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The Amazing RUSH – Concert Review

Without question, for 41 years now, the band called Rush has been the ultimate blend of the best of 1970s British progressive rock (Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull) and British hard rock of the same period (Led Zeppelin, The Who, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple). Unfairly classified as heavy metal, the Canadian trio routinely mixed the edgier side of Zeppelin and Sabbath with the lengthier passages by their prog rock counterparts, to often stirring effect.

On their recent tour, culminating in the August 1 show at the Los Angeles Forum, the final stop on their 40th anniversary campaign (it is actually the 41st anniversary of the trio as a recording and performing act), they take their fans back to their 1970s roots in a two-set performance which starts with the newest material, from 2012’s Clockwork Angels, and continues in reverse chronological order, with select tracks from the 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, eventually ending with a spirited 1970s collection.

Arguably, what most diehard Rush followers deem as the band’s creative peak is the period when the band first coalesced and most adventurously experimented with their songwriting and musicianship: 1976-1981. Beginning the August 1 second set with two paramount tracks from 1981’s Moving Pictures album, Rush received the biggest response from the audience, ostensibly filled with fans who recalled the album firsthand 34 years ago. Perhaps the band’s most popular song, Tom Sawyer, began the set, followed by Red Barchetta, which had been an alternate to other Moving Pictures songs on the tour. From there, Rush played key tracks from 1980’s Permanent Waves album, including the perennial celebration of their hometown Toronto radio station, the song The Spirit of Radio which has opened many a Rush show over the past 35 years.

Alas, the best was still yet to come. Selecting key tracks from the album 1978’s Hemispheres, 1977’s A Farewell to Kings, and 1976’s 2112 for their first live Rush treatment in many decades was bold, breathtaking, and surreal, given their rare inclusion in live Rush shows since the early 1980s. It is with these three albums that Rush cemented its following, locked in its sound, and aesthetically became the band which has been beloved since. In a sense, returning to this material for what could be the band’s final major tour was the ultimate statement on who Rush are as artists and how their singular synthesis of classic British rock arrived at something that was at once an homage to the greatness of prog and hard rock’s founding fathers and simultaneously made the band wholly original.

Playing the key opening passages from Hemispheres (Cygnus X-1 Book II), blending right into Cygnus X-1 from A Farewell to Kings, Rush demonstrated their earliest tendencies to master progressive music with intergalactic lyrical sensibilities and a heavy metal onslaught of virtuoso guitar, bass, and drums. Xanadu, from Kings, may have been the show’s high water mark for longtime fans with its ethereal majesty of otherwordly musical and lyrical themes. The anthemic Closer to the Heart from Kings was a welcomed return to a one-time concert staple that had dropped off of recent set lists. Playing most of the renowned first album-side “song” from 2112, with that influential titular track’s mystical science-fiction bent, Rush reinforced to fans what first made them widely popular with an international audience.

In the encore section of the show, Rush returned to their first three albums, playing obscure tracks while reducing their trademark stage, light and pyrotechnics show to its earliest mid-1970s incarnation when they were an opening act for bands such as Kiss and played tiny gymnasiums in the Toronto area with amplifiers set upon classroom chairs.

When Rush closed the show, in one of their rare instances of onstage bonding, drummer Neil Peart, likely the greatest drummer ever in rock music, joined bandmates Alex Lifeson (guitar) and Geddy Lee (bass, keyboards, and vocals) at centre stage for a group bow and possibly final goodbye. For many reasons, this was a tremendous moment in the life of the band and its diehard fans, especially seeing the trio, huddled together, saluting the crowd, with the notoriously shy and reclusive Peart right in the middle.

With all three members now in their early 60s, and the days of 200 concerts a year with back-to-back one night stands long gone, Rush tours, this one included, have gotten shorter, have been divided by an intermission, and have had gigs spaced out between them. As such, the dynamics of the band have changed, and their fan following, though as strong and wide as ever, understands and has accepted this new relationship. That said, with Clockwork Angels representing some of their most ambitious recorded music in decades, one hopes that the band will continue to at least record new material and play select live dates if not embark on massive full tours.

Scott Essman
scottessman@gmail.com
Los Angeles, California

The post The Amazing RUSH – Concert Review appeared first on 100.3 The Sound.

Boston Hits SoCal for 40th Anniversary of Debut Album – Article by Scott Essman

Boston Hits SoCal for 40th Anniversary of Debut Album

Article by Scott Essman

By any measurable account, Boston’s debut album, released in the summer of 1976, was an unconditional phenomenon. Its mixture of melody, power, and virtuoso musicianship was unprecedented. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Who and other powerhouse bands had forged such sonic territory, allowing band founder Tom Scholz to coalesced all previous rock and roll subgenres into a new sound, one which he largely self-produced on equipment of his own design.

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After its explosion onto airwaves, Boston, the debut album, sold 17 million copies to date in the U.S. alone, with another eight million globally. Without question, classic rock radio stations nationwide, now 40 years onward, still regularly play many key tracks, such as “More Than a Feeling,” “Foreplay/Long Time,” “Smokin,’” “Rock and Roll Band,” and others.

Guitarist Gary Pihl, who has been with the band since 1985, spoke about Scholz’ singular abilities in many categories. “Tom, obviously, is a great engineer as well as a terrific musician,” said Pihl. “He’s always on [lists of] 100 greatest guitarists and keyboardists of all time. He’s an engineer, producer, designed the amplifiers that are still used on stage.”

 

gary pihl_photo credit Bob Summers Photography

In 1976, listeners responded to Boston’s overflow of melodic hard rock, including the dynamic instrumentation of the tracks and Brad Delp’s soaring vocals. “I remember where I was when I first heard the Boston sound,” recalled Pihl. “I was driving in my car in Petaluma and put on the radio – this is a song by Boston! How did they do that?”

Through eight “great” years with Sammy Hagar, including two tours supporting Boston in 1977 and 1978-79, Pihl stayed in touch with Scholz. “I was one of those geeky guys — how do you get that sound?” Pihl would ask Scholz. “In 1985 when Sammy got the call to join Van Halen, I left from my last gig with Sammy and flew directly to Boston to start working with Tom on Third Stage. Here I am 30 some years later.”

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When asked about the secret to that first Boston album, Pihl is matter-of-fact about Scholz’ approach. “It’s the songs,” he said. “It’s on e of those things; beauty is in the eye of the beholder—the lyrics, the melody, sing along with them. Why do we enjoy Beethoven’s Fifth?”

tom _ gary_photo credit Bob Summers Photography

Now recreating those songs for a tour that hits the Greek theater on July 14 and the Pacific Amphitheater on July 16, Pihl and Scholz exchange leads and rhythm parts cooperatively. “You do this, I’ll do that,” he said, adding, “I’m playing my parts on the new records. I think we’ve got the greatest band ever.”

BOSTON credit Bob Summers Photography

Though the band is celebrating the 40th anniversary of that landmark first album, Boston continues to function as a working band, constantly developing new material. “If the Stones can still do it, so can we,” Pihl quipped. “We are always working on new material. It’s fun being out here. We’re so grateful. There’s no better feeling—it transcends what we’re doing.”

The 80s Rekindled at Cathouse Live Concert

The 80s Rekindled at Cathouse Live Concert

By Scott Essman

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In a way, it was all Led Zeppelin’s doing. Just as the breakup of The Beatles in early 1970 ushered in a burst of bands in various sub-genres which The Beatles had first explored, all trying to fill their void, so did the 1980 breakup of Led Zeppelin provide another opening into which many bands would try to make their own singular mark.

 

The most obvious heir to the Zeppelin throne was Southern California’s Van Halen. The first band signed off of the Sunset Strip since The Doors in 1966, Van Halen rocketed to stardom with their 1978 debut album, serving as an opening act for everyone from Journey to Black Sabbath, and, by 1980, were international headliners with three top-selling albums. Many comparisons can be drawn between Led Zeppelin and Van Halen. Both four-piece acts featured an innovative flashy guitar player across from an even more flamboyant front man, set against a relentlessly pounding rhythm section. Where Zeppelin were kings of the 1970s, Van Halen were poised to rule the 1980s, but by 1983, their recording career with the four original members came to an end. Again, there was another crack in the musical fray into which many would-be hard rock bands would mount their attack.

 

Enter the Sunset Strip, phase three. While the Doors shook the Strip in the mid-1960s with their blend of haunting hard rock and mesmerizing psychedelia, and Van Halen ignored punk and prog trends of the mid-1970s during their conquering of clubs including The Starwood and Gazzari’s, another movement sprouted up in the mid-80s. Unfairly deemed “Hair Metal” by dismissive critics, this new strand of hard rock was notably a combination of the stylish proto-pop of David Bowie-esque early 1970s glam rock and the more overt onslaught of Van Halen, circa the late-1970s. The new form would more affectionately be called “Glam Metal” by revisionist journalists such as Sam Dunn in his Metal Evolution research and documentary project which has aired on VH1 Classic.

 

In fact, at one point in the lavish August 15 festival at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater assembled by MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball host Riki Rachtman and dubbed Cathouse Live, singer Jaime St. James of the Portland-based 1980s band Black ‘N Blue exclaimed, “This is the Woodstock of Glam Metal!” And true to that moniker, many of the emblematic bands of the mid-80s performed at Cathouse Live, regaling a largely Gen-X audience with their hallmark tunes of the era. Only missing from the proceedings were understandably some of the biggest bands of the movement. While Van Halen has toured the U.S. this summer in concerts of their own, which included their own stop at Irvine Meadows in July, a prototypical 1980s Sunset Strip glam metal band such as Motley Crue is likely still too big of a draw to be enlisted in a festival with 25 total acts. Other than such additional acts as Quiet Riot and Warrant, Cathouse Live featured the most central glam metal bands, each performing a 30-60-minute set.

Two winners of previously held “battle of the bands” competitions won the opening spots at Cathouse Live: The Aviators, who played on a smaller festival stage, and Swamphammer in the main amphitheater. Beginning shortly after 2pm, temperatures at the Irvine Meadows site bridged 100 degrees, which may have accounted for the approximately 75% of capacity audience in the amphitheater area (the lawn section was closed) with a few hundred others huddled around the festival stage.

 

Following the new bands’ kicking off of the day, BulletBoys graced the main stage as the first nostalgia act. Significantly, first Van Halen producer Ted Templeman, who was ostracized from Van Halen when they acquired Sammy Hagar as their new lead singer in 1985, signed BulletBoys and produced their early material in the mid-to-late 1980s, with lead singer Marq Torien emulating much of founding Van Halen singer David Lee Roth’s onstage antics and vocal stylings. Alas, BulletBoys never ascended to the heights of Van Halen — perhaps a serious understatement — despite some early airplay for hits such as “Smooth Up In Ya” which was predictably played at Cathouse Live to the adoration of older fans. Both on record and at Cathouse Live, BulletBoys’ high water mark was a scorching cover of The O’Jays’ 1974 classic, “For the Love of Money,” creating an entirely new, appropriately vicious meaning to the cynical song, fully separate from the O’Jays adamant funky soul of its time.

Second band Trixter might be fairly classified as a lower-tier second generation glam metal band, not coming to record until the early 1990s. Nevertheless, their shorter set was well-received by the crowd, most of whom slowly drifted in as the scorching afternoon wore on. Next on the itinerary was the aforementioned Black ‘N Blue who had debuted with a promising self-titled debut album in 1984 and superior follow-up, Without Love, in 1985, but only lasted two more recordings in the 1980s before calling it quits as a recording act. Without question, in the 2000s, with income from album sales having stalled for many artists, bands such as Trixter, Black ‘N Blue and others from Cathouse Live have reformed for performing purposes, either on full tours, or at select summer dates.

 

The next band in the lineup, Autograph, had won the coveted spot on Van Halen’s enormous 1984 tour, hailing from Van Halen’s hometown of Pasadena, California, and were able to then release and promote their debut album, Sign In Please, and single “Turn Up the Radio,” to modest success that year. Following Autograph were Junkyard, Saigon Kick, and LA Guns, all of whom were notable for mid-1980s albums, the latter of whom were involved in the simultaneous complex history of the Sunset Strip’s anti-glam metal band, Guns ‘N’ Roses. Though all were well-received, Florida-based Saigon Kick provided the most distinguished sound, a combination of modern hard rock and almost Beatles-esque homage to 1960s rock artists.

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Faster Pussycat

With the sun dying, two bands were de facto warm-up acts for the evening’s biggest names: Dangerous Toys, whose five Cathouse Live players were all original members of the band, and Faster Pussycat, a “raunch ‘n’ roll” act who might best represent the vibe of the 1980s Strip. Amusingly, Toys’ singer Jason McMaster quipped that his entire career has been founded by one song, the minor early 1990s AOR radio-friendly hit, “Scared.” Prominently among the entire Cathouse Live lineup, Pussycat, and their track “Bathroom Wall,” evoke the spirit of the mid-80s, right down to their glam attire and take-no-prisoners onstage attitude. Where the Rolling Stones where always raunchier than the Beatles, and Aerosmith was more bawdy than Zeppelin, Pussycat expressed more Hollywood debauchery than even Motley Crue and its brethren.

 

During Pussycat’s set, on the festival stage, Enuff Z’Nuff, a late-1980s entry into the glam metal scene, presented stripped-down versions of their pseudo-pop metal in tracks including “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing,” plus an upbeat cover of Paul McCartney’s Wings staple, “Jet.”

STEPHEN PEARCY PHOTO 2015

STEPHEN PEARCY PHOTO 2015

Without his longtime band Ratt, on the main stage, lead singer Stephen Pearcy expectedly played a healthy dose of Ratt tunes, all of which were from their four full-length 1980s albums, surfacing roughly along with the first releases of Black ‘N Blue, Quiet Riot, and the next act on the Cathouse Live bill, Dokken. Though lead singer Don Dokken has always been the creative force of the band, other key members, including guitarist George Lynch and bassist Jeff Pilson, have not been officially in the band in nearly 15 years but for a very brief 2009 reunion. However, drummer Mick Brown, from Dokken’s 1980s heyday, remains with the outfit. Eager to please while Cathouse Live was doused in darkness, Dokken played 40 minutes of their biggest hits, including several from their best album, 1984’s Tooth and Nail.

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Dokken 2015

Seemingly ageless, reality show personality and one-time Skid Row lead singer Sebastian Bach, now 47, provided the night’s most energetic performance. While his signature music might now fall somewhere between irrelevancy and anonymity, Bach more than made up for any lack of vocal and otherwise artistic prowess with a magnetic onstage presence which rallied the audience for the final third of the event. He was immediately – quite literally – followed by Tom Keifer, former lead singer and songwriter from Cinderella, as a revolving stage turntable quickly brought in new artists without missing a beat, no pun intended. Where Bach has more than requisite leading man abilities, Keifer has equal if not surpassing musical achievements. His sound, swagger, and musicianship still ring true, whether revisiting a Cinderella song or dipping into his new solo album’s tracks from The Way Life Goes.

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Tom Keifer

In a pre-show interview, Keifer said, about his album, “The record has the same kind of dynamics that people expect from Cinderella records. I came up on the rock of the 70s which was very dynamic: Zeppelin, Stones, ballads, acoustic, heavy stuff. The record is very similar to that. I was the songwriter, the singer, and did the signature guitar work.”

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Tom Keifer

Keifer recalled what started him on the path of creating the music which came of age in the 80s. “In high school, when I got an electric guitar and started trying to learn Jimmy Page riffs, I was pretty young,” he said. “You start to emulate your heroes. It starts off covering their songs. I needed to write my own if I needed to come close to walking in their footsteps. You want to try and accomplish the same things musically that they do. That’s what’s always driven me.”

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Of Cinderella’s glam metal peak, making Keifer peers with many of the artists at Cathouse Live, he was reflective. “It was an amazing time,” he said. “The 80s was very colorful and creative, and the visual element with MTV: a lot of over-the-top imagery. The music reflected that as well. It was a great time to come up and release records and tour. I feel fortunate to have come out in that era. The fans that we made friends with were incredibly loyal and still here today.”

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EXTREME 2015

Finally, the last main act at Cathouse was the Boston-based Extreme, who, by their own admission, rarely perform on the West Coast at present. Nonetheless, the four members of extreme — original singer Gary Cherone (briefly in Van Halen in the late 1990s), guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, and bassist Pat Badger plus new drummer Kevin Figueiredo — stopped the show with their outstanding rendition of tracks that one would never know are now 25 years old. Celebrating the quarter-century mark of their second album, Pornograffiti, Extreme looked, sounded, and performed as though it were the onset of the 1990s and not midway through the 2010s. Other tracks in their 12-song set were from their seminal additional three early albums, though the reunited band has continued to record. Not so much a throwback as a reaffirmation, Extreme’s set re-established them as a viable current act much more so than a nostalgia act.

 

Abbreviated perhaps by a time limitation, the final moments of the night were an “all-star” jam with one time former Guns ‘N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke, and a host of other players from throughout the day’s acts. After the glam anthem “The Jean Genie” by David Bowie, the group played “Search and Destroy” by The Stooges, and two Kiss songs with an unannounced surprise musician, original Kiss lead guitarist Ace Frehley, joining the throng of musicians: “Shock Me” and “Deuce.” Symbolically, during Deuce, came the bizarre interruption, as the stage slowly swiveled around and the PA system was cut, in effect ending the entirety. Yet, even after the house lights came up, one could still hear the musicians, many of whose careers are nestled in the past, continue to play, wholly rotated away from the audience, finishing the landmark song to its natural conclusion.

 

Festival Stage

2:30 PM The Aviators (Battle Of The Bands winner)

3:05 PM Tuff

3:45 PM Little Caesar

4:25 PM Pretty Boy Floyd

5:05 PM Bang Tango

5:45 PM Jetboy

6:25 PM Enuff Z’Nuff

7:05 PM Tracii Guns

7:45 PM Gilby Clarke

 

Main Stage

2:15 PM Swamphammer (Battle Of The Bands winner)

2:30 PM BulletBoys

3:00 PM Trixter

3:30 PM Black ‘N Blue

4:00 PM Autograph

4:30 PM Junkyard

5:00 PM Saigon Kick

5:30 PM LA Guns

6:00 PM Dangerous Toys

6:30 PM Faster Pussycat

7:00 PM Stephen Pearcy

7:30 PM Dokken

8:10 PM Sebastian Bach

8:50 PM Tom Keifer

9:50 PM Extreme

10:50 PM Gilby Clarke’s All Star Band

 

Scott Essman

scottessman@gmail.com

Los Angeles, California

Don Airey – Master Rock Keyboardist

Don Airey – Master Rock Keyboardist
By Scott Essman

Don Airey has been playing keyboards in notable British-based rock bands for over 40 years. Once a member of Rainbow, Ritchie Blackmore’s band after leaving Deep Purple in 1974, Airey either toured, recorded, or both with Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne’s band, Blizzard of Ozz, and blues-oriented English guitar virtuoso Gary Moore among others. Since 2001, Airey has recorded and toured with Deep Purple, replacing original keyboardist Jon Lord who had retired (Lord unfortunately passed away in 2012). In this exclusive interview, Airey discusses his career and current tenure in Deep Purple, who are still going strong with key members Ian Gillan (vocals) and Roger Glover (bass) from their second early 1970s incarnation, and, arguably, the best version of the band, plus drummer Ian Paice, who has been in every version of the band, and guitarist Steve Morse of the Dixie Dregs, Kansas, and Flying Colors, who has recorded and toured with Purple for the past 20 years. Notably, Purple is now in the midst of an extensive American summer tour.

Do you have to develop a different approach as a musician when you work with such varied guitar players as Ritchie Blackmore, Randy Rhoads, Gary Moore, and now Steve Morse?

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Working with Ritchie Blackmore was very much in the mold of doing what Jon Lord did in Deep Purple. With Ritchie, I added more synthesizers than what Lord ever used. Working with Moore, he depended on you coming up with stuff to keep him busy and be a foil for him. With Randy, it was very difficult to know what to do. His playing was so complete, I had to think it out what I was going to do with the band. He was one of the nicest people I ever met. I never did find a word to sum it up [Rhoads died in an avoidable plane accident]. I think about him every day.

Morse is again very different, not only with his unique picking style but the types of layered warm sounds he generates.

Steve is a very individual guy and comes from a different place than Randy or Gary or Ritchie. Not strictly a rock guy and a virtuoso. You have to be on your toes with him. The amount of ideas we had — on the Now What? album we work very well together; Vincent Price is a favorite [song] of mine and Hell to Pay.

Most of the older Purple songs that you play on the current tour are from the 1970-73 heyday – does that make your job challenging since Lord’s sound was so iconic on those albums?

They are such classics. You never really going to come up with something like that again. It’s a different industry now—it’s very much set it in its way. Deep Purple has got a different thing about it than any other band. We came up with something that people didn’t expect.

Did you have conversations with Lord when you replaced him in 2001 about how to integrate yourself with the band?

He got in touch with me when we were going to do Hard Lovin’ Man. He said,
“Turn the organ up as loud as it can be – the tune that opens it.” When I first started – I couldn’t be Jon, I’ve got to be myself. I take great care that Jon isn’t forgotten especially with the Hammond, what it was in the mid-70s: lots of distortion. The organ has come back into its own.

In your estimation, what made Lord’s sound so iconic since it’s critical to the Purple sound?

I think the crucial thing about it was his relationship with Ritchie Blackmore. Ritchie would talk about it to me. I had a similar temperament to Jon — I was always there when he came up with something. You’ve got to make the guitar player happy, comfortable. Jon used to do that for Ritchie: keep the boat on an even keel. I did the same thing with Ritchie when I was in Rainbow. Jon was the leader – he brought keyboards out of the closet.

Did you learn any secrets to how Lord created his dynamic in-concert sound, especially considering Blackmore’s dominance as a guitar player?

I was talking to Paice [about] the gear he used on [the live album] Made in Japan. He had bass bins, Marshall amps, some very primitive sound equipment… a tape echo. They go straight to the monitors; there’s no need to put them through a stack. Direct into the PA and come back to me in the monitors. The Hammond has a 100-watt guitar amp and two suited-up Leslies. I’ve always been very keen on the spinning speakers. When I was with Rainbow, “Do you want to try the organ through the Marshall?” We changed them back to the stock units. It really started to sound good with Rainbow. There’s a certain art to getting that distorted sound that Jon had.

What do you feel is your strongest work in a song out of all of your recorded material?

I think it’s Still Got the Blues [with Gary Moore]. It’s a beautiful song; I was there when he started writing it. I put it down; then next day I’ve forgotten it. I did the string arrangement that we recorded at Abbey Road. When I listened to it, it wasn’t bad. Gary’s playing: at the height of his powers in 1989. The whole album, but that track – a real high. Gary Moore, his success was in Europe. It didn’t quite happen for him in the U.S.

What can you tell longtime fans about seeing a Purple show in 2015?

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They are going to get a good helping of the old stuff. It still sounds fresh. We really get into it. There will be some obscure tracks. We do the new material from the new albums with Steve Morse and myself. It’s a bit of a mixture. There’s a great history in the band of improvising. We’re pretty up to date. There’s something for everyone.

Lastly, I’ve wanted to know the answer to this question for 35 years. Even though it’s credited to the late, great guitarist Randy Rhoads and bassist Bob Daisley, did you write the keyboard intro to the song Mr. Crowley that you played on the first Ozzy Osbourne album, Blizzard of Ozz (1980)?

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Photo Credit by Jim Rakete.

Mr. Crowley – I wrote the opening keyboard bit. I was helping them out when the band first started. They had the song, and we needed something for the intro. I threw them out of the studio. Ozzy came back in half an hour. “That’s it!” It’s an amazing song, and it’s got the most amazing guitar playing on it.

Dio Memorialized by Music Community in L.A.

Dio Memorialized by Music Community in L.A.
By Scott Essman

(All photos courtesy of macabre theatre and emmreport.com)

 

To the naked eye, Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010) might have been offhandedly slight of stature, but musically and otherwise, he was most assuredly a mountain of a man, both onstage and off. His thundering operatic voice soared across almost 40 years of songs in numerous prominent bands, but his kindness of spirit might be even more highly regarded than his artistic talent by those who knew him.

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This month, the music community gathered for the fifth anniversary of Dio’s passing, to pay tribute not only to the singer’s massive musical successes, but equally if not more so to his benevolent character. Surely, the man is most known as the lead singer and frontman for seminal bands including Rainbow in the mid-1970s, Black Sabbath in the early-1980s, and his own band Dio in the 1980s and beyond. However, countless music insiders point to Dio’s unswerving devotion to his many bandmates, friends, fans, and those in need with whom he came across.

 

At Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills, music historian and TV show host Eddie Trunk presided over a ceremony that brought together Dio’s family and extended musical family, in addition to his many admirers and followers, all of whom sang his praises as being a truly considerate person on equal footing with his appreciable vocal and songwriting skills. “I think that it sells Ronnie short when people call him a great metal singer,” Trunk said an hour before the ceremony proper. “I think he was a great singer across the board when you listen to all the range in the music that he made. What’s most amazing about him is his consistency, right up to the very end.”

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When Dio passed of stomach cancer on May 16, 2010, Trunk was asked to host the first memorial at that time, with efforts since then going towards Dio’s Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund [www.diocancerfund.org]. “Obviously that was tough because we had just lost him,” Trunk said on a cloudy Saturday in front of a sizable Dio museum gallery. “Now, five years later, Wendy [Dio, Ronnie’s widow] said she wants this to be a bit more celebratory, remember him in the stories, and have a little fun with it. Obviously, we’re still mourning him, but I think people that come to this, and the people who are here, will realize the magnitude of the loss but also realize the great memories that we still have.”

 

Legendary drummer Vinny Appice played with Dio in the early 1980s in Black Sabbath and in various incarnations of the Dio solo band in the 1980s and afterwards. “Seeing him every night was so inspiring and amazing,” said Appice. “I’m a lucky guy to be part of this and work with Ronnie in bands that we’d been in together. I was very fortunate.”

 

Just after the main ceremony, which featured speeches by those close to the Dio camp peppered into a unprecedented collection of hard rock and heavy metal musicians who combined to perform classic Dio tunes in makeshift bands, Appice added how it felt to play with Dio onstage. “It was amazing,” he reflected. “After a while you get used to that level, and you just expect it. You go out and play, and there’s this vocalist with this unbelievable powerful voice. He kicked my ass, and I kicked his ass. That’s the way it works.”

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Also following the ceremony, guitarist Craig Goldy, who had recorded and toured with Dio on and off since 1983, explained his unique affiliation. “I wasn’t in the band Dio [when it formed in 1983], but he sat in on the audition for Rough Cutt and got inspired by my audition when Jake E. Lee left to join Ozzy [Osbourne’s band]. We did “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “Heaven and Hell” together. Then, we worked together in the studio when I was in Rough Cutt. He was the producer and Wendy was the manager. It was then that he said, ‘If Viv [first Dio solo band guitarist Vivian Campbell] ever doesn’t work out, you’d by my first choice.’”

 

Certainly, Goldy’s connection to Dio and recording and touring professionally coalesced in Dio’s bringing Goldy into his network as a nascent talent. “It all began way back with a little kid with a dream and no money, living in a car [in] San Diego,” Goldy stated. “They brought me up there. I came from an abusive family, so I chose to live in a car on the streets. All I had was a guitar. Wendy and Ronnie rented me gear so I can do the audition. He was really good to me.”

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By 1986, Goldy was the lead guitarist in Dio’s solo band. “It was very surreal,” Goldy revealed. “It was a real dream come true. He was and still is my favorite singer. My dream back then was to try to get a band with guys that sounded like Ronnie. I ended up being in Ronnie’s band. When we would perform songs that we wrote together, it was very surreal. It’s a very interesting feeling when you’re actually living a dream. That’s what it was.”

 

Before Chris Broderick [Megadeth] went onstage to play guitar in one of the tribute songs, “Stand Up and Shout” from Dio’s first solo album, he stated simply his feelings about Dio the artist, echoed by many who converged to pay their respects. “One of the best metal singers we will ever see, for sure, and have seen,” Broderick said, noting that he’s started a new band inspired by music including Dio’s called Act of Defiance.

 

One attendee actually related to Dio had personal memories of the man outside of music: David “Rock” Feinstein, guitarist for the heavy metal band, The Rods. “The one thing that I can really remember about him, and one of the things I really miss about him, is that he was such a funny guy,” Feinstein said. “He had an incredible sense of humor, and he was constantly telling jokes and making me laugh. There were times when I laughed so hard, I’d be crying, tears would be coming out of my eyes, I had a headache. That was a trait that ran in the family. His uncles and part of the family were the same way – funny people. He found humor in a lot of things. When we were together, I knew I was going to have a good time, laugh a lot, and laughing is an important thing in life – people don’t laugh enough. When I was with Ronnie, I was always going to laugh.”

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Dio’s influence even reached new “millennial” listeners. “I grew up listening to Dio – my parents are big fans of the whole 80s rock genre, so when I was growing up around the house, that was constantly playing – the Dio and the Queensryche,” said Gabbie Rae, a 16-year-old singer. “As I got older, I fell in love with Ronnie myself.”

 

In an unforeseen twist, two years ago, Rae released an acoustically-based cover video of her performing Dio’s signature song, “Rainbow in the Dark.” Wendy Dio, Ronnie’s widow, found the video and posted it on Dio’s Facebook page. Since then, the video has gone viral, and now Wendy has taken Rae under her wing. Of note, Rae was asked to perform the song at the recent ceremony, albeit with electric instruments. “I had been singing “Rainbow in the Dark” for so long that I felt really confident, but it was my first time performing with that lineup. We had one rehearsal, we went over it twice, ‘Okay, good to go!’” Amazingly, though Rae was onstage with veteran musicians who have been performing for decades longer than she has been alive, Rae held her own in one of the event’s most memorable musical performances. Shockingly, Rae turned 17 five days after the Dio tribute.

6

Upon the ceremony’s closing, the aforementioned Wendy Dio simply and succinctly summarized the impact that her late husband has had on an entire industry. “Listen to Ronnie James Dio because he’s the greatest singer and songwriter,” she advised her husband’s many devotees. “If you are a young musician, be true to yourself; do what your heart wants you to do. Don’t listen to other people. Do what’s in your heart.”

 

SUGGESTED SONG PLAYLIST – 10 Triumphant Ronnie James Dio Performances

 

  1. Man on the Silver Mountain – RAINBOW (1975)
  2. Stargazer – RAINBOW (1976)
  3. Neon Knights – BLACK SABBATH (1980)
  4. Heaven and Hell – BLACK SABBATH (1980)
  5. The Sign of the Southern Cross – BLACK SABBATH (1981)
  6. Stand Up and Shout – DIO (1983)
  7. Rainbow in the Dark – DIO (1983)
  8. The Last in Line – DIO (1984)
  9. Mystery – DIO (1984)
  10. Hungry for Heaven – DIO (1985)

Michele Elyzabeth Creates the First Annual HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY AWARDS

Michele Elyzabeth Creates the First Annual HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY AWARDS

By Scott Essman

On February 15, 2015, a nascent organization known as LATF (LA TV – FILM) hosted the very first Hollywood Beauty Awards at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, benefiting Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Spearheaded by LATF CEO Michele Elyzabeth who started her career in the magazine industry in France, LATF has engaged in five years of “lifestyle” publishing. This event promises to be the first of many like gatherings to honor beauty and fashion artists in the same stead as other prominent artists’ industry awards shows.

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LATF Vice President/Executive Producer of Hollywood Beauty Awards, Pamela Price with CEO/President of Hollywood Beauty Awards, Michele Elyzabeth.

After moving to the United States and working in public relations with major firms including Rogers and Cowan, in 1978, Elyzabeth started her own PR firm, Parapluie, Inc. who handled marketing and corporate functions. Analyzing the mid-to-late 1990s internet explosion, she realized that the business was changing. “I wanted to go back to something that would be published online,” she said, pointing to the imminent birth of LATF. “Eventually, I began Michele Elyzabeth Enterprises, and I started my own line of champagne nine years ago. Now, I have the awards part.”

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It’s a tie! Christian Dior’s makeup artist and winner, Thuy Pham with MAC Cosmetics makeup artist and winner, Gregory Arlt of The Michael Westmore Award for Makeup.

Following considerable pre-planning, the idea of the Hollywood Beauty Awards first came to fruition seven months ago. “In order for us to really have an impact, we needed to create something that didn’t exist,” Elyzabeth conveyed. “You have 50,000 awards shows in film and TV, except there was no show about beauty—beauty is really very important. You can have a fantastic dress, but you need to have what it takes along with it. We reverted to my first love which was beauty and created the Hollywood Beauty Awards.”

2 a Michele, Bernadine, Jane Fonda

LATF CEO/President of Hollywood Beauty Awards, Michele Elyzabeth with Outstanding Achievement In Makeup Award honoree, Bernadine M. Anderson and presenter, Oscar winning actress, Jane Fonda.

Noting how other shows reward artists for film and television makeup and hairstyling achievements, Elyzabeth knew she needed to substantially distinguish her new event. “We are about honoring people who prepare celebrities and VIPs for the red carpet,” she described. “Nobody has ever really taken the time for those makeup artists or hairstylists who do megastars. We thought it would be an occasion to honor them and bring something new to L.A.”

Outstanding Achievement In Makeup honoree, Michael Westmore with presenter, Sir Patrick Stewart (“Star Trek,” “X-Men”)

Outstanding Achievement In Makeup honoree, Michael Westmore with
presenter, Sir Patrick Stewart (“Star Trek,” “X-Men”)

At the outset, especially since the Hollywood Beauty Awards was a first-time effort, few corporations offered significant assistance or sponsorship, though Elyzabeth was able to “sell tables” to a group of firms. “People are always very weary of this kind of thing,” she confessed of her potential collaborators. “Can you deliver? Will you have stars? I paid for it and am still paying.”

3

Hollywood Beauty Awards, New Beauty Award recipients, Constance Wu (“Fresh Off The Boat”), Virginia Gardner (“Project Almanac”), Meagan Tandy (“Teen Wolf”).

Ultimately, Elyzabeth ascribed her success with the innovative event to her well-respected choices of red carpet attendees, including makeup legend Michael Westmore and celebrity actors whose personal artists were sought. “I wanted to go across the board and make sure that everybody was honored,” Elyzabeth. “We did our research and found the first black lady in [makeup union] Local 706, Bernadine M. Anderson. She was very happy to be honored—she spent eight years being the makeup artist for Jane Fonda. It took three months for [Fonda] to say yes and [have us] presented to Bernadine, not us. Michael Westmore did Star Trek for 17 years; Sir Patrick Stewart immediately said, ‘Yes,’ he would present to him. He was very gracious.’”

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Timeless Beauty Award recipient, Barbara Eden (“I Dream of Jeannie”) and presenter/hit recording artist, Tommy Roe (“Dizzy,” “Sheila”)

Additional names included celebrity photographer Harry Langdon, blonde bombshell, Morgan Fairchild, Jenifer Lewis from TV’s Black-ish and emcee Lisa Stanley from KRTH 101, but Elyzabeth pointed to considerable time and struggle that was spent getting notables to commit. “A lot of people came together to do this,” Elyzabeth related. “Not just my staff – everyone. Seven days a week: 7:30AM at the office, constantly trying to get celebrities. It was yes; it was no.”

6

Presenter, actress Morgan Fairchild with Outstanding Achievement in Photography honoree, Harry Langdon

Despite many obstacles to hurdle, Elyzabeth is pleased with the final results of her first awards show. “In the long run, it came out beautifully,” she said. “I come from the press end, so I wanted the press to be well treated. The people who won were tremendous—we created it for them. They were so happy – cried, laughed. It will become a huge event eventually. We want to make of it: LA Beauty Week.”

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Outstanding Achievement In Hairstyling honoree, Julia L. Walker with presenter, actress Jenifer Lewis (“Black-ish”)

With the initial event behind her, Elyzabeth is already looking ahead towards an even better 2016 event. “People realize that we were able to deliver,” she expressed. “I hope corporate sponsors will come—I will always do it as a fundraiser. If I can get celebrities, I can get corporations. The skeptics will be not as many next year. We will know what to look out for. All in all, it was a great event.”

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Presenter, Miss United Nation International Carla Gonzalez with LATF President, Otis Stokes

At the HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY AWARDS, three established nominees competed in the honoree categories of hair, makeup and photography.

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John Caldwell and KEARTH radio star and HBA master of ceremonies, Lisa Stanley

 

Hollywood Beauty Awards winner Martin Samuel with Bai Ling. SE Scott Essman

Hollywood Beauty Awards winner Martin Samuel with Bai Ling.
SE Scott Essman

 

WINNERS:

BERNADINE M. ANDERSON AWARD FOR MAKEUP

Autumn Moultrie (WINNER)

Carola Gonzalez

Shannon Pezzetta

MICHAEL WESTMORE AWARD FOR MAKEUP

Thuy Pham (WINNER)

Gregory Arlt (WINNER)

Billy B.

JULIA L. WALKER AWARD FOR HAIRSTYLING

Marcia Hamilton (WINNER)

Rhonda O’Neal

Vanessa Heshima Sims

MARTIN SAMUEL AWARD FOR HAIRSTYLING

Lea Journo (WINNER)

Sean James

Stephanie Hobgood

HARRY LANGDON AWARD FOR PHOTOGRAPHY

Emmanuelle Choussy (WINNER)

Alberto Tolot

Lionel Deluy

LATF is a daily news site and monthly online magazine, covering entertainment and lifestyle content worldwide, from beauty to fashion, film, TV, music, and travel. “No gossip, just news.”

 

www.latfusa.com

Hollywood Costume Exhibit

Last Chance to Visit Hollywood Costume Exhibit
By Scott Essman

Costume designers don’t make clothes – they create characters.

So suggested Deborah Nadoolman Landis, curator of the elaborate Hollywood Costume exhibition which is entering the final four days of its stay at the Wilshire May Company building in Los Angeles as part of a costume program that has run since early October in conjunction with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Nadoolman Landis has worked as a costume designer as a professional for 40 years and spent over seven years organizing, collecting, and creating multiple media for the Hollywood Costume Exhibit. “I got my office at the Victorian and Albert Museum in London in 2007,” she said of the London facility. “The show opened on October 20th, 2012. It was the biggest show in the history of the Victorian and Albert Museum, and it was the biggest show in the history of The Australian Centre for the Moving Image.”

Hollywood Costume

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London present “Hollywood Costume” sponsored by Swarovski, on view October 2, 2014 – March 2, 2015 at the Wilshire May Company building. keywords: Hollywood Costume credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

After a worldwide tour, the Hollywood Costume exhibition arrived in Los Angeles in 2014, appropriately enough a final location for the show as many of the costumes were designed for the various local studio films, from the early 20th century silents through the most recent of major productions. As is evident in the staggering exhibit, costume designers vitally contribute to the filmmaking world, though this level of presentation of their work has been a long time coming. “The Academy Awards were founded in 1929,” Nadoolman Landis explained, “but there wasn’t an Oscar for costume design until 1948. And there wasn’t a costume design branch until 2013.”

Hollywood Costume

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London present “Hollywood Costume” sponsored by Swarovski, on view October 2, 2014 – March 2, 2015 at the Wilshire May Company building. Pictured here: “American Hustle,” 2013, Michael Wilkinson, courtesy of White Dog Productions LLC, Annapura Pictures and Columbia Pictures. keywords: Hollywood Costume credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Immediately upon entering the meticulously arranged rooms which house Hollywood Costume, one can feel the passion and dedication that its curator has for her chosen field, eventually bringing her to the attention of the Academy. “I became an Academy Governor because I felt it was historic and an important thing to do,” said Nadoolman Landis who is also founding director of UCLA’s David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design. “This exhibition is actually expanded from its original V&A debut in 2013.”

Hollywood Costume

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London present “Hollywood Costume” sponsored by Swarovski, on view October 2, 2014 – March 2, 2015 at the Wilshire May Company building. Pictured here: “Pretty Woman,” 1990, Marilyn Vance, courtesy of the Walt Disney Archives. keywords: Hollywood Costume credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Viewers to the Hollywood Costume exhibit have an unprecedented experience, not only in the close-up perspective of historic screen costumes, but also in the full sensory experience, including dramatic settings, detailed text panels, original costume designers’ sketches, subtle lighting, and even music. “This exhibition has a score by Julian Scott,” explained Nadoolman Landis. ”60 minutes of original music — everything inside the exhibition is synchronized to the score.”

Hollywood Costume

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London present “Hollywood Costume” sponsored by Swarovski, on view October 2, 2014 – March 2, 2015 at the Wilshire May Company building. Pictured here: “Titanic,” 1997, Deborah L. Scott, courtesy of the 20th Century Archive, Los Angeles. keywords: Hollywood Costume credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

In her directive to Scott, Nadoolman was specific as to what she wished to accompany her 150+ costumes. “Make it feel like a big picture, have it be emotional, so that it can provide our visitors with a journey,” she said. “A cinematic journey.”

Hollywood Costume

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London present “Hollywood Costume” sponsored by Swarovski, on view October 2, 2014 – March 2, 2015 at the Wilshire May Company building. keywords: Hollywood Costume credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

With great respect, one of the first displays one sees in the exhibit is dedicated to Edith Head, an eight-time Oscar winner with 35 nominations spanning a 60-year career; Head amazingly designed 500 feature films. Indeed, one feels as though one is walking into a theater inside the first room before turning a corner to witness, in four separate rooms, a phantasmagoria of movie history. From Charlie Chaplin’s original costume loaned by his family in Switzerland, to Judy Garland’s famous dress and shoes from The Wizard of Oz, to an array of various Queen Elizabeth costumes, to Superman’s full suit, to 10 of Meryl Streep’s costumes, to Rocky’s boxing trunks, Nadoolman Landis, who has a PhD in the History of Design from the Royal College of Art in London, has explored every facet of cinema in collecting the included pieces.

Hollywood Costume

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London present “Hollywood Costume” sponsored by Swarovski, on view October 2, 2014 – March 2, 2015 at the Wilshire May Company building. keywords: Hollywood Costume credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Honoring the visual trajectory a film travels from screenplay descriptions to a costume designer’s conceptions to final film appearance, the displays pay warranted homage to the artists who endeavored to bring these pieces to bear. Even animation is included: Jessica Rabbit was designed by the same woman who designed Mary Todd Lincoln’s costume in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln—Joanna Johnston.

Hollywood Costume

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London present “Hollywood Costume” sponsored by Swarovski, on view October 2, 2014 – March 2, 2015 at the Wilshire May Company building. Pictured here: “The Great Gatsby,” 2013, Catherine Martin, courtesy of the Warner Bros. Corporate Archive. keywords: Hollywood Costume credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Certainly, with 120 years of film history, one is baffled at the sheer amount of effort it must have taken for Nadoolman Landis to curate this exhibit, and she explained her methodical approach.

“Every single costume in the exhibition has its own story of how it got here,” she described. “I asked my mother, my mother in law, my children, and my friends, my colleagues, my husband, ‘What’s your favorite movie?’ I made the list from favorite movies. Then, I started looking at box office. And then in the end, … it’s hard to find costumes. They are the great recyclables. And there is not a lot around, and what’s around is really in these four galleries.”

Hollywood Costume

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London present “Hollywood Costume” sponsored by Swarovski, on view October 2, 2014 – March 2, 2015 at the Wilshire May Company building. keywords: Hollywood Costume credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Going to contemporary costume designers themselves was a pointless task in creating this exhibit, for a reason which may sound odd to some readers. “Designers own nothing,” said Nadoolman Landis who herself was nominated for an Oscar for designing costumes in her husband John Landis’ 1988 film, Coming to America. “We all work for hire; we don’t even own our sketches. Designers are incredibly generous, but it’s not about designers for this. Really it’s about private collectors… and museums. What this represents is my life’s work.”

Hollywood Costume

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London present “Hollywood Costume” sponsored by Swarovski, on view October 2, 2014 – March 2, 2015 at the Wilshire May Company building. keywords: Hollywood Costume credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Hollywood Costume

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London present “Hollywood Costume” sponsored by Swarovski, on view October 2, 2014 – March 2, 2015 at the Wilshire May Company building. keywords: Hollywood Costume credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S

In retrospect, echoing her aforementioned opinion about the cinematic impact of costume design, Nadoolman Landis had a summative perspective about the craft. “The take-away from this exhibition is that it’s not about the clothes,” she said. “Our job is to help the director bring the people in the movie to life. This is the opportunity to see a once in a generation show—this may never happen again. We are here with gods and goddesses of modern mythology.”

Hollywood Costume

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London present “Hollywood Costume” sponsored by Swarovski, on view October 2, 2014 – March 2, 2015 at the Wilshire May Company building. Pictured here: “The Big Lebowski,” 1998, Mary Zophres, courtesy of Alba and Thomas Tull. keywords: Hollywood Costume credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

EXTENDED HOURS FOR FINAL DAYS: 
 Friday, February 27, 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
 Saturday, February 28, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
 Sunday, March 1, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
 Monday, March 2, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

Filmmaker Albert Magnoli Merged Movies and Music in Purple Rain By Scott Essman and Osahon Irabor

Filmmaker Albert Magnoli Merged Movies and Music in Purple Rain
By Scott Essman and Osahon Irabor

From writing, producing, editing and directing Jazz (1979), one of the most critically-acclaimed thesis films in the last 35 years, to managing one of the most polarizing pop culture icons of all time in Prince, Albert Magnoli has undoubtedly seen and done it all in Hollywood. From 1984’s Purple Rain, to 1996’s TV series Nash Bridges, and 1997’s Warner Brothers hit Dark Planet, Magnoli’s early film history challenged norms and pushed boundaries. At first glance, Magnoli’s story may seem run-of-the-mill: a talented director finding his way into the film industry and onto the big screen. But journey back to 1976, the start of his career, and you will discover a young and talented aspiring director with a camera, a dream, and landscape-changing ideas.

A student of USC’s famed School of Cinema-Television, Magnoli knew that the techniques and information that he retained from his collegiate years had a huge influence on his career. “What I learned at USC film school was extremely valuable,” he said. “It gave me a firm foundation technically, and provided me with a grounding that served me well as I ventured into the professional realm. Many times when I was on the set directing, or in the editing room editing, I would think back and rely on the things I had learned at USC, speaking to the professors and my fellow students. It was a solid, educational experience, and I draw on my time there to this day. The bottom line is this: I loved my time there, and I would not hesitate to recommend the experience to students considering the venture.”

With others from the same period at USC eventually entering the industry, including Ken Kwapis, Kevin Reynolds, and Phil Joanou, Magnoli realized he was in select company at the school. “Working with your peers and the professors in an environment that constantly challenged your ideas and abilities was exhilarating,” said Magnoli, “like stepping across a high-wire spanning a canyon with just a pole in your hand for balance. We used to say that if we could make it through film school, then we would have the basic tools to navigate the shark-infested waters of Hollywood.”

As a young and aspiring director, Magnoli knew he would need to receive the same type of tutelage as students from areas such as Beverly Hills whom he knew had much deeper pockets than himself. ”I entered USC as a graduate student in spring 1976,” he reflected. “I graduated and drove to California in 1974 to establish residency. USC was the only school I applied to. I figured out what NYU was about, Chicago was about, UCLA and USC. I didn’t want to stay on the East Coast. Scorsese had just made his mark, [and] East Coast schools were very anti-Hollywood. I didn’t want to go through that. Chicago didn’t interest me [because] I didn’t see anyone who graduated there who was getting into the business. I realized that I didn’t have any cash I could burn.”

Soon after his acceptance into film school, Magnoli would realize just how competitive the landscape at USC would be. “The graduate cinema school was no different from the regular program – we shared the same environment,” he stated. “You were still interacting with each other. It’s just that you entered the school at a different level. Most of us came in with different degrees – we were put into the same pool. There were only two or three years between us. Once you were taking [cinema course numbers] 140, 290, 310, 480, 580, you were taking classes with everybody. You noticed a difference right away—those who had a degree had the ability to articulate themselves more so [than others]. We were in [course] 290 where everybody makes their mark. The very first day, there were 90 of us accepted out of 5000 applicants.”
The program mercilessly separated the strong from the weak, and Magnoli soon learned that his program size would be cut down considerably, putting the onus on his shoulders to perform at his highest level. “The production faculty was standing in front of us and said, ‘Here’s the scoop – there’s 90 of you in the graduate school; there will be 45 of you left after the first semester,’” Magnoli recalled. “’Then 20 left. When you graduate, there will be 10. We will not let you proceed if you have no talent.’ They had 90 students who were at the top of their game in whatever major they majored in. You had to write why you should be a cinema student. They heavily weighted what you wrote in that [regard]. They didn’t want to see any portfolios. We were all equal [and] in the same boat. It was scary [and] 290 was scary. You had to make five Super-8 films and the first one had to be five minutes long of a person, place, or thing in Super-8.

After making it through the cuts early on, Magnoli geared himself up for the creative challenges lying ahead. “We did [courses] 310, then 480 [and] after all that I edited two films that James Foley directed – a 480 and a 580,” he said. “I decided to make a thesis film. [With a] thesis film, you have to pay for your film stock, [and] they’ll give you the equipment. I took out a loan for $7000 and made the film over the summer. You are using student crews and they are getting credit for their classes. But when you do a thesis film, you are the only one with credit – the crew is just helping you out.”
With aforementioned notables plus others such as George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis having made successful 480s, Magnoli knew a thesis film would be his calling card for the industry – and so he created a music-oriented film called Jazz. “I made friends with camera rental places in Hollywood,” he stated. “They would give me a [good] rate because I was a student. It took me the entire summer to shoot the film on weekends [because] during the week, my fellow students were in class. It took me about six weekends to make Jazz. I went into the editing room at USC and cut it. May and June I shot it, and edited till the end of August.”

Having experienced early success, Magnoli would begin to explore new ideas and challenge norms in Jazz. Enlisting colleagues from his film school to aid him in his endeavors, Magnoli experimented with various methods of combining music with film. “The initial idea was I wanted to do a film that would raise the bar for how to use music in a motion picture,” he said of Jazz. “I played drums all the way until 12th grade. I wanted to use something musically [such as] work with real jazz musicians. I had the [musical] tracks laid, and I was shooting in real nightclubs in Inglewood—from 6am til 3pm when the nightclub was closed. All of the reaction shots were shot at USC.”

As Magnoli quickly discovered, his creative identity as a director, the foundation for his future artistic endeavors, began to materialize. “That was all the foundation that was being formed for Purple Rain,” he explained. “What I was doing at that time at USC were all stepping stones that led to Purple Rain. When I said I wanted something that raised the bar on a USC production, it was music and film. We were never taught how to do that. My [Jazz] sound guy David Wild got a Focus Award for best sound [and] the school benefited from the experience.”

With his directorial ambitions firmly set in Hollywood, Magnoli, along with James Foley and Josh Donen, devised a plan for the trio’s work to receive more exposure. “I was there with James Foley and Josh Donen, Stanley Donen’s son, at USC,” he stated. “We hatched this plan. USC never pushed their students into actually getting work in Hollywood. For the most part, these were few and far between. One of the reasons is USC refused to create a mechanism by which the industry could see student work. Our objective is to get an agent to sign us. I screened it at the [main USC theater] Norris Theater. I had over 500 people in there. I invited all of the agents in town. I brought in a few other films that I really liked [as well]. There was an intermission, [and] I sat there and let the agents fight over me!”
The Gersh Agency signed me. We had created a marker and got the marker to pay off.”

Having set the marker and successfully achieving their goal of garnering the interest of industry-leading agencies, Magnoli and his cohorts knew that the change they had affected in USC’s film landscape was the key that opened the door. “We were the beginning of that,” he said. We were literally the vanguard. Now it’s normal. As they became more and more successful, USC realized that [screenings of student films] could be an event, and now these industry screenings take place at the DGA with a lot of publicity. People were getting signed based on these screenings. I was excited, but it was part of the master plan.”

Magnoli’s Jazz eventually won a student Academy Award, and he soon after its release edited James Foley’s feature film Reckless for MGM leading to a fortuitous conflagration of events for the filmmakers. “During post-production, [Reckless’] producers wanted to see the movie,” he said. “Rob Cavallo, Prince’s manager, and I had a discussion, and that led to me doing Purple Rain.”

Prior to agreeing to direct Purple Rain, Magnoli saw first-hand that getting the industry to accept Cavallo’s script was going nowhere. “Cavallo came to watch Reckless and asked if Jamie [Foley] would be interested in doing a movie with Prince,” Magnoli remarked. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I got on the phone with Jamie in New York, and said ‘We’ve got our next picture with Prince – you’ll direct and I’ll edit.’ Jamie got the script and read it right away. He said, ‘It will not fly. Thank the guy, but I pass.’ I felt really bad. We’ll figure something else to do together. I had to discuss it with Cavallo. The next day the phone rings. I was in the editing room on Reckless – I knew immediately it was Cavallo on the phone. He said, ‘I did some checking up on you, and you made this film Jazz and have a deal with Paramount.”

Though Magnoli disliked the dark tones of Cavallo’s script, the budding director found an unlikely opportunity to re-tell the story himself. At a followup meeting with Cavallo, Magnoli virtually improvised an impromptu pitch which would later become the film we now know as Purple Rain. “I explained to him that the best way to create something unique is to hire a writer-director who could go to Minneapolis and saturate himself in Prince and the band then write something authentic and from the heart based on that experience,” Magnoli noted. “He said to me, ‘What would the story be?’ I launched into a pitch totally off the cuff that lasted seven minutes which was the skeleton of Purple Rain. It was because I was editing so much, I could see it as an editor – the whole story. I started layering all this stuff. In that excitement, I saw the story, coming up with a shot list right on the spot, a three-act structure. Cavallo was freaked out but was sold on the spot. He got it. Cavallo said, ‘You just told me a great story; what are you going to do about it?’ He was challenging me.”

With Cavallo immediately sold on Magnoli’s three-act story, there was one final necessity: selling Prince himself on the story. “(I told Cavallo), ‘I’m going to take the weekend off—you’re going to put me on a plane,” Magnoli detailed. “’If he likes it, we’ll make a movie. If not, send me back home.’ The next night, I was on my way to the airport. I met Prince that night, 1am, and said, ‘Here’s what I want to do.’ His reaction was, ‘You know me? How is it that in ten minutes you tell me my life story?’ I said ‘If you are willing to embrace what we are doing here and let your father smack you in the mouth in the first five minutes, we’ll make a movie.’ I said, ‘In this time and age, there is no one who doesn’t want to take a crack at a rock star.’ We had to be authentic. That’s where I was.”

According to Magnoli, Prince was able to provide a large catalog of songs, which allowed flexibility in the song-selection process and helped form Magnoli’s screenplay. “When Prince and I got together,” Magnoli recollected, “he said, ‘I have 100 songs that I think would work for the movie.’ I went through all 100 fully-produced songs. I asked for a lyric sheet for each song, listened to the song, and as I was writing the screenplay, [I would] craft the songs into the narrative [while] treating [the] lyrics as literature and knowing where they placed into the narrative that I was creating with the screenplay. One of the things [that was] important to me was not to ‘insert the song’ that had nothing to do with the story. In that context, it’s fantastic, but the idea that you just break into song and there’s magically an instrument in the scene, I knew wouldn’t work.”

In creating the template for Purple Rain, Magnoli had proven source material as his guide. “What worked for me was the film Cabaret by Bob Fosse,” Magnoli commented. “The fact is that the musical moments broadened the scope of the narrative, and the narrative drove the musical moment. It was a seamless flow of narrative and music. On top of that, the lyrical content of each performance number illuminated what was said in dialogue before and after the song. That was my approach – onstage and offstage. The narrative had to reflect and amplify the musical number and the music had to thrust me back into narrative. I wrote the screenplay and named the song that would play at that certain place.”

With a lack of MTV-era media to influence the film, Magnoli drew from his own experiences to create the movie’s visual world. “All of the stuff that was a hurdle at the film school level was no longer a hurdle,” he stated. “Now you are bringing a product to a marketplace to create those visuals that fascinate the audience. This is pre-MTV. There was no visual archive that we are now saturated with. There were no rock ‘n’ roll movies that were concert oriented. Basically, I knew what a nightclub should look like because I was a drummer in bands and was in a lot of clubs. I knew how clubs looked and what they smelled like. I was always fascinated by waitresses trying to get through a crowd of people with a tray full of drinks. In Jazz, I did the same thing: it was about creating images. I never watched MTV. By the time the film came out, MTV exploded. The film was already shot. There was no learning curve based on MTV at all.”

While the shoot went fairly smoothly, Magnoli notes the cooperation between departments as a key factor in the shoot’s effortless fluidity. “It was about as effortless as you can imagine,” he said. “There was absolutely no difficulty in the making of the film. Weather was a factor because it was such dramatic weather. The experience of creating an environment for the artists to work [in] was magic. The film crew was coming into a musical component that was fully formed. These [musicians] are used to performing and getting around on their own. They were highly suspicious of outsiders. Our job was to bring their art to a visual medium and meld into the background and do our work and bring them to the level we need.”

Sometimes the work of great editing rests more on the isolation of ideas than it does on collaboration. As such, Magnoli had a specific vision, and took it upon himself to create the narrative he wanted. “You never know anything when you are shooting,” he said. “There wasn’t much editing going on on location. Ken Robinson from USC was chopping away. I said to Ken, ‘Just read the script, shape it, but I’m not going to come into this room ever again. I am going to concentrate on getting the material ready to go. Once I get to LA, I‘m going to sit down and go to town.’ It was about shaping this thing: opening a story with a performance that you are cutting away from to create a storyline with five different characters. I hadn’t seen that before. I was inspired by the last minutes of The Godfather. The opening of Purple Rain—the equivalent of Michael Coreleone baptizing his child—is Prince on stage, and the cutaways are about all of the characters as they travel to the club. In seven-and-a-half minutes, I had created these characters and gotten them to the club. Everybody challenged it. Nobody understood what was there until I cut it. “

After all of the hard work, validation still comes with the reaction of the filmgoer, and, for Magnoli, the result was gratifying, and a testament to staying faithful to his vision. “You never know,” he confessed. “It was obvious from just things that I knew instinctively and had seen an audience react to on Jazz; it was what I was going for – you go for it and release it to the world and your audience, and they embrace it or don’t; then they make it their own. Us doing our job and watching what happens when the audience makes it their own. Those moments were repeated again and again with other bands. You started seeing that visual signature repeated.”
While the 1980s wasn’t an era known for multi-picture deals, Magnoli was still capable of rolling Purple Rain’s success into another classic production. “If you had done [Purple Rain] now, it would almost be like everybody in town would be trying to give you a 10-picture deal,” he said. “Back then, there was an attitude like, ‘It’s okay.’ There was tremendous response, but it wasn’t like someone came to you with a gift. There was a moment where Warner Bros. wanted me to stay. They handed me a script that said Batman. In 1984, the word Batman on a script was influenced by the TV show. In fact, the last scene Batman was carrying an oversize pencil fighting the Joker who had an oversized eraser. I didn’t find its campiness appealing on any level.”
Nonetheless, Magnoli stayed in the Batman game at the time – to a point. “I am talking to the same people I made Purple Rain with,” he noted. “’It should be dark, incredibly frightening, and examine the psychological underpinnings of this.’ They just wanted to make a campy movie. Two years later, the comic book writers of Batman decided to reboot the franchise with The Dark Knight. They knew that they had to become more serious and darker. By 1988, Tim Burton was handed the dark version. By then, I’m managing Prince and I’m in a meeting with Tim Burton for the music on Batman— we did the Batman album. I wanted to do very specific things film[wise] and musically. [Prince] wasn’t interested in spending the time. He ended up making Graffiti Bridge, so it was better for us to split.”

Over three decades into a heralded career, a wiser and more adept Magnoli still believes that the major studios have yet to fully maximize the potential at their disposal. Now more than ever, he believes in the immense potential of allowing creative talents to shine through and break into the ranks such as he did so many years ago. “It was obvious that they still didn’t understand how it got done,” he said of Purple Rain’s immense musical-film crossover success. “It was strange. Eight Mile and La Bamba and Selena; in 30 years, they’ve made four films. It’s a very difficult thing. Most people don’t see it translating into something. There were offers, but now you need to learn how to negotiate this thing called Hollywood. I’ve figured it out, and I’m trying to get an entire slate financed. There are 13 scripts plus a television show. The internet now allows you to be anywhere on the planet.”

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The Spotlight Falls on Thomas A. Walsh, Longtime Art Directors Guild President Article by Scott Essman and Chelsea Beebe

The Spotlight Falls on Thomas A. Walsh, Longtime Art Directors Guild President
Article by Scott Essman and Chelsea Beebe

Production designer Thomas A. Walsh has reached career plateaus to which few art directors can ascend. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California into a show business family, it was pretty clear from the start that Walsh would end up working in some facet of the industry. In 1977, after receiving his Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Theatre Design from the California Institute of the Arts, he began his entertainment industry life as a union stage propmaker and scenic painter.

Walsh has never believed in sticking to just one form of media or even one genre, but instead believes that in order to be the most successful and well-rounded in one’s career, you must strive to reach outside of your comfort zone. Walsh has always firmly stood by the principal that you should “engage in projects which are of value to [your] craft in particular.”.

Since then, not only has Walsh worked on dozens of Emmy and Academy Award-winning and nominated projects, but he also served as the president of Art Directors Guild (ADG) for ten years. “Art directors have seven constituent branches: art directors/production designers, set designers, illustrators, scenic title and graphic designers.”

Although Walsh no longer sits as president of the ADG, I consider myself now a minister without a portfolio,” Walsh said, he still remains a very active member, particularly helping young, fresh talent get their first break into the industry. In the ADG’s first year hosting a new program targeted towards young talent, from 91 applicants, only 4 aspiring art directors were accepted into the program. “It is a very transparent and constructive program,” said Walsh. “These younger people are coming in because they want to. They are catalysts for the future leadership for our organization. Everything is changing so fast, and everyone is scared.”

Walsh believes that, today, it is even more challenging for young talent to break into the industry because a vocal minority of art directors who have been in the business long enough are not willing to make it easy for these new comers; this older guard believe that because they had a difficult time getting into the union and getting established, the same dues-paying period should be applied towards the next generation of art directors. To this shortsightedness Walsh responds “if we don’t represent the majority of the workforce we cannot have the most dominate and relevant presence in the future of the workplace.”

Along with this program for new talent, Walsh is also actively involved in The Art Directors Film Society—a program designed to honor and celebrate the careers and achievements of designers who have made significant contributions to the advancement of excellence in the design of motion pictures. The society gives both industry and non-industry film lovers the chance to take a closer look at the design process of feature films from the designer’s point of view. Currently having completed its 15th season, The Art Director’s Film Society recently held an event in tribute to art directing legend, Harper Goff. Goff was not only Walt Disney’s first choice in designing Disneyland, but he also designed remarkable sets for many successful films including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Vikings, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971).

When asked about the importance of having these events in order to pay homage to the industry’s great names, Walsh said, “We are in collaboration with the Motion Picture Academy who are part of an oral history collection of all the principal crafts represented by the Academy. This is an industry that doesn’t value its past [as much as some facets of the business]… we have to chronicle the story before it’s gone.”

Ever increasingly, art direction in contemporary film projects utilizes digital technologies: something Walsh is not necessarily opposed to, but believes is taking over the industry in a way that does not always allow for the best stories or storytelling. “Only a fool would dismiss digital technologies—they are here to stay and give us all sorts of possibilities that we could never before consider,” Walsh explained. “These are tools, and with any craftsperson, you use the right tools for the right purpose.”

As Walsh described, having these new technologies and the ability to tell stories set in worlds that cannot exist in reality is an certain asset to the film industry; however, because these technologies are being so overused, many stories which do not require this type of technology are not receiving the chance to be told, simply because studios do not believe these films have the potential to make as much money. This is also one of the primary reasons why the format of television has changed so dramatically over the years as this technology has continued to develop. “They will always need physical sets just as they will always need physical actors,” said Walsh, “or then you are making an animated movie… filmmakers are telling their stories in television with something as good as if it was a feature. They are still trying to figure it out and monetize it. No one format will be the dominant format. The biggest problem is that the studios aren’t managed by filmmakers who are passionate about making movies. It seems for many that their passion is about making personal fortunes and amassing all of the trappings, none of which will endure like a great story told well can and will.”

Alas, the passing sands of time will determine the directions in which the Art Directors Guild will head; however, the one thing that is known is that Thomas Walsh will continue to passionately lead and mentor current and future art directors regardless of what transpires within the industry.

Hollywood Heartache

Hollywood Heartache

A lifelong love affair with the magic of the silver screen has led Scott Essman to La Verne, where he provides his students with expert insight about filmmaking.

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As a kid, adjunct communications professor, Scott Essman was fascinated by the eclectic and parallel world created by movies and the film industry. He had a peculiar interest, uncommon for kids his age. He would not get up and walk off when the words “The End” would appear on screen. The movie was not over for him.

The credits were yet to come and he would patiently wait in his seat, reading all the names of the cast and crew. Every so often he would jump at the fact that he recognized a director, writer or producer from another movie and that he’d made the connection.

Now, after 19 years of a career in film writing, editing and teaching, he has met and interviewed the “big shots” he once admired as a kid. James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are just some of the world-renowned directors who have crossed his path. It is safe to say that Scott Essman knows his way around Hollywood and, in his January term class, “Hollywood in La Verne,” he lets the students walk into this world.

“The idea is to have writers, producers, directors and other people involved in the creations of films come in, show their movies, and then have a Q&A with the person and open it up to students,” said Don Pollock, professor of Communications. The three-and-a-half-hour class that takes place in the Arts and Communications Building at La Verne is far from boring for the students who eagerly ask and listen to the guest speakers talk about their films.

“This is basically a meet- the-film-maker class,” Pollock said.

For Essman, the class is handled and taught as a craft. Students learn some theoretical aspects of films such as editing, visual effects and writing, but the focus is mainly on the practical aspect. Every session, the students are shown a screening of a full-length movie, a documentary, or a short film, which is followed by meeting the creator behind it.

“We are talking about the reality of what these people have done professionally,” Essman said. “How they’ve gone about what they do and what has been successful for them. It’s a very practical type of class, rather than a theoretical class. Our students are really learning exactly what these people did that led to them having a career.”

As soon as the movie ends, Essman introduces the guest speaker and continues to have a Q&A session in front of the class. His strong interviewing skills arise from the naturally social and inquisitive personality he got, he says, from his mother.

“I am so curious, whenever I get someone artistic — I don’t care if they are musician, filmmaker or actor — I immediately ask a lot of questions,” Essman said. “Even if people aren’t in the arts necessarily, I always want to know more about them. I’m inquisitive as a personality type.”

It took Essman 10 years after earning his undergraduate degree from USC to shape his career around the film industry.

“I was 29 and I decided I loved the field of entertainment, filmmaking and creativity. I love it too much to just be passive, just be an audience member my whole life. I decided to be active,” Essman said. He says he took the initiative and started from scratch.

Not having the benefits of the internet or social media in 1995, Essman chose an old-fashioned way of communicating and networking: He began looking people up from the industry in phonebooks and calling them to schedule interviews. His interviews consequently led to writing articles about the people he met or movies he watched.

An avid writer since college, Essman has written articles and stories for international and national film magazines such as, “Creative Screenwriting,” “Cinefex,” “Cinemaeditor,” “Below the Line News,” and “L’Ecran Fantastique,” a French movie magazine. Essman has produced more than 500 magazine articles in the past 20 years. Such depth of research and reporting is reflected in his questions toward the guest speakers in his class.

The students listen intently as Essman asks producer and visual effects editor, Van Ling, to recall how as a recently out-of-college student from USC he became the Research and Creative Assistant to James Cameron in the movie “The Abyss.” As a result of a dare by a fellow film student, Ling built a seven-and-a-half-foot tall suit with mechanical arms. “On Halloween, 1986, I called [James Cameron’s production company] and I said: ‘Do you have jobs?’ They said: ‘No, we don’t have anything right now.’ I said: ‘By the way, I built a powerloader.’ They said, ‘Come on down and show it to us tomorrow.’”

In 2004, Essman received a master’s degree in Educational Multimedia from California State University and in 2009 he started teaching at La Verne. He has written books and feature-length and short-film scripts. He wrote and directed the animated short “Dox E. Dog,” and the video short “Trane and Miles,” for which he won the Audience Choice Award at the 909 Film Festival and an Award of Merit at the Best International Shorts Competition in San Diego.

Essman is a full-time teacher at the Art Institute in Orange County and also teaches an Introduction to Mass Media course at La Verne. However, it is the “Hollywood in La Verne” class that allows a wide range of students to partake and enjoy regardless of their major.

“I hope they are gaining what anyone would get from an elective class, which is knowledge about something in their field they didn’t previously know,” Essman said.

For senior and philosophy major, Alon Dina, the class has been a motivational tool.

“It taught me that if you really want to do something and be like these guys, you have to put your whole foot into it,” Dina said.

Fifteen guest speakers were scheduled for the January term class, among them , “Dead Poets Society” screenwriter Tom Schulman, and “Stargate” visual effects supervisor Jeffrey A. Okun.

“The program is about developing critical thinking skills,” Pollock said. “To be able to see a movie and then talk to somebody who is a creator, you begin to understand a little bit more about the process that goes into making films.”

Sophomore communications major Bianca Zapata said the class has made her more critical toward what she watches.

“Now, when I watch TV, I am thinking: ‘Oh they are not holding the camera right or they are not doing this, or look at how they are standing,’” she said. “I am more aware of what is actually happening on the scene, not just watching and listening to it.”

Essman encourages his students to ask analytical and introspective questions to the guest speakers. He distinguishes the importance of the “why” questions, as opposed to the “how.”

“In art, the ‘how’ is kind of simple, you know, you can teach anyone how to use a computer,” Essman said. “But some of the students now in these classes are asking why, and when the students start asking that, they get much better answers, as the ‘why’ is getting inside the mind of the person.”

Regardless of their major or interest, the “Hollywood in La Verne” class opens doors to students and allows them to view film and art as another of communication and expression.

“I think watching movies can give you the greatest lesson about life,” Dina said, “because by observing, you are experiencing it.”

— Story by Bernarda Carranza