SO WE’RE CLEAR: Anthony and I are not stalking Beyonce (nor are we obsessed). SMILE! We do love her though. And we have just been drawn to her endless energy of late (Did you see her country turn with the band Sugarland [ www.sugarlandmusic.com/ ] on The American Music Awards[abc.go.com/primetime/ama/index] - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvbHkKszkW4 – latest evidence that R&B and COUNTRY music aren’t too different when certain storytelling structures are present i.e. Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and All-4-One/John Michael Montgomery’s “I Swear”). And you also know that the synergy from B’s BDAY project and the companion world tour have been on our radar as well. I enjoyed her here in New York City and New Jersey back in the late summer. Then, Anthony gifted me with a trip to Manila to see her perform to a sold-out audience, including her serenade of “Happy Birthday”… TO ME! And on the heels of the big party (part 1 and part 2) that Anthony threw for me this past weekend (for the actual B-DAY – or as my nephew put it: P-DAY), he took me to see a premiere screening of her new LIVE DVD, which she filmed in Los Angeles in September (on her birthday): www.beyonceonline.com/ . We’re just riding the BEYONCE wave… and LOVING IT!!!
Upon our return from Manila, scheduling got a bit dicey. Ant went right back to work. I gleaned that an assignment might come my way, but I also looked forward to the following weekend as we had longstanding commitments to attend my good girlfriend (from the world of journalism and the National Association of Black Journalists [www.nabj.org]) Deepti’s wedding to her love mate Brian. Additionally, we had an engagement party on the books and Anthony had a stateside birthday bash planned for me on Sunday night. THE BEST LAID PLANS as – on the eve of this weekend, I got a call from one of my clients that --- my social calendar notwithstanding --- there was an assignment WITH MY NAME ON IT… in PARIS! Though caught off guard and a bit irritated at the new stretch before me, I decided this could all be WIN-WIN. “I will make sure my friend and her new husband have our gift as I will order it on-line… plus, she’s a journalist for Associated Press. She’ll understand… “ and I thought: “… maybe Anthony would still attend on my behalf (as our friends Ern, Kimberly, one of my “Amazing Graces” Lisa Goodnight, and her beau Lex were all attending… and Ant gets along with them all)…and to further push his understanding button, I would have him postpone my birthday set for next week after Thanksgiving… and he’d understand,” I thought. I agreed to the assignment and began the work of preparing my travel and my shoot plan for this high-profile interview with a new, popular icon in fashion. IN THE END, showing reverence to my existing plans, someone else ended up being dispatched… and I was able to go with the weekend as planned, but what an emotional rollercoaster ride for that few hours where I was ready to jump in and shake the many longstanding plans up to have them show up just the same, but differently alongside this new business. It’s an anecdote that reflects brilliantly the way my life can be sometimes.
With all of that hammered out, I had my weekend back and what a weekend it was. We attended the wedding which was nothing short of a wonderland. Deepti is South Asian/Indian and Hindu. Her Brian is West Indian and Christian. Together – with both of their traditions in tow – they bonded in LOVE. And to ensure all of her guests were on board, she made this day something to behold. It started with the traditional Hindu ceremony, which was beautiful. We didn’t get everything that was going on and – inside of that – there was levity and lightness around the music and the language. But it was great to experience. From there, we got to gather for a lunch/cocktail hour in which I got to get my “sugah” from my Lisa Goodnight and her fiancé Lex. It also brought us all back together again as I knew Deepti first – through NABJ. I introduced her to Lisa Goodnight, who introduced me to Kimberly Jajuan (and Lex, of course). Ern also met Kimberly Jajuan at one of Lisa’s events when she lived in New Jersey (“Ham & Egger Central”). And they’ve all embraced my Anthony, who is one of the family (to me… and them… now). After this break, there was the Christian ceremony – more in line with what we’ve all experienced, having attended so many weddings over the years. Deepti did another gown change – reminding me of my Diana. This ceremony was also special and beautiful. Then, there was a cocktail hour that offered a number of delicacies that did the trick. From there, we were escorted into a beautiful ballroom that transported us somewhere magical. The image of golden and blue trees were projected on the walls all around. Anthony and I even posed in front of a couple of them as it was so artful and funky. The tables were decked out in beautiful reds and yellows. At this time, the bride – who’d yet to enter the reception – had someone bring me an envelope. Inside, there was a birthday card – a sign of Deepti’s thoughtfulness. Here we are at HER wedding, which she realizes I’m attending during what would have likely been a BDAY celebration (since my birthday is on Monday)… and to show her appreciation for spending the time with her and adjusting my own celebration day… she sends a card. She’s just so thoughtful like that. Another young lady, my Erin - NABJ's Emerging Journalist of the Year... last year... was also at my table. She just bought a house and Deepti sent a card of CONGRATULATIONS over to her. We were overwhelmed at the gesture. It was good to see Erin and - also from NABJ - now-Boston-based Greg Lee with whom I sat on the NABJ Board a few years ago. From there, it was party time. Deepti – in a third ensemble – walked in the room hand-in-hand with her Brian and we all danced the night away. We were truly happy to be in the mix of LOVE, FRIENDSHIP, and MUSIC!
Speaking of MUSIC, Ant and I likely won’t have to ask “HOW DO YOU KEEP THE MUSIC PLAYING?” (the way James Ingram and Patti Austin did) if we keep spending all of our time at Karaoke spots. This week, we shared the fun with a host of friends – all of whom Anthony gathered to celebrate my birthday. We started things out at One 7 – our spot ( www.karaoke17.com/ ). We took the big party room. BBQ catered. And so many loved ones came out to celebrate with me, I’m just so overwhelmed and full for it. But most importantly, we had fun. Though my Jason and Marqice were missing in action (GASP!!!!), they did send their well wishes and theirs (and the many others) meant a lot too. Where do I start? Well, let me look at the list: My Savannah homeboy/Morehouse brother Jeh and his significant other Delia came by to show some love. Ant’s friends Robert and Marcos joined us along with their friend Rico. My Diaz and his partner Kareem joined us. We always get together for celebrations and he’s graciously welcomed Ant into our social mix. Thanks D! Ern’s good work buddy Tina came and let us have it – in song. Kimberly Jajuan along with Kevin-Anthony (and a friend) and D’Ambrose covered my musical theater folks who have sung on the Great White Way, but decided to slum with those of us amateurs who get our expression on – karaoke-style. Of course, my “Amazing Grace” Nichole joined us along with Ant’s and my new lover Carol Johnson Green (or C.J. as we call her). She came all the way from Connecticut to toast me. And my good friend and Founder of Parish Tony Shellman came to celebrate with me (I sang at his wedding to my Nichole). Ant and I wanted to rib him because he’s been promising us some Parish gear for months now and our respective schedules have not allowed us to make that transaction. Well, my Anthony found some in Brooklyn – pointedly, a shirt that he wore in Manila for our Beyonce photo-op – and everywhere he goes, this Parish shirt gets so much love ( www.parish-nation.com/ ). And though we know the owner, we don’t have luxury of saying that this piece is one that we got from him. Still, we’re ALWAYS happy to support Tony and the wonderful work he does (He founded and sold ENYCE and MECCA in his previous lives). With that, WHERE ARE OUR FREEBIES??? SMILE! JUST KIDDING! We love you, Tony... and are forever proud of your continued achievements.
Who else was in the house? My Tata and her Jules were there. So sweet of them both to join us on a work night. Everyone loved Jules as he spoke some French – just to get the girls going. But not too much, ladies. He’s going home with Tata. Okay????? My NBC Nightly News diva Mara Schiavocampo joined us with her husband Tommie. Two of their friends, a couple visiting from San Francisco, came too. My Frankie was ready to sing a song or two. And my new friend Dr. Shirley Madhere ( www.thenewaesthete.com/ ) took some time off from the world of plastic surgery to come and enjoy our festive evening. And it was festive – through and through. I wanted to do a “LIVE!-FROM-THE-FRONT-ROW-style review/set-list of the night a la my Michael K. Watts (to whom I’m grateful for attending on the heels of a rough couple of weeks. Thanks Michael!):
“The Boss” – Patrick and Robert w/Anthony
“Off The Wall” – Patrick, Robert, Tina
“Buffalo Girls” – Anthony
“Ben” – Patrick
“This Woman’s Work” – Patrick
“Borderline” – Anthony and Patrick
“Kissing You” – Patrick
“Let’s Wait Awhile” – Nichole and Anthony
“Happy Birthday” (Stevie Wonder) – All
“All Cried Out” – Dr. Shirley
“Real Love” – Kevin-Anthony
“Sweet Thing” – Nichole
“Rock With You” – Kevin-Anthony
“And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” – Patrick
"Same Ol' Love" - Michael & Patrick
“This Woman’s Work” (Encore… per Anthony) – Patrick
But the show didn’t stop there! My creative, loving, amazing beau had a PART TWO planned at another karaoke spot on 32nd Street between 5th and Broadway. PLAYERS II is the location where we would toast in the actual day NOVEMBER 19TH… at the stroke of midnight. With the staff’s support, Anthony had the room decked out with rose pedals, champagne (and chambord… for my favorite drink: KIR ROYALE), two cakes (one with a “3” (and three candles); the other with a “7” (and seven candles) – to represent my “37” years). Some from earlier couldn’t segue to what Anthony deemed “the grown & sexy” leg of the evening. But others – like my Morehouse brothers Khalid and Mario – did come and join in the fun. And let me tell 'ya: it continued until we just had to call it a night.
Anthony did such a wonderful job on the parties... He really made sure I - overall - felt the love. And I did. Thank you so much to you, Ant, for all you do... and all you are.
Monday, the actual birthday, allowed me to regroup while Anthony went to work. We then met up to go to the Pavillion Theater in Brooklyn for our Beyonce concert on DVD (via the big screen). From there, we joined our buddy Marcos for his open mic night at Hacienda ( http://www.myspace.com/onemicnite ). Rico, who attended my party, is leaving NYC to go back to DC and finish up school at Howard University. (We wish him well!!!!). We wanted to shout him out. We also got to hear our friend Phil get his open-mic on. He performed John Legend’s “Ordinary People”. GREAT JOB! Ant wants me up on the mic the next time. We’ll see. Clearly, Anthony and I are in the middle of a great, long song that is our LIFE and it’s all – to this point – a LOVELY SONG with melody, harmony, and some dissonance. But “HOW DO (WE) KEEP THE MUSIC PLAYING?” Perhaps it’s the company we keep.
Before I close out, I want to shout out three folks:
* My friend Norm Lewis, who – once and whenever these strikes wrap – is currently in “The Little Mermaid” (I mentioned him in last week’s blog) was supposed to attend my set, but was under the weather. With that, and for those of you looking for GIFT IDEAS, I want to tell you about one of his other projects. Norm has a couple of online gift shops (www.normsgiftshop.com) and (www.twofiveinc.com). And he's trying to get the word out there to people to let them know. He is offering a 15% discount to people who put in the coupon slot RILEY. If you do that, we can ALL BE A DIFFERENCE as Norm will make a donation in my name from a percentage of the proceeds to go to charity. BLACK FRIDAY is coming up. Double entendre, anyone?
* I've mentioned another buddy, Datari Turner to you folks. He's a TV producer/model/actor. His boo Itika is one of my dear friends (often referenced here in the blog) and she, Datari, Ant, and I had the luxury of spending time together and bonding - couple-to-couple - in Maui last year. Well, Datari continues to do great things with his life and career. This past weekend, he was featured in a starring role on BET. (http://www.bet.com/OnTV/BETShows/blackbuster/blackbustermoviemikejonesanamericandream.htm?wbc_purpose=Basic&WBCMODE=PresentationUnpublished&Referrer=%7BF538EA1D-1840-40AB-81F4-05B7066C33A8%7D) "American Dream" is a rapper’s real life rise to fame. Houston-born rapper Mike Jones made it despite the obvious odds and this film surveys that journey. Now, Mike Jones is one of the most recognizable voices in hip hop. Exploding onto the scene in 2005, his break-out single, “Still Tippin’,” sold an astonishing 1.5 million copies. Datari plays a crooked music label owner and let’s just say he’s a great actor because Datari is one of the nicest guys I know. Great job, DATARI! CONGRATS!
*Patrik Ian Polk, creator of “Noah’s Arc”, says he would have LOVED to attend my BDAY set, but is hard at work on something that should please us all. There’s been doubt “… in the wake of the show’s "cancellation" or "hiatus"- whatever you wanna call it,” says Patrik. “A lot of peeps thought the movie announcement was just a smoke screen- and I will admit to having my own moments of doubt. But the proof is in the pudding, right?”. Yes, it is Patrik. And I guess it’s brewing because Patrik has been location scouting in Canada for the NOAH feature will which will begin production after the Christmas and New Year's holidays! And everybody is coming back! So, it’s on in 2008!!!! Can’t wait! I'm a big fan and adore the cast. I too have had a chance to know Patrik over the last year and change. He's a great guy as well. I'll be talking about this project.
And now, Ant and I are looking to Thanksgiving which we will share together this year. The plan is to be with our Jason and Marqice (and many others) at their home in Queens. It should be lovely and though sometimes these approaching holidays can get me blue inside of what’s gone and here no more, I’m encouraged that I am inside of new experiences, new designs around my quality of life, and lots of love – starting with my Anthony and working its way all around our circles in this area and beyond. So, here’s to our… NEXT SONG!
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