New York, Oct 18 (AP/UNB) — Damon Lindelof didn't take lightly the challenge of adapting the most acclaimed graphic novel of all time.
The "Lost" and "The Leftovers" co-creator was a fan of the revered "Watchmen" book ever since his father handed him the first few issues in the mid-1980s when he was 13 years old.
So agreeing to spearhead HBO's new adaptation didn't come without a bout or two of nerves.
Lindelof will see how he's done when the first of his nine-episode "Watchman" follow-up debuts Sunday and the fanboys and fangirls weigh in. They will find many things that its creators have respectfully left in their honor.
The creators have managed to lure an eclectic list of actors, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Louis Gossett Jr., Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson and Don Johnson.
Nashville, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Writer-director Callie Khouri is drawn to stories about female friendships and country music, and her latest television film "Patsy and Loretta" combines those passions into the true story of a friendship between two of country music's most powerful voices.
The biopic about Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, which airs Oct. 19 on Lifetime, centers on their friendship, which has often been underexplored in country music history, at a time when the two pioneering women's careers overlapped in the early '60s.
Khouri, who wrote the classic female adventure film "Thelma and Louise" and brought her country music drama "Nashville" to primetime television, said even she was surprised to find out that the two singers had a close friendship when her stepdaughter brought her the script.
"I was just blown away because it was a time before we really knew much about any of the women in country music," said Khouri. "I loved both of the artists of course and the fact that they had this really incredible bond."
In the film, Cline is at the peak of her career with hits like "Walking After Midnight" and "I Fall to Pieces," while Lynn is a young singer-songwriter from Kentucky just getting her footing in Nashville.
Their styles were different, with Cline's powerful, almost theatrical voice made her one of country's first crossover artists, while Lynn penned songs about rural life and honky-tonk women. But both were dealing with industry demands on how they looked and sang, juggling being mothers with their careers and clashing with husbands that liked to fight and drink.
"We all know the story of Patsy Cline's life. We all know the story of Loretta Lynn's life. What not many people are aware of is their friendship," said Megan Hilty, who plays Cline. "It's about this beautiful supportive friendship between women and that is rarely done. These stories are not told in general."
Hilty, who is known for her Broadway roles in "Wicked" and "9 to 5" and the TV series "Smash," delved deep into Cline's recordings and videos of her performing and read letters written by Cline to family and friends.
"To play an icon of this magnitude is extremely daunting," Hilty said. "But she's a fascinating person. I'm absolutely obsessed and in love with her."
Jessie Mueller, who won a Tony Award for her role as Carole King in the Broadway musical "Beautiful," also had the challenge of capturing Lynn's well-known Appalachian accent and phrasing.
"There's dialect work. There's guitar work. It's a lot to try to encompass the essence of someone like Loretta Lynn," Mueller said.
The film was shot in Nashville, including at the historic Ryman Auditorium, where both singers have performed and the former home of the Grand Ole Opry. Khouri knows the theater intimately having shot a lot of scenes from "Nashville" there.
"Every time I come here I feel all the history, all the music that's been played. And you know, it doesn't feel like there's ghosts, but it feels very present to me. I just imagine Patsy on the stage and Bill Monroe and Hank Williams," Khouri said.
Cline died in a plane crash in 1963 at the age of 30, ending a career far too early, while Lynn is now 87 and has stopped touring after suffering a stroke in 2017, although she continues to put out new records. But their legacies as progressive and influential voices in a male dominated industry has continued to impact today's artists, said Mueller.
"I just get the feeling that, God bless them, they didn't know what they were doing for all the generations to come," Mueller said. "They were just trying to make it happen and they were just doing their thing, but they were really laying the groundwork for so many amazing women artists that came after them."
Hackensack, Oct 17 (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.
"We felt that even though there wasn't a category in the museum for this, we wanted to recognize them," museum founder and CEO Joe Chambers said Wednesday. "This is to recognize them for taking the music on the road to entertain thousands and thousands of people."
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."
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?"