March 27th, 2008
04:43 PM ET

Brush with greatness

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="iReporter Sarah Hampton met Bill Bellamy at a comedy club in Atlanta, Georgia, last month."]Over at we asked readers to send in their “brushes with greatness” – photos, videos and stories of their personal encounters with celebrities. The response was varied and enthusiastic. Readers met hip hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash, comedian Bill Bellamy and hockey legend Bobby Hull.

Mishea Hyatt had a chance celebrity encounter many fans dream of. After a Smashing Pumpkins concert last year in Boston, Massachusetts, she waited outside in hopes of catching a glimpse of the band.

Within a few minutes, front man Billy Corgan walked over and invited Hyatt and her friend to chat in the hotel lobby where the band was staying. “It was a great conversation about nothing, but it meant everything,” she said.

It seems everyone has a favorite story about his or her own brush with greatness. What’s yours?

- Katie Hawkins, Associate Producer for User Participation

Filed under: Celebrities
March 26th, 2008
09:18 AM ET

Pols, take a tip from the celebs

There was a time in the not so distant past when pop culture observers like me looked to the likes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears for our daily dose of scandal. Those girls could always be counted on to flash a crotch, cop a plea or be caught in possession of an illegal substance.

Britney Spears acquitted herself well on "How I Met Your Mother."

But in recent weeks paunchy middle-aged men have replaced the pretty young things as the poster children for outrageous behavior. Now Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson, and a recently initiated member of the horny elected rat pack, Kwame Kilpatrick, have replaced Young Hollywood on the front pages of the tabloids.

As a result, in the days leading up to the Iraq war anniversary serious journalists were grappling with questions like, “What comes in a seven-diamond package?” and headline writers were churning out tawdry gems like “Ho No” (the New York Post on Spitzer).

And now we have loads of new tidbits to file away in our “too much information” folder, whether we like it or not. Do we really need to know that Spitzer prefers to keep his socks on while doing the deed? That Paterson’s romper room of choice was at, of all places, the Days Inn?

Um, I’m going to go with a resounding no.

Nevertheless, we gobble it all up –- down to the titillating mayoral text messages (thanks, Kwame). And why?

Maybe it’s because we like to watch them recklessly flout the rules we’ve agreed to live by. Maybe it’s because we like to know our leaders are, to borrow a phrase from US Weekly, “just like us.” That is, far from perfect and sometimes shockingly stupid.

But here’s the difference. Most of us don’t spend our entire adult lives focused on how to be powerful and likable enough to earn the popular vote. And most of us don’t peddle ourselves as moral leaders with impeccable judgment. Hollywood’s girls gone wild certainly never did.

After jail time, rehab stints and reams of bad publicity, the starlets finally appear to be wising up … at least for now. At the ripe old age of 21, Lindsay isn’t the night crawler she used to be. Paris is in South Africa whooping it up at night, but touring orphanages during the day (that’s hot). And back under her dad’s thumb again, even Britney, the worst of the bunch, is apparently cleaning up her mess of an act. She looked healthy and thin and - most importantly - sober the other evening when she played a receptionist on the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”

We’ll see if the boys hunker down, pull their pants up and follow their lead.

- Lola Ogunnaike, "American Morning" entertainment correspondent

Filed under: Uncategorized
March 24th, 2008
10:46 AM ET

Ray Davies has hopes for Kinks reunion

A Kinks reunion? Ray Davies says it could still happen.

The original Kinks get together in 2005 at the UK Music Hall of Fame ceremony.

"I know that three-quarters of the band are really up for it and can do it and are available,
the head Kink told in a phone interview from Tasmania over the weekend, reiterating comments he's made elsewhere. "The one-quarter, a very vital quarter, my brother, is having thoughts about it, because he’s recovering from a very bad illness. [Dave Davies suffered a stroke in 2004; he's greatly recovered and put out an album in 2007.] His right hand isn’t fully on yet but I think it’s getting a lot better."

Dave Davies has said he isn't so sure. "I wouldn't mind or rather consider doing some shows with Ray purely in respect for the Great body of work we have both been fortunate to have been involved in over the years. And for the fans of course," he wrote in a post on his Web site in November. "But to sit in a room or studio with him and have my brain and heart slowly sucked out ... no friggin thank you."

The original Kinks - Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Pete Quaife and Mick Avory - haven't played together regularly since early 1969, when Quaife left the band a few months after the release of "The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society." (There have been a couple appearances since, such as at U.S. and UK hall of fame induction ceremonies.)

The Kinks are also one of a handful of major rock groups who haven't had their history collected in a box set, but Ray Davies says that may change soon.

"When this tour is over ... I’m going to have some meetings with people and set the dogs on all these people and try to bring them to light," he said with a laugh. " ‘Cause I think a box set would be great. [It] would really show the evolution of the band, along with a very good DVD with it, to show how this band evolved. ...

"There’s a lot of love in the Kinks, in the best sense," Davies continued. "It’s like one of those old Westerns, where the guys ride off into the sunset and it’s not really there and there’s a shootout at the ridge and one guy gets hit and he says 'Leave me here, you go on over for your own good and send the cavalry back,' it’s a bit like that, the Kinks. And I think it would be nice to have the whole story there."

Ray Davies' new solo album, "Working Man's Cafe," came out last month.

Watch for's Davies interview later this week.

- Todd Leopold, Entertainment Producer

Filed under: Uncategorized
March 19th, 2008
10:05 AM ET

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008

I can't think of Arthur C. Clarke without thinking of stars.

Arthur C. Clarke passed away early Wednesday. The author was 90.

It's not just the presence of stars in his work, tales of space and time such as "Childhood's End," "Rendezvous with Rama" and - of course - "2001: A Space Odyssey." It's in two lines, from two different stories, that never fail to give me chills:

  • "Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out." ("The Nine Billion Names of God")
  • "The thing's hollow - it goes on forever - and - oh my God! - it's full of stars!" ("2001: A Space Odyssey")

Both lines, in what they suggest about the universe and the infinite, were the hook for a lifetime of reading.

I am a reader because of Arthur C. Clarke. He was among my earliest favorite authors. He was an inspiring guide, because he was always asking, demanding, beseeching (in his matter-of-fact British way) you to think. (See our explainer on the life of Arthur C. Clarke.)

Last night, when I read of his death, I went in search of my copy of "2001." I couldn't find it; it seems to have vanished somewhere into the beyond. Perhaps it's in a parallel universe (one in which I unpacked some of the several boxes of books up in the attic). That would only be appropriate.

Mr. Clarke, thank you for your inspiration and your imagination. You may have returned to the elements now, but your spirit will always be among the stars.

- Todd Leopold, Entertainment Producer

Filed under: Uncategorized
March 17th, 2008
01:54 PM ET

Rutlemania returns!

It was 30 years ago Saturday that “All You Need Is Cash,” the mockumentary about “the legend that will last a lunchtime,” the Rutles, debuted on NBC – and promptly finished dead last in the ratings.

But the Rutles would not go away. There were two albums of material – one to accompany the special, the other, 1996’s “Archaeology,” a reaction against the “Anthology” entries of that other British band -– and a growing appreciation of what Dirk, Ron, Stig and Barry spawned.

Now, to mark 30 years of Rutlemania, Eric Idle, Neil Innes, Rikki Fataar and John Halsey – the men behind the Pre-Fab Four - will be doing a Q&A at the Mods & Rockers Film Festival in Los Angeles Monday night. (Sadly, the Fifth Rutle - Ollie Halsall, who played a number of the guitar parts on “The Rutles” - passed away in 1992.)

Our friends at Entertainment Weekly have an interview with Idle about the band and recent Rutle projects. Me, I can’t stop the lyrics running through my head: “One man’s civilization is another man’s jungle, yeah …”

- Todd Leopold, Entertainment Producer

Filed under: Uncategorized
March 7th, 2008
04:22 PM ET

Review: MusicPass fails to excite

In mid-January, Sony BMG released Platinum MusicPass, credit card-like digital albums that allow music buyers to purchase music in non-disc form, log on to a Web site and download MP3 files to their digital players. The label, which is pitching the cards as a gift or collectible, is selling the MusicPass albums at several retailers, including Best Buy and Target, as well as non-traditional spots such as the Winn-Dixie supermarket chain.

MusicPass is available at several retailers.

CNN Producer Matt West, always interested in the latest technological offshoots (and the producer of the network's Pop Digital segments), sampled the new product. Here's his review:

Because nobody at Sony has yet received the memo that music retail was killed by the music download, apparently the company now wants to me to go to a retail store to pick up something that I could just as easily do without ever leaving my home.

This bothers me on so many levels. First, I should mention that I live in Los Angeles, where driving is considered a blood sport. Now, thanks to MusicPass, I can not only take my life in my own hands in order to get music on my computer - I’m also contributing unnecessary carbon emissions and smog to the atmosphere.

Next, would somebody please tell me what I am supposed to do with this shiny plastic card after I log on to Sony’s MusicPass Web site and download my tracks? Pass it on to a friend and let them download some music? Sorry, only one download to a customer. At least when I bought CDs, I could pass them along to my friends to listen to or copy. (No doubt, the one person/one use situation is part of Sony’s plan.) I wonder if this card is recyclable.

It’s also a clunky system. When you visit the MusicPass site, you are prompted to enter some numbers found on the back of the card. You are then asked if you want to install Sony’s download-manager software. Now, I’m sure this is infinitely more convenient than the alternative, which involves clicking and saving each individual file to your hard-drive and then copying that into your iTunes music library before finally putting those files on your iPod. (Which by the way, before MusicPass, I could do in two clicks.) But given Sony's DRM issues in the past, I’m not looking forward to installing anything from Sony Music in my system. (Editor's note: In 2005, Sony put out CDs that downloaded software on users' computers and included a rootkit. Sony BMG says MusicPass does not contain DRM.)

Then there’s the issue of theft. As someone who used to work in music retail, I can’t even tell you how easy this card would be to steal. If all that’s required to download your music is a pair of numbers from the card – as opposed to a scan or swipe that “activates” the card - then it’s almost as if Sony is asking for kids to pop on down to the local Best Buy and steal their music.

And one final note: cost.

At $12.99 a pop for most releases, this is no bargain. Even with the bonus tracks contained on several albums, I can’t imagine why anyone would be willing to spend that kind of money. iTunes is cheaper – most albums range from $9.99-11.99. And what if I just want the single? Many online outlets allow you to download individual songs for 99 cents.

MusicPass’ press release states that it’s “a great way to bring digital music to the physical retail space.” The catch is the wonder of digital music eliminates the need for the physical retail space. And besides iTunes, there are plenty of places to find music downloads, such as Amazon and eMusic (not to mention, uh, those file-sharing sites).

Thanks for trying, Sony. I’ll just stack the rest of these cards over here next to this pile of MiniDiscs and Betamax tapes.

- CNN Entertainment Producer Matt West

Filed under: Uncategorized
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