Diana Ross debuted her single “Thank You” today. This is the first time in 15 years that she has put out original music. Interestingly, the song sounds fresh and modern while also retaining the vibe of her 70s tracks. The melody and production contribute to this feeling. Lyrically, she sings about how grateful she is to have been given so much love and support over the years. It’s a beautifully positive message. “Thank You” comes from the album of the same name that is set to be released this fall. I’m looking forward to hearing more new music from Ms. Ross.
“The Lady in Red” danced (cheek to cheek) onto the soft rock scene 35 years ago this month. Chris de Burgh was inspired by seeing his wife across a crowded room looking gorgeous in a red dress. But it’s not just an ode to a pretty woman. It’s about cherishing an important person in your life and not taking them for granted. His voice and the synths come together to make a beautiful song, so it’s not surprising that this was a huge hit. You’ll never forget the lady in red.
Soapdish is a comedy about the drama that goes down behind the scenes of a daytime soap opera. As someone who read Soap Opera Digest for years, I can attest that the drama offscreen can be more interesting than the fictional stuff that airs. In the movie, Celeste (Sally Field), the star of “The Sun Also Sets”, is at the center of the strife. There’s her newly resurrected love interest Jeffrey (Kevin Kline), aspiring actress niece Lori (Elizabeth Shue), villainous rival Montana (Cathy Moriarty), manipulative executive producer David (Robert Downey Jr.), and head writer/best friend Rose (Whoopi Goldberg). A lot of chaos goes down with this crew. Here are 10 of the funniest moments.
10. Soap opera awards
The movie kicks off at the soap opera awards where Celeste wins for best actress, much to her costars’ annoyance. In the clip package, we see her character Maggie confessing while in prison. “Yes, yes, yes! I’m am guilty. Guilty of love in the first degree.” Powerful. Sidenote, Celeste has won several awards. If this character was truly based on soap diva Susan Lucci, that’s kinda shady. And I like it.
Hunky men are a staple on soaps. On TSAS, Blair (Paul Johansson) plays the studly and very dense Bolt. During a love scene with Celeste, he drops his towel revealing his full… bolt. Celeste implores him to wear a swimsuit next time. Blair: “I can’t act in a swimsuit.” He’s a method actor.
8. Casting couch
Carrie Fisher has a small role as Betsy, the show’s horny casting director. We see her auditioning with a handsome actor. Banging Betsy lands him the part, so ultimately they both score.
7. No turbans
Celeste is having a bad day after getting dumped by her boyfriend via answering machine. It doesn’t help that Tawny (Kathy Najimy), the costume designer, has put her in a turban. “Could you please tell our new costume designer that I don’t feel quite right in a turban? What I feel like is GLORIA FUCKING SWANSON!!” Nobody wants to be dressed like a dead woman. Najimy only has few lines in the entire movie, but she does so much with just her facial expressions.
6. Dinner theater
After getting fired from the show decades earlier, Jeffrey was banished to the dinner theater circuit. A horrible existence. It’s hard to perform Death of a Salesman to an audience of elderly people who are uninterested, busy slurping their dinner, and on death’s door themselves.
Everything about Montana is extreme from her voice, to her look, to her reactions. She steals each scene she’s in as she tries to take the show from Celeste. Moriarty is so good in the role. She also bounces off of (or on top of) Downey well. You don’t know whether she’s going to screw him or kill him.
4. Celeste’s explanation
The big plot twist in the film occurs when Celeste reveals that her niece Lori is actually her daughter with Jeffrey. She got pregnant years ago, hid it from everyone, invented a twin sister she passed off as the mother, and then got Jeffrey fired because she felt he ruined her life. That’s incredibly soapy. Field expertly delivers this monologue. It’s worthy of a soap award and another Oscar.
3. Nervous breakdown
The family drama with Celeste, Jeffery, and Lori spills over onto the show. All three separately go to the head of the network, Edmund Edwards (the sharply funny Garry Marshall), and declare they can’t work like this. They’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown! It must be contagious. The rapid cutting between each character adds to the comedy here.
2. Live show
During the live show everything goes wrong. Either Jeffrey, Celeste, or Lori is going to be fired, but they won’t know the outcome until they read it from the teleprompter. Jeffery is blind as a bat, so he mispronounces all his lines. Except Kopfgeschlagen. Celeste goes off script when she realizes Lori is going to be killed off. She offers to die instead. This leads to prepping for an emergency brain surgery. In a restaurant. Lori breaks character and stops it all, reconciling with her parents. It’s a great convoluted mess.
1. “He doesn’t have a head!”
Death is easy to overcome in soaps since characters come back to life on a regular basis. But some things can’t easily be explained. Like how Jeffrey’s character Rod Randall is still alive after being decapitated onscreen. Or as Rose proclaims, “He doesn’t have a head! How am I supposed to write for a guy who doesn’t have a head?!” Nothing is funnier than Rose’s exasperation and yet she manages to write for him anyways. That’s talent.
Enya celebrates her 60th birthday today. The Irish artist has a very distinct voice and musical style. When you hear it, you know it’s her. In the 80s and 90s she seemed to be everywhere; from commercials, to movies, to your doctor’s office. She sold millions of records and became the best-selling solo artist in Ireland. I particularly like her contributions to the LA Story soundtrack. It’s beautiful and transcendental.
Paula Abdul’s 1988 debut album, Forever Your Girl, was a huge success. It topped the Billboard charts, sold seven million copies, and launched four #1 singles (a record for a debut album). There must have been a great deal of pressure to match these achievements with her next project. Luckily, she met critics’ and fans’ expectations with Spellbound in 1991. Paula proved she wasn’t a one-album wonder with this new multi-platinum collection of songs.
11. To You
Too cutesy. It sounds like it was written for a teen act. Could have been left off the album.
10. Rock House
There are a lot of issues packed into this message song. Poverty, greed, war, and hunger. Paula couldn’t just choose one. Her solution is to “shut up and dance”. Sure, ok.
The album’s title track is just alright. Not as spellbinding as the others.
8. Alright Tonight
Paula takes us to Carnival with this upbeat dance track. It’s fun and unexpected.
Prince wrote the sexy “U” for Paula and you can hear his purple influence all over it.
6. Promise of a New Day
I always thought “Promise” was about preserving the environment. Probably because of the nature-filled video and the lyrics about eagles and such. In any case, it’s catchy.
5. My Foolish Heart
Paula’s foolish heart won’t allow her to let go of a guy who’s treating her badly. This is a really good song that could have been a single.
4. Will You Marry Me?
If you’re going to propose to someone this is what you need to play in the background.
3. Blowing Kisses in the Wind
Paula is trying to hold onto a relationship that is falling apart. She’s giving all her love to her man, but he’s cold in return. It’s a very pretty, sad ballad. I love the music box melody.
I’m in a funky way. “Vibeology” is a wild dance track. A mix of 90s club and big brass band. She sings about a man that has her “pumped in the groove” and “horny hard”. Ok then. Go Paula, Go Paula!
1. Rush Rush
Before focusing on singing, Paula was known primarily as a dancer/choreographer, so most of her early music was upbeat. When it came time to put out the first single from Spellbound, she threw a curveball with the ballad “Rush Rush”. Totally unexpected and the perfect choice. It’s a gorgeous love song: her voice, the melody, and those violins. Everything comes together beautifully. The Rebel Without a Cause rip-off music video co-starring Keanu Reeves was the icing on top. Paula cemented her place in the pop music world.
Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary today. The two met on the set of All My Children back in 1995. Kelly played the popular heroine Hayley Vaughn and Mark was brought on as her love interest, Mateo Santos. I remember thinking at the time that they had incredible chemistry. Apparently, that carried over into their real lives since they eloped in Las Vegas the next year. Hayley and Mateo experienced a ton of drama, but Kelly and Mark have remained fairly steady. After they left AMC in 2002, they continued on to successful careers and raised a family. They also have a producing partnership. Currently, they’re in development on a primetime reboot of AMC, taking it back to where their love story began.
Luther Vandross would have turned 70 today. We lost the phenomenal singer/songwriter too soon, but his velvet voice lives on. This year also marks the 40th Anniversary of his solo debut, Never Too Much. The album gave us the instantly recognizable title track and his cover of Dionne Warwick’s “A House is Not a Home”, which completely lives up to the original. I believe in the power of Luther.
Fear walked so hundreds of Lifetime movies could run. You can’t turn on the TV today without seeing films like My Psycho Ex-Boyfriend or Deadly Boyfriend. Different titles with the same premise of a young woman meeting a “good” guy who turns out to be criminally insane. There weren’t a lot of young adult thrillers like that up until the release of Fear in 1996. You had horror and dramas, but not any Fatal Attraction-type films for the high school crowd. There was The Crush in 1993, starring Alicia Silverstone as a teenage girl who becomes dangerously obsessed with an older man, but that was told from the man’s point of view. Fear‘s focus is primarily on the teens, which makes it much more interesting.
Girl meets boy
Nicole Walker (Reese Witherspoon) is a 16-year-old who lives in Seattle (we know this because they show the Space Needle a thousand times) with her father Steven (William Petersen), her stepmother Laura (Amy Brenneman), and her little stepbrother Toby (Christopher Gray). There’s friction at home because Nicole is growing up and her dad can’t handle it. When she stays out past curfew to go to a rave with her best friend Margo (Alyssa Milano), she meets David (Mark Wahlberg). He seems great on paper: good looking, polite, and chivalrous. So, Nicole falls for him pretty quickly. The sexy part of the thriller kicks into gear here. It’s like David brings Nicole out of her shell and causes her, and the director, to lean into her sexuality. There are plenty of closeups of her breasts in lowcut dresses, intense make out sessions, and a fingerbanging scene on a roller coaster (set perfectly to The Sundays’ version of “Wild Horses”). David’s perfect boyfriend veneer soon begins to crack, though, and he proves to be fairly disturbed. Like when he kicks the crap out of Nicole’s friend Gary (Todd Caldecott) for giving her a friendly hug. Or when he purposely injures himself and blames Steven. David continually manipulates Nicole until she finally gets a clue. She dumps him, but he won’t let her go. He even makes a homemade tattoo on his chest proclaiming: NICOLE 4 EVA. It’s fairly ridiculous, but I guess it was supposed to be cool and scary back then.
The overprotective dad
The contentious relationship between Steven & David makes up a large portion of the story too. Steven isn’t fooled by his overly polite façade. Good eye. But even if David wasn’t a bad guy, Steven still would have hated him. He’s extremely protective of Nicole and wants to keep her his little girl. Sweet on one hand, creepy on the other. Throughout the movie he worries about her dresses being too short or that David is too handsy with her. It all comes down to his fear of her losing her virginity. When he discovers that Nicole and David had sex, he freaks out. It’s almost like he’s jealous. For his part, David does anything he can to antagonize Steven. He stares him down, daring him to stop him from screwing his daughter. He even flirts with Laura, so he can really be a dick. Both men want to possess Nicole in their own way and be the alpha male figure in her life. Her narrative almost gets lost as she’s bounced back and forth between these two men.
The best friend
In a thriller, the best girlfriend is the talk-to who helps keep the heroine’s story going. Margo fits the bill here. She’s supportive of Nicole and offers an ear for all of her problems. She even risks her life to save Nicole from being attacked. It’s a wonder she isn’t killed since that’s usually the fate of this character type. Although, I suppose poor Gary, Nicole’s other good friend, being beaten to death by David kinda counts. On the flip side, Nicole is a shitty friend. She sees David forcibly take Margo away to have sex with her, but she’s actually angry with Margo. As if her best friend wanted to sleep with her boyfriend and wasn’t raped. It’s a horrible way to treat someone who has already been traumatized. #JusticeforMargo
The last act is where all the dramatic violent chaos happens. David and his cracked-out friends (how did I miss that he was a crack dealer when I first saw this in 1996?) try to break into Nicole’s house, while Steven and Laura fight them off. The family dog and a security guard are killed, Toby runs over someone, and Nicole is nearly sexually assaulted. In the final moments, Steven saves Nicole by tossing David out of a window. That splat is very satisfying. The ultimate lesson here is if a guy seems too good to be true, he probably is. Even if he’s a hot 90s era Marky Mark.
Shannen Doherty is one of my favorite actresses who has played two of my favorite characters in my all-time favorite movie and TV show. That’s a lot of love there. But it’s well earned. She’s a great actress who can do both drama and comedy effortlessly. She illustrated this in the 80s cult classic Heathers, playing the envious Heather Duke. And, again, when she took on the role of Brenda Walsh in the synonymous-with-the-90s series Beverly Hills 90210. She made each character memorable and fun to watch. Since then she’s had a steady career with acting, producing, and directing. Of course, I was happy to see her come full circle by playing a heightened version of herself in the BH90210 reboot two years ago. Outside of entertainment, Shannen continues to inspire as she wages a battle against breast cancer. She’s a survivor and icon. Happy 50th Birthday, Shannen!
In the years since she died, it seems like Latasha Harlins has been largely forgotten. When she is actually mentioned, in the media, the focus is on how she died. The documentary short, A Love Song for Latasha, chooses to look at her life as a whole and not just the horrible circumstances surrounding her death.
Latasha was a young black girl growing up in South Central LA. Early on she faced hardship when her mother was murdered, but she kept going. She took care of her younger siblings and looked out for her friends. She was also a good student who dreamed of being a lawyer and a business owner. She wanted to give back to her community and help other children. But at 15 years old, she was murdered by a convenience store owner who wrongfully accused her of stealing and shot her. All for a $1.79 bottle of orange juice.
The documentary tells us about Latasha through her loved ones. Her cousin and best friend talk about how special she was and speculate about who she could have grown up to become. We also hear Latasha’s own words in a heartfelt essay. Director Sophia Nahli Allison intertwines this with beautiful images of black girls. They all could have been Latasha. They’re shown as proud queens, the way they should be depicted in the media. Allison uses this imagery instead of showing the widespread video footage of Latasha’s murder. It makes the film much more impactful. She gives life and light to Latasha’s story, making sure that she will always be remembered.