I got to talk to my Audrey the other day. We caught up on our respective lives - she having just lost her loving mother and me adjusting to life under one roof in a committed relationship with my Anthony. After we spoke, she sent me a lovely note: "... I'm so happy for you both. It is a blessing when two soulmates find one another. Stay true to yourselves and never let go of your bliss... " There are a multitude of things in this life of ours that we are figuring out, but Anthony and I are truly enjoying life's blessings with each day. Sometimes I think we're having too much fun (or - at least - too many spirits) as I look back on this week in particular and in anticipation of the approaching holidays - including my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and next week's trip to the Philippines where Anthony is taking me to see Beyonce [for my birthday]. And truth be told, we do have many lovely times without a cocktail in hand. But in light of the season, I seem to be hard pressed to find many of those frames. SMILE! With that, I offer we are mindful and aware as we are being festive - grown-and-sexy style.
There's so much I want to reflect on - so here goes:
Ant and I have been calling joy forth as we aim for optimum health. Our hip hop dance class with Tweety is still the order of the Monday (www.alvinailey.org). Tweety took one of our recent class routines into the old-school era. We worked out (and it) to Johnny Kemp's "Just Got Paid". As my high school classmates and I begin the work of planning our 20-year-reunion (for next year), it was quite the dance down memory lane as Tweety reminded the class that the old-school dances are much more physical and demanding. Hip hop of today is more stylized and nuanced. I recalled after the plethora of high-school/college jams that I would feel like I had worked out - from the jump, prep, wop, reebok, etc. On top of one of these lessons, Anthony and I were approached by one of the Alvin Ailey folks who asked if we'd submit pictures of ourselves. Apparently, they want to consider us to be featured in future Alvin Ailey pamphlets and brochures that will promote Tweety's hip hop dance class. Cool, huh? Our routine as we wrap up our dance class is to get a nice dinner. Our recent standby where we saw Diddy most recently Serafina (www.serafinarestaurant.com) gives us good Italian and one of our new spots which Anthony found is another Thai Restaurant Chai (www.chai-restaurant.com) We had some wonderful egg dishes and really tasty dumplings. Ant has been working non-stop of late (following up each work day with his workout and whatever we have on the social calendar). With that, he still needs his wind-down time. When we get home, we sometimes take in some of the new TV fare - like The Salt N Pepa Show: Featuring Sandra Denton and Cheryl James (www.vh1.com/shows/series/salt_n_pepa/splash.jhtml). And I must say: We are quite entertained. Talk about a walk down memory lane. I am feeling the transformation of "Salt" and continue to be intrigued at the degree to which I experience "Pepa" holding on to her youth (What do you think of the new nose?) and the past. Through each episode, however, I'm feeling the authenticity of their chemistry - now put to the test of a remix. Nothing says they have to get together and yet, through projects like this show, there's a way the "Salt 'n Pepa" brand can maintain itself without them recording and touring per se. Well, Spinderella is on the next episode and we can't wait (though we'll be en route to The Philippines when it runs. THANKS TIVO for holding the fort).
My Audrey hipped me to another show I'm going to be looking for that plays to some of what I wrote about in a previous entry regarding Kodjoe and CMT... and his documentary on Blacks in Country music (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/9/19/waiting-in-the-wings-dreaming-along-the-way.html). Well, according to "Rolling Stone", Country Music Television (www.cmt.com/) is presenting seven non-country music sorta-celebrities, putting them in one Nashville house and attempting to convert them into honky-tonkin’ cowboys and cowgirls. "Gone Country" - hosted by Big & Rich’s John Rich -- will include American Idol’s Diana DeGarmo, popular gastro-bypass singer Carnie Wilson, Julio Igelsias Jr., and the actress who played Marcia on TV’s The Brady Bunch. But that's not it. Rounding out the cast is Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider, Whitney Houston’s "ex-original king of R&B Bobby Brown and, Mr. Thong himself, Sisqo. Over the course of six weeks, the contestants will undergo a series of musical and physical challenges in hopes of morphing them into Grand Ole Opry gold. At the end of the six-episode arc, Rich will declare the winner, who will be rewarded the opportunity to record and release a country song. We won't see this until January 2008, but guess what? TIVO is waiting for this season's pass. And so am I. It seems the only missing player is perhaps Thelma from "Good Times". Well, have no fear, my sister just sent me this link and I found it to be a hoot (and what a fix for my "Good Times" jones): http://www.thelmaofgoodtimes.com/
Ant and I recently got the chance to join the New York Association of Black Journalists (www.nyabj.org) for a preview screening of Lions for Lambs (
), directed and featuring Robert Redford along with Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Derek Luke, and an impressive cast which takes an intimate look at what's going on in Iraq and here in the U-S as our media and the government goes. It was a great move for the movie company to select our ranks as worthy to pre-screen. At the screening, I ran into my buddy Raymonde Green who is hot on a scoop, which will be featured on UneQ Magazine's website November 18th (www.UNEQMagazine.com). It's Terry McMillan setting the record straight and revealing new details of her relationship with ex-husband Jonathan Plummer. On this night, as Raymonde, my Frankie, Ant, and I walked towards one of the black-gay-male spots for Thursdays, "The Ritz", Ant and I continued to get feedback on our new "American Chang" blazers (www.americanchang.com). We also sported our "American Chang's" for Halloween (and I wore mine to dinner with my Tata and Jules with whom we finally got a chance to catch up over dinner at Houston's last week. They are doing great... and Jules is still painting - www.julespainting.com . He came in 2nd place, by the way, for that art event we attended in New York for him (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/7/20/roots-the-next-generations-and-the-melody-lingers-on.html). Congrats! The night, by the way, where Ant and I wore our black-lace ruffled, printed purple, American Chang shirts (a la PRINCE), we double dated with Jason and Marqice before what was to be a "Purple Rain" house party in Brookllyn. Our good times with Jason and Marqice (coupled with crazy Halloween traffic) delayed us from making the BK set, but we had a lovely time just the same in the Village at Maracas (for dinner and drinks - http://www.maracasnyc.com/) followed by some pastries at Lafayette French Pastry Bakers Inc. and then followed by sushi at Fuma Yama Restaurant (www.funayamainc.com). Shout out to R. Scott French (www.rscottfrench.com) who is the master designer behind "American Chang" and "R. Scott French". And our Meredith over there. You made us look good during some festive times this week.
Speaking of "the look..." - in this case - "... for less", I should also shout out a moment that occurred this week while I was minding my own business. An Italian man came up to me - pointing out how handsome I was and how I would look great in one of his "Armani" jackets. As he put it, it is the "A. Collezioni - Reportage" line. He needed to get rid of them quickly as he was going to Italy and didn't want to deal with the taxes. He said he would give them to me or - better yet - take whatever cash I had in my pocket. I had $7 and no inkling to go to the ATM as Ant and I prepare for our trip. After a few nudges in that direction, he took said he would give them to me anyway. He still took the cash - $7 - and gave me not one, but THREE of these leather and suede jackets. As I prepared to write this entry from the perspective of the seller's pitch, I was going to say that each jacket was worth $2,500 and is real leather and suede. Well, the workmanship on the jackets (to this point) read well-done, but with some further research via ebay (reviews.ebay.com/How-to-Spot-a-Fake-Armani-Men-apos-s-Leather-Jacket_W0QQugidZ10000000002354776), I'm uncovering that they are "NOT" ARMANI. More like "ARMA"-NO!!!! Still, the first of the three, which I wore recently, has straight men (and all people) complimenting me --- like the guy Tariq at the Verizon Wireless store (where I needed to get the software to use my phone in Manila) who said "I don't normally step to guys like this, but that jacket looks great on you!". As they are short jackets, they are not my preferred silhouette if I were buying my own jacket. But you heard Tariq! It looks great on me. So, fake or not, I'll be sporting them. Only in New York City, huh?
At another Halloween Party, Ant and I attended last week, we were "trucker" (Ant) and "hood thug" (me). It was a stretch as we stretched our existing wardrobes (sans purchasing "costumes") to attend our good friend Toyce's Harlem set. Regardless, everyone bought our looks. But Toyce and the gang were PLAYING TO WIN with their costumes. Afterwards, we went to our friend Craig's set at Billie's Black, a cute little dive bar in Harlem (www.billiesblack.com/). Here, we celebrated with our other friend, also Craig, and his partner Biff. While there, we got a little "frat boy" and did shots for Craig's birthday. He and Ant did a round of something with "yager" in it. Look at their expression. I agreed to do a shot of "tequila (Patron)" and look at my expression. Lots of fun! As fun goes, you've heard me often talk about VOYAGE and our friend Marcos who puts on great open-mic evenings there. He too has serviced "the gays" - hosting fun-filled nights at the restaurant for that demographic. We have enjoyed the menu - from the grits, scallops, and truffles to the garlic shrimp. And the rum punches are so good, I had to take my cousin Kejuanna and her husband Andrew there when they visited from Savannah. Well, Marcos has made his last rum punch at VOYAGE. It has closed down. Ant and I went to say BON VOYAGE and one final cheers to that great concoction he has mixed for us over the last year. Marcos - however - isn't going anywherere. He's now hosting an open mic night in the East Village at Hacienda Lounge (www.myspace.com/OpenMicNite). And all artists are welcome - from spoken word/lyricists/acoustic... or as they say in the church: "... in your own way...". Marcos???? CONGRATS! We'll be seeing you soon!
Several of my friends are doing special things over the next week and change. I want to shout them all out here:
* My Spelman sister Karen Ceesay, who is Atlanta-based, is taking her show "Karen Ceesay - SUPASTAR!!!" to Los Angeles. Showtimes are this weekend at The Sherry Theater in North Hollywood (www.myspace.com/KarenCeesay). She bring her unique brand of high-energy sketch comedy & interactive improv to the stage - tackling diverse topics as race, culture & cooking in ways guaranteed to make you laugh, and think. If you miss Dave Chapelle…if you think Tracey Ullman’s a genius…if you love “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, then you have to see “Karen Ceesay – SUPASTAR!!!” MY FRIEND!
* Another of my buddies GIL ROBERTSON (www.robertsontreatment.com/) has a client Dr. Rani Whitfield, aka "The Hip Hop Doc" (who I've written about in previous blog entries). Well, he is going to soon be on BET's special What You Know 'Bout That Sex Quiz Show' - talking about HIV and other STDs. CLICK ON: (www.bet.com/rapitup) and (www.h2doc.com) for more information. THAT'S WHAT'S UP, DOC!!!!!!!!!
* My dear and old friend Renee Warren, who is founder and at the helm of Noelle-Elaine Media Consultants (www.noelle-elaine.com/) will be hosting one of her clients in Atlanta in the next couple of weeks. She reached out to me to see if I could help her secure an Atlanta-based host to present Donald Trump's "Apprentice" Dr. Randal Pinkett, who is celebrating the release of his book "Campus CEO: The Student Entrepreneur's Guide to Launching a Multi-million Dollar Business". (http://www.randalpinkett.com/). I hoped to be able to share "FIVE POINTS" with you from Dr. Pinkett (get it, my ATLANTA folks????). But at BLOG time, I'm not in receipt of his responses. Perhaps upon my return from the Philippines, I can share them with you.
* My friend Scott is coming to town with his boss Sheryl Lee Ralph who will be presenting her HIV/AIDS Production "Sometimes I Cry" (www.sometimesicry.org/) at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx. It's being put on by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Bronx Alumnae Chapter. It's a day trip for them. And Ant and I aren't sure we'll get to see Scott or the show as we prep for our trip. But I still wanted to shout them out and if you are interested in going (Free Admission and you can get tested from 10:00 am to 12:30 pm), call 646-291-8921.
* And as you recall, the aforementioned Scott was able to book the always-aforementioned Ledisi (www.ledisi.com/) for Sheryl Lee Ralphs "Divas: Simply Singing" benefit last month (www.divassimplysinging.com/). Well, according to my industry buddy Jawn Murray (www.myspace.com/JawnMurray) who is making us all proud as he is entertainment reporter for "The Tom Joyner Morning Show" (BAW: Tom Joyner Morning Show - "If You Missed It") and is an able and animated contributor to Star Jones' Court TV show (www.courttv.com/onair/shows/star_jones/index.html ), his colleague and friend Karu Daniels (also a gracious and supportive friend of mine) spearheaded AOL Black Voices’ most recent installment of “The Bridge,” a live concert performance that brings two artists of two generations together for an amazing showcase of soul. In this case, "The Bridge" features the vocal dynamos Chaka Khan and our Ledisi.
Use this link: http://music.aol.com/black-entertainment/videos/bridge_flash
* And best friend in my mind: MISS DIANA ROSS is letting them have it these days! She appeared and headlined at a Tiffany & Co. function last week (www.Tiffany.com) - sporting a beautiful, form-fitting purple dress that reminds everyone that she "... ain't been licked!!!!". This, just in time for her west coast tour which she launched last night to a sold-out audience in San Diego (www.dianaross.com). From sources, she's in fine form and Santa Rosa, Oakland, Phoenix, Santa Inez, Nevada, Highland, Indio, and Los Angeles have quite a show to look forward to. And then, after Thanksgiving, there is The Kennedy Center Honors (www.kennedy-center.org/programs/specialevents/honors/). GO D!!!!! "If you need me, call me... "
So, how often am I referencing my friend Theo??? A lot, right? Well, Theo strikes again with one of his brilliant ideas. He wants me to consider a BLOG entry that would include - his words - the "10 Hottest Black Gay Couples". As he and I were sharing a drink (and some ox-tails) at our Chelsea watering hole "Maroon's" (www.maroonsnyc.com), he came up with brainchild. He said that - of course - Anthony and I would be on the list (but if perhaps Ant and I are putting the list together, we'd waive a slot for integrity's sake). Though Theo had not met Jason and Marqice (until later last night, after we talked about this), he said they should be in it as he reads of them often on this blog. We mentioned Nathan Hale Williams and Keith Boykin. We ran into my good friend Kiwan (whose kicking butt at Omega Watch company (www.omegawatches.com )) and he is in a promising relationship. We thought about our Theo (no relation to aforementioned Theo) and Trevor. It's an interesting prospect - one that, of course, "A Day in the Life of Riley: Pop Culture & Possibilties" is about, but I also wonder if we'd be able to get a comprehensive, cooperative list of folks - in part because the relationships in our community don't 'always' last (and perhaps that's not important). And I'm sure there are more relationships than there are people willing to share openly their status. So, I share the "notion" with you for now. Perhaps you can let me know your thoughts and/or if you know of any "great couples" out there. (Oh! Real quick! I just want to shout out DOUBLE L - as in LLOYD - a brother who has some roots in the Philippines but works at Maroon's as a bartender. As I shared Ant's and my plans, I found out not only where his people are from, but that he is a DJ who specializes in Reggae, Dancehall, Soca, and Hip Hop. If you're on the market, check him out: www.myspace.com/g13doublel).
Meanwhile, as I left Theo, Marqice, and Jason to go and meet my Anthony at a new karaoke spot that he wanted me to see (near a Momentum dinner he hosted earlier in the evening - www.momentumeducation.com). Little did I know that upon my arrival to "Players II" Karaoke on 32nd Street, we were getting ready to party. One of the managers Yunni gave Ant the info he needed to see if this might be a place we do my stateside birthday celebration. Unfortunately, they only have one Diana Ross song in their collection, which means this may not work (but Yunni is checking with the bosses - wink, wink - to see if they can fix that). Meanwhile, Yunni created a scene in which Ant and I felt we were getting a preliminary view of how hospitable and enjoyable our Philippines trip will be (though these folks are Korean). She popped that champagne for us, provided us with "sweet potato cake", lit candles, and serenaded us as we serenaded each other. It felt kinda' like a wedding reception (with guests we didn't know, but grew to like in the course of the evening)... and we were the groom and groom. What started out as Ant's exploratory into another karaoke venue that he wanted me to check out for sure turned into a party for two (with Yunni, her employees, and friends... joining us for the fun). We may or may not use "Players II" for the birthday extravaganza, but we'll for sure visit them again.
Meanwhile, we've gotta pack... See you when we get back from The Philippines! Please PRAY for a joyous trip and our safe return!!!!