Saturday, May 22, 2004

thestar.com.my: eCentral: News & Features

Stairway to stardom


The panel of judges synonymous with the American Idol series, (from left): Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell.
Auditions, call backs and a four-day workout whittle down the contestants further to 112, then to 84, then 50 and finally to 32 semi-finalists.

The 32 are split into four initial semi-final shows. Two contestants from each show selected by the audience proceed to the weekly knockout finals.

All is not lost for the remaining 24 as 12 are called back to undergo one week of coaching and training and return for a fifth “wild card” semi-final.

During the wild card semi-final, the “lucky” contestants are in for a shock, however, as the judges only allow eight of them to sing. From these, each of the three judges selects one contestant while the audience votes for one more via SMS.

The 12 finalists are Leah Labelle (17), Matthew Rogers (25), Amy Adams (24), Camile Velasco (18), Jennifer Hudson (22), Jon Peter Lewis (24), John Stevens (16), George Huff (22), La Toya London (25), Jasmine Trias (17), Diana DeGarmo (16) and Fantasia Barrino (19).

And now onto the finals’ weekly knockout stage, screened in two shows a day apart:

12 down to 11

La Toya London, as the first finalist to take to the stage of American Idol 3, stamps her mark early on a night of soul music as she bowls over the audience, voters and judges with an “awesome” – as Cowell puts it – rendition of Rufus and Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody.

“Where do we go from here?” Cowell quips. Well, spiralling downwards, as it happens, with only Fantasia Barrino and Diana DeGarmo able to come close to London’s level.

For now, voters seem to be almost sane as Leah Labelle earns the ignominious distinction of being the first finalist to be voted out of the competition.

An insipid version of the Supreme’s You Keep Me Hanging On isn’t enough for Labelle to hang on, but already the “surprise” factor is beginning to creep in. Power voice Jennifer Hudson ranks among the bottom three, as does Amy Adams.

11 to 10

Former American football pro Matthew Rogers doesn’t make the cut after the Country & Western segment. Camile Velasco and, surprisingly, DeGarmo, are the other two in the bottom three.

Adams, complete with purple-tinted hair, shines on Dixie Chicks’ Sin Wagon, earning her the title “Country Idol” from the normally blunt Cowell, while Paula gushes:

“If you released this as a single it would hit No. 1 in the Country Charts.”

London almost comes into her own with a stonking original take of Garth Brooks’ Ain’t Going Down Until the Sun Comes Up.

10 to nine

It’s Motown night as contestants sing songs from the glorious 1960s-70s era. Unfortunately, being Country Idol isn’t enough to keep Adams from getting the boot. Sob ? we won’t see her purple hair anymore.

Unpredictability rears its head as Hudson ends up in the bottom three again, and, in a turnaround from the previous week, so does early favourite London. It is especially hurtful for London, who has to suffer being called up in lieu of red-headed Frank Sinatra sound-alike John Stevens, who looks suitably in shock for the rest of the show.

African-American singers not cutting it with Motown music? Still, as if to balance that, Barrino gets a “superb” from Cowell for her version of Marvin Gaye’s classic I Heard It Through the Grapevine.

Guest judges Ashford and Simpson come in for the ride and give some handy advice and comments while the Funk Brothers make up the backing band.

Nine to eight

It’s Elton John night with the superstar himself as guest judge. All contestants have to sing his songs.

Velasco, the first of the Filipina-Hawaiians, gets the chop. All still goes somewhat well, although DeGarmo ends up bottom three again, as does Jasmine Trias, the other Filipina-Hawaiian.

London asks guest singer Tamyra Gray (American Idol finalist from the first season) if not making the top three worked to Gray’s advantage. In retrospect, she shouldn’t have asked that question, although London does get top comments from Elton John, who “would sign La Toya to a record deal on the spot.”

Poor Stevens’ rendition of Crocodile Rock, meanwhile, is likened by Cowell to cult B-grade movie Plan 9 from Outer Space. Read what you like into that, but Stevens still gets off safe in this round.

Eight to seven

Jon Peter Lewis, dubbed “pen salesman” by Cowell during auditions, goes out on a night of movie themes.

Legendary moviemaker Quentin Tarantino makes an appearance and proves to be one heck of a fair judge. On a non-show point, American Idol reject William Hung releases his debut album Inspiration, which duly tops the independent album charts in the United States.

As for this Idol episode, Barrino stamps her class with her own take on the Gershwin classic Summertime. Stevens and DeGarmo (again) are also in the bottom three.

Jennifer Hudson of Chicago exited on a wave of controversy.
Seven to six

Renowned pop singer-songwriter Barry Manilow steps in as guest judge and naturally, they all sing his songs.

Controversy hits the show as the three divas – London, Barrino and Hudson – poll the least number of votes, starting up conspiracy theories galore, and prompting later comments from even Elton John that the voting pattern may have been influenced by racism.

Power voice Hudson gets the boot, while bland red head Stevens (still looking somewhat shell-shocked) and Trias remain in the hunt, although both levels of singing aren’t anywhere near the three divas’.

Six to five

Gloria Estefan makes an appearance. They’re all singing Estefan songs with the backing of the Miami Sound Machine itself.

London sings the best rendition of Rhythm Is Gonna Get You since Estefan’s original and DeGarmo comes close to matching her with Turn the Beat Around.

Finally, Stevens goes out. Man, the 16-year-old sang Music of My Heart with hardly a tune in it – even the now legendary Hung sang She Bangs in tune during his equally legendary audition. As ever, Cowell’s caustic comments to Stevens included something like “Latin music and you go together like chocolate ice cream and onion.”

(Note: Original co-singer of that song, Justin Timberlake, joined boyband ’N Sync when he was 15 years old and by the time he was 16, was already miles better than Stevens.)

On a positive note, Cowell goes on to commend Stevens for taking every criticism like a man, despite his tender years. Joining Stevens in the bottom three are George Huff and Trias. For once, the votes seem to be in order, but there’s only one guy left.

Five to four

The going gets tougher for the remaining five as they now have to sing two songs each, with a jazz big-band ensemble as backing.

Poor nice-boy Huff stands against the four girls and finally wilts – or not, as the case may be.

In this segment, Huff wavers vocally, yet stands tall as he waves his goodbyes.

A quiet week by all accounts as it is almost expected that it would have been either him or Trias to go and both poll the least number of votes.

London sings Don’t Rain on My Parade from the movie Funny Girl, obviously not realising at this point how significant her glorious rendition of the song is going to be.

Four to three

The fireworks fly, as the ultimate result of this round throws up even more conspiracy theories as public votes turn American Idol 3 upside down during disco night.

It’s still tough, of course, and the girls all sing two songs each, in two rounds of one song each.

On a vocal note even Trias must realise she is nowhere in the class of London, Barrino and DeGarmo, putting up by far the worst performance of the four.

But not even London’s outstanding rendition of Thelma Houston’s Don’t Leave Me This Way which earns respect from Cowell (“as good as the original”) and Barrino’s highly polished performance of Amii Stewart’s Knock on Wood are enough to stop both polling the least numbers of votes.

Even fair comments by disco diva Donna Summer, who turns up both as guest judge and guest singer (she sang with the girls on Hot Stuff and on her own, MacArthur’s Park), don’t sway the voters.

In the end, the best singer in the competition (London) is out, to the horror of the whole studio audience, half of whom proceed to boo the hapless Trias, who is already in tears.

“I think America’s got this wrong,” is Paula’s comment, with fellow judge Jackson saying, “This is a travesty.”

London, meanwhile, smilingly and with a poise that would shame a veteran pop star, prepares for her swansong.

Her rendition of Don’t Rain on My Parade knocks even the socks off Summer’s earlier rendition of MacArthur’s Park, and to the tears of the studio audience and Paula, who has her hands on her head in despair, London waves goodbye with the telling comment, “I will be back.”

Three to last two

Are Hawaii, and the Filipino and Asian communities in the United States enough to keep Trias in? The going gets so tough the tough almost hardly get going. Each singer has to sing three songs, only one of which is their own choice. The regular judges choose one and Clive Davis, a head honcho of Arista Records, gets to choose another, and come in as guest judge too.

Trias improves from last week but still hasn’t got the “wow” factor as Cowell puts it, although her rendition of Mr Melody is by far her best performance in the series.

Even DeGarmo doesn’t get all praises either, but generally the comments are good for her, especially for coming back into her own with the last of her three songs, Don’t Cry Out Loud.

The judges are all agog with Barrino’s renditions of Chain of Fools, Fool in Love and a highly original take on George Benson’s The Greatest Love of All. Davis says that if there was no competition and he saw her in a basement he would have signed her on the spot. Davis also gives her the “wow” factor.

The results show is an hour-long drawn-out affair which leaves everybody on the edge of their seats as host Seacrest continues his “? will be back after the break” gimmick.

Australian Idol Guy Sebastian performs as guest, and American Idol 1 finalist Tamyra Gray makes another guest appearance to sing her new single Raindrops Will Fall. Significantly, one of the songs that the two finalists this season will sing, I Believe, is co-written by Gray. The winner will go on to record it for a single release.

Seacrest finally reveals the result and it is Trias who will leave the competition at this stage. She gets the honour of tossing the coin to see who will sing first on the final show. After that, she sings her swansong with great poise.

Friday, May 21, 2004

BLAZERS: Damon Stoudamire Basketball Camp

Don't miss your chance to learn from an NBA great!

When: Monday through Friday: August 9-13, 2004
Time: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m
Cost: $300 per camper, including a $100 non-refundable deposit
Camp capacity: 250
Where: PSU, Peter W. Stott Center, 930 S.W. Hall St., Portland 97201

The Damon Stoudamire Basketball Camp welcomes girls & boys, 8-16, serious about improving their skills and developing their game, learning from the best coaching staff in the Portland area.

The goal of the camp is to provide a structured basketball learning experience that encourages team participation, rugged competition and above all, good sportsmanship.

The coaching staff includes past & present male & female high school, college and/or professional basketball players who have played in Oregon and across the nation.

Players are divided into teams by age and compete throughout the week in full-court basketball games and skill challenges. Championship games conclude the week.

An Awards Ceremony is held on Friday. Camp coaches assess campers throughout the week and present awards in categories such as Hustle, Defense, Sportsmanship, and The Camper of the Week. Parents and friends of the players are invited to attend this special event.

“Autograph Day” with Damon is Friday—Campers may bring in one item on Friday to be signed by Damon.

Each player receives a Nike camp T-shirt, camp certificate, all-camp photo and an individual photo taken with Damon, and other gifts and prizes!

For more information, contact:
Damon Stoudamire, Inc.
4114 N. Vancouver Ave.
Portland, OR 97217
(503) 963-9336

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Amnews.com - Montgomery Gentry gives free concert to promote CD

Sports Editor

LEXINGTON - The more hectic his schedule becomes, the more Eddie Montgomery likes it.

"It has been wild and crazy lately, but we love it that way," said Montgomery. "We can't thank all our hometown folks who have backed us up from the start enough. That's why we are here tonight doing this. It's just a way to say thanks."

Montgomery and Troy Gentry performed a free concert here Monday night as part of the release of their fourth CD, You Do Your Thing, which went on sale today.

The hour-long concert, which came after a 30-minute rain and lightning storm, attracted numerous Montgomery Gentry fans from Boyle County, where Montgomery lives.

"This album is definitely our best work," Montgomery said before Monday's concert. "We did something a little unusual for country music. Usually you have just one producer for an album, but me and T (Troy) have never played by the rules so we have four producers on this album. That's why it is our best work. And what better place to release it than here with all our friends."

The two singers certainly will be doing their best to promote the CD. They were in Cincinnati Monday morning and have shows scheduled in St. Louis, Dallas and California today to coincide with the album's release. They will make a late-night appearance on ABC-TV with Jimmy Kimmel tonight. Friday they will be on the Jay Leno Show. An appearance is also set with the CBS Morning Show as well as a spot on Fox with Ryan Seacrest.

"We are booked across the country until New Year's Eve (in Rupp Arena), but we are having fun," Montgomery said. "As long as people want to listen to us and buy albums, we are going to keep playing.

"I have woke up and wondered where I am at because of all the traveling we do, but I figure as long as somebody can get me to the stage, I can do the rest of it. I like performing for our fans."

Montgomery will be on TV this fall

Montgomery Gentry fans will also be able to see him on TV this fall. He's just learned that a pilot for a Rodney Carrington show produced by Touchstone Television has been picked up by ABC-TV. He'll play a bar owner.

"I just put some stuff on tape and sent it out to my west coast manager," Montgomery said. "I've known Rodney Carrington for a while and they needed a bar owner for a pilot they were filming and thought I would be perfect for the part.

"I definitely found out I am a better musician than actor. Once you hit the stage, you get to keep rolling without some director yelling, 'Cut.' But I'm glad the show got picked up. They said they would work around my schedule."

It's a schedule with few breaks because of the group's success that includes two platinum albums and one gold album. They'll be the opening act at the Academy of Country Music Awards show next week and certainly will bring the same enthusiasm and showmanship to the stage and a CBS-TV audience that they did here Monday night.

"It's just been an unbelievable ride for us," Montgomery said before posing for pictures and signing autographs before the concert. "Me and T took baby steps together first and that was the way we wanted to do it. We grew up in honky-tonks. That's where we learned how to play and sing.

"Hopefully in 20 years when you walk back in one of those places you will see people remembering our names and still listening to our music. If that happens, then we'll know we've done something."

Fans lined up to have CD autographed

Based on the number of fans who bought the newest CD and lined up after the concert to have them autographed, Montgomery Gentry has already "done something" big.

"I just hope a bunch of people back in Boyle County have the album Tuesday and they have it turned up loud and rocking," Montgomery said. "We have fun with life and want people to have fun when they listen to our music."

However, success won't change Montgomery. A TV show, another successful album and celebrity status won't make him forget where home is.

"If I am dreaming, I don't want anybody to pinch me and wake me up," Montgomery said. "I am just a country boy and that's all I am ever going to be. They are going to bury me in Danville. I am not going anywhere. I am staying right where I belong.

"I can fly back and forth to LA. I am not that far from Nashville. If they let me get buried on the farm, I probably will be buried right there. I'm having the time of my life and enjoying everything we are doing, but I'm still the same country boy I've always been and always will be. That's what makes this so much fun."

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

reviewjournal.com -- Sports: JOE HAWK: You heard it here first (again): Smarty...

horse is a horse, of course, of course, unless it's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones -- then it's a sure thing to become the first horse in 26 years to win its sport's Triple Crown. Don't believe us? "Rants & Raves' " resident psychic and hack scribe, Hawkadamus, guarantees it:

• So maybe Hawkadamus hasn't always been right on with his predictions. Oh-kaaaay, so maybe he never has been right with a prediction. But just like Smarty Jones broke the Sports Illustrated cover jinx by winning the Preakness on Saturday, so too shall the fleet-hooved wundercolt snap the Hawkadamus hex by winning the Belmont in three weeks and claiming horse racing's esteemed Triple Crown. You can take that to the race book window. ...

• Hawkadamus is feeling lucky today, or, hey, maybe he just has a death wish. But the High Priest of Prognostications says it doesn't matter whether it's the Minnesota Timberwolves or the Sacramento Kings that advance to the NBA's Western Conference finals this week, the Los Angeles Lakers are a L-O-C-K to win the best-of-7 series and go to the league finals. He says it, of course, then he runs like hell. ...

• The expansion Nashville (Tenn.) Rhythm of the ill-reconceived American Basketball Association has a female general manager and, as of Monday, a female head coach. The Rhythm named Ashley McElhiney, a two-time All-Southeastern Conference player at Vanderbilt, to be the first female head coach of a men's professional basketball team. Just wondering, but do you think the team's style of play will be known as the Rhythm method? ...

• There's a lot about the Arena Football League to like, and that doesn't count the hometown Gladiators' late-season Lazarus imitation in going from 3-7 to 7-7. Played on a 50-yard field, the game action is hard-hitting and high-energy. But, cripes, if those flags thrown on almost every play don't become annoying after about, uh, the first half of the first quarter. The league had better review its rules, its players' knowledge of them or rein in its flag-flippin' zebras if it doesn't want to turn off those newcomers it's trying to turn on. ...

• The Gladiators need serious work done on their ancillary in-house entertainment. (Folks, try taking a page from those innovative minds running Wranglers' hockey games.) But we give the AFL franchise props for a dynamite doubleheader of pregame singing Sunday. KVBC-TV sportscaster Rick Strasser was outstanding on the national anthem, and that was with the tough task of following deep-throated 9-year-old Patrick Dorson, a student at Lomie G. Heard Elementary School who cranked out "God Bless the U.S.A." like he was Lee Greenwood's protégé. Hey, Patrick, we'll be looking for you on "American Idol" in 2011. Sorry, Rick, you're too old to be a contestant. ...

• Reader L. Steve LaDouceur was checking out Sports Illustrated's Web page devoted to Nevada in its 50-state tour of the country and noticed this gem: Our major college programs are University of Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels and University of Las Vegas-Reno Wolf Pack. Yikes! As if Reno doesn't already have a small-town complex. ...

• UNLV right fielder Eric Nielsen had five home runs and 15 RBIs in four games last weekend against Utah? Nielsen, the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week, continues to enhance his chances of being named Mountain West Conference Player of the Year. ...

• The mothers of three Colorado football players have asked Gov. Bill Owens to apologize for saying the school's football recruiting scandal -- involving alcohol supplied to minors and the alleged rape of coeds -- was an embarrassment to the state. Owens immediately said he was sorry and explained that what he meant to say was the Buffaloes' 3-5 Big 12 record and 5-7 overall mark last season were an embarrassment to the state. ...

• Permit us one final "rave" today, the greatest "rave" we will ever print here: For 37 years, Review-Journal boxing writer Royce Feour exemplified what a journalist -- not just a sports journalist but any journalist -- should be about. He was honest, fair, hard-working and committed to excellence. His work was always about you, the reader, and there was never a day that Feour didn't bring his "A" game. We learned a lot at his knee over the past 26 years, and for that we say, "Thank you, Royce. You are the best!"

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The Macon Telegraph | 05/16/2004 | Baseball Hall of FamerFeller discusses current events at Sports Hall

Baseball Hall of FamerFeller discusses current events at Sports Hall

By Mike Donila

Telegraph Staff Writer

Holding court to a line that always appeared to be at least 30 people deep, baseball Hall of Famer Bob Feller told tales from his past, including his decision to enlist in the military two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

As a way to honor Armed Forces Day, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame invited the former Cleveland Indians pitcher to Macon to discuss baseball, current events and the military.

Often dubbed the "Pat Tillman of his day" because he enlisted in the military during the prime of his career, Feller spent more than three hours Saturday night signing autographs and later answering questions from an enthusiastic crowd.

"That guy is a real patriot, a winner in every way," said Bubba Wall, a former U.S. Marine who served in the Korean War.

When Feller was 23, he enlisted in the Navy on Dec. 9, 1941 - two days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. During his four years in the service, Feller served mostly as an anti-aircraft gunner aboard the U.S.S. Alabama, coming out a highly decorated war veteran. He received eight battle stars.

In 1945, he rejoined the Cleveland Indians, regaining his dominance as one of baseball's best right-handed pitchers and went on to secure a career total 266 wins and eight All-Star appearances.

Based on his yearly baseball record, which includes six 20-game or more victories, Feller most likely would have won 300 games, possibly 400. Only 20 major league pitchers have ever won 300 or more games, and only two have won 400 or more.

In 1962, the blistering fast-ball pitcher, often dubbed "Bullet Bob," was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Now 85, Feller spends his time championing the military, promoting baseball and visiting veterans' hospitals across the country.

Although many on Saturday called him a hero, he downplayed the compliments.

"I'm no hero. We lost 406,000 Americans in World War II. They are the heroes. I'm a survivor," said Feller, who pitched for Cleveland from 1936-41 and from 1945-56. "There are two different types of soldiers - those who survive and the heroes. The survivors come here. The heroes don't."

Believed to be the first professional athlete to volunteer for military duty, Feller praised Pat Tillman, citing him as an example of a hero.

Tillman, a three-year safety with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, enlisted in the U.S. Army in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Turning down a $3.6 million contract, he completed training for the Army Rangers in late 2002 and was assigned to the second battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, Wash.

He was deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but later transferred to Afghanistan, where he was killed in action April 22.

Tillman, who was 27, was posthumously promoted to the enlisted rank of corporal.

During an hourlong speech Saturday, Feller discussed his old teammates and those he played against, but the topic always came back to the military and why people should pay more attention to history.

"We should teach more American history in our schools. So many students nowadays are looking out the windows when they are being taught," he said. "Freedom is not free. It costs a lot."

The Macon event drew an older crowd, many of whom attended to get autographs for their grandchildren and meet the man they watched growing up as children.

"I wouldn't have missed this for the world," said Steve Humphry of Byron who attended with his wife, Marlene. "He took the time to talk to each person individually. You couldn't ask for more."

Jan Frost, a Macon grandmother who got an autograph for her 10-year-old grandson, said she would tell her grandson Feller's story.

"He left baseball to serve his country and I find that most impressive," she said. "I was around then, and I was proud of all the men who left their professions to go overseas."


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