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Combine dance companies Ate9, Visceral, Deeply Rooted with the dummer from Wilco — and it mostly works

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They’re calling it “3-1-2,” this season, a revamp of the Auditorium Theatre’s “Made in Chicago” series, which for several years has provided a platform for local dance companies to perform one-nighters at the landmark venue. But filling thousands of seats, even for just a day, is a tall order for a mid-size dance company, so the goal this year was to create shared bills to give Auditorium audiences an introduction to companies they might not otherwise see. First up in the series came Friday’s “3” event in the “3-1-2,” a triple bill by Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Visceral Dance Chicago and Ate9 Dance Company.

On paper, it doesn’t seem the most natural choice, putting these companies together, but with each taking a third of an evening that spanned well over two hours, quick transitions and smart programming made for a surprisingly cohesive and efficient performance.

Opening the night with a trio of works, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater offered a view of its history with works spanning three decades. First came Nicole Clarke-Springer’s heart-wrenching “Until Lambs Become Lions,” created in 2014, then “Church of Nations” (1991) by artistic director Kevin Iega Jeff and “Heaven” (2004), by Jeff and Deeply Rooted co-founder Gary Abbott.

“Church” has become a signature work for this company, first created as a response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and religious leaders who politicized Christianity to justify the war. But this work, performed in simple black costumes adorned with clerical collars, has mostly stood the test of time, and can be seen more generally as a comment on the paradoxes within organized religion. Not to mention, it’s a perfect primer to Deeply Rooted’s aesthetic, which is steeped in the techniques of Martha Graham and Lester Horton, with a central focus on themes and traditions of the African diaspora and the experiences of African-Americans.

It’s a style which is easily recognizable, honed over more than a quarter century. By comparison, Visceral Dance Chicago (VDC) is still figuring out what it wants to be. Now in its sixth season, this contemporary company raced out of the gates with an impressive line-up of dancers and a beefy arsenal of commissioned works, including one by Ate9’s artistic director, Danielle Agami. At the center of VDC is artistic director Nick Pupillo, whose knack is for contemporary ballet, best seen in jaw-dropping works like “Impetere” and “Synapse.” This latest one, “Soft Spoken,” feels like a bit of an experiment for Pupillo, playing in a choreographic space that falls half-way between his typical aesthetic and some of the more bizarre works that have filtered into the company’s rep.

I love that this company is exploring something new, but “Soft Spoken” is bogged down with cliches, from oft-used tracks by Arvo Part and Max Richter, to dancers taking the buns out of their hair mid-way through and traipsing the aisles as the Auditorium’s main curtain closed, looking straight into our eyes from feet, or even inches, away. That’s not to say “Soft Spoken” is without merit; on the contrary, it may be a stepping stone to a really interesting place. Because for the first time, I really saw the humanity and vulnerability of those dancers in real time.

Ate9 closed the evening, a Los Angeles-based company making its Auditorium debut with a work called “Calling Glenn,” by Agami. The local connection is with percussionist Glenn Kotche, a Roselle-native best recognized as the drummer of Wilco. Kotche composed the musical score for “Calling Glenn,” which is not actually named after him, by the way. He traverses the upstage space playing drum kit, vibraphone and glockenspiel, among other less-traditional instruments, and once, comes to the lip of the stage to patter three drumsticks against the masonite floor. In “Calling Glenn,” Kotche is part musician, part Foley artist, and so engaging to watch. He has a dynamic and peculiar physicality that plays well with Ate9’s nine dancers, though at times I found my eyes drawn to the back of the stage, distracted from the dancing by his fascinating body language and my curiosity about how certain sounds were being made.

Agami, who spent eight years with the Batsheva Dance Company, is a choreographer who revels in seemingly random happenstances. But it’s likely that everything about “Calling Glenn” is carefully prescribed. Sharp, hyperbolic gestures performed in unison near the front and back of this piece draw the most interest — not to mention a hilarious encounter as each dancer fights for a turn at a downstage microphone, voicelessly mouthing screams while Kotche creates absurd frog-like sounds. Less exciting is a long section of duets in the middle, recreating various interactions between partners which range from tender playfulness to humorously aggressive, all done with a flat affect on their faces. It all sounds silly, but I came away from “Calling Glenn” feeling quite serious, wondering why the combination of extraordinary physicality (which, by the way, very seldom includes recognizable “dance steps”) and above-the-neck apathy packs such a punch.

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance critic.


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William Goldman: the secret weapons of a Chicago-born Hollywood legend

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In his adventures in the screen trade, which inspired his zingy 1983 Hollywood memoir of the same name, Chicago-born, Highland Park-raised William Goldman won two screenwriting Academy Awards and the hearts of millions who liked the way his wiseacres talked.

Goldman was the Ben Hecht of the New Hollywood era, a wag with highly commercial Old Hollywood instincts. Goldman’s favorite movie growing up was, in fact, the rollicking “Gunga Din” (1939), for which Hecht and fellow “Front Page” author Charles MacArthur wrote the rollicking story that had little to do with the Rudyard Kipling poem. Something must’ve clicked for young William, sitting there in the dark, watching Cary Grant and company romping through India (as played by California), hustling, conniving, courting disaster.

Goldman died Friday in New York at the age of 87. The screenwriter endured an emotionally harsh childhood. In various interviews and writings he dealt, tersely, with stories of an overbearing mother and an alcoholic suicidal father, who killed himself when 15-year-old Goldman was attending Highland Park High School. He graduated in 1948; his brother, future playwright and screenwriter James Goldman, graduated three years earlier.

After Oberlin College, two years in the Army and graduate studies at Columbia University, William ventured forth as a novelist and, less successfully, a playwright. Three Broadway flops was enough. He “’fled” to Hollywood (his word), and a star was born.

Early efforts such as “Harper” (1966), starring Paul Newman, revealed a tongue-in-cheek tough guy behind the typewriter. Then came the gold mine: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” with Newman, Robert Redford, Katherine Ross and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” Wry, antiheroic yet totally in love with its antiheroes, the film made Goldman rich and famous. The studio bidding war for the script, lean but full of jokes, netted a then-stunning $400,000.

High among his writing skills, Goldman knew the value of the running gag, and careful deployment of repetition for comic effect. Think of “Butch Cassidy”: “Who are those guys?”

Think of “The Princess Bride” (1987), which Goldman adapted from his own novel: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

“Follow the money” came from “All the President’s Men” (1976), for which Goldman won his second Oscar. “Marathon Man,” that same year, gave the world “Is it safe?” over and over, murmured quietly by Laurence Olivier, dental implement in hand.

“Nobody knows anything.” This was Goldman’s money line in “Adventures of the Screen Trade,” on the topic of Hollywood’s neuroses and brutally unreliable money men. And very few women.

In Goldman’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel “Misery” (1990), a devoted psychopathic fan (Kathy Bates, who won an Oscar) spends some nasty quality time with her writer hero, played by James Caan.

“We went to Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman and Warren Beatty,” Goldman said in a Tribune interview in 2000. “None of them would do it. They don’t take roles where they’re not in charge, especially if a woman is. In ‘Misery,’ the woman has the power.”

The Goldman brothers, William and James, wrote different kinds of material, yet they shared a fondness for exuberant anachronism. James Goldman’s 1966 play “The Lion in Winter,” set in the 12th century, received both praise and shrugs in its Broadway debut, but two years later the film version hit a sweet spot and found a wide audience, no little thanks to Katharine Hepburn (as Eleanor of Aquitaine) commenting, “Well, what family doesn’t have its ups and downs?”

Similarly, brother William’s “Butch Cassidy” script had no patience for stuffy-sounding period argot. Goldman, along with Newman and Redford, created sexy, newfangled icons practically overnight.

Goldman had an instinct for casual brutality; a flair for the rug-pulling punch line; and an admiration for gallantry in the face of certain death. At his best, he nailed all three at once — the triple axel of the screenwriting trade. Think of the cliff, and Butch and Sundance about to jump. Sundance confesses he can’t swim. “Are you crazy?” laughs Butch. “The fall’ll probably kill ya!”

Some lines are just waiting to be written. Then they’re recycled to death by inferior writers, for generations. Because not every generation produces a William Goldman.

He knew his share of failure, but he found something useful to share about his bouts of self-doubt at the keyboard. He wrote this in “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” and it has been recirculating on social media like mad since news of his death:

“Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you, that Demon being the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of getting it right … but if you’re a writer, that’s what you must do, and in order to accomplish anything at all, at the rock bottom of it all is your confidence. You tell yourself lies and you force them into belief: Hey, you suckers, I’m going to do it this one time. I’m going to tell you things you never knew. I’ve — got — secrets!”

Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.


Twitter @phillipstribune

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CMA Awards 2018: Best and worst moments

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At the end of the Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday night, presenter Lionel Richie paused dramatically before he announced entertainer of the year, the show’s biggest prize. In the audience, someone yelled “Chris Stapleton!” Everyone laughed, because Stapleton is an industry favorite, and would probably win.

But then Richie opened the envelope and read the name: “Keith Urban!”

No one looked more stunned than Urban, who is approaching the fourth decade of his career, and last won entertainer of the year in 2005. Urban immediately became emotional and wiped his eyes as he approached the microphone in disbelief.

“Thank you so much … I am shocked beyond shocked,” he told the cheering crowd. He gave a shout-out to his wife, Nicole Kidman (“Baby girl, I love you so much”), and their two daughters, and wrapped up by thanking his fans: “I just feel very, very blessed, very grateful that I get to do what I do … God bless country music.”

Stapleton, of course, didn’t seem to mind the loss. He walked away with three awards, the most of anyone: male vocalist and song and single of the year for the powerful “Broken Halos.” Urban was also up against Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Kenny Chesney, who was originally scheduled to perform but missed the show because of a death in his family.

Elsewhere, Carrie Underwood won female vocalist. Brothers Osborne were named vocal duo of the year for the third time in a row and provided the night’s only political quip. (“If this was in Florida, there would definitely be a recount.”) Old Dominion nabbed vocal group, ending Little Big Town’s six-year winning streak. Rookie hitmaker Luke Combs won new artist. In a surprise victory, Kacey Musgraves beat out Stapleton, Urban, Thomas Rhett and Dierks Bentley for the album of the year prize.

The three-hour telecast opened with a tribute to the victims of last week’s mass shooting at a country music bar in Thousand Oaks, California, as the producers showed all 12 names on the screen.

“Tonight’s show is lovingly dedicated to the 12 individuals whom we lost far too soon just a week ago tonight at the Borderline in Thousand Oaks, California,” said Garth Brooks, before he led the audience in a moment of silence. “Tonight, let’s celebrate their lives, let the music unite us with love and their enduring memory.”

Here’s a rundown of some of the best and worst moments.


Chris Stapleton, Maren Morris and Mavis Staples‘ performance.

Stapleton knows a thing or two about collaborating on a viral CMAs moment (remember his career-making duet with Justin Timberlake in 2015?) and he certainly did his best to provide another one. Along with Morris, the breakout country star, and Staples, the gospel legend, the group lent their powerhouse vocals to “Friendship” and “I’ll Take You There.” Stapleton’s wife, Morgane, joined in, along with Marty Stuart and a gospel choir.

The crowd went wild: While “Friendship” is a track on Stapleton’s CMA-nominated album, it was originally recorded by Staples’s father, Pops Staples. “I’ll Take You There” is the 1972 hit from Staples’s family band, the Staple Singers. And now we have likely broken a record for the number of times a variation on the word “staple” has been used in a single news story.

Kacey Musgraves’ big night.

The singer’s eclectic third record, “Golden Hour,” received near-universal praise when it was released in March, yet she was considered a long shot for album of the year. Presenter Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town beamed as she read Musgraves’ name, and dedicated the award to “all the little girls writing songs out there.”

Musgraves, who had one of the night’s best performances with the mesmerizing “Slow Burn,” looked shocked. “This is really, really crazy timing, because I just realized this morning – it sounds like a lie – 10 years ago today, I moved to Nashville,” she said. “Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian, my two co-producers, made this record with me, and we poured everything we have into this. And I’m so proud of it.”

The Ricky Skaggs tribute.

Although there’s a constant debate about what’s considered “real” country music, it’s always fun watching the reactions of all the musicians (from pop-leaning to more traditional) at country award shows when a veteran singer takes the stage. This year, they went crazy during the tribute to bluegrass star Ricky Skaggs, one of the recent inductees to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Accompanied by Urban, Brad Paisley and John Osborne – some of the best guitarists in Nashville – Skaggs played “Black Eyed Suzie,” “Highway 40 Blues” and “Country Boy.” There was lots of dancing in seats, while some (such as Martina McBride) recorded the epic show on their phones.

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood’s lovefest.

A few weeks ago, Brooks revealed that he wanted to play a brand new ballad for his wife, Trisha Yearwood, at the CMAs – but executives weren’t thrilled with the idea. So Brooks was all, “Cool, then I just won’t perform anything.” Lo and behold, the CMA producers apparently changed their mind, because Brooks appeared on stage, and debuted a song called “Stronger Than Me.” What a power move!

Although sleepy acoustic ballads can be mood-killers, this was actually pretty sweet. (Sample lyrics: “If I have a choice, I’d pray God takes me first, cause you’re stronger than me.”) The camera panned back and forth between Brooks and Yearwood to the point where it felt almost too intimate of a moment. Mostly, it was just adorable.

Luke Bryan’s opening number.

Bryan kicked off the night with “What Makes You Country” – and invited a few pals to help, giving some much-deserved stage time to newcomers Ashley McBryde and Lindsay Ell, along with Jon Pardi, Luke Combs, Chris Janson and Cole Swindell. Not only were the guests a surprise, but it was a lot of fun.

The Pistol Annies.

Did you ever think you would see Miranda Lambert playing a washboard on national television while singing a song that maybe-not-but-probably takes a shot at her ex-husband, Blake Shelton? The Pistol Annies – Lambert, Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley – were in fine form at the CMAs, adding a jolt of energy with the fiery, incredibly catchy “Got My Name Changed Back.”

Impressive songs from rising artists.

Looking at the iTunes charts after the show, new artist winner Luke Combs (“She Got the Best of Me”) and vocal duo nominee Dan + Say ( “Tequila”) got big sales bumps for their singles. It’s no surprise for either, with Combs’s solid performance of one of his biggest hits, or Shay Mooney hitting a ridiculous high note as he closed the song.


Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood’s monologue.

This pair have been hosting the CMAs for 11 years, and they’ve developed excellent comic timing. However, this year … wasn’t great. While their parody songs are typically a highlight, these fell flat: Such as “A Star is Bored,” in which they made fun of all the snoozing celebrities in the audience. Except it didn’t make sense, because the show had just started, and no one was bored; both Urban and Stapleton looked confused when they were called out.

Even a cameo from viral country sensation Mason Ramsey couldn’t help. There were also far too many lame jokes about Underwood’s pregnancy, such as guessing the identity of the father. When they were poking fun at the many country singers opening bars in downtown Nashville, Paisley said, “In 2019, I hear Carrie is going to be opening her very own milk bar.” (“For a very exclusive clientele!” she added.)

However, we will give them credit for the joke about trying to copy the Emmys, and have someone propose on stage.

“Carrie, that’s not our style. This is country music,” Paisley reminded her. “So during tonight’s broadcast, one of our winners is going to be getting divorced.”

Lauren Alaina‘s inexplicably short tribute.

When are country award shows going to let Lauren Alaina perform a full song on her own? The former “American Idol” runner-up has demonstrated her killer vocals again and again and finally had some radio success last year. But she only got a brief performance slot, in which she sang “A Lesson in Leavin'” as a tribute to Dottie West, a recent Hall of Fame inductee. While the new artist nominees all had varying degrees of time on stage, Alaina has more than earned a chance to at least sing her own material.

The lack of explanation for Midland’s Burt Reynolds tribute.

The trio’s rendition of Jerry Reed’s “East Bound and Down” was extremely entertaining – although also confusing to those not immediately familiar with the “Smokey and the Bandit” theme song, which we imagine is at least part of the CMA audience. The announcer promised before the break that Midland would “salute a Hollywood legend” but never mentioned that it was Burt Reynolds, who died this fall. The video clips on-screen eventually showed Reynolds, though it took awhile.

Originally appeared in the Washington Post

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Seeing the great Route 66, from Chicago to Mater the tow truck, through the pinhole eyes of his camera

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Photographer Wes Pope flew to Chicago a couple of weeks ago. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he is a professor in Portland, Ore., but his mind was firmly on the road and the trip he took here from California in 1998 that changed his life in ways he could never have expected or imagined.

It was a trip that started in an unusual way.

“On the very first day, I stopped to take a picture of the horse,” he says.

The horse was stuffed and named Trigger and was in the Roy Rogers Western World & Museum in Victorville, Calif. As Pope walked into the place, a man stopped him and said, “You better hurry. Roy and Dale are still in there.”

Yes, they were, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, those stars of screen and song, sitting in wheelchairs and signing autographs for fans. Pope asked the pair to pose and they agreed, in part because they were intrigued by the device Pope was carrying, a camera made out of two halves of aluminum cans held together with tape.

“It’s called a pop can pinhole camera,” Pope told the aging stars.

They all went outside. They smiled and Pope got his shot.

That close encounter is one of the many highlights of Pope’s spectacular first book, “Pop 66: A Dreamy Pop Can-Camera Odyssey Along Route 66,” handsomely published by the Chicago-based Press Syndication Group.

You likely know about Route 66, if only from the old the TV show and song: “It winds from Chicago to LA / More than two thousand miles all the way / Get your kicks on Route Sixty-Six.”

It has long been known as “the mother road,” this 2,400-some-mile, two-lane ribbon of concrete that starts or ends, depending on your perspective, at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street in front of the Art Institute, and at the Santa Monica Pier, poking out into the Pacific Ocean in California.

For many it defines and evokes a bygone America.

But do you know anything about a pop can camera? Pope explains what that is at some length in the book but, basically, it is an instrument of charmingly rudimentary camera technology.

He made 33 such cameras on his mother’s kitchen table in Orange County, Calif. for her fifth grade class. After helping the kids use them to take self-portraits, he took them on the road.

The cameras were on that first road trip in 1998 and his dozen or so subsequent “66” excursions. They have enabled him to create photos that lack the clarity and color we have become accustomed to in this iPhone age. But the dozens of images in this book have a dreamy, almost ghostly quality that grabs the eye. They are like paintings.

John Steinbeck, in his magisterial “The Grapes of Wrath,” wrote that “66 is the path of a people in flight” but for Pope it was a welcome journey, since in 1998 he was on his way to Chicago to begin work as a Tribune staff photographer. This would be where he found, as he writes in the book, “an amazing time and place to make a living as a photojournalist.”

His time here ended in 2008. He then worked for another newspaper before becoming what he is now, an assistant professor in the multimedia journalism master’s program at the University of Oregon in Portland.

But Route 66 had grabbed him and did not let go.

“Over the years I have seen some serious preservation efforts, some new museums. I have seen creativity, outsider art, mom-and-pop entrepreneurism,” he says. “I went to diners, went to football games. Route 66 is America and it’s a magical place.”

In an artful foreword to the book, Michael Wallis writes, “[Pope] offers both a new voice and a new look at the Mother Road. Like the highway itself, Pope and his photographs are not in any way predictable. Nothing about them is contrived.”

Wallis is a historian and author. One of his books, 1990’s “Route 66: The Mother Road,” is generally credited with sparking new interest in the highway, which had been officially decommissioned in 1985, fading further into shadows cast by the interstate highway system.

It also initiated what is now a shelf full of “66” books. Some are little more than gatherings of snapshots and tourist tips. A few are good but none is as compelling as “Pop 66.”

It contains brief words from some of the many authors who have written of 66: Steinbeck, of course, but also Woody Guthrie, for whom Pope’s son Guthrie is named; N. Scott Momaday; J. Robert Oppenheimer; Lew Welch; Larry McMurtry; L. Frank Baum and Paul Simon.

Most of the words in the book are Pope’s and he proves a first-rate writer. An example: “Beyond the souvenir shops, there is a poverty of the land and a toughness of the people — I have yet to meet any of the starkly red or blue creatures we hear about ad nauseam. The folks I meet tend to be friendlier and far more complicated than you would ever imagine.”

That attention paid to people is what helps elevate the book into a distinctive realm.

“People have been the key,” he says. “That is what has kept me going.”

And so we meet Pop McGee, who as a boy witnessed a nuclear bomb test near in his family farm and recalls that is was “The day the sun came up twice,” and Joyce Livermore, a woman standing by the side of the road with a sign offering to trade toys for diapers and milk needed by her grandkids.

We visit Exotic World in Helendale, Calif., “dedicating to preserving the art of burlesque” and some of the women who practice that art; see a five-year-old Guthrie (he’s now six) sitting on the hood of a tow truck in Galena, Kan.; a woman mowing weeds in tiny Glenrio, N.M.; and Bunyon’s Hot Dogs owner Art Stephens in Cicero, who tells Pope about the only trip he had made on Route 66 in 1952, his family packed into a brand new Cadillac.

There is tenderness in the book, a sensitivity and wistfulness too, especially when Pope travels a bit off the mother road to visit and photograph places with deep familial connections and family graves.

He also manages another photo of his old pal Trigger.

Roy and Dale died not long after meeting Pope and posing for his camera. In time, the stuffed Trigger and the entire museum relocated from Victorville to Branson, Mo. They did not have much success there. Few people came to visit and eventually Trigger was auctioned off, purchased by a cable TV outfit that keeps it in the lobby of its headquarters, not available to public eyes.

But there is Trigger on the page of this book, like something out of a dream. Have a good long look.



From 2017: No better time to head out on Route 66 than this weekend »


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Did Chicago's 'Grocery Store Joe' earn a spot in the 'Dancing with the Stars' finale?

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Warning: Spoilers ahead

“Grocery Store Joe” Amabile’s months-long reality TV stardom came to an end Monday when he was sent home from “Dancing with the Stars.” Amabile’s elimination was a surprise because while the former South Side grocer consistently posted the worst scores in the ABC network competition, he always managed to get enough viewer votes to advance.

Amabile and his professional partner, Jenna Johnson; and “Fuller House” star Juan Pablo Di Pace and his partner, Cheryl Burke, didn’t survive Monday’s double elimination after performing two routines. The four remaining celebrity pairs are set to compete in next week’s Season 27 finale, which is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. Monday.

Amabile and Johnson were sent home just as they began to find their groove. They earned some of their best scores of the competition Monday because they kept Amabile’s role simple. The judges gave them 22 out of 30 for their contemporary dance to “This Year’s Love” by David Gray.

“Well, you didn’t do much Joe, but you didn’t do much very well. It was just a lift her here, a spin around there, cock her leg up and sprawl on the floor. Look, it was what it was. I enjoyed it,” judge Len Goodman said.

Amabile and Johnson were mentored by judge Carrie Ann Inaba for their second dance, a quickstep to “Check it Out” by Oh the Larceny. Each couple got a chance to perform a routine that they struggled with in earlier weeks of the competition. Amabile and Johnson earned 14 out of 30 for their quickstep on the premiere. On Monday, they scored 24 out of 30.

“You brought it to the dance floor. Your shoulders were open, your frame was good. There was one point, OK, you’re not a professional ballroom dancer,” Inaba told Amabile. “But really, you have shown up and you have put it on the dance floor, and I’m so proud of you.”

Said Amabile: “I think I’m a dancer now. Look at that!”

Amabile has had an unprecedented rise to stardom. The 32-year-old Melrose Park native, who lives in the West Town community, was discovered by a “Bachelorette” casting agent while he was at a local Whole Foods store months ago. He was eliminated from that ABC series on the May premiere after he tripped over his words when he met show star Becca Kufrin.

Though he was only on TV for a few minutes, he won the hearts of Bachelor Nation with his charm and boy-next-door good looks. He landed a spot on “Bachelor in Paradise,” which is how he met his girlfriend, “Bachelor” alum Kendall Long.

Amabile, who had no dance experience prior to “Dancing with the Stars,” was invited to be on the show so he could be closer to Long, who lives in the Los Angeles area. The season began in September with 13 celebrity pairs vying for judges scores and viewer votes.

Social media personality Alexis Ren and Alan Bersten; radio personality Bobby Bones and Sharna Burgess; “Harry Potter” actress Evanna Lynch and Keo Motsepe; and actor Milo Manheim and Witney Carson will compete for the Mirrorball trophy on the finale.


Twitter @tracyswartz

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How would you like to sleep in Hugh Hefner’s pajamas? Playboy founder’s estate goes on the auction block

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I do not wear pajamas but if I wanted to, I could wear an old pair of Hugh Hefner’s pajamas.

I would have to come up with something in the neighborhood of $1,500 to $2,000. That is the estimated value of a pair of Hefner’s custom-made silk pajamas, in a shade he called “gunfighter black,” that will be auctioned later this month.

There are other Hefner pajamas available, all of them silk in such shades as ivory, gold, sage, sky blue, red, rust, lavender and royal blue, and all with lower estimated values.

There is so much more, thousands of things once worn and owned and played with by Hefner and soon available for anyone with the financial means. Interested in his carved briar pipe? That might set you back $2,000 to $3,000. His black limousine? Get ready to shell out $8,000 to $10,000. His slippers? There are many available.

I don’t think I need to elaborate on the life and times of Hugh Hefner, the founder of a magazine called Playboy in 1953 and the empire it spawned. He died last year and was, in short, among the most influential, controversial and compelling characters of the 20th century. He lived an astonishingly active 91 years.

Now has come time to part with the pieces of that life.

This is a common practice, the selling of celebrities’ remains, especially if the dead person was sufficiently famous or infamous. Recently the 1979 Porsche 930 Turbo once owned by Walter Payton fetched a stunning $324,500 at auction and the motorized chair used by Stephen Hawking just sold for $393,000. Chicago actor John Mahoney’s belongings were auctioned earlier this year.

The reasons people want to own such things are varied. For some, it’s an investment, for others it is a means of connecting to the deceased. Though some consider this whole practice ghoulish — people have paid a lot of money at auction for Truman Capote’s ashes, a drop of Ronald Reagan’s blood, Elvis Presley’s hair — it is not so strange in our increasingly celebrity-obsessed age.

This is what Hefner wanted.

“It was always my dad’s plan,” says his daughter Christie, the eldest of Hefner’s four children and for a time the head of the Playboy empire. “I think it’s a marvelous gesture and a reflection of his values, because all of the proceeds of the sale will benefit the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation. We had all planned for this before his death.”

Christie is the president of that foundation and serves on its board, along with Hefner’s widow, Crystal (his third wife), and another of his children, Cooper. Since 1964, the foundation has been in the business of helping fund such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union, Drug Policy Alliance, Kinsey Institute and others.

So, the $150 to $200 you might pay for Hefner’s garment bag might go to a good cause.

The Hefner auction is being held in Los Angeles by Julien’s Auctions on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 (online bidders must register in advance at www.juliensauctions.com). In the days before, the public will be able to view the items and the day before the auction there will be a private, invitation-only gathering for the press and VIPs. Though there will be plenty of people raising bidding paddles in person on the two auction days, the proceedings will be simulcast worldwide, allowing bids to pour in from China, Norway and who knows where else.

Christie will fly there from her home in Chicago to attend all the auction-related events.

“It is hard to know how I will feel in the moment,” she says. “We have kept only a few things, very personal, such as my dad’s army uniform. I expect to feel proud and happy though there might be a certain wistfulness when the auction gets around to some of the things that I gave to him as gifts over the years, such as a sign that I brought for him at an antique shop in New Orleans and an Al Hirschfeld drawing.”

Those items are among the thousands packed handsomely into the more than 600 pages of a limited edition catalog published by Julien’s. This company knows what it’s doing, having long been the go-to celebrity auction destination, dealing with the estates of, among many, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, Greta Garbo, and Tony Curtis. It has auctioned items from such very much alive folks as Ringo Starr, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Cher … the list is long and star-studded.

The Hefner catalogue is $250 and in it you’ll find furniture (lamps, a Chippendale table with eight “woven bamboo” chairs,) and furnishings (salt and pepper shakers, dishes and steak knives, glasses, napkin rings).

There is artwork (framed magazine covers, drawings, photos), though many of the premium items from the vast and legendary Playboy art collection were auctioned off in 2010.

There is more clothing (slippers, tuxedos, lots of shoes and lots of hats, jackets and shirts) and accessories (cuff links, watches, belts, sunglasses, pocket squares, ties).

There are games (Twister, Monopoly, Scrabble, Backgammon, pinball machines, Foosball table, a billiard table, slot machine).

There are autographed items such as baseballs (Pete Rose, Sammy Sosa), stuffed toys and ceramic bunnies, comic books and a bowling ball.

The famous Playboy rabbit head symbol (created in a matter of minutes by the late Chicago artist/designer Art Paul, the first person hired by Hefner) is everywhere: on glasses, clothing, hats, pins and other items.

The things getting most attention are, understandably, Hefner’s complete personal set of bound volumes of Playboy magazines (estimate $20,000 to $40,000); smoking jacket ($3,000 to $5,000); personal copy of the first issue of Playboy magazine, featuring Marilyn Monroe on the cover ($3,000 to $5,000); a first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” which was Hefner’s favorite book ($3,000 to $4,000).

I found myself most grabbed by such unusual articles as a “007 toy prop pistol,” given to Hefner by Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels; the brass sign reading “Si Non Oscillas Noli Tintinnare” (Latin for “If You Don’t Swing, Don’t Ring”), which was affixed to the wall near the doors of the Playboy mansion at 1340 N. State Parkway; a scale model of Hefner’s childhood home in the Galewood neighborhood ($2,500 to $3,500) and the vintage Underwood Standard Portable typewriter that he used in college at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ($300 to $500).

I have only attended one celebrity auction, the sale of some of the stuff once owned by the woman known as Ann Landers, whose real name was Eppie Lederer. She was a friend and I had been her editor for a few years and was writing a book about her life. It took place at Bunte Auction Services in Elgin on a chilly November weekend in 2002, a few months after her death. It was a weird scene but I wound up buying her 1936 senior year book from Central High School in Sioux City, Iowa, and a group of four small metal owls, some of the hundreds of those symbols of wisdom sent to her by readers.

I will not be bidding on any of Hefner’s things, even though I surely saw and maybe even touched a few of them when I spent a couple of days at his California mansion in 1999, interviewing him for a Tribune magazine story.

That mansion was put up for sale in January 2016, on condition that Hefner could continue to live there. It was purchased later that year for $100 million by J. Daren Metropoulos, heir to a fortune built on Chef Boyardee meatballs, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Bumble Bee tuna.

A relatively mysterious guy, he issued a statement at the time of the purchase, saying that he planned “to meticulously refurbish the property with the highest quality and standards in mind.” No word on whether he will bidding on any auction items later this month, but don’t bet against it.



Hugh Hefner, Playboy founder who built his empire in Chicago, dies at 91 »

Walter Payton’s Porsche sells for $324,500 at auction »

John Mahoney’s stuff, from ‘Frasier’ scripts to furniture, will be auctioned off in downstate Illinois »

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'Saturday Night Live': Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw appears for Pete Davidson's apology

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Pete Davidson appeared on the Nov. 10″Weekend Update” segment of “Saturday Night Live” to apologize to veteran and congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw, and this time he brought Crenshaw with him.

“In what I’m sure was a huge shock to people who know me, I made a poor choice last week,” Davidson said. “I made a joke about lieutenant commander Dan Crenshaw, and on behalf of the show and myself, I apologize.”

After Davidson took a moment to also acknowledge what his mother most be going through (“It can’t be easy when everyone’s mad at your son and roommate,” he said), he reiterated “from the bottom of my heart” that it was a poor choice of words to say, in the Nov. 3 “Weekend Update” segment of the late night sketch comedy that Crenshaw looked like “a hitman from a porno.”

“The man is a war hero and he deserves all of the respect in the world. And if any good came of this, maybe it was that for one day the left and the right finally came together to agree on something — that I’m a dick,” Davidson said.

Crenshaw rolled over to Davidson behind the desk to say, “You think?” He also thanked Davidson for “making a Republican look good.”

Davidson pointed out that Crenshaw lost his eye to an IED while he was fighting in Afghanistan during his third combat tour. He apologized directly to Crenshaw, who said they were good and the apology was accepted.

They were interrupted by Crenshaw’s phone, which rang to the tune of Davidson’s ex Ariana Grande’s “Breathin.” But that’s not where the revenge stopped. Davidson said since he made fun of a picture of Crenshaw the previous week, it was only fair for him to return the favor.

Crenshaw cracked that Davidson looked like the meth from “Breaking Bad” and Martin Short in “The Santa Clause 3,” noting that only one of those two men were good on “SNL.” But then he turned more serious to note that from this incident, they learned Americans can forgive one another, and since it was Veterans’ Day weekend he wanted everyone to connect with a veteran.

“Maybe say, ‘Thanks for your service,'” he said. “But I would actually encourage you to say something else. Tell a veteran ‘Never forget.’ When you say ‘never forget’ to a veteran, you are implying that as an American you are in it with them, not separated by some imaginary barrier between civilians and veterans but connected together as grateful fellow Americans who will never forget the sacrifices made by veterans past and present and never forget those we lost on 9/11 — heroes like Pete’s father.”

The two men shook hands and said “never forget” to each other.


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Childish Gambino song tells you what Red Clay’s ‘Eliki Munda’ is about — but it’s also more complicated

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Through Saturday at the Dance Center, “Eliki Munda | What Lies Within” has been a decade in the making. Shortly before Vershawn Sanders-Ward formed her Red Clay Dance Company on Chicago’s South Side in 2008, she met Jonas Byaruhanga in Senegal. Byaruhanga operates Keiga Dance Company in Kampala, Uganda, a rapidly developing city in East Africa.

It took more than 10 years to materialize, but if Chicago knows anything about Sanders-Ward, it’s that she can make things happen. Her Fuller Park-based professional company, which also runs a robust community dance education program, combines Western dance forms with African diasporic aesthetics, using dance as a platform for addressing the socio-political complexities of race and class in America.

Which is why I can’t decide if it was brilliant or irresponsible to play “This is America” as the opening piece of music for Red Clay’s entrance in “Eliki Munda.” When rapper Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, released “This is America,” it caused a stir on social media and a rush of editorial thought pieces. The sensational, controversial music video shows overt references to gun violence, artfully laying bare the experiences of African-Americans in urban America.

Of course, I’m not suggesting “Eliki Munda” isn’t or can’t be about those things too. This piece is complicated, and memories of the video took me away from the action on stage and, for a time, quashed the curiosity created by a stunning opening tableau, in which Keiga’s four men are perched around a set of platforms (by scenic designer Therese Ritchie) layered with chicken wire, rubber tires and two sheets of corrugated metal upon which hang traditional African masks.

There’s an added layer that is embedded in this collaboration, and another by the use of dance as its medium. The two companies — one from the United States and one from Uganda — initially coexist, spending quite a bit of time with no direct interaction. Through the course of the evening they eventually find common ground, ending on a celebratory note and even inviting the audience to join in a mellow dance party. An overarching theme might be that we are more the same than we are different, but it’s the differences which are more rewarding in this piece.

Co-choreographers Sanders-Ward and Byaruhanga take cues from their respective cultures in developing distinct movement vocabularies for their dancers. You could call both companies “Afro-contemporary,” but Red Clay’s phrases are infused with subtle nods toward hip-hop, while Keiga employs gestures and foot strikes that I can only assume originate from tribal traditions in Uganda.

When these things come together as a big, unison phrase, it can be quite magical, but for me the real meat and potatoes of this work is in the solos and duets. Particularly poignant is a pattern having Robert Ssempijja running diagonally upstage, only to be pulled back, seemingly against his will, his body nearly bent in half backwards. It seems to me as though he’s having an internal battle navigating a cultural identity that has one foot in the past, and the other in the present, a thought I revisited when the men stepped in and out of the tires strewn around the set piece. This is an idea that was startling repeated as Ssempijja, with a tire about his waist, leapt head first out of the wings, to be violently yanked off stage by an attached bungie. And it comes up again near the end as all eight dancers journey together on a diagonal strip of light (by Margaret L. Nelson), but this time, those back bends are supported by the weight of others.

Dancer Michael Kaddu comes onstage after a long, smile-inducing solo by Destine Young, who implores us in a call-and-response pattern making a pseudo beat box for her to dance to. Kaddu first loudly projects a passage in his native language, and then mouths it silently to us, or whispers in Young’s ear. Kaddu then hoists Marceia Scruggs’s atop his head as she softly recalls memories from her past. It’s a series of mysterious and touching moments that encourage us all to reflect on time, memory, and history, and it certainly could have been an apt ending to the piece. In fact, I could have done without the next section entirely: a full-out, unison finale set to a driving, movie-like score, performed in pale green cardigans and sparkly cowls atop a brightly gobo-ed stage (a look we’d not seen before then). For me, it was a bridge too far after the rich saliency of the previous moments, but perhaps provided the “ta-da!” that many audiences crave in an evening of dance.

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance critic.


Review: Red Clay Dance with “Ekili Munda | What Lies Within” (3 stars)

When: Through 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan Ave.

Running time: 90 minutes

Tickets: $30 at 312-369-8330 and www.dance.colum.edu

Red Clay Dance Company announces 10th anniversary season »

Ballet Folklorico de Mexico is traditional — it has to be — but it’s also changing for the times »

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'It's been a hard year, not going to lie': Mira Sorvino on 'Startup' and the cost of saying #MeToo

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After graduation, Sorvino read scripts for Robert De Niro’s company, Tribeca Productions, but soon decided to focus all her energy on acting. In quick succession, she was cast in Whit Stillman’s “Barcelona” and Robert Redford’s “Quiz Show.” Then in 1995 came “Mighty Aphrodite,” a Woody Allen comedy about a man (Allen) who discovers the biological mother of his gifted adopted son happens to be a sex worker. Sorvino remains one of the few performers to win an Academy Award for a comedic performance, but fairly or not, she’s sometimes cited as a victim of the Oscar curse. While she starred opposite Lisa Kudrow in “Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion,” a highly quotable cult comedy, and in “Mimic,” a sci-fi thriller about deadly cockroaches directed by Guillermo del Toro, her career cooled in the years that followed her Oscar win. She remained busy in projects such as the Holocaust drama “The Grey Zone” and the Lifetime miniseries “Human Trafficking,” but the plum roles in studio releases dried up.

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Things to do in Chicago this weekend: 8th annual Tamal Festival, Neighborhood Toy Store Day and Sequence Chicago's Culture Market at Navy Pier

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Pack in as much fun as you can while it lasts before winter’s icy breath rolls in. This weekend boasts a festival of tasty tamales, a kid-friendly push to shop local and a culture market showcasing a different side of Chicago.

Tamal Festival

Experience the flavors of Mexico and Latin America from over 15 local restaurants and bakeries during the eighth annual installment of this two-day event in Pilsen. Vegetarian and vegan options will be available, in addition to traditional beverage Atole and Mexican hot chocolate. Come for the food, stay for the live music, arts and crafts, children’s play area and more. $2 admission, ages 12 and up. 1-7 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. 2420 S. Wood St. tinyurl.com/y79gahma

Family Day at MCA

The whole family can participate as local artists lead a variety of hands-on workshops that fit with this month’s theme “Morph,” including playing with costumes, transforming an installation and making used toys new again with the FrankenToyMobile. Free for families with kids aged 12 and under. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. 220 E. Chicago Ave. tinyurl.com/y72fzs3z

Neighborhood Toy Store Day

Another chance to get the jump on the holiday shopping rush, this nationwide campaign encourages folks to shop locally and a number of Chicago-area retailers have special events such as raffles, prize wheels, sales and more planned for those that stop in. Participating retailers include Play in Logan Square — and in a new location, Lincoln Park, Becky and Me Toys in Evanston and Oak Park’s Geppetto’s Toy Box. To find a toy store near you, visit tinyurl.com/y8s9qhgj

Eat at Funkenhausen

“Chicago doesn’t have a ton of Southern restaurants and barely any German ones. Now comes Funkenhausen, which opened in early August, attempting to check both boxes,” writes Tribune food critic Phil Vettel of fairly new haunt, Funkenhausen. While Vettel adds that purists of Southern cooking and German cooking will most-likely be dissatisfied with the restaurant’s cuisine, he says “…for the rest of us, there’s much to be admired.” Nosh on small plates or “Big Funk” entrees that include a double-cut pork chop with German chow-chow (braised lima beans, diced turnip, cabbage, vinaigrette), served with a romesco sauce made with pretzel dough instead of bread. Foodies can also share the likes of the Piggy Plate – a charcuterie and pickled-vegetable assortment that arrives on a pig-shaped slate slab – or, if someone in your group has a sweet-tooth, sugar-dusted doughnuts filled with raspberry jam and vanilla custard. It’s even open for brunch. “You might not love everything about Funkenhausen,” Vettel admits, “but it’s hard to stop smiling.” 1709 W. Chicago Ave. www.funkenhausen.com

Ballet Folklorico

The Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez is back in Chicago for the first time since 2015. The program is part of the Auditorium Theatre’s international dance series and includes choreography inspired by the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan and the Mexican Revolution, in addition to rope work performed by charros to mariachi rhythms and the “Mexican Hat Dance.” In an interview with the Tribune, grandson of Amalia Hernandez and current owner of the company Salvador Lopez said it is “an important ambassador of Mexican culture for people from other cultural backgrounds” and that he was committed to creating works which showed the history and diversity of the country. “Deer Dance,” for example, is a rite performed by the Yaqui people, an indigenous culture which evaded the influences of Spanish colonialism. Also on this weekend’s program is “The Quetzals of Puebla,” based on an ancient Aztec dance about King Moctezuma. $29-$90. Two performances only: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive, www.auditoriumtheatre.org

Chicago Humanities Festival

The final weekend of Chicago Humanities Festival’s fall events take place this weekend. As the fest continues its mission to inspire conversation across various artistic and written mediums, this season’s faces, all speaking to the theme “Graphic!” include original artists from the Chicago-based art collective, Hairy Who: Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Suellen Rocca, Jim Nutt and Jim Falconer; a talk surrounding Chicago Street Art History, as well as a performance by and conversation between local musicians Bill MacKay and classical cellist Katinka Kleijn, and much more. Tickets for events range from $10 to $43. For a complete listing of events happening across the city through November 11, visit www.chicagohumanities.org

Sequence Chicago: Chicago Culture Market at Navy Pier

The Sequence Chicago performance series runs through December 19 at Navy Pier, but this weekend’s installment is centered around a “culture market” made-up of local artists, artisan vendors and organizations showcasing and selling their works and crafts. Shop art by Oorn Studio, jewelry by Lingua Nigra and Limbal Gal, and clothing and accessories from Majamas. There will also be live performances by Illinois-based musicians including Yomi (pictured), singer-songwriter Orlando Pena, and performer Schenay Mosley. Free. 3-6 p.m. Food Experience at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave. tinyurl.com/ybuqhdus

Check out any of these concerts happening this weekend

There are loads of fantastic concerts coming to Chicago this weekend, from local artists making waves to indie rock’s latest supergroup. On Friday night, multi-instrumentalists Nnamdi Ogbonnaya and Sen Morimoto celebrate their homecoming at Empty Bottle –capping their first tour together. Local pop artist, Victor Cervantes (who performs at Victor!) plays Red Bull Music Festival’s Xicago showcase highlighting Chicago’s Latinx music community at Saffron Rails on Sunday, while Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda brings his solo project to House of Blues that night. And Boygenius – made up of critically-praised singer-songwriters Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus – play two nights at Thalia Hall beginning Monday. Get to know these artists and their music through the Tribune’s recent interviews here.

Santa HQ

If you’re ready to embrace the holiday season this early in November, Santa HQ is a great first stop. The annual Christmas fantasyland, brought here by HGTV, gives families a free place to kickstart their holiday spirit. Before visiting Santa, kids can step onto the Naughty-or-Nice-O’-Meter, and if you download the free Elf-Ray Vision app ahead of time, they can peer into the magical inner workings of the North Pole. Free to visit; $35-$50 for Santa photo-op reservations. Santa HQ opens Friday and runs through the holidays. Fashion Outlets of Chicago, 5220 Fashion Outlets Way http://www.santa-hq.com

Green Line Performing Arts Center opening

The University of Chicago’s brand new theatre and rehearsal space is now open! The Green Line Performing Arts Center — designed by Morris Architects Planners in collaboration with Theaster Gates, a UChicago faculty member, artist, and founder and former director of Arts + Public Life — is set to provide support to the arts in the Washington Park neighborhood and across Chicago’s South Side. To celebrate this latest addition to the Arts Block that lines Garfield Boulevard, the space will be open to the public Saturday –allowing members of the community to check out live performances and exhibitions, take part in an Arts Block tours, shop local vendors, dance to DJ sets from Ayana Contreras and Duane Powell, enjoy some food, and participate in family activities throughout the day. Free. Doors open at 2 p.m. 329 E. Garfield Boulevard. tinyurl.com/y9agyeub

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