Star Trek is very much in the news again: a new Trek TV show will premiere in September. At Windsor ComicCon recently, two stars of previous Trek TV shows made an appearance.
Denise Crosby appeared in several seasons of Star Trek: Next Generation, but she is best known as the young female security officer in the first season. "To be the chief of security in a traditional male role is what the late 1980s were calling out for," she told an audience in Windsor. Until then, Crosby said, women were either portrayed as a "beautiful soft woman, or a hard-assed tough bitch. I was adamant Tasha Yar (her character name) was not perfect. I was always looking for ways to examine her flaws."
Crosby lamented her audition for the role was not videotaped. It was a dual scene with Marina Sirtis, cast as counsellor Deanna Troi. In the audition, Crosby says she was essentially in a therapy session with Troi, worrying that she was never going to be good enough for the top security job. "You were the best in the class," replied Troi. "But Picard (the Captain of the starship) is so great, and such a visionary!" replied Yar.
"Troi was talking Yar back from the edge. Inside of Yar was a dichotomy: this fierce woman and a fragile little girl."
Denise Crosby, grand-daughter of the great singer Bing Crosby, has appeared in yet another major Hollywood franchise: the zombie-infested The Walking Dead. "I need to get on Game of Thrones," she joked. "It would be a trifecta!"
Also appearing at Windsor ComicCon was Garrett Wang, best known for his role as Ensign Kim on Star Trek: Voyager. Wang was far from sanguine that his character was never promoted in the seven years of the TV show. Once he met another fellow named Harry Kim (in real life), who was in the navy when Voyager was on the air in the late 1990s. "He got crap everyday from the crew mates," Wang said, but he tried to commiserate with Kim. "We were the same," he said to the navy man. "No," Kim replied, "I was promoted!"
Wang said in response to all this that his character was "the Rodney Dangerfield of Star Trek, the punching bag of Voyager."
In one episode Ensign Kim got to kiss the alien 7of9, played by the beautiful Jeri Ryan. "We each have full upper and lower lips. It was like two Sealey posturpedic mattresses banging up against one another," he said playfully. The show aired when Wang and Ryan were watching along with her young son, who exclaimed "Mommy kissed Garrett?!"
Wang had various controversial remarks to make on the Trek movies. Nemesis should have been a Voyager film, and Insurrection should have been a DS9 film." He was referring to the final two movies starring the crew of Next Generation, which were both flops. As for the current series of movies, he decried the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan. "The first Klingon he encountered would have broken him over his leg like a popsicle stick," said Wang. "The Rock should have been cast as Khan," a suggestion that elicited a lot of approval from the Windsor audience.
Photos with this article are copyright by C. Cunningham
Both Star Wars and Star Trek dominates at Windsor ComicCon this weekend. In the first of two reports, this Sun News article will deal with Star Wars.
Headlining the convention from the original Star Wars movies from 40 years ago is Billy Dee Williams, shown in the photo above. Williams, who said he would be willing to appear in the Star Wars 9 movie, maintains Empire Strikes Back was the best of the series. As a young man on the set of the first Star Wars film, he said "it was like being in an adult toy store." But the role he played then still carries some baggage today.
Back then he remembers "little kids accusing me of betraying Hans Solo. Forty years later I'm still try to explain it to fans!"
Asked about why he was such a cool dude on screen, Williams said he "grew up in an era in which individualism was important. The whole idea was to present myself, win or lose, in some unique fashion."
Having acted for 60 years, he has seen a lot of change in how movies are presented. "There is a new trend in action films. Movies somehow reflect what is going on in the world: the look and feel of movies is generational. We are at another juncture now."
Another actor from the original Star Wars trilogy is also in attendance in Windsor, which is his hometown. Angus MacInnes is making his first Canadian convention appearance this weekend: he played Gold Leader in Star Wars Episode IV.
When Star Wars was being cast by a then-unknown George Lucas, MacInnes was in London. "Almost every American in London got called for an interview with Lucas. Apparently he had a score card where he graded applicants from 1 to 10. Those graded 4 or 5 became Storm Troopers, a 6 or 7 became a fighter pilot, an 8 became an Admiral of the Imperial Fleet."
He recalled that "doing a battle scene was a little terrifying. Dying in movies is really fun but it cuts you off from the sequels!" What he remembers most fondly was "standing beside Carrie Fisher for a whole shot. In hindsight I remember her as very sweet."
When it came time to shoot his scene in the cockpit of a fighter, MacInnes said he could not remember his lines and for some reason Lucas "was not going to give me my cues." After sweating through several takes, "I really thought they were going to fire me on the spot. Lucas suggested instead that I read the lines."
That prompted MacInnes to tear pages out of the script and tape them to his legs and the interior of the cockpit! While people were jostling the platform on which the cockpit set resided to give the impression of motion, MacInnes read the pages as he looked down and around, finally getting through the scene.
He said the "demand on improvisation is really high in movies. It was a huge challenge at first, but I fell in love with it."
Both Williams and MacInnes will be at the convention tomorrow, Aug. 13 for photos and autographs. It is being held at Caesars Windsor. Visit their website for details: www.windsorcomicon.com
Photos with this article copyright Dr C Cunningham
The Toronto Fringe Festival earlier this month featured scores of events at a multitude of venues. One mini-theme was science fiction.
The Canadian duo known as James and Jamesy offered an existential performance illuminated only by what appeared to be lampshades on their heads. Winners of a Canadian Comedy Award, they explored the limits of understanding their existence or at least their role in the tableau they found themselves in. Most of the action takes place on stage, but as their exploration continues they recognise the existence of a group of people (known as the audience!).
This leads them to seek further knowledge, and in the case of the performance I attended they found whatever they were seeking on the head of a bald man (see the lead photo). Captivating and funny, it was a most unusual and delightful theatrical experience.
Science fiction derived from television was also at Fringe. In this case, the venerable show Dr. Who, which began in 1963. Rob Lloyd gave a great one-man show, during which he expressed particular admiration for the third actor in the role, Jon Pertwee. He was also my favourite, and Lloyd was pleasantly surprised to hear my story of entertaining Pertwee and his wife in my living room one afternoon.
Lloyd, from Melbourne (Australia), gave an impassioned accounting of his experience with the Dr Who show, especially in the 1990s when he first became deeply involved in it. This was the worst possible time to be a Dr Who fan, as the show was off the air and widely derided by fans of such things as Star Trek and Star Wars.
He casts the performance as a trial, where he puts The Doctor on trial: is the TV show guilty of inciting a debilitating obsession in Rob? The ensuing hilarious journey where Lloyd relates his experiences as a Who fan (and look-a-like of one of the Doctors) proved to be irresistible.
While I only had a taste of the Fringe Festival, I could see the enthusiasm and energy of those attending both these two and other events was palpable. Many events were sold out, with ticket prices a steal at only $10. While 2017 Fringe is history, I encourage anyone in Toronto in July 2018 to attend one of Canada's finest cultural events. Check out the website: www.fringetoronto.com
Lead photo with this article by C. Cunningham
On August 12 and 13, Windsor ComiCon returns to CAESARS WINDSOR – Canada’s largest casino and hotel resort. Prepare for an incredible Pop Culture event featuring entertainment and comic celebrities, thousands of square feet of shopping, celebrity Q&A sessions, panels and workshops, community groups and much, much more. Windsor ComiCon will be the place to be to satisfy all your geek cravings and where you will find the new and vintage Comics, Action Figures, Sci-Fi, Anime, Manga, Gaming and Horror. Windsor ComiCon is an all-ages show.
Celebrity guests include Denise Crosby and Garrett Wang from Star Trek ! And for Star Wars fans, Billy Dee Williams from the original movie trilogy.
Check out the website for tickets and details: www.windsorcomiccon.com
Windsor ComiCon takes place at:
CAESARS WINDSOR in The Colosseum
377 Riverside Dr E
N9A 7H7 Canada
Show Date & Hours
Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm
Free Parking is available at CAESARS WINDSOR.
When you are on a 10-day gay cruise in the Mediterranean, seeing a human sea anemone in the ship's swimming pool is not unusual. Imagine seeing this on a straight (boring) cruise! And check out the mermaids on the deck behind the pool.
Check out the Atlantis website for more great cruises coming up for 2018:
The world's most famous art festival is underway in Venice. Held every two years, the 57th Venice Biennale is spread throughout the city with literally hundreds of art exhibits and installations, both indoors and outdoors. An example of one of the most dramatic outdoor artworks is shown here: The Golden Tower, set up in the Campo San Vio, adjacent to Palazzo Cini. It is by the late James Lee Byars of Detroit, and will be on display until Nov. 26, 2017.
Byars envisioned “The Golden Tower” as a colossal beacon and oracle that would bridge heaven and earth and unify humanity – a contemporary monument surpassing the grandeur of the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The idea of “The Golden Tower” first began in 1974 and was developed with numerous conceptual studies throughout the artist’s career. The work was first exhibited in 1990 at the GegenwartEwigkeit exhibition at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin and later in 2004 at the posthumous retrospective Life, Love and Death at the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. Towering to a height of over 20 meters, “The Golden Tower” is the artist’s largest and most ambitious work. The Venice installation of “The Golden Tower” is the first to fully realize the artist’s intentions of presenting the sculpture in a public space.
At the Palazzo Cini is an exhibit created specifically for this venue: 10 photographs of collages by the 55-year-old Brazilian artist Vik Muniz. As the accompanying catalog states, they are "mostly imaginary views, capricci and landscapes chosen for the ambiguous and fascinating presence of ruins as survivals of civilizations." The exhibit is entitled Afterglow: Pictures of Ruins
The one shown here is based on the work of one of my two favourite painters, Caspar David Friedrich. It is entitled Temple of Juno in Agrigento. The title Afterglow, attached to each work, is meant to signify the dispersion of sunlight as the extreme act, radiance and reminiscence of civilization as a ruin.
A truly extraordinary collection, and as each work is composed of collage the closer you look, the more detail you will see, with many unexpected images that serve to create the entire view.
The Muniz exhibit runs until July 24, 2017.
The Palazzo Cini houses its own extraordinary collection. Do not make a trip to Venice without seeing it. Here is a direct link to their website:
The Golden Tower is on display by the Michael Werner Gallery. It is curated by Alberto Salvadori and made possible thanks to the generosity of Fondazione Giuliani, Rome. Visit the website: www.michaelwerner.com
Another article about art currently on display in Venice will be published soon, based on a special trip made by Sun News to the Venice Biennale in July 2017. Photos with this article copyright by Cliff Cunningham
A visit to Barcelona, Spain this summer is not complete without a visit to Batllo House and its evening music treat on the rooftop. A rotating sequence of artists are performing there every night until Oct. 1, 2017.
This is no ordinary venue, as Batllo House is the amongst the greatest tourist attractions in Barcelona. Batllo is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It was designed by the famed architect Antoni Gaudi between 1904 and 1906. The original building was magically transformed into the most unique house anywhere in the world. It is so outlandish that some find it disorienting; surely, a healthy appreciation of surrealism helps to take it all in. Even in 2017 it looks like a science fiction set, so imagine the impact it made more than a century ago!
To the right of the jazz and blues singer Monica Green performing when I was there (the lead photo) one can see a group of graceful chimneys, one of four tiled with the same glazed mosaics as the facade of the house.
I am printing below the direct link to tickets sales. The best option is the combo tour of the house, followed by the 8pm concert, so plan on arriving around 6pm. At 39 euros per person the combo is great way to spend an early evening in Spain's most popular city. The concert is termed "Magic Nights" and includes 2 drinks (no food), so plan on having a good dinner afterwards.
Photos with this article by Dr Cliff Cunningham
The Tony-award winner Jennifer Holliday was the star entertainer on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean last week. Not surprisingly, the Sun News was there!
Pictured here with Ms. Holliday are Dr. Cunningham (left) and Dr. Emanuele (right). This photo was taken on the Celebrity Constellation ship on July 11, 2017. Holliday entertained 2,000 passengers on the ship in two performances, during which time she reminisced about her career which spans more than 35 years. She won a Tony award in 1982 for her role on Broadway's Dreamgirls, and a Grammy award in 1983 for her single And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going.
Her appearance was courtesy of Atlantis, the best way to cruise the world. Check out their website for future trips: www.atlantisevents.com
Where The Boys Are was obvious this week: Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale, site of the Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida.
The performance on June 24, entitled Generation OUT, marked a significant evolution in the development of the Chorus. Music Director Harold Dioquino is now fully in command in a post he unexpectedly found himself in 2 years ago. Leaving the technical approach to music behind, Dioquino has successfully transformed the best regional chorus to world-class status. The Chorus was obviously really “into” the performance, not just going through the motions. This is now an audience-centered group that has achieved a unification of sound. "I didn't expect it to be so inventive," said a member of the audience. It works!
While audience opinion was divided on the value of having a professional comic start the show, a rendition of the unofficial Ft. Lauderdale theme song Where The Boys Are was a sure-fire way to get the audience fired up. A large screen showing Connie Francis helped set the tone for the concert, and when a young George Hamilton appeared on the screen guys whooped and hollered. The middle-aged singer of this classic song, Tony Walsh, shows that someone of any age can be looking for Where The Boys Are.
For the first time, vignettes were used at the beginning of several selections to amplify the message of the song. These 2-3 minute vignettes took several forms, including soliloquy, and they were uniformly touching and poignant. Some had a touch of sass too “”I'm gay so I'm good at telling people what's wrong with them!”
The first act included YMCA, which got the audience rocking. One audience member singled out the guy playing the 'Indian' character as having really good energy, and looking good too! This is Eric Strom, who also delivered a very fine opening vignette. Highlight of the first act was I Am What I Am with soloist Mun Wye Chng. It was forceful, personally provocative, and Broadway quality. Bridge Over Troubled Water ended the first act with a very unique arrangement that had a gospel touch to it.
Anything Goes was a good choice to launch Act Two, which featured a Dolly Parton song, Backwoods Barbie. The second act did not pack as much punch, perhaps because the songs were not so iconic, but kudos to soloist Steven Begert-Clark for his rendition of Not My Father's Son. Tackling an Adele song, Someone Like You, was brave. As one member of the audience put it, "If you've watched American Idol, anybody that attempts a song like that blows it. But they did a wonderful job on it. I was really impressed." The finale, Everybody Rejoice, from the Broadway musical The Wiz left everyone walking out of the Parker Playhouse feeling very uplifted.
We all missed Randy Washburn for his satirical humor and Scott Hindley, whose choreographer duties were ably taken over by Ron Hutchins. We look forward to seeing both of these valued members of the Chorus return soon.
Overall the performance offered a genuine musical production, a quality show that could be taken 'on the road' for many more people to enjoy.
A recent exhibit in Toronto showcased the extraordinary talent and humanistic wisdom of Johny Deluna. This Toronto-based artist gave me an exclusive interview, during which we concentrated on just two of his many thought-provoking canvases.
The Song to the Moon painting is inspired by a lovely song from the opera Rusalka, by Dvorak. It is shown here at the right of the lead photo, with Mr. DeLuna standing between it and another artwork.
“Everything I paint about is largely about human activity,” said DeLuna. “To me this woman hugs the Moon, she can't get enough of it. She almost wants to own it: she has 4 hands to pull the Moon, coaxing it down. But it's an exercise in futility, rather than enjoying it, whereas the cat has his own little Moon in the bowl and is very content. So it is a dichotomy between wanting to enjoy the Moon or possess it.”
I also asked him about Selling the Moon, depicted here. “Every insect, every bird, every tree that disappears: we don't see it directly but it's happening and it's happening so fast we have no way of knowing. We don't even know the stuff that's disappearing because it hasn't been discovered. I think the biggest mass extinction benefit would be for humans to go: everything else would survive quite well.”
DeLuna regards the painting “as a statement about people thoughtlessly doing something. These people have been told 'box up the Moon, and ship it to wherever'. There will be a hole in the sky but we'll patch it up, put a sticker on it. But people have to bear the consequences of ripping the Moon out of the sky. The elephant symbolizes but just humanity but every creature that is going to be affected by our careless, greedy behaviour.”
While his paintings cover a much wider range than the lunar motif, I have concentrated on these due to my own interest in astronomy and art. I recommend looking at his wider catalogue of paintings, each of which contains hidden delights.