Things to do in Sacramento and Beyond

The Bee's guide to events, activities, arts and entertainment

January 30, 2009
'American Idol' mercifully moves to Hollywood


"American Idol" audition malaise set in this week after three nights of warbling and antics that left this show devotee still wondering exactly how many people made it to next week's Hollywood Round.

The show visited Jacksonville, Fla., Salt Lake City and, then, last night an hourlong show that went back and forth between New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was, as Simon Cowell, might say, "Utterly and completely insane."

The final audition (mercifully) was, at times, hard to follow and there definitely seemed to be a larger-than-life number of goofballs. Consider: Joel Contreras (pictured) in San Juan and his makeshift iPod cutout; Nick Mitchell, aka "Norman Gentle," whose bizarre outfit and Jerry Lewis-like performance was painful. and the re-emergence of cuckoo Alexis Cohen, 24, of Philadelphia whose "Take it, take it, take it!" rant last season after being ousted left the judges stunned. And don't forget the numerous finger flip-offs.

She was back, chanting and cooing and offering another hand gesture: a thumbs up! Alas, her rendition of Madonna's "Like a Prayer" earned no "Amens." Simon called it "fairly horrendous." She called him an expletive.

There were some decent singers, including Jorge Nunez, who sang "My Way" in his native Spanish; Melinda Camille, who sings good and enjoys dancing naked, and Patricia Lewis Roman, whose parents relived getting married in the San Juan hotel where the auditions were held.

All told, 37 passes to Hollywood were handed out last night. I figure the total number could be close to 200. And, with the competition heading to the Kodak Theatre next week, the previews forecast some stormy days/nights ahead.

As for ratings, President and Mrs. Obama's and inaugural night on Jan. 20 went up against "Idol," but the competition managed to hold on to 22.8 million viewers, according to the Nielsen ratings. The show bounced back last Wednesday with 26 million watching.

As for rival network CBS, please, please switch "The Mentalist" so it doesn't go up against "Idol." I need my Patrick Jane fix.

January 29, 2009
Fired KVIE reporter files age discrimination suit

By Carlos Alcala

Pat McConahay, a longtime KVIE reporter and show host, filed suit today in Sacramento Superior Court, claiming that the public television fired her illegally, discriminating against her on the basis of her age.

McConahay worked for the station between 1985 and 2008, with a break from 1989 to 1996.

Her suit alleges she was working as a host for "California Heartland" when a new producer came in and her work was undermined in the name of reaching a younger audience. KVIE terminated her in April 2008, the suit says. The suit asks for back pay and damages in an unspecified amount.

"I definitely feel this has been very wrong, after my 12 years," McConahay said. "I'm not doing it to be vindictive, but they were in the wrong."

David Lowe, station general manager, said he was "confident there was no wrongdoing on the part of KVIE," but would not be more specific. "We can't make any comments about personnel matters."

January 28, 2009
John Updike - A memory

John Updike was in town two months ago for the California Lectures series.

I went to see him although I have tried and not quite been able to appreciate the fiction for which he is best known.

But he was also a writer of poetry and light verse, especially many decades ago, and I have enjoyed those.

During his talk, mostly about "Witches of Eastwick" he talked about packing his literary baggage at the end of his life. At the time, I assumed it was just a "getting older" kind of comment. Now I realize he knew he was dying. The discussion was mostly about fiction, but he mentioned his poetry and that emboldened me to ask a question during the Q&A session.

In packing his literary baggage, I asked, how did he see his verse fitting in? In his luggage, is poetry a toothbrush, small but essential? Or perhaps a necktie, decorative but having lost any practical purpose? Or underwear? You need it but don't really want anyone else to see it.

The audience laughed and I think he was charmed. Then again, he seemed charmed and charming all evening, from the moment he walked on stage smiling broadly. I was prepared to dislike the literary lion, but I was won.

I also asked if he would recite a poem, perhaps "Thoughts While Driving Home," my favorite.

He didn't really answer the baggage question, but recited a few lines from "The Short Days," which he thought were some of his most perfect:

"I like the way, in winter, cars
Ignite beneath the lingering stars
And with a cough or two, unpark,
And roar to work still in the dark."

I have a 1964 copy of the book in which that poem was published. The jacket photo of a laughing young Updike on the beach is priceless.

After the talk, there was book signing. We were told he would only sign books bought that evening. He was weak from pneumonia, it was announced.

Prodded by my wife, I stood in line with my Collected Poems. I apologized for bringing it up, reminded him I was the poetry questioner and said I'd understand if he couldn't sign it.

He said, no, I'm signing this one, and gave it a quick scrawl. Nothing special.

Except to me.

January 28, 2009
Captain Sacto's Estate Sale

Hummel figurines and old violins are among the many personal belongings of the late Harry Martin on sale at an estate sale Feb. 5-8.

Martin was beloved as Captain Sacto, a children's program host, 50 years ago. He also spent many years as a KCRA news reporter. He died in 2008.

The collection, to be sold by B and C Estate Sales, also includes memorabilia from his career including autographs or photos of celebrities, such as Kathy Lee Gifford, Barbie Benton and Charo.

The sale will be held at 1305 Lucio Lane in South Land Park. For more information, see or call (916) 482-7888.

January 27, 2009
STC's Good Vibes

There are galas and then there are galas. Saturday night's opening of Sacramento Theatre Company's new production of "Gem of the Ocean" had an extra zip about it with so many factors coming together.

There was certainly excitement and interest in the first local professional production in nearly 20 years of a play by American master August Wilson.

The event doubtlessly bathed in its proximity to the inauguration of our first African American president and the spirit that created. The presence of Mayor Kevin Johnson and the invocation Dr. Ronn Elmore also added some zip. Well known Bay Area actors Mujahid Abdul-Rashid and Margo Hall were there no doubt checking in on their collegue C. Kelly Wright who plays Black Mary in the production. The house had a special vibe going.

I had the privilege of speaking at the prologue with STC artistic director Peggy Shannon and was struck at how helpful these informal conversations can be for audiences. Of about forty people in the room only four indicated they had seen a play by Wilson before. Discussing the playwright and amplifying his artistic intentions hopefully gave those people another entry point to the work. Certainly that's the intention and I've seen how effective pre-play talks are when trying to bring something like make a Shakespeare history play more accessible. To that end STC has redesigned its website with a special enhanced section on August Wilson and its "Gem of the Ocean" production.

January 27, 2009
Movies on the radio

Every Friday at 4:40 p.m., I discuss movies with Kitty O'Neal and R.E. Graswich on KFBK.

Last Friday, I discussed my review of "Stinkheart" "Inkheart" as well as Sunday's story about old movie theaters and Monday's story in which I picked my personal favorites among Oscar nominees.

If you want to hear what I had to say, click here.

If you want to read the stories, go to or just click here.

January 27, 2009
Tesla signs autographs today at R5 Records


Tesla fans take note: The band will appear at R5 Records (16th & Broadway, Sacramento) today at 6:30.

The quintet will be on hand to sign autographs and commemorate the release of its latest album "Forever More" in a limited edition run of collector, 180-gram vinyl.

It's the band's first vinyl release since 1990's "The Great Radio Controversy."

In an interview I recently did with the band (which you can read more about in this Friday's Ticket section), Tesla bassist Brian Wheat said that, in this era of CDs and MP3s, they were happy to get another chance to use the medium.

"We wanted to put (2004's) 'Into the Now' on vinyl but the record company wouldn't let us," he says. "Now we do things on our own and we get to do what we want."

The band will also debut its latest video, "Fallin' Apart," during the appearance.

Tesla will also perform live this Friday at the Memorial Auditorium (1400 J St, Sacramento). Tickets are $29.50. For more information call (916) 808-518 or visit

January 27, 2009
Teens donating their jeans at Aeropostale


Ever since the presidential election in November, I see more young people eager to get involved in either their communities or something outside the political box.

But, in such tough economic times, monetary donations aren't always their first option. That's why donating time is important. And there's something else: How about those jeans you don't wear anymore?

Well, dig them out of the bottom of the closet or drawer and head over to the nearest Aeropostale store. From now through Feb. 22, anyone can bring in any brand of gently worn jeans to any Aeropostale retail location and the denim will be donated via the store or, a non-profit dedicated to helping teens in need. The jeans will reach more than 500 youth shelters. If you didn't already know, a third of all homeless people are under the age of 18.

One of the more familiar faces helping the cause is teen fave Chace Crawford (pictured) of "Gossip Girls," who donated his jeans at a store in New York City. (Ironically, his show's character, Nate Archibald, was himself homeless.)

Last year, teens nationwide donated more than 125,000 pairs of jeans. This year's goal: top 200,000.

Other celebs helping out include David Archuleta ("American Idol") and actresses Eva Amurri and Shailene Woodley.

FYI, there are at least five Aeropostale stores in our area, including the Folsom Premium Outlets, Arden Fair Mall, the Galleria at Roseville, the Sacramento Gateway shopping center and Downtown Plaza.

For more info, click here and to see Chace Crawford's PSA, go here

January 26, 2009
Sacramento Single: Tais' "Introduction"

As a teenager, Sacramento hip-hop artist Tais co-opted other people's music to make his own.

"I think I started out just like everybody else - (writing songs) over other people's instrumentals," he says.

"This was back when artists would release a single that had an instrumental (version of the song) on the other side - I wrote my first song to an Outkast tune," he says.

"I don't even remember what song it was - just that it moved me."

Eventually Tais graduated to spoken word before hooking up with some old high school friends to form the local hip-hop group Righteous Movement.

"We're not a band so much as a collective," he says. "We're four MCs and everyone gets to do solo albums and side projects.

Tais's first solo CD, "Truth Arises in Search of Mixtape," is an ode to his ongoing journey - artistically and personally.

The mix, he says, is mature and soulful.

"This is about me being on the outside looking in," he says. "It's about how I've grown as a man."

Tais, now 27, still crafts his songs with a cut-and-paste aesthetic.

"Hip-hop started with people making mixtapes and taking other people's music and making it their own," he says.

But the idea, he says, now goes well beyond his high school days of merely dropping rhymes over someone else's music.

"My angle is this: Let me take this music and reintroduce it to you."

Tais' efforts have already earned him some prominent recognition: URB magazine just named Tais one of its "Next 1000" important hip-hop artists to watch, praising his "authenticity" and "light, breezy" sound.

A big honor, sure, but Tais says he's already found his biggest influence, inspiration and fan in six-year-old son Noah.

"He comes on stage with me and is so into it - he could be my hype man," Tais says.

"And if I stop rhyming, he just keeps on going."


Song: "Introduction"

Style: Sweet, melodic hip-hop

Behind the song: Tais kickstarted the song by sampling a track from the Seattle-based hip-hop group the Boom Bap Project.

"It's just a beat that hit me - a kind of rough beat that's slow and really embodies my style."

The song's message is simple.

"It came out of the way people introduce each other at shows, When you perform before an audience for the first time you have to (address) that people are asking 'Who is this guy?'

"A lot of people just know me as Tais from Righteous Movement so this song is a way for me to introduce myself on my own," he says.

"It just breaks it down: This is who I am and this is where I'm going."

On the Web:

Listen to "Introduction" here:

January 23, 2009
Motivated by change, boy donates change

After watching Barack Obama's presidential inauguration, Davis 10-year-old Chase Kellison decided he wanted to contribute to his community.

The same afternoon, he hand his mother, Heidy, showed up at FamiliesFirst in Davis with $14.38 the boy had saved from his allowance.

He donated it to the organizations Crisis Nursery, which provides an outlet for families under stress. The may bring children to the nursersy when the parents are overwhelmed and know they will be cared for.

Chase had worked to help the nursery during at Christmas as well.

In addition to donating his allowance, Chase wrote his own inaugural address, which included these words:

"I want people to help the needy. I want people to make everything taste good and be healthy. I want people not to hurt or kill endangered animals. I want there to be only electric cars. I want global warming to go away. Working together can make this happen."

More information on helping others is available by clicking here.

January 23, 2009
Sacramento's Sub-Zero inducted into the West Coast Hip Hop Hall of Fame

Sacramento rapper Sub-Zero has been inducted into the West Coast Hip Hop Hall of Fame. The artist formerly known as MC Prince Julian used to perform with Sactown's Beat Boys back in the day - i.e. the early 80s.

Sub-Zero's latest disc, "S.M.D. PART 2" features a guest appearances by Twista, the Dogg Pound and the late Mac Dre. A new disc, set for a May release, will include appearances by Snoop Dogg, E-40 and Suga T.

Check out Sub-Zero's music here.

January 23, 2009
Was it live or was it Memorex? And who cares?

Well, by now everyone knows that Yo-Yo Ma and other classical music performers that played during Barack Obama's inauguration pre-recorded their music two days earlier. It was that taped music that most of those in attendance heard at the event.

The rational put forth by the event organizers, as reported in several newspapers, was that it was too cold for the instruments to stay in tune, and that live amplification would have been a big mistake.

But this story is not about fooling the public as much as how people feel about classical music... and the fact that classical music is being talked about at all.

Surely, classical music has not been a talked about issue in any recent inaugurations. So having a dialog about classical music, one way or another, is a good thing. It may speak volumes about how President Obama's administration approaches the arts.

But what is most interesting about this story is a live poll being conducted online by

That poll asks the question:

"Was it wrong to 'fake' music at the presidential inauguration?

So far this is how people have voted:

** 24.6% -- Yes, the organizer shouldn't have tried to fool the masses...

** 64.7% -- No. Who cares?

** 10.7% -- Maybe, If this is how the administration starts out....

Thing is... out of those 64.7% who voted "No", did they vote so because offering recorded music was not that big deal?

Or was it the case that they couldn't care less?

Let's hope it was the former.

January 23, 2009
Contest for student writers

Creative Communications of Utah is offering cash prizes to winners of its essay and poetry contest.

The company publishes an anthology of winning entries, but says it does not publish all entries, nor does it require those published to purchase a book. Entries come in from all over the United States.

Students in four age groups between kindergarten and 12th grade must submit entries by Feb.17 for the poetry contest and by April 14 for the essay competition.

For more information or to enter, see the Web site

January 22, 2009
Beethoven beats the blues...

Despite the gloom and doom brought on by the recent announcement by the Sacramento Ballet that it has cancelled the remainder of its 2008-09 season, not all has been bad news locally on the arts scene.

Good news can be gleaned from the latest ticket sales figures at the Sacramento Philharmonic. For it's last performance, an all-Beethoven concert Jan. 16 at the Community Center Theater, the orchestra posted its best ticket sale numbers in its 11-year history.

"We nearly sold the hall out," said Marc Feldman, executive director of the Sacramento Philharmonic.

The orchestra filled 2,425 of the hall's configured 2,452 seats for the performance. Although the orchestra's yearly all-Beethoven concerts are one of its strongest selling events, this year's concert exceeded all expectations, Feldman said.

"That concert saw a 30 percent increase from what we sold for our all-Beethoven concert last year," he said.

Most encouraging about the robust tickets sales was the healthy number of last-minute ticket buyers.

Walk up ticket sales are watched closely by orchestras, as it is believed that such buyers hail from a younger demographic than the typical subscriber. The orchestra sold more than 300 tickets in the days preceding the concert.

Feldman contends that many new faces were evident at the concert.

"I was interviewing people in the lobby and I heard from some that this was their first time here," said Feldman. "They said that, typically, they would have gone to San Francisco, but that ticket prices were now so high for them."

Feldman also believes that many in attendance may have migrated to the orchestra from the Sacramento Ballet.

"When we asked some of the newcomers why the came they said that normally would have gone to the ballet, but once the Ballet raised their ticket prices that pushed them over to us because we have not increased our prices that much."

Single tickets for the Ballet's "Noches Calientes" were selling between $28-$63. The Philharmonic is selling single tickets this season between $16-$80. The Philharmonic increased their ticket prices slightly from the $15-$75 ticket range it offered last season.

The Sacramento Ballet is offering its subscribers the option of redeeming their tickets or exchanging them for Sacramento Philharmonic, Sacramento Opera and California Musical Theater performances.

But so far there have been few takers said, Greg Wellman, ticketing manager at the Philharmonic. "We are expecting to get some calls."

For ticket exchange information call the Community Center Theater box office at (916) 264-5181.

January 22, 2009
Travis Barker, DJ AM at Park Ultra Lounge tonight


Word is there are still a few tickets left for tonight's TRV$DJAM show at the Park Ultra Lounge.

TRV$DJAM is, of course, the two-man musical mayhem featuring Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and celebrated club mixmaster DJ AM (aka Adam Goldstein). Together the two create a mix that covers everything from hip-hop to '80s rock.

Both men, as you probably remember, were badly injured in a September air crash that killed Barker's assistant, Roseville native Christopher Baker. It was a tragic accident that left two musicians injured and grieving - but also with a renewed sense of spirit and an appreciation for life. It's good to see them back on their feet so soon.

The pair perform tonight at the Park Ultra Lounge (15th & L Streets, Sacramento). Doors open at 8:30 p.m.. $40 tickets available via

January 22, 2009
Cosmetics suit leads to freebies

It started Tuesday and runs through Monday. What began as a class-action lawsuit filed in 2003 in California now has several high-end department stores passing out free cosmetics to the tune of $175 million.

They include Macys, Gottschalks (which doesn't really need to be giving stuff away), Nordstrom in our area and even swankier names like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. The cosmetics companies include Boucheron, Chanel, Christian Dior Perfumes, Clarins, Conopco Inc. (Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker), Estee Lauder (which also owns Clinique, which is in the suit), Guerlain Inc., Parfums Givenchy and L'Oreal USA (Lancome, Ralph Lauren Romance and Giorgio Armani).

Here's what happened according to several e-mails that crossed my path: The suit alleges that the stores conspired to fix prices.The stores, however, have not admitted any wrongdoing and the suit was settled without anyone fessing up.

If you were a member of the class-action lawsuit, you're eligible to receive one free cosmetics product from one of the manufacturers from the store you purchased it between May 29, 1994, through July 16, 2003.

Since it's doubtful most consumers retained their receipts, no proof of purchase is necessary. However, customers who claim a freebie (priced from $18 to $25) have to sign a certification sheet acknowledging they purchased a listed product during the time period listed above.

This is a first come, first served deal until all $175 million worth of stuff is taken. That means no rainchecks.

Word leaking out is mixed as consumers rushed to get their free cosmetic or fragrance. A Pittsburgh paper reports some consumers were getting more than one freebie. In other words, they were going to, say, a Macy's and getting something and then to Saks down the street to grab another.

One salesperson was quoted saying, "Where was everyone at Christmas?"

To see a list of the stores and the products offered, click here.

January 22, 2009
Capital Stage makes cost-cutting changes

Capital Stage is making some economic-based changes to its current season in order to cut production costs. Following "The Scene," which opens on Friday, the company will replace the next two scheduled plays - George Bernard Shaw's "Mrs. Warren's Profession" and Yussef El Guindi's "Back of the Throat."

Artistic director Stephanie Gularte said Cap Stage will substitute David Mamet's three- man drama "American Buffalo" and the equally small cast comedy "The Complete History of America (abridged)" for the canceled productions. The company's Jonathan Williams and Peter Mohrmann will be in "American Buffalo," with Janis Stevens directing. No cast or director information yet for "Complete Works."

"Also, we are still ending our season with the world premiere of 'Erratica, An Academic Farce' by Reina Hardy," Gularte e-mails. "Michael Stevenson will direct and Eric Wheeler, Jamie Jones and I will be in the cast."
The season will end Aug. 2, two weeks earlier than originally planned.

January 22, 2009
Some Oscar omissions

Academy Awards voters showed some welcome independent thinking in the nominations announced this morning, especially in the lead actor category, in which the wonderful Richard Jenkins was nominated for his performance in the small (and nearly perfect) character study "The Visitor." But what was left off Oscar's list is always more interesting than what was included.

Like Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino." Eastwood's borderline self-parodying yet immensely powerful performance in that film is truly something to behold. More people want to talk to me about "Gran Torino" than any other film released during the awards season. Yet the film was shut out completely.

Perhaps Oscar voters were put off by the film's racist language. But that seems an unlikely reason for the snub, given that Robert Downey Jr. received a supporting nod for his comedic performance as an actor who dyes his skin to play an African American character in "Tropic Thunder." And the Academy seems to love "The Reader," which presents a criminally bigoted character in a sympathetic light.

The other 2008 film directed by Eastwood, "Changeling," did receive three nominations, though, for cinematography and art direction (well deserved), and for its lead actress, Angelina Jolie (undeserved). Why Jolie's one-note performance as a grieving mother was recognized over Kristin Scott Thomas' transcendent performance as a woman just released from prison in "I've Loved You So Long" is a mystery.

It's also a real shame that the Academy didn't see fit to recognize Sally Hawkins' performance as a peppy schoolteacher with hidden depths in "Happy-Go-Lucky" (the trailer for which is posted above, just because).

Melissa Leo seemed to take the truly-independent-film spot in the lead actress category for her performance as people-smuggler in the tiny film "Frozen River." But her performance, though accomplished, can't compare to Hawkins' or Scott Thomas'.

The good news in the lead actress category is that Meryl Streep, who received her 15th total Academy Award nomination this morning for her role as a suspicious nun in "Doubt," could easily triumph. Streep goes a bit overboard in "Doubt," but nobody would be unhappy to see her win a third Academy Award.

The omission of "The Dark Knight" in the directing and best-picture categories also is viewed as a slight by some. But I never got on that particular bandwagon. The eight nominations it received were in categories where it merited them, such as cinematography, visual effects, and of course, supporting actor, for the late Heath Ledger 's mesmerizing, inventive performance as The Joker.

In Monday's newspaper, I will pick my personal favorites in all the lead categories.

Oscars will be handed out Feb. 22.

Click here to view a list of the 81st annual Oscar nominations

January 21, 2009
Curtain call!

Associated Press

Let's play the game of "Clue," shall we?

* "Dolly Madison, in the conservatory, with the curtain rod."

But wait, where are the curtains?

Hillary Rodham Clinton (pictured), who was confirmed today as the nation's secretary of state, appeared at one of last night's inaugural fetes swathed in the Madison curtains - or perhaps upholstery from the library ottoman.

Wrong fabric, wrong silhouette, wrong sleeve length and what's up with the clunky white gloves?

I've been concerned about Hillary ever since Jill Biden let it slip Monday on "Oprah" that VP and husband Joe was offered his choice of either the secretary's job or the vice presidency.

I had hoped Hillary was out shopping or something during the show. Now I fear she's slumped. I'm sure she's using a low-flow shower head because her hair doesn't have its usual perkiness and she's back to wearing heavy, outdated fashions that don't flatter her.

And I know she knows better.

In fact, Clinton stepped it up fashion wise during the campaign. And while her views on national and international issues are far more important than the color of her pants suit, I felt she was putting some thought into how she looked, too.

Now it appears she's dressing as if she's headed to the Court of St. Something vs. visiting a dignitary in Argentina.

Outgoing secretary of state Condoleezza Rice could command attention, look professional and stylish all at once, so I know it's doable.

There's a stylist out there who needs a job so we can change games - from Clue to chess, where Hillary makes all the right moves. After all, husband Bill Clinton is tired of playing "Sorry."

January 21, 2009
Local Stations Hit by Clear Channel Cuts

Clear Channel Communications, which owns five radio stations in the Sacramento area, has cut nine percent of its staff -- 1,850 positions nationally. The cuts were announced and took effect Tuesday.

Bruce Maiman, a politically moderate evening talk host on KFBK (1530 AM) is said to be among the local cuts, but local officials would not comment on cuts.

Jeff Holden, local manager for Clear Channel, referred all questions to the company's central office, which released a memo from CEO Mark Mays.

Mays blamed economic conditions for "the unpleasant task of bringing our Outdoor and Radio businesses' staffing in line."

Clear Channel has billboard and radio operations. Sacramento area stations include KGBY (92.5 FM), KFBK (1530 AM), KHYL (V101.1 FM), KQJK (93.7 FM) and KSTE (650 AM).

January 20, 2009
Barby K boutique to close

I just got a call from Barby Vasilj, owner of Barby K boutique (2312 K St.), in midtown with mixed news. She's expecting her second child in May, and she already has a 14-month-old daughter. That's terrific.

The bad news? She's closing her 4-year-old boutique to become a full-time mom.

"It's not because of the economy," Barby says. "It's really for the anticipation of another child."

That said, she's having a huge sale, with markdowns from 40 percent to 75 percent on everything in the store, including Juicy Couture apparel and jeans from True Religion. There's both holiday and spring attire, so it's a good time to shop.

Barby K joins several other boutiques in the area that are closing or already have closed, including Dara Denim and Shoefly. Both stores were right down the street from Barby K.

"I can't speak for other stores, but you would never have anticipated how bad the economy would get," she says. "It's probably a cyclical thing. Other boutiques will come in. I've said goodbye to so many customers, which is really sad. Midtown really needs great, local boutiques."

Looking forward, Barby hopes to return to retail when her children are older. "I won't have my kids not have me as a full-time mom," she says.

Closing date? Nothing firm, but she's looking at the end of January, first of February. It depends because the store just received new merchandise.

My best to Barby and her family. She'll be missed in midtown.

In the meantime, she and I will be watching the train wreck that is "The Real Housewives of Orange County!" That would be the two of us - plus CNN's Anderson Cooper.

January 20, 2009
A cabinet post for the Arts? You decide...


Should there be a cabinet post for the arts?

That's what composer Quincy Jones and others would like to see as part of the Obama Administration.

It was reported recently in the Washington Post that 76,000 people had signed an online petition (started by two New York musicians, who were originally inspired by producer Jones), calling for President Barack Obama to give the arts and humanities a cabinet level post.

Now, before you get to thinking that this is a pie-in-the-sky notion, please note that there are such high level posts in administrations across Europe - including France, Germany and Finland.

So, what do you think? Yea or nay?

January 19, 2009
`Wild Party' gets wilder online

There is currently an online brouhaha over whether or not Equity actors are performing in Runaway Stage's current production of "The Wild Party." Equity is the professional union for actors and stage managers regulating pay, benefits and working conditions.

The official Equity handbook states,"Equity rules prohibit members from working (with or without pay) for any employer who is not a signatory to an Equity Agreement or Code, unless Equity has given prior written permission." The handbook also says, "Working without benefit of a contract is a serious breach of your professional responsibility, and is subject to disciplinary action."

For the record both the Runaway Stage producer/director Bob Baxter and actor in question, Andrea Thorpe, say no rules are being broken. Thorpe wrote in an e-mail that she did in fact join Equity in 2006 in a contract with the Studio Theater. But she writes she no longer is an Equity member.
"In order to continue performing in Sacramento, AKA doing what I love in my home, I chose to give up my Equity status," Thorpe writes.

January 19, 2009
Mrs. O sets fashion tone


Word is definitely not leaking out regarding first lady-elect Michelle Obama's wardrobe for tomorrow's swearing-in ceremony, luncheon and parade and then later for the numerous balls she and the new president, Barack Obama, will attend.

I'm banking on Chicago designer Maria Pinto, who Mrs. Obama has a special fashion affinity for. Four years ago, American designer Oscar de la Renta dressed all of the Bush women, including first lady Laura Bush and daughters Jenna and Barbara.

Yesterday, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., everyone had to brave way cold temps for an outdoor concert filled with major pop singers, speakers and, of course, the next first family. Michelle Obama braved the chill in a lovely tan and black ensemble (pictured) as she joined her husband and two daughters and Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, who maneuvered some mighty high-heeled boots down the steps of the memorial.

Mrs. Obama kept her heels low,and I loved the movement of the coat and scarf. Today, she dressed down in slacks and a sweater (pictured) to attend a volunteer event in the nation's capital, honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Starting early tomorrow, I'll join other Bee writers at to cover the inauguration as it unfolds.

January 19, 2009
Sacramento Single: Them Hills "Grow Down"

His idea was to keep it simple: Guitar, bass and drums and an exploration of the spaces in between each sound.

Dan Elkan was on break from a guest stint playing for Hella on tour and the former Pocket for Corduroy musician wanted to put together another band of his own. So he contacted his old PFC bandmate Thad Stoenner who was living in Elkan's Nevada City hometown.

Next thing Elkan knew he'd moved back to the foothills and, with the addition of drummer David Torch, had put together Them Hills.

The band was born in January 2006 but wouldn't play its first show until the end of that year.

"I didn't want to just start a group and play before we were ready," Elkan says.

During that time, the band explored its dynamic.

"Most bands have two guitars, bass and drums - or maybe even more (instruments) than that, I wanted something that was simple," he says. "I wanted to (work on) creating a sound where each instrument would matter more than if you had a bunch playing - especially in a live setting."

The band tried to capture that ethos on its debut CD, "Greener Grassing."

"I wanted to have a simple sound that was (also) dynamic," he said. "I wanted there to be more spaces where instruments were not playing - it's like when you think about a song like U2's 'With or Without You.' That's a powerful sound but it's just bass."

Them Hills

Song: "Grow Down"

Style: Jangly indie rock

Behind the song: The track stemmed from a single drum beat, Elkan says.

"David came up with this really quirky punk sounding (riff) and the concept came out of just us thinking about punk rock," he says. "It's about how you deal with the idea of getting older while still keeping your mind young and fresh."

It's OK, he says, to not conform to so-called "adult" standards.

"That's an old punk idea: You can grow up but still be young at heart."

See them: Jan. 25 at Luigi's Fun Garden, 1050 20th St, Sacramento. Tera Melos and Sbach are also on the bill. $5.

On the Web:

Listen to "Grown Down" here:

January 19, 2009
Movies on the radio

Every Friday afternoon, I appear on KFBK (1530 AM) to talk about movies with Kitty O'Neal and R.E. Graswich.

I will post a link each Monday to Friday's broadcast, starting today. To listen to our discussion of "The Wrestler" and "Notorious," click
here.That should lead you to a page containing all The Bee's contributors to KFBK.

To find my previous appearances, click here.

January 16, 2009
Berkeley Symphony goes bold in replacing Nagano


It's official - the Berkeley Symphony has acted boldly with its selection of Joana Carneiro as conductor Kent Nagano's successor.

The 32 year-old Carneiro will become this maverick orchestra's third Music Director beginning with the 2009-10 season. She will lead the orchestra in four programs in UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall beginning October 15, in addition to leading Berkeley Symphony's Under Construction new music series.

The Portuguese-born Carneiro recently served as Assistant Conductor and American Conducting Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 2005-2008, and worked closely with conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. As a conductor she is highly respected for her commitment to new music.

"Over an intensive two-year search period the Berkeley Symphony invited six guest conductors to conduct over the past two seasons, all of who were under consideration to succeed Kent Nagano," said Kevin Shuck director of Communications for the Berkeley Symphony.

That pool included some highly regarded conductors - including former Frankfurt Radio Symphony conductor Hugh Wolff and former Atlanta Symphony Assistant Conductor, Laura Jackson.

January 15, 2009
Lake County artist's painting featured in Barack Obama calendar


Lake County artist Ron Keas has several original Barack Obama oil paintings on display at a Denver museum during Democratic National Convention. That high-profile exposure led to an offer to feature his work in a new Obama calendar.

Keas' portrait of the Obama family (Barack, wife Michelle and kids Sasha and Malia) will illustrate the month of August in the new "Obama DIversity Calendar." now available for $15 here.

Visit Keas' web site to check out his other Obama-themed paintings.

January 15, 2009
KWOD to debut new U2 single on Monday

U2 fans hungry to hear the band's new album "No Line on the Horizon" don't have to wait until the disc's March 2 release date to hear some music. They don't even have to wait until Feb 15 - the day the album's first single "Get on Your Boots" is set for release.

This Monday (Jan. 19, to be exact), KWOD 106.5 will be playing "Get on Your Boots" throughout the day starting in the morning during "The Adam Corolla Show" which airs from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Wow, that's almost enough incentive to get me to tune into Carolla's show.

Or, I could just wait until after 10.

Either way, enjoy.

January 15, 2009
What? More funding for the NEA?

Could it be true that the National Endowment for the Arts may be getting more money from the U.S. government - and not less?

Sounds like a pie-in-the-sky hope, right?

Not really. Believe it or not, the possibility of more funding for the NEA is written into the House of Representatives' pending $825 billion economic recovery package - also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009.

The bill, announced today, includes an infusion of $50 million for the NEA under its "National Treasures" package.

That $50 million amount is in addition to its annual appropriations of $144,706,800 for 2008.

The infusion is designed to preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support resulting from the recent economic downturn, according to Americans for the Arts Action Fund, a nonprofit that watches legislation related to arts funding.

The House plan also proposes additional opportunities throughout other parts of the federal government that could also help the nonprofit arts sector and individual artists.

If the bill passes with the NEA funding intact it may signal a newfound committment in Washington, D.C., to increasing and not slashing arts funding.

January 15, 2009
NYC Opera hires chief, but pares down

There is good news and goodish-bad news from the New York CIty Opera.

The good news is that the company is finally moving beyond the Gerard Mortier fiasco.

Associated Press reported Thursday that the city opera has chosen George Steel as its new general director and artistic director. Steel succeeds Mortier, effective Feb. 1. The much-touted Mortier was hired in 2007, but backed out last year, citing the company's budgetary woes.

Steel is highly regarded in New York classical music circles for his directorship of Columbia University's Miller Theater, which become a magnet for new music.

Steel will have to shift gears quickly since he is backing out of his directorship of the Dallas Opera, a job he started in October.

The bad news is the company is paring down its 2009-10 season.

Or, perhaps this is good news? It certainly shows a strong dose of reality in the wake of Mortier's exit - and right now that's a good thing.

The company expects to announce a detailed schedule of operas in mid-March.

January 15, 2009
Fall Out Boy to play Sacramento in April


OMG grab your eyeliner, Fall Out Boy is headed to Sacramento.

Just two years after the emo-pop band cancelled its headlining appearonce at Sleep Train, the band is now scheduled to bring its Believers Never Die Part Deux tour to town, April 8 at Memorial Auditorium.

Also on the bill: Cobra Starship, Metro Station, All Time Low and Hey Monday.

Tickets go on sale Jan. 23 through but if you're part of the FOB fan club you can get in on some pre-sale action on Jan. 21 via

January 15, 2009
'American Idol': A cheer for Kansas City


Night two of "American Idol's" Season 8 debut had several surprises - perhaps the biggest that last season's No. 4 finisher, Jason Castro (dreadlocks intact) showed up with his family in Kansas City, Mo., to cheer on brother Michael, 20, who claimed he just started singing 20 days before the audition.

Michael looks nothing like his older brother - well, maybe there's a slight resemblance. He claims he's "more not girly" than Jason, and there's no disputing that. But odd hair runs in the family. Michael had partially pink hair, cut "hawkish." Simon Cowell called his Gavin DeGraw song "goodish," but he got through to Hollywood, so we'll see what happens with the next Castro brother.

More than 11,000 showed up for the audition, including Chelsea Marquard, whose powerful voice and good looks didn't appease Simon. (Perhaps she should have worn a swimsuit.)

Simon: "I think not! It was like a cat jumping off the Empire State Building, and that's the noise you hear before it hits the floor."

But among the better performers were Ashley Anderson, 20, who pulled off a Leona Lewis song Simon was involved with - "Fooprints in the Sand" - despite her initial goof singing "Footsteps." New judge Kara DioGuardi said, "You've got some chops." They also liked Von Smith and his Bing Crosby hat, though I thought he virtually shrilled "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Sisters Asia McClain, 24, and India Morrison, 22, rapped together then sang separately. India got through, but Asia was very supportive of her sister getting a gold ticket. Another group act, Andrew Lang, 19, and his "Idol Cheerleaders" (pictured) didn't make it through even though his "My Girl" rendition might have pulled at the female judges' heartstrings.

And speaking of heartstrings, who isn't rooting for Danny Gokey, 28, a music teacher from Wisconsin whose young wife passed away from a heart condition just four weeks before the audition. You have to give him props for keeping it together. He sang "Heard It Through the Grapevine," and everyone loved it. Randy Jackson said Danny was "one of the best we've seen." He definitely moves on - for his wife, Sophia.

Lil Rounds, 23, a mom from Memphis, Tenn., was the last to audition and she wowed with a Stevie Wonder song. Comparisons were made to Mary J. Blige and Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino.

I know it's only been two nights, but Paula Abdul is making sense, so far, and not taking much guff from Simon. I like the tiebreaker rule, though it hasn't been used that much - once last night when Simon actually agreed with the gal judges.

Ryan Seacrest lets it out that 147 contestants will make it through to the Hollywood Round. And 27 of them made it out of Kansas City. Next Tuesday? It's off to Louisville, Ky.

January 14, 2009
This "Rumour" is true: Fleetwood Mac to play Sac


That icon of 70s pop-rock Fleetwood Mac's been talking reunion for a while and now the rumour is true. Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood (but, sadly, no Christine McVie) just announced tour dates and Sacramento made the list.

Fleetwood Mac Unleashed: Hits Tour 2009 will arrive May 18 at Arco Arena.

Pre-sale tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. this Saturday. Get details via the band's Web site.

May 18 at Arco Arena.

January 14, 2009
DJ Shadow mashes up his own sneaker


Erstwhile Davis mixmaster DJ Shadow has nabbed a sneaker deal with Reebok.

Shadow (aka Josh Davis) is a preeminent hip-hop instrumentalist. His 1996 full-length debut "Endtroducing ..." is, in my opinion, one of the best albums of the '90s and still stands up today for its moody yet alluring mix of jazz, hip-hop, funk and other audio bit - all sampled from vinyl. The cover of "Endtroducing," by the way, is a photograph of the dusty, album-clogged interior of Sactown's own Records store (taken in its original K Street location).

Anyway, back to the sneakers.

The shoes are available on DJ Shadow's site and feature the cover image from DJ Shadow's 1995 EP "What Does Your Soul Look Like?"

They'll set you back $104.99 - a small price to pay for such cool comfort (via Pitchfork).

January 14, 2009
'American Idol': Yes, someone can sing


OK, I admit I was pretty excited about last night's debut of Season 8 of "American Idol." If for no other reason than to watch the judges' catfight when the much ballyhooed "Bikini Girl" auditioned.

It was worth the eight-month wait for me and about 30.1 million other fans.

Katrina Darrell, 20, of Carina Hills, Ca., entered the audition room (after spending a lot of time by some random pool) with two tiny pieces of cloth and a huge attitude. She had just told host Ryan Seacrest the two of them would, as she put it, "make out," if she made it through to Hollywood, which was a foregone conclusion based on the initial judges' reactions.

Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell actually turned to mush, and new judge Kara DioGuardi had to be restrained by Paula Abdul after Katrina mouthed off to her.

In the end, so to speak, Katrinia got her golden ticket and will now be known as "Top and Bottom."

And, yes, she planted a big on Ryan before jumping into the pool.

The opening-night audition show from Phoenix (home of Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks) did showcase more talent than "Idol" viewers are probably used to. There was Emily Hughes singing "Barracuda," Stevie Wright (named after Stevie Nicks), also from California, and Cody Sheldon, 17, the 17-year-old from Detroit who sings and makes horror films in which he's always the last to bite it.

The losers? Definitely weepy rocker guy Randy Madden, 27, who claimed to be a "rock star in a box" because he worked in a cubicle in his real job. Simon called him a "drama queen," and he did butcher one of my favorite songs, "Livin' on a Prayer," as did the "Idol" montage of bad talent, who also attempted another Bon Jovi song, "Dead or Alive."

And then there was Michael Gurr, who got so nervous he sounded like, Simon said, he was singing in Bavarian. A guy named "X-ray" was a hot mess with some ridiculous song called "Cactus Baby." And Tuan Nguyen, 20, (pictured), who opened the show left with his enormous afro and tap shoes after a horrific interpretation of Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel."

I like the addition of a fourth judge and think Kara held her own, in spite of Simon's insistence on mispronouncing her first name.

All told, the judges gave out 23 tickets to Hollywood, including one to the show's closer, 23-year-old Scott MacIntyre, a singer/songwriter from Scottsdale, Ariz., whose music has been his sanctuary most of his life because he is blind. He offered up a beautiful rendition of Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" - one of my personal favorites.

Tonight at 8? It's on to Kansas City, hometown of last season's winner, David Cook. FYI: For all you single galls, apparently he's no longer seeing Season 2 finalist Kimberly Caldwell. Just thought you'd want to know.

January 13, 2009
The New Humans: Where art thou?

Where in the world are The New Humans? Just as quickly as Sacramento fell in love with the band's prolific, electro-blues sound did it seemingly disappear into the woodwork, eluding hoards of newfangled admirers--men and women committed to swooning over maniacal synth action and impeccable hairstyles.

Although staying low on the area's musical radar, the '08 Sammie-award-winning New Humans aren't sitting around twiddling their thumbs. The band is staying busy writing and recording new music, and they haven't abandoned their search for a vocalist, although they'll continue innovating new sounds until they find the perfect match.

The New Humans resurfaced for a Sunday, Jan. 11 performance at Expression College in Emeryville.

Sacramento music lovers have something to look forward to...other than sunny weather.

Check out The New Humans' MySpace page here.

January 12, 2009
Sacramento Single: Nice Monster's "Down"

matthewgerken_small.jpgThe name of J. Matthew Gerken's band Nice Monster explains exactly what his intentions are for its music.

"I don't like writing songs that have typical guitar strums - you know, ba-ba-BA-ba bum. I like using odd time signatures and syncopations - that's the 'monster' part, (writing) difficult or interesting rhythms," he explains. "But at the same time I like but at the same time, I really like catchy melodies."

Gerken, along with friends Jefferson Pitcher and Christian Kiefer, is also part of the recent Of Great and Mortal Men project which recently released the highly lauded three-CD set, "43 Songs for 43 Presidencies" (Standard Recordings, $30).

The brand-new, self-titled Nice Monster EP swaps politics for a rich mining of sonic spaces, experimental yet accessible noise pop and complicated emotions.

Nice Monster is rounded out by Jason Roberts (guitar), Greg Aaron (drums), Chad Wilson (bass) and Gerken's girlfriend Heather Phillips (piano, vocals).

The new EP was recorded in the home shared by Gerken and Phillips and the experience, he says, was mellow with a focus on fun instead of technical perfection.

That relaxed vibe was aided by the arrival of a puppy.

"Heather and I were looking for a new puppy and in the middle of recording, a rescue puppy became available," he says.

The presence of Mickey, a Black Lab/Border collie mix, gave the recording sessions a playful mood.

"It was just really fun and created such a relaxed, flexible atmosphere," he says. "The fidelity might not be as pristane as it would be if we'd recorded at a studio but I think the performances are better."

Nice Monster

Song: "Down"

Style: Jazz pop

Behind the song: "It's similar to a lot of Nice Monster songs because it doesn't have a verse-chorus-verse (structure)," says Gerken who cites artists such as John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Wilco and Radiohead among his influences and inspirations.

"Down" starts with a slow, deliberate mood before shifting, half-way through, into something decidedly more upbeat.

"Those kinds of shifts happen a lot (in our songs)," Gerken says. "The texture, the time feel, the meter, even the lyrical topic - it can all change."

The song's subject matter, Gerken says, is a "tongue in cheek reflection" about childhood.

"The first part of the song is about a person wondering why they are the way they are," he says. "In the second half of the song, there's the realization that 'oh yeah, it's because of this stuff that happened when I was a kid.'"

The song's actual lyrics, he adds, are pretty "ambiguous."

"You almost need liner notes to understand them," he says. "I like to leave room for people to make their own interpretations."

On the Web: or

Listen to "Down" from the new Nice Monster EP here:

January 11, 2009
'Slumdog' is top dog -- except for Mickey's

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association doesn't have the best track record in predicting the Oscar best picture. In 2007, for instance, it chose "Babel" over "The Departed" in the best drama category.

But this year, it seems to be on the money in choosing "Slumdog Millionaire." Grimly realistic yet life-affirming, gritty yet gorgeous, "Slumdog" is the most purely entertaining film to factor in this awards season.

It's not the best movie among the top awards contenders, though. That's "Milk," which the Hollywood Foreign Press Association didn't even see fit to nominate for best drama.

That crazy Hollywood Foreign Press Association: You can only love it for about a minute before you have second thoughts.

January 11, 2009
Winslet, part 2

I have revised my stance on Kate Winslet and winning.

Winslet just won her second Globe, this time for "Revolutionary Road," and she was one of the most grateful, effusive and flummoxed winners of the night. I especially loved the "Oh, who's the other one?" line, when she was trying to summon the name of her little-known fellow nominee, Angelina Jolie .

And it's nice to see that Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are still so close, although her declaration that she has loved DiCaprio for years seemed to inspire titters in the audience.

And that's kind of funny, when you think about it -- jaded celebrities and studio suits still capable of tittering.

January 11, 2009
Rourke all the way

You gotta love a comeback story like Mickey Rourke's, especially when the character he's being honored for playing is also a struggling guy who used to be a big deal. ("The Wrestler" opens Friday in Sacramento.)

And the roughed-up mug, sunglasses and wallet chain couldn't conceal Rourke's vulnerability as he delivered his acceptance speech. I mean, the guy thanked his dogs.

He's heartbreaking, on screen and off.

And the sparkly scarf? AWESOME.

January 11, 2009
Tina the Great


The moment "30 Rock" was announced best comedy, Tina Fey, so brilliant, so multitalented, seemed primed to come to something else -- overexposed. And I'm not talking about her dress. Fey has been everywhere in the past several months.

But instead of calling more attention to herself, Fey had "30 Rock" co-star Tracy Morgan take the microphone. It was pact they made, Morgan said, after Barack Obama was elected president.

"I'm the face of post-racial America," Morgan told the audience. "Deal with it, Cate Blanchett!"

Why he chose Blanchett isn't clear. But it was funny.

Later, when making her way to the podium to accept the award for best actress in a comedy, Fey seemed embarrassed by the fuss.

"If you ever start to feel too good about yourself," she told the audience, "they have this thing called the Internet."

Charming, disarming, always a bit dorky, Fey is just the best celebrity going right now.

January 11, 2009

One of the great things about blogging about the Globes is that I, a movie critic, can discuss television. This makes me happy, because in 2008, television far surpassed film in quality.

I would much rather watch unhappy, chain-smoking suburbanites on "Mad Men" than in "Revolutionary Road." Frankly, I'd rather watch the show about the guy from Poison and the busload of women than "Revolutionary Road."

As an avid television viewer, I have noticed that HBO is no longer the bastion of quality it once was. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, however, hasn't noticed this, giving most of its acting awards to people from HBO shows. And while I can handle awards for participants in the excellent "John Adams," I have to quibble with the choices of Gabriel Byrne as best actor in a drama, for "In Treatment," and Anna Paquin as best actress in a drama, for "True Blood."

Byrne is wonderful in "In Treatment," but not nearly as interesting as Jon Hamm 's ladykiller in "Mad Men" or Michael C. Hall everybody-killer in "Dexter."

And I like January Jones' unhappy homemaker on "Mad Men" much better than Paquin. Even though I've never seen "True Blood."

Check in later for more ill-informed yet passionate assessments of awards in television categories.

January 11, 2009
Ledger's impact

"Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan just spoke so eloquently in accepting the Golden Globe for Heath Ledger.

Though it was sad to see the clip of Ledger as the Joker, Nolan quickly put things into perspective by pointing out that Ledger will have a lasting impact on cinematic history.

It was a lovely speech. I hope Nolan will speak on Ledger's behalf again, at the Oscars.

January 11, 2009
Hawkins delights

Is there anyone at the Beverly Hilton -- or the world -- as genuine as Sally Hawkins? In accepting her award for best actress in a musical or comedy for "Happy-Go-Lucky," she seemed so overwhelmed that for a minute there, it appeared as if Emma Thompson was going to have to go up on stage to help her out.

Hawkins is just so authentic, whether she's appearing on a big screen or accepting one of the many prizes she has collected for her captivating performance as a determinedly upbeat schoolteacher in "Happy-Go-Lucky."

Let's hope she's among the best actress nominees when Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 22. She was not among the five women nominated for Screen Actors Guild Awards, always a better indicator of Oscar nominations than the Golden Globes. Whereas SAG nominees are chosen by people who actually might be members of the Academy, the Golden Globes represent the votes of fewer than 100 foreign journalists.

January 11, 2009
Winslet lacks a winning attitude

The Golden Globes started a few minutes ago, and with the entrance of Jennifer Lopez and her amazingly youthful skin, immediately marked an improvement over last year's dreadful press-conference

But I have to say: I am a little disappointed with Kate Winslet's (pictured) acceptance speech for her supporting actress Globe for "The Reader." She kept alluding to how she never wins anything, and that's not a particularly gracious way to accept an award. And here I always thought of Winslet epitomizing class -- at least in that Helen Mirren, oft-naked-on-screen British way.

Yes, Winslet has been nominated five times for an Academy Award -- and five times for Golden Globes before her two nominations tonight (the other is for "Revolutionary Road"). But she's only 33.

There's plenty of time to win awards.

There are only two actors who can complain about frequently being bridesmaids: 76-year-old Peter O'Toole, nominated eight times for the Oscar best actor prize without winning, and Meryl Streep, who has won only two Oscars out of 14 nominations.

January 11, 2009
And so they keep arriving!


The last half hour of the red carpet show for these awards is always a frenzy. Too many last-minute arrivals. There's Kyra Sedgwick in Oscar de la Renta, and Eva Mendes in Dior. Both strapless gowns. Both gorgeous.

Kate and Leonardo look so cute together. "She's my homie," he says. They're reunited on screen in the movie "Revolutionary Road."

Amazingly, the E! cameras cut completely away from the twosome as Brad and Angelina step out of their limo and Beyonce works the crowd.

Armani Privee dressed the very lovely Anne Hathaway (pictured), who is nominated for "Rachel Getting Married."

Oh, and Billy Ray, could you stop stepping all over your daughter's expensive gown!?

January 11, 2009
No Brad and Angelina for Ryan


The guys from "The Office" are too cute - all of them! Do I get a vote?

Penelope Cruz looks beautiful - also in a strapless gown. Beyonce is stunning - also strapless in an Elie Saab gown - and very proud of playing Etta James in the film "Cadillac Records."

Renee Zellwegger has grown her pixie cut - or added hair pieces.

Ryan is sweatin' it trying to get to Brad and Angelina (pictured), who obviously aren't going to get any dinner because the show starts in about 10 minutes. Sean Combs (when he's acting) is one of the few actors wearing a bow tie.

Jeremy Piven is back after having a health problem (high mercury count) and recuperating after a month of rest. William Macy is replacing him on Broadway in the play "Speed-the-Plow."

Tom Cruise arrives with his mother. (Suri and Katie must be in New York, right?) Patrick Dempsey ("Grey's Anatomy") looks great in Versace. Megan Fox ("Transformers") wants Salma Hayek's breasts instead of her own.

Need I say more? Jennifer Lopez looks absolutely fabulous, especially standing about five feet away from a very pale Marc Anthony.

So, despite Ryan's frantic pleas, Brad and Angelina talk to, of all TV personalities, Billy Bush of "Access Hollywood."

Now that bites after two hours of sweating it in 80-degree heat.

And speaking of sweating it, I'm grabbing my flannel pjs to watch the awards!

January 11, 2009
Maggie gets melancholy


Maggie Gyllenhaal, lovely in a Lanvin gown, found it really difficult to discuss "The Dark Knight" and co-star Heath Ledger, who died a year ago and is nominated for his role as the Joker. The levity of the evening was definitely overwhelming her.

Drew Barrymore (John Galliano) and Jessica Lange (in Cavalli) (pictured) arrived hand in hand. They have a film coming up - actually a documentary. Jessica hasn't been at an awards show in, oh, a bazillion years. Couldn't see much behind those Foster Grants. But I'm not sure about Drew's ginormous hair. It looked a little Gladys Kravitz to me.

The Miley Cyrus family (including parents, Billy Ray and Leticia) are all in tow and talking about used cars and Miley's boyfriends.

January 11, 2009
Shoutouts to their sons


Segment 4:

Nominee Debra Messing ("The Starter Wife") offers advice for women who start dating at age 40, while supporting a really large ponytail. She doesn't mention her husband, as a matter of fact, but says she gets to spend more time with her son.

Her dress? The E! "Glamastrator" gives her huge points for her gown.

Kevin Nealon ("Weeds") says he's wearing "Nabsico," from the cereal maker because his 2-year-old son dresses him. And that Ryan needs to loosen his tie.

Susan Sarandon (pictured) is accompanied by her son, Jack. She has a list of people to thank for her outfit: Hugo Boss (suit), Fred Leighton (jewelry) and Stuart Weitzman (shoes).

Amy Adams (in Oscar de la Renta) says she has no wedding plans, but she was without a boyfriend and a hairbrush. A little too mussed for my taste. Anna Paquin picked a dress she could sit down in. Christina Applegate looks beautiful in Roberto Cavalli and, most importantly, she says she feels great.

January 11, 2009
Two of the best-dressed: Eva and Simon


Tony (Parker) is playing hoops, but Eva Longoria Parker (pictured) looks amazing in a red strapless, Reem Akra gown. A lot of the women are going strapless with neat chignons. Very Hollywood.

And then there's the gorgeous (I can't say more) Simon Baker (also pictured) from the hottest new TV show of the season, "The Mentalist." He's sporting a suit from the designer who actually makes his outfits on the show.

January 11, 2009
A crown of her own


Segment 3:

Rumor Willis as Miss Golden Globe? OK, whatever. She had to practice walking in high heels. Melanie Griffith wore the crown once. She's cute, recalling her dad, Bruce Willis, won a Golden Globe for TV's "Moonlighting" - "back when he had hair." I also caught her mom, Demi Moore, on the red carpet.

The cast of "Slumdog Millionaire," including Freida Pinto, (pictured) in a color only she could pull off, chatted it up with Giuliana. And "30 Rock" star Alec Baldwin pretty much took over his interview with Ryan, asking questions about his love life and confirming that it would be a huge mistake if he and co-star Tina Fey were entangled on screen.

January 11, 2009
Reunions on the red carpet?


Segment 2:

Kevin Connolly is cute in his little suit, a nominee for his role on HBO's "Entourage." And Jennifer Morrison from "House" was almost missed in the crowd, but she did get to talk about her beautiful blue Oscar de la Renta gown. She admitted being very sick over the holidays so no problem fitting into it.

Movie reunions? Of course, nominees Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio ("Titantic") would run into each other (pictured). And perhaps even Susan Sarandon and Brad Pitt ("Thelma & Louise").

Jenna Fischer from "The Office" looks great. Her favorite movie of the year? "Doubt." No food in her teeny-tiny purse. And Jenna reveals they take the plates away inside the hotel before the show even starts! The stars can schmooze and booze, but no noshing on camera.

Just found out actors Sean Penn and Brad P. will hook up for a film called "The Tree of Life."

January 11, 2009
Ryan is just getting warmed up


He just finished covering New Year's Eve in New York, and now Ryan Seacrest (pictured) is on the red carpet at tonight's 66th Annual Golden Globes Awards show, from the Beverly Hilton Hotel. (On Tuesday, he'll host the first night of four months when "American Idol" fires up.)

The Globes return after a hiatus last year because of the writers strike, and so the L.A. weather cooperated nicely with 80-degree temps as the stars strolled - make that crawled - into the venue. At one point, announcers had to beg the attendees to get inside and sit down!

And don't forget a stop in the ladies room, where Associated Press reports four makeup artists are stationed to handle last-minute touch-ups for those who sweat.

Anyway, Seacrest (in a Prada suit) and co-host Giuliana Rancic just had fun.

E!'s GPS "Star Tracker" was a new twist. Big whoop! It's always kind of a duh-duh-duh at the beginning. Stars you really could care less about and updos that are don'ts. Viewers get to vote on who they think looks best. But only certain opinions really count.

January 8, 2009
Capitol Public Radio's new show is "Off Air" but online

After weeks of teasing listeners with ads promising a "change" for the station, Capitol Public Radio debuted a new show "Off Air." The hour-long music show makes its weekly debut every Thursday at midnight with a playlist that covers everything rock, punk, folk, pop, etc.

The show is hosted by Nick Brunner who, so far, has injected a nice dose of hip but thoughtful music sense into his program. This week's program featured songs by Iggy & the Stooges (a nod to this week's passing of Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton), the electro-pop sounds of Ladyhawke and erstwhile Sacto musician Jefferson Pitcher singing with neo-folkie Rosie Thomas.

I particularly like how Brunner doesn't just stick to the ultra-obscure or so brand-new-hip-that-it-hurts type of musuc. He's just got a good ear for mixing up sounds, old and new.

Looking forward to what Brunner plays next week, in the meantime you can listen to the first two shows at

January 7, 2009
VHS tape gets its R.I.P.

Well, it was bound to happen - the VHS is slouching towards oblivion.

The death knell for the VHS comes at the hands of the Florida-based compnay Distribution Audio Video. The company, the only one left stateside that distributes VHS tape, recently announced it will stop doing so in the United States, according to the website

Not that many people will miss the VHS these days, outside of libraries and resale shops. That's because the shiny DVD has outsold the boxy VHS since 2003. And the last time a film was released in VHS format was David Cronenberg's "History of Violence" in 2006.

Question is: will the DVD meet a similar fate at the hand of the Blu-ray disc?

Or will Blu-ray become the ill-fated Beta cassette of the VHS era?

Sales figures for Blu-ray discs suggest not everyone is flocking to replace their DVD collections with them.

There is talk of a Japanese company getting primed to release hybrid Blu-ray/DVD discs (read: more expensive) that can be played on current DVD players.

If that happens, and if the public embraces the hybrids, it might just be R.I.P. for the DVD, too.

January 5, 2009
A familiar face back on TV

News anchor Sarah Gardner, who left KCRA 3 right about this time last year, showed up on KOVR's noon news Monday.

Gardner is doing maternity leave fill-in for several of Channel 13's anchors, said Cameryn Beck, a news manager at the station. "We're excited to have her," Beck said.

Lisa Gonzales had a baby and is on leave, and Stefanie Cruz is due to give birth to her second child soon.

Gardner left KCRA after failing to reach agreement on a new contract at the end of 2007. She had been at the station since 1993.

In addition to her news work, Gardner was a co-founder of the UC Davis MIND Institute for Autism. Her son, Chas, has autism.

Beck declined to define the expected length of Gardner's work with KOVR.

January 2, 2009
Wedding bells ring - all year long

I'm convinced there's no such thing as a "wedding season." Brides (and sometimes the grooms) can take up to two years to plan nuptials that could occur any time of year - not just June.

So, if you're in the planning stages you might want to check out Sunday's "Premier Wedding Show" at Arden Hills Resort Club & Spa in Sacramento, 1220 Arden Hills Lane. The event is set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the club's gardens (weather permitting, of course). And it's being advertised as one-stop shopping for brides-to-be.

That's good news for the more than 75 hand-picked vendors who are scheduled to strut their stuff. That would include wedding apparel (gowns and tuxedos), florists, photographers/videographers, hair and makeup stylists, bakers, caterers, DJs, limo service and travel experts.

Now, check your bridal bank account and have a budget in mind. Planning a wedding is stressful enough, so this show is set up for folks to leisurely stroll the facility and chat with the vendors. There also will be wedding gown fashion shows.

Admission is $10, and parking is free. Brides-to-be who sign up early online will receive a discount. And, if you can't find a parking space, get this: Luxury Limousines and MixMaster Pro Limousines will be ferrying folks from the overflow parking at nearby Jesuit High School.

To register online, click here

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