Beverly Hills, Oct 12 (AP/UNB) — Jennifer Aniston, Ellen DeGeneres, Awkwafina and more stars overcame a dysfunctional teleprompter to toast one another and their charities at a women's luncheon Friday in Beverly Hills.
"I'm fine but Jen (Aniston) is freaking it back there," DeGeneres said as harried staff struggled to fix the broken screens that just a few minutes earlier had Awkwafina nervously winging it ("I can do a little tech support," she offered) before calling someone to just bring up her phone so she could read her speech manually.
But there's nothing like a few comedians to handle technological issues with grace and humor. Both had the crowd in stiches despite the minor chaos happening around them.
The 11th annual Variety Power of Women luncheon honoring Aniston, Awkwafina, Chaka Khan, Mariah Carey, Brie Larson and Disney Television Studios chairman Dana Walden boasted a roster of A-list guests and presenters from DeGeneres, to Natalie Portman and Ryan Murphy who charmed and inspired the well-heeled crowd of entertainers and industry insiders with speeches about their charitable causes and their commitment to empowering women in the industry.
Aniston was introduced by DeGeneres, who kept things light and didn't mention the recent social media uproar around her friendship with George W. Bush.
"What an honor it is for Jen Aniston to receive this from me," DeGeneres said. "In a world where people are angry and mean she is one of the nicest people I've ever met."
Aniston wiped tears away as she recalled meeting a young girl fighting cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
"Every child deserves to know that they are seen and heard," she said, remembering a time when an adult told her, at 11, that she didn't have anything interesting to say. She said she carried that sentence with her into adulthood and often finds herself feeling like that 11-year-old at dinners.
"The Morning Show" star said her "Friends" mom Marlo Thomas introduced her to the hospital, which she has been working with for 25 years. And she said the last two years in the industry, following the rise of #MeToo, has made her think a lot about the messages "we send" young kids and girls.
"The things we say and do can either build them up or tear them down and make them feel like maybe their voices don't matter," Aniston said.
She admitted that she never, "Actually thought about myself as powerful. Strong, yes, but not powerful...It's a distinction I've actually been thinking about a lot lately because that word 'power' and its counterpart, 'abuse of power,' keeps coming up in light of what is happening in our country and in our industry — a rebalancing of the scales."
Aniston's speech wasn't the only to touch on cancer. Ryan Murphy, who credited Walden with giving him a chance in television when no one else would, also thanked the Disney executive for being there when he found out his 18-month-old son had a tumor a few years ago. Walden has worked with the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center since her own mother was diagnosed a decade ago.
Justice and empowerment were also on the minds of Carey, who spoke about how her own experiences at a performing arts camp helped inspire her to begin Camp Mariah 25 years ago, and Larson, who ceded part of her speech to Equal Justice Initiative operations director Eva Ansley, the woman she plays in the upcoming movie "Just Mercy," about the advocacy organization's founding.
The event, which was put on with the help of presenters like Lifetime and sponsors like Audi, was tamer than in years past when celebrities used their platforms to talk about everything from politics and the patriarchy to Harvey Weinstein.
But Carey managed to thrown in a little spice of her own in remembering how she had to learn how to gain control over her career over the men who wanted to dictate what she wore and who she worked with when she was just starting out.
"I want to thank each woman in this room and all the women who have come forward with their truths, their harrowing experiences, and above all their triumphs over the misogynistic society of corporate (expletives) that we deal with every day," she said.
New York, Oct 11 (AP/UNB) — At this stage of her life, Natalie Merchant is more proud of getting an honor named for John Lennon because of what it says about her activism than her music.
The singer is the sixth recipient of the John Lennon Real Love Award, and will headline a tribute concert to the former Beatle in New York on December 6.
"It's gratifying," Merchant said in an interview. "To have any connection to John Lennon, especially with activism, is quite prestigious and meaningful to me because he was one of the main artists who inspired me when I was growing up to think about the wider world and my impact on it."
Merchant volunteers three times a week for a Head Start program near where she lives in Hudson Valley, helping disadvantaged children. She often performs free concerts for children and, at the height of her fame three decades ago, volunteered at a homeless program in Harlem, where most of the people thought she was a student from nearby Columbia University.
She got to know Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, when they worked on the anti-fracking movement in upstate New York.
Merchant, 55, records and performs sporadically now and, aside from guiding her teenage daughter through high school and into college, said her activism takes up most of her time.
"These projects, for a good reason, they suck your life blood," she said. "I began to see these projects as much more important than making another Natalie Merchant record."
Joan Osborne, Rachael Yamagata and Sam Amidon are among the other artists who will perform at the annual Lennon tribute, now in its 39th year. The show will take place at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space.
Merchant, who calls "Imagine" one of the most powerful pieces of music ever recorded, is already rehearsing some Lennon songs with her accompanist for the tribute.
"The thing that we want to do is not faithfully perform the songs as John recorded them, to give stylistic alterations," she said. "It will be fun. We don't want to feel like we're a John Lennon karaoke group."
And what are some of her favorite Lennon songs? What might she be performing?
"I think that would spoil the surprise, wouldn't it?" she said.
Los Angeles, Oct 10 (AP/UNB) — Ozzy Osbourne says he's going off the rails on a crazy train while stuck at home with health woes, but plans to be back on track soon.
Osbourne says in a video posted to Twitter Wednesday that in a "bad fall" early this year he "screwed up all the vertebrae" in his neck.
The 70-year-old says he'll have to cancel European tour dates that had been scheduled for January and February, but he's recovering enough that he's keeping North American tour dates that start in May on the calendar.
The former Black Sabbath frontman and solo metal star behind hits like "Crazy Train" says in the video that he's "bored stiff" being stuck in bed all day.
Osbourne had to cancel North American shows this year because of health troubles.
Los Angeles, Oct 8 (AP/UNB) — Eagles are planning massive performances of their album "Hotel California" during their 2020 tour.
Performances of the band's 1976 album will include a 46-piece orchestra and a 22-voice choir. Organizers announced Tuesday that in total, 77 musicians are expected to be onstage while Eagles perform hits from the album including "New Kid in Town" and "Life in the Fast Lane."
The band's 2020 tour will kick off Feb. 7 in Atlanta and end April 18 in Los Angeles. Stops will include New York, Dallas, Houston and San Francisco.
The band recently performed the album in its entirety at shows in Las Vegas, the first time in its history that it had played the whole album in concert.
Tickets go on sale Friday on Ticketmaster.
New York, OCT 8. (AP/UNB) — Some in the audience wore tuxedos and evening gowns, others wore jeans and sneakers. There was even a man wearing a black sleeveless shirt and blue suede cowboy boots.
The Metropolitan Opera began regular Sunday-afternoon staged performances for the first time in its 136-year history with Puccini's "Turandot," an effort to boost ticket sales and revenue.
"I love it. Outstanding," said E.G. Fisher, a 51-year-old New Yorker who was attending the performance with his 15-year-old daughter, Bella, a high school junior. "We get to watch the whole opera and don't have to go home early and do homework."
As part of three-year labor contracts agreed to in the summer of 2018, the Met has the right to present up to 17 Sunday matinees this season and 27 in 2020-21. Any Sunday show will be followed by a Monday off for both performances and orchestra rehearsals. And Tuesday-morning rehearsals will have limits.
"On a weekend people can relax and devote three or four hours that an opera takes," Met general manager Peter Gelb said. "This is not confined to the Met. Sunday matinees on Broadway have been hugely successful."
Last season saw 75 percent of tickets sold and 69 percent of box office revenue capacity realized factoring in discounts, down from 90 percent in the 1990s. The Met said 78 percent of Sunday's tickets were sold to paying customers and next Sunday's performance of the Gershwins' "Porgy and Bess" is sold out.
The Met has long presented seven performances a week from fall through spring: evenings from Monday through Saturday, plus a Saturday matinee. The Saturday afternoon shows have been featured since 1931 on radio, a series that runs from December through the end of the season. High-definition video simulcasts to theaters started in 2006-07 and now transmit about 10 matinees per season.
There were Grand Sunday Night Concerts from 1883-1944 plus the occasional Sunday-night staged gala, including the premieres of Herbert Graf's production of Verdi's "Otello" with Georg Solti conducting in 1963 and of Marc Chagall's designs of Mozart's "Die Zauberfloete (The Magic Flute)" in 1967.
But moving forward, there will be regular Sunday afternoons and fewer Monday evenings — traditionally the dressiest night of the week at the Met, with a marked increase of men in white tie and tailcoats.
"This will be a massive shift in lifestyle for all of us," said Brad Gemeinhardt, a third horn and representative of the Met's orchestra committee. "For those of us with families and children in school, we now have committed another weekend day to the Met, which means we no longer have a full day to spend with our families."
As part of the labor contract, orchestra members receive an additional personal day that, with the permission of the orchestra manager, can be used to be let off from a weekend performance. Because there are more Mondays off, the Met has had to alter its schedule of final dress rehearsals, which usually take place three or four days before the first performance of a run.
"That complicates the puzzle a little bit," Met assistant general manager for performance John Sellars said. "When you're doing grand opera repertory, you've got multiple operas in performance and have multiple operas in rehearsal all simultaneously, and you have to consider how many days rest in between performances singers need."
The audience gave a huge, louder-than-usual ovation to music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the cast highlighted by Christine Goerke (Turandot), Yusif Eyvazov (Calaf), Eleonora Buratto (Liu) and James Morris (Timur). The performance was dedicated to Franco Zeffirelli, who created the production in 1987 and died in June, and longtime Met tenor Marcello Giordani, who died of a heart attack on Saturday at age 56.
Molly Livingston, a 17-year-old aspiring singer from Knoxville, Tennessee, and her 54-year-old father Mark, who commutes regularly from Tennessee to New York for work, were attending their first Met performance.
"It's awesome," she said.
Her dad is reluctant to attend shows at night when he has work the next morning.
"It's actually kind of nice to come in the middle of the day," he said. "We had lunch before. Maybe we'll have dinner afterwards."