May 30, 2013

LAWT News Services


A ten-year journey of commitment, ambition and perseverance has paved Andre McClain’s way to becoming the Ringmaster for the 143rd Edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Built To Amaze!S In addition to being a Ringmaster, Andre McClain is an accomplished animal trainer, cowboy, rodeo star, country singer and songwriter, and above all, an admired dad. This rancher has been around horses and rodeos since he was a baby, and is a descendant from a long, distinguished African-American cowboy heritage that dates back to the early 1900’s. Now in Ringling Bros. Presents Built To Amaze!, Andre truly represents a hip throwback to the origins of a Ringmaster by donning a spectacular gentleman's riding habit and directing the performance, exotic animal, and equestrian presentations.

Raised on a ranch in Kansas City, Missouri, Andre began riding bucking ponies and steers at the age of five.  A rodeo competitor himself, Andre’s father, Lu, founded the Bill Pickett Rodeo in 1984, which was America’s first all-Black touring rodeo, and where Andre made his competitive debut at just seven-years-old.

Andre took pride in his cowboy heritage; he even rode his horse to high school every day! Andre “parked” his steed on the soccer field, and tended to him between classes.  Andre’s college days were spent more conservatively at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and although initially a vocal music major, he received a degree in Business Management in 2000.

After school, Andre joined the International Professional Rodeo Association, and continued to compete in rodeo circuits. He taught himself a variety of “Wild West Arts” and took his one man show on tour with his father’s rodeo. In 2002, Andre visited the 132nd Edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® to conduct research on stilts for a new routine he was considering for his show.  During a behind-the-scenes chat with some of the clowns who used stilts in their act, his animal training background caught the attention of show personnel.  In a twist of fate, he was offered a job working with the show’s exotic animal staff.

At the end of the tour, Andre auditioned his one-man act before Ringling Bros. producer Kenneth Feld and landed a position as the host of the 133rd Edition’s Three Ring Adventure now known as the All Access Pre-show.  In the past ten years, Andre’s repertoire expanded from pre-show host to presenting and demonstrating the bond that he has with animals from horses and miniature hoofstock to camels.

Andre’s perseverance has resulted not only in his passion to have achieved the most recognized role at Ringling Bros. but also in matters of the heart. Andre, after two years of waiting, convinced the woman of his dreams, Daniele who also performs with Ringling Bros., to marry him.  The newlywed couple are more excited than ever to build their life as husband and wife when The Greatest Show On Earth! launches Built To Amaze! in 2013.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

May 30, 2013

If you missed your chance to grab tickets for the kick-off concert of Beyoncé’s North American tour at STAPLES Center on June 28th, you’re in luck.  Great production seats will be released today as part of a 3-day ticket package special offer.  Not only will tickets to the much anticipated Beyoncé performance be included, but the bundle will also offer purchasers admission to additional BET Experience at L.A. LIVE shows at STAPLES Center featuring Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, J.Cole and Miguel on Saturday, June 29th and R. Kelly, New Edition and The Jacksons on Sunday, June 30th.  All artists will perform full sets.  This is something that you won’t want to miss, but you have to act fast as seating is limited and the tickets will go quickly.

The 3-day ticket package is available at or

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

May 30, 2013


Entertainment Editor


It’s been almost 50 years since the late Ted Watkins put the city of Watts on the map developing it as a treasured African American culture base that today is known throughout the world.

It’s his son Tim Watkins, who is carrying the might of his legacy as President and CEO of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, but ultimately rising pop diva Mali Nicole might be brightest star in the family tree. Nicole is the great grand- daughter of Ted Watkins and is Tim Watkins granddaughter.

The tiny city of Watts is no stranger to celebrities in both music and sports.

Tyrese Gibson catapulted to fame after performing a soda pop jingle and is now a star in both music and film.

The late ‘At Last’ vocalist Etta James resided in Watts, Olympic gold medalist and world record holder the late Florence Griffith-Joyner grew up there, and rapper Jay Rock who fought to make a name for himself is from Watts.

However, none of them symbolizes what teen sensation Mali Nicole does.

In a new age of social media and transforming generations, Nicole is a teenage rising pop and R&B singer approaching who at 16 has captured the imagination of the entertainment industry with a voice that’s a cross between Whitney Houston and Beyoncé.

With glowing light hazel eyes, a caramel skin coat that melts your heart and shoulder length blonde hair as the flavor of the day, Nicole appears to be on her way.

She has embraced her family heritage, but is bold and gifted enough to be singularly focused on following her own unique path to success.

“I know that my great grand father was a famous developer in Watts who did many wonderful things,” said Nicole in her soft voice.

Tim influenced Nicole and his other grandchildren to follow their dreams, while he continues to be the caretaker of his father’s.

For Nicole, the daughter of Tim’s son Robert, it was music and entertainment.

“I just love music. It’s something that I want to do all the time,” she told the Sentinel.

Her singing career when she joined her other siblings as part of a group.

Their act Statik Express led them to an audition and a nice run on the talent reality show X-Factor where they rocketed to top 30 list of performers, but Mali Nicole really stood out.

During an impromptu interview for the show, the group was ask to sing the national anthem and while all sang admirably, it was Nicole’s voice which dominated the song.

Many management companies took notice, but their ears really perked up when Nicole sold 30,000 CDs out of the family garage.

The red hot smash hit ‘Krush’ elevated her to a new stratosphere and then another subsequent video ‘A Thousand Years’, a joint dedicated to her parents on their wedding anniversary lit up on the Internet, and  ’Sweet 16’ a single about her 16th birthday put icing on the cake.

Booming managing firm Stampede Management rushed to sign her to a roster that includes the likes of Snoop, DJ Quik, Mystikal and YG among others, banking that Mali Nicole is a star.

Now, Stampede Management may have their new franchise player.

After trying her hand at acting at the age of seven, tagging along with her father to acting classes, Mali Nicole transformed into someone special when they put microphone in her hand at the age of 10.

Having performed on numerous mix tapes with super stars such as Chris Brown, Omarion and Justin Beiber, Nicole still distinguished herself with a voice that is effortless and powerful, signing each note with her teenage signature.

Nicole credits her parents as her greatest inspiration, but also admires the stage presence of Beyoncé and sites influence of  ‘Pop King’ Michael Jackson as to why she works day in and out on her craft.

“I know there is no substitute for hard work and I know that Beyoncé works harder and most people in this business which is why she’s so successful. I want to be like that,” Nicole said.

Nicole has the support of her family and hometown and is already prepping for her first CD expected to come out later this year.

"I have been singing all my life and I can't stop. Its something I have always wanted to do and I'm ready to do big things."

In years to come, she visions herself with a Grammy and touring the world.

Obviously she will carry the family heritage with her every step of the way, but this diva is a developer of a serenading music aimed at enticing a ‘Krush’.

Follow Mali Nicole on twitter and Facebook at malinicolemusic.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

May 30, 2013

By LINDA DEUTSCH | Associated Press


A top executive of the company that was producing Michael Jackson's "This Is It" tour acknowledged reluctantly Tuesday that he negotiated a deal for the doctor that the pop star had chosen to accompany him.

But AEG Live executive Paul Gongaware testified his only role in the matter was negotiating the price of Dr. Conrad Murray's services in compliance with what Jackson asked him to do.

Gongaware said that neither he nor anyone at the entertainment giant investigated Murray's background or credentials.

"The fact that he had been Michael Jackson's personal physician for three years was good enough for me," Gongaware said.

Gongaware, the Co-CEO of AEG Live, testified in the Los Angeles trial as a hostile witness called by lawyers for Jackson's mother in her negligent-hiring lawsuit.

He came under aggressive examination by plaintiff's attorney Brian Panish on whether AEG or Jackson was responsible for hiring Murray, who was ultimately convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the superstar's death.

Jackson died in 2009 after being given a powerful anesthetic.

Asked if he knew that Murray was in financial difficulties when he took the job as tour doctor, Gongaware answered no.

He said that Murray initially asked for $5 million to travel to London with Jackson and tend to him during the tour.

"I just told him it wasn't going to happen," he said, recalling that Jackson then suggested offering him $150,000 a month.

"Michael Jackson insisted on it and recommended him and it was not for me to tell him no," said Gongaware, who is a defendant in the multibillion-dollar lawsuit.

"I wanted to provide what was necessary for him to do his job...He wanted a doctor and I wanted him to be healthy."

Even after the offer of $150,000, Murray wasn't satisfied.

"He started saying he wanted more and I said, 'The offer is coming directly from the artist," Gongaware said.

Minutes later, he said Murray accepted.

"Did that seem desperate to you?" asked Panish.

"No," said Gongaware. "He just accepted Michael's offer."

During Tuesday's court session, Katherine Jackson was accompanied to court by her singing star daughter Janet who sat beside her for the first half of the day. Later, her sister, Rebbie took the seat.

Gongaware often pleaded poor memory of events. He said he may have met with Jackson as many as 10 times, but could remember only two of the meetings and only one when Murray was present.

Prodded by Panish, he remembered a meeting at which Jackson arrived late from a doctor's appointment and had slurred speech.

"He was a bit off," he said, "that was the only time I saw him like that."

At the heart of the case is who hired Murray. At first, Gongaware insisted he did no negotiating with Murray, but, confronted with emails and his previous testimony, he changed his position and said, "The only thing I did with Dr. Murray was negotiate a price."

He indicated that he was so shocked by Murray's demand that he consulted a doctor friend to see what he would charge for the same job. The other doctor said he would have gone on tour for $10,000 a week.

"Did you ever convey that to Michael Jackson?" asked Panish.

"I don't recall," said Gongaware whose testimony was peppered with that phrase.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

May 23, 2013

Sentinel News Service 


The kudos just keeps on coming for the Pan African Film Festival. After a month-long business trip to Africa visiting an international film festival and several film events, Ayuko Babu, executive director of PAFF along with director of programming, Asantewa Olatunji, returned to Los Angeles with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). AMAA, considered the African Oscars, held its ninth award ceremony on April 20, 2013 in Yenagoa, Nigeria, the Bayelsa state capital, honoring top films and performances from Africa and its Diaspora.

PAFF, America's largest and most prestigious international Black film festival, wrapped its 21st anniversary with the documentary, “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” directed by Shola Lynch  at the Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. In February, the festival screened a total of 154 films, representing 34 countries -- that is, 23 documentaries, 13 short documentaries, 67 narrative features, and 51 narrative shorts.

“It’s very humbling to receive such a prestigious honor from the African Movie Academy,” said Babu. “It’s thrilling for the work of the Pan African Film Festival to be recognized on this level by the international film community. It’s also a testament to the contribution and global impact this film festival has made in bringing stories from around the world to American audiences.”

While in Africa, Babu and Olatunji were special guests of the Pan African Festival of Cinema and Television (FESPACO) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso as well as the nomination committee meetings for AMAA in Lilongwe, Malawi. The two also attended the official press launch for the Accra International Film Festival held near the Du Bois Centre in Accra, Ghanna. 

Earlier this year, PAFF also received the first ever Special Achievement Award in the Film Festival Category by African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), recognizing its contribution to cinematic arts.

The Pan African Film & Arts Festival is an official event of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa's Celebration of African American Heritage Month. PAFF is sponsored by Union Bank; Macy's; Wells Fargo Bank; General Motors; Sony Pictures, CareMore; Water Replenishment District of Southern California; South African Airways; the National Film and Video Foundation; One Village; Addco Party Rentals; TestFlick; O.N.E. Coconut Water; Dama Tequila and Mascarade Liqueur; the Department of Cultural Affairs, the City of Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; as well as Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (Second District) and Los Angeles City Council members Bernard C. Parks (District 8), Jan Perry (District 9), and council president Herb J. Wesson Jr. (District 10).

Wrapping up its 21st anniversary, the Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF), is America's largest and most prestigious Black film festival. Each year, it screens more than 150 films made by and/or about people of African descent from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, the South Pacific, Latin America, Europe and Canada. PAFF holds the distinction of being the largest Black History Month event in the country.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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