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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Disney shows big support for reading

arquette.JPG David Arquette and Corey Burton joined authors Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson for a reading from their new book, “The Bridge to Never Land” during the D23 Expo. David Arquette is the voice of Skully the lookout parrot on Disney Junior’s “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” and Corey Burton provides the voice of Captain Hook.

It’s still a little strange thinking syndicated columnist Barry has helped write books aimed at youngsters. That’s like me being asked to write “Twilight” prequels. But, Barry and Pearson’s books are quite popular.

Arquette might seem like a strange choice to do a voice for an animated series for youngsters because he’s better known for more adult TV series and films. But, he tells me after the reading that he’s long been a fan of animation and is always looking for projects his daughter can watch.

The big news wasn’t the reading but that Disney will donate $500,000 and 8 million Disney Publishing Worldwide books to First Book, a national nonprofit organization that provides new books to children in need. In this ear of video games, TV and the Internet, it’s nice to see that someone is still trying to put books in the hands of young people.

Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 85 million new books to children from low-income families in thousands of communities throughout the United States and Canada. Wrap your head around this. First Book distributes an average of more than 25,000 books per day.

Fans go goofy for Disney at D23 Expo

Thumbnail image for photo.JPG joey.JPG You could make an argument the center of the Disney empire is Disneyland, but for the past three days the focal point was a couple of blocks south. The Anaheim Convention Center became the home to anything and everything to do with the mightiest mouse in the entertainment universe. It might seem like it’s a small world after all until you have walked the convention floor 20-30 times.

Thousands of Disney fans poured into the facility for the D23 Expo. For those of you who don’t live and breathe Disney, the name of the international fan club comes from Walt Disney opening his first studios in 1923.

One person described it as Comic-Con without all the people in costumes, but there were certainly plenty of people dressed up in their favorite Disney gear. And, some of them were children.

The weekend was a chance to find out about what’s going on with the parks, vacation hot spots, television shows, movies and merchandising. There was so much merchandise that even Scrooge McDuck would have needed a loan to take home everything. Dealers had Disney stuff ranging from original art to novels full of Disney facts. Anyone with deep enough pockets could bid on special items such as one of the ships from the Peter Pan ride.

It was also a chance for fans to see some of their favorite Disney celebrities including Dick Van Dyke, Sean Astin and Wilmer Walderrama. Cast members from “Good Luck Charlie,” “So Random!,” “Kickin’ It” and “Shake It Up” also made appearances. Because Disney now owns ABC, Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence met with fans to talk about their ABC Family show “Melissa and Joey.”

If you would like more information on the fan club, go to Disney.com/D23.
Here are a few photos from the three-day event.

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Donald’s weekend picks

1. GO TO SUMMER CAMP
Children’s Musical Theaterworks didn’t take any time off after its big production of “Les Miserables.” It returns this weekend and next with “Camp Rock,” which features its 11-14 year-old performers. (Some are veterans of last year’s fantastic “13,” the strongest CMT show last summer.) I have a rundown on the show in today’s issue of 7.

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Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Note: I’m off work today, so I’m not doing a Post No Bills today. Enjoy these weekend options. Post No Bills will return next week. Last week’s edition still has plenty of options for this weekend, if you need ‘em.

1. HAVE A BIG LAUGH
Good weekend for comedy ahead of us. Daniel Tosh, of “Tosh.0″ fame, is doing two shows tonight at Saroyan Theatre. The first show is sold out, but the 10 p.m. show still has tickets available. If you’re looking for something with a local angle: Darren Carter, the most famous comedian to come outta Fresno, returns for a homecoming gig at Tower Theatre on Saturday. [Tix / Tix]

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Tickets now available for next week’s Central California Taco Truck Throwdown

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Lots of people have been wondering how they can get in to try all the deliciousness at next Thursday’s Taco Truck Throwdown at Chukchansi Park, co-sponsored by The Beehive, The Grizzlies and FresnoTacos.com. We got answers.

You can buy either special taco packages — loaded with goodies, just like your favorite taco. Or you can show up to the game (you have to have a ticket to get in) and buy tacos individually for $1.50 from the eight taco trucks in attendance.

The two packages available are:

  • Deluxe Taco Package: $18 — includes four tacos, a ticket to the game and a Taco Truck Throwdown T-shirt.
  • Super Taco Experience: $23 — includes eight tacos, a ticket to the game and a Taco Truck Throwdown T-shirt.

Both of these can be purchased at the Fresno Grizzlies box office or by calling (559) 320-8497. You can also purchase — at the event — a $12 pass to sample all eight trucks. We hope to see you, and your appetite, there

ANOTHER Walgreens?

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I live close to Fig Garden Village, and I watched with interest as the unassuming strip-mall on the northwest corner of Palm and Shaw avenues — former home to a Subway sandwich shop and Consignment Cottage — was razed. But I watched with dread, too, because I could already guess what would replace it: yet another cookie-cutter chain drug store, probably with an ugly drive-through, and yet another big parking lot to radiate heat back to Fresno on hot summer days.

Sure enough, I was right. From The Bee’s business blog:

A Walgreens will be built on the site, confirms Steve Henne, the project superintendent with W.L. Butler Construction Inc. Workers are already preparing the site for construction with some impressive machinery.

I know people love their drug stores. And I know that as baby boomers age, they’re loving all those prescriptions even more.

But with the closest Walgreens less than a mile up the street, at the corner of Palm and Bullard avenues, do we really need another one?

The “saturation” policy practiced by the big drug-store chains must be paying off for them, because they keep building more. (It’s not just the suburbs; in Manhattan it seems there’s a Rite Aid on every block.) And before you jump on me for being anti-business, I know that the market dictates such decisions.

But that doesn’t make it any better. As our cities are increasingly filled in by a handful of dominant chain stores, a sense of stultifying sameness starts to seep into our lives. (To save money, the chains usually don’t bother to even change their basic architectural designs from one location to the next.) One block looks like another. And all because we want it close, and we want it now. Another Walgreens? Bor-ing.

Concert News: Miranda Cosgrove cancels Big Fresno Fair concert

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Teen actress and singer Miranda Cosgrove, best known for her starring role in the hit TV show “iCarly,” has been forced to cancel her Big Fresno Fair concert appearance.

Cosgrove was scheduled to perform at 1 p.m. Oct. 15, one of the highly anticipated concerts on this year’s fair lineup.

Cosgrove’s publicist released the following statement this morning:

“Due to the severe ankle injury she suffered in a bus accident last week, Miranda Cosgrove has to cancel the rest of her tour to take the time to properly recover, per doctor’s orders. Miranda is heartbroken and thanks all her fans for their continued support.”

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To-Do Tonight: Live music all over town

Y101′s Unplugged concert series is back tonight with a free gig featuring Carolina Liar. The band has a catchy pop/rock sound that you might be hearing more about by the time its sophomore album drops in September. Check out “I’m Not Over” for an example. Interesting fact on the band: They were formed in Sweden, but if the singer doesn’t sound like that, it’s ’cause he’s from South Carolina.

Never seen a Sweden-by-way-of-South Carolina band before? Hey, that’s one reason to get to Twist tonight. The concert starts at 9 p.m. There’s no tickets, so just show up. But you might wanna get there early to make sure you get a spot.

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On TV tonight: ’2011 Do Something Awards’

Golden Globe Awards - Press Room.JPG “2011 Do Something Awards,” 9 p.m. VH1: Jane Lynch warms up for her job as this year’s Emmy host by riding herd over this awards show that honors and celebrate the nation’s best young world-changers who represent the pivotal “do-ers” in their field, cause or issue.

Lady GaGa, Justin Bieber, Prince William and Duchess Catherine, David Beckham, Scarlett Johansson, Russell Brand and Will Ferrell have been nominated in categories from “Do Something Movie Star” to “Do Something Couple” for what they have done to inspire young people.

One young “do-er,” age 25 and under, will receive a grand prize of $100,000 for their cause.

Presenters include Kristen Bell, Nick Cannon, Jon Cryer, Adam Lambert, Mario Lopez, Rose McGowan, Olivia Munn, Keke Palmer and Lauren Potter. Demi Lovato, OneRepublic with B.O.B and Foster the People will perfrom.

THEATER REVIEW: ‘Dinner With Dan’

Kicking off a new theater company with a production of an original musical is pretty audacious. And for that, I give Jump Right In Productions lots of chutzpah points. In the first scene of “Dinner With Dan,” which continues through Saturday at The Broken Leg Stage, I didn’t quite believe it myself until the main character opens his mouth and starts singing a song called “21 Dates, 21 Women.” Yep, it’s a musical!

I want to go on record by saying how much I admire the dedication of the cast and creative team. This is no thrown-together, half-baked outing. These folks set out to put on a musical, and they did.

At the same time, I’m leery of labeling this post as a theater review because, frankly, I don’t think “Dinner With Dan” — which I saw last Thursday — is ready to be reviewed. It’s very much an earnest first-draft effort that needs substantial revisions in terms of structure, music, lyrics and casting if it were to have a future beyond this run.

Still, the company put the show out there for people to pay to see, and I’m a critic, so I’ll weigh in with some general thoughts and suggestions.

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Announcing: The Fresno Facial Hair Face-Off at The Big Fresno Fair

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The first day of this year’s Big Fresno Fair — Oct. 5 — is Fresno Bee day, and Scoopy and the gang are going to have a bunch of activities lined up.

We in the blogosphere elbowed our way into their meeting and had a crazy idea: The opening night concert is from ZZ Top, so let’s have an event honoring the best facial hair in Fresno.

We ran this past our pals at Fresno Famous, they liked it. So, like a good beard-’stache combo, we’re joining forces for a hairy good time we’re calling the Fresno Facial Hair Face-Off.

Owners of the three best displays of facial hair (beards, mustaches, both) will win tickets to the ZZ Top show. The best facial hair will win front-row tickets — close enough to compare yourself to those famed ZZ Top beards.

Wanna get it on this? Just fill out this form and you’ll have a spot reserved for the competition on Oct. 6. Expect to hear more about this as the event gets closer, but for now, you might think about retiring the razor for a couple months.

Rachel Perry watches porn so you don’t have to

photo.JPG The entertainment world is filled with interesting jobs. What the heck does a grip do?

Rachel Perry, whose voice you would recognize for all her work on VH1, Logo and “Entertainment Tonight,” may have one of the more interesting jobs in Hollywood. As the host of the Playboy Channel series “The Stash,” she has to watch porn. She doesn’t care about all those intimate scenes but looks at all of the attempts in adult films and TV shows to create a plot and characters. Really. They do have plots.

Consider her show an adult version of “The Soup.”

“We have people who watch everything and narrow it down. Then the bring it to me, the executive producer and other writers and we watch it together. That’s the best part of the job,” Perry tells me before heading into the Playboy mansion for a party.

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To-Do Tonight: Get indie at Audie’s

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I like local band Strange Vine. I believe in local band Strange Vine. Thus I trust Ian Blesse, who is one half of Strange Vine. He’s lined up a show tonight at Audie’s Olympic and he’s excited about it. And if he’s excited about it, I have no doubt it’s worth sharing with all of you.

Here’s what he has to say about the lineup:

I’m really looking forward to seeing all these bands live. Been hearing about the local band ILLGrum lately, Ganglians have a cool psychedelic / garage sound. Cuckoo Chaos are with The Windish Agency. Tom Windish is their agent which is exciting to me because he seems to find these small bands and the bands get huge very quickly (Foster The People, Cults) Anyway, it should be a cool show for only $5.

I’m putting a little bit Cuckoo Chaos below for you to enjoy.

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On TV tonight: ‘The Hour’

the hour.JPG “The Hour,” 10 p.m. BBC America: As if you needed another reason to subscribe to the cable channel, along comes this first-rate drama about the transformation in the ’50s of TV news from boring headlines in newsreels to in-depth coverage. Of all the new shows that are looking to capture the time period and drama of “Mad Men,” this one comes the closest.

The focus of “The Hour” is BBC reporters Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) and Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) who are looking to escape their boring jobs producing newsreels. Their way out comes in the form of a new, weekly investigative news program. The work to develop the show plays out against international political intrigue and emotional battles.

Dominic West, best known for his work on “The Wire,” plays the news program’s lead anchorman.

If you are looking for smart television, BBC America should be your choice tonight – and most every other night.

You Review: Mötley Crüe and Poison

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Fresno was rockin’ like it was 1989 Tuesday night at Save Mart Center, as Mötley Crüe and Poison unleashed their glam-metal bravado. Were you there? If so, here’s your opportunity to tell us what you thought of the concert.

Who was the best — the Crüe? Poison? Opener New York Dolls? Did they all bring the energy of their heyday? The sound? Did they at least match their more recent stops in the Valley?

How was the crowd? Did Fresno show up? Did you hear your favorite songs? Was Tommy Lee’s 360 drum roller coaster as cool as it looks? Did Bret Michaels have his A-game — we hear he hasn’t been feeling well lately.

Chime in on any of that and anything else. While you’re deciding what to write look below for a handful of pics from Bee photog Craig Kohlruss. Those of you who didn’t go, don’t worry, you can look too.

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Can Woodlake become a Valley concert destination?

In today’s Bee, I have an A-1 story that digs into new concert venue Twilight Park and how it might make Woodlake the next concert destination in the Valley.

Below is the start of the story, which looks at the massive specs of the venue, its plans for the future and asks the question: Will people go to Woodlake for concerts?

Management at Twilight Park – which has its first show Friday with country act Montgomery Gentry – hopes a massive stage, lawn seating and popular acts will bring music lovers en masse to this country town, population 7,500.

If that happens, the population here could triple on concert nights. Twilight Park could accommodate as many as 15,000 people on its nine-acre green space. And for all those cars, there are 21 acres of parking.

Parent company and neighbor US Tower Corp., which makes mobile telescope towers, has spent “well over $1 million” to turn an olive orchard into an entertainment venue unmatched in the central San Joaquin Valley.

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To-Do Tonight: A trip down rock’s memory lane

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‘Tis the day for rock blasts from the past. Between the big 80s rock show at Save Mart Center with Motley Crue/Poison and Roger Rocka’s concert with Jeremy “Elvis” Pearce to mark the anniversary of The King’s death, it’s time for a trip down memory lane.

MOTLEY CRUE/POISON
These two 80s rock juggernauts bring their current tour — with 70s rock pioneers New York Dolls — to the Save Mart Center at 7 p.m. Tickets cost as little as $19.50 or as much as $99.50. You can still get them via Ticketmaster or at the box office.

Required reading before heading out is my feature story from last Friday’s paper about how these 80s bands are now becoming the “new classic rock.” Required viewing is the video below of Motley Crue’s wild “The 360″ drum rollercoaster that Tommy Lee performs in.

Oh, one more note: Bret Michaels was having some health issues over the weekend and had to cancel a show. But I’m told today by this publicist that he’s good to go for tonight.

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Closing thoughts on Cal Opera

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I attended Sunday afternoon’s performance of “Cosi fan Tutte,” the closing show of California Opera’s summer festival. I’m glad I did. This annual opera festival, led with such animation and dedication by Edna Garabedian, has become a local treasure. While my schedule precludes me from attending all the performances, I was able to catch two of them this year — and talked to several opera lovers who made it to far more than that. Some closing thoughts:

WONDERFUL VENUES. Both the Fresno Art Museum’s Bonner Auditorium, where the festival held its smaller productions, and the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis, where two fully staged productions were performed, are perfect fits. This was the first Cal Opera production I’d seen in the Mercedes Edwards Theatre, and the size of the house, the full orchestra pit and the ability to fly backdrops in and out of scenes added tremendously to the experience of “Cosi fan Tutte.”

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Fresno Tweetup Goes Wild … now with more Fierce Creatures

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We thought Fresno Tweetup Goes Wild — our next big Fresno Tweetup happening Aug. 27 at Chaffee Zoo — could use a few more creatures. So we recruited one of our favorite Fresno bands to join us, Fierce Creatures.

There’s something just so fitting about Fierce Creatures playing at the zoo, isn’t there?

Wanna go? You still have time to RSVP on Twitter to @FresnoZoo and/or @FresnoBeehive. Just let us know you’re coming and you’ll be on the list. It costs $5 to get in to this excusive after-hours party with beer, games, prizes and, of course, Fierce Creatures. More info here.

Not on Twitter? No problem. Fresno Tweeps can bring non-Twitter users with them and they get the same $5 ticket price. Or just sign up and get an account. Be sure to follow @FresnoZoo, @FresnoBeehive and @FierceCreatures.

ALSO: Social Media Club Fresno is putting on an “Amazing Race” style competition within the Tweetup and is currently looking for four teams of two to compete. Interested? Hit ‘em up on Twitter.

On TV tonight: ‘Masterchef’

MC_201to203_004.JPG “Masterchef,” 8 p.m. KMPH (Channel 26.1): This is the final part of the two-part season finale. The field has been reduced to three and includes Jennifer Behm, Christian Collins and Adrien Nieto. One of their challenges will be to cook chicken. I was hoping for a fish sticks round.

As for the show, you know what to expect. There will be tears, cheers and lots of sneers from the three judges. But, in the end, it will be all over but the washing of the dishes. One of the three will have the title of Masterchef which really means as much as being a Mastermechanic, Masterbarber or Masternewspaperwriter.

In the meantime, the search has started for home cooks who would like to show off their culinary skills. If you are interested in being in the third season of the Fox show, go to www.masterchefcasting.com/ to apply.

THEATER REVIEW: ‘Stalag 17′

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Good Company Players is having a really good summer. At Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, a polished production of the musical “The Drowsy Chaperone” is connecting with audiences on a tender emotional level. And across the street at the 2nd Space, a taut and accomplished version of “Stalag 17″ is connecting emotionally as well — but this time with heart-pounding suspense.

Duane Boutte, a GCP veteran who has spent 20 years in New York as a professional actor, is obviously a natural director as well. That’s clear from the opening minutes of this classic play, which most people know from the 1953 movie starring William Holden about a group of American airmen held in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II.

Though his cast consists of a whopping 19 members on a very small stage — many of them there for most of the show — Boutte’s fluid staging and keen sense of story make the whole thing seem almost effortless. At times in the show, it’s fun to glance from the foreground action at the “background” characters and how they’re positioned on Brian Pucheu’s cleverly crammed set, just to see how Boutte is using them to advance the scene. Whether crammed into bunk beds or ensconced in the minutiae of daily barracks living, the prisoners become almost like living scenery.

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