Let’s Return To Segregated Theaters

I’m all for social change, and I’m the first to say that we’ve come a long way in this country, just during my lifetime. But for every inauguration of a black president or same sex wedding that I attend, or for every time I read about a woman CEO, I sometimes think we’ve missed the mark with what we’ve called progress.

One of those examples is the desegregation of public accommodations — specifically, movie theaters and performance houses. I’m making a case to return to segregation there. You heard me correctly: to hell with Brown v Board of Education.

We got it wrong the first time around: black folks shouldn’t be relegated to the balcony. Folks who insist on using their cell phones during shows should be, and black screens that are politely and appropriately ensconced in pockets and purses should be allowed on the main floor, right down front.

For the youngsters…er, millennials reading this, there was a time in this country, not all that long ago, when the majority of kindly white people didn’t want to interact with black folks at all, let alone at the theatre or movie house, so they passed laws that allowed for racially segregated public spaces. These laws weren’t abolished until 1954 with the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling — and it took another decade for folks to get serious about enforcing it.

But if we can put another white supremacist in the Oval Office, we can return to the days of separate accommodations. But this time, let’s let the need to use your cell phone in public be the line of demarcation.

And this time around, in our best effort to truly make America great again, the throw back Jim Crow Era-like signs could read:

IDIOTS WHO USE CELL PHONES DURING THE SHOW MUST SIT IN BALCONY…NO MATTER WHAT COLOR THEY ARE

Let’s banish habitual electronics users to the balcony, where they can interact with each other as they post their illegally-recorded, bootleg videos on Instagram. And let’s charge those offenders premium ticket prices to do it. That’s right: you should have to pay extra to be an asshole in a movie theatre or concert hall.

I have grown sick of the omnipresent glow from phones and phablets during concerts and movies, and it seems to be getting worse every week. At a recent Isley Brothers show at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto, I listened to the venue’s CEO, Lynn Dickerson, give the most tasteful, impassioned request to turn mobile devices off that I’ve ever heard. “If you simply cannot leave without a photo, please wait until the final song of the night, so you don’t ruin the show for others,” Dickerson deftly pleaded.

Seconds later, as soon as the lights dimmed, the Gallo was aglow with phones. One inconsiderate woman immediately stood up down front and started recording the Isleys’ opener, blocking those behind her from seeing the stage. After several minutes, one of the Gallo’s heroic ushers was dispatched to shut the illicit recording session down.

And it’s become really bad at movie theaters. A week or so ago, I didn’t attend a movie during opening weekend, having decided that Pennywise could wait until I can watch It Chapter 2 in my own completely darkened, comfy home theatre. Weeks before, During 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, the guy in front of me continually pulled out his cell phone and casually scrolled through apps. His beautiful iPhone appeared to be at full brightness — Stevie Wonder could have seen it!

After a few minutes, I sat up in the recliner I’d paid $15 to sit in, set my popcorn down, got up, and quietly and politely asked the gent to put his phone away. He looked at me like I was nuts, said nothing, and got right back to his apps scroll — where he stayed throughout most of the balance of the movie.

I mentioned the exchange to the house’s manager on the way out of the theater. He suggested that, next time, I should text the theater and let them know what was happening. That way, he said, I wouldn’t have to get up and miss any of the movie.

I pointed out that to do that, I’d have to break the same policy and use my phone. “Oh, yeah” the kid replied.

Ah, youth.

I wish I could say it’s just the kids, but a few months ago, I watched a group of seniors record whole sections of classical tenor Andrea Bocelli’s phenomenal show in Sacramento. Some of them looked so old I didn’t think they were going to live to count their “likes” on Facebook…or My Space. Their withered hands trembled as they hoisted their first generation iPads over their heads and into my line of sight.

Thank God I was really there, as we all should have been, to hear Bocelli’s voice. But it would have been nice, from time to time, to have actually been able to have seen the stage at a concert I’d paid good money to attend.

The use of cell phones is becoming ubiquitous. The other day, I watched a father ride the carousel at Sacramento’s Arden Place Mall with his preschool-aged son. Dad’s face was buried in his mobile device through every spin. I wanted to tell him that one day, he’d long for those precious minutes.

This morning, a woman walked by my house pushing a baby in a stroller, while she single-handedly texted or tweeted or tapped out something that I’m sure could have waited. Another young woman rammed her face into my chest while walking downtown last weekend, because she was staring at her cherished five inch screen instead of looking ahead while she walked.

And I don’t even want to talk about the number of people I see each day trying to operate an automobile and a handheld mobile device at the same time. Wake up, people: you can’t do it! And you may kill somebody trying.

With regard to those concert offenders, Madonna and a handful of other artists may be on to something. During Madge’s three upcoming San Francisco shows, use of electronics of all kinds, including smart watches (!) won’t be allowed in the arena. According to a statement from her publicist, offenders will be escorted from the venue.

Now we know why Madonna didn’t need papa to preach: she’s more than capable of doing it all by herself. Her announcement makes me want to see her in concert, for the first time in her career.

I’ve heard all manner of announcements and seen all manner of signs in lobbies, imploring folks to allow others to enjoy shows by putting their mobile phones away, but many don’t seem to be listening.

So, let me be the first to advocate for the return of segregated theaters in the United States. The only visible screen in a darkened movie theatre should be the big one up front.

If for no other reason, size really does matter.

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Bebe Winans Releases Best Solo Album Of His Career — My EXCLUSIVE Chat

In the contemporary gospel arena, Bebe Winans is hard to beat. He’s the creative force behind dozens of inspirational, genre-defying classics like “I.O.U. Me,” “Heaven,” “Lost Without You,” “Addictive Love,” “I’ll Take You There,” and “If Anything Ever Happened To You” with his sister Cece, along with several artistically and commercially successful solo projects.

Winans has been at it since 1984. So when he releases, perhaps, the best album of his career, the brilliant new Need You, discriminating music fans sit up and take notice.

During our EXCLUSIVE interview, Winans told me that there’s a direct correlation between his four decade run at the top of the charts and the quality of his new project.

“When you get older, you become wiser in whatever job you’re in,” the 56-year-old legend told me, “because of the knowledge that comes with time, especially if you’re working in the same industry. I think I’ve learned how to sing. I’ve learned to interpret what I’m feeling in my vocal performance. And these songs are the best I’ve ever written. I feel this album is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

OK, it’s time for some real talk: it’s one thing for an artist to call his current project “the best thing” he’s ever done. Most artists would say that — they want to sell albums. It’s the music business, after all.

But it’s another thing entirely for this writer to say, and I am telling you the hand-to-God-in-heaven truth: Need You is an artistic masterpiece, and Winans has never sounded better.

One of the new album’s highlights is “Come To The Water,” which I’d describe as a slow burner that sneaks up on you and eventually lays you out. Ever the prolific wordsmith, Winans has a better analogy to describe the song.

“To me, it’s like a stealth plane,” Winans said of that song. “You don’t know that plane is hovering over you, or the power that that plane has.”

The only additional warning I’ll give you about “Come To The Water” is this: if you’re not ready to surrender to whatever God has in store for you, skip that track. Ditto with “He Promised Me” and “In Jesus Name.”

Take a good listen to “Getting Ready To Blow” if you want to hear classic Bebe-isms, including the combination of the nursery rhyme “Eenie Meenie” with scripture about the last trumpet sound (I Cor 15:52). Only Bebe Winans could get away with it!

Needs You’s title track is gorgeous, and “Born For This,” the anchor of Winans’ upcoming biographical Broadway play, is a show-stopper.

Another of Need You’s highlights is a track that was originally recorded by Luther Vandross.

“We were like brothers,” Winans recalled of Vandross. “His death was as hard for me as [my brother] Ronald’s. When his “Power Of Love / Love Power” was suggested to me, at first I said ‘No, no, no!’” But after I sat down and thought about it, I knew that recording it would be therapeutic. I knew it would bring back great memories of our time together.”

“Luther did a lot of background arrangements and sang background on a lot of my stuff with Cece and a lot of my solo stuff, so when I was in the studio recording it, I thought of those projects. I got to laugh a little, and I cried a little bit here and there.”

“But most importantly with that song is the subject matter, which is love, and the power of it,” Winans continued. “And it caused me to think of experiences where I chose love over hatred, and how love is the greatest gift we have. I thought that recording ‘Power Of Love’ made a lot of sense, especially in the climate that we’re in right now.”

And if all of that doesn’t prompt you to pick up a copy of Need You, the new album also includes a striking collaboration with Winans’ sister Debbie Winans Lowe, “It’s All Good,” and a stunning duet with an emerging group called Korean Soul, “Laughter.” If you surmised that they don’t look like typical urban contemporary gospel singers, you’d be right. But guess what? They more than hang with Winans. In fact, their vocal performance prompted one of Winans’ very best, and ironically, they sound a lot like Winans’ older, groundbreaking brothers.

“I’m excited to present them here in the States,” Winans enthused of Korean Soul. “And their hearts — that’s the thing about them that’s really so incredible.”

Need You closes with one of the most moving compositions of Winans’ legendary career, “Farewell, Well Done.”

“It was written for Donnie [McClurkin]’s mom,” Winans said. “When she passed, I knew the pain because I knew how close Donnie was to her. I called him to say I was praying for him. When I hung up…I wrote the song right then. I sung it at her home-going.”

“At the last minute, I decided to record it for the new album,” Winans continued, “If you live long enough, you’re going to experience loss. We needed a song that helps us walk that rough road. As we’re saying goodbye, farewell, God is saying ‘Well done’. We’re saying one thing to our loved ones, and God’s saying another thing.”

Bebe Winans’ new Need You is available at all major digital outlets, at amazon.com, and at retail.

Vanilla Ice, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and September 11th Events In Sacramento: A Varied Review

Over just the last couple of days, I was reminded that there’s never a dull moment in Sacramento. While these two gatherings had decidedly different tones, neither will be forgotten soon.

Last weekend, Downtown Commons (DOCO) was home to their inaugural Block Party. After an easy to navigate security check, thousands of attendees were treated to variety of music, free food samples from a dozen or so DOCO vendors, and a headline performance by 90s music star Vanilla Ice.

But wait, there’s more! Ice was backed up by none other than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

Fans had a chance to meet Vanilla Ice after his show. My ice breaker? “Whaddup ma ‘Nilla?”

DOCO management told me that the very successful event will become an annual one. My hope for next year? “U Can’t Touch This!”

Then yesterday, I attended a powerful event at Cal Expo on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. I was shaken by the exhibition, actually, and simultaneously proud of my city and Cal Expo for commemorating true American heroes.

I like to tell myself I’d walk into a smoldering, crumbling skyscraper to try to save complete strangers, but I don’t know if I would. It was the first such commemorative event I’ve attended, while I remember that September morning like it was yesterday.

In addition to the day’s observance, Cal Expo’s exhibit is open to the public during the California State Fair every summer, and by appointment. Click here for more info.

September 11th Memorial at Cal Expo in Sacramento. Photo courtesy of Coleman Communications.

The September 11th exhibit reminded me to seize the day, every day, because in the blink of an eye, your life can change and a freaking skyscraper can come crumbling down on top of you. So today, say what you want to say and do what you want to do.

Image courtesy of Coleman Communications.

As the brave Americans who downed Flight 93 that day said, Let’s Roll!

Hurricane Jenifer Lewis To Roar Into Sacramento In October

As I write this, Hurricane Dorian has just ravaged the Bahamas and pummeled the southeast coast of the United States. Luckily, Sacramento doesn’t have to worry about such meteorological events.

Or do we?

On October 19th, Hurricane Jenifer — Jenifer Lewis, that is — will roar into town as the Keynote Presenter at this fall’s 11th annual Exceptional Women Of Color event. Lewis is the force of nature who has been a Tinseltown staple for over 30 years, earning the moniker The Mother Of Black Hollywood.

Brilliantly, that’s also the title of her 2017 best-selling memoir, an honest, detailed book that’s just been released in paperback. The Mother Of Black Hollywood’s overarching message? If Lewis can make it through the formidable challenges she’s faced — SPOILER ALERT! There have been many! — so can we. It’s a loving, at times searing tome that describes the journey that a little girl from St. Louis took to becoming, as she loves to call herself:

“Jenifer Muthafucking Lewis.”

Our early morning, mid-summer conversation was peppered with that kind of “real talk.” Only the mother of black Hollywood could get away with it!

“You’ve got to understand, darling, that I’ve been an entertainer for my entire existence,” Lewis, 62, EXCLUSIVELY told me, during a chat that left me feeling quite good about being called “darling.” For one of the few times in my career, I threw objectivity to the wind.

This is Jenifer Muthafucking Lewis.

“It’s a huge responsibility to say ‘come see me after your 9 to 5’, which for most people is a job that they don’t love. I, on the other hand, have gotten to do what I loved to do. So when people come see me, they leave entertained. It is what I do!”

I probed. Will Lewis be singing at UC-Davis’ Mondavi Center? Dancing? Acting?

The singular answer to those multiple questions is an emphatic “yes!”

“I don’t do interviews about what my shows are going to be anymore,” Lewis calmly and confidently asserted. “You guys know what I do. I was the Beyoncé of my time! But we didn’t have all that we have now in the business, with regard to platforms and content.”

In a rare retreat, Lewis hilariously amended that last declaration.

“Let me rephrase that,” Lewis whispered, as if to offer a salve to the Beyhive, before bellowing “I couldn’t have touched Beyoncé! Even I wasn’t that talented. That’s one talented bitch right there!”

“But I was an entity unto myself,” Lewis continued. “The mold was thrown away, darling. There was no other Jenifer Lewis! Don’t you know I searched for her? I searched for her so I could have someone to look up to! I loved Pearl Bailey, Judy Garland, Aretha, Shirley Bassey, but there weren’t that many people on television I could look up to.”

“So I had to build Jenifer Lewis from the ground up!”

Over the decades, Lewis has portrayed characters who were the consciousness of a variety of stories, and she’s played the mother of everyone from Tupac to Whitney Houston on film and TV. Current audiences may know her best as Ruby on the ABC sitcom black-ish. We’re fortunate that Lewis will take a break in taping the show to share a part of herself with northern California fans this fall.

And as she starts work on her second memoir, Lewis implores us to roll up our sleeves in 2020.

“We have Lex Luthor and Bozo in the White House, but I do not allow anyone to go on about how horrible the world is,” Lewis said. “The world is not horrible. The world is beautiful, and it always will be! We have mad men leading, but they’re not really leading…not really.”

“I want to say we have to fight, but we have to stand,” Lewis continued. “Am I scared? Yes. But I’m unafraid! And that is what we must be: unafraid. Lex Luthor has his finger on the button, and that’s scary shit! But I’m an optimist. We have to stand together, because when we laid down, we wound up with Bozo The Fucking Clown in the White House.”

“So we’ve got work to do!”

Click here for information and tickets to see Jenifer Lewis and the 2019 Exceptional Women Of Color event.

The Best Of This Year’s Holiday-Themed Shows…And No, It’s Not Too Early To Start Thinking About Them!

Haul out the holly — or, at least, get your tickets in advance — for the best of holiday-themed performances and events. These shows are sure to sell out.

First up, Broadway Sacramento launches their annual Broadway On Tour season with A Christmas Story, the smash musical based on the classic 1983 feature film. It will run November 8-17 at Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento.

On December 3, John Tesh will present his Acoustic Christmas show at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto. Six years ago, Tesh performed a big band Christmas show to a sold-out audience at the venue. This time around, according to the Gallo’s website, Tesh “…embarks on an intimate, acoustic trio performance that will entertain both loyal and new fans…”.

Two days later, On December 5, world renowned classical tenor Andrea Bocelli will share his astounding voice with discerning music fans at San Francisco’s new Chase Center. At press time, the legend hadn’t decided whether he would perform selections from his stunning 2009 My Christmas album…but a writer can dream. Whether he decides to or not, that show is going to make this year a Christmas to remember!

Then Father Christmas himself, the incomparable Johnny Mathis, will perform his only two holiday-themed west coast shows at the Bob Hope Theater in Stockton on December 12 and at the San Jose Civic Center on December 14. No one — no one — sings Christmas music like Mathis. If you’ve not heard Mathis sing “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” or “A Christmas Waltz” live, treat yourself. You’ll thank me later.

To wrap up the season, Kenny G is returning to the Blue Note in Napa for a year-end holiday residency, December 27-31. The world’s best-selling instrumental artist’s landmark, first holiday album, Miracles, will be 25 years old this fall, believe it or not. Kenny’s sure to celebrate that milestone in grand fashion.

Just telling you about these shows gets me in the spirit. I need a little Christmas, right this very minute!

The Chicken Chronicles — Popeyes and KFC Are Doing The Damned Thing

I did not study journalism and communications at two of the greatest public universities in the world (Go Blue! On Wisconsin!) to write about fast food chicken joints.

But here we are. And I’d have it no other way. This is some bad assed bird.

Before I tell you about KFC’s exciting new menu item, let me tell you about my journey to get my lips around one of Popeyes new chicken sandwiches.

Well, around two of them. You know I had to try the standard one and the spicy one.

I have tried for years to eschew restaurants with drive thru windows, for the sake of my blood pressure. I make occasional exceptions. Sunday was one of them.

The location closest to me, on the corner of Watt and El Camino in Sacramento, had sold out of the new sandwiches when I arrived that eve. They don’t expect another shipment in for another two weeks.

When I asked the young woman behind the counter about how quickly that location had sold out, she replied, with a sigh, “Fast. We got our shipment in Saturday, and we sold out Saturday!”

My husband and I hopped back in the car and shot over to the location down El Camino just past I-80, in the hope of tracking down some of the new yard bird.

(Speaking of my husband, when you have a man who’ll drive to not one but two Popeye’s in search of a sandwich for you, you know you’ve got a keeper.)

After ordering, we waited for almost an hour for those two sandwiches. Roughly 30 people ahead of us were waiting for food, taking up tables in the dining room, clutching their receipts and fidgeting with their cell phones to distract themselves from their hunger.

Then, they called our number. I felt as if we’d hit the lottery. We flew home, and speedily unwrapped the fancy aluminum-lined bags that kept our Popeye’s sandwiches piping hot.

The first thing I noticed was the size of those puppies. Popeyes gives you a very amble boneless chicken breast for a more-than-reasonable $3.99.

Words fail me in describing that sandwich. “Ecstasy” is the best one I can summon right now. The standard sandwich is a savory, solid A and the spicy one, with the cayenne pepper mayo soaked into its buttery bun, is an A+. I haven’t had Chick-Fil-A fare since it became known that that chain hates the homos, but honestly, I’ve missed their food.

I will miss Chick-Fil-A no more.

Popeyes new sandwich delivers a manageable 690 calories, which can be worked off with a long bike ride or elliptical workout at the gym. I’m afraid to ask what the sandwich’s sodium count is…so I won’t. Ignorance is chicken-munching bliss.

But a word of caution: that Popeyes location on El Camino Avenue is only selling the new sandwich from 11am-2pm and 5pm-8pm. They’re saving them — hoarding them — for the inevitable lunch and dinner rushes.

And as if THAT is not enough chicken news for you, KFC is launching a test market today of their plant-based Beyond Chicken nuggets and strips. They’re testing them in Atlanta, and will consider a national roll-out if it goes well. That’s the same strategy Burger King used for their new plant-based Impossible Whopper, testing it first in St. Louis last spring before their national roll-out, just a couple of weeks ago. So something tells me we can look forward to KFC’s Beyond Chicken at a local restaurant soon.

But for now, for today, to hell with plant based bird. it’s all about Popeyes new natural chicken sandwich. If you can find it, get it. And then get to the gym.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights – A Review

Añoro mi abuela.

I certainly miss my grandmother. She left this earth 21 years ago this month. I still think of her almost every day.

And she was certainly on my mind last evening at the Wells Fargo Pavilion, as Rayanne Gonzales gave a bravura performance as Abuela Claudia in Broadway At Music Circus’ premiere of the five time Tony Award-winning musical In The Heights.

Yeah, let’s blame my misty eyes on my grandma, not on Gonzales’ incredible stage presence or vocal prowess. If you can still get tickets (the show runs through Sunday, August 25), you need to hear her bring the house down with “Paciencia y Fe” (“Patience and Faith”), performed midway through the show’s first act. Abuela Claudia is the heart and soul of this production, as well as of In The Heights’ vibrant New York City neighborhood.

That’s not to say that Gonzales is In The Heights’ only star. I knew we were in for a show when Gerald Caesar and Didi Romero joined each other on stage for the first time. I don’t remember ever hoping harder for a stage bound couple to get together. Their chemistry and voices were caliente!

I saw my own father — and my own reflection — in Tony Chiroldes’ Tony. His performance of “Inútil” actually got to me minutes before Gonzales floored me. And I completely fell in love with Nina V. Negron as Vanessa.

In The Height’s Tony Award-winning score seamlessly blends Latin rhythms with hip hop and pop, and the result had me dancing up the aisle on my way out of the Wells Fargo Pavilion.

The musical was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical theater genius behind the smash hit Hamilton. That fact has been a major selling point for Broadway At Music Circus in marketing media for this show, but having seen this new production, Miranda’s involvement is almost an afterthought, for me. I wouldn’t care of Mickey Mouse had written In the Heights — this production may be my favorite of Broadway At Music Circus’ 2019 season, and with their wondrous The Wiz just weeks ago, that’s saying a lot.

If you’d like to see the thrilling In The Heights, don’t dawdle. When I last checked, Wednesday and Thursday nights are your best bets, as Friday through Sunday are almost sold out.

Buena suerte! Y muchas gracias a Broadway At Music Circus!

Tickets for In The Heights are available by phone at (916) 557-1999, online at BroadwaySacramento.com, or in person at the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office, 1419 H Street in Sacramento. For for information, visit BroadwaySacramento.com

The Isley Brothers In Modesto – A Concert Review

Ron & Ernie Isley of the legendary group The Isley Brothers are singing and playing a little bit softer now, with a little less of the fervor for which they were known during their decades-long, hit-making heyday.

But what they brought to Modesto Saturday night was more than enough to transform the majestic Gallo Center for the Arts into a jumping old-school R & B juke joint, during a stop of their critically-acclaimed You Make Me Wanna Shout 60th Anniversary Tour.

Ron has hit stronger, higher notes, and held them longer than he did last night. He’s also been more energetic onstage than he was at the Gallo Center. At several points during the show, Ron sang while perched atop a well-placed stool, with his brilliantly-sequined sneakers on full display. At one point, during one of the group’s pleading ballads, he joked “I’d get down on my knees for you, baby…if I wasn’t in these pants!”

But the 78 year old icon STILL whipped the crowd into a complete frenzy during a show that began, surprisingly, with a few bars from Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” before launching into a searing version of the group’s own anthemic “Fight The Power.” Even having been slowed by Father Time, Ron still displayed more than enough vocal power to cement The Isley Brothers’ legendary status.

“Let’s Go Crazy” was both a tribute to The Purple One and an invitation to the hundreds of fans in the audience. And we took him up on it during a fantastic, 90 minute show.

It took a minute for Ron to get his voice warmed up, sometime slightly after “Between The Sheets” when he tossed his trademark hat aside and invited a fan from the audience, Stacy Butler-Lewis, to sing Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing” with him. Butler-Lewis’ enthusiastic performance seemed to bring out the fire — and the dog — in Ron. His voice was blazingly hot after that.

By contrast, from the outset, his little brother Ernie played his guitar like it was 1973 — and with his mouth at a couple of points during the show! “Virtuoso” is a term that could easily be applied to him.

The Isley Brothers left R & B fans screaming into the night, with engaging, sensuous live versions of their own hits, including “it’s Your Thing,” “This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You),” “Twist And Shout,” and “Choosy Lover.” They also surprised with capable covers of hits by other artists including the aforementioned Khan, Sam Cooke, Frankie Beverly & Maze, and Whitney Houston.

It was only during that last cover that The Isley Brothers lost some of their audience, as Ron’s wife, Kandy, took over lead vocals on Houston’s version of “Jesus Loves Me” from The Bodyguard. Kandy was more than up to the task vocally, but she drug the song — and the accompanying benediction — too far for many in the audience, coming close to making an altar call with vocal pyrotechnics accompanied by overt promises for deliverance. While some seemed to enjoy it, several fans told me afterward that that segment of the show went on a little too long.

But as I think about it, Ron has made it through a 2004 stroke and a stint in federal prison over a decade ago, and Ernie’s faced his share of tough times, so they’ve got a right to testify!

The Isley Brothers got the old school R & B concert back on track quickly, with the hits “Voyage To Atlantis” and “Summer Breeze” before ending the show with with a rambunctious “Shout,” their first smash, from the fall of 1959.

It was no surprise when the house lights came up just after that and The Isley Brothers left the stage. These guys weren’t giving an encore. They’d left everything they had on that Gallo Center stage.

I was just happy to have been in the orbit of a legendary group, near the top of their game.

Click here for details on The Isley Brothers and their current You Make Me Wanna Shout 60th Anniversary Tour.

It Could Have Been Called 47 Meters Down: Unfathomable – A Movie Review

Before I get into this movie review, here’s a quick shoutout to the guy in the row ahead of me, in Auditorium #11, in row F, seat 3, Friday, August 16 at the 9:50pm show at the Cinemark XD Theatre on Arden in Sacramento. He was on his iPhone X for most of the movie, texting and browsing through his apps. I politely asked him to put his phone away for the duration of the film. He not so politely declined to do so.

But that’s a topic for another day!

Today, let’s take a look at the new 47 Meters Down: Uncaged. In a nutshell, it’s more Sharknado than Jaws.

That’s not to say that Uncaged is a bad movie. It’s just not a great one.

It IS a funny one. I’ll never be able to listen to The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” again without smiling. And it includes homages not just to Die Hard and Jurassic World, as well as to the Spielberg classic that started it all, but also to one of Jaws’ direct descendants, Deep Blue Sea.

That homage in particular had me literally laughing out loud. And I’m not at all sure that that was the reaction that director Johannes Roberts wanted from his audience when that verbose character became shark food.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged is a descendant in its own right, to the 2017 film 47 Meters Down. It’s not a sequel per se, as the movies don’t share a common narrative thread. This new one is just another flick about insatiable great white sharks.

And speaking of descendants, this movie’s cast features two of them: Corinne Foxx and Sistene Stallone, daughters of Hollywood legends Jamie and Sylvester, respectively. Both are serviceable in roles that, as they should be, are secondary to the big fish. Nia Long could have elevated the acting in this flick, but she was woefully underutilized.

Like the best of the big screen’s films of this genre, the movie picks up exponentially when the monster finally shows up. Like the worst of them, it takes too long for the shark to make his (her?) first appearance in Uncaged. I couldn’t have cared less about the all of the backstory: bullying in high school, blending, interracial families, blah blah blah. Enough with the appetizer — let’s get to the main course!

And ironically, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged jumps the shark a couple of times. First, there is no way Foxx and those ass-length extensions are going scuba diving. Also, it’s not much of a spoiler to tell you that everyone who goes down into the water isn’t coming back up out of it. But the unbelievably well-placed rescue device almost caused me to get up and walk out of the theatre.

This movie could have been called 47 Meters Down: Unfathomable.

That said, the film provided a great, escapist night out with the hubs. Just try not to sit behind someone who’d rather watch his cellphone screen than the huge one at the front of the theater.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged is playing in theaters everywhere.

Most of those theaters have signs like this posted throughout the building:

Goodnight, Reeses

That headline is not an ode to a bygone candy bar binge. It’s how you say goodbye to a dog that was named by a nine year old. She was a black and brown German Shepherd mix whose coat was the colors of that little girl’s — and her dad’s — beloved peanut butter cup.

Reeses was also the best watch dog I ever had. And other than my current marriage, my relationship with her was the longest term relationship I’d ever had.

We had to put Reeses down just over a week ago. On a Saturday. At 4:41pm.

Sixteen years ago this September, my husband, Rob and youngest daughter, Kristina tricked me into an outing at the Detroit Zoo. What I’d thought would be a fairly innocuous Saturday would actually be an ambush: the Zoo was hosting an event sponsored by the Michigan Humane Society.

I knew I was doomed the moment I saw the event’s banner hanging over the side of the Zoo’s parking garage:

“Meet Your Best Friend At The Zoo”

For years, I’d resisted letting Kristina have a dog. I’d told her that she wasn’t ready to handle the responsibility, and that I certainly wasn’t going to take it on. Neither turned out to be true, but that was only a part of the story. I’d wanted to make sure that Kristina was old enough to to be ready to deal with the inevitable death of a pet. As dogs dig up your garden, they find a way of burrowing their way into your heart. They also live painfully short lives.

Kristina fell in love with six weeks old Reeses the minute they laid eyes on each other. Another family had planned to adopt Reeses, who’d been found with the rest of her litter in an abandoned house in Detroit. That adoption fell through — and I still don’t know how that happens! — and the Humane Society staffer who searched for and found us in the crowd knew it was a done deal when Kristina pleaded “Please, Daddy, let me take her home.”

Kristina held that puppy in her palmed hands in the back seat of our Jeep Wrangler, on our way to start our chapter together. Once home, I gave Kristina just one edict: Reeses was not to sleep in the bed with her.

But Kristina, much like her dad, was always fond of breaking rules. Rob and I found dog hair in her bed the next and every morning, even as that kid insisted that she had to have been the one who was shedding.

The stories I could tell you. There was the night Rob checked in on Kristina only to face a marauding, teeth-baring hound, ever protective of the little girl who was sleeping in the bed next to her. Reeses almost went back to the Humane Society that night! I thought about punishing Kristina, but the sight of the two of them sleeping together was just too damned cute. That sight never got old for me.

There was the winter night that Reeses bounded through our snowy Michigan backyard with a bunny in her mouth. She hadn’t killed it, or even bitten it, but she had scared that rabbit shitless. And the following spring, Reeses demolished a backyard that had been awash in brilliant purple violets in her determination to find that rabbit’s warren.

That dog had perfected her demolition technique on Rob’s favorite ottoman a few months before. For years afterward, we found pieces of stuffing lying around the house.

There was the day that Reeses, who weighed 40 pounds soaking wet, was attacked by an 85 pound Rottweiler — at a dog day care center, no less. Reeses refused to back down, and had to have her right ear surgically reattached. Her subsequent fear of dogs larger than her led to our adopting another pup, a pit bull mix named Rover Jo, so Reeses didn’t spend the rest of her life being afraid of other dogs.

And what a watchdog! I’ve had some good ones over the years, but none compared to Reeses. Some would-be burglar kicked our front door open one night as we watched TV in the back of the house. Not only was the theft thwarted, but the guy almost wound up peg-legged.

Neither the pizza delivery guy, the mailman, a doorbell-ringing Jehovah’s Witness, nor even my cousin Steve was safe if Reeses was in protection mode. She loved both of my girls, but Reeses and Kristina were almost inseparable

…until Kristina grew up, as children insist on doing. As Reeses aged, her hearing and sight began to go, and eventually pizza and mail deliveries weren’t the raucous affairs they’d once been.

Over the last nine months, Reeses’ appetite waned, she stopped playing and even wanting to walk, and her weight dropped to a dangerously low 30 pounds. I’d rationalized it all for months, blaming her decline on Sacramento’s scorching summer heat and almost anything else I could cook up. It’s the Scarlett O’Hara in me: I can’t think about it today. I’ll think about it tomorrow.

Then, a routine visit to the vet changed everything.

The details of Reeses’ health issues are inconsequential. The heartbreak of holding that sweet girl in our arms as one of the world’s most compassionate vets, Dr Z at VCA Animal Hospital, administered a cocktail that would first put that dog to sleep, then induce a coma, and finally stop her heart cannot be conveyed.

I’ve friends who have, over the years, insisted on calling themselves versions of “Mom” and “Dad” and claimed that dogs and cats are just like children. Before we had to put Reeses down, I insisted that that wasn’t true.

I still insist that that’s not true. It’s not even close. Frankly, I’ve always found the comparison to be short sighted, somewhat insulting, and something that only someone without children could say.

That said, I almost hyperventilated as Reeses drew her last breaths. I had to put my ahead between my knees and take a couple of deep breaths before I got up to walk back to the car.

I miss that goddamned dog. Over the last few days, I’ve caught myself, several times, looking over my shoulder for her, or rushing to get home to let her out — before realizing that I don’t have to any more. Rob’s pretending that letting Reeses go didn’t hit him as hard, insisting that because he grew up on a farm, he’s used to seeing the end of an animal’s life. But he isn’t fooling me.

Kristina is battered, too, and she’s been through a lot in the last couple of years. But she’s my kid, so I know she’ll get through it. Rover Jo’s been sad all week, not quite her usually perky self and not feeling like eating much.

Just like me, that one.

Right after we put Reeses down, my elder daughter, Janet, well meaningly asked me whether we’d be getting another dog. I told her I may, but not soon.

Reeses cannot be replaced.

Goodnight, old friend.

Click here to find your local VCA Animal Hospital. If you’re in Sacramento and find Dr Z, thank her for me.