OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
MEDIA MEGALOMANIA...Yes folks, Viacom--which currently owns Paramount Pictures, MTV, BET, VH-1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central (and this doesn't even include the other entity's--CBS Corp.--companies)--will have its mitts in a gang of college media outlets. It was just announced that MTV Networks will acquire Y2M: Youth Media & Marketing Networks. Y2M is the parent of College Publisher, which sells ads for 2,000-plus on-campus print publications and 450 online campus papers. Through this purchase, MTV can now to bundle those sales ops with avails on its own MTV Networks on Campus, which already reaches 750 colleges. Talk about media behemoth. Just where do independent-owned and independent-minded media outlets fit in?
UTA WANTS BLADE CUT...On Monday in California Superior Court in Los Angeles United Talent Agency sued Wesley Snipes for back commissions they say they're owed for Blade: Trinity and other films. According to the suit, while Snipes, who earned at least $13 million for the 2004 Blade sequel, paid about $717,000 in commissions to UTA, he still owes them $584,000. UTA also wants commissions totaling $2 million-plus related to its 10% representation fee on three other films. Needless to say after all this, dude will probably be seeking new representation.
TALKING HEAD?...Word around town is that Vivica A. Fox, whose Lifetime drama series "Missing" was not renewed, is meeting with studios to discuss hosting a syndicated daytime project. Loving Vivica, but we don't need yet more short-lived self-righteousness on daytime TV, do we? Think bigger; create an overall production deal and work it, Mama.
NOT FEELING DALLAS...Things seem to be shaky for Dallas, the movie. The director, Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde), reportedly left because he wasn't happy with the casting (John Travolta, Jennifer Lopez, Marcia Cross, Shirley MacLaine)--which insiders say were his first choices. So female director of color Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), a filmmaker of Indian descent, was hired. But now J. Lo has dropped out of the film, giving no public reason why. Still, production on the 20th Century Fox 2007 film could start in October. Hey, we're curious to see the direction Chadha takes with the '80s phenom.
CONDOLENCES...One of Urban Hollywood's most in-demand stage managers Valdez Flagg is mourning the death of his niece, Zuri Williams (29), killed in a drive-by shooting in L.A. on July 20th. He and his family have set up a memorial fund to cover immediate expenses, and create a scholarship fund for the single mother's three children. Send condolences and contributions to: Zuri Williams Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 5108, Culver City, CA 90231-5108.
GLOBAL ACTIVIST ACTOR...Fresh from protesting the bulldozing of an urban farm in L.A., Danny Glover, 59, was in San Juan earlier this week to help rally Puerto Rico's hotel workers to join the local branch of the Gastronomical Union, in order to gain better pay and benefits. Acting roles may be fleeting, but an activist's work is never done.
IT'S A CYBER GIRL'S THANG...Move over guy geeks, it seems that women now make up 52% of the U.S. online population, with nearly 100 million American females projected to be online by 2008. And according to a Best Buy study, women buy 55% of electronics items. Wonder if the networks are noticing these numbers--perfect way to reach female viewers might be online.
LAW & DISORDER...First Courtney B. Vance exited the NBC show "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." Now, our sources tell us that Nona Gaye just quit as his replacement in the role of assistant D.A.--and she hadn't even started taping. Apparently, Gaye was not comfortable with some of the creative decisions made about the character. Theresa Randle (right) has stepped into the role but signed on for only three shows, with an option to become a regular. Stay tuned as the musical chairs continues.
AOL BECOMES FREE & CUTS STAFF
In an effort to boost its sagging bottom line, AOL announced earlier this week that it will now start offering its service for free. Currently, AOL now has 17.6 million customers who pay monthly charges. Now, anyone with high-speed Internet access can download the AOL software free. The company is hoping this will bring back some of the 9 million users it has reportedly lost over the past five years. According to AOL, it will cease advertising its dial-up service, which costs $9.95 to $25.90. This also will save the company, it says, $1 billion a year. Current subscribers must call AOL customer service (888-265-8008) to stop paying. And ex-subscribers who quit in the past two years can reclaim their e-mail addresses for free by signing on to AOL to reactivate. But in another move, AOL announced that it will be cutting a quarter of its work staff--5,000 employees in all--to further streamline its operations.
One of Hollywood's best kept secrets is starting to be found out by more and more filmmakers in search of support.
The Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC) has quietly become a valuable asset for making, marketing, maintaining black cinema. Founded in 1996, the nonprofit, public benefit organization, is designed to advocate, educate, research, develop, and preserve the history, and the future, of blacks in the film and television industries.
Many in the industry have come to rally behind one of the BHERC initiatives--The First Weekend Club (http://www.firstweekendclub.org/). Launched in March 1997, the club works as a financial advocate for films by and featuring the talents of African-Americans--in front of and behind the cameras. The First Weekend Club, which boasts more than 35,000 members nationwide, encourages through various forms of communication that people get out to the movies on the first weekend--thus boosting the opening day box office for black films. And not only do the First Weekend Club members pledge to support movies by and featuring blacks in prominent roles, they promise to encourage 10 other filmgoers to do the same. They have chapters in Chicago, Dallas, Sacramento, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.
Currently the FWC is encouraging consumers to see Miami Vice, Shadowboxer, and Little Man. The next targeted films are Snakes on A Plane and Swap Meet, both opening August 18th. One of the FWC's biggest successes to date was the response for How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Due in part to the FWC push, in August 1998, Magic Johnson Theatres in Los Angeles had sell-out crowds on all seven screens for the opening of the film. The FWC Los Angeles chapter, with 4,700 members, went to the theatre en masse. The movie had an opening week-end gross of $11.3 million.
"We don't say 'you're watching the wrong movie,'" says Sandra Evers-Manly, BHERC Founder/President. "Instead, we advocate broadening the types of movies people go to see. We need to develop a better understanding about the images that influence opinions about African Americans and other people of color, worldwide."
After a film is targeted and before it hits the theaters, the FWC posts information about it on its organization's Website (http://www.bherc.org/). Members are contacted by phone, fax, e-mail, mail. After seeing films, they rate them on comment cards and offer suggestions, which are sent to the studios. Even studios such as Miramax, who has held private screenings with FWC members for feedback, are taking note of the longstanding vote-at-the-box-office campaign.
Besides FWC, BHERC offers a number of other events and services for filmmakers and film-lovers. The BHERC, for example, annually hosts a series of film festivals (Reel Black Men and and S.E. Manly Short Film Showcase), the African-American Film Marketplace, and the venue is often used to showcase new talent and screen new films. Then there's the Center's educational programs, including the annual Artistry in Motion, an animation seminar led by industry professionals for middle and high school students. And, since its founding, the BHERC's scholarship projects have awarded more than $500,000 in equipment, in-kind services, and resources to film students and independent filmmakers.
The BHERC. A powerful resource, right around the corner.
SWEET SuiteSeats AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
From the L.A. Philharmonic to Sade the Bowl has something for everyone on its performance calendar that runs from mid-June and through early October. This past Friday night, I attended the Bowl's staged presentation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Sound of Music. The production was flawless from our terrace seats, complete with John Mauceri orchestrations and an all-star cast including Tony nominee Melissa Errico as Maria von Trapp with John Schneider as Captain von Trapp and the legendary Marni Nixon as Mother Abbess. What a treat!
As I said, one can't beat the grandeur and quality entertainment at the Bowl. But with every good thing, there are some negatives. The two worst aspects of the Bowl experience? The parking and the uncomfortable seating. Parking can't be helped. But the seats--There is really no excuse.
If you are unlucky enough to be on the benches, just bring a pillow and enjoy the show. After all, you paid between $8 and $20--what do you expect? But the box seats in the terrace and circle areas should be more comfortable for all the money that patrons spend--upwards of $100 sometimes! The Bowl hasn't addressed this important consumer comfort issue.
But a fellow fan of the California institution has--and, boy, does it make a difference. Quirky cool entrepreneur Jonathan Sidy has come up with a fantastic invention called "SuiteSeat." SuiteSeats ($342) are custom-designed, handmade-slip covers for the garden and terrace box seats in the Hollywood Bowl.
I can't say enough about these durable, colorful covers, which are precisely padded for derriere, arm and back support. And if that weren't enough, they provide an elegant look to your box and come in all kinds of colors. Many patrons asked about our "special seats." Hopefully, one day the Bowl will get smart and make these must-have cushions available for rental on-site. But until then, visit http://www.suiteseats.com.
Ironically, as I sat at my favorite summer venue in my new favorite, supercool SuiteSeat, the glorious notes of "My Favorite Things" floated through the warm summer air. Cozy and snug as a bug, I felt like I was on the very best place on earth.
Tamiko Nash (Ms. California) won the poker tournament at Chris Webber’s annual weekend charity fundraiser. Her prize? A private jet to anywhere in the world. Other celebrities seen chillin’ over the weekend at Ceasar’s Palace included: Tracee Ellis-Ross, Regina King, Alimi Ballard (CBS' "Numb3rs"), Miguel Ferrer ("Crossing Jordan"), Keshia Knight Pulliam, Salli Richardson ("Eureka"), Dondre Whitfield, and Finesse Mitchell ("Saturday Night Live").
Love reading The A-List (especially the festival coverage).
SHOUT OUTS TO NEW A-LISTER MARIE MAYE, GIL "ALWAYS ON THE A-LIST" ROBERTSON, AND FESTIVAL QUEEN LEANNE LINDSAY.