ALL-STAR KARAOKE THURSDAY NIGHTS at NATIVE RESTAURANT in HARLEM continues to bring FUN TIMES and GREAT SINGING! And in addition to my many friends who are coming out to listen and support, several are getting on the mic. My friend Charles Wallace – singer/actor/dancer/producer/director/writer extraordinaire - ‘turned off the lights’ (a la Teddy P) and serenaded the house with ‘love ballad’ (a la LTD). Tony nominee Brenda Braxton popped by to help us with our give-aways including her show "Travelin'" which is running in the city. On that week, we also gave away tix to FELA! w/Patti LaBelle and Daniel Beaty's "Through The Night" as well as two gift cards to N, my favorite boutique. And our regional/city members of the National Association of Black Journalists came out – including NABJ Region 1 Director Katina. And another week, my NABJ sisters – poet Marcie Eanes (whose current collection, “Sensual Sounds”, is available at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com) and playwright Amy Simmons – came from Racine, Wisconsin and Philadelphia, respectively JUST to get in on the fun and support our new karaoke adventure! THANKS LADIES! And a special shout out to the Bay-area’s own Troy for popping in and our Dawn, who sang really pretty on the night she came! And my birthday-sake Robin Stone Boyd brought a large party of her girlfriends – including Miss Lisa and Carol. And our ALL-STAR regular Darius Booker (who has substitute hosted at No Parking’s Monday night Karaoke); and sbP’s vocalist extraordinaire Stephen Beasley brought their A-game. And Dr. Mixologist Darryl Robinson (who came out to celebrate his birthday and the week thereafter). He asked me to sing “Theme from Mahogany” for his celebration, and – of course – I did. CHEERS, DR. MIXOLOGIST! And THANKS TO ALL for supporting ALL-STAR KARAOKE THURSDAY NIGHTS at NATIVE RESTAURANT in Harlem.
SIDRA, KIM COLES, AND NATE BERKUS
After my Sidra supported me at my ALL-STAR KARAOKE THURSDAY NIGHT, Ant & I returned the favor. For her Friday, in-studio taping at “The Nate Berkus Show”, Sid asked Ant to style her and she asked me to accompany her to the studio where she, our buddy Kim Coles, and Sid’s friend/interior designer Lisa did their segment, which aired recently: http://www.thenateshow.com/episodes/detail/the-house-that-nate-built She’s already been invited back. Afterwards, Sidra sponsored a fabulous lunch at Tao Restaurant where our server Kevin Sweeney served up salmon, steak, crispy vegetable rolls, banana pudding, and info about the web series “Keeping Up with the Cardassians” (www.keepingupwiththecardassians.net) in which he stars. Then, we took a bus back to Harlem – something new for me. Ristoranti Settepani provided us some wine, sidewalk fellowship, and a host of characters as only Harlem can provide. Then, we segued to New Rochelle. Girlfriend Chenoa and her husband Carlyle invited us out for an elegant, well-appointed dinner party. Many of our favorites were in the house – including my “Amazing Grace” Nichole; Michelle; Nelson; Tracey; Adair; Jason; and others.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARA!
Tillman’s supper club in New York City was the spot to celebrate the birthday of our ‘Amazing Grace’ Mara Schiavocampo, NBC Digital Correspondent. As always, so much fun with Mara’s cast of characters in the mix: her husband Tommie; CNN’s David Puente; and Mara’s protégée Sia Nyorkor who has left NYC to start reporting in Florida. Afterwards: Karaoke Cave for a night cap! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARA!
FELA & PATTI LABELLE
Ant, our friends Robert & Sidra, and I got to join my Morehouse BFFs Michael and Mario for another run of Broadway’s Tony-award-winning FELA! (but this time featuring Patti Labelle). SHE WAS WONDERFUL, but Lillias White was nominated for a Tony for originating the role. This particular day started with brunch at VYNL with friend Theo – another birthday boy (VYNL Scramble! YUM!); then, after a few errands, we enjoyed the show after which we did a little after-set of Ruby Foo’s Times Square sushi and cocktails. SPEAKING OF FELA! My girl Marcia Pendelton booked me to interview lead producer Steve Hendel on Broadway musical FELA! along with two cast members Onika and Farai – all of whom shed light on the life FELA! will have after it closes at the top of 2011 (including a run in London in The West End; filmed version available in DC; filmed version available in Europe; a state-side road tour; and preps for a feature film adaptation). My boys Rod and Marlynn came out. The legendary Melvin Van Peebles was in the house. Marva Hicks and my girl Sidra were also in the house. And a host of others.
After my FELA! duties, I joined Ant for an exclusive seated dinner event at the brand-new SOHO destination LANI KAI cocktail bar – including producers from “The View”; DR. Mixologist Darryl Robinson; and Founder & President of LEBLON (natural cane cachaca-brasil). Our girlfriend Donna Torrence put all of this together. Then, we joined Travis & company at NO PARKING for Monday night karaoke – including two performers from “Naked Boys Singing” and a clothed boy, ME. LOL!
THE BROOKS BUSINESS REPORT
TAKE A LOOK at THE BROOKS BUSINESS REPORT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7EljxSYSSM The Go To Resource for Women Business Owners. One of my NABJ mentors Sheila Brooks hired me to work on it a year and change ago. I interviewed all of the subjects she didn't (including my girlfriend Dr. Shirley Madhere) and I produced those interviews that Sheila conducted. Excerpts from all are in this clip. GOOD STUFF COMING UP w/THE BROOKS BUSINESS REPORT.
DINNER WITH NOOT
My nephew invited me to dinner (on him) one night. The old Houston’s (now Hillstone) was his choice. SO SWEET OF HIM, RIGHT? And for all of my goings and comings, this – its own – was truly a highlight. We got to catch up on his new job and new digs. And as he navigates through this thing called “adult”-hood, I’m excited to be a listening ear for him (as I – knocking on 40 – am still trying to figure “adult”-hood out). The journey continues… and it’s WONDERFUL! Then, Ant and I popped by Nathan Hale Williams’ “Classic” night at our NATIVE (where we do ALL-STAR KARAOKE THURSDAY NIGHTS).
So, I wasn’t in Chicago long enough to get homesick, but I did have to go there for business. On Night 2 of 4, after a full day of a writing/editing session, my Ti-Ti insisted I join her at The House of Blues for Michigan Avenue magazine's cover of Jennifer Hudson who brilliantly performed "And I Am Telling You" and "I Will Always Love You" bombastic-like (yet inside her new-Naomi-Campbell body). Also ran into NYC buddy Waddie. And one of my work buddies Joe was there too. Always an adventure with Ti-Ti, even though I didn't get my photo op with J-Hud (There's always a file photo. LOL!!!! Thanks boo! Then, on Night 3 of 4, my best Chicago buddies Eddie and Chicago Carl insisted I give them some fun time. They wanted to get in on my karaoke jones. So, they took me to Blue Frog Bar & Grill - so they could see what the hype is all about. Not only were they sold with my performances, but they jumped up and joined in on Hall & Oates' "Sara Smile" which Eddie led brilliantly (GO EDDIE!). Unfortunately, after a late-night bite at Dublin's Restaurant, Eddie's towed car left a bad taste in our night. STILL, we'll always have memories of our fun-filled, musical night in Chicago.
Well, you know I am close friends with the first cousins of the Debarges: my Sherry & Shelly. Yes! They're twins! As a result, Chico has accepted me as family. And since Sherry and Shelly introduced us, we hit it off. Plus, I've volunteered my 'falsetto' services to the background of any of his dates. And we've bumped into each other a time or two right here in New York City. The ladies vouch for me. And recently in San Diego, El did the like. I was invited to an intimate set that El performed at SOBs last week, but wasn’t able to make it for my business in Chicago (I will see him on Monday when he opens for Mary J. Blige at Radio City Music Hall). With that, my Morehouse BFF Michael K. Watts was in the house by way of LIVE! FROM FRONT ROW and he’s letting me share his review and clips with you here. ENJOY!
By Michael K. Watts
El DeBarge danced to the salsa-infused beat of "Rhythm of the Night" at the close of his S.O.B.'s show in New York last night. A sea of fans cheered him on as his hip-shaking salsa morphed into an almost holy dance. If the playful bounce in his swift steps were any indication, he had reason to let loose and celebrate.
It was just under two years ago that the soulful singer, an R&B mainstay in the 1980's as front man to his group of singing siblings as DeBarge, finished a prison sentence for drug possession. A lengthy battle with drugs and the law sidelined his career for well over a decade.
DeBarge says he's been clean for two years and wants a chance to prove himself again. With a new record deal and a forthcoming album, Second Chance, the singer is restarting his career.
Last night's intimate show, one of a handful of spot dates this fall, was a chance to reconnect with his fans, whose loyalty showed in their incessant screams. When he entered the stage, DeBarge seemed to freeze with distraction as he sat at the keyboard and grinned through the thunderous cheers. He fumbled through the first verse of "Stay With Me," but nobody seemed to mind.
Cameras flashed about the stage as DeBarge took fans down memory lane with number one hits like "All This Love" and "Time Will Reveal." It was like 1983 all over again as he worked the crowd and led them in nostalgic sing-along's.
"Can I reach out and touch you just like that," he sang melodically. And fans his screamed some more. "It's all about love," he crooned.
His signature falsetto remains in virtually the same condition as in his younger years. So does his boyish smile. Perspiration glistened on the youthful skin of his forehead, but he was just warming up.
To read the rest of the El DeBarge review, click here.
To watch video clips from El DeBarge’s show, click here.
To read past reviews and get the latest concert tour news, check out our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/LIVEfromFrontRow.
To watch past video clips, check out our Youtube page: http://www.youtube.com/LIVEfromFrontRow.
JAMES EARL JONES
James Earl Jones can read the phone book and I’m there. I was front and center when he did “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” a couple of years ago. Well, he is back on Broadway in “Driving Miss Daisy” and I plan to be there. Hopefully you will come out as well!
NABJ A&E TASK FORCE LEGACY AWARD RECIPIENT CLARENCE WALDRON
SHOUT OUT TO NABJ A&E Task Force Legacy Award Recipient Clarence Waldron. We had the chance to present him a video when the task force, which I Chair, honored him at our Y&R-sponsored reception in San Diego at NABJ. See the tribute video here: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/video/video.php?v=1585721932503
You know, I grew up on Gospel music and still consider it one of my favorite genres. Well, we lost one of our pioneers this week: ALBERTINA WALKER. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard her voice blasting throughout my childhood homes. A TRUE LIVING LEGEND! R.I.P.
FAITH AS FLORENCE BALLARD
SHOUT OUT TO BRILLIANT CASTING! I didn’t know that a bio-pic was being worked on about original Supreme Florence Ballard (left). She is the inspiration for all-things-Effie-White from ‘Dreamgirls’. Unfortunately, Florence died on welfare in the mid-‘70s and would never have the chance to re-claim the spotlight as Effie White did. Well, one of my favorite r&b/hip-hop divas Faith Evans says she has landed the role of Florence Ballard in this project. This news comes while Faith is out promoting her new CD “Something About Faith”. GO FAITH! (I had the chance to play a cop in her debut video “You Used To Love Me” – quite the exciting opportunity made possible by my friend Tracey Moore, a casting director at the time who has now added director/producer/writer to her multi-hyphenated brand in addition to acting teacher/coach a la “The Spirited Actor” acting courses). And I LOVE Faith's new song!
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