When I first moved to the New York City area (from Atlanta), it was Spring 1995 and my first gig was with CNBC (www.cnbc.com/). I was a producer for “Rivera LIVE!” – Geraldo’s primetime show which – at the time – used most of its air to cover the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson. 13 years later (to this week), I received some pix from a long-lost friend Christian Farr with whom I worked at CNBC. The pix demonstrate how much fun it could be to work for Geraldo as he would often times take us out on his boat. Too, he would invite us to his Red Bank, New Jersey estate for great parties and gatherings (including this one with infamous Simpson house guest Kato Katelin). Ironic that also this week, O.J. Simpson is found guilty in a Las Vegas court of law for a new laundry list of crimes he ‘allegedly’ committed. This time, it doesn’t look like he’ll get off. With that, THANKS to Christian (now Chris) for such a heart-warming walk down memory lane. It is a reminder of a time that doesn’t seem so far away, but clearly is. Oh, how far we’ve come…
NOAH’S ARC: I mentioned it was coming and now I can vouch for having seen it and wanting to ensure that all of you get to see "Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom" ( www.noahsarcmovie.com). I laughed throughout (in large part due to Rodney Chester’s “Alex”). I cried – let Ant tell it – four times. And I just loved all the DIVA references – from Diana Ross to ‘Dominque Devereux’ (as played by another iconic favorite Diahann Carroll from “Dynasty” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaX43ebVdc0 ). [Don’t forget, Miss Carroll has a new book out: “The Legs Are The Last To Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying, and other things I learned the hard way” - www.amazon.com/Legs-Are-Last-Go-Marrying/dp/0060763264 ]. The usual suspects are in place to ensure those of us who fell in love with this short-lived franchise on LOGO are satisfied. But there are a number of other treats – for those who may just be enrolled into this special series. Firstly, you remember Claire and Cliff Huxtable’s twin grandbabies ‘Nelson’ and ‘Winnie’? Well, ‘Nelson Tibideaux’ (Sondra and Elvin’s twin boy) AKA Gary Leroi Gray joins the cast as the ‘baby gay’ of the bunch. He adds some nice elements to the film. (By the way, do you guys remember this episode of “Cosby” – the “slumber party” – and how one of Rudy’s friends was played by Alicia [Cook] Keys? She had short, closely-cropped hair and looked nothing of the long-haired diva of today, but oh so cute. www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EbxalIlQEs). But I digress. Also in ‘Noah’s Arc’, Tony-award-winning Tonya Pinkins is featured in “Noah’s Arc”. And legendary singer- songwriter Phoebe Snow does what she does best: SING! Don’t miss it when it comes to a theatre near you! For our private screening, Ant and I got to attend with our girlfriends Manivone and Cy. Industry buddies – from Karu Daniels to Bridget Bland to Ulysses Carter – were in the house.
SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURES: Life imitated art a little bit as Ant and I joined our favorite couple Jason and Marquice for the 5th Anniversary of Fairgrounds Out at Night at Six Flags Great Adventures in New Jersey ( www.sixflags.com/greatadventure/index.aspx). Basically, the park closed down and 'the gays' got to ride as much as we wanted to without those long lines. It was great to see many of our mutual friends via Jason and Marqice as it had been a minute since we’d all hung out. Afterwards, Ant had VIP invites for us to attend the nightclub Krash in the city (www.krashnyc.com/). We ran into our friend Toyce and a number of others at the Friday-night affair which draws in a big crowd. Through Ant’s hook-up (a male couple he booked on “The Wendy Williams Show” who too are the promoters for this Friday party), we got to enjoy flowing cocktails; great music; and prime seating in the huge club which is just a stone’s throw from Madison Square Garden.
PROM ROYALTY REUNION & BIRTHDAYS: Last week, Ant’s Denver high school friend Adrienne came to town. She now lives in Philadelphia. Visiting with her friend Phyllis, Ant and I took them over our good friends Mara Schiavocampo and Tommie’s Harlem place for an impromptu hang (before we segued to our karaoke spot). Ant was excited for me to meet Adrienne as she and he were Prom Queen and King in high school. And in addition to being loads of fun, Adrienne was extremely Queen-like i.e. regal, sophisticated, and effervescent. Same could be said for our Mara who too recently celebrated a birthday that we all enjoyed at her abode. As she is the “NBC Nightly News” Digital Correspondent with the most, surely many industry players were in the house. But as is Mara and Tommie’s style, we had a down-home, easy-going, fun time – nibbling on Amy Ruth catfish fingers and collard greens ( www.amyruthsharlem.com) and a special Harlem Sweet Tea concoction that tasted so sweet yet proved dangerous for those who partook as if it was not spiked. My Nichole came with a gorgeous posse in tow and my fellow NABJ buddy Caleb was there. He and I took a minute to talk 'turkey' as shop talk is permitted if a check is involved and Caleb these days is involved in developing some exciting new TV projects. There may be some synergy for us down the pike.
MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA: I mentioned one role I served at the Unity ’08 journalism convention as host of an event that previewed “The Secret Life of Bees” ( www.FoxSearchlight.com/SecretLifeOfBees) and Spike Lee Joint “Miracle At St. Anna” (www.miracleatstanna.movies.go.com/) after which I interviewed James McBride, author of novel and screenplay. Well, Ant and I were invited to the New York City World Premiere of the film at the Ziegfeld Theatre (www.clearviewcinemas.com/ziegfeld/). We had a great night. My fellow Morehouse Man Spike Lee was beaming and quite gracious when we chatted him up at the after party which was laid out at Terminal 5 (www.terminal5nyc.com). Biz Markie was the DJ (www.bizmarkie.com/). L.A. Reid and his wife Erika were in the house. Ant and I got the chance to chat up actor Jeffrey Wright – alerting Ant and me of his humanitarian efforts via an innovative not-for-profit enterprise called “All for Africa” (www.allforafrica.org). His intent is to create a philanthropic investment vehicle capable of funding Africa-oriented entities such as schools, hospitals, etc. that operate effectively at ground level but lack the consistent capital necessary to sustain their work.
HATTIE: I’ve written about my efforts to see Vickilyn Reynolds in Hattie: What I Need You To Know ( www.hattiewhatineedyoutoknow.com). Well, Ant, Ern, and I finally got to check it out. I’d heard mixed reviews, but tossed all opinions aside when I experienced it because I LOVED IT! And I learned so much about the first African American to win an Oscar. A friend I hadn’t seen in a minute, Nicole Franklin, attended the show we saw (www.nicolefranklin.com). She is the current Program Director for the Harlem Arts Alliance (www.harlemaa.org/). And she’s still making her mark as a filmmaker. Remember her name! Theatre marketer Natalie Clarke (www.walkercommunicationsgroup.com) invited us to Hattie and she too has invited us to check out “Basic Training” (www.BasicTrainingNYC.com), a new comedy created by and starring Kahlil Ashanti. It is said to be a hilarious story based on one soldier’s outrageous experience in the U.S. Air Force, a culture I know all too well and remember fondly – especially “Tops In Blue” (www.topsinblue.com/), an all-active duty US Air Force special unit made up of talented amateur performers selected for their entertainment abilities. Each year, thousands compete in base talent contests and the most talented move on to higher levels of competition. The result is an elite group composed of 35 of the most talented vocalists, musicians, and dancers anywhere. Known as the Air Forces’ Expeditionary Entertainers; the group’s main mission is to perform for military personnel and their families throughout the world. The enormous popularity of the group has also made them America's goodwill ambassadors around the globe. Kinda’ like “American Idol” but in the Air Force. (The Air Force is on my mind a lot lately as my prayers are with Mrs. Chris Bethea, matriarch of our favorite Air Force family which boasts one kid born in Germany [like my family (my brother)]; one kid born in Japan [like my family (me)]; and one kid born in The States [like my family (my sister)]. She’s sick right now. And though it’s been many years since our collective families have gathered and since I’ve seen her, we spent many good times with The Betheas over 20 years – from holidays to summers and all special occasions to our respective families).
MORE NYC THEATER: Also, my dearest girlfriend Marcia Pendleton ( www.blacktheateronline.com) is responsible for bringing “Fela” (www.felaoffbroadway.com/) to us, even though I never got around to seeing it. Now, she’s working on getting booties in the seat to David Mamet's classic comedic drama “American Buffalo” (www.americanbuffalobroadway.com), directed by two-time Tony Award winner Robert Falls and starring Tony Award nominee John Leguizamo, Cedric the Entertainer (making his Broadway debut) and Academy Award nominee Haley Joel Osment. “American Buffalo” follows three small-time crooks who dream big but accomplish little. Previews begin October 31st and opening night is November 17, 2008 at The Belasco Theater. For Group Discounts (15 or more), including special rates for students, contact: WTG Group Sales at 646.467.7393 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To purchase single tickets, get production updates, sign-up for the “merican Buffalo” e-newsletter, plus much more visit: www.americanbuffalobroadway.com Marcia also recently saw a staging of "Shrek" in Seattle that is en route to Broadway (www.Broadway.com/Shrek_The_Musical). They are already promoting it in the subways of New York City.
LEIGH JONES:My dear friend, publicist J'ai St. Laurent, asked my industry siblings Carol Johnson Green, Michael K. Watts, and me to invite some of our folks to join us for a private, intimate, listening event at 212 ( www.212restaurant.com/) – starring Leigh Jones (www.peak-records.com/index.php?page=artist-profile&name=Leigh-Jones).
She is client and protege to Berry Gordy's son Kerry Gordy.
We pulled together an enthusiastic group of our friends – including my homegirl Kamara Milford – a TV producer here in the city (and she's become an unofficial correspondent for "A Day in the Life of Riley" as she was the first to alert me that Wendy Williams was shouting out Ant's brows on the radio as I was away on business in Chicago). THANKS KAMARIA (as always)!
our homeboys Marlynn Snyder and Lee Smith;
my “Amazing Grace” Nichole; my former NBC 4 colleague Terri Martin; and how excited I was to reconnect with my soul mate of all things DIVAS, Mr. David Nathan (www.davidnathan.com/), etc. It was also good to see my old friend Jordan Bobby Brown who himself has launched a new blog for those on the market or looking for new, revenue-generating work (like me). It’s called THE JORDAN BROWN REPORT and is clickable via www.THEJBREPORT.BLOGSPOT.COM . My Ern and Tina came as well. In fact, we kidnapped Tina to karaoke afterwards... and enjoyed some after-set songs. And it was great to see my Morehouse brothers Milton and James who I hadn't seen in a long time. They both are music tastemakers in New York City. And Carol's and my good friend Renee Warren dropped by. She's a publicist I've mentioned here many times, but I want to shout out she and her business partner Kirsten for their 15 th Anniversary of Noelle-Elaine Media Consultants (www.noelle-elaine.com/). And don’t let the blonde hair and blue eyes fool you: Miss Leigh Jones has soul and a beautiful, bluesy-yet-poppy voice that put me in the mind of young Mariah Carey. She even does a remake of Debarge’s “All This Love”. She announced that she is getting ready to go on the road as Eric Benet’s opener (www.ericbenet.net/). To hear more from Leigh Jones, click on: http://web.me.com/kerrygordy/Site/Album_Preview.html or http://www.myspace.com/leighjonesmusic . BIG THANKS to my good friend Ronnie Wright, who provided the lion’s share of these pix from this evening!
RAPHAEL SAADIQ: My Savannah homeboy Stacy Quarterman called from his Atlanta office to invite me to see Raphael Saadiq ( www.raphaelsaadiq.com/) at SOBs (www.sobs.com/). Raphael has always been one of my favorites since his days with Tony! Toni! Tone! His 3rd solo project “The Way I See It” takes you back to the vintage sound of Motown and Mayfield. But in his show, he switched between his songbooks from his first group; Lucy Pearl; and his solo works. Architect of Diana’s “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out”, Nile Rodgers, was in the house along with many other industry insiders.
YOGA TODAY: Ever since I interviewed Russell Simmons a couple of years ago, he has – from time to time – invited me out for a yoga session. The latest invite came from him last week and was set in a place that Ant and I know well: The Alvin Ailey Extension where we do hip hop dance class with Tweetie ( www.alvinailey.org). This class – called Tapas Yoga – is taught by Porschla Coleman. Ant and I got to participate in this Jivamukti-inspired program (including an inspirational talk by Russell Simmons himself). THANKS RUSSELL! And we will be back as YOGA is what Russell and the varied teachers describe as “… a metaphor for the stretching we do everyday in our lives…” So, it’s a journey to get to our destination sometimes… and we don’t always get there. Yoga challenges us to get quiet, grounded, and centered within ourselves; to surrender to our infinite possibilities; to understand that what is simply “is”; and to call joy forth through it all. THESE ARE LESSONS I NEED TO HEAR RIGHT NOW DURING THIS TIME!
ANT IS ART: Ant was hired as a model to be a part of a live installment at Brooklyn Artists Gym ( www.brooklynartistsgym.com). Artist Raphael Miles commissioned him to stand guard over a book that set – spine-up – on the floor. As museum attendees admired the various installments and happen upon this multi-media affair, Ant’s job was to give the choice of whether the attendee should pick up the book or not. If they do, he takes a picture of them. I took some pix too from our camera. Other artists in the show include: Catherine Womack, Antonia Miranda, and Tristan Walker Young. The show is called “Fresh Meat: Providing A Fresh Prospective To An Art Show”.
POP SHOUT OUTS:
1. Neither Ant nor I are big candy bar snackers. The other day – however – we were talking about TWIX (www.twix.com/) – which according to Wikipedia – is a chocolate-covered chocolate bar made by Mars, Inc., consisting of a butter cookie centre topped with caramel and coated in milk chocolate. Being somewhat smaller in cross section than other candy bars, Twix are typically packaged in pairs. I mentioned to Ant that I remembered when Twix hit the marketplace and – as a child – how exciting it was to have a popular new candy bar. He wondered ‘How could you remember the Twix launch?’ He thought it was older than it was. Google led us to find out that Twix was born the same year Ant was born: 1979.
2. That led us to talk about Hollywood icon Paul Newman who passed away this past week from cancer. Ant mentioned he didn’t have a sense of who Paul – the actor – really is, but that he – for sure – knew of Newman’s Own lemonade, salad dressing, and salsa. I know a little more of his dramatic work, but am a BIG FAN of his lemonade (www.newmansown.com/) as well. R.I.P. Paul Newman and THANKS for your organic and tasty line of fine foods.
3. Have you seen the new Mary J. Blige/Chevy Traverse commercial? The "Many Marys" TV spot features Blige as she crisscrosses the city in her Chevy Traverse against the backdrop of her 1992 single "Real Love”, reflecting on various moments in her long and diverse career. That reflection is creatively captured by "passengers" representing her at different stages on her career timeline. A narrator points out that this car has "the space to take everything with you, with the wisdom of leaving the baggage behind...Chevy Traverse: Everything you have ever wished for, and then some."
4. Some of the new TV shows are keeping me entertained. Before I could give it a chance to grow on me, my girl Niecy Nash’s “Do Not Disturb” has been checked out by the network (www.fox.com/programming/shows/new/donotdisturb.htm). Thankfully, my “Ugly Betty” is back and better than ever – especially Miss Vanessa Williams in her evil role of Wilhelmena Slater. In last week’s episode, she had me howling after inviting Betty to lunch: “Look at us. Two women of color out for a fancy lunch. Isn’t it fun… girlfriend?!!!” HILARIOUS!!!
5. My good girlfriend Anise of "Listening Experience" fame (www.iamanise.com) is an extraordinary singer and has invited Ant and me to see her this Friday night at "The Bitter End" (www.bitterend.com/) - a stage on which I performed several times when I'd host and perform in a quarterly showcase titled "Frustrated Artists in Corporate America". Well, Anise is frustrated no more as she takes on lead vocals with a new band called "Dreamtime". THINK "Brand New Heavies" meets "Jamiroquai" with some mixture in between, she says. Showtime is 11pm BREAK A LEG, ANISE! SING PRETTY!
6. There’s a personality around town named Andre J – a tall, bearded one with long hair cascading down the back. Ant and I last saw Andre J during Fashion Week at a show to which Diaz invited us. See picture here. But also, see a bit more of this special personality's story here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpSU9p8czg8.
7. My fellow AUC/CAU sister Ytasha Womack is a SOLPOP PENMEISTER via her blog (http://solpop.blogspot.com/). But she is so much more. Hailing from Chicago, Ytasha's latest projects include her directorial debut The Engagement, starring Clifton Davis and BernNadette Stanis (Maverick Entertainment - www.maverickentertainment.cc) as well as her first book “Beats Rhymes and Life: What We Love and Hate About Hip Hop”, which she edited with Kenji Jasper. She produced and wrote the cult film “Love Shorts” and co-produced “Tupac: Before I Wake”. A guest editor for NV Magazine (New Vision in Business), her work has appeared in Ebony, Upscale, Essence, VIBE, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Reader and The Chicago Defender. Look out for exciting projects in the works as this self-proclaimed “neophyte journalist scraping my way up the media/entertainment ladder” provides a voice of young people of color that she finds noticeably missing from mainstream rants. Another fellow CAU alum from my Morehouse days Matt Morgan (who booked me to host the “Dance Theatre of Harlem”s street festival back in August) is working closely with his godsister, NIYOKI on some promo for her new album and video (http://www.creativefilmz.com/njv3/njv3.html). It is contemporary gospel and getting a lot of airplay around the country. Check her out: www.niyoki.com.
8. Chicago’s homegirl Jennifer Hudson is finally on the CD shelves. She should place in the TOP 10 this week. CONGRATS on your new project and upcoming turn in “The Secret Life of Bees”.
J-Hud was also seen serenading Aretha Franklin last year on the UNCF Telethon as she will be “sanging” for this year’s honoree Patti LaBelle as well (www.uncf.org/).
Speaking of Aretha, she is releasing her first-ever holiday album “This Christmas Aretha” later this month.
9. One additional SHOUT OUT to my man Ant who inside of our collective challenge to find steady work has been hustling to identify extensive ways to stay creative and revenue-generating. The aforementioned art show provided him the space in which to be creative AND a check. Same for a project on which he is working with his cousin Taricq with whom - along with a handful of Ant's other extended family in Brooklyn - I got to bond for the first time. They were all so hospitable and warm, but Taricq proved something special as he shared the vision of his career as an entertainment mogul, including rap and acting, but also owning all that he produces in that regard. He hired Ant (another great booking) to shoot his CD cover and create and execute the graphic concept around it. Additionally, Ant wrote the bio which I got the honor to help edit. This, as we both support Taricq to take his game to the next level. His stage name is "Mr. Goodstuff". He is a multi-talented, independent, hip hop recording artist, producer and entrepreneur. In his neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, he is best known by the names "Taricq" and "Murdock" ('Doc' for short). This true Brooklyn native grw up as an all-star basketball player - side-tracked by street hustling as a quick means of making money. After his dreams around a promising athletic career came to a screeching halt, he soon began to learn the consequences of dirty money. By traveling the world and visiting family in Denver, Atlanta, Paris, and Gabon, Mr. Goodstuff awakened to a new dream and a strong appreciation for many different styles of music. Through Mr. Goodstuff's new passion for melody and beat, his purpose as an artist began to shine through brilliantly. He explains that seeing the world helped him see the good in people and the good in himself. That epiphany - in part - is why he chose the name Mr. Goodstuff. More pointedly, "Mr." is a sign of respect and manhood. "Goodstuff" is an acronym: Grand, Overrule, Oppression, Dedication, Strive, Time (is money), Universal music), Fearless and Fortunate. Inside his new branding and zest for all things infinitely possible, Mr. Goodstuff started out writing about his experiences and realized he had the skills and access to technology that would take his voice to the next level. Inspired by the self-made opportunity to be his own boss, Mr. Goodstuff completed, produced, and distributed his first independent project "I Gotta Eat" (2007). Since then, Mr. Goodstuff has elevated his entrepreneurial game to include founding Multi-vision Ent, a new entertainment company -- a record label as well as a company that oversees audio & media production as well as distribution. Not resting on his laurels or his achievements thus far, he is launching an actingcareer via television's mainstream as well. He debuts as a background actor in the 2008 ABC Fall premiere of "Life on Mars". Although Mr. Goodstuff's role within the new series may be minor, his talent and ability to network makes this a major move for this rising star. (PLUS, Lisa Bonet is in it!!! And I love her - yet another Huxtable!!!). Upcoming projects slated for 2008 include a new CD, "Life of a Hustler", along with accompanying music videos and a few independent films currently in progress. CONGRATS TO YOU, MR. GOODSTUFF. SO PROUD OF YOU!