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Watch Me Compete with Celebrities on a Game Show!

FYI...

Before you stuff yourselves on Thanksgiving...you can watch me attempt to charm Meredith Vieira while competing for $10,000 with a few celebrities on 25 Words or Less!

That is, if you have a DVR...or live TV...

#TBT: Working on an TV Show Hated by The Right Wing

My series of throwback blogs continues, excavated from my personal archives. These were originally sent as e-mails to friends and family back home. Life updates from Los Angeles filled with humble brags made by an insufferable twentysomething...

Subject: Paradise Wasteland
Sent: July 27, 2005

"Los Angeles is a paradise wasteland." - Me.

The least photogenic city, yet the most photographed. A city that is full of both hope and hunger. Gorgeous palms frame boulevards of rundown mini-marts and hollowed buildings a decade long dead. Pretentious pretty people hardly mix with the indie-inclined artsies, but there is a shade of gray one may discover during a late night in Silver Lake where martinis and Miller Lites stand side by side on the same bar while Gucci and Target color-coordinate in a non-discriminatory display of fashion.

When you're up, you can't help but think of the possibilities and good fortune that may come your way. When you're down, you question your pot…

Song of the Month: October 2019

This month, I'm wondering who the hell is David Hodges because he is providing the vocals on "Waking Up With You," Armin van Buuren's latest single from his upcoming album, Balance.

But that's what Google is for... Turns out Hodges is a former band member of Evanescence (among other bands) and a pretty prolific songwriter from Arkansas, which would explain the slight country twang in his voice.

Anyway, I'm digging the song, which is a sonic departure from the EDM maestro. The lyrics are hitting a little too close to home for me...and I can't get enough of it.

@TheFirstEcho

Impeachment Souvenirs

I wonder how many of these I'd sell in a week... (Available in all sizes!)

Other copy includes: "Team Pelosi," "Proud Presidential Harrasser," and "Donald Dump."

@TheFirstEcho

There's A Town Named After Me That I Need To Visit

The full article, about Area 51 raiders filling up a small Nevada town, can be found here.

I mean, imagine all the Instagrams I could take there!

@TheFirstEcho

#TBT: Parties, Porn Stars, and Pilot Season

My series of throwback blogs continues, excavated from my personal archives. These were originally sent as e-mails to friends and family back home, life updates from Los Angeles filled with humble brags made by an insufferable twentysomething...

Subject: Diary of the Funemployed
Sent: June 8, 2005


"Don't you know the finest things in the world  are written on a empty stomach?" - Sunset Boulevard
May 2, 2005...

The Young Hollywood Awards. Again. Why oh why?

Someone should tell Lindsay Lohan that coke whore chic is so 2001.

On the other hand, Marcia Cross looked stunning. Eva Longoria is teeny (girl is a size 0). Jesse Metcalfe was a walking, talking Hollywood cliché (blazer, jeans, smirk and all). Ann Margaret looked...old (receiving a Trailblazer award). Dennis Quaid brushed against my shoulder. Chris Evans brought his posse from Boston. Gwen Stefani showed up without Gavin. Aisha Tyler was our host for a third time, but it wasn't the charm; her witty retorts while intro…

SAVOIR FAIRE: The 2019 Fall Playlist

From the looks of the above cover I quickly designed, you'd think this was a country album. Far from it.
My latest seasonal playlist has a few surprises up its cardigan sleeves: a new track from Alessia Cara that's unlike anything she's ever put out ("October"), the latest from my favorite 2000s band, Keane ("Love Too Much"), a jam from Armin Van Buuren that resonates more than it should ("Waking Up With You"), and plenty of retro synth pop to keep you pining for the 80s.
Grab your maple scones and turn up the volume, kids.
@TheFirstEcho

Song of the Month: September 2019

For the first time ever, my Song of the Month isn't some hot, new track from an up-and-coming artist. It isn't even a track featured on my playlist for the 2019 fall season.

I'm going back to 2006 and revisiting one of my favorite bands of all-time, Keane.

"A Bad Dream" is taken from the group's fantastic sophomore album, Under The Iron Sea, and 13 years later, it holds up beautifully. The melancholy tune is lifted by frontman Tom Chaplin's dreamy vocals, accompanied by distorted pianos and soothing synths.

It's the perfect song to keep on rotation while we transition into autumn. It's also capturing my current mood, thanks to some recent semi-heartache. Simply put: le sigh.

@TheFirstEcho

60 Great Songs of the 2010s

Where did this decade go?

Seriously, I'd like to know. Because it seems like yesterday I was looking forward to turning (gulp) 30, blaring Katy Perry's "California Gurls" in my Prius, and planning to take my first-ever cross-country road trip that would spark my side hustle as a travel writer.

How did we get here? Well, I have one theory: we survived the 2010s by listening to great music. And below is a playlist of my top picks -- in chronological order of release from 2010 to 2019 -- of the outstanding tracks that personally helped shape the last ten years. Some are well-known no-brainers, while others are less familiar songs that you should know and love.

@TheFirstEcho

The Sounds (and Silence) of Horror: A Discussion with the Genre's Top Film Composers

Last month at Comic-Con, I slightly geeked out having had the pleasure of chatting with some of the hardest-working film composers in horror: Michael Abels (Get OutUs), Chris Young (Pet SemataryThe Grudge), Carl Thiel (Machete KillsFrom Dusk Til Dawn: The Series), and Nick Soole (The Head Hunter). They sat down with me before taking to the stage for a panel to discuss the scores from some of the biggest horror movies of the past two decades.

Together we pulled back the curtain and revealed how they create some of the world’s most frightening film music. Check it out here.

@TheFirstEcho

Martinis, 'Metroid,' and Matthew Lillard

My series of throwback blogs continues, excavated from my personal archives. These were originally sent as e-mails to friends and family back home, #humblebrag-filled life updates from Los Angeles. And looking back, I think I want to slap my 22-year-old self...

Sent: Saturday, November 23, 2002

Hola amigos,

Long time, no e-mail, yes? Well, my L.A. journey continues...

WHERE I'M AT: Starbucks. (Also temping through the Friedman Agency; did at gig at New Regency on the Fox lot.) The Starbucks crew is really cool and friendly. My managers are taking me out to a comedy show on Sunset tomorrow night.

WHAT'S BEEN UP: I interviewed to be an assistant on a new UPN reality show called Supermodel. Tyra Banks is one of the producers. I was in the running to be a production assistant and then an executive assistant to the producers, but then I never got a call back. Meanwhile My Big Loud Greek Family doesn't start production until next month...that is, if I get chosen to be a PA on the…

That Time I Worked With Shirtless Werewolves (and a Future Bravolebrity)

In the fall of 2010 I had the insane (and exhausting) pleasure of working with my friend, Michael Medico, on a project for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Our sixth collaboration involved producing a flash mob-like experience and an accompanying digital video that promoted the DVD/Blu-ray release of Vampires Suck, the comedy spoofing the Twilight franchise as well as other pop culture trends at the time.

The project involved a day of rehearsal at a studio in the sketchy warehouse district of Los Angeles, followed by a day of shooting these performances at five locations throughout the city. The dance number was a recreation of one of the movie's scenes in which a group of shirtless werewolves (in human form) break out into a choreographed routine set to "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls (naturally).

The first performance took place on a Sunday morning at San Marino's Colonial Kitchen, a quaint suburban diner where we gave the post-church crowd a servi…

Song of the Month: August 2019

That bass drop. That chorus! And that simple yet effective choreo...

My song of the month is Sam Smith's "How Do You Sleep?", and its accompanying music video is my current obsession (So far, I've contributed to 15 of its current 52 million views). My only complaint is that the tune ends too abruptly. And according to several reactions on YouTube, I'm not alone in this. IMHO (In My Hiko Opinion), an additional thirty seconds would've produced a more satisfying experience. But still...

Directed by Grant Singer, the video is a surprisingly sexy and stylish collection of subtle visuals in which our crooner has fully embraced his sensual side. He's the most comfortable he's ever been in his own skin, and it shows in these mesmerizing three-and-a-half minutes.


For a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of this video, go here.

@TheFirstEcho

#TBT: Romancing the Silverstone

I'm kicking off a series of throwback blogs that I've dug up from my personal archives. These were originally sent as e-mails to friends and family back home, life updates from Los Angeles filled with an insane amount of humble brags only a naive twentysomething could be capable of...


Sent: Tuesday, May 4, 2004

"We're going to see Super-Size Me this weekend," Alicia told me. "You should come."

Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the movie. "I'll be in San Francisco," I told her, trying to suppress my migraine. "But we should do something else with Molly soon."

Did I just turn down an invite from the star of 1995's Clueless and 1993's The Crush?? You betcha.

I had congratulated Ms. Silverstone on receiving the Young Veteran Award as we mingled among the hotness that was the Young Hollywood Awards afterparty at Spider Club. I soon made my way to the bar for a Coconut Bay Breezer after chatting with Alicia's boyfrien…

10 Questions from 90s Pop Songs, Finally Answered

The 90s were filled with emerging music genres (hip-hop, dance, alternative rock) that characterized the decade and provided a unique soundtrack for those of us who came of age during the Clinton era. It was also a time when songs delivered a few head scratchers when it came to their lyrics, posing questions that have never really been answered...until now.



QUESTION 1: "What Is Love?" (Haddaway, 1993)

ANSWER: Love is never having to say you're sorry for subjecting women to running backwards down staircases. In heels. (But your pleas have fallen on deaf ears; your "baby" is definitely going to hurt you.)


QUESTION 2: "How Do You Talk To An Angel?" (The Heights, 1992)

ANSWER: Very delicately. Angels are known to be esoteric beings that only communicate with those who function on the same intellectual level as them. Sometimes you can talk to them in riddles; they appreciate a good brain teaser every so often.


QUESTION 3: "Where Do You Go?" (No Mercy…

Celebrating My 17th L.A.nniversary with a Bang

The impact, like many impacts, was sudden.

I heard the crunch of metal, not as loud as those bang-ups you see in the Fast and Furious movies. Maybe because it came from behind, out of nowhere. Maybe because my windows were rolled up.

And maybe because Huey Lewis was singing "If This Is It," a result of Spotify shuffling my 80s playlist, possibly to demonstrate the algorithm's twisted sense of humor.

And because it came from behind, I was thrust forward, my right tibia (shinbone) hitting the console of my Honda Civic's dashboard, my upper thigh pressing into the lower half of the steering wheel.

Next, the recoil: I fell back in the drivers seat, the backrest falling with me, reclining until it could recline no more. The headrest broke off its rods and tumbled onto the backseat. My head didn't know where to go. Meanwhile, I could hear the screeching of tires, another impact, metal-on-metal...

If this is it indeed. After all, I was on Santa Monica Boulevard. A road m…

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 the successful Melrose Place, which then begat the gloriously campy trainwreck that was Models Inc.
"If you missed the series premiere of Models Inc. you missed a night of temptation, seduction, and murder," boasted the TV Guide ad for the drama's second episode, which aired shortly after the 4th of July holiday weekend of 1994. How do I remember? I still have in my possession the magazine clipping, straight outta my scrapbook of primetime soaps, of course.

A rather limp murder mystery kicked things off when been-around-the-block supermodel Teri Spencer was pushed off the balcony of a Los Angeles high-rise. Whodunit? Who cared? But if you must know: it was the agency's receptionist...with the candlestick...in the...nevermind.

As a die-hard Melrose fan, I consumed this forgettable piece of Clinton-era crap with relish. I read every ent…

UNDER THE SUN: The 2019 Summer Playlist

Before everyone goes their separate ways for the long Memorial Day weekend, please direct your attention to the 40+ songs I've gathered for your listening pleasure. Your pool party, barbecue, and/or beach trip will thank you.

"But Hiko, what are your favorites?" Ah, glad you asked.

Well, Lizzo is a given. KAYTRANADA is delivering some really good W Hotel lounge vibes with "Dysfunctional," P!nk is always a mainstay (see: "Can We Pretend" featuring Cash Cash), and former Glee star Kevin McHale has an adorably breezy number called "Help Me Now."

So go ahead, help yourself to all of this:

@TheFirstEcho

Belinda Carlisle Taught Me How To Ice Skate

Saturday afternoons during the winters of 1989 through 1992 were usually reserved for visits to the Hommocks Park Ice Rink in Mamaroneck where my plump 10-year-old ass quickly grew familiar with the cold, hard surface of the frozen ground.

I assumed the main purpose for these excursions was to tear me away from the TV and work some cardio into my weekend schedule. Naturally, I didn't take to the ice well at first. Plus, the brown faux-leather rental skates pinched my extra wide feet.

"You've got pork chop feet, just like me and your father," my mother used to tell me. Great. Why couldn't I have inherited something more useful like, I don't know, maybe a million-dollar trust fund?

Anyway, these contraptions were more like laced-up torture devices designed for little boys who wished to spend their Saturdays sitting on the couch with a few reruns of The A-Team and Knight Rider and settling into the evening with new episodes of The Golden Girls and 227. I never …

Pop Culture Rant of the Week: Clapbacks, Stans, and Cancel Culture Are Ruining Us

At the end of 2018, Wynter Mitchell, a digital strategist and panelist on one of my favorite podcasts, Pop Rocket, expressed her frustration with stan culture:


I can't agree more.

Simply put, that cesspool Mitchell calls the internet has infected us. It's no secret that social media has changed the way we live our lives. We know -- or we think we know -- everything about classmates we haven't seen since the 90s. Reactions are more instant. Movements are galvanized faster. As a result, the way we treat and regard each other, especially across these platforms, hasn't necessarily changed for the better. And at the risk of sounding like a "get off my lawn"-screaming retiree, this is especially applicable to a certain generation that came of age during the era of snaps, likes, follows, and subscribes.

Many things have been written about the dangers of stan culture, especially when it comes to the role of critics in pop culture. (I won't reiterate it here; you…

#TBT: The Summer of 1999 Mixtape

It's scary to realize how clearly I can remember the summer of 1999.

I returned to New York from my freshman year at Boston University, took a job working for my uncle's collecting agency, and soon quit thereafter when I realized I was better suited to work behind the stacks of the New Rochelle Public Library (go figure). That summer also saw my first trip to Vegas (I have a souvenir photo of the Hilton's Star Trek Experience as proof) and marked the first time I traveled to L.A. to visit my cousin -- three years before I ever entertained the idea of being a full-time resident of the City of Angels.

But most importantly, the summer of 1999 represented something else: the height of the Teen Pop Boom, the heyday of boy bands and pop princesses who made frequent appearances on MTV's TRL countdown.

In other words, it was a glorious time to be alive.

@TheFirstEcho

Meals with Grandma: The Adventurous Appetites of a 9-Year-Old

As an only child, and as the baby in my entire extended family for a good chunk of a decade, I was surrounded by a lot of adults. Therefore I quickly learned how to eat like one.

The children’s menu at most restaurants usually say they’re for “kids 11 and under,” but I was ordering from the “adult menu” well before I turned twelve. I like to think that I was a prodigy when it came to dining out, that I accelerated through my food education so that I could order with the rest of the grown-ups. While other kids my age were munching on chicken fingers and fries (How juvenile!), I was enjoying seafood platters and pasta dishes named after famous Italians I couldn’t properly pronounce.

This was no more apparent than when I was with my grandmother. While being raised by two working parents in the gloriously gluttonous 1980s, a memorable amount of my New York childhood was spent with the only grandparent I knew. This involved numerous day trips and numerous tasty meals throughout much of th…