Simply Put…Thank You

On May 17th, F.A.M.E NYC in conjunction with The Kenkou Group hosted its annual 99 Red Balloons AIDS Walk Fundraiser.  Because of this event, F.A.M.E NYC was able to meet and exceed its pledge to raise $300 for GMHC’s 2012 AIDS Walk.  We were blessed with a beautiful night and when I saw those balloons ascend into the sapphire sky, I became very emotional.  For me, each of those balloons represented someone that I had admired who had passed away from AIDS or are living with it.  The three balloons I released from my hands were for my three brothers and their experiences were the genesis for this event.

Throughout the evening many people asked me how I came up with the concept for 99 Red Balloons.  Part of the idea came from the 1984 new wave song from Nena titled, “99 Luftballons”.   The other part came from the fact that by 1999 I had lost two brothers from AIDS and had another brother living with the illness. In a span of 10 years, my family had been decimated by this epidemic.  AIDS had touched a third of my immediate family.  

Because HIV/AIDS has been a part of our global landscape for so long, people forget how terrifying this disease was when it first began receiving media coverage.  It was the equivalent ofa biblical plague and those who were diagnosed with it were the most fiendish sinners.  People treated those with AIDS and their family like outcasts.  I was 13 when my first brother was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988.  It was my last opportunity I had to give my brother a hug and I couldn’t touch him without wearing gloves, a mask and other medical garb.  A month after he was rushed to the hospital he was gone.  I remember being instructed by my mother on what to say about my brother’s death.  She feared being ostracized by our neighborhood as others had been.  When my second passed away in 1997, I knew I had to join the fight to raise awareness and find a cure.

Although last Thursday’s event was titled 99 Red Balloons, the subtitle should’ve been “With A Little Help from My Friends”.  Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to make this event happen.  First, I must extend a massive thank you to The Kenkou Group for partnering with me.  The Kenkou Group,, is a concierge health care and advocacy group out of Harlem.  Being from an area where its residents are at high-risk for new AIDS cases, their concern, passion and assistance were invaluable.  They treated this event with the same dignity and care as one of their patients.    Thank you to Joann Jimenez, Creative Director of ¡WEPA!, for your unwavering support.  Thank you Jim Glaub and Serino Coyne and Jessica Porter of Porter Gallery for your wonderful donation, I truly believe the event wouldn’t have gone as well without your assistance.   Thank you Gabe and everyone at Bar 13 for allowing us to have our fundraiser at your venue, you guys are the best!  Thank you DJ Omar Abdallah for a blazing DJ set, you knocked my Pumas off.   Most importantly, thank you to everyone who attended and donated.  You are the reason this fundraiser was a success. 

99 Red Balloons AIDS Walk Fundraiser was the beginning of a bittersweet weekend that culminated with today’s AIDS Walk.  And as the anniversary of my brother’s death fast approaches, I firmly continue to honor my brothers by making sure I do what I can to lend my voice and energy to a cause that affects us all. 

Come Join F.A.M.E NYC for Our Annual AIDS Walk Fundraiser

Where:  Bar 13 35 E. 13th Street New York, NY 10003

Time:  6:00pm until 10:00pm

F.A.M.E NYC Magazine & The Kenkou Group



Come join us after work for an event of nostalgia
as we dance to the best 80’s & 90’s house, Hip-hop, R&B & pop. 

Write a message to your loved one on the balloons and watch them float into the night sky as we release the balloons from the rooftop of Bar 13.

(All Proceeds to be donated to GMHC AIDS Walk NYC)

Your donation guarantees your entry to win a pair of tickets to one of the HOTTEST shows opening on Broadway this spring!

Come out and celebrate love & life!

Make ‘Em Laugh


Ok, so what happens when three old Jews, one young Jew, a goyim and a pianist are on stage …some of the funniest live theater I ever witnessed that’s what.  Old Jews Telling Jokes is a 90-minute laugh fest that provides side-cracking chuckles from beginning to end and proves that laughter is not only the best medicine, it is also a great equalizer. 

The concept for the funniest show to open Off-Broadway this year started in 2009 with the launch of a web series titled Old Jews Telling Jokes.  The viral sensation was created by Sam Hoffman and produced by Eric Spiegelman and Tim Williams.  In 2010, Sam Hoffman and Eric Spiegelman converted Old Jews Telling Jokes or OJTJ to paperback with the subtitle 5000 Years of Funny Bits and Not-So-Kosher Laughs.  Like the web series, the book is a treasure chest of jokes and humorous stores contributed by several Jewish funnymen and personalities.

This May, OJTJ makes it debut at the Westside Theatre and let me tell you, your face will hurt from laughter.  Old Jews Telling Jokes takes the old school jokes of Jack Benny, Henny Youngman, Mort Saul, Myron Cohen and others who graced the stages of The Catskills’ “Borscht Belt” and entertained millions on television and around the world and gives them a new twist.  Humor has been a long standing tradition in Judaism, which dates back to the Torah; OJTJ creates an arc of the Jewish experience in America that begins with birth and childhood and ends with old age and death.  Along the way the themes of assimilation, sex before marriage and sex after marriage are also explored.  The production isn’t just the retelling of jokes; it also contains a few musical numbers which provide the opportunity for audience participation and poignant monologues that perfectly accentuate the importance of humor in the fabric of not only the Jewish experience, but the human experience. 

At the heart of Old Jews Telling Jokes is a sense of celebration.  The preservation and reinvention of these jokes are just as much about honoring Jewish conventions as the lighting of the menorah during Hanukkah.   For the Jewish members of the audience, the show is more like a family reunion; many of them are familiar with the material and sometimes finish the jokes before the actors can deliver the punch line.  For audience members who aren’t Jewish, especially any that may be from Gen Y, the show is just plain funny, and although the themes are skewed from a Jewish perspective, anyone can relate to subject of family or sex.    The actors include Marilyn Sokol, Todd Susman, Bill Army, Lenny Wolpe and Audrey Lynn Weston.  Each night they take on the task of what I can only describe as linguistic gymnastics, sticking punch lines and musical numbers which can be changed daily. But it’s because of this reason that the show will remain fresh to the actors and the audience.

From the internet – to the pages of a book – to an Off-Broadway stage, Old Jews Telling Jokes has been knockin’ them dead wherever they go, I suspect that the Westside Theatre won’t be any different.  The tagline is “You’ll laugh ‘til you plotz.”  I didn’t plotz, but I did feel like I was leaving 10 pounds lighter after the crunch session my abs suffered as a result from laughing so hard.  Old Jews Telling Jokes is a history lesson, a workout and a ball of laughs all rolled into one fantastic show.  Go see it…the joke will be on you if you don’t.

Check out these videos of creators and the cast of Old Jews Telling Jokes:

Photo and videos courtesy of Serino/Coyne

NYC Women’s Empowerment Summit Returns This Summer


The NYC Women’s Empowerment Summit is a one-day conference designed for all women, young and old, to meet and share best practices, stories of success, and experiences both personal and professional. The goal of the summit is to create new bridges and a wider awareness of political, social and economic causes, in order to help other women reach their full potential in life.  This year’s panel of speakers will be headlined by multi-Grammy winner Roberta Flack and multi-Emmy winner Rita Cosby and includes a variety of successful women from all genres of business, workforces and life. This year the Women’s Empowerment Summit is partnering with Room21 learning systems to help finalize the development of the first social network platform exclusively for women, offering a variety of tools from office advice and crowd source funding to networking with other women around the world to further business ventures, personnel projects and ideas.  All tickets include access to the event, continental breakfast, lunch and also wine and desserts. In addition, each ticket holder will receive a gift bag containing various goodies from the Summit sponsors. Last year’s gift bag was valued at over $500.00 dollars in goodies and services!  Currently Early Bird tickets are on sale for just $75.00.  All proceeds will be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

The 2nd Annual NYC Women’s Empowerment Summit will be held June 23rd at the Downtown Community Television Center, 87 Lafayette Street.  The all day event starts at 10:00 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m.  (Doors open at 9:30am).  To purchase tickets visit:

I had the privilege to attend last year and found it to be a great experience.  Ladies, skip that weekend in The Hamptons and check it out.

2012 Tony Awards Film Series











As Broadway gears up for American theater’s biggest night, the spring 2012 season is well underway.  The nominations have been announced and Pre-Tony events are beginning to gear up.  Today and tomorrow the second annual Tony Award Film Series are being held.  The Tony Award Film Series is a collection of Broadway inspired films and interactive opportunities.  This year audiences can participate in panel discussions with Tony Award winners, a Carol Channing look-a-like contest and sing-a-long.  Best of all, it’s free to the public (a donation is suggestion to The Paley Center for Media).  So if you’re looking for a something to do in the city this weekend, you may want to give to check it out.

The Tony Awards, which are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, will be broadcast in a live from the Beacon Theatre, on CBS, Sunday, June 10, 2012.

Below is the schedule for the Tony Award Film Series:

WHERE:  The Paley Center for Media25 West 52nd Street

SCHEDULE: Saturday, May 12th

                              2:00 PM – 5:00 PM  

                              “The Standbys” World Premiere

**Talk-back panel of Tony-Award winning Broadway stars including Cady Huffman and Katie Finneran; and “The Standbys” director, Stephanie Riggs.

                              Sunday, May 13th

                              12:15 PM – 2:30 PM

                              “Carol Channing: Larger Than Life,” introduced by  director Dori Berinstein

**Guests are encouraged to come dressed as the Broadway legend for a Carol Channing Look-A-Like contest, hosted by Tony nominated-actor John Tartaglia.  

                           2:45 PM – 6:00 PM  

                            “Oklahoma!” screening and sing-a-long!

                **1999 RPTA film of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s OKLAHOMA! starring Hugh Jackman, courtesy of Richard Price, RPTA, Ltd.

TICKETS: Tickets will be available on a first come, first serve basis, as seating is limited.  Please limit two (2) tickets per person.  To RSVP, please send your ticket request and film preference to

For more information on the Tony Awards Film Series and other news, please visit  and and follow @TheTonyAwards on Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Slate PR

Let the Church Say Amen, Leap of Faith Soars

“Let’s make it rain” – the catchphrase for Jonas Nightingale and his sister Sam.  But when they say it, they don’t mean prayers for the drought in the Kansas town their Mercedes bus broke down in; they mean it in a pouring of dollars at a strip club sort of way.  That’s right Broadway; you got a con man in your midst.   And he is the son of a preacher man.  Let’s face it, the traveling confidence man promising rain is no stranger to Broadway or Hollywood.  In 1954, N. Richard Nash’s The Rainmaker debuted at the Cort Theatre.  In 1956, Burt Lancaster and Katherine Hepburn starred in the movie.  In 1963, a musical based on The Rainmaker titled 110 in the Shade premiered at the Broadhurst Theatre.  In 1999, the play was revived on Broadway.   However, this new musical is based on the 1992 dramedy that starred Steve Martin and Debra Winger.

Similar to the film, the musical centers on Jonas Nightingale is a traveling, “let the power of God work through my hands” faith healer bouncing from town to town, holding nightly revivals and playing on the hopes and fears of the local yokels.  After the third night (and a possible tryst or two) he blows town after bilking the townsfolk out of all of their money.   Although the concept of the musical is based on the film, it appears that musical doesn’t go by the book (no pun intended).  Besides Jonas and a local paralyzed boy who believes Jonas could make him walk again, the book of this production transforms the sheriff into a female love interest and adds a new cast to assist in raising the roof off of the St. James Theatre. 

The musical begins before the curtain rises.  As the audience takes their seat, they are greeted with the sounds of gospel music, while a cameraman fine tunes his camera on stage.    Suddenly the audience realizes they are a part of show as their faces appear on the screens, located on opposite ends of the stage, and cast members hand out fake money to people seated the first few rows.  The show opens with an electrifying performance by the Angels of Mercy (Jonas’ choir) and Jonas beginning the last night his New York City revival by telling the audience about his road to redemption.  The audience then travels back a year as Jonas, his sister Sam and the Angels of Mercy decide what to do after their bus breaks down.  After realizing that Jonas is wanted in multiple states and the repairs on the bus will take a few days to fix, Jonas and his team choose to pitch their tent in the sleepy, drought stricken town and take them for what little they have. 

The scam is on but not before Sheriff Marla McGowan can give Jonas a stern warning, which does little to stop them.  As night one of the revival begins, Jonas’ has enough info on the town to make them believe has descended from heaven –mirrored jacket and all – to deliver rain.  His staunchest supporter is Jake McGowan, a disabled boy who happens to be the son of the sheriff.  He believes wholeheartedly that Jonas will make him rise up from his wheelchair and walk.   Jonas and his troupe aren’t the only newcomers to the town.  Isaiah Sturdevant, son of choir director Ida Mae Sturdevant and brother of Angels of Mercy ingénue Ornella Sturdevant, is hell-bent on saving his mother and sister from Jonas’ clutches and uncovering him for the charlatan that he is.

Although the sheriff wants Jonas gone, the two enter into an uneasy agreement with benefits and Jonas gets to finish his revival as long as he doesn’t aim any of his empty promises at her son.  Over the next two days, Jonas is exposed, falls in love, watches Jake’s faith give him the ability to walk again, questions his faith and decides to give his traveling church to Isaiah, a true believer.  Inspiring ending, right?  But I know what you FAMERS really want to know is, did Jonas make it rain?  Make it rain he did, literally and figuratively.  Leap of Faith soaks its audience with good vibes, wonderful voices and a new spin on an old tale.

One issue I feel that a movie turned musical has to overcome is any lingering feelings that an audience may carry with them into the theatre about the previous work.  People attach emotion to works of art that have moved them – no matter the genre as well as to the actors that bring a characters alive.  So the question becomes, is this going to be a remastering of an already established work, or will be sad reincarnation of a script with music and dancing crammed in where it could fit in?  Luckily I had never seen the Steve Martin film, so I had the privilege of viewing this work with a fresh pair of eyes.  And to answer my own question, I never felt that this incarnation of Leap of Faith was a comedy with music and choreography shoved in willy-nilly.

Leap of Faith carries enough of the “Broadway Formula” that it will be appealing to Broadway diehards and fresh enough to bring newbies out and into the seats.  Janus Cercone and Warren Leight wrote a book that parallels the movie, but still is its own entity.   Alan Menken’s music and Glenn Slater’s lyrics are crafted well enough to have the audience toe-tapping in their seats.  The choreography of Sergio Trujillo had a Horton- esque quality to it with the movements tailored to every member of the cast.  The cast makes good on the material – Raul Esparza shines brighter than those glittery suit jackets he wears as Jonas Nightingale, Jessica Phillips is convincing as the sadder but wiser sheriff scared to trust and Talon Ackerman’s earnest performance of Jake could melt anyone’s skeptical heart.  But what really makes Leap of Faith rise through to the stratosphere are the voices of Kecia Lewis-Evans, Leslie Odom Jr., Krystal Joy Brown and The Angels of Mercy choir.  They could give the New Jersey Mass choir a run for its money.  Esparza breaks the fourth wall periodically throughout the show, which I enjoy and with the audience being a part of the musical, the production provides an interactive experience.   The casts projects a universal feel not seen in a lot of musicals and I found the sight of all different body types dancing on the stage to be wonderfully refreshing.  They are not just toned dancers; instead they do feel like individuals you would meet at your local parish.  I don’t know when you visited church last, but the St. James Theatre is holding church every evening and twice on Saturday and Wednesday.  I suggest you hightail it down there and get your dose of hosanna with Leap of Faith.  It is a jump worth taking.

Photos courtesy of