Signs of the Times – American Idol, 03-08-05

Signs of the Times American Idol 3 March 8

by LauraBelle

I was kind of hoping for guy’s night again tonight for a few reasons. One is that I just prefer the guys’ group performances to the girls’. The other is that I thought my nearly twelve-year-old son could have used hearing Mario sing How Can You Mend A Broken Heart again, as his thirteen-year-old long-distance girlfriend just broke up with him. Maybe one of the girls will sing something to uplift his spirits.

Amanda Avila is up first, and continuing with the signs of the horoscope theme, she is a Gemini, making her indecisive she says. I, also being Gemini, don’t believe I have a problem with indecisiveness. Or maybe I do. I don’t know. Amanda sings the Tina Turner classic River Deep, Mountain High and sounds good to me, but I wasn’t connecting back to Tina Turner. Randy says she did just good on a tough song, and notes it’s hard to do a Tina classic. Paula says it was good, especially since it’s so hard to follow Tina. Simon agrees with Randy and says she looked great. Narcissistic Randy wants to affirm that Simon agreed with him. Yes Randy, move along.

Libra Janay Castine says she is romantic, being she is a Libra, but I don’t feel that comes out in her music, and just as I think that, she starts singing Dreaming of You. Nope, not what my son needs to hear. It looks to me like she is trying to look older than she is again, and if you look up pitchy in the dictionary, there’s a picture of doe-eyed Janay in her white suit. Randy, Paula and Simon are in agreement; it was pitchy. Paula begs for votes for her (she’ll need them) and Simon reads her horoscope telling her to pack her bags and get ready for plane travel.

Carrie Underwood says she is a Pisces and likes to fish, but she doesn’t use live bait and throws back her catch. She sings Because You Love Me and when she was sitting in the Red Room earlier, I thought this country girl was just wearing a bikini top, but it turns out there’s a flirty peach-colored fabric attached at the bottom. Randy says although this was not one of her best performances, he still feels she’s one of the best on the show. Paula and Simon agree, with Paula saying she needs to get back to being happy-go-lucky and Simon saying she’s too old-fashioned, which Carrie readily admits to.

Pisces Vonzell Solomon says she is imaginative and when younger, used to imagine being in Jamaica. She sings Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and to me, this qualifies as a song previously done by a former American Idol that shouldn’t be done again. Can’t top Kelly Clarkson, in my book. Randy declares her back and having fun, Paula says she’s great because she takes risks, and Simon quips all she was missing was the cow and “lassoo” to go with her cowboy hat and boots. She says her daddy bought her the hat and boots, so she wanted to wear it. Paula and Randy then make fun of British Simon saying lassoo and not lasso.

I missed Nadia Turner saying what sign she is, but she says she is eccentric and a go-getter, and proves it singing Try A Little Tenderness. She is incredible with this. Randy explains he is laughing because he loves watching her. At first he thought oh no, Otis (Redding), but he has to admit she rocked it. Paula says she has the knack of picking the right song for her, and Simon says she’s amazing like a young Tina Turner. After, Nadia admits she never heard this song before she started working on it four days ago.

Lindsay Cardinale says being an Aquarius, she’s supposed to be unemotional, but crying over those voted out every week, she’s obviously not that. She sings Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing, and I agree with Randy that she does awiight. Paula says she’s a fan of Lindsay’s sultry voice, but not her song choices. I agree with that too. Simon calls her the musical equivalent of Ryan Seacrest, being that she looks the part, does everything right, but you’re still disappointed with the performance. Ryan gets mad at this, and the two have a water fight.

Mikalah Gordon says that Capricorns are supposed to like getting attention, so that obviously isn’t her. Ha! She sings Somewhere, making the judges recall Barbra Streisand, but I recall the version from West Side Story. Perhaps this is the song for my son and his star-crossed lover, since the girlfriend’s mom is the one that made them break up. The key sounded just a little too low for her to me. Randy calls it a little shaky and pitchy, but he loves that she takes risks. Paula says just like last week, she pulled through. Simon is puzzled as when they first met Mikalah she was very cool, but she now seems to have gone through an aging machine. Well, you liked it last week, Simon!

Jessica Sierra believes she is passionate like the Scorpio she is. She sings a song she did in the Hollywood rounds, but it sounds much better with musical accompaniment. Randy calls it hot, and loves the blues-y, soul-y, rock-y sound. Randy also tells her that once again she’s one of the best of the night. Paula seconds that, saying she’d found her niche. Simon says due to her outfit, she couldn’t have picked a better song. Perhaps he is referring to her ample cleavage, and the fact she could have gone by the moniker Chesty LaRue.

Okay, it was a better night than I was expecting, but still I would rather lose one guy and three girls than two and two. And after all this, my son didn’t even watch with me. He was busy commiserating with his buddies on the phone. By the end of the evening he said he feels he and his ex were more meant to be just friends. All’s well that ends well, but there are two guys and two girls that won’t be saying that tomorrow night.

I welcome all questions and comments at

Shoe Shines, Shopping and Schlepping – The Amazing Race 7, Episode 2

Shoe Shines, Shopping and Schlepping – The Amazing Race 7 Episode 2

by LauraBelle

This wasn’t the most exciting episode I have watched of The Amazing Race. This group of teams doesn’t seem to have the great sound bytes the past two seasons had, and the challenges were less than thrilling. We watched as they shined shoes, and later made a choice between shopping and stocking bookshelves. Without the cunningness of Rob, and the fact that I finally figured out that the redhead was Debbie and not Bianca, we would have nothing to show for the evening.

The ten remaining teams are set to take off from Cuzco, Peru. First to leave at 10:54 PM in a downpour are Debbie and Bianca. They know they aren’t the most physical, but feel one of their strengths will be their mental game. The first clue tonight sends them to the bus terminal to catch a bus to Arequipa, Peru. The bus station doesn’t open until 5:30 AM, and the first bus isn’t until 6:20, so they have a wait before them.

Next to leave are mother/son team, Susan and Patrick, who believe they are much smarter than people give them credit for. Not exactly a good thing to admit out loud, guys. Rob and Amber leave shortly after, and Amber readily admits Rob is the smarter of the two. At least she admits it.

At the bus station Rob gets insider information from a security guard that the first bus to leave is the last to arrive. He pays him not to share the info with anyone else, but decides he himself will share it with Uchenna and Joyce and Ray and Deana.

Brian and Gregg and Lynn and Alex leave next, with Alex saying they want to show the edgy side and maybe a little butch as well to their personalities. Leaving next are Meredith and Gretchen, with Gretchen saying they work well together even though she is very emotional. They are followed in order by Ray and Deana, Uchenna and Joyce, Megan and Heidi, and Ron and Kelly.

At the station, Alex is miffed because the security guard tells him he can’t help. Apparently Rob looks like the cat that ate the canary, and everyone realizes Rob has paid the security guard. He says he didn’t do that, and is accused of being a liar. It’s brought up that Megan and Heidi lied last time while digging in the sand for flight times, but everyone feels this is different. Someone quips that it’s a good thing people don’t get voted off this show, and Rob winks at the camera.

Gretchen calls the ten-hour bus ride beautiful, with all teams now on the same bus. Brian and Meredith find they have sparks with each other. Rob collects money from Uchenna and Joyce and Ray and Deana and pays the driver to only open the door in front at the stop. What the others don’t know is he didn’t bother to chip in himself.

At the Shoe Shine Union in Arequipa, the clue asks, “Who likes shoes?” As a Road Block, one person from each team must shine five pairs of shoes for one Peruvian sole for each finished shine and turn the earnings in to receive the next clue. The first five done receive tickets for the first flight to Santiago, Chile where they will then find the statue of the Virgin Mary.

Amber, Ray, Ron, Uchenna, Lynn, Megan, Susan, Debbie, Gretchen and Brian all participate in this Road Block. The only amusing thing that takes place during this is that Gretchen can’t seem to shine the shoes without getting black shoe polish all over the socks at the same time. Ron and Kelly, Ray and Deana, Rob and Amber, Susan and Patrick, and Meredith and Gretchen are the first five teams dome, and will get the first flight to Santiago. Megan and Heidi, Uchenna and Joyce, Debbie and Bianca, Brian and Gregg, and Lynn and Alex are the last five and will be on the second flight. There’s nothing more to say about it. It was THAT exciting.

At the top of the Statue of the Virgin Mary, they find a Detour, saying they must choose between Shop and Schlep. For Shop, the teams will need to travel to a restaurant to get a recipe, buy the ingredients at the market and deliver them to a chef. In Schlep, they need to go to a bookstore, load up 180 books, and deliver them to the Library of Congress. Wow, a little too much excitement for me.

Susan and Patrick run into trouble when they don’t have enough cash to get to the top of the statue. They have to go out and borrow money from tourists just to continue. It has to be noted here that Patrick thought he could easily outsmart Rob. Rob tricked others into offering money to bribe the bus driver and currently is in first place at the challenge, and Patrick is borrowing money just to continue. Hmmm.

Rob and Amber arrive at the bookstore first. Rob, working in construction previously, knows how to stack and balance the books on the dolly to only take one trip. All the other teams that choose Schlep; Ron and Kelly, Ray and Deana, Debbie and Bianca, Brian and Gregg; take two trips. Kelly believes this is a mistake, but Ron won’t listen to her.

Uchenna and Joyce, Lynn and Alex, Meredith and Gretchen, Megan and Heidi, and Susan and Patrick all decide to shop. Gretchen is upset because it smells like fish in there, and is then shocked to find they need to pay for these ingredients. They have no more money, and the man selling the fish eventually decides to donate it.

Susan and Patrick run out of money again and realize this is why the others chose the books, as now they have to beg for money again to move on. Right, but Rob is the dumb one. Patrick eventually sells a flower for the money to buy the fish.

The fish needed for the recipe needs to be exactly three kilograms. First Lynn is grossed out, not wanting to hold the fish (as would I, Lynn!), then the fish they grab falls just short of three kilograms, and they run back to the market and complain that they cheated them out on the size of the fish. When the merchants refuse to accept blame, Lynn and Alex call them “bitches” and storm off. Eventually they get a better-sized fish somewhere else.

At Cerra Santa Lucia, the statue of Neptune, the teams will find the second pit stop of the race. Coming in first are Rob and Amber. They win a trip from Travelocity. I wonder what happened to American Airlines sponsoring this. Ron and Kelly, Ray and Deana, Uchenna and Joyce, Lynn and Alex, Debbie and Bianca, Meredith and Gretchen, and Susan and Patrick come in second through eighth place. The last two teams, Brian and Gregg and Megan and Heidi are stuck in traffic. Brian and Gregg finally abandon their cab and run in instead. The come in in ninth place. Coming in just moments after are Megan and Heidi, and they are eliminated, saying they are proud they never gave up. I never did figure out which was which.

Let’s review, shall we? Last week Patrick said he’d watched Survivor and Rob was “dumb as a rock,” causing Patrick to make it his mission to eliminate Rob and Amber form the race. Currently Rob and Amber are in the lead, and Susan and Patrick are in eighth after running out of money twice. Hmm.

I welcome all questions and comments at

John Stinks!: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy Episode 3.8

John Stinks – Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

–Christina M. Rau/GatsbyGirl

The Fab Five do the SUV scurry. The guy this week is John, who Ted calls a frat boy. Kyan says he has BDJ—bad dye job. Already he’s started in with the hair without even meeting the guy. John is a workaholic and has an online friend Emily coming to stay at his place. He’s also a recently promoted manager of the minor league baseball team in Staten Island. He needs to clean up for his job and a party. Ted suggests the mission is to take John from minor league loser to major league manager. Carson ups the ante and says, “Major league schmoozer!” Hooray.

Credits. Is Thom talking to Pier 1 on that cell phone?

And the boys invade the frat house. Carson calls out, “The Staten Island fairies are here!” John is a skinny All-American boy with a receding bleached hairline and a dirty baseball cap that covers the nasty blonde color. And I don’t quite understand the Hawaiian shirt and its relationship to his baseball job.

The guys corner John, and Carson unbuttons and removes John’s Hawaiian shirt. All the while, Ted asks in disbelief, “Are you really wearing that shirt?” They toss it out the window, which is the Queer Eye way to get rid of tacky things.

Now he’s left in a wife-beater, some gold man-jewelry around his neck, and his ugly hair, which the guys liken to plastic. Kyan’s reaction: “Holy Moley. Omigod!” John claims that someone told him it looked good. You should stop being friends with that person, John.

His place is NASTY. Your basic graying white walls but not your basic crap. It’s advanced crap. Piles of it. And not just dust bunnies. There are dust ducks and bears as well. A whole forest-ful of woodland dust creatures. Mismatched furniture abounds, including a fold-up metal Yankees chair. Oh, don’t be that guy, John. Thom says “the city would shut this down like a bad ferris wheel.” Heeheehee! Then Ted shows Thom that John has a Mexican blanket hanging on the wall to cover up a huge hole. Ted calls it “innovative decorative techniques.” Heeheehee!

Carson comes in from the bedroom closet all perplexed and asks John, “How do you explain this?!” while holding up a jersey that has Gay written across the back. John laughs uncomfortably as Kyan nods along with Carson, pondering John’s sexuality. Heehee. I love making straight-semi-homophobic men uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, Jai walks into the bedroom and ew ew oh oh ews.

Kyan and Carson are now scruffling up John’s hair. Kyan asks where the bleach is so he can make John’s back hair match the awful color on his head. Ha!

Pan over to the garbage pail that’s overflowing. It’s surrounded by bags and bags of garbage. Ted says that he hasn’t thrown out garbage “in like six years.” Ha. It must really stink in there. And are you supposed to put light bulbs in the regular garbage? I thought you couldn’t because of chemicals and the glass factor. But, believe it or not, I’ve been wrong before.

Jai comes in, suppressing panic-mode. He tells Ted that this is probably the worst straight-guy house he’s ever been in. Ted agrees.

Carson and Thom take John into the bedroom. Carson’s description: “It says romance but it smells like ass.” Heeheeheeeeee! This, by far, is the funniest episode all season.

Cut to Jai jumping and sprinting up and down in the living room. He chants, “I don’t like it here!” Heeheeheeeee! I don’t think Jai has ever been more endearing or amusing until this very moment. He is so skeeved.

The guys look at old pics of John. He actually looks really good in them. They tell him that he looks better with dark hair. I agree with them on that one. He reveals that he thought blonde would make the receding hairline seem less receding. Kyan, hair extraordinaire, guffaws and says no no no.

Over in the bathroom, Ted is pondering the existence of a rotten banana. “This shouldn’t be near the toilet.” He scrunches up his face. Jai does the same. Ted says, “It belongs IN the toilet” and he tosses it in. So gross.

Now John is wearing a red, short-sleeved button down with Hawaiian imagery on the front of it. He’s in the closet with Carson (sorry, I just can’t resist these closet puns). Ted appears with a huge gold ring thing hanging around his neck. Carson and Ted tell John that it’s as if Ted and John are going steady. Then Ted kneels, grabs John’s hand, and presses his head into John’s side, all lovey-dovey like. John skeeves, “Oh God no.” He’s so uncomfortable.

In another closet, Kyan dons a dinosaur-like mask. It’s scary and unnecessary.

Meanwhile, Thom is flipping out because his bare foot touched the carpet. Why he took his shoes off in the first place, I have no clue. But he’s hopping around as Jai did before, but he’s not chanting. He’s just bitter and pissed that his foot is now sticky. Ew.

Back over in the bedroom, Carson sits on John. John stands up to push Carson off his lap. Carson says, “You’re gonna hurt mother that way!” John sits back down, unimpressed.

Kyan asks Ted if John is giving “closed off body language.” Ted says yes, and he’s giving Carson the same thing “which is understandable.” I love how they all talk about Carson behind his back and he so knows that they do so it’s okay. They decide that John “has got some issues with the gays.” Ha!

John explains that he does on-field promotion at the games and he wears the Hawaiian shirts to get the crowd going. Yup, they’re a crowd pleaser.

Cut to Ted among the muck, calling John “The straightest guy who ever lived.”

And onto John’s feet. They stink really badly. Carson says they’re the worst he’s ever smelled and dumps a bottle of baby powder over the shoes. Next they make Jai smell the shoes and he literally swoons. Next up is Ted who says, “That’s not even human!” John explains that it only happens when he sweats and not when he wears sandals. Carson yells, “Sandals it is!”

Kyan confronts John in the bathroom and asks why he skeeves when they touch him. John says it’s not a gay thing. It’s a touch thing. He prefers not to be touched by anyone. So he’s a touch-phobe. Then Kyan asks about his online girlfriend and John yells, “She’s not an online girlfriend!” because he’s twelve and girls have cooties. He tells Kyan he’s known Emily for four years and therefore, she will sleep in his bed. His stinky bed. Carson says she’s 20 and impressionable and “she’s going to think everyone in New York lives like this!” The horror.

John then randomly confesses that he doesn’t treat his back well. He’s thrown it out a bunch of times. Relevance?

In the kitchen, Ted weeps over a fermented bottle of White Zin.

Over in the living room, Thom tells John that the house is “vile.” That’s one of my most favorite words ever. John says he doesn’t spend a lot of time in the house except to party so he doesn’t take care of it. Yet, one of his favorite things to read is Ultra Modern and Clean. Cut to Ted yelling for a shovel instead of a vacuum to clean the not-so-ultra-modern-or-clean frat house.

Jai then tells John that he has no method to his madness. He needs to take charge of the roommates and delegate chores to clean.

John does his on-field crowd rousing announcement for the FF. They love it. He’s really good at it. Too bad he smells. Ted then starts in on him about his food situation. It’s all fast food and convenience. Again, he’s not home much and that’s why. Ted asks if he has anything planned for Emily. John answers, “I’m not a big planner.” No! Then he mumble-laughs, “God, I need help.”

Elsewhere, Carson climbs into a laundry bag. With the dirty clothes. Ew. Seconds later he complains that he can’t breathe. Wonder why.

John’s sister interviews that his hair “doesn’t work” and “no one looks good in a Hawaiian shirt.” Smart woman.

In the SUV, Carson admits that they’ve been hard on him and he agrees. Thom pipes up, “Your house is disgusting!” Heehee. Rub it in.

They arrive at Nautica which offers a good color scheme because it’s all American, and has good fabrics for a dirty boy who is laundry-challenged and stain-prone. Carson says that the knit shirt is good for business casual. Knits come in three levels of class; from lowest to highest, they are pique, interlock, and jacard. And all are stain-resistant. Stains won’t penetrate. Carson says, “Sometimes penetration is bad.” Hee.

He puts John in medium shirts and John is shocked to learn that he shouldn’t wear extra-large shirts if mediums fit. Carson then explains that John’s feet stink because they’re squished into tiny shoes that make him sweat. Moral of the story: wear the proper size.

John moves on to a furniture store named NKYPLZK or something like that. Thom reiterates the whole disgusting, hideous, affordable house thing. He says that this store will be hip and affordable, which is a much better alternative. They start with a lamp that’s a person’s body with a lampshade-hat thing. They move on to a wooden wall unit. John likes the whole look, especially the colorful plates. Thom smiles and exclaims, “You’re getting it!”

Thom then insists on buying him a book about Turkish wrestlers. John thinks that Thom may find that more enjoyable for himself.

They move on to pillows. Then they need to find something for Emily. John says she’s punk. Thom is surprised but they find something punk.

Thom then sends John off to Ted, taking the opportunity to take a cheap shot at Ted by calling him old. For no reason other than to take a cheap shot.

Ted takes John to the Gourmet Garage, which is where he shops for his own food. The GG has pre-made, fresh meals. They look at soup which is freezable and travelable. Then they discuss organic beer—it really does exist. Cheese—it smells better than John’s feet. Sauces. And finally, Ted reveals that John will be making bruschetta. John says Emily will like it because she’s part Italian.

Over to Jai at Details because John has pubic hair soap and that’s never good for a houseguest. They sniff around the scented candles. Jai asks, “How do you want your bedroom to smell?” Without a beat, John says, “Good.” Ha! They decide on a rosemary sage scent. Jai inquires about the towel situation. John says that his towels are falling apart. Jai explains, “That’s when they become rags.” Heeheehee. I so love Jai this episode.

John meets up with Kyan at RoJo Salon, where Kyan used to work. And he got fired for Haircut OCD. No, I’m making up the firing part, but I had you going for a second, right? Kyan exclaims, “I can’t believe you ever thought your hair looked good. Let me tell you what’s wrong with it.” Hair arrogance. He tells John that the shape is a mushroom and that he has too much contrast between the black roots and bleached top. True, but still condescending.

This job isn’t for any colorist. It requires a master colorist because John needs color correction, which is really complicated. Enter the Master. John tells Kyan that Emily doesn’t like blonde hair anyway. Kyan says, “I’m getting you laid as we speak!” Then he says “dude” some more because it’s now Kyan’s favorite word. For fun, count the number of times he says it in an episode!

The Master finishes. Then he gets a cut. And, it’s a miracle. He looks like a person. A good-looking person. So much better. Kyan says that John’s original hair was much more gay than it is now. Heehee.

John’s roommate interviews that any change will be positive.

In the SUV back home, the Fab Five say that John’s feet still smell but the rest of him is clean. John says his boss will be happy.

At the house, Thom yells for John to wash his feet before he enters. Then, “Unbelievable!” Seriously, Thom is a magician. The living room is actually a living room. He installed a cranberry banquet around the entire room to seat about thirty people for John’s parties. There’s also a stainless steel keginator in the room, which is a refrigerator with a keg inside. High-tech frat boy. On the coffee table? Turkish wrestlers. On the floor are brown and orange industrial carpets. The walls are butternut squash and sage.

The next room Thom calls the bar slash kitchen. There’s a stainless steel bar and black walls that are actually a chalkboard. The entire room is a chalkboard! Cool.

The bedroom has bamboo wallpaper and brown bedding. And it’s all clean. CLEAN. It’s amazing what cleaning can do.

Over in the kitchen, Ted is talking about bruschetta. Garlic, toasted bread, olive oil, sea salt, artichokes cannolini beans, and pesto. John can’t believe it’s so easy. Ted suggests he make it for the boys at game time as well. I think they’d prefer the chips.

Ted then introduces him to Big House Red and White wine. It has a screw cap! Corks aren’t high tech. John says that he won’t be seen as cheap, but he’ll be ahead of the times. Ted says, “You can still be cheap but it won’t be because of the wine.” Heehee.

Carson then tells John to send out his laundry because he’ll never do it in a timely fashion. He separates the dirty clothes into three hampers: dark, light, and dry clean. Hey, I do the same thing. Carson and I have something in common after all. He tells John to pre-treat all the stains. There’s that nasty penetration thing again.

Fashion show! Carson took John’s Yankee t-shirt and used sandpaper and bleach to distress it. Then Carson demonstrates so he can cop a feel on John’s chest. He pairs the shirt with a seer sucker blazer, flat front khakis, and a belt made from a tie with sports stuff on it.

Outfit 2: muted Hawaiian shirt with khaki shorts.

Outfit 3: shorts, blue-striped knit shirt, and slide sandals. The Fab Five clap for ventilated shoes.

Jai takes John into the kitchen to show him a chore calendar on the wall. John needs to delegate the chores to his roommates and have them stick to the schedule. Then Jai gives John a laptop and a bag for Emily that has water, chocolate, and Time Out Magazine. He calls it “everything a girl needs to feel comfortable.” Jai is obviously not the expert on female comfort. He forgot the tampons and the my-ass-looks-fabulous jeans.

Kyan enters and says, “I’m in my underwear.” And he’s in his underwear. What the? He tells John that he’s had back trouble, too. So he has John roll around on the floor to stretch and do crunches. Then Kyan shows him a big surprise in the bedroom. Kyan enters and says, “I’m naked” and he is and he attacks John which is John’s worst nightmare come true. No, I lie. The surprise is a new mattress that molds to the body.

In the living room, John toasts to each guy individually. Then he gives Carson a kiss on the cheek and everyone cheers. John is no longer a homophobe or a touch-phobe. He says, “I feel like I’m home now.” Aw. They chant “let’s go Yankees.”

Hip Tip: Season your grill with veggie oil. Recycled, Ted. We’ve seen that tip before.

John’s brother interviews that John wants a relationship.

Over on the Critic Couch, the Fab Five sing “take us out to the ballgame” to the beat of their own drummer. Carson says that John’s stench is still beneath his fingernails. That’s very gross.

John gets ready in the bathroom and the FF comment that he is quite fuzzy. Kyan says, “I could only do so much in one day!” Corrective color, foot odor, back remedies. Kyan had his work cut out for him. Then Ted calls John “a creative shaver” as he shaves diagonally against the grain. Ouch. He puts on stone khakis and a Yankee t-shirt.

While making bruschetta, the doorbell rings. Enter Emily under really large luggage. She has short black hair, fair skin, and is wearing jeans and a white jacket. They hug. She calls the place “geometric” and scoffs at the keg fridge. John gives her the gift bag from Details and goes to finish the bruschetta. Emily makes faces.

Kyan becomes my grandmother when he yells, “I didn’t hear a thank you from her.” She smacks her gum and grimaces. Jai yells at her sneering.

In the kitchen, Emily tells John that he’s not really cooking. John calls it “Cooking for Dummies.” Ted sneers, “Why don’t you whip up some stroganoff then?” Thom is impressed that John rolls off all Emily’s negativity with a positive and says, “Her laugh drives me nuts.”

Emily tastes the bruschetta and Ted braces himself. She calls it “toast with stuff on it.” Ted says, “John just wants to sleep with her anyway.” Low blow! I love it!

Then Emily finds the Turkish wrestling book. She’s perplexed. She thinks John might have a little fairy in him. Thom yells, “I’m sorry John! It was a joke.”

John gets ready for the party. He tries on some sunglasses. Emily doesn’t like them. A thousand pairs later, Emily approves.

They move to the big game. John comes into the party with mascot cows in tow. Everyone hugs him. The boss runs his fingers through John’s hair. John hugs some more people. Wow, that “I don’t like touch” thing disappeared. Thom says that John is smart by not introducing Emily to anyone. Ha! He calls her “little Mary sunshine in the corner.” Heehee.

Then there’s another bickering moment about how making bruschetta isn’t really cooking. The FF want John to leave with another woman.

Outside, the rain is pouring. The boss tells John to make an announcement that the game is cancelled. Thom says he should start the announcement, “Ladies and Gentlemen: I have good news and I have Emily.” HA! Now that’s comedy! John makes the game is cancelled announcement and adds a thanks to the Fab Five.

John then pulls Emily aside to give her a gift. Kyan says that if she doesn’t react correctly, he should throw her off the balcony. She jokes, “If you’re proposing, the answer is no.” John instead gives her earrings. She likes them and thanks him more than once. Carson gives her two brownie points for being gracious.

They are impressed with how charismatic John is around a crowd and they toast to a home run.

This week’s tips:

Kyan says jumping rope is good for you and you should steal jump ropes from children.

Jai says to treat friends’ homes like your own homes and leave gifts behind.

Carson says use erasers to unstick sticky zippers.

Thom says use a brazil nut to fill in scratches in wooden tables.

Ted says that a screw-capped wine can be stored any which way. But loose.

A major case of foot odor and a minor case of homophobia cured all within a queer-filled hour!

Email me: Is making bruschetta really cooking?

Face it

Face It Growing Up Gotti Season 2 Episode 9

by Mrs. Agnello

The first scene is in the Gotti’s kitchen where they are all having dinner. Victoria starts by saying that John wants to be a boxer. Wow! She says that John is too vain and he would be upset if he bruised his face. John says that’s not true and mentions that when he was five years old he broke his nose. I have to say Victoria sounds a little over protective but I could understand because it’s her baby!

After dinner Victoria shows Robert a video of when she was on Passions a few months earlier. She tells him that her agent has been nagging her about an Off-Broadway show and she’s not sure if she should do it or not.

Robert, who has cornrolls by the way, tells her that she should at least do the audition. She agrees to do it.

Uncle Pete takes John to a boxing match so John can see how it is done. John watches in fascination as two guys clobber the heck out of each other. Uncle Pete tells him that if he wants to be a boxer he can’t have one ounce of fat on him. In other words he has to get in shape.

Following Victoria to her audition for an Off-Broadway show called “Bertey’s Bachelorette Party”. She and Robert arrive and Robert mentions that the place looks like a strip club. I have to say, it did look kind of like a night club or something. One woman explains to Victoria what the show is about and some of the things she would have to do, one of the things she has to do is get picked up by a group of overly-masculine men. They ask Robert to do it first so they would make sure its safe.

The Choreographer asks Victoria to give him her version of a “sexy” walk and she is a little bit shy but struts her stuff as the guys in the back cheer. After they leave this audition Victoria looks like she’s not feeling it too much and says she’s not sure if she auditioned or Robert.

Well, Uncle Pete takes John to the ring for the first time to practice. Before they enter Uncle Pete reminds John that these people don’t care about their last name and that’s the way it should be. Meanwhile, John looked incredible in a gray “SHADY” hoodie. They walked in and John got to meet the owner (I guess) of the place and get a feel for it.

He got in the ring and was taught how to properly punch. I can’t believe they would just throw him inside the ring with no prior conditioning or practice. But he got to practice somewhat. The guy asked him if he dances and he said yes, mostly hip hop. The guy then asked him if he can waltz and he says no. I can understand why he would be asking this since you know what they say: A man that can fight is a man that can dance, and a man that can dance is a man that can… well, never mind, maybe it’s just those two things they say.

After John gets home that day Victoria and Robert have a talk with him about how it went. John says he likes it, but Victoria keeps saying constantly that she is afraid he will mess up his beautiful face, it is something that I also fear. Robert adds that John does look like a boxer, which is not something a mother would like to hear. I have to agree, especially with that hoodie on! Victoria is just hoping that something will happen so he wouldn’t want to do it anymore.

The next day, John and some of his buddies go to the gym to work out. Looks like he’s really serious about it. After working out somewhat they notice an aerobics class going on next to them. One of John’s friends suggests that maybe they should do that. John tells him that those classes are for advanced people. They don’t believe it so they decide to join them. After a while they look tired and the guy who is leading the class tells them they should do cardio more often. I agree, it’s a great way to burn fat.

Victoria has one more audition with a different Off-Broadway show called “We’re still hot”. She is greeted by a whole bunch of people that work there and is asked if she would like to act, sing, or dance first. She looks a little hesitant and says acting first.

She seemed really confident reading those lines and looked like she knew what she was doing. After that she went to the singing part and I have to say I was pretty impressed, she can sing! I think they were happy with it and offered her the part. She hadn’t accepted yet and decided she will think about it.

It is the highlight of the episode, John’s boxing debut! I was excited to see how he would do. He arrives there before his opponent and gets changed. He looked so cute! We see his opponent arrive and get changed, that guy looked a lot more experienced than John so I was a little worried.

During the match he did pretty well. He got some good punches in there and I think he could have a good future in boxing. One thing he did mention was that he was tired and that could be because he’s not breathing correctly while he’s fighting (I have the same problem).

Meanwhile, back at the house Robert tells Victoria that the people from “We’re still hot” need to know if she is going to accept the role or not. She says that she’s not sure at first and then agrees to do it.

John’s boxing debut was a hit and so was Victoria’s Off-Broadway audition. John still has his beautiful face and Victoria is going to show hers off on stage. All is well in the Gotti household, at least for now.

Disclaimer: Mrs.Agnello is just a writing name, but I hope one day it will be my real last name.

Random Acts of Courage, The Contender, Episode 1

Random Acts of Courage

by carpesomediem

When I first heard Sylvester Stallone was backing and hosting The Contender, I laughed. Seriously, come on now, wouldn’t you laugh, too? Stallone played Rocky, he isn’t Rocky. He’s not even a professional boxer, his training limited to what he learned on-the-set of the film and probably the bar brawls he gets in when he goes down to the pub for a drink and the other drinkers who just want to take on “Rocky.”

So, how then, does Sly get off thinking he has the right to be leading boxers into the big show? Ask Mark Burnett, multi-talented brainchild behind The Contender, whose franchise success with Survivor has practically made him the modern creator of reality television; if he’s backing The Contender, surely, he must believe it’s a hit!

Guess what? It’s a hit. Even I’m convinced, and I’m pretty damn cynical when it comes to reality television.

“Random Acts of Courage” began with an overture by Sylvester Stallone and the contenders themselves. Stallone says, “Life is a fight. Everyone gets knocked down. What matters is how fast you get up. This is what this story’s about.” He calls the 16 contenders heroes, whose stories are universal. The contenders are there for one goal, one purpose, to fight live at Caesar’s Palace for $1 million and the chance to break into the big time.

To the song “Iris,” by the Goo Goo Dolls, the candidates are introduced, their stories are told.

Jimmy, Jeff, Juan, Peter, Najai, Brent, Ahmed, Jonathan, Jesse, Sergio, Anthony, Ishe, Alfonso, Miguel, Tarick and Joey come together from all walks of life. The youngest contender just turned 18 years old, one is a European champion who wants to make it big in America, and another is ranked third in the world in the middle-weight division. All of them have families, some have children, most married, others religious; all walks of life are represented by these 16 men who, as Stallone points out, “Welcome you all to an opportunity of a lifetime,” when he comes out to great them at their Southern Californian training ground.

The gym is state of the art, and the contenders all enter – after saying goodbye to their families who have been relocated to Downtown Los Angeles to be there for every step of the show – to wait for the beginning to finally start.

Stallone explains to them how the competition will work. They will be fighting at the middle-weight division (158 lbs.). Each week two will fight, the winner stays and the loser goes home. As Leonard said, “You win, this goes on your record, you lose this goes on your record.” They are then divided, predictably, into a West Coast team and an East Coast team.

The West Coast team consists of Alfonso, Anthony, Joey, Jesse, Ishe, Miguel, Sergio and Tarick; The East Coast team consists of Ahmed, Brent, Jeff, Jimmy, Jonathan, Juan, Najai and Peter. (I found this division to be kind of corny, but in the end, it proved to be valuable, considering both teams seem to be pretty evenly spread. Only time will tell though…)

They are then introduced to Jackie Kallen and Tommy Gallagher; the first a world champion representing manager and the latter a world class trainer who has trained the finest in boxing. Both are at the contenders disposals, where they can talk to about their problems and seek advice. Both Stallone and Leonard stressed to talk to them, learn from there and be better for it.

After the introductions were done, Gallagher gave them a tour of their new home for the duration of their stay. Now, let me tell you, if I could live where these boxers were living when they were just getting a shot, I’d go on The Contender any day. This is Hollywood chic at its finest; it’s very much a modern shindig. Paintings hang from the walls in a large spacious loft-style apartment. There will be two guys per room, East and West separated. “Just treat this as your shot,” Gallagher tells them when he leaves them to settle into their home.

We find out, next, that Alfonso and Ishe – who now share a room – have fought previously. They’d never said two words to one another until then, when they began sharing pictures of their family and talking about their experiences. Other boxers share pictures of their children and families while settling in. Anthony perhaps sums up the attitude each contender needs to have while making friends on the show, and it made me chuckle when he said it, “I can make friends with these guys, but when the time comes to go in their and kick their butts, I can do that.”

There first day of the competition starts with a workout. Each does their individual thing. Punching bags, sparring, jumping rope… its one big melee of everyone being able to see the others train. They can learn their strengths and weaknesses to better use that against them in the ring. However, it’s easy to see from the beginning who is going to be painted as “the bad guy” of the show.

Ishe begins egging on Ahmed while he’s sparring in the ring. He’s upstairs yelling at him as he fights; after the sparring match, Ahmed begins – angrily, I might add – yelling back at him. The whole time, Ishe admits he is just playing psychological games with him, because that’s how he fights. He gets into every corner and crevice of their style to tear them apart. Gallagher tries to calm Ahmed down, telling him not to let Ishe get to him, because we later finds out that Tommy thinks Ahmed could be the best fighter among them with a bit of work.

Ok, up to now, there hadn’t been a commercial break, and let me tell you something, the hype for this show annoys me to no avail. Let the show speak for itself, trust me, this one’s a winner. NBC has interplayed previews to the next segment of the show during commercial breaks. I hope this doesn’t become a weekly occurrence, or else I’m taping it every week, and skipping the segment previews.

We come back to seeing some of the boxers, like Peter, visiting their families while the others eat dinner. Stallone and Leonard come to see them all and see how they’re settling in and immediately the patronage begins! (I’m sorry, I’m no Sly Stallone fan, at all, and these guys kissing his ass just makes me sick!) “They’re film critics. I didn’t know you guys were so talented,” he jibes. Jesse brought up arm wrestling and Sly started pulling his leg by saying he once arm wrestled a guy who drank motor oil and swallowed a cigarette before each match. When Leonard and Stallone leave, they laugh at the gullibility of some of the contenders.

On to the next day, challenge day, for the teams. Under the view of the Hollywood sign, the teams will compete for the right to choose who from their team will box their choice of fighter for the other team in the weekly match. “Nobody has ever given boxers a choice of who they fight,” Stallone tells them, now this is their choice.

Basically, each team has to run on mile up to the top of the Hollywood sign. On the way to the finish line, there are three logs they have to carry with them – the first log they just pick up, the second log they have to untie, and the third log they have to unlock by remembering combinations on highway signs on the path – and the first team with all three logs that crosses the finish line wins. Leonard explains that this challenge is to test their teamwork and ability to concentrate when exhausted in the final round of a fight. “Champions never show signs of quitting,” he reminds them.

And the race begins… West Coast gets ahead early, Ishe leads way above them. Brent beats Ishe to next log, begins untying the log. Some stand around while others work. Ahmed beats everyone to the next log. Both teams begin to walk, tired. Gallagher reminds them to remember the combinations; nobody seems to be paying attention that they need to do that, especially the leaders. East Coast makes it to the last log first; West Coast switches around who’s holding their two logs. Ishe beats Ahmed to unlocking the log, because Ahmed didn’t just forget the combination, he failed to even care about it. East Coast makes it to the final log, Ahmed admits he doesn’t know the numbers, and team member unlocks the combination. West Coast begins walking up the hill, then to a steady jog while East Coast is still trying to catch up. West Coast wins by pulling up their flag first; East Coast is defeated. “You tried, you lost,” Stallone says, “You’re at West’s mercy.”

West Coast comes up with a strategy in the locker room when deciding who is going to fight; they believe by having the least experienced boxer from each time fight, they will weed out the easy targets. At first, they decide that Jeff – the smallest guy in the competition – from the East will face their very own Joey. When Alfonso noted how nervous Joey seemed, he stepped up and said he wanted to fight undefeated (21-0) Peter Manfrado, Jr. While most of the West Coast team doesn’t think this is the best strategy, because Alfonso is clearly the underdog, they let him go for it to prove himself.

Meanwhile, the East Coast is in their locker room discusses why they failed. They all agreed that Ahmed was at fault for getting so far ahead in the mile without memorizing the combination for the final log. What he was thinking, I will never know, because if it wasn’t for him, they would’ve won because of how far ahead they were overall. Peter, however, stresses, “Everything we do here is about learning about something in the ring.”

From here, they go to the gym and West Coast chooses their match. It’ll be Alfonso Gomez versus Peter Manfrado, Jr., which takes everyone – most notably Sly Stallone – by surprise. “No doubt in my mind I can beat him,” Gomez says. “I think he has a lot of heart,” Manfrado, Jr. said of his competition. The gentlemen toed the line, an old boxing tradition we’re reminded of by Stallone’s words.

Peter goes home that night to visit with his family while Alfonso goes down to the ring to visualize winning the fight. Each prepares in their own way.

Three hours prior to the fight, the boys have their weigh-in and pre-match press conference. Alfonso weighs in at 156 ½ pounds, Peter at 158 pounds even. Stallone starts off the conference by saying the choice “caught us all off guard. This is what The Contender is all about.” Peter and Alfonso exchanged mild verbal jabs at one another but things heated up when Ahmed and Ishe began trash talking each other. Ishe called Ahmed out. This is the rivalry of the season.

An hour before the right, we find each contender in their locker room getting ready for the fight in various ways. Families come out to support each boxer. Their trainers wrap their hands, give them last minute advice, and 30 minutes to the fight they zone out; Alfonso shadow sparring and Peter listening to music.

Cut to the arena, where Chuck Norris sits ringside and every seat is booked. The announcer comes on, “Five rounds of middleweight boxing,” and each contender comes out to the theme song music of the show in their respective team colors – Yellow for West Coast and Blue for East Coast – to standing ovations.

Then, the fight begins…
Round 1: Alfonso starts fighting first, Peter takes it, comes in on openings. Alfonso looks like he’s going to wear himself out quickly. Alfonso lands some great shots, Peter kind of starts faltering. Round goes to Alfonso.
Round 2: Peter gets some shots in early. Peter beating the shit out of Alfonso, can’t keep up anymore, he’s hurt. He can’t defend himself and is bleeding from the eyes. Round goes to Peter.
Round 3: Alfonso’s dad gives him tips from the side. Alfonso walks in with hands down. Peter gets in early; Alfonso gets a great shot, gets a few more shots. Slower round. Not much contact. Peter’s wife is yelling at him furiously. Alfonso gets in abdominal shots, lots of tiring down shots. Alfonso gets him in the corner and right hooks him. Round goes to Alfonso.
Round 4: Blue is very quiet now, teammates that is. Peter’s wife is going crazy. Peter comes out swinging, Alfonso’s being defensive. Alfonso throws his hands up when he dodges a fury, teammates start shouting his name, East Coast counters with shouting. Defensive, catching air. Alfonso dodges more, each take a few shots. Leonard asks Stallone, “Where is this coming from?” Peter begins offensive too late. Round is a tie.
Round 5: Trainers psych them out to win. Both come out swinging, lock up, looking for opening. Alfonso gets some punches in, Peter gets fewer. Alfonso stars boxing harder, hitting Peter harder. Alfonso gets something in, Peter’s bleeding again. They lock-up, Alfonso shakes his head. The match is called. Round goes to Alfonso.

Judges scorecard is announced and its unanimous decision: The winner is West Coast’s Alfonso Gomez. Family, team and trainers storm the ring.

Peter is seen walking back to the locker room as everyone celebrates. “I feel like I let everybody down. Not just myself. My wife, my daughter, my father. All I can hear is my father in my head,” he says dejectedly. His wife and daughter join him and he talks to his wife while in the shower. “This sport is like a fiery burning inside of me and it just feels like it exploded.”

Manfrado, Jr., the first contender to be sent home, then goes back to the gym, hangs up his gloves and leaves with one question on his mind, “Where do I go from here?”

Carpesomediem is an aspiring freelance writer from Lancaster, Pa. who enjoys music, movies and writing about the way the world works; you can contact her at to talk about this week’s episode or anything at all.

There’s No Shortage of Talent in This Country – Nashville Star 3, Premiere

There’s No Shortage of Talent in This Country – Nashville Star 3, Premiere

by Lisa

Unlike the new season of American Idol which featured supersized coverage of the audition process, Nashville Star chose to go in the exact opposite direction this year. Season 3 opens by skipping the auditions completely and plunging us straight into the awesome responsibility of crushing a contestant’s lifelong dream based on a single impression. This is a bit of a bummer from an entertainment point of view as well, as one of my favorite parts of the previous seasons was meeting the nutty families that produced these would-be superstars. But onward we go…

There is a whole new cast to meet. County superstar LeAnn Rimes takes over the host slot from Nancy O’Dell, while singer/songwriter Phil Vassar, music producer Anastasia Brown, and ex-Poison lead-singer-turned-country-crooner Bret Michaels now occupy the judges’ seats.

To kick off the season premiere, LeAnn takes to the stage and belts out “You Take Me Home”. My husband happens to wander into the room in the middle of her song and is astonished by the talent of this “contestant”. You can just about hear the real contestants shaking in their boots backstage at the thought of following this act.

And here they are! Out of the 10 finalists, first up is Casey Simpson, a self-proclaimed “ghetto cowgirl” from Los Angeles. She chose the Keith Urban song “Love Somebody Like You” and sang it strong, kicking the competition off on a high note. The only distraction was that she appeared to be wearing a backwards apron over her jeans, but hey, I’ll chalk that up to first time wardrobe nerves. Anastasia says she “nailed it” but needs to loosen up in future performances, Phil says it was a great way to kick off the evening, and Bret says she has what it takes, the “it” factor.

Second to take the stage is Jody Evans. It seems every singing competition now needs its friendly nerd, a la Clay Aiken, and Jody is our adorable geek for this evening. He appears to be going for a retro Opry look in coat and tie and acoustic guitar, but he gets crankin’ into such a high gear on “Three Nickels and a Dime” that he blows one of the strings on his guitar. Overall, a solid vocal performance with bonus points for unflappable enthusiasm. Phil says “he looks like my agent” but did really good, Anastasia says “you’re rockin’”, and Bret says he has both the energy and the attitude.

Last season, there was some discussion over whether or not a Canadian (George Canyon) could or should win Nashville Star, and as it turned out, he did not. Hopefully the bias that country music should only be born in the USA will not affect Australian Tamika Tyler, who turned in an amazing vocal performance on “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am”. The performance prompts Anastasia to blurt out one of the odder comments of the night “If I were a man, I’d propose to you!”. Bret says she has a voice he could listen to all night, and Phil says he loves the accent and the legs, and the singing blew him away too.

Next at bat is Josh Owen, who reminds me of a country version of Shawn Cassidy. He tackles Waylon’s “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” and does what I would consider an OK rendition, but not the best we’ve seen tonight. The uber-positive Bret calls it an “awesome job”, Anastasia says he needs to connect with the audience more, and Phil politely says he is looking forward to seeing him rock in future performances.

Christy McDonald gets the over-enthusiasm award for the evening, and possibly also the over-singing award. She actually has an OK voice, but she made an odd song choice for her style with “Long Black Train”. Anastasia calls her “so adorable”, Phil jokes that she needs to loosen up, and Bret says she made him want to party (not hard to do, I would imagine).

With 5 singers down and 5 to go, we take a break and travel backstage with correspondent Cletus T. Judd, who does a plug for the Gaylord Opryland Resort and its yummy booze-filled minibars. He then proceeds to call every female in a 3 mile radius “Sweetie”. Thankfully, the “comedy” is brief and we quickly return to the music.

Jason Meadows packages himself as a genuine cowboy, complete with video footage of him herding cattle. He sings Merle Haggard’s “Workin’Man” and shows off a solid voice. Bret accompanies him on air guitar from the judges’ stand. Phil says “a little Haggard ain’t gonna hurt nobody”, Anastasia says “I love your voice; don’t soften your jeans, just your delivery”, and Bret claims he also displays the “it” factor.

Up next is the youngest contestant in the competition, high school student Erika Jo, who was spotted backstage doing her homework before performing. She takes a bit of a chance on song selection with ”Break Down Here” and does a really superb version of it. Bret says she’s gonna be a big star, Anastasia says she has a beautiful voice, but she should try to lose herself in the music more next time, and Phil says she did a heck of job.

I thought Erika would be a tough one to follow, but Jenny Farrell takes the stage and starts off really strong with “Seven Year Ache”. Unfortunately she suddenly starts omitting every other word, then stops singing all together, takes one last look at the camera, and goes sprinting off stage where she loses her lunch. LeAnn bounces back onto the stage to hint to us that it might not be nerves, that Jenny may actually have a wee bit of food poisoning going on. This is a little extra excitement for the viewers, but it’s clearly a bad break for Jenny, especially as it looked like it was going to be another top-tier performance. The judges do not give comments, and we are hurried along to the next contestant.

Just when I think I know who my favorites will be tonight, Jayron Weaver takes the stage. He is a plain vanilla looking guy who turns out to possess a big and interesting voice and nails “I’m Already There”. Phil says what a great singer he is, Anastasia says she loves his voice but he needs to look at the audience next time, and Bret says he picked a tough song but nailed it.

Tonight’s caboose is Justin David singing “Ring of Fire”. He played the mandolin with flair, but I thought his vocals were only OK. It certainly didn’t help being last in a night where the bar was set impressively high. Anastasia says his performance made her toes curl, Phil said he sounded great, and Bret praised his song selection.

This episode made me really glad I am not seeking a record contract in Nashville myself, because there is clearly an awful lot of talent out there chasing the dream. My favorites from this week are Tamika Tyler, Erika Jo, and Jayron Weaver, and I would say the folks most at risk for being sent home are Josh Owen and Justin David, and unfortunately also the likable but ill Jenny Farrell.

You can contact Lisa with questions, comments, or general gabbery at

Meet the Contenders – Contender Commentary, Episode 1

Meet the Contenders – Contender Commentary, Episode 1

by Panndyra, Goddess of Chaos

After watching the first five minutes of the premiere, I turned to my husband and said, “Damn you, Mark Burnett.” I was already hooked. I loved watching Sylvester Stallone in his Rambo and Rocky Movies. I didn’t like “Stop or My Mom will Shoot” or “Oscar” very much – but you know, a Stallone’s gotta eat.

This has all the human interest of any great Reality TV series with a lot more heart. I am not a boxing fan. I prefer watching less brutal fare – like “America’s Next Top Model”. I usually think of boxers as brutes like Mike Tyson. I don’t think I’m alone in that.

However, each of these 16 men has a story to tell. The majority of them are fighting for their families. Some are single dads; many are just sons and husbands and brothers and friends. They’re people with a passion to be the best and earn a good life for those they love. I respect that.

Tonight’s elimination made me cry. I was amazed that Alphonso, who is seen as the weakest in the “West” by many, challenged Peter Manfredo Jr., the “East’s” best fighter – and heir to a rich, boxing dynasty.

It made great television. It was the David vs. Goliath scenario. I didn’t know who to root for. When the loser left the stadium, after his daughter saw him fight for the first time, he was devastated. He didn’t know how he’d go on without fighting. The winner knew he’d either be the “hero” or the “idiot”. He didn’t gloat. He showed respect for his competition, but he fought like a lion.

Sylvester Stallone and legend Sugar Ray Leonard care about the sport and these guys. They are a great team and have a winner here. If you haven’t watched it, check it out on Thursday after the Apprentice. You will be pleasantly surprised at the drama and heart in this series. I know I was.

Now – here’s a rundown of the “Contenders” with my pick to win it all.

Ahmed: born in Lebanon and raised in Denmark. He was a successful pro in Europe until he was scooped up by a US promoter. He’s 23 years old. He’s cocky and very “Hollywood”. He’s a pretty boy who has already begun to stir up the pot.

Alfonso: born in Mexico and moved to the US with his family when he was 10. His dad was a boxer and took over his son’s training almost immediately. His family has made major sacrifices including selling their business and moving the family to LA where he needed to be to become a “contender”.

Anthony: He is a hard-working single father who is a night supervisor for K-Mart. He’s sincere and wants to fight to give Brittany (age 10) and Derek (age 8) a better life.

Brent: A personal trainer from Hermitage, TN, Brent claims that finding religion helped him kick a drug and alcohol habit. He and his wife, Leeann, are country singers/songwriters as well. They have a recording studio in their home.

Ishe: Rhymes with “squishy”. He was born and still lives in Las Vegas. His priorities are God, Family and Boxing. He has had a successful pro career but was taken advantage of by promoters and agents. He had to declare bankruptcy. He and his wife, Latoya, have a 2 year old son, Ishe Jr. He wants to bring back some “integrity” to the sport.

Jeff: He’s from the rough and tumble working-class Massachusetts town of Haverhill. (I know – I have cousins who still live there!) Jeff’s dad and granddad both boxed. He has a 7 year old son with his wife, Sylvia. He lives in the same house as his parents, just downstairs. He is a fan of “Survivor” and is looking to play his best “mental game” since he’s one of the smaller boxers.

Jesse: He’s a country boy from rural Nevada (didn’t know there was such a thing, but I’m from the East Coast originally!) He learned how to fight from watching “Rocky” movies – look for him to be a star-struck Stallone fan. He hopes to fight DeLaHoya someday.

Jimmy: One of ten kids in his Catholic family, Jimmy had to be scrappy from day one – fighting for attention (lol). He and his wife have twin sons and are expecting a daughter soon. He’s got the highest IQ in the bunch – but his nerves may do him in.

Joey: His dad’s a Navy flight surgeon current serving in Afghanistan. His mother is Italian/Catholic and a nurse. She acts as his nutritionist. He began his boxing training while at the University of Nevada – Reno (UNR).He was a top academic graduate in the Nevada Air National Guard and earned his law degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.

Jonathan: This dad of four, with a 5th on the way, did time for armed robbery. He’s not as cantankerous as he appears. He’s got a great sense of humor and he’s grounded – he says that the money won’t change his life – because he’s already got what he needs – his faith in God and his family.

Juan: He’s the baby of the bunch at just 18 years old. He grew up in South Texas, near the Mexican border, in a close-knit family. His granddad died over a year ago – he was very influential in Juan’s early career, which started at 15 in Mexico. Currently, he, his dad and his three siblings live with his grandmother in a tiny two-bedroom house.

Miguel: He lives in a low-rent apartment with his mom, who’s legally blind, his 16 year old sister and his dad, Miguel Sr. He sees boxing as his way out and off the streets. He loves to cook and loves to check out new restaurants.

Najai: He committed suicide on Feb 14, 2005. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He was soft-spoken and saw boxing as his way out. He wanted to provide a better life for his family, especially his daughter Anyae. His mom died when he was 18. He had to take care of his younger siblings.

From the web site:

If you wish to donate to a fund for Najai’s daughter, make all checks payable to the Anyae Chapple Trust
J.P. Morgan Trust Company, N.A.
1999 Avenue of the Stars, 26th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Attn: Fiduciary Services Dept.

Peter: He’s a happy-go-lucky guy who doesn’t know how to lose in the ring. His father and uncles all boxed. It’s in his blood. He married his high-school sweetheart Yamilka. They have a daughter who’s the light of both their lives.

Sergio: was born in East LA. (don’t start singing the Cheech & Chong song now!) He finally moved out of the apartment he lived in with his mom and siblings. He’s downstairs living with his bro now. He grew up without a father figure, but turned to sports instead of gangs. His nickname is the “Latin Snake”. He wants to earn enough money so his mom can quit working.

Tarick: He is of Lebanese descent. His dad and granddad were boxers too. He was a very highly-ranked and promising boxer but due to poor management and promotion he quit 3 years ago. He is a real estate agent/developer. His wife is a makeup artist/ model who happens to be his high school sweetheart. They have a 2 ½ year old daughter named Ava.

Okay! My pick is ISHE. I’ve just got a feeling. We’ll see if it changes.

If you wanna chat about The Contender – the next big thing in Reality TV – email me at

Hey Baby, What's Your Sign? – American Idol 4 – 3/7/05

By Annie

I think FOX is reaching for themes as tonight’s is astrological signs. Oh yes, this has sooo much to do with the competition. Before each performer sings, we get to learn what his sign is and how this plays into their participation on AI. Okay – moving on….

The show starts with a bit of chit-chat between Ryan and the judges. Simon says that so far the results have been fair. He disagrees with those who say they were voted out because they didn’t get enough air time. He adds that anyone who thinks they aren’t getting enough air time should leave the competition now.

First up is Scott. His appearance seems to be further soften and less thuggy but I’m not sure what has changed. One of our local radio shows refers to Scott as “Scarey Guy”. Maybe it’s the necklace. Scott sings “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch”. Does this guy ever miss a note?. Randy says the performance is nice, as does Paula. Simon says the choreography was awful.

Second to perform is Bo who does “I’ll Be” which he later reveals was done for his Aunt and Uncle. I thought it was great and showed his versatility. Randy said it was alright although he started off shakey. Paula says he is consistent and it was a slam dunk. Simon agrees and adds it was the right kind of song for him. Simon also tells Bo that this competition is his to lose. Hmmm….

Like Scott, Anthony Federov continues to smooth out his appearance – although it kind of looked like paint was splashed on his suit. He performs an upbeat, Latin-style song (“I’ve Got You) that sounded perfect to me. Randy said Anthony found his element and it was the best he has done. Paula agrees and says it was excellent. Simon says he has as much Latin flair as a polar bear. Oh Simon!

Nikko performed next with a sweet and sultry version of “Georgia” Randy says it was an ambitious choice of song that started out rough but ended it “so good” with great vocal range. Simon said it was a smart choice of song and showed personality.

Travis sings “Every Little Step” and although he can dance, the song sounded awkward to me. Randy gives his performance an “A” but gives him a “D” in pitch. Paula thinks he’s “special” and “different” (is that a compliment?). Simon calls it like it is – appalling, and the equivalent of a theme park performer.

Not that I believe in this horoscope hocus-pocus but I notice Mario is a Gemini. And Gemini’s are a perfect match with Aires, right? (Note to Mario: *I* am an Aires.) :heart:

Mario performs with no hat (that’s a lot of hair, Mario!). He sings “How Can you Mend a Broken Heart”. He doesn’t miss a note but it’s not my favorite performance from him. Still, he’s cute. Randy says the song was an ambitious choice but sang it well and tenderly. Paula has goose bumps. Simon says Mario has charm but likes him better with the hat.

Constantine sings “Every Little Thing She Does”. I thought his performance was ok, off key in parts but he still has that dreamy look in his eyes. Randy said it was okay. Paula says it was her favorite performance of his and that his charisma keeps shining through. Simon said it was a bad impersonation of Sting. Simon!

Anwar does Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”. He sounds good but still sounds like Stevie Wonder to me. Randy said it gave him chills and is the best vocal of the season. Paula comments that his voice is an entire orchestra and breathes new life into each song. Simon says he is everything a music teacher should be nice, good voice and perhaps there should be puppies on stage. He then suggests that Paula and Anwar get married and have kids.

It’s difficult to tell but I think Travis will be going home. They are all so good but I fear Constantine may be joining him.

I just have to add that while watching the show I asked my friend David that if the male contestants in the audience are called the “Dog Pound”, would the females be considered the “Poodle Pound”? Without missing a beat he said no. They are the Kitty Litter. :lmao:

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Pretty Doesn't Mean Actress – The Starlet, Series Premiere

Pretty Doesn’t Mean Actress – The Starlet- Series Premier

You look good, but can you cry when I say Action?

The series premier for “The Starlet” aired last night on the WB showcasing ten lovelies who want to be “The Starlet”. They’re competing for the ultimate prize of a role on the show, One Tree Hill, a management contract with 3 Arts Entertainment and ongoing gig opportunities with The WB. During the contest, the girls will all live together in one house, so you can expect the claws to be sharpened and at the ready when the competition gets tough.

Hostess of the show is Katie Wagner, daughter of actor Robert Wagner. She is an entertainment reporter for Joel Seigel Summer Film Preview and has also worked for the cable networks, HBO and Cinemax. Katie, along with actors, Faye Dunaway and Vivica A. Fox and Joseph Middleton, casting director extraordinaire, put the girls gently through their paces in order to prepare them for the final screen test at the end of tonight’s show.

The girls, Donna, Cecile, Katie, Courtney, Andria, Lauren, Andie, Mercedes, Michelynne and Neva are packed into the small room with the panel of judges in front of them. One by one they are asked to read a small scene.

You can see right away who has talent and who is there simply because she is beautiful. Mercedes did the best in that round. By the looks on their faces, the judges were also very impressed with her.

After the readings, the judges animatedly discussed the pros and cons of each one. They’re so nice about it! I was sitting on the edge of my chair waiting for the nastiness to begin, you know, a little of the Simon Cowel syndrome, but they voiced their complaints with a slight sniff and mediocre comments here and there.

Meanwhile, the girls attended an acting class where the instructor encouraged them to dance to the wild music and find their inner animals. They all proceeded to writhe around on the floor and howl. My inner animal found it painfully embarrassing to watch.

Crying on command was the next lesson of the day. The instructor asked them to think of a bad time in their life and draw upon that experience to help get the waterworks flowing. Most did well, a few did not – I guess their lives aren’t sad enough yet. Since they’re all VERY young, that doesn’t surprise me.

The girls are now ready for their first screen test. After piling into vans, they are taken to a beach with plenty of caves, atmosphere and lots of space for the television cameras.

One by one they run through the scene with an actor from the show 7th Heaven. The gist of the scene is this: Someone they care about is in the hospital and they are feeling major guilt. That, coupled with burgeoning feelings for the actor, creates an emotional scene that is supposed to rip your heart out.

One by one, they try to twist and manipulate their faces and tear ducts into a scene of agonized despair. But alas, the ducts have been wrung dry! Even without the tears, Mercedes, Cecile and Lauren were, in my opinion, the top three.

The next day, the contestants have to stand in front of the judges and watch their screen test. Once the tape ended, each girl listened to comments from the judge’s panel. Again, the judges seemed too tame in their criticism, as if they were afraid of hurting the girl’s feelings. Until…Courtney came in.

Cocky Courtney, with the flyaway red hair, mouthed off to Faye Dunaway as Faye was trying to point out certain personality qualities. Not good Courtney! This is not American Idol! A big mouth is a big no-no! She incurred the wrath of Vivica A. Fox, who bluntly pointed out that Faye is a legendary star and Courtney should keep her mouth shut. I think we all thought it was curtains for Courtney.

But the gods smiled on her, for she was not one of the two to go. You could see the remorse on her face, however, as they gave the axe to pretty Andria of the gorgeous face and no talent. They also gave the heave ho to Andie, who just tried too hard in her screen test. Don’t call us. We’ll call you.

Watch again on Tuesday as the girls test their acting skills in a passionate love scene…with another girl!

I welcome your comments!

The Opening Heart of Renee – Starting Over, 03-04-05

by LauraBelle

It’s truth time for several women in the Starting Over house. Not only do they face Board of Review, but just the news from the Board of Review sends several women to begin questioning themselves.

Rachael seeks advice from Bethany on how to deal with the upcoming memorial service she is planning for her mother and Jesse. She isn’t sure how to handle being in front of all those people. Bethany gives her advice based on her own experience “giving up her crown.” It isn’t explained, but I am assuming she had to give it up after her amnesia. Bethany tells her just to be herself and not Billy Graham.

Vanessa meets with Dr. Stan and is asked if she believes she is independent. She thinks so, as she’s been alone so long. Although her mom traveled with her to gymnastics meets, she still felt very alone.

Dr. Stan believes Vanessa has a poor sense of self, since she’s always trying to please others. She tells him sometimes she just begins to think her ideas were silly, and it becomes hard to trust herself. Talking to Dr. Stan about the issue of not going to college for fear of losing her boyfriend, she admits both the boyfriend and her brother thought the same thing that she would only end up quitting. Dr. Stan’s goal is to get her to realize her boyfriend is not her life, but just a part of her life.

Without warning, we are thrown into Board of Review with the six housemates, Iyanla and Rhonda. First up for review is Bethany, and this is her first time, so she is nervous. Asked what she is doing right, Bethany replies she has accepted the loss of her memory, she is having fun, is taking risks, and is opening up to her housemates and herself.

Bethany believes she still needs to work on being honest, and then starts mentioning how it’s been too easy to put weight on since her gallbladder surgery after high school Everyone is shocked, having never heard about this before.

Rhonda asks what percentage of the day Bethany is honest, and everyone is shocked more to hear she has been keeping from the other women that she has her headaches one hundred percent of the day, which is against the agreement she had made to let them know about such things. Furthering it, Rhonda asks what percentage of herself she believes is acceptable, and all are saddened to hear her say the only thing she likes about herself is her love for others. Bethany’s life coaches know this self-hate is the reason behind her not taking care of herself.

After Bethany says she believes she deserves a B for her work in the house, the roommates are asked to name one good change they have seen in Bethany since she joined the Starting Over house. In just the short time she has been there, Vanessa has seen Bethany open up about new things and doesn’t have to be pushed. Cassie believes Bethany is starting to show her own personality.

All know there is still work to be done. Candy recognizes Bethany’s per body image, Rachael would like her to be more honest about how she feels, and Renee says she needs to eighty-six the pop tarts. Bethany doesn’t eat well, and Renee points out she’s not five-years-old, and Renee is concerned about her health. Cassie wants her to start loving herself. What is very interesting here is that all the women reflect this advice back to things they still need to work on about themselves. Iyanla very much agrees with the women, and says the one thing she would like to see is Bethany affirming her worthiness, as it seems she is on self-assisted suicide.

All of the women would like Bethany to stay. Renee says she has come so far, she deserves to stay and work on these things; Rachael would like her to stay as well but notes she needs to really start behind more honest. Candy says she should stay but really needs to get rid of the fat pictures of herself.

Rhonda believes Bethany to be very self-critical. Bethany gave herself a B, and Rhonda would have graded differently, but believes the grading for Bethany should reflect what she believes she is worth, so a B it is.

Up next is Renee, saying she has been working hard at being the President of the Giving Club and working on her values. The most important giving she did was to the Ronald McDonald house because it was to give back to her dad. She would also like to thank everyone for helping her out.

Asked to name one good change in Renee, Vanessa noticed that when Renee’s dad didn’t come, she acted more like an adult about it. Bethany would love to be just like Renee some day, and Cassie notices that when Renee entered the house, her heart was closed, but now she has great compassion for others and herself.

Iyanla tells Renee she has begun to personify grace, elegance and commitment. She tells Renee she has given to the world in order to heal herself and she is pleased to tell her she is graduating. Renee admits to a mix of emotions – she is excited about getting out there and showing what she has learned, but she also knows it will be hard to do things alone outside the house. Cassie hates to see Renee go, but she knows she is ready.

The first thing Renee does when she leaves the Board of Review is to call her dad and tell him she is graduating. He cries for her and tells her he is very proud of her. Renee says she came to the house broken, but will leave being back together in one piece again.

Cassie has passed five of her GED tests, but failed on the math, only getting a 380 when a 410 was needed. Today she is retaking the math portion. She is confident, in a good mood and ready. Bethany drives her to her test, and as Cassie sets out her tools of a calculator, ruler and a few pencils on the desk, she also sets out the pink Courageous Cassie button given to her by Rhonda.

Iyanla leads Group in honor of Renee’s graduation. Asked what she will do her first week outside the house, Renee says she will work as much as she can the Fashion Institute is there in California and she would love to get enrolled, and she will meet with her dad. He lives in California as well, and she thinks it will be very healing to the two of them if she lives nearby to work and attend school. Iyanla asks what will stop her, and Renee says nothing.

Reviewing her work in the house, Iyanla notes first how important it is the Renee transformed all her relationships that needed healing – those with her mom, her dad and all the friends she had felt she had done wrong. Iyanla also wants it noted that Renee did all of her activities alone, unlike other housemates. Renee had such a strong need for external validation that Iyanla wanted her to learn to validate herself. Renee’s old self portrait is shown, and her face is split. Crying on one side and happy on the other; Renee explains she was hiding. Her new self portrait is a giant open heart with the names inside of all the people that have helped her while on the Starting Over house.

Of course graduation means an Andy Paige makeover. Rachael would love to see Renee get rid of the tube tops and dress more funky. Iyanla wants her to lose the hair, and would also love it to reflect Renee’s funkiness. Renee is quite worried as she has been growing it for six years after a bad short haircut. Andy notes Renee seems to feel her femininity is tied to her hair.

Rachael calls Iyanla and tells her, “Baby Girl’s in a slump.” Iyanla is not surprised, as the news of Renee graduating has left everyone feeling differently this day, and questioning themselves. Rachael has begun to see how her family has used her. Her grandma expects her to give her money all the time and always wants her to take her out to dinner when she visits. She says her family never gave her what she needed and they sit around and wait for her to fail.

Iyanla asks Rachael if she feels good enough, and Rachael says she does, but still wants her family to validate her feelings. Iyanla tells her to live beyond other people’s expectations of her. Rachael, crying very hard, says she doesn’t believe they want her around, and wants to ask them. They always say someone has it worse and act like she is so pathetic. Iyanla tells her her family is mistaken, as she has experienced a terrible loss.

Rhonda is with Vanessa and discussing her first step of releasing other people’s expectations. She tells her she has to stand alone and live self confidently, trusting her inner self. Asked how she feels this moment, Vanessa says she feels crappy and like she is gaining weight. Rhonda gives her a memo board to wear around her neck all day and write down her feelings. Her second assignment will be to go to lunch by herself and record her feelings on a small tape recorder. Before Rhonda leaves, Vanessa hugs her and begins to break down. Ronda thinks this is the first time she has allowed herself to be honest, truthful and sad. Reflecting back to the issues with her boyfriend, Rhonda tells her nobody’s love is worth it if she doesn’t love herself.

Going through Renee’s clothes, Andy notes she doesn’t have one particular style. She thinks Renee needs to stop dressing twenty-years-old, but her real age of twenty-eight. She tells her if she wears just one business-like article of clothing a day it will give her a more polished look.

Vanessa goes to lunch with her memo board and tiny tape recorder. She asks for a table for one and records thoughts are all based on what she thinks others are thinking of her sitting there alone talking and writing. She thinks they think she’s crazy and stupid.

After redoing her math GED, Cassie talks to Rhonda about writing up a five year plan. In her first year Cassie would like to be living in California and be working as a medical assistant. In the second year she would like to meet the man she will marry, and in her third year she would like to get a book published. Rhonda tells her in order to turn it from wishful thinking and fantasy to a dream, she needs to realize what she has to do to accomplish things. Before she can get a book published she has to write. Cassie is worried since both Denise, recently graduated, and Renee, graduating this evening, had come to the house after Cassie, and she is still there. She realizes this is a reality check that she isn’t done yet.

After her lunch, Vanessa reports her feelings back to Rhonda. She admits to being embarrassed and realizes she was doing “mean-talking” to herself. Rhonda tells her her feelings of being depressed, ugly, stuck, bored, dumb and a loser are all generated by the fears of other people. If no one else is around, Vanessa doesn’t know what to do, and is like a robot with her reactions.

In the previews for Monday’s show we are promised a secret visitor for the graduation, and at first figure it must be a Starting Over graduate. Instead, we are told it will be Renee’s dad. I wonder if this was planned all along, and the reason he didn’t come visit her when he had originally planned to, or if this was impromptu after hearing she was graduating. Not that it matters, the most important thing is he is there … after seven long years of he and Renee being estranged. Be sure to bring a Kleenex box or two to the TV with you for Monday’s show; I know I will.

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