Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NFL Star Vernon Davis and Music Executive Antone Barnes Launch Modern Class Design

MCD co-founders Antone Barnes (left) and Vernon Davis (right)

           NFL tight end Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers is tackling a new endeavor off the field, the business of interior design and urban renewal projects, with the launch of his new company, Modern Class Design (MCD). Founded with veteran music industry executive Antone Barnes, their goal with MCD is to continue serving current clientele who are predominantly athletes, while expanding into urban renewal projects in inner-city communities across the nation. "I grew up in a rough neighborhood in DC and so did my business partner, Antone, who's from Jersey City," Davis explains. "We were surrounded by graffiti and abandoned houses where there were no parks, and very few rec centers or safe places to go. It shouldn't be that way and we're planning to change that with MCD, one project at a time."
            Barnes agrees. "We want people who come from neighborhoods similar to ours to enjoy the revival of their communities instead of being pushed out," he says. "On a personal note, I want to continue the legacy of urban renewal that my father began nearly 30 years ago in Jersey City."
            MCD is currently in talks with officials from the city of San Francisco and Washington, D.C public schools to do urban renewal projects that would positively impact children and communities in both cities. "We want to be involved in projects that will improve people's lives," says Davis.
            MCD prides itself on creating interior spaces for athletes and other clients that are suited to the client's taste, but still affordable. "You don't have to break your bank to live well and have style," says Davis. "I always tell players, this moment won't last forever, so plan for the future." An avid painter who majored in Studio Art at The University of Maryland, Davis says his design company evolved organically. "I saw Antone's home, loved his art collection and then we collaborated on my homes in San Jose and Maryland. After he designed my younger brother Vontae's house, who plays for the Miami Dolphins, players started calling and we realized there was a demand for our business."
            "What we've found most gratifying with our clients, many of whom are affluent, is that they appreciate our efforts to create beautiful spaces while protecting their interests," says Barnes.
            A signature component of MCD is to make first-time art collectors out of their clients. "Vernon's a painter, so he has a passion for art as do I," says MCD co-founder Barnes. So while working to give clients the home of their dreams on a sustainable budget, MCD also incorporates original and limited edition artwork from emerging and well-established artists into all design projects. "Surrounding our clients with inspirational works of art from varying cultures while introducing them to the experience of collecting art as an investment is a powerful contribution we hope to continue making on each project," says Barnes. "The fact that our clients get to own great artwork and support talented artists at the same time is a beautiful thing," Barnes adds. Among the artists whose work they have used so far include:the late master Jacob Lawrence, Warren Goodson, Kadir Nelson, Lorna Simpson, Martin Puryear, Willie Cole, Norma Nava, Rumiana Koleva, Marko D and the iconic Keith Haring. Miami Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith, a former MCD client, now owns a one-of-a-kind sports themed sculpture designed especially for him by renowned sculptor Dan Meyer. Also in Smith's collection is a limited edition piece by contemporary artist Lorna Simpson. Other MCD clients also include Reshad Jones of the Miami Dolphins, Anthony Davis and Aldon Smith of the San Francisco 49ers and Jade Financial Management, an East Coast sports financial company.
            Davis and Barnes will officially launch Modern Class Design with an event in the Bay area on December 4th with proceeds benefiting the non-profit organization The Vernon and Vontae Davis Family Foundation.   Among the programs supported by the charity include The Vernon Davis Visual Arts Scholarship Fund, programs for children of drug addicted parents and the Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy, which provides inner-city athletes with college scholarships.
            "Living well should be available for everyone," says Davis. "That's what MCD is all about."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Benjamin “Lil P-Nut” Flores, Jr. Stars In Happy Feet Two


    Benjamin “Lil P-Nut” Flores, Jr. isn’t a household name, yet, but he soon will be after the release of Happy Feet Two in 3D.
    The pint-size dynamo is a popular rapper who goes by the name Lil P-Nut.
Lil P-Nut, who hails from Memphis, plays a penguin named Atticus in the sequel to the highly-successful, Happy Feet, which won an Academy Award for best animated feature in 2006. 
The animated penguins are back dancing up a storm.
    The story goes like this - Mumble, The Master of Tap, has a problem because his tiny son, Erik, is choreo-phobic.  Reluctant to dance, Erik runs away and encounters The Mighty Sven—a
penguin who can fly!  Mumble has no hope of competing with this charismatic new role
model.  But things get worse when the world is shaken by powerful forces.  Erik learns of his father’s guts and grit as Mumble brings together the penguin nations and all manner of fabulous creatures—from tiny Krill to giant Elephant Seals—to put things right.
    When he was asked to read for the role of Atticus, Lil P-Nut was happy to do so.  And, in fact, he does a great job in the film.
    An adorable nine-year-old, Lil P-Nut’s personality alone will get him far. He’s a well-mannered, respectful kid, who calls elder females ‘ma’am.’
    In short order he went from singing at local clubs in Memphis, Tenn., to rapping not once, but twice, on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
    Lil P-Nut has performed in over 100 live concerts - including with Soulja Boy at the sold-out Summer Jam in Memphis—has been featured on various hip hop sites, and has also appeared in several hip-hop music videos, most recently Cymphonique’s “All That” and Memphis rapper Yo Gotti’s “Look In The Mirror,” which was featured on BET’s “106th & Park.”
     In addition to his music career, Lil P-Nut, who has a song called, You Might Be The One, has already appeared in several commercials.  He is due to appear in an episode of the TBS Network show “Are We There Yet?” executive produced by Ice Cube and is currently working on a pilot for his own TV show with Cartoon Network, which Ice Cube will also executive produce.
While Happy Feet Two will definitely give him an even bigger mainstream audience, Lil P-Nut is taking it all in stride.

    I caught up with Lil P-Nut recently to talk about his career and Happy Feet Two.
    DD:  How did you get the name Lil P Nut?
    LPN: My uncle said my head looked like a peanut. I like it.   Everybody calls me Lil P-Nut.
    DD: Who is your favorite rapper? Eminem because he raps fast. He has a lot of big words when he raps.
    DD: Why did you want to be a rapper?
    LPN: I grew up listening to rap. I guess I’ll keep on going. I like my record and it sounds good. I write my songs myself.
    DD: Tell me about working on Happy Feet Two. How did you get the role?
    LPN: I was on Ellen DeGeneres. Warner Bros. had found me. I acted for them and they said they wanted me to be in the movie.
    DD: Do you like the movie?
    LPN: I love the movie, it’s awesome. I like how the big, old iceberg breaks down. I like the bird.
    DD: Do you like hearing your voice in a movie?
    LPN: I like hearing myself cuz this is my first time being in an animated movie. I feel happy for myself. I want to do more movies. I want everybody to know it’s me.  
    DD: What other kinds of movies would you like to do?
    LPN: I’d like to be a superhero like Juggernaut on the X-Men,  He has super strength and he’s buff.
    DD: You’d have to bulk up.
    LPN: I already like to exercise. I lift weights, push ups, sit ups, crunches, everything. I workout for an hour everyday. I do it in the morning and night. 
    DD: What did you like best about working on Happy Feet Two?
    LPN: I met Common. I like the way he raps. I saw one of his video. He’s good. When we met, I was like, ‘What’s up Common. Lets take a pic right quick.’
    DD: Is there anyone else you’d like to work with?
    LPN: I want to do a movie with Denzel. I talked to him once. I want to do a movie with him. He’s the greatest actor in the world.  I like the train movie [Unstoppable].
    DD: Were you nervous performing on The Ellen DeGenere Show? 
    LPN: I wasn’t nervous. It was an ordinary day. I like working with her.
    DD: So, what’s the next movie you’re going to do?
    LPN: I don’t know.
    Happy Feet Two is directed by George Miller, who won an Oscar® as the creator of the original      “Happy Feet.”  A number of the original celebrities voiced characters in the original, are back.            However, there are some additions. First, singer, Pink, replaces the late Brittany Murphy and then there is the addition of Flores.
    The film features the voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Sofia Vergara, Common, Hugo Weaving, Richard Carter, Magda Szubanski and Anthony LaPaglia.
    Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, a Kennedy Miller Mitchell production, with Dr. D. Studios, a George Miller film, “Happy Feet Two.”  The film is rated PG for “rude humor and mild peril.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Fair Wedding With David Tutera Returns For a Fifth Season


More brides will have their dream weddings realized as the fifth season of WEtv’s popular My Fair Wedding With David Tutera, is set to premiere Sun. Nov. 13.

An emotional Make-A-Wish wedding will kick off the new season as a son helps to fulfill his mother’s dream of a Zen-style wedding.

When bride Wendy’s teenage son, Ryan, received a life-threatening cancer diagnosis, she and her fiancĂ© put their wedding plans on hold to tend to his medial needs. With a wish for his mother to have the wedding of her dreams Ryan asks the Make-A-Wish Foundation to bring David Tutera to Topeka, Kansas to give his mom the long-awaited ceremony.

Of course, it’s Tutera to the rescue!

That’s just one of the scheduled 18 hour-long episodes set for this season.

Tutera, who planned Star Jones’ wedding, once again works his magic in a season that will have surprises and moments of gut-wrenching emotion.

One bride will spend nearly her entire wedding budget on a designer gown and shoes, another wants an entire wedding of black to match their all-Goth fashion lifestyle, including a black bridal gown, black bridesmaids’ dresses and even a black flower girl dress. Another bride wants her outdoor wedding to resemble Tuscany, Italy, while yet another wants a dragonfly-themed wedding as a symbol of hope.

I recently caught up with Tutera at a luncheon at Café Entourage in Hollywood to discuss the upcoming season.
watch a sneak peek of My Fair Wedding at Cafe Entourage in Hollywood

Q: How do you decide what brides are going to be on the show and once that decision has been made, how do you go about deciding what little special extras to give a particular bride?

DT: Five years ago we had a mere 300 applicants. This season we had more than 10,000 applicants. No lack of people. It goes through casting, the network and the producers. I have nothing to do with it – which is a joy. Over the past four seasons the producers have begged me to be part of the process. I’ve consistently fought it, because I want it to be real. The first thing I do is, I get out of the car and I say before I knock on the door, ‘what’s her name?” I literally don’t know her name. I knock on the door and walk in. I have to get this wedding done in six days. In every situation, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m obsessed with these brides. I have big responsibility of giving the brides and the viewers what they want.  Now I’m a co-producer of the show and I’m part of every single detail of every single beat of the show. I want to give the viewer the magic they deserve.

Q: How do you get weddings done in a couple of days?

DT: If I wouldn’t have had 25 years in this business, there’s no way I could get these things done.

Q: What are you feelings when you see how an audience reacts to one of your shows where you’ve made someone’s dream wedding a reality?


DT: I’m a very sappy guy. I still get emotional. I feel it. When I see people respond, I get emotional. It makes me realize I’m doing the right thing. People are understanding what the show is all about.

Q: There have to be times when a bride doesn’t want to listen to you or wants to wear something that is not appropriate for her size.

DT: Well, first I don’t judge people – ever. I’m there to help them have the best wedding ever. I’m here for them. I’ve also learned that listening is very important.

Q: What kinds of issues have you had from grooms?

DT: I’ve worked with grooms. I don’t want them to just be the guy that shows up at the altar.

Q: You have a line of dresses – what thinking goes into your designs.

DT: When I pick dresses for a bride, I think about the personality of the person.  In my collection there is something for every bride. In my new line, which I just launched recently in the New York City market, there are 30 dresses and there are different looks for different personalities. The dresses go up to size 26. That’s my demo. They need to look and feel spectacular. That’s what’s missing in the market.

Tutera’s David Tutera by Faviana collection is designed for real-life stars and beautiful brides who dream of turning heads on the white carpet. They dresses are also inspired by gowns worn by celebrities on the red carpet.

"Inspired by the red carpet, worn on the white carpet" is the signature of the luxury collection for brides who want to capture the essence of celebrity style for their big day. Designs range from classic and beautiful to dramatic and innovative, while reflecting the culture of couture.

On January 26, 2012, Tutera will become the first man to grace the cover of the national publication, Bridal Guide. Needless to say, he’s pumped, but he also is ready to make history.

MY FAIR WEDDING premieres 
November 13 on WE

DT: I found out a year ago that there has never been a black woman of color on the cover of a national publication for weddings.  When I asked to see the spread concept. It was a beautiful spread. But, I said I’m not doing this cover unless the women next to me is a black woman. They said, ‘we can’t do that.’  I said, well I’m not doing the cover. So, we’re doing the cover and I will make sure that happens.

My Fair Wedding with David Tutera is produced by WE tv by Pilgrim Films & Television. Executive producer for WE tv: Kate Farrell; SVP of Original Productions & Development: John Miller. Executive producer for Pilgrim Films & Television: Craig Piligian

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Non-Traditional ‘All My Sons’

    Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, is timeless.
    The Matrix Theatre’s production, featuring a non-traditional cast may have just proven it for a fact.
    The rich and engaging drama opened on Broadway in 1947 and won a Tony award for Best Play.  The intense American classic about post-war America and its effect on two families and their neighbors, centers on Joe Keller and Steve Deever, partners in a machine shop during World War II.
Apparently, even though some key airplane parts were defective – they were, in an effort to fulfill a war contract,  sent out resulting in the accidental death of several pilots. The story speaks to the question of responsibility to oneself, friends, partners and family.

    While the casting is impressive and proves a good story can be done with a colorblind acting troupe, it’s the solid acting that fuels this play. 
    Director Cameron Watson has assembled a cast sans a weak link. Each member of the cast makes their own notable mark.
    Alex Morris, who is black, leads the cast with his unforgettable, gut-wrenching portrayal of Joe Keller, the patriarch of a family facing some tough times. Morris engulfs the role, filling the stage with Keller’s pride, angst, shortcomings, faults, guilt, but especially love and devotion for his family.
    Anne Gee Byrd, who is white, is brilliant as Kate Keller, the matriarch and wife of Joe, who gives new meaning to standing by your man. Byrd’s emotional portrayal of the torn and grief-stricken mother, Kate Keller, is palpable.

   Anita Barone (who is white), James Hiroyuki Liao (who is Asian), A.K. Murtadha (who is biracial), Taylor Nichols (who is white), Linda Park (who is Asian) and Armand Vasquez (who is Hispanic), Maritxell Carrero (who is Hispanic) and Tobie Hess (who is white), all bring this production to life.
   “All My Sons,” directed by Cameron Watson, stars Alex Morris, Anita Barone, Anne Gee Byrd, Maritxell Carrero, Tobias Hess, James Hiroyuki Liao, A.K. urtadha, Taylor Nichols, Linda Park, Taylor Scofield and Armand Vasquez. 

     It is produced by Joseph Stern and The Matrix Theatre Company.
    On the Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK) and E (excellent), “All My Sons” gets an E (Excellent).
    The Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046; Thur.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. through Dec. 18; $25;