Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Bansky gets arrested (not at all, really)


In ultimate proof that you should never (ever) take anything you on the Internet at face value, word comes today that Bansky was arrested.

He wasn’t actually arrested, but someone concocted the story, which was instantly picked up (add shared around via social media as these things are wont to do). It popped up several times on my Facebook feed today.

Bansky (check him out here) is an illusive street-art icon who is wanted by law enforcement. If he ever were arrested, there’s no doubt it would be news. Add to that, this cultural obsession we have with consuming mass amounts of information and regurgitating it as quickly as possibly (it’s actually a lucrative busy model) and you can see why people taking a quick read might pass it along as real news.

And this is the world in which we live. Every scrap of news has to be vetted for authenticity, because even the obvious fake news gets mistaken as fact.

On the same note, U2 singer Bono has ebola.

DIY: Craft your Halloween party

Halloween tutorials

Halloween is not just a kids’ holiday anymore — it has become one of the most celebrated days of the year for people of all ages. If you’re planning on getting spirited with a shindig of your own,  check out these four simple ideas, each covering one of the essential cornerstones of any good Halloween festivity: decor, costumery, food and drink. Each of these projects need only a few items for completion and use things you likely already have.

Decor: flying paper bats. Enlist the assistance of smaller helpers and infest your home with flying paper bats. Using only black construction paper and our downloadable template, you’ll have a cloud of bats flapping across your walls in no time.

Costumery: sugar skull makeup: Get your costume in order with a step-by-step tutorial to create one of the hottest costume trends of the season: Day of the Dead sugar skull makeup. This classic, festive look may come together using makeup you already own. 

Food: spiced pumpkin cupcakes. These cupcakes require two ingredients and when topped with cream cheese frosting, provide a quick solution to sate a monstrous hunger. 

Drink: Brain Hemorrhage: Finally, need a creepy concoction for an adult-oriented festivity? Try making the ever popular Brain Hemorrhage. More challenging to look at than to consume, this sweet, visually-chilling treat will warm the cockles of your guests’ hearts.

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DIY: Brain Hemorrhage shots

Brain Hemorrhage shot

The Brain Hemorrhage shot is super creepy looking, but really, is the only kind of enjoyable brain hemorrhage that exists. These shots do kick the party up a notch.

What you’ll need:

- 1 oz peach schnapps
- 1/2 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream 
- 1/2 tsp grenadine

In a shot glass, add the peach schnapps, slowly add/float with the Bailey’s Irish Cream and top with the grenadine. Stand back and enjoy the looks on your guests faces. Drink.

Enjoy (responsibly)!



DIY: Day of the Dead sugar skull makeup tutorial


Ornamental, intricate and bold, one of this season’s most popular costume ideas is the Day of the Dead sugar skull. Costume stores have intricate facial tattoos that can be purchased to take the place of hand drawn filials, but the avid crafter — usually out of an obsessive need to prove it can be done without resorting to purchasing some machine-created item – draws her/his own.

And it’s not difficult; it’s really just about balance, or symmetry — but it doesn’t have to be. I enlisted my 11-year-old daughter for the project, and I wanted each side to match as well as I could get it. But I’ve seen many an online photo of sugar skull makeup where the artist chose to be asymmetrical. Up to you.

As mentioned previously, I’m personally not a fan of Halloween makeup. Apart from not providing an even finish, it’s too greasy and wipes off the second it’s touched. As an alternative, I sought out the (old, no longer used) makeup in my own collection. Here’s how I did it:

What you’ll need:

- eye shadows in various shades (I used white, black and a compact that had turquoise, pink, orange and yellow)
- black eye liner (I had a great old water-proof pencil that worked well)

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Organic Fresno restaurant to close

Organic Fresno, the farm-to-fork restaurant with dinner theater and a market, is closing. The last day to get goodies such as kefir mixed with hibiscus tea and “breakfast burrito (not!)” crepes will be Monday, Oct. 27.

It’s been a tough few months for the restaurant, says owner Tara Hamilton, who goes by “Ta-raw” these days. “People have less money so they eat out less and we have a very small market that we cater to,” she says. You can read more about her reasons for closing the restaurant on her blog here. The restaurant will have a meal and party Friday.

The restaurant attracted a lot of out-of-towners — hence its location on Parkway Drive close to Highway 99, between Belmont and Olive avenues — along with locals who were into healthy, local, seasonal food. Its sister restaurant, raw food place Revive Cafe, closed a while ago too.

Hamilton still has a lot going on. She’s written a book called “Cook Grow Love” that features personal stories and healthy recipes, including a cinnamon chia bread. She’s launched an IndieGoGo campaign to pay for self publishing the book and donating 1,000 copies to low-income families.

Although many people are sad to see Organic Fresno go (just check out the outpouring of comments on its Facebook post), check out what Hamilton plans to do next: “I think I’m going to go to Santa Barbara and live on my sailboat,” she says.

Concert Announcement: Eric Church


Eric Church will be the first performer to hit the Save Mart Center in 2015.

The outlaw country rocker will play the arena Jan.22 on the second leg of his Outsiders World Tour. County icon Dwight Yoakam and rock band Halestorm open the show. Tickets are $25 to $59.50 and on sale 10 a.m. Oct. 24 at select Save Mart Supermarkets, the Save Mart Center box office, online at or by phone at (800) 745-3000.

Fan club and VIP presales start 10 a.m. tomorrow, with radio and venue presales staring 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

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Can Fresno send ‘Janka’ to New York?

I have an in-depth Sunday Spotlight column for Oct. 19: a look at a push by people in the Fresno community to send the Holocaust one-woman play “Janka” to New York for an off-off Broadway run. From my column:

That dream is coming together thanks to a core of Fresno-area supporters. In a move that’s quite novel in the theater world, Noga and Speace are raising the $40,000 needed to finance a run at an Off-Off-Broadway theater. To kick off the campaign, benefit performances of the show will be held Oct. 25 and 26 at the 2nd Space Theatre.

“Janka” is a remarkable story featuring remarkable people, including the title character herself — who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp while most of her family died — to Janice Noga, Janka’s daughter-in-law, who has played the role for 12 years. I’m excited to think that “Janka” could be playing at the June Havoc Theatre on West 36th Street in Manhattan next May.

Bee photo: Eric Paul Zamora

KFSR hosts Fresno Grand Opry fundraiser


I almost let this one slip through the cracks:

KFSR presents another installment of the Fresno Grand Opry, its semi-regular fundraising-concert series that has local musicians and bands paying (and playing) musical tribute to traditional country music.

The show, which coincides with the end of the station’s fall pledge drive (they will still take your money), is 7 p.m. Saturday at the Fresno Scottish Rite Center and features Brad “The Dudeboy” Rogers, The Roger Perry Band and Mofo Party Band. Tickets are just $10, and are available at

So, slide on them boots, snap up that pearly buttoned shirt and go on, get to it.

Be warned: You’re not gonna hear Florida Georgia Line or Rascall Flatts (or Garth Brooks or Brooks & Dunn, for that matter). This is for fans of Waylon, Willie and the boys.

And likely George Jones, Hank Williams and Bob Wills, too.

Ska talk with Eric Dansby of King Sugar


On the spectrum of ska music, King Sugar sits somewhere in the middle, with ’80s 2-Tone bands (the Specials, Madness) on one side and ’90s third-wave (Skankin’ Pickle, Let’s Go Bowling) on the other.

“With a z-axis of soul/mod thrown in for good measure,” says Eric Dansby, who has played drums for the Fresno band for the last decade.

Kings Sugar plays the opening slot for Dave Wakeling’s English Beat 9 p.m. Saturday at Fulton 55.

Here, Bansby talks about the genesis of the band and the (possible) future of ska.

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Weekend pick: Collecting Rollin Pickford

There’s an intriguing underpinning to the new exhibition of works by famed Fresno watercolorist Rollin Pickford at Fresno State’s Madden Library. From my 7 cover story:

Collectors are an integral part of the artistic process. When they buy, the artist eats. Through the decades, the prolific Pickford always appreciated the people who supported him (and his family) by buying his art. The artist’s son Joel, who curated the show, tracked down 21 watercolors from 21 different collectors for the exhibition, held in the library’s Leon S. Peters Ellipse Gallery.

I’m making this my weekend pick, but there’s plenty of time to see the show: It runs through Jan. 16.

Above: one of my favorites from the show, a 1948 watercolor of the unfinished Friant-Kern Canal. 

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Aside from revisiting the Civil War

1. Zappcon
Geeks (and nerds) of the world united and take over.

2. Zumba Under the Stars
Everyone is getting fit without you.

3. Breakfast Ride to Kearney Park
Don’t worry, you’ll get to the park before the first Civil War shots are fired.

4. Lunafest
The documentary “Viva,” seems particularly interesting. It tells the story of 82-year-old punker Viva Hamnell.

5. Glorious Junk Days
One man’s trash and all that.

An added bonus for those seeking music-oriented events:

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Erna’s Elderberry House celebrates 30 years with Austrian chef, dancing butlers

Four-star restaurant Erna’s Elderberry’s House in Oakhurst is already known for going all out for its meals. So what does such a restaurant do when it wants to celebrate its 30th anniversary? Throws a dinner that goes even more all out. For a celebration dinner at 6 p.m. Sunday, Erna’s will:

  • Fly in chef Toni Moerwald from Austria to prepare a five-course meal that includes potato soup with truffles, filet of “young venison” and a main course of wild char (that’s a fish).
  • Have dancers dressed up as butlers, maids and chefs and performing to “Be Our Guest” from “Beauty & the Beast.” The dancers will present the dessert, an anniversary torte, at the end of the meal.  
  • Have a gymnastics group of 7- to 10-year-olds tumbling on the lawn and handing out gifts as guests stroll through the gardens.

The dinner costs $195 per person and reservations are a must. You can see the full menu here (the dinner also celebrates Erna’s affiliation with Relais & Chateaux, an organization of fine hotels and restaurants).

QnA with Cristobal Carrillo, organizer of Orosi’s Spanspek Festival


The Spanspek Music and Arts Festival is a teach-by-doing kind of endeavor.

Founded in 2006, the annual event brings locally created visual and performing arts to the community of Cutler-Orosi with the hope that it will inspire the youth in the area on their own artistic paths.

Dozens of local visual and performing artist will put their work on display 6 p.m. tomorrow at the Orosi Memorial Hall. All festival proceeds go toward funding Orosi High School scholarships, commissioning new works from local artists and ensuring the continuation of the event in the future.

Over the years, organizers Cristobal Carrillo and Israel Flores have developed a knack for spotting new local talent — such as Visalia psyche blues band Slow Season and the Dinuba hip hop collective, Roach Collection. Both play this year, along with local heavy hitters Patrick Contreras and the rock duo Strange Vine.

I emailed with Carrillo to find out more about growing up as an artist in a small, rural town and why this year’s lineup of musicians seems so great.

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Haunted Summer brings its eerie dream pop to Peeve’s Public House


There is something so very apt about a band called Haunted Summer rolling through town in the middle of an October that’s been full of 90-plus degree weather.

The Highland Park group — led by husband/wife Bridgette Eliza Moody and John Seasons — plays 8 p.m. tomorrow at Peeve’s Public House with the Clovis synth rockers Sharks of Dance.

If you are a fan of dreamy synth pop, you’ll want to be there.

Haunted Summer plays it mostly mid-tempo and heavy on the guitar effects and synth-sounds. Moody’s voice is a powerful tool playing soft, sweet contrast to the hints of darkness below. It’s makes for an eerie, soft-at-the-edges psychedelia that brings to mind Portland’s Pure Bathing Culture and also the Albuquerque-by-way-of-Chicago band The Handsome Family (though maybe less apparently so).

Moody and Seasons started the band in 2012 (they played Animal Collective covers at the time) and have already gathered a following, having toured and played with the likes of The Polyphonic Spree, Radar Brothers and Avi Buffalo. L.A. Weekly just named them (today in fact) one of five bands to see at Culture Collide, the Los Angeles music festival that runs through the weekend (they play 8 p.m. tonight). The band’s latest album “Birth,” is available on Bandcamp.

You can watch a live studio performance from the Haunted Summer on the jump.

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Bandgeek!: The Remones, Red Scare and the Tastmaker’s Festival


With Halloween one weekend away (technically it’s two weeks and a day, but whatever) you’ll probably spend the weekend working on your costume (I hear Ebola’s trending this year).

Be sure to take a break for a couple of hours and check out one of the live music performances happening through next week. It’s a long list, which I’ll leave here as your weekly BANDGEEK!


  • Fiji.
    W/Essel and ReLion. At Fulton 55. 9 p.m. $25-$35. (Flier link)

  • Roger Sellers.
    W/Tson. At Peeve’s Public House. 8 p.m. Free. All ages.

  • Curse.
    W/Midwest Moms and The Agonic Line. At C.A.F.E. Infoshop. 8 p.m. $5. All ages. (Flier link)

  • Ron Thompson and his Resistors.
    Central Valley’s Blues Society’s weekly dance party. At Pinot Wine Bar. 6 p.m. Free.

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    Opening tonight: ‘The Crucible’

    Selma Underground Productions opens a new version of “The Crucible” tonight at the Selma Arts Center. Expect some interesting staging. From the company:

    “We are looking to produce a fresh take on this classic show,” says director Juan L. Guzmán. “My vision is to stay true to Miller’s intentions, to honor the script, and to let Miller’s words take center stage.

    Set in the 1600s, amidst the infamous Salem witch trials, a community must grapple with their morals and faith as they set out to vanquish an evil that has permeated the wilderness they inhabit. “The Crucible” tells the story of one man’s fight to clear More his conscious and save his name, no matter the cost. The Selma Underground production will take liberties with staging and costuming, and will be set outside of the time period in which it is written. Even the stage itself will be altered, so as to provide a different viewing perspective for the audience.

    The show runs through Oct. 26. Ticket information here. Here’s Guzmán talking about the show:

    B.J. McCoon, 1932-2014

    Fresno lost a major figure in its art history last week when painter B.J. McCoon died at age 82 after a long illness. From the Bee obituary I prepared for Thursday’s print edition:

    For decades she was an integral part of the local art scene, and her paintings made their way into many local collections — and some around the world. Her friends were a who’s who of Fresno artistic talent, including Rollin Pickford, Darwin Musselman, Stan Bitters, Pat Hopper, Jean Ray Laury and Clement Renzi.

    Mrs. McCoon was prolific, and her interests were so varied that she never stuck to just one medium.

    Cathy Craycroft-Glenn, a longtime family friend, remembers visiting Mrs. McCoon as a young girl and seeing works in various states of completion scattered about her house: drawings in one room, a huge portrait in oil in another, a just finished watercolor drying on the back porch with the paints still left out on the table.

    Services are Saturday.

    You review: Tony Bennett


    I’ve mentioned before how difficult an endeavor it is to book the two weeks of entertainment for the Big Fresno Fair.

    It should be applauded for the job. This year for instance, the fair managed a strong draw for its second weekend with KONGOS (by all accounts a young band making moves), REO Speedwagon (the definition of “classic” rock) and La Ley (arguable one of the tops in the rock en Espanol scene).

    It also scored a humdinger of a closing-night show with jazz crooner Tony Bennett.

    At 88-years old, Bennett is still at the top of his game. Earlier this month he released a duets album with none other than Lady Gaga and earned the distinction (for the second time) of being the oldest performer to have a No. 1 album on the Billboard chart.

    Bennett played last night at the Paul Paul Theater and and was every bit the entertainer he was 20, heck even 40 years ago. At least according to our friend (and Fresno Film Commissioner) Ray Arthur, who sent along this review:

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    Art and ghosts at the Hatchery

    The scene: Quinn Gomez-Heitzeberg and Astri Swendsrud, curators of the performance-art exhibition “God Will Not Have His Work Made Manifest by Cowards,” stand surrounded by a circle of several dozen art enthusiasts. Dressed in somber black attire, the pair holds between them a small framed chalkboard upon which is written the words “Extinguish the Candle, Unbuild the Fire, Clean the Slate.” A simple wooden holder shaped like a pyramid adorned with thin lighted candles sits at their feet. They ask the audience to recite the chalkboard mantra — it sounds like a ritual response in a church worship service — and they put out the candles. Then they “break” the triangle of the pyramid by separating the pieces of wood.

    The setting: We’re in the big, sprawling, dilapidated interior of the Hatchery, former home to the Church of Synanon, the 1970s era drug-rehabilitation program that morphed into a cult. Located about 80 miles or so east of Fresno in the mountain town of Badger, near the entrance to Sequoia National Park, the compound is a weird and restless feeling space. Most of the windows are broken, ceiling insulation dangles precariously over our heads, walls and joints ominously sag, and about a third of the vast, airplane-hanger-sized space is structurally unsound and off-limits. (You have to sign a liability waiver before entering.) With the sun streaming in on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the feeling isn’t so much ominous as unsettling. But I wouldn’t want to be there after dark. Knowing that this was the command center of a famous cult — and reading about some of the activities that took place here – you can’t help but sense the history.

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    Fajita Fiesta is out, Papi’s is in

    Fajita Fiesta is officially no longer with us. But don’t mourn them just yet. The family behind the restaurants is running two other restaurants in town.

    To catch you up: Fajita Fiesta once had three locations — one on Shaw Avenue, another at Cedar and Nees avenues and the little one downtown that was open for 25 years. They’re all gone now. The Shaw Avenue one is now Guri’s GrubHouse, a farm-to-table gastropub that we’ve written lots and lots and lots about. The Cedar and Nees location closed in 2009 after 10 years (and then became Mateo’s and most recently Uncle’s Bar & Grill, which last week had an eviction notice on the door and a disconnected phone number).

    The Fajita Fiesta at Van Ness Avenue and Divisadero Street is now Papi’s Mex Grill Express, with the same family running it. Owner Raul Gutierrez saw the changes happening downtown — new lofts and young people coming in — and decided to tweak his restaurant. Instead of the traditional sit-down meal with waiters and waitresses, the restaurant is now a faster-paced order-at-the-counter affair.

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    Farewell to the ‘King’

    UPDATE 10/13: Services will be 6 p.m. Oct. 20 at North Fresno Church, 5724 N.  Fresno St.

    ORIGINAL POST: George Akina’s last role in theater was one he’d always wanted to play: the King of Siam in “The King and I.” Even though he’d been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, he spent much of the last year of his life on stage, appearing with Good Company Players in “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Shrek” and — in a witty, heartfelt and beautifully crafted performance —  the King in “The King and I,” which closed May 16.

    Mr. Akina died Friday. He was 63.

    I had the privilege of sitting down in April with Mr. Akina midway through his “King and I” run and talking about him for my Sunday column about the challenges and joys of performing the role. (Sometimes it was hard. Very hard.) His gentleness of spirit, love of family and towering Christian faith shined through on that late Friday afternoon. I suggested to him that his love of theater was remarkable, and he told me: “The theater has been life-giving to me. When I think ‘What would I be doing if it weren’t for ‘The King and I’ right now?,’ I think I’d be much sicker.”

    A few days later, he sent me a follow-up email, and that’s how I ended my column:

    Yes, I do love theater, but not perhaps in the same way you meant. The truth is I love God first above all else. He has given me gifts which I can express on stage. It’s when I’m on stage using those gifts that I feel the most fulfilled, most alive, and most in His will. Add to that that my work entertains, engages and touches others and there is nothing else that can surpass it, save the love and support of my wife and children.

    He will be missed.

    Updated 10/14: Revised information about remembrances to come.


    Is this real life? Scary clowns invade Central Valley


    Stephen King really tapped into something when he made the main baddie in his 1986 novel “Itan evil clown named Pennywise.

    The proper psychological term is coulrophobia, or “fear of clowns.” It is no doubt in full effect here in the Valley after stories like this.

    This has been posted up all over Facebook in the last week, though I was reserving judgment on the validity of the story, because I don’t believe anything that gets posted on Facebook. Ever.

    It is obviously getting picked up by proper media at this point, so … What the hell?

    If this is some kind of magnificent subversive art project (as some have proposed), kudos, I guess. There is something oddly fun in putting the creep to people (without you know, hurting anyone).

    The super jaded part of me, the part that sees everything as an elaborate media set up (because what isn’t these days?), wonders if this is publicity stunt for FX’s latest season of “American Horror Story,” which just happens to feature a creepy-clown. Michael Banti, a local tracker of all things odd and-or creepy has his own theory over on his blog site “Weird Fresno.”

    Does it freak you out that someone is “sending in the clowns,” so to speak?

    DIY: Candy ‘poisoned’ apples

    Autumn is synonymous with apple season. Halloween is synonymous with spookiness. Ergo, what better items to grace your Halloween party table than some spooky apples?  And the spookiest, of course, is the infamous poisoned apple — a slick, irresistibly shiny red “treat.”

    Many a kitchen witch has recreated a confectionery version in candy apples, traditionally red and cinnamon flavored. But with the plethora of gel food colors available, why not kick your apple color up a notch and go for full-on creepy? Made with small, crisp Granny Smith apples, these treats will have your little princesses (and princes) clamoring for a bite.

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