Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Life peachy for ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ actor

Fresno Bee TV critic Rick Bentley is in Los Angeles at the summer TV critics tour. These are his early reports.

Keep an eye out for actor Joel McKinnon Miller, who plays Scully on the FOX comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” He could be in the Fresno area in the next few weeks.

He’s coming to the area for fruit, specifically peaches from the farm of David Mas Masumoto. The Del Rey author is known for being a peach and grape farmer.

“I adopted a peach tree from him 10 years ago,” Miller says during a chat on the set of the comedy. “Some friends and I share the tree. We will be going up in the next two weekends to pick part the fruit. And, it’s some of the best peaches you have ever eaten in your life.”

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Ryan Beatty announces tour dates, spot at Lollapalooza

While Fresno rapper Fashawn has had a big couple weeks (signing to Nas’ Mass Appeal Records and killin’ it on stage in Germany), Fresno’s own teen idol (and looks to be bonafide pop star) Ryan Beatty announced a new slate of tour dates that includes a slot at Lollapalooza.

This is a big move for the 18-year old singer (one of the youngest performers at the festival), and sign that he’s growing into more than a flash-in-the-pan pop singer. Lollapalooza is arguably the best known American music festival (second maybe to Coachella) and is has a lineup full of heavy hitters: Eminen, Outkast, Kings of Leon, Lorde, Foster the People, Interpol, Grouplove, AFI and The Airborne Toxic Event (which features another Fresno ex-pat, so there).

The announcement follows an Easter performance at the White House and a meet-and-greet with hundred of fans during Beatty’s first trip to Paris. Beatty is still working on his long-awaited debut album and continuing to grow his fan base — last week the singer hit 1 million likes on Facebook.

Watch a video of Beatty doing a cover of Coldplay’s “Magic” on the jump.

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Men’s room theft has happy ending in Visalia

Facebook was buzzing yesterday when Pita Kabob, a gastropub in Visalia, posted this as its status: “To the person who stole the California republic bear picture and frame in the men’s bathroom. It’s all good, you needed it more than us, you could’ve just asked.”

The theft of the image of the bear that’s on the California flag inspired tons of comments on the Facebook post, many of them unleashing their rage at the thief. At one point, whoever is behind the Pita Kabob Facebook post sought to calm things down, saying, “It’s all good everyone. We have a feeling of who the person is. Unfortunately people act silly when they drink…..”

But it has a happy ending. This morning Pita Kabob posted that someone slid the picture under the door with a note that said, “Wasn’t funny. I apologize,” with a frown face. Even better is the flood of positive comments on that second post, things like “Faith in humanity restored!” and “Awesome! I love it when people who do rotten things make real amends. Good on ya anonymous person.” All is right with the world now.

Opening tonight: ‘West Side Story’ and ‘The Music Man’

Talk about a pair of American musical theater classics: Good Company Players opens “West Side Story” tonight at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater; and CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre opens “The Music Man” at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis. They’re two slices of Americana.

Watch for our cover story in Friday’s 7 section about how you can go on a local theater binge this weekend and next.

Pictured: Above, the Jets in “West Side Story.” (Bee photo by Craig Kohlruss.) Below, Eric Estep, center, is Harold Hill in “The Music Man.” (Bee photo by Eric Paul Zamora.)

Elaine Stritch, 1926-2014

Can’t believe she’s gone. From the New York Times:

Elaine Stritch, the brassy, tart-tongued Broadway actress and singer who became a living emblem of show business durability and perhaps the leading interpreter of Stephen Sondheim’s wryly acrid musings on aging, died on Thursday at her home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89.

The tributes, posts, Tweets and memories are flowing in. I like this one from StageWorks Fresno’s Joel Abels:

Rest in Peace Ms. Stritch. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Everybody RIIIIIIIIISE!

Here’s a nice YouTube video (hat tip to Kyle Behen via Facebook) of Stritch and her famous song “Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch”:

THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Underpants’

There are several problems with the well-intentioned but uneven production of “The Underpants” playing at the Fresno Soap Co., but the biggest is this: a sense of scale.

Director R.S. Scott needs to dial back on the broadness of his cast member’s performances and the vigorous tone of his direction in this gentle farce about a woman in 1910 Germany who creates a scandal when she drops her underpants at a parade for the king. In a word, most of the performances are too big, especially in the intimate space of the Fresno Soap Co., formerly known as the Broken Leg Stage. Gestures, vocals and in general an overall sense of “staginess” need to be more restrained.

“The Underpants” is a production of the Curtain 5 Theatre Group and Jump Right in Productions. I’m grateful that it decided to stage this comedy, adapted by the actor Steve Martin from Carl Sterheim’s German clever farce, because it was my first time seeing it.

In the play, we meet Louise (Rhesma Meister),the young wife of a blustery Dusseldorf clerk. Her husband, Theo (Christopher Cook), is irate because she is the talk of the town for dropping her underpants at the parade. Her slightly salacious act seems to correspond with her own sexual frustrations. (Her husband says they can’t afford a baby.) Things get complicated when two men — a hypochondriac barber (Clinton Couron) and a suave and unctuous poet (Jason Andrew) show up wanting to rent a room in Louise and Theo’s flat. They aren’t so much interested in the lodgings as they are in the landlady.

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THEATER REVIEW: ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’

The first real dagger of the evening comes early.

“Lay off my father,” snaps Martha, aka theater’s most famous frustrated 1960s faculty wife. Leslie Martin, who brings the character in Edward Albee’s classic “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to life in an outstanding Artists’ Repertory Theatre production at the Severance Theatre, imbues her words to her husband with a steely, razor-sharp menace that could be the precursor to a “Game of Thrones”-style killing spree.

Up till this point the slings and arrows in this whimsically ferocious outing have been of the play-fighting variety, as we watch one of the famous sparring couples in American theater history — Martha and her professor husband, George, played with towering skill and feeling by Brad Myers — spar with each other in an evening of “fun and games.” Martha’s father is president of the small New England college at which her husband works, and even though both enjoy mocking the old man, there are lines that can be crossed.

One of the great strengths of “Virginia Woolf” is in the way it can turn dangerous on you in a split-second. I love how this production, directed by Myers, makes you feel that danger. But this is more than the story of an alcohol-fueled raging couple. The play is built on a toxic relationship, and yet Albee keeps us guessing throughout as to where these characters truly stand.

There are far wider more perilous lines than sniping about Martha’s father that are crossed later in the play, but even when things get uglier — and, oh, how ugly they get — there’s always a sense of ambiguity.

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ABC fall schedule more diverse

Fresno Bee TV critic Rick Bentley is in Los Angeles at the summer TV critics tour. These are his early reports.

The thing that jumps out about ABC’s portion of the TV Critics tour is how much the newtork has created more diversity in its prime-time lineup. The new Anthony Anderson comedy “Black-ish” looks at what happens when an unscale family becomes concerned that their children are losing all connections to their ethnic roots.

Then there’s “Cristela,” a new comedy starring Cristela Alonzo. It looks at what happens when a young woman’s ambitions are not in line with what her Hispanic family has in mind.

Here are some other updates for ABC as presented by Paul Lee, President, ABC Entertainment.

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Wine tasting at Meux Home with Grocery Outlet

Here’s an unusual place to host a wine tasting: The Meux Home Museum. The lawn of that gorgeous 1888 Victorian home downtown will be the site of Grocery Outlet’s first of many monthly wine tastings beginning Friday. The event, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., is a fundraiser for the museum and costs $10. No reservations or tickets needed, just make sure you bring your ID no matter how old you are because you won’t get in without it. Grocery Outlet is donating all the wine. 

The event was inspired by Chris Caillier, the local owner/operator of the new Grocery Outlet across the intersection at Tulare and R streets. “I looked at that mansion and said, ‘We need to have a wine tasting there,’” he said. The store is partnering with the West Shaw Grocery Outlet for this event and all the area Grocery Outlet stores will be involved in future monthly wine tastings. They will eventually include food, live music and beer tasting. 

It’s also a way for Grocery Outlet to bring some attention to its wine and beer department. Like many of its products, the stores gets overruns of wine when wineries have too much or change a label, for example. Caillier says the department is a good for way for wine drinkers who want to experiment but not spend a lot of money. Most bottles cost between $4.99 and $6.99 with the occasional $1.99 bottle.

Most of the beer for sale at Grocery Outlet isn’t overstock, but comes directly from the sellers. The stores sell some interesting craft beers, including Tioga-Sequioa beer and Firestone (and I hear Riley’s is often sold at local Grocery Outlets too).

Katherine Heigl still interesting interview

It always seemed a little strange when all of the reports and rumors were spreading that Katherine Heigl was impossibly difficult. It all started with some very negative reports during the end of her run on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Then there was a series of failed romantic comedy movies that didn’t help her image at all.

This never sounded like the Katherine Heigl I interviewed multiple times during the run of “Roswell” from 1999-2002. In fact, I interviewed her so many times during that stretch, I had to stop out of fear she would think I was stalking her. The reason we would chat was because I really liked the show because Chowchilla native Ron Moore wrote numerous episodes and Heigl was always very sweet and interesting during interviews.

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Three cheers for Weird Al

Weird Al Yankovic Weird Al Yankovic is brilliant.

The king of parodies is back this week with his new album “Mandatory Fun.” The new songs and videos take some of the past year’s hottest songs and turns them into pop culture gold. So far, Weird Al has released three videos, with five more planned in the week ahead. They’re really good.

First, on Monday, there was “Tacky,” a take on the Pharrell Williams song “Happy” that includes a line about selfies at a funeral. Then Tuesday he released “Word Crimes,” taking Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and reworking it into a spot-on commentary of poor grammar. And today, he released “Foil,” a funny take on Lorde’s “Royals” that includes sandwiches, aliens and conspiracy theories. (See videos below)

I’ve been a fan of Weird Al for a while. I remember his great takes in the 1980s and 1990s, taking on star acts like Madonna, Michael Jackson and Nirvana. I’m glad to see he’s still relevant. His new songs include interesting social observations, which make you think about today’s world. Plus, he’s funny. And we can all use a little more laughter in our lives.

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Ian Ziering had doubts about ‘Sharknado’

Tara Reid and Ian Ziering thought they would be working on a rather typical low budget science fiction movie when they got the script for a film called “Dark Skies.” It was only a week later that they learned the name of the low-budget production had been changed to “Sharknado.”

“I really thought I shouldn’t be doing this. I told them to get my off the movie and change my name,” Ziering says. Reid immediately adds that every member of he cast thought making a movie called “Sharknado” was not a good career move.

“We couldn’t put ‘Sharknado’ on our resume. It was going to ruin everything,” Reid says. This coming from someone who starred in the live version of “Josie and the Pussycats.”

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Win tickets to Queen, It’s a Kinda Magic

Queen has written more classic rock anthems than you’d even realize. Like, they have so many hits there are some you just forget about, unless you’re looking at the band’s greatest hits album, which there are two volumes of.

That’s how many anthems the band has.

That’s the wheelhouse for “Queen, It’s a Kinda Magic,” the touring Queen tribute that plays the Saroyan Theatre on Saturday. The show recreates the band at its iconic best — live and on stage.

We have tickets to Saturday night’s performance that we will give away to a few lucky readers. To enter to win, just leave a comment on this post. We want to know your favorite Queen songs (and why). Winners will be chosen at random and notified via email (so check your if you enter). These are physical tickets and must be picked up at the Fresno Bee office (1626 E St.) during business hours. The contest deadline is NOON, THURSDAY July 17.

Full contest rules on the jump.

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Fashawn joins Nas on stage in Germany

The Beehive is on Fashawn watch this week.

The Grizzly City rapper is riding high on the announcement he has been singed to Mass Appeal, the record label run by New York rapper Nas, who headlined a show in Cologne, Germany on Monday.

Fashawn was also at the show and joined Nas on stage at one point during the night. He dropped an a cappella freestyle that gave the German audience a hint at what Grizzly City’s finest is capable of.

Fashawn also performed in Europe at the Splash! Festival, alongside Outkast, Wiz Khalifa, YG, Cashmere Cat, Schoolboy Q, A$ASP Ferg.

So there you are.

Watch Nas and Fashawn take over the stage in Cologne on the jump.

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Deli Delicious: Coming to a corner near you?

Fresno-based Deli Delicious is growing like crazy. It’s not actually crazy, but a well-thought-out expansion plan in which the Fresno company sells franchises of its sandwich shops all over California, neighboring states and eventually, the nation. You can read more about that and the immigrant family’s back story in the story that ran Saturday, but mostly I’m finding people just want to know if a Deli Delicious is going to open near them. There are 21 Deli Delicious locations open now between Bakersfield and Sacramento, and 14 more on the way. Details aren’t available on all of them yet, but here’s what we know.

Fresno: The first downtown Deli Delicious is scheduled to open this week at 970 N. St. It’s between Tulare and Kern streets.

Fresno: 6701 N. Milburn Ave., at southwest corner of Milburn and Herndon avenues,  near the EECU.

Fresno:  4012 W. Clinton Ave., Clinton and Brawley avenues.

Visalia: 5129 W. Walnut Ave. near the Supercuts and Akers.

Bakersfield: 9801 Hageman Road near Calloway Drive.

Win tickets to The Experience 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 July 25 and Sept. 26) for the rest of the series’ run. This week’s concert features Fresno all-star jazz group The Experience. 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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‘Doctor Who’s’ Karen Gillan goes topless for movie role

Fresno Bee TV critic Rick Bentley is in Los Angeles at the summer TV critics tour. These are his early reports.

Karen Gillan, best known for playing Amy Pond on “Doctor Who,” shows up to talk about her new ABC series, “Selfie,” sporting a new haircut. The long flowing red locks she had during her time on the British series has been replaced by a pixie cut.

The change wasn’t for the comedy series where she plays a self-obsessed woman who has countless friends online but none in real life. She’ll get social skills training from the character played by John Cho. Gillan had to cut off all her hair to play Nebula in the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie.

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Release ‘Day’: Hear Audra’s ‘Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill’

If you aren’t lucky enough to get back to New York by Sept. 21 to catch Audra McDonald in her historic Tony Award-winning performance as Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” you can at least listen to the Broadway cast album, which was released today. When I saw the show in May I wrote:

McDonald, to me, has one of the most instantly recognizable voices I’ve ever heard. Give me two seconds of her with almost any song and I’ll snap: “Audra.” Yet in Lanie Robertson’s 1986 play, which recounts a night of the life of Billie Holiday near the end of her life, McDonald burrows into her character with such intense authenticity (and does crazy-screwy things with her voice that completely tamps down her operatic tendencies into a bluesy twang) that I simply forgot I wasn’t in the presence of Billie Holiday herself.

Here’s the show’s Facebook page.

Update on two bearded chicks

For those that are curious… an update on my hatchlings…

Animals grow quickly. I’m sad to say that the very short period of the ‘Chick pic of the day’ has ended, as the little balls of fluff have grown into large, feathered, somewhat gawky things. They’re still small and technically still chicks, but at almost 7 weeks old, they are more like awkward preteens than sweet downy babies.

Sadly, one of the chicks had a very rough hatch (as in, from the egg), and passed at barely 2 weeks of age. The other two are quirky and growing beards and are, by all appearances, girls.


Live Nation kicks off its Yahoo Screen concert series

File this under: It was just a matter of time.

Today, Live Nation kicks off a year-long concert series with live, streaming performances (one each day for the next 365 days) via Yahoo’s video service (Yahoo Screen). How much you’ll enjoy the series depends on how whether you like the types of acts that Live Nation promotes (and let’s face it you do, because Live Nation works with big-name popular bands).

The first concert, which streams 7:20 p.m. tonight (eastern time), is Dave Matthews Band at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The group will do two sets, performing together in numerous electric and acoustic configurations in a reinvention of the band’s traditional summer concert set.

Other confirmed artists include KISS (from their 40th Anniversary Tour); John Legend, who will perform Marvin Gaye’s classic album, “What’s Going On” in its entirety and Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids performing their first ever concert in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The full list of acts (so far) can be seen on the jump. Of special note (to local music fans) is The Airborne Toxic Event, which features Ex-Fresnan Daren Taylor on drums.

I like the idea of this kind of concert series, with acts doing a special one-off performance that will never be replicated (not that any live show can truly be replicated).

I like the idea of actually being at the venue more.

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Meredith Vieira high on new talk show

Meredith Vieira came to the TV critics tour to talk about her new daytime series, “The Meredith Vieira Show.” The daily chat show is the latest TV job in Vieira’s career that goes back to 1975. Whether it was “The View” or “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” Vieira has always been a class act. You wouldn’t have guessed she was hiding a wild side.

She had cut back on working in recent years to be home with her 66-year-old husband who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when he was 25.

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A ‘Road’ taken with a memory of Jack Kerouac

Sometimes a book sneaks up on you. That was the case for me with Tim Z. Hernandez’s “Manana Means Heaven,” a fascinating account of the real “Mexican girl” in Jack Kerouac’s classic book “On the Road.”  In my Sunday Spotlight centerpiece column, I wrote about Hernandez and how he tracked down Bea Franco, a Selma farmworker who in 1947 had a passionate fling with the author when she met him on a bus in Bakersfield. From my column:

Scholars knew Franco’s name because Kerouac wrote about her in his journals, and love letters from her to him exist. But no one had ever tracked her down — or, as the years went on, even dreamed she was still alive.

Then came Tim Z. Hernandez, the poet, writer and performance artist whose rich family farmworker history — an upbringing rooted in the fertile fields of the Valley — has informed much of his art. In 2010 he found the 90-year-old Bea, who had remarried and went by her last name of Kozera, living just down the street from Fresno’s Roosevelt High School.

It was only a mile and half from his own home. He knocked at her door to ask, essentially, if she would talk about an affair she had 65 years ago.

While Kerouac referred to Franco as simply “Terry” in “On the Road,” he revealed her name in his journals. More than 20 biographies and scholarly works on Kerouac and “On the Road” mention Franco, but Hernandez was the only person to track her down and talk to her before she died last year.

So how did Hernandez’s book sneak up on me? Because it has made me think a lot about memory.

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Grizzly City rapper Fashawn signs to Nas’ Mass Appeal Records

Back in April, I told you that local rap icon Fashawn was in talks with Nas to release “The Ecology” (the much anticipated follow-up to 2009′s “Boy Meets World”). This after being invited to join the New York rapper on stage during a sold-out showcase at SXSW.

Now it’s official. Fashawn has signed with Nas’ newly launched Mass Appeal Records and the album is set for release Sept. 30.

“Fashawn is one of the most underrated in the game,” Nas said in a release last week. “The world is gonna know soon. We’re excited to have him as a part of the family.”

For fans, the album has been a long time coming and doesn’t look to disappoint. It promises a handful of collaborations (with Nas and guys like Aloe Blacc, who was recently in town opening for Bruno Mars).

The Beehive has been following Fashawn since he first broke into the national hip-hop scene in 2010, when he was featured on the cover of XXL Magazine as one of its freshmen inductees, standing alongside Wiz Khalifa, J.Cole, Big Sean and more. Since then he’s shared the stage with Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar and Talib Kweli and performed at jam-packed shows like Rock the Bells and Paid Dues (he also created his own Grizzly Fest here in town). In April, he performed the walkout song for boxing welterweight champion Timothy Bradley during the HBO televised rematch against Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas.

Fashawn has always (and continues to) represent his hometown, as evident in this tweet:

For anyone rooting for the local music scene, this is a great (and welcomed and deserved) bit of news. Congratulations to Fashawn and his crew.

NBC exec talks Fox, Emmys, summer shows

Fresno Bee TV critic is in Los Angeles at the summer TV critics tour. These are his early reports.

After several days of cable channels pitching their new shows, the networks have taken over at the TV critics tour. NBC got the ball rolling with a day of talking about their fall offerings. Here are some highlights as presented by Bob Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment.

On why “The Michael J.Fox” show didn’t survive past the first year: “We struggled and worked really hard to figure out to bring an audience to that show. Thursday was obviously tough, and we knew that going in. I actually thought Michael, just in and of himself, would help us overcome some of those challenges on Thursday, and I think it just reinforced how difficult a night it is for us as it’s become, which is why we’re making some significant changes this season in Thursday. But we looked at all the signs. It had strong competition, yes, and it was opposite CBS’s lineup.”

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LeAnn Rimes, Eddie Cibrian welcome attention

Fresno Bee TV critic is in Los Angeles at the summer TV critics tour. These are his early reports.

Adultery, divorce, cheating and lying have been common elements for TV shows and country music songs. I guess it makes sense that those elements should be an aspect of a reality TV offering.

VH1 is counting on tabloid darlings LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian being a draw for the cable channel “LeAnn & Eddie” when it debuts at 10:30 p.m. July 17.

If you aren’t aware of their story you must not do the grocery shopping. The pair have been featured in all of the magazines along the checkout line, which covered how Rimes had an affair with Eddie Cibrian. That’s the LeAnn and Eddie of the new show.

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