Monday, March 5, 2012

The Deification of Whitney Houston

The beautiful and talented Whitney Houston, looking the picture of health

Saturday, February 11, the night before the Grammy Awards, the news broke that Whitney Houston had died that afternoon. Apparently, she was found dead in her bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, hours before she was due to attend a pre-Grammy party hosted by music mogul and long-time Houston mentor, Clive Davis.

Houston with long-time mentor, music mogul Clive Davis

Clive Davis opened the event, saying, 
By now you have all learned of the unspeakably tragic news of our beloved Whitney’s passing. I don’t have to mask my emotion in front of a room full of so many dear friends. I am personally devastated by the loss of someone who has meant so much to me for so many years. Whitney was so full of life. She was so looking forward to tonight even though she wasn’t scheduled to perform. She loved music and she loved this night that celebrates music. My heart goes out to her daughter Bobbi Christina [sic], to her mother Cissy, to all of her relatives and to so many of you here tonight, her extended family who loved and cherished her and her spirit. Whitney was a beautiful person and a talent beyond compare. She graced this stage with her regal presence and gave so many memorable performances here over the years. Simply put, Whitney would have wanted the music to go on and her family asked that we carry on. I ask that you join me in a moment of silence as we dedicate this evening to Whitney.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Karl Lagerfeld vs. Adele

Well, it’s been a busy few weeks in pop culture…

Karl Lagerfeld vs. Adele

Put it this way, is Karl’s mouth big enough to fit his foot? See more about this ridiculousness on my other blog,

L: The lovely and talented Adele. R: The creepy and rude Lagerfeld.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Super (?) Bowl XLVI - Belated Wrap-Up

Needless to say, the lead-up to the Super Bowl is always interesting…
My fave parts?  Jimmy Fallon cum Shaq running in pink bikini bottom with “Jimmy” emblazoned on the butt because he lost to Jimmy at a basketball video game.  See it at
Shaq, just before handing Jimmy
the gym sock inside the bikini bottom.

Another precious moment?  The Giants prematurely claiming — as of early Saturday night that they’d already won the Super Bowl!  They had all the Super Bowl championship merchandise up on their site, ready for the ordering, and kickoff was still a day away. 
I know New York and New Yorkers can be obnoxious, but this was an EPIC failure.  Wonder if someone lost a job over that – YIKES!

Screenshot of Giants website Sat. night
It may be called the Super Bowl, but, was any part of the event actually super this year?  I kinda didn’t think so, despite the fact that it was, apparently, the most-watched TV event of all time – with 166.8 million total viewers, according to statistics released on Twitter by the New England Patriots (#NewEnglandPatriots, @Patriots) early this week.

The game
I’m not a sports commentator, so, all I’ll say is that it didn’t seem like either team was playing really well; it was more a question of who was playing worse.  Feel free to dispute this, but I did hear “real” sports experts saying this, instead of just talking about how the Pats (have I mentioned I’m from Boston?) “played dropsy.”

Half-time show

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few months, you know that Madonna was the star of the half-time show.  IMHO, not a great choice.  The Boss?  YES.  The Stones?  YES. Aerosmith?  YES.  Tom Petty?  Yes.  Madonna?  NO.
I heard they actually had to lengthen the half-time break in order to have enough time to get her elaborate stage set up.  Americans waited with bated breath as Madonna and an army’s worth of dancers took to the stage wearing Egyptian-inspired (read: stupid looking) costumes. 

Madonna and LMFAO
She performed a 5-song set, including hits “Vogue,” “Music,” “Open Your Heart” and “Like a Prayer” with a new song, “Give Me All Your Luvin” — complete with cheerleader-like moves and repetition — thrown in.  One of my fave Tweets of the night referred to this new ditty, saying, “Madonna, the 80’s called...Toni Basil wants her sound back.”

L - U - V Madonna
Then, there were her guests, LMFAO, M.I.A., Nicki Minaj and Cee Lo Green.  This American, for one, was underwhelmed.  They didn’t add anything to the performance, except when M.I.A. flipped the bird at the camera, eliciting apologies from NBC and giving tabloids fodder for days to come.

M.I.A. flips off America

Madonna was great when I was in junior high, and, arguably, still is great.  Kudos to her for her ability to continually reinvent herself over the years and for bringing a new perception to “The Big 50.”  As someone Tweeted, “She may be the sexiest AARP recipient ever.”  Super Bowl-worthy half-time entertainment though? No.  Even advertising/branding maven Donny Deutsch commented on The Today Show, “Males don’t go for Madonna, the show was over-produced, and it was not Americana a la Bon Jovi or The Stones.”
For me, the best part of the half-time show was the video intro which featured Madonna in an elevator with Jay Leno whose smartphone ring, we learn, awkwardly, is “Like a Virgin.”  In case you missed it, you can watch the full performance on YouTube at

All that having been said, according to Billboard, 114 million Americans watched the half-time show, 3 million more than watched the game itself.  Moreover, despite the wildly mixed reviews the performance garnered, Madonna succeeded, as always, in boosting her own brand, said The Hollywood Reporter, even if not my viewing pleasure.  So, who am I to judge?
The Ads – aka Brand Bowl

There were very few tech ads (How many years running can “Go Daddy” repeat the totally neither here nor there, as far as marketing a product goes, hot girl ad?) and not too many celebrities, Deutsch noted.  There were LOTS AND LOTS of dogs and babies though.  YAWN.  “Cars, babies and dogs dominated,” Deutsch commented on Access Hollywood Live.  “You saw real back to basics stuff this year.”

What WAS great?  The Matthew Broderick “pulls a Ferris Bueller” ad for Honda CR-V.  It gave us children of the 80’s a piece of welcome nostalgia and showcased the product amazingly well. 

Matthew Broderick calls in sick to play in his Honda CR-V

Also super clever?  The VW Dog/Darth Vader follow-up to last year’s Kid Vader.  Another auto ad, bringing us nostalgia — this time, in the form of Star Wars — and playfully piggybacking on last year’s uber-successful ad. 

Cue Rocky theme as newly-slim dog runs beside VW

Doritos, too, succeeded.  Their crowd-sourced ad — flying baby steals Doritos from snarky older brother thanks to Granny and super-slingshot — was a HUGE crowdpleaser.  All three of these ads will be remembered, and the products they advertised will be remembered.

Go get those Doritos!
Oh, honorable mention…must throw in H&M’s David Beckham ad…because, why not?  YUM.  Apparently, the ad inspired more than 850,000 Tweets (!) and, additionally, earned H&M the “8th most talked about” company slot, according to social media experts, Mashable.

The Aftermath
Three words:  Gisele, Gisele, Gisele.  The Brazilian supermodel stood by her man, Pats QB Tom Brady, publicly slamming hubby’s teammates in the face of hecklers.  Us Magazine shows the recap: 

Gisele Bundchen consoles hubby Tom Brady

Now, now, Gisele.  I love Tommy (even though he did break my heart Sunday night and the hearts of all my New England family and friends), but Gisele should know better than to engage in the fray.  It’s not like she’s not a super-celebrity in her own right.  Some praised her.  More bashed her.  Personally, I thought it sweet — yet simultaneously emasculating — that she came to his rescue, but the way she did it was wrong.  Don’t slam the team, Gisele.  Stick to modeling.

That’s all I got.  Here’s hoping next year will be just a little more super…

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gossip Girl's Clever Pop Culture Cross-Reference a Miss for Most?

First, yes, I have now officially admitted that I watch Gossip Girl. Oh, well. I also watch CNN, Presidential debates and sports...I'm quite the renaissance gal.

There's only been what - a tedious six-month (or more???) build-up - to tonight's episode, in which Blair FINALLY wed Louis?

Blair and Louis at the altar

The storyline was really beside the point though. The gem of this episode was when Dan Humphrey (aka "Lonely Boy," played by Penn Badgley), anticipating a potentially rocky wedding, filled with some surprises, made a reference to "pulling a Braddock," a nod to the EPIC wedding scene in The Graduate, one of my all-time faves.

Dustin Hoffman's "Benjamin Braddock" - "ELAINE! ELAINE!" in The Graduate

As I praised this clever bit of writing, I wondered how many fans in Gossip Girl's demographic (females 12-34 is what I've read on average, though I suspect that 34 needs to be taken down a notch - like 10 years) got the joke. My guess? Not many. Still, nicely played, GG writers. You scored points, including a blog post and a Tweet from me.

On a totally separate note, Observations of a Pop Culture Junkie has been dormant for much of the year. Mea culpa; life got in the way. That's all over now though. Come back, and come back often to hear this blogger's take on everything from the Kartrashians to this weekend's Super Bowl XVLI ads.

To whet your appetite regarding the latter, let's close with a bit of Ferris Bueller...

After all, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Catching Up with Kyle Eastwood, Master Jazz Bassist and Composer

Recently, I jumped at the chance to see Kyle Eastwood — master jazz bassist and composer (and, as an aside, Clint’s son) — play at New York’s Blue Note to promote his newest CD, Songs from the Chateau.  The album’s title refers to the circumstances of its recording.  While Eastwood grew up in California, he spends much of his time in Paris, and these particular recording sessions took place at a 15th Century chateau deep in the Bordeaux region of France.

While I had listened to the CD numerous times prior to the show, it was a treat, to say the least, to see Eastwood play live, accompanied by Richard Germanson on piano, Alexander Norris on trumpet, Jason Rigby on saxophone and Joe Strasser on drums. 

Eastwood came onstage, wearing all black from head-to-toe, looking eerily like a young version of his famous father.  The band opened with Marciac, the first track from Songs from the Chateau and, easily, my favorite.  Marciac grabs the listener instantly with its chill, foot-tapping groove.  As much as I love the recorded version, I enjoyed hearing it played live exponentially more with the band’s big sound filling the intimate, packed venue.  As is true of many of Eastwood’s compositions, Marciac’s title is the product of Eastwood’s travels — literal and figurative — in this case, the famous French Marciac Film Festival, where the then-untitled song debuted.

Switching effortlessly between electric and acoustic bass, Eastwood is no “one trick pony” as a player or composer.  Each of his compositions is carefully crafted to achieve a certain sound, often a sound reminiscent of another place, of another era or of a certain memory.  While many musicians clearly compose in such a way as to highlight their own instruments, this is not true of Eastwood.  Rather, his compositions allow each musician to shine on his respective instrument.  And shine they did, with Eastwood content just being “in the zone” with his fellow players, rather than always showcasing his own virtuoso.  The horns were especially impressive, blending beautifully with the bass, drums and piano.  The band’s playing was tight, and the musicians seemed lost in the music, rarely looking at the audience, but rather reveling in the synergies of rhythm and sound happening onstage.

While the band’s song selections, including Samba de Paris, Marrakesh, and Cosmo, came from various albums, they contained a common theme of exploration and pushing the envelope of what contemporary jazz is.  Much of the night’s music, including the achingly beautiful Andalucia, a track from the new album, struck me as slinky or romantic; “music to make love by” was the exact phrase I used in my notes.  In addition, perhaps, I was influenced by the knowledge that Eastwood had provided music for some of his father’s films, but, as I was listening, I couldn’t help but think that all of the songs would have made perfect background music for a film.  Each told a story, and I could picture in my mind the sorts of scenes they would accompany.

As a child of the 70s, one of my favorite moments of the night came during Cosmo, a song Eastwood introduced as being “in the style of Herbie Hancock with a little bit of Starsky and Hutch thrown in” and on which the band flexed its considerable funkadelic muscle.  As a nod to the era and Eastwood’s intro and a wink to the audience, Norris, at one point, busted out the signature riff from the Sanford and Son TV show theme song.

If I had one criticism of the band, it was that the sound of the piano (which I was sitting mere inches away from) was often lost, drowned out by the pure strength of Eastwood’s bass and the horns and, I regret to say, not really missed, given the fullness of the sound.  This all changed, however, when Andrew McCormack, the English piano player who played on the Songs from the Chateau sessions, joined Eastwood onstage.  McCormack’s playing was, in a word, soulful and matched Eastwood’s in its intensity.  There was no losing that sound in a crowd of instruments.  Together, Eastwood and McCormack played a moving duet – the theme from dad Clint’s film, Letters from Iwo Jima.  It was the highlight of a truly extraordinary evening.

Lest you think the story ends here, a few days after the show, I was honored and humbled to have the opportunity to interview Eastwood face-to-face.  Although I was nervous as hell, he couldn’t have been more affable and less pretentious, allowing me to question him about anything and everything.  When I asked him whether everyone tells him he “look[s] like a young version of Clint,” he laughed and answered, “Maybe, on a good day,” instantly putting me at ease.

Regarding his bass playing, Eastwood says that he was “always interested in music.”  His father, a known jazz lover and himself a player and composer, played jazz around the house, and he remembers attending the Monterey Jazz Festival with his father from a young age, meeting greats such as Count Basie.  Those experiences led to Eastwood’s early interest in rhythm which his father fostered by teaching him to play the bass.  Indeed, creativity is in Eastwood’s genes, not only from his father, but also from his mother, a painter, and his grandmother, a voice teacher.

Eastwood describes music and film as his “first loves” and, although he started out studying film in college, he quickly decided to concentrate on music instead.  In composing, he says, while he tries to highlight everybody, “it is important to have a nice collective experience and for a band to develop its own sound,” a philosophy that came through loud and clear at the Blue Note.

Asked about the evolution of his composing, Eastwood talks about the opportunities afforded him as a budding composer in terms of education (formal and informal) as well as exposure in terms of being able to travel to European jazz festivals frequently.  “Years of playing and traveling, experiencing new countries and cultures” have all helped him to evolve as a player and composer,” he says.  In addition to his travels, his most-of-the-time residence in France exposes him to a wider range of music than he hears in the States, he says.

Eastwood has been influenced by styles ranging from jazz to soul to classical and by musical greats as varied as Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Al Green and Parliament Funkadelic.  He considers Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen and Phil Lesh (of Grateful Dead fame) to be two of today’s stand-out bassists.  Still, with the wealth of opportunities Eastwood has had to listen to, meet and jam with some of the best musicians in the world, he has not yet gotten to fulfill his musical fantasy, he says — a collaboration with Stevie Wonder.  (At this point, I set aside any effort at serious journalism, as Eastwood and I bonded over our shared love of Stevie.  Oh, Stevie, you and Sir Paul at my wedding — SOMEDAY — let’s make it happen!)

Prior to the interview, I had debated the merits of asking Eastwood about working with his Dad.  I needn’t have worried, as he was happy to talk about it and is, clearly, a proud son.  Composing music for his father’s films, he explains, is a symbiotic process.  At times, his father hears or picks up pieces of music Eastwood has composed and, seeing a “fit,” asks to use them.  Other times, Eastwood reads his father’s scripts, watches rough cuts of his films and composes music specifically for those films (interestingly, for a bass player, on piano) in the recording studio at his father’s guest house.  The contribution of which he is most proud?  The score to Letters from Iwo Jima.

Playing in New York City, Eastwood says, holds special meaning for him, as he lived here for about seven years.  While he prefers the laid-back Parisian lifestyle to the hectic pace of New York, it’s always nice, he says, to visit old haunts as well as old friends. 

If Letters from the Chateau is a love story to his adopted homeland of France, Eastwood’s performance at the Blue Note was a true love letter to New York City.  If you weren’t fortunate enough to catch Eastwood this time around, he’ll most likely swing back through here in the spring, so stay tuned . . .

For more information on Kyle Eastwood, go to

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This week's NYC events...

Saturday, October 22


If You Build It – AMAZING Standup Comedy @UCB East

Kara Klenk (SpikeTV, Comedy Central) and Nick Turner (Too Cool for School, will be hosting another amazing edition of "If You Build It" Sat. night at UCB East Theatre.  Each show promises 3-4 comics plus a major headliner doing a longer set.  This week’s lineup includes: 
  • Sean Patton (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Montreal Comedy Festival, Comedy Central)
  • Gabe Liedman (VH1, Gabe and Jenny, Big Terrific)
  • Andy Haynes (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Montreal Comedy Festival)
  • Barry Rothbart (The Tonight Show, IFC)
  • Christine Nangle (Saturday Night Live, UCB)
  • Kenny Zimlinghaus (Sirius XM Radio)
$10 cover charge.  No drink minimum and cheap drinks available.
Doors open at 8:30 p.m.  Show starts at 9 p.m.
For more information on If You Build It, check out the show's website at
To learn more about Kara Klenk, visit her website at
UCB East Theatre:  155 East 3rd St. at Avenue A

This listing also appears at


Daniel Bennett Group To Perform at Tomi Jazz Club

Daniel Bennett Group returns to the popular Tomi Jazz Club in midtown Manhattan Sat. night for a chill night of live jazz and Japanese-inspired cuisine.

The Daniel Bennett Group consists of Daniel Bennett (alto saxophone and flute), Mark Cocheo (guitar) and Brian Adler (drums). Its sound is a unique blend of jazz, folk and world beats.

See my recent review of the Daniel Bennett Group at

$10 cover charge and $10 food/drink minimum.

For more information on the Daniel Bennett Group, visit

Tomi Jazz: 239 E. 53rd St. (lower level), betw. 2nd & 3rd Aves.

This listing also appears at
Sunday, October 23


Hot Soup’s on Sunday Night @UCB East!

Produced and hosted by David Cope (Last Comic Standing), Andy Haynes (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), Mark Normand (Last Comic Standing), Matt Ruby (MTV) and Sachi Ezura (MTV), Hot Soup is a weekly standup comedy showcase every Sunday at the new UCB in the East Village.  

This week’s lineup includes:
  • Sean Patton (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Montreal Comedy Festival, Comedy Central)
  • Dan Soder (Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham)
  • Barry Rothbart (The Tonight Show, IFC)
Doors open at 8:30 p.m.  Showtime at 9 pm.  $5 cover.  No drink minimum.

This is gonna be big - come for the comedy, and stay for the boo off!!

UCB East Theatre:  155 East 3rd St. at Avenue A

This listing also appears at

Sunday, February 27, 2011

General Hospital - the best it's been in a long time

First, no's my Mom's fault...I have watched all the ABC soaps since I was in the womb. And, as much as I realize they have little to no redeeming value, I continue to DVR them 30+ years later.

Now, in my humble opinion, the genre is probably, sadly for many, on its way out. How many years can a show run? How many plotlines can be repeated? In short, soaps just ain't what they used to be.

Once in a while though, the real sudsiness of the "Golden Age" of soaps reappears...

For the past few months, we have watched as Sonny - the mobster-with-the-dimples-that-can-melt-any-woman's heart (even a usually rational woman, like ex-flame Alexis) - and Brenda - the sweet, vulnerable supermodel waif - rekindled their first love.

Sonny and Brenda, circa late 90's
When Brenda followed her heart (and Sonny) back to Port Charles from Rome, after a break of many years following his leaving her at the altar (for her protection), we knew The Game Was On. And, when Sonny proposed, the romantics among us hoped they'd finally find their happiness.

Sonny and Brenda 2010/2011
Of course, love is never simple on a soap opera. Among the many obstacles to the wedding: Brenda being stalked and her capture and death elaborately planned, down to the last detail, by The Balkan - the father of ex-lover, Alexander, whom she killed in self-defense - an international criminal whose identity is unknown to all except those closest to him. Trust me, The Balkan is no joke, and he is determined to see Brenda suffer the worst fate imaginable.

The Balkan plots Brenda's demise for killing his son, Alexander

An even more formidable foe than The Balkan, perhaps? Sonny's attention-seeking ex-wife four times over, Carly Corinthos Jax.

Carly Corinthos Jax

Now, here's where GH shined this week in a way it hasn't in a LONG time. Two major plot twists, plus something we pretty much knew was coming, but which was presented in an unexpectedly clever way.

First, Carly's plan to bust up the wedding went bust when it turned out that Brenda's miscarried baby was not Sonny's long-lost son Dante's child after all, but, rather, Alexander's child (i.e., The Balkan's descendant) whom Dante had claimed paternity of to protect Brenda from Alexander. Sorry, Carly, no dice. A nice, unexpected twist after months of hearing Carly plotting to spring the news of Dante and Brenda's supposed love child in order to throw a wrench between Sonny and Brenda.

Plot twist #2. The Balkan kidnapped mob enforcer Jason Morgan's long-suffering girlfriend, Sam McCall who, coincidentally, bears a striking resemblance to Brenda with her dark hair and eyes, model good looks and super-petite frame.

Kelly Monaco, aka GH's Samantha "Sam" McCall
Wasn't quite sure where this kidnapping bit was going until, just as newlyweds Sonny and Brenda were about to say their post-wedding goodbyes, the limo that Brenda had entered just moments before blew to smithereens. It didn't take a rocket scientist to fit the pieces together and surmise that the body eventually pulled from the charred wreckage would turn out to be Sam's, not Brenda's. (Now, likeable as she may have been, Sam's character had been going nowhere fast for a looooong time. But, why did GH need to throw in the "maybe she could get pregnant" after all stuff the past few weeks? To me, that was wasted time and detracted from what, otherwise, was a nicely played switcheroo.)

Third - we knew James Franco would be back in his guest spot as Jason-obsessed artist/serial killer, Franco, and he was back - in all his gorgeous glory, wearing black tie and tux - Friday.

James Franco, dressed to kill, on GH
While the connection and/or whether there even exists a connection between Franco and The Balkan is unclear, Franco took responsibility for the post-wedding "fireworks." Franco's quip to Jason (see clip below), that he had to run, as he had "a big event to attend, a VERY, VERY big deal," a nod to his Oscar hosting gig tonight, was classic and made Friday's GH worth the price of admission. Franco also joked, in a nod to his Oscar-nominated role in "127 Hours," that "that's what [he] got for spending [his] spring caught between a rock and a hard place."

The best stuff of GH in a long, long time. Bravo, GH! Bravo, James Franco, for livening things up with your best serial killer sass! I just hope you and Anne can pull this hosting gig off tonight...