Archive for the ‘American Idol’ Category

POP CULTURE HIGHLIGHTS OF 2011

December 28, 2011

Here’s my annual list of what excited and entertained me in the world of show biz this year:

10. What was my most exciting surprise star sighting of 2011? Was it running into Mark Pellegrino in the hallway of the Convention Center at the San Diego Comic Con and asking him to sign my “Lost” DVD (if I had known then how much I would enjoy his work on “The Closer” this year, I would have embarrassed him with praise!)? Was it standing in the buffet line at the after-screening party for “Take Me Home Tonight” and slowly realizing that the guy in front of me in line was Zac Efron (hey, he had a buzzcut, so he wasn’t that recognizable)? No, the most exciting surprise sighting was exploring the huge ballrooms at the Rio in Las Vegas during the World Series of Poker, walking along aisle after aisle and not spotting anyone famous, only to stop at a table and realize I was staring at Phil Hellmuth, the bad boy of poker! I didn’t see any tantrums though, as Phil seemed to be in a good mood, talking and laughing with his fellow players. Must have been the lack of TV cameras…

9. I have long wished that Barry Manilow would put out one more great album with the kind of varied music of his classic seventies albums. I had to wait through five straight CD’s of covers, but on his latest album, “15 Minutes,” Barry did just that, and included a soaring ballad that belongs with his best called “Bring On Tomorrow.” And let’s give an honorable mention to Richard Marx, who also released some great new songs on his “Stories To Tell” album, “When You Loved Me” and “Loved.”

8. This year I was hired to write a TV show, “The Greatest Duets: It Takes Two,” for PBS. The show was hosted by Kenny Loggins and I got to have lunch with Kenny, an artist whose music I have enjoyed for years.

7. Another artist whose work I have enjoyed for years is that of my friend Ernie Halter. It was great fun this year watching as Ernie added to his fanbase, thanks to Justin Bieber! First Justin covered Ernie’s song, “Come Home To Me,” at a concert and then he attended one of Ernie’s shows and sang it with him. And thanks to the spotlight Justin gave Ernie, Ernie gained a lot of new fans, including just under half a million followers on Twitter. Pay it forward, indeed!

6. I was very happy to see USA bring one of my favorite authors’ books to TV with the movie, “John Sandford’s Certain Prey.” More please!

5. While I always enjoy attending the finale of “American Idol” each year, this year had special significance, even though no one knew it at the time. It was the final performance by saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who was featured on Lady Gaga’s “The Edge Of Glory.” I listen constantly to my Springsteen CD’s and Clarence was a huge part of making Bruce’s music come alive. RIP, Big Man!

4. Another one of my musical heroes is Elton John. While I have never interviewed him, I did get a chance this year to ask him a question at a press conference promoting a film he produced, “Gnomeo And Juliet.” And I was rewarded with a long thoughtful answer about Elton’s influences and his constant search for great new music.

3. Another big Comic-Con highlight came at a panel hosted by Entertainment Weekly’s “Lost” writers Dan Snierson and Jeff Jensen. They were interrupted by a guy in a stormtrooper’s uniform, who was revealed to be “Lost” producer Carlton Cuse, who was soon joined by the second half of the Darlton team, Damon Lindelof. Between a long Q&A and the reveal of a hilarious “lost” “Lost” scene, it was a grand goodbye to a great show.

2. While I may never see another show I love as much as “Lost,” I have to give props to all the great series on FX I discovered this year. First I got into the second season of “Justified,” which was full of great acting and engrossing plots. Then a few months later while on vacation, I was up late and saw a few episodes of “Louie” and instantly loved the show’s surrealistic brand of comedy and drama. Truly amazing. And just a few months ago, I saw “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” for the first time and thanks to reruns on FX, Comedy Central and syndication, I’m already caught up with every episode. “Seinfeld” but with even worst people? I love it! Now if FX would only greenlight “Powers”…

1. I took my annual trip to Las Vegas to work on the Academy Of Country Music Awards as well as the special “Girls Night Out” and was wowed by Carrie Underwood’s one-two punch. First she did a surprise duet with Steven Tyler at the ACMA’s on “Walk This Way” that was the highlight of the show and then turned around and topped that performance the next night with her stunning rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” I also have a few more personal highlights from working on the shows, including meeting the great John Fogerty (okay, he just thanked me when I got him some water, but still!) and getting to speak to another of my favorites, the shockingly tall Vince Gill, when I happened upon him sitting outside the rehearsal room. Do I now have some Vince Gill autographed CD’s? Of course!

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POP CULTURE HIGHLIGHTS OF 2010

December 25, 2010

Here’s my year end wrap-up of what I really enjoyed this year:

1.  “NCIS”:  Back in March, I helped out my friend Chuck The Movie Guy by filming a few of his interviews on the red carpet at the Paley Television Festival. I joined him to cover “Flash Forward,” “Cougar Town” and “NCIS,” and I never would have imagined that a few months later the latter show would become my biggest pop culture obsession of 2010 (which is another way of saying my biggest obsession).

My friend Brad had gotten obsessed with the show a few months before me and had soon seen every episode, a goal made easy by the fact they constantly show old episodes on USA Network. Based on Brad’s recommendation, I caught a few shows while visiting my hometown, and just like Brad, I soon devoted my free time to seeing every episode. Well, almost every episode. I have two more to see. I should have known this would happen. From “Magnum P.I.” to “Quantum Leap” to “JAG,” there hasn’t been one long running show created by Donald Bellisario that I haven’t loved.

2.  “LOST”:  Many were disappointed at the way the show wrapped up, but I liked it just fine all the way to the end. Maybe “Lost” was never as complicated as we viewers thought while trying to puzzle out it’s mysteries through the years, but the revelation of the meaning of the alternate universe still packed a punch. I never thought there would be another show as important to me as “The X-Files,” but this was it.

3.  “BROOKS & DUNN: THE LAST RODEO”:  So many reasons this is on the list. My annual week in Las Vegas working on the show that tapes the night after the Academy Of Country Music Awards is always a joy. The week included such highlights as sitting in on an interview with Carrie Underwood, my first look at City Center and hanging out just a few feet away from great performers like Keith Urban and Jennifer Hudson as they ran through their songs. Then there was the ACMA show itself, the always fun after-party where act after act goes onstage and does a song or two (I loved Laura Bell Bundy singing Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary” exactly like Tina Turner, complete with choreography and backup dancers) and “The Last Rodeo” itself, enlivened considerably by the hilarious Kix Brooks.

4.  COMIC-CON:  I only decided to go the week of the show and I’m glad I did, as I got to meet some of my favorite stars, including Pauley Perrette of “NCIS” and Elizabeth Mitchell of “V,” which allowed me to add another signature to my “Lost” DVD box.  Sure, I had to wait in some long lines, but it was totally worth it. And then there was the moment Saturday night as I was packing to leave and suddenly fireworks started lighting up the sky across the street over the convention center. Magic…

5.  The “American Idol” Finale:  While I have to admit I wasn’t too excited by Lee DeWyze’s win, I did enjoy the parade of guest stars like the Bee Gees, Chicago and Hall & Oates and was amazed by Bret Michaels’ appearance so soon after his hospital stay. The show was followed by the always enjoyable after-party, highlighted by Siobahn Magnus’ joy at meeting her idols, the brothers Hanson, as well as catching up with some of my Idol favorites from past seasons.

6.  “Mad Men”:  This was the year I finally really got into the show. “The Suitcase” was the best hour of TV I saw this year.

7.  “The King’s Speech”:  My favorite movie of the year. I was into it right from the very beginning. Funny and touching in equal measure.

8.  Gary Oldman:  My favorite interview of the year came during the junket for “The Book Of Eli,” as Gary admitted he chooses his roles these days around his life as a single father, explained how he turns on the emotion for his angry scenes and admitted he was having such a good time, he didn’t want to leave the room.  We didn’t want him to leave either.

9.  “Inception”:  The only movie this year I couldn’t wait to see. I vote the top keeps spinning!

10. “Sherlock”:  A superb BBC miniseries shown on public TV here in America. Not that I didn’t enjoy the Robert Downey, Jr. version, but this was the Sherlock I grew up knowing.

11.  “Heartbreaker”:  The French show the Americans how it’s done. A great premise and likable leads remind us that a great romantic comedy need not be just a flick for chicks.

IDOLPALOOZA 2010

June 4, 2010

Last week was pretty much all “American Idol” all the time, starting with an interview with Bo Bice on Monday. Bo was appearing on Game Show Network’s “GSN Live,” so Fred Bronson and I headed out to the GSN Studios in nearby Glendale to meet with Bo in his dressing room. Half of the interview was devoted to Bo’s new album and can be seen on Fred’s Idols Now app for the Iphone, while the non-video portion centered on Bo’s run on “American Idol,” one of many interviews we’ve been doing for a secret project that’s due out next year. As always, Bo was the consummate Southern gentleman, and certainly one of the most charismatic Idols I’ve ever met. The big revelation of the interview was that in Bo’s justifiably praised acapella version of “In A Dream” on “Idol,” he hit a bum note that has bothered him ever since. I checked out the performance on You Tube, and if you didn’t know it was there, you’d think it was something Bo tried to do!

The next day, Fred and I headed downtown for the final performance night of Season 9. We got a late start and arrived not too long before the show started. Fortunately, Fred had a parking pass that got us in a garage right across from the theater. Our seats were in Row NN, which was pretty far back although we still had a great view of the stage. I thought Crystal won the night, although given the screams for Lee, I wasn’t at all surprised when he was crowned the winner the following night.

Wednesday, we got downtown quite a bit earlier, enabling us to have lunch at The Farm restaurant, followed by a few hours on the red carpet before the show. I took a spot near the TV Guide Network booth where Justin Guarini and Brooke White were greeting the Idols. I got a chance to say hello to Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young, using their weekly break from “Hair” on Broadway to attend the finale, as well as play the game of “Spot The Idol,” seeing such past contestants as Kristy Lee Cook, Melinda Doolittle and Michael Johns on the Red Carpet. I also got a sneak preview of the evening’s special guests with Daryl Hall & John Oates as well as Alice Cooper being interviewed. But the biggest surprise was when a limo pulled up and out stepped Raquel Welch! Here I had traveled to Pasadena to attend one of her book signings recently and there she was right in front of me.

Of course, the show itself was another triumph for the producers. For me, the highlight was seeing Bret Michaels take the stage so soon after his recent health problems. I’ve always had a fondness for Bret, as he’s from Pennsylvania and played the same bars I went to as a college student.

After the show, Fred and I stopped off at the KISS FM Viewing Party at the nearby Regal Cinemas, then got in my car and headed for the Mondrian Hotel on the Sunset Strip for the 19 Entertainment party. After getting to the party late one year and missing out on all the food, Fred and I have not made the same mistake again. In addition to chowing down, there was plenty of hobnobbing with my favorite Idols. I said hello to Kris Allen. I complimented Casey James on his amazing duet with Bret Michaels and learned that their team-up had been in the works long before Bret’s recent health problems. I congratulated David Archuleta on what a great job he does keeping in touch with his fans, thanks to his constant video blogging. In typical Archuleta fashion, he laughed off his efforts.

I told Carly Smithson how I couldn’t get “With Or Without You” out of my head after seeing her band’s acoustic version on Billboard.com. But the most enjoyable moment of the night came in two parts. Early on, we came upon Siobhan Magnus in the lobby. Someone had told her that the members of her absolute favorite music group of all time, Hanson, were at the party. Siobhan couldn’t have been more excited, but when I checked with the keepers of the guest list, they said that Issac, Taylor and Zac weren’t on the list, so I figured that Siobhan was not about to meet her heroes. But later when we were leaving the hotel, we saw her again and she told us that the Hanson brothers had been at the party and she got to talk to them for a long time. There’s photos of them together on the internet if you need the proof.

Other Idols that attended were the rest of the Season 9 crew, including Lee and Crystal, plus  Bo Bice, Scott MacIntyre and Brooke White and Justin Guarini, fresh from their TV Guide duties. I spent a little time with Brooke’s husband, Dave, who was patiently waiting to go home as he had to get up at six in the morning for work. I’d be more sympathetic, except he had tickets to the Laker game the following evening, where he was planning on rooting for Phoenix. I also spotted Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell, producer ken Warwick, former Idol producer and “So You Think You Can Dance” mastermind Nigel Lythgoe and Idol creator Simon Fuller, who didn’t step into the VIP area once.

A truly exciting night, but there was more Idol on the way on Friday, with interviews with LaToya London and Nick Mitchell, the real life alias of wacky Norman Gentle. I actually drove Nick down to the airport Friday night, bringing Idolpalooza 2010 officially to a close!

AMERICAN IDOL SEASON 9: TOP 24 ANALYSIS (LADIES FIRST!)

February 24, 2010

After all the advance word that a woman would win “Idol” this year, ladies’ night was a bit underwhelming. One contestant, Crystal Bowersox, does stand head and shoulders above the rest, although I’m not sure such a rough edged performer can win the whole thing. Let’s see what we got…

PAIGE MILES – “All Right Now”

Came on like a blues mama, but it was strange that she didn’t change the gender of the song. Maybe she was fishing for the Ellen vote?

ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ – “Happy”

Good energy and a Mariah style voice, but she seems to be popping her P’s in the microphone.

JANELL WHEELER – “What About Love”

I had high hopes for Janell based on her audition, but those hopes are fading fast. I still like the mixture of gravel and sweet in her voice, but her voice wasn’t powerful enough for the song.

LILY SCOTT – “Fixing A Hole”

One of the most left field song choices ever. I did like the way she controlled her vocal dynamics from soft to loud. She’ll have to pick songs that will connect with the audience if she hopes to stick around.

KATELYN EPPPERLY – “Oh Darling”

A strong voice and she’s sexy without overplaying the role. Certainly in the top three best of the night, even though the song has never been a favorite of mine.

HAELEY VAUGHAN – “I Want To Hold Your Hand”

While I’ve never been one to worry about what the contestants are wearing, I thought Haeley’s little girl outfit didn’t do her any favors. And while the song was unusually arranged, it was a bit screechy at times.

LACEY BROWN – “Landslide”

A weird vocal that didn’t do anything for the song.

MICHELLE DELAMOR – “Fallen”

A very grown-up professional performance, if a little bit Broadway in her movements.  Still Syesha Mercado did well a few seasons ago, so Michelle may stick around a bit.

DIDI BENAMI – “The Way I Am”

A very ornate vocal that didn’t match the smooth delivery of the original recording.

SIOBHAN MAGNUS – “Wicked Game”

An interesting choice of song and a great vocal tone. Could she bring even bigger emotions to the stage a la my beloved Maria McKee. We’ll see.

CRYSTAL BOWERSOX – “Hand In My Pocket”

A great voice that lifts her way above all those subway singers Simon referred to. Is talent enough for her to triumph in the competition? It worked for Fantasia and Taylor Hicks, didn’t it?

KATIE STEVENS – “Feeling Good”

I bet the producers were surprised when the judges thought she hadn’t hit it out of the park, having gifted her with the last spot and intricate camerawork. I myself find it hard to judge her based on a jazz song, so I’ll just say she has a good voice with room for growth.

MY FAVORITE TUNES FROM IDOL GRADS

January 16, 2010

In celebration of the return of “American Idol” for Season 9, Entertainment Weekly published a gallery of their “28 Top Tunes From Idol Grads.” Here’s my list, lopped down to 20… and keep in mind that I haven’t heard every post-Idol Idol album, so if your favorite isn’t here, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

20.  “I Got You” – Blake Lewis

From Blake’s first post-Idol album, “Audio Day Dream,” a great pop song that shows Lewis can always start a second career as a producer of boy bands…

19.  “The Trouble With Love Is” – Kelly Clarkson

My favorite song from Kelly’s debut, “Thankful”…

18.  “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You” – Kellie Pickler

A ballad so good, it’s on both of Kellie’s albums…

17.  “The Difference In Me” – Diana DeGarmo

My favorite pop-rock song from Diana’s “Blue Skies” album…

16.  “Tattoo” – Jordin Sparks

While “Battlefield” turned up on a lot of Top Ten lists this year, this is still my favorite single from Jordin…

15.  “Change” – Brooke White

Brooke put out a quality CD before “American Idol.” This is my favorite cut from “Songs From The Attic”…

14.  “Eighth World Wonder” – Kimberley Locke

Kimberley showed every Idol contestant how to launch a career without being signed by 19 after the show with this great single…

13.  “When You Say You Love Me” – Clay Aiken

There are a number of great songs on Clay’s debut like “Invisible” and “Measure Of A Man,” but this breezy love song co-written by Darren Hayes is my favorite…

12.  “Soul Thing” – Taylor Hicks

The Soul Patrol anthem, it should have been a single…

11.  “Nothin’ To Lose” – Josh Gracin

Josh does his best country speed rap, and hit number one on the country charts in the process…

10.  “I Could” – Kimberley Locke

One of the many winners from Kim’s first album, “One Love”…

9.  “Do I Make You Proud” – Taylor Hicks

Probably the least liked Idol finale song, at least until “No Boundaries” came along, but it really grew on me as time went on…

8.  “Wasted” – Carrie Underwood

Because I have trouble relating to songs about duplicitous men (see “Before He Cheats” and “Cowboy Casanova”), this blazing vocal from Carrie is my favorite from her…

7.  “Best Days Of Your Life” – Kellie Pickler

Uh, unless it’s Kellie telling off a duplicitous ex…

6.  “Vehicle” – Bo Bice

Yes, I have plenty of Bo’s songs on my Ipod like “You’re Everything” and “The Real Thing,” but this Ides Of March remake just plain rocks…

5.  “Home” – Daughtry

If you live away from the place you grew up, this is your theme song…

4.  “Forward” – Ayla Brown

A beautiful ballad from someone I wish had made it a little farther into the competition…

3.  “The Time Of My Life” – David Cook

While his album rocked out, David’s finale song crosses all boundaries…

2.  “Love Story” – Katherine McPhee

Pop candy at it’s best…

1.  “Since U Been Gone” – Kelly Clarkson

Not just the best Idol single yet, but one of the best songs of the last decade. I’ll never understand how this failed to make it to number one…

TOP TV SHOWS OF 2009

December 25, 2009

While I see a lot of movies thanks to my job covering movie junkets for the Interview Factory, the truth is I enjoy the TV shows I watch more than all but just  two or three of the movie I see each year. Here’s what I loved in 2009 (and you’ll notice I loved so many shows, I made the list a Top Twelve):

12. “PSYCH” – I just started watching this show in the last year. It has a lot of things going for it, with the fast talking chemistry between stars James Roday and Dule Hill first and foremost. I first got hooked thanks to a terrific tribute to slasher movies, and have since been impressed by some of the mystery plots, which are actually a challenge to solve.

11.  “CRIMINAL MINDS” – I stopped watching this show early on during the first season and only recently tried it again… if by try, you mean watching it non-stop thanks to the omnipresent re-runs on Ion and A&E. The show is the television equivalent of the thriller books I read, and does a good job of coming up with varied plots week after week. This is the kind of show where the actors could easily get bored and you have to admire the way they bring their A game every epiosde. And one more thing: producer Edward Allen Bernero is the Joss Whedon of serial killer thrillers. Whenever he writes and directs an episode, the show is at it’s best.

10.  “AMERICAN DAD” – As much as I love “Family Guy,” “American Dad” pays more attention to each week’s plots, making the show more reliably funny. The fact that I can actually remember the plots (including a hilarious satire of “Apocalypse Now” set at a golf course recreation of Vietnam) proves it.

9.  “FRINGE” – Here’s a show that’s really improved in it’s second season, thanks to making Joshua Jackson’s Peter a full partner to Anna Torv’s Olivia. With John Noble’s Walter Bishop the most enjoyable to watch eccentric genius on TV and a new focus on the show’s mythology driving the action, “Fringe” should keep rising up this list in the years to come.

8.  “HOUSE” – While some critics and viewers haven’t enjoyed the revolving door changes of House’s staff, I haven’t minded it, as it gives House a different cast each week to bounce ideas off of and bother. Add in more time for fave characters Wilson and Cuddy and the continued great writing of House’s quips and you’ve got a show that continues to be a lot of fun every week.

7.  “MONK” – In recent seasons, the mysteries may have gotten easier to solve, but the writers continued to find interesting situations that forced Monk to battle his phobias. But this is on the list for the perfect way “Monk” ended, giving closure to one of the most likable casts on TV. Seeing Adrian wear something different  in the final scene warmed my heart.

6.  “CSI” – Thursday night at 9 is TV’s biggest battleground. I watch three shows at that time, so I’m glad that “CSI” is on Hulu. Yes, I miss Gil Grissom as much as the next fan, but every week the show serves up an intriguing mystery with great production values.

5.  “AMERICAN IDOL” – This year’s exciting duel between Kris Allen and Adam Lambert made “Idol” more exciting than ever, but the real surprise was Paula Abdul’s final year as a judge had her making the most sense on the panel.

4.  “24” – “24” tried a new format this year. Rather than trying to string a threat along through too many episodes, the show became almost a series of mini-movies (my favorite: “Die Hard” in the White House). “24” also seemed to have fewer stupid plot points with even the White House intrigue and the coming of Kim Bauer adding to the fun.

3.  “BURN NOTICE” – While this is one of USA’s top rated show, I often run into people that have never heard of it, and that’s a shame. “Burn Notice” has a retro feel in that it mixes the plotting of “Mission Impossible” with the likable cast and tropical feel of “Magnum P.I.” Just pure fun…

2.  “SUPERNATURAL” – Here’s my nominee for most improved show. While it’s always mixed exciting horror movie type plots with outstanding comedic episodes, the past two seasons have seen the show raising it’s game with the rising of Lucifer and subsequent battle against the devil. And in the midst of all the end of the world seriousness, they haven’t stinted on the comedy with recent episodes showing the Winchester brothers visiting a “Supernatural” fan convention and surviving being trapped inside various hellish TV shows.

1.  “LOST” – Not just my favorite show of the year, but perhaps my favorite show of all time (oh “X-Files,” what could have been!). I probably spend more time reading about “Lost” on the internet than I spend watching other shows! Let’s just see if they can stick the landing this coming year.

I’ll admit the fifth season brought us some illogical plot turns like why Juliet, Sawyer and Kate got off the sub or the method the 815’ers used to get back to the island, but it also brought us the usual great acting from Terry O’Quinn, Michael Emerson and company, interesting time travel conundrums and yes, answers! But while I think I finally have a handle on what’s been going on these past five seasons, I don’t think the surprises are over yet. Bring it on, Darlton!

TOP TEN POP CULTURE MEMORIES OF 2009

December 21, 2009

Credit where credit is due: Whitney Matheson of USA Today’s Pop Candy blog put together a list of her Top Ten Pop Culture Memories of the past year, which included parties, screenings and concerts.  Loved the idea,  so I copied the idea. Here we go…

10.  “THE AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS”:

Not quite as fun as the 2008 version, when I hung out during the show with friends who were hunting autographs and photos to impress their kids in the dressing room hallway. We  spotted such stars as Mariah Carey, the Jonas Brothers and Coldplay, who were more than happy to pose.

Still, the AMA’s make the list because this is the year I realized that with a Production Pass, you could just take an empty seat in the back of the hall during the show. But that wasn’t good enough for one of my friends who used to help coordinate the audiences for big events like this. He asked one of the staff to sit us in the front row for a while, and while we only made it to the third row (they were saving the empty front row seats for Marc Anthony as his wife Jennifer Lopez was about to perform), we still were darn close for J. Lo and Whitney Houston…

9.  “THE AMAZING RACE”:

I had the chance to spend a week in Dubai this year, so I loved seeing the two episodes of the Race that were shot in the Emirates. Like the contestants, I visited the Burj Dubai, the Gold Souk, the indoor ski resort Ski Dubai and the Madinat Jumeriah resort. I didn’t make it to that fateful water slide, but unlike Mika, I would have went down it if I had…

8.  “THE ACM ALL STAR JAM”:

While I was in Las Vegas to work on the event you’ll read about at  # 2, I got a chance to attend “The Academy Of Country Music Awards.” And while it was a great show, the real winner was the one that wasn’t on TV. Every year the ACM hosts an informal concert right after the Awards in a ballroom at the MGM Grand. And while I missed an appearance by Kenny Chesney because of a late dinner, I really enjoyed what I did see, including John Rich, the Zac Brown Band and best of all, the newly crowned Entertainer Of The Year, Carrie Underwood in the most no holds barred performance I’ve ever seen her give…

7.  THE “TERMINATOR SALVATION” PRESS DAY:

For years, I’ve been filling a copy of “The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told” with the autographs of everyone who has added to the legend of the Dark Knight, whether in comics, movies or television. So far I have fifty autographs (including the late Bob Kane, the creator of Batman who was the first person to sign the book) and not one person has personalized it by writing “Thanks, Brian” or anything like that. I’d like to keep the book pristine in that way, but it bothers me that I might have to skip getting someone’s signature for that reason. Which brings me to Christian Bale…

I’ve never seen Christian Bale sign anything without asking for a person’s name to personalize it. I brought my “Batman” book to two previous interviews with Mr. Bale, yet never brought it out for that reason. But there I was sitting beside him at the “Terminator Salvation” roundtables and I decided to chance it. Sure enough, he asked who he should make it out to. I said, “If you wouldn’t mind, could you just put your name?” Christian said, “How do I know you won’t put this on E-Bay?” Fortunately, one of the other interviewers piped up and said that would never happen, as I’ve been getting the book signed for years now. So Christian actually signed it and I breathed a sigh of relief. Now let me point you to my auction on E-Bay… Never!

6. THE “AMERICAN IDOL” FINALE:

This was just a great day, starting with lunch with Neil Sedaka and my friend Fred Bronson, great seats for the finale at the Nokia Theater (with the Kiss appearance and the announcement of the winner being the highlights) and ending with the “19” party which featured appearances by not just this year’s contestants, but many from past years. I especially enjoyed the moment when Kris Allen’s father was telling us about how people were already leaving messages on their porch for Kris and David Archuleta piped in and said, “That’s nothing. We have people walking right into our house!”

5.  TERRY FATOR AT THE MIRAGE:

This year I went to my first Cirque Du Soleil show, “O,” at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. In spite of all the raves I’ve heard over the years, I certainly wasn’t bowled over. I found the show unfocused, meandering and not all that exciting. But that same week, I did see a show I loved, Terry Fator at the Mirage. I had never seen Terry during his winning season on “America’s Got Talent,” so I was amazed by his ability to sing without opening his mouth. Terry proved to be a master impressionist and a great singer all at the same time, combining great music with plenty of laughs…

4.  “STAR TREK”:

I have been a “Star Trek” fan since high school, and while I wasn’t too worried that J.J. Abrams would screw up the reboot as I really liked his work on “Mission Impossible III,” I never imagined this new “Trek” would be so well done, so exciting and respectful to what came before. I literally had tears in my eyes watching it, because I was so happy the movie was so good…

3.  THE “LOST” SEASON FIVE FINALE:

I love “Lost” more than anything else in pop culture right now. The Season Five finale was a true game changer, with answers revealed in the opening scene, and one of the biggest “Lost” shockers ever when we learned John Locke wasn’t quite John Locke. I can’t wait for Season Six to start…

2.  “GEORGE STRAIT: ACM ARTIST OF THE DECADE ALL STAR CONCERT”:

I was the researcher on this show and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed working on a project so much. First I got to stay a week in one of my favorite places, Las Vegas. Then I got to attend the rehearsals by each performer as they worked out their songs with the house band. It was like having a private concert by the greats of country music, including Brooks & Dunn (Ronnie Dunn’s voice in person is amazing!), Alan Jackson and Keith Urban.

I was especially pleased when Taylor Swift arrived at the rehearsals and read her script for the show. She was extremely happy with it, and after she learned it was because I had done a phone interview with her about how George Strait had changed her life, she came over and gave me a hug.

But as nice as that was, it was nothing compared to sitting in the audience at the concert and watching performer after performer show their love for the man known as King George. They did it through their words and they did it through their music.  Truly an unforgettable evening…

1.  THE “LOST” PANEL AT COMIC-CON:

It was exciting enough that I actually made it into the “Lost” panel without staying overnight in line, but I never would have guessed how entertaining it would be. Kudos to the “Lost” production staff for working so hard to make this a special occasion for the fans, complete with funny videos, revealing videos and great guest appearances by the actors. Michael Emerson’s interruption of Jorge Garcia was probably the funniest thing I’ve seen all year, and it may have been topped by Nestor Carbonell’s Christian Slater impression. And it bears repeating: I can’t wait for Season 6! I wonder if anything will be able to beat out the “Lost” season finale for number one on this list come next year…

ALL DAY AND ALL OF THE NIGHT AT AMERICAN IDOLS LIVE 2009

July 17, 2009

Spent the day in and around Staples Center where the American Idols Live Tour lit up the night. However, for the Idols, it was a full day of work. They started with a press event at 2:30 which I attended with Fred Bronson, who was gathering quotes for a possible radio special. There were journalists and interviewers from radio, TV and print. Each participant got a minute or two with each Idol. Kris Allen had just returned from Arkansas and immediately joined the lineup.

Next up for the Idols was a meet and greet with fans, who got their shirts and programs signed and also got to take photos with their favorites. Meanwhile, I went to Starbucks, followed by dinner at Wolfgang Puck. The service was a little slow but we still made it back across the street in time for the show.

While I didn’t feel this was the best of the “American Idol” concerts I’ve seen over the years (I’ve previously attended the Los Angeles concerts for Season 3, 4, 5 and 7), it was still an entertaining show. Some of the highlights included Scott MacIntyre’s take on Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” every one of Matt Giraud’s three songs (he brought such passion and showmanship to his set, he seemed like a totally different artist than the one who competed on “Idol”), and Allison Iraheta’s “Cry Baby” and especially her version of Heart’s “Barracuda,” which had all the power and intensity of the original. Of course, the Top Three shined. I enjoyed the variety that Danny Gokey brought to his set, mixing the R&B pop of Michael Jackson’s “PYT” with the Latin spark of “Maria Maria” by Santana, then showing his heart on two Rascall Flatts songs, “What Hurts The Most” and “My Wish.” And I have to admit, after reading a bit about Danny’s interlude where he does a bit of preaching, I was worried it might spoil my enjoyment of his set but the opposite happened. Rather than making the moment about him, he makes it about the audience, encouraging everyone to follow their dreams and not to let anything stop them.

Next up was the performer the audience had been waiting for, yet it was a performer they had never seen. That’s because we were about to witness Adam Lambert unleashed. Adam showed off not just his great voice and rocking spirit, but also a gallery of rock star poses and quite a bit of hip action. The audience ate it up, and the excitement went even higher when Allison joined Adam for “Slow Ride.”

Of course, Kris Allen was the night’s final solo performer and in addition to his emotional take on “American Idol” favorites “Heartless” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Kris let out his inner rock star on Matchbox 20’s “Bright Lights.” Then Kris was joined by the rest of the Top Five for “Hey Jude.” Kris got the lyric on the first verse wrong (I asked him about it later and he just hung his head in shame), but at the time, I actually thought that maybe they had edited the song for time. Still, the sing-along chorus was perfect for the event, as was the final song, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” The song started with Scott and Matt playing piano and trading off lines and believe me, they both have that famous Steve Perry falsetto perfected!

After the show, we headed upstairs onto an outdoor balcony for the after-party. For a while, we were worried that a better party for VIP’s was taking place somewhere else in the building, but eventually the Idols started showing up, so we were definitely at the right place. There was plenty of time to get a chance to talk to your favorites. I got to congratulate both Matt and Danny on their triumphs, and also got to meet the families of Allison and Scott, all of whom were super nice. Also in attendance was Debra Byrd, the “Idol” vocal coach and a longtime background vocalist for one of my favorite artists, Barry Manilow. Whenever I see Byrd, I always like to bring up a concert memory I have from the many times I’ve seen Manilow in concert This time, I talked about the night in Reading, PA when the sound went on the fritz and Barry entertained the crowd by beginning a strip tease until the problem was fixed a few minutes later!

All in all, a fun concert, so if you get the chance to see the Idols on tour, by all means check them out! All you can lose is your voice (from screaming of course!)…

IDOL INTERVIEW PARADE

June 18, 2009

Haven’t posted recently, but I have been typing up a storm! Writer Fred Bronson has been working his way through interviews with all of this year’s “American Idol” Top 10, and as always I tagged along. He’s done video interviews for hollywoodreporter.com (click on TV at the top of the page, then scroll through the video interviews. Kris Allen and Scott MacIntyre have been posted so far with more to come), as well as longer interviews with some of the Idols for their official press bios. It’s my job to type up the longer bio interviews, which has resulted in more than 100 single spaced pages so far!

The “Idol” interview parade started with the two-fer of Adam Lambert and Allison Iraheta. Fred and I spent over an hour with Adam. I was fascinated to learn that for all of Adam’s confidence and mastery of the stage, his career has certainly seen it’s share of ups and downs. In fact, Adam really emphasized with the movie, “Slumdog Millionaire” because he realized that just like in the movie, all his trials helped prepare him for stardom. One of the low points was when he appeared in a production of “Debbie Does Dallas” at a Reno casino (don’t worry… we’re talking about a musical comedy version of the movie minus the sex). Adam admitted that the audience was a bit more interested in ogling the topless actresses than in hearing him sing. I was also intrigued to hear that Adam lived in my North Hollywood neighborhood when he first moved to L.A. from San Diego.

I have to admit I didn’t know much about Allison except for what I saw in her brief profiles on “Idol.” It turns out Allison didn’t quite start out as the rocker we know her as today. As a kid, she loved to sing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go” on for people. More recently, one of her high school bands was known for playing a rock version of the recent hit, “Bleeding Love.” I would love to hear that and wish she had sang it on “Idol.”

Last week, we spent an hour with Kris Allen to help Fred prepare for writing his bio. There’s little doubt the humble nice guy America fell in love with is the real Kris. Did you know that Kris has traveled all over the world doing missionary work and that he and his wife don’t even own a TV? In response to a question I asked about if he thought his dark horse status on “Idol” helped him win the competition, Kris said he always flies under the radar and his time on the show was no different.

We spent the most time with Scott MacIntyre and I learned that Scott’s “American Idol” stint barely scratched the surface of his life story. The problems he’s faced (visual impairment, kidney failure) have been mountainous, but fortunately he had the intellect and ambition not to let those challenges slow him down. Amazingly, he entered college at age 14 and later obtained a Masters Degree. But maybe what impressed me most about Scott is his determination to make sure that his appearances on “American Idol” are just the beginning of his music career. While in L.A. for tour rehearsals with the rest of the Top 10, Scott is not letting the grass grow under his feet one bit. He’s been taking non-stop meetings with both recording and music publishing companies.

Yesterday during the hour long lunch break for the tour rehearsals (yes, I heard a bit of one of the group medleys but I’ve been pledged to secrecy… I will say I can’t get one of the songs off my mind so I just put it into my Itunes!), Fred completed video interviews with Lil Rounds, Megan Joy, Matt Giraud, Michael Sarver and Anoop Desai. All of them gave great interviews, as being on “Idol” doesn’t just give the contestants lessons in stage presence. They also get plenty of practice speaking to the press. I am alarmed though by how many contestants cite Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” album as an influence on their music. For instance, if you ask Kris Allen what his earliest memory of music is, he remembers playing “Dangerous” as a kid while dancing around his room pretending to be the Gloved One.

Now don’t get me wrong… I enjoy MJ’s music as much as anyone, but I went to college when Michael was King of the Discos with “Off The Wall” and “Thriller” came out the year I moved to California so “Billie Jean’ was the big song when I first started going to nighclubs out here, so it’s hard for me to believe “Dangerous” is the album that set someone on the path to music stardom. I guess it’s the choice of a new generation!

AMERICAN IDOL SEASON 8: THE FINALE

May 21, 2009

The day started with lunch with one of my all time musical favorites, Neil Sedaka. Neil is amazingly busy these days. He has a hit children’s album called “Waking Up Is Hard To Do,” they’re doing a musical in London based on his life and he’s planning another assault on the pop charts with an album of brand new Sedaka songs. Can’t wait for that…

Neil was pulling for Adam to take home the “Idol” title, but as you all know by now, it was not to be. Still, even if you loved Adam, it was hard not to be impressed by Kris too, so I hope the Adam fans won’t take the loss too hard.

I have to say the highlights of the finale both involved Adam, as his rocking medley with Kiss got the audience on their feet cheering, and his duet with Kris on Queen’s “We Are The Champions” was the emotional high point of the show.

After the confetti flew, I headed with my friend Fred Bronson to the Mondrian Hotel for an after-party at the famous Skybar sponsored by 19 Entertainment. While it was a few hours before any Idols showed up, that was okay because it gave us a chance to sample the many dishes that the waiters and waitresses circling the party were handing out (I still have nightmares about last year’s wrap party, when Fred and I got there too late and they were done serving food, so we ended up eating at 2:00 in the morning).

The first star we saw in attendance was Janice Dickinson, but it wasn’t long before the party became a true Idolpalooza! Not only were the entire Top 13 from this year in attendance, but so were some favorites from past seasons including Bo Bice, Carly Smithson, David Cook, Diana DeGarmo, Kimberley Locke and Jason Castro. Of course, I always get a kick out of seeing Jason at these events because during an interview I sat in on during his time on Idol, he said how much he hated being asked to take photos with people. Of course, that doesn’t stop Jason from saying yes to every request with a smile. I asked Jason when we can expect an album from him. He said he’s planning on an October release and will start recording soon.

Of this year’s crew, I especially enjoyed spending a little time with Scott MacIntyre, who is every bit as funny in real life as he was on the Idol stage. And after a past Idol contestant told me how some singers in past years spent all their tour money before they even got out on the road, when I ran into Michael Sarver and his wife, I told him to be careful spending the money he’ll make on tour, but he was way ahead of me. He’s already planning some smart investments!

Of course, the party was almost like a treasure hunt, as people ran around getting their photos taken with the Idols on hand. Unfortunately, when one girl asked me to take a photo of her with Paula Abdul, her camera wouldn’t work, even after I tried five separate times. Fortunately, I didn’t have that problem when I took a photo of a friend with Kris Allen.

The most interesting conversation of the night was with Kris’s father, who was being schooled in what was ahead for his son and their family by Diana DeGarmo and David Archuleta. Mr. Allen said that people were already dropping letters to Kris on their porch (one nine year old wrote that she was single in crayon!), but David insisted that was nothing, as people had gotten inside his house! Needless to say, Mr. Allen is going to try to remember to turn on his home security system from here on out!

I also sympathized with the plight of Brooke White’s husband, David. Brooke had an early flight scheduled in the morning, but naturally she wanted to say hello to all the friends and well-wishers she could. I told Dave that he had to be the steering committe and steer her out of there. He said it was more like the tugging committee and sure enough, the next time I saw the couple, Dave was leading Brooke off to the valet parking station.

Just a very fun night. Hopefully, we’ll do it all again next year for American Idol’s ninth season finale!