Thursday, June 28, 2007

Suzanne de Passe Receives Caribbean Heritage Honor

In it's first Tribute to Hollywood and the Arts, The Caribbean Heritage Organization (CHO) honored legendary television and film producer Suzanne de Passe, June 23rd, at the Museum of History in Los Angeles.

In her speech to a crowd of approximately 200 friends, family, and special invited guests, she explained her Caribbean roots and Hollywood's first perceptions.

Presently, Chief Executive Officer of de Passe Entertainment, she began her career in entertainment at Motown Records as Creative Assistant to the company founder, Berry Gordy. Under his tutelage, she introduce the not-yet-famous Jackson 5 to Gordy and later executive produced the memorable television show Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever . The show featured an outstanding reunion performance of the group and Michael's first televised moonwalk. In her address, she gave thanks to Gordy and her mother, "Babs" for their inspiration:

Among her long list of awards and accomplishments are an Academy Award nomination for co-writing Lady Sings The Blues and two Emmy Awards for shows Motown 25 and Motown Returns to the Apollo which also earned a NAACP Image Award. De Passe also earned 5 Emmy Award nominations for tv mini-series Lonesome Dove, Small Sacrifices, The Jacksons: An American Dream, Buffalo Girls, and The Temptations.

As executive producer of the benchmark NBC mini-series, The Temptations, she also won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Mini-Series and was nominated for both a Golden Globe Award and Emmy Award for Best Mini-Series.

During her acknowledgements of special guests, veteran director and actor Tim Reid, received heart-felt words of appreciation for his work and dedication to the popular tv show, Sister, Sister. Likewise, Tracey Edmonds, President and Chief Operating Officer of Our Stories Films, was blessed with a verbal "passing of the baton" for her success in film and television. De Passe also expressed sheer surprise and delight in receiving congratulations from Sidney Poitier in a pre-taped video message. And before closing her acceptance speech, she gave friend and event host, Debbie Allen, a special and hilarious "shout out".

Currently, de Passe is the executive producer of the nationally syndicated weekly TV program, Showtime At The Apollo. She is also the executive producer of the critically acclaimed Black Movie Awards, a ninety-minute TV special which first aired nationally on TNT in 2005 and was hosted by Tyler Perry in 2006.

The Caribbean Heritage Organization (CHO) was formed in January 2007 to celebrate the rich and diverse contributions of Caribbeans and Caribbean-Americans to international society through conservation and education of Caribbean arts and culture. Additionally, CHO aims to chronicle the experiences of the expatriated Caribbean people from the most recently arrived immigrants to leaders in American society, from life on the streets of Brookly, N.Y., London, and Toronto, to the deal making in the halls of power.

Event Pics:

Suzanne de Passe with friends and family

Event Host, Debbie Allen

Niecy Nash, Reno 911 actress

Roger Bobb, Producer/Director, Daddy's Little Girls

Tracey Edmonds, President and C.O.O. Our Stories Films

Bishop Noel Jones, Pastor, City of Refuge in Los Angeles

Shaun Robinson, Access Hollywood reporter

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

2007 BET Awards: Working the Room

The undefeated champion of cable award shows is finally over and the reviews and votes for favorite whatever have all been tallied. So depending on who you ask, the show was either a total knockout or a winner by decision. Personally, I am undecided.

Yes, I was at the biggest event for Black Hollywood in Hollywood but only saw approximately three minutes of the show. My view of the entire event consisted of members of the press eager for ready-to-edit soundbites and red carpet photos, celebrities, and lots of black suits--the required dress for day of show. However, I was able to sneak a peak of the "dynamite" Dreamgirls duet and the "Beyonce and 'em" performances while working the busy press room for print outlets. And I also met many of the show attendees and participants like Public Enemy, Alicia Keys, Ashanti, Mo'Nique and the gorgeous new trio consisting of Tyrese, Tank, and Genuine--definitely the highlight.

This year my job could best be described as gate keeper. Before talent made it to the platform for questions from print outlets, I obtained information concerning their upcoming or current projects and helped manage celebrity flow in and out of the print media area . Sounds relatively easy doesn't it? Well, sounds can be deceiving. This job wasn't brain surgery, but it definitely took an advanced degree in celebrity and general people handling.

As most know there is a certain hierarchy in Hollywood defined by lists--the A,B,C, excetera. It is used to explain to a "ghetto superstar" that just because his or her single went gold, it does not guarantee them access to elite red carpets and award show press stages. Likewise, a similar hierarchy is implemented in inviting media outlets to cover the show that limits the number of reporters and photographers on the red carpet and in the press room.

So what media god or goddess decides who gets a coveted spot in the media rooms or on the carpet? That varies from show to show, but generally the event's publicist or publicity department makes that difficult decision. And the process begins several months in advance. The 2007 BET Awards press conference was held back in May.

Back to earning my degree in talent handling. One major skill used was dealing with egos. The ego is a delicate thing, especially for most celebrities--real and make believe. However, ego alone doesn't sell magazines or generate high traffic on websites unless it gets out of hand. Got a new album coming out? How about a movie or tv show? Have neither? Then don't be surprised by the sound of crickets becoming your theme music when standing before the press. Business-savvy celebs realize that soon as their 15 minutes of fame is up, so is the press's interest, generally. Unfortunately, not every talent in Hollywood realizes this, so it was my job at the BET Awards to help some of them come to the conclusion on their own. However, every decision was first approved by those managing the press stage.

After approval each person coming onto the stage was announced to the press. Then reporters were selected by the announcer to ask questions. Each Q & A lasted around 5 minutes. Once the show ended the flow of talent, entourages, and security increased drastically. Mostly everyone that desired press time received it.

By show's end I had been on my feet for nearly six hours straight. My seven and halves felt twice their size and hurt badly. So bad, I knew partying was out of the question. Truly, I was too tired to party like a rock star like planned. I partied like a narcoleptic instead. But all in all the experience was a good one.

Thank you Donna!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My First Job In Hollywood: The 2002 BET Awards

Tuesday, July 26th, will be my 5th anniversary of working the BET Awards. Funny, how time flies. My relationship with the show actually began in 2002 while I was still a North Carolina resident. So how did I manage to transition from Carolina's delicious chopped pork B-B-Q to trendy California Pizza Kitchen in a matter of weeks. Simply, I asked.

Truly, getting work on the 2002 show was a perfect example of "ask and it shall be given." However, knowing the right people to ask was key. From North Carolina I called the network looking for a job as an associate producer. After studying BET's website, I asked for the producers of the shows that interested me most. That, combined with a list of names I had acquired from an associate during a previous LA trip, provided me a short list of people to call.

Nervously, yet determined, I probably talked to four different people in various positions and left several messages. After about the third, "we've already filled that position", I honestly became a little frustrated. Two things I didn't know then that I know well now: 1. It's very difficult to be taken seriously by Hollywood employers if you don't live here; and 2. It ain't about who YOU know, it's about WHO knows you and trusts you to work with them.

Knowing that all the paid positions were taken, I asked a producer if there were any volunteer opportunities on the upcoming BET Awards. She paused. "That's not my show, but I can give you a name to call." "Thank you that's just what I needed--another faceless name to call," was my thinking. Wisely, I kept the sarcasm to myself, and dialed the new number on my list.

The male voice on the other end of the phone was friendly but a little incredulous. Why would a professional work for free? Did I truly understand what I was asking to do? I informed the show producer I understood exactly and was thinking of relocating to Los Angeles for work. What better way to get my feet wet than by working on one of the biggest shows in Hollywood. I also informed him I would be in town for the show because I would be attending LA Film Festival. Still unsure, he asked me to fax my resume and cover letter. Of course I sent them the following day, but not until I had prayed, fasted, tithed, and anointed them with oil. Everything I learned in Bible School was sent with that fax. However, the fasting part didn't last long. There's nothing like fried fish, cole slaw, french fries, crispy hush puppies, and sweet tea to ease your tension while waiting for a job offer. Did I forget the lemon cake for dessert? I digress.

A day and a half later the decision had been made. Mr. Friendly Voice informed me, "You are to arrive at the Renaissance Hotel, Monday, at 8am, to begin work on the BET Awards." And after a sincere "thank you", I ended the call, and danced. Not that pretty liturgical stuff you see on Sunday. Nah! I was in my bedroom crunking to Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams before the film Rize made it popular.

First day, I finally met "the voice" and was without delay put to work. Not only did I get my feet wet, but also put to the fire. The girl I was suppose to assist, excused herself to go to the bathroom. It was the longest pee in the world! For several hours I handled the constantly ringing production office phones, walkee distribution, and whatever else thrown my way alone. No training, no demonstration, no moment to reflect on my decision. Big Mama words, "be careful what you asked for", were steadily scrolling across the bottom of my mind's screen.

Stressful it was, but you know that "what doesn't kill you..." adage. Not to mention, several years before I had worked in live television news as editor. That was a thousand times more intensive. What really made that first day challenging was knowing my every move was being watched. How I handled every call, every request, every task influenced whether I would be invited back to the party.

That was five years ago. Since then I have worked the show as a PA and as talent assist. No not glamorous and high paying jobs, but well worth my efforts. Everything in life can't be about the bling or the money, some things you do for the experience, just for the moment. Being able to meet or just shake hands with your favorite celebrity is priceless. And walking the red carpet is still one of my favorite parts of the show. Not to mention, backstage is the best show in town and where most of the networking is done! Trust, the show y'all don't see is often better than the one you do.

The 2007 BET Awards airs this Tuesday. The Main Event starts live at 8pm with one of my favorite people in Hollywood, Mo'Nique. And once I get through partying, oh...I mean working, I promise to share some of my experiences. However, errrthang ain't meant to be shared over the Internet. *wink*

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hollywood Gets Political

Source: Vanity Fair

In the July issue of Vanity Fair, some of Hollywood's biggest names lend their celebrity to an even greater cause, bringing a new awareness of the continent of Africa and it's overlooked glory. The brainchild of U2 lead singer and activist, Bono, this historic issue of the magazine will put the continent in a new light, as "an opportunity, as an adventure, not a burden". But that's not all, there's an underlying mission. By dedicating the entire issue to the birthplace of civilization, Bono and Vanity Fair, hope to inspire readers to care beyond local and national boundaries and take action. Charity starts at home, but it should not end there. Yet, let's be clear. Africa does not need a "hand out, but a leg up", says Bono.

The magazine will feature 20 different covers shot by renown photograher, Annie Leibovitz, of various A-listers of film, music and politics. Oprah, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, George Clooney, Madonna, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Condoleeza Rice, and yes even our fearless leader, President George W. Bush, will grace a cover. And that's the short list. To see the full celebrity roll and Bono's letter to the editor check out Vanity Fair's website. Each photo depicts two or more subjects together as if a discussion about Africa is already in progress.

Extra! Extra! Copies of your Favorite Covers are also available through Here are my favorites and personal captions:

Obama: "Ali, you're a perfect example of why I have the audacity to hope when thinking of Africa. Regardless of the fight, you never lost your spirit."

Alicia: "Iman, tell me of the ancient kingdoms of Africa, especially Somalia. I'll use it to introduce you at the next Legends Ball."

George: "Jigga, how many rappers and actors truly care about how we get our bling?"

Oprah: "Would either of you be willing to teach a class at my new school for girls? Donations are welcomed, but giving something of yourself would have a great impact. "

Bush: "Bishop, pray for me. The decisions I make concerning Africa and it's dealings with America impact the world."

Madonna: "Dr. Angelou, love is color blind, but the world is not. How do I teach my African child not just whose son he is, but who he is?"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Robin Givens: Undefeated and Happy

Recently, while flipping through Time Warner's offerings, I stumbled upon the film, A Rage in Harlem. For those that remember, it featured Robin Givens, Forrest Whitaker, Danny Glover, and Gregory Hines in a funny 1950's crime story about a beautiful opportunist, a gullible mama's boy, and a trunk full of gold. Givens portrayed Immabelle, a cunning "gold-digger," and Whitaker, the naive and virgin undertaker, Jackson, who caught a love jones after she "put it on him."

On screen it was okay for Givens to be seen as manipulative, but several years before when art seem to imitate life in her volatile marriage to then, World Heavy Weight Champion, Mike Tyson, audiences were not amused. In fact, much of America--black folk included--was brutal in it's verbal attack on what it thought was a woman and her family taking advantage of a vulnerable sports hero. On the outside looking in, we seemed to allow celebrity interviews with Barbara Walters and flashy tabloid magazines to sway our judgements.

And now after several publicized episodes of violent behavior in Tyson's life, we realize we may have been too quick to judge. But the damage has already been done. The reputation of "gold-digger" followed Givens long after her divorce from Tyson. According "in 1988 she was labeled The Most Hated Woman in America by several outlets after a CNN NewsNight viewer poll." In her new book, Grace Will Lead Me Home, she addresses that and opens up about her turbulent marriage to Tyson and its impact on her life and career.

Also in an interview with, Givens talks about her new book, motherhood, and how she turned things around so her life story would not play out like a Lifetime movie. Her book is available now. And if you're an old skool black movie collector like myself then you got to add Rage in Harlem and Boomerang to your collection.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wendy Wheaton's Testimonies of Faith

DVD Explores Spirituality and Celebrity

Of the 122 films that screened recently at the 2007 Hollywood Black Film Festival, Wendy Wheaton's Testimonies of Faith, was the only title familiar to me. I had seen the DVD in stores, especially Wal-Mart, but despite my interest never purchased it. Amid the independent films chronicling violent street life and love's consequences, what always stood out most to me was the film's subject matter. Faith.

Working in Hollywood or trying to do so, has definitely put my faith to the test. In fact, I'm willing to say that most of us striving toward some measure of success in this business have a testimony to share. And sharing that testimony with peers often inspires us to hold on to our faith when hopeful dreams seem to turn into nightmares.

So I went to the Testimonies of Faith screening hoping for two things: 1. to be uplifted; and 2. to get an interview with the film's producer, Wheaton Wheaton. I accomplished both. Our first meeting had been months ago at the Randall Pinckett, Campus CEO, book signing.

In the brief interview, Wendy explained her inspiration for doing the film, her production process, and what she hopes audiences will get from viewing it.

Testimonies of Faith DVD Reviews

To learn more about the filmmaker, visit her site, the Hollywood Scoop, listed under my favorite Hollywood links.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Hollywood Black Film Festival 2007

Hollywood Black Film Festival Highlights

How do you manage to watch 122 films in 5 days? You don't! Like most people attending the 2007 Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) you pick and choose. So I managed to see a couple of films and attend a few the parties. Of course, the best networking in Hollywood is often done amid loud music with a pretty glass of liquid courage in one hand, and your business card in the other.

Filmmakers and supporters, myself included, tore the roof of a couple of spots in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. And since I didn't officially celebrate my birthday, I got my groove on!....On the dance floor that is. I dropped it like it was hot, luke warm, and finally cold when the body screamed, No Mas! Here's some pics of my HBFF experience:

AOL Black Voices & local radio station, V100, sponsored the opening night party

Comedian, actor Tommy Davidson graced the place.

Comedienne and V100 morning show co-host, Sheryl Underwood, and co-host, Cliff Winston

Sheryl getting personal with AOL Black Voices Executive, Nick Charles

Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, 1 of 2 theaters that held festival screenings

Even the smartest 5th grader would have to question parking near it!

Filmmakers like to get their shine on in front of the camera too!

Filmmaker, Wendy Wheaton, and film supporters with copies of her film, Testimonies of Faith

Errbody in da club gettin' tipsy at the HBFF White Party.

Meet me at the club, it's going down! At the HBFF party it's guaranteed to go down!

And the reason for it all, film festival and Black Talent News founder, Tanya Kersey, chats with party host, B. Scott, of

To learn more about the festival checkout the festival website. And be sure to check out my exclusive interview with Testimonies of Faith producer, Wendy Wheaton, in the days to come.

Friday, June 08, 2007

APCH Honors Girl Power

A Place Called Home Teaches Young Girls A Woman's Worth

"...Cause nobody, but nobody can make it out here alone."-- Justice

1993. Poetic Justice, John Singleton's dramatic follow-up to Boyz N the Hood, showed us another dramatic portrayal of life in South Central Los Angeles through troubled young woman named Justice (Janet Jackson). Having experienced the murder of her boyfriend and tragic loss of her family, the beauty school graduate used poetry to express her pain and to escape the constant violence and crime in her community.

That was over a decade ago. Now see the new "Justices" of South Central Los Angeles!

These Girlz in the Hood not only use poetry to escape the negativity of their community, they also use music, dance, art, yoga and various other programs provided to them at A Place Called Home (APCH), a non-profit youth center located in the area.

Founded one year after the violent LA Riots by, Debrah Constance, a former advertising executive, APCH's mission was to "help inner-city youth find their dreams through educational enrichment." What began with 12 children in the basement of a local church now provides thousands of South Central youth with a secure, positive environment free of gangs, violence, drugs and other negative forces. It's an oasis of hope in a community rich with hopeless ideals. At APCH kids are given the tools to not only dream big but to explore those dreams to the fullest.

Be Girlz , an extension of APCH's outreach, is the brainchild of Executive Director, Thyonne Gordon. The program inspires girls to discover their inner beauty and strength. Be Girlz participants also receive counseling and etiquette coaching to "help them express themselves individually and collectively through a myriad of programs offered at APCH which inspire them to be the best young ladies they can be," says Gordon. For 3 years, the program has honored women that exemplify and demonstrate their unique brand of girl power.

Held June 6th at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Girlz in the Hood Celebrate Women of Achievement Luncheon recognized five women with the 2007 Girl Power Award:
  • Sandra J. Evers Manly, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility for Northrop Grumman Corporation
  • Molly Sims, Model/Actress, Las Vegas
  • Michelle Rodriguez, Actress, Lost,Girlfight
  • Roselyn Sanchez, Actress, Rush Hour 2, and Grammy Nominated Singer, Amor Amor
  • Ava T. Shamban, MD, Featured dermatologist, Extreme Makeover
Here a few pictures from the event:

Molly Sims & Michelle Rodriguez

Molly Sims, Michelle Rodriguez, and Be Girlz participants

Be Girlz Band

Be Girlz Band and Dancers

To learn more about A Place Called Home programs, visit the organization's website, APCH, or watch the video below.

Additional Picture Sources: Official Michelle Rodriguez Forum,

Monday, June 04, 2007

2007 MTV Movie Awards, Please Hold!

That was my mantra for the past five days. As the office assistant/receptionist for the 2007 MTV Movie Awards, one of my jobs was too answer the production office phones ( I lead such a glamorous life, I know). Of course, the phones rang incessantly most of the day and into the night. Fortunately, I was not alone in handling the task. Another assistant and I acted as a tag team to respond to each call. It was Ebony and Ivory versus Nervous Breakdown aka constantly ringing telephones and blaring walkie chatter in a championship battle every day. And when my partner was pulled out of the ring, I fought valiantly alone.

It was a job not for the faint of heart or easily flustered. When six calls came in at once and every caller thought his or her request was more important than the last, things got a little crazy, especially on show day. Everybody and their cousin called to get tickets, park a limo, or contact an executive. Add to that the fans or stalkers resourceful enough to get the production office number and you have just a glimpse of how I spent last Saturday and Sunday.

"No sir, I can not give you Mark Burnett's cell number!"

"Yes, I understand you're the assistant to (name anybody famous) but you'll still need a credential to....hello...hello...". Dial tone.

"2007 Music Awards....oh you're right! It's the Movie Awards. I'm sorry. I've obviously worked one award show too many. Who would you like speak with? Please hold.

No, it wasn't the most glamorous job of the production, but trust it was one of the most important. So important, I only left the phones to quickly gulp down lunch and to use the ladies room. And once show rehearsals began lunch was had by the phone. I refused to take the phone with me to the bathroom, not that they asked. But then again, it was an MTV production. If you saw the show, then you know the network would do almost anything to get a laugh.

So did I get to see the celebs on the red carpet or live on stage? Sure did. Jay Z and the other stars looked real nice on the production office monitor.

But as the show came to an end, I did escape the office to see some of the stars milling around the VIP lounge area. Here's a few pics:

The exit from the Gibson amphitheater

Tyrese brightening up the scene with his beautiful smile

Eva Mendes chatting with friends

Chris Tucker talking with an associate

John Travolta, another familiar celebrity face in the crowd

Everyone appeared to be having a good time, but for most celebrities in attendance it was just another day at work. As you can guess, Chris Tucker was there to promote Rush Hour 3 and John Travolta and others from the cast attended to promote Hairspray . Both films hit theaters this summer. And let's not forget all the titles currently in theaters or available now on DVD. An award show nomination and an actor's attendance helps boost sales in those projects as well.

If you missed the show, trust it will be in heavy rotation on MTV in the following weeks. But if you can't sit by the tv or program your TiVo to record it, then just visit MTV to see the highlights of the 2007 MTV Movie Awards.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Jill Scott Headlines UCLA Jazz Festival

UCLA Jazz & Reggae Festival

Great food, great music and lots of sunshine. UCLA's 2007 Jazz and Reggae Festival had everything for a perfect Memorial Day weekend, except shade--that you had to supply on your own. I enjoyed two days of festivities with Black N LA, an organization that provides an online resource center for events happening in and around Los Angeles. Gotta business or an upcoming party, play, or concert to promote? Then let Black N LA help you do so through email blasts, online newsletters, and business listings. Was that a shameless plug? Yes, it was. But I wouldn't tell ya nothing wrong! At least not knowingly! Check out the website for yourself.

The fun part of the festival was seeing all the vendors. I love collecting cultural artifacts, t-shirts, and eclectic jewelry. Here's a little bit of what vendors had to offer. The rapping art and t-shirt vendor at the end is cute. Can't knock a brother's hustle!

And after seeing other great performers like Les Nubians, Lupe Fiasco, and reggae artist, Triniti, the best part of it all for me. JILL SCOTT. I absolutely adore this woman's mind and music. Here's a golden moment:

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