Friday, December 30, 2011

Go pink for New Year's Eve bash in Bradenton

Don’t feel like sitting at home and witnessing the ramblings of Dick Clark and sidekick Ryan Seacrest? Tired of entertaining guests who spill sparkling wine all over your furniture at midnight? Then here are some options that will take you away from the televised events at Times Square and having to spend hours cleaning on New Year’s Day.

How about some final-day-of-the-year-fun for a good cause?

The Old Main Street Merchants Association, in conjunction with the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, hosts its second annual New Year’s Eve Celebration with this year’s revelry doubling as a fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society’s fight against breast cancer.

All the bars on Old Main Street are participating with $2 shot proceeds going to the charity. In addition, Gold Coast Beverage Distributors has donated a keg of pink-colored Bud Light and 12-ounce cups will be sold for $2 to raise funds. Fittingly, the ball being dropped is pink (see picture above). There will be live music from 8 p.m. until midnight by Michael Mac Band and Friends featuring Julliet guitarist Jimmy DeLisi.

Dozens of vendors will line the street throughout the evening. The party starts at 5 p.m. Saturday. Old Main Street will close to vehicles between 3 p.m. and 1 a.m. Incidentally, downtown Sarasota has cancelled its popular New Year’s Eve event.

“The Old Main Street Merchants Association has really blown it out of the ballpark the last couple years,” said Cork Miller, the organization’s president. “We’re making downtown Bradenton a destination for fun and excitement.”

Click for more New Year's Eve happenings in the area.

—Photo courtesy of Bradenton Herald partner Bay News 9

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

UPDATED 12/29: Travis Clark promises special We the Kings hometown show tonight

UPDATED 12/29:

Bradenton’s We the Kings return again from touring the states and abroad to play a special show in front of their most loyal fans for the fifth year in a row. The pop-punk band will perform Thursday (Dec. 29) at The Hall in Palmetto.

It marks the only WTK performance of 2011 in Manatee County.

“This one will be a little more loosely structured than a normal show,” singer/guitarist Travis Clark said today while on his way to lunch in Bradenton. “People shout out songs and we’ll play it.”

Check back here or here Dec. 29  for complete story, including info on some cool covers Clark plans on playing.

—Photo by PAUL VIDELA/ Travis Clark, right, of We The Kings performed a concert just for students Sept. 13 at The Bridge Church in Bradenton.

If you go
What: We The Kings 5th Annual Hometown Show with Official Hot
Mess and more band to be announced
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 29
Where: The Hall, 1330 U.S. 301, Palmetto Tickets: $12 (advance); $15 (day of show).
They can be purchased at The Hall; Georgia Carpet World, a 5425 14th
St. W., Bradenton; or at Jiffy Lube, 5220 Manatee Ave., Bradenton.
Information: 941-552-2248 or

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas vacation time: Be back Dec. 27

Although a few of my stories will magically appear in print and at while I'm away, this weekend marks the start of a nice, long vacation. See ya Dec. 27.

Happy holidays!

Weekend roundup: Country, sacred steel blues and a flamboyant Christmas special

Lee Boys perform Saturday at Aces Live in Bradenton.

It's another busy week for concert, theater and, ah, Sinbad enthusiasts.

Here's what I have running in the Weekend section that hit the streets Thursday:
  • Best of Area Stages: "Nutcracker," Sinbad, "Love, Sung in the Key of Aretha," "My Fair Holiday," "Liberace's Christmas Special," "Winterblunderland"

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    'Bad Santa' still kills me

    Stayed home last night and watched the holiday classic "Bad Santa."

    That's right, holiday classic.

    Laughed out loud pretty much all the way through just like I did when I watched the movie last year and the year before and, well, every year since it came out in 2003.

    Was even moved again by the sentimental ending.

    Really, "Bad Santa" couldn't be much better.

    Billy Bob Thornton at his comedic best.

    About time for the rumored sequel!

    "Bad Santa" photo courtesy of Dimension Films.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    Tweet with Tom Petty: And tell him to add Tampa to just announced tour dates!

    Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers just announced a series of North American concerts in 2012 prior to embarking on their first tour of Europe in 20 years.

    Unfortunately, Tampa didn't make the cut.

    But the Florida roots rockers, who were pretty much awesome all night at the St. Pete Times Forum in 2008, do have dates May 1 at Germain Arena down in Estero and May 3 over at Amway Center in Orlando.

    Also, Gainesville native Petty will be live on Twitter @TomPetty 5:30 p.m. EST Thursday (Dec. 15) to chat with the fans and answer questions for an hour.

    Tell him to add a May 2 date in Tampa!

    More details:

    —Publicity photo of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Get Down Downtown has a new date this month

    Get Down Downtown, which usually takes place the third Thurs­day of every month, is making a temporary move to the third Fri­day this month.

    Also, the hours have been ex­tended until 11 p.m. this week.

    Live music by the Billy Rice Band — mostly crowd-pleasing classic rock covers — from 8 to 11 p.m. Dec. 16. Event starts at 6 p.m. on Old Main Street in downtown Bradenton. Free admission. Vendors. Good times.

    —Publicity photo of Billy Rice performing with his band

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Ed Lauter movie 'The Artist' named best of the year by New York Film Critics Online

    Ed Lauter publicity photo
    Last month I wrote about the Sarasota Film Society's Cine-World Film Festival closing night film, writer/director Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist,” which features veteran character actor Ed Lauter.

    Lauter was in town last week to film scenes for the Sarasota-Manatee movie "Blind Pass," starring Bradenton resident Danielle White with an appearance by Armand Assante. 

    Dinner at Gio's in Bradenton with Lauter and others from the movie led to my Sunday column.


    From the
    The Artist has been named best film of the year by the New York Film Critics Online.
    PHOTOS: The Making of 'The Artist'
    Sunday was a big day for the movie, which also recognized by the American Film Institute and the Boston Film Critics.

    Broadway star Teresa Stanley talks about her return to Sarasota

    Teresa Stanley went from being a teen prodigy and then star member of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota before landing on Broadway for the blockbuster "The Color Purple."

    Stanley then toured the country as a cast member of "Rock of Ages."

    She returns to WBTT this week for the first time in five years to join the cast in the company's season opening show, “Love, Sung in the Key of Aretha.”


    Friday, December 9, 2011

    What are you doing this weekend?

    Steve Buscemi in "Fargo"
    I'm planning on not leaving the sofa.

    Or at least not straying too far from it.

    But for those of you who are a bit more adventurous here are some Manatee County selections from our "Go & Do" list starting with a great movie that starts in a couple hours.

    Film Fridays: South Florida Museum, 201 10th St. W., Bradenton

    The South Florida Museum will host Film Fridays Series “Winter Stories” at 6 p.m. Fridays. The series, celebrating the start of the winter season, includes “Fargo,” Dec. 9, and “Groundhog Day,” Dec. 16. Seating is limited; reservations are recommended. Admission: $3 members, $5 nonmembers. Information: 941-746-4131, ext. 27, or visit

    Farmers market: Main Street, Bradenton

    The downtown Bradenton Farmers Market is open 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays featuring local grown and organic produce, olive oil and bread, fresh fish, organic coffee and tea, jewelry and craft vendors, and live music and cooking demonstrations. Information: 941-840-0017 or visit

    Bridge Street market: Bridge Street, Bradenton Beach

    The Bridge Street Market on Historic Bridge Street will be 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays through April 28. The market will feature area produce and plant vendors, arts and craft vendors, funky beach style gifts, jewelry, clothes, home decor, food, fun, music and more. Information: 215-906-0668.

    —Publicity photo from the movie "Fargo"

    Read entire list.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    UPDATED 12/8: City-owned Van Wezel breaking ties with Sarasota?

    UPDATED 12/8: Mark Famiglio, the Van Wezel Foundation chairman of the board who also serves as the president of the executive committee of the board of directors at the Sarasota Film Festival; Robert Bartolotta, city manager of Sarasota; and Van Wezel Executive Director Mary Bensel opine on the four options concerning...

    Big changes could be underway regarding the leadership of the top concert venue in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

    The City of Sarasota-owned Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall's separate Van Wezel Foundation has entered into a series of exploratory discussions regarding the future operations of the  1,726-seat venue. 

    The initial discussions with the Van Wezel Foundation, which began earlier this year, have centered on consolidating the operation of the Van Wezel Hall with the Van Wezel Foundation under a long term lease arrangement whereby the non-profit entity would carry the authority and responsibility for governance, operations, all expenses and fundraising.

    Here's the what was issued by the city early this afternoon:

    The city commission has directed the city staff to explore organizational alternatives for the future. Among the alternatives being considered are:

    1. Continue to operate the Van Wezel as a City Department. Over the last two years, under the leadership of Mary Bensel, revenues have exceeded expenditures. The current budget continues this success with no budgeted subsidy from the general fund

    2. Explore a private management contract for operation similar to the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Ft Myers and the Mahaffey Theatre in St. Petersburg. Under this alternative a private company manages the operation with a management fee paid by the city.

    3. Create a new 501 3(c) non-profit organization to manage both the day to day operations and the long term fund raising.

    4. Consolidate the operation of the Van Wezel Hall with the Van Wezel Foundation under a long term lease arrangement whereby the non-profit entity would carry the authority and responsibility for governance, operations, all expenses and fundraising.

    The initial discussions with the Van Wezel Foundation, which began earlier this year, have centered on the fourth alternative which has the potential of combining the excellent current operating staff with the foundation’s ability to secure major new funding in the future.

    These discussions, regardless of outcome will not affect the excellent cooperative working relationship between the city and the foundation which have been partners for more than 25 years.

    The discussions will have no impact on the Van Wezel's ability to continue to book quality programs in the future.

    Bensel will head up the proposed new structure as president and CEO and will supervise all staff (current and future).

    The discussion will focus on the following mission/objectives:

    Mission: The mission of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is:

    1. To present a broad spectrum of the world’s finest performing artists in order to meet the diverse cultural needs of all of Southwest Florida’s residents and visitors.

    2. To bring visiting artists into the community for meaningful education and outreach programs that help develop new audiences.

    3. To provide a quality facility for other local cultural organizations.


    1. To assure the retention of and expansion of quality arts in the community

    2. To develop a more efficient and effective model for fund raising and provide for . broad and expanded philanthropic support

    3. To ensure that no subsidies will be necessary from the City

    4 To enhance the support provided for other arts entities in the community and encourage collaboration

    5. To expand audiences, communal utilization of facilities and provide affordable programming to all segments of our community

    Timeline: If this alternative is implemented, it is anticipated this process will take a period of time to ensure a strong win-win arrangement. The estimated time frame for any implementation will be approximately January 1, 2013. Any agreement reached would need to be approved by the City Commission and the Foundation Board of Directors.
    Stay tuned for more info/comments from the key players.

    —Photo of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall provided

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Amy Winehouse album 'Lioness' getting mixed reviews

    Just finished listening to the new Amy Winehouse album, "Lioness: Hidden Treasures," which came out today.

    It's not "Back to Black," or even "Frank," and it definitely feels unfinished in many places, but I'll still take her leftovers, most of which are covers, over the vast majority of what's being played on Top 40.

    Alas, it's ultimately a sad reminder of what could have been had Winehouse beat her battle with the bottle and those other demons.

    Anyway, here's a rundown — courtesy of — of what some of the pundits have to say. Ranking of 0-100 follows name of publication.

    Entertainment Weekly
    As posthumous albums go, it's leagues beyond hastily assembled fare like Michael Jackson's Immortal. That's a credit to producers Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson.

    Rolling Stone
    This is a sad record. A grab bag of outtakes, unreleased tracks, demos, covers and song sketches, these recordings feel like a gut punch.

    Los Angeles Times
    The 12-song compilation is slight on new insights....But as vault-emptying collections go, Lioness helps rebut the tabloid qualities of her life and death, and return some of the focus back to what won her such allegiance--her voice.

    The Observer (UK)
    Covers make up the backbone of this perfectly enjoyable, but tame release.

    Chicago Tribune
    A cash-in thin on new songs that confirms Winehouse was still a long way from finishing up the five-years-in-the-making follow-up to "Back to Black."

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Blondie headed to Bradenton: Rock and Roll Hall of Famers to headline fundraiser

    The biggest band to come out of the late 1970s new wave movement has a special date in Bradenton.

    The original members of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Blondie — starring singer Deborah Harry — will perform at Forty Carrots Family Center's Firefly Gala, presented by The Dart Foundation, on March 24 at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton. The fundraising event promises to include all the fanfare of an authentic concert.

    “The Dart Foundation is dedicated to enhancing educational opportunities for children and young adults and is proud to support Forty Carrots Family Center's mission of strengthening families. Forty Carrots' unique combination of top-ranking early childhood education and quality parenting education results in giving children a better chance at succeeding in school and life long success,” said Ariane Dart, Forty Carrots Trustee and The Dart Foundation representative, in a statement.

    Following on the heels of last year's success with KC & the Sunshine Band, this year's gala combines the rock star entertainment of Blondie with world-class dining prepared by renown restaurateur and chef Sean Murphy as well as the chance to win auction items.

    What: Firefly Gala starring Blondie, presented by The Dart Foundation
    When: 6 pm Sat., March 24
    Where: The Concessions Golf Club, 7700 Lindrick Lane, Bradenton
    Tickets: TBA
    For sponsorship details or information on how you can be involved email or call 941-365-7716. Visit our website at

    Red Hot Chili Peppers to play Tampa

    After a five year absence, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are headed back to the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa on Jan. 23. Santigold opens.

    Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith and Josh Klinghoffer are currently in Europe, touring in support of their album "I'm With You," which was released in August and produced the hit single "Monarchy of Roses."

    The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a nominee for the 2012 class of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    Tickets for the Tampa show go on sale 10 a.m. Dec. 10. Ticket prices are $42.25 and $62.25 (facility fee and service charges not included) at To order tickets by phone call 800.745.3000.

    —Photo by Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    REVIEW: Manatee Players' ‘White Christmas’ is a merry stroll down memory lane

    PAUL VIDELA/ From left: Michael DeMocko as Phil Davis, Geena M. Ravella as Judy Haynes, Jessica Anne Morrow as Betty Haynes and Greg Wiegers as Bob Wallace in the Manatee Players production of “Irving Berlin's White Christmas.”

    “White Christmas” has been warming hearts during the holidays for more than a half century. Bing Crosby’s Bob Wallace, Danny Kaye’ Phil Davis, Rosemary Clooney’s Betty Haynes and Vera-Ellen’s Judy Haynes are some of the most memorable characters in Hollywood history.

    The stage version, titled “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” has been around less than a decade. Despite having those huge stars looming over it, the Manatee Players’ production is a fun stroll down memory lane.

    The plot, as expected, closely follows the movie. Bob Wallace (Greg Wiegers) and Phil Davis (Michael DeMocko) are a top Broadway song-and-dance duo that served in the army together during World War II. Bob’s leery about romance and Phil’s a skirt-chaser. The two soon have a change of heart, though, when they meet the singing sister act of Betty (Jessica Anne Morrow) and Judy (Geena M. Ravella) Haynes.

    The guys follow the gals to a Vermont lodge where the sister act is scheduled to perform during the holidays. Typical romantic highs and lows occur as Bob finally falls for Betty and Phil pledges his love to Judy.

    Meanwhile, the fellows learn that the ski lodge is run by their former commanding officer, Gen. Henry Waverly (Phil Croome). Business is hurting and the lack of snow makes matters worse.
    Bob and Phil decide to enlist the support of their entertainment connections, including those who served in the general's unit and turn the barnyard show into a big bash. Of course it snows just in time for the skiers and the title song.

    Despite the largely timeworn material, director/choreographer Rick Kerby keeps things moving at a brisk pace. He also did a fine job of casting. The actors smartly honor the famed originators rather than ape them.

    Wiegers has a voice that doesn’t make you long for Crosby’s — no easy fete — and he shines on numerous numbers including the title track and the stage-version bonus “Blue Skies.” DeMocko’s acting is perhaps a bit over-the-top but his singing and dancing chops make up for it. Morrow and Ravella do the most to create the essential romantic chemistry between the respective couples. They’re skilled vocalists, as well, crushing with a smile-inducing “Sisters.”

    The performances are strong throughout, which is commendable at any time of the year but especially this month. These actors are not only working for free but are likely missing out on numerous family gatherings so they can spread some holiday cheer well worth witnessing.

    Details: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays Dec. 1-23, Riverfront Theatre, 102 Old Main St., Bradenton. Tickets: $25/$11 (students) Information: 941-748-5875 or

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    More info on Armand Assante movie 'Blind Pass' filming in Manatee and Sarasota

    All Armand Assante scenes to be shot in Manatee County

    Here's more info on today's breaking news story "Armand Assante movie filming in Manatee and Sarasota." It's the latest feature by local filmmaker Steve Tatone and his Midnight Pass Productions. 

    Setting: Film takes place almost entirely in Sarasota and Manatee counties except for several scenes shot in Europe. All of Armand Assante's scenes are being shot in Manatee. "We're the first film company to be given privilege to film at the new Sarasota National Cemetery," Tatone said. "That's where the opening scene takes place."

    Plot: Movie focuses on a 24-year-old woman named Carrie (played by Danielle White) who has always had the best of everything. Her father (Armand Assante) is a former military man, attorney and "master of universe type," said Tatone, living on a horse farm in Manatee County. Carrie rebels, gets involved in show business and lives in the family beach house on Siesta Key. Movie starts with funeral of her father and tells his story in flashback. Carrie is a very independent woman who then finds out she has an eye disease and is going to go blind in 90 days. Daughter and father are very much alike in their approach to life and Mom (Mary Rachel Dudley) worries daughter might also commit suicide. Carrie is sent to see psychologist (Chris McKenna) and that's when the action starts in this thriller.

    Here's the description from the "Blind Pass" Facebook page:
    “Blind Pass” is a dramatic thriller reminiscent of “Basic Instinct” and “Last Tango in Paris”…and then some…that reminds us all never to take anything in Life for granted. The bold, edgy indie film reunites writer-director Steve Tatone with his "Beautiful Noise" star Danielle White and shoots on location in Fall 2011 in Sarasota, Florida; Milan, Venice & Lake Como Italy; Lugano Switzerland; Paris France; London England & Dublin Ireland.

    Production: "Everything is being shot on location," Tatone said. Next month Midnight Pass Productions plans to open a post-production and small soundstage facility in downtown Sarasota. They're shooting "Blind Pass" with digital cameras and leasing equipment from Tampa-based First Unit Production Services. "Ninety-eight percent of the crew is from the Suncoast and Tampa Bay," Tatone said.

    Financing: "It's a combination of our company money with some local investors," Tatone said.

    —Publicity photo of Armand Assante courtesy of Midnight Pass Productions