This Week for Adriennewrites: Rocky Horror Picture Show, South Side Parenting

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: Let's Do The Time Warp Again:  L-R:  Staz Nair, Victoria Justice, Laverne Cox, Ryan McCartan and Annaleigh Ashford in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: Let's Do The Time Warp Again, premiering Thursday, Oct. 20 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Steve Wilkie/FOX
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again: L-R: Staz Nair, Victoria Justice, Laverne Cox, Ryan McCartan and Annaleigh Ashford in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again, premiering Thursday, Oct. 20 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Steve Wilkie/FOX

By now you probably know that I am a contributor to Forbes, where I cover TV, film and music for the online portal of the business magazine. I’ve written seven stories so far, mostly about television, since TV is hot right now as the fall shows solidify their followings and their ratings. Tonight I live tweeted the Rocky Horror Picture Show reboot, which aired on Fox, and I enjoyed following along with other tweeters. Many were a bit pissed that the remake deviated from the original. But, I already knew what to expect.

Lou Adler, the executive producer of the original Rocky Horror and the EP of the reboot, told me  that “what all the critics say is true.” He also said that the original Rocky wasn’t the best movie ever and was certainly “rough around the edges.”  He expected it to be panned by many, but he also expected it to be well received.

To that end, the show was a trending topic Thursday night- even as the Al Smith Dinner trended and the NFL game aired on TV. In the end, Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, was magnificent, and I predict that lots of gold and silver costumes will be on the streets this Halloween.

In other news, I’ve started a new website, southsideparenting.com, where I detail all the cool places to go and fun things to do with your kids on the South Side of Chicago. I created this site because I wish such a site had existed when my oldest was too young for school but old enough for field trips with his mommy. Rather than wait for someone else to figure out that the South Side is pretty damn cool, I decided to make my own site.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter. I’ll send you free writing tips!

 

Behind the Story: Chance the Rapper and that Kit Kat Jingle

Chance the Rapper stars in a new Kit Kat commercial. Image courtesy Kit Kat.
Chance the Rapper stars in a new Kit Kat commercial. Image courtesy Kit Kat.

Chance has a new song out and it’s not a rap, it’s a jingle. For Kit Kat.

I was curious as to how all this came about, so I talked with Kit Kat officials to learn more. I wrote all about it for Forbes.

“We’re in the process of trying to modernize the Kit Kat brand, not just in terms of what we’re communicating but how we’re communicating,” says Ian Norton, director of marketing for Kit Kat, which is distributed in the U.S. by The Hershey Company. “We were looking for an influencer who was the voice of his generation, but we wanted to stay leveraged and connected to our core Kit Kat fan. He is the positive voice for the generation. He’s a multi talented artist so he was really great to work with.”

Chance had a great week last week, what with the BET Hip Hop Awards win and performing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. I love to see A fellow South Sider doing big things.

Then this happened.

Chance the Rapper Shout out to Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

As a writer it’s always cool to get a shout out. Can’t wait for that sit down…

BTW… if you read this far and you love Chicago the way that I do, head over to my other site, Southside Parenting, for a new look at the South Side.

 

Remembering Doug Banks

The soundtrack of my early life was pretty much curated by Doug Banks. The legendary radioman dominated Chicago airwaves in my formative years, and I’ll never forget getting dressed for school and listening to Doug and Bonnie. Oh. How they laughed and giggled and carried on. Pure joy in the am. I met Sinbad through the Doug Banks Show. I learned about Jodeci and got my news on Anita Hill and experienced some of my first political discussions by listening to Banks.

Back in the day, you could listen to Eddie and Jobo on B-96. And I liked them, but they could be oblivious to people of color at times. And other jocks were just assholes. Straight up. Banks played the music I liked and had a good spirit. You could tell just by listening.

All these memories of slathering on lotion and selecting a high school trendy outfit while listening to Doug flew through my mind yesterday as I wrote an obituary for Ebony.com. And this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see that The Washington Post quoted heavily from my piece.

Continue reading “Remembering Doug Banks”

Taraji P. Henson + November’s Essence magazine = a pretty damn fun cover story

Woot!

My first ever Essence cover story on none other than the indomitable Taraji P. Henson. It’s on sale now. Yall should pick it up. 😉

Posted by Adrienne Samuels Gibbs on Thursday, October 22, 2015

I’ve recently had a lot of assignments that involve the craft of acting. The nitty gritty. The actual work that goes into helping you, the viewer, suspend belief for a half hour, an hour or three. I’ve also interviewed a lot of actors. A ton. Most of them. But it wasn’t until the last two years that I really got interested in exactly how they do what they do. I blame it on Vera J. Katz, a retired Howard University professor who specializes in directing and acting. (I’m also editing Katz’s memoir and instructional manual, so this whole experience has been an education.)  Katz has tutored a number of actors out there on the scene, including Taraji P. Henson, who is Essence’s November cover star.  That said, when I sat down and talked with Taraji, we had plenty more to talk about than for previous stories.

The continuum is pretty cool. We first chatted in 2009 for a joint cover with Taraji and Viola Davis for Ebony. Then I pitched a July 2011 cover featuring Tyrese and Taraji for the newly-created Sexy Singles cover that now runs annually in Ebony magazine. (I actually created the Sexy Singles franchise for Ebony while I was senior editor there.) So, for that second cover story, I spend time in Hollywood with Tyrese and Taraji – separately – so I could weave together their rags-to-riches stories that kicked off with everybody’s hood fav, Baby Boy.

Fast forward to 2014. Taraji is destroying TV as Cookie on Fox’s Empire. The show is a huge hit, so of course it makes sense for Taraji to cover Essence magazine. And, the shoot is in my hometown: Chicago. I loved that the editors decided to showcase the beauty of my city and some of the little known elements therein. The shoot was at a swanky helipad on the West Side. (The Real West Side, though the folks trying to rename it “west loop” and gentrify it are too new to Chicago to understand what they’re getting themselves into…)

Ssssssh. Don't tell anyone I took this quick pic on set at Empire.
Ssssssh. Don’t tell anyone I took this quick pic on set at Empire.

Taraji surprised me with her discussion of the craft and of the various methods she has studied. People think that this stuff is easy, but it’s not. We talked a bit about “the moment before,” an acting term that means you have to visualize and believe in whatever just happened to your character before the scene begins. In term, if you do this right, your acting will be more believable, more like real life. And that’s what Taraji does.

You can read more about her “moment before,” why Lee Daniels stopped auditions after Taraji showed up and why she’s putting her career first in November’s Essence magazine. 

On Stage at The Frunchroom – South Side Style

The Frunchroom
The Frunchroom

A strange thing happens when you visit The Frunchroom. You learn all kinda stuff you never knew that you didn’t know.

Allow me to explain.

I’ve lived near Mother McCauley – a Catholic girls high school in Chicago – all my life and had no idea that MM was a feminist well before the word became a trendy word to embrace. I’ve lived near Hardboiled coffee for some time and had never quite managed to stop in, despite the fact that the signage is ultra cool, and I know the owner plays records all day long. I also learned that I’ve lived in a food dessert, and that income has little to do with access to good, whole, fresh foods when it comes to living in a black neighborhood. Then there was the guy from Bridgeport who bikes all the time, even to Rainbow Beach on the South Shore – a place that I love but have never, ever considered riding a bike to.

That was The Frunchroom, a place where a few fine folks gathered to read a story or two – most of it true. It’s a Chicago tradition, and I’m glad to have been a part of it. I read an essay about the ghetto gold of Evergreen Plaza and how I coveted that stuff. The Plaza of my youth is long gone, but the memories are fresh, and it seemed that everyone nodded in agreement when I brought up the now-closed movie theatre, the cookie shop, the Jesus store and the arcade that was in front of that Orange Julius. (Frunchroom is a Chicago thing, in case you were wondering. It’s all in how we pronounce it…)

My Frunchroom compadres were assembled by Scott Smith, aka “@ourmaninChicago” on Twitter. You should follow him. He’s a thinker and has a blog worth reading. (And I’m not saying that just because he invited me to read.) Who else was there? Natalie Moore, a WBEZ reporter and author who read a chapter from her upcoming book about contemporary segregation on the South Side; Dmitry Samarov, a writer and artist whose sketches adorn the walls of Hardboiled; Jen Sabella, a McCauley grad and the director of social media and engagement over at DNAinfo.com; and Chuck Sudo, the former Editor-in-Chief of Chicagoist and the before mentioned  biker.

You can actually read a write-up of the series here, at DNAinfo.com. Howard Ludwig wrote it. You should follow him too.

Beverly is on the far South Side. I stress FAR. Most people don’t even know that this is Chicago. And that’s a shame. But with the new Frunchroom series, the upcoming Beverly Art Walk and the revamped Beverly/Morgan Park Home Tour, I bet a lot of North Siders – and others – might come to see the far Southwest Side in a new light.

I’ll be posting that Evergreen Plaza essay soonish. Stay tuned for more.

Ledisi stopped by Mahalia Jackson’s grave before singing ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’

Image courtesy of Ledisi.
Image courtesy of Ledisi.

I was talking with Ledisi about her ongoing “Intimate Truth” concert tour, and I certainly didn’t expect for her to provide any extra details about the so-called Grammy snub. But she did. (You know the original story right? It’s from February 2015, where Beyonce sang “Precious Lord” instead of Ledisi, as part of the nod to “Selma.” Some fans got upset because Ledisi actually starred as Mahalia Jackson and sang the song in the movie.)

Anyhoo… Below you can read a portion of what the sultry songstress told me for a story that I penned for the Chicago Sun-Times:

I could not find a studio in L.A. to record the song! I couldn’t record in San Francisco. I had only one day I could do it. I had to go home. I flew to Louisiana because there was a studio there. When I landed I went to visit Mahalia’s gravesite, and laid flowers and thanked her for the opportunity. And then we recorded the song.

She never directly mentioned Beyonce by name, but did go on to say that she could respond to the issue with grace because she went about it in her own way and in a respectful way.  Asking permission of the dead. Can’t hurt, right?

The Intimate Truth Tour also features RaheemDeVaughn and Leela James, two stars that don’t get enough ink, adds Ledisi.  She also added that having drama shouldn’t be a requirement for getting ink in a newspaper.

“We don’t support our own enough,” she says. “Only when there’s drama is when we rise up… Can we rise up all the time?

And for the Chicagoans who like to go back to her very first songs and pretty much hear the entire catalogue, Ledisi (later, to me,) added a call for my South Side friends and fans to simmer down. “Chicago folk go all the way back to the very beginning. I’m not doing that. Please stop asking for it. I still have an album to promote yall!”

About Ben Carson’s comments on prison and homosexuality…

Ben Carson is brilliant.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the movie “Gifted Hands,” which details how he rose from a less-than-stellar childhood and blossomed into a life as a celebrated neurosurgeon. We used to learn about Ben Carson during Black History Month at church. He made us proud. Since then, he’s also blossomed into a potential GOP presidential candidate and in that area, he’s certainly facing challenges. Chief amongst them are some of the things that he says.

Earlier this week he made a statement on CNN that seemed to link sexuality with sexual preference with jail time, which indirectly references  sexual assault. He essentially said that homosexuality is a choice and as proof of this, he said that prison is proof that heterosexuals can turn into homosexuals.

Yikes.

It was the kind of statement that – as a viewer – made me stop because I knew it would become one of those slow train wrecks. And it did. Once social media’s finest caught wind of the comments, the entire situation went downhill. You can watch the CNN story on the whole fiasco here. Carson also apologized but the damage was done.

Here’s the quote everyone’s up in arms about:

“Because a lot of people went to prison straight and came out gay.” – Ben Carson.

Takepart.com is covering this from every angle.  I wrote a story for them about the very real issue of prison rape and the laws created to stop it. There’s a lot to unpack and yet more to do. In part, here’s what I found out and reported for the website.

Mostly because of the law, we now know a lot about the pervasiveness of the problem. The government has collected thousands of reported cases of sexual assault within prisons. It has also found that correctional officers commit nearly half of reported prison sexual assaults. “PREA gives us really tremendous tools,” says Amy Fettig, senior staff counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project. “But implementing a new system always has some problems. It’s going to need refinement.”

 

Let’s talk about it. Hit me up on Twitter @adriennewrites or on Facebook @adriennesamuelsgibbs

 

On The Run Concert Recap

This review, by Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, first appeared on voices.suntimes.com.

— — — — —

When the king and queen of pop culture take the stage together, the results are flawless. Beyonce and Jay-Z rocked out a crowd of nearly 60,000 with a set list of some 45 songs that lasted around 2.5 hours at Soldier Field Thursday night. More than a concert, the “On The Run” tour was entertainment. Beyonce’s windblown hair, bedazzled costumes and spiky heels only added to the glamour of the evening as she and her husband performed duets (for lack of a better word) of the rap and R&B nature.

They kicked it off with “Bonnie and Clyde” at around 9:30 p.m. Expert mixing wove in “Upgrade U” and then “Crazy in Love.” The songs weren’t performed in their entireties. It was more like Beyonce and Jay gave the best snippets of their hits in an effort to keep things moving and to keep the crowd guessing. That treatment worked, allowing the power couple to breeze through 10 more hits (“Show me what you got,” “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” and “Tom Ford,” to name just a few) which increasingly revved up the crowd and even caused the metal beams of the top tiers of the football stadium seating to sway.

The couple worked the overwhelmingly diverse crowd into a frenzy. After a furious and tightly danced routine, Beyonce often would do nothing more than stand still – booty cocked out – and raise an eyebrow to illicit screams. And Jay had only to shout out the South Side to coax out a crowd roar that needed no meter to measure.

Beyonce’s dancers, (including captain Ashley Everett, who blazed bright with her shock of red hair) were as much the show as Queen Bey. They slithered. They jacked. They stepped. They profiled. They “danced hard,” as some might say on the South Side. Jay, as usual, had no dancers (except for two short transitions between songs.) On those rare occasions, he “borrowed” Bey’s ladies and two gents (the fabulous brothers who ought to be called the Wonder Twins, with their capoeira-graceful moves.)

Was it the Beyonce show featuring Jay-Z? Or was it the Jay-Z show featuring Beyonce? I’d argue that Jay-Z was the act who came on between Bey’s songs so that she could change clothes. Then again, mid-concert, it seemed the reverse was true. The couple, who are dealing with rumors of divorce, seemed to present an open book with their home movie-centric interludes shown over two to three big screens. But Bey’s rendition of the infidelity-swirled “Resentment” slowed things all the way down. As she has in other performances in the On The Run tour, she changed the words of the song to reflect the dalliances of a man she’d known for 12 years – which sounds amazingly like Jay and was sung so sadly that people began to cry.

Beyonce.jpg”>Beyonce performs during the On The Run tour at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on July 20, 2014 in New Orleans. | Photo by Robin Haper/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/AP Images Beyonce performs during the On The Run tour at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on July 20, 2014 in New Orleans. | Photo by Robin Haper/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/AP Images

Beyonce surprised with eloquent sound production, and interesting dual-location staging, that added new life to old hits. “Bow Down/I Been On,” already a banger, seemed even more… heartfelt when laced with extra guitar licks from the all-lady band. Then “Flawless” was well, flawless, and then Jay stepped in with “On To the Next One,” which is still the best you-don’t-matter-but-I-do song I’ve ever heard. Despite the cavernous size of the venue, Jay’s words clearly rang through the 55-degree air. I’ve been to Bears games and could barely understand whatever is said on the loudspeakers, so Jay’s extraordinary vocal clarity was astounding given the sheer size of the space and the noise of the crowd.

This was a tightly scripted concert which didn’t much deviate from performances held in other cities. Beyonce only occasionally shouted out the Chi. Jay did much better, frequently asking the city to raise their hands, or throw up a diamond or finish a verse. He even quipped: “You know I had to slow it down for all the weed smokers tonight,” he said.”Yeah, I smell it.”

Other standouts include “Partition” which had people running back from the bathroom (the concert, frankly, had gotten slow just before this point) to see Beyonce spin on a stripper pole in her boudoir outfit and slink sexily around a chair, even performing some moves usually seen on the Las Vegas strip. Jay got no parts of that though. In fact, though the storyline of the concert was about the couple, complete with home movies, Mr. and Mrs. Carter first openly touched – awkwardly – at the finish of “Drunk in Love,” which was midway through the show. They exchanged more affection near the end, after a sweetly-sad rendition of “Young Forever.” Sweet because the music stopped and the crowd chimed in to finish the song. Sad because some 60,000 people, mostly under 35, were singing about living forever. And we all know know that can’t be, and yet in that moment, under the spell of Beyonce’s flowing hair and her powerful voice, and listening to the empowering wordsmithing of Jay, it does seem that anything is possible.

Set List

03 Bonnie & Clyde
Upgrade U
Crazy in Love
Show Me What You Got
Diamonds from Sierra Leone
I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)
Tom Ford
Run the World (Girls)
Flawless
Yoncé
Jigga My Nigga
Dirt Off Your Shoulder
Naughty Girl
Big Pimpin’
Ring the Alarm
On to the Next One
Clique
Diva
Baby Boy
U Don’t Know
Ghost
Haunted
No Church in the Wild
Drunk in Love
Public Service Announcement
Why Don’t You Love Me
Holy Grail
Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit
Beach is Better
Partition
99 Problems
If I Were a Boy
Ex-Factor
Song Cry
Resentment
Love on Top
Izzo (H.O.V.A.)
Niggas in Paris
Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
Hard Knock Life
Pretty Hurts
Part II (On the Run)
Young Forever
Halo
Lift Off

VIDEO FROM MIAMI

— Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

Russell Simmons took me to yoga class, and I became a better interviewer because of it

Everyone’s talking about “mindfulness.” It’s a new-old sort of Eastern-based mental practice that appears to be coming back into vogue in the greater population. Essentially, to me, it means slowing down to smell the roses, remember to breath and center yourself. And when done correctly, many of the things that stress us out, give us heart attacks and feed our  bad attitudes tend to dissipate.

Mindfulness was the subject of my latest “The 312” column for the Chicago Sun-Times. You can read that here. But that column honestly is only the tip of the iceberg. I was very interested in what Yvonne Furth and Molly Redberg-Leshnock had to say about mindfulness as a tool for business success. The former executive of Draft FCB worked with her colleague, a local university professor, to combine yoga and mindfulness practices with solid business ideals in their recently-published book “From the Yoga Mat to the Corner Office.

In part, they advise us all to slow down enough to be conscious of our breathing, to compliment someone else everyday and to take the time to stretch and draw strength. Furth advises to live in the moment. Our minds are always working overtime, she says, so try to quell the franticness and slow down. Be in the now.

Russell Simmons is a person who seems to have perfected these ideals. His latest book, “SUCCESS THROUGH STILLNESS: Meditation Made Simple” shows how he practices what he preachesIn fact, I know this first hand. I’ll never forget when Simmons invited me to yoga class with him. I’d never participated in yoga before, and we were supposed to be conducting an interview for a magazine story. But, the sun was setting and he said that he has an unbreakable commitment to his yoga practice, so he would prefer to go to class and then conduct an interview. Would I mind going with him?

Of course not! I hopped in the car with him and off we went to a north side studio in Chicago. He also sent an assistant off to buy me a yoga outfit so that I could also participate. I certainly didn’t expect to sweat and breath and stretch before my interview, but it worked out well. He introduced me to yoga, my mind became still and focused, and as a result, I had an excellent story. (That night also included going to a swanky club, having a vegan dinner with a bunch of hip hop stars and Russell having a conversation with my then-boyfriend who called during dinner. I was absolutely mortified that Russell asked my then-boyfriend why I wasn’t engaged yet. But… I’m married now – eight years strong – to the same man, so there you go. Russell even sent me a congratulations text after Mr. Man popped the question.)

It was interesting to me that Russell put mindfulness and meditation above conducting an interview or anything else. He wasn’t being selfish. He was taking care of self. There’s a difference. He also wasn’t flustered about running late, and unlike some other CEOs I’ve met, he just didn’t have that uber ego. He wasn’t flustered about anything and he didn’t have to constantly tell people he was important.

Russell took his time to get centered and he moved on. I learned a lot from that experience. Since then, I’ve found that interviews go better when I take the time to relax and breath before the talk. They go even better when I’m centered for the entire week, as opposed to just the day of the interview. I’m less nervous and for some reason, people really open up to me. (For proof of that, see my Ebony cover story with Tina and Erica Campbell, aka Grammy-winning gospel duo Mary Mary. During the interview, Tina said that she tried to stab her husband with kitchen knife after he admitted to cheating on her with a family friend. WHOA. Let’s just say I missed my flight from LA back to Chicago. And that story? Powerful stuff. You can also read it on my portfolio page and also more about it here.)

All that to say, mindfulness mixed with business is a partnership that works. You just need to take the time out to do it. Some call it prayer. Some call it meditation. When combined with your career, I’ve found that it just amplifies your gift. Or perhaps it’s more that when combined with your career, mindfulness helps you to focus on what’s important and to let go of what’s not. Whatever you call it, it works.

Want to continue this conversation? Hit me up on Twitter @adriennewrites.