Val Kilmer: A Blanket Of Hope And Comfort - Heroism Personified

Monday, December 7, 2009

Val Kilmer is a man of many accomplishments, he is a powerfully intense and hardworking actor, a melodic singer/songwriter, and writes amazing poetry with depth, poignancy, and humour. Not to mention he is an active humanitarian, dedicated to human and animal rights, Native American affairs, youth orientated programs, and helping to end violence against women. This is just the tip of Kilmer's iceberg.

In recent years, these charities have been the recipient of proceeds from sales of Kilmer's original CD Sessions With Mick, featuring songs penned with friend Mick Rossi, and his poetry anthology entitled Jack's Gandhi, inspired by a drawing created by his son, Jack.

Now we can add blanket designer to his list of accolades.These beautiful works of art are also being offered for sale from Kilmer's website, with proceeds going to the charities as always.

Kilmer and Liz Lake have designed 250 beautiful Limited Edition Pendleton Woollen Mills blankets, into which Kilmer's own signature has been interwoven into the bottom right corner. There are two designs, Gourd People and The Dude. Each individual blanket has a commemorative label indicating the series number. Here are their descriptions taken from Kilmer's official website store where these blankets can be purchased:

Blanket #1: Gourd People

Gourd People is inspired by New Mexico petroglyphs: ancient rock engravings found throughout the magnificent cliffs and mountain faces that epitomize the raw beauty of the “Land of Enchantment.” These images are inseparable from the State’s cultural landscape and the spirits of the ancient people who created them.

Blanket #2: The Dude

The Dude is based on the buffalo skull hanging in Val’s New Mexico home. A family of buffalo call Val’s ranch their home and this blanket is named for a baby buffalo born on the ranch this past year.

Kilmer explains the history of these amazing blankets:

"The blanket is a symbol of the rich trade history of the American Southwest. A constant of Native American life, the trade blanket is emblematic of our nation’s past. Historically, the blanket is an important communication device of emotion, of individual and community identity and status, a poetic statement with both ceremonial and practical uses. The gift of a trade blanket is a way of showing friendship, appreciation, honor and celebrating commemorative milestones and achievements."

The following is just a short list of the charities Kilmer has worked with over the years:

Operation Coming Home is a team of veterans, homebuilders, and other volunteers that are dedicated to providing free housing in the Raleigh/Durham, NC area to severely wounded veterans of recent Middle East wars. They help make a wounded veteran feel "right at home" in the Triangle.

The Wildlife Center is a charity that I have donated to for over ten years. We have released over one hundred wild animals on our wilderness retreat that Dr. Kathleen Ramsey has PERSONALLY treated. Please check it out.

I heartily support Eve Ensler's V-DAY efforts to help end violence against women and girls.

For 85 years, Associates on American Indian Affairs has been working to promote these goals and provide the critical elements that Native American Indian children and families need to live happy, healthy and productive lives.

Warehouse 21: Our mission is to inspire youth to empower themselves thorough artistic expression and productivity.

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognised human rights for all.

Habitat For Humanity International seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.

Kilmer also has many exciting film projects in the works, all of them look interesting, but one of which in particular is the one I am most eager to see. As a major fantasy/sci-fi buff, I adored Kilmer as Madmartigan in Willow in the 80's, which is where I first became a fan.

In 2010, Kilmer will be returning to the fantasy genre when he stars in Tales Of An Ancient Empire, a story in which a princess is on a quest to unite the five greatest warriors to save her kingdom from a demon sorceress.

Also in the cast are Kevin Sorbo from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (which had an even more successful spin-off in the Xena: Warrior Princess series), and Christopher Lambert of Highlander fame. We can only hope Kilmer has only just begun his return to the fantasy genre and that similar projects may be under consideration. There is nothing more appealing than the idea that Val Kilmer and heroes are an appropriate fit.

~ Michael Holloway


Strength Through The Shadows: Beth Nielsen Chapman's Recipe For Peace Jam & More Delightful Treats

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Beth Nielsen Chapman is an amazing woman, not just for her beautiful music, but because she is a genuinely caring person who shares her faith with people to unify humanity in all its varying shades, rather than trying to use one particular doctine to force people to conform as certain religions are wont to do.

In 2007, she released her latest album Prism: The Human Family Songbook and an accompanying DVD, If Love Could Say God's Name, which incorporates a soul stirring concert with a church service so profound and inspirational with its message of unification. To understand where this depth and passion comes from, one only has to look at Chapman's life, and how she shares her joys and sorrows with the world to teach us a new way of living.

In 1994, Chapman's beloved husband Ernest lost his battle with cancer. Chapman herself has battled breast cancer and a brain tumour but has thankfully survived both, thanks to not only modern medicine, but also to her devout faith. Ernest had an MA in philosophy and was fascinated with the meaning of life and the relationship with God in all aspects of many different cultures and faiths.

Chapman states: "A few months before his death he wrote a letter and sent it to everyone he'd known and loved in his life asking if they would be so kind as to send him a brief note telling him what they believed happens when we pass out of this world."

The Chapman family's friends, who ranged from all cultures and religions from Christian to Muslim, all sent letters and prayers, including one particular (un-named) friend who was a devout atheist. Ernest had had many colourful arguments with this friend during the course of their lives debating all facets of faith, or lack thereof. The atheist friend had also offered this prayer upon receiving Ernest's request.

"I'm probably not, as you know, the best person to ask this question of at a time like this. Nothing has changed. I still feel the same way, still, because I love you, today I sent up for you the prayers of an atheist."

Ernest said to his wife "Wow. That would have to be the most powerful prayer to have had to travel so far."

Thus the inspiration for one of the central songs from the Prism album was born, Prayers Of An Atheist in which Chapman shares her belief that: "Whatever anyone's beliefs are we are born to love and create, which, to me has always been the greatest proof of God's existence. And even the prayers of an atheist have value as I can attest from the amazing grace it brought to my husband in the last days of his life. "

This became the cornerstone with which Chapman sought to find the universal thread in all faiths or non-faiths and weave them together to inspire people to look outside the doctrines of any one particular set of beliefs and try and understand and reflect the values of different cultures and ideologies. To further this crusade, Chapman allied herself with two very special and important organisations, PeaceJam and PeaceMala.

PeaceMala aims to promote "understanding, respect, friendship, tolerance and peace between all communities, cultures and enlightened, compassionate faiths. PeaceMala promotes global citizenship and invites all people to treat each other with respect and compassion regardless of race, colour, religion, gender, sexuality, ability, size or age.

PeaceMala was founded in 2002 by Pam Evans, former Head of the Department of Religious Studies at Coedcae Comprehensive School in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales. I personally have been fortunate enough to talk to Pam online, since she discovered one of my posts about this subject on the Jon Peter Lewis website/forums and other music sites I frequent. In fact, she specifically signed up to post on the JPL forums to chat more about this noble endeavour with my friends and myself.

PeaceMala arose from discussions regarding race relations after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and how one student in particular became a target for misplaced distrust and outright prejudice simply for being Islamic. Student Imran Sheikh states that: "I suffered from racist taunts and our local mosque was attacked following September 11 and that is when the Peace Mala all started."

Pam Evans gave up her position at Coedcae School in 2005 to focus on her work with PeaceMala. She was awarded the Noble Soul Award in 2006 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to challenging Islamaphobia in schools. The award was presented by RAHMA (Racial Attacks and Harassment Monitoring Association) on the International Day of Peace.

PeaceJam takes this ideal further with active charity events like an upcoming auction to be presented on E-Bay starting December 7, 2009, where five hand-painted guitars will be auctioned off and proceeds will go toward funding more PeaceJam events. Each guitar has been signed by the following Nobel Peace Laureates and supporters of PeaceJam: The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Jose Ramos Horta, Adolfo Ramirez Esquivel, and Betty Williams.

The mission of the PeaceJam Foundation is to: "create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody."

Also included with each guitar is a Letter of Authenticity from the President/Co-Founder of PeaceJam, Ivan Suvanjieff.

Another interesting project that Beth Nielsen Chapman has been working on (and which comes as a pleasant surprise to me) is a new limited edition EP which is available to purchase from her website store. The product is described as being a "New Limited Edition sneak preview featuring Shadows from the new BNC record."

Chapman's new album, Back To Love, will be released sometime in 2010, so this looks like an early treat for eager fans who (understandably) cannot wait for the new full-length CD release. She will also be touring the United Kingdom in the new year.

Another fascinating project Chapman is involved with is the I Heart Benefit For Cancer Schmancer hosted by fellow cancer survivor and spokesperson, the lovely and talented Fran Drescher from the hit sitcom The Nanny. The benefit will be held at The Million Dollar Theatre at 307 S. Broadway, Los Angeles on December 13 from 7:00 PM, although doors will open an hour earlier. Guests at the event will include: Jackson Browne, The Bird & The Bee, Olivia Newton-John, Beth Nielsen Chapman, The Whispertown2000, Chris Pierce, Arrica Rose & The...'s (actual band name although I am unsure how to pronounce it,) Charlotte Martin, Caitlin Crosby, Vertigo Posse, Charlyne Yi, Mortified, and more.

More information and a direct ticket link can be found by clicking on the relevant links provided.


Leaving Out Christ for the PC Christmas

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Twas the Month Before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.
See the PC Police had taken away,
The reason for Christmas - no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing,
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a ' Holiday '.
Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa

In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word Christmas - was nowhere to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.
Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton !
At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded
The reason for the season, stopped before it started.
So as you celebrate 'Winter Break' under your 'Dream Tree'
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.
Choose your words carefully, choose what you say
not Happy Holiday!
Christ is The Reason for the Christ-mas Season!


The Bangles Help Keep The Light Alive For Lou Gehrig's Disease Sufferers

Monday, November 23, 2009

Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro are one of the most beloved songwriting teams in music history, their hits include pop-rock standards such as "We Belong," "Keep The Light Alive," "If You Loved Me Like That," "You Stay On My Mind," and many more.

Then sadly, Eric Lowen was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.) According to the Keep The Light Alive website, ALS is a "neurodegenerative disease that usually attacks both upper and lower motor neurons and causes degeneration throughout the brain and spinal cord. First discovered in the mid 1800s and they still have no idea where it comes from or are anywhere near a cure. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time."

That is not even counting the many people worldwide who also suffer from the illness.

The music community immediately rushed to support Lowen by collaborating on an album of classic Lowen & Navarro tunes to raise money for research and proactive ways to fight this disease. Many artists came forward to offer their services, but only those who who made it clear they wanted to be a part of celebrating Eric Lowen's contributions as a singer, songwriter, and performer were chosen, and who could dedicate time and talent in equal measures to the project, including active promotion.

Artists who were chosen include The Bangles, Jackson Browne, John Ondrasik, Keb' Mo', Severin Browne, Joel Rafael, Andy Chase, The Refugees, Freebo, Eddie From Ohio, Phil Parlapiano, Charlie Wadhams, and Stonehoney.

Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson, and Debbi Peterson are the main driving force behind The Bangles, with former bassist Michael Steele having left the band in 2004. Lending their celebrated and harmonic voices and formidable instrumental talent, the trio performed a cover of the Lowen & Navarro anthem "We Belong", which was also a huge hit for Pat Benatar in the 80s. Joining Hoffs (rhythm guitar), Vicki (lead guitar, keyboards) and Debbi (drums) are fellow musicians Abby Travis on bass and John Cowsill (husband of Vicki Peterson and brother of Susan Cowsill) playing the congas.

Hoffs, in particular, has known Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro since 1985, when Eric began dating her best friend Mary. She even remembers a night at Mary’s apartment when Lowen and Navarro had the spark of inspiration to form an acoustic duo.

Hoffs reminisces fondly: "We all fell in love with the blend of their distinct voices, Eric's angelic purity and Dan's resonant soulfulness. They wrote and performed song after beautiful song [and we] recorded a few of them - 'I'll Set You Free,''Something To Believe In,' and 'Everything I Wanted,' all co-written with Eric and Dan. Here [on the album] we offer our version of the lovely, fervent song 'We Belong' as a thankyou to Lowen and Navarro for so many years of heartfelt and gratifying music."

Three specific organisations that this project will directly benefit include Augie's Quest in honour of fitness entrepreneur Augustine "Augie" Nieto, who together with his wife Lynne are champions in the fight against ALS since Augie's diagnosis in 2005. The second organisation is the ALS Association Greater Los Angeles Chapter which aims to to lead the fight to cure and treat ALS through global, cutting edge research, and to empower people with Lou Gehrig's Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support. Then there is The Eric Lowen Trust which was created to offset the enormous costs of fighting his illness and helps support his family, which includes his wife and their five children.

As for The Bangles, they have some fascinating new projects in the works, according to Gracie, the esteemed webmistress of The Bangles Official Website and Return Post Forum, who also acts as an official liaison between the band and their fans.

Debbi Peterson will be collaborating with British singer-songwriter John Wicks by drumming on his new album with his band The Records. Fans are being invited to check out this project at Wick's website and even offer their input.

Vicki Peterson has saucily hinted at some big new project, which she refuses to elaborate on. Gracie hilariously states: "Last but not least (although certainly the most exciting/frustrating) is the news from Vicki that "there is something biggish on the horizon..." But despite Yours Truly's very best efforts to get the rest of the story out of her (bribing, begging, bawling...) she won't give one more peep on the subject! So, I guess we'll all just have to wait to hear what's up... in the meantime, maybe a few (hundred) emails to her inbox demanding the details will turn the tide in our favor? You never know."


Wish Upon A Star This Christmas With Gretchen Peters

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The fabulous singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters is as well-known for her humanitarian endeavours as she is for making beautiful music, and this year, she has quite a few projects which incorporate both.

Peters has collaborated on the second of two albums with an organisation called Bandaged Together with all proceeds going toward the UK based charity Children In Need.

Peters' contribution to Bandaged Together 2 is a cover of the Disney classic When You Wish Upon A Star, which was also beautifully covered by Petra Haden on her 2005 album Petra Haden And Bill Frisell.

On Peters' recording of this iconic song from Disney's Pinocchio, she is superbly joined by musicians Viktor Krauss on bass, Barry Walsh on glockenspiel, and Christine Bougie on lap steel.

Peters has also contributed to the Pudsey Bear project with the creation and E-Bay auction of an original Pudsey Bear (see the link for all the bears being offered for auction), with proceeds also going to Children In Need. The Pudsey Bear was created in 1985 by Joanna Ball and named after her hometown of Pudsey, West Yorkshire. Helen Bach, one of the spokespeople behind the Bandaged Together organisation states that:

"Pudsey represents the work done by BBC Children In Need, and [we ask the recipients] to remember, every time they look at their Pudsey, that it was a thank you to them for using their talent to help a child have a better life! That concept applies equally to all the people who have helped us in whatever way, they have put their particular talent to great use to help children in the UK have a better life! What better gift could they give. "

Another charity that Peters supports is Room In The Inn, a charity to provide shelter, food, and clothing for homeless people during the cold winter months. In 2008, Peters released a Christmas album Northern Lights, (available in our Amazon Affiliates store.) This album is a deeply spiritual and uplifting masterpiece, skillfully interweaving updated versions of standard carols with Peters' own lilting original compositions. She has the uncanny ability to make music which is simultaneously timeless in a classic sense, yet refreshingly progressive.

It is important to note that in 2008, Peters won a Just Plain Folks Award for Northern Lights (Best Holiday Album.) She also won awards for Best Songwriter Of The Year, Best Live Album (Trio), and Best Country Album (Burnt Toast And Offerings) bringing her a total of four awards, an impressive achievement indeed.

Other projects which Peters has released in recent years include her Circus Girl: The Very Best Of Gretchen Peters (which contains rare demos and previously unreleased songs and is a treat for all fans) , and her western themed One To The Heart, One To The Head, a vivid musical depiction of life, love, and heartbreak in the prairies and deserts of the American west. Peters collaborated to stunning effect with Tom Russell for this project.
Along with her award winning albums Trio (featuring a cover of Paul Simon's American Tune), and Burnt Toast And Offerings, as well as her classic trio of early albums (Secret Of Life, Gretchen Peters, and Halcyon,) you have a treasure trove of musical gems, eclipsed only by the lovely heart and soul of the woman who wrote and sang them.

~ Michael Holloway


Unconquered to play at The Santa Fe Film Festival

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Brian Beasley's award winning documentary, Unconquered; Allan Houser and the Legacy of One Apache Family, narrated by Val Kilmer, will be featured at the Santa Fe Film Festival. Get all the info at Val Kilmer The Real


Susan Cowsill Is Covered In Vinyl Again

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Susan Cowsill, the youngest of the famous musical family The Cowsills, has recorded a new album with her band (The Susan Cowsill Band), which is now on sale at her website.

"Live at Carrollton Station: Covered In Vinyl Series Volume 2" is the much-anticipated follow up to the first "Covered In Vinyl" album from 2007. Proceeds from the sales of these albums go toward the efforts to rebuild New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in 2005. Organisations that directly benefit from these sales include The Carrollton Station Fund and The New Orleans Musicians' Relief Fund.

Along with this collection, Cowsill is also preparing to launch her next album of original music, "Lighthouse," through Threadhead Records, which is set for mixing and post-production in December for a hopefully early 2010 release.

Cowsill states: "While we wait to mix our next CD Lighthouse in early December, we have completed mixing and compiling a couple CIV CDs to make available to y'all. VOL 2 has 1-4 songs from 6 different CIV shows over the last few years. The albums from those shows were Aerosmith's "Greatest Hits", The Beatles' "Revolver", David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust", Linda Ronstadt's "Heart Like a Wheel", Sly and the Family Stone's "Greatest Hits", and Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run". Truly live and full of fun, joy, and love. Hope y'all enjoy it. Y'all can purchase from our website store."

In 2005, Cowsill released her very successful debut solo album "Just Believe It" which has already been reissued twice to popular demand, and besides her early career with her family, she has also released five albums with her former band The Continental Drifters. Also in this band were Cowsill's sister-in-law Vicki Peterson from The Bangles, former husband Peter Holsapple, new husband Russ Broussard, Mark Walton, Carlo Nuccio, Robert Mache, and Ray Ganucheau and Gary Eaton (the latter two having left the band before their big breakthrough.) Although the Drifters officially split in 2001, they have recently put aside old differences and emotional turmoils to tour on and off again as a band, particularly for benefits to raise money for their beloved grass roots home, New Orleans.

In 2008, Cowsill became a part of a project called "Congo's Angels" whose purpose was to record a CD of interweaving themed songs to raise awareness and funding to help combat the rising abuse of women and young girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Cowsill collaborated with a vast array of talented and compassionate performers including: Irma Thomas, Neko Case, Eliza Gilkyson, Caroline Aiken, Karen Protti-Bailey, Claire Holley, Kim Carson, Theresa Davis, Mary LaSang, Ruby Rendrag, Gospel Gossip, Sonia Tetlow, Herman Put Down The Gun, Karen Garrabrant, Dede Vogt, Caroline Herring, Janet Bean, and Leilani Rivera Bond.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the press release for "Congo's Angels."

"Women singers, songwriters, and poets have donated 20 tracks for this limited edition compilation CD to raise awareness about violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Congo Week is a global initiative led by students throughout the globe to raise awareness about the escalating violence against women and children in the Congo and provide support. Students and community organizers in at least 100 countries and 1,000 campuses are expected to organize an activity or event in solidarity with the people of the Congo. All proceeds from the sale of "Congo's Angels" will go directly into a special account, designed to offer transparency in accounting. Friends of the Congo,a U.S. based tax-exempt non-profit, will manage this account. No monies, except minimal distribution costs, will be taken from sales.

1.1 million people are displaced in North and South Kivu provinces and living in unspeakable conditions in refugee camps. 200,000 women and children have been raped and brutalised. It is estimated 1,200 people die every day, and it could be stopped tomorrow with enough international will say human rights groups. Anneke van Woudenberg, the Congo specialist for Human Rights Watch, has urged independent journalists to explore the reasons behind the violence. "Things have gotten worse in the last few months," she said. "We desperately need firsthand reports of what is happening here."

In the meantime, fans are eagerly awaiting a possible second volume of songs from these inspirational musicians, both for the brilliant music on offer, and for the chance to make a real difference in the lives of these women who are suffering, often in silence.


Abby Travis Seeks Producer For Album IV

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The sublime singer/songwriter/bass guitarist Abby Travis has an interesting project in the works, made all the more exciting by the fact that she is inviting fans to help mix and produce her fourth solo album, which is tentatively titled "Abby Travis IV" for now.

Travis recently wrote a message to fans:

"Are you interested in becoming an executive producer on my long awaited forthcoming album tentatively titled "Abby Travis IV"? I want to get this record mixed and I'm looking for funding! Become a patron of the arts. I'm totally serious about this request. Please reply to this email if you'd like to know more about the project and how you can help."

Without being signed to any specific record label, independent artists like Travis often have to seek other sources of revenue for funding their projects, and this seems to be a fun way to get fans involved. Anyone with an interest in the production side of the music industry would find an opportunity like this very appealing and beneficial to their career. Plus they would have the satisfaction of helping a truly gifted artist reach old and new fans alike.

Travis had a recent stint as a guest bassist in popular all girl band The Bangles, filling in for the now retired Michael Steele in live performances. This included a successful tour of Australia in 2005, which I was fortunate enough to attend. Travis has also appeared in many other bands, including: The Lovedolls, The Rails. KMFDM, The Meat Puppets, and El Vez, and has played bass for artists such as Kathy Valentine, Vanessa Paradis, Beck, Elastica, Michael Penn, Exene Cervenka's Original Sinners and Gibby Haynes & His Problem.

However, Travis' greatest contributions to the world of music are her three solo albums to date: The Abby Travis Foundation, Cut Throat Standards And Black Pop, and Glitter Mouth.

Now, she is ready to release her fourth album, but needs additional help with mixing and production. Along with her earlier message, she has also stated: "I'm so happy to be finally moving forward with this! If any of you are interested in helping the project by becoming an executive producer, please contact me! I'm able to mix this stuff with the help from my fans!!!"

Travis is also working with a fabulous group called Waterways and may be planning a solo Australian tour. Her fellow band members include: Gary Arce, Mario Lalli, Olive Lalli, Tony Tornay, Tommy Grenas, and Mathias Schneeburger.

In other news, Travis has recently guest starred as a character named Ondria in a fascinating new mystery/romance web series, produced by Justin Tanner, called Ave 43 on YouTube with a talented cast including: Todd Lowe (True Blood), character actress Jayne Taini (Mad Men, Cold Case, Six Feet Under), and Jonathan Palmer (House, CSI, Boston Legal.)

Travis encourages fans to check out the series:

"A new episode is posted every week or two. If you like what you see, please subscribe and rate."


A Journey To Fame With Giovanna Gattuso And Cynthia Gibb

Friday, October 23, 2009

In July 2010, actress/singer Cynthia Gibb and renowned vocal coach/singer Giovanna Gattuso will be touring Italy for a reprise of their successful and popular Journey To Fame series of masterclasses, an intensive program of vocal workshops designed by Gattuso's and Gibb's Venice Voice Academy which has a campus in both Venice, California, and Torino, Italy.

Also, Gattuso has written a book about her innovative vocal techniques which she calls The Crossover Singing Method which is also the title of the book. The aim of the book and the masterclasses is to teach this complete method for all singers, choir directors, teachers, and students at every level, dedicated to vocal training from basic to advanced. The resources within are designed to develop and maintain a healthy, balanced, expressive voice with the coordination you need to sing all the various styles.

Gattuso herself states that she can "personally testify that a 'good and healthy' vocal technique allows one to sing anything. There is no difference between a classical technique, or a modern technique of this style or that one. To utilise the voice correctly, in my opinion, there is only one technique, and the limitations are not in the voice itself, but in the limitations that we as human beings place in front of ourselves."

There are several accolades offered by readers who have already benefitted from Gattuso's teaching, and one review by Garrison Fewell states:

"I found her to be among the finest vocalists in today's jazz world. Giovanna's technique is impeccable, her creativity shines in her recorded works and even more brilliantly so on stage, her compositional talents are truly outstanding and she is an excellent producer. Giovanna will surely continue to be a role model for female musicians everywhere."

Gattuso's last album, Jungle E Maree won her the Latin Female Singer/Songwriter and Best World Music Album at the 16th Annual International Los Angeles Music Awards in 2006.

She describes her album as being "inspired by my Mediterranean Sea world...the warm air of Southern Italy, the ancient smell of the Mediterranean Sea, Jungle E Maree is an exotic blend of brazilian and mediterranean influences."

Gattuso's partner in the Venice Voice Academy is the eternally fresh and sparkling Cynthia Gibb who has been working in the entertainment industry for at least 30 years, although to look at her, you certainly would not dream she has a child in college.

As gifted as she is an actress, one aspect I have always admired about Gibb is her musical talent, and after seeing her Golden Globe nominated performance in Gypsy (1993), opposite the legendary Bette Midler, I have always wished to hear more of Gibb's musical prowess. True, she has appeared in such productions as the 80s hit series Fame (for which she was nominated for a Young Artist Award in 1982), and has given stellar performances in The Karen Carpenter Story, but I am positive many fans would love to see the lady release a solo CD someday.

In the meantime, Gibb and Gattuso are soon to publish A Journey To Fame, a book which explores their journey together as two inspirational women who give their time, their talent, and their love for music to nurture and inspire greatness in future generations of musicians.


Jane Wiedlin - Bowling For Boobies To Fight Breast Cancer

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Jane Wiedlin is not only a superlative musician and actress, but she is also at the forefront of an inspirational movement to help fight one of the biggest threats to women today, breast cancer. This disease also affects men according to new studies, so everyone should get involved in some way to help fight for those who are suffering.

Wiedlin participates in an annual event called Bowling For Boobies which raises money for the women who are battling breast cancer who otherwise cannot afford medical expenses. The event also hopes to bring people from all over the world together in the spirit of togetherness and solidarity. This year's event is being held on October 27, 2009 at Jillian's Hi-Life on Universal City Walk in Los Angeles, California.

Each year, people can bid via E-Bay for a place on the team of whichever celebrity they would like to sponsor, and those who don't make the team or who cannot attend the event, for example those not living in the United States, can do their part by donating to the cause. Every celebrity, including Wiedlin, who participates has a Team Page on the Bowling For Boobies Site where fans can donate. The site is also affiliated with the Busted Foundation which exists to aid those in medically related hardships through financial or educational assistance.

The following is a personal message from Jane regarding a friend of hers, Edith Speed, who inspired Bowling For Boobies and who sadly has since passed away because she had been battling breast cancer which is why she started the yearly event, to help other people who were also battling cancer.

Hello close personal friends of mine,

This October 27, I'll be once again participating in the charity bowling tournament called "Bowling for Boobies". B4B was started in 2004 by my best friend Edith Speed, who was battling breast cancer, to raise funds for other cancer chicks, since stupid insurance companies of course never cover everything and people go into deep debt when they get ill. B4B gives money DIRECTLY to local women in need of aid while they are fighting breast cancer.

Sadly, my dear friend Edith passed away 2 months ago. In honor of her, this year my bowling team name is The Speed Demons.

I know it's a lot, but in the interest of preserving breasts, one of our greatest natural resources, I'm humbly asking you to donate to this worthy and necessary cause. If you can't, I understand!

There is a prize and lots of glory for the bowler who raises the most money. I'd like to be that player!

If you want to learn more about this event, go to
By the way, the non-profit organization that throws this party is the Busted Foundation. Gifts of swag and/or cash are tax deductible!

Donating through this website is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to support my fundraising efforts. Many thanks for your support -- and don't forget to forward this to anyone who you think might want to donate too!

A little background on Jane Wiedlin. She was a founding member of the pioneering all girl band The Go-Go's, writing much of the song content (along with Charlotte Caffey and Kathy Valentine), performing backing vocals and playing rhythm guitar. She still tours with the band semi-regularly and has had much success with her own solo music from 1985-2000. She also led a band of men for a shortlived project in 1996 called FroSTed which despite only producing one album, has a huge fan following. Wiedlin is still a vital part of the music world, having many fans who are eager to hear more of her music. Wiedlin is also an accomplished actress (live action and animated) and she "is a self-confessed sci-fi nerd" (hey, SHE said it...and the capitalised "ST" in FroSTed stands for "Star Trek".) Wiedlin also has her own comic book series, Lady Robotika. An avid animal lover and all round humanitarian, Wiedlin supports many charities and is as hardworking and devoted to these as she is beautiful and talented.

Here are just some of Wiedlin's charities:

Charities Jane works with:

Steel Bridge Songfest
Bowling for Boobies
Greyhound Adoption Center
Dane County Humane Society
Humane Society of the United States" target="_blank">Chinese Crested Rescue
Almost Home Animal Rescue


The Bangles - Back In The Studio

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Bangles, one of the great girl bands of the 80's are back in the studio, and fans are eagerly awaiting the collection of new songs and covers (Bangles always like to "mix it up" in their music selections.) Susanna Hoffs (left), and the Peterson sisters, Debbi (centre) and Vicki (right) will be working predominantly as a trio, since they are currently without a regular bass player following Michael Steele's departure in 2004, and a string of on-and-off fill-ins.

An update from Gracie, the moderator of Return Post (The Bangles message board) and webmistress of The Bangles Official Website , reveals tidbits from both Vicki and Debbi Peterson about their new project.

"According to Debbi, it's sounding great - and a little different in style than what you might be expecting. Vicki's also hinted that the album will contain a couple of covers - some new to the Bangles, and some that long-time fans may remember from 80's era concerts."

Also on the horizon is the exciting tidbit that Debbi Peterson has a side project in the works, since she has not had one of these since 1995 when she created Kindred Spirit, a double act she formed with Liverpool import, Siobhan Maher (formerly of the River City People, now known as soloist Siobhan Maher-Kennedy.)

According to Gracie: "A little birdie also told me that a certain beautiful blonde drummer will be doing some work on a side project in the very near future... can't wait to get the scoop on that!"

Regarding the new album by the band, The Bangles will be working with guest musicians, as has been the case with past projects, including the omnipresent yet always mysterious keyboard player known affectionately as "Harpo" and guest bassist Matthew Sweet. Any hardcore Bangles fan knows that the band has always shared the vocals between the members, there has never been any "official lead singer", and although they are known to accept songs from songwriters outside the band and to work with guests, they have always written the bulk of their own material and play their own instruments, namely Susanna Hoffs on rhythm guitar, Vicki Peterson on lead guitar, and Debbi Peterson on drums.

Sweet will be filling in for Michael Steele, who left the band in 2004, who was briefly replaced with the talented Abby Travis, who joined Hoffs and the Petersons on a tour of Australia in 2005 which I was fortunate enough to attend. Travis has since returned to her solo work and will be releasing her fourth solo album within the next year.

Hoffs and Sweet recently had success with the July 2009 release of "Under The Covers 2," a collection of tributes to songs from the 70s, which in turn is a sequel album to their 60's tribute from 2006, entitled "Under The Covers 1." Some of the popular favourites from these albums include covers of Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys' "Different Drum," Neil Young & Crazy Horse's "Cinnamon Girl," and The Zombies "Care Of Cell #44" from the first volume; and The Grateful Dead's "Sugar Magnolia," Mott The Hoople's "All The Young Dudes", and Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," for the second. This last song was also performed superbly by Anna Waronker & Ze Malibu Kids for their 2002 album "Sound It Out."

Stay tuned for further news on The Bangles new album and Debbi Peterson's mysterious side project in future updates.

~ Michael Holloway


Bette Midler's Birthday Fundraiser - She'll Never Forget It You Know!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"I will never forget it, you know! I was having tea with my girlfriend Clementine, and suddenly the doorbell rang. I answered the door, there was a delivery boy with two dozen roses.

The card read 'Love, from your boyfriend Ernie."

I said to Clementine, "Do you know what this means? For the next two weeks, I am going to be flat on my back with my legs wide open!"

Clementine says to me "What's the matter with you, ain't you got a vase?"

So what do you give the Divine Miss M for her birthday? A vase?

Umm no, not unless you are planning on wearing said vase.

"Just a little "yoke"... **** 'em if they can't take a joke," as Midler herself would say.

Fortunately, there is a much better - and safer - idea.

The honorable Don Bradshaw, webmaster of premiere Bette Midler themed blog Bootleg Betty and his fellow Betteheads worldwide have planned a special project for Midler's 64th birthday which is being celebrated on December 1, 2009.

Between now and November 28, 2009, Don and Bootleg Betty are hosting a special fundraiser for our Divine One, in honour of her amazing work with the New York Restoration Project. Fans are being invited to send donations to Midler care of Kristen Dougherty from the NYRP, along with a card to wish her a Happy Birthday and any other loving sentiments we feel. It is important to reiterate that this is not a "Send fan mail to Bette" project, this is a fundraiser which is designed to benefit the NYRP in Bette's honour. Fans can send cards of course, but are expected to donate a minimum of $35.00 minimum to the charity if they wish to participate.

According to Don's blog regarding the event, these are the official rules:

Starts: October 1, 2009 through November 28, 2009

Minimum Donation: $35.00 then to the moon(if you can’t make the minimum, then just give what you can. It’s okay. The economy sucks….)

1. Purchase a birthday card or make your own

2. Enclose your check or money order (credit card info below)

3. Important-Make the check out to NYRP. Write on the check where there’s room….”Happy Birthday Bette – BLB” to let her know it came from the BLB group so they can tally how much money we raised. Write this on the check and the back of the envelope…make sure you follow this part carefully or your donation won’t get counted nor will it make it into the box being presented to Ms. Midler.

4. Beginning on Oct 1 through Nov. 30 Mail the check to (make sure to write Happy Birthday Bette – The BetteHeads on the back of the envelope….very important)

5. You may also use their Credit Card page. Beginning in September they will be rolling out a new design. You may choose one of the already allotted donations or ‘Other’ and make up your own. When you get to the end of the process a Comment Box should appear – just write “Happy Birthday Bette – BLB” to let them know to count your donation with the Bootleg Betty group. You can still send a card. However, don’t send anything or use credit card until Oct 1, 2009.

6. For Cards with Enclosed Checks start sending beginning Oct 1 through Nov. 28th. Keep everything positive. Please send to:
Attn: Kristen Dougherty
New York Restoration Project254 West 31st Street,10th FloorNew York, NY 10001

7. Bette will be presented the birthday cards and donations in a Handmade Memory Box on her birthday or close to it.

8. Then NYRP will tally the totals.We need a lot of participants, so start saving up or raising money. The birthday card will give you a chance to express some of your feelings. So let’s make this successful and maybe make this a yearly thing. At least we tried. Pass this along to your other Bette friends and get them involved, too.

9. All donations are tax deductible!

Here is a look at the lovely Memory Box, designed by Mary Russell, with which Midler will be presented on her birthday containing all the donations and cards. See more images here:

So, let's make Bette Midler's birthday such a special one that she "will never forget it, you know" and help clean up the environment in the process and have fun working together for the greater good.

~ Michael Holloway


Rhae Ann Theriault's Heart Of Gold

Recently gathered at the BraveHeart Awards were the following luminaries and celebrities such as presenters Courteney Cox, Mariel Hemingway, Marla Maples, Loni Anderson, Frances Fisher, Rolonda Watts, Siedah Garrett, and Stefanie Powers. Recipients included Maya Angelou, Carol Channing, Delta Burke, Kate Edelman Johnson, Dr Michael and Rickie Byars Beckwith, and Mary Fanaro. All of these inspirational people won awards for exemplary humanitarian work they have done, and deservedly so, yet there was someone in the audience who surely should have won an award too.

The young lady is Rhae Ann Theriault, an unsung heroine in animal rescue, whose amazing work with her 2TheResQ organisation is dedicated to rescuing neglected and or abused animals and finding good and loving homes for them. Theriault has been working in animal rescue for over twenty-five years. Born in Chicago and raised in the suburb of Glenview, Illinois, and now living in California, she has had a 'soft spot' for animals since she was able to walk and talk.

"It first began when I started bringing home abondoned field mice and injured birds. This soon grew in to a life-long love affair with creatures big and small, domestic and wild, furry and winged (or anything in between.")
She is currently writing a mission statement and working towards becoming a 501 non-profit in Los Angeles County.

One of Theriault's most inspirational stories regards a dog named Charlotte she has since adopted and given a loving home to. This is Charlotte's harrowing story in Theriault's own words:
"Charlotte, a sweet, young, American Staffordshire Terrier, had been sitting in a cold, damp, concrete cell at Downey Animal Shelter for seven long months while a court case for her abuser dragged on. She had been beaten and used as a bait dog by her previous owner. Then, after all these months of waiting, as fate would have it; she was scheduled to be euthanized. I simply couldn't allow this to happen. My friend, Hali, joined me on the long journey to the Downey Shelter. We pulled her out of there before it was too late. The staff members had gotten to know her so well after all, she'd been there longer than any animal, only kept alive due to the on-going investigation. Officer Sherman and Gacey's eyes welled up with tears when they realized the day they thought would never arrive was here! The sad dog that they allowed to run off leash in building 2, walked daily, and played with, was getting out, about to embark on a new journey, a new life, where she would be loved and allowed to be the happy dog she was meant to be! Charlotte is an unbelievably sweet, affectionate, loving dog who kisses everyone she meets well, all humans, that is. Unfortunately, she has "issues" with other dogs - due to her horrific past. Two weeks ago, Charlotte was brought to "Green Dog," a wonderful boarding facility in Los Angeles. There she is being socialized with other dogs and learning to be in a pack! UPDATE May 17th, 2009: I just hung up the phone with Marcus ("Green Dog" founder) who said he is going to be sending video footage (which I'll be posting) of Charlotte PLAYING with other dogs! He was on his couch, watching the Laker's game, with Charlotte's head on his lap and three other dogs... just hangin' out!! I'm doin' a Happy Dance!"
The following was just now received by me as an update from Theriault regarding Charlotte's life and future:
"Regarding Charlotte, she was transported up to Sacramento, several months ago, to join her new adoptive home. It didn't work out because she still had some agression towards other dogs (due to her severe abuse). She is now at Camelot Animal Sanctuary (outside Seattle) where she is further being socialised for permanent adoption. Her guardian angel's name is Sandi. I miss her so but am confident she is living a happy life, fully expressed!"

Theriault's talents are not limited to the care and nurture of animals however, she is also an accomplished singer, dancer, and actress who worked with The Divine Miss M, Bette Midler, and fellow Staggering Harlettes, Carol Hatchett and Melanie Taylor during much of the 90's. It was because of the quartet's fantastic performance in the 1997 concert DVD "Diva Las Vegas" that I first came to know Theriault online and I was immediately entranced with this beautiful and talented lady's immense wit, outrageous humour, and compassionate heart, for both animals and good people who are also committed to making the world a better place. Theriault's good deeds and amazing talent cannot remain hidden in the shadows, the world needs to meet this amazing person and get involved with helping her achieve her aim of helping the world's animals.

It is little wonder that Rhae Ann Theriault has been nominated as one of the Boomer Hot Women Of 2009 at "Living Life...Boomer Style" magazine.

~ Michael Holloway


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The latest music and entertainment news regarding baby boomer musicians, actors, and people in the spotlight... Enjoy!

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