Spotlight On: Leslie Odom Jr.

So I am sure NO ONE reading this blog is familiar with a certain modern-day Broadway smash hit about America’s first Treasury Secretary. No? The musical that incorporated hip-hop with American history and made it 100% socially relevant to today’s vast and eclectic audiences? Not familiar? Lin-Manuel Miranda’s gem of cutting edge musical theatre? Too many names- who is that guy!? How about one word – HAMILTON! Still not ringing a sweet bell of freedom? Yeah… I’m sure you haven’t heard of it at ALL! Who likes Broadway anymore anyway? It’s so overrated right? HA! I hope it hasn’t been so long since reading my blogs dear readers that you forgot that I am HUGE into the sarcasm. 😉

In any case guys, I am not just here to hype on the acclaim of Hamilton (available for order at your local LVCCLD library as well as numerous other CDs and books related to the musical and the real historic figure). I am actually here to emphasize the immense talent of one the shows original members that has catapulted to superstardom in the wake of this phenomenal Broadway hit. I am of course talking about none other than the great Leslie Odom Jr.

 

Turns out, Mr. Odom is a New York native born in Queens but later relocated to Philadelphia with his family. Leslie went on to graduate the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University with honors. With music and theatre always coursing through his body and soul, Leslie got a shot to break out on Broadway at the young age of 17 taking on a starring role in the super smash hit Rent playing the character Paul. With his ever growing success as a performer, Hollywood was not far behind at picking up on LOJ’s captivating acting, dancing and singing skills. Prior to Hamilton, you might have even spotted Leslie on TV shows like CSI: Miami, Smash and Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit just to name a few. He also had a role in the movie “Red Tails”. Of course there is one main “prize” as it were, that Leslie got while trying to really make it in Hollywood. While living in L.A. he got to be assistant director to a local theatre’s revival cast of Once on This Island. There Leslie saw the gorgeous and also multi-talented actress Nicolette Robinson audition for a role… which she did not get… at first. Due to a re-casting snafu during rehearsals, Nicolette got a call back role and it was Odom’s job to get Nicolette up to speed with the production. I’ll just finish this charming bit of facts by saying that by the end of the production, Leslie and Nicolette were officially dating and by 2012, had officially married.

Odom still played on and off Broadway within those years and even got to star in the off-Broadway revival cast of Tick, Tick…Boom! which was a musical written by the same creator of Rent, Jonathan Larson. While performing in Larson’s re-discovered classic, Leslie worked alongside a fellow thespian by the name of… You guessed it: Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda playing the star of the show while Leslie was a part of the supporting cast. Shucks! Second fiddle yet again. 😉 However, Lin clearly took into account Leslie’s amazing acting and singing talents when just a short time later, he invited Leslie to attend a stage reading for a new project he was working on. A little something Lin was piecing together off and on for years and finally was trying to bring it to the stage. That’s right folks, a musical about America’s first Treasury Secretary. Leslie had the same exact response as many of us had at first: “Uh… How can a story like this possibly make it to any stage, especially Broadway!?” Yet once the stage reading was over, like all of us, Leslie was hooked. He congratulated Lin on the amazing work and basically told him, if you ever get it to the stage, let me know so I can buy tickets. Miranda immediately responded with “Actually… I was hoping you could play Aaron Burr.” Burr being the main character of the whole show next to Alexander Hamilton himself. Who could pass up on an offer like that? And so of course dear readers, as they say, the rest is history (if you’ll pardon the pun;)

It is also so funny to know that during performances (both in Tick, Tick… Boom! and Hamilton) Miranda would consistently arrive hours early to rehearse and prepare while Odom would notoriously arrive and get into wardrobe and sound check within minutes of the show’s opening. Yet… And I feel so bad saying this; While Hamilton went on to become Broadway’s “golden child” of the new millennium and was nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tony awards in 2016, all brought about by Lin’s determination to bring his small idea into reality… It was none other than Mr. LOJ who won the Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Musical whilst nominated against the very creator of the show himself. But! In any case, it is still a team effort in the end, right guys??? J

Now! Back to the good stuff. The thick meaty substance which is the whole reason I am writing today. While Leslie was maintaining gratitude and support for his acclaimed co-cast and crew of “Hamilton”, he still yearend to break off the Broadway stage and head right into the recording studio. It was time to start working with some just as talented musician friends of his and record what Leslie considers “the album that Nat King Cole would make today”. What was his genre of choice fellas? Jazz! Who would have thought!? Well, Leslie did. And indeed, once Leslie officially left Hamilton in 2016 after over a year of performing non-stop as Aaron Burr (get it Hamilton fans?… non-stop! hehe), Leslie Odom Jr became… Leslie Odom Jr, recording his premier eponymous solo album.

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Filled with a collection of remade songs that had originally spanned all across the 20th Century, Leslie Odom Jr almost immediately went #1 on the Jazz charts in iTunes. I would like to add that Nat King Cole would not be rolling over in his grave if he ever got to hear these amazing tracks, he would be shaking and moving like it was nobody’s business. Maybe that’s too creepy a picture. I apologize readers. Let’s just say, these songs on the album are quite simply remastered to perfection. Yes, most of these songs were originally recorded years upon years ago, however once you listen to them, you feel as though they were original tracks just created and released today which will fill you with a spirit, the likes of which have not yet been discovered. A revitalized sense of musical beauty as narrated by the smoothest, most astounding voice out there… that better? J My personal favorite off the album is “I Know That You Know’’ Also, in case anyone is like me and requires some music to be in video form, there is a music video for his #1 hit off the album, “Autumn Leaves”.

Moving right along, 2016 has indeed been an incredible year for Leslie. There are the Tonys for Hamilton, the solo album and all its success. Leslie is actually working right now on a new upcoming film directed by Kenneth Branagh. It is a remake of an Agatha Christie classic, Murder on the Orient Express. I absolutely can NOT wait to see it once it is released next year. Despite movie commitments and a newly released solo album, Odom again dominated in the recording studio to provide his profound crooning to release two separate singles this year. He collaborated with acclaimed songwriter Sara Bareilles to record a strong political satire track “Seriously” covering the hypothetical inner thoughts of President Barack Obama during this recent Presidential election. Leslie also recorded a single with fellow Hamilton star Daveed Diggs. Together they made a phenomenal cover of (believe it or not) “Good for You” which is a Selena Gomez track. The two performers add in a dominant blend of Odom’s smooth R&B roots mixed with Digg’s amazing hip\hop flow and is then fused by an ever so funky rock orchestration at the end. It is most impressive to say the least.

Also, somehow in the wake of Leslie’s debut album, he still managed to fit in yet another musical accomplishment this year. He just released another album, Simply Christmas which again features remade versions of some of the absolute best holiday season classics ever created: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, “Winter Song” and “My Favorite Things” are just several of the tracks, though I stand by the belief that each and every song is so incredibly well done. I can NOT believe such music could be made so artistically and more so, so naturally by sheer talent through singing and musicianship, as most music nowadays is strongly created by technology in some way.

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To finish up dear readers, there is definitely one more impactful bit of good news Odom has been gifted this year. That would be the news that he and Nicolette will soon be expecting their first child! Who could ask for anything more? Congratulations Leslie and Nicolette!!!

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OK dear readers. I am sure this was quite a lot of content for you all to take in. I’ll give your poor eyes a break… for now. 😉 I hope that you have enjoyed this little ole blog of mine and I thank you so much as always for your time and support. Hopefully you soon try and check out some of these featured albums and recordings. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. Until next time you wonderful guys and dolls… stay classy… stay listening… stay creative!

HAPPY 2017 TO YOU ALL!!!

-Steve

Spotlight On: Steve McQueen

In the Stacks: A Blog Straight from the Mind of Steve

Well hello, dear readers! Long time, no chat. It’s sad to think that it’s been about one year since my last blog. I just figured I’d give you all a small break from my “awesome” content to get your minds prepared to read my latest rant. I surely hope that you enjoy. 🙂

Now I really did want to start my first blog in a LONG time with an important subject. To me, there is no greater one than Steve McQueen. You will find his name on any list of classic Hollywood actors. This man I feel will forever hold the title “King of Cool”.  Whenever Steve McQueen was on the screen, your eyes locked directly on him. He subconsciously demanded your attention no matter what he may have been doing on camera. Numerous friends of his in the acting business always described him as having such “piercing blue eyes” and that he had the “X factor” as a man, though I’m sure we all know what that translates to.

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The above photo is the cover of the most current documentary made about him. Aptly titled “I Am Steve McQueen”, this stunning documentary is something anyone who ever watched him on the screen, heard about him, maybe even remembers him while he was still living would enjoy. It’s the full package so to speak. The narratives of this documentary are provided by some current legends of the screen such as Pierce Brosnan and Gary Oldman, ex-wife Ali McGraw, as well as relatives such as son Chad McQueen and grandson Steven R McQueen of Vampire Diaries fame. This documentary really gives you a strong insight behind those blue eyes; from his love of exotic sports cars, to many a beautiful woman. Hearing the details from old loved ones will surely make you blush at times.

Now on a personal note, I do feel it rather ironic that a man of this magnitude (while he was acting), who commanded such attention while performing in movies, was only ever once nominated for an Academy Award. I think as well that many a film major could look at Steve’s long imdb list and say that maybe, just maybe, Steve McQueen wasn’t necessarily a “great” actor. What I do know is this: As every person who ever worked with him on the set of a movie or TV show can agree Steve had the most natural ability to replace long dialogues in his scripts with facial gestures. Seriously, the man once told a crewmember on the set of The Sand Pebbles (the one movie he was nominated for the Oscar for) as he was crossing out line after line in the script, “I’ll just do it with my face”. Clearly I’m no film expert, but I won’t contradict the decisions of the Academy.

Steve started out small, came from a very broken home, or rather, set of homes. He was raised on the streets of New York, and eventually earned himself the title “El Bandito” as he was a very cunning back alley hood. Eventually, he got sent away to the Boys Republic juvenile detention center. There he really had time to see what the future held for him if he continued his hooligan ways. When he got out, he joined the Marine Corps and became a tank operator. I know, troubled boys needing to toy around with big destructive things-crazy! Once out the Marines, he took his GI Bill grant money back to New York and joined his neighborhood theatre playhouse, for the girls as he admitted frequently. There, in order to stay active and out of trouble, he began working day and night to perfect improvisations and monologue readings. He really sought to do all that he could to draw the audience’s attention in order to stay relevant on stage. Of course, he would take that methodology to the silver screen not too much later. Soon enough, Steve was accepted into the Actor’s Studio and started working with some of the greatest actors of his time. From there, he landed some small spots in movies and TV. His first big role was playing bounty hunter Josh Randall in the show Wanted: Dead or Alive. Once he started making movies with MGM and legendary director John Sturgess, Steve became the new Hollywood bad boy leading or costarring in timeless classics like The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Cincinnati Kid. Now I think from here, history just tells the rest. The list of his great accomplishments goes on and on. There’s Bullet, The Thomas Crown Affair, Papillon, The Sand Pebbles and so on.

In his personal life, Steve was by no means a monogamous man. Also, with his ever growing dependency to alcohol and drugs, his temper would constantly get the better of him. Though he did very much love his first wife Neile Adams, his next wife Ali McGraw, and last wife Barbara Minty, Steve was a party man by nature. A swinger and go-go dancer like many socialites out of the 60s. And between a hip lifestyle and his acting gigs, Steve always took plenty of time to perfect his one true love, racing. Steve lived in the fast lane, both for his business and pleasure. He always worked to compete and win in desert motorcycle races, or racing sports cars on the Sebring raceway. His love of racing led him to eventually make the most intense racing movie of his time, Le Mans. It was a brutal movie to make for many a reason, and most people believe that that movie, which bombed in the box office, started Steve’s descent out of Hollywood royalty. Over time, his body gave way to his own mortality and after wrapping up his final motion picture The Hunter in 1980, Steve McQueen was pronounced dead on his hospital bed due to complications from his lung cancer.  But as many will say; his movies and overall legacy stays strong, even today.

So, to wrap up this latest blog, I would once again like to make my same shameless plug that if you ever are interested in checking out any of the many many MANY movies, biographies, and documentaries both in DVD or book form that chronicle the great works of this tremendous former film God, you can find whatever you need at any LVCCLD branch. I strongly advise you to try looking sometime. I can assure you, you will not be disappointed. So… thanks as always for your time dear readers. And until my next blog (which I promise won’t take another year) stay classy… stay reading… stay cool!

In the Stacks–AMNESTY IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER!

Yes, that’s right dear patrons! If you have any past due library fees you’re sweating about, your “get out of jail free” card is finally here! If any of you remember last year’s program, it was called Food for Thought. Sure enough, we’re bringing it back, so you’ll have a fresh start clearing up your overdue fines for 2016. Here is how it works:

For every one canned or non-perishable food item that you donate to any Las Vegas-Clark County library from April 1st to 30th, staff will clear $2.00 in fines off of your account.  A great fact to know is that there is no limit to how much you can donate!  Have $30 in late fees?  Then bring in 15 food items and your account is all clear!  Or bring in 5 food items and get $10 cleared off your account–whatever works for you!  It’s one of those cases of the more the merrier.

If you are a mom, dad, or legal guardian, you can donate food for fees on your kids’ accounts as well!  If you have any friends or family members out there that have shunned the library for years because they were scared to address that little ol’ fee they got forever and a day ago, kick them out of their chairs and tell them to come in with some food!  We will happily clear up their card for them. We’ll even throw in a free replacement card. Why not!?  We’re practically giving this service away!!!  Actually… yes!  We are giving this away. We provide free library services here! You’d have to be a sucker not to go for this phenomenal deal (don’t worry though, no judgement).

Now for the disclaimer (Boo): Food donations may not be used to pay for lost LVCCLD materials. And that’s it! No other catches. See!? Good things!  Questions?  Come in and talk to us, we’re here to help.

Again, this is taking place during the ENTIRE MONTH OF APRIL! Though if you come in on the 1st, I can’t guarantee you won’t get a severe amount of April Fool’s jokes played on you in the process. Oh! This also won’t be good on April 31st (hope you all understand why). I imagine by now you are thinking that I am having WAY too much fun with this blog. 😉

OK, I will stop myself from doing any more gabbing.  The facts are pretty basic and straightforward. Thus, thanks for bearing with me, readers. So just once more, each food item you bring in equals $2.00 toward fees cleared off your card if you donate it in person anytime during the month of April.  Not a whole lot to remember, nor forget!  Everybody wins!  So now there is NO excuse not to come in and get your cards all straightened out and clear of fees so you can get back on track and enjoy all the wonderful services we provide here at LVCCLD.  I look forward to seeing you all in April. Until then dear readers, stay classy…stay reading…stay fine free!

In the Stacks: a review of Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle

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Wow… first blog of the year, this is very exciting! Well dear readers, I would like to start this new blog of the New Year by letting you all know about a fascinating book I just finished before enjoying my holiday break. BOY! What a book it was. Not something I would recommend before huddling close with your family by a fire enjoying some hot cocoa and watching the “A Christmas Story” marathon on cable… but enough about me.

Here’s the setup of this book: take a boy with proud Polish origins and a penchant for telling the most random histories of people, places, and things.  Add in some special pizza, a bunch of sexually frustrated/confused teenagers, and somehow,  an exposed plague that breeds human-sized praying mantises and there you have (drum roll please)Grasshopper Jungle: A History” by Andrew Smith. Now I’m still not 100% up to date on my YA fiction, but I can say it’d be a stretch to argue that this is quite possibly one of THE MOST controversial Young Adult fiction books you can presently read. Continue reading

In The Stacks — Look Out! Ol’ Seth, He is Back!!!

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Hello again dear readers. I am quite ecstatic to be writing you all today. Why you ask? Well it is for no other reason than one of my most favoritest (yes that’s right, I said favoritest) people just released a brand new cd, and I am just thrilled! So who was it? What “Seth” is a popular recording artist? Well… none other than Seth (flippin’) MacFarlane!!! I absolutely love that guy, and though his quality of work on TV versus film, acting, hosting, performing, etc. is debated by many, most people can definitely agree that he is one heck of a singer.

Seth is quite fond of bringing out the best of the old-fashioned crooners of the early days in a newer more funny/entertaining way. MacFarlane is never too far away from performing or using music in any way, shape or form, accompanied by Joel McNeely and his orchestra. McNeely is the one who composes the music for all of Seth’s TV shows and most of the orchestrations for the movies that Seth has created over these last couple of years. Continue reading

Whitney Readers Poll — Once Upon a Time. . .

In The Stacks – LONG LIVE ROCK & ROLL!

Hello again, dear readers. It is no big surprise that I am a huge fan of music. Not just one particular genre either, I try to be open to all types of music from various times in history. I figure in any one genre of music, there is some song, style, artist, etc. that was good and you would enjoy. So why hate? Embrace your eclectic side!

I have constantly been amazed by the CD selection available through the library. And honestly folks, our collection gets more eclectic over time. That’s not even just factoring in our general CD collection, either. I know I have written a couple of different blogs about Freegal. Freegal is our online database where you can download up to 6 songs every week per library card, and can now download music videos as well! Also, we have once again uploaded the database so you may now also stream hours of music from your computer. Let me tell you guys, I have seen some music featured on Freegal that literally blows my mind as to how we ever thought to order such songs and artists. Continue reading

Teen Tuesday – What SCARES you?

Are you afraid of ZOMBIES?  Who isn’t—because not only are they undead, they might be undead people you know. . .

Jacket.aspx-3  Jacket.aspx-2 jacket.aspx-5    or not. . .  Dead Reckoning

. . .or worse, it’s you!  Jacket.aspx-4        What about VAMPIRES?

Not the sparkly kind, but the hypnotic bloodsuckers we’re unwillingly drawn to. . .

Jacket.aspx-7   Jacket.aspx-8   or *shudder* become!  Jacket.aspx-9   Jacket.aspx-8

Or maybe, you’re afraid of WITCHES. . .  

Jacket.aspx-14    Jacket.aspx-15      Jacket.aspx-17  . . . or MONSTERS   Jacket.aspx-8

Jacket.aspx-13    Jacket.aspx-12   that come out of the cold. . .   Jacket.aspx-6

or that lurk in the water  Jacket.aspx-9  . . . or the forest. Jacket.aspx-5   Jacket.aspx-16

GHOSTS?  Did you say GHOSTS?  Murderous ghosts. . .

Jacket.aspx-17   Jacket.aspx-16  or historical specters. . . Jacket.aspx-4  Jacket.aspx-3

or both?   Jacket.aspx   Jacket.aspx-7        What about DEMONS?

Before evil spirits possessed them, they were your sister. . .

Jacket.aspx-18  or your brother. . . Jacket.aspx-19  or your cousin. . . . Jacket.aspx-6

You may even discover (the hard way) the merits behind exorcism. . . .

Jacket.aspx-20   Jacket.aspx-7        EVIL FAIRIES can be frightening. . . .  

seeing them. . . Wicked Lovely   being cursed by them. . .   Jacket.aspx-18

. . .having them swap you out for someone else.  Jacket.aspx-22   Jacket.aspx-11

What?  Supernatural beings and gruesome creatures will never freak you out?!                  Okay then—what about psycho killers who also happen to be YOUR DAD?!

Jacket.aspx-12   Jacket.aspx-11   Jacket.aspx-10    Or. . . your dad as

a demented scientist. . .  Jacket.aspx    Jacket.aspx-2    or

a brilliant detective and a psycho killer?   Ripper

Of course, Dad’s not the only sociopath in the family . . . .

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In fact, in most families the scariest person is. . . YOUR MOM!    Jacket.aspx-4

 

 

Teen Tuesday – Back from the Dead: a review of Noggin by John Corey Whaley

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Every year around this time the blog, Someday My Printz Will Come, run by Karyn Silverman and Sarah Couri over at the School Library Journal website, reviews and debates potential contenders for the Printz award, one of young adult literature’s highest honors.  They’ve selected a daunting list of fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels published this year.  I’ve followed their blog for a while now and count on their insightful reviews to craft my fall reading list and make sure there aren’t any books that have completely fallen off my radar.  That said, I am ashamed to admit that of the 80+ books on their current list, I’ve read a grand total of nine.  Check here for this year’s list and their criteria for inclusion.

Between my Kindle, my desk, and my bedside table, I have at least a dozen or so books from the list already at hand–titles I’ve been meaning to read which were, nevertheless, pushed aside for newer, flashier offerings.  One of those neglected books was John Corey Whaley’s Noggin which came out last spring.  Why was I so hesitant?  I loved his first book and the cover of this one is very appealing I think.  Maybe it was my assumptions that this would be some teenage Frankenstein story dealing with medical ethics and religious dogma.  But when Noggin was longlisted for the National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, I finally hunkered down, read it in a day and . . . absolutely loved it.

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In the Stacks – ALRIGHT… WHAT’S WITH ALL THE HOOPLA???

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Hey there all you library fans!  I thought I would just take a moment to shed some light on a new feature that you can find straight off our library website.  In case any of you are wondering what that feature is, I am referring to LVCCLD’s new favorite program called “Hoopla”.  Now I have my own reasons for absolutely loving this program. However, since most of you guys I’m sure are not Kids in the Hall fans, it’s going to have to stay an inside joke to myself.  Moving along!  Hoopla is a fantastic, wonderful new program the library district is providing all of you out there so you may stream movies and TV shows without ever entering a physical library.  YES!!!

All that you fine ladies and gentlemen have to do is log into the LVCCLD.ORG website.  Then, select “HOOPLA” from our Quick Links set of tabs. From there, it will give you detailed instructions on setting up a Hoopla account, and in case you were concerned and wouldn’t already guess it, folks… yes, it is free!  Now, the fun facts regarding Hoopla use:

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