Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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!

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THE SUMMER MOVIE SEASON BEGINS

April 30, 2009

This past weekend, I got the chance to cover the first press junkets for this summer’s onslaught of blockbuster movies. First up was “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” I certainly enjoyed the movie, thanks to lots of exciting action scenes and the as always perfect portrayal of Wolverine by Hugh Jackman. The movie also benefitted from a ferocious portrayal of Sabretooth by Liev Schreiber. I also enjoyed the way the film fitted into the previous “X-Men” movie continuity, as it was really a prequel to the excellent “X2.”

The interviews took place on the Fox lot on Saturday morning. While they had installed some nice backdrops on Stage 20 for the television interviews, the radio press conference took place in a tent outside the soundstage. We got five members of the cast at once, plus director Gavin Hood. As if it wasn’t hot enough in the unfortunately black colored tent,  Hugh Jackman was sitting right under a very hot light but it didn’t seem to bother him.

Most of the questions centered on the training that most of the actors undertook for the movie. Hugh said he never worked harder to get in shape, while Ryan Reynolds talked about training with swords for his portrayal of Deadpool and Taylor Kitsch constantly practiced manipulating a deck of cards to play Gambit.

One thing I found interesting as an X-Men fan is that originally Hugh wanted to make a movie about Wolverine’s adventures in Japan based on the popular 1982 miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller but he was convinced by Fox that after all the talk in the “X-Men” series about Wolverine’s origins that it would be better to finally show them. Jackman said he’d like to explore the Japanese material next if there was another Wolverine movie. Hugh’s not one to count on something that hasn’t yet happened though. Someone asked him if he would host the Oscars again and he replied, “They’d have to ask me first.”

As the cast members filed out, I took the opportunity to ask Hugh to sign my hardback copy of “Marvel: The Characters And Their Universe,” and he readily obliged. He’s definitely one of the more charming actors around and is always a pleasure to talk to.

THE BEST INTERVIEWS OF 2008

December 24, 2008

Here’s a list of the interviews I enjoyed the most during the past year. I only included interviews that were live and in person, which leaves out some memorable phone interviews by the likes of Nelly Furtado and Katy Perry. Oh, and I think it will be more interesting if we countdown to number one. Shall we?

10. Kate Hudson & Matthew McConaughey, “Fool’s Gold”:

For once, I didn’t mind it when two stars were paired up. They had an easy chemistry together that made for a fun interview.

9.  Ashton Kutcher & Rod Corddry, “What Happens In Vegas”:

Ashton was very funny, especially when telling a story about how he was watching an old episode of  “That 70’s Show” at a hotel, making the maid think he was a bit conceited.

8.  Paris Hilton & Christine Lakin, “The Hottie And The Nottie”:

Notable because I sat next to Paris, who I had never seen in person. Turns out co-star Christine did most of the talking. When the interview was over, there was a moment when Paris stood up but didn’t leave the room. I think she was waiting to see if anyone wanted an autograph, which I thought was thoughtful of her.

7.  Matthew Fox, “Speed Racer”:

The “Speed Racer” interviews took place in the Long Beach Convention Center, while time trials for the Long Beach Grand Prix went on outside. So every minute or so, there was a loud vroom noise. But I didn’t mind because not only did I get to ask Matthew a question about his work on “Lost,” he became the second “Lost” star to sign my Season One “Lost” DVD set.

6.  Sarah Michelle Gellar, “The Air That I Breathe”:

Totally charming in person, plus she gave a memorable defense of her decisions to appear in unusual roles in small indie projects.

5.  Sir Ben Kingsley, “The Wackness”:

One of the world’s greatest actors gives a 20 minute class on being a great actor.

4.  Jason Castro, “American Idol”:

I sat in on Fred Bronson’s interviews with all of this year’s “Idol” finalists and I enjoyed listening to Jason the most. Yes, David Cook’s thoughtfulness and smarts explained why he was doing so well choosing songs and David Archuleta’s sweetness and love of music shone through, but Jason’s laidback persona was the most enjoyable of all. Plus it was amazing to hear first hand the story of how little he had performed before he reached the “Idol” stage and even more amazing to hear his hints that he was ready to go home.

3.  David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson, “The X-Files”

Mulder & Scully, together again…. even if they did disagree with the basis of my question about how after all the times Mulder saved Scully on the show, it was nice to see the tables turned in the movie (David insisted Scully was always coming to Mulder’s rescue during the series’ run).

2.  Kristin Bell, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”:

My first chance ever to interview Kristin, who was as lovely and funny as, well, Veronica Mars. Plus she signed my Season One DVD set of “Mars,” making up for the fact I had nothing to get autographed when I found out Kristin was doing a signing at the San Diego Comic-Con a few years back.

1.  Russell Brand, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”:

Like many Americans, I had never heard of British comedian Russell Brand before I saw “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” which was one of my favorite movies of the year,  in no small part due to Brand’s hilarious performance. But I assumed that the outrageous rock star persona in the film was an excellent acting job, never thinking for one second that what was on the screen was actually close to the real Russell Brand. But Russell walked in the room in all his leather panted glory and proceeded to give one of the funniest interviews ever. In the radio room, we try not to laugh when the interview subject is talking but this was one day when we had no chance not to!

THE EZE WAY

April 28, 2008

While I’m usually happy to be a part of Billboard writer Fred Bronson’s projects, I have to admit I’ve been kind of leery about working on his latest. Fred is writing an article about “American Idol” for Billboard for which he’ll be interviewing this year’s Top 10 contestants. In fact, one day this week, Fred will interview all five of the remaining “Idol” hopefuls, one of the few times the producers of the show have allowed an outside writer to interview the contestants while they’re still in the running.

But while I’ll have the chance to tag along and meet all of the current contestants, there is also a downside to the project, at least for me. Fred is planning on doing a one hour interview with each singer, and it’s my job to transcribe every word. Keeping in mind it takes me from three to four hours to type up a one hour interview, that means when all is said and done, I’ll have completed between 30 and 40 hours of typing in just a few days. Oww, my aching fingers!

But at least I’ve already gotten one of the interviews out of the way! Fred interviewed Chikezie Eze on Friday at the Billboard offices (which turned out to be just a few blocks from where Chikezie went to middle school). I was very impressed by Chikezie’s smarts and sense of humor. But how could I not like a guy who lists “House” and “Heroes” as his favorite TV shows?

Right now Chikezie is looking forward to the start of the “American Idol” summertime arena tour. Because he’s the tenth runnerup, he gets to open up each concert. He’s trying to pick some fun high energy songs to do, because he realizes that would not be the time to do a slow sad ballad. I’d be more worried about if he can tear himself away from the new Apple computer he just got to take the stage at all!

Look for more reporting by me on the “Idol” interviews later this week (which should serve as a preview for Fred’s far more extensive article), as well as my usual comments on Tuesday night’s performances. It remains to be seen if I can still be as tough on the contestants after I’ve met them! That is, if my typing fingers hold up…

VROOM!

April 21, 2008

A few years ago, I made my first visit to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach when they held the junket for Sylvester Stallone’s racing movie, “Driven,” at the Renaissance Hotel right next to the track. 

Well, this past weekend, Warner Brothers conducted their junket for another car racing movie, “Speed Racer,” at the Long Beach Grand Prix, which meant once again it sounded like the actors we interviewed were surrounded by a horde of angry, buzzing bees, thanks to the very, very loud race cars driving by the Convention Center where we were set up.

Still, the actors were in good spirits. Emile Hirsch, who plays the title character, is on the verge of a huge career breakthrough, but didn’t seem too worried about what’s coming as far as his popularity.

Producer Joel Silver, who produced my two favorite movies, “Die Hard” and “The Matrix,” was after Emile. I asked him if he was keeping one of the Mach 5’s they built for the film for himself. Joel revealed that he wasn’t planning on it, considering that the cars they made for the film lacked a very important component… an engine! So I guess we won’t be seeing anyone driving to the grocery store in a Mach 5 anytime soon.

Joel also defended the length of the movie, which clocks in at over 2 hours. Joel pointed out that when he was a kid, he saw the 8 hour Broadway production of “Nicholas Nickelby” and loved it, so he thought children could easily make it through “Speed Racer.”

Next up were John Goodman and Susan Sarandon, who play Speed’s parents. John seemed very happy when I complimented him on his grunting in the film, which is about all I remember about the character of Pops Racer from the cartoon. John commented that no matter what line he said in the movie, the Wichowski Brothers who directed the film would have him add a grunt or two for emphasis!

Christina Ricci, who plays Speed’s girfriend Trixie, related the problems she had with the chimp that was used in the film. In their very first scene together, the chimp grabbed her breast and refused to let go, creating a very painful memory for Christina!

Of course, I was most excited by the appearance of our final interview subject, Matthew Fox, who just 12 hours before had been on the beach in Oahu filming a scene for “Lost.” The publicists weren’t sure Matthew, who plays Racer X, would be able to make it to Long Beach in time, but I brought my “Lost: Season One” DVD set just in case, and I’m glad I did, because he autographed it for me.

I asked Matthew about his tattoos, which “Lost” devoted a whole episode to explaining. Matthew admitted that his tattoos may not be that esthetically pleasing, but each one has a meaning to him and symbolizes either an important idea or event in his life. He added that he just hopes ten years from now, the ideas they exemplify will still seem as important as they did the day he got them applied!

As Matthew was leaving, I suggested that he check out a character named Jack Reacher, the star of a great series of thriller novels by author Lee Child. I think Matthew would make a great choice to play this character, adding another great Jack portrayal to the one he plays on “Lost”!

After the interviews, I walked around the Grand Prix track, which is actually made up of closed off streets. I was very impressed by the restaurants in that area of Long Beach. By this time, the practice session featuring the open wheel Grand Prix cars had ended, and the contestants in the next day’s celebrity race had taken to the track for a qualifying round. I found a spot beside a curve and was rewarded with the sight of Drew Lachey’s car nudging a pile of tires that were stacked in front of a wall as a safety precaution. I also saw another unidentified celeb trying to drive with the hood of their car standing straight up in the air.

Finally I left as still another class of car took to the streets for a practice session, hearing the vrooms fade into the distance as I headed for the train to go back home. Because who wants to watch a day of racing and then be stuck on the freeway?

 

WHAT DID NPH DO?

April 13, 2008

This week I attended the press day for “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay.” Unfortunately, Kal Penn who plays Kumar was off filming “House,” so only John Cho (who plays Harold), Neil Patrick Harris (who plays Neil Patrick Harris), Rob Corddry (who plays the comic nemesis of Harold and Kumar) and the writer/directors were there to represent the movie.

Yes, you read that right. Neil Patrick Harris (known as NPH) plays himself in the movie, albeit a warped wildman version of himself. That made me think of all the dumb questions you could ask Neil about the movie, like “Why do you think you were the best actor for this role?” and “What kind of research did you do to prepare for this part?” But when I asked Neil what was the dumbest question he had gotten about the movie, he said, “Someone asked me this morning if I liked unicorns.” See the movie and that will make sense. You’ll also know why Neil showed us a photo of a porn star named Echo Valley on his Iphone…

John Cho was a bit more serious during our interview, but warmed up when we started talking about his role in the new “Star Trek” film, where he’s playing Sulu. He said George Takei’s work meant a lot to him when he was growing up, so he wanted to do the part justice. John seemed very passionate when talking about the plight of Asian actors in Hollywood.

And speaking of Asian actors in Hollywood, this week also brought us an interview with Jackie Chan, who was promoting his new and very fun film, “The Forbidden Kingdom.” Jackie is paired with Jet Li in the movie, and one of the highlights is a fight between the two of them. It was Jackie’s first screen teaming with Jet, and he described making their fight scene, one of the highlights of the film, as being like play. He said their moves were so fast that the director had to ask them to slow things down.

Jackie believes that video games that put the emphasis on killing have made young people forget that there’s an important philosophy behind the martial arts. He hopes that teens and kids will discover some of the older movies that serve up a bit of morality along with the moves. Jackie ended the interview by talking about how he’ll be recording a song for the Olympics and then sang a bit of an earlier song he did for the Games. Of course, all that was just a prequel to Jackie signing my autograph book in both Chinese and English!

 

 

BELL, BRAND & MCBRIDE

March 17, 2008

Had a very pleasant round of interviews this past weekend for two Universal movies, “Leatherheads” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

The interview for the George Clooney directed “Leatherheads” was on Saturday, and featured all three stars. John Krasinski from “The Office” was first up, followed by George and then Renee Zelwegger. All three were very honest and self depreciating. George, always a great story teller and certainly the most charismatic and likable actor you’ll ever meet, told us how he stays away from doing romantic comedies but made “Leatherheads” because of the interesting backdrop of early pro football. He also thinks it’s ridiculous that he’s been tagged as the new Cary Grant and repeatedly referred to himself as a knucklehead.

Renee matched George for modesty, calling herself an accidental actress who’s not that competent (the Oscar voters would disagree) and has a poor knowledge of film history.

The next day brought another trip to the Four Seasons Hotel for interviews for “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Aside from a disturbing amount of talk about male nudity from star Jason Segal and director Nicholas Stoller (see the movie and you’ll know why), the most fun interview was of an actor I’d never heard of before this week. In “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” Russell Brand gives a standout performance as a charismatic self centered English rock star who’s the new boyfriend of the title character. The funny thing is, except for the rock star part, Russell is pretty much the person he plays in the movie, right down to the leather pants! While I suspect that in a few years, Russell’s personality will turn out to be a Borat like acting job, he sure was hilarious.

Of course, the other highlight was my first roundtable with longtime fave Kristen Bell. I remember sitting in the audience during a “Veronica Mars” panel at the San Diego Comic-Con and being mad at myself that I had nothing for her to sign. I didn’t make that mistake this time, as I had my “Veronica Mars” Season1 DVD ready to go. Sure enough, I got she signed it (although even though I spelled my name for her, it looks a lot more like Breeen than Brian!).

Kristen told me I gave her one of the greatest compliments she ever got when I said, “Some actresses play good girls. Others play bad girls, but you’ve been lucky enough to play women that are a mixture of both.” She said she really hadn’t planned that and just goes with her gut when choosing roles. In fact, although she’s never been unemployed for long, Kristen always thinks she’ll never work again when she finishes a job, which is why she sought the job of the narrator on “Gossip Girl,” just so she would have something to do after the cancellation of “Veronica Mars”!

I also asked Kristen what interesting things she’s learned how to do when researching roles. She said she thinks she could pull off being a private investigator after playing Veronica Mars, although she admitted doing the show initially made her paranoid because she found out how easy it was to steal someone’s identity or tap their phones.

The junket interviews weren’t my only brushes with stars this weekend. My friend Chuck Thomas gave me a ticket to the Paley Festival’s celebration of “Pushing Daisies” on Saturday night.

Officially the 2008 William S. Paley Television Festival, the event takes one TV show a night, brings together the creators and the cast and sets them loose on stage to answer questions from a moderator and the audience. I’ve been attending the Festival for years, and have gone to nights celebrating shows both famous (“Desperate Housewives,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “Lost” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) and obscure (“Under Suspicion,” a great cop show from 1994).

Although I stopped watching “Pushing Daisies” a few episodes into its run, the clip package they showed made me rethink that decision. Then the cast came onstage. Usually there’s one person in every cast that takes over the proceedings with their sense of humor. In this case, it was Chi McBride, who after hearing how some of his fellow actors hadn’t been looking to do television until they received the “Pushing Daisies” pilot script, said he was tired of all the B.S. you hear on panels! What were they doing, sailing in Majorca?

Throughout the evening, Chi continued to be very, very funny and even convinced Kristen Chenoweth to let loose with her fantastic singing voice. Just a great night, so I highly suggest if you live in L.A., check out the Paley Festival website and if there’s a show you like on the schedule, check it out. Yes, it may be too late to get tickets to the “Buffy” reunion (they plan on streaming it live on their website so you can see it that way), but there are still tickets available for a little show called “The X-Files”!

MY LIFE AS A CLAYMATE

March 13, 2008

While this season of “American Idol” is shaping up as an especially exciting one full of surprises and reversals, I don’t know if I agree with the show’s claims that the current Season 7 features the best lineup of talent ever. After all, I’m partial to Season 5’s combo of Taylor Hicks, Katherine McPhee, Elliott Yamin and Chris Daughtry, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the most exciting season was number two, featuring the neck and neck competition all the way to the end between Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken.

While I had tuned in at times to Season 1 of “Idol,” the second season was the one that really captured my attention, starting with an appearance by my friend Fred Bronson, who pitched the show the idea for the theme, “Billboard Number Ones.” That theme night was followed up with shows devoted to some of my favorite artists, including Billy Joel, the Bee Gees and Neil Sedaka, but I think what really sold me on the show was Ruben’s fabulous performance of “Kiss And Say Goodbye,” the final song on that Billboard night.

But as I continued to watch, I started to grow more and more impressed with Clay, who shined on both ballads (Neil Sedaka’s “Solitaire”) and fun uptempo songs, like one of my alltime favorites, “Build Me Up Buttercup.” Then on the season finale, Clay let out a one-two knockout punch: first a transcendent version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (while Ruben sang a rather boring take on “Imagine”), followed by his soon to be number one hit, “This Is The Night,” which I liked much more than Ruben’s “Flying Without Wings.” But Ruben still ended up winning the “Idol” crown, which I didn’t feel bad about because it seemed like it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. As it turned out, I still haven’t met Ruben, but I would cross paths with Clay again and again.

The first time I met Clay was at a radio studio across from the NBC building in Burbank where Clay was appearing on “The Tonight Show” that evening. Fred Bronson had been assigned to do one of the first in-depth interviews with Clay after his “Idol” stint, and as often happens, I tagged along. Fred conducted a long interview that covered Clay’s life from singing in the carpet department at Sears at age five all the way to the Idol finale, and along the way added a lot to his fans’ knowledge about their hero. I found Clay to be an excellent storyteller, funny and also brutally honest about his “Idol” song and wardrobe choices. One other thing surprised me: Clay gave me a hug when he left (a year later, when Fred interviewed Season 3’s Diana DeGarmo at the same studio, I gave her a hug as she was leaving, probably surprising her at the time… but then, I’m no Clay!).

After the interview was released on the internet, Clay’s fans came out of the woodwork, deciding Fred was a reliable insider when it came to Clay and sending him e-mail after e-mail with questions and comments. One such e-mail came from a lady named Diann in Lancaster, PA, which is my hometown, so Fred asked if she knew me when I lived there. She hadn’t, but she mentioned it to a few of her friends, including Anita, who I had indeed palled around with during summers at the local pool. We ended up getting back in touch and I always make time for dinner with Anita and her Claymate friends whenever I’m visiting Lancaster.

Fred interviewed Clay again a few weeks before his debut album, “Measure Of A Man,” was released. This time Fred and I met Clay at the hotel he was staying at in L.A. and joined him for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. With no publicists in attendance, this interview was much more informal than the first one. I was impressed by Clay’s determination to learn all he could about the music business. He often stopped the interview to ask Fred questions about radio play and the charts.

Eventually, I got a chance to interview Clay myself, but it would have never happened if I hadn’t been at those earlier interviews. One of my friends hosts his own movie review show on TV. He was based in Portland, Oregon at the time and couldn’t make it back to Los Angeles to cover the festivities celebrating the DVD release of Disney’s “Aladdin.” He asked me to do the interviews on the red carpet outside Hollywood’s El Capitan Theater for him, and I gladly agreed, having never done any interviews for TV before. Many of the stars attending were featured in Disney produced shows, and I got a good number of them to talk to me. But when Clay arrived, it seemed like he was in a hurry to get inside and skipped talking to most of the gathered press. Fortunately, I caught the eye of his publicist, who recognized me from the earlier interview with Fred (as did Clay) and steered Clay over to me for a few minutes.

I got in four questions. First I asked Clay how he keeps his energy up on tour, to which he replied, “McDonald’s!” He laughed and added that he tries to change his show a little bit every night to keep things interesting for him, and in turn, the audience. I also asked him about his upcoming Christmas album as well as the song he did for the “Aladdin” DVD. But the best response I got from him came when I said that I know his female fans love him to death and go to great lengths to see him in concert, but does he ever hear from the husbands and boyfriends they drag along? Clay said every once in a while, he’ll see a T-shirt on a guy in the audience that says, “I got dragged to see him,” but to him the funniest thing was how the women manage to make it to the front row in front of the stage, leaving their men stewing fifteen rows back.

I’ve seen Clay a few other times as well, like at a Halloween party at Kim Locke’s house (Clay didn’t bother to dress up in a costume, but he did stay a while), and also backstage at two of his concerts I attended with Fred. And while I thought his last album was a bit of a disappointment, I’m hoping the one he’s releasing later this year will mark a return to the strong songs and melodic diversity of “Measure Of A Man.” Plus any time Clay’s out promoting a new CD, he makes a stop on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which is always hilarious. I can’t wait!

THE THRILLING RETURN OF MOOSE & SQUIRREL

March 6, 2008

Sorry, but this column isn’t for Bullwinkle aficionados. I just wanted to mention that ever since I read the coverage of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s appearance at the recent WonderCon in San Francisco, I’ve been very excited about the return of “The X-Files” to the big screen (if you watched the show, you know that Duchovny’s character Fox Mulder once referred to himself and Agent Scully as Moose And Squirrel).

During its 9 season run, “The X-Files” was my favorite show. I really enjoyed piecing together the clues to understanding the conspiracy that executive producer Chris Carter created, and the humorous give and take between Mulder and Scully made them my favorite TV couple. So while I also appreciated the sci-fi and horror plots, the most memorable moments of the show for me were between Mulder and Scully, such as when Mulder showed Scully how to hit a baseball in the episode, “The Unnatural,” or when the pair took a turn on the dance floor to the music of Cher in “The Post-Modern Prometheus.”

So of course, as a fan, I especially enjoyed attending the junket for 1998’s “The X-Files: Fight The Future.” Not only did I get to see the movie early, it was my first chance to meet the stars (and to get them to autograph a keepsake for me, a Cinefantastique with Mulder and Scully on the cover). But my favorite moment came as Chris Carter was leaving our table after our fifteen minutes with him. I said, “So the reason that bee got stuck in Scully’s collar was because of the alien implant in her neck, right?” While Chris didn’t give me a direct answer, he did smile, so I knew I was right. And just like that, all the pieces of the conspiracy that was the backbone of “The X-Files” fell into place.

Ever since, every time I’ve had a chance to interview David Duchovny, I’ve brought along a piece of “X-Files” memorabilia to autograph, and he’s always signed it gladly. Unfortunately, I haven’t interviewed Gillian Anderson since, as she’s mostly been working in England in recent years.

I do have one worry about the “X-Files” sequel though. Chris Carter has promised to make the movie very scary. How am I supposed to enjoy the reunion of two of my favorite characters while I’m hiding my eyes?

GHOSTS OF IDOLS PAST

March 5, 2008

I spent 10 of the last 24 hours typing up the many, many interviews that Billboard’s Fred Bronson conducted during the past few days of taping for this season of “American Idol Extra,” which is shown on the Fox Reality cable network. I’m trying not to let my aching fingers sour me on all the fun I had yesterday when I joined Fred for his final busy day at Center Staging.

The producers of the show brought back many popular former contestants to perform and participate in a short Q&A with host JD Roberto and audience members in segments that will be shown throughout the season. Some of the Idols I missed seeing that Fred talked to on Saturday and Sunday were Ace Young (whose debut album will be released soon), Chris Richardson (who you can see for yourself as he makes appearances all over America to promote Dreyer’s Ice Cream), Haley Scarnato (who’s releasing a country single called “Girls’ Night Out), Kevin Covais (soon to be seen in a movie comedy called “College.” Surprisingly Kevin plays a shy nerd!), Ruben Studdard (who will probably have a big hit as he’s singing this year’s goodbye song on “Idol,” his version of Kenny Loggins’ “Celebrate Me Home”) and Stephanie Edwards (who’s recording in Atlanta).

I also missed sitting in on Fred’s interviews with Gina Glocksen and Chris Sligh on Monday, although I did eventually get to spend some time with each. I was hanging out in the Green Room with Fred, Chris and his friend and drummer Jon talking music. Chris is a huge Beatles fan and enjoys dissecting the intricacies of their songs and production. Chris is full of life and fun and even busted out with some opera at one point. He’s just released a single to Christian radio called “Empty Me.” His album, “Running Back To You,” is coming out May 6th.

I also made sure I complimented Gina Glocksen on the original song she performed in her segment, called “When It Rains.” Although I had never heard it before, I immediately loved it. Gina is one of the hosts of “American Idol Extra” this season and will be interviewing the exiting contestants along with Constantine Maroulis.

Fred was actually in the midst of interviewing Melinda Doolittle when I arrived at the studio around 1:30 PM. She told us a funny story about a dream she had during Hollywood week. It combined her nervousness about “Idol” with the excitement of the show “24.” She imagined that when they arrived in the room where you were told if you made it to the Top 24, gas started seeping through the vents and if you didn’t get a nosebleed, you made it onto the show. Unfortunately, if you did get a nosebleed, you died! Harsh…

Next up was Sanjaya Malakar, who turned out to be a lot taller than I imagined. He’s currently writing songs with his sister Shyamali, who was also in attendance.

Next up was Bo Bice who arrived fresh from Nashville and brought the house down with the song “I’m Gone” from his latest album, “See the Light.” Bo is the original Southern gentleman, always making an effort to be friendly to everyone. We found out Bo just got back from a trip to Afghanistan.

Last but not least, we spent a few minutes with LaKisha Jones, fresh from a stint on Broadway in the musical version of “The Color Purple.” During her time on “Idol,” I thought LaKisha sometimes seemed standoffish, but in person yesterday, she was well spoken, friendly and thoughtful. She hopes to have an album out by summer and is planning to start a charity to help other single mothers who haven’t gotten the breaks she has.

It turns out many of the former “Idol” contestants we talked to have moved to Los Angeles. Gina just arrived from Chicago a few days ago and will at least be here through the run of “American Idol Extra” and Sanjaya has also moved here. Ace Young has even opened his L.A. home to Kevin Covais while he gets his career off the ground. Now if that’s not a sit-com in the making, I don’t know what is…