Friday, July 31, 2015

Michael Bennett Is America's Whitest Black Kid

By Darlene Donloe

Michael Gordon Bennett has led a chaotic, nomadic, but interesting life. His ups and downs, his bumps and bruises and triumphs and defeats are all chronicled in his very personal tome, 7-10 Split: My Journey As America’s Whitest Black Kid.

Bennett, a travel expert, producer, author, host, actor and entrepreneur presents an intimate account of his life growing up the child of a military brat (his father was in the Air Force).

At 57, Bennett, who has an amazing gift of recall, reveals things about his life he admits very few friends have been privy to.

“I hadn’t shared the details about my life with anyone in California for 23 years,” said Bennett, a father of one who lives in Las Vegas.

He grew up in a racially polarized world where he was often the only black person.  A light-skinned black person, while growing up Bennett was rejected by both blacks and whites. In his early adulthood he was homeless and lived in his car. As a black person who spent his early years abroad, Bennett knew nothing of the civil rights movement that split America. And this is just the beginning.

Through it all the unstoppable Bennett proved his mettle. When life threw him lemons, he simply made lemonade. 

7-10 Split: My Journey As America’s Whitest Black Kid is a fast, easy read that is humorous, poignant, gloomy, shocking, but always entertaining.

The book is currently available on Kindle and Amazon.

This weekend Bennett will participate in the Leimert Park Book Fair.

I recently caught up with him to discuss his life and his book.

DD: What compelled you to write this book?

MB:  Well, when I started it in 2004, it was a way to excise my demons of the past. I didn’t know I had issues that needed to come out. It was cathartic putting it on paper. I wrote the first draft in 30 days. Tears were running down my face. Time passed. In 2013, I met a young lady who was born in Spain who lived there when I was a child. I told her my story and she told me I was an idiot for not finishing it.  It started out cathartic trying to excise the demons. My initial intent was not to have it published.

DD: Why should anyone be interested in your story?

MB: There are life lesson in the story about how to cope. Kids today aren’t forced to cope with adversity. As adults they take their anger out on others. I think the idea is about coping. Adversity is going to happen. How are you going to deal with it? 

DD: You ran into obstacles thrown in your path by both whites and blacks. Who treated you the worse?

MB: I was an equal opportunity offender, black and whites didn’t like me. I can tell a mile away whether someone will like me.  Not every black person is a horrible person. Not every white person is a horrible person.  When I see things like the church shooting in South Carolina - that hit home for me. How could you be inbred with so much hatred? I understand it now though.

DD: Lets talk about the title.  Explain.

MB:  7-10 is a bowling reference. It’s a metaphor. Me being the kid caught in the middle. I was going to have the cover as a bowling alley with a zebra ball going down the lane, but I changed my mind.

DD: Why did you identify yourself as the whitest black kid?

MB: I did that to get everyone’s attention. Living in Spain in the 1960s, Kennedy, Malcolm X, freedom rides, etc., I knew nothing about any of it. When you live in Europe they don’t play race relations games like we did. Our form of communication was Spanish television. No one treated me like a black American. I just walked around the streets and no one bothered me. First 11 years of my life I didn’t know there was a black community. It was in 1969 in New Jersey that I first got a look at an inner city. When we got to Philadelphia for the first time I was shocked at the poverty. I hadn’t seen it or experienced it. I had to deal with people who looked at me and then looked at my father who looked white.  I was the only black person in my graduating class with 600-700 students.

DD: Spanish TV didn’t show American issues?

MB: No, only the good stuff.  I was five years-old so the news wasn’t at the top of my list. My father knew what was going on. Mom never learned Spanish. She didn’t know what was going on either.  In Spain we were free.

DD: You weren’t around for a lot of historically black moments including the civil rights era. It was never on TV.  Were your parents purposely trying to keep it from you – or was it not newsworthy wherever you were living?

MB:  I kind of learned by hearing other people’s story. My mother’s side of the story were born and raised in the black part of Atlantic City. I was getting touches of black culture and pulled out of it again and again.

DD: Did your childhood scar you or make you stronger? 

MB: At this stage of my life, it made me stronger. But initially it scarred me. Even after going into the Air Force there were some things I couldn’t shake.  I spent 7 ½ years in the military. I walked around angry.

DD: How do the people in your past deal with you talking about them?

MB: There is only one person in the book whose real name I used.

DD: Are you still going through any race issues?

MB: From a race perspective I don’t know if I had residual scarring. I didn’t know who would accept me and who wouldn’t. I always let people make the first move. I occasionally still do that even though I’m 57-years-old. I have to snap myself out of it.

Michael Gordon Bennett

DD: Today, what are your feelings about white people?

MB: For me I don’t have an issue with white people. I was so unevenly treated by blacks and whites I don’t harbor any ill will. I’ve had white folks bail me out of some things. Some of my best friends in the military were white.

DD:  Did it hurt you more to be hated by whites or blacks?

MB: That’s an interesting question. I think to be hated by blacks. I can’t blame them. Living down south where you’re from and what you’re exposed to matters. When I was younger it hurt that the black community didn’t like me. I didn’t understand why they didn’t like me. I figured out why – you don’t come in and change the rules overnight. I’m nicely dressed, educated, etc. They were poor, didn’t have money for lunch. I had traveled the world. They were beaten down my society. None of that applied to me. It was like I was rubbing my experience in their face – I was not. I didn’t know.  Separate but equal I now understand it’s separate but very unequal.

DD: To this day, do you still find the same kind of attitudes towards you by blacks and whites?

MB: Not so much anymore. Over the years society has changed.  Some look at me as an enigma.  There are certain circles I walk in where they say I’m different. Well, what makes me different?  I get offended when people say that to me. My life experience is a little bit different because I’m black and smart? That hurts me. I hear that from white people. White folks think I’m different.

DD: Talk to me about your father. When he didn’t vouch for you and you lost your ID, etc., that was brutal.  Describe your relationship. 

MB: I want to be fair to him. He passed away two years ago. He read the book before he passed. He signed off on everything about it.   My mother understood as well. My father had a lot of demons.  He was the product of a 15-year-old mother in Baltimore. We don’t know who is biological father is. My father looks white. Mother is black, but physically looks white. A lot of this deterioration of our relationship stemmed from his childhood. Carrying baggage of looking white. His mother put him up for adoption to another family member. My father when I was real young, he had his military job and had two other jobs. I don’t want to paint him as a despicable, evil person. Vietnam took every ounce of positive energy out of him. He was the best functional alcoholic I’ve every seen. He wanted me to go in the military. But I wanted to go in as an officer. He suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and alcoholism. He would always say, ‘If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for you.' I was miserable joining the military. It was his proudest moment.

DD: What was the most painful part of the book to relive and write?

MB: My relationship with my father. As an adult you can deal with the institutional racism down south and being the only black at a school, but a relationship with my dad was hard. I know he loved me. I would say he was even envious of me.  Some of his friends were his friends because of me. I think there was a jealousy factor.

DD: You have incredible recall.

MB: God blessed me with a good memory. I can remember details about Spain and Florida like it happened to me yesterday. My years in the Air Force are like it happened an hour ago. I’ve always had this gift. I coasted through school because I had a good memory. I didn’t have to study.  I never opened a book. I never took a book home.  

DD: If you had not been homeless, would you have gone into the Air Force or any part of the military?

MB: Probably not. I wanted to go to college so bad. Every friend I had went in college as an officer. A few were enlisted, but most went in as officers.  I would never have gone to military if I had figured out how to go to college. I was 35 when I graduated.

DD: The Tale of Two Cities reference.  Actually, that could capture a lot of people’s teenage years.  I didn’t live your life, but after having read this, it really sums it up nicely. Sum up your life.

MB: First word that comes to mind is complicated. Because I graduated from college so late in life, some things weren’t available to me. I have a degree in journalism. I wanted to be a sports announcer.  There isn’t a sport I don’t know. Well, maybe hockey. There isn’t a sport that I don’t know stats and information about.  When you’re in journalism you don’t start in the number two market. You have to go to small markets and make your way back to Los Angeles. Confused comes to mind. Trying to figure out my next moves.  I had to make difficult career decisions. 

DD: How long did it take you to write this book?

MB: The first draft took one month. Then I picked it up and started editing. Still wasn’t going to publish. Two or three years go by, I gave a friend my manuscript. He read it in 2-3 days. In 2008-2009 I started editing it again.  This time I said I’m going to finish it. I went back and reread it again last October 2014. I included Spain, rewrote the book. I also added the time I spent in Maine. The first three chapters weren’t there the first time. From October to March I just kept editing.

DD: Talk about the writing process.

MB: The first 30 days it just came pouring out of me. I knew I had resentment in me. I sat down and started writing and couldn’t stop.

DD: How did your whole family react to the book?

MB: My sister just read the book a month ago. My other sister was 10 when I graduated from high school. She was shocked. There are a lot of things she didn’t know.

DD: Your life experience made you who you are. If you could go back and change anything – what would it be?

MB: Setting my father’s situation aside, I wouldn’t change anything.

DD: If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

MB: It was worth it. Honestly my life and what I experienced the pain, anguish and tears, at the end of the day it was all worth it. This is something you can share, it’s a teachable moment like President Obama said.  There were times I was going through depression and didn’t want any people to know. I stayed in my bedroom. I wanted someone to embrace me. I didn’t have confidence. I was desperate to fit in with someone. I allowed them to zap my confidence.  I’ve learned you have to stick to your guns and keep your self-confidence.  Don’t let anyone tear you down. Stay strong.

DD: What’s the takeaway from writing this book?

MB: Perseverance. I mentioned this earlier. Life is going to throw challenges at you. You are not going to always have anyone to help you with that. I certainly didn’t. No one can prepare you for this. It was just one of those things. My life could have easily turned to crime.  Something inside said, no. I pushed back and said, ‘no, that’s not the way I want to go.’ I was scared of my father and didn’t want to disappoint my mother.  You can overcome obstacles.

DD:  Is there a part two to your book?  What would be the jump off point?

MB: I think I would probably start with the homeless beach part  my Air Force career and when I got to college.  I have another 8000 pages in me.

 7-10 Split: My Journey As Americas Whitest Black Kid

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ving Rhames Stars In Latest 'Mission Impossible'

SYNOPSIS: With the IMF disbanded, and Ethan (Tom Cruise) out in the cold, the team now faces off against a network of highly skilled special agents, the Syndicate. These highly trained operatives are hellbent on creating a new world order through an escalating series of terrorist attacks. Ethan gathers his team and joins forces with disavowed British agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who may or may not be a member of this rogue nation, as the group faces their most impossible mission yet.

Once again, Ving Rhames brings his own brand of bad-assness to the Mission Impossible franchise. Below is a photo retrospective on his film career. 

Dawn Of The Dead

Holiday Hearts

Pulp Fiction

Mission Impossible 3

John Legend To Executive Produce 'Underground'

Get Lifted’s John Legend, Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius Join Creators/Executive Producers Misha Green and Joe Pokaski and Executive Producer Akiva Goldsman on Scripted Original Series from Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios 

Featured Cast Includes Jurnee Smollett-Bell (“Friday Night Lights”), Aldis Hodge (“Rectify”), Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”)Jessica De Gouw (“Arrow”) and Alano Miller (“Jane the Virgin”)
Los Angeles, July 29, 2015 – Visionary artist and producer John Legend, an Academy Award and Golden Globe®-winner and nine-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, together with his Get Lifted partners Mike Jackson and Ty Stikloriusare on board to executive-produce WGN America’s pulse-pounding thriller, “Underground.”  Additionally, Get Lifted will oversee the score, soundtrack and all music aspects of the series.  The announcement was made today by Matt Cherniss, President and General Manager, WGN America and Tribune Studios, during the Television Critics Association press tour.  In the gripping original series “Underground,” bravery, ingenuity and power take center stage as plantation slaves band together in the fight of their lives for their families, their future…and most importantly, their freedom.  Hailing from Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios, “Underground” is currently in production in Baton Rouge, LA, for a 2016 premiere on WGN America.  

“We are excited to join forces with WGN America and Sony and the talented team of writers and producers on this powerful project that we believe will inspire us all,” said Legend.  “This series has a unique opportunity to speak to the passion and courage of those who risked it all as they raced to freedom.  We are honored to bring our creative vision to this thrilling project.”

Legend, who together with his songwriting partner Common, recently won an Oscar for Best Original Song “Glory” from “Selma,” is a civil rights activist whose multi-platinum selling music has inspired fans across the globe.  

“‘Underground’ depicts a raw and revolutionary chapter in the American story.  We wanted an artist who could help us find the light through the darkness, and John Legend was a perfect fit,” said Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, Creators and Executive Producers of “Underground.” “We are beyond excited to be working with John, Mike and Ty at Get Lifted.  They stand without peer at the intersection of music and television - we couldn't think of better producing partners." 

We are thrilled that John Legend will lend his impressive talents to ‘Underground,’ a story that chronicles the compelling journey of brave individuals whose fight for freedom still inspires us today,” said Cherniss.  “We look forward to John, Mike and Ty’s creative imprint on this series that we believe will be both provocative and captivating.”

WGN America’s “Underground” stars Aldis Hodge (“Straight Outta Compton,” “Leverage,” “Turn”) as Noah, a restless slave who organizes a small team of fellow slaves on the Macon plantation to plan an escape; Jurnee Smollett-Bell (“Friday Night Lights,” “True Blood,” “The Great Debaters”) as Rosalee, a shy house slave with a powerful inner strength and courage; Emmy-nominated actor Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”) as August Pullman, a secretive man who walks a tightrope between morality and survivalAlano Miller (“Jane The Virgin”) as Cato, a cunning, charismatic man despised and feared by his fellow slaves; and Jessica de Gouw (“Arrow,” “Dracula”) as Elizabeth Hawkes, a socialite who shares the abolitionist ideals of her husband, John (Marc Blucas, “Blue Bloods”), a lawyer whose principles clash with the legislation he’s sworn to uphold.  The internationally renowned cast includes Adina Porter (“True Blood,” “The 100,” “The Newsroom”) as Pearly Mae, a strong-willed wife and mother; Mykelti Williamson (“Justified,” “24”) as her husband Moses, a fiery preacher; Amirah Vann (“Girls,” “And So It Goes”) as Ernestine, head house slave and fiercely devoted mother; Johnny Ray Gill (“Rectify”) as Sam, Rosalee’s half-brother and a talented carpenter; Chris Chalk (“The Newsroom,” “Homeland,” “Gotham”) as William Still, an abolitionist ally; Reed Diamond (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) as Tom Macon, a plantation owner and political candidate; and Jussie Smollett (“Empire”), who joins his sister Smollett-Bell in the cast as Josey, a wild-eyed runaway who doesn’t trust anyone.

“Underground” is created and written by Misha Green ("Sons of Anarchy," "Heroes") and Joe Pokaski ("Heroes," "Daredevil"), who serve as Executive Producers alongside Academy Award-winning writer Akiva Goldsman ("A Beautiful Mind," "I Am Legend") of Weed Road Pictures; Tory Tunnell ("King Arthur," "Holy Rollers") and Joby Harold ("King Arthur," "Edge of Tomorrow") of Safehouse Pictures; and John LegendMike Jackson and Ty Stikloriusof Get Lifted.  Anthony Hemingway (“The Wire,” “Treme”) directs and serves as Executive Producer for the first four episodes.  

“Underground” marks WGN America’s latest straight-to-series order since the growing national cable network began its aggressive expansion into high-quality scripted programming last year.  The network’s first original series “Salem,” a breakout hit, was recently renewed for a third season that will debut next year, and the sophomore season of its Emmy-nominated drama “Manhattan” will premiere October 13, 2015.  The network is also in production in Pittsburgh, PA on the scripted original series “Outsiders,” set to premiere early next year.

Follow the series @UndergroundWGN -- #Underground2016

Legend’s Get Lifted banner recently produced the critically acclaimed documentary “Southern Rites,” and the acapella docu-series “Sing It On.”

About Get Lifted
Get Lifted is a film and television production company based in Los Angeles. The principles are John Legend, Mike Jackson, and Ty Stiklorius. Get Lifted has sold several projects in television to networks including ShowtimeNBC, HBO, USA, MTV, OWN and FOX. In addition to these sales Get Lifted was previously in an overall deal for television with Comcast/Universal owned studio Universal Cable Productions(UCP) and is currently in an overdeal with Legendary Television.  They’re Executive Producers on the new docu-series Sing It On which premiered on the Pop Network in May 2015.  Get Lifted has several feature projects in various stages of development some of which include: The Black Count(2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner), to be written and directed by Cary Fukunaga for Sony Pictures; and other projects with such notables as Chadwick Boseman, Will Packer, IM Global and Brad Pitt’s Plan B.  Get Lifted most recently Executive Produced two documentaries, Southern Rites, which premiered on HBO in May 2015 and Can You Dig This, which premiered at the 2015 LA Film Festival and won the LA Muse Jury Award.  Get Lifted will remain focused on developing projects in both TV and Film that tell stories that inspire and create dialog for the masses.  

About WGN America
WGN America, the flagship entertainment network of Tribune Media Company (NYSE: TRCO), is nationally distributed in 73 million homes via cable, satellite and telco, with high-quality entertainment programming including the breakout hit series “Salem," critically acclaimed drama “Manhattan," and upcoming scripted dramas “Underground,” “Outsiders” and “Ten Commandments."  The network also brings its audience a strong slate of popular first-run syndicated series and blockbuster movies.  Through Tribune Studios, the creative development arm of Tribune Media Company, original content is produced for WGN America and Tribune local stations nationwide.  Follow the network on Twitter @wgnamerica.  For additional information, please visit

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Martin Sherman's 'Bent' Is An Uneasy Love Story

By Darlene Donloe

Bent is a disturbing show that will leave audiences shocked and spellbound.

It’s an emotionally draining offering with both a powerful, yet ugly message about intolerance.

Directed by Moises Kaufman, this dramatic first major U.S. staged revival since the Broadway premiere in 1979, when it was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play, is currently playing at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum through Aug. 23.

At its core Bent, set in 1934-1936 Germany, is a love story and how it can blossom and survive in the most unspeakable and inhumane conditions. 

Bent follows the struggles of gay men trying to survive in Nazi Germany, in particular Max and Horst two men who, in the midst of the darkest moments of mankind, manage to give and receive love and find strength in each other.  

Mesmerizing and haunting, as the story unfolds there is an uneasiness that envelops the theater.

Max (Patrick and Heusinger) and Rudy (Andy Mientus)

After Max and his lover Rudy are arrested in Germany and forced onto a train headed for Dachau Concentration Camp, Max in an effort to survive, is forced to deny he knows Rudy and later is required to beat him. 

On the train Max meets Horst, another prisoner, who gives him advice on how to survive in the camps. Horst tells Max that being labeled gay is the worst thing to have happen in the camp. 

So Max, who isn’t a Jew, convinces the guards that he is and receives a yellow band signifying he’s a Jew, while Horst is wearing pink triangles on his clothes which identifies him as gay.

Eventually Max and Horst develop a true friendship that quickly grows into love. Of course, unable to actually touch each other, they devise a kind of tantric sexual relationship that is fulfilling for both.

Horst (Charlie Hofheimer) and Max (Patrick Heusinger)

Patrick Heusinger and Charlie Hofheimer are nothing short of brilliant as they spend the entire second act walking back and forth moving rocks from one side of the stage to the other.  Their banter is both comical and insightful. Their  visual fatigue from the laborious task is etched all over their face. 

This is not an easy play to watch – but that’s the point. It should make audiences squirm and gasp and be totally disgusted and outraged. It should disturb everyone who sees it. It should arouse conversations and hit bigotry right between the eyes. It’s dark, but it’s also humorous. It’s also potent and thought-provoking.

Upon exiting the Mark Taper, the audience was offered the chance to light a candle in memory of those who loss their lives in the camps, particularly those who wore the pink triangles.  

Kudos to everyone in this production. The acting was superb, the direction was tight, the lights, music, costume and hair brought the production together. Beowulf Boritt’s set is phenomenal and efficient. Cricket S. Myers’ sound is lingering.

Bent, written by Martin Sherman and directed by Moises Kaufman, stars Hugo Armstrong, Ray Baker, Tom Berklund, Matthew Carlson, Brionne Davis, Wyatt Fenner, Patrick Heusinger, Charlie Hofheimer, Andy Mientus, Jake Shears, Brian Slaten and Jonathan B. Wright.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Bent gets an E (excellent). 

Bent, Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave, Los Angeles; 8 p.m. Tues-Fri, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Sat., 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sun. through Aug. 23; For information: 213) 628-2772 or Tickets: $25 - $85 (ticket prices are subject to change).

Monday, July 27, 2015

Poet Claudia Rankine To Lead Q&A, Following ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ Matinee Sun., Aug. 2

Internationally acclaimed poet Claudia Rankine will lead a talkback with the audience and sign copies of her multiple award-winning book Citizen: An American Lyric following a performance of theFountain Theatre’s world premiere stage adaptation of the same name. Rankine will attend the performance on Sunday, Aug. 2 at 3 p.m., and the audience talkback and book signing reception will immediately follow.

Citizen: An American Lyric is a provocative meditation on everyday racism in America. Named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, NPR, New York Magazine, the New YorkerBoston GlobePublishers WeeklySlate and Time Out New York among others, it is the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, NAACP Image Award and PEN Open Book Award, and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the UK’s Forward Prize for Poetry.

The Fountain Theatre production is a spoken word dramatic collage made up of remarks, glances, seeming slips of the tongue — those did-that-really-just-happen-did-they-really-just say-that slurs that happen every day — as well as the larger incidents that become national firestorm. Fusing poetry, prose, movement, music and the video image, it was adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs and is directed by Shirley Jo Finney. The six-member ensemble includes Bernard K. AddisonLeith BurkeTina LiffordTony MaggioSimone Missick and Lisa Pescia.

Originally from Jamaica, Claudia Rankine earned her BA in English from Williams College and her MFA in poetry from Columbia University. She is the author of five collections of poetry: Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014), which received the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry; Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2004);PLOT (Grove Press, 2001); The End of the Alphabet (Grove Press, 1998); and Nothing in Nature is Private (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1995), which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize. Her honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowments for the Arts. In 2005, she was awarded the Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement by the Academy of American Poets, and in 2013, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Rankine is currently the Henry G. Lee Professor of English at Pomona College.

Performances of Citizen: An American Lyric will take place Aug. 1 through Sept. 14. Claudia Rankine will attend the performance on Sunday, Aug. 2 at 3 p.m., and a Q & A with the audience and book signing reception will immediately follow. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (323) 663-1525 or go to


Los Angeles, CA - 07.23.15 ---A star-studded afternoon and simply th e most fun ever experienced at a golf outing, the 3rd annual Cedric "The EntertainerCelebrity Golf Classic sponsored by Adidas,  Xerox, and Zacapa Rum, tees-off at Spanish Hills Country Club MondayAugust  17th.

To Watch Exclusive Video Clips From Last Year's Event:  CLICK HERE

"I'm excited to announce our third annual Cedric the Entertainer Celebrity Golf Classic and thrilled to once again bring my celebrity friends and those in the business community together to celebrate the joy of helping others," says Cedric The Entertainer.  "I have been blessed to provide smiles and laughter all over the world, entertaining folks in the poorest housing projects, to military troops, to Heads of State and Presidents.  I happily share the gift of goodwill."

This year's special guests for the "Cedric The Entertainer Celebrity Golf Classic" include George LopezSugar Ray LeonardAlan ThickeJulius "Dr J" IrvingSally RichardsonMarcus Allen, and Chris Tucker to list a few. On Monday, following a highly competitive  afternoon of golf, there is also a post-play awards reception.

The "Cedric The Entertainer Celebrity Golf Classic" kicks off with a VIP dinner to be held at Toscanova Restaurant in Calabasas on the evening of SundayAugust 16th.

Proceed from the event benefit The Kyles Family Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching life skills to urban youth,  The Brotherhood Crusade of Los Angeles and The Boys & Girls Club of Camarillo.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Janis Joplin Comes Alive At Pasadena Playhouse

Mary Bridget Davies & Company. PhotoJoan Marcus

By Darlene Donloe

It was a ‘happening’ at the Pasadena Playhouse as an appreciative crowd, filled with music fans many of whom were dressed in 1960s garb, came to witness the magic of the musical A Night With Janis Joplin, playing through August 16.

The play is the story of Janis Joplin, a powerful rock n roll singer who took the music scene by storm in 1967 and quickly became known as the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Her unmistakable husky voice became legendary as it was filled with emotion, grit and authority.

The show takes us on a musical journey from the time Joplin was a child and discovered her fascination and love of music – up through her time upon the musical throne. She loved the blues, soul, gospel, country and rock ‘n’ roll. The story includes her time with the rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company as well as her style (granny glasses, loose clothes, frizzy hair and hippie style).

Along the way the story points out her musical influences who shared the stage and sang their individual hearts out with songs that deeply affected Joplin and contributed to her growth and development as a powerhouse singer.  

Her inspirations included Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Bessie Smith, Etta James and Odetta, all brilliantly and effectively portrayed by Sharon Catherine Brown, Yvette Cason, Sylvia MacCalla and Jenelle Lynn Randall.

Davies, who opened the show with the up-tempo Tell Mama, went on to belt out some of Joplin’s favorites including Piece of My Heart, Down On Me, Mercedes Benz, Cry Baby, Me and Bobby McGee and Summertime.

While the band dominated most of the set, it did include a screen which projected images, including her artwork, as well as a cozy little corner with a comfy chair, a table and dimly lit lamp where Joplin would sit and tell her story.  And what a story it was!

The iconic singer, who died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27, didn’t have a long musical career, but her influence and impact on the culture and music industry was nearly mythical and her story is fascinating.

(L-R) Yvette Cason, Jenelle Lynn Randall, Sylvia MacCalla and Sharon Catherine Brown. 
Photo: Earl Gibson III. 

Everyone in the cast is exceptional! Davies’ vocal impersonation of Joplin is eerie and magnificent! The four talented female performers who join her on stage are mesmerizing and could quite easily break off and do their own show about soul legends.

A Night With Janis Joplin, which is staged as a full-fledge concert has audiences swinging and swaying in their seats.

If the music doesn’t get down into your soul – then you don’t know rock ‘n’ roll.

A Night With Janis Joplin, directed, conceived and written by Randy Johnson, stars Mary Bridget Davies in the title role (Kacee Clanton is the alternate). It also stars Sharon Catherine Brown (Dreamgirls), Yvette Cason (Dreamgirls), Sylvia MacCalla (Rent) and Jenelle Lynn Randall (Kiss Me Kate).

The live eight piece band included the Music Director/keys Tyler Evans, Associate Conductor Andrew Synowiec, Steven Gregory (guitar), Devin Hoffman (bass), James Tate (drums), Lee Thornburg (trumpet) David Richards (trumpet) Tom Evans (saxophones), Fred Simmons (trombone) and Wally Minko (contractor).

The choreography is by Patricia Wilcox and musical direction by Tyler Evans. Rob Bissinger (set designer), Mike Baldassari (lighting designer), Amy Clark (costume designer), Ben Selke (sound designer), Darrel Maloney (projections designer) and Leah Loukas (hair and makeup).

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), A Night With Janis Joplin gets an E (excellent).

A Night With Janis Joplin, Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena; 8 p.m. Tues.-Fri, 4 and 8 p.m. Sat., 2 and 7 p.m. Sun through Aug. 16; $45-$115;, 626 356-7529.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

'Girlfriend,' A Sweet Coming Of Age Love Story

(l-r) Ryder Bach is Will and Curt Hansen is Mike

By Darlene Donloe

Regardless of what side of the fence you’re on regarding same sex relationships, you’ll feel good about the show Girlfriend, currently playing through Aug. 9 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.

The audience is witness to a high school coming of age love story between a nerd named Will (Ryder Bach) and a popular jock named Mike (Curt Hansen). It’s an unlikely relationship on a couple of levels. Traditionally high school jocks and nerds are polar opposites, do not associate, are not friends, wouldn’t be caught dead with the other and certainly wouldn’t become intimate.

Todd Almond’s brilliant Girlfriend explores the notion of this unusual, unexpected blossoming of love between two male teens who would otherwise never share air space.

The musical, inspired by Matthew Sweet's 1991 alternative rock album of the same title, takes the audience on a slow, but sweet journey to love.

This two-character musical, backed by a live, kick-ass, all-female rock band led by Julie Wolf and featuring Vivi Rama, Janet Robin and Jyn Yates, is now playing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. 

The show takes place in Alliance, Neb., in 1993.
Will and Mike are leaving high school and about to embark on adulthood.  Mike, who loves music, is going away to college to study medicine in order to please his father. Will, who is just happy his high school days are over because of the lack of acceptance, is not sure what he’s going to do.

One day, unexpectedly, Will receives a call from Mike who invites him to the drive-in. Huh? Yeah!  The film, which Will doesn’t like but endures because he wants to get to know Mike, is apparently hilarious and very campy.  It’s a violent comic-book adventure about a nun who becomes a superhero and then morphs into a space alien.

When they first meet Mike gives Will a mixed tape of his favorite music. When he receives the tape, Will exclaims, "I thought: my life has finally become the musical I always suspected it was."

Mike, who has a girlfriend who attends a different school, has decided to throw caution to the wind and live in his own truth. While he’s still concerned about his reputation, he’s tired of the lies. On one of their drive-in dates, Will spots some of Mike’s friends in another car. Mike asks Will to duck down so no one can see them together. But as soon as Will complies, Mike regrets his requests and asks Will to sit up. He decides right then to stop the hiding.

Both Will and Mike are incredibly patient – to a fault.

After about a million trips to the drive-in to see the same movie, yes, the same movie, Will and Mike, who have only had superficial conversations that usually end up with one word answers like, “yep” and “ums,” finally decide to explore their feelings. First, it’s a simple touch, sitting closer and finally – du du duuuuu – the kiss.

Girlfriend is an incredibly romantic, sweet and touching story that could easily swap out the characters with two females, or a heterosexual couple. After all Love is Love!

Girlfriend, book by Todd Almond and directed by Les Waters, stars Ryder Bach and Curt Hansen. Choreography by Joe Goode, music and lyrics by Matthew Sweet.

Kudos to a fabulous set by David Zinn.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah), E (excellent), Girlfriend gets an E (excellent).

 Girlfriend, Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 8:30 p.m. Thursdays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 9; $25 to $59 (ticket prices subject to change); (213) 628-2772,

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes, with no intermission.