I stood fourth in line at the Quik Mart this morning with nothing but my customary 20 oz coffee in hand. A ritual that I’ve been following most mornings since becoming a working member of society.
While my thoughts were fixated on the day ahead and the consumption of hot, golden deliciousness I happened to notice the plethora of items that sat neatly on the store counter available for quick purchase.
There were small, red plastic bottles filled with a fluid that promised an extra boost of energy in the event you found yourself dragging during the middle of the work day. Bags of Swedish Fish beckoned to my inner child with fairy tale urges of sugar rush. Truthfully, had it not been for the fact that it was 5:30 in the morning, a package or three would have left the store with me and my coffee.
As I continued to stand behind customers purchasing everything from gasoline to cigarettes, I discovered that one of the patrons in front of me was also purchasing a pack of Freedent chewing gum along with their Marlboros.
Now there is one of life’s greatest mysteries. A 5,000+ year old product that has always confused me. For no matter how often I chew it or how many bubbles I blow, inevitably two questions always come to mind whenever I consider gum of any sort:
First of all, why is it that we as a society can invent things like the Internet or build a hover craft the size of a pea and land it exactly where want it to on the surface of Mars, but still can’t figure out how to make a stick of gum’s flavor last more than 15 seconds?
Second, and even more importantly: Has mankind ever really considered the true power of gum?
Gum itself has been taboo for years. Back in my school days it was contraband and one of the quickest ways to earn a visit to the principal’s office. It was off-limits on school grounds, and only the fool would dare risk life and limb by sitting in an Earth Science class chewing like a cow on Hubba Bubba.
Of course, that didn’t deter
In between classes, when no one with a teaching degree was looking, there was plenty of gum to be found. Sometimes it was bartered in bathroom stalls or doled out behind locker doors. I confess, I was one of the offenders and did partake in the reverie. And yes, there were many times I raided my mother’s purse before school just to bring the goodness of spearmint to campus.
Gum’s power was just to big for me to ignore.
For aside from the short-lived flavorful chew just before it became a bland piece of rubber, gum synthetically gave me something more. Why just having gum in my possession gave me popularity, courage and the confidence to do things I’d normally never do.
Case in point: The only time I ever had the nerve to talk to any of the girls in school was if there was a pack of gum in my pocket. And any attempt to open the line of communication without it was only met with sweaty palms and heart palpitations.
I was never one of those guys who could ask a cute girl what she got for question three on a homework assignment, much less invite her to a dance. But put a pack of Fruit Stripe in my Garanimals and I instantly became a teenage Casanova. Because as long as I had a five-pack of gum, I knew that I could fearlessly ask her if she wanted a piece, and nine times out of ten knew that she was going to answer in the affirmative.
Which leads me to this conclusion. Stronger than any threat of a nuclear mushroom cloud or zombie apocalypse, I really believe gum might be the one thing that could bring about world peace.
What if John F. Kennedy had offered Nikita Khrushchev a stick of Bubblicious fifty years ago? I’m thinking Kroosh (I would’ve called him that) would gladly have accepted and instead of having a Cuban Missile Crisis there might have had a bubble blowing contest.
What if Ronald Reagan had offered Mikhail Gorbachev some Freedent at one of their many summits? Not only would it have not stuck to their dental work, but I also believe it might have ended the Cold War sooner. What if all the differences amongst all the nations could simply be resolved over a stick of gum?
The truth is, we may have only just begun to scratch the surface of what gum can do for the good of mankind. But whether it encourages young love in school classrooms or summit meetings between rival nations, one thing’s for sure:
The simple pack of gum has five chances to turn any enemy into a friend.
Better late than never I suppose. Especially when you consider that when the artsy, independent horror film “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006, George W. Bush was still President.
But thanks to poor test screenings, distributor cash flow problems and bankruptcy, the film never made a big enough splash to warrant a more wide spread showing and instead wound up collecting dust for the next seven years until finally getting a proper release here in the U.S. on Dec 3rd.
“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” follows the same format of most horror/slasher films we’ve become accustomed to: a young, virginal Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is a high-school student who goes off to a remote ranch to party with a much rowdier bunch of kids that includes the jock (Luke Grimes), the sensitive guy (Edwin Hodge), the stoner (Aaron Himelstein), and two sexy, albeit air-headed beauties (Melissa Price & Whitney Able). The addition of a mysterious ranch hand (Anson Mount) popping up at the strangest of times only adds to the tension.
All of the guys are so focused on getting with Mandy that no one really notices that some of them have gone missing until it’s too late. That’s when the bloody truth emerges.
In addition to witnessing the demise of the film’s characters, old school slasher film fans will find plenty of other meat on the bone with “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane”. Whether its the recreational drug use, gratuitous sexual encounters and truth or dare or asking the question of who is really out there in the darkness. Artsy fans will marvel at many of the techniques director Jonathan Levine and cinematographer Darren Genet employed during the filming process.
But for me, what separates this film from the standard ho-hum fare of serial killer pablum was the cool little twist that’s engaged halfway through the film. I’ve seen plenty of Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger “adventures” over the years, but have to admit this was something I certainly wasn’t expecting, and it changed the viewing dynamic for the better.
“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is Lane’s first leading role as well as Levine’s directorial debut. He’s since gone on to make a name for himself with films like “The Wackness,”and “50/50”. Not bad for a director who’s first film took seven years and two Presidents to see the light of day.
In my view, any filmmaker who invests a substantial amount of time and money into a project should be able to see a proper release of the finished product. While this film is certainly not for everyone, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is one fans of the genre will find was well worth the wait. (Three Stars)
Vocalist Margo Rey’s Christmas classic, “This Holiday Night” has become a staple of December. A vision of the holidays as seen through the eyes of a child, the beautiful song conjures up warm images of family tradition and memories of years gone by.
Rey describes her style of music as ‘Organica’; a unique blend of musical texture and groove, but it’s the infectiousness of her voice that really makes you stand up and take notice. Her album, “Habit” remained on the charts for an astonishing 21 weeks and contained the singles “Let the Rain” and “Saturn Returns”, both co-written with the legendary John Oates.
Her latest single, a cover of the Squeeze song “Tempted” adds her distinctive vibe to the classic 80′s hit.
In addition to her amazing vocal prowess and songwriting skills, Rey’s personal mission really makes her a true inspiration. A cancer warrior, Rey volunteers her time and talent to Brides Against Breast Cancer, an organization that contributes to programs for cancer patients and their families while raising funds in a rather cool and unique way.
A recent bride herself, Rey is married to comedian Ron White. While presenting an interesting dynamic, their relationship is a communion of two artists in awe of each others craft, while not being in competition with each other.
I spoke with Rey about her passion, her music and her cause.
You consider your style of music ‘Organica’. How would you describe it?
It’s an unorthodox hybrid of adult pop music that’s deeply rooted in jazz and R&B grooves with a lot of ambient vocals and texture. I like my vocals to be lush and for them to be an instrument as well.
Tell me the origin of your song “This Holiday Night”.
I really wanted to write a song that sounded like a Christmas classic. A song about the way a child experiences all the goings on in a house around the holidays. I had this idea that it was going to be a waltz and I wanted every line to end with “this holiday night”. I started out writing the melody, chords and most of the lyrics and then called up my friend Barrett Yeretsian, who had been working on songs for my “Habit” album. The two of us started kicking around images of what the holidays were like when we were growing up. We put the pieces together and that’s how it happened.
Let’s discuss a few tracks that you wrote with John Oates from the “Habit” album.
Let The Rain
John and I actually wrote “Let The Rain” the day that we first met. He had written some chords based on some of my music and when I heard it, I remember saying, “I think I have something for that.” It was a melody and lyrics that I had written around the time Ron and I were getting engaged. I had a lot of verses, but wasn’t quite sure what to make the chorus about. That’s when I told John about how I used to love playing in the rain with my Mom in the summer’s in Texas and he told me to write the song about that. So we came up with the melody for the chorus together and from there it took on a life of its own.
I had just been diagnosed with cancer four days before our writing session and the doctors were trying to get me to stay to get an MRI. I said, “No way, man! I’m going to write a song with John Oates” [laughs]. I remember telling that story to John and his eyes got really big and he was worried. I said “No! No! I’m going to be fine. This is a cancer free zone!” I showed him a chorus that I had been working on and he thought it was fantastic, but he told me that it has to be my story. So I went back to my condo that night, wrote the rest of the lyrics and we put it all together the next day.
Tell me a little about your most recent single, “Tempted”.
I’ve always loved the band Squeeze and that song always made me happy whenever I sang it. So when my radio team approached me about releasing a cover song, I told them that I wanted to do “Tempted”, but with an R&B groove.
Did you always want to be a singer?
When I was young, I used to always sing in the grocery cart whenever I was at the store with my mom. I would always sing a lot of crooner songs by Nat King Cole, Engelbert Humperdinck or Hank Williams. Then one day when I was 4, I was at my brother’s school play when this girl who was supposed to sing “Oh Jolly Playmate” started crying because she had suddenly developed stage fright. I remember going up to the school principal and telling him that I could sing, and that I knew all the words. So he let me go out and sing in front of 300 people.
A lot of things crystallized for me in that moment. It was the first time that I had ever sang with a mic and saw my shadow in the spotlight behind me. I knew right then that it was something that I wanted to do and so a few years later, I started classical training.
Let’s discuss your involvement with Brides Against Breast Cancer.
I volunteer a lot my time towards this cause and this past May, they selected me as a National Ambassador. The money they raise goes to providing free programs and services to people living with cancer. Programs people need where the doctor kind of leaves off; like wellness, nutrition and counseling. They even provide these services for family members too.
The really cool thing is how they raise money: by having brides and gown designers donate their wedding gowns. Some of the gowns that are donated by designers are unused, while others may have only been used one time. Then they’ll take the gowns that are donated on a “Nationwide Tour of Gowns” that travels to roughly 120 cities a year, selling them at a discounted price. I travel to some of the events to tell my story and to inform people about how important it is to provide these services. What better way is there to give that dress that made you so happy a life of its own than to make someone else happy and also provide programs and services to people who need them? It’s a win-win.
What’s next for you?
I’m putting together an arsenal of songs to release in the coming year. A ballad called “Colors Never Fade” that’s about standing up to what it is that scares you and never fading or getting washed out in a sea of gray. “Beautiful Train Wreck” is a song that has a cool, funky groove. It’s about how we’re all beautiful even when we’re in the midst of being a train wreck. We’re all trying to find our way. Then there’s “Happy”, which is another song that I wrote with John [Oates]. It’s about the simplicity of just being happy and how it’s never too late to be kind.
For more information on Brides Against Breast Cancer Click here
Check out Margo Rey’s Official Website By Clicking Here
Actor Brendan Dooling may have missed out on the 80′s the first time around, but he’s more than making up for it during the pre cell phone days of “The Carrie Diaries” (the prequel to the hugely successful “Sex & the City”). Dooling plays Walt Reynolds, the best guy friend of a young Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb).
Walt is undergoing his own 80′s journey of self-discovery. One that goes much deeper than gnarly fashion sense or the allure of Culture Club albums. Dooling’s performance as a closeted gay man trying to find out where he belongs is stellar, even generating an incredible fan base of followers to his character’s storyline.
I spoke with him about his role on “The Carrie Diaries” as well as his other projects and how he got his start.
What was the audition process for “The Carrie Diaries” like for you?
Originally, I had read for the role of Sebastian [Carrie's love interest], but for the callback they asked if I would read for Walt, who was the other principal male role. So I came in the following day with Walt’s sides prepared and I guess the rest is history [laughs].
Have you found it difficult or challenging portraying a gay character?
Not really. It’s challenging in that it’s a lifestyle that I personally don’t live, but there’s no great chasm between someone who’s straight and someone who’s gay. Everyone feels the same way about a lot of the same things. It’s nice though that (according to Twitter followers) I’m doing the role justice and that I’m believable. That’s the most important thing.
What’s the chemistry like on the set?
That’s the best part for me. I enjoy the show and being on the CW, but the thing that makes it all work are the people I work with. It’s a really harmonious, friendly cast, crew and production. There are no egos and everyone is looking out for each other.
You missed the 80′s the first time around. Now that you’re on a show set in that time period, what are your thoughts about it?
I think the music was such a defining factor of the era. It’s something that really brings the show together. I also remember the first time I saw those big, block cell phones they used back in the 80′s and seeing how it all started. The funny thing about it now is all of us waiting in the wings for another take while we’re texting and Tweeting [laughs].
What can fans expect as this season progresses?
There’s a lot more of Walt and Bennett [Walt's love interest]. A few episodes ago, you saw Walt trying to branch out and meet new people, but Bennett is really where his heart lies and we’ll get to see a lot of them this season. We’ll also be getting into more of the realities of what the 80′s were like for this particular community. It will be more truer to the time and represent it more accurately.
Tell me a little about your recent film, “Breathe In”.
It’s a film starring Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones that was directed by Drake Doremus, the same director who did “Like Crazy”. This is his first studio movie. It’s the story about an exchange student who comes over to stay with an American family and ends up falling in love with the father. It throws everything out of whack. For her, for his daughters and for his wife. I have a supporting role and help move the plot along. It was a lot of fun.
How did you get your start in acting?
I had a lot of energy when I was eleven and always liked being in front of a camera. I grew up in Bellport Long Island where I attended Gateway Acting School and met Robin Allan. She was the school’s director who took me under her wing and was the one who told me that I could do this for real.
What do you like to do when you’re not acting?
I definitely like to stay active. I’m a huge fan of the NBA and the sport of basketball. I love to play pick-up games in Brooklyn where I live. Otherwise, I spend most of my time focusing on the auditions.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I have a supporting role in a film I did last summer called “Doctor Me” that should be coming out sometime next year. It’s a fantastic, dark modern take on Alice In Wonderland. It’s directed by Ty Hodges and stars Toby Hemingway and Emily Meade. I want to support it as much as I can because it’s made by such wonderfully talented, good people.
Follow Brendan Dooling on Twitter by Clicking Here
For Joel Hoekstra and Tommy Kessler, it might be like being inside of a time warp.
Not only do the guitarists for Broadway’s Rock of Ages musical get to perform in the fictional Eighties band Arsenal night after night, but separately, they play music from that same era, even when not performing on the Broadway stage.
Kessler’s other “day job” includes working alongside Debbie Harry in Blondie, while Hoekstra continues to record and tour with Night Ranger and is about to start his fourth winter tour with Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
I spoke to Hoekstra and Kessler about Rock of Ages and some of their other projects.
GUITAR WORLD: What are some of the differences between performing as part of Night Ranger and Blondie, as compared to Rock of Ages?
JOEL HOEKSTRA: With Night Ranger, it’s all about playing the classic songs/solos and entertaining the audience with an energetic performance. With Rock of Ages, people are there for a humorous, entertainment experience, not a serious rock show. My approach to that is campier because it’s more in the spirit of the show. People are just there to have a good time. In Night Ranger, I use EVH iii amps. With RoA, I play through a Fractal Axe-FX Ultra.
TOMMY KESSLER: The main difference performing-wise is that when Blondie plays a show, it’s six of us doing a rock show and it’s song after song. We’re all featured at any given moment. With Rock of Ages, there’s a story going on in front of the band. We are on stage the entire time because Arsenal is the house band of the Bourbon Room, but the story goes in and out of the Bourbon Room so there is a lot of time we are in the dark and not playing music.
Read the rest of my Guitar World interview with
Joel Hoekstra and Tommy Kessler by Clicking Here
After reaching mainstream success on Season 3 of NBC’s “The Voice”, singer Terry McDermott is showing no signs of slowing down. Since the show’s conclusion, McDermott’s been busily writing and recording new music while simultaneously building a loyal following.
His fan base, known collectively as “McHobbits”, have rallied behind the singer’s every endeavor; even propelling his first hook-laden single, “Pictures” to the #1 spot on the iTunes Rock Singles chart in less than 24 hours.
McDermott’s follow-up single, “Lose This Feeling” is a personal introspective that forges new ground while also paving the way for his forth-coming EP (due early in the new year). Penned along with friend and musical collaborator Todd Burman, “Lose This Feeling” continues the trend of showcasing McDermott’s infectious songwriting ability as well as his commanding vocals.
On Sunday, December 8th McDermott will have the honor of performing the National Anthem at the New Orleans Saints NFL game before heading off for more shows in Vietnam, the U.K and Jamaica. McDermott’s band, The Bonfires includes guitarist David Rosser (Afghan Wigs); bassist Alex Smith (World Leader Pretend); drummer Eric Bolivar (Anders Osborne) and keyboardist Rich Hyland, who played in a rival Scottish band back in Aberdeen when McDermott was a member of the band Driveblind.
I spoke with McDermott about his upcoming EP as well as what he thinks makes classic rock (the genre he highlighted while competing on “The Voice”) so special.
What can you tell us about your upcoming album?
It’s a five-song EP with a culmination of material that was written with the band along with some songs I wrote with the guitar player from my previous band. There’s also a song on there that I wrote with a Grammy winner friend of mine that I’m really excited about.
What was the inspiration behind your new single, “Lose This Feeling”?
The basic inspiration for the song was always there. It was just a matter of capturing it at the right time. I had spent a lot of time working with Todd [Burman] at his Hollywood studio. He told me about an idea that he had and wanted me to come in and work on it with him. It was shortly before that encounter that my daughter had been born.
I had lost my mother eleven years ago and when my daughter was born she was a spitting image of her, which was something I wasn’t really prepared for. It really made me think about the bitter-sweet nature of our existence on this ball of rock. It’s that perpetual feeling. One of being so blessed and lucky to have this wonderful child in your life and then thinking about the strange, sometimes cruel nature of it. It’s part of life. That became the inspiration for the song.
Was there a reason why many of the songs you performed on “The Voice” were from the classic rock genre?
That style of music is what really inspired me growing up and made it very easy for me to enjoy my time on the show.
What do you think makes that style of music so appealing?
If you go back to the music industry in the 1970′s when bands like The Eagles were selling records, people were buying and cherishing albums. They were physically picking albums up off the shelves, taking them home and wearing them out. Bands back then were held up on a pedestal with tremendous loyalty from their fans and as those fans aged, the bands never lost that sparkle.
You also can’t take anything away from the songwriting either. It was much more singer/songwriter oriented back then as opposed to today. Just listen to any Glen Frey or Don Henley track. They’re timeless pieces. They’re songs that you can break down to just one man and a guitar and the quality will still shine through. Anything that has longevity like that should feel like classic rock, because it’s got a chance to stay on the shelf.
How important are the fans to you and your music?
You really can’t talk about one and not the other. There’s something very organic and truthful about playing shows and having your fans fly in from all over the country just to see you. It’s very rewarding. It’s also a great example of the modern-day synergy that exists between the fans and the artist. Where the record label has become superfluous to many to some degree. If you’ve got the fan base who believes in you, you can bring material to them and cut out the middleman.
It’s a great time and a lot of fun to be an independent artist. You have more flexibility to control your own destiny.
Following the recent U.S. economic downturn, actor Paul Blackthorne (along with photographer and friend, Mister Basquali) decided to embark on a cross-country road trip deep into the heart of the American landscape.
Along the way, they stopped to interview random people about the issues and concerns facing every day Americans to try to gauge what society can do to pull together when times are tough.
The resulting documentary, “This American Journey” is an encouraging, insightful look into the unbreakable will of the American spirit.
Regardless of what we may have been brought up to believe through our own socioeconomic backgrounds and biases, “This American Journey” reveals the unique perspective that lies within each of us. It’s the showcasing of those opinions regarding what’s right and wrong with America that makes the documentary so compelling and engaging.
As an actor, Paul Blackthorne has appeared on some of television’s most iconic series, including “24″, “ER” and most recently, as Detective Quentin Lance on the CW hit series “Arrow”. But it’s his directorial debut in “This American Journey” that adds a fresh layer of inspiration to an already impressive resume.
There are moments in the film that are uplifting, while others will surely move you to tears. You’ll hear perspectives of common folks from all walks of life; many of whom having ideas that may make you reconsider your own way of thinking.
But in the end, the real reason “This American Journey” shines is because it makes you think. And perhaps that’s what Blackthorne had in mind all along when he set out on his cross-country quest.
I spoke with him about his journey across America and what satisfied him the most about it.
What made you decide to take on a project like this?
Shortly after the economic down turn, I became curious about what the people of America were thinking about the country. At the time, the American Dream was in a troubled state, and even I wasn’t sure how I was feeling about America (having always loved it since I was a kid). I decided that the best way for me to form an opinion on how I felt about America was to go out and speak to the people of America. So that’s what we did. We got on the road and had a great chat with a lot of wonderful people.
Did you go into it having an opinion of the people you were likely to meet?
It’s easy to judge a book by its cover, but if you take the time to actually open the book and read a few words inside, there’s a lot more to it than what you originally thought. As we drove across the country and met people in certain places sure, it would have been easy to form an opinion of what someone might be like. But once we had the chance to actually listen to them and really get a sense of their character, we were amazed.
Did you at any time during the course of your journey fear for your own safety?
There was one neighborhood we visited in a big city where we had to make a pretty hasty departure, but generally speaking everyone we met was very open and receptive to us and we were received very positively.
What satisfies you the most about “This American Journey”?
Getting the film completed was very challenging, but we were supported by a lot of incredibly skilled people and that was very rewarding. Seeing the audience’s reaction to the film and the conversations that are generated from watching it is also very satisfying.
We went into it wanting to make a film that would make us all feel good about life and be inspired to dwell on the positive and as a result, hopefully generate more positive stuff. And that’s what we’ve done.
Has your own perspective of America changed now that you’ve completed the journey?
I feel very positive about America. We may be going though some tough times, but the American Spirit is in good shape. I’ve also learned that we have a lot more in common with each other than we have different. If we choose to dwell on the positive and look out for each other a little bit more, we’ve got a greater chance of getting out of difficult times. We’re all in this together, so let’s work together and focus on the important things we have in common.
For more information about “This American Journey” Click Here
This Thursday, millions of American families will once again come together for the annual tradition of watching football and devouring as much tryptophan as possible. I too will put forth my own best effort in an eager attempt to fall into a deeper state of food coma.
For me, the Thanksgiving holiday has always been a particular favorite, especially while growing up. I have fond memories of my grandmother rising early Thanksgiving morning and beginning the process of stuffing the bird and making side-dishes. Aside from getting the turkey out to thaw the night before, nothing was ever done or prepared ahead of time. On the contrary, everything was done on the actual Thanksgiving day.
By mid-morning, every nook and cranny of our kitchen would be cluttered with empty bags or cans of vegetables and cranberry sauce. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would be slowly winding down and I would be glued to our 19″ portable TV just waiting for a Kermit the Frog or Superman balloon to float down the streets of Manhattan.
Pies of many different varieties would be cooling on the stove and the smell of pumpkin and spice would begin to fill my senses. I remember looking outside of our kitchen window and seeing the last of the brown, wilted leaves falling from the trees and realize that the year was officially beginning to wind down. A feeling of home and family would wash over me as the cold winds of November blew across our little South Side Easton home. The heat given off from Nan’s all-day cook fest would be more than enough to warm a pilgrim army on their way to their own bountiful celebration. Looking back now, it surely WAS home.
As you can see, there are many things that I remember about the holiday. But as we all prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving 2013, and before I recall all the years I challenged my brother for wishbone supremacy, I’d like to share with you the five favorite memories I have about Thanksgiving while growing up.
5. Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special: It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without ol’ Chuck and his pals. The “wedge” between Great Pumpkin (my favorite of the series) and Charlie Brown Christmas, watching this show was a treat. Snoopy duking it out with the chair was hilarious and making popcorn for Thanksgiving? Well that’s just sheer genius in my book.
4. Godzilla Marathons on Channel 9. Laugh all you want, but this was one of the highlights of turkey day for me. Godzilla was actually the predecessor to MMA if you really think about it. You knew that when the big guy met the Smog monster or some other nefarious creature, there was more to it than just a desire to kick the crap out of each other. No, those guys in rubber suits really wanted to kill each other.
For me, nothing compared to the idea of filling my plate mile-high with buttered mashed taters, stuffing, beans and one of the drumsticks from the turkey and then scurrying over to the tube to watch my boy go toe to toe with King Kong. Channel 9 out of New York used to run marathons of Godzilla movies all weekend long and it didn’t get much better than that.
3. The Peace Candle. The day after Thanksgiving is always the busiest shopping day of the year as hordes of crazy people line the stores to find an elusive $50 laptop. You know, the stores that only have two in stock at that price, but 600 people out to get it.
But Black Friday is also the night the 106-foot tall Civil War monument in the center-square of my hometown is lit up and transformed into a giant candle. Dedicated to all the men and women who served or are serving our country, it also represents one of the best meanings of Christmas: Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Man.
2. Easton/P’burg Football and Bonfire. Unless you were born and raised in the area this one probably won’t mean anything to you. Every Thanksgiving morning for the past century, our high school football team and their cross town (actually cross-state) rival battle it out on the gridiron for football supremacy. And every night prior to the big game, Easton would light a huge bonfire at the high school to rally the troops. This is the one thing, aside from graduation that any student of Easton looks forward to their senior year.
It certainly wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without this tradition and I remember listening to it on a crappy old AM radio we had lying around. Sometimes, even on the clearest of Thursdays, you could barely hear the game amidst the static of the signal, but it didn’t matter.
And now the number one memory I have about Thanksgiving growing up:
1. Family: Aside from the shows, the football, the parade and the turkey, my favorite Thanksgiving memories growing up are about family. The best ones being spent with my grandmother and disabled grandfather. He had suffered a stroke and due to his paralysis was unable to join us downstairs, so we would always bring Thanksgiving to him. Some of the happiest times of my childhood were spent sitting on the couch next to him breaking bread (and if I was REALLY lucky, getting him to watch Godzilla with me).
Although nowhere near the same now, I suppose I can still thankfully celebrate these “traditions” every year. DVDs can be put in and the football game and Peace Candle ceremony can be attended. But even though technology evolves and the participants in the football game change, one thing will always remain.
So, as you gather around the table to continue your own Thanksgiving traditions, my wish is that you be surrounded by good food, good health, good memories and most of all…family.
They call it “Broadway’s Best Party”, and for good reason. As any child of the 80′s (like me) will tell you, Rock of Ages isn’t just a musical, it’s an experience.
It’s one part theatrical stage production and one part rock concert, all performed on a gritty, LA themed stage set that makes you feel like you’re back in time. A combination love story / feel-good comedy coupled with music that defined the 80′s generation creating a truly unique party environment.
Lead actors Kate Rockwell and Aaron Finley both missed the 80′s the first time around, but now get the chance to live it again every night on stage.
Backed by a full-on rock band with guys who regularly perform in Night Ranger and Blondie, the duo (along with the rest of the company) perform as many as eight shows a week at New York’s Helen Hayes Theatre.
I spoke with both Rockwell and Finley about their own Rock of Ages experience. They also let me in on what they love most about the 80′s and offer good advice for up and coming actors!
Was being on Broadway something you both always dreamed about doing?
Rockwell: For me, it was always Broadway. From the time I was very young I remember singing along to the cast album of Godspell. Even if I didn’t know what the words meant at the time, I’d usually make up syllable sounds [laughs].
Finley: Although I grew up loving to sing and my parents had always encouraged me to pursue it, I actually didn’t know what musical theater was until I was in my 20s in college and just fell in love with it.
You weren’t around to actually experience the 80′s, but what is it you like most about that period of time?
Rockwell: In the 80′s, there was a general sense of freedom that was really prevalent in the culture. Everyone really did just want to have a great time and celebrate. I think that was a cool energy to be a part of and why people really love the music from that era. It captures that energy and carries it across generations. It really was a special time.
Finley: Everything back then was so flamboyant and over the top. What’s really interesting is that a lot of the cool things from the 80′s (like the fashion and neon colors) are starting to filter back into culture and people are getting the chance to experience it all again.
What’s it like having an actual rock band as part of the production?
Rockwell: It’s amazing. Not only are they spectacular musicians, but they’re also characters in the show. They play key roles and are just as much a part of the company as they are musicians. When I first joined the show, I remember looking to them to really understand what it was I was doing, because they represent exactly what we’re trying to recreate. They’re great people and so much fun to work with.
Finley: They’re world-class rock stars and it’s an honor just to be able to rock out with guys who not only know, but actually live the music from this era. They know their instruments better than anyone I’ve ever met.
Rockwell: And it’s not like they’ve “retired” to Broadway. They’re still recording and out touring for weeks at a time doing their real gigs. They’re not reminiscing about when was rock was great. They’re still doing great rock!
How did you get your start?
Rockwell: I knew that this was going to be my path early on. I did a lot of theater in high school and have a music degree from college with a specialty in musical theater.
Finley: For me, I always knew that I wanted to sing, but I just wasn’t sure as to what capacity. Then while I was in school, I was introduced to theater through a show called “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat”.
I got to play Joseph and had a blast. Being in a show where I could sing, act and be on stage in front of everyone was everything I loved all rolled up into one. I ended up switching majors and jumped into theater. I worked professionally in Seattle for seven years and then decided to make the move with my family to New York to see what could happen.
What’s the best thing about living New York?
Finley: I’m still somewhat of a newbie here, but I think it’s the diversity. There’s so much to see and so many different things to do. There are actually more languages spoken in New York than anywhere else in the world. I’m still taking it all in and processing it, but it’s just fascinating with all of its diversity.
Rockwell: The immediacy is what I love the most. The fact that at any time, anywhere in this city you can have whatever you want. You can find anything at any time, day or night.
Is there any advice you can give to up and coming actors?
Rockwell: The most important thing to remember is that you can’t be anyone else, you can only be yourself and no one else can be you. You may never be the tallest or be able to sing the highest, but you’ll always be the only person who can do what you can do. Sometimes it might be difficult because you can get boxed in and people may try to tell you what you are or what you’re not. But the more you stay true to yourself, the more success will come to you.
Finley: I think it’s also important to not let it be the one thing that dominates your life.
Being able to explore and do lots of different things is key. Whether it be sports, hobbies or other interests, open yourself up to new things. The more life you’re able to experience, the better the actor you’ll become.
In Ambushed, agents Maxwell (Dolph Lundgren) and Beverly (Carly Jones) are closing in on an international cocaine smuggling operation that’s being run by criminal mastermind Vincent Camastra (Vinnie Jones). But when Beverly goes undercover with mid-level drug dealers Eddie and Frank (Gianni Capaldi and Daniel Bonjour, respectively) she finds herself in deeper then she can handle. The case then becomes personal for Maxwell who has to combat ruthless killers and a dirty cop (Randy Couture) in an all-out action filled finale.
Ambushed is told from the point of view of Eddie and Frank; two seedy guys who want nothing more than to become bigger players in the game. But their quest for glory goes awry and in the process sets off a murderous series of events.
Couture plays crooked detective Jack Reiley, an officer disgruntled with the current state of the LA system who decides to strong-arm his way into the drug business for a fast pay-day and early retirement. Meanwhile, Lundren plays DEA agent Maxwell, a man who’s seen his own share of destruction, but has kept his path on the straight and narrow.
What I didn’t like: Although the context of the story certainly gives a general indication, my biggest complaint with Ambushed was the lack of a definable plot and difficulty in determining just who the actual “bad guy” really is. Is it Eddie and Frank? The criminal mastermind, Vincent? Or is it the dirty cop, Jack? The film leads you in many different directions, none of which making any real sense. In fact, many of the scenes through out the film appear to have either been rushed or leave you just scratching your head. For instance, there’s a chase scene between Lundgren and Couture’s characters that initially begins on foot in broad daylight, but ends with Lundgren catching Couture long after dark in the pouring down rain.
What I did like: I enjoyed watching Lundgren and Couture’s characters develop over the course of the film. Let’s face it, both of these guys are already giants of “bad ass”, so it was no surprise that it was only a matter of time before they faced off against each other.
There’s also a scene where Eddie and Frank are bantering on about the violence in a Bugs Bunny cartoon that I thought was terrific. While Eddie’s describing the animated scene in detail, a real-life violent confrontation is playing out at the exact same time across town. It’s a pity the rest of the film didn’t follow through with this kind of formula.
Lundgren fans will certainly find something to savor with Ambushed, but for me the film came up empty. Although living up to the title’s expectation, I ended up feeling incomplete and wanting more. (Two of Five Stars)