Archive | June, 2012

Yoga expert Charlotte Bell: Helping us settle our minds

29 Jun

It’s become a cliché of sorts, this yoga craze. Celebrities claim to practice it. Recreation centers are filled with classes teaching it in various forms. Those who tend to avoid all OTHER forms of physical fitness profess to taking classes in it. Even me. And yet, many miss out on its most basic benefit—settling the mind into silence.

                Charlotte Bell hasn’t missed it. She understands how hard it is to sit still, pause, take a breath, and regain our mindfulness. As a world-renowned teacher and author of two books about yoga, she knows the challenges of going and going all day, and not allowing ourselves to relax and meditate.

                “I think it’s something we all need,” she says during our interview for ON AND BEYOND. “I count myself in that category. We need to give ourselves a chance to stop, even if it’s only for five minutes.”

                She has just published her second book, “Yoga for Meditators.” Like her first book, the best-selling “Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life,” it extols the virtues of this centuries-old discipline originating in ancient India.

                “Way back in 1988,” she writes in the book’s introduction, “in my seventh year of yoga practice, I decided to explore the silence of meditation for myself.” As she did, “the lovely sense of peace I felt after my daily yoga practice was satisfying enough.”

                She says science bears out the benefits of the combination of yoga and meditation.

                “Just trying to be mindful has a huge positive effect on our brains,” she says. “Mindfulness really helps the brain function better.”

                In “Yoga for Meditators,” Charlotte, who is also an accomplished musician (more on that later), not only describes and teaches the various yoga poses that work for and with meditation, but offers illustrations in an easy-to-understand format for students and yoga teachers of all skill and experience levels. She points out during our interview that yoga’s growing popularity is in part related to it being a low- impact alternative to aerobics. That cuts both ways for those who practice it.

                “People in pain in their joints from the pounding parts of some exercise programs turn to yoga, and we’ve remade yoga in our own image in this culture,” she says. “That has meant people are much more likely to flock to it. It’s good that people are moving their bodies, but I do think a lot of yoga’s potential is being diluted, in a way. It’s becoming about things that yoga is suppose to free us from—being twisty, bendy, worried about appearances, etc.”

                Meditation, she says, allows us to get back to a basic tenant of yoga, to “pay attention to what’s going on in our bodies. Sitting poses in general are good for our backs, and this book offers suggestions to everyone to work any part of their body. Working together, meditation and yoga help us to overcome those little discomforts we sometimes feel—and we are no longer reactive to them. They allow us to stay in the moment, and that offers a huge insight into how and what we are thinking. If we don’t pay attention, we don’t really know, and life becomes all too often business as usual.”

                When she’s not practicing or teaching yoga, Charlotte is also a master musician, on both the piano and oboe. “Music was definitely my first meditation,” she says. “The meditation has helped me perform better.”

                She is a member of the Salt Lake Symphony Orchestra in Utah, and part of the group Red Rock Rondo, a sextet of performers featuring a lively assortment of guitar, violin, English horn, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, button accordion and upright bass. The group performs throughout the West, has released one CD and has another close to finishing (check out www.redrockrondo.com).

                “Mindfulness is a great support for creativity,” Charlotte says, “which is the reason I first started practicing meditation. I realized that a lot of my thoughts were the same ones over and over again. It’s when you let go of some of those thoughts that you make room in your mind for other stuff, like creativity.”

                That’s something students and listenersof Charlotte Bell’s works in yoga classes or in concert venues have come to know and appreciate. You can read more about her writings and her classes on her website at www.charlottebellyoga.com.

–Tom Haraldsen

Alex Lombard of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

22 Jun

Actress Alex Lombard stars in ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,’ now playing in theaters nationwide.

A twist on history wasn’t what first attracted actress Alex Lombard to “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” though the plot alone was interesting. It was also the chance to work with two of Hollywood’s most visionary filmmakers—Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov.

            “When I found out these two amazing men were involved, it was an incredible opportunity for me,” the actress said during a telphone interview from her Los Angeles home. “Of course I thought the story idea was a great concept—Lincoln and vampires together. But I also knew there was a great trifeca of talent with Tim and Timur, and a lot of the cast and crew.”

            In the movie, which is in wide release starting today, Lombard plays Gabrielle, the love interest of Henry Sturgess, a 900-year-old vampire played by Dominic Cooper. The film explores a secret life that one of the nation’s most famous presidents could have had—in the unique way that Burton and Bekmambetov tell it.

            “I have always been a big fan of Timur,” Lombard said. “I loved his film ‘Wanted’ with Angelina Jolie, loved the way her character unfolded and the many levels she had. And of course working with Tim Burton was something that I think everyone would want to experience.”

            The actress, who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, said “American history kind of runs through your veins when you’re from the South. I think this film is going to appeal to so many people, since it has action, horror, intrigue, and of course history.”

           Burton and Bekmambetov’s film imagines Lincoln as a great hunter of the undead, truly a departure from history’s depiction of the president. The cast also includes Rufus Sewall, Mary Elizabeth Winsted and Benjamin Walker.

            “Burton’s style is so iconic,” Lombard added. “My scenes were filmed in New Orleans, and the French Quarter is part of that great city, a magical town. I wasn’t surprised at the storyline–I was more intrigued.”

            Audiences will recognize Lombard from her role in “Inception,” opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. “That was part of an amazing experience, even though my role was relatively small,” she recalled. “Leo, [director] Christopher Nolan–it was a great opportunity to be part of that cast.” She also co-starred in the series finale of “Big Love” on HBO, and has guest starred on “How I Met Your Mother” and “Days of our Lives.” One of her favorite roles was starring opposite Shannyn Sossamon in the film “Man Without a Head.”

           Lombard also longs to work behind the scenes, both as a screenwriter (“I’m shopping around a script this summer,”) or as a director. She’s worked as a production manager and AD on films already, and her screenplay is “a fish out of water story about an Eastern European exchange student in the rural South. I really like writing stories that deal with the alternate to the status quo—psychological thrillers, or even stories that prove that pure love does exist.”

            Clearly, this actress seems focused on enjoying her craft for years to come. But first, she needs to survive that romance with a vampire, a tale ready to greet moviegoers nationwide, starting today.

Actor Robert Adamson of “Hollywood Heights”

19 Jun

Robert Adamson co-stars on “Hollywood Heights” airing each weeknight on Nickelodeon. Photo: Robert Voets / Nickelodeon. ©2012 Viacom, International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It was never his plan to be a professional actor. He loved tennis, was an all-around athlete and player in high school, and even had a personal tennis coach. But sometimes life throws opportunities at you in ways you never expect.

                Such was the case for Robert Adamson, the 27-year-old who now co-stars in Nick at Nite’s “Hollywood Heights,” on the Nickelodeon Network. While in high school in his hometown of Salt Lake City, he was part of the production of “Othello,” later performing at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. And the acting bug got him.

                 “I loved everything about it, and I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Adamson said during a telephone interview between takes for “Heights,” which is in the middle of its production season in Los Angeles. “I wanted to make sure I was focused [on starting his acting career], and did it the right way.”

                So Adamson applied to and was accepted by the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in L.A. It’s a school whose alumni include actors Robert Redford, Adrien Brody, Danny DeVito, Gena Rowlands and Paul Rudd. The school offered him a partial scholarship, and Robert said “it was such a major turning point in my life. I didn’t want to be irrational about making the decision to become an actor.”

                On “Heights,” he plays Phil, one of a cast of mostly young actors and actresses who are part of a continuing series (like a soap opera). The show is airing 80 episodes over 16 weeks. In fact, the storyline itself is derived from a popular Mexican telenovela called “Alcanzar una Estrella,” and its team of directors and writers all come from the soap opera world. The show reveals the ups and downs of these characters dealing with friends, family, love, and the challenges of pursuing their dreams.

                He recently had the chance to work with actor James Franco, who did a 15 episode arc for the series.

                “The guy’s just so good—so professional and comes prepared every single day. He has a photographic memory. He can read the pages of dialogue on a script once and have it memorized.”

                But Robert will be the first to tell you, there are no “overnight successes” in Hollywood. At one point he worked four part-time jobs to help pay for his schooling at the Academy. The school prohibits its students from working in the business while they’re in class, something Robert applauds. “It’s the right way to do it, and when you do get a chance to work, it makes you appreciate those opportunities even more.”

                He’s built a steady resume, working for four years on “Lincoln Heights” for ABC Family, enjoying guest shots on “Cold Case” and “It’s Always Sunny inPhiladelphia,” and starring opposite Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez in a Disney Channel movie titled “The Princess Protection Program.” Movie audiences would also recognize him from his role in “It’s Complicated,” opposite Meryl Streep, Alex Baldwin and Steve Martin.

                Even with all that experience, “Heights” came along just as he was preparing to move to Portland to audition for professional theater there. He’d been unemployed for almost a year. As he said, getting work in Hollywood “is a never-ending process.”

                Now, he’s enjoying his third month of shooting “Hollywood Heights.” The cast has another five or six weeks of work still ahead of them for the show’s first season.

                “I love the way we do this show,” he said. “The characters are very well written and the process of making this show is fascinating. We’re literally reading 90 pages of scripts and shooting a 60-minute show every day. And it’s part of the evolution of TV, where it’s changing entirely and searching for new directions. We’re part of the UTube age, where so much is followed online—something we’ve already seen just in the first couple of weeks the show has aired. It’s a combination of stage acting and TV—a very unique opportunity for all of us.” And it’s something Robert Adamson is thrilled to be a part of in a very big way.

                “Hollywood Heights” airs at 9 p.m. EST Monday through Friday on Nickelodeon.

After 52 years, Osmonds making final curtain calls

12 Jun

Jay, Jimmy and Merrill Osmond

 

You may think you know the story of the Osmond Brothers—their early years singing barbershop  quartet-style in Utah, later being discovered by Walt Disney himself and performing at Disneyland, and of course their many appearances on Andy Williams’ long running NBC variety show. You’ve probably followed their careers through more than 50 albums, thousands of live concerts, the additions of brothers Donny and Jimmy to the original four-member band at various times, and of course the emergence of  Donny and Marie as both solo artists and brother-sister superstars.

                But you may not know how the whole thing came about more than five decades ago in northernUtah. The original four-brother act sang for a reason—the gift of hearing. They still do.

                The Osmond Brothers are coming back to the stage here inUtahthis weekend, when they perform in concert on June 16 at the West Jordan Arena. It may well be the last time, or close to the last time, they’ll appear live in concert in their home state.

                “This could be the final time,” lead singer Merrill Osmond told me shortly after the brothers returned from an ambitious 50 concerts in 60 days tour of theUnited Kingdom. “We’re all involved in a lot of things right now. We’re excited to be performing inWest Jordan, and doing it for our mother’s foundation. It’s something we’ve been looking forward to for months.”

                Merrill and two of his sons, Shane and Justin, have been working to create a summer concert series to benefit the Olive Osmond Perpetual Hearing Fund, named after their late mother. The series, which has also featured country singers Clay Walker and Nathan Osmond, and will include a concert by JoDee Messina on August 11, raises money to provide hearing aids for children in theSalt Lake Cityarea. Two of those children will receive hearing aids at the June 16 concert.

                “My older brothers Tom and Virl were born hearing-impaired,” Merrill said. “My brothers and I started singing in order to earn some money to pay for hearing aids for Tom and Virl, because our family couldn’t afford them. Our mother Olive founded the organization, and over the years, we’ve been able to provide the gift of hearing to more than 2,000 kids.”

                The Osmond Brothers who perform on stage now include original members Merrill and Jay, and younger brother Jimmy. Older brothers Alan and Wayne have both stepped aside from performing due to health issues. That hasn’t dampened any of the enthusiasm of the group’s long-time fans. During those 50 shows in theUK, the Osmonds played in sold out venues.

                “Any time you do 50 shows in 60 days of any kind, it’s going to wear you out,” Merrill said. “Our fan base in theUKhas been phenomenal through the years, and this was our way of showing our gratitude. We’re very humbled and grateful for that support.”

                The thought of calling it a career as on-stage performers is bittersweet for all involved.

                “We’ve had such great support through all the years, and we’re very grateful that we can give something back through these benefit concerts, as well as the Youth Pioneer Pageant we’re producing later this summer in West Jordan.” He’s also proud that the brother’s opening act will be the Osmond Second Generation, sons of Alan Osmond, including country breakout artist Nathan.

                So, will there be any surprises at the June 16 show? Merrill smiled, then replied that he “wouldn’t be surprised if we see [Alan and Wayne] at the concert. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see any of the Osmonds who still have teeth make surprise appearances that night.”

                For those of you who live here in theSalt Lake Cityarea, showtime Saturday is 8 p.m., and the West Jordan Arena is located at 8125 South 2200 West. Tickets are on sale now through SmithTix.

                “My mother always said she was thrilled to be able to bring music to the ears of so many children,” Merrill said. “So that’s our theme—each show we are bringing music to your ears.”
                Figuratively, and literally, the Osmonds have been doing that for a long, long time.

Sitting down with Cat Deeley

4 Jun

                

                Take it from Cat Deeley—don’t believe everything you read on IMBd.com. The Internet “celebrity” info site isn’t always accurate, as she told me during an interview I conducted with her earlier this spring.

                For instance, according to the website, theLos Angeleshouse she lives in was once owned by Marilyn Monroe.

                “That is so not true,” she said with a smile. “I’ve heard that before and I need them to take that off.”

Spending just a few minutes with the popular hostess of FOX’s hit reality series “So You Think You Can Dance” tells you that Deeley is just as nice, genuine and authentic in person as she is on TV.

                This is the 9th season for SYTYCD, and the 8th time that Deeley has served as hostess. While the production was in Salt Lake City for tryouts this year (the Salt Lake City auditions will air on June 13), Deeley, along with co-executive producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe (who created the series), and judges Mary Murphy and Adam Shankman, was gregarious and readily available to meet with the contestants and the media. It’s clear they all truly enjoy their jobs.

                “I’m very, very lucky to do what I do,” Deeley said while sitting in the lobby of the historic Capitol Theatre. “I have a great team of producers, and the kids are always great. It’s a very unique mentality if you’re a dancer—it’s not really for fame or money or any of those things. It’s because they love to do it.”

                During the interview, she posed a challenge—asking anyone to name 10 famous dancers. “It’s almost impossible for anyone not in that industry to do it, yet most everyone could name 10 famous actors, singers or athletes without a problem. Dancing is a lovely profession, and it’s infectious to be around,” she said.

                Catherine Elizabeth Deeley was born in Sutton Coldfield,Birmingham,England. When she was seven-years-old, she told her family she wanted to host TV shows. Those chances began to come her way in 1998 on a British show called “SM: TV live.” It featured guest magicians performing a number of illusions, and she was once sawed in half by magician David Copperfield. She continued honing her craft in theUKuntil 2005, when SYTYCD needed a new hostess to replace first-season hostess Lauren Sanchez.

                Immediately, Americans fell in love with Deeley and her British accent, particularly her trademark pronunciation of the word “judges” (no literary effort to write that pronunciation does it justice!) She also fell in love withAmerica(she spends the majority of her time inLos Angeles, though she does go back to theUKfrequently), and with the young dancers she shares the stage with each week.

                “I don’t come from a dance background at all,” she says. “I don’t have any relevance in judging, but I feel like I speak for everyone in our audience in sharing the excitement with our dancers, and empathizing with them. I see that as very much a part of my job—the big sister, the cheerleader. I want to be outside on the street with them when they line up for our auditions (she is—regardless of weather or temperatures). That’s the way you develop organic relationships–by being there with them.”

                Cat takes it a step further as well—every summer. She hosts a barbecue for the contestants over the Fourth of July in her backyard. “And I’m English—I’m not even into bloody celebrating the holiday,” she says with a smile. “But I’m flipping the burgers.”

                Though she is herself a bona fide star, Deeley defers a lot of the attention away from her and towards the dancers, and the judges. She says she pinches herself at times, not believing how her visibility has risen in the entertainment industry.

                “Cat Deeley is a huge reason for the show’s success,” says Jeff Thacker, co-executive producer, who adds that coming toUtahfor auditions each year is something everyone involved looks forward to. “She really embellishes the ‘family feel’ we want to have with the contestants. The kids love her, and they’re drawn to her instantly.”

                This year’s show is limited to one night a week, something that Deeley, Lythgoe and everyone else on the team feels good about.

                “I think this will work best for us,” Deeley said. “At first, we all thought, ‘How can be put everything we want into a two-hour show—the human element as well as the actual performances?’ But I think that will make each show that much more entertaining, and we really do feel like one big, happy family, and we’re up to the challenge.”

                Believe it.

                You can catch SYTYCD on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT, 7 p.m. CT/MT on FOX.