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Hello, New World

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German actress Kathrin Sass in "Goodbye Lenin"

"Goodbye Lenin"
is about waking up to a new reality whether you like it or not. The German flick has become the highest grossing movie in German history since it premiered at Berlin's 2003 International Film Festival. The picture has also been honored with multiple awards, including a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Golden Globes.

Set in East Berlin, the story begins a few weeks before the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. Alex (the talented Daniel Brüh) lives with his loyal communist mother Christiana (Kathrin Sass) and his older sister Ariana (Maria Simon). When Christina has a heart attack, falls into a coma and awakens 8 months later, East Germany has dramatically changed. There is no more border control and capitalist icons such as Pepsi and Coca Cola have taken over the local grocery store.

Young Alex is worried that the excitement about the fall of the Berlin wall might affect his mother's weak health. Together with girlfriend Lara (Chulpan Khamatova) he transforms their small appartment into a musuem with artifacts from the Socialist era and makes his mother believe nothing happened during her absence.

The film hilariously chronicles how Alex goes about finding the right product and brands to make his mother believe nothing changed, including searching for her favorite instant coffee and East German clothes.

The movie reaches a sublime cinematic climax when sick Christina steps for the first time out of the appartment to see a bronze statue of Lenin removed by a helicopter.

The story about the reunification of two neighboring countries and its impact on family relations enters a whole dimension when Alex reunties with his father who fled to West Germany in the 70s.

"Goodbye, Lenin" beautifully captures a dramatic time in European history. Director Wolfgang Becker shows how both young and old people are affected by the winds of change while trying to cope with a new world, new challenges and new relationships.

Soundtrack distributed by EMI Records.

Official Movie Web Site

April 12, 2004 in Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fashion Rocks

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Mrnorth will perform at the launch of Valentino R.E.D. on April 15

You can easily consider yourself the hottest thing in town if you’re the first rock band to play at Bergdorf Goodman. Irish band Mrnorth will be performing at this glitzy New York department store on Thursday, April 15 to celebrate the launch of the Valentino R.E.D. Collection (Official invite & RSVP information).

The group will play songs from their debut album “Lifesize," which was released last March. The band is creating a steady amount of buzz with its hooky pop-rock and singer Colin Smith's powerful stage presence.

Mrnorth are Emmett O’Malley (Lead Guitar & Vocals), Adrian Mordaunt (Drums & Percussion), Oisin O’Malley (Bass, Piano & Keyboards) and the charismatic singer Colin Smith. After spending time touring in both Ireland and Italy, word about Mrnorth reached stateside. Their manager connected the band with famous producer Jerry Harrison who previously collaborated with Talking Heads and No Doubt. He was able to capture the band’s uninhibited spirit and zoom in on Smith’s energetic vocals.

Time will tell if Mrnorth is be the next big thing. In any event, they're headlining the hottest party in Manhattan on April 15.

April 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5)

White Party Celebrates Fifteenth Anniversary

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Nothing can spoil this weekend's White Party Palm Springs. Not even a swarming Wyndham pool or an exhausting heat cramp. Just slap on an extra coating of SPF15 and party until the crack of dawn. When you’re among thousands of friends nothing can ruin a good time.

That’s the spirit of the annual 4-day circuit extravaganza in the sleepy California desert town that is invaded by thousands of hunky gay guys every April. It is all about “men, music and muscle,” says Jeffrey Sanker, the event’s organizer. “Stir all the ingredients together and bring it to a boil. Then serve it up fresh and hot,” he laughs.

This year’s event celebrates its fifteenth year anniversary and Sanker plans to pull out all the stops to commemorate this milestone. After all these years, his brainchild still reigns as the queen mother of all circuit parties.

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Jeffrey Sanker and Jennifer Lopez

White Party 15 is held April 8-12 and will once again take place at the Palm Springs Wyndham Resort and Convention Center. It will incorporate a “Lord Of The Rings” theme with DJ Manny Lehman spinning the “Dungeons and Drag Queens” party on Friday night, and DJ Tony Moran performing as “Lord of the Circuit” on Saturday night.

Simone Denny will be singing Widelife’s “All Things,” the peppy “Queer Eye” theme song. She will join an illustrious group of entertainers that have performed at the event. A surprise performance of Jennifer Lopez made national headlines in 2001 when she put thousands of sweaty men into a frenzy.

The event needed some positive press after it had been suffering from bad media coverage about illegal drug use. In the indie movie “Circuit,” the White Party Palm springs is even used as the backdrop for the flick’s tragic ending when one of lead characters dies of a drug overdose.

Sanker dismisses the movie’s negative impact on his party. “That was a fictional movie that was driven by the director’s storyline,” he tells Arjan. “The fact that he used White Party Palm Spring as his chosen backdrop because of the size and scope of our event had no correlation to the reality of the fact that most people attend for the great music and the camaraderie. “

The circuit guru agrees that drugs jeopardize the party’s existence and he has come up with several measures to curb the problem, including education and posted warnings. “It has become less of a problem over the last few years,” he says. “I think we have moved forward and patrons are abiding to stricter standards at the White Party. No doubt the cooperation of all of the city officials and public health officials has helped in this regard.”

The White Party Palm Springs is big business that brings in plenty of cash for both Sanker and the city of Palm Springs. Sanker rejects claims from critics that believe the event’s commercialization overshadows its charitable interests. “The White Party has fifteen years of contributions under its belt to the Desert Aids Project and other charities,” says Sanker. “When I first started White Party Palm Springs fifteen years ago, it was designed as a fun weekend getaway. It was not designed as a charity event per se.”

Sanker sure knows how to throw a good party. He’s producing events in Miami, Orlando, New York and Rio de Janeiro. The savvy businessman understands that a successful party is all about location, location, location. No wonder he credits Palm Springs as an important reason for the event’s continuing success. “Palm Springs is a truly magical place,” Sanker says. “The desert is warm and the scenery is magnificent. The people of Palm Springs welcome us every year and that truly makes it special.”

Perhaps even more important is that after fifteen years the event has become an annual tradition for many partygoers. “It’s like one big happy reunion every year, a celebration of camaraderie like none other that I’ve ever seen,” says Sanker. “Last year we even had some guys who traveled all the way from Kosovo just to come to the White Party. I was so blown away by that, I gave them VIP passes.”

April 8, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Against All Odds

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Singer Anastacia achieved superstar status in Europe, but only had moderate success in the US with her second album “Freak of Nature." Most people will remember her from the hit tune "Love Is A Crime," which was included on the "Chicago" soundtrack.

Much of Anastacia’s growing momentum in the US stalled when she was diagnosed with breast cancer early 2003. This was another blow for the feisty Chicago-born singer who also suffers from painful Crohn's disease. She was immediately hospitalized for treatment in the spring of last year after taping the video for "Love Is A Crime."

Against all odds, she went back into the studio in September. Together with producers Glen Ballard (Alanis Morisette) and Dallas Austin (Janet Jackson, Gwen Stefani), she recorded her self-titled third record. The result is an uplifting and raw mixture of pop, rock and soul that once again features her larger-than-life vocals. Her new single "Left Outside Alone" is a good sample of what's to come later this spring when the album drops. Her new songs will please fans and surely make many new ones.

Continue to read Arjan's interview with Anastacia in Los Angeles (8/2002)

The success you have in Europe is incredible. Why does America seem to be left behind?
With the overwhelming success that I had overseas last year, it was hard to make a schedule that would allow me to make it work over here. When Europe got hot, we decided to just go with that. It was more like now that fire is hot, let’s put the meat on it! We didn’t plan and figure it out. It just happened.

So there was no strategy to capture Europe first?
Ha! No, really. I wish I could say that, because then we would look really successful!
We thought America would hit first and then we would take it over to Europe. But, oh well, things went differently. Fine with me!

Why do you think Europeans were initially so impressed by your music?
It is not really different than why Americans are appealed to my music right now. If you like my voice, if you like the way I write, if like the the eclectic qualities of my musical choices than you will like my music and become a fan. If you believe that I am believable than you believe in me.

So being genuine is the key to your success?
Absolutely! Once you know yourself and you find your own art and you are comfortable staying in that, I have found that you find your fans, but more importantly they find you. So that is really how it works for me. I refuse to fit myself into a mold wherever music is at that time. I just allow my music to be what it is.

I find that interesting. Are you never pressured by your record label to do things in a certain way to sell more albums?
No. Not at all. I simply would not have taken the job if that would have been the case. Frankly, my record company enjoyed who I was and they believed in my originality from the very beginning.

Listening to your music, it is very clear that originality and individuality are very important values to you…
That’s right. That is based on a lot of negative experiences I had as a person and entertainer. I actually received a lot of discouragement from people. Oftentimes based on my looks. I was different, short, and wore glasses. There was lots of negativity.

Why then did you keep pursuing a singing career?
All the negativity actually turned into something positive for me. The fact that I did not get accepted in the beginning was better for me because it made me understand more of who I am, allowing me to accept myself first and be stronger.

Did it make you a fighter?
It primarily made me understand who I am. See, I did try to follow other directions and other paths, but it just didn’t work. It wasn’t me. Everything that I have been through, whether it is relationships or health, has really made me become the strong person who I am today with a very positive outlook. I am a very optimistic person. When the World Trade Center collapsed, I didn’t think “Oh my God, I need to cancel my tour.” I just went overseas. Everybody cancelled. I don’t get that philosophy. We have to stop working, because there is no World Trade Center? That does not make sense, that is what they want. I can’t live that way and I will always refuse to do so.

Do you often feel like an outsider?
Yeah, and I like to be the one that does not fit in. I am a freak in that sense, but a positive freak of individuality. For example, my glasses were always a burden to me, but now I have turned them into some unique and original that works for me.

Tell me more about your glasses. You are making them a hot fashion item again.
Well, you know I actually like glasses. I have prescription glasses and I just have gotten really creative with the frames. I think I look better with glasses than without. Contacts don’t do it for me. Now that I am famous the glasses have become a trademark, which is kind of cute because they have been so much a part of my life. When they were basically a limb on my body at first, my specs now make me stand out and be original.

Let’s talk about the album a bit. You co-wrote all the songs on ‘Freak of Nature.’ How did you experience that?
It was amazing! I really had no idea how much I really had to express. I had so much to say. What did you think of the record?

I think it is a very tuneful album with a lot of heart & soul. I was surprised by the depth of it if you go beyond some of the dance beats. What is one of your dearest songs on the album?
Let me think. I think ‘Overdue Goodbye’ is probably the most special to me. I had just gotten out of a longterm relationship that was very long-term with a lot of love involved. I was heartbroken when we decided to call it quits. I was so in love with him. It was just better to do that and unfortunately we did not have chance to really say goodbye and come to grips with it.

‘Secrets’ is a song in which you encourage people to share their feelings. What inspired you to write this song?
To me a secret can be very harmful and it can really hold you back from living the life you want. This song was my angelic way of saying to the inner child in all of us that a secret can create walls between us. Can I tell you something?

Sure…
The song ‘How Come the World Won’t Stop,’ is very personal to me as well. It is about the death of R&B star Aalyah, who died in a plane crash last year. That was such a tragic loss. She was so approachable, sweet and kind. She had a unique quality, bringing light to our world, not controversy and drama. Only weeks later the World Trade Center collapsed and that song got an entire new meaning.

I find you actually very spiritual. However, you are most know for your dance hits and people often see you as just another dance diva. Do you have a problem with that?
You know, I am really, really fine with that. I think the beauty of music is that it gives you so many avenues to explore. Remixers add a little of sizzle to my songs. It allows me as an artist to go into an entire new vein, because I didn’t write my songs as dance songs. My songs are simply a form of expression, but if you put a techno beat behind it, bang!, you are launched into the club scene. I think that is pretty cool actually.

Your voice is really a unique quality of your music. Does it take a lot of maintenance? Cups of herbal tea?
Ha, funny you ask. Believe it or not, but I only started to do vocal warm-ups recently for the first time in my life! I am also going to see this amazing doctor in New York that Celine (Dion) told me about. Celine and I have a very similar way of singing and she suggested I see him to learn warm-ups for the voice. When the workload increases, vocalists like Celine and me need to treat our voices like athletes

April 6, 2004 in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

Handsome Hanson

Hanson took the pop scene by storm in 1997 with their deliciously hooky “MmmBop.” Unfortunately, the three brothers from Tulsa, Oklahoma were not able to maintain chart momentum and slowly faded away from radio and music television.

They took a few years off, got married, made babies, got a new haircut and finally broke with their teen past.

The result of their time away is "Underneath," a self-financed pop rock effort that is surprisingly mature and catchy. Their new sound is reminscent of the Goo Goo Dolls' melancholic balladry and Bon Jovi's power pop.

The handsome brothers might not reach the top of the chart ever again, but are still worth a spin.

"Underneath" hits stores on April 20.

April 3, 2004 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)