Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Death hot topic with Alana de la Garza

Each time I chat with Alana de la Garza, the conversation eventually gets around to her work on “CSI: Miami.” She’s gone on to star on other TV shows such as “Law & Order” and “Do No Harm” but its hard to forget how her character of Marisol Delko was written out of the “CSI” series.

She was gunned down after marrying Horatio Caine (David Caruso). Her murder was such a complete surprise the actress continues to have people — like me — talk about it with her.

The bottom line is that while the role on “CSI: Miami” was a big break for her, the departure opened up bigger roles for her in other TV shows. That includes her latest job on the new ABC drama “Forever” as Detective Jo Martinez, one of the youngest officers on the New York Police Department to make homicide detective. She works with Dr. Henry Morgan, the immortal character played by Ioan Gruffudd.

All her work on the different “Law & Ord

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Dumb and ugly: Fresno makes Forbes’ latest top 10 list

Fresno, feeling ugly after being dumped by the San Francisco Giants for our more attractive sister, Sacramento? Here’s a little salt for our wounded ego: Fresno made Forbes top 10 list of least educated cities in America.

Golly, thank goodness they came up with a metric for that. According to an article posted on Tuesday,

[F]inancial site WalletHub took a look at the 150 largest metros in the U.S. and ranked them according to nine weighted metrics, including percentage of adult residents with a high school diploma, associate’s degree, graduate or professional degree, or above; number of doctors per capita; percentage of workers with jobs in “computer, engineering, and sciences fields;” quality of public schools and universities; and the number of students enrolled in the top 200 universities in the U.S., per capita.

Fresno landed at number 10. The upside? Misery loves company. Three of our Central Valley sister cities — Modesto, Visalia and Bakersfield — were all ahead of us on the list (ranked 5, 6 and 7, respectively).

Concert announcement: Celtic Woman 10th Anniversary


Celtic Woman — the international vocal sensation and PBS standout — celebrates its 10th anniversary with an 80-city tour that includes a May 22 date at Fresno’s Saroyan Theatre.

The group last played in Fresno (at the same venue) in 2009 on it “Isle of Hope” tour. This time around, the women (who make up Celtic Woman) will be joined by a 15 member ensemble includes a full band, bagpipers, Irish dancers and the Aontas Choir. The show is directed by music producer David Downes.

Tickets for the tour are $42, $62 and $102 and on sale now via Ticketmaster and the Fresno Convention Center Box Office.

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Tonight: ArtHop

Pat Hunter and Janice Stevens celebrate the 35th anniversary of Gallery II on Shaw Avenue tonight with a reception for the Greater Fresno Area ArtHop. It’s pretty amazing to keep a business open for 35 years, much less an art gallery, and I write about Hunter and Stevens’ accomplishment in a centerpiece story in Thursday’s Life section:

The gallery, a mainstay stop on the greater Fresno-area ArtHop tour, held the third Thursday of each month, opens a retrospective show today. Work going back to the earliest days of Gallery II will be included. The show highlights Hunter’s watercolor paintings of historical landmarks featured in the pair’s books and the regular column they produce jointly in The Bee’s Central Valley magazine.

In addition to my story, I include this ArtHop pick for tonight:

Painters Richard Silva and Cynthia Manuszak team up for a joint show titled “Superman and Me” at the Margaret Hudson Earth Arts Studio, 1946 E. Swift Ave. Both artists deal with their “struggles and joys.” One of Silva’s paintings, titled “Marilyn Monroe Buddha with Cup of Coffee,” include shapes that represent Silva’s recent loss of part of his lung where cancer was removed. He painted “Teeth,” pictured, after he had all his teeth removed. Manuszak’s “Red Woman” depicts “my feeling of loss after being raped as a teenage girl.”

For more ArtHop locations tonight in the north and other parts of the city, check out the Fresno Arts Council’s update.

Warnors Theatre Complex gets new management


The Warnors Center for the Performing Arts — which includes the historic Warnors Theatre and the accompanying venues and commercial spaces on Fulton street — is a beacon for a revitalized Cultural Arts District in downtown.

The nonprofit foundation that oversees the complex wants to keep it that way.

“Improvements to, and restoration of, the venues are desperately needed to keep up with increased growth and development downtown,” says Sally Caglia, who sits on the board of directors for the nonprofit.

Her family once owned the theater.

“It is imperative the Warnors Board does its due diligence to make that happen, and for Warnors to remain an active historic centerpiece for downtown,” she says.

Earlier this month, the board brought in a new manager for the complex to help create strategic, fiscal scrutiny of its operations, Caglia says.

The casual observer probably hasn’t noticed. Any changes so far seem to be behind-the-scenes.

“At the moment nothing has really changed, ” says Gene Day, who now serves as the Warnors Complex Manager. “We have all the same kinds of events that have been there for the last couple of years,” he says.

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THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Normal Heart’

The injustice at the core of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” isn’t as raw today as when the play came out in 1985. Some events depicted in Larry Kramer’s drama, set early in the AIDS crisis, had occurred just a year before. The fear, anger and throat-clutching sadness among the audience members at the New York Public Theater’s original production must have been suffocating.

But decades later, the injustice in this play — which is receiving a local premiere in a sturdy production from StageWorks Fresno — still seethes and provokes. Even with the distance of time, the choices made by media and government gatekeepers — and some in the gay community — to sweep early news about the epidemic under the rug seem perplexing and bizarre. It’s unfathomable today to think that a scare about Tylenol tampering earned a tsunami of coverage in the New York Times but that a new illness killing hundreds of New Yorkers had to fight to get to the front page. But that’s what happened.

The StageWorks production, directed with heartfelt commitment by J. Daniel Herring, immerses us in the autobiographical world of Kramer. His alter ego is Ned Weeks (played with verve and feeling by Terry Lewis), who vows to stir up a fuss when he realizes that many in the gay community are falling to a disease so new and mysterious it doesn’t have a name. Yet the organization he founds, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, is far from unified on the best approach. He continually clashes with Bruce Niles (Bob Creasy), the group’s president, who favors a less confrontational, more “establishment” approach. At the root of this conflict, Bruce — and many other gay men — object to any attempt to discourage sex in an age of newfound sexual permissiveness.

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What do you want to open in Fig Garden Village?

Coldwater Creek in Fig Garden Village is officially a goner. The retailer closed all its stores after filing for bankruptcy and the going-out-business sale is over. That leaves a large and somewhat prominent space open in the shopping center for a new business to move into. The store sits on a corner deep in the shopping center between Banana Republic and Heart & Sole comfort shoes. There’s a for-rent sign in the window.

So, here’s where you come in. I’m curious about what you guys would like to see go into that space. Any particular retailer you’d get excited about seeing in there? Fig Garden doesn’t seem to be afraid to convert retail spaces to restaurants (as evidenced by the newly opened Jack’s Urban Eats) so feel free to suggest restaurants too.

Noelle Bean is in Fresno on the High School nation tour


Noelle Bean attended a private Christian High School. She was one of eight in her graduating class, and that was a jump from the typical four students in any of the other grades.

It’s a contrast to the schools the Los Angeles pop singer will visit as part of the High School Nation tour, which is in Fresno today.

For 10 years the tour has visited thousands of public high schools and middle schools, facilitating performing-, digital- and fine-arts opportunities for students and giving them free lunchtime concerts with some choice artists. Past performers have included Cody Simpson, Wale and Jason Castro.

This year’s fall tour features Dakota Bradley, Drake Bell and … Bean, who’s debut EP “Rollercoaster” was released on STRZ The Label in June.

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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


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


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


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 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


“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

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 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


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


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.


  • 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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