Posts Tagged ‘Celebrities’

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Dissed By Danza: The Real Losers When Stars Behave Badly

October 21, 2013

You can’t help but feel excited for the cast of  “Honeymoon in Vegas The Musical” at Paper Mill Playhouse. They know that this show is this close to landing on Broadway. You can see how hard the cast, mostly young, some mid career, are working to seal the deal…performing their hearts out to convince any doubters that this show would be a mega hit if a Broadway theatre just gives it a chance.

And you can’t help feeling how proud Paper Mill Playhouse is to have this world premiere opening its  2013-2014 season.  Just six years ago, it looked like one of New Jersey’s best known regional theatres would go under. Choking on debt and suffering the fallout of failed artistic choices, Paper Mill nearly shuttered. Finally, it was a take-over by its home city of Millburn that saved Paper Mill.

Now, Paper Mill is presenting one of its most critically acclaimed shows in years, the musical version of the Nicholas Cage-Sarah Jessica Parker film, “Honeymoon In Vegas.” If the show transfers to Broadway it would be another much needed feather in Paper Mill’s cap. Two years ago the Broadway sensation “Newsies” transferred directly from Paper Mill.

What “Honeymoon In Vegas The Musical” does not have is stars. Some in the talented cast are known in the theatre community but not to the general public. Except one performer: Tony Danza.  The former sitcom actor plays the James Caan part from the movie…the older widower trying to woo a young woman away from her fiance. In shows like this, the lesser known cast members rely on the famous to bring attention to the show. Their chance to make it to Broadway, to have a paycheck, is helped when the most recognizable person in the cast brings notice to everyone’s good work.

Which is why it is so troubling that Tony Danza declined without notice to talk about this production, canceling our scheduled interview at Paper Mill on Friday evening at the very time it was to begin.  Danza, residing  in theatre housing almost next door and without need to travel for the interview, did so without expressing to us a word of apology or regret, leaving the Paper Mill’s longtime publicist and a true believer in “Honeymoon in Vegas The Musical,”  to deliver the embarrassing message.

But this isn’t just an affront to the hard working folks at Paper Mill,  who most certainly liked the idea of this show being featured on local television. There are a week of shows left, none of which is listed as sold out as of the time I’m writing this.  (Sold out houses would also help convince Broadway the show is a good bet). When Danza backed out on the opportunity to discuss work being staged in New Jersey, it hurt the state’s arts community.

I am extremely fortunate to work at News 12 New Jersey, one of the only local television stations in America that still covers  arts and entertainment in a substantive way.  It is time consuming and costs money, but the station feels that  it is important for well rounded coverage. However, I still have to advocate to get time to do my segments and sometimes fight for camera crews. The interview Friday night was one of those times.

Maybe Danza felt not showing up for an interview with the local tv station was no big deal. He was recently on Jimmy Fallon and the Today Show, after all. But we’re proud of what we do. In fact, it’s not only the newscasts where my pieces air.  I produce and host an arts and entertainment series of half hour specials, “ON THE SCENE.” We’ve won two Emmy Awards, garnered a dozen Emmy Award nominations, and earned more than two dozen other regional and national peer recognition awards.   We’re the only show of our kind…one that is shot entirely on location in the artist’s environment and hosted from arts venues… on commercial tv in the New York market.  Some of the most accomplished artists in their genres have sat down with me for interviews…Tony Bennett, Lewis Black, Joan Rivers, Tyne Daly, Bill T. Jones, Bernadette Peters to name only a very few.

New Jersey has a vibrant theatre community seldom seen by the outside world and one that would never be in the spotlight without a program like ours, or the local newspapers. When Danza turns his back at the last minute he’s not just wasting the time and energy of many people, he has shut out viewers who have found in my show the rarest of places where enlightening interviews with artists and entertainers still exist.

Yes, I understand that a “personal emergency” or “sudden conflict” or “death in the family”  and other matters do come up that legitimately cause scheduled appointments to be missed.   But the entertainment industry and the journalists who cover it are also a surprisingly small lot.  It’s not lost on us how many of us have heard the same reasons for cancelations by the same people over and over again.  As the saying goes, “you can’t always be having a bad day.”

Certainly, I didn’t let one canceled interview stop us from doing the story. The charismatic lead actor in “Honeymoon In Vegas The Musical,”  Rob McClure, has a long connection to Paper Mill. He went from selling tickets in the box office to starring in a musical in which people are buying tickets to see him. ( It was my third interview with McClure within the past year. He was nominated for a Tony Award earlier this year for playing Charlie Chaplin in “Chaplin The Musical.” ) And Friday evening  we also shot footage of the musical’s first act.

The piece will air today. I’m sure viewers won’t miss the Tony Danza interview because they don’t know it was supposed to be there to begin with. But if they are clicking through the channels,  would more people have stopped when seeing a familiar face from 70s and 80s tv? Would they be curious what he’s up to now? Absolutely. And maybe they would spend a minute or two longer watching and enjoying that hard working cast singing and dancing… and dreaming of  Broadway.

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Being Honored At The Waldorf Astoria

May 19, 2013
John Bathke Honored At Deadline Club, Waldorf Astoria.

John Bathke Honored At Deadline Club, Waldorf Astoria.

There’s no finer place to lose an award the Waldorf Astoria. I can tell you that without fear of contradiction. I have done it, just this past Thursday night, in fact.

I was a finalist for a Deadline Club Award, one of New York’s most esteemed journalism honors bestowed to national and local journalists in television, newspaper, magazine and all forms of online media. The awards dinner is held annually at the glittering, opulent, oh-so New York, Waldorf.

The work singled out by the Deadline Club judges is a piece that means a great deal to me..an emotional, riveting and completely in the moment account of emergency rescues performed following a tidal surge caused by Superstorm Sandy. Three towns in Bergen County, New Jersey suddenly flooded leaving thousands stranded.

I’ll never forget the people who we met that day…being pulled to safety from their homes, others coming to a shelter looking frantically for relatives. It was a crucial story to be told, and I believe we did it justice for all those residents suffering the storm’s wrath.

In the end it was coverage of Sandy by another television station that claimed the award, but to be one of three finalists for an honor as prestigious as the Deadline Club, is an award in itself.

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Joan Rivers, Jewel, Glen Burtnik: ON THE SCENE

April 6, 2013

Tune in this weekend, April 6 & 7, for an all new ON THE SCENE on News 12 New Jersey at 11 AM, 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM each day.

This is one of my all time favorite episodes. I interviewed Joan Rivers at her Manhattan apartment. We had a conversation about complicated mother-daughter relationships, her enduring comedy career and who makes her laugh. This is not an interview of punchlines, but about real emotions and I think everyone watching will discover something new about Rivers…even after all her years in show business.

The interview with Jewel was done backstage at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood where she launched her 2013 national tour. Jewel donated items to raise money for a New Jersey charity helping Sandy victims, and she and I talk about her own ordeal with homelessness as a beginning artist…and how that’s helped her to identify with people in New Jersey who lost homes to the storm.

And my Glen Burtnik interview morphed into a profile of a songwriter and his song, and I think it’s fascinating. Glen co-wrote “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” with Patty Smythe over 20 years ago. It’s a heartbreaking rock ballad. But the lyrics never meant that much to Glen…till his divorce years later. And suddenly, that song became almost impossible for him to sing.

Watch, and let me know what you think of the show.

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Front Row LIVE! My Christopher O’Riley Interview

February 8, 2013
John Bathke & Christopher O'Riley

John Bathke & Christopher O’Riley

An enthusiastic audience of loyal music fans turned out last night for the debut of “Front Row LIVE!” at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC).  I interviewed the classical pianist Christopher O’Riley, best known for his arrangements of songs by Radiohead, Tears For Fears, Elliott Smith, Pink Floyd and Nirvana. He also hosts the NPR show, “From The Top.”

SOPAC invited me to conduct the interview following his concert there. Die hard Radiohead and traditional classical music fans gave me the thumbs up after the show so if my questions were interesting to both groups, I’m more than happy.

More shows will be announced at http://www.sopacnow.org and I hope to see you there.

 

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Rockin’ Till The Light Of Day: A Review

January 20, 2013
Darlene Love Performs at Light Of Day, 2013

Darlene Love Performs at Light Of Day, 2013

It’s called the Light Of Day and one wonders if daybreak may come before the last act exits the stage at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park.

The annual concert organized by the Light Of Day Foundation to benefit Parkinson’s Disease research has grown into a full fledged city wide music festival in the 13 years since its modest start as a birthday party for Parkinson’s patient and music industry insider, Bob Benjamin.

This year’s main stage shows at the Paramount featuring a multitude of rock acts stretched into a more than seven hour music marathon on Saturday night.

The show had sold  out in less than an hour without any of the talent being announced, largely on speculation that Bruce Springsteen would once again close the show as a surprise guest as he had nine of the previous twelve years.

But the Boss did not show this year, giving fans the heads up on his website the day before that he would “be away with family.”  But there was plenty to satisfy a wide range of musical tastes with performances by some of New Jersey’s favorite musicians.

Stand-out sets included  Garland Jeffreys with an impressive cover of “96 Tears” and his rousing closer, “Hail Hail Rock ‘n Roll.”  An on-fire Willie Nile kicked down the doors with his powerhouse “One Guitar” and despite technical difficulties John Easdale and  Dramarama soldiered through one of the most beautifully sung and emotionally delivered short sets of the evening.

But the star status, with Springsteen not on hand, went to headliner Darlene Love. The Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame member took the stage for a nearly 45 minute set backed by a seven piece band and three singers.

Love proved that not only does she possess one of the richest voices in Rock ‘n Roll, she has one of the tightest bodies… poured into a form fitting gleaming black leotard the audience not only heard her thunderous voice, she left no doubt where it was coming from.

Love, who Springsteen once called a “one woman wall of sound”  kicked off her set with the Phil Spector-produced 1960s classics  about young love “A Fine Fine Boy,” “Wait Till My Bobby Gets Home” and the crowd pleasing, much covered “Da Doo Ron Ron.”

Phil Spector records are featured heavily in Love’s concerts. In a 2010 interview for my program “ON THE SCENE,” on News 12 New Jersey (watch this interview on the Credits page of  johnbathke.com) Love told me that without the work she did with Spector, she believes that she would not have been inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. She was under contract to Spector for much of the 1960s, recording lead and  backing vocals on countless records. Most famously, Love’s voice was the lead vocal on the number one 1962 hit, “He’s A Rebel.” But Spector released the song under the name of his more popular girl group “The Crystals” and Love went uncredited for years. This led to lawsuits that Love filed against Spector to obtain credit and compensation.

A tender medley of Marvin Gaye hits including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “What’s Going On,” also a staple in Love’s performances, was well placed in the center of her set before Love returned to Spector-produced material including the improbable but catchy rock ‘n roll version of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

Love finished with “River Deep-Mountain High,” a record that she had asked Spector to let her record. Instead, he chose Tina Turner for the 1966 recording and Love was relegated to singing back-up, an experience she recalled as “miserable”  in her 1998 memoir, “My Name Is Love.” The session dragged on for hours in a sweltering studio, she said, as Spector demanded that Turner sing the song dozens of times until her voice had the hoarse and weary quality that he wanted. Love said she thought the finished product sounded like “crap” and, in fact, “River Deep-Mountain High” was so poorly received at the time that Spector went into seclusion for years afterward. But the song has become a rock ‘n roll standard and Turner seldom performed a show without it, right through her 50th anniversary tour in 2008-2009. Aside from Turner, Love is now the premiere interpreter of the song that she so badly wanted for her own more 45 years ago.

Love’s performance, as with night’s others, lacked meticulous acoustics which is the most common problem in these multi-act concerts where the stage must be quickly reset between performers without sound checks. But the night was first and foremost for a cause and the Light Of Day Foundation expected to raise 300 thousand dollars.

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Most Viewed of 2012: Randy Harrison; Lewis Black; Jim Norton

January 1, 2013

So before we venture one more day into this new year of 2013, let me say that several interviews that we aired in  “ON THE SCENE” in 2012 got people watching and talking above all others.

My interview Randy Harrison, the actor who starred as “Justin Taylor” on the Showtime series “Queer As Folk”  is the most viewed of my Youtube videos of the past year.  I interviewed Harrison at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey last February when he was appearing in the play, “Red.” He has an international fan base, particularly in Europe. I discovered this when I noticed  the inordinately high number of views to my blog from foreign countries. I heard from a number of fans eager to know how they could see the interview. Two interviews, in fact, about his performance in “Red” and another about his work on “Queer As Folk” are on Youtube.

My interview with comedian Jim Norton was perhaps my favorite of the year. He’s funny in the interview but what I look for most in an interview with a comedian is whether they reveal something of themselves not for laughs. We cover a lot of territory in the interview including career struggles, dating, life disappointments and triumphs.

And Lewis Black. I interviewed him at George Street Playhouse, also, and he was more than generous with his time and thoughts. A play written by Black, “One Slight Hitch” was getting a run there. He took it out of the drawer after many years, it’s about his breakup with a girlfriend nearly 30 years ago. Viewers weren’t used to seeing Black talk about the playwright side of his career and it was an interesting departure. It, too, can be viewed on Youtube.

MUCH more to come in 2013!

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Lewis Black, Jim Norton, Peter Max & MANY More ON THE SCENE

December 22, 2012

Sunday is the last shot to catch ON THE SCENE: The Best Of 2012. It’s a collection of clips from some of our most interesting celebrity interviews of the year including Lewis Black, Jim Norton, Bernadette Peters, Chris Botti, Joe Pantoliano,  Peter Max and more.

Watch News 12 New Jersey Sunday at 11AM, 1:30PM or 3:30PM.

Enjoy the show and here’s to an amazing year of interviews in 2013!