The day after President Barack Obama “came out” in support of same-sex marriage, I surveyed the nation’s front-page newspaper coverage of the historic decision. It’s astonishing how the story was covered: While the majority of the nation’s states ran with a similar narrative headline “Obama Backs Gay Marriage,” there were numerous dailies that either ignored the story altogether, or added a negative slant. See for yourself… *Not a word… Absurd… Yes, seals are much more significant than a national shift in civil rights…More shameful ignorance… ignoring the biggest news story of the week…Outright blasphemy, as newspapers add their personal conservative slant to the “news.”Straight-ahead news coverage of the story by some of the nation’s major dailies (the WSJ actually surprised me, given its consistently anti-Obama editorial coverage)…I was proud to see that my hometown newspaper The News & Advance in Lynchburg, Va., a community mired in conservatism, played the story “straight.” *
It’s awfully nice being referenced as a source in a national news story—except when you’re MIS-referenced. The Miami Herald ran a piece about William Levy’s rehearsals for ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, referring to a story posted here on The Smoking Nun. The dumbass cub reporter referred to us as The Smoking GUN… that other website that reports celebrity arrests. Thanks for nothing, Herald! I sure would appreciate you adding your two cents to the story’s comments, informing them that as a Smoking Nun reader, it would be nice if they credited the correct source. See story here.
A page 1 story in today’s Wall Street Journal reveals that the “GOP Seeks To Keep Focus on Economy.” Well, I’ll be damned. What happened? Gay bashing and religious bed-wetting not working out so well for the party, after all? They’ve actually recognized that the majority of Americans believe in civil rights—and want the economy fixed, instead of focusing on anti-abortion and same-sex marriage. Frankly, I’m stunned.
The piece shares, “Republican leaders cautioned that the party’s presidential candidates risk losing ground with voters if they keep a focus on social issues that seem peripheral to the public’s overriding worry: the fragile economy. Some voiced dismay that candidates have taken to discussing social issues that consistently appear toward the bottom of surveys ranking the public’s concerns.”
So wait… You mean Republican candidates are going to—for the first time—talk about the need for jobs, an improved economy, the home mortgage collapse and lower fuel costs? Wow, they must have done a lot of research to come up with that.
The word “simpleton” just keeps floating across my eyes. Fortunately, one reason the GOP has never discussed these issues is simply because they have no better solutions than Democrats. So I hope that Romney, Gingrich and Santorum continue to focus on tearing one another to bits, as Obama (and the nation) sits back and recognizes that for the past eight months, they’ve all been talking out of their collective ass. The fact is, the only things the Republican candidates have in their bag of tricks are Jesus and fear. *
Oh, to love the music of Celine Dion in the 1990s… In her hitmaking prime, we who savored every note of the skyscraping ballads, adored those gooey love songs, who proclaimed with fierce conviction that Celine was the finest vocalist alive… were the tragically unhip.
After so long, I gave up defending my love for Celine and simply savored my private heaven. One day you’ll see, I reasoned…
You’re talking to a guy who listened to The Carpenters and Barry Manilow when he was 10. Being the dude with cool music tastes has never been a priority. For god’s sake, you’d think Celine was born to be a gay idol, but nope, even the majority of my comrades sneered she was too bombastic for a queer palette. Huh?
And take a look at Celine now. At age 43, with her second Las Vegas residency, she is the belle of the ball, the undisputed queen of the Strip. Following the launch of the show in March, I was stunned at critics’ universal praise for Celine—and the accolades continue to roll in. Now we’re reading headlines like “It’s simply her time.”
This is an artist who, for a decade, had barbs tossed her way by most every published writer vying to prove their “critical” tastes were too cultivated to praise the likes of “My Heart Will Go On.” (Hmm, there was one certain Billboard journalist whose acclaim was framed around his praise of artists that mastered melodies and capable vocals, without regard for their hip factor.)
For heaven’s sake, top pop male artist of 2011 Bruno Mars performed a cover of “My Heart Will Go On” at last week’s fundraiser “Hilarity for Charity,” sponsored by Seth Rogan, which flanked the society pages nationwide Thursday, January 12.
Below the jump is yet another example of how the tide has turned. This beautifully adept piece appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal January 20. I could not have put it better myself. (It’s edited down; full version here). *
CELINE DION SHOW A SLICK, FRESH CELEBRATION OF LIVE MUSICIANSHIP
By Mike Weatherford
It’s simply her time. “Celine” will be the single name associated with this era of Las Vegas, as Elvis, Frank and Wayne were with theirs. And there is still time to talk about it in the present tense.
If you see the singer this weekend, or again starting Feb. 22, you will be seeing her in her prime. Only video clips remain to remind us of the young power balladeer. “Where Does My Heart Beat Now?” Not anywhere near this song, thank you.
But the genius of this show is reaching beyond the star’s own catalog of hits, as all good Vegas shows do. From Ella Fitzgerald to Michael Jackson and James Bond movie themes, there are songs for everyone to like.And at 43, Dion is just the right age to sing them all. She is not yet facing the years of diminishing vocal power and is still young enough to flash some leg in her stiletto heels without inciting snickers.
But this show will probably be the city’s best entertainment news this year, just as it was when it opened last year. What emerges from a second viewing is how veteran TV special director Ken Ehrlich provides a visual to go with almost every song, yet it doesn’t come off as overkill in the manner of Dion’s first Caesars Palace opus, “A New Day.” The underlying theme is a celebration of live musicianship; a flotilla of players, including a 16-piece string section, glide in and out on risers or pop up in small combinations.
Oh yes, the star. Dion’s voice still tends to skip the midrange, as so many power ballads do when their whispery verses explode into Olympian choruses. Dion tells us Carole King wrote “The Reason” for her, and you wonder if that mellow singer-songwriter penned it with those very low/high/nothing-in-between dynamics in mind.
Singing Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself,” Dion reaches with one hand to grab that word “self” and pull it right out of her gut. And when she blows the roof off with an extended “anym-o-o-o-r-e,” she treats herself to a celebratory fist pump.And yet she gamely branches into skat singing for “(If You Can’t Sing It) You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini).” And the peak of the evening isn’t the obligatory “Titanic” theme, but the subdued French tear-jerker “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (known in English cover versions as “If You Go Away”).
Some fans on this night might have been disappointed that Dion stuck to scripted banter instead of going off on a tangent to unload what’s really on her mind, as she has been known to do. But they will come back. And if she does it next time, it will be one of those Vegas memories we talk about.
1. The 10th Anniversary of 9/11: The annual Ground Zero gathering maintained its circus atmosphere as a primary post for political grandstanding and VIP passage to the never-ending mourning surrounding a disaster I am ready to move past. Now that the original site of the World Trade Center has become a giant black hole and a permanent marker of death & destruction, I’d like to believe that in 2012 we can at last celebrate a new building that leads us into the future. At year-end, it has reached 90 out of 105 stories, ultimately peaking at 1,368 feet. The original Twin Towers were 110 stories each, totaling 1,350 feet.
2. New York Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage: After a tenacious, grueling battle against Republicans by N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York became the sixth and largest state to legalize gay marriage in late June. A month later, 659 marriage licenses were issued and 484 ceremonies performed. Hopefully, even if a homo-hating Republican is elected Prez in 2012, societal progression will have become too entrenched to turn back the hands of time.
3. Occupy Wall Street: The wonders of civil disobedience took root in Wall Street’s Zucotti Park in mid-September before spreading across the country and around the globe—and then ultimately imploding as cities cracked down on protesters, including NYC, where Mayor Nanny Bloomberg declared that the rallying was hurting tourism. Waaaaah! If nothing else was accomplished, at least the nation’s youth learned their voices can be heard (Bank of America certainly learned its lesson with ATM fees). It’s about time these darned kids got their collective noses out of their Xbox 360’s for a month or two, papa Nun says.
4. Anthony Weiner’s resignation: The congressional veteran decimated his political career after a Twitter sex scandal in which he Tweeted his winkie and got caught red-handed. He and his wife—who knows she’s in for a bounty of Fifth Avenue shopping forevermore (and like most politico wives, knows they’ve got a damn good gig)—welcomed a baby boy in December.
5. Mother Nature: Within one week’s time this fall, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake made the Empire State Building sway, followed by Hurricane Irene, which shut down the city’s mass transit system, thanks to Nanny Bloomberg’s overreaction. Oh, and it rained some, too. While the national press obsessed on the potential havoc in NYC—which never happened—horrid damage tore apart parts of the southeast and more so, the Northeast, where Connecticut residents were without power for as long as three damn weeks.
6. Abduction and murder of Leiby Kletzky: Cops says accused killer Levi Aron confessed to dismembering the boy and keeping the feet inside his freezer. A gruesome crime.
7. French Politico Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested, incarcerated and all but convicted by the U.S. press over grandiose accusations that he raped a midtown hotel maid. She turned out to be a lifetime schemer, liar and a hooker, to boot. Strauss-Kahn was ultimately released and, what do you know, the press suddenly lost interest in the story. Lies and fairy tales… by the sensationalist millennial media.
8. Acquittal of the “Rape Cops”: Another tale of a woman who assumed that accusing any man of a sex crime would automatically lead to conviction and ultimate riches. Despite the fact that the accuser was drunk out of her mind, blacked out during the entire alleged event while a lack of forensic evidence cleared the cops, righteous man-haters gathered on the steps of the NYC courthouse, proclaiming that men are inherently evil. Sorry, ladies, there needs to be proof in the pudding.
9. Cathie Black Education System Fiasco: Nanny Bloomberg was in charge of a one-man search committee to appoint his personal pal to head the city’s public school system, despite having no experience in the field. She lasted 95 days before educators brought her down in a rare coup against the almighty billionaire’s whims.
10. The escape of an Egyptian cobra from the Bronx Zoo: She got her own Twitter page, was named Mia and six days later, was back in custody. Yawn… Really? That’s the best New York City can do with a mere 10 stories to mark the year? *
Four, three, two, one… As we edge ever closer to Christmas, I offer one of the most beautiful, emotive Christmas songs ever recorded: Celine Dion singing “O Holy Night.”
As I previously noted two years ago, in the south, folks are special. And lucky. Whereas in the rest of the world, we just die, people in the Bible Belt evolve to higher ground. Take, for example, these heartfelt tributes from the News & Advance daily newspaper (names are changed to keep me from going proceeding immediately to hell):
On Nov. 18, The Lord stopped by Bay Parks Nursing Home in Bronx, NY, to call Nellie Frances Grey home to rest… She leaves to cherish her memory a host of devoted nieces and nephews, one sister-in-law and her many friends.
James “Jim” Hillerberg reunited with his parents, Hershal & Claire, and his brothers, Paul & Harry, and was placed at the feet of Jesus for healing on Monday, Nov. 21. Jim lived in Plaquemine, LA, with his Paw-Paw Bergman for two years as a child.
Deacon William Lincoln Bennett of Bedford departed this life early Sunday morning. God granted him the desires of his heart to live his final days in the comfort of his home.
Zackary Dustin Moss went to be with the Lord Monday. A Celebration of Life will be held at Tharp Funeral Chapel. The family asks that children’s toys be given away in his memory. He was very excited about the upcoming benefit his band was putting on for God’s Pantry.
I also learned something new: In the South, black folks have a code: Whenever you see “departed” instead of “died,” it’s an insider term for African Americans. Who knew?
As expected, Amy Winehouse‘s posthumous album will be out in time for the holiday season. While papa works on the singer’s biography, Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, will hit retail Dec. 6. It’s surely not a stretch to predict the 12-track collection will launch at No. 1 on the album chart.
According to the U.K. Guardian, the CD comprises seven new songs, as well live opener “Best Friends”; an early take of U.K. hit “Valerie”; a demo of “Wake Up Alone”; a cover of the Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” (sounds fab!); and the already released Tony Bennett duet “Body & Soul.”
The newspaper adds of the new songs, “Several are based around demos or early versions of songs, to which Remi subsequently added vocal parts and backing tracks. There are times when her vocal sounds more like a sketch, even if she was an instinctive artist who appreciated the magic of capturing a first take.”
Winehouse died July 23 from alcohol poisoning.
As I’m going through everything in my apartment cleaning, decluttering, tossing, reorganizing and streamlining, the age-old photo albums from my youth finally came down from that top shelf I could never reach. At some point, I’ll start leafing through the goods, but one page actually fell out of an album and made me giggle like a… schoolboy.
When I was a senior at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., I wrote a twice-weekly column, “A Closer Look,” as Features Editor for the school newspaper The Breeze. After the first few columns failed to fuel much impact, my editor asked me, “What’s something you’re really passionate about? Something people don’t necessarily understand?”
As we brainstormed, I offered, “Well, I’ve always thought The Beatles are overrated. I’ve never understood why they get so much credit for changing the world when it was producer George Martin who turned them from a rockabilly group into a boy band.”
“You’re fucking kidding me,” editor Ian said. “That’s what you’re going to write about.”
To say the column was an effective calling card is a vast understatement. Within the week, I was the most hated man at JMU. I’d walk across campus and hear, “Fuck you, Charles,” while pissed-off co-eds shouted from dorm windows, “John Lennon lives!” I’d go to parties, where beer would be spilled on my shoes. Think I struck a nerve much?
The next week, the campus newspaper’s cartoonist published the lovely image below, which only fortified universal indignation for my viewpoint. But you know what? “A Closer Look” was a hit for the rest of the school year… perhaps outdone only by a three-part page 1 series I wrote for The Breeze about “Gays On Campus” the following spring.
Ah, another golden memory: The night before Part 1 hit campus, my journo prof—who wholly supported the series—said, “I hope you’re ready. This probably isn’t going to go over well” in the conservative Reagan-era Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He was correct: In Part 3, I quoted the university prez saying, “There are no homosexuals at this school.” For real.