76: Hot Ghetto Mess
OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
THE BIG BOUNCE BACK...Being fired might have turned out to be a good thing for Isaiah Washington. As you may have read already the former "Gray's Anatomy" actor has landed a guest role for the remake of "The Bionic Woman" on NBC. But what intrigued us most was the development deal Washington has inked. He will star in a potential action drama he pitched to the network for the 2008-09 TV season. As we get more details, we will pass them on. Talk about turning lemon into lemonade.
DIVERSIFYING BRAND...Los Angeles Clippers star Elton Brand recently revealed to AP that he is branching out into film. He just co-produced Rescue Dawn, starring Christian Bale. Inspired by a true story, it is about a Navy pilot who was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War and escaped a POW camp. The $10-million Gibraltar Films movie was directed by Werner Herzog and was based on his own documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly. Brand co-founded Gibraltar with Steve Marlton, and Rescue Dawn isn't the only film in the new company's lineup. Also on the slate is Bottom's Up featuring Jason Mewes and Paris Hilton (yes, Paris). Glad to see Brand taking a different route with his film entry, instead of the all-too-typical Urban comedy. Let's see if the flicks prove to be box office hits.
POWER PLAY...If you don't think you'll ever make it to Oakland to take the "Black Panther Tour" with Black Panther Party (BPP) original member David Hilliard, there still may be a way you can get a dose of the slickest dressed political activists ever. Veteran documentary filmmaker St. Clair Bourne is working on a two-part, four-hour doc about the revolutionary organization. Bourne has been working on the project for more than three years and received initial funding for research and script development from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Independent Television Service. He's traveled from the Bay Area to Paris to interview Panther members and experts. Then with two crews, he filmed the 40th anniversary BPP Reunion, resulting in 16 hours of film. Bourne is now looking for money for additional script development and to edit a “sample reel," in order to raise funds to complete shooting and begin post-production editing.
IN THE SPIRIT OF GIVING...Although absent from the high-profile airwaves of the "Today" show for some years now, Bryant Gumbel is poised to make a kinda of comeback. He will appear on the CW in Sept. for a special produced by Associated Television International entitled "World of Giving" and about philanthropy.
HIP HOP HOLLYWOOD
CALL HIM PUFF DADDY...Remember the one-hit wonder rapper Afroman ("Because I Get High”)? Well he's back, this time with a film that just hit the DVD market. The rapper has completed a movie spoof of Terry McMillan’s 1995 box office hit Waiting to Exhale entitled Waiting to Inhale--about you know what. We are sure lawsuit-happy Ms. McMillan won't be amused.
DOG CATCHER...E! has snagged a deal with Snoop Dogg for a reality show, promising to show the funnier and family friendly side of the rapper. Let's hope the producers at E! do a better job than the folks over at MTV did with the Three Six Mafia reality show for that network. "Adventures in HollyHood" certainly didn't improve the group's image--or pull in the ratings.
NEWSGOOGLE SET TO BID ON WIRELESS AIRWAVES
NEW BET TOP APPOINTMENTS
BET Networks has announced that Scott Mills has been named President and Chief Operating Officer for BET Networks. The company also appointed Michael Pickrum as Chief Financial Officer and named Denmark West to serve as President of Digital Media.
Mills, who was most recently BET Networks' CFO and President of Digital Media, will lead the company's business operations, including Advertising Sales, Content Distribution & Marketing, Legal and Business Affairs, Finance, Digital, Research, International and Administration. In his role as Chief Financial Officer, Pickrum will be responsible for managing the financial operations for BET Networks and will play a strategic role in the overall management of the company. As President of Digital Media, West will lead the company's expanding portfolio of digital brands, including BET.com, BET Mobile, BET on Demand and BET's digital download offerings, and will oversee the development and implementation of the company's global digital strategy.
The conference room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel was packed. Never before had so much media showed up for any BET event at a TCA (Television Critics Association) conference. Why? BET was set to address the advertising pulling out by various sponsors over a new BET show--and its corresponding website--called "Hot Ghetto Mess." Advertisers were reportedly worried about consumer backlash over the show's controversial content.
Well, says the network's President of Entertainment, Reginald Hudlin BET is sticking with the show--advertisers or not. And he says the advertisers made their decision sight unseen. "It's unfortunate that people are making an erroneous presumption with absolutely zero information," says Hudlin. "The advertisers have not seen the show. The intent of the show is no different than what Bill Cosby is doing as he is going across the country and lecturing as he talks about the problems of the community as we need to address...We're doing programing that addresses some of the most toughest problems in our community. We're trying to be the responsible broadcasters that folks want us to be."
Jam Donaldson (pictured left with Hudlin), 34, a black lawyer from Washington, D.C. who created the Hot Ghetto Mess website in 2004, too doesn't understand the uproar. "The website was started in 2004, and it was started in response to a lot of the negative imagery that was being perpetuated through the Internet in general," she says. "And I thought how can I take these images and use them in a way to challenge what these images really mean. How can I give these images that are negative on the face a context so we can start self annalist, self examination of our community?" And, she says the show only continues her "mission." "The show has exceeded my expectations; [there] is so much more than what meets the eye, so much more than the logo, so much more than this name everyone finds so objectionable," she notes. ---words and photo by Anthony Davis
LIVE PERFORMANCE REVIEWS
KCRW's WORLD FESTIVAL SU2, Hollywood
We came out to KCRW's recent love fest of "world music" celebrated at a night at The Hollywood Bowl. Though balmy and upbeat, unfortunately some of the best hypnotic vibes actually came from the pre-recorded music that served as a sexy background to a wide variety of ticket holders munching sophisticated picnic dinners. While possibly interesting separately, the mix of the three groups billed that night was not necessarily one which blended as well as most Smoothies found anywhere in Los Angeles.
Yes, of course, you'd have to have a heart of stone not to get into the afro beats of Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, but after a while, the same driving mid-tempo is a bit much. Then to jump from that to what was billed as a type of Brazilian electro from Carlinhos Brown (which actually turned out to be more Brazilian pop), it was asking a bit much of the audience. While the beach ball passed around in the stands and the lighting design made for upbeat summer fun, even the sound--which is rare at the Hollywood Bowl--was up and down and all around. Cut Chemist (pictured), the headliner, soon made his way onto the stage and while the crowd was obviously hyped and the intro incredible, one can't help but think that this show was really made to be appreciated best in an altered state. Very creative though and certainly unique, we are glad we got to see this legend-in-the-making on the 1s and 2s. We can't wait to see what the rest of the season has to bring here. Maybe our hopes were just up too high for the very hip KCRW rep.
Teen rapper Romeo pullin' double duty--as an artist and the new Youth & College Membership spokesperson during the annaul NAACP Conference in Detroit.
L.A.-based uber publicist Kenneth R. Reynolds poppin' into downtown Atlanta to celebrate the opening of entertainment attorney Mauice Bennett's new club "Trademark." Luminaries seen chowin' down at the post opening dinner included record industry exec. David Litton (with his wife Eleanor), and popular amatuer boxer Ed Coo.
Shakira, John Legend and UB-40, Rihanna, Diddy, Kelly Rowland, and Ne-Yo, as well as Nigerian acts D’Banj, Sasha and Mode – 9 performin' at the second annual THISDAY Festival in Lagos, Nigeria at the new THISDAY Events Center. The event celebrated the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
SHOUT OUT TO CONTRIBUTORS GIL ROBERTSON, ANTHONY DAVIS--AND ALL THE A-LIST READERS!