November 24, 2008

Total Request Dead

A little over a week ago we witnessed a death in the pop culture universe.

TRL had aired its final show on MTV, counting down its last top 10 list of videos. Every VJ from the past decade returned to the Times Square studios, even Granddaddy himself Carson Daly, reminiscing over memorable performances and iconic videos from days gone by (1999, how we miss thee).

Having not regularly watched the show since...oh...let's say sometime in 2001, I still felt a slight pang from the loss. Although my memories of TRL may not have been as intense as your average 13-year-old girl, I will still cherish my personal experiences with the show (having lived just north of Manhattan)...Being on-camera to request Blink-182's "Adam's Song" during spring break...Taking my 12-year-old cousin to see Backstreet Boys promote Black and Blue...Coming in 2nd Place in a Halloween costume contest for my zombie version of Carson Daly (with a Total Request Dead microphone in hand)...maneuvering through the mob of screaming 'NSYNC fans with my mother after catching a matinee of Saturday Night Fever on Broadway (that alone was embarrassing enough).

The fact that the show's finale barely registered with the masses should be an indication of how much has changed within the music industry - and consumerism. Many have argued that the Music Video is dead, and the end of TRL may as well be the final nail in that coffin. Indeed, music videos aren't what they used to be. Gone are the days of the million-dollar production ("Larger Than Life" anyone?), and with that epidemic of sagging budgets came a compromise in creativity. After all, how good does a video need to look? Does it really need to tell a story? Why bother with an actual concept? The kids are just going to watch it on YouTube anyway in between bootleg downloads of the new Beyonce.

SOAPBOX ALERT: The wrong (read: lazy) way to produce a music video with no budget is to just point the camera at an artist against different backdrops and incorporate imagery that has nothing to do with the message of the song whatsoever. However, when you have no money for fancy locations and special effects, it's time to get the creative juices flowing. And here's an example of how it's done right:

TRL, from what I remember during recent years, seemed to have lost itself, straying away from its original premise. Viewers would be lucky to catch at least 30 seconds of their favorite video during the countdown; the rest of the show was usually overbloated with celeb interviews, shameless plugs and John Norris's increasingly disturbing hair color of choice. The requests took a backseat to the parade of celebretards who came in and took pictures with fans and each other (Though I must say, the TRL Yearbook looks like a fine piece of coffee table literature). And before you say, "Oh Hiks, get over it, you were no longer their demographic," let me just say I that appreciate the hard work that goes in to every production. Showing less than a minute of footage from a vid does a disservice to the men and women who worked long hours on set and in post. Let the whole damn thing play. Don't cut away to a talking head with breaking news about Miley Cyrus's Sweet Sixteen plans. I want to see the rest of Chris Brown's fancy footwork, dammit. I want to see the part where Britney gives us that "Come hither" look. I want to see how the whole thing ends.

I assume the businesses and vendors in Times Square will miss the hordes of customers that camped out in front of those studio windows every weekday afternoon. And the Virgin Megastore closing down across the street didn't help either (damn you, iTunes!). I also assume that the cab driver community of New York City was relieved to hear that it no longer had to worry about potentially running over poster-waving David Archuleta fans in the middle of the day.

And where will our favorite VJs go? Will there be a mass migration over to MTV2? Will Quduus and Damian have to redo their headshots in order to pursue other journalistic ventures? Will there be an influx of GenY correspondents on CNN and MSNBC? It's so tragic to see such photogenic lost souls shoved out into such a cutthroat world. May the most charismatic Teleprompter reader win.

But we will carry on. Eventually there will be something else to fill the void, something else to capture the zeitgeist...

While we wait, I shall leave you with a look back, a reminder of the pure, unadulterated fun that was TRL during its heyday (JT, you had us at "Tearin' Up"):



Rihanna, Beyonce & Me

Last night's AMA's at the Nokia Theater in downtown L.A. turned out to be more like a Divas Live concert...and yours truly was front and center for every one of the 19 (!) performances (is it me, or do they continue to outnumber the actual awards given out?). Anyway, check out my highlights of the night HERE.

November 20, 2008

On The 'Street' Where You Live

Shadyside Map

I grew up on Centre Avenue in a city called New Rochelle...but I came of age on Fear Street in a town called Shadyside.

Created and written by the incomparable R.L. Stine, Fear Street was the first (and most successful) teen horror series that could be found on bookshelves all across America in the early-to-mid 90s. It took place in the fictitious hamlet of Shadyside. Much like Springfield in The Simpsons and Fairview in Desperate Housewives, it existed in Anywhere America. Most of the action centered on a long and winding dead-end street named after a powerful dynasty infamous for its "shady" dealings and black magic practices in the 1800s, eventually leading to a curse that was placed on the entire neighborhood.

Before Twilight, there were vamps sucking it up in Goodnight Kiss and Goodnight Kiss 2. Before The Craft, there were witches brewing up trouble in The Burning. And way before those Gossip gals could perfect the art of deception and greed, there was The Rich Girl figuratively and literally backstabbing her way through the senior class of Shadyside High.

FS - Lights Dead

In its early years, Fear Street was the antithesis of the then-popular Sweet Valley High. Instead of fighting over who would take the Wakefield twins to the prom, R.L. had twins fighting over who would murder their cheating boyfriend first (Double Date). Instead of the new girl in town trying to make it on the cheerleading squad to impress her peers, Stine followed the desperate attempts of a girl trying to exorcise the demonic spirit from her pom-pom-shaking BFF (1992's Cheerleaders trilogy). And rather than spend an innocent weekend at a beach house, away from the 'rents, a group of Shadyside teens shack up in an old oceanside hotel and try to escape a knife-wielding maniac in Party Summer (see also: Sunburn, One Evil Summer and non-Fear Street titles like Beach Party, Beach House).

FS - Prom Dreams

Catering to a generation that grew up on the countless Friday the 13ths and Nightmare of Elm Streets that ran on broadcast and cable television at the time, FS was the Harlequin novel equivalent of those horror flicks, tailored for young readers looking for bloody thrills in the pages of a breezy paperback. One could say that R.L. (that's Robert Lawrence, if you're wondering) was also inspired by those very franchises: Lights Out took place at a summer camp terrorized by a killer, and Bad Dreams toted the tagline "Don't go to sleep!" on its illustrated cover.

FS - Perfect Cheerleaders

Needless to say, I was a fanatic. I hung up the calendars on my bedroom wall (up until my freshman year of college). I read every interview with the author (People once did a piece about his life in Manhattan with his wife Jane and his son, Matt, who modeled for the cover of The Perfect Date). I bought his autobiography, It Came from Ohio! and wrote a book report on it in the seventh grade. I know the complete lineage of the Fear family and the detailed history of the street itself (thanks to The Fear Street Saga). And I made sure to run to my local Waldenbooks and order R.L. Stine's debut "adult" novel, Superstitious, well in advance. It had become a habit with me. I had to have the newest book the second it hit the shelves. In the beginning of every month I'd call every bookseller in Westchester County to inquire about any new shipments. I was a regular at the Friar Tuck Bookshop in the New Rochelle Mall (R.I.P.) where Lois, the saleswoman at the register, would give me a polite nod and smile that would say, There's that chubby 11-year-old who has no friends because his nose is always stuck in a book.

What Fear Street ultimately taught me was that anyone can be a psycho if you just put your heart in it (or have your heart possessed by a vengeful ghost who seeks to ruin the lives of those around you)...And you can't rely on adults to help you out when the boy you're dating may turn out to be telepathic serial killer. Besides the run-of-the-mill Psycho Girlfriend/Boyfriend, Shadyside was populated with plenty of homicidal residents: Psycho Nanny, Psycho Stepsister, Psycho Best Friend, Psycho Teacher, Psycho Rock Singer, Psycho Lifeguard, Psycho Long-Lost Brother, Psycho Next-Door Neighbor - hell, even a Psycho Santa (Silent Night 1-3).

Buffy's Sunnydale would have a tough time competing against this town in the contest for Highest Mortality Rate.

Naturally, like all great series, the stories started to run on fumes (I mean, really, how many adjectives can you put in front of "Date" and "Party"?), and R.L. stopped pumping out original material after 1999's 10-part Fear Street Seniors miniseries. It had been a phenomenal run, ten years of terrifying tales of teen angst in suburbia. Shortly thereafter, Stine's name faded from the shelves and J.K. Rowling and her wizard boy wonder took over...

The Young Adult section of every Barnes and Noble in the country would never be the same again.

Fear street nights

An attempt to revisit the series was made in the summer of 2005 when R.L. published a new trilogy called Fear Street Nights. It was supposed to be a sexier, more risque tale, focusing on a group of teens who sneak out at night to hang and drink at a local bar (Ooh, someone contact Child Services) - only to get tangled in some deadly shenanigans. Of course I bought it.

Unfortunately I couldn't get past Book 2.

Nowadays, the wannabe producer in me wants to buy the rights to the series and adapt it for television, perhaps as a companion piece to Supernatural on the CW. If Josh Schwartz could do it with Gossip Girl, then why not me? There's an entire generation out there that has never visited this evil neighborhood, and I think they ought to have the chance to make the trip. Perhaps we could produce a crossover episode in which GG's Blair and Serena leave Manhattan to visit an old frenemy in Shadyside and stumble upon her voodoo doll collection that comes alive at midnight.

Fear Street will always have a special place in my heart. Like any comic-book collector, I plan to keep every paperback edition in mint condition and proudly shelved as a reminder of bookworm days long gone. Consider it my small part of a legacy in progress. Currently on display in my bathroom is some framed artwork I recently stumbled upon from the series, a little shrine dedicated to one of the influences that guided me down the path to a writing career.

Go on Amazon. Visit your local library. Take a walk down the Street...

Hatching my plot to murder some homecoming queens one by one,


*Anyone know about purchasing property rights?

November 07, 2008


sitting and hugging

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the six-plus years I've been in L.A. never have I lived through such an exciting and emotional week. I, along with countless friends, coworkers and acquaintances, cheered and celebrated Barack Obama's victory on Tuesday night. There was a feeling that this country was finally entering a new era, one filled with hope and much-needed unity. However, the joy was short-lived when it was announced on the following morning that Proposition 8 had been passed, allowing the state Constitution to be amended and discriminate against same-sex couples, banning marriage as their civil (read: human) right (*Note: this is after the State Supreme Court had made it legal; never in the history of America has a constitutional amendment been written to discriminate against a group of citizens).

I wanted to show you, my readers - especially those of you on the East Coast - what it's been like living in Los Angeles for the past several days in the aftermath of such a historic and life-changing development. I've managed to collect some photos from those who stormed the boulevards throughout this sprawled-out city, stopping traffic for miles, bringing this city to a standstill that, for once, didn't involve petty fender-benders or "sig alerts".

I realize I am experiencing a movement the magnitude of which I had only read about in history books...and I couldn't be any happier to be a part of it.

I'll keep this relatively short, because I truly feel some of these images can speak for themselves and convey what my words cannot:

beverly hills


Sunset Boulevard never looked so beautiful:

sunset blvd

mormon church2

weho march

get equal

Heading into Westwood Village:

westwood blvd


weho march 2

weho rally


tax exempt no more

keep all families together


outside mormon church

The movement beginning on Wednesday night:

And it doesn't stop there. The city is now anticipating 20,000 people to gather in the Silverlake area on Saturday and in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday to continue their protests and express their outrage.

Proudly fighting hate and inequality,


November 05, 2008

CHANGE: Fall 2008, Vol. 2

change - small vers

No matter where you stand, the truth is undeniable: our country is going through an enormous transition (and it doesn't involve foliage). Frankly, it's exciting as hell.

And what better way to celebrate this new chapter in our history than with a soundtrack to guide you through it all? We'll need all the good tunage we can get while we clean up the mess we're in...iPods ready?

1. "Womanizer" by Britney Spears

2. "Let It Rock" by Kevin Rudolph feat. Lil Wayne

3. "Up" by The Saturdays

4. "Insomnia" by Craig David - Take Ne-Yo's "Closer" and a dash of Chris Brown's "Forever," and voila...

5. "Return the Favor" by Keri Hilson feat. Timbaland - Or, The Way I Are, Part 2:

6. "Last Goodbye" by Avenue

7. "Party in Your Bedroom" by Cash Cash

8. "Human" by The Killers - It's nice to see the boys getting back to their "Mr. Brightside" roots.

9. "Breathing Your Love" by Darin feat. Kat DeLuna

10. "Eat You Up" by Boa - Proving cute Asian girls aren't just for collecting Hello Kitty memorabilia, this Korean import kills:

11. "Taking Back My Love" by Enrique Iglesias feat. Ciara

12. "Don't Want to Go to Bed Now" by Gabriella Cilmi

13. "Starstruck" by Lady GaGa feat. Space Cowboy - A track from the record Fergie and Gwen wish they'd made.

14. "Everyone's At It" by Lily Allen

15. "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" by Beyonce - Let video speak for itself:

16. "Rule the World" by Take That

17. "I Hate This Part" by The Pussycat Dolls - Can't...resist...this vapid...pop...fluff. Damn you, PCD!

18. "Boring" by Pink - Her bonus track off of Funhouse. No ex-husbands were harmed during the recording of this song.

19. "Lost" by Coldplay

20. "The Lovers Are Losing" by Keane

21. "American Boy (Live)" by Sam Sparro - The electro-soul singer from Down Under admirably covers one of the best tracks of the year (and totally makes it his own) in this live session from London.

Catfights, Cleavage and Carrie-Anne Moss: 'Models Inc.' Turns 25

In the early 90s, as anyone familiar with the oeuvre of uber-producer Aaron Spelling knows, the successful  Beverly Hills, 90210 begat ...