Posts Tagged ‘Grease’

Thank You For The Beautiful Music and a Lifetime of Wonderful Memories!

Life is a funny thing.

Most of us try to do what’s right.  We strive to treat those we love and care for with affection.  But, with real life constantly getting in the way, do we really stop long enough to tell them how much we care for them and appreciate them?

That’s my purpose today.

When I’m done, I’ll call my sister and tell her I love her.  But, this is about Olivia Newton-John.  I want her to know how much she has touched my life!

Olivia 1

As you likely know, especially since I regularly write about her, Olivia is battling cancer again.

She was first diagnosed back in 1992 and beat it.  It returned in 2013, then again in May 2017 and just last month, I learned that she now has Stage IV cancer.

One thing I know from being a fan is that Olivia is a fighter and I know she’ll continue living life to its fullest.  That’s more than some, including myself, are doing even without cancer!

Olivia Don't Stop Believin

I just finished reading Olivia’s autobiography, “Don’t Stop Believin'”, and it was beautiful!

I enjoyed hearing about her childhood, her singing and acting career, and her dear friendships with two ladies I truly admire and love, Karen Carpenter and Helen Reddy.

Olivia Karen

helen olivia.JPG

It was Helen Reddy and her ex-husband that were instrumental in Olivia taking on the iconic role of Sandy in “Grease”!

I’ve been a huge Olivia fan since I heard her first Top Ten hit, “Let Me Be There”, in 1973, as an 9-year-old listening to country music on WNGO-AM 1320, back in Mayfield, Kentucky.

Olivia Newton-John - Let Me Be There

All these years later, I have a confession to make.  As an little kid, I thought the beautiful voice belonged to Olivia Newton and the booming, manly back-up singer was named John! 🙂

From her first hit, “If Not For You”, in 1971, to her last Top 40 Billboard Hot 100 smash, “Soul Kiss” (#20, 1985), the English-born, Australian-raised singer charted with 27 Top 40 hits. Of those, 15 reached the Top Ten!

Olivia had five of those Top Ten hits reach #1:  “I Honestly Love You” (1974), “Have You Never Been Mellow” (1975), “You’re The One That I Want” (1978, with John Travolta), “Magic” (1980), and “Physical” (1981), which spent ten weeks at the top of the chart!

Olivia 2

In early 2014, Olivia announced “Summer Nights”, a 45-show residency at the Donny and Marie Showroom at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on the Strip between April and August.

I saw her amazing show on May 30th of that year.

Olivia

Since it’s my favorite number, I’m counting down my thirteen favorite Olivia Netwon-John songs that charted in America!  It was so hard narrowing down the list! 

(Chart positions are from the Billboard Hot 100 unless otherwise noted and the year listed is when the song peaked.)

Along the way, I’ll add three bonus songs and share some personal stories about a few of the hits!

Again, Olivia, thank you for the music!

13

“TWIST OF FATE” (#5, 1984)

12

“MAKE A MOVE ON ME” (#5, 1982)

#11 Movie

“I HONESTLY LOVE YOU” (2 WEEKS AT #1, 1974)

#10 MOVIE

“YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE” (with Chloe Lattanzi & Dave Aude)

(#1 Billboard Dance Club Songs, 2015)

In this re-imagining of Olivia’s #1 hit “Magic”, which you’ll see later in my countdown, DJ extraordinaire Dave Aude takes Olivia and her daughter Chloe Lattanzi to the top of the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart!

The fun video features an incredible looking Olivia and a graveyard of Las Vegas signage of the city’s casino history, show girls, Chippendales, and Britney, Tina Turner, Marilyn Monroe, and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler.  Oh wait, those are illusionists! 🙂

“You Have To Believe” was my #16 song of 2015!

Bonus

Being a gay teenager in small town Kentucky in the early-1980s without knowing anyone else like myself was very isolating.

Back then, you didn’t think about falling in love since you didn’t hear about those things, but the release of “Physical” and its homoerotic video was definitely eye-opening and it gave this kid hope!

“PHYSICAL” (10 WEEKS AT #1, 1981-1982)

9 CD

“A LITTLE MORE LOVE” (#3, 1979)

#8 MOVIE

“HAVE YOU NEVER BEEN MELLOW” (1 WEEK AT #1, 1975)

In 1978, Olivia had the starring role as Sandy in “Grease”, a movie that racked up $396 million at the box office.

When I saw the movie, I was a shy, introverted 13-year-old boy still listening to country music.  Occasionally, I’d sneak a listen to ABBA, the Bay City Rollers, and the Bee Gees!

I connected with the innocent Sandy and was petrified when she came out dressed to the nines in leather and holding a cigarette!

I’m no longer naive! 😉

olivia-newton-john-grease-sandy

That was a turning point for me.  Somewhere after “Grease”, I started listening to more pop or Top 40 music and I came across an 8-track recording of Olivia’s sultry album “Totally Hot”.

Totally Hot

It was one of three 8-tracks that I owned.  The other two were “Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits” and “Glass Houses” by Billy Joel.

#7 CD

“DEEPER THAN THE NIGHT” (#11, 1979)

#6 CD

“MAGIC” (4 WEEKS AT #1, 1980)

#5 MOVIE

“IF YOU LOVE ME (LET ME KNOW)” (#5, 1974)

Bonus

“I NEED LOVE” (1992)

In the summer of 1992, Olivia was ready for another comeback with the release of her third greatest hits album, “Back to Basics:  The Essential Collection 1971-1992”.  It included four new songs.

A world tour was also planned, but it was scrapped when Olivia was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The first single from the collection, “I Need Love” really touched me more than a quarter-century ago.  It’s even more powerful for me now as I approach the age of 55 and still single a couple of years after my divorce.

The song talks about wanting more than just a one-night stand or cheap sex.  These lyrics sum up exactly how I felt then in my 20s and how I feel now in my 50s!

“Another place, another time/I would take my chances/Oh I know I could take you home tonight/But I don’t want to wake up with you wishing I was alone”

“I’m not lookin’ for a Band-Aid on loneliness/I’m not lookin’ for a temporary get me through the night/I’m holding out for something more than physical/I need love to make the sex right”

Give the song a listen because unless you’re a die-hard Olivia fan, I know you probably never heard it on the radio!

4

“PLEASE MR. PLEASE” (#3, 1975)

green 3

“SUDDENLY” (with Cliff Richard) (#20, 1981)

#2 MOVIE

“LET ME BE THERE” (#6, 1974)

#1

We’re now up to my favorite Olivia Newton-John song!

I’ve watched the movie “Xanadu” several times and I can’t hear this song without smiling and feeling good.

The soundtrack was more popular than the movie and the title song reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980.

Back in 2014, when I turned 50, I compiled the soundtrack of my life — my all-time favorites songs — and “Xanadu” came in at #4!

Olivia, as your birthday nears, I wish you a “Happy Birthday”!

olivia-newton-john john-easterling.png

Stay strong and keep fighting!

Bonus

“YOUR GOOD GIRL’S GONNA GO BAD” (FROM “SORDID LIVES”)

Years after mainstream fame was behind her and Olivia was living life to the fullest, her friend Del Shores gave her an incredible role.

In 2000, when he made a movie of his play, “Sordid Lives”, he cast Olivia as Bitsy Mae Harling, a lesbian bar singer with a “reputation”!

She reprised the role in the 2008 Logo miniseries.

sl onj.JPG

If you’ve never seen this Texas “black comedy about white trash”, you have to find it and spend two hours laughing!

Here’s Olivia singing the theme song (contains adult language) and her and the cast in the end credits performing Tammy Wynette’s “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”.

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — November 7, 2014

Happy Friday!  Can you believe that Halloween is behind us and we’re already into the first week of November?  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and 2015 will be here before you know it.

While I gave up writing a weekly “Random Friday Thoughts” this summer because of time constraints and I’m running out of free space to post images in the blog without paying, I enjoyed putting together the October 24th random thoughts, so I thought I’d do it again.

And, I’ll start this one with a big time, eat crow apology!

TAYLOR, I’M SORRY

Many times over the past couple of years, I’ve sort of bashed Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift

While I saw her in concert in the Quad Cities opening for Keith Urban in the summer of 2009 and I bought her “Fearless” album, I quickly tired of the constant reports of “manizing” (my word for the opposite of womanizing) and her overexposure.

However, in her latest #1 hit, “Shake It Off”, the lead single from her new and hugely successful, record-setting album, “1989”, Taylor won me back with her “eff-off” to me and all of her haters!

“Shake It Off” is brilliant.  It shows that Taylor is in on the joke and not the joke.

Taylor, I promise that I’ll never pass judgement on you again.  And, if I do, I know you can come back with another “eff-you” song in the vain of “Shake It Off”.

“SHAKE IT OFF”

TAYLOR SWIFT RULES THE WORLD

With “1989”, Taylor Swift’s fifth studio album, selling an incredible 1.287 million copies in the United States alone, that makes Taylor the only singer in music history to have three (and three consecutive) million selling-plus first week albums.

This is also her best-selling first week ever!

Her 2010 album, “Speak Now” sold 1.047 million in its first week and the follow-up, 2012’s “Red” sold 1.208 million in its first week.

AND, THAT’S NOT ALL FOR “1989” AND TAYLOR

Those first week sales make “1989” the biggest selling first-week album since 2002 (Eminem), the biggest-selling album released in 2014 (Sam Smith’s “In The Lonely Hour” is second with 746,000 copies sold since May), and it’s the second biggest selling album of the year behind the “Frozen” soundtrack, which has sold 3.2 million copies in 2014.

SHOUT-OUT TO BRITNEY

While Taylor’s first week sales of 1.287 million copies were astounding, “1989” now ranks in second place behind “Oops!… I Did It Again” by Britney Spears for most albums sold in the first week by a woman.

In its first week, in 2000, that album had sales of 1.32 million.  To date, “Oops!…” has sold 10.4 million copies in the United States and 24 million worldwide.

I absolutely love Britney.  I plan on seeing her in concert again next year in Las Vegas with her “Britney:  Piece of Me” show at Planet Hollywood.

Britney

So, here’s a shout-out to “It’s Britney, bitch” as she holds on to her record.

The lead single and title track,”Oops!… I Did It Again”, hit #1 on the radio airplay charts in 2000.

HOZIER – RUSSIA AND HOMOPHOBIA

24-year-old Irish singer Andrew Hozier-Byrne, professionally known as just Hozier, is enjoying his third Top Three hit back in his native Ireland.

But, it’s his first hit there that is now getting a lot of airplay here in the United States.

“Take Me To Church” reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Rock Songs and Adult Alternative Songs charts.

While a powerful song, it’s the video, that calls attention to Russia’s homophobia and homophobic laws, that is so riveting and sad.

Hozier, thank you for getting the message out there.

“DEATH WITH DIGNITY”

29-year-old Brittany Maynard, a California woman, took her own life in Portland, Oregon, last weekend, assisted by a physician.

Back on New Year’s Day 2014, Brittany was diagnosed with brain cancer.  She had surgery, but the cancer came back in April and she was given six months to live.

She and her husband moved from California to Oregon so when the pain got to be too much, she could take own life with the help of a doctor because of Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” law that was passed by Oregon voters twenty years ago.

Oregon became the first state to allow this, but appeals kept Oregonians from using the law until 1997.

Brittany Maynard

I’m a firm believer that every human should die with dignity and I applaud Brittany’s decision.  I’m glad she and her family enjoyed a nice vacation to the Grand Canyon last month to cross it off her “bucket list”.

So far, about 750 people in Oregon have used the law since 1997.

REMEMBERING “DR. DEATH”

I’ve talked about “doctor-assisted suicide” before.  Here is a re-post of what I had to say May 31, 2013, about Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

“While more Americans find doctor-assisted suicides less acceptable today than a decade ago, according to that recent Gallup poll, I’m taking a moment to remember the man whose name is synonymous with that subject.  He died two years ago next week.

Kevorkian

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a Michigan born pathologist, gained national attention in late 1998 when he allowed CBS News’ “60 Minutes” to air a videotape he made two months earlier of the voluntary euthanasia of 52-year-old Thomas Youk, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, a debilitating disease that causes progressive weakness, muscle atrophy, muscle spasms, difficulty speaking, swallowing, and breathing.

After a two-day trial, a Michigan jury found Kevorkian guilty of second-degree murder.  After serving time, he was paroled eight years later.

He may have been involved in more than 130 deaths and Kevorkian told “Time” magazine, “My specialty is death.”

So, what is your view on doctor-assisted suicides?  Feel free to tell me, even if we disagree.

I’m all for it.  I’ve seen people wither away to almost nothing in so much pain. I look at their lives and I see that some have no quality of life.  My mother died of a sudden heart attack at age 47.  While we were unable to say goodbye, I’m thankful that she never suffered for a long period like some people do.

If I’m ever in a terminal health situation where there is no chance of recovery (short of a miracle) and I’m in unimaginable pain, I’d welcome being euthanized.  Why is it that we’re in a position in this country where we have to watch our loved ones suffer until they die naturally, but we can do the “humane” thing to keep our beloved pets from immense suffering when they reach that point of no return by euthanizing them?

February 3 2012 Daddy A & ABBA

On February 3, 2012, Miss ABBA, our golden retriever that was just like a child to us, took that final R-I-D-E in the car.  I carried her to the car that morning and into the vet’s office.  I sat on the floor holding her when the doctor administered the two shots and she peacefully crossed over the “rainbow bridge”.

Many of you already know that Miss ABBA lived ten fantastic months after being diagnosed with terminal cancer when she was only given two to three months to live.  She never got sick or down until the day before she died.

I’m blessed for the almost 12 years Miss ABBA and I had together.  I’m so glad that she never had to suffer and that I had that option to ease her pain when her quality of life ended.  I would want the same for myself or for my human counterparts.”

SPEAKING OF MY MOTHER

My sister and I lost that beautiful woman 24 years ago today!

Dessie

Dessie, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of you and wish that we could talk.  But, I know that you’re looking over us now!

ELECTIONS ARE OVER, BUT WHAT ABOUT 2016?

I believe that former Secretary of State and former First Lady Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee and it won’t be a long vicious fight for that nomination like it was in 2008 against President Obama.

hillary2016

It’s going to be a much tougher fight for the Republican Party since there is no real front-runner.  And, because of that, I think it’s going to be nasty for quite some time once there are people vying for that nomination.

That’s why I predict that the candidates will start throwing their hat in the ring in early 2015 (or even by the end of this year).

For weeks now, I’ve said that the first person that will announce their candidacy will be former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

And, when all is said and done, here is my prediction of who we’ll be choosing from in the 2016 presidential election.

hillaryclinton_jebbush

Clinton and Bush!  Talk about dynasties in American politics!

“MAKE THE YULETIDE GAY 2”

There are many Christmas movies that I love, but one of my favorites came out in 2009.

It’s called “Make The Yuletide Gay”, a Rob Williams-directed movie about a college kid wanting to “come out” to his parents at Christmas, but he’s afraid to do it because of how he thinks they may react.  A visit from his college boyfriend pushes the “coming out” to the forefront.

While the boys are definitely charming, Wisconsin’s own Kelly Keaton, who plays Anya Gunnunderson, the mother of boy coming out, is so sweet and she makes you laugh.

There’s been talk about a sequel for years and now that is falling into place.  The director and producers have a script and just started a Kickstarter campaign through the end of December to raise the $175,000 needed to assist in the movie.

You can find out more about it here and make a small donation.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/robwilliams/make-the-yuletide-gay-2-a-sequel-to-the-hit-comedy

I love the original movie so much that if I had $2,500 lying around, I’d donate it so I could make my Hollywood debut in the movie!

Could you imagine me transitioning from a television meteorologist to actor?

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN

As you may recall, I saw Olivia Newton-John in concert this past May in Las Vegas and she was fantastic.  She sounded and looked great.

Olivia

I recently read a biography about her life by Tim Ewbank.

It was a thorough book that covered her pre-career life in Australia and England, her career, both in music and movies, her marriage and divorce, and her fight with cancer.

I was glad that the book talked about how some of the biggest country music stars in the 1970s (Conway Twitty, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Barbara Mandrell, Mel Tillis, Dolly Parton, and more) formed the Association of Country Entertainers as a protest to “outsiders” that were not country purists or “Nashville”.

Dolly quickly withdrew from that group and embraced Olivia.

Also, the book covered her friendship with another Australian that I love, Helen Reddy.  The book claims that it was Helen and he ex-husband that convinced Olivia to take the role of Sandy in “Grease”!

WATCHING MORE TELEVISION

When we had cable before, we never watched television.  Now that we have it, we’ve caught up on season five of  “The Walking Dead” and now we don’t have to avoid the spoilers until it arrives on DVD the following August!

We’re also watching “American Horror Story: Freak Show”.

Another show I really loved after seeing the first episode is “Stalker” on CBS.  It’s creepy, but I love it.

Maggie Q is my new “girl I would switch for”!  I’m kidding. 🙂

My favorite line in the pilot is when Dylan McDermott’s detective character, Jack Larsen, says “I get the feeling you don’t like me” and Maggie Q’s Lieutenant Beth Davis replies, “Don’t be silly, I’m sporadically rude.”

Murder

I’m still loving “How To Get Away With Murder.  It’s the best new show this fall and so scandalous and real that you’d never know that Disney is the parent company of ABC.

My two favorite characters are Annalise Keating, a criminal law professor, played by multiple Oscar nominee Viola Davis, and Connor Walsh, a gay law student, played by Jack Falahee.

It’s one thing for a television show to feature a gay character, but to allow him (or her) to be sexually active on-screen is groundbreaking.

Here’s a video tribute to Connor and it includes scenes from the October 16th episode that made me think I was watching a soft-core adult movie!

If you watched that to the end, you probably heard the most “did he just say that?” moment I’ve seen on television.  EVER.

Yes, this is ABC and not premium cable!

In the same episode, Viola Davis’ character is sitting at her bureau and removes her wig, all of her make-up, and her eye lashes in one of the most emotionally naked scenes written for television.

And, if that wasn’t riveting enough, the scene ends when she holds up a cell phone to her cheating husband and asks the most mind-blowing question that no spouse ever wants to ask their husband!

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER:  A+

Way to go, Mouse House!

THAT’S IT

How do you top that?  I won’t even try.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my random thoughts this week from the serious to the silly to the entertaining.

I hope you enjoyed them.  Let me know what you think.

Until the next “Random Friday Thoughts”, happy holidays.

Peace!

Anthony

I’m Still Hopelessly Devoted To Olivia

As winter drags on, I’m definitely thinking of “Summer Nights”, but I’m not waiting until June, July, and August to experience them!

After 28 below zero mornings (-22° was the coldest) and 45.8″ of snow in the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, I’m making plans to head to the desert.

Las Vegas

In late May, in Las Vegas, the average high temperature is 94° and the record highs are between 104°-109°.  And, who better to spend “Summer Nights” with (other than Ray), but the international superstar that sang that song in “Grease” with John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John.

Last week, Olivia announced that she would be playing 45 shows between April and August of this year at the Donny and Marie Showroom at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on the Strip.

Olivia 2

The second I heard that, I started planning.  Two weeks before the announcement, I had blogged that I wanted to see Olivia in concert this year, “if she tours”.  Well, she may not be taking the show on the road, but there are planes that fly to Vegas, so we’re on our way!

After the last Riverfront Pops concert, I recommended to the Quad City Symphony Orchestra to get Olivia for the 2014 fall show since she has performed beautifully with the Sydney (Australia) Symphony.

Olivia

I came close to seeing Olivia when she performed at the Northalsted Market Days in Chicago in 2012, but I had a previous engagement on the other side of Iowa, and couldn’t make it.  But, that’s history because I’ll be seeing Olivia on May 30th.

I’ve been a huge fan from the first time I heard “Let Me Be There” in 1973, as an 8-year-old listening to my country music on WNGO, AM 1320, back in Mayfield, Kentucky.

Olivia Newton-John - Let Me Be There

While that was the first time I had heard of Olivia, she scored her first pop hit, “If Not For You” in 1971.  It reached #25 on the Billboard Hot 100.

From that first hit in 1971 to her last Top 40 Billboard Hot 100 smash, “Soul Kiss” (#20, 1985), Olivia charted with 27 Top 40 hits.  Of those, 15 reached the Top Ten (she’s tied for seventh place amongst female singers with the most Top Ten hits on the Hot 100).

Olivia 1

Olivia had five of those smashes to reach #1:  “I Honestly Love You” (1974), “Have You Never Been Mellow” (1975), “You’re The One That I Want” (1978 with John Travolta), “Magic” (1980), and “Physical” (1981), which spent ten weeks at the top of the chart becoming her biggest hit.

In today’s blog, my tribute to the stunningly gorgeous Olivia, I’m sharing some of my favorite songs and a couple of anecdotes to take you down memory lane.

PleaseMr_Please

“Please Mr. Please” became Olivia’s fifth consecutive Top Ten hit on both the country and pop charts.  It reached #5 country and #3 pop (following her first two #1 hits).

olivia-newton-john-grease-sandy

In 1978, Olivia had the starring role as Sandy in “Grease”, a movie that racked up $395 million at the box office.

When I saw the movie, I was a shy, introverted, 13-year-old still listening to country music (occasionally, I’d sneak a listen to ABBA, the Bay City Rollers, and the Bee Gees).  I connected with the innocent Sandy and was petrified when she came out dressed to the nines in leather and a cigarette!  I’m no longer naive! 🙂

That was a turning point for me.  Somewhere after “Grease”, I started listening to more pop or Top 40 music and I came across an 8-track recording of Olivia’s sultry album “Totally Hot”.

Totally Hot

It was one of three 8-tracks that I owned.  The other two were “Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits” and “Glass Houses” by Billy Joel.

Not too long ago, I watched “Xanadu” again and I can’t hear this song without smiling and feeling good.

Being a gay teenager in small town Kentucky in the early-1980s without knowing anyone else like yourself was very isolating.  While there was never a thought of falling in love since you didn’t hear about those things back then, the release of “Physical” and its erotic (and homoerotic) video was definitely eye-opening and it gave this kid hope.

Another feel good song that stops me when I come across it is “Make A Move On Me”.

Sordid Lives

In 2000, Olivia starred in Del Shores’ “Sordid Lives” as Bitsy Mae Harling, a bar singer with a “reputation”!  She reprised her role in the 2008 miniseries for Logo.

If you’ve never seen this Texas “black comedy about white trash comedy”, you have to find it and spend two hours laughing!

Here’s Olivia singing the theme song (contains adult language) and her and the cast in the ending credits performing Tammy Wynette’s “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”.

I’ll close with a live performance of Olivia with her first Top Ten hit from 1973, “Let Me Be There”.

I have a confession to make.  As an 8-year-old, I thought the beautiful voice belonged to Olivia Newton and the booming, manly back-up singer was named John!

Now, by chance, if I got to meet Olivia that night, I won’t share that story!

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — January 31, 2014

Another weekend is here.  Do you have big plans?  I’m emceeing a fashion show tonight and tomorrow is my company’s Christmas party.  ‘Tis the season.

As always, on Friday, I share some of my random thoughts and I welcome your feedback.

SNOW AND MORE SNOW

This January, the Quad Cities is already the record book as one of the ten snowiest Januarys on record at #7.  So far, 17.7″ of snow has accumulated this month and more could be added before midnight.  However, the heavier snow will come late Friday night and Saturday.

A “Winter Weather Advisory” and a “Winter Storm Warning” covers the area and goes into effect Friday evening into Saturday evening.

Warnings Advisories

(Editor’s note:  Only the “Advisories” map was updated.  The snow projections are still looking good.)

Here is how much snow I’m forecasting today, tonight, and Saturday.

Snow Today & Tomorrow

KEEP UP ON THE LATEST FORECAST BECAUSE THIS COULD CHANGE!

The bottom line is that I don’t mind the snow.  I just wish we could keep the bitter cold away!

GRAMMY LOVE & HATE

This is not about Taylor Swift going home empty-handed after she thought she won “Album of the Year”.

Taylor Didn't Win

At the 56th annual Grammy Awards last Sunday night, the big winners were the French electronic duo Daft Punk taking home five trophies and Paul McCartney and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis each winning four awards.

Grammy’s Best New Artist, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performed their same-sex marriage anthem “Same Love” with Mary Lambert and Madonna.   Toward the end of the song, rapper and talk show host, Queen Latifah married 33 straight and gay couples.  Latifah was sworn in as a commissioner by the state of California to perform the ceremony and her powers ended that night at midnight.

Macklemore, Mary Lambert, Madonna, Ryan Lewis, Queen Latifah

It was a happy time for those on stage and for many celebrities.

Happy about Same Love

Meanwhile, others were not happy and definitely didn’t share any love on Twitter.

Anti Same Love 1 Anti Same Love 2

What do you think?

GRIMM NEEDS TO RESIGN!

New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm, who’s been under a two-year investigation about his 2010 campaign fundraising, needs to resign after threatening  a reporter Tuesday night.

Grimm

After the interview that Grimm walked away on, Capitol Hill reporter Michael Scotto closed by saying, “Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances … but as you saw he refused to talk about that”.  At that point, Grimm comes back and allegedly tells the reporter, “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f—–g balcony.”

Grimm issued this statement after the altercation, “I doubt that I am the first member of Congress to tell off a reporter, and I am sure I won’t be the last.”

I’m sorry Congressman Grimm, but telling a reporter off and threatening to break him in half and throwing him off a balcony is not just telling someone off!

As a reporter that was thrown against a car in Lubbock, Texas, by someone who didn’t want a story done about them, I find your comments belligerent and unprofessional.  Go away!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Spring Already

Snowman HostageHuman Interaction

SOCHI IS A HARD SALE

One week from today, the 2014 Winter Olympics kick off in Sochi, Russia.

Whether it’s the economy, the terrorist threats, or the fact that the games are being held in Russia, which has displayed so much encompassing love to all people in the past year (sarcasm), tickets are not selling like in past games.

SOC_Olympic logoRGB

Around the middle of January, Sochi organizers say that 70% of tickets have been sold for the games.  These tickets went on sale in February 2013 and ranged in price from 500 rubles ($15) to 40,000 rubles ($1,200).

Four years ago, 97% of the 1.54 million tickets available for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada were sold.  And, 97% of the 8.5 million tickets for the 2012 Summer Games in London were snatched up.

SOCHI HAS NONE OF THEM!

Anatoly Pakhomov, the mayor of Sochi, Russia, is certain that his city has no gay people!  He told the BBC, “We do not have them in our city.”

Anatoly Pakhomov

When the journalist told him that he was in the city’s gay bar the night before, the mayor added, “I am not sure, but I don’t bloody know them.”

So, if you’re keeping count, there are no gays in Sochi or Iran!

AND, RUSSIA IS CONCERNED WITH GAYS?

In the February/March 2014 issue of “The Advocate”, it’s reported that the HIV infection rate in Russia is twice as high as the United States.  In the numbers that were released last month, 58% of cases result from intravenous drug use, 40% from heterosexual sex, and 2% from “other”, which includes gay sex.

HIV AIDS

Russia should not be focused on gay people as the root of all evil.  If the HIV/AIDS rates were not bad enough, the country has the world’s highest abortion rate.  One reason, the magazine reports, is there is such a stigma when it comes to buying condoms that abortion is most prevalent form of contraception.  Insane!

I really do feel for the people of Russia, even though as I blogged last fall, a Pew Research Center survey shows that 74% of Russians think that gay people should not be accepted by society!

Anti-Gay Russia

ON A LIGHTER NOTE…

“I’ve got chills and they’re multiplying” and it has nothing to do with a young John Travolta or Olivia Newton-John.

If you love “Grease”, check out these Swedish Marines in Afghanistan and their rendition of “Greased Lightning.”

UNDERSTANDING SHAKESPEARE

Does William Shakespeare’s style of writing confuse you when you read it?

If you’re never read Shakespeare or it’s been a long time, have no fear.  I have a short “Hamlet” monologue by Tom Sandoval from the Bravo show, “Vanderpump Rules” for you to enjoy.

Don’t worry because there won’t be a quiz afterwards.  You’ll likely be distracted and not comprehend a thing!

“BLUE JASMINE”

The latest Woody Allen movie, “Blue Jasmine” is up for two Oscar acting awards:  Cate Blanchett for Best Actress and Sally Hawkins for Best Supporting Actress.

blue_jasmine

Blanchett is Jasmine, a New York City socialite who loses everything because of her husband’s shady business dealing.  Broke, she heads to San Fransisco to live with her sister, Ginger, and her two children in a poorer part of town in a small, confining apartment.

This is Blanchett’s sixth Oscar nomination.  She won for Best Supporting Actress in 2004 for “The Aviator”.  In “Blue Jasmine”, she’s incredible as the pill-popping and boozing woman who has to start over and even learn how to hold down a job.

It’s heartbreaking when you learn that pills, alcohol, and having no money may not be the worst of Jasmine’s problems.

It’s going to be a close Oscar race between Blanchett and Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County”.

GRADE:  B+

PICK HIT

International superstar and one of my favorite entertainers, Kylie Minogue is back with a new song, “Into The Blue”, the first single from her latest album, “Kiss Me Once” that comes out March 18, 2014.

Kiss Me Once

Kylie has sold about 70 million records worldwide.  In the U.S., she’s had 5 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 with two reaching the Top Ten.  However, in the U.K, Kylie has scored 49 Top 40 hits with 35 of them reaching the Top Ten, and 8 topped the charts!

I really hope that she tours in 2014 and that I get to see her!

“MORE TALES OF THE CITY”

I’m on a roll with my reading.  It really helps that I’ve been spending a lot of time on the treadmill.  Since January 2nd, I’ve lost 6.6 pounds.  I’ve hit brick wall now and the weight loss from here on out is going to more difficult and slower.

I just finished my fourth book this year, which matches what I read in all of last year!

More Tales of The City

“More Tales of the City” is the 1980 follow-up to Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City”.  “More Tales” is the second in the nine-book series.  I reviewed the first book last week and talked about it and the PBS television miniseries based on it that debuted in the U.S. twenty years ago this month.

In this book, we still follow all of the comings and goings of Anna Madrigal and her “children” at 28 Barbary Lane on Russian Hill in San Francisco.  It’s still the 1970s.

Mary Ann and Michael go on a cruise and both meet the men of their dreams, but Mary Ann’s is a man of mystery.  He just can’t remember it.  Mona escapes to a Nevada brothel (even though the book uses the w-house word) and learns a big secret.  Also, a major character dies, one has a health issue, and another is almost attacked!

After reading the first book, I started watching the first miniseries again.  Now that I’m two books in, I’ll continue on to the second installment miniseries that aired on Showtime in 1998.  Here’s that trailer and it does contain adult language and images.  (The first miniseries’ trailer is in last week’s random blog.)

Now, it’s on to book three in the series.

“I’M A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY”

Missouri-born country singer Sara Evans will release her seventh studio album, “Slow Me Down” in March.  The title track is her new single and it became her 19th Top 40 hit on the Billboard Country chart.

Sara Evans

Her first four singles generated buzz for Sara, but they failed to reach the Top 40.  The second single from her second album was the one to do it.  “No Place That Far” not only became her first Top 40 hit, it was also her first #1 song in 1999.

Of her 19 Top 40 country hits, nine have hit the Top Ten, and five, including, “No Place That Far” have topped the chart:  “Born To Fly” (2001), “Suds In The Bucket” (2004), “A Real Fine Place To Start” (2005), and “A Little Bit Stronger” (2011).

I saw Sara in concert in August 2001 in Buffalo, New York, as part of Reba McEntire’s “Girls Night Out” tour that also featured Martina McBride, Jamie O’Neal, and Carolyn Dawn Johnson.

THAT’S IT FOR NOW

Be safe out there and enjoy your weekend.  I know some of you read my random thoughts each Friday and some may have seen them for the first time today because of the snow forecast included in today’s blog.  I appreciate it.  Feel free to check back and see what I have to say.

Anthony

New Christmas Sounds: Two Are Great & One Is A Lump Of Coal

When it comes to Christmas music, the standards are hard to beat.  While there are newer originals that are incredible like “Secret of Giving” by Reba (1999), there are also some really bad new songs each Christmas season.  This Christmas, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Colbie Caillat, and Cee Lo Green all have new albums.

And, while I’ve already bought three new Christmas CDs this year, there are two more that I want to pick up.

Blake Shelton Christmas

Blake Shelton’s “Cheers, it’s Christmas” is one of them and to be honest, while I like his voice, I really want it because he does a duet with Reba on “Oklahoma Christmas”.

Also, I’m not an “American Idol” fan even with the amazing Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.  However, I finally broke down this past summer and bought my first “AI” alumni CD, “Trespassing” by Adam Lambert.  It was great, but it totally bombed!

With that being said, I was very apprehensive about the new holiday disc from last year’s winner Scotty McCreery.

ScottyMcCreery

Yes, he’s cute and he has that great, masculine Josh Turner-like voice, but did I really want to take a chance on “Christmas With Scotty McCreery”.  I finally decided yes, so I’ll going to buy it.

So, what about the three new Christmas CDs that I bought?  Two are fantastic, but one of them has a drawback.  The third is acceptable and I would only recommend it for one reason.  It would be closer to a “lump of coal”.

coal

“MERRY CHRISTMAS, BABY” — ROD STEWART

Rod Stewart

Ladies and gay men, you may have swooned in the 1970s when he sang “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Young Turks” in the 1980s, but does that gravelly voice translate into holiday cheer?

“Merry Christmas, Baby” is Rod Stewart’s first holiday disc and I can’t believe that we made it through all of the past holidays without him.  This disc is definitely going to be a holiday classic.

Stewart excels in the classics, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, “White Christmas”, “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and “Blue Christmas”.

Several duets are featured and my favorite is  “Winter Wonderland” with Michael Buble.  He also has nice duets with Cee Lo Green on “Merry Christmas, Baby” and “We Three Kings” with Mary J. Blige.

Rod does a great duet with the late Ella Fitzgerald on “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”  God rest her soul, but I have to say that I’m not a fan of singers recording new songs with people who have passed on.   (If this trend continues, I hope Madonna releases a Christmas CD next year and does “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” with the late John Lennon.)

There is one original song on the disc, “Red-Suited Super Man”, and it’s a fun song.

“Merry Christmas, Baby” has been played many times since I bought it.  I love this disc.

GRADE:  A

“ON THIS WINTER’S NIGHT”  — LADY ANTEBELLUM

Lady Antebellum Christmas

I absolutely love the harmonies of country music’s hottest trio, Lady Antebellum.  I saw them open for Reba a few years ago and I love their energy and their voices.

You can’t go wrong on their new Christmas album, “On This Winter’s Night”.

Every song on the disc is pure Christmas joy from the upbeat fun of Hillary Scott’s “Holly Jolly Christmas” to Charles Kelley getting down on a fun “Blue Christmas”.  Other perfect standouts are “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, “The First Noel”,  “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”, “Silent Night (Lord of My Life)”, and “Silver Bells”.

My only gripe, and this is a big one that long time fans may agree with me on, is that this disc feels like a ripoff to make some quick money on their popularity.

Of the twelve songs, six of them were released on the trio’s 201o EP, “A Merry Little Christmas”.  So, if you’re a fan and you bought that one two years ago, you’re paying for the same six songs this year with only six new songs!  (Santa may place the record company on his “naughty list” for marketing the recycled songs!)

Putting that behind me, if you made confectionery concoctions as tasty as any song on this disc, you’d definitely be in demand year around for your baking!

GRADE:  A 

“This Christmas”  — JOHN TRAVOLTA & OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN

John Olivia Christmas

John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John set the world on fire with the 1978 blockbuster, “Grease”.  Their hit song, “You’re The One That I Want”, is one of the best-selling duets of all-time.  However, while lightning does strike twice, that doesn’t always happen in the entertainment business.  Their follow-up movie together, 1983’s “Two of A Kind”, was a box office bomb, but Olivia did score a top 5 hit, “Twist of Fate”, from the movie soundtrack.

After Travolta got a text from Olivia last year about how successful their “Grease” duet still is, they decided to do a Christmas CD together to benefit her charity, “The Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre” in Melbourne, Australia and his charity, “The Jett Travolta Foundation”, in memory of his 16-year-old autistic son, Jett, that died in early 2009 in the Bahamas after he fell and hit his head.

I’ll get the bad news out of the way first and then focus on the good.  The opening song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, is probably the worst version I’ve ever heard.  As much as I love Olivia, she couldn’t get “Physical” enough to save this disaster!  Three songs later, “This Christmas” would have been better without John’s vocals.

Enough picking on John.  I like the man and I love his acting.  He does a fine job singing solo on “This Christmas Waltz”.

He and Olivia are joined by Barbra Streisand on “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and it’s excellent.  Four songs later, Cliff Richard joins them on “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (you may remember Cliff from Olivia’s 198o’s hit, “Suddenly” from “Xanadu”).  Tony Bennett and The Count Basie Orchestra show up on “Winter Wonderland” and James Taylor drops in on “Deck The Halls”.

Olivia’s solo, “Silent Night” is incredible and their medley “Auld Lang Syne/Christmas Time Is Here” is a great closer to an uneven album.

The most exciting song on “This Christmas” is the one that I think should have been sequenced as the first song on the album, “I Think You Might Like It”.  It’s a very fun song and if I close my eyes while listening to it, I see Danny & Sandy in “Grease” dancing to it around the Christmas tree.  Here is the new video from Olivia & John!

GRADE:  C+   (There are great songs on it and there are some not so great songs, but the album is for a good cause.  It’s Christmas and the holidays are about charity!)

And, while we’re talking about amazing Christmas albums, these three are still my favorites.

Happy listening and Merry Christmas early!

Anthony