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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Valerie Bertinelli goes from ‘Cleveland’ to Fresno

Valerie Bertinelli played hooky from her cable TV series, “Hot In Cleveland,” to make an appearance as the keynote speaker at the “27th Annual Central California Women’s Conference.” There’s no need to report her. Bertinelli agreed to make the trip from Los Angeles to Fresno before a decision had been made that there would be another season of the TV Land series. She’ll be back on the set tomorrow.

The show’s loss was the conference’s gain. Bertinelli’s energy and sense of humor is the kind of speaker such events need. She doesn’t See Bee Style to have any answers to how people should nurture themselves (this year’s theme) but she’s an open book when it comes to what she’s gone through in her life.

“I’m a mess. You really picked the wrong person,” Bertinelli jokes about speaking to the group.

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The Beehive Interview: Peter Robertson and Reel Pride

As Fresno gears up Wednesday for the 25th anniversary of the Reel Pride gay and lesbian film festival, it’s worth checking in with one of its co-founders, Peter Robertson. You can find excerpts of my interview with him in Tuesday’s Life section, along with a review by my colleague Rick Bentley of “Helicopter Mom,” the festival’s opening film. Here’s the extended version of the interview.

Question: You’ve gone full circle in terms of leadership of Reel Pride, right? You were a cofounder, then got out of leadership, and now you’re back to festival director. Walk us through that history.

Answer: Originally, I served as co-founder and co-director, with Ken Fries, for the film festival’s first two years. Then I transitioned to becoming an active volunteer and donor for nearly two decades. Five years ago, I returned to serve on the board of directors and was also secretary for two years, and finally preparing for this 25th anniversary year, the board selected me to serve as festival director.

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New three-feet bicycle safety law goes into effect

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Here is a gentle reminder to all motorists — give bicyclists their space.

Seriously. When you take up tomorrow, it will be the law.

The so-called “Three Feet for Safety Act,” which mandates that motorists “shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction … at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator,” takes effect Sept 16 (that’s tomorrow people).

An interesting note: Three feet is about the size of a car door.

If a driver is unable to pass at safe distance, the law requires them to slow to a “speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle.” Violators will be fined $35.

The California Bicycle Coalition has this handy-dandy list of FAQs about the logistics of the law (and why we need it around in the first place). It’s a nice read for motorists (and bicyclists for that matter) in advance of tomorrow’s roll out.

Now, if I could get a law to keep motorists from honking (or yelling or throwing trash) at me all the damn time, that would be great.

Spanspek Music and Arts Festival announces 2014 lineup

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Orosi’s Spanspek Music and Arts Festival is closing in on a decade of showcasing some of the hippest local bands and artists.

It seems to be just hitting its stride.

The lineup for this year’s festival (which was announced this morning) features eight local heavy hitters, including two of, arguably, the best known acts in town — the rock duo Strange Vine and violin master Patrick Contreras.

But the don’t miss band on this year’s bill may be Visalia fuzz-rockers Slow Season. The group had serious buzz at last year’s festival and has put in big work on the road (and in the studio) this year.

On the arts side of things, the festival will include more than a dozen artists/and/or art collectives, including Carlos Cisneros, the Orosi High School Art Department and Fresno Underground Art.

The event happens 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Orosi Memorial Hall in Orosi (follow the 99 south, just past Kingsburg, then head East). If you haven’t been, it’s completely worth the drive (especially with this year’s lineup). A full list of bands and artists can be seen at the Spanspek website.

On another festival note: Keep in mind Fresno’s own locals-only music fest, F.U.S.E. is happening Sept. 26-27.

Concert announcement: John Mellencamp comes to Saroyan in 2015

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Here is one to put in your calendar and check back in on next year.

Last week Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp (aka John Cougar or John Cougar Mellencamp) announced a set of dates for his “Plain Spoken” tour, which kicks off in January. The 80-date tour includes a Fresno stop July 23 at the William Saroyan Theatre.

While the show is nine-months away, tickets for the Fresno show are $42.50-$119.50 and on sale to general public 10 a.m. Sept. 19 via Ticketmaster and on Mellencamp’s website. Presale tickets (for fan club and Citi card-members) will be available starting 10 a.m. tomorrow (sales run through 10 p.m. Sept. 18).

Mellencamp — known for playing populist heartland rock and roll and helping start Farm Aid — recently inked a “lifetime contract” with Republic Records, which will release all of Mellencamp’s future album’s starting with “Plain Spoken.” That album is slated for release Sept. 23.

You can watch a video preview of the tour on the jump.

DIY: Create your own mercury glass decor

Mercury glass votices

I love to toodle.

You might call it browsing: visiting a store and blatantly, unapologetically ogling the merchandise. I’ve called it toodling ever since the Internet took over “browsing.”  For me, toodling is a whole process. First,  I linger over a display, visually absorbing how items works with other items. Next I manhandle said items, appreciating the craftsmanship (or lack thereof); and ultimately, I replace said items back on the shelf after determining “I could make them for less.”

Best of all, I find that toodling brings balance to my world: my creative DIY side ignites with hopeful possibility, and my cheap side relaxes in the expense of someone else’s air conditioning.

The discount home stores are by far my favorite places to toodle. And right now, my best-loved decor store is aglow with mercury-glass items — vases, pumpkins, candle holders  and hanging bottles with jute wrapped necks — all sparkling with that signature reflective, slightly-mottled finish.

Mercury glass is stylish and enhances just about any decor, which makes it perfect for the coming autumn and holiday seasons. And while mercury glass can be pricey, DIYers should rejoice. With a little bit of thrifting and a can of mirror-style spray paint, these mercury-glass treasures can be created at a fraction of the cost.

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Latest ‘Mockingjay’ trailer released

The new trailer for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” debuted this morning at TheHungerGamesExclusive.com. In conjunction with the debut, you can check out new images and interviews with Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Natalie Dormer and Mahershala Ali.

This is all designed to keep the interest in the film franchise high as tickets for the third movie in the series can be purchased at 9 a.m. Oct. 29. The film opens Nov. 21.

In the upcoming film, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss fights to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and a nation moved by her courage.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” is directed by Francis Lawrence from a screenplay by Danny Strong and Peter Craig. The Suzanne Collins novel on which the film is based has sold more that 65 million copies in the U.S. alone.

Win tickets to Heavy Weather at Arte Americas Nights in the Plaza

nightsFresno’s summer days can be brutal. But our nights … our nights are so very lovely.

Which is why Arte Americas hosts a series of Friday-night concerts in it outdoor pavilion each summer. The Nights in the Plaza series features local and regional bands playing Latin lazz and mariachi, Brazilian, Son Jarocho and rockabilly.

We are giving away passes to this, the final week of the series’ run, which features the Central Valley Santana tribute Heavy Weather.

To enter to win passes to see the band, leave a comment in this post. Tell us your favorite way to spend a warm summer’s night in the Valley. The contest runs through noon Thursday. Winners will be chosen at random, notified by email and be able to pick up the passes at The Fresno Bee office (1626 E. Street) during normal business hours. Passes are good for any concert night, but do not guarantee entry, so early arrival is suggested.

We’ll have a new contest up every Monday so keep checking back. Complete performer schedule and contest rules on the jump.

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You can win special ‘Gotham’ poster

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“Gotham” is shaping up to be one of the big hits for the 2014-2015 network television season. The new series looks at life in Gotham City just after the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. It will focus on the efforts of a young Jim Gordon to clean up the city and the police force.

At the same time, viewers will learn how The Penguin, The Riddler, Catwoman and other villains got their starts.

The series launches Sept. 22 on FOX.

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Ready to Rogue?

In Friday’s 7 section, I offer a rundown on some important upcoming events/deadlines for artists interesting in participating in next February’s annual Rogue Festival. 

WORKSHOP: The Rogue Performer Workshop, designed for people thinking of doing a show, will be held noon- 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14, in the back room of Mia Cuppa Caffe, 620 E. Olive Ave. The workshop is intended for local performers, writers, musicians, filmmakers, visual artists, or anyone curious about how the Rogue Festival works. Topics include information about the application process, what type of venue might work best for a performer’s show idea, how the box office and getting paid works, and ways to promote a show. Admission is free.

MUSE: Submissions are being accepted through Oct. 30 for the Rogue “Muse” — or inspiration — for the next festival. Entries are sought from local artists. The image chosen will grace the programs, posters, T-shirts and badges for the 2015 Festival. The “Muse” is a Rogue Festival tradition that goes back to its first year. Details can be found at roguefestival.com/muse_contest.

APPLICATIONS: On Oct. 4, Rogue applications for the next festival go live. Rogue staff will be on hand noon-2 p.m. at Mia Cuppa Caffe to help walk people through the process. Applications will go live online at roguefestival.com at precisely 12:47 p.m. Applications, once live, remain open indefinitely, but since the Rogue is non-juried, it is first come first served. Show slots tend to fill up in the first two days of applications.

 

Weekend pick: Second Saturday

A couple of weeks ago in my Spotlight column I told you about Second Saturday, a new extension of the Fresno Arts Council’s popular ArtHop program. 

In Friday’s 7 section I offer  more details about the event. The first one will be held noon-4 p.m. Saturday at nearly 20 participating downtown galleries, businesses and restaurants. The focus is on families and children, with a half-dozen or so venues offering specific children’s art activities.

The arts council’s website includes a detailed venue list. (Please note that the Fresno Bee’s ArtHop exhibit, which runs through September, is not open on Saturdays.)

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

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For those fair weather Fresno State fans, who won’t make the home opener

1. Fiestas Patrias
Thousands of people will be on the Fulton Mall, which is reason enough to have this to the list. There will also be food, music and … mobile murals.

2. The Beetles
Fresno’s own Beatles tribute. Forget the mod suits and bowl cuts, this is the fab four as you know them best, from their recorded albums. Hear the entire “Revolver” album live.

3. Blimprov LIVE!
Improvised comedy troupe starts monthly shows.

4. Back to School Bash 2014
This is not for you. Unless you are an area high-school student with a valid school ID, in which case you’re totally invited.

5. Tulare Country Fair
DEMOLITION DERBY! Also: Eddie Money, JT Hodges and Tower of Power.

For music specific events, check out this week’s BANDGEEK roundup.

Smith takes on familiar role in ‘Gotham’

Riddle me this? Which actor will face one of the biggest acting challenges this fall because of the people who have played the same role in the past?

The answer is Cory Michael Smith. He’s both hit the lottery and will face the firing squad as he takes on the role of Edward Nygma — better known as The Riddler to fans of the Batman comics — in the new FOX series “Gotham.” He follows both Frank Gorshin and John Astin who portrayed the mischievous villain in the ‘60s TV series and Jim Carrey who took on the role in the 1995 release “Batman Forever.”

“Though I am a huge Jim Carrey fan, I’ve never seen ‘Batman Forever’ and I have no plan on watching it. And I’ve seen some of Frank Gorshin’s work, but I’ve certainly not watched the entire series or a significant portion of it,” Smith says. “ I personally am just kind of reading the comic books and using that. And also, I have my opinions. You know, psychological, psychiatric development and studies since the ‘60s, I think, have changed greatly.

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Review: Blake Shelton at the Save Mart Center

Blake SheltonI’m a rock girl, but I have to say there’s something about country music. Maybe it’s the story. Or the twang. Or even the good time sentiment found in many songs. In the case of Blake Shelton — arguably the hottest singer in country music right now with hit after hit (and a new album on the way) — it’s all three. And each was on full display Thursday night at the Save Mart Center where he headlined the Ten Times Crazier Tour.

For one hour fifty minutes, Blake Shelton wove his way through his extensive song list that included new single “Neon Lights” and favorites like “Kiss My Country Ass,” “Honey Bee” and “Boys Round Here.” And the fans — who filled nearly every seat all the way to the last row on the upper level — toe-tapped and sang along until the very last note.

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‘Jersey Boys’ tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Friday

Lots of people have already snagged tickets to the national tour of “Jersey Boys” — which plays Oct. 28-Nov. 2 at the Saroyan Theatre — by buying season tickets or the package deal with the Fresno Grand Opera. But if you’ve been waiting for single tickets, they go on sale 10 a.m. Friday. Good luck!

The performance schedule is Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm, and Sunday at 1:00 and 6:30 pm.

The Ticketmaster number is (800) 745-3000.

Prices range from $33-$103.

Bandgeek: Blake, The Beetles and Blockhead

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Instead of sitting at home wondering whether it’s OK to continue watching football (American, that is), head out on the town and catch one of the dozens of live concerts happening in the next week. We’ve listed them here in our weekly BANDGEEK roundup.

TONIGHT:

  • Zeahorse. W/Midwest Moms and Space Apes.
    At Peeve’s Public House. 10 p.m. Free. All ages.

  • BJ Sings.
    At Full Circle Brewing. 8 p.m. Flat rate (whatever that means).

  • Blake Shelton.
    Ten Times Crazier Tour. W/The Band Perry, Neal McCoy and Dan + Shay. At the Save Mart Center. 7 p.m. $29.75 and $54.75. (Flier link)

  • Morris Day and the Time.
    At the Tulare Country Fair. 8 p.m. Free with fair admission.

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    Win tickets to ‘The Normal Heart’

    StageWorks Fresno opens Larry Kramer’s searing play “The Normal Heart” Friday at the Fresno Art Museum’s Bonner Auditorium. With an acclaimed 2011 revival on Broadway and a star-studded HBO movie earlier this year, this is a hot title. Look for our 7 section cover story on Friday.

    I’m giving away two pairs of tickets to any of this opening weekend’s performances. The show plays 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.  I’ll pick the winners randomly. To enter, leave a comment on this post answering this question: Have you been to a StageWorks Fresno production before? If so, what was your favorite?

    Deadline to enter is 10 a.m. Friday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winners by email on Friday at 10, so keep a watch on your inbox. If I haven’t heard from a winner by 2 p.m. Friday, I reserve the right to pick another. You’ll be able to pick up your tickets at the theater box office. Rules are on the jump.

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    Comedian Bill Engvall on being a touring comic and dancing with the stars

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    Growing up Bill Engvall wanted to be John Wayne.

    That is, he wanted to be an actor. Only he grew up in Texas, in the type of towns where you didn’t tell your dad you wanted to be an actor and if you were not a jock, you made friends by being funniest guy in the room.

    Which is still pretty much his his schtick.

    “It’s like I’m in your living room and I’m the funny guy doing all the talking,” says Engvall, the 57-year-old comic, best known for his role in the popular Blue Collar Comedy Tour. He’s the least red-neck of the bunch, he says.

    On stage, Engvall is pretty much the same guy you’d see on a Saturday afternoon out at the mall.

    “I don’t want them to feel like they’re going to a comedy show,” says Engvall, who was in town Tuesday night at Table Mountain Casino.

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    Restaurant news: More good food to eat

    Lots of restaurant news to share today. New restaurants are opening and existing restaurants are doing new things. Here’s a rundown of what’s happening in the Fresno food world.

    Menchie’s frozen yogurt is scheduled to open the first of many shops in the Fresno area today. The shop is at 3090 W. Shaw Ave. in the same shopping center as Target next to Jimmy John’s. The grand opening celebration is Saturday and will feature free frozen yogurt, face painting, a balloon artist and other fun stuff. Expect to see a lot more of Menchie’s, as they’re planning to open shops in the Marketplace at El Paseo at Herndon Avenue and Highway 99, and in the Target shopping center at Herndon and Willow avenues.

    Jack’s Urban Eats opened Monday. More on that and the deliciousness that is its urban fries here.

    Frankie’s 568 in the Tower District has opened for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. This is the restaurant that opened last spring in the former Cafe Rousseau spot and is run by the family behind several of the DiCicco’s restaurants. The menu features pasta and pizza and you can see it online here. (Yes, you can eat penne alla vodka pasta at lunch.)

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    Wilson Cruz tackles mature role on ‘Red Band Society’

    Wilson Cruz is going through the kind of acting adjustments actors face as they get older. He proves it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

    I remember talking to him when he landed his first professional acting job playing Rickie Vasquez on the critically acclaimed “My So Called Life.” He was 20 at the time but was still cast as one of the high school students.

    Now, he’s surrounded by young actors playing hospital patients in “Red Band Society.” The 40-year-old Cruz portrays Nurse Kenji Gomez-Rejon, who works closely with Nurse Jackson (Octavia Spencer).

    “I’m no longer one of the teenagers on the show. I’m one of the old people,” Cruz says during an interview at the TV Critics meetings.

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    New Jack’s Urban Eats restaurant is open

    The new-to-Fresno Jack’s Urban Eats is open in Fig Garden Village. It’s a quick-service salads and sandwiches type of place, with some french fries that get rave reviews. Here’s my full column on Jack’s (which also includes news about Sequoia Brewing, Frankie’s 568 and Menchie’s). Below is video introduction to Jack’s.

    DIY: Cheap recovery

    When my husband and I bought our home, we came upon a (happy) surprise: our old (unattractive) kitchen table was too big for our new home’s kitchen. As goddess of the hearth, the task landed upon me to pick out a replacement. I took the job seriously and after much searching, I naturally fell in love with a gorgeous, pedestal-style kitchen table that could be procured from an upper-end store for a mere $900 (chairs not included).

    I adored that table and its high-quality craftsmanship, and imagined all the meals, the card games and the deep philosophical, wine-laden discussions that would take place at it. My life improved just looking the thing. And its chairs were exquisite; sure, they were $250 each, but with care and Scotchguard, I’d never have to recover them.

    Fast forward five years to last Saturday afternoon, as I stood staring at the modest knock-off table I actually ended up buying on clearance for $150, and the four chairs it came with. Exquisite is not a word that has ever been applied to these chairs. Current words included stained, worn, unattractive… and several others best left unsaid.

    But what did I expect with seven kids, a dog and light fabric? There was no way I was going to plunk down half a semester’s college tuition for that other gorgeous table (and the better life it promised), when those stunning, perfect chairs would clearly have met the same grisly end as my knock-offs had.

    And yet I knew, regardless of the ugly I was staring at, my simpler chairs were not at an end. In fact, with the help of an inexpensive trendy table cloth, a pair of scissors and a staple gun, my well-used chairs quickly and easily got a stylish makeover.

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    Hanford’s Clark Center closing in July

    The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture in Hanford, which for 20 years has provided world-class exhibitions both for Valley residents and visitors from all over the world, will close next summer, museum officials announced today.

    The news is not entirely unexpected. Willard “Bill” Clark and Elizabeth “Libby” Clark, the museum’s founders, gave the center’s entire collection to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in June 2013. The Clarks announced then that nearly 1,700 priceless objects spanning a period of 10 centuries, with an estimated value of $25 million, would be sent to Minnesota. Along with the center’s collection, the Clarks offered their private collection in an arrangement that was part gift and part purchase.

    What does come as a surprise, however, is the timing of the Hanford museum’s closure. When the transfer of the collection to Minneapolis was announced last year, Clark said at the time that the Hanford museum would remain open at least five years. That time frame has now been speeded up.

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    Concert announcement: Brantley Gilbert

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    There’s no doubt that contemporary country music likes to dabble in rock ‘n’ roll. There’s a reason the Motley Crue tribute “Nashville Outlaws,” got made and that it’s mostly (oddly) on point. The album features a who’s-who of country music stars including Brantley Gilbert, a guy who looks right at home singing “Girls, Girls, Girls,” but who’s album “Just as I Am,” debuted No. 1 on Billboard’s country charts in May. He’s also written any number of hits for guys like Jason Aldean.

    Gilbert is currently in the midst of his “Let it Ride Tour,” with Aaron Lewis (who’s no stranger to rock and roll).

    Gilbert recently added a second round of dates to the tour (with guests Tyler Farr, Chase Bryant and Brian Davis), which will include a Fresno stop, 7 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Save Mart Center. Tickets go on sale to the general public 10 a.m. Sept. 12. They are $24.75, $29.75, $37 and available at select Save Mart Supermarkets, the Save Mart Center box office, online at ticketmaster.com or by phone at (800) 745-3000. Pre-sale tickets are available on his web site.

    Check out the video for Gilbert’s latest single, “Bottoms Up,” on the jump.

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    Win tickets to Eva Scow’s Brazilian Nights at Arte Americas Nights in the Plaza

    nightsFresno’s summer days can be brutal. But our nights … our nights are so very lovely.

    Which is why Arte Americas hosts a series of Friday-night concerts in it outdoor pavilion each summer. The Nights in the Plaza series features local and regional bands playing Latin lazz and mariachi, Brazilian, Son Jarocho and rockabilly.

    We’ll be giving away passes each week (except Sept. 26) for the rest of the series’ run, which has just two weeks left. The countdown begins this week with Brazilian Nights, a special showcase curated by Eva Scow and featuring her band Espacio and San Francisco vocalist Sarah Cabral.

    To enter to win passes to see the band, leave a comment in this post. Tell us your favorite way to spend a warm summer’s night in the Valley. The contest runs through noon Thursday. Winners will be chosen at random, notified by email and be able to pick up the passes at The Fresno Bee office (1626 E. Street) during normal business hours. Passes are good for any concert night, but do not guarantee entry, so early arrival is suggested.

    We’ll have a new contest up every Monday so keep checking back. Complete performer schedule and contest rules on the jump.

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