* Song titles from Melinda Doolittle's CD 


It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to take this time to underscore the ‘pop culture’ and ‘possibilities’ in my days, one of my joys. Not because my cup isn’t running over with things to ‘report’ and ‘optimism’ to boot. From Obama to The Super Bowl, there’s a lot of great stuff going on. But right now, it’s tough for me. Work is drying up. Bills are piling up. Depression has kicked in. And sometimes I feel there’s nowhere to turn because so many are experiencing the same despair. I suppose that should help (in a small way) that I am not alone in this recession that has taken hold of many in epidemic numbers. But it doesn’t. Not always at least.


But I TRUST IT TO PASS. So, I’ll aim to stay focused without the interruption of collectors calling incessantly on auto-dial (for me to say the same thing to them today that I said to them yesterday. NO MONEY RIGHT NOW but working on it!!!!). And I’ll attempt to catch you up – knowing that the many breakdowns that are popping off quite regularly these days will eventually lead to a BREAKTHROUGH. This marks as a TESTIMONY!!!! And a PRAYER!




Remember “American Idol” finalist Melinda Doolittle whose Season 6 run took her near the top slot of the popular TV show and allowed her to be coached by ‘my American Idol’ Diana Ross? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ2uN5yBqes Well, I got the chance to sit down with her one-on-one at the posh London NYC Hotel (www.thelondonnyc.com/).


Of course, I had to ask her about Diana:

PATRICK: You gave [Diana Ross] “goose bumps”?

MELINDA: I was in a sheer panic because it’s hard when you’re sitting this close to someone [measuring our close distance sitting next to each other] and singing their song to them. And “The Wiz” is my favorite musical – hands down. So, for me, I was like – to do “Home” and do it in front of her. And she was just there with all of her hair. Beautiful! Motherly! Sweet! And she gave me a lot of great insight. But I was scared out of my mind.

PATRICK: You must have been scared as she sort of approached you on the night that she performed [“MORE TODAY THAN YESTERDAY” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzX71lRZp9w]?

MELINDA: I was like “Thank God it was on the chorus because that’s all I could think of were the words for just that!” She’s walking over to me with her glorious dress. Just AWESOME!


Through the ‘boot camp’ of Simon, Randy, Paula, and Diana, Melinda – a well-known background singer for the likes of BeBe & CeCe Winans – is now ready to step into the spotlight with the release of her new solo CD “Coming Back to You” (www.myspace.com/melindadoolittle), out February 3. And it is her turn! Featuring Grammy-nominated producer Mike Mangini at the boards, she follows in the footsteps of Mike’s other clients Joss Stone, Run DMC, and The Jonas Brothers. But her style is all her own (if not that of every soul great that came before her). Recorded with a team of live musicians in Nashville and New York City, Melinda knocks out 13 songs that offer you a ride through blues clubs of Louisiana to the churches of Mississippi to the piano bars of New York City and beyond. CONGRATS, MELINDA! Thanks for giving Ant and me the chance to come by and hang with you for a little bit. I will continue to chronicle your rise to the top!




My industry friend Aliza Rabinoff with Dan Klores Communications (www.dkcnews.com/) hooked me up with Melinda. Too, in the wake of our excitement around Obama’s being sworn in as our 44th President of the United States, she invited Ern, Ant, Manivone, and me out to celebrate. The evening was scored by the sounds of Latin, Afro-Brazilian and funk grooves at Bembe (www.bembe.us) courtesy of Barcelona’s DJ Turmix!

(www.myspace.com/djturmix). Since my desire to be in DC didn’t pan out, Ern, Ant, and I still celebrated at home (and we did enjoy hearing Howard University’s band perform Diana Ross’ “The Boss” for Mr. President and The First Lady - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNA6mweMUFQ... but we just wanted to get out and dance... and fellowship with our fellow Americans. And that we did which required a quick schlep from Jersey to Williamsburgh, Brooklyn. But also we met some great folks – most notably Miss Deb Goldstein, T-shirt designer whose business Miss Wit Designs, LLC - Tees For Good Times and its inventory should also be celebrated (www.misswit.net) and (http://misswiticisms.blogspot.com/). Deb was so much fun... and quite generous in buying us a couple of rounds, which goes a long way during these lean times. THANKS DEB (not pictured in one of her T-shirts above, but next to me in the group pictures above)! I look forward to hanging out with you very soon! Ant, Ern, and I continued getting our dance on at a Harlem set to which we were invited by our friend George (and Jamar worked with this party as well). The party is called "BLOOM" and this was an inaugural dance party featuring many of Harlem's brightest. Its mission is to celebrate the art and self-expression of the new post-modern tribe of the African Diaspora, their friends, and lovers. The party is produced by Supa'wine Productions Olubode Shawn Brown. One of Ern's and my favorites is Mariah Carey (circa early-90s). So, imagine our pleasure to pose with her duet partner and career-long background singer Trey Lorenz who you must know from his own solo project from the '90s and his collaboration on the #1 remake "I'll Be There" with Mrs. Canon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBCjx0pogY0).




Look out “Real Housewives of Atlanta”!!! There’s a new reality show cast of 20-something Harlemites who are all on the road to actually creating their wealth and letting the world now how the FAB do it. I attended one of its tapings as this particular scene required a loft space full of grown and sexy tastemakers, celebrity notables, and fabulous fashionistas. It was my Spelman sister/'Harlem Heights' cast member Bridget Bland’s cousin Briana Bingham – also a cast member – debuting her luxury handbag line in Manhattan at Westside Loft (www.loft11.com/). Look out for her bags! Good look! Two of the cast members Landon C. Dais (www.UptownDems.org) and Aden Seraile are my young Morehouse brothers. And we met some other AUC alums while there – from the halls of Clark Atlanta University; Morehouse; and Spelman.  Ern, and our girlfriend Cy (http://www.vivedesignhaus.com/) joined Ant and me. We enjoyed seeing my good friends Karu Daniels, entertainment producer for AOL/Black Voices:

(OFFICIAL URL: http://blackvoices.aol.com/black_entertainment)

(OFFICIAL BLOG: http://www.blackvoicesblogs.com/category/entertainment-newswire).

Also, Kevin-Anthony of “Black 2 Broadway” fame was in the house (www.b2productions.xbuild.com) and (www.myspace.com/b2bookings). It was also good to see Ra-Fael Blanco (www.myspace.com/2rsentertainmentandmedia) and (www.2RSENTANDMEDIA.com). His clients include Devon Christopher and Devon's publication BLEU Magazine (www.thebleumag.com/) which features a Diana-inspired “Mahogany” layout in its most recent issue. Ra-Fael also represents Danity Kane’s Dawn Richards. She was such a treat. So sweet! Dawn recently launched the first edition of her own comic book line, DANITY KANE Comics, which can be found at http://www.danitykanecomics.com/. This is cool as Ant is incorporating cartoon animation into an art project on which he's currently working. Stay tuned. Editions 2 and 3 will be released in the coming months and will be accompanied by an Original Music Soundtrack. Dawn is also in middle of shooting Season 5 of MTV's Making The Band, which will begin airing February 12 (www.mtv.com). Also, I got to introduce Cy to my girl Marcia Cole who now heads up her own cyber-mag Amber Magazine (www.ambermag.com). For more on “Harlem Heights”, check out http://www.bet.com/onblast/default.html?chan=3&id=2630&i=0&sub=&itype=e . And also check out “Baldwin Hills” (www.bet.com/OnTV/BETShows/baldwinhills/default.htm). Miss Sheryl Lee Ralph and her son Etienne take their reality chemistry beyond last year’s MTV's "My Super Sweet Sixteen" and shine on BET's new season of “Baldwin Hills”. CONGRATS! One more thing – since Morehouse came up in this section. My friend and a Morehouse brother Ken’s mother Gwen sent me this link: http://delasso.googlepages.com/kennedycenterhonors-moorhousecollegeglee

WOW! Talk about a blast from the past. I have mentioned my appearance on Kennedy Center Honors with my fellow Morehouse brethren as we honored Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Conductor and Composer Robert Shaw but I only had it on VHS and hadn’t seen it in many, many years (It was taped in December 1991). Well, now there’s proof. It’s a holiday special I always looked forward to seeing (even as a child)... and clearly some years carry extra weight than others (i.e. Diana Ross being honored in 2007). But for me to be chosen by the producers my senior year to speak on behalf of my beloved Morehouse College Glee Club was truly a highlight... and still (after all these years). What a look BACK TO MY FUTURE!!!! Gwen asked “WERE YOU EVER THIS YOUNG?” I replied: “I am STILL 'THAT' YOUNG - boasting a 29" waist from high school... black not cracking... still have my hair (though a chosen bald do)... and I am ever-connected to my inner child.” LOL!




Remember I mentioned how my girl Marcia Pendelton (www.walktallgirlproductions.com) was working on ticket sales for a great stage piece “The Love Project” with Rhodessa Jones and Idris Ackamoor. Well, Ant and I invited Tata, Jules (www.julespainting.com), my Itika (in town from Chicago), and her buddy Myiesha to join us. We had a GREAT TIME... and for all of those within the sight of these words: GO SEE THE SHOW THIS THURSDAY, FRIDAY, SATURDAY, and/or SUNDAY! IT IS A TREAT (WE ARE LIKELY TO GO BACK! LET'S ALL HOOK UP AND GO TOGETHER!!!!! It’s an organic, interactive piece that is SO MUCH FUN. It is considered part house party, part TV talk show, and part cabaret that testifies to the network of human relations that define our time. Take a look: http://www.culturalodyssey.org/v2/season/loveproject/video.php. But more than that, know that you will have a GREAT TIME! As the interactive piece of it goes, I even got to participate in several parts of it. (It also reminded us a bit of our favorite Broadway musical from 2008 “Passing Strange” which Spike Lee adapted into a film which received critical raves at The Sundance Film Festival

(www.festival.sundance.org/2009/film_events/films/passing_strange). Ant, Noot (my nephew), others and I attended one of the filmings last July.



Speaking of LOVE, remember the duo Karmina I told you about last April (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/5/2/just-like-little-children-know-how-they-have-fun.html)? Well, the sexy duo reached out to me with some news (www.karmina.com/). Kelly & Kamille have a new blog, "Forbidden Love Stories," that relates to their song that we talked about that night "The Kiss". "The Kiss" was influenced by both the painting "The Kiss" (Gustav Klimt) and Romeo and Juliet? In the song's bridge, the girls intertwine some of their lyrics with 'Will's' prose: "palm to palm let lips do what hands do, they pray. Is it a sin to do what we want to? Don't care where we've been, give me my sin again..." After they met Anthony and me, they wished they’d met us just a couple of weeks prior as they would have loved us to ‘kiss’ in their video. The music video includes footage of real-life couples who have had to overcome similar Forbidden Love situations, involving bigotry, the judgment of their friends and family and the pressures of society, just to be together and express their love for each other. The blog site features interviews with these couples, including two gay couples, as they relate their Forbidden Love Stories and the incredible challenges they have faced in order to be together. You can watch the video at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sl4uhCR-GHc

As for the new blog, "Forbidden Love Stories": please do take a look: http://www.IWishtheWorldCouldHear.com This is a blog/forum where people can both read others' stories and share their own personal stories of Forbidden Love. For example, one person recently told her story on this blog and used it as a plea to her parents to accept her new wife into the family and understand and support their love, and her story. Kelly & Kamille wrote "The Kiss" and did the music video well before California's Prop 8 came along, but the message coincides perfectly with the fight against the bigotry of Prop 8 and other similar initiatives. The images of the various couples in their music video as they reach out to each other and kiss, poignantly speaks to these current issues and touches people's hearts. In fact, they’ve been asked to put together an event, along with the local L.A. City Council office and some other major Hollywood players, including Jack Black (OMG--did you see him on "The Office"--that relationship with Cloris Leachman would qualify as Forbidden Love!! - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNqSpFiBNEU). The purpose of the event is to continue to raise awareness in support of gay marriage, and they will feature some of their blog couples' Forbidden Love Stories. Their hope is for the blog to continue to grow as a very important and special forum for sharing, communicating, education and awareness on the challenges of Forbidden Love, resulting in more tolerance, love and support among all involved. (“NOAH’S ARC: JUMPING THE BROOM” is out on DVD this week. If you missed it in the theaters, it’s a good for the DVD player: www.logoonline.com/shows/dyn/noahs_arc_jumping_broom/series.jhtml).



After the matinee of “The Love Project”, Ant, Tata, Jules, and I hung out in the East Village (near La Mama: Theatre of the World where the show took place – www.lamama.org). We enjoyed a quick snack at Pommes Frites authentic Belgian fries (www.pommesfrites.ws) before heading up to our good girlfriend Charlie T (www.myspace.com/justasweareproject) and (www.charlietphotography.net) and her partner Danielle’s place for a Super Bowl party!


Beyond Miss Ross’ half-time show in 1996 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0LTe3zEXiU) when she hailed a helicopter for her exit... and way back when she set the tone for diva national anthems in 1982, I usually have little interest in The Super Bowl.

But where there is a party, food, cool commercials, and – Kleenex in hand – Jennifer Hudson performing in public for the first time since her horrible family tragedy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dc8W9jJSpIs), I can stay entertained.

And this year, I have to say ‘the game’ was a treat!

My “Steelers” won – an admiration I carry from their unstoppable reign in the ‘70s (I even had ‘Steelers’/NFL sheets on my twin bed as a child).

From James Harrison’s interception and history-making touchdown (after a record-breaking, 100-yard run to get there - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoxSFBHbA80) to 36-year-old Mike Tomlin becoming the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl title (and first African American coach for the Steelers).

We met some fab folks – including Peggy Dodson (www.urbanbroadcasting.com); Brenda; and Ellie Miss Thing.

After years of misery - trying to watch sports with my all-knowing father and brother, I never found it enjoyable as they were so advanced in their approach to the game, a simply query from me couldn't get answered nicely. So, I'd act like I knew what I was watching. 

Ant, Jules, and I were the only men in the room last night but "all the ladies" (mainly my Tata) knew more about the game and the teams than we did.

Fortunately, they were very good to answer my questions without judgement, even though I think they could give my dad and big bro a run for their money in the stats comprehension department. WHEW!!!! And in addition to eating hearty and sipping socially, we also judged commercials with our planners' very thoughtful score sheets. My favorite commercial: E-TRADE BABIES (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yhfl4mFH1No).




Remember I told you about being featured in a photo shoot for OUT Magazine with Sandra Lee (www.semihomemademag.com)? Well, the issue is not out yet (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/8/15/butterflies-begin-from-having-been-another.html). But Ms. Lee invited Ant, Cy, and me to the launch party for her first-ever magazine “Sandra lee Semi-Homemade” which will include recipes on desserts, cocktails, and crafts. The rooftop party took place at the Empire Hotel (www.empirehotelnyc.com/). We had a lovely time. CONGRATS MISS SANDRA LEE! I even ran into Vince Rubino, the Executive Producer of “Million Dollar Password” (www.cbs.com/primetime/million_dollar_password/) which you know I competed on last year. Ant, Cy, and I went to several things over these couple of days – including RUSH ARTS GALLERY’s Danny Simmons-hosted party which unveiled the NKIRU 44TH PRESIDENTIAL COLLECTION. It’s an exclusive collection of 44 custom luxury timepieces inspired by the historical election and campaign for change of President Barack Obama. Nkiru timepieces are crafted utilizing the highest standards in watch making and finest materials including meteorite, Damascus steel, 18K rose, red, yellow, white gold, platinum, and diamonds by request. A portion of proceeds of the sale of the Nkiru 44th Presidential Collection will be donated to Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation (www.rushphilanthropic.org/), a New York based foundation founded by Danny Simmons with brothers Russell and Joseph 'Rev. Run' Simmons (www.nkiruwatches.com/).    Ant's best friend and artistic soulmate from Denver, Manivone, joined us. And I ran into my Savannah homeboy and Morehouse brother Jeh.




Scheduling and budget didn’t allow Ant and me yet to honor our Jason Johnson’s birthday during the window in which his partner had designed the festivities (and we look forward to celebrating both of our birthdays someday soon or when we all get together in April for Ant and Marqice’s respective birthdays). But there were many other birthday celebrations that we were able to make the fabulous set that Ted Gibson (www.tedgibsonsalon.com) threw for his partner at the National Arts Club (www.nationalartsclub.org/). This well-appointed, elegant set included a roast, floating appetizers, delicious cocktails, and an intimate room of Ted and Jason’s closest friends and family – including Jason’s mother who came in from Minnesota and Jason’s fellow-“Up With People” castmates from back in the day. The whole program had a "JASON! THIS IS YOUR LIFE"-appeal! Our good girlfriend Dr. Shirley Madhere was in the house and is always a blast to hang around (www.drshirleymadhere.com/). We also met some new people including Neil Cohen who serenaded Jason (www.myspace.com/neilcohensings). And Jose and Rick who are great hair stylists and business owners in the city. Jose provided the lion’s share of these pictures. Another birthday: My Savannah homeboy and one of my best friends Maurice Marable was the guest of honor at a Surprise 40th birthday set at 60 Thom (www.60thompson.com/). Always good to see him, but even more exciting to see some of our New York City transplants by way of Savannah like Joicelyn and Rae. It had been many years since I’ve seen Rae. Though different high schools, we hung out in some of the same circles. Also, it had been a minute since I’d seen Butch Robinson, super-producer with Drop Squad Productions. We met many years ago when he and his colleagues came to Atlanta in 1993 to shoot “Drop Squad” with Spike Lee. That’s how Maurice met him and that meeting would lead Maurice to New York City. I would soon follow suit in 1995. Our girl Karen made all of this happen.  Then, our boy Jamar had a birthday celebration. It took place at one of our haunts “SECRET”. And it was great to celebrate him. But also it was Miss Natasha's bday. And so many other friends were in the room that I hadn’t seen socially in a minute: i.e. Christian; Kevin; Frankie; Shawn; Nectarios; Hal, etc.   (Folks aren’t hanging out as much with less disposable to boot). I was even able to enroll my ‘Amazing Grace’ Nichole into joining us. She brought two of her Dallas friends – including lifelong friend Nanette. And my Itika was in town and popped by with her girls. Always good to see her. And good for Ant and me to be out joyfully - outward focused to our inward problems (Did I tell you our hot water tank went on the blink and we had to replace it? Imagine the temps of late and no hot water - for just a day. Needless to say, it wasn't in the budget... but I digress... ) "Outward focus!" HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO EVERYBODY... and my "Original Amazing Grace" Natalie. STAY FOREVER YOUNG!

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