What makes Lenny Kravitz so cool? What makes Beyonce' a box office bombshell? Why does Tina Turner, who has been in the entertainment business for more than 40 years, still turn heads? How does 69 year-old Mick Jagger still have his swagger? What makes LL hot as hell? In what promises to be a seductive primetime special, VHI will air "VH1 100 Sexiest Artists," hosted by Stevie Ryan, premiering March 5 at 9 p.m. and continuing through March 9 in the same time slot.
Touted by the network as "provocative, steamy and hot," episode one, hosted by Marg Helgenberger ("CSI: Crime Scene Investigation"), will count down sexiest artists #100-81: 100. David Lee Roth; 99. Alicia Keys, 98; David Cassidy, 97; Kid Rock 96. The Corrs 95; Lita Ford 94; Rod Stewart 93; *NSYNC 92;. Olivia Newton-John 91; Scott Weiland 90; Natalie Imbruglia 89; Chrissie Hynde 88; Dave Matthews 87; Salt-N-Pepa 86; Diana Ross 85; Paula Abdul 84; Fiona Apple 83; Creed 82; Andy Gibb 81; Samantha Fox 80.
I can feel your blood boiling already, which may or may not be a good thing. Any time someone compiles a list, there's bound to be some controversy, and the red-hot LL Cool J, currently starring in "NCIS: Los Angeles" says of bodacious beauty Jennifer Lopez, "Obviously, her derriere is, you know, affecting the world in a positive way."
Tune in on March 5 to see if your favorite celebrity fantasy made the list.
As Super Bowl 2013, pitting the Baltimore Ravens against the San Francisco 49ers approaches, the details of Beyoncé’s much-hyped halftime extravaganza are beginning to emerge.
However, before Beyoncé and the girls take the field at the Superdome, CBS Sports, home of Super Bowl XLVII, celebrates the host city of New Orleans with “New Orleans: Let the Good Times Roll.” Hosted by one of the Big Easy’s very own, internationally acclaimed musician, composer and bandleader Wynton Marsalis, this special one-hour program airs at noon on Feb. 3,
The network states that “New Orleans: Let the Good Times Roll” inhabits the spirit of the city as Marsalis, a nine-time Grammy Award winner, celebrates one of the most unique cities in the world by introducing the rhythm and soul of the Crescent City through its music, its people, its traditions and its love of football and the New Orleans Saints as it prepares to kick off the biggest party of the year.
Right before the battle (and the high-priced commercials) begins at 6:30 p.m., 14-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Alicia Keys will sing the National Anthem.
Finally, at halftime, Beyoncé will reportedly open a solo set with “Crazy in Love” before Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland join her for a Destiny’s Child reunion. The trio will perform a medley of some of their biggest hits including “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Survivor” before ending with “Nuclear,” a new track from their recently released compilation, “Love Songs.” Beyoncé is expected to close the show with the premiere of a track from her upcoming album.
More than 111.3 million viewers in the U.S. watched last year’s Super Bowl, the most-watched television program in history. The pregame show and Super Bowl XLVII will be broadcast worldwide.
With all the star power at the BET Awards — Kanye West, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce and Samuel L. Jackson, to name a few — the most stirring moment came not from a superstar, but from the mother of one.
Whitney Houston's mother, Cissy, provided the emotional highlight of Sunday's ceremony as she sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in tribute to her late daughter, leaving audience members like Beyonce and Soulja Boy in tears.
Mariah Carey opened the tribute, and her voice wavered as she told stories about Houston. She recalled the last time she saw Houston last year, and how the two laughed and gossiped together.
"I miss my friend," Carey said. "I miss hearing her voice and laughter."
R&B singer Monica was vocally top-notch as she sang "I Love the Lord," a gospel song once sang by Houston; Brandy sang two upbeat Houston hits, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and "I'm Your Baby Tonight." Chaka Khan blazed the stage with "I'm Every Woman," which Houston remade. Gary Houston, Whitney's brother, also performed; and Houston's "Waiting to Exhale" castmates — Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon and Loretta Devine — also honored the singer.
But it was Cissy Houston's soaring performance that brought the audience to their feet, and had many dabbing their eyes. The tribute came five months after Houston's death: She died the night before the Grammy Awards of an accidental drowning complicated by heart disease and cocaine use.
As compelling as that moment was, the show was also defined by its low points: Entire segments of performances, from Nicki Minaj to Rick Ross, were muted out due to foul language and obscenities, though several vulgarities were heard on air.
It started during the opening number by West's G.O.O.D. music group, which included Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz. There were long moments of censored silence when the rappers performed "Mercy," though not all the offending words were bleeped out. Moments later, Jackson, the show's host, was joined by Spike Lee as they did a comedic version of Jay-Z and West's hit song "... In Paris," to laughs.
"Two distinguished Morehouse men," Lee joked after the performance, referencing the alma mater of the two.
The censor police also worked overtime when Rick Ross performed with his Maybach Music Group and during Minaj's performance and acceptance speech for best female hip-hop artist. Minaj's win was her third consecutive time taking the prize.
"I really, really appreciate BET for keeping this category alive, and I appreciate all the female rappers doing their thing, past, present and future," she said, before uttering an obscenity.
Best gospel winner Yolanda Adams, who also performed, gently took some of her peers to task, urging them to act mature and use their fame wisely.
"We need all of y'all," she said onstage. "I'm saying the world needs everyone in this room. Please make sure that you use your gift responsibly, 'cause we're watching. Our babies are watching, and they want to be like us."
West, the most nominated act of the night with seven, and Jay-Z won the ceremony's top prize, earning video of the year for "Otis." They also won best group.
Beyonce was the second most nominated act with six. She won video director of the year (along with Alan Ferguson) and best female R&B artist and thanked the genre and her female influences.
"I fell in love with music by listening to R&B. It's the core of who I am," she said, giving special thanks to Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige and "Whitney Houston, my angel."
When she lost video of the year to Jay-Z and West, she playfully hit her husband and laughed. The joking continued: Moments later, as West was giving his acceptance speech, Jay-Z interrupted him and said: "Excuse me Kanye, I'm gonna let you continue, but ...," and the audience erupted with laughter, recalling West's infamous interruption of Taylor Swift's MTV Video Music Awards speech a few years back.
Chris Brown was also a double winner, picking up his second consecutive win for best male R&B artist, and the "Fandemonium" award for a third time.
Brown also performed in his first televised appearance since the New York City nightclub brawl between his entourage and Drake's. Brown, his girlfriend, his bodyguard and NBA star Tony Parker were among those injured in the June 14 encounter, where bottles were thrown.
Drake didn't show, though he was named best male hip-hop artist.
The tone of night fluctuated frequently, as the show shifted from hotly anticipated performances to solemn moments to irreverence. Usher performed his groove "Climax," and Minaj sported a blond wig with pink tips as she performed the songs "Champion" and "Beez in the Trap," which featured 2 Chainz.
D'Angelo returned to the television spotlight with his first performance in years as he attempts a comeback.
The night also featured some tributes to deceased greats: Chante Moore performed a medley of Donna Summer's hits and Valerie Simpson sang a song in honor of her husband and writing partner Nick Ashford. Don Cornelius, Dick Clark and Hal Jackson were remembered. Even West offered tributes: after his performance, he name-dropped Rodney King and Whitney Houston in a verse that got cheers from the crowd, including his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian.
Presenters included Taraji P. Henson, Tyler Perry, Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx, who wore a T-shirt that had a picture of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.
Frankie Beverly featuring Maze were honored with the lifetime achievement award, and they were serenaded with performances by Tyrese, Faith Evans and Joe. The Rev. Al Sharpton received the humanitarian award, and urged the crowd to vote this November.
"This election is not just about Obama, this is about your momma," he said.
Grammy winner discusses documentary, more with Oprah
Seventeen-time Grammy Award winner Beyonce' will have a lot to discuss when she sits down with Oprah Winfrey for a special episode of "Oprah's Next Chapter" airing Saturday, February 16 at 8 p.m. on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. Beyonce' will talk in-depth about the making of her upcoming documentary "Beyonce': Life Is But a Dream," following at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Winfrey will conduct the first sit-down interview with the global superstar since her lights-out halftime performance at Super Bowl XLVII, which was immediately followed by an appearance as a presenter at last week's Grammy Awards, where B picked up the trophy for Best R&B Performance. She is slated to return to New Orleans' Superdome as a headliner of the 2013 Essence Festival, taking place July 4-7.
HBO states that "Beyoncé: Life Is But a Dream," directed by the multi-platinum superstar, is a "fusion of video that provides raw, unprecedented access to the private entertainment icon and high-voltage performances."
"Editing myself and seeing all the mistakes that I've made and still putting in the film and seeing life as if it wasn't me, and I feel like it's time, it's time for people to really get to know me and see a different side," Beyoncé explained during a recent press conference about the special. "And I'm really curious and scared and every night now [I think,] 'It's too late. It's coming out.' But I'm happy with it."
She hopes the film will provide inspiration to her year-old daughter, Blue Ivy.
"I hope that she will see all of the beautiful times (and) all the tough times that led up to her being here," the singer told the Associated Press Tuesday night at the New York premiere of "Life is But a Dream."
Beyoncé has been private about her personal life in the past, but decided it was time to let her fans see who she really is.
"I felt that after 16 years of being a public singer, people didn't know who I was," she said. But then she added: "I will always keep certain things to myself because it's only natural."
"Everybody knows Beyoncé's music, but few know Beyoncé the person," said Michael Lombardo, president of HBO Programming. "Along with electrifying footage of Beyoncé on stage, this unique special looks beyond glamour to reveal a vibrant, vulnerable, unforgettable woman."
As fans anticipate her forthcoming album, the 2013 Beyoncé World Tour, dubbed "The Mrs. Carter Show," comes to the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, July 25, before heading to the shore on Friday, July 26 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
It’s the best of times and the worst of times for 16-time Grammy Award winner Beyoncé Knowles. On a natural high following a well-received rendition of the National Anthem, the balloon quickly deflated amid rumors that her rousing interpretation of “The Star Spangled Banner” was not delivered live, but over a pre-recorded vocal track. Beyoncé has neither confirmed or denied the accusations, but the airwaves are still full of suspicion and doubt. Fortunately, The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, came to Bey’s defense, saying that the practice of singing to a pre-recorded track was quite common, given that extremely cold weather makes it very difficult for singers to be at their best.
As the speculation continues, so does Beyoncé’s stratospheric success. Queen B will star in the Super Bowl XLVIII Half-time show in New Orleans on February 3, recently signed a record $50 million promotional deal with Pepsi, and is expected to release an album in 2013. Her year is off to an auspicious beginning with the release of “Love Songs,” a compilation of Destiny’s Child’s romantic tracks which features “Nuclear,” the trio’s first new song in eight years.
“Love Songs,” a 14-track collection, showcases the ladies’ tight, yet lilting harmonies as well as the contrast between their three voices — Beyoncé, bold and assertive; Kelly Rowland, cool and compelling and Michelle Williams, light and ethereal. The disc features the romantic hits “Cater 2 U,” “Say My Name” and their beautiful arrangement of the Bee Gees’ “Emotion,” which are a stark juxtaposition to their unapologetic dance hits such as “Bootylicious,” “Survivor” and “Independent Woman.”
At the Super Bowl, Rowland and Williams will join Beyoncé to perform “Nuclear,” a danceable techno-track produced by respected musician, producer and songwriter Pharrell Williams. The song was co-written by Michelle Williams, James Fauntleroy and Lonny Bereal, with Bereal and Beyoncé contributing vocal production. “Love Songs” is now available in stores and at online outlets.
Normally, the Philadelphia Museum of Art's steps has dozens of tourists and fitness buffs huffing up and down the stairs or taking pictures. On Monday morning, hundreds of music fans lined the famous steps for a glimpse of hip-hop music mogul Shawn "Jay-Z " Carter as he announced the upcoming "Budweiser Made in America" music festival.
Carter, who is married to fellow music superstar Beyoncé Knowles, will curate and headline the blockbuster roster of talent, which will include nearly 30 artists that embody the American spirit performing across three stages on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park on Saturday, Sept. 1 and Sunday, Sept. 2.
A primary goal of this music festival is to have a positive impact on the communities involved. This concert will benefit United Ways in Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, Lancaster County, Pa. and New York City, enabling them to invest more dollars into their regions, strengthening local communities and improving lives. As a result of this concert, the money invested into these communities will positively impact the education, income and health of the most vulnerable and most needy citizens in these regions.
After making history with back-to-back performances at Carnegie Hall, Carter is teaming up with Budweiser and United Way for the Labor Day weekend Live Nation-produced extravaganza to benefit United Way. "Whenever I enter into a project I hit on some touch points, the first being is it great," Jay-Z said. "You can't hit great every time, but sometimes once you start there you'll end up in a great place. The second one is, is it going to push the culture forward. I think this concert would do that. Budweiser did that in the past with the Superfest where they gave a platform for artists to perform mainly hip-hop and R&B arts, and you know when the opportunities wasn't as plentiful as they are today. Third, is there a philanthropic opportunity, and that's where the united Way comes in. We just did some brilliant work at my Carnegie hall concert, and raised a lot of money to help those less fortunate and that's a great thing for us. And they are also going to work with some local charities in New Jersey and the greater Philadelphia area."
As Carter was speaking, a man yelled, "HOV, you're the best!" The audience burst out in laughter when Carter responded, "I agree."
Other fans screamed in the background (and even at times booed anyone other than Jay-Z on the mic).
Local music notables such as rapper Freeway and activist Charlie Mack where among those gathered at the museum.
"Everyone knows my love affair with Philly from the amazing talented artists I've signed from here to the film work I'm about to do with Will Smith and James Lassiter at Overbrook," explained Carter. "And, the last one: I've got to make my momma proud so I can’t do half-baked, so I'm really putting my all into this and can announce that we have over 70 percent of the artists already confirmed. It's going to be a great day in Philly."
The eclectic roster of talent cultivated by Carter will be announced on May 21 and will include acts ranging from rock, hip-hop, R&B, Latin and dance.
Disco legend Donna Summer died Thursday morning May 17 in Naples, Fla., at age 63 after a battle with cancer, said her publicist Brian Edwards. Her family released a statement saying they “are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.” The five-time Grammy-winning singer had numerous hits in both the 1970s and 1980s, including “Last Dance,” “She Works Hard for the Money” and “Bad Girls.”
“The City of Philadelphia and the music world are deeply saddened by the passing of an incredibly talented musical artist, Donna Summer,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, who was once known as club DJ “Mix Master Mike.” “For people in my generation and many others, she was one of the greatest vocalists of the second half of the 20th century. An innovator of note, she had a wide range of musical capabilities. She was one of the leaders of the disco wave in America and Europe, and she broke new musical ground with songs like ‘Love to Love You Baby,’ ‘Bad Girls,’ ‘MacArthur Park Suite’ and ‘Hot Stuff.’”
Summer was the first artist to have three double albums reach No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart: “Live and More,” “Bad Girls,” “On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II.” She became a cultural icon, not only as one of the defining voices of the era, but also as an influence on future pop divas from Madonna to Beyoncé.
Nutter recalled playing “the Queen of Disco” during her heyday while deejaying at the Impulse Disco at Broad Street and Germantown Avenue. “For a young guy working in a night club at the high point of disco, and for everyone who came together in those days of joyful music and dance, she represented a singular musical style and a towering artistry. We all carry fond memories of Donna Summer. Whether performing alone or in duets with talents like Barbara Streisand, Donna Summer was one of the very best. I loved her music, her beautiful voice, and her grand musical talent.”
Summer reportedly did not embrace the “Disco Queen” title and later became a born-again Christian, but many remembered her best for her early years, starting with the sinful “Love to Love You Baby.” Released in 1975, a breakthrough hit for Summer and for disco, it was a legend of studio ecstasy and the genre’s ultimate sexual anthem. She simulated climax so many times that the BBC kept count: 23, in 17 minutes.
“All other erotic tunes, like ‘Jungle Fever’ and Pillow Talk,’ were mere foreplay to ‘Love To Love You, Baby.’ In the first place, it took up the whole album side and it set the scene for the 12-inch single,” noted author and cultural critic Richard Torres.
What started as a scandal became a classic. The song was later sampled by LL Cool J, Timbaland, and Beyoncé, who interpolated the hit for her jam “Naughty Girl.” It was also Summer’s U.S. chart debut and the first of her 19 No. 1 dance hits between 1975 and 2008 — second only to Madonna.
“The funny thing about that track is that it really does warrant that length,” explained Torres. “There is no filler on that track. It’s hypnotic. ‘Love To Love You, Baby’ is the American ‘Ravel’s Bolero’ — it’s the beginning and middle, and,” Torres reflects with a chuckle, “it gave a man something to shoot for.”
Musically, Summer began to change in 1979 with “Hot Stuff,” which had a tough, rock ‘n’ roll beat. Her diverse sound helped her earn Grammy Awards in the dance, rock, R&B and inspirational categories.
“She’s the most underrated great singer of the last 35 years,” noted Torres. “People would have thought of her as a — and this is pun intended — one-trick-pony based on the orgasmic ‘Love to Love You, Baby.’ But even in that song she showed tremendous range. What people forget is that she also received a lot of scorn, because there was this racist movement to anti-disco, and because she was the ‘Queen of Disco,’ her vocal and artistic contributions were diminished in the mainstream press. This is a woman, who by the way, more than held her own in a duet with Barbara Streisand on ‘Enough Is Enough/No More Tears.’ What she had was this unfailing rhythmic ability — and disco was all about could you ride the rhythm — she wasn’t a shouter, a la Lolita Holloway, but she was a chanteuse. She created a mood with every song.”
Summer released her last album, “Crayons,” in 2008. It was her first full studio album in 17 years. She also performed on “American Idol” that year with its top female contestants. Summer is survived by her husband, Bruce Sudano, and three daughters, Brooklyn, Mimi and Amanda.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
For a number of reasons, 2012 was quite an eventful year in entertainment, but arguably, the star who captured the most media attention, due in part to her ability to manipulate the media — and her fans — to gain the maximum amount of exposure, was Beyoncé Knowles, also known as Mrs. Shawn Carter.
In August 2011, Knowles strategically and dramatically revealed on stage at the end of her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards that she was with child. The camera immediately panned to hubby Jay-Z in full celebration mode with his pal Kanye West, and the Carters’ adorable daughter Blue Ivy was born on January 7.
The good news continued throughout 2012, and Queen B was tapped to star in the Super Bowl XLVIII Half-time show in New Orleans on Feb. 3. To cap off a stellar year, she recently signed a record $50 million promotional deal with Pepsi, and is expected to release an album in 2013.
The year 2012 began auspiciously, with Octavia Spencer winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Spencer won the Oscar in her first time nominated, for her portrayal of maid Minny Jackson in “The Help,” the big screen adaptation of the Kathryn Stockett book about Southern life in the 1960s amid the Civil Rights Movement.
Spencer, who was chosen over Oscar nominee Queen Latifah and Academy Award winners Jennifer Hudson and Mo’Nique to play the role of Minny, also won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal.
It was also a banner year for Steve Harvey, who retired from stand-up comedy in order to tend to his burgeoning media empire, which in addition to his syndicated morning radio show, now includes an afternoon talk show on NBC.
He is having a blast as the host of the enduring game show “Family Feud,” and “Think Like a Man,” the feature film based on his New York Times bestseller “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” grossed $91 million at the box office. As if that weren’t enough, his syndicated daytime talk show, “The Steve Harvey Show,” which debuted on September 4 on NBC, had the strongest premiere since “Dr. Oz” in 2009. Harvey recently weighed on its early success.
“I’m pretty blessed. That’s all I can say,” Harvey said during a recent interview. “It made me feel really good that people would buy into what I’m trying to do over here so quickly. That was nice, and the numbers are holding strong and everybody over here is happy, so I’m pretty comfortable.”
On the medical front, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, who was successfully treated for breast cancer in 2007, was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS, a disorder in which the bone marrow fails to produce enough healthy blood cells. Roberts was required to undergo a bone marrow transplant, and her sister Sally Ann Roberts, a perfect match, was the donor. According to ABC News, the transplant was a success, and Roberts, still on hiatus from “GMA,” is now “on the road to recovery.”
In a major development, Oprah Winfrey, whose television network OWN was floundering, joined forces with her friend and colleague Tyler Perry, recently announcing “an exclusive partnership” to “become his singular destination for all new television series and projects, including two new scripted series for the network to premiere in mid 2013.” These will be the first original scripted series for OWN and Perry will executive produce, write and direct both series.
“I have been looking forward to the day when we would be in the position to enter the world of scripted television. That day has come,” said Oprah Winfrey, CEO, OWN. “We are all energized by the opportunity to collaborate with Tyler, who has a proven track record for producing highly successful cable series. He has an incredible ability to illuminate life stories and characters in his unique voice and inspires and encourages people all over the world.”
“It’s a dream realized to partner with Oprah and bring scripted programming to OWN,” stated Perry. “She has accomplished so much with the network and I’m excited to work with her to be part of its continued growth.”
Network television also got a much needed shot in the arm with the arrival of the hit ABC drama “Scandal,” created by “Grey’s Anatomy” producer Shonda Rhimes.
“Scandal,” according to the network, centers on the “revered and feared” Olivia Pope, a former communications director to the president of the United States, who left the White House to open her own prominent crisis management firm. She is hoping to start a new chapter in her life — both professionally and personally — but she can’t seem to completely cut ties with her past. Slowly it becomes apparent that her dysfunctional staff, which specializes in fixing other people’s lives, can’t quite fix their own.
ABC recently announced that due to its increasingly large viewership, the second season of “Scandal” has been expanded from 13 to 22 episodes. In addition, Elise Neal, formerly of the sitcoms “The Hughleys” and “All of Us,” has joined the cast of the show as Anna Gordon, “an attorney with secrets.” Columbus Short, best known for his role as DJ Williams in the feature film “Stomp the Yard” co-stars as litigator Harrison Wright, a member of Olivia’s staff.
In a less savory situation, there was a major shake-up at “American Idol,” with both Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez announcing their departures from the judging panel. Ratings for the 2012 season were down 23 percent from the year before, with the season finale hitting an all-time low. According to Billboard.com, the news prompted a Fox network executive to proclaim there would be “creative reinvigoration” of the “Idol” franchise next season.
Making good on that promise, three new judges were recently announced, with Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj joining original judge Randy Jackson on the panel.
Of course there was the usual media minutia, including the continuing saga of the toxic romance between Rihanna and Chris Brown. The Bajan beauty addressed her issues by getting naked at every opportunity, while Brown went through the motions of moving on with his life, only to dump his new “Boo,” Karrueche Tran, after hooking up with Rihanna at a Jay-Z concert. It is now being reported that Rihanna has since kicked Brown to the curb, however the two were spotted at a Lakers game on Christmas day, so it appears that the volatile relationship between the addicted lovers changes almost daily. Speaking of love, in 2012, rising R&B star Frank Ocean revealed in his blog that his first love was a man. Ocean, who has produced and collaborated with some of music’s top hip-hop acts, and has co-written songs for Beyoncé, Justin Bieber and John Legend, received an outpouring of support from the hip-hop community, including encouragement from 50 Cent, Nas, Jamie Foxx and Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons.
On the police blotter, the talented but troubled comedian Katt Williams was arrested repeatedly in 2012, with one of the most recent incidents being a bust outside of Sacramento on Dec. 7 on a felony warrant related to a police chase. According to TMZ.com, Williams has been besieged with legal problems, including the fallout from a bar fight in which he allegedly threw a rock at a car, a lawsuit over a bizarre onstage meltdown and slapping a Target employee in the face.
As 2012 drew to a close, perhaps the most shocking revelation in the world of entertainment was the resignation of Kevin Clash, the 21-time Emmy Award winning creator and voice of beloved “Sesame Street” character, Elmo.
In November, Clash resigned from the show in the wake of allegations that he’d had a sexual relationship with an underage boy. A federal lawsuit was filed in New York said Jeff Herman, attorney for a second accuser, identified as Cecil Singleton. The first accuser, an unidentified 23-year-old man, later recanted his claim.
Upon his resignation, Clash, who is divorced and has one daughter, said in a statement, “Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work ‘Sesame Street’ is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately.”
ABC News contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama can expect some sweet serenades at his inauguration ceremony, with hit-makers Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor on tap to perform some of the country's most patriotic songs.
From Hollywood to Music Row, celebrities have been a staple of Obama's candidacy and presidency, so it was with little surprise that some of the biggest names in entertainment are helping him celebrate his Jan. 21 swearing-in.
Planners said Wednesday that Obama picked Beyonce to sing the national anthem, Clarkson to perform "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and Taylor to sing "America the Beautiful."
Beyonce and Taylor have been devoted Obama supporters. Beyonce sang the Etta James classic "At Last" for the president and first lady's dance at the inaugural balls four years ago and hosted a $4 million fundraiser for his re-election. Taylor sang at the White House in Obama's first term and at the Democratic National Convention last summer.
Clarkson, however, once said she was a fan of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul for the 2012 race, although she said she voted Obama in 2008. She said on Twitter Wednesday that she is "excited & honored" to be performing at the inaugural.
Richard Blanco, the son of Cuban exiles, is the 2013 inaugural poet, joining a select group that includes Maya Angelou and the late Robert Frost. Blanco's works explore his family's exile from Cuba and "the intersection of his cultural identities as a Cuban-American gay man," inauguration planners announced. They said Blanco, 44, will be the youngest-ever inaugural poet and the first Hispanic or gay to recite a poem at the ceremonial swearing-in.
"His contributions to the fields of poetry and the arts have already paved a path forward for future generations of writers," Obama said in a statement. "Richard's writing will be wonderfully fitting for an inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation's great diversity."
Obama also gave a nod to the diversity of styles and backgrounds of the musical performers, saying that "their music is often at the heart of the American story and speaks to folks across the country."
Blanco said in the statement that he was "brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude" at being selected.
"In many ways, this is the very 'stuff' of the American Dream, which underlies so much of my work and my life's story — America's story, really," he said.
Paperbacks of Blanco's books are out of stock on Amazon.com. They, along with virtually all works of poetry, are not available as e-books because publishers have not figured out how to format poetry properly for a digital device, so the only way to buy them is to find a used print copy.
The announcements are part of the specifics beginning to emerge for the festivities planned over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 21, because inaugurations aren't traditionally held on Sundays. The president will have a private swearing-in ceremony at the White House at noon on Jan. 20, the time the Constitution says his second term begins.
The official celebration will include the swearing-in on the Capitol's west front, followed by a luncheon inside the building's Statuary Hall for 200 including congressional leaders, Cabinet members and Supreme Court justices. Planners said the lunch menu will feature steamed lobster, New England chowder, hickory grilled bison with wild huckleberry reduction and red potato horseradish cake and a dessert of apple pie, ice cream, cheese and honey.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, chairman of the congressional committee overseeing events at the Capitol, said wines will be served with each course from his home state. Planners say they are decorating the tables with orange flowers in silver cachepots, "a geometric patterned tablecloth that picks up the copper and bronze tones of Statuary Hall," while the head table will be draped in blue velvet.
Schumer's committee plans to present Obama with a custom hand-cut crystal Lenox vase with an etching of the White House. Vice President Joe Biden will be given one etched with an image of the Capitol. -- (AP)
The year 2011 was an eventful one in entertainment, including the loss of a pioneering producer and Oprah Winfrey’s bold move into the next phase of her career, making headlines. However, the fascination with Beyoncé Knowles and her hubby, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, continued, and Knowles, who has obviously studied hours of footage on R&B divas Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross, chose a high profile platform on which to reveal the news that celebrity watchers had been speculating about for months.
At the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), the multiple-Grammy winner romped through a sizzling rendition of her hit “Love on Top,” and ended her performance by unbuttoning the sequined blazer that she was wearing and revealing her “baby bump.” As she stood front and center, wearing a coy smile, the camera quickly cut to Jay-Z, who was grinning broadly as he received hearty congratulations from his colleague, Kanye West. According to her close friend and former Destiny’s Child band mate, Kelly Rowland, Knowles is expected to deliver a daughter in February 2012. “I think her dad is gonna give her everything anyways, all I can give her is love,” says Rowland.
The year began with one of the biggest stories of 2011, with Oprah Winfrey, who in 2010, wrapped production on her popular talk show after 25 years, launching the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on January 1.
A joint venture between Winfrey’s production company, Harpo, Inc., and Discovery Communications, OWN: THE OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK is a “multiplatform media company designed to entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives.” The network debuted in approximately 80 million homes, on what was once the Discovery Health Channel. The venture also includes the award-winning digital platform, Oprah.com. OWN is currently celebrating the overwhelming success of its first African-American series, a reality show titled “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,” which was recently renewed for a second season.
Locally, Bounce TV, “the country’s first-ever over-the-air broadcast television network for African Americans,” launched in the Philadelphia market on December 1. Martin Luther King, III and Ambassador Andrew Young are among the Founding Group and Board of Directors of the network, now available on Channel 44.2 on Lenfest Broadcasting’s WMCN-TV in Philadelphia.
The network targets African Americans primarily between the ages of 25 and 54 with a programming mix of theatrical motion pictures, sporting events, documentaries, specials, inspirational faith-based programs, off-net series, original programming and more. Bounce TV airs 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the digital signals of local television stations.
Unfortunately, the news wasn’t all good in 2011. The music industry suffered several crushing losses, beginning with the death of Nick Ashford, of the prolific songwriting team Ashford & Simpson, who succumbed to throat cancer on August 22.
The couple has often told the story of their serendipitous meeting in 1964, when Nick, who was homeless at the time, came into a Harlem church to be fed, and first laid eyes on an angelic Valerie Simpson, who was singing with three other young ladies. They immediately discovered their mutual love for music, and eventually for each other. They were married in 1974, and have often recalled with mild amusement, selling their “first batch of songs” for $20.
That love manifested itself in 38 years of marriage, two beautiful daughters and a timeless catalog of R&B/pop classics that includes “You’re All I Need to Get By,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” — all delivered by Motown’s Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, the exquisite duo that could very well have been Nick and Valerie’s collective alter ego.
In addition, the music industry also lost visionary Sylvia Robinson, the pioneering “Mother of Hip-Hop,” who died of congestive heart failure on September 29. She was 75. Having achieved R&B success writing romantic hits for the Moments (“Love on a Two Way Street,” “Sexy Mama”), and as a solo artist (“Pillow Talk”), Robinson made her greatest impact in 1979, when she and her husband, Joe Robinson, formed Sugar Hill Records, and legitimized the rap genre, then seen as a “fad,” with the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.”
Perhaps the most shocking loss came on November 8, when Heavy D (Dwight Errington Myers), hip-hop’s beloved “Overweight Lover,” died suddenly at age 44. The rapper collapsed in his home, and police found no evidence of foul play, saying that the death appeared to be “medically related.” Fans embraced his whimsical brand of happy hip-hop, and as the front man for Heavy D & the Boyz, he topped the charts with his irresistible dance hit “Now that We Found Love,” penned by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
The entertainment world was not without controversy in 2011, and some feathers were ruffled by the hit feature film “The Help,” now nominated for four major Golden Globe Awards and four Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards.
Based on a novel by Kathryn Stockett, “The Help” is inspired by the southern tradition of Black women working as domestics — cooking, cleaning and caring for white families, particularly the children. These women would stay with the families for generations, with the children growing up and ultimately supervising the women that raised them.
“The national criticism by many of the so-called ‘thinkers’ and writers is that what you simply have is the liberal white woman — kind of like ‘The Blind Side.’ You know, taking care of the Black people. The frustration is ‘do-gooder white woman rescues the poor Black disenfranchised,’” said Dr. Richard Cooper, host of the WURD Radio talk show, “The Karamu.”
In other movie news, fan favorite Samuel L. Jackson, who has appeared in more than 100 hits, including “Jurassic Park,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Iron Man” and the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, was named the highest-grossing actor of all time, according to Guinness World Records. Over the span of his career, his films have pulled in $7.4 billion.
Still not one to rest on his laurels, on Oct. 14, Jackson made his Broadway debut in the Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop,” playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre through Jan. 22. Directed by Kenny Leon and co-starring Academy Award-nominee Angela Bassett, the drama “re-imagines” events the night before the 1968 assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
On a lighter note, engaging TV personality Kevin Frazier, formerly a correspondent for “Entertainment Tonight,” was named co-host of “The Insider,” making him the first African-American male to host a daily entertainment news show on a major television network.
Conversely, the embattled R&B star Chris Brown’s drama continued in 2011, coming to a head on March 22, when he sat down for an exclusive interview with “Good Morning America” (GMA) co-anchor, Robin Roberts.
During an appearance to promote his new album, Brown became agitated when Roberts continued to press him about the legal troubles stemming from his 2009 altercation with ex-girlfriend Rihanna.
The incident escalated when Brown stormed off the GMA set and back to his dressing room after performing his new song “Yeah 3X,” and the show’s staff heard loud noises coming from the room and called security. When Brown and his entourage departed a short time later, the staff discovered that a window in the dressing room had been smashed.
At the time, and ABC spokeswoman said that the network did not plan to press charges against Brown over the damage, which might have affected his probation if police had gotten involved. Brown reportedly apologized in a “rambling message” that aired on BET’s “106 & Park.”
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.