Los Angeles, Oct 16 (UNB) - The crowd cheered as Emily Zamourka took the stage.
"I didn't have much time to practice," she confided in an audience gathered to celebrate the designation of Los Angeles' new Little Italy on Saturday. "So I'm just gonna sing the same song I sang on the subway...That ok with you?"
Zamourka launched into Italian composer Giacomo Puccini's aria, "O mio babbino caro." Her voice cracked just a little. Then soared, reports CNN.
Emily Zamourka performs in Los Angeles Saturday after being discovered singing at a subway station in a video that went viral.
It was her first performance since being dubbed the "Subway Soprano" after a video of her singing in a subway station went viral online.
It's also her first time ever singing on a stage and performing in front of an audience.
Los Angeles Councilmember Joe Buscaino invited her to perform, introduced her on stage as "America's new sweetheart," and took care of her $700 fee.
"I don't even know what's happening," Zamourka told a throng of reporters from around the world after her debut performance. "It's so much. So fast."
Grammy-nominated music producer Joel Diamond offered the 52-year-old Zamourka a recording contract. "Emily's story is what dreams are made of," Diamond told CNN. "And I never turn my back on a dream."
It's a dream because just two weeks ago, Zamourka was one of the nearly 60,000 people sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles. She was homeless. Had been for two or three years.
Then one chance meeting changed her life. Zamourka had taken the wrong train one day late last month.
She was feeling low and got off at the near-deserted Wilshire-Normandie Metro station. "I was just thinking, 'Oh, I'm gonna sing a little bit, maybe that'll make me feel better,'" she told CNN. "And I see this police officer walking towards me from a distance and it kind of hesitated me because, you know how they are. They don't really want you to make any nuisance! And opera is loud!"
But that officer loved what he heard and asked her to sing some more while he filmed her on his phone. "And the train comes, and he pops in the train," said Zamourka.
The Los Angeles Police Department posted the video and more than a million people saw it. The race was on to find the anonymous woman who became known as "The Subway Soprano."
"A day later, like a day after that, ya, I'm on the news!" she said.
Zamourka reunited Wednesday with that officer for a hug and a thank you.
A trained violinist, Zamourka moved to the US from Russia in her early 20s. She said she was granted political asylum.
A combination of serious illness, crippling medical bills and the theft of her beloved and valuable violin led to her life on the streets. "I could not keep up with the bills," she told us. "I could not keep up with the rent."
Zamourka took to singing on the subway a couple of years ago. She said she did it to earn money, to salve her soul and just to be heard. Her voice, she said, is "the only thing I got left." She always sang on the subway because of the way it sounded. "It's a different sound. It's acoustic."
A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $60,000 to help Zamourka and a homeless charity in Los Angeles, the Downtown Women's Center, offered to help find her housing.
"From the bottom of my heart I just wanted to thank everyone for what they're doing," she said. "And what they're trying still to do."
Zamourka hopes her story will help humanize the homeless and help others realize when someone loses their home, they don't also lose their hopes and dreams. "We are all the same," she said. "We are all the same."
Zamourka now wants to perform and build a career as a musical artist. "It is the biggest ever..." she said, groping for words. "What's the opposite word for tragedy?"
But most of all, she wants a home. "I wish that I just could have this kind of place," she told us. "And it would be for a long time. And my own."
New York, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — Scotty Bowers, a self-described Hollywood "fixer" whose memoir offered sensational accounts of the sex lives of such celebrities as Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, has died. He was 96.
Bowers' agent, David Kuhn, said he died Sunday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles.
A native of Ottawa, Illinois, Bowers was a Marine who served in the Pacific during World War II and moved to Los Angeles after the war ended. He found work in 1946 at a gas station on Hollywood Boulevard, and later contended his life changed when the actor Walter Pidgeon drove up in a "shiny" Lincoln two-door coupe and asked, "What are you doing for the rest of the day?"
"The gas station was the portal that eventually took me into an exclusive world where high-class sex was everything," Bowers wrote in "Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars," published by Grove in 2012.
Bowers switched jobs from gas attendant to bartender and was welcomed, however discreetly, into the Hollywood underground and party scene. He kept planned assignations in his head, not on paper, and managed to avoid both vice squads and the tabloids in a more censorious, pre-TMZ world. In "Full Service," he told some of the industry's most shocking stories since Kenneth Anger's notorious "Hollywood Babylon."
At a time when Hollywood nicknames included "Duke" (for John Wayne) and "Bogie" (for Humphrey Bogart), Bowers was known as "Mr. Sex." He wrote of orgies with Cole Porter, "sexual mischief" with Grant and actor Randolph Scott, giving Vivien Leigh "orgasm after orgasm" and affairs with J. Edgar Hoover and Spencer Tracy. He also alleged that he found partners for everyone from Hepburn and Grant to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
"His idea of good clean fun included drilling a peephole in the gas station's bathroom," The New York Times' Janet Maslin wrote in 2012, "exercising his healthy libido so fully that he sometimes needed an ice pack to recuperate, and providing fake college girls to serve as the real college girls cited in Alfred Kinsey's scientific sex studies."
Bowers was the subject of a 2018 documentary, "Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood," directed by Matt Tyrnauer.
Critics were skeptical, and Tracy biographer James Curtis dismissed Bowers as "full of glib stories and revelations, all cheerfully unverifiable." But he also had numerous defenders, including the writer Gore Vidal, to whom Tyrnauer dedicated his film.
"Scotty doesn't lie," Vidal wrote in a blurb for the book, "the stars sometimes do — and he knows everybody."
Bowers would allege that he had adult encounters since age 11, when a Catholic priest in Chicago would pay $1 for favors. He finally settled down in the 1980s, writing that the AIDS epidemic meant that "it was too unsafe a game to play anymore," and married speech therapist Lois Broad in 1984. Bowers waited decades to tell his story in part because some of his alleged former clients and lovers were still alive.
"I've kept silent all these years because I didn't want to hurt any of these people," Bowers told the Times in 2012. "And I never saw the fascination. So they liked sex how they liked it. Who cares?"
Hackensack, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — Seven years after hitting the road to perform and share their stories of recording with some of the biggest names in pop music, a New Jersey-based group of former A-list session musicians is being recognized for its efforts.
The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville is giving its first "Road Warrior" award to The Hit Men, a group originally assembled in 2012 by former members of Frankie Valli and Four Seasons. The group has toured steadily since then, and its Oct. 28 concert at Nashville's City Winery will close a month of shows in California, Arizona, Maine, Louisiana and Tennessee.
"It's an incredible honor to be recognized for the work we've each put into our careers supporting the greatest names in the music industry," founding member Lee Shapiro said.
The museum opened in 2006 and showcases the often-unsung musicians who have backed legendary pop performers. Among its famous inductees are the Wrecking Crew, the group of L.A. studio musicians that played on numerous '60s pop hits; and the Funk Brothers, Motown Records' house rhythm section.
Seeking to ride the musical nostalgia wave and the success of the Four Seasons-inspired musical "Jersey Boys," The Hit Men formed in 2012 in a basement studio in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, about 10 miles from New York. Their roots extend decades further.
Shapiro, keyboardist for Valli during the singer's mid-1970s comeback, had played with guitarist Don Ciccone and drummer Gerry Polci with the Four Seasons and knew bassist Larry Gates from childhood. Ciccone and guitarist Jimmy Ryan had scored hits with the pop group The Critters in the '60s. All had extensive credits playing behind artists from Carole King and Carly Simon to Elton John, the Rolling Stones and dozens more.
The group added veteran session vocalist Russell Velasquez and has played 40 to 60 dates per year ever since, adjusting its set list as the "Jersey Boys" phenomenon faded.
Along the way, they lost Gates to complications from multiple myeloma and Ciccone to a heart attack. Gates' spot was filled by Jeff Ganz, whose lengthy resume includes stints with Chuck Berry, Dr. John, Johnny Winter and Blood, Sweat and Tears. Polci left the group and was replaced by Steve Murphy, who has backed Alan Parsons, Todd Rundgren, Jack Bruce and others.
"Night after night, month after month, year after year, they are out there keeping the music alive and keeping it real, seldom getting the recognition that they all richly deserve," museum founder and CEO Joe Chambers said in a statement.
The touring is a grind for Shapiro, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014, but it is outweighed by the rewards.
"When I'm sitting in front of the piano, I don't feel any symptoms," he said. "I feel like I'm 23, 24 years old again."
San Francisco, OCT 16 (AP/UNB) — "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman — aka inmate No. 77806-112 — reported Tuesday to a federal prison in California to serve a two-week sentence in a college admissions scandal that underscored the lengths some wealthy parents will go to get their children into top universities.
Huffman's husband, actor William H. Macy, dropped her off at the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin, a low-security prison for women in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to TASC Group, which represents Huffman.
The prison has been described by media as "Club Fed," making its way onto a Forbes list in 2009 of "America's 10 Cushiest Prisons." It has housed well-known inmates in the past, including "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss.
Once inside the prison, Huffman will share a room and open toilet with three other inmates, according to a TASC Group publicist who declined to be named in accordance with company policy. The person said the actress will be subjected to five bed checks a day while having access to a gym, library and TV room.
Sally Swarts, a spokeswoman for the prison, said she could not provide specific information on Huffman but noted that everything in the inmate handbook would apply to the actress.
It says inmates are assigned khaki pants, blouse and brown T-shirt with a nametag that must be displayed all the time. Wakeup on weekdays is 5 a.m., with breakfast at 5:30, and beds must be made by 6. Inmates who have been medically cleared typically work in food service, a maintenance shop or as a unit orderly.
Huffman, 56, "is prepared to serve the term of imprisonment Judge (Indira) Talwani ordered as one part of the punishment she imposed for Ms. Huffman's actions," the TASC Group said in a statement that provided no further details.
A federal judge in Boston sentenced Huffman last month to 14 days in prison, a $30,000 fine, 250 hours of community service and a year's probation after she pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy for paying an admissions consultant $15,000 to have a proctor correct her daughter's SAT answers.
The Emmy-award winning actress tearfully apologized at her sentencing, saying, "I was frightened. I was stupid, and I was so wrong."
The judge noted that Huffman took steps "to get one more advantage" for her daughter in a system "already so distorted by money and privilege."
Huffman was the first parent sentenced in the scandal, which was the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department.
A total of 51 people have been charged in the case. Many of the parents are accused of paying William "Rick" Singer, an admissions consultant at the center of the scheme, to bribe exam administrators to allow someone else to take tests for their children or to correct their answers, authorities say. Others are accused of paying Singer to bribe coaches in exchange for helping their children get into schools as fake athletic recruits.
Huffman paid $15,000 to boost her older daughter's SAT scores. Singer, who has pleaded guilty, was accused of bribing a test proctor to correct the teenager's answers.
The amount Huffman paid is relatively low compared with other alleged bribes in the scheme. Some parents were accused of paying up to $500,000.
New York, OCT 16 (AP/UNB) — Gina Rodriguez has apologized for singing along on her Instagram story to a Fugees verse that includes the N-word.
The "Jane the Virgin" actress deleted the short video she posted Tuesday and replaced it with her apology, but not before memes and other backlash ensued. Rodriguez said in her apology she's a longtime Fugees and Lauryn Hill fan and didn't mean to offend anyone.
She sang along to "Ready or Not" and recited the racial slur as she sat in a makeup chair.
Some of the outrage focused on remarks Rodriguez made last year during a panel discussion. She said black women in Hollywood are paid more than Latina women. Detractors at the time noted the highest paid TV actress in the world that year was Sofia Vergara, from Colombia.