Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Mixing it Up With New Jersey's Bad Boy - Mike Marino

Ciao a tutti,

Well, Mike Marino did it again. Every once in awhile Mike brings a special group of people together that have the distinction of having three things in common, at least. They are all in the Entertainment Industry, they all have the desire and willingness to share their knowledge and they all are Mike's friends, or want to be.

I was happy to be included in this group, and though not everyone can always make it, it certainly is fun mixing with the ones that do. And in so doing, a lot of great projects have come out of these mixers and many more are in the works.

One of the beauties of the evening is to see people at varying stages of their careers, from multi-award winners, like Emmys and Grammys etc., to newbies in the Industry mixing it up, having fun, making connections, and learning and sharing.

Just like in the movies, and oh so very Italian, Mike brings everyone together in the back room of an Italian restaurant, Sebastian's, where Sebastian, the owner himself gets in on the action and fun. Above you see Mike and I pictured with two of the Industry awarded veterans. You all remember Shabba-Doo as the star of such movies as "Breakin'," "Breaking 2: Electric Boogaloo," "Lambada," "Xanadu," or as Madonna's choreographer on several of her tours.

I included one of his videos clips below just for fun, when he appeared on the Steve Allen show many years ago. Shabba-Doo is a really fun guy, not to mention funny. Next to Mike is Steve Howell, multi-Emmy award winning Director and now also an expert in helicopter aerial film production. You have most definitely seen some of his aerial shots in various shows and films.

I thought these next guys were Italian for sure. Come to find out, it was their east coast demeanor that threw me off, he, he. They are Joe Lucas and Sean Cross of IMC Artists and are screenwriters and filmmakers in their own right. Now the young lady in the middle, I know she's Italian, because she is Isabella Carlini. She's not only on a fast track at Paramount working in licensing and what not, she is also a fine singer, a soprano no less.

Now there is no mistaking that the guy I am pictured with here is not only Italian-American but also from the east coast, when you meet him, it's Tony Vitale. Now here is a talented and very versatile guy. Tony has worn many hats in many film productions, including actor, but truly shines in his roles as screenwriter and director as is evidenced by his growing list of directorial and writing credits starting with his directing debut "Kiss Me Guido," a clever Italian- American themed film, and continuing through "One Last Ride," "Very Mean Men," and "Jungle Juice."

I think the next picture is funny because of all the people in the picture, I think I am the least Italian looking, but there is actually only one Italian-American in the picture besides myself, can you picture which one? Here is a hint, the guy farthest from me is named Leonardo Rossetti, he is a Cameraman in the business. Was that too big a hint, he, he? The guy next to him is actor, producer, writer, director, Carl T. Evans.

You TV watchers may remember him from certain episodes of "Melrose Place," "Third Watch," "Sex and the City," "Guiding Light," "As the World Turns," and all kinds of other shows, but his passion is movies, and making them, like "Walking on the Sky," or his new one coming out in Winter of this year, "Frame of Mind."

And now for something embarrassing. I thought the young lady next to me was songwriter Kara DioGuardi when I saw her beautiful face from across the room. Once I approached her I realized that she wasn't and she told me her name.

Well, I called her Kara all night just to be funny and now guess what, I can't remember her name. I know she is going to see this and I will never hear the end of it. If someone knows her name, do tell me before she sees this.

Then there is Fred Salas who just wrote an interesting book, "The Poor Man's Guide to Buying Scalper Tickets." He's a sports announcer KUMD TV31 calling the action and giving you the basketball play by play. I asked him to giving me a demonstration just for fun, and it was funny, he sounded "just like the guy on TV," never mind that he is that guy, or one of them.

Finally, I got to join Isabella again as she was talking to Andrew Bishop, Vice President, Business Development for Fan Rocket, before the evening was done and the camera put away. Funny that with all the cameramen, directors, producers and writers in that room, why was I the one running around with a camera taking pictures and now writing about it? Maybe I should look into doing this for a feature movie myself, he, he.

Ciao for now,


P.S. As I mentioned here is a video from featuring Shabba-Doo dancing on a Steve Allen show. (In English)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Alessandra Belloni's Tarantella - Alla Braziliana

Ciao a tutti,

Last night I had the pleasure of not only getting to see Alessandra Belloni again, but catching one of her shows. It is so interesting about Alessandra, every time I have seen her, she has never had the same show twice.

And I don't mean like she changes an element of the show or rearranges something, I mean, almost the complete show is different. But whether she has different musicians, or different dancers or different staging, etc., you are always aroused by her drumming and rhythmic frenzy.

This time she appeared at the Remo Center in North Hollywood. By the way Remo is world renowned for their unique drum skins invented by founder Remo Belli, an Italian with a great story himself. I hope to interview him for you all someday.

But back to Alessandra, this time she appeared with a large band and an amazing dance troupe. That is Alessandra with the Brazilian troupe after the show above, in the light blue shawl around her wais

The show was ab
out blending the the Italian Healing Rituals for the Black Madonna and the Tarantella with the BRAZILIAN RHTHYMS and DANCES OF THE ORIXAS, and boy was it. Right in the middle of her set out came these authentically dressed Brazilian dancers and singers doing a type of pilgrimage walk in rhythm while carrying an image of the Black Madonna.

I was so impressed in seeing this kind of thing in the States, all the way from Brazil, that I took out my camera and started taking pictures. Of course, I didn't want to disturb too much so I didn't use the flash. Well, guess what? Yup, they didn't come out so great. Besides, at one point the dancers were dancing so fast that the pictures came out blurry, and I have a pretty good camera too. That's how exciting the music was.

Above is a picture of Alessandra, the Brazilian troupe, a solo dancer, a musician and me.

By the way, I have been ask
ed before from people who didn't know, what the Black Madonna was, and if it was a Satanist Saint. Absolutely not, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it is a Madonna that is worshiped all over Italy from the North to the South, I know that she is also the Patron Saint of Poland, and of course, we know now how revered she is in Brazil.

You can see an image of her behind us in the pictures above. Otherwise, I posted the above rendering of her, in a statue with the Baby Jesus, as found in a church in Oropa, Italy that I liked of all the renderings I researched for this post.

I understand Alessandra will be back in the Spring and I can't wait to see what kind of novelties she brings with her this time. Actually, I got a preview of what is coming along with a release of a new book of hers and I can't wait to tell you about it once I get my hands on it, and the accompanying DVD. Now, I think I have given too much away, he, he.

Afterwards I got to spend sometime talking with the musicians, the dancers and of course Alessandra.

Above I am pictured with one of the guitar players and fellow Italian-American Gregory Dormani and here with drummer Jerry Zacarias and musician Allynne.

Oh, and by the way, what do Italian entertainers do after a show? Why the answer is clear, isn't it? We go to an Italian restaurant for some soul food!

Buona Cena (To a Good Dinner),


P.S. I thought in keeping with the theme of the Black Madonna and the Italian and Brazilian connection, since I showed an image of her from Italy above, I thought it only fitting to show a video of one of the churches dedicated to her, the Black Madonna, in Brazil. (Silent Video)

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Way to a Man's Heart - Is Through His Stomach!

Ciao a tutti,

There is an old saying that says "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." If this is true then I would have to say that no one knows the way better than an Italian woman.

I had forgotten just how true this saying is until I spent an enjoyable and delicious evening with Tina Maron, a friend and fine cook and baker. I saw her at a party during the Christmas Holiday, and she was telling me about her newly remodeled fancy kitchen. I said something silly like, "I would love to cook in it."

What was I crazy? The way Tina cooks? Why would I want to cook for her. Luckily, she was gracious enough to let me off the hook and she cooked for me instead.

So this is how it played out. I arrived at her home atop a mountain in Palos Verdes overlooking everything and she greets me with a hug, a kiss and a Pomegranate Martini, that's it, I'm staying!

She had set a place for me at the bar in her kitchen so I could sit and eat while she prepared the rest of the meal. I felt guilty for about a minute and then I let it go, because she insisted I eat and enjoy, and so I did. And what did I eat, well, she had made me Focaccia in her presto, lickety-split pizza oven.

So we chatted about this and that and I ate and ate and was full before she even finished making dinner. Dinner was served in the dining room, meaning I had to give up King's Throne at the bar and sit at the table. But that didn't mean she stopped treating me like a King.

Dinner was delicious and the conversation was lively as was to be expected, if not because we are both Italian-Americans, maybe because of the Martini's.

I learned a lot of things during dinner, not just about food, because she really is an amazing cook, but about Italian-Americans. First, and most importantly, I found out that she is a fan of my Filippo and the Chef Show and she proceeded to tell me who she would like to hear, and eventually see on the show, when we go to TV.

Did you know Rick Fox of the Los Angeles Lakers is part Italian? I didn't, but Tina did. She was a wealth of information. How about Brooke Shields or Prince?

I felt at first like she was testing me, and frankly, I was doing pretty well. I have a long list of celebrities with Italian heritage with names that would surprise people. But few people surprise me like Tina did with her input and knowledge.

After the dinner came the kicker. She led me to the TV room and she propped me up on a comfy couch and put a foot stool out for my legs and put on an Academy Award nominated movie, "The Queen," of all things. Here I was being treated like a King sitting watching "The Queen." It was a most appropriate choice.

And as I watched, she was in the kitchen, cleaning up and surprising me with treats every once in a while. Again, I tried to pause the movie so we could enjoy it together, but she wouldn't have it.

Once again, I tried to feel guilty, but I just could let myself, plus she just wouldn't have it. If I didn't know better, I would think she was having just as much fun as I was.

And frankly, since I like to play host, I know the feeling, and it is good to know that the guests enjoy themselves. Although frankly, I don't know if I have every treated anyone as well as she treated me, he, he.

One of the treats was an espresso made so good I politely asked for another, and she graciously obliged. Then she asked me if I was ready for Zeppole. Zeppole? No one has ever made me Zeppole except my Mother.

I had to have a picture of it. Sure enough, she made them right there and we ate them hot out of the oil, there's no other way to eat them. Oh, except with a Limoncello chaser, which she promptly provided.

I was still finishing my second espresso, but I didn't turn down the Limoncello. Since I didn't get to have Zeppole for the Holidays, this was a real treat and it felt like an extension of the Season.

As much as I ate, Tina wanted to send me home with left overs. I couldn't, I just couldn't.

She had reached my heart through my stomach and filled them both up and now they were both OVER FLOWING, don't Italians know the meaning of that? Talk about Abbondanza!

I had so much fun, before I left I asked Tina what she was doing next Friday night, and she just laughed. She either didn't get the hint, or she got it and didn't think I was serious. Either that or I guess you only get treated like a King once in a while, and I don't blame here. Of course I'm kidding but I hope she gets treated like a Queen herself now and then.

She reigns in my book!

All Hail the Queen!


P.S. Here are two videos of an Australian comedian, Paulie, who has an interesting and funny perspective on Gnocchi in the first video sketch, and a short funny rap song about it in the second. (In English, or Australian, if you will.)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dinner With The Mrs. - Mrs. Sergio Franchi That Is!

Ciao a tutti,

A couple of times a year I get the pleasure of having dinner with a lovely lady many people know as Mrs. Sergio Franchi. To me it's Eva and we have become good friends over all these years.

Whether she is in town, here in Los Angeles, or I am in hers in Connecticut, we always try and get together for at least a dinner. The best ones are when she cooks at home the dinners she used to cook her husband the late great tenor Sergio Franchi. I can't wait to show her making one of those recipes in her kitchen on our "Filippo and the Chef" Show one of these days.

This is how it all started. You may or may not know how it is in this business, but when people like you and what you do, and I am fortunate that so many people do, they want to help you. So often I would get people saying to me after concerts, that they were going to help me. And I mean big people, like these men in power suits that look like they own the world, and they just might, but up to that point, no one had come through.

One day I was singing at a large gathering of an Italian Women's organization here in Los Angeles. After I finished many women came up to talk to me and buy CDs etc., as did this little old lady who hobbled up on a cane and literally pushed her way through the crowds of fans to get to me.

The first words she said to me where, "Has anybody every told you that you remind them of Sergio Franchi?" I had actually heard that, though I didn't understand the connection because I knew Sergio as an opera singer and that is not how I sing.

The next thing she said in a bold and determined voice was, "Give me your card, I'm going to help you." I gave her my card and that was it, she hobbled away. I thought in my mind that it was really sweet that she liked me so much that she wanted to help, but I knew I would never hear from her. After all, people that look like they can do something for my career and had said they wanted to help either couldn't or didn't, what could this lady possibly do?

Oh, but I was wrong, she called me the very next day and told me, not asked me, but told me I was coming to her house the next evening to me Mrs. Sergio Franchi.

She helped me after all. Her name was Ann Nardi, and I will never forget her and will always be grateful to her. She actually didn't stop there with that introduction, but I will have to save the stories for another time.

Suffice it to say, I met Eva that next night at Ann's home and played and sang for her at Ann's grand piano. Eva jumped up from her seat and shook my hand and said, "Congratulations, you are invited to be a Sergio Franchi Foundation Scholarship participant," or something like that. I left Ann's house not really sure what had just happened but I knew it was a good thing.

That year was the first year I won a Sergio Franchi Scholarship and performed for the annual concert at Sergio and Eva's home in Connecticut on a sprawling 280 acre estate. I quickly got to learn what the connection was that people saw between Sergio and I, and it was his personality, the way he used his hands and the way he spoke to the audience.

There are many stories I could tell about the song I sang for Eva that first night, and the fact that everyone told me to cut my hair before getting to the concert, everyone but Eva that is.

Eva however wasn't sure about letting me go on stage to tell a story since no one had done that in any of the years prior. Both her and the conductor insisted I just sing. It was hours before the concert that I spoke to her again and I think she reluctantly agreed after I told her what I would say and promised her to keep it short.

Well, I don't know how short I kept it but I know it was such a hit that the next year she invited me back, didn't hire a comedian to entertain the crowd like she had done the years prior, and made time on the program for me to talk away..., and I have been talking ever since.

I have to say it has been a lot of fun. Unfortunately, Ann is no longer with us but she did get to come to Connecticut and see me perform that first year and was very proud of me, and I very grateful to her. Eva even thanked and acknowledged her from the stage for introducing me to her.

But the concert is still going strong and I go every year that I can to support a good cause of raising money for scholarships for young tenors. The only thing that is changing year to year is that the crowds are getting larger and the beautiful classic car collection that Sergio had is now no longer displayed, except for a few special ones, since they were all sold last year by Christie's at Greenwich Concours d'Elegance. Click on the link to see some of his car collection before it was sold.

So, now when Eva and I get together, and in this case, with her sister Suzy Scott, we talk about everything back to how Sergio got started, and the days performing at the Coconut Grove and in Las Vegas and..., you get the picture.

(Speaking of pictures, you see pictured here throughout the post, my entire Sergio Franchi Record collection, and I do mean record, starting with my favorite. I have CDs too now, but it was through these LPs that I came to know "la voce di Sergio Franchi,"the voice of Sergio Franchi.)

I love hearing and talking about "those days," it seems that there was something special about them. Maybe at the time they were just having fun "doing their thing" and we look back and romanticism about them.

Well, then I hope maybe someday I will be having dinner with a younger singer and telling him or her how I got started and the things I have done and people I have met and together we will romanticize about Ann and Eva and the wonderful time we had "doing our thing," too!


P.S. I thought this video was very fitting for this post because here is another young winner of the Sergio Franchi Foundation Scholarship. It is also fitting because Sergio started singing at ten years old and this singer is twelve. He is Alex Prior and here he is singing for Meryl Streep in Russia. (In Russian and Italian)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Lordess Giveth - And the Lordess Taketh Away

Ciao a tutti,

What could I possibly mean by, the title of this post? Well, many people use this phrase to mean many things in their lives, only they usually say "Lord." For me, in this case, I am referring to my hair. Fortunately, the Lord has not taken away my hair, but the "Lord" or should I say "Lordess," that has ruled over my hair for a decade or so, and I, decided it was time to take away the long locks.

Many references have been made to my "locks" over the years, from TV personalities on their shows to stage presenters as they introduced me, to Newspapers and Magazine articles, like the Romantic Times Magazine quote from years ago that wrote, "... golden locks and a sexy smile whose career is about to explode. ... a bilingual English/Italian paean to the romance of life."

Well, now my "romance of life" was about to be chopped off, or at least part of it. And it couldn't have been done by a nicer person. I am referring to Marlene Schifter the Lordess Hairstylist of Hollywood. I'll explain that in a minute.

But back to me, and back to "The Lordess Giveth and the Lordess Taketh Away." It was Marlene who encouraged me to allow my hair to naturally curl and let it grow out.

It all happened a long time ago, on my very first head shot photo session here in Hollywood where I first met Marlene. She was kind enough to "style" my hair that day for my photo shoot, or so I thought.

Ironically however, up until then I had been wearing my hair really short, and I used to blow dry it straight. So, when I went to the studio to have my "professional" photos taken, I was taken back when Marlene wet my hair and let it dry and curl naturally as she worked the curls on my head and trimmed around them.

I didn't understand what was going on. I think I even got a bit testy asking her why she wasn't blow drying my hair straight and making me look "good?" It was about that time that the photographer came in and looked at me and said, "Good, okay, let's start."

"Start?" I exclaimed, "We can't start anything until my hair is right!" None of them, including my brother who was there too, could figure out what I meant. I tried to tell them I wasn't ready but to no avail, they thought I looked "fine." The only way I agreed to starting the photo session was if we could take half of the shots with the curly hair, and half after I took some time to straighten my hair on my own.

And so we proceeded with the shoot. When all was said and done and I received the proofs, I took them to every person I knew to ask them which pictures they liked better of the 438 or so that the photographer had taken. Wouldn't you know it, everyone of the people I asked picked a picture of me with the curly hair as styled by Marlene.

From then on, Marlene had earned my respect, and my apology. She became the Lordess of my hair and the rest is history.

Back to Marlene. It was written about her a few years back that she was the best kept secret in Beverly Hills, because she opted to work in a smaller boutique salon, Tina Cassaday's, and at a station that was above the salon and somewhat isolated. But she must have known what she was doing, because it was just what her high profile clients liked, privacy. However, the secret must be out because her schedule fills up fast now, and I find myself trying to compete for "hair time."

Actually, competing is hard to do with the people who's hair she cuts. When I said she is the Lordess of Hollywood stylists, it is not because her clients are the stars we all know from TV and Film. No, her clients are more important than them. By the way, she only cuts men's hair, and therefore, her clientèle is primarily made up of the men who make the stars what they are, the Producers, Directors, etc.

Just try and get an appointment with her around Oscar time.

So now you see what I mean by she giveth and she taketh away, because now after all these years, the one who giveth me the curls and encouraged me to grow my hair, took them away. But not all of them, I think she wanted to be reminded what the in-between stage looked like before going any shorter.

Well, what do you think?

The pictures are self explanatory, except for this last one. This is one of Marlene's clients who was scheduled after me who patiently waited while we agonized over how much shorter we should go, and while we took pictures and chatted up a storm. But we had fun and as you can see from this picture, so do her clients.

Thanks Marlene for the new look, I can't wait to see what people think.


P.S. For those of you who wonder what the big deal is? Well, the hair, or lack there of, on a man's head really changes the look of a man and how people respond to him. If you need any proof of that other than the pictures above, you have to watch this humorous short video. It is made by a man with little hair and animated so you see him with different hair colors and styles. The video starts off with the word "Capelli" which is Italian for "hair." (Music Only)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Gone Fishin' - For Italians

Ciao a tutti,

Friends have said about me that everywhere I go lately I'm "Fishin' for Italians." Well, true or not, I always seem to find them. What could be more appropriate than finding one at an outdoor food market, a fish vendor no less, from Chicago.

I heard stories all my life of Italians going to the marketa, (or marchetta, in Italian) to buy the fresh whatever, every morning, or as necessary. Whether in Italy, New York, Chicago or here in Los Angeles, we Italians still want our food the freshest it could be, organic (or biologico as the Italians in Italy say it) like our ancestors grew it, picked as ripe as possible and sold within hours for us to buy it and get the most flavor and nutrients out of God's great gifts.

Nothing could be more true than when we Italians have the desire to eat fish. It's gotta be fresh or we just won't eat it. So when I can make the time and get myself to one of the several outdoor markets around town I go for it.

After a while you start to get to know the vendors and they tell you what's good today and what you should buy and eat right now, etc. And this couldn't be more true with Peter who I have seen at a few markets, and his truck at a few more.

A friend pointed out that Peter was Italian. I should have guessed. Was there every any doubt? I guess I just wasn't putting two and two together. If the looks don't give it away, the accent does, or the way he treats his customers or is passionate about what he is doing. But as far as his accent is concerned, it isn't an Italian accent, its from Chicaaago!

I'm talking about Peter Siracusa, who when you ask him where he is from he'll tell you he's a "homeboy from the streets of Chicago." I guess it's the same ol' story, "you can take the boy out of Chicago, but you can't take Chicago out of the boy." And what a story it is. Once we opened up the discussion on being Italian-American and being from Chicago, forget about it, we could have talked all day.

I learned all about how his Sicilian born Father and his Barese born Mother landed in Chicago from Italy and then how he came to California from Chicago on his own along with six other Italian guys and four Irish ones. Not that he came to California with ten other guys, no, he came with six other Italian guys and four Irish ones.

First he landed in San Francisco and decided that was beautiful but not for him and then he landed in Hollywood. Not in Los Angeles, Hollywood. So what's a guy to do when in Hollywood but get involved in "pictures." That's the "movies" for those of you who don't know old Hollywoodese.

He started building sets and moving up in the business and got to work with such people as Lily Tomlin and on the "Incredible Shrinking Woman" film. But he decided that the movies weren't for him, or was it the people? At any rate, it was off to open a deli and then to working with his father selling fish, hence J and P West Coast Seafood, where the "P" is for Peter.

I wish I could elaborate on all the factors involved in this life progression. Some of the stories and the characters he met along the way are so interesting, at least to hear him tell it. Like I said, you could listen to him all afternoon. Actually, to watch the line of customers come through, you know they love him, the stories, and oh yes, the fish too. Everyone of them seemed to be a friend. And when they walked away he told me stories of each one, and all good, so he obviously really liked them and wasn't putting on an act.

I guess we Italians are good at acting on stage and screen, but in real life, it's real life! Here is him and Preness Marks, a long time customer getting her fresh Salmon fix for the days dinner.

And speaking of Italians acting, I guess Peter never got too far away from Hollywood, or at least they won't let him go. He was scouted to be on one episode of the hit cooking show, second to "Filippo and the Chef" that is, he, he, "Top Chef."

On that episode the chef was smart enough to go to Peter and get his recommendation on the best fish to win the contest. And that chef won. You can see Peter on that episode, because it seems like it is the one that they show the most often. I think it is because of Peter.

So what was good today? All of it was good otherwise he wouldn't sell it, that's what he said, and I believed him. He started telling me about the Halibut, the Red Snapper and the Sward Fish. I interrupted and asked him about the "Baccala." He said he had Cod but no Baccala. I said, you mean you have it fresh not salted and dried. He said, no he had Black Cod but not Baccala Cod.

What's the difference? Well, I was in for a lesson. I only knew of one type of Cod and that is the one that is used for Baccala. But according to the expert, Peter taught me there are eight or nine different types of Cod Fish. I never knew that.

Look at all you can learn when you ask someone if they are Italian-American! Don't you think it's time you went "Fishin' For Italians?"


P.S. I thought this video was very apropos to today's post. It is some footage taken of some fishermen in a small fishing village in Caronia, Sicily. The opening caption in Italian translates to "...Caronia, a sliver of land between sky and sea." It's dawn and the fishermen are coming in with the morning's catch. The video goes on to feature other artisans at work but the images of the fisherman is timeless. Enjoy (In Italian)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Yoga means "Play" - In Sicilian

Ciao a tutti,

The pronunciation of the word "Yoga" sounds just like the pronunciation of the word "Ioga" which is a Sicilian word for "Play." In Sicilian when someone says someone is "playing," you say, "Yoga!"

And how appropriate since that is exactly what we were doing, yoga and ioga, with some new Italian-American friends. My friend Laura De Leon, who you might remember as the singer in the Long Island show a couple months ago, takes yoga seriously and studies with the best in between her recording sessions for her new CD, and everything else she is doing.

Wouldn't you know it, two of her favorite yoga instructors are Italian-American. They are Venetia and Gianna Carotenuto, sisters no less, and what a driving force they are. Italian and sisters, need I say more! That is Venetia to my right and Gianna to my left in the photo above.

Laura was kind enough to invite me to a private yoga class knowing the two Italian-American yogis and I would hit it off, and she was right.

It actually wasn't just a "Yoga" class but a "Ioga" class, and that's why it was private since this was more of a ceremonial get-together closing this particular studio and a send off to the two beloved teachers as they move on to another space.

Now that I know Italian-Americans in the Yoga field, I guess I can officially say that Italian-Americans are everywhere doing everything, and doing it very well at that. It was quite obvious by the esteem that the students had for these two that they not only are good at what they do but they put their heart into it, a Neopolitan heart, at that.

As a matter of fact their family heralds from one of the most beautiful islands in the world, the Island of Capri! Their family must have brought their spirit with them from the island, because their beautiful spirit shown through in their work. Of course they have been to Capri and visit as often as they can.

But back to the Yoga, speaking of bring spirit from Italy, they brought to this gathering ancient sacred ceremonies, drumming, chanting, yoga positions and dance, laughter and a whole lot of fun in celebration. Who knew Yoga could be so fun.

I can't wait to see where these ladies head from here so I can attend a class and benefit from all they bring to the discipline. My Italian-American hat is off to them.

In the meantime, here are a few pictures of the Italian-American yogis, all of us! Starting with a picture of the ladies and I and ending with a picture of the Lady Leon and I, which is what she has also been known as throughout her singing and acting career.

The whole evening was quite an ex- perience. You know, if pasta really came from China, which I don't believe, then Italians perfected it. And now after tonight, if yoga came from India, am I to deduce that Italians perfected that too? He, he.

Enjoy and don't forget to "Yoga," and or "Ioga!"


P.S. I couldn't resist putting up a video for all of us to enjoy of the beautiful island of Capri since I thought it would be so apropos and enjoyable to watch. This is a slide show presentation with an American song soundtrack. I can't wait to go back! (In English and Italian)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Kara DioGuardi - "Ain't No Other Man" Tops the Charts

Ciao a tutti,

This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing, hearing and meeting one of Pop music's greatest stars and star makers. She is an Italian-American from Jersey, Kara DioGuardi, with an amazing story and personality, not to mention looks.

Get this, she is one of the industry’s most highly sought after songwriter/producer whose songs and album productions are continuously topping the charts and winning awards world-wide. Kara currently has a catalog of more than 500 songs; in 2004/2005 Kara had 106 of those songs released and 55 appeared on multi-platinum selling albums.

Ms. DioGuardi’s songs have been recorded by scores of major label artists and among Kara's recent and current songs is the Christina Aguilera hit "Aint No Other Man" off her current album "Back to Basics" on which Kara co-wrote half the songs. She has also co-wrote Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away” (a Top 15 song on the Hot 100 Billboard charts), as well as Clarkson’s next single “Gone.” Other current singles include “Beep” (a Top 15 song on the Hot 100 Billboard charts), co-written with Will.I.Am and "I don't Need a Man" for the Pussycat Dolls, Ashlee Simpson’s hits “L.O.V.E.” (a Top 10 airplay song) and “Boyfriend” ( a Top 20 Hot 100 Record); and Bo Bice’s eponymous song “The Real Thing.” Kara also co-wrote the first Santana single “I’m Feeling You,” featuring Michelle Branch, as well as the forthcoming single “Cry Baby Cry,” featuring Sean Paul and Joss Stone. Other recent songs include: "Good Day" by Jewel; "Escape" by Enrique Iglesias; "I Belong To You" by Anastacia; "Unpredictable; Not Me, Not I" by Delta Goodrem; "Shut Up" by Kelly Osbourne.

I cut my Holiday vacation short so I could get back in town to see the show and, as you can imagine, I wasn't surprised to find out the show was sold out. Thanks to Christine and the folks at Art House Entertainment, the management company that Kara and her business partner/manager Stephen Finfer started, they got me in and took pictures of me and everyone. Here is a picture of Kara and I backstage after the show.

The show started off with yet another accomplished singer/songwriter Maia Sharp. I was not familiar with her or her work, that is, until I learned of some of the songs that she had written like those sung by Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Edwin McCain, The Dixie Chicks, and Cher, to name a few artists.

Getting to hear an artist sing his or her own songs is always a treat and hearing Maia was exactly that as she sang songs from her latest CD "Eve and the Red Delicious," accompanying herself on guitar and with Darren Embry on Bass, who also played on the CD.

Here is a picture of Maia singing on stage and below is a picture of Maia, Darren and myself after the show.

Kara's show was conducted in the form of an interview with host and interviewer Melinda Newman who is of note in her own right as the West Coast Bureau Chief for Billboard Magazine and for having interviewed the world's biggest names in music.

Often quoted for her take on the state of the Industry, Melinda had her eye on the state of a young artist hard at
work, namely Kara, from many years back. She has watched Kara's career grow and therefore was the perfect interviewer for the evening.

Below is a picture of Melinda and I. Just talking to her for a few minutes was incredible because she knows so much about the Industry it is amazing, not to mention all the people she has met.

In between questions and answers Kara sang from her repertoire of hit songs sung by the many top artists she works with. And speaking of top artists, she sang her first song, "Taking Chances," with top recording artist, guitarist, composer and co-member of Kara's band Platinum Weird, Dave Stewart.

Below is Kara on stage singing with Dave as Melinda looks on. For most of the show, however, Kara was accompanied by Mitch Allan, a talented songwriter/producer and lead singer in his own right.

And speaking of talent, as I mentioned the place was sold out, but more importantly, it was filled with peers, Industry people. The talent and Industry power in that room that night was incredible. From managers of famous acts to record industry execs and BMI representatives etc., it was quite an event.

Below is a picture of Mitch Allan and I on stage after the show.

Kara closed out the evening with a rousing rendition of "Ain't No Other Man." Did I say "rousing rendition," is there any other kind of rendition possible?

She sang her heart out and the audience responded with a well deserved standing ovation. I was already standing because it was SRO!

After the show I got to talk a bit with Kara and I asked her if she new any Italian words and she said "#*&(!#$!*&%!"

She really is a Jersey Girl! Gotta loved it! I think she must know other Italian words too and I intend to find out when I get the chance to interview her for the Filippo and the Chef radio show hopefully soon. I'll keep you posted.

A presto,


P.S. Here is a Youtube music video of Kara, Dave and Platinum Weird doing "Talking Chances."

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Little Rain Must Fall - Arrivederci Maestro

Ciao a tutti,

It has been exciting posting about so many Italian-Americans that are doing so many wonderful things and getting to know them. I never thought about the fact that someday I would be posting about loosing them.

It is exactly what this post is about. Not only has the Italian-American community lost an honorable and contributing member but the world has lost a great composer and Maestro.

This illustrious person was, is and will always be Maestro Theodore Gargiulo. Personally, he was not only a friend of the family and an avuncular figure, especially musically, but one of my father's best friends. In fact, my father, a professor of languages, and he collaborated on a few musical works together including "Coro D'Italia."

This is a copy of the original handwritten score. The Maestro's last composition was Tryillias an opera in one act written in collaboration with his son Terrence. It is an opera of "an archetypal struggle between terror and faith, power and love. The story chronicles a village's rite of passage from tyranny to a new order..." The opera has been considered for a Pulitzer Prize.

Maestro Gargiulo, composer, conductor and musicologist, was very prolific, writing up until his last few months of his 90th year on earth. I am fortunate to have a signed music book of his titled The Art of Song, a compilation of a few of the Maestro's compositions. Here is a copy of the cover of the first edition of the book and the autographed page.

Speaking of "avuncular," I remember how when he gifted me the book and signed it for me his every so classy and gentle wife Gloria was horrified that he hadn't written any words of endearment on his dedication and made him add the word uncle, which you see in quotes.

My personal fondest memory of the Maestro happened on one particular evening soon after my parents had bought me my first piano. My parents had invited the Gargiulo's to our home, the Maestro, his wife Gloria, his daughter Franca and his son Terrence. I remember it was such a big deal for me to have someone of the Maestro's caliber sitting at my piano and making it sound like I never knew it could. I even remember the songs that he played including "Come Back to Sorrento."

After watching him play, I practiced those Italian songs at the piano trying to emulate his hand movements and style. That night was also the first time I played for him and I will never forget his encouragement and kind words. One thing for sure he was a kind and gentle musical soul and he will be missed. The Maestro and his wife would always stay on top on my singing and performing career every holiday when I would visit Monterey and on a couple occasion gifted me Italian sheet music with encouragement to learn specific songs, many of which I have learned and have used throughout the years in my performances.

Having made Monterey his home in the later part of his life, the local newspaper paid the Maestro their respects in a nice article. Though I have been writing from my personal experiences, there you will read of his many awards and accomplishments. Click here Monterey Herald. com for that article.

Grazie Maestro for "La Musica!"


P.S. In keeping with my format of including a video with each post, I unfortunately do not have a video of the Maestro or his works that I can post here. I am reminded however that in 1939 the Maestro lead the "Coro D'Italia" chorus to three gold cup awards at the World's Fair in New York. Making the connection with that I found two interesting videos of the GM sponsored Futurama Exhibition in which they are describing the cities of the then future 1960's. Very Interesting. (In English)

Part 1:
Part 2: