September 19, 2013

By Ed Rice, III

LAWT Contributing Writer


Like a familiar friend that stayed away too long, Arsenio Hall’s return to late night was welcomed with open arms on September 9th. America and the rest of the entertainment world showed up for the late-night homecoming almost 20 years in the making. Ironically, not much has changed during that time as Arsenio still remains the only African-American host in the late night genre much like he was in the 90s. Plenty have come and gone during his absence, but none have been able to duplicate the success of the man responsible for taking urban America mainstream. Many of the stars, who got their initial exposure to Middle America via the original Arsenio Hall show, appeared on the 2013 version to help kick things off. Chris Tucker, Ice Cube, Snoop Lion (formerly known as Snoop Dogg), Magic Johnson, Paula Abdul, Angela Bassett and many others stopped by to give Arsenio some love. As a result, for its premiere, the Arsenio Hall show was the #1 talk show in the key 18 to 49 demographic. Even with the show’s strong beginning, Hall doesn’t have any delusions about his return to late night.

“So I’ve got a new show. Nobody knows if it’s going to be good or not. Nobody, you know?” said Hall frankly. “I don’t blame the people - there are people who are watching me and my return with apprehension -- agents, publicists, and managers. I’ve got to go out there and I’ve got to turn it out. And it was the same way the first time around.” He added: You’ve got to turn it out because a lot of people are just waiting to see how you do. Sure my friends - Magic is coming, sure Eddie is coming. You know, people I put in the mix the first time around, Trisha Yearwood is coming and Mariah is coming. But there are a lot of people who just want to watch and see what is going to happen. And I know in that sense I don’t get to come in, ‘Well you know Arsenio Hall is back!’ That don’t mean sh-- to nobody.”

While many Hollywood insiders appear skeptical of Hall’s return, fans seem excited about the possibilities. “I used to always watch his show when I was younger,” said Sherie Baylock of Los Angeles. “I don’t really watch much late night anymore, so it’ll be good to have him back maybe I’ll stay up now.” “I think with Arsenio, we’ll start to see more of the acts we know,” claimed David Nichols of Los Angeles. “I mean you always see the big stars, the Oprahs, the Jay-Zs, the Beyonces on the other shows but they’re not the only ones out there and I think he’ll give everybody a chance.”

Breaking new acts and providing up-and-coming artists a platform was a part of the recipe that originally made his iconic show, well iconic. As the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” so you can expect that strategy to be included in Hall’s winning formula this time around.

“One of the big differences is I’m not in it so much alone as I used to be back in the day…now we’re in an era where you can turn on Jimmy Kimmel and hear him saying ladies and gentlemen, Rick Ross and, you know, ladies and gentlemen Kobe Bryant. There was a time when Johnny didn’t care about sitting with Danny Ainge and, you know, the present mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson,” Hall stated. “I think what happened with my show is it showed the viability of certain African American acts. There was a time in this town where we’d throw mama from the train if you could make money. And once they found out that you can put African Americans on TV of every element of entertainment and people will watch, people noticed.” Hall continued, “So maybe my responsibility - because I understand that I don’t come back into the game being the Arsenio of the 90s; I come back into the game as the new small guy and I’ll probably have to earn my way back in again by maybe being the person who looks for the new or tries to get ahead of the curve…you know, there was a time when Dr. Dre would call me and say, ‘I want to introduce you to this guy named Calvin from Long Beach’ and on my show that later became ladies and gentlemen, Snoop Doggy Dog.”

Once again, Arsenio is poised to fill a niche and provide for the masses what has for the most part been absent from late night television. Of course, this time around let’s hope it doesn’t cost him his show. For years in the African American community it has been a widely held belief that Hall’s departure from late night came due to an infamous interview on his previous show with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.

“First of all, my letter of resignation was written to a studio executive at that time who ran Paramount, his name is (Carey McCluggage). The letter went to Carey before Farrakhan ever appeared,” Hall insisted. “I had a good relationship with Paramount so even after I resigned, I continued to do shows while they checked with Bill Bellamy and Jon Stewart and different people under the Viacom Paramount MTV banner to decide who would take over for me and take the show. I continued to do the show and during that period there was the Farrakhan booking.” Hall went on to say, “there was an article written that said the show was cancelled. That confused a lot of people. And because the article came out around the time of the Farrakhan interview, the black public didn’t get a chance to know the truth about the ending. The bottom line is when I left, there was really no drama. I left to seek some balance in my life as a man. I didn’t know what that was at that time. I didn’t know whether I wanted to do more acting, I didn’t know whether I wanted to go on the road and do standup, I didn’t know whether it meant that I just needed a break. But I did what I did for personal reasons.”

In the end it turned out to be the personal pursuit of a man to change his family life, his love life and to have a child. “I was soul searching. It had nothing to do with business. I left because I had done it and I just wanted to find some balance in my life. And I’ve done some things, done a lot of things in my life, and I miss my show and I’m coming back to it. And I apologize to the black community for the journalistic misunderstandings and lies that were dispersed when I left,” said Hall emphatically.

Regardless of the reason, it’s safe to say that audiences around the country are genuinely excited for the return of one of Cleveland’s favorite sons and so is he. “When you make that decision [to return] you look back on your life and you realize, you know what, I’m a standup comic and a talk show host and that’s when I’m happiest. Basically, when I walk out there at night imagine seeing a woman that you loved, the one that got away, the only woman you’ve ever loved, that’s who I’ll see when I walk out.”

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Category: Arts & Culture

September 12, 2013


Associated Press


LOS ANGELES — A judge on Monday dismissed two executives from a negligence lawsuit filed by Michael Jackson's mother and allowed the case to proceed against AEG Live LLC, the promoter of his planned comeback concerts.

Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos said lawyers for Katherine Jackson hadn't shown enough evidence that Randy Phillips, CEO of AEG Live LLC, and promoter Paul Gongaware were responsible for the death of the pop star.

The judge, however, did rule that jurors should decide whether AEG Live hired Conrad Murray, the former cardiologist convicted of giving Michael Jackson a lethal overdose of anesthetic in June 2009. AEG Live denies any wrongdoing.

The ruling will simplify the case for jurors, who could begin deliberations before the end of the month.

During the trial, Katherine Jackson's lawyers attacked the actions of Gongaware and Phillips in the months before the death. They claimed the executives missed warning signs about the superstar's health and created a conflict of interest for his physician.

View gallery."

Phillips and Gongaware denied they did anything wrong when they testified early in the case.

Katherine Jackson sued AEG Live in 2010, claiming the company hired Murray.

AEG Live lawyers argued the Jackson family matriarch had failed to prove that the company hired Murray or that its executives could have foreseen that the doctor was giving the entertainer treatments that would lead to his death.

The company is expected to conclude its defense next week. Lawyers for Jackson's mother say they plan to call several rebuttal witnesses.

Due to an illness in a juror's family, Palazuelos said there would be no testimony in the case this week.

Opening statements in the case were April 29 and jurors have heard from more than 50 witnesses in 20 weeks. Key witnesses have included Jackson's mother, his oldest son, his ex-wife Debbie Rowe, and several top AEG Live executives.

The trial has featured potentially damaging testimony to both sides, with Katherine Jackson's lawyers displaying emails sent by AEG executives describing Jackson in unflattering terms.

The company's lawyers have shown the jury testimony from several of Jackson's doctors, who described close relationships with the singer and their occasional misgivings about whether he was shopping for doctors or had grown dependent on prescription medications.

"I really think it would be inappropriate here for this to go to a jury," AEG Live defense attorney Marvin S. Putnam argued Monday.

Deborah Chang, an attorney for Katherine Jackson, countered that evidence in the case supported the family's position that AEG is responsible for Michael Jackson's death. They claim AEG Live created a conflict of interest in Murray's care of Jackson by agreeing to pay him $150,000 a month to work as a tour physician.

"They created the conflict and I think all of that is well within the record," she said.

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Category: Arts & Culture

September 12, 2013


Associated Press


TORONTO — In Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” Solomon Northop, a free man from upstate New York who’s kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, is hung for daring to strike an abusive and imbecilic plantation hand (Paul Dano). He’s cut down, but only just barely enough to reach the ground. McQueen captures it all in one long, agonizing take, as Northop is left dangling, shuffling excruciatingly on his tiptoes.

“I don’t think I’ve seen that on film, and I wanted to make damn sure if it was on film, it was going to be done well,” McQueen said in a recent interview. “It was very necessary for me to use those kind of shots to tell the story. Film is what 115, 120 years old? It’s a baby. There’s no right or wrong way to shoot anything. It’s not style. It’s necessity.”

Film history, however, is long enough that one might expect one of the nation’s most essential chapters to have been depicted on screen more frequently and fervently. “It’s a massive hole,” says McQueen. There have, of course, been a handful of notable films about slavery (“Beloved,” “Amistad,” the miniseries “Roots”), but, it’s safe to say, never before has there been a movie like this. “12 Years a Slave” is the most unblinking portrait of slavery yet seen in cinema: a straightforward resurrection of its atrocities, complications and, most of all, its plain reality.

“I wanted everyone to be Solomon Northup,” says McQueen. “You are on that journey with him.”

“12 Years a Slave,” which Fox Searchlight will release in theaters Oct. 18, premiered over the weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival where it was hailed as a masterpiece and very possibly this year's best picture Oscar winner. It is quickly gathering force as a kind of epochal achievement.

McQueen, the British director of the sex-addiction drama “Shame” and the Irish Republican Army hunger strike tale “Hunger,” had planned to make a film about slavery, but it didn’t take shape until his wife came across Northop’s 1853 autobiography, which straightforwardly tells of his nightmarish odyssey.

Ejiofor (the “Dirty Pretty Things,” “Kinky Boots” British actor of Nigerian roots) plays Northop, a violinist taken from his family and put into servitude on plantations, all the while unable to contact his home or even proclaim his true identity. His journey, “down the rabbit hole” as Ejiofor says, isn’t into a uniformly evil world of slavery, but one peopled by a wide spectrum of human decency, both masters and slaves.

It’s in many ways about how, faced with unspeakable hardship, one reacts. Northop refuses to surrender.

“They’re something about it that I find very heroic,” says Ejiofor. “You could only find that by really confronting his experience head-on.”

The hanging scene is only one of the film’s lengthy moments — a beating that serves as an introduction to life as a slave; a forced whipping of another slave — showed in full, unbroken view.

“If you don’t know what that feels like,” says Ejiofor, “if you don’t get inside that experience of being there all day, out there in the sun, hung by your neck, barely able to stay alive, then you don’t know the depth that this man is prepared to go to in order to keep himself alive.”

The film is often harrowingly difficult to watch. But it’s ultimately concerned with being faithful to Northop’s experience (“Solomon deserved nothing less,” says McQueen), and capturing his undimmed dignity. Northop went on to be part of the abolitionist movement and lecture on slavery throughout the Northeast.

“This is not National Geographic or any kind of scientific exploration to tell you how things actually were,” says McQueen. “It’s about the narrative.”

Though the experience of making such a film, shot in 35 days outside of New Orleans, might be expected to be weighed with the heaviness of its subject, the cast says the process was too focused, too fast-moving for such a mindset. Says McQueen: “If you start thinking about it in such a way, it will paralyze you.”

Michael Fassbender, who starred in both of McQueen’s previous films, plays Edwin Epps, the far harsher of two plantation owners. (The other, more benevolent plantation owner is played by Benedict Cumberbatch). He’s described with understatement as “a man of hard countenance.”

Fassbender sought to find the humanity in Epps, who’s torn by his love for his most prized cotton-picker (Lupita Nyong’o, in a shattering performance).

“You are going to places that are uneasy, but it’s my job,” says Fassbender. “Of course the emotional elements follow, and they do have an effect and there’s a residue going home with them. But concentrating on the work sort of protects yourself from that.”

The film, made with a budget of $22 million, was produced by Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B, and the actor appears in a small but pivotal role, warning Epps of a coming “day of reckoning.” Speaking to reporters at Toronto, he expressed his deep pride in having been a part of “12 Years a Slave.”

“If I never get to participate in a film again ...” he said, trailing off. “This is it for me.”

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Category: Arts & Culture

September 12, 2013



Things speed up again this week and you are in a highly creative mood. An outspoken female in your circle may illuminate a thorny question for you. You’ll be surprised and pleased by what you hear. Take her aside and thank her. Soul Affirmation: I keep myself free of all resentment. Lucky Numbers: 3, 40, 51



Hello home life. After a busy next few weeks all you want to do is savor the feelings of domesticity at home. Or perhaps go shopping to spruce up your living space. Whatever you decide do it with a close friend. You’ll both enjoy the week more if you are together. Soul Affirmation: The grandeur of my presence reflects the sunshine of my soul. Lucky Numbers: 11, 14, 17



One of your most unique gifts is the power to change your mind. You know how to change the way you think, and it gives you great versatility. This week you may be called upon to change the way you think about someone you love. Be kind! Soul Affirmation: I am on the watch for those who need me. Lucky Numbers: 32, 36, 45



Focus intently on the personal this week. Others may seem scattered or impersonal, but that’s not for you. Keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself until others are more receptive to your steady vibrations. Soul Affirmation: Money and happiness are closely related this week. Lucky Numbers: 20, 30, 50



A personal decision is made, and you are happy for the person who makes it. This person may be younger than you, but you’ve got a karmic bond between you. Enjoy the excitement of shared moments. Use your imagination to create a better world for both of you. Soul Affirmation: The pictures in my head give the greatest joy this week. Lucky Numbers: 9, 44, 52



A relationship may be heating up this week. Make sure you know what you want, then go ahead. Minor challenges on the home front are easily dealt with if you keep your sense of humor. Secrets are important. Keep them. Soul Affirmation: My goodwill is my best weapon. Lucky Numbers: 3, 30, 31



You may feel an extra burst of energy this week.  This is a good time for you wrap up any miscellaneous details on a project that you’ve been working on. Your vibrations are very conducive towards generosity and general well-being that you’ll want to extend to friends and family. Soul Affirmation: Communication is a skeleton key that fits many doors. Lucky Numbers:  5, 7, 10



Start setting goals. Do a periodic cleaning of your home and get rid of the junk that has been cluttering your life! Start saving your money for a big vacation that you and that special someone have been planning! Do something extravagant. Soul Affirmation: Clinging to the old will inhibit my growth this week. Lucky Numbers: 2, 39, 45



Flexibility is needed to deal with a work issue. You’re sure you’re right but compromise will be necessary to overcome someone’s objections. Don’t think they are being spiteful. They simply see things differently than you do. Your insights this week are special and specialized. Don’t expect agreement. Soul Affirmation: Slow and easy is the best way for me to travel this week. Lucky Numbers: 7, 8, 10



If you need a good week to put away the memorabilia of a past love; this week’s that week. Tuck away his or her photograph. If it’s over and now it’s time to move on, don’t stall your love life dwelling on what was. Get ready for what can be. Soul Affirmation: I slow down and take the feelings of others in consideration. Lucky Numbers: 1, 26, 33



Your harmony with you business or domestic partner should improve as you take steps to strengthen communication. Slow down and give everyone a chance to get on the same page. Plan well before you act. Enjoy hanging loose. Soul Affirmation: I trust my gut instincts concerning all matters. Lucky Numbers: 2, 39, 40



A little child will lead them is certainly something you should keep in mind this week. Wisdom from a little person, a son, daughter, younger brother or sister can be very helpful to you.  Lighten up on yourself. Self criticism is not a good idea this week. Soul Affirmation: I loosen up and enjoy my life without worry. Lucky Numbers: 24, 25, 26

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Category: Arts & Culture

September 12, 2013


Associated Press


LOS ANGELES — John Legend has one more thing to do before launching his fall tour: get married.

The 34-year-old R&B singer is engaged to 27-year-old model Chrissy Teigen, the subject of most of the romantic songs that make up his new album, “Love in the Future,” released last week. The wedding will be some time before he kicks off his tour Oct. 20 in Mashantucket, Conn., and marks a turning point for the piano-playing crooner, who since 2004’s “Get Lifted” has been crafting songs about hook-ups, cheating and heartbreak as well as long-term commitment.

Appropriately, the nine-time Grammy winner’s latest takes an overall more optimistic perspective on affairs of the heart, so much so that he says he’s already considering how married life will affect his writing: “My fans probably don’t want to listen to everything being awesome all the time.”

Legend reconnected with longtime collaborator Kanye West for his fourth solo album, which includes hip-hop drum patterns and moments of humor the singer credits to West. “I finally got to take the night off, so we can make some little tax write-offs,” he sings in “Caught Up.”

Legend recently sat down with The Associated Press to talk about fame, stability, wedding plans and international policy.

AP: Your fiancee is very witty on Twitter, and you slide some jokes into many of your songs. How important is humor to you?

Legend: Chrissy is hilarious and I’m a big comedy fan. We go to comedy clubs ... I wish I was funnier myself ... I surround myself with people who are different from me. Obviously, people always ask me, “How are you and Chrissy together?” And then people also ask me, “How are you and Kanye working together for so many years because you’re so different?” But I think I gravitate toward people that are a little more outrageous than I am. And we complement each other well.

AP: Do you want Kanye-level fame?

Legend: I want Kanye-level success. I don’t think I’m craving any more fame. But success and being recognized for making great work all around the world, I think it's a great thing. And I’m already not far from there. But Kanye has been a really singular artist that's made a unique contribution to pop culture, and I respect that and I wouldn’t mind being known for that as well.

AP: What’s your vision for your wedding? What do you want from it?

Legend: I’m excited to get married, but I look at it as just a fun party where I want my friends to have a great time. ... I guess we should look good, too, so the pictures come out nice. But other than that, I feel like it’s no pressure.

AP: Are you going to sing?

Legend: We’ve got a DJ and most of the night, it’ll be a DJ. But we do have a piano set up at dinner. So I’ll probably sing a song or two. And who knows who else will jump on the piano?

AP: Some songwriters make their best music when they’re not in a stable relationship. It can also go the other way. Is that something you’ve thought about?

Legend: I’ve written some of my better songs about the ups and downs of relationships. ... I’ve thought about, you know, what am I going to do two years from now? ... But I imagine that we’ll have some ups and downs too, so I’ll tell those stories, too.

AP: You’re a supporter of President Barack Obama, but covered several anti-war songs from the 1960s and 1970s on the 2010 album you created with The Roots called “Wake Up!” Are you worried about U.S. military intervention in Syria?

Legend: I am not anti-war in general. I am just anti-wars that I think are not a good idea. I didn’t think the Iraq war was a good idea. ... I do understand the impulse to want to punish countries for using chemical weapons. I do understand the humanitarian impulse when you see 100,000 people getting slaughtered ... but we have to be very cautious about getting into another long conflict in the Middle East. ... We know that al-Qaida’s infiltrated the rebel forces in Syria. We know that either way, no matter who wins, there are significant groups within each side that might not be pro-America. So I think it’s a very difficult decision to involve ourselves militarily in Syria.

AP: After doing “Wake Up,” do you wish there was more political pop music today?

Legend: Looking at the radio right now, you just hear nothing that’s the least bit socially conscious or aware, and I think artists are doing that because they don’t feel like the fans want to hear it. So what we have to ask ourselves (is), “Why don’t the fans want to hear it?” ... It’s not like there’s nothing going on. We had the war in Iraq, which you could parallel to the war in Vietnam. Perhaps the biggest difference is there’s no draft — because when there was a draft, everyone felt the war.

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Category: Arts & Culture

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