How fun! Raven-Symoné (who suddenly looks like she did back in her Disney Channel days) just announced she's leaving The View to do a That's So Raven sequel.
This is probably 10 years ago (Image via Matthew Rettenmund)
I worked with Raven many times during my Popstar! days. I remember doing a phoner and asking her about boys and she said, “Wellllllllll ...” Plus she was supposed to be Lindsay Lohan's roommate, it didn't work out and she was way more pissed than just a roommate would've been. So yeah, I loved that kooky girl. Definitely among Disney's most talented, and Gary Marsh over there certainly knew talent.
I don't recall the photog who shot this promo, but it's definitely so, so Raven ...
Moreover, her show was highly watchable—even for adults. I think she belongs in that space, producing and acting rather than spouting her opinions every morning. I'll watch her sequel!
(First gallery image via Chippendales, all others by Matthew Rettenmund)
I went to see the Chippendales in Vegas a few years ago, and was surprised how gay-friendly it was. Returning this past week to catch the final night of Nyle DiMarco's residency as celebrity host, it had only gotten gayer—while still maintaining its unique status as the premier male burlesque stop for ladies.
The Chippendales Theatre at the Rio, plus Nyle's sexy-as-hell promo poster! (Images by Matthew Rettenmund)
The show is a nonstop parade of irresistible, hypermasculine clichés designed to elicit scream after scream—Marines, construction workers, motorcycle gangs, they're all there, as are the mostly hairless, uniformly muscled, TALL, sometimes tattooed men who thrust their way through the numbers.
So many men, including my Chippendales hubby, John, center (Images by Matthew Rettenmund)
As bulky as they are, most of the guys are terrific dancers, the music is up-to-the-minute, the costumes are on-point (and half-off!) and the newly installed LED displays let you check out every flex.
Though cool is probably not the first adjective she'd use to describe herself, Olivia Newton-John represented one side of my impression of coolness as a kid—my favorite male cousin was into Blondie, so Debbie Harry represented New Wave edginess to me, and my favorite female cousin received an ONJ album for Christmas that seemed to herald her arrival into womanhood. Both acts made me realize that keeping abreast of pop music was the only way to be true teenager.
Olivia is seemingly as busy in 2016 as she was back then, and her commitments are not only physical (she just returned to her wonderful show at the Flamingo's Donny & Marie Show Room in Las Vegas) but spiritual (she's always busy with her Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, and makes environmental causes a cornerstone of her stage show).
(GIF via Universal)
As I told the incandescent songbird—now the same age Gene Kelly was when he danced alongside her in Xanadu (1980)—she looks beautiful, sounds beautiful and, most importantly, is beautiful; her centered approach to her enduring career is inspirational without being preachy, and is spreading a little more love with each passing day.
Perhaps most exciting for fans is her brand-new album, LIV ON, a collaboration with Amy Sky and Beth Nielsen Chapman, which dropped October 14. The album emphasizes the trio's vocal skill and sensitivity, nowhere more powerfully than on the single “LIVE ON,” a sonic rock on which survivors can cling while struggling to get through life's challenges. The album and single take ONJ full circle, back to her early country roots.
Speaking of her roots, I was lucky enough to catch Olivia's return to her Vegas residency following her August tour dates.
The Donny & Marie Show Room is a gorgeous space, designed like an old-fashioned nightclub/dinner-theater venue, just larger. There isn't a bad seat in the house, and Olivia didn't hit a bad note—all sung live, so you get more than just a piece of her.
Olivia looks phenomenal, isn't afraid to tease her audience and for the show's spirited numbers, especially a generous Grease segment and the stand-out from her pop/rock years, “Twist of Fate,” was frequently kick-dancing up and down the stage.
(GIF via 20th Century Fox)
If you want variety, she's got it—Olivia nimbly segues from country to pop to rock to yes, even a Latin number, to New Age. Along with singing most of her iconic hits, she threw in new work like the aforementioned “LIVE ON” and lesser-known singles like the heart-tugging nature anthem “Don't Cut Me Down.”
Somewhat surprisingly, “Physical” arrived in the dead center of the very lively show, which allowed for some of her less reserved fangirls to jump up and recreate the choreography from that unforgettably gay-friendly music video.
Just when I was thinking Olivia had exhausted her top-tier smashes, her finale—delivered in a dazzling, silver-sequined, form-fitting gown—arrived in the form of a gorgeous take on “I Honestly Love You.”
And, honestly, right back atcha.
After the show, I was escorted to the green room, where I was able to meet with Olivia, have her sign two of my cherished 45s and tell her how much I loved the show. When I randomly blurted out that I've always loved her 1992 hit “I Need Love,” she asked me to remind her of it, so I had to speak-sing to Olivia Newton-John! She gamely jumped in and sang what she could remember of the tune, which was a slinky pop number with one of the best Hi-NRG dance remixes of all time.
Friday the 26th was the long-awaited 25th-anniversary screening of a pristine, restored print of Truth or Dare at Metrograph in NYC, featuring commentary by director Alek Keshishian (who also co-wrote W.E. with Madonna 20 years after they first met) and moderated by noted Madonna-basher Chelsea Handler.
Black-and-white ... and would Madonna get read all over?!
I hardly knew what to expect, considering the week's other Truth or Dare screening—at MoMA on Wednesday—had attracted Madonna herself.
[If you live in NYC and haven't been to Metrograph, do go. It's a lovely, chic theater that offers eclectic movies, including classics, midnight movies, cult hits, first-run arthouse fare and, well, Space Jam. (Look who's snarking—I'm paying $15 to watch Body of Evidence there next week!)]
Before Truth or Dare started, my friend Raj noticed in the lobby two of the female stars of Quantico (Yasmine Al Massri and Johanna Braddy) with their dates, so I was able to get some quick pics of them. Braddy was turning 4 years old when Truth or Dare was released, BTW.
The guy who came out to intro the movie had the hipster vibe down pat, shrugging his way through a few lines about how the movie was part of a series of Madonna's masterpieces, then telling us the place has a restaurant upstairs if we ... whatever. It was actually very funny, and not the typical anal-retentive speech given at fledgling moviehouses about upcoming events.
Watching the movie for the second time in 48 hours was odd because ... it totally didn't bore me. I found new things to focus on, and even spotted the late Jack Larson in/near the infamous Kevin Costner scene.
My T-shirt went over big.
As the movie wore on, though, I was nervous because I'd been hoping to get some shots of Chelsea and Alek before or after. Luckily, one of my companions, Anthony (who designed my book) was monitoring Facebook and noted that fellow fanboy Michael Da Rocha had posted a pic with Chelsea from outside. That was my cue to hit the lobby, where I found Chelsea and Alek holding court at the bar with a gaggle of familiar fan faces.
Madonna posed by these Warholian images in the lobby
Famous, front-row fans!
Jose & Slam! Forgot to dare them to kiss...
So think of it as Kabbalistic karma that tonight, at his Truth or Dare event, Madonna herself shocked the entire room by showing up totally unannounced (her publicists knew, the MoMA curator knew—that was it) to sit in the middle of the audience and watch every frame of the film.
Louis J. Pearlman, the onetime dirigible magnate who went on to found two of the most successful pop acts of all time—Backstreet Boys and their biggest rival, *NSYNC, how's that for a monopoly?—died in prison on Friday of undisclosed causes. He was only 62, which is hard to believe; like Angela Lansbury, he always projected a carefully crafted image that was far older than his years.
I have conflicted memories of the man who liked people to call him “Big Poppa,” having met and worked with him often in the late '90s and early '00s. I have too many anecdotes for a blog post, but the following form the guts of my take on the man who really, really enjoyed making the bands.
In 1998, I was the young founder of the country's first all-color, all-glossy teen-entertainment magazine, Popstar!, which was published by a seedy porn outfit called Mavety Media. It was—to put it mildly—a huge challenge for me to create, with the help of a talented designer and just one assistant editor, a 100-plus-page national magazine aimed at teen and tween girls out of the offices of a company that was also producing titles like Juggs and Playguy, the latter of which looked like a teen magazine if all the boys were naked. But it was a joy, too, not only envisioning and directing the execution of something that would find its way into hundreds of thousands of young people's lives each month, but doing it without the backing of a Hearst or a Primedia or even a Sterling/Macfadden. Instead, I had to work with a Sydney Greenstreet-like former Sunday school teacher who enjoyed telling stories of trips to Asia involving girls being lowered onto his manhood, and who started the first gay-porn mag out of the trunk of his car, but who craved legitimacy and was using me, in part, to get some.
I had no idea what I was doing. Any gay man who figures he knows what little girls like because we're in touch with our own inner little girl is bound to fail. My earliest work on my teen mag is rather beefcake-heavy, but I eventually discovered my readers preferred boycake. One person who knew that secret from day one was Lou Pearlman, who was fond of saying things like, “As long as God's making little boys, He'll be making little girls, and they'll love each other.” (And he would be right there collecting a tariff on that love.)
Even if I was not a natural-born little-girl whisperer, I was nothing if not an open-minded researcher. I was soon able to figure out which acts my readers wanted and locate their handlers. Getting them to bother sending materials to a start-up was another thing entirely. Bubblegum-pop machine Jive Records couldn't be bothered with me. I tended to do much better when I went directly to the parents, or to the managers, like Lou.
I got Lou's info and sent him a letter, explaining that I had launched a magazine, showing him the coverage I'd given his acts, and asking him to help make sure we received attention from the correct publicists. He called me up, and I can still hear his friendly voice. As lethargic as he looked, a man who was arguably eating at least some of his desires, Lou was a very direct and personable speaker. He praised my magazine and pledged to help me out. In truth, he knew a good thing when he saw it—I was giving him unparalleled coverage, including lavishing attention on his as-yet-unbroken acts, so it was not too hard for him to realize he should make sure images and interviews flowed in my direction.
Like my porn boss, he was using me for legitimacy.