Whitney Houston and Aaron Hernandez: The Costly Trauma of the Closet

I have never shared another’s writing on this blog. There’s a first time for everything. The very mention of “biphobia” caused me to smile #finally

Exploring the role of homophobia and biphobia in the lives of two troubled legends.
— Read on www.advocate.com/commentary/2020/1/22/whitney-houston-and-aaron-hernandez-costly-trauma-closet

Johnny Mathis For Valentine’s Day. Yes, Please.

This one’s for the guys.

Of course, ladies can purchase tickets to either of the incomparable Johnny Mathis’ upcoming concerts — on Valentine’s Day in Reno, or two days later, on February 16 in San Rafael, California — but this one’s for the fellas.

If you want to get to second base…or beyond…pick up a pair of tickets to one of Mathis’ shows, and treat your loved one to a night that neither of you will soon forget. There’s a reason he’s known as The Voice Of Romance.

Mathis’ still-sublime voice is an aural aphrodisiac, more than capable of transporting you and the object of your desire from one lush lover’s landscape to another.

I’ve never smoked, but I almost need a cigarette after a Johnny Mathis concert. He can still touch or break a heart with a single note, and I’ve seen him do it. Last month at the Bob Hope Theater in Stockton, one front row fan cried her eyes out during “Misty” as her husband hugged her.

And no, that fan wasn’t me. The tune that made me weepy was “The Twelfth of Never.” And I’m not the least bit ashamed to say it.

Discriminating fans of immaculately sung pop music are lucky to still have Mathis with us, as 2020 is his 65th consecutive year of touring and recording. If you need to fact check that, or a reminder of how long he’s been at it, check out Mathis’ stunning 2017 collaboration with Babyface, the Grammy-nominated Johnny Mathis Sings The Great New American Songbook, or his masterful Open Fire, Two Guitars from 1959.

The latter album was released before Babyface was born.

On a 1963 Top 10 hit, Mathis beautifully warbled “What Will My Mary Say?” Well, I don’t know what Mathis’ Mary would say, but I’ll tell you what my Mary says every morning after he and I go to a Johnny Mathis concert:

“Good morning, honey. What would you like for breakfast?”

This Valentine’s Day, ditch the overpriced, calorie-rich chocolates and pick up a pair of tickets to one of Mathis’ upcoming shows for your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, or for whoever you’re hugging — or would like to hug.

Trust me: you’ll get to second base…

or beyond.

Click here to purchase tickets to Mathis’ Feb 14 performance at Silver Legacy Casino in Reno, Nevada.

Click here to purchase tickets for Mathis’ Feb 16 performance at Marin Auditorium in San Rafael, California.

Enjoy This Year’s MLK Day Furniture Sale?

Three or four careers ago, way back in the early 1990s, I was a program manager at my alma mater, the University of Michigan. One of my projects was the university’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr Day Symposium. The federal holiday was in its infancy, and U of M made a commitment, in concert with the King family, to preserve the original spirit of the holiday.

Over the course of the three years I managed the Symposium, we grew the event into a comprehensive, campus-wide initiative that incorporated programs from a variety of academic units, other campus-based organizations, and community groups. We brought in dynamic keynote speakers (rebranded “MLK Memorial Lecturers” to satisfy the ego of my former, PhD-brandishing boss) ranging from former surgeon general Jocelyn Elders to Dr. Cornel West.

We welcomed performers like The Winans, The Sounds Of Blackness, and Yolanda Adams to campus for sold out concerts, offering students discounted tickets and gold circle, premium seating. Classes were cancelled for the day, and we took pride in a event that spanned several weeks and bled into Black History Month by the time I handed the Symposium’s reins to my successor in 1996.

Each year, I chaired a MLK Symposium planning committee comprised of U-M faculty, staff, and students, and one of our in-jokes was “One of these days, we’ll be seeing TV ads for a MLK Day furniture sale,” having seen other federal holidays, like Labor Day, Memorial Day, Presidents Day, and the 4th of July, similarly denigrated.

Sadly, that day has arrived. I got a “4 Day Sale” postcard from a regional furniture chain in the mail the other day, and the sale’s four days span this year’s MLK Day Holiday Weekend.

I am torn, as I’m looking for a new chair for my great room, and I love the 20% store wide pricing and the 36 months no interest financing that’s available on my recliner of choice.

However, I don’t think such sales are in the spirit of MLK Day.

King lived a life of service to others. He sacrificed that life for people he didn’t know, and for three generations, now, of people who weren’t even born when King was brutally murdered on a balcony in Memphis in 1968.

I think those who survived the civil rights movement, and their descendants, should honor King and his memory by positioning ourselves in the service of others. As members of the King family used to say, MLK Day should be a day on, NOT a day off.

I’m not suggesting you volunteer with Habitat For Humanity and build a house from scratch with your bare, calloused hands on MLK Day. Maybe you can do that, but maybe you’d prefer to leave that heavy lifting to 95 year old President Jimmy Carter.

But I am suggesting that sometime during the day on Monday, January 20, or during the extended weekend at least, you do something for someone else. It would be an excellent way to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most philanthropic, giving people who ever lived.

Give it a try. And who knows? You may enjoy giving to others this weekend so much that you’ll want that warm and fuzzy feeling to continue into Tuesday. Or beyond.

And if enough of us do that, maybe we can truly turn this country and world around.

Happy MLK Day!

Dear Evan Hansen in Sacramento: A Review

Dear Michael Coleman, 

Today is going to be a good day, and here’s why:

It was really cool to run into you last night at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, for the Broadway smash Dear Evan Hansen, which runs through January 26. As I’m sure you were, I was blown away. The production is nothing short of miraculous.

In hindsight, Michael, I shouldn’t have been so surprised: the show won six 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. And The Washington Post called it “One of the most remarkable shows in musical theater history.”

I agree wholeheartedly!

While Dear Evan Hansen explores several mature themes and includes jokes that aren’t for pre-teen ears, I think anyone who’s ever felt isolated or alone, at any time of his or her life, should catch one of the performances, don’t you? The show delivers its first narrative wallop minutes after the lights dim, beginning an emotional roller coaster ride, and the delivery of a few life lessons that I won’t soon forget.

I hope I never do.  

And after seeing Dear Evan Hansen, as I’m sure you will, I’m calling my mom today.  

What did you think of that cast?  I thought Stephen Christopher Anthony, in the title role, embodied Evan and everyone who has ever struggled in life.  I felt every note Anthony sang, and my heart hurt every time he brushed a tear away. Some of the production’s most perfect moments came when Anthony stood alone on the stage.  The Broadway veteran is PHENOMENAL.  

But that’s not to say Anthony was Dear Evan Hansen’s only star. Coleen Sexton’s and Jessica E. Sherman’s magnificent voices left my mouth agape, and I could have adopted Ciara Alyse Harris as my daughter.  I also loved Michigan alumnus Noah Kieserman (Go Blue!), and when John Hemphill’s “Larry Murphy” took a kid under his wing, I found myself longing for just one more moment like that with my dad.  

I don’t know about you, Michael, but it was hard for me to pick a favorite song from the show’s score!  The first one, “Anybody Have A Map?” struck a chord with me and will with anyone who has tried to figure anything out, don’t you think?  While the score skewed more to rock than I typically venture, I was tapping my foot throughout the show — and don’t think I didn’t see you doing the same and choking up during a scene or two! 

But don’t worry — your secret is safe with me.  We’re best friends, remember? 

I know you’ve had a rough year, but remember one of the truths we were reminded of last night during Dear Evan Hansen: when you feel lost, you will be found.  And know that I’ve always got your back.  

Well, I just wanted to drop you a quick note, as again, it was great to see you last night.  We don’t talk nearly enough anymore.  Let’s fix that in 2020.  Maybe grab a scoop at A La Mode someday soon?  

Sincerely, 

Me 

PS No one deserves to be forgotten! 

Tickets for DEAR EVAN HANSEN start at $48, and are available now at the Broadway Sacramento Box Office 1419 H Street, Sacramento, or by calling (916) 557-1999; they are also available at the Memorial Auditorium Box Office, 1515 J Street, Sacramento, or by calling (916) 808-5181m, or online at BroadwaySacramento.com.

Farewell, Christmas, In January, Because “Seasons Change.”

I can sense the daggers already…

Yesterday, I spent a few hours taking the ornaments down from our Christmas tree, and the day prior taking the rest of the Christmas decorations down from the rest of the house. All of the outside decorations came down last weekend.

Why did it take hours to get the ornaments down? I have a lot of them. A lot. Now, the unadorned Christmas tree is standing solemnly in the far corner of the great room. It’ll be there until this weekend, when it will be packed up and stored for the year. If you didn’t figure I at out, I have a hard time letting go of Christmas.

That’s only some of the ornaments that had to be boxed up!

It probably dates back to the year that our suburban Detroit house had a full sized, illuminated blow mold Santa Claus, sleigh, and three reindeer on the roof until mid-May. We also had a full-sized, illuminated blow mold nativity scene — barn yard animals, Star of David et al — on the front lawn each year. We did Christmas right at the Coleman household.

We had a third reindeer on our roof, but these are the puppies right here.

Why only three reindeer? Ours was a small ranch house, so there was only so much roof. And illuminated blow mold reindeer were expensive.

An icy January prevented Dad from scooting up the ladder to the roof to pull them down, and subsequent urgings from my mother to do so fell on deaf ears.

To be honest, that springtime rooftop St. Nicholas worked for me much better than it worked for Mom. I’ve always prolonged the yuletide season as long as I can. I care barely wait to pack away the Halloween stuff and haul out the holly in the fall.

I have an Apple Music playlist called Not Christmas Jams, which includes songs like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “Winter Wonderland” that have nothing to do with Christmas and can be played all winter, even here in California, thank you very much.

Christmas was a wonderful time while I was growing up, filled with fulfilled wish book fantasies and Christmas carols at the Spinnet. Well, on the Lowry organ. And as I pulled the ornaments from the tree as the sun set last evening, I remembered the Christmas decades ago when I begged my mother to keep the tree up as we prepared to ring in the new year.

Mom was having none of that foolishness.

“No, Michael, it’s got to go,” Mom said of the tree. She was always a proponent of clearing the old year out before the ball dropped on Times Square and we rang in the new.

But I persisted. Begged. Pleaded. And then Mom came up with a nugget that I still remember with a smile as I dismantle my own Christmas tree, all of these decades later.

“Ok, Michael. We can keep the tree up for as long as you like,” Mom shockingly abdicated.

I croaked out an incredulous “Really??”

“Yes,” Mom confirmed. “We can keep all of the decorations up, and celebrate Christmas all year.”

I felt as if I’d hit the lotto.

“But,” Mom said — why did she always have to have a proviso? — “if we stay stuck on Christmas, we’ll never make it to summer and swimming pool season.”

The air had been sucked from the room. Now, you have to understand that surviving a frozen winter was and is a rite of passage in the midwest, and you celebrate with a woefully short summer. Our family had a huge Kayak pool that took up our whole back yard, and the annual Memorial Day Weekend pool opening was a highlight of the year.

“What,” I blurted out. “What do you mean we can’t swim this summer?”

“Well, seasons change, Michael,” Mom taught, “and we have to let go of one season to get to the next one.”

“Seasons change, Michael.”

It took all of three seconds for me to relent and start helping Mom get those gold, silk-covered ornaments, lights and that tinsel off of that tree, and help Dad haul it up into the attic. I couldn’t usher the cold weather out quickly enough that spring, and had a hell of a summer, as I did every year, in our swimming pool.

And as I dismantle my own tree as I listen to Jimmy Durante sing “Frosty The Snow Man” and Diana Ross & The Supremes warble “My Favorite Things,” I remember Mom’s sage advice with a smile:

“Seasons change, Michael.”

‘Til next Christmas…

It’s really all the advice you need to get through life’s curve balls. And it’s been said many other ways. One of my other favorites is Thomas Fuller’s “It is always darkest before the dawn.” That’s a loose paraphrase, but you get it.

But even if you don’t, it’s ok. I prefer Mom’s anyway.

Season’s change.

Thanks, Mom.

Blackout Weekend, Where Vegas Meets The Snow

Blackout Weekend is one of our region’s annual highlights, to be held in Lake Tahoe March 12 -15. Billed as the “ultimate snow adventure,” the event offers young urban professionals the opportunity to enjoy the snow sports they love by day, along with many opportunities to party by night.

The weekend offers a full schedule of networking mixers, meet ups, parties, and daytime activities that are enjoyed by a broad group of attendees — including non-skiers!

One of those non-skiers is, somewhat surprisingly, Blackout Weekend’s organizer Cherice Calhoun. Despite the fact that she’s only been on a pair of skis a couple of times, the four day event, which attracted over 500 people last year, is a labor of love.

“Years ago, I was invited to attend a black ski weekend organized by UCLA,” Calhoun recalls, “and I’ll be honest: I didn’t go to that event to ski. I think I’d been on skis just once before in my life. I went to that event because it sounded like a fun getaway. I knew there would be parties and I’d meet some new people.”

“That event was my inspiration to launch Blackout Weekend,” Calhoun continued. “People are really drawn to it. I have attendees who have met their significant others on the trip. Once at a bar, I spoke to a woman who was waiting for her best friend to arrive, and she told me they met each other at Blackout Weekend years ago.”

“In fact, about 60% of Blackout Weekend’s attendees are non-skiers,” Calhoun shared. “It’s a winter activities trip, but attendees have wound up forming lasting relationships.”

Innovation has been one of Blackout Weekend’s traditions. Last year, the event offered lessons for those who wanted to learn to ski or snowboard.

“Quite frankly, I was surprised by the number of people who signed up for lessons on both Friday and Saturday,” Calhoun said. “We offered lessons in snowboarding and skiing, and we had almost as many people who wanted to learn how to ski as we had who wanted to learn how to board.”

“We also started a networking event last year, after having done a small meet-and-greet the year before that drew about 25 people,” Calhoun continued. “So we planned a Thursday night event last year, thinking we might get 80 to 90 people.”

“We had over 150 people show up! We actually had to stop letting people in, because we had reached capacity, having reserved a small room. So this year, we have doubled the space for the Thursday night event.”

Due to the success and continued growth of the Saturday night event, Blackout Weekend is on the radar of a few very well-known DJs, one of whom will be spinning in Lake Tahoe this March! Calhoun could barely contain herself when she told me about it.

“Because we have done so well with Saturday night, our host hotel has allowed us to brand that evening as a Blackout Weekend event, which has allowed us to invite our own DJ,” Calhoun enthusiastically said. “We’ve got someone on lock that is going to help us take the Saturday night event to the next level! We’ll be announcing details on Blackout Weekend’s Saturday activities very soon!”

It sounds like Lake Tahoe is the place to be March 12-15. Those in Sacramento know how easy it is to get there, and those who would prefer not to drive can hop on a party bus from Sacramento or Oakland, another new Blackout Weekend service offered to attendees.

And if you’re flying into Reno, a shuttle can have you at Blackout Weekend’s host hotel in less than an hour, where Calhoun says “Vegas meets the snow.”

“You can play in the snow during the day, enjoy the full on casinos with all of the games through the evening, and you can stay out all night and have breakfast at the hotel at 5am if you want,” Calhoun said.

“We’d like to invite people to try something new,” Calhoun said. “At Blackout Weekend, you can look forward to having fun and making a few memories.”

Click here to register for Blackout Weekend, or to find out how your business or organization can sponsor this year’s event.

I Spotted A MAGA In The Wild Last Week

I’ve always been an amateur nature photographer. Years before everyone clutched a professional grade camera in their pocket or purse, I carried a small Kodak camera everywhere I went. I have always maintained that you just never know when you’re gonna walk up on something that you want to capture “on film.”

And boy oh boy did I ever score in that regard last week, at a Sacramento coffee shop, no less. I got glimpse of a MAGA Bird! Well, honestly, I am not sure what species we’re looking at here…

but this one was most assuredly a male, and I got much more than a glimpse. This big guy was enjoying a meal that consisted of an iced latte. Who knew that MAGA Birds were so discerning about their morning coffee??

And boy oh boy do they ever like to display that plumage, especially that yellow (belly) and that scarlet crown of theirs! If you’ve not seen one up close, they are certainly a sight to behold.

And boy oh boy do they ever have a distinctive song! It may have been more of a mating call, actually, but if so he was certainly barking up the wrong tree. That bird was crowing so loudly, about Nancy Pelosi, or peaches, or something that it almost made me want to throw up.

For the record, I loved the cap! I, too want to “make America great again.” America was last great when we were smart enough not to elect Donald Trump as the president of the United States. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we get back to “great” in 2020.

But ENOUGH about politics! I don’t mean to wear out the bird analogies, but take a good gander at this MAGA…thing. If we are lucky, he will be an endangered species, or better yet, extinct, very soon!

Sidestepping Suicide With Superman and The Wiz

Believe it or not, it was 41 years ago that Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the rest of The Wiz’s gang eased on down the road in that 1978 feature. Later that fall, movie audiences learned to believe a man can fly in Superman: The Movie.

I saw both films within weeks of each other. I was 13 years old. That 1978 “double feature” may have very literally saved my life.

Featuring a cast that included Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Lena Horne, and Richard Pryor The Wiz featured elaborate sets, stellar vocal performances, and an unrelenting score by Quincy Jones. While the film underperformed at the box office and with critics, it amassed a cult following over the years and is now considered a classic by a new generation of viewers.

Superman: The Movie, featuring Academy Award-winning special effects, a rousing score, and an iconic performance by Christopher Reeve was a smash, spawning three sequels and one spin-off. Director Richard Donner eschewed the camp that had been a hallmark of the 1960s Batman TV series, opting to take the Man Of Steel very seriously.

I took Superman very seriously, too. I’d cherished my Superman and Action comics collections for as long as I could remember. But it took a trip to Oz to get me there.

I was at an emotional low point, having been battered by a tumultuous early childhood. I was not feeling sufficiently cared for by well-meaning parents who battled their own demons and were ill-prepared to manage their children’s emotional needs. My father was physically abusive to my mother, and my older brother had just left home for college, leaving me and my two younger sisters in a home from which we should have been removed. Today, we would be.

Somewhere in the recesses of my young brain, I decided that my parents’ marital problems were my fault. If I weren’t there, I surmised, the problems of that household would fade away. During the weeks that preceded my family’s trip to the theatre to see The Wiz, I had been thinking about ending my life via my latchkey kid status and the contents of a fairly well stocked, mirrored medicine cabinet.

In metro Detroit’s darkened Quo Vadis movie theatre one November afternoon, Ross’ Dorothy literally sung me back from my own emotional ledge. In just a couple of minutes of a single song, she convinced me that I, too, might be able to “Be A Lion.”

Returning to our family’s modest three bedroom ranch, I knew it may never be home, but I also knew that I had the brains, courage, and heart to manage life’s curve balls and that the answer to life’s problems couldn’t be found at the bottom of someone else’s prescription drug vial.

The next month, some saw Superman: The Movie as just a comic book flick, but I saw a whole lot more. When Superman caught Lois from her fall from atop The Daily Planet building, he caught me, too, by giving a troubled 13 year old something — someone — to believe in.

“Easy, miss. I’ve got you.”

Thanks to well over 100 viewings dating back to VHS, I can quote most of Superman: The Movie verbatim. From a Superman tattoo on my left shoulder to an office that resembles a Fortress of Solitude annex, I am surrounded by daily reminders of the glory of stepping into your own truth and tapping into the power within.

Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of Superman didn’t just make me believe a man could fly. He helped me believe a boy could live.

In the fall of 1978, I went from Detroit to Oz to Metropolis and back again. And I’ve been flying ever since.

If you are thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. SuicidePreventionLifeline.org

Come back to this blog for more in a series of articles celebrating The Wiz and Superman: The Movie, including EXCLUSIVE interviews with some of the creators of the two iconic films.

Connect with Sacramento-based freelance writer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com, follow him on IG or Twitter at @ColemanMichaelP, or just walk up and say “hi” to the black guy in the Superman shirt.

Hit Master David Foster Hits The Road, Preps To Launch 2020 Tour In Modesto

The multi-talented David Foster has been the force behind scores of hit records dating back to the late 1970s.

The songwriter / arranger / producer has presided over the recording of some of history’s most phenomenal vocal performances, including Jennifer Holiday’s “And I Am Telling You.” Barbra Streisand’s “Somewhere,” Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable” father / daughter duet with Nat “King” Cole, Andrea Bocelli’s & Celine Dion’s “The Prayer,” Kenny Rogers’ & Sheena Easton’s “We’ve Got Tonight,” Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart,” and Chicago’s “You’re The Inspiration.”

And that list is far from exclusive.

Now, the hit master is hitting the road, reprising his 2019 critically acclaimed tour. Foster will kick things off in Modesto, California on January 22 accompanied by his wife, Broadway star Katharine McPhee. He took a break during rehearsals for the tour to fill us in on what we can expect during the performance.

Katharine McPhee

I don’t make it a practice to speak for icons, but I can sum it up for Foster: we can expect one hell of a show!

Read all about it — and hear from the legend himself — in the current issue of The Gallo Center Magazine!

Kenny G Live — That Negro Can Blow!

If there was a bad note played during Kenny G’s final performance of a five day year-end mini-residency at Blue Note Napa, I didn’t hear it. That night, the legendary sax man did what you would expect a legend to do: he played the hell out of that horn.

Photo courtesy of Coleman Communications.

Very technically, he played the hell out of those horns. I know he played at least two of them, a soprano — his original from high school — and a tenor sax. I don’t pretend to know the details behind the instruments, but I know what they’re supposed to sound like.

So does Kenny G. And he showed all of us what they’re supposed to sound like Tuesday night.

Very honestly, “he played the hell out of that horn” is a sanitized version of the four words that kept going through my head throughout that show. You wanna hear what I really thought? OK, since you asked:

That Negro can blow.

Yes, I know he’s a skinny Jew. But close your eyes while you’re listening to him play and I swear to Black Jesus you wouldn’t know that.

The 63-year old Kenny G repeatedly reminded fans of why he is the best selling instrumental artist of all time, via faithful live versions of radio smashes like “Songbird,” “Forever In Love,” “Silhouette,” and “Going Home,” stunning covers like “My Heart Will Go On” and “Pick Up The Pieces,” and underrated funk workouts like his original “G-Bop” from his multiplatinum 1992 Breathless album. If you’ve not heard “G-Bop” live, you’ve not heard it.

Photo courtesy of Coleman Communications.

The night’s first surprise came at 10:19pm, when Kenny G took the stage 11 minutes early. I have been attending music concerts since 1983, and until New Year’s Eve I had never attended one — of any genre — that started early. I guess that’s one of the things that happens when white folks play jazz.

But the artist and his band were ready, and God knows his fans were ready to hear them, literally, play the night away during a show that wrapped up at the stroke of midnight with “Auld Lang Syne” from Kenny’s 1999 Faith album.

That final song reduced the woman seated next to me to tears. She literally wept as we rang in the new year.

Blue Note Napa is one of my all-time favorite performance venues, and as tight as Kenny G’s albums are, his music takes on a whole new dimension live. Hopefully, he’ll be back in northern California in 2020 for another show.

And if — when — Kenny G does come back, this Negro will be there.

Connect with Kenny G at KennyG.com

Check out all that Blue Note Napa has to offer at bluenotenapa.com.