Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Autistic boy inspires local fashion line

Children’s clothing line Fly Kidz a has a new kiosk in Fresno and a sweet backstory. The kiosk selling boys and girls clothing opened about three weeks ago in front of the Disney store at Fashion Fair mall. The family-run company also has a store in Reedley at 1036 G St. and got its start selling urban streetwear for little boys.

The line was inspired by Ian Escoto, who was 4 years old when he was diagnosed with a severe form of autism: a rare genetic disorder in which a bit of a chromosome is missing. When he was getting 20 hours a week of therapy, designing T-shirts with his mom was used as a reward for completing therapy. Ian doesn’t talk, so he’d use hand motions to describe a breakdancer or headphones that he wanted on the shirts. Now 7 years old, Ian uses an iPad with a special app to communicate, pointing to pictures in the program. He still picks the colors of the shirts, but mostly now it’s mom and dad — Jacklyn Garcia-Escoto and Jose Escoto — choosing the images.

The family is in the process of forming a non-profit organization called A Puzzle Piece to My Heart. A puzzle piece appears on the clothing tags because “every child with autism has a different puzzle piece that has to be met,” says his mom. Eventually, a portion of sales will go to the nonprofit. The Escotos hope the money can be used to help other families afford iPads and the expensive app that Ian uses to communicate. Ian has made lots of progress since getting the iPad and has far fewer tantrums.

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A stirring ‘Summer Soiree’

Amy Querin, artistic director of NOCO (and one of this city’s most impressive creative souls), stood on the now-empty “stage” holding court after her dance company’s performance Sunday night at the Fresno Art Museum. She graciously accepted the compliments pressed upon her by the well-wishers surrounding her for “Summer Soiree,” but in a moment of self-deprecation, she lamented that she didn’t have more time to more effectively transform the performance space into “another world.”

I respectfully disagree. The space that Querin and her hard-working company created in the museum’s lobby/atrium for the production — which paired members of the company with a Fresno Philharmonic string quartet — indeed had an otherworldly ambiance. The audience sat on risers, and the wall behind the performance space was swathed with fabric that echoed the billowing feel of the centerpiece aerial rig. The colors of the beige fabric of the rig and its gold-colored metal support beams seemed perfectly in sync with the nude color of the draperies. Above the audience hung dozens of paper origami birds. The effect was muted and ethereal — a refined, stylish atmosphere.

It was entrancing.

So was getting to watch dance paired with live music. The string quartet gave a stirring version of Kevin Volans’ “White Man Sleeps,” whose “wild meters,” as Querin describes them, meshed well with the robust choreography.

Adding a poignant touch of the evening: Querin’s farewell to Jackie Aldern, the assistant director, and Hannah Cavallaro, the rehearsal director. They’re the company’s last two original company members. A new NOCO generation has begun. 

Best of all was the overall world that Querin — helped by gobs of people, including Fresno Phil executive director Stephen Wilson — helped create. For a few hours on a Sunday evening, it was as if the museum were transformed into an elegant oasis — a sophisticated cultural buzz-spot filled with people who want the local arts scene to just keep getting better. That’s a world worth believing in.

Win tickets to Leftover Cuties


The Painted Table is best known for its catering. You’ve no doubt seen the chefs (or their cuisine) out at events, including the Fresno Food Expo. They did cooking demonstrations all day.

The business also hosts events out of a space in the Tower Theatre complex. Those with long enough memories will remember it as the old Daily Planet space.

While the space is mostly reserved for special private parties, The Painted Table will open it up as a live music venue for pair of performers over the next two weekend. You can get all the needed info on The Painted Table’s Facebook page.

First up is the Los Angeles retro-jazz pop band Leftover Cuties, which plays The Painted Table on Sunday. If you are unfamiliar with Leftover Cuties by name, you may have heard its music. The band wrote and performed the theme song for the Showtime series “The Big C” and has songs featured in commercials for Hyundai and Samsung. The Samsung ad aired during the 2012 Olympics. Proceeds from the show will benefit Fresno’s NOCO dance collective.

We have tickets to give away to a Beehive reader. To enter to win, leave a comment in this post. Tell us what is the cutest thing you have ever seen. The contest runs until noon Thursday. Winners will be chosen at random, notified by email and be able to pick up tickets at The Fresno Bee office (1626 E. Street) during normal business hours.

Check out a video of Leftover Cuties and get the complete concert rules on the jump.

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Win tickets to Beatriz Herrera 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. This week’s concert features local singer Beatriz Herrera. To enter to win, 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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Mid-week concerts to get you through to Friday


To anyone who thinks there is nothing to do in Fresno, I give this quick list of super-ridiculous concerts — one or more every day through Thursday (and then the weekend kicks in).

Feel free to pass it along. You can add this message: “Quit complaining.”


  • Lynryd Skynyrd
    It’s a Saturday night special … on Monday … See what I did there.
  • Beach Day.
    Free girl-pop garage rock at Peeve’s.

  • Future Islands
    Best frontman in entertainment today? You be the judge.
  • Balance and Composure
    Post hard-core emo band from Pennsylvania. For fans of Sunny Day Real Estate.
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    Who’s coming, who’s going: A new Chick-fil-A and more

    Lots of openings and closings to catch you up on today, starting with plans for a Chick-fil-A restaurant at Fashion Fair mall. The tire store outbuilding in front of the mall near Shaw Avenue and First Street will be torn down and rebuilt as a Chick-fil-A, says the mall spokeswoman. Work hasn’t even started yet, so it will be a while before it opens (that’s a file photo of the north Fresno location at right).

    Also at Fashion Fair, Love Culture is closing. The national retailer is bankrupt and closing its stores. A going-out-of-business sale has already started. No word yet on when the store will close, but prices should continue to drop.

    A store called Metal Mulisha will open Aug. 22 in the former No Fear space. This one is geared toward people living the “Motocross, BMX and X Games lifestyle.” It’s the same company that used to create Metal Mulisha branded merchandise for No Fear.

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    DIY: The art of lunch

    Four lunch ideas

    Anyone in the midst of back-to-school preparations has likely noticed that the face of lunchtime has changed. A quick walk through the school supply section reveals a whole new landscape in the lunch aisle. Gone are the mini-metal, thermos-filled suitcases of yore, replaced now with square, compartmentalized containers in funky, insulated carriers. Gone, too, is the expectation that p, b and j slapped between a couple slices of white bread is healthy.

    There has been a conscious movement among many parents to move away from sodium- or sugar-laden processed foods, hoping  to control what goes down junior’s gullet with home-packed options. But this movement has highlighted another potential problem: You can lead a kid to a carrot stick, but you can’t make him eat it. Which is to say, you can pack a healthy lunch, but what good is it if it ends up in the trash or traded away?

    That’s where these Bento-style containers and a little creativity come into play. With a few cookie cutters and a bit of forethought, providing a delicious, healthy lunch can be all that and a bag of chips. Except without the bag of chips.

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    The Beehive Interview: Mimi Mott-Smith

    Mimi Mott-Smith’s new exhibition at Fresno City Hall, titled “Views of Fresno,” offers an intriguing perspective on this place we call home. Mott-Smith’s style is fiercely minimalist, and in her paintings of Fresno buildings in particular she’s able to home in on the way this region’s brilliant sunlight washes out colors and creates a pale, creamy ambiance. Yet the artist maintains her critical eye, offering a visual commentary of aspects of the city she finds pleasing, amusing and sometimes appalling.

    I caught up with Mott-Smith, who had an extensive medical career before she shifted to painting, for an email interview, portions of which I distilled into my Sunday Spotlight column. Here’s the extended version.

    Question: You’re calling this show “Views of Fresno.” Is there a double meaning?

    Answer: Very perspicacious question: Yes, there is a double meaning in most of the images. Dualities like personal: impersonal, seriousness: satire, literal:ironic, serious: humorous. For example, the small house with the very large flag that covers a third of it, speaks to the literal in that it shows the strength of people’s feelings re patriotism here, but ironic to me because I see it as a “doth protest too much” type of thing, the insecurity that underlies the over-the-top-flag show. I have not seen this kind of thing elsewhere either in the US or in other countries, but I admit I have not been everywhere in the US either.

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    Weekend pick: NOCO’s ‘Summer Soire’

    My Beehive colleague Joshua Tehee already flagged this as one of his “5 Things You Should Do This Weekend,” but I wanted to give it an extra boost.

    It’s exciting to see collaborations between local arts organizations. And this Sunday’s “Summer Soire” at the Fresno Art Museum, featuring the Fresno Dance Collective (NOCO) and a string quartet representing the Fresno Philharmonic, sounds especially refreshing.

    The Bee’s Sharon Martin writes about the event in Friday’s 7 section cover story:

    The event, at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Fresno Art Museum, 2233 N. First St., features aerial and contemporary dancers paired with live music from the Fresno Philharmonic string quartet. The quartet will perform Kevin Volans’ String Quartet No. 1, “White Man Sleeps.” This is the first time the Fresno Dance Collective and the Fresno Philharmonic have worked together.

    The dance will feature aerialists both inside and outside the Fresno Art Museum. Performances include two aerial duets, two dance solos, one duet dance, one trio dance and one group dance.

    I’m looking forward to it.

    Pictured: Jackie Aldern of NOCO. Bee photo by Craig Kohlruss.

    And the winner of the taco throwdown is …

    There was a clear winner at the fourth annual Taco Truck Throwdown at Chukchansi Park at the Grizzlies game last night: La Elegante. The restaurant that has two taco trucks won both the people’s choice award and the judge’s award. La Elegante also won the inaugural taco truck throwdown in 2011. 

    If you want to check out this award-winning deliciousness, you can find La Elegante’s restaurant at 1423 Kern St. in downtown Fresno. The restaurant also has two trucks, one of which does special events and the other is often parked near Pick-A-Part near Maple and Muscat avenues in the afternoons. This is La Elegante’s 30th year in business, by the way.

    If you ever doubted that Fresno is taco central, check out these stats: 13,845 people walked through the gates to watch the game or chow down on tacos. That’s the fourth-biggest attendance in Grizzlies history. At the throwdown, 27,000 tacos were sold, up from 21,500 last year. That is a lot of tacos. Keep reading to see the top five winners in both categories. If you attended, feel free to share in the comments about how it went and your favorite taco.

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    Five Things You Should Do This Weekend


    Go find someone you love and hug them. It’s been a long week. Then …

    1. Big Brother presents Strangelove
    All I ever needed is here in my arms.

    2. Logger’s Jamboree
    Chopping, sawing and general wood play. You’ve got to love the smell of fresh wood chips in the morning.

    3. NOCO Summer Soiree
    Aerial dance + classical music inside a museum. It’s a triple shot of culture.

    4. Rock N’ Shop
    Music and collectibles. Special appearance by a jaw-less zombie pet (or the dude who played one on TV anyway).

    5. Ani-Jam
    One word: Cosplay.

    Concert Announcement: Winter Jam, 2014


    Winter Jam, the world’s best selling concert tour according to Poll Star magazine, will return to the Save Mart Center this year. The tour just announced dates for its West Coast run, including a Nov. 11 stop at the arena.

    For those unfamiliar, the wildly popular annual tour features 10 of Christian music’s top artists for a $10 ticket price. This year, the tour is headlined by Australian worship band Hillsong United. The band has a growing popularity in the U.S. — it was the first Christian artist ever to sell out Los Angeles’ Staples Center. Jeremy Camp, Francesca Battistelli, Colton Dixon, Disciple, Trip Lee, Tony Nolan, Everfound, About A Mile and Veridia round out the bill.

    Normally, this is where we would pass along on-sale ticket information. With Winter Jam there is no need. Tickets are only available on the day of the show at the venue.

    Clovis yogurt shop introduces “shaved snow”

    Shaved snow. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t either until last week. This nifty frozen dessert is kinda like shaved ice, but instead of ice, it’s made from a mixture of milk or cream and flavors such as strawberry or Nutella. The mixture is frozen solid into disk and then placed in a machine that slices off super-thin ribbons of deliciousness. It’s topped with fruit, nuts and other frozen yogurt bar toppings, such as drizzles of condensed milk or marshmallow cream.

    The newly opened JoJo’s Frozen Yogurt at Ashlan and Fowler avenues in Clovis is selling the dessert ($3.95 for a small, which can easily be shared between two people, $5.95 for a large). Lollicup Coffee & Tea on Bullard Avenue near First Street has been selling its version, “snow fluff” for a while now. Apparently shaved snow is popular and trendy in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. JoJo’s owner Don Soyinthisane waited about half an hour to try it in L.A. before deciding to make it part of their business. It’s just starting to catch on in Fresno. JoJo’s has developed a following among local Asians who are spreading the word via social media and seeking out the purple taro flavor.

    Other flavors include Nutella (I can vouch for this one’s yummyness), strawberry, chocolate, green tea, pineapple, cantaloupe and avocado. Shaved snow is a bit lighter and even a little less fatty than ice cream. The texture, though, is difficult to describe. It’s surprisingly creamy. Don likes to say that if ice cream and shaved ice had a baby, it would be shaved snow. Keep scrolling to see a video of how it’s made.

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    RIP jazz guitarist and instructor Andre Bush

    For those who missed my story in today’s Fresno Bee, the local music scene is mourning the death of jazz guitarist and instructor Andre Bush.

    Bush was a graduate of the Roosevelt School of the Arts and a fixture in the local jazz scene as both a player and a teacher. He was also an accomplished touring musician and session guitarist, who played several years on the Lilith Fair and was nominated for a Grammy is 2005. He had his own guitar technique book (published by Mel Bay, no less) and was named as one of the 342 most significant guitarists in jazz history by critic Scott Yanow.

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    Death of Robin Williams true tragedy

    Robin WilliamsOscar-winner Robin Williams, 63, died this morning according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office-Coroner Division and his press representative.

    I had the honor — and frustration — to interview Robin Williams several times for his film and TV work. The most recent chat was on the set of his CBS comedy, “The Crazy Ones.” It was the return to network television for Williams but that wasn’t enough to keep the comedy on the air past one year.

    Every interview with Williams was like trying to ride a bucking bronco being carried through the air on a roller coaster that’s been strapped to a kite without a tail. Sometimes, all you could do was hold on.

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    Win tickets to Prestige 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. This week’s concert features local R&B soul group Prestige. To enter to win, 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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    Josh Thomas heart of ‘Please Like Me’

    Josh Thomas had some major concerns when he first met with executives from the cable channel Pivot about moving his Australian TV series, “Please Like Me,” to an American market. In a very colorful way he explains that his chief concern was that they might engage him in sexual relations. (Don’t make me spell it out.)

    They didn’t.

    “They’re just really lovely. They sort of let me do whatever we like. We film it in Australia. They have notes, which we listen to, sometimes. And if I say to them no, I really think this is better, they’re just quite cool about it,” Thomas says. “They’re quite comfortable with the facts that they came into the season six episodes. We’d already made six episodes that they really liked and have never tried to interfere.

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    DIY: Weekly meal planner

    The start of school always forces me to assess the chaos brought on by two months of life without strict timetables. My leisurely after-work evenings spent sipping wine, watching baseball and preparing late-evening meals will soon revert to taxiing kids to and fro, helping with homework and juggling their various activities. I can’t rely on having time for those belated, after-work trips to the grocery.

    But everyone still needs to eat. And as I’m the cook, the menu planning falls on my plate, so to speak.

    My solution to this dilemma: I’ve found that if I carve out 30 minutes on the weekend to plan out meals, I can save several hours of panic and last-minute grocery store scuttling.

    Click here for our downloadable meal planner.

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    Restaurant week in full swing

    Restaurant Week

    If you’re like me, you don’t need an excuse to eat out, but here’s a good one: Restaurant Week is happening right now. You can read more about it here and see all the participating restaurants here, but basically it’s a time when you can get good eats for a lower-than-normal price. The 26 participating restaurants are offering three-course dinners for $20, $30 or $40. A few are doing lunch for lower prices. Newly participating this year are Aria Persian Cuisine, Shepherd’s Inn, Frankie’s 568, HCK (Hermosa California Kitchen) and Peeve’s Public House. It goes until Aug. 15.

    Most of the restaurants have their Restaurant Week menus on the website. A few don’t and a few oddly have listed their regular menus. That’s a bit of a head scratcher, because certainly some diners are making decisions based on the drool-worthy descriptions of menus that are specifically for Restaurant Week. (Surely, the “deluxe feast of BBQ” at Westwoods with tri-tip, St. Louis ribs and honey Q fried chicken strips is luring in a few customers, and if you ever wanted to try fried green tomatoes, you can do it at Trelio.) After chatting with the organizer, the best advice we can give if the Restaurant Week menu isn’t listed is to call the restaurant directly and ask them what they’re doing for Restaurant Week. (And you may want to make reservations. Lela’s Restaurant said on Facebook that it’s booking up fast.)

    At any rate, the promotion is still a good way to try out a new restaurant or experience one that’s normally out of your budget, or even take a risk on a new dish at a restaurant you already know.

    Manish Dayal takes cooking ‘Journey’

    Manish Dayal’s not a chef but he plays one in the new feature film “The 100-Foot Journey.” His kitchen skills were pretty limited before being cast in the movie about an Indian family going into direct competition with an established French restaurant in a small town in the south of France.

    His cooking skills are still limited. Dayal just has a better understanding of the world where the preparation of food is treated with great passion.

    “The nature of a kitchen in France versus the nature of a kitchen in India is very different. And, I think more importantly, what I had to learn was understanding how it works, rather than how to make the food because of course we did both. Understanding how to function in a kitchen is very important,” Dayal says.

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    Open letter to dog experts

    Dear Expert Dog People,

    I appreciate that you know everything there is to know about dogs. Not just dogs in general, not just specific dog breeds, but every single individual dog on the planet.
    I appreciate that you ask me if you can pet my dog before you pet it.

    I appreciate that, after I tell you “No, please do not pet my dog as she is intensely protective and does not like to be touched by strangers,” you smile and nod patronizingly.

    I appreciate how you insist upon your deep and detailed understanding of dogs and reiterate your pet-whispering brilliance: How you love dogs. How you were practically raised in a pack since birth. Or how you work with them in some capacity.

    I appreciate that you stand up for your expertise.

    I appreciate it when you tell me — despite my reasoned answer — that it’s OK for you to touch my dog anyway.

    But if we’re being completely honest? Mostly, I appreciate your wide eyes and startled gasp after moving your hand quickly from my dog’s snapping growl.

    Deep down, in my heart of hearts, I appreciate that my dog has just added a specific note to your dog brilliance: always listen to the dog’s owner.

    Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

    nightsWhile you’re figuring out which of the neighbors to snitch on first …

    1. Zappa Plays Zappa
    For fans of off-the-wall quirky, but thoughtfully composed, rock-and-roll-as art.

    2. Wayans Brothers Live
    Put the four Wayans brothers together and you have a comedy empire. Here, they do stand-up comedy together for the first time.

    3. Audie’s Olympic Tavern
    Great rock shows scheduled for tonight AND tomorrow. Take your pick, or go to both.
    4. “Life Itself
    Thank Fresno Filmworks for bringing this to town.

    5. Fig Fest
    Fresno owes everything to its figs, which we honor by eating.

    For a full list of weekend music options, check out this week’s BANDGEEEEEK!

    Bandgeek: Lou Shields, Les Wolves and Zappa Plays Zappa

    Today is National IPA Day. You will want to celebrate. But not too much, because there are dozens of local music happenings you might want to make. Here they are in list form in this week’s BANDGEEEEEK!


  • Queensryche Starring Geoff Tate.
    At Strummer’s. 7 p.m. $32.

  • Lou Shields.
    W/Jimmie O. AT Audie’s Olympic. 9 p.m. No price listed. (Flier link)

  • From The Messenger.
    W/The Rest Will Fall, Bred To Survive, City of Skies and Farooq. At CYC. 6:30 p.m. $4. All ages. (Flier link)

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    Event celebrates Filipino history

    “Magandang Corazon,” an event honoring the historical role of Filipinos during the Farm Labor Movement, will be held from 3-7 p.m. Aug. 9, at the administration building of Fresno City College, 1101 E University Ave. It is free to the public.

    Activities will include an educational workshop for those 7-11 years old that will run from 3-5:30 p.m. plus a pot luck meal. Those attending are urged to bring food and non-alcoholic drinks.

    There will be screening of “The Delano Manongs,” a new documentary by Emmy-wining director Marissa Aroy. It tells the little known story of a group of Filipino farm workers who started the “Great Grape Strike” in 1965. They joined forces with other ethnic workers to form the United Farm Workers Union (UFW), a union known mostly as a Mexican American union with Cesar Chavez as its leader.

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    ‘Guardians’ role grows on Vin Diesel

    If you hear a lot of people saying “I am Groot” you’ll know they have been to see the new “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie. Groot is a tree-like character who can break a few limbs as well as plant the seeds of a lasting friendship. The character is computer generated but it was Vin Diesel who provided the voice.

    Guardians of the Galaxy

    This is Diesel’s first movie based on a Marvel Comics character, a topic that has been discussed for years through social media. The problem was Diesel’s schedule was so hectic, he could not block out the six months needed to make the big action movie.

    He was a little surprised when he was approach to be in “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

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