Call it a sign of the times, but so-called “reality” TV continues to assert its influence on nearly every aspect of pop culture nearly 12 years after the initial Big Bang of Big Brother and Survivor, cross-pollinating with all forms of entertainment and social media available. The influence on the music scene alone, for better or worse, has been profound with not only American Idol and The Voice, but also “Celebreality” shows like The Osbournes and Rock of Love providing enormous mainstream exposure for its stars.
For fans of the genre looking to get their musical fix or just looking for some additional summer fun, this year’s annual Chicago Ridge Fest (rebranded Ridgefest Reloaded) should provide just the ticket. Starting today and running through the weekend at Freedom Park in Chicago Ridge, IL (and culminating in a fireworks show Sunday night), Ridgefest Reloaded not only features carnival rides, all-ages entertainment, food and a beer garden, but also a good mix of live music spread out over its four days. Along with renowned local cover acts 7th Heaven, Satisfaction, and Kashmir, there are the featured reality show attractions James Durbin (an American Idol finalist from season 10) and Bret Michaels (Poison’s legendary frontman who is now enjoying a career renaissance thanks to reality TV hits Rock of Love and The Celebrity Apprentice).
For more information on the schedule of events and tickets, please visit the following website:
The Charles Tillman’s Celebrity Pro Bowler Tournament fundraiser kicked off Thursday, June 7th at the newly opened Kings Lanes Lounge & Sports (Rosemont, IL) in efforts to raise donations for the Charles’s Tillman Cornerstone Foundation. With what turned out to be a remarkably successful evening, the event boasted an evening of bowling with teams of bowlers who gladly donated to the event to have one celebrity NFL guest bowler on their team.
Some of the evening’s guests included Charles Tillman, Matt Toeaina, Nick Roach, Craig Steltz, Chris Conte, Alex Brown, to mention a few. However, aside from the bowling the event hosted a silent auction featuring plethora of autographed team jerseys, footballs, and also a beautiful acrylic painting that was painted that night; and all of this, to raise funds for charity. In all aspects, this was wonderful event hosted at great new venue and the atmosphere was thick with food, drinks, music, and most importantly giving the entire evening! It was easy to identify why an event like this would be so successful, as you can always rely on a loyal sport fans to support its home team; the Chicago Bears! Bowlers and other guests who donated to be a part of this event really showed their support for both the Cornerstone foundations and also the athletes they believe in so much.
For those unfamiliar with the Charles Tillman’s Cornerstone Foundation, their mission statement is “to provide opportunities and resources to children and their families who are in need.” Buzznews had the fortune of attending the red carpet and was able to meet the foundation’s founder himself, Charles Tillman and was asked, “For those who don’t know about the foundation or the work you are doing, why don’t you tell us a little about it?”
Tillman: “Since 2008 we’ve been helping a lot of people, mainly chronically and critically ill children just throughout the greater Chicago area mainly helping a lot of the children’s hospitals. We do luncheons, we do Christmas parties, we do this event (Celebrity Pro bowlers Tournament), and we do other football events for our fundraiser. Just you know, just trying to give back.”
Though they are not a specific type of foundation such as a cancer or leukemia foundation (however still in their mission), the Cornerstone’s mission statement is clear, they just want to help and that’s what is important. From what I saw, the Cornerstone foundation is clearly doing good work and I hope they continue to strive here in Chicago and anywhere else they may choose to go. It’s always great to see any sports celebrity give back to the community and its even better when a community can come together and give to a cause such as this.
MB Financial Park at Rosemont is a 200,000 square foot entertainment complex in Rosemont centered around the very popular Muvico Theaters nearby O'Hare Airport.
Although a little difficult to navigate currently, construction will soon wrap up on this dining and entertainment megaplex and it promises to provide something for everyone. Although the list contains everything from billiards and bowling (King's Lanes & Lounge) to full-fledged comedy club (Zanie's), the most attractive offering to many will certainly be Adobe Gila's.
Billing itself as the "Margarita Fajita Cantina", it's impossible not to agree upon walking in to the smell of sizzling spices in their char-grilled fajitas (I recommend the blackened shrimp or mahi for a nice change from the too common chicken or steak) and the huge wooden bar that makes up the majority of the restaurant's 5,000 square feet.
Along with a few hundred other locals, reviewers, bloggers, and executives I was given the opportunity to attend Adobe Gila's informal opening, a charity event benefitting the Helping Hands Foundation and the American Diabetes Association.
Sampling the margaritas that the restaurant offers (on draft!) was a real treat, and I know that I'll be back for a few more when I get the opportunity. I was also impressed by the extremely rich selection of tequilas that were offered behind the bar. Whereas I am only intimately familiar with a few brands, Adobe Gila's offers at least 30+ different kinds of tequila that I could see - another enticing reason to return at a later date.
It must be said that this is more of a bar that also serves food rather than a restaurant that also serves drinks, but the menu items available are definitely a step up from most bar & grills and worked well to compliment the bite and sweetness of the margaritas. In particular, the Baja Coconut Shrimp were a real crowd pleaser and I heard comments all night about the mango sauce that they were served with. I wasn't overly impressed by the chicken wings, and the sauces didn't seem like they were trying too hard, but the grilled quesadillas really hit a good note with me and I also enjoyed the chips & salsa (your choice of up to 5 different dips!).
It looks like live entertainment will be a staple offering here, and the setup is just perfect for it. The stage is firmly placed to one side of the room so that everyone can hear the band, and the raised platform allows the entire restaurant to have a good view of the action on stage. I can definitely see sitting at the bar for a show here, a margarita in hand, being a regular Friday or Saturday ritual. Keep in mind that there will be several other restaurants and bars opening up in this complex before its grand opening this Summer, but my money is on the Gila to stand the test of time.
Superbly directed by Sean Fahey, “Bailout” is a powerful film that takes a look at the housing disaster that has taken place across America in recent years, the events leading up to the crash and the corruption that exists behind the scenes. “Bailout” takes its audience across the country, along with five colorful friends in a Winnebago, for a firsthand look on how this recent financial crisis has affected homeowners, particularly the lower and middle class.
Make no mistake about it as Fahey uses the word “fraud” many times throughout the film when referring to the actions of the big money-center banks, clearly painting the picture that criminal intent – not miscalculation or mistake - was indeed the source of the housing collapse. Fahey brilliantly connects the dots using facts, expert analysis and heartbreaking testimonials from victims throughout the country as the concrete evidence needed to support the film’s claim of wrong doing. The film also touches on the fact that no one was convicted for the largest financial fraud ($11 billion) in our country’s history. Why? Because banks have successfully infiltrated the government and routinely pass the laws that protect themselves from offense. The atrocities don’t stop there as the film delves into the misguided bailouts that the banks – the perpetrators – have issued, keeping the machine alive and well. The film also provides a detailed look at the process in which banks handed out home loans knowing, and benefiting, on the fact that these loans could never be repaid. Breaking it down to a science, it is explained how and why this process made these banks profited hand over fist while Americans suffered one of the biggest recessions to date.
Like many Americans, lead character John Titus has had enough. Dealing with the threat of foreclosure, Titus, an unemployed Chicago lawyer, decides to give himself a bailout. Rather than paying his inflating mortgage, he saves that money, buys a Winnebago and decides to head out West with four of his buddies (also on the brink of foreclosure) to spend, spend, spend and party. Doing what Wall Street does with taxpayers’ money and futures, Titus plans to gamble his ‘bailout”, making their destination Las Vegas. Heading out from Chicago, Titus and gang (including stand up comedian John Fox) take to the highways, making stops in St. Louis, Roswell and many other cities. During their road trip the self-appointed “Dukes of Moral Hazard” speak with people from all walks of life, many of whom have suffered home foreclosures. The five traveling friends are entertaining to watch throughout and each can be identified with in their own different way. Fox also does a great job narrating the film.
“Bailout” should make viewers angry. If it doesn’t, there’s a pretty good chance those unaffected are probably a part of the collective problem, as complacency and ignorance is what the big money-center banks depend on in order to feed their pockets. Following the successful premiere of “Bailout” at the Music Box Theater in Chicago, director, Sean Fahey, and lead, John Titus, spent a good deal of time fielding questions from the audience. Both Fahey and Titus explained the importance of shutting out biased media, educating ourselves and standing together. The two also stressed, as in the film, that this is not a Right/Left issue, this is people versus banks issue – all are affected.
An important and daring social documentary, “Bailout” conveys a strong message that should be heard by everyone.
For more information, visit www.usabailout.com.
Legendary and emerging artists inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement have come together to lend their voices on Occupy This Album:a compilation of music by, for and inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement and the 99%. Released by the non-profit record label Music For Occupy, Occupy This Album is available digitally (featuring 99-tracks + 1 hidden track) at iTunes and Amazon as well as physically (featuring 78-tracks) on a four-disc compilation distributed worldwide by Razor & Tie Records. Many of the tracks by both renowned and up-and-coming artists have never before been released. Additionally there are well-known songs that have been re-recorded and re-mastered and live-cuts for Occupy This Album. Full track listing available at MusicForOccupy.org.
What People Are Saying About Occupy This Album
Joel Rafael will pull every tear from your eyes on the touching “China Basin Digs,” easily the compilation’s best song. It begins with an early morning roust of the homeless under a bridge. His voice sparkles, the guitar has a heartbeat and the lyrics lay bare circumstances that hurt to see. In the mid-1990s, Rafael was emerging as a folk-festival regular. Now he’s arrived and there simply is no better orator for these troubled and testing times.– The Associated Press
As is usually the case these days, the best protest political songs come from rappers. In "Rich Man's World," Immortal Technique takes on the persona of a heartless billionaire with bone-chilling convincingness. And in the fantastic "New York Minute," the rapper Nickodemus coins perhaps the best two lines of Occupy This Album: “While the City sleeps, I'm reading Wikileaks/Creating picket signs. Go ahead, pick a street!”-Mother Jones
Like the movement it's supporting, Occupy This Albumis massive (99 songs over four discs), eclectic (original hippies Joan Baez and David Crosby sit cross-legged next to noise-mongering weirdos Mogwai and UNKLE), and occasionally hamstrung by the need to get the message across (Richard Barone's sweet sing-along is torpedoed by its awkward title, ''Hey, Can I Sleep on Your Futon?''). Even when the songs scowl too much, the spirit of the compilation feels more positive than negative — the best that can be asked of any grassroots revolution.–Entertainment Weekly(B+)
With 78 tracks on the physical version and 99 on the digital version, Occupy This Album could very well be the largest compilation since the glory days of the Slap-A-Ham Records Bllleeeeaaauuurrrrgghhh compilations. Except instead of cramming countless power-violence greaseballs onto 7-inch records with hand-assembled packaging, the folks at Music For Occupy have a four-disc boxset and 99-track digital release of folk, hip-hop, indie rock and pretty much every other kind of alt-music under the sun to contend with, all with songs related to the Occupy movement and/or how capitalism is the devil.–Alternative Press
“Occupy Wall Street now has an A-list soundtrack: the compilation Occupy This Album.” – Rolling Stone
“Those cynics who told the incessant drummers of Occupy Wall Street in New York not to quit their day jobs might be reconsidering -- they just got a record deal (of sorts).”– LA Times
“This Occupy Wall Street tribute album has way too many amazing musicians on it.”–L Magazine
The most profound moment of the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise is at the end. After ninety minutes of gliding along the Chicago River, the Chicago’s First Lady vessel steers out toward Lake Michigan close to Navy Pier and turns around. The docent falls silent. The cameras start flashing. “Would you mind taking a picture of us,” the couple in front of me asks. I do, and it is stunning. The view of the Chicago skyline from sea, skyscrapers and structure reaching up from the waters to grab the dimmed heavens, is magnificent. So much history – almost two centuries of design, construction, and destruction – stand before us symbolized by modern architectural marvels.
The Chicago Architecture Foundation is a non-profit committed to allowing folks to blissfully commit the first cardinal sin of tourists: staring upward at skyscrapers. From a rocket ship to a waterfall to an armchair, the metaphors the docent used to describe the buildings of downtown Chicago humorously animate the buildings. The Wrigley Building, the Tribune Tower, Willis Tower, and Trump Tower, along with many others, are on the cruise’s checklist. Occasionally, the names of the architects and design firms blend together in an alphabet soup of white men, but that might just be part of the territory of architecture history. What might strengthen the tour is to exchange some of these specifics for interesting stories about the architect’s lives and design styles.
It was my second time on the river tour, having been once with my roommate’s parents and now entertaining my own visiting mother. Even still, it was as educational and beautiful as the first. While a bit colder than ideal, the right bundling (purchased by my mother from CVS hours before) made the 5:00pm glide through Chicago enjoyable. A full-service bar in the boat’s cabin might have allowed an escape from the weather, although I would have had to endure my mother’s scowl. Honestly, I couldn’t think of a better way to introduce a family member to the beautiful city I now call home. And of course, it never hurts to be reminded yourself of how lucky we are to live in the beautiful city of Chicago.
River cruises continue through November 20. More information at caf.architecture.org
Kimberly Katz’ Platinum Press - M Resort Spa and Casino in Las Vegas
Each year when I go to Las Vegas to review the great shows and resorts I have such a variety of great options it makes it very difficult to choose where to stay. When I heard some great word of mouth about the brand new M Resort from a real estate developer friend in Las Vegas I decided to check out their website. As soon as I heard the strains of “The Mating Game, Yes King Remix” by the band Bittersweet playing on their promo video I could tell this was going to be a sexy, modern resort with the class and style that would suit me perfectly for a working vacation in Vegas.
I chose the Classic One Bedroom suite for my three night stay there and it turned out to be so spacious and well appointed I found it difficult to leave the room! I loved the clean modern decor, in shades of brown, black and cream; the room had an upscale, yet casual masculine feel. Both the large living room and bedroom had floor to ceiling windows with a stunning view of the beautiful pool area and mountains with the strip lights twinkling in the distance, yet just ten minutes away.
I really appreciated the two 42 inch flat screen TV’s, as well as a third TV in the bathroom dressing area. I hate to be without music when dressing or lounging in my room in Vegas and very few hotels provide any, so another really nice touch is the Bose Radio in the bedroom with awesome stereo sound that gave my stay a rocking soundtrack to remember it by. Although I did not have occasion to use it, the well-stocked mini bar included an “Intimacy Love Kit” by Booty Parlor with massage oils, protection and a tickle feather, which I thought was a delightful and thoughtful amenity to provide. There’s nothing like running down to the gift shop hunting for massage oils in the middle of the night to ruin the “mood.”
The enormous closet valet was also beautiful and well equipped with high quality
“His and Hers” robes and slippers. With all the walking in heels I do in Vegas, I spend a lot of time in the tub nursing my aching feet so I was happy to find a spa tub and lovely marble rain shower alongside the generous double vanity. I loved that the spa tub had a retractable shade that allowed you to view not only the bedroom while you bathed but also the stunning view of the strip lights at night while soaking in the luxurious Azzurro bath salts and Massaging Soap that M provides to suite guests.
I always tell my readers when in Vegas, don’t just hit the casino, enjoy the spa and get a massage! You always win when you bet your money on a good spa or massage treatment and leave refreshed and ready to enjoy your evening!
The decor of Spa and Salon Mio is absolutely breathtaking and the spa itself meticulously clean and well maintained. I absolutely adored the vaulted ceiling two-story rain shower with a massive 24 inch shower head above that gave you the feeling of being in a tropical downpour as well as four more heads to massage you from all angles.
Enjoying a rain shower while viewing the gorgeous softly pink-lit crystal chandelier and ever changing light show reflecting softly on the mother of pearl tiled two story water walls behind the huge and pristine Jacuzzi tubs was a healing and rejuvenating experience in itself, and not to be missed.
Occasionally I am disappointed by the actual massage treatment rooms of a nice spa if they turn out to be too small or clinical but not so here at Spa Mio. As my massage therapist, Shellen, lead me down the softly lit Asian themed, dark wood hallway to my treatment room I felt more and more relaxed and catered to. The treatment room itself was extremely large and luxurious, the soft music subtle and enchanting. I could tell as soon as I lay down that the velvety soft sheets on the table were of the highest thread count linen and were absolutely heaven to the touch. I told my therapist Shellen that I had a long night ahead of me with a concert and dinner to follow and did not want a very deep massage as that sometimes gives me a headache and she catered her massage touch just perfectly to both relax me and work out the tension in my shoulders, neck and hips from flying. True to her word, I had no headache later on and felt full of relaxed energy the entire weekend due to her fantastic massage.
After my expert massage I enjoyed a wonderful concert by world-class performer Chris Isaak out under the stars on the Villaggio Del Sole Pool and Entertainment Piazza. There is no better way to enjoy live music than by torchlight with a full moon above. The soft, warm summer breezes felt delightful by the side of M’s softly illuminated swimming pool with the strip lights glimmering behind the stage.
For late night dining I chose to dine at restaurant Veloce Cibo on the top floor of M Resort, which is generously open until one AM with beautiful views of the night skyline. Chef Nathan Frost was an absolutely delightful dining companion and thoroughly described each of the special dishes he prepared for me in detail. For late night supper, I really enjoy small dishes and appetizer size plates and that is Veloce’s specialty. I honestly loved the creativity and presentation of everything I sampled and can recommend highly the super fresh oysters chilled on ice, Roasted Duck and Thai Roti Pancake with julienne vegetables and peanut dipping sauce, as well as the adorable Mini Lobster Tacos with grilled mango lime and avocado puree served with a straw like an avocado milkshake. The Macadamia Nut Crusted Scallop with apple fries and blood orange beurre blanc was unique and astounding, as was the Surf and Turf Roll with Spicy Tuna and Kobe beef.
The Studio B buffet, voted Best Buffet in Vegas was a wonderful entertainment experience as well with Chef Tina Martini’s live studio cooking show which mixes cooking with healthy, how to culinary tips, recipes and food sampling. This buffet really was exceptionally fresh with hundreds of well-prepared and delicious gourmet dishes to choose from. My favorite food in the world has to be crab legs and there were three different kinds of crab at the Studio Buffet, including steamed, chilled and one in an exotic curry broth. My only complaint here is that the crab legs were not scored for easy access, so unfortunately at the end of my buffet visit which was brief because I was on my way to see a show, most of the fantastic crab legs had to be left uneaten on my plate. The oxtail soup was incredible with tender, sweet pieces of oxtail falling off the bone and melting in my mouth. It was also fun to grab a handful of fortune cookies for dessert along with a freshly made hot cappuccino from the huge dessert and coffee bar selection.
I fancy myself a bit of a soup connoisseur. When I am working and traveling in dry climates like Las Vegas and flying in a dry cabin, etc. sometimes the only thing that will comfort me before retiring is a well-prepared bowl of soup. In addition to the magical oxtail soup at Studio B, I had a really wonderful, authentic bowl of steaming hot Matzo ball soup at the Vig Deli, which was conveniently open till 7 AM for a night owl like myself. I also enjoyed the most spectacular bowl of Maryland She Crab Bisque at The Oyster Bar. The She Crab Bisque was full of sweet tender “she” crab chunks in a perfectly seasoned and balanced cream sherry base. As I stirred the soup I noticed a small spot of blood red in the center, which turned out to be a hidden spoonful of sweet red caviar- to die for!
I highly recommend staying at M Resort for any traveler who is looking for an intimate boutique hotel experience with all the amenities of a large Vegas hotel and casino. From the moment I arrived till the day of my departure I was treated with the utmost courtesy and casual friendliness by every single employee there. Particularly when traveling as a woman alone, it was so important to me to feel warmth and genuine caring from the front desk staff, business center, waiters, spa attendants, and maid service, which made my working vacation in Las Vegas a pleasure and a delight that I look forward to repeating many times in the future.
I just got back from a quick one night excursion to see a great headliner concert at The Oneida Nation Casino and I was so pleased with the luxury and friendliness I encountered there that I can’t wait to go back and see the rest of what that lovely part of Green Bay, Wisconsin has to offer.
From the minute I arrived at the Oneida Casino and the conveniently adjacent Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, I was met with smiling, courteous and genuinely friendly help from every member of the staff I encountered. I was traveling quickly so it meant so much to me that every detail of my short stay there, from breakfast to dinner, to show tickets were coordinated perfectly by the Oneida Nation PR rep and her staff.
I stayed in one of their fireplace suites and was happily surprised to see it also included a generous two person Jacuzzi tub in a lovely all new marble bathroom. Little things like the high quality almond scented bathroom amenities by Asira with adorable messages like, “Made especially for YOU”, “ Your refreshing and renewing shower power!” and “Your rich and revealing tub treat!” made me feel right at home.
The suite was equipped with a wonderful King size “Sleep Number Bed” so that couples could adjust each side of the bed to the exact level of firmness desired, it was deliciously comfortable. It was such a pleasure that for once I didn’t have to ask for more towels, pillows or robes because the suite was so generously stocked with so many of each even two people sharing the suite would not have used them all up. I also enjoyed the very romantic, and luxurious effect of a gas fireplace and two 42 inch flat screen TV’s while preparing to enjoy the concert and casino that night.
I didn’t have time to get down to the Pine Tree Grill for dinner before the show so had room service deliver their “ Cedar Plank Salmon” with wild rice and cranberries and it was a perfectly done, juicy, thick steak of salmon with fluffy wild rice that I found out from my server was grown right on the Oneida Nation’s own farm!
After being treated to a world-class concert by performer Chris Isaak, I enjoyed shopping for gifts like the delicious “Escape” scented travel candles and rare “Kimmidoll” collectable key chains at the charming and restful “Sweet Grass” gift shop.
After picking up a few souvenirs, I played all my new favorite slots, like “Sex in the City”, “Star Trek” and “The Wizard of Oz” in the beautiful, cool, airy and modern casino area which had great live music playing in the lounge till the wee hours.
Maybe I was just lucky but I won so many times I have got to say Oneida Casino has some of the loosest slots at any casino I have visited in recent memory! Which is good news for all you slots lovers!
Usually when you get hungry late at night at a casino you have a very limited menu to choose from, maybe a burger or some French fries or a cold sandwich but I was delighted to discover that the Main Casino Grille had a full Noodle Bar open until 3 AM and I was able to sample some really fantastic, freshly prepared, Hot and Spicy Soup and Shrimp Pad Thai (with extra fresh cilantro) before retiring to my lovely suite for another soak in the romantically lit Jacuzzi tub and a restful sleep in my cozy sleep number bed, set at the softest setting. I was delighted to find chocolates and a delicious caramel and walnut
“Cow Pie” waiting for me in the suites well equipped kitchen/bar area as a late night treat.
I had to get back to Chicago quickly the next day to review another show and regretted not having time to sit down and enjoy the very modern and attractive “Standing Stone Buffet and Grill” with great seafood offerings like curried mussels and crab legs with live chefs preparing dishes to order. Next time!
I also really wanted to check out some of the lovely summer activities Oneida Nation offers, like Strawberry Jam Making, Pick your own Apples, the Annual Pow Wow, the Annual Woodland Indian Art Market, a tour of the Oneida Buffalo Farm, a free Ropes course from Oneida Nation Adventures or “Nature’s Niche”- where you can see real live rain forest animals.
Also, the whole area around the casino and hotel was so lushly landscaped and emerald green in every direction as I headed out for the drive back to Chicago; it made want to visit again very soon.
My parents’ had their honeymoon in Wisconsin over fifty years ago and my exciting and luxurious stay at Oneida Casino and the Radisson made me see why they chose such a lovely natural setting.
I highly recommend the Oneida Casino, the Radisson hotel and their restaurants to travelers looking for some quality dining, family fun and casino excitement.
As I approach the old polo grounds of Oak Brook for the Highland Games, an older Scottsman walks to me and asks, “What is the only thing a Scottsman wears under his kilt?” I look at the sky and am not sure how to actually answer this question. I turn and look at the gentleman and say, “I have no idea.” He looks at me with a smile and chuckles, “His wife’s lipstick.”
I continue walking through the entrance and soon realize that I am one of the smallest people here; like my Irish heritage, I feel like a true leprechaun. The Highland Games are a true celebration of what it’s like to be Scottish. They pride themselves on gratification, and today is a day where, like the Irish with St. Patrick’s Day, everybody is Scottish.
From events ranging from the knobby knee contest to rugby, and the infamous throwing games themselves, there is no wonder why this festival attracts a large crowd every year. As soon as I walk through the entrance I am able to see just about every item of Scottish heritage imaginable.
The festival has booths of kilts makers, traditional Scottish fiddle music, dancers that quickly move their feet over swords and big burly lads and lasses that are able to throw weights the mass of a supermodel twenty feet across a field.
There is no need for security at an event like this; because let’s be honest, you would be an idiot to try to commit a crime where the average athlete is 6’5” and 295 lbs. Once you get over the initial intimidation from the size of the athletes, the festival is an absolute delight. Everyone in attendance is here to have a great time and ensure that you have a wonderful taste of Scottish hospitality. From the announcers explaining the events and the various flavors of Haggis, to a great glass of $5 lemonade. Having been a beautiful day in June, one could not ask for a better stage to be presented with a
different culture. The St. Andrew’s Foundation did a great job and pulling together a great festival and providing everyone a truly wonderful experience that everyone in Chicagoland can enjoy.
Just under three years ago, I first proposed the idea of purchasing a cat to share my new apartment with, and several of my friends encouraged me to further investigate adoption over the pet shop route. The process for adopting my furry friend was one that I was new to, seeing that my family had always been pet store buyers. I made the decision to adopt two remarkable felines into my life. There was a fair amount of research that went into pre-pet owning, but the ultimate time buster was the actual hunt for that special pal. Once I had fully prepared myself mentally for a new pet, I started on my endeavor, searching through every shelter that housed within a hundred mile radius of me. I visited several of the adoption facilities more than once, going back to see cats I had grown fond of, before I made my final decision. All of the centers I saw were very nice, but three of the adoption places earned a special place in my heart.
1. Anderson Animal Shelter
This loving location was my most frequent spot, and my personal favorite. The Anderson building is tucked away down Route 31 in South Elgin. It may be a bit of a cruise for some, but enjoy the ride and prepare yourself for a cat room full of characters. Employees will be on your right to greet you as you walk in, and if you venture to the left you will find the cat room. Here, the cats exist in every crevice of the room: some are caged, while others aren't. Each cat has a name, and a distinct personality. When I use to go there, a big adult cat by the name of Darwin had earned himself the nickname "The Godfather", because...well, I'm sure you get it. If you wish to get closer with a caged kitty, the employees at the front will hand you mandatory brief paperwork, before helping you grow closer to a potential new friend.
Visit @ www.andersonanimalshelter.org
2. Tree House Humane Society
This particular shelter has two branches: found in the Uptown and Bucktown neighborhoods of Chicago, and they focus solely on the adoption of cats. Both locations are cageless and offer their foster kitties a wide variety of play items, as well as what seems like a limitless amount of play room in comparison to most other places. Quick paperwork is filled out before entering the kitty wonderland. The Uptown location offers a wider variety of cats, as it is a bit larger in size. Although, the Bucktown spot is nice because the workers seem to spend a good amount of timing creating a personal bond with their adoptees. I felt no rush when I would stop by to see the Tree House cats, I could sit on the floor and interact with the crowd for as long as I pleased, (within business hours, obviously).
Visit @ www.treehouseanimals.org
3. PAWS Chicago
Finally, a no-kill adoption center! The first thing I noticed about this Chicago pet palace was the fresh feeling the interior pumped through me, everything presented itself cleanly and welcoming. Employees are behind the front desk, walking about, and showing adoptable animals in separate rooms throughout the building design; so when I pin-pointed a fuzzy face that I wanted to meet, it was easy to find a helper. As the other locations, PAWS also requires obligatory paperwork (done on one of their computers) before venturing into a room full of joy. I will admit, the paperwork took the longest here, but it showed me how much they cared about the animals they were helping. Cats and dogs are set up in various cageless rooms, ready to greet guests with cuddles and kisses. Everything down to the air at PAWS is genuine.
Visit @ www.pawschicago.org
If you have decided to adopt a lucky pet into your own life, I wish you a happy hunting! For some easy access viewing, visit www.petfinder.com, where shelters (including the three listed) post available animals online.
As if it wasn’t hot enough in sunny 110-degree Las Vegas, the desert city would only get hotter as the stars came out in droves in support of the CineVegas 2008 Film Festival. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the trendy film celebration and each day of the 10-day bash had its fill of excitement, significance and wonderment with both indie and major movies being shown, daily red carpet events and sizzling parties to cap off each night.
Kicking off the opening day ceremonies was the red carpet for The Rocker starring Rainn Wilson as “Fish”, a drummer from an 80’s rock band who was dumped just before they hit it big and now, 20 years later, joins his nephew’s garage band. Fans with “I drum naked” t-shirts gathered at the entrance to the red carpet and screamed as Rainn exited a large bus in full metal gear, guitar strapped to his back. Before making his way to the red carpet, Rainn escorted CineVegas chairman Dennis Hopper from the vehicle to another band of loud cheers. Joining The Rocker star were also Jane Lynch, a stunning Emma Stone, and director Peter Cattaneo among other various cast members and CineVegas brass including president Robin Greenspun.
“Looks like this is the only female president you’ll get this year,” laughed Robin when BuzzNews.TV reporter Kim Katz commented on the fact that no woman would be heading the White House this year.
Rainn joked his way down the red carpet accompanied with a magician, gorgeous “groupies” and showgirls. When asked about his overdone rocker garb, which included a bandana, jean vest, tattoos and leather accessories, Rainn responded with, “They wanted me to dress up and I told them, ‘No way. I’m not going to wear a costume. I won’t do it. I’m just going to wear what I would wear every day.’”
Each night of CineVegas 2008 featured an after party and opening day was no exception as cast members, CineVegas personnel, media people and fans gathered that night at Moon, a club on an upper floor in the Palms at which the roof retracts for a beautiful sky view. Rainn kicked the night off right dancing atop his booth alongside the Moon dancers to entertain those inside the club while others crammed onto the balcony overlooking the Las Vegas Strip. The ritzy Palms Place Pool was the site for the next night’s party with other parties during the ten-day stretch taking place at Rain, Tao (Venetian), The Beatles Revolution Lounge (Mirage), Planet Hollywood’s poolside and the Freemont Street Drive-In. However it was the closing night party, a Vegas Magazine event at The Palazzo Hotel & Casino pool, that had everyone talking. Upon entry were two beautiful models wearing huge angel wings and one sitting in a champagne glass tossing silver confetti as one would walk past. Female contortionists in giant transparent bubbles floated ever so gently throughout the pool as other models were stationed in various locations. The air was balmy and provided the perfect breeze for what was easily the finest social event during the festival’s ten days.
Midway through the festival at the Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino, Dwayne Johnson was on hand for the Get Smart red carpet in support of The Rock Foundation, his charity that provides programs designed to enrich and empower the lives and self-esteem of under-served, at-risk youth and children hospitalized for medical disabilities, disorders and illnesses. Despite being the only cast member from Get Smart to make an appearance for the event, fans lined up throughout the casino’s extended red carpet just to get a glimpse of the Hollywood superstar.
With so much attention going to the many great films in the festival such as “Your Name Here”, “Women in Boxes” and “Goliath”, the focus was also on a handful of actors who would receive awards for their fine contributions to the film industry. The honorees included James Caan, who was presented with the Vegas Icon Award by Robert Duvall.
“A guy like me is just an observer in this town,” Duvall replied when asked what he thinks of Las Vegas, “but Jimmy [Caan] owns this town!”
Film icons Don Cheadle, Rosario Dawson, Sam Rockwell and Viggo Mortensen were all recipients of the Half-Life Award, but were also on hand to support films in which they starred. Angelica Huston was also present to receive the Marquee Award. It surely was a star-studded red carpet for the CineVegas 2008 Honorees Reception as each celebrity mingled with the press and posed for photographers.
Sam Rockwell was also getting plenty of attention for his new movie “Choke” directed by Clark Gregg, who adapted it from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club). “Choke” also stars Angelica Huston who plays sex addict Victor Mancini’s (Rockwell) mother. To help support his mother, Mancini, whom works as a reenactor of Colonial Times, cons others by “choking” at restaurants. The film’s director, Gregg, who was present for the Honorees Reception, explained that once he read the book, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to direct the film.
Not to be outdone by “Choke”, Rosario Dawson was making her own mark for her fantastic performance in “Explicit Ills”, written and directed by Mark Webber.
The films at CineVegas were plentiful and of a wide variety. They ran the gamut from shorts to hard-hitting documentaries like “Cocaine Cowboys II” and “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson”, to highly anticipated premiers such as “Big Heart City”, “Dark Streets”, “South of Heaven”, and “She Unfolds by Day”.
Finally, after nine wondrous days of film-mania, live interviews were given by Rosario Dawson, Angelica Huston and Sam Rockwell that included Q&A sessions afterward. The festival closed that night with the film “The Great Buck Howard” starring a strong cast including Hollywood talents John Malkovich, Steve Zahn, Colin Hanks, Emily Blunt and Tom Hanks.
To see a day-by-day play-by-play of this tremendous film festival, go to www.CineVegas.com. Also, make sure to check out BuzzNews.TV’s coverage at www.BuzzNews.TV to see Buzz’ own Kim Katz talking with Dwayne Johnson, Rainn Wilson, Robert Duvall, Viggo Mortensen and more!
I have to say that it was difficult to leave the MGM, the overall atmosphere there day and night is one of fun, glamour and modern, yet self effacing luxury .It is not surprising that AAA selected MGM Grand as one of its 2007 Four Diamond Award recipients.
When we decided to feature a single Las Vegas hotel and casino for this special edition I began studying the hotels as I always do by checking out their pool area first. Here in Chicago the summer is very short and winter very long so when I go to Vegas I like to really enjoy the sun and dry heat during the day.
With five different pools and three whirlpools to choose from the MGM Grand Pool Complex is hands down one of the best Vegas pools I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. I chose to hang out in the Backlot River pool because of its fantastic lazy river and giant waterfalls. I absolutely felt like a kid again after renting an inner tube and being carried along with other vacationers on the very powerful jet system over a city block long. Surrounded by lush foliage and gorgeous palms, the waterfalls were strong enough to give me a full body massage before returning to my lounge chair with one of the very delicious mango and coconut smoothies served with three different kinds of rum.
Usually there is relatively little interaction between guests around a pool area and you can get that at any of the quieter pools including The Director, Academy and Producer’s Pools, but the laughs and good feelings that occurred as hundreds of adults and kids wiggled and bumped into each other, drinks in hand, floating around the lazy river was just the most adorable and fun thing I have enjoyed in Vegas in a long time.
The second thing I look for in hotel is the bedding and quality of room furnishings and bath area. There may have been a time in my youth when I could make do with an inferior bed or tiny bathroom but when you are working or playing in Vegas and walking all day, there is nothing that helps you keep your energy up like a good quality bed and large bathing area.
The pillow top beds at MGM Grand are so luxurious and comfy you may have a hard time leaving them. Covered with thick white down comforters and five down pillows, these are the top of the line and make coming home to your room or suite after a long day and night of gambling, a divine pleasure.
We were upgraded to a Bungalow Suite with a view of the strip and with our tight schedule of reviewing two shows a night we really needed every inch of extra space and the separate shower and shower tub the suite provides. Having two bathing areas was a wonderful essential and saved a lot of time and aggravation when trying to get more than one person ready in time for all the night has to offer in Vegas.
Although most people do not spend much time looking out the window in Vegas, I do.
A strip view is important to me and I always request one because it just isn’t a Vegas vacation without a view of those magnificent lights and wild architecture. In the morning I like to wake up and enjoy a cup of coffee and a cigarette, to the sunny view of the casinos and mountains and at night I enjoy winding down and reviewing the night’s activities while drinking in the spectacular sparkling lights and billboards. If I can’t see it all I just don’t feel like I’m in Las Vegas!
The furnishings in the MGM rooms and suites are all thoroughly modern and have lovely, sexy portraits of Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. The lighting and color schemes are a restful and luxurious selection of golden earth tones, which I really enjoyed. This is a funny aside, I wore a black and white blouse to fly in and when we walked into the black and white marble styled bathroom, the stripes on my blouse exactly matched the shower curtain in our suite. The bathroom was well equipped with nice toiletries including shower gel, a quality glycerin facial soap and knobby massage body soap. It’s fun to take home the extras to remind yourself of the vacation you just enjoyed when you get home to your own shower.
The MGM Grand has so many great quality restaurants to enjoy it is impossible to try them all but we love sushi and reviewed the great fresh fare at Shibuya. The restaurant itself is very romantic and the modern décor with a floor to ceiling wall of ever changing lights behind the many sushi chefs was in itself a relaxing and luxurious event.
Shibuya has an extensive Sake list to choose from. I didn’t know there were that many kinds of sake to choose from and always thought sake was bitter. So I asked our very helpful server for sweet sake and she brought me the most delicious cold saki I have ever tasted. Yuki no Bosha or Cabin in the Snow truly exhibited well-defined aromas of ripe strawberries and peaches while leaving me with a smooth soft texture at finish.
People are so happy and friendly while vacationing at the MGM and the pair of diners next to me offered me a shot of their warm sake choice as just I was leaving to make a show. The man said he couldn’t remember the Japanese name but that I had to try it as it was a three hundred dollar variety of sake and was the very best and let me tell you that little thimbleful of perfectly warmed sake was a diner’s delight!
The sushi was all beautifully prepared and served and the main dishes I tried including the buttery soft Nobi beef short ribs and scallops and lobster tails in butter were all very fresh and very rich in flavor. If you’ve ever been trapped and hungry in Vegas hotel with a lot of mediocre overpriced food choices, you will be delighted by all the quality choices you have at MGM including Craftsteak, Emeril’s and SeaBlue. I already have the fabulous French Joel Robuchon on my list of restaurants there that I would like to review on my next visit!
There is also a fun, airy food court in the MGM shop area with lots of quick, low priced fare for those lunches on the way back to your room after your pool time and late night snacks.
When I return to my home base hotel at the end of a night of shows I like to find a friendly and exciting environment. That is one of the things I liked best about staying at MGM, the atmosphere there is very youthful but classy with well-dressed young people
Spilling out of Studio 54 and just having a great time at the many lovely but relaxing lounges in the casino area. The slots are constantly changing with new and fun games popping up and one of the neat things about MGM is that their club players card is valid for use at all of the casinos associated with the MGM including Bellagio, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York New York, and Treasure Island.
This makes it easier to get comps and credit for your play as you peruse the strip without having to sign up for and carry five different club cards!
The Spa and Massage!!
I discovered the incredible benefits of utilizing a hotel spa in Las Vegas especially because of all the walking you have to do there. The luxurious spa at MGM is conveniently located right next to the pool entrance, so it is easy to have a dip and sunbath and then just head right in for your massage still in your swimwear.
I had a wonderful and healing Swedish massage from a very sweet lady named Bea, a loyal employee who has been with the MGM Grand since it opened. I really liked the waiting area for massage, it was very relaxing with subdued lighting, large double deep chaise lounges and three kinds of chilled water or tea including one with orange slices, one with mint leaves and a light delicious tea made of hibiscus and honey. They also provide granola bars and very fresh bananas and apples to snack on while waiting which is great to keep your energy up while moving from the massage to purifying steam and sauna.
I really like to use those icy, chilled hand towels in the steam room- one on each pulse point and the MGM adds a nice touch by adding fresh cucumber slices to the ice, which not only gives the towels a delicious aroma but also gives you a nice eye mask if you place them on your eyelids while in the Jacuzzi.
The MGM has several great shows to see including Cirque Du Soleil’s KA, the erotic Crazy Horse Paris and a revolving main stage with stars like MGM regular, David Copperfield and one of my all time favorites, singer Tom Jones.
I didn’t have time to hit Studio 54 on this trip but I have heard from our Buzz CEO, Jason Royal that Studio 54 is number one on his list of Vegas dance clubs partly because of the great mix of music that they play from and because of the fun, good looking young (but not too young) crowd that 54 attracts. There are many classy and yet casual bars to hang out in at MGM like Centrifuge and Vida with it’s exciting Latin flavored dance party which attract a happy well heeled crowd literally twenty four hours a day. I really loved relaxing in the martini bar Zuri, as well as the accessible and beautifully red, Rouge. I loved that every time we returned to the hotel or our suite even at six in the morning that I could see many smiling faces chatting and drinking at each of these open-to-the-casino lounge spots.
There is a wonderful live lion exhibit in the main casino area where we got the pleasure of seeing some sweet kitties strutting and scratching the trees with their majestic grace in a glass enclosed natural habitat.
The MGM Hospitality!!
When I travel for business or pleasure, I like to stay for at least a week and really make the hotel my home. It is essential that the people working there be gracious hosts or the entire trip can be ruined by a single negative encounter. Here’s what I like when it comes to fine hotel staff: friendly, down to earth and knowledgeable people who generously do whatever they can to make my stay special.
You won’t find any of the stuffy, snobby attitudes hat you might encounter at a four star hotel at MGM. From the security men who recognized us after our very first night and waved us in to the elevators with a smile, to the spa staff and pool servers, just about every employee I encountered on this trip was about as friendly and genuine as I could desire.
The MGM is a large organization and I had to communicate with several different departments at each point in our stay and the person who really stood out was manager Jill Archunde. Jill has actually worked her way up from the front desk, through the spa to her current position as VP of Operations. Jill had such a nice tone of interest and helpfulness in her voice from the first time we spoke about this piece for Buzz and went out of her way to provide us with everything we needed to make the trip productive and relaxing.
I have to say that it was difficult to leave the MGM, the overall atmosphere there day and night is one of fun, glamour and modern, yet self effacing luxury .It is not surprising that AAA selected MGM Grand as one of its 2007 Four Diamond Award recipients. With 5,044 guest rooms and suites, MGM Grand now becomes the world’s largest hotel to hold this respected travel designation. The honor comes after a multi-year evolution that has transformed MGM Grand into the ultimate Las Vegas experience. Offering everything from A-list entertainment and award-winning restaurants to high-energy nightlife and relaxing rejuvenation, MGM Grand is truly a hotspot and home away from home I will visit many times to come.
Better casting could not have been made than when Carol Linnea Johnson was chosen for the leading role, “Donna Sheridan” in Manday Bay's production of Mamma Mia! Recruited from the original Broadway production, Carol IS “Donna Sheridan”. Carol’s beautiful voice combined with her dreamy looks, and her ability to project fun-heartedness, make the role of “Donna” truly likeable and memorable. Very apparent is the fun Carol has while performing onstage, especially when interacting with co-stars and real life gal pals Vicki Van Tassel and Robin Baxter, who, by the way, were also terrific.
Other than playing the spandex-clad “Donna Sheridan”, Carol has also performed on Broadway as “Pam” in The Full Monty as well as many Off Broadway productions. Carol has been seen on TV’s Law and Order, Another World and All My Children but admits, “Nothing beats live theatre.”
Buzz – I thought Mama Mia! was the best. I was blown away. How exciting is it for you to perform in Mama Mia!?
Carol – You know, Mama Mia! is really unique. That’s the only way I can describe it. I’ve been doing it for a really long time because I started out as the understudy in the Broadway production. Then they asked me to come out here and take over the role. I mean, I was beyond thrilled. “Donna” is like one of the best female characters to play in musical theatre – and she’s modern. There are lots of great women’s roles but the music is so fun to sing and I think the way at the end – you get the, kind of, bonus – the bonus concert at the end…(laughs).
Buzz – Now, were you an ABBA fan before you were in Mama Mia!?
Carol – Probably like most people were in terms of I like “Dancing Queen”, I like “Waterloo”. I liked the ones that you kind of knew. But I also liked – I’ve always really liked movies that have ABBA in them. I really love Muriel’s Wedding. There’s something about ABBA because the costumes are so hilarious, the music’s so fun and it’s so easy to get into. And it’s a little bit kitschy, just kitschy enough to make it fun.
Buzz – And their lyrics are so simple, because I don’t think they spoke English.
Carol – Oh my gosh! And the girls who sang it spoke like NO English. They did it all phonetically. If you listen to it very carefully you could tell – they didn’t have a clue. Benny and Bjorn both spoke fluent English, but, you know…they’re Swedish.
Buzz – Now the one thing that really appealed to me was the chemistry between you, Vicki [Van Tassel], and Robin [Baxter]. You guys were just perfect together. It’s just perfect casting.
Carol – Oh, it is. You know, it’s funny because I had worked with Robin on Broadway because I had taken over the role of “Donna” for a couple months. I was so lucky, because when I got cast in the Broadway production, the woman who I understudied had two personal days a month. But she also had been doing it for a while so she took lots of time off. Near the end of my time there I had been on for like, eight weeks. And Robin Baxter was filling in for “Rosie” who had an injury. I thought she was like, hands down, the most phenomenal person I’ve ever worked with. So when they offered me the role of “Donna” in Las Vegas I actually asked the director to consider Robin for Rosie. “Please, please, please see her for Rosie.” So I begged and begged for them to cast her and they were smart enough to do it. So then I knew Vicki and we were like, “Oh, she sounds great.” Vicki is also phenomenal on and off stage. You believe that we are all very good friends because actually we are very good friends.
Buzz – So you guys pal around afterwards and hang out. You’re like buddies.
Carol – Totally buddies.
Buzz – I think it’s great that you guys performed on the Jerry Lewis telethon. It’s a great cause and it had to be a neat experience.
Carol – Oh, totally. There were 12 members of the cast plus Vicki, Robin and I. It was really exciting. It was very exciting. It was really fun. It almost reminds me – remember whenever you see like old Hollywood movies – or like even now when they show like the back lot and you have people walking around dressed like cowboys and some people are dressed as showgirls. Everyone’s in costume and driving around in golf carts. Well this was a little bit like that. There’s Carrot Top and there we are in spandex and there was like an Asian gymnastic team warming up. It was just really fun.
Buzz – So what is your favorite thing about performing in Mama Mia!?
Carol – (Long, thoughtful pause) I’d have to say - it’s like a couple things. I feel incredibly lucky as an actor/singer to get to play the role of “Donna” just because it is so satisfying. You get to do it with such wonderful actors, who are not only great performers, but also great people. And then for it to culminate in the last ten minutes of the show and just see how up the audience is – how lifted they are – what a great time they had – it’s just sort of that collective experience. You know that old saying, “You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at the same time?” You sort of feel like for two hours a night, I get to have it all.
Buzz – You know, it’s a Vegas show that you can really take home with you.
Carol – It’s amazing the number of people who will all come out and be like, “Oh my God! This is our third time!” And I’m like, “Oh, have you been to Vegas before?” They’re like, “No! We saw it Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday!” They just keep coming back.
Besides the music, one of the biggest reasons the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas’ production of Mama Mia! is so successful is, without a doubt, because of its outstanding cast. Yes, the songs are songs are brilliant, the story is fun, and the set is creative, but without talented people – the right talented people – in the show’s key roles, Mama Mia! wouldn’t be the smash hit it is. Mandalay Bay’s Mama Mia! made sure the best possible personnel were assembled from the show’s main characters to the ensemble. Kudos to the casting director!
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