September 20, 2012

 By Joy Childs

LAWT Contributing Writer

 If you were asked which artist popularized that well-known expression of funk surprise — “ow” — you could quickly narrow it down to two. 

 One would be Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, guitarist/vocalist of the Ohio Players (think “Love Rollercoaster”).

The other:  Larry Blackmon of Cameo. As first annual Balboa Music Festival attendees know, the funksters were one of that events’ few saving graces. (See this week’s Los Angeles Sentinel for a complete festival review).

 

From the group’s earliest days as the New York City Players to the current days when original members (founder/drummer/multi-instrumentalist Blackmon along with Tomi Jenkins, Anthony Lockett, Aaron Mills and Charlie Singleton) mix it up with newer band mates, these boys came to par-tay in the Valley. And par-tay they did, performing nearly every funk anthem in their repertoire. Word!

 

The last time Cameo was in L.A. was at Funk-A-Palooza at the Gibson Amphitheatre, the event coming off as a kind of pantheon of funk-meisters: Parliament Funkadelic, Zapp, Con Funk Shun, et. al. Blackmon and the guys have been doin’ it steadily for nearly 30 years, the Harlem-born and –bred Blackmon (who now lives in the Atlanta area) forming the predecessor group — the New York City Players — in the early 1970s. Their first project, Cardiac Arrest, featured the equally morbidly titled Rigor Mortis. No doubt the titles didn’t matter, because that first album spelled gold.

 

The pre-Cameo years

 

Asked whether either his parents or his sisters or brothers led him down the path to Cameosis, Blackmon responds: “Not at all!” What does seem to account for his earliest musical memories, however, is that he grew up not far from the Apollo Theater.

 

LB: … so ever since I was 5 years old, I think I’ve seen just about every Black performer that ever existed — from as far back as Sam Cooke.

 

LAWT: What act(s) do you remember being impressed with to the point that you said, ‘Hmmm this is what I wanna do?’

 

LB:  All of them — Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke — you cannot name one Black act that I have not seen at the Apollo, including Bill Cosby and Flip Wilson.

 

LAWT:  Wow! But was there a particular singer that really struck a nerve with you … Like, I’m sure, James Brown. 

 

LB:  He made quite an impression ’cause coming to the Apollo for him was like coming home … but I cannot name one because I was impressed by all of them for different reasons … and the older I got, I went on Sundays … My parents would send us to church and I would take my sister, and then I would take her across the street to my cousin’s  and I would go see a matinee [at the Apollo] and then I would come back and get her and go home!

 

LAWT:  Were you influenced by music in the church at all? 

 

LB: Not at all!

 

LAWT: So it was the cumulative effect of going to all those Apollo events, right?

 

LB:  Yeah … I started out as a drummer. I played drums in the drum-and-bugle corps. Then I went to high school, where I started playing drums in the orchestra there and in the second year I played baritone bass clef horn, and then beyond that, I went back to drums. And I think I put my first band together at 14. It had drums and all acoustical instruments: baritone horn, trombone and trumpet, and the first song we played was Funky Broadway

 

LAWT: By Dyke and the Blazers?

 

LB: By Dyke and the Blazers!

 

LAWT: Somewhere I read that you attended The Julliard School?

 

LB: Yes. After high school I took a year to apply to Julliard extension.  That way, my parents didn’t have to come up with the tuition, so that allowed me to go to Julliard at night.

 

His purpose for going, he adds, was to have the benefit of getting a certificate on his resume, but in the middle of his second year, the group, by then transitioning from the New York City Players to Cameo, had its first release, Find My Way.

 

LB:  It didn’t do that well on the charts but it gave us the opportunity to have Cecil Holmes [co-founder of Casablanca Records and a founder of Chocolate City Records] come in and listen because we had a single deal at the time. And after he came in, he OKd us to do an album (Cardiac Arrest) and Rigor Mortis was the first single from that …

 

And I was working at a clothing store at the time on Wall Street owned by Arabs, and they would pray the whole Holy Qur’an in the morning before we’d start, and one day the radio was on and they were playing WBLS. Frankie Crocker (popular New York radio DJ) had a special program and they had one called the world premiere and during these blocks you know that he’d be playing the song for at least eight times a day! And whatever song played on the world premiere became a hit.  Didn’t matter what it was … Frankie picked the songs that he thought would go someplace and once I heard it [Rigor Mortis] on the radio, I immediately gave the customer to another associate and went to the locker room and cleared my locker and walked out!  Simple as that! … I didn’t know things would take off, but I was determined to stick to it until something happened. 

 

That red thing

 

LAWT:  Speaking of ‘sticking to it,’ let’s talk codpiece: Who’s responsible for the codpiece? 

 

LB:  When we first started out, we wanted to have some unique outfits, and Bernard Johnson was a pretty well-known costume designer/wardrobe designer. And when we first started we all had codpieces and they were rhinestone and that was Bernard Johnson’s creation so after several years of that, when we did Word Up [another person] was hired  as a wardrobe consultant, and I didn’t see that (red) codpiece until the day we shot the Word Up video. Everyone was standing on line, and I was on line to get my outfit and the [costumer]  had this box on top of a black spandex body suit …  and I opened it, then closed it real fast and the guys said, “That’s great, Blackmon … balls out!, Go for it …

 

LAWT: So that very first time you walked out in it?  What was the reaction?  Where were you?

 

LB:  I sort of made myself numb to any reaction … Aside from performing (in the Word Up video), I was directing it as well so I was trying to keep my focus as to what shots were next and whatever else, so I really wasn’t as focused on what was going on around me as much as what I was trying to get done. But that’s interesting that you asked that question because I’ve never been asked that before, first of all, and then secondly, I guess in my peripheral view I did notice people staring but I didn’t think about it at the time, you know what I mean?

 

LAWT:  No, I don’t know what you mean … Sorry, I don’t!

 

[Both laughing.]

 

LB: That’s just the way it was, ya know?

 

LAWT:  Then let me ask you this question: What was the first time you became aware there was a reaction to it then?

 

LB:  Oh, man, I guess that same night! I mean, you know, once again, it’s kinda hard to explain how when you’re doing what you do and you’re wearing different hats at different times throughout a particular event how your focus just switches to different things. The last thing you’re thinking about is what the reaction of the people you’re working with is …

 

Blackmon went on to tell the tale of one of the more, shall we say, interesting reactors to the codpiece. It happened in merry olde England at a Chinese restaurant called the Great Earth in Covent Garden (a district in London) in the late 1990s:

 

LB:  As a matter of fact, [1980s R&B duo] Rene and Angela were there also. We were all having dinner … and one of the royal family members were there — who’s Charles’ brother?

 

LAWT:  Prince Andrew?

 

LB:  Yes, it was Andrew … and he came over and said he liked the codpiece!

 

LAWT:  You weren’t wearing it at the restaurant, were you?!

 

LB:  Oh no! Not at all!  But the next day one of the British rags reported that the prince had mentioned he liked the codpiece!

 

Beyond Word Up!

 

When you’ve been havin’ fun doin’ funk for nearly 30 years, it would seem easy to put together what is essentially a greatest hits package. Not so, says Blackmon — especially since he and the group have been working on a DVD of the performances of their major hits as well as more than a dozen new songs for the better part of the last five years.

 

Just a few more months, says Blackmon — at the top of 2013 — and we Cameosuperfans will get to see performances of hits like Back and Forth, Candy, I Just Want to Be, Keep It Hot, Shake Your Pants, She’s Strange, Single Life and Sparkle —and hear their funky offspring.

 

It’ll be like manna from funk heaven!

 

 

 

(Photo by Joy Childs)

 

 

 

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

September 13, 2012

By Sandra Varner/Talk2SV

Special to the LAWT

 

High stakes money dealing and child molestation weigh heavily by any measure; eliciting headlines though, by comparison, sit at opposite ends of angst and disdain. But the impressive dexterity of actor Nate Parker demonstrates his ability to balance the scales of emotion, making him one of today’s finest on screen talents.

Parker costars in “Arbitrage” the Richard Gere dramatic thriller centered on financial improprieties, from Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. 

Parker also costars in “Red Hook Summer,” the Spike Lee intense drama that posits religion and fractured family dynamics amid sexual innocence, now playing in theaters.

“Arbitrage,” from writer Nicholas Jarecki, is described as a taut and alluring suspense thriller about love, loyalty, and high finance. New York hedge-fund magnate Robert Miller (Gere), on the eve of his 60th birthday, appears the very portrait of success in American business and family life.  Behind the gilded walls of his mansion, Miller is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire to a major bank before the depths of his fraud are revealed.

Miller struggles to conceal his duplicity from his wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) and daughter, Brooke (Brit Marling), heir-apparent, all the while balancing an extramarital affair. Just as he's about to unload his troubled empire, a bloody accident forces him to juggle family, business, and crime with the aid of Jimmy Grant (Parker), a face from Miller's past.

The 32-year-old Parker’s expanding movie career includes over a dozen feature films. He first received critical attention for his starring role in “The Great Debaters” opposite Denzel Washington. He followed this with a role starring alongside Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. in Red Tails.  He is currently in production on David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” opposite Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, and Ben Foster. Other credits include: “Pride,” “Felon,” “Tunnel Rats” with Michael Pare and “The Secret Life Of Bees,” which featured an all-star cast of Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Dakota Fanning and Paul Bettany. On stage, Parker appeared in “American Voices” opposite Dustin Hoffman, Annette Bening, Rosario Dawson and James Cromwell.

Recently, I spoke to Parker, a Norfolk, VA native who holds an honorary Doctorate from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas and who is known to be fastidious in preparing for each character portrayal. 

“The first role I ever had was on television; it was on “Cold Case.” If I remember, it was a young man who had been molested by a swim coach.  A number of years later, they looked into the murder of the swim coach and my character’s name came up.  I can remember looking at the material trying to figure out how I would create this world and how I would be true to this character. Being someone who has never been molested, I just reminded myself that somewhere in the world a young kid — who is a victim — is going to be watching this and he will be sitting next to the person that is victimizing him.  How would I be able to speak on behalf of that kid and will I do a good job? Will that kid say, ‘he’s so honest?’  That is the kind of approach I take in terms of what I choose to do and the type of messages I want to draw, based on my character analysis.”

His process is enduring. 

“I come from an athletic background; I was a wrestler and in wrestling the stakes are high. If you don’t prepare, it can mean your health. You can break something or hurt yourself.  Wrestling is a one-on-one sport and many times people think it’s you against the other person but most often it’s you against yourself. I take that training with me: the discipline and the work ethic.  So far it’s paid off.”

There are nuances in “Arbitrage,” also costarring Tim Roth, that hearken of days gone by yet there are shades steeped in present day, particularly the sanguine protagonist who doubles as the villain in question. Parker places well in period dramas.  Namely, in “The Great Debaters,” the tender love scene with Journee Smollett — both sitting quietly in a boat in the bayou — rates among my favorite on screen romantic events, their innocence is affecting. 

Parker seems at ease vacillating between eras. “I think that’s probably one of the greatest compliments I have received in my career and perhaps speaks to the reality that — in many ways — we’ve lost the power of the young black man.

“It’s been replaced in the media by the angry black man, or the violent black man, the despondent black man, or the weak black man or the emasculated black man. I put ‘black man’ on it because I’m specifically speaking to our community. People ask me why I play so many period roles and my answer is simple.   I tell them [that] when I see more material reflecting black men in a positive way — that will be progress for the community instead of a detriment — then people will see more contemporary roles [from me].”

Our conversation moves to his role in Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer.”

Parker, as Box, is a jaded street thug, once a “church boy” gone by the wayside. The “Red Tails” star opined, “I think it’s important that we recognize those men we see on the street corners with their pants down and their hats backwards; with the ‘blood’ colors and the pistol in their waist, that they are the residue of having been discarded. It first comes with the leadership, you go to any school, and the success of any of those young people is a result of the leadership that has come before them. The people that have guided them so I think with this young man, Box, while it’s easy to play what a gang member is, it’s harder to really speak to his truth. His back story — you know that he’s trying; he was in the church and his mother passed away.  No one filled in the gap.  That’s what’s happening in our community: we’re losing our kids at ages, 12, 13, 14… the girls get pregnant at 11, 12, 13… the boys are becoming gangsters at 11, 12, 13, and it’s not because they are criminal minded.  It’s not because they want to die.  Largely, it’s because of that impermanence where they feel like tomorrow is not guaranteed.  It’s that abandonment where they feel like they don’t have the support of people around them. That can make them feel like tomorrow is not guaranteed so they are raised most often by people that will take advantage, sometimes its gangs.”

Reaching further into his perspective, “Sometimes a gang will provide that security, that safety net, that social experience: all the things that you would hope one can gain in a positive, healthy environment.  I think there’s a lot of judgment that goes on in our generation, among young people, and much of that judgment happens in church.  In my own church, our pastor is younger than me now. I told him I was excited because when I used to go into church all I would see were older people just waiting to die.  They’d lived their lives and now it’s time for them to keel over, so they want to make sure that they are ‘right with God.’  Today, if you look at the energy of young people and what we’re doing with Twitter, Facebook and all these social media outlets, there is such an opportunity for the church to gain a new energy.  When this script (“Red Hook Summer”) was brought it to me I saw so much in it. The church has a responsibility.  It’s my prayer that they step up to the plate and reach out to these young people.”

Read more at www.Talk2SV.com.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

September 13, 2012

 

ARIES

Like-mindedness is going to be hard to achieve among your coworkers, but there are likely to be a few who see things as you do. Choose carefully and find someone to walk with you on this week’s journey. Some words of encouragement might be needed to enlist the person you choose. Soul Affirmation: My needs will be met if I just ask.

 

TAURUS

Where are you going in such a hurry? What you want you already have. Stop looking around yourself trying to find out what’s missing. Nothing is missing. The best kind of discovery this week is self-discovery. Soul Affirmation: I get because I give.

 

GEMINI

Knowing and accepting your love nature is extremely important. Don’t try to claim that it is as society says it should be. Acknowledge the fact that your love and friendship are often inseparable. You like to be in an adventure with your lover just as you would a partner or a friend. Create this situation by holding the truth of your nature in consciousness. Soul Affirmation: I enjoy the love that others have for me.

 

CANCER

Dive into it! Don’t be intimated by the unknown. Your adventurous spirit can take you to a new place of celebration this week. If you can, bring someone along who can celebrate in the same manner with you. Harmony and peace is the motto that you should chant when you accomplish what you want to do!

Soul Affirmation: Communication is a skeleton key that fits many doors.

 

 

LEO

This week would be good for getting your house in order so you can spend the extra time outdoors and enjoying the company of others. With an orderly habitat waiting for you, you’ll have a head start for the task you have to accomplish. Soul Affirmation: I open up to the universe. The universe opens up to me.

 

VIRGO

Don’t spread yourself too thin. But if you’ll need to move around in many different circles this week, your spirit should be high and your vibes are strong for meeting new people. You will be receiving a piece or two of great news. Expect the unexpected. You’ll be pleasantly surprised! Soul Affirmation: I give love and love gives to me.

 

LIBRA

Strong vibrations make for a series of dramatic interactions with others this week. Practice your art with your heart, and let your energy carry you upwards to your best, highest self. Keep emotions calm. Soul Affirmation: I know where I’m going because I know where I’ve been.

 

SCORPIO

You’ll be energizing others this week as you speak what’s on your mind regarding spiritual matters and masters. The quality of your thoughts is very pure; write yourself a love letter. Soul Affirmation: My imagination is the source of my happiness.

 

SAGITTARIUS

Surprises are in order this week, and you can roll with everything that comes at you unexpectedly. Healing can happen in a relationship if you just show up. That’s power! Use it for the good of others.

Soul Affirmation: This week is the week the Lord has made. I rejoice in it.

 

CAPRICORN

You want a comrade who doesn’t place inordinate expectations or demands on you, and who is creative, intelligent, a good conversationalist, and highly spiritual. Perhaps you should be out looking this week with eyes wide open! Soul Affirmation: Cooperation with others is the key to success for me this week.

 

AQUARIUS

Work calls and you are not completely happy with current divisions of labor. Do your part as a member of the team and you’ll be glad that you did. Others will notice that you are a committed team player. Soul Affirmation: I master life by mastering myself.

 

PISCES

 Business looks good this week as you discover a new way of increasing exposure to your product. Let hope and optimism lead you into new beginnings and fresh starts. All vibes are good. Go! Soul Affirmation: I enjoy flirting with new ideas.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

September 13, 2012

Associated Press

 

It’s official: Nicki Minaj did not endorse Mitt Romney in a recent rap.

The flamboyant rapper confirmed Monday September 10 on Twitter that she was taking literary license when she referenced the Republican nominee for president. Some took her words to mean she was backing President Barack Obama’s opponent.

Not Obama, though, who told radio station WPYO-FM in Orlando, Fla., that he didn't think it was a Romney plug, adding: “She likes to play different characters.”

In her tweet, Minaj thanked Obama for understanding “my creative humor and sarcasm,” then noted: “the smart ones always do ... sends love & support.”

Minaj rapped the verse in question while making an appearance on the Lil Wayne mix tape track “Mercy.”

A message sent to Minaj’s publicist was not immediately returned.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

September 13, 2012

By ANTHONY McCARTNEY Associated Press

 

Concert giant AEG Live is seeking book drafts and manuscripts by Jermaine Jackson that it claims may reveal details about his superstar brother that will help its defense in a lawsuit filed by the singers’ mother.

AEG is seeking drafts and manuscripts of Jackson’s recent book, “You Are Not Alone,” as well as an unpublished memoir it claims may focus on Michael Jackson’s alleged drug abuse.

Jermaine Jackson’s attorneys are fighting the request, calling them overly broad and in violation of the First Amendment, according to court filings. Turning over the writings also would violate the privacy of Michael Jackson’s three children and other family members and constitute a “fishing expedition,” according to documents filed Monday.

AEG’s attorneys contend the writings are important to its defense in a case filed by the singers’ mother claiming the concert promoter failed to properly supervise Conrad Murray, the physician convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Michael Jackson’s June 2009 death.

Their efforts seek drafts of a book described as “Legacy: Surviving the Best and the Worst,” which was reportedly in the works several years before the pop superstar's death. AEG claims drafts of the work would show issues “of immense relevance to this case, including Michael Jackson's rumored long-term abuse of prescription medication.”

AEG’s attorney Marvin Putnam wrote in an email that the company was seeking the documents because, during his book tour, Jermaine Jackson publicly touted the “details of his brother’s life and death.” Putnam also wrote that Jermaine Jackson claimed he was the “only person qualified to deliver the real Michael.”

The writings are not covered by protections afforded to investigative journalists since they are memoirs, AEG wrote in its motion to get a judge to order the release of the materials. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 28.

Jermaine Jackson’s lawyer Kevin Boyle, who also represents his mother in the lawsuit against AEG, was not immediately available for comment.

AEG had promoted Michael Jackson’s comeback shows, titled “This Is It,” which were canceled after his unexpected death due to an overdose of a hospital anesthetic the singing had been given to help him sleep.

The company also is seeking to depose Jermaine Jackson. And it obtained a judge’s order Wednesday requiring Jackson’s longtime friend and dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein to appear for a deposition next month.

Katherine Jackson sued AEG in September 2010, and the case is scheduled for trial in April 2013.

The company also is involved in a separate lawsuit filed by Lloyd’s of London over Michael Jackson’s life insurance policy. Putnam said the company has informed Lloyd’s that it has recouped its losses and is no longer pursuing the claim. Any proceeds should be paid to a company that benefits Michael Jackson’s estate, he said.

AEG’s formal withdrawal of the claim is expected soon, as well as its dismissal from the case filed by the insurer.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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