Category Archives: entertainment news

Aretha Franklin: totally incomparable

Aretha Franklin’s death Thursday came at an ironic time.

Yes, the world has lost a pure treasure. Her voice carried a message that inspired millions of Americans. She loved God and she carried that message of faith throughout her extraordinary 76 years of life on Earth.

Let me recall, though, that she left this world on the anniversary of the day that another American musician and entertainer of some note left us. I refer to Elvis Aaron Presley, who died on Aug. 16, 1977.

I want to recall what another memorable entertainer once said of Presley. Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, said in tribute to Elvis that he was one “who would never be compared to anyone else.”

Let it be said as well of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Louise Franklin.

She was far beyond compare. May she rest in peace. May her voice stay with us forever and ever.

Amarillo Opera gets some serious star power … woo hoo!

Let me stipulate right up front that I know next to nothing about opera. I don’t know an aria from a contata.

However, I do know about opera star power and how it translate to something so good for whatever an opera star can bring to whatever he or she touches.

With that, I want to say that the Amarillo (Texas) Opera has just lifted its star power way, way up by hiring Mary Jane Johnson as its new executive director.

I cannot claim to know Johnson well, although we are acquainted. I do know a good bit of her, particularly that she has performed internationally for more than three decades. She has sung at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She had the good fortune to be discovered by a pretty good tenor, the late Luciano Pavarotti, who heard her sing in 1981.

As Panhandle PBS reported: “The Board of Trustees of Amarillo Opera has great confidence in Ms. Johnson(‘s) vision and leadership of Amarillo Opera and looks forward to continuing the outstanding work of one of Amarillo’s great cultural assets,” according to the release.

Johnson hails from Pampa. I know that’s a long way from where she’s been and, indeed, where she is going.

As for the fellow she replaces, David O’Dell, he left when the opera board didn’t renew his contract. I cannot comment on the circumstances surrounding O’Dell’s departure. I will say that he has become a good friend over the years. I, too, wish him well as he pursues other opportunities, which I am certain will come his way.

There appear to be some financial concerns regarding the opera, according to Panhandle PBS: Robert Hansen, president-elect of the opera’s board of directors, said the company is on “shaky ground” financially but not in immediate danger of folding.

“We need to take action to preserve the opera,” he said. “We need to be more tightly committed to the original mission of Amarillo Opera, one key point of which is to nurture local talent and to serve the community.”

Again, here is where Mary Jane Johnson’s star power can potentially bring a lot of healing to Amarillo’s Opera.

Clear your throat, Mrs. Johnson, so that you will be heard.

Steven Seagal: Renaissance Man

You’ve no doubt heard of Steven Seagal. He’s a martial arts expert who’s done some films that highlight his fighting skill.

Let’s face it. He can’t act his way out of wet paper bag.

He’s now been enlisted by Donald J. Trump’s BFF, Vladimir Putin to — and this is so good — work on improving U.S.-Russia relations.

Wow, man! Isn’t that right in Steven Seagal’s wheelhouse? Actually, um, no. It isn’t.

Seagal is a Russian citizen these days. He appears frequently on Russian state TV to talk about, oh I don’t know, this or that.

Now he’s been tasked with shoring up Russia’s relations with the United States?

I suppose I shouldn’t look askance at this too blatantly. Other entertainment figures have assumed similar roles in the past, although I am hard-pressed to name any of them at this moment.

Still … Steven Seagal?

Start packing up, Coach Meyer

This is just me, but it looks for all the world as though another noted athletic figure is about to be shown the door.

Ohio State University head football coach Urban Meyer is now on “administrative leave” while the school — using an outside investigative firm — looks into allegations that Meyer looked the other way while one of his assistants was abusing his wife.

The “Me Too” movement well might be set to score another “victory” in its effort to eradicate this kind of disgraceful behavior.

As has noted, Meyer attained college football greatness leading a team — at the University of Florida — at a time when there was much greater tolerance of players’ misconduct.

Read the ESPN story here.

The Ohio State story is quite a bit different. It involves an assistant coach Zach Smith, who allegedly was physically assaulting his now former wife, Courtney Smith. Meanwhile, Urban and others knew about it, but took no action.

Urban Meyer has been perceived for a long time to be one of the good guys in intercollegiate sports. This story, if it proves true, peels away that veneer more than likely forever.

The “Me Too” movement has arisen out of an increasing societal intolerance of abusive behavior of powerful men. It has ended the careers of men in sports, entertainment and politics. As it should! It has, in the case of Bill Cosby, resulted in a criminal conviction. There likely will be others.

I don’t want Urban Meyer to be the next one to be given the boot. If the OSU investigation proves that, yes, the head coach knew about sexual abuse involving a staff member but looked away … well, the school will have no choice but to fire him.

Amarillo channeling OKC?

I’m hearing some similar-sounding economic rumblings from two places: Amarillo, Texas and Oklahoma City.

An acquaintance of mine, Jason Herrick, active in Amarillo Matters, a pro-business political action group, writes this via Twitter: You mean the same OKC that first built a downtown ballpark, then attracted a minor league team and kicked off a revitalization of downtown? And now they are attracting new hotels and investment because there is demand for the product?

I am going to surmise from Herrick’s message that downtown Oklahoma City is continuing to stir, to come to life, to enjoy the fruits of public investment.

Amarillo’s downtown district is beginning to rumble in much the same manner, again thanks to some public investment.

You see, OKC decided some years to invest some public money into construction of a new ballpark near what’s now called Bricktown in the downtown district. The ballpark is now home to the city’s AAA minor-league baseball franchise. Bricktown took off, too.

The city encouraged development of an entertainment district along a Canadian River tributary that flows through the downtown area. Abandoned warehouses were re-purposed. The city built a new sports venue downtown, where the Oklahoma City Thunder play NBA basketball before packed houses.

Life is good in downtown OKC.

So, where is Amarillo tracking these days? From my vantage point it appears that the city of my former residence well might be along the same track. Yes, I get that Amarillo doesn’t have a river running through its downtown district. I also understand the disparity in the size of the two communities: Amarillo has 200,000 residents; OKC is home to around 700,000. Still, there are signs of life to be seen in little ol’ Amarillo.

A downtown ballpark is under construction. The city has opened a first-class convention hotel. Polk Street is stirring back to life. Residents are moving into newly developed dwellings.

Where will the future take Amarillo? It needs to look just a bit eastward along Interstate 40, toward OKC, perhaps to get a clue.

Mr. Rogers ought to show the GOP the way

A lawyer, Chris Perri, has written a fascinating essay for the Texas Tribune that pays a wonderful tribute to the late Fred Rogers, the Presbyterian minister who became a public television superstar.

According to Perri, Mr. Rogers was a lifelong Republican, a fact that surprised the author of the essay. Why the surprise?

Perri writes: Because the values he was espousing – of compassion, human dignity, radical acceptance, emotional health and funding for public broadcasting – struck me as, well, liberal. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that’s because I identify as progressive and share these values. But these aren’t Republican or Democrat but American values.

Yet right now Republican leaders aren’t upholding these shared American values. When we see children ripped from their parents at the border, refugees fleeing violence shut out of our country and corporations being awarded more rights than human beings, it’s hard to believe that the Republican Party of today is upholding our values. Mr. Rogers would have been appalled by the developmental trauma inflicted on children by many of these extreme policies.

How about that?

Might there be a lesson to be handed down here? Of course there is.

Rogers has been highlighted in a documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” that’s drawing some good critical reviews.

Rogers, who played host on the PBS series “Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood,” was the paragon of kindness, compassion and understanding.

Perri makes no bones about his partisan leanings. He once ran as a Democrat for a congressional seat. He lost. The bigger issue is the surprise he learned about an iconic figure’s background.

As Perri has noted, Fred Rogers’s views don’t belong to liberals or Democrats or anyone of a particular political stripe. They are quintessentially American.

I hope today’s Republican Party will start paying attention and toss aside the ongoing rage coming from the mouth of the Republican in Chief who happens to be the president of the United States.

Take a look at Chris Perri’s essay here.

I hope you, too, will learn something. I sure did.

Whoopi vs. The Judge

I didn’t watch Whoopi Goldberg and Jeanine Pirro plunge daggers into each other’s backs in real time. I caught up with it later.

I am filled with a couple of thoughts I want to share.

First, Goldberg has established herself on “The View,” a network TV show she co-hosts, as an ardent, vehement and feverish opponent of Donald J. Trump. Accordingly, Pirro — a former New York judge — has staked out her role on Fox News as an equally ardent, vehement and feverish supporter of the president.

“The View” invited Pirro on the show to discuss, I presume, the state of affairs regarding the president.

Didn’t anyone on the show — or on Pirro’s staff, for that matter — anticipate that these two foes/enemies would end their confrontation in such a heated manner? Had it occurred to anyone, they might have thought better of inviting this kind of rage to present itself … on daytime television!

Check it out here.

Goldberg should be ashamed of herself for treating a guest on the show in the manner that she did. However, I won’t join the right-wing media campaign to persuade ABC-TV to fire Goldberg and/or cancel “The View.”

But if there was any demonstration of the state of our political discourse these days, it revealed itself on a talk show that over the years has been a breeding ground for the co-hosts and their guests to vent their visceral anger at each other in ways that give “political debate” a bad name.

Let’s settle down.

SCOTUS pick fueled by ratings

Donald J. Trump just cannot shuck his past as a TV celebrity.

Thus, the president of the United States plans to announce his selection to the U.S. Supreme Court at 9 p.m. Monday.

That’s prime time, man!

Many millions of eyes will be on him when he trots out the next nominee to the court, the individual who is expected to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy, who’s retiring at the end of the month.

I won’t belabor the point, but it does seem cheesy and it seems to devalue the importance of the selection. I remain somewhat concerned that when Trump announces the name of the individual that he’s going to make this event more about him than about the person who’ll don the black robes and make critically important decisions that affect all Americans.

That’s the Trump way.

MPEV under budget? How about that, sports fans?

Amarillo apparently is going to take its next step toward its future ahead of schedule; what’s more, it well might cost a little less than originally projected.

Does it get any better than that?

The multipurpose event venue project that’s under construction is slightly under budget, according to city officials and contractors. The MPEV had been budgeted at about $40 million for construction, but officials say the cost is slightly less than that; the total cost of the project is estimated at $45.5 million.

As for the timetable, Mother Nature has dealt construction crews a winning hand. A lack of precipitation over the winter helped greatly. The spring has been mostly dry, although I understand some rain has fallen in recent days.

I ran into former Mayor Paul Harpole the other day on Sixth Avenue and he said the MPEV is set to be finished in February 2019, well ahead of the opening of the minor-league AA baseball season that commences in April.

I am enjoying being able to watch this project take form, even from some distance these days. I no longer live in Amarillo; I no longer pay taxes there. Despite our relocation to Collin County, I remain emotionally invested in the MPEV and in downtown Amarillo’s future.

The Amarillo Globe-News reports: City Manager Jared Miller said the general contractors set the tone for the project being under budget.

“I just want to highlight the work of and express appreciation to Western Builders and Hunt Construction,” he said. “These guys put in the time and work. We’ve been working five or six months now, knowing when we first got the pricing for building this building, it was significantly higher than it is right now. They’ve worked hard to bring this number down so the construction number was below $40 million. I cannot say enough good things about the team at Western Builders and they have done yeoman work. And Kudos to our architects, Populous.”

Most of its momentum developed after I left daily journalism. Still, I was able to watch it take root while I lived within shouting distance of where the MPEV/ballpark will open.

Even though I have moved away, I remain delighted to watch this project proceed on a pace that puts it ahead of schedule and, yes under budget.

I am rooting hard for its successful completion.

Conservative actor gets the boot?

I don’t like the tenor and tone of the news I’m hearing about one of my favorite actors.

James Woods says his agent has dropped him because of his pro-Donald Trump, conservative political leanings.

C’mon, dudes! What is going on here?

I didn’t even know about Woods’s politics until, oh, about a year or two ago. I haven’t cared one damn bit about them. I don’t care now!

I like the man’s art. I like watching him perform on big screen or on TV. I like James Woods, the actor.

I might think differently about James Woods if he were to shuck his acting career and enter the political world. He hasn’t. He remains an entertainer.

Woods revealed that his agent, Ken Kaplan, was dropping him. According to The Wrap: “It’s the 4th of July and I’m feeling patriotic. I don’t want to represent you anymore. I mean I could go on a rant but you know what I’d say,” said Kaplan, who Woods described as a “political liberal.”


Reports such as this give progressives a bad name. If by definition their politics espouses “liberal” policies, doesn’t that imply an open mind, a quest for other points of view, an inclusive world view?

I simply detest the idea that one of our nation’s premier actors is being kicked around — allegedly! — because of political views that, to my way of thinking, have nothing whatsoever to do with his art.