Saturday, December 31, 2011


It’s so hard to say goodbye.  But, here is a final adieu to some of the celebrities, politicians, newsmakers and community leaders who influenced lives in the African-American community and beyond.

The following are those who passed away in 2011:


Jan. 13 - Ellen Stewart, the founder and director of the Off-Off-Broadway pioneering group La MaMa Experimental Theater Club. She was 91.

Jan. 14 – Mississippi Winn, oldest living African American in the U.S., March 31, 1897-Jan. 14, 2011

Jan. 18 – Gregory V. Lange, WRVS Program Director. He was 56.

Jan. 26 - Gladys Horton, a member of the Marvelettes. She was 66.


Feb. 6 - Damian Bruce, ESP publicist. He was 51.

Feb. 8 - Gospel singer Marvin Sease. He was 64.


Feb. 19 - Ollie Matson – played in the NFL for 14 years. He was 80.

Feb. 20 - Dave Duerson, former NFL safety. He was 50.

Feb. 21 - Dwayne McDuffie, Creator of the television series Static Shock. He was 49.

Feb. 23 - Allen Willis, filmmaker. He was 96.

Feb. 24 - Joseph Dyer, a retired KCBS-TV executive who was one of the first African American reporters hired by a major network television station in Los Angeles. He was 76.



March 8 - Dr. Billy Ingram - founder of the Maranatha Community Church in Los Angeles. He was 58.


March 15 - Nate Dogg. He was 41.

March 18 - Drew Hill of Rams, Oilers and Falcons. He was 54.

March 21 - Willie “Pinetop” Perkins, blues piano player. He was 97 or 98. Born in 1913.

March 21 - Disco singer Loleatta Holloway, known for the 1980 hit "Love Sensation," She was 64.

March 23 - Elizabeth Taylor, actress, HIV activist. She was 79.

March 25 - Almena Lomax, civil rights activist launched Los Angeles Tribune newspaper. She was 95.

March 27 - DJ Megatron, urban radio and TV personality.

March 31 - Eugenia Wright, Hollywood Publicist.


April 1 - Manning Marable, African-American Studies Scholar. He was 60.

Apr. 5 - Ange-Felix Patasse, deposed President of the Central African Republic. He was 57.

April 20 - TV On The Radio bassist Gerard Smith.  He was 36.

April 26 - Singer-songwriter Phoebe Snow. She was 60.


May 1 - Osama Bin Laden.  He was 54.

May 11 - Mia Amber Davis, plus-sized model.

May 15 - Rapper, M-Bone from the group Cali Swag District, best known for their hit “Teach Me how to Dougie.” He was 22.

May 15 - Kenyan Olympic marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru. He was 24.

May 17 - Richard Gregory "Greg" Lewis, journalist for the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle. He was 57.

May 19 - Don H. Barden, a Detroit businessman who built an empire from the cable company, casinos and other ventures. He was 67.


May 27 - Gil Scott-Heron, musician and poet. He was 62.  "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."

May 30 - Clarice Taylor, perhaps best known for role as Bill Cosby’s matriarch mother on the “Cosby Show.” She was 93.


June 2 - Fayrene (Faye) Treadwell, one of the first female African American entertainment managers in history. She was 84.  

June 2-  Elmer 'Geronimo' Pratt, a former Black Panther Party leader who spent 27 years in prison on a murder conviction that was later overturned. He was 63.

June 8 – Clara Luper, Oklahoma City, Civil Rights. She was 88.

June 18 - Clarence Clemons, the legendary saxophonist in the E Street Band, who played alongside Bruce Springsteen for the past 40 years. He was 69. 

June 18 - Frederick Chiluba, second President of Zambia. He was 67.

June 19 - Carl Gardner, original lead singer of the R&B group the Coasters. He was 83.

June 29 - Gladys Wesson-Strickland. Mother of Herb Wesson, Jr. She was 79.


July 1 - Raymond Jones, producer and keyboardist for Chic.  Also a composer, writer, recording artist and engineer.  He was 52.

July 5 - Armen Gilliam, former UNLV and ex-NBA player. He was 47.

July 6 - John Mackey, Hall of Fame tight end and union president.  He was 69.

July 11 - Gospel icon Bishop F.C. Barnes.  He was 82.

July 18 - Mother Lillian Mobley. Known as a mother to the community.   She was 81.

July 23 - Butch Lewis, Legendary boxing promoter. He was 65.

July 24 - Jane White, singer/actress. She was 88.

July 26 - Famed Jazz Saxophonist Frank Foster He was 82.

July 27 - Charles L. Gittins, First Black Secret Service Agent. He was 82.

July 28 - Rev. Howard Creecy Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was 57.


Aug. 2 - Delois Barrett Campbell, a member of the award-winning Barrett Sisters trio.   She was 85.

August 3 - Former NFL defensive star Bubba Smith. He was 66.

Aug. 5 - Meda Chamberlain, former executive director of the National Council of Negro Women Inc.  She was 95.

Aug. 12 - Pastor Zachery Tims of Orlando, Florida.  He was 42.

Aug. 22 - Nick Ashford of Ashford & Simpson. He was 70.

Aug. 29 - Bluesman David 'Honey Boy' Edwards dead at 96.

Aug. 24 – Esther Gordy Edwards - who helped build Motown Records alongside her brother Berry Gordy Jr.  She was 91.


Sept. 2 - McKinley "June Bug" Williams, of the R&B group Maze.

Sept. 4 - Lee Roy Selmon, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Hall of Fame defensive end. He was 56.

Sept. 16 - Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith, blues musician. He was 75.

Sept. 22 - Vesta Williams, R&B singer. She was 53.

Sept. 22 - Otis Smith. Music industry executive.

Sept. 25 – Wangari Maathai- The first African woman to win a Noble Prize. She was 71.

Sept. 26 - Jessy Dixon, a gospel legend. He was 73. 

Sept. 28 – Sylvia Robinson, the woman some call the mother of hip-hop. She had a hit as a singer-songwriter with the sexually charged "Pillow Talk."  She was 76.

Sept. 30 - Marvin “Marv” Tarplin, Motown guitarist. He was 70.


Oct. 5 - Fred Shuttlesworth, who helped lead the civil rights movement. He was 89.

Oct. 5 - Derrick Bell, first tenured Black professor at Harvard Law School. He was 80.

Oct. 13 - "Diamond" Jim Sears, radio legend.

Oct. 28 - David Watkins, an award-winning event marketing and advertising visionary. Worked with UPTOWN and Vibe.


Nov. 17 – Walt Hazzard, Former UCLA Player and Coach. He was 69.

Nov. 18 - Greg Halman, a Dutch baseball player who was an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners. He was 24.

Nov. 28 - Comedian Patrice O'Neal. He was 41. 

Nov. 30 - Chester McGlockton, former Oakland Raider. He was 42. 

Nov. 30 – J. Blackfoot, Memphis soul singer. He was 65.

Nov. 30 - Barry Llewellyn, Jamaican reggae singer and member of the Heptones. He was 64.


Dec. 2 - Soul singer Howard Tate.  He was 72.

Dec. 6 - Dobie Gray, who recorded “Drift Away” in 1973.  He was 69.

Dec. 11 - Ofield Dukes, public relations executive. He was 79.

Dec. 12 - John Atterberry, record producer. He was 40.

Dec. 16 - Rapper Slim Dunkin (real name Mario Hamilton). He was 24.

Dec. 26 - Sam Rivers, jazz musician. He was 88.

Dec. 26 - Houston Antwine, former NFL defensive end, played with the New England Patriots and Houston Oilers.

Dec. 28 – Sam Logan, Detroit newsman and publisher of the Michigan Chronicle. He was 78.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


*Once “Fela!” starts, there’s no turning back.

Audience members should come prepared to strap themselves in for a high-octane experience that takes them on a musical and historical ride that is inspiring, informative and completely entertaining.

Currently playing at the Ahmanson, “Fela!” is the true story of the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, whose affecting Afrobeat rhythms is said to have sparked and reenergized a generation. Afrobeat is a mix of jazz, funk, highlife (a popular West African horn-based style) and traditional Yoruba music.

Determined and undeterred, Fela followed in the steps of his mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, herself a civil rights defender. Through his pulsating music he challenged a military government he deemed tyrannical and dishonest and garnered a loyal following in the process.

Inspired by his mother, Fela defied a corrupt and oppressive military government and devoted his life and music to freeing his people and restoring their human dignity.

Fela’s story is both provocative and controversial.
It’s the ’70s and Fela, arguably one of the hottest and most popular musicians in Africa at the time, has a club called The Shrine. Club attendees were privy to a new sound Fela dubbed Afrobeat, which was a pounding eclectic rhythm that was clearly infectious. It was mixed with what some called incendiary lyrics about the repressive military dictatorship that ruled Nigeria at the time.  His music eventually found its way around the world, not surprisingly igniting a rather contentious relationship between the musician and the government.

Fearless of government reprisals, the iconic composer and performer wasn’t afraid to die for what he believed. He urged others to fight repression as he amassed a small army of his own and even surrounded his compound with electric wire.
An endearing, feared, reviled (by the government) and revered political and musical figure in African history, Fela’s story is not only told through music, but also some incredible dancing – choreographed by Tony-Award winner Bill T. Jones. Jones also conceived, directed and co-authored the book to the biographical musical.

Not an easy story to turn into a musical, the producers, directors and cast have essentially hit a home run.

This is a tough (in every sense of the word) show with an emotional subject matter, but the pay off is worth every drop of sweat and tears the actors exude.

The show moves from explaining Fela’s musical influences, to how he went about creating his unique sound. Honing his craft in New York, London and Los Angeles, Fela inhaled and digested the Black Power movement in America through a woman named Sandra Isadore who opened his mind to the writings of civil rights icons Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

Paulette Ivory is intoxicating, stealing the show the moment she opens her mouth to sing the role of Isadore.  Her voice is like buttah! She is a force who commands the stage. Kudos!

Fela’s spiritual and philosophical transformation was palatable.

The show, produced by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Will & Jada Pinkett Smith, is driven not only by the music and the choreography, but also by some powerful performances.

Sahr Ngaujah, (who was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance), is stunningly brilliant and engaging in the role of Fela. He draws the audience in with an authentic presence that fills the stage. His magnetic personality paired with his robust performance effectively carries the show from beginning to end.

Melanie Marshall is equally impressive, portraying Fela’s fearless and unwavering mother, Funmilayo. She gives a bold, yet subtle performance that is affecting and gut-wrenching.

There is no weak link in this show, making Fela! a satisfying theatrical experience.

The dancers, with their enviable firm, elongated and beautifully cut bodies, are full of inexhaustible energy.  Like free spirited gazelles they move about the stage pushing the story forward with their technically precise, yet free-styled gyrations. 
The efficient and splendid set design, mood lighting and costumes assist in making this show a full package.

And, the music, of course, is exceptional!

“Fela!” is more than a play. It’s more than a musical. It’s an experience!

Kudos to everyone involved.

The musical opened on Broadway at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, Nov. 23, 2009, after an acclaimed run Off-Broadway in 2008.

“Fela!” stars Sahr Ngaujah, Adesola Osakalumi, Melanie Marshall, Paulette Ivory, Rasaan-Elijah “Talu” Green, Ismael Kouyate, Gelan Lambert, Sherinne Kayra Anderson, Jonathan Andre, Cindy Belliot, Nandi Bhebhe, Catia Mota Da Cruz, Nicole Chantal De Weever, Jacqui Dubois, Poundo “Sweet” Gomis, Wanjiru Kamuyu, Oneika Phillips, Thierry Picaut, Jermaine Rowe, Daniel Soto, Ade Chike Torbert, Jill Marie Vallery, Iris Wilson, Aimee Graham Wodobode.

Fela!, directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones with a book by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones, and music and lyrics by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

Fela!, Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles; plays Tuesday –Friday 8 p.m.; Sat. 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun. 1 and 6:30 p.m.; There is no performance on Mondays. Through Jan. 22, 2012; $20-$120;

On the Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK) and E (excellent), “Fela” gets an E (Excellent).

Friday, December 16, 2011


Janet Jackson 

Singing sensation Janet Jackson recently announced on Good Morning America that she has become  the new face of NutriSystem's national advertising and marketing campaign.

Jackson will unveil the company's new NutriSystem Success Program, which features new Chef’s Table entrees, new protein shakes, a My Daily 3 customized activity plan and a new transition and maintenance plan.

Jackson has made no secret that she has struggled with yo-yo dieting, which she revealed in her New York Times’ best selling book, “True You.”

“Dieting never worked for me, counting calories never worked for me, and denying myself the foods I love never worked for me,” Jackson said in a statement. “With NutriSystem I am seeing results already, and I am so impressed by both the thought and the nutritional science behind the program.  There are millions of women like me who want to be successful but don’t have the tools to do it on their own.  I hope I can help inspire them.”

“She is very open about her personal weight struggles and will be appearing in a substantial national advertising campaign to help inform and motivate consumers,” said a NutriSystem spokesperson. 

“The ads, which were shot on location in Australia during Ms. Jackson’s recent worldwide tour, will debut before the end of the year.”

Jackson’s print and television ads for NutriSystem will be seen on various media platforms through 2012.

Monday, December 12, 2011


At a press conference held today at the Universal Hilton, Gil Robertson IV, the president and founder of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) and actress Salli Richardson-Whitfield, announced the organization's picks for the best in film in 2011.


Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," received the association's top honor as Best Picture of 2011. "The Help's" Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer both scored acting honors.

VIOLA DAVIS (3rd from left) in "THE HELP"

AAFCA's Top Ten Films of 2011 are as follows in order of distinction:

1. The Tree of Life
2. Drive
3. Pariah
4. Rampart
5. Shame
6. Money Ball
7. The Descendants
8. A Better Life
9. My Week With Marilyn
10. The Help

Best Actor                              Woody Harrelson, "Rampart"
                                               (Millennium Entertainment)
Best Actress                           Viola Davis, "The Help" (Dream Works Pictures)
Best Supporting Actress        Octavia Spencer, "The Help"  (Dream Works Pictures)
Best Supporting Actor           Albert Brooks, "Drive"  (Film District)
Best Foreign Film                  Alrick Brown, Kinyarwanda (AFFRM)


Breakout Performance           Adepero Oduye, "Pariah"  (Focus)


Best Director                         Steve McQueen, "Shame" (Fox Searchlight)
Best Screenplay                    Ava DuVernay, "I Will Follow" (AFFRM)
Best Song                              Jason Reeves & Lenka Kripac, writers, "The Show"
                                              from "Moneyball"
Best Independent Film          "Pariah" (Focus)
Best Documentary                "The Black Power Mix Tape"

Special Achievement: George Lucas will receive the Cinema Vanguard award; Richard Roundtree (AAFCA Legacy); Hattie Winston (AAFCA Horizon) and Sony Pictures Entertainment will receive the Institution award.


AAFCA will present this year's honors during a private dinner on Sun., Jan. 8, 2012 at the Light Space Studio at Helms Bakery.

AAFCA, founded in 2003, is the only organization of African American film media professionals. Members represent a geographically diverse cross-section of media covering the cinematic arts. It also supports the development of future black film critics and filmmakers. AAFCA is based in Los Angeles.

For more information visit

Monday, December 5, 2011


Ten new episodes of NAACP Image Award-winning series premiere Monday nights beginning Jan. 2, featuring Vesta, Bobby Womack, Atlantic Starr, Sheila E, Ray Parker, Jr., Freddie Jackson, Full Force, Millie Jackson, David Ruffin and Whodini

TV One gets the New Year off to a rockin’ start with ten all-new episodes of Unsung, its NAACP Image Award-winning series of one-hour biographies celebrating the lives and careers of successful artists or groups who, despite great talent, have not received the level of recognition they deserve or whose stories have never been told, beginning Monday, January 2 at 10 PM ET. 

The full picture of black music in America is a rich kaleidoscope of talented artists and so much bigger than acknowledged superstars and household names like Aretha, Whitney, Stevie and Marvin. Many of the greatest have either failed to achieve that same level of superstardom - or have compelling life stories the details of which have largely remained untold.  Ten of black music’s most talented artists and groups will be recognized this winter in all-new episodes of Unsung, TV One’s top-rated and most highly anticipated series. The episodes will air weekly on Mondays at 10 PM, repeating at 1 AM (all times ET) and will chronicle the careers of: 

Vesta Williams (January 2) With one of the biggest, brassiest voices in R&B and contemporary jazz, along with a four-octave range, Vesta Williams charged through the 80s from an A-list backup singer, who recorded with the likes of Gladys Knight, Anita Baker, and Sting, to a hit-making diva.   Her 1986 debut album included two top ten singles,  "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" and "Don't Blow a Good Thing," while her follow-up produced the classic, "Congratulations."  But Vesta’s surging stardom overwhelmed her, and she comforted herself with drugs and food. Her weight ballooned, she was dropped by major labels, and her career seemed over. But Vesta vowed to clean up her act.  She quit drugs, lost over 100 pounds, and kept her musical chops limber while working with artists like George Duke, Howard Hewitt and Lee Ritenour. Though she continued to rely sporadically on pain-killers and sleep medication, she was determined to survive.  In 2011, as she completed the definitive profile of her life for “Unsung”, Vesta Williams was back in high spirits, optimistic that this filmed portrait would help re-ignite her career. Then on September 22, 2011, she suddenly died in her sleep, at age 53. This is her story. 


Bobby Womack (January 9) - He’s been called the Poet, the Preacher, and the last Soul Man. By whatever name, there’s never been anyone quite like Bobby Womack, who has lived an eventful life that mirrors the painful dramas of his classic songs. He grew up as the middle child among the talented Womack brothers, later re-named the Valentinos, where they forged success as a pop group under the tutelage of soul icon Sam Cooke. Bobby became Cooke’s protégé, a guitar-playing and songwriting prodigy who penned his first number one hit, ‘It’s All over Now’, as a teenager. But his budding career took a wild turn when, within months of Cooke’s shocking murder in 1964, the 21-year-old married Sam’s widow, Barbara. He became a pariah among former fans, a target for violence by Cooke’s brothers, and was all but banned from the record industry. But talent persevered, and Womack emerged in the ‘70s and ‘80s as a singer-songwriter of uncommon range, penning soulful standards, from ‘That’s the Way I feel about Cha’ to ‘Across 100th Street,’ to ‘If You think You’re Lonely Now.’ Then an astonishing string of tragedies, including the death of Bobby’s brother Harry, and the loss of two of his sons, sent his life and career into a tailspin. Now, after five decades of making music, he’s a storied survivor, who tells it all – as only he can - in this riveting episode of ‘Unsung.’

Atlantic Starr (January 16) - Atlantic Starr made their mark with slow grooves like “Secret Lovers” and the wedding classic “Always”. But the band had its roots as a close-knit group of nine friends and family members, hailing from a small town in upstate New York, who were devoted to fun and to funk. With help from Commodores producer James Anthony Carmichael, and songs written by group members David and Wayne Lewis, they shot to stardom with “When Love Calls” and “Circles” - both featuring singer Sharon Bryant. But the band’s sheer size, and the fight for control within it, led to conflicts which ultimately split the group in two. Bryant was replaced by Barbara Weathers, after which Atlantic Starr achieved its greatest success with “Always.”  But more personality conflicts spurred Weathers to quit the band, leading to a steady march of replacement singers, and ultimately, to the departure of key songwriter David Lewis himself. In this episode of ‘Unsung’, members of Atlantic Starr, past and present, come together for the first time to discuss candidly the rise and fall of a group whose bonds of friendship frayed in the crucible of making music.

Freddie Jackson (January 23) - Freddie Jackson’s soulful ballads are the stuff of velvet sheets, intimate encounters and rose petaled Jacuzzis. With nine number one hits, including ‘Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake)’ and ‘You Are My Lady’, Freddie gave voice to sentiments men often struggled to communicate, and women longed to hear.  But super-stardom wasn’t all strawberries and whipped cream. Struggling with his weight since childhood, Freddie found his persona at odds with his ballooning figure, while whispers questioning his sexuality swirled amongst fans. Through the 1980s, Freddie helped catapult the Hush productions sound to the R&B forefront - but when the hits ran out, he found himself facing financial ruin. In this revealing episode of ‘Unsung’, Freddie and his closest collaborators, including Melba Moore and M’lissa Morgan, chart his popular success and his personal struggles.

Full Force (January 30) - Few musical artists can boast a career as wide-ranging, influential and yet truly ‘unsung’ as Brooklyn's Full Force. For more than three decades the pioneering three brother, three cousin collective have broken ground as writers, producers and performers. They’ve helped launch the careers of pop stars as diverse as Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, the Backstreet Boys and Cheryl Pepsii Riley, while reviving the career of the Godfather himself, James Brown. They gained cult status after portraying hilarious bullies in the classic comedy "House Party", by playing up their buffed out & Jheri curled image, and rocked the dance floor with irresistible jams like ‘Ain’t My Type of Hype’ and ‘Alice, I Want You Just For Me!’  But behind the scenes, the band members have battled career ups and downs, along with health issues that have imperiled one member’s survival. On this remarkable episode of Unsung’, one of popular music’s most prolific musical families gets busy one more time.

Millie Jackson (February 6) - Millie Jackson’s voice was enough to make her an R&B singing star, but it was what she said between songs – and how she said it – that made her famous. Tackling topics previously considered taboo, and with unrivaled comic timing, Millie spoke to a generation of young black women who didn’t often hear themselves represented on TV or on the radio. Years later, her place in music history grew when the first wave of female hip-hop stars anointed her the Godmother of Rap. From renegade to pioneer, Millie made her mark. Now, along with testimony from some of the artists she’s influenced, including Roxanne Chante’ and Da Brat, Millie Jackson tells her story to ‘Unsung’ – and needless to say, she doesn’t mince words.

Ray Parker, Jr. (February 13) - Whether singing, playing guitar, or crafting smooth-sailing hits like ‘Jack and Jill, ‘The Other Woman’ or ‘You Can’t Change That’, Ray Parker Jr. made success look easy. But behind the show-biz façade, Parker was an obsessive musician - a guitarist who’d cut his teeth with Motown’s house band, the Funk brothers, as a teenager, and later played with Stevie Wonder and Barry White. Long before his emergence as a headliner, he’d written hits for White and Chaka Khan, while crafting a Grammy winning single for Leo Sayer - ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’ – for which he never received credit, a hard lesson in business that drove him to contemplate suicide. All of which was just a prelude to Parker’s own Grammy winning triumph with  ‘Ghostbusters’ – and the controversy  which followed, in which he stood accused of plagiarizing someone else’s hit.  A double-dose of baby mama drama, family loss, and an ill-advised decision to leave his safe haven at Arista Records accelerated his descent from the top of the charts. But Ray Parker proved unsinkable, and along with testimony from his extended musical family – including Cheryl Lynn, Chaka Khan and Clive Davis - he tells ‘Unsung’ the tale of his still-unfolding journey.

Sheila E. (and the E. family) (February 20) - While the Jacksons, Sylvers and Debarge define family singing groups, the Escovedos are something else: a family that learned how to stay together by playing together.  Even before Sheila E. garnered international celebrity for 80's mega hits "The Glamorous Life" and "A Love Bizarre," her father, brothers and extended family were acclaimed musicians, with associations ranging from Santana to Tito Puente, Lionel Richie, Jennifer Lopez, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. Of course, Sheila remains the family’s shining star, whose partnership with Prince on songs like ‘A Love Bizarre’ and ‘Erotic City’ produced plenty of heat on stage and off.  But her rise to the top as a lovely Latina with serious musical chops came with a cost, including serious health issues, and a childhood trauma which would shadow her direction in decades to come. On this episode of ‘Unsung’, Sheila, her father, and her talented siblings come together to trace the remarkable journey of Oakland’s musical first family.


David Ruffin (February 27) - The raspy and anguished lead voice on mega-hits "My Girl," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," and "I Know (I'm Losing You)," David Ruffin was the center of The Temptations in their peak years. But his expanding ego forced his bandmates to cut ties with him in 1968. And with only one significant solo hit, "My Whole World Ended," Ruffin never again reached the heights he'd enjoyed as the swoon-inducing leader of The Tempts. In private life, David was a talented, self-tortured soul, capable of kindness and generosity along with untempered anger. But drug abuse wore him down in the '70s and '80s, costing him precious opportunities to reunite with friends and former bandmates, and damaging his relationships with those closest to his heart. Less than two years after joining The Temptations onstage for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he was found dead from an apparent drug overdose at the age 50. Now, his family, friends and musical associates come together to help ‘Unsung’ portray the tumultuous life and career of a legendary singer.

Whodini (March 5) - With a string of up-tempo, R&B inflected hits in the mid to late 1980's, the New York bred rap trio of Jalil Hutchins, John Fletcher (aka Ecstasy) and Drew Carter (aka Grandmaster Dee) dominated the Billboard charts to become one of rap’s first superstars. Along with Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, LL Cool J, RUN-DMC & The Fat Boys, they helped define hip hop’s ‘golden age’ with platinum success. And with hits like "Friends," "Big Mouth" & "Five Minutes of Funk," Whodini mastered a difficult magic trick by making danceable music that was reflective and thoughtful. But along with the perks of success, Whodini battled cocaine addictions, squabbles over money and clashing egos, which ultimately caused the group to break up. Yet the group never completely lost sight of their earlier ambitions, reuniting after realizing they were stronger together than apart. For ‘Unsung’, Whodini’s members tell the story of a fun-loving, trailblazing brotherhood who have survived 3 decades of wild ups and downs.

“There’s no better way for TV One to say Happy New Year to our viewers than with new episodes of Unsung,” said TV One Executive Vice President of Original Programming Toni Judkins. “We are honored that Unsung has become a beloved classic, and are confident that these talented artists and their stories will resonate with our viewers and continue to build on Unsung’s legacy of helping to paint a richer portrait of black music in America.”

Thursday, December 1, 2011



On the very broad shoulders of Stanley G. Robertson, stands a generation of African American producers, writers, directors, actors, technicians and executives, who are perhaps, unaware of the first black Vice-President of both a major TV network and a motion picture company, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for over 50 years to make minority inclusion possible. He died November 16, 2011 at his home in Bel-Air, California at 85 years of age.   “Even in death, I feel Stan still fighting,” said friend and colleague, Bill Cosby, who had a long-standing professional collaboration with Robertson.
Some could say it was his stature, 6’2”, with the physique of a linebacker that made people first pay attention. But what came out of the mouth of the black man who looked like an athlete, but spoke with the sophistication of a polished executive was what impressed everyone.  “His wonderful, encyclopedic knowledge of film was what set Stanley Robertson apart. He appreciated the art and the history of film.  He loved the medium. He understood what made a story work,” says University of Dayton Law Professor and former studio executive, Dennis Greene.
Robertson’s knowledge of story-telling began during his stint in the Music Clearance Department at NBC, after first being hired as a page for the network in 1957.   His drive to learn as much as possible found him in his spare time devouring as many scripts he could get his hands on.  A voracious reader, his career as an accomplished writer in the field of journalism had already reached a zenith before Robertson set his sights on working in the TV/Film industry, despite a chorus of nay-sayers who advised him of the impossibility of a black man making a career of it. 
After receiving a degree from Los Angeles City College in 1949, for two years Robertson worked as a general assignment reporter for the Los Angeles Sentinel, (the largest circulated black paper in the west).   He rose to become the paper’s managing editor and resigned to become an associate editor of Ebony Magazine. “I had attained a status very few black writers had, at a time when there were very few places blacks could go. But it turned into a dead-end.”
            The decision he made to leave his post at Ebony Magazine and go back to school in 1954 to study telecommunications at the University of Southern California was perhaps fueled by a determination forged in childhood.
The only child of working class parents, Robertson was born in Los Angeles, California on November 20, 1925 with the handicap of limited vision.  By the time he was 20, he had undergone 14 major eye operations, but none successful enough to preclude him from attending a school for the blind, which specialized in visually handicapped students.  It was his good fortune to have been nurtured by an astute elementary school teacher, Marie Johnson, who encouraged him think beyond his boundaries, be curious about the world around him and express himself through writing.  Later matriculating at California School for the Blind in Berkeley, Robertson remarked that as lovely as the campus and surroundings were he sensed he was “being prepared to make brooms, chairs and tune pianos.”  Breaking away, he insisted on enrolling in John F. Francis Polytechnic High School, where he survived and flourished, mustering the mettle it would take to continue breaking down barriers for himself and others.
            Having worked as a post office janitor, dishwasher in a drugstore, and doing menial work in a hospital lab, Robertson gained the insight and motivation to represent the inarticulate in his community and give a legitimate voice to their stories and concerns. His passion, both humanistic and political, came at a time when minorities were largely unrepresented behind the scenes and on the screen. Top brass at NBC recognized Robertson’s talents where he was promoted into the executive ranks, first as a Manager of Film Program Operations in 1965, then as a Director of Motion Pictures for Television and eventually Vice President of Motion Pictures for Television in 1971.  Herb Schlosser, Vice President of Programs, at the time, stated, “He earned the title by doing the best job.”  Robertson later ascended to the position of Vice President of Film Programs, where he was responsible for all programming produced on the network’s prime-time schedule.
            Later, in an attempt to further mainstream minority images, Robertson launched his own production company, Jilcris Inc., sealing a deal with Universal Studios as a contract writer, producer and executive. It was at Universal where Robertson continued  to create positive images of African Americans, (during an era when TV comedies were the only representation of blacks on TV.)  “The unspoken attitude is still that blacks are great for singing and dancing, but not for giving orders,” Robertson remarked, having worked his way up to giving orders which were both respected and implemented. Robertson developed and produced, “Harris and Company,” the first weekly dramatic TV series to depict a black family, starring Bernie Casey as a father of five.  The series was short-lived, but by then Robertson understood the value of being the forerunner and chipping away at perceptions. Later, his involvement with “America’s Favorite Dad,” Bill Cosby, would yield a fruitful collaboration. Robertson would come to run his production company at Universal.  He, subsequently, went to Paramount Studios where he was instrumental in the production of the film “Men of Honor,” as well as other projects.
It was his prior accomplishments, however, that had been recognized by top brass in the motion picture industry when in 1984, Robertson was brought to Columbia Pictures by Frank Price, Chairman of the Motion Pictures and subsequently made Vice President of Production by Guy McElwaine, the President and CEO of the Studio.  Price recalls the esteem in which Robertson was held, “I had previously gotten to know Stan as a highly respected executive at NBC.  He was a superb, well-liked exec, who got the job done.”  That job included Robertson’s dream to innovate minority programs in the hope of integrating more blacks and women into the mainstream of the filmmaking industry.  His efforts resulted in the creation of the first Creative Access Program at a major studio, in which the studio focused on developing minority writers and directors. He also started a New Producers initiative as well as a management training program, which developed new minority management personnel. However, with the merger between Columbia and Tri-Star, the programs ceased to exist.  This did not dampen Robertson’s convictions. “There is a sizeable black market out there, and they will pay to see themselves. Whites worldwide will pay to see them also. These movies are reaching more than blacks. Black filmmakers can make films about their lifestyles and they can be enjoyed by a broader society.”
Always aware that his presence behind the scenes was vital in shaping perceptions of minorities, as well as breaking down institutional barriers which limited the inclusion of minorities in policy making positions, he persisted. Robertson was intent on opening the doors for others and mentoring a new generation of diverse artists and executives.   Rather than focus on the difficulties he faced, Robertson lasered in on what it took to survive and help others. Using the tunnel vision of his early days, he blocked out obstacles and soared ahead.  His success was an art form in and of itself, forged with diplomacy, erudition, frankness and humor.
He is survived by his wife Ruby of 58 years, his daughter Jill Francesca and son, Christopher John.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NFL Star Vernon Davis and Music Executive Antone Barnes Launch Modern Class Design

MCD co-founders Antone Barnes (left) and Vernon Davis (right)

           NFL tight end Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers is tackling a new endeavor off the field, the business of interior design and urban renewal projects, with the launch of his new company, Modern Class Design (MCD). Founded with veteran music industry executive Antone Barnes, their goal with MCD is to continue serving current clientele who are predominantly athletes, while expanding into urban renewal projects in inner-city communities across the nation. "I grew up in a rough neighborhood in DC and so did my business partner, Antone, who's from Jersey City," Davis explains. "We were surrounded by graffiti and abandoned houses where there were no parks, and very few rec centers or safe places to go. It shouldn't be that way and we're planning to change that with MCD, one project at a time."
            Barnes agrees. "We want people who come from neighborhoods similar to ours to enjoy the revival of their communities instead of being pushed out," he says. "On a personal note, I want to continue the legacy of urban renewal that my father began nearly 30 years ago in Jersey City."
            MCD is currently in talks with officials from the city of San Francisco and Washington, D.C public schools to do urban renewal projects that would positively impact children and communities in both cities. "We want to be involved in projects that will improve people's lives," says Davis.
            MCD prides itself on creating interior spaces for athletes and other clients that are suited to the client's taste, but still affordable. "You don't have to break your bank to live well and have style," says Davis. "I always tell players, this moment won't last forever, so plan for the future." An avid painter who majored in Studio Art at The University of Maryland, Davis says his design company evolved organically. "I saw Antone's home, loved his art collection and then we collaborated on my homes in San Jose and Maryland. After he designed my younger brother Vontae's house, who plays for the Miami Dolphins, players started calling and we realized there was a demand for our business."
            "What we've found most gratifying with our clients, many of whom are affluent, is that they appreciate our efforts to create beautiful spaces while protecting their interests," says Barnes.
            A signature component of MCD is to make first-time art collectors out of their clients. "Vernon's a painter, so he has a passion for art as do I," says MCD co-founder Barnes. So while working to give clients the home of their dreams on a sustainable budget, MCD also incorporates original and limited edition artwork from emerging and well-established artists into all design projects. "Surrounding our clients with inspirational works of art from varying cultures while introducing them to the experience of collecting art as an investment is a powerful contribution we hope to continue making on each project," says Barnes. "The fact that our clients get to own great artwork and support talented artists at the same time is a beautiful thing," Barnes adds. Among the artists whose work they have used so far include:the late master Jacob Lawrence, Warren Goodson, Kadir Nelson, Lorna Simpson, Martin Puryear, Willie Cole, Norma Nava, Rumiana Koleva, Marko D and the iconic Keith Haring. Miami Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith, a former MCD client, now owns a one-of-a-kind sports themed sculpture designed especially for him by renowned sculptor Dan Meyer. Also in Smith's collection is a limited edition piece by contemporary artist Lorna Simpson. Other MCD clients also include Reshad Jones of the Miami Dolphins, Anthony Davis and Aldon Smith of the San Francisco 49ers and Jade Financial Management, an East Coast sports financial company.
            Davis and Barnes will officially launch Modern Class Design with an event in the Bay area on December 4th with proceeds benefiting the non-profit organization The Vernon and Vontae Davis Family Foundation.   Among the programs supported by the charity include The Vernon Davis Visual Arts Scholarship Fund, programs for children of drug addicted parents and the Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy, which provides inner-city athletes with college scholarships.
            "Living well should be available for everyone," says Davis. "That's what MCD is all about."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Benjamin “Lil P-Nut” Flores, Jr. Stars In Happy Feet Two


    Benjamin “Lil P-Nut” Flores, Jr. isn’t a household name, yet, but he soon will be after the release of Happy Feet Two in 3D.
    The pint-size dynamo is a popular rapper who goes by the name Lil P-Nut.
Lil P-Nut, who hails from Memphis, plays a penguin named Atticus in the sequel to the highly-successful, Happy Feet, which won an Academy Award for best animated feature in 2006. 
The animated penguins are back dancing up a storm.
    The story goes like this - Mumble, The Master of Tap, has a problem because his tiny son, Erik, is choreo-phobic.  Reluctant to dance, Erik runs away and encounters The Mighty Sven—a
penguin who can fly!  Mumble has no hope of competing with this charismatic new role
model.  But things get worse when the world is shaken by powerful forces.  Erik learns of his father’s guts and grit as Mumble brings together the penguin nations and all manner of fabulous creatures—from tiny Krill to giant Elephant Seals—to put things right.
    When he was asked to read for the role of Atticus, Lil P-Nut was happy to do so.  And, in fact, he does a great job in the film.
    An adorable nine-year-old, Lil P-Nut’s personality alone will get him far. He’s a well-mannered, respectful kid, who calls elder females ‘ma’am.’
    In short order he went from singing at local clubs in Memphis, Tenn., to rapping not once, but twice, on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
    Lil P-Nut has performed in over 100 live concerts - including with Soulja Boy at the sold-out Summer Jam in Memphis—has been featured on various hip hop sites, and has also appeared in several hip-hop music videos, most recently Cymphonique’s “All That” and Memphis rapper Yo Gotti’s “Look In The Mirror,” which was featured on BET’s “106th & Park.”
     In addition to his music career, Lil P-Nut, who has a song called, You Might Be The One, has already appeared in several commercials.  He is due to appear in an episode of the TBS Network show “Are We There Yet?” executive produced by Ice Cube and is currently working on a pilot for his own TV show with Cartoon Network, which Ice Cube will also executive produce.
While Happy Feet Two will definitely give him an even bigger mainstream audience, Lil P-Nut is taking it all in stride.

    I caught up with Lil P-Nut recently to talk about his career and Happy Feet Two.
    DD:  How did you get the name Lil P Nut?
    LPN: My uncle said my head looked like a peanut. I like it.   Everybody calls me Lil P-Nut.
    DD: Who is your favorite rapper? Eminem because he raps fast. He has a lot of big words when he raps.
    DD: Why did you want to be a rapper?
    LPN: I grew up listening to rap. I guess I’ll keep on going. I like my record and it sounds good. I write my songs myself.
    DD: Tell me about working on Happy Feet Two. How did you get the role?
    LPN: I was on Ellen DeGeneres. Warner Bros. had found me. I acted for them and they said they wanted me to be in the movie.
    DD: Do you like the movie?
    LPN: I love the movie, it’s awesome. I like how the big, old iceberg breaks down. I like the bird.
    DD: Do you like hearing your voice in a movie?
    LPN: I like hearing myself cuz this is my first time being in an animated movie. I feel happy for myself. I want to do more movies. I want everybody to know it’s me.  
    DD: What other kinds of movies would you like to do?
    LPN: I’d like to be a superhero like Juggernaut on the X-Men,  He has super strength and he’s buff.
    DD: You’d have to bulk up.
    LPN: I already like to exercise. I lift weights, push ups, sit ups, crunches, everything. I workout for an hour everyday. I do it in the morning and night. 
    DD: What did you like best about working on Happy Feet Two?
    LPN: I met Common. I like the way he raps. I saw one of his video. He’s good. When we met, I was like, ‘What’s up Common. Lets take a pic right quick.’
    DD: Is there anyone else you’d like to work with?
    LPN: I want to do a movie with Denzel. I talked to him once. I want to do a movie with him. He’s the greatest actor in the world.  I like the train movie [Unstoppable].
    DD: Were you nervous performing on The Ellen DeGenere Show? 
    LPN: I wasn’t nervous. It was an ordinary day. I like working with her.
    DD: So, what’s the next movie you’re going to do?
    LPN: I don’t know.
    Happy Feet Two is directed by George Miller, who won an Oscar® as the creator of the original      “Happy Feet.”  A number of the original celebrities voiced characters in the original, are back.            However, there are some additions. First, singer, Pink, replaces the late Brittany Murphy and then there is the addition of Flores.
    The film features the voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Sofia Vergara, Common, Hugo Weaving, Richard Carter, Magda Szubanski and Anthony LaPaglia.
    Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, a Kennedy Miller Mitchell production, with Dr. D. Studios, a George Miller film, “Happy Feet Two.”  The film is rated PG for “rude humor and mild peril.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Fair Wedding With David Tutera Returns For a Fifth Season


More brides will have their dream weddings realized as the fifth season of WEtv’s popular My Fair Wedding With David Tutera, is set to premiere Sun. Nov. 13.

An emotional Make-A-Wish wedding will kick off the new season as a son helps to fulfill his mother’s dream of a Zen-style wedding.

When bride Wendy’s teenage son, Ryan, received a life-threatening cancer diagnosis, she and her fiancé put their wedding plans on hold to tend to his medial needs. With a wish for his mother to have the wedding of her dreams Ryan asks the Make-A-Wish Foundation to bring David Tutera to Topeka, Kansas to give his mom the long-awaited ceremony.

Of course, it’s Tutera to the rescue!

That’s just one of the scheduled 18 hour-long episodes set for this season.

Tutera, who planned Star Jones’ wedding, once again works his magic in a season that will have surprises and moments of gut-wrenching emotion.

One bride will spend nearly her entire wedding budget on a designer gown and shoes, another wants an entire wedding of black to match their all-Goth fashion lifestyle, including a black bridal gown, black bridesmaids’ dresses and even a black flower girl dress. Another bride wants her outdoor wedding to resemble Tuscany, Italy, while yet another wants a dragonfly-themed wedding as a symbol of hope.

I recently caught up with Tutera at a luncheon at Café Entourage in Hollywood to discuss the upcoming season.
watch a sneak peek of My Fair Wedding at Cafe Entourage in Hollywood

Q: How do you decide what brides are going to be on the show and once that decision has been made, how do you go about deciding what little special extras to give a particular bride?

DT: Five years ago we had a mere 300 applicants. This season we had more than 10,000 applicants. No lack of people. It goes through casting, the network and the producers. I have nothing to do with it – which is a joy. Over the past four seasons the producers have begged me to be part of the process. I’ve consistently fought it, because I want it to be real. The first thing I do is, I get out of the car and I say before I knock on the door, ‘what’s her name?” I literally don’t know her name. I knock on the door and walk in. I have to get this wedding done in six days. In every situation, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m obsessed with these brides. I have big responsibility of giving the brides and the viewers what they want.  Now I’m a co-producer of the show and I’m part of every single detail of every single beat of the show. I want to give the viewer the magic they deserve.

Q: How do you get weddings done in a couple of days?

DT: If I wouldn’t have had 25 years in this business, there’s no way I could get these things done.

Q: What are you feelings when you see how an audience reacts to one of your shows where you’ve made someone’s dream wedding a reality?


DT: I’m a very sappy guy. I still get emotional. I feel it. When I see people respond, I get emotional. It makes me realize I’m doing the right thing. People are understanding what the show is all about.

Q: There have to be times when a bride doesn’t want to listen to you or wants to wear something that is not appropriate for her size.

DT: Well, first I don’t judge people – ever. I’m there to help them have the best wedding ever. I’m here for them. I’ve also learned that listening is very important.

Q: What kinds of issues have you had from grooms?

DT: I’ve worked with grooms. I don’t want them to just be the guy that shows up at the altar.

Q: You have a line of dresses – what thinking goes into your designs.

DT: When I pick dresses for a bride, I think about the personality of the person.  In my collection there is something for every bride. In my new line, which I just launched recently in the New York City market, there are 30 dresses and there are different looks for different personalities. The dresses go up to size 26. That’s my demo. They need to look and feel spectacular. That’s what’s missing in the market.

Tutera’s David Tutera by Faviana collection is designed for real-life stars and beautiful brides who dream of turning heads on the white carpet. They dresses are also inspired by gowns worn by celebrities on the red carpet.

"Inspired by the red carpet, worn on the white carpet" is the signature of the luxury collection for brides who want to capture the essence of celebrity style for their big day. Designs range from classic and beautiful to dramatic and innovative, while reflecting the culture of couture.

On January 26, 2012, Tutera will become the first man to grace the cover of the national publication, Bridal Guide. Needless to say, he’s pumped, but he also is ready to make history.

MY FAIR WEDDING premieres 
November 13 on WE

DT: I found out a year ago that there has never been a black woman of color on the cover of a national publication for weddings.  When I asked to see the spread concept. It was a beautiful spread. But, I said I’m not doing this cover unless the women next to me is a black woman. They said, ‘we can’t do that.’  I said, well I’m not doing the cover. So, we’re doing the cover and I will make sure that happens.

My Fair Wedding with David Tutera is produced by WE tv by Pilgrim Films & Television. Executive producer for WE tv: Kate Farrell; SVP of Original Productions & Development: John Miller. Executive producer for Pilgrim Films & Television: Craig Piligian

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Non-Traditional ‘All My Sons’

    Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, is timeless.
    The Matrix Theatre’s production, featuring a non-traditional cast may have just proven it for a fact.
    The rich and engaging drama opened on Broadway in 1947 and won a Tony award for Best Play.  The intense American classic about post-war America and its effect on two families and their neighbors, centers on Joe Keller and Steve Deever, partners in a machine shop during World War II.
Apparently, even though some key airplane parts were defective – they were, in an effort to fulfill a war contract,  sent out resulting in the accidental death of several pilots. The story speaks to the question of responsibility to oneself, friends, partners and family.

    While the casting is impressive and proves a good story can be done with a colorblind acting troupe, it’s the solid acting that fuels this play. 
    Director Cameron Watson has assembled a cast sans a weak link. Each member of the cast makes their own notable mark.
    Alex Morris, who is black, leads the cast with his unforgettable, gut-wrenching portrayal of Joe Keller, the patriarch of a family facing some tough times. Morris engulfs the role, filling the stage with Keller’s pride, angst, shortcomings, faults, guilt, but especially love and devotion for his family.
    Anne Gee Byrd, who is white, is brilliant as Kate Keller, the matriarch and wife of Joe, who gives new meaning to standing by your man. Byrd’s emotional portrayal of the torn and grief-stricken mother, Kate Keller, is palpable.

   Anita Barone (who is white), James Hiroyuki Liao (who is Asian), A.K. Murtadha (who is biracial), Taylor Nichols (who is white), Linda Park (who is Asian) and Armand Vasquez (who is Hispanic), Maritxell Carrero (who is Hispanic) and Tobie Hess (who is white), all bring this production to life.
   “All My Sons,” directed by Cameron Watson, stars Alex Morris, Anita Barone, Anne Gee Byrd, Maritxell Carrero, Tobias Hess, James Hiroyuki Liao, A.K. urtadha, Taylor Nichols, Linda Park, Taylor Scofield and Armand Vasquez. 

     It is produced by Joseph Stern and The Matrix Theatre Company.
    On the Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK) and E (excellent), “All My Sons” gets an E (Excellent).
    The Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046; Thur.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. through Dec. 18; $25;

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Father/Son Angst Fuels 'Pity The Proud Ones'


The Robey Theatre Company (RTC) got ambitious with its world premiere of Kurt Maxey’s Pity the Proud Ones, a drama set in 1915 about an Irish father and his half-Black son.

The play, directed by Ben Guillory, who is also the artistic director and co-founder of RTC, takes place in St. Augustine, Fla.  Mulatto James Perez  (Dorian C. Baucum) is searching for his Irish father Martin O’Grady (Darrell Philip) at the town’s leading bordello run by Elizabeth (Caroline Morahan). Perez’s father owes him $3,000 and he wants it now so he can pay off some of his debts and start a new life with his love, Ella (Staci Mitchell).

O’Grady has been promising to pay back his son for a while, but, for some reason, has been stalling. He hopes to obtain some of it via America’s possible entry into World War I.


Also part of the proceedings is Pettigrew (Ben Jurand), a mysterious man who runs the local bar and has an equally secretive relationship with Elizabeth.

'Pity the Proud Ones' speaks to people being so consumed with pride and resentment that they get in their own way and thereby stunt their own growth.

Guillory’s staging is unique, impressive and engaging. The audience, which is raised above the stage, actually looks down on the actors, sans one scene that is elevated above the crowd. He makes good use of the small space by flying furniture in and out from strategically placed curtains. It makes for an interesting and effective presentation.

For some scenes audience members, bathed in blue light, are made to feel like flies on the walls of a whore house.


On occasion some sight lines are obstructed for audience members in the second row, who need to sit forward in order to view some scenes. However, most of the direction works.

'Pity the Proud Ones', directed by Guillory, stars Morahan, Mitchell, Baucum, Jurand and Philip.

Kudos to Miguel Montalvo for an extraordinary set, to Kimberly M. Wilson for excellent sound, Naila Aladdin Sanders for period pleasing costumes and Alex Cohen for his emotional lighting design.

The Los Angeles Theatre Center, Theater 4, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA; Thurs.-Sat at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m.; $20-$30; a special dinner and show package option in available on Nov. 4, 5, 11, and 12 for $40; For information 866 811-4111 or Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. There is no intermission.

On the Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK) and E (excellent), “Pity the Proud Ones” gets an L (likable).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hollywood Black Film Festival Has Colourful Opening

The 11th Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) kicked off in high style last night as stars, directors producers and fans of film all converged at the LA Film School in Hollywood to view the opening night film, “A Million Colours.”

Last night was the American premiere of the film, which will open in South Africa and be released in the U.S. early next year, according to the film’s director Peter Bishai.

Tanya Kersey, HBFF founder and executive director, sparkled on the red carpet in a gold shimmery mini dress, as she greeted the festival’s participants, which included the stars and director of the opening night’s film.


“I am so happy that the audience will get a chance to see this remarkable film,” said Kersey. “And, I’m also happy that the film’s stars and director were able to make the trip – all the way from South Africa.”

“A Million Colours” is a sweeping romantic drama of South Africa’s once most famous teen black movie star Muntu Ndebele, who fell from grace after the early 1970’s blockbuster “e’Lollipop” made him South Africa’s most beloved childhood star.  Forced into hiding after participating in the June 16, 1976 student uprising in Soweto, Ndebele’s life spiraled downward into crime and despair.

"A MILLION COLOURS" cast, crew & HBFF executives

The film is an inspiring true story of danger, adventure, romance, betrayal and redemption...set against the turbulent background of a nation in crisis.  It is a testament to the history of South Africa and its citizens' struggle for freedom, friendship, love, and second chances.

This is the first time HBFF opened with a foreign film. Bishai calls it a mixture of "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Romeo and Juliet."


On hand for the opening were cast members Wandile Molebatsi, Stelio Savante and director Peter Bishai. Also on hand was the real Muntu Ndebele whose life inspired the film.

“We consider it an honor to be the opening night film of the Hollywood Black Film Festival,” said Bishai.  “We’re proud of our film. This is our first film festival in the United States.”


Celebrities on hand included Michael Jai White, Leon, Tangi Miller and John Marshall Jones.

Opening also included the presence of  the Food Network's "The Cupcake Wars," which shot the final scenes of an hour-long episode starring the Hollywood Black Film Festival.  In the episode, baking contestants compete for the honor of showcasing their winning cupcakes at HBFF's Opening Night.  Antwone Fisher served as the guest celebrity judge on the show.  Opening guests feasted on the cupcakes and will appear in the episode!

Attendees also snacked on Garrett Popcorn and Moreno champagne.

The HBFF features 53 films, nine features, 12 documentaries, 27 shorts, three student films, 50 speakers, 13 panels and workshops and a live script reading.

HBFF happens October 27 - 30, 2011 and will be hosted at the Andaz Hotel, 8401 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069. For information: