July 12, 2012

By ANTHONY McCARTNEY | Associated Press

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge ordered an audit of Chris Brown’s community service progress Tuesday after a prosecutor handling his felony assault case cited a possible discrepancy in the amount of work he has performed.

Deputy District Attorney Mary Murray requested the audit because she says the records are not clear on how many hours Brown performed and where the work has been done. Brown had been allowed to perform six ­months’ worth of community labor in his home state of Virginia, but a judge said probation officials in Los Angeles should review detailed records to ascertain how much work he has actually done.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg said Brown had completed a significant number of hours, but did not elaborate.

Brown’s attorney Pat Harris did not object to the audit, and said after the hearing the issue was related to which jurisdiction his client performed his community service in.

The judge said part of the issue was that the court hadn’t received detailed logs of Brown’s community service, which is supposed to comprise of graffiti removal, roadside cleanup and other manual labor. Schnegg said those logs had previously been provided, but not for recent updates.

Brown, 23, remains on probation for beating his then-girlfriend Rihanna in February 2009. He has completed domestic violence and anger management counseling.

Schnegg ordered Brown to appear at the next hearing, tentatively scheduled for Aug. 21. It will be the first time Brown has had to appear in court in several months, and the R&B singer has generally received favorable reports from probation officials and Schnegg.

There was no mention of the recent New York City bottle-throwing nightclub brawl that left Brown with a cut on his chin, or a woman’s claim that the singer had snatched her cellphone in Miami after she tried to take a picture of him. The melee occurred members of singer Drake’s entourage stopped Brown and his group from leaving the club W.i.P., though neither entertainer has been arrested. Drake has said he was leaving the club when the fight began.

Brown’s attorney Mark Geragos asked that the singer’s probation be terminated in February. But a judge declined, stating that the Grammy nominee should complete more of his community service obligations.

At the time, officials reported that Brown had completed half of the six months’ worth of roadside cleanup, graffiti removal and other manual labor that he was ordered to do after pleading guilty.

Brown is serving a five year probation sentence. 

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 12, 2012

By MESFIN FEKADU | Associated Press

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Oprah Winfrey is getting a tribute from Alicia Keys.

Keys announced Tuesday that her organization, Keep a Child Alive, will honor Winfrey at its Black Ball event on Nov. 1.

Key says in a statement that the media mogul is “a personal inspiration to me because her philanthropic work truly comes from the heart.”

Winfrey’s humanitarian efforts include building schools in South Africa.

Keep a Child Alive was founded in 2003. It assists those affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. Keys says this year’s Black Ball will pay “special tribute to the empowerment of women — the heartbeat, soul, and backbone of the AIDS movement.”

The ninth annual event will take place at New York’s Hammer­stein Ballroom. Past honorees include former President Bill Clinton, Sir Richard Branson and Bono.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 05, 2012

 

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Naomi Campbell and a perfume company have settled a sour dispute that started over a fragrance line and became part of the backdrop of former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial.

 

Dueling lawsuits be­tween the supermodel and an entity called Moodform Mission were closed Thursday, Manhattan court records show. Moodform Mission’s lawyer, Daniel R. Bright, said Friday his clients “are happy with the settlement,” but he wouldn’t disclose details. Campbell’s lawyer didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

 

The dispute involves Campbell's longtime former modeling agent, Carole White, who joined with a Miami Beach, Florida-based cosmetics company to form Moodform Mission in the 1990s.

 

Her New York court fight with the model was mentioned at Taylor’s 2010 war crimes trial, at which White contradicted the model’s testimony about some alleged blood diamonds — gems used to finance wars — she received from the former Liberian president. Taylor was convicted of arming and supporting murderous rebels in Sierra Leone in return for blood diamonds; he was sentenced in May to 50 years in prison. He plans to appeal his conviction.

 

At his trial in the Netherlands, Campbell said she didn’t know the source of the stones presented to her after a dinner at former South African President Nelson Mandela’s mansion in 1997, or even that they were diamonds. She gave them to a friend to donate to charity.

 

When White took the stand and insisted that Campbell knew Taylor had provided the stones, Taylor’s lawyer accused White of lying to further her lawsuit over the perfume fallout. White denied it.

 

In the perfume suit, Moodform Mission said it was unfairly squeezed out of its share of millions of dollars in profits from such scents as Naomi Campbell, Cat Deluxe and Seductive Elixir after working for years to line up a 1998 fragrance deal for Campbell.

 

The agreement called for regular payments to Moodform Mission once the scents went on the market in 2001, netting Campbell millions of dollars over the years, according to the company’s lawsuit. It said Campbell violated the contract by inking a new fragrance-licensing agreement in 2008.

 

The new deal “was a fraudulent scheme arranged by (Campbell) for the purpose of avoiding her obligation to pay Moodform Mission the money required to be paid to it,” said the suit, filed in 2009.

 

Campbell, meanwhile, said she wasn't given full information before signing her deal with Moodform Mission. She said she didn’t know for years that White — her chief agent from 1993 until about 2006 — had a stake in the perfume partnership.

 

“If White had told me that she was a principal in (Moodform Mission), I would not have blindly trusted her advice to sign the documents that she brought to me,” Campbell said in a sworn statement last year. “... White held a position of trust and confidence in my life, and I expected her to act in my best interests (and never to benefit if this would be detrimental to my interests).”

 

Campbell, now 41, became one of the world’s highest-paid models after being discovered at age 15. She is British.

 

She has also been known for her feisty temper. At various points, she pleaded guilty to cursing and kicking at police officers in a rage over missing luggage at London’s Heathrow Airport, hurling a cellphone at her maid in New York because of a vanished pair of jeans and beating an assistant who said the model whacked her on the head with a phone in Toronto.

 

She was released without punishment in the Toronto case and sentenced to community service in the others.

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Category: Arts & Culture

July 12, 2012

By STACEY PLAISANCE | Associated Press

  

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Actress Tempestt Bledsoe says she’s thrilled to be returning to network television on a show that portrays “a positive Black family” similar to the long-running hit sitcom she was part of for roughly eight years — “The Cosby Show.”

 

“That show was my childhood,” said Bledsoe, who played middle child Vanessa Huxtable in the NBC show that also starred Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Lisa Bonet and Keshia Knight Pulliam. “It did so many things. It greatly influenced the kinds of projects I did. It helped form my core values, like my work ethic.”

 

Bledsoe and actor Anthony Anderson spoke Friday at the Essence Music Festival about the new show they’re starring in, “Guys with Kids,” which premieres this fall on NBC.

 

In an interview after their appearance, the co-stars told The Associated Press they were thrilled the show will spotlight a “positive Black family on network television.”

 

“We just don’t have that right now, not on network television,” said Anderson, who has two children of his own. “Like the Cosby Show, this will be an opportunity to see the love, support, humor and beauty of a Black family on TV.”

 

The show, produced by Jimmy Fallon, is about three 30-something new dads trying to hold on to their youth. “Guys With Kids” will also star Jamie-Lynn Sigler of “The Sopranos” and actors Zach Cregger and Jesse Bradford. One of the characters is a single dad, another is a working father and Anderson’s character is a stay-at-home dad raising four young sons.

 

Bledsoe, who plays Anderson’s working wife, chuckled as she spoke about his character’s daily challenges wrangling the children, including twins under the age of 2.

 

“There’s nothing funnier,” Bledsoe said. “This role was tailor-made for Anthony.”

 

Anderson said he was drawn to the role for several reasons, including his strong feelings about the importance of having a father figure and that his character “chooses” to stay at home with his children rather than being forced to do so because he lost his job.

 

He said he also recognized that in these tough economic times, more dads are choosing to stay home in part because of child care costs.

 

“A lot of them get funny looks because it's not what people are used to seeing, and this show reflects this new dynamic in the American family,” he said.

 

Other celebrities appearing at the festival included actor Russell Hornsby, who played on “Lincoln Heights” and currently stars in the NBC supernatural drama “Grimm”; Bern Nadette Stanis, who played Thelma on the hit 1970s show “Good Times”; comedian and “Think Like a Man” author Steve Harvey; and Malik Yoba, who stars on the SyFy network’s drama “Alphas.”

 

On Saturday, Essence planned to screen Viola Davis’ newest film, “Won’t Back Down.” The movie also stars Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who is known for her role in “Without a Trace.”

 

Later Friday, singer and “Desperate Housewives” actress Vanessa Williams participated in a discussion with her mother, Helen, about relationships. The pair recently released a book, “You Have No Idea,” which gives fans insight into the actress’ upbringing and touches on her life as Miss America, her marriages and subsequent divorces, her entertainment career and motherhood.

 

“If anyone can glean anything from my life, I’m willing to share,” Williams said. “At this stage of my life, I believe my role is that of teacher. This book is my manual. It’s a love story about mothers and daughters and relationships.”

 

Although Williams was not scheduled to sing at Essence, Friday’s lineup for its nightly concerts at the Superdome include performances by Charlie Wilson, D’Angelo, Trey Songz, Keyshia Cole and The Pointer Sisters.

 

Wilson said he was excited about his elevation to the night’s closing performance. In previous years, he was among the main stage acts, but had never closed a show.

 

“This is amazing, the best feeling for me,” Wilson said. “I’m headlining. All the others times were great, but this one, my fifth, is special. Every year I come back and get such an overwhelming response it just fuels me and gives me energy. I perform as if it’s my last, as if I don’t have a tomorrow and I know the fans feel that,” he said.

 

Essence Fest is one of the premier music festivals celebrating black culture and music. It’s been held every Independence Day weekend since 1995, when it marked the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine. The festival continues through Sunday and also will feature Mary J. Blige, Kevin Hart, Tank, Ledisi, Aretha Franklin, Fantasia, Estelle and others.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 05, 2012

By MESFIN FEKADU |

Associated Press

 

With all the star power at the BET Awards — Kanye West, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce and Samuel L. Jackson, to name a few — the most stirring moment came not from a superstar, but from the mother of one.

Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy, provided the emotional highlight of Sunday’s ceremony as she sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in tribute to her late daughter, leaving audience members like Beyonce and Soulja Boy in tears.

Mariah Carey opened the tribute, and her voice wavered as she told stories about Houston. She recalled the last time she saw Houston last year, and how the two laughed and gossiped together.

“I miss my friend,” Carey said. “I miss hearing her voice and laughter.”

R&B singer Monica was vocally top-notch as she sang “I Love the Lord,” a gospel song once sang by Houston; Brandy sang two upbeat Houston hits, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “I’m Your Baby Tonight.” Chaka Khan blazed the stage with “I’m Every Woman,” which Houston remade. Gary Houston, Whitney’s brother, also performed; and Houston’s “Waiting to Exhale” castmates — Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon and Loretta Devine — also honored the singer.

But it was Cissy Houston’s soaring performance that brought the audience to their feet, and had many dabbing their eyes. The tribute came five months after Houston’s death: She died the night before the Grammy Awards of an accidental drowning complicated by heart disease and cocaine use.

As compelling as that moment was, the show was also defined by its low points: Entire segments of performances, from Nicki Minaj to Rick Ross, were muted out due to foul language and obscenities, though several vulgarities were heard on air.

It started during the opening number by West’s G.O.O.D. music group, which included Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz. There were long moments of censored silence when the rappers performed “Mercy,” though not all the offending words were bleeped out. Moments later, Jackson, the show’s host, was joined by Spike Lee as they did a comedic version of Jay-Z and West’s hit song “... In Paris,” to laughs.

“Two distinguished Morehouse men,” Lee joked after the performance, referencing the alma mater of the two.

The censor police also worked overtime when Rick Ross performed with his Maybach Music Group and during Minaj’s performance and acceptance speech for best female hip-hop artist. Minaj’s win was her third consecutive time taking the prize.

“I really, really appreciate BET for keeping this category alive, and I appreciate all the female rappers doing their thing, past, present and future,” she said, before uttering an obscenity.

Best gospel winner Yolanda Adams, who also performed, gently took some of her peers to task, urging them to act mature and use their fame wisely.

“We need all of y’all,” she said onstage. “I’m saying the world needs everyone in this room. Please make sure that you use your gift responsibly, ‘cause we’re watching. Our babies are watching, and they want to be like us.”

West, the most nominated act of the night with seven, and Jay-Z won the ceremony’s top prize, earning video of the year for “Otis.” They also won best group.

Beyonce was the second most nominated act with six. She won video director of the year (along with Alan Ferguson) and best female R&B artist and thanked the genre and her female influences.

“I fell in love with music by listening to R&B. It’s the core of who I am,” she said, giving special thanks to Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige and “Whitney Houston, my angel.”

When she lost video of the year to Jay-Z and West, she playfully hit her husband and laughed. The joking continued: Moments later, as West was giving his acceptance speech, Jay-Z interrupted him and said: “Excuse me Kanye, I’m gonna let you continue, but ...,” and the audience erupted with laughter, recalling West’s infamous interruption of Taylor Swift’s MTV Video Music Awards speech a few years back.

Chris Brown was also a double winner, picking up his second consecutive win for best male R&B artist, and the “Fandemonium” award for a third time.

Brown also performed in his first televised appearance since the New York City nightclub brawl between his entourage and Drake’s. Brown, his girlfriend, his bodyguard and NBA star Tony Parker were among those injured in the June 14 encounter, where bottles were thrown.

Drake didn’t show, though he was named best male hip-hop artist.

The tone of night fluctuated frequently, as the show shifted from hotly anticipated performances to solemn moments to irreverence. Usher performed his groove “Climax,” and Minaj sported a blond wig with pink tips as she performed the songs “Champion” and “Beez in the Trap,” which featured 2 Chainz.

D’Angelo returned to the television spotlight with his first performance in years as he attempts a comeback.

The night also featured some tributes to deceased greats: Chante Moore performed a medley of Donna Summer’s hits and Valerie Simpson sang a song in honor of her husband and writing partner Nick Ashford. Don Cornelius, Dick Clark and Hal Jackson were remembered. Even West offered tributes: after his performance, he name-dropped Rodney King and Whitney Houston in a verse that got cheers from the crowd, including his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian.

Presenters included Taraji P. Henson, Tyler Perry, Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx, who wore a T-shirt that had a picture of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.

Frankie Beverly featuring Maze were honored with the lifetime achievement award, and they were serenaded with performances by Tyrese, Faith Evans and Joe. The Rev. Al Sharpton received the humanitarian award, and urged the crowd to vote this November.

“This election is not just about Obama, this is about your momma,” he said.

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