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DIVAS: SIMPLY SINGING & MORE

I’m always my happiest when I’m with Ant. And what a sad and cloudy day when he leaves. But buckets of tears later since his oh-too-brief weekend visit to L.A. from NYC, I can look back on an AWESOME weekend we had attending Sheryl Lee Ralph’s DIVAS: SIMPLY SINGING – an annual benefit that raises money for AIDS research and awareness.

 

Before I spill all the TEA, you remember I told you that I went to Cal State-Fullerton to be interviewed by my NABJ friend DR. MARIO, a student on the campus. Well, here’s the podcast: http://drmario.podomatic.com/entry/2009-10-09T23_09_20-07_00

Now back to the DIVAS and Ant’s and my fabulous weekend!

Firstly, you must know that IT TAKES A VILLAGE to have the kind of weekend we had, given we’re cash-strapped. But where there is a will (and a Scott and a Tony and a Sheryl Lee Ralph and an Audrey and a Tata and a Daddy and a Curtis and an Ernie and a Paul and a buddy pass and some frequent flier miles), there is a way!

So Ant got here on Friday night and we hit the ground running as soon as he landed since his Denver friends Robinson and Elia – AKA MAINCHAIN (www.themainchain.com) were performing at The Highlands in Hollywood. Plus, his best bud Paul was shooting the show. Ant’s flight was delayed – so we missed the show. But he got to see Paul and we all hung out afterwards at Robinson’s place.

On Saturday, we slept in. But once we got ourselves together, Ant surprised me with the news that he was taking me to a place we’ve both been resisting since the recession kicked in: HOUSTON’s – once our home away from home or kitchen away from kitchen. Ant had budgeted accordingly and insisted. So, we rushed to Century City to experience L.A.s HOUSTON’s like we do... and my mouth was beginning to water. For Ant, Veggie Burger, black beans, brown rice (though this locale only had white), spinach & artichoke dip, and a French martini. For me, since it was Saturday, The Firehouse Chili, cheese bread, side of fries, and a kir royale (just a drop of chambord). We did resist the key lime pie (as we were so full). But still we got our espressos with frangelica.

 

From dinner time to DIVA time, Ant and I segued right on over to the Saban Theater to secure our complimentary tix compliments of Ms. Sheryl Lee Ralph and our dear friend Scott, who is Ms. Ralph’s right hand, left hand, and the production coordinator for DIVAS: SIMPLY SINGING! (Ant and I did budget to make a donation which we did via the ‘offering pans’ that the young students passed around. AMEN!).

The DIVA line-up was spectacular - including: Yolanda Adams, Brenda Russell, Tamia, Kelly Price, Faith Evans, Jenifer Lewis, Loretta Devine, Dwight Eubanks, Sam Harris, All-4-One, Frenchie Davis, and more!

In fact, here’s the set-list:

Act 1

Sheryl Lee Ralph (Opening)

“Everything’s Coming Up Divas”

 

Jenifer Lewis

“Star Spangled Banner”

 

Yolanda Adams

“Open My Heart”

“Never Give Up”

 

Barbara Morrison

“My name is Sundown”

 

Sam Harris

“Bridge Over Trouble Water”

 

Gabi Wilson

“If I Ain’t Got You”

“A Song for You”

 

Jessica Reedy

“God has Smiled on Me”

 

Frenchie Davis

“Home”

  


Divine Brown

“Close The Door” by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan

 

Flutist Althea Rene

“De Ja Vu” by Beyonce

 

Sheryl Lee Ralph (End of 1st Act)

“That Was Divas Then”

 

Act 2

 

Shena

“My Fantasy”

 

Loretta Devine

“Bust Your Windows” by Jazmine Sullivan

 

N'dambi

“L.I.E.”

 

All 4 One

“I Swear / My Child”

 

Yo Yo

“Don’t Play with my Yo Yo”

 

Brenda Russell – “Get Here”

 

Tamia – “Me”

 

Kelly Price  - “Hero” by Mariah Carey

 

Faith Evans

“Again”

“You Are So Beautiful”

“Love Like This”

 

Finale

“Man in the Mirror”

 

DIVA DETAILS:

1.  Sheryl Lee Ralph sported 5 wigs (by Penny and Kelly). And 9 costume changes --- all by designer Tadashi Shoji who has dressed Sheryl for all 19 DIVAS. Sheryl requests that there be at least one leopard dress.

2.  Sheryl shouted out Ant’s boss Wendy Williams since Sheryl recently appeared on the show. She offered up a “How You Doin’?” at one point in the show and she played Wendy’s intro of her at another point.

3.  They are still counting buckets, but it is estimated that they raised $200,000 towards the fight against AIDS.

4.  Sheryl – quite the comic - called out the white audience members who were late – perhaps thinking things were going to start on “colored people time”. Since they were taping the show for DVD, many folks from the $25 seats got to fill in those prized rows.

5.  Sheryl also did a spoof on Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” – quipping “If you like it then you should have put a condom on it!!!”

And of course, Ant and I were roaming the theater lobby and the after party at LIFE for our own pictures:

My ATL friends Dwight Eubanks and Lamoh were in the house. In fact, Dwight donated a pair of high-heel boots (signed) to Sheryl to auction off towards the benefit. Also got to see Dwight and Lamoh again on Sunday at The Abbey.

This is Tristan Wilds of Beverly Hills 90210 and "The Secret Life of Bees" fame.

Rachelle Farrell was in attendance and interviewed on the red carpet. She's the first DIVA to agree to do next year's 20th Anniversary show.

Writer Dale Guy Madison, whose DREAMBOY cover spoofs Mary Wilson’s “DREAMGIRL: My Life as a Supreme”, had a FAB exhibit with all things DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES on display in the lobby.

 

Ran into Rodney Chester from "Noah's Arc". I am such a fan of the show and movie, I was really excited to meet him! As you know, I'm always running into Patrik Ian Polk and the other cast members - including a recent run-in with Jentsen Atwood at The Abbey.

Always good to see Jawn Murray.

My friend Derek Lafayette - who is working with DIVA Divine Brown - and I were so happy to see each other. It's been a minute.

And Ant and I were so proud of our Scott and Tony who worked the production of DIVAS. Also, our friends we met through Scott and Tony – like Ed Roebuck. And then there was Henry who donated his beautiful body to Sheryl Lee Ralph's opening number. It truly was a family affair. After Ant left, Scott and Tony invited me to their friend's white birthday party at Lucy Florence in Leimert Park. Here Scott poses with his father, two of his sisters, his niece – all in town for DIVAS, and his partner Tony! THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLKS! I LOVE IT!

And to bullet a few things I did last week:

My NABJ buddy Brian (www.brimmage.com) is in town from D.C. He invited me to San Pedro where he's staying for dinner and - GASP! - Monday Night Football. I asked him if he was really my friend for such an invite. LOL! But he, Kelly, Li-Ling, and I had a great time - including the game but not exclusively the game. Great food (shrimp, collard greens, mac & cheese); wine; and lots of laughs! THANKS BRIAN! First home cooked meal since my Sidra left me. LOL! And on another day, Brian met with me to discuss BLOG/website upgrade. Per his expertise, he pointed out some info that could be the difference for my economic blues. Per some research he did, "A Day in the Life of Riley: Pop Culture & Possibilities" has a little bit of an ad-friendly following. Stay tuned! Y'all keep reading, hear? SMILE!

My best friend Ern's cousin Adolpha (who works for Fantasia's reality show at World of Wonder) invited me to the L.A. screening of Man Shops Globe, the Sundance Channel's new show based on the adventures of a world buyer for Anthropologie. The set was held at the Beverly Hills store. Then, Adolpha took me to Chin Chin for a light post-party meal.

And my father, who was visiting his brother Bobby in Pontiac, Michigan, flew in and out of Detroit’s airport where going home he ran into Ashford & Simpson. And here is the proof. This pic was submitted for inclusion in this blog entry. SMILE! – perfect P.S. to an entry primarily about DIVAS!

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