Broward Times is now the SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES - January 25, 2008

Cosby makes you laugh from the gut

BY JOAN CARTWRIGHT

The mature audience roared with laughter, and I joined them, as we enjoyed a performance by one of the funniest men of the millennium.

Bill Cosby, known as “Coz” by his faithful fans, can make you laugh from the gut, simply with a hand sign or a facial grimace.

On Sunday, Jan. 20, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood, I joined folks who tried to muffle screams of joy evoked by this funny man whose career has spanned five decades.

I’ve seen him several times, live, on TV and in movies. Each encounter is fresh and comfortable.

Comfort is what Cosby brings with him to the stage. His monologue is always about family, something to which every human being can relate. It’s his brother, his parents, grandparents, wife, children and grandchildren that he’s poking fun at, and we agree with his satire because he’s hitting the nail on the head.

This afternoon, his subject was growing older.

After mentioning that he turned 70 last year, he asked members of the audience to hold their applause.

“When you’ve been married for 43 years to the same person,” he said, “there’s no applause. There’s not much to talk about. But my wife still says, we haven’t been talking lately.”

You ask yourself how something so mundane can be so funny. But the audience was huffing with laughter.
I found myself trying not to be too vocal, but my hand was over my mouth, stifling a vociferous guffaw. I mean the man is just funny! That’s all. There’s nothing else to call it.

He poked fun at deciding whether or not to take “the pill” that he was holding, invisibly, in his hand. When he said that the ultimate decision would be based on the “side effects,” and held up four fingers, you knew exactly what he was talking about: The pill would make a man have an erection for four hours.

He said, “I’m not sure I ever wanted to be a 240-minute man! I’m running out of ideas and, now, I get cramps a lot.”

The audience rolled with laughter. I choked. It was his delivery. He knew how to say one simple thing that made you bust out laughing, when you didn’t intend to.

For instance, he said, an old man, 98, told his doctor that he was having trouble urinating. The doctor’s response was, “At this age, you’ve peed enough.”

We screamed. It’s just the way he said it.

Turning our attention back to the pill, Coz said, “at 70, there are no more oldies but goodies.”

He was amazed by radio and TV commercials about “Johnson enhancement,” and he hummed the “cute little tune” accompanying one particular TV commercial.

“The narrator says ‘Bob is living large, these days,’ but I’m wondering, do I double down?’’ Cosby asked.
“Because it’s the side effects I’m concerned about. I already have ringing in the ears and blurred eyesight.”
We were in tears, understanding exactly what he was experiencing.

Back to the wife, he said, he feels like her child, especially when she says, “I’ll drive!” He wants to know why he can’t drive. She says it’s because he almost hit someone the last time.

Then he hit on two other subjects.

One of them is the “master bedroom,’’ which is never called that after the house is purchased. That’s for two reasons. First, the wife won’t hear of it, and second, black people don’t allow the word “master’’ in their house.

This got an “Amen” from the sisters and brothers in the arena!

Next, he said, “I never understood where the image of Jesus with children from all ethnicities came from.
Also, why do people call on Jesus in certain situations, like in the casino?”

He said, “You’re with a friend who loses all their money, quickly, and they come over to you with a long face, making you feel guilty because they’re out of money. You give them some of your money and they go and lose that, right away, and come back to you. I don’t understand the feeling they put on you.”

He eventually went back to family.

“And when you get old, you get grandchildren, stinking liars. They walk past you and there’s this smell. You say, ‘Ugh, is that you?’ and the little feller says, ‘No grandpa, it’s not me.’ Liars, all of them, liars.”

He did a bit about grandma calling granddad, when he was a kid, but granddad didn’t answer her.

Eventually, she came into the room declaring, “Russell, you know you heard me.”     Bill said he was so sad because he thought his grandfather was losing his hearing. Then, years later, his father and mother had the same scenario, and he realized that grandfathers hear what they want to hear.

It rang even more true when the same thing happened between Cosby and his wife, Camille, while his own grandson looked on. His joy is that “wives know they hear them, but they can’t prove it.”

It’s just fun to be in the same room with this funny man who has brought joy to millions during his illustrious comedic career.

Divajc47@yahoo.com

Photo by Sayre Berman. Bill Cosby

AUTHORS

“Grazing in the Grass” with Hugh Masekela
BY JOAN CARTWRIGHT

The history of Hugh Masekela is online and in books, but the magic of his music is impossible to glorify with words. You must experience it to understand the power of this 68-year-old South African Jazz icon.

On Jan. 23, Masekela and The Chissa All-Star Touring Party graced the Amaturo Theater stage at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.

Three-quarters of the way through the performance, Hugh asked the audience, “Do you have enough?”

”Nooooooooo,” we responded!

“Broward County people are very, very greedy,” he said in his thick Zulu accent, and then he continued to play until the band was spent.

We were not. We could have listened to more of this soulful, conscious-stirring music that made Masekela the most notable African jazz icon on the planet.

His book, Grazing In The Grass, tells of how he began playing trumpet in Johannesburg, South Africa, at age 14. He says the book is being developed into “a few films and a musical entitled Grazing is in pre-production in South Africa.”

The song, “Grazing in the Grass,’’ was a hit in 1968. When his producer, Stewart Levine, delivered Masekela's album to Uni Records, it was three minutes short of the contractual length of 30 minutes.

They filled the gap by covering a 7-inch single that Hugh bought in Zambia, a novelty tune called “Mr. Bull #5” that started with a cowbell.

Masekela and Levine saw little potential in the track, but Uni Records executive Russ Regan thought it would be a hit and persuaded him to issue it as a single.

It was among the Top Ten pop and R&B hits and remains an all-time summer anthem. The song has been recorded by other musical icons including Boney James, The Dave Matthews Band and Raven-Symoné.

Masekela’s fans always anticipate another song from his repertoire, indicative of the “township jazz” at the backbone of his sound. “Stimela” translates as Coal Train, a pun on the name of one of the most famous American Jazz artists, John Coltrane.

The song is a sonic photograph of the lives of the young and old men who “travel from the netherlands of South Africa. They are conscripted to work 16 hours a day for almost no pay, deep down in the belly of the Earth,” Masekela reports, “and they have only mish mash food, and iron shovel and live in filthy, flea-ridden barracks, thinking of their loved ones and the land taken away from them with guns, canons and poison gas. They curse the coal train that brought them to Johannesburg.”

He screams the whistle, beats the cowbell that bangs out the iron rails the coal train rides. The music stops to pick us up and take us to Johannesburg. Each time I hear this song, I’m paralyzed with the truth it tells. My friend, Naomi McCreary said, “I got chills.”

Guitarist John Blackie Selolwane played dynamically. His scat singing was reminiscent of George Benson, one of the first African-American jazz musicians to perform in Sun City, South Africa, in the sixties, when he and Stevie Wonder had to become “honorary white people” to perform there.

Veteran percussionist Francis M. E. Fuster and younger drummer Ian Herman provided the constant rhythm under Hugh’s flugelhorn that made me close my eyes and journey through South Africa as he clicked his songs in his mother tongue, while the other musicians harmonized with him.

The Chissa All-Stars is a band dedicated to delivering the message of freedom that is only possible through musical performance. Keyboardist Arthur Tshabalala reminded me of early jazz pianist Art Tatum.
He and bassist Abednigo Zulu created an atmosphere of exceptional support for the music Masekela brought to us.

Riffs exchanged with reed man Ngenekhaya R. Mahlangu piqued my interest throughout the concert. Second guitarist Themba Elliott Mokoena appeared to be in his late 70s. Even so, he  was a formidable force onstage as he sounded the traditional melodies of South African music.

The meticulous stick violinist Tshepo Mngoma, who’s playing and dancing thrilled Naomi and me, surprised us at every turn. Also, he sang harmony with Gcabashe and Masekela to our delight.

But it was Mngoma’s mother, noted singer Sibongile Khumalo, who brought the entire audience to our feet.
Operatic in nature, but jazzy and definitely mindful of her language (Zulu or Xhosa?), Sibongile wiped us out with her vocal range, extending from bass to soprano, in a single melodic run. She sang “When Love Calls You,’’ exhibiting an incomparable romantic appeal and amazing skill with vocalese.

The crime about this concert was that we had to be seated. This is music to dance to and Masekela and
The Chissa All-Stars kept us wanting to jump up and swing our hips along with them.

Divajc47@yahoo.com

To hear two different versions of “Grazing in the Grass,’’ log onto http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVpcDyjn3a0

Photo by Sayre Berman. Hugh Masekela

Photos of Joan Cartwright with B. B. King

More articles. . .

Dionne Warwick
A musical legend comes to Broward

BY JOAN CARTWRIGHT

Sample ImageAn illustrious career of four decades has established Dionne Warwick as an international musical legend with over 60 recordings.

Warwick says she is “attached to all the songs” she’s sung, from "Don't Make Me Over,” which topped the charts in December 1962, to every song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
Her reputation as a hit maker is firmly etched into public consciousness.

A charming performer, Warwick has entertained on every continent, amassing a worldwide audience. The New Jersey native will bring her talent to South Florida on Jan. 26 at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts.

Warwick began singing as a child in church in East Orange, New Jersey. Her climb to fame began when she was asked to sing backup for saxophonist Sam “The Man” Taylor at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.

By 1968, Warwick had received her first Grammy Award for the classic “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” She became the first African-American solo female artist to win the prestigious Best Contemporary Female Vocal Performance Award.

A phenomenal talent whose voice leaves an indelible mark on every song she sings, Warwick had a dozen consecutive Top 100 hit singles from 1963 to 1966. In 1970, she won a second Grammy Award for the best-selling album, I'll Never Fall In Love Again and signed with Warner Brothers Records for a second decade of hits.

Her career rocketed to international stardom during a 1963 concert at the Olympia Theater in Paris, which also featured the legendary actress, Marlene Dietrich.

A major force in American contemporary music, Warwick has also enjoyed extraordinary popularity in Europe. Her worldwide visibility increased with the hits, “Anyone Who Had A Heart" and “Walk On By” and, in 1968, she was the first African-American female performer to appear before the Queen of England at a Royal Command Performance.

Since then, she has performed for kings, queens, presidents and heads of state.

Aside from dazzling audiences in and out of the country, Warwick said she believes her greatest contribution to the betterment of the world is, first, her ability “to put smiles on peoples’ faces,” and her “charitable efforts that include the fight against AIDS.”

Her Grammy-winning, chart topping, single “That’s What Friends Are For,’’ raised millions of dollars for AIDS research.

Her film and TV credits number in the hundreds from soundtracks for “Valley of the Dolls” (1967) and “The Love Boat” (1977) to a 16-part series that she produced titled, “Dionne and Friends” (1990).

She’s acted in over 15 films, including “Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child” (1999), in which she played Miss Kitty. She played Beth in “Rent-a-Cop” (1987), Thea Best in “The Rockford Files” (1977) and Cassy in “Slaves” (1969).

Warwick has appeared on “Star Search,” “Circus of the Stars,” “Soul Train Awards,” “Grammy Awards,” “Academy Awards,” “Family Feud,’’ Phyllis Diller’s show, Merv Griffin’s show and The Oprah Winfrey show.

A consummate performer, Dionne’s original compositions include the “Psychic Friends Network Song,’’ “Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams,’’ “Two Ships Passing In The Night’’ and her favorite, “Virou Areia.’’

On a personal note, Warwick said she enjoys playing the piano at home, cooking chicken and dumplings, driving her Mercedes Benz, being in Brazil and singing with her protégé – her granddaughter, Cheyenne Elliott.

Her personal adage, “If you can think it, you can do it!” is in her book, My Point of View (Lighthouse Press, 2004), an anthology of photographs and memoirs.

Of present-day stars Beyonce, Ciara, Lil Wayne, Ludacris and others, Warwick says, “They’ve made a place for themselves in the industry.”

Enyo™, Dionne Warwick's Skin Care System is, according to her, “the best!”

Asked about her greatest achievement, she replied, “I don’t know if I’ve achieved that yet. My goal for the future is to enjoy the fruits of my labor.”

She must have a huge garden for those fruits, because few music lovers could ever forget her after hearing her illustrious voice.

Divajc47@yahoo.com

Photo: Dionne Warwick


IF YOU GO:

What:
Performance by Grammy Award-winning recording artist Dionne Warwick
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008
Where: Coral Springs Center for the Arts, 2855 Coral Springs Drive in Coral Springs.
Cost: Golden Circle, $74.20; Rear Orchestra, $63.60; Rear Mezzanine, $63.60; Balcony, $63.60. For tickets, call 954-344-5999 or log onto

 www.coralspringscenterforthearts.com

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www.joancartwright.com

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