HAVANA – MMORE than half a million Cubans gathered in Havana on Sunday for a concert featuring Miami-based singer Juanes, a gig welcomed by US President Barack Obama, but criticised by Cuban exiles.
THE show is the second event under the ‘Paz sin Fronteras’ banner, after a 2008 Juanes show promoting peace on the border between Colombia and Venezuela.
The concert, headlined by Juanes – most famous for his hit songs A Dios le Pido and La Camisa Negra – will also feature some of Latin America’s brightest music stars, including Olga Tanon, Danny Rivera and the Orishas.
Hundreds of thousands of parasol-waving fans braced blistering heat in the capital’s storied Revolution Square, with merriment belying the political undertones that the concert has produced.
Miami’s Cuban exile community has criticised the performance, saying it will legitimise the island’s communist regime, and Colombian-born singer Juanes received death threats ahead of the ‘Peace without Borders’ concert.
Many of those present appeared focused on the need for Cubans everywhere to unite.
‘We have to unite Cubans that are inside and those outside. Everyone has family there. It does not matter why they left. We have to leave hate behind,’ said Yordanis Padron, a 34-year-old electrician.
Clutching a umbrella, bottle of water and a snack, 73-year-old Lidia said she hoped the concert would ‘serve as a message to the imperialists that we want peace and help to reconcile those here with those from over there.’
Earlier, Mr Obama welcomed plans for the massive but controversial concert, telling US Spanish-language network Univision the performance could help improve ties with Cuba.
Mr Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met the Colombian singer before he left for the island, a trip which has prompted some of Miami’s million-strong Cuban exile community to smash his records in protest.
‘My understanding is that he’s a terrific musician. He puts on a very good concert,’ Mr Obama told the station as part of a five-channel media blitz on Sunday to sell his plan to reform US healthcare.
‘I certainly don’t think it hurts US-Cuban relations, these kinds of cultural exchanges.’ Juanes has promised a ‘historic’ show on Havana’s vast Revolution Square, the scene of countless declarations by Cuba’s communist leaders and home to an iconic mural of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara.
‘We are excited to connect with the audience in Cuba – saying that we are here, that they are not alone, and that we hope over time things can change and the Cuban family can be one,’ the 37-year-old Grammy winner said Saturday.
‘What better language than music… for that wake-up call,’ said Juanes, who now lives in Miami. — AFP
LONDON – BRITISH rock band Muse shot straight to the top of the UK album charts with their new release The Resistance outselling the next three top albums combined, the Official Charts Company said on Sunday.
British World War Two armed forces’ sweetheart Vera Lynn, who last week became the oldest living artist to have a number one album, dropped a place to number two with We’ll Meet Again, a collection of her best known songs.
That meant singer Peter Andre, whose marriage break-up with glamour model Katie Price, has dominated tabloid newspapers in recent weeks, had to settle for third place with his new release Revelation.
US rapper Jay-Z was another new entry in fourth with The Blueprint 3, while singer-songwriter David Gray’s ‘Draw The Line’ went into the charts in fifth place.
In the singles chart, Taio Cruz, whose writing and production talents have been used by the likes of Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and the Pussycat Dolls, debuted in top spot with Break Your Heart.
David Guetta featuring Akon stayed in second place with Sexy Chick, while Madonna was a new entry in third with Celebration.
Jay-Z featuring Rihanna and Kanye West remained in fourth with Run This Town, with She Wolf by Shakira climbing 20 places to fifth. — REUTERS
LONDON – STELLA McCartney’s sportswear franchise is saddling up to take on the cycling world.
The British designer may be better known for her tops and dresses, but her active-wear ‘adidas by Stella McCartney’ concept has been going strong since 2005.
In addition to her pre-existing ranges devoted to yoga, tennis, golf and swim, McCartney is now working to keep cyclists, runners and triathletes looking sharp on the track and in the pool.
The sports apparel on display on Sunday at London’s Somerset House was made from lightweight, breathable fabrics designed with comfort – and perspiration – in mind.
Mesh was nearly everywhere: In wide loops lining the side of a gym shoe or tightly wound into a poly-cotton collared golf shirt.
‘It’s moisture management,’ explained Emma Willey, who works for adidas by Stella McCartney. ‘When you come out after eight hours on the golf course, you want to be smelling fresh.’
McCartney kept to an understated style, with a pair of small red running shorts and a shiny, tinfoil-like pool blue jacket being among the flashiest pieces in an otherwise neutral-coloured collection. Zebra print was pervasive.
McCartney says she tries to keep her materials environmentally friendly and ethically sourced. Apparel on display included clothes constructed out of organic cotton and recycled polyester, and shoes built with recycled rubber and wood pulp insoles.
Sunday, the third day of London Fashion Week, also features shows by Betty Jackson, Nicole Farhi, Jasper Conran, and British fashion icon Vivienne Westwood. — AP
LOS ANGELES – JON Stewart and his writing staff are owners of new Emmy Awards.
Comedy Central’s The Daily Show was named the best comedy or variety show in the annual Emmy Awards. Blessed with an abundance of material during a presidential election, the show beat out David Letterman’s Late Show, Saturday Night Live, Real Time With Bill Maher and The Colbert Report.
Stewart’s writing staff also won for best writing in a comedy or variety series, making it a clean sweep.
As he accepted the award, Stewart joked that it gave him and his staff time to go backstage and check out the pro football game, being shown on another network. — AP
I’m really just a SHY GIRL
Model-actress Christy Yow claims she’s ill at ease playing sexy
By Kwok Kar Peng
September 21, 2009
MODEL Christy Yow is a hard one to figure out.
POUTING: Christy during a bikini shoot.
She preened and pouted her full lips for The New Paper’s camera crew and threw us come-hither looks.
She said she was willing to strip naked for a lead role in Eric Khoo’s upcoming movie Chinese Rose.
Yet, in the same interview, the 23-year-old recalled how uncomfortable she was modelling for FHM Singapore.
Christy, known for her ample 34C bosom, shot to fame when she posed in a skimpy bikini for the December issue of the local lad mag.
She also claimed she had difficulty acting sexy in her first acting attempt in straight-to-DVD movie Aunties United, where she plays a shy and conservative girl.
‘I trust nude scenes in Chinese Rose will be tasteful’
Will the real Christy Yow, please stand up?
She insists she’s a shy girl at heart, but transforms into a sex goddess only in front of the camera.
Away from work, she wears spectacles and goes without make-up. She is always in T-shirt, jeans or shorts, and flip-flops, she said.
She added: ‘I want to gain a foothold in the showbiz industry, so I have to behave professionally. I cannot portray a role badly just because I’m shy.’
A scene that she found particularly tough in Aunties United was one that required her to walk slowly towards the camera, looking sexy.
She said: ‘I had to pose, sway a little and look sexy. I didn’t think it would be difficult and everyone thought I would be able to complete it in just one take.
‘But it felt weird when I did it. I wasn’t natural. I thought it could be because it was my first time acting.’
The scene was filmed in a sports hall and it was only after the director asked the crew to leave the hall that Christy managed to wrap up the scene. It took her close to 10 takes to get it right.
Christy also had problems during her FHM photo shoot. The Ipoh-born girl had told her manager that she wanted very much to be on the cover of FHM Malaysia.
So her manager approached the editor of the men’s magazine in Singapore, who agreed to feature her after seeing her photos.
She went for a fitting session and tried on a long silk dinner dress.
But Christy had a rude shock when she learnt she had to wear bikinis for the photo shoot in Bali.
‘I couldn’t turn down the photo shoot because we had already travelled all the way to Bali. I eventually didn’t model the silk dress,’ she recalled.
It was her first time modelling in bikinis. The male photographer, sensing her discomfort, asked everyone except the female make-up artist to leave the shoot.
It was only after a few breaks, when she chatted with her manager, that she relaxed and finished the session.
When the photos were published, a local Chinese daily nicknamed her the Busty 36C Lady from Malaysia.
She has since lost weight and is now a size 34C.
‘I was shocked at the nickname. It sounded like something from a Hong Kong gossip magazine. But over time, I slowly accepted it.’
Christy said she is keen to play 1950s cabaret star Rose Chan in Eric Khoo’s upcoming movie Chinese Rose, even if it means having to do scenes with full-frontal nudity.
She said she was moved by Rose’s tragic life.
‘Rose is a very strong and proud person. It’ll be a very challenging role and a very good opportunity for me if I get it. I have to think professionally and not be so bothered about the nude scenes.’
She admitted she initially had reservations about the role. ‘But after reading the script, I realised that the nude scenes are an essential and small part of the entire story. Rose is more than just a striptease performer. She had a very tumultuous life and the movie will be about her spirit.’
Christy said she trusts the nude scenes would be tasteful.
Eric has been having problems finding the right actress to play Rose.
He first announced he was looking for an actress for the role at a press conference in April last year. One year later, Eric told The New Paper that he had yet to find his Rose despite 200 applicants and 20 auditions.
Then again, the actress has to meet his stringent criteria. In Eric’s own words, she should ideally have ‘the sultry lips of Shu Qi, the voluptuous figure of Fiona Xie, the height of Beatrice Chia, and the poise and complexion of Gong Li’.
She must have the acting skills of Maggie Cheung, tell jokes like Irene Ang, be comfortable with snakes and be able to speak Mandarin and Cantonese.
On top of that, she must be willing to strip for full-frontal nude scenes.
When contacted, Eric confirmed that Christy is one of a few actresses on his short list. The other contenders are also fresh faces.
Eric said he sees a lot of potential in Christy and likes her determination and maturity.
He pointed out that the role is challenging as the actress would have to play Rose from the age of 17 to 36.
Actors for the other roles have yet to be confirmed, but Eric wants to use mostly fresh faces.
The movie is in pre-production and filming will likely begin in the first quarter of next year. The screenplay is by James Toh, who also wrote Eric’s 12 Storeys.
During her audition, Christy had to display a range of emotions, from sad to happy to angry, as demanded by the script. But she did not have to pose nude.
On her personal life, she would only reveal that she is dating a Taiwanese, a ’30-year-old upcoming actor’.
They met early last month when she was in Taipei to attend a 10-day acting class. They played a couple in a skit but it was only after she returned to Singapore that love blossomed.
Christy said: ‘He would give me a call at 6.30am every day when I filmed Aunties United.
‘If you see me with heavy eyebags and bad complexion, it just means that we had chatted till late the night before.’
NEW ORLEANS – BRAD Pitt is laughing off the idea he should run for mayor of New Orleans. Pitt told NBC television’s Today show on Thursday that he has seen the ‘Brad Pitt for Mayor’ T-shirts that many New Orleans residents have been sporting for at least two months. But when asked if he has considered running,
LOS ANGELES – THE King of Pop is coming to calendars and collectors’ coin cases after a judge approved several deals involving the singer’s estate on Friday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff signed off on agreements for Jackson-themed items including calendars, school supplies, posters and a commemorative coin. He also granted authority so that reprints of Jackson’s autobiography Moonwalk can be sold in China, Korea and several Eastern European countries.
Judge Beckloff also agreed to allow Jackson’s estate to partner with Apple’s iTunes to sell songs and videos of Jermaine Jackson’s performance of the Charlie Chaplain song ‘Smile’ at the pop singer’s public memorial.
The deals were presented to the judge by the current administrators of Jackson’s estate, attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain. Financial details of the agreements were not disclosed.
They offer a hint at Jackson’s post-death marketability, and a pending deal may bring even more Jackson-themed merchandise to store shelves and electronics.
Judge Beckloff has scheduled a hearing on Monday to decide whether to approve other deals involving Jackson, including a movie project that would feature the singer’s final rehearsals and preparations for a series of comeback concerts in London.
Columbia Pictures has agreed to pay US$60 million for the rights to footage shot for Jackson’s ‘This is It’ concerts, but the deal must be approved by Monday. The extra time was granted to give the singer’s mother, Katherine Jackson, time to consider the proposed contracts and voice any opposition to them.
Judge Beckloff is also considering a deal between the estate and merchandiser Bravado for worldwide distribution rights to several Jackson-themed products, including trading cards, apparel, lighters, stuffed animals that play Jackson’s music and digital apparel and even tattoos for online games such as Second Life.
The deals remain an important piece of the Jackson’s financial puzzle and could offset potential losses by concert promoter AEG Live, which spent more than US$30 million organising the singer’s 50-show comeback in London. — AP
LOVE OF SIAM
July 17, 2009
Who would have thought that horror maestro Chukiat Sakweerakul, whose previous efforts include the ghost story Evil and the ultra-violent 13: Game Of Death, would turn out to be such a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy)?
His latest movie, Love Of Siam, is about two childhood friends who lose touch, only to run into each other again as teenagers, at which point their relationship develops into something more than friendship.
The movie, which is rated M18 here, won four Thailand National Film Association Awards last year, including Best Picture.
Love Of Siam tells a very human story, very sensitively told, and it’s frankly hard to believe that the same guy who directed 13: Game Of Death had anything to do with it.
In an e-mail interview with The New Paper, the 28-year old Thai director revealed that this film is actually much closer to his heart than previous efforts.
‘Love Of Siam is my dream project. I always wanted to do a love story, but in Thailand the market at that time was such that 13: Game Of Death had a greater chance of success.
‘Audiences wanted horror more than they wanted a love story. Fortunately, audience demands began to change, and I got to do Love Of Siam.’
Though the popularity of Asian horror may be waning, and the popularity of love stories on the rise, it must be said that Love Of Siam is not a conventional love story.
Though the subject is handled with great delicacy, this is still a film about a homosexual relationship.
But Chukiat believes his movie is more than that.
He said: ‘I think Love Of Siam deals with various issues in Thailand. It talks about family relationships. It talks about friendship and dreams.
‘All of the things that are all around us. I think audiences love to see all these different elements mixed together, and we mixed them well.’
The film has proven to have universal appeal.
Chukiat feels that this is because he spent such a long time on the script, and drew from various sources of inspiration.
‘I collected love stories from the many people around me,’ he said.
‘The main idea is about how love is important in our lives. I would like to share every different perspective on love with the audience.’
The two young stars of Love Of Siam – Mario Maurer and Witwisit Hiranyawongkul – have received critical acclaim and various awards for their performances.
Witwisit, 20, told The New Paper in an e-mail interview: ‘I worried about my acting. This is my first movie.
‘My character, Mew, looks like a normal boy, but in reality, the character is very complex in terms of his relationship with his family, his society, and his close friend, Tong. I was worried about how my character would be received by audiences.’
In a separate e-mail interview, we asked Mario if the film’s subject matter ever made him uncomfortable.
The 20-year old replied: ‘No, it’s just acting. I read the screenplay and thought it was the best thing I’d seen. I did my best, and the feedback’s been good.’
CASTLETON (Vermont) – ACTRESS Mia Farrow’s brother, a sculptor, killed himself at his art gallery in Vermont, state police and a spokeswoman for the actress said on Wednesday.
Patrick Farrow, 66, died of a single gunshot wound to the head late on Monday night in his studio, a converted church, authorities said.
Farrow and his wife, Susan, regularly walked along the main thoroughfare in Castleton, a central Vermont town of about 4,300 not far from the New York border.
Police had initially classified Farrow’s death as suspicious, but later said the medical examiner’s ruling of suicide was consistent with evidence found at the scene.
Patrick and Mia Farrow are the children of director John Farrow and actress Maureen O’Sullivan.
Mia Farrow’s movie credits include ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ and ‘Crimes and Misdemeanours.’
‘The family of Patrick Farrow is grieving the tragic loss of their beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle who sadly chose to take his own life,’ said Mia Farrow’s manager, Laura Berwick.
‘They greatly appreciate the support of their friends during this difficult time.’
Farrow was a professional sculptor for more than 35 years. The Web site for the Farrow Gallery says it sells jewellery and mixed-media works of art. The gallery was quiet on Wednesday. — AP
Ann Kok taken aback by ‘touch test’
TV host prods her breasts to see if they’re real because of rumours about implants
By Gan Ling Kai
June 18, 2009
LOCAL actress Ann Kok sat on the couch, ready to field questions about her family.
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE DRESS: Ann reacting during the recording of CelebriTEA Break, and shedding her girl-next-door image at the Star Awards 1996 by wearing a sexy top. PICTURES: MEDIACORP, TNP FILE TNP DESIGN: PRADIP KUMAR SIKDAR PICTURES: SONY PICTURES, MEDIACORP
But halfway through the recording of Channel U talk show CelebriTEA Break II, host Quan Yifeng suddenly asked to touch her breasts.
Ann was shocked but allowed Yifeng to prod her chest, while fully clothed, of course.
This episode of the talk show was filmed more than two months ago, and is one in the series of provocative celebrity interviews viewers will see since the talk show started its second season run on 10 Jun.
The series is aired every Wednesday night.
The episode featuring Ann, 36, will be aired next month.
During the recording, Ann was talking about her family and career path.
Halfway through, one of Ann’s friends, Mr Chen Wencong, 36, a MediaCorp scriptwriter and fellow Star Search finalist with Ann in 1993, was invited by the producers on the set.
He recounted how he was often asked by others whether the voluptuous actress has had breast enlargement.
Yifeng then spontaneously volunteered to solve this ‘mystery’ by conducting a ‘touch test’.
When contacted, Ann told The New Paper that initially, she was shocked.
‘But I wasn’t offended. It’s just to create an entertainment effect after all.’
In a separate interview, Yifeng, 35, said the test wasn’t scripted for the show.
‘We were just reacting to the flow of the conversation in the programme.
‘Although the director roughly told us what we can talk about, there are no limits set on the questions we can raise.’
She added that she was not worried that Ann would be offended, because ‘it was done in a relaxed atmosphere’.
Yifeng said although tough questions may be asked during the show, it’s up to the celebrity guest to decide how to react.
There’s no pressure to respond in any particular way. (See report right.)
And the verdict of the ‘touch test’?
Said Yifeng, with a laugh: ‘They (Ann’s breasts) are soft and must be real!’
So how did Ann feel about her Tyra Banks moment?
In September 2005, the American model underwent a televised sonogram on her talk show to prove that her breasts were not fake, after rumours that she has had a boob job.
Ann said she was ‘ok, and not upset’ by people regularly speculating whether she’s gone under the knife.
But she insists she doesn’t enjoy being seen as a sex symbol.
Her voluptuous figure became a hot talking point ever since she attended the 1996 Star Awards in a peek-a-boo blouse and black bra top.
In 2004, she was voted as one of the 10 sexiest women in the world by the Singapore version of men’s magazine FHM in its annual survey, beating Jamie Yeo, Paris Hilton and Karen Mok.
And even though she played a mother of one and housewife on her last drama, Housewives’ Holiday, the episode where Ann donned a sexy bikini hit a ratings high of 977,000 viewers.
Yet, the 1.62m actress who weighs 42kg, said: ‘I don’t mind being seen as sexy, but not as a sex symbol.
‘Being sexy is not just about dressing provocatively, but also about exuding charisma.’
To her, if she’s seen as sexy, ‘that’s just a bonus’.
But above all, she wants to be recognised for her hard work in acting.
Is she concerned that this episode will return attention to her chest again?
Said Ann: ‘I don’t think that will happen.
‘Back in 1996, people were more conservative (towards dressing). But 13 years later, audiences have matured.’
Ann said there were no hard feelings towards the talk show and its hosts.
She said: ‘The show allows audiences to know more about the artistes.
‘And it gives the artistes an opportunity to share what’s in their hearts.’
Ann, who is single, isn’t just cool over talk about her figure.
She was equally cool when asked about speculation over her love life.
Shin Min Daily News reported last week that netizens claimed they saw the actress holding hands with up-and-coming actor Dai Yangtian at a supermarket.
Ann confirmed with The New Paper she had been shopping with the 25-year-old actor in Cold Storage at Cluny Court.
But she denied they were holding hands or that they are in a relationship.
Is she bothered by the talk of her snagging a younger man?
Said Ann, laughing: ‘I’m okay, I won’t be concerned about how others perceive (her love life).
‘There’s no need to hide. I’m not committing a crime.
‘I’m not the type that will avoid him (Yangtian) just because of this. We are still friends.’
But when pressed if she’d consider dating The Little Nyonya star, she demurred: ‘I don’t know. I’m a girl after all, so I don’t think of such questions.
‘We are just in the mood of being friends.’
But she admitted that Yangtian is ‘not bad’ and that he’s ‘mature and good-looking’.
She added: ‘As a friend, he’s also very sincere and gentlemanly.’
She said she didn’t think their 11-year age gap would hinder the possiblity of a relationship.
When contacted by The New Paper, Yangtian, too, remained coy, saying: ‘It all depends on fate.’
He also didn’t rule out the possibility of a future romance with Ann.
But he insisted that right now, she is just one of his two close female buddies in showbiz – the other being actress Felicia Chin.