Friday, September 30, 2011

There Are Worse Things I Could Do...

As a freelance journalist, a good bit of the work I do these days doesn't carry a byline... so for all you cool cats know, except for a constant upchuck of words on The Smoking Nun, perhaps it appears my voice is under the radar.

This year, I've written liner notes for five independent CDs, worked on a promising upstart webbie about New York destinations and composed artist bios by the dozen. So except for some gigs for Billboard, Country Weekly and a few others, my byline seldom appears online as it did in the heralded Billboard days from 1995-2009.

One bio I just completed was just too much damn fun not to share: adult film star-turned-music artist Colton Ford. As most everyone in the LGBT community knows, Ford has a renowned history as one of the most coveted gay performers in the business. He's also been a singer/songwriter for more than two decades, and is about to release his third album "The Way I Am" this fall on Peace Bisquit Records.

The set includes collaborations with Chris Willis (David Guetta), Nervo (Kesha, Britney Spears),
Colton Ford with meese and pal Michael P.
Wawa (Kylie Minogue) and Redtop (Beyonce, Taio Cruz)—cementing his reputation as one of the Top 50 Gay Male Musicians by popular pop culture website

In addition to his own numerous music videos—including "Tug of War (My Heart Won’t Let Go)," "The Way You Love Me," "That’s Me" (featuring Cazwell) and a well-received cover of R.E.M.’s "Losing My Religion" (all on YouTube)—Ford was featured in Cyndi Lauper’s "Into the Nightlife" video clip—and performed on select dates of her True Colors tour in 2008. He has also appeared onstage with Chaka Khan, Keith Sweat, Salt-N-Pepa and Vanessa Williams.

If you Google search Ford, you'll understand exactly why he is every gay man's Adonis. Ooh la la!

FIRE!!! Who'da Thought A Camera Battery Could BURST INTO FLAMES?

Who would ever guess that a compact 1x2-inch plastic box could explode and burst into flames, potentially setting my apartment on fire and decimating everything I own? This from a cheap little camera battery? Everybody say WHAT THE FUCK.

So a couple months ago I was looking to purchase a stand-by battery for my Nikon D5000 camera, so that I'd always have a fully charged battery if the original ran out of juice while in the field. A Nikon brand battery was a lofty $35—while off-brand replacements I found on ebay that seemed perfectly compatible were a mere $6. What could the difference possibly be (that's foreshadowing, cool cats)...

I'm sitting in the living room here at my desk one evening, when, behind me, I hear an explosion that sounded like a wall had collapsed... Poor Abby & Spencer went charging from the living room. I turned around and saw FIRE! Everybody: WHAT THE FUCK?!

Wedged between the sofa and a bookcase I have a five-plug circuit breaker, and there was a nifty little bonfire rising three inches into the air, with a waft of crisp black smoke. I high-tailed it to the kitchen, filled a glass with water and doused the flames.

At that point, I had no idea what had happened, until I spotted the evidence: the camera battery, which had been plugged into the circuit breaker for a week, obviously had overheated and burst. I found the casing clear on the other side of the room.

The absurd irony is that when the miniature disaster occurred, I was actually online at, looking to replace the cheapo battery, which had already proved to be a worthless piece of shit. It worked once; when I charged it after the first use, it simply failed to juice up the camera. Obviously, you get what you pay for.

Of course, the horror of the mini disaster is: What might have happened had I not been home? The wooden bookcase was singed and the sofa had a series of black scorch marks on it (thankfully, my year-long search for a new sofa had been resolved: a new sectional was delivered the next week, and that sofa was roadkill).

What's to say that both the bookcase and sofa wouldn't have burst into flames, spreading to the rest of the apartment... I can't even begin to consider the potential repercussions.

I did contact the company that sold me the crappy battery and enclosed the picture above, encouraging them to protect themselves from a potential lawsuit by taking it off the market. No surprise: My $6 was hastily refunded with a generic apology the next day.

It's the little things that matter so much... like knowing you won't return home at the end of the day and find your life in a pile of ash and smoke. Mercy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sheena Easton 1981-2000, 15 Blissful LPs That Define My Life

I've been wanting to do this for years... a collage of Sheena Easton's 15 studio albums, not including soundtracks or greatest hits. Ah, the memories, the madness, the music. Celine, girl, you'll never quite equate all that Sheena and I have endured together: college, my 20s in Washington, songs for love and heartbreak, my 30s in New York... We've done it all in unison.
Next up... the singles collection...

Is Adele Singing The Next James Bond Theme?

2011's preeminent recording artist Adele has set the rumor mill ablaze by hinting that she may have been cherry picked to record the next James Bond theme. On Jonathan Ross’ British chat show, the host asked the "Rolling In the Deep" singer what she will be recording next.

“Well, this is actually a theme. Wow, that’s really giving something away,” Adele responded. “It’s a concept... one song.” Ross began to hum the James Bond theme.

Other reports have suggested that Kings of Leon, Leona Lewis or—egads—Beyonce are being considered for currently titled Bond 23, with Daniel Craig reprising the role, however, can you imagine a better act than Adele to return the franchise to hit status, after the previous few stinkers? (Read: Jack White of White Stripes and Alicia Keys ghastly collaboration for previous Bond flick Quantum of Solace and other recent bombs from Chris Cornell, Sheryl Crow, The Pretenders and Gladys Knight.)

If Adele is indeed recording the new Bond theme, she would be in great company with Sheena Easton, whose 1981 "For Your Eyes Only" was a top 5 hit in the States and an Oscar nominee (one of only three, with Carly Simon and Paul McCartney & Wings). Sheena is also the only artist to ever appear in a Bond title sequence.

Other stellar Bond performers include Duran Duran, Lulu, Shirley Bassey, McCartney, Rita Coolidge, Tina Turner and Simon.

'New Yorker' Cover: Here From Minneapolis? Don't Cross That Line!

The Oct. 3, 2011 cover of New Yorker shows a lane in Times Square for tourists-only, so that locals can actually navigate their own city. Genius!

Celine Dion On 'Rachael Ray' TODAY!

Check those local listings, cool cats! She was also on CBS This Morning Thursday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Diary Of A Layoff: Long-Term Unemployed Coming Out Of Hiding

For whatever reason, it appears the long-term unemployed are coming out of hiding. I saw this piece from John Douglas Marshall in The Atlantic last week and now this wholly relatable story appeared on, written by Amy Gutman. Following is an excerpt that rings all too true...

Of all my accomplishments, the most impressive is absent from my résumé: my more than two-year stint of job searching and unemployment. If you've been unemployed you already know this, but if you haven't, here's a news flash: Coping with prolonged joblessness is hugely demanding. It requires deep reservoirs of fortitude, faith, patience, courage and self-control.

There is a distinct Groundhog Day quality to days spent looking for work: Write letters. Prepare résumés. Search job boards. Make phone calls and brainstorm over coffee. Sleep. Get up. Repeat. After sending off my materials, I often hear nothing back. I've long since lost count of the number of jobs I've applied for.

As an "older worker"—When did that happen?—I try to ignore a drumbeat of statistics telling me I face an uphill battle. It's hard not to feel worn down, to succumb to "learned helplessness," our innate tendency to give up when efforts fail to yield results. Still, like millions, I keep going.

My exertions often seem strangely invisible, not only to family and friends but increasingly to me—an experience widely shared in job-loss land. Studies show "a growing isolation, a warping of family dynamics and slow separation from mainstream society" among long-term unemployed. No other circumstance triggers a larger decline in well-being and mental health than involuntary joblessness. Only the death of a spouse compares.

Such findings are all the more disturbing given that unemployment is a fact of life for a fast-growing segment of the American population, as reflected in last month's 0% net job growth. At the start of this year, the average unemployment duration of more than nine months was longer than it's been since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the figure in 1948.

You don't have to be a mathematical genius to see that when there are six job seekers for every job, it's simply not possible for everyone to find work. For one, they (we) are competing for positions not only with other unemployed workers but also with applicants already in the workforce looking to move on. They (we) are also contending with biases against the unemployed, including the proliferation of "unemployed need not apply" caveats on job ads.

So how is it that so many have come to disdain the unemployed? To equate unemployment with failure and shiftlessness? 

Contempt and shame are becoming inseparable from unemployment. Fueling such attitudes are the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps philosophy widespread among conservatives. Not everyone will agree that the nation's unemployed are entitled to be treated with respect. To skeptics: Consider your self-interest. Things are likely to get worse before they get better for the U.S. economy. More jobs will be lost; your turn may be next.

Hi, it's me again... Of course, what makes these articles even more difficult to stomach are the venomous comments that appear below them from readers... This story was no exception. "Whine fucking whine, oh poor me," wrote one, who suggested the author collect aluminum cans for recycling. Others insisted she "move to where the jobs are"—as if selling one's home in the midst of the Second Great Depression is a viable option. Another: "She's a lazy, whiny slob who needs to get off her fat ass and get a fucking job." Or "Shut the fuck up, you sad sacks bitching!" America the beautiful, indeed.

MERCIFULLY BAD IDEA: 'Valley Of The Dolls' Coming To TV In 2012

And you thought it couldn't get any worse than ABC-TV's 2011 redux of Charlie's Angels? Or the October big-screen remake of 1984's jukebox flick Footloose? Apparently, the lack of imagination in Hollywood should never be underestimated.

The campiest novel of all time—Jacqueline Susann’s fabulous 1966 Valley of the Dolls—is being retooled into a television series by Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels (Precious). NBC has bought the period project, with a script commitment from Daniels, based upon the dreadful 1967 movie adaptation.

Valley of the Dolls, which has sold more than 30 million copies, spans two decades of boozy, pill-filled career highs and the ultimate self-destruction of three female best friends: Anne Welles, who works at a Broadway talent agency; cabaret-turned-TV star Neely O’Hara; and showgirl Jennifer North. The flick, which starred Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke and Sharon Tate, was also made into a mini-series in 1981 and a late-night soap in 1994.

Jacqueline Susann would roll over in her grave... while I can predict with fair certainly that this project will also arrive DOA.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Broadway's 'Addams Family': A Mystifying Mess

Familiar concept, check! Star power, check! Clever set design, check! Plot, catchy songs, theme... aw, who cares... I've seen some stinker Broadway shows in my day, but nothing prepared me for the random mess of The Addams Family, promoted as "uproarious." I'd say outrage is more like it.

No need to belabor the point, since the show is closing at year-end 2011 after a one-year run, but did the book writers really believe audiences wouldn't see through a plot as wispy as a spider web, and a score so unmemorable that every musical number is more like spending time with the Manson family rather than the Addams?

Perhaps original leads Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth were so dazzling in the production's launch that The Addams Family was able to run on automatic pilot for a year... Brooke Shields—now handling the Morticia lead—is apt stunt casting: She certainly looks the part and who knew she possesses such a robust alto singing voice? British Tony winner Roger Rees as Gomez is relatively unknown in the States, and didn't add much to the role... Simply, Shields is not enough to save two-and-a-half hours of scary nothingness.

Truly, the biggest waste of time is a random collection of bizarre sub-plots that quickly unravel the entire production. The show turns out to have no particular point, no lesson learned. My date Suzanne and I were looking at one another with a big "WTF?" halfway through the first act, dreading the fact that we had another hour to endure. Addams Family was scary, all right. Boo, indeed.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

FALL TV SEASON: 'A Gifted Man' With Fab Margo Martindale

I so wanted to love new CBS drama A Gifted Man, starring handsome Patrick Wilson as an arrogant neurosurgeon with the wonderfully talented and newly minted Emmy winner Margo Martindale as his assistant. But the plot about Wilson's dead ex-wife returning to egg him into becoming a do-gooder with a kind heart practically put me to sleep.

As Doctor Michael Holt, it was great fun to see Wilson's home neighborhood of DUMBO, just a stone's throw from mine in Brooklyn Heights. He jogs around Brooklyn Bridge Park, picks up dinner at the River Cafe and has a self-reflective moment at Fulton Landing.

But unless this show makes better use of Martindale's comedic skills and allows Wilson to have more fun as a douchebag, this show is likely to join tepid losers Whitney and Charlie's Angels in the fall 2011 TV dumpster in a matter of weeks...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Movin' On Up: Smoking Nun Is In The Top 734,000 Webbies!

I feel like a proud papa!, which provides statistical data about web sites, has provided a ranking of The Smoking Nun. Among all U.S. webbies, we're ranked No. 733,786! Amazon and Google, watch your backs!
Here's some dirt about you...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sheena Easton: 'It's Hard To Say It's Over'

Sheena Easton's only filmed performance of one of her greatest album tracks, "It's Hard To Say It's Over"... from Solid Gold.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

NITWIT! | 'The Insider's' Christina McLarty Interviewing Celine Dion

This is one Celine Dion interview you've got to see—naw, not because of anything Celine says... but because The Insider's Christina McLarty is such an embecilic bubblehead. Come on, when you send a staffer to interview Dion, it helps if they have half a brain. (Interview is here.)

ADENDUM: Interesting, what was shown on TV Thursday evening was cut and chopped without ever showing the interview that is posted online... apparently producers recognized that McLarty was too idiotic for pre-prime time...)

The half-wit opens the by saying, "Without blowing your head up, you're one of the greatest singers in the world." Yowsah! McLarty then asks, "How do you do it all (giggle giggle). You are a multi-tasker, talented singer, mother, you have a fragrance [uh, Celine has an empire comprising 14 best-selling perfumes, nitwit]... how do you do it all?"

Celine responds that it's great to be a mom and have a career, etc. etc. and the nincompoop responds, "That's so sweet." Good god, almighty, do you think you're interviewing a 13-year-old? There comes a point in the segment where Celine stops maintaining eye contact with McLarty, likely thinking, "Rescue me, Rene!"
A little research reveals that McLarty is the niece of Bill Clinton's former White House chief of staff Mack McLarty, thus her nepotistic connection to having a job. She previously worked as a show biz reporter at L.A.'s CBS2/KCAL9, and in her free time "enjoys cooking, reading, checking out the local farmers markets and tending to her 4-year-old Basset Hound." I have a feeling she reads about as much as Sarah Palin.

Meanwhile, Celine graces yet another magazine cover: Canada's Hello!, featuring her outfit from the recent Andrea Bocelli concert in Central Park.

'Follies' On Broadway: Old-School Razzle-Dazzle Grandeur

Considering that I typically see one Broadway show a year, 2011 has been a real banner. We're up to two! In April, I saw Sister Act with buddy Mae Moose and Wednesday evening, Leo took me to see Follies.

The revival stars fave Bernadette Peters, whom I adore for the fact that she and Mary Tyler Moore host annual animal rescue event Broadway Barks—where Ayhan and I ultimately found our dearly departed Maltese Kirby. Also featured is Elaine Paige, whose duet with Barbara Dickson, "I Know Him So Well" from Chess, was my No. 8 hit of 1985.

The show, originally staged in 1971, has all the razzle-dazzle grandeur of a true Broadway extravaganza, with ornate costumes, some hands-wringing musical numbers (Stephen Sondheim) and enough drama to rattle the house.

The real find is co-lead Jan Maxwell in the role of Phyllis. The twice Tony-nominated actress' previous roles include The Sound of Music (as the Baroness), City Of Angels and The Royal Family. She puts the "d" in diva, for sure. Broadway vet Danny Burstein (Women On the Verge..., South Pacific) as Buddy also deserves an ovation as Follies' consummate showman, singing some of the most complicated and impressive Sondheim numbers in the production.

Unfortunately, Peters was ultimately a disappointment. Whether fatigued or simply not connecting with the role, she appeared distracted and did little justice to the supposedly show-stopping number "Losing My Mind." That was surprising... thankfully, her fellow cast members not only made up for her tepid performance, but trounced it.

Follies is not a giddy show: It deals with discontentment, regretting life choices and how it pretty much sucks to get older. But you might as well be entertained while your soul is smacked around. Good night!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Coming Thursday A.M. | Celine Dion On 'Regis & Kelly'

It's the second of Celine Dion's national TV appearances after she landed in New York for Andrea Bocelli's Concert In Central Park last Thursday, Sept. 15. She gave good face Tuesday on Good Morning America and Thursday is interviewed on Regis & Kelly. She recently covered Pure magazine (above), while InStyle wrote about her new fragrance Signature, and featured a slide show of Celine's stunning dresses for her current Vegas show, which we've collaged...Instyle's feature...And finally, shots showing off the boffo dress she wore on Good Morning America.

FALL TV SEASON: Wednesday Night's Tube Feast

The tele schedule for Wednesday is a tangled web, with overlapping new shows I'd like to check out clashing with the tried and true. Even Tivo can't solve my scheduling conundrums this time.

At 8 p.m., nothing is going to preempt my dedication to the third-season opener of The Middle, TV's best, albeit seemingly overlooked comedy. Ray Romano guests—amusing, since Patricia Heaton played his hubby on Everybody Loves Raymond (a show I pretty much detested as much as I adore Middle). The Heck family is so deliciously dysfunctionally crafted, with poor geek daughter Sue, would-be teen hipster son Axl and the weirdest character on TV, young son Brick, who whispers his inner thoughts out loud. Tonight's episode runs a full hour.

Unfortunately, that means I'm missing the launch of The X Factor, with cute host Steve Jones and the reunion of judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, which I'd like to watch, if only to add to the ratings so that American Idol is further humiliated. Boo to Fox for counter-programming its new juggernaut against The Middle.

At 9 p.m., I'll join the rest of the nation for season three of Modern Family, which, of course, wiped up the Emmy Awards. ABC is airing back-to-back episodes, first featuring the Pritchett clan at a dude ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyo., then Mitchell and Cameron intending to adopt a second kid (zzzz).

At 10 p.m., I'm staying with ABC for the pilot of Revenge, about some chick played by Emily VanCamp who has it out for a bunch of rich people that screwed her diddy in the past. While the drama doesn't sound overly intriguing—and advance reviews are tepid—I'm tuning in because it's set in fave locale Southampton and co-stars dreamy Josh Bowman (best known for allegedly dating Amy Winehouse and Miley Cyrus). Considering that the show is up against CSI and Law & Order, it sounds like ABC doesn't have much faith, either.