My line is always: “I sleep in Jersey. I live in the city.” And often, Harlem is the destination within the city. The last few weeks have had me eating, breathing, living, and loving Harlem. It’s such the buyer’s market. Ant and I would love to click our respective heels three times and make the plunge to the place Diana’s Dorothy (from “The Wiz”) calls home. That said, based on our current fiscal snapshot, it’s going to take Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, and a couple of good witches for that to happen this moment... but one sweet day!!!
I’ve already shared with you the excitement and filming-in-progress of BET’s new reality show “Harlem Heights” (www.bet.com/harlemheights) - http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2009/2/2/we-will-find-a-way.html. Well, it has hit the airwaves and Ant and I were invited to the “legendary” Apollo to celebrate this beautiful cast of 20-somethings who remind me a lot of my 20-something-self from the angle of ambition, optimism, over-compensation, oh my!!!! But during this era of reality TV, their every move is being chronicled and placed under a microscope. Like my contemporaries and me, they aren’t doing anything to embarrass themselves. But they are real, imperfect people except for – my opinion – my Spelman sister Bridget Bland who narrates the lion’s share of the first two installments. She explains the inner-workings of the cast which includes my Morehouse brothers Landon Dais and – in a supporting role – Aden Seraile, both of whom I’ve had a chance to meet at some of the prior shoots.
(By the way: A la FACEBOOK and my Spelman sister Robbin, see some of my Morehouse/Spelman best friends from our 10-year reunion at Morehouse/Spelman. Another shot that hit my FACEBOOK shows me with the Morehouse College Glee Club [circa 1990-something]).
I loved the show - the imagery; the message-ing; etc. Most times, I need to get a few episodes of anything new under my belt before I can form a solid opinion. With the first show chronicling something so historic and household (as President Obama’s election), I was concerned that the whole series was all going to read heavy-handedly like 'black college chapel/assembly' – not a negative thing but I was wondering how enrolling such would continue to be for a viewer. (Remember, fellow MOREHOUSE MEN?). But then, the 2nd episode assured that there would be doses of drama and pop culture/social scenes in those hip (arguably less high-brow) ways that we sometimes enjoy (as viewers). Coupled with the intellect and philosophy, VOILA!: It's the perfect mix!!!! Of course, knowing that in reality, things can be so pre-set... I'm anxious to see the cameras disappear and to feel like this cool cast isn't just playing to the cameras. One of the characters Jason and his 8-year-old daughter?SUCH CHEMISTRY! Landon and his civil leader dad? AWESOME MALE BONDING!
My good girlfriend Nina Flowers who heads up communications at The Apollo Theater (www.apollotheater.com/) always makes sure we’re in the house for the right things (By the way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY NINA!!!). And the event was no exception for capturing the hotness that Harlem can be. We saw our good friend Vy Higginsen (www.mamafoundation.org) and her singing daughter Noel (a Harlemite poised for such exposure as “Harlem Heights”). Vy – of “Mama, I Want To Sing” fame (and so much more) - is staging her new Off-Broadway treasure (that’s already received SOLD-OUT success in Japan) “Sing Harlem Sing!” It will run at the Dempsey Theater in Harlem, USA! And it opens Friday, March 27th. For tickets, contact www.smarttix.com. We also ran into Flo Anthony who is always working on something cool in the pop culture/entertainment world (www.floanthonysblacknoir.com) and (www.celebritytoyboxmagazine.com).
You folks have been reading my blog. What about bringing “A DAY IN THE LIFE OF RILEY” to life? I know my demographics are far and wide. You’d watch, right? It could be where reality meets TV talk and the magazine format at the pass.
HBO’s “THE BLACKLIST: VOL. 2”
The Apollo was also the backdrop for “The Blacklist: Volume 2” (www.hbo.com/docs/programs/blacklistv2/synopsis.html). And compliments of my Man of Morehouse nephew Herman Riley’s boss at HBO, Ant and I got a pair of tickets to its premiere. You’ll also recall I had the opportunity to host the premiere of “The Blacklist: Volume 1” in Atlanta at its iconic High Museum back in August (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/8/26/its-good-to-be-black.html).
This all-new special presents more dramatic portraits of some of today’s most fascinating and influential African Americans who share their stories and insights into the struggles, triumphs, and joys of black life in the U.S. Tyler Perry; Maya Rudolph; Charley Pride; Suzanne de Passe; Angela Davis; etc. are featured in this installment. Faye Wattleton (from Volume 1) moderated a Q&A with photographer/filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and award-winning journalist Elvis Mitchell.
In the house: So many but we snatched a moment with Tamara Tunie who we love so much. She’s been ‘producing’ many things – from Broadway hits to TV shows and some animated fare. Stay tuned for all that she touches as most of it turns to gold.
My buddy Gil Robertson IV(www.robertsontreatment.com), who I talk about all the time here in the blog – either for his writings or his clients, has edited another great book titled “FAMILY AFFAIR: What It Means to Be African American Today”. It features essays by actors Isaiah Washington, Ruby Dee, Victoria Rowell, Beverly Johnson, Isaac Hayes, and a wonderful telling (that I helped broker) by my friend Candi Carter who is an award-winning television producer as well as the owner of “It’s Hip Hop Baby” (http://www.itshiphopbaby.com/). It is a children’s educational DVD series that is flying off the shelves for parents who need a little beat and heart to teach their kids the basics.
“INSIDE: BLACK CULTURE” featuring THE STUDIO MUSEUM IN HARLEM
“INSIDE: BLACK CULTURE” (www.bet.com/OnTV/BETJShows/betjaboutinsideblackculture.htm) is the wonderful brainchild of my friend Nathan Hale Williams and his co-executive producer Crystal McCrary Anthony. Ant and I have been spending lots of time with our good girlfriend Charlie T (www.myspace.com/justasweareproject) and (www.charlietphotography.net). She is an extraordinary photographer (responsible for all of the pictures in this section). So many from Harlem and beyond came out to celebrate the show; Studio Museum’s Director and Curator Thelma Golden; and the museum itself – a bird’s eye view of the people we will want in the house when Ant debuts some of his fine art later this year or early next year. Stay tuned. It’s coming along brilliantly. I was elated to see good industry girlfriends Adrienne Lopez (author/producer) and Bevy Smith (fashionista/hostess) as well as mentors Sheila (“SRB Productions” - www.srbproductions.com/) and Rodney Brooks (“USA Today” – www.usatoday.com). Bevy introduced me to the fabulous tyrusrocell townsend (head art lover/blogger) – www.iheartartblog.blogspot.com. Charlie T’s partner Danielle was also in the house (By the way, Charlie and Danielle threw a fab Oscar party with Ant and me in mind. However, I was called away on some business in – gasp! – Rochester, NY and had to experience my Oscars from an airport Holiday Inn during a blizzard. As this pic shows, Ant and the girls had the better time. SMILE! Ant predicted the most wins and walked away with a statue of his own.). Too, I got to see my dear friend and mentor/ ABC 7 weekend anchor Sandra Bookman and reporter Kimberly Richardson – both of whom do stellar work (www.abclocal.go.com/wabc/index). And author and political analyst Keli Goff (www.keligoff.com) with whom I’ve had the chance to wax political on BET’s “The Truth With Jeff Johnson” looked better than ever (http://22.214.171.124/PRiley/TheTruth.wmv).
A highlight was running into Miss Veronica Webb (www.veronicawebbisode.com/) who I had the chance to book on “Good Day Atlanta” (www.myfoxatlanta.com/subindex/entertainment/good_day) when she went on a media tour to announce her historic contract with REVLON (www.revlon.com). She was the first African American model to get such. She’s gone on to do so many things on and off the runway – with her looks and her brain – at work. I continue to admire her.
And as all roads lead to Morehouse, I got reacquainted with a Morehouse brother with whom I actually attended college. Michael James and his lovely wife Keisha Sutton-James were in the house. Since we hadn’t seen each other – face-to-face – since the 90s, there were many things to catch up on. His big update is he’s launched a men’s grooming line Frederick Benjamin grooming (www.frederickbenjamin.com/). CONGRATS MICHAEL!
“FREDERICK BENJAMIN” “N”
So, it makes total sense that my favorite boutique “N” (www.nharlemnewyork.com) would host my Morehouse brother Michael’s launch party and special products of shampoo, moisturizer, and hydrator. In addition to seeing my favorite Harlemites – owners Lenn and Nikoa; my main stylist friend Jamar; and Michael, I have the chance to show you all of what went down via the pictures of my Spelman sister Kendal Whitlock (www.imagesandtales.com). Thank you, Kendal!!! We got complimentary line-ups – another treat that I’ve eliminated from the budget of late. And mojito’s were the drink of the day. My "N"... a spa day with some fab product... and my Harlem! What day! What a day!
“INKED BABY” – COME SEE IT WITH ANT & ME ON SUNDAY, MARCH 29TH OR WHENEVER YOU CAN!!!!
I mentioned my good girlfriend LaChanze is starring in a new play at Playwrights Horizons (www.playwrightshorizons.org). My sweet Marcia Pendelton invited us all out for an “INKED BABY” Open House in which the cast read from excerpt for the awesome play written by Christina Anderson. This piece also features a stellar cast. The drama in excerpt had us all wanting more and on the edge of our seats – so I can’t wait to see this complete production in its full splendor. Like “LOVE PROJECT”, Ant and I want to take as many people with us as possible. For $50 tickets on any night, go to www.playwrightshorizons.org or call Ticket Central at 212/279-4200 (noon – 8pm DAILY). But if you’d like to join Ant and me, we are looking to get a BIG GROUP together to attend on Sunday, March 29, 2009 --- for just $30-a-head. Here’s how it works:
1. Commit to attend the Sunday, March 29th /7:30 pm “INKED BABY” starring Tony-award-winning LACHANZE at Playwrights Horizons (416 West 42nd Street close to 9th Avenue)
2. By Tuesday, March 24th: Make $30 check (per person) payable to:
WALK TALL GIRL PRODUCTIONS
NEW YORK, NY 10018
Phone: 646-467-7393 or 917-334-6492
MEMO: 3/29 INKED BABY w/PAT & ANT
3. After you do that, PLEASE let me know that you will be joining us via email@example.com
4. On Sunday, March 29th, let’s meet at 6:30 pm – so I can personally ensure your tickets get to you. Showtime is 7:30 pm. It’s about 90 minutes – so will wrap about 9:00 pm. And I’m going to check with my friend LACHANZE to see if she is available to join us across the street for a quick cocktail at: THE WEST BANK CAFÉ
407 W. 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
My buddy Ra-Fael Blanco (www.2RSENTANDMEDIA.COM) represents so many great clients that I love to blog about all the time – from BLEU Magazine to its publisher/Harlem’s own Devon Christopher (who too co-owns Harlem’s new “Atomic Wings”); and Dawn from Danity Kane... it’s no wonder singer Chester Gregory (www.chestergregory.com) has signed on with this man to help publicize his debut album "IN SEARCH OF HIGH LOVE", available on March 31st. I’ve enjoyed his work on and off Broadway for years and am happy to see his talents contained inside of a CD lasering – so you can all experience him. Here’s a sneak-peek: The lead singe is the classic remake of "I Only Have Eyes 4 U", by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.
***Download "I ONLY HAVE EYES 4U"- http://www.zshare.net/audio/557184312fa21965/
***Download "SEARCH IN"
2R's Artist Page - http://www.2rsentandmedia.com/artists/chester2/chester.html
Meanwhile, check out the new BLUE Magazine (www.bleumag.com). It features my buddy Jensen Atwood of “Noah’s Arc” fame on the cover. Another friend Demarco Majors who has recently asked me if we might not consider working on a project as we all aim to maximize our talents and reach. Demarco, who I have been bumping into socially for a couple of years now, is always so gracious and always working on his next level. He can currently be seen on LOGO (www.logoonline.com/shows/dyn/shirts_and_skins/series.jhtml) via his series “Shirts and Skins” – a reality show that looks at gay basketball team the “Rock Dogs”. CONGRATS!
Speaking of DOGS (the real kind):
My friend Pierre hipped me to his friend Amber who has an intriguing line of luxury pet-wares that you can check out and buy via www.kaneandcouture.com
By the way, another friend Dewayne Snype just hipped me to the sounds of Karen Bernod (www.karenbernod.com). She’s been around for a minute. But check her out as she’s quite a talent. He sent me two of her CDs “life @ 360 degrees” (www.lifeat360degrees.com) and “Some othaness for you” (www.Nativelycreative.com). DON’T SLEEP!
MY MOMENTUM COMMUNITY AT WORK – IN THE WORLD!
- Like the aforementioned Marcia Pendelton, my good friend Renee and I had the privilege of doing Momentum Education (www.momentumeducation.com). Renee hipped me to an awesome tome that held my hand and heart while on a uber-turbulent prop plane that was flying me way off my path (so I could earn a little penny). It’s titled “Thank God I...: Stories of Inspiration for Every Situation”. It was created by John Castagnini (www.johncastagnini.com/). As self-help and spirituality are among my favorite genres of books to read, imagine my excitement to pick up this one. It challenges us to transform our human experience by being grateful for the bad things that happen to us towards breaking through into our power and resilience. Visit the online community at www.ThankGodI.com
- Another two Momentum buddies are doing great things... and another is simply BEING THE DIFFERENCE. My friend Nikki Johnson is an Executive Assistant, Company Manager, Touring, Travel & Logistics Manager, Stage & Production Management, Festival & Special Event Management (http://www.myspace.com/miapicha). She’s pursuing her passion and dream of being a personal/executive assistant to a high profile individual (talent, celebrity, musician, actor, executive, agent, etc.). I want to hire her now but it’s not in the budget. Still, I want to share her with anyone out there who has this need. Having a great assistant is key when you’re managing many things. Nikki’s motto is "to clear the path for the artist to do their work." She is clear this is her calling and has been preparing for this moment. So, see her myspace website above and/or find her on FACEBOOK... and tell Nikki “Patrick sent you!”. HERE’S TO INFINITE POSSIBILITIES!
- One of my coaches when I started the MOMENTUM work was HAZELLE GOODMAN – comic actress and first African American woman to be cast in a Woody Allen flick. She’s currently off-Broadway in a critically-acclaimed piece “Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell” (www.broadway.com/Spalding-Gray-Stories-Left-to-Tell-Off-Broadway/broadway_show/543520). Also, Hazelle is starring in her one woman show "It's a New Day: Hazelle's Back!" at Joe's Pub on Friday, March 13th at 8:00 pm (www.joespub.com). She’s always a treat to see – so check her out!
- My good girlfriend Camille Morrison (who I write about all the time. She’s in Beijing, China now) hipped me to her good girlfriend Julie Rainbow who has been documenting stories of African American elders. She points out that rarely do we see tenderness and/or affection shared in the media about our African American elders and she seeks to share these unheralded stories. Take a look at an excerpt from her work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYAOG4Z29NI Thanks for sharing, Julie! CONGRATULATIONS!
- It’s no secret that these times have been challenging financially for me. As a result, my spirits are down too. I CHOOSE to get up everyday and see what difference I can be to turn it around... and I am BLESSED to be seeing the benefits of getting up and CREATING MY NEW DAY! That said, sometimes I just need a little help – a little budge, someone or something to scoot me along into my day’s purpose or into the fire (depending on the day). My other coach from Momentum was a lovely man named Curtis. And even in these many months since taking the various courses, I still stay in touch with Curtis. We don’t talk a lot but through the airwaves of LOVE, he continues to get me. One day, after agreeing to do a gig I couldn’t quite afford to take (as funds were that low), I checked the mail. In it was a check from Curtis with whom I’ve never spoken so specifically about my money woes. But he read between the lines (and sometimes on the lines via the blog) and responded – quite simply because he could. To him, it may not have seemed like a lot. But it allowed me to step forward into the day’s purpose (which was some work on which I could now do my best job without the worry of transportation, food, room, and board). Without questioning WHY or going to the place that has been difficult because I’m not used to being in actual NEED, I simply accepted it and continue to be SO GRATEFUL for it! CURTIS, you are SIMPLY THE BEST! And same for my MARIO, AUDREY, and all the others whose PRAYERS and kind gestures continue to SHOW UP and OUT!
WE ARE A FAMILY
- My cousin Floyd (in Atlanta) is poised to graduate college later this year and has taken on an internship with a local TV show “A Sound Voice Live” featuring "The Sweethearts of the Industry" James and Regina Howard. On his first day, they were interviewing “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Deshawn Snow (www.deshawnsnowfoundation.org/). As I always mentor Floyd and my nephew Noot on the importance of networking, imagine my pride as Floyd secured contacts from Mrs. Snow’s foundation (knowing that I’m a big fan of the show and disappointed that she won’t be back next season). Her folks even reached out to me amidst several rounds of telephone tag, but I’m hoping to hear from them soon – so I can share what she’s up to with her foundation, etc. Meanwhile, I hear that the new season of "Real Housewives of Atlanta" has begun filming. And I also hear that Dwight is coming back - in fierce effect. Can't wait to see. Meanwhile, Floyd also introduced me to his bosses who tell me they think Floyd has a great future ahead in this industry. Their radio show is airing on www.ensoundradio.com Mon-Fri from 5pm-7pm. And in Atlanta, you can tune in to BBG Network daily to "A Sound Voice". You can log onto www.bbgnetwork.com, click on listen live at the bottom of the page in the lower right corner OR Log onto www.loudcity.com, type in bbgnetwork in the find box, then click tune in OR Log onto www.now-streaming.com and click the gospel box and choose your media player for your computer OR log onto www.live365.com and type in "BBG Network" in the "Find stations that play box", click the yellow play box and you will hear the audio OR Log onto www.lifestream.tv, click on the green radio tab and then click on Bridgers Broadcasting Gospel Network OR log onto www.itunes.com, in order to hear the show here you have to have itunes media player. So, make sure you download itunes. Click on the radio tab, then religious, when the drop box comes down click on BBGNetwork OR log onto www.audiorealm.com, in the search box type bbg network and click on the speaker to listen OR log onto www.flytunes.com and search for gospel and bbg network. And for the television show "A Sound Voice Live!" airs as a special on People TV (Comcast Cable 24) or log on to www.peopletv.org. Meanwhile, go to www.youtube.com and www.godtube.com and see special segments from the show. It is GREAT TO HAVE OPTIONS! GOD BLESS YOU, JAMES AND REGINA! I’M PROUD OF YOU, FLOYD!
And of course, we didn't just hit Harlem this week. We went to Williamsburgh where Ant's best friend Manivone hosted us at The Velvet Lounge (www.velvetbrooklyn.com/). Ant's other high school buddies Paul and Dustin were there. Ern came. And we just enjoyed a lovely night of old friends connecting with old friends. Too, it was great to spend time with Ant and his peeps who are lots of fun and have so much love for him. It was what we have to remind ourselves to have on the ordinary days - a simple CELEBRATION OF LIFE at the changing of the season and the promise of ABUNDANCE! "... when [IT'LL] change... nobody knows..." BUT WE MUST STAY ENCOURAGED and OPTIMISTIC! And we do!
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