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Gay Men's Health Crisis Goes Fashion Forward

Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) held its fourth annual Fashion Forward fundraiser on November 8th, 2010, at the Manhattan's Metropolitan Pavilion (123 West 18th St # 804 New York, NY 10011-4133 212-463-0200). Once again the sold-out event was hosted by the affable and alwaysA Model in Narciso Rodriguez elegant Tim Gunn, host of Lifetime TV's Project Runway.

Presented by Bank of America, the event is one of the largest New York fashion shows between the two Fashion Weeks. It kicked off at 7 pm with the always popular two-hour reception, which featured delicacies from some of the city's finest restaurants and a variety of yummy libations.

At approximately 9 pm (do runway shows ever start on time?) Dr. Marjorie J. Hill, chief executive officer of GMHC, introduced Tim Gunn. Following a brief auction of Delta travel packages, including an "Enchanted Italian Hideaway," the runway show (finally) got underway.

The show featured looks from the collections of superstar designers Diane von Fursetnberg, Anna Sui, Yigel Azrouel, Richard Chai, Simon Spurr and Narciso Rodriguez.

The runway show was cast by Andrew Wier and styled by Jason Farrer and featured top models Jenny Shimizu and Omayra Mota.

Celebrity guests in attendance included television personality Wendy Williams, stylist Patricia Fields, designers David and Philippe Blond, designer Robert Tagliapietra, singer Deborah Cox and AIDS activist Jack MacKenroth.

The fundraising total for the evening was estimated to be upwards of $250,000 including the amount raised from the silent and live auctions.

GMHC launched Fashion Forward in 2007 to salute the fashion industry's longstanding commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS. Said CEO Dr. Marjorie Hill, "From the earliest days of the epidemic, the fashion community has been on the front lines, using its creativity, visibility and compassion to raise public awareness and galvanize fundraising efforts to support GMHC's lifesaving services."

Monies raised by Fashion Forward  will help GMHC continue to provide its services to more than 15,000 men, women and families in the New York City area living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, and to advocate for public health solutions for hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

Sponsors for the event included CFDA, Diane von Furstenberg, Insignia, Jeffrey Fashion Cares and Delta.

Gay Men's Health Crisis
The Fashion Forward fundraiser
November 8th, 2010
Metropolitan Pavilion
123 West 18th St # 804
New York, NY 10011-4133

Theater Review: "Lombardi" Scores a Touch Down

Lombardi Dan Lauria Plays Lombardi on Broadway
Written by Eric Simonson (Based on David Maraniss's book When Pride Mattered)
Directed by Thomas Kail  
Starring Dan Lauria, Judith Light, Robert Christopher Riley, Bill Dawes, Chris Sullivan, Keith Nobbs

This past September, 2010, marked the 40th anniversary of the passing of Vince Lombardi -- the most famous head coach in NFL history. Another sign that my fellow baby boomers are getting older.

This milestone has not gone unnoticed. The NFL has been instrumental in getting Lombardi’s story on Broadway as a major financial backer of the new play, Lombardi, based on David Maraniss’s bio, When Pride Still Mattered (Simon & Schuster).

Lombardi cleverly examines a random autumn week in the coach’s life as his Green Bay Packers are preparing to take on the San Francisco 49ers. Look Magazine has dispatched a young sports reporter, Michael McCormick (Keith Nobbs), to spend the week with Vince (Dan Lauria) and his wife Marie (Judith Light) for a profile.       

What McCormick does not know is that his editor and Lombardi are old friends and he's there to do a puff piece. Even worse, Look is willing to give the Packers coach the final edit over the piece. It turns out that the gruff Lombardi was sensitive to a harsh article about him that had been published a few weeks earlier in Esquire.       

McCormick represents the public and does a great job of probing Lombardi, not only by interviewing him, but also by speaking with his better half, Marie, and a trio of Packers legends, Dave Robinson (Robert Christopher Riley), Paul Hornung (Bill Dawes) and Jim Taylor (Chris Sullivan). These supporting characters hold the interest as much as does the protagonist.       

Mrs. Lombardi is no shrinking violet and can go toe-to-toe with her boisterous husband if necessary. Clearly, their love was deep and the play makes illustrates that she was his rock when he once considered dropping football for a banking career because he grew tired of only being an assistant coach with the Giants. He couldn’t understand why he had been overlooked by every major college and NFL team until the lowly Green Bay Packers came calling in 1959.     

While she encouraged her husband to take the Green Bay job, life in the NFL’s smallest outpost did not suit her. She tells McCormick that she desperately misses Manhattan and wiles away too much of the time by hitting the liquor cabinet.       

Lombardi does not shy away from key social and economic issues. The coach was never a big fan of individualism and preferred a marine corps-style thinking -- put the best interests of the group first. The positive side of that philosophy meant that the Packers were remarkably free of prejudice at a time when it was rife in football. Louisiana good ole boy Taylor did not think twice about socializing with black linebacker Robinson.       

The negative side of his philosophy was that Vince, who was also the Packers general manager, had trouble dealing with his players when it came to their economic welfare. He goes ballistic when Taylor lets it be known that he has an agent who will negotiate his next contract for him (he  soon gets traded to the expansion team, New Orleans Saints) while Robinson is team’s first union rep and relishes the idea of getting better benefits for the rank-and-file.       

The play takes pains to talk about how the quote most associated with Lombardi -- "Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing!” -- has been misinterpreted over the years. Lombardi was only trying to cultivate a winning attitude and not suggest that a team member should commit harakiri if he was on the losing side.       

Lauria, best known for his role as the dad on The Wonder Years, bears a strong physical resemblance to Lombardi and sounds like him as well. He is so credible in this role that it feel like an NFL team may want to hire him as their next head coach. Light, best remembered for the ABC sitcom Who’s the Boss?, makes Marie a sympathetic character. And as the young reporter, Nobbs recalls a young Tom Cruise.

Lombardi comes in at a sprite 95 minutes and doesn't have an intermission. While it helps to be a football fan, even those with little interest in the gridiron will enjoy this play. If you know little about Lombardi except that his name adorns the Super Bowl trophy and is a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, then you owe it to yourself to get to the Circle In The Square Theater ASAP. 

HBO Sports and NFL Films will air a documentary on the cable network this December about The Coach.

Circle In The Square Theater
1633 Broadway
New York, NY 10019


Kevin's November Digital Week II

Blu-rays of the Week
America Lost and Found: The BBS StoryBBS
BBS (Bert Schneiderman, Bob Rafelson and Steve Blauner) released some of the most ambitious, adult films of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. This boxed set comprises seven of its titles (Head, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Drive He Said, A Safe Place, The Last Picture Show and The King of Marvin Gardens) which, while hit-or-miss artistically, are an interesting snapshot of American cinema four decades ago. The MVPs are Jack Nicholson, who stars in four films, wrote one and directed one; and Rafelson, who directed two and wrote one.
Criterion’s set, with a superb booklet of historical and contextual essays, also features first-rate transfers and lots of extras, including audio commentaries and both new and vintage interviews and footage. Even if the films don’t make the grade individually, this important compilation chronicles one of the great game-changing periods in film history.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed Alice Creed
(Anchor Bay)
This inventive thriller starts out with a misdirection as we see a young heiress being kidnapped by two men and taken to a soundproof room. The rest of J. Blakeson’s film tensely depicts the shifting dynamics among Alice and her kidnapers, and even throws a few wrenches into the mix that, while implausible, keep our interest as Alice shows that she doesn’t plan to play the helpless victim.
Exciting young actress Gemma Atherton (also terrific in Tamara Drewe) literally throws herself into this physically punishing role, baring herself literally and figuratively; Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston are excellent as her kidnappers. Extras include extended and deleted scenes with director commentary and a storyboard featurette.

DVDs of the Week
The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Series
(Time Life)
The bionic man became one of the most popular TV characters during the mid 70s in a country that, paranoid after Vietnam and Watergate, was mistrustful of the government. The Six Million Dollar Man, an instant classic, brought together man and machine, law and order and conspiracy theories in one action-packed hour-long drama.
Lee Majors’ Steve Austin was a new type of hero, with Richard Anderson as his slippery boss and Lindsay Wagner as his lovely romantic interest who got her own spin-off, The Bionic Woman. This massive (and heavy!) boxed set comprises all 100 episodes on 40 DVDs, wiWINNINGth 17 hours of extras including new interviews with Majors and Anderson. The set is available for purchase exclusively at
The Winning Season
Before it turns into a feel-good, sappily uplifting melodrama, this story of a down-and-out single father picked to coach the low-wattage local high school girls’ basketball team juggles offbeat insights into the male-female dynamic with an intriguing look at a beaten man trying to pick himself up off the mat.
Sam Rockwell gives another of his subtle portrayals in the lead role, and there’s superb support from Rob Corddry as the principal and Emma Roberts, Rooney Mara, Emily Rios, Meaghan Witri, Shareeka Epps and Melanie Hinkle as his team. Writer-director James C. Strouse has an ear for truthful dialogue, but lets sentiment to creep in toward the end, which is too bad. No extras.

CDs of the WeekMehta
Bejun Mehta: Ombra Cara—Handel Arias
(Harmonia Mundi) 
One of today’s premier countertenors, Bejun Mehta tackles a nicely-chosen selection of Handel arias that are designed to show off the male soprano voice. Mehta makes it sound easy, giving these vocal excerpts from several Handel operas the needed power and finesse, with highlights from Agrippina and Orlando the most memorable.
Smartly paired with the always sympathetic conductor Rene Jacobs (who leads the Freiburger Barockorchester), Mehta is in superbly controlled voice throughout. Also included is a bonus DVD with a making-of featurette about this fine recording.

Luigi Nono: Intolleranza 1960
The uncompromising Italian modernist composer Luigi Nono (who died in 1990) composed his first stage work in 1960 (the pemiere came in Venice the following year) in his own singular musical idiom. Intolleranza 1960, a rabidly anti-fascist work that includes documentary texts by Bertolt Brecht and French poet and resistance fighter Paul Eluard, has an atonal sound, but amazingly Nono coaxes drama out of what could have been merely dry didacticism.
This 1995 recording, performed by the Stuttgart State Orchesta in Germany, features soloists and a chorus sympathetic to Nono’s sounds, led by conductor Bernhard Kontarsky in what is one of the major achievements in opera from the second half of the 20th century.

Kevin's November Digital Week I

Blu-rays of the Week Night of The Hunter
The Night of the Hunter
Though often overheated and wincingly awful in its bludgeoning obviousness, Charles Laughton’s lone directorial effort (made in 1955 and an immediate flop upon release) has acquired such a growing cult that it’s now routinely considered a “classic.” It’s far from that, although Robert Mitchum has some over-the-top fun as the preacher who preys on lonely and wealthy widows—too bad he’s up against Laughton’s hammy handling of the other actors and the blatant symbolism of his good vs. evil parable.
Criterion’s two-disc Blu-ray release (which gives Stanley Cortez’s black-and-white compositions a shimmering look for the first time on home video) is typically loaded: a commentary, several retrospective featurettes and interviews are on disc one, while disc two is given over to a thorough 160-minute documentary, Charles Laughton Directs, with fascinating outtakes and on-set footage.

The Sondheim Birthday Concert Sondheim Birthday Concert
To celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday last March, the New York Philharmonic pulled out all the stops for a star-studded trip down memory lane, with highlights from a career still going strong after a half-century. David Hyde Pierce is our delightful host, Paul Gemignani conducts the Philharmonic in gorgeous renditions of Sondheim’s music (sounding splendid in DTS-HD audio), and veterans of Sondheim’s classic shows from West Side Story and Company to Sunday in the Park with George and Follies, perform the songs that made him an American original.
Karen Olivo high-steps alluringly during “America,” George Hearn and Michael Cerveris “duet” with Patti Lupone on “A Little Priest,” and a sextet of glamorously red-gowned divas (Bernadette Peters, Donna Murphy, Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, Lupone and Elaine Stritch) belt out several signature songs. Sondheim appears at the end, appropriately humbled by this outpouring of affection and artistry.

DVDs of the Week
Bill Moyers: Genesis—a Living Conversation and On Faith and Reason Bill Moyers: Genesis
These two boxed sets illuminate among the most compelling issues of our time: the first book of the Bible and our post-Sept. 11 world. Genesis consists of Moyers leading discussions with dozens of people, from deep-thinking scholars to ordinary men and women, in how the stories of the Bible affect the modern world; Faith finds Moyers interviewing renowned writers such as Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis and Margaret Atwood about the seeming gap in the 21st century between religion and science.
Both sets are formidable (Genesis takes up more than nine hours, while Faith runs for nearly seven hours), but that’s appropriate considering the weighty subject matter.
The Boondocks: The Complete Third Season
The no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners approach of this animated comedy, based on Aaron McGruder’s politically incorrect comic strip told from a black point of view, continues in this series’ third season, available in a three-disc set filled with special features like commentaries and episode introductions as irreverent as the shows themselves.
Of the 15 episodes included (all of them are uncensored so that every “n” and “f” word is heard, unlike during their TV showings), the highlight is the very first one, “It’s a Black President, Huey Freeman,” which takes aim at the responses from the white and black communities to Obama’s election, couched in subtle satirical jabs at the documentaries of German director Werner Herzog (who, in on the joke, appears as himself, along with Bill Maher).
Darius Rucker
CDs of the Week
Darius Rucker: Charleston, SC 1966
(Capitol Nashville)
After the demise of Hootie and the Blowfish, singer Darius Rucker found an improbable second career as a popular country artist: his first CD was an unexpected hit, leading to this new recording. Although it’s more of the same, mostly upbeat country tunes that are distinguished by Rucker’s characteristically burnished vocals, there are a couple of keepers.
“I Don’t Care” is a fun, politically incorrect duet written and sung with Brad Paisley), while the tongue-in-cheek “Southern State of Mind” takes off from Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” to unapologetically state Rucker’s case: “I could be up in Ohio or back home in Caroline/No matter what state I’m in, I’m in a Southern State of Mind.”

Sondheim on Sondheim: Original Broadway Cast RecordingSondheim on Sondheim
(PS Classics)

Sondheim on Sondheim wedded the Broadway composer‘s own words, in pre-recorded interviews, with renditions of his greatest songs, along with obscure and rarely-heard ones (and even a new one, the aptly-titled “God“). Although this CD misses director James Lapine’s visually dazzling stage sleight-of-hand, the remarkable voices that make up the show are present and accounted for.
There's the always-delectable Vanessa Williams, who makes “Good Thing Going” from Merrily We Roll Along her own, and who teams with legend Barbara Cook for a wonderful duet of “Losing My Mind” (from Follies) and “Not a Day Goes By” (also from Merrily). And Cook herself gives a beautifully reticent rendition of Sondheim’s greatest hit, “Send in the Clowns.”

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