May 02, 2013
By Chelsea Battle
LAWT Contributing Writer
Those who know and love Kellita Smith as “Wanda Mac”, the hot wife who performed alongside the late Bernie Mac on Fox’s The Bernie Mac Show, will be happy to learn that the star is maintaining her staying power—both on and behind the screen. For starters she is producing quality media, with a new movie and radio show in the works. On screen she can be seen starring as the First Lady in BET’s newly acquired television series, The First Family. On the grassroots level, her advocacy against domestic violence is also noteworthy.
“I came from a single parent home and I definitely was exposed to violence,” Smith reveals solemnly. “I just recently did a PSA [Public Service Announcement] for One Billion Women Rising. As women we are beautiful in so many different ways. Part of what I was able to do with this campaign was to really reveal a little bit about myself, because sometimes a lot of the roles I play allow me to be sophisticated or allow me to seem polished and refined. I’m playing roles where the marriages work. The truth of the matter is that I really come from the opposite.”
Smith’s work with One Billion Women Rising, a women’s advocacy organization that focuses on domestic violence and rape, is of considerable importance to her for more reasons than one. The California native, who was raised in Oakland’s inner city, openly reveals that she fell victim to domestic violence and molestation well beyond her adolescence, up until she was 24 years old.
“I grew up without a father around pimps and hoes, dope dealers and athletes, so my self-image was being destroyed,” reveals Smith. “And if you never address the shame that is created from molestation, then as a woman it’s hard for you to realize your true value.”
Smith credits acting with saving her life. Given that actors are constantly required to delve deep into the emotional realm, running away from ones own emotions is virtually impossible. Thus Smith believes that her personal tragedies are essentially her gifts that help to create more depth within her craft.
Most recently her gift for acting has been put to use in the family-friendly television series, The First Family. Co-starring alongside Christopher Duncan [The Jamie Foxx Show], who plays President Johnson, Smith plays First Lady Katherine Johnson. Given the green light to develop 104 episodes, the show follows an African American first family through their day-to-day routines as they navigate life in the White House. Other cast members include Jackee Harry, Gladys Knight, and Marla Gibbs.
“It’s a comedy but we also have to honor the fact that we do have a Black family in the White House, so it’s not corny. It’s representing them, but at the same time it’s giving you a little bit of art and also giving you jokes,” Smith shares.
The humble yet ever provocative Smith also has a slew of behind the scenes projects in the works. Her reserved, albeit outspoken, charm has enabled her to create her own radio talk show called “Let’s Get Naked.” Soon to be online, the streamed show will feature Smith and three others as they discuss sex, love, relationships, and everything in between. She is also producing what promises to be an exciting film, a work based on the story of a childhood friend she grew up with who was the youngest drug kingpin in Oakland.
“I think that where you’re from is very essential to who you have an opportunity to become,” Smith reflects. “Growing up in the inner city there were a lot of choices that did take me down a lot of different roads, which is actually a good thing because you’re able to see that you can make better choices.”
Smith’s current offerings stand as evidence that she is indeed making good choices. In parting she leaves us with a quote from the 19th century theater director Constantin Stanislavski: “Love the art in yourself and not yourself in the art,” which she interprets as, “Don’t get caught up in rewards that art can give you; love the fact that you are a creator and that you are brilliant.”
April 25, 2013
(AP) — Richie Havens, the folk singer and guitarist who was the first performer at Woodstock, died Monday at age 72.
Havens died of a heart attack in New Jersey, his family said in a statement. He was born in Brooklyn.
Havens was known for his crafty guitar work and cover songs, including his well-received cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman.”
His performance at the three-day 1969 Woodstock Festival, where headliners included Jimi Hendrix, was a turning point in his career. He was the first act to hit the stage, performing for nearly three hours. His performance of “Freedom,” based from the spiritual “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” became an anthem.
Havens returned to the site during Woodstock’s 40th anniversary in 2009.
“Everything in my life, and so many others, is attached to that train,” he said in an interview that year with The Associated Press.
Woodstock remains one of the events that continues to define the 1960s in the popular imagination. Performers included The Who, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and dozens of others, and the trippy anarchy of Woodstock has become legendary. There was lots of nudity, casual sex, dirty dancing and open drug use. The stage announcer famously warned people to steer clear of the brown acid.
Havens had originally been scheduled to go on fifth but had been bumped up because of travel delays. Festival producer Michael Lang said in the book “The Road to Woodstock” that he chose Havens “because of his calm but powerful demeanor.”
His performance lasted hours because the next act hadn’t showed up.
“So I’d go back and sing three more,” Havens said in an interview with NPR. “This happened six times. So I sung every song I knew.”
Havens’ website said that he had kidney surgery in 2010 and that he never recovered enough to perform concerts like he used to. He performed at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration in 1993.
Havens, who released his breakthrough, “Mixed Bag,” in 1967, released more than 25 albums. He sang with doo-wop groups on the street corner in his Brooklyn neighborhood at an early age. At 20, he moved to Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, where he performed poetry, listened to folk music and learned how to play the guitar.
“I saw the Village as a place to escape to in order to express yourself,” he said in his biography.
Stephen Stills said he remembered hanging with Havens in Greenwich Village and experiencing the singer’s talent.
“Richie Havens was one of the nicest most generous and pure individuals I have ever met,” Stills said in a statement, adding that Havens was unique and could “never be replicated.”
“When I was a young sprite in Greenwich Village, we used to have breakfast together at the diner on 6th Avenue next to The Waverly Theatre. He was very wise in the ways of our calling. He always caught fire every time he played.”
Havens’ last album was 2008’s “Nobody Left to Crown.” He also started his own record label called Stormy Forest in 2000.
“I really sing songs that move me,” he said in an interview with The Denver Post. “I’m not in show business; I’m in the communications business. That’s what it’s about for me.”
Havens also became an actor in the 1970s and was featured in the original stage presentation of The Who’s “Tommy.” He appeared in the 1974 film “Catch My Soul” and co-starred with Richard Pryor in “Greased Lightning” in 1977.
Havens was the eldest of nine children. He is survived by his three daughters and many grandchildren.
A public memorial for Havens will be planned.
By ELIZABETH MARCELLINO
City News Service
An attorney for Michael Jackson's personal physician appealed the doctor's involuntary manslaughter conviction on Monday, arguing prosecutors failed to prove the King of Pop was on a propofol drip the day he died and that the trial judge excluded critical testimony. Conrad Murray, who is barred from practicing medicine, was convicted in November 2011 for administering a fatal dose of the powerful anesthetic to Jackson in the bedroom of the singer's rented Holmby Hills estate on June 25, 2009. Jackson was staying in the Los Angeles area while rehearsing for a
planned London concert series, dubbed ``This Is It.”
A last-minute theory in the case offered by the prosecution's anesthesiology expert was ``absurd, improbable and unbelievable,'' and not supported by physical evidence, according to the 231-page appeal. The prosecution contended that Murray, now 60, put the pop star on a continuous drip of propofol, left his patient alone and unmonitored, and Jackson went into respiratory arrest. But defense attorney Valerie Wass maintains in the appeal that Murray had been weaning the 50-year-old Jackson off propofol for three days and only gave him a small injection -- 25 milligrams -- to help him sleep before putting him on a saline drip. When Murray left the room, Jackson, desperate for sleep, self-injected a second dose, leading to cardiac arrest, Wass argued.
The appeal cites technical details from toxicology reports to support the defense contention that a quick heart attack, rather than respiratory arrest, was the cause of the performer's death. The prosecution's theory could have ``been blown apart'' by a forensic analysis of a 100-milliliter bottle that would have to contain both propofol
and the painkiller lidocaine to uphold prosecutors' arguments, Wass contended. Defense attorneys asked for that analysis 11 days after the jury returned its verdict. But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor denied the motion, saying the bottle had ``been around since the inception of the case.''
But the coroner's report said the bottle was empty, Wass argued in her appeal. It wasn't until the prosecution presented a new theory during testimony by a final rebuttal witness that the composition of drugs in the bottle became relevant. The prosecution's ``11th-hour tactic left the defense in a position where it had no real opportunity to present any effective defense to this novel theory,'' according to the appeal.
``As a result, the jury was left with the impression the rebuttal theory was a viable one, when in fact, it was entirely unsubstantiated.''
Wass said prosecutors withdrew their request for more than $101 million in restitution after the defense filed another motion to have the bottle tested during the restitution phase of the case. Prosecutors told the jury that even if Jackson had injected himself, Murray was responsible for his death because the physician should have realized that Jackson might do so if left alone with access to the drug. But according to Wass' appeal, Jackson had shown he understood the need to be monitored while taking the powerful drug, so Murray couldn't have predicted the pop star would use a syringe on his own.
The appeal also argues that Murray's trial co-counsel, J. Michael Flanagan, failed to adequately cross-examine the expert rebuttal witness or call for timely testing of the bottle. Wass and Flanagan were Murray's co-counsel on the appeal -- and were also romantically involved, according to court documents filed in another case -- until Flanagan resigned and sought a restraining order against Wass. Wass is under court order to stay at least 200 yards away from her former colleague.
The appeal in the Murray case also raised concerns about evidence not admitted at trial, including testimony about Jackson's use of Demerol and the pop icon's financial condition.
``The jury, however, was not allowed to learn that when Jackson died, he owed (concert promoter) AEG close to $40 million, there were more than 30 lawsuits pending against him and he owed millions of dollars to the IRS,'' the appeal argued.
That information showed that the performer had ``the weight of the world on his shoulders'' and was desperate to get enough sleep to be able to perform and fulfill his upcoming concert commitment, according to the appeal. Wass cited an email from concert director Kenneth Ortega to AEG Live CEO Brandon Phillips to illustrate Jackson's desperate state of mind.
``It would shatter him, break his heart if we pulled the plug,'' Ortega wrote.
``He is terribly frightened it's all going to go away. He asked me repeatedly tonight if I was going to leave him. ... He was like a lost boy. There still may be a chance he can rise to the occasion if we get him the help he needs.''
Finally, the appeal contends that the jury should have been sequestered to ensure a fair trial and that the court imposed a harsher sentence in order to make an example of a defendant in a high-profile case. Murray, convicted Nov. 7, 2011, is serving a four-year sentence in Men's Central Jail, but is expected to be released Oct. 28, according to the Sheriff's Department's inmate information website.
If you feel blessed this week, don’t be surprised. With last week’s soul vibration you were able to see a wonderful truth about yourself. Did you look? If you did then this week that truth will shine in everything you do. Soul Affirmation: The earthiness of my being reflects the sunshine of my soul.
You may feel a bit frustrated that some of the miscellaneous items from your “to do” list reappear for this week. Chill. Find ways to exert excess stress positively. Everything you need to get done will be done. You’ve got what it takes! Continue to shine! Soul Affirmation: Another day in which to rejoice is upon me. ah-h-h-h-h!
The sincere emotions that should have flowed through you last week will begin to glow more brightly this week. No matter what the emotions were, you can find the good in them this week. If you have to search deeply, do so. The good is there in abundance this week. Soul Affirmation: My emotions provide me a pathway into the sunshine of my being.
Energy is higher than it was last week. You might feel like the sunshine inside yourself provides blinding light. Walk into it. There are no dangers. Put dark glasses on your soul vibrations and be cool. This day is too light, too bright. Soul Affirmation: I love myself when I am laughing!
You might get negative answers to an important question this week so you should have a backup plan. And you should know that in the long run it is better that the answer was not yes. Be daring! Make efforts to move beyond your comfort zone. You’ll be glad you did. Soul Affirmation: I will ask joy to marry me.
Don’t waste your shine on solitude. Get out and let other people see it this week. The cheerfulness that should have come into your life last week is looking for places to express. Find them. Your winning ways can win big this week. Soul Affirmation: People love me, yes they do.
You like to shine. Everyone might not know it but you like to be a little superficial and playful. That side of your soul vibration is pleading for expression this week. Listen to the plea. Give it a chance but be careful of the sensitive feelings of those who experience you in another way. Soul Affirmation: Light from my soul shines in many directions.
Some say optimism is fantasy. Suppose the good thing you’re optimistic about never comes. This week you’ll know that the joy of anticipating it is joy enough. Just the certainty of coming goodness is present goodness. The joy of tomorrow is available this week. Soul Affirmation: The certainty of coming goodness is goodness.
The joy that you get from good results can make you a hero this week. Others will easily see how valuable your soul vibration is to them. It will be easy for them to see why they are glad they know you. Feel pride in your ability to move towards distant goals. Soul Affirmation: The sunlight of my spirit shines in the land beyond the horizon.
Did you enjoy what flowed in last week? Tell someone about it. Sure you like to gossip. So what. Enjoy going over in conversation what you enjoyed in consciousness last week. Did you make the consciousness into reality? You could have. You still can. Soul Affirmation: Things are as I know them to be.
Well enough of being satisfied and being still and letting the wealth inside yourself be your joy. Spend some of that wealth. Get into your real bank account. Use some hard cash and buy something to make you look as good as you feel. Soul Affirmation: Jewelry reflects the beauty of my feelings about myself.
You find that waiting pays off, doesn’t it. Now is a better time to charge ahead. Good communication is favored. You’ll be more convincing. Others are more eager to work with you. Love is easier. Business is easier. People give approval in ways that they would not have last week. Soul Affirmation: A day of rejoicing is upon me. I celebrate.
By Nicole Williams
If there ever was a show that positively represented the elements of what Black relationships should be, then YouTube sensation ‘The Couple’ is that show.
‘The Couple’ is apart of Black and Sexy TV, a network that was created by Numa Perrier and Dennis Dortch. According to its website, it is “a network established to provide viewing audiences a more accurate depiction of black culture.” It also says their shows focus on love and relationships in the Black community.
The show is compiled of web episodes and mini episodes all centered on a Black couple and the daily situations they go through, which can be anything and everything. It can be as simple as a living situation like which side of the bed to sleep on to a controversial text message that paint a simple picture for the audience: it could relate to your relationship too! In fact, Black and Sexy TV gets more than 2 million views on their videos, with ‘The Couple’ getting hundreds of thousands of views in itself.
The inspiration behind the episodes of ‘The Couple’ is what makes the show unique. One of the creators, Jeanine Daniels says it was her own life experiences that sparked the inspiration for the creation of the show. More specifically, it was when Daniels was living with her boyfriend and his roommate at the time where inspiration hit.
“It was just really weird because I had never lived with a guy before and I was writing all these things down and I would tell Dennis about all the random stuff that was happening, funny stuff. And I had this idea in my head that there needs to be a show about a couple, not just a story, but all the things that couples go through.”
She continued, “There has to be a show about how these two characters in my head—an anal jock and a really artsy chick are together and how a lot of random stuff happens. When I pitched the idea to the group, they were like yeah, let’s do it.”
Those experiences were the talk of a typical conversation with the creators of the show Dennis Dortch and Jeanine Daniels and the cast who plays the couple in the show, Numa Perrier and Desmond Faison, who had previously been friends before the creation of the show.
As Daniels explained the guy who became the inspiration for the show, Dennis shockingly said, “Oh Wow, I didn’t know that!” as he laughed.
While speaking to all four you can tell that there is some major chemistry going on. I wasn’t even able to tell if the two actors for ‘The Couple’, both Faison and Perrier, weren’t an actual couple in real life! Unfortunately, they weren’t able to disclose that information because they are on contract, but either way, they had me beat!
Because of that chemistry and how relatable the show is, Dortch says the show is a success, but for more than just those reasons.
“It is a success because its accessible, relatable and I think also because you don’t have to follow every single story. You could drop it and you could’ve seen 10 of them out of 20 and still feel like you know the show and you know them,” Dortch said.
Not only that, but Dortch also says ‘The Couple’ is different from other Black shows because of their cast.
“It’s a collaboration where people are bringing themselves to the table. Both Desmond and Numa bring something that’s unique that we discover as we shoot,” he said.
According to Dortch, who directs and edits the episodes, editing the episodes down is more tedious than the actors actually performing in front of the camera. They are given a description of the episode and do not use scripts; everything is done free style. Not only that, but ‘The Couple’ uses the actors’ apartments and former apartments to shoot the episodes.
“It’s a little funny because we shoot in my old apartment in Korea Town for The Couple and now my friend lives there, so sometimes that gets a little weird because it’s like I’m taking over that place again,” Perrier laughs.
The creators of the show were purposeful for those locations being that they wanted to create a more intimate and realistic setting. The surrounding being realistic caters to the scenes being realistic, which are all made up of ideas or actual experiences. All of these factors set up a platform for the audience to react to, which the creators and actors say they love and encourage feedback. In fact, according to Dortch and Pierrer, viewers tend to take sides. Dortch says this can be in part because large portions of their viewers tend to be women.
“However you set it up, the audience is going to play into it. If you set it up to take sides, they will happily take a side. From episode to episode it will be his side or my side, but if we’re together then all of our past transgressions don’t matter, they love us,” Perrier added.
“Between the two of us, 80% think I’m right,” Desmond joked.
Having an online show allows ‘The Couple’ to take in their feedback, which enables them to see what their audience likes. They say that their success online is their main focus.
“This is really where the future is, online. Production companies and studios are starting to throw a lot of money into this, so we’re sort of looking at it with two lenses. We’re not just looking at it as a means to end up getting to TV,” Dortch said.
Currently ‘The Couple’ is in its second season. Episodes are slowing down a bit, but it’s because Black and Sexy TV has a movie getting filmed this summer that will be a spin-off of ‘The Couple’. So if you already loved the realistic nature of this web-based show, looks like you’ll have something more to look forward to!
Go to www.youtube.com and type ‘The Couple Black and Sexy TV’ into your search bar and see with your own eyes what this popular show is all about.
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