The Fashion World Loses McQueen

 

The start of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week begins on a somber note.  This morning the fashion world awoke to the tragic news that future icon Alexander McQueen was found dead in his London home.  A statement released by his office stated: “On behalf of Lee McQueen’s family, Alexander McQueen today announces the tragic news that Lee McQueen, the founder and designer of the Alexander McQueen brand, has been found dead at his home.”

The company’s communications director, Samantha Garrett, discovered the body of the 40-year-old designer.  Scotland Yard was called to McQueen’s address at approximately 10:20 a.m. by an ambulance service after it had been reported that a man was found dead.  They said, “The death is being treated as non-suspicious.”

The sudden death of Alexander McQueen is sending shockwaves around the fashion world and Hollywood.  McQueen designs were a favorite among fashion trendsetters like Sarah Jessica Parker, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Penelope Cruz.  He was also set to show McQ’s fall 2010 collection, McQueen’s contemporary label, at New York Fashion Week today, but it was cancelled.

British fashion designers have always been known for their risqué, daring, outrageous and sometimes bizarre take on fashion; McQueen was no exception.  Starting in London’s West End, he created his own label in 1992 where his clients included Prince Charles and Mikhail Gorbachev.  In 1996, he became head designer for the prestigious Givenchy design house.  In 2000, he re-launched his Alexander McQueen line after Gucci Group acquired 51% of the company in a partnership deal with McQueen, who remained the creative director.  McQueen had his own boutiques in New York, London, Los Angeles, Milan and Las Vegas.

McQueen built an empire with his bold fashion and irreverent British bloke behavior.  His antics and early designs earned him an early reputation of “L’Enfant terrible”, but it wasn’t long before his genius would overshadow his tomfoolery.  McQueen was one of the youngest designers to named “British Designer of the Year”, a title he won four times between 1996 and 2003. 

Alexander McQueen and his mother Joyce

It has been reported that McQueen’s death is an apparent suicide. He was scheduled to attend his mother’s funeral Thursday morning; she died on February 2.   The death of Alexander McQueen stings now, as the shock of his demise is still being absorbed.  The true effect of his death is still to come.  The company will rally, announce a new creative director and continue on his legacy, as Versace did after the horrific murder of Gianni Versace in 1997.  However, no one will be able to replace the talent that was Alexander McQueen.  We did not just lose a great designer; he was a visionary with a distinct voice.  Today we lost an artist.

The Interactive Art of Broadway

“The Lullaby of Broadway” from the musical 42nd St is one of the most recognizable songs to ever be sung on a theater stage, but in the wake of the digital age, the adaptation of this lullaby is being delivered differently than when the tune was originally written.

 It is fair to say that the internet has become a bit of a conundrum to those in the arts and entertainment field.  Industries like publishing and music have suffered while trying to decipher how to adapt and maximize the new way in which the world receives art and information and ultimately remain profitable.  Broadway has not been exempt in this digital wave, but here to navigate Broadway and off-Broadway productions through vast wilderness of the internet is Art Meets Commerce.

Starting with one client, a small off-Broadway production at the SoHo Playhouse titled Room Service, three years ago Art Meets Commerce has grown into a multi-services company that provides internet marketing, web design, advertising and video packages to an array of Broadway and off-Broadway shows.  Their current client roster includes Fela!, A Little Night Music, Stomp, Rock of Ages and the upcoming revival of Promises Promises.  

The AMC team is comprised of individuals with a wealth of knowledge and experience within the entertainment industry giving them an advantage when crafting exclusive, boutique campaigns designed for needs of each show.   With their deep understanding of internet branding, Art Meets Commerce’s clients are not only exposed to Generation Y, but other generations as well.  Their hands-on approach allows them to cultivate a following for the shows that transfer over when a client takes a show from off-Broadway to Broadway, as was the case for Fela! and Rock of Ages.

“I think it is very important to reach out to new audiences, to get them excited about the shows we work on.  There is a misconception that the internet and social networking is for kids, [but] I completely disagree,” states Jim Glaub, AMC’s interactive creative director, “I think it’s an easy tool to communicate and that’s why people of all ages are grasping on to it. It’s still very new; it’s changed so much from just a year ago.  There are so many things that have changed with how to use social networking [and] the internet.  For me it is about trying to keep on top of the changes and meanwhile test and try new things for each of the clients.”

There is nothing like the experience of live entertainment whether it is a play, a musical or a performance from a dance ensemble or Grammy award-winning artist.  The energy that is shared between the audience and the performers on stage creates a spark of electricity that cannot be duplicated making each performance a unique journey.  It is this exact distinct power that is can be lost when trying to translate live theater to the internet and sites like You Tube, and it is this dynamism that Art Meets Commerce infuses into social networking sites and other client sites.  As a person that has had a lifelong love affair with the arts, it appears to me that Art Meets Commerce is a necessity for any show.  By remaining on the pulse of live theater and the internet, AMC ensures that the lights of off-Broadway and the Great White Way remain luminous for decades to come.

Making A School

Recently I asked what realm Diddy will conquer next.  Apparently, the next stop on the Diddy expansion express is school, Sean “Diddy” Combs plans to open a school in the Big Apple to teach aspiring entrepreneurs the secrets behind his success.

The mogul told CNN, “I want to have an academy that’s known for building leaders. I feel that’s one of the things I can have an impact on.”

If anyone can teach people how to turn an endeavor into an empire, it is Diddy.  Besides being one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world, Diddy’s resume reads as the CEO of Bad Boy Records and Sean John Clothing, executive producer of MTV’s “Making The Band” and VH1’s “I Wanna Work For Diddy” and owner of Justin’s restaurant chain.  Along with these achievements and a development deal with Ciroc vodka, Diddy has kept a firm grasp on the corporate and entertainment worlds since the ‘90s all while doing so with impeccable style and panache. 

Nobody does it like Diddy; this new business school will no doubt reflect the “Diddy way” of doing things.  I’m sure that “No Bitchassness” will be written in the Diddy Business School code of conduct.  I also wonder about the selection process for applicants, if Diddy will teach any courses and if there will be campus housing, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  I do have one suggestion; turn it into a television series.  If “Making The Band” and “I Wanna Work For Diddy” has shown me anything, it is that the man knows how to make entertaining reality TV, I’m sure “Diddy U” will be no different.

Literary World Loses J.D. Salinger

My question is did we ever really have him?  The facts are well documented; J.D. Salinger was born January 1, 1919 in New York City.  He attended public schools on Manhattan’s West Side.    In 1940, “The Young Folks”, a short story about several aimless youths, debuted in the March-April 1940 issue of Story magazine.   In 1946, we were introduced to the character of Holden Caulfield when “Slight Rebellion Off Madison”, a Manhattan-based story about an embittered teenager with the pre-war willies, was published in The New Yorker.

In 1951, Holden Caulfield’s story was revealed to the world in “The Catcher in the Rye.”  “The Catcher in the Rye” became a tremendous success.  Currently it sells approximately 250,000 copies each year and has been translated into almost all of the world’s major languages.  Along with the success of the novel, Holden Caulfield has become a symbol for teenage defiance.  In 2005, Time Magazine  listed “The Catcher in the Rye” as of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923.  Salinger went on to publish “Nine Stories”, “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.”

Even more famous for his body of work, Salinger became known for retreating from the fame he once sought.  He ordered his agent to burn any fan mail and in 1953 he abandoned Manhattan and the literary world and relocated to a 90-acre compound on a wooded hillside in Cornish, NH.  Ironically, his defiant stance against his own success made him more intruiging.  The idea of a tortured genius hiding from the world is story in itself and there were a few takers wanting to share their accounts with J.D. Salinger including his daughter Margaret, British literary critic Ian Hamilton, and former lover Joyce Maynard.

There have been few public figures that guarded their privacy as fiercely as J.D. Salinger.  Perhaps the reason for this was not because of the success of The Catcher of the Rye, but because of the novel itself.  Salinger once stated in an interview, “My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the book … [I]t was a great relief telling people about it.”  Writers often draw from personal experiences to create the alternate worlds that readers transport themselves to in novels and short stories.  It is my belief that with the creation of Holden Caulfield, Mr. Salinger revealed too much about himself.  Maybe J.D. Salinger originally wanted to write the great American novel that would truly make him the real catcher in the rye, saving all the disaffected youth of our society – catching them before the jaded tint of adulthood stains their souls forever.  Maybe the idea of being a modern day Atlas carrying the teen world on his back became overwhelming.  Maybe the only person he ever wanted to save was himself and during his journey to find his truth he left the world with a masterpiece that describes the awkward phase of being a teenager better than any book published in the 20th century, or maybe he just got tired of all the phonies with their meaningless conversations and empty adulation and went on a quest to find something real.  Either way, with his passing J. D. Salinger will forever be a figure shrouded in mystery making him a character we will never forget.

Diddy Honored by BET

On Monday BET aired the third annual BET Honors, an award show taped on January 16 in Washington, D.C. recognizing individuals within the black community achieving excellence within their perspective fields as well as exemplifying the mantra “Giving back to give forward.”  Actress Gabrielle Union hosted the event for the second time.

Harlem native Sean “Diddy” Combs received the Entrepreneur Award; an accolade befitting him because more than anyone in the entertainment industry, Diddy is an entrepreneur.  Known for making a way out of no way, Diddy went from being a dancer to a mogul.  His accomplishments are shining examples that affirm if one has a dream and is willing to grind hard to achieve that dream; it will one day become a reality.  Bad Boy, Justin’s, Ciroc (yes the man has his own alcohol) and Sean John – from movies to music to the runway nothing is out of Diddy’s grasp.  He is the true personification of the phrase “Veni, vidi, vici.” What realm Diddy will conquer next, one only knows.  In his acceptance speech, Diddy got personal and thanked his mother Janice Combs.  He told a poignant story of  how she worked round the clock to provide for him and his sister after his father was murdered and mentioned that he wanted to make sure that she never had to work again.  Well, he has certainly managed to attain that task and more.  A famous quote of Diddy’s is “Sleep is forbidden,” this award shows that for him failure is also forbidden.  Former boss and mentor Andre Harrell and Mary J. Blige celebrated him in song.  Considering that Blige was discovered by Diddy and their work defined the genre of hip hop soul, it was a fitting tribute.

Two Jersey girls were also honored.  The original queen of hip hop, Queen Latifah, and the iconic Whitney Houston were also two of the award recipients.  Both hailing from East Orange, these living legends prove the New Jersey isn’t the “Garden State,” it is the Star State.  Taraji P. Henson presented Queen Latifah with the Media Award as Latifah has placed her mark on every facet of the industry and has the awards to prove it.  Another legend, Patti Labelle and future legend Jasmine Sullivan paid tribute to the Queen Latifah, who’s real name is Dana Owens, in song.  Gracious as always Latifah thanked her mother and father and called people to take action in the effort to bring relief to Haiti.  Pioneer, actress, singer, producer and author, Latifah has shown through tireless hard work why she was given the title of queen and on Friday she and Diddy along with Wyclef and other stars will participate in another telethon to help bring much needed aid to the survivors of the recent earthquake in Haiti. 

There are very few that have or will achieve the levels of success that Whitney Houston has, but there were some that had written this legendary vocalist off.  How sweet it is to prove haters wrong, and after being presented with the Entertainment Award by Neo, Whitney is glowing example of what a survivor really is.  In her recent comeback to the spotlight, Whitney has shown the world that her voice was not the only gift she was blessed with.  The other is a strength that I believe may have been unknown to her until it was truly tested.  Whitney says that she stays “prayed up,” and needs nothing more that her God and her child.  Thank God that we will have the pleasure to hear that wonderful voice for many years to come.  Vocal powerhouses Jennifer Hudson and Kim Burrell tore the walls of the Warner Theatere down with songs befitting a tribute to one the best voices in the entertainment industry. 

Other performers included the musical genius of Stevie Wonder, India Arie, Trey Songz, Maxwell and Take 6.  Neurosurgeon Keith Black received the Public Service Award and educator Ruth Simmons received the Education Award.

Fame Mistress Opens 52nd Grammy Awards

 

The grand dame of music and fashion walked the red carpet looking like an extraterrestrial representative from the planet Diva.  Lady Gaga did not disappoint fans or media with red carpet ensemble or other outfit changes, none of which were able to grace the Staple Center stage.  Although Gaga did not receive the opportunity to speed through a speech before the music cuts into her “thank you “list, she did add Grammy winner to her list of accolades.  Lady Gaga won Best Dance Recording for “Pokerface” and Best Electronic Dance Album for The Fame.  She also opened 52nd Grammy Award ceremony and shared the stage with another piano tickling, fashion icon Elton John creating another memorable moment in Grammy history.   

Speaking of memorable moments in Grammy history, the music industry’s consummate rebel Pink gave one the best performances of the evening.  Her high flying, Cirque du Soleilsque rendition of “Glitter in the Air” proved to the audience in attendance and to those viewing at home that she is still a badass with a banging body to match.

Yonkers native Mary J. Blige provided inspiration duet with Andrea Bocelli.  Introduced by Haiti’s native son Wyclef Jean, they sang “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” in support the impoverished island devastated by the recent earthquake.   

Beyonce took fierce to another level with her hair swinging, military powered performance of “If I Were A Boy.”  She also won Grammys for Song of the Year for “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Halo”, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”, Best Traditional R&B Performance for “At Last”, Best R&B Song for “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” and Best Contemporary R&B Album for I Am…Sasha Fierce.  I don’t know if The Black Eyed Peas did, but I believe Mrs. Carter definitely had a good, good night.   Mr. Carter added to the family’s night of Grammy wins. The ambassador of New York took home Grammys for Best Rap Solo Performance for “DOA (Death Of Auto-Tune), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song for “Run This Town.”

R&B crooner Maxwell cemented his comeback with Best R&B Album for Blacksummers’ Night and Best R&B Male Performance for “Pretty Wings”, which he performed during Sunday night’s telecast. He also performed a duet with the incomparable Roberta Flack, thank you Maxwell for truly bringing sexy back.

Punk superstars Green Day provided a glimpse into their new Broadway musical American Idiot.  They sang “21st Century Breakdown”, which won the Best Rock Album Grammy, along with the show’s cast.  American Idiot will hit the St. James Theater in March and officially open in April.

 Photos courtesy of Kevin Winter/Getty Images