Monday, May 30, 2011
I'm writing some promotional material to be used next month when Barnes & Noble at The Grove welcomes author BARBARA SINATRA and her love letter to her late husband, 'Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank.'
BARBARA SINATRA (the only Mrs. Sinatra I knew) accompanied Ol' Blue Eyes to Las Vegas on many occasions, always kind, ever classy. She once went out of her way to tell me, "Frank likes it when you talk music with him." Wow- that meant the world to me.
I've yet to receive my copy but am happily helping put together background information to assist in the promotion of her new book. Frank's daughter NANCY SINATRA, author of two fine books and producer of many great music and DVD packages, including the sensational 'Sinatra in Vegas,' always sees to it that we receive advance copies of her projects.
Here's hoping Barbara is treated with the respect show business royalty rightly deserves.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
There are certain performers who are so talented, so successful, so lucky that they can test your will, man.
JUSTIN (KREDIBLE) WILLMAN set out to take-over the country and, over the past few years, campus-by-campus (many times six per week!) he's done just that. A national TV commercial led to an appearance on the chipper chef RACHAEL RAY show where the buoyant boyish close-up comic conjurer really started cooking, leading to TV appearances on the regular. Now, he's the "First Call" guy for television producers who like his likable personality. Me? I love the guy. (Justin's gorgeous girlfriend is cool with that; we're all in love with her, her beautiful voice.)
I've been in Justin's corner for some time now, fondly remembering the 'Music, Magic & Makepeace Tour,' where the magician joined friends JASON MRAZ and THE MAKEPEACE BROTHERS in a shamanistic tour that rightly left the country starry eyed.
I see that Justin will be back at the World Famous Magic Castle June 13-19.
The artist who designs Justin's posters is nothing short of brilliant* but, it's worth noting that, now, the 'World Famous' tag line rightfully belongs prior to JUSTIN WILLMAN as well, man.
If you're near Hollywood and haven't been put off by the mental image of guys with birds in their pants (see: brainy, beautiful and, my new favorite writer LAURENNE SALA) well then you Must See JUSTIN WILLMAN. He's just incredible.
*JON MARRO is beautiful.
Friday, May 20, 2011
It just happened again, late last night. I was catching up on emails when this one caught my eye: "What is Sinatra's best record?"
I often think what qualifies as best is whatever I'm listening to at the moment, but when it comes to a recording career that started in 1939 and continued into the 90's, well, it is not that simple.
FRANK SINATRA was America's first teen idol, singing with Tommy Dorsey's band, and then later, on his own. By the late 40's, the big bands were over and, as good as young Sinatra was, he had yet to record great records.
IN 1953, after nearly fifteen years of singing, something happened, and it was magical. Joining Capitol Records surrounded the now- struggling singer with the best studio musicians in the world, and an arranger-conductor named NELSON RIDDLE. Sinatra was born again and with him, a confidant sound and smooth style punctuated by an all-new rhythm that, even today, sounds fresh. Sometimes I'd swear there's new versions playing but no, the tracks are the same, yet somehow still surprising. It is almost impossible to sing along.
Throughout the 60's, he'd turn out hit-after hit, including 'My Way,' a song everyone covered, all haunted by the sound of Sinatra. He'd sing a perfect duet with his daughter Nancy ("'Somethin' Stupid") after cutting the most beautiful Bossa Nova songs with Jobim.
There is little doubt that the most creative decade in the musical life of FRANK SINATRA came when Ol' Blue Eyes hired a young classically trained pianist, VINNIE FALCONE, and toured every corner of the the world, sparkling in deserts from the Springs to the Sphinx, in casinos from Las Vegas to Monte Carlo, in Rio: bravo, even dominante the Dominican Republic, their sound preserved on studio recordings like 'Trilogy,' featuring 'Theme from New York, New York,' an anthem that will live forever.
Okay, back to the best record thing. Here it is: 'Indian Summer.' Yup. The Duke Ellington Band made it into the studio to back Sinatra, playing BILLY MAY arrangements, sometimes poorly, once or twice, heavenly. 'Indian Summer' has it all: it is big band, jazz, pop all rolled into one song, and Sinatra sings simple and straight, soft and surreal, the sound of a brilliant actor letting his audience do all the thinking. 'Indian Summer' includes a saxophone solo that catches you off guard, pulling you way out into the deep water and then, gently, floating you back onto shore. MATT WALLACE and others tell me JOHNNY HODGES was a genius and NELSON RIDDLE, in an interview on my radio show, in the 80's, told me that this arrangement is the one he always wished he'd written. Man!
The seasons change, and so do popular tastes but, amazingly, this song, now over forty years old still shines. I'm told you can hear it on YouTube; I know you can buy it on iTunes.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
House of H2o has been keeping an eye on actor-magician R.J. CANTU and keeping you updated on this young performer's career. A few years back, prior to his successful, heart-warming debut at Hollywood's MAGIC CASTLE , we proudly pointed out that R.J. "has the goods," and now, his goods are getting great.
'Death Valley,' MTV's new supernatural series, premiering August 29th, right after the Video Music Awards, looks to be a good bet. A strong cast makes this seriously spooky yet lighthearted series perfect for the twenty-something crowd. R.J. is cast as a likable yet lecherous cad, getting young girls off on the taste of his vampiric saliva. When we described Cantu as "the badboy next door," a while back, we nailed it.
Now, there's another-darker-vampire script he's working on called 'Vampires in Vegas.' But not to worry, R.J. CANTU won't soon be typecast. You see, in addition to his acting career (and a recent string of national commercials), the guy is pursuing his magic career like no other young magician I have ever seen.
MAGIC SPACE EXTREME, a site dedicated to what's hip and happening in the world of magic has been web home to Cantu & Co. And talk about magic:
There have been sightings of this exciting magician performing impromptu shows- lit by lasers and backed by house music and high energy dancers-all around Los Angeles. H20 just got word of an upcoming show, in Santa Monica at the trendy V LOUNGE on Friday, May 27th. And, we hear loads of celebrities plan to hit the V on Fridays on the regular.
House of H2o has long been enchanted by magicians who are original and authentic. JUSTIN (KREDIBLE) WILLMAN owns college campuses all over the country and cable airwaves up and down the dial. JASON LATIMER is in an indescribable class by himself and JAMES GALEA is the best close-up magician to ever play Las Vegas. Ever!
R.J. CANTU is right up there, and in damn good company.
Keep an eye out for this monster of a magician, will ya?
I'm sitting outside a Coffee Bean on Sunset in West Hollywood, sipping an iced coffee and talking to a friend. He and I have some of the same addictions and, a common dealer. In fact, "our guy" does business down an alley just across from us.
So he's telling me a great story about a dancer we both knew when, for the third time in three minutes we're interrupted. This time, there wasn't even an apology, just giggling girls holding out a pen and paper. He politely signed and then said, "Hey, Will? You wanna see something? I mean, really something?"
When that's put to me, the answer is always "Yes," and so, we split, me following this talented guy to his house. We made it up there in less than four minutes but it took him ten to get the safe open, eventually remembering his birthday, (his real birthday).
I peeked-in, expecting, like in so many movies (some starring him, by the way) to see dope, bearer bonds,maybe photos of him with a dead girl (or a live boy) but no, besides a stack of cash that he called "mad money," there was just one file. He handed it to me, saying, "You'll wanna sit down," nodding to a leather chair next to a lamp that was now burning brightly.
I looked down and then right away up. "Are you fucking kidding me?
A familiar smile and then that famous laugh. "I warned you."
According to the so-called experts, the most valuable autograph is: WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. Now I was told, years ago by a very nice lady who raises money for foundations that there were only six such signatures in existence, however, our friend (and dealer) HARVEY JASON at MYSTERY PIER BOOKS knows of more. In fact, here I am, holding one in my hot hands.
If you like your Nook, or Kindle or iPad or other such shit, good for you, and I mean that, I do.
If you like books-real books, first editions in mint condition or "slightly foxed" versions, then you're my kinda guy, doll.
Monday, May 9, 2011
I've been looking out at the glowing Las Vegas Strip with the moon shining up in the dark sky. From my poolside view, it's like a dream, an electric hallucination. My eyes grow heavy and I'm half-certain that I could flip a switch and turn the whole thing off. In my mind's eye, the neon sputters out as my bella luna dims and the whole scene fades to black.
I blink open and the light returns, slowly refracting into colors once again inside my mind. That's where it all occurs, you know- it exists inside of our heads. The 'Somewhere Out There' is really inside you, me.
I can almost hear 'Taps' play as I head inside to catch a half-dozen hours of sleep, knowing that the light will return, followed by the colors.
When your eyes take in the essays, or you hear my material read onstage or listen on the radio, please know that I'm trying hard to get into your noodle. I am.
I want to be that thing you wrap your head around.
Another William wrote it better than I ever will, although I Will keep trying:
I've been doing my best to give "an airy nothing, a local habitation and a name" to what I feel.
Breathe it in, sing it out.
Not to get all Peter Frampton on you, but 'I'm In You.' You're in me.
When you send a request, or reply, I am never more excited to let you in.
That's what really lights me up.
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