Saturday, March 17, 2018

Tony Award-Winner ("A Chorus Line") Sammy Williams Passes Away At 69

Very sad to report that Sammy Williams, Tony Award-winner for his groundbreaking performance as gay dancer "Paul San Marco" in the original production of A Chorus Line, has passed away at the age of 69.

In addition to the Tony Award, Williams was honored with the Obie Award and a Special Theatre World Award for his stunning work.

While Michael Bennett's edgy, "internal/external" direction and choreography advanced the art of Broadway story-telling by light years, Williams' monologue chronicling "Paul's" difficult teen years as a young gay man was the definition of pure theatre.

Standing in a spotlight with practically no movement at all, the heart-breaking and painfully authentic journey of "Paul" drew audiences in with just the power of his voice.

The one sly theatrical technique Bennett employed during the segment - a long, slow, almost indiscernible 90-second lighting cue that brought all the stage lights down save for that one spotlight. Paired with Williams' brilliant performance, audiences were powerless to avoid the emotional impact of the scene.

It's no exaggeration to say Sammy's performance in A Chorus Line changed lives.

Audiences gay and straight had rarely seen such a raw, authentic portrayal of a gay man on the Broadway stage before his Tony Award-winning performance. For many gay men it was heart-stopping to see our lives presented without any pulled punches.

He had previously performed on Broadway in Applause, Seesaw and The Happy Time.

On a personal note, I spent years touring in the national company of A Chorus Line, for the most part in the role of "Mark" standing next to "Paul." From my first production in 1985 to my last in 2015 (as choreographer), the power of the show never failed move me.

Williams returned to the Shubert Theatre on September 29, 1983, for A Chorus Line's record-breaking performance.

Below, watch a portion of Williams leading a "greek chorus" of "Pauls" in his Tony Award-winning monologue at that special event.

From the original Broadway cast recording, Williams offered the audience foreshadowing of what was to come with "Who Am I Anyway?" at the end of the opening number.

Out Democratic Congressman Offers To Hire McCabe To Help Qualify For Pension

Andrew McCabe
The morning after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director McCabe, just days before McCabe would qualify for his pension, out Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin offered to hire McCabe in an effort to help him qualify for his pension.

Pocan tweeted his offer as a response to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who said the former FBI official might still be able to receive his pension if he’s hired by a member of Congress.

“Andrew call me. I could use a good two-day report on the biggest crime families in Washington, D.C.,” Pocan tweeted.

In related McCabe news, multiple sources say McCabe kept contemporaneous notes from every meeting he had with Trump, just like his former boss James Comey did.

Additionally, McCabe has apparently lawyered up having hired Michael Bromwich who served as the DOJ’s Inspector General for six years.

Bromwich issued this statement which, among other things, calls out Donald Trump's "drive-by Twitter attacks" on McCabe.

Trump's Voter Profiling Firm "Harvested" Private Info From 50 Million Facebook Users Without Permission

Donald Trump
Donald Trump's voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica "harvested" the private information of over 50 million Facebook users without permission in hopes of influencing voter behavior.

From The New York Times:

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history.

The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

An examination by The New York Times and The Observer of London reveals how Cambridge Analytica’s drive to bring to market a potentially powerful new weapon put the firm — and wealthy conservative investors seeking to reshape politics — under scrutiny from investigators and lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge and worked there until late 2014, said of its leaders: “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair.”

“They want to fight a culture war in America,” he added. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”

According to The Times, Cambridge paid a third party to lie to Facebook in order to acquire the data saying the information was to be used for "academic purposes."

After knowing about the data breach for months, Facebook said last night it is suspending the account of Cambridge Analytica. I'm guessing the Times' article applied some pressure, no?

The article goes on to say that Cambridge still has most or all of the private information.

Trump Gloats Over Firing Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

With absolutely no attempt to hide his involvement, Donald Trump openly gloated about firing former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Twitter this morning.

"Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI," wrote Trump. "A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!"

Folks with a LOT of legal experience didn't think this was such a good idea...

#MarchForOurLives - "What If Our Politicians Weren't The Bitch Of The NRA?"

In an ad that includes footage of Donald Trump needling Republicans for being "afraid of the NRA," Parkland high school student David Hogg wonders aloud "What if our politicians weren't the bitch of the NRA?"

The spot is promoting the upcoming March For Our Lives on March 24.

Friday, March 16, 2018

After 22 Years, Former FBI Deputy Director Fired 2 Days Shy Of His Retirement

Andrew McCabe
This is some stone-cold shit.

After 22 years service with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired tonight by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, less than two days shy of his retirement.

From CNN:
McCabe had more recently been regularly taunted by President Donald Trump and besieged by accusations that he had misled internal investigators at the Justice Department.

In a blistering statement Friday night, McCabe said his firing is part of a larger effort to discredit the FBI and the special counsel's investigation.

"This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally," McCabe said. "It is part of this Administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel's work."

McCabe had been expected to retire this Sunday, on his 50th birthday, when he would have become eligible to receive early retirement benefits.

But Friday's termination could place a portion of his anticipated pension, earned after more than two decades of service, in significant jeopardy.

Donald Trump, who clearly ordered the firing, weighed in via Twitter:

Here's McCabe's statement tonight:

Trailer - "Avengers: Infinity War"

Marvel Studios dropped the trailer for the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War today and it looks a-mah-zing!

Just about every single Marvel hero from the past few years is in this including three "Chris's" - Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pratt.  (They couldn't find a role for Chris Pine???)

Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and the rest of the Avengers unite to battle their most powerful enemy yet -- the evil Thanos. On a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones, Thanos plans to use the artifacts to inflict his twisted will on reality. The fate of the planet and existence itself has never been more uncertain as everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment.

Advance tickets for “Infinity War” went on sale on Fandango at 6AM this morning and by noon it surpassed the two previous top two record holders: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Black Panther.

In theaters April 27.

p.s. don't even get me started on Chris Evans' woofy beard and long hair...

Chris Evans looks oh-so-sexy with longer hair and full woofy beard in Avengers: Infinity War

News Round-Up: March 16, 2018

(image via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

• Brazilian model Maxs Souza (above) and his 8-pack kick back for the weekend ahead. #8pack #HardToConcentrate

• Ellen DeGeneres says Elton John was not very nice to her when she famously came out 20 years ago. “Shut up already. We know you’re gay. Be funny.”

• Introduced by Jane Fonda no less, RuPaul received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today!

• Jury hits University of Minnesota-Duluth with $3.74 million judgment for firing lesbian hockey coach.

• Gay-themed romantic comedy Love, Simon (in theaters today) was influenced by Broadway blockbuster Dear Evan Hansen.

• And speaking of Dear Evan Hansen, the show's Tony Award-winning star Ben Platt has gone viral today sharing this "audition video" singing "Maria" from West Side Story.

Side note: Ben Platt has to make audition videos?

Having sung the song myself for years, I'm super-impressed by his high B-flat - effortless. What do you guys think?