Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Neil Patrick Harris at the Tonys: FTW

Awesome, hilarious, edgy opening number at last night’s Tony Awards. Don’t miss the endearing Brooke Shields screw-up where she forgets the words to her song. Go live TV!

I’m feeling a bit full of myself this morning for having successfully nabbed tickets to both the winning best musical (“The Book of Mormon”) and best play (“War Horse”) on my recent New York jaunt. Plus, I saw the winning best play revival (“The Normal Heart”). The only one I missed out of the Top 4 awards was best musical revival (“Anything Goes.”) For a recap of my thoughts on “Mormon” and “War Horse,” check out my Sunday column. And here’s a roundup of the other shows I saw.

Concert News: Blaze Fest with Cheap Trick, Tesla, Everclear and Candlebox


Rock station 105.1 The Blaze (KKBZ, FM) has announced its first Blaze Fest, an outdoor rock festival that’s mixing classic rock, ’80s hard rock and ’90s alternative.

Cheap Trick, Tesla, Everclear and Candlebox perform at Blaze Fest, which is happening Sept. 17 at the Regional Sports Complex (Jensen Ave., near Highway 41).

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at Vallitix locations, by phone toll free (888) 825-5484 or online at

If you want tickets to Blaze Fest, it’s best to act quick. Tickets cost $20 until June 26, jump to $30 on June 27 and will cost $40 the day of the show.

In addition to the music, the day includes everything you’d expect from a rock festival — beer, food, muscle cars and an appearance from Playboy’s 2011 Playmate of the Year Claire Sinclair.

Kasey Kahl will be on ‘Bachelor Pad’

kaseykahl.JPG, the web version of Entertainment Weekly, reports Clovis native Kasey Kahl will be among the invited guests to live in a mansion for the summer series “Bachelor Pad.”

The show brings together 18 contestants from the past “Bachelor” franchise to compete for $250,000 and possibly a second chance at love.

“Bachelor Pad” starts Aug. 8 on KFSN (Channel 30.1).

Kahl was in season six of “The Bachelorette” that featured Ali Fedotowski. His attempt to win her heart by getting a tattoo on his wrist to show how he would “guard and protect” her heart didn’t work.

Fedotowski dumped Kahl by leaving him on an iceberg.

On TV tonight: ‘Nora Roberts’ Carnal Innocence’

ANWAR.JPG “Nora Roberts’ Carnal Innocence,” 8 p.m. Lifetime: After watching Gabrielle Anwar play such a tough role on “Burn Notice,” it’ll take a little adjustment to watch her as a world-renowned violinist facing some professional problems in this made-for-cable movie.

To sort out the problems in her life, Caroline Waverly (Anwar) heads to Innocence, Miss., a place where she spent summers as a child. She needs some peace and quiet.

You know it’s a Nora Roberts story because the musician thinks she’s met a charming young man (Colin Egglesfield) only to discover he’s the prime suspect in a series of murders.

Shirley Jones also stars.

From ‘Sister Act’ to Alexander McQueen: Donald’s busy week in New York

When I go to New York, as I did several weeks ago, I don’t just take in a play or two.

I go hard-core cultural, squeezing in as much as I can.

In my Sunday Spotlight column today, just in time for tonight’s Tony Awards, I focus on two of the seven plays I saw: “The Book of Mormon” and “War Horse.” (I think there’s a pretty good chance they could win best musical and best play, respectively, which would make my show-picking skills quite good indeed.) As promised at the end of my column, here’s a rundown on the other five shows I saw, plus a roundup of a few of the museum special exhibitions I was able to attend.


“A MINISTER’S WIFE,” Lincoln Center Theater. I make it a point to seek out “chamber musicals,” those mostly quiet, mostly sung-through, small-cast productions that offer not the dazzle of Broadway but the delicate marriage of text and music. “A Minister’s Wife,” with music by Joshua Schmidt, lyrics by Jan Levy Tranen and book by Austin Pendleton, is an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s “Candida.”

And what a tender, touching production this was. (It ended its limited run June 12.) Marc Kudisch, a Broadway powerhouse, played the blustery minister of the title, a charismatic preacher with an activist streak. His wife (played by a strong, moving Kate Fry) is seemingly content with her husband’s expectly oafish views toward marriage — these are Victorian times, after all — at least until the ardent young poet, Eugene Marchbanks (a superb Bobby Steggert, in one of the most ferocious musical-theater performances I’ve ever seen), declares his love for her.

It all built to a fervent, intense climax, with the spirit of Shaw’s prose and the music swirling together toward a passionate conclusion. The intimate space, brisk direction and musical textures all brought a classic tale to life in a burst of emotion.

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Mark your calendar: Fresno Chile Festival

Want more festivals on the Fulton Mall? Of course you do. We all do. Well here’s a new downtown festival happening June 18 (aka next Saturday). It’s the Fresno Chile Festival, and it’s dedicated to the chile pepper that shares a name with our city, as opposed to the stuff you get on your hot dog at The Chuck Wagon.


Here’s some more info on the Fresno Chile Festival, press release style:

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It’s the chef who must make cooking changes

Food Twittering Chef.JPG There’s one thing I’ve noticed with cooking competition shows. Players can be sent packing because they’ve made a dish that a judge just doesn’t like. It isn’t the quality but just a matter of conflicting tastes in food.

Is this fair? Just because a judge doesn’t like – let’s say squid – should that be a negative even if it’s the best squid ever cooked?

Celebrated Chef Rocco DiSpirito’s new Bravo series, “Rocco’s Dinner Party” has three skilled chefs creating the perfect evening for him and his celebrity guests. He’s asked if the definition of success be whether the food is properly prepared or it’s a menu the diners like.

“When you invite people into your home, there’s an implicit contract that you’ve made that you’re going to show them a good time. So if showing them a good time and creating an environment where people give themselves permission to have fun – which is what you’re supposed to do at a dinner party – means that you have to put your culinary force aside, then that’s what has to happen,” DiSpirito tells TV critics. “We’ve had guests come in and say, ‘By the way, I don’t eat pork, fish. I don’t drink alcohol. No cheese, no dairy, no this, no that.

“So there are entire menus that had to be reworked with 40 minutes left to the dinner party. So it really does become about who is going to be able to please the guests.”

That means chefs on competition shows should know ahead of time just what the judges like and dislike. They will need to adapt and not expect the judge to change culinary desires.

You Review: Tim McGraw

Anyone see Tim McGraw last night at the Save Mart Center? Tell us about the show. What’d you think of the setlist? His performance? Was it better than his previous visits to Fresno? Worse? How was the crowd? Big as usual?

We’d also like to hear about opening acts Luke Bryan and The Band Perry. Did either of them wow you?


Check out more photos from The Bee’s John Walker below.

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Concert News: Michael Bublé returns


Crooner Michael Bublé returns to Fresno’s Save Mart Center on Aug. 14, the arena announced this morning, much to the delight of the K-Jewel-listening ladies out there.

Tickets to see him go on sale at 10 a.m. June 17 and cost $52.50, $72.50 and $92.50.

It’s the third time in Fresno for Bublé. He played to a half-house at the Save Mart Center in 2008 and made his Fresno debut at an infamous Saroyan Theatre show in 2006 where the theater’s air conditioning broke on a 110-degree summer day. Bublé sweated through it, but lots of fans were quite upset.

Entertainment this weekend

super 8.JPG This might be a fool’s errand because the weather’s going to be so beautiful this weekend. But, those of you who opt not to enjoy the sunshine should consider the following indoor entertainment options.

“Super 8″: The film from director/writer J.J. Abrams is a brilliant blend of action with a strong family story. This is the best film to combine the adventurous nature of youth with the thrills of a mysterious situation since “E.T.”

“True Grit”: Sibling directors Ethan and Joel Coen combine the grandeur of a traditional Western with their quirky sensibility. It takes an actor of Jeff Bridges’ caliber to step into the big boots of Rooster Cogburn, a role that earned John Wayne his only Oscar. With strong supporting performances from Hailee Steinfeld and Matt Damon, the film is one of the best of the West to come moseying along in years.

“Game of Thrones,” HBO, 9 p.m. Sunday: This is one of the best new offerings for the summer. The series is filled with the trappings of a typical fantasy tale: kings, knights, dragons and mysterious creatures. But, at its very dark heart, this series based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, is closer to a medieval version of “The Sopranos” or “Dallas” than it is to a “Lord of the Rings.”

More on ‘A Picasso’


The New Ensemble theater company on Friday opens an intriguing new play, “A Picasso,” at the Broken Leg Stage. I caught up with director Heather Parish for an interview. A condensed version runs in Friday’s 7 section. Here’s the extended version:

Briefly put, what is the play about?

The year is 1941, the Germans have rolled into Paris and Pablo Picasso has been ushered into a makeshift office by a beautiful Nazi bureaucrat to authenticate three works of art the Reich have recently “acquired” for exhibition. Soon, the master artist learns that the exhibition is a burning of art designated as “degenerate” by the Germans. A battle of wits ensues between the tough-minded Nazi and the passionate artist over the survival of Picasso’s work– and possibly the survival of the man himself.

What can you tell us about the play’s production history?

Jeffrey Hatcher, a very prolific playwright and screenwriter, wrote the piece when grappling with issues concerning his own art and the critical reaction to it. As such, it tends to resonate with artists of any stripe who put their work out there for public comment.

It premiered in 2003 by the Philadelphia Theater company. A subsequent production followed in 2004 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami starring Lucie Arnaz (who has had a strong regional theater career in Florida) as the Nazi. After that, the eminent Manhattan Theater Club in NYC picked it up with Dennis Boutsikaris and Jill Eikenberry playing the roles. Since then, it has been seen in myriad regional theater companies, including San Jose Repertory in 2009.

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Charity work second nature to Smiths

Premiere Madagascar Escape 2 Africa LA.JPG Will and Jada Pinkett Smith do a lot of charity work – some that makes headlines and other work that goes unnoticed. Either way, the charity work is nothing the Hollywood power couple does for attention.

“It’s just a priority for us, something that’s part of the DNA of what we do,” Jada tells me during a break on a location shoot for her TNT series “HawthoRNe.”
The charity work is both big and small. Will tends to get approached a lot by youngsters who want to meet him through the Make a Wish program. Jada prefers a more grassroots type of charity work.

No matter whether the Smiths are in Ohio or Africa, they look for ways to help the community.

“I love going into inner-city communities to find local organizations who do great things but don’t necessarily have the funds to keep the ball rolling in these tough financial times,” Jada says. “That’s the kind of people who kept me and Will – and people we know – going and helped keep our dreams moving forward.”

Taste This: Fresno State’s sweet corn


This year’s crop of Fresno State’s very popular sweet corn arrives bright and early Friday morning. When we say popular, we mean long lines on the first weekend, with the cops directing traffic.

That popular.


In years past, customers have lined up early outside the store for the first crack at the popular corn that is 99 cents for three ears this year.

Fresno State’s hand-picked corn arrives at the market at Barstow and Chestnut avenues minutes after harvest – a freshness that ensures high quality, sweetness and tenderness, said Gary Chavira, manager of the campus farm’s Vegetable Crops Enterprise.

“In spite of the cold weather that delayed our corn by two weeks, the student-produced corn is looking very good in the field and will turn out to be one of the best-tasting and sweetest corn crops produced by Fresno State during the past 15 years,” Chavira said.

Because of all the extra interest, Fresno State’s Gibson Farm Market is running extended “corn hours” this weekend — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Get Familiar: The Starting Six and T. Mills

A couple of young party-rap acts — The Starting Six and T. Mills — are making Fresno stops this weekend. They’re not exactly my flavor, but the kids are into ‘em, so I’m expecting wild shows. Here’s an introduction:

The Starting Six is a Bay Area-based rap group who fit quite snug into what’s being calling “frat-rap.” This ain’t for the streets, more for the dudes playing beer pong at college parties. The Starting Six is performing Friday at The 509, 3509 First St. (which I’m pretty sure is some kind of makeshift venue, ’cause I’ve never heard of it before). It’s all ages, 21+ to drink. Tickets cost $20-$25. More info here.

Here’s their current single, “Yogi.” (Warning: Language NSFW)

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Phone call could have been very revealing

bigfootposter.jpg Answering the phone can be an adventure. Most of the time, the caller just wants to wish me an early death.

A phone call earlier today caught me by surprise.

A female voice on the other end of the line said, “Hi. My name is (not being used to save any embarrassment). I am 5-7 and I have no problem showing you my breasts.”

Because no credit card information had been exchanged, there had to be another explanation. It dawned on me the caller had read my story in today’s Fresno Bee about auditions for the film “Bigfoot’s Wild Weekend.” Some of the roles will require nudity.

So instead of asking the caller if she had a phone that takes photos, I directed her to the right number. Those of you willing to show your breasts for a chance to be in a movie should call (559) 676-8418.

Thank you Google for another great doodle

If you haven’t gone to Google’s homepage today, go now. It’s really cool: They created a playable guitar to honor guitar legend Les Paul. Just move your mouse over the strings and strum away. You can even record your song and share it. Here’s a video someone posted on You Tube playing.

So, have some fun. I sure enjoyed take a few minutes to marvel at the creativity and play a little tune.

So that’s what the D in Fresno D stands for

Another for the billboards-that-appear-to-have-penises-on-them file: Fresno Distributing — or Fresno D, as it’s often called – has, umm, erected the billboard below. It looked phallic to regular Beehive commenter (and DJ about town) Bradley, who snapped and Tweeted this picture. We have to agree that’s some serious hidden peen.


Fresno D should go all the way with this and add a new slogan to the billboard: “Our competition can suck it.”

- Hey, Christmas Tree Lane, is that what we think it is?

To-Do Tonight: Good ol’ Tim McGraw and some new Thursday night haps

THE BIG SHOW: The hot ticket for tonight is Save Mart Center’s Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan and The Band Perry show. Tickets are still available. Read up on The Band Perry, who I interviewed recently, and could be the next McGraw opening act to hit it big.

NEW AROUND TOWN: Tonight’s a good chance to look at some of the new weekly Thursday night events around town.


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On TV tonight: ‘So You Think You Can Dance’

CatDeely.JPG “So You Think You Can Dance,” 8 p.m. KMPH (Channel 26.1): The early rounds of this dance competition show don’t tend to be as crazy or interesting as the tryouts for “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent.”

“So You Think You Can Dance” really doesn’t get interesting until the series gets to the top 20 finalists. And that happens tonight.

After auditions in Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, New York, Los Angeles and Miami, the series gets down to serious work trying to find this year’s top dancer.

Flower Power 2: Share your best photos

It’s probably all this weird rain we’ve gotten, but the wildflowers in the foothills seem to be peaking later this year. I took a great Sunday drive up Highway 41 toward North Folk, then cutting over on Road 222 (which becomes Powerhouse Rd) to Auberry, and then back to Fresno on Highway 168. What a gorgeous scene. The flowers are wonderful, nearly blanketing some hillsides, and with my macro lens, I was like a kid in a candy store. I don’t expect they’ll last much longer now. I highly recommend a trip in the next few days to witness “Nature’s Theater.”

Here’s a shot from along Road 222:


Which brings us to our second annual “Flower Power” feature. Last year I asked readers to send me favorite pics they’d taken throughout the season. Then I compiled them into a big Beehive photo post. (I loved including the comments people wrote about their photos, too.) I loved the result. Such beauty out there, and so many talented amateur photographers, too! You can email your pics to me here.

Meanwhile, if you want to check out some more of my recent pics, click the links below:

Views of spring for Beehive (gallery) (slideshow)

To-Do Tonight: Find your Summer Love


It’s finally starting to look and feel like summer around Fresno. Not that we’re complaining the temperatures haven’t reached their usual sweltering levels. You just can’t really start rolling out the summer parties when Mother Nature still insists on making it rain.

So it’s fitting that this sunny Wednesday marks the start of “Summer Love,” a new weekly Wednesday gathering at The Standard from promoter Lewis Everk (he’s doing most of the events over at Rome Nightclub these days, but is apparently allowed to spread his wings).

“Summer Love” is a relaxed affair — meaning you can get away with flip-flops, hats and such. It’s also free to get in, which is always a plus. Providing the music is DJ L.E.O., who is staying busy with brand new weekly events at Rome and Eureka!Burger in addition to this.

‘Movies in the Park’ return this summer


“Movies in the Park” — the City of Fresno and Comcast’s weekly downtown movie night — returns on Friday. The series offers free flicks on a big screen in Eaton Plaza (at Fresno and N streets, near the Water Tower) now until the end of August. This year’s lineup is pretty current, considering the price point.

A few things to know: The movies start at dusk. Vendors are there selling food and drinks. There’s a bounce house for kids. Parking is free. Bring you own lawn chair or blanket.

Here’s the film lineup:

June 10: “Iron Man 2″ | June 17: “The Karate Kid” | June 24: “Despicable Me” |

July 1: Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never” | July 8: “Shrek Forever After” |
July 15: “The Green Hornet” | July 22: “Megamind” | July 29: “Rango” |
Aug. 5: “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” | Aug. 12: “Toy Story 3″ (Back to School Night) |
Aug. 19: “How to Train Your Dragon” | Aug. 26: “Tron: Legacy”