Shout out to my girl Karen for sending the most thoughtful card to me the other day. I was feeling a little down and thought something in the mail could cheer me up. Of course, I was talking about a check. LOL! No, there wasn't a check. Instead, something that filled my soul. Ant and I call them "rainy day notes"...and they typically show up when you least expect them and when you most need them. And the fact that the content inside her card "mourned' what I have been going through in the wake of losing my camera a couple of weeks ago made it that much more special (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/8/26/one-lost-camera-dont-stop-no-blog-entry.html ). Also, she took the time to honor all things joy, love, and life via the many things we have in common - old, new, borrowed, and BLUE! Suddenly, a la "The Wiz" (and the revolving kaleidoscope that is the 'emerald city sequence': BLUE (because of Karen) is a joyful color, feeling, and mood that carried me to new heights on that day… and everyday that followed – perfect timing for Fashion Week ( www.mbfashionweek.com/newyork/ ); Urbanworld Film Festival ( www.urbanworld.com/ ); and everything else that was going down this week. I must admit, it’s begun to blur… but because I had such great friends like Diaz... Manivone... Cynthia... Vince... Ern... Mara... and Tish, who sent me the pic of she, my best friend Eddie and our fellow Morehouse brother and friend Brad – all of whom gathered in Washington DC for some social time [Eddie made sure Tish sent the pic since many of the images with him in them from his visit to NYC were lost with the camera ]. They all ensured that I had photographs to chronicle my ‘mourning’ period pending my next purchase (Patrick to the mailbox a la Celie from “The Color Purple”: “… anything for me?”).
In fact, there are so many pix, they will be my reminders of where I’ve been over the last couple of weeks. And like sitting with someone who just put a scrapbook together, I will narrate it:
This is my Nichole and me on the night of Bill Clinton’s DNC speech (www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_6IXjUNP84 ). Ant was out of town and Nichole and I were attempting to have a quick bite at my buddy Brian’s Harlem bistro Native – so we could catch up (It had been a minute). This, before seeing the musical production “Hattie… What I Need You To Know” (www.theatermania.com or call 212/352-3101). For more information: www.HattieWhatINeedYouToKnow.com. Well, our chat would end up pre-empting our Hattie moment which we’re still committed to check out. But we did get some wine at a cute new Harlem spot Nectar Wine Bar where Amy Ruth’s Michael Vann ( www.amyruthsharlem.com ) graciously kept our glasses full. We talked all things politics, pop culture, and people – especially since we were missing President Clinton, my buddy.
Ant soon came back from his weeklong vacation in Denver. We didn’t have enough time to catch an event with Terrence Howard to which we were invited by my Savannah homeboy Stacy Quarterman (promoting Terrence’s new CD: www.myspace.com/terrencehoward). Instead, we joined his good girlfriend Deb (stylist for Wendy Williams) at Caroline’s (www.carolines.com) where Miss Wendy hosts a Wednesday night of comedy. In addition to a line-up of hilarious talent including Lady Roz G (www.myspace.com/ladyrozg or www.comedianroz.com). I also ran into my fellow homegirl from Tokyo (I was born there) DJ SEIKO (I didn’t know her from over there, but she and I were both born on Air Force Bases in Tokyo. I was born on Tachikawa AFB). And then, we ran into author of “Mike Tyson Tried To Kill My Daddy” Mitchell Rose who was selling his tome out of his van (www.eastsideboxing.com/news.php?p=16433&more=1 ). We too saw a couple of my fellow National Association of Black Journalists sistahs Sherry and Kirsten. All of this happened on just one block in Times Square.
On Thursday, Ant, Ern, and I attended a pre-Fashion Week party (www.ISTYLESTARZENTERTAINMENT.COM) at Glass Lounge (www.glassloungenyc.com/) where we saw lots of our buddies like George. The club sets near where “Ugly Betty” (www.abc.go.com/primetime/uglybetty/index) was filming. We joked that we felt like we were going to run into Ugly Betty herself (or hopefully Vanessa Williams). Well, it happened. Ant, Ern, and I were just walking down the street… and America Ferrera was being escorted by her handlers to her scene. Ern and Ant caught it first. When I caught on, we turned around and followed her. Eventually I called her name “America” and she turned around and graciously spoke. Her folks wouldn’t allow a picture with us but we snapped one anyway. Only in New York City. (By the way, remember that episode of 'Ugly Betty' that touched me on Mother's Day by way of an Ashford & Simpson composition "Didn't You Know You'd Have To Cry Sometime?" by Gladys Knight - http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/5/11/didnt-you-know-youd-have-to-cry-sometime.html? Well, you'll recall I LOVED the Diana Ross version and there's FINALLY an upload on YOU TUBE that I can share here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lU2SeS_ylQ ). Afterwards, we had a bite at our spot Cafeteria ( www.cafeteriagroup.com/ ) where we stumbled into DIVA Manager with the most Benny Medina (most recent client Mariah Carey) and he not only spoke (as he, Ant, and I have collabo’d on some development projects), but he offered Ant and me tix for Fashion Rocks the next night (www.fashionrocks.com/ ).
By now, you’ve all seen it. But Ant and I had a great time with Beyonce serving her best Etta James (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7kEFvbOQo4) while her sister Solange stole the show with her new-but-vintage sound(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p212aU6GPgM ). Afterwards we joined our buddy Malachi Rivers and a host of his friends at our favorite Dallas BBQ before a night of Fashion Show aftersets.
See my good girlfriend Mara Schiavocampo, Digital Correspondent for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams (www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21688725/). Here she is in Beijing. Then, it was Denver at the DNC (She and Ant got to hang out for a little bit). We’d been missing her as she’d been on the road for over a month. But upon her return, she and her husband Tommie invited Ern, Ant, and me over to their Harlem brownstone for a night of games – scored by an episode of “The Cosby Show” in which Claire is rejecting Cliff’s competitiveness in “Monopoly” (just as Mara began to chastize her Tommie on his board game intensity). We felt so Huxtable that night. (Speaking of the Huxtables, my Spelman sister Karen Ceesay was featured on the new sitcom "Somebodies" on BET (www.somebodiesmovie.net/site/castbios.html ). This is the first original scripted show that BET is producing, plus it is the first in an entire fall line-up of original programming on BET. CONGRATS KAREN!).
And speaking of sitcoms, the next day Carl, Ant, and I attended a fashion show to which my friend Diaz invited me. It was Jose Duran (www.joseduran.net/) at HK Lounge (www.hkhellskitchen.com/). Jaslene of “America’s Next Top Model” fame was in the show… and served the children. We even ran into our hip hop dance instructor Tweetie who was sporting an awesome, short do. Afterwards, Ant had business in Brooklyn. So, my platonic boo Carl took me to brunch at Pastis (http://pastisny.com/) where one of my pop culture obsessions took fold. I ran into Thelma’s first fiance Larry from “Good Times” (Carl Franklin) and just had to let him know how much of a fan I am of the show and him. Remember “Love In The Ghetto”? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtYCMTJPMHg) and (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeJHXdWw91Y). Afterwards, Carl and I went to the Gansevoort ---- patio and rooftop ---- for lovely social time (www.hotelgansevoort.com/). There, we ran into my Morehouse brother Welborn Preston who you may recall invited me to Atlanta last December to meet up with one of his clients (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/12/16/extreme-makeover.html). Well, he’s got another client in Chris Willis (www.myspace.com/chriswillismusic), a popular house singer who I had the opportunity to meet. And he and Preston invited Ant and me to the studio to hear them work on some material with popular singer Ultra Nate (www.ultranate.com/) whose “Free” everyone should know (www.youtube.com/watch?v=otaG82x78Zg). The producer Dave Darlington (www.davedarlington.com) whose Bass Hit Recording Studio in New York City was the home of this session. He shared that he played bass on “my” Diana Ross’ “Summertime” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcqG6hNVSDw ) from her 1987 “Red Hot Rhythm & Blues” project. Ant and I just loved being in the studio. The visit was quite the muse for that sidelight of mine that is itching to place my voice on the spotlight of somebody's recording.
I ended up having business in Washington DC which provided me the opportunity to see two dear friends: My “Amazing Grace” Lisa Goodnight and my Savannah homeboy James Davis. Lisa caught me up on all things ‘latina’ (She’s not), including author Junot Diaz (www.junotdiaz.com). My Morehouse brother Chris McDonald’s brother Rodney happened upon us as we nibbled on crabmeat quesadillas at Union Station Restaurant (www.unionstationrestaurant.com/ ). He says he recognized me from a picture he saw of Chris and me in my blog.
As Fashion Week continued, Ant and I did Russell Simmons’ Argyle Agriculture line’s fashion show (www.russellsimmons.com/) where Ant and I ran into once-“Scary Spice”/now-stylish-Mel-B. She and her husband are so sweet (or should I say... spicy!?). Too, we hung out at the Launch Party for the BET/Urbanworld Film Festival at Hudson River Café (www.hudsonrivercafe.com/). There, we got to hang out with my “Amazing Grace” Nichole, Miss Cynthia (who provided me with the pix from our brunch at Maroon’s (www.maroonsnyc.com/) last week, by the way), Michelle, and a host of others --- like Mr. BJ Coleman, who always calls me “Riley”. He is a blog reader. Also, there was the cutest Target party which we attended, thanks to my friend Diaz. It celebrated the launch of the Bullseye Bodegas (www.sites.target.com/site/en/spot/page.jsp?title=bullseye_bodega ). Ant’s “Wendy Williams” colleague Michael was there. Always good to see him. Former Destiny’s Child group member Latoya was in the house. But none excited as much as Mr. and Mrs. Seinfeld. And they seemed excited to be there for their roll-through.
Then, Ant and I got the hook up from my nephew and his former colleagues at HBO for Urbanworld Film Festival (Oh, how the tide has turned. Beautifully!). We saw so many great films like “This Is The Life” by my friend Ava Duvernay; Sister’s Keeper (w/”Girlfriends” guest Kent Faulcon), and Lee Daniels’ “Tennessee” - www.leedanielsentertainment.com/tennessee/ -(and Miss Cannon came to the screening). We got to see the film “Phantom Punch” (www.imdb.com/title/tt1131747/) on Sonny Liston that starred Ving Rames and was directed by Robert Townsend who told us about this project when we saw him a couple of months ago (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/7/22/in-a-world-of-fading-treasures-love-is-the-greatest-pleasure.html). Also, my Tracey Moore-Marable oversaw an awesome panel at HBO which featured readings of scenes from works-in-progress (www.thespiritedactor.com/). It was quite the inspired session. And Tracey was such an inspiration, as always. Manivone and I even got to see a film “Diary of a Tired Black Man” (www.tiredblackman.com) which proved quite entertaining and insightful. We also got a sneak-peek of a new CINEMAX project by erotica author Zane (and collaborator/legendary producer Suzanne DePasse): “Zane’s Sex Chronicles” (www.cinemax.com/). But the highlight was “The Secret Life of Bees” (www.foxsearchlight.com/thesecretlifeofbees/) – a screening which featured Queen Latifah and her co-star Sophie Okonedo along with director Gina Prince-Blythewood who I interviewed (along with Nate Parker) during Unity ’08 in Chicago (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/7/29/like-i-never-left.html). She was happy to see me as I was her. After the movie, I got the chance to reconnect to one of my fellow Pentavaurates (You remember my ‘dinner group’, right? And how my Stephanie recently got married… the same day as our other buddies Adrienne and Galen [Updated PIX!]). But there’s also my Terri whose husband Alvin Bowles played a key role in throwing the best party I’ve been to in a long time. BET (www.bet.com) threw a set for all sets. It was the consummate culmination of a week in which Fashion and Urban Film took over New York City. It was “Film and Fashion” - a reminder of what used to be more common place in New York City during less economically-strained times. They used movies like "Shaft"; "Bonnie and Clyde"; "Breakfast at Tiffany's"; "Casino"; etc. as the larger-than-life backdrop to a gorgeous fashion show. Each scene was scored by a random but applicable song (not necessarily one from the film itself). Well, the finale was my favorite Diana Ross' "Mahogany" featuring designs by the likes of Kevan Hall, Marc Jacobs, etc. The song select was "No One Gets The Prize" from "The Boss". HOT!!! And beyond that (I digress on DIANA - LOL!), it was an all-around good party - the people, food, drinks, etc. Event producer (whose sets in the late '90s were the ONLY parties in town) David Watkins from ICON did this one along with expertise from star stylist June Ambrose (www.juneambrose.com/). Also, one of my favorite designers Omar was on the roster (responsible for my bespoke tailored tux coutured-to-perfection just for me). The work he did on my tux is pure artistry. THANKS OMAR! D-Nice was the DJ. He just married Malinda Williams, “Bird” from Showtime’s “Soul Food”. Mums from “Oz” was there. He asked if I’d seen the new musical directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner BILL T. JONES “FELA!” – pointing out that he found me striking like a young Bill T. Jones. I have yet to see it though invited by my girlfriend Marcia but it has been extended and audiences are welcomed into the extravagant, decadent and rebellious world of Afrobeat legend FELA ANIKULAPO-KUTI. Using his pioneering music (a blend of jazz, funk, and African rhythms and harmonies), FELA! explores Kuti's controversial life as artist, political activist and revolutionary musician. Featuring many of Fela's most captivating songs and Bill T. Jones's imaginative staging, this new show is a provocative hybrid of concert, dance and musical theater. FOR MUSIC, UPDATES, REVIEWS, DOWNLOADS AND MUCH MORE VISIT www.FELAOFFBROADWAY.COM By the way, remember "The Five Heartbeats" and "Sugar Hill". Well, walking from "Urban World" on 34th and 8th to the after-pary on 42nd Street, Ant, Manivone, and I stumbled into Michael D. Wright who too co-owned upscale Southern cuisine "Jezebel" in Hell's Kitchen/Theater District (The take-out is still open). He seemed quite spirited and wanted me to shout him out here. So here goes: www.michaelwrightnyc.com ("...Nights like this I wish that raindrops would fall...").
“No One Gets The Prize” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpCjjbWYmvU) and all things Diana Ross’ “The Boss” – by the way - was a backdrop at an impromptu hang Ant and I went to at our dear friend Ken Roberson, choreographer of the Tony-award-winning “Avenue Q”. His good girlfriend Karen Chilton. Karen is the author of “Hazel Scott” (http://www.press.umich.edu/titleDetailDesc.do?id=197245) – the first biography of an important but overlooked African American pianist, singer, actor, and civil-rights advocate. It sounds like a sexy read. Celebrity bio is my favorite genre… and this one must get adapted into a film. Karen, also an actress, and Ant, an actor, could play Billie Holliday and Fats Waller respectively. Look at the synergy here.
Speaking of BIOS, another of my diva/pop culture icons Diahann Carroll has a new memoir coming out. “The Legs Are The Last To Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying, and other things I learned the hard way” promises a history lesson and juice.
I’m sure Diahann Carroll will LOVE my friend Patrik-Ian Polk’s feature NOAH'S ARC which comes out on October 24th (www.noahsarcmovie.com). (According to these JET Magazine covers, she seems to be aligned with us. SMILE!). It will be put out in a Platform Release- opening weekend will be Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, and Atlanta. As with most platform releases, the better the film does in these initial cities, the better the chances the film has of expanding to more markets in the weeks following. My good industry girlfriend Jackie Bazan is handling the publicity for the film (www.bazanpr.com). I’ve moderated and hosted lots of Q&As and interviews for her company. We all have to go out and support this flick as we LOVE NOAH’S ARC and must help its big screen impression make a splash.
Last night, Ant, Ern, Michael K. Watts, and I went to see Celine Dion. I was able to snag some tix for the sold-out Madison Square Garden show in New York City. She was amazing!!!!
Remember I saw Pepa at the Vibe 15th Anniversary Party? (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/8/15/masters-mentors.html) Well, last night, Ant and I attended a LIFEBEAT set in celebration of Pepa’s latest tome “Let’s Talk About Pep” (www.amazon.com/Lets-Talk-About-Pep/dp/B001EVNM3Q) and SALT WAS IN THE HOUSE as well!!!!! Well, actually it was HOME (www.homeguesthouse.com). I’m complete now! They were both so kind and sweet… yet savory!
What a week!
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