May 09, 2013

By ANTHONY McCARTNEY

Associated Press

 

A dancer who worked with Michael Jackson throughout his career testified on Wednesday that she told the director of Jackson’s ill-fated concert tour that she was worried about the singer's health.

Witness Alif Sankey told a jury deciding a lawsuit that the pop star appeared thin and unprepared in 2009 for the rigors of his planned comeback concerts known as “This Is It.”

The singer showed up at one rehearsal with shoes that had holes in the soles, missed rehearsals and appeared much thinner than earlier in his career, Sankey testified.

Sankey showed jurors an email she wrote to tour director Kenny Ortega in early June 2009, urging him to try to improve Jackson’s health and spirits. She never got a direct reply but testified that Ortega raised the concerns with concert promoter AEG Live.

“Please help me help you to get him back into that Magical Light, please let me help you help him find what was lost, his GRAIL,” Sankey wrote to Ortega, who she had worked closely with for a number of years.

Testimony showed Ortega copied Sankey on several email messages that he sent to AEG executives about Jackson’s condition and the need for him to receive physical therapy and better nutrition.

“He requires more attention and management,” Ortega wrote in one email. “I truly believe he needs nourishment guidance and physical therapy (massage) for his fatigued muscles and injuries. He is not in great physical shape. I believe he's hurting.”

Sankey met Jackson while working on his 1987 video for “Smooth Criminal” and was an associate producer and planned to dance onstage during “This Is It.”

She was testifying at the trial of a negligent hiring lawsuit filed by Jackson’s mother against AEG Live LLC. Katherine Jackson claims AEG failed to properly investigate the doctor who was caring for her son and later administered a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol to the singer in June 2009.

The promoter has denied wrongdoing and its attorneys have said the singer hid his addiction to propofol. Jackson's former physician, Conrad Murray, was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter.

Plaintiff's attorney Brian Panish asked Sankey about one message in which AEG executive Paul Gong­aware told Ortega that he planned to talk to Murray.

“We want to remind him that it is AEG, not MJ who is paying his salary,” the message said. “We want him to understand what is expected of him.”

Sankey said she based some of her impressions of Jackson over the years on how he felt when they hugged.

“When I hugged him, he just felt like marble,” Sankey said about Jackson early in his career. “But when I hugged, when I saw him briefly in 2006, he didn’t feel like that anymore. He felt thin.”

On cross-examination, Sankey acknowledged that her impressions were formed from brief interactions with the singer and she never had a long conversation with him.

She was, however, trusted enough to be around Jackson’s children, whose privacy he fiercely protected.

Sankey testified that Paris Jackson once shared a secret, saying she didn’t want her father to find out about candy stuffed inside her purse.

There were also several tiny pictures inside her purse — all of her father.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

May 09, 2013

By RYAN PEARSON | Associated Press

 

Hip-hop may need a checkup.

The culture that in the 1990s lost its brightest stars to gun violence has in recent years seen a series of notable rappers die of drug- and health-related causes. Since 2011, hip-pop pioneer Heavy D, singer and rap chorus specialist Nate Dogg and New York rapper Tim Dog all died of ailments in their 40s. Kris Kross rapper Chris Kelly was found dead last week in Atlanta of a suspected drug overdose at 34.

Some of the genre's elder statesmen say they're worried about the culture's focus on youth, current emphasis on freewheeling partying and "you only live once" ethos, as popularized by Drake's 2011 hit "The Motto."

"Hip-hop being a lifestyle culture ... a part of American culture, you have to be mindful that somebody is going to grow old, age," said rap pioneer Melle Mel. "At some point somebody has to realize that hip-hop has to learn how to grow up. It's way too juvenile and it's been that way for too long."

The 51-year-old rapper, who memorably warned in 1982's "The Message" about urban youth who "lived so fast and died so young," said he suffers chronic bronchitis from being around marijuana and cigarette smoke when he was performing. Of course, heavy drug use in hip-hop or rock is hardly new: Cowboy of his Furious Five group died in 1989 "basically from getting high," Melle Mel said.

"It's not really worth it to literally party yourself to death. It's like committing suicide," he added. "You have to choose between what makes you feel good and what makes you think you feel good."

Other influential rappers who've died in their 30s in the last decade include Southern rap pioneer Pimp C and Wu-Tang Clan's Ol Dirty Bastard, both from drug overdose.

Lifestyle isn't to blame for all fatal health problems in hip-hop. Smooth-voiced Midwesterner MC Breed died of kidney failure in 2008 at age 37. Soulful producer J Dilla died in 2006 at age 32 of complications from lupus. Cancer killed rappers Guru in 2010 at 48 and Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys last year at 47.

Two of the genre's top stars, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, have inadvertently focused attention on the issue. After he was hospitalized for multiple seizures, 30-year-old Lil Wayne told a Los Angeles radio station in March that he's an epileptic. Rick Ross, 37, has also suffered seizures and said he's trying to improve his health.

As some of the genre's more well-known figures hit their late 30s and 40s, they've figured out ways to keep up appearances in public while also keeping their health. 50 Cent said he rarely drinks alcohol anymore. That "bottle full of bub" he's holding in nightclubs nowadays isn't what you think.

"I want to live a good long healthy life. So I'm health-conscious," the 37-year-old rapper-actor said. "You never see me drink. If you did see me with a bottle, it had ginger ale in it."

Though he's still a heavy marijuana smoker, Snoop Dogg said he stopped drinking alcohol at clubs six years ago after suspecting that a woman put the sedative Rohypnol - widely known as a "date-rape drug" - in one of his drinks.

"I used to drink alcohol as a fashion statement. If you in the club, they bringing you bottles, bringing you drinks. And you're just drinking because you're drinking. I don't do that anymore. I drink water or cranberry juice," he said. "I'm not cheap. I just don't want to do this to my body anymore. I want to survive."

Snoop, 41, said his focus on health comes from his desire to remain competitive and relevant to a genre that's largely focused on youth.

"Because when we perform, we don't have as much energy," he said. "So now we've got to get up and work out, do push-ups or jumping jacks, or whatever we've got to do to keep ourselves looking good and feeling good. Because one thing about an old man - he don't ever want to feel like he old. So to me that's my personal push is to be able to compete with the youngsters and to be able to dance with them so to speak. ... Because when they welcome you into their world as far as being on a song, you're not old. You're accepted."

For producer and rapper RZA, hip-hop's emphasis on youth stems from an urban culture that since the '80s has had trouble planning for the future.

"They said we should be dead or in jail by the age of 25. And I think we live like that," the 43-year-old Wu-Tang Clan founder said. "But what happens when you make it past 25? What happens when you make it to 30? What happens when you make it to 40? Are you prepared for life now?"

Influenced by "Eastern philosophy" and his famous obsession with martial arts films, RZA said he's been a vegetarian for 15 years and practices qigong movement and breathing.

"Think of the great artists like Biggie Smalls and Tupac, who made some of the greatest hip-hop music of all time. But they didn't make it past 25," he said. "They didn't even become a man. ODB was just becoming a man. What I want to tell the hip-hop generation out there is that: There's a chance you're going to become a man. Be prepared for it."

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

May 02, 2013

ATLANTA (AP) – Chris Kelly, half of the 1990s kid rap duo Kris Kross who made one of the decade's most memorable songs with the frenetic "Jump," has died, and authorities say they are investigating his death as a possible drug overdose.

Investigator Betty Honey of the Fulton County Medical Examiner's office said the 34-year-old Kelly was pronounced dead around 5 p.m. Wednesday at the south campus of the Atlanta Medical Center.

Cpl. Kay Lester of the Fulton County police said "it appears it may have been a possible drug overdose."

An official cause of death is pending an autopsy.

Kelly, known as "Mac Daddy," and Chris Smith, known as "Daddy Mac," were introduced to the music world in 1992 by music producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri after he discovered the pair in an Atlanta mall. The duo wore their clothes backwards as a gimmick, but they won over fans with their raps.

Their first, and by far most successful song, was "Jump." The hit, off their multiplatinum 1992 debut album "Totally Krossed Out," featured the two trading versus and rapping the refrain, the song's title.  The duo had surprising maturity in their rap delivery, though the song was written by Dupri. It would become a No. 1 smash in the United States and globally, and one of the most popular of that year.

Their success led to instant fame: They toured with Michael Jackson, appeared on TV shows, and even had their own video game.

The group was never able to match the tremendous success of their first song, though they had other hits like "Warm It Up," and "Tonite's tha Night."

Earlier this year, the group performed together to celebrate the anniversary of Durpri's label, So So Def.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

May 09, 2013

LAWT News Service

 

An exciting line up is set for the ‘Sunday Best Live’ featuring Kirk Franklin and Friends gospel celebration at Club Nokia on Sunday, June 30.

The event is part of the BET Experience, an exciting weekend featuring concerts at Staples Center, Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Club Nokia, along with the BET Film Festival, Fan Festival, live tapings of ‘106 & PARK,’ The BET GRAMMY® Museum exhibit, Music Matters Stage, BET Revealed Seminars and the BET Awards.

In addition, the L.A. Sentinel will present ‘A Taste of the Taste of Soul’ showcasing a wide range of vendors.

The concert and worship experience will feature gospel great Donnie McClurkin, who will be delivering an inspirational sermon, as well as performances by the legendary gospel singers Karen Clark-Sheard and Kiera Sheard of  BET’s ‘The Sheards.’

Also, Le’Andria Johnson, Amber Bullock and Joshua Rogers, all past season winners of the BET hit television competition, are also slated to perform. 

For the first time ever, tickets to the BET Awards show are available to the public through VIP ticket packages.  For more information and to purchase concert tickets and VIP packages, visit BETExperience.com.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

May 02, 2013

 

ARIES

 

Sweet sincere emotions can run through you like the odors of different perfumes. Open yourself up and let it flow.  If love offers itself this week please accept the offer. Everything is open.  Write down what you think of yourself this week. Save it. Make a poster out of it. Soul Affirmation: Trust gives me a deep sense of peace and joy.

 

TAURUS

 

Business as usual is good business. Energy is high. Others give back to you what you gave to them the past few weeks.  We hope you were generous because what you get this week will be a multiple of what you bestowed. Soul Affirmation: I love myself for being myself.

 

GEMINI

 

Did joy take a vacation on you?  Well, joy is back and ready to unpack. Get the spare room ready or move over and let joy crawl in bed with you. Smile in joy’s face and make joy feel at home. Know that you’ve done good. ­­­ Soul Affirmation: Joy is my house guest this week.

 

CANCER

 

Putting the world back in balance is your chore this week. Cheerfulness has been a little lower on the scale than it should be. You can spread it around lavishly this week. Give some to everyone. The more you give the more you’ll get. Soul Affirmation: Goodness is its own reward.

 

LEO

 

Celebrate!  It’s summer time!  Communications will flow easily for you this week.  Dress up and get the weekend started earlier. Social life can take your mind off of heavy subjects. Don’t tighten up, brighten up. Soul Affirmation: I get joy from giving good things.

 

VIRGO

 

Stay positive on all fronts this week.  You’ll receive subtle cues this week that will confirm what you already know to be true.  Act on your instincts and others will be receptive to your vibes.  Even if  you feel fleeting moments of uncertainty this week, go with the flow, and be a team player. Soul Affirmation: This week is the day the Lord has made. I rejoice in it.

 

LIBRA

 

Your positive energy will spread feverishly among family and friends this week.   Your timing is just right because your positive vibes will be the extra nudge someone needs to pull through the week.  Your strength and friendship will be tested. Soul Affirmation: Facing down challenges makes me feel good about myself.

 

SCORPIO

 

Call a family member to ask for a second opinion on something important.  A different perspective will give you more options on your action plan.  Use your faith to guide you through a mental maze that might stir up confusion. Soul Affirmation: I smile and trust in the powers beyond myself.

 

SAGITTARIUS

 

Give yourself a break this week!  You’ve been going at full speed and you need to shift down to a lower gear.  Time is a luxury and it will be on your side this week.  Kick off your shoes, enjoy a long afternoon nap, or  curl up with a good book that you’ve been meaning to read. Soul Affirmation: I let the outer world and inner world change places this week

 

CAPRICORN

 

This week remember to pamper yourself by giving.   To give with no expectation of receiving in return is truly a luxury of the joy filled spirit.  The act of giving has a reciprocal effect on those that it touches.  So when you share your gifts know that as you do you are lavishing not only others but also yourself. Soul Affirmation: Giving is a luxury that a rich spirit can afford.

 

AQUARIUS

 

Romance, friendship, family ties, no matter what you call it, love is indeed your special blessing this week.  Allow yourself to show love and to be loved. Bless someone by sharing your love and you will be blessed in return. Soul Affirmation: Giving love is finding love.

 

PISCES

 

You’re not usually a gambler but luck is with you as never before in recent months. You have the Midas touch this week. Buy a lottery ticket or make a wager. Gamble on love if you have that option handy. You can’t miss if you follow your instincts. Soul Affirmation: My hunches pay all day this week.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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