell apart,” says Levy-Hinte.

But the added power of the footage was the significance among some of the black American musicians of playing in Africa for an African audience. As King says in an exclamatory whisper in the film, getting star performers to come “6,000 miles from home, that was blackness That was the strength”

“Somebody asked me, What are you gonna bring back? Are you gonna bring back souvenirs? Somebody wants cloth and all like that. What I want to bring back is the feeling,” says singer-songwriter Bill Withers.

But it's Brown who puts it best: Talking directly to the camera, he emphasizes that “when you walk out of this movie, or if you walk away from your television set, if there's one thing you walk out with in your mind, when you get up and walk out and look down the street, you say to yourself, ‘Damn right I'm somebody'”

Still, like the best cinéma-vérité of the era, Soul Power covers the gamut of emotions at Zaire '74. “Certainly for the Spinners, or for James Brown and his band, and I think also for Bill Withers, … it was a really powerful and profound experience for them,” says Levy-Hinte. “But for other people, it was a gig. That's just the way the world works.

“People have asked me, Why don't we have a clearer message? My feeling is that, you know, the promoters had a message – but I think it's contradictory. It is this coming together and bringing people back to their roots, but also there's a larger commercial consideration. In a way, I wanted to show it all.”

And to show it, finally, after all these years.

Before The Jungle Rumbled, It Had Soul

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(July 21, 2009) James Brown in 1974 is muscular, moustached, at his peak as Soul Brother Number One.

When a camera follows him backstage, the electrical charge of singing The Payback to a stadium in what was then Zaire still courses through him. In his makeshift dressing room, he's exhausted and needs his space. He thanks the filmmakers, and they slowly pan the camera away. But Brown continues to wave back for an unusually long time, raising his arms in gratitude to the fans who will be watching this footage. It speaks volumes about how he sees himself, as an entertainer and figurehead.

It should be as classic a scene as Crosby, Stills and Nash harmonizing in Woodstock or Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar in Monterey Pop. Except that the film is only coming to theatres now – 35 years after the legendary show.

For the newly released Soul Power, American filmmaker Jeffrey Levy-Hinte plowed through the largely forgotten, 100-plus hours of footage of the concert dubbed Zaire '74. “Stewart Levine, who was one of the main organizers, was like ‘Right on, brother, this is the film that we wanted to make,'” says Levy-Hinte. The film assembles material from the three-day music festival that was meant to accompany Muhammad Ali and George Foreman's October, 1974, bout for the world heavyweight title. The famous “rumble in the jungle” was delayed six weeks when Foreman cut his eye during training. But the festival – organized by promoter-musician Levine, trumpeter Hugh Masekela and boxing promoter Don King – had to go on.

There were the logistics of bringing star performers from Brown to B.B. King to the Spinners to Kinshasa, the capital city. And while Zaire's autocrat Mobutu Sese Seko had underwritten the heavyweight match, he didn't fund the festival. It was paid for by a group of Liberian investors. As for the film, according to Levy-Hinte, the company behind it, International Records and Films, overspent and went belly up.

That left Leon Gast, the original director and producer, with a decade-long legal battle to gain control of what was shot (including material by such notable documentary filmmakers as Albert Maysles).

He finally won the legal battle. But then spent another 10 years shaping the footage into When We Were Kings , the Academy Award-winning documentary that concentrates almost solely on the Ali-Foreman match.

“I think that was such a successful film and so exhausting that they were very happy to push [the festival footage] back in the vault,” says Levy-Hinte.

“I was working as an editor on that film, and I remembered all the wonderful aspects of the footage that wasn't explored. In fact, thematically, the whole concert was really never given its due. So a couple years back, I approached [music manager and film producer] David Sonenberg, who was Leon Gast's partner in this and a friend of mine, and he gave me his blessing – and not much else.”

But Levy-Hinte felt a duty to get the material out to the public, and he would still like to release all the available footage of the festival on DVD, if he could find backers.

“As with all these great musical events, Woodstock and Monterey Pop, they enter the public imagination through the film itself. And certainly when they were making it, there was no sense that the film wouldn't get made in the natural course of things, and that it would be out the next year, and that there would be albums and probably a whole other tour of the bands. I'm sure there was enormous planning around that. But it all just fell apart,” says Levy-Hinte.

But the added power of the footage was the significance among some of the black American musicians of playing in Africa for an African audience. As King says in an exclamatory whisper in the film, getting star performers to come “6,000 miles from home, that was blackness That was the strength”

“Somebody asked me, What are you gonna bring back? Are you gonna bring back souvenirs? Somebody wants cloth and all like that. What I want to bring back is the feeling,” says singer-songwriter Bill Withers.

But it's Brown who puts it best: Talking directly to the camera, he emphasizes that “when you walk out of this movie, or if you walk away from your television set, if there's one thing you walk out with in your mind, when you get up and walk out and look down the street, you say to yourself, ‘Damn right I'm somebody'”

Still, like the best cinéma-vérité of the era, Soul Power covers the gamut of emotions at Zaire '74. “Certainly for the Spinners, or for James Brown and his band, and I think also for Bill Withers, … it was a really powerful and profound experience for them,” says Levy-Hinte. “But for other people, it was a gig. That's just the way the world works.

“People have asked me, Why don't we have a clearer message? My feeling is that, you know, the promoters had a message – but I think it's contradictory. It is this coming together and bringing people back to their roots, but also there's a larger commercial consideration. In a way, I wanted to show it all.”

And to show it, finally, after all these years.

Uma Thurman In Film About Ugandan Schoolgirls

Source:  www.globeandmail.com

(July 22, 2009) *Uma Thurman will star in the indie drama "Girl Soldier" for Caspian Pictures, playing a cleric who helped rescue 140 schoolgirls abducted in Uganda.

The story is based on Kathy Cook's book "Stolen Angels," which follows the 1996 raid at a boarding school, where a band of armed rebels abducted young girls to turn them into soldiers and sex slaves.

A teacher at the school, Sister Caroline, tracked the rebels back to their camp to demand the girls' release; 110 were returned to the nun, who then began a crusade over the next few years as she rallied parents, the government, the United Nations and the pope to aid in rescuing not only her own girls but other children in rebel captivity.

"This is a film that had to get made," Thurman said. "It's beyond me that in this day and age the exploitation of child soldiers goes virtually unnoticed and unchecked by Western media."

Caspian Pictures was founded by Will Raee and Brian Bullock last year with the goal of making socially conscious and commercially viable films with mass audience appeal. Producers are eyeing a first-quarter shoot.

Uma Thurman To Star In Film Inspired By Canadian Writer

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
The Canadian Press

(July 21, 2009) Toronto — Actress Uma Thurman will star in a film inspired by Canadian journalist Kathy Cook's non-fiction book, Stolen Angels.   Caspian Pictures in Burbank, Calif., says Thurman has been cast as Sister Caroline, the protagonist of the film Girl Soldier. Her character helps rescue dozens of kidnapped Ugandan schoolgirls.   "This is a film that had to get made," Thurman told Variety. "It's beyond me that in this day and age the exploitation of child soldiers goes virtually unnoticed and unchecked by Western media."   Filming is set to begin early next year in South Africa. Co-stars include Souleymane Sy Savane.   Cook's book documents the abduction of 30 Ugandan schoolgirls by a rebel leader in October 1996. The kidnapped girls were forced to become sex slaves and soldiers.   Caspian Pictures says Cook, who hails from Ottawa, is a consultant on the film.

Juno Team's Latest Premieres Here

Source:  www.thestar.com - Cassandra Szklarski
, The Canadian Press

(July 22, 2009) The creative team behind Juno is premiering its newest edgy teen movie – the high school horror flick Jennifer's Body – at the Toronto International Film Festival this September.

Jennifer's Body will launch the festival's Midnight Madness program, dedicated to off-beat and horror fare.

The film is written by Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody, who rocketed to an Oscar win after debuting her quirky high school comedy at TIFF in 2007. It's produced by Juno director Jason Reitman and also features Juno actor J.K. Simmons.

Jennifer's Body stars Megan Fox, star of the recent blockbuster Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, as a stuck-up small-town student who is possessed by a hungry demon, and turns into a pale and sickly creature with an insatiable appetite.

Other films in the late-night program include the Ethan Hawke sci-fi vehicle Daybreakers, about a future world populated by vampires, and George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead, in which the master director chronicles two feuding clans in the aftermath of a zombie epidemic.

"Bloody proms and zombies seem to pop up as main themes, but I've made sure to inject some truly bizarre action into the mix with animated plastic toys from Belgium and Russ Meyer-inspired fighting femme fatales," programmer Colin Geddes said yesterday in a statement.

The documentary slate will be anchored by Emmett Malloy's The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights, which chronicled the rock band's extensive Canadian tour in 2007. The tour included surprise gigs at unusual locales, including a Saskatoon bowling alley and a Winnipeg city bus.

TIFF will also screen the documentary Good Hair, in which comedian Chris Rock examines African American hair culture; Mehran Tamadon's examination of extremist Islam in Iran in Bassidji; and Chris Smith's portrait of radical thinker Michael Ruppert in Collapse, in which Ruppert outlines his apocalyptic vision of the future.

The festival will also introduce two new people's choice awards, recognizing the most popular documentary and Midnight Madness film.

The festival's Wavelengths program, which focuses on avant-garde and experimental movies, will showcase Klaus Lutz's Titan, avant-garde artist Ernie Gehr's Waterfront Follies and Canadian Michael Snow's Puccini Conservato, which was commissioned by the Lucca Film Festival for the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth.

The film festival runs Sept. 10 to 19. It opens with Creation, a biopic about Charles Darwin directed by Jon Amiel.

For more info on the festival, go to tiff.net.


Justin On Growing Up Trudeau

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce Campion-Smith,
Ottawa Bureau Chief

(July 20, 2009) OTTAWA – Canada's most famous political couple was madly in love, but Margaret Trudeau was never an "equal partner" in the life of husband and prime minister Pierre Trudeau, son Justin says.

With a tinge of bittersweet regret, Justin Trudeau suggests his parents' marriage was done in by an insurmountable age difference.

"They loved each other incredibly, passionately, completely. But there was 30 years between them and my mom never was an equal partner in what encompassed my father's life, his duty, his country," Trudeau said.

"She was a partner in the child-rearing stuff and the family stuff but not in his full life," Trudeau told CPAC's Beyond Politics in a show that aired last night.

The program was noteworthy for another reason: The interviewer, Catherine Clark, is the daughter of former prime minister Joe Clark. During the interview, Trudeau and Clark shared fond memories about childhood experiences at 24 Sussex Dr., the prime minister's official residence, and the country retreat at Harrington Lake.

Trudeau, elected an MP in October, seems determined to learn the lessons of his own parents' marriage breakup, pledging that his wife, Sophie Grégoire, is a valued partner in his political life.

"That lesson for me is the one thing I try with Sophie. She's extraordinarily insightful. "I wouldn't be a very good politician if Sophie wasn't in my life. Knowing that she knows that is what hopefully makes everything a lot easier in terms of the difficult times we'll always go through," said Trudeau, MP for the Montreal riding of Papineau.

Conscious of the toll that political life exacts on family, Trudeau, 37, said he asks himself every week whether being an MP is worth it.

He is learning that the life of a politician in Ottawa – far from home and family – can be lonely. "It's amazing how lonely a life Ottawa is. ... You go home, you grab a slice of pizza, you make a bowl of cereal, try and watch a little TV and you go to sleep alone and wake up the next morning and go to work."

Trudeau said it's "heartbreaking" to have to leave children Xavier, 20 months, and Ella-Grace, 5 months, behind at his Montreal home during the weeks he is in Ottawa.

"That's the question I ask myself every week when I come home and see Xavier and I see my daughter and my wife, I ask myself was it worth it that you were away from them for four days. "So far, the work I'm doing, the things that I'm learning, the building that is going on is worth it," he said. "The day that I think I'm not making that much of a difference ... I'll leave politics."

Trudeau spoke about losing younger brother Michel, killed in a 1998 avalanche, and his father, who died in 2000, saying he feels their deaths every day. "I wish my kids would know my father," Trudeau said. "I know he's watching. I just can't ask him for his opinion anymore."

30 Rock, Mad Men Vie To Repeat Emmy Awards

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

(July 16, 2009) LOS ANGELES – Tina Fey's satire-rich sitcom, 30 Rock, received a leading 22 Emmy Award nominations Thursday, while the '60s retro series, Mad Men, led the drama pack with 16 bids.

The shows were honoured last year as best comedy and drama and have a chance to repeat the performance at September's awards.

The TV movies Grey Gardens, with 17 nominations, and Into the Storm, with 14 nods, were among the front-runners. Chandra Wilson of Grey Anatomy's and Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory helped make the announcement at the TV academy's theatre – and both proved to be among the lucky.

"No! ... This is some sort of trick fest," said Parsons, when his nomination for lead actor in a comedy series for the CBS show was announced.

"I feel a little dream like right now," Parsons said later about his first-time Emmy nomination.

"I'm going to the party" was Wilson's response to her bid for outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or movie for Accidental Friendship. She was also nominated for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series for Grey's Anatomy.

The number of contenders in series and acting categories were expanded this year, which may have allowed room for some unexpected bids, including a rare best-comedy series nomination for an animated series, Family Guy.

The series fields are especially crowded, with seven contenders in both drama and comedy categories. Joining Mad Men are fellow cable dramas Big Love, Breaking Bad, Damages and Dexter. Two network dramas, House and Lost, also made the cut.

Among comedies, the nominees besides 30 Rock and Family Guy include other network series How I Met Your Mother and The Office. Cable contenders include Entourage, Flight of the Conchords and Weeds.

In announcing that the traditional five nominees would grow to six in top categories, the TV academy noted that a tie could expand the field even more.

Affection was scarce for series that came to an end last season, including long-running medical drama ER, Boston Legal and Battlestar Galactica. There was a scattering of nominations among them, but nothing in the marquee categories of acting or best series. Another just-ended series, The Shield, was shut out.

Also snubbed for major awards were Desperate Housewives and Jon & Kate Plus 8, left out of the reality series category. Top-rated TV show American Idol is a contender in the reality-competition category.

NBC found little glory in its late-night line-up, with Jay Leno's final season with Tonight and Conan O'Brien's farewell season of Late Night missing from the variety, music or comedy series category. O'Brien took over Tonight this year.

Vampire saga True Blood and its star Anna Paquin, who won a Golden Globe earlier this year, were shut out of the major categories.

Academy voters have a history of slighting sci-fi and fantasy series, dating back to Star Trek and including Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Fey, the executive producer as well as star of 30 Rock, had a chance to repeat as lead actress in a comedy series. Other contenders in the category are Christina Applegate for the cancelled Samantha Who?, Toni Collette for United States of Tara, Julia Louis-Dreyfus for The New Adventures of Old Christine, Mary-Louise Parker for Weeds and Sarah Silverman for The Sarah Silverman Program.

Joining last year's winner Alec Baldwin of 30 Rock and Parsons in the comedy category for lead actor is Steve Carell of The Office, Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords, Tony Shalhoub of Monk and Charlie Sheen of Two and a Half Men.

Lead acting nominations for drama series went to last year's winner, Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad, along with Michael C. Hall, Dexter; Hugh Laurie, House; Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment; Jon Hamm, Mad Men; and Simon Baker, The Mentalist.

Glenn Close's performance in Damages, which won her an Emmy last year, received a bid again. Also earning nominations were Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters; Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer; Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Uni Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men; and Holly Hunter, Saving Grace.

List Of Emmy Nominees In Key Categories

Source: www.thestar.com -

(July 16, 2009) LOS ANGELES – Following is a list of nominees in key categories for the 61th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. The winners for U.S. television's highest honours will be announced at a ceremony broadcast live from Los Angeles on Sept. 20.

Big Love, HBO
Breaking Bad, AMC
Damages, FX
Dexter, Showtime
House, Fox
Lost, ABC
Mad Men, AMC

Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Glenn Close, Damages
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Hugh Laurie, House
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Simon Baker The Mentalist

Entourage HBO
Family Guy, Fox
Flight of the Conchords, HBO
How I Met Your Mother, CBS
The Office NBC
30 Rock NBC
Weeds, HBO

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures Of Old Christine
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
Sarah Silverman, The Sarah Silverman Program
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Toni Collette, United States of Tara
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds

Jemaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Steve Carell, The Office
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Charlie Sheen, Two And A Half Men
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Bittersweet Nod For Farrah Show

Source: www.thestar.com -

(July 17, 2009) Emmy morning in Hollywood sees actors, directors and producers who earn nominations for TV's top honours wake up with joy in their hearts, but yesterday saw one exception: Farrah Fawcett's friend and documentary producer, Alana Stewart.

Stewart made Farrah's Story, which chronicled the actress's battle with cancer that ended in Fawcett's death three weeks ago, at age 62. It was nominated for Best Non-fiction TV Special, but for Stewart the Emmy nod was bittersweet.

"But I'm happy for Farrah because this was so important to her ... she always felt like this was the most important thing she'd done in her life," Stewart said.

Fawcett rose to fame in the 1970s on the hit show Charlie's Angels. She later distinguished herself as an actress with Emmy nominations for The Burning Bed, Small Sacrifices and The Guardian.

Stewart sees this nomination as Fawcett's fourth, and one that will help cement her legacy.

Gordon Ramsay Fits Devil Role In Hell's Kitchen Season 6

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux,
Special To The Star

(July 19, 2009) Chef Gordon Ramsay is a devil in Hell's Kitchen, cursing out all who tremble in his path. But the 42-year-old chef learned recently that there is a time and place for raising hell – and it's not at his 9-year-old son's soccer game.

"The team was losing one nil and he came within three feet of scoring this goal," Ramsay told critics last week on a Fox conference call, "and he side-footed it to try and be flash and he missed the goal."

Ramsay the dad exploded. "I shouted, `Jack, you should have gone to Specsavers' – which is like Lens Crafters in America," he explained. "And he came running up to me and said, `Dad, all the best players miss them."

"I thought, `God, how right he is,'" said Ramsay. "There was an air of silence across the soccer pitch as all the soccer moms and dads are looking at me as if to say, `You may be a hard-ass in the kitchen, but give the kid a break.'"

It is a lesson that doesn't seem to have softened Ramsay's approach to the popular culinary talent search series, the Number 1 show last summer in Toronto. Hell's Kitchen returns for a sixth edition Tuesday night with a two-hour season opener from 8 to 10 p.m. on Fox and Citytv.

For the first time, the 16 chefs working under Ramsay are competing for a Canadian prize: one will be awarded the head chef position at the prestigious Araxi Restaurant in Whistler, B.C. Under the supervision of executive chef James Walt, the winner will have a unique opportunity to serve the world, with the 2010 Olympic Winter Games at their doorstep.

"We had several offers on the table," Ramsay said in terms of winning restaurant destinations. He praised Araxi as "a dream come true for any chef," singling out how "95 per cent of their produce is sourced within 100 miles of their front door."

The contestants are a mix: executive and sous chefs from established restaurants, a fish cook from Dallas and a Sloppy Joe's cook from Chicago. One competitor, 27-year-old Amanda, lives and works in New York but originally hails from Vancouver.

Ramsay brings them all to heel right away in the first episode, where they are challenged to prepare their signature dish for the master.

The talent level has definitely improved over the seasons, he said, allowing him to experiment more with the menu and attempt more daring challenges in the kitchen.

That doesn't mean this group is any better behaved.

More individuals are matching him curse-for-curse this season, he said.

"They've watched the show and want to come in full of bravado. I always say, let your food do the talking; you'll be surprised how far you go in a short period of time."

Born in Scotland, raised in England and trained by the best chefs in France, Ramsay has been awarded 16 Michelin stars. The demands of fronting TV shows on both sides of the Atlantic (besides Hell's Kitchen, he juggles the restaurant makeover series Kitchen Nightmares and, in England, The F Word, where he prepares meals in his own restaurant) hasn't diminished his passion for learning. He spent some time recently in a restaurant is Sardinia, where "I went back on the floor as a learning process."

It was a lesson he has tried to pass on to some past Hell's Kitchen winners, including his two favourites, season three champ, Rahman "Rock" Harper, and last season's winner, Danny Veltri, who Ramsay says reminds him of himself at a young age.

Ramsay tells his winners to "enjoy the year, but then get yourself back into something really serious and climb the ladder....

"This is a serious game and a tough, tough industry to survive."

Jimmy Fallon's Mini Backstage Drama

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Frazier Moore, The Associated Press

(July 20, 2009) NEW YORK – Since arriving in March, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has proved itself a worthy player in the world of TV comedy-talk.

It has also given birth to an unexpected world within a world – a dandy miniseries planted within Late Night that spoofs reality soap TV like The Hills in a bizarro backstage version of Late Night.

"7th Floor West" was introduced during Fallon's first week hosting Late Night (which airs weeknights at 12:35 a.m. on NBC). But recent instalments have aired on Late Night each Monday, making "7th Floor West" its own five minutes of micro-must-see TV.

The title hints at Central Park West, a primetime soap from the mid-1990s, while literally addressing the office space in Rockefeller Center's GE Building that houses the Late Night staff. It is here that the high-drama, brashly vacuous action (not that there's really much going on) takes place.

Jimmy Fallon plays Jimmy, the good-guy host of a late-night talk show who is constantly undermined by his sneaky head writer, Miles (real-life Late Night head writer A.D. Miles) in cahoots with Jimmy's turncoat former assistant Lauren (actually, his current assistant Lauren Cave), with the rest of the show's writers caught, rather unconcernedly, in between.

Bottom line: "7th Floor West" is very much like the real Late Night, without being anything like it. What it mostly resembles is The Hills blended with the shallowest elements of high school. It's letter-perfect, down to the mewling theme song and Jimmy's voiced-over recap of previous episodes.

A few days ago, with taping wrapped on that evening's Late Night hour, a scene from tonight's "7th Floor West" (its ninth instalment) was being shot in the real-life writers' room. (Catch up with past episodes at seventhfloorwest.com.)

For the scene, Miles gathers Amy Ozols (who writes the "7th Floor West" scripts), Wayne Federman, Bashir Salahuddin, Morgan Murphy and Tim McAuliffe at the conference table, strewn with newspapers and Chinese food cartons.

Jimmy enters with a cheery, "Great show, tonight!" Then he stops short, noticing the fliers Miles has handed out to everyone else.

The photocopied fliers describe how to cough into your shirtsleeve so as not to spread germs. But Jimmy is rightly suspicious of Miles' power play.

In take after take, Fallon reacts with varying combinations of ire, sadness, bewilderment, dismay and bottled-up rage.

"I need to talk to you," he seethes/whispers/erupts at Miles.

"Let me guess," Miles fires back mockingly – "out in the hallway."

"NO! NOT out in the hallway," says Jimmy in desperate defiance, then helplessly backs down. "Actually, yeah, there's much more privacy in the hallway." They exit.

"I cranked the weird up too much," Fallon chortles after one take, where he did some exasperated flapping noises with his lips. "But I like the last few before that."

"Yeah," says Michael Blieden, yet another Late Night writer, who serves as "7th Floor West" director – "the ones where it's awkward and you're struggling internally with what to do."

With a few minutes to kill before the next setup, Fallon marvels how "7th Floor West" has caught on with his audience.

"We didn't think it was going to be recurring," he says. "We first thought it would be a one-off."

Now, as it builds toward its "season conclusion" in a few weeks, many questions remain: like, what will happen at the much-awaited In-Office Beach Party?

But is there any danger that the audience will be confused about what's real and what isn't in the corridors of 7th Floor West?

Fallon chuckles, "People ask me, 'Who's that girl who plays your assistant?' I say, 'That's my assistant!' "

Fine, but the individual who gets onscreen credit for creating "7th Floor West" (Paulson Grickrod) doesn't exist.

Give the credit instead to Ozols, the Late Night writer whose unapologetic love of reality soap has helped her transform Late Night beyond the pale – with a rich, silly puzzle no one has an answer for.

"Why does Jimmy let all of these people work for him, when they're so mean to him?" she wonders with a laugh. "It's his show!"

Shaq To Star In New ABC Reality Series

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 21, 2009) *NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, who joins the Cleveland Cavaliers next season, will star in an ABC reality series that pits him against elite athletes from sports outside of his NBA comfort zone.

Filming begins Wednesday in Pittsburgh for "Shaq Vs.," when the Hoops star will on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in football, reports USA Today.

Future hour-long episodes will feature Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, retired boxer Oscar De La Hoya, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, tennis pro Serena Williams and beach volleyball Olympians Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. O'Neal, 37, says he's also hoping to book his friend Lance Armstrong for a cycling competition once the Tour de France ends.

The series is set to premiere Aug. 18 and will air Tuesdays at 9 ET/PT.

O'Neal says he came up with the idea as a fun way to help train for the NBA season and figured sports fans "would really want to see an athlete play another sport." He knew most of the athletes and recruited some of them on Twitter.

ABC was immediately interested. "He's very playful, almost everyone can relate to him. He has a fun sort of childish persona, and at the same time he's a superstar," says John Saade, co-chief of ABC's reality programming, says of the 7-foot-1 O'Neal. "Our real hope is you come for the absurdity but you stay for the sport."

Each episode is to include preliminary challenges, banter from news conferences, interaction with needy kids, and O'Neal and his rival negotiating a handicap. The laughs come from "trash talking," but "when it comes to competing, there is no joking," O'Neal says.

At the finish is the marquee event, usually on the athlete's home turf, but there's no cash prize: "Bragging rights are always better than any monetary prize," O'Neal says.

He says he's "not that skilled at tennis" or in a baseball home-run derby, though he expects to excel at football and swimming. But how would his rivals do in a basketball contest if the tables were turned? "They'd be good, but not good enough," he says.

In 2007, O'Neal he had his first ABC summer series, Shaq's Big Challenge, in which he helped overweight kids lose pounds in Florida. (That show averaged fewer than 5 million viewers an episode.)

ABC cleared O'Neal's participation with the Cavaliers; he's scheduled to report for NBA training camp Sept. 15.


NBC Drops Canadian-Made Series The Listener

www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(July 17, 2009) Halfway through its inaugural season, NBC has decided to pull the plug on the Canadian-made drama, The Listener, replacing it with repeats of Law & Order starting July 30 on Thursdays at 10 p.m. Yesterday, The Listener producer Christina Jennings said she was “obviously disappointed,” with the American network's decision, but added the show continues to do well in Canada, where the average audience is 981,000. In the U.S., The Listener – about a telepathic paramedic – averaged 4.5-million viewers. “For whatever reason, NBC didn't have the money to promote it,” said Jennings. CTV spokesman Scott Henderson said the Canadian network would continue to air The Listener in its regular time slot. He added any decision about renewing the show for a second season “is way far in the distance. We are not at a point to make a decision on it.” Actor Paul Gross recently raised concerns about Canadian producers leaning too heavily on the U.S.-Canada co-production model. “You might be putting in the lion's share of the money, but you do not control the fate of the production,” Gross told The Calgary Herald. “You get big exposure in a way you can't generate out of Canada alone. It certainly helps with foreign sales to have ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox behind it. But it does bring some handcuffs that aren't all that attractive, creatively and for broadcasters.”

All Canadian Cast For Global/ABC Drama

Source:  www.globeandmail.com

(July 22, 2009) Toronto — The producers of the new rookie police drama Copper unveiled an all-Canadian cast that includes talent that has appeared on long-running programs such as Law & Order, Smallville and 24. Joining the 13-part series, which will air on Global and ABC early next year, is Melanie Nicholls King (Law & Order), Enuka Okumu (24) and Eric Johnson (Smallville). Also included in the cast are Travis Milne, Ben Bass, Matt Gordon, Noam Jenkins and Aidan Devine. Filming for Copper's 13 episodes has begun in Hamilton and Toronto. The series bills itself as Grey's Anatomy in the world of rookie cops.


Theatre Veterans Poised To Return

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(July 21, 2009) The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is not ready to announce its 2010 season, but insiders are already abuzz with excitement about the return of Christopher Plummer in the perfect role, starring in a new production of The Tempest.

And that's not the only thrilling thing there is to anticipate. My crystal ball also sees the sublimely talented
Brent Carver returning to the festival in Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris – the very show that established Carver as British Columbia's gift to musical theatre 37 years ago when he joined the cast during the show's long Vancouver run.

Also on the playbill recently presented to the festival's board: Kiss Me Kate, the Cole Porter musical spin on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew; and As You Like It, one of the Bard's most popular green-world comedies.

The Tempest represents Shakespeare's farewell to the stage, and it was only four years ago that the late William Hutt starred as Prospero in his own unforgettable farewell to the stage where he was a favourite for decades.

Judging from Plummer's recent autobiography, there is little reason to guess he is ready to stop performing, so perhaps this will not be his last hurrah. As he demonstrated last year in Stratford's Caesar and Cleopatra, he is in peak form. But at the end of this year, he will mark his 80th birthday. And at this stage, he will be perfectly cast in The Tempest, which offers a role he was born to play.

It would also lend itself to a Broadway transfer and an HD production for the big screen following up on Caesar and Cleopatra, which proved enthralling for thousands who could not make the trip to Stratford but managed to catch it at their local Cineplex.

For Stratford, the challenge after a stressful 2009 will be to keep things creatively stimulating without taking any big financial risks and working within the constraints of reduced ticket revenue. Snaring Plummer and Carver will certainly help.

Though Carver has lived in Stratford for many years, his appearances at the festival have been relatively infrequent. In 2000, he proved to be an unconventional but absolutely marvellous Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and also triumphed the same season in the non-musical Elizabeth Rex, about Queen Elizabeth I.

His most celebrated musical performance was in Garth Drabinsky's Kiss of the Spider Woman, which he played in Toronto, London and New York opposite Chita Rivera, earning a Tony for that performance and a nomination a few years later in the ill-fated Parade.

Carver is one of four performers in the Brel show. It surfaced first in an off-Broadway production in 1967. Soon afterward, there was also a hit production in Toronto.

The Belgian composer – who died in 1978 at age 49 – is remembered by his fans for many of the emotional songs collected in this show, such as "Marathon," "Madeleine," "Mathilde," "My Death," "Amsterdam," "Old Folks," "Carousel" and "Marieke."

Carver's Stratford musicals include The Pirates of Penzance and Cabaret. In Toronto, he played the title role in CanStage's Larry's Party and was featured in the doomed Lord of the Rings marathon at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

Angels, Demons And Art

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard,
Movies Editor


http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
Starring Yolande Moreau and Ulrich Tukur. Directed by Martin Provost. 121 minutes. PG

(July 17, 2009) House cleaner and laundress
Séraphine Louis leads an invisible life in the small French town of Senlis.

In her early 40s, wearing a shapeless dress, she washes her employer's sheets in the river, hobbling home on creaky hips or dropping on all fours to scrub stairs.

Between her labours, she sits in trees like a young girl and sniffs the fresh air. At night, by candlelight, she paints, mostly using her fingers to smooth the colour onto boards.

Her face set, Séraphine brings the same almost-manic intensity to her painting as she does when attacking dirt on the floor or a stain on linen. Untrained and unsure of herself, she shows no one her small paintings of fruit and flowers.

The deeply religious Séraphine paints because she says angels have told her to, which brings ridicule, especially from her employer, Madame Duphot (Geneviève Mnich), who bullies Séraphine into bringing a painting to her and then dismisses the still life of apples as childish and amateurish.

When Duphot rents a room to the visiting German art collector and expert, Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur), a man who had a hand in discovering Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau, things change for Séraphine. He is impressed with her style, and takes her under his wing. He becomes Séraphine's patron and, suddenly, she has francs in her pocket and a champion.

But politics intrudes and, when World War I breaks out, Uhde is forced to return to Germany, telling Séraphine to keep painting.

Director Martin Provost has brought the true story of Séraphine de Senlis to the screen with elegant simplicity. A gorgeous film to watch, thanks to cinematographer Laurent Brunet, the pastoral settings are especially satisfying.

Combined with powerful performances of the two leads, it's no wonder the movie won seven César Awards, the French Oscar, including Best Picture.

Among them was a Best Actress prize for Yolande Moreau, who masterfully portrays Séraphine's childlike wonder with the world and her saints, the edges of her reality coloured by her mental illness. The actress brings dignity tinged with often-amusing stubbornness to all that Séraphine does, even her heartbreaking slide into madness. When Uhde and Séraphine reunite after the war, she begins to create the huge, luminous canvasses she became famous for, full of rich colour and wild images.

"I look at them and what I've done scares me," she whispers.

Séraphine's bravery was in her willingness to keep looking – until it became unbearable.

Music Makes One Festival Grow Stronger

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(July 22, 2009) Never underestimate the power of a musical.

That seems to be the lesson to be learned from the attendance at the
Stratford and Shaw festivals this summer.

While Shaw relegated its one musical to the smaller Royal George Theatre and counted on Noël Coward to fill the seats elsewhere, Stratford kept faith with the world of song and dance, moving one of its shows back, in fact, to the flagship Festival Theatre.

The bottom line? Stratford is heading for a break-even season, while the final outlook for Shaw is still uncertain.

Stratford has a huge hit on its hands with West Side Story and its second tuner, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, is doing smashingly as well.

Add to this the sellout crowds greeting Brian Bedford's twin excursions into the worlds of Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest and Ever Yours, Oscar) and you have some very happy and busy people at the box office.

Despite a chillingly slow start to the season, administrative director Anita Gaffney is fairly effervescent as she describes "the excellent turnaround we've seen in the last few months, with sales up 35 per cent since the beginning of May.''

"We're continually exceeding the pace of last year's trends and, even though we're still 6 per cent behind, we anticipate that we're going to reach our targets and end the season with a break-even budget."

In Niagara-on-the-Lake, it's a little different. There has been a generally positive response to most of the season, with the production of Born Yesterday proving especially popular, but the lack of a big musical in a major venue is having its effect.

Like Stratford, Shaw began the year with sluggish sales, but Odette Yazbeck, public relations director, reports that "sales have definitely improved and, in the last five or six weeks, quite dramatically."

But sales are still running 10 per cent behind last season. When asked to predict a final outcome, Yazbeck cautiously says, "We are doing everything we can to minimize the potential of a deficit, but there are still variables beyond our control."

SOME VERY MERRY MEN: It's never too early to start speculating about Ross Petty's annual Christmas musical and, following the smash success of last season's Cinderella, the rumour mill is throbbing with the news that this year's attraction is going to be Robin Hood, which has filled the coffers for Petty on several previous occasions.

If the master of Yuletide Yucks is willing to take some advice, let me offer two suggestions:

1) He should borrow a page from his previous casting of dashing Stratford leading man Graham Abbey in the title role and make an offer to the splendid Paul Nolan, who is earning applause for his virtuoso turn as Tony in West Side Story. Nolan's angelic high notes and his acrobatic leaps on the balcony are both drawing high praise.

2) Besides keeping the services of Ted Dysktra, Chris Earle and everyone else who made Cinderella such a joy, I'd also find a way to work Dan Chameroy's legendary performance as Plumbum Von Botox into this year's show. Maybe he could be hijacked while on his/her way through Sherwood Forest? Works for me.

GOODNIGHT, SWEET PRINCE: I was away on leave when actor/playwright/director Neil Munro recently passed away, but I couldn't let this sad event go unnoticed. It's true that I disagreed with much of Munro's later work, but his 1991 direction of Hamlet's Room at Theatre Plus remains one of the most inventive productions I have ever seen. Whole scenes from it are still vividly in my memory 18 years later, while shows I went to last month have faded right away.

My favourite? The impromptu jazz set that began Act II, climaxing with Tom McCamus (an inspired Hamlet) breaking into the theme from The Flintstones on the saxophone.

Farewell, Mr. Munro. At your best, you were unique.


Just For Laughs Gala Leaves Us Wanting More

Source: www.thestar.com - Ariel Teplitsky,
Toronto Star

(July 19, 2009) Acerbic comic Sarah Silverman headlined an evening with a smorgasbord of comedic talent at the Just for Laughs gala at Massey Hall – so why were we left hungry for more?

The trouble is inherent in the nature of Friday's gala itself. Each of the comics – Arj Barker, David Cross, Todd Glass, John Mulaney and, of course, the recently Emmy-nominated pairing of headliner Louis C.K. and host Silverman – is talented enough to carry an entire show of their own. But it's a lot of comedy to cram into a little more than two hours, so each comic was limited to about 15 minutes, while Silverman, as host, gave a shortish introductory set plus brief comedic interludes between acts.

What we're left with is a sort of tapas plate of comedy – each morsel tasty but ultimately unfulfilling.

Still, audiences who attended one of the night's two galas were treated to frequently hilarious performances by six of the top stand-up comics working today. There was no shortage of laughs from each of these stars – with the possible exception of Cross (Arrested Development), whose head cold excused him from bringing his A-game.

Silverman was her usual adorably crass self – almost. Surprisingly, she stayed away from ethnic jokes, a stock in trade, though there were ample sexual barbs, including one memorable song that could achieve a Guinness record in utterances of the C-word.

She was at her best when performing off the cuff, including an extensive tirade against a heckler who shouted the name of her ex, Jimmy Kimmel. She praised Torontonians for being so welcoming, "putting all this garbage in the street to make it seem like New York."

Each new comic brought something refreshing to the stage:

Barker (Flight of the Conchords) delivers a sort of manic meta-comedy, calling attention to his jokes even as he tells them.

Glass (Last Comic Standing) asked the question: "Do I look like Fred Flintstone and Mel Gibson had an ugly baby?"

Mulaney, a writer for Saturday Night Live, is winsome with his farm-boy-in-the-big-city routine.

Coss rambled a lot about Nyquil and heroin.

Finally, Louis C.K. swaggered on stage. He has a gift for calling attention to the absurdity of our everyday miseries, from frantically lining up to get off an airplane to bringing home a puppy for the family, even though we know it's going to eventually die.

At more than 20 minutes, his set barely whet the appetite. Luckily, he'll be back in October with a solo show. We welcome any of the others to return as the main course, and not just an appetizer.


Chris Rock Makes Forbes' Top Comics List


(July 20, 2009) *Chris Rock ranks No. 2 on Forbes' list of top-earning comedians with $42 million banked between June 2008 and June 2009.  Over the course of the year, he added a slew of big-screen flicks to his résumé ("Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," the upcoming "Death at a Funeral" and "Grown Ups"), released a new top-rated HBO comedy special ("Kill the Messenger") and secured another book deal with Grand Central Publishing.  This fall, his TV show "Everybody Hates Chris," which he created and narrated for the CW, will begin airing in syndication. Even more lucrative, Rock hit the road for his first worldwide stand-up tour, which touched down in the UK, Australia and South Africa as well as various locations in the States.  Jerry Seinfeld tops the list, with $85 million earned during the 12-month period. Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, who collected an estimated $30 million over the course of the year, ranks third.  


Fed up? Vent Your Anger On These Virtual Vermin

Source:  www.thestar.com - Danielle Wong

(July 22, 2009) If a month-long city strike has you down in the dumps, Hafiz Kassam has the solution: Shoot rats.

The 29-year-old computer programmer launched an online video game called Trash Wars yesterday in which players are contracted by the city to kill oncoming rodents and prevent a rat infestation from overwhelming a dump site.

"It just popped into my head," said Kassam, who lives in Markham. "I have made games in the past ... just for the sake of making them, but I wanted to (release) something for the mainstream public – something with a message versus just a game."

As of last night, the Trash Wars website had received 1,000 visitors. The game is pretty rudimentary – players basically win after killing 600 rats – and some people have commented on the website that it's too easy or there isn't enough violence.

But Kassam wanted to keep it simple. "I dumbed it down so people don't get overwhelmed. (It's) for people who don't play video games that often," he said, adding he might release a flashier custom version for more experienced gamers in the future.

Kassam, who recently started his own business, Q-KMBR Games, said he hopes his "experiment" with Trash Wars will show if the public is open to more news-related games.

The site, which is linked to qkmbrgames.com, also includes a poll asking whether participants agree or disagree with the strike, or if they're simply indifferent to it. Most either don't care or are not aware of the issues, Kassam said. The game is not meant to take a particular side on the strike, he added.

A Rhythmic Descent Into 'The Zone'

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko,
Special To The Star

Bit.Trip Core
Wii (download)
600 Nintendo Points ($6)
Rated E
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)

(July 18, 2009) More than any other genre, rhythm games are about "
The Zone," that mystical space where consciousness recedes, play proceeds on reflex and instinct and an altered state that's as close to bliss as a geek on a couch is going to get, is achieved.

While hitting this state in other kinds of games is nice but not necessary, rhythm/music games are more demanding. Since the whole point of the genre is syncing up with the game at a microsecond level, you're either in The Zone or utterly embarrassing yourself. Even by this unforgiving standard, Bit.Trip Core makes a game like Guitar Hero look like the preschool Duck, Duck, Goose quarter-finals.

Attractively retro-psychedelic and pleasantly funky-sounding, at first it doesn't seem so tough. The game's core mechanic is pretty simple: Zap incoming musical bits in four directions, keeping the rhythm going. Beep-boop-beep...okay, fine. That lasts about 30 seconds, at which point Bit.Trip Core lets you have it.

Far from marching in orderly ranks down a musical bar as is the rhythm-game norm, the bits in Core come at you more like the swarming enemies in a bullet-hell shooter. Coming at you from all sides, singly or in packs, they dart and loop, swirling around the screen, faking you out with speed changes and split-second reversals. The first time I played, I wasn't just thinking "How can I handle this?" but "How can any mortal mind be expected to handle this?"

But the Zone's a wondrous thing, and as terrifyingly chaotic as Bit. Trip Core's soundscape and playfield may seem, it turns out to be perfectly tuned for inducing that magical trance state. Stick with it for a while, and what at one instant seems to be a panic-inducing mass of impossible-to-track targets becomes a perfectly ordered mandala of time, sound and motion. It's still challenging, devilishly so, but once it's rewired your synapses into the proper frame of wholistic perception, that challenge is able to induce something like pure joy.

So many perfect little details of design combine to achieve this that it's tough to pick one out for praise, but I particularly enjoy the payoff/punishment system. Rewarding players for keeping unbroken combos going is essential to the rhythm/music genre, and Bit.Trip Core handles that part really well, sending nice audiovisual treats straight into limbic harmonics as the player advances up through "mega" and "hyper" tiers of awesomeness.

What I really liked, though, was the addition of hyper's dark twin, "nether." Screw up badly enough and the game drops down into a frightening underworld. All colour and background graphics vanish and resolve into stark black-and-white; stereo sound and music cut out, replaced by grating bleats from the Wii remote's tinny little internal speaker. If you've ever wondered how the abstract concept of "failure" could be perfectly expressed in interactive form, this is it. Staying out of the bleak purgatory of nether becomes a powerful motivator toward The Zone.

Bit.Trip Core isn't a particularly long game – there are only three levels – but there's a lot of satisfying, challenging play packed into it. And for a measly 600 Nintendo Points, it's one of the best deals available for Wii, and one of the few must-have downloadbles. A small price to pay for an electronic shortcut to samadhi.

Venus gives Wii tips for new Grand Slam Tennis

Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman,
Special To The Star

(July 18, 2009) Seeing herself play on a virtual court isn't anything new for five-time Wimbledon champ Venus Williams, but the 29-year-old tennis star says the latest video game to feature her likeness – EA Sports' Grand Slam Tennis – offers more realistic control.

"I've worked on other tennis games in the past, but truly I prefer the motion-sensor with the (Nintendo) Wii," Williams said in Vancouver this week, before giving a reporter a private lesson in serving. "Holding the controller like a racket and swinging feels good to me. It's a lot more realistic."

The self-professed gamer concedes that there was a bit of a learning curve at first. "I was pressing buttons to hit the ball when I first played the game because it's hard to let go of that mentality, but you then realize motion control is better for tennis games."

Players can perform tennis strokes in front of the television – including forehands, backhands, topspins, slices, lobs and slams – and the motions are mirrored in the game in real-time. Grand Slam Tennis also supports the optional Wii MotionPlus, a small dongle that snaps underneath the Wii Remote controller for added precision in a 3-D space.

Williams, who said she's played video games dating back to the 1986 arcade hit Bubble Bobble, believes there's an added advantage to the Wii's motion-sensing controllers: "I think it's important kids are very physical with this game and are moving around, because these days kids can't go outside without adults watching them.

"And hopefully the game will pique their interest in the real sport of tennis, too," she added.

When asked if she's played an online match against her sister, Serena, Venus smiles slyly and raises an eyebrow. "Not yet, but looking forward to it." Ahoy, adventure game fans! Whether or not you're old enough to remember the heroic and hilarious antics of Guybrush Threepwood from nearly 20 years ago, a reimagined version of the classic point-and-click adventure game is now available.

LucasArts' award-winning The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition can be download for the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade and for the PC through Valve's Steam or IGN Entertainment's Direct2Drive digital delivery services.

Gamers can expect the same humorous dialogue, challenging puzzles and swashbuckling adventure found in the original 1990 game, but now with high-definition graphics, a remastered musical score and new voice-over tracks. Nostalgic types can toggle back to the older graphics and interface at any time.

Threepwood, a wannabe pirate, washes up at the Caribbean port of Mêlée, and finds himself rubbing elbows (and hooks) with the isle's colourful buccaneers. Between daring duels and pining after the attractive governor, our bumbling hero sets sail for the legendary Monkey Island – which is where things get really interesting.

Four Monkey Island games debuted over a 10-year period, so let's hope LucasArts resurrects the sequels, too.

On a related note, Telltale Games has just released the first all-new Threepwood adventures since 2000 in the form of five downloadable PC episodes called Tales of Monkey Island.


Frank McCourt, 78: Much-Loved Author

Source: www.thestar.com - Hillel Italie,
Associated Press

(July 20, 2009) NEW YORK – Frank McCourt, the beloved raconteur and former public school teacher who enjoyed post-retirement fame as the author of Angela's Ashes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning ``epic of woe'' about his impoverished Irish childhood, died yesterday of cancer at age 78.

McCourt had been gravely ill with meningitis and recently was treated for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. He died at a Manhattan hospice, his brother Malachy McCourt said.

Until his mid-60s, Frank McCourt was known primarily around New York as a creative writing teacher and as a local character, singing songs and telling stories with his younger brother and otherwise joining the crowds at the White Horse Tavern and other literary hangouts.

But there was always a book or two being formed in his mind and the world would learn his name, and story, in 1996, after a friend helped him get an agent and his then-unfinished manuscript was quickly signed by Scribner. With a first printing of just 25,000, Angela's Ashes was an instant favourite with critics and readers and perhaps the ultimate case of the non-celebrity memoir, the extraordinary life of an ordinary man.

"F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives. I think I've proven him wrong," McCourt later explained. "And all because I refused to settle for a one-act existence, the 30 years I taught English in various New York City high schools."

A native of New York, McCourt was good company in the classroom and at the bar, but few had such a burden to unload. His parents were so poor that they returned to their native Ireland when he was little and settled in the slums of Limerick. Simply surviving his childhood was a tale; McCourt's father was an alcoholic who drank up the little money his family had. Three of McCourt's seven siblings died and he nearly perished from typhoid fever.

"Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood," was his memorable opening.

"People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty, the shiftless loquacious father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests, bullying schoolmasters; the English and all the terrible things they did to us for 800 long years."

The book was a long Irish wake, "an epic of woe," McCourt called it, finding laughter and lyricism in life's very worst. Although some in Ireland complained that McCourt had revealed too much (and revealed a little too well), Angela's Ashes became a million seller, won the Pulitzer and was made into a movie of the same name, starring Emily Watson as the title character, McCourt's mother.

The white-haired, sad-eyed, always quotable McCourt, his Irish accent still thick despite decades in the U.S., became a regular at parties and other gatherings, so much the eager late-life celebrity that he later compared himself to a "dancing clown, available to everybody."

"I wasn't prepared for it," McCourt told the Associated Press in 2005. "After teaching, I was getting all this attention. They actually looked at me – people I had known for years – and they were friendly and they looked at me in a different way. And I was thinking, `All those years I was a teacher, why didn't you look at me like that then?'"

But the part of it he liked best, he said, was hearing "from all those kids who were in my classes."

"At least they knew that when I talked about writing I wasn't just talking through my hat," he said.

Much of his teaching was spent in the English department at the elite Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, where he defied the advice of his colleagues and shared his personal stories with the class; he slapped a student with a magazine and took on another known to have a black belt in karate.

After Angela's Ashes, McCourt continued his story, to strong but diminished sales and reviews, in 'Tis, which told of his return to New York in the 1940s, and in Teacher Man. McCourt also wrote a children's story, Angela and the Baby Jesus, released in 2007.

McCourt was married twice and had a daughter, Maggie McCourt, from his first marriage. His brother Malachy McCourt wrote two memoirs and, in 2006, ran for New York governor as the Green Party candidate. At least one of Frank McCourt's former students, Susan Gilman, became a writer.

McCourt will be cremated, his brother said. A memorial service is planned for September.

Bill Clinton May Eclipse Film Stars

Source:  www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(July 22, 2009) Guess who's coming to town this fall.  As we know, the Toronto International Film Festival has made September the prime time for celebrity-ogling. As usual, crowds will gather not only near the red carpet at Roy Thomson Hall but also at the entrance of the Four Seasons Hotel.

We won't know for a few weeks whether the likes of George Clooney and Julianne Moore will come to promote their new movies. But according to a Deep Throat of my acquaintance, the silver screen people will have major competition from a non-actor who is being booked for a non-TIFF event.

His name is Bill Clinton and he has made waves in Toronto a few times previously: headlining events for which big cheques are written, sometimes for the benefit of people who don't live on this side of the border. Most recently he was paired with another former resident of the White House, George W. Bush.

No announcement has been made yet, but don't be surprised if there is a high-end private charity dinner at the Forest Hill home of Edward Rogers, son of the late mogul Ted Rogers, with Clinton as the big attraction.

The date you should circle, Sept. 13, Sunday of the first weekend of TIFF, is no coincidence.

This elegant soirée would be an intimate spinoff of One X One, the Super Bowl of starry benefits.

One X One began in 2005 and until now has been not a small dinner but a much larger event, typically hosted by Matt Damon. Previous venues have included the Four Seasons Centre for the Arts and the Carlu, which worked better than last year's Maple Leaf Gardens. It funds a number of charities, including Damon's own.

The price of admission for dinner with Clinton is likely to have many zeroes in it.

Meanwhile, we could be seeing a lot of Christopher Plummer. I am willing to bet his latest movie, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, will have its North American premiere at TIFF. Directed by Terry Gilliam (best known for Time Bandits) and set in England, it is officially a Canadian co-production, with a major investment of our tax dollars via Telefilm Canada. So don't be surprised if you spot Plummer on a red carpet near you between Sept. 10 and 19.

As we reported yesterday, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is counting on Plummer to star in The Tempest next year, following his 80th birthday. That would certainly raise the Bard's profile by comparison with the current season; for 2009, the Stratford Sondheim Festival might be a more apt name, with West Side Story and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum generating more buzz (and, I suspect, revenue) than Macbeth and Julius Caesar.

Next year on the festival stage, we'll not only have high-profile Shakespeare but also two gangsters in Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate doing their hilarious soft-shoe number "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" while singing lyrics like: "If she says your behaviour is heinous, / Kick her right in the Coriolanus."

Just before that season opens, it's possible Toronto will get a sneak preview of Plummer's Prospero at the 2010 Luminato festival. Antoni Cimolino, Stratford's executive director, has been talking to Janice Price, Luminato CEO, about a joint venture. The Tempest could provide the perfect partnership for both organizations.

Price and Cimolino worked together at Stratford in the early years of Richard Monette's reign. But coming up with logistics and numbers that work is a complex process, so hold the champagne. No deal has yet been made.

Coming to town sooner rather than later: a number of New York producers and presenters who will attend tomorrow's Mirvish opening at the Canon Theatre.

It's the North American premiere of The Harder They Come, the Jamaican musical based on the hit movie. Before its Toronto engagement, it was staged at London's Barbican Centre and then in the West End.

THTC, as the show is dubbed for short, may not be a conventional mainstream Broadway musical, but an off-Broadway run in New York is a distinct possibility.


Sacked! CFL Superhero Tackles Would-Be Thief

Source:  www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(July 22, 2009) EDMONTON–An Edmonton Eskimo made the catch of the season yesterday after chasing down the suspected mugger of a woman.

"I'd put myself at risk for anybody, any day," said Kitwana Jones, a defensive end with the Canadian Football League team. "I don't have much fear for anything except God."

Jones, 28, said he was driving to a pancake breakfast in downtown Edmonton about 6:45 a.m. when he heard a woman screaming for help.

That prompted him to slow his car down to investigate.

"I saw this little old lady running up behind (the robber), screaming `Help, help, help,'" Jones said.

Police said a man snatched a purse and laptop from the woman, who is in her 50s. When the woman cried out, a bystander began chasing after the suspected bad guy.

Jones pulled over his car and joined in the chase, and said he caught the suspected mugger in an alley in just a few seconds.

"I just jumped out of my car, tackled the guy and held him until police came."

Having grown up in a rough neighbourhood in Wilmington, N.C., Jones said he was used to dealing with seedy characters.

Jones said he gave the suspected robber "a little kick" and lesson on respecting his elders.

"I'm mad. I'm saying, `Why are you out here trying to beat up old women? I know he was wondering where the hell I came from."

Police said Jones and the other bystander who chased the suspect played a crucial role in the arrest.

"It's an individual's choice as to their level of involvement, but everyone must keep in mind that there's always a chance that weapons could be present and an innocent person could be injured when trying to make a citizen's arrest," said Det. Bill Allen.

This isn't the first time an Eskimos player has played the role of superhero. In 2002, a woman who jumped from the fourth floor of a burning Edmonton apartment building was saved when seven Eskimos players caught her, breaking her fall.

Steve Nash Agrees To 2-Year Extension

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(July 20, 2009) PHOENIX – Canadian Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns have agreed on a US$22 million, two-year contract extension, according to his agent.

Bill Duffy confirmed the agreement Monday in an interview with The Associated Press.

The deal will keep the two-time MVP point guard under contract with the Suns through the 2011-2012 season.

The 35-year-old Nash, entering his 13th NBA season, had one year left on his contract that would pay him $13 million next season.

The Suns and Nash had been in negotiations for several weeks on a deal that would keep him in Phoenix. He will be 38 when the contract expires. He is expected to sign the agreement later this week.

The Suns lured Nash to Phoenix in 2004 in a celebrated effort that included a flight to Dallas by then-owner Jerry Colangelo and a host of representatives of the team. When Mavericks owner Mark Cuban balked at re-signing Nash, at age 30, at the amount he wanted, the point guard signed a $65-million, five-year contract with Phoenix.

What followed were the best years of Nash's career as the maestro of the high-octane offence of then-coach Mike D'Antoni. He was named the league's MVP in 2005 and 2006 and was a first-team all-NBA selection in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

When D'Antoni left the Suns for the New York Knicks after the 2007-08 season, Nash struggled with the slower style of new coach Terry Porter. When Porter was fired at the all-star break and replaced by assistant Alvin Gentry, the Suns returned to the speed game, a factor that no doubt figured into Nash's decision to re-sign.

When Gentry was kept on as coach after the season, Nash made his feelings known on his Twitter account.

"Really happy that the Suns re-signed Alvin Gentry," Nash wrote. "Great coach and great person."

Nash will stay with a team that faces an uncertain future after failing to make the playoffs for the first time since he rejoined the team. All-star Amare Stoudemire has one year left on his contract and wants the maximum in any new deal, something the budget-conscious Suns may not be willing to do.

However, if Stoudemire does leave, the Suns will have the money to be a player in the lucrative free agent market after the coming season.

The Victoria native was the Suns' first-round draft pick in 1996 and was traded to Dallas in 1998. He has averaged 14.4 points and eight assists in his pro career.

In the last five years with Phoenix, Nash has averaged 17.1 points and 10.8 assists per game. He has shot better than 50 per cent from the field and 43 per cent from three-point range in all five seasons.

Jack And Bosh Are Back Together Again

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce Campion-Smith,
Ottawa Bureau Chief

(July 21, 2009) Like a couple of kid college roommates – which they used to be, in fact – Jarrett Jack and Chris Bosh were mugging for the cameras and goofing for the media during Jack’s introductory Raptors news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Fans can only hope they stay together longer this time than they did in the first go-round as teammates, when Bosh bolted for the NBA after just one season alongside Jack at Georgia Tech.

And with all the palaver about Bosh’s future when he can become a free agent at the end of the next NBA season, his new/old teammate figures it’s time to start the recruiting process right now.

Jack said:

“As soon as I pretty much got the call that Indiana wasn’t going to match, I said, 'we’re going to take this year, make the most of it as possible' and hopefully we’ll try to get him around here for a few more years.”

Bosh, of course, has never committed to either staying or going when he might be able to flee the only franchise he’s ever played for but he sounded at least a little bit like a guy who’s happy with the moves the Raptors have made and someone who’s glad to have another close friend as a teammate.

“I’m really happy to see him. He’s a really good friend to me, and that’ll make it easier, and he can play ball, too. It’s like killing two birds with one stone, he’s a good dude, a good locker room guy and he can ball. Any time you can have that, it’s a good thing.”

So, does that mean Bosh is coming back?

Yeah, right.

“For sure, I’m really excited about next year. Not too excited to the point I was last year (when he and Jermaine O’Neal were supposed to terrorize the East) but just looking at it, I think we have the chance to have a good team if we do the right things.”

Jack, a 6-3 guard, was termed “an ideal fit for this roster” by Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo, who stole the restricted free agent away from the Indiana Pacers with a four-year, $20-million contract.

Jack started thinking about the Bosh factor right after his agent called with news of the Toronto offer.

“Soon as I got off the phone with him, I called Chris and he thought I was playing a prank on him … I told him it was serious and the next day it hit the media,” he said.

“It’s unbelievable, not many times in this league do you get the chance to play with someone you really call a friend. Me and him were talking about the last time we played each other, it would be something to be teammates again and it came to pass now.”


Canadian-Owned Team Wins Stage At Tour De France

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(July 17, 2009) VITTEL, France – Heinrich Haussler of Germany has won the rainy 13th stage of the Tour de France in a solo breakaway, and seven-time champion Lance Armstrong appeared set to remain third overall. Haussler rides for Canadian-owned Cervelo Test Team. Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy appeared likely to retain the yellow jersey following the chilly and wet ride from Vittel to Colmar. Nocentini, Armstrong and the main pack were trailing more than seven minutes behind Haussler. Friday's 200-kilometre stage through the rolling Vosges hills of northeast France featured three big climbs, including the category-1 Col du Platzerwasel. Armstrong began the stage in third place – eight seconds behind Nocentini. Astana teammate Alberto Contador, the 2007 Tour champion, was second, six seconds back.

Shaq To Star In TV Sports Reality Series

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(July 20, 2009) CLEVELAND – Shaquille O'Neal would deluge Michael Phelps in a cannonball competition. What about a race across the pool? We'll see. The NBA superstar will star in "Shaq Vs.," a TV series where the 15-time all-star centre will challenge top athletes in their respective sports. During one episode, which debuts on Aug. 18 on ABC, Shaq will swim against Olympic superstar Phelps. O'Neal, now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, also will try his football skills against Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, box retired world champion Oscar De La Hoya, bat against St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols, trade tennis volleys with Wimbledon champ Serena Williams and play volleyball against Olympic gold medallists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor. O'Neal will negotiate a handicap with his opponents and train with a coach for one week leading up to each challenge. "These athletes may be on top of their game, but I am up for the challenge," O'Neal said. "I plan to train hard and win, so look out." A four-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, O'Neal was traded from Phoenix to Cleveland last month. The 37-year-old has just one season left on his contract but said he wants to play three more years and is hoping he can help Cleveland superstar LeBron James win his first league title.

Canadian Wins Bronze In Synchronized Solo Tech

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(July 20, 2009) ROME – Canadian Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon won bronze Monday in the solo tech event in synchronized swimming at the world swimming championships. Russia's Natalia Ishchenko of Russia successfully defended her gold medal, collecting 98.667 points for execution and overall impression. Gemma Mengual of Spain again took silver with 97.833 points and Boudreau-Gagnon was third with 96.000. It was the first major medal for Boudreau-Gagnon and Canada's first synchro medal at a world championship since 2001 "It's really an honour for me to be on the podium with the best swimmers in the world," said the 26-year-old from Riviere-du-Loup, Que. "These girls have always been an example for me. I used to watch them on video trying to reach their high level." Ishchenko swam to the opera notes of Luciano Pavarotti's Sadness, Mengual chose a soul piece with Otis Redding's I Have Been Loving You, and Boudreau-Gagnon used a rock piece. The solo free and tech events began standing alone for separate medals at the last world championships in Melbourne, Australia, two years ago, when Ishchenko and Mengual also placed 1-2. It is not an Olympic event. "Everything worked well," Ishchenko said. "Now it's time to start preparing for the 2012 London Olympics. Mengual, 32, won two silvers at last year's Beijing Games, but isn't sure she'll make it to London. "I haven't decided yet what I'll do in the future," Mengual said.