BET UP FRONT
While heading to see the BET UP FRONT in NYC (the special project that's had yours truly occupied this past couple of months), I hop off the subway on 44th & 8th and begin to walk parallel to Nicole Ari Parker who'd just gotten out of her "...Streetcar" matinee - still in previews until Sunday's opening night (We quickly caught up as she was looking to decompress from her matinee show and to get rejuvenated for her evening performance. A crab cake at Sardi’s is what the doctor ordered. She shared how theater vets Angela Bassett and Courtney Vance came to see ‘Streetcar’ in one of its last previews – afterwards giving her some great notes). Then, I rushed into the BEST BUY THEATER to see my work (from the last couple of months) on the big screen. I loved that recurring freelance client Wendy Williams (http://www.wendyshow.com/2011/10/24/british-virgin-islands/) was presenting BET's Movies & Acquisitions that I got to produce with the FABULOUS BET Creative Services team. The reel includes 'Wendy Williams Show' which re-airs on BET every day. Then, my 'girlfriend' Mara Brock Akil came out to talk about BET PREMIERE CINEMA, a new franchise which features original programming - in this case first run films, including The Akils' "Being Mary Jane" - an original flick that will spin-off into BET's first original one-hour drama – both starring Gabrielle Union. From there, Ant’s BDAY EXTRAVAGANZA started as his ‘Wendy’ peeps toasted him at “Radio Star” karaoke (35th between 5th and 6th). They timed-out-to-my-arrival a song that I could sing to serenade Happy BDAY to Ant. I walked in and was handed a mic! LOL! VOILA: HAPPY BIRTHDAY…. to all of the many ARIES & TAUREANS for whom I’ve been lifting up a few too many glasses in your honor i.e. MY DAD; Chandra; Elise; Tata; Seitu; Vincent; Eddie; Audra (kinda’); Marqice; Kodjoe; Mamie; Mary Lee; Nicky; Marlynn; Bobby; Tara; Kiwan; and many, many more! MWAH!
From the British Virgin Islands to Family Dollar, I’ve had the chance to produce (as a freelancer) some cool Wendy Williams Show segments this season. One of her glam squad members – makeup artist Merrell Hollis (pictured left/below) – has been hosting a Monday night ‘RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE’ party this season. And WENDY shouted us out on her on-line AFTER SHOW segment this week (EVEN SHOWING A PICTURE) – deeming us “New York’s elite gays! LOL!”: http://youtu.be/YjE4r7zBZQY (Well, she’s not far off: among us is Emmy-award winning WIG EXPERT Antwon Jackson (pictured right in green/above), who gets to go for #2 as the Emmy nominations for 2012 have just been announced. CONGRATS, ANTWON who loves MISS ROSS almost as much as me! LOL!). We’ve attended a few of these viewing sets over the season…and they are always a BLAST! I noted in a previous entry of my “…life of Riley…” blog (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2012/1/27/black-tales.html): “I felt like I was at THE LEGENDS BALL while at the Harlem home of make-up artist extraordinaire Merrell Hollis (@makeupbymerrell). A fun and accomplished group gathered to watch the premiere of Rupaul’s Drag Race, which is in its Cycle 4. It was GLAMOUR-PALOOZA up in there – including Dani Evans – winner of “America’s Next Top Model” (@Only1DaniE);my friends, celebrity make-up artist Sam Fine (@SamFineBeauty); hair master Oscar James (@oscarjameshair); Chuck Amos (@CHUCKIELOVE), who does Tracee Ellis Ross’ tresses (and has done Miss Ross); stylist par excellence Memsor Kamarake (@Memsor); and some of the ‘The Wendy Williams Show’ team – including Monique Taylor (@moekittytweets) and Wendy’s wig expert Antwon Jackson (@antwonljackson) were also on deck as well as some other great friends – including Ian, etc.” (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2012/1/27/black-tales.html) THANKS FOR THE SHOUT OUT, WENDY!
Founder of BET announced recently that his RLJ Acquisition, Inc. has entered into agreements to acquire Image Entertainment, Inc. and Acorn Media Group, Inc., two highly complementary media businesses to create one of the largest independent distributors of digital and video content globally. The new combined company will be named RLJ Entertainment, Inc. All of this should be firm by mid-summer when it will be time to PITCH CONTENT. And what a room full of industry friends – old and new – to hear the announcement at The Chatwal Hotel in the Club Room: Hill Harper; Nelson George, Warrington Hudlin; Maurice Marable; Jacquie Lee; Eddie Harris; Roni Wheeler; Lana Garland; Kevin Liles; Sean Johnson; Alvin Bowles; Priya Scoggins; filmmaker Dui Jarrod (“Lesson Before Love”); and a host of others. (I had the chance to produce Bob Johnson for two closed-circuit video tributes that welcomed his weigh-in. It was cool to compare notes on that project. CONGRATS, MR. JOHNSON!!).
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
It's not everyday you get to sit in a theater (The Ziegfeld, to be exact) with Dame Judy Dench (www.foxsearchlight.com/thebestexoticmarigoldhotel/) at the NYC US Premiere of "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" - a fun and heartfelt film that I think everyone will enjoy. You MUST check it out!!
As we (and our ALL-STAR KARAOKE REGULARS) channel where next we’ll pop up, we’re still getting our karaoke on! Recently, I capped off Monday night with karaoke – a new Monday night sing-fest at Tenth Rail (on 33rd Street and 10th Avenue: www.tenthrail.com). My friend Mario who hosts No Parking Karaoke Tuesday Night has now launched this fun night for Monday for which karaoke buddy Dayne and others joined me. Lots of fun! Shout out to my karaoke buddy (and all things Motown and MUSIC) Brandon Bain. He knows his way around the mic…and not just the karaoke mic. I look forward to you hearing his original music one day soon! CONGRATS, BRANDON! Recently, in a holding pattern, we were able to get a couple of songs in.
Shout out to Carl Nelson for inviting me to accompany him to the “August Wilson National Monologue Competition FINALS” hosted by mentor and friend Kenny Leon on the Broadway stage (at The August Wilson Theater).The event was free and open to the public and featured high school students from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh and Seattle performing monologues by the late, legendary American playwright. Judges for the 2012 Annual August Wilson Monologue Competition included Pauletta Washington (actress), Lynn Nottage (playwright), Jasmine Guy (actress, singer, and dancer), James A. Williams (actor), and David Gallo (scenic designer). The featured a performance from Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean by Phylicia and daughter/Tony-nominee Condola Rashad. Founded in 2007, the Annual August Wilson Monologue Competition aims to expose a new generation of creative minds to the life’s work and artistic legacy of this seminal American playwright. Program participants in cities across the country encounter Wilson’s ten-play cycle and receive coaching from teaching artists as they prepare their monologues for local, city-wide and national competitions. For more information, visit www.truecolorstheatre.org/august-wilson-monologue-competition.
DRUMS ALONG THE HUDSON
Speaking of Carl Nelson, PLEASE be sure to join him at DRUMS ALONG THE HUDSON on Sunday, May 20th (www.drumsalongthehudson.org/). He produces it every year, and has often booked me to host portions of the program in years gone by (I’ll be in Atlanta at my 20-YEAR REUNION from Morehouse this year). The over-riding host is my Atlanta TV biz buddy Sandra Bookman. Always a JOY! Please be sure to check it out!
UPTOWN, MISS JESSIE’S, AND RICARDO
My Morehouse brothers, UPTOWN magazine's Executive Editor Isoul Harris and Trevor (www.TheJulienManagementgroup.com), FAB publicist asked us to pop by RICARDO OCEAN GRILL (www.ricardooceangrill.com) to celebrate the new, intimate hot spot's Grand Opening (It's open from 5p-3a and is poised to attract a sophisticated and select client and guests - perhaps as an after-set crew). We enjoyed a sampling of the amazing ocean grill menu of delicious seafood - including some great crab cakes. REMY V provided a wonderful array of cocktails (Shout out to REMY MARTIN Brand Ambassador Marty Tennant); Miss Jessie's (www.missjessies.com) sponsored a gift bag of hair 'magic' for the curls, kinks, and waves out there (Shout out to Miss Jessie's Winston Benoms). And of course, it wouldn't have been a party without my Bevy Smith and Ashunta Sheriff, make-up artist extraordinnaire with whom I got the chance to reconnect. Alicia Keys is one of her clients (www.ashuntasheriffonline.com), and she and I have collaborated on several assignments where I've interviewed Alicia while she was making sure Alicia was camera ready. We last saw each other while on respective assignments in London a few years back. And a SPECIAL SHOUT OUT to the UPTOWN Magazine (www.uptownmagazine.com) TEAM - Angela Bronner Helm, Chrystal Parker, Deena Campbell, and of course, my friend Isoul! New York Times' Charles M. Blow popped by (He's been writing a number of opinion pieces and doing lots of commentary on Trayvon Martin: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/07/opinion/blow-from-oj-to-trayvon.html).
CHEF ROBLE AND MORE
After a week of producing a spot promoting “Michael Jackson: Life of an Icon” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtOcePhdb10) which will run on TV soon (STAY TUNED), Ant and I accepted the invitation from our BFFs Mara Schiavocampo and hubby Tommie Porter to join them and a few friends for good eats and drinks. In the house: BRAVO’s Chef Roble; friend/founder/executive editor of www.TheGrio.com; our buddy Ray Young (visiting from the left coast); Rakia Clark; Mara’s lifelong BFF Apryl; and many others.
MY POSITIVE INNERGY
Was GREAT to celebrate the launch of Positive InnerTees by My Positive Innergy – friend Nathan Hale Williams’ new venture (http://mypositiveinnergy.com/). Once-home of All-Star Karaoke Thursday Night, our beloved – now-newly remodeled - Native was the backdrop for a love fest of infinite possibilities – hosted by Nathan’s BFFs FLO Anthony, MARJA Vongerichten and Dr. DORIAN Warren. LIKE them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/MyPositiveInnergy) and Follow them on Twitter (@MyPositiveInner). So many great friends were in the house to TOAST Nathan and this AWESOME NEW MOVEMENT! Many of my buddies were in the house – including my All-Star Karaoke regulars and so many BFFs (Jamar; Brian; Turquoise; etc.): TV personality/stylist (‘Cause Celeb’ on ABC World News Now) Phillip Bloch (www.phillipbloch.com); publicist extraordinaire BJ Coleman (Burgers and Bourbon’s own: http://www.burgersandbourbon.com/); sister friend/Z-100 radio personality Shelley Wade; Kevin “Moochie” Freeman (“Real Housewives of ATL” – Host of ‘the smalls’ in South Africa this past season); Priya Tara (www.fx4boutique.com); publicist-friend Theo Perry; ‘Cheetah-Girls’-own Deborah Gregory; Harlem’s own soul songstress (by way of Toronto), Belinda Munro, who inspired our transition to the Grand Opening of HARLEM HABERDASHERY (www.HARLEMHABERDASHERY.COM – TWITTER: @HABERDASHERYNYC). It's a men and women’s high-end clothing boutique. Was really excited to run into dear friend Tony Shellman (clothing line mogul: Mecca; Enyce; Parish; and something coming up!); Bevy Smith; and a host of others. GREAT THURSDAY NIGHT IN HARLEM!
LOTS OF APRIL BIRTHDAYS
In our world, Birthday extravaganzas go well beyond the BDAY itself. We continued Ant’s celebration as friends Ashley Fettig and Mike Pierre-Louis who graciously took us to Ristorante Il Melograno (www.ilmelogranonyc.com) for some delicious Italian cuisine. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
But not before toasting our BFF Tata’s life-long BFF Tara who just turned 40! We all toasted her at TAJ! We then got to gather and celebrate TATA – family-style – at Carmine’s on the Upper West Side (DELICIOUS!).
Did a birthday bus ride for our Marqice’s birthday (We also spent some more time with he and Jason at their Brooklyn home – for Cinco de Mayo and THE FIGHT!).
I got to send a birthday toast to buddy/my little brother Bobby Roache who is making big things happen with his modeling career (He’s also an artist). He says I look like his brother. And he actually looks like my people – from brother to uncles to nephew - on the Riley side. Bobby's breakout moment came when he was cast as Grammy-Award-winning singer BEYONCE’S no-good boyfriend for her #1 HIT single “IRREPLACEABLE" music video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EwViQxSJJQ. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EVERYBODY!
A recent SUNDAY brought a great afternoon of dancing to soulful deep house, disco and afro beats with a family friendly feel good vibe including exhibits, speaking series and performances. On loan from its owner, Ant joined the BASQUIAT TRIBUTE – comprised of artists’ work that participated in the BASQUIAT TRIBUTE in Harlem last August (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2011/8/20/art-and-annual-therapy.html). His art name is Akhenaten. He shared one-half of a diptych in this particular series which represents the history of Graffiti as told through ancient Egyptian imagery which includes hieroglyphics and other symbols from ancient Egypt, particularly the 18th Dynasty under the rule of Pharaoh Akhenaten and his Queen Nefertiti. He explores the history of Graffiti art which predates the work of Graffiti artist Jean Michel Basquiat. The piece: "Sun Pharaoh" 47" x 36" Acrylic and Oil stick on hand stretched canvass by artist. Akhenaten has previously shown his conceptual body of work “Manufacturism” in his hometown of Denver, CO at the 910 Arts Gallery.His background also includes studies in Journalism, Native American Art and Art History at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Sundae Sermon Winter Indoor Series also included: OF COURSE, DJ Stormin Norman; my friend Michaela angela Davis' Mad Free Conversation Series with ISABEL TOLEDO (“Roots of Style”).The renowned El Museo Del Barrio was the venue…and our girl Cynthia Burgos also showed her Basquiat-inspired work. Many friends came out to support – including buddies Carl; Sidra Smith; Monique; Dianne Smith; Patrick; Chris; Mario; Manivone Nonthaveth; Shantay Wilson; Rod; Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Uptown Magazine Leonard Burnett (and his beautiful family); and many more (including hat designer Jennifer Ouelette: http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/12/20/pat-in-a-hat.html)! For more information, check out www.elmuseo.org or go to www.sundaesermon.com. Pre-art-show, Ant, Cynthia, Elijah Brumfield, and I enjoyed some BBQ! Afterwards, many of us went to Harlem’s Corner Social Club Restaurant for a little food and fellowship! ALL of Harlem seemed to be in the house!
REUNIONS & MEETINGS ANEW
The same weekend that we were celebrating Ant, I got to have a lovely reunion with dear friend Paula Witt (and my NABJ sister Nekesa Moody – Music Editor EXTRAORDINAIRE from the Associated Press with whom we enjoyed a bite at Thai Select). Plus, my “Amazing Grace” Elise was in town. Coupled with now-NYC-based Denise Hendricks – another life-long friend and Morehouse BFF Michael K. Watts, we were some “cackling NABJ babies” – happy to be in each others presence again! LOL! My NABJ buddy Taj Tsonga threw a casual set this weekend. This, after he's been traveling the globe as an international journalist. It was a fun room of fun folks. And a great way to do one recent weekend. Shout out to Ant’s BFF Manivone Monthaveth who invited us out to GALLERY BAR on the Lower East Side to experience “SILENTNOISE: an art auction” (HTTP://SILENTNOISENYC.TUMBLR.COM/). Fun times with Taha, Vilay, and many more!
Don't forget DRUMS ALONG THE HUDSON!