By A.D. AMOROSI
It has been a hard year for music with so many beloved icons passing away: David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Alphonse Mouzon, Merle Haggard, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell and George Michael are among the greats we've lost. Despite such sadness, 2016 was a year of brilliant and inventive recordings, two of which came from Bowie and Cohen, who died after releasing wise, world-weary work as last wills and testaments to their genius. They top our list of 2016's best albums: read on for my baker's dozen of this year's new classics.
By A.D. AMOROSI
The world barely had time to mourn the death of actor-author Carrie Fisher – a woman famed for roles ranging from her iconic Princess Leia in the Star Wars saga to the recent comedy series Catastrophe, and books including Postcards from the Edge (also a film released in 1990) and The Princess Diarist – before her mother, Debbie Reynolds, passed away. Renowned for her boundless energy and roles in classics such as Singin' in the Rain, The Tender Trap and her Oscar-nominated turn as The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Reynolds was a queen of Hollywood with Fisher as her princess. In January 1997, I met with Ms. Reynolds to interview her about her title role in the Albert Brooks film, Mother, for the now-defunct Philadelphia City Paper.
By A.D. AMOROSI
There has been much to hail in 2016 when it comes it music and television, but only one man had such a fascinating lock on both mediums with equal doses of daring and brilliance: Donald Glover. His FX Network series Atlanta was a subtle, assured socio-political comic triumph. Just as engaging, Glover’s newest album, Awaken, My Love!, recorded as his alter-ego Childish Gambino, ends the year with soulful, stylish, stunning and sexy innovation. Gambino made a real show of such sensuality on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on December 14, with a shirtless performance of the jittery, Prince-like “Redbone.”
By REESE AMOROSI
Although American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare recently aired its finale, fans of haunted houses don't have to travel far for a scare. Just 150 miles north of Roanoke, North Carolina, lies Williamsburg, Virginia, and within it, Historic Colonial Williamsburg, an area so reportedly rife with paranormal activity that there are guided ghost tours. While working as a tour guide, author and photographer Tim Scullion was inspired to document sightings, and this led to his latest book, Haunted Historic Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia: with Breakthrough Ghost Photography.
By A.D. AMOROSI
We've noticed a wealth of weddings officiated by someone not ordained or elected – not a priest, rabbi, judge, mayor or ship’s captain – but rather, someone regal in his own fashion. Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead married Live Nation's Geoff Gordon and Sayeeda Kibria (now Gordon) between sets during his show at Philadelphia's Tower Theatre. Good Day Philadelphia host Mike Jerrick presided as Mix 106.1 FM’s Timothy “Chio in the Morning” Acosta re-married his wife Shawn. Throughout November, Grammy-nominated blues pop singer Elle King will be marrying couples during her "Matrimony Tour."
By A.D. AMOROSI
Since the 1990s, alternative comedy has had a voice in Murray Hill, the cherubic Downtown NYC drag king entertainer known to one-and-all as "Mr. Show Biz," as well as the self-proclaimed "hardest-working middle-aged man" in comedy. Though a longtime fixture of the East Village's pre-gentrified performance art/comedy scene, it's only now that Hill is seeking greater fame with a Hollywood agent and a tour with Bridget Everett, the bawdy singing comedian who admits to having Hill as a nurturing inspiration. Their tour kicks off November 4 at The Fillmore in Philadelphia.
By A.D. AMOROSI
For Halloween aficionados along the East Coast observing that this year the holiday falls on a school night, Henri David offers up his 48th Annual Halloween Ball on Sunday, October 30 (Mischief Night), at Philadelphia's Sheraton City Center Hotel. Rest assured that this party isn't just for locals: David's event is renowned for bringing in costumed revelers from as far away as New Orleans and Los Angeles.
The late Sam Kinison was black comedy's scourge: a whip-smart ex-minister who turned religion and relationships into vicious screeds, all screamed at the top of his lungs. The comedian passed away at age 38 in a 1992 car accident, but his growl and ungodly hurtful jokes live on in a new box set, The Sam Kinison Definitive Comedy Collection of 3 CDs and 7 DVDs. While the audio-only portion of the box features Kinison's vintage comedy LPs (Louder Than Hell, Leader of the Banned, Have You Seen Me Lately), its video portions including HBO specials ('87's Breaking the Rules), posthumously discovered live shows and several documentaries offer fellow comedian's outlook on the infamous, brilliant comic.
|George Carlin: I Kinda Like it When a Lotta People Die|
The late, legendary comedian George Carlin was renowned for his love of language: censored, like the famed "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" from his Class Clown album (1972), and commonly used and manipulative words and phrases that bugged him. Carlin was also known as a bit of a hoarder whose unused material is being divvied between the National Comedy Center (opening in Jamestown, NY in 2017) and the MPI label who, on September 16, will release I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die, a new album of never-before-heard Carlin routines
|Comedian Sean Donnelly|
On Sunday, August 21, stand-up comedian Sean Donnelly (notable for Comedy Central's The Half Hour) and Rus Gutin – comedian and promoter – will share the bill at the recently-opened Punch Line comedy club in Philadelphia. The lineup, which also features Luchana Gatica and James Mattern, also serves as the debut of Rus Gutin's Fishtown Premium, a showcase he hopes to bring to Punch Line on a regular basis. We spoke with Donnelly and Gutin about their long-time friendship and comic inspiration.
|Bobby Rydell: Teen Idol on the Rocks|
To most people, singer Bobby Rydell is a happy voice from their past, a joyful, rock n' rolling presence best known for early 60s hits such as "Volare" and "Wild One" as well as Hollywood musicals such as 1963's Bye Bye Birdie. Now, you can add author to that list as the crooner – with fellow musician and writer Allan Slutsky – has penned and published his autobiography Bobby Rydell: Teen Idol on the Rocks.
|L to R: Hall & Oates celebrate platinum sales with execs Jeremy Holiday and Adam Block (Legacy Recordings) and manager Jonathan Wolfson|
Daryl Hall and John Oates may not currently spend much time (OK, any time) recording new music as a duo. Yet, as Hall & Oates, the Philadelphia-born, blue-eyed-soul twosome continue to create new work apart, host new milestones as a unit and tour together. On Sunday, July 10, 2016 beginning at 9 PM EST, the newest Hall & Oates show will stream live from Camden, NJ's BB&T Pavillion exclusively on Yahoo Music. Live Nation TV will present the July 10 show with a stream lasting for 24 hours at this Yahoo.com link. To see Hall & Oates tour in person (with opening acts Trombone Shorty and Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings) visit Ticketmaster.com.
|Don Rickles and Regis Philbin|
Don Rickles may have just celebrated his 90th birthday in May of 2016, but the legendarily caustic stand-up comedian – famously a friend to show-biz greats such as Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson, Bob Newhart and Martin Scorsese – is not about to sit down. Known throughout his career as "Mr. Warmth" and "The Insult King," the comic who all but invented politically incorrect humor returns to Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa on Saturday, June 11. This time he'll appear with his old pal, Regis Philbin. "I don't need him there, you know, I can do it myself," deadpans Rickles on suddenly having a comic foil for his act.
|Earth Jagua Premium Kit from Lakaye Studio|
Mehndi, the practice of temporarily staining the skin with plant-based dyes – usually ground henna leaves – is an ancient art with origins in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Many people associate mehndi with India, where pre-wedding celebrations often include ceremonies to paint intricate designs on brides (and sometimes grooms). In the 1990s, mehndi became popular in the West, largely due to being seen on celebrities like Madonna and Liv Tyler, and is now appreciated by a new wave of patrons and practitioners who often call the designs "henna tattoos." Along with using henna that results in a reddish-brown stain, Lakaye Studio offers jagua, a gel that develops into a blue-black color.
|The Daily Show host Trevor Noah|
When Philadelphia plays host to the 2016 Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center July 25th through the 28th, potential nominees Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders won't be the only celebrities in town. On April 14, it will be announced that Comedy Central's late night The Daily Show with Trevor Noah will also be in Philly, broadcasting live from University City's Annenberg Center from Monday July 25 until Thursday July 28.
Violinist, composer and singer Andrew Bird has been making swinging, folkish, art pop as a soloist since 1996. Beginning with his first album, Music of Hair, and continuing with each recording and project (e.g. the soundtrack of the Louis C.K. produced FX Network sitcom Baskets) proving to be more intriguing than the last. No less is true of his newly released Are You Serious album, one that finds him singing his most personal, least cryptic lyrics yet (getting married and having a son can do that), crooning a duet with Fiona Apple and generally sounding as if he's loving life more than ever.
With Adventures of a Secret Kidd: The Mass Hallucination of Kenn Kweder, documentary director John Hutelmyer has created a literate, harrowing, comic piece about one of the East Coast's most legendary folk rock heroes, Kenn Kweder. The film premieres Friday, March 25, at Philadelphia's International House in University City with several screenings, Q&A sessions and an acoustic showcase by the titular singer-songwriter.
|Christina Pirello of the PBS show Christina Cooks|
Many chefs and restaurants are currently using farm-to-table menus and healthy eating as a marketing tool. Christina Pirello, however, has been doing that for ages. Since the 2001 launch of her PBS series, Christina Cooks, the Philadelphia chef has prepared gourmet vegan dishes. On Friday, February 12, 2016, she'll start hosting culinary pop-up events dedicated to healthful eating. The first of these moveable feasts is a romantic, 5-course, pre-Valentine's Day dinner/cabaret with live music at Caffe Valentino in South Philadelphia.
David Bowie didn't seem like a man who would ever die, but rather go on forever-and-ever until he popped like a bubble or flamed out like a comet. Bowie was to me – and others like me who held his work as Pop scripture – a beacon, a prism, an avant-garde seal of approval. This wasn't just passive listening or a set of albums and shows – Bowie birthed a new world that touched on Burroughs, Rechy, Kubrick, Dylan, Czukay, Mackie, Brecht and beyond, without aping their sound and vision.
The 2016 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced, and without a doubt, all of its nominees are deserving of the honor: rap act N.W.A. along with 1970s era rockers Chicago, Cheap Trick, Deep Purple and Steve Miller. The induction ceremony will be held on April 8 in Brooklyn's Barclays Center with HBO televising the event later that spring. While delighted for the Class of 2016 (especially Deep Purple who practically birthed heavy metal with "Smoke on the Water") one question must be asked: why not Chic, Nile Rodgers' influential disco band, who in its 10th year as a nominee, still failed to win induction.
|Re-releases commemorate Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday|
On December 12, 2015, Frank Sinatra would have been 100 years old. He was always protean and strong, a sound and vision of the smart American male who had, in the words of author Gay Talese, "survived as a national phenomenon, one of the few pre-war products to withstand the test of time, "even in an age when the very young seem to be taking over, protesting and picketing and demanding change." Sinatra is the music of America's 20th Century, its swing, sway and romance. Though it's grand to celebrate his catalog of music and film at any time, marking 100 years just seems appropriate.
|Membrillo (quince paste) with Manchego Cheese and Marcona almonds|
My late Father was a professional horse trainer, and in his job he traveled and befriended people in all walks of life. So, when we wanted something – no matter how obscure – my Father knew someone who had it. Such was the case for the elusive quince (Cydonia oblonga), the ancient, yellow, lumpy relative of apples and pears that some believe was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Quince is a rare find: it's not widely grown (in 2012 The New York Times reported that the USA's "entire quince crop covers a paltry 250 acres" compared to 350,000 acres of apples) and it's almost never seen in stores. My Father, of course, knew a man with quince trees on his land, and every Fall he'd invite us to pick as much of the fragrant fruit as we desired. We'd gather the quince (or, more accurately, I'd gather quince while my Father and his friend talked horses) and then spend months cooking through our repertoire of quince recipes.
|Spike Lee's Chi-Raq film and soundtrack released on December 4, 2015|
Director and writer Spike Lee has done smart and sexy film, hard satirical film and Afro-conscious socio-political film in his past with, respectively, She's Gotta Have It, School Daze and Do the Right Thing. Those early flicks created the blueprint for his films to follow (save for Inside Man, his heist drama anomaly). With Chi-Raq, Lee's new "joint" released on December 4, Lee merges all three concepts into one bawdy, colorful dramedy based on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, the 5th-Century B.C. play in which women organize sex strikes to stop men from making war. Lee's modern setting is present-day Chicago with warring gangs and black-on-black violence as the reason the women withhold sex.
|Chef Marc Vetri and food writer Rick Nichols at the 2015 Great Chefs Event|
Executive chef and culinary entrepreneur Marc Vetri is known nationally for his annual Great Chefs Event for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation and his Eatiquette program that provides healthy dining options to school cafeterias. This week, however, Vetri and his business partner Jeff Benjamin won acclaim for something more personal: Vetri's self-titled boutique restaurant at 1312 Spruce Street in Philadelphia was named the Best Italian Restaurant in America by Time Out Magazine.
Starting with the preview of his art theater musical Lazarus at Off Broadway's New York Theater Workshop, David Bowie fans are having their best week ever. On November 19, Bowie will drop his new single, ★ (pronounced "Blackstar") and its accompanying video, both from the album of the same name that will be released on January 8 2016, his 69th birthday. November 19 is the same day that Blackstar is available for pre-order, something fans should jump on quickly as differing packages featuring clear vinyl, die-cut covers and lithographs all sold in limited editions will be available at davidbowie.com.