Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey CHRONICLE STAFF
In 1989, Tina Turner had a big hit titled “The Best.” She sang about a remarkable gentleman who was “simply the best, better than all the rest.”
In a different context, she may well have been singing the praises of Denzel Washington, the consummate actor. And “consummate” is the right word because it means “supremely accomplished or skilled.”
Washington has proven this repeatedly since 1981, and he has two Academy Awards to verify it, the first in 1989 for his amazing performance in “Glory,” the second for his stunning (and scary) performance in “Training Day.”
One mark of a true actor or actress is the ability to get so far into the character that they literally become that character. Denzel Washington, like Meryl Streep, does it every time. His latest big screen achievement is “Flight,” an action-adventure film in which Washington portrays a pilot with issues, and once again the raves are pouring it.
NO DOUBT it will wind up designated “great” in the tradition of so many of the others.
Washington is an “A” list megastar, but has said that he is focused on his acting, not on the glitz and glamor that comes with being a star.
“I don’t know how to be a celebrity,” he said.
But, in a manner of speaking, he has to at least pretend he does. After all, in addition to being a highly respected actor whose name on a marquee almost guarantees a movie’s success, Washington was named “Sexiest Man Alive” in 1996 by People magazine. Flattering, but no doubt somewhat embarrassing.
DENZEL HAYES WASHINGTON, JR. was born Dec. 28, 1954 — he will be 58 next month — in Mount Vernon, which is near New York City. His mother, Lennis Washington, was a beauty parlor owner and his father, Denzel Hayes Washington, Sr., was a Pentecostal minister who also worked at a department store and for the water department.
Distressed by what was happening in her son’s life, Mrs. Washington, whose marriage had unraveled, enrolled her son in Oakland Military Academy, a private preparatory school. No matter how he may have felt about it at the time, when he was older, he appreciated the fact that the action his mother took was a lifesaver.
“That decision changed my life because I wouldn’t have survived in the direction I was going,” he said. “The guys I was hanging out with at the time, my running buddies, have now done maybe 40 years combined in the penitentiary.”
He realized he possessed innate skills as an actor at an early age and knew what he wanted to do with his life career-wise. In 1977 he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama and Journalism from Fordham University.
It was there that he was cast in two important stage productions, Shakespeare’s “Othello” and Eugene O’Neil’s “The Emperor Jones.”
EVERY ACTOR or actress is always seeking, hoping for and praying for that first big break. For Washington, it proved to be the hospital drama “St. Elsewhere” that aired on NBC from 1982 to 1988. His character was Dr. Phillip Chandler.
Ironically, at one early stage of his life he wanted to be a doctor.
There is the old saying, “You’ve got to crawl before you work.” But it is not fully applicable to Denzel Washington. He has worked diligently for everything he has achieved, but is forthright enough to admit, “I never really had the classic struggle.” Instead, he noted, “I had faith, and I remain thankful for the gifts that I’ve been given and I try to use them in a good way.
“It’s not about what you have. It’s about what you’ve done with your accomplishments. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.”
Washington’s movie career shifted into high gear in 1987 when he caught the attention of critics, the media and the public as Steven Biko, a South African anti-apartheid political activist, in “Cry Freedom.” He received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. That same year he also appeared in “The Mighty Quinn” and “For Queen and Country.”
TWO YEARS later, Washington actually won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Glory,” which paved the road for his amazing ascension into the Hollywood stratosphere.
“Mo’ Better Blues,” 1990.
“Heart Condition,” 1990.
“Mississippi Masala,” 1991.
“Malcolm X,” 1992.
“Much Ado About Nothing,” 1992.
“The Pelican Brief,” 1993.
“Crimson Tide,” 1993.
“Devil in a Blue Dress,” 1995.
“Courage Under Fire,” 1995.
“The Preacher’s Wife,” 1996.
“He Got Game,” 1996.
“The Siege,” 1998.
“The Bone Collector,” 1998.
“The Hurricane,” 1999.
“Remember the Titans,” 1999.
“The Loretta Claiborne Story,” 2000.
“Training Day,” 2001.
“John Q,” 2001.
“Antwone Fisher,” 2002.
“Out of Time,” 2003.
“Man on Fire,” 2003.
“The Manchurian Candidate,” 2004.
“Inside Man,” 2004.
“Déjà vu,” 2006.
“American Gangster,” 2006.
“The Great Debaters,” 2007.
“The Taking of Pelham 123,” 2009.
“The Book of Eli,” 2009.
“Safe House,” 2010.
In post-production: “2 Guns” which is slated for 2013 release.
That number of movies surely required a plethora of interviews, press junkets, TV appearances, etc.
“I know that marketing comes into play when you’re spending 50 or 60 million dollars of other people’s money to make a film,” said Washington. “You have to be involved in marketing that product. But the publicity gets to be boring.
“How many times can you tell the same story? I understand the importance of doing publicity for a film, so I’m willing to do that, but I don’t want to sit around talking about myself. That’s not a great day for me. That’s not my idea of fun.”
Once again, complete honesty. — SVH
Last Updated on Thursday, 08 November 2012 10:31
Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey CHRONICLE STAFF
Legendary radio personality and spiritual leader Martha Jean “The Queen” Steinberg once said, on the air, that she saw nothing wrong with lonely, middle-aged women gathering at someone’s house and hiring a male dancer to entertain them!
Brenda & the Tabulations, the group that had the hits “Right on the Tip of My Tongue” and “Dry Your Eyes,” appeared on “Soul Train,” after several personnel changes, and were asked by Don Cornelius if this was the original group. Lead singer Brenda Payton said, “This is the original group now.”
At a media event, a well-known Black Detroit journalist, radio personality and more said Black women are the most beautiful women in the world. Upon hearing this, another Black journalist said, “There are beautiful women in every race. Why would you say that?” He passionately responded, “It’s from God!”
Yours truly wrote a review of an album by a bandleader-drummer whose last name initial is “B.” Because a computer was used to makemuch of the album, I wrote that the drumming sounded mechanical. He got mad, called and said, “I’d like to hear you play!”
When Vanessa Williams was re-emerging with hit records, following the Miss America “scandal” that resulted in her stepping down near the end of her reign, a reporter asked how she felt about people who would recall the nude pictures no matter what she did career-wise. The very intelligent, highly educated and eloquent Williams said bluntly, “F--- them!”
Michael Jackson threatened to sue the National Enquirer when it ran a picture of him in a hyperbaric chamber that supposedly would make him live forever. Jackson expressed outrage to the media and threatened to sue. But the editor of the Enquirer said that was just a ridiculous ploy for publicity because Jackson was the one who provided the picture!
“We’re good at what we do, but not good enough to get into his house!” said the editor.
Speaking of Jacksons, Janet Jackson received the key to the city of Detroit from then-mayor Coleman Young because she asked to receive it! The mayor said he was happy to oblige.
Motivational speaker Les Brown said he bought one of those fancy, expensive exercise machines and had the best of intentions, but when he brought it home, he ended up using it to put his food tray on while he was watching television!
DR. MAYA ANGELOU sent out an e-mail — maybe you received it — in support of the most deserving Barack Obama for a second term as president of the United States. She said, among other things, “As Rev. King wrote, ‘All progress is precarious.’ We must make our voices heard. Your vote is not only important. It’s imperative.”
The multi-talented Nick Cannon said he is working on a sequel to “Drumline,” the movie he starred in ten years ago. “Drumline,” about a Black college marching band, was a good movie. It had heart and soul and was very entertaining.
Rap superstar and business tycoon Jay-Z said, “What people do in the own homes is their business and you love whoever you love. It’s about people.”
We quoted that to say this: “Coming out” is well on its way to becoming commonplace, which is a good thing since it is essentially a non-issue, although a lot of people choose to make it otherwise. Truth is, no one should feel they have to pretend to be something they are not.
Celebrities are acknowleging their sexuality regularly these days, the most recent being Shaun T (Thompson), the multi-millionaire superstar fitness trainer best known for the “Insanity Workout” infomercials. He joins a long list of honest, courageous people in the public eye, including CNN anchor Don Lemon, R&B singer Frank Ocean, CNN anchor/TV show host Anderson Cooper, comedienne-actress Wanda Sykes and actor Neil Patrick Harris.
Let’s focus on things that are important.
Actor-rapper Romeo (Miller) says two of the people he admires most and draws inspiration from are Denzel Washington and Will Smith. It’s like a chain or cycle. Washington’s hero was, and is, the great Sidney Poitier, and Smith is a key source of inspiration for rapper-turned-actor LL Cool J.
BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW...that “Want Ads,” the No. 1 hit from 1971, was originally recorded by Scherrie Payne, who later replaced Jean Terrell in the Supremes, but she didn’t like the song so she let the Honey Cone have it.
MEMORIES: “Since You’ve Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby)” (Aretha Franklin), “You Ought To Be With Me” (Al Green), “He’s the Greatest Dancer” (Sister Sledge), “1-2-3” (Len Barry), “Flowers” (the Emotions), “Let’s Start the Dance” (Bohannon, featuring Carolyn Crawford), “Honey Chile” (Martha Reeves & the Vandellas), “Cold Sweat” (James Brown).
BLESSINGS to Marcus Amick, Nicholas Hood III, Bettye LaVette, Tony Stevenson, Alexis Williams, Earthel LaGreen, June LaGreen, Nicholas Hood Sr., Verna Green and Leroy Hyter.
WORDS OF THE WEEK, from Dr. Wayne Dyer: “You cannot be lonely if you like the person you are alone with.”
Let the music play!
Last Updated on Friday, 02 November 2012 13:05
Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey
It is tough situation when the lead singer of a popular vocal group has other aspirations that cannot be fulfilled in a group setting.
There is the matter of being true to one’s self, but at the same time being cognizant of the fact that if they choose to go the solo route, there is a good chance — a certainty in some cases — that the group will suffer.
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes had a long string of hits from 1972 to 1976, including “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “The Love I Lost” and “I Miss You.” When Teddy Pendergrass decided that he would prefer working alone, Melvin recruited a sound-alike, David Ebo, but the group only had one more hit, “Reaching For The World.”
L.T.D. did a virtual free fall following the departure of their outstanding lead singer, Jeffrey Osborne, in 1980. (His brother, Billy Osborne, also left.) It was quite an adjustment because the band had become accustomed to regular hits, including three that reached No. 1 on the national charts, “Love Ballad,” “(Every Time I Turn Around) Back in Love Again” and “Holding On (When Love Is Gone).”
THE COMMODORES are still working today, but Lionel Richie pulling out was a blow of major proportions. After enjoying smashes like “Just To Be Close To You,” “Sweet Love” and “Too Hot ta Trot,” the group had to get into a different mindset. They did, however, have one post-Richie superhit, “Nightshift,” that hit No. 1 and stayed there for a month. Their new member was J.D. Nicholas.
Richie left sooner than he otherwise would have because other members of the band had become resentful of the attention he was receiving from the media and the public.
It was essentially over for Rufus once Chaka Khan decided to make that move in 1978, after leading the band on such gems as “Tell Me Something Good,” “Sweet Thing” and “You Got the Love.”
Fortunately for them, Khan, although a solo act, still made records with them from time to time, and therefore the group had some additional hits, most notably “Do You Love What You Feel?” and “Ain’t Nobody.” At one point Rufus made records minus Khan, but they flopped.
THE SUPREMES and the Miracles managed to keep the hits coming following the exit of Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson, respectively.
The Supremes had major success with “Up the Ladder to the Roof,” “Stoned Love” and “Floy Joy,” among others. The Miracles, meanwhile, scored with “Do It Baby,” “Don’t Cha Love It” and their No. 1 smash, “Love Machine.”
Same for the Spinners and the Impressions.
With Philippé Wynne singing at least half of the leads, the Spinners were consistent hitmakers — “Ill Be Around,” “Mighty Love,” “Sadie” and “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love?” to name a few.
The Spinners recruited John Edwards and made the Top 10 with two medleys, “Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me, Girl” and “Cupid/I’ve Loved You For A Long Time.” It wasn’t like the glory years, but they “kept it moving.”
Philippé Wynne’s solo career faltered.
IT WOULD be impossible to overstate the importance of lead singer-guitarist-songwriter-producer Curtis Mayfield to the Impressions, deeply entrenched in music history with hits, hits and more hits. Among them, “It’s All Right,” “Gypsy Woman,” “People Get Ready,” “Keep On Pushing,” “I’m So Proud” and “We’re a Winner.”
The first replacement was Leroy Hutson, followed by Ralph Johnson. The new Impressions enjoyed Top 10 hits with “Finally Got Myself Together (I’m a Changed Man),” “Same Thing It Took” and “Sooner or Later.”
DeBarge, the family group from Grand Rapids (they had also lived in Detroit), helped keep Motown Record Corp. on the charts in the 1980s with hits like “All This Love,” “Rhythm of the Night” and “Time Will Reveal.”
Since El DeBarge was not only singing lead but also writing and producing the records, it was not really surprising when he became a solo attraction. The group made an album without him but there was little or no interest.
The 5th Dimension were one of the most successful pop groups of the 1960s and early 1970s, with such memorable hits as “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” “Up, Up and Away,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “One Less Bell to Answer.” (Some of their songs did well in the R&B market as well.)
The other three members of the group were shocked when Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., who were married, informed them in 1976 that they were leaving to work as a duo.
Replacements singers were hired and the 5th Dimension continued, but the golden, high-profile era was past and there were no additional hits. Original member Florence LaRue is still working with a new incarnation of the group that is billed as the 5th Dimension featuring Florence LaRue.
Last Updated on Friday, 12 October 2012 11:40
Category: Entertainment Written by Huffington Post
James Cameron might be getting out of the "'Avatar' business."
According to THR, Cameron has grabbed the rights to Taylor Stevens' "The Informationist," a novel about female "information dealer" with a shady past who heads to Africa to look for the kidnapped daughter of a billionaire. As THR notes, the novel's protagonist, Vanessa “Michael” Munroe, has been compared to Lisbeth Salander from "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." The idea is that Cameron will produce and direct the film.
“Taylor Stevens’ Vanessa Michael Munroe is an intriguing and compelling heroine with an agile mind and a thirst for adventure," Cameron said in a press release. "Equally fascinating for me is her emotional life and her unexpected love story. I'm looking forwarding to bringing Vanessa and her world to the big screen.”
Of course, that's slightly different than what Cameron said earlier this year. The director told the New York Times that he was done making movies that weren't set on Pandora.
"Last year, I basically completely disbanded my production company’s development arm," he said in May. "So I’m not interested in developing anything. I'm in the 'Avatar' business. Period. That's it. I'm making 'Avatar 2,' 'Avatar 3,' maybe 'Avatar 4,' and I'm not going to produce other people’s movies for them. I'm not interested in taking scripts."
Cameron is supposed to direct "The Informationist" after the "Avatar" sequels, meaning it could be a while; "Avatar 2" might not arrive in theaters until 2015 at the earlier, and he's also talked about making a prequel film after "Avatar 3." As Movies.com editor Erik Davis joked on Twitter, Cameron might have to direct "The Informationist" in 2022.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 16:25
Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey
I have read a lot of great books in my time (my preferences are autobiographies and unauthorized biographies) and one my favorites is the just-published “A Woman Like Me,” a tell-all by Detroit’s own Bettye LaVette, who had to wait so long for major stardom. This book is exciting because it is built on total honesty.
Reader Greg Hendricks, a native Detroiter who now lives in Brooklyn, e-mailed, “Oh my goodness! I am absolutely loving this lady! Her truth and candor are going to work some nerves, but her journey I am totally accepting. This book has given me so much strength and life insight. I’m recommending it to everyone I know.”
Mind you, “A Woman Like Me” is not for the overly sensitive or the overly pious. Keep that in mind.
LaVette is in the big time now, being paid handsomely for performances, even singing for two presidents. (She is big supporter of President Obama.)
One of the interesting things Bettye has said to yours truly over the years is that she, for the most part, prefers the company of men over women, although she has female friends too.
“I’m a man’s woman,” she writes in the book. “It’s fascinating, and easy, for me to see life from a man’s point of view. God bless psychologists, but my instinct was to survive as a singer and prevail as a person. It didn’t take a genius to realize that men held the key to that survival.”
On one occasion in the ’90s she had just performed as part of a show that included several well-known Black female singers. She made it clear to them that this was business, that she viewed them, in a sense, as competition, and that she had no interest in being girlfriends, going shopping, engaging in girl talk, etc.
Hey, that’s Bettye! We have been friends forever. She always speaks the truth. Her book is red hot, and some of things she reveals about herself and others, including many celebrities, are shocking.
SPEAKING OF unadulterated honesty, there is Ava Cherry. She used to sing background for Luther Vandross and, before that, was a background singer for rock superstar David Bowie, who has been married to supermodel Iman for a long time. (She has also made records on her own.)
It is no secret in show business and media circles that Bowie was at one time intimately involved with another rock icon, Mick Jagger. (I don’t judge.) What was surprising was when Cherry acknowledged, “Even though I was in bed with them many times, I ended up just watching them. They practically lived together for several months.”
Well, as John Lennon put it, “Whatever gets you through the night...”
As you may have heard, just as expected, new “American Idol” judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj have already clashed — at an auditions session. (Just think, the new season isn’t even being aired yet!) Minaj reportedly referred to Carey as “her f------ highness.”
Let’s hope things calm down before the new season starts — and that they don’t get into an on-air battle like Wendy Williams and Omarosa did on Williams’ show a while back. But, on the other hand, let’s face it, most of the viewers and the media love this sort of thing, and the ratings would reflect that. Night right, but true.
JOHN LEGEND, whose real name, by the way, is John Stephens, reports that he believes that his upcoming album, “Love in the Future,” will be “the best album of my career so far.” In fact, he is so deeply involved in recording it that he decided to push back his fall tour.
The family of Whitney Houston, who died early this year, should be ashamed of themselves. They are getting all set for the debut of “The Houstons: On Our Own,” a reality show (yet another one!) that focuses of them “adjusting” after Whitney’s passing. It will air on the Lifetime channel and is scheduled to be introduced late this month. No doubt, plenty of money will be made. It all seems wrong on so many levels.
We all know what a great songwriter Curtis Mayfield was (“People Get Ready,” “Giving Him Something He Feel,” etc.), but there is a line in one my favorites, “Let’s Do It Again” by the Staples Singers, that I have never understood. It goes, “I’m not a girl that could linger, but a feel like a Butterfinger.” Now what does that mean?
It’s great that Samuel L. Jackson is out there promoting Barack Obama as Nov. 6 approaches, but it seems a bit much for him to have told a segment of the community to “Wake the f--- up!” However, Mr. Obama, appreciative of the support, probably found it amusing.
BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW...that well known and much respected singer-pianist Jo Thompson, who is from Detroit, was the first person to ever sing the standard “For Once In My Life,” written by Ron Miller and Orlando Murden.
MEMORIES: “Walk On By” (Dionne Warwick), “I Am Changing” (Jennifer Holliday), “Son of a Preacher Man” (Dusty Springfield), “If You’re Not Back in Love By Monday” (Millie Jackson), “Push It” (Salt-N-Pepa), “Spirit of the Boogie” (Kool & the Gang), “Slip Away” (Clarence Carter), “Young Hearts Run Free” (Candi Staton), “September” (Earth, Wind & Fire).
BLESSINGS to Katherine Shaffner, Derek Thornton, William Staiger, Paul Barker, Claudreen Jackson, Marlene Barrow-Tate, Sam Kemp, Ken Donaldson, Carol Smith Dixon and Janaya Black.
WORDS OF THE WEEK, from life coach and author Brad Bollenbach: “It tears you apart when you choose to define yourself by what other people think. Make authenticity your top priority.”
Let the music play!
Last Updated on Friday, 12 October 2012 11:36
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