Wednesday, December 27, 2017

In Memoriam: African Americans We Lost In 2017

By Darlene Donloe

2017 is coming to an end!!! It’s time to pay tribute to the lives of some extraordinary African Americans who closed their eyes for the last time in 2017. They include community leaders, activists, actors, writers, directors, musicians, politicians and sports figures. All were influential in their own way. This column pays tribute to those who passed this way. 

So, as 2018 approaches, let’s take a moment to reflect on the lasting memories they left behind. Let's have a moment of silence.


Pat Means

Jan. 7 - Sylvester Potts, The Contours. He was 78.

Jan. 8 - Pat Means, Turning Point Communications, Turning Point Magazine. She was 67.

Jan. 13 - Jewel Plummer Cobb, Cal State Fullerton president. She was 92.  

Jan. 15 - Bishop Eddie Long. New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.  He was 63.

Jan. 15 - Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. WWE Hall of Famer. He was 73.

Jan. 23 - Marvell Thomas, Stax/Memphis keyboardist/composer He was 75.


Al Jarreau

Feb. 12 – Al Jarreau, singer/musician.  He was 76.

Feb. 13 - Jeremy Geathers, a former football player with the Orlando Predators. He was 30.

Feb 13 - Tyrone Lil’ Barkley, member of Detroit's 'The Undisputed Truth'.

Feb. 17 - Junie Morrison, founder of The Ohio Players. He was 62.

Feb. 17 - Clyde Stubblefield, “funky drummer” for James Brown.  He was 73.

Leon Ware 

Feb. 23 - Leon Ware, artist-songwriter, composer.  He was 77.


Chuck Berry

March 8 - Dave Valentin, Bronx-born Puerto Rican flutist/composer. He was 64.

March 10 - Joni Sledge. Member of the singing group Sister Sledge. She was 60.

March 13 - Maxx Kidd, Go-Go Music Pioneer. He was 75.  

March 17 - Derek Walcott, a Nobel-prize winning poet. He was 87.

March 18 - Chuck Berry, rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, singer, songwriter, and guitarist.  He was 90.


Apr. 4 - Brenda Jones, member of the R&B group The Jones Girls. She was 62.

Linda Hopkins

Apr. 11 - Linda Hopkins. Tony-winning actress and singer. She was 92.

Apr. 12 - Charlie Murphy, actor/comedian. He was 57.

Apr. 13 – Scotty Miller, Instant Funk co-founder, and drummer.

Apr. 15 – Sylvia Moy, Motown songstress. She was 78.

Apr. 18 - Barkley L. Hendricks, American painter. He was 72.

Apr. 19 - Aaron Hernandez, NFL tight end. He was 28.

Apr. 20 - Cuba Gooding, Sr., lead singer of the R&B group, The Main Ingredient. He was 72.

Apr. 23 - Terri McCoy, director.

Terri McCoy


Christopher "Big Black" Boykin

May 9 - Christopher “Big Black” Boykin, half of MTV’s “Rob & Big”. He was 45.

May 21 - Morris “Butch” Stewart, Jr., musician, songwriter, singer and entrepreneur. He was 64.

May 29 - Curtis Womack, of the Womack Brothers and The Valentinos.  He was 74.


Geri Allen

June 20 - Albert ‘Prodigy’ Johnson, MC and Member of Mobb Deep.

June 27 - Geri Allen, pianist, composer, educator. She was 60.

June 27 - Tameka “Meechy” Monroe, natural hair blogger.  She was 32.


Nelsan Ellis

July 5 - John Blackwell, Jr., drummer best known for his work with Prince. He was 43.

July 8 - Nelsan Ellis, the actor best known for playing Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s True Blood. He was 39.

July 15 - Christopher Wong Won, rapper and founding member of 2 Live Crew. He was 53.

July 18 - Dolores Marsalis, mother of the jazz greats Ellis and Wynton Marsalis. She was 80.

Jim Vance

July 22 - Jim Vance, TV journalist.  He was 75.

July 23 - Bobby Taylor, (and the Vancouvers) Motown band leader. He was 83.


Dick Gregory

Aug. 7 - Don Baylor, Major League baseball player. He was 68.

Aug. 14 - Benard Ighner, singer/songwriter.  He was 72.

Aug. 19 - Dick Gregory, activist, comedian. He was 84.


Novella Nelson

Sept. 1 - Novella Nelson, actress. She was 77.

Sept. 5 - Rick Stevens, former lead singer of Tower of Power. He was 77.

Sept. 20 - Bernie Casey; actor, NFL wide receiver, poet, and painter. He was 78.

Sept. 23 - Charles Bradley, soul singer. He was 68.


Robert Guillaume

Oct. 8 - Grady Tate, jazz drummer, and singer. He was 85.

Oct. 10 - Alvin John Waples, radio legend. He was 70.

Oct. 15 - Debbie Wright, original P-Funk Femme. She was 66.

Oct. 24 - Robert Guillaume, Emmy-winning Soap actor. Also appeared in Benson and Sports Night. He was 89.

Oct. 25 - Antoine "Fats" Domino, musician, singer.   He was 89. 

Oct. 29 - Keith Wilder, Heatwave co-founder, and singer. He was 65.


Della Reese

Nov. 8 - Jarvee Hutcherson,
president of the Multicultural Motion Picture Association & American Society Of Young Musicians; producer and director, known for 20th Annual MMPA Night Before the Oscars: The Envelope Please (2014), The 1994 Annual Diversity Awards (1994) and The Annual Minority Motion Picture Awards (1993). He was 63.

Nov. 11 - Bobby Matos, Latin jazz percussionist, and bandleader.

Nov. 15 - David Cunningham, former L.A. City Councilman and community leader. He was 82.

Nov. 16 - Helen Borgers, Midday Jazz DJ/MD (KLON/KKJZ). She was 60.

Nov. 16 - Earle Hyman, stage, television, and film actor. Hyman is known for his role on ThunderCats as the voice of Panthro. He also appeared on The Cosby Show as Cliff's father, Russell Huxtable. He was 91.

Nov. 19 - Warren "Pete" Moore, bass singer, vocal arranger and original member of The Miracles. He was 78.

Nov. 19 - Della Reese, legendary actress, singer. She was 86.

Nov. 20 - Terry Glenn, former NFL wide receiver. He was 43.

Simeon Booker

Dec. 10 - Simeon Booker, chronicler of civil rights struggle for Jet and Ebony. He was the Washington bureau chief of Jet and Ebony magazines for five decades.  He was 99.

Dec. 18 - Kevin Mahogany, jazz singer. He was 59.

Cliff Winston

Dec. 19 - Cliff Winston, Los Angeles radio personality. He worked at KJLH, MPact radio and KKBT. He was 63.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Choreographer Mandy Moore Puts The Moves On Pasadena Civic's 'Beauty And The Beast'

Mandy Moore
By Darlene Donloe

People sat up and took notice of her ground-breaking work on So You Think You Can Dance. She was on everyone’s “get” list after she wowed the industry with the dance numbers in 2016’s La La Land. Her profile continues to soar with her work on Dancing With The Stars. In 2017, she worked her choreographic magic on the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, the 89th Annual Academy Awards, the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, and the 74th Golden Globe Awards.

Not bad! Not bad at all!  Mandy Moore’s dance nirvana is impressive and envious. But, don't hold your breath waiting on the 41-year-old, St. Louis Missouri native to acknowledge her impressive accomplishments. She won’t do it. In fact, not only does she think every piece she’s ever created is a "fail," to hear Moore tell it, she was just doing what she loves – and it turns out that people, the right people, love it.

Now the Emmy-nominated (So You Think You Can Dance) Moore, whose real name is Samantha Jo Moore, has put her choreographic Midas touch on Beauty and the Beast – A Christmas Rose, currently running at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

Beauty and the Beast is a classic tale that centers around Belle, a girl who is, somewhat, unhappy about her life in a small provincial French town. She has become quite annoyed having to constantly discourage the unwanted fondness of a rather arrogant Gaston. The Beast is a prince who was placed under a spell because he could not love. Quite by accident, Belle’s father, Maurice, is the reason Belle comes in contact with The Beast.

Beauty and the Beast – A Christmas Rose marks Lythgoe Family Panto’s inaugural production at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and their sixth consecutive Panto presentation in Pasadena, five of which were presented at Pasadena Playhouse, the State Theater of California.

Panto is described as musical theatre that incorporates audience participation and pop songs. American Pantos® are based on fairy tales that kids know and love but the humor within them is directed to the adults with topical jokes and local references.

This is Moore’s first time experiencing Panto, but, she says, she was up for the challenge.

Moore is an easy-going sort. She has a “chill” persona and prides herself on staying grounded.  While many would kill to have her high profile gigs, Moore takes it all in stride while leaning on the side of modesty.

Mandy Moore

I recently caught up with Mandy Moore to discuss her latest project, her first time experiencing Panto and her career as an in-demand choreographer.

DD: How and why does a highly sought after choreographer for the 2017 Academy Awards, the 2017 Golden Globe, the 2017 Grammy awards, La La LandSilver Linings PlaybookAmerican HustleJoy and such reality shows as So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars, wind up choreographing Lythgoe Family Panto’s Beauty and the Beast – A Christmas Rose at the Pasadena Civic?

MM: Chris Lythgoe has asked me to do it for years. This year I had some time in December. He asked me again, I said I’d be happy to do it. I’ve known the Lythgoes for years.

DD: Is this your first Panto?  If so, what did you think?

MM: It’s very different. I’m still learning what it is. I’m still learning the style. I work in film and TV. I have some experience with live theater, but it’s not televised or filmed, which is what I’m used to. The style of theater still has storytelling. I enjoy that. It’s specific to Beauty and the Beast and specific to theater.

DD: Can you remember the first time you ever saw Beauty and the Beast?  What did you think and how does it play into your choreography?

MM: I remember seeing the cartoon as a kid. Then I saw the Broadway show. The story is so beautiful. I think it’s very visual and I really liked the music. The story of Belle seeing something in the beast that no one else saw, something even he couldn’t see – is special.

DD: What is your interpretation of this Beauty and the Beast – A Christmas Rose?  Talk about what you saw internally and how you externally put it to movement.  Also, with Panto, is there a different approach than what you’re used to?

MM: Panto is an interesting process. It’s not the original music. They are taking contemporary songs and putting it into the story. I put the choreography to the music given to me. It’s like any other job. You have to understand the who, what, when, where and why and then create the narrative and the storytelling elements you have in the number.

DD: Tell me the discussion(s) you have/had with Sheldon Epps – when talking about the choreography.

MM: We discussed tone and ultimately what people should feel from watching the number. We discussed what kind of things I have to accomplish within the choreography. Great musical theater does that. Song and dance move the story along.

DD: What is the message you’re delivering with your choreography for this show?

MM: It depends on the number. Overall I want to deliver joy and celebration. But, it can be different because the number that has the wolves is scary. There are scenes that are slightly comedic. The opening number should feel like a celebration in everyday village life. So, it really depends.

DD: Bringing the audience into the Lythgoe’s imagined world would seem like an important way to give extra weight to the meaning of the piece. What means have you used to accomplish this?

MM:  My job is to create memorable moments. In Panto, the audience can be a bit more involved. You break the fourth wall. The audience becomes vocal. They sing along and join in. That makes the audience have more of an experience. My job is to strike chords in the audience that strikes emotions.

DD: So, if the audience doesn’t feel anything, have you failed?

MM: Yes.

DD: Do you know your storyline, music, theme, and structure prior to starting rehearsal, or do you work it out once you get into the room with the dancers?

MM:  The hope is that it happens prior to me getting in the room. If not, the process is to make that clear once I’m in the room.

DD: Talk about how, from start to finish, you choreograph a piece.

MM: It depends. Every job is different. It starts with a track of a song. I have to understand the length of the song, understand who is in the song and what you have to do with the song. I break it down musically. Then I have to figure out how much time I want to spend on an intro. Do I want everyone dancing in unison? I can’t tell you for sure because there is no perfect way. It changes for me. It changes from Dancing With The Stars, The Oscars, to La La Land. It’s all different.

DD: What does dance do for you?

MM: I’ve always danced. I started young. I transitioned from dancing into choreography. I love it. It takes me somewhere. Moving is the most beautiful expression there is. It’s interesting that my art has now become my job.

DD: You have a lot of credits, but how and where did you get your training as a dancer/choreographer?

MM: I was in musicals when I was very little. I was in the chorus of Bye Bye Birdie and the Sound of Music. I’ve always enjoyed it. I used to be in musicals with my mom. My mom directed them. I enjoy creating, practicing and performing. I started choreographing when I was very little. My biggest memory is being around eight-years-old and choreographing something I created.

DD: When you create a piece is it the music that comes first or the movement?

MM: It depends. Most of the time, it's the music. It drives the movement. Sometimes the steps come first. It really depends.

DD: To that end, do your ideas start in your head or your body?

MM: In my head – as I’ve grown older. Then when I knew what I wanted, I used my body.

DD: Have you had a breakthrough moment that changed things for you?

MM:  Yes, when I landed So You Think You Can Dance. It’s a very popular show. People started to see my work. My name started becoming more common. People knew who I was and start really noticing my work.

DD: We have to talk about you and the actress on This Is Us.  Did you ever think about changing your name? 

MM: No, I’m older. I was born first.

DD: What’s the funniest thing that’s happened regarding the actress Mandy Moore?

MM: This last year at the Globes Emma Stone thanked me. The man who was presenting thought Emma was talking about the actress from This Is Us.

DD: I’ve read about a lot of your accomplishments, but I’ve never read about your actual training.  Did you have formal dance training?

MM: No, I just trained at a local dance studio. I took classes at EDGE Performing Arts Center. 

DD: Have you ever considered one of your pieces a fail? If so, how did you work through it?

MM: Most every piece I’ve ever done has been a fail. I never think my work is good until years later when I look at it. I’m very hard on myself.

DD: That being said, what can you point to as your best work and why?

MM:  I do different kinds of things. On La La Land, I did a good job on that. I did exactly what the director wanted. On Dancing With The Stars, I did some beautiful work. Some of it was very difficult to create, but they became popular pieces.

DD:  Are great dancers born or taught?

MM: I don't think I was born to be a great dancer. You have to have an element of talent. You have to have some physical ability. The best people are the ones who work for it.

DD: Where do you go – creatively when you’re working?

MM:  It’s different for every job. I go in the studio and create steps. Other times I create something on paper. Sometimes it’s on set in front of everybody. It’s hard to pinpoint.

DD: Has technology been a collaborator or an inspiration in your career?  If so, in what way?

MM: Yeah, specifically on Dancing With The Stars. I had the opportunity to create routines that used technology. I can dream big and try different things using technology. Normally, though, I don’t use technology. So, yes and no.

DD: How important is it for a choreographer and a dancer to study music?

MM: It’s important. Dancers need to understand the structure of music. I can’t read music, but I understand it.

DD: Can you choreograph a dance without music?

MM: I could but I much prefer music. I’m driven by music.

DD:  I understand you take time teaching and educating the next generation of dance talent. Where, when and how do you do this?

MM:  I do travel around and do workshops in the world. I go to individual dance studios. I teach in Los Angeles at studios.  I teach at EDGE Performing Arts Center and at Jump Dance Convention. I really enjoy doing that.

DD:  The entertainment industry has been rocked in recent weeks with a lot of sexual harassment allegations.  What are your thoughts on the issue?  Have you ever be harassed?

MM: I’ve never dealt with that in my career. I think it happens everywhere and that it’s sad. I feel for those victims. I think people should step down if they behave badly. 

DD:  Where do you go from here?  You’ve probably already finished your bucket list. What’s on your bucket list now? What’s left?

MM: I just like continuing to create. I really want to spend more time dancing and creating. I never really created a bucket list.

DD:  What are you looking forward to in 2018?

MM:  Taking some time to snowboard and hang out with my family.

Lythgoe Family Panto Presents Beauty and the Beast – A Christmas Rose, The Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 East Green Street, Pasadena, CA; 3 and 7 p.m., Fri., Dec. 22; 1 and 5 p.m., Sat., Dec. 23 and 1 and 5 p.m., Sun., Dec. 24; prices start at $29; Golden Ticket: (Children ages 4-12 can enjoy a special on-stage experience for $60. (Note: One Golden Ticket requires an admission ticket.) For information: (626) 449-7360.