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"WELCOME TO THE COMFORT ZONE..."

"WHERE DO YOU GO WHEN YOU NEED TO BE LOVED LIKE I NEED TO BE LOVED?..."

Time flies when you’re having fun and – in my case – when you’re enjoying life with the one you love. Ant and I have made the most of my time here at home. But now, I’ve got to get back on the road. I’m heading to L.A. for a couple of weeks followed by another month in Atlanta. Then, I return to L.A. for a month. As an independent producer/personality/writer in a recession, it’s good to have booked work when many of my clients have cutback and/or are on summer hiatus. Also, it’s good that this work will be seen by the world come Fall (at which time I will talk a bit more about it). Of course, I'll be missing Ant in the meantime. But duty calls...

 

"...I'LL LET YOU KNOW JUST WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO GO. WELCOME TO THE COMFORT ZONE WHEN YOU NEED TO BE LOVED LIKE YOU NEED TO BE LOVED..."

 

Miss Ross was in town. Tony-Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, my diva joined Covenant House President Kevin Ryan on stage in New York City to offer her support after homeless youth being helped by Covenant House (www.covenanthouse.org) performed the show-stopping song “One Day at a Time”. The benefit raised funds to provide food, shelter, clothing, educational opportunities, job training and counseling for homeless teens. Ms. Ross called Covenant House a builder of bridges and a place of shelter and hope for children in need. Kevin Ryan noted that Miss Ross has spent time with these kids on more than one occasion. On this night, she gave $75,000: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoqWwj6BRqo.

 

"... WELCOME TO THE COMFORT ZONE. DO WHATEVER FEELS RIGHT AND TURNS YOU ON..."

 

 

As Diana extended herself to the children, Miss Vanessa Williams (who recently serenaded “Touch Me In The Morning” to Miss Ross at The Kennedy Center Honors) shared her talents intimately and boldly at a special listening party for her new album “The Real Thing” (out this week).

 

LIFEBEAT (www.LIFEbeat.org) - the music industry’s leader in fighting AIDS - and new-managing editor of www.ESSENCE.COM Emil Wilbekin hosted the event. The Greenhouse (www.greenhouseusa.com) was the backdrop. Makeup artist extraordinaire Sam Fine (www.samfine.com), who has a new DVD coming out, and stylist Deb Medeiros made it possible for Ant, Ern, and me to attend. Miss Williams looks stunning - every bit 25 and was in great voice as she performed the sultry, sexy music of her new project “The Real Thing” (www.VanessaWilliams.com) and (www.ConcordMusicGroup.com

).

Before her brief set was up (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W-4z6-_2vA) and (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbIFbRChCJM), however, she dusted off two of her “Comfort Zone” ditties: “Work to Do” and “Comfort Zone”. Also check out her new videos: “Breathless” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GRfVneyvc0; “Just Friends” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsf-bjSZCXs; and “Close to You” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY-GxDRfivA. HOT!

And we were in good company, including several of Vanessa's "Ugly Betty" stars including the father played by Tony Plana. He shared with us the news that 'our favorite show' is going to be on Friday at 9pm next season - so make sure you follow it (www.abc.go.com/primetime/uglybetty/index).

 

 "... AFTER A HARD DAY AT WORK, THERE'S ONE THING TO BE CERTAIN OF..."

The last couple of weeks have been chockfull of fun:

While Ant’s frat brother Chris was in town, we did a lot. We hung out with my Morehouse brother Michael Bryant who was hosting Shahid and Eugene – friends of his from South Africa. I’d met Shahid in 2004 and we had a great time – from restaurants to clubs. He wanted an encore presentation. However, we had to settle on some cocktails at legendary Lenox Lounge. Afterwards, we went to a couple of spots in the Village including “Urge” which is next to DTOX where my friend Randall is now giving a Sunday night set “Relapse”.

The next night, Chris had to hook up with some friends. Ant and I decided to go by the Port Authority bowling alley for a drink before hooking up with our friend Carl to go to Mara Schiavocampo’s buddy David Fuente’s rooftop apartment for a lovely night of champagne and the stars. Afterwards, Carl, Ant, and I went to The Secret for its Saturday night party. After that, we went to No Parking before calling it a night. Always bumping into folks there.

On another night, Chris, Ant, Carl, and I went to see “RAW: No More Secrets, No More Lies”. Though we were there to see my buddy Demarco Majors, he was out of town. Still, we enjoyed the show comprised of ‘full frontal nudity’. Actors’ Playhouse (www.nyactorsplayhouse.com) – now co-owned by Lawrence Page – is now opening its doors to cutting edge theatrical fare like “RAW”. I got the chance to pose with Mr. Page and some of the cast. Afterwards, Ant, Chris, and I went to a White Party thrown at HK Lounge (www.hkhellskitchen.com) by Khary and Ray (www.myspace.com/nightlifenyc). My Chicago Carl’s good friend Pierre (and others) were in town from Chicago and I got to introduce them to my friends Seitu and Toyce. We all had a great time.

"... THIS OL' FAMILIAR LOVE. IT'S NOT UNUSUAL TO FIND THAT IT'S SENSUAL..."

 

On Sunday night, Ant continued his new tradition of bartending at Velvet Cigar Lounge in Williamsburgh alongside promoting a MUSE. PRINCE was the artist of the night, compliments of D.J. Stereotype.

My favorite Director of Photographer James Curry (www.mindfilemultimedia.com/) came by as did my Morehouse brother Michael Bryant.

http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2009/5/19/the-one-thing-missing-was-you.html). I was excited that my Nichole and dear friend Dawn came. Gail and Jamar (recent Fashion Institute grad) – formerly of “N” – were in the house. Gail DJs and is an artist, you may recall (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/5/2/just-like-little-children-know-how-they-have-fun.html).


And burlesque dancer Black Betty popped by. She may be doing some sets at Velvet down the line. Lots of our friends came out on this night. The following week, his MUSE STEVIE WONDER knocked everybody’s socks off. And the crowd built to a vibrant roar by STEVIE’s week. New friend Tetiana Anderson (my co-host from “Drums Along The Hudson”) came out.

On Memorial Day, Ant and I spent time with our favorite couple Mara and Tommy for comfort food and good TV (Plus, we played with their babies - two dogs and a cat). It's also been great to just casually hang out and bump into friends - like Mario and Melvin. They are both always so supportive and uplifting. As we each sometimes go through our challenges, the others are always there to support in whatever way they can. I love having my friends around and in my life - like family. Comforting. While having a bite at Dallas BBQ one day, I stumbled into Manivone and Chris. Also, my good friend Earline Franklin was in town. You'll recall, Earline made it possible for me to be a part of her sister-in-law Aretha's birthday festivities (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2009/3/26/people-say-im-the-life-of-the-party.html). When in town, she stays at the Trump on Central Park West. We enjoyed a light meal at Houston's (www.hillstone.com). The rest of the week wasn’t as relaxing, though often we were enjoying the theater. By the way, since announcing that my friend LaChanze is doing “THE WIZ” (as Glenda the Good Witch) - http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2009/4/11/just-like-a-circus.html, my Carl Nelson ‘s buddy Tichina Arnold has been announced as Evillene. And singer Ashanti has been announced as Dorothy. I hope I get to steal a moment to see it (www.citycenter.org/). Not exactly Broadway, but Ant and I wanted to be sure to support our friend Reggie Barnes in the play “Eulogy For The Blackman” – described as a wild and farcical adventure about “negative” black men and the community that wants to disown and eliminate them. Jamal Williams wrote the play and Michele Baldwin directed it. CONGRATS, REGGIE! GREAT JOB!

I didn’t get a chance to see it but I stumbled into “Lackawanna Blues” writer and director Ruben Santiago Hudson whose current play “Things Of Dry Hours” is running at The New York Theatre Workshop (www.nytw.org). After Michael K. Watts and I had great and cheap meal at “Simply Pasta” (www.simplypastanyc.com), I hooked up with friends Sana and Ike for celebratory cocktails as Ike just landed a gig. Michael and I reflected on the great time we had at our National Association of Black Journalists Regional Conference a couple of days prior (www.nabj.org). As always, it was great to see everybody. Ike, meanwhile, wanted me to meet his girlfriend Cassie Freeman (www.cassiefreeman.com) – actress extraordinaire – credits including Spike Lee’s “Inside Man” and Chris Rock’s “I Think I Love My Wife”. She was hanging out with Ruben, crew, and cast – including associate director Jade King Carroll who was a joy. Delroy Lindo (who did “Crooklyn” and many other roles) – is also in the play and was hanging out last night. Cassie is such a joy and a talent. I look forward to knowing her more.

"... THERE'S NO NEED TO TRY OR COMPROMISE OR SETTLE FOR ANOTHER OUTSIDE MY LOVE..."

So many of our friends are expressing themselves in such unique and spirited ways.

 

 

  • My girlfriend Cy had a fabulous event Ant and I weren’t able to make, but I hear it was fabulous (We did get to hang out with she and the gang a day or so later). Ant and I were busy preparing for our out-of-town guest alongside a commitment that took a chunk of our day. Cy hosted a special how-to event called "High Design On A Dime: Dinner Party Essentials." It was a Victorian Punk Tea Party. She’s a lifestyle designer (www.vivedesignhaus.com) and this particular event (at Brooklynski – www.brooklynski.com) provided tips & ideas for wowing dinner party guests with even the smallest of budgets. Topics included how to create ambiance, crafty decoration ideas, and unique places to source materials.

"... THE THING TO DO WHEN YOU GET THROUGH. HEED THE MESSAGE. SEE THE COMFORT OF MY ZONE..."

 

  • LIVE OUT LOUD (www.liveoutloud.org) – the LGBT youth mentoring organization and scholarship donor asked Ant and me to speak at The Brooklyn School of Social Justice for PRIDE week. We spoke last year (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/5/20/a-reversal-of-mendacity.html). The students had lots of questions!!!!!!! And Ant and I answered them all - from the sublime ("what did your mom say when you came out? ") to the ridiculous ("Do you two kiss? Who's the man and who's the woman?" LMAO!). But Ant and I were both impressed with the kids and their coolness about the whole subject. Even as some of their LGBT classmates sat amongst them, there were little to no issues on the homophobia tip, which truly is a sign of progress.

 

  • While in Oakland, I had the luxury of working with a young man named Charles Handy. He came to town – managing street dancers (from Oakland and Memphis) and inspiring the production of a segment on BETs “106th and Park” (www.bet.com/OnTV/BETShows/106andpark/). He stopped by to say HI to me while he was here.

 

"... HEY! LET ME MAKE YOU COMFORTABLE. LET ME TAKE CONTROL AND GIVE YOUR MIND A BREAK FROM THE DAY YOU MADE..."

 

  • So, my nephew has come to stay with Ant and me for the summer. En route from Georgia, he happened to share a flight with Aunt Viv (Janet Hubert-Whitten). Ironically, my Lisa Goodnight just wrote a blog on her (www.blog-aauw.org/author/lisagoodnight/) and some recent challenges and triumphs. And you recall, I had the chance to hang out with her last year at an event (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/7/22/in-a-world-of-fading-treasures-love-is-the-greatest-pleasure.html).
  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my friend Karu who many of us got the chance to celebrate in song via karaoke spot “Second on Second” (www.2ndon2nd.com/). I sang “This Woman’s Work” and “The Boss” while Ant, our friends Kevin-Anthony, and Spelman sister/”Harlem Heights” star Bridget Bland and a host of her fellow Spelman women looked on and sang along. Ant and I were happy to be a part. Thanks to our Bridget for making sure we were in the house.

 

  • However, FATHER’S DAY is approaching. GIFT IDEA: HUGH SIMMS TIES (www.hughsimms.com/). Lots of style, history, reverence, and hipness to boot! DAD's all over - all DEMOs - will LOVE!

"... LET'S TURN THE LIGHTS DOWN LOW AND THE REST YOU KNOW. I'LL BE HERE FOR YOU 'CAUSE YOU JUST STEPPED INTO THE COMFORT ZONE..." 

And Whitney's next CD is due September 1st. We're rooting for her and it to be well, right? www.whitneyhouston.com

Also, SADE is offering up my early birthday gift November 17th. Can't wait!!!!

Channeling our relationship’s humble beginnings when Ant was in Denver and I was here on the East Coast… and we challenged ourselves to see each other once a month, Ant will come and spend a few days with me in L.A. before he starts his work with “The Wendy Williams Show” (www.wendywilliamstvshow.com/). And hopefully I can get a couple of quick visits into NYC to check on Ant and Noot (I MUST SEE “THE WIZ”!!!!). Otherwise, I’ll be back in August… and on the market for my WHAT’S NEXT? And since work has picked up a little, we are BLESSED to be climbing out of our economic doldrums - one step at a time. Like many, we're not out of the woods yet (and I'm filled with angst about my current fiscal snapshot - especially as I will be away from my COMFORT ZONE of home, friends, family, fetal position in my own bed, etc.), but I have a knack for breathing through it these days and talking myself off the ledge each time. I commit to continue BEING A DIFFERENCE towards ABUNDANCE! And STAYING PRAYERFUL that things will work out IN MY FAVOR someday soon! So, HOME (a la THE WIZ) will be here in NYC and I will carry my COMFORT ZONE with me on the road --- to make it through...

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