My cup runneth over with party invitations this week - some of which I was able to attend. Others were going on via the west coast (in anticipation of the Oscars) as I found myself assigned to do some cool work on the east coast (that should be available for the nation to see very soon. Not sure when, but I may be popping sometime soon... STAY loosely TUNED!). With that, I'll bullet a few of my outings (from being there) and a few others (from the eyes and ears of those who have reported to me).
In 1992, as a senior at Morehouse College, I was one of maybe eight Morehouse brothers who got the opportunity to be a "presenter" at "The Candle In The Dark" Gala. Honorees at the Gala are presented with either a "Candle" or "Bennie" award. "Candle" recipients receive honors for excellence in a varietty of fields, including athletics, business, education, entertainment, government, law, military service, religion, and science and technology. "Bennie" recpients, who must be graduates of Morehouse, receive recognition in the areas of service, achievement, and trailblazing. The "Bennie" Award is named in honor of the late Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, who served as president of Morehouse from 1940 to 1967. My year, I presented Academy-and-Emmy-award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. with his honor, but let me tell you, the honor was all mine. This moment (as well as the opportunity I got to be a spokesperson for Morehouse before performing with the glee club on CBS' "Kennedy Center Honors") are the two of my fondest and perhaps most foretelling memories from college.
This year, two of the "Candle" honorees were Sidney Poitier and Roscoe Lee Brown, Jr. My nephew, Herman Lee Riley III, sent me a text from the "Reflections of Excellence" panel in which all of the honorees drop science on the students of Morehouse (before the formal event that night). Noot, I call my nephew, wrote "Sidney Poitier is hilarious!". When we spoke later, he shared that he found Mr. Poitier to be so connected and honest. My nephew said he understands through Mr. Poitier's sharings what he means by "the measure of a man", the title of his autobiography. Noot added that much of what Roscoe Lee Brown, Jr. had to say was so "Shakespearean" in presentation that it went over his head, but "... it sure sounded good.". That night, my friend LaChanze (the original Miss Celie in Broadway's "The Color Purple") hosted the evening. Her sister Michelle Sapp wrote to me "Patrick, the Gala was an experience for me. My sister was fabulous and the audience was impeccable," she exclaimed. "... I see why YOU ARE because MOREHOUSE MEN ain't no joke!!!!".
What AWESOME FEEDBACK from an AWESOME woman. Michelle Sapp is the founder, creator, and executive producer of Michelle’s Place ( www.michellesplacelive.com ). Eventually, it will have a permanent location with a focus on “realization through artistic implementation”. With that said, she has already hosted a Mother's Day event in Stamford, CT; a boat ride along the Hudson; and several networking events around 'event/conference planning'. And Michelle's events are not self-serving. Her first, for example, began the campaign of raising money for the Save The Children “Ethiopian School Project” where they are trying to build as many schools across all the villages to ensure not only a proper education but a safe one as well. 14-year-old girls will be registering into the first grade as traveling to schools 10 miles away could not guarantee their safety. "Michelle’s Place" has committed to build one school which cost $25,000. Therefore, this event coupled with future events will focus on completing the mission of building one school. Michelle says "While I live my dream, I wish to create dreams for others." You'll be hearing more about Michelle in the 'life of riley' because she is one of my pop culture 'soul mates' and fellow Janet Jackson fans. She is the one to whom I pass the Diana Ross doll Kodjoe gave to me during this performance: (http://22.214.171.124/rileyshowforkodjoe.wmv) Stay tuned... Michelle is taking it higher everyday!
Meanwhile, remember Stacie J from the 2nd season of "The Apprentice". Well, she (and one of her PR reps Michelle Pascal) invited me to her birthday party at tony, meat-packing district spot in Manhattan "P.M.". I took my Morehouse brother and fast friend Khalid with me to take in the scene. My platonic boo Carl Nelson had just flown back to NYC from Vegas, where he partook in some festive NBA All- Star festivities. It was a great night of catching up with old friends like Ron Donovan whose luxury shoe line is getting ready to blow up even further. I also ran into my Morehouse brother Nassar, who has a few new movies under his belt. A young lady Lauren "Cookie" Patton who was so kind to me when I first moved here in 1995 was there and I was pleased to hear she is now an actress, hitting the pavement in New York. I even caught wind of some "new restaurant" action that's poised to show up in Harlem, which can always use a new hot spot to compliment the great haunts like "Native" and "Ginger". I'll write about all of the aforementioned as the information comes in. But it was nice to get these little ripples at Stacie's party. Something to look forward to...
... in fact, the next night I can't speak in detail about. But again, Khalid and I had the chance to rub shoulders in Manhattan for a private screening of a forthcoming documentary which I actually had the chance to work on. But the sightings included: my heroes of song Ashford and Simpson; new reality TV favorites Reverand Run and his lovely wife Justine; hip hop personality Ed Lover; the better-halves of Spike Lee, Al Roker, and L.A. Reid; Star Jones Reynolds and her husband Al; and his uncle, the legendary George Fasion, Tony-award-winning choreographer, who is currently "letting the children know" how to make stage magic in the BET reality show "One Night Only", which chronicles some New Orleans high school students who - post-Katrina - aim to put on a first-class staging of the musical "Dreamgirls", etc. (www.bet.com/pr) Lovely night...
On that same night, I was invited to a hot ticket set in Los Angeles. GIANT Magazine and Jamie Foxx threw a pre-Oscar party for Jennifer Hudson, whose represenation from the Ava Duvernay Agency sent me a V.I.P. invitation. Though I was not able to attend, my "Amazing Grace" Nichole was (She's out there on business with Black Enterprise, which ironically was going on in the same venue, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills). She says Jennifer - now VOGUE cover girl - was gorgeous and seemed happy. The ballroom was the location of Black Enterprise Magazine's annual Top 50 Hollywood Power Brokers event. However, the hotel's penthouse is where J-Hud's party took place. Nichole says it was packed, but worth it (if only for a moment) to see Janet Jackson, whose CD release party Nichole and I attended (She left early as Miss Jackson's arrival took too long for her). Others there include: Ludacris, Chris Brown, Lil Jon, Serena Williams, Morris Chestnut, Gary Dourdan, etc. In the words of Janet Jackson, "the one thing missing was (ME)..."! SMILE!
Then, the following day, I got an invite to the Ebony magazine pre-Oscar celebration featuring a salute to Halle Berry, Forest Whitaker, Janet Jackson, and Herbie Hancock. But because of east coast obligations, I couldn't be there as well. SHOUT OUT to EBONY and JET's Editorial Director Bryan Monroe, who too is President of the National Association of Black Journalists. He extended the invite to a set that I hear was too off the charts. This Third Annual affair was held at the Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood (1416 North LaBrea Ave.). Sponsors contributed a scholarship to the Howard University John H. Johnson School of Communications, named for Ebony’s founder.
No Oscar parties planned for me tonight! Perhaps like Grammy night as I found myself traveling back to New York without "someone to share it with...", my friends Jason and Marqise will throw a last-minute set. We had such a great time! And I am available. Perhaps I'm meant to appreciate it "with myself" tonight at home alone. Though "... the life of Riley" might lead you to think there's ALWAYS an invite, sometimes not. And it's cool... to catch up on my energy for the next round.