Friday, December 21, 2007

Norwood Young's 2007 White Christmas Party!

If you've ever really dreamed of a white Christmas, then legendary R&B singer, Norwood Young is the man to make your dream a reality! December 20th, Young turned his home into a winter wonderland complete with countless Christmas lights, costumed carolers, elves, and REAL snow; however, the considerable drop in temperature and chilly winds were not of his doing! All man-made efforts were done in an effort to raise awareness and collect toys for the New Image Emergency Shelter for the Homeless through his organization, Feed His People.

Dressed fashionably in various hues of white, hundreds of Young's closest friends and invited guests came bearing gifts and ready to party at his estate, Youngwood Court, in Hollywood's famous Hancock Park. I was told that it was also once the home of the late great Nat King Cole. That for now is rumor, but what's fact is that Norwood Young is the former lead singer of legendary jazz group, Pieces Of A Dream. With the band he scored the gold single, What Can I Do? and hit gold again with the Millie Jackson duet, Young Man, Older Woman. He's famous for his music, but his parties are just as much the talk of the town.

All work and no play makes for a very uninteresting blogger. So once the red carpet closed, I headed straight for the warmth of the house. Inside, the party was definitely in full swing: Young's beautifully decorated home held wall to wall beautiful people in holiday spirits; Salt-N-Pepa's Spinderella had bodies moving and heads bobbing to a great mix of hits to satisfy our inner R&B junky; tasty mixed drinks and great food flowed non-stop from the front lawn to the back lawn; and the once modest pile of donated toys was now overflowing. It was official! Norwood Young's 2007 White Christmas party was unquestionably a hit and the presents and the guests just kept coming!

And while the party was at it's peak, Young blessed us with a performance of my favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night, then serenaded Apprentice diva, Omarosa, with Queen of My Life, the second release from his new album, 8th Wonder. Click HERE to hear more of Young's music.

And "it ain't over...the party's not over!" With so many talented performers in attendance, Young opened the floor to other great singers after his mini-show. Once Madame D, my personal local favorite, sang her soulful rendition of an R&B classic, I decided it was time to go. Stomach full, spirit uplifted, and with a couple of new business cards in my possession, I felt this "party with a purpose" was one the best events I had attended all year. Kudos to errbody involved! I'm already looking forward to next year's!

Now while I still have your attention, please take a moment to visit Young's Feed His People website at www.wefeedhispeople.org. Then take another moment to learn more about the New Image Shelter founded by twin sisters, Lynda Moran and Brenda Wilson at www.newimageshelter.org. Both organizations tackle the immediate needs of those without food, clothing, and shelter. Be a blessing and the blessing will be returned when you least expect it. Enjoy the slideshow!


Monday, December 17, 2007

The Color Purple: The Musical About Love

"Too beautiful for words"... If ever there was a phrase to describe the stage production of The Color Purple, then that is it! But words are all I have to describe what I witnessed opening night at L.A.'s Ahmanson Theatre. I didn't just see The Color Purple: The Musical About Love. I experienced it.

"There's a sweet, sweet spirit in this place...and I know that's it the presence of the Lord."

As we watched the familiar story of Celie unfold through the amazing talents of Jeannette Bayardelle and equally outstanding cast, it occurred to me how much The Color Purple is a testament of the spirit. Going beyond racial hues, religious beliefs, and sexual preferences, this timeless work of Alice Walker unites us all under one label--human. And as human embodiments of God's spirit and creativity, we relate to some part of every character from Celie's beaten self esteem to Mister's desired forgiveness. So when we relate to one another spirit to spirit God is present.


Like most I've read the Pulitzer Prize winning book and have seen the Academy Award nominated film several times, but there's something special about witnessing this story on stage. Nothing compares to it. Performances "give you goose pimples" said the woman sitting next to me who also stated she had never seen the film adaptation. Throughout the play she responded to dramatic scenes with quiet emotion, but when Celie and Nettie were united, she openly wept. True story!


Let the spirit move you...


But there were just as many moments in the musical that generated happier responses. Tony Award nominee Felicia P. Field's (Sofia) singing of Hell No! earned enthusiastic applause as did her wonderful performances with stage husband, Stu James (Harpo). The chemistry between them seemed so real, I fell in love with Harpo and Sofia as a couple--something of which did not happen for me watching the film version because this Sofia is different. She's funny, sexy, and confidently moves her weight around like a woman of a lesser size, breaking the stereotypical mold generally created for full figured women.

While Fields represented the big, bold, and beautiful, former Destiny's Child member, Michelle Williams held it down for the pretty, svelte, and sexy as Shug Avery. Forget the "nice girl" images from music videos and sell out concerts, Williams in this role is raunchy, frank, and free-spirit. I literally "clutched the pearls" during her rendition of the bawdy Push Da Button not in offense but in sheer surprise and wonder. Such a response is just proof of how amazing she was in the role of Shug. If you missed her in Aida on Broadway, undoubtedly you'll see Michelle Williams as a leading lady who stands in the shadow of no one. Say her name, say her name!

Having understudied 11 roles on Broadway including that of Celie, Jeannette Bayardelle originally desired the role of Nettie. Obviously, God had other plans. A gospel singer turned actress, she used her "anointing"--as church folk call it--to the fullest to bring Celie to the stage. When she leaned way back and soulfully sang the lyrics of I'm here I felt it was her personal testimony, not just Celie's. So powerful was her delivery, that the audience erupted with adoring applause before finally giving her a standing ovation. To hear just a sample of what I did click HERE to visit her website at www.jeanettebayardelle.com.

Truly, The Color Purple: The Musical of Love is something you must experience in person. Hear the wonderful original music, see the great dance routines, costumes and sets, and most importantly feel the message of love touch your soul.

To get ticket information visit www.centertheatregroup.org or call 213.628.2772



Celebrity arrivals and a few after party pics:

Margaret Avery


Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Loretta Devine, Michael Colyar


Bobby Valentino


Kimberly Elise


Henry Simmons


Musical composers: Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell, Allee Willis

Margaret & Michelle

Model Marcus Hill and BlackNLA Founder, Cherise Calhoun

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Janet Jackson's New Song Hits The Internet

Just when I thought she was thinking, "Let's Wait Awhile" as far as releasing a new single from her upcoming album, Ms. Janet has the internet abuzz with her new song interestingly called, Feedback. Is that a request or a demand? Either way, me likey! Me likey alot! Gonna roll Corolla's windows down, then play it real loud until I feel that base line thumping in my chest. When I get to the first stop light, I'm gonna groove to it like I'm in the club. Errnow and again I do like to cut loose! Wanna hear it for yourself? For you Ipod-challenged,just press the small circle below MENU.


music player


Update: Album title is Discipline and will be released February 26, 2008. This first single was produced by Darkchild. Click on Myspace or her new website for more updates.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Barack "Gets Fired Up & Ready to Go" in LA

Forget Santa! Barak Obama came to town last night bearing gifts of hope and bundles of joy for a new day in politics. And with the help of his "elves", celebrity friends, and supporters he brought a welcoming, diverse crowd of nearly 6,000 to it's feet with a message of "change we can believe in."

Held at Universal's Gibson Amphitheater, a location known for concerts not political speeches, Barack's "opening acts" included performances by R&B sensation, Ne-Yo, and Grammy winning rock band, the Goo Goo Dolls. After their performances, MTV's Wild N' Out host, Nick Cannon took the stage to talk seriously about why Obama was getting his vote for President in the upcoming election. Following him were heartfelt speeches by tv journalist Giselle Fernandez, 86-year-old veteran actor John Whitmore, and campaign volunteer and White Castle actor, Kal Penn. Obviously, event producers knew the importance of having supporters speak that represented a spectrum of the American population.

Then at long last the man of the hour took the stage appearing very relaxed and eager to talk to the thousands that paid up to $250 to attend the fundraising event. He spoke enthusiastically of uniting America, breaking down racial, religious, political party, and sexual preference barriers to bring about a real change in how the government serves its people domestically and its dealings abroad.

"We have to offer a difference in leadership...to pull it together...We are going to return to the politics of hope, " said Obama. "We're going to join together and getting something done."

Further in his speech, he stated that he is not afraid to ask the hard questions and stand alone on his convictions. The crowd applauded thunderously as he affirmed his stance on the Iraq war and reminded us that he alone opposed it even when the rest of the Democratic party did not. And as President, he said he plans to bring soldiers home in 16 months.

In a speech filled with idealism he also talked of universal health care, generating more funding for schools and teachers, ending the country's "addiction to fossil fuels" by finding alternative sources for fuel, and being a leader that not only talked with America's allies but it's enemies as well to help change the world view of our arrogance and hypocrisy.

Dismissing the notion that he is too young, too inexperienced and should wait "his turn", Obama assured the crowd that the "time is now" to bring about the needed change in American politics. So the question of if he would become President was less important than why he should become the next Commander and Chief of the United States.


video

And for those of you that would gladly write Oprah in as President or possibly even Vice Prez. here is part of her speech made recently in South Carolina as to why she supports Obama.



So to the intelligent individual reading this post, I say first please register to vote. After that take some time to get to educated on the issues affecting your life and the candidates addressing them. Then when it's time to do so, get to the polls by any means necessary and VOTE!

Designer Angela Dean Brings Fashion Flair to Paris Hilton Fragrance Ad

Ever flipped through a fashion magazine while sitting under a dryer or watched celebrity arrivals to the Oscars dressed in your tattered sweats and saw a gown so fabulous it literally appeared to have a life of its own? So perfect the color, the design, the fabric, its movement that for a moment you were transported mentally to a new place. You imagined yourself in that masterpiece, floating proudly, boldly down the red carpet of some glamorous event. Then made your presence known by merely stepping into the room; the men all paused and the women choked on hateration. Ever had the moment?


This past weekend I met a remarkable woman that has been designing dresses like that for more than 2 decades. And most of the biggest names in entertainment have worn her timeless designs. Her name is Angela Dean and right now Paris Hilton is donning one of her gorgeous couture creations in an ad campaign for her new fragrance, Can Can. But Hilton is not Dean's only celebrity client, she's dressed stars from Madonna to Natalie Cole. In fact, with an expertise in bras and lingerie she designed the bullet bra the "material girl" made famous during her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990.

A native of Long Beach, California, and founder of DeanZign Designer Collections, Dean exhibited some of her Spring Red Carpet Couture Collection recently at the Opus in Los Angeles. It was there that I had a chance to talk to her briefly about the special evening, her distinctive style, and how up and coming designers can stand out amongst the crowd.


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Click HERE to visit her DeanZign website and view a fabulous fashion collection



Below are some pics from the Opus event:


Angela Dean


Angela Dean and Paris Hilton look-a-like in the Hilton Can Can dress


Jazmin Whitley


Omarosa


Lorielle New


Freda Payne

Desiree Coleman-Jackson


Slideshow of the Spring Red Carpet Couture Collection Exhibit



Should you desire to have Angela create a gorgeous gown for you--award show season is right around the corner--contact her through Infinite Scope & WRB Public Relations at 323-937-2400.

Heineken USA & USC Toast Student Music Video Directors

University graduate students, rock music, and beer. Sounds like a party doesn't it? Well, it was. Recently in Beverly Hills at the prestigious Paley Center invited guests, USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate students, and two independent rock bands partied with a purpose thanks to Heineken USA.

At the event two stellar music videos featuring bands, Low Stars and Rocco and the Burden, premiered before an anticipating crowd of approximately 250 guests. The videos were produced and directed by the USC graduate students for the bands' songs Just Around the Corner and Gift, thanks to grants provided by Heineken. Each band chose a team from among a 150 submissions, based on treatments written by the students that best reflected the message and emotion of their song.

Though I wasn't able to get the actual music videos--understandably, Heineken wants MTV, VH-1, and other music video outlets to show them first--I do have the next best thing, live performances!

Here's Rocco and the Burden peforming their song Gift.

video


Meet the band's pic to produce the video:

John Thompson and Tess Ortbals

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And performing their song, Just Around the Corner, is Low Stars


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Here's the winning team chosen to produce the video :

Coyote Marino, John Edward Miller, and Claire Sullivan-Taylor

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So how did such a creative idea to fund the production of music videos come about in the corporate halls of Heineken? According to Mike McCann, Vice President of Sponsorship and Brand Experience, the idea was sparked from the success Heineken had last year with funding short films produced by students at NYU Film School.

"We just had a brainstorm one day, why don't we marry our two passion points of music and film and have them put together in music video...And what it did was insert an element of talent which can be rough waters to navigate at times frankly with egos and rights issues, depending on which talent you go with..."

Fortunately, with these bands it was all smooth sailing. Low Stars and Rocco DeLuca and the Burden were chosen for the program thanks to previous connections and "proved to be giving and collaborative," said McCann. "I think the relationships we created between the students and these bands will last a lifetime."

Creating positive long lasting impressions is obviously important to the company. From the Red Star Soul music tour and Independent Achievers Awards, to the Red Star Award in filmmaking, and with the collaborations with film schools to give deserving young talents a chance to shine, evidently Heineken is brewing more than beer lately. So what's the underlying message in it all? I asked Pattie Falch, Promotions and Sponsorship manager, for the answer.

"I hope it's really showing people that you can be a large company and a large brand and do something that's really natural, authentic, and real, and supporting people...really inspiring them to do what they truly believe in."



That's an effort worth raising your drink and toasting to. If you'd like to learn more about Heineken and it's support of independent artists visit the company's website HERE and be sure to check the archives here at Hollywood: As I Live and Work or just do a search to read about their previous events.

Here's a few pics I took at the Paley Center event:

Two logos that work great together!


Celebrity presence is always anticipated in Beverly Hills...Gina Gershon and Debi Mazer

Here's Rocco and the Burden


Members of Low Stars recording in a sound booth inside the Paley Center

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Place Called Home Gala For The Children

More often than we may realize, some of Hollywood's wealthy elite actually leave their posh environments to experience L.A.'s other less-than-perfect surroundings. Gone are the tidy avenues of chic boutiques, trendy health conscious restaurants, professionally tanned, sculpted faces and bodies, and a comforting sense of safety. In their place, a step and repeat of dirty streets, liquor stores, greasy fast food joints, dilapidated gang-tagged buildings, unsmiling faces, and a nagging fear that at any moment a prized possession might be taken, including your life. Welcome to South Central L.A. Here is where these elite dare to go to share intangible gifts that all the money in the world can't buy.

Yet despite all that we know and hear about the negativity in the 'hood, there is a positive report coming from the streets. In the middle of the gang violence, drug addiction, poverty, and fear is a place a child or teen can go to just dream in peace. At A Place Called Home (APCH), a safe zone, not only are kids allowed to dream, but they are also given the tools and taught the skills needed to manifest all that they imagine. For just a couple of hours a day the burden of poverty and violence is lifted from their small shoulders and they are free to just be--be inquisitive, be creative, be studious, be themselves. Watch the video.



Wednesday night at the Beverly Regent Hotel in Beverly Hills, three of the Hollywood elite unafraid to share their wealth, their time, and their experience with the youth of South Central were honored at APCH's 2007 Winter Wonderland Gala For The Children. Award recipients were:
  • Dawn Taubin, President of Domestic Marketing, Warner Bros., Children's Inspiration Award
  • Sid Ganis, Founder, Out of the Blue Entertainment, Debrah Constance Humanitarian Award
  • Robert A. Davidow, Founding Board Member of APCH, the Sister Patricia Connor Angel of the Children Award

Approximately one million dollars was raised at the event through donations, pledges, tickets, and auctions. Here are some picks of my favorite silent auction items. Included: American Idol tickets and Chris Daughtry guitar; Boots signed by Avril Lavigne; artwork by APCH artists, LA Clippers floor seats and LA Kings suite; signed guitars by Hannah Montana & Jonas Brothers; Lenny Kravitz concert tickets.



And here are more pics from the event:

Sid Ganis, APCH Founder Debrah Constance, Dawn Taubin, and Robert Davidow


APCH Executive Director, Thyonne Gordon, Gala Honorees, and APCH children


Doug Atchinson, Chairperson, APCH Leadership Council and wife, Dahlia. Atchinson is also the writer and director of Akeelah and the Bee.

Orlando Jones and Shondrella Avery


Angela Basset introducing honoree, Sid Ganis co-producer of Akeelah and the Bee


Brian McKnight and sons performing

To learn more about APCH read my previous post by clicking here or visit the APCH website at www.apch.org

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Perfect Holiday

It's a good time to be Santa in Hollywood especially if you're a sexy, black actor with a loyal following. A little less than a month ago, I urged you to see This Christmas. Well now, I'm going to push again for your support at the box office for new film, The Perfect Holiday starring Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Charlie Murphy, Katt Williams, and Faizon Love. It hits theaters Wednesday, December 12th.

In the tradition of The Preacher's Wife, Hollywood has gifted us again with a really cute Christmas story complete with a little romance, humour, cute kids, a great cast, a good story, and some Christmas magic. There's no violence, no displays of alternative uses of baby oil and leather belts, cursing, semi-nudity, nor steamy sex scenes for the conservatives to complain or raise an eyebrow about.


So why should you consider seeing The Perfect Holiday? Because every black movie doesn't have to be highly dramatic, sexualized, or comedic to be enjoyable! Or does it? We're so programmed to think so that studios know what we'll pay to see before we see it. It's all based on a formula, people--one that seemingly guarantees a good return on the studios investment. And yes, The Perfect Holiday fits into that formula just as any other movie.

So again, why should you pay to see this film in the theater? Because if you've paid to see other films of less quality and suitable family content, why not support one with high production value created specifically for you AND your little elves to see? Really, just how often does a black child see him or herself featured prominently in a positive film about Christmas? Marinate on that after reading my take on the film.

Yes, Morris Chestnut and Gabrielle Union are together again. And to answer the question, "Aren't there any other black actors in Hollywood that could play their roles?" Yes, lots of them. But would you pay to see two unknown actors in lead roles at a theater near you? Survey says! No! Chesnutt and Union are tried and true as actors. They look great together, are very believable on screen romantically, and give great performances. If you want to see more unknown or new faces in lead roles, visit Wal-Mart's DVD section AFTER you finishing reading this post, listening to the cast interviews, and emailing this post to friends.


Chestnut portrays Benjamin, Santa by day and struggling songwriter by night. All he wants for Christmas is a record deal. Union is Nancy, a divorced mother of 3, looking out for her kids' happiness at the expense of her own. Her only heart's desire for Christmas is a genuine compliment from a stranger; you know it's the little things that means so much, especially to woman barely holding on to her identity outside of motherhood.

To get the Christmas ball rolling, Nancy's adorable daughter, Emily (Khail Bryant) enlists Santa's a.k.a Benjamin's help. Assisting him behind-the-scenes, literally, are two angels. Here's where that Hollywood formula kicks in again. The angels are portrayed by Executive Producer, Queen Latifah, and Oscar nominated, Terrance Howard (this brother never sleeps!). With a little Christmas magic, this bad angel/good angel duo try to bring a little romance to the lives of Benjamin and Nancy. However, their plans get thwarted by Benjamin's secret identity, Nancy's mischievous oldest son John-John (Malik Hammond), and Benjamin's potential record deal with her ex-husband J-Jizzy (Charlie Murphy), a flashy bad boy, rap artist.

Bringing more comedy to the mix is exhibitionist...I mean...comedic actor, Faizon Love. He's obviously large and in charge as Santa's elf and Benjamin's friend, Jamal. And playing J-Jizzy's record label exec is Katt Williams as Delicious (that's his name, not his flavor, but then again who knows?). Scenes with him and Murphy are definitely some off the funniest in the film. Lastly, rounding out the cast are much missed sitcom actresses, Rachel True and Jill Jones as Nancy's best friends.

Overall, The Perfect Holiday may not make you cry or want to eat or sing, but it does supply audiences with a movie that can be enjoyed by anyone at nearly any age. So, prove to the studios that African-American movie tastes are just as varied as any other race of people. Yes, we like high drama and high comedy, but we also enjoy seeing ourselves in non-traditional settings too. I'm dreaming of a not-so white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know and the ones I don't.

Listen to interviews with the director Lance Rivera and the cast:


Lance Rivera




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Charlie Murphy




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Katt Williams




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Gabrielle Union




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Morris Chestnut




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To see a trailer or visit the film's website click on the image below:

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