New York, Sep 2 (AP/UNB) — Neil Patrick Harris and his husband, chef and actor David Burtka, fired up what they call New York's "last summer blowout" — a six-hour, 50-act drag-queen spectacle staged Saturday on a glitzy Manhattan pier.
It was the revival of a 1980s festival called Wigstock — an impromptu creation of unruly patrons in drag who stumbled out of an East Village club at about 2 a.m. to improvise for homeless people in garbage-strewn, rat-infested Tompkins Square Park. It was, of course, free of charge.
Saturday's lower Manhattan show featured drag stars Lady Bunny, Bianca Del Rio and Latrice Royale. There were food, drinks and dancing on Pier 17 by the Brooklyn Bridge, with the audience wearing over-the-top attire for a shindig that kicked off with a cannon shooting out blue, orange and red wigs. Members of the crowd swarmed like bridesmaids angling for a bouquet.
Backstage, performers powdered their noses and ran through costume changes.
Tickets started at $95 and topped at $1,000 for the well-heeled at a VIP after-party with performers. A limited number of passes sold for $18.95.
The last time Robert Nieves was at Wigstock was in 1995, when he was 18. On Saturday, at 41, he came with his husband, Ramon Nieves, whom he dubbed a "Wigstock virgin."
"I wanted him to be able to experience it because this is such a monumental event for the community," said Robert Nieves, wearing a short red wig. "You know, last time I was here I didn't wear a wig."
With Tony, Emmy and Oscar award winners involved in the production, the drag culture has gone mainstream. And Wigstock has come a long way from the wee hours one night in 1984 when Lady Bunny led the inebriated charge into the park.
"In those days, drag used to be very gritty and dirty, with real shock value and people saying, 'I can't believe I'm laughing at this sick club comedy,'" says Burtka. "The first Wigstock ended up being a party — the last summer blowout."
The annual celebration eventually moved to a pier on Manhattan's West Side until it was rained out two years in a row, dampening ticket revenue and bankrupting the event by 2001. A much smaller Wigstock popped up sporadically in the park and on New York Harbor cruises but, short of money, it pretty much vanished until now.
"David and I are rabid fans of any kind of live spectacle, and we go to drag shows," says Harris. "So one day, I said to David, 'Why don't we revive Wigstock?'"
Though he didn't know her well, says Burtka, "I ended up calling Bunny and saying, 'Hey, would you be into doing this?'"
The Wigstock founder sure was, starting Saturday at 3 p.m., rain or shine, on the rooftop of Manhattan's freshly renovated Pier 17.
Working on the revival with her as executive producer were Harris, Burtka, Jack Turner, Jason Weinberg and Oscar award-winner Bruce Cohen, along with production company Matador Content and Pride Media, which publishes Out and Advocate magazines. Broadway's Tony Award-winner Michael Mayer was director.
The main creative credit goes to Lady Bunny, whose legal name is Jon Ingle, a 56-year-old DJ and promoter with a Tennessee drawl in a foot-high wig. "Everything runs through her. Bunny's the backbone, she's the driving force, she's our almanac," says Burtka.
Performers included Harris, who won a Tony for the 2014 Broadway revival of the cult musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," about a transgender, East European rock singer. He re-created part of that glam-rock performance on Saturday.
Harris and Burtka noted that drag culture has gone from an underground fringe phenomenon to front-and-center pop culture, with RuPaul hosting the Emmy award-winning "RuPaul's Drag Race" competition featuring musical challengers in wigs and heels.
Turning drag into performance art wasn't the main aim of the new Wigstock.
"You know, some people ask me, has it become commercialized now that it's here?" Lady Bunny told the crowd. "Well, I say, look at me, hear my foul mouth; do I look like I'm ever going to go mainstream or commercial?"
Detroit, Sep 1 (AP/UNB) — The bishop who officiated Aretha Franklin's funeral apologized Friday to Ariana Grande for how he touched her onstage and a joke he made about her name.
Bishop Charles H. Ellis III led Franklin's funeral and awkwardly greeted Grande on stage after she performed "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." Images of the moment showed Ellis' hand holding Grande well above her waist, with his fingers pressing against one side of her chest.
The preacher apologized in an interview with The Associated Press at the cemetery where Franklin was interred late Friday.
"It would never be my intention to touch any woman's breast. ... I don't know I guess I put my arm around her," Ellis said. "Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize."
He said he hugged all the performers during Friday's eight-hour service.
"I hug all the female artists and the male artists," Ellis said. "Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That's what we are all about in the church. We are all about love."
He added: "The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin."
Many people posted close-up images of the moment on Twitter, tagging it #RespectAriana.
Ellis also apologized to Grande, her fans and Hispanic community for making a joke about seeing her name on the program and thinking it was a new item on the Taco Bell menu.
"I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community," Ellis said. "When you're doing a program for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there."
Ellis' touching of Grande overshadowed some criticism earlier in the ceremony the short dress Grande wore for her performance. Numerous people posted criticisms online that the dress was too short for church.
"#ArianaGrande don't know the below the knee rule for the pulpit in the black church. Somebody hand her a lap hanky and a choir robe. Bless her heart," tweeted one, Tenisha Taylor Bell.
Grande's representative did not return an email message seeking comment Friday.
Los Angeles, Aug 31 (AP/UNB) — Emmy Rossum is saying goodbye to "Shameless" after the show's upcoming ninth season.
In an emotional Facebook post Thursday, Rossum said playing her complex character was a "gift" and called the past eight years the best of her life.
Showtime Networks programming chief Gary Levine said the network was saddened by Rossum's decision to leave and praised her work as Fiona, daughter to William H. Macy's dysfunctional patriarch, Frank.
In 2016, Rossum reportedly sought pay parity with fellow series star Macy.
Executive producer John Wells said work is underway on a season finale aimed at giving Rossum and her character a worthy send-off.
As the series continues, Wells said, the door will remain open for Rossum's Fiona to visit or return home.
The ninth season of "Shameless" debuts Sept. 9.
Dhaka, Aug 30 (AP/UNB)- Kanye West apologized Wednesday on a Chicago radio station for calling slavery a "choice," and he broke down on air over an old friend.
"I don't know if I properly apologized for how that slave comment made people feel, so I want to take this moment right now to say that I'm sorry for hurting, I'm sorry for the one-two effect of the MAGA hat into the slave comment," West told 107.5 WGCI radio in his hometown.
"And I'm sorry for people who felt let down by that moment, and also I appreciate you guys giving me the opportunity to talk to you about the way I was thinking and what I was going through and what led me to that," he said.
West also addressed a question that left him speechless on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" about why he feels President Donald Trump cares about black people. He later tweeted he wasn't stumped by the question and didn't much appreciate how the show cut awkwardly to a commercial break after his extra-long pause.
He said he was just carefully considering his answer:
"I feel that (Trump) cares about the way black people feel about him, and he would like for black people to like him like they did when he was cool in the rap songs and all this," West told WGCI.
"He will do the things that are necessary to make that happen because he's got an ego like all the rest of us, and he wants to be the greatest president, and he knows that he can't be the greatest president without the acceptance of the black community," the rapper added. "So it's something he's gonna work towards, but we're gonna have to speak to him."
Late Wednesday, Trump tweeted a link to a Breitbart News story about the interview.
As for the field trip to the Los Angeles offices of TMZ in May, when he wore the "Make America Great Again" red cap favored by Trump supporters and made the slavery remark, West said Don C — a former collaborator, tour manager and record exec — used to "have my back" and likely would have shut him down before things got out of hand.
"One thing that I got from the TMZ comment is that it showed me how much black people love me, and how much black people count on me and depend on me, and I appreciate that," West said.
Dhaka, Aug 30 (UNB) - The 18th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh will begin at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) in the city on Saturday (September 1).
The Cultural Affairs Ministry and BSA will jointly organise the largest fine arts festival of Asia at National Art Gallery of Shilpakala Academy, said the organisers at a press conference at the seminar room of BSA on Thursday.
President Abdul Hamid will inaugurate of the exhibition as the chief guest, said Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor while briefing journalists at the press conference.
BSA Director General Liaquat Ali said the festival will be a reunion of artists from different countries where Bangladeshi artists will be able to exchange views with them.
The Cultural Affairs Minister will be present as special guest while professor emeritus of the Tokyo University of the Arts Tetsuya Noda will also participate in the opening ceremony, he said.
Secretary Nasiruddin Ahmed of the ministry will preside over the inaugural session while BSA DG Liaquat Ali Lucky will deliver the welcome speech.
There will be two and three-dimensional artworks like painting, prints, photography, sculpture, installation, performance art and new media art.
A total of 583 artworks by 465 artists from 68 countries will be put on display at the exhibition which will be open to all from 11 am to 8 pm every day.
A total 68 countries including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Afghanistan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, The Philippines, The United States of America (USA), Mongolia, Peru, Stein, Italy, Ireland, Egypt, Kenya, Turkey, Ukraine, Iran, Moscow and Germany are participating in the event.
Earlier, a jury panel comprising five members with two from Bangladesh and one each from France, India and Spain were responsible for judgment of displayed artworks in the 18th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh as well as selected best artworks for three grand prizes and six honourable mention prizes.
President of the Jury Board prominent artist Shahabuddin will announce the names of winners at the inaugural session and later, awards will be given to winners.
Each of these awards will be accompanied by a medal and cash prize of Bangladeshi Taka 500,000 (five hundred thousand) and Taka 300,000 (three hundred thousand) for two categories of prizes respectively.
Four observers - Artist Jogen Chowdhury from India, Professor Tetssuya Noda from Japan, Dr Marek Bartelik from Poland and Deborah Frizzell from the USA will attend the festival.
The exhibition is the most prestigious and biggest art festival of Bangladesh as well as the oldest international art biennale event in Asia. From the beginning to 2014 the event was the platform only for artists of the Asian and Pacific region.
In 2017, the organising committee of the exhibition has decided to expand its glory throughout the world. As a result artists from 55 countries from around the world had participated in the 17th edition. And in this year participating countries number 67 including Bangladesh has broken the previous record.
Cultural Affairs Ministry Secretary Nasiruddin Ahmed and BSA Fine Art Director Ashrarful Alam Paplu were present at the press conference.