There are things in your past that are just best forgotten.
Oh, sure, they might have been mere youthful indiscretions, things that others would brush away but they are endlessly mortifying to you. They make you cringe, they make you blush, keep your mouth shut, or avoid certain places or people.
They might have even been illegal.
Protecting his reputation, celebrity chef Billy Blessing was careful to hide embarrassments, too — so careful that few knew he’d spent time in prison. But in the new book, “The Talk Show Murders,” by Al Roker and Dick Lochte, Blessing’s secret past was no blessing.
Edward “Pat” Patton was a jerk.
A former cop with a shady reputation, Patton was known around Chicago as a man who stirred up trouble. As long-winded as the city he lived in, Patton claimed to know things that the Chicago Police Department didn’t, beginning with the identity of the headless body that washed up on Oak Street Beach.
Billy Blessing, in town for a TV interview, had an encounter with Patton on-set and disliked him immediately. Blessing liked him even less when Patton mentioned that Blessing’s face was familiar …
Years ago, before becoming a chef, TV host and writer, Billy Blessing was known as Billy Blanchard. And on April 19, 1986, Billy Blanchard was arrested for fraud and went to prison.
It was a secret that Blessing had buried, hoping it would stay that way.
But Patton was a big-mouth who wanted Blessing to pay to keep that big mouth shut. Patton hinted that underworld crime was looking for one “Billy Blanchard,” and that fifty grand might keep Blessing alive.
And then Pat Patton was found beaten to death, as was a young man who was thinly connected to Patton. Missing was a certain red folder that, according to Patton, held copies of Blessing’s past.
The deaths of two men who knew too much might have come as a relief to Billy Blessing — until someone decided that they wanted Blessing dead, too.
I’m normally not a big fan of novels with an overabundance of characters. I find it annoying when I need a chart to keep track of what’s going on. But in the case of “The Talk Show Murders,” the large cast of characters actually works.
Author and TV personality Al Roker packs the people into this whodunit, but his real-life work lends an air of authenticity to this tangled crime novel, an authenticity that’s furthered by crime- and co-writer Dick Lochte.
What fans will find most interesting in this third Billy Blessing mystery, though, is the backstory of the main character. We’ve come to see Billy as a smart businessman with an accidental penchant for being around when people die. To learn that he has a criminal past will only make fans drool for the next book in the series.
If this is your first Billy Blessing novel, that’s okay. Read on; then go find the others. For fans old and new, “The Talk Show Murders” is a book not to pass up.
In reflecting on 30 years of the AIDS epidemic, the multimedia visual arts exhibition “Witness” beckons artists to reengage themselves and their communities in remembering a world impacted by AIDS. “The artists invited and selected reflect a diverse gathering of voices across, race, age, gender, sexual orientation and geographic location,” said the show’s curator, David Acosta.
“‘Witness’ asks the audience to reflect individually and collectively on the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a transformative moment in our lives, our communities and society.”
In responding to the call, one of the artists in the show, Tree Byers, said it was all about the loss of friends. “In 2000, my dear friend, Blue, died from AIDS quite suddenly, and I was not prepared to lose him. Yet slowly I was learning that grief is the garden of compassion. ‘Witness’ is inspiring me to dig through my photos and find images on which to base some form of visual/textual homage and remembrance of friends.”
Tay Cohen Cha, a Korean-born New York-based artist also participating in ‘Witness,’ said he wants his work “to show how the AIDS epidemic shakes individuals as well as their support networks to the core and to remind people that there is so much more we can do to raise awareness to the devastating affects of HIV/AIDS.”
The artists participating in “Witness” include: George Apostos, Laura Bamford, Craig Bruns, Tree Byers, Tay Cha, Ronald Corbin, Susan DiPronio, Jonas Dos Santos, Harvey Finkle, Ralfka Gonzalez, Link Harper, Theodore Harris, Ed Hall, HD Ivey, Albo Jeavons, Peter Lien, Gabriel Martinez, Kwaku Osei, Chanthaphone Rajavong, Marta Sanchez, Jombi Supastar, Zoe Strauss and Nannette Clark.
“The goal that I think is most important is to make people aware that AIDS is still a major health crisis throughout the world,” said Clark. “Although there have been major strides in helping to prolong the lives of those with HIV/AIDS in the United States, those in so-called ‘Third World’ countries have not, for the most part, been the beneficiaries of these medical advances on any widespread basis. AIDS is still an epidemic in these countries. My work and the work of the other artists in the exhibit will hopefully help to continue to raise the consciousness of the ongoing seriousness and emergency situation of AIDS both domestically and throughout the world.”
The opening reception for “Witness” will take place on Friday, Dec 2, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine St., a community-based arts center that explores the diverse experiences of Asian Americans. The exhibition will remain on view through Jan. 27. For more information, call (215) 557-0455 or visit www.asianartsinitiative.org.
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — The latest swimwear takes a nod from the past, from high waist briefs and the pinup girl look of the 1950s to the Studio 54 and Dolce Vita eras of the ’60s and ’70s.
Retro-inspired looks were seen throughout the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim 2013 in Miami Beach, where more than two dozen designers showcased their latest collections. The five-day event that ends Monday also cemented some new trends, including crochet, foliage prints, ruffles and fringe.
Also making a splash next summer will be the one-piece and cowgirl-themed suits, boots and all. For the wild-chic look, snakeskin is the animal print to choose.
Kicking off swim week was the Lisa Blue collection, where Australian designer Lisa Burke featured five very different styles.
The Enchantress collection opened the show with a white monokini with gold trimmings. The blue color of the ocean was also seen on the goddess-like models walking slowly — enchanted — down the runway.
Karina Smirnoff of “Dancing with the Stars” picked up the pace as she danced in a bright pink, ruffled-top bikini and a Flamenco-style long skirt for the second Flamenco-inspired collection, which included a one-shoulder bikini top with ruffles on the bottom piece.
Models in cowboy boots, denim-printed swimsuits with injections of red and lace came in for the third collection called The Cover Girl. The Pinup followed with cheeky girl prints and blue and white nautical stripes, with fuller-coverage bikini bottoms.
A martial arts group danced with a paper dragon for the collection inspired by the Year of the Dragon. Burke, the designer, was the last model to walk down the runway in a black two-piece with a Chinese-influenced headpiece.
Cropped jackets with military hardware or maritime accents were part of the Lovely Heroes collection for Agua Bendita. Designers Catalina Alvarez and Mariana Hinestroza wanted to pay homage to the 700 men and women who work on each of the hand-made garments in Colombia.
“They know how to do embroidery. They know how to do crochet. They know how to do an infinite number of things by hand that in the end brings us inspiration,” Alvarez told The Associated Press in Spanish backstage before the show.
The collection included military, maritime, cowboy and neon-inspired styles that were embellished with beads, appliques and sequins. The “AB” logo was emblazoned on the espadrilles the models wore and a hot pink plastic handbag that opened the show.
Camouflage suits with military patches and intricate hardware were seen throughout the maritime collection. Prints of anchors and pinup girls showcased the maritime theme, and the childhood game “Cowboys and Indians” came to life with a bolero-style jacket and a touch of Mexican influence in multi-colored beaded suits.
With pops of tangerine and green foliage prints with gold hardware and soda tabs, Brazilian designer Paola Robba stuck to her roots for her latest Poko Pano collection.
The 40-piece collection of bikinis, maillots, caftans and pants was influenced by the rhythm of Salvador, Brazil. Other influences included prints of Bonfim, the Brazilian wish bracelet, the architecture of the historic buildings, and the lush flowers and tropical hibiscus and coconut trees of the region.
A foliage print bandeau had gold hardware detail and a tangerine-banded hipster bottom in a similar foliage print. Soda tabs were chained together and overlaid a printed V-style bandeau.
A gorgeous color block one-piece had a sweetheart neckline and removable straps. Enamel hardware was also seen on a delicate white micro terry bandeau top with a hipster bottom in Bonfim ribbon-inspired print.
Retro looks included high-waist hipster bottoms and a ’60s inspired A-line dress with white chained circles and high-gloss patchwork.
Miami Beach was the inspiration for Spanish designer Dolores Cortes, who used vitamin colors and a touch of neon in her sophisticated collection.
“My team loves Miami Beach,” she said in Spanish. “We feel very welcomed here.”
Now in her third year showing at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim, Cortes said the biggest difference between the beaches of Spain and South Beach are how women wear their swimsuits.
“We in Spain, we look for a lot of perfection in the top. And the bottom part, it is more covered. Here it’s reverse. Here, they pay less attention to the top but the bottom is much smaller,” she said.
Golden reflective laminates were superimposed on some pieces, while others had a mix of animal prints and bright stains to give the wild yet chic look. There were a ton of prints, some with a tie-dye effect. Bikinis included a multi-colored bandeau top with an animal print bottom. Multiple patterns took over a one-piece and a monikini with bright pops of color, and crochet and mesh also made appearances.
The Nicolita collection can be described as a collection of sexy swimwear with curve-flattering styles reminiscent of Cuba’s alluring 1940s era — but with a California twist.
The Havana Nights Collection by designer Nicole Di Rocco drew inspiration from her Cuban roots and experiences in Malibu with the help of singer Christina Milian, who said finding the right fabrics was more difficult than she had expected.
“Other than finding a pattern that you like, there are so many different materials that actually work on the body,” Milian said of her first collaboration on a swimwear line. “We actually changed the whole look twice.”
Models donned a bouncy ponytail and curled up bangs — pinup girl style — with ruched bikini bottoms and bra-like tops with underwire are perfect for the Latina figure. The crowd, including actor Wilmer Valderrama, cheered as one model in a red strapless bandeau top folded her matching high waist bottom to reveal an animal print.
The collection had plenty of cover-ups that can transition from day to night, including a short layered animal-print skirt and high-waisted blue pants.
Slimmer cuts for Miami and Brazil are new this season for Tory Burch. Prints inspired by worn ceramic tiles and florals scaled up and down are also new for the collection. There are also reversible styles and four different looks for a rash guard.
In an email, Burch said she was inspired by a trip to the Amalfi coast: “I was drawn to all of the beautiful colors, from green and ivory to navy and pink.”
Models lounged poolside in a patterned one-piece and bikini with matching chunky necklaces. One rash guard had the navy ceramic pattern running up and down the sleeves while a bright floral print with pink covered the front.
A Brazilian-cut bikini bottom was particularly cute with its seahorse print. And the reversible style included a black print as one option and a cool orange on the other side.
AQUA DI LARA
The one-piece made a big splash at the Aqua di Lara show by designer Reyhan Sofraci.
“Monokinis are very popular but we decided to reintroduce the one-pieces but with a different cut out, like fabrics as opposed to holes,” the designer said. “We really wanted to go back to that because we have been finding a lot of people commenting on tan lines. We still wanted to create that sexy one-piece, so you will see that a lot in this collection.”
The White Label collection touches on the feminine look with pastels and lush vibrant colors, detailed prints in luxurious cuts. Among them was a one-piece with a sweetheart neckline with halter straps in a pastel blue on the sides and a flattering print cut that created an hourglass figure.
The Black Label is bold and graphic with jewel tones and metallic prints. The resortwear, including flowing dresses with a deep V cut, can be worn day or night and complement the suits.
Feathers were big for the desert-theme collection by Mara Hoffman, the designer known for her boho-chic looks and unique prints.
A bikini top had a beaded feather print on the straps and a feather temporary tattoo was seen on the models calves’ peeking out from above the short cowboy boots they comfortably wore down the runway.
The “Desert Outlaw Gypsies” collection includes pops of neon.
“I didn’t want it to overwhelm the collection, but it really does so well for us,” Hoffman said backstage. “Our girl responds to a pop of color and it’s a fun time to actually put those colors into your wardrobe.”
Hoffman added a custom-designed feather print to her pieces, while a snake print was introduced in slouch pants paired with a black crochet top. Braiding and beading were also big in this collection, as seen on multiple straps and U-shaped necklines. A crowd favorite, Hoffman’s resortwear included a beaded maxi dress, chiffon dashiki and a cropped top with a touch of Aztec and Egyptian art.
Tropical foliage, shimmering waters and stunning beaches were the inspiration for Benny Rossett’s Cia.Maritima collection. The Brazilian designer said he was inspired by a trip to the Hawaiian islands, with its different colors and shapes and designs.
“The environment is similar to Brazil, it’s a tropical island,” he said. “But what I like is the people are very warm like Brazilian people. I was very welcomed there and I love the place.”
Yellow made a splash in this collection in multiple styles. An animal-print monikini with bright yellow straps opened the show, followed later by a yellow tie-dye top tied in a knot to the side and a curve-hugging one-piece with an open back.
Models seemed to be walking on air as their long dresses and printed skirts flowed down the runway.
The story of Red Carter’s life and recent move from Miami to New York City inspired his latest collection, which included shiny disco balls and chunky geometric heels.
“We are giving homage to art deco in the first stanza. And then the second is going to be ethnic tribal while also adding a little disco into it,” he said of the glitz and glamour of legendary night club Studio 54.
The art deco looks included black and white pieces in architectural shapes and a hint of vintage feeling with geometric hairstyles. There was a tangerine deep-V ruffle one-piece and art deco-inspired demi-underwire and skirted hipster bottom. Many had hints of glitter or gold such as in the black and white “glitter bomb” monikini.
The second part, the “Brazil-esque with disco balls” looks included a safari bandeau and hipster bottom, a black handkerchief bandeau and safari hipster bottom.
Fringe was big again for Monica Wise, who uses the “swing” of the texture to add movement to her pieces.
“It’s all about the human senses: seeing, feeling ...” she said of the fringe look among the reversible textures, high-waist briefs and corset tie backs. Wise included fringe in her looks last year and appreciated how “the whole look and swing of it was different than a form-fitting bikini.”
A snakeskin print halter top with fringe was among the first pieces of the show. It was paired with a print-matching bottom. Handkerchief-style bikini tops also created movement down the runway.
Her new luxury swimwear line MAIO Swim by Monica Wise includes 27 pieces of mid-kinis and one-pieces with a sophisticated silhouette.
Melissa and Joe Gorga of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” were front row for the show.
“I can’t wait to see the new fashions that come down,” Melissa Gorga said before the show. “It’s a lot different than New York, but there’s a lot of sexy bodies around here this weekend.”
WHITE SANDS AUSTRALIA
Romantic looks were seen on the runway at White Sands Australia.
“It’s very, very girly,” said designer Leah Madden. “I always try to do things very pretty but sexy and with an edge. But this year it’s more pretty and more feminine.”
Madden kept it simple for The Violet Hour collection. She used touches of ruffles, neon pastel colors (green) and a vintage floral print with large violets over a white palette to create the blissful looks.
Black and pink floral prints were also seen throughout, as well as a pink chiffon-looking bandeau top with a high waist pink and black bottom. A gold sequined top (to be used either as a shirt or fancy cover-up) rounded out the show.
The Luli Fama show was a showstopper, complete with actors in 1960s attire and flapper dancers.
Inspired by the 1960s cult classic “La Dolce Vita,” designers Lourdes “Luli” Hanimian and brother-in-law Augusto Hanimian wanted to show how that era was in Italy is now the lifestyle in Miami.
Italy’s influence was seen in bold, baroque-style prints and romantic laces. Vibrant colors are reminiscent of Miami. And as for the retro, ’60s vibe we saw crochet, fringe, tie dye and kaleidoscopic floral prints throughout.
Brazilian-cut bottoms were among the sexy looks. “If Luli Fama does a high-waist bottom it has to have ruched-backed bottom and cheeky butt,” Lourdes Hanimian said of the collection, which also included a few thongs.
The mix of retro and modern was seen throughout the collection in girly accents such as ruffles and gold hardware. — (AP)
November is a tough month. I mean, we've barely recovered from our Halloween sugar shock and already we're gearing up for an all-day eat-off of turkey and trimmings.
And no matter how stuffed we feel at the end of Thanksgiving dinner, we still feel compelled to wrap up the festivities with the traditional slice of pumpkin pie.
I'm right there with you. I love pumpkin pie, especially covered with a dollop or two of real whipped cream. Trouble is, that one slice packs tons of extra fat and calories you don't need on top of everything else you've already enjoyed. A typical slice of pumpkin pie can have nearly 400 calories and more than 23 grams of fat.
It's hard to feel thankful for those numbers.
So I decided to come up with a healthier version of pumpkin pie. It's so good and so much lighter than traditional versions, you might even get away with eating two slices. Ready for the numbers? It has just 100 calories and less than 1 gram of fat per slice.
My version uses just a few healthy substitutions, and you'll be surprised at how great they taste. Stevia (a no-calorie natural sweetener), agave syrup and coconut nectar stand in for sugar. Nonfat Greek-style yogurt subs for whole milk. And gelatin thickens the pie filling and the "whipped cream."
The bulk of the calories and fat in pies comes from the crust, usually thanks to ample amounts of butter or shortening. Here, I've used sheets of phyllo dough stacked on top of one another. This eliminates most of the fat that goes into a pie. Plus, it makes a great crispy, crunchy crust.
About the "whipped cream" — gelatin mixed with fat-free milk, stevia and coconut nectar helps the mixture truly whip. There's zero fat, and very few calories, so feel free to pile mounds of my whipped cream on your pie. Or run your finger through the whipped cream as you make it. And lick the beaters!
If you just make simple, low-calorie swaps like these during the season, you shouldn't have a problem enjoying your favorite holiday foods. Since I started cooking like this, I haven't had a problem myself, and I've even lost a few pounds over the holidays.
Making this pie is a cinch too, so resist the urge to purchase one of those frozen pumpkin pies. Simply make the phyllo crust, bake it, fill it with the pumpkin mixture, then chill the pie. Except for the crust, this is no-bake pie. Excuse the cliche, but it is truly "easy as pie."
— Don't hesitate to start your Thanksgiving cooking a day early. This pie holds well in the refrigerator for up to a day.
— The whipped cream is best served immediately, but it can be covered and chilled in the refrigerator. To bring the whipped cream back to the original creaminess after chilling, place the bowl of whipped cream in a larger bowl half-filled with ice water and beat with the whisk attachment of an electric mixer on high until nice and creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. It will lose volume first but then grow again as you beat it.
PUMPKIN PIE WITH WHIPPED CREAM
Start to finish: 45 minutes (plus 4 hours chilling)
For the pie:
Butter-flavored cooking spray
6 sheets (14-by-9-inch sheets) frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1/4 cup cold water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin powder
2 3/4 cups canned pumpkin (one-and-a-half 15-ounce cans)
1 cup fat-free plain Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup agave syrup
4 packets stevia sweetener powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the whipped cream:
1 cup fat-free milk, divided
1 1/8 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
1/2 tablespoon coconut nectar
3 packets stevia sweetener powder
1 vanilla bean, split
Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-inch pie dish with the cooking spray.
Unroll the phyllo dough, then cover with plastic wrap while you work. Lay 1 sheet of the phyllo on the counter. Lightly mist the phyllo with cooking spray. Set a second sheet of phyllo over the first, rotating it slightly. Mist the second sheet of phyllo, then repeating this process with remaining phyllo sheets, rotating each time a sheet is added. Mist the final sheet of phyllo.
Use a knife to carefully trim the stack of phyllo into a 12-inch circle. Discard the scraps. Carefully lift the stack and set into the prepared pie dish, gently pressing the phyllo against the bottom and sides of the dish.
Bake the phyllo crust for 10 to 12 minutes, or until it is lightly browned and crisp. Set aside to cool while preparing the filling.
In a small saucepan, combine the cold water and envelope of gelatin. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Set the saucepan over medium and heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, stir together the pumpkin, yogurt, agave, 4 packets of the stevia, the pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract and salt. Stir in the gelatin mixture, mixing well. Pour the pie filling into the cooled phyllo crust. Chill in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours before serving.
When ready to serve, prepare the whipped cream. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the milk and the gelatin. Set aside for 5 minutes.
In a small saucepan over medium, combine the remaining milk, coconut nectar and 3 packets of stevia. With the tip of a small knife, slice open the vanilla bean, then scrape the seeds into the pot. Discard the vanilla pod. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the nectar. Add the gelatin mixture to the hot milk and whisk to dissolve. Pour the mixture into a medium stainless steel bowl or into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Place a larger bowl half-filled with ice water beneath the bowl of milk mixture (if using a stand mixer, put small zip-close bags of ice around the bottom of the mixer bowl). Beat the milk mixture with the whisk attachment on high for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture is thickened to a whipped cream consistency. The volume of the mixture will grow as it cools and whips.
To serve, cut the pie into 10 wedges. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream over each pie wedge.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 100 calories; 1 g fat (0 g saturated); 0 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 2 g fiber; 100 mg sodium.
You’ll always remember the break-up.
It started with a he-said, she-said moment forever burned in your mind. You remember where you stood, the words that were said (or not), the anger and the queasy feeling that a mistake was about to be made but you didn’t know whose it was.
Relationships come and go, but you never forget your first love and you never forget losing it, either.
And yet, what if you were separated by something beyond your mutual control? Would it be easy to find that love together again? In the new novel “Freeman” (Agate Bolden/$16) by Leonard Pitts Jr., one man aims to find out.
He called himself Sam because that’s what she’d said he looked like he was. A “Sam,” and he told her she looked like a Tilda. So that’s what they called one another, even though Mistress had given them ridiculous Greek names when she brought them to her plantation.
Sam had fallen in love with Tilda in that naming minute, and they were inseparable. Mistress let them live together. They had a child together, too, but then Luke was killed and Sam was sold away.
Tilda was angry then, and she had a right to be. Sam hadn’t allowed himself to think of that, or of her, for 15 years but once the North beat the South, he figured it was time to leave Philadelphia and find his wife.
Prudence Cafferty Kent was only acting on the deathbed wishes of her father.
With his last breath, he’d told her that he wanted her to go to Mississippi, where his plantation was, and build a school for Negro children soon as the war was over. Prudence was strong-willed and single-minded, but she knew she couldn’t do it without Bonnie’s help.
Bonnie was a toddler when, years before, the Captain had purchased her, immediately freed her, and raised her as his own. Prudence couldn’t remember life before Bonnie. They were sisters, even though one was milky-white and one was not.
When the Yankees came through and burned what was left of James McFarland’s plantation, Marse Jim went a little crazy. Maybe it was because the Yankees killed his son, Tilda wasn’t sure. She hated Marse Jim, but she felt sorry for him, too. She knew what it was like to lose a child. She’d lost love, too…
Have you ever read a book so good that you forgot you were reading? Yes, that’s what it’s like reading “Freeman.”
Pitts serves up a novel that’s both ugly and beautiful, with characters that you’ll feel honored to know, though it’ll hurt. This novel throws you down in the aftermath of war and pushes your face into it — gently, and then rubs. That’s a conundrum, for sure, but it’s also one of the finest Civil War novels I’ve ever read.
If you promised yourself one decent book this summer, then look no further because this is it. Read three pages of “Freeman” and you’ll know that this isn’t a story you’ll soon forget.
In the eyes of most of America, and certainly most of white America, Redd Foxx was an “overnight sensation,” materializing on television in 1972 at age 49 as the bow-legged, chest-clutching junk man Fred Sanford on the hit NBC sit-com, “Sanford and Son.”
But, as biographer Michael Seth Starr recounts in “Black and Blue: The Redd Foxx Story” (Applause Books, $27.99), Foxx arrived on the set of “Sanford and Son” as a street-smart, natural-born comic, who, through sheer talent, guile and unbridled self confidence, overcame a life of poverty in the slums of St. Louis to make his mark on three entertainment genres: stand-up comedy, recorded nightclub comedy, and, finally, television.(Dec. 9, 1922 – Oct. 11, 1991),
With the 1956 release of “Laff of the Party,” Foxx was crowned “King of the Party Records,” and while his frank, trailblazing style opened the door for generations of African-American comedians, including Dick Gregory, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock, it did little for his own career. Shielded from mainstream (that is white) audiences both by the color of his skin and his refusal to tone down his ribald act, Foxx eventually clawed his way up the show business ladder, breaking through in Las Vagas and New York and appearing in a few films before the first episode of “Sanford and Son” changed his life completely. Foxx took the country by storm in January 1972 as crotchety Watts junk dealer Fred Sanford (Foxx’s actual name was John Elroy Sanford) and was propelled to become one of the most beloved sitcoms in television history. Fred’s histrionic “heart attacks” (“It’s the big one, Elizabeth! I’m comin’ to join ya, honey!”) and catchphrases (“You big dummy!”) turned Fred Sanford into a cultural icon and Redd Foxx into a millionaire.
The show took Foxx to the pinnacle of television success, but it also proved to be his downfall. In 1977, Foxx left “Sanford and Son,” after six highly successful seasons (and the show was canceled solely due to his departure) to star in a short-lived variety show, but by 1980 he was back playing Fred G. Sanford in a brief revival/spin-off, “Sanford.” The veteran comedian would come to define his post-“Sanford and Son” years with a blur of women, cocaine, endless lawsuits, financial chaos and a losing battle with the IRS. Foxx appeared to be making a comeback with the 1991 series “The Royal Family,” in which he co-starred with his long-time friend, Della Reese, when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Foxx, who was 68 years old when he died, reportedly owed more than $3.6 million in taxes.
Based on Starr’s interviews with dozens of Foxx’s friends, confidantes and colleagues, this biography provides unique insight into this venerable performer — a man television producer Norman Lear describes as “inherently, innately funny in every part of his being.”
Terrance Dean more than just created controversy with the 2008 release of his Essence best selling book, “Hiding In Hip Hop.” He fostered a dormant conversation within the Black community about the “down low” culture that still takes place today.
“Hiding In Hip Hop” was Dean’s personal memoir which detailed his life in the entertainment industry as a gay man and his desire to live openly. He not only gave himself a voice, but in the years since, has used his journey to help others break their silence.
“I felt it was time for a conversation because our communities are in dire need of a voice as well as direction and leadership as well as an outlet to discuss openly without any judgments or criticisms about sex and sexuality and we’ve been struggling so long with this issue,” Dean said.
“We’ve seen so many people succumb to the hardships and the devastation and to the deadly diseases of HIV and AIDS that has crippled our community, thus making us the largest infection rate in the country.”
Dean continued about the importance of why homosexuality in the Black community was such a paramount one.
“If we continue to turn a blind eye towards sex and sexuality, we’re gonna continue to see the destruction of the Black family and the Black community,” Dean said.
“So, I really wanted to just bring light to some of the people who are hiding, who are fearful and who are tired and I feel like this is the appropriate time to lay claim and put a face and a voice to such an issue an a topic that is so deep within our community.”
In addition to being an author, Dean is also the founder and creator of Men’s Empowerment Inc., and co-creator of The Gathering of Men with Adeyemi Bandele. Recently, he became a columnist for the website, Bossip, doling out advice to readers. This past summer, his latest novel, “Mogul,” hit bookshelves and ushered in another frenzy as the main character was a closeted Hip Hop producer.
Three years after his water cooler tome almost threatened to derail a career which has spanned more than 10 years in the entertainment industry and allowed him to work with the likes of Spike Lee, Rob Reiner and Keenan Ivory Wayans, Dean has firmly established himself as a mainstay.
“I’ve gotten tons of emails from young people and people in general who say how the book has affected them and empowered them to come out, as well as women who say they look at men differently,” he said. “It gives them an insider’s look to men who are struggling with their sexuality. So, they felt more empowered as opposed to not villainizing, demonizing men who are struggling with their sexuality.”
Dean has embraced the recognition of role model by some.
“It’s very humbling. I’m very grateful and I don’t take it loosely or with any less responsibility. I truly am grateful to be responsible and to be held in such a regard. That lets you know that I’ve done something great and inspiring,” he said.
Dean has also received praise from his peers for helping to break down walls despite fears of reprisal. Stanley Bennett Clay has known Dean for five years now. The author, playwright and filmmaker approved of his friend daring to open a Pandora’s box.
“I love controversy. So, I loved the idea that he could be coming out with something that pull the covers back over something that we all know in this industry has been going on,” Clay said.
“If any kind of artist is worth their salt, and I believe that he is, that you understand that when you create good art, the entire genre of creating art is to provoke an audience and sometimes that provocation is positive. Sometimes, it’s negative but that’s okay. It’s all good as long as you’re moving them. When the audience is not moved, then you’re screwed.”
He elaborated further.
“I think if really closely at ‘Hiding In Hip Hop,’ that much of it was really an autobiography was him growing up under some really difficult circumstances way before he got into show business,” Clay said.
“So, what I think one can learn from Terrance’s example is perseverance. That for him to have gone through all the trials and tribulations of his life that he was still able to come out and be a major success, that’s a wonderful story and a wonderful message. Don’t give up and preserve.”
Ebony Utley, a professor at California State University Long Beach, agreed.
“I think he is very courageous as an individual. I think that Terrance has seen a lot of life and yet he’s so full of life,” Utley said.
Utley has known Dean for a year now and has held him in the highest regard.
“He’s not bitter. He’s not jaded. He’s not judgmental. None of those negative characteristics that can come along with someone who’s survived everything that he’s survived, and I like that his characters are survivors, too,” she said.
“They go through their ups and downs but yet they still whole people, real people, well adjusted people that are just working through their life challenges.”
More information on Terrance Dean can be found at www.mrterrancedean.com and Twitter @ terrancedean. His books are available in bookstores and can be ordered on Amazon and the Simon and Schuster website.
This fall, the region will witness the world premeire of the first major presentation under the Association for Public Art. “Open Air,” by Mexican-Canadian media artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, will combine public art with mobile technology to create a spectacular, interactive experience that will illuminate the night sky from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Created specifically for Philadelphia, the project is designed for personal contributions. Using a free mobile app developed by Lozano-Hemmer’s studio, participants’ voices and GPS positions will control 24 powerful robotic searchlights placed along a half-mile section of the Parkway, creating giant three-dimensional “light sculptures.”
Forming a canopy of light over the city, the project will be seen up to 10 miles away each evening from 8 to 11 between Sept. 20 and Oct. 14. A dedicated project headquarters, including app download and free mobile loan stations, will be located at Eakins Oval, 24th Street and the Parkway.
“What we’re going to do is place 24 of the world's brightest searchlights on the planet — 12 on Park Towne Place and 12 on the other side of the Parkway — and create with that a canopy of light,” explained the artist. “We’re going to create a mesh work of the whole Parkway, and then that mesh work is going to be controlled by people’s voices.”
A computer program will automatically analyze “Open Air” app users’ GPS positions and voices for frequency, intonation and volume, and will convert these characteristics into searchlight formations in the sky over the Parkway. The lights will react, both in brightness and position, to each participant’s voice and words as they are being spoken. Tens of thousands of individuals will be able to participate live during the project’s duration, and hundreds of thousands more will experience the project as viewers.
Lozano-Hemmer is an internationally recognized Mexican-Canadian artist currently living in Montreal. He has produced large-scale interactive art installations across the globe, including the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the 2010 Light in Winter Festival in Melbourne, Australia, and the 50th anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2009. His work in kinetic sculpture, responsive environments, video installation and photography has been shown in museums and biennials in four-dozen countries. He also represented Mexico in the 2007 Venice Biennale. Lozano-Hemmer’s interest “is to create intimacy and not intimidation. While the project will be spectacular in scale, what matters to me is that individual participants can personalize their city with their contributions.”
The Association for Public Art (aPA), formerly known as Fairmount Park Art Association, commissions, preserves, promotes and interprets public art in Philadelphia. Since its founding in 1872, aPA has worked with artists, communities and civic leaders to make encounters with art a part of everyday life, creating a museum without walls that is free and accessible to residents and visitors.
“The Association is dedicated to creating opportunities for artists to respond to the issues of our time, while redefining public space and encouraging public engagement and interaction,” said executive director Penny Balkin Bach. “Our interest in the potential of new media as a framework for public art on an urban scale led us to Lozano-Hemmer, who is recognized internationally as a major figure in the evolving understanding of technology as a creative force. We’re excited to bring him to Philadelphia to create a work that will transform the skyline, engage the public in a unique experience and bring international attention to the city.”
“Open Air” is presented in conjunction with the 2012 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and 2012 DesignPhiladelphia Festival. The iPhone app will be available starting Sept. 19. For more information, visit openairphilly.net.
President Barack Obama has written extensively about his father, but little is known about Stanley Ann Dunham, the fiercely independent woman who raised him, the person he credits for, as he says, “what is best in me.” Dunham was an economic anthropologist and rural development consultant who worked in several countries including Indonesia. She died in 1995, mere days before her 53rd birthday, at the beginning of her son’s political career. “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother” (Riverhead Books, $16) by award-winning reporter Janny Scott is an unprecedented look into the life of the woman who most singularly shaped Obama.
“I think the story of Ann Dunham sheds light on the president, who many people — even people who support him — feel they do not yet fully understand or know,” said Scott. “Ann Dunham struggled with many of the same conflicts that many young women struggle with and face today. For example, the conflict between family and work and the conflict between the need to make money and the desire to do work that seems like it makes a difference.”
Scott interviewed dozens of Dunham’s friends, colleagues and relatives (including both her children), and combed through boxes of personal and professional papers, letters to friends, and photo albums, to uncover the full breadth of this woman’s inspiring and nontraditional life, and to show the remarkable extent to which she shaped the man Obama is today.
“I interview, all in all, almost 200 people: friends, colleagues, professors, acquaintances, her two children, including the president, and all the living siblings of both of her parents. Occasionally I interviewed people who had no idea that Ann Dunham, the person they had known as a child, was actually Barack Obama’s mother. I was the first person to tell them that. One of the last people I interviewed was Barack Obama. It was an extraordinary thing to spend two years studying every square inch of a person's life and then go to the White House, the Oval Office, to discuss it with her son.”
Dunham’s story moves from Kansas and Washington state to Hawaii and Indonesia. It begins in a time when interracial marriage was still a felony in much of the United States, and culminates in the present, with her son as president. Finally, it is a heartbreaking story of a woman who died before her son would go on to his greatest accomplishments and reflections of what she taught him. Obama talked about Dunham’s death in a 30-second campaign advertisement —titled “Mother”— arguing for health care reform. The ad featured a photograph of Dunham holding a young Obama in her arms as Obama talks about her last days worrying about expensive medical bills. “I remember my mother,” recalled Obama during a 2007 speech. “She was 52 years old when she died of ovarian cancer, and you know what she was thinking about in the last months of her life? She wasn’t thinking about getting well. She wasn’t thinking about coming to terms with her own mortality. She had been diagnosed just as she was transitioning between jobs. And she wasn’t sure whether insurance was going to cover the medical expenses because they might consider this a pre-existing condition. I remember just being heartbroken, seeing her struggle through the paperwork and the medical bills and the insurance forms. So, I have seen what it’s like when somebody you love is suffering because of a broken health care system. And it’s wrong. It’s not who we are as a people.”
“A Singular Woman” is a poignant look at how character is passed from parent to child, and offers insight into how Obama’s destiny was created early, by his mother’s extraordinary faith in his gifts, and by her unconventional mothering. “People who know very little about Ann Dunham have questioned the choices she made as a parent,” said Scott. “But personally I think that her life story really challenges a lot of our assumptions about what it means to be a good mother.”
It was the best seat in the house.
From where you were, you could see it all: every footstep, gesture, movement and every player there. Looks of joy, grimaces and effort, you saw them all. You didn’t miss anything from where you were sitting.
Yep, you had the best seat in the house, which is good because you paid dearly for it.
Paul Jennings paid dearly for his seat in history, too, as you’ll see in the new book “A Slave in the White House” by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor (Palgrave Macmillan/$28). Paul, in fact, paid for his vantage point with most of his life.
When Paul Jennings was born in late 1799, it might’ve seemed that his future was already set: At a time when slavery was matrilineal, Jennings, the son of a mixed-race enslaved mother and a white father, automatically inherited his mother’s status.
Because she was a house slave on the plantation owned by Virginia legislator (and later President) James Madison, tradition held that little Paul would work in the house, too. For curious, quick-to-learn, young Jennings, that meant opportunity to learn to read and write, and to observe. Perhaps, because of that, when James Madison became president and moved to Washington, he took 10-year-old Jennings along.
Madison was an “exceptional” statesman but a “garden-variety” slaveholder. Though he paid a certain amount of lip-service to anti-slavery movements, he followed established practices for slave’s living conditions and family situations. That meant that, when Jennings was of marrying age and took a wife, his bondage kept him from his family — sometimes, for months at a time.
One can almost imagine Paul Jennings “gnawing on the possibility of escape,” but he stayed with the Madisons, traveling between Washington and the plantation in Virginia. He embraced a leadership role in the household, made valuable contacts in Washington, and managed to father five children.
James Madison had indicated in his will that Paul Jennings was to be freed upon Madison’s death, a wish about which Jennings knew. So, as documents show, did Dolley Madison, but she had other ideas…
Did you ever finish a book with a dozen questions still swirling through your head? As I read “A Slave in the White House,” I often wondered what, for instance, Paul Jennings might have thought about a Black president?
Like most of us, author-historian Elizabeth Dowling Taylor can only speculate, since slaves like Jennings had to keep such notions to themselves. Still, Taylor gives her readers a general idea of the character of the man, enough for us to make inferences. To do that, she unearthed documents, oral histories and photographs that make Paul Jennings’ story one that’s both lively and bitter. She also includes the full text of the book that Jennings wrote about his White House days, so we can see history for ourselves.
You might think you know our nation’s past, but this book may surprise you. If you’re up for a great historical biography, “A Slave in the White House” will surely keep you in your seat.