Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ringo Starr at Seminole Hard Rock

Here is a piece I wrote for the Boca Raton Tribune. I haven't seen it online yet.
The photos are by Tom Craig.

By Skip Sheffield

Peace and Love.
That was the recurring theme for Ringo Starr’s July 15 visit with his 11th All-Starr Band to the Seminole Hard Rock Live in Hollywood.
In a pre-concert presentation, Starr presented a check for $197,500 to the Yele Haiti relief effort, administered through Hard Rock Charity partner WhyHunger.
“I grew up with the Tribe here when the Seminoles were underprivileged,” said Hollywood Tribe council member Max Osceola. “We got our first new shoes, clothes and education from a group of Ladies called Friends of the Seminoles. Today we are blessed. It is time to give back. The circle is complete.”
And so the upbeat, feel-good mood was set for former Beatle Ringo’s All-Starr Band concert, which featured Ringo singing, playing drums and bantering with his fans and sharing the stage and spotlighting a group of stellar musicians.
The standout players were guitarist Rick Derringer and multi-instrumentalist Edgar Winter. Informality and warmth are the hallmarks of Ringo Starr’s shows. He picks some of the best players available, and allows each his moment to shine.
Ohio-born Derringer is best known for his No. 1 1965 hit “Hang On Sloopy,” but he has moved far beyond that as solo artist and one of the best guitarists in America today.
Derringer first worked with Texas-born Edgar Winter and his older brother Johnny in the early 1970s, when the Edgar Winter Group had a string of hits.
Winter’s showpiece is the instrumental Frankenstein, which he plays on a synthesizer strapped around his next (the first to do so, he says) with additional solos on saxophone and trap drums.
Keyboardist Gary Wright was the only Brit other than Starr in an all-American lineup. He shone on his best-known “Dream Weaver.”
Wally Palmer is best known as singing front man of The Romantics of Detroit, Michigan. Of course he played his hits “Talking in Your Sleep” and “What I Like About You.”
Richard Page is better known as Mr. Mister, which had mid-1980s hits with “Broken Wings” and “Kyrie.”
Finally there is Gregg Bissonette, who has been Starr’s regular drummer since 2003. All the boys in the band harmonize vocally, and exceptionally well.
Ever modest of his musical talent, Ringo Starr admits he “Gets By With a Little Help From His Friends.” His fans can only hope there with be a 12th All-Starr Band. At age 70, like fellow surviving Beatle Paul McCartney, Ringo shows no sign of slowing down.
At the end of the tour Starr gave the trap drum he had been playing for display at the Hard Rock’s permanent collection. He also presented his limited edition artwork, which he has been creating on computer since 2005. His latest CD, “Why Love,” was released in January of 2010.
“What ever you choose, choose love,” go the lyrics from one of the songs he wrote for that album. “Peace and Love” was the slogan on hundreds of white plastic wristbands he threw to his fans. Who can possibly argue with that?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire

“The Girl Who Played with Fire” is the second of a trilogy that began with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and ends with ‘The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.”
Though not as grippingly suspenseful nor as sexy as “Tattoo,” “Fire” continues to unravel the mysteries of one Lisbeth, the tattooed, fire-playing girl of the title.
Lisbeth is the creation of the late investigative magazine journalist, Stieg Larsson, whose alter ego most likely is Mikael Blomkvist, played by noted Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist.
Mikael has not seen Lisbeth in the year since he first encountered the computer genius hacking into his account. Lisbeth has kept tabs on her onetime lover by cloning the hard drive of the computer he uses at Millennium magazine.
After a short stay in prison on trumped up charges, Mikael is back to his crusading ways. The latest expose in his magazine concerns a sex-trafficking operation with underage girls. The co-authors are Dag Svensson (Hans Christian Thulin) and his girlfriend Mia (Jennie Silfverhjelm), who is doing the research as part of her doctorial thesis. The list of Johns includes some very powerful people in Swedish government, law and business.
Monitoring the project from afar with great interest is Lisbeth, who lives in a fancy apartment with her girlfriend Miriam (Yasmine Garbi).
Before the story can be published Dag and Mia are murdered. Shortly thereafter Lisbeth’s legal guardian, Nils Burman (Peter Andersson) is also murdered. Lisbeth is implicated by circumstantial evidence in all three murders and her face is plaster all over the tabloids.
It is up to Mikael to help Lisbeth clear her name. Unlike the first film, Lisbeth and Mikael are not physically together. Mikael is almost like a bit player, with the focus shifted to Lisbeth, who has becomes like a Swedish Wonder Woman, fighting, boxing and throttling guys three times her size. Poor, abused Lisbeth discovers some unhappy truths about her past even more terrible than in the first film.
In all, “Fire” is a worthy sequel. Now I need to read the book.

Mont Blanc Comes to Summerfest

Mont Blanc Chamber Orchestra is magnifique!
The Orchestra visited FAU in Boca Raton Sunday, July 11 for a 2010 Summerfest concert sponsored by philanthropist Madelyn Savarick and Symphony of the Americas.
The whole merry band flew in Panama the next day, but there is still one more chance to catch them: at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 21 at Broward Center for the Arts.
This is the 19th season for Summerfest, founded and directed by maestro James Brooks-Bruzzese. The really cool thing about Summerfest is the musicians are generally much younger than you would see at a typical classical music concert.
Mont Blanc is in the French Alps, and that’s where Lorenzo Turchi-Floria founded the chamber orchestra in 2005.
Turchi-Floris is a conductor, concert pianist and composer of note. He treated the Boca audience with an American premiere of his composition, “Tempo di Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra." The piece is rather frantic in it allegro passage, and technically quite demanding, both for the pianist and the players keeping up with him.
The musicians of Mont Blanc are not only young. Some of them are quite beautiful.
Laszlo Pap is not from Mont Blanc (he is Hungarian), but he is a world class violinist and frequent collaborator with Symphony of the Americas, led by Brooks-Bruzzese.
Pap was a featured soloist on two stunning show-off pieces: Paganini’s “Witches Dance’ and Sarasate’s “Introduction and Tarantella.”
Marilyn Maingart is a virtuoso of the flute and one lovely lady in the bargain. A frequent soloist with SOA, she charmed on Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen Op. 20” and Telemann’s “Suite in A Minor for Flute, Strings and Cembalo.”
There’s much more to the show than just these titles, and if you are lucky you’ll here two encores by the whimsical, humorous American composer, Leroy Anderson. The entire concert is available on a CD recording.
Tickets may be reserved by calling (954) 462-0222 or 954-545-0088 or by visiting

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bratt Boys in the Barrio

LA Mission

“LA Mission” is an entirely different family film that is about family, but not necessarily for the family.
Benjamin Bratt stars (and co-produces) and his brother Peter wrote and directed the story of a single father’s difficult relationship with his teenage son.
Benjamin Bratt normally plays handsome leading man types, but for this ethic fable he grew a Van Dyke beard and covered his body with what I hope are temporary tattoos to play Che Rivera, ruler of the roost in his tough, poor Hispanic Mission District of San Francisco.
Che (his first name is probably no coincidence) is an ex-con and recovering alcoholic who found Jesus while in prison. Now he drives a bus and lectures young hoodlums on how to behave. His big passion is his “low rider,” a beautiful, ornately-painted 1941 Cherolet. Every weekend Che and his fellow low riders perform a very slow parade through town.
Che is not exactly close to his only son Jes (Jeremy Ray Valdez), who does not share Che’s religious fervor, his self-discipline or love of old cars. Not long after the arrival of a sexy new neighbor, an African-American healthnik named Lena (Erika Alexander), Che discovers a suggestive photo of Jes with his Anglo boyfriend Jordan (Max Rosenak).
If this weren’t bad enough, it is not long before someone spray-paints “faggot” on Che’s garage door.
Che is homophobic not just because of his “mas macho” Latin machismo; he feels homosexuality is an insult to God. “LA Mission” is the long (almost two hours) tortuous road to reconciliation between father and son, and a hard-fought moral lesson to a man who has always held rigid beliefs.
This is perhaps the most powerful performance Benjamin Bratt has ever delivered, and it is extraordinarily brave because it dares criticize a very proud culture and a very powerful Catholic Church.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Delightful "Despicable Me"

“Despicable Me” is the third in a trifecta of fun family films that are brightening the summer of 2010.
This CGI-animated action movie spoof has the added advantage of being a one-off original, with a distinctive French flair.
While it is not as emotionally moving as “Toy Story 3-D,” it is lighter and much funnier than that sequel and superior in every way to the middling “Shrek Forever.”
The title character of “Despicable Me,” Gru, is voiced by Steve Carrell with a vaguely Russian accent.
Gru is further proof Carrell is a man of prodigious talent. Though we never see the actor, he makes us laugh and at the same time feel sympathy.
Gru prides himself on being the world’s nastiest villain. He loves to freeze people simply to cut to the front of a line. Recently he stole the Statue of Liberty (the small one, from Las Vegas, he concedes to his horde of yellow cylindrical Minions), but lately he has been slipping.
Gru has been upstaged by a mysterious new super villain who has stolen the Great Pyramid of Egypt in broad daylight.
That would be a whipper-snapper who calls himself Vector (Jason Segal), a bespectacled nerd with a weakness for video games and Girl Scout cookies.
To reclaim his title, Gru plans to steal the Shrink Ray that enabled Vector to steal the pyramid. Then he will fly to the moon, shrink it to softball size, and bring it home as his trophy.
While Gru thinks he is the world’s baddest, meanest, smartest villain, he is really none of the above. The brains of the outfit is his chief scientist, Dr. Nefario (British comedian Russell Brand) and his brawn is the legion of tiny, blindly loyal Minions.
As for the bad part, Gru’s shaky façade crumbles away when he meets three adorable orphan girls: Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Elsie (Agnes).
How corny is that, right? Yes, it’s corny, but it’s classy corn that openly spoofs and even refers to Orphan Annie from the stage musical and the dread orphanage matron, Miss Hannigan.
In this version, by Sergio Pablos and Ken Daurio, Miss Hannigan is called Miss Hattie (Kristin Wiig affecting a syrupy Southern voice).
To steal the Shrink Ray, Gru adopts the girls and enlists them to unwittingly help him to gain entrance to Vector’s fortress.
Gru’s fumbling efforts to thwart Vector are reminiscent of both Wile E. Coyote and Mad’s Spy vs. Spy. Needless to say, there are many comic complications to Gru’s nefarious plot, and many pitfalls (“I said Cookie-Bot not Boogie-Bot!”), not the least of which is the girls.
Underneath it all Gru is one big softie of course, with a severe inferiority complex due to his frosty, disapproving mother (Julie Andrews).
“Despicable Me” looks great in 3-D, and while it has many thrills and chills, any menace is strictly for comic effect. This is a movie parents can enjoy with even their youngest children

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tilda gets Torrid in "I Am Love"

The week’s big releases are “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” and “The Last of the Airbenders.”
While “Twilight” will probably take on a load of money from loyal fans, I just don’t get the fascination with teenage vampires and werewolves, and at more than two hours in length, life is just too short.
The same goes with the elemental fantasy of M. Night Shymalian’s latest attempt to enthrall us with science fiction.
That leaves me with the Italian film “I Am Love;” a pretentious title if there ever was one.
“I Am Love” is a labor of love for star Tilda Swinton, who also produced the film.
Swinton is Emma, Russian-born head of the household of the wealthy Recchi family of Milan, Italy. Patriarch Edoardo Recci Sr. (Gabriele Ferzetti) is having a birthday, and he announces he is handing over the family textile business to his son Tancredi (Pippo Delbono), Emma’s husband.
However, his grandson Edoardo Jr., called Edo (Flavio Parenti) will have joint control, while Edo’s brother Gianluca is left out of the deal.
So far it doesn’t sound terribly interesting, and it is not. “I Am Love” is once of those self-consciously artsy films with beautiful setups and long silences, directed with gravity by Luca Guadagnino.
There is intrigue in the Recchi clan, however. Emma’s daughter Betta has fallen in love with a woman. More scandalous still, Emma has fallen for Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), Edo’s handsome chef friend who wants to start a restaurant with him.
Trust Emma and Antonio to heat up the kitchen and bedroom, and expect more than consternation when Emma’s mother-in-law (the great Marisa Berenson) finds out what she’s up to.
So “I Am Love” is really about the breakup of a family Italian-style, with plenty of food, sex and nudity. If that appeals to you, I say bon appétit.

Dr. Ron Wilk into First Decade of Second Life as Novelist

“There are no second acts in American lives,” novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald famously argued.
Ron Wilk would beg to differ. Wilk, 65, has been on the second part of his life for a full decade now, and things are looking up.
The first part of his life culminated in his becoming Dr. Ron Wilk, neurologist and chief resident at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and later in private practice in Boca Raton.
Around 10 years ago Dr. Ron Wilk came tumbling down a flight of stairs. The resulting injuries were sufficiently severe to convince him to retire from medical practice and reassess his life.
“As a neurologist I knew the diffuse spinal injuries would make it difficult for lifting, bending and twisting, all of which a neurologist must do,” he explains. “Yes, I went through depression, self-incrimination and regret. Once I got through that, I realized I had to do something with the rest of my life. While I was in law school I discovered I had a facility with writing. Writing is not hard for me. Getting published is more challenging.”
Ron Wilk is now a novelist. “Papal Rogues” (Langdon Street Press, Minneapolis) is his first novel in print, but it is not the first thing he has written.
“I wrote two novels and sent out hundreds of query letters to publishers,” he relates. “When no one responded positively, I created a web site and published them myself. I have had over 950,000 hits so far.”
Almost a million hits, but Ron Wilk has yet to earn a penny.
He hopes that will change with “Papal Rogues,” a timely page-turner about a New Jersey computer hacker who dies under suspicious circumstances. This inspires his Scottish Internet buddy and fellow hacker to seek the truth, and discover shadowy, treacherous figures tied to corporate America, the U.S. Military, and certain rogue elements within The Vatican.
“America is incredibly vulnerable to cyber-terrorism- more so than most other counties,” Wilk asserts. “We are so dependent on computers and the Internet for everything we do. When the Pentagon can get hacked, we’ve got a problem.”
The prime hacker is the late American Michael Squire who relished the challenge of hacking into allegedly invincible web sites.
Evidently Michael was a little too good, because soon after he hacked into the web site of a very rich and powerful organization, he was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in his New Jersey bedroom.
Since Squire eschewed drugs and didn’t even smoke cigarettes, his Scottish friend, Calder McMonagle is highly suspicious. Calder, who worked for the same company creating viruses and their cure is so suspicious he withdraws his life savings and books an airline ticket to Los Angeles to investigate for himself.
“Papal Rogues” is full of rapidly-unfolding intrigues in a one-off world that resembles our own. The starting point for Calder’s investigation is the sinister Recton Corporation, which hired both Michael Squire and Calder McMonagle.
The next clue leads to Aspen Aerospace, a company with U.S. military contracts. Aspen’s most intriguing project is an invention that bends light waves in such a manner as to render material objects invisible.
It is payments made to fund that expensive invisibility project that ultimately leads to a Chicago Cardinal of the Catholic Church with close ties to the Vatican.
In his perilous pursuit of the mystery, Calder encounters two “femmes fatale;” one a hired assassin named Simone and the other a 19-year-old computer genius named Brenda. Along with the hot button issues, there are erotic diversions.
“Sex sells,” Wilk says with a smile and a shrug. “I actually had more sex in the story, but my editor advised me to tone it down.”
As it is “Papal Rogues” is racy enough to keep the armchair voyeur satisfied while fulfilling the role of gripping whodunit.
Wilk is not resting on his laurels. He has just finished a fourth novel, a psychological thriller, and he is working on a possible sequel to “Papal Rogues.” On the practical side, he has an online blog about how to deal with the second part of anyone’s life.
Go to for more information.