I know I talked about this already, but it was 25 years ago that Miss Ross performed her historic Central Park concert in the rain (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WkPElq_Ejs) and introduced a song that still holds as a favorite “Let’s Go Up” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWCNEIwCgg4). Then, a couple of weeks later, she performed it on ‘The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2WOMj_CXqY). Its lyrics (along with so many others that come out of the mouth of Ross) become my mantra sometimes when I need a quicker-picker-upper. They’ve been a thread for my last few week and change. As optimistic as I am about what’s going on in my life (or about to go on in my life), the days are still challenging right now. THANK GOD FOR POP CULTURE… and DIANA ROSS! And great, inspiring lyrics like: “… in a world of fading treasure, LOVE is the greatest pleasure…” INDEED!


Comin' back on
Comin' back strong
Turnin' back on


No amount of depression or temporary financial setbacks can keep my fellas and me from enjoying ourselves. So my nephew Noot asked for dining recommendations different than the spots he’s taken to since being here this summer (Amy Ruth and BBQ). I recommended one of Ant’s and my favorites when the money is plentiful Serafina (www.serafinarestaurant.com/). In fact, Noot took me to the spot, so I could introduce him accordingly to the experience. We enjoyed our Italian cuisine while Noot spent much of his time looking to spot Diddy or someone close to him as Serafina is right next to Bad Boy Worldwide (www.badboyonline.com/) And he remembered my telling him of an evening out at Serafina - dining alfresco - when I actually did happen upon Diddy and he graced us with his fragrance and networking swagger. (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/10/24/making-a-wave-or-is-it-way-when-you-can.html) Well, Noot did get a glimpse of Diddy’s son Justin. But that wasn’t photographed. We did get a shot of Noot with Diddy in the background via Times Square. Afterwards, Ant joined us at World Stages (www.newworldstages.com) for the opening night of “East 14th: True Tales of a Reluctant Player” (www.east14th.com) starring and written by Don Reed. A bit of a “Who’s Who” was in the house – giving Noot some photo-ops for his Facebook. Robert Townsend (who booked Don Reed for his first comedy special on HBO – “Partners in Crime”) was in the house and alerted us he is working on a documentary about African American comedians and a film project with Ving Rhames. He too shared with Ant that his time at the helm of the now-defunct “Black Family Channel” (down in Atlanta) and how it was hard to keep ad dollars profitable in the competitive waters of TV One and BET.  Also (and again), Miss Lynn Whitfield was in the house (four times in four weeks… until we see her next week. Stay tuned). She attended with her beautiful daughter. Lynn is beginning to love taking pix with Ant and me. “Cheetah Girl” and “Catwalk” author Deborah Gregory (www.cheetahrama.com/) was there – giving Noot his special time that he wasn’t able to get at her launch party which Deborah says was quite a packed house (but all of those people were there to celebrate her success). She was sporting some great couture – from her bag by Isabella Fiore (www.isabellafiore.com/); shoes by Prada (www.prada.com/); and giving her listening audience a lesson in all things corsetry and cinched. Other friends in the house: Deb McIntyre, actor Greg Vincent, book publishing editor and my Morehouse brother Christian and his friend Krishan – also in book publishing, and others.


Takin' the heat out in the street
Baby too long


I always share with you how Ant and I try to attend PLUM every 2nd Saturday of the month. It’s been a few months since we’ve been able to attend. But last Saturday, we got to hang out with great friends and enjoy a lovely summer breeze at Plum Bar (www.plumpomidor.com/). All our fab, usual suspects were there – from Derrick to Melvin to Hal. I met Alberto, the promoter of another party that is always the 3rd Sunday of the month. We weren’t able to make it, but I want to shout out Alberto and alert you of his “Escandalo Nights WHITE Party” (www.escandalonights.com) at El Morocco (www.elmorocconyc.com). There’s always summer fun for the boys of summer. And a shout out to Luna, a photographer/artist/teacher I met a couple of years ago when he was being honored at the Hetrick-Martin Institute for his work with kids and HIV-awareness (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2006/12/5/birth-death-and-the-life-in-between-live.html). I got the chance to speak with many of his kids at the Harvey Milk High School for NYC’s LGBTQ youth (www.hmi.org/). It was good to hang out with him again – socially.


Can you tell me how much fire
Will it take to get us higher


Well, speaking of HEAT and FIRE:  I try to keep his business his business (Well, maybe I don’t always succeed at it. SMILE!)… but I do exercise restraint in Ant’s current gig du jour as there are confidentialities we high-profile TV folks often have to exercise per contracts we sign and in the best interest of our employers, etc. But now that my naked eyes have witnessed some fare in which I can comment via the prism of “… the life of Riley…”, I’m ‘bout to run my mouth. Ant works on one of the creative teams for “The Wendy Williams Show” (http://www.wendywilliamstvshow.com/) – the Fox/Debmar-Mercury-produced TV talk show that is running for six-weeks this summer (as a sneak-peek) in four major markets: NYC, LA, Detroit, and Dallas. Just one week into its 'sneak-peek' run... and it is - for sure - a BIG HIT in those markets. After its six weeks, the hope is it will get picked up and go nationally. We wish Wendy (and Ant) well. He invited Tata, Ern, and me to attend the show last week. Al Roker was a hoot of celebrity guest that day – promoting the game show he’s hosting “Celebrity Family Feud” (www.nbc.com/Celebrity_Family_Feud/) – the competition for the #1 game show this summer “Million Dollar Password” (www.cbs.com/primetime/million_dollar_password/) on which I was a winner. Here’s the story from last week’s blog (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/7/9/aint-no-mountain-high-enough.html). I produced several projects for Al Roker over the years. So, it’s always great to see him. Moreover, I have to say --- and this is not just because my man works for her and his wages are helping us hold our fort down this summer and beyond --- Wendy is in the zone of something really special. We had so much fun at the show. She is such the funny, zany, and – get this! – vulnerable talent that the airwaves are hungry to see right now. I found her to be connected and what I want to tune into every morning. Of course, she will have to get adjusted confidently to the dimension of TV and celebrity interviewing (active listening) that anyone whose making a segue from radio to TV would have to adjust to, but she’s taking no prisoners and narrating the degree to which she is a quick study! I love the show and I love her! I should add that the small team that’s working on the show is comprised of some folks I knew in other professional domains… and some new folks who are truly looking out for Ant… and I want to give them all a shout out and a CONGRATS as well. Now, for you Wendy, “How you doin?” (and I can’t wait for my photo op with you. The last time during AllHipHop.com week last year, Big Kev pulled you away. But I still got my shot. SMILE!). Perhaps now with Ant in the mix, I can get my shot. ALRIIIIIIIIIGHHHTTTTTTT! Luv u Wendy!

Hearin' the news, singin' the blues
You gotta choose


My crew and I from elementary, middle, and high school have been CHOOSING POWERFULLY for a long time. Too, we've all been HIGHLY FAVORED. Sometimes in the throes of life’s intense challenges, we forget what the beginning of the race looked like. But then, there are pictures that take us back or bring us forward into the possibilities inside of which we currently live. Take a look at these images. They are from my junior-high/high-school friend Lori Jones (Lewis) about whom I wrote from the 20-year reunion.

Well, when Lori, Ern, Rachel (the high school sweetheart), Bernie, Tish, Cres, Lanette, and I were at DeRenne Middle School, we were invited (by Rachel’s late-great father Roy Allen, a politician in the Ga. House of Representatives –at the time) to be pages at The Capital in Atlanta.

We all hopped in a van and made our way up I-16 to I-75 (Lori playing Luther Vandross' "Superstar" on a mind-numbing loop - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lULU_-L-v3U I didn't mind, but it sure traumatized Ern and Rachel. SMILE! )... and finally to Downtown Atlanta to represent Savannah and our classmates. It was a big deal as there wasn’t a lot of diversity in this program at that time. So, to have a handful of young African Americans representing as we did got a lot of local press and buzz within the hallowed walls of The Gold Dome.

26-years-later, see this pic and see that four of us (of this bunch) in attendance at the 20-year-reunion from high school are still looking the part.

Then, rewind one more time and see an article that shows some of my elementary classmates in a Savannah Morning News picture that celebrates a research project on Wikersham Iron/Savannah Squares/History that Shawna, Joey, George, Tonja, and I went to Atlanta and Washington DC (at the Smithsonian) to present. We reigned victorious. And fast forward 28-years-later and see Shawna, a number of our other classmates (with whom we also wrote a book "A Child's View of Savannah Squares"), at our 20-year-reunion from high school (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/6/17/someday-well-be-together-we-still-together-kinda.html).  


Stand up and fight, do it tonight
What can you lose


Well, I’ve mentioned that CNN’s Soledad O’Brien has agreed to be interviewed for a documentary project on which I’m working in a finite role as associate producer/field interviewer. It’s “Big Sister, Little Sister” with independent filmmaker Sue May (www.bslsthedoc.com - in progress; www.myspace.com/bslsthedoc) – a chronicle of three New York City girls and their experience with prom, high school graduation, and the first semester of college. Interspersed, there will be commentary from women of color – like Soledad – on their reflections of that time in their life. But Soledad has more than enough on her plate and I got a sneak-peek of it. She’s at the helm of a landmark documentary series that CNN is producing “Black In America” (www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2008/black.in.america/). The other night at the Time Warner Building, celebs and newsmakers the like came out to experience excerpts from the next two installments. “Black Men” and “Black Women” (which rollout this week). What we saw was spectacular but promises to do more than just focus on problems. This work – as Soledad put it – ‘tells stories’ that need to be heard. Moreover, with its impression being on CNN, it introduces a story that perhaps some didn’t know but it offers a ‘new conversation’ (right in line with all things Obama) for the world to consider as it relates to the diversity of ‘Black folks’. I even found myself having to check myself as I - outside looking in - watched minister, scholar, and author Michael Eric Dyson featured in a piece in which he spoke candidly about -- and with -- his brother who is incarcerated. There was a question posed: “How do two brothers from the same womb lead such different lives?”. There were no concrete answers but considerations that I’ve never seen articulated – from skin color to differences in discipline to personality differences (I can’t wait to see the complete segment). I was watching the piece (again, outside looking in) and began to get emotional. Ant – at a point – extended his hand over to mine because he sensed my body shift and a saw a tear fall. I realized more than something I’m watching about somebody else, that ‘this is my story’ too. I too have a brother with similar struggles and though we LOVE each other, there continues to be a battle of wills around my thoughts on his life (and – believe it or not – his thoughts and judgements on my life’s choices). In his mind (and despite his own challenges), my “gayness” – to him – is an “express” to hell despite the good I aim to be in this world (and my reality that 'being gay' is not an error. It just is). So, he and I are clearly a work in progress. So, I trust many will be able to pull their own relatability to this compelling documentary series on CNN. (By the way, shout out to Don Lemon whose documentary special “Daughters of Legacy” lifted me up. He interviewed daughters of African American male icons: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sidney Poitier,  Johnnie Cochran. The guest list was something out of “Who’s Who in Black America”. My buddy from the National Association of Black Journalists (www.nabj.org) – also CNN’s own – Lola Ogunnaike, entertainment correspondent for CNN’s “American Morning” – was there. Harlem community radio diva Jean Parnell and Newsday’s Les Payne were in the house. Les is being inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame this Thursday in a luncheon Michael K. Watts and I are co-producing at the Unity convention in Chicago (www.2008unity.org). He’s a pillar in the industry – including being a founder of NABJ. The first aunt of the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” Janet Hubert-Whitten was in the house (with DoubleXXposure’s Angelo Ellerbee and Byron Barnham – maker of Iman’s cosmetics formula). She was so pleasant and sweet. She was happy to see Cicely Tyson, our buddy from the “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” party (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/6/23/back-to-life-back-to-realityback-to-the-here-and-now.html). I asked her where the picture she took of Noot, Ant, and me was (She said then she’d send it). She said “It may take a little bit but I am of my word. If I told you I’d send it, I will send it.” She was so funny and wonderful. For a long time, I’ve been a fan of Warrington Hudlin (and his brother Reginald who heads up BET now). And I have met him at several functions over the years. But imagine my wonder as he shared with me that he saw me on ‘Password’ and – his words – “Your next level is your own show. So, you’ve got to figure out how to make that happen,” he offered. “Many people love you and what you’re doing. Maybe it’s the internet. Maybe you do the pilot and get someone to distribute it. But that’s your next level” I take it a step further and ask if he’d come on the show and give me permission to show clips from his films “Boomerang” and the “House Party” series, etc. He said “Yes!” So, now, I must figure this out, huh? One of my “pop culture icons” has spoken. Ant? Help!!! My good friend (and platonic boo, I’ve called him) Carl Nelson was responsible for this invitation. Many of our mutual friends, including owner of Harlemmade Murphy, were in the house. Murphy (and Ant) made the final cut of the video project I was commissioned to field produce for Remy Martin (www.remy.com/) in celebration of its limited edition bottle as designed by celebrity photographer/artist David LaChapelle. A New York City-based party – celebrating this item and presenting this video – is set for mid-August. Noot wasn’t able to make this set, but would have LOVED to see Tamara Tunie, who is known in our Savannah world as “Jessica” from CBS soap “As The World Turns”. Over time, we’ve collaborated on a couple of media projects and have gotten to know each other socially. Her husband Greg is always the kindest as well. Too, Don Reed was in the house (of “East 14th” fame - www.east14th.com). And of course, Lynn Whitfield… SMILE!

In a world of fading treasure
Love is the greatest pleasure


Ant invited me to join him at the Wendy Williams birthday party on Thursday. I was excited to meet Wendy. In the end (and by the time I arrived), Wendy had left the venue and the planners/venue managers couldn’t quite manage the guests in a way that enrolled us to stay. So, Ant, Ern (who accompanied me), and I decided to head to BBQ or karaoke or somewhere else that could bring us a smile (“Velvet rope” drama at a place to which you are invited is so OVER!!!!). As we were walking, we ran into one of my best friends from high school Maurice Marable, film writer/director who I’ve referenced here before (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/3/4/-weve-come-a-long-way-baby.html) and (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/2/2/beautiful-struggle.html). He was just leaving “The Lion King” on Broadway with some friends – including Karen R. Good, fan of “A Day in the Life of Riley: Pop Culture & Possibilities”. She too is the author of the Erykah Badu ESSENCE feature (from April) in which Ant is featured as a model. As we all caught up in the middle of Times Square (Maurice and Ern also lived next door to each other in Savannah), we knew the reason the main event was a bust. So, we could enjoy the “good vibrations” of my old friend and now new friends.

So let's go up, forget about down
'Cause in this town, it's gonna get rough


Ant got the chance to meet another dear "Amazing Grace" of mine who I've not seen in a bit. Adrene and I have been out of touch a little as she has had a baby and is soon to be married. I've been busy with traveling and such - differently than when we would have lots of time on our respective hands and be able to hang out all the time. Well, with her upcoming nuptials, Adrene was inspired to come and get me for our yearly catchup and have me introduce her to my favorite designer Moshood (www.afrikanspirit.com) in Brooklyn. She may want Moshood to design her gown and the wedding party garb. Her destination wedding is set for the Caribbean next year. She too got to see Noot who she hasn't seen since he was 12 or so. She, Ant, and I had brunch at Fort Lee's Red Oak Diner before heading out to Brooklyn. We walked through a festival/fair that was erected a stone's throw from Moshood's boutique and enjoyed all that the Fort Greene area has to offer -- neighborhoody hospitality and warmth. I LOVE BROOKLYN! And ADRENE!

And what goes down, is up to us
So let's go up, baby let's go up


With depression creeping down under my heartbeat and the psychology I can put myself through as I approach the date of my mother’s death (July 20), I aimed to have the weekend be different and to call joy forth. My good girlfriend Marcia Pendelton made a generous offer to my guys and me for two nights of theater. The first was “Expatriate” – a two-woman play with music about race, friendship, sexuality, art & fame (www.cultureproject.org). It is being presented by Culture Project, an institution that has a reputation for bringing new theatrical voices to the forefront.‏ In the marketing folks’ words: “Expatriate is an exploration of black womanhood, friendship, sexuality and freedom, celebrating characters in the spirit of Nina Simone, Josephine Baker and the Hottentot Venus. With only a Jam Man loop machine at their feet, real-life rising stars Lenelle Moïse and Karla Mosley make intricate, haunting and stirring music as they weave the story of singing group Black Venus's rise to fame. Expatriate tells the story of Claudie and Alphine, two sophisticated and sexy African-American performing artists and longtime sister-friends. Disillusioned by grief, homophobia and the black glass ceiling, they flee to Europe to heal and realize their starved American dreams. In Paris, they support themselves by singing and dancing on the street and quickly rise to infamy and fortune. But as Claudie and Alphine soon discover, stardom comes at a high price.” We really enjoyed it before segueing for light Friday night bites at SOHO’s “Bar 89” (www.bar89.com). Ant’s co-worker Deb and a friend of hers joined Ern, Ant, and me for this cool Friday night. And poet Stacyeann Chin was in the house (www.staceyannchin.com/).

When it gets hot, like it or not
You want to run
Though it's so warm here in my arms
You won't get burned


Then, on Saturday night, Ant, Noot, and I did the Spike-Lee-filming of “Passing Strange” which closed on Sunday. Karen joined us on this night as well. Ant and I are sad to see it go, but it brought us such joy for its short run (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/3/15/twas-passing-strange.html). I was so excited to be able to share it with Maurice (and Ant’s “Amazing Grace” Manivone). I knew they would connect to Stew (the lead character) as I did (but for their own reasons. We’re all in search for “the real” in our own respective ways). And this night was no exception for “the see and be seen” – including Jurnee Smolett – a hit sighting for Noot. Also, Anika Noni Rose was in the house and thrilled to see us ‘stalkers’! SMILE! Actor extraordinaire (of HBO OZ fame and featured actor in many August Wilson plays) Tony Chisolm was there – sharing with us that he was working on a one-man show with writer of Malcolm X-stage-bio “Chickens Come Home To Roost”s Laurence Holder on Daddy Grace, Founder and 1st Bishop of Noot’s and my family church The United House of Prayer for All People about which I’ve referenced here before: http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/4/7/if-a-robin-can-say-thank-you-you-can-do-it-too.html

My Morehouse brother Maurice Mcrae was there. He’s a Los-Angeles-based actor who directed me in some great stage musicals during college – even lead roles for me (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/5/22/walking-in-strange-and-new-places.html). Over the years, he’s continued to make great industry impressions. So, it was great to introduce Noot to him. And from Spike Lee’s cinematic repository of regulars Anthony Mackie, whose brother Calvin Mackie is a Morehouse man, was there. Also, Spike's sister Joie Lee. And the editorial shoulders on which Karen Good stands as a freelance writer extraordinaire Audrey Edwards and her guests, including a fabulous writer of 85-years who wrote the first feature story in Essence Magazine (www.essence.com) back in 1970. “A beautiful face without a name…” (I’ll get that name yet. Anybody?). Oh! And I got pix with the whole cast except for the Tony-award-winning Stew (the last time). This time, Ant and I got our shots.


In a world of fading treasures


I wanted to see George Michael tonight! Timing, hook-ups, and budget didn’t allow. My Morehouse brother Michael K. Watts is going – so I know I’ll be able to vicariously live through his review in “LIVE! FROM THE FRONT ROW” review. Meanwhile, there’s always YOU TUBE (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0omJ--Usis) and perhaps a way I’ll get to see him somewhere else. Meanwhile, the other “George” from my ’80 pop culture psyche – “BOY GEORGE” – has been denied his VISA to tour in the U-S in the wake of recent courtroom woes in the U-K. So, his North American tour is canceled and Michael and I were poised to see him in August. Well, what you gonna do?

The pleasure of your treasures
Cannot be measured up


Everyone’s abuzz about the Italian VOGUE (www.Vogue.com) – ALL AFRICAN AMERICAN issue. Then, there’s JAY Z on Men’s Italian Vogue. Yet, here in America, Lebron James gets credited as the first African American on the stateside mag, which has just announced the poorest sales of an issue ever. So much for my exclusive pic back in Chicago (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/4/16/as-the-sun-has-its-place-up-in-the-sky.html). I hope it didn't depreciate my non-revenue-generating blog entry from back in April. Just kidding. Keep doin' it, Lebron!


And I must simply say that I love the remix on Miss Destiny (Step)Child Michelle Williams’ “We Break The Dawn” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqb9jqXLsGM). It’s #1 on Billboard’s dance charts. Congrats Michelle!


Ooh, I can't free a person from their chains


Chaka Khan was on Cathy Hughes TV One show (www.tvoneonline.com/) – reflecting on her life and articulating where her life is now. She says that some of her recent spiritual work has been through her life coach Dr. Labeach. If we’re talking about the same Labeach, I know her. I’ve talked about her here before as she’s my Spelman sister and we attended college and performed on stage together (www.drlabeach.com/). If this is you, Nicole, you go!!!!! Be that difference!!!! (I also learned in this interview that Chaka’s brother Mark Stephens wrote “Da Butt” from Spike Lee’s “School Daze” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwTkwyBa__U).

But I'll tell you this for sure
If nothing is ventured
Then nothing is gained, let's go up!


Though there’s been some negative press about my girl Jennifer Hudson and her new CD cover (and whether it’s been photo-shopped to make her look thinner), she is still showing folks that the proof is in the pudding (box office tickets a la her last film “Sex & The City”) and the pipes (a stellar performance on “Good Morning America” this week). And since I was with her from the beginning, I stay on the bandwagon in support of her success. In fact, in the wake of that ‘magic moment’, NABJ has asked me to host a special fundraiser to support NABJ’s “On The Move" campaign. And like our “Dreamgirls” sneak-peek, this event will include snippets from Jennifer Hudson’s upcoming film Gina Prince Blythewood’s "The Secret Life of Bees", which also stars Nate Parker (of “Great Debaters” fame) and I will interview him along with Blythewood. Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okodedo, and Dakota Fanning also star in this film. Then, we will show a teaser of Spike Lee Joint "Miracle at St. Ana" after which I will interview author of the book New York Times James McBride. For those who will be in Chicago for the convention, check out www.myNABJ.org and please come and support.

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