Thursday, September 27, 2007

86: Congressional Hearings & Hip Hop

The only place to go for the snap, crackle and pop of multicultural moves in Hollywood. Voila. Issue #86.


BRUNETTE AMBITION...Tracey Edmonds is now one of the few Black female Hollywood producers to be included in the mainstream film producing inner circle. Though Edmonds has produced other projects, Good Luck Chuck is the first one truly intended for a for a mass market audience, having taken in $13,652,001 at the box office since opening last weekend. Edmonds joins the ranks of Debra Martin Chase, and the can count-on-one hand number of African-American women film producers. Could a Hello, He Lied version from a more colorful point of view of Hollywood observations and suggestions a la Linda Obst, be far behind?

¡CELEBREMOS!...Although Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of American population, the celebration of their culture is relegated to one month, just as it is for African Americans. You may not know it but we are in the smack dab in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM), which began Sept. 15 and runs to Oct. 15. Telemundo, which is actually now a subsidiary of NBC, is planning to make the most of it and has teamed up with Yahoo! to launch two mini-series focused on music and inspirational success stories for HHM. Telemundo, the #2 Spanish-language television network in the U.S. (behind Univision), is presenting: "Mosaico Hispano" (, which profiles unique, uplifting stories of successful Hispanic Americans, and a talent competition show called "Battle of The Bands" (, in which amateur musicians will compete. Both Mosaico Hispano and Battle of the Bands include the Yahoo! Telemundo Respuestas feature, which allows users to ask and answer questions related to any topic of interest; as well as a number of interactive components (in Spanish and English) including, forums, voting and polls. Yahoo!Telemundo ( is a commercial venture between Telemundo Communications Group, Inc. and Yahoo! Inc.

SAY CHEESE...Need your celeb photo fix but can't have trouble finding a range of African-American stars on the usual celeb pic sites? Well, HOLLYWOODBLACKPHOTOS.COM hopes to change all that. The newly launched website promises to bring you the hottest celebrity photos around by African American photographers, such as Bill Jones, who has been on the Hollywood scene for more than a decade. The free access site not only has paparazzi shots, but also historic photos as well. So get your view on.

BFF HOOKUP...It definitely pays to have friends in high places. We hear that Oprah's best friend, Gayle King, is hosting a private screening of the new Tyler Perry film, Why Did I Get Married?, which was produced by Reuben Cannon and stars Perry, Janet Jackson, Jill Scott, Malik Yoba, Sharon Leal, Tasha Smith, Michael Jai White, Richard T. Jones. But get this: The "intimate affair" to be held Oct. 9th at a secret NYC location actually has a sponsor. Word is that Bombay Sapphire, a liquor brand known to cozy up to the film community for greater visibility, will be on hand to preside. Whether private or commercial, seems there is always a cross promo hook in Hollywood these days!

GRAB FOR AFRICA...Nigeria may get a bad rap with the plague of Internet scams emanating from the country, but as the folks in Florida can't seem to get enough of the country's films. So much so, that sales of Nigerian--and Ghanaian--DVDs are booming among South Florida's Caribbean community, according a recent Sun Sentinel article. According to the piece, the area's taste has shifted from films from Jamaica and Haiti to African films because of the demand. You may recall The A-List covered the exploding Nollywood phenomenon (Issue #3, earlier this year. And, the numbers don't lie. The Nigerian film industry, the world's third largest in terms of the numbers of films made, produces about 1,500 new movies (usually made on budgets as little as $20,000USD) annually, grossing $286 million last year.

KENYA RISING...Speaking of Africa, it seems like Kenya is ready to give Nollywood a run for its money. According to a recent Associated Press report, the Kenyan film industry has an increased number of films as locals have grown tired of Hollywood's "white bread" offerings. And it seems Kenyan filmmakers have big plans--recall when we told you about the one of the first films to kick off this trend, Malooned which landed a $2.5-million international distribution deal ( Hurray for global diversity.

SINGING FOR A CURE...If there is one thing you can count on in Hollywood, it's the annual DIVAS Simply Singing!, the longest running musical AIDS benefit in Los Angeles. Produced and founded by actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, this year promises an interesting lineup of divas: Supermodel RuPaul; American Idol finalist ('06) Paris Bennett and her grandmother, singer Ann Nesby (Sounds of Blackness); actress Jenifer Lewis (Who's Your Caddy?); Grammy winning vocalist Deniece Williams; American Idol ('07) finalist Lakeisha Jones; violinist Karen Briggs; Norwood Young (Pieces of a Dream); and sharing the stage once again original Dreamgirls, Jennifer Holliday, Loretta Devine and Ralph. The action takes place at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles, Oct. 6. This year's show will benefit Women Alive Coalition and Balm in Gilead. Sounds like an evening of entertainment and good works.

CASHING IN?...When you want to reach a ton of people, go to the Internet. That's what Sapphire Entertainment is doing to get the word out about a new show, which they hope to have picked up for a television deal. The pilot for "The Dude and The Dough" is a series based on the upcoming book How to Get The Dude and the Dough by newbie actress/author Vanessa Ambrosia (who will play lead on the series). The episodes, which take a wistful look at female survival skills in the new millennium, will actually air online via initially, but the Black-owned production company hopes to create such a buzz surrounding the Web version that the networks will come a knockin'. We will keep you posted.


FAME DUEX?...It was inevitable. Hot Producer Pharrell Williams has already left his mark on music, has a clothing like, backs a skateboard team, then gathered awards as a solo artist, and camoed in who knows how many music videos. The only think left to check off his "To Do" list was breaking into Hollywood. And now he has. Williams has just inked a deal, reports Media Week, with ABC to produce a series called "Limelight." The drama will be set at a performing arts school in New York. Hollywood veteran Leonard Goldberg (Charlie's Angels) will executive produce the project from Warner Bros. TV along with producer McG (We Are Marsall, "The O.C.") and his production company Wonderland Sound and Vision. We can already see the guests stars lining up.

“House of Payne” remains the number one show for black households during the third week of September by clai
ming over a million for all four of its TBS airings. The Tyler Perry comedy totaled more than 11.8 million viewers for the week. Only ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” prevented a “Payne” sweep of the top of the chart. Disney continued to be the most popular network overall with black cable viewers by placing seven shows on the top 25. USA followed with five, TBS had four, and BET claimed three spots. The total number of homes watching the top 25, according to Nielsen Media Research, was 18.3 million, for a 17 percent increase over the previous week.


The good, bad and ugly aspects of the Hip Hop industry were on display during Congressional hearings regarding Hip Hop on Capitol Hill. Executives, academics, artists and critics were all in the house to give their views on the impact of Hip Hop.

The hearing hosted by Congressman Bobby Rush started off with testimony from Philippe Dauman (pictured, left) , the CEO of Viacom, the owners of Paramount Pictures, MTV and BET; all entities that have been criticized for producing content that has either ignored, insulted or slighted African Americans. Dauman and other industry officials who testified defended their programming as reflective of American culture. Dauman said American entertainment corporations cannot survive by producing a single type product to a monolithic audience. Dauman said Viacom and other content providers produce programming for various audiences and it's up to parents and consumers to decide what programming to view, and that parents and viewers had the option to block certain programming or to turn off the TV. Dauman acknowledged that while some of programming produced by Viacom companies is controversial, he said that MTV and BET has produced positive and responsible programming including HIV educational campaigns, Save the Music and Darfur benefits and shows encouraging young people to become involved with public service. Dauman aired a clip of BET's three part "Hip Hop vs. America" series as an example of how Viacom was striving to produce positive programming.

Next came rappers Master P and David Banner, who both defended their work from criticism from various committee members. Both rappers said that rap industry critics ignore rappers who don't use hard core lyrics and are blind to the good works rappers do, such as efforts by both Master P and Banner to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. Both Master P and Banner said they would work harder to educate rappers into understanding that while rappers have freedom of speech, what rappers say and how they act in the public eye will affect the lives of other people. Both Master P and Banner testified that rap critics need to spend more time in African American communities to get a better understanding of life in urban communities that are reflective of many rap lyrics.

Academics and activists like Lisa Fager of Industryears, E. Faye Williams of National Congress of Black Women and Professor T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, author of Pimps Up, Ho's Down: Hip Hop's Hold on Young Black Women criticized the rap industry in their testimony for encouraging violence against Black people in general and particularly against Black women and that the rap industry has created a culture where it's profitable to degrade and disrespect Black women and that both individual rappers and the entertainment industry needs to do better or critics will put more pressure on individual rappers, the industry and Congress to change the destructive nature of rap music.-- Harrison Chastang


The Women of Brewster Place,
The Alliance Theatre, Atlanta

Anticipation was high for the Alliance production of The Women of Brewster Place, starring seasoned actress Marva Hicks (Asunder, "One Life To Live") and Suzzanne Douglass (The School of Rock, "The Parent 'Hood"). Given the Alliance's history of mounting plays that go on to take Broadway by storm. But judging from the opening night's performance of The Women of Brester Place, the legendary theatre wasn't going to add another win to its record.

This was evident right from the opening number, which tried a little too hard to impress. This musical incarnation of the much-beloved Gloria is an entertaining body of work, however, it lacks magic. The show races along after that, from one number to the next, with only a few delivering any visceral punch to the audience. The absence of male performers among the cast also blocks the production from emotional highs. Although its storyline center on the lives of the women who live in an urban housing complex, what the director of this production failed to realize
is that it's MEN who are missing from their lives is what gives intensity to their personal stories. Without a well-rounded cast, the production comes off as one-dimensional. The length of the production is also entirely too long, and the producers should serious consider shaving 30 or perhaps even 45 minutes off its run time.

Even with its major shortcomings, The Women of Brewster Place does succeed as a visually pleasing vehicle. The cast is attractive and does the best they can with the material they've been given to work with which they have been given to work.

However, if this show expects to duplicate the success of its predecessors at the Alliance, it's going to need lots and lots of work. Grade: The B-List. --Gil Robertson

The Greek Theatre, L.A.
(Sept. 21)

As many may know, to Air's variety of credits are creating the score to Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides.

And Hollywood still loves them, as evident by the number of scensters who were out and about taking in the show from of-the-moment writer fame Seth Rogen (Superbad, The 40
Year Old Virgin) to even a very mature-looking Corbin Bernsen (of "LA Law" fame). But whether stars or mere mortals, all were one during this amazing performance.

The weather gods smiled on the open-air theatre allowing just enough of a rain-free perfect hour and a half so that this smooth, sexy, hynoptic French electro could be witnessed. The sound was absolutely impeccable, a testament to the sound engineers and the equipment selected. Icing on the cake? A drummer who rocked a suit and tie perfectly juxtaposing his swinging dreadlocks (Shout out to you, Brother). Further, the lights complimented the music as much as the bubbles that many in the audience blew wafted overhead during the show. But the real treat was the finale when Air played "La Femme d'Argent" as an at least 11-minute composition, which rose and fell perfectly mesmerizing all the headz who were out that night. The duo certainly confirmed their position on the "cool" roster. Shout out to the Greek for hooking us up with hospitality and VIP parking so we could really floss A-List style.